"Growing up knowing you are gay can be difficult in today’s society, and arguably even more difficult when I was in school in the late 90s / early 2000s. You’re trying to come to terms with something you don’t quite understand about yourself, and those around you can often make it harder. Trendy terms circulate in school that make you feel like you are something bad, or wrong in some way: “that’s gay”, “don’t be a fag”. You start to fight what you feel, and aim to be anything else in the world other than what people are suggesting is the worst thing you can be. My childhood at home was wonderful. I had a loving family, and the closest relationship with my mum anyone could wish for. At school, as you may have guessed, things were a little different. I was bullied. Emotionally, physically. Nicknames began to circle, and suddenly I found that I was actually becoming the something bad, rather than the sayings. I tried to keep to myself, but bullies feed on weakness, knowing they probably won’t get hit back (either with fists or with words). I began to believe that I was nothing, worth nothing; I believed what my bullies would tell me: “you’re a mistake”, “queer”, “you’re pathetic”, heck, even a teacher once told me that I was stupid (I was getting D grades… on a good day… but who could blame me? I was miserable!). If you are told something enough, and let it in, you’ll become it, and that’s what I did. When I was about 11 or 12, I found myself becoming a bit of a rebel. I developed my own points of view (was still too afraid to say them, of course), but got just a bit sick and tired of finding idiot after idiot who would get a kick out of my misery. One day, the teacher asked what we all wanted to be when we grew up. She went around the class asking each of us, one by one, and my heart started beating as her eyes turned towards me. I’m not quite sure where it came from, but I had a rush of adrenaline, and felt compelled to just speak truthfully and share with this room of terrifying popular kids my inner dreams about the future. “I’m going to be a model”. People laughed, cackled in fact, including the teacher. So I got up, walked up and down the classroom as if it were a runway, and felt the blood fall from my face. I hardly slept that night, wondering what names I had set-up for myself to be called come the next days… weeks… months… but I almost didn’t care. For once, I had been me, openly, and I have to say, it felt good. In 2011, at the age of 19, I decided to pursue my dream. I took a trip to New York, and went to every top modelling agency there, with a book of photographs of myself that I had built in the past 6 months with local photographers looking to get some experience; ‘test shoots’ they called them, where neither party is paid, and both the model and photographers get a fun day doing what they love, with some pictures to keep, if the light was right. “no, thank you”, “thanks for coming in”, “enjoy your visit to New York”. I went home without a contract, but felt what appeared to be self-esteem, knowing that I DID pursue my dream, even if it wasn’t realized. 6 months later, I was scouted by the world-leading agency Ford Models, and later found myself back in New York, shooting with world renowned photographer, Mario Sorrenti, for a top men’s fashion magazine, VMan. I couldn’t help but think the entire time I was on set (other than “be fierce, Danny, be fierce”), that I had done it, and remembered the laughing I experienced from that class of idiots thinking, who’s laughing now? It is now 2017, and let me tell you, self—esteem doesn’t come in one photoshoot. Being strong and confident is an every day war, but with every battle win comes an extra sprinkling of that self-esteem, and that never leaves. The battles become easier and easier, and you develop a whole arsenal of weapons to conquer the deepest of self-doubts. I am now a business owner, have a Master’s degree (and was valedictorian BTW… guess you too were wrong, teach’!), work at an Ivy League University, and most importantly, am in a loving relationship with myself (oh, and my partner, Will). Those of us who are bullied always come out laughing. When you deal with that much bull**** on a daily basis, you develop the strongest armor there is, and believe me – the unshakable drive I have as a product of being bullied is worth every second of that miserable school life I underwent… and I still smile and say thank you when those bullies serve me my food at McDonald’s."
Daniel J. Carr, MSc
IG: @dcdannycarr / Photography: @dwprint/ Accessories: @solitaire_co