Latin Flair

Sunshine & Sebastian Street: R.J. Aguiar And Will Shepherd’s Fort Lauderdale


Will Shepherd and RJ Aguiar are YouTubers and Instagrammers. They were married last year. 

Fort Lauderdale is a laid back version of Miami. You get the same amazing weather, same amazing beaches, Latin flair, but in an environment that feel less like you’re constantly having to showboat and impress people. It’s like Miami is a young guy in his early twenties who’s always ready to rage. Fort Lauderdale is the guy in his early thirties who has a job and has less to prove, but can still rage with the best of them.

On the beach…

You’re talking to two Florida boys, so of course summer time means beaches. It always has since we were kids. The only difference now is that we get to pack more, uh, adult refreshments in our cooler. And instead of being tethered to your family, you get to bring your friends along. And you get to ogle all the hot guys on the beach while you drink beer and eat snacks. We honestly can’t picture summer without a beach, and it’s no secret that SoFlo has some of the best in the world.

The cool thing about having a beach nearby is that it becomes your go-to spot whenever you want somewhere to just chill and relax with people you care about. As a kid, it’s where your parents take you for fun day trips where you get to boogie board and build sand castles. As a teen, it becomes a spot where you and your friends can hang out for a day and peep all the eye candy, or the spot you sneak to in the middle of the night after leaving your friend’s house party.

RJ has wooed more than one future ex by whisking him to the beach for a sunset picnic. And as a couple, some of our first trips we took together were to nearby beaches. In fact, there’s this amazing memory we both have where we snuck on a beach in the middle of the night one night so that we could, well, go for a dip. The next thing we knew, we were in the water together surrounded by glowing algae. So when we kissed, it was one of those straight-out-of-a-movie moments that was so perfect it didn’t feel real. Hell, we even got engaged on a beach. Long story short, the beach becomes more than just a place for you to sunbathe or swim or play volleyball or whatever. It becomes the backdrop to your favorite memories, and we recommend Sebastian Street Beach for visitors creating your own.


On growing up gay in Florida…

What’s so strange is that we grew up in two different cities in Florida, and so our experiences were insanely different. RJ grew up in Central Florida, which is dominated almost entirely by tourism. Disney World, Universal, Sea World, Busch Gardens are all within 100 miles of each other. Central Florida is where all the East Coast retirees go when they’ve decided that they’ve had enough snow for one lifetime. Over half the families that end up living there are transplants from other states, which is why cities like Tampa and Orlando can sometimes feel like the illegitimate children of places like New York or Chicago. Then you have Will, who grew up in North Florida, which may as well be South Georgia. He grew up in a town outside of a town, and his childhood was about as stereotypically southern, rural, and backwoods as you can get. If you were to mix his family together with people from Georgia, Alabama, or Mississippi, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. Then you have Ft. Lauderdale. That’s an entirely different vibe than either of the previous areas. Chances are, when you picture Florida, you’re picturing Southern Florida: hot, tons of beaches, heavy Latin influence, and signature Old Florida architecture style you don’t see anywhere else.

On nightlife…

Get rid of the idea that you have to do it all. There have been plenty of times when we’ve visited a city and felt like we had to hit all the major highlights while we were there, and it always ends up with us exhausting ourselves and not enjoying much of anything. Besides, there’s no way you’ll be able to hit up everything in one go. Hell, we know locals who have lived there for years and who still haven’t hit all the major spots. So pick your spots. You wanna dance and rage? Go to Manor. Kick back in a more relaxed bar type setting? There’s Rumors and Rosie’s. Into the whole leather scene? Ramrod. Wanna line dance? Scandals Saloon. Wanna shop? Las Olas. Wanna tan in your speedo? Sebastian Street. Wanna tan without a speedo? Plenty of resorts for that. There’s places that cater to all different types, so just relax and go where your gut or your heart takes you.

On celebrity…

It’s really tough to say this without sounding arrogant, but yeah, the truth is we pretty much get recognized at least once wherever we go. That’s the funny thing about the Internet, they pretty much have it everywhere. The good thing about our audience, though, is that we get to have a much closer relationship with them than, say, a singer or an actor gets to have with a fan base. These are people who have gotten to know us and our lives because they watch the stuff that we’ve shared over the course of weeks and months and even years. So when they meet us, it feels more familial since they know enough about our lives to ask about them.

How’s the dog?

Did your landlord ever fix your AC?

A lot of these people say we’re role models, which is always really sweet and humbling. All we did was share our lives online. We never in a million years thought that anything would come if it.

On causes…

There are so many great causes out there and we’ve had the privilege of working with quite a few of them: It Gets Better, Trevor Project, HRC, The Matthew Shepard Foundation, Hope Inside Love. It would be impossible for us to stick with just one, since we’re both firm believers in the idea that you should help as many people out there as possible.


On celebrating…

These days, celebrations tend to focus more around nice dinners than wild parties. I guess you could say that we’re already settling a bit into married life. But that’s also when we’re back home in Los Angeles. When we’re back home, we’re almost always looking to meet up with some friends and hit the nightlife.

There are two kinds of experiences we love: one when we’re with friends and one when it’s just the two of us. When we’re with friends, it’s all about unwinding and laughing as much as possible. So we’ll usually head to our more familiar haunts where we can hang out, grab a drink, and just shoot the shit. When it’s just us, we live to explore. Trying new things and new places can get tricky when you’re in a group. Everyone has opinions, but not everyone wants to make decisions. But when it’s us, it’s a different story. We’re like two halves of a brain sometimes. One of us will decide to try something new and the other one will go with the flow. And whether the new place ends up being amazing or horrible, we know it’ll be something we get to talk about afterwards. It sounds cliche and all that, but we’ll both say that the other one is the perfect person with whom to explore the world.


On the perfect night out…

The first order of business would be dinner. If we’re going out for a night on the town, we’re definitely going to need something substantial in our stomachs. And what’s great is that you can pretty much get any type of food: pizza, burgers, Sushi, Thai, whatever. We usually end up doing sushi as our pre-going-out meal with friends, since it’s not usually heavy and it burns off quickly. Try Galanga Thai Kitchen & Sushi Bar. Rosie’s Bar & Grill is a gay classic. Anyways, after that, depending on how early it is, we’ll usually hit up somewhere with drinks so that we can pre-party a bit. Alibi is pretty much the go-to spot for this, since they have inexpensive drinks and they’re right in the heart of a whole bunch of other bars and clubs.

So we’ll down one or two (or five) drinks there before we start getting the urge to dance. That’s when we’ll hit up a spot like The Manor, which is akin to places like The Abbey back home in LA. In other words, it’s the go-to spot where the boys will go to showcase their perfectly-contoured faces and worked-out bodies before they turn loose on the dance floor as soon as they hear a remix of their fav’s most recent hit song. We like to hit these places a little bit earlier than most, so that we’ll actually still have room to move a little bit. So we’ll keep dancing here until we start to feel claustrophobic, and then we’ll usually head somewhere else that’s a bit more laid back. Thankfully Rumors and Rosie’s are both a block away, so it’s really easy to just stumble over there once you’ve had your fill of Manor and want to actually be able to talk to your friends again. That’s usually where we’ll end up camping for the rest of the night, be it until the bar closes or decide it’s time to head home.


Your perfect Sunday afternoon…

If, by the grace of whoever, we manage to have a free Sunday afternoon in FTL, two words: Casablanca Cafe. There’s literally no place better designed for a carefree afternoon than Casablanca. Great food, gorgeous architecture, great service, and outdoor seating with the beach right across the street. The key certainly is to try and hit it really early or late in the summer, when the weather is milder and the crowds are smaller.

We’re looking forward to it on our next trip.

RJ Aguiar is a Los Angeles-based writer, actor, host, and social media activist best known for his online comedy, lifestyle, and social issues content. He’s currently a host for the pop-culture web channel What’s Trending, a writer and actor for the Latin comedy channel Flama, and the co-founder of
Will Shepherd is a statistician turned vlogger and internet personality who currently lives in Los Angeles with his husband and German Shepherd. He founded and co-runs an LGBT YouTube channel Shep689 and tries to write on and