My first memory of David Bowie was of him as Jareth The Goblin King, in the film Labyrinth. Like many, the mystical villain Bowie portrayed enamored me. As an awkward teen I remember being confused by my feelings for Jareth. Did I want to be with him, or be like him? Was he trying to be a boy or a girl, and what did that mean for my identity? Eventually I realized answering those questions within myself didn’t matter. As long as I am freely expressing myself I am happy and ok in the world. One thing I love about Bowie is that he was unapologetically and wildly expressive in his costumes and personas. All that glitter, and glam glam glam! Bowie spoke about being eccentric and how it’s freeing. That is a sentiment I could live and thrive in forever.
I grew up removed from pop culture, music, and TV till I was 8 years old. So I had no references or rock stars like Bowie to look to for influence and inspiration. In some ways, this was a gift because it gave me the chance to express my self without trying to fit in, or be like someone else. It was also a blessing that my mother let me dress myself from an early age, and to this day has always supported my creativity. There were moments she regretted this because of some of the outrageous outfits I’d put together, and embarrass her in public with. I think she would be grateful I hadn’t discovered David Bowie as a kid, or she would have had to take a little Ziggy Stardust to school, and not on Halloween! To sum it up, my life became, and still is a costume party every day of the week.
After moving from the sheltered woods of North Carolina to Asheville NC, I found a white shag carpet two-piece sweat suit to ware for my first day at a new school. I was thrilled, and thought it made my look like a sheep, and not a social reject! Later that year my friends told me they didn’t know what to think of me in those granny sweats! Somehow I feel like Bowie wouldn’t have judged me.
By the time I discovered Bowie by watching the Labyrinth, it was like a bright light went on, and my brain exploded. I realized I had been living in a parallel universe with this incredible creative force. He personified so much of how I had been feeling my whole life. He showed me fairytales do come true. I was witnessing what seemed to be a mystical being personified. He was a super hero before super heroes were cool. There is a quote of Bowie’s about how he was shy as an adolescent and couldn’t bare to sing his songs onstage. He said:
“ I continued creating characters with their own complete personalities and environments. I put them into interviews with me!”
I relate to this. Being unbearable shy but desperately wanting to show myself. A little costume as emotional armor make me feel safe, and those parts of myself that have no words can shine through. Bowie was a master at being shiny. He reminds me it’s ok to be completely daring, and unapologetically expressive. It doesn’t matter if I play a girl, a boy, an elf, or a spec of dust onstage or in life’s stage.
I’m sure my mother never thought to herself: when my daughter grows up, I think she will dress up like a boy and pretend to be David Bowie onstage. That I would be back stage with a bunch of drag queens, putting on a Jareth the Goblin King wig, and strategically placing an athletes cup where one can’t help but to stare! Then lip-sinking on a small stage in Santa Fe NM “You remind me of the babe…” Bowie showed me that I didn’t have to tell people why I did this, or worry to myself what it meant. I doubt that was his intention. He probably just woke up everyday and could help but to sparkle. I am blessed that I had a tiny glimpse of what he showed his fans: Something magnificent, otherworldly, everlasting, and fleeting all at once.
I wish his family all the love and healing for his passing, and I thank him for sharing himself with the world.