RED AS A CHARACTER STUDY: Femme, Queerness & Power

AN INTROSPECTIVE LOOK AT THE COLOR RED AND ANANYA’S POETRY: An article Collaboration with Ana Teixeira and Ananya Pandya

Ana: When Ananya had first entered my mind, I saw her as a hammer smashing against heteronormativity’s guidelines. She was a strong reminder of the importance of defiance and solidarity to the femme. The exchange of girlhood and rebellion is a present theme in her art that there is no other way to capture her essence than to understand the power in softness; an emotion that Ananya most associated with her favorite color red. The color serves as a warning, but also a nostalgic presence to her memories growing up with red. 

Being gruesomely unapproachable is the highest level of achievement, established on the elevator on the way to take these photographs. We discussed how we are perceived as women, and how the violence we face daily causes us to resist in all aspects. To the point where our energetic demeanours have to create a force field to keep those with evil intentions away. The color red serves as vitality, like a glowing heated iron set to burn, we strive to be too dangerous to touch. 

Ananya: After Ana Teixeira and I finished the photoshoot in the apartment building, the sun began to set so I packed up my stuff and planned to leave before it got too dark. Ana waved goodbye to me as I walked out of the building, and they exclaimed “You are very beautiful and unapproachable!” That was a good-luck charm, a protection spell, and it carried me home through the subway. I always feel safe knowing that I am seen and loved by queer people. 

To Ana,

thank you for believing in me.

Thank you for seeing my beauty and my weirdness.

We stepped outside to take a couple pictures during the photoshoot and I leaned against a fence for a picture. There were men walking, watching, not quite circling, but still seeing me and trying to seep in me. I am 19 years old and I am much better at protecting my womanhood now. I know the male gaze does not equal being seen. I know being looked at does not equal being loved. When I used to pretend I wasn’t gay I would kiss men for their eyes. CIS men’s eyes are very powerful. They aim to take, they aim to rewrite. I wanted my queerness to be erased when I was 17 years old because I didn’t know Indian girls could be gay.

So when I was 17 years old I used to lean against fences and be watched by men. I just wanted to be loved, loved, loved. See me, see me, see me. 

During the photoshoot Ana said, “I don’t like the male gaze here,” and we moved to a different location for the picture.

This photoshoot is precious to me because it captures being 19, being a divine woman, brown nipples and red armor. I hope when you see these pictures and the poetry attached to them, you see me moving. I choose to move with rage, with red, in these photos. 


Ananya: Red reflects the intensity I feel, and the intensity of which I live my life. I cry a lot because I care about myself. My eyes turn puffy red and I can see myself in a softer light. I scrape my elbows when skateboarding and my elbows turn brown to red. Red is always in my heart, under my skin. I am a brown girl but I am always burning, burning, burning internally. 


I belong to the red of India but I also belong to New Jersey and the red-brick apartment buildings I was breastfed on. I belong to India but I also belong to wearing too much makeup at 13 years old, my ugly red lipstick always caught in my braces. My roots are bad grades and big red F’s and extravagant outfits and my heart burning in high school detention. Red is always mine, has always been mine, wherever I go. Shout out the red-purple viscera I was born in. 


I just look at all the hair on my body and I am grateful. My ancestry has really blessed me here. All my sweet brown aunties have mustaches, long sideburns, and droopy bellies protected in black hair. My hairiness is deeply affirming to my queerness. I didnt know queer Indian people could exist because I didn’t know or see any “out” queer Indians growing up. But, I always knew hair. 

Little indian girls with thick unibrows and mustaches. My own little sweet brown childhood self with hairy legs and the arms of an uncle. I remember deeply admiring my older cousin Aatmaja, who had the hairiest fucking arms and never shaved them. White kids would call her a gorilla at her middle school and I loved her a lot. I just remember the hair. Her mustache. The inherent queerness brought to us through our brownness. 

When I was around 18, I told her I thought I was gay because she was the only Indian person I knew would understand. She said she was gay too, and that she knew I would understand because our arms looked the same. 


I remember the pain of pretending to be a straight woman. I wasn’t eating enough and boys would live on my boobs and I always felt like I was on fire. I thought I liked boys but it was because I really liked how they were allowed to move through the world. I liked how their bodies were allowed to slump, stretch, take up space with their legs. I thought I liked boys but I really liked how they fought. I thought I liked boys but I really liked how they skated. 

I know what I like and I know what I am. Resisting heteronormativity is the consequence of this knowing.


I trust violence a lot. My violence is righteous and girly. My violence demands to be listened to. I will never not fight back against the things that crush me and my friends. Transphobia, racism, misogynoir, and homophobia often cannot be eliminated through calm discussion. 

The femmes I look up to choose violence every day in order to best protect themselves. I’m violent when necessary, I’m a mean girl, always. You cannot cross these boundaries. 

Ananya just released her zine Brown Sugar that the poem is featured in, check it out here.


Model & Poetry: Ananya Pandya @jesuswasajock

Photographer & Creative Director: Ana Paula Teixeira @tayshayra

Nails: Astrid Curet @iamcuretnails


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