My name is Skyler Hayman, but everyone calls me Sky. I identify as a non-binary queer human being who was born and raised in Miami, FL and birthed from two immigrant parents who are originally from Nicaragua. All pronouns are welcomed and so are your comments. I am a junior at Florida International University double majoring in International Business and Marketing. Art has always and will always hold a special spot in my heart as it is a way to connect with other human beings through time and space.
Mendiana Merilus is a 23 year old born and raised Haitian artist and content creator living in Miami with aspirations of becoming a corporate lawyer. I was connected with Mendiana by being a brother of the same professional co-ed business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi. She has been an inspiration to some many young people of color and continues to break boundaries every single day. Many of her projects have been “edgy” and “controversial”, but have always remained true to her and her sense of style and being. Her newest project is to try and connect different people using clothes. Mendiana and I’s view on clothes are the same. “Clothes don’t have a gender and saying that someone can’t wear a piece of clothing because of what sits between their legs is b******t.” She designed, printed, and made silk scarves that will be worn by multiple people to show inclusion, diversity, and fashion through just a few scarves.
As previously mentioned, Mendiana Merilus has been an inspiration to so many young people of color including myself. Coming from a very conservative Haitian background, Mendiana seeked the education and knowledge on topics and people that was always gatekept from her and after being educated, she now wants to dive head first in everything race, sexuality, and even religion. I chose to volunteer for Mendiana’s project because being the vessel not only for her but for so many out there that have this notion of gender norms/roles and relay a message that it is our duty as the future of this world to tear those traditions down and make new ones. Today it may start as non-binary queer person wearing the same scarf as a cisgender black woman, but soon the future will be more accepting and free.
This project can even connect to my majors of International Business and Marketing seeing that Mendiana is using marketing techniques to deliver her message. She is using fashion as her medium to communicate her ideas. Her message of breaking gender norms and raising awareness of the LGBTQ+ community by inviting people of color like me to a project is definitely not only a huge interest of mine, but rather a passion. I use my voice to deliver my message, but Mendiana has chosen a more subtle and sometimes more effective way of doing so.
This opportunity slid into my inbox when Mendiana was first thinking about the project a few weeks ago. She was very impressed and pleased when I modeled for her before for her personal brand, and wanted to use me again for this project. She went searching through my instagram feed and found inspiration within it and even added a photo from my feed into her “vision board”. She asked me if I could recreate this exact look but to use her scarf instead of the bandana. Being the want-to-be model that I am, my answer was yes.
WHERE & WHAT
Mendiana followed up by calling me and setting a date and time for me to come by her house and use her scarf for a few photos. She displayed multiple scarves in front of me and decided to lend me two of them for her project. Mendiana made sure to communicate to me that “This may be my project and my scarves, but I want you to use your own creativity wear them as you want and I’ll just be here to take the photos.” This allows each one of her models to have fun and be free and it displays everyone’s individuality. For my individual shots, I wanted to use the same techniques I used for my own post and try to channel that for this project. I got my hair wet and split it down the middle, folded the scarf and tied it around my neck. I was shirtless under my blazer and the scarf was tucked into the blazer and gave a necktie feel at first. Later, I untucked it and then let the scarf be blown a bit by the wind. Switching over to the second scarf, I tucked it behind the flaps of the blazer and gave a true wind-in-the-scarf appeal. Seeing Mendiana’s face light up with every new pose I used just to see if any of them were good enough for her project. She selected the ones that best fit her vision and here they will be displayed in this blog post.
Ever since I realized as a child that I had something special to share with the world, I knew I would be involved in something greater than myself. This art service was more than just being a helping hand to an artist’s project, but instead this was me being able to express my individuality and my purpose through someone else’s artwork and resources. I know Mendiana Merilus will be a big asset to many communities and making sure that our voices are not only heard but obeyed. Mendiana Merilus is the blueprint for future creators and will be an inspiration to all. I am glad and blessed to have been given the opportunity to be involved in something bigger than myself. I hope Mendiana’s message reaches many people across her platform and that her messages are not only heard, but understood. In the words of Mendiana, “I don’t care who you are or what you identify as, but make sure to show love and respect for others. But make sure not to look ugly doing it, that’s my only rule. Look cute.”
Author: Skyler Hayman