Pride Month: RXM Creative’s ‘Virtual Pride March’ Digitally Subs For the Real Thing

 

 

This year Pride Month looked and felt different across the globe. Normally a time when generations of the LGBTQIA+ gather in streets and social venues to celebrate gay culture and history, the pandemic has otherwise spawned virtual events, enabling people around the world to join the festivities online instead. And while 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the very first Gay Pride March in New York City, social distancing of course forced the cancellation of the March itself; so RXM Creative, the digital creative group behind Virtual Cheers, has created a Virtual Pride March, with custom avatars generated through Instagram.

The goal of the project is to enable the LGBTQ community to see themselves on a virtual street, with the possibility to choose the styling and messaging for their own avatar…and, importantly, to support The Trevor Project.

Here is how the program works: you make a charitable donation to The Trevor Project, a leading organization supporting young LGBTQ+ people with numerous life-saving resource—such as an 24-hour suicide hotline, educational workshops and more. Once the donation has been confirmed, you direct-message @virtualpridemarch on Instagram to have an avatar created of yourself. The avatar becomes part of an extended Pride March through the Instagram feeds of all supporters.

As Pride Month is winding down, Virtual Pride March is a great way of bringing the LGBTQ+ community and allies together with a fun, interactive, custom, and we must say, adorable, online experience. Join the virtual parade to be seen with the likes of Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Amanda Lepore, and Alok and give to a charity that needs our help more than ever during these economically uncertain times.

 

BlackBook Premiere: New Noga Erez Single + Video ‘NO news on TV’ Imagines an Ideological Utopia

 

 

 

Tel Aviv singer Noga Erez has taken the electro/EDM scene by storm;  but best not to pigeonhole her, as the grainy textures and potent atmospherics forged with her synths and ingenious beats find her bravely straddling genres. And while the music she makes in collaboration with her partner and co-writer, composer and producer Ori Rousso, and  is characterized by the more physical, dynamic elements of electronic and pop, it also embraces a cerebral sensitivity that’s established her one of Israel’s most exciting, idiosyncratic artists.

Erez, who, prior to the pandemic, was booked for the since-cancelled SXSW, the Standard East Village in New York, and Virgin Fest in Los Angeles, sat for an exclusive quarantine interview and photoshoot for BlackBook. She shared what social distancing meant for her, reflected on the philosophies of performance artist Marina Abramovic, and revealed the meaning of her new single and video, “NO news on TV,” which drops today, June 23.

 

In “NO news on TV,” the lyrics are very relatable to the current state of the world: you sing, “I don’t want to look at my phone anymore, I don’t want to roll like a stone anymore.” What is the inspiration behind this song? 

This is the very first time I’m talking about this single and I’m very excited. It is a reference to The Rolling Stones and to the [Bob Dylan] song “Like a Rolling Stone.” As the world started to grapple with the pandemic, everything got cancelled; and I was initially very disappointed because I had a lot of opportunities out there that have been cancelled or postponed. But in some strange way, I felt like everything that happened and all the quiet around me, I actually needed. I didn’t realize that I needed it at first, but I did need it. And I fell into this place of euphoria, I would even say. I really needed a deep place of peace and quiet. Obviously, I had the notion that there’s something crazy and bad happening in the world, but for me, in my home and in my mind, my creativity was in a better place. So, I allowed myself to imagine a world where there’s no pressure and you don’t have to make money.
I call it a “A children’s song for adults” because it shows a naive, utopian reflection of reality. It tells more about a state of mind rather than something real, a place of being able to actually imagine a world with no politics, money, grit, racism, violence. I just needed to have a song like that. An escape song. A song about redemption from everything that keeps us locked in and takes our freedom.

Sometimes being alone time can be therapeutic; but many people who have been in isolation during the outbreak are seeking connection. On a personal level, outside of creating, did you find ways to connect with family or close friends?

Everyone took it very differently, and I do know many people took it as break. I’m talking in past tense here because the virus was contained quickly in Israel, and restrictions have been lifted. Things are pretty much back to life here. During the crisis, I was working the entire time and I was being creative and working on my music. The main difference for me was that we didn’t have to deal with all the rest of the stuff that happens when life is normal; it was quiet. For me, it was a full creative zone—one of incredible productivity that I had never experienced before.

With the death of George Floyd, things have changed virtually overnight, and you have gone from, in a sense, celebrating the quiet of isolation, to feeling the need to reengage with the world, posting on social about racial injustice.

I have given this a lot of thought, and it took me a bit of time to address this subject. When I compare it to how people from the outside observe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I recognized that, like them, I had not lived through or been part the civil rights movement and battle for racial equality. So I had a responsibility to educate myself about this whole topic, because I didn’t learn much about it in school and had no direct experience with it. Black music and culture is such an important influence on my own music, and I felt that I had a responsibility to speak up about racial inequality. I think that there is an awakening going on around the world.

 

 

But you’ve taken some flack because you are Israeli, and Israel is often demonized for its treatment of Palestinians. 

I wrote and rewrote my social post multiple times, trying to strike the right balance to express solidarity. I am indeed an outsider to this situation, but it is painful to see those things happening in a world that should be much more advanced. I come from a place that has been criticized for what people see as injustices. And I believe that injustice is injustice, regardless of where it comes from; and I have criticized my own government. I have been involved in protests for social justice since I was a child, and my parents took me to them.

What is your process for sourcing collaborations? Your music is very personal, so how do you determine who to work with?

My creative process is personal; but at the same time, I’m constantly working with a collaborator, my partner, Ori Rousso. I’m used to communicating my ideas. It’s about allowing something fresh to come in, it’s always an exciting experience. If it’s a feature, someone being a guest on the song, it’s usually a long distance connection through e-mails, through FaceTime, and a creative experience of back and forth that eventually culminates in the recording. Every time I make the decision to step out of my zone and have other people come in, I never regret it. It’s a learning experience.

Growing up in Israel, who were your musical influences?

My parents are big music lovers, so music was played in the house all the time. Music from Israel, oldies from Israel, classics of Israeli culture, but also a lot of influence from around the world; my main ones being The Beatles, Leonard Cohen, ABBA, and Simon & Garfunkel.

How does fashion play a role in your videos’ aesthetics?

Until I needed to get dressed for concerts, I never really cared about fashion. I would always wear the first thing that I found hanging in my closet. But now my interests have shifted very radically into really wanting to use fashion as a form of self-expression, especially as I became more deeply committed to my music. I’m gradually getting to a place where I know what I like wearing and know what I am trying to present through fashion.

 

 

So you are your own stylist, based on how you feel?

It really depends where I am, because I do have an amazing stylist in London, David Evans. In other places, most of the time, I would be styling myself. I recently started a collaboration with a designer here in Israel, Shir Shtarker, we are working together on a collection of suits. My focus now is suits, ties, tuxedos, you know, traditional men’s tailored and formal looks, but with a twist. I think it’s kind of like a grown-up version of me being a tomboy. I never liked wearing girlie things. We designed five suits, so there’s like 25 different combinations.

Tell us about the new video.

Usually, my visuals focus on presenting the beat, the cuts are always timed with the music. But here we were trying to find a way to contradict the upbeat song with longer shots, that serve the meaning of the song rather than the beat. I wanted to play a character that is very different from how I see myself, and the feeling of boredom playing a big part in a subconscious way throughout the video. The bear here is an intruder, a threat coming from the outside world and messing up the utopia, and also salvaging the character from the underwhelming feeling of having no worries or trouble. Once she gets friendly and intimate with the intruder she instantly realizes the outside world is too scary, too intense and she decides to get rid of it and go back to closing herself off from anything outside her beautiful, perfect boredom.

What do you want people to experience through your music?

I just watched the documentary about [performance artist] Marina Abramovic. And I feel like I’m a bit confused after watching it, because everything she says about her manifesto on art is just so different from mine. Her manifesto is, “don’t steal from other artists”…and my philosophy is to take inspiration from wherever you can, and do whatever you can to make space for your creativity. In contrast, she pushes you to challenge your originality again and again. Sometimes I find myself struggling with it when I try to write lyrics. I can only say that it has always been my thing, to be able to just shift peoples’ states of mind.

Now with travel restrictions and music festivals being cancelled, how are you connecting with your audience?

I’ve been touring, and I feel like I’m one of those artists who needs a stage—not only for the connection with people, but also to make each song feel like a different experience every time, even though I might be singing that song for the millionth time. I miss performing terribly; but I am hoping that people just play the new single in their quarantine situations and just shift.

 

BlackBook Interview: Madame Gandhi on Gender Liberation, Touring w/ Oprah + Meditation During Quarantine

Suit, ruffle blouse, green bikini top, earrings: Vintage from LIDOW ARCHIVE, All other jewelry: Renato Cipullo

 

 

Fresh off her tour opening for Oprah’s ‘Vision 2020’, and the drop of her latest single “Freedom” ft. Trakgirl (Spotify EQL Session), electronic music artist, activist, and unapologetic feminist Madame Gandhi took the time to meet with BlackBook to share a bit of herself, especially insights on her music and her message. We managed to fit in an exclusive photo shoot just before her appearance at Brooklyn’s Elsewhere, and, incidentally, just in the nick of time before the COVID-19-imposed social distancing guidelines made such live gatherings verboten.

 

 

Whether onstage, or as she poses in front of the camera, you can feel her passion to perform. She is also a musician with a message, and she communicates it by any medium possible. The Georgetown and Harvard Business School graduate has actually been named a TED Fellow: “Young world-changers, academics and trailblazers who have shown unusual accomplishment and exceptional courage in their respective disciplines…who collaborate and share new ideas and research across disciplines to create positive change around the world.” We could not possibly more strongly agree.

As quarantine began to take hold around us, we dove into both her art and her message, as well as how to achieve some sense of Zen in the time of coronavirus.

(N.B. Madame Gandhi’s TED Talk is scheduled for release this July.)

 

 

 

There are empowering messages in your music. What influenced that?

Anything that I’ve learned about politics or history—about the walk or journey of somebody else’s life—has been through music. As a kid, growing up in Manhattan, I would listen to Nas or Lauryn Hill and be learning about somebody else’s journey just thirty or forty blocks north of me in Harlem. Being able to use music to pull somebody in because of the beat and the melody and then share with them my thoughts on gender liberation, my thoughts on happiness, my thoughts on personal wellness, my thoughts on empathy, are the kinds of strategies and tools that make music so effective.

You worked with M.I.A., who is notably outspoken. 

I worked with her, Thievery Corporation, and TV on the Radio as their drummer, and those three are so effective in making incredible music that inspires people, not only because it’s good, but because they’re saying something with that music. M.I.A is teaching about what she calls “third world democracy.” Thievery Corporation is teaching about corruption in the White House. TV on the Radio is teaching you about love and romance. So that is why I have chosen music as the medium through which I can communicate my views on gender; because I truly believe it is the most effective medium.

Tell us about your experience drumming for Oprah’s ‘2020 Vision’ tour. 

So for the first three months of this year, every Saturday we would travel to a stadium and open up the day of Oprah’s ‘2020 Vision’ tour with the Daybreaker group. Daybreaker hosts a morning sober dance party where from 6-7am you do yoga, and then from 7-9am you dance as if you were in a nightclub to DJs, drumming, and live instruments. It’s a nine city stadium tour and then Oprah comes on to the stage to talk about wellness, her own personal fitness journey, her journey about her being on her path, and to just inspire her audience to also live out their own 2020 vision. And for me personally, it was the first time I’d ever performed in a stadium, it was first time where I’d really felt seen by someone so successful in their career as Oprah. It felt like I was really serving my purpose by using my drumming and dancing to give joy to the audiences we were performing for.

 

 

How did the audience respond?

We took people out of their minds and into their bodies, which is an important and underestimated activity—especially as we all grow older and we tend to think that we can’t be in our bodies to the extent that we really can. And I thought that was really important and inspiring. On the last day of the tour, Oprah was getting ready to give her speech, and as she was approaching the little podium she saw me and she just scooped me into her arms and gave me the most extraordinary hug! I’ll never forget that moment because I felt really seen, and I will never forget the lessons I learned on that tour. I can’t wait to take them and practice them on my own touring opportunities after this whole [COVID-19] experience calms down.

Has your sound evolved or developed from the inspiration of artists who came before you?

Definitely M.I.A inspires me because she’s constantly evolving her sound, and yet you can always tell when it’s an M.I.A song. The same is true for TV on the Radio and Thievery Corporation. I think that’s really important to me to continue putting out music, so I really hone a sound. For me that sound is taking my vocals, my drumming and the message, then putting warmly produced electronics underneath it. I usually always have something to say with my lyrics, whether it’s being really vulnerable in my emotions, or being really empowered by my passion for gender liberation.

Does the music act as a kind of therapy for you?

Fela Kuti’s music, like we were blasting during the BlackBook photoshoot, is a constant source of daily inspiration. Not only do I feel like it’s good for my mental health, and chemically shifts my brain to feel happier and more productive with my day, but it also shows me how I can take my views and put them into a really sexy musical body of work, one that gets people dancing and feeling happy, while still opening up their channels to learn and receive new information.

What particular issues are you most passionate about?

I’m really passionate about people feeling their best and being their most empowered selves. I remember when I was younger, I would go through phases of feeling my best self and then feeling bullied by other people, and I never want anyone else to feel like that. I’m passionate about women and femmes and gender non-conforming folks and queer folks being able to feel the true empowerment of our spirit. I want us not to constantly talk about our oppression, but rather to use our gifts to operate in a space of joy.

 

Suit, Bracelets: Vintage from LIDOW ARCHIVE, Shoes: Repetto from LIDOW ARCHIVE, All other jewelry: Renato Cipullo

 

And making music inspires that joy?

I’m a big advocate for taking something you enjoy doing, whether it’s cooking, or in my case drumming and singing, and thinking “How can I use that to give back? How can I use that to make the world a better place?” The reason why I subscribe to that notion is that if you’re doing something you love, you’ll always have the fuel to give. If you feel like you’re just volunteering or doing somebody else a favor, I don’t find it as sustainable as the closed loop circle of genuinely enjoying the process of serving others.

You keep a rigorous schedule. What do you do with your downtime? How do you unplug?

That’s a funny question to think about in the time of corona. I’ve been definitely working out every day. I make sure I get eight hours of sleep and drink enough water. I love to make music, and just get ideas going. When training in “non-corona times,” I do love to box, surf, and go for a run. Right before things got pretty serious and it felt less safe to leave your home, I ran the perimeter of Manhattan and put in a 13 mile run, which felt really good. But I feel a larger responsibility to actually honor the self-quarantine process to prevent the spread of the virus. I also practice daily meditation. I meditate every day for ten minutes in the morning, and it’s a very structured meditation that helps me home in on my emotions, and allows me to stay zen and disciplined in the work that I’m trying to do.
Credits:
Madame Gandhi @madamegandhi
Photographer: Savanna Ruedy @savannarruedy
Stylist: Haile Lidow @lidowarchive
Hair: Stefani Annaliese @stefaniannaliese Assisted by: Kylie Lefkowitz @crownedbykylie
Makeup: Yui Ishibashi @yui_i
Production and text: Alfredo Mineo @alfredomineo

Instagram Style: @LIDOWARCHIVE is Camp, Colorful…and a Fave of Troye Sivan

Images by Jess Farran; Styling by Haile Lidow @lidowarchive

 

 

Not that we were totally surprised—but sheltering-in-place has created a new fertile ground for already imaginative content creators to take everything just that much further. To wit, Brooklyn-based clothing rental company LIDOW ARCHIVE, which was already one of our faves, with its camp, eccentric and very colorful Instagram account.

It’s a fantasyland of 4,000+ eclectic pieces of vintage and contemporary fashions and accessories, putting new, offbeat brands right alongside treasures from the venerable houses of Moschino, Karl Lagerfeld, Dior, Lacroix, Ashish, Versace, Emilio Pucci…we could go on. It was officially launched in 2019 by stylist Haile Lidow, whose most recent credits include providing pieces for model/actress Hunter Schafer (HBO’s Euphoria) for the March cover of V magazine, and for Troye Sivan, for his just released album, Take Yourself Home.

 

 

“We arranged for his stylist to come in for an ‘experimental pull,’ Lidow explains, “with the intent to try out new silhouettes and styling combinations for Troye. We played dress up for four hours! Troye ended up loving the looks created in that session, and it resulted in a creative shoot. It was originally only supposed to be for Instagram content, but they needed imagery for a new song and ultimately chose to use those pictures. It was so exciting and I loved seeing all the fan art of him in a full LIDOW ARCHIVE look.”

@LIDOWARCHIVE shares sneak peeks and inspirations via IG stories, while static posts, often set in or around the studio that fills an entire floor of Lidow’s home, are filled with imaginative narratives showcasing new and, of course, archive items (maybe something by Lillie Rubin or Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga or Jean Paul Gaultier, YSL or Thierry Mugler). It ends up being quite a lot of fun following the chronicle of pieces finding their new home at LIDOW, and then seeing those pieces at work, immortalized in assorted magazine spreads.

“When I started interning at Vogue I began interacting with clothing from major fashion houses and niche contemporary designers for the first time,” she recalls. “That’s when I found my love for mixing vintage with contemporary pieces, which has shaped my personal style, my prerogative as a stylist, and the overall aesthetic of my collection at LIDOW ARCHIVE—the three of which are inextricably intertwined.”

 

 

The aesthetic is characterized by lots of pink, and given a dose of humor with the clever use of various emojis.

“It’s an immersive window into our world,” she insists, “it’s about selling the fantasyland. Our main priority with the LIDOW ARCHIVE Instagram is to have fun, so we try to make content that is lighthearted and cheeky—our tagline is ‘Check Out My Rack!’ after all. But is also gives a glimpse into our business, which is ultimately about renting clothes.”

Filled with whimsy, @LIDOWARCHIVE is the feed we all could use right about now: a reminder of the brightness and individuality that we all possess, and can look forward to acting on once we’re able to return to our regularly scheduled programming. Until then, we can’t think of a better way to pass the quarantine time.

 

 

Stunning New Book ‘Out of the Blue’ Celebrates 50 Years of London’s Designers Guild

 

 

 

With the global spread of COVID-19, vaunted London institutions such as the Saatchi Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, and Tate Modern have been forced to close their doors indefinitely—though many can be viewed digitally. As the situation continues to evolve, much of the actual physical programming has been extended well into the back end of 2020, optimistic that 10 Downing will eventually ease restrictions.

A show we were specifically looking forward to was at one of our lesser known London faves (also shuttered), the the chicly offbeat Fashion and Textile Museum, which has no permanent collection, instead featuring rotating exhibits. Founded by legendary punk fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, and noted for its cheerful, bright orange and pink façade, it is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, by also commemorating the 50th anniversary of the capital’s exalted Designers Guild.

 

 

The latter is the invention of London interior design icon Tricia Guild, and rose from humble roots as small shop in Chelsea in 1970, to a paragon of contemporary style. The brand has since grown into a global enterprise, whose products have changed the way we view modern interior design. But while the exhibition remains postponed, there is a striking new companion book to fill the void, Out of the Blue: Fifty Years of Designers Guild, compiled and authored by Guild herself (and available via ACC Art Books),

The book unravels her unique approach to design, focusing on influences, intuitive methodology, and the techniques, processes and materials applied in her five decades of work. Originally frustrated with the lack of truly contemporary fabrics and wallpapers for interiors, her vision was to create a total lifestyle, not just a look.

Guild conjured new ways to mix diverse elements, as well as re-envisioning how color, pattern, texture and form can combine to create a harmonious space. Juxtapositions are still key to her style, and like an artist employing collage, have led to a remarkable eclecticism. However, what has remained consistent is the bold fearlessness with which she brings it all together.

 

 

Readers are given a peek into Guild’s inspirations: her travels to India, Japan and Scandinavia, and how it all translates into stunning new collections of fabrics, wallpaper, furniture and accessories. Ancient Indian textiles, Renaissance-style velvets and Swedish Gustavian wall treatments are brought together in surprisingly forward-looking harmony, eclectic amalgams which harmonize East and West, past and present.

Designers Guild is perhaps known best for florals and botanicals, but plain fabrics in a multitude of shades and textures, alongside a vast range of geometric and abstract designs, are also vital to the mix. And like the museum housing this exhibit, Guild is renowned for her confident and vivid use of color; but the natural and neutral palette enjoys equal prominence in her collections.

Of course, as we continue to shelter-in-place, what better time to seek inspiration for that long-considered interior remake? Out of the Blue, the book, is surely the perfect place to start.

For regular updates on upcoming London cultural events and re-openings, check out the Visit Britain site.

 

Exclusive Interview + Shoot: Ruby Amadelle Comes Musically Into Her Own

Images by Jess Farran; Styling by Haile Lidow @lidowarchive

 

 

 

In a recent exclusive interview and photoshoot for BlackBook, we got a peek into the world of burgeoning electropop singer/songwriter Ruby Amadelle – who has been better known as musical sidekick to her very famous brother and best friend Gus Dapperton. Speaking to her during the pandemic lockdown, it was immediately evident that her maturity, self-assurance and emotional depth significantly bely her youth. Further bearing that out, her debut album, the tellingly titled Raw, drops today—May 22.

We’re expecting great things from her.

 

 

 

What were the inspirations behind Raw?

I started creating this when I wrote “The Bleed” a few years ago and, I basically didn’t know what I was going to be doing for this project. I was just coming into adulthood, becoming aware of a lot of chaos and evil in the world, and was getting a bit discouraged. So, after a few traumatizing experiences, I wrote “The Bleed” to encompass how I felt. That’s why it’s so chaotic. From there, I wrote each song as I healed from those things. I ended out with “Raw,” the only love song I’ve written, and it’s directed toward myself and a person that gave me hope in the world again.

When we heard first heard “The Bleed,” on an iPhone, we thought it was a beautiful ballad; but then playing it on a soundsystem, it sounded more like a club banger. Should it make one feel sad or want to dance?

I wrote in the piano, and it just turned out to be this sad, very dark, intense song. Gus then asked, “Do we make it a bop or do we make a ballad?” And we decided “maybe a bop,” because that’s the perfect in between for everything it holds.

Who worked with you on this album?

The first few songs on the EP, “Not My Baby,” “The Bleed,” and “Hold Onto Myself,” I made completely with my brother. I collaborate with him most of the time because he’s my best friend, and he just understands what I want to do, and he’s an amazing producer. We sometimes co-write the songs. The last song “Raw” was produced by Godchild, he’s a good friend of ours and he made it sound beautiful and angelic, just the way I wanted it. For everything visual, I work with Jess Farran, [photographer, videographer and director], because she’s my creative director and totally gets the messages I’m trying to express. She brings them to life.

 

 

When you’re performing or creating do you tap into an alter ego? What is the source of creative energy for you?

I’m so open in expressing my feelings because emotions shouldn’t be left unsaid. This person is who I am in real life, so I don’t need an alter ego to get my message out. My music is just a way of writing letters to people about things that I never said. So once I write the song and put it out there, I can move on from those thoughts and feelings. Every song is a message to someone directly.

Is there a common theme you’re trying to get across?

All of my music focuses on femininity and how to represent it in different ways. Emotions are often seen as a weakness, but for me, if you can identify and really express your feelings, that’s the strongest force a human can have. I’m always trying to infuse feelings in my songs, and often times, they’re imperfect; they’re not exactly how you want them to be.

 

 

You’ve already performed in front of thousands of people with your brother.

I’ve been performing my whole life, and that’s what I always wanted to do. I never get nervous, it’s more of a feeling of excitement. Most of the time that I’ve been on stage in the past few years has been with my brother. I’m in his band, and when I’m on tour with him, I’m his keyboardist and background vocalist. I’ve always believed in my brother and his music so much, and I feel like I’m on stage being his number one fan. It’s one of those surreal things because I’m watching, but I’m also in it, getting to experience it with him. Our relationship is one of a kind. We’re telepathic: we understand each other without having to explain things.

What music do you like to listen to?

For the past year, I was obsessed with FKA Twigs. I also love Lana Del Rey, and Marina and the Diamonds, because I grew up listening to them. Marina was this anti-pop pop star, so I will always have a love for her. Lately, I’ve been listening to Mazzy Star, because it’s calming during this [pandemic] time. I think for the first month, I only listened to them.

Concerts have been largely cancelled due to the pandemic. Do you tentatively have dates for live performances being considered, or is it just ‘full stop, we’re taking a break?’

At this point I think that all tours are now being pushed to 2021, so we would be touring in the spring—which would be really awesome, because I miss traveling. I also want to take this time to just live, because that’s really where I get my inspiration. Living and not focusing on deadlines, trying to give myself that freedom to really experience things…even though it’s all really weird right now. I’m in a lucky position in that I can use this time to create freely.

 

BlackBook Interview: Celebrity Tattoo Artist Mira Mariah on Self-Care, Staying Creative + Partying After Corona

 

 

 

You may already be familiar with visual artist Mira Mariah’s abstracted connected line work from her “girlknewyork” Instagram. Or maybe you know her as Ariana Grande’s go-to tattoo artist, whose work has garnered 200k followers on IG. Her designs have inspired collaborations with fine jewelry collection Amarilo and beauty brand Fresh.

BlackBook caught up with a quarantined Mira for “girl talk” (one of her favorite terms) during the COVID-19 lockdown, to find out what she’s working on creatively, what’s important to her during these unprecedented times, and just what her plans are for when this is all over. (Hint: she wants to host the biggest party NYC has ever seen.)

Throughout our interview, she talked fascinatingly about beauty, creativity, and how she receives thousands of tattoo requests every month; we also learned that there’s secret password that will give you priority access to her talents, which she will pass on to you if you are lucky enough to bump into her in New York, Paris, Los Angeles or London. Her dog Chi Chi also made an appearance as we connected via Zoom.

 

 

Are you a product junkie?

Yes, I really love skin care products and I’ve gotten really interested in them. I really appreciate Korean skin care: it’s really divine and special and it’s going to be sold in Sephora for the first time ever, which is really cool. I obviously love Fresh Beauty, and getting to work with them for the past year; and getting to know all their products in and out through that experience was really cool. A lot of the products I try are from referrals—the things that clients of mine recommend. They are the people that tell me “you have to try this,” and I am willing to experiment with new products all the time.

Right, because especially with tattooing, it’s a real bonding experience. 

I’m friends with all those girls [that I tattoo] in real life. I wind up being friends with everybody. I love friends. I’m a social girl. I stay friends with all my clients.

How has self-quarantine changed any of your beauty routines? Are you still on top of it?

I don’t wear makeup every day in real life, and I wear less makeup in quarantine. Maybe I wear makeup three days a week.

Well it’s great for the skin to take breaks. It allows it to regenerate and have a breather, so to speak.

Yes, it’s my skin breathing. I am doing the same amount of skincare, if not maybe a little bit more, than I would normally be doing.

 

 

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Changing gears a bit now…what advice would you give creatives out there with time to work on projects, but who are facing a creative block?

I think experiencing a creative block is definitely real, and there’s a lot of rhetoric about how important it is to be productive right now, because it’s precious free time. There’s also a counterpoint to that, which says, “No, it’s a pandemic, so get done what you can get done and accept that we are going through a difficult, unprecedented period.” I think that the answer is a bit of both; give yourself a few days where you really dedicate yourself to your craft, and a few days where you can rest and cry if you need to.

Yes, rest and cry. We’ve all been there.

Quarantine looks different for everyone. I have a daughter, so quarantine for me is also a lot of family organizing, meal preparation, and home schooling. So, my advice to creatives is to carve out time where you can. If you’re experiencing a block, you just need time to work through it, honestly. When I get a creative block, I just push through and draw the whole time, even if everything needs to be deleted. At least that way I am exercising my brain.

What helps your creative flow?

I release myself of the purpose of the drawing. It doesn’t matter what the drawing is. As an artist and illustrator, I switch mediums and I move from one thing to another. In quarantine, I’ve been sewing a lot, so if I get stuck on something or have a block there, I move to illustrating; and if I’m stuck on illustrating, I move to dance or photography or something else. My art consists of different practices and media, and I also find that moving around is really helpful.

I firmly believe in that. I practice Kundalini every morning, and movement is part of the practice to propel energy around. No matter what, you just push that energy and stagnation.

Yes, and sewing is so technical that a lot of times, when I’m really stuck on something, I can get through that a lot easier.

How are you staying connected to art and culture during this period of social distancing?

I read a lot.

What are you reading?

Right now I am reading a really cool book called Idols of Perversity. It’s an exploration of Lilith and Lilith type characters, and how women and their sexuality have been portrayed in our art, illustration, and culture throughout history, starting from the beginning of time and ending in the 1900s.

That sounds like an inspirational book for your work.

Yes, it really relates to my work, and I found it interesting to know more detail about it and to examine that lens even further. It’s historical and it uses a lot of direct references, from major artworks to smaller illustrations that are printed in newspapers or in newsletters published in early America.

 

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#peasantgirlsummer looks for getting high by the beach

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Speaking of smaller publications and print, have you ever consider doing a zine or a limited-edition book?

That would be a lot of fun! I’ve contributed to zines before.

Is there a design/tribute you would recommend to someone looking to honor a loved one during this pandemic?

(Her chihuahua makes an appearance) This is Chi Chi. I think that, often, memorial tattoos work out best when they are a symbol of the person you’ve lost. I really like when people get something that kind of nods toward that person: maybe it’s their favorite fruit, their favorite flower or even a place you went together. I think that’s a special thing, especially to choose honor someone  at this moment in history, versus just getting a tattoo because it’s a cool thing to do. A lot of my tattoos are like “I got this when I was in Paris,” and the imagery is a less relevant to me than having it mark the milestone.

Self-care is important right now in the midst of uncertainty, in which there are more questions than answers, and people feel overwhelmed with information. What does self-care mean to you during this time?

I have been giving myself a lot of permission, and I think that, for me, self-care is a lot of permission. And I think for a lot of people thinking of self-care as permission is really positive. So, that means not giving myself a hard time if I ate too much that day, or if I didn’t feel like eating that day, and just saying to myself, “that’s okay.” I’m not going to pressure myself about that. And then I think taking that permission even further and giving yourself permission to have an indulgence, like deciding that I’m just going to be in the bathtub right now and that’s all I’m doing, and I’m not reading the news, and I’m not obligated to answer my phone. As much as I love products, I think that the self-care conversation needs to move away from products at this time and move toward people finding inner peace.

What are your plans after social distancing ends?

I want to throw the most ridiculous party that anyone has ever seen. I want 70-year-olds to come to this party and be like “OMG, I thought Studio 54 was wild, but apparently, it was really tame.”

I love it! What did you need to postpone because of corona?

My whole life, basically.

Did you have travel plans? Do you want to travel after this?

I was supposed to be in LA twice so far, since we’ve been in quarantine. So, I definitely can’t wait to get back to see my friends. My good friend is having her baby in France right now, so I can’t wait to go back to meet her child. Also, work…I really love working in Paris and I love working in London. I’m really excited about some projects that will take place in London, so I can’t wait to get back there as soon as we are allowed. I want to do everything on earth! Now more than ever, because I’ve been in here so long.

 

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🤤 @femmenightmare

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New Book ‘Feminine Singular’ Pays Homage to Saint-Laurent Muse Betty Catroux

Photo by David Sims

 

 

As we deal with quarantining and social-distancing, there is surely no better time to reconnect with our love of fashion and culture, in order to transport us back to our pre-solitude reality. Thankfully, no shortage of virtual opportunities have popped up, in the absence of in-the-flesh visits to boutiques and museums.

We’re also on a mission to connect you with some of our favorite new reads during this period of isolation—and one of those is Betty Catroux, Yves Saint Laurent, Féminin Singular, which was meant to correspond to the exhibit of the same name at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Paris. Now slated to run through November, it specifically focuses on Betty Catroux, the Brazilian-born model who the designer often called his “female double,” and who is said to have greatly inspired much of his design aesthetic. The two first met at a Paris nightclub in late 1960s, and continued to frequent thee city’s edgy nightlife scene together in the ensuing years, developing an enduring friendship and and inextricable professional partnership.

They remained close until his death in 2008.

 

Musée Yves Saint Laurent

 

It is said that YSL immediately fell in love with her androgynous look, which was radically different from the traditional ideals of femininity and seductiveness pervasive during this period. And the exhibit marks the first time the museum has highlighted someone other than its namesake; it includes nearly fifty designs Saint Laurent created for and around Catroux, revealed in portraits of her, as well as extensively displayed on mannequins throughout the gallery. She was considered a fashion icon in her own right, and embodied Yves Saint Laurent’s physical ideal, as well as an attitude echoing the ‘masculine feminine style’ that he was developing at the time.

Anthony Vaccarello, artistic director of Saint Laurent, curated pieces from Catroux’s wardrobe that reveal her unique personality and ongoing influence on the house’s style. The exhibition would also recount the full history of the signature ‘Saint Laurent Style,’ which gained prominence in the 1960s and which the couturier would continue to explore until the haute couture house closed in 2002.

Barring an in-person visit to the museum until restrictions are lifted, it’s easy to get lost in the magnificence of Betty Catroux’s artistic relationship with Saint Laurent through the book Betty Catroux, Yves Saint Laurent: Feminine Singular, available via ACC Art Books starting May 1.

 

Photo by Steven Meisel

 

 

BlackBook Interview + Exclusive Photo Shoot: Caroline Vreeland Talks Leather Bustiers, Russian Lit + Singing the Blues

HAT: Vintage 1960’s Yves Saint Laurent from LIDOW ARCHIVE
GLOVES: Wing & Weft from LIDOW ARCHIVE
EARRINGS: Tana Chung
DIAMOND NECKLACE: Renato Cipullo

 

 

We first encounter Caroline Vreeland walking down the stairs on our way to pick up some snacks for the studio crew in Brooklyn’s gritty-but-gentrifying Bushwick. We are there with photographer Jess Farran for an exclusive BlackBook shoot, and Vreeland arrives wearing a cropped, oversized denim jacket, vintage high-waisted Levis, classic Chelsea boots, and dark sunglasses—which makes her seem like she’s just escaped from ’80s pop video.

She has just landed from Canada, where she sojourned with a new love interest between scheduled appearances. Although she comes from a storied fashion pedigree, and is an accomplished model and singer-songwriter in her own right, Vreeland cheerfully accompanies us to a modest local bodega to pick up the necessary comestibles.

 

 

As we walked a few blocks together before the start of the shoot, we began to catch up on her life. Caroline has a very soft, approachable way about her that is immediately disarming. It stands in contrast to her glamorous, compelling public persona which, combined with Marilyn Monroe good looks and alluring Audrey Hepburn mannerisms, radiates a certain star power, amplified by her growing social media and magazine cover presence.

Throughout the shoot, and over a bottle of 2018 Mon Cher Gamay, a wine—light, sweet and tart—that seems a fitting metaphor for the dynamic yet accessible Caroline. Before the camera started snapping, we engaged her on a wide range of topics…but most notably, her new album Notes on Sex and Wine (released this past Monday, March 2).

 

 

Your album is a bit autobiographical; how does it feel to put so much of yourself out there?

It’s the only way to do it. I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me, because Instagram is such a great platform for building my fanbase. But it’s almost cookie cutter—the images on there are generally what the world wants to see, and it can be boring. So with this album, I put out what I want the world to see and hear. The real shit. And I was going through a really bad breakup—I know, ‘whoa is me,’ we have all had bad breakups—and I have since recovered. But I was going through a dark time.

How did you deal with it?

I wanted to show that I wasn’t getting intimacy, and I took to drinking. I was so lonely when I moved to Miami, that’s why the album is called Notes on Sex and Wine. It was the lacking of one thing, while I was drowning in the other thing. In order for me to get passionate about my work, it has to have everything in it. It took about two years to produce this album. 

Is it better to love, or be loved?

That’s a great question, no one has ever asked me that before. It’s usually easier to be loved. If you love and it isn’t reciprocated, then you feel stupid and hurt. I want to be loved…adored, actually, by everyone. I do have a lot of love to give, though. But at the end of the day, to be loved is better. It sounds selfish, but it’s the truth. When I was in Miami, I was giving all the love and I wasn’t getting it back.

 

Images 1 & 4: DRESS: Troy Dylan Allen from LIDOW ARCHIVE
EARRINGS, RINGS: Renato Cipullo
NECKLACES: Tana Chung
Image 3: DRESS (WITH GLOVES): Vintage Moschino Couture from LIDOW ARCHIVE
HAT: Vintage from LIDOW ARCHIVE
EARRINGS, RINGS: Renato Cipullo
Images 2 & 5: BLAZER: Vintage Moschino Couture from LIDOW ARCHIVE
PANTIES: LIDOW ARCHIVE
SHOES: Vintage Ralph Lauren from LIDOW ARCHIVE
GLOVES: Wing & Weft from LIDOW ARCHIVE
EARRINGS, NECKLACE: Tana Chung 

 

You’ve become a celebrity through your modeling, music and social media. But what is it that people still don’t know about you?

I think I try to be this badass, crazy bitch in my public image; but my closer friends remind me that, in reality, I’m the girl that just drinks red wine and goes home early. People might be surprised to learn that I am very into sci-fi podcasts, for example—all the ones that are on the Welcome to Night Vale channel…anything that has some sort of conspiracy theory in the mix. I love those. I am an avid reader and enjoy Russian literature—Dostoevsky, Nabokov, Chekhov, really big on it.

Which is definitely different from your public image. 

I come across as sexually aggressive, but when I am with someone I am comfortable with, I am much more subdued. I am really extroverted most of the time; but now that I am in my thirties, I am starting to really treasure my alone time. I’m living in Brooklyn now, so I am really just discovering my neighborhood and I have a couple of spots…I really love Bar Tabac [a Parisian-style bistro in Boerum Hill]. 

Your music has a lot of soul in it. Who are your biggest influences?

I started learning music when I was 8-years-old, and I played the wind at a school play, just making blowing sounds into the microphone; I had determined at that moment, I wanted to perform. I remember liking Fiona Apple and also starting to like performing in front of people.  So I started taking vocal lessons. In my youth I was listening to Al Green, Etta Jones, Nina Simone—that blues sound is in my album is now. And then I went through some growing pains and tried pretty much every genre. At first I thought I wanted to be like Christina Aguilera or Beyoncé—that sort of loud, belting pop, so I did a project like that.

 

 

‘Drinking For Two,’ Paste Magazine Studio Session, January 3, 2020

 

But there was more to you?

Yes, next I did a project where the sound was more like that of the Black Keys; then I tried something that was more orchestral, like being the female singer of Muse. So I have done all this shit only to come back, and the blues are the thing that roots me now. It took more than twenty years to come to that. What I am channeling on this album is definitely Amy Winehouse, in the sense that I like to write about things that are darker in content; which means that the production has to be kind of down. But what Amy always did was find ways to incorporate movement in her work, even when the subject matter was so dark. Patsy Klein and Nancy Sinatra are also big influences sonically. When working with my producers, we would pull up sounds and moods that we would like and try to emulate them in my own version.

You recently performed before an adoring crowd here in New York, at the Standard East Hotel—and you’re also doing a few more live dates in the area. Do you enjoy it?

Yes. I have this crazy, bitchy, demanding French stylist, and he told me that I have to have a different, unique outfit for every single venue. Which is interesting because, while I am performing in large venues, they are still kind of divey in look and feel; and yet, I will be dressed to the nines in very thoughtfully chosen, customized outfits. I have a strong affection for fashion, but I also want to be some combination of myself—a person—and an image. So even though I like to be very candid and open in my interactions with the audience—I talk about my day, and how I am feeling—I still want to put on a bit of an image and a show.

People have come to expect that of you.

I will wear a custom tailored outfit, and then make it more dramatic with a cape, for instance; or maybe by wearing a leather bustier. Different outfits allow my performances to take on different shapes. I just want each show to be distinctive and have its own life.

Any surprises we can expect?

I’m using a drummer in my show for the first time…and I will be singing a cover song that no one has ever heard me do before.

 

 

Credits:

Images by Jess Farran
Producer and Text: Alfredo Mineo @alfredomineo
Photographer and Director: Jess Farran @Jess_Farran
Stylist: Haile Lidow @hailelidow
Hair and Make Up: Henry De La Paz @henrydelapaz
Beauty: Eileen Harcourt @harcourts  Using TATCHA Beauty @tatcha