TRANSCRIPT: Lives At Stake, Armani Dae on ‘Shopping Trans for the Holidays’

Imara Jones: Our last guest tonight is Armani Dae. But before I give Armani an intro, I wanted to just remind you again, that if you wish to comment before the end of our show to send those comments in now. Because I’ll read them at the end of Armani, Armani’s really incredible discussion about the way in which art intersects with the products that they sell. And lastly, I wanted to remind you that if you go to translash.org, you will be able to see a directory there that we have of an array of trans businesses, including all the businesses that were featured tonight. So that you can find out how to order the stuff that you need to get in. And as well, all of the companies and guests tonight are also listed on thegreenespace.org, where you can do the same. 

So lots of ways to figure out how to connect with everyone that you’ve seen tonight, and again, to be able to get your orders in. So last up tonight is Armani Dae, who is an artist and an activist who uses their artistry and activism in order to support therapy and change. One of the ways in which they are able to extend their reach is through an online shop, which sells print photography and art prints, as well as art itself, that Armani has made. There’s so many different price points. There’s something for everyone. I sat down with Armani yesterday, we recorded that discussion yesterday. So I’m gonna look slightly different, but the content of our discussion is really, I think rich. And so here is my conversation with Armani Dae about their online store and ways that you can support their business this holiday season. Armani thank you so much for joining us.

Armani Dae: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Imara Jones: Thank you. So first off, it seems as if art is something that you have been inspired by since you were a child. I’m wondering if you can just talk about the relationship between your artistic inspiration as a child and how you kept that alive to be able to continue to bring products that are artistically based to people now. That’s something that so many people actually lose as they get older.

Armani Dae: It’s true, a lot of people do lose that. So for me as a child, and even today, I struggle with speaking, with being verbal. I know that I’ve written books and I used to do public speaking and even mentored people. But I still struggle with being verbal and speaking, which is why I create my art. So as a child, when I felt like I didn’t have that outlet to talk to certain people, about my gender, about my sexuality and the things that I was experiencing like in puberty and such, I started to sing. So music is my first love. A lot of people don’t know that, but I started to sing as a child and it grew from music to science, but more so like a creative science where I wanted to mix things with paint and experiment with stuff, then grew to photography. 

And I just, I kept a hold of those things, not so much music and the singing, even though I still love it. It’s like a secret love of mine, but it was my therapy. And even still today, it’s my therapy. I have gone to an actual therapist and it actually helped me in life, but I still use my art as my therapy. My art is my outlet. That’s why a lot of my paintings are abstract because I am letting out my emotions and or things that I’ve gone through or seen other people go through. So I kept a hold of my art because it’s my therapy. And a lot of us need therapy. And my therapy makes me happy and it gets me recognition and it makes me a little money sometimes too, so, yeah. So I held onto that from a child and I’ll forever hold onto it and continue to create.

Imara Jones:  What do you think your art does for your ability to express yourself? What, how does it, why do you think it’s art for you, that’s the medium that essentially allows you to communicate with other people?

Armani Dae: So the expression “A picture says 1000 words.” It stood out to me, but sometimes photographs weren’t enough. I’ve been doing photography since 2009. Sometimes I couldn’t capture certain things, especially when it came to people in their interactions in life. So I started to paint, I started to write. And so sometimes I need to express myself through writing and or through my paintings. And that’s my therapy. It holds me, like I said, it keeps me sane, it keeps me motivated. It makes me continue to be ambitious and want to do better to show the things that I’m going through to express my feelings and my experiences and other people’s experiences. And like I said, photography wasn’t, it wasn’t always enough. Sometimes you couldn’t just show what you needed to show or say what you needed to say through photography. So I found these other mediums that allowed me to get the messages out that I needed to get out.

Imara Jones:  Yeah, it’s so true. A picture is worth 1000 words. I’m wondering if you can just talk a little bit about how you decided to go from art as a communication tool, to art as possibly a revenue stream, as an income, right? And not fine art, not necessarily paintings exclusively, but to democratize your art through prints and through the things that are on your website. Can you just talk about how did you decide to make that jump?

Armani Dae: Well, art is life. Anybody who doesn’t know that I don’t know what world they’re living in but art is life. I guess, with all of the compliments that I was getting on my work, all of the questions in all of my work, always starting conversation. I create art that are conversation pieces. It makes people think it makes people curious and wanna talk to me and ask me, well, why did you do this? Or how did you create this? And again, because I struggle with words, it’s like, okay, this piece that I created or this image that I’ve taken, or this shirt that I created, it makes people think it makes them want to talk to me. It makes them want to spend their money. And they uplifted me and my work, especially when it’s a piece that is so dramatic. And it gets in, it’s like an eternal thing with them. Like it touches someone on the inside and it’s like, Oh my gosh, like this piece really spoke to me. And at first I didn’t honestly believe in myself or my work. I was just doing it because like I said, it was therapy.

It was something that I love to do. And eventually, like I said, with people giving me compliments and wanting to offering to purchase my work. It’s like, okay, oh, I see what I’m doing here. So at first it wasn’t intentional to make money. It was to make me feel better, to get me through life, because if it was a coping mechanism as my therapy. But when I realized that I could make money from it. And on top of that, when I created my first, my first published book, which is “Exposed Truth” it’s a black and white photography book that celebrates the bodies of TG and C folks as transgender, nonconforming, gender variant, two-spirit folks and like people, when I created that book, it was to show the variations of less to educate people, to celebrate our bodies. And when so many people reached out to me and said that, this book changed my life. This book helped me in a long with publishing the book “With Hope” after 20 publications changed me.

It helped me, it made me feel more confident and it made me want to create more things such as that. So with people reaching out to me and telling me how it affected them, it’s like, okay, it’s affecting people. It’s making you money. Even though that wasn’t your intention at first, let’s keep doing this. How can you make it in an intentional thing? So that’s how that became to be something, to make me some revenue and like my dream job, but I do my therapy no matter what.

Imara Jones: And so can you just talk a little bit about what are some of the favorite prints that you have or on your website, or just some of your favorite products that you think represents your ability to provoke conversation through art?

Armani Dae: Hmm, some of my favorite pieces. So I have, all of my photography is my favorite. I just, I love photography. I love capturing life’s moments. So all of my photography is my favorite. I did have a specific show titled “Exposed Truth” which is the color version of my black and white photography book. And it, again, it’s the color version of the images of TG and C people. So to see different bodies of the variations of them, color, shape, size, surgery and not hormones are nice to see how beautiful these people are in themselves. And to see them radiate energy with being confident, and not letting the world tell them, oh, you’re supposed to be this. You’re supposed to look like this or whatever. So it though, all of the images within that exhibition are my favorite if I had to choose favorites, which also I actually have that gallery up, it’s called a “TDOR” gallery. I put it up for a TDOR and that is, that can be found on my website. So as far as my photography, those are my favorite images. And my paintings, I have two favorite paintings. One is titled “Suicide Monster”, and one is titled of “Blissful meltdown.” Those are my two favorites, which I actually still have and haven’t sold them yet. They’re a little pricey, . So I still have them but those two are my most favorite of all of my pieces. 

Imara Jones: And–One minute. No, go ahead.

Armani Dae: No, I was finished. Yeah, I was just saying that those two are my favorite.

Imara Jones:  Well maybe, tonight people are looking for last minute gifts ideas. So maybe they’ll be gone by tomorrow.

Armani Dae: It will be lovely to have them gone .

Imara Jones:  Lastly I’m wondering if you could just talk about what you think is the future of your art and photography and entrepreneurship, like how do you see these things developing over time for you?

Armani Dae: Hm, I would love for them to become mainstream arts, mainstream, therapeutic techniques that I can teach to other people. I’m still learning as I go and I teach people what I know, but I would love for it to become mainstream art, mainstream, therapeutic techniques. I would love to teach classes so that people are not just learning art, but they are learning how to express themselves through art and learn that art is a therapy, if you let it be. I would love for it to get me wealthy so that I can take care of other people and create sensors and spaces, especially for other LGBTQ plus people to have a safe space and come and express themselves. I actually went to school for business and accounting and my business plan was to own a rec center for LGBTQ plus youth. 

So I would love to tie that into my future with my arts and help people be creative and be free within their creativity. And again, to help me be wealthy and not have to work for the man , ’cause, some of us artists, we have to have two and three other jobs aside from my art, but yes, I would love for it to be mainstream, love to share it with the world. I would love to travel the world. I’ve been lucky enough to perform some of my poetry and some of my work in Canada and along some States in the U.S. and hopefully the rest of the world. So, yeah.

Imara Jones:  Well here’s to that all coming true. And we really appreciate you coming on and sharing your vision tonight and our wishing you the best. Are really hoping that people visit your site and see the amazing products that you have there. And the combination of observation that you’ve shared with us tonight. Thank you so much.

Armani Dae: Thank you, thank you. I appreciate you, I appreciate you and your team for having me. Thank you so much. I hope that y’all stay safe. I hope that y’all have enjoyed talking to me and I hope that y’all purchasing some stuff on my website too and that you’ll enjoy my art.

Imara Jones:  Absolutely, all of the above that was Armani Dae, who is an artist, photographer, author and social entrepreneur. This is Lives at Stake. That was our Armani Dae, artists, an entrepreneur whose online shop sells artistic prints, photo prints, and actual arts in a way that’s really, really powerful. So as a reminder, all of the businesses that you saw tonight, including Armani’s, is on the greenespace.org and a wider number of businesses is available at the TransLash website @translash.org. Please go there and support those businesses.

So you can’t say that our program has never given you news you can use like it’s the last minute, it’s the holiday season, you need gift ideas. And we gave you gift ideas. And so make sure that you exercise the knowledge that you now have. On behalf of everyone at Lives at Stake, from TransLash and w@NYCis the Greene Space. We want to thank you for your support of this program throughout 2020. We launched it during the crisis and that crisis has continued, but you all have stuck with us and we really hope that what we’ve been able to bring you this year has helped you through this tumultuous time. 

We are all going to go get some badly needed rest and order for last minute gift ideas. And we’ll be back in January, in the third weekend in January. So look for us and for those times through our newsletters and for all of our social media promotion, we wanna send you all the best for the holiday season, regardless of how you celebrate, if you celebrate and hope that you continue to take COVID seriously and are good to yourselves and careful during this really tough time. Thank you so much, so much for joining us so much. Thank you so much for joining us at the last Lives at Stake 2020 I’m Imara Jones, and we will see you next month.

Watch the full #LivesAtStake event here.

Go to the TransLash trans-owned business directory here.

Subscribe to receive alerts: translash.org/connect

Looking for more reading, rare-finds, and resources? Head on over to the Second Annual TransLash Holiday Survival Guide Zine for things like poetry, art, and wellness tips, and check out the Trans-owned Small Business Directory for a variety of shops to buy from ranging from art to hair products and more.

Read transcripts from other interviews and Lives At Stake events here.

Read podcast episode transcripts here.

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