Sissy that Strut: Louisville’s multi-talented Queer, Bearykah Badu

by Aaron Thoams

I’m an acquired taste. If you don’t like me, acquire some taste.”  

-Bearykah Badu, a non-binary Photographer, Drag Queen, Model, & Sex Worker.

Where were you born and where do you consider home these days?

I was born in Jeffersonville and raised in New Albany, Indiana, but home has always been Louisville. Even more so when I moved there in 2011. The West End definitely became my core, my home base so to speak. 

When and where did you first discover photography and how long have you been photographing? Wait, did I say that right: photographing?

Yes, that’s right. It’s better than “shooting”. Especially when someone asks “Oh, do you shoot kids?” (Laughter) My grandpa was a professional photographer for the UofL Sports Department and Churchill Downs, so I always ran around with them. There are pictures of me with Scottie Pippen, Muhammad Ali, and a ton of UofL cheerleaders at the time. He and I definitely saw the city and I learned a lot from him at a young age. 

Who is your biggest inspiration in life and why?

I’m just gonna say it’s myself right now. I’d rather focus on myself and be the person I look up to because it’s who I have to be happy with at the end of the day. I don’t want to focus on someone else because I’ll be looking to what they have and I don’t want that. 

What is the one trait your close friends would say describes you to a T?

I’m a bitch. (Laughter). A sexy bitch at that. Everyone equates Scorpios with passion and I’m a bitch because if I don’t have anything to contribute to a conversation, I won’t. Being a black person in white spaces, I know we are supposed to wedge our way in and invade that space, but I just want to “be” in that space as myself. . 

Favorite photo shoot?

Oh, they’re all my kids! (Laughter) I loved shooting Kelsey Westbrook at the Architectural Salvage-that was a lot of fun! Also, shooting with Taylor Ryan from Change Today Change Tomorrow because it was good to get her out of her comfort zone. I feel like as a black woman starting a nonprofit, everyone views her as tough. So, it was good to do something a little soft for her. All of my Bo-Po shoots too! Bo-Po stands for body positive. 

Favorite city you have visited?

Atlanta! It’s a city where I know there will be a lot of black people taking up space and I don’t have to make a statement by entering a room. That shit is tiring. Atlanta is refreshing. 

What adventure is on your bucket list?

Anywhere, EVERYWHERE. I just want to go! If you reach your hand out and want to take me, I will go! 

What is your favorite curse word?

Bitch. Bitch can be anything and depending on who it’s coming from you can take it differently: “Bitch, what’s the tea?”, “Bitch, shut up.”, “Bitch, what the fuck is going on?”, “Bitch, what are we doing?” (Laughter) BITCH IS THE GAY’S “DUDE”. 

What’s the best advice you have ever been given?

“Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.” That was something my aunt would say to me after I tried to commit suicide. It’s something I always have with me and it’s tattooed on my chest. 

If you could go back in time and give little Bearykah some words of wisdom, what would it be?

Stop romanticizing over every little thing. Leave that shit alone and just be a kid!

What’s next for Bearykah Badu?

I want to travel! I don’t want to get married and I don’t want to have kids. I’m currently enjoying the freedom that comes with my partner and I’s open relationship, so that has been something new for the future.