We met up with Donato at his studio, a state of the art production service company. On our behind the scenes tour, we couldn’t help but see stars in our eyes: Amber Rose was on one set, while GQ Magazine was casually shooting next door. As a studio manager and cultural engineer, Donato is the go-to man for, well, just about everything. When he’s not duking it out in a studio-wide ping pong game, he Instagrams @ilovewhiteboyz.
HIS FIRST HEARTBREAK
"My first heartbreak was my second boyfriend. He was older, so it was a learning experience. It was kind of a mutual break up, but he cut the cord. I was young and I didn’t know what to make of the whole relationship. There was really no communication, no real talk, and I was still new to the gay thing, but he was kind of seasoned. I had a feeling he was talking to other guys behind my back."
"And as far as the breakup, it was an abrupt cutoff. It feels like a hole in your stomach. You can’t sleep. You can’t eat. You just sit there thinking, Are they thinking of me? Should I text? Should I not? You make yourself try not to call because you don’t want to be that person that calls and calls. It sucked, man, it sucked."
FINDING SOLACE IN FAMILY
"I have a close family, so after the break up, I spent most of my time with them. When we would have a family function, I would feel like, Hey, everything is okay, I’m here with family. That helped a lot, just being around them. Although, I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it because my family had barely found out [that I was gay] then, and I didn’t know if they were comfortable or if they wanted to hear about it. So I wasn’t really able to talk about it to anybody. It did kind of suck because they would tell me about their boyfriends or whoever, and I couldn’t do my part and share. It was different and tough, but I didn’t know anything else. Now, I’m very open."
A SWEET GESTURE
"I was miserable after the break up and thought, What can I do to try to win him over? He was at work and I drove to his house, which was about an hour away, mind you. I got a bunch of Hershey Kisses and laid them down all the way from where he parked his car to his front door. I left a note on the door that said, 'I am sorry. I kiss the floor you walk on.' I did that around 2pm, got lunch, took my time and hid there until he got home around 5pm. When he did, I peeked over the fence, watching him. He was like, ‘Oh my god, what is this?’ He walked up the stairs, saw the note, and I saw him crying. But then he cleaned it all up, threw it all away, and that was it. We talked after, but he was still like, ‘No.'"
THE BEST ADVICE HE RECEIVED
"A friend was like, ‘You’re 21! What are you doing getting a boyfriend? Find yourself. Figure out what you like and what you don’t like. This is all new to you. Yeah, you can find someone you really like, and if it works out, then great, but if not, there’s so much out there for you to do.’ It’s like these young kids getting married before they’ve even explored. It’s important to meet people, be yourself and learn who you are. My friend continued, ‘If you’re younger and you meet someone older, and you two are always together, you’re going to be in his world. You won't have had a chance to find yourself.’"
HIS MOST RECENT BREAKUP
"My most recent heartbreak was hard. It created more of an obsession. We loved each other, but it was not working. It was a case of, ‘You don’t want what I want, so you’re not going to be happy and I’m not going to be happy. We’re not on the same page.’ He was great. He didn’t do anything bad. No one cheated. We just had bad communication. We wanted something different. It was a clean break. A mutual decision."
IN THE TATTOO PARLOR CHAIR. . . TWICE
"He was the love of my life and I had even tattooed his name on my heart. I haven’t gotten rid of it. I still love the guy and I will always love him. I’ve been in the tattoo chair twice, with the machine on and ready to go, and I couldn’t cover it or remove it. I don’t think I can."
"I remember one time, after we had broken up, we were still hanging out, and we were at my cousin’s house. My cousin was like, ‘Man, I miss you guys together,’ and my ex said, ‘Well, we’re not dead yet.’ I held onto those words for so long. When I tried to date people, it wouldn’t work because I would always compare them to him and no one had a chance. Finally, I just had to let go. It took 3 years, but I was finally able to let go. I don’t know what it was, it just took 3 years to get over it. Even with the boyfriend I saw in between that break up and the current relationship I’m in now. He was a gorgeous, tall hockey player but I couldn’t do it because my heart was still with my ex. Part of me was still holding onto those words, 'We’re not dead yet.'"
"Not seeing him all the time, me doing my thing, him doing his - that distance helped me get over it. We’re busy with our own lives. I don’t have any interest anymore. I don’t remember the specific day that things changed for me, but after some time, I just knew that I was going to be alright without him. I used to ask myself, Why am I still stressing myself about him? I was tired of it. I knew he cared about me and that he loved me. But I also knew he wasn’t checking up on me. So I was just able to let go."
SAVING HIS SANITY ON SOCIAL MEDIA
"When we broke up, I would stalk him on Facebook. It probably took a good year after the break up for me to finally block him. I would be like, Where is he? What is he doing? So for the sake of my sanity, I just said, You know what? I can’t keep checking up on him. So I blocked him. To this day he’s blocked. I’m over it now, and it’s been so long that I don’t even bother thinking of visiting his page."
BOOKS THAT MEND
"The Four Agreements and The Mastery of Love, both by Don Miguel Ruiz. They are spiritual, self-help types of books. All basic stuff really, but it is helpful to read it and reaffirm everything you know love should be like."
THE TOUGHEST LOVE LESSON
"You can’t make someone love you and you can’t pick who you love. You can’t be like, okay, I want to love him. Or, I want that guy as my boyfriend. Yeah, you can pursue him, but it has to be mutual. If the person is not into you, then they’re just not into you. It takes two."
HOW HE KEEPS HIS HEART OPEN
"I’m not going to let anyone change me. Past experiences aren’t going to change who I am. I’ll be aware of those experiences, but it’s not going to make me guarded, shut me down or make me put up a wall. I love making grand gestures; I won’t leave a trail of Hershey Kisses on the ground for someone, but for the right person, I’ll still do something. I’m not going to stop doing it just because of something that happened in the past, because if you shut down, you’re the only one losing out. You can’t let those bad things that happened in the past stop you from what you want to do, so do it! I love giving rather than getting and making people smile."
ENERGY ATTRACTS ENERGY
"It’s such a cliche to say, ‘It’ll happen when you don’t look for it.’ But that is very true! I’m big on energy. You get what you put out. Energy attracts energy. I’ve known of my now-boyfriend for 3 years. I remember the first time I saw him, and what he was wearing. I always thought he was so cute. I loved his style. I’ve always had my little eye on him. The community is so small."
"On February 8, he messaged me on Facebook, ‘Do you want to hang out? We like each other’s photos. We have mutual friends. We flirt at the bar. Let’s hang out.’ We hung out the next day - we went to Islands and saw The Lego Movie, and we’ve been together like this [crosses fingers], ever since. I never get tired of him in my space. Everything works so easily."
HEARTBREAK AS INEVITABLE
"You take have to take all of your heartbreaks and learn from them. Yeah, it sucks, but you have to go through it. It’s part of life. Everyone else has gone through it, so just learn from it. Cry as much as you want. Get it out of your system. And you know what? You’re still alive. There are a lot of other people that have it worse than you. There’s somebody for everybody. You have to tell yourself, Yes, I’m heartbroken, but I’ll get over it."
"All those other breakups, I see now, built up to this. My first heartbreak was a learning experience, and my most recent heartbreak was a little more of an obsession. With the guy I dated after, it was good, but I couldn’t give him all of myself because I was still hung up on that recent heartbreak. If I didn’t go through all of that, then maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now, in a great relationship."
ON NOT HAVING MODEL RELATIONSHIPS
"You can’t model relationships, because there is no such thing as normal. Everything we see is a facade. We don’t see what is really happening behind closed doors. You have to make a relationship what you want it to be. If it works for you, then it works for you. My relationship with my boyfriend is my ideal relationship. It’s what I want to keep going."
HIS HEARTBREAK SONG
"Love is Stronger than Pride by Sade. I can’t listen to Maxwell anymore because my first heartbreaker used to listen to that all the time."
"As far as work, everything is here and good. We’ve opened up a new space which I decorated. My boyfriend and I will be going to Cambodia and Vietnam in January. It’s been his dream to visit, so I’m really excited about that!"
HIS MANTRA: DAUGHTER
"Because I want a little girl and I want my mother to have a grandchild."
Photographed by Ellen Huerta in Los Angeles.