My guest, Douglas Henry Lewis Jr grew up in the south with many religious messages that told him he could never be successful, happy, or accepted as a gay man. He never allowed himself to subscribe to those hateful messages. In stead, he moved to NYC and created a life where he is fully and unapologetically self-expressed. For a young man of only 27, Douglas has done an impressive amount of self-work. He lives a joyful life and it shows in every way. If you struggle to realize that you can be anybody you want to be and you can show up in life any way you choose, this episode is for you.
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Coach Maddox 0:04
Hello, Douglas Henry Lewis Jr. Welcome to The Authentic Gay Man Podcast. I'm excited to have you here today.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 0:12
Thank you Coach, happy as well to be here, as well. Thank you.
Coach Maddox 0:19
So, Douglas, why don't you tell the listeners how you and I came to this point where we're having a conversation recording a podcast episode.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 0:29
Okay, wonderful. So how we got together was I remember, I was listening to one of your podcast, and it really struck me. Because it was essentially, about how your, just the decisions that you're making in your own life should be based off of your own internal, you decide, essentially, what is a failure, and a success in your life. And that opened me up in such a way, I cannot tell you, I just remember, my whole trajectory of the last end of my year was just so inspired by that, and all of my movement, and all my action was inspired by that. And so I remember seeing something on social media on Instagram. And it pretty much had that same tone to it of, you know, I decide what is a failure for my life, I decide what is what is a failure, or is a success for my life. And so I remember posting something on my social media, and Instagram story, and just included your your name in it, and the authentic gay man podcast. And essentially, you kind of sit back and, you know, invited me on and then we had a zoom call. And that Zoom call also was wonderful. You just were a safe space for me to talk to you. And, and I was just excited to do the podcast from from from then on out just to have these authentic conversations. So
Coach Maddox 2:13
Douglas, thank you for that. I think that there is probably not a more powerful or affirming compliment that you could give me beyond telling me that I created safe space. That is that's been a theme and my whole life. And so when somebody tells me that they really appreciate the safe space that I created, always really touches me deeply. So thank you for sharing that.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 2:44
Of course, of course. Every word.
Coach Maddox 2:47
Yeah, I've been really looking forward to this. I kind of felt like when our first zoom, there was just definitely this really nice report that was that just came out almost instantly. You know, it's I've been so blessed. In this podcast that I have met men from all over the world, and so many of them are people that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt. If we lived in close proximity. We would be hanging out together. Yes. After doing some fun stuff together. Absolutely. And ahead and engaging in some deep and meaningful conversations, because that's kind of my thing. Yes, absolutely. That is my thing. That's what most of my friends come to me for I, you know, I get told that I can be really fun. But I think that the thing that people are drawn to most are the is the deeper conversations that I like to like to kind of tease out. So well, let's, let's start off with you telling me what it means to you. What's your personal definition of an authentic gay man?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 4:00
Okay, so my personal definition of what an authentic gay man is, is essentially just being able to look in the mirror in the morning and loving that person. And establishing a sense of love for that person. And essentially, just having all of your movement, all of your action, online and grounded with that love that you have for yourself in that you know, unrelenting just acceptance of yourself and using that groundedness of yourself and the self love that you have for yourself as just the ultimate, you know, GPS system for life. You know, showing up authentically as you as you are, and being unapologetic about it. You know, just being yourself, essentially.
Coach Maddox 5:09
Yeah, I gotta say, I got cold chills ran up and down my spine, as you said that that. That was that was eloquent.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 5:19
Coach Maddox 5:20
That was eloquent. Wow. I mean, I've heard a lot of responses to that question and, and they've all been absolutely amazing, but yours may made me tingle up and down, I had chills run up and down my spine. So Wow. Okay. All right, one more down. So on to our big topic. And the reason we're really here today is to talk about what's what's your biggest challenge been, or, you know, that you've gone through or that you're continuing to go through.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 5:58
So for me, that is authentically re parenting, my inner child, I've had a rough childhood in a sense of emotional turmoil that I've had to deal with. I mean, I grew up, I live in New York, but I grew up in North Carolina, and I love North Carolina is a great place. But some of the traumas that I've had to deal with have been emotionally traumatizing, I would say, growing up in, you know, Southern, strict environment. You has been very, very, very difficult. Growing up as a impressionable, expressive, gay child, and having to deal with just having to deal with, you know, religion as a way as a means of covering up fear as a means of covering up abuse, and just using, you know, religion. For me, it's the religious aspect of it, there really was very, very, very hard to deal with, you know, the rejection, because, you know, homophobia, you know, it's a lot of homophobia in the south. But it was the religious aspect of it, like, Oh, you're going to hell, if you go to, if you, you know, grew up as a gay person. I mean, I remember growing up and hearing things like, you know, gay people do not, you know, they're not going to be successful, they grow up, they die young. They're not successful, they don't live very happy lives. And so as a result, I really, really had to. I mean, it was rough for me growing up, because, you know, a little bit of background is that, you know, I went to a Christian Academy, from a from preschool to around the third grade. And so it was very restricted from the very beginning. And essentially, all of my actions, you know, we're policed. And I always love fashion, and I'll just just as a result of being around a lot of charismatic, strong willed women. And as I began to matriculate through college, you know, through through grade school, it was really difficult because I really didn't, I felt like I didn't have anybody to talk to, in a sense, because, you know, there was bullying at school because it was different. You know, and then there was the bullying at home as well. So I had to grow up really quickly. And then I think, as a way as a means of kind of combating that turmoil that I felt at, you know, from hearing things like oh, you're never you're never going to be successful if you're a gay man, or you're going to hell, I really threw myself into my work. And I threw myself into my work in a dangerous space of almost overworking myself and trying to prove myself so much where I could not you know, it was unhealthy. So for me now, I'm learning that you know, I am enough as I am. And you know, the only person the reason why what you said in that podcast really struck me was because As for so long I have been seeing my, you know, external accomplishments and doing things because of what other people deem me to be successful rather than when I want it to be, you know, want it to be successful for myself. So that's, that's what I've essentially had to deal with my own self image re loving Douglas for me simply because I am. And not because of an external accomplishment, not because of what I'm wearing. But just because I am.
Coach Maddox 10:42
Douglas, I'd like to unpack the the religious aspect of it the part, you know, where you were told that you couldn't be successful, you couldn't be happy? What was the defining moment when you knew that didn't work for you? What you're being told didn't work for you? What, when was the defining moment? And when you had that defining moment, what did you do? What did it look like? What did you do? Because life is very different now,
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 11:18
isn't it? It is very different. Yes,
Coach Maddox 11:22
yeah. Yeah, you you at a pretty early age, stepped away from all of that, and made some different choices. In other words, you got the hell out of dodge, you got the hell out of the place that was feeding you so full of negativity and bigotry and homophobia, and D, all of the above, and you took yourself to a place where you knew that there would at least be an opportunity to thrive?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 11:58
Well, so to unpack that, I would say, okay, the moment that I realized that it didn't work for me that's a never ending kind of a battle. I guess the the first moment was when it was first said to me. That was, that was the first moment when it was first said I was just realized that I couldn't. It was within myself, I realized that this was not going to work for me. And I rejected it immediately. The first time he will say it, and as far as you saying, you know,
Coach Maddox 12:37
it's so so what I'm hearing you say that intuitively, or innately, you knew what they were telling you was not truth? Yes. Yes. How do you know that? What what was going on inside in that moment that made you know that that was bullshit?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 13:09
I don't know. I don't, I don't, I can't put my finger on it. I think I just instinctively knew that I had a value and that I was not. You know, I just think instinctively knew that, you know, even though I did come from a very sheltered place. I knew that that humanity was not that rigid that possibly, it cannot be possible that just because somebody is gay, or somebody, you know, is gender non conforming, or whatever, that that all of the things that they are able to do you know, successfully that they're not able to that is not going to manifest, I just knew it. I just knew that it was coming from a place of ignorance and fear. Instantly, I knew, you know, I'm just, I didn't subscribe to it because I had faith in humanity. And I knew the power of that. I just knew internally, all of our Power to create.
Coach Maddox 14:13
You just said something that's worth repeating. And I really want to emphasize this for the listeners. I didn't subscribe to it. You said you were being fed a line of bullshit. And you chose not to subscribe to it. I think it's real powerful to call out that we are always at choice. We don't have to accept anything that somebody is trying to pawn off on us. We're always at choice and you you knew that you knew your choice, and you made that choice. That's really powerful. Yeah, yeah. Really powerful. So How did that unfold? Obviously, you're not in North Carolina anymore. You're in the, you know, the metropolis of Manhattan?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 15:11
Yes. Yes. Yes. It unfolded, it's still I will say that it is still unfolding. You know, it's a never ending process of, you know, having to, you know, is still unfolding, because, you know, but I think how I got to my place now was through my own faith in education, and my self education, I'm not talking about a degree, I'm not talking about a high school diploma, I'm not talking about any of those things. I'm talking about my own insatiable appetite for learning. Whether that is and that's not in the book. I mean, that isn't very many books. There's so many books, but that is not that I mean, that learning to me, is, in so many different things. Learning to me is in a person I can learn, you know, I can learn how to be myself or more of myself by simply going to a drag night. You know,
Coach Maddox 16:16
you're you're talking about your own personal evolution. Yes. And on some level, you're talking about spirituality. Yeah. So what changed? When you left North Carolina and found yourself in New York
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 16:43
I would say the same thing changed. But on a more grandiose level. The same change happened. When I turned 18, almost 20, literally 10 years ago, almost 10 years ago, to the day, when I turned 18 years old. And I went to for my freshman year of college, I was totally free to be who I am. And that was both liberating and scary. The same thing happened. I mean, the same thing happened when you know, from me turning 18, and getting out of my parents house and going to college. I just burst forth into my own self. And I felt totally accountable for myself, and the inner work really began. The inner work really began.
Coach Maddox 17:44
You know, I can definitely tell in your conversation. It's a combination of your body language, your eye contact, your facial expressions, just your energy that you are, you're doing the work. Thank you. It's very evident, whew, you have a for a, for your for your years, you have a definite wisdom about you. And I bet you hear that from time to time, don't
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 18:20
you? Say? Yes, that Yes. Yes.
Coach Maddox 18:25
People reflect back to you that you are wise.
Still learning that? We always our show is our never stops? Yes.
You know, we hear a lot of conversation about people who leave a place to go somewhere else. And, and we've all heard the saying no matter where you go, there you are, you know, oftentimes we go for all the wrong reasons. And we ended up moving to a new place and recreating the exact same situation and the new place that we had in the old place. But that's not what you're describing here. You're describing, realizing that you were not in the right place, and that you're going to go where you knew you could thrive, or at least where you suspected you could thrive. And if you'd gotten there and it hadn't been what you thought
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 19:24
at least took that chance.
Coach Maddox 19:26
Well, at least you took a chance and then you then you just would have gone on to the next. Yes, likes. Have you felt since you've been in New York? Have you felt that you have had the the space, the time the energy the support to thrive in a manner that you would not have been able to thrive in North Carolina?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 19:53
It was so loaded so
It's crazy that you say that because I mean back your first statement of essentially taking yourself wherever you are. That is, that's where the work has been. And that is a battle. You know, that is a battle, like going back into my subconscious mind and really reprogramming him to say, okay, you can do whatever you want to do. Because there has been an overlay there has been
Coach Maddox 20:32
a, you know, me having to
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 20:39
kind of get back into myself and say, you know, what, you can do whatever you want to do, like, you really can do that. But as far as not caring, like me moving to New York, and having that space? I would say yes, I would say the answer is a resounding yes. I would say that life I mean, I have been able to wear dresses, skirts, you know, red nail polish, I mean mascara, eyeliner foundation, that is a totally liberating thing. I cannot tell you, I cannot tell you, I wouldn't have never been able to do the same things. And I constantly think New York City for accepting me and allowing me and providing examples of others who have done the same who are unapologetic in their fabulousness and who are unapologetic in their truths. As far as me expressing myself fully whether that's through clothes, or whether that is through my thoughts or my my voice. So, yes, but I'm still working on that. I'm still working on making sure that I don't limit myself you know, because I think you do take yourself with you wherever you go.
Coach Maddox 22:03
Yeah, we do. No matter where you go. There you are. II You know, I have certainly had conversations with people that have moved across the nation. And nothing changed. Nothing changed. You know, there's a big difference in running away from something and running to something and sometimes we're doing a little bit of both you know, there was probably an element of running away from North Carolina because of the small mindedness because of the ignorance but that's different than running away from something that's inside of you. You know, it's the stuff inside of you that you can't it goes with you no matter where you are. Yes.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 23:02
And excuse this I don't know what's going on in this environment somebody is speaking as they have a radio or something but
Coach Maddox 23:12
I can hardly hear it at all. So I don't think it's going to come off on the recording. It's don't talk yeah, don't don't worry. It's good.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 23:18
Okay. Okay. But going back to what you said before, what did you say again? I'm so sorry.
Coach Maddox 23:27
About what? Which part?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 23:30
We've said a lot. You said essentially, some people have gone to other places and I've taken themselves with them.
Coach Maddox 23:40
And I think that that's most likely happening when we're running from something inside of us when we're when we're trying to avoid facing our own demons those demons just travel in whatever mode we go bus plane car, meaning those those demons just get right on that transportation with us, huh? Yes. And set up home right there wherever we land. Yes. Agreed. You know, I guess maybe would you say that your flight to New York was more about running towards something and running away from something
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 24:32
Well, let me tell you it was not a flight. It was a 10 hour bus ride. Yeah, it was a nice ride. It was not a flight.
Coach Maddox 24:42
Well, I mean, I guess I meant flight metaphorically. You know you Oh, yes. Yeah, you know. Well I love it though. It's been our best ride. Yeah, having visions you know? All that, you know, kind of like trekking across?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 25:03
Coach Maddox 25:04
I gotta find my mind, I gotta I gotta find my tribe. You know, that's what we're, whether we can language it like that or not, that's what we're all really trying to do is we're trying to find our people. Yes. And, you know, when you're in a place where they're, they're not your people, you can't fix that you can't fix broken. When when you can't find anybody in a locale that are your tribe, then the only way you can move forward is to relocate, yeah, to relocate the place where you think you might be able to find your tribe. And you made a great selection, in my opinion, based on as you talk about, you know, what's important to you. And when you started talking about the wardrobe and the things that you're able to wear on the streets of New York, your face lit up, there was an energy that was delightful to experience.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 26:08
Yes, thank you.
Coach Maddox 26:10
Thank you. Yes. And that would have been repressed in North Carolina.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 26:18
Yes, yes. It would have and still is. It still is. But I will say that I mean, just you saying that just gave me so much gratitude for my the friends that I do have? Who I mean, our I mean, I always get emotional thinking about it. Because it's like, I mean, with every sequined dress, every, every application of eyeliner, every application of mascara, you know, every high heeled boot, everything I mean with everything, every single article of clothing, I mean, every stack of jewelry, whatever it is. I cannot tell you how that in itself has repented and has read its healing to me. You know, I mean, some people think of fashion as like a frivolous thing. But to me, I mean, coming from the place where I mean, I could not I mean literally, like when I was a teenager, I would never forget like when skinny jeans were all the rage. Like I literally wore two pairs of pants. I wore two pairs of pants, I wore us black skinny jeans, so that I can feel British and Parisian. Because that's what the girls were doing at a time. And I would wear a baggy, Abercrombie and Fitch or or a baggy blue jean out of the house. I mean, I could not. And then literally catching the bus. I would go to you know, on the way to catch the bus, I would be changing in the woods. Wow. Yeah. Wow. Mic drop. Right.
Coach Maddox 28:29
So it's been a journey. Very much. It has been a journey. Where would you say you are now in that journey? I'm in a good place.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 28:41
I really am I
Coach Maddox 28:44
I am. I mean, last week,
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 28:49
last year, well, I will say last year, it was really been about releasing a lot of the kind of external validation steel. And now I will say that my intention for this next year as we move to 2023 is really putting myself first in a sense so that I can be full enough to pour instead of just immediately, you know, giving and giving and giving and giving and giving and giving to the point of
Coach Maddox 29:21
depletion. Yeah. So So you mentioned external validation, huh? Let's play with that for a few minutes. Let's have a little bit of Convo about that. And tell me there was a there was a you know, where we always start at point point a, you know, and then we want to go to point B, tell them to draw a picture for me and tell me what point it was. You were in a place where you were, if I'm understanding but what you said a moment ago, it was As a focus on external validation, you were, it was a it was a need to be validated by others, my understanding correctly. Tell me a little bit more about that, please?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 30:14
Of course, of course. So, I would say. But it's very difficult to say, I mean, it's really bringing a lot of emotions that I didn't even think were still there. But and, and Douglas, that's okay. Okay, be with it. Thank you. So, I will say, I mean, throughout my childhood, and I'm not I'm not pointing fingers to my parents, because every once I as I grow, as I realize that we are all human, and we all have inner children that are being nurtured steel. Now, I will say that was all perfect. You know, but at the time, it was very, very difficult for me with such a wild imagination and being around and being directly inspired by such charismatic women, and being androgynous now, and also just being around such stylish women. And having, you know, such a gravitational pull, to feminine pursuits. That was hard for me, as an 11 year old, as, you know, a 12 year old or just as an A young adolescent who wanted to express himself fully, and then going to like theme parks. I will never forget that point a for me will be an example of going to like a theme park in the summer, you know, and seeing all of these out and proud gay men, you know, with their friends. And I'll never forget just feeling, you know, suppressed, you know, not being able to wear what I wanted to do, not being able to really express the way that I express myself in the way that I wanted to being backed by religion. You know, so that was really difficult. And the I think the external validation was just from from family, but also friends, you know, friends, and that's something that I'm still battling with, you know, being able to say, No, we need to know, you know, if I don't feel like doing something, if I don't feel like going somewhere, or if it's interfering with, you know, whatever I have planned, you know, being able to say no. So, I would say that, that's, that's where point A was point A was, you know, as a child, feeling like, I really had no nowhere to go. As far as no authentic expression, and almost being forced to subdue myself. I mean, never even thinking that it was possible for me to wear nails or, you know, put on a dress or any of those things. So that's point A.
Coach Maddox 33:33
And what is well, but the point we can hardly be hard to define sometimes because we don't ever really arrived, life is a journey. It's not a destination, if, but there's points along the way, you know, there's there's stopping points, there's points where we're able to measure and see what's changed. So, maybe rather than the destination, let's, let's just is point B for you are now
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 34:06
point B, I think point B has definitely there has been a lot of point B's, a lot of moments of last year. And now that I would say represents point B and possibly the gravitation towards point B, I would say, point B is you know, I guess going to fashion I mean, because I'm in the fashion world now. So, it's, for me, I would say just being able to be in this space, and be myself and just show up as myself like doing a photoshoot with with with a few of my friends, where we you know, we wore we had a model and And he's wearing, you know, just a Sekai skirt. With long, you know, gloves. And just those creative moments, I would say that that that is just being able to be free and around other people who are expressing themselves authentically and being a part of that conversation of making other people, you know, and celebrating, you know, femininity in males. I think that is point B, you know, for me.
Coach Maddox 35:36
Okay. So how does the validation play into this?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 35:41
So validation, I would say, Now,
Coach Maddox 35:45
I was you spoke about external validation? Yes.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 35:53
I would say that the validation is no longer solely coming from
Coach Maddox 36:00
an external place. And do you see that you said it's hard to say no, sometimes? Hmm. Is that tied into the validation in some way? Yes. Yes. Because there's a point when we say no, where we run the risk of being invalidated? Yes. And accurate. Yes. Yeah. Like, suddenly you don't get the approval? Because, you know, they didn't get what they wanted. The person who's asking something of you? What, what do you think needs to happen in order for you to? Do be able to say no. But what what needs to happen? inside of you, to Lao you to put you first. Not in a selfish way. But in a I'm gonna fill my tank first way so I have more to share with others.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 37:14
Oh, that's such a good question. Thank you so much for asking it, because just by you asking it and saying that it Oh, my gosh, I cannot tell you that right. There is such just a point in the right direction. Just that just that statement of just you asking that question, what is that? And for me, I think that is reading and really planting this information in my spirit, deeply. Literally, I have a book right here yet to know. I mean, I've been reading and I love, you know, reading, I think reading is total liberation for me, because you are essentially are going into the mind of somebody who has lived your life who has lived in a different era, and you're able to really unpack that. And you were able to take and absorb that information. And really practice it. But I think it's the reading, but it's also the practicing. And it's also having people in your life who understand that. You know, I cannot tell you how grateful I am for one of my friends. I like for New Year's Eve. I really didn't want to go out I didn't really want to go to Time Square. I didn't want to go to a club because I wasn't feeling it. And I wanted to be I wanted to bring in this new year in a place of peace. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for my one of my friends, Brian and Travis for understanding that.
Coach Maddox 38:55
So you said no. And they honored your no. Yes. Well, you had a lot to do with that. You realize that right? I mean, there's no and then there's no. And you must have delivered a no that had conviction. You know, for them for them to get it. You know when we're firmly planted in US people don't question us so much. When we're firmly planted in doubt, self doubt. Everybody questions us.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 39:30
Coach Maddox 39:32
So I'm saying I'm getting the vibe that your no to your friends last night. Must have been well, that was day before yesterday. Yeah. Must have had some conviction behind it. You know, one of the things that I love, and I talk about a lot is when we make a declaration And when we say something like, I want to get really good at saying no, I want to master my ability to say no. The minute we do that the universe steps in and starts providing with us with opportunities. Yes, have you found that to be true? Yes, yes, yes. You know, it's like, like, we'll say something like, I want to learn to set boundaries. And then all of a sudden, people are just wiping their friggin feet on us. You know, they're manipulating us. They're, they're doing all kinds of crazy shit. And we're wondering why this shit just hit the fan. Right? And the reason is, because we asked for it, we just didn't realize we asked for it. You know, when you say I want to learn something, I want to learn how to say no, the universe is only way of supporting you in that is by providing opportunities for you to say no. So you're gonna get confronted and people asking you all kinds of crazy as shit.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 41:06
Right? Yes, yes.
Coach Maddox 41:09
To give you that opportunity to practice your mastery of No.
Yes. So, backtrack, let's backtrack and, and talk about the validation. Again, it was mostly external validation. And you said, there's still a little bit of external validation, but where's the other validation coming from the non external validation
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 41:43
that's a journey, you know, that is really, that is probably the biggest journey that I'm learning that I'm going through is really honoring myself and honoring myself and really being able to get into the mirror and say, you know, what, I love you. I accept you, as you are, you know, and I'm here with you, as you make these decisions, and I'm, I am backing you up. You know, I am and it's not coming from a selfish place, but it's really coming from a self full place.
Coach Maddox 42:28
So you're, you're soon to be 20 8am I understanding that correctly? Yes. So you're, you're 27 years old. Do you have any idea how advanced you are in this society in your ability to do what you're describing right now? I mean, do you grasp how your ability to self validate how I mean, how advanced you are? Douglas
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 43:06
OB, would you listen, when you grow up? And listen, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. And when I was five years old, I mean, I was around them, I really was not around other people my age. So I think that is really what what has to do with it, but then I think growing up gay, in a, in an oppressed kind of environment, not totally it was not all bad, but having to deal with those battles. As a young person, I had to grow up very quickly, I mean, at like, eight, seven, you know, I had to really grow up when I realized that I listen are we here on this journey together? We are together me and me and a little bit you know, so, thank you for saying that.
Coach Maddox 43:55
I appreciate it. Absolutely. So, in the self validating when you were in the mode of self validating that had a cost what was the cost? When you when you found that you needed that external validation, you needed that validation from other people in other situations? That had a cost what was the cost? Cos was
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 44:37
my, my joy, it was just my authentic expression of myself. It was my time I mean do you You know, a lot of things from a lot of other people. And I really feel like I never really had I mean, not never, but it was really my time and my own authority within myself.
Coach Maddox 45:18
You know, so I'm hearing you say that you're basically you were jumping through lots of hoops to get that external validation. Yes, yes. And that's exhausting very well, and it's also a bottomless pit. There is no amount of external validation that ever satisfies us for more than just a few moments. And then we find out we're out looking for more external validation. It's a hole that cannot be filled. Would you agree?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 46:01
I do. And thank you. I'm healing just by you saying that. Thank you.
Coach Maddox 46:05
Wow. So on the flip side, as you are working with that inner child, do you have a name for that inner child?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 46:18
No, it's crazy, because I have pictures of myself as a child now, as an infant here. So I would say it's, you know, DJ, that's, you know, that's what they called me. You know, Douglas, Jr. DJ, that's him.
Coach Maddox 46:37
Yeah, my inner child I've nicknamed little man. When I talked to him, I address in Halo man. I talked to him and I call him little man. I love that. So as you have learned to self validate what I mean, there's a cost with external validation. What's the payoff with internal validation?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 47:11
Oh, my gosh, everything. Everything? Oh, it is the payoff is just Oh, totally showing up as yourself. I mean, it's the finances. It's having a career that you love and doing it. I mean, it might not even be working for somebody else. It's having your own business. I mean, it's so many different things. It's so many that I cannot tell you I just lit up so much by saying that you
Coach Maddox 47:40
are lighting up what's the emotional payoff?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 47:44
Coach Maddox 47:45
I love everything you're saying. Thank you.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 47:48
Thank you. The emotional payoff is just complete unbounded. Joy, wow. unspeakable joy.
Coach Maddox 48:02
And you know, I, I know that the listeners now. They're all they have is to hear. And certainly you can hear the joy in your voice as you talk about this. But for those who you know, I'm on Zoom. So I'm looking at Douglas right now. And I'm seeing the sparkle in his eyes. I'm seeing the glow. I'm I'm experiencing the joy as he speaks about it. There's been times throughout our conversation today, where you have lit up. And I mean, lit up. And when we light up like that we we light up for us, but we light up for everybody around us. Yes, when we light up we bring more light in to the world. Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. What's the next step? We're on January the second in this recording, it's January 2 2023. What is 2023 going to look like for Douglas.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 49:21
It is not holding back it is being grounded in that self in that self love. And it is because for me this is a period like this is the anniversary. This year is the anniversary of a lot of things. It's sort of an anniversary of my graduation from high school, going to college, and then also my grandfather's death. So
Coach Maddox 49:46
I have been the 10 year anniversary
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 49:50
10 year. Yes, yes. And so for me, it's a point of me looking back on all the decisions to high analogues that I made from the past 10 years that have gotten me to this point. And also, going back to that 17 year old self, who the 18 year old self, who was I mean, at great June 10 2013, who was lit up with, you know, inspiration and lit up and knew who he wanted to do, I knew had all these grandiose ideas, I had all of these, you know, just just a fire for life and whatever he wanted to do, unbounded and and just totally, you know, not even focused on what everybody else wanted, wanted me to do, I knew within myself what I wanted to do, which is, I guess, being that full time fashion editor or just being a, just a creative force. And so for me, is me, number one, accepting myself for who I am. And also showing up fully without fear, as that grandiose version of myself, and if I am not that, now, if I am not that person, I am totally okay with that. And at least I try, but for me, it's just making sure that I am honoring the visions that I have for myself 10 years ago,
Coach Maddox 51:24
you know, that was we, we get to be anybody we want to be. And I, you know, I wish there was a way to get this across to the, to the listeners, because there's so many people that would just poopoo on what I just said, but we really do, we get to show up any way we want to show up in life. emotionally, psychologically, mentally, physically, you know, we get to be any body and anything we want to be. And that's what you're describing you in a in a 10 year period of time, you've created a life for yourself. And granted, I know you're not where you want to be. How many of us can say we're really exactly where we want to be? That sounds like a not so much fun place to be actually. I mean, you know, we want to love where we are, but we're always it's, it's in our DNA, it's in our wiring to reach for more, no matter how good it is. There's the world is your oyster. But you you have definitely stepped out there and chosen, you have chosen, who you want to be and how you want to show up, I can see that with complete clarity. As I look at you as I listened to you, as I talk to you, and you throughout this interview have used the term unapologetically many times. And absolutely, that is absolutely you can wear that as a badge of honor. Thank you.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 53:25
Thank you so much.
Coach Maddox 53:26
So I want to kind of delve into because this is not something I have a lot of opportunity to talk about. Most of the guests that come on the podcast, identify as gay, some identify as queer. I don't think I've had if I have had I haven't been aware of it and had a buy man on the podcast, I would love to have a buy man on the podcast. So if you know anybody, man that would like to be a guest, please send him my way. But
how would you how do you identify? Are are you?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 54:08
Coach Maddox 54:08
instead of me as that how would you identify that string of letters in there, you know that. And now it's becoming even broader than that. You know, we're I think we're getting to a point where we're not, not really maybe wanting to put a label on it. I want to be anything I want to be today. But how do you see that?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 54:30
I have a I'm so happy to be able at this place of saying this. But I am a proud out gay man. And I love it.
Coach Maddox 54:47
Beautiful, and your confidence is very evident as you say that and your confidence and your conviction is very evident as you say that.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 54:58
Thank you and even talking to you now it's just like, I feel camaraderie with you as a gay man and also just the the LGBTQ i A plus community, everybody I mean, I'm just and talking to you just makes me inspired to be in this world even more and spread light, you know and be in the environment. That's what I love about New York City, but I just love about this day and age that we get to exist together and work together and be together
Coach Maddox 55:37
a day and age when we get to express ourselves fully. Yes. You know, not that it doesn't come with some criticism occasionally. Because it does, but I think that I applaud yourself self expression. I I've I've never been as far out there as you are. I wish that I had been farther out there when I was younger. I mean, even now I'm I'm 66 years old, and most of my friends would tell you I'm I'm pretty far out there for 66 You know, I wear all kinds of crazy jewelry and I have I don't I don't have any dresses. Not that I wouldn't I you know, I have a pretty colorful wardrobe shoes. I'm pretty self expressive. And here maybe about three months ago, one of my best girlfriends and I went into a nail salon and I had my my nails painted matte black. I love that. And I was you know, I was a little a little anxious about it when I did it. You know, it was kind of like, now's the world gonna receive this, you know, it's I'm a 66 year old man with painted nails, you know, but it was amazing to me. How many comments and how many compliments I got on having my nails painted. It was crazy. Strangers would stop me I'd be in a clerk in a store where I'm buying something I'm reaching in my for my credit card and they're like, oh my god, I love your nails. It was it was crazy. How much positive feedback I got about myself expression. Yes, there's something incredibly liberating about stepping away from the sheeple you know, the pack. And expressing yourself in a way that's just uniquely yours? Yes. Yes. It's it's hard to even put a an adjective on it that sufficiently does it justice, about how, how fabulous it can be to feel fully self expressed. Any any words of wisdom you have for the listener about? I mean, you you probably are out of all of the guests that I've had, which have now been around 55 or seven, something like that. You are probably hands down the most fully expressed in that manner. And I love that. I love that. And I would love to know what words of wisdom you might have about being unapologetically fully expressed?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 58:51
Well, it is okay. So my advice. It's easy to it is easy for you to you know, move away. I mean, not easy, but I'm saying it is. In retrospect, it can be easy for you to be as fabulous as you want to be in a different city or away from your unit that has not necessarily accepted you as you are. That's, that's like an easy part, relatively speaking. But the biggest piece is when you are back with, you know, those people who you know may have oppressed you or you know, you are in those environments where you're not being as you know, just as tolerated as you would be in your own free will.
Coach Maddox 59:53
So are you are you making reference to maybe a trip home to North Carolina Going back to that place where you were mistreated and, and not really honored for the unique individual that you are, you're talking to big stuff here that would be, that would be, like a big fucking deal to go home to, to that place and step into that fully expressed and an apologetic, but I also can see where it would be like, the ultimate liberation.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 1:00:36
And that's, that's when you that is that is what I'm you know, that's what I feel, you know, my advice would be to just it's not just when you're out, out, you know in New York City or you're with your friends who also have five, you know, five inch, you know, five inch sequined little patent pups, it's not just that, it's, it's also finding the groundedness of your love and the love that you have of yourself. In those moments of being with other people who may not accept you as you are, I think that is when it really counts to most, you know, finding the voice, you have to find that inner voice of yourself. And make sure that's coming from a rooted, grounded place of your own self love. And be able to push past any fear that you have of playing small in any way. And be as fabulous as you want to be. And as outspoken, and as charismatic. And as whatever. And as you know, as you are, in all those moments.
Coach Maddox 1:01:51
So I think I'm really understanding what you're saying. And how I'm relating to that is this, and this is an out there. For me, it's not about stilettos, necessarily. But this is an out there for me. So, I mean, come on. I'm, I'm the older generation now. And I have a I'm in a new relationship that's about three months old now. And, I mean, it's, of course, I'm a gay man. So it's a man on man relationship. I'm white, he's African American. And he's 20 years younger than I am. And for years now I have there's a hike and bike trail in the inner city not very far from where I live that I walk on almost every day. And since we have been dating and in a relationship, we walked the trail together. And we held hands, the entire length of the trail. If we're walking, we're holding hands. And if it's really, really cold, we're bundled up in coats, and then we will link our arms and put our hands back in our pocket. So we look like two T cups where the little handles are inter intertwined. A lot. That has been my rendition of what you're describing, that has been my unapologetically demonstrating my love for this new man in my life. And here we are, you know the whole we're here, we're here. We're queer, and we're not going shopping, that you're too young to remember that. But I marched one time on the Capitol in Austin, where we chanted the fat as we walk through the streets, you know, we're here, we're queer, and we're not going shopping. Left. But that is my own personal version of unapologetically self expressing myself, to put my relationship and my love for this man out there for the whole world to see. And it's been amazing how favorably people have responded to that. Like, I've been walking the trail for 15 years, and people don't make eye contact. They don't speak. You know, and even if you do say good morning, they don't even they don't even reply. And suddenly we're walking holding hands and people are smiling at us. They're, they're waving. They're saying good morning. They're grading us. And I'm like going, I'm not clear on what's happening here. I'm not sure what's. And somebody said to me, this really blew me away. You when You two are together, your energy is vibrating at such a high frequency that people are picking up on the energy. It's less about what you look like and the fact that you're holding hands. That's there's this energy that you're generating that they can feel it as they walk by you have love, of love. And it's the same energy that's vibrating. And you when you have one of your beloved outfits on where you're expressing yourself fully, you're vibrating with that self love in giving yourself the gift of being just who the fuck you want to be.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 1:05:29
Yes, yes, yes. Yes. Thank you.
Coach Maddox 1:05:34
Wow. Love your stories. Love the just does, I want to acknowledge you for the example that you're putting out there for the rest of our community. Thank you know, we all need permission to do whatever it is whatever it is, we all need permission. We all seek permission. And you are a permission giver. Yeah, you get to get
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 1:06:12
that. Yes, yes. Yes. Yes. I love that.
Coach Maddox 1:06:15
When you step out and you do what you do, you are giving everyone in close proximity to everyone that sees you, everyone that experience you see, you are giving them permission to do that. Think about the gift that that is thank you that permission. There's a lot to be said for being first. Most people don't want to go first. Being first is scary. But the person that goes first is the permission giver. It's pretty powerful role to play is very much Well, this has been absolutely delightful. I've loved your story. I have loved your I have loved your victories. Your wins your victories. This has been actually a an episode of celebration. As far as I'm concerned. This has been wonderful. Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate so how about some rapid fire questions? You ready for some rapid fire questions for rapid fire rapid fire answers. Sounds good?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 1:07:25
Yes, yes, yes.
Coach Maddox 1:07:29
At the end of your life, when you're about to take your last breath. What is the feeling that you most want to feel? I've given it my all are you? Yeah, yeah. Oh, cold chills again. cold chills again. What has been the most difficult aspect of being a man of color? In the GBT que community? Hmm.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 1:08:06
I would say having to consistently prove yourself.
Coach Maddox 1:08:14
Got it. And you're not the first person that said that. That is that is that is a theme. And final question. What is your superpower?
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 1:08:31
The enthusiasm that I give to other people.
Coach Maddox 1:08:36
That is it. I get it and it is a superpower. Yeah, I completely get it. Your enthusiasm is contagious.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 1:08:47
Thank you. Thank you. Yeah.
Coach Maddox 1:08:49
It's my gift. Yeah, this this has been great. Douglas. Thank you so much for coming on and, and being my guest today and sharing your your story. There's one thing that I'd like to leave you with before we wrap and that is I just want you to know that in my eyes. You are an authentic
gay man. Welcome to the club. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 1:09:18
I cannot tell you how. You have lifted my spirit today.
Coach Maddox 1:09:24
Well, and I want to reflect that back to you. You have lifted mine as well. This has been absolutely delightful.
Douglas Henry Lewis Jr 1:09:34
Thank you so much.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Writer, Editor, Stylist
Douglas was always wildly creative, observant, impressionable, and expressive from the very beginning. Growing up in a southern, strict, conservative, and deeply religious environment, his enthusiastic voice became increasingly quiet as he showed strong signs of effeminacy as an androgynous adolescent. As he sparked interest in traditionally feminine pursuits due to his gravitation towards the strong-willed and charismatic women in his life, the early rejection from peers at school and family resulted in suicidal thoughts, continuous bouts of depression, and a slew of recurring self-deprecating behaviors.
As he matriculated throughout grade school, university, and beyond, Douglas immersed himself into the creative arts such as theatre, fashion, and interiors, with his frequent journalling serving as the ultimate catharsis for his conflicted emotions towards his own sexuality and challenges with self-acceptance. Now in his early adulthood, he realized a dangerous pattern of overworking himself and people-pleasing, often burning himself to keep others warm. Largely due to the traumas he faced in his youth of not feeling good enough he used external achievements to make himself feel worthy to others.
As an out, proud, gay, man living and working as an editor and stylist in New York City, he embraces his complex childhood as the perfect grounding for the work he does now of “making people pretty.” By healing, accepting, and forgiving his inner child and past, he feels liberated to show up intentionally, truthfully, and unapologetically as himself (many times with mascara and the wearing of a skirt), impacting other gay men to do the same.