The joy of Stephen “tWitch” Boss lives on.
Boss, who died in December, is one of the faces of a limited-edition fashion collection by Gap and menswear brand The Brooklyn Circus. The collection, which launched Tuesday, also features “Pose” star Indya Moore, “Euphoria” actor Javon Walton and model Bethann Hardison.
“When Stephen and I first saw his images from the campaign, it brought tears to our eyes. He was so moved by how they captured his true essence, and he was excited for the world to see them,” Boss’ wife, Allison Holker Boss, said in a statement. “We pay tribute to Stephen’s life by sharing these images in homage to the joy and light he brought to everyone around him.”
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The choreographer and TV personality was a key part of the new ad campaign, due to his friendship with Ouigi Theodore, founder and creative director of The Brooklyn Circus. The collection focuses on “concepts of individuality, movement and modern prep – blending academia, music, Black culture and street style from the 1960s through today,” the sponsors said.
Boss, a “So You Think You Can Dance” alum and co-host of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” died by suicide at a hotel in December, according to a report from the Los Angeles medical examiner. He was 40.
“Stephen lit up every room he stepped into. He valued family, friends and community above all else and leading with love and light was everything to him,” Holker said in a statement to People magazine at the time. “To say he left a legacy would be an understatement, and his positive impact will continue to be felt.”
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As part of the campaign’s tribute to Boss, Gap is donating funds to Vibrant Emotional Health, a mental health organization that runs the 988 Lifeline, a national hotline that provides “emotional support and counseling to people in crisis or emotional distress.”
While the nature of Boss’ struggles remain unclear to the public, mental health professionals say his death represents a sobering reality: Black men in particular have been taught that expressing mental health struggles is a sign of weakness.
“For Black men, there’s a lot of pressure to be less vulnerable, to always show strength, to never show people that things are getting to you, because that strength has also been a tool or a skill that many people have had to develop in order to make it through very difficult circumstances,” Moe Ari Brown, a marriage and family therapist, told USA TODAY in December.
“There has been this commentary that’s unanimous about how (Boss) embodied love and joy, but you can’t always assume that everyone is OK,” Brown added. “We don’t always think that these societal pressures or the systemic problems that tend to impact the majority of a group are still going to impact that person. Sometimes that smile might be a mask for pain.”
If you or someone you know needs support for mental health, suicidal thoughts or substance abuse call, text or chat:
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 988 and 988lifeline.org
BlackLine: 800-604-5841 and callblackline.com
Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860 and translifeline.org
Veterans Crisis Line: Dial 800-273-8255 and press 1 to talk to someone or send a text message to 838255 to connect with a VA responder. You can also start a confidential online chat session at Veterans Crisis Chat. veteranscrisisline.net
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Contributing: Naledi Ushe, Elise Brisco, Erin Jensen and Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY
Story Credit: usatoday.com