Riccardo Simonetti is one of the most dazzling personalities in the local show industry and an inspiration for many people, but also an object of hate for some who are confused. Especially for the LGBTQIA community, the 29-year-old finally broke many a lance and fought many battles. The activist, who was born and raised in Bad Reichenhall, repeatedly speaks openly about homophobic hostilities that he experienced privately as a teenager and that reach him today primarily via all social media channels. Nevertheless, Simonetti never tires of standing up for like-minded people and those affected and also finds the time to moderate programs such as “Glow Up” and “Salon Simonetti” and to take his first steps as an actor.

In the second part of the animated film “Puss in Boots” he now also lends his voice to the Chihuahua Perro. Riccardo Simonetti spoke to ntv.de about what connects him to the little dog, what inspired him early on and how he remains motivated despite the occasional headwind.

ntv.de: Riccardo, would you classify yourself more as a dog or cat person?

Riccardo Simonetti: I’m definitely a dog person. I think cats are cute too, but I kind of feel a bit like a dog myself. That’s why it was very clear to me that I can only voice a dog in a cat film – although it sometimes disguises itself as a cat. (laughs)

What else makes you the perfect cast for Perro?

I was offered the part because the people at Universal thought the dog reminded them of me. He’s been through a lot and had to survive and get by in a world that wasn’t always made for him. Nevertheless, he has kept his positive attitude and wants to make the world a better place. That’s definitely something I can identify with. So I figured the dog could sound calm like me, like an over-the-top, happy version of me. I don’t have to voice a character who is very far away from me. And I’m totally grateful for that, because I also learned a lot from Perro. I grew up in the country and always wanted to be where I am today. You can’t do that if you’re not ambitious. You always have to strive for more, keep evolving. But Perro is frugal. He doesn’t mind sniffing the same flower all day, but it was still a great day for him. I found that somehow nice: to be more in the here and now.

Activist, model, voice actor, actor, moderator … is there anything you don’t do or simply don’t trust yourself to do?

Just because I do a lot doesn’t mean I’ll do everything I’m offered. There have been many things that have made me think, “That doesn’t suit me, I can’t identify with that.” I think that people are not used to getting to know many facets of a person. When you are in the public eye, it is often better to only reveal one facet of yourself, because then you only make yourself vulnerable at one point in your life. But if you go into many different bodies of water, you make yourself vulnerable again and again. But when I do that, I’m very self-critical, but also very ambitious. Then I try to give everything. That’s why these are all projects where I have the feeling that I’m going to reach my goal.

You always make public on Instagram when people attack you. Is that your way of processing these things or do you already have a thick skin?

No, that’s not possible either. With social media, for me it depends on how I am on the day. I can handle it better one day, less well the next. I find that spending a lot of time on social media and reading these comments doesn’t improve my mood even though I have a great life. I think you should be aware of what it does to people when you write something like that. There are a lot of aggressive things in there. I don’t know if people are always so aware of it. How would they feel if they read something like that, I wonder? Would it break them? I feel it is my job to show the people who follow me how ugly and homophobic society out there still is sometimes.

You inspire others with your courage and actions, but what inspires you? And what motivates you not to give up?

My number one source of inspiration has always been pop culture, which is why pop culture is allowed to do a lot with me. I’m attracted to people who might be problematic from today’s media perspective. One of my heroines is Lindsay Lohan. She’s done a lot of things that you wouldn’t necessarily call inspirational. But she’s back, and that in itself is inspiring. She’s a very different person than me, but she showed my country gay teenage self that you can do your own thing, even if the papers write crap about you every day. I thought that was so cool at the time. For me, being abused in the schoolyard was like reading a headline about herself. “If she can continue the next day, then so can I.”

Who or what catches you when the hate on the net was particularly bad again?

I have the greatest manager, I have the greatest mom, I have the greatest boyfriend by my side, and I have a really great group of friends. It picks you up in those moments and also gives you motivation to keep going and to keep being the person you want to be.

DKMS, Youth Against Aids and your own charitable organization… When did you realize that it was important for you to get involved in such issues?

I have had many obstacles put in my way because of my identity. I became an activist because otherwise I wouldn’t have progressed in life myself. I just realized: “If I want to go one step further, this stone has to be rolled away.” And you can’t do that without activism – for yourself and for people. That’s what made me an activist. Everything else has a lot to do with empathy. For example, if I do something for DKMS Life, it’s because someone in my family had cancer who meant something to me. If I stand up for youth against AIDS, it is because I am incredibly grateful to the generation before me, which was so blatantly subject to the stigma of AIDS or HIV and whose activism my generation enjoys freedom and privileges today. When I started becoming sexually active, I was so uninformed about these topics that I was scared and had no opportunities for information because we didn’t learn anything like that at school. I guess that’s why I feel so connected to this topic. And when I do something for children, it’s because I feel like it’s easy for me to do something good that can change the lives of so many people.

What is the current focus of the Ricardo Simonetti Initiative?

At the moment, for example, we are working on a brochure that deals with terminology related to LGBTQIA topics in a way that is suitable for young people and can then be made available to schools, educational institutions, other clubs or interested parties free of charge. I think that if we offer such a brochure, even a teacher who doesn’t know what to do with it, for example, can pass on some information. And if only one person in the class is affected, one person is queer, then all the other 20 in the class have been made aware of how to deal with such a person.

Nicole Ankelmann spoke to Riccardo Simonetti

“Puss in Boots” will be in German cinemas from December 22nd.