Feature image courtesy of The What’s Underneath Project
Since 2009, StyleLikeU has been committed to giving people with diverse bodies, experiences and ideas a platform to share their story in their own words. Now it’s an international brand with a new season of The What’s Underneath Project on a subscription website, and that core goal remains. You can watch all eight episodes at Fullscreen with a free 30-day trial. This season features four rad queers who you may or may not be familiar with. They have wildly different experiences, but they each artfully advocate messages of self-acceptance, courage and making the world a better place. Learn more about them, and then check out the episodes! All quotes are from interviews with Autostraddle unless otherwise noted.
Grace is a non-binary writer and activist who has established a brand and work entirely outside the auspices of their older sister. Currently, they are focused on Support.FM, a project in collaboration with Rye Skelton and Blaine O’Neill that seeks to raise funds to provide bail money to trans and gender-non conforming people who need to raise bail and bond money. The platform works in conjunction with numerous grassroots organizations.
Grace was attracted to the style of the project that felt “political while also being intimate.”
“I was excited about the possibility of young queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people seeing my video,” they said. “I don’t claim to have much certainty when it comes to what I am or who I’ll be, but I would have liked to have more role models when I was younger who talked openly about the ways they were lost, especially in terms of gender-expression.”
In their episode, Grace talks about gender, relationships and much more.
Lauren is a fashion model and menstrual health advocate. She lost one of her legs below the knee due to complications from Toxic Shock Syndrome, and she has become an advocate for better research on the chemicals in menstrual products. The experience changed her forever, and her relationship with her girlfriend was a huge motivator in coming to terms with her new body. In her episode, she says she wouldn’t undo the loss of her leg even if she could, because she is doing so much more with her life now.
“Each time [my story] is heard, I hopefully save at least one life if not more,” Lauren said. “It’s my mission, and I’m extremely passionate about it because I do not want anyone to have to go through what I have. It’s been a very long road of recovery and something I have to deal with daily.”
She’s thankful that StyleLikeU gave her a new platform to spread the word about her work.
You might recognize Gaby from her video series Just Between Us, from her life-changing podcast Bad With Money, or from A-Camp 7. She is a rising internet star and a lieutenant (at least) in the ongoing bisexual revolution that has blossomed in 2016.
Gaby said she struggles with insecurity and depression, but that is part of why she decided to take StyleLikeU up on their offer to take part in the series.
“When I was asked to participate, I actually felt honored that anyone would think I had the confidence to do it, and the kind of story that people might be interested in,” she said. “I think I talk a big game about confidence but I’m still an actress and a woman on the internet and comments about my body definitely affect me. I wanted to put my money where my mouth is and challenge myself to actually shrug all that shit off once and for all.”
Crystal is a poet, artist and activist whose poetry is centered on social justice. She has won numerous awards and was NYC’s Youth Poet Laureate in 2015. Her recent book Not Everything Is A Eulogy is available at penmanshipbooks.com. Although she’s used to performing, working with StyleLikeU was a different kind of experience.
“I will admit that I am a little nervous that the interview is out in the world and available for consumption but I am proud of myself for being myself for all to see,” Crystal said. “As a poet, I normally have time to carefully construct my sentences, my metaphors, etc., but here I didn’t have any preparation, and honestly, I don’t think I needed any. We need more spaces for black people, queer black women and femmes especially, to talk openly about themselves with no strings attached.”
Crystal is currently teaching writing and poetry workshops, performing, touring, and preparing for graduate school.