Jess and Terence met at a Cape Town house party in 2011. They both disliked most of the people there, found solace in each other, and have been friends ever since.
Jess and Terence chat over a bottle of wine about identity, vulnerability, and chosen family.
J: Tell me a bit about yourself - where are you from, what you do, and what has been your journey to where you are today? How have you discovered your identity?
T: My name is Terence David. I’m from Cape Town, South Africa. I am an art director, stylist and art gallery assistant. I identify as queer. People have always had this weird way of asking me, “When did you know when you were gay?”.
I knew when I was 6 and I watched Titanic for the first time, and I fell madly in love with Jack Dawson. I didn’t understand why I was so sad when he died at the end. Then I watched Romeo and Juliet -
J: - Oh my god, me too. Young Leo was one of my first crushes.
T: Yes! Anyway, it was always an emotional connection and attraction for me, as opposed to an innately sexual one. I think there’s this stereotypical narrative that all gay men are very “sexually driven”, but I would say thay we are sexually awakened.
For the first time I’m in a place where I’m excited to explore my gender identity. University was the first time in my life I was able to be open with people about who I am. I’m still learning. I would always hide anything that could be seen as “different” when I lived at home, and if my mom found anything, I’d always be like, “Oh, that’s my friends, they must have just left it in my bag”, or whatever. If it wasn’t for the people I consider my chosen family, I wouldn’t be at the point that I’m at today. They encourage me to explore every facet of who I am as a human, and things that excite me outside of binaries within sexual identity.
J: What currently excites you?
T: Right now - makeup, dresses and anything big and poofy. I’m trying to explore that side of myself right now.
J: What, if any, is your relationship between femininity and masculinity?
T: There isn’t one without the other for me. For me, in my journey, my experience, femininity and masculinity have to coexist. This duality helps me to be strong, to support myself and to be able to explore the vulnerability in myself as the black, queer person that I am.
Growing up I was always told, “You can’t cry''. It made it feel less justifiable to be vulnerable. I think that’s why I’ve had such a bad journey with my mental health. I used to say to myself, “Don’t allow yourself to express these emotions. Why are you feeling this way? Deal with it. Get over it. Move on.” Now I’ve learnt that it’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to really feel things and break down every once in a while. I have very, very intense emotions and I like exploring those feelings, kind of like how a painter will explore different colours.
J: Being aware of your emotions so deeply is a blessing and a curse.
T: Exactly. I’m in a space now where I feel like everyone around me supports me, and I trust them enough in order to be vulnerable with them. I’ve built myself up enough to know that I’m gonna keep going and I’m gonna keep exploring this side of myself. I am such a sponge, and I love learning more about my community and about life. Life is constantly evolving and the concept of what queerness is now is gonna be completely different in 10 years and I’m excited for that. It scares a lot of people, but the idea that I’m just an atom in this massive universe of identity, and can choose how I claim space in this world, makes me very excited.
J: When do you feel most powerful?
T: When I can see the impact of me expressing who I am exciting the people I surround myself with. It fulfills my need for validation. I feel most powerful when I feel supported by people that I love and care about. At the end of the day, it’s about seeing one another live our best lives.
J: Tell me about your chosen family?
T: Half of the time I am moving through life without fully knowing what I’m doing, but I surround myself with people who can support me and understand that. It makes me more comfortable within myself. We have to learn how to manifest it. You would have no one around you if people didn’t see the beauty in you, that’s why they are in your life. You have to hype yourself up from there. It’s also very important that they call you out on your shit. What really excites me in life is when I see my coven of bad bitches thriving in life, and doing the things they said they wanted to do.
J: When do you feel most at home in your body/most yourself?
T: The days where I’m not conscious of my body are the days I feel most myself. I have really, really bad days where I can’t physically look at myself in the mirror because I have really bad body dysmorphia.
The days I feel most comfortable in myself are the days I can be at home, watching reality TV. There’s no outside pressure to be “cool” or present myself if any way. When I can be in bed, at home - I’m cosy, I’m watching reality TV, (preferably Real Housewives) and I’m eating a big mac and two cheeseburgers in one go.
J: What inspires you to be creative?
T: This is going to sound so cliché, but what inspires me is love and passion. And when they bridge a gap together, it’s even better. Someone who’s passionate about their life and what they’re doing, or someone who is madly in love with themselves, what they’re doing and how they’re moving through life - I’m so drawn to that. I want to understand it more and that pushes me to be more creative and more open.
And drama inspires me to be creative - That’s why I love reality TV.
J: What are some positive ways you can describe yourself?
T: I am intuitive, adaptable, passionate, loyal. I can be a little pretentious. Other than that, I’m perfect.
J: What is your ultimate fear?
T: I used to fear that I would never be enough for someone, but now I think my ultimate fear is not leaving a mark on this world. I want to leave this earth knowing that I inspired someone else to be something in their life, not to get stuck. My ultimate goal in life is to write children’s books. I want kids to know that if they are different to the other kids at school, they are not alone.
Watch the film now on the Mission Statement Youtube:
Director & Producer - Jessica Lawson Director Of Photography - Ramon Mellett
Staring: - Terence David - Ayanda Duma - Glitteris Greeneye Offline Edit & Animations - Jessica Lawson Online Edit & Grade - Ramon Mellett
Special Thanks: Eyeforce, Sam Lawson, Bee Beardsworth, Sisipho Graham, Chiara Esposito