During Pride Month, and every day of the year, we believe in equality without exception. To honour Pride Month, we’re raising funds and sharing stories from LGBTQIA+ members of our community.
First up is Lydia Okello, a non-binary model, fashion lover and digital content creator. Let’s dive in and get to know Lydia!
For our #smashtessfam who aren’t familiar with you, tell us a bit about yourself and your work.
Hello! I’m Lydia. I’m a fat, non-binary fashion person! I’ve been working in fashion for over 15 years, and I write, model and create digital content. My work largely focuses on ethical and sustainable clothing for fat folks, and I think it is important to investigate how intersectional identities affect peoples’ ability to express themselves through clothing. Essentially, I want everyone to be able to feel like personal style is accessible to them, no matter who they are.
You are a celebrated writer who has been featured in publications like Vogue (slow clap) for your pieces on size-inclusive and sustainable fashion. How have you seen the fashion editorial landscape change to focus on these important topics?
I have seen a change, especially in the last 2-3 years. I never thought I’d be talking to Teen Vogue about the state of ethical & sustainable fashion for plus-sized folks. It was absolutely a career highlight. I do feel like fashion is moving very, very, very slowly when it comes to these topics. The climate crisis is here; fat folks have been demanding equal treatment for decades. Where is the urgency?!
How do you like to honour and celebrate pride month?
Being queer, I celebrate my queerness year-round, but it’s always so wonderful to gather with my community during Pride! I always feel happy when I get to celebrate with close friends and large groups. Obviously, that has been tough during COVID, but I am so looking forward to donning my best looks and meeting up at celebratory queer events when we can do so again.
What does your love look like? Feel like? Sound like?
Warmth. I picture laying sleepily with my wife and my cat, and the sun seeping in the window. I’m content, safe, and happy, at least for a moment.
What LGBTQI+ organizations do you like to support?
There are so many great ones! I’m excited about the fundraiser Lauren Sundstrom is participating in this year to help a Transgender Refugee from Iran Settle in Canada via Rainbow Refugee. I also try to donate to mutual aid Go Fund Me & PayPal links when I see them—a lot of queer folks in need will never get huge donation runs, so I would love to see more people spreading money this way. I’m also so in awe of what the Trans Housing Coalition has been able to do—it started as a Go Fund Me and became a full-fledged organization, working to establish long term housing for Trans folks, particularly Black Trans folks.
What does equality without exception mean to you?
It means an equitable future for everyone—Trans folks, disabled folks, dark skinned folks, folks who are sex workers, people who fall outside what the mainstream finds acceptable.
As a digital creator and IG fashion ICON, what is your advice for our #smashtessfam trying to find their own personal style and confidence?
Look at the outfits you like on other people and start playing with replicating them on yourself. Maybe it’s a full look, maybe it’s one item, but that is a wonderful place to start exploring your personal style. Also, please know, life is far too short to not wear what you want. Wear the loud outfit. Wear the tight item. Wear the thing you think is too young, too extra, too whatever. You’ll be happier, and I promise, you look great.
How can brands and public figures better support the LGBTQIA+ community beyond Pride Month?
Learn about the queer community around you. Engage with queer folks, queer issues and the queer lived experience. Not because it’s politically correct, but because it’s worth being interested in. I’d love to see more brands reach out to LGBTQIA+ community creatives year-round. We have so many talents—they don’t need to be limited to one month of the year!
We're so grateful to have you in our Smash + Tess community! Where can readers go to learn more about you online?
Thank you for chatting with us, Lydia! Celebrate Pride Month and #rompwithpride with our limited-edition patches! A proceed of all patch purchases will go towards organizations that support the LGBTQIA+ community.