Right At Home

Sitting inside an empty, darkened TV studio at the WPLG complex in Pembroke Park, Louis Aguirre shares one benchmark after another like a man who sees the bigger picture with more clarity than ever.

For more than an hour, he points to stitches in time—his broadcasting break at Telemundo, his stretch on “Fox & Friends,” his decade-long run on WSVN’s “Deco Drive,” his reluctance to give up on his Hollywood dreams—as part of a greater tapestry, one filled with lessons learned.

At 51, Aguirre recognizes that there’s an accumulation of wisdom that comes with age. But there’s also something to be said for embracing your truth when the moment presents itself. By his own admission, the University of Miami graduate is not the same person who left South Florida in 2014 to host the nationally syndicated entertainment program, “The Insider.”

Maybe it’s being in one of the anchor chairs at Local 10, a full circle of sorts in his complicated-yet-prolific career as a television broadcaster. Perhaps it’s that night in October at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, baring his soul before a roomful of people ready to welcome him with open arms.

“It takes a long time to be comfortable in your own skin,” he says. “When you learn to love yourself, that’s when life loves you back.”

That the ruggedly handsome Aguirre is so comfortable in his skin, both professionally and personally, speaks to a journey rich with experience, one guided by talent, charisma, good fortune and, at times, much-needed introspection. In some ways, it’s a journey that begins on his parents’ back porch.

• • • • • •

As a child, Aguirre loves the variety shows and stars of that era—Carol Burnett, Sonny and Cher, Donny and Marie. After tropical storm winds blow out the patio screen one year, the back porch suddenly feels more like a stage. So he seizes on the opportunity.

“On Sundays, while my parents slept in, I would put on the ‘Louis Aguirre’ show for my [three younger] sisters,” he says. “Every show was different, depending on what TV programs were inspiring me. One week, I’d re-enact an episode of ‘The Six Million Dollar Man,’ the next week it would be ‘Star Trek.’
“I was a bit of a ham. But, eventually, I knew this would play out in some way, shape or form.”

• • • • • •

When his parents, who were born in Cuba but met for the first time as students at UM, push back against their son’s interest in acting, encouraging him instead to study law, Aguirre seeks a compromise. He earns his undergraduate degree in communications (and a second degree in French) with an emphasis on broadcast journalism. Not only does he like being in front of the camera, but he’s a natural.

Instead of sending tapes to local stations after graduating, however, Aguirre follows his girlfriend at the time to New York. She is convinced that he can be a successful fashion model. For eight months, Aguirre has “the time of my life,” working odd jobs, modeling, and auditioning for soap operas and commercials.

And then his girlfriend tells him that she’s pregnant.

“I remember flying home and telling my parents,” Aguirre says. “Their message was, ‘You can’t be Mr. Party Animal in New York City if you’re going to be a father.’ That was the fire under my ass to get a broadcasting job.”

Two stations offer him on-air reporter positions: one in Fort Myers, and Telemundo in Miami. He takes the Telemundo job in April 1989 at age 22, figuring he and his girlfriend can live with his parents and have a home for their child. The only hitch in that plan: Aguirre, it turns out, isn’t the father.

“I had no idea then why I was living it, but now I see how necessary that episode was in my life,” he says. “It pushed me into television.”

• • • • • •

The only problem is that, deep down, Aguirre still wants to act.

He goes on to Washington, D.C., as a Capitol Hill correspondent for TV Martí, before returning to South Florida for three years during his first incarnation at Local 10. But when a fledgling entertainment show called “Extra” offers Aguirre a job as a correspondent in the early 1990s, he sees a chance to move to Los Angeles and keep his Hollywood dreams alive.

It’s a pattern that repeats itself over the next decade, up until he lands a full-time anchor spot on “Deco Drive” in 2003. Even as he snags plum TV gigs in New York (like working for “A Current Affair”), Aguirre continues to hedge his career bets, auditioning for—and often landing—acting roles. His credits include stints on the soap operas “Guiding Light” and “All My Children,” as well as guest shots on the TV shows “JAG,” “Burn Notice” and “Sex and the City.”

In the early 2000s, Aguirre briefly goes all in as an actor, moving to Los Angeles again after receiving a call from his agent about a potential series in search of a male lead—think “Miami Vice,” except set in the late 1990s. Instead, he spends two years scrambling for work.

“I had this almost meteoric rise from college; every job I went after, I got,” he says. “Even in New York, I was working left and right as an actor. In L.A., I became just another face. It was humbling to see my savings dwindle.

“Part of me loved being a struggling actor. But it also taught me a lot about myself. I learned that my happiness didn’t depend on my success. It was how I felt on the inside.”

• • • • • •

It’s 1996, and Aguirre is the first face that viewers see when Fox News Channel launches. He’s a co-anchor on a morning show called “Fox & Friends.” But by his third year, something is gnawing at him. He’s being prompted to present dialogue that just doesn’t sit right.

“Living in New York, and allowing myself to explore all aspects of myself, taught me about who I was,” he says. “When I looked in the mirror, I realized that there was a conflict at Fox. I couldn’t honestly and authentically be talent for that network. It’s not who I was on the inside.”

Aguirre leaves “Fox & Friends” in 1999. That same year, he begins a relationship with someone he first met casually in 1993 during his Local 10 days. Nearly 20 years later, the two are still a couple.

• • • • • •

For someone who’s been in the public eye for three decades, Aguirre keeps his relationship status out of the gossip pages. Naturally, that prompts speculation. But if he and Matt MacDonald are a secret, it’s an open one. The two attend events together, they’re photographed together, and the founder of MacDonald Design Associates in Miami is “Uncle Matt” to Aguirre’s nephews and nieces.

“At the same time, I never got up on a soapbox,” Aguirre says. “I never had the interview. No one asked me.”

Though he says MacDonald has pressed him to be more vocal about his sexuality, Aguirre is reluctant. “I wasn’t going to start a newscast by saying, ‘Good evening, everybody, I’m Louis Aguirre—and I’m gay.’ I knew an opportunity would come.”

It does. In October, as he is about to present the National Leadership Award to Gloria Estefan at the National LGBTQ Task Force gala, Aguirre looks at the faces in the crowd at the Fontainebleau and experiences a wave of hypocrisy. How can he take the stage here and not embrace the love that he and Matt share? Before he hands Estefan her award, Aguirre announces for the first time in public that he is a proud gay man.

“It wasn’t until after the gala that it hit me,” Aguirre says. “People started coming up to thank me, tears in their eyes. ‘You have no idea the power of those words,’ they would say.

“That I stood up in that room in such a public way … that night was monumental for Matt, as well.”

• • • • • •

It’s Thanksgiving 2016, and Aguirre is home for the holidays when his phone blows up. Fidel Castro is dead. It’s the moment that Cuban Americans have been waiting their lives to see. Aguirre instinctively heads to Little Havana with friends; the streets are filled with people banging pots and pans, and waving the Cuban flag.

Aguirre desperately wants to hijack a microphone from one of the local TV stations and tell the story. But he can’t. He’s in his second year as host of “The Insider,” the job for which he left Miami and “Deco Drive”—and yet another opportunity to rub elbows with Hollywood celebrities.

His heart aches. It’s a familiar feeling, one that reminds him of “Fox & Friends.” A few months later, it’s announced that “The Insider” will cease production that summer.

“There was a subliminal message sent into the universe,” Aguirre says. “I loved interviewing the celebrities that I admired. But with that comes reporting on whether Kylie Jenner’s lips are real. … To talk about Kim Kardashian’s jewels being heisted, like it’s the most important story of the day? I didn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth anymore.”

When Bill Pohovey, vice president of news at Local 10, reaches out about returning to WPLG, Aguirre has just one condition: He wants to report the news. There’s too much happening in the world to stand on the sidelines.

And so he returns to South Florida having found his truth in more ways than one. He’s happier than ever, personally. And he’s back in the game as an afternoon news anchor. Back, he says, where he belongs.

“Life has pulled me in this direction for a reason. There are important stories to tell right now. So this chance to come back to WPLG and do this? Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

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