Alok Vaid-Menon wants to degenerate beauty. Will you help them?

Writer, performer, activist and designer Alok Vaid-Menon reflects gender, self-expression and the need to reshape beauty. As Sam Escobar said.

When I wake up in the morning, I ask myself: How do I feel today? It’s less about physical location or where I’m going, and more focused on emotional location. And from here I get dressed.

I live in New York – the place where my girl Loop the Loop, a sex worker from the early 20th century, was constantly walking in full glory. People knew that non-gender conforming people were an integral part of cities like ours. And now they have the audacity to say it I am new in the media? (What media do you consume, darling?) Looking at the history of this country – all the outfits, all the aesthetics, all the ideas and ways of being came from our shows and then pushed into Hollywood and mainstream fashion. I’m not new, nor are other people like me; I am part of a historical tradition that has been systematically, deliberately suppressed.

I like it when people in my city watch. I like seeing people who are different every day and people don’t even blink. He gives me permission to wear what I want and not to be afraid of being considered a weirdo. Or, rather, in New York, we’re happy with the lunatics – and that’s good. I like being part of a mass of people. This makes me feel less lonely (emotions that I try to prevent others from feeling). I like it when things are open late; those night runs for food are essential for me. There really is nowhere else in the world where I can live – a theory that was reaffirmed during the early restrictive periods of locking.

I grew up in Texas, where countless amazing communities, cultures, subcultures, artists and activists live – and right now some of the strictest legislation against LGBQTIA + people, especially trans and non-gender conforming youth. Growing up, beauty was something I never felt I could have. I think I had a deeper and more intimate relationship with ugliness. [Beauty would] feel like a failed project. No matter what hairstyle I wore or what I wore, I had no control over the indelible reality of my upbringing. I was brown and hairy and weird and non-gender conforming and all those things that were “bad”. I didn’t know anyone who looked like me, who felt like me or thought like me, so I was created as a remnant of other people’s beauty production: To make them I didn’t have to be beautiful to be.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I made a (perhaps unreasonable) decision to move back to Texas and to my orphanage for almost a year. While many queer people have said that they feel more free to experiment with their appearance at home – far from the potential judgment or malice of those who, however illogical, would upset someone with lipstick, clothes or hair – I have experienced the opposite. Suddenly it was not physically safe for me to present myself as I did. It reaffirmed how powerful and fundamental self-expression at the cellular level is to me. The way I dress is so deeply related to my mental health that it wasn’t until I left and finally felt my breath return that I realized how tight they were.


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