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TV Getting crafty with 'Making It' contestant Jeffery Rudell
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Charlsie Dewey

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Parks & Recreation stars Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman return to TV screens on Tuesday, July 31, with their new reality-competition show, Making It. The show will see eight crafty competitors from across the country compete in arts and crafts challenges over the six-episode series.

Each episode includes two crafts: the short craft, which is a project taking approximately three hours to complete, and a master craft, which takes up to 12 hours. Judges Simon Doonan, creative ambassador for Barneys, and Etsy trend expert Dayna Isom Johnson eliminate a contestant each week.

Jeffery Rudell comes to the show with many years of professional experience in paper crafts. He creates unique items for a variety of clients like Condé Nast and New York Botanical Gardens, having gotten his start with a window display for Tiffany & Co. He is based in New York, where he lives with his husband, Albert.

If Rudell looks familiar, that's because Making It isn't his first foray into reality TV. He was a competitor on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart in 2005, which he admitted wasn't the greatest experience—due to what he said was its cutthroat nature and back stabbing boardrooms.

"Albert said, 'Why do you want to be on another reality show? You didn't love the first one?'" Rudell explained, noting he was initially reluctant to apply to be a contestant.

But he said the draws were Poehler and Offerman as well as the chance to show off his creativity. And, he said the experience was very different from The Apprentice.

"It's a very satisfying thing, and crafts in general. ... The craft community is often a welcome and generous community," he said, adding the show felt more supportive and familial than competitive. "It was hard, but it was a blast—really challenging and exciting."

The show has been compared to The Great British Bake Off in terms of its competitive environment.

Rudell said his husband came around to him being on the show and has been nothing but supportive.

"My husband—where I'm not a huge reality-TV fan—he is a super-fan. He watches everything, everywhere and knows all the contestants. ... Through the whole thing he said I support you, I want this to be good, but don't tell me anything. I don't want to know anything. I'll see it when it comes on TV. It's more real to me if I see it on TV. So he is in the dark about it."

Rudell said the anticipation of watching his husband finally watch him compete on the show when it premieres is both exciting and a little frightening.

He also said he is looking forward to his husband seeing some of the segments where he talks about the importance of family and his husband's family in particular.

"In this show in particular, the crafts are so personal and based on who we are and our point of view. The fact that I was gay came up quite frequently and the producers were both insistent and gentle in saying 'how does this affect your life and how does it affect you and your standing with your new family?'"

While Rudell credits the creative environment of his Midwestern childhood with helping to spark a lifelong creativity and maker instinct—his dad would bring home scraps of material from the paper mill where he worked and instruct Rudell to make things with them—he lost his family at the age of 18 when he came out, upending his entire world.

"My parents had a really bad reaction to learning I was gay—a very extreme and not a normal reaction—but I've learned over the years that it is frequent enough to be tragic. They didn't accept it, they kicked me out and cut off all communication and they maintained it ever since I was 18. It just ended very abruptly."

Rudell said that type of family reaction often leads people down bad paths, but for him, he made the choice to love himself and was able to persevere.

"I committed to being me, that is all I have is me, and when I was 18 that is literally all I had," he said, adding later, "I knew there were more loving and accepting people out there waiting for me and eventually I found them and that is something we should all try to do, but for me, being who I am was the only way to live my life. I was going to be happy and that wasn't going to be dependent on someone accepting who I was."

He said while he knows being the show's out contestant does come with the mantle of representing the LGBT community in people's living rooms, he is really there to represent himself and the life he's made. "I also just have a personal obligation to be myself as much as possible."

See how Rudell fares when Making It premieres at 9 p.m. CT on Tuesday, July 31, on NBC.

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