The LGBTQI+ community is beautiful, broad and varied in its comprise. There are crossroads encompassed within the unique landscape of identities, and one does not necessarily require a label to navigate these intersections. This, coupled with the ever-evolving struggles and triumphs of the community where intersections overlap and entwine in a completely multi-faceted embrace is what Pride aims to celebrate, every June since the Stonewall riots in 1968.
TOMBOY’s #PRIDEMONTH celebrates the LGBTQI+ community in all it’s glory, as members and as allies.
When we asked leading Australian hairstylist and long-time TB collaborator, Anthony Nader to be a part of our Pride series, his answer was;
“Darling hello… I’m SO gay and SO fucking proud… It’s crazy!”
While he may not see it as clearly as we do – Anthony is a role model – and through his work and his Sydney-based salon RAW by Anthony Nader, he provides a safe haven, guidance, and acceptance. Anthony opens up with unwavering authenticity about what pride means to him, his responsibility as a mentor to the younger generation of the community and how Madonna has played a significant role in his pride (and safety)!
TB: How do you identify?
AN: I identify as a proud gay male, I’m happily married. I got married in Hawaii 13 years ago. I’ve been with my husband for 23 years.
TB: What does pride mean to you, and what does that mean for you and your husband?
AN: Pride for me personally is about equal rights and that should be something that shouldn’t even really be a topic, especially in Australia. I know we’re only 200-and- something-years-old but I think that’s more of a reason that we need to be progressive and we need to be innovative and ‘break the rules’…
TB: Do you think that we have a bit of responsibility as a young country to not get bogged down in the kinds of politics that older countries tend to?
AN: I think it doesn’t matter if you live in Iceland or you live in Australia. I think that when it comes to what sexuality you are it shouldn’t even be a topic. Going back to my husband and I being gay men, hopefully, we can serve as role models for younger gay men in looking up to us because we have lasted a long time. I mean in any relationship it’s about communication and self-respect.
TB: What would you say to your younger self if/when you were feeling unsure about yourself or your sexuality?
AN: I came from a very small town 302km south of Sydney the population now is around 10,000. So, I grew up in a small town and I think I was the only gay in the village, literally. So back then as anyone who knows me, well knows, I’m such a Madonna fan. I don’t want to talk on the dark side of suicide but Madonna did get me through living in a small town and knowing that there is life outside of a small town, and knowing that strength is a big issue, and knowing who you are. You know when you look at Madonna in the ’80s and ’90s she was all about self-expression, if you fast forward to today and you’ve got the gay culture which is all about; Cardi B, or Lady Gaga or I mean, it could be Drake, but we all find something that gets us through the battle of staying true to you. Madonna was and still is that for me. She was the one that really did get me out of the town and kind of made me think there is a whole world out there to explore, to just believe in yourself without getting too philosophical about all that.
TB: Do you think that the inspiration that you found in Madonna, became a tool for you to be able to care for yourself and for you to be able to express yourself?
AN: Yes, yes, yes, yes! I lived in New York for 10 years – my first apartment was Madonna’s same street, same block – not that I’m a stalker, let’s get that right. But let’s just say I’m a bit of a fan. It’s hard enough being gay in the city, let alone the country.
I did my apprenticeship in my hometown for the pure fact that my sister owned the salon and I knew that I could save a lot of money. But every year of my apprenticeship I went and worked in a salon in Beverly Hills for three weeks. Back then I used to write letters to hair salons and even when they didn’t reply, I rocked up on their door and because I was determined. I went from being in Moruya where I was doing Farmer’s hair, I was doing beard-shaping, I was doing Nun’s hair. I did that for $12.95, and that was without the wash, I knew that it was a part of a journey.
During my apprenticeship, I’d just walk out on the street and I would be verbally abused and that toughened me up. I would buy clothes in L.A – I would shop on Melrose – I used to buy the craziest stuff. I started my apprenticeship in ’88. My first trip to America was in ’89 and I mean Madonna was well and truly alight and full of controversy. So, I used to go back to my room and I used to go back to Moruya and with the most amazing outlandish clothes because I thought you know what? I’m going to get verbally abused anyway so why not be verbally abused for dressing how I want to dress? I’m not saying I was walking around the street in tights like Priscilla. What I’m saying is: I dressed how I wanted to dress because it was self-expression and living in that town if I didn’t wear blue jeans and a Bonds singlet and Blundstone boots I was considered ‘out’ anyway, so [I said] “Here you go Moruya… This is me and I don’t give a fuck what you think, because I feel good. If you’re going to abuse me well at least I’m being abused and I’m looking great!”
Then the day I finished my apprenticeship I moved to London.
So that’s it in a nutshell.
TB: So you just talked about how you used clothes and used that self-expression as a form of rebelliousness and it kept you safe and gave you the confidence to say ‘fuck you’ to the status quo. Do you think that hair can do the same thing? Do you think that hair can be used as a kind of political statement and as a form of rebellion?
AN: Definitely. In my apprenticeship I had every hair colour, I had every cut, I had perms, I had hair extensions. I was Roberts-Smith in high school. You know? I did the punk, I did the Bros, I did Vanilla Ice, I did everything because I wanted to stay true to who I was. And I am a reality. You’ve got to stay true to who you are. And I think once you find your groove and your journey that you’re on, it gets easier.
Yes, I found a lot of times hard, definitely, but listening to the right music and seeing the world, how big it is you know that there is more of you out there. I can’t express to you enough, living in my small town, was hard. It was hard and I didn’t want to conform because I didn’t want to shortchange myself and my creativity.
TB: I think that has served you really well, and you’ve created a foundation for yourself, in your self-expression and in your sense of self. Do you think that now, you can provide that for other people through your salon, and through the work that you create?
AN: Yeah definitely. Getting to the salon, it is a wonderful platform for apprentices for example. I’ve had this business for 23 years so imagine the young gay and lesbian and trans, everyone, every label, that shouldn’t even be a label, has been employed here. It’s a safe haven because I understand it and David [Anthony’s husband] and I understand that. Do we care what other people think? No, but you know we’re just humans. We’re just humans.
TB: Do you think that in the salon, you get to give that feeling of feeling comfortable and being true to yourself to other people with the haircuts that you give them, that you get to help other people kind of figure out how to be true to themselves both with your apprentices and the people that you work with, and it can be a vessel for their own self-discovery?
AN: I can gently guide my team and know that they can come and talk to me or David whenever they want. Clients, models, when I’m on a shoot, I don’t want to shake them and say ‘give me your truth.’ because they’re probably not ready. You just have to be there, they just need to know that you’ll be there for them when they’re ready. Not looking at them every day saying is there something you need to tell me. It’s just knowing that it’s okay.
I mean as for being on a shoot and doing the hair that I do, I love to make people feel confident. So whether that is a textured haircut like yours, at the end of the day, I want to make people happy, and I get the highest amount of joy when I can make a person happy and 100 percent confident because I believe hair is, you know you talk to makeup artists and they’ll say the same thing… I am on this planet to give anyone that sits in my chair the confidence of who they are. Even though hair shouldn’t really be loud, and it’s got its own voice but it’s really about the energy and the personality comes out when you’re feeling good.
TB: I know that feeling. When I cut my hair off, I felt like I finally had a haircut that ‘matched’ my personality, and it made me feel so much more confident. I think that’s a very powerful thing to give somebody.
AN: There’s nothing more satisfying than a happy client sitting in my chair in the salon or being on a shoot. Yesterday was on a shoot and I was doing a news presenter, she’s always fixed to having newsreader hair, but when she sat in my chair I said to her ‘I’m thinking of just softening your look. We’ll put a little wind in it, we’ll make it a little dishevelled’ and thankfully she was like, “Anthony, I trust you,” and that is when you know you’ve won the jackpot. She looked incredible because she was open to change.
TB: So, on change, and bringing it back to Pride, what do you think is next for the queer community? What are you angry about in terms of equal rights and representation? OR what are you excited about? What makes you really proud and happy to be a part of this community?
AN: First of all, I’m angry that Australia is just so behind. In gay marriage, gay adoption… It should be such an easy thing, it shouldn’t even be an issue. David and I wanted to adopt a baby from any country, any background, male or female, but they make it so hard here in Australia. I’ve got friends in America that literally adopt a baby in five seconds because it’s so easy. It’s so easy over there, Australia is so frustrating that way, and I’m not the only one, obviously, that thinks that. Australia just has to get with it. They have to understand that being gay is normal and we love, it doesn’t matter. If we want the right to adopt a baby, or a or a child, or a toddler it should be our right. We shouldn’t have to ask permission. It should be so natural. Australia really does need to pick it up it’s it’s just frustrating, it really is frustrating.
On a positive, or what I’m excited about… I’m excited that Australia is slowly getting there, not fast enough but we’ve made the move last year [with gay marriage] and it’s about time. We just need to keep on banging down the walls and we have that energy. We have that fight.
We shouldn’t have to fight but we have the passion and the hunger to do it, and we will get there. Because it’s about the generations after us.
And I think frustration is vital – I don’t believe in an angry march down Pitt St mall _ I believe that there is a power within the community and we’re all on the pulse, and we’re all wanting to take it to the next level But I don’t think we need to do it violently.
We need to do it with pure charm, and intelligence.
Photography: Ella Jane
Interview: Matilda Dods