When I first started growing my beard, it happened out of sheer laziness. I used to normally shave and shape my goatee and baldness up every 3 days or so. I had way too many long nights at work and way too much writing and music-making stuff happening after those hours, and I was feeling pressed for sleep. I luckily have a 9 to 5 that doesn’t sweat the minor technicalities of the ungroomed facial life. So, I was on some “Walker, Texas Ranger” shit…like fuck it, I’ma just grow it out. The vanity residing in me was struggling hard in the early phase of unkeptedness that was the growing five o’ clock to midnight shadow I was flaunting, but I held firm. It became more or less an exercise in discipline. The idea of maintaining this thing growing on my face was really trying my patience. Because a beard is work, if you want it to grow and prosper and flourish like it really should. Granted, beard care pales in comparison to the work countless Black women and other women of color have to go through on a daily and weekly basis to maintain their manes (BARS). But, still. It’s a whole ting in and of itself.
Which brings me here: who am I? That question can be answered in a number of ways. Some would call me an artist, maybe an emcee or poet or actor. Some consider me a writer. My brother D calls me his “best friend”. To my moms, I’ll always be “Joe”. To a NYPD officer, I could be considered a mug shot. In a crowded elevator in the Conde Nast building, I may be the sole male black face. And to a certain community, I may be the “guy with the beard”. I came across Post Bad Beards on my timeline a few years ago because someone I was following retweeted some brother with, you guessed it, a beard. I went to the PBB Twitter page and saw the massive amount of followers and asked myself, what kind of cult is this…and what I gotta do to partake in it? When I emailed Kash some photos from a recent shoot I had with VNDL Magazine (I emailed, because I feel some type of way about dudes taking selfies and then tweeting them out for mass consumption. Maybe it’s just me…), it was with the idea I could maybe build my “brand” so to speak. I had just put out a musical project, and thought maybe it would possibly garner me some attention and help my art gain some traction. At this point, I had no real clue how deep the love for beards ran. And then, I went to my Twitter mentions…
Sisters were leaving all types of comments, comments the likes of I won’t share on cyberspace, and comments I had never heard spoken to me in public. Let’s face it, the attention was great, but it was also very new to and for me. I had went through a slightly chubby phase in elementary and middle school. And in high school, I was still the kid with the gap-toothed smile and a little peach fuzz. In college, I was far too shy to really even attempt to approach any ladies without a hand-written poem in tow; I was busy wearing fake jewelry and halfway expensive clothes in hopes that I’d stand out in some way. Let’s just say, I lacked confidence in a wide range of areas. Art was the only thing I felt I could really hang my hat on, that, and being what some would call a “nice” guy. But, then I grew a beard. I mean, I also got older and lived in my skin a little and went to therapy and learned to love myself and experienced life and love, but the beard? The beard changed some shit. Was I making up the coy smiles I would see on the dirty ass D train on my morning commute? Was she staring at me when she walked by? Maybe my mind was playing tricks on, Geto Boys. But I knew I loved the admiration it garnered. Fast forward a few years and a few thousand followers later, I’m writing for Post Bad beards and Eric Bandholz reached out to me to use my picture for Beardbrand ads, as well as to generate video content for their YouTube page. I’m booking commercials, and doing modeling shoots, filming stuff with the United Nations…and the beard is all a part of that…or is it?
I got to a place where I felt trapped. Is any of the acclaim I’m receiving because of who I am, or because of what people think the beard represents? It gives off a rugged edge, sure, but I struggled with the “Am I more than my beard” concept for some time. I shaved it off in 2014, only to grow it back again towards the end of that same year. Through the process, what I realized is that I am more than all of those things — my beard, a bestie, an emcee, an actor…all of it. And, so are you. With, or without your beard, or your hair, or your job, or your career, or your marriage, or your children, you are still YOU. You are still this amazingly, beautiful, well-crafted person deserving of love, and light, and magic. We are a myriad and a composite of so many things; things that do not make the whole of us, because our whole is not defined by our titles and accolades, but by how we love, live and treat others. We are more than a collection of the things we amass, more than the decisions we make with our physical. We are not defined by our stereotypes or our pigments and hues or mistakes and successes. We are defined by our spirits, and the work we do with those spirits in order to enable growth and love in all that we do. A lotta hakuna matata, kumbaya talk, but you get the drift. Yes, I love my beard. But no, I am not JUST my beard. I am more than my beard. Funny thing is, my beard taught me that.