Crush 2013: Cool Keith

ALEXIS MCKINNIS , vita.mn | Updated 2/21/2013

Our male Crush winner Keith Eric Williams is a Southern gentleman and conversational ace who’s making his creative mark.

It’s Super Bowl Sunday and Keith Eric Williams is all dressed up with no place to go. Not that he minds. Football and a flashy halftime show weren’t on the agenda for 2013’s male Crush winner, who hustles into Marvel Bar an hour late for our one-on-one over cocktails.

Before he gets too carried away with the apologies and explanations — he left home without his wallet — I reassure him I won’t be docking any Crush points just yet. After all, it’s three days after our first meeting at the Crush finalists’ photo shoot at Icehouse, and I’m still laughing about an embarrassing story he told me that night: A friend once convinced him harmonicas were invented to lure hobos onto trains. “It made sense because train horns do sound a lot like harmonicas,” he confessed, as I wiped away tears.

So goes the next three hours of conversation at Marvel over Kentucky Vintage Old Fashioneds: flirty, back-and-forth banter peppered with perfectly delivered jokes, hilarious pop-culture observations and a repartee that gave him the edge in the Crush competition.

After his last relationship ended a couple of months ago, Keith decided to jump on OKCupid — perhaps a puzzling move for a handsome guy with no trouble making friends. “I just want to meet different kinds of people, get a new perspective and make sure I’m not the crazy one,” he says with a laugh. Keith swears he doesn’t have a type, though he’s giving serious consideration to omitting younger women from his repertoire. He’s tired of the drama that accompanies dating girls who haven’t yet grown into their confidence. Still, he’s got nothing but appreciation for past loves, at least for the experience.

Keith has a laundry list of characteristics he adores in women, but it’s not so much a catalog of turn-ons as it is a testament to how much he respects individuality. “Honestly,” he tells me, “I like everything!” His ideal girl is creative and comfortable in her own skin, with a keen sartorial style to match his own. When pressed — and pressed — for just one or two turn-offs, Keith says he wouldn’t consider being with a woman who doesn’t donate time or money to a cause she believes in. He also finds casual cursing off-putting, which he attributes to his Kansas City upbringing. “It’s a lot more Southern than Midwestern there,” he explains, “I still say ‘Yes, ma’am’ and hold open doors. My grandmother would give me a slap in the back of the head if I didn’t.”

(Two days later I finally get a turn-off via email: He can’t stand grown women in animal-shaped winter hats.)

After finishing a bachelor of fine arts degree in K.C., Keith moved to Minneapolis and quickly made a name for himself in the world of digital illustration. The music fan created the artwork for Brother Ali’s “Us” album and worked on a promo pack for rap wunderkind Kendrick Lamar. On his own time, Keith paints ethereal pictures that burst with colorful, esoteric characters. He also volunteers for Art Buddies, a mentoring program that partners inner-city kids with adults in creative fields. Keith and his buddy get together once a week to create a quirky costume that reveals the child’s inner ambitions. “It’s pretty empowering for the kids,” he says.

Keith’s list of favorite hangouts looks like the Foursquare history of every Minneapolis cool kid, but he’s no scenester. He’s more likely to be displaying the work, cueing up the tunes or breakdancing on the floor than being there just to party. He does admit to doing more record spinning than head spinning these days, though. “DJ’ing is the old man’s breakdancing,” he quips, rocking back on his barstool in a futile attempt to make 30 look like the new 70.

During our interview, I invite Keith to whisper any secrets he’s holding back into the voice recorder while I’m in the bathroom. As I’d hoped, he’s smiling mischievously when I get back and I can’t wait to get home and listen to his confessions. Secrets 1 and 2 — “I’ve never heard a woman fart” and “I listen to Ke$ha at least twice a day” — were good for a chuckle, but it was Secret No. 3 that would, once again, have me laughing days later:

“Until I was 21, I didn’t know that pickles were made from cucumbers. I assumed that there was a pickle plant that I had never seen or just didn’t know about. Uh-oh, here she comes.”

Keith Eric Williams

Age: 30.

Lives in: Uptown.

Status: Single.

Sign: Leo.

Education: Bachelor of fine arts.

Occupation: Graphic designer/artist.

Hangouts: Honey, Triple Rock, Tea Garden Uptown, Muddy Waters, the Walker, Wes & Lindsey’s apartment (pretty exclusive place).

Turn-ons: I like confident dreamers. Great tastes in music and fashion. I love it when someone has a uniqueness that can’t be duplicated easily. Dancing, singing (I’m not a great singer), basically anything artistic. Having passionate views and ideas. A great sense of humor is a must. I’m also turned on by intelligence and strength. I’m a die-hard feminist but I will trade everything mentioned above if you can beatbox!

Nominated by: My friend Richard.