Pictured The Playgirl Cover, Rick in the limelight. Final photo, Rick before he altered his body.
Rick Dinihanian has been thrust into the limelight in a most unique way. The stunning (and openly gay) 55-year-old model, artist and graphic designer has landed himself in and on the June 2004 issue of Playgirl magazine. Rick is the oldest man to be both cover model and centerfold in Playgirl's 30-year history. Windy City Times recently spoke with this handsome, sweet, and candid individual about fame, workouts, and even plastic surgery.
Windy City Times: How did the Playgirl shoot come about?
Rick Dinihanian: I was volunteering at a non-profit event dressed as a Chippendale's guy and flirting with the crowd while selling raffle tickets. There, I met photographer Roger Nguyen who snapped a few shots of me. Later he contacted me in delight at the success of those photos, inviting me to his studio for a more focused photo shoot.
I had no idea what to expect, but I stuffed my gym bag with some of my favorite clothing items and headed over. We took hundreds of shots. It wasn't long before he posed the question about submitting the images to Playgirl. I actually laughed at the idea and then said, 'Go for it.' Well, to our surprise, they responded immediately. They said that they wanted to do a feature on me and asked for additional images for the publication. I have to say that it was an extremely trying and emotional time for me as my father suffered a heart attack in the middle of all of it. I was back and forth to my hometown of Portland, Ore., to care for him. The Playgirl photo shoot was split over a period of time when a lot was happening.
After sending a batch of photos from a subsequent shoot, Playgirl announced their plan to use me as the centerfold. Having received a third set of photos, they told Roger about their decision to also place me on the cover. This was very cool ... I couldn't have asked for a better birthday present. [Note: Rick's birthday was May 27.]
RD: (Laughs) That was my response—and I still feel very good about all of it. With all that is happening now and all the press about Playgirl, my modeling career has taken a huge leap.
Most of the photos Playgirl used in their spread were taken in my painting studio with all the brilliant colors of my artwork as a backdrop. Not only was I totally exposed, but my artwork was too. This really lit me up deep within and also exposed something very core to my being, which I believe, makes the photographs have even more impact.
WCT: Now something that I find pretty incredible is that just five years ago [at age 50!] you were overweight and had a potbelly. Is that really true?
RD: Actually, it is. I had been taking care of everything but myself. I think this happens to a lot of us at different times in our lives.
WCT: What motivated you to go on that journey that took you to your current shape?
RD: Well, Andrew, I guess you could say that I wanted to get back into my old blue jeans.
One day I realized that I had gotten a potbelly. I don't remember exactly when it happened, but I saw how little attention I had paid to being fit and healthy. Once I realized that, I found the power to transform my body. For reinforcement, I photographed what I didn't want. I got a friend to take a couple Polaroid shots of me—one of which followed me around and finally ended up on my refrigerator. This photo actually brought about a comical event involving my mother.
About eight months after the big tummy photo, I had worked hard and slimmed down quite a bit, but still kept the photo on the refrigerator as a reminder. My mom came for a family visit and she happened to notice the 'before' photo still plastered on my fridge. She examined it closely and with a curious look on her face asked me 'Honey, who's this and why is he on your refrigerator?'
WCT: Oh no!
RD: It's OK. She recognizes me in pictures now, but then I was puzzled that she didn't recognize me, and finally delighted in my physical improvement. It was the best congratulations I could imagine for all of my effort. She never did believe it was me in the photo! I think I'm now in the best shape of my life. I thought it would be harder to transform my body in my 50s than it was in my 20s and in many ways it is. In my 20s I had all my hormones raging ...
WCT: Didn't we all?
RD: Yes. (Laughs) Well, they're still going, only they affect my body differently. I always figured that it's best to work with what you have, and I realized that I had lots more experience setting goals for myself than when I was 20. I looked at all the things I had created and accomplished while I let my body go. Then, I just put that same energy and goal planning to work toward changing my body. It's something anyone can do.
In the end, what truly motivated me was that I wasn't really comfortable in my body. I found myself getting tired all the time and not having any energy. What's key is that I chose to change.
WCT: I think what's important is that you have to want [to change] badly enough to embark on the regimen that you do. A lot of people want to change but don't do anything about it.
RD: Right, but it's understandable. Sometimes just starting a change can be overwhelming, especially if you've been away from any form of exercise for a while.
I've noticed that we all have different bodies. We have to work with who we are. For example, I could never be 6' 2'. [Note: Rick's 5' 10'.] Each person's body chemistry is a little different, so what works for me may not work for someone else.
Another aspect of physical change is that by letting go of weight or body fat, we shed aspects of ourselves that we no longer want or need. So there is an inner change as well that allows us to accept ourselves in new ways. I ended up accepting myself enough to get naked in front of a camera—OK, well, several cameras. The bigger deal is that cameras never lie, they always tell if you are fully present or not.
WCT: What is your workout regimen?
RD: I'm usually up at about 6. I work for about an hour and then I either go for a 35-minute run or I go to the gym for an hour. If I go to the gym in the morning, I do some type of aerobic exercise in the middle of the day. I do it partially for fitness and partially to release the tension of the day.
WCT: Believe me, I can relate.
RD: (Laughs.) I think everyone else can too.
What I try to do is to be very consistent. Sometimes I refer to this as being focused. So, working out is part of my life, like eating. This helps me to constantly maintain a certain level of fitness. I was very intense with my workouts when I first started and then realized that if I wanted to have a healthful lifestyle that supported my fitness goals I would have to be consistent, and you can't be extremely intense for an extended time without burning out. I think a lot of people have that tendency. It is so easy to find something new, get really excited and go full throttle, but burn out fast and give up and I had gotten really close to doing that.
What I can tell you is that everyone can be fit and trim. If you trust that the way is out there to achieve your own success, then you will certainly find it.
WCT: Do you work out every day?
RD: I get to the gym five days a week. The weekends are usually reserved for outdoor things, like running, biking, or hiking. The hills of San Francisco are like Stairmasters, so on those days when I can't get motivated to get to the gym, I do something outside. Of course, just like everyone else, there are those days when all the motivation in the world doesn't even get me out of bed, and a movie is a lot more enticing than the gym. So, I simply do my best to break the cycle of that rut and rededicate myself each time rather that beating myself up about missing a workout.
WCT: Yeah ... in California you can do things outside. In Chicago, it can get a little bit harder.
RD: Oh, I know. We're blessed here. No winter snow, true enough, though we have our share of cold, windy, foggy, and wet weather. On the other hand, in Chicago you probably have a lot more indoor fitness centers than we do.
Something that I want to add about fitness is that if you give yourself about 90 days to change to a new pattern it becomes really familiar. Every time I started to doubt that I could transform my body, I changed what I call my 'inner conversation.' My new mantra became 'Yes, I can.'
WCT: What's your diet like?
RD: My diet is fairly simple, though I would call it a lifestyle instead of a diet. I almost exclusively go with organic, fresh foods. My meat sources are chicken and fish like salmon. I eat four to five small meals a day. [Lastly,] I do my best not to eat 'hard carbohydrates'—like bread and pasta—after 4 o'clock in the afternoon.
RD: Smaller meals tend to be digested more easily, and keep me from getting tired afterwards. It also keeps my metabolism fired up, which burns body fat. If I eat carbs late in the day, I'll put on body fat because my metabolism doesn't break carbs down as quickly and I'm usually moving at a slower pace during that point of the day. I tend to eat carbs in the morning, a few hours after going to the gym.
WCT: Do you ever cheat?
RD: Oh, honey, you have to cheat! (Laughs.) I don't call it cheating, though. I recognize that I have desires for many fun foods—you know, those foods that taste great, but really don't feed my body. So I allow myself to enjoy them once in a while.
WCT: I've heard personal trainers say that they stick to strict diets six days a week, but they have a 'cheat day' on the seventh. Then, they eat whatever they want—but not too much of it.
RD: Let's call it a 'free day.' They're great to keep you on your fitness path. Those trainers are smart coaches. What really happens after you change your eating habits is that desires lessen for foods that don't support you. If you eat sugar every day, you crave it. If you remove it for a couple of months, you don't really crave it very much. Usually, I look at a piece of food and ask if it's supporting my body. If it talks back or doesn't support my body, I usually don't eat it. It was too much work to get here so I'm really conscious of what food is about.
WCT: I have to tell you: I don't think there's any way I could totally omit sugar from my diet for two months.
RD: Well, it's almost impossible to completely remove it from your diet anyway. Even if you took out everything that you thought contained sugar, you'd still find it in many food products that would surprise you. If you've ever had a huge 'sugar high,' it shows you how much impact on your body sugar has.
WCT: Now what do you think of these so-called fad diets like the Atkins and South Beach Diets?
RD: If you look at other cultures, they tend to split body types into three groups. Each body type functions differently with different foods, which may affect metabolism.
Each diet probably works well for a particular body type. That's why most diets have so much success; they are winning with one particular body type. What works for one may not work for another. My comment is that it's best to observe yourself if you're on a special diet and learn what works for you and what doesn't. In the end, creating a long-term eating lifestyle is more important than a temporary diet change.
WCT: I'm a little curious to get your thoughts on plastic surgery. [With all of these reality TV shows focusing on it,] my friends and I have been discussing it.
RD: Hmmm. (Pauses) I don't have a judgment on it either way. Sometimes it's necessary for physical reasons and I totally support that. I think that we are internally driven to do some things. If someone has that need, it's something that probably will be fulfilled. The quest for beauty includes many aspects of our physical being. If we are doing something for ourselves, it usually is the right thing to do. If we are doing it for someone else's perception or approval of us, it often isn't. Beyond plastic surgery, we are given many beautiful gifts that cannot be created by any cosmetic change; I'm referring to centeredness, happiness, and a glowing sexiness that anyone can create. Real sexiness and real peace comes from who you are inside.
WCT: When did you start modeling?
RD: In my 20s and 30s as a designer, my clients would often ask me to be part of a photo shoot, though I was usually on the set behind the photographer. I never really thought of myself as someone who was model material and never pursued it. My commitment to serious modeling started just two years ago.
WCT: Did someone suggest that you submit a photo or did you go to agencies on your own?
RD: Actually, a friend said 'You're looking really good,' and he was going on a shoot with the photographer Cliff Baker. So I showed up and had a blast.
A couple of months later [photographer] Tom Bianchi called and then the work started flowing in. Some images from Tom's shoot were recently published in the January issue of BLUE magazine.
WCT: Would you consider the Playgirl shoot to be the best thing you've done?
RD: This is definitely the most exciting thing I've done.
Every photo shoot has a dynamic that is different regarding the photographer, environment, and intent—and so far they have all been great, so it's difficult to point to any one and say it was the best. However, Playgirl has definitely given me the most exposure.
WCT: So how has your life changed since this shoot?
RD: Well, being a Playgirl centerfold is one of the best door openers I have ever experienced. I have had the opportunity to speak with people all over the United States and Canada—like you. I never thought of myself as a hot guy on Playgirl. However, the publicity is quite exciting and energizing. Plus, it's really nice to have this happen in my 50s, or at any age actually.
I'm looking for ways to take my experience and story and inspire other people. I've started a book that's going to be very interesting. I've also been able to support causes and groups that I think are important.
WCT: I think you've shown people that, no matter what your age, you can change your life.
RD: Yes, you can change your life. I really want people to know that. It's a good thing to remind yourself just to live your life. It all starts from an inner spark; once you light that, it can guide you toward achieving your goals. When you shift the boundaries of your reality, other things can change as well. For me, eliminating things that didn't support my life and body was important—and I mean that emotionally as well. Even though Playgirl is focused on the physical, [the whole experience] has created some personal introspection: Who am I and what am I doing on this planet? I trust I'll get a chance to do something really wonderful with my life.
WCT: Do you feel like you know why you're on this planet?
RD: It's a process. I still feel like I'm on my way to knowing. I would be very happy if I could carry the message that transformation and beauty start from the inside out. When we make the change in ourselves that we want to see on this planet, everything changes around us.
WCT: How does it feel knowing that you're a role model for someone?
RD: Well Andrew, it feels a little unusual. However, I'm totally willing to be one. I just want to be the best person I can be.
Rick's Playgirl pictures were taken by Roger Nguyen.
Rick's at www.RickDinihanian.com .
I'm at email@example.com .