BuzzFeed: First of all, congratulations on the engagement!
Jesse & Justin: Thank you!
BF: Who proposed to whom?
Jesse: I was the one who proposed. It was made clear to me that I was supposed to be the one to ask. Justin tells me that he was ready earlier than I was, so he was just waiting for me to let him know when I was ready. Actually, though, I think it's because I'm the breadwinner.
Justin: Not true.
Jesse: It was nice going into an engagement knowing 100% that I was going to get a yes.
BF: How'd you propose?
Jesse: We were in Mexico for Sofia Vegara's birthday party last summer and we spent a few weeks on our own in Talum. And we got engaged there, over breakfast.
BF: When I was watching the video for Tie The Knot, one thing that struck me was the issue of language. Partner, husband, roommate, best friend... And it seemed so timely, especially this past week with the controversy of the AP Stylebook decision regarding use of the terms "husband and wife" for LGBT couples. The AP just reversed its decision, which is great, but I was wondering if you had any thoughts about that?
Justin: I think it's interesting because there's this weird, innate awkwardness whenever Jesse and I are referring to each other in front of third parties that we're not comfortable with. Sometimes we say partners. Sometimes we say fiancé. And I think it's partially just human nature training, and we have to train ourselves to be comfortable with the fact that our nation and our world is now moving in this direction of equality and we're allowed to say husband and fiance and boyfriend. And have a gender assigned to the word. And I also read about the AP reversal this morning, and it's exciting because it's just one more step toward making it equal all across the board.
Jesse: I didn't grow up thinking I'd ever have a husband or someone I married. I didn't know it was available to me as an option. But I think something happens when you meet someone that you love so much. The word "husband" is no longer an awkward word to say because it's the only word that's even possible. When I was in my early twenties and met people who introduced to me to their husband or partner, it felt awkward to me. I was like "What's wrong with boyfriend?" That seemed fine to me. I've realized, now that I'm on the other side of the relationship, that when it's that important to you, "boyfriend" is just not going to cut it. It's not enough. It's almost disrespectful to the relationship and the connection.
BF: Recently we shared a video from The Devotion Project that features a beautiful lesbian couple. And it opens with one of the women talking about how much she loves the word "wife." So, with that in mind, let's talk about Tie The Knot. It's an interesting combination: bow ties and marriage equality. Obviously, there's the phrase, but can you talk about how the idea came together?
Jesse: I had been wanting to get involved in the fashion world in some way, and we brainstormed an idea to start a bow tie line. And it was just going to be that. But as Justin and I were talking about starting a life together, we also talked about other ventures we wanted to have together, and one of them was a foundation — and Justin works very closely with the American Foundation for Equal Rights. He has a very philanthropic mind-set, so I was excited to start a nonprofit with him because he's so passionate about it. So, he's the one who really came up with the idea to tying the bow tie lie into something philanthropic. And obviously we're very passionate about marriage equality. It just seemed like a fun way to raise money that was quirky and humorous and not taking itself too seriously. There's some amazing organizations out there that really stand up very loudly and eloquently for gay rights. And I wanted to contribute to that voice in a quirkier, softer way. And this was a perfect way to do that.
BF: Can you talk about the design process? As with the first collection, you've teamed up with The Tie Bar to design the ties. This time, though, Isaac Mizrahi was also a part of the process. How did the collaboration work?
Jesse: It was a very collaborative process as well with our first collection. For our first collection, we took photos of things we liked, whether they be things in our house or inspirations out in the world. And The Tie Bar has been really great about playing with colors, and we go back and forth with designs. With Isaac, he's such an amazing designer; we basically let him do whatever he wants. We're thrilled with anything he offers us. The Tie Bar is really wonderful because they have the infrastructure to take an image and turn it into a fabric very easily. You can say that you'd like to see something more red, more green, more blue, and they can — within, like, five minutes — show you what that might look like. When we first started talking about this project, I had images of running through the aisles of Mood and pulling swaths of fabric off the wall like on Project Runway. I was like, "I don't know if I have time to do this!" But The Tie Bar has just been really wonderful.
Justin: And Isaac is our first guest designer. He designed one bow tie out of the collection of 20 ties. He and his team were so specific about size and width and length. Isaac's is definitely a custom tie to be added to our line.
BF: I know the ties are named after different parts of New York City. Do either of you have a favorite tie?
Jesse: One of my favorite bow ties in this collection is one we named after The High Line, which is one of my favorite places in New York. There's also a really beautiful green tie named after the Delacorte. It's the theater in Central Park where I'll be performing this summer. It's sort of an artistic home for me. I made my New York debut there in 1997, so we really wanted to pay homage to that.
BF: You launched Tie The Knot last year. Embarking on these projects, in a way, is a journey. Have your thoughts about marriage equality and the LGBT community in general changed as you've talked to people about Tie The Knot?
Justin: Well, I work for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and we brought the lawsuit against Prop 8, so I'm a little bit heavy in this world. What I love about Tie The Knot is the response from people who are out there and the Facebook messages and tweets of support from people who are so excited that there's such an interesting way to show their support. They don't have to necessarily write a check flat out as a donation; they don't have to hold up a sign. It's a subtle way to show your engagement in equal rights, and I think that's a neat thing. And, as Jesse can tell you, we've gotten an outpouring of support from his colleagues in the entertainment industry. And that's really cool and inspiring.
BF: How much money has Tie The Knot been able to raise so far in your partnership with all of these great organizations?
Justin: We just wrote a check for the Human Rights Campaign for $50,000. And that was from the first collection, which sold out in just under four weeks. All our collections are limited in quantity so that people are able to feel that they're a part of something unique. Our beneficiary for this collection is the Respect for Marriage Coalition, and I assume we're going to raise a similar amount for them as well.
BF: And the collection debuts Feb. 26, right?
Justin: Yep! The bow ties will be available for purchase online at The Tie Bar.