For DeVore Ledridge, growing up queer in rural Kentucky was “exactly how you would expect. Very conservative and very judgmental. You had to conform at all costs,” they recall. “I knew other queer people in my town, but no one had the courage to come out. We feared getting severely harassed and bullied. In school, I would hear of teachers getting fired for coming out as gay. That alone scared me enough. For so long I felt guilty about my sexuality due to religion playing such a heavy part in my everyday life.” The actor made the difficult choice to take a step back from their career to get reacquainted with who they really were. The time away from the spotlight worked wonders. “Taking a break was not my ideal situation, but after much self-assessment I knew it was the best decision. I cut unhealthy relationships out of my life and began to gain supportive and uplifting relationships that helped me become the person I am now. I healed a lot of trauma that was holding me back from accepting prosperous opportunities for my life and career. I thought taking a break would end up holding me back, but in reality, it’s helped me gain so much love and positivity in my life!”
As a queer non-binary creator, DeVore felt they had a responsibility to be an aspirational beacon for other queer youth by sharing their coming out story on social media. “I personally feel that we need to have as much representation put out into the media as possible! Education on the queer community, especially for young people, is more available now than it was a couple years ago. Even still, there’s a lot of people in different situations who don’t have access to direct education, resources, or support. Back when I was in middle school and discovering my sexuality, the only time I learned about the LGBTQ+ community was when I watched queer YouTubers, who helped me find comfort and solace with my identity. And if I could be that person for just one kid, why not share my coming out story?” They certainly have the visibility to do so, having amassed nearly 3 million TikTok followers, a fact that still blows them away. “I want to say that I hold immense gratitude for the life they’ve allowed me to live. If it wasn’t for them I would still be living in Kentucky away from my support, my family, and friends. All I wanted when I was younger was to have a group of friends who loved, cared, and supported me. I found that group of friends in my followers on TikTok. I couldn’t ask for a better, more educated, and kind group of individuals to be following me! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!”
Now, they’re working with organizations to spread pride and give back. Their brand new collection with SOUNDOFF features streetwear apparel with interchangeable patches celebrating identity and allyship. “I partnered with the company ‘SOUNDOFF’ to design a totally rad clothing collection for Pride month, as well as every day year-round! When I was designing the patches to go on the clothing, I wanted to include every sexuality and flag from the community. I created them to be inclusive so that allies alongside queer people can all wear them! I also had the amazing opportunity to partner with the nonprofit organization OutRight Action International, who work directly with the UN to create safety and pass laws protecting queer people around the world!” DeVore was overjoyed to be able to design their own collection and revisit their first love. “My entire life, my mom has owned two clothing stores. So much of my childhood was spent picking out clothes and dressing the manikins on the sales floor! Even before I started acting, I wanted to go to school to design clothes and work in the fashion industry. Obviously my career took a different turn and I am so extremely happy working in the television/film industry. But I secretly always wanted to have a hand in designing a clothing line of some sort. So when this opportunity came through, I was over the moon. It has been one of my most fun projects in recent years!” The PROUD line should inspire those who wear it to feel just that. “As cheesy as it is to say, I hope they will feel so confident in the clothes, and proud to be a part of the LGBTQ community! We are compassionate, resilient, strong, beautiful, and powerful! I hope people will remember how far we have come as a community, and be reminded to continue spreading positivity and uplifting energy to one another.”
To anyone out there who doesn’t feel accepted, DeVore underscores the importance of finding a chosen family. “If you aren’t feeling accepted or uplifted in your current environment, do look elsewhere. Whether that is friends online, LGBTQ+ clubs at school, or a queer mentor in your community! There IS support for you, it just may not be where you’re hoping it will come from! Unfortunately, we live in a world where society tells us how we should love, think, dress, or act. But the truth is we were all born as individuals to be exactly who we are, to thrive and love unconditionally. My DMs are always open for anyone who needs support. You should always feel free and encouraged to reach out to me.” Like any stellar queer role model, they want you to know that you are never alone and you will always be loved.
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DeVore Ledridge Celebrates Pride with New Apparel Collection. Photo Credit: Courtesy of DeVore Ledridge.