Who are you, where are you and what do you do?
I am Matthew Waldman, a native New Yorker, entrepreneur, designer, artist and creator of nooka. I speak Japanese, futurist, technoprogressivist, fellow of the royal academy of arts [UK]. Based in New York City, I create physical manifestations of ideas, promote universal communication via the form of visual language and fashion, and design and bring a techno-progressivist set of expectations to the world of ordinary objects.
What are you currently working on?
Our upcoming collections for nooka, our new look book to support that, a secret collab project for a major sportswear fashion company and also a project for two different 3D printing technology companies.
When did you come out and what was the story?
Technically I never “came out” – I was born into a very liberal lower middle class background in NYC from a family of mediums, artists and real-life gangsters – so being a homo was neither shocking nor alien. My mom dressed like a drag queen and her best friend was gay when I was little. She was personally, albeit tangentially, involved with the early gay rights movement every time she had to be a character witness for her friend when gay bars were raided and he was arrested.
But for my story, when I was 5 years old, a new family moved into our apartment building: a single mom with two boys the same ages as me and my brother. I went with my mom to bring them a “welcome to the building” cake, and on the floor of an empty living room was a boy my age with a mop of dirty blond hair wearing nothing but his undies playing with lincoln logs. I literally fell in-love-at-first-site and ran to give him a hug. Later that day I told my mom, “When I grow up i’m going to marry Andrew!” and she thought that was the sweetest thing. Of course, it didn’t work out that way, but we still talk. he is married and has two lovely boys of his own now. We were BFFs all through elementary school and I never hid my sexuality or emotions from him or anyone growing up.
A later and more funny story is that in high school I thought I was out but could never get a date from other boys in my school. Then a year after high school I ran into one of the guys I kept asking out and he was shocked to see me in a gay club! I asked him, “Don’t you remember me asking you out all the time?!?” to which he replied, “Yes, but I thought you were just trying to be cool by having a gay friend.” I was like, “How does that make me cool?” and “Why didn’t you think i was gay?” And I remember his answer to this day: “But you were into punk and rock music!”
How does being queer effect your work, if at all?
I’m really not sure. Perhaps the ability to be flirtatious with both men and women is a benefit in business but I’m a humanist at my core, and believe that there are so many examples of exceptions to every rule that I really do shun from generalizations. Honestly, it seems that I am an exception in the industrial design world as a homosexual (I don’t like the word “gay” at all) and sexuality has really rarely ever come up in regards to my work.
In your mind, what should gay pride be and how would you celebrate it?
This is the most complicated question for me to answer. Intellectually I understand how important Gay Pride is in a world where homosexuals are routinely discriminated against, but I also believe that one should only be proud of their accomplishments. Being gay in-and-of itself should not be a source of pride anymore than being black, white, Jewish, American etc. I want to see gay pride celebrated in the context of the whole human family, not as sexuality, and I know this view is often misinterpreted by the mainstream gay culture. Not to back-track, but I like to celebrate the memory and legacies of people like Alan Turing to show the world that bigotry against homosexuals has real consequence, and that gays have made contributions that without, modern society would simply not exist. I do envision a world where we can all just be proud to be humans without all these labels.