Fit and Flower-y
By Casey Arasa


For four years, Roberto Gonzalez was the go-to floral designer at Oprah’s Harpo Studios.

Since the show’s end, Roberto has launched his own company, Robert James Events, where he has designed flowers for the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Julia Roberts, Barbara Walters, Shania Twain, and President Obama.

“Designing the floral pieces for President Obama’s birthday was probably the highlight of my career,” he says. “On a personal level, working for Julia Roberts was special. As a gay kid growing up in Venezuela, Pretty Woman was secretly one of my favorite movies.”

His most recent project was creating all the floral for the movie Joyful Noise with Dolly Parton and Queen Latifa.

What are Roberto’s keys to success? Whether designing floral arrangements for a movie or an event, Roberto starts with the initial client consultation, his favorite part of the process. He has his clients close their eyes and dream up their wildest ideas for the party. He then uses his creative tricks to deliver a spectacle on budget. “You know how some women can make costume jewelry seem as if they are wearing the Hope Diamond? That’s what I do. I turn simple flower designs into masterpieces!”

Speaking of masterpieces, Roberto has turned himself into one. Under his floral smock, Roberto is an incredibly muscular fitness model. “I think I am giving new definition to the idea of flower power,” he laughs.


What draws you to flowers?

Flowers are perfect. Flowers create an emotional experience that people don’t forget. They’re magic; they are art. They don’t talk back. What’s not to love?


If you could compare yourself to any flower, which would you choose?

A rose because roses are very dangerous if you don’t know how to handle them.


Is there a particular flower that you love to incorporate into your designs?

I use tons of roses and hydrangeas. I love the classic look and nostalgia of a rose and the fullness and lushness of a hydrangea.


Are clients surprised when they first meet you?

Perhaps, but it’s 2017. Time to break stereotypes. My goal is to make everything around me beautiful. I have a passion for aesthetics and I carry that belief throughout my life.


In your home, too?

My friends say my home is very cozy. I have oversized furniture and a large coffee table made out of rescued wood. Everything is very neutral and in natural tones.


Do you incorporate flowers into your home?

Oh, yes! Flowers add great energy to an environment. I always have large arrangements on the center coffee table with lots of flowers in jewel tones of super brights like yellows and oranges. I love the feel of peace and serenity they bring. I also love white lush bouquets of hydrangeas: like fifteen to twenty stems, overflowing the vase.


Do you take on events outside of Chicago?

I do events all over the country.   I’ve done parties in New York, Miami and Atlanta. Geography doesn’t matter. The idea is to deliver an experience. I’d love to come out to Palm Springs!


What is the hot flower of the moment?

Spring offers a beautiful array of flowers including gorgeous cherry blossoms and all kinds of blooming branches. I tend to use lots of green viburnum this time of year and I love the sweet scent of lilac.


What’s your opinion of fake flowers?

You can’t mimic the scent of real flowers.   It’s priceless and an important part of the experience.


Let’s talk fitness. What inspired you to build the bulk?

One day, back in elementary school, a group of boys lifted my sister’s skirt and tried to forcibly kiss her. I was paralyzed! I was so skinny and weak; I couldn’t fight them. And we grew up without a dad so we had no big strong man to defend us.   I realized I had to do something about my body.


How did you do it? Was it photosynthesis?

(Laughing) I wish it were that easy! It’s all about diet and exercise. Through the years, I have become very disciplined and organized when it comes to both. I work out about an hour each day, Monday through Friday. If I don’t have an event, I will head to gym over the weekend. I’m also very careful about the food I eat.


What’s your favorite exercise?

I like squats and deadlifts. Not only do they build muscle and strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves, they also provide a highly anabolic environment for all the other body parts to grow. Don’t skip leg days!


Any more tips?

What worked wonders for me was when I got myself a meal plan service. It really changed my life.


Are you single, Roberto?

I’ve been single for over six years. I’m working on being Mr. Right so I can find Mr. Right.


Can you see yourself walking down the aisle one day?

Sure, I have big dreams about how my wedding will look.


Would you do your own flowers?

I’ve done plenty of weddings and personal experience has taught me it is always best to hire a planner so that you can enjoy your day to its fullest. Luckily, I have a staff that I am confident will create my vision flawlessly. But first I have to find my groom.


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