InspiHERed By spotlights phenomenal women in the Black queer community—everyone from artists to activists. Each week ELIXHER features someone whose personal journey and individual craft inspire us to dream bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. This week ELIXHER chats it up with Natasha Dyer, a Los Angeles resident with Caribbean roots that launched her own line of t-shirts for lesbians: “She Said, She Said.”

ELIXHER: Tell us a little about yourself.
NATASHA: My name is Natasha Dyer. I’m 34 years old. Professionally, I’m a production fashion technical designer and I’ve been doing that for over a decade. It’s creative to a point. I get to draw all day long. I’m basically the person that takes someone’s concept and gets it produced. So I set up fittings and communicate with China, get the samples back and correct those so we can actually mass produce. But I’ve just now been trying to run with my own passion and creativity. The truth is anyone that has any job in fashion, whether it’s trim-buying or costume or anything, we all wanted to be designers. [Laughs.]

So, I’ve recently taken my own initiative to just do things that I’ve learned from my trade. I’m more graphically inclined because what I do is draw technical drawings. Designers don’t tend to be that savvy on Illustrator and all that because they’re just hand-sketching and feeling things. But I’ve gotten really good at learning how to draw on the computer, so it’s made me graphically inclined. I’ve created a t-shirt line for lesbians so that they can just have something to spark a conversation when they go out. My new passion is just really these other artists that are giving art to our community through music. If I like their music, I love to make them a shirt, give it to them and hope they rock it. It’s free, just here. This is me, I’m doing my art.

I’ve actually learned that from them. What I’ve learned from lesbian rappers is that they’re always giving out free downloads. I always thought that when I started t-shirts like, oh, I need to get paid immediately. And here are all these women that make music for years and it’s always free, free, free, free. That’s where I got my inspiration to just start giving. If I like you, I’ll give you a shirt.

ELIXHER: What drew you to the t-shirt making?
NATASHA: It just seemed easy. It seemed the easiest way to get my art, which is graphics, out…it’s just fast. A lot of lines have started out as just t-shirts. It’s the easiest way for me to get fashion out there because I can’t really create, have a pattern-maker and have people sew shit for me. I want to be a designer but this is going to be my easiest way to get something I like out there.

ELIXHER: Do you eventually want to branch out?
NATASHA: I think eventually. I mean years from now. I almost feel like it’d be something I’d do when I’ve made my money, and I actually just put off some on the side for my passion so I could have some money to lose. You know, have some gambles I could take.

ELIXHER: Who or what inspires you?
NATASHA: I’m inspired by studdly women. They are my muses and they make me want to create. [Laughs.]

ELIXHER: Nice. What is it about “studdly” women that inspires you?
NATASHA: I really respect them. I respect the fact that they are wearing their sexuality out every single day. I think that’s awesome. I mean, I’m hardcore lesbian but I have to come out every day. Every one you meet, you have to tell them you’re gay. But they’re actually walking around with it every day. I’ve always felt like they need odes to them for their strength just to kind of walk out there and rock with that. It makes me feel like it could be dangerous too, you know?

ELIXHER: How would describe yourself in three words?
NATASHA: Trinidadian. Dancer. Mother.

ELIXHER: Are you a mother?
NATASHA: No, but I want to be. [Laughs.]

ELIXHER: What’s the biggest misconception that people have of you?
NATASHA: People think I come off cold sometimes. But that’s because I’m shy.

ELIXHER: You’re shy? [Laughs.]
NATASHA: [Laughs.] Yea, I think I’m always waiting to give of myself and I should be giving of myself a little more sometimes. I’m reserved. That’s more it.

ELIXHER: What’s a challenge you’ve have to face and how did you overcome it?
NATASHA: Professionally, what I’m going through right now is just not wanting to do my job anymore. It’s very interesting. I work in an industry where turnover is really great. It’s fashion and if the company is not going well, there’s no fidelity. They’ll lay you off in a heartbeat. I literally work in an industry where you can be working side by side with someone who’s like, oh, I’ve worked in this industry for twenty-five years. When you ask them how long they’ve worked here? Two years. Recently, just last year when I was laid off in November it happened like literally a month after my relationship of three years had just ended. It was like the clouds cleared and I was like, I’m just going to check out for a while. We had gotten a really lovely house that we were renting, but I told her that she could keep the house. I was just like, I’m going to float around a bit. I’m tired of my job, so I finally want to pursue my t-shirt line like hardcore.

So I took to traveling. I went to Atlanta for two months. I went to DC for a couple of weeks. I just got back from London about four weeks ago. Now I’m finally going back into working and gonna work and have to work. But the strange thing about it is that the job I’m at now I love it whereas I was really trying to find a way out of my career of ten years. I was just tired of it. Now I’ve had a whole rebirth into my industry. Now that I’m talking about it, it’s almost like I’m being rewarded for taking off seven months. It’s like I’m being rewarded for going off and doing what I wanted to do. Now I’m actually working somewhere that I like. I didn’t like my job for a long time.

The people are really great and the job has gotten back to the things I like to do. It’s not just technical, technical, technical. I’m actually getting to draw a little bit again. My job had become to where it was just very technical and with no creativity. And that was driving me nuts.

ELIXHER: What makes you proud to be part of the Black queer community?
NATASHA: It’s weird how that comes back to what I’m doing for others in the community. I love the fact that I can give these very stud women something to be proud of. Whenever I do a shirt for someone that’s a rapper, they like to see that their art is being taken seriously. They’re very happy about it. So that’s what I like.

ELIXHER: Does that appreciation speak to a larger kind of connection that’s there because of your shared identity?
NATASHA: Yea, I think it’s saying, I see you. I see what you’re doing and I think it’s great. And we’re all in the same game.

ELIXHER: What changes would you like to see in the community?
NATASHA: I wish people were more open-minded.  I just wish Black people, as a whole, I wish their minds would expand. It’s one of those things I don’t think I’ll necessarily live to see. I think I’ll see more of it. I always trip out on how educated Black women want to go see the next Madea movie before anybody else. [Laughs.] I don’t know why we like images that don’t necessarily bring us up.

ELIXHER: What’s next for Natasha?
NATASHA: What’s next on my agenda is learning how to juggle a job and my side business. I need to figure out how to juggle those two before I can even bring anyone into my world. That was one of the things that being single afforded. When you have someone, you have to be able to give them a lot of time. I have to figure out how to carve out the things that matter to me. I’m on a mission.

Check out Natasha’s t-shirt line, “She Said, She Said,” here! Read more about her graphic designs here and follow her on Twitter.

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