We had the good fortune of connecting with Jordan Daniels and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jordan, how does your business help the community?
I often think of this excerpt from Marianne Williamson that says, and I’m paraphrasing here, something like, “As we liberate ourselves from our own fear, our presence liberates others.” My work is centered on liberating self. Liberating self from social pressures on bodies, on fashion, on queerness, on Blackness, Jewishness, etc. Everything that I do in my work is me in practice. I don’t ask others to do anything or challenge anything I wouldn’t do or challenge myself, nor do I expect them to do it. And I think that helps the community, or the world, because I’m putting my words into action and holding myself accountable to it. That action, I think, lets people know that they aren’t doing the work alone. It lets them know that I am in the arena with them, however that looks to them, and I am willing to learn and grow alongside them because it means collective liberation. There’s this Jewish value called Tikkun Olam, that means “Repair the world.” I can’t repair the world If I’m not willing to repair myself with it.

My writing is about telling stories that aren’t always told, that don’t always get a chance to, and challenging the status quos that suppress those stories. My fashion is about having the audacity to adorn my body in whatever I love, despite what norms deem appropriate. My photography is capturing joy candidly and helping people feel like their favorite selves rather than their forced selves.

If I dared to amend Williamson’s quote, I wouldn’t say it’s so much about my presence actually liberating others, but more about helping them realize that they can liberate themselves too.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I remember when Instagram first came out on iPhone. I’ve always been an android kid so it took some time before I could make my own IG account. When it launched on android, I remember being so enamored with how people presented themselves through their photos. It became a corner of adoration for styles and happiness, things I didn’t always think of possibilities for me as a young fat, queer, mixed person. In 2014, a soulmate of mine had told me about Tess Holliday, a model who was making a name for herself as a fat supermodel and fashion icon. It was that moment where seeing her made me realize I could be liberated too.

That moment is how I got here today, truly in thanks to this friend, Chelsea, who showed me that I didn’t have to participate in my own oppression anymore. She helped me discover my art. My body as art, my style as art, my existence as art.

From there, my creative work really focused on helping others realize the same. I had started a social project in school that focused on people embracing their wholeselves, and that led to me posting about the intersections of my identity and uplifting the identities of others through photography, dialogue, writing, and everything in between. I don’t see it as easy or hard, I just see it as necessary.

I will say, during the pandemic, it has been harder for me to do this work in the same way. I feel like almost two years of my creative life has been stolen, a feeling I’m sure is held by many, and I think that probably has been the biggest challenge. Now I’m tasked with really sitting with how I want to emerge and bring others with me to that through my art forms.

I think what sets me apart from others is that I really don’t try to exist in competition or comparison. I fully believe I am unique, as I believe every person is unique, and I can exist in my lane of unique creativity inherently. I know it sounds like a kumbaya type of answer, but I really do believe that! I think that’s also what I’m most proud of. I don’t have an interest in getting ahead by competing with others or trying to make myself seem better/above somebody else. I’m proud that I haven’t had to sacrifice my values to feel successful, in the ways that I define it!

What do I want folx to know about me and my brand? That my brand is self-liberation, and it’s continual evolution. I’m constantly “becoming,” to quote Michelle Obama. I don’t hide that and I share that openly. Because of that, I think people see themselves reflected in me as I do them. My brand is them.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m a huge coffee lover so whenever someone visits, I always take them to Mystic Mocha, the cutest neighborhood coffee shop down the block from my apartment. It’s a must-visit because of their damn good lattes, the Frida Kahlo being my favorite. A special request, if the team there is feeling generous, I’ll ask for a horchata Frida Kahlo, it’s perfection.

Because I live in such a walkable area, I encourage my guests to do a neighborhood tour with me and explore the different communities that live around me, especially since they each have different vibes. North Park, Normal Heights, and Hillcrest all have different offerings for people. If the idea of a neighborhood walk is overwhelming, I’ll opt to show you Balboa Park, a cultural center of San Diego with numerous museums, abundant outdoor park space, and lstunning natural beauty – people included. Museums fills my spirit so I will take you to a few of my favorites, like the Museum of Us, a deeply engaging anthropology museum, and the Museum of Photographic Arts, which holds beautiful visual stories. We’ll definitely make pit stops at the center fountains and the cactus garden, which are great spots for photos.

Evolution Fast Food is a delicious vegan fast food place near the park, so there’s a high chance we’ll go there after the museums and have a little snack at the edge of the park, under the sun, and surely with an opportunity to people watch. To get an extra dose of culture, I’ll usually take folx to Barrio Logan, a beautiful and historic neighborhood that’s reclaiming its own space and resisting gentrification with community support. Chicano Park is housed in Barrio Logan and was a space for the Chicano movement in the 1960s and now has beautiful, powerful murals that adorn the large pillar holding the freeway above.

As we approach the evening, I’ll most likely bring you back to my apartment and make a meal for you as it’s special to rest and share a homemade meal together after a long day of exploring. Besides, it’s a gift and privilege to host you! After dinner, which will most likely be a lemon-pesto salmon, tahdig or pasta, and a bountiful salad, we’ll walk to Pop Pie down the block, which is an incredible Queer-owned pie shop with the BEST sweet and savory pies. One of their most popular items is the Piescream, which is a thick slice of caramel apple pie with Madagascar vanilla bean ice cream on top with drizzled caramel and whip cream. It’s a delight in a cup and everyone who comes here must try. If pie doesn’t float your boat, Stella Jean Ice Cream is also stationed next to Pop Pie and owned by the same couple!

If, and really this in a non-pandemic world, the spirit hits us to go out dancing then I am surely taking you to Gossip Grill, one of the last lesbian-owned bars in the country, and one of my favorite places to dance in the community!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I truly want to list my community of chosen family (who know who they are) for helping me get here. For helping me go further. However, I will take this moment to really acknowledge my parents, Debby and Jim (of blessed memory, as in he’s passed on), who always made me feel like I could be anything or anybody that I wanted to be. I thought it was typical to have parents tell you that you could do anything, but as an adult, I realized that isn’t true. I am so incredibly blessed to have had two teachers in myself who told me every single day how loved I was and how much I could change the world.

Mom, if you get the read this (as I’m sure you will), know that you and Dad gave me the courage to believe in myself boldly. It is the highest gift that I will never take for granted, and something I will pass on to my children from you.

Website: www.jordaniels.com

Instagram: instagram.com/johodaniels

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordanhdaniels/

Twitter: twitter.com/johodaniels

Image Credits
Jordan Verdin Sylvana Uribe

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