Leila

‘My queer identity is my identity in general. I am as queer as I am black as I am female.’ 

Leila’s Queer Look is a pair of tight, high-waisted blue jeans, a cropped halter-neck top that she bought spontaneously in Turkey when her suitcase was lost in transit, a brown leather rucksack, a patterned hoodie and her beloved pair of Air Max 1s. The latter two components were integral wardrobe staples for the best part of three years, worn to sixth form every day until they could be worn no more. Leila’s years at sixth form weren’t the happiest time of her life, she admits. Wearing clothes that she felt comfortable in, however, was one part of her day-to-day life that did make her smile; hence why these pieces are still important to her now. ‘I really do believe that looking good and feeling good in your clothes affects your level of happiness,’ Leila tells us. ‘I think clothes really impact how you feel.’ 

Leila struggles to summarise her style in a nutshell; she’s just drawn distinctively to anything that she feels encapsulates her and her identity as a queer woman of colour. ‘You could wear somebody else’s ugliest combination of clothes but if you’ve chosen your outfit with all your heart and soul there’s no way it could go wrong.’

And her influences? Well, she grew up watching Charmed, for starters – and the clothes that her mum and nan used to wear when they were young have always inspired her. Practicality is also key – feeling comfortable and warm is of the upmost importance. In terms of self-presentation, Leila’s not governed by strict conventions, though there is one rule; every time she goes through a break-up, she must get a new piercing. Now, she’s adorned with roughly 20 piercings – and admits to being slightly addicted. It’s about freedom: ‘You put a hole through your body and then you can put whatever you want through that hole. It’s your choice.’

On moving to Brighton, Leila didn’t initially engage heavily with LGBTQ+ nightlife or social spaces, because she felt that they were an almost exclusively white domain; in her experience, the difference between being a queer person of colour in London and a queer person of colour in Brighton is stark. She transitioned from living in the capital, feeling secure in her blackness and perhaps not so comfortable in her queerness, to feeling safe as a queer person but far more conscious of her blackness in Brighton. Moving down to the seaside city has been an interesting combination of positive and negative experiences, Leila feels – but totally necessary. ‘It’s been a period of growth. It’s been necessary. You can’t always be completely comfortable and sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone to live life, to grow and to become resilient.’

 

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