Welcome back to Style Dossier, Gabrielle Royal’s column that profiles stylish queers across the country. This edition, Gabrielle is featuring Sam Obeid, an activist by life, poet by heart. Work-wise, Sam is employed at Community Tampa Bay, a non-profit organization committed to ending all forms of discrimination, as the ANYTOWN Coordinator, a program dedicated to youth development and empowerment. On Sam’s personal time, she is a spoken word poet. Sam’s art focuses on being a queer, Indian lesbian in the United States and the tensions of identity. Sam came to the U.S. from India in 2007 and has since earned graduate degrees in Multimedia Journalism and Women’s & Gender Studies. The most important of all side note: Sam’s pit bull, Sherlock, is the love of her life.
Gabrielle: Tell us a bit about your favorite outfit.
Sam: Without question, the suit is my favorite outfit. Having lived in India where my masculine identity was restricted to cargo pants and oversized shirts, and then moving to Tampa, Florida where the heat keeps fashion between shorts and flip-flops, I take every opportunity to sport a suit. I’m a boi of classic taste, so my colors revolve around blacks, greys, whites and blues. If I’m feeling business, my go-to is usually a black suit paired with a white shirt, a black skinny accented with a razor blade tie clip, and dress shoes. If I’m feeling dapper, then I’ll do black trousers, an Oxford blue shirt, a wooden bow tie with a maroon accent, a textured grey vest, brown belt and brown boots. It’s difficult to find masculine attire when you’re 5 feet tall and 98 pounds, so most of my clothes are either tailored in India or bought from specific kids’ clothing brands in the States.
Black trousers – Men’s Warehouse (Boys)
Black shirt – Tailored by Ft. St. George, India
Grey herringbone vest – Asos.com
Wooden bowtie – South Haven Wood, New Orleans
Brown belt – Nautica
Brown boots – Kenneth Cole (Boys)
Gabrielle: Who is your biggest fashion icon and why?
Sam: I like a combination of Ozwald Boateng and James Bond. Bond is everything classic: The style, the suave, the swag. I loved the detail in every suit he wore from cuff links and tie pins to watches. It maybe cliché, but the secret is in the details. I was introduced to Ozwald Boateng by my best friend. I envy Boateng’s impeccable taste. He brings celebrity to the table that seems achievable in its simplicity. He knows how to wear bright colors that work well with his skin tone. I’m not brave enough to go there yet. But I admire his audacity; he owns the outfit, every time.
Gabrielle: How much of your personal style is influenced by your identity?
Sam: Every element of it. My queerness, my Indianness, the woman I was raised to be, the boi I’ve become. I’m well aware of all of it and really, I am nothing without the other. So much so that I am currently working on incorporating Indian fashion into my wardrobe. It’s a new universe for me because for years, I denied the feminine Indian attire that was forced upon me. I’m still figuring out how to break through the boundaries between masculine and feminine, Indian and Western, to create that perfect balance that wears itself proud and well. I think it’s important for younger generations to know that it’s possible for multiple identities to come together simultaneously.
Gabrielle: Why is queer visibility important and how does fashion help create space for members of our community?
Sam: There’s so much to being queer that we haven’t even begun exploring. It’s so much more than sexuality and gender. It’s the identity that lets us blur through identities. It shows me that there are multiple ways to being Indian, to being a woman, to living between citizenship and heritage. We, as a community, have been hidden for so long that sometimes we get used to staying hidden. I think queer visibility is important simply because the world needs to see us. It needs to see that we are boundless. They need to see us in droves. Because for each one of us who can be seen, there are hundreds who still feel invisible. Fashion gives us the opportunity to be seen the way we want the world to see us. It gives us the opportunity to not merely fit within already constructed ideas of gender, but to go beyond that, and define gender the way we want it to fit us. Fashion for the queer individual isn’t just about style; it’s about life.
Gabrielle: Tell us about your biggest fashion and/or shopping fail!
Sam: Turtlenecks! It was a long time ago. But, no excuses. I failed and no, there are no pictures to prove it!
Gabrielle: What advice would you give our readership? What advice can you offer to people who fit outside of society’s understanding of traditionally masculine and feminine styles?
Sam: Don’t ever apologize for who you are. Wear your queer with more than pride; wear it with audacity. And if you’re not there yet, take your time. Ease into it. There is no fixed timeline to become comfortable with who you are. And when you get there, put your name on it. In big, bright letters.
Gabrielle: Tell us something unique about you!
Sam: I train in Muay Thai, Thai kickboxing.
Gabrille: How did you hear about dapperQ? Why were you interested in a feature?
Sam: I’ve been following dapperQ for a couple of years now. I have slowly but surely, become more confident in my sense of self and now, I’m finally in a place where I’m ready to share myself with the rest of the world. Locally, I’ve landed a couple of gigs, but I’d like to get out there more. I love seeing queer people of color represent and I’d like to be part of that representation. I don’t see very many masculine performing, queer, Indian women be publicly acknowledged. I want that to change. That’s why I was interested in a feature.
Follow Sam’s work:
Facebook (poetry): facebook.com/samobeidpoetry
Facebook (personal): facebook.com/samiraobeid