"When I was in middle school, my mom used to sew prom dresses for my sister and all of her friends, from start-to-finish. That’s how she was making ends meet. Then, one year, I needed some clothes to go back to school. My mom couldn’t afford to buy me any, so she took me to the store to buy some fabric.
That summer she taught me how to make whatever I wanted. If I wanted a pocket on my shirt, I made it. If I wanted to change the color of my sleeves, I did it. Over time, I just got really good at it. So, when I wasn’t playing sports, I would be at home hittin' the sewing machine."
"It got to the point where I wanted to have a brand. I didn’t know what to name it, so I spelled my name backwards on a t-shirt. I think I was about 12 years old then. All of a sudden people in my class wanted to buy shirts from me. I got good at making shorts, sneakers, all types of stuff.
I paid for my prom that way; my suit, my car. I was hustling outfits out of my locker; it was crazy, man. I wasn’t really trying to get rich, it just felt good to see my classmates wearing my stuff. To this day I feel the same way.
Once I left high school, I was like, “You know what, I wanna get away from here so that my mom doesn’t have to worry about feeding me anymore.” I didn’t want to be a burden. I left and went to Savannah, Georgia. I went to SCAD, an art school.
18 years old, from Baltimore City. I’d never been to Georgia. I didn’t even know Savannah was a place. It was culture shock. Now what?"
"I've never, ever, ever experienced racism where I'm from. I grew up in a space where we were all Black, so I never felt unequal. But this one day, I was walking across the street with one of my buddies and this man yelled something racist out of his truck at me and I just freaked out.
My buddy looked at me and said, “We’re in the south, bro. This is gonna happen all the time. You gotta change your mode."
So over time, man, I started breaking the mold. I had to. Especially being a Black, straight fashion major. I knew that, instead of being stressed and pointing fingers, it’s time to just do things differently. It's time to embrace where you are. It's time to meet new people. It's time to let down your guard.
And I did… slowly."
"Shortly after that experience I had this one situation happen. I was in an accessories course and we had to partner up. I ended up working with a group of people I didn’t know, and one of them happened to be a gay guy.
I had never been around gay or trans people before… I mentioned something to a girl in the class about being in a group with a gay person and he overheard it. Then the next day I found out that he went to the hospital. He was self-mutilating because he was trying hard to fit in too.
It wasn’t necessarily what I said, but I think it was climactic for him, like the last straw. So, I went to go see him in the hospital and I was like, “Man, I’m so sorry. I don’t hate anyone, I just don’t understand this. It’s new to me. Please forgive me. I love you, man.”
And then something clicked for me. It reminded me of how I felt when I was yelled at by that truck driver in Savannah, Georgia. People just want to be accepted for who they are.
At that point, all of my guards fell. No more walls.
After that, I felt like I was officially a fashion major. I met a lot of people; I made a lot of friends. My best friendships were with people who didn't look like me, didn’t dress like me, didn’t have the same sexual preferences… they were some of the realest and most genuine people I’ve ever met.
Moving forward, it was like one big family for me, and I’m grateful that it remains that way to this day."