“Greetings world! My first name is Danielle, from my dear Mother at birth, & my adopted last name is Diamond, gifted from me to me in 2022.
The gift was in celebration of what’s been an incredible journey of transformation, not that the process is complete, (we are in a constant sea of change,) but because I have come to a place of relative stability in my presentation after many years of turbulence.
Here’s my ‘inner story’ to flesh out the career-based bios on my websites, to give you a better idea of why I am offering conscious fashion styling & costume therapy based workshops. I’m creating a healing opportunity that I would have loved to encounter a decade ago.
Let us Begin:
What I know to be true for my life is that when my inner world shifts, so must my outer appearance & visa versa, forever. In my story, my inner and outer worlds have been doing an un-choreographed partner dance where the songs keep changing at random and the dance floor is on a steep angle.
I was an honour roll student with an award in theatrical arts & taking pre-professional dance training. I had almost zero self-esteem & a relentless, militant inner critic.
These darker aspects were all hidden behind waist length blonde hair, a confident attitude and an unhealthy obsession with Jesus.
Yes, Jesus. I wanted to be his favorite.
I had been following the Christin Church my entire life, and as a teenager with invisible mental health issues I thrived in it’s safe & controlled environment.
I clung tightly to their dogma since my abusive & alcoholic father left the family somewhere around age 10, and after attending a Pentecostal youth convention in the 9th grade, the church became my entire life line & identity.
Post high-school, after year of intensive theological college (which I took instead of pursuing a career in dance because no one told me I was good enough,) three important things happened: I was stood up on a second date by an older man who had stolen my virginity on our first date, I read Dan Brown’s DaVinci code, and I left a repressive religious practice which was home to me for the past 20 years.
I moved away from my hometown of Abbotsford into the big city of Vancouver & found myself in a sea of chaos: Which began first thing every morning morning in my closet, and ended every night, at the bar.
Although I’ve always been an avid dressr-upper, I had learned to choose ‘daily dress’ outfits that represented me as a good Christian, a prospective wife of a preacher, and a NICE GIRL who wanted to help people find their way to God. Now I found myself, NEEDING to be seen as someone new but the problem was, I had no clue WHO I was.
Over the next decade I struggled and fought with what felt like thousands of different identities. I started as a night club queen. After a sexual assault case which ‘he’ won, I dropped out of film school & started working as a promotional model & gogo dancer. 8 inch heels and tiny dresses were my go-to until that no longer ‘felt’ right.
I then discovered I was gay. I came out of the closet and on my way out I tossed thousands of dollars of feminine clothes shoes & accessories into the garbage.
I spent months debating if I was trans, decided I wasn’t, tried instead to ‘dress like a dyke,’ needing to look gay enough to be accepted in the gay bar, but still didn’t feel like myself.
I became a drag queen & felt accepted & powerful for a moment. Glamorous when I performed femininity and sad when took it off at the end of the night.
I felt awkward at all other times, adopting a go fuck yourself attitude & aggressive fashion style, fighting with anyone outside the scene who spoke to me or gave me any attention in regards to how I was dressed.
After struggles in the queer community & running from what was starting to become a full-on drug addiction, I became interested in the spiritual community. Naturally I tried to dress like I belonged at those ‘gatherings’ but I found it extra hard to fake it there.
I started cutting myself off from anything social other then performing and poured myself into my work at the costume shop. I struggled to find a non-binary balance in my style (enby was a brand new thing at this time) and I retaliated against anyone referring to me with she/her pronouns.
I basically retaliated against anything that used binary gender terms, and life was exhausting. Just claiming ‘Enby’ felt like a full time job and this retaliation was beginning to affect my career.
I had struggled silently all those years while developing a lucrative career in the fashion industry, managing a full time business & expanding my portfolio as a costume-based performance artist.
On social media I claimed my ever changing style as my power and never confessed how much shame and confusion I felt every it shifted.
This identity crisis continued until I came face to face with the privilege of Western Style during my oneway ticket trip to Central America.
It was a dramatic act to reclaim myself after admitting sometime in the previous year that that although my life looked fine from the outside, I was in deep depression, with heightened levels of anxiety & a reliable habit of substance abuse to keep the feels at bay.
(Looking back now perhaps I should have tried therapy, but at that point I didn’t think any therapist was complex enough to understand me.)
So there I was, circa 2017 after giving away all my belongings & quitting my job, walking the streets of Lanquin, Guatemala in my ‘do not call me she/her’ attire, experiencing the same catcalling & creeping that I would have expected if I was presented as feminine!
It was then I realized that I wasn’t trying to escape my gender. I was trying to escape the gender-based violence and micro-agressions in my life. Making it a gender issue instead of facing the reality that my self-worth issues were creating for me.
This realization began my 5 year deep healing process which started by confronting my inner fuck boy & inner patriarch.
Once I got a handle on how I was creating my own inner violence, I had to tackle my fear of not belonging. I had to realize that no amount of wardrobe perfection was going to get people to accept me, and that finding my own self-acceptance was where I needed to start.
On my style journey ‘back home,’ I began with small steps like letting myself wear lipstick again, and moved gradually into combining all elements of style that I enjoy into a complementary fusion which is now my current visual signature.
Starting working in the film industry helped me flex my leadership muscles & grow the self-worth that I so badly needed. The more work I did in the area of self-love, forgiveness & acceptance, the more my style choices began to feel more ‘me.’
I was finding myself & it was uncomfortable, slow-going but in the end, really rewarding.
I still struggle some days at accepting that as a unique & one-of-a-kind individual, I will probably never belong to a group of humans who look & act like me.
My teacher Tien Ne Amos will tell you that it’s an ancient survival skill to assimilate and belong to a tribe. This skill is no longer necessary in our current advanced civilization. You will not be shot by an arrow head if you walk across a social boundary dressed the ‘wrong’ way. Though I understand what it feels like to think that.
My journey has been unique as all of ours are but the main line here is that I KNOW what it feels like to sob in front of the closet, then again in front of the mirror, and walk out of the house feeling like you are in the wrong body. Or that nobody understands you.
This is why I am offering sessions as a conscious personal stylist, and doing the research to design a self-development workshop based in what I call costume therapy.
I feel like the world will change if we all came to a place in our lives where we WEAR what makes us feel ALIVE.
Thanks to everyone who I came across on my path of self-awareness, to those who lifted me up AND those who tore me down. You are all my teachers and you helped me fight for my inner freedom.”
Danielle Diamond, previously known as Dani Barnes, is by trade a costume designer and by calling, a transformational coach & multidisciplinary creative visionary. Danielle offers her healing arts to the world through her reclaimed fashion design House of Regalia & in her developing practice in the world of costume therapy. These offerings are as a culmination of 15 year’s work in both the private and public sectors of the fashion/costume industry.