James Luck wears the QUEERLEADER white sleeveless tank


Like most of my ideas, this one came out of the blue: a picture-spark, a trick of the mind.

Unlike most of my ideas, it turned up right in front of me, almost fully-formed.


On a Sunday morning in December 2018, I was crossing the street at Bondi. My best friend Matu, our colleague Blake and I had moved in together, deciding to spend our last month busting our ass on stage at Pop Up Globe and going home to the beach. It was lush. I washed Lady M away nearly every day. As I stepped off the curb on to Hall Street, a woman crossed with me. She was wearing a sweater, the wide strap of her cross-body bag partially covering its varsity script. I realised after a beat that her top actually said “cheerleader” but I was already full-steam down a different mental track. I fumbled for my phone and added QUEERLEADER to my Tee Ideas folder. Much better.

It sat there for a long time. A year to be precise. 

Eventually, I got in touch with my friend and digital-creator-of-every-design-I-have-ever-made, Terrease (more on her in a future blog). She looked at the free fonts and instructions I'd sent and said Absolutely. By February 2020, two years after I’d made that note, I was looking at the puff-paint samples laid out on my floor and thinking: Am I actually allowed to make this? Troubling. "Cancel culture" was just a twinkle in the internet’s eye but I was already concerned. I wanted to check in with my gay friends. Never a Girl Scout but liking to be prepared, I double-checked my position on the Kinsey Scale. A quick google took me to a Buzzfeed quiz, (I know, they’re not renowned for their scientific rigour, but humour me). My result came out as “mostly heterosexual”. This made sense because although naked ladies are my favourite thing to paint - see #amandapainter - a naked man is my favourite thing to touch.

Not just any man though:

Amanda Billing Preference Pie Chart

[Figure 1: Preference Pie Chart, simplified]


That was, until I read Untamed this summer just gone:


Preference Pie Chart with Abby Wambach

[Figure 2: Preference Pie Chart, with Abby]


But I digress.

I took a deep breath, wrote an email (feeling then a bit like I do now as I write this) reaching out to my queer colleagues who love me, who would give me the bad news but let me down easy.

They said “Yes. We love it. Do it.”


Matu Ngaropo, Max Loban, and Akina Edmonds wear Queerleader apparel.


Funnily enough, I don’t wear many of my own designs (just Force Majeure, almost daily), and this one is no exception. I have major FOMO about it though. I adore it. It’s everything I love in a tee idea: it’s a visual gag and a play on words (I think RuPaul would approve). It’s colourful, bold, multi-faceted. Deep inside it are things that matter most to me: freedom, friendship, specialness, honesty, celebration…and a Good Sense Of Humour. This design makes my friends happy.

Bryony Skillington and the Topp Twins at Ponsonby Pride, Auckland, 2020.


As I spend more time on the planet, sometimes I feel the pressure of time passing. I’m 44, closing in (all going well) on the halfway mark of this marathon, yet Life has handed me, not an over-flowing cracked plastic mid-life crisis, but a crystal clear glass-half-full: preference is everything. "Preference"? Sounds weirdly formal. But we all underestimate how fundamentally important being able to say Yes and No to things - and really mean it - actually is. Living truthfully can be really fucking hard, but integrity IS freedom. Knowing what (and why and, especially who) you love is living.

Proceeds from the sale of QUEERLEADER apparel have always been donated to Rainbow Youth, because with the support of elders and peers, people can do difficult things. 

The QUEERLEADER preorder is timed to coincide with Pride 2021 and is a 100% fundraiser design. The Pride Month programme is wonderful, check it out here. As much as I would like to do all of the colour combos, I'm keeping it slightly simple. Apologies, but none of the colour combinations my beautiful mates are sporting in these photos are available this year. It's partly about garment-supply and partly because I like to try new things.

Discover the brand new, limited edition colour-ways here and place your order.

It's my pleasure to create a design like this. Feel free to share this blog post with your nearest and dearest, your friends and allies.




Who's in these pics?

I've been taking photographs of my favourite people for four years. Since I started wanting to make my "mandybeetees" more than a side hustle, I have been asking my friends to model for me. I'm incredibly grateful to them for doing so, often only in exchange for the garment they wear.

This is who is pictured in this blog:

Photo One: James Luck

Photo Two: Matu Ngaropo, Max Loban, Akina Edmonds

Photo Three: Bryony Skillington and The Topp Twins

Photo Four: Clementine Mills and Sheena Irving

Cover Image: Summer Millett










1 comment

  • So totally on point : ) Its easy to feel one might offend these days but when your message comes from a place of integrity, support and, yes, LOVE for those who will wear it…I’d like to think you can’t go wrong. Keep it up, Bliss!

    Kate Billing

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