Instinct Lost a Family Member Over the Weekend – Tribute to Ryan Shea

Photos by Filmmaker Brandon Deyette

On February 19th, Instinct Magazine’s world was turned upside down when one of our very own, Ryan Shea, succumbed to his battle with complications from COVID-19. To say that we at Instinct are heartbroken is a complete and utter understatement. Ryan, who joined our team in 2017, wrote thousands of stories for not only Instinct, but other media outlets. Never did we imagine that Ryan would be the subject of one of our stories, much less to have to share this news with all of you, the readers he so passionately wrote for.

Ryan’s family has set up a GoFundMe page to help lay him to rest in Holbrook, NY. Like many during this time, it is unprecedented and planning for the loss of a loved one is never easy. We hope you can contribute to the fundraiser or share with your networks. 


Those of us who knew Ryan, knew him for his zealous personality in his personal and professional lives. He had an energy like no other. After graduating with a degree in marketing & communications from Johnson & Wales University, Ryan worked as a writer for over ten years. Ryan had a love for storytelling and sharing narratives that elevated the LGBTQ+ experience ranging from drag culture to celebrating the bear community and body positivity. His feature stories included his interests in the culinary world, travel, the destigmatization of the adult entertainment industry, popular culture, and the overall LGBTQ+ experience. In his career, he had the opportunity to interview Meryl Streep, the cast of Queer Eye, Nyle DiMarco, Kathy Griffin, Wendy Williams, Gloria Steinem, Seth Rogen, Colby Jansen, many of the queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race, and countless other celebrities and influential LGBTQ+ movers and shakers. Over the last several months, Ryan became the catalyst for a major shift in Instinct’s social media presence, conducting regularly scheduled Instagram Live interviews and maintaining our feeds for all to enjoy. He was a force that gave every ounce of himself for our website to continue sharing stories of underrepresented and under celebrated individuals in the LGBTQ+ community.

Instinct Magazine has had the privilege to work with some incredible writers and artists over our 24 year trajectory, but Ryan was a standout contributor because he put his heart into what he put out into the world. We know those who knew him can attest to this. The loss of Ryan Shea at the young age of 34 leaves a tremendous void in the lives of so many people. He was loved immensely, you can see this by the outpouring of emotions for him on social media. For us, Ryan was not just a colleague or a friend, he was part of our family and he will remain part of the fabric of our history as a pillar of perspective with which we aim to educate, share stories, and celebrate our LGBTQ+ community. We know this would make Ryan proud.

Ryan Shea is survived by his father, sister, and nephews that he adored. Our hearts go out to them during this difficult road ahead. We send them light, love, and strength and hope you will all join us in doing so.

The family has shared with us a link to the livestreamed wake for Ryan’s wake Thursday February 25th. It should begin at 5 PM Eastern Standard Time. 


Instinct’s Reflections

While there are not enough words to describe Ryan’s larger-than-life persona, the Instinct family would like to share a glimmer of what Ryan means to us.


JR Pratts – Owner, Instinct Magazine

To my dear Ryan, 


My heart is very heavy writing this note to celebrate your Life and what you have accomplished in such a short time. I will miss you, your enthusiasm, your love for life, your dedication and passion for everything that you did. You were taken away from us so soon and I hope that you are in a better place. Ryan, you were an incredibly talented writer and I am in tears thinking that your life was cut short and that you have yet to live your life.  My heart is very heavy today, but I take comfort that I got to know you and know that you are Loved and that you will be missed tremendously.  I will always remember you, Ryan, to be a good person with a kind heart. Miss you Ryan.




Adam Dupuis – Managing Editor, Instinct Magazine

Ryan and Susan Lucci

I remember where I was when had my first phone conversation with Ryan, vividly. It was in July 2017 when this writer on the other end of the phone said, “Sure, I can maybe write one or two articles” … I said, ” a day? a week?” He stated a week, but that never happened.  He took Instinct by storm, with opinion pieces, interviews with adult film stars, chefs, photographers, throw in a Susan Lucci and a Coco Peru for good measure, all of RuPaul’s girls, and so much more. He loved to chat, he loved to eat, he loved the bears, other boys, and the celebrities. He had many hiccups in life and dealing with them sometimes showed through in his work, in a good way. And sure, we butted heads too many times as we were both always right. He often infuriated me and I him, we both respected the craft, and we both worked to make sure the product we all put out was what our community needed, wanted, lusted after.  All of that is a tall order, but Ryan was always up for the challenge and always wanted to do more and more and more.  

Ryan’s participation in the LGBTQ+ community will be missed, his part in our Instinct Family will be missed, his role in all of our lives will be missed. You had many more interviews to give, many more restaurants to try, many more trips to go on, and many more grey hairs to give me. Rest well, Ryan. I look forward to our next collaboration.

Corey Andrew – Instinct Contributing Writer

As we mourn Ryan’s loss, it’s all so surreal that he’s gone. I still expect him to pop up in my DMs to ask for advice or to share a juicy celebrity tidbit and then sign off with his signature “Byeeeeeeee.” Lol, I’ll miss that.
I am reminded now, too, of all the pending plans Ryan, and I made to hang out. We made plans to go for drinks or to have dinner. Usually, I put it off due to scheduling conflicts or admittedly just having become a homebody very much in recent years and not going out a lot. Still, that never stopped Ryan from asking, and, just a couple of weeks before he went to the hospital, we made tentative plans, lol, yet again. You always think you have enough time. 
Ryan and Rocco Steele
Ryan and I had disagreements at times as people do, mostly on creative issues, which is typical in our work. However, months before his passing, I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to tell him that I thought he was a terrific talent with so much passion put forth in his work; a distinct voice and writing style all his own. It was enviable and admirable both at once.
Last summer, I was surprised when Ryan asked if I would jump on a Zoom call because he wanted to share his dreams, ideas, and big plans for new content at Instinct. Part of his plan would be building our social media presence and doing Instagram Live interviews. He told me he admired my on-camera work with celebrities and asked for advice as he wanted to now also focus on becoming an on-camera talent. He dove right in, doing a tremendous job on Instinct’s IG Live, where he not only rocked interviews with leading pop culture figures but also worked hard on his skill as a host and interviewer. He was a natural and almost instantly started to attract a considerable following. This was a testament to his talent, commitment, unparalleled drive, and serious hustle. He had a dream, made a plan, and went for it – with no procrastination. 
For me, what is most devastating about Ryan’s passing are his dreams, never to be realized, and he had so many. He should be here, still ascending like a rocket ship to the stars. Luckily, he leaves behind a legacy of passionate, heartfelt published content for us to enjoy; his humor, wit, advocacy, travel pieces, food and restaurant reviews, and more. One of my personal favorites is a genius piece he wrote for Glamour, “The Best Holiday Sweaters in Pop Culture History.” It’s so fun and clever. 
As I bid farewell to Ryan, my heart goes out to his family. There are no words that can bring anyone back, but I want to go forward celebrating Ryan’s life and all he stood for. He was a good man with a big, kind heart, immensely talented, a real go-getter, a game-changer, a dreamer, and a fearless doer – things we should all aspire to be.
R.I.P. Dear Ryan…See you on the other side… “Byeeeeeeeeee” (for now)

David Lopez – Instinct Contributing Writer

Ryan and David Lopez (right)

Ryan was a beam of light who was consistently networking and building opportunity for his writing. His confidence was unparalleled and I never got to tell him how I admired (envied) him for that. When we first started working together in 2017, it was immediately clear that Ryan was a fiery, opinionated, and dedicated writer who wore his heart on his sleeve. He was always reaching higher and higher and kept all of us at Instinct on our toes and pushed us to do and be better.

In our private conversations, Ryan shared his dreams of being a full-time travel and food writer. He had already built quite the list of contacts that afforded him to do much of the domestic travel he loved. It’s no secret to anyone that Ryan loved to indulge in life’s foodie treasures and radiated with his appreciation for the male form. He prided himself in being an integral part of our team and how he navigated the professional world. He was truly comfortable in his own skin–again something I wish I had just an ounce of.


I will miss our conversations about RuPaul’s Drag Race, listening to his plans for the future, talking about his dating life, swapping GIFs and memes about the latest Mexican telenovela he was attempting to watch, and reading his words that empowered the bear community and celebrated sexy gay men. As I look back on his text messages, it pains me to remind myself that he is gone. I could always count on Ryan to reach out for a good venting session when either of us was having a bad day or to remind me to keep putting in the work. We need more unapologetic people with initiative like Ryan. More than anything, I think he has taught us the value of community and to never wait to tell someone you appreciate them. 

We will continue to put in the work, Ryan, and all future hottie interviews will be dedicated to your memory. Rest easy, my friend.

Devin Randall – Instinct Contributing Writer

Ryan and Cynthia Nixon

The fact that Ryan’s passed still hasn’t hit. I know it, but I haven’t felt it yet. It’s strange because I’ve known Ryan for four years now. We both started at Instinct around the same time. And for those four years, I had a front row seat to his career and his personality. Ryan was ambitious, loud, opinionated, diligent, and also troubled. He was honest about the things in his life that bothered him, but he kept working to accept what he could and change what he couldn’t. Part of me was always a little envious of his commitment to himself. Ryan knew what he wanted and went for it. Whether it was finding new space after dealing with crappy roommates, pursing a better love life after breaking from a toxic ex, or championing his blossoming career as a journalist.


And he was a true journalist. So many writers for magazines don’t commit themselves to real journalism. But he did. He pushed to interview big name celebrities, revamped Instinct’s Instagram page to hold live interviews, demanded better working conditions, and called out any transgression against him. Ryan was driven. Ryan was vocal. So for his life to pass so quietly was strange. For the shift of a world with him and a world without him to be so subtle, our new reality feels bizarre.

Ryan deserved more attention for his writing, more success in his personal life, more interview opportunities, and more time on Earth. He will be missed.

Michael Cook – Instinct Contributing Writer

Ryan at DragCon 2018

It’s rare that you find a writer who shares many of the same passions as you do, but that is what I had with my friend and colleague Ryan Shea. Whether we were dishing about Drag Race or chatting about the latest “pinch me” interview moment we had with a celebrity, there was never a lack of topics for us to chat about. Ryan was always accessible; whether he needed to ask me if he had gone “too hard” on an interview subject or I had to ask him if I should be going “this deep” with a celebrity, Ryan always was my go-to. He pushed me to take risks as a writer and interviewer; I have found that that is the key to not just elevating yourself as a writer, but as a person. Ryan championed my writing and I his; he truly had a perspective and a voice that I only wish I could capture. 
Being gay is all about “finding your tribe” many have said. In Ryan, I found a loyal colleague, friend, and Gym Bar cocktail partner. While I will miss his presence in my own tribe, his impact on my writing and influence on me as a person will continue to reverberate every time I open my laptop.

Mickey Keating – Instinct Contributing Writer

Ryan and Wendy Williams

After going through past messages with Ryan Shea my stomach started to turn. While we discussed, at length, reality television gossip, Sex and the City, our mutual obsession with Christopher Meloni, and a back and forth of endless messages of our crushes, I hadn’t realized exactly how much Ryan wanted to befriend me with no questions asked. He was quick with his words, determined to make a difference, and always there to help. He didn’t want to be an Instagram Influencer or someone who was getting paid to advertise products he didn’t believe in. Ryan sincerely wrote and spoke everything he said. He loved being informed and wanted to share not only his story, but the story of others through his talented work. Ryan cared about anyone and everybody. He was not just my colleague at Instinct Magazine, but my friend. He’s going to be incredibly missed, but never forgotten. Rest in paradise forever, Ryan. 

Randy Slovacek – Instinct Contributing Writer

My first week working for Instinct Magazine I quickly learned Ryan loved Chipotle burritos, loved all kinds of men, and worked hard to love himself in a world that doesn’t encourage us to do that very often.
Ryan was curious, tempestuous, opinionated, and often usually unfiltered. Ryan didn’t hold back. He was filled with the drive of someone who enjoyed what he did. 
And along the way, his work, his byline, his name was read by literally millions of people. He had an unerring eye for what popped in pop culture.  He thrived as an entertainment journalist, and he LOVED interviewing folks on the red carpet.
My last exchange with him was after he shared with the Instinct writers he’d tested positive for COVID. I immediately began texting him about multi-vitamins and any supplements that might help him. I’d read a study that a majority of COVID patients had a Vitamin D deficiency, so I told him to run get some. He stopped me texting back, “Can we pick this up later? I’m transcribing my interview with Bianca Del Rio (heart emoji).”
In his too-short time on the planet, Ryan’s impact was felt. And seen. And heard. And read. He stepped up, stepped out, and contributed more than a name. Fly high, Ryan Shea.

Public Mentions of Ryan – 

Over the last few days there have been resounding sentiments shared about Ryan’s passing on social media. It is evident that he meant so much to so many and that we are not alone in our grief.  There are so many more that occurred and many more that will be posted, but here are just a few. 








If you’d like to honor Ryan Shea’s memory with a contribution, his family has set up a GoFundMe to prepare to lay him to rest in Holbrook, NY.

We welcome you to continue sharing your stories or memories of Ryan in the comments or on social media.

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