RIP David Bowie, The Man Who Fell to Earth and made me feel less alone

David Bowie
Photography by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Like so many others, I, an awkward misfit of a child, teen (and now adult), learned to embrace my inner freak while watching Labyrinth, listening to Ziggy Stardust, and just letting my Rebel Rebel flag fly. Only a few days ago, I was one of the many social media fiends posting YouTube clips, favourite images and memorable interviews of David Bowie on my Facebook wall, in celebration of the superstar’s 69th birthday. When I woke up this morning, I was surprised to find the same influx of posts, this time however, for a much more somber reason. The seemingly immortal, forever inspiring icon had quietly passed away in his sleep, losing his long-winded battle with cancer.

By 9am, my timeline was flooded with posts commemorating the incredible impact that Bowie had on so many of our lives. The collective shock that emanates when a beloved icon dies can be felt almost immediately. I can still remember where I was when it was announced that Michael Jackson, Robin Williams and even Heath Ledger had died. The reaction was so immediate, so visceral, that it seemed as though everyone I spoke to, every conversation I heard was fully immersed in this collective loss, as though a family member or close friend had passed.

From the moment Bowie flew onto the scene in 1969 with his first hit single, “Space Oddity,” his impact on the music industry, fashion and pop culture in general was cemented.. He was fearless in his performance style, debuting the androgynous and extraterrestrial character of Ziggy Stardust in the early ‘70s, a transformation that many attribute to the birth of Glam Rock and one which is still referenced in fashion editorials and costume design today. Almost as iconic as Bowie himself, is Todd Hayne’s 1998 sleeper hit, Velvet Goldmine, which saw the all-too-good looking combination of Ewan McGregor and Jonathan Rhys Myers dolled up in his likeness – yes, spandex and all, and at eleven, may very well be attributed to my personal sexual awakening.

But Bowie wasn’t limited to one iconic look. From his original persona of Davie Jones, the Mod Bowie phase, to The Thin White Duke in the late 1970s, his slick haired, dapper, well-suited incarnation (one that might be labelled “basic” in comparison to the flamboyant Ziggy) and Aladdin Sane, the now iconic extraterrestrial with the lightning bolt splashed across his face, and one which has inspired countless Halloween costumes and reappropriation. Bowie has inspired more of my Halloween costumes than any other public figure, save for Liza Minnelli (who I subsequently dressed up as three years in a row). There’s a reason why countless museums have featured his various wardrobe pieces across the globe. His style was unlike any other, as he became the king of self-transformation. The only current comparison that could be made would be to Lady Gaga’s now iconic style, but let’s be real here, she didn’t get to it first.

My introduction to Bowie came in the form of Jareth the Goblin King, Bowie’s character in the now classic, always cult and incredibly stylish Labyrinth. A psychadelic fantasy dreamed up by famed puppeteer Jim Henson, and the introduction to the doe-eyed, alabaster face of Jennifer Connelly. To this day, that soundtrack still rings through my ears endlessly and is still my favourite movie to curl up to on a rainy Sunday. Back in 2006, when Facebook had gained popularity amongst teens, the very first Group I ever joined was entitled, “David Bowie’s package in Labyrinth shaped me as a sexual being.” Because, well, ladies…those cat suits left very little to the imagination.

But Bowie’s impact on my life went far beyond his sex symbol status. As a young performer, getting her feet in the worlds of musical theatre and acting, Bowie was a reminder that even though I wasn’t the cookie-cutter image of a future star, my uniqueness, my drive, and my openness, the things that made me who I was and am today, were more important than my waistline, the kinks in my hair, or any of my insecurities. That pushing forward despite adversity was more important than fitting in.

The bittersweet thing about losing a cultural icon like Bowie, is that his music, his movies, and his image will be frozen in time for years to come. Much like my dad introduced me to the sounds of the Rolling Stones, New Order, Queen and The Band, I know that my kids will be forced to learn about the wonder that is David Bowie. So this morning, when I went about my mundane routine, I did so to the soundtrack that will forever be in my heart. I walked out of my apartment and into the cold feeling cozy, enveloped in the unforgettable, and irreplaceable crooning of a man who timelessly defined generation after generation. His brash, unapologetic presence won’t be forgotten, and will continue to inspire generations to come.

RIP to the Man Who Fell to Earth, and made us all feel a little kooky and a little less alone.

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