Alonzo Arnold is one of the latest and greatest to be inducted into the beauty brigade of Hollywood’s coveted haircare professionals. The Atlanta-based celebrity hairstylist is known for working with Cardi B, Solange Knowles, Remy Ma, Kehlani, Karrueche, Keke Palmer, and K. Michelle, among others. Fabulous looks aside, Arnold is beloved for his hilarious skits and comedic alter-egos, which contribute to his growing fanbase of more than 700,000 Instagram followers.
Many of these fans were rattled after reading a Billboard article in which male pronounces were used in reference to Arnold. Although he identifies as a gender-bending, asexual male, many read him as a transgender woman, with some assuming he was assigned female at birth. A large number of Arnold’s predominantly female, cis, heteronormative fans were left puzzled, as they’d never heard anyone identify as asexual or a gender-bender before.
In a report based on a 2017 survey conducted by Harris Poll, GLAAD revealed that 20% of millennials say they are something other than strictly heterosexual or cisgender, compared to 7% of baby boomers. These young people expressed sexual curiosity about people of their own gender, while others rejected the notion that they had a gender to begin with.
While a great deal of LGBTQIA people understand gender-bending, asexuality (also referred to as “Ace”) is under-discussed and often erased from the broader conversation—as we often see when the LGBTQIA acronym is cut off at “T.” According to the Davis Center at Williams College, statistics suggest that about 1% of the population is asexual, though many experts think the number may be higher than 7%.
NewNowNext caught up with Arnold to discuss asexuality, gender fluidity, and how he’s pushing back against femmephobia.
Not all asexual people are necessarily virgins. What’s your V-status?
I’m still rocking my virginity. Not a single soul can say they’ve stuck their hands in this cookie jar, honey!
Was remaining a virgin a conscious decision for you?
No. I’m just not a sexually driven person. People often mistake asexuality for abstinence and it’s not the same thing. It may be hard for abstinent people not to have sex, but for me—it’s easy breezy, boo.
Do you ever find yourself attracted to a person in a non-sexual way?
Of course. I couldn’t thrive in my industry if I didn’t understand the art of attraction. I admire beauty in all forms. But I’m only attracted to a person’s beauty—not their booty.
So since you’re not exempt from attractions, who is your latest crush?
Benjamin Franklin, haha! Dolla’ dolla’ bill, y’all.
What are three things you consider more important than sex.
Family, health, and my time.
Family is important. Many LGBTQIA youth are disowned by their families. What was your experience like growing up and what did your support system look like?
Growing up, I wasn’t your average sporty boy who got their clothes dirty and knees all scraped-up. I stayed inside watching America’s Next Top Model and playing with dolls. My mom and dad knew I was different right away. However, they didn’t make things hard on me and I appreciate them for that. Parents who disown their children for being themselves have such a lifelong impact on their lives.
What advice would you give the families/friends of LGBTQIA youth on being supportive?
Love and support them in whatever they want to do, especially if you’re a parent. Sometimes parents resort to discipline, thinking that’s going to change the behavior or identity of their child. Punishing them worsens things and causes depression and a lot of unnecessary trauma in a child’s life. This is why LGBTQIA suicide rates are so alarming. Love that child and hold them tight. Let it be known that you are there for them without question.
Sometimes our peers aren’t always the kindest growing up. How old were you when your peers started policing your gender expression?
I would say around 14 years old. Middle and high school were the toughest years for me, but I was true to myself and kept it authentic. I didn’t care what anyone thought or said about me.
It’s common for most youth to buckle under peer pressure. Did you ever think that maybe it’d be easier to blend in?
At first, yes, but my mother was always there for me and supported my self-expression. She kinda knew I was like the weird one of the family, but then again she was, too. [Laughs] She often told me it didn’t matter what I wanted to be, she’d always love me the same.
What advice would you give to youth who are afraid to come out family and friends, and to be themselves?
Be yourself! You’re one of a kind. Don’t let your friends or family deter you from living in your truth. You are special, unique, and you never know when someone is looking to you as a role model. Don’t ever change!
How are you fighting femmephobia, not only in heteronormative spaces but within the LGBTQIA community, as well?
By staying visible. Whether people like it or not, femmes deserve to live our best lives, too. Femmes make the world go round—and that’s a fact!
Visibility is definitely important. Who are some of your own personal vanguards of visibility?
I follow you [Ashlee Marie Preston], Shauna Brooks, Leyna Bloom, and D. Smith. Each of y’all are such strong, amazing role models!
Thanks, sugar! Who’s music are you following lately? Open up your phone and tell us the last five songs you listened to on your playlist?
5. “Ok Bitch”- Light Skin Keisha and Vanity Mafia
4. “There You Go” – Pink
3. “God is a Woman”- Ariana Grande
2. “Bring It All To Me”- Blaque
1. “Freakum Dress”- Beyoncé. Beyoncé is always number one! [Laughs].
Speaking of number one, what is the one thing you look forward to the most in 2019?
A larger platform. As I said earlier, visibility is everything. We need more diverse representation not only in media but the beauty industry, also. I’m not just helping people change their wigs and wardrobe—I’m also changing hearts and minds.