Like his poem “Black Queer Teen Idol” promises, get ready for Tyris Winter (he/him) to be your new idol.
Tyris Winter, a 19-year-old poet, artist, and Internet sensation has no shortage of wisdom when it comes to being in the spotlight (or creating your own).
This month, Tyris shared his story of growth, triumph, and reclamation with me on an overcast, weekend night. But also shared how his presence wasn’t built in a day and took a fair amount of self-growth to be where he is at this moment.
INSPIRATION AND HIS YOUTH
As a kid, Tyris had to hide his artistic abilities from his family who discouraged his talents, even secretly performing slam poetry at his school. But he found refuge in the classroom, lending his growth in confidence to his art and English teachers.
Ultimately his teachers were the ones who convinced him to pursue his art seriously. “These teachers be oracle bitches,” he said.
Tyris took me by surprise when he cited Paris Hilton as the main inspiration for his art. We laughed together as he told me about a Hilton quote on Instagram along the lines of “Tell them one thing, but really do what you want” is one of the reasons he is who he is today.
ART AND SELF
Tyris is a radiant artist, and when I asked him what kind of artist he thinks he is, he responded “The best way I can explain it is in an artistic way [….] A space to hold beauty in any avenue I can put it into, whatever ray of light I can reflect into.”
This manifests itself in his love for painting, sewing, writing, drawing, and more. And it’s wonderfully obvious in his social media presence that he is talented in many capacities. (Take a little scroll through his Instagram @winterissues if you’re curious)
Despite what you might think, Tyris describes himself as an introvert. He’s very careful about his feelings, and in real life gets exhausted easily from social interaction. He takes pride in his introverted nature and wishes people wouldn’t expect his theatrical stage presence was the way he was in real life.
“Why aren’t you duck-walking for me backstage?” people would ask. “Because that’s not who I am, and you’re not paying me. My entire being is not a show for you.”
THOUGHTS ON QUEER REPRESENTATION
When we came to the topic of queer representation in the media, Tyris hopes to change how the typical narrative goes. From personal experience, he described how the negative representations of queer folx have impacted him.
“The ‘on god’ and ‘yes mama’ isn’t the only part of me. My life is not just a comedy.”
“I want black queers to be loved,” he said. Tyris hopes one day to see a queer movie of two black men in love on Hallmark or the Lifetime channel and is sick of the almost exclusively comedic representations of queer folx. “Why can’t queer identities be the everyday? I don’t want to be the butt of the joke.”
Growing up, Tyris struggled to find representations of himself and had to work hard to claim comfortability in his identity. “I’ve had to work to reclaim my comfortability, although I felt like I never had it.”
Because of his soft-spoken and sensitive nature, people always perceived Tyris as queer. But he has since learned that “We’re taught so often not to be comfortable with who we are. We have to unlearn the hate we’ve been taught because it’s literally violence.”
He described to me how he always wished for a normal life and finds his inspiration in the mundane. He’s inspired by the people that he meets in passing, the rain on the windows, the breeze. But most importantly, how he feels when he’s not putting on a show.
“My appreciation for the mundane comes from my want to be loved in my mundane. Me wanting to be queer unapologetically, me wanting to be black without fear, wanting to be a child without being fearful.”
So when I asked Tyris what his normal looks like, and what the world would look like if he ruled, he described a safe haven for all people and identities. People could live freely in their beings. He promised me I would get citizenship upon creation of his world, and the only requirement was to be “a bad bitch.”
WISDOM AND GROWTH
Today, Tyris is still working on growing his confidence and caring less about what people think, but has realized that “You can’t shape your entire being off of the perspective of someone who has no idea what it’s like to be you.”
His advice for young people trying to find their power is to explore who you are when there is no one watching. Explore who you are in the quiet. “In a group setting, it’s hard to know who you are. You really know you’re being authentic if you act the same around people as you do behind closed doors.”
“I don’t change who I am for nobody, and I’m so happy and proud I’m able to do that.”
“If being yourself brings you joy in your lonesome, imagine when you find a community that has already been doing that. As much as we think we’re alone, we’re not. By yourself, you are discovering something that’s never been lost.”
“I would hate to do the disservice to myself by not exploring who I want to be. And that’s on periodt mama.”
By the end of our time together, smiling and rambling on about TikTok and the newest RuPaul season, one quote especially stuck with me and quite literally brings me to tears. In reference to his presence online, and his hopes for the future, Tyris told me:
“Rather I be the martyr or the idol I am prepared to take the weight, but I’m also just happy to exist the way I am.”
I want to thank Tyris for his vulnerability and his overall excellence, and you can too! By following his social media linked below, and sending him the love he deserves.
Remember, always stay authentically you. Reclaim your comfortability.
Tyris’s Social Media