Gerardo Islas, 30

W 18th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves

Photograph: Allison Michael Orenstein

Where are you from? Mexico City. I've been in New York four and a half years.

Good place to grow up? It was nice. Though, like every Third-World country, it's very unfair when it comes to how you look and your last name and who you know.

Do you think you have those kinds of prejudices? Oh, no. My father worked all his life—everything he owns is because he worked. And my mom would never tolerate any class differences. For her, everyone is the same and that's the message I grew up with.

Are you an only child? No, I have two older brothers. The three of us are very close, but I always felt a little different from the rest of my family; maybe because I was gay. My brothers were super straight and I was super gay. They were playing sports and I was playing with my toys, acting in these movies inside my head. I grew up very independent...always by myself.

But you seem so sociable now. Yeah, I think everything changed when I came out of the closet. I became more comfortable in my own skin. I wasn't very self-confident during my teenage years—I wasn't very attractive.

When did that change? Oh, thank you. I think in my late twenties.

Hope you took advantage. [Laughs] Yes. I was very busy. I was like, I've been missing out all these years! Now I've settled down: I have a boyfriend and a dog. We're a little family.

More from Gerardo

"I go to FIT for visual presentation—window displays and commercial interiors. I love working with mannequins. [Laughs] Somebody hire me!"

"How do I keep my white jeans so clean? I have a secret: Just have four different pairs of white jeans. [Laughs]"

"I have three tattoos. One on my left shoulder, which is an orchid with roots. The one on my forearm says BORN TO BE LOVED. And the third is because when my boyfriend and I go to bed, we spoon each other. He hugs me and kisses my neck, always on the same spot. So I made a tattoo of XO exactly on my neck where he kisses me."