You've seen her work, now hear her story: Carra Sykes on teaming up with Target for #SpiritDay, Ellen Page, and more

Last week, I chatted with artist Carra Sykes to ask her about her collaboration with Target for Spirit Day, the world’s most visible LGBTQ youth anti-bullying campaign. In a casual conversation, one thing was made clear: Carra Sykes is a force for good in the LGBTQ community. Check out her story below.

Join Carra and take the Spirit Day pledge now!

If you’ve ever been on Instagram, you’ve probably seen artwork by Carra Sykes. If you’re a queer person on Instagram, you’ve definitely seen her work and felt seen in the process. Sykes’ graphic illustrations have always drawn a strong following on social media but, recently, it’s been hard to avoid her illustrations–and that’s a good thing.

Sykes is amplifying queer voices through her art and a force for good on social media. Lucky for queer kids everywhere, she’s releasing a new collection of graphics with Target for this year’s Spirit Day, the anti-bullying campaign getting millions–including celebrities, schools, organizations, landmarks, faith leaders, companies, and more–to “go purple” in support of LGBTQ youth.

Photo credit: Lauren Marek 

Carra Sykes, a queer artist based out of Houston, Texas, is perhaps best known for her work on Instagram. Beyond her personal profile–which is aesthetic goals for any millennial–Sykes’ most notable “sticker” graphics were released in June. Originally intended for Pride Month celebrations, Sykes’ stickers have lasted into the Fall, likely due to their popularity.

Graphic credit: Carra Sykes, Instagram

Look familiar? The transgender flag eye, along with the rainbow megaphone graphic have become social media staples for LGBTQ and ally users alike.

Sykes’ ability to represent the LGBTQ community through art sets her apart on an otherwise often volatile social media landscape. It’s no wonder that when Target needed a compassionate artist to collaborate with for Spirit Day, the company enlisted Sykes.

On Spirit Day, Thursday, October 19, you can visit any Target store nationwide to use Sykes' filters on Snapchat and send messages of positivity to your friends. 

Sykes was honored to receive the offer to make anti-bullying come to life for Target, a presenting partner of Spirit Day 2017 and longtime supporter of GLAAD’s anti-bullying and youth initiatives. Together with Target, Sykes was able to create relatable artwork reminding viewers that Spirit Day is a moment to come together and support one another–especially online.

When asked about cyberbullying, Sykes thinks when there are young people online “bearing their souls, people say hurtful things to them, and then other people read those hurtful comments it creates this chain reaction of negativity.”

Sykes’ art for Target and Spirit Day aims to “encourage” young people and “help show them that others are out there cheering for them, so that they can believe ’yeah I think I can come out–I think I can be myself and live my truth.’”

Sykes now works to be a part of Spirit Day as an affirming movement she claims she needed as a kid. Sykes recalled experiencing bullying when she was young. She remembers trying to avoid a certain stairwell in her school where a classmate would continually yell anti-queer slurs at her.

Describing herself as the “athletic art kid,” she expressed herself differently from most everyone else she knew. Being teased, harassed, or attacked because of appearance is a familiar concept for most young people. Sykes believes she was bullied because of her appearance and for being perceived as queer despite not identifying as queer at the time.

Sykes, who now identifies as queer, recalls questioning her own identity as a kid and internalizing the homophobic slurs she endured in school. She found herself questioning and silencing her own exploration of identity, asking herself, “is this who I am? Am I gay? Maybe not.”

Sykes said, “I was scared of what people might think if I came out and I was jealous of kids that were open. I wished I could be like them. I wished I could come out and start accepting the feelings I have. I fought it for so long.”

A turning point for her was when Ellen Page came out publicly by giving a moving speech about her identity as a member of the LGBTQ community. Sykes asked herself, “‘when am I going to find that courage in myself?’ Then I watched it a few more times and was like okay… one day I will be able to stand up, be brave.”

That’s why, Sykes says, she uses her art and her platforms to be brave in representing queer life for others to enjoy and learn from. “One of the biggest reasons I went into graphic design was because I can be a voice for people, but I never knew I could do it for the LGBTQ community.” She says, thanks to Target, she can play a bigger part in Spirit Day and use her art to fight the good fight.

2017 marks Target's third consecutive year as Presenting Partner of Spirit Day. "At Target, we believe that everyone has something to contribute and deserves the chance to pursue new opportunities," said Caroline Wanga, Target's Chief Diversity Officer. "This commitment ensures we understand and fulfill the needs of the guests we serve and are able to influence and be influenced by the communities we support. As a result, our collective work and purpose is strengthened, which is good for all. Target is proud to stand with the LGBTQ community on Spirit Day and raise awareness about the impact bullying has on the potential of young people, everywhere."

Be sure to take the #SpiritDay pledge, go purple, and visit a Target store near you on October 19th!