The Fighter: Interview with Devri Velázquez
Q: Please start by introducing yourself, your name, your pronouns, where are you from and where are you now?
My name is Devri Velázquez, my pronouns are she/her/hers, I am from Texas but I've been living in New York for a little over four years now. I Love it. I live in Brooklyn, Brooklyn is definitely home to me. And I'm a writer and editor by profession, that's what I've been doing for about 10 years now.
Q: You are an author, an artist, a social media style guru...when did you start expressing yourself through creativity?
Really since I was a child. I feel blessed and fortunate to say that my parents gave my sister and I so much freedom. They empowered me to make decisions that felt right to me. And if I didn't want to do something, I didn’t have to. So from a young age I really tapped into that creativity and just wanting to express myself in any kind of way.
Q: You are also an unseen illness advocate. Why is it so important for you personally to share your raw and real experience with the world?
It started out when I got diagnosed. I was 20 years old, a few months away from 21. I was in the hospital and I just felt so alienated and alone, like I was dying. I was just desperate to find community. That’s when Instagram first started, and I got on there and was using hashtags before they were even functional, just because I wanted to see if there were any people out there who felt the way I felt. And through that community I found that, yes, there are so many people going through similar things.
I have a rare disease that people can't see. I look like I'm fine, I look like I'm well but I have so many health issues all the time. It's just me and the four walls in my apartment, but when I go out or post a picture on Instagram, I don't mask it. This is my new norm and it has been 10 years now so I've adjusted.
I like showing people that you know your life doesn't stop when you have this really devastating health concern. If anything, it's empowered me to want to live even more fully. So, that's exactly what I do. And I have my diagnosis to thank for that. I could have gone a whole different direction and instead I went full throttle into my passions and dreams.
Q: You're a role model and example for a lot of people. Having an unseen illness, you could choose to hide it, but you choose to be open and vulnerable.
Yeah, I think part of it's also because I want people to know…. like it is so much to get out of bed. It takes a lot for me to even do regular things. But on top of that I'm trying to go above and beyond to fulfill this greater purpose. So hopefully doing that encourages people. I respect everyone's individual journey but I know for mine, I'm absolutely not a victim. And I try to make it known.
Q: What makes you feel empowered—when you’re feeling low, what lifts you up?
Definitely experimenting with my appearance, like my hair, my makeup, even skincare. I'm all about pampering myself. I'm very social and I love people, but just as much as I like being social I also need to recharge at times. I take that time very seriously and it's sacred to me. It involves reading, writing, watching a cool movie, makeup and hair, and just experimenting with my look.
Q: Let’s talk about beauty. What is your makeup story? When did you first start wearing makeup and expressing yourself through beauty?
I was nine years old when I first started becoming interested. My younger sister was such a tomboy. I watched how laid back and free she looked, and I wanted to channel that aesthetic even though I'm not actually like that. I think that was my first intro to expressing how I wanted the world to see me. So I first started shaving when I was nine, and then I started tweezing my eyebrows and all of that at the same time. I started really dabbling in makeup when I was in sixth or seventh grade. I felt a lot of pressure from all the pretty girls at school. With makeup, I was able to stand out. I really thrive on that, I have such a random style. I like being unpredictable and makeup really lets you do that.
Q: What beauty product makes you feel most empowered?
The one thing that makes me feel most complete is anything from my eyebrows. I plucked my eyebrows for the gods when I was younger, so I feel bare when I go out if I don't do anything to my eyebrows. I also love a good lip. I'll still wear one under my mask sometimes but then I make this weird face under my mask where I'm trying not to smear it. So it always feels weird walking around doing this weird thing just so that when I get to my destination and I pull it down, It'll still be intact.
Q: Have you tried clean beauty before and if so, what has your experience been with it?
I have, I'm such an ingredient person. I like to know that whatever I'm putting on my skin or ingesting, and then, if it's bad for me I try to stay away from it. That applies to my makeup as well, even down to my perfume. I try really hard to maintain a clean regimen from beginning to end. It's an investment into my wellness.
Q: We are so honored to include you in imayla’s #TheFaceOfBeauty campaign. Can you talk about your experience on set and wearing the products?
My look was amazing! It was so pigmented and rich, I felt like a character from the matrix or something. It was just such an awesome experience, everyone was so awesome and genuine. I remember talking to the makeup artist beforehand and him asking me what about my look I like the most. It's such a weird question, but he asked, so I said I like my eyes. So he said let's make your eyes stand out. We went with this blue, shimmery, really pigmented look. It was so beautiful! Sometimes I forget what our face and our features are capable of. With the imayla everything looked gorgeous so I was really pleased and felt really good.
Q: What does #EmpoweringIndividualism means to you? What do you hope to express through this campaign?
Empowering individualism for me just means only expressing myself for myself. When I was an editor, I used to tell my team to write in “I” statements; own what you think and how you feel. I want to set an example for always owning how I feel. And if that happens to encourage someone or empower someone, that's awesome—then that means that my job is done there. So I really do own my individuality, even if it might look a little quirky, or weird, I just own it. I just hope that other people can look at me, or see my social media, or hear my words and they know that it's okay. We're all so unique and beautiful in our own ways. And I think we can all learn from each other once we all start really owning who we are.