Alexis Hadjopulos has baggage. Not the crazy kind that would deter anyone from getting to know him, though we’re thinking the boyish smile and accent probably work to his advantage. No, Alexis has literal baggage. And chairs, tables, lamps, signs, bread boxes, art, clocks and thousands of other pieces of any imaginable furnishing. At one time he kept it all in his house, but now his collection of vintage and kitsch has its own places to call home—and it is not IKEA (but we’ll get to that in a minute).
No, Alexis Hadjopulos is not a hoarder. He’s a garage-sale-loving, risk-taking, creative business owner, designer and musician. And he just may be the greenest guy in the gayborhood.
At 32, this Mexico-born Angeleno finds himself the co-owner of the still-somewhat-new furniture store TINI (or This Is Not IKEA), where, strangely enough, nothing is new at all. It’s a place that someone with a thing for ’70s Lucite wall dividers, industrial-style garbage cans or turn-of-the-century sitting chairs would flip over. It’s not the career Alexis imagined he’d have at this point. Not ever, really. When he left Monterrey, Mexico, 10 years ago he was coming to L.A. to be a pop star. At least that’s what he told himself.
“In talking to people, some have said that I came up with the music thing,” Alexis says. “I love music and definitely wanted to make it my career, but I needed to get out of Mexico to find and be me, and I guess my excuse was music.”
Finding—and more to the point, being—himself proved to be a tough challenge in conservative Mexico. A middle child among six kids, Alexis grew up very close to his family, despite his parents’ separation. He says his knack for design and appreciation for art most definitely comes from his parents, where Dad is an architect and Mom is an interior designer and artist. He admits he was a spoiled kid. Yet despite having what would seem a comfortable life at home, Alexis was determined to strike out on his own in the States, at least in part to experience his sexuality.
“I love Mexico, but it has always been harder with the gay issue. I’m the first of all my family that has come out. It’s very secretive there. I’m totally out [in the States], but in Mexico, I guess I’m half out. I’m out with the people that matter. And some will read this and find out,” he says with a laugh.
Though he says he kind of always knew, Alexis ackowledges that it wasn’t until he moved to L.A. in his early 20s that he felt comfortable in saying he was gay. At 23, during a trip home, Alexis came out to his family. His older sister, brother and mother were first, and all were cool with it. His dad, it turned out, would be a bit of a different story.
“I guess we all go through it, worrying about how to say the word. How are those words going to come out? The only one that had a little bit of an issue with it was my dad. My dad just didn’t want to know about it.”
For months the two didn’t talk, which Alexis says was extremely difficult and the longest they had ever gone without speaking. At one point, Alexis’ father even told his son that while he was welcome in the family home, his boyfriends would not be. But Alexis stood his ground, saying that he simply would not be coming home anymore.
That was four years ago. Thankfully, time was on the family’s side, as Alexis’ father has come around, even visiting L.A. to meet those in Alexis’ life here in the States.
“For me to bring a boyfriend home, I feel like I’m breaking ground a little bit,” he says. “It just took some time for my dad. It took me a while to get used to it, so I can totally understand my dad taking a while. He’s not around it at all, and it’s not he who is living it.”
Finding understanding over coming out wouldn’t be the only significant lesson Alexis learned from his father. Five years after moving to L.A., while again visiting home in Mexico, Alexis’ father confronted him about where he was going and what he was doing with his life. Though he had been committed to his music, Alexis kept getting led on and hitting dead ends. That’s when Dad kicked in with the tough love.
“He took my wallet and ripped all the credit cards into pieces! He said, ‘That’s it. Figure it out.’ He always paid for everything, so I had no idea what I was going to do,” Alexis says. “He said I could move back to Mexico and work for him or go back to L.A. and figure it out on my own. The one thing I did know was that I did not want to move back to Mexico.”
To find out how Alexis managed to turn a financial crisis into eco gold, pick up the April issue of Instinct Magazine!
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