At school, I liked using pink for writing and stuff.
But I also liked wearing blue. It was kind of confusing. Discovering these things about myself and accepting myself for them was very important for me.
I was about 13 years old when I would wear nail polish to school. Other kids were, like, “what the fuck — what is this?” They bounced me for a bit, saying “you need to see a shrink” and stuff like that.
It was a struggle and a very exhausting process.
At some point I thought, “maybe I do need to go to a shrink”. Later I thought, “no, this is the way I am”. But it took me years.
The first time I wore lipstick was at a Gay Pride in Johannesburg. On my way to that Pride — my first ever — I bought this gorgeous red lipstick. I tried it on in the shop and immediately it was like there was some kind of click inside me. I was, like, “yes!” I kept that red lipstick until I got back here to Maputo.
One night, there was some party here and I told my friends I’m going to wear my lipstick. That was 2010 and Mozambique was really not queer-friendly then, so they were, like, “no, you can’t”. But I did it. I put on that red lipstick, looked at myself in the mirror and said: “Fuck this shit; this is me.”
And you know, I felt so empowered. People were looking at me, like, “oh my God, he is wearing lipstick”. But I thought, “no, I want this”.
I did it because I listened to my heart. That was the moment I really, truly came to accept myself. — Frank Lileza, as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian