Pop!: Meet Steven
Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, 2:38 p.m.Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library - Central Library
Pop!: Meet Steven
Pop! Street Fashion is an experimental collection of patron street fashion at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. It is devoted to photographically documenting the sartorial narratives of patrons who visit the library. Please email My Nguyen for more information.
"Why don't more men wear hats these days?" I thought to myself when I saw Steven, 29, enter the library.
There is more to style than hats or clothes, however, and Steven proved this to me by showing he is a man of substance beyond mere sartorial flair. With his wide range of interests, his well-cultivated social conscience, and his respectful demeanor, Steven absolutely showed that clothes don't make the man. Clothes, in fact, are rendered quite secondary in light of one's good-natured attitude and one's desire to make a difference in other peoples' lives.
What made you come to MLK?
I actually live up town. I’ve been to other libraries. But this one, not only because of the fact that it’s around everything, but I like the vibe around here and I meet interesting people. That’s what draws me to the library.
Where are you from?
I’m born and raised here, but [I have also lived in the] Bay Area of California.
What brought you back to D.C.?
Just family brought me here. They were begging me to come back. [Laughs.]
What’s your favorite part about D.C.?
One of my favorite parts is the cultural mix. I like going to a place called Malcolm X Park for the drum circle. At that place you see the makeup of the city, and just different people getting together. I’m a freelance documentarian, so I like documenting different gems of the city.
What are your current documentary projects?
My current project is actually about the homeless in D.C., and also the underground skateboarding scene that’s brewing in the city. Also, oddly, enough, a documentary about a divorce.
What drew you to these subjects?
In my family, I have three family members that are actually homeless, so that drove me to want to research and actually experience the situation. So for two or three weeks, I actually went in the shelter and ate at soup kitchens, et cetera, to kind of understand. It’s kind of funny, because in the process, I found a long lost uncle who my mom hasn’t seen in 30 years. I met him, and I recognized him by the fact that he looked like my mom with a beard. So I met with my uncle for the first time.
What else have you learned from your stay at the homeless shelter?
The seemingly odd mix, or unexpected mix, of different people and cultures in the shelters in the city. White, black, Asian, Hispanics, college grads, vets from the Iraq war all the way back to the Vietnam war are all in the shelter. That led me to ask them a lot of questions.
What have you learned about yourself during the process?
I’ve learned to really humble myself, to appreciate the things I have, and not to judge by its cover. Also, to help the homeless. There are many who are trying to get themselves out of this situation but don’t know how.
What are your hobbies?
My hobbies are definitely my documentary work. I’m a b-boy. I’m [also] a DJ; I like deejaying house music and electronic music. I’m an urban sketcher; I love going around the city, doing photography and sketching environments.
What are your favorite books?
It’s funny. My favorite books always correspond to movies I like. I like The Great Gatsby. I like The Wizard of Oz. Truthfully, I’m not a huge, huge reader, because I’m more into the visuals. I read a lot of graphic novels and comics. I used to collect them.
Describe yourself in five words or less.
I’m peaceful. I take peace seriously. Peace without being complacent and nonchalant and naïve.
I’ve grown to be a more humble person.
I would say I’m open-minded to different cultures and music.
What are your fashion inspirations? Why do you dress the way you do?
My grandfather died in ’91, and he really inspired me. My dad wasn’t in my life, so my grandfather was the only man I saw, the picture of the man that I saw. He was very respectful. Late at night, I would catch him slow-dancing with my grandmother in the living room to old jazz music. [I saw that at age] eight, and I was like, “Oh, man, is that what a man is supposed to do? That’s awesome!”
So, I was raised in a way that is really considered old-fashioned these days.
Would you say your style reflects that?
Definitely. Definitely the way my grandfather dressed: old-fashioned. I’ve [also] kind of tried to shy away from just western styles of dress and to embrace other cultures of dress, as well.
--Story and photography by My Nguyen