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5 Questions with Master of Style Emil Wilbekin

5 Questions with Master of Style Emil Wilbekin


"Baldwin dared greatly to use his voice and art to create change. I aspire."

Writer, activist, style maker and LGBTQ trailblazer. These are just a few of the labels that Emil Wilbekin, acclaimed journalist and OUT 2017 Master of Style honoree wears well. After enjoying a storied career as one of the only out LGBTQs in Hip Hop during his tenure as editor-in-chief of Vibe magazine, Wilbekin is perfecting his second act by founding Native Son--an organization created to inspire black gay men to create fellowship and celebrate who they are.

To learn more from this formidable force, OUT sat down with Wilbekin to talk style, the future and daring greatly.

OUT: Do you see your work as daring?
WILBEKIN: I dare greatly every day when I wake up because the work that I do has not been done. The black gay community had never had a movement that sustained itself and had visibility to enlighten popular culture. I had to dare greatly to believe that I could create this platform, that I could inspire and empower these men and make a difference in this world by doing that. For me that is what daring greatly is--it's really living your dream and inspiring others.


How does your style influence your work?
My style influences my work because I am constantly on the go. I don't like fussy outfits or clothing. Who has time to keep adjusting your clothing? I have a lot of meetings, go out a lot for work and am photographed, so I keep in mind what can go from day to evening and what will look classic/appropriate. Now that I am an activist I'm more mindful of ease and comfort because I'm literally on the ground moving, on my feet and creating. My style reflects that.

Who are your style inspirations?
My style inspirations include James Baldwin, who is the icon of the Native Son movement, Gordon Parks, Andre Leon Talley, Tom Ford, Yves Saint Laurent and the character James Bond. There is a consistency in the way these men dressed and worked. They were also super successful at what they did or represented.


Who's someone you think is daring?
Native Son is named after James Baldwin's Notes of A Native Son. I chose Mr. Baldwin because he is the epitome of a black gay man. He seamlessly married great substance with effortless style. He moved culture with his words that are still influencing a generation of people who never knew his existence. Mr. Baldwin spoke truth to power and emblazoned the civil rights movement alongside Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin. Baldwin dared greatly to use his voice and art to create change. I aspire.

How do you look to inspire the future generations of Native Son to dare greatly?
Native Son is about inspiration and empowerment. My mission is to strengthen the confidence and self-actualization of the black gay community so that they can dare greatly in their own existence and change our visibility and existence. I'm challenging the Native Son community to see themselves and change the world's perception of black gay men.

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