🎵 It’s a Revolutioooon, ow! 🎵
G: Whether it’s on their YouTube channel or when they’re walking down the runway, they burst with Joy. This week we’re talking to Ari Fitz about the Joy of being black, non-binary, and in love with the whole world.
🎵 zap sound transition 🎵
A: I’m out here tryna look cute and trying to make sure that y’all see that, you know, I my, I’m wearing, you know, these assless chaps. You know, like…
*Both burst into laughter*
🎵 zap sound transition 🎵
G: I’m Gabby Rivera ,I’m your favorite butch tía singing “Can You Feel The Beat?,” while offering you sips of my beer and asking, “what grade are you in again?” ‘cause I love you so so much, and this is Joy Revolution the podcast that asks, how do you prioritize Joy?
🎵 Joy. Revolution. Joy. Revolutiooon yeaahh 🎵
G: Y’all, there’s a million magical things that I could say about Ari! They are a super popular YouTuber, a visionary…
A: Oh, man.
G: …in QTPOC media, an influencer, a model, a dreamboat…
G: …all of these things!
A: You really just called me a dreamboat?
G: I did!
A: That really just happened?
G: *laughs boisterously*
A: That happened to me. Thank you so much.
G: You’re welcome but listen! Y’all, I don’t know Ari from any of that. I met Ari in the middle of the ocean in France, but listen, don’t worry. We’re gonna get to that. What we’re doing today, we are talking to Ari Fitz about the Joy in being a black non-binary human in love with the whole world.
A: Wow. That is what I’m doing.
A: Yeah, very very much so.
G: Ari, will you please tell everybody who you are, what, if any pronouns you’re using today? I’m using she/her…
G: …and uh, what you do in your own words?
A: Absolutely. Right now I’m using all pronouns. I kind of like, I like to throw ‘em on based on like whatever ‘fit I’m wearing. Like, you know? So it’s like…
A: …sometimes like if I’m really femme one day, then I wanna use he/him pronouns.
G: *sounds of excitement* Aye, yeah! *laughs*
A: *giggles* You know? I just want to fuck with people or mess with people’s, you know,
imaginations and, and…
G: Fucking mess them up.
A: Yeah, like we already have these like ideas of what gender is like, why, why not bend them and play with them when you get dressed in the morning? And so…
G: Listen, why else am I even getting dressed?
A: Ex-exactly! Exactly!
A: Like why not have fun when you’re getting dressed? And so I’m using all pronouns right now. Uh, I have, ugh, my story’s all over the place, but I started on a reality show and a lot of people forget that. Uh, I started off on MTV’s “Real World.”
G: Yeah? Oh my gosh, you did! *giggles*
A: Yeah! A lot of people were like, “What!? Like, I can’t believe that’s a part of your story.” But that was like, how I was introduced to, like the public and something happened on the show actually, where I, uh, had a conversation with my ex about the way that I was dressing. And I was exploring my identity publicly…
G: Oh wow!
A: …in front of everyone and just trying to figure out who I was and how, how to dress myself. And that, that led to me making YouTube videos about the way that I dress and just talking about my identity. And that led to me doing more androgynous modeling. And that led to me doing, you know, uh like other projects on YouTube, but that led to film stuff. So, I’d say now I just, I just create stuff. I am super curious. I really love, uh, I love to challenge myself and I get really surprised at seeing some of the things that I can do…
A: You know?
G: Right, right.
A: Sometimes I’m just like, “wow!” Like, I didn’t know that I could, I didn’t know that I could write something like this. I didn’t know that I could dance like this. You know?
A: I like to challenge myself and so, all that to say I’m a creator and I like all pronouns, yeah.
G: We met in, in the ocean, right?
A: *excitedly* Yes!
G: So I’m gonna, I’m gonna give…
A: *gushes* ugh!
G: …a little, a little insight on that.
A: *sigh* Woo!
G: Listen, Ari and I were…in Cannes…
G: …right? C-A-N-N-E-S.
A: I get so nervous saying that word.
A: I, I really did…
G: *deeper and authoritarian voice* Cannes.
A: …I watched so many YouTube videos trying to make sure I got the pronunciation right.
G: *giggling throughout*
A: And I still got, like I said it under my breath, like…
G: *in a humorous voice* Is it canes!?
*Both laugh together*
G: And listen, I don’t know who knows how to say it, it’s French, right? We were there and literally I gotta tell you, uh, I had a moment where I was like, “okay, I’m taking my chunky, queer…
A: *hums in affirmation*
G: …masculine presenting…
G: …Puerto Rican from the Bronx. So…
A: All of you, yeap.
G: …to this rich, bougie, bizarre place. And once again, I’m worried, right? That I’m gonna be isolated…
A: *hums in acknowledgement*
G: …I’m going to feel like I’m on display in another sense…I’m gonna not have anything…
G: …and no one, right? And so, but here’s this great opportunity right here…
A: Of course!
G: Come. Here’s some money, come talk to all these folks and, and be in
France. And then there was a moment…
A: Which means you absolutely have to say yes…
G: Yes! *laughs*
A: …like you would not, you’re not…
A: …gonna say no. *giggles*
G: No! You’re not gonna say no.
G: But there was a moment where was like, “yo G, you have to just own this…
G: …and if you’re gonna go, you’re gonna honor yourself at every turn.” And part of that honoring was…that day that we met, I told myself, “you’re gonna do your thing and then you’re gonna go into the ocean, and you’re gonna give thanks.”
A: And I watched that happen. Like we had just met, we just met.
A: And then I, we, we met and I saw your, I saw your panel…
A: …and it was like a professional panel and all this stuff. And then right next to us was the beach and so I’m on the beach.
G: Y’all are just on the beach…
A: We’re just on the beach! You know?
G: Being cute on the beach.
A: Just tryna be cute!
G: And I’m like in having this spiritual journey.
A: *sound of acknowledgment*
G: I’m like, hello. Oh my God. All right. I go in the water. I’m saying my thanks…
A: You got in the water with your hat!
G: *bursts into laughter*
A: And that was…the coolest thing! I was in the South of France, and I just saw you beast your panel, handle your panel, then put your hat on, put your bathing suit on and get in the South of France water!
G: *continues laughing boldly*
A: In the ocean! I was impressed. I was, I was…like, I wanted to, I got in right after you.
G: Listen, but you didn’t come in when I was first going in. So in my mind, I’m like, I’m in there. I give my thanks to the ocean. I am thankful that I am not alone and I turn around and there you are.
A: I had to. Yeah.
G: Like a literal manifestation of the community and the love and, and everything and the ancestral guidance that I felt in that moment.
G: There you were.
A: *heavy exhale*
G: And so one other thing is that you were as open as the ocean.
A: *heavy exhale* I am not gonna cry today.
G: *softly giggles*
A: What we’re not gonna…you’re not gonna have me tearing up that. That’s so beautiful.
G: You’re as open as the ocean and I want you to talk to me….
A: *peaceful sigh*
G: …about the kind of Joy that you have inside to move with that openness.
A: Yeah. Oh man. Um, I think that this year specifically, that I have just been forcing myself to like, uh, just…unlearn a lot of the stuff that I think I kind of
decided was fact as a kid, you know? There’s so many things that I think were programmed to me or like programmed into me and told to me like, you know, you’re supposed to present this way or you’re supposed to, you know, this is what success is. Like I had to unlearn so much of that and in like kind of stripping all of these layers this year. It’s been really painful.
G: *hum in acknowledgment*
A: *soft chuckle* It’s really hard. But it’s also been so amazing to see when I unlearned all these things, how I could kind of redefine what success is, and redefine what beauty is, and redefine what style is to me. And I think I’ve, uh, in, in this like kind of unlearning and relearning, I’ve created a whole new like language for myself that feels right.
G: There’s multiple things happening at the same time, right? To unlearn, you have to be in conflict with the world around you and be like, what, what is happening
G: Why are, is this society attacking my body, my gender, my understanding of myself?
A: *hum in agreement*
G: And then you also have to like give yourself the permission…
G: …to do it, like your way.
A: Wow! Yep. Yep. Yep. That’s exactly what it is.
G: So when did you give yourself that permission?
A: *Pensive sound* Um, this is gonna be super gay.
G: *chuckles* That’s the only way I do things, actually…
A: Oh man. *giggles*
G: Like? *giggles*
A: Oh gosh, alright. Well, I, uh, I started, I met someone, you know? Like around June last year and this person helped me open up a lot. One of the coolest things about my life right now is that I just have so much love across the board.
A: I have an amazing love, uh, with my partner.
G: Ari is blushing, like so deep right now.
A: I am trying to keep it together.
G: Both of them are actually.
A: *giggles* I am trying so hard to keep myself *trails off*
G: There’s love bubbles popping all around you. *chuckles* You give yourself permission to love, but there’s Joy here too, Ari. Talk to me about that.
A: I, I learned that I could have the permission to explore myself fully and explore like, even using different pronouns, uh, from having, uh, friends, and family, and my partner who just were “like, dude, it’s fine. Like just, just like we’re here regardless. So go play and go figure it out…
G: *sound of intrigue*
A: …and we’re here if you have questions. We’re here if you need us, but like go play.”
G: I love that.
A: Yeah. I, I’ve just been playing and it’s, it’s been, it’s a lot more
fun now because, uh, there’s there, I have no goal anymore. I think, uh, I think I always had a goal up until this year. I was just like, “well, I’m gonna, I’m going to be the first ever non-binary actor to win this, you know, award or whatever.” And like I had all these things that I wanted to do and then at the end I was just like, who, why am I so committed to these goals? Where are these goals coming from?
G: *sound of acknowledgement*
A: Like where, where are they actually coming from?
A: And is it like…like if I were to just reset at the beginning of this year and
just like, just, just do stuff because I like it, just do stuff because it feels good.
A: Just do something ‘cause it brings me Joy.
A: Hey! I gotchu, I gotchu.
G: That’s a good plug for Joy, thank you so much. *giggles*
A: Aye! Got a little teaser, we’ll get from that, okay. But if I could just focus on doing things that just brought me Joy and not doing things because I wanted to add it to my list of accomplishments. Uh…
G: *pensive hum*
A: …it’s so funny how accomplishments come when you’re just having a good time. And I think that refocusing and then also just the acceptance and love that I had where my friends, and family, and my partner were like, “go play and go have fun.” And I think that the priority, just prioritizing Joy over everything really did lead to just a better quality of life in general.
G: There’s also an interesting part of what you’re saying is that it feels very new, right?
G: And when I’m in conversation with like queer people of color, especially like we live in multiple realities and in planes.
G: So we are a product of our ancestors. We are living in the present and we’re also like projecting ourselves into the future, right?
G: So I want to scale it back a little and be like, what was like teenage Ari like? Did teenage Ari have Joy?
A: Well, young Arielle *soft chuckle* was, uh, she was…very lost. I, I think that growing
up was…tough. Um, and I took the toughness personally…
G: *pensive hum*
A: …I thought that, uh, that life was hard because I had done something wrong. And…*soft exhale* *whispers* ooh that was weird to admit. I didn’t think I’ve ever said that before. Um.
G: It’s totally okay. This is the place to say that. And you’re not the only one, you know?
A: *softly spoken* Thank you.
G: *soft tone* Yeah.
A: Like I was also super homophobic growing up.
G: *hum in acknowledgement*
A: Always. I mean we all, we are, we are so aware of how people are, the homophobia exists within people who are actually just trying to be out here proud and queer and that leads to a lot of the policies that we have. Anyways.
G: Internalized self-hate, you know?
A: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
G: There is a lot of it and like, you know, again, another affirmation, like you’re not alone.
A: *pensive hum*
G: I definitely had a lot of self hate too, so I understand what you’re saying.
A: *sighs* Yeah, it was, I, I mean I think that once I, once I got into college, so, I went to Cal and go bears! I’m so happy I got, I went to school, you know?
A: Like, like a lot of people were like, “oh, how do you feel about going through college?” I think it gave me…it gave me a very clear out as a kid to shoot for. I went into Cal under physics, took two physics classes and was like, “I think I’m not gonna do physics.”
G: *bursts into laughter*
A: Like my physics at my underfunded school was not the same kind of physics they were teaching at Cal.
G: *bursts into laughter*
A: Man. *chuckles*
G: You had….you had the phys. That’s what you had. *laughs*
A: Yeah, they didn’t get to the “-sics” yet.
G: There’s no “-sics” there. *giggles*
A: There wasn’t a C. We didn’t get to the C yet.
G: *sighs in relief* God, I love that you appreciate my dad jokes too…
A: Oh it’s amazing *intelligible*
G: …’cause I was like *laughs*
A: I’m tryna step up my dad jokes. *giggles*
G: You’ve mentioned this a couple of times.
G: This like freedom to play, right?
G: And so I actually have that down because you know I was doing my homework…
G: …and in one of your videos, uh, entitled “I am transitioning.”
G: You talk specifically and joyfully about the freedom to play with gender, especially.
G: And so I would love it if you could like, break down what that actually means. Like imagine somebody who has like play with gender.
A: *hum of acknowledgement*
G: Like what does that mean, you know? And then also feel free to talk about why
people are so afraid to play.
A: Going to the fear thing first. Like it’s, it’s one thing to know who you are internally. It’s another thing to express who you are externally to the world and then…people could reject you. And that rejection is so hard to deal with. Like people are still, there are people who got rejected at 14 who are still un…like afraid to like even shoot their shot at 28 because of that one rejection so rejection…
G: We’re talking to you, men.
A: *bursts into laughter*
G: No, I’m just kidding *boisterously laughs*
A: I was waiting for somebody else to say it, I was like…
G: *continues to giggle throughout*
A: We know who we’re talking about!
G: Right?! *laughs*
A: Like. *laughs*
A: So I think that the fear comes from just like people being afraid of like what if I’m my true self and I, I and I exist outside and people reject that person. Like what if my truest of selves is out there raw out in the open and vulnerable and people don’t like that person.
G: *hum of intrigue*
A: Like dang, I gave you my whole self and you said no. Like that, that’s just painful. It’s hard.
G: *acknowledgment hum*
A: So I think that that’s the fear of it. The play of it for me…um, so there are a lot of things that happened to me just, naturally. There are a lot of things that like I didn’t understand coming up. Like, I naturally just have a lot of muscle. Like I just, I just grew up and I was always really masculine and people would like make fun of it. I would Google when I was like 14, how to like surgically remove muscle and all this stuff.
A: I was, I was there, it was like some place in Japan that could do it. And…
A: And which was really like? Like if I saved my money and like, you know, do all these jobs, maybe I can go and like get it ‘cause I just didn’t like that I looked so androgynous. It was really…I didn’t have, I never, I thought the boobs, I thought the titties were going to come in at some point.
A: They never came through! Like I think they, I think Amazon, like missed my order, like you know? *unintelligible*
G: *laughs* Yo, they sent them to me!
G: I got everybody’s teta order!
A: You got it!
A: That’s not fair. You took my whole order!
G: We got a complicated order!
A: *exacerbated* AH!
A: Anyways, um, my body is just this way. I starting growing this beard out of nowhere, just P.C.O.S. led to me having a lot of facial hair.
A: P.C.O.S. it’s uh, polycystic ovarian syndrome. A lot of, a lot of people have it.
A: Um, and you have, uh, it leads to like a lot of acne and a lot of facial hair. And then, um, once I like unlearned, like allowed myself to start like unlearning and defining new things for myself, I was like, well, what does gender really mean to me, without anybody else involved? And so the Joy actually started to come from like, doing things like getting dressed in a very masc outfit and then being like, no, my pronouns are she/her today.
A: And then, or like, you know, um, uh, you know, just wearing something that’s so confusing and gender bending in a like, you know? Like just really messing with this
idea of gender and playing with it so much; so that way, uh, when I think about it, I only think of like the fun I have with it.
G: *hums in acknowledgement*
A: ‘Cause I only really, it’s like when I’m home alone and I take off everything. The makeup comes off and like all the outfits come off and all that stuff, I’m just Ari, you know? Like it’s just, there’s no gender, there’s just, it’s just…me.
A: It’s just me body rolling in my mirror, like just…
G: *bursts into laughter*
A: …just me, you know?
G: *giggles softly*
A: And I think that, uh, gender only became fun for me and not like a constraint, um, when I knew that it was mine to define and it has nothing to do with all these people. Like who are these people?
G: Who are they?
A: Like I don’t care about y’all. I’m out here tryna look cute and trying to make sure that y’all see that, you know, I, my, I’m wearing, you know, these assless chaps, you know? Like…
G: *laughs* Yes!
A: …that’s actually a real thing.
G: No I…
A: Like I really was out there with the, the cheeks out, you know?
G: *hum in agreement*
A: But um, yeah, I just, I, I think it can be fun.
G: And it should be fun.
G: And it’s like…that fun, you know, that fun was just taken from us like via like whatever, all these religions, imperialism, all this stuff. But that fun was taken from us, right?
A: *softly* Yeah.
G: And you are reviving that in yourself and for everyone around you. And when I hear you talking about the gender and the play and like lighting up, I see you light up.
G: And I want to ask, what it was like a first moment, right? Where you were like, this is the Joy…
A: *softly* Woo.
G: …moment where I am gonna like choose this wave.
G: Like kind of for me a moment of choosing Joy was when I felt like I had none.
A: *hum of intrigue*
G: I’m, how can I be out of Joy? I must not, I must make this a point now, so I’m going to choose it. It happened this past December…
A: *hum of intrigue*
G: …so I have this moment where I was like, yes, this.
G: Do you have?
A: Oh man, yeah. Yesterday was probably one of the most affirming nights of my
life. So I was in, I was, I walked in New York fashion week yesterday.
G: *gasp of excitement* Oh my…
A: Which was just really, really fun. It was…
A: Thank you so much.
A: I mean it’s so sick. Like I as a model…
G: Wait, say it one more time cause you whisper said it and I want you to like say it.
A: Oh yeah, let me say it one more time. Yeah. Okay. So, last night I walked in New York fashion week and I…
G: *whoops in excitement*
A: *hums a beat of excitement* And you know it was cool because I was just like a gender-free person walking that runway. Like my outfit was…anyone could wear it and everyone should wear it. You know? And I was surrounded by like…the show was “gypsy sport” and they made a point to have all bodies, all, all different walks of life, like all different like, like, like sensual identities and sexual identities and, and gender play. Like we all were there. It was just all of us. It just felt like we were all there and it was just a party and like people celebrated when I walked down the runway, like people were happy to see me and that was just cool cause I was like, this is going back to the earlier thing, like I intro, I like, it wasn’t my clothes, it was a gypsy sport, but like I was wearing something that felt like me…felt so much like me and I walked down like, with a bunch of people smiling and celebrating my most truest like depiction of myself. Like that was the most affirming thing ever because it was just like, wow, like not only can I be this full person, like I can be my fullest self, ever. And you all are gonna applaud? *soft chuckle*
Like that’s so…cool. How cool is that? That like people like me can walk down a runway now. Like that…I started modeling years ago and this was never, this was not happening two years ago even, you know? And it’s happening now and I think that, that I like, moments like that shows me that everything that we fight for, all the, all the con, the uncomfortable, and like disappointing conversations that we have with family members, with coworkers, where we have, where we’re forced to kind of explain ourselves over and over and over and over again. It’s cool to know that there are some people who are getting it and we might have to shout it more. We might have to like show off our, like our free happy, joyful selves over and over and over again. But these people are gonna get it or they’re not gonna be a part of the Joy, because, whether you like it or not, like queer people are running culture, you know what I mean?
A: We are running all of culture! Like…
A: Like where’s culture? Yeah, okay, it’s at our house. At the queer house…
A: …right here.
A: So, I mean, I think it’s like, I think that it’s a really fun time to be ourselves. It’s a really, really good time. Social media and all these things have allowed for ever-…for a lot of people, not everybody, definitely not every, because like, you know, there are pockets where people don’t even have wifi, you know?
A: *ironic tone* in the U S of A
G: Of course, yeah.
A: And so I think that, more of us are starting to like, take these microphones and create things like this podcast…
A: …and get our stories out there. And so I think it’s just a really good time to be, to be happily ourselves and freely ourselves.
G: Yes, it is. That’s beautiful. Like I’m still in this moment with you, Ari. Like one, I mean the runway was made for you, right? It was made for us, right?
A: *gushes* Ah, yes!
G: Like we are, like you said, we are the culture. We are the magic, right?
G: So there you were, kind of as the ancestors had…,had placed you in your glory with that affirmation, and it is like the root of that is…you. As you have always been. As you are created, right? And, and it’s interesting too, because we were just talking about people, uh, being afraid of that rejection…
A: *softly* Yeah. *sad exhale*
G: …and that rejection is like, meaningless…
A: *softly* Yeah.
G: …in moments like that.
A: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah!
G: And so you…
G: ….are just trying to send it.
A: Oh my God. Before we, before we took a little break, I was gonna say there’s a place called “Farley’s” and they make the best hot cider you should go.
A: But you remind me of hot cider on a cold morning in Oakland. That’s what you are.
G: *big inhale* Oh my God.
A: That’s literally.
G: That’s beautiful!
A: Yes, from Farley’s specifically…
G: Thank you!
A: …and if they have it, you should go.
G: That’s like spicy and warm…
A: It’s literally all of those things!
G: …like maybe it gets you a little drunk too. *giggles*
A: Exactly! You better spike that. *giggles* I love it.
G: Yeah, I love that. Listen, are we ready for some YouTube conversation?
A: Oh, okay.
G: Are we about?
A: Yeah, let’s go.
G: Are we ready to like?
A: Let’s go. I’m ready. I’m always ready.
G: I mean that’s a hard ready. We’re doing it. Listen.
A: *hum in acknowledgement*
G: So you take yourself, you see yourself…
G: …you’re experiencing all of this real world, all this stuff, and the…*chuckles softly* you’re like, “you know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna continue broadcasting myself to the world.” Right?
G: So talk to me about that, like energy and the motivation, right? To YouTube it.
A: Yeah. YouTube was really, like, just I wanted to get on it because I got the bug from being on “Real World.” I like, I really liked being able to connect with people all over the world ‘cause when I did the show, I like hopped on Twitter and then people would just like immediately like find my story interesting and like find, uh, like…the fact that I was a, you know, a masc presenting person on the show and they had never seen that
before. It was really, really like inspiring for a lot of people. So I got on, I got on YouTube cause I was like,wow, I think I like having, I think I have something to say. It was really just like, I think I might have something to say. And I started making YouTube videos and I learned, I didn’t, um…
G: *cracks up*
A: …have much, uh, to say…
G: *continues cracking up*
A: …my videos were terrible when I first started. *chuckles* They were embarrassing. They were really, they were really bad.
A: But I, um, I kept going just because I really liked, uh, like I just, I fell in love with story. I like stories. I like telling stories and YouTube gave me a way to, um, direct and produce and, and hire my friends as talent and, and make these videos. And they were corny. Some of them were really fun. I have one of my favorite videos to this day is, um, I did a documentary called “My Mama Wears Timbs.”
G: *giggles* Yes!
A: And that…was a great project. It’s a, it follows, um, kind of like a masc presenting woman as she was pregnant.
G: What?! Yes! I love that.
A: Yeah, it was a little short doc, like about eight minutes, but, um, the video, uh, it’s on my YouTube channel right now. Uh, it shows her getting, um, I’m, we’re shooting her for her maternity photos because if you Google maternity wear, maternity photography right now, you won’t see anybody like us.
A: Definitely, you will not see a fitted like, you know, a little snap back.
G: No! *breaks into laughter*
A: You’re not gonna see that from a maternity photo!
G: Yeah, you’re not gonna get a jersey with that, that like opens up so you can breastfeed. *laughs*
A: That sounds sooo beautiful.
A: If we don’t…
G: You run with that. And you…
G: …just call it “G’s…jersey.”
G: That’s it.
A: Oh my God. What the?
A: No, can we, we need to make this happen.
G: Yeah, we should.
A: Like, that’s a really good idea.
G: Thank you!
A: That’s a great idea!
G: Listen, I got a million of them.
A: We gotta. We should just, we should just do that. Go through like all of our little big ideas and just like, we’ll do these in 2020.
G: This is only the beginning.
A: *sigh of relief*
G: Like I said, we’re existing on so many planes who knows what we’re already doing, Ari?
G: And, and so…
A: Gabby, that was beautiful.
A: So that little short documentary, um, that was uh, “My Mama Wears Timbs,” we
shot that and Frankie and Tia, they were having their first kid and um, it was me shooting the maternity photos, or my team shooting maternity photos for her, while, um just showing that masculinity and motherhood can coexist. Like I don’t know why people think that those two things are at odds, but you can definitely be a mom and have your jersey, you know? That idea you just had like, that was a cool invention, you know?
G: And listen, you, ah okay, you just even saying that, you just birthed a whole like planet of babies, right? Because people need to hear that. We need to hear that stuff. There is a bravery that we must kind of tap into in order to like, move into our destinies…
G: You know? Like so serious…
G: You know? And, and on top of all of this Joy and on top of all this like, play there is like a bravery, you said you weren’t serious, but Ari, you are brave. Okay.
A: Yeah, *unintelligible*
G: And, and you know, again, like, concrete example of that is I, you know? I
was reading about you and I was like, here you are, you got your first modeling contract and these, these mother…
G: These monsters…
A: Oh! They want everything!
G: They wanted control of your YouTube channel.
A: Everything, yes.
G: And talk about that bravery.
A: Yeah. Yeah. Um, one little thing, I don’t know if you know this about me. I was raped. My grandmother is a black Panther. My grandmother gave me her money to move to LA…
A: And with her money and um, you know? Like, uh, some followers on YouTube and, and potentially this modeling contract, I moved to LA, and then I was just like, okay, I’ll do YouTube and I’ll do modeling and that’s how I pay my rent and then I’ll earn enough to pay my grandmother back. And then everything will be good.
G: The like, literal like, millennial hustle.
A: Right!? Yeah! I was like…
G: Pay your bills, do your art, pay your grandma. *laughs*
G: Yeah, well I, yes…
A: Those three things, that’s all I ever wanted to do.
A: Yep. And uh, I got there and then I walked into the modeling, a contract. I was like, “Ooh, yay. First day, let’s, let’s, let’s sign this contract. Let’s get this, you know, let’s get these gigs. Let’s go like I’m ready and they ain’t.” I loved them because they liked my androgyny and all the other modeling agencies I had talked to before weren’t really a big fan of like, they’re like, “Hmm, this is weird.”
G: Like they want you to pick.
A: Yeah, they’re like, you’re either this or that. And I’m like, *raises voice pitch* “I don’t know what this and that means.”
A: They’re all constructs anyway.
G: Right. *chuckles*
A: They’re like, “shut up, get out the office.” But um, when I walked in, they, they wanted to control. They said that I couldn’t post. I couldn’t post anything on Instagram without them approving it. I couldn’t make anything or do any deals on YouTube without
them approving it.
G: *large inhale*
A: And I’m like, y’all weren’t even here when I was building. *exacerbated tone* Where were you when I was like tryna make these videos? Like y’all weren’t here so why? Why do you get access to something I’ve built on my own? That doesn’t even make sense. Now, if you bring me a deal, you get a cut. I think that that makes sense. But if I’m earning the deal, then I’m earning my 20% as well. And that didn’t go over well in the *soft chuckle* meeting. They were just like, well, either sign this or we’re not gonna assign you. And I was like, I think me and my grandmother’s money are gonna go back to my apartment and I’m gonna make this work. And so I didn’t sign the, the modeling agency or I didn’t sign with that modeling agency. I kind of gave up on modeling when I first moved to LA in 2016, and I only focused on YouTube and kind of like trying my hand at film.
A: Um, and then just slowly but surely just being active on Instagram, I started getting modeling gigs just directly. And since then, I’ve walked New York fashion week twice. I’ve had multiple campaigns. My face has been on billboards in Osaka, Japan…
G: *extremely enthusiastic* yeeeah!!
A: Like from people screenshotting it and sending it to me. I didn’t think I needed the agency. I think I’m okay…
A: Like I think I’m fine. But, you know? It’s like, it takes moments like these where you just kind of have to be like, this is gonna hurt but I believe in myself this much and I’ve gotten this far and if I give up, not give up, but if I, if I give in now and let someone else control all that I’ve done so far, then I might not ever ,not ever have Joy actually. I might always be working for someone. I might always be like, you know? Kind of using these projects to find Joy eventually instead of just finding Joy in the projects themselves. And I think by remaining independent, by never signing with different agent, like so many people have tried to like, “let’s let us manage you.” It’s like, you don’t think I got this figured out by now?
G: *hum of intrigue*
A: Like you’re late! You’re late, you’re just, you’re late. Like, really I’m fine. Like I’m here because I really wanted to hang out with you. I’m here not because….
A: …my manager told me, like, *deepens pitch* “hey, you gotta be here.” Right?
A: You know what I mean?
A: I’m here because you sent me a text. And it was like, “I wanna do, I would love to talk to you about Joy.” And I was like, heck yeah, that sounds like a really cool way to spend my Tuesday evening. I want to come through. And like that’s, that’s when you…prioritize work like that, and when you just, when you work like that, it’s life is just richer. Like, it’s like when you know, when you, when you, when you know you’re waking up to work on
something that you’ve been thinking about for like a year, it’s just been in the back of your head for like a year and you’re like, man, I need to just do this thing, huh? Like, I just, I just need to get out there and try this thing. It feels so good when you can see it. And for the last two years since the, I didn’t get signed by that agency, I’ve just been doing projects like “My Mama Wears Timbs,” you know? Like my film projects, I’ve just been doing projects because they feel good…
A: …and I think the world will feel good watching them.
A: Like, and yeah…
A: …that’s how I work now.
G: That is!
G: That is the way, right?
G: Like there, what is the, I can’t even imagine another way. Like…
G: …there’s a similarity here between us. Um, you know? Because, there’s so many constraints. Like the like, it’s like we’re dropped into the matrix and then we have to like tap *snaps fingers* into the ancestral, like sonic boom…
G: …that busts it open.
G: Right? And like, it’s like, no, actually this is your path and, and these are the people that will affirm you, and this is where you will be uplifted, you know?
G: And it is in our gathering and our, uh, community and connecting to each other. Right? It’s like you, we were just talking in layers before. It’s like you choose yourself, you choose to move in bravery and also you’re looking and seeing well, who’s also choosing bravery? Who is also playing with their gender? Who are the people that I can like connect with and link with?
G: And Ari, we’re gonna come back to you.
G: This is another thing that I have seen you manifest, like you’ve got your “Fitz Functions.” What moved you to reach out into the community and say, I want to kick it. Like, did you need love?
A: *pensive hum* Whoa!
G: Did you need community in that moment? Like, what was the motivation?
A: Wow, Gabby, first off, you’re great at this.
A: It’s like, yup, this is something you should do. Um, uh, the first “Fitz Function” happened in July in New York. And, um, I’ve had like different ones and like, like I’ve had like meetups and stuff in London and that was always, they always felt so good because it was nice to meet the people behind these screens, right? But this specific, that specific one happened in July because I had just found out that I was shadow banned on Instagram.
G: What this that?
A: Yeah…okay, so shadow banning is, uh, when, um, a platform kind of hides profiles, basically, it’s like, it’s not, you’re not, you’re not gone. They like, you’re not like discontinued on the platform. They didn’t turn off my account or anything, but they make it really difficult for you to find me. They make it so people have assumed that I’ve blocked them.
G: *hum in intrigue*
A: People have had to go through my friends’ accounts to find my account and we’re talking people who like, have followed me on YouTube for years. And we’re just like, “I just could never find your Instagram, so I gave up.” Um, found out that I was shadow banned, uh, cried about it like genuinely because it impacted my money. It impacted my ability to reach my audience. It impacted everything. And then I was just, I was just like, you know, I have another weekend before I have to go back to LA. I want to meet y’all. Like whoever, whoever can see this account right now. If you see this, I’m going through a lot because, you know, I just found out that like something, I’ve dedicated three years to creating content on, to creating specifically for Instagram. It’s been hating on me really, you know? And like making it impossible for me to build and grow.
I want to meet the people who have like really appreciated my work in person, because this platform doesn’t want us to connect at all. And so, uh, the first ever little “Fitz Function,” I got the art made and the art was like made in the spirit of the Black Panthers.
A: And it’s just to like honor my grandmother and also to honor the fact that like, activism is real and we can still have a good time. And uh, I put that, uh, I put that flyer up and I was so nervous. I was so nervous to ask via…like I asked my girlfriend, she, she knows I was really nervous about it cause I was like, *exacerbated* “no one’s gonna show up. No one’s gonna come. No one’s gonna come!”
A: No one’s gonna come.
G: Another QTPOC parable: No one came to my birthday party. *giggles*
A: *higher pitch* No one came to my birthday party!
G: *giggling* The internal fear.
A: Oh, everyone feels that, right?
G: Right, yeah.
A: Gosh! But then, um, you know? Like three people showed up. We started playing UNO, then five people showed up and they had an inflatable couch. Then another like 10 people showed up and we all started doing the electric slide.
G: *bursts into laughter*
A: And then everybody just started coming through and like, they started a group chat and now they’re all friends. Like they all hang out with each other.
G: Wow! Wow! *giggles* Yes!
A: It got massive. Yeah. It was, and it was just like a little way to get together after learning that, you know, these places that we’re creating on don’t really serve us. So like, how can we serve each other?
A: I, I think, you talk a lot about community and you mentioned community so much and I think that I uh, spent a lot of my time just thinking that I was going to be alone and that I am alone. And I think that like that’s just kinda how I how, I mean, I love my mom to death. I like love my mom with all of my heart and soul and I think she did everything she could for us. And I think that she instilled in me independence over everything. She’s like, “if I’m not here, if your brother’s not here, I need to know that you’re gonna survive.”
G: *hum in acknowledgement*
A: And that like survival mode kind of made me very independent, like very, like tight circle, not trusting anybody. Like I don’t want that. No, no clubs, I don’t wanna talk to anybody. And I like, did that for so long and then I realized that my art was suffering from that.
G: *hum in acknowledgement*
A: Like I, in order for me to actually like make the work that will inspire, that will touch people, that will bring Joy…I need to actually work with other people. I need community.
*Both softly chuckle*
G: When you think about the other like, queer, black, non-binary kids out in the world and all the fears maybe that they might have, or like the exaltations that whatever, *intelligible*, whatever they’ve got going on, right? What words of like encouragement, affirmation would you offer them, like to move in bravery and choose Joy?
A: Dang. Oh. *softens tone* I’m talking to the babies now. Oh, I get all, I get…so there’s just so much to say. Um, I would…fight for your freedom to play and to exist 1000%.
I hope all of you listening to this, if you’re coming up and you’re just tryna, if you’re just tryna make sense of the world and make sense of you in it, prioritize your play. Just, just really try to give yourself as much space. Um, and by giving yourself space, I mean like if there’s a relationship that feels limiting, that you’re in, if there’s a program that you’re in that feels limiting, get rid of all of those constraints and give yourself the freedom to play. Because I think only through play have I learned that I could even be this person that I could be like, oh yeah, I use all pronouns, you know? Like I think that I wouldn’t have been able to say that and not make it so charged and serious if I didn’t like just free myself this year and just say like, “hey, let’s, let’s try and just enjoy 2019.”
A: What, what would it feel like? What would it feel like if the pressure of just trying to get like, enter an accomplishment, whatever new accomplishment I come up with; like, if I just released all that pressure and I just was like, I want to wake up and like, you know, maybe today I just want to dance.
G: *softly* Yes!
A: Like, like I, I hope all of us get that freedom to play. I really do.
G: Oh my gosh. Me too. This is one of my favorite questions. This is like that hype question.
A: Okay, let’s go. Let’s go.
G: Okay. What? Alright, Fitz, What does your Joy revolution look like?
A: I’m Ari Fitz. My Joy revolution is…morning on a rooftop in London, and like people are just about to start their days like it’s kinda cold out a little bit. There’s a blanket laid out on the roof and people can kinda see it. *noise of question* They can kinda see me and my partner, but we started to do some stuff and then my partner realizes that my eyes are turning yellow cause I’m a whole ass werewolf. That is my Joy revolution.
G: *sound of excitement* Oh! Yes!
G: Yes, I love that. That’s it, we’re directing that.
G: That is a movie.
A: Can we make it happen?
A: I think that it could happen. Are you down?
G: I am here for nonbinary werewolf. When you’re done turning into a werewolf, you come and join me on the beach.
A: Oh! Oh my God.
G: And we’ll meet in the ocean, again.
A: Oh…my…goodness! I, my mind is part of all this. Yes, yes. I agree. I consent. I want all that!
🎵 musical transition 🎵
G: You already know that one of my favorite parts of Joy revolution is coming.
A: Oh, I’m so ready.
🎵 dramatic cue 🎵
G: *superhero autotuned voice* Lightning Joooy!
G: *cackles* You’re gonna have 30 seconds…
G: …to answer as many questions. One answer. With one answer, as many questions about Joy as I can throw at you.
G: Are you ready?
A: I’m ready. Should I be blindfolded? Does that matter?
G: No, no, no, but do…
A: I feel like…
G: …do whatever the werewolf inside of you says to do.
A: I feel like me and my werewolf self have to go, we have to close our eyes for this.
G: Okay, producer, Kat Lazo, how are we doing on that timer?
A: Oo, yeah.
K: *announcer voice* 30 seconds on the clock!
A: Oh wow!
G: Alright….and go!
G: Ari Fitz, what is Joy’s favorite type of underwear?
A: Uh, the, boxer shorts or uh, yeah, boy shorts!
G: Where did Joy take you on a date?
A: *nervous sound* Uh, to a…smoothie place. Açai bowls!
G: What is Joy’s favorite color?
A: Uh, orange!
G: What astrological sign is Joy?
A: Uh, Gemini.
G: What is Joy’s favorite fashion designer?
A: Woo, Gypsy Sport. *chuckles*
G: What does Joy wish for at 11:11?
A: *gasps* Ahhh, peace for their families…all families!
K: *imitates buzzer sound*
G: *imitates buzzer* Bing, bing, bin, bing!
A: *laughing* I really stressed out!
A: But it was so fun! My heart is like still calming. *voice fading out* It needs to calm down.
🎵 musical transition 🎵
G: And all you listening out there, I know you’re totally in love with Ari Fitz, as you should be. So pay attention. They’re making weekly YouTube videos for themselves and for you. They are youtube.com/ItsAriFitz and for fun, you should follow them on Twitter @ItsAriFitz (Yet another stallion Fitz).
A: Yes. Just tryna y’all know I got this stallion energy as well. You know?
G: Listen, you’re the stallion and I don’t know, I’m a brown bear.
A: Oh my g…
G: *laughs* Anyway, that’s a cartoon.
A: That’s kinda. That’s really, cause I mean there, first off, there’s so many things that we can say ‘cause you just said bear and there’s like a bear game.
G: *giggling throughout*
A: There’s, there’s a, there’s a lot of like really kinky things you just laid out at the end of your podcast.
A: You wanna turn it off and talk about it?
A: *giggling* Okay.
G: But, you know what? That’s it for this episode.
G: And as always, at the end of Joy revolution, we give a big thank you to our family here. Our audio king, Marcela Carbajal, Julissa Contreras, studio manager of
the stars. Music genius, Angelica M. Rodriguez, and the producer of my dreams, Kat Lazo. And me, your host Gabby Rivera, and you can follow me @QuirkyRican on Instagram and y’all, if you haven’t already, remember to jump on the Joy ride and subscribe. Thank you for listening to Joy revolution, the podcast that asks: how do you prioritize Joy? Because we’re meant to thrive…not just survive.
G: *imitates buzzer* Bur, bur, bur, bur!
A: Oh, my God!!
G: Somebody cue the reggae air horn!
*unintelligible speaking fades out*
*Music outro fades in and then out*
🎵 Joy. Revolution. Joy. Revolutiooon yeaahh 🎵
*Closes with someone giggling*