“I really had to look in the mirror and was like, who do you want to be, and what do you wanna be remembered for? It is important for me that there is some sort of legacy. I always want to make sure that I’m having an impact on people who I do not know. That has been my purpose.”
In this episode, Kadeem Fyffe shares his journey as an openly gay Black man living in the South and reflects on the challenges of reconciling his identity with cultural and religious expectations. He discusses his early self-actualization and the positives of that, along with the importance of representation on TV for children (himself included). The conversation dives into the fashion industry’s challenges and gatekeeping, Kadeem’s beliefs about possibility and self-discipline, and the balance between work and enjoyment in life. He also touches on the artist’s dilemma, taking leaps of faith, his quarter-life crisis, and the power of being purpose-driven with a focus on leaving a meaningful legacy and self-improvement.
What to listen for:
- Kadeem’s experience living in the South as an openly gay Black man
- Experiencing a heteronormative tradition and feeling acceptance in that
- Working to keep his cultural traditions as a Jamaican American
- Navigating the limits of Christianity’s beliefs around his sexuality
- Being forced to grow up quickly and self-actualize at a young age
“I was kind of drilled with this idea that being gay was bad, but I always knew inside myself that this is just how I was born, and I don’t need to be ashamed of it. I’m happy that I went through that very young because it helped me self-actualize very, very young and made me, forced me to grow up. I was like, ‘This is who I am, and the world’s gonna have to accept me as I am.’”
- The day Kadeem came out to take control of his narrative
- Why representation on TV was so important for him (and is for others)
- Living out loud and proud as a role model for other kids
- The importance of seeing yourself in someone else and the possibilities that come with it
- Walking into a room with confidence and owning who you are
“I’m obviously black, I’m obviously open with my sexuality, and I express it through clothing and things like that. And so when I walk into a room, I walk in confidently, and that just signals to everybody, like, I’m here, and this is just what it’s gonna be. And then that also might signal to someone else who maybe isn’t as secure with themselves in whatever category. They can see me and know that it’s okay to be confident in yourself in whatever room we’re in.”
- The challenge and gate-keeping of the fashion industry
- Kadeem’s belief that things are possible as long as you’re steadfast
- The difficulty of self-discipline for creative minds
- His practices for staying in flow and getting things done
- The trap of “working to live” vs. “living to work”
“Unfortunately, our Americans, I think, are people who live to work. Like we get up and we’re like, ‘Gotta work.’ And so I think it’s just about unlearning that a little bit and saying, ‘Okay, well yes, I do have to work because we do all have to produce, and we do all have bills that we need to pay, but you can also try to insert a little bit of that fun and that enjoyment?’ Like, what is the thing that when you do it, you feel happy?”
- Consumption and the artist’s dilemma
- Navigating the fear of taking a leap of faith
- Kadeem’s quarter-life crisis and how it helped him
- The power of being purpose-driven and leading with legacy in mind
- Self-love and the determination to become your best self
About Kadeem Fyffe:
Kadeem Alphanso Fyffe is a Jamaican-American fashion designer, consultant, and author, designing under his namesake label: Kadeem Alphanso Fyffe | New York. He serves as Head of Design/Consultant for start-ups across various Active and Ready-To-Wear categories. Several publications have featured his design work, including People, Cosmopolitan, Medium, Fashionista, and USA Today; his LGBTQ+ advocacy landed him on Out Magazine’s 2020 Out 100 List, alongside other notable figures like Tim Cook, Lizzo, and fellow Durham, NC native, André Leon Talley.
His book, entitled Threading the Needle: A Fashion Designer’s Guide to Successfully Launching Your First Collection, was published in May (2023) and debuted as Amazon’s #1 New Release in Commercial Fashion. It’s the new go-to back-pocket resource for aspiring designers, providing valuable insights and advice for breaking into the industry.
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