Pride Month: Creatives Tyris Winter & Mich Miller on How Far the Queer Community Has Come

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.

While the celebration of Pride Month every year is a joyous occasion, this year’s festivities feel bigger, more impactful and meaningful.

“It feels more celebratory than ever,” Mich Miller, a Los Angeles-based painter, printmaker and muralist tells FN. “I think that there’s a lot of threading through time that’s happening — an example of that being COVID-19 was very much a mirror of AIDS, and for a lot of young people they really don’t have a way to connect or relate to how that was. Millions of people passed away — mostly queer people and [now] coming out of a really hard time and having experienced a large loss as a nation, I think that resilience and the celebration in that and coming back together after isolation heightens Pride for me and for us.”

Fellow artist and also dancer and fashion enthusiast Tyris Winter echoed similar sentiments, expressing: “Pride Month is definitely a celebration of where we’ve come from and where we’re going to go… especially coming out of the pandemic.”

Both Miller and Winter starred in Vans 2021 pride campaign, which spotlights creatives in the LGBTQIA+ community, who use their art to embrace their most authentic selves — whether that be ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation.

As for Winter, this ability to be comfortable in his own skin — let alone express himself publicly through art was born out of adversity, something he says is true for most queer artists.

“A lot of people choose art as a result of going through something very tragic. I think it’s a direct correlation that a lot of artists happen to be queer because to be queer is to go through this inner turmoil of if the world will accept me, so a lot of my art focuses on finding the self acceptance that I can hold within myself and finding within the world and in my community. How I intertwine that in my art is just to really express what I never could… what I want to be and what I wanted to be,” Winter said.

Winter’s expression is realized through poetry and his sense of style. “I pay homage to the Black beauty of the ’70s and the disco era… and I didn’t have the opportunity to do that growing up. So, for me, fashion is an art form in itself where I use my body as the muse.”

While Winter uses fashion in the form of sparkly jumpsuits and platform boots, Miller expresses themselves through abstract art and also pays homage to the queer pioneers who have paved the way. “I started making art in high school as a way to connect with other people and ultimately just stuck with it because it was a way of, you know, really having control of my own time to be expressive and creative and as a way to make a living and be sustainable,” they said.

“I’m always using a lot of color and [I] stay really playful and present. But I also look a lot to queer histories for inspiration. For example, my most recent body of work is related to disco and really inspired by the disco movement, which is, of course, really related to a queer history in the history of HIV and a lot of like resilience. So, I think it is kind of like visually through color, but also inspiration through queer history,” Miller added.

Winter explains that in addition to his own evolution, he’s happy to see society’s progressing. Speaking of Lil Nas X’s 2021 BET performance in particular, he said: “[It] was so iconic and so legendary… to see us slowly becoming just able to live our lives the way we’ve been doing for like centuries is really amazing and impactful.”

However, Winter asserts there’s so much more progress to be made. “I feel there’s so far to go in regards to making queer bodies just an everyday thing. I want [society] to get to a point where me walking out in a glittering dress isn’t a spectacle. I just want it to be a normal thing.”

As he reflects on his own personal growth, Winter shared: “I would tell my [younger] sell to not be fearful. To never minimize yourself or your voice. I would definitely say to my younger self to just live every moment to the fullest because life is so short to be worried about what anybody else thinks.”

Miller is also making their younger self proud and pouring into LGBTQIA+ youth with opportunities they wish they had growing up. In 2018, Miller co-founded The Print Shop LA — a collaborative printmaking studio in Los Angeles, which offers internship opportunities, collaborative studio access and artists-in-residence programs.

“I always wanted for myself as a queer person or a younger queer person who didn’t quite fit into certain boxes that made it harder to get certain jobs. I just saw that printmaking was such an easy access for a lot of artists who are just coming up to make their own shops or maybe just like are getting started. So that felt really crucial to share with the queer community, but also just with the artists in general,” Miller shared.

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