Model/Actor AzMarie Livingston Talks Androgyny and its place in Society

ATM: If there was more knowledge of gender expression taught in grade school, then do you feel this would more so push the boundaries of fashion even more?

AzMarie: Yes and no. Everyone’s fashion choice is all subjective and it is a personal selection if you are trying to make this comparison to be a gay or lesbian. I do not know how it is now. When I was in high school you knew a difference between a butch and a fem. You knew the butches because they wore pants and collar shirts at the school I went to. The fems wore plaid shirts and cardigans. It was very distinct as to who is what. I am not sure today. Maybe it is kind of still this. Gender fluidity is being more recognized and open in society. You can wear anything and not have to be fem or butch in terms of people accepting people with how they dress. There are always going to be people who lack information or have a certain ignorance or knowledge about a certain group of people.

ATM: What do you think a person’s misconception can be about the term androgyny?

AzMarie: A lot of people that hear androgyny I feel like do not know what it is for people who are new to the term. I learned about the term androgyny in 2006. It has been around before then. This was when someone told me “Oh, you are androgynous.” They showed me Grace Jones, David Bowie, and Prince. These are androgynous people. Now when I hear it, I have even gone past it just being how you look, but an androgynous person to me is one who is sure of themselves. They are in harmony with both their masculine and feminine sides of themselves and are okay with this. This parlays into the appearance of an individual as well that can be almost identifiable as to what their sex may be. They are so secure in themselves that they are receptive by anyone. It is like a natural attraction.

ATM: People that fit in this term in expressing their gender and being open-minded are freer.

AzMarie: Oh, yes sure a person who is androgynous is considered to be open minded because they play in both worlds. It is not a necessity too. Things just are. When you pick up a jacket and put it on. . . But see because of labels when a woman wears something that is baggy it is masculine or boyish. They identify only boys to wear bigger clothes because they do not want them to look “feminine” if you wear something tight.  All these labels end of messing up people’s perception. An androgynous would be “more into things” and more willing to embrace any kind walk of life or appearance of a person. They understand the expression. Androgyny is also a sense of expression.

ATM: If there were not boy or girl sections in clothing and if androgyny was the norm in our American culture, then what do you feel this would diffuse?

AzMarie: A whole lot of shit. People, in general, have a hard time being comfortable in their own skin. When they have certain insecurities that linger silently within themselves. They surround themselves around people with assurance and awareness in themselves. I feel it would allow them to take the pressure off themselves of this idea of perfect.  I do. Androgyny is accepting both masculine and feminine sides to yourself. This is not just in appearance; it can be emotions, internal things that you are dealing with and battling with. Men have a feminine side to themselves. 

They would not want to hear it. Why do you think they have to hold in their emotions? If you want to label emotions and crying to being feminine and soft, then yes you have it. You might do it around yourself because you do not want your homies because of your fear of them judging you. Androgyny to me stems pass just the physical appearance and people’s characteristics. It is a part of just understanding both sides of one’s self and being alright. You can be more of one thing than the other, but do not just knock one thing out. In life you need balance, and this is a part of your balance.

ATM: This is what people need to understand this term. They think it is about appearance, but it is not. There is no one way. There should be no gender bias with emotions. This does not make sense. If you want to cry, then you should be able to cry no matter what gender you are. It would help if you did not have to hide your emotions because you are a male and this also goes for a female. You know the saying “females are emotional.”

Do you believe androgyny is more accepted in music and its lyrics? Do you feel there is more freedom of gender expression in musical lyrics?

AzMarie: Yes, I do think that there is more freedom of expression. This is the norm. You do frequently talk about your sexuality. Whatever this means if you like women, men, or both. Why is it accepted more? I have no idea. Probably this stigma around the artist and this pillar and the light that shines on anyone of a celebrity or influencer status. This is not a bad thing. This is a good thing in some cases. Certain people who come out and become open can allow others that are not who watch them come out and be open. 

It is a good thing to have in music. Just let it be known. Unfortunately, a lot of people watch and look at people in the limelight and follow they’re every exact word. If it is something of truth and it will not harm anyone and allow someone to heal and grow, then this expression should be told.  We are at a point where no one needs to be in the closet. I do not think everyone has to come out. It is not like “Oh, my God. I think you should come out.” There are a lot of prominent people that I know that I would say when they do it would help some many more people.

ATM: It is interesting that it is accepted with music and no one will judge you. Outside of music, it is not accepted. It is like “Why are you dressing like a dude or why are you dressing like a female?” Why are you a guy wearing a purse? If you do it in a music video, then it is considered style, and it is deemed interesting.

AzMarie: Even then you still get people that are questioned. You have hip hop artists that people would not understand their metro sexuality. Also, them being comfortable with fashion. People label. They identify certain fashions with the gay community. I mean this is just what it is. If you have a straight artist, dressing a certain way, then there are people who will start to question why they dress this way. They will start to question their sexuality. This is just ignorance. It is changing. I cannot say that every person really cares about whether I dress masculine or not. Yes, there are some, but those are individuals that I look at as they have not grown yet. There is a certain space mentally they have not grown into. Some may not ever do it.

There is a certain time for everything. I would say things have changed and not everyone cares if a woman is wearing baggy clothes. The funny shit is that women are doing it even more. It is like we are back into the 90s because this is the thing now as a fashion statement for women to show certain sexuality but still be dressed boyishly like. There is always going to be a type of conversation with the style and the type of style that people wear. People will either care or not care, or someone will question. This is only because they are asking things about themselves or they need closure from whatever has made their minds come to the point of opinionating another person.

ATM: A woman should be able to wear lingerie on Monday. Tuesday come out with baggy clothing in what is perceived to be as a male. Same for a male. This should be extremely more done and accepted.

AzMarie: For sure. There are a lot of people doing it. There are always going to be ignorant people. Unfortunately, we need balance in the world. For everything that goes great, there must be some negative energy to endure a balance whatever form this ends of coming in.

ATM: On your role on Empire, what are your observations on the implicit message behind the lyrics? What conversations are happening and what stories are being told?

AzMarie: I do not know it all. Just being a person that watches T.V, you have music that is music that we hear. Our first season was all music that was mostly written and created for the show. We do have a lot of music written and created on the show. These are stories that may or may not have come from the writer’s experiences that worked for the story. The songs that are written for the show are tailored for those scenes. They do try to get out certain messages that we are already aware of. You talk about guns, violence, gangs, and people having an issue with it being on T.V.

But this is what is it for most people in poverty, especially black. They are still dealing with this in certain rural areas. It was a forced thing; it is not like suddenly this happened. It was systemized and intentioned to have black people selling drugs and doing guns and doing all this shit and being in gangs trying to flip money. They put them in jail to make more money. These things are being shown on the show. It is a mimic of what real life is. There is the music that fits on the show of artists that we know today and that we hear on the mainstream radio.

This works as well. These are their stories or stories of things they heard or someone experienced. They have a certain expression and inputs on the show. What is going on here and fit for what is going on in our time? Whether it is love, guns, sexuality. These are all things that are very relevant to the things going on.