Through Fashion & Music, Will Jay Tackles The (Toxic) Masculinity Debate

Photographed by Giselle Dias.
There's no better time to be yourself than the present, right? If we've learned anything from the current cultural shifts rippling across the entertainment, fashion, and media industries, it's that living one's truth is what foster's change, and sometimes, our very existence can be a form of resistance. And even pop stars — especially pop stars — are providing new narratives to challenge outdated societal norms. Take singer Will Jay, who, with his music video for his song 'Gangsta,' strives to take down the masculinity debate — one florescent pink suit, and one twerk, at a time.
In the song, and the accompanying photoshoot debuting exclusively on Refinery29 ahead, Jay addresses the impossible standards of masculinity that have stunted the emotional growth of men. "No emotions / Don't talk with your hands / Your mannerisms / should be more like a man's." They're lyrics that, for the sake of calling a spade a spade, may mean different things to different people, but aren't lost on those who have been at the other end of scrutiny for the way they move their body or how they choose to dress it.
The 21-year-old singer/songwriter hails from Los Angeles, California. Jay, a former member of boyband IM5, launched his solo career in 2014 with the mission to be an example for other young Asian men and women in the entertainment industry. After decades of ill-informed, misplaced Western perceptions on Asian men and the Eastern world in general (things that continue to mar cultural cross pollination today), Jay's tackling an issue that has actually affected him. And it's a message that's led him to more than eight million views on YouTube, 15 million on Facebook, and over a million streams on Spotify.
While the fight toward gender equality is well underway, the efforts to dispel cross-cultural gender norms have yet to hit a fever pitch. Where a man's interest in fashion is still deemed feminine (and thus, less-than or frivolous — or, even more of a stretch, gay) by mainstream society, it's people like Jay who play an integral role in the fashion community and who have the capability to breed real and tangible change.
Welcome to MyIdentity. The road to owning your identity is rarely easy. In this yearlong program, we will celebrate that journey and explore how the choices we make on the outside reflect what we’re feeling on the inside — and the important role fashion and beauty play in helping people find and express who they are.

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