Growing to love oneself is a journey for most anyone. But this was especially the truth for Jerrod La Rue when he was a boy growing up in Palmdale, California. Despite having a loving pair of parents, others designated him as being gay before he even had a concept of his own sexuality. By the team he reached high school, he was dodging violence for being bisexual as well as for being Black.
Like too many other children who forgo their education because of anti-gay bulling, Jerrod dropped out of high school. He sought refuge in gaming and staying close to home, but he realized that a pastime of his parents rooted him to his family, his culture, and ultimately to his freedom.
The self-proclaimed “professional plant parent” and plant consultant says he was surrounded by greenery as a youngster. “I grew up around it,” La Rue explains, “My dad grew vegetables and my mom just loved houseplants. We didn’t come from a lot, but we grew watermelon, tomatoes, squash, peppers, just so much that we could eat and enjoy. And then I’d come in and mom had plants inside, so I was always surrounded by this nature.”
Little did La Rue realize that the environment he grew up around and didn’t think much about would round out his professional life in a few years. The model and photographer says that making plants another vocation was second nature. “I was working with a Brazilian interior designer who was getting rare native plants for an installation, and they introduced me to the architects to source and to import these plants. And this really reminded me of my mom!”
He explained that aside from having a knack for the work, digging in the earth and watching what it bears is also philosophical to him. “I think it’s important to realize that we all come from the soil. It’s important to have green around you. And as Black people, this joy isn’t something we always get to experience especially because of our history.”
La Rue is also quick to make it plain that he realizes there is much joy in his full identity. “There is hardship in being Black and being bi. But being both is the all-star lineup! I feel as though I’m in the most powerful place I can be. I’m past the trauma and worrying how I’ll be perceived. And, I have space to claim what I want. I have that freedom. I am liberated!”
(Photo by Jerrod La Rue)