Jalen Dominique in 'ACE' by Pavel Denisenko

RISK MAGAZINE: What is your relationship to shame?

Jalen Dominique: I think shame is imposed on you by other people. Based on your relationship with yourself, that can determine how deeply you let it affect you. For me, I've never really felt shame too heavy. I’ve definitely felt insecurity from people projecting shame onto me but I’ve never adopted that as my own feeling.

RISK MAGAZINE: Why do you think that is? How have you been able to avoid holding onto shame imposed upon you?

Jalen Dominique: I never really needed or sought outside validation in that way when it came to my identity or who I am. When it did come down to people trying to project those feelings onto me I definitely saw it as them projecting their insecurity because they couldn’t do what I do or how I was doing it.

RISK MAGAZINE: When did you learn your idea of what is and isn’t sexy?

Jalen Dominique: It is a mix of my own ideas and what I've seen in the media. As a gay Black male we idolize a certain type of guy or a certain type of masculinity. Seeing that being appreciated so much impacted what I considered sexy. As I got older and more comfortable with my identity I started to set my own definition of sexy and how I wanted to present. The more I got with it the more other people got into my idea of sexy.

RISK MAGAZINE: Why is it important to own your sexuality and define it for yourself?

Jalen Dominique: Because there is literally only one you. Comparing yourself to other people or other examples of what is “sexy” defeats the purpose of having your own identity in the first place. It is super important to build that for yourself so you don’t have to deal with the same type of shame or internal insecurities.

"Comparing yourself to other people or other examples of what is “sexy” defeats the purpose of having your own identity in the first place."

RISK MAGAZINE: Have you ever experienced any type of fetisihization?

Jalen Dominique: Just being Black and Gay in general you are fetishized by the world. The Black body by itself is fetishized without sexual orientation or anything attached, whether you are a man, woman, nonbinary. For me specifically, it's my masculinity that is fetishized because I do dabble in both femininity and masculinity and play off of both of them. I do meet people who look for the specifics in each one and they fetishize those parts: “I like the fact that you’re a nigga in a skirt.” “I like the fact that you’re a nigga with acrylics.” “I like that you give off hard but everything you’re wearing says princess.”

"The Black body by itself is fetishized without sexual orientation or anything attached, whether you are a man, woman, nonbinary."

RISK MAGAZINE: How do you respond to that? Does it make you uncomfortable?

Jalen Dominique: It definitely makes me uncomfortable, but I don’t avoid it. It’s easier for me to be louder in my expression because of that. It probably is a trauma response or a defense mechanism to go harder because I am uncomfortable. It is something I think about a lot and have to come to terms with often but it doesn’t stop me. If anything, I push harder at what I’m doing to dismantle whatever the thought is.

RISK MAGAZINE: What are some of the ways you censor yourself?

Jalen Dominique: When it comes to my appearance I don’t censor myself at all. In what I say I censor myself a lot in fear of not being received how I really mean it or for people to receive it how I really meant it and it going against what other people feel. My goal is not to make people feel misunderstood or less than. I actually want to relate to people but I also know I cannot relate to everyone. I know that everyone does not have my same experience. It isn’t necessarily censoring but trying to be considerate for the sake of reception.

RISK MAGAZINE: What does it mean to be free?

Jalen Dominique: I think just without second thought of what you’re doing. Doing whatever you do naturally and without hesitation or fear of judgment or anything. I think it is something we are all trying to reach. I don’t think there is such a thing as being completely free. Even if you have no one censoring you or controlling you but you still do have your ideas of who you think you should be and you are still in ways shackled down by that.

In a Risk Magazine exclusive series "Decolonizing Sexuality", Jalen Dominique stars in 'ACE' photographed by Pavel Denisenko, styled by Colin Anderson. Wearing pieces by Mia Vesper, T Label, 8 Other Reasons & Transe Paris.

Model Jalen Dominique

Photographer Pavel Denisenko

Stylist Colin Anderson

Styling Assistant & Producer Jack Goldsmith

Interview LaQuann Dawson

Shot at Risk Studios LA