Mag Launch: Makers of Fashion Imagery Break Barriers + Show Queer Black Identity is H-O-T

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Brace yourself. The Tenth is a magazine like you haven’t seen before—or more importantly, a magazine that presents the queer black male form in a way you NEED to see. Founded by fashion industry veteran creative directors Kyle Banks, André Verdun Jones, and Khary Septh, with contributors like Telfar Clemens, Rashaad Newsome, and Stephen Winter, the magazine which launches at a party on the Bowery this Thursday, includes evocative (and arousing) fashion images, serious essays, profiles, and even some academic musings. In a moment when the world sometimes feels like its chasing its own politically correct tale and at other times seems to be ignoring the issues completely, its refreshing and exciting to pick up a piece of printed matter with a complicated and maybe dangerous political message that is just plain cool and also damn sexy.

Blackbook caught up with founder Khary Speth to get a little insight into the project.

Video teasing the launch of new magazine “The Tenth”

Something is happening in culture writ large that feels primed to deliver black male queerness into the mainstream. What is that?

Well from our perspective, it feels like we’ve been burning up in our little gay boxes, on fire actually, for quite some time.  We actually credit FIRE!!—the radical literary publication by Langston Hughes, Richard Bruce Nuget and Wallace Thurman (+Zora Neale Hurston) published during the Harlem Renaissance—quite a bit in our conversations about THE TENTH because it places our work in context.  What we’re doing isn’t necessarily new, it’s just of its time.  Black queer exceptionalism today, explored and documented by us.

But we think that what’s happening now with independent media and technology are just allowing us to connect more, as gays in general, and support our own.  Hence you have L1ef, you have Mykki, you have Cakez, all of whom didn’t just have a voice, but were also able to build an audience.  Kids looking for content that speaks directly to them.  Same really goes in Fashion.  The days of wanting to rock Hilfiger and Polo have long been done.  Bye bye, white boys.  Then Sean John and Rocawear fled the scene.  Bye bye straight boys.

The next logical step is for us to want to support our own, so you have Shayne at HBA and Telfar who, although now a the points of mainstream success, were very very much made by the hip downtown gay kids.  Black queer culture has always intrigued fashionable masses though, look at Vogue.  It’s does feel like we’ve reached a tipping point with what’s happening now—probably because no one can control our image anymore, and that’s a great thing.

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Is there an element in the progress for any oppressed minority that involves sexual interest and images and even the aesthetics of what’s fashionable—a tipping point where desire goes hand in hand with equality? Maybe that’s not putting it quite right, but maybe that’s something that “The Tenth” really understands or captures or even heralds? 

Let’s be honest, they’ve always fucked us.  And that’s cool too.  But, I think you make a good point about the proliferation of the image—the fashion image, the screen image— being important in terms of pushing the “acceptability” of a minority group.  Problem lies, however, in the fact that sexy has finally transcended the body.  The black male body which has been for everyone’s viewing/fucking/working pleasure for quite some time now, is ready to be buttoned up so that it can get its Obama on.  What he’s thinking is the new sexy.  We’re not much interesting in being the lesser Black Adonis anymore.

When Tyson broke boundaries as the new boy-next-door in those Ralph Lauren ads, we were like YES because we knew we were in, and that was incredible.  It’s why you see all of  these nameless mannequins on the runways now, because we’ve become comodified, commercialized, and that’s super important.  But now, we need to commodify the intelligent Black man, the artistic Black man, the gay Black man and make him the next must have item.

The debut issue of The Tenth will be released on April 10th. 

coverThe magazine’s cover.

10th mock up for review-62Spread from the inside of “The Tenth”

10th mock up for review-39
Photo spread from “The Tenth”