Linney Osias – boasting a crown of rainbow-hued beads and silver rings on every other finger, with a baggy t-shirt and beaming smile – has always been one to stand out from the crowd.
Born in Miami Gardens, Florida, to Haitian immigrants as the youngest of 10 children, Osias grew up as the family’s caretaker and translator, having been raised to speak Creole and learning English at a young age.
Osias, who is queer, struggled throughout their youth with expressing themselves in a family that actively suppressed any expression of queer identity. They would be scolded by family members for watching anything that highlighted queer experiences, something which they avidly sought to help them feel represented.
Once Osias left the blue waters of Miami for the green and orange pastures of Florida A&M University – the first in their family to do so – they faced difficulty fitting into the largely heteronormative community at the university.
By their junior year, Osias found a loving partner in Simone Sadler, a fellow FAMU student with whom they would form their first queer relationship – one which their family still doesn’t know about.
Earlier this year, the couple decided to get involved with Spectrum, FAMU’s organization for LGBTQIA+ students and found a group that understood and embraced the couple for who they are.
“Spectrum gave me a lot of resources and coping mechanisms,” Osias said. “I can literally just go there and be comfortable with my girlfriend without feeling like a whole bunch of people are staring at us.”
Now the vice president of the organization, Osias’ presence has provided to others that same comfort that they joined the organization for.
“Linney is so welcoming during your first impression meeting them, and their ambiance makes you want to be around them more,” said Spectrum member Noella Williams.
Osias hopes to organize a Coming Out Ball and other events around campus once it becomes safe to do so, making more students aware of the safe space that exists on campus for queer people seeking comfort. This is especially important for students like Sadler, a transfer student who went into FAMU without any prior connections.
“As a transfer student, I never really felt like I fit in at school, and Spectrum is an extremely safe space for me. It’s the comfort I need on not the best of days.”
As an English major, Osias frequents Spectrum’s bookshelf of queer authors and lets their creative juices flow onto the organization’s paint canvases. Their creativity knows no bounds, expressing themselves through a variety of different mediums including music and poetry.
Perhaps Osias’ most significant passion is for fashion. Their love for the medium intensified upon growing closer with their girlfriend, who pushed them to experiment more with their style.
“Being with Simone, she was always a different person all the time,” said Osias. “It made me want to see what I could do too. We would always go thrifting with each other, and she would encourage me to be very expressive of myself with how I look.”
These frequent thrift hauls would eventually prove to be excessive, so the couple needed to find a way to lighten the load in order to keep their wardrobes fresh. What resulted was Plaid n Polka Dots, an online storefront created by Osias and Sadler in April 2020, which features a variety of clothing and accessories curated by the couple.
“Plaid n Polka Dots is her response to my love for thrifting,” Sadler said. “It has shown me how well we work together and how alike yet different our individual styles are.”
The name itself finds its roots in the pair’s synergic differences – plaid and polka dots being the favorite prints of Osias and Sadler, respectively. Such a clash of two creative forces does not always ensure a recipe for success, but the couple understands their abilities and chemistry well enough to make Plaid n Polka Dots a balanced business with a bright future.
“It has presented us with so many opportunities, and we can both work on our individual strengths together,” Sadler said. “It’s beautiful to have someone who pushes you creatively.”
To Osias, fashion has become everything since joining with Sadler on their journey through starting a brand.
“[Plaid n Polka Dots] opened up my whole entrepreneurship side,” Osias said. “That’s why I really love fashion because it’s more than just what you wear. It’s honestly who you are, how you express yourself, how you monetize this. Fashion is more than the eye sees.”
One of the first things visitors will notice on the site is that all merchandise featured is gender-fluid, encouraging everyone to feel stylish and comfortable wearing their clothes, regardless of gender expression. The importance of this distinction is held highly by the couple, who are both androgynous.
“I feel more beautiful when I dress in the clothes that I’m very comfortable in, I don’t dress any type of gender,” Osias said. “I really want people to take gender away from clothing.”
Osias is nothing if not a forward-thinker. With Plaid n Polka Dots, the 21-year-old created a solid foundation on which they will continue to grow, and hopefully soon venture into wider aspirations beyond the high hills of FAMU to the bright lights of New York for further schooling.
While Osias looks forward to pursuing higher education, they also look back at the next generation of learners with the same progressive attitude. They work with the young students of Leon County, teaching them about the importance of personal pronouns and gender identity at the age when the children are just beginning to grasp such concepts.
Osias lives for challenging other people’s preconceived notions and defying the norms which hold their peers back.
“I want to be that person so when people look back, they see I was nothing like everyone else. I still had spirit, I was still involved, but at the end of the day, I was genuinely me and I was never that person who tried to conform or assimilate into what I thought I should be.”
Linney Osias – caretaker, poet, entrepreneur, and visionary – has always been one to stand ahead of the crowd. They hope one day the crowd catches up.
For more information on Plaid n Polka Dots, visit plaidnpolkadots.com.