For Pride Month, FN is spotlighting LGBTQIA+ executives, entrepreneurs and designers as part of its ongoing commitment to champion diversity across all areas of the footwear business.
Growing up in Ohio in the early 2000s, Andrew Gelwicks struggled with his queer identity.
“It was such a hurdle to get over. I thought it was my least favorite thing about me. It really was a cause of a lot of depression and suicidal ideation,” he said.
As he got older, Gelwicks accepted who he was but it wasn’t until he had the revelation that he was thinking about his identity all wrong.
“I really started to think that being queer and being gay has really been one of the best things about me, the best things about my life and it has really been an amazing asset,” Gelwicks explained. “So I thought, ‘Do the most successful queer people in the world feel this way, too?'”
This ultimately led to the creation of his 2020 book, titled, “The Queer Advantage,” featuring conversations with LGBTQIA+ trailblazers, from Troye Sivan to Billie Jean King, about how their queer identities gave them an edge in their paths to success.
Through these stories of empowerment, Gelwicks is shifting the dialog.
He said, “We always talk about the hardships and the struggles with being gay, but that’s not the full picture. It’s not the full story. Being queer can be experienced in so many different way.”
For Gelwicks, who is the stylist behind Catherine O’Hara, Jo Ellen Pellman and Dominique Jackson, his queer advantage has been empathy.
“Being a stylist, the ability to be empathetic and to connect with people is essential and is a huge asset,” he said. Gelwicks added that for many queer creatives, the arts and various mediums were outlets to process what was going on in their lives. That in and of itself has been an advantage.
In the book, Gelwicks looked to spotlight a range of leaders, from fashion to politics, to explain how they’ve leveraged their obstacles. What he found was that no one story is the same, which is why LGBTQIA+ representation across industries is essential.
“I didn’t necessarily see myself in others growing up,” he said. “My hope for this book is that it changes because you have 51 people… that’s what’s so extraordinary. Queer people are everywhere. We’re not just in fashion and the arts — we’re also in business, tech, sports. You name it, we’re there and we’re doing really well. So to have that representation to look up to and see this is what I can be and there are no limits is exciting.”