I used to be a tennis shoe freak. I had over 300 pairs of tennis shoes. I started wearing heels about four years ago [but] it was a gradual transition to where I am now. I wore heels one day because I bought some pants that were too long and I didn’t have time to get them hemmed, so I bought some heels to make me taller so my pants could fit and that’s how it started. Once I tried the heels when I was out I got good reviews. After that, I gradually started buying another pair and another pair and then I got into a skinny leg jean.
I used to just wear pumps but now I wear boots, shorts and thigh highs. I know women understand when you put on heels it makes you feel different. It gives you a different swag, a different walk. It gives you confidence. You feel good, you feel sexy. So I got to the point now where I’d do what I want to do. At first it was just for me and I didn’t understand what impact it was gonna have on people. [But] when I go to the club–I’ll be at a gay club and these guys will come up to me and be like, “You helped me be who I am,” and at first I was like, “I don’t care, I didn’t do this for you,” but then as I started to really see what I was doing without knowing I was doing it, I started to embrace the situation.
It’s not just with gay men but with straight women, too. Women will say, “I never used to wear heels until I saw you wearing heels,” or, “You make me more confident in myself” so seeing that from me just being myself and doing what I do is changing peoples lives–it’s my responsibility to keep it going.
PHOTOS: DEREK J IN HEELS
I don’t put myself in situations that I know can bring negativity. I know there are certain places where I will not go dressed like this. I don’t go places by myself for the same reason. I try to take precautions the best way I can to protect myself from getting that negativity. But it amazes me in the Black community how accepting people have been of the situation.
It makes me nervous some times with straight men because you don’t know where they’re coming from but they’ll be like, “Oh, you’re that dude that be on TV with them heels on,” and I’m like, “Really? Well, thank you.” And then if I’m out and there’s somebody being ignorant or being closed minded, you can see other people are like, “Do you know who you’re talking to? It ain’t going down like that,” so I don’t even have to do anything anymore. And if I’m out and I don’t have them on people get upset. They’ll be like, “Where you’re shoes at?” And even with the older people in the Black community, like your grandmother and grandfather–the older men and women–they’re like, “Oh baby where your shoes at? We like to see you in you’re shoes.”
So it’s just been amazing to me to see the acceptance of it. I never would have thought. People say things like, “Only you can do this because I’ve seen people that have heels on all the time and they look a hot mess but when you put them on it’s just you like that’s what you’re supposed to do.” But really, confidence goes a long way. –As Told To Starrene Rhett
Catch Derek J every Tuesday on Oxygen’s Hair Battle Spectacular at 10/9c.