Today I had to bring in some of my most recent work for Advanced Drawing. The professor, Denise, was attracted to the cards that I had made over the summer. We got into a nice conversation about why I chose the certain people on my cards to draw. I mostly drew singers and actresses. I chose Diana Ross, Selena Quintanilla, Solange Knowles, Karyn Parsons, and FKA Twigs. I drew Diana and Selena because of them being musical icons. My mother would play Diana around the house. I would watch The Wiz with my sister and cousins. My sister and I would watch the Selena movie as children with my mom. We would sing along to the songs even though we struggled to sing along to them because they were mostly in Spanish. One of the strongest connections that I have loved and looked up to since childhood is that they were all divas. These were women that paved their own way to extreme success. They came from either nothing or normal middle-class families. Yet they believed in themselves and worked extremely hard to live the life they wanted to live by their own rules. Everybody wants that sense of freedom and happiness in their life. Divas make me believe in this being a possibility. They make me believe that they can get whatever they want whenever they want and will do it with confidence. As a child, I was so fascinated by this and still am in many aspects. They ooze confidence. Drag queens and gay culture has also had a connection with me. Drag queens and gays are forced in a way to have confidence because they have many challenges facing them in American just like us minorities do. Gays and minorities will always have to work harder, assert themselves, have more confidence, and have more fight in them just to get equal rights. This culture led me to the documentary called Paris is Burning. It was filmed in the late 80s in New York City. It focuses on black and latino gay males in Harlem that participate in underground shows called "Balls". Here they have fashion shows where they dress in certain categories such as Banji girls, upper rich society, straight male, college student, etc. They have voguing competitions. This is were voguing was born. They have drag competitions as well. What I really loved about these men was that they had no money, no food, no house, no family because their parents abandoned them for being gay, but they survived and still managed to participate in things that made them happy. They would spend days making their outfits. They had no money but managed to get fabric to make their outfit for the upcoming Ball. They had nothing but did what they had to do to be happy. They always wanted more out of life like to be rich and strived to make it high in the social life of these gay communities. They were never satisfied with their current financial situations, but they were happy that they had what they had, which wasn't much. Balls gave them a sense of community, a family, shelter, food, and everything they weren't getting at home. They were not ashamed of who they were in normal society because they knew that their own personal society were always there for them. They were unapologetic for who they were. Life was very hard for them, but no matter what they were doing they did their best to enjoy their lives. I will always admire divas and gay culture for this relentless shamelessness. It has taken me years and years to build up confidence. I have built up a very good amount of it, but I still have to write constant reminders and affirmations every day to conquer the day. I want to help others do this. Denise suggested that I put a message on the back of these cards. Messages or affirmations about always have the confidence of a diva or drag queen every day. I could sell them or give them to organizations that deal with building up self-esteem, self-confidence, bullying, young minority issues, and LGBT issues with children and teenagers. I would have loved for someone to given me a hand drawn and hand painted piece of art with words of self-empowerment on the back. I want to help others who don't have this self-esteem, self-love, and self-empowerment. I had to do it on my own. Yes, I had my mother, father, and grandparents to help me but they can only do so much before you want to help yourself. So these cards can be a constant reminder for these children who might not have a family to help them. Making art about self-empowerment is going to always be a constant reminder for me as well. I can only gain positivity from this project. This is my new adventure into territory that I've never been in before but I know that only positivity can come from it and I'm very excited to help others.
Here is a link to one of the unofficial trailers for Paris is Burning: