Meet the young men who are fighting for their American Dream

“Going back is a death sentence.”

So says Adonias Arevalo, a 26-year old undocumented immigrant who, like 800,000 others, may face deportation. Though he’s paid his taxes, grown up in Houston for more than half of his life, gone to an American college, in the eyes of this country, he’s still not legally here.

Earlier this week on Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would be rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It’s an act that President Barack Obama instated in 2012 as a way to protect young undocumented immigrants, who call themselves DREAMers after the DREAM Act of 2001. The act was a legislative proposal that would help undocumented young people find their way into permanent residency.

“We are a people of compassion and we are a people of law,” Sessions said Tuesday. Opponents of DACA, like Sessions, have said for years that the act takes away jobs from American citizens and provides benefits to those who unlawfully entered the country.

“There is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws. The compassionate thing is to end the lawlessness, enforce our laws, and, if Congress chooses to make changes to those laws, to do so through the process set forth by our Founders in a way that advances the interest of the nation.”

For Adonias, who’s worked to support his family since he was 14, this could mean being forced back to El Salvador, a country with the most homicides per capita in the world. It’s the same place where gang members once killed his father. It’s also a place that is virtually inhabitable for queer people like Adonias. With LGBTQ individuals targeted, it’s one of the most dangerous places in the world to be queer.

(Graph courtesy NBC News)

“This has always been real for me and the thought does scare me,” he tells Very Good Light.
The entire erasure of DACA, President Obama’s policy from 2012, would mean he’d go back to a country that does not want him. Under DACA, Adonias was able to graduate from the University of Texas, Houston as well as become a productive member of society. Today, he’s an organizer at the Arizona Dream Act Coalition in Phoenix, where he fights for other immigrants’ rights.
To be eligible, applicants like Adonias had to have arrived in the U.S. before they were 16, lived since June 15, 2007 and could not have been older than 30 in 2012.
DACA allows immigrants like Adonias to become productive members of American society just like the rest of us. They’re given a valid driver’s license, the ability to go to American colleges and gain jobs while also paying taxes. It does not though, give them an easier path to citizenship.

While President Trump recently tweeted all was safe for the next six months he also announced he would terminate DACA completely on March 5, 2018. That means congress has six months to find a solution or to deport all 800,000 completely.

The thought of DACA being overturned makes Adonias and the hundreds of thousands of others feel uneasy. Very Good Light reached out to three young men across the country whose lives would be completely changed with the overturn of DACA. Though they’re from different backgrounds and professions their stories are all the same: they’re fighting for the American Dream. Below, their stories as told by them.*

For more information on DACA visit the government’s own website here.

Adonias Arevalo, 26, Phoenix

(Photo courtesy United We Dream Action)

I left El Salvador when I was 11. There’s a lot of crime there, it’s the murder capital of the world. Your chances of getting killed it huge. Gangs rule the country and they go through cities demanding what they call ‘rent.’ You have to pay them to live there and when they asked my dad one day, he refused. That’s when they shot him. They don’t play no games.

My mom was really afraid to continue living there as she received threats of death on her and my family. That’s when she went to Mexico and crossed the border [into the U.S.]. At that time, I went to live in Mexico as well as it was safer than El Salvador where pastors and churches offered to help me. As an undocumented person, it’s $7,000-$10,000 to have a guide cross you into the United States. My mom saved up money and waited for me in Houston for years to get me across.

I remember that day. She came down to get me as she didn’t want me to cross by myself. There are countless stories of abandoned children at the border. We were with our guide who find times throughout the day where the border isn’t as secure. You cross the river and start swimming and hiding so you aren’t caught. There are many guards who shoot and kill those crossing over. We were lucky when we crossed. It was around 6 a.m. and the border wasn’t secured.

I think that the American Dream is about challenging the system.

I came to Houston and life for the first year and a half was a struggle. I was bullied for many reasons. I also saw how my mom had three jobs and struggled so much to put food on the table. She was also saving to get my sister, still in El Salvador, across the same way.

When I was 14 my mom had an accident with the company she was working with. It was a factory where she was making tortillas. They decided to close and never paid with her and left her with $20,000 in debt. That’s when I started working. I pretended I was 16 and started washing dishes. I worked throughout high school and eventually went to college at the University of Texas, Houston. I graduated with a political science degree.

I think that the American Dream is about challenging the system. It’s about overcoming the struggles and that. I think that’s done through determination and knowing that we live in a broken system and trying to change that. I think that people are against people like me because they haven’t had a conversation to understand what it’s like. People like me don’t leave their countries because the heck of it. There’s no other choice.

DACA makes me feel closer to what I’ve been dreading all of my life. I’m a couple steps towards deportation. I don’t want to be deported to a country is a death sentence. It makes me feel angry as well that we’re living in a moment of white supremacy but it gives me hope that people of color have always been resistant through that.

When you deport LGBTQ folks back it’s a death sentence. Trans women and queer people being killed every day. Countries like mine have made being me a crime. You can be jailed. Our countries don’t have a model system to work with for people who are queer to be protected. When you are deporting people like me, you are condemning them to a death sentence. It’s real for me and it’s always been real.

But I’m hopeful. I have to be. I will continue fighting for justice and educating others on what it’s like as an immigrant.

Kevin**, 26, NYC

My family and I immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea in the early 1990s and have been assimilating to the American culture ever since. One of the biggest hurdles my family and I faced was the language barrier and adapting to the new environment and space around us. I came to the U.S. when I was 4-years old so I can’t say much in regards to South Korea but my first few memories in the States revolved around going to Micky D’s often and being overwhelmed by the diversity in NYC.

After living in the shadows for so long, you sort of want to just get out and feel the sun.

I identify myself as a Korean American and probably always will. I was fortunate to have known my grandparents and so they made sure that I didn’t forget my heritage and my cultural roots. But to answer your question, I felt most “American” when I got myself involved in the movement to fight for comprehensive immigration reform in the early 2000s. I think being able to fight for yourself and the people you care is such an empowering experience.

It’s been 5 years since DACA has been announced by President Obama and it really changed my life. Yes, it allowed me to work legally, get a driver’s license, and other simple things but most importantly, it made me feel “normal” even if it was only temporary. After living in the shadows for so long, you sort of want to just get out and feel the sun. However, besides the benefits I received through DACA, I think it’s very important to highlight the FACT that DACA didn’t just happen because President Obama was being nice one day. DACA was won and earned by people who fought for their rights. 

I am very fortunate that my family has legal status but their immigrant story and pursuit for the American dream is no different from other immigrants who came before us. They taught and installed in me the value of hard-work, resilience, and heart of giving back.

When I heard the announcement two days ago, I wasn’t really surprised. This is something that President Trump promised and he simply doesn’t represent the American value. Regardless, I did feel a lot of bitterness and disappointment from his cruel decision. 

My family is worried for me and my fellow Dreamers but I am staying strong and positive. Myself and the bigger immigrant rights movement is past the stage of feeling fear or feeling apologetic. We are under attack and we will not back down. 

Personally, I never faced an experience where someone told me directly to go back or that I’m not an “American.” However, this is sort of like the situation where if you attack one of us then you attack all of us. So in that sense I feel very sorry for the folks who say those nasty comments because they aren’t the brightest people. So instead of feeling angry towards them I have an urge to educate them. I want to let them know that we came here in no fault of our own and that to the majority of us this is our home. 

What President Trump did was out-of-line and  waged war on the immigrant community. Now more than ever we need to come together and fight for our justice. This is a typical scenario of the big kids picking on the little guys. My advice to anyone who wishes to join the fight then start joining your local community based organizations and contact your local elected officials. Kind words are nice but what we really need is for folks to join us on the streets and be vocal about it. In the end, I am hopeful and I still believe in our government that they will do the right thing. 

Nestor Ruiz, 24, Washington D.C.

I came here in 1998 when I was 5-years old. My family moved to Plant City, Florida where my dad had come on a worker’s visa and started a construction company. My mom was a surgical nurse in Mexico but when she got here, she started cleaning houses and businesses for a living.

I adapted pretty well. To me, everything was great. I was going to school everything was normal. We had the American life. In 2006 on a very early morning I was woken up with my mom screaming from the living room not to get up. I saw flashlights running through house and the lights going to my parents bedrooms. There were two ICE agents taking my dad away from us. It got real for us. My mom was afraid they were coming back for us. We moved and stayed with friends and family members. After a month or so we found out my dad was deported.

After that, I pretty much I can’t say I went through a depression per se, but it was really hard. When I lost my father to deportation I also lost my mom. She had to take more than 3 jobs at a time from cleaning clinics to houses. The only thing I could do was to do well in school. I graduated high school and needed to work so I couldn’t go to college. It was hard not to go to college. I had long conversations with my mother. She wanted me to go to school but I couldn’t not help.

I vividly remember the day when DACA was announced. I can’t even describe the feeling. When I found out about it my friend was watching President Obama in Spanish and there were bullet points that went up with what requirements you’d need. I knew I qualified and thought my life was about to change. But it was an interesting feeling. I was really excited. I was really scared. I knew I qualified but I knew others that didn’t qualify. It was really bittersweet.

The moment when I was turning in my application we were going to a free DACA clinic in my hometown after dinner. I was nervous to sign a paper that could change my life. So I practiced my signature on a napkin over and over again. Signing an application and giving it to my mom was the best feeling in my life. There’s a picture my mom signing that application. My mom got a sense of relief that at least he was not going to get deported.

I haven’t seen my dad in years. We always had communication throughout those years but I could not travel back to Mexico. We talk together on Google Hangouts and through technology. But it doesn’t replace the fact that my life was forever affected. We were all uprooted once he was deported. We lost our house, his business went down. This f***ing sucks, right? But in a way, if that moment didn’t happen I wouldn’t be such an activist and helping with this movement of finding rights for people like me.

When I first heard about the announcement from Trump I was like oh s*** how am I going to tell my mom? But what makes me hopeful is seeing the 100 of thousands of people marching, the 159 events nationwide, seeing all of those photos and taking action support of immigrant community gives me hope. I would like to tell these people they are not alone. They will not stop fighting. There are a ton of resources that will help them out. is one place and there’s going to be a ton of resources there.

But let me just say this: with or without DACA, our community is here to stay. We are here fighting until our undocumented reality is reversed. That day will come.

Why is everyone suddenly talking about gender?

Blur the Lines: Generation Gender

In partnership

Rayne is neither he nor she, but both he and she.

And everything in between.

When we met in January for a photoshoot for Milk Makeup’s Blur Stick, Rayne wore a fitted pastel pink tank, juxtaposed with black, ‘90s-style raver-like grommeted pants. Rayne towers over at 6-feet, with broad shoulders built over many years dedicated to dancing, but the 18-year-old’s voice comes out in barely a whisper. With long, wispy brown hair, a dewy, milky complexion and soft, almond eyes, not to mention poreless skin, the teen is gentle, meek. But in photos, Rayne is anything but. It’s evident that when in front of the camera, the Canadian’s entire aura becomes larger than life, outer-worldly, a perfect, beautiful storm.

“Some days I’ll go by my masculine energy, others are more soft and feminine.”

When it rains, it pours.

Today, Rayne is proud to consider Rayne’s own identity as being completely rinsed of a gender identity based on a rigid binary. Rayne is fluid. “I go by energies,” Rayne says. “It’s really about what I’m feeling that day. Some days I’ll go by my masculine energy, others are more soft and feminine.” It’s that same energy that attracts Rayne to others. And it doesn’t matter what gender they are: “I’m into both boys and girls and can fall in love with both.”

Of course, you don’t become your authentic self overnight. It certainly doesn’t come without growing pains. Living in a small, suburban town outside of Toronto, Rayne found that fitting in wasn’t so easy.

“I had thoughts of conforming and being like everyone else,” Rayne admits. Rayne was assigned male at birth and that would have been the path of least resistance. Sometimes, as Rayne put it, it’s easier being like everybody else. Being invisible. Fitting in. Not having a target on your back.

But as time passed, Rayne felt that being boxed into the gender binary just didn’t feel right.

Rayne is one of the millions of Generation Z teens who are adopting these “new ideas” of identity while rejecting the traditional notions that a strict gender binary exists. Of course, as we know, these sentiments aren’t new at all. They’ve been a part of our culture as human beings for centuries. It’s just that now there are words to correctly verbalize one’s identity more precisely. 

“We are in a gender evolution, not a revolution.”

It’s one of the reasons why gender, as of late, has been at the tip of everyone’s tongue. One need only look at headlines to find that it’s hit fever pitch on the cultural barometer.

Teens These Days Are Queer AF, New Study Says,” a headline from Broadly reads.

Gen Z Sees Gender Differently,” another wrote.

Gen Z Rejects Gender Binary.”

At Harvard University, and on college campuses around the country, the term “ze” has become an additional pronoun for individuals who don’t fit the gender binary.  

Social media has been trailblazing this notion for years. It was Facebook, in fact, that began offering more than 50 terms for one’s gender identity in 2014.

“We are in a gender evolution, not a revolution,” explains Dr. SJ Miller, the deputy director of educational equity supports and services at NYU, to Very Good Light. “Young people are now coming into the world now with a full understanding of gender binaries. It’s a reason why we’re seeing more people finding that they’re genderless. People are finally starting to understand that this could be their true identities.”

Joel Baum, senior director for professional development at Gender Spectrum, says gender has bubbled up into the zeitgeist not because of young people, but because of older generations who “just don’t understand.”

“Notions of non-binary identity are part of the discourse for Generation Z,” he tells Very Good Light. “There’s a much greater comfort level with those with different gender and sexualities who aren’t in the typical boxes. To them, it’s like breathing air. It’s normal. Today, it’s not hard to talk about gender diversity and non-binary language. Most in this generation already understand it. It’s older generations, even millennials, who don’t get it. That’s our problem, not theirs.”

Being outside the gender binary may be a new concept here in the States, but in places throughout the world such as Samoa, Mexico, India, among others, a third gender has been embedded within their respective cultures from what seems like the beginning of time.

“These third gender males are treated like normal citizens,” says Paul Vasey, professor and board of governors research chair in psychology at the University of Lethbridge in Canada. Vasey has been studying third gendered people for years, like the fa’afafine in Samoa and the muxe in Oaxaca Mexico.

“In the market you’ll see men, women and muxe,” Vasey says to Very Good Light. “No one’s paying special attention to them and they’re treated as regular people that one would encounter anywhere in these communities. It’s how society was able to deal with these individuals who didn’t quite fit into one gender or another.”

Choosing to be agender or genderless is a true identity.

As Vasey explains it, many of these individuals in the Western culture would be considered gay, cis-gender men or transgender women. It’s just a matter of perception and how different societies box in those who aren’t part of a majority population. But whatever the sexuality, we need to understand that that’s different from gender identity.

“We need to know that sex is biological,” Vasey explains. “A person’s biological status are marked by chromosomes and their genitals and can be varyingly defined. Gender, on the other hand, is a system for categorizing things based on the masculine and feminine attributes.”

But being genderless or considering oneself to be agender does not equate to rejecting gender identity altogether. Choosing to be agender or genderless is a true identity, one that Baum says is equally as valid as considering oneself male or female. Being genderless doesn’t make one invisible.

“Gender does matter,” he says. “Gender identity plays a huge factor in all of our lives. There’s a huge implication spiritually, emotionally and practically.”

With President Trump withdrawing federal protections for transgender people, it’s essential that we understand the differences between sexuality and gender, while also becoming more sensitive to our peers. After all, it was last March, when the state legislature of North Carolina issued House Bill 2 (known as HB2 or the “bathroom bill“), requiring people use public restrooms that match the sex indicated on their birth certificates. Though President Obama created a federal directive to override it, President Trump reversed that decision, putting the bill back in place, making it a local/state-level issue once again. States like Texas are now trying to follow suit with their own version, called SB6.

Needless to say, the future generation, like Rayne, counts on a world that’s more inclusive, with compassion and understanding, to ensure they have all of the equal rights they deserve. 

“Gender does matter.”

On an afternoon in January, Very Good Light and Milk Makeup brought seven young people together to ask them what gender means to them. Some say that gender doesn’t define them, while others said it’s everything to them. In this original Very Good Light and Milk Makeup project, these seven diverse individuals – some straight, some gay, some trans, some genderless – came together to talk about identity. From a video, photographs and interviews, they speak their own truths on their own gender identities. Here they are speaking in their own words on how they blur the lines.

In their own words …

Eric Stone Carson, 18

(Eric is using: Milk Makeup’s Hero Salve, concealer in tan, Blur stick on lips and face, lip + cheek in Rally on lips, Oil Lip Stain in Feelz; He is wearing an Urban Sophistication hoodie)

Being different in black culture isn’t a good thing. Growing up in Atlanta with three sisters, my family automatically thought I’d be gay. They didn’t want me to be. I’m a straight male but deep down inside I’ve always been like, anyone can be whoever they want to be.

But growing up in a black community meant you had to act a certain way. I tried to fit that norm. I was an athlete, I played basketball. All those kinds of stuff.  I tried hard to fit in. I dressed in preppy outfits, in polos, like everyone else at my suburban Atlanta high school. I thought that that’s what I was supposed to look like though inside that wasn’t how I wanted to dress. Deep down, I was scared with how people would look at me if I cared about fashion.

And maybe that is why I try to shy away from sports now that I’m in New York, because I felt like everybody was just so super hypermasculine and close-minded.

When it comes to my own identity, I’d say I’m a boy transitioning into a man. I feel that whatever it is, whatever your own identity, it’s just self expression. Coming to New York as a model opened up my eyes to how diverse the world is. It’s about not only accepting someone but embracing those who are different from you.

In New York City I’m now seeing a lot of people wearing clothes that I wanted to wear and they’re doing so bravely. There are guys who wear makeup. It shouldn’t matter what they wear on their bodies or their faces. People will always have their own opinions. If they’re judging someone else that’s because they’re going through some things. That’s on them. I want to continue being a straight ally to everyone else and hope that culture will continue to change.

Dagsen Steele Love, 16

(Dagsen is using: Concealer in Fair, Blue Oil in Ripe, Holographic stick in Supernova, Eye Pigment in After party, Lip + cheek in Rally, Blur stick; He is wearing a Colin LoCascio top)

Gender and sexuality are on a spectrum. They’re also useless.

I’d say that most of society wants to solve who you are and put you in a box. It all doesn’t matter. It doesn’t exist. They’re social constructs. You can be who you want to be. Like for me, I wear women’s clothes because they fit better. I think you can be a man, if you feel like a man. If you’re a man and you want to wear dresses, then that’s cool. Why can’t you be yourself?

When I was younger, I thought I was bisexual. Then, I realized that sexuality doesn’t really matter, either. I am more attracted to women, but i wouldn’t have any problem being attracted to a man if I really liked him.

Who I am made me stick out from the rest of my classmates in Phoenix, Arizona.

I was really insecure around the time when I was 14 and 15. I hated school. I had a lot of social anxieties and stuff. And I started being way more outgoing and talking to people and just made me realize that no one has to get you. Everyone who you think is judging you is dealing with their own issues. Or if they do judge you then they just hate themselves. Most people are like that. I enrolled in online classes because I couldn’t take school any more. Doing the homework and academics just wasn’t for me. I just didn’t care. I don’t think I’m a rebel, I’m just doing me.

Madeleine Vintback, 26

(Madeleine is using: Concealer in Medium, Blur stick, Hero Salve, Shadow Quad Day Goals, Eye Vinyl in Bridge, Lip color in Wifey, Eye Pigment in Hotel Lobby; She is wearing a jacket by BDG from Urban Outfitters and choker by Martine Ali Studio)

I’ve always loved to play around with my hair, makeup and clothes. It’s almost like a dress up game. I actually love to play the role of being super boyish or super feminine. Though that’s how I express myself, it’s not like everyone else gets it. There are people around me who get frustrated because they can’t place me.

I consider myself a woman, but one who can be masculine or feminine. Though, in my experience, if you are not feminine enough, that’s a threat too.  

As a model in Los Angeles I’m going against girls with the long, beautiful curls and waves. My hair is in a pixie cut. People scratch their heads because it’s not something that they’re used to, a woman who looks like a boy.

It’s interesting because in Sweden, where I’m from, it’s so much more progressive. There, lines are very, very blurred. First of all, men and women are very, very equal. The guys are the ones with the strollers now. The gender roles have changed. It’s interesting because when my Swedish guy friends come over to the states, they’re mistaken as gay. It’s because they’re so free and don’t have to discuss those things because it’s not an issue. They know they don’t have to be so hard or macho to be a man.

American guys like straight guys here are so scared of being or acting gay because of American culture. To Swedish people it’s more open, it’s free. People don’t care so much about gender or who you’re dating. We’re fluid.

Marcelo Gutierrez, 22

(Marcelo is using: Sunshine Skin Tint, Shadow Quad Day Goals, Blur Stick, Lip + Cheek in Quickie, Matte Bronzer, Gel Brow, Shadow Liner in Moonlighter and Working Girl and Hero Salve; He is wearing a top by Slashed by Tia, choker by The IME label; hoodie by Urban Sophistication)

I’m a minority in a multitude of ways. I’m a refugee, an immigrant and gay. When I was younger, I didn’t consider gender. I didn’t know how different I was. I always played around as female characters but knew that I was genetically a boy.

Today, I identify as male but I am very in tune with what we call masculine and feminine attributes. But really, it makes me uncomfortable to even have to say “masculine” and “feminine.” What exactly do those words even mean?

To me, feminine characteristics are attributed to romance, vulnerability and emotion. I am someone who is very romantic. I write a lot. I am very emotional person and those are considered negative attributes in our society. For some reason, that goes back to sexism. In gay culture, it’s so “masc4masc.” When you’re any kind of  “feminine,” then that can be seen as a flaw. In its essence, that goes down to why something that is considered feminine is a flaw or unattractive.

Being emotional shouldn’t be considered feminine. That should just be considered human. When we distinguish characteristics of masculinity and femininity, that means that there is a priority of one or the other. It goes back to the fact that there’s only one race – the human race. There is no masculine, there is no feminine. There is only human. That’s means being layered, complex, individual. It’s made up of so many little things in so many variables. That’s beautiful.

Avie Acosta, 21

(Avie is using: Concealer in Fair, Hero Salve, Gel Brow, Blur Stick on lips and face, Gold Liquid Strobe, Eye Pigment in Hotel Lobby, Oil Lip Stain in Tude, Lip + cheek in Rally; She is wearing a dress by Urban Outfitters, Choker by The IME label, a jacket by Martine Ali Studio)

My brand is #unoffendable.

Growing up in Oklahoma I had a hard time with the concept of gender. I always played sports. I was a skateboarder. I roughhoused with football. But I also loved to wear skirts and dresses. I played with makeup and had my nails painted at sleepovers. Coming into my own later on as a woman, was an interesting experience in Oklahoma.

In retrospect, after all these years, I was fighting for myself a little too hard. I used to be a monster. I was this tough feminist girl that was like, “you respect me, refer to my gender correctly, etc.” But it got me absolutely nowhere. It was the most draining process to try to get people to understand you. 

It consumed my life where I couldn’t talk about anything but gender and social politics. It brought so much negativity. Gender was a roadblock, a barrier, and a hurdle that I had to overcome. Everyone is trying to figure out who they are and I think that this conversation sometimes comes off as abrasive. It’s one-sided. It’s like what I was a few years ago, repeating myself over and over again.

I get it. The binary is real. Our entire world is set up with a binary. We think in binary. So it’s not just gender. Every concept that has two extremes. That’s just how the world is set up and I feel like trying to go against that hasn’t worked in our favor. With those who don’t understand, we can’t continue preaching to them and meeting deaf ears. It’s not getting anywhere because there has to be a common ground. We need to have empathy.

I’ve come to a point in my own life that whatever someone says to me I’m not going to get offended. There’s negativity but I don’t have to partake. There’s real power to that. There’s real power when you don’t let it get to you.

Eddy LeRoy Jr., 18

(Eddy is using: Concealer in Deep, Blur Stick, Eye Vinyl in Tunnel, Liquid Strobe in Ultraviolet, Hero Salve; Eddy is wearing an Urban Outfitters top and a choker by Marine Ali Studio)

If we’re going to try to define manhood in a traditional sense with sports and all that, okay, I played sports, too. I ran track and played football in high school and I was better than everyone else. Why is it that society deems a man less than if he’s different? Or if he cries?

Growing up, I was never understood by my family. They used to blame my femininity on the saying, “oh, you were raised predominantly around females, that’s why you’re like that.” And I always felt like, why can’t I be on a spectrum? I can wake up and feel whatever I want want to feel. Maybe today I feel masculine and tomorrow it’s feminine. Why does it even matter?

Even identifying as strictly male isn’t completely me, to be honest. I usually don’t even think to define myself because I’m everything in between. Which why I look up to David Bowie. He was so ambiguous  and did whatever he wanted. He wore makeup. He wore women’s clothing. He just lived. It’s mind-boggling that we still haven’t come to a point where we can accept that others, too, can be just like Bowie.

Rayne Nadurata, 18

(Rayne is using: Blur Stick, Concealer in Medium Tan, Hero Salve, Highlighter, Lip + Cheek in Swish, Lip color in Freshhh, oil lip Stain in Tude; Rain is wear a vintage necklace and top)

I’m definitely more fluid and I can embody both ends of the spectrum. I  like to dabble with both genders but I’m more comfortable in my feminine side because it’s more expressive and open. In terms of labeling, I don’t care about labels. Whatever you call me, you can call me.

For me, being fluid means that I’m also sexually fluid. I can be attracted to anyone. I don’t think in binaries or sexualities. Instead, I think in energies. There are strong energies present in everyone. Both energies, masculine and feminine are found in everyone. When I think of masculinity I think of aggression, strength and dominance. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that just because you’re submissive you’re more female. You can be a strong, dominant female. And femininity can still be strong as well. Some days I’m vibing my feminine side and in those days I’d expect to be called ‘she’ or a ‘her.’ Today, I’m just Rayne. I’m neutral in my body. I feel comfortable.

I went to the men’s washroom last night, and everyone looked at me. It’s kind of a compliment, though. Guys always think that there’s a girl in there. People think that I’m a chick with a purse because I always have a purse. There are benefits to then going into a women’s washroom because guys bathrooms are filthy. Sometimes though, there will be security guards who tell me I can’t go into the women’s washroom. They think that me being in there makes me a sexual pervert.

In a lot of ways I think it’s because masculinity has become so toxic. I want to crush it at times. It’s designed for men to be “men,” which makes them so self-conscious. I think straight cisgender guys are the most insecure people. They have to be boxed into a single definition and can’t stray from the norm or what they’re attracted to. They can’t express themselves in a different manner. That to me, is so sad. In the future, I want to be a voice for the queer community. I want to make everyone feel comfortable. I want to make a change. It’s coming soon.


Director: Georgie Greville DP: Roland Lazarte Photographer: Jai Odell (Trouble Management) Art Director: Elena Miska Makeup: Alicia Marie Campbell (See Management) Hair: Niko Weddle Stylist: Bianca Arielle Bailey Producers: Riley Carithers, Roxanne Doucet

The Kardashians’ hairstylist is giving back to trans women in a big way.

(Photo by Angela Roos/Shuttershock)

After years of hairstyling for the likes of Kourtney Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Shay Mitchell, along with an impressive roster of other Hollywood talents, Andrew Fitzsimons realized there was a huge problem.

As a celebrity hairstylist and now an ambassador to the hair care brand, Alterna, he was being sent boxes upon boxes of products that were going to waste.

“We never know what to do with the products we get on a daily basis,” he tells Very Good Light at Los Angeles’ LGBT Center. “There are boxes that aren’t going anywhere.”

Wanting to give back to the community while solving this problem, he put two and two together and decided that he’d start an active service for transgender and non-binary communities. “It’s bringing the beauty industry together to make a physical act and starting a conversation and a beautiful community that is so dear to my heart,” he tells us. “The beauty industry is an industry of artists. I knew speaking to my community I would be able to highlight communities other than me. When you know better you do better. The more you learn about your fellow man the more you can help.”

Campaign vibes today with bae #KylieJenner #hairXandrew

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He’s now teaming up with the Trans Economic Empowerment Program (TEEP) as well as the LA LGBT Center, asking his friends, clients and the industry as a whole, to provide beauty products for transgender or non-conforming people in need. “It’s about empowering through beauty and allowing us to empathize with a community that really needs support, especially in a political climate like ours,” he says.

Andrew says his empathy for people goes back to when he was growing up “super gay” in the suburbs of Ireland. “Any outsider will know how it feels to be left on the sidelines,” he says of his youth and not fully being able to fit in. “You grow up and realize no one has it altogether.” After working at a salon early on and gaining experience, Andrew moved to Paris, where he worked mostly on fashion shoots.
It wasn’t after moving to New York that he got his first opportunity to work with a celebrity. A chance encounter got him his first gig with Adele. “I’m from Ireland, she’s from England and we got off really, really well. It kickstarted my career into the world of celebrity and who better to start off with?” he says.
Years in the industry eventually led him to working with the Kardashians and solidifying himself in Hollywood. “They’re the most professional, sweet and kind people, always on time,” he says of the sisters. “And they’re also supportive. I feel lucky because I get to work with really, really incredibly sweet people and have a platform where I can do something like this.”
For those who are struggling with fitting in or their own identity, Andrew has a few words of advice: ”
“My childhood wasn’t straightforward and most people didn’t understand who I was and what I wanted to do. In adulthood, it really does get better. There are people out there who love you and your life is important. All you have to do is get through it and you’ll find your people. We are hear waiting for you. You’re beautiful!”
To support his cause, head over here to find ways to contribute.

Meet the design duo known as the ‘Fashion Bears’


(Photo by Brian Sanchez/Very Good Light)

Welcome to Groom Raider, a weekly series where we, well, raid the grooming closets of the people we admire to see what products they use. While we browse through their moisturizers, creams, fragrances and more, we get a glimpse into their past lives and the stories behind how they came to be. 

“Everyone in fashion calls us ‘The Bears,’ like Anna Wintour.”

So says designer Robert Tagliapietra with a hearty laugh. He’s one half of the design duo, JCRT, with his design partner (and real-life partner!) Jeffrey Costello. The two recently launched their first men’s specific line of made to measure plaid shirts years after shuttering their beloved womenswear brand, Costello Tagliapietra. The brand was known for its outre cuts and killer dresses worn by the likes of celebrities to downtown cool girls.

SEE ALSO: Designer Michael Bastian on his awkward teenage years

The brand is no more, but the designers are now more inspired than ever. Known for their beards and signature lumberjack style, both decided to venture into what felt organic to them: Plaids in all shapes and sizes for both men and women.

“We all hate going to a bar and seeing someone else in the same shirt, like, your night’s ruined,” says Jeffrey. “There’s a beauty to wearing something so unique no one else will have it.”

We caught up with both Jeffrey and Robert at their Chelsea studio in New York City where they not only showed us a glimpse of their “Plaidiverse,” but talked their beards, maintenance and even a few ~amazing~ beauty tips.

On their new brand:

Robert Tagliapietra: “We created this shirt that fits really beautifully, is really well tailored, a great price, and we treat it like a canvas. We throw ideas onto it and it’s what we wear everyday anyway. We literally met wearing plaid, we’ve always had plaid on so it made sense to create this ‘Plaidiverse.'”

On love:

Robert: “We met at Sound Factory nightclub, where Sleep No More is now. It was love at first sight but we were both way too shy to talk to each other. So, three weeks in a row, [Jeffrey’s] friend Lauren Rosselli of Book of Love came up to me and she grabs me and is like, ‘I am not coming here next weekend, you are going to meet my friend Jeffrey right now, and you are going to talk to each other.’  

Jeffrey Costello: “It was embarrassing, I couldn’t really grow a beard until I was like, 33 years old. I was trying, I would get a little fuzz, but then I met Robert and I guess he pulled the beard out of me.” 

On Madonna bringing them together:

Robert: “We both had scruff. It was cute. We weren’t bears yet, maybe cubs. Jeffrey had a line back then that was well received. I always joke that when we first met he was working on Madonna’s ‘Bedtime Story’ video. I was a little 20-year old obsessed Madonna fan who really wanted to work with Jeffrey on that video. So I needled my way in, and that was the first project we worked on. I mean, he did it but I kinda pretend helped.

We started working together officially, doing things and projects through the 90’s. That’s when we worked on tours, with Nine Inch Nails, Bruce Springsteen, Salt ‘N Pepa. It was an amazing period.”

On being the only bears in fashion:

Robert:  “I loved when we would hear the industry and the higher-ups refer to us as ‘The Bears’, it’s always funny hearing that come out of Anna’s [Wintour]  mouth for instance. Like, its a funny thing. It’s hysterical. It’s never been something that stopped us, and it’s not lost on us that this is an industry that prides itself on not only just health but also thinness. 

 Jeffrey: “I remember when was alive, they ran an image with the caption ‘The Three Little Bears’ with us an someone else. I thought it was nice.’

On Gender:

Robert: “I grew up in the 90s, I was a wannabee riot grrrl. I was obsessed with that whole culture, and I always loved how culture would inform politics and vice versa, so like it’s those two things that excite me. Now when we see boys wearing skirts, that’s politics and fashion working together. It’s culture. I get so excited when I see that. I don’t even think I would have ever thought I would see some guy walking down the street in a pencil skirt, and boots and normal hair. I fucking love it.”

Jeffery: “It’s just adding another layer of beauty to the world.  We have an older intern who has this huge beard and he walks around in a dress every day, and eyeliner, and  he’s like my idol now.”

 On beard pride:

 Jeffery: “My beard fully took off at 33. I was always trying to get it going, I always wanted it, it was coming in a little patchy and  all of the sudden it just kinda was there. People were a little taken back by our beards because we looked a little country.”

Robert: “I would be lying if I said it wasn’t something that I knew was letting us stand out a little in a sea of 400 designers on We’re the bearded big guys who did very feminine dresses. Granted that wasn’t an equation that we set out with, but it definitely helped us in a way. Even just this weekend a young woman came up to us at a restaurant and I think because we are so recognizable I think that was an easy thing to connect and that’s exciting for us, that’s still exciting for us. It’s totally part of who we are.”

Beard maintenance: 

Jeffrey: “I feel like I need to wash it everyday. I do condition  it. What I do is brush my teeth, hop in the shower, wash my face with Kiehl’s olive oil soap. Then, the Kiehl’s ultra damage conditioner goes on. So I’m standing there in my soapy mess, and I let the steam from the shower bake it in. About 20 minutes later, I rinse it out. The argan oil goes in, and I’ll choose between the Brooklyn balm or I might just leave it with the oil. It makes it super fuzzy and soft. Like a cloud.”

Beard Advice:

Jefferey: “For me I always yell at people because they come up to me like oh I can’t get past this certain place. The thing is to have a good boar bristle brush that’s soft. Carry that with you, and just brush it out. Instead of saying it’s getting itchy, just brush it through, and within like, 2 weeks, it’s at that level you can live with.”

Robert: “That’s the common problem that people have when they grow it out, it gets to a certain point and it starts to itch. All you have to do is just comb it out. We micro trim everyday though, you always find that one hair that wasn’t there yesterday. All of the sudden you will have that one hair that’s longer than the rest and you just have to trim it off.”

On controlling beard regimen:

Robert: “There are two products from Kiehl’s that I really love. There’s that Midnight Oil which I love love love, and there’s that one in the brown bottle, the line reducing concentrate. It’s got this warming thing to it. I’ll put a little bit, because I’ll break out otherwise. I have skin that either breaks out because it’s too oily or breaks out because it’s too dry, it’s always a fine line, so I sort of have to play this game everyday of, ‘Do I put something on or do I not?’ It’s frustrating and at 42, I thought it would have changed, but not so much.

The Lab Series face wash is also really nice, so sometimes I do that if I need a little more oil control. It’s a bit of a game of circulating around. Clark’s Botanicals has a skin clearing face wash that is really nice as well. I’ll put that in my hand with a few other products and create a concoction. Then, I’ll rub it in my face. It’s just a feeling you get of what you need that day.  

Sometimes, I’ll take a blow dryer out if it feels really humid out. My hair can be kinda huge so if I’m going out, I’ll take the blow dryer and quickly comb through it. That, and a balm to style it out. I use the Brooklyn Balm and it really hydrates while keeping my hairs in place.”

Actor Cameron Fuller’s awkward middle school years forced him to give a damn about grooming

Welcome to Groom Raider, a weekly series where we, well, raid the grooming closets of the people we admire to see what products they use. While we browse through their moisturizers, creams, fragrances and more, we get a glimpse into their past lives and the stories behind how they came to be. This week we meet with Cameron Fuller, an actor and model from Los Angeles. 

Cameron Fuller, model and actor, Los Angeles, @cameronfuller 

Cameron shoots, he scores.

We’re at his home in a sleepy neighborhood of Brentwood in Los Angeles, when the young actor and model pulls out a basketball and starts shooting hoops.

Immediately, we get our camera out for a few photo opps. The young actor is lively, if not energetic, this morning even though he’s had zero sleep from commuting back from Coachella the night before. His skin is sunkissed, his eyes sleepy, but piercingly blue. His scruff contours his chiseled face and makes him look older than he is.

SEE ALSO: Supermodel Garrett Neff was always a little embarrassed about modeling

“Do you play?” he asks, with a toothy smile.

We pass the ball back to him where he makes another basket with a layup. It’s funny he asks, because these days, it’s as if Cameron is the one playing. That is, many different parts. He’s an actor, playing ASW Wright on TNT’s The Ship, the popular show starring Eric Dane (yes, that’s McSteamy from Grey’s Anatomy). 

When he isn’t on television, he’s working daily on his YouTube channel, one full of skits, funny real-life videos, some with his friend, actor Gregg Sulkin, and others with his girlfriend. And then, there’s an app he’s a part of, called Mixer. It links people together to socialize at bars around town.

Very Good Light caught up with him – and snooped into his medicine cabinet – while he was taking a breather from his many endeavors.

“I don’t even remember my debut as an actor because I was so young. I think I was like, a year old. It was for The Babysitter, a 90’s thriller starring Alicia Silverstone. I guess they were looking for a baby, and my dad was best friends with the movie’s producer, also my godfather, and I ended up being the baby. I had so much spotlight from that role I had to took many, many years off. I ended my hiatus a couple of years ago when I got back into acting.

After my big debut (laughs), I went through a really, really rough stage in my teenage years, looks-wise. In middle school I went through a phase where I had pretty bad acne and had braces. I didn’t know what to do with my hair so I just put it in a beanie. I wore them every single day. Like, it was 100-degrees out and I’d still be wearing that beanie.

One day, I was like, okay, I gotta pull it together. My mom said we could actually fix these types of things. So I got my braces off, buzzed my hair off and I went to an acne doctor, they gave me face washes, and they put me on Accutane for a while. I deleted all photos from back then because, I’ll be honest, it wasn’t a pretty time for me.

After, I quickly started to learn how to groom for myself. How to take care of myself and shave my face. I started growing a beard in high school, which was cool. Then the 10th grade rolled around and I just felt great. From then on I was very careful with the way that looked. Maintaining, I realized, is so important. So it’s important to wash your face. I’ll put moisturizer on every morning. If there’s a pimple I’ll put on Mario Badescu. I know how to pluck the middle of my eyebrows. It’s this whole thing about being a guy. Lots of men aren’t educated about proper hygiene. For my face, I’ll use Kiehl’s SPF 30 after I wash my face. It’s that, or EltaMD. I then put eyedrops if I’m feeling dry. I’m into Cinnamon so I use Marvis Cinnamon Mint toothpaste in the morning. I’ve been using that for years.

My hair needs to have something that will hold it really tightly. I don’t want it blowing around, I want it to stay clean cut. I don’t want it shagging around or whatever.

I’ll put gel in first, which is American Crew pomade. It’s like a paste. I’ve gone through so many gels in my career. There’s this spray I’ve been obsessed with called Drybar Money Maker . I’ve been trying sprays for a long time and some of them smell bad, so that sucks, and some of them don’t hold enough. Some of them crunch, and I just found this wonder product.

I like mixing fragrances. I’ll use Le Labo’s Santal 33, which I know everyone uses, and Patchouli 24 . It has a musky, masculine fragrance but still clean. I also use TOM FORD Tobacco Vanille when going out at night.

My dad [film and television producer, Bradley Fuller] was always great at grooming and clean. I look up to him. He is now a really big producer and I look up to him. I saw him working in management, getting a couple of clients and then working his ass off in the business. His career wasn’t always great. He had his ups and downs and I saw him growing as a producer as I was growing into my own. It’s so amazing watching his work ethic. I think that taught me a lot about being humble and grateful. 

When I first wanted to become an actor, my dad was very conflicted. He sits down with actors all the the time and he’ll watch tapes for hours on end. He was once like, ‘I promise you, you don’t want to be an actor, it’s not an easy life if you don’t want to do it.’ And then when I started working harder at it, he became more accepting, and now he’s very onboard with it, which is awesome. He’s also really supportive of all the other things I’m doing now. 

Which gets to my next point. You can’t just be an actor. If that’s the case, you’re pretty much going to be at the gym and sit around. And I cant do that. The way I’m built, I can’t do that, I need to be doing stuff. I have more of a business mind. So how am I going to make things happen? That’s why I started my YouTube channel. It keeps me going. I have over 125,000 subscribers now and it’s been really cool to see it grow. 

This industry is never easy. It’s really, really hard. I remember going to a Teen Wolf audition thinking I could really be on that show. I’d always wanted to. I walked in and I was just like, there’s six dudes that are blonde and have blue or green eyes and look exactly like you. How do I separate myself? I realized it’s about training and really becoming a better actor. Whether that’s a tick or a glance or a stare or a different way of saying something. You have to make yourself memorable.

I’ve learned so much from guys like Eric [Dane]. He’s possibly the biggest role model I’ve had in my acting career. He has helped me in so many ways. On my first episode of the show, my timing was off and I couldn’t figure it out. It was just one line, but I had to turn my head back and say the line. I couldn’t figure it out and I felt like the room was getting frustrated. I was like holy shit, this is my first episode. Eric took me aside and was like, don’t worry, you’re doing fine. ‘You’re doing great. Just take a breath. Don’t worry about it and everything is going to be great.’ From then on he calmed everything down, he made me feel right at home. He’s basically been like a big brother very since. We get lunch every week.

I want to be successful. I love acting, I have a passion for acting, and I work hard at acting, but growing up, I’ve seen many actors fail just being around my father. I’ve seen so many actors be at the top of their game and fall to never recover. I don’t want that to happen to me, so i’m trying to ensure that I’ll be okay if acting doesn’t blow up.”

All photos by Jessica Chou, a Los Angeles-based photographer who’s been published in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Mashable, Billboard, Buzzfeed, among others. Find her work here.