22-year-old fashion communication and styling student, Chanel Baker is using fashion and photography to explore masculinity. Her project ‘ Masculinity in the Gay Black scene’ aims to challenge the stigma of being black and gay.
[Jordan Calver-Moise taken by Chanel Baker]
Despite it being 2018, being gay within the black community continues to be challenging. In the past, the fashion industry has been known to conform to gender stereotypes. The new direction of fashion is blurring the lines between masculine and feminine. Therefore, Chanel’s project looks at reconstructing masculinity by reinforcing masculinist traits on gay black men.
I asked Chanel why she started the series and what inspired her to explore the topic:
What inspired you to start the ‘Masculinity in the gay black scene’ series?
My inspiration came from my brother. Him being a young black gay male in today’s society and him not being able to fit-in; my objective is to break down the barrier and stereotype of ‘homosexuality’. It has occurred too me, that although times have changed and things have become more relaxed, I can’t help but notice that there are certain stigma’s that people can’t stray away from.
Can you explain more about the gay black scene?
Being from the black community myself I am self aware of how members of my own community operate around certain circumstances. People tend to think negatively on gay men especially gay black men, people tend to assume they dress and act a certain way when all in all they are just people.
A gay black man can be a banker, a gay black man can be a roadman, a gay black man can be a family man, can wear make-up and can dress in drag. I wanted to create this series to shed a light on this topic and to help the younger generation who are coming to terms with being gay feel more represented. I wanted to show and represent all types of black gay men and to show masculinity comes in all different forms.
Why is the topic so important for young people today?
I think this topic is so important because for years, society has created this idea that men have to behave in a certain way especially men from the black community. There is this pressure that is added on to men to be brave, strong, masculine, rational, to take care of your women and your family. Anything that counteracts with that, is wrong. It is detrimental for young men to be able to express themselves freely to be who they are without being looked down upon for showing emotion or for acting feminine or for being gay.
Follow Chanel on Instagram @lalaanoire_ to see more from the series!