I passed by many things while walking from my grandmother’s rental apartment in Montego Bay, Jamaica to visit her in a hospital three kilometers down the road. A Hard Rock Café. Five-star hotels with aspirational names like Secrets, Breathless and Sunscape Splash. An old yacht club with abandoned boats sinking into a scum-filled bay. Luxury villas locked like prisoners behind steel bars. A taxi rank with drivers offering rides, drugs or both. A cruise ship terminal with idling jeeps and buses about to whisk vacationers on eco-tours. A police station with a long line of women and girls waiting to see their husbands and fathers who had been arrested in a recent wave of anti-gang raids. A restaurant where I once sat and listened to the pop pop pop of a nearby semi-automatic and tried to pretend it was fireworks. Fragrant gardens. Rank garbage. A gas station. People sitting in the shade of royal palm trees, trying to escape the heat of the day.
Despite all the things I saw, I mainly felt one thing. Fear.
The boys of Glitterboy. Photography by Quil Lemons
Glitterboy, the ongoing photo series by 20-year-old artist Quil Lemons, features portraits of young, Black men with metallic, sparkly flecks on their cheeks and foreheads. All shot against soft pink backdrops, the subjects express a range of moods and feelings. One named Jordun smiles from ear to ear, while Harley gazes coyly and Myles stares starkly at the viewer, as if to ask the question: why are you looking at me just because I’m wearing cosmetics?
The answer to that has been jarringly mixed. Lemons, who often wears glitter on his own cheeks (“it’s cool when you see it in the sun,” he says), first started posting images of Glitterboy on his Twitter and Instagram accounts in 2017. Since then, the reception has ranged from love — Vogue, Allure and i-D have all given glowing reviews — to anger.
Butterscotch from Hasbro’s My Little Pony collection
When I was three or four years old, in the mid ’80s, I fell in love with My Little Pony. I begged my parents for the little plastic figurines, but they were reluctant to indulge my overtly girly interest. Being a boy, there were clear, acceptable expectations for my play habits: Batman and Transformers yes, ponies no. I can imagine my parents worried thoughts about how my subversive pony phase would play out through the rest of my life: would other kids make fun of me? Would that make me unhappy? Would I turn to drugs to compensate? Would that ruin my chances at university? Would that mean I would be living with them until I was forty?
I think you’re hot. It’s not because I have a thing for beards, bellies or artists, because I don’t. (Especially artists — imagine what it would be like to date Jeff Koons? Scary. You’re bits and bites would be on display).
Mavis Gallant at the Standard, Montréal, May 1946 (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/PA-11524).
I’ve never read a Mavis Gallant short story, something that, as I write this blog post, I’m ashamed to admit. But every so often I come across a mention of this escaped Cannuck — who has lived in Paris for over 60 of her 90 years — that re-asserts her importance in the world of writing. As a result, I have a certain sketchy understanding of her life through the Globe and Mail, the Walrus, the National Post and other media outlets. The first time I really took notice was in a charming 2008 radio interview on CBC’s Writers and Company, but it wasn’t until last week, when I listened to another CBC radio interview on Ideas, that her life strongly resonated with me. She seems to have achieved something that I find deeply admirable — independence — and I wish I knew how to do the same.