If you have to name one or two episodes of your life that you consider as empowering moments identifying as a queer person, which ones would they be?
I guess it is important to first state that we all have down moments in life, but I am not a queen that can stand self-pity. So yes, I definitely had empowering moments and keep having them. When I started as Head of Creative Head of Villeroy & Boch, I was living in a village with 2000 inhabitants. and it was the first time I came out. The sparkle in the eyes of the employees was priceless, because for them, finally in this village, someone highly ranked in the company was open about being queer. Just by voicing it out I had my community there. Slowly others started to share their stories and be open about their sexuality as well. It was a very emotional and powerful experience.
Another one was, naturally, being part of Queer Eye Germany. It was incredibly empowering not just for me but for every queer person and ally who has watched it, I would say. The amount of gratitude and thank-you messages I still receive today are very touching and beautiful. We became role models for so many beautiful souls out there, and it feels like I can finally help people who felt as I did back in my childhood or teenage years. A young fella told me some weeks ago how grateful he is to have my mentorship through Instagram. He expressed that I gave him the motivation to believe in himself and to stop thinking that he is a ‘useless freak’, as the toxic people in his surroundings tell him. He moved out, found his safe space, and keeps rocking life. It is very touching when you encounter those moments.
Do you recognise parts of your own life in those stories? How was your experience growing up?
As a child, I was always different from others and never felt that I fit in. You know, it happens so often with us queers, things like I couldn’t play with the boys as they believed I belonged to the girls-gang, and the girls, well, they hang out with me, but they were mostly besties among themselves so I didn’t have many friends.
I grew up in Stuttgart, and even though I was hiding my identity for a long time, coming from a Turkish background, you can also imagine the cultural differences regarding queer and homosexuality. My fashion taste in clothing has always been loud, so I felt that people would always look at me in a very judgmental way. Also, I am a career queen who thought acting as a straight dude or at least trying would take me further up the ladder. To be very transparent about it, I believe that in many jobs that is still the case.
Do you recall any favorite icons or queer inspiration that you looked up to during those years growing up?
I had a big turning point when “Dirty” by the queen Christina Aguilera was released. It literally changed my life… and hair hahaha. I remember it so clearly, it was such an inspiration and wake-up call. I was standing in a department store in Stuttgart when the clip played on the screens and I was astonished, watching every detail and move of this hot bitch, who was just a baby girl before.
I remember that I booked an appointment at the hair salon straight after, colored everything blond with black highlights, and changed my entire style and appearance. It felt like I was re-born, and I was loud. After my Christina moment, I didn’t give a damn. I changed my school and people could feel my new energy, it was like everything has changed. I became super popular, it is like I became the Lindsay Lohan of Mean Girls -without being mean, I swear- hahaha.