- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
In third grade, I practiced holding my hand in a bowl of ice water, training myself to endure pain for the coming concentration camps. After learning about Anne Frank and the horrors of the Holocaust in my synagogue’s Sunday school, I became terrified that black-booted Nazis would come stomping down the hallway.
I have grown up with Kanye West, now referred to as Ye. I awkwardly danced to his music in the school gym in the seventh grade, blasted it through open car windows when I got my driver’s license, and attempted to rap his lyrics at college parties. And as someone who considers himself creative, I admired the range he allowed his creativity to extend, breaking unexpected ground in music and fashion.
Throughout the past few years, as obvious signs of his troubled behavior have escalated, I’ve done my best to defend Ye. I struggled in my youth with deep mental health challenges, so I have learned to look at and contextualize others’ behavior from a more compassionate stance.
I am no longer defending this verbally violent, aggressively hurtful man.
Recently, I woke up to Ye openly praising Hitler and Nazis, and going as far as posting a swastika to his (now-suspended) Twitter account, and infusing a Jewish star and a swastika as his 2024 presidential campaign logo.
My thoughts now take me back to me as a little guy, sitting on the kitchen floor with our family’s golden retriever. Shaking with agony, I’d keep my fist submerged in the icy misery, terrified of a knock at the front door from the SS. I believed this was not only possible, but likely to happen.
Over the sweeping passage of nearly three decades, I’ve realized the nuances of antisemitism, hate speech, and the extent they permeate our society and culture. While I no longer have my childhood fear of Nazis storming the streets of Manhattan where I now live (this isn’t too irrational given what happened in Charlottesville in 2017), I remain easily triggered by antisemitic rhetoric. Fear of its dire consequences never ebbs from my mind.
As a gay, Jewish man working in the worlds of fashion and entertainment, I have the luxury of being surrounded by many people who identify similarly. It’s one of my favorite things about the work I do. And it is in this work that my peers and I do that we use our identity to bolster our creative impulses. My Jewish identity — and my gay identity — are part of the lens through which I live and work. And that is under attack — globally.
I’m filled with schadenfreude to learn of Ye’s high-end business partners cutting ties with him: Adidas, CAA, Vogue, Gap, and Balenciaga. At an astonishing cost to them, reportedly $247 million, Adidas still realized they needed to sever ties.
Despite these organizations cutting him off, what needs to happen is leading figures of the right, in politics and entertainment, to discredit him. Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson, for example, are enablers — not to mention, just as guilty themselves with their bigoted dog whistles. Their wide-reaching megaphones need to be countered from voices from the other side. Silence by those in the top-tier of their professions allow the nation to look on in dumb confusion rather than noisy protest.
Where do we go from here? How do media, fashion, and Hollywood shine a light on the horrific falsities and hate speech being spewed by Ye and others without giving it the wildfire spread they are hoping for? And how do we protect ourselves? Figures like Ye, with massive fanbases around the world, are bringing antisemitism mainstream.
What is more terrifying is realizing that Ye is a marketing master. He understands the zeitgeist of the American population. And what’s more dangerous: he entertains when he spews. His hateful messages are enticing material for media, the central nervous system of the nation, to give a platform to his messages — no matter how repugnant. Remember all the free advertising the media started giving Trump the minute he came down that golden escalator in 2015?
This vile bigotry from Ye — and countless others who share his views — is surely only beginning. It is but mere kindling to the cultural infernos he can ignite around the world. I fear the immense social power of his massive platform, and I am growing more and more anxious. Some say I should hide the Star of David I wear proudly around my neck under my shirt, or take it off altogether. But by doing this, Ye wins. Instead, we must stand firm in our beliefs and continue speaking out against hate in our industry and beyond.
Born and raised in the Midwest, Andrew Gelwicks is a celebrity fashion stylist who began his career in the fashion department at GQ magazine, and later worked in celebrity booking at Teen Vogue. His clientele include a mix of young Hollywood elite and iconic stars including Catherine O’Hara, Uzo Aduba, Delilah Belle Hamlin, Dixie D’Amelio, Jo Ellen Pellman, Tommy Dorfman, Dominique Jackson, and Lisa Rinna. Gelwicks has contributed to titles such as Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29, Paper, WWD and People. In 2020, Andrew published his book, The Queer Advantage.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day