Interview: Damien from Haus of Snap
We are so excited to share Damien from Haus of Snap’s story with you. In his interview, he gets real about his struggles with being outed, coming out to his mother, and finding himself through dance. He is vocal about the needs of the Black queer community and gives honest answers surrounding life advice he could have had when he was younger. It’s through stories like Damien’s that we begin to create safe communities. Thank you, Damien, for sharing your story with us!
Can you share with us your coming out story?
Ahh my coming out story. I will never forget it. My coming out story is a 2-part experience. The first part consists of me being outed to my friends by someone I considered to be a very close friend. This friend was like a sister to me, and her mom moved away at the end of her junior year; however, she wanted to finish her senior year at our high school. Me being me, I asked my mom if she could live with us for the next year and my mom allowed it because she was over all the time. Since I considered her to be so close, I told her about what I was going through and came out as Bisexual. She respected it and didn’t treat me any different … until a mutual boy, which we both knew from dance, got involved. I used to talk to her about how I had the biggest crush on him, but he was in denial. It turns out that she also wanted him on the low. When she noticed how close he and I were getting, coupled by the attention he was showing me, she outed me to ALL OF MY FRIENDS. It was humiliating.
My second coming out what with my mom. Following high school, I really started experimenting with both men and women. I was still struggling with accepting my sexuality, and it was starting to get the best of me. Soon, I realized I was only engaging with guys and no longer women. I really wanted to tell my mom, but I couldn’t gather the courage to do so. Then, one random night at home, my sister, who was 15 at the time, came out to my mom as Bisexual. She was going through what we all considered a “Rebellious Phase.” I don’t know what came over me, but her coming out gave me the courage to tell my mom I was gay. My mom looked at me and said, “I know, I was just waiting for you to tell me.” It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Nothing changed in our relationship, in fact, I think it made us closer. Once my mother knew, I didn’t care what anyone else thought, and I started living my life freely.
Haus of Snap (HoS) is a mix of Hip-Hop & Black Queer Culture. What inspired the mix?
Our inspiration came from us being mainly dancers and artists of Hip Hop as well as members of the Ballroom Community. We decided to fuse the two cultures together and we became a family — it just took off from there!
How long has HoS been established? Tell us your story.
Haus of Snap was created from a video project that came to my mind in July of 2020. Since COVID was present, everybody was stuck in the house trying to be safe. For me, all I had were my thoughts. I had recently left my long-time company, Phunk Phenomenon, after 14 years. While I was grateful for all the experiences and opportunities provided to me while I was there, I knew it was my time to go. I wanted to do more for myself, but I didn’t want to completely give up dance. While I was a little frightened to start a dance group, my friends who danced with me now as my veterans gave me the push to do this, not only because of the vision I had, but also for them. To this day, I LOVE THEM FOR THAT REALITY CHECK! Once cases began to decrease in 2021, I was able to locate studios and held official auditions May 2021.
What inspires you as a Black queer artist to keep thriving?
What inspires me is the community I am a part of. There’s nothing more sentimental than a person or parent coming up to me and expressing how much of an inspiration I, along with my peers, are to them or their kids with helping them accept their sexuality.
Tell us about any competitions you’ve been involved in.
We recently competed in Hip Hop International, also known as the USA Dance Olympics. Usually, this competition is 8 days long because it’s a combination of the “USA” and “Worlds” divisions. However, due to COVID, only the USA division was held this year. For reference, this competition is held on the West Coast and multiple teams in the USA division compete against each other. You first go through prelims then to the finals (if you make it that far). On the day of finals, the top 3 teams from all divisions move onto “Worlds,” which is where dance groups from various countries compete against each other. The process then begins all over again starting with Prelims and Semi-finals to Finals. I believe now the competition has 53 countries and that number is still rising. This year, we placed 5th in the USA division. We use this as inspiration and motivation to come back harder next year. In the meantime, we are excited for the next World of Dance competition which will be happening in Boston.
Why do you think it’s important for us as Black queer people to access mental health services?
Mental health is a BIG issue in our community! Depression is continuously on the rise within the LGBTQ+ community. This is by and large due to individuals’ struggles with accepting themselves. Mental health services would be a great resource to our community because people, especially Black folks, need to know they matter. Finding that one person or resource has the potential to change someone’s entire life. These mental health services could be just that answer some of us need.
What would you tell your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to make better choices in men. No sir, but I would tell the younger version of me that he wasn’t alone! I knew for years I had an attraction to the same sex with no one to confide in, so I struggled daily — especially as a teen — with the purpose of my life.
What is your vision for HoS?
Honestly, EVERYTHING! I want to continue to be the face of inspiration through dance in our community. Eventually, I hope to hit a bigger platform and reach a wider audience. I want to be able to start my own LGBTQ+ booking agency for artists in the community intending to serve the same purpose. Mark my words! Haus Of Snap will be a world-renowned company known for having artists who love being ourselves, serving our community, and pushing our rights UNAPOLLEGITCALY!
Just know we always have 1 thing to say: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH SNAP!