Artist and illustrator Justin T. Russo, who some of you will recognize from the Logo TV’s 2017 show, Fire Island, has a new travel-oriented show coming to YouTube.
Launching today (Oct 8), the six-episode Check Your Luggage, which airs on Parrlime’s YouTube channel, will focus on Russo’s hometown of New York City. It will see him look at how communities from around the world have had an impact on the city–through an LGBTQ lens.
Russo, 35, was raised in Long Island and says his family (originally from Italy) has a history in New York going back 130 years. He has lived in the Astoria neighborhood for the past 14 years, since graduating from NYU’s art program. He’s in a long-term relationship with two partners.
GayCities caught up with Justin T. Russo to find out more
Hey Justin! Some of our readers will recognize you from your role on Logo TV’s Fire Island. What you’ve been up to since then?
‘Fire Island’ to start was a wonderful experience. I loved being with my castmates (whom I am still in touch with). Mostly it was an opportunity to enjoy time with different people, discuss some of my own issues that I’ve since learned are more universal than I thought, and showcase my art.
Since the show aired, I’ve been able to participate in several LGBTQ+ events and projects. Besides filming, I work full-time for an art advisory and curation firm and continue to illustrate freelance (justinTrusso.com) which has brought about a plethora of opportunities. I was one of 50 artists asked to create my own mural for NYC’s World Pride (which was featured in the NYT and made into limited-edition run prints).
Aside from my artistic endeavors, I have just tried to enjoy travel and engaging with the community.
How did your new show, Check Your Luggage, come about?
The producers had seen me in Fire Island and approached me to see if I wanted to be part of their new Travel Show concept. It’s taken time to get in place and, of course, the pandemic put some roadblocks ahead of us, but here we are with a great fresh format!
You’ve described it as a “love letter” from New York. What can we expect from the show?
We showcase across 6 x 20 min episodes various cultures found in New York City or represented in some way. So, we showcase Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Holland, and Palm Springs all without leaving the five boroughs! For the British episode, I had fish and chips at A Salt & Battery on Greenwich Avenue. For France, I grabbed some of the best Burgundy wines from The Burgundy Wine co. on W 26th Street. You get the idea!
We know you love traveling. From your own travel adventures, where would you recommend for an unforgettable beach vacation?
I am sure I will get flack for this, but I am not a beach person. I like to be on the move or amongst friends. With that, though it’s more of a desert vacation, I recommend Palm Springs—a favorite oasis preserving the midcentury aesthetic.
Which destination has impressed you with its culinary scene?
Fortunately, while in college, I studied abroad in Italy and devoured the country! I was based in Florence where the cuisine is very different from traditional Italian-American, but I never had a bad meal (though nothing will ever compare to the Russo family Sunday gravy).
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Are you a party or festival-goer, and if so, what’s a party or festival well worth traveling for?
When it comes to parties, I fall more into the circuit/celebratory events. I highly recommend visiting different cities for Pride. My favorites (aside from NYC) are Madrid and Atlanta. I also venture to Market Days in Chicago annually and Provincetown (usually around July 4th) which truly holds my heart.
Where are you looking forward to exploring once the pandemic is over?
My goals are Sweden and the Nordic countries. I have an affinity for Greta Garbo. And a newer dream destination is Japan, particularly after learning so much about the culture while filming Check Your Luggage!
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Is there a city or destination you’d love to return to, and why?
I will always say London and Rome. Aside from New York, I haven’t felt so comfortable anywhere else.
For more information on Check Your Luggage go to www.vacationer.travel