#QTPOC+ Of The Week | Tina Colleen of "The Black Queer Goddess Project: The Plus-Size Femme photo series"

My name is Tina Colleen. I am a black plus-size, queer cis-female who is a writer, poet, activist, creative director, director, and producer. My "9-5" is in higher education, but overall what I do is use creativity/art as a platform to promote activism. I feel art is the best way to communicate. It's one of the few mediums that allow people from all different walks of life to truly come together and connect as a unified organism.

Lately, I have become most passionate about putting out art that provides representation for groups of females and female-identifying people, who often feel invisible within the LGBTQ+ community.

What's your background?

My family is from Jamaica and the United Kingdom. I was born in New York, but I grew up in a very small town in Florida until I was 19 years old.

What do you enjoy the most about "what you do"?   

What I enjoy most is that what I do allows people to feel like they can walk in their own truths, for them to see their own potential and to act upon it. Since the Black Queer Goddess Project: The Plus-Size Femme photo series, women have reached out to thank me for allowing them to feel like they are not alone. I created that photo series because I felt alone. I wanted to bond with plus-size queer women of color who also felt unloved and unwanted by the LGBTQ+ community.

What is the most challenging thing about "what you do"?

The projects I work on come from my life struggles. The projects allow me to walk through my traumas, to inspire healing. As a result, of the projects being so close to my heart, my self-care is vital to their success, to allow me to stay positive. Trying to balance a full-time job, these projects, while giving myself self-care has become most challenging.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

The real-life situation that has inspired my work, is a result of attending a panel discussion over the summer, in 2017. The panel discussion topic was about black people in entertainment, how too often we do not get to tell our own stories and/or monetize our ideas.

One of the panelists mentioned that she was unsure if she was genuinely attracted to a specific type of man, or if she was experiencing undue European influence from decolonization. This is when I realized that I had a lot to say to the world. But first, my words and ideas were going to be about the struggle of being a black plus-size queer femme. Her words are the root of why the photo series exists.

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What is your dream project?

Wow, I'm not sure I could ever think of my dream project; my dreams change constantly! I can definitely tell you my dream outcome from projects.

My dream outcome would be for all creative and talented people to create more representation, for everyone who feels underrepresented in this world. I want our art to unify the world and normalize everything outside of Eurocentric notions, to allow people of color to heal, move forward, learn to love each other, but most importantly sincerely learn to love ourselves, as we are, in the present.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

That's a loaded answer, because all the advice I have ever been given in my life was the best advice for me at that time. There are three pieces of amazing advice that immediately come to mind.

"True failure is comfort." This ideal discusses that when we are comfortable it means we are no longer being challenged, we have stopped evolving. I was given this advice regarding my career, but I have extended it to all areas of my life.

Additionally, I have also used this quote to allow myself to move closer to opportunities of evolutionary discomfort. Often times when I move toward opportunities that make me uncomfortable or anxious it usually means that I am walking into a positive situation that may change me for the better.

"You can lie to everyone else, but never lie to yourself." I feel this needs no commentary!

“The only thing permanent about, life is change.” This quote is similar to a quote from the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus.

I read self-help books; one of my favorite authors is Pema Chödrön. In the few books I have read, she discusses how most of our suffering comes from expectations. We always have this expectation of security, but the truth is, nothing in life is 100% secure. At any time, life can pull the rug out from under us. Once we make peace with this ideal; when change does creep into our lives unexpectedly we won’t be impacted so negatively by it. In fact, we can try to use change to evolve into something positive. Of course, this is all easier said than done. For me, as a result of attempting to let go of the idea of security, I’m not as stressed by life changes as I once was.

Name something you love outside of "what you do", and why.

I love spending time with people I have grown extremely close to throughout my life. These people have seen and love all shades of me. I don't have a large family and I grew up as an only child; so the people closest to me in my life are whom I like to call "my chosen family." These are people that I may not talk to often, but if I call on them they are there and have been there, for me, for years. Each of my closest friends are very different in their own ways, but I love spending time with them. They humble me, they are my cheerleaders, they are my life-support system.

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What should we look out for and how can we keep up with you &/or your work?

The new project that I'm incredibly excited for, is called the "I Identify as Me" Project, a documentary and photo series celebrating androgynous (AG) women, genderqueer and agender people that are queer trans people of color. I am directing this project with two remarkable women whom I deeply admire, Monick Monell (@brooklynmoz) and Amanda Clare (@thedivulgeproject).

This project is going to showcase the inner and outer beauty—the essence of AG women and genderqueer/agender people. The fluidity and layers of these women/people are something to be admired and embraced. I'm honored they trust us and are opening up publicly to tell their stories and share their journeys. Be on the lookout for the "I Identify as Me" Project release, Summer 2018.

To keep up with my work and me, people can connect with me on Instagram @tinac_productions and @antigravity3c. My Facebook page is "Fat Black Femme Queer," or e-mail me at tinacolleen18@gmail.com.

Photo Credits | Instagram

Models | Couples

Tina Colleen (@tinac_productions) and Lovia Delva (@nomadkreyol1)

Tatiana Cruz (@_twinns_hotmami_) and Victoria Saint-Lôt (her_twinnytwinntwinn)

Romaine Kelly (@rkellz89) and Oskar Sinclair (@dammit_oskar)

Photographer: Amanda Clare (@thedivulgeproject)

MUA: Iventt Gonzalez (@iventtglam)

Hairstylist: Helene Marie (@helene.marie)

Headwraps: Cee Cee’s Closet (@ceeceesclosetnyc)

Earrings: And And NYC (@andandnyc)