TRAVEL & LGBT
Queers You Should Know: Photographer, Femme Fashion Aficionado, and Blogger Debbie-Jean Lemonte
Debbie-jean Lemonte is a fashion blogger, lifestyle and portrait photographer who brings her unique sense of femme fashion to the forefront of digital activism. Debbie is currently spending the next 52 weeks traveling the United States with her best friend and blogging partner, Sara Geffard of A Dapper Chick. Together, they’re traveling to discover and explore LGBTQI-friendly places that will then be disclosed to the community as a resource of fun, unique, and welcoming places to visit in a post-Trump America.
Hey Debbie, tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a super sassy Queer femme who just loves to see people happy and succeed in life. I came here at the age of 11 from Jamaica. I’m grateful enough where I was able to attend high school and completed as a double major (Dance + Psychology) in college with above average grades. I say this because in my journey towards “academic success”, I’ve lost friends who had similar stories because they had to go back home or choose work over school to take care of their families. I’m thankful that I was able to finish due to my mother’s support as well as my BFF, Sara and my mentor at the time, Edisa Weeks. When I’m not photographing my best friend, I’m more than likely hanging out on social media platforms, assisting start-up brands as well as entrepreneurs with their online presence or venting away on my personal blog.
That’s amazing – you do so many awesome creative things. You’re a photographer, sometimes travel blogger and style enthusiast. With your talent and immense internet following, you could use your platform as an opportunity to sell T-shirts or to basque in internet fame… and yet I’m continuously impressed with your enthusiasm for giving back to the communities that support you. Can you tell us about your forms of digital and IRL activism? I’d love to know how they interact with your creative pursuits – is there any cross over?
Haha! I wish I had the consistency to sell T-shirts. With my sarcasm and wittiness, I’d be a millionaire by now. I’m all about supporting those who invest in you. It doesn’t have to be grand. Small gestures eventually turn into big waves. Since I find it difficult to stand in crowds of people (literally – I’d have panic/anxiety attacks), I use my digital platforms instead. I’ve realized that technology has taken on a more direct yet broad way of reaching people and after a few months of realizing that people were paying attention to what I had to say, I figured since I can’t physically be present in marches/revolutions, I’ll do my part virtually. This can be for womens’ rights, funding for our inner city schools/ low-income communities, etc. News spreads fast once the internet becomes involved. I occasionally photograph events for dapperQ geared towards inclusivity, positivity, etc.
Right now, my BFF and I are doing a 52-Weeks expedition where we will be traveling to a different city every week. The purpose is to find “safe havens” for LGBTQI-identified folks as we’re living under a Trump presidency. As an immigrant, a queer woman of color at that, it’s important for us to do this as we’d like to see how these cities would accept just based on our physical presentation. Upon the conclusion of our trips, we’re writing articles about these spaces and creating an online resource for the community to have access to. There’s a cross-over here because I get to do what I love – traveling and photography. My BFF will be doing the writing. My dad always said that in order to change the world, you have to do your part. But you can’t do your part if you don’t know what you’re good at or what your purpose is. I’ve figured out what I was good at, then eventually everything I had a passion for somehow crosses over with it.
I love that, you and your dad are so right. We all have our parts to play. Where does your passion for photography stem from?
I’ve always loved anything that allows a person to express themselves fully and willingly, whether that be dance, painting, photography, singing, acting, etc. Ironically, I was pretty shy growing up. My thoughts would be just that; they would be thoughts. I wouldn’t tell anyone. The older I got, I realized my bottled thoughts/emotions started to affect my behavior so I started letting it out. I started my first blog. That crashed and burned. Eventually, I dated this guy who was a photographer and I assisted him. I occasionally picked up his camera and after a while, I realized that I loved taking pictures. I loved taking a picture and someone sees it and immediately, their body language changed. How they treat themselves changed. How they SEE themselves changed and since then, photography has grown to be my #1 passion.
I love asking people about their passions because everyone has a different reasoning for loving their craft. What are some of the struggles and rewards of your work?
Struggles… often people see my photography site and when they reach out, they automatically assume I’m the assistant. Models have showed up on set asking to meet with the photographer and I’d break their hearts by simply saying “It’s me”. They’ve expected it to be a man. In the world of photography, you don’t meet a lot of female photographers and if you do, some of them are quite catty. So building a genuine tribe of creatives who get you and your work can be difficult. It takes time, but eventually you find one.
Rewards… I get to inspire people. I’ll never forget the day I gave away a session to a young lady; it was her first shoot ever. At the end, she confessed to having low self-esteem and my heart broke. Here she is on her birthday and I’m looking at one divine being who doesn’t see what everyone else sees. So what I did was after the session, I sent her some teasers and ever since then, I’ve never seen her walk with her head down ever again. She’s a force to be reckoned with.
How do your identities impact your view of the world?
It’s hard for my identities not to. As an immigrant living in the US since I was a child, I was able to experience bullying first hand in high school because I looked and sounded different than a typical American. I had to learn quickly the importance of assimilating into a culture that wasn’t my own and navigate my early teen years into adult life according to these unspoken social cues and expectations. As a Queer/Bi-person, I had to learn at an older age that I actually do have some privilege based on my (femme) physical presentation, come to terms with those privileges, and use it for inform others a while keeping in mind that as a woman of color, I’ll still get paid less and treated unfairly because of the color of my skin. Taking all my experiences from childhood to adulthood, including those years of being in church with my parents, my entire view went from selfish to being open and understanding to those that are different. Being different doesn’t mean harm. It simply means diversity. In order for me to be of service to others, I must first be open to their way of life, their culture, and their habits.
Do you consider yourself a community builder?
I honestly don’t know. My goal is to be. I’ve always been open, honest, and helpful in any way to those within the community who may need help. I’m in a business where you don’t hear a lot of “thank-you’s” and “encouragement” from those who consider themselves builders and creatives. So do I strive to be a builder? Yes. Do I consider myself one? I have no clue.
For the record, I see you as one. That’s why we’re here today haha. I’m a bit obsessed with your personal style amongst all the other things you’ve got going on. Where do you get your style inspiration from? Any tips for readers looking to recreate your looks?
Haha! Thank you. Sounds crazy but I tend to look at celebrities no one looks at. I pull ideas from the weirdest places. I could be sitting in a meeting with a graphic designer who pulls out a color palette and I love it so much I have to create an outfit with the same colors. I do not have one source at all. For anyone looking to recreate my looks, I’d suggest 3 things: 1. Know your body type (2) Know your budget and (3) take the next cab to H&M or hop on the computer and head over to ASOS. Yes, I am cheap and I am not ashamed. You don’t have to spend Trump dollars in order to look like an Obama. (wink)
LOL – I see what you did there. I have to ask – If you could recommend any travel destination – what would you suggest to those reading this?
Asheville, NC. They were super LGBTQ-friendly. It’s like a mini-getaway without going too far.
Last question, but are there any projects you’re working on now?
As a photographer, I am currently doing two things:
I’m looking to connect with other creatives who are hoping to update their marketing materials/Linkedin Profiles/Stock Photography/Dating sites or just need a photographer for their events. I’m also currently casting for LGBTQI couples for a wedding shoot for a magazine. If there are any couples out there interested, they can reach out. I’d prefer NYC-NJ residents.
You can connect with Debbie on her social media channels
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