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The Turns of Life's Tango

The Turns of Life's Tango

The Turns of Life's Tango
SUNY Brockport

Accolades and awards sometimes brings us to reflect on our past journey and pivots.

I may not be a dancer, but I often find myself swinging to the rhythms I didn’t choose. Whether it’s waltzing through experiences I never expected or tangoing through surprises that come my way, the ballroom of life can be pretty unexpected for the amateur dancer. These sudden turns, these pivots, however unforeseen, choreograph our unique journey. They mold our identities and shape our stories.

The concept of pivots recently came up during the Black Queer Creative Summit, a three-day panoply of inspiring and influential QTPOC creatives from across the entertainment industry. In one session, panelists shared their professional career pivots and how each moment shaped them professionally. It made me think of my pivots throughout my life, leading up to the profession and person I am today.

That conversation rang in my ears as I prepared for Homecoming Weekend at SUNY Brockport. College, for many, is a time to figure out who you are and what you want to do. I walked those halls, notebooks in hand, eager to soak up knowledge.

After thinking I would follow in my grandfather’s footsteps and work for the United Nations or in my mother’s footsteps and work as an interior designer, I set my sights on being a publicist. But some professors told me my perspective of the field did not match the industry’s “standard” – an industry dominated by white cisgender people – so I set my sights on being a historian.

Meanwhile, the sparkling and sequined world of drag would forever change me. I was captivated by the transformative power of self-expression, thanks to a queen who showed me more about public relations than any class ever could. The art of creating her persona, building up confidence for the stage, and captivating an audience while telling a story in high heels and cinched waist? That’s PR in its most fabulous form.

Taking pictures for queens backstage soon developed into managing social media accounts, organizing drag brunches, and writing press releases for upcoming fundraisers and events. Still, being a publicist wasn’t something I thought I would do as a career; I still hoped to be a historian with a show on The History Channel.

Sadly, reality hit, and I knew I had to pivot after grad school. I paid the bills as a staffer at several area nonprofits, from working overnight at a youth services center to working at the box office for the local philharmonic orchestra. I was returning to grad school for nonprofit administration when I accepted the chance to join the orchestra’s marketing department; the “hobby” of helping drag queens and other LGBTQ+ artists had established a reputable portfolio of work.

My final career pivot happened two years ago: after working in the nonprofit world, I decided to take a position as a publicist at an advertising agency. Fate – or, more accurately, the microaggressions in the workplace -- led me to find options elsewhere, landing me a gig of the lifetime: the face of public relations for the nation’s leading LGBTQ+ media firm, publisher of such beautiful brands like Out, The Advocate, and Pride.com.

Those pivotal professional moments aren’t only about careers. They are also deeply personal. Pivots aren’t just industry switch-ups; they’re profound moments of self-awareness, of recognizing and embracing one’s truth.

But as I’ve learned, life is not a linear progression but a series of elegant, messy, beautiful, and, at times, heart-wrenching pirouettes. My earliest understanding of my gender identity was around 8, though it wasn’t until I was 16 that I began to express my identity in some public form. Sadly, the dance of life forced me to pause my journey; it wasn’t until seven years ago that I continued on my journey. And, with every year, the progression and changes – physical, mental, and emotional -- are beautiful to see.

I’m happy I put back on my dancing stilettos. And, with the dancing partners of loving friends and family, I haven’t fallen since.

The professional and personal pivots brought me back to my alma mater this past weekend, where the university wanted to honor me with an award for my work accomplishments and community endeavors. They were now recognizing the trans woman who was once a young, uncertain individual roaming those halls.

As I stepped foot on the campus for the first time since I graduated and the first time since I began my transition, on that familiar stage but in an entirely new light, the weight and beauty of every pivotal moment hit me. I was flooded with memories of myself as an outsider who worked overnight to pay the bills, only to attend classes the following day prepared and somewhat withdrawn. I remembered myself as the black femme who traversed through social conventions to carve out a personal space of joy and hope.Nearly a decade later, receiving an award in front of hundreds – primarily white, overwhelming cisgender individuals -- is a testament to strength through trials and tribulations.

While many might dream of those accolades and applause, that wasn’t the most meaningful part for me. It was the culmination of every pivot, every challenge faced, every tear shed and every triumph celebrated.

Coming back home and adding the award to my shelf, I realized something. Perhaps it’s not about the endpoint but the unexpected pivots that add flavor and richness to our journey. And, perhaps, it’s not about finding out what we want to be as adults but pivoting to discover who we are and who we have the potential to be.

To all reading this, know that each pivot, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is an essential step in the dance of life. And while we may not always choose the music, we can choose how we dance.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Marie-Adélina de la Ferrière

Marie-Adélina de la Ferrière is the Community Editor at equalpride, publisher of The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, Plus, and Pride.com. A first-generation Haitian-American trans woman with a robust history of independent work as a communications and social media expert, she has tirelessly championed LGBTQ+ artists and performers, creating a vibrant community engagement approach that infuses each project with a dynamic and innovative perspective. Like and follow her on social: @ageofadelina.

Marie-Adélina de la Ferrière is the Community Editor at equalpride, publisher of The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, Plus, and Pride.com. A first-generation Haitian-American trans woman with a robust history of independent work as a communications and social media expert, she has tirelessly championed LGBTQ+ artists and performers, creating a vibrant community engagement approach that infuses each project with a dynamic and innovative perspective. Like and follow her on social: @ageofadelina.