What happens in real life when you are deemed by other people's standards "unlikely" to do or be anything? What happens when the existing portraits of heroes, leaders, successful people out there look and act nothing like you?
I was an overweight, closeted brown kid picked on most days at school. I lived in a white-washed, primarily Christian neighborhood belonging to a church community that believed I was going to hell. More often than not, instead of making friends, I did origami. I grew up being told that by certain societal standards, my chances at achieving any kind of success were "unlikely." Author Junot Diaz captures this phenomenon beautifully:
"You guys know about vampires? You know how vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There's this idea that monsters don't have reflections in a mirror. And what I've always thought isn't that monsters don't have reflections in a mirror. It's that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. Growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn't see myself reflected at all."
So what' I'm trying ambitiously trying to create in service of the kids who are victim to erasure is a kind of crowd-sourced advice column. Think of it as a messenger bird to younger people who don't have access to big cities or diverse viewpoints. Think of it as a ledger of role models, or a field guide for growing up. Think of it as the Internet version of sitting down with a cool-as-fuck mentor at a 24-hour diner and talking about your life. Think of this project as an oral history of the kinds of advice we have to give each other, to give to ourselves, and to give to our former selves, as told by a curated group of people who want to be who they needed when they were younger.
It will start simple, with a newsletter. Starting May 8th on a biweekly-ish basis, I'll be putting out this incognito version of the project. Goal here is to capture the existing audience I have and slowly nourish it, like a lil baby potted plant, as it gets shared to the people outside my first circle of friends/social media.
I'll be traveling during the entire summer putting out this newsletter, reeling people in with cuuute travel pics, life updates, and book recommendations—then tacking on a final piece of advice-y content—the infant version of the larger project. These advice pieces will translate to my Instagram in smaller, more digestible chunks. So a 400-word newsletter inset with images and gifs will boil down on my social media to something quippier with a call-to-action to subscribe, keeping to my own voice.
Over the course of four months of traveling and newslettering, I'll be conducting interviews will neat-o successful creatives, photographing them unstyled, purely documentary, taking one with iPhone for social and another with a DSLR. As I accrue them, a shorter version of an interview will start to appear in the newsletter.
A good example would be my friend Ruthie, here—a designer with a big following and Taylor Swift on her list of clientele. However, questions will not revolve around what they do, but who they are. Subject matter addresses the nature of their growing up, and provide insight on how others can grow up better. I'll conduct full interviews, but for the newsletter/Instagram only publish 1-2 answers to questions like this.
Name a time when someone told you that you couldn't do something.
What were you like as a kid?
What's the best advice you've never taken?
When have you felt most rock-bottom?
How would you describe a hero?
These interviews will piece together the largest portion of this project. While traveling, I'd like to record full-length interviews and then snip and clip these interviews to manufacture several different kinds of repurposed content. These pieces of content will be packaged as a digital "issue" or "episode" online, each revolving around a specific topic. So imagine clicking through to "issue 01" and getting something like this.
After the first "issue" is launched and some interest is gathered, I could launch a Kickstarter to fund the fluctuation of the project— small travel expenses, financial support for my time, payment to those helping with design, development, videography, etc. End product will be a year of traveling and fulfilling the research that I need to do to execute this project, with the ultimate goal of getting 12 more "issues" up, and gathering this material to also finish my novel on the same topic, offering the book as one of the "rewards."
Kickstarter video might be something like this in style, using the opener to this presentation as the voiceover.
And I'll end with this quote.
Is the "why" apparent? Where do I lack in conviction?
Is the subject matter, as I've laid it out, still to broad?
I've thought a lot about sharpening this entire project by focusing exclusively on queer coming-of-age, framing the project as "advice for gay people and other people too." Would this kind of marketing bring the project greater focus? Or isolate a non-LGBT-identifying audience?
Are there content ideas that are too far-fetched or you could do without?
Is it okay to not have a separate site for this? Would hosting all this under ImFran.com convolute what I'm doing?