Zakk d’Larté is a graphic designer specializing in digital design and multimedia marketing. However, through some difficult life experiences he has also found a purpose to be an advocate and catalyst for difference.
I grew up in Birkdale on the North Shore where I attended Birkenhead College and it was pretty much the worst time of my life. I quickly learned that people like me can’t go prancing through those areas and not expect to suffer the consequences. However, I’d always had it in my head that if I refused to suppress myself and was proud and confident, eventually people would learn to love and accept me.
I was beaten, teased, bullied and constantly laughed at by my peers. I was confused, scared and often terrified of my future, and of disappointing my family. I didn’t know who or what I was, and saw no hope of me succeeding in life. I wasn’t seeing people like myself reflected at my school, at the mall, anywhere in my community and I felt so alone.
Nobody understood me and I was ridiculed by the students for my aspirations and dreams. It was that stereotypical scene from a movie, and I was that loser kid. I was a good student though and that gained the respect of the school staff. However, even though I had their respect, they wouldn’t let me bring my partner of three years to the Ball with me, and instead was suggested that him and I “attend with girls and then hang out after entering the venue”. I refused to go unless I could bring him, hoping my ultimatum would change their minds, but to no avail resulting in missing out on my school prom experience.
I was constantly constrained and pressured into being something that I really wasn’t and that I’m still not to this day.
At 17, I left the Shore and got an apartment in the heart of Auckland CBD. Only then did I really begin to learn who I was and what I wanted to achieve in my life. I met the most amazingly weird people who are now my best friends in the world, and never looked back.
Growing up gay, I never had a strong support system in place and desperately wanted an idol that I could look up to and know that it would get better and that I should continue being myself, but I never found anyone like that until I was much older. I was discovering myself during a quiet time for queer acceptance. I’d missed Madonna and Elton John promoting equality and supporting the LGBTI+ community, but it was before there were things like RuPaul’s Drag Race and the new wave of pop stars advocating for us were yet to arrive on the scene.
I now pull inspiration from three of my favourite gender-bending stars, David Bowie, Grace Jones and Lady Gaga. My entire life I’ve known that I didn’t connect with societal norms and I was petrified that my constant failures at trying to fit into the world would mean I would never be a success. These three icons have always spread messages of self-acceptance and promoted the idea that it’s okay to be an outcast or what society deems a “freak”. They helped me feel like I had a purpose and made me realise that I didn’t need to conform any longer, nor did I need to desperately try and fit the mould that society was vigorously attempting to squeeze me into.
Now, I regularly get messages from people thanking me for inspiring them, and that means the absolute world to me. Maybe one day I can be the idol to someone that I always wanted to have myself.
When I was 18, I changed my last name to d’Larté which roughly translates to ‘the art of’ in French. It’s not accurate, (L’art de), but I was playing with the spelling and fell in love. There are too many rules and restrictions in life, but when it comes to art — there are no limits. I want to make my life a sort of art piece, and now my name literally means ‘The Art of Zakk’.
I identify as androgynous and gender fluid and envision myself differently by the day. Some days I feel like having “a boy day” in a singlet and shorts, while other times I feel like getting all glam and putting on platform heels and makeup. I also love transforming elements that are stereotypically masculine and putting a new feminine twist on them.
I’m subject to plenty of misconceptions and confusion about my gender fluidity, not only by the general public, but from my own community too. I often have to explain how it’s is not the same as being trans* nor a drag queen, but it takes a lot to offend me so I’m always happy to correct and/or educate. I’m excited that more and more people are feeling comfortable identifying themselves as non-binary. The ideology that there are only two genders with no overlap is breaking down.
Sometimes I still get nervous about accidentally misgendering someone or using the wrong pronouns, and so I tend to greet everyone by saying “Hey Queen!” — I’m yet to meet someone who got offended! #LifeHacks
One of my passions is to help raise visibility for androgynous and gender non-conforming people, by educating the public and bringing attention to the issues that our communities face. This led me to joining the Auckland Pride Festival Board in 2016.
I pride myself as being a young person with conviction and vision to impact change and empower youth around the world to take a stand in their communities. I endeavour to provide opportunities that will inspire the younger members of our community to be active and evoke change.
We are currently in the middle of the sixth Auckland Pride Festival and it is so refreshing to have Auckland’s Rainbow communities coming together to celebrate our unique mix of cultures, sexualities and gender identities in New Zealand’s most super-diverse city!
If you haven’t already, check out www.aucklandpride.org.nz and see what’s on that appeals to you!
In the future I hope to develop my business, d’Larté Designs (www.zakkdlarte.com), into a fully functioning machine. I’d love to have my claws in a few different aspects of design and potentially explore fashion as another creative outlet. I want to push the ideas of self-love and self-acceptance in others, and continue to push the boundaries with androgyny. Although my journey so far has not been a smooth one, I am grateful for the path that I have been lucky enough to take and for the lessons that I have learnt along the way.
It took years of struggling to find myself and find a sense of belonging in this world, and now that I’ve discovered myself, I’m not afraid to show the world exactly who I am. I’ll finish with a quote by the legendary late David Bowie; “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”