Happy Friday! How has your week been? This week’s Feature Friday is local to us, right here in Chattanooga! We had so much fun learning about Arnold’s life and getting a peak into what makes him tick. We found ourselves touched & inspired by his story, like how his “Mexican, Catholic, macho” father reacted when Arnold came out to him, how he started his own business, and how he gives back to his community. We think you’ll enjoy getting to know him as much as we did. Take a look below…
Where are you from? I was originally born in southern California and we lived there for a year. My parents and I moved to Mexico for two years and at the age of three we moved to South Carolina. I grew up right near Augusta, GA in a little town called Edgefield, SC!
Where do you live? Chattanooga, TN
Instagram handle? @arnoldaruelas
What is your favorite place you’ve ever travelled to and why? I got the chance to travel to the Dominican Republic last summer and it was the best mix of relaxation/adventure. My friend Victoria and I went to Punta Cana on an all inclusive 7 day besties trip. We got the chance to go on a sailboat out to the island where they filmed Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and had a local dominican lunch and took a speedboat back to the resort. We drove dune buggies through the city and stopped at a cave to jump into a 30+ foot deep cave pool. It was so dark and so cold but so worth it! We had the best tans ever and had all the drinks and food! 10/10 would recommend it to anyone!
What made you want to come out? For me it was something that had been building up for a while and one day I just had the urge to scream it out from the top of a building! So I basically did, but via some phone calls and not off the top of a building. I had felt for so long like I had been living a double life and just needed to experience what truly being Arnold was like. I saw friends around me being so happy being gay and open and I thought “I want that for myself”. And I also knew that by coming out I could probably help someone in my same situation.
“…all I could say was ‘Dad I’m sorry but I like men, I’m gay.’ He paused and said ‘Arnold I raised you, I knew.’ And I let out the biggest sigh of relief!”
What was your coming out experience like? I was 20 years old, living in Nashville at the time with my best friend. I was home visiting friends and family and just knew that it was going to happen that weekend. I was in the car with my mom driving to the grocery store I believe, and just had the urge to just look at her and say it. So I did, I looked at her and said “Mom, I don’t like women, I like men. And I mean sexually.” She took a moment and said “Arnold, I love you regardless, I just want grandkids and our bloodline to continue on.” I am an only child so she thought me not having a wife in the future meant she wouldn’t have grandkids. I assured her she would still get grandkids and since then she has not stopped hounding me about it! I couldn’t look my dad in the face and say it so I called him on my 6 hour drive back to Nashville. My father is a mexican, catholic, macho man so I was terrified as to how he would react. I was crying on the phone before he even answered. When he picked up all I could say was “Dad I’m sorry but I like men, I’m gay.” He paused and said “Arnold I raised you, I knew.” And I let out the biggest sigh of relief! After that I told my closest friends and they were all honestly happy that I finally came out, I swear they were taking bets as to when I would do it!'
What did you learn about yourself in the coming out process? I learned that I am stronger than I was telling myself. Growing up in school I was bullied and questioned for “possibly being gay” and would try so hard to hide the real me. When I did come out I decided this is my time and I need to blossom into Arnold. Since that day I have not cared about conforming myself to be someone that society accepts.
Have you faced any backlash since coming out? How do you deal with it? Thankfully I can say that I have not dealt with backlash. It has been the complete opposite for me. I’ve been surrounded by the most encouraging friends and family that have pushed me to become my true self after coming out. There have been little occasions that I can recall where someone made a comment or two about my sexuality but I’ve brushed it off because I know it’s not something that I can personally control.
“When I [finally] did come out, I decided this is my time and I need to blossom into Arnold. Since that day I have not cared about conforming myself to be someone that society accepts.”
Are you religious? Why or why not? Can I answer this one with a yes and a no?! Growing up I was raised Catholic and was at Spanish mass every Saturday with my parents. We were very involved in volunteering and helping out within the church. I do believe in God, but haven’t always agreed with some of the practices of the Catholic church. Being gay and being a Christian for some people sounds crazy but I truly believe God created me and I’ve seen him work first hand in my life.
You started your own fashion styling business! How did that come about? Yes, I did! Right out of high school I started working in fashion retail. Started out part time not knowing what exactly I was doing if we are being honest. Slowly worked my way up and became a retail store manager within a few years. During the process I explored my creative side with wardrobing. I loved seeing outfits come together and seeing it bring joy to my clients. Soon I became known within the company I worked with for my styling capabilities and started getting a following of clients that would book appointments with me! I finally left retail exactly a year ago (Happy Anniversary to me!) and decided to pursue my love of styling and take it out of the retail jungle. Earlier this year I started the process of starting my business by making a few business cards, telling friends about what I do and letting it spread via word of mouth. I’ve been blessed to have met some amazing clients and have them trust me with their wardrobes! I help them with anything from cleaning out their current wardrobe, adding staple pieces, taking them shopping or shopping for them, and recently have been working with photographers and other businesses to style photo shoots! So many great things are in the work for next year and I am excited to see where this new business journey takes me!
What would you say to someone who wants to start their own business? I would 100% say that if it’s something that you are passion about then go ahead and take the leap! It’s so much better to take the plunge than to live the rest of your life thinking “What if?”. Starting your own business can be scary, I know for me I left the only career I knew to pursue my business and I knew I would most likely financially struggle the first year to get it up and running. There’s been some weeks that have been tougher than others but I’ve pushed through because I’ve made it this far and there’s so much more to come. I would also suggest taking the time to make a detailed business plan with a timeline of goals for yourself. Give yourself something to work towards and strive for!
You are very active in the local community. How has giving back impacted your life? What are some ways people can give back to their communities? This year I was asked to be a celebrity dancer in our local event called Dare to Dance and it was such an amazing and humbling experience! The event resembles the hit TV show Dancing with the Stars and all the contestants raise money for the local Kidney Foundation. I specifically was raising money for the Medical Equipment Program to help patients buy anything from eyeglasses to a wheelchair to blood pressure cuffs. I was able to actually meet some of the patients that received some of the money and it was a reminder that my “problems” were not nearly as bad as I thought. It made me thankful for where I am in life, even though sometimes I want to be so much further ahead. Also thankful for the opportunity to be able to give back to the community that opened their arms to me 4+ years ago when I first made the move to Chattanooga. There are many ways to give back to your community that are free and can make such an impact to someone in need. I would recommend getting online and searching local organizations in your area and see what volunteering opportunities there may be. Especially with it being the holiday season there are so many opportunities to help!
Who is your biggest inspiration and why? I would have to say my father. That man is an inspiration to so many people around him. He and my mother moved to the states in their very early 20’s knowing maybe 4 people in the city of Sun Valley, CA where I was born. He worked for 15+ years as a ranch manager on a cattle farm and saved up his money to buy his own 30 acre property to start his own farm. About 5 years ago he started his own construction company along with still running his farm. That man works sun up to sun down 6-7 days a week and never complains. He knows the true meaning of working hard to get to where you want in life and I look up to him for that. I strive to be as hard-working and wise as he is.