“Yes, because that’s really what this whole multibillion-dollar industry is all about, isn’t it? Inner beauty.”
–The Devil Wears Prada
Individuality and inclusivity have long been banners here at Seattle Central. Everyone is welcome here, and we are all seen as unique and talented, and afforded the same opportunities to succeed without prejudice or discrimination. As a student here, I am quite proud to be a part of this progressive philosophy and culture. As I walk through the halls of our illustrious campus, I see every walk of life — and every type of self-expression — represented right here in our little community.
I have very strong opinions about things like style, identity and expression. You will have the dubious pleasure of reading some of those opinions on a regular basis, right here, in this column. I’m just getting started. My name is Astro, and I have been given the opportunity to share with you my take on some of the things that I feel passionately about. I don’t know what they were thinking when they asked me, but here I am anyway. Sorry, not sorry. So buckle up for safety. This might be a bumpy ride, and I’m uninsured.
I’ve always been drawn to the uncommon, the intrepid and the brazen. I am no stranger to distinctive forms of creativity, and my personal style is no exception. Aesthetic self-expression has always been very important to me, and I pride myself on my visual identity. I have always admired anyone who possesses the bravery to color outside the lines in the way they choose to express themselves. It takes guts to go against the grain. There is always the risk of being poorly received by the general public, instead of being admired for having a strong and distinct point of view.
Personal style, like any other form of creativity, is a delicate art form, and it requires risk. Not everyone will appreciate what you have to say, but the true artist does not see this as a concern. Representing yourself unapologetically, regardless of the response you receive, is a cornerstone of true originality. You have to do it for yourself, and let consequences be damned. This, to me, is part of what makes unabashed individualism so worthy of respect. Some of history’s most posthumously revered artists were considered abominations during their lifetimes — often labeled as social pariahs and shunned. Mainstream art critics thought Andy Warhol was a degenerate, superficial crackpot when he was alive, and now his work hangs in the domiciles of the wealthy and influential. Go figure. Persecution often comes with the territory, but if you’re lucky enough to walk through it in one piece, eventually someone may recognize and appreciate your point of view. The important part is that you tell your story and express your truth as you see it, and let the chips fall where they may.
When I was younger and even braver than I am now, I made a decision to walk through that fire of judgment despite the risks. It’s one of those defining moments in life that freed me from the trap of blending in. I haven’t particularly cared what people think of my style since then. It is mine, and I own it. Part of this stance requires that I ignore what other people expect of me, or what’s trendy. I doubt anyone would ever call me trendy, and I wouldn’t suggest it either; some comments are simply unforgivable, and I would have to hurt you on principle of self-respect. However, I’m certainly not judging anyone who does follow popular fashion. Good for you if that’s your thing. It seems exhausting to me to try to keep up with what’s “hot” this season. If you have the energy — and the budget — for that, then I applaud you.
Apparently, florals are in this Spring… again. If I see another rose-printed pastel gypsy skirt touted in the commercials between my programs, I shall surely die. I cannot buy into mass-produced-and-marketed goods that someone who’s never met me decided I simply must have this season. No one consulted me! Thank you very much for your consideration, but I must (not regretfully) decline your invitation to purchase your wares. What a racket! That’s the thing about popular fashion — it’s marketed to us as if these items are supposed to somehow boost our sense of individuality and expressiveness, when in fact they only assimilate us into the throng of “others” all doing the same thing. It’s untenable to me. It belies everything that the term “personal style” is meant to represent. How can it be personal, if everyone in your apartment building has it too? I call that selling out.
I think it is important to distinguish between personal style and fashion, as they are very different animals. I perceive personal style as simply wearing what you love and what represents you on the inside, regardless of influence or ridicule; and fashion as, quite frankly, doing what the social institutions and everyone else tells you is acceptable, appropriate or popular. You see that? Style is distinctive and fashion is conforming. Now, please don’t misinterpret me. I am not going off on an anarchist rant against the “fascist fashion pigs.” Fashion has its place. If you want that paycheck, you should probably follow the dress code of your place of employment, and wear something deemed socially appropriate for the environment you’re in. There’s a reason soccer moms don’t drive their kids to practice wearing a latex catsuit and stripper heels. Not that I would mind seeing that, actually. It would probably make my day. My point is, the next time you see someone like me strutting down the streets in something unexpected or bold, respect it! There’s a lot more going on in there than just being a “weirdo”. There’s a sense of knowing who you are and what you have to say, even in the face of ridicule and disapproval, and doing you no matter what. You’ve gotta have the nerve. It takes guts to defy the system. You’re making a statement, whether it’s popular or not. Even if you don’t exactly pull it off like a boss (I know I don’t always), you were ballsy enough to leave the house like that, to let them see who you are inside, and I think that kind of fearlessness deserves a smile and a high-five. That, to me, is inner beauty. You get ‘em, tiger.
Astro (they/them) is the Editor-in-Chief of the Seattle Collegian, the President of Seattle Central's Queer Cooperative club, a fully-professed Guard with the Sisters of the Mother House of Washington, a social worker and behavioral scientist, founder of Transgender Day of Remembrance at Seattle Central (TDoR), Board Member-At-Large with Diversity Alliance of Puget Sound (DAPS), and a self-identified Queer-Alien-Person-Of-Color. They have won awards for their journalism and community service work as well as for innovation in leadership and academic excellence, and are an active and outspoken advocate and activist for both the LGBTQ+ and recovery communities. They speak regularly at events relevant to these causes, and work closely with their fellows to support these communities. Social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion are their banners, and their belief in the gifts, strengths, and resilience of all minoritized communities is the driving motivation behind their work and their mission: using the powers of journalism, self-expression, creativity, conversation and connection to uplift and foster acceptance for all peoples.