Coloring the rainbow

Junior Gabi Badami expresses her life through art and fashion

Junior Gabi Badami smiles, expressing with pride in her bisexuality. Badami says she has struggled with her identity since elementary school, so she channels her struggles into artwork and goals for her future. “I’m proud of who I am, confident in who I want to be and excited for what I know I can do,” Badami said.

(Photo courtesy of Gabi Badami)

Junior Gabi Badami smiles, expressing with pride in her bisexuality. Badami says she has struggled with her identity since elementary school, so she channels her struggles into artwork and goals for her future. “I’m proud of who I am, confident in who I want to be and excited for what I know I can do,” Badami said.

By Makinsey Drake, Parkway West High School

Since beginning her self-exploration journey in middle school, junior Gabi Badami has used art as an outlet to express the struggles of being an LGBTQ teen. Badami aims for her work is to emphasize pride and positivity, hoping to inspire and educate others. She plans to carry her passions into the fashion industry.

“I want to encourage everyone to be themselves, be loud and make a statement,” Badami said. The feeling of [expressing] myself is my very favorite aspect of all types of art. It took me so long to find who I was. I was always questioning my identity, and all throughout middle school, I never felt like I fit into any group of people. Eventually, I found myself through art.”

Badami’s passion for art started with a late-night experiment the summer before eighth grade.

“I was bored in my room, so I looked up drawing tutorials on YouTube. I did so many in one night with my 64-pack-of colored pencils,” Badami said. “Then I kept going with it, practicing more and more, and once high school started, I took classes. That’s when I started to grow as an artist and person.”

Expressing religious trauma, Badami draws chains around her body to represent the catholic faith restricting her sexuality. Badami worked on this piece for 30 hours total. “It’s my favorite piece. I feel like it’s a good representation of my artistic abilities, and gets my message across,” Badami said. (Photo courtesy of Gabi Badami)

Since freshman year, Badami has taken ceramics, drawing, painting and digital design courses. Currently, in AP Drawing, Badami chose her sustained investigation question for her art projects to be, “How does being a queer teen affect my daily life?” To brainstorm, Badami considers events throughout her life.

“All of my pieces relate to experiences and struggles, some stemming from my youth,” Badami said. “Each piece is important to me in a different way. They all connect to a major event or feeling in my life that is unique to that piece.”

Badami’s AP Drawing teacher, Kat Briggs, has taught Gabi for three years.

“Gabi’s work is very personal, and the topic stands out. Her artwork shows a lot of struggles she faces between peers and between family. She has a lot of courage in the way she expresses those ideas. She is very creative and often tries new things. Gabi always experiments with styles and doesn’t settle with playing it safe. She does whatever she believes best suits her idea. She is bold and a risk-taker,” Briggs said. 

Badami does most of her work and brainstorming at home but is constantly looking for inspiration from her surroundings. 

“I always want to know what other artists are doing and thinking, so I enjoy collaborating in class,” Badami said. “However, I don’t take inspiration from any particular person. I take it from what’s around us. Everything we do, everything we see is art.”

While Badami finds it easy to gather new ideas, she struggles with the set amount of time given to implement her ideas. AP art courses have deadlines weeks apart and require quick turnarounds for artworks. 

“Deadlines are my worst enemy. I’m so bad at managing my time because I care so much about each part of my piece. The original sketch always has to be perfect,” Badami said. “I want to try everything, and I’m not good at all of it because I haven’t tried all of it. I like to push myself out of my comfort zone.” 

Badami often incorporates her personal identity into her school work to further educate peers on the LGBTQ community. Badami has completed and presented various school projects regarding LGBTQ discrimination, marriage and suicide.

Badami expresses the emotions she faces with daily situations like choosing an outfit. Badami created this piece weeks after the loss of two loved ones. “I got an extension and finished the piece from my hotel room in Sarasota. It was during the worst month of my life, and being able to draw this piece definitely helped with coping,” Badami said. (Photo courtesy of Gabi Badami)

“Since we live in Missouri, [controversial topics are] more talked about and widely accepted than in less religious states,” Badami said. I am openly bi[sexual]. The more people I meet, the more I notice how little people know about my community or how many people have very strong, rude opinions. There are a lot of people uneducated on the topic, and since it is becoming more common for people to come out, we must understand the world we live in.”

Badami shares her artwork with her peers through various media, including her art Instagram account:

“My account is like a portfolio of [my art pieces] over time, rather than pictures in a Google Drive. It’s something I can share with the world but also keep for myself,” Badami said. 

Badami has explored different areas of art since she was little. In elementary school, Badami created and sold Rainbow Loom jewelry and made a mini clothing line with a couple of friends.

“When I used to have a lot of free time, I’d always spend it making something. I’ve always been crafty and an entrepreneur. I’m a busy bee—it’s in my blood. I’m always doing something artistic. It’s fun to think that something that was once just a spontaneous idea is now my goal for my future,” Badami said. 

With plans to bring her childhood dreams to life, Badami wants to create her own size and gender-inclusive clothing line. 

“I want to make people happy with what I do. Ever since I was little, that’s what I’ve always wanted to do, even if it’s just one person [that I can help]. So I figured I’d aspire to make a profession out of it,” Badami said. “I express myself through fashion. There are no rules, so I want to take that pedal to the metal. Everyone should realize it’s fun to be stared at.”

Dealing with two funerals in one week, Badami draws her lost loved ones over an expression of herself. Badami originally drew the lower design, and then after the loss of a family friend and her Grandpa, she decided to change it up. “They never got to know the real me, so I wanted to draw them looking down at me and my potential future wife. I like to think they’re watching over me and that they’re proud,” Badami said. (Photo courtesy of Gabi Badami)

Beginning this summer, Badami will start to make and sell clothing. Badami doesn’t have any plans set in stone yet, but she knows that she wants to pursue fashion in college. She hopes to develop her business plans as time goes on.

“I want to get better at the craft. I have a pile of clothes at my house to make things out of. Right now, I make clothes, costumes and accessories for my friends. I also alter clothing if something doesn’t fit the way I’d like it to,” Badami said. “I love to thrift, so sewing up and mixing and matching some of those clothes is always fun.”

Badami will pursue her fashion career at Savannah College of Art and Design, as she believes that is where she will grow while feeling most comfortable. 

“I can’t wait to get started in the fashion industry. Creating a good outfit to express who you are is important to how the world perceives you. It brings out a sense of pride. I know who I am, and I might as well show it,” Badami said. “At school right now, 90% of the girls I see are wearing the same leggings and sweatshirt combo every day, and I’d rather stand out. I want to be loud. I want to create that happiness and joy for other people when they put my clothes on.”

This story was originally published on Pathfinder on May 10, 2022.