QTYPE Spring 2020: Fashion Edition

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QTYPE Alani Taylor

FASHION Vol. I / Iss. 1 / March 2020


Timeekah Murphy

Laws Against Drag


Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri

Revisiting the Closet

Cobretti Williams

My Big Fat Greek Coming Out Story

Elizabeth Tzagournis

The Power of the Creative Class Camille Ora-Nicole

topic profiles cover

Alani Taylor: Timeekah Murphy


Jordan Gonzalez

Damaris Chambers 14


Sonny Oram

Nik Kacy 16


Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri

Lee Dawn Hershey 18



Madin Ray Lopez 22


Leon Wu

Mx. Nae Vallejo 25





QTYPE Camille Ora-Nicole CEO/Creative Director Editorial Managing Editor Jasmine Lowe Copy Editor Sondra Morris In-House Photography Mo McFadden Layout Design Camille Ora-Nicole Contributors Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri Cobretti Williams Elizabeth Tzagournis Administrative Administrative Support Coordinator Soleil Burgess Special Thanks April Chaire Monica Santander Quiet Deviants

Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri Molly Drucker Stuzo

ISSN 2690-604X Fall 2020 Volume 1 Issue 1 Published 3 Times Yearly Q26 Inc. Advertising: info@theq26.com (424) 221-9818 Subscriptions: Digital: www.issuu.com/theq26 Digital + Print: www.patreon.com/q26

editor’s letter Of all the scenes in all the movies in the world, there is only one that I have and will re-post whenever I see it. That scene is Meryl Streep’s blue sweater monologue from The Devil Wears Prada. In a span of less than five minutes, she pinpointed the reason why fashion and design matter, and the far-reaching effect of designers. Trends don’t just appear. They are developed by talented people that dedicate their lives to culture, art, and design. Through their creations, they are not only marking the history of aesthetics; they are also masterminding the looks we wear and love everyday. Designers already know their impact. We are entirely aware of the crucial planning that goes into creating something out of nothing, things that people grow to love. Those of us in the queer community are also aware of the importance of diversity in the design process. Without diversity, new trends and styles are limited by nature. They are less colorful, less unique, and less exciting. This Spring season, we are celebrating designers and influencers who are pushing the needle. These individuals have worked from the ground up, pushing through any challenges they encountered to do what they were called to do. They are making the world of fashion more diverse by claiming their talent and showcasing it to the world. Their creations are making tremendous marks on culture as a whole, and therefore making the world a friendlier place for us all. I couldn’t be more excited to share their works and words with you in this Spring 2020 edition of QTYPE magazine. In Pride, Camille Ora-Nicole CEO/Creative Director


SALON We know how hard it can be to find a team and get support for your projects. It can literally stop a creative from creating. That’s why we’re excited to announce SALON, a new program designed to bring together a curated set of creatives that will support each other in both individual and group projects. SALON will provide workshops, project direction, promotion, and most importantly, community. Stay tuned to learn more about projects completed by our inaugural cohort, and to find information about events catered to their creations.


SALON Asher (Ash) Cano is a mixed media artist that primarily focuses on public installations and interactive works of art. For the last 3 years, Asher has participated in creating large-scale temporary installations for the city of Pasadena. In addition, Ash has worked on installations for Ruil Clothing, Champion, Mi Estori in partnership with Self Help Graphics, and Nick's Metropolis - a local treasure in Los Angeles.

Mónica Hurtado, also known as ‘Femme Goddess’, is an unapologetic Queer Xicana Indígena. Mónica holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Chicana(o) Studies with an emphasis in Expressive Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles. By cutting herself open as a portal and sharing her process in liberating herself from everything that has or continues to keep her captive, Mónica allows others to witness her sacred practice in the most intimate, raw, and authentic way. She does this through various creative mediums including storytelling, writing, spoken word, body adornment, dance and modeling. At its' core, Mónica's work centers radical healing and revolutionary love as a means for liberation. Her work can be found at www.lafemmegoddess.com.

Cynthia (Cyn) Jandres (she/her/ella) is an LA native, queer and brown girl. She graduated from CSULA, where she blossomed and finally accepted what she always knew about herself. Cyn has always enjoyed expressing herself through pen and paper. She incorporates her Central American roots through her writing.

J. Mack is a multi-medium artist utilizing art, storytelling, music, poetry, and their podcast, Ya Nonbinary Friend Next Door through a Black Queer Feminist Lens. They are originally from Orange Mound, Memphis, TN, the first Black owned Mecca in the United States. They are an alumni of Wesleyan University and the Stax Music Academy. Much of J’s artistic medium is inspired by they’re life experiences, dreams, ancestors, and the Earth.

Chanelle Tyson is an award-winning filmmaker and published writer in Los Angeles, CA. A graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Chanelle has had her work featured and recognized by Outfest, The Advocate, WhoHaHa, ScreenCraft and others. She has written, directed and produced web series, short films, music videos and is currently developing a feature screenplay, which was selected for the second round of consideration for the 2020 Sundance Development Track. Her work can be found at www. thetysonchannel.com. Jess Waters writes stories about queerness, Blackness, family, and all the ways that those people on the margins of society can find healing and family. Building on her childhood growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, she aims to create characters like herself and those who nurtured her growth as a writer. Jess has won numerous screenwriting awards including Official Selections at Shore Scripts and WeScreenplay's Diverse Voices, and she currently has a feature film in development with Rising Antidote Productions.



Spring 2020

Timeekah Murphy is an American fashion designer born in Newark, New Jersey and raised in Bronx, New York. She has been creating a huge name for herself in the fashion industry with her luxury brand, Alani Taylor. Written By Jasmine D. Lowe Photography: Mo McFadden

Alani Taylor

Alani Taylor Jasmine D. Lowe: I wanted to thank you for being here today. It's really nice to meet you in person. I saw some of what you did online and it's really cool. I did hear that you were from New Jersey originally. Timeekah Murphy: Born in New Jersey, raised in the Bronx, well, raised in both, but the Bronx has a claim over me a little bit more. I hope they won't kill me for that one. JDL: Is there a huge rivalry between the two cities? TM: Just memories. JDL: Yeah. And saying that, has the East Coast influenced a lot of your style going forward? TM: I would say New York has, but my brain injury is what influenced my style. I was in the military for 12 years and I got a brain injury when I was in and that has kind of took away certain things. I lost my memory in 2003 and from there I just think differently now. I have to do a lot more than the average person. And I think that kind of shows in my work. JDL: What led you to fashion after serving in the military? TM: I always loved fashion. It's crazy enough that I didn't even know how to dress when I was growing up. I'm not sure if it was because we didn't have much growing up, but I mean, being in New York, you gotta step your game up. So coming over into more of the South when I was in the military it kind of showed a little bit more. The style that I picked up— being in New York, people kind of gravitated to it. Being from the South, it's not something that you really see. So right off the back, it was just different. The military, it's just military. I just served for 12 years, but fashion was always it.

2016 and I named my brand after her. I had a street brand before that in 2011 that I started and it was called Prodigy. After she was born, her name just was so powerful and elegant. It was simple. And she took the first initial from her mom and the, her second initial, middle initial is mine from me, and then her last name is Murphy. I wasn't thinking about anything high fashion, but I couldn't have that name with streetwear. It allowed me to transition over to high fashion. I was still in love with doing streetwear, so I found a way to bridge the two together. Alani is amazing yet she doesn't even know what she has right now. She has people all over the world with her name on their backs or their chests. I'm proud of it. JDL: It's an amazing gift to your daughter. TM: She doesn’t know. She's bougie so she's going to grow into it anyway. JDL: I was looking at a lot of your pieces, a lot of them are really translatable. Even what you're wearing right now. I can mix and match different things and everything just seems to flow. Was that really intentional? TM: Absolutely. I am the kind of designer that if you walk into my store, I don't want you to have to choose what you want because I'm using the same color palette or trying to stay uniform. Everything that I create, I want every single piece to be different so where you just take the whole store and never have to worry about it if you're going to look the same on any given day. Having a variety of what I do is exactly what I was going for. You can wear it on a red carpet, and you can wear it to the corner store. Some dress shoes or loafers on with the pants. You can put it with anything. That was my goal.

JDL: I also wanted to talk about the name. Alani Taylor.

JDL: How do you define your brand? A lot of people have some things on a website, but like what do you personally feel your brand portrays?

TM: Yes, the name is amazing. That's my daughter's name. My daughter was born in

TM: I want to be gender-neutral. I don't want to have anyone think that only this person



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Timeekah Murphy


Timeekah Murphy



Spring 2020

Alani Taylor or that person can wear it. I was having a conversation yesterday in a meeting with one of my friends, Ray, who's also one of my stylists, and one of the models. She said something that hit me. “I don't have a genre to who I am,” which was really dope because people put people you in categories and I want a man to see a woman and still be like, ‘Yo, I can rock that.’ I don't like labels. I definitely have put my brand out to be a gender-neutral brand where everybody feels comfortable. JDL: And so what swayed your decision to move to downtown Los Angeles? TM: I'm from New York, so we don't like to drive. The fashion district is downtown in LA, so why not just get on? I have a little electric bike that goes 30 miles an hour. I made a vow to myself that I'll never get a car out here just to sit in traffic with it and pay the insurance and car note and never go anywhere. So it's just convenient for me. JDL: I should be more like you. TM: Yeah, man. It’s just the way to go. The train's right there. A $1.75 compared to $175 a week for gas. I'm good on that. I have too much fabric to buy. JDL: I remember it said on your website that you don't design in seasons and that you don't adhere to any fashion calendar. You release your collections when you think they're ready. TM: Yeah, I do. I actually don't even do collections. It's just that my team says to use the word. I literally just design when I design. If it looks good then it's going to be seen by people. I'm kinda like a walking advertisement for my own brand. I really designed for who I am and people just like me. I've never sat down and said, ‘Hey, this is going to be a collection’ or anything like that. I go against the grain. I'm not a seasonal person where people in the fashion industry have to design for summer, spring, fall, or winter. I don't give two craps about it. My last collection was made out of neoprene fabric. Neoprene is a thick fabric, but I was wearing it in the summer. I don't care

cause I'm still fly. I feel like trying to stick with something like that will stop your creativity and I just want to create whatever I feel at the time. So if it's a winter coat in the summer, I don't care. JDL: I guess it makes sense because we're in LA. TM: Right? I've never designed for a summer at all. I never did a spring-summer collection, which I'm actually teaming up with someone to do for the first time. I'm kind of nervous cause I'm a layers person. I like to layer up. So I designed for that season pretty much. JDL: I ask this of everybody, but what advice do you have for anyone wanting to get into this industry to create something? TM: Do it. There's nothing stopping you. A lot of people ask me that question, but it's—just do it. If you want to be a designer, be a designer. If you want to be a stylist, be a stylist. You want to do makeup, do makeup. There's no real advice that you can kind of give a person because everybody's going to be different. Other people are going to gravitate to you differently. Your energy, your frequency, everything's going to be different. I can't tell you what I did to become a designer. Your story and your path are going to be different than mine. I just say if that's what you want to do, just go do it because no one can stop you once you make up your mind on what you want to do in life. Follow Alani Taylor on Instagram at @alanitaylorco.


How Being Yourself Is The Best Representation Damaris Chambers is a model living and working in Los Angeles. She has taken a deep dive into the exploration of fashion only to emerge with a style that is truly representative of who she is as an artist. Chambers aims to use her stylistic voice to provide positive representation to young creatives who follow her work. Written By Jasmine D. Lowe Photography: Mo McFadden

Damaris Chambers

Damaris Chambers “I have been modeling for a while,” said Damaris Chambers. “I used to watch America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway. I became interested in fashion as I started to do more freelance modeling, working with photographers, and having to put my own looks together. That’s when I really started to delve deeper into fashion.” She moved to Los Angeles from Baltimore, Maryland after working for a few years at an insurance brokerage firm. Damaris “absolutely hated it” and decided to move to the West Coast about four years ago. “I wanted to be in a city that had creative energy that you could just create on the drop of a hat. If you wanted to go out and do something creative, you literally could just go out, grab somebody and have a photoshoot like that. It’s what drew me out here—the weather, the creative energy, and the creative people.” It was through collaborating with other creatives in the city, discovering things about herself, and experimenting with bending traditionally gendered clothes in fashion that she discovered her own style. “Once I really came out and came into myself is when I really started to blossom,” Damaris explained. “Growing up I had always been tomboyish, and only recently did I become more comfortable wearing men’s clothes and drawing myself in a more androgynous way. As I became more comfortable with that, I just started to experiment more with men’s clothes and mixing men’s clothes with women’s clothes and finding my own little niche to present more androgynously. I started dressing in a way that made me feel good as opposed to what society said I should look like and what I should wear.” Damaris s hopes that by being her authentic self that she can be a positive example for others. Rather than be out of reach, the model wants others like her to feel seen in the world of fashion.

“I want to be attainable. I want people to feel seen and represented when they look at my pictures. A lot of the comments that I get on my pictures on Instagram confirm that what my heart wants is what they reflected in the picture. People will comment and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve been looking for somebody that represents me and you do that.’ That’s what I want. I want to be representation for people who don’t feel represented.” When asked what advice she had for up and coming models and those wanting to pursue a career in the fashion industry, Damaris Chambers shared that finding what is comfortable and works for you is key. “Get comfortable in front of the camera. The way that I really started to get comfortable and know myself was by setting up my iPhone, using the self-timer, taking pictures of myself, and not being afraid to try different things. Yeah, it’s really uncomfortable at first and you kind of feel dumb, but after a while, you start to see what you’re creating on your own and that really fuels you to start reaching out to other people and say, ‘Well, what can I create with other people?” “Look at yourself in the mirror and get comfortable with looking at yourself. Find what your angles are and what pose your body looks best in or what you like personally,” Damaris continued. “I think even if you are modeling somebody else’s clothes—and this goes with acting too since acting also goes into modeling—but no matter what character you play, there’s always an element of you that’s infused into it. I think the world tells us that we have to be something else when it’s actually really cool to be yourself. And that’s when you stand out. You shine when you are yourself because there’s no one in this world that is you, You are the only person that is you, and that’s what people are drawn to.” You can keep up with Damaris Chambers and her projects by following her on Instagram at @damarischambers.


Nik Kacy

Breaks In Shoes And Busts The Gender Binary With Their Luxury Footwear

Written By Jasmine D. Lowe Photography: Nicolette J - Pownall

Nik Kacy is a fashion designer, the founder of Equality Fashion Week, a board member of the Los Angeles LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and part of the Trans Inclusion Task Force for the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. They have created a luxury footwear and accessories brand of the same name that is gender-equal and gender-free.

produce anything. It's just about putting in the time to learn whatever industry it is. So when I decided to do fashion, I just immersed myself. I traveled in Europe after I had top surgery and went to all these different international shoe fairs and to factories all over Europe to learn about the industry and also to ask why nobody was making shoes for people like me.”

“I've been a producer for almost 20 years in different facets of the advertising industry,” said Nik Kacy. “I produced print, radio, web content, commercials, industrials, events, gaming, and everything but fashion basically. I think producing is probably one of my major loves. I love every aspect of being a producer no matter what it is and I think that you have that skill set as a producer, you can pretty much

The luxury shoemaking industry was predominantly male and old fashioned. Many of the designer shoes Nik came across were made with cis men in mind. Oftentimes the design between differently gendered shoes varies, which can be frustrating to anyone who is worried more about the design and fit of apparel than the intended gender of the wearer.r.

Nik Kacy “Shoes, in general, are categorized by women or men, no matter what kind of design it is,” Nik said. “If you have the same style of shoe in a men's version like a men's nine. That's a woman’s 11 or 12 or somewhere in between. If you were to take the same shoe in a men's version and go to the women's version is like the same size they're proportionately different. Now that could be because yes, there are small proportional differences between the feet of cis-gendered men as cis-gendered women. However, overall, a shoe size is a size, right? It either fits your feet or it doesn't.”

“I started designing high heels, but it's been very challenging because a lot of factories don't want to make high heels that are beyond the customary seven sizes that are in women's size range,” Nik continued. “It is a very masculine and archaic industry with a lot of homophobia and transphobia involved that I have to face.”

“What I realized was that when I went to the men's section and I really loved the style, and if by some miracle they say we have a women's version of that in your size, I would go put that on,” Nik continued. “But I would look down and significantly notice a proportional difference to the design itself, but not the fit. It's an optical illusion. The cut of it would make my feet look significantly smaller. I would look down and be like, ‘Why do I look like I have a child's foot?’ When I put on the men's version, which was only maybe a size off, I had significantly larger looking feet.”

“My first mission in life is to support the community of the underrepresented and all the people who have not been fairly treated or represented,” said Nik. “I know what it feels like to not be seen and to not be visible and to not be cared for from growing up and being queer and being trans. It’s my first goal in everything I do. I produce events and I'm very involved in the LGBTQ community because that is my mission in life. The fact that I design and create a brand that supports that is secondary. It's part of fulfilling the first mission.”

The shoes and accessories under the Nik Kacy brand do not compromise design, style, and fit. They aim to create something that is accessible for everyone, but also something that is high quality and durable to avoid fast fashion and the feeling that queer people don't deserve the best. By making their shoes genderless, one can just focus on whether they like the shoes and forget the rest. “Men’s shoes are durable, reliable, affordable, and they last and women's shoes don't. They're also charged the feminine tax. I realized that I wanted to create shoes that were genderless because it's just about if it fits. There's no difference in proportions. There is no difference in the sizing. I created my own sizing based off of what I felt was the average foot and worked from there, and then the proportion of the design. There's no optical illusion in my shoes. It's just the style. It's a design. If you like it, you like it. If you don't, you don't.”

Despite facing challenges and discrimination emanating from the luxury shoe industry, Nik Kacy still manages to give back by donating shoes to the LGBT community and the youth center’s community closet.

The road to fulfilling their mission wasn’t easy. They had a crowdfunding campaign when they first started and ended up depleting their life savings six years ago in order to pursue their dream. “Making an impact in people's lives where you're giving them a chance to be their true selves proudly makes all the struggles worth it,” said Nik. “I've had people tell me when they put my shoes on the first time that they walked taller. They were walking taller because they were finally wearing shoes that were meant for them. Money's not everything, it's important to pay your bills of course, but I think that when queer young people want to go into the fashion industry, they have to be ready for a lot of uphill battles. But don't give up. You'll get there.” You can find more information on Nik Kacy and their brand by visiting their website at nikkacy.com.


Lee Dawn Hershey Turning Tragedy Into Art Lee Dawn Hershey is a model and actor who was born in the small country town of Abilene, TX. Their parents moved to South Houston, where Lee grew up, before taking a leap of faith and moving elsewhere around the age of 24. Lee played ball and everything under the sun to keep them busy and to keep eyes and ears off of them because they were queer. However, it may not have actually thwarted looks and suspicions about their gender expression and sexuality. Written By Jasmine D. Lowe

Lee Dawn Hershey “I thought the more sports and activities I did with a team that it would keep people from knowing that I was queer and I was like, ‘you're doing the gayest things,’” said Lee about their childhood and upbringing. “Being an athlete my entire life pretty much set the mode for my behavior, my mindset, my family, and my orientation,” Lee explained. “I come from a very broken home and, my own tribe began at an early age, probably about 10 years old. Whenever I started competing with other girls, those individuals and their families became a part of my tribe. I decided to play collegiate soccer. And when I played soccer, some stuff happened. I'm actually making a movie about it. It's called Hi Pretty and some really crazy stuff happened to me during my freshman year, which caused me to go home.” During their freshman year of college, Lee fell in love with one of their teammates’ older sisters. The teammate, the sister, and Lee all lived in a big three-bedroom apartment in Dallas, and the relationship remained hidden from the teammate for some time to avoid hurting her. Retaliation ensued with self-harming and other terrible situations after the teammate found out. She tried to maliciously expose the couple by committing suicide but ended up accidentally murdering someone else in the process, and Lee was told that they should go home and spend some time with their self. It ended their soccer career, and Lee ended up turning to bartending after the terrible series of events as a way to express themselves. “I became a bartender and by bartending I was doing show flare, which was flipping my bottles within my tins, doing cool napkin tricks and I filled the void of being an entertainer on the field by being behind the bar,” Lee said. “Bartending created a stage for me to dance on and to share myself as an entertainer, as a creative, and as a very compassionate individual. I started bartending for a while in downtown Houston and then a lot of people told me that I should be in Austin because

I was different and I was queer and out and proud.” Lee Dawn Hershey took the Houston bartending scene by storm. Lee spent the latter half of their 20s diving headfirst into the craft cocktail world in Austin where they worked closely with Tony Parker from the Spurs and a wide array of people such as Baby Bash and several Houston rappers.

“Go for it. Don't hold back, and when you walk into that room, leave it all on camera.” “That’s how Girls with Flare evolved, Hershey explained. “I was getting booked for all these big events with this private clientele and they're asking me, ‘Well, do you know someone that does this? You know, someone that does that.’ And I was like, ‘actually guys, here's my artillery.’ They told me I should be doing something with this. I was always outsourcing since I can remember. I've been giving away my cookies, giving away my toys to make sure that somebody felt good about themselves, even though I was dirt poor. Networking was always my favorite thing to do, especially with females, connecting them from point A to C without the B, which is bullshit, and we can run into that so much.” Girls with Flare became an all-female free agency production company that ended up booking an event for Ruby Rose twice within six months and one pride event. The company also did a South by Southwest (SXSW) showcase, which ended up being the largest unofficial showcase that SXSW had had in a while. However, Lee felt like something was still missing. “Someone out here in California ended up booking me in Los Angeles for Pride,” Lee said. “So, as I am out here doing my thing, I'm slamming in, I'm meeting all sorts of people, and something just went off in my head and


Lee Dawn Hershey I was like, this is it. This, this is what I've been missing. People have said, ‘Lee, you would be amazing in LA’ and I was like, ‘No way. It's too fast. It's crazy.’ Of course, I'm just listening to everything my dad had said about it and it's the one thing I listened to him about, but it was the best place I could be. I finally realized that's it. I went home, sold everything I had, and in two weeks I uprooted myself, packed my dog Baxter and said ‘Let’s get outta here girl.’”

Networking was always my favorite thing to do, especially with females, connecting them from point A to C without the B, which is bullshit, and we can run into that so much.” “The next thing you know I was found off of Instagram by Adidas and Stella McCartney, which is Stella Sport with Adidas, and I was the face for their spring-summer line in 2017 and that kind of blew the doors open,” Lee continued. “I had never even been to an audition. That was actually my first thing ever to even go in and be there in front of the camera and I was like, this is it. This is exactly what I was looking for. Cause it felt like I was going into a tryout, but it wasn't a tryout, and it felt like people were actually listening.” Lee ended up doing eleven national commercials last year and quite a few solo print jobs. They also booked jobs with their partner Julia, whom they met right after moving to Los Angeles. They ended up shooting for Madonna and Mercedes Benz, where they were asked to get engaged on camera. They were taken to the wedding chapel in Vegas to get married in a talking smart car with AI. The car was able to perform the marriage ceremony in the car for the commercial. The couple’s image is even in stores nationwide currently for T-Mobile with their dog. “We pretty much scooped each other off



Spring 2020

the scene. Julia's a graphic designer and a web designer and does a lot of branding for companies and just individuals. She was doing that full time when we got together as a freelancer and had more creative control to go with me to auditions. Once I signed with my agency, they sent me out, and then I got sent out to another one and they were like, ‘You're gay, right? So does that mean you have a wife?’ I said ‘I have a partner,’ and so we went and we killed it. I called the agency and told them that they are missing out on quite a bit by not having Julia on the roster as well. I feel like she's so talented on her own that you can send her out alone, and then you can send us together and boom.” With all of the success that they had, it made sense to ask Lee what advice they would give to young up and coming models. “Go for it. Don't hold back, and when you walk into that room, leave it all on camera. Before you walk in the room don't have any expectations because, if that role is right for you then you will get it, and if that role is not right for you, then you won't get it. It has nothing to do with you as a person. The next one will be even bigger.” You can follow Lee Dawn Hershey via Instagram at @leedawnhershey for more information about their work, the film set to release this year, and their many other projects.

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Madin Ray Lopez

Using Privilege For Good ProjectQ founder, Madin Ray Lopez had been doing hair for nearly a decade when they came up with their plan to give back to the community. They used their talents in the world of beauty and fashion to provide services for those in need. Written By Jasmine D. Lowe

Madin Ray Lopez

“I started ProjectQ in 2012 and my main thing was wanting to be able to service our queer homeless youth of color,” Madin explained. “I'm here in Los Angeles, at the time I lived in Hollywood. I would just see people my age that looked like me on the streets sleeping and stepping over them or riding my bike past them, and I just didn't like that. It actually made me really angry. I think that I've always gotten angry, like even on the news when people would say, ‘Oh, eight people died.’ I didn't understand why the news people could say that without bursting into tears. I never understood how it never elicited any emotion from them, as it did for me. I had already been doing hair for about 10 years at the time and, so I decided to start giving back.” Madin started doing hair when they were 16 years old in exchange for bus tokens and lunch tickets. Coming from a pretty neglectful and abusive home, they had to fend for themselves and would perfect twisties and braids before eventually leaving their neighborhood for beauty school. “By the time I had visited my third friend in the hospital, I said, ‘Okay, I need to get out of here. I can't stay.’ So I went to school, I took the exit exams and got my diploma and then went to beauty school to get out of that situation,” Madin said about how they came up with the idea for ProjectQ. “I feel like a lot of people were able to go to college and all of that, but a very high percentage of my class actually turned to sex work right after high school. I knew I needed to do something that wasn't that. I'm black and I've been in the barber and the salon since I was a baby practically. I always felt really safe there so I wanted to make other people feel safe.” Madin later purchased an Airstream to travel outside of Los Angeles and bring their services to youth experiencing homelessness

in other states. They ended up creating a safe space for young queer individuals who may not have previously had access to such spaces. “I got to a point where I recognized that in LA we have a lot of very privileged people,” Madin explained. “Even if they're folks that didn't grow up here, a lot of folks will move here, but they have the means to do so. I wanted to take it to places that people needed. We also have a really big queer community here. We have like the biggest LGBT center in the world, and so there's a lot of resources here. I wanted to be able to take not just resources, but also the representation of being a black queer person to people in different states.

“I see people all the time trying to act like they don't have privilege. It's very interesting, but actually looking at our privileges and then using them, while helping people that don't have that privilege is what we should be doing.” “I remember I was at the LGBT center in New Orleans, which is very small, it's probably the size of my salon, and there was this young queer person sitting on the ground and they looked up at me and they said, ‘Are you, Madin Lopez?’ And I said, ‘Yes,’ and then they said, ‘Alright, I go first,’” Madin continued. “They looked like me. We had a very similar outfit on and we had a very similar upbringing. We had similar interests, even though they were in their teens, but we have a universal language and it's intergenerational. It was really cool to be able to give that representation and to just physically be there for myself because it was like I was giving that representation to myself too.” Lopez’s clientele is made up mostly of ex foster care youth, and in the beginning, the


Madin Ray Lopez

mission of ProjectQ was to promote queer youth aesthetic. In 2016, the mission evolved into registering them to vote or writing to their senators. They ended up establishing a currency exchange for the youth by asking them to perform certain tasks, such as finishing a poem in their own words, reading aloud, and having added accountability into their lives in a way that they hadn’t had prior to their haircut. “The foster care system does everything for them and kind of carries them around emotionally and physically and then they drop them and they have no resources and no access to anything,” Madin said. “They don't know how to do anything for themselves because they haven't been taught.” Madin has also helped the LGBTQ youth outside of holding the youth accountable and providing needed services by providing job opportunities and a way to network and connect with other people with resources. “ProjectQ has been hiring on a lot of our youth, not just in the salon but also other businesses that we house in our space,” said Madin. “We are getting them ready for what the world looks like and really handling the hard stuff. One of my youth, that has now been my receptionist for about a year and a half, just got a promotion in January to be our outreach person. This is someone that I met when they were living in a shelter and they have gone through many different gender expressions and we've helped them along the way with those when it comes to their hair and their clothing.” Madin takes the time to listen to the youths that come into their salon and offers an ear and advice. Almost as though they were a therapist, Madin takes time to make sure that youths have space to be themselves and talk about things,



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and Madin helps in any way they can. “ProjectQ is very important to me because it was my experience,” said Madin. “I feel as though being able to draw from the things that hurt us deeply and create space for other people is the main thing that we can do. Just focusing on the privileges that we have. I got out of foster care. I was actually able to come out of the closet and I have a partner, and I utilize all of those privileges to help people that don't know that they could have that one day. We have a habit as queer folk and as people of color of looking at our margins as our badges of honor. We live in a world where it's uncool to have privilege. I see people all the time trying to act like they don't have privilege. It's very interesting, but actually looking at our privileges and then using them, while helping people that don't have that privilege is what we should be doing. It's hard because you don't have their experience, so you don't know how to maybe create space for them. However, recognizing that there is that inequality and trying your best to do something about it is the thing.” You can learn more about ProjectQ by visiting their website at projectq.me. You can also help support the organization by attending their fundraiser to benefit queer youth experiencing homelessness on June 21st.

Mx. Nae Vallejo

Model Education: The Importance of Representation & Education Through Shared Experiences Modeling and being an educator doesn’t seem like two worlds that would go together. However, Mx. Nae Vallejo blends both with ease. They draw the majority of their inspiration from teaching the youth and instilling love, encouragement, and support practiced during their own upbringing. Written By Jasmine D. Lowe

Mx. Nae Vallejo “I’ve always tied it back down to being from a big family,” said Nae. “I'm the oldest of 12. I have 11 younger siblings. Blended family. But nonetheless, 11 little ones running around with the age range being 22 years. My love for the youth has come from raising a lot of my siblings and myself, and that love and passion for the youth was instilled in me from a very young age with my own family. That's pretty much followed me around along with just experiences in the world reminding me just how much love that the youth goes without in their own families. I try to give what I was unable to receive from those around me, and it is a big part of why I give to the youth in life, find myself as an educator or a child caregiver.” Nae, who is originally from Austin, Texas moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 2012 to attend Tufts University where their focus was on child study and human development. They aimed to mix early childhood education with a focus on queer pedagogy. They later got into modeling and have continued working in the city on a variety of projects. “I've always just found myself modeling different things,” said Nae. “I try to model the behaviors and healthy practices that were never really modeled for me that I had to learn myself and help pass that along through modeling as well.” Nae teaches these practices primarily to children aged two to five-years-old. They nine years of experience teaching preschool and they use those skills to educate children through a queer lens. They speak with families and educators about how to navigate queer pedagogy and how to start having those important conversations from a young age. They have integrated these skills with their work in the fashion industry to fill the need for more representation, especially for youth. “I started jumping into modeling and was like, ‘This is something that I haven't done yet that I love so much,” said Nae. “I got my passion for educating, my passion for sports, my passion for academics, and then there's modeling. A big part of that was wanting to see me and 26


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having only not ever seen representation of myself. It was really scary thinking of going into something and being the first of that representation that I've seen in that area. I wanted to model, but I've never seen a black trans, nonbinary model.” Nae’s modeling and fashion career have always been centered within the queer lens. They haven’t done much outside of a queer focus, but they hope to eventually bring their work into the mainstream to cultivate more representation for the marginalized communities that they associate and identify with personally. “I’m pushing for that mainstream representation,” Nae explained. “That is something that I would love to do and am striving for and that I feel like that's not at the top of the list of my priorities. I don't consider ‘making it’ to [mean] finally hitting the mainstream. The reason why I model is to cultivate the liberation amongst the oppressed communities that I'm a part of, and I'm [already] doing that within those respective communities that I identify with.” Nae had some advice for young queer artists who have hopes of entering the world of fashion: “Always think about who you're doing it for, and if you're not the first name that comes to mind somewhere something got lost, or somewhere you got lost,” Nae explained. “It doesn't mean that you're on the wrong path, but if your name is not the first name listed then there needs some redirecting, and some going back and checking needs to happen. I think that whatever one's response as to what is at the center of your service is the most important foundation of what one does. For me, it is creating paths where there are none and maintaining openness and tenderness and vulnerability. I'm very in tune with being vulnerable, being tender, and being soft and just remembering the things that are very easy to forget and to work in such a world in which we live. Forgetting to be kind and forgetting to be tender. Just remember who you are doing it for, what it is at the center of your service and why.”

Jordan Gonzalez Bringing Representation Into The Mainstream

Jordan Gonzalez is an actor living in Los Angeles who moved from Rosewell, Georgia to pursue a career in the fashion industry. He’s an ambassador for Sharpe Suiting, a queer clothing company specializing in amazing custom suits, which he actually began working with prior to his transition. Written By Jasmine D. Lowe

Jordan Gonzalez

“I always had a love and passion for fashion,” said Gonzalez. “When I first moved out to LA, I wanted to be a wardrobe stylist. I did that for a little bit prior to my transition, but I would always have this affinity with men's wear as opposed to women’s wear.” “Obviously looking back on it now, it makes a lot more sense,” Gonzalez continued. “Not to say that to be trans you have an affinity for men's wear, but for me personally, it made a lot of sense. It all just kind of all fell into place. A lot of people would reach out to me and they'd ask if I wanted to shoot. [When I moved] to LA, I just took every opportunity that I could if it was something that I was comfortable with, and it kind of just kind of went from there.” Before becoming an actor and telling stories from the queer perspective, Jordan had to take a leap from the security of a typical nine to five job. He traded his public relations job in entertainment to join the industry from the other side.

“With social media and everything just being so in front of us right now, it's so easy to compare our journey to other people's journey and I think that can have such a negative effect on our being.” “So I was in entertainment PR up until last February,” Gonzalez explained. “I left a big agency job, left the security of the nine to five. It was really 24/7, but for the sake of argument, it was nine to five. I had two phones, I worked seven days a week. It was intense. I left in February and I took the jump and the risk



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because I really wanted to tell more stories from the trans perspective. I thought it was really important to just try.” Jordan Gonzalez has gone on to do dozens of print and film projects, one of which is a film whose concept came from the artist on the cover of the previous issue of this publication. “I reached out and found a manager and an agent,” Gonzalez continued. “I got signed. I shot a short film with Savannah Ward, called Meta, which is going to be a really amazing and beautiful story. It follows a trans character who goes to prom and ends up getting his period. It shows the reality of the situation, but also what it feels like in someone's head who is going through that.” “It jumps into an alternate Sci-Fi werewolf situation where I can only see myself as a werewolf,” Gonzalez said about the short film. “I think that everybody can see myself as this monster because men objectively in society don't have periods. It makes you believe you are some sort of monster even though nobody else but myself. I won't give away the ending because Savannah will kill me, but I did get nominated for prom King and it's a really interesting perspective and way to show how it actually feels for a transmasculine individual to get their period on such a pivotal night.” There are a few similarities between the short film and Jordan’s life. A similar experience to the scene in the film happened to the actor as well. “So I started my medical transition—it'll be three years in July this year—and about eight months into my medical transition, I got [my period]” Gonzalez said. “I had thought,

Jordan Gonzalez

okay, I'm eight months into taking hormone replacement therapy. Maybe I'm lucky and I just didn't get it and it'll pass and then I'll never have it again. Then one day I got it. It was just when I started dating my partner. I remember being so ashamed. I didn't even say anything to her, she didn't even know I had it until a year later.”

anything else that is relevant to a character. But I think it is really important and innately a passion of mine to also tell those trans-identity stories also for visibility purposes.”

“I finally opened up and talked to her about it when I shot a video campaign with this company called Peach Pack, which is Troy Sivan's sister's company,” Gonzalez continued. “They're doing some amazing work by un-gendering period products and making it less of a stigma for non-binary folx and transmasculine individuals to buy those products. As a transmasculine person or nonbinding person walking down a feminine item aisle, it’s the last thing that you want to do, especially when the word feminine is attached to it.”

“Just be true to yourself. I think that's so important. With social media and everything just being so in front of us right now, it's so easy to compare our journey to other people's journey and I think that can have such a negative effect on our being. I think that can almost make us want to freeze instead of moving forward and growing and taking that risk and jumping. I think I also use social media to reach out to people. Ask people for help, ask people for their advice, reach out to somebody that you look up to and say, ‘Hey, I'm really interested in this. You're doing great. What can I do?’ Then tell me to go for it. I think we have such a beautiful community and I think if we were there for each other more we can do so much more positive stuff for each other.”

However, Jordan doesn’t want to just do roles that call for trans actors. Ideally, he would like the industry to get to the point where a character in a project who happens to be trans is just that. “Ryan Murphy has this show on Netflix called The Politician,” said Gonzalez. “They have a character on the show who in real life identifies as transgender and in the show, you have no idea. And to me, that's equally as powerful as telling a coming out story or coming of age story. It's just allowing that trans person to be an artist and to tell the story without having to say, and wear this label of otherness. Eventually, I would love to tell just regular male stories that might just be Latin because I'm Cuban or might just be an immigrant story because my father's an immigrant. Or

When discussing breaking into the fashion and entertainment industry Jordan shared a few tips that helped him on his own journey.

You can follow Jordan Gonzales as he continues on his journey on Instagram at @jordanlgonzalez.


Sonny Oram Qwear’s Mission To Push A Database of Representation Into The Mainstream Written By Jasmine D. Lowe Photography: Hannah Cohen

Sonny Oram grew up in Boston. It was there, at their high school, where they first came out as gay, and then later as gender fluid. They were bullied for that and went back to identifying as gay. It wasn’t until after college that they started to discover their trans identity through clothes. The Qwear Fashion and Queer Models founder would go on to create a database and a community of queer models of every shade, shape, identity while running Qweer Fashion. “I was running Qwear Fashion for eight years and over that time a lot of people were 30


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asking how they can get into modeling as gender-nonconforming people. It seemed like this was really needed because, other than networking, I couldn’t really provide that much help. But it really seemed like people needed a platform where they could be seen and have their queerness celebrated by businesses that want to provide a place where they can go. I’ve also talked to casting directors who say we need such and such kind of a model, and I find them. That’s just from a lack of having places, websites, or organizations like that exist. There’s just not that out there.”

Sonny Oram Sonny also paints, draws, and even used to be a musician. The viola player went to a conservatory at Oberlin, has experience working as a communications professional at MIT, and writes for their site. They ended up using their communications, writing skills, and industry experience in fashion while developing Qwear. Sonny makes sure that the models in the database and who they work with represents as many different groups as possible. They promote body positivity, androgynous fashion, and have tried to move these and other representation of fashion into the mainstream. They have also done their part to promote people in the community who don’t always feel seen. “When we first started, the queer fashion scene was very masculine-presenting oriented,” said Sonny. “People who were more femme felt like they didn't have a piece of that. Part of the issue with femme is visibility, where femmes will go to queer events and some lesbians go to a queer event and people won't even give them the time of day because they'll think that they're just a straight woman who tagged along with their friends. I guess I've always been friends with a lot of femmes because I have some feminine qualities about me. I'm friends with all types of people, but I've always had a lot of femme friends and they always tell me about how hurtful it is not to be accepted in queer spaces. So from the beginning, I really wanted to demonstrate that femme is queer and shows people in all styles or all types of genders. I think we've really started to see some progress there where people are starting to see femme fashion as queer fashion.” Another huge focus for Oram was making sure all bodies were seen and celebrated in queer fashion. They made it a mission to change the minds of the industry by using their platform to shine a light onto individuals whose bodies do not fit society’s stereotypical view of queer or androgynous fashion.

types throughout our content,” said Sonny. “One of the major areas that I saw an issue with was in androgynous fashion. People would say that they wanted to dress androgynous, but they thought that if they were a little bit bigger or curvy that it would be impossible for them. Anyone can be androgynous, fashion and mainstream media just made it into this thing where it looks a very particular way female assigned at birth, mostly white and mostly very, very thin with like no secondary sex characteristics.” “We've been really challenging that,” Sonny continued. “I published an article about plussize androgyny several years ago and it's one of our most popular articles. And now when you Google androgyny or androgynous you would get mainly white people, but now, now you will also see people from that article. So that's a huge shift. If you type in androgynous style for Google image search, you'll start seeing stuff from our article on the second page. So that was really huge for me, that I could change a Google search results.” Sonny hopes that their work with Qwear can continue crossing into the mainstream by increasing representation of the people who are rarely seen in the industry. This mission is even applied to their own life and identity. “When trans people tell our own stories it’s less about being trans and more about just existing and navigating a cis world,” Sonny Oram writes in the article, “This All-Trans Cult Thriller is Raising the Bar for LGBTQ+ Filmmaking” from the Qwear website. “It flips the perspective so that we are the norm, and cis culture is on the outside as something to be studied, understood, and dismantled.” You can check out more information about Qwear by visiting their website at qwearfashion.com.

“We always make sure to have a mix of body 31

Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri

Joelle Bayaa Uzuri

“Stay Schemin”, the motto of T-shirt company, Ten90Two, LLC, is more than a tagline. It is a slogan that is meant to empower and push one to strive for greatness. Ten90Two, LLC, a T-shirt company founded by Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri, started out as a clever inside joke amongst her best friends. While the actual name of the company had went through changes before Ten90Two was settled on, the catchphrase was always the same: Stay Schemin’. That catchphrase had risen from having to fight an often unjust and rigged system to get ahead. Being a black, queer woman, you are constantly having to fight and work three times as hard in a world that doesn’t see you as equal, and in Joelle’s case, it was the same. Every since Joelle was young, she wanted to work in fashion; specifically streetwear and urban fashion. Joelle went to school and majored in fashion design and immediately hit the ground running, landing her dream job as an 32


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assistant designer for Baby Phat Clothing in 2005. As she advanced her career, and moved from the street fashions of Baby Phat to the minimalist apparel-manufacturing of American Apparel, it was becoming clear to her that there was a glass ceiling that prevented her from truly excelling within the fashion industry. After 10 years of bouncing around to different companies and getting passed over for promotions, Joelle decided it was time to make a change. And that change blossomed into the creation of Ten90Two, LLC in May of 2017. Ten90Two, LLC, is ultimately about representation, visibility, and ownership. The majority of the apparel companies, especially in the streetwear and T-shirt industries, are straight and cisgender centered and owned. Starting this T-shirt company was a chance for Joelle to change that narrative, and show that urban fashion and street fashion is universal. While working in the industry offers stability, starting and building Ten90Two, LLC, from scratch has afforded Joelle the type of freedom, ownership, and limitless possibilities that the fashion industry was incapable of giving. While many are looking for overnight success or to be that instant sensation, Ten90Two is more about organic growth. Starting out with just a T-shirt and hoodie, the line has blossomed into two capsule collections, with men’s and women’s styles, as well as kid’s offerings. While the company’s line continues to expand its offerings, Joelle continues to show that if you don’t have to scheme within any situation that doesn’t offer you the respect, validation, or recognition you deserve. If you “stay schemin’” and create your own, you will no longer need to seek that validation from the outside world, and that respect and recognition will truly be yours.

Hawwaa Ibrahim On Activism And Fashion Written By Jasmine D. Lowe Photography: Nyasabit Makuach

Hawwaa Ibrahim is a queer, nonbinary Muslim fashion designer who has been featured in Teen Vogue, Seventeen Mag, Marie Claire, and Season Two of Project Runway Junior. Her brand “Because” (b | c) is a brand with a mission to showcase an alternative viewpoint in fashion and provide technicolor clothing and accessories for those who were born to stray from fashion norms.

Jasmine D. Lowe: So, I was looking at your site and you describe yourself as both a designer and an activist. I kind of wanted to talk about some of your work as an activist. Hawwaa Ibrahim: I usually, when it comes to my activism, try to focus on being a POC and a Muslim and also queer. Those things don’t traditionally go together. I used to blog for about five years until I stopped back in June. I used to make sure I interviewed people who were POC and had any connection either as an ally or were part of the LGBTQ plus community 33

Hawwaa Ibrahim to show more representation and hopefully get their voices out there.

Especially from what you see on TV. Yeah maybe I was brainwashed, but so far so good.

JDL: That's awesome. So, you essentially did what we are trying to do at the Q26 on your own site. That's totally outside of designing. Like you mentioned that those are three totally different things, but it really seems to work for you.

JDL: That's good. I'm glad it's working out. I actually wanted to talk about your brand. “Because,� and how you came up with that name and what, what you think it represents.

HI: I think for me when it comes to trying to incorporate activism inside of design, it is pretty hard. Especially with designing, it takes a lot out of you in the first place and then you could have a specific inspiration for it. But it's always so hard to get inspiration that's as specific as the LGBTQ plus community for example. Unless you put a huge rainbow flag on the garment and sometimes it's not going to look the best. So it's really hard. I'm still trying to work on that, but in the past, I've done interviews and wrote about it. For my fashion, I just tried to make sure everyone knows that I am a POC queer Muslim designer. JDL: So, you're originally from Minnesota. What made you make the move out to New York? HI: Well, I was born in Chicago but I moved here when I was four and so living here has just, I live in a small town to Minnesota let me add that. I realized coming back, cause I'm on break right now and I'm back in Minnesota. I noticed coming back that it's a lot more racist than I thought it was. I guess when I was younger I didn't really fully comprehend it. So I made the transition to New York from Minnesota. I would say Minneapolis is a big city and they have a pretty good fashion scene so far and they're trying to grow their art scene. Of course, there's also going to be less racism up there since it's so diverse. But from where I am way down South in Minnesota, I decided to move to New York because I just wanted more opportunity, especially when it came to fashion. I was just getting sick of the whole small-town mentality. Even when I used to dress here, I used to get picked on and I was like, no, I think I need to go to New York. 34


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HI: I came up with that name, "Because," a lot of (pun intended) people always asked me, especially when I was younger, so he was living here in Minnesota. It'd be like, Oh, why are you dressed like that or why are you wearing that today? Or why does your makeup look like? I always questioned after question instead of just accepting me for who I am and in the past, I would have all these excuses like Oh well I don't know or just be shy it or like not as confident but now it's just like it's because I want to and so that's kind of where I got the name. "Because" I haven't needed an explanation and no one needs an explanation when people are asking them weird questions like that, I don't need to explain it. HI: In the beginning, my first products where these berets that I decided to do for charity. One because I absolutely love berets, and two it can be shared with women's homeless shelters because I had experienced that in the past when I was younger. In my transition from Chicago to Minnesota, I was homeless with my family for three months. I was four years old and now that I am in a stable situation I decided to use opportunities for the first product to be a cause since that situation made me who I am today and I don't think I would've been as hard of a worker as I am now if it wasn't for that. I wanted to connect those two things I hold near and dear to my heart. I donated 20% of the proceeds to two different homeless shelters. There's one in Minnesota and the other one was in New York since I've now started living there. I just spoke with them and split the money that I made from the berets. That ended January 4th. Now that that's over I am just doing clothing that I would wear myself.

Hawwaa Ibrahim JDL: I was actually gonna ask about those berets because they're really cute. I didn't know they were for charity. HI: Thank you. JDL: I also wanted to talk about the whole the Downside Up collection, the name, and what it’s about. HI: Honestly, it just came to me when I was trying to figure out a new collection. At first, I had everything already planned, where, everything was going to be like flipped upside down and like the rainbows and umbrella and the smiley faces. I didn't her name to it yet. And I'm like, well they're all upside down. I was like that's boring so maybe like downside up cause it means the same thing. No one ever uses that. So it was really no kind of realization. I just made it up. But the whole concept of it, there isn't once set inspiration, I don't think for it. I just really wanted this collection to be less serious than the berets were because the berets were for homeless women and their children. It's a big deal. With this [Downside Up collection] it's just something for entertainment, if people want to look silly, I guess they can. That's why everything's flipped upside down. It's mostly just for people who are out of the ordinary. I find that a lot of people who wear my clothes are kind of like me who are just like a little strange. So it's for the strange individual. JDL: So I do notice, and I really appreciate that as well, that you name your clothes as being all-inclusive and a brand for everyone. Is that the driving mission behind a lot of your collections? HI: Yeah, I think so. I feel even though a lot of my clothing does look, I don't want to say traditionally feminine, but I guess since there are skirts and dresses and color is usually associated with biological women, it doesn't have to be. That's why I try really hard to emphasize that it is supposed to be inclusive and that anyone can wear it. I feel like a lot

of biological men do get turned off by color because there are not a lot of other biological men who are also for color. Nowadays you can see that the youth is kind of merging into that, but it's still something that's not talked about that much in the fashion industry. I feel like a lot of people who are trying to do gender-neutral clothing usually have this beige, black, white and dark blue color scheme. I'm like I don't think everyone wants to wear those colors. Let's get some color in here for all of the people who want to wear it. So pushing for more inclusivity within the fashion industry, I think that people need to realize it doesn't have to be one set way to do it. You can totally do the whole beige route, but you can also provide different options for people who want to look different. That's basically what I'm trying to achieve. JDL: This is a question that I ask of everybody when I'm interviewing them, but what advice do you have for individuals, especially queer people of color who want to break into the fashion industry? HI: I would definitely say don't compare yourself to anyone. I feel like a lot of people going to fashion school have a tendency to do this. Don't compare yourself. People who see other people who look like them within the industry grasp onto them for a quoteunquote inspiration or comfort. They say, oh my stuff has to look like them because they're POC, they're famous, and they're one of only a few famous fashion designer POCs. So I have to have my stuff look like their's or I can't make it. I feel like a lot of people think that way and they're overthinking their designs. You have to trust your gut and just sew, sew, sew, design, design design, even if you're a really bad sewer. Look up some YouTube videos. That's how I learned. You'll get there eventually, and just be yourself. Most cliche advice ever, but be yourself and don't compare yourself. It just takes time, but you just have to relax and wait and everything will work out.


Leon Wu

The Art of Looking Sharpe: How Sharpe Suiting Delivers Memorable Experiences Written By Jasmine D. Lowe

Leon Wu is the founder and CEO of Sharpe Suiting, an inclusive luxury suit brand outfitting anyone, regardless of who you are or how you identify. The custom-designed and tailored suits have adorned models in New York and LA Fashion Week catwalks and made appearances on red carpets at the Oscars, Emmys, and Cannes Film Festival. They have also been able to donate nearly 100 suits to LGBTQ youth centers, non-profit fundraisers, colleges, and queer prom students across the country to help benefit the community.

would read the magazine. It was interesting because at the time people saw me as a little girl, but I loved reading about men's fashion. I already knew from a very young age that my identity was different than other people, other students, and my peers. I was reading this book by Kate Bornstein where she talks about gender identity and identity in general as being a precursor to fashion. We get up every morning, we choose what we want to wear, we style ourselves based on how we feel and how we identify.”

“I've always kind of been into fashion and beauty ever since I was little,” said Leon about their upbringing. “As soon as GQ was out I

Leon Wu never knew that they would start a fashion company. However, in business school at NYU, they were a big part of creating



Spring 2020

Leon Wu a luxury retail club and immersed themselves in the industry. Styling people for masculinity became a hobby of Leon Wu’s after joining a drag king troupe called The Lost Boys when they were 21. They performed for 15 years on and off and also participated in a second drag king troupe called the Beauty Kings. They had a hand in developing costume design for both troupes and learned about fashion through identity, gender identity, and fashioning masculinity. Leon’s first name actually came from the drag name they gave themselves in the first troupe for their clothing brand, they borrowed from their experience in their second drag king group, taking the last name and aspects of their drag king character, Trey Sharpe. “Trey Sharpe was the name that I came up with, and the reason why I chose that name is that Trey in the group was the one who was more fashion-forward. He was always wearing suits. He was kind of an intellectual. A lot of that which I formulated into, not just from my own personality but also Trey Sharpe's character as a drag king flowed into the brand. It naturally progressed that Sharpe from Sharpe Suiting came from Trey Sharpe's last name.” “A lot of people thought that the reason why I chose Sharpe for Sharpe Suiting was that if you look up Sharpe in Urban Dictionary it actually says something like male or female or a person from higher upper-class society,” Leon continued. “It also means someone who's distinctly different but in a positive way. My marketing director, Marcia Alvarado, actually thought that's why I named it that. I think a lot of whatever inspires people is what the brand is because this company really is by and for the community. I mean that in an all-inclusive way. If a cisgender man wants to come to wear our clothes we’re totally inclusive about it, but it's not made for that person.”

blew my mind,” said Leon. “It surpassed my expectation of what could make me feel confident and comfortable in my own authentic and high-quality suits, and I wanted to bring that back to my community.” Leon Wu aimed to bring the experience they had while traveling abroad back to their community at home. It became more than a group of talented custom suit makers and tailors. It became an opportunity for the community to have life-changing experiences. “The core goal is to build confidence in our clients,” Leon continued. “What we're doing is co-designing a suit or a style with them. We're working on selecting their fabrics, the style of the suit, the cut the details, the trims, and you’re working with them to build their best selves. It's a collaborative effort and we certainly would want people to feel very fulfilled, which they do when they come out. The process takes anywhere from one to three months. Three months if they’re wedding clients preferably cause we'll make sure we get it absolutely right. But by the end of it, it's not just they walk out with a suit that fits them nicely that they identify with, it's this experience that they got to create themselves with somebody who's an expert stylist or designer at Sharpe Suiting. It's something that they'll remember for years or a lifetime.” You can learn more about Leon Wu and Sharpe Suiting by visiting their website at sharpesuiting.com.

Leon made do with the best that could fit them and their style until they finally got themselves a custom suit that fit them while traveling in Asia. “I got my first custom suit in Asia and it just 37

Written By: Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri

Currently, the fight for LBGT rights and civil liberties wages on in the Supreme Court and courts around the country. The actual laws, especially those surrounding the gender expression of the LGBT community, are complicated and the history behind them is equally as difficult to dissect.

Laws Against Drag

The “three-article rule” (or “three-piece law”) was the most common law that specifically targeted the queer community. The law, popularized by law enforcement in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, stated that one must have on at least three articles of clothing from their assigned sex (at birth), or they would be arrested (Ryan, 2019). This law targeted any gender expression that didn’t fit into the stereotypical boxes of the gender binary. However in most cases, and many areas, this law never actually existed. Laws criminalizing cross-dressing date back as far as 1845 in New York. One of the oldest laws stated that it was a crime to have “one’s face painted, discolored, covered, or concealed… or to be otherwise disguised… while on the road or public highway.” The law was originally intended for farmers who dressed as Native Americans to evade tax collectors. However laws like this, oftentimes referred to as “masquerade laws,” gave the police a perfect tool to attack the growing LGBT population.

The anti-LGBT rhetoric and contempt was sweeping the nation. Police would use the masquerade laws to arrest people around their gender expression and variance. However, because the law itself isn’t about cross-dressing (the law is intended to criminalize ‘costumed dress’ as it is used to cover up another crime), people had to be released. That release was short-lived, as it would often result in a swift re-arrest for another, unrelated crime. Even with the conviction of the other crimes, the courts would make it a point to inform that the conviction and punishment was directly related to their gender non-conforming dress. This applied to both men and women of the time. Women in the early 1900s often cross-dressed to find employment, as many employers banned women or practiced extreme, sexist discrimination. When they were found out, these women would be harshly punished. Trans men, due to strong misogyny and transphobia, were always lumped and punished as cross-dressing, cisgender women.

Los Angeles was one of the first cities to enact a specific law, The Anti-Masquerading Ordinance of 1889, to purposely intimidate and discriminate against the community (Patton, 2018). This was the city’s attempt to crack down on the growing, visibility of the LGBT community. The masquerading ordinance was compounded by the 1915 California State Penal Code 288a (which made oral sex a felony) and the criminalization of sodomy (a felony since 1850) as an assault on being LGBT.

As the war on LGBT people waged on through the early 1900s, arrests based on the old masquerade laws increased, becoming commonplace throughout the country. While it is hard to pinpoint, most recount the 1940s-1960s as the time that the “three-piece law” was enacted. While the law was never on the law books or in any legal procedural manuals, it has been assumed that either this law was a rule of thumb police subjectively used, or a code the community used to warn others.


Laws Against Drag

The unofficial law had many ramifications and a rippling effect throughout the community. This law gave police free reign to raid gay bars and clubs and hassle the patrons. Many patrons were in the closet, and often feared the growing police attention. While the police would round up and arrest the gay men and transgender women who were in violation of the law, it lead to heightened harassment of lesbians and trans men. Police would check the underwear of lesbians and trans men to verify their sex, resulting in public sexual assault and humiliation. The growing tension and persecution from the police was constant. By the 1960s, the public saw the queer community as a threat to law and order and an attack on the moral values of American society. Gay clubs and bars, now seen as safe spaces and havens for the LGBT community, were routinely targeted by the police. In New York City, it was commonplace for The New York Liquor Authority to close bars and establishments it knew of or even suspected of serving and catering to LGBT people. It was this escalation that led to what has been infamously coined as the Stonewall Riots. The riots started out as a routine raid when police targeted the Stonewall Inn, a popular bar in Greenwich Village. Police started their usual task of lining up the people of the bar. Anyone violating the “three-piece law,” most of whom were trans women, drag queens, and butch lesbian patrons, were lined up to be arrested, with the police being especially aggressive with one of the women. this sparked unrest



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within the growing crowd, who was tired of the police harassment and violent, hostile treatment. The patrons and crowd rebelled back against the police in an uprising that changed the scope of police treatment and birthed a gay liberation movement that would sweep the nation. After the Stonewall Riots, cross-dressing arrests dropped significantly. While there were still some arrests, it was nowhere near as widespread. The “three-piece law” was informally dropped toward the LGBT as time went on, however, the masquerade law would pop up again in a different form in 2011, against the Occupy Wallstreet protestors. Many states and cities have only recently begun looking at and repealing these outdated laws. As we enter a time where every unjust law is being called into question, the community fights to rewrite the laws and rewrite our future.

Works Cited Patton, A. (2018, October 15). A War on Cross-Dressing: Los Angeles’ Anti-Masquerading Ordinance of 1889 Targeted the Growing Queer Population of Los Angeles. Retrieved from Pride LA: https://thepridela.com/2018/10/a-war-oncross-dressing-los-angeles-anti-masqueradingordinance-of-1889-targeted-the-growing-queerpopulation-of-los-angeles/ Ryan, H. (2019, June 25). History Stories. Retrieved from History.com: https://www.history. com/news/stonewall-riots-lgbtq-drag-three-article-rule

Written By: Cobretti Williams

I recently sat down to watch the Aaron Hernandez documentary on Netflix. Knowing minimal details about his case beforehand, I assumed it would be another sports documentary that upheld everything I knew about football and toxic masculinity. Three episodes later, while much of what I believed was affirmed, the detailed trauma of Aaron Hernandez was front and center, including alleged reports that he was a closeted gay man that hid behind a public persona.

Revisiting the Closet

Although relatable in some sense, I could not help but focus on the way sexuality and queer identity was portrayed in the documentary, and not just by Aaron himself, but the people that were near and dear to him in his life. Despite the slow immersion of LGBT culture

into mainstream society, the closet remains a state of being with severe consequences for even the most famous celebrities and athletes.

The process of coming out, though glamorized in many social media spaces, is still a tenuous experience for many people. On the outside, it seems Aaron had a conventional background, growing up in a two-parent home with relative access and social capital in Bristol, Connecticut. As the first episode revealed, this was far from the case. In addition to growing up in a home that experienced domestic violence, Aaron also explored his sexuality with other boys in his high school. However, knowing that his father and community were homophobic and politically conservative, this part of Aaron that would be hidden for the remainder of his life. This was also a key part of his socialization, one that kept him in the closet and contributed to his belief in negative stereotypes about LGBTQ people, repeatedly referring to some gay inmates in his prison as “faggots” or trans individuals as “things.” As research shows, expressing hate towards queer people and denying homosexuality are common behaviors



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for individuals struggling with their sexuality. Aaron’s family and his upbringing are but one piece of Aaron’s behavior. Though he was an exceptional football player, off the field, there was an immense expectation to perform

masculinity and heterosexuality. Ryan O’Callaghan, a former professional football player for the New England Patriots, said, “I learned pretty quickly that people, especially in my town, would never look at a masculine football player and think he’s gay. My beard was football...football is a very masculine sport and I relied on a lot of the stereotypes of a football player. “ Though there are many LGBT athletes across different sports, it is still a taboo topic in professional football. In 2014, Michael Sam became the first openly LGBT football player in the NFL. However, he was later cut in the preseason and most suspect a large part of this was due to the media attention surrounding his sexuality and the desire of NFL coaches and owners to maintain the status quo. Despite appealing to all the characteristics of a typical football player, his openness about his sexuality likely led to his downfall. Thus, it is incidents like this that keep most players like Aaron or Ryan in the closet, making the choice to suppress their identity or risk losing everything they’ve worked for. Even in the midst of messaging from his community, coaches, and fellow athletes, part of what remains unknown is what mental

Revisiting the Closet

anguish Aaron might have suffered while in the closet. In addition to coping with repressed feelings about his sexuality, he also suffered multiple concussions throughtout his career that created irreparable damage to his brain and cognitive functions. In the

documentary, Dr. Ann McKee diagnosed Aaron with Chronic Trauma Enzcephalopathy (CTE), a condition that erodes the frontal lobe of the brain that is responsible for judgment, decision making, and cognition. Whether or not this was the cause of violence Aaron inflicted on those around him, his pension for harm and aggression towards others created a dangerous environment, particularly when under duress about sensitive topics such as sexuality. Ultimately, Aaron committed suicide, and while it was a tragic end for all parties, there is still a question of whether his sexuality was the reason for his death. Depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation are also common experiences for people that have not found a different way of coming to terms with homosexuality. While reports allude that may have been the case for Aaron, unfortunately, we will never know.

homophobic or heteronormative views, coming to peace with your identity exists on a timeline that rarely fits what society or community thinks. The documentary of Aaron Hernandez is the story of a disturbed and violent individual. Conversely, it is also a

perfect portrayal of how the closet can create dangerous and life-changing situations. Rather than lean into the compulsory nature of coming out of the closet, I am hopeful we can all learn to honor and respect the trauma, experience, and the time it takes to be who we authentically are.

As I processed the documentary, the heinous crimes Aaron committed, and the lives he impacted, all roads led back to the closet. The process of coming out, though glamorized in many social media spaces, is still a tenuous experience for many people. Whether you were raised in a conservative household, played a hyper-masculine sport, or adopted


Written By: Elizabeth Tzagournis

I grew up in the church. The Annunciation Columbus Greek Orthodox Cathedral is where I found my faith and family. Most everyone I knew attended that church. As the oldest of six kids, I come from a large family. My extended “Big Fat Greek” family is even larger. Most Sundays they filled the pews. I couldn’t make it to my seat without a dozen greetings and a big hug and kiss from each Yiayia and Papou. Every Labor Day weekend we held our famous Columbus Greek Festival. Greeks and nonGreeks alike arrived by the thousands. They came for a bite of baklava, a shot of ouzo and to enjoy the traditional Greek dancing. I performed for many years alongside my sisters, cousins and friends. Sweating through 44


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our headpieces, we’d race inside for a piece of tiropita after each show. Those are some of my happiest childhood memories. I still smile when I think about the nights spent Greek dancing in the middle of downtown Columbus. The Greeks are a loud and passionate bunch. Whether constantly smothered with kisses or enveloped in big hugs, I grew up feeling and hearing that I was loved. I never worried that would change. As college approached, I began feeling some type of way about the girls around me. I wasn’t sure what it meant. Luckily, these feelings were easy to stifle. I always felt comfortable in my skin as a very feminine girl who didn’t date much but still had crushes on the boys. I didn’t see that changing anytime soon. Crisis averted.

My Big Fat Greek Coming Out Story I started attending university and the feelings were even more pronounced. I could no longer deny my curiosity. I decided to pursue my attraction towards women. I convinced myself that once I kissed a girl, I’d check off that box and move on with my life. As you may guess, life rarely goes as planned. As the years continued, my attraction to women only grew. After graduating I moved to Los Angeles and dated women almost exclusively. My parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins (and everything in between) were my biggest cheerleaders when I moved to LA. They encouraged me through my tough first job on a daytime talk show and getting my phone stolen from my purse at a West Hollywood bar. They cheered me on while having absolutely no idea how this crazy Hollywood industry works. I felt supported, encouraged and loved, yet I worried that if they really knew me everything would change. I was building my life on the west coast. I attended and hosted queer events. I formed a community of queer friends and felt confident in my identity. I even briefly dated a woman. My life was moving in the right direction but I felt I was leaving something behind. My faith and my family were always the most important. I’d finally fully accepted myself and worried that I couldn’t have it all. In Christmas 2018 everything changed. On the way to church my mom called me out. “Do you have something to tell me?” she asked. I denied it at first but finally relented. I came out to my mom in my church parking lot — the place that sparked so much joy and confusion. The revelation wasn’t groundbreaking for her.. Yet in that moment it’s true, my life started looking very different from that of my three sisters or two brothers. Could I get married in the church I grew up attending and where my parents also tied the knot? These were some of the adjustments to the life everyone thought I’d lead.

and my grandparents. A year later I told my extended family. A weight I didn’t realize I’d been carrying was finally lifted. I never thought I would lose their love but instead worried that no one would see me the same. Instead, I’m glad they don’t see me the same because now they know me for who I truly am versus who I convinced myself I was. My Big Fat Greek reveal resulted in calls, texts and Snapchat and Instagram messages in which my family supported and encouraged me in the same way they always had. I even got a card in the mail where my aunt called me brave and confident for knowing who I am and sharing it. From 2,300 miles away I could feel the love (though I was spared the hugs and kisses). My family is largely conservative and religious. Yet they still accepted me with open arms. We try to communicate with grace. I know they’re trying and that’s all I can ask. Recently, my dad started reading God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines. A year-and-a-half ago I never would have believed that was a possibility. I’m passionate about advocating for God in the queer community and advocating for queer people in the Christian community. I know that I’m so loved by God and that He doesn’t make mistakes. I do think He has a wild sense of humor though. When I walked into church with my mom after coming out to her, I felt like God was laughing. He always knew who I was, so it was about time my mom knew too. I realize I’m very lucky to have a family who chose to love me rather than judge or condemn me. It’s not always easy to accept yourself and share it with the world but I promise it’s a much better alternative to living a lie.

Surprisingly though, I wasn’t disappointed. My mom finally knew who I really was. Soon after that I told my dad, the rest of my siblings 45

Written By: Camille Ora-Nicole

“I’ve decided that I’m in love with North Hollywood.” That was one of the first things I said to my wife when I got home after the second magazine shoot of the weekend, featuring fashion designer Timeekah Murphy. In the last six months or so, I’ve spent more time than ever in North Hollywood, Silverlake, and the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District. The Q26 team hosted shoots and meetings across these locations, in the comfort of coffee shops that could only exist in places where millennial creatives milled about as if the world was theirs to take (and indeed, it is.) However, that particular Saturday my attraction grew exponentially. Tiffany (our Head Producer) and I decided to meet after the shoot to go over scripts for a web series that we’ll start sometime in the summer. We headed to the Republic of Pie first but failed to find a seat among the other screenwriters,

designers, musicians, and the like. On the way to the nearby Starbucks, we encountered photographers and people who seemed to pay close attention to their hair (the messiest hair requires the most care.) After our little meeting, where we offered our additions to the melee of creative thought buzzing in the air, I went on my way to find sushi and blended in with more young creatives. When I finally made it back to my car and started driving around in search of a freeway, I saw a drag queen and their team walking across the street with gear in hand. Seeing them was the last straw. My heart burst open and I came to understand that no matter where my physical home was, this place, this mecca was my true home. That was where my little geeky heart belonged. Creativity is a force to be reckoned with. It can transform entire cities if you let it. I’m not alone in thinking this - Richard Florida

The Power of the Creative Class wrote an entire book called “The Rise of the Creative Class” dedicated to that concept. I believe wholeheartedly that cities should encourage the arts to flourish instead of letting big businesses take root and reap financial benefits at the taxpayer’s expense. Encouraging the arts encourages flexibility, experimentation, and organic growth in terms of small businesses (and yes, artisanal coffee shops). If done right, the arts also encourage diversity, both in art form and in population, and can become a solution for our employment and housing crises. Some will argue that by encouraging the creative class to take root in a city, you promote gentrification. I argue that gentrification isn’t a bad thing if you handle it appropriately. When a city provides tax cuts to big businesses without putting protections in place to ensure the wellbeing of the citizens and small businesses that call that city home, you get the kind of gentrification that pushes low-income, small businesses, and renters out - —an example being San Francisco. However, encouraging affordable housing development, giving tax cuts to small businesses, creating grants for artists, and ensuring that the growth in tax revenue goes straight back into the communities that the city is meant to serve...that alleviates any negative effects of gentrification and encourages improvement and diversity.

experiencing homelessness by providing jobs and opportunities in fields in which the most important requirements are a willingness to learn and a desire to experiment. This idea isn’t an unrealistic one. Two things have to exist in order for it to happen: friendly city policy and entrepreneurs willing to take the plunge and build what they imagine in the cities that are most dear to them. Creatives with an eye for business can call into existence places that help ease the world’s ills. These places can exist as headquarters for activists, places to show films, training centers, residencies, diners and cafes, libraries, bookstores, and more. These places can foster the culture of a city and create even more to be proud of. Culture and heritage don’t only exist in the old; they also exist in new things grown out of a firm, supported foundation. I would like to move to North Hollywood. However, I am just as likely to want to move to any city with a creative center that aligns with my particular desires and beliefs. The task ahead of the creative community is to foster the growth of these cultural centers in our cities, so we can make a conscious choice of where to live, instead of having to choose from a small handful of regions in LA and her adjacent cities. If anyone can make it happen, we can.

North LA and Hollywood, Downtown LA, and, arguably, Santa Monica shouldn’t be the only places with large, thriving bohemian communities. Every city should have its own creative center, filled with affordable and free spaces that can be used by anyone to meet, create, and learn. I love North Hollywood because it has some of those spaces, and therefore a creative community thrives there. But I shouldn’t have to move to North Hollywood to enjoy those amenities. I should be able to move to any city and be able to enjoy a strong creative society—we all ought to be. Not only would a larger array of live/work locations be great for the wallets of creatives, but it would be excellent to city wallets and it could potentially fill the wallets of people 47

For more information about Q26 or how to get involved, email us at: info@theq26.com For information about getting a print subscription to QTYPE magazine, visit: www.patreon.com/q26 Follow Us: IG: @thequeer26 Twitter: /thequeer26 Facebook: /q26 Find us on YouTube at The Queer 26!

QTYPE Camille Ora-Nicole CEO/Creative Director Editorial Managing Editor Jasmine Lowe Copy Editor Sondra Morris In-House Photography Mo McFadden Layout Design Camille Ora-Nicole Contributors Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri Cobretti Williams Elizabeth Tzagournis Administrative Administrative Support Coordinator Soleil Burgess Special Thanks April Chaire Monica Santander Quiet Deviants

Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri Molly Drucker Stuzo

ISSN 2690-604X Fall 2020 Volume 1 Issue 1 Published 3 Times Yearly Q26 Inc. Advertising: info@theq26.com (424) 221-9818 Subscriptions: Digital: www.issuu.com/theq26 Digital + Print: www.patreon.com/q26

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