Frank Ocean: my unofficial mentor

COURTNEY REDMON / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The first time that I listened to “Chanel” by Frank Ocean, I was mesmerized. I was in love with the song, the lyrics and more than anything, with the artist.

After a few glittering piano keys, Frank Ocean opens “Chanel” with one of the most beautiful verses I have ever had the pleasure of hearing: “My guy pretty like a girl, and he got fight stories to tell. I see both sides like Chanel.”

As a bisexual person of color, I find songs like “Chanel” to serve as a reflection of my life: an unabridged conversation on the intricate intersection between race, gender and sexuality. The lyrics are so charged, intimate and poetic that they resonate with me on a personal level, and I feel as though I can identify with Frank Ocean’s own story.

“Chanel” is not the first time that Frank Ocean has been open about his sexuality, and it’s surely not the only song that makes me feel this level of intimacy. Over the course of two full-length albums, a visual album, a mixtape and an episodic collection of singles, the 30-year-old musician has spoken frequently about his personal journey toward self-understanding and self-acceptance with his sexuality.

It’s no surprise, then, that songs like “Bad Religion,” “Thinkin Bout You” and “Good Guy” just so happen to be some of my favorite songs of all time.

More than anything, Frank Ocean has been a role model to me: an unofficial mentor whose lyrics were like religious texts to a teenage boy struggling to navigate the complex world of love and heartbreak, sexuality and fluidity, self-love and self-understanding.

Beyond his poetic, open lyrics, he represents how race and sexuality can often work against each other. As a young, Latinx boy raised by the teachings of a conservative religion, understanding my sexuality was a complicated and intimidating process.

This is why it was amazing to be able to see a bisexual man of color, one who’s been considered one of the most important musicians of the decade, wearing mascara in the music video for his hit song “Nikes.”

For LGBTQ people of color, there are very few celebrities in the world right now that adequately represent the complex intersection of their identities, let alone someone as musically and poetically innovative as Frank Ocean.

And being able to listen to one of his songs and find intimate parts of my own story in his lyrics is a beautiful feeling. Whenever Frank Ocean releases his next album, whether that is in two days or 20 years, I am confident that it will be another reflection of not only his personal story, but of my own.

Tyler Perez
can be reached at tyler.perez@temple.edu. Or you can follow Tyler on Twitter @perezodent. Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews.

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