Just married in Copenhagen where the first legal gay partnerships took place 26 years ago. Now heading back to celebrate with our friends and family from all over the world at our residence under the American flag. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined such a perfect day. Life is good. #rufusandstephen
Reality star US ambassador bids final farewell to Denmark
Rufus Gifford at his final public event in Copenhagen earlier this week. Photo: Keld Navntoft/Scanpix
20 January 2017
In with one reality TV star and out with another.
As former ‘The Apprentice’ star Donald Trump takes the oath as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, former ‘Jeg er ambassadøren fra Amerika’ star Rufus Gifford will board a plane and leave Denmark.
What’s that? You’ve never heard of ‘Jeg er ambassadøren fra Amerika’ or Gifford? Well the Danes sure have.
Gifford has been the US ambassador to Denmark since 2013 and was warmly embraced by the locals from the second he arrived in Copenhagen. Part of that is down to his movie star looks and his position as just the second openly gay US ambassador to a Nato country.
But the warm greeting that awaited Gifford and his now-husband Steven DeVincent would prove to be just the opening act.
The politically-appointed ambassador, who raised upwards of $1 billion for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, embraced a decidedly non-traditional approach to diplomacy. He agreed to have his work as an ambassador – and his private life – documented in a reality show.
The DR3 programme, 'Jeg er ambassadøren fra Amerika' (I am the ambassador from America), proved to be a huge success, drawing as many as 100,000 viewers per week. It ran for two seasons and has since been sold to Netflix for international distribution.
Gifford’s turn as a reality star garnered glowing profiles in a number of large American media outlets, as did his decision to marry DeVincent at the Copenhagen Town Hall, the location of the very first gay civil union back in 1989.
Even before his participation in the TV programme, Gifford was no stranger to the entertainment industry. He had a short-lived career in Hollywood where he worked on films like 'Dr. Dolittle 2' and even appeared on screen as a dog owner in the 2004 'Garfield' film.
His time in Denmark also saw him jump-start the local improvisational comedy scene in Copenhagen.
Gifford's unorthodox approach to diplomacy brought him a level of visibility that a foreign diplomat does not normally achieve in Denmark, or anywhere for that matter. But it wasn't without its critics, as some argued that his role in the reality TV show was too unserious and that his engaging personality basically gave him a free pass from any critical coverage in the press.
But by and large, Gifford was well-liked in Denmark. He earned Danes' respect and admiration for his valiant attempt to master their language and for travelling to all corners of the country to engage in debates and forums.
In his waning days of service, his popular social media channels have been flooded with positive remarks from Danes and he was even summoned to Amalienborg to receive the Order of the Dannebrog from Queen Margrethe.
Like all politically-appointed US ambassadors, Gifford was told to pack his bags and leave his post by Trump's inauguration day. As he departed Copenhagen on Friday, there was much speculation on what Gifford would do next.
Although he hasn't revealed his plans, the 42-year-old Boston native has dropped hints that he may pursue political office.
“We have to decide. The election was a game-changer for us, there’s no doubt about that,” he told TV2 in an exit interview. "Our plan on November 7th, the day before the election, was different than what it is today."
“I’ve worked for President Obama for ten years. I’ve worked to help promote his legacy and it’s a legacy that I think is profound and important. And I want to protect that legacy. And if that means running for office, then we’ll make that decision in a couple of months. Or it could be something else that is slightly connected to it. But we will stay in the political arena," he added.
In a farewell video posted to Facebook, which he starts by once again gamely and bravely displaying his Danish skills, Gifford said he would leave Copenhagen with his head held high.
"I made a promise to myself and to both countries the moment I stepped foot in Copenhagen on August 30, 2013 and that was that I would leave this great relationship just a little bit stronger than I found it. And I sit here today and I think I can safely say that we succeeded," he said.
Trump has not appointed a successor for the US ambassador to Denmark post.