Quitting school might be the best thing Andy Simmonds ever did for himself. While studying design at Brigham Young University, an institution with a policy of expelling students for same-sex dating, this Salt Lake City-based Mormon trusted his edgy, bubblegum instincts and dropped out. Unsuppressed, he was able to explore his art and sexuality, all while launching his personal brand, Hey Rooney, a cheeky line of pastel illustrations that critique and celebrate queer sex trends -- think a PG-13 Tom of Finland, spun through a cotton candy machine.
Now 25, and in business for a year, Simmonds has seen his Instagram following (36,000 and counting at press time) help propel his success, which involves growing sales of Hey Rooney T-shirts and prints. "I hope to continue making things that challenge labels, but also challenge core ideas in the community," Simmonds says. That means a little less visual skewering of popular Grindr lingo (Simmonds's ironically pink "Masc 4 Masc" tee has been a best seller) and a little more commentary on sexual fluidity and sociopolitical change. "Masc, fem, top, bottom -- it's becoming less of a big deal," Simmonds says. "It's 2016. We're all everything. To be relevant and current, my work must evolve. The world's moving on. I need to move on too."