In Conversation with... Travis Alabanza
Travis Alabanza is a London-based performance artist, writer and fashion gurl. Released in 2017, Travis’ stunning chap book, Before I Step Outside (You Love Me) documents the experience of navigating public space as a trans person. Follow Travis on instagram, or the other things @travisalabanza
Was there a moment in time when you you realized you were an artist?
I think I was always finding creative ways to approach tasks. I used to force my mom to watch me put on shows in the living room from the age of five. I would always bend rules, tasks, lessons or things given to me to try and make it a performance, something creative, a show. Creation came from searching for an alternative reality, avoiding the current reality, performing and playing to find my real self.
Is there a relationship between your identity and the work you make?
Most definitely. My work is about figuring myself out. The world does not allow me to be myself safely, it punishes me for my gender expression and identity—it tells me I am wrong. My work is about saying "you are completely right, you are okay, you are allowed—and here you can figure this out". My work is my gender. My lack of gender; my fullness of gender. It is on stage, or on the page, that I am writing or singing or screaming parts of my body i cannot figure out on the streets.
What do you want the beauty/fashion world to look like in 10 years?
I hope it has far less rules. And far more different types of people in it. Then it will be a far more interesting world.
What is inspiring to you right now?
As always, other black and brown trans people really resonate and inspire me. Some of the best creatives in the world are racialised trans folk. Daniel Brathwaite Shirley, Malik Nashad-Sharpe, Alok Vaid-Menon, are just a few artists right now that make me want to create more. Janelle Monae's new album Dirty Computer is on repeat. And I'm thankful for The Vixen.
While performing are you aware of the audiences reactions? Are there any noteworthy accounts you could share? And what has been your favorite show to date?
I think it's hard to not be aware of different audiences. I used to try and be unaware of them, but now I kind of relish in that relationship. Quite often it is the only time (on stage) where I feel I have power in public. So often in public I'm making myself smaller, looking down, being quiet, hiding—and onstage I can reverse that. I can tell people to look away, to look up. I can make them laugh, or cry, or fear, or shout. It is interesting what happens to a room when we see a trans person be dominant; it is not something we are used to. It feels so often our liberation is tied into us being submissive, and i enjoy the stage being a chance to change this. A straight man came to my show five times in five weeks, and on the last time he showed me his nails. He said that since coming to my shows he has realised he was allowed to paint them. We had a moment of mutual nails appreciation. I think that's a response to my show that i'll remember. I'm not sure for what reason yet.
What does being a warrior mean?
A warrior is allowed to be soft, a warrior is allowed to be scared, a warrior is allowed to ask for help. But still, a warrior.
Who are your fashion/beauty icons? Whose look inspires you?
My friends are the most stylish girls I know. But can we talk about Alok's latest fashion collection that debut'ed on THEM? That shit was gorgeous!
Photographs by Holly Revell