Created in collaboration with our mates at Levi's
Loredo Malcolm knew he wanted to be a dancer when he was just nine years old. That mightn’t seem odd – Jamaica, where he was born, is known for its dance scene. Unfortunately it’s also known for its homophobia, and the dance styles Malcolm was drawn to were considered too feminine, or ‘weak’, for a man to pursue.
It wasn’t until Malcolm moved to Australia that he felt he could truly be himself. In 2006 he opened his own dance school, where he is now able to give his students the kind of support he couldn’t find in Jamaica. He is also one of the subjects of I AM…, a series of short films produced by Levi’s that celebrates the diversity of Australia’s LGBTQI+ community. We caught up with Malcolm to ask him about coming out, finding his confidence, and why dance lets him be himself.
What was it like growing up in Jamaica as a young gay man? I had a pretty good upbringing – my mum took care of me – but my childhood was rough. Jamaica is a third world country, and there is a lot of violence and homophobia. Even though I was attracted to boys from a young age, I couldn’t think of myself as being gay. Still, I knew I wanted to be a dancer. Jamaica is known for its dance, but the style I wanted to do was frowned upon. I received a lot of verbal abuse, so I left Jamaica when I was 19. If I had stayed I probably would have been harmed by now.
How did you learn to be comfortable with yourself? It was a long process. Even when I came to Australia in 2004 I was still dating women – that lasted for about two years, until I slowly accepted being gay was OK here. Still, I’ve never made a public announcement about being gay until now; I’m still Jamaican, so I have all these reminders about what I used to think was right and wrong. But the world needs more people speaking up, and I thought, ‘If I’m not going to do this now, when am I going to do it?’
How did coming to Australia change things for you? I came here to do The Lion King for four years. When that was over, I didn’t want to go home, so I applied for permanent residency. It’s been one of the best things that I ever did. If I’d stayed in Jamaica I don’t know if I’d still be alive, or in a gang, or pretending to be straight so I don’t make others uncomfortable. Of course, moving here wasn’t the end of all of my problems; I’m gay, but I’m also a black man. They’re two things that really challenge the world at the moment. I come with a lot.
Why dance? It helps me be at peace with who I am. A lot of people say they don’t understand dance as an art form, but it plays a part in all of our lives. When you go to a nightclub and see everyone dancing, they’re using their bodies to help them disconnect. I do that professionally, but it’s the same for everyone.
You founded your own dance school, the LOcREaDO Dance Company. What has running a business taught you? To give back. When I started the business, I realised I wanted to teach kids not to take things for granted. There is so much that is great about Australia, from its dance facilities to things like Medicare. My school is about being grateful, and passionate. I feel like I’m guiding a lot of young dancers.
Do you have any advice for people struggling to feel good about themselves? Find someone to talk to. I didn’t talk to anyone when I was young, and that took a toll. It’s not necessarily about taking someone else’s advice – just hearing yourself talk can help you find peace. It frees your mind from all the questions and doubts it holds on to, and creates space for making your own decisions.