With the help of UBE, Joshwae Anderson is overcoming obstacles on his road to success

Joshwae-1DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Joshwae Anderson had long dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. So he moved to Dallas from Tyler to attend Wade College, the school for merchandising and design located in Infomart. But until he enrolled in Wade, he had no formal training.

“I should have taken home ec in high school,” Anderson acknowledged. Instead, he took shop with the other boys and learned welding.

A few years ago, though, Anderson’s interest in fashion grew too strong to ignore. He taught himself how to create patterns and how to cut out garment pieces then sew them together by watching videos on YouTube. And he decided to pursue fashion as a career. So he moved to Dallas.

To save money, his wife and daughter stayed behind in Tyler and moved in with a friend, while Anderson made plans to live with a friend in Dallas. But the housing plan didn’t work out for him.

So Anderson turned to Wade College for help in finding housing options. But just as he arrived in Dallas in January 2015, the college’s staffer assisting with housing quit his job and wasn’t replaced.

Since he really didn’t know anyone else in Dallas, Anderson turned to a smartphone app. He met someone on Jack’d who offered him a room at his house. Anderson stayed there for a short while, but that arrangement didn’t work out either.

Neither did any of the other arrangements he tried to make over the next year. Some were worse than others.

“One guy put me out after a week,” Anderson said. Not only did the guy put Anderson out after a week, he also called the police to make sure Anderson left. The man also refused to refund any of the money Anderson had paid, in cash, upfront.

Without cash, Anderson lived in his car for several weeks.

Another potential landlord wanted a relationship, but that’s not what Anderson was interested in. Such situations aren’t unusual, said Jalenzski Brown, program coordinator for United Black Ellument.

“I’ve [helped] guys who’ve been put out because they didn’t put out,” Brown noted.

As he battled in Dallas to keep his dreams alive, Anderson found himself in a long-distance battle on the homefront, too.

Anderson explained that his father was a preacher and he grew up in a very religious home. So even though he had known for awhile that he was attracted to men, he didn’t see living as a gay man as an option.

Anderson added that from the beginning of their relationship, his wife had known he was attracted to men. It was something neither of them fully comprehended.

“I was always attracted to men, but didn’t understand the depth of that and what she couldn’t give me,” he said. And for his wife’s part, he said,

“Instead of helping me come out of that, she accused me of sleeping with men. I wasn’t. I was faithful. I wanted to be with her.”

Even though “I really did love her,” Anderson said of his wife, their marriage ended in divorce.

Through it all, Anderson remained focused on his goal of making a career for himself in fashion, and he stayed in school. He wasn’t going to be deterred no matter what his housing situation.

To make ends meet, he worked at a church as a musician. And he began a fashion business on the side.

As a custom clothing designer, Anderson began making shirts, bow ties, dresses and accessories for clients. He acquired a sewing machine, a serger, tables and a variety of notions.

It looked like things were going his way — until the day he walked outside after getting a haircut, and his car was gone. “I couldn’t keep up with the note,” Anderson said, explaining why the car was repossessed.

And then he lost his place to stay — again — and had to put his sewing equipment into storage.

In July, Anderson happened to meet Brown at a birthday party. The host had invited Brown to attend the party to present his safe-sex HIV prevention talks for those attending.

Brown said UBE’s goal is to raise HIV awareness among young, black bi and gay guys in an effort to reduce the rate of HIV transmission. The group started as a social support group, Brown said, but to be effective, they had to meet people where they were. And that means dealing with all of concerns — jobs, health, housing, transportation and more.

Joshwae-4Because most people don’t come to UBE’s Deep Ellum meeting space, Brown said, UBE will go to them whenever and wherever they can. That’s how he ended up speaking at the party and meeting Anderson.

Anderson and Brown kept in touch online and reconnected in October. Brown saw someone working hard to stay in school, but running into all sorts of obstacles, and he wanted to help.

“How can UBE leverage our resources to help him to his goal?” Brown asked himself. In January he came up with the answer: UBE was having a fashion show in February, and they needed a lead designer.

Anderson brought his sewing machines, tables and notions out of storage and set them up in an unused room in UBE’s Commerce Street space. He got to work designing. With only a few weeks left before the event, Anderson started training other people at UBE to cut and stitch and piece fabric together to create his fashions.

Within a week and a half of beginning work, Anderson had sold a custom collection of 15 pieces in the process of working on the fashion show.

Also as a result of working on the fashion show, Anderson found stable housing. And, Brown added, “he created some awesome fashion. The show put so many eyes on him.”

At the show, held at Quixotic World Theater on Main Street in Deep Ellum, Anderson sold out his collection and gained some new clients. He’s been finding others on Facebook and Instagram.

He named his collection Hidden, a name inspired by his personal life.

While his business is just starting, Anderson’s education continues. He’ll graduate from Wade at the end of the year, and he credits the school with teaching him more than pattern-making, textiles and sketching. He said he learned time management from them. “They’re fast-paced,” he said.

He said the school encouraged him to get involved and to network, things he never realized would be necessary components of creating a new business.

While he remains focused on his goal of finishing school this year, Anderson said he is proud of inspiring a couple of guys who helped him put together the fashion show to pursue fashion careers on their own.
Anderson also gives plenty of credit to UBE for helping him be who he has become.

“UBE gave me a way to be comfortable about myself without judgement,” he said. “They embraced me and helped me embrace who I am — as a designer I’m creating things I never thought of before.”

And, he adds, “I’ve never been happier.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 1, 2016.