YouTube sensation P’trique talks about his role as a fashion icon and dressing for the part.
Melrose Avenue, Spring 2014. Graffiti murals set the stage for this trending hipster themed fashion district in Los Angeles. Shoppers dressed like escaped 80s background dancers from a hip hop video wander the street, as a street artist pastes flashy posters to street lamps.
As I walk down the avenue past boutiques to my intended destination of Moods of Norway for this interview, I see the subject of my inquiry materialize inside the shop sitting at a table. P’trique is one of the better-known Youtube personalities, a sassy transsexual who spots a full six-inch red beard with a platinum blonde wig. Besides being an individual one can’t quickly forget after meeting, P’trique earned his fame making Fashion Police style videos on Youtube on the latest runway shows from New York to London. Mainstream pop culture was recently exposed to P’trique when he was featured a guest judge on America’s Next Top Model.
P’trique’s wardrobe for the day consisted of a dark navy blue shirt with prints of large white letters mixed with martini glasses paired with a black mini skirt and knee high black stockings, topped with a black wide brim hat on top of his trademark platinum blonde locks. Getting up as I walk into Moods Of Norway, he strolls over to me and twirls around showing off his outfit. He asks, “It looks great, doesn’t it?”
As he glances over the racks of colorful men’s suits and sparkling women’s evening wear that Moods Of Norway is known for, he introduces himself to me again as if we have never met before. P’trique and I, first met the month before when he was MC’ing the NYX Face Awards. During the day of the award show, P’trique was in fine form, giving off large bursts of energy and getting away with wearing a little black dress paired with a solid silver collar necklace and cute black flats covered in metal studs.
When I asked where he got it, he mentioned his love of shopping for vintage dresses in thrift stores in Silverlake. “It’s very chic, isn’t it?” he asks.
“It is very glamour,” I agree with him.
Back at Moods Of Norway, after wandering around the store for a bit, browsing through the clothing racks, we sit down at a table in the back. “Fire away,” he tells me.
So what attracted him to fashion? “I have never really told anyone this, so this is a first. You are getting an exclusive. I am from Austin, Texas, so I’m a little Texas gal. Then I moved to New York City, where I first got into fashion because – this is crazy secret so I can’t believe I am telling you this – I worked as an executive receptionist for Ann Taylor at their corporate headquarters and was looking at their fashion. Nothing against Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft, they’re great, but I couldn’t help but think there’s got to be more. It was that question that spawned who I am.”
It certainly did spawn quite the character as a visit to Youtube can confirm.
As we wander around the shop, I mention how he has made quite the stamp on the nebulous world of LA fashion, and express my curiosity about his experience working with Tyra Banks on America’s Next Top Model. He cuts in, “I just heard they have ordered the next cycle of ANTM, so Tyra if you are reading this I am willing and ready to deliver! Tyra, email me whenever you want.”
I steer him back the original question by asking if the experience of filming was a juicy one. P’trique gets a rather large grin on his face as he replies, “It was a lot of fun. And of course stuff ends up on the cutting room floor. I was hanging out with the girls, going to the house and just spit balling, hanging out, and just giving them advice, talking boys. Lots of pillow talk. One time the producers had to tell me “The girls need to go to bed and you have to leave now”, and that all ended up on the cutting room floor. I don’t mind. It was a great experience. Tyra and her whole team were amazingly kind and wonderful to work with.”
As he acts out the whole process of filming with Tyra, it becomes rather clear it going to a challenge to truly capture this ginger-bearded blond transexual in words. P’trique is a very physically expressive individual, always playing, doing different voices, setting himself up for his next story. I mention to him about watching an episode of ANTM where he becomes quite the animated character on camera, he jumps in with “Oh, I was giving love to the camera, wasn’t I,” then he literally twirls around the room for a bit doing a very good imitation of Madonna’s “Vogue” pose.
Between his own Vogue poses and twirls I ask him his thoughts on sexuality and its role in our society. “I feel that we are moving past our hang ups on sexuality as a culture and in a few years it won’t really matter,” he answers. “But right now it is such a hot topic, for me I don’t personally care. I try not to engage on that level, and honestly I don’t really care about all the rumors that float about regarding people’s sexuality.”
Bringing the pretend Vogue shoot to an end, I query him about his trademark style. “I don’t have one trademark thing, I think anyone who is into fashion and into branding themselves that way, you don’t want to do just one thing.” He pauses at the end of this statement to see if I am keeping up with his narrative, so I nod and he continues. “It is seasonal, and I call it the fashion time continuum. So I draw inspiration from the past, the present and the future.”
At the point I stop him and ask if he pulls from the future with his time machine wardrobe. He says, laughing, “Yes. Right now what I love to do is look at what people where wearing a long time ago like in the 1200s and throw that into modern times.” He then takes a moment to clarify the point by saying it is not in a “nerdy, Renaissance Fair way, but like what Vivienne Westwood did with her modern romantic style. With hints and dashes.”
Coming back to earth, I ask him about his shopping process to dress P’trique and he tells of a few times in the past when he would go vintage shopping, or in calling showrooms in New York to get an item he has seen in a runway show, when they would ask his size he would simply freeze up and literally hang up on them.
Curious about what his philosophy on wardrobe is, I ask him what it takes for an piece of clothing to end up in his closet. He replies “For me it is really an emotional thing. This is part of what I like to be as a person, I like to put my fears into fashion. When I look at a piece, and think ‘Holy Moly, I don’t know if I can pull it off, I don’t know if it is right for me. It is just so bold and big.’ To wear those things takes an extreme amount of confidence. That is what I am attracted to. Because secretly it is terrifying to wear some pieces. I was wearing a MacQueen piece at New York Fashion Week this year and it showed off everything. It was see-through and I loved putting it on, because taking that risk, being that scared, that is what drives me in fashion”
While is he is sharing this story I can’t help but notice how his energy level slowly drops and his whole body takes on a physical posture that reminds me of a young child being vulnerable. It seems to me as if I am getting a rare glance at the real P’trique, the person behind all the sequin dresses and the outrageous character. In this moment I am seeing a creative individual whose intellectual passions take on a very serious, even scholarly twist. A person who is naturally shy but who has truly grasped his own fears, in order to transcend them, to be able to express his own unique personality.
As I am making this mental observation he begins to tell me about a book he is reading called “The Places That Scar You” by Pema Chodron. This book he mentions is all about going to those places, and in every sense of the word embracing being afraid, to cease looking at fear as something that stops you, makes you freeze. But instead to see fear as something that makes “realize you are afraid, to hug it.” P’trique says that for him, all his fear is in fashion.”For me all those things that make me think ‘oh no I don’t know if I can pull it off’ that is what I go for. Secretly I’m terrified, and I don’t know if you should be writing this.”
I smile at this last statement as our conservation leads us to exchanging thoughts on how his fashion process, the modality of his expression is his own ‘Hero’s Journey’ as Joseph Campbell would put it. I mention another fashion icon, Coco Chanel, and how she started her career as a a lounge singer, sleeping her way to the top. The cool mystery of the Coco we know today, she crafted very deliberately or as P’trique puts it “from top to bottom”.
I ask about the process he goes into crafting his own mystery. “Along with the fear, the mystery, or when you google ‘P’trique’, when you investigate who this person is, who I am, I want you to see that fashion is fun. That is something I don’t think exists elsewhere unless you are ridiculing fashion. So we have had the people that come in and ridicule it like Joan Rivers, and Sacha Baron Cohen who did ‘Bruno’, which is all well and good, yet it is hyper critical. It is not what I want to do. What I want to do with my own brand is bring fun to fashion. I have this crazy goal, it started a long time ago. If I can, through what I do in fashion, make Anna Wintour smile or get a direct tweet from her, or perhaps hear through the grapevine that what I am doing makes her smile, I can honestly die happy.”
As the conversation winds down, I ask what the future holds for P’trique, while he answers “I help found the Youtube channel “The Platform” where we had the grand vision to bring in all these fashion and beauty girls, to build a brand around it, together. I feel like my audience has been superseded by the popularity of the girls we have teamed up with. So I want to start a sister channel that is all mine. Shortly I will be launching P’trique’s own Youtube channel. I am going for two uploads a week. It will everything from situations in the fashion world to live interviews in the street. I have show I really want to do which is me driving around with a mega phone in a convertible critiquing in a positive way, yelling out “I love what your wearing.” Instead of being brand focused, I can do my own thing.” As he shares his plans for the future I can visibly see him physically transform back into the ‘P’trique’ we all regularly see – the high energy, very physically animated character. For a moment, at least, his fears are overcome and just the sparkling veneer of fun remains.