Roi Santos has become an international sensation, with high-profile clients on multiple continents. He’s been featured in dozens of newspapers and magazines and was recently named the top makeup artist in the Bay Area.
But it wasn’t always this way. From his humble beginnings in the Philippines, Roi has been on a life-changing journey – and the key to his success lies in the loving and supportive relationship he enjoys with boyfriend Jorge Gonzalez. In June 2021, the pair were featured on the cover of Outré Magazine; now, nearly a year later, they have agreed to an in-depth interview about their path to love and success; here are the highlights!
How did it feel to be on the cover of Outré Magazine?
Roi Santos: It feels surreal! I still can’t believe that Jorge and I were on the cover of this prestigious magazine. This really allowed us to share our love story and the many challenges we faced with being gay.
It’s comforting how my followers and fans have welcomed us with open arms and have supported our journey. Our story is a testimony meant to enlighten, encourage, and inspire others like us, and I’m grateful for Outré magazine, Vincent Gotti, and Diana Aloha for this opportunity.
Ever since we were featured, my Instagram has totally blown up with supportive messages from the LGBTQIA+ community, thanking us for our courage in speaking the truth without holding back. My Facebook fan page has exploded, too – we’ve gotten so many messages about how our story has touched hearts and inspired others to share their stories as well.
We’ve been approached in public by random strangers who recognized us from the cover of Outré, asking for autographs and expressing their love and support. It’s shown us that we’re doing everything right to support the LGBTQIA+ community and serve as a beacon of hope for others longing to tell their stories.
Jorge Gonzalez: It’s been the opportunity of a lifetime to share the spotlight with my better half. I’m not as outspoken and outgoing as Roi, but being recognized from the cover of Outré has really helped to boost my confidence. So many people reached out – previous classmates, friends, relatives – letting me know that they’d purchased a copy to support me.
Outré transformed our lives. I’m shy, private, and reserved, but suddenly felt like a celebrity. I remember walking into a mall and being surrounded by flashing lights and paparazzi. I froze – but Roi nudged me, breaking my trance, and helped to ease my jitters. I was able to smile, sign autographs, and even enjoy the spotlight.
Seeing all the pride and support reminded me that we aren’t alone. We are part of a loving community, and I want our story to spread encouragement and hope. Telling our story has proven to be a gateway to freedom, acceptance, and love.
What would you like to share about your relationship?
Roi: Jorge is the missing last piece to my puzzle. He knows me better than I know myself. He’s my rock, my cheerleader, my biggest fan – he loves me at my worst and uplifts me to be the best I can be. I never let my guard down, but with Jorge, I’ve been able to just let go and be free because I know his love has no reservation.
I’m an extrovert, very animated, and my personality lends itself well to my profession as a celebrity makeup artist. Jorge being intuitive and reserved really helps to balance me out. He’s so supportive of my career; he’s my greatest companion in all the adventures we navigate.
Jorge: When I met Roi, I realized that he was everything I’d been looking for. He checks on me, asks how my day was – little things that mean a lot to me. We’ve gone through so much together, and I know he always has my back.
We’re polar opposites, even in our careers. I currently work for Allstate; a pretty normal office job! But when Roi is traveling or working on a big project, I always put him first. Seeing him shine in his profession and do what he loves is priceless. Anytime a makeup project comes up, Roi lights up with joy and is eager to live his passion.
We complement each other perfectly. We always find common ground; we meet in the middle with love, kindness, and joy. I’m a better and more confident man because of Roi.
How and when did you start questioning your sexuality?
Roi: I was about ten; I remember sitting with female friends at lunch and feeling like one of them. I knew I wasn’t attracted to girls – they just weren’t my cup of tea. I was drawn to the same sex. The girls were friends and muses that I’d copy fashion from! Boys my age were playing with cars and guns, while I played with Barbies.
But I was afraid of being ostracized. At the time we didn’t have the resources available now, so questioning my sexuality as an adolescent was so confusing! I was already dealing with the typical raging hormones, comparing myself to others – I really questioned who I was as a person. “Who is Roi Santos? Why do I feel this way? What should I do??”
In the end, I chose to be brave – and be myself. I dyed my hair (got into big trouble for that!), started wearing makeup – basically everything to invite bullying. But at least I was myself, and eventually, I was embraced by the LGBTQIA+ community.
Later I learned that many people choose to suffer in silence. I can’t imagine that agony. I’d rather deal with the bullies. My personality was different, but it was me, quirks included! I embraced my destiny and it’s never held me back!
Jorge: I was in middle school when I started developing crushes on male classmates. It was confusing and isolating. I had a feminine demeanor, but everyone I knew was straight. I stuck out like a sore thumb. Puberty was already overwhelming, and I had no support group. No gay community. I had to keep everything to myself. I just wanted to be open, free, loved, and accepted.
Growing up my favorite color was pink, and I loved Sailor Moon and Disney princesses instead of the “boy toys” that I was “supposed” to like. I tried to conceal myself to avoid rejection, but the fear and insecurity of hiding my true nature haunted me. I felt like an alien in my own body.
How did you come out and what challenges did you face?
Roi: My family made it easy – they never judged me. A big shout out to my mom, Rossana; my dad, Chito; and my sister, Danica. You guys rock. I love you with all my heart. Thank you for always seeing something special within me.
My mother was like Wonder Woman to me – a true superhero, my backbone who gave me the best childhood. I was surrounded by gay and lesbian relatives, which provided a nurturing environment.
Despite this, it still took me a long time to feel truly confident and accept myself. My path in life was littered with tragedy and heartbreak. There were those who tried to destroy me, lie about me, and hurt me because of envy.
Back then, I didn’t exude the confidence I have now, but this journey has proven to be a self-discovery filled with enlightenment. These days, I’m kinder to myself. The message I want to share is that we need to accept ourselves by letting go of insecurity. Self-acceptance allows you to radiate positive energy, which will influence everyone around you.
Jorge: My siblings had my back, but coming out to my parents was hard. My mother wanted me to marry a woman and have children. She was shocked when I came out. She did eventually accept it, as did my father. They really do love me unconditionally, and I’m blessed to have them.
It was hard for me to feel comfortable in my own skin, but it did finally happen. I feel free to wear pink (my favorite!) and be feminine – and be happy in a relationship with a man. A huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Roi has been fundamental in my journey toward self-acceptance. He always reminds me to be true to myself and not worry about what others think or say. He completes me – he’s the ketchup to my fries!
What is your advice for victims of bullying?
Roi: I was bullied for my cystic acne and it had a huge impact on my self-esteem. This world can be cruel as people judge others based on appearance, status, or career, and that isn’t fair, as it’s not the sum of a person.
Social media can make it worse. We live in a digital world where sharing a piece of ourselves invites unwelcome visitors to discriminate, ostracize, and bully – trolls do exist. Each time someone posts a photo or unveils their vulnerability, they open the door to judgment.
Being gay complicates that further. We’re often stereotyped and forced to prove our worth, but being gay doesn’t make you less of a person and does not define your potential. We’re all just here in life searching for meaning and belonging and we all deserve to be loved.
When I was bullied, I transformed all the nasty remarks into bulletproof armor that I carry with me. I had an amazing support system – my parents, sister, and cousin Ate Bung; also my friends Yoliesil, Lisa, and Alissa. They all helped shape my self-love and confidence.
I encourage people who are being bullied to reach out and seek help. Find a core group – family and friends who emanate love and positivity. Toxic people are weeds in your garden – they serve no purpose and choke out the flowers!
Always practice self-love and learn from your experiences. Lastly, remember that there is no one like you, so spread your wings and embrace your superpower.
Jorge: I was bullied for my femininity. In school I was teased for liking the color pink, and called a “girl” – I became withdrawn. I felt meaningless and uncomfortable in my own skin. I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t gay … but I knew I wasn’t attracted to women.
It took me a long time to realize that everyone is on a unique journey. We’re all special. All different. We all possess our own traits and personalities, gifts and talents, dreams and passions.
Judgment is everywhere. As Roi said, social media can make it worse, and being gay can make it worse yet. I have learned to develop a thick skin, appreciate my self-worth, and be kind to myself. Judgment may hurt us, but it should not break us.
My best advice is to live for yourself. Don’t worry about what others say or think. Allowing toxic people to affect your emotions gives them control over you. We all have the power within to live our dreams and tell our own stories.
Like Roi said, surround yourself with loving people who bring you joy. Surround yourself with like-minded people that bring you love and joy. I’m grateful to have found my soulmate who treats me like a prince. Our love was never planned, but it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.
What are the challenges you face in your relationship?
Roi: I met Jorge online and learned that he’d never dated someone who wore makeup! I cracked up but was secretly afraid of rejection. I thank my lucky stars that our first date blossomed into a loving relationship. We’ve learned to balance out our differences, and we make a great team, remembering to always treat one another with respect, kindness, and unconditional love.
Before Jorge, I found myself looking for love in all the wrong places – but now I realize that we each have a soulmate, and mine is Jorge.
Jorge: For me, the challenge was my father, who didn’t approve of our relationship. I’ll always be thankful to Georgette, a family friend who opened my dad’s eyes so that he could understand and accept Roi and me.
Now, my parents treat Roi like their own son and include him on special occasions like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and birthdays. I am very fortunate that Roi’s parents treat me the same way. Our genuine love and strong foundation are the keys to a healthy relationship.
Roi & Jorge on the cover of Outré Magazine: