There’s nothing extraordinary about Will and RJ. Well, other than the fact that they’re both handsome, intellectual, respectful, caring and concerned about equality. In a world full of selfishness, lack of concern for others, intolerable cruelty and arrogance, Will and RJ are literally two of the nicest guys you will ever meet. Fortunately, you don’t have to go very far to meet them. Turn on your computer every day about 1pm, go to Will’s YouTube channel, Shep689, and he’s probably uploaded the newest installment of their year-long, daily video log. We’re absolutely obsessed! If by 5pm their newest video hasn’t been uploaded, we’re panicking and wondering...is something wrong with Will and RJ?
So what makes them so entertaining to watch? Who knows. It’s not exactly always a thrill a minute. Yet there we are, everyday, watching their lives unfold. A typical day in their lives consists of getting up, driving to their separate jobs, Will showing us around his office for the umpteenth time, RJ playing name that tune to some song no one’s ever heard of before, dinner at Chipotle(which we’ve now grown accustomed to again because of you!), drinking margarita’s or wine, being cute before bed and, of course, saying good night. Although this may all seem rather mundane they may just be the new pioneers of the entertainment world today. In a world obsessed with reality television, they have done the unthinkable by bringing the viewer into their lives 24 hours a day for 365 days of the year! Although this isn’t the first time it’s been done on YouTube, they are just interesting and adorable enough to make it work. Without even thinking about it they have created the perfect show with an enticing main cast, secondary characters, main plots and subplots.
Oh, and let’s not forget Will’s obsession with watching Desperate Housewives. This is very, very important because we believe Will is a little too analytical to miss the ironic resemblance between their life and Desperate Housewives, especially his idol Bree Van De Kamp. In an interesting twist, while Will’s favorite show lingers in the background, Will and RJ have composed the most intriguing reality show…where art doesn’t necessarily imitate life, but instead presents a mirror reflection. One to us that is definitely more interesting than anything found on Wisteria Lane. One that made us thirsty to find out what beats beneath the chests of these two kind geniuses. Other than our pop culture fascination to find out more about them personally, it was truly an honor to be allowed to dig deep into the minds of another gay couple who represents, without fear, the message that love is love.
1. How long have you been together and how did you meet?
W – We’ve been together since October 2009 (so about 2.5 years), a month after we met at the LGBTQ student resource center at FSU. I was a volunteer and RJ walked in working on a documentary for one of his film classes. I said hello and then proceeded to interrogate everyone else in the center trying to get information on him. I told everyone there “That is MINE.”
R – Note that he said “that is mine”, not “HE is mine”…
W – People kept trying to tell me not to waste my time because he was straight, but you see how much that meant to me haha.
R – Mind you, I had only told people that so that they would leave me alone and let me do my work. But Will was obviously undeterred. A day or two later he finds me on Facebook and starts messaging me. We went on a date shortly thereafter. The rest is pretty much history.
2. How did you each get started making YouTube videos?
W – Way back in 2008, I think, my friend Alex posted video and linked them on Facebook. I checked out some of his stuff and it seemed pretty funny. Then I saw that he was subscribed to particular channels, like 5awesomegays and Tyler Oakley, and that’s when I discovered what vlogging really was. I thought to myself as I watched these videos, “I could totally do this,” and here we are.
R – I got started on YouTube because of Will. Before we started dating, I didn’t even have an account, much less any desire to participate in the whole vlogging thing. I got all my introductions to it through being around Will and watching him do what he does. Meanwhile, I was getting my degrees in media production and writing so I constantly found myself helping him out with editing or lighting or shot composition. At first, I was doing my best to be a good boyfriend and be supportive, but it didn’t take long for me to start enjoying it. It was shortly thereafter that I had the epiphany: “wait a minute, if I’m putting all this effort into making YouTube videos, why don’t I start vlogging on my own channel?” The rest of the story is on YouTube.
3. What inspired you to make a video a day for a year?
R – Our subscribers, hands down. Every so often we would do day-in-the-life videos whenever we would do fun stuff like Disney or Universal Studios. Will had offered up the idea of doing a daily vlog much in the same fashion as another famous couple on YouTube, Charles and Alli Trippy. But we never thought that people would want to just watch us go about our daily routine. But more and more subscribers kept asking us to vlog every day so we decided to try it for just a month. The response was very positive, so we decided to go for another month. Finally, we made a wager with the subscribers, get Will to 10,000 subscribers and we would vlog for every single day in 2012. They delivered and then some, so now we’re making good on our promise.
4. What are the most gratifying and most difficult parts of making a video every day for a year?
W – The most gratifying is definitely to read the comments made on each video and see how appreciative our subscribers are of the amount of time we spend making our videos. The most difficult part would probably be finding the time/internet connection to upload our videos. Editing takes about 15 minutes, but the importing, exporting, and uploading is about another hour, so it can get pretty time-consuming.
R – Yeah, I would have to agree when I say that the most gratifying part would be the comments, messages, emails, letters, and so on telling us how much we’ve helped them through a rough time or how much we’ve given them hope that they’ll find their perfect match some day. Since Will pretty much does the editing, the hardest part for me is always remembering to bring the camera whenever we go somewhere and not leaving it there when we come back.
5. What has been the best opportunity that has come as a result of these videos?
R – Well, having Chipotle’s corporate headquarters send us gift certificate for free food was pretty awesome. Doing this interview is pretty sweet as well. But really, since we’ve only been doing the everyday vlogs for a few months now, it’s still pretty early in determining what sort of professional opportunities might arise. More so, it’s been about having the opportunity to interact with so many different people all around the world. Getting the chance to touch their lives and having them do the same to us.
6. Do you believe there are things too personal to discuss or display in your videos?
W – What’s funny is that we recently had a serious discussion about this. I think that’s it’s important for us to have some semblance of privacy, for the sake of our own sanity, but also try to portray our lives together as honestly as possible. It’s impossible to put everything in the videos, that much is true, but there are things that we make sure to not include due to legal ramifications or the possibility of it putting strain on our relationship.
R – The good news is that we’re the ones shooting the footage and doing the editing, so we control what goes in the videos and what doesn’t. But when it comes to boundaries, most of what gets left out is stuff that involves our interactions with people who don’t feel comfortable being on camera. As far as Will and I are concerned, it’s just about making judgment calls whenever the question pops up.
7. Who are your top 5 Favorite YouTubers? What is your all-time favorite video by someone else and by you?
W – Let’s see…Tyler Oakley would definitely be one. So would our friends Andrew (lepreas) and Simon (sighmoansays). Natalie Tran has been one of my favorites from the very beginning.
R – I have to add Charles and Alli to the list (CTFxC) just because they are a big inspiration for us. I also have to throw out honorable mentions to Nicola Foti (soudlyawake), Grace Helbig (dailygrace), Michael Buckley (WHATTHEBUCKSHOW), Louis Virtel (louisvirtel), and Smosh.
8. Can you explain VidCon? What are you most excited about experiencing?(They have since been to VidCon and have uploaded videos of their experiences)
R – Good question. I’ve never been to VidCon or any sort of YouTube gathering. Care to explain, dear?
W – Well I haven’t been to VidCon either but I know that it’s the be all end all of YouTube gatherings. It’s a convention for YouTube creators and fans. If you’re a fan, it’s a great place to go and try to meet your favorite Youtubers and interact with them. If you’re a Youtuber yourself, it’s a great place to network and hang out in person with some of the people you normally only interact with online.
R – What he said.
W – I’d say that I’m most looking forward to having drinks with a few of my favorite Youtubers and possibly meeting some that I’ve never had the chance to meet before. Oh, and meeting up with subscribers, of course!
R – Three words: Drunken Youtuber Karaoke. I don’t know if that’s already on the agenda but I am going to make it happen somehow.
9. Do you receive any hate mail or comments and if so how does it affect you? How do you respond?
W – Oh my God, yes. And I love them. I would much rather them come to my channel than to go to someone else’s channel because they don’t affect me.
R – Yeah, I generally try not to feed the trolls, especially the ones who use the word “fag”. There’s no talking to those people. But every so often someone will come along and make some sort of self-entitled, bitchy, condescending comment and I will always feel compelled to put those people in their place. It’s like “I’m sorry, just because you’re entitled to your opinion doesn’t mean you’re entitled to share it or that it counts for anything.”
10. What advice would you give new YouTubers who want to become well followed YouTubers?
W – I would tell them to watch other Youtubers to get a sense of what works in terms of shooting styles, lighting, editing, that sort of thing. As far as content goes, I’d say just be yourself.
R – I say give us something we haven’t seen before. There are literally millions of others out there trying to do the exact same thing, so what do you have to offer that others don’t? Or, if you’re in good shape, you can just go the cheap route like Davey Wavey and just make all of your videos half naked. Just don’t expect anyone to take you seriously…
W – Right.
11. What are three things about the other person that we wouldn’t know by looking at them?
R – Let’s see… I’d say the first thing is that Will stops at nothing to get what he wants. Seriously, it doesn’t matter what the thing is or what gets in his way. If he wants queso dip, we’ll be at a Mexican restaurant by the end of the day. If we’re watching Desperate Housewives on DVD, and the season ends, we’ll have three more seasons bought by the end of the week. Will also has the capacity to be extremely, unbearably cute, usually whenever he knows he’s in trouble or whenever he wants me to pay attention to him. Finally, I’d say it’s that Will is the most fabulous drunk I have ever seen. He’s like a cross between Audrey Hepburn and Beyonce…but with a little bit more leaning. Just don’t leave him alone anywhere or try to get him to say the phrase “honey butter chicken biscuit”.
W – First and foremost is how intense he is. Nothing is ever mitigated or simple. Everything is just such a big deal. When it comes to how devoted he is, he is absolutely 140% devoted to everything. When it comes to his relationships with friends or family, he is always 140% involved. In this way, it’s hard to get him to relax. Another aspect would be how he in the most honest person on this planet. I’ve yet to meet someone who has taught me more about truth and honesty than him, and he’s shown me how much a couple can benefit from honesty. Lastly, I’d have to say is that you’d never guess how great in the sack he is. Cuz he’s perfect. (Sorry, I had to.)
12. Ok…so what’s the deal with Chipotle?
W – <Gasp> I’m almost offended. It’s just the best thing ever!
R – Yeah, it’s really not that complicated. We both love food, especially Mexican food, and Chipotle is good enough that we don’t mind eating it two/three/four/seven times a week.
13. To each of you: What are your three favorite books, movies, television shows and stores?
R – Gosh, so many favorites to list. Alright…books would have to be Chronicle of a Death Foretold, then Slaughterhouse Five, and I have to list a graphic novel too, so I might as well go with Watchmen, because it’s pretty much the greatest one ever written (but there’s a lot of competition). Movies would be, first, Fight Club, then probably Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I have to list our couple’s favorite, The Birdcage. TV shows are tricky since we’ve gotten each other hooked on our favorites, but I’d say first is House, then Inside the Actors Studio, and I have to say The Daily Show, if for no other reason than I’ve written paper after paper about it. What’s funny about my favorite stores is that none of them are in the city where we live. I absolutely adore Zara and everything in it. As much as it pains me, I admit that I’m always buying assorted stuff in Urban Outfitters. Finally, I’m not sure if this counts, but I’m always throwing away money on nice underwear at Freshpair.com. It’s kind of unhealthy…
W – Okay, I’m not like RJ, I’m just going to list stuff. Books: Life of Pi, the Harry Potter series, and I really liked One Hundred Years of Solitude. Movies: The Birdcage, The Devil Wears Prada, Matilda. TV Shows: Desperate Housewives, Six Feet Under, Brothers and Sisters. Stores: H&M, Urban Outfitters, Williams Sonoma. See, that was much easier, right?
R – Shut up.
14. You have established yourselves as gay role models and activists, maybe without even realizing it. What message to do you think is important to carry to gay teens and what do you believe are the biggest LGBT issues in our country?
W – First of all is the importance of self worth, and knowing that, even if people may treat you poorly, it doesn’t mean that you are any less than them. To me, marriage equality is important, but dealing with bullying is a much bigger issue for me.
R – I don’t think there are multiple issues so much as one issue—equality. We deserve to be treated equally, whether we’re at work or at school or in church or just minding our own business trying to live our lives. We deserve the same treatment as anyone and everyone else, and if you’re gay (aged 6 or 16 or 60), you shouldn’t settle for anything less than that. Period.
15. With the exception of saying “I love you”, in the past, you have both shown very little physical affection towards each other in the videos. Has this been a conscience decision?
R – Well, I wouldn’t say that it’s a conscious decision. Will and I were never big on PDA in the first place. It’s just something that we’ve always felt was best suited for when we’re at home. We were both raised in pretty conservative households.
W – Not to mention that, whenever we do display or affection, it’s usually not something that’s appropriate for YouTube…
16. Will, you have shared a very moving coming out story on video. Based on your experience, what advice would you give to people, no matter their age, who are wanting or planning to come out?
W – It’s a constant balancing act of being yourself and not upsetting those closest to you. When it comes to coming out, timing is everything, and every situation is different. If I had to give any advice, I’d say make sure that coming out doesn’t do more harm than good.
R – Coming out is a process. It’s not like getting knighted where one person anoints you and then you’re that way for the rest of your life. Every time you meet someone new, the question arises about how to best address the subject. It’s my opinion that the only thing that should keep you from coming out is safety. Unless coming out carries the real possibility of physical or mental harm, I say that there’s never going to be a perfect time to do it, so why waste time agonizing over it? Also, I’d say that, in most situations, especially when dealing with the subject in your day-to-day interaction with people, treat it like a non-issue, because it is. Once people see that it’s not a big deal, then they won’t be so freaked out about it.
17. How do you define sexy? What do you believe is the sexiest city in the world? Sexiest thing about Florida? Sexiest song? Sexiest YouTuber? Sexiest pair of RJ’s underwear?
R – I guess sexy is all about owning what you’ve got. For me, it’s not about any particular type of guy. I’ve seen blonde, brunette, even redhead guys who were sexy. Different body types, different degrees of body hair… it’s just about owning what you’ve got and not being afraid to get what you want. It’s kind of a slippery slope, though, since arrogance is extremely off-putting.
W – I’m the same in that sexy changes from guy to guy. The least common factor, for me, would be Hispanics.
R – Sure, whatever. So I guess that would be the sexiest thing about Florida: the Hispanics. So is there any particularly Hispanic city?
W – I don’t know. I feel like it would be really sexy to go to a city in Brazil.
R – Yeah, or Australia. I dunno, we haven’t really gotten to travel outside the country just yet. Sexiest music for me? I dunno, I have playlists. But my favorite would probably be “What Goes Around…Comes Around”. That song makes me want to make a baby.
W – I dunno why, Deadmau5 is so hot to me. Like, if they were to play that in a club, I would make out with everyone. Sexiest YouTuber would be Anthony Padilla from Smosh. What would I do to him, let me count the ways…
R – Yeah he’s definitely attractive. Him and Michael Aranda. He’s pretty. So what’s my sexiest pair of underwear?
W – Easy, that red and black pair of Gregg Homme briefs that make your package look really good.
R – Oh yeah, those. They’re red and black and they cradle your package in this lovely hammock of microfiber and put everything on display.
18. You are planning on launching a website and have asked viewers for donations to achieve this goal. Can you discuss your plan for your website and where you would like to see your YouTube presence take you in the next five years?
R – One of the great things that’s happened as a result of this everyday vlog, sort of by accident, is the community that’s evolved around it. So we wanted to create something that will allow it to expand beyond the confines of YouTube. So we explored a bunch of different options and we decided that the only way that we could do what we wanted on our terms was to create a website.
W – Yeah the main purpose of the website was to create an “advice column” of sorts to allow us to answer the hundreds of messages we get from viewers in an organized fashion. We would allow them to submit the questions/messages anonymously and we would post them for everyone to see and learn from the experience. We’re hoping to get questions about everything from relationship advice (because there aren’t that many advice columns for gay relationships out there) to coming out advice and everything in between.
R – But there’s more to the site than just that. We felt like we’ve created a community so we wanted to create a space where the viewers could interact with us on a more personal level and vise versa. As for the donations, we were already planning on doing this by ourselves, but it’s a difficult task to accomplish with the time and resources available to us. So, we’ve given people an opportunity to help us out if they wanna see this move along quicker. And we’ve been SO overwhelmed at the response already. We truly have the best subscribers out there.
W – It’s true. I couldn’t believe the amount of support we were receiving – we’ve even had to say no at times! But as for our presence in 5 years, I would like for the channel to gain popularity with the It Gets Better Project as proof that it does get better. The movement has been instrumental in showing troubled teens to tough it out, but there are few instances where there’s proof. That’s what our channel is all about. And of course we would like more subscribers and all that jazz haha.
19. You often discuss getting married in your videos. Are there any plans in the future and will we get to see an engagement?
W – Actually, yes to both questions. We’ve been to so many weddings this year and we also work wedding as cater-waiters, so we’ve already determined what we want for our wedding. As for the engagement, RJ will be proposing to me since I gave RJ a promise ring near the beginning of our relationship when I decided to really give our relationship a shot.
R – Yeah, so no pressure, right? Well there’s still the problem of it being outlawed here in Florida, which has kinda put the brakes on things. But we do plan on moving to LA next year so hopefully there will be legal groundwork for us to do that by the time we arrive. Thing is, though, as far as getting hitched and getting engaged goes, we’re already pretty certain that it’s going to happen. So, for me at least, there’s no point in rushing. I’d much rather take some time and really do everything right. After all, we really only get one shot at this, so I want things to be special. But it would be cruel, though, to include subscribers in our relationship thus far and then leave them out of the engagement and ceremony. So don’t worry. No matter what happens, we will try everything we can to bring you guys along for the ride. I can promise that.
20. What are your three simple luxuries?
R – For me, “simple luxuries” are all about giving yourself that little something extra from day to day. There’s the stuff you need to get through the day, and there’s the extra things that make life enjoyable. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a thing for wearing nice underwear. It’s one way to spoil yourself (and your boyfriend) in the most intimate way. Beyond that, it’s all about sharing good meals with good company, whether we’re out or cooking at home. Oh, and there must always be a stash of great wine on hand.
W – See, I take a much less materialistic approach. After spending a majority of my life with some people that didn’t appreciate me, I like the ability to decide my company and be with people that I actually give a damn about. Another luxury would be taking naps. I fucking love naps. My life would be so much less worth living without naps. Third luxury… would be time spent with RJ. I feel like RJ has been the answer to why my life was so difficult in the beginning. I always told myself that there was a reason, and RJ is that reason. Any and all time spent with him is more than I could have ever asked for. Okay, now I’m done being sappy.
R – Yeah, way to make me sound like a douche…
Be Yourself. Be Fearless. Be Your Own Unexpected Luxury!
Visit Will’s YouTube Channel Shep689 to find all of their links to Twitter, Facebook and where to buy merchandise!
“Best new gay young adult love story of 2014 that’s relatable at any age!”
*Photos provided by Will Shepherd
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