Omar Rudberg

30 May 2022

Photography Emilia Staugaard at FERN
Fashion Nathan Henry
Interview David Gillespie
Grooming Elvira Brandt
Photography Assistant Sanna Holm

We are close, but not close enough. A stone’s throw away perhaps, but our pebbles still skim silently into the shallows of deafened ears and closed minds. The skies are glowing with the flames of hope, but our fires must keep burning until the hearts of every soul on this earth are warm with love and equality in everlasting abundance. Until the day arrives when the shaming of lovers is cast aside, when you can live freely as who you are inside, we will continue to march, allied in Pride.

Where do all the lovers meet with one another? Partnered for Pride with Zadig & Voltaire, we meet one lover at the edge of Stockholm among the serenity of the Scandinavian outskirts. Like a merman emerging from the depths of a mystic abyss, dripping with pearls, carved by Poseidon himself, his ethereal form sends ripples through still air. Emboldened in kaleidoscopic prints of Zadig & Voltaire’s Pride collection, not a glimmer of fear resides within his charcoal-shadowed eyes. Omar Rudberg has a lot of love to give, and as he guides us on his journey of fruitful highs and some lonesome lows, it becomes increasingly clear that his impact on this planet is destined to be greater than he has yet come to realise.

Omar took our screens by storm following his portrayal as Simon Eriksson in season one of the hit drama series Young Royals, a tale of lovers Simon and Prince Wilhelm of Sweden, as their emerging hidden romance becomes exposed for international scrutiny. As we delve into his debut performance, Omar reveals some subtle similarities between his own school story and Simon’s too. Moving from Venezuela to Sweden at the age of six, Omar recalls feeling outcast amongst his peers, finding it difficult to make friends when he ‘didn't really speak the language as they did’ or ‘didn't look like they did’. But in a poetic full circle moment, these experiences served as the foundation for scenes as Simon faces adversity fitting into a prestigious private school as a working-class student. But Omar’s relationship with his character is not one-sided, explaining that his on-set vulnerability has taught him to accept who he is off-screen, embracing each perfect imperfection in the real world.

For Omar, Pride is about living your truth, not lying or hiding who you are for the benefit of others. But as his own ‘biggest critic’, Pride is something that Omar still struggles with himself. Navigating his teenage years in a boyband during the social media revolution, Omar chose to fit the mould. There, he felt safe, dampening his desire to experiment with fashion and makeup to avoid additional criticism from his peers. But since launching his solo musical career, his self-suppression is a thing of the past and now he’s not afraid to go wild with eye-liner in hand.

Like the true artist he is, both Omar’s music and his style are equally striking and unique. Harnessing the flavours of his Latin American roots, fused with the rhythm of his Swedish pop past, his upcoming debut album is bursting with up-tempo reggaeton beats, blended with chill indie summer vibes, accompanied with heartfelt ballads pouring with sentimental emotion. Omar makes us a promise: there is something for everyone.

Omar Rudberg is not afraid to push boundaries, and his unapologetic presence will show others that it’s okay to do the same. In the name of Pride and in the essence of Omar himself, it’s time we turn it up, and turn it out, together.

Omar's debut album ’OMR’ is out now.
Omar can be seen in the 2nd season of 'Young Royals' later this year.

Sometimes we’re guilty of getting lost in the past or worried by the future. Let’s start in the moment, tell us who Omar is today?
I work as a singer and an actor, as simple as that. I was born in Venezuela and moved to Sweden when I was six years old. I'm just a kind, chill person who loves to hang out with friends and family, and spend time with the people that I love. It's really hard to explain who you actually are, but that’s me.

If you could paint me a picture of your happy place, what would it look like?
A chill evening with my friends and family. Sounds super cringe, but it’s true. Just chill, just hanging out. I'm super simple and super lazy as well. These days, I don't do a lot of stuff because of my schedule, so when I have free time, I'm just at home on my sofa, chilling.

You're also extremely busy, so it must be tough at times?
Yeah, the last couple of months in particular. We’re shooting the second season of Young Royals, so it's been a lot of work and less time to hang out with friends and be in the city. These days, I don't enjoy hanging out with random people in bars or at the club, I feel more comfortable being with my close friends. Because I’m so busy, I like to prioritise my free time and spend it with the people I love the most. I have some free time coming up, so I’m really looking forward to that. I'm actually going to Amsterdam with my friend. We're going to an event and chilling in the city, it’s going to be good.

We’re collaborating with Zadig & Voltaire to celebrate their Pride collection. What does pride mean to you?
Pride for me is feeling that you don't have to hide or lie about who you are. It’s being completely comfortable living as your true, authentic self and not being scared of doing things because of society. I think that it’s really important, and it’s something that I struggle with at times, just being yourself and doing whatever you like; it never harms people to be yourself. Pride is not having to overthink stuff, it’s doing whatever you feel like doing and whatever makes you feel happy. That's what you got to do. That's pride.

You portray Simon Eriksson in the coming-of-age series Young Royals, which follows the lives of Simon and Prince Wilhelm of Sweden, who become immersed in a forbidden romance at their prestigious boarding school. How has your life changed since the show was released?
Honestly, my life in general is actually very similar to how it was before. I still hang out with my closest friends, my true friends, and spend time with family as often as I possibly can. The thing that really has changed is my schedule from zero to a thousand. But honestly, it’s something that I’m super, super happy and grateful for. Before Young Royals, I didn't know what I was going to do, or what my next step was going to be. I was so scared and anxious about my future. I would sit there and wonder ‘who am I?’. I had the biggest crisis of my life, I felt like I wasn’t doing anything with my life, just hanging out with friends and people. This was at a time where I wasn't on my couch, I was out everywhere with friends every single day. But with Young Royals, it's been like: ‘work, hit me!’. Basically, I'm working a lot more and I'm just so grateful for that and grateful for all the opportunities that I've gotten after Young Royals.

I think people might be surprised to learn that you were struggling for a while before Young Royals.
That's the thing about social media, you don't really show what's actually going on, and you don't show weakness that way. If you compare my life then to my life now, I was releasing a few singles and I made the biggest thing out of it because I poured all my energy into it. That was my entire life at the time, but I still felt lost and unsure about the future. People need to know that everything they see on social media isn't truly everything. I was happy most of the time, I had my music, but I didn't want to show my crisis. I didn't want to show people what was really going on, my worries and my insecurities.

I must say you seem to minimise your incredible accomplishments, creating and releasing music is far from easy.
Thank you for saying that, I am my biggest critic. Sometimes I can't recognize my achievements because they’re not necessarily as big as I’d hoped and I just think ‘damn, everything sucks’. As a musician, you think like that a lot. You get so caught up on the streams and views, and you lose focus on what truly matters. What matters is: ‘I made this and it sounds great. It's a great song’. You cannot be that hard on yourself. In the last year, I've been a lot better because everything has been pretty amazing. I've had some ups and downs since Young Royals, for sure, but I've learned that whatever happens, it's meant to be. It was a crazy time while I was casting Young Royals and life felt a bit hopeless at the time. When I got it, I was like: ‘whoa, okay, this is meant to be’. Since then, I've been a lot more chill about stuff. It has gotten easier.

Take us through the process of becoming Simon when you first read the script. What steps did you take to immerse yourself into the role?
I read the script and I was so hyped about it. I loved it so so so much and couldn't believe what was about to come. I read it hundreds and hundreds of times and it came really naturally to me. I'm still a beginner when it comes to acting, it was my first role ever and I was just going with the flow. I was checking out Edvin [Prince Wilhelm] and how he was working. I was seeing him writing stuff down on paper and I was so confused by his approach, but I learned a lot along the way. The directors brought in an acting coach from the US and we had a few days where we did a lot of different exercises, some really weird, abstract stuff. We had to speak to each other but with different feelings and emotions. For example, we’d each have a glass in our hands and say to each other “You're going to drink this water”, “No, you're going to drink this water”, “No, you're going to drink this water”, back and forth, that’s all we’d say. But it became a whole conversation by using all different feelings and emotions. It felt weird at the time, but it really made me speak with feeling from the inside and out. That helped me a lot.

Have you felt more at ease with acting while shooting the second season?
I would say that I am more comfortable today, mostly because we've done this once before. It's the same cast and we trust each other. I do feel more at ease but at a level of comfort that I have a hard time not laughing while we're shooting or doing stuff like that. It’s just because I'm having so much fun and I'm so comfortable doing it with the people I'm working with and at times it feels so crazy. Now, it feels like home.

You’ve previously spoken about being bullied during your own time at school. Simon faces hardship at school for his social status and sexuality. Were you able to use your own experience of bullying while portraying Simon?
I definitely tried to use it in the first season because I was so new to it all and I had to really think about what I was doing. I thought about going to school and was thinking about all the stuff that happened to me. There were definitely a few scenes where I felt like I was back at school, and I connected to those. I remember thinking: ‘Wow, this happened to me in real life and I'm here now, doing it again on a show’. Today, I go right into a scene and I only think about what's happening in that moment. I've definitely developed, and find it easier to find those feelings.

How does Simon celebrate Pride in his sexuality?
The beauty of Young Royals is that the show is purely about love, not sexuality. It’s about normalising relationships regardless of gender or your preferences. We’re telling the story of different people who happen to fall in love, and that their sexuality should not be the main focus - that’s what Pride is about. With Simon in particular, he is not just a gay guy, he’s a guy that just happens to be gay, but that is not his defining characteristic. Of course, it obviously becomes the centre of attention when the Prince falls in love with him because it’s outside the ‘norm’. So we want to show that it’s society that makes them feel uncomfortable with being with each other, and that’s why Pride is important.

Simon is all about Pride because Simon is proud of being who he is. His mum is proud of him for being who he is, and everybody is proud of him being gay, just as it should be. Even August, the bad guy in the series, never attacks Simon because Simon is gay. In fact, nobody has ever said anything about him being gay explicitly. That’s something I really love about the story, that he is just a human being, and that’s something we don’t necessarily see that often. At the same time, I really understand why the focus of many films and series is around a character being LGBTQ+, and their struggle to be who they are. For many people in real life, it is still a struggle to fit in. It’s equally important to show different types of LGBTQ+ people, whoever they are, and whatever they look like, and not make it the entire focus of the story. The fact that people subconsciously make it the centre of attention proves why it’s important because it’s not yet normalised completely. Hopefully, with shows like Young Royals, that will change.

Has portraying Simon taught you anything about yourself that you did not expect?
I've actually found it a lot easier showing the real me, if that makes sense. When we started filming, I was so used to my hair being on point, wearing makeup so you couldn’t see one pimple. But when I started filming Young Royals, it was the complete opposite. They didn't want my hair to look good, they wanted me to look natural and when I had a few breakouts, they didn't cover them up. Some of the clothes I had to wear were so freaking ugly, no jewellery or accessories, nothing. But it actually made me more comfortable and confident in myself and my own skin and accepting who I am. I’m not so afraid of taking pictures, I don’t care so much about pimples or breakouts, if my brows look horrific, whatever. That is something I really appreciate. This second season, I've had a breakout on my cheek the entire time. I did ask the makeup artist if they could cover it, but you can still see it sometimes and it really wasn’t a big deal. I’m still learning and I’m still becoming more confident in my own skin, after every single day of being on set. Every day you throw yourself out there, and you’re super close to the camera and you can see everything, every detail. But in the end, you learn to just accept it and see the beauty of it.

Simon struggles when his relationship with Prince Wilhelm is leaked on the internet and it becomes an international news story. Have you, Omar, ever struggled with the pressure of being in the public eye?
For sure, but I feel like I have people around me that are super chill. I feel like I really get the support that I need from the people that I hang out with. For example, you get a lot more invitations to events and a lot of new people reach out on social media who have a platform and sometimes it’s hard to know where to put my energy. For me, it's really important to have all kinds of friends, because if you just have one specific kind of friend, you get stuck in that world and it can be overwhelming. I’m very lucky because I have a lot of friends that do a lot of different things. I have friends that love to fish, I have a friend who is a carpenter, friends that are dancers, influencers, actors, singers, work at coffee shops, and work as teachers for kids. For me, the most important thing is to feel safe. I like to just hang out, not worry about anything else, chill in the moment and not feel like we have to show the world that we’re doing ‘cool’ stuff.

It’s really important to me because it makes me feel like there aren’t any expectations or pressures. Sometimes I feel like there’s pressure to hide if I’m having a bad day and put a smile on my face. I am always a nice person, but no one on Earth is always in a good mood. Deep down, I'm quite a shy person and sometimes it’s difficult talking to people. There are definitely some pressures around social media and I often overthink about what I’m posting. When it comes to my music, I get a lot of anxiety. I'm releasing an album and I don't want to feel the pressure, it gets to me, but there's nothing you can do about it. I just try to do my best.

You were born in Venezuela and moved to Sweden when you were 6. Did you face any difficulty adapting to a new culture at such a young age?
The culture and everything in Sweden came really naturally to me because I was so young, and I was just so happy to see snow, everything was chill to me. But something that I really had a hard time with was getting to know and make friends with Swedish kids. I didn't really speak the language as they did and I didn't look like they did and that made a difference. It was them and it was me kind of thing. I learned the language really fast and I became a Swedish kid, even if people didn't see me as a Swedish kid. Every single boy was white with perfect hair and blue eyes and light-skinned. I was literally the only kid that wasn't Swedish or looked like a typical Swedish or Scandinavian guy or boy. I couldn't speak the language, I was the only one singing and dancing, everything was just off about me and everybody saw that. That became a problem. But I changed school, and then it got a little better. It was a bigger school in a bigger city and there were a few different looking guys at that school, so I wasn't really the only one that wasn't blonde with perfect hair, you know?

How has your culturally diverse upbringing influenced your artistic identity?
My roots have definitely come out more as I’ve got older. When I was in the boy band FO&O, and for almost my whole teenage life, I became really Swedish in some ways. I was only listening to pop. I wasn't even listening to Latin American music, I thought reggaeton was so boring. But as I grew, it just came to me naturally, like my Latin roots really grew on me and I started to listen to Latin American songs and I just started embracing where I'm from and the music and the culture. It’s really helped me with my music. I sing in Spanish and English and I like Latin American songs and beats so started to fuse everything I listen to including Swedish pop and Latin American pop, mixing everything together. That's what my album will sound like, a blend of everything.

For many, music is an outlet during the darkest times. Do you use music as a way to express your deeper, more difficult emotions?
Music is like my escape. I feel like I get my alter ego out whenever I make music and just become the best version of myself and I can be the cockiest and rudest and the softest and the happiest and just go crazy. It makes me feel so good about myself, just feeling really confident. Sometimes I feel the opposite, I feel really stuck, but then I just make something out of it. So yeah, music is really something where I can really express my feelings and just play around with everything.

In your single Läppar [Lips], you sing the words ‘Only you, only I understand’. Would you describe yourself as a lover?
Definitely, I am a lover 100%. I have a lot of love to give, for sure. I can be really positive and loving. Sometimes I love being loud and cocky, but deep down I’m really a loving person, for sure.

What are your emotions like on the day you release a new song?
Stressed, nervous, I cannot let go of my phone. I'm always on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook and YouTube literally the whole day, the whole week. I’m constantly checking what people are saying, if people are excited, I'm checking out Spotify to see what music is out at the same time I'm releasing stuff wondering what are my chances. I look into literally everything and I’m super stressed but super happy at the same time. Every single feeling that you can possibly feel, I feel.

You've already given us a taste of what's to come in terms of the fusion of different kinds of styles and cultures, is there anything else we can expect from your debut album?
In the album, there are songs that range from pop to indie pop to reggaeton to club reggaeton, songs in Spanish, songs in English, songs with both, it’s a whole mix of everything. There are a few really personal songs, actually, but also super fun songs. I feel like there's a song for everybody in that album. There are ballads, there's up tempo, there's clubby, there's chill, summery vibes, pop-rock guitar. It’s actually crazy that it's my debut album. After all these years that I've been working with music, I'm releasing my first album. I don't know why I haven't released an album yet, but now is the time.

You’ve been in the industry for many years already. How has the perception of masculinity changed since you entered the entertainment world?
I think a lot of a lot has changed, including me. I don't know what has affected me the most, but everything has changed in my eyes. Now in the industry, there are guys rocking gowns and skirts, things I never saw when I was 14, there wasn't a soul in the world that was doing that. Also, social media was really new back then. When we started the boy band, we were actually one of the first acts here in Sweden that actually took advantage of that. We really blew up through social media and we were super new to it. But I never saw guys like Harry Styles, for example. I was super scared of being myself and trying new stuff out and wearing makeup. I wanted to wear makeup so bad when I was younger, black eyeshadow or doing something that made me feel like something different. But I was super scared of people judging me or calling me even more stuff at school. When we blew up, it was super crazy and super scary too. We did our thing, but as I grew up, I started to experiment a lot more and today, I'm a whole different person.

On both Instagram and in your music videos, you definitely proclaim your own unique image and fashion sense. How would you describe your style?
I cannot begin to describe what my style is, not my fashion, not even my music. I feel like my music, my looks, and my makeup is so spread out. I like to do whatever I feel like doing, that's how I can describe it. Sometimes I want to be super masculine and to look like a dude, no makeup, nothing like that. Other times I wake up and I want to grab that liner and make something crazy around my eyes and feel super dark. You know, leather jacket, leather pants, something bold, something extreme. Or I walk around in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, it really depends on my mood. But I really love to look a little extravaganza, you know. I don't really like feeling boring, I turn it up and turn it out a little.

I went to two Galas recently and I got a lot of help from my stylist Evelina Bonard, she literally chose my outfits for me. She asked me what kind of looks I wanted. For the first Gala, I wanted a little more fun because it was a gay Gala. And for the other Gala, I wanted to look more formal, so we focused on a more clean look. That’s why I love working with her, she just gets my vibe.

While you were shooting for this collaboration, you asked to wear pearls. Was there any particular reason why?
I love jewellery, and in the last couple of months, I've been really into pearls. I have two different pearl necklaces that I wear every single day, so I think it just came to me naturally. I saw the mood board and the set and the vibe and felt some pearls would fit in perfectly. I actually asked for black eyeliner as well because I felt like it that day. Sometimes I just feel like I want to be a little darker, it was so much fun.

Tell us another passion of yours outside the artistic world.
I'm honestly such a boring person, I don't have anything else outside the artistic world. I feel like I don't do anything. I don't like sports. I like dancing but that's kind of artistic. I love to play League of Legends. It’s literally the only thing that I have that I play with. Yeah, I love to play League of Legends. People don’t see me as a gamer nerd, some of my friends don’t even know because I never talk about it. I just do it when I'm home and I don't have anything to do.

Don’t be surprised if people try and find you online to play you now…
Oh no, I go super crazy on that game. People say some crazy stuff to each other, it’s so funny. It’s definitely a comfort zone for me. Whenever I want to escape and forget about everything, I play League of Legends. It's honestly awesome. I really hope they sponsor me with something if they ever see this, get all the skins and every single character, all of it, that would be great.

Let's fast forward 10 years to 2032, where do you hope to be?
Wow, that's really hard. I hope I have a nice place to live, and that I can get my mum a really nice place to live, where she’s happy to spend her days. I hope that she doesn't have to work because I'm going to give her money so she can do whatever she wants. Even then, she'll actually keep on working. My mum has so much energy, so she's not going to stop. But, I also hope that my family from Venezuela can be together in the future and spend Christmas and New Year's Eve together. Because of what’s happening in my home country, a lot of my family have had to move away. I have a few family members in Argentina, a few in the Dominican Republic, Spain and the US. I would love us to all be together again, feeling the family vibe and love. I also really hope my songs get hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify and that I keep on doing what I love, projects, movies hopefully in Spanish in English, and music. Hopefully, I'll have my first world tour as well, even if it's small, I still want to have one. I’ll make it happen.

2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 38
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 34

Above Left: Suit and Shirt by Jordanluca and Broach by Slim Barrett
Above Right: Full look by Zadig & Voltaire and Chain by Slim Barrett

2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 26
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 59

Above Left: As before
Above Right: Vest and Trousers by Acne Studios, Shirt by Zadig & Voltaire, Bomber Jacket by Mihara Yasuhiro, Shoes by Dr.Martens, Jewellery by Slim Barrett and Badges from stylist's archive

2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 36
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 57
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 15

Above left: As before
Above right: Full look by Zadig & Voltaire

2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 16
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 18

Above: Full look by Zadig & Voltaire, Jewellery by A Sinner in Pearls and Slim Barrett

2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 27
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 56
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 1 1

Above Right: Full look by Zadig & Voltaire, Earring and Pearls by A Sinner in Pearls, Necklace by Slim Barrett, Socks by Acne Studios and Badges from stylist's archive

2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 1 2
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 41
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 53
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 1 14
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 19 2

Above left: As before
Above right: Full look by Zadig & Voltaire and Chain by Slim Barrett

2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 8
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 1
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 1 5
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 3
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 40

Above left: Full look by Zadig & Voltaire, Chain by Slim Barrett and Shoes by Dr.Martens
Above right: As before

2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 2
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 44
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 19

Above left: Suit and Shirt by Jordanluca, Broach by Slim Barrett and Shoes by Dr.Martens
Above right: Full look by Zadig & Voltaire, Jewellery by A Sinner in Pearls and Shoes by Converse

2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 22
2022 BB Gx ZV Omar Rudberg by EMST 37

Editorial in collaboration with ZADIG & VOLTAIRE

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