The first memory that Richie Shazam had was when she wore her first pair of heels in Paris. After growing up with a gender dysphoria as a child of Guyana immigrant parents in Queens, New York, she remembered that suddenly wearing heels made her connect with her body in a way she had never experienced before.
The moment was immortalized in Shazam’s first short film. SavitriNamed after her mother, who died when Shazam was in high school. Shazam has made a name for herself as a model and photographer, so when Converse called her to work on a movie about her life and her “found family,” she knew it was time to venture into something new.
“Visual arts have always been my passion, and I find strength in expressing myself in my truest form,” Shazam told In The Know. “Producing this film has been a healing experience for me; celebrating my journey, where I come from and who I want to be next has really allowed me to open up in new ways.”
Savitri It debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival and was really a love letter to Shazam’s mother as well as the found Shazam family, whom she all met after her mother’s death.
Found families are a valuable safety net within the LGTBQ community. According to research by the Pew Center, adults who identify as LGBTQ still feel stigmatized, and 39% of those interviewed said they had been rejected by a close friend or family member because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. About 40% of homeless youth are LGBTI.
“The families that were found are an integral part of the experiences of many people in the queer community,” Shazam explained. “I found my family when I found the strength to be myself, and my family was an essential part of building my identity, focusing love above everything else. I don’t know if I would be here without my found family supporting me every day.”
After Shazam’s mother dies, Shazam finds herself more lonely than ever. Her father wasn’t the warm, receptive character his wife was, and Shazam described how there would be nights where she would ride the subway for hours to avoid coming home.
Actress Julia Fox was one of the first members of the Shazam family to be found, along with designer Briana Andalore, and as of 2021, Shazam partner, Ben Draghi. But Fox, Shazam, and Andalor have not been separated since they were teenagers, and in the film, Shazam describes locking eyes with the other two and knowing that she has found her people. Fox and Andalor were there that night in Paris when Shazam first wore her heels. The trio sat together at the board after the movie premiere Savitri It seems that he did not stop holding the hands of others.
“My biggest hope for viewers… is that they will see that every journey is worth taking,” Shazam said.
Fox, who has been Shazam’s best friends since they were teenagers, asked Shazam after the premiere what her mother would think—about the film and about identifying Shazam as a non-binary and female presenter. Shazam told a cute story about how her mom snuck her $20 to go to dance lessons that her dad didn’t approve of – she was always supportive.
“There is a family for everyone, and love, care, acceptance, and support are at your fingertips when you find the courage and freedom to be yourself,” Shazam said. “Also, I want people to know that when given the right opportunities and resources, women of color can make something magical.”
The first pair of high-heeled shoes for Richie Shazam appeared in her first short film “Savitree” on In The Know.
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