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Finding Prince Charming's Bachelor Reveals Why He Became an Escort

Updated

Robert Sepélveda Jr. was in his early 20s with just $2.14 in his bank account when he was faced with a life-changing decision.

“The small furniture store I was working at suddenly went out of business,” the star of the gay dating reality show Finding Prince Charming says in the current issue of PEOPLE. “I didn’t know how I was going to pay rent or my [college] tuition or buy food.”

But Sepélveda had a friend who was making good money as an escort.

“I saw no other way to support myself so I decided to do it too,” says Sepélveda, 33. “I had all those expenses, I just knew that I had to do something. I had no other choice.”

The former Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale student says he escorted off-and-on for the next two years until he graduated in 2006 and got his first “real job.”

Sepélveda didn’t hide his source of income from his family or close friends, but he never imagined he’d be cast as the lead of Logo’s gay dating reality show and have to share his past with the world.

“I didn’t want to have to talk about that time in my life again,” says Sepélveda, who now owns an interior design firm and runs a non-profit. “But I’m not ashamed of my past. I own it, and I talk about it with the
guys on [Finding Prince Charming.]”

(“We are aware of Robert’s past and fully support him as he moves forward in his search for love on Finding Prince Charming,” reads a statement released by Logo to PEOPLE.)

Robert Sepélveda Jr.
Brian Graden Media
While Sepélveda owns up to his past, he hates seeing “misinformation” – and an explicit video of him – spread on the internet as the Sept. 8 premiere of Finding Prince Charming nears.

“There are stories that I did porn. I never did porn,” says Sepélveda. “There is a video circulating out there that I shot privately and sent to an ex-boyfriend. It feels so violating that someone would take something so private and share it with the world. I want to work to make sure there are laws protecting people from similar situations. It’s just not right.”

But even more bothersome to Sepélveda are the claims that he lied about founding the non-profit the Atlantic Rainbow Crosswalks Project.

“I’ve worked very hard with the community in Atlanta to get a historic arts project done and it hurts that people are pretending that doesn’t exist,” he says.

As for his escorting, “it really messed with my self-worth,” says Sepélveda.

For more on Robert Sepélveda, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Patrick Dempsey on the cover of PEOPLE
But now, as the prince on Finding Prince Charming, Sepélveda feels he’s “open and receptive to finding real love.”

And despite the spotlight causing him and his family emotional turmoil over the past few weeks, Sepélveda is grateful to be part of the groundbreaking reality show.

“This show is not afraid to tackle subjects like escorting and HIV and homelessness. It will be very funny and romantic but also very real and talk about things that a lot of people are afraid to talk about,” says Sepélveda. “I hope my own story helps others see that you can move forward from your past, that anything is possible, and everyone is worthy of love.”

Finding Prince Charming premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on Logo.