5 minute read

Miami Renaissance Man

An Interview with Sabas Whittaker

Written by Chelsea Dixon Photography by Smith Ulysse

You may know Sabas Whittaker as the #ThriftKing or as Chocolate Papi. Maybe you prefer to use his other nickname, Showtime. No matter what you call him, you definitely can’t call him boring. This Miami model and influencer has nicknames to spare and a myriad of looks for each. His 6’2” stature, tasteful eye and bold wardrobe selections give him a unique swagger and we’ve taken notice. Even better, he is breaking barriers in the big and tall community, “It’s so easy to become second-place because the next person is like, let me get his throne. I’m always cooking.” He promptly explains that cooking means brainstorming.

Born in the US Virgin Islands, Sabas moved to Miami at a young age. He was raised by his Islander mom. His father, originally from Honduras, moved up north to Connecticut when Sabas was very young.

Sabas grew up having a relationship with both of his parents, but his primary caregiver was his mother. “My mom had to be both the lioness and the lion.” He discusses his mother with admiration, “I’m glad that my mom is who she is because she was strong enough to raise a boy into a man. This lady gave me every tool that I needed to become a monster.” And, a monster, he is. Working five different jobs, he’s a modern day renaissance man who puts his all into everything that he touches. Although many on social media only know him as a model, styling guru and social media influencer.

“I used to be embarrassed to go to the thrift store...”
Sabas Whittaker
Photography by Smith Ulysse

He grew up in Overtown, a neighborhood in Miami-Dade County, Florida, “Growing up in the South, especially in Miami, fashion was everything for us.” His mother raised five children — Sabas, his older brother and three older sisters. “We were poor —my mom didn’t have much, but she did what she could with what she had. I fell in love with fashion because it was all I had.”

As a young man, thrifting was a necessity for Sabas’ family, “I used to be embarrassed to go to the thrift store when I was a kid.” But he learned at a young age that the way you style an outfit makes the look, “I learned a lot from my sister. She would say, ‘never shop off the mannequin because that is basic.’ And, I would steal my brother’s clothes and tried to hide it before he got home.”

Sabas grew up, became a man and went back to one of the Hialeah thrift stores that he used to be embarrassed to go to as a kid, “I cried a bit. I spent $300 and it was like therapy to me.” But it was then he realized that he had a superpower. He grew up thrifting and making outfits work, but as a man, he was able to see things and put together looks with ease. “I learned how to try on clothes. I also became a piece-shopper. I would buy a piece and let it sit for two, three, four or five years,” before he would use it to create a look.

When it comes to men’s fashion, Sabas stands out by all means — he especially shines as part of the big and tall community. “Big and tall men struggle with a lot of stuff, even confidence. Big guys tend to wear the same clothes over and over — jean pants and a white shirt.” Sabas hopes that his style helps break that mold and show guys they have options, “Confidence is an outfit that the world can see.”

On social media, his styling ability can be seen emanating through the photo series he creates and/or collaborates on. One example is his ‘Briefcase Chronicles’ photo series with Peyton Gatson. In addition to that, he also posts inspiring looks on Instagram every Thursday using the hashtag #ThriftKing. As part of his ‘Thrift Store Thursdays’ series, Sabas styles himself in an affordable outfit to encourage others. He wants to show you that you don’t have to overspend in order to style a polished look.

In the wake of the body-positivity movement, Sabas is a part of an influencer group that provides us with a much-needed male perspective. It’s clear that women historically deal with body issues due to unrealistic ideals portrayed in media and the constant objectification of women in society. However, surprising to many, there’s a community of men who share some of our same insecurities. “When you see a big guy or big kid swimming, what do they usually have on? A shirt. Think about it, every big boy has a shirt on,” he proclaimed.

When you take a moment to actually think about it, Sabas brings up a great point. Young females often wear t-shirts over their bathing suits as they battle with their own insecurities such as embracing their bodies and how others see them in society.

However, how many of us notice the young boy who is also covering his body -- insecure about his size or shape? Sabas explains, “Think of the language that we use at a very young age. A bigger kid doesn’t just wear Bugle Boy, he wears Bugle Boy Husky.” When these young guys become men, “Internet shopping is hit or miss and for some guys, dating can be a struggle. Big and tall men struggle with their own [set of] confidence issues.”

“Confidence is an outfit that the world can see”
Sabas Whittaker
Photography by Smith Ulysse

Leading by example, Sabas hopes to change the narrative. As a father of an eight-year-old son, who is tall for his age, he realizes the importance of building confidence at a young age. When Sabas was young, he played football and was one of the bigger guys on the team. He definitely didn’t let his size stop him, “I liked standing out. I used to do backflips on the field and the announcer would yell, ‘it’s showtime,’ and would eventually announce me as Showtime Whittaker.” Sabas enjoyed shocking the crowd and showing them that a big guy could do flips and was just as flexible as the next guy.

After asking Sabas where his confidence comes from, he explains: “My confidence comes from my faith and my mother. My mother might have not had much, but she was passionate about what she had and she taught me to be the same. Plus, I have big faith. My faith is everything. Everyone is going to have an opinion, but I don’t allow people to drain my energy. I hustle and stay in faith.” After being on the scene for about a year, Sabas has only just begun his journey, but it’s clear that his drive and natural-born talent has destined him to continue to reach the masses and inspire others with his unique style, determination, and his unabashed acceptance of self.

Sabas Whittaker
Photography by Smith Ulysse