NikkieTutorials and the art of labelling

On 13 Jan., Nikkie de Jager, known famously as NikkieTutorials, one of YouTube’s biggest makeup gurus, was trending all over the platform after uploading a video entitled “I’m Coming Out.”

I have been a casual fan of Nikki’s for a long time, mostly for her original makeup looks and her lively personality. I was never very invested in her personal life and would just get inspired by her videos for my own makeup looks.

However, when this video was trending, I was curious. I recalled vaguely that Nikkie was engaged to her long-time boyfriend Dylan. “Oh, she’s coming out as bi? Dope!,” was my first reaction as I clicked the link. I did not expect tears to roll down my cheeks once I was done watching this 17-minute-long video. But then again, I’ve been very emotional these days, it’s kind of embarrassing, but that doesn’t make this video any less important.

I watched as Nikkie breathed deeply, smiling uneasily at the camera, then chuckling nervously and saying: “I always wanted to tell you guys this. I just didn’t expect to do it now. When I was a child, I was born in the wrong body.”

The relief that coursed through her after coming out as transgender was inspiring, and frankly beautiful to watch. The uneasy smile turned into a hearty laugh as she repeatedly stated that it’s always great to finally be honest with her supporters.

Nonetheless, her coming out is not all rainbows and roses. (Get it?) 

The video starts and ends with the fact that the timing was not of her choosing—and that is because she was blackmailed into doing it.

Her voice cracking, with tears forming around her eyes, she made sure to state over and over that: “I am still me. I am still Nikkie. I am human.”

That stuck with me, because there is nothing worse than to be limited to one label that people force you to completely define yourself with. Whether you are LGBTQ+, a person of colour, or of a certain religion, people always deem it fit to keep you in a specific box in order for them to better place you in society. What the hell is that all about?

There is a big difference between minorities defining themselves as such, and society doing it for them. Because when minorities own this part of themselves, it’s normally to shine a light on their struggles and show tell others going through the same thing that they are not alone. But, when society chooses to slap a label on them, it is most likely not out of the goodness of their hearts, but as a sort of placement.

When NikkieTutorials said “before anything, I am me,” I never felt so connected to her. I by no means claim to know anything about her struggles, nor the struggles of transgender people in general. But I know what it’s like to be tokenized in order to fill a fantasy, boxed in order to fit a stereotype people refuse to let go of, or even limited to a single part of my identity.

So please, for the love of all that is good and pure in this universe, as a wise man (Harry Styles) once said, treat people with freakin’ kindness and quit forcing labels on them—it’s not cute. 



Graphic by Sasha Axenova

Student Life

Carving out inclusivity at Concordia University

Florence Gagnon is creating the LGBTQ+ community she never had

Florence Gagnon has spent the last 10 years working to ‘spread the word’ and increase visibility for lesbians within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community. Her message? “We exist, and these are our experiences.”

Gagnon is the guest speaker at the second annual Queer Homecoming, an event that carves out a unique space for the queer community amidst Concordia’s orientation activities.

This year, she is set to share her success as an entrepreneur, founder and president of a non-profit LGBTQ+ organization and co-creator of a successful web series, to name a few accomplishments. Before she began her prolific career, Gagnon was a first-year student at Concordia, surrounded by hundreds of others at her own homecoming.

It was her love for art, coupled with the search for something outside of the small, suburban world that didn’t entirely accept her sexuality, that led Gagnon to move to the big city to study photography at Concordia. She said the experience changed her life before she even stepped foot in a classroom. “I felt like I was in the right place, that people were different and I was fitting in,” she recalled. “I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I guess it was the right context because I got to try so many things. I partied a lot, and I just met so many interesting people.”

One of those people was filmmaker Chloé Robichaud, who was studying in Concordia’s film production program at the time. “We talked a lot about our coming out, and the context we lived in in Quebec,” said Gagnon. “I come from the suburbs, so my coming out wasn’t the best experience ever, so at the time I felt like I was missing role models and information about what it is to be a lesbian.”

Their conversations turned into brainstorming sessions, and in 2012, they launched Lez Spread the Word (LSTW), an online platform that describes itself as seeking to “gather, inform, and shed more light on the lesbian community in Quebec and elsewhere. As well as offering informative and entertaining content, the site is a resource for women who do not have many references with regard to the lesbian community.”

Lez Spread The Word (LSTW) magazine. Photo courtesy of LSTW.

Only two years later, Robichaud and Gagnon crossed the second item off their project list: a web series by and for lesbians. Féminin/Féminin follows a group of lesbians as their lives intertwine and their stories unfold against the familiar backdrop of Montreal.

“We wanted to create something that we didn’t have at the time [of coming out], and thought we could help people, and also just for us to meet other girls,” said Gagnon. Following its premiere in 2014, Féminin/Féminin received much acclaim, winning the Best Fiction Web Series award at the Gémeaux Awards, and was renewed for a second season.

Keeping up with the momentum of her success, Gagnon spearheaded the launch of the LSTW magazine in 2016. LSTW is now distributed in 17 cities worldwide, with a third issue launching Oct. 23.

Still, with a reach greater than she ever imagined, Gagnon says visibility remains a significant obstacle. “Even now within the LGBTQ movement, it’s difficult to have a place. People think that within this movement [that] we’re all equal, but as women, it’s more difficult than it is for men,” she said, adding that even the use of the word ‘lesbian’ is contested within the community.

“People ask us why we use that word and not queer. At first it was really personal; I was identifying as a lesbian because I didn’t know anything else at the time. But at the same time, I’m happy to honour the past fights of women in the 80s. I think the word is loaded, but for us, we are pretty proud.”

Despite some pushback, Gagnon is optimistic for the future. “Things have changed over the past years. More visibility for the community and just being ‘different’ is celebrated more than it was before.”

Whether English or French speaking, there is visibility and power in numbers. Gagnon hopes people will come out to events like Queer Homecoming and get involved with projects in the community.

“I would love for the francophone and anglophone scene to mix more,” she said. “I think it’s really important—we need more communication. We still have so much to do.”

Feature photo by Saad Al-Hakkak.

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