Who Do They Think They Are?

“She’s always got somebody waiting.”

Photo: Ruvan Wijesooriya
Photo: Ruvan Wijesooriya

Every day, we put out into the world a version of how we want to be seen — and, of course, we’re always misunderstood. In our “Judgments” photo project, we’re asking strangers on the streets of New York City to size each other up.

Obiani (above)

“She’s fun, definitely likes fashion. She’s got it. She sleeps late, and she goes out late. She’s a dumper and always breaks up with her men. It’s because she’s always got somebody waiting.” —Tia, 60

“Lawyer. Maybe she’s single, but goes on a couple dates a week.” —Roxanna, 22

“She has a good personality, you can tell. Maybe she’s trying to be an actress, works at one of those restaurants where you dance on the tables. Stardust Diner.” —Hailey, 20

“I go by Obiani because I embrace my African roots. I am an eternal student of the ages; I’m a dancer in contemporary, ballet, and African — and Voguing, as I am a member of House of LaBeija, the Voguing house. I’m a model, too, and a singer. At the moment, I am staying in Soho. I grew up in England my entire life and went to university in Houston, and now I’m in New York.

“It depends, really, about being an immediate ‘dumper.’ That’s what I should be more like, really, especially with men in New York. So I love that guess. That’s something I’m coming into: standing strong on my own two feet, and not allowing any man to make me feel undesirable. I love connecting with people on very deep levels because I’m very passionate about spirituality, energy, understanding, the love that radiates within, the life-force — and of course dance, music, and how being in the physical form makes us divine. Those are the clothes that I wear; they’re very regal and fashionable and fabulous. I love being fabulous, and I believe everyone should strive to be as fabulous as they possibly can be, every day, and that is it.”

Jessica Boddy, Emma Grillo, and Sarah Nechamkin contributed reporting. On set production by Jean Jarvis.

Who Do They Think They Are?