It started with a dress.
In what had been one of the hottest summers Italians had experienced in a while, this cooler night was welcomed by Nicholas Lindsey. As he walked outside, in the heart of Perugia, Lindsey heard the familiar sound of Gnarls Barkley’s song “Crazy,” one of his favorites. The music led him to an open-air fashion show and it was there that he saw it.
“It was love at first sight,” Lindsey said.
Not only was this dress white, it was “Antarctic white,” he said. Describing the dress, his face lit up as if he were back in Italy two years ago admiring it all over again. No details escaped him – not even the delicate lace peeking out from the bottom of the taffeta gown. In the way that a painting can move an artist to tears, Lindsey said he felt that same emotional pull to the dress, tears and all.
Out of the closet
Lindsey, a self-proclaimed nerd in high school, had no initial interest in fashion. He wanted to be an obstetrician. His father, a retired military captain, picked out Lindsey’s clothes. It was when Lindsey began dressing himself in high school that he recalled his father saying, “You look kind of gay in those clothes.” Then, in a roundabout play on words, Lindsey’s father pushed out a secret his son had been keeping from him – one he already knew about. “So, you like boys?” his father asked.
Lindsey replied, “No, Daddy, I like men.”
Just a year earlier, when Lindsey was eating Taco Bueno, his younger brother asked, “Can you just tell me?” Lindsey quickly responded, “Yes, I’m gay … but don’t tell Mom.”
Later that evening, while watching HGTV, the home and garden channel, with his mother, she asked nonchalantly, “Isn’t that guy hot?” Lindsey said he responded with an emphatic “Yes,” without thinking. “Thank you for the coming,” his mother said. This was in response to his “coming out.”
He said he had worked out a way to tell his older brother, who was stationed in Korea with the Air Force at the time, but his parents beat him to it. Lindsey said he thought his coming out would be a “My So-Called Life” moment and it turned out to be a comedy. He rolled his eyes slightly and his contagious laugh reverberated from his always-smiling face.
Lindsey said he had been lucky to have the support of his family, even when he decided to pursue a career in music, rather than medicine. He enrolled at Stephen F. Austin State University as a music major where he composed music and further developed his skills in the clarinet, piano, bassoon and harp. He left college in Nacogdoches for “a little more spice,” he said, which brought him to TCU.
Hitting the high notes
From his early childhood years in Germany to TCU, music had always been a chief interest and talent of his, he said. However, for someone who had played with the Dallas and Fort Worth Symphony orchestras, a letter of rejection from the TCU School of Music came unexpectedly, he said.
One professor said he couldn’t do it and that he wouldn’t be admitted to the music school playing the clarinet. For the first time, Lindsey said, he was told, “I think you’ll fail.” He joined the choir and band regardless, he said. Although he was rejected for clarinet, he was accepted for his voice, he said. As a counter-tenor who sings very high notes, Lindsey said, he works diligently to excel and has recently been invited to sing with the Fort Worth Opera.
“He doesn’t let anything get in his way,” said Janice Elliott, an adviser in the M.J. Neeley School of Business.
Warming up for a 30-minute voice lesson, Lindsey’s typical, light-hearted attitude is abandoned as he focuses intently on hitting the perfect pitch. His voice and fingers climb higher in unison with each strike he makes on the ivory keys. During his lesson, he methodically moves his left hand with each change in pitch. He stands with open arms, injecting passion and effort into each vocal exercise. A broad grin crosses his face when he gets it just right. His voice coach nods her head in approval.
“TCU has been a really good fit for [Lindsey],” said Robin Wright, his Italian professor. Wright said in class, Lindsey is lively and enjoys helping others. She said he makes everyone laugh but remains professional. Italian is one of four of Lindsey’s minors, including fashion merchandising, art administration and music. Wright said Lindsey is an extremely diverse individual and she finds great reward in teaching him. “He does everything and is very talented,” she said. “He’s a Renaissance man.”
Lindsey “exudes all kinds of possibility,” Elliott said. Elliott said she serves as his “unofficial adviser” in the business school, where Lindsey is majoring in international marketing. He’s also majoring in international communication with a global advertising/public relations emphasis. Elliott said she first became acquainted with Lindsey during his application process to the business school. She said they hit it off because of their common interest in sewing and fashion. Elliott said she spent 13 years in the textile and fashion industry and feels Lindsey’s success in fashion will stem from his ability to open doors for himself. Lindsey is very approachable, while many people in fashion aren’t, Elliott said.
“He has an easy way of being around people,” she said. “He’s a shining star.”
Lindsey maintains a list of involvements at TCU, spanning anywhere from being president of the Public Relations Student Society of America to his membership in Kappa Kappa Psi fraternity. One daunting project Lindsey is working on with another friend from TCU is the design and manufacturing of a wedding gown, he said. Sarah Noll, a senior international communications major with a global advertising/public relations emphasis, said she and Lindsey have been friends because of their common ground. She and Lindsey both speak Italian and share an interest in the culture, and they’ve also worked together through PRSSA. She said Lindsey called her “out of the blue” one day and asked if she would help him design a wedding gown for his friend. Noll said they’re in the project 50/50 with one another; he will make the pattern and she will sew the dress. When their two creative sides merge, Noll said “it’s a little dangerous.”
Lindsey is currently preparing for a job with Vogue in Italy. Lindsey recalled meeting Andre Leon Talley, the editor-at-large of Vogue, in New York, where Talley asked him what he wanted to do. Lindsey responded with “I want your job.”
“Baby, you’re gonna reach for the stars,” Talley said. “Work it out.”
That is exactly what Lindsey says he plans to do.