Behind-The-Scene: Inclusivity Testimony

For the past couple of weeks, Nicopanda has focused on the theme of inclusivity. We thought it would be important to go further into this concept. We asked a couple of people who were on the video shoot with us what "inclusivity" meant to them in their personal lives. All the stories are different but hone in on the idea of acceptance and the positive outcome of individuality. Here are some testimonies that truly capture the essence of the word.

 Hester Sunshine

For the better part of my life, I have been searching for the community or subculture that I fit into best. I have always been an outsider, even within so called outsider communities. Growing up, I tried very hard to be punk rock. But living outside of Santa Fe, NM, before the internet was really a “thing”, my views of punk rock were somewhat limited and definitely fabricated. When I got to NYC and saw the punk subculture for its true self (back in the day when St. Marks was not overrun with yogurt stands and NYU students) it was a crushing disappointment. I have always prided myself on my true individuality and when I got to NYC, I saw that scene was just a bunch of angry people trying to be exactly alike.

I always felt too rough, too tough for the more traditional artist communities or even the gay communities. It wasn’t until the forming of Bathsalts (the now defunct Monday drag night at Don Pedros bar in Bushwick)  where I felt that a space had been created where I truly belonged. I felt included. While I am not a drag queen or performer, Bathsalts, was an environment for the misfits of the gay and drag community to band together and share experiences, and  inspire each other. As Bathsalts continued to grow, it changed drastically. But back in the early days, when it was truly a gathering or weirdo misfits hanging out and performing for each other, that's when I really felt included, like I had found the group to which I belonged and that was a very special feeling.

Hester is wearing Fishnet "N" T-Shirt 

John Lin


The time that I felt included was the moment I realized I was okay with being who I am. It's more of an emotional and mental state of mind more than a physical aspect of inclusiveness. In the Asian culture, being inclusive is all about family and how well your family does compared to others. The better you do in life, the more "included" you are to the family and the family name. There is never a sense of individuality because if you express individuality, there's a risk of exclusion from the family. I realized that I might not be "included" in one community but included in another for being myself. It's nice to know that there are communities that are accepting and embracing differences in us. All in that moment I felt included in something that I'm proud of being in.

 John is wearing Panda Embossed Satin T-Shirt


Jonzu Jones

A time where I felt included was back in the summer before my freshman year of high school. I just came to the realization that Fashion was what I really wanted to do and a point in where I was very experimental with my wardrobe. I lived in a suburban town outside of Manhattan, you can imagine that I stuck out like a sore thumb. Amongst all the kids that I tried desperately to be cool and fit in, wearing neon, accessories made of legos, and circle contact lenses.... I had a big harajuku phase.

My mom worked at the art institute at the time and at the school they had a pre college summer course which was suppose to be for juniors and senior but they made a special arrangement for me. I went to the program not knowing anyone and my personality is a bit reserved at first but I still wanted to be myself 110 percent which meant dressing in my kawaii best. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people just like me and who had similar interests, goals, and passions. I made close friends, some of whom I stay in contact now within a few hours. I had friends back home but I always felt alone and misunderstood, now I was with my clan. It was only a week but I cherished those days. I felt included in a cool club of people that didn't care about clicks or social status but art and passion. I left that program and came back home a new, more confident person. I do regret some of my outfit choices back then but if it weren't for that one week program and all the awesome kids that included and accepted me for my weirdness, I wouldn't be the uniquely strange individual I am today. Long story short, I’ve had many occasions where I felt included and others where I feel very alone. but that was one which I will always remember forever with nothing but good thoughts.

 Jonzu is wearing Big Patch Varsity Jacket


Aissata Richards


Recently, I was invited to be interviewed as a young artist voice on climate change at the UN French Embassy in Washington DC infront of science experts. I was included in this because of my unique thoughts and ideas. As a fashion designer /dance videographer, I would bring a new view to climate change. To be apart of an epic moment made me feel powerful as a women of color and not only that, but as a young artist from Bushwick to be able to given a chance to fight the cause of climate change on levels that alot of people never get. The chance to do this was definitely a feeling of being included.

Aisata is wearing Panda Embossed Satin Sleeveless Dress


Desmond Zhengs

My quirkiness and interests are often misunderstood growing up, resulting in the lack of feeling truly connection with my peers. When I started college at FIT, I immediately felt a camaraderie within the four walls of the 7th avenue campus. The appreciation and celebration of creativity and diversity expressed by the faculty and students resonated throughout my college years. This sense of belonging and inclusiveness allowed me to grow and drive my passions and creativity sans judgement and stigma.

Desmond is wearing Panda Embossed Satin T-Shirt  


Elanya Lopez

A time i felt included in life was during Thanksgiving 5 or 6 years ago. I stayed in NYC rather than going to my hometown to visit my parents. I was down in the dumps. All my friends were busy with family or were out of town. So i felt alone & depressed. I went on Facebook to vent about my holiday dilemma & one person who was just an associate commented my status asking where I live. So i messaged her my address thinking she was just gonna come to hang out with me (which was totally fine) but not only did she keep me company, she brought me 2 plates of food that her lovely mother cooked & a bottle of red wine. Automatically, this lifted my spirits & reminded me that there is home away from home. After that, we were no longer associates...we became friends. 


Garret Caillouet

Growing up I wasn't one to keep a lot of friends. My dad was in the military so I moved around a lot. It wasn't until I was around 19-20 that I ever felt really accepted or at home with anyone besides my family. The reason for this was the circus community that I immersed myself in. I lucked out. A woman from cirque du soleil was training at the gymnastics facility I worked at while I was earning my degree. I couldn't afford lessons so I babysat in exchange for lessons. The friends who I can now call family accepted me as one of their own and I couldn't be happier.


Originally my parents weren't super supportive of what I do. They actually told me "no" whenever I ask them for help to pay for lessons. I found my way around that. The reason my parents are supportive of me now is because I went to college and I got a four-year degree in exercise physiology. I also had to prove to them that I could do this professionally and I could actually make it. My parents said that they would support what I do if I made sure to have a solid backup plan. Now my parents are more supportive than I could have ever imagined. One of the reasons they were upset that I was moving up to New York, is because by leaving I took away their social opportunities that they got from going to all of my performances and shows. My parents have even flown with me halfway across the country just to attend an audition. They turned it into a mini vacation.

Photos by Camille Breslin

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