we had the pleasure of sitting with cator, our charleston host, in his garden. here we go: the SPOTLIGHT is shining:
thesalting: we were first introduced to you by several mutual friends because of your love of caftans! are you a collector? talk to us of caftan love...
cator sparks: I first explored my love of caftans in egypt back in 2004. I bought a very colorful embroidered one I was quite proud of until my guide told me I was wearing a woman's bridal caftan!
since then I have enjoyed scouting them out around the world. I had one made in south africa for a friends wedding in botswana and I used to get loads made on 125th street at yara fabric. they have an amazing selection of african textiles. I just wish they still had the obama printed fabric!
john bartlett made one of my favorites with a camouflage print of his three-legged pup, tiny tim. he gifted me one and I take it on every summer vacation.
thesalting: please please please tell us about WE ARE FAMILY. and how can people support this most important program?
cator sparks: WE ARE FAMILY is the oldest LGBTQI+ non profit in south carolina. we were established in 1994 and have been working with youth around the state ever since. we provide direct support, leadership development opportunities, and advocacy youth up to age of 25. I have been on the board ever since trump was elected and became board president shortly after that.
it's a huge honor to work with these dynamic kids and I learn so much from all of them. we hold a queer prom every spring and this year we had 185 youth who dressed in clothes they felt comfortable in (not necessarily what they would be allowed to or felt comfortable wearing to their own prom) and danced, socialized and simply had the opportunity to be their authentic selves. its a magical night.
spreading the word is a wonderful way to help and of course we run on donations, so any contributions or sustaining donors are greatly appreciated! @www.wearefamilycharleston.org/donate
thesalting: guilty pleasure?
cator sparks: lying on my couch in my bay window reading a good book with my two dogs curled up around me.
thesalting: three restaurant recommendations for charleston?
cator sparks: i'm fortunate to live in a thriving neighborhood- cannonborough-elliotborough so there are so many in walking distance. two new favorites are PINK CACTUS and MALAGON. MELFI'S is a little farther north and another decadent new addition to our culinary compound here in charleston.
thesalting: best advice you've ever received?
cator sparks: a wonderful british woman named meredith ethrington-smith bellowed at me while drinking a g&t in india, "the two words most often used in the english language are "if only". after hearing that I took the dive into freelance writing.
thesalting: do you believe in the concept of unisex clothing?
cator sparks: absolutely. hello caftans! we are in a wonderful new era where gender fluidity is gaining more attention and acceptance so it's the perfect time for a brand like yours to rise up.
thesalting: summer plans?
cator sparks: I'm thrilled to head to england to see old friends and attend the opening of the masterpiece art fair. then I will be headed to jersey (not the NEW one, the island off the coast of england) to unplug for a bit.
thesalting: pride plans?
cator sparks: honey, every day is PRIDE in my world! but WE ARE FAMILY will be marching in the parade here in charleston and we are hosting an adult prom here in june as well.
thesalting: do you cook? specialty?
cator sparks: I love cooking, especially in charleston where I can get everything farm fresh. I don't really have a specialty but I love diving into cookbooks by martha hall goose and vivian howard and finding something gorgeous to whip up for a dinner party.
thesalting: style inspiration?
cator sparks: I have a surfeit supply of style icons from diana vreeland (I may have worn blush over my ears years past), gerald murphy, orlando (tilda swinton as.....), maharajah of patiala, count d'orsay, mrs roper (the caftan queen!)
thesalting: three favorite movies?
cator sparks: auntie mame | brides head revisited | paris is burning
thesalting: how do you practice to ERASE HATE in your daily life?
cator sparks: as board chair of WE ARE FAMILY, I am very aware of the hate happening in our community, but on a larger scale I think the globe is awakening to the hate that is boiling to a head thanks to our current president and other archaic politicians around the world. I am so grateful to see people marching, writing and speaking out about the major issues affecting of us. I practice by speaking my truth and (trying to) see everything through a lens of love, plus all the work I do with WE ARE FAMILY.
thesalting: do you/ have you ever played a musical instrument?
cator sparks: I played the trombone in middle school. lets not discuss that debacle! I took piano lessons from the most flamboyant pianist as a child. he giggled like mozart in the movie (amadeus). but once he fled the south for san fransisco I lost interest.
thesalting: favorite photographer?
cator sparks: my dear friend rose callahan who shot all the amazing gents for her two books, I AM DANDY and WE ARE DANDY. she is a gift and a caustic wit. always inspired by james van der zee- I learned about him when I moved to harlem and his work is so very profound.