Kam Franklin Is Not Afraid to Wear Yellow (or Anything Else)

The Suffers lead singer on her style obsessions, breaking the rules and feeling confident at any size.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen June 7, 2016

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Kam Franklin of The Suffers in a yellow striped dress from Modcloth.

Image: Kimberly Park

It was a Tuesday afternoon full of firsts. For me, the first time I'd chatted at length with burgeoning Houston style icon Kam Franklin, the lead singer of soul band The Suffers. For Kam it was the first time she'd ever been to Killen's Barbecue—and she was justifiably excited. Neither of us left disappointed. Between bites of brisket and creamed corn, Kam discussed everything from her on-stage style to internet haters to her favorite nail salon, and the unexpected thing that happens when you change your hair. 

Houstonia: I loved your style shoot on Buzzfeed! How did that come together?

Kam Franklin: We shot it back in February—the style person at Buzzfeed saw us on The Daily Show. There's a local brand here called A Leap of Style that made the dress I was wearing on the show and the girl at Buzzfeed really loved my dress and my use of color—I think I was wearing turquoise nails—so she wanted to do a piece on me about my style but also as a bigger girl how I make things work for me, not so much drowning myself in baggy clothing, showing my legs, accentuating my curves.

That's not really as common with a lot of these bands that perform on late night shows. A lot of the singers—other than myself, Brittany Howard [of Alabama Shakes] and some R&B singers—are much smaller and you'll see them wearing the most tiny things. That's awesome for them and their size, but as a bigger girl it's hard to have something to compare it to. You know, just because I'm not small doesn't mean I'm not sexy. It's been kinda hard at times to find that happy medium and what I've done is found people who have dressed other women who are my size or larger but not in a way that makes them look old or drab.

Which can be surprisingly hard to find for plus sizes.

Most of it is super boring and super expensive. It's extremely frustrating if you are fit and just bigger to find things that look good and fit good but aren't super expensive. Forever 21 being a perfect example, a few years ago they launched their plus-size line and you could go downstairs and see a tank top for $5.50 and go upstairs and the same tank top is $13.50 or $14. You go there because they have cute stuff for good prices, but why should you have to pay more? Yes they are using a little bit more fabric but it does not cost that much from a wholesale perspective. 

I'm really glad that they did the piece and the response has been mostly positive. The comment section is something I've learned to stay away from though, but it's hard. Someone tagged me in the comments because they're so happy and proud and I was like, oh no, I gotta get out of here. It's hard because this is all very new to me. I'm not used to being this public.

I'm confident with my body—I've been big, I've been small, I've never known my actual set size, it just fluctuates. And it's just mortifying, all I could think was if I'm confident and I'm getting this kind of crap, I can only imagine that someone who doesn't have this confidence would feel if they were having a good day and thought, 'Man, I can wear a miniskirt today,' or 'I can wear a tank top today,' and then they saw those kinds of comments. It could set them back years.

Does performing give you that confidence?

It's a different challenge. I would say working out gives me confidence, because I don't work out to lose weight, I work out to get stronger to improve my performance at shows. Knowing that I can hold down my notes, knowing I can play a 90-minute show without getting tired—that allows me to come forth with a lot more confidence on stage. It's also finding those outfits that show off what I think are my strong points. Yes, my thighs are big, but I love them, so finding outfits that will show a little bit more thigh, knowing I'm going to be shaking it the whole time, that's the kind of thing that empowers me. Not so much anything that makes me look over-sexualized, but things that make me feel sexy. If that means sequin or a shorter shirt or a little bit of cleavage, then that's what it is that day. 

How do you describe your style?

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Kam's signature look: a brightly colored dress and a pair of Lucchese boots.

Image: Kimberly Park

Bright. Annoying to those that don't like bright colors. I'm very big on the colors people say you should stay away from. I love yellow, I love orange, lime green. I like to wear clothes that make me feel good. If I'm wearing black it's because I'm feeling extra sexy that day. Typically black is not a color I like wearing just because it doesn't bring any life to me or my personality.

Do you get energy from your outfit?

Definitely. I can be having a whatever day wearing jeans and a t-shirt but the moment I put on my show dress, or [what I'm wearing now], for example, this is from Modcloth which does a great job of bringing in bright colors and fitting all sizes petite to extremely tall and extremely big women and finding colors and fits that work on any body. When I put this on this morning I was like, I feel cute today. And it even has pockets! It's the little things.

Would you say that's your favorite place to shop?

I do have a few favorites. As far as my overall style a lot of my stuff comes from Modcloth, which is not necessarily because of their brand but because they bring in other brands, like they've partnered up with Doc Martens and Herschel. They've been a huge part of my life as far as helping me revamp my style. They were there when I needed them to be there with style that didn't make me feel like a super old woman or like a child.

As far as my favorite brands, it's been all over the place recently. I'm a big fan of A Leap of Style for the exact same reason, as well as because they're local. Originally it was 'I want this dress,' and then it was 'Okay, I need this style in this print,' so we're starting this relationship together.

Same thing with my boots, with Lucchese. I've always worn boots but after I broke my ankle a couple years ago I started wearing them more because I couldn't wear heels anymore. I can stand in them but I cannot perform in them. So I started wearing boots onstage, originally just to have that little heel and feel a little more feminine, which is funny because I usually wear men's boots. As we've gotten more popular, Lucchese stepped in, I guess they saw some of my photos, I was constantly tagging Lucchese, Lucchese, Lucchese. I've always loved Lucchese because they last forever and they look great, and they ended up sending me a pair of boots and it just deepened the love affair.

What's your favorite part of your look to change up and play with—makeup, hair, nails?

I like to play with my nails the most. My favorite place in Houston is a tie between Gossip Nails and Dripped. I love Dripped mainly because of the convenience, the people that work there and the vision. I love Gossip because of the atmosphere, it's very calm, it doesn't feel like any other nail shop I've ever been to. The girls that work there can be a little sassy but the designs are insane. Both of them are doing a fantastic job as keeping Houston up as a competitive nail art market.

I've been going through hair changes recently too. Now that it's summer I'm going brighter and then I'll let it fade in the fall. The humidity was getting crazy, like really crazy, so I decided to try this company called Heat Free Hair for extensions. I haven't worn extensions in like seven years since I shaved my head, and it's been a really funny experience because I've learned that just adding three inches to your hair, people treat you differently. Men especially. Men are weird. There's a certain type of guy that will hit on you with no hair, a certain type of guy that will hit on you with short hair and a type that will hit on you with enormous, gigantic hair. 

Which type is the best?

There's no difference. You need to find a guy that will want you through every single look. 

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