Lily and I often joke that after we cover every city and town across the globe, our final Stylelikeu shoot will feature the Maasai tribe, because of their embodiment of soulful dressing. Trae could be a close second to these semi-nomadic Kenyans – her depth of thinking and its spiritual style manifestation constitutes an undeniably compelling force. When you are in her presence, the turbans, piles of rustic, indigenous jewels and layers of rich fabrics command attention and you can sense the heritage of a long line of noble, strong women who were “blunt, to the point and fearless.”
Trae’s tattoo of three indigo parallel bands around her wrist is a subtle yet potent symbol with multiple layers of significance. The number three is a “God number in Supreme Mathematics,” she says, and it signifies knowledge, wisdom and over-standing, “that ultimate ‘a-ha’ moment when you truly, fully see.” Trae got the tattoo to remind herself that the only way to get ahead in life is to delve within and gain full understanding. The tattoo symbolizes a rite of passage in manifesting her own destiny, which she feels is to travel, perform, and write (she is a performance artist and poet) with few earthly obstacles or attachments.
Trae says, “In order to grow, you have to look back.” Her mesmerizing use of face paint is not so different from the women of the Indian, African and Middle Eastern diasporas, whom she has been studying in order to retrace her roots.
Traditionally, the paint was used to tell stories, but for Trae, it is a spiritual practice that centers her and “pulls a lot of things together.” During our time together, I learned that the stretching of one’s lobes with earring plugs like Trae’s wooden ones is a West African ritualistic practice of overcoming what the physical body can endure by remaining present despite any discomfort.
Trae’s extensive travels have informed her that people have more commonalities than differences and her clothing reflects her insatiable passion for various cultures and their archetypes. Her stage name is Set, the male deity known for his satanic, dark energy, and Tep, for the balance towards the light. Trae explains this duality of energy, stating, “You can’t have the light before the dark. One has to accept all sides of oneself in order to move forward.”