Welcome back to Style Dossier, Gabrielle Royal’s column that profiles stylish queers across the country. This edition, Gabrielle is featuring Jae Rice (aka DJ Dapper ChicagoDJ Dapper ), a DJ/Composer from Chicago. They also are one half of a creative collective, smallWORLD Collective. Through smallWORLD, Jae and their partner curate events throughout the city of Chicago that prioritize QWOC and provide platforms for a plethora of different artistic avenues. In addition, Jae is also a personal wardrobe consultant and stylist, helping people find a sense of security and self-esteem through outward expression. *Photos by @allyalmorephoto
dapperQ: Why is queer visibility important in media and fashion important? How do your platforms help create space for members of our community? How do they challenge mainstream media and fashion platforms?
Jae: Fashion fuels the culture. It a catalyst, it’s a bonding experience between strangers, it’s constant inspiration, so it’s imperative for queer visibility to be seen through that lens. There needs to be queer visibility in every single aspect of society, let alone an industry that Queers have been the foundation of. Visibility breeds understanding, empathy, and pure change in a society, all things we need an abundance of, especial now.
Our main goal at smallWORLD Collective is to perpetuate community by creating necessary spaces. E N E R G Y, which is a party for women and their buddies, does just that. It’s basically queer church! It’s every Sunday night, there’s no cover in order to maintain accessibility, there are live musical performances, or a guest DJ, there’s food, vendors, comfortable seating, and most importantly community. All are welcomed at E N E R G Y, but it is obvious that QWOC are centered in this space. There are individuals who don’t necessarily belong to the communities that are centered, but they come, enjoy themselves and are engulfed in a space that is completely facilitated by QWOC; that’s an important part of E N E R G Y to me.
We intentionally challenge mainstream media and fashion through the visuals we broadcast on the TV screens at E N E R G Y. We spend hours every week searching for images such as a video clip from the dapperQ fashion show, old school footage of Gladys Bentley, or Andy Allo’s video “Angles” that contradict the typical public images we’re shown. Seeing images like these blaring on a screen as soon as you walk into a space, especially a bar, promotes understanding and reassurance of images like those outside of that space.
dapperQ: How would you describe your personal style aesthetic? How much of your personal style is influenced by your identity?
Jae: I would describe my aesthetic as dapper-artistic. There’s classic elements of dapper wear mixed in with a sort of free spirited risk that the artist in me thrives on. A significant portion of my style is influenced by my identity, and on certain days, all of it! I see my personal style as a form of daily resistance and a reminder to everyone I come in contact with that whatever your usually associations are with particular articles of clothing are not absolute. Masculine clothing helps me express myself and my identity without using words. It’s my art, and it’s extremely therapeutic.
dapperQ: Who is your biggest fashion icon and why?
Jae: I can’t pick just one, but to name a few; Lenny Kravitz. I don’t necessarily emulate his style per se, but I admire the freedom in his style. It’s so very “IDGAF” and effortless. I also aim for my style to be as cool, tailored, and diverse as Samuel L Jackson!
dapperQ: Tell us about your biggest fashion and/or shopping fail!
Jae: My biggest shopping fail was also my biggest inspiration. It was when I first started exclusively shopping in the men’s section. I was trying on blazers, this was before I knew about correct sizing and the miracle workings of a tailor, and I was hit with some unsolicited “help” from a sales associate. “It’ll never look right because you’re trying to wear men’s clothes.” She said this so nonchalantly and with absolutely no regard for my feelings or humanity. Within those following minutes, I went through a range of emotions; feeling defeated and discouraged to the point of tears, and feeling so inspired to look my absolute best every time I walk out the house so that no one, including myself, could ever tell me that I was “trying” to do anything…I do it, and I do it well.
dapperQ: 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?
Jae: Own your differences. Lose yourself in them, sleep in them, cry in them, constantly exist in them, that way, other people’s comfortability towards them will cease to exist. Once I learned to stop prioritizing other people’s comfortability, I learned to truly be free.
dapperQ: Tell us something unique about you.
Jae: So, I recently had a tumor taken out of me. What’s unique about this, is that it was nine pounds. There are plenty of other unique things about me, but I chose this one because it’s important to me that more masculine off centered individuals get regular pap smears, especially if you have hormonal issues such as PCOS. MOC reproductive health is an area that we just don’t get enough space to talk about.
dapperQ: What can we expect next from you?
Jae: Ah so much! More speaking engagements, to start, I’ll be speaking at the Chicago Non-Monogamy conference in May, with some others appearances in the works. I’m also part of a DJ Duo with my wife, “Fiat Lux” and we’ll be going on tour in June starting in Chicago.