ATM PRIDE featuring Liz Bertorelli of Passionfruit

1. You started Passionfruit as a way to show your pride - what has it been like to mobilize the queer community around this mission?
 
It's been amazing to see Passionfruit and the community around it grow, I feel like I have a queer army of 16K+ on Instagram and I feel like they have each other. When I think of it that way, it feels really surreal – I know I started a business but it's really not about selling shirts to make money, it's about selling shirts so that people can feel good and like themselves, and feel connected to other people and apart of something, like a team. I love getting emails or DMs from the community, ie. I get emailed about people meeting others via their shirt, one customer actually met their now wife because she was wearing one of our older, funny pride tees.

2. That is so sweet! And so important, now that there are so many companies who are creating products and experiences as part of their Pride celebrations, why is it important for queer businesses to lead the charge?
I'm all for these big companies promoting their pride merchandise and campaigns from an awareness perspective, however, if the brands are not supporting, advocating, hiring or promoting folks from the LGBTQ+ community all year long – I'm out. It's really important to me to shop local, shop queer –  buy from the people who know and understand you. Queer businesses are queer, all year round not just at pride. Queer businesses support the queer community, 365 days a year.

3. Amen! Coming out is such a deeply personal and too often a difficult process for queer people - what helped you feel empowered by it?
Coming out is different for everyone, I personally felt really alone in it – but once I came out, I felt like a new person and empowered to be whoever the hell I wanted to be. I wanted to start something that could hopefully, maybe make people feel less alone in their own personal journey. I want Passionfruit to be more than just threads, I want it to be an outlet and safe space for the community.

4. We can barely keep up with your travels. Why is travelling so important to you - what draws you to the world?
 
I can barely keep up with all the travels myself, ha! I feel very lucky that I can travel as often as I do. There is absolutely nothing I love more than roaming a new city, experiencing new cultures (especially the food) and meeting different people, from different backgrounds.
 
5. What has been your favourite city or cultural experience?
 
I've tried to pick my favourite before and I can't or it just goes back to Toronto because I love coming home to this city. BUT – A few years ago I went to Japan for a few weeks. In the very south of Japan, I went through my first onsen experience and followed by a volcanic sand bath (it was incredible). I didn't understand or speak Japanese so I wasn't really sure of the protocol, so when I got into the onsen they stripped me and took my robe, HA. I also had no clue about how tattoos were perceived there and specifically, in the rural town I was in but let me tell you, every naked woman in the onsen swam over, pointed and asked about every tattoo on my cold naked body. I was caught off guard but went with it, it was pretty damn funny.
 
6. Who is your favorite queer icon?
From fashion to music, I've gotta say Bowie – I'm a big Bowie fan and he's the first person that immediately came to mind.