Girl Experimental

Written by Kimstelle Merisma

Photography by Khatima Bulmer

Models: Mithsuca Berry and Bev J

When I was younger, I was a DIY baby through and through. Any free moment and access to the internet I had was spent looking up how I could craft things with my hands: doll outfits out of my old clothes, jewelry organizers out of plastic containers and duct tape, miniature furniture for my Littlest Pet Shops out of empty tissue boxes, makeup out of crayons—you name it. I made virtually anything that the internet promised I could with things I had at home. YouTubers like MyFroggyStuff and LaurDIY convinced me that whatever I wanted—and with whatever I had— I could make it myself. And boy, did I believe them. Very quickly, though, I realized that my love for art didn’t end with the crafts I could make. The resourcefulness I had for art projects started to bleed into all of my other interests. I became enthralled with the idea of being an artist of  many capacities— a visual artist, a writer, a singer, a musician, a performer and more. I wanted to be good with words as much as I wanted to be good with a paintbrush. I wanted to succeed as a singer as much as I wanted to succeed as an actor. I wanted to be everything. I wanted to experiment. I was desperate to do everything I had even a remote interest in, and I would be lying if I said some, if not all, of these things weren’t still true of me today. 









Fast forward to today, I’ve come to the realization that the attitudes I had towards art– the hunger, the resourcefulness, the desire to be multi-talented— are all things that have shaped me and continue to shape me today. This desire to experiment with all of my interests and dive into multiple avenues of expression is something that has not left me, not for a second. And I can’t help but think about how these qualities not only influenced my approach to artistry but also informed my queerness. The word that comes to mind is metamorphosis. Among all the ideas and random shit I was making in my room, I was also making me. Beneath the tattered pieces of fabric and pages ripped out of my notebook, I was discovering who I was and what I liked, as well as what I was and who I liked. While I was on the floor of my childhood bedroom and accidentally gluing my fingers together with hot glue and getting glitter under my fingernails, I was becoming. 

I had the honor of meeting and interviewing two queer Haitian artists I admire: costume designer and fashion artist Beverly Joseph and visual artist and storyteller Mithsuca Berry. I got to ask them about their experimental childhoods and how they’ve informed both of  their identities and artistries today. They had beautiful, insightful things to say about their childhood obsessions, their Haitian upbringings and their queer discoveries.  


Beverly was born and raised in Haiti and lived there until they moved to New York City at the age of nine. Two words Beverly uses to describe themself are versatile and adaptable. While talking about their favorite pastimes in childhood, they recalled not having access to a wide range of toys but making do with what they had. (A common thread for Haitian kids, huh?) She spoke about how, like me, she had a lot of fixations in her youth and experimented with several hobbies such as writing, reading, illustrating, coloring with their mom’s lipsticks and eventually finding a love for fashion. Along with these various hobbies, something else that drove Beverly’s upbringing was her curiosity. They recalled how, in their youth, they were often told that they were too rebellious in the way they asked questions and spoke out against people’s expectations of them. These expectations, especially for a young Haitian girl, included academic success, staying in line with gender norms, and making their family proud. Beverly felt there was a limited space where they could just be, with all of their true colors, ideas, and curiosity. “It is important to find a way to turn inward and find the space for yourself,” Beverly shared. With all of these themes of creativity, defiance, and inquisitiveness within her childhood, I asked Beverly how she finds these pieces translating into her adulthood now. She explained that she no longer second guesses her judgment and sense: “I don’t have that fear that it’s not going to work. It might not happen exactly as I envisioned it but it’s going to work. I have this inherent childhood innocence that says there is no such thing as ‘things don’t work.’” It put a smile on my face to hear that Beverly’s resilient spirit and confidence has only emboldened since childhood. 


Mithsuca’s two words to describe themself were transformative—like a chameleon, they emphasized—and spiritual. They immediately expanded on what they meant by spiritual: “[a] desire to know more and question what I’ve been taught; thinking about what the meaning of existence is and developing that has made me spiritual.” Like Beverly, Mithsuca was also called rebellious and overly curious as a kid. They described how they often questioned why people did or believed certain things and the response, specifically from older people in their life, was to reprimand that curiosity. We discussed how our elders, in all of their scolding of our questions, most likely had the same ones but chose to stay silent about their own confusion and instead, reprehend ours. I loved getting to hear about Mithsuca’s attitude towards being open to new ideas and ways of thinking: “Like, shake something up a little bit!” They also mentioned that, as a kid, because they spent so much time in their room, they had a lot of time to be alone and to create things. “The socio-economic status of my family […] ultimately resulted in me spending a lot of time making things and having the space to just be a kid but in a very isolated sense. I was able to protect a lot of my creativity and innocence throughout that experience because I always had these bubbles where I could talk to myself and, and just make things,” they shared. I was surprised to see this theme of being in our rooms and creating ourselves in our rooms repeatedly come up for Beverly, Mithsuca and myself. While thinking about how elements of their childhood have carried into their adulthood, Mithsuca reflected on their place in the world and how they’ve constantly had to think about how they can change the old-fashioned practices: “If all of these places are being modeled after systems that are really old and are really exclusive, inherently everything that I have to do is like an experiment for myself. How do I freak it? How do I make an opportunity that may not exist right now? Like within my reach, out of thin air.” Both Mithsuca and Beverly’s determination to challenge outdated norms and create unique opportunities for themselves to be their truest selves is a testament to the resourcefulness, adaptability and perseverance that is embedded in the three of us and Haitian kids everywhere. 


Both artists spoke about their queer and Haitian identities as inextricable, highlighting that their experiences in the world are shaped by both identities simultaneously. Beverly and Mithsuca shared the parts of Haitian culture that continue to influence their lives, inspire their artistry and shape their existences. Beverly spoke specifically about how developing their relationship with Haitian culture and traditions such as Carnival made them develop a deeper connection to fashion. They shared, “I restructured my relationship with Carnival and the voice it gave women to participate in that; how the culture of Haitian fashion came about and how it came about as a destruction of colonial structure.” They acknowledged that embedded within Haitian culture is a long history of anti-colonialism, rebellion and radical expression that they, naturally, feel those same things within themself. Beverly also spoke to how being Haitian in America is inherently a queer experience. Though a lot of their identity is formed by their experience in the United States, nothing can take away the parts of their heritage that are embedded in who they are. They shared a poetic sentiment about their Haitian-American identity: “Brooklyn, New York, USA, hood adjacent— all of that is where I am and I color it in with who I am.“ Mithsuca, similarly, finds an intrinsic quality of Haitian people to be their scrappiness and craftyness. We had an insightful conversation about how for most of Haiti’s history, spanning from the Revolution to the 2010 earthquake to the recent assassination of Haiti’s president, Haitian people have had to constantly recover drastically and start from scratch. “I’ve always seen Haitians as very crafty people, you know, stretching things whether that be money, clothes or something,” they expressed. In sharing their deep connections to their Haitian identities and the intricate interplay of queerness, resilience, and rebellion, Beverly and Mithsuca illuminated the richness and complexity of their cultural heritage and how it has always showed up in their existences.

Through my interviews with Beverly and Mithsuca, I was able to put my own Haitian upbringing and queer experience against the backdrops of theirs and I realized that there are some Haitian experiences that are truly universal. Both of these multi-talented artists provided beautiful anecdotes and insights about intricate intersections of their identities and the way creativity, resistance and resilience have followed them from childhood to now, bleeding into their artistry, queerness, and cultural identity. The existence of these queer Haitian individuals, including myself, and all of our unwavering desires to be our truest selves is the essence of Haitians. It took me far too long—twenty-one years, to be exact—to embrace the ways in which my Haitian-American identity and my queerness have always existed in tandem. This discovery was largely made possible by the conversations I had with these two individuals so Beverly and Mithsuca, thank you.