The First Issue

Paulo Murillo on being featured in the inaugural issue of THE FIGHT,
coiffed and airbrushed models and revolutionary queerness

BY PAULO MURILLO

I remember when Stanford Altamirano first told me that he wanted to launch a magazine called THE FIGHT. We were both huffing and puffing doing crunches at Equinox in WeHo, when he mentioned the idea of an unapologetic gay magazine that focused on the fight for LGBT equality and social justice during a time when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was still a thing and Marriage Equality was not. He wanted to highlight real people on the cover and not the usual perfectly coiffed and airbrushed models that were the norm in gay media at the time. 

Stanford wanted to feature the fight for recovery in the LGBT community as well. I was coming up on four years of continuous sobriety, so that’s what eventually landed me on the very first cover of THE FIGHT—A Queer Revolution. 

A three-day crystal meth run had landed my ass at the footsteps of the Van Ness Recovery House on January 10, 2007. That was the same year Britney Spears went bonkers and shaved her head, Lindsay Lohan relapsed, Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. were newly sober, and Anna Nicole Smith died of a drug overdose. It was also the year that Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” song hit the airwaves in the U.S.

Prior to rehab, I courted controversy in a column I wrote called “Love Ya, Mean It” for FAB! Newspaper. I was a tragic mess, so when I came out of that puke palace nine months later, I remember contemplating the options of my new existence. I vowed to live my life in recovery in the same fashion that I lived my life as a crazy queen of chaos—balls out and openly sober.

Stanford wanted all the grit of my story in the first issue of his magazine and he wanted me to embody a boxer of sorts on his cover. I was ready for my closeup, but then my closeup came, and I couldn’t take a shot of tequila to calm my nerves at that photoshoot. 

The first issue of THE FIGHT hit the streets on the first week of February 2011. I ran to My 12 Step Store in WeHo to feast my eyes on my first magazine cover. I knew my editorial was tight, but my face completely cracked when I saw my picture on that beautiful thick glossy paper—Oh my God! It was awful. I wanted to cry. I saw my hard likeness lurking in the shadows with a cut lip, bruised cheek and a dark spot strategically covering my bum eye. “This is your brain on drugs,” I thought. I guess I expected my image to be perfectly coiffed and airbrushed like the models that were the norm in gay media at the time. 

Mark Ariel, the managing editor, told me to give it some time in his usual calm demeanor. He said I would change my mind one day. 

And he was right. I got over it. I continued writing for THE FIGHT and can proudly say that I’m one of a few OG contributors from the very beginning. I look at that first issue and I think of all THE FIGHT has done and become in the past ten years, the number of people it has featured, and the stories that have found a voice on those glossy pages. 

Today, that first cover no longer conjures the before photo of a drug addict (I mean. Come on. Look at my rack.) I see a fighter, a survivor and I see the beginning of many incarnations to come, not just in myself, but in the magazine itself. Many covers have followed mine, but I’m happy and I’m proud to say I’m on the very first. Congratulations on 10 years of revolutionary queerness. Thank you so much. We’ve come a long fucking way baby.