Local Spotlight – Jaquan Caine


Brooke J. Freundschuh, Arts & Entertainment Editor



This is the word that many who have crossed paths with Jaquan Caine would use to describe him and his aura. Often dressed in a chic, all black ensemble or wrapped in his signature Hermes scarf, Caine turns heads wherever he goes.


Upon first impression, many find Caine to be intimidating, but this does not erase their curiosity.


“I knew when I first saw him that I was going to be his friend,” said Emily Morgan, a friend and colleague.


Sophisticated, stylish, refined, decisive, dignified, graceful, charismatic–these are the words Caine uses to describe himself. He looks up to the likes of the editors of Vogue magazine, classic fashion designers and the Real Housewives of New York City.


Caine is an up and coming figure in the fashion community and a self-proclaimed “international fashion lifestyle brand.” He is currently a fashion merchandising major at the University of North Alabama.


He runs a small style consulting business that is supported globally. He worked on visual merchandising for Billy Reid’s latest campaign. He had his first article, “An individual’s take on the meaning of ‘style’” published in The Flor-Ala.


“Style and fashion allow a person to define themselves when words are absent,” Caine wrote in this article. This quote captures Caine’s purpose in his work, although he eloquently uses writing to interpret the fashions he encounters.


Caine is an anomaly in many facets of his life. He was raised by liberal parents in the conservative town of Haleyville, Ala. He grew up Catholic in a Protestant Christian community.


He has always considered himself to be older and more mature than his peers of the same age. 


 “I didn’t want to play with the kids. I wanted to be in the adult conversations. I still remember when I was in preschool I had walked up to one of my preschool teachers and I said “All of these kids are on my nerves, what are we going to do?’” Caine recalls. 


This outlook caused him to see things differently than a young child might, especially when it came to picking role models. 


“When I was younger I looked up to characters in movies or even cartoons that were sort of charismatic, over the top kind of characters. I always loved people that were unique. I wasn’t a superhero person; I didn’t look up to superheroes. I looked up to Cruella de Vil. I loved the super villians. I loved the idea that these people were misunderstood. They want their piece of the pie! They want their happy ending. Growing up, I was the outcast and so I could always relate to these super villains that just wanted to be accepted,” he elaborated.


As he grew older, his role models included Lady Gaga in her rise to fame, Fran Drescher’s character on “The Nanny,” Madonna and Coco Chanel, for whom his poodle is named. These influential figures all have one common factor: they are bold women. These confident ladies gave him the courage to be himself, even if that meant being the outcast. 


“I was the one flailing into the door, glamorous as always. It was kind of hard for people, especially living where I live, to understand. They weren’t used to someone coming in the door and just being over the top. I grew up around people that are so influenced by other people and they would follow trends. Everyone dressed the same. I was the one that said , ‘No, I’m not looking like any of you, and I want to do my own thing!’ My motto back then was ‘when in doubt, freak ‘em out.’”  Caine recalls.


His parent’s support for him and his siblings has always been unwavering and a constant in his life.   


“I was a runner and my mother would come to my sporting events. She never forgot to give me constructive criticism growing up.” Caine said.


Caine loved running cross country in middle and high school. When searching for a college to attend, he knew he wanted to participate in collegiate cross country. 


“I had gotten a couple of small offers, but UNA had given me the largest offer, and it was the largest university that had offered me something. UNA was not my first choice. I did not want to go there, and it was not that I thought of it as being a horrible university academically, I just thought of it as a university that everyone went to and if I went there I would already know everyone and it wouldn’t be a different experience,” he recalls.


He ran cross country for the entirety of his freshman year at UNA and for a few months of his sophomore year, but behind the scenes, all that glitter was not gold.


Caine is known for his extravagant appearance and persona, but these traits were often parts of characters he was playing. 


“When I was elementary, middle, highschool, I knew who I was. It was such a solid answer in who I was, and I didn’t struggle.” Caine said.


He reflects on a tendency to put up walls to protect himself and to ensure that he has the high ground in social situations, “I like to be intimidating at first, because it gives me a chance to feel people out and I have that luxury and that advantage of being kind of intimidating, so I can easily control the situation around me,” he stated.


But when he got to college and began to live away from home, his mental health plummeted and he began to question everything. His sense of security seemingly depleted.


 “I had these characters that I played all the time and I’d work on the character and I’d play this character and I had the character growing up, and then I kinda lost it. I didn’t know who I wanted to play,” Caine explains, “I had to recollect. I really had to rebuild a little bit.”


Although he felt an expected sense of freedom being on his own and finally being the adult he had dreamed of being for so long, the adjustment period was not a smooth time. It led to issues that he would continue to face for years afterward. 


“It was an identity crisis. I really just did not have that foundation that I thought I had. I thought I left high school and I knew who I was and I wouldn’t struggle in any kind of situation, but I got there and I was surrounded by a completely new group of people and a completely different town that I didn’t know,” Caine expresses.


In a struggle to fit the beauty standards that he looked up to and as the result of his need for control, he began battling Anorexia. 


“I knew Anorexia as the thing that I could sort of control. I cannot control who wants me around, but I do control this, so I used it as an outlet to control something, which in the end is killing me. I mean, my doctors were saying, ‘If you don’t fix this now, you’re not going to live much longer,’” he recalls.


Caine saw doctors and began seeing a therapist, but it was when he discovered a healthy way to control the way he presented himself that he began to see the light. The answer was simply fashion.


Initially, he began college as a business major. However, everything changed at the end of his sophomore year when he discovered UNA’s fashion program.


 “I discovered that at probably midnight on a school night, and the next day I go to the university and I change my major to fashion!” he proudly recalls. 


This spontaneous change in direction is merely one example of Caine’s determination to get what he wants accomplished. He draws great inspiration from those in power.


 “When I want to achieve something, I don’t care who I have to go through or what I have to cut down. I’m not going to give up; I’m going to achieve it,” Caine declares. 


Reflecting on this change, he says, “I think underneath it all I’ve always known I wanted to do fashion. I remember in tenth grade sketching designs on my science test.”


It was not until he embraced his true passion that his life in Florence began coming together. He gushes about how he instantly felt at home in the fashion department and how kind and accepting everyone was towards him.


 “When I started fashion, I fell in love with the program, the people, and the city of Florence. I started having bunch downtown with friends at local places and I really started to find Florence charming. I found it to be this place that had character, and I didn’t see it at first. I judged it before I actually knew it, so now that I’ve sort of found my major and I’ve found my people and my department I’m over this bitter stage and I’ve really come to love it,” Caine explains. 


Upon meeting Caine, many believe him to be heartless because of his cold exterior, but he is a very caring person. He does not always let others see this side of him, citing it as a weakness, but it is when he truly expresses the things he is passionate about, that he is the strongest. He is simply a creative; and his chosen medium is writing. He is now a journalism minor with plans to write about none other than fashion. 


He dreams of being the editor of a fashion magazine and using fashion, writing and photography to paint a picture of the fantasy inside his head for others to consume. He wants his audience to understand that fashion is more than just a piece or pieces of clothing, but a storytelling art form.


 “I love interpreting fashion,” Caine explains, “I want you to have an emotional feeling from this, and I want you to be able to feel something when you flip through your magazine.”


He embraces the things he loves, like going to brunch with his friends and playing tennis at the country club. He identifies strongly with the lifestyle of the housewives of upper east side Manhattan. He idolizes the Real Housewives’ Sonja Morgan. He has a deep appreciation for learning and history, as well as philosophy.


 “I was so fascinated by looking at things deeper,” Caine revealed, “I think people, especially our generation, don’t look at things subsurface.” This sentiment perfectly describes others’ assumptions about Jaquan Caine. 


Under the surface is a human being who has struggled and fought to maintain their genuine sense of authenticity. He is someone who embraces being different and strives to use his differences to encourage others’ senses of individuality. Deep down, he is caring and emotional and desires to be loved and accepted, like everyone else.   


He reflects, “It’s so easy to say ‘he’s fabulous,’ but I’ve had to create a person that people think is fabulous, because on the inside, I struggle all the time with self image.”