Robert Sepúlveda Jr. isn’t holding back.
The first-season star of Logo’s Finding Prince Charming, who was criticized for withholding his past as a sex worker before and during the show, has turned that criticism into a call of action. The interior designer from Atlanta has released Rented, a limited-edition calendar featuring shots of Sepúlveda along with scenarios that evoke the life and dangers of modern-day sex workers.
The proceeds will go the Sex Workers Project, which provides legal and social services to sex workers and assists survivors of human trafficking. The autographed calendar sells for $49.99, which you can purchase online here.
We spoke to Sepúlveda about this latest campaign.
Out: What motivated you to make this calendar?
Robert Sepúlveda Jr.: I wanted to do something that allowed me to heal, to respond to my critics, and to raise awareness all at the same time. First of all, I’m going to acknowledge my past. I have no issue with that. We’re just a sex-obsessed culture; we just want to talk about celebrities’ asses and titties and lips and their bodies in general. But when it comes to sex work, nobody wants to talk about rape. Nobody wants to talk about sex trafficking. With this calendar, I want to allow other people with situations like what I went through to know they are not alone, that they have dignity, and that they are worthy of love.
Many critics were surprised that you didn’t use your time on Finding Prince Charming to bring more attention to sex work.
During the show, [the producers] had their own storylines. There were a couple of times during the show’s beginning I wanted to come out and speak to all the guys about it. One time was when Eric [Leonardos] came out about his HIV status. I thought that was really admirable, and nobody knew he was going to do that. So I didn’t want to be, “by the way …” Plus, it’s something that happened to me, but it’s not who I am. A “prince charming” is a cartoon, a caricature. I’m a real person with real experiences. I’m much more than that.
What do you think are the challenges behind talking about or raising awareness of sex work?
I think it seems like a bigger taboo in the LGBTQ community than the straight community. Gay men want to label sex workers or escorts or porn stars as unworthy of love, unworthy of dignity. But those same people who are judging can have meaningless hookups all the time and they don’t see themselves as an issue or a problem. Look at [artist Mischa Badasyan]. A guy can have sex with 365 people, one per day, for a year and that’s art. An escort can sleep with maybe six people in a year to make their yearly income, and they are considered less than. It’s a bit hypocritical at times.
There a plenty of ways to raise awareness or encourage charitable donations. Why a calendar?
I had always thought about doing a photo essay. Each photo would have a word and a paragraph on what that word meant to me. I wanted to really put it out there to the naysayers who tried to shame me. And, really, the press seemed so interested in my escorting days so bad. I knew a calendar with photos would basically get press. They want to talk about sex because sex equals clicks, and clicks equal money. But actually making money from sex? That’s somehow wrong. It doesn’t make sense.
When you were a sex worker, was there ever a time where you felt personally victimized?
When I was in college, I was in a really serious situation. I was going to lose my apartment, my car, everything. At 19, I first started. I flew to see a client. We didn’t connect, but he basically forced me to have sex with him or I wouldn’t be able to get home. I actually had to call my mother and she had to help me get home. I was thousands of miles away. What was I going to do? Call the police and tell them this guy who hired me to be here [assaulted me]? I had to do it. And it just turned me into a different person. I was more cautious, more quiet. It was traumatizing.
What are your thoughts on sex work today?
No one should be ostracized or shamed for getting into sex work. There is pleasure in this work, and sometimes you meet a client you feel really connected to. There are dangers, but that shouldn’t label someone as unworthy of our help. You can accept your past, and you can change your future—I’m a living testimony of that.
Watch a trailer for the calendar below.