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Here’s Some Essential Life Advice For The Queer Creative

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Photo by Daniel Seung Lee

A brief conversation with Adam J. Kurtz

We're told to never judge a book by its cover, but we all do it anyway. We're visual people who communicate through visual cues! If something looks good to us, we take to it; if something looks a little peculiar, we investigate. If we were to judge Adam J. Kurtz's new book by its cover, well, it looks queer. And that's because it is.

"This new book is a straight-up rainbow," Kurtz tells me late this summer, at a corner spot in Brooklyn, New York, where folks were just beginning to realize only a few Summer Fridays were left. "There are chapters in this book that are completely about embracing your truth and your identity."

For Kurtz, that involves identifying, in part, as a gay man navigating the cis-hetero male-dominated design world. This new book isn't just about creative advice for creatives, it's about Kurtz, for the first time in his life, aligning his queer identity with the work he produces. He wants people to know this queer book is written and designed by a queer person, for queer people, but, of course, not exclusively. (After all, "Everyone wants to just win life or something.")

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Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House

Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives may be Kurtz's third book, but it's definitely his most personal. It's filled with mini-essays written over the course of two years—usually in notebooks the same size as the actual book—and designed in such a way readers can tear out a certain chapter they like to, say, frame or share with someone in their life. Through 13 chapters, with titles ranging from "How to Stay Sane When You Work from Home" to "How to Begin Again" and "Using Your Power for Good," Kurtz fashions himself into the most optimistic BFF-cum-therapist you ever did have. Without meeting you, Kurtz champions you through his words, which he says is pretty much all common sense, but hey, Kurtz is the one who went the extra mile to write that sense down, design it, and then make it Instagram-worthy.

The difference between his previous two books and this one is that Kurtz is walking his talk. "I’m always telling people to live their truth, so here’s mine," he says. Kurtz, by no means, writes about or draws anything explicitly queer ("I don’t draw dicks," he jokes), but he's focused on identity politics and inspiring his audience to embrace their own. "Most people don't want to see my face," he says, citing how he's lost followers and been on the receiving end of homophobic slurs after he had posted about his sexuality and/or fiancé in the past. "People don't usually want to know where the art comes from, but the positive reactions and personal anecdotes I've gotten from people seeing me lead by example outweigh any negativity." 

Possibility, and showing others that there even is any, is essential. LGBTQIA representation is on the rise in American media, which makes for ample opportunity to define and explore what it means to be queer today because shows like Fire Island and the tokenization of LeFou aren't exactly doing the trick. (For a good but slightly dismal laugh, scroll through the "Gay culture is..." memes.) TAWYMoT, instead, encourages self-love. Chapters like "How to Be Yourself" are, as Kurtz says, "all about acknowledging who you are before you can make anything." (The echoes of RuPaul's "If you can't love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else" quote are valid and true.) They're therapeutic in the way a Jenny Holzer piece is therapeutic; only instead of pessimism and cynicism, Kurtz is serving up optimism and hope.

"Since the election, I have leaned into making more pure, enthusiastic, and uplifting work because I know what Twitter does to me," he says. "The day after the election, I made something that said, 'Good things happen. Love is real. We will be okay,' and it was picked up by a lot of people, many of whom didn't read the caption that went along with it, but the intent was clear: to brighten someone's day and encourage progress." Kurtz does that by living his truth, 100 percent. Though he never hid his identity behind some veil, his identity-driven work is now fully formed—rainbow books, pride, and all.

Kurtz says, "I feel like when you’re a queer person, all your art is queer art. You make art based on who you are, and that encompasses every facet of your personality and your persona." By being open about that part of his identity, Kurtz's work exists at the intersection of queerness, art, and design. It's queer because he's queer, and that shows other queer people they can pursue their creative pursuits and maybe even publish a book or two, coloring the world brighter with more inclusivity and positivity, one person at a time. 

"If any part of this connects with you because you can relate to who I am or you can relate to the words on the page, however you get into it," he says, "I’m glad you’re here." Likewise.

Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives will be released October 3 via Penguin Random House. Online pre-orders are available now. $1 for every book ordered before October 8 will be donated to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, which fights for economic justice, health, and representation for LGBTQIA girls and women.

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

"In my head I thought, This is how it ends"

Kit Harington almost lost a lot more than the Iron Throne while filming the final season of Game of Thrones. According to an interview with NowThis News, the actor almost lost one of his balls while riding a mechanical dragon.

Harington revealed that the incident took place when he was filming the scene where his character, Jon Snow, takes a ride on Rhaegal for the first time in the Season 8 premiere. Since dragons aren't real (sorry), Harington was filming the scene, where Jon almost falls off the dragon and then swings around to pick himself back up, on a mechanical contraption.

"My right ball got trapped, and I didn't have time to say, 'Stop,'" Harington said in an interview. "And I was being swung around. In my head I thought, This is how it ends. On this buck, swinging me around by my testicles, literally." We see shots of the fake dragon he's riding in front of a green screen, and it does look pretty terrifying.

Luckily, his testicles remained intact through the near-disastrous event, and he's survived with quite the story to tell to unsuspecting journalists.

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Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for goop

"I had to create a harder shell about being a woman"

In a panel discussion during Gwyneth Paltrow's In Goop Health summit, actress Jessica Alba revealed that she "stopped eating" to avoid unwanted attention from men when she was first starting her career in Hollywood.

According to People, Alba said that she "had a curvy figure as a young girl" and, as such, was made to feel as though her body was the reason that men may be inappropriate toward her. "I was meant to feel ashamed if I tempted men," Alba said during the panel discussion. "Then I stopped eating a lot when I became an actress. I made myself look more like a boy so I wouldn't get as much attention. I went through a big tomboy phase."

She continued, "In Hollywood, you're really preyed upon. They see a young girl, and they just want to touch you inappropriately or talk to you inappropriately or think that they're allowed to be aggressive with you in a way."

Alba also noted that she was raised in a conservative household. "My mom would say, 'You have a body, and it's very womanly, and people don't understand that you're 12,'" she said. "I wasn't allowed to have my nalgas out, which is butt cheeks [in Spanish], but I was born with a giant booty, and they come out of everything. So, I didn't get to wear normal things that all my friends wore."

She said that these reactions to her body really affected her attitude. "I created this pretty insane 'don't fuck with me' [attitude]," she said. "I had to create a harder shell about being a woman."

According to her, her relationship to her body only changed when her first child, Honor, was born in 2008. "[After she was born,] I was like, Oh this is what these boobies are meant to do! Feed a kid!" she said. "And that was the dopest shit I'd ever done. So, I came into my body as a woman finally and I stopped being ashamed of myself."

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Photo courtesy of Teva

Because of course

Teva, the most obvious lesbian footwear brand since Birkenstock, really knows its customer base. In time for Pride, the brand has teamed up with Tegan and Sara for a gay shoe to end all gay shoes. In other words, your Pride footwear is on lock.

The shoe isn't just your average Teva sandal. Tegan and Sara's design, the Teva Flatform Universal Pride sandal, is a 2.5-inch platform shoe with a rainbow sole. Tegan and Sara noted in a press release that they have been Teva wearers for pretty much their whole lives. "We got our first pair of Teva sandals when we were 16," they said. "This rainbow Flatform collab is like full circle LGBTQ+ Pride validation."

What's better, with each sandal sale, Teva will donate $15 to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, up to $30,000. The funds donated will go toward scholarships which will give young members of the LGBTQ+ community the chance to go to summer camps which will "help develop self-confidence and leadership abilities in a safe and nurturing environment." Tegan and Sara added, "Teva's generous support for our foundation will allow us to help even more LGBTQ+ youth."

Available today at Teva's and Nordstrom's websites, the sandal retails for $80.

Photo courtesy of Teva

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Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

"Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design"

Prada Group has announced that Prada, as well as all of its brands, will now be fur-free. According to a press release from the Humane Society, Prada, Miu Miu, Church's, and Car Shoe will ban the use of fur beginning with the Spring/Summer 2020 collection (aka the Fashion Week coming up next). The list of fashion designers banning fur only continues to grow, with 3.1 Phillip Lim, Coach, Armani, Versace, Gucci, and more having stopped using the material in seasons past.

"The Prada Group is committed to innovation and social responsibility, and our fur-free policy—reached following a positive dialogue with the Fur Free Alliance, in particular with LAV and the Humane Society of the United States—is an extension of that engagement," Miuccia Prada told the Human Society. "Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design while meeting the demand for ethical products."

Following London Fashion Week designers forgoing the use of fur in September and the first-ever Vegan Fashion Week taking place in February, it's easy to imagine an entirely fur-free fashion future. It's especially easy, I presume, for the brands to consider a fur-free future, given that entire cities and states are taking a stance. New York is following in the footsteps of Los Angeles banning fur, with a bill proposed this March that would ban sales across New York State.

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Photo by Johnny Dufort

"Club leisure" is the new athleisure

Alexander Wang is recognizing clubbing as the workout that it truly is with his latest Adidas collaboration. In this fifth installment, he "changes gears," per a press release from the brand, taking the iconic sports brand to the dance floor.

For the new campaign, the collection comes to life in iconic choreographer Tanisha Scott's dance studio and stars dancers Noemi Janumala, Dakota Moore, Avi McClish, and Olivia Burgess. The dancers show just how far these clothes can go when you want to bust a move or stretch, but TBH, I'll leave these poses to the pros and just use my clothes for flexing on the 'gram.

The collection—which features six apparel items, three shoes, and six accessories—features, per a press release, "Wang's knack for pre-styling." Standouts from the mostly black-and-white items include a silver sneaker that was *made* for moonwalking, an airy windbreaker that has just the right dash of bright blue with the scattered Adidas trefoil design, and a towel hoodie that you won't feel bad sweating in.

Ahead of the May 25 collection drop online and in stores, peep the gorgeous campaign images below.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Joggers, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Towel Hoodie, $350, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Sock Leggings, $60, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Adilette Slides, $90, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Futureshell Shoes in Platinum Metallic, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Core White, $280, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Shorts in Core White, $120, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Bum Bag, $50, available staring May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Duffle Bag, $70, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

NYLON uses affiliate links and may earn a commission if you purchase something through those links, but every product chosen is selected independently.


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