Admittedly distracted by a singular aspect of this gay Atlanta man’s body of work, we thought we had a handle on his appeal. Turns out, our continued conversation with Sepulveda (photos) proves there’s more to salivate over than a steady stream of shirtless selfies.
The designer, photographer and model has rubbed elbows with designing elite, held a prestigious position with Calvin Klein’s Home line, and has even tried on Oprah’s shoes. Project Q caught up with hardworking hunk to find out more about the forthcoming RSJ|Collection, his body ink and if Oprah’s shoes actually fit.
One of your earliest projects was remodeling your childhood home. Were you a 10-year-old prodigy?
[Laughs] Well, I wouldn't go as far as saying I'm a modern-day William James Sidis, but the definition of prodigy is one endowed with exceptional abilities and my mother would at least vouch for that!
Sure, I re-did a few rooms in the house, and by that I mean thumbtacking my mother’s expensive silk sheets to the wall, adding hemp rope in horizontal and vertical squares trying to create a modern tapestry – not very practical. Obviously, I hadn't developed my skills to where I am today.
So where do you trace your design interest?
I've always had the ability to create moments, or as I call them vignettes (second photo) … but I have so many interests. I wanted to be a veterinarian, a seismologist, an Egyptologist, a science teacher ... I also nearly joined the Air Force, but I have an immense passion for architecture. I thought that was my calling, turns out I went in a slightly different direction and directed [my passions] into interior design.
What might you say was your aha moment?
My decision to move to New York City in 2006 was my aha moment in life. Everything I came in contact with was an opportunity to learn more about myself as a person, human psychology, the human experience, art, design, culture, but most importantly, how far I could be pushed.
I will never accept mediocrity in my life and have always admired the ones at the top of their fields. Moving to NYC gave me the chance to learn from the best and carve out a path to success in the design industry and many other aspects of my life.
Tell us about the glitz and glam of modeling.
I’ve had the opportunity to see many beautiful places, meet many interesting people and work with some of the best photographers, all of which I'm grateful for, but it's not always as glam as people think (fourth photo)
Castings are brutal, waiting in line for what seems like forever to get called into a room, and a booker looks at your book and only says, "thanks" or nothing. It takes a toll; one starts to become numb, jaded almost.
One can't take it personally though, one won't be right for every casting. They are looking for a very specific look for each casting, but when you do book the right casting you could be flying to Florence … or on the flip side, you could be walking around Manhattan in a tuxedo in 90° weather going from given address to address hand delivering invitations, both of which I have done.
Any fantastic NYC stories?
Whilst working at Oprah Magazine, I had the opportunity to be an assistant stylist … The magazine has an expansive closet where they keep the clothes all of the designers send for use on any of given photo shoot. Oprah herself would use this closet from time to time – she obviously has her own – but on this day, I noticed the shoes from the [forthcoming] February cover were sitting on a shelf.
They were a beautiful pair of red bottom Christian Louboutins, hand beaded in multicolor Swarovski crystal . . . I approached with hesitation and thought maybe this isn't a good idea but thought if I didn’t try them on, I'd never get the chance again. [laughs]
Did you try them on?
I did and they fit! Oprah and I wear the same size high heel. That was a pretty cool moment (third photo).
What about your position with Calvin Klein?
I was the Global Visual Manager for Calvin Klein home collection and was the first person to hold this position. I was responsible for maintaining Calvin Klein's brand identity and DNA to specific standards – basically responsible for the day-to-day upkeep and appearance of all New York-based shops as well all US and global shops.
Being on both sides of the camera, is your photography an extension of your design work or just a hobby?
Definitely an extension of my design work. I use the photos and the social media platforms as a tool for branding, but they are also an outlet for my inspirations and personal creativity. … I believe every photo is a piece of art and should be treated as a canvas.
So is your body also a canvas?
Yes, I see the physical body as a canvas, and the gym and what you eat as the paintbrush. One can only respect and admire someone whom has the self-control and dedication to keep fit (fifth photo).
I go to the gym about five times a week and run at least two miles before each workout. On warmer days, I'll run to the gym through Piedmont Park, and that run alone is about seven or eight miles, one way.
Does your design prowess extend to your tattoo?
My love for art and history play a significant role in my tattoo. The hibiscus is the national flower of [my birthplace] Puerto Rico. The crown is a representation of the patents of nobility the Sepúlveda surname of my ancestors received from the Spanish crown, the rosary and cross are a copy of a family heirloom that's been passed down since the early 1800s and also represent my Catholic faith, and the jewels represent wealth and prosperity.
What does the rest of 2015 hold for Robert Sepúlveda Jr.?
My priority this year is the RSJ|Collection launch. I've been working on this project for over a year, meticulously researching scents and sourcing the finest materials. …
Inspired by distinctive moments in history, these large 11oz candles are made from fine Limoges porcelain and gilded in 22 karat gold. They are created from a unique blend of pure soy and beeswax, infused with exquisite essential oils and exotic botanicals.
We will also have a collection of diffusers, three-ounce votive candles, fragrance discs and long stem matches launching later this year.