Awesome. Amazing. Fun!
Out of all the words in the English language, these would probably not be the ones most people would use to describe the kind of year they think is ahead of them. After all, we’re creatures of pattern, and if 2017 has ingrained anything into most Americans, it’s that there is no limit to the amount of shitty news that can happen in a day.
But for 10-year-old Desmond Napoles — known as Desmond is Amazing to his drag fam — there is only optimism. When I ask him what he thinks 2018 will bring, he answers in a waterfall of affirmations: “Crazy makeup. Amazing outfits that have to be made from hand. Expressing myself. Feeling powerful! When I grow up…I want to be exactly what I am right now.”
Though Desmond is young, he’s been doing drag for eight years. "Ever since day one... ever since I was able to walk, I used to take my mom’s towels and take her heels and clomp around the house. [I'd] put the towel on my head, wrap a towel around my body and walk the runway down my house," he explained to Out earlier this year. In 2015, a video of him dancing at New York City's Pride Parade went viral, and the rest is history: He has been blessed by Ru Paul. He has precociously delivered heartfelt speeches. He has even won an award for his LGBTQ activism.
And yet, he is still very much your typical 10-year-old kid. On set with photographer Parker Day, Desmond is a whirr of activity, stomping between flower spires, contorting his face in front of the camera, and moving his body to the Richie Rich song playing through the speakers. “Drag can be a compartmentalized thing, whereas I love shooting people who embrace elements of drag as their everyday life. Desmond is a great inspiration to that,” says Day. “He’s so young and so fearless. Play and be free, don’t take things so seriously."
For Desmond, life is about school, friends, and drag. His mother Wendylou Napoles helps him manifest the outfits he envisions (says Desmond about his style: “All my outfits are like dreams.”). Wendylou tells me that 2017 has been hard on Desmond, as he’s seen headlines in the news that threaten his LGBTQ community. (In the aforementioned Out interview he describes Trump as a "big loser" and says "people should be able to be free and let themselves express how they want, whenever they want.") “I’m Gen X — I’m more pessimistic,” Wendylou says. “But Desmond is really hopeful that there can be change in this world.”
So, as we head into 2018, let’s try and think about our opportunities for positive change rather than the setbacks we’ve suffered. And the next time you need an affirmation to get you through, let Desmond get you back on track:
Awesome. Amazing. Fun!