Sway Through the Crowd to an Empty Space - David Bowie / by Aisha Claire

On a short walk home from dinner a few nights ago I thought about David Bowie. I pondered that inexplicable gravitas he possessed that made all of us reach towards him with this feeling that his being was accessible – but how it was something we could never actually touch or hold. I thought about this thing that made him who he was and how it somehow managed to reach all of us with the same intensity and grab. It happened to me at 10 the first time I heard Modern Love. At that age, my older cousin Gwendolyn (the same cousin who waited in line for who knows how long for tickets to a Prince concert for my 12th birthday) told me who he was. I remember that she said she loved this singer with two different colored eyes who wore amazing costumes. This is my artsy, kindred cousin who has spent her life designing clothes, doing interiors and window displays, and being a milliner. She grew up in Queens, somehow hung out with Eddie Murphy's party crew in New Jersey in the 80's and still roller skates. She only likes good stuff. ‘Putting me on’ to David Bowie is something for which I’ve been ever grateful.

When I was 10 it was not the era of smartphones and Google so I discovered him visually through music videos beginning with the singles from Let’s Dance. Mind you, there were 22 albums before this one but I opened his book at this chapter. Modern Love told me who I was. I knew I loved this sound, this energy. With hip hop making a huge surge in the mid 80’s, I had “swayed through the crowd to an empty space”. I was the black girl in Prospect Heights who rode my skateboard through Park Slope and Fort Greene as a teen in the late 80’s, and was a house head. But a few years earlier at 10, 11 and 12 I was a Friday Night Videos addict and loved pop as much as the new hip hop that I blasted from a boom box up and down my block. I was in many ways “not like the others” (remember Sesame Street?). David Bowie told me it was ok.

As many Bowie fans my age, he was there through our teens, twenties and thirties. We swooned when he hit the screen in films and tingled when we heard his songs. When I was a singer in the late 90’s, I sang with a band that played CBGB's 313 Gallery on Bowery Street regularly. After leaving the stage one night, one of the band members told me that David Bowie and Iman had popped through to see our set. They were friends with one of our musicians. I almost fainted at the thought that they’d watched me on stage. When Pinterest came about, my profile got a healthy dose of David Bowie on boards I created like "Classic is as Classic Does", "Shine Like You Mean It", and "Committed to the Zone". As a former model, I am transfixed when I see a subject absolutely destroy a lens with their energy. I love when a model knows how to not just look beautiful, but to BE beauty. That was David Bowie. With musicians like him, it's also a deeper swirl of persona and sex. And the clothes he wore were never just placed upon his shoulders. They became infused with his own soul. And the soul of the designers fused with him. He lived as the ultimate individual, happily and openly bisexual and without borders to delineate any of his creative expanse. We all seek our lane of comfortability. Swaying through the crowd until I finally found an empty space where I could stretch and dance my own dance is why I do what I do. I like to help people settle into their sweet spot in their dress and in their lives. The right niche is something I value and that I have influences like Bowie to thank for the compass that helped me find it.

Here is my collection and tribute to David Bowie, the artist and the muse, inspiration and reflection, redemption and committed character.