Ruggero Freddi is a doctoral candidate in mathematics at the Sapienza University of Rome. But he is better known for his gay porn career in the US, where he starred in multiple films under the name Carlo Masi. After returning to Italy in 2013, he went back to university to pursue an academic path, but late last year, some of his students and then the Italian press uncovered his past, sparking a debate in Italy about the appropriateness of his former career and leading the scholar into the public spotlight to speak out about gay rights in Italy.
Where and when were you born?
Rome in 1976. I come from a simple family. That really means “poor” in my case. My parents got divorced when I was three years old, and I was always the weird kid at school.
How has this shaped who you are?
My circumstances have always made me want to prove myself. I grew up trying hard to be the best. Anything I did, I always wanted to be the best. Today, I am glad that I was a weirdo; l like to be different. I am a freak and I am proud of it.
How did you get into the porn business?
By chance. The company that I worked for, Colt Studio, is one of the biggest gay porn companies in the world. Colt men are muscular, good-looking and charismatic and at that time I couldn’t see any of these qualities in myself. So at the beginning, when I was contacted through a social network for gay muscular men that I had a profile on, I thought that it was a joke.
What were the best and worst things about it?
I liked almost everything about it: money, attention, travelling and meeting amazing people. Sometimes travelling was exhausting – I live in Rome and the company is based in San Francisco, plus I often travelled around the world for live appearances at big gay parties, so I had to fly more than I actually wanted to.
Why did you decide to move back into academia?
The truth is that I became too rich and famous to stay interested in that job [porn]. I wanted to grow, and since I couldn’t grow any more in the porn industry I had decided that it was time for me to do something completely new.
It’s an unusual career path. Have you faced any tough questions from academics or students?
Everybody around me looks pretty amused and happy to know an eclectic person like me. Students like me and my colleagues support me. Unfortunately, the Italian academic world recently showed me a face that I didn’t know – they cancelled an important event that I organised to inform the students about Aids, and they didn’t give me a teaching position for this semester [the Sapienza University of Rome did not respond to a request from Times Higher Education for comment]. I know that next year they will give me some teaching as my résumé is [getting] better and better, but I can see that they really dislike all the media attention that I received.
What did you learn in the porn business that is good advice for academia?
From the porn industry, I have learned the importance of self-promotion – this is something that everybody should learn. You have to let the world know what an amazing person you are because nobody will come looking to find out for themselves.
How would you describe the situation for younger scholars in Italy at the moment?
My university is a total mess at the moment. The bathrooms don’t work, the infrastructure is obsolete and students know that they will be unemployed for years after they graduate. But I really try to listen to my students and to support them. I look at them and I see young people with high expectations and big hopes.
What do you love most about maths?
I always say that there are only three types of maths: the maths I never studied, the maths I didn’t understand and the maths that I forgot. I can tell you what I don’t like about maths: it makes me feel stupid. I don’t understand the papers that I need to read for my research, I don’t understand the calculus that I should do for my research, and I don’t understand how to carry on with my research – but this is the best part: maths is a real challenge. Maths is for tough people and I love it.
What one thing would improve your working week?
There are a few things that really make my day – a student who shows real interest or understands how to prove something that I need to prove for my research.
What keeps you awake at night?
The struggle to prove myself keeps me awake. I have a fear that one day I will look back and see that my life wasn’t anything special after all. And the wrinkles that I am getting from ageing, of course.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t be afraid to be you. You are an amazing person and one day you will be very proud of everything that you have done, because you will be the living proof that being different is not a bad thing.
Tony Chan, the president of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, has been named the next leader of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). The mathematician, who has been a member of the board of trustees at KAUST since 2011, will succeed interim president Nadhmi Al-Nasr on 1 September. The private graduate research university was established in 2009 and has become one of the world’s fastest-rising higher education institutions in terms of volume of high-quality research publications. Professor Chan, who previously spent 20 years at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he was professor of mathematics, has led HKUST since 2009. Khalid Al-Falih, chair of KAUST’s board, said that Professor Chan’s “outstanding record as a leader in higher education and innovation will help us accomplish our ambitious goals in this important time of national transformation”.
Julia Davidson has been appointed professor of criminology at the University of East London. She will take up her new role in July when she moves from Middlesex University, where she is currently professor of criminology and co-director of the Research Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies. Professor Davidson, who is an expert on cybercrime offences related to young people, said that she was keen to “work closely with local stakeholders in east London on pressing issues” and “broaden the focus and scope of criminology at UEL”.
William Donahue has been appointed director of the University of Notre Dame’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies. The German literature scholar, who is a professor of humanities at the Indiana university, will succeed current director A. James McAdams, who has led the Nanovic Institute since 2002.
Hugh Martin has been named the new registrar and chief administrative officer at the British University in Dubai. He joins the university, which was founded in 2003, from the University of Bedfordshire, where he was university secretary.
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