At TikTok, we’re driven to provide a space where people to feel comfortable expressing themselves authentically. The next creator on our Creator Spotlight Series is a LGBTQ+ Trailblazer doing just that by sharing her true self through her educational and inspiring content.
Meet Chaya Milchtein (@mechanicshopfemme), an educator and journalist with a flair for explaining complicated automotive concepts to everyday people, and a passion to provide automotive industry education for people often left out of these spaces. Chaya launched Mechanic Shop Femme in June 2017, and has since been featured in publications ranging from AARP to Oprah Magazine. Her videos are filled with glamorous outfits that bring her femininity to the forefront, sharing automotive insights while normalizing the existence of fat queer people in the automotive conversation.
Get to know more about her story below:
What does Pride mean to you? How has that meaning changed for you over time?
When I think of what being proud, or having Pride means, I consider it outside of the general definitions as related to sexuality and gender. Pride means not fading into the background, not shrinking myself or dimming my light in order to make myself more palatable. Pride means being fully myself, sharing myself, and supporting my community in any way I can. Pride means speaking up against injustice in all forms, and not letting that be the only thing we do, but using it as a foundation for action. It's more than just rainbows and parades, it's living our daily lives as full human beings who love, and are loved, who feel pain and sorrow. And finally, it's about leaning into a community that can become your family, without losing sight of its own downsides, and using your voice to contribute to its growth.
How has your identity influenced or shaped you?
I was raised in a Chassidic Jewish home. When I ended up in foster care, I knew nothing about the world. It was culture shock. Like a storm swept me away and I landed on a planet that looked the same, but everything was completely different. I lost my community, and for a long time, my family. Coming out just a few months after entering the system was something I had never expected. But when I did, I joined a community that taught me who I was. How to flourish. And they had my back. Complete strangers became loved ones, supporting me from a distance and casting a net that I never wanted to count on but was there for me when I needed it. Starting a business that was built on supporting this very community was a no brainer. I wanted to use my knowledge and experience to empower my community to better understand their vehicles, save money, and ultimately, help ease some of that fear that people can feel when taking their car into the repair shop.
How do you celebrate the diversity/strength of (and also support) the LGBTQ+ community?
By lifting up and amplifying the voices of those most marginalized and putting my money where my mouth is.
How has the TikTok community inspired you?
Before TikTok, video content wasn't really my jam. But when I started creating, the community took to my work in such a loud and loving way that I quickly grew comfortable. Now creating video content is my primary way of sharing information on social media, allowing me to connect with people in a way I never had the opportunity to before. Every time I scroll down my For You Page, I learn new things, find new people who inspire me, and rededicate myself to my own personal mission of educating and empowering women and queer folks around cars.
What advice would you give to the next generation of the LGBTQ+ community?
The fight isn't over. Marriage isn't the culmination of LGBT equality. There is more work to be done.
How do you think people can be allies to the LGBTQ+ community?
Being an ally implies someone takes action on behalf of a person or a group. Being an ally to the LGBT community comes in the form of learning, changing your language, and speaking up in uncomfortable moments.
Who are some LGBTQ+ TikTok creators that everyone should be following?