the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: DAVYBOI

How 'looking different' became my superpower as an artist

June 13, 2019

Looking back, as a child it was hard growing up and noticing people stare at me incessantly for a difference in my complexion that I hadn’t yet learned to love. Being born with albinism in a Black family my pale skin tone stood out from everyone in my household, and I dealt with the insecurity of prying eyes, being stared at when out with my mom at the YMCA, the grocery store, parent’s day in elementary school, and all the constant questions.

Most often heard was “Can I ask you a question?” and that question was always about my skin tone and my facial features. Other frequently asked questions would range from “what are you?'' to “what are you mixed with?” all the way to “why is your mom Black when you’re white? More inquisitive people would say “You have a unique look.” and that was the toughest thing to hear because I wanted so badly to just be normal.

Growing up I’d always wanted to look the same as everyone else, I’d spend hours yearning to not be ‘different looking’ and I hated the word unique. Young queer people often have similar feelings surrounding their gender or sexual identity, as did I, and I felt it coming from my intersectionality as queer and albino.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Davy Boi (@iamdavyboi) on

Coming of age into the beautiful but at the time challenging awareness that I was also queer added to my already complex struggle with self-love. Here I was albino, overweight, queer, and twelve years old not sure how to deal with any of it. At age thirteen I moved from Louisiana to the Bay Area in California. One night, at a sleepover my best friend in Berkeley just called me out on being gay. I was startled at first, scared it was so obvious, as obvious as my 'unique' look but I just said “…yeah” and that was that.

It was my internal coping mechanism to not focus on the external or personal identity parts of myself that I couldn’t quite deal with yet, and instead focus on my passions in the arts. I worked day and night on drama, singing, songwriting, visual art, stagecraft, with the guiding principle that people could say anything negative about me, but they weren’t going to say I wasn’t a good artist. So, in a way, being an artist gave me a separate superhero like identity and saved my life every time I doubted my self-worth.

As an adult with albinism, I have a learned to see myself as a beautiful, unique-looking man, and being born queer is just another shimmering layer of my inner beauty. Now, I see my challenge as decoding and reimagining how people with albinism are portrayed in the media, often cast as villains rather than the best friend or love interest, or as props rather than fully formed characters. Overall, there is a lack of awareness in mainstream society and media of what people with albinism experience, such as mild visual impairments, sun and light sensitivity, and the obvious lighter hue to our skin. Ultimately, we are living normal lives and thriving like everyone else, but our identity, our differences, and our visibility still matter.

Now when people ask me what I plan to do with my platform as it grows the first thing I can think of is to bring that same protective superhero-like intensity that powered me through my teenage years developing as an artist to breaking down walls and reshaping the media landscape to the best of my ability as it concerns queer people of color and individuals with albinism and hypopigmentation all around the world. Because we, like all queer people, deserve to be seen.

Davy Boi is a pop-music artist and model based in Los Angeles, CA. He studied music at Berklee College of Music with a Music Business designation and is also working in digital music marketing. He is also a 2019 GLAAD Rising Stars Finalist for the Ty Herndon Music Grant. Davy Boi is an advocate for persons with Albinism and uses his work in music to highlight queer people of color in media. 

the voice and vision of a new generation