Dance choreographer, educator, filmmaker, curator and performer, Gabriel Mata utilizes his many talents to fight for LGBTQ+ social justice through art. With his wardrobe, Mata wants to ungender clothes and embrace his identity.
District Fray: What D.C. style means to you
Gabriel Mata: There is such dimensionality when thinking about style and the District. But I gravitate toward queer nightlife. I am inspired by dance and style as a performer and in becoming my queer self. Currently, [I’m] working on a performance collaboration with Robert Woofter of haus of bambi. I am excited to see the style of the work that will develop from our artistic development.
I look forward to learning from a commissioned dance work from Dance Loft on 14 on the theme of social justice. I am delighted about how what we wear reflects ourselves while challenging perceptions of our queer dancing bodies.
Style icon and/or inspiration
I look to the ‘70s disco era but specifically to the fearless genderfluid disco queen Sylvester. I see in their style radiant freedom, and that is the feeling that I would like to live in, share and manifest. Sequin and formfitting pieces is what I style myself in when going out. At the club, if I hear Sylvester, it is just serendipitous. Also, “Can’t Stop Dancing” by Sylvester is one of many songs that I highly recommend.
Black Chelsea boots. They are just so versatile. I own six pairs of them. I use them when I perform, and I have seen them be styled throughout the year. There is a small business in La Cosecha (near Union Market) that sells leather goods. I have been meaning to look into the boots that they have. They certainly caught my eye. Aside from that, I shop at thrift stores often for the thrill and because it is an “eco-friendly but not perfect” alternative.
My own style is in conversation with my gay identity and developing with queer theory. About 95% of the time, I wear all black. Aside from the artist in me, it is efficient and has a default sense of “styled.” My style is a constant process of exploration and becoming. I am gravitating towards ungendering my outlook on clothes and myself. I started with an initial step of shopping in the women’s section at thrift stores. It was a bit fear-inducing at first, but [now that I’m] comfortable with myself, I now look to any stores and all sections for things that [make me] look the best I can. I did have an instance at a nightclub hosted by Lemz and Keenan Orr called the Lost Birthday Club at DC9. Someone came up to me — I was wearing leather pants, black high-heel Chelsea boots and a gray sequin halter top — and asked, “Where did you get that top? Girls R’ Us?” That comment annoyed but also enlightened me about how I have to keep [pushing] beyond uncomfortable moments I may experience. Now, I would definitely inspire my queer and insecure younger self. In style, I see and experience it beyond the clothes we wear.