My life is mine. My culture is mine. And I find it comical how you think you’ve made decisions that exempt you from gay culture, when in fact you are dropping lines and making statements that were selected for you…by the people in this room…from Black gay culture.
I ooze gay slayage. My words are punctuated with pops and my drags for filth with finger snaps and wrist bends. I. Am. Culture.
The idea that you can take what I have bled for, died for, been discriminated for, but can’t be powerful for ails me. You have taken my words, Lenethea, and allowed my culture to be relegated to the personality your hair dressers created. You observed my greatness in the mirrors of your MUA, allow my culture to drip from your lips and land in your confessional seat. You weaponize my words to fuel the drama of your so-called-reality. But I’m stuck, simply, as your shade of shameful pink.
When will I step into my freedom? When will my power align with the affirmation of my culture? When can I hair flip and snap and be seen as a magnificent creation of color and not just your gay accessory?
Can not our lives, too, be articulated through both of our languages? Can not we both be powerful? Or can my culture only be translated to the masses through your reality?
Why can’t we both be great, Lenethea? Why can’t you weigh in on the trials of my existence as I pour into the power of yours? Why can’t we matter to conversations that extend beyond the policing of fashion and translate into dialogue about the policing of culture? When do I stop being the feminine fuel for your society and the cast away of my own? When can my life be meaningful in its own right.
Nene, I’m basically waiting for you to see me.
An excerpt from Basically Waiting from the fall edition of US. Our muse, Tendaji Mariatu was photographed by Daniel Edwards (ATL) and graphically put into a wall by our creative director, Rig Rush, to symbolize how Black gay culture supports characters like Nene Leakes.