If I could put it simply, I’ve grown. Spiritually, mentally, and also sexually. I never realized how intertwined all of those moving parts are, until I started owning them all at a high function. For years, I suppressed so much about myself. I suppressed my sense of style, I toned down my demeanor, I avoided my sexuality, and overall was operating at a lower function than my full potential out of fear.
I’ve had different stages of my life when I decide to jump over new hurdles. My first real breakthrough moment was my first year of college. I moved about two hours away from home to go to school, and I immediately realized I was unfulfilled. I was acing exams, involved in the student body, joining new clubs every week, had a solid group of friends, but still feeling like I didn’t have a purpose and doing things just to check the boxes. I came home from Christmas break to my Mid-Western roots of Oklahoma City, and was sitting in a Waffle House at 2am with my four other girlfriends that were all dreamers. We were bitching, complaining, and all wanting something more than we were currently doing. Somehow, it clicked that I actually could take control of where my life was going, and change my situation if I didn’t like it. I went home that night and told my parents I was moving home, getting a job, going to a community college down the street, and saving my money for something more.
I worked a retail job and a serving job at a steakhouse while simultaneously going to college for nearly a year and a half. I worked 60+ hours a week wearing crocs delivering chicken fried steaks covered in chicken grease day after day. I looked like a failure to so many. I had moved home from a good school, was attending a “lower grade” college, and was working my ass off until I could hardly walk.
I went to a small Christian private school my high-school years full of affluent and spoiled kids, many who still haven’t worked a day in their life. Meanwhile, my family my teenage years had hit rock bottom, my father losing his job of 22 years, losing our home to foreclosure, and everyone knew about it. There was always small town petty gossip and comments under the disguise of “we will be praying for you” and “bless your little heart”.
Following me moving back home from college, the petty gossip was flying. The assumption I couldn't pay for my schooling, I failed out, the list goes on, all from people who weren't in my life anymore, but still keeping up with my every move as their entertainment. I would see those same people at my jobs having to serve them, and instead of spitting in their food like I wanted to, I reminded myself that I was on my way to something more, and something great.
I saved money and traveled to Los Angeles, Chicago and NYC throughout this year, and fell in love with the energy that only New York City possesses. I came back home from vacation, went back to my normal jobs and routine, and realized I had found where I wanted to be. New York. I got online, found an internship with Project Runway, and moved two weeks later. I finally was taking a hold of my own narrative, and owning it no matter what. The years of struggle, the grind, the backlash, the being made fun of, all came to a point in that moment, and was finally feeling like my endurance had won.
Accepting myself has been a work in progress my entire life. My sexuality and self-acceptance has always been plagued in my head for more reasons than I can count. Growing up in a Christian home with a strong black preacher as a father, being gay wasn't an option. Going to a private Christian school full of strict and righteous ideals, being gay wasn't an option. Being sexually abused as a child, coming out meant that people would use my trauma to claim it had “changed me”, I “needed help”, and that I was “flawed”. Being gay never felt like an option to me. I knew I was gay for years, and I also suppressed it for years.
When I moved to New York, people never asked me if I was gay, they knew. People I had just met in casual conversation would ask if I had a boyfriend or seeing anyone, and I was always caught of guard because I still hadn't accepted it within myself that I was out living as a gay man. In that same aspect, I felt powerful. I didn’t have to censor myself on who I liked, what my interests were, and how I carried myself. Once again, it was another awakening moment for me that I could walk in my truth and be not only accepted, but happy. For me coming out affected every part of my life. I started dressing the way I had wanted to my entire life without the fear of “looking gay”. I explored with my hair, my look, I accepted the extra bump in my step. My interests and artistic eye began to grow because I wasn’t looking at life through a filter. I felt like if I could tackle my sexuality, there wasn’t anything internally that I couldn’t face head on and defeat.
My body has been the same weight since Jr. High up until this past year. Thin, tall, and lean. I think as humans we have a tendency to glorify the opposite of what we are, and for me, that meant being bigger was more attractive than my small frame. I think for me accepting my body was a forced decision, because it was detrimental to my mental health. Not believing in yourself stunts your growth, and I believe I should be constantly evolving and growing. The more I stopped picking and focusing on every “imperfection”, the more I focused on all of the beautiful things about myself. Mentally being more positive made me see myself in a better light physically. Outer confidence starts with inner confidence and assurance.
I’ve always seen bodies as an entity, a work of art, a painting, yet it took me years to be comfortable with my own, and share that part of myself with the world. The stigma of being too sexual, too aggressive, mixed with being a gay black man, stunted me for years that I wouldn’t be taken seriously. The thing I loathe the most is being placed in a box. I can be analytical, I can be outrageous. I have the ability to take a million dollar business meeting at 4pm with lawyers & doctors, and dance naked in a harness at a club at midnight. Once I realized I don’t have to abide by society’s restrictions, I began moving in a much more fluid, and multifaceted capacity. I have many interests in completely different arenas, and I’m no longer afraid to tackle them all in custom suit & cape combo, or a see-through sling back g-string.
Nudity to me is fashion. I’m critiqued often for being either half-dressed, my models being unclothed, and “not enough” garments being used. A human, a body, someone’s aura and energy is a living breathing unit that can stand on it’s own without anything needing to bring it to life.
Nudity for me can be both casual and sexual. At times, I don’t think twice about seeing or being nude in a causal setting by myself or around others. In another context, I feel there is so much shame around naked bodies, that owning it in its most raw and bold forms can be exciting and thrilling.
I think we’ve all been in a scenario where we’ve had an unwanted erection, whether that be in a locker room, a beach, etc. I’ve found that if I’m in an acceptable environment (such as a gay nude beach), owning that sexual urge and moment is a freeing and powerful feeling. Sexuality should be celebrated not condemned.
My biggest concern about opening up with my body and nudity is being seen as an object rather than a person. Social media is an extremely valuable tool to connect, learn, and share, but it also at times makes people think they “own” you, and are entitled to your body. The more I share, the more “send me the uncensored now” requests I get from people who I’ve never spoken not one word to. Not a hello, not a “how are you?”, only a demand to see my dick, or my intimate self. I think there’s a fine line between appreciating, complimenting, and awing over someone, and completely ignoring them as a human. Everyone should be treated with respect and dignity no matter how much or how little they have on. My naked body doesn’t give you consent. My naked body doesn’t mean I’m easy. My naked body doesn’t negate my self-worth or intelligence.
The biggest thing I’ve learned in the past year is that the less I censor and filter myself, the more fulfilled I am. When you have no boundaries, there is no limit in how high you can go.
Model & Text Colin Anderson
Photographer Pavel Denisenko