Richie Shazam on Pride, Found Families and Fashion

POPSUGAR Presents: Pride Revolution – a series that celebrates the beauty, brilliance and resilience of the queer community. LGBTQ + pride has always been revolutionary in nature, pushing the boundaries of society to be more accepting, more affirmative, and more inclusive. As Pride grows to permeate pop culture, revolution is more necessary than ever to ensure that safety, equality, fairness and inclusiveness remain at the center.

“Pride is a riot,” says Richie Shazam. “It’s a protest. And through art and expression, this is the best way to show it.” Muse designer, image creator, performance artist and activist, Shazam is honoring the pioneering legacy of trans women of color. As trans and nonconforming narratives are starting to take over, she is doing everything in her power to make sure they stay there.

Looking forward to his next directorial debut, Shazam met POPSUGAR for a kiki. But first, we had to discuss his suit: a two-piece yellow brocade toile corset, matching yellow platform boots, and slicked back hair. “We are at the service of fashion and the face today”, he tells us. We would expect nothing less from the front row staple.

“Pride is a revolt. It is a protest. And through art and expression, this is the best way to show it.”

As a pioneer in the fashion space, his resume is legend. First, there’s her bold and lively strut on the runway for the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Staud, Sandy Liang and Luar. When she’s not parading on the runway, she’s sitting front row in head-to-toe designer dresses by Prada, Diesel, Jean Paul Gaultier and Schiaparelli, sometimes alongside celebrity friends like Julia Fox.

He has starred in international campaigns for Calvin Klein, Miu Miu and Marc Jacobs, posing in their artistic designs with his distinctive lightning gaze. And Shazam is also a photographer, making covers for publications such as Interview and 10 magazines. Now, he is once again getting behind the camera to direct his first short film, “Savitree,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in association with Converse. The film serves as an autobiographical insight into Shazam’s journey from adolescence to the present, surrounded by her newfound family.

The self-described “NYC Bollywood Princess” has made a career as a multidisciplinary storyteller. Shazam often inserts himself into her work, taking on characters and evoking fantastic narratives in the wheelhouse of femme artists such as Lorraine O’Grady, Cindy Sherman and Vaginal Davis.

“For me, my escape was built on fantasy,” he says. “We have such a beautiful way of fantasizing and imagining our worlds and the future because we are constantly being given this short amount of time that we are on this earth.” Transgender people are twice as likely to die as cisgender people, according to a long-standing study published in Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. “Our life is cut in half and this forces us to live every day to the fullest.”

Originating from Jamaica, Queens, Shazam says her upbringing in New York inspired her to find the camera and her inner esthete. “New York City is the definitive backdrop,” she says. “I was born and raised in New York and Jamaica, Queens, as a first generation young man just trying to find my way. It was very crucial in showing me alternate realities of how I can exist.”

But he acknowledges his journey was not without its challenges. “Obviously, there is a lot of chaos and it wasn’t easy. It’s very turbulent, a lot of hard work and perseverance, and not just from the work / creation aspect, but just in the politics of identity, building oneself – it’s really creepy. Ho I had to dig very deep to find the tools necessary to exist and New York, in part, helped me with that. “

As millennials tend to do, we somehow move on to astrological signs. “I’m an Aquarius and we love drama,” he says. I tell her I’m a Taurus and she turns on immediately. “Oh my God, great! My mom was a Taurus. My mom raised me and we had such a beautiful and special relationship.” Shazam talks a lot about his relationship with his late mother, Savitree, which is also the title of his upcoming film. Savitree’s death closed the chapter on Shazam’s connection to his nuclear family.

What he is saying is all too familiar to many queer people, whose nuclear families, unfortunately, are not equipped to affirm, see and support them. “I got to where I am today thanks to the power of the found family. They gave me the tools – unconditional love, support, affection, compassion – to be myself, and it wasn’t something I got growing up from my nuclear family. They didn’t have the tools. to give it to me “. This lack of support and marginalization can mean life or death for many, making them vulnerable to homelessness, suicide and crime. This is where found families come into play.

The history of the elected families is a legacy. He thinks of queer literary circles, such as the friendship between James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry; the ballrooms, created to promote safe spaces and operate as elected families; the pioneering Satyrs Motorcycle Club; and the family of “Pose” actors on and off screen Michaela Jaé, Angelica Ross, Hailie Sahar, Dominique Jackson and Indya Moore. LGBTQ + people have been finding their people – their found families – for decades.

“There is such beauty and power in giving queer artist agencies a chance to tell their own stories. Brands must continue to put us in positions of power and let us be the creative directors.”

Shazam speaks fondly of his newfound family. “You know when you meet someone, and your eyes land, and instantly you’re like, ‘I see you and you see me’, and you don’t have to say anything? That’s what I have with my girls after meeting each other. other, “he says. “It was a feeling I’ve never felt before.”

As we are currently in the middle of Pride Month, Shazam has thoughts on the annual tradition. “It’s so intense, like the commodification of the whole month, but I think we have a lot of work to do, like the world in general.”

To echo Shazam’s sentiments, Pride is becoming increasingly commodified, and while visibility and alliance are essential, it’s important to make sure the essence of Pride stays true to its revolutionary beginnings: on the shoulders of trans activists of color. .

Pride is celebrated in commemoration of the Stonewall riots; On June 28, 1969, NYPD raided Stonewall Inn, a queer club in Greenwich Village, New York, and key figures Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and other queer mothers resisted. These demonstrations led to Pride as we know it today.

Representation is important, but representation without fairness falls short. “I think there is such beauty and power in giving queer artists an agency to tell their stories,” says Shazam. “Brands and organizations must continue to put us in positions of power and let us tell our stories. We try to be the creative directors.”

Regarding Pride, Shazam wants to call attention to a critical detail: “I say to all the dolls: ‘Don’t do anything for free in Pride month, period. If someone wants you there, you need a bag.'”

As an epidemic of anti-trans violence continues to plague trans and diverse communities, ensuring their safety is also of paramount importance. “Our safety, protection and ensuring that we take care of us is A) most important and B) should be a priority.”

Shazam also shared advice for queer, trans, and non-conformist youth walking the streets to their truths. “You have to find your community, your girls,” he says. “I think it’s about finding those spaces that affirm your identity and lean into those queer pockets of your society, wherever you live.”

In addition to seeking safe queer spaces, she recommends “focusing on self-affirming things to boost your self-esteem and confidence and explore your faith, creativity, and the sides of yourself that you may fear.”

“Everyone has their own journey, with their own set of challenges, but having a little patience knowing it will get better and trusting your tribe for support – it’s so important.”

Shazam’s short “Savitree”, in collaboration with Converse, will premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival on June 16. The film will screen at select events during Pride Month and the rest of the summer before being released to the public afterwards. this year.