Wilson Cruz

Wilson Cruz Wilson Cruz (born Wilson Echevarría; December 27, 1973) is an American actor. Cruz has in both his acting roles and community work served as a model and mentor to gay youth, especially gay youth of color as he is gay himself. He is best known for playing a character in My So-Called Life and a recurring character in Noah's Arc. Best known for his role as Enrique "Rickie" Vasquez, the troubled gay teen on the short-lived but popular television series My So-Called Life, Wilson knows first-hand the many struggles and hardships that face young LGBT people as they struggle to come to terms with their sexuality and the reactions of their families, friends, and society at large.

At 19, Cruz came out to his parents, first to his mother and then his father. While his mother was initially hurt and shocked, she eventually accepted the news. His father, however, threw him out of the house, and he spent the next few months living in his car and at the homes of friends. Cruz eventually reconciled with his father after getting famous.

After coming out to his parents, Cruz went to Hollywood to seek work as an openly gay young actor. While many gay and lesbian performers had come out later in their careers, he wanted to see if he could be out from the beginning and still make it as an actor. His strategy paid off in 1994, when he was cast in My So-Called Life. In one episode drawn from his own life, "Rickie" came out to his parents and was violently thrown out of the house. While playing numerous roles on television, film, and the stage, Cruz devotes more and more of his time to LGBT youth. He is especially concerned with LGBT youth of color. Most recently he has volunteered his time as host for the Youth Zone, an online community at Gay.com for LGBT youth.

Cruz was the 2005 Grand Marshall of the Chicago Pride Parade and the 1998 West Hollywood Gay Pride parade. In 2008, Cruz was the keynote speaker at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Lavender Graduation and Rainbow Banquet honoring graduating LGBT students. His speech challenged students to enjoy their accomplishments but to use their gifts to make a difference in the world.