Powerful, rebellious, influential, demanding, enthralling: the very makings of PRIDE, where the fearless, unapologetic and non-conforming thrive. They are a multitude of striking individuals from all walks of life, each possessing their own unique gifts and flare that would make the most shortsighted person stop and stare. I had the pleasure of interviewing an intriguing and captivating force known as Jenx’D. Born in Hollandale, Mississippi, raised in Illinois, and now residing in Brooklyn, Jenx’D illuminates any room he enters and graces the New York City sidewalks with each and every strut.

CHANTE JACKSON: What is your full name?

JENX’D INTERNATIONAL: My birth name is Denardo Jenkins. My family and friends called me “D’Essence” when I was younger. Now I go by “Jenx’D”.

How did the nickname “Jenx’D” come about?

“Jenx’D” is an abbreviation of my last name, Jenkins. It’s pronounced like the word “jinxed”, but the word has such a negative connotation to it, so I dropped the “i” and added the “e” for “existence”—as in ‘jinxing something into existence’.”

Do you have any siblings?

I have nine other siblings. I have four older brothers, four younger sisters, and one older sister. I’m the baby boy. Ironically I am the middle child.

So you were born in Mississippi, raised in Illinois, and now you live in Brooklyn. How did you end up in New York?

I needed a place to call home. I needed a place that would help cultivate my uniqueness. I’ve always thought of New York as one big melting pot. I felt like I would be embraced and I could be open with the person I am. When I started college, I attended the University of Memphis for two years, then I transferred to Illinois Central College for one year, then I transferred to Buffalo State College for two years, then I attended a summer internship program at The Fashion Institute of Technology. I graduated from Buffalo State with a B.S. in fashion and textile technology, with a concentration in apparel design.

What line of work are you in now? What are your career goals?

I am a visual and fashion stylist. I have a line of nose chains called “NOSE CXNDY” [CANDY] and I own an accessories line called “Jenx’D Jewelz”. Ultimately I want to be a talk show host. I definitely feel like I have the personality for it and people find my point of views and delivery very entertaining, enlightening, and relatable. I have a talk show that I livestream called Tell The Truth Thursdays. We talk about relationships, fetishes, cheating, foster care, love language, current events, pop culture—things like that. Every first Thursday of the month, I have a segment called “Ask a Gay”. I also want to publish my own magazine called “Jenx’D International Magazine.” It focuses on fashion, lifestyle, social commentary, exposing truths, ways to help our communities, and a lot more. I don’t want to focus on celebrities. I want to provide a voice for the unheard and a platform for the unseen.

What is your sexual orientation/identity?

I identify as a gay male, but androgynous. People may see me and automatically think that I identify as a woman or transgender, but I identify myself as a male. You know, with my illusion of femininity and with it being so “woman-esque”, people feel as if I am trying to channel being a woman and that is the furthest from the truth. Not one part of me wants to be a woman, at all.

At what age did you discover your uniqueness?

I knew before kindergarten—I didn’t exactly know what gay was, but I had feelings for boys, not for girls, so every time I used to hear people talk about that little butterfly feeling, I would just say to myself “but I don’t get it for none of these girls.” If a boy walked by, I [was] like “Ooh he cute”—to myself, not really outwardly–and that’s when I knew that something was different about me, but I really didn’t have anyone to communicate it to, so I learned to compartmentalize things, and I really taught myself. I was just too young to research what it was. But I just really paid attention and took in the experience for what it was and then as I got older I started looking into different things, once I started learning certain terms. I’ve never been with a woman, so I am what they would call a “platinum gay”, or a “five star gay”. I knew that a woman wasn’t where it was at for me. I didn’t need to try it out for me to know that that wasn’t what I wanted.

At what age did you come out? Who did you come out to?

I did not officially come out until my first semester in college. I was a freshman at The University of Memphis. And when I first came out, the first and only person I came out to was [to] my biological mother— an ordained minister—but the first people to know were my friends and those closest to me.

How did your mother receive it?

It was definitely a moment of energy. When I told her, the first thing she asked was, “Has anyone touched you?” and I remember being so angry because, why would that be the first thing you think of? You know? It’s like she was trying to find an excuse as to why I am. That just wasn’t my experience. And so she ended up telling me eventually—she was like “You know I love you, but that’s just something I can’t accept” and I literally told her on the phone—I said, “Well, you don’t have a choice. You’re supposed to love me unconditionally, and you… [can] love me for all of me, but you don’t get to take some of me and disregard the rest. It doesn’t work like that.” But we have a beautiful relationship—even to this day. We don’t talk about the gay shit. My family has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which a lot of families do—especially within the black community. With my mother, I just don’t offer up that kind of information.

Today’s generation is more accepting to people who are openly gay, whereas in previous generations, it was considered more taboo. Do you feel like your safety is still at risk at times?

Absolutely. But, the only thing is, I don’t live in fear. I’ve always been in the hood, so you already know what comes with that. There’s always a potentially dangerous situation, because you never know [someone’s]… mind frame… It wasn’t until I moved to New York when I saw how deeply rooted some of the hate can be, because that’s when I also started having issues with the Caribbean community. Especially now, people feel so compelled because society has made it acceptable to be disrespectful. But I carry a certain kind of energy around myself; a protective energy. People know I’m not with the shits, so if you’re gonna bring it my way, it’s gonna be a problem and that definitely has deterred people from wanting to start shit with me. But I’ve definitely almost had a few hate crime incidences [sic].

Who would you say is your biggest inspiration? Where do you draw inspiration from?

It may sound narcissistic, but I really inspire myself. I really—really really do because I am really happy with how far I’ve come. I look back on all the things I’ve done and things that I’m doing now, and overall I am just very pleased and proud of how much I’ve grown. As far as people that inspire me, other than myself, I’m really big on creatives and people that live life unapologetically and give zero fucks. My top folk are Prince, Grace Jones, Rihanna and Tupac.

Who do you turn to for guidance?

I turn to friends, my tribe, the universe. I’ve never really had a mentor or someone that I could turn to for advice.

Do you have a relationship with your father?

I was blessed to have two men in my life that I could call Dad. My uncle, Junior that raised me, and my biological father, Charles, who I’ve [sic] met later in life. I remember first meeting while mourning the loss of my dad, Junior, so I really wasn’t sure how to embrace the experience. I was a little boy who suddenly felt abandonment issues because God stripped from me the one man that loved me and then placed the one that I felt forgot me in my face! I had to face it. He picked up where my other dad left off and it felt as if a beat was never skipped. He made it a point to call and check on my well-being. Around the time the Pulse Nightclub shooting occurred, he randomly called me to make sure I was okay. That moment right there was defining! If nothing else showed me that he loved me regardless, I knew then! In a world where gay men are shunned by straight men, I have never been made to feel less than. I was never shunned and belittled because of who I was, and part of the reason is because I demanded a certain kind of respect and my parents gave it to me. I am so appreciative that I have that and I share it just so people know that it is possible and it’s okay to love your gay son.

What advice would you give to other young black men who may be struggling with their sexuality?

Find a network of individuals that you feel safe and comfortable with to where you can share and then build off of that sharing. Try to figure out exactly who and what you are and surround yourself with supportive individuals that uplift and embrace you.