The longings of ... a beautiful boy

The longings of ... a beautiful boy


He's 6 feet tall barefoot, 6-feet-5 in his Jeffrey Campbell heels. He loves Lady Gaga and Andy Warhol and beautiful women who don't care about what other people think.

He loves vodka. He takes it straight up, pursing his lips, keeping a composed face. It makes him feel as if he's made of plastic; it's reassuring. If he can keep a strong face after a shot, he can keep a strong face after anything.

His fingers are long and slender like a lady's. His face is soft and angular. His eyes are almond-shaped with long lashes that flutter like butterflies. He loves bubble baths. When he shuts his mouth, his lips don't fully close, giving him a permanent pout. He has skin like porcelain. Wrinkles are his enemies. He has trained his eyebrows not to move when he speaks. He likes having an expressionless face. He doesn't want strangers to know him.

He categorizes his life through his outfits. It depends on how he feels when he wakes up in the morning. Different days he'll feel happy, gothic, angry, butchy, vengeful or hopeful.

One recent Monday he awoke thinkingMarilyn Monroe — old Hollywood glamour. He wore his high-waist checkered pants with a tight-fitted turtle neck and finished the ensemble with blood-red lipstick. He tries to stay away from classic-red lipstick. Every girl and gay guy wears that now. It has become the gay male version of aPlain Jane. He wants to be anything but ordinary.

He doesn't want to be a woman. He just doesn't understand why a man can't wear lilac lipstick or velvet nail polish or sequined stilettos to his 9 a.m. class without getting stared at. No matter; he likes it when people look at him; he gets worried when they don't. He likes it when he makes people uncomfortable.

He spent the past few years worrying about what people thought of him, whether they thought his voice was too high or he spoke with his hands too much. No more. Now every morning is a coming-out day.

He likes to use hard descriptions such as "marble eyes" and"leather hair." He loves perfumes, particularly Britney Spears'Midnight Fantasy. He wears it on his pretty days. He knows that some men he meets at campus bars would love to take him home for the night but never introduce him to their parents.

He doesn't kiss on the first date. Or the second. Or the third. He was once offered a job as a go-go dancer in Chicago. He turned it down. He's not that type of boy. A 50-something man on Facebook once offered him a weekend of dinners and shopping on Rodeo Drive. He turned the man down. He's not that type of boy, either.

He is an Aquarius. He was born in 1991. A visual person, he doesn't read newspapers and hates politics. They make his head hurt. He loves magazines because he can look at pretty pictures and not have to read anything.

He came to the University of Illinois as an art education major but soon realized he wanted to do photography. He is now a junior. His photographs for his classes contain thin 20-something models airbrushed to look like mannequins, like plastic. He hopes someday to see his work in V, Harper's Bazaar or W with his name emblazoned on the corner of the page: Photographs by Gino Baileau.

That is his artist name. He started using that name when he became a photographer. He doesn't like his real name, Gino Gusich. He hates the alliteration, theGG. He likes Baileau better. It meansbeautiful boyin Italian.

His mother and his grandmother called him that since he was a baby. He loves his mother more than anything.

+ + + + +

Gusich. It reminds him of his childhood in Melrose Park, that small, Italian community, a 20-minute car ride west of Chicago. Gino calls it the ghetto. He was raised in a house full of women: his two older sisters, mother and grandmother. The walls of his bedroom were covered with Britney Spears posters. He loved playing with his sisters' Barbies. Gino's parents separated when he was 5. His father was a Weekend Dad.

Gino was an ugly baby. His mother told him that he looked like a newborn alien because of his oversized head. Every day after preschool, he'd cry if his grandmother didn't feed him two double-decker sandwiches. By middle school, he was overweight. His mother put him on a low-carb diet. By eighth grade, he was average sized. By high school, he was thin.

Gino Baileau doesn't want people to see his grade school pictures. He is not that person anymore. He is now thin and angular and beautiful. Now, he tries to eat two meals a day. He admits he doesn't have a healthy diet. Today, he had a can of Progresso soup, 60 calories.

Gino is wearing black H&M harem pants, 5-inch leather wedges and a red vintage blazer with a studded belt around his waist. He's wearing black lipstick from MAC calledDark Night. His hair is wrapped in a black infinity scarf, and he's wearing thick, rhinestone sunglasses. He just came back from his photography class. He woke up today feeling vengeful.

Lately, Gino's been thinking about the people in his childhood who did him wrong. He says that kids in his grade school sold weed and ecstasy in the bathrooms. He remembers times he was threatened with assault in the boy's bathroom or on his way home. He was an easy target, after all: that chubby boy who hung out only with the girls, talked with his hands, and who knew all the lyrics to every Britney Spears song.

He remembers a classmate in fourth grade who would find every opportunity to harass Gino, calling him "faggot" or "fat boy." One day, after school, Gino's mother asked if anything was bothering him. His mother always knew how he felt. He said, no, he was fine. Later, Gino overheard his mother on the phone with his father. His mother was asking him what she should do. Gino would never forget the advice his mother relayed from his father: Let Gino take care of it. Let him man up. Don't let him be a wuss.

One day, during lunch, the classmate came up to Gino with that smirk on his face, Diet Coke in hand. Gino remembers the boy calling him a name. Something triggered inside Gino. He leaped from his seat and grabbed the boy by the neck and pushed him to the ground. Then Gino remembers taking the boy's Diet Coke and sipping from it.

+ + + + +

To Gino, being gay is bravery. It's a liberation of many things. Of sex. Of the way you act. Of fashion. He is an extremist, and if he says he's gonna be gay, he's gonna be gay all the way, which is why he wears what he wears to class, to the mall and to the bars.

He began dressing this way only nine months ago. In his mother's house, he'd lose himself in the fashion blogs of Alexander McQueen, Terry Richardson and Marc Jacobs. He'd sneak into his mother's and sisters' makeup boxes and experiment with different looks. He loved how he could use pencils to elongate his eyebrows, how blush could highlight his cheekbones.

Gino never had a coming-out moment with his mother or sisters. They always knew. At first, his father said that Gino could be gay and still dress like a man. Gino then took his sister's softball shin guards, embellished them with metal spikes, connected them with chains and wore the ensemble as shoulder pads. Gino remembers asking his father if he now looked like a man.

His father eventually came around to accepting him.

On Gino's right index finger is a tattoo, in cursive — "liberate." His right hand is often adorned in accessories. He sometimes wears his sister's armadillo ring or spiked bracelets or his gold-plated bangle (he calls it his Wonder Woman cuff). They are his weapons. He never knows when he might need to use them, especially at the bars.

When Gino walks into a bar, it's a spectacle. People he never knew come up to him and tell him how they love his fashion sense or how he's beautiful. Strangers take pictures of him. He loves the attention.

One night, though, at Fire Station, a tall man by the bar looked at Gino a certain way. Gino paid no mind until one of his friends pointed the man out. Gino looked at the man, who made a gun of his hand and pointed to his head, pretending to shoot himself. Gino, in his nude-laced button-up shirt and fur stole that wrapped around his shoulders like a cape, made his way toward the man and asked what his problem was. The man called him a "devil" or a "demon;" the memories of Gino and his friends differ.

Gino believes men like that don't expect men who wear lipstick or high heels or skin-tight jeans to stick up for themselves. Men like that expect them to just take it, maybe roll their eyes and sit back down like a lady.

Gino is not like other men, or ladies. He remembers looking at his hand, the same hand that had "liberate" tattooed on it. On his ring finger was his grandfather's diamond horseshoe ring. Gino looked back at the man — and then punched him. Gino doesn't remember much of anything else. He says the man came out of it with a horseshoe-stamped forehead. Gino walked away with two broken nails.

+ + + + +

Gino wonders if he will ever find a man who will love him for who he is. He is now getting ready in his apartment for another night out in Champaign, deciding what to wear. His bedroom is on a high floor overlooking the north side of Green Street.He is humming along to one of his favorite songs, Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." Tonight, he decides to wear a leopard-print blazer with ripped jeans and leather wedges.

Gino's only been in one serious relationship, with a man who didn't like how he dressed or his aspiration to be a famous fashion photographer. He gave Gino an ultimatum: Dress differently and choose a different career, or their relationship was over. Gino left him. After all, his favorite quote is from a Lauper song, which is now ringing through his room:

Some boys take a beautiful girl

And hide her away from the rest of the world

I want to be the one to walk in the sun

Oh girls they want to have fun

Gino can't imagine growing old. He is 21, in the first blossom of adulthood, his heels now planted on the ground, wide-eyed and hopeful. Maybe he'll make it as a high-fashion photographer in Chicago or L.A. or New York. Maybe he'll get to work for Marc Jacobs or W or Sarah Burton. Maybe. Who knows what's in the future?

He slips into his heeled wedges. In a couple of hours, he will be at Red Lion, dancing on tables, being photographed by strangers, being told he is beautiful. And he will smile and say thank you and lose himself on the dance floor, what's ahead of him a mystery.

Christian Gollayan is a University of Illinois journalism student. This story was done in a version of Professor Walt Harrington's literary feature writing class that included students and News-Gazette staffers. Funding came from the Marajen Stevick Foundation.

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ajbuckle wrote on June 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Given the serevity of the problems facing our city, the state and our nation, this well funded navel gazing is front page news?

Surely there is a more deserving recipient of column inches than this drivel.

Local Yocal wrote on June 10, 2012 at 4:06 pm
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The Countess is rolling in her grave over this one. This article definitely strikes rancor among the more sensible Catholic sensibilities of the N-G editorial staff. The same staff likely to editorialize against state-recognized gay marriages. As usual, the U of I students can get away with anything. It's disappointing so much attention is given to a meglamaniac whose only artistic skill is selfishness and drawing attention to himself. This might have played better as a documentary at the Art Theatre, rather than clutter a news website with the weird and arrogant. It's too bad that art and artists are now associated with this nutjob. Oooh, he can push a camera button too! New York will eat this kid alive.

WiltonDiary wrote on June 11, 2012 at 8:06 am

I knew the "The Countess" and she would have loved this!

The Countess had a strong appreciation for the arts and those who made them come

to life.  Her contributions to the fine and applied arts were many.

The NG staff plays to their base just as any news organization does today. 

Be thankful they go beyond the agriculture community and recognize their readers

have expanded interests.   The NG knows their readers and continue to generate

revenue which is rare in the news-paper industry. 

Champaign-Urbana is blessed to still have a daily in print and available

on the Internet.  Considering today's environment that is known as progress!


rsp wrote on June 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I found this to be interesting and well written. With all the details you can see how much that age group has in common even if they want to deny it. 

The Balloon wrote on June 10, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I agree with rsp, only would add the adjective 'fantastically' about how well written and interesting. A really great snapshot of the life/personality of an individual that seems quite unique - especially for C-U. And such amazing attention to detail.

awiste wrote on June 10, 2012 at 9:06 pm

I also enjoyed this article.  It is well written and is a refreshing break from the typical news article. I wish Gino the best of luck.  I wish more people had the courage to be themselves and to follow their dreams and passions regardless of what others think.  The world is a much more interesting place when people are allowed (and even encouraged!) to be individuals.

Sandy wrote on June 10, 2012 at 10:06 pm

This first ran in last weekend's paper. My objection is not the subject matter, but rather the affected style. It's Hemingway meets hipster, and both of them could have used an editor. For example: "Gino paid no mind" or the strange comma in the last sentence of the piece.   "Paid no mind"  sounds more like a barn dance than clubbing, and the last comma needed to be a period. This came out of a "literary" feature writing class, of course, so the author may have done everything for a reason, but it did not work for me.

increvable wrote on June 14, 2012 at 8:06 pm

The rule of thumb I've always had is that a writer should use no more than three details to sketch out someone's appearance. Anything more sounds as if one's writing a dossier. Yes, it did need an editor.

Sancho98 wrote on June 10, 2012 at 11:06 pm
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This is the best written  piece in the entire paper!

  CHRISTIAN GOLLAYAN is a talented writer that can draw the reader into his story. My hat is off to you Christian!!

 I thoroughly enjoyed this story about Gino Baileau. Gino sounds like a very creative man with a lot to offer. Maybe the NG could do a story with some of Gino's photography. That is the only thing that would have made this story better.

While society is begining to become more accepting, we have a long way to go. Society still wants to judge. People seem to forget, that only GOD is to judge us. We are to love everyone!! Good luck Gino, I hope I get the pleasure of meeting you some day. I hope I see total acceptance in my lifetime. Everyone deserves to be acccepted.

Thanks NG for printing this story!

Seriously. wrote on June 11, 2012 at 8:06 am

Interesting topic and worth reading. Loved the pictures. Detested the writing style. It's awkwardly third person(ish) but reads like part case note and part fairy tale. The information plus the style left me a little sad and annoyed. I'll call it a draw.

Local Yocal wrote on June 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm
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"He doesn't want strangers to know him."

"... he likes it when people look at him; he gets worried when they don't. He likes it when he makes people uncomfortable."

"He woke up today feeling vengeful."

"Lately, Gino's been thinking about the people in his childhood who did him wrong."

"He sometimes wears his sister's armadillo ring or spiked bracelets or his gold-plated bangle...  They are his weapons."

"He loves the attention."

"Gino, in his nude-laced button-up shirt and fur stole that wrapped around his shoulders like a cape, made his way toward the man and asked what his problem was. The man called him a "devil" or a "demon;"  On his ring finger was his grandfather's diamond horseshoe ring. Gino looked back at the man — and then punched him. Gino doesn't remember much of anything else. He says the man came out of it with a horseshoe-stamped forehead."

If you can't take the heat, then get out of the kitchen. I hope this young man never gets a hold of some real weapons. He is a very angry person with a huge chip on his shoulder. He demands to be the spectacle, in the name of "expression;" but when someone else expresses a negative reaction to it, like a religious belief, he has zero tolerance and gets violent, perpetrating the same bigotry we are supposed to avoid towards him. Hypocrite.

What contribution does this person really make? Does he volunteer at the Up Center? Nope. Does he counsel gay teens about accepting who they are? Nope. Does he help with Artists Against AIDS? Nope. Does he volunteer to help those suffering from AIDS? Nope. Does he help to end discrimination against fat people or those considered "ugly?" Nope. In fact, through his art, he perpetuates the same beauty myths to the extreme that have caused many-a-woman to go over the edge with bulemia and anerexia. He uses "his difference" to remain unread, ignorant, selfish, and "entitled." He gives being an artist and being gay, a bad rap. He should be shunned and kicked out of both clubs until he does some restitution for rabbit punching that man in the bar. He needs to grow up and join the rest of humanity. Vanity and violent arrogance are not philosophical principles to be celebrated and certainly not brave. Just irresponsible.

Christopher90 wrote on June 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Speaking as a gay man myself, I found this man to be extremly empowering and not at all giving gays a bad rap, and I don't believe many gays would disagree. And I highly doubt this man is going around to random christians in a bar pretending to shoot himself with a gun as the man in the bar did to him. If Gino was going around doing that, then I would agree and call him hypocritical.


Seeing his work, he is not all about himself. Most of his website consists of other subjects, and he defies the definition of standard beauty. Great article, Best of luck.

ddd77 wrote on June 11, 2012 at 9:06 pm

I have to disagree with this last paragraph. Gino knows what he wants. He has been a go getter from when he was young. He is far from ignorant, selfish, ect..Gino is very talented and will go far with his career. His hometown, friends and family are very proud and honored to be a part of his accomplishments! Gino, I wish you the best of luck now and always. You go out there and show everyone who and what Gino is all about.

Local Yocal wrote on June 12, 2012 at 3:06 am
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I hope you are right. Confronting anyone and everyone who gives him the "hard eye" in reaction to the unusual spectacles he creates; and then to launch a pre-emptive, violent attack to someone's negative verbage, is a very dangerous, unjust way to live. If someone puts themselves out there, they must live with the consequences, and one of those consequences might sometimes have to be another's scorn. Unless he is physically attacked first or reasonably believes he will be under physical attack, he has no business lashing out first like the incident that is glamorized in this article. What no one wants to see happen is the young man doesn't remember anything from a vodka blur; but wakes up in a jail cell, facing a Class 4 felony aggravated battery charge, for which he easily qualified. Even worse, we never want to see another Matthew Sheppard.

To those who actually know the young man, I am happy to withdraw the accusations of arrogance and selfishness and for now, will chaulk up the appearance of same as an incomplete picture due to the arrangement and choice of facts gathered by the writer.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on June 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm
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OK then.  I support gay rights, but I don't understand the gay folks who act like this guy.  He sounds like a walking stereotype.  I fail to see the difference between this guy and a lecherous straight person who goes around hitting on the opposite sex all the time, and making them uncomfortable.  Forcing your sexuality onto other people is inconsiderate, whether you are straight or gay.  It's like the gay parade parades, I can't imagine that one of those garish orgies has ever positively influenced someone's opinion toward homosexuals.

"No matter; he likes it when people look at him; he gets worried when they don't. He likes it when he makes people uncomfortable."  That tells you all you need to know.  He wants attention, attention, attention, and then more attention.  Look at me, I dress in an unusual manner!  Look at me!  I base my entire identity as a person around my sexuality, isn't that neat?

rsp wrote on June 14, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Throwing the word "lecherous" in there says a lot, doesn't it? Almost like maybe you're thinking that men who dress that way are "lecherous". From wanting to have fun and be noticed to "he's lecherous". All of your references are about sex. He's a visual artist. A photographer. Hence the references to the clothes, make-up and the career hopes. It's not his biography. Most people aren't that honest.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on June 14, 2012 at 11:06 pm
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Read my post again, I didn't call him lecherous.

Perhaps my original post was too harsh and judgmental, but the point I'm trying to make here is that it sounds like he goes around looking for drama and then complains when he finds it.  He can dress however he wants, and if it's just to "have fun and be noticed," then OK.  But, if it's done to get a rise out of people and because he's desperate for attention, which is what the story makes it sound like, then that's immature and self-defeating.

rsp wrote on June 14, 2012 at 11:06 pm

 I fail to see the difference between this guy and a lecherous straight person

Read it.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on June 15, 2012 at 12:06 am
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You're still wrong.  I used the separate example of an overly lecherous individual to illustrate another behavior related to sexuality that deliberately prioritizes the wants of the individual over consideration towards others.  It was not a smooth analogy in retrospect, but you can take it or leave it.  Quit arguing semantics.

rsp wrote on June 15, 2012 at 1:06 am

I'm not sure what behavior of his you're taking issue with. He dresses a certain way, wears make up, and isn't groping anyone. Just for the sake of argument, if the story was about a girl, she liked to get dressed up, put on her make up, didn't sleep around, but liked to go out with friends and get attention do you think there would have been the negative comments from people? 

alabaster jones 71 wrote on June 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm
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There is nothing I can say that won't repeat what I've already said, and what local yocal said more thoroughly and eloquently, but here's the cliff notes version:

Expressing yourself and being honest with yourself = good

Acting out for attention and being self-absorbed = bad

Christopher90 wrote on June 25, 2012 at 11:06 pm

This man is empowering to so many individuals, and he has helped many people out there in the gay community who feel like a monster or a freak, feel and look normal compared to him. I thank him for who he is and what he stands for. Living in the public eye the way he does and hearing negative comments, like some that have been written, is a sacrafice he makes for people like us who love him for what he does for us, and I don't think he will ever stop--thank God. He is the change that this world needs. If you don't like the article, then read something else.

Sierra Washington wrote on July 04, 2012 at 12:07 am
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The moment that I saw Gino's photograph, I was taken back by one of the most beautiful human beings I had ever seen.  This article, to me is pivital in today's society.  This is not just an article told from the point of view of the subject, but by someone who is just as inspired as I am.  Gino is the epitome of what is possible for the future.  He is a strong, intelligent and kind person.  In fact, the word megalomaniac is the complete polar opposite of the point the article is trying to make.  However, what it is about is loving one's self as you are and embracing all that you stand for, the good and the bad.  It is about not changing yourself to make those around you comfortable, but allowing them to embrace how unique we all are.  If it's not your cup of tea, then turn the page, but realize Gino is one of many that will not idly stand by and allow others to determine who he is.  This is also an article put out for the masses to know that they are loved just as they are, and should embrace all of their beauty.  Gino is a face of a movement of people who will not step back into "the closet" just to make you feel less homophobic.  If indeed God make us in his image, Gino is an ethereal reflection of who God is.  I for one see Gino as a role model.  Not just for the gay community but for how I would like to see mankind.  I imagine a future where if I have children they will grow to be confident in who they are and strengthend by it, not ashamed.  That their dreams and aspirtations will not be limited by some narrow minded minority who seek to crush their indivuality.

Lisa Valo wrote on July 04, 2012 at 1:07 am
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I have lived in the area for almost my entire life and this is the first article I have ever read from the News Gazette, that made me check to see if I wasn't reading the "New York Times". The article struck a nerve in me of just now backwards our values here in downstate Illinois really are.  I found it refreshing to learn of such and amazing human being and to know he was only an email away.  Love is love and I don't care what color you are or what you sexual preference is...if you can find it in the cruel, cold world, you are indeed lucky.  Gino proves that on a daily basis.  We have teens hanging themselves after being bullied on the internet or at school.  I can't begin to imagine the pain and loss of hope these children must have felt, but in reading some of your replies I can see what they must have felt they are up against. 

I have had the honor of getting to know Gino a little more since the Gazette ran the article. I have found him to be one of the kindest, most gentle people I have ever met. I am, for the record (before it is asked), a heterosexual, single mother of two, who is in a committed relationship.  I was so moved by reading his story that I shared it with both of my children (ages 17 and 23). They felt empowered by Gino's strength, honesty, genuine humanity and his humble nature,  What better person could you ask for to be a role model ???  The world would be a more loving and beautiful place to be if he was. Gino didn't have anything to do with the world being made is seven days, but he is damn sure is going to make sure it is decorated as close to his vision as possible.  I want to make sure I have tickets to that gala !!!  Thank you Gino for sharing yourself with the world.