Ronnie Kroell: There’s a ton of heart behind that smile

I have been blessed to know Ronnie Kroell for quite a while now. I am honored to call him friend, grateful for the adventures his friendship brings me, and look forward to many more years of both! Ronnie is a model, actor, activist, artist, singer, soon to be author, and one of the best human beings I know. He founded the Friend Movement along with Laughing Eddie Lobo and through this, they have been feeding homeless people in LA, bringing people together, and promoting the importance of self love and friendship.

On my most recent trip to Los Angeles, Ronnie and I had lunch and lots of coffee with the best conversation, as usual. We started talking about things we wanted to do and how we  might be able to work together on something special. The idea of a Facebook Live show came up and I totally felt Ronnie would be perfect for that space. Shortly after, Behind the Smile Live was a reality that I feel was overdue and needed. We thought it would be really nice to chat about it and about the other things Ronnie has going on so we could share it with you all as well.

We’ve had many conversations over the years in private but I’m always proud to share the ones I can with you! So, let me introduce you to Ronnie Kroell, the man (and heart) behind the gorgeous smile:

Q: Tell me a little about the concept behind the Behind The Smile book and how that became Behind the Smile Live. I am honored to have been part of the BTS Live process but I want everyone to know how it evolved. 

Ronnie Kroell: The concept for my Behind The Smile book is simple really, it’s about authenticity.

My goal is to dive beneath the surface, eliminate the filters, destroy the masks, and achieve a deeper level of human connection with my family, friends, and fans. I plan to challenge my readers to step outside of their own comfort zones, become more vulnerable, and live their most authentic lives. To do this, I will be sharing my personal life struggles, successes, and a few lessons that I’ve learned along the way. Each chapter will discuss an important topic, but the coolest part is, readers will be able to immediately implement what they have read by way of a real-life challenge that I pose at the end of each chapter!

While I am writing the book, I thought it would be fun to get the creative juices flowing and do something special! SO, I teamed up with my friend Tommy Geraci and together we created, BTS – LIVE on Facebook. It airs every Sunday at 3PM ET / 6PM PT. We have a new guest each week, share an inspirational quote, and pose a weekly challenge to motivate and energize our audience for the week ahead.

Q: You have been on a journey to help others AND to learn more about yourself. Do those two goals ever get in each other’s way?

Ronnie Kroell: I have found that it is possible to help others while working on myself, but it is MOST important to find a healthy balance. If you give too much of yourself away, then you have nothing left and can burn out pretty easily. Practicing self-care and learning to love yourself is the key to learning how to extend that same kindness to others in our lives.

Q: Friend Movement started as an anti-bullying platform but has also evolved into so much more. Can you tell us a little about it and how it is different from other movements out there?

RK: Friend Movement believes that what you focuses on expands, thereby, if we are focused on “anti-bullying”, we are still giving bullying power. So, to counter that, we have decided to be “pro-friendship” and find ways to explore what it really means to be a friend to ourselves and others. We are in the business of preventing and healing the effects of bullying by producing fun events, edgy photo-campaigns, and inspiring diverse social media content that aims to unite us in friendship and find solutions to challenging problems.

Q: In episode one of BTS Live, you discussed how you can look at photos and know what was going on behind your smiles and which were forced. What truly makes you smile?

RK: Life is a beautiful, but often very complicated thing. It comes with complex challenges, confusing emotions, and scarce resources. Our collective society / consciousness creates and dictates how we should walk, talk, look, etc. But to me, living by those norms is SO boring. What makes me smile is when I see people breaking out of their cages, challenging the status quo, thinking outside the box, and being unapologetically themselves. It’s taken me a bit of time to become comfortable in my own skin (for numerous reasons that I will touch upon in the book), but I smile the brightest when I have no other intention than that of showing up and enjoying the ride.

Q: What’s one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without? 

RK: I cannot live without my friends, they are fuel and sustenance for my soul.

I wish we could all live without judgement.

Q: In episode one you also discussed the change in tone the internet can take. When social media first became big, it seemed to be nicer, more friendly. Do you think we can get that back? Go back to a global community? 

RK: The world we live in today is certainly technologically more connected than it has ever been, but yet somehow it feels we are more disconnected at times. The truth is, we are starving for real human contact and deeper connections — not the surface level interactions we have come to know. Some social media outlets have become real toxic wastelands that are breeding and perpetuating fear, anger, bullying, isolation, depression, and egocentric life-styles. I don’t think that we can go back in time, but I do think that together we can #BeTheChange on an individual level and create new healthy habits.

Q: Describe yourself using three hashtags.

RK: #KingOfHeart #Artist #Friend

Q: As long as I’ve known you, I have never heard you preach for the sake of it and I know you always walk the walk. What do you hope BTS Live will be to others and what do you hope it can be for you? 

RK: I hope that BTS Live will be a raw slice of life look into my world, my friends, and my dreams — thereby inspiring others to rise above fear, reach for their goals, and experience all the happiness and abundance they deserve in life. For me, it is another creative outlet by which to continue to challenge myself, know myself, and maybe even surprise myself from time to time.

Q: You have spoken of self love and since I know you practice what you preach, can you name three qualities you think are your strongest or that you are proud of?

RK: Loyalty



Q: Since we are also discussing themes of self reflection, can you name three qualities you think you can improve on? 

RK: Patience


Saying NO

Q: Where can everyone find you on social media and online?

Q: What’s up next for Ronnie Kroell? For Friend Movement?

RK: My three main focuses right now are painting, acting, and taking Friend Movement to the next level! You can expect to see me working consistently in mainstream film, television, putting on art gallery shows, and speaking out about the importance of friendship through various channels, including, but not limited to — The Ronnie & Eddie Show. We could not be doing this important work without the kindness, love, and support of our growing #FriendFamily and for that we are deeply grateful.

Together we are making a difference —  one friend at a time.

I really want to thank Ronnie from the bottom of my heart for his friendship, for doing this interview and for giving me the opportunity to work on Behind the Smile Live with him. Please join us every Sunday at 3pm PT/6pm ET for a thoughtful, meaningful conversation that will start off your week perfectly! Here’s a previous episode so you can see for yourself:

Aiden Howarth: Poet, Dedicated Father, FRIEND, and Game Changer

This interview with my good friend Aiden Howarth first appeared on Technorati in 2012 (wow! 2012! I’ve know him a LONG time… and we’re still SO young but Mia is no longer 7 years old) but since there were changes made to that site, it is no longer available. I thought I would share it here, especially since I know Aiden is working on his second project. His first was a collection of his poetry and I fell in love with it immediately. While you wait for his second, catch up with him and his poetry here:
First, let me thank you for doing this. I really do love your work.  It is totally true that “Without You” is on my night table and I enjoy reading the poems whenever I am unwinding from my day. My sister has also taken to a few I posted or re-posted from you on Facebook. I think a few of them remind her of her daughter. 
I always wonder about the thought process when it comes to poetry and I thought others might enjoy this exchange :)
Q: You dedicated your book of poetry, Without You, to your beautiful daughter Mia Liljana Jeane Howarth.  Obviously she is a great inspiration to you.  Is she old enough to understand what all that this means?  Does she share in your artistic skills? 
Aiden Howarth: Mia is an incredibly bright child. She always has been. She’s now 7 years old and doing great in school, escpecially in her reading and writing, which is great. She is forever writing stories of princesses and castles and she enjoys being praised for it which of corse, I do every single day. She is my incredible little angle and not a day goes by where I don’t look at her and wonder what I did so right to be given a chance at bringing up such a wonderful little girl. As regards her understanding, I don’t believe she has fully grasped the fact that a book has been dedicated to her. Yes, she has seen her pictures and her name in print and yes, she thinks it’s great but hopefully when she is old enough to understand the full meaning of all the work that’s written inside, she will thinks it’s even more amazing. Of Corse, I didn’t write a book just to make my daughter happy, I did it for myself and for sharing what I write with the world. The opportunity to share with her my work in such a way arose and I jumped at the chance.
Q: Many of the poems are about loss, separation, and love.  Do you think these go hand in hand? Is it inevitable? 
AH: Like the old saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, I do believe that loss, separation and love are inevitable. I believe that to truly understand what love is, first you must feel the pain of having someone walk away from a relationship. The hurt of walking away yourself when you realise that the person you once loved is not who you first thought to be. Love, to me, is an awe inspiring feeling. In that, in some way large or small, we all at some point will feel it. Only some of us want to keep it going forever.
Losing someone, especially a child, is a moment in life where you know what love feels like. What love is. What love was created for. Losing a child like I did so many years ago I believe put me on the path I am on now. The path which forces me to praise everything Mia does, Is thankful for her every waking breath, scared that I may not be doing a good job. All feelings that so far, have given me some of the best moments in my life with her.
Q:  ”A New Page of Old Emptiness” to me, seems to be about not realizing what you have right in front of you.  What was your motivation for this piece? What thoughts were you harnessing and what reaction were you hoping to bring out in the reader? 
AH: You’re exactly right. It’s about how it feels to have someone you love so deeply, finally give upon the relationship you thought would last forever, and it is actually all your own fault. The title itself ‘A New Page Of Old Emptiness’ means just that… another day gone by with still the same old pain. The same old guilt. The same blame. It’s also a reference back to an earlier poem I wrote where once again, pages of life seem to be going unwritten, un read, torn out and discarded. As you’ve propably gathered, most, if not all of my poetry is written about love and loss. Hence the title of the book ’Without You’. Somewhat referring to being without that special person in your life but on the most part, it’s speaking to one’s self. Without You meaning myself. The feelings I tried to portray within this piece where the feelings of despair.
Q: “The Fairytale You Had Wished For” feels like it is warning us of forcing ourselves to be in idealistic relationships.  Sometimes we try so hard to create what we need with someone because we really believe they are “the one” when in reality it may not be meant to be.  What period of your life was that about or where you relaying someone else’s story? 
AH: This stemmed, again, from a relationship. In fact, all relationships. Women and I guess men too believe and want THEIR relationship to be the best one anyone could ever have. The have dreams, goals, aspirations. Everything is so idealistic. Just like a fairytale. When in reality, a fairytale could not be further from the truth of what it is we live. Fairytales are given to us as children as fantasy. They portray a happy ending every single time. It’s when you learn that a happy ending comes few and far between in love, that you realise a small part of yourself has died. This poem was written as almost a letter to the other person. Stressing my angst at our failings and pointing out that none of us did anything wrong, it’s that we believed too much that we were the fairytale we saw as children. Finding out that we could not live the way we hoped (be it problem free and with a happy ending) I end that poem with the stark reality of what believing in the fairytale of life will do to us all…
Taken by the hand and misled into the arms of hurt.
The fairytale that you had wished for?
Q:  ”Be Still My Heart” could be about love that is not returned or one person feeling something the other doesn’t quite feel.  Is it about a specific time in your life? Do you think most of us have to go through relationships or feelings like this before we find the “right” one?  
AH: This poem is about falling in love. The passion. The want to feel that ache of needing someone so badly that it hurts. But, as is my usual style, there’s a problem. It’s a poem about falling in love with some you cannot have or be with. Falling in love with someone who loves you too but life has put you both on very separate paths. I wrote this one quite recently, be it a year ago I think. It’s not in my fav poem section but its nice that you would chose it to ask questions about as since, I’ve gone back and re-read it and I’m put straight back in the room I was when I felt those things. It’s funny how life treats us so unfairly in love but how it seems to work out better in the end. I think. Ha ha. I still remember that person and I always will.
Q:  ”A Life, When All Life Has Gone” may be about a breakup.  It has a feel of being about an ending, something that was coming for a while but maybe one or both parties pushed off, perhaps for a bit too long.  What can you tell us about this piece? 
AH: This poem is in fact about my drug addictions back when I was young. It’s about being so far gone that death no longer seems a threat, but a need. I openly admit that drugs caused allot of the problems I had, but I also admit that without them, I possibly wouldn’t have had a book out now. I look upon what drugs did to me menatlly, emotionally and physically with not only small amounts of regret, but with a fondness. Drugs gave me what I needed at a point in life where I had absolutely nothing. I was indeed just an empty, lifeless being with no stability in my life, no home, no friends, no nothing. Drugs gave me a release. They gave me something to look forward to. But, as with everyone who touches them, they promised so much and when they had me, they took everything back. You will find more poetry in the book about drugs. Not worded as such but if you read between the lines you’ll see it. There came appoint in my life where I knew there was no escape from addiction but death itself. There was a point in life where death itself took me but gave me back to the world, possibly because I had alot more to give. That I am thankful for these days. I’m wiser, I’m older, I have great plans and dreams that I look forward to making a reality. 
Q:  Where can people purchase your work? 
AH: People can grab a copy of either the paperback or an eBook for their ipads, iphones, ipods etc at the eBook costs less than £2 and the paperback is £8.50
These, as you’re possibly aware, won’t be on sale for much longer. I don’t say this to try ramp up sales. Sales were / are never a priority. People can read my work for free at if they wanted. I say this because as work on book number 2 is coming along nicely, I want to remove book 1 so that it remains special to the people who own a copy.
If people wanna get a hold of me, id happily invite them to join me on my many twitter exploits by just saying hello to @A1D3NH0
They can facebook me too if they wanna see more of my personal life, pictures etc by adding /AidenHowarth to the end of
Or they can just leave me a note in the guestbook on my website 
Thank you for taking time out to show interest in what I write and I here by promise you a free copy of book 2 when it out. And believe me, that’s gonna be a game changer…… 
TG: If you don’t believe Aiden, then believe ME when I tell you that I believe Aiden and I know his next work will indeed change the game! Also, look out for a new interview with him as soon as he’s ready! 

‘Troy’s Big Break’ speaks volumes for a community that is often under-represented

Joseph Ausanio is an actor, screenwriter, and creator of the webseries ‘Troy’s Big Break’. Joseph also happens to be deaf but he does NOT allow that to keep him from doing all the things he dreams of and he encourages us all to follow suit. Another thing you should know about Joseph is that he is a gay man who is representing in such a positive way.

The unique thing about ‘Troy’s Big Break’ is there are no spoken lines. Almost all of the dialogue is signed and there are captions for those of us who do not speak sign language. You really have to check it out for yourself! Here is a little about the show and Joseph as only he can tell you:

Q: Can you talk a little about Troy’s Big Break?

Joseph Ausanio: Absolutely! It’s a unique show because it showcases Deaf talent. It’s about a Deaf director who faces different types of life challenges while looking for the perfect actress for his production. Things start to unfold to show what’s going on in his life.

Q: What has the response to the show been so far from the deaf community as well as the hearing community?

Joseph Ausanio: It’s pretty popular with the Rochester, NY folks, because that is where we filmed the show. And the people know us there. Rochester also has a large D/deaf community there and it’s truly a nice thing. The people who watched the show always approach the cast members and let them know that they are fans of the show.  That really means a lot.  I had hearing people messaging me saying that it was so different from the other things they watched because they’re so used to seeing shows with a full hearing cast, but the reception from them has been really positive.

Q: What guest stars would you like to have on the show?

Joseph Ausanio: Ooh, this is a tough one. I’d love to have Marlee Matlin on the show. She’s one of my inspirations. I would LOVE to get Amber Zion on the show. She’s an incredibly gifted Deaf actress and I love her work. I would also love to get Rikki Poynter, who’s a super awesome YouTube vlogger and I love her videos. She’s not afraid to speak out and I have tremendous respect for her for doing that.

I’d also love to see Kelsey Lindhorst’s character faint when she sees Nyle DiMarco show up in an episode. That’d be hilarious. Or even Troy’s mom to go out on a date with him! (Think Sophia Petrillo going on a date with Burt Reynolds in an episode of “The Golden Girls”)

I’m all about showcasing more Deaf talent out there.

Q: Who were some of your idols/role models growing up?

Joseph Ausanio: First, Marlee Matlin, because she inspired me to become an actor growing up. Also, Lucille Ball is one of the greatest comediennes I’ve ever watched. When I first saw her on TV, I couldn’t walk away from the television. She never fails to make me laugh every time I watch “I Love Lucy”. I admire her so much.

Q: Do you think we will see more shows that involve hearing impaired characters like Switched at Birth and your show? 

Joseph Ausanio: I REALLY hope so. I would love to write a TV series for any network that features characters that are D/deaf because I want to support diversity. We have millions of Deaf people in the world and it would be great to do more shows for them.

Q: What would you say to others who are trying hard to make their dreams come true and trying to overcome some obstacle they have no control over?  

Joseph Ausanio: I would say this:

“If you want to make it happen, do it. If you want to travel all over the world, go for it. If you want to make movies, do it.  Don’t wait for things to simply fall in your lap. I learned this life lesson the hard way. Just listen to your heart. If you want to follow your dreams, now is the time.”

Q: What made you decide to create a character who is also gay?

Joseph Ausanio: The reason why I decided to create a gay character was because the LGBT #DeafTalent felt that they weren’t always showcased, so I wanted to showcase them more.

Q: What would you say to those out there who are dealing with issues around coming out? Both in the deaf community and in the hearing community?

Joseph Ausanio: I remember when I came out, it was very scary. I was 19 and in college. I broke up with my ex-girlfriend and I was slowly coming out to a few close friends and then my family members. My family and friends are incredibly supportive and I feel fortunate for that. For the others, I want them to know that they are not alone in this. I can’t speak for other people, because we all have different experiences. I can say that no matter what, you will always get support from the LGBT community and their allies. If they’re scared, I’m here to talk. I want to lend a hand to provide support. We have a big support system. We have a lot of LGBT people and the allies in our Deaf community and we are so incredibly supportive of each other, and the same goes for the hearing community.

Q: What is the best advice you have ever received? Who was it from?

Joseph Ausanio: I had a great pep talk with a dear friend two weeks before he unexpectedly passed away; he was incredibly supportive of my dreams of moving to Los Angeles.  He said, “Seize the day.” He was right.

Q: What is the best advice you have ever given? Are you normally good at taking your own advice?

Joseph Ausanio: I’m bad at taking my own advice, but I try to give great advice to people. I would tell them, “Life is way too short to be unhappy.  Never give up your dreams even through the tough times, when you realize how strong you truly are.  Nothing….nothing is impossible.”

Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?

Joseph Ausanio: I can’t live without my family, who have been my rock.  I wish we could all live without hate and violence;  there is way too much of that in the world right now.

Q: Where can we find you and your show online?

Joseph Ausanio: You can find me on Twitter via @JosephAusanio and you can find Troy’s Big Break’s Twitter page via @TroysBigBreak. We also have a Facebook page of the show. You can also find the full episodes on our YouTube channel at All of the episodes are captioned for the D/deaf and hearing audiences.

Q: What’s up next for Joseph Ausanio and Troy’s Big Break?

Joseph Ausanio: I am hoping to do a third season of “Troy’s Big Break”. I have the season premiere’s script written already. I’m planning to chat with my cast & crew to see if they’re game.  I work with the most amazing people – both cast and crew.  They have all taught me a lot.   I wrote a few pilot scripts here and there. I’m always writing new stuff.

I recently wrote a feature screenplay that focuses on a Deaf woman and her struggles with life and love. I’m hoping that it might catch someone’s attention because the story is so powerful. I gave it to an actress I want for that role and she loved the script.  Maybe something will come of it soon.

WINGS Helps Domestic Violence Victims become Victorious

You may have seen me tweeting about an organization called WINGS. I wanted to take some time to explain what they do a bit further and invite you to join in showing your support to victims of domestic violence. Many times a person who is in such a situation feels hopeless, alone, and embarrassed. I believe, and so does WINGS, that with the proper encouragement, and the option of a safe place to go, victims can become victorious. So many times being heard and understood can inspire people to make difficult choices and turn their situation around.

WINGS has become one of the largest domestic violence service and housing providers in the state of Illinois. Single women and women with children are able to receive temporary safe shelter through WINGS housing. The staff provides assistance on an individual, one-on-one basis that allows women to set personal goals which enable them to work, continue education, and take care of themselves and their children.

The statistics are staggering, 19.3 MILLION women in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime. With those numbers, I am sure almost all of us know someone who has been affected by the issue.  The programs WINGS offers helps give them back their lives and their courage.

What WINGS wants to do for Mother’s Day is to give everyone an opportunity to show support for the women and children we know in our lives that have had to deal with this. You can be a part by participating in the campaign, #WINGS2beBOLD. Simply upload a photo of yourself or one with your Mothers holding a poster or paper displaying the hashtag  #WINGS2beBOLD to Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram. It’s an easy way to offer some encouragement and possibly inspire strength in someone who desperately needs to know we are with them in spirit.

I’m sure you have heard me say that each of us should take any opportunity we have to be a voice for the voiceless. Fear, shame, and hopelessness rob so many of their own voices. Any support we can offer may just help someone to take the steps necessary to turn their lives around and in many cases, even save someone. While we are all enjoying Mother’s Day with our own loved ones, we can surely take a few moments to extend a virtual hug to someone who truly needs it.

If you want to take it a step further, you can also donate to WINGS and find out more about what they do. Their website is full of valuable information and you can donate here: WINGS Program.


Haaaave you met Josh?

I first met Joshua Reid-Davis on Facebook through mutual friends. From our first conversation, we immediately hit it off because we share many interests and understand each other’s lives in a way others many not “get”. Joshua introduced me to the convention life with Eyecon, their Vampire Diaries Conventions, and to all of these amazing friends I hold dear to this day. I always enjoy talking to Josh, spending time with him, and am thrilled to be able to interview him so you all can keep up with what he’s been up to.

The thing I love most about Josh is his ability to listen to others even when he is going through things himself. I think most people who meet him consider him a friend right from the first moment. For many of the Eyecon attendees at various conventions, he is the main attraction all weekend. Yes, they are there to meet their favorite celebrities, take pictures, and get autographs, but they really do spend the greater part of the weekend being entertained by their favorite MC, Joshua Reid-Davis.

It is always a treat for me to be able to turn the tables on Josh and sort of be an MC FOR him as I bring you our conversations:

Q: So many people know you from your social media and of course, the work you do with EyeCon as MC. For those few who aren’t familiar, could you tell us a little about Joshua Reid-Davis?

Joshua Reid-Davis: Joshua Reid-Davis??? I know that guy!  He’s pretty awesome!  I’m joking, I’m Joking…Yes we do have a lot of new people who are coming to our 3rd Return To Tree Hill Convention.  We have people returning for their second and third time, and we also have people coming for the very first time. It’s going to be exciting.  For those of you who are attending for the first time and if you’re coming by yourself I want to tell you not to be scared… I know that it can be a little intimidating to go to an event like this….. by yourself…. Thats part of my job, I ask folks who are here for the first time and we help people make friends and in all honesty every show someone comes alone and leaves on Sunday with social media friends, some have friends that live close to them and they have that in common, it’s overall a great way to meet new people.

Q: Again, so many people know you but is there something you want people to know about you that they may not already know or something people may be surprised to learn about you?

JRD: Hmm. That’s kind of a tough one because a lot of people know far too much about me yet I may be able to think of something.  Okay here we go; I hate to eat tomatoes but I love ketchup… I hate pickles but I love to eat cucumbers with salt. I also like to eat salt on my watermelon and my cantaloupe.  I’ve heard it’s a southern delicacy.  I also like to eat sugar on my strawberries, peaches, and salt on my watermelon. That’s pretty random eh?

 Q: Can you tell us a bit about your project, “Behind the Smile”?

JRD: Yes, I would love to talk about Behind The Smile.  It started out as a book and I was almost done with it and ready to have it published…. But within a few days my best friend passed away and I knew that I would have to write about it.

Little things eventually turned into big things and they were things I wanted to include into a book.  But I could never find an ending. So I decided to make a documentary out of it. But just like that book …. Life keeps happening and I couldn’t find the right place to end it…. So I have taken it to youtube and hoping that it will make a difference for someone.  I call each video a chapter.  I lost a lot of archived footage that I had filmed interviews with people and I am trying to make it look good.  Some of my friends who are THE YOUTUBERS laugh when I get excited about !25 views…. They have over half a million views…. But that’s not what i’m doing it for.  Would I like to have that many views? HECK YES Because hopefully someone took something away from what I had to say…. That’s my whole goal for Behind The Smile, I’m letting my walls down and letting everyone in and I’m not going to hold any secretes and I’m sharing getting over big issues that happened in my life.  I only have six done at the moment but we are going to have a lot more done this year!

Q: For those who aren’t familiar with convention life and having a convention family, explain why these conventions, especially EyeCon, are so important to you.

JRD: I said this already but I will defiantly say it again because I usually say it over and over at conventions.  I went to my very first convention by myself,  I spent all the big bucks, I had a seat on the front row,

I talked to the people beside me, i chatted with the people around me while waiting in line for photo ops, I chatted with the people at the banquet dinner….. If their was any event going on  I was mingling around talking to people.

I walked away with some new friends from that trip and it got me into working in Los Angeles, CA for 2 1/2 years working for a convention company.   But I assure you, I know we have a lot of new people coming and I want to explain it the way I explain it on stage: It’s a 3 F system… When you arrive and get your tickets and paperwork you’re a FAN, When you mingle around and have fun at all the events you realize you’ve made friends, and after all the Q&A Panels, all the Photo Ops. and Autographs, After the parties and games you look around and realize you’re now part of the Eyecon Family and that is my favorite part of hosting conventions is seeing the people who make friends and come back together and stay connected on social media because they had such a fun amazing weekend.

Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?

JRD: I absolutely can’t live without my Apple TV… (Dont judge me folk) But where else am I going to Netflix and Hulu on?  I wish that we could all learn to live without fish EEEWWW I can’t stand the smell, texture, or anything about them…. Just ew haha

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Who was it from?

JRD: I had a really hard time accepting that fact that I was turning 30.  To people older you’re probably ready to punch me and the people younger are probably thinking, “Dude he’s like 30?” Because I hate when people say, “You don’t look that old…”  For me when I was in my 20’s my friends that were all in their early to mid thirties all looked much older for some reason.. I honestly don’t understand it.  I heard a song on the radio and it said, “I still remember when 30 was old…” And at that moment it hit me OH MY GOSH IT’s JUST A NUMBER!  I was talking with Gwendolyn Foster and she said, “Honey you’re turning 30 not my age, now if you were turning my age…. then you’d really freak out… But guess what kiddo we are turning this age and we are going to go out and party and have a good time and you need to remember that 30 is nothing…. You can totally do this…”  Her words were most defiantly taken to heart I must say.  Because it’s not about the number its about the person that you are and the person you want to be with . I have some friends who are 24 and more mature than some 35 year olds that I know.  I took Gwen’s advice and applied it to my daily walk.  I don’t mind being 30.  But I do get excited when someone ID’s me,  Dont focus on your age it will drive you crazy focus on the fun time you’re going have, celebrate and enjoy life.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever given? Are you good at taking your own advice?

JRD: I had a friend who was getting ready to graduate high school and he complained a lot.  I don’t want to sound mean at all but his family had a lot of money and he really had nothing to stress about, and I’m not saying my problems are any worse or better than anyone else but I had to sit him down and tell him, “When I was your age I was going through not only Navy Bootcamp but I had to go to Fleet Marine Force training camp and get my butt kicked all over the dirt in Camp Jejune (I was a Chaplains Assistant for my first few years of the Navy, I finished up in Communications) I went on to tell him, “You get to see your family every day, and I didn’t see mine for many months at a time, we would get to randomly get phone calls and an email if we were lucky.  If you think you have it hard now because your dad wants you home at 11:30 then try being on a ship where you have to get up at 4-5 am and start your day and always having someone yelling at you telling you what to do… your life could be far worse than it is now…”

I am pretty good at taking my own advice for the most part.

Q: In March, we will both be working on another truly amazing One Tree Hill EyeCon Convention in Wilmington, NC. What else is coming up next for you?

JRD: What’s next eh? I am  going to be doing our March and our Summer Show with One Tree Hill it’s going to be so very exciting.  I look forward to working with Kenny and Autumn behind the scenes to help plan our upcoming 4th convention.

I also have some traveling coming up and going to hurry and try to get some more stories put out on the Behind The Smile Channel.  If you haven’t been I have six videos up so far, I interviewed our dear friend Kat Graham (Bonnie on The Vampire Diaries) and We also have a video from our very first vampire diaries convention where you get to see me call Paul Wesley “Damon”  on stage…. So you never know what you’re going to get into if you watch one.  My goal and my ambition for this series is to help touch peoples lives. That’s all I could ever hope and pray for.

My dreams came true and the creative mind of Kenny Smith made an amazing Star Trek film and I was one of the characters in it. I can’t really tell you a lot of details because I don’t want to give out any spoilers…. But it’s going to be amazing. It was great working with Autumn, Kenny, and the whole cast and crew were amazing. It’ll be out later this year. Star Trek First Frontier.

Q: There are so many people stuggling and hurting. Even with social media bringing so many together, there are still those who feel lonely. What advice do you give to those people who just can’t find the right way to connect with others or are too shy to do so?

JRD: Yes it is so crazy that we have so many people that struggle and hurt.  In the very first video that I posted on Behind The Smile I talked about my depression and other things I’ve gone through.  It really saddens me because I am a huge advocate for no bullying, in all honesty if you see someone being bullied and you do NOTHING to help them, then that just makes you a bully for not stepping up for them.  It hurts to see people being bullied, in fact after this last show I had three fans make fun of me on twitter…. I hate to even mention this because I don’t want them to think that they are getting recognition for this… But I told the crowed that if they were dealing with problems in their lives to check those problems at the door and to come in and have a really good time at the convention with us and when they leave on Sunday hopefully those problems don’t seem that bad anymore because you have all these happy memories to walk away with and use as a “Happy Place” when the hard times come.

Life throws us many hard issues and things at us all the time, and some  of our attendees are going through hard times, and we realize that this is your vacation, your girls weekend out, boys weekend out, “Ran away and left the husband at home but don’t worry we will be home on Monday”, We know that this is your special time, YOUR WEEKEND! So don’t let the problems you have hold you back from having the time of your life…. Because when you go out and spend a weekend with us, the next time that problem comes up, you have all those new memories to think about and hopefully that fun will outweigh the issues that are going on.

Q: Where can people find you online to connect?

JRD: I love social media Hit me up on


Twitter: @JustJoshHeyy

Instagram: JustJoshHeyy


Side note: I’m always excited and proud to work alongside my family at Eyecon!  If you would like to spend some time with us and are a fan of the TV Show One Tree Hill, there will be a convention this March in Wilmington, NC and another in August, most likely in Atlanta, GA. You can get tickets and info by visiting:

Here’s a bit of Josh’s YouTube series “Behind the Smile”