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6MIX » Chrystal Graham http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix a multi-media journal of public affairs and popular culture produced by students at Hunter College Thu, 30 Jan 2014 16:24:06 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.4 Tight Fit http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=215 http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=215#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2011 12:02:34 +0000 Chrystal Graham http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=215 skinny-jeans

By Chrystal Graham

“Why the f*ck is he wearin’ dem jeans?” said a young girl to her friend as they watched an androgynous-looking young man walk by. “That’s not no boy, that’s a girl, stupid. You mad dumb!” replied the friend. Getting louder, the first girl shot back, “Yeah right, trick. I bet you $10 dat he’s a boy!” Noticing the young man looking back startled and confused, they gazed at one another in shock and started laughing hysterically.

Fashion trends change quickly. For years, baggy jeans were all the rage among young, urban men. Over the last several years, baggy pants have gone the way of a saber-toothed tiger, and the sartorial hip have replaced too big with too small. In some cases, way too small. Skinny jeans for men have become the equivalent of high heels for women. It’s a given that discomfort comes with the territory, and if you want the look, you have to pay the price. Even the manliest man walking down the street can be found wearing a pair of tight-fitting jeans.

“They was called ball-bustas and booty-huggas back in the day,” said Jamal Anderson, a tattoo artist in Jamaica Queens. Now, he observed, people are wearing skinny jeans again “like they’re the sh*t.” He was speaking from experience, as his jeans seemed to be several sizes too small.

The jeans, while they may not flatter, don’t discriminate. You will find men who are slim, average sized, overweight, and everything in between squeezing themselves into a pair of skinny jeans. Because, as with most things en vogue, it doesn’t matter how you look as long as you’re wearing what’s popular.

But not everyone is convinced they’ll look better with all their bodily flaws exposed beneath a thin layer of denim. One overweight man who prefers to be called Big Marv explained that not only should skinny jeans not be worn be someone his size, but they shouldn’t be worn by men in general. “How you spend $600 on a pair of name-brand pants that don’t even fit you? I will smack the sales lady in the store that’s tellin’ me to buy a pair of skinny jeans,” he said. Big Marv’s advice to the guys following this trend is, quite simply: “Stop stuffin’ ya jeans in ya sneakas.” He believes that men’s jeans should be worn loosely so that their lower body parts have room to breathe.

“It doesn’t make sense to me. If you’re fat, why don’t you wear loose-fitting clothing? Personally if I was overweight, I couldn’t see myself wearing clothing that was my size, much less smaller,” said Timothy Wright, a young man outside an office building in Midtown Manhattan. “I’m 6’1 and only 160 lbs. I see some guys who weigh 100 pounds more wearing jeans that are too small for me! What kind of sense does that make?” Wright explained that when he was a child, he would get hand-me-down jeans from his older brother. By the time his brother outgrew them, they were already too small for him. “Kids used to make fun of me in school because I had tight jeans, calling me names like ‘tight a**’ and yelling out ‘nice legs’ during recess. It was embarrassing back then but if that happened now, I’d be the cool kid!”

Despite the fact that the sizes of jeans have changed with this trend, how the jeans are worn hasn’t. You will still find boys and men wearing their skinny jeans halfway down or completely off their backsides. They also continue to wear belts, to no apparent effect. But belts are still fashionable, so they make for a trendy accessory. Function be damned.

The irony of skinny jeans is that jeans are intended to be comfortable, but the way these jeans are being worn, it would be hard to picture someone running, playing sports, doing construction, or any other kind of physical work in a pair.

Feeding the public desire for this undersized fashion statement, manufacturers and designers are always coming out with new skinny-jean styles. For example, a name brand such as Diesel, which which first popularized skinny jeans in the gay community years ago, now leads the mainstream consumer market as well.

“I would definitely say that the skinny jeans trend has spiked sales,” said Steve Carland, a sales representative at Diesel. “I’ve been working here since 1996 and there was a time in this store when it was like a graveyard. The customers were hard to attract back then. After they asked the price of a pair of jeans, they would laugh, scoff, or simply walk out. The idea of paying $300-$600 for a pair of jeans did not appeal to most people.” He continued, “Most of the customers that bought our jeans were from a certain crowd. They were either tourists or gay men.” Now, he said, the store is drawing many more young, straight men of every racial background.

It’s not just expensive, select, and premium brands that you will find cashing in on the trend. Even mass brands like the Gap and Levi’s are feeding the seemingly endless market for skinnies.

It ultimately comes down to the desired look. “I’m just not into baggy jeans,” said Tyrese Thompson, a high school student in Jamaica, Queens. “That’s something those old heads wear. I don’t really go out sayin’ ‘hey I wanna go buy me a pair of skinnies,’ but that’s just my style. It’s who I am and I look fly in ‘em. If my jeans don’t fit right, I don’t look right.”

And fitting right, for now, means fitting tight.

]]> http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?feed=rss2&p=215 0 Stripping Her Life Away http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=195 http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=195#comments Sun, 07 Aug 2011 15:31:35 +0000 Chrystal Graham http://fmfaculty.hunter.cuny.edu/~6mix/?p=195 HIV-infected-Ukrainian-prostitute

Editor’s note: This article contains subject matter and language that some readers may find offensive.

By Chrystal Graham

It was a cold winter’s night, and most people in the city were either snug in their beds or on their way home. Tameka, meanwhile, was looking for her next john, wearing nothing more than lingerie and black knee-high boots at 2:30 a.m. She was desperately trying to flag down a car in hopes that she would find a guy to help pay her rent. She charges $20 for oral, $30 for sex, and $50 for “half and half.” This is how Tameka makes her living.

She never planned this life, but as her story shows, falling into prostitution can be dangerously easy for a young woman in the city.

Choosing not to share her last name, Tameka, 24, says she began prostituting just two years ago. She used to work in retail, at Banana Republic, but the money she made was never enough — especially not for a young woman craving her independence. She had been living at home and going to college full time, but quickly grew tired of being dependent on her mom and her mom’s new boyfriend. Tameka moved out three years ago, when she was 21.

She had always dreamed of being an actor and a model, and pursued her ambitions with abandon. She went on many auditions, but auditions don’t pay, and living on her own it was difficult for Tameka to keep up the routine. She stopped going on auditions, dropped out of school, and started working full time just to keep her head above water.

She still fell behind in rent and was threatened with eviction.

One day she met an older gentleman who was interested in dating her, but the interest was not mutual. She began using him for his money just so she could pay her bills on time, and for the short amount of time they were together, Tameka started acting and modeling again. But soon it became clear to the man that he was being used, and he broke up with her. Tameka was back to square one.

She needed quick money to pay her bills, but would not let go of her dreams to act and model. Some people told her she had a great body and she should try exotic dancing.

“The guy I guess that broke me into this was Pretty Ricky,” she says now, almost three years later. “I did a nude modeling gig for him and got paid $900 for it. He was tellin’ me that I could be makin’ this kind of money and even more dancin’,” and she soon began working at strip clubs. It was faster money than any 9-5 job she could get, she says, and paid more than the retail or minimum-wage jobs she was used to having.

In love with this glamorous lifestyle, Tameka began living above her means. “I bought everything from pretty clothes to party with and hot heels to match, to puttin’ a down payment on a nice Mercedes,” she says. “So I had to pay insurance, car payments, and rent, and the money I was makin’ wasn’t really doin’ it for me. So I needed even more.”

She explains that many strippers don’t go home with all the money they make on a given night. They have to share it with the bouncer, the deejay, and everyone else working at the club during their shifts. So by the end of the night a stripper might be walking home with very little.

If you ask most girls that dance how much they make, they might say about $1,000 or $2,000 a night, she says. But according to Tameka, they aren’t being truthful. “The b*tch would be lyin’ half the time if she said some sh*t like that,” Tameka declares from experience. “She probably would mean on a good night, like if there was one guy that spent a s*itload of money on you or you were dancin’ for a bachelor party or somethin’.”

To compensate, she says strippers usually do sexual favors for the people who run the club or turn tricks on the side. Tameka, initially, would not go that route, but again, the money called. She adds that because of the strenuous length of their shifts, there is “a ton” of drug use backstage. The slope is slippery.

She would not confirm if she used any drugs, and maintains her conviction that her situation is temporary. “This ain’t somethin’ I want to do for the rest of my life,” she says. “I know one day I’m gonna be a famous actress. So I’m just doin’ what I gotta do right now. At least I’m not strugglin’ no more.”

Just before she got evicted from her apartment for a second time, she was offered to do an adult film, using an alias and a wig. She accepted and got paid $500, which was just around the amount she was short for rent that month. Before she’d ever had sex for money, Tameka says she opposed to it. But after doing it once, she says she developed a whole new perspective. “I thought by doin’ it I would be disrespectin’ myself as a woman,” she says. “But then I realized I’m makin’ money off these fools! Sex feels good anyway and I’m gettin’ paid for it, so why not?”

She says, at this point, that she would do whatever it takes to make money. After all, she’s done it all already.

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