Coping Mechanism is a column by Mackenna Manidis exploring the care practices of creative people she finds inspiring.
I met Bronze Avery during the summer of 2019, but immediately felt like I’d always known him. We met when I was working as a shop girl in a small boutique in Echo Park, and since I met him at work, I was initially wary that he wouldn’t see me as an equal. In that service industry role, I was all too familiar with being treated as less-than by those in positions of creative power.
But that was before I knew Bronze. Instead, he’s the kind of person who made me feel like the most important one in the room; he radiates care for others, and was someone I could instantly trust. I was drawn to his warm nature and fire outfits, and we bonded over the people-watching opportunities afforded to us along the busy Sunset strip. Even early on, I knew he must be a performer — there was no way he wasn’t with the magnetism he radiates.
A military kid who grew up moving around the US, making stops in Georgia, Washington, Virginia, and Maryland before eventually settling in Florida as a pre-teen, Bronze started exploring the different facets of his personality through art at a young age. “I did a lot of theatre but I always loved pop music,” he said when we got coffee this spring at Laveta in Echo Park. “I knew I wanted to be a pop star. I knew I wanted to make songs.”
His newest track, an aptly summertime and sunshine-flavored beach bop titled “Boys!” is a “song about dating, but more about finding that love, acceptance and confidence in yourself, and using that to have fun,” he explained. The track thoroughly expresses his appreciation for all types of boys, with cheeky and relatable lyrics that I find myself singing while I’m doing dishes, showering, driving.
Through his songs and visuals — like the fun and flirty accompanying video for “Boys!” — Bronze’s inner circle functions as a built-in coping mechanism for him, as many of them are active collaborators on his creative projects. Not only are these collaborators his friends, but they each offer an additional set of eyes and ears to help bring his ideas into fruition; they’re helping make his genuine explorations of queer friendship, romance and diversity into a reality.
To strengthen the world and the community he’s cultivated through music, Bronze leans on his friends as both creative partners and as outlets for further expanding that self-love. “I’m super aware of talking out my feelings rather than bottling them in,” he shared. “I’m usually the one people call for help or advice, so I can feel extremely weak when it’s my turn to share my worries or ask for additional strength. However, I’ve learned that when I’m just honest and transparent about what’s going on, that’s the best way to keep my mental health in check.”
One way Bronze has found to maintain that closeness is through the art of the group chat. “It’s something my friends and I really love,” he explained. “It’s so nice to have a group of people ready to applaud you for your endeavors. It can get really lonely on the path to where and who you want to be, but having like-minded people in your court is the best feeling when you’re at your highest highs and lowest lows.”
Having a consistent place to put feelings about both wins and losses is something I’ve found a new beauty in, especially during lockdown. I’ve found salvation in 6-foot-apart-walks, and still being able to appreciate my loved ones during a universal time of pause and upheaval has been a gift. Growing the richness of my inner world to this extent is a skill I never thought I would need, especially as an extrovert who has never spent this much time alone, and learning new ways of keeping the outside world close has become even more important.
But even with a new focus on keeping my own company, and more free time than ever to make things, imposter syndrome consistently plagues me when I get the urge to do anything creative. It feels like Bronze can sense this when we talk, and he helps me ease those feelings of doubt by simplifying things. “When it comes to anxiety, it always soothes me to remember that creativity is subjective for everyone,” he said “If you’re making art for other people, your happiness with that art will always rely on those other people. But, if you love something and you’re loud and proud about it, there will be others out there who completely resonate with you.”
Leaning into the idea of just being myself and letting that be enough is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember — and most people reading this can probably relate to that, too. The pressure to be perfect, cool, and clout-y is at an all-time high in 2020 with social media at our fingertips, multiple platforms for staged performance art, as well as an abundance of authentic, off-the-cuff content always a link away, sometimes it’s hard to differentiate which is which.
For Bronze, the most successful projects are also the most natural and intuitive. “Some of the best moments I’ve had in my career came because I trusted my personal gut and people felt and understood what I was saying,” Bronze assured me, before adding: “And for me, weed helps too.”
Hilarious, as always, and unabashedly true to himself, something I’m constantly learning through my relationship with Bronze is the value of not only loving myself, but trusting myself. No matter how messy things get in my brain, if I can find my way back to me, I’ll always be okay. Learning to tune more deeply into myself is extra important given the new anxieties this year has brought, and I feel incredibly lucky to have a friend who has been pushing me in the right direction for as long as I’ve known him.
Learn more about Bronze’s work here.