Destabilizing the Imperialist Narrative with Chinese Graphic Tees

WRITTEN: Atalanta Shi

EDITED: Fizza Joffrey

It is a trend of globalization to want to mutually understand cultures and respect one another.

I say fuck that.

People only want to appreciate cultures under the pretence that western culture is superior and other cultures are for their entertainment. I want to start this with an excerpt from Minh Ha Pham's life-changing article at the Atlantic:

The idea that an Asian country like Indonesia might be the deliberate, self-aware originator of a fashion trend, rather than simply the third-world site for manufacturing cheap commodities, is an “inappropriate” one: it doesn’t correspond with the binary of high and low culture at the heart of cultural appropriation critiques. An “inappropriate” critique would point out that Western fashion designers are not only extraordinarily late to this plaid trend, they are following the followers of the trend. By locating the source of their inspiration in the Chinese-made bags (which are themselves based on cheap copies of the Bugis textiles), Philo, McCartney, and Jacobs are following in the tradition of earlier European and Asian trading companies who were already copying this textile. These illustrious Western fashion designers are, in effect, knocking off knock offs. The only thing “reinvented” by the Céline, Stella McCartney, and Louis Vuitton pieces is the notion of the Western fashion industry as the most important site of design innovation—an idea that is itself an invention.
Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 11.03.26 PM.png

This idea of inappropriation relates to my interest in t-shirts with nonsensical English slogans/sentences for how they position the English language. What exactly are these? I suppose you can just categorize them as mass fashion, quickly manufactured and widespread. They are just like any other graphic tee, with a simple slogan, not intended to stimulate any sort of deep thought. But westerners and English-speaking people sure get a kick out of reading them, since they don't really make sense. Where else have we seen a language been used for not literal meaning, but visual?

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 11.06.08 PM.png

Classic, no? Chinese and Japanese characters are stripped of meaning by the West for their "admirable aesthetic qualities" and are used on apparel and tattoos; in a sense, they brand the users as worldly and interesting because they are brave enough to admire "exotic cultures". On the other hand, English started to appear on shirts in China purely for the status of the English language - it too has been objectified and stripped of meaning. It is assumed that if you know English, you are educated - and by association, hold high social status.

It is clear that the English language and East Asian languages hold different social connotations. When Chinese languages are objectified, it reduces the entirety of Chinese history and culture to a visual accessory. When people from the West see Chinese people wearing nonsensical English, they think of the Chinese as uneducated, non-creative, and imitative as a whole. But, is this the only reality? Is it hard to consider that Chinese people might have a perspective on your ugly-ass Chinese tattoo? Do all Chinese people, over a billion of the world's population, care so much about what white people think of them that they want to wear English on their shirt to prove that they speak English?

When Chinese-speaking people look at Chinese tattoos, they laugh a little and move on with their day. When English-speaking people look at these pictures of English t-shirts, they laugh a little and move on with their day.

The point is not even to answer these questions, but to start posing them for people who have not yet conceived them - because at the end of the day, these assumptions lead to published articles on New York Times that tell people "some linguists and cultural historians believe so much mental energy and brain space is taken up by rote learning of the [Chinese] language, that little is left over for innovative thinking."

Have these so-called historians ever read about Chinese history? Or are they just doing work that is a self-serving reassurance for the West: that China is non-threatening because they can't even learn their own language, the oldest written language in history of over 6000 years, well enough to start thinking about innovation?

Also, have you seen American graphic tees?

This matters because let's not forget that we live in a globalized world where Western imperialism is the foundation of global politics and economy that 'trickles down' and affects individual lives. Hegemonic Western culture is the culture that demands to be the standard, the norm, and that all other cultures are in relation to it as the Other. The expectation of people to know your American language and your cultural references is an oppressive, colonialist idea that Western culture is the only relevant culture and all other cultures are backwards and obsolete.

History is only so much as what people write it to be. The imperialist narrative will impose that these t-shirts exist as a result of Chinese people being uneducated, cheap, and not having a culture of their own to show; in fact, it is actually destabilized already by the existence of these t-shirts. We just need to write it accordingly.

For inquiries regarding this article, contact Atalanta Shi @addydydy. You can find more of Atalanta Shi's work here:

Destabilizing the Imperialist Narrative with Chinese Graphic Tees

WRITTEN: Atalanta Shi

EDITED: Fizza Joffrey

It is a trend of globalization to want to mutually understand cultures and respect one another.

I say fuck that.

People only want to appreciate cultures under the pretence that western culture is superior and other cultures are for their entertainment. I want to start this with an excerpt from Minh Ha Pham's life-changing article at the Atlantic:

The idea that an Asian country like Indonesia might be the deliberate, self-aware originator of a fashion trend, rather than simply the third-world site for manufacturing cheap commodities, is an “inappropriate” one: it doesn’t correspond with the binary of high and low culture at the heart of cultural appropriation critiques. An “inappropriate” critique would point out that Western fashion designers are not only extraordinarily late to this plaid trend, they are following the followers of the trend. By locating the source of their inspiration in the Chinese-made bags (which are themselves based on cheap copies of the Bugis textiles), Philo, McCartney, and Jacobs are following in the tradition of earlier European and Asian trading companies who were already copying this textile. These illustrious Western fashion designers are, in effect, knocking off knock offs. The only thing “reinvented” by the Céline, Stella McCartney, and Louis Vuitton pieces is the notion of the Western fashion industry as the most important site of design innovation—an idea that is itself an invention.
Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 11.03.26 PM.png

This idea of inappropriation relates to my interest in t-shirts with nonsensical English slogans/sentences for how they position the English language. What exactly are these? I suppose you can just categorize them as mass fashion, quickly manufactured and widespread. They are just like any other graphic tee, with a simple slogan, not intended to stimulate any sort of deep thought. But westerners and English-speaking people sure get a kick out of reading them, since they don't really make sense. Where else have we seen a language been used for not literal meaning, but visual?

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 11.06.08 PM.png

Classic, no? Chinese and Japanese characters are stripped of meaning by the West for their "admirable aesthetic qualities" and are used on apparel and tattoos; in a sense, they brand the users as worldly and interesting because they are brave enough to admire "exotic cultures". On the other hand, English started to appear on shirts in China purely for the status of the English language - it too has been objectified and stripped of meaning. It is assumed that if you know English, you are educated - and by association, hold high social status.

It is clear that the English language and East Asian languages hold different social connotations. When Chinese languages are objectified, it reduces the entirety of Chinese history and culture to a visual accessory. When people from the West see Chinese people wearing nonsensical English, they think of the Chinese as uneducated, non-creative, and imitative as a whole. But, is this the only reality? Is it hard to consider that Chinese people might have a perspective on your ugly-ass Chinese tattoo? Do all Chinese people, over a billion of the world's population, care so much about what white people think of them that they want to wear English on their shirt to prove that they speak English?

When Chinese-speaking people look at Chinese tattoos, they laugh a little and move on with their day. When English-speaking people look at these pictures of English t-shirts, they laugh a little and move on with their day.

The point is not even to answer these questions, but to start posing them for people who have not yet conceived them - because at the end of the day, these assumptions lead to published articles on New York Times that tell people "some linguists and cultural historians believe so much mental energy and brain space is taken up by rote learning of the [Chinese] language, that little is left over for innovative thinking."

Have these so-called historians ever read about Chinese history? Or are they just doing work that is a self-serving reassurance for the West: that China is non-threatening because they can't even learn their own language, the oldest written language in history of over 6000 years, well enough to start thinking about innovation?

Also, have you seen American graphic tees?

This matters because let's not forget that we live in a globalized world where Western imperialism is the foundation of global politics and economy that 'trickles down' and affects individual lives. Hegemonic Western culture is the culture that demands to be the standard, the norm, and that all other cultures are in relation to it as the Other. The expectation of people to know your American language and your cultural references is an oppressive, colonialist idea that Western culture is the only relevant culture and all other cultures are backwards and obsolete.

History is only so much as what people write it to be. The imperialist narrative will impose that these t-shirts exist as a result of Chinese people being uneducated, cheap, and not having a culture of their own to show; in fact, it is actually destabilized already by the existence of these t-shirts. We just need to write it accordingly.

For inquiries regarding this article, contact Atalanta Shi @addydydy. You can find more of Atalanta Shi's work here:


In the second episode of OUTCAST, Rashida Renée teaches us about the inner workings of the fashion industry, the value of trans tastemakers, and mannequin-phobia.

You can follow Rashida on instagram: rashidareneeward + twitter: @fuckrashida

You can support our favourite tastemaker by donating to her paypal: and$rreneeward

Rashida Renée, by Inez + Vinoodh

Rashida Renée//Elizabeth Smart

Rashida Renée//Elizabeth Smart

Rashida Renée

Rashida Renée


Zanab: [00:00:14] So one of the questions that we got a lot is regarding your fears. Are there any fears you would be comfortable sharing with us and are there any fears you confront on a daily basis?

Rashida: [00:00:27] I just want to be left alone. I want to be able  to like navigate the world without people being mean to me, or trying me, or trying to get at me. I'm just trying to live a  really peaceful life. 

I'm not really with the confrontation and stuff. I don't know. I feel like everything bad to me that could happen has already happened if that makes sense. It can't really get any worse than this. Other than death--not to be dark, but, you know.

That would suck, like getting murdered would suck. Being stabbed or dying in an accident or you know dying in a plane crash. 


Zanab: So before we started recording the podcast we were talking a little bit about your wardrobe and you had mentioned that your wardrobe was just filled with these really kind of wild eccentric pieces and they're just a regular component of your wardrobe. So I guess my question is, how did you develop such an immense and interesting love for fashion? Like what brought you to this point?


Rashida: My mom and my mom I'm my on these to work in a salon together. Just go and buy you know a lot of beauty salon Time magazines everywhere. So we're always just look at like you know not moms who are always there every day especially a small child. And it was in the 90s so I would say the representation like especially for like black women were darker it was much better than it is now. 


[00:01:54] And my mom my mom was like really conscious conscious of that she really wanted us to like really love ourselves. I love our blackness and love the way it looked. Really Like appreciate black women. And it was just always around me. My mom was fat mama's fat. My auntie was she was like 5 11 and she was very dark skinned and she had like long white a long red light. So where it was she was like Bob was she passed away in 2007 by almost everything she was. But my mom and my mom were like models and they were really fashion forward. 


[00:02:31] And I think this is like my first memories were around 93 and that's when everyone was like where Clarabell. There was a lot of tokers is a lot of like you know Stevie Nicks kind of moments whatever she was and they would just dress like that. Meet Joe witness and that's a really conservative insular kind of black religious community and they would get a lot of shit just for like dressing the way they dress. 


[00:02:53] They would call the world the light of the world and they just didn't care. 


[00:02:58] They were it was just they were just filed to it mostly come from them and like they in the ending task war and they were like bigger women they always go the extra mile to find. Look for them and learn how to dress. 


[00:03:12] And like this just really like with it just like they were amazing and it really shouldn't be short like her like props really cropped hair. 


[00:03:23] She was just like really like as always and while most kids are going out at my mom straight Ebony always Ebony has had like fashions every night. Fashion section in the magazines like the 50s and ms. And use this thing in the past where. Where she started this I don't know he did or in the 60s. I can't remember. And she will go to the talk show in Paris and that action by lots of twar to bring back to the rest. So she will like and then you get a bunch of models and you will go on tour like and I'd like to bring back and show them all. Fast. Like Paris or Europe or whatever. And they did this point sixty seven things nine. 


[00:04:05] I mean I always think of every facet there and they also will just post them to just continually post pictures of black bottles so that's where became you familiar with like for like me on the back of the head. You know all those girls like dad like Debra Shaun White Black good to see all the models like so like when they came into fashion it was always very white black. It wasn't like you know like the fashion to be Esquire to this period like a trend of a guess. Did you like fashion. And when I first started it's always aware that it was the Navy. So they always have like no fashion television on it at all like the style we play as a pension. All the fashion programs that you see on TV looking at how stylists and you property them later with. Or low or with the wind as it was so I I was always aware of it. And then I would say I don't get into it more myself. 


[00:05:03] Like I struck out bangs myself like I was like last fall you know always always be like or actually be into music and you know make your move and boxy round and see it and apply and all these groups are out. And I always wanted to know what everyone was wearing and like you know contrary to popular belief like now all of is like were by Tina. And remember they were just like wild stuff. A lot of the times like this if you jump in jump at it and they said like see I didn't know what to see at that time. 


[00:05:38] As for like Christian Dior I just thought it was for Sly. So I didn't know what all these girls were what his music was wearing. 


[00:05:44] So were they really like not even like buy by the time like in the late 90s for 80000 who really really really really really the fashion director and they were putting out like some really amazing and a Tauriel impacted like fashion wise. 


[00:05:59] Now let's really Kafirs you know in great like high fashion models. A lot of black models at the time we're getting older we have to look bigger like the case with the vibe like it's great advertorials always look at the leader like look at all the credits and see what everyone was wearing and like really designers so they would figure out like OK so she's wearing this and they're not like that not. 


[00:06:21] And they were right. They all used to run like they were like the as each of them like. Actually I think you know Dolce Gabbana and Versace and you are they should run those ads and by which you know are urbanising run those sites that I was looking at you know the advertising looking at the clothes in editorials and I was like OK this is for. 


[00:06:38] So then I would just go and do my own research and do all of that. And I would like look up everything. See what everyone was wearing and all these designers were and I was like and I was conscious the back. I knew who was like not to be like that girl I've always been into this is always something I've been into I've always been aware. But in terms of being obsessive about it and really knowing like like really going married like really figure out what everybody was doing. Yeah. Yeah I'm rambling. I'm like on it. 


[00:07:10] So I look up everything on my mind. By the time I got to the flu I was just like really annoyed. About like just like you know routine. And they were blocked. They blocked my space in school so I was like that they passed around the block. And backbend style that. 


[00:07:27] Had all of those 3:41 found our same thing. They're all a lot of the editorials and Lalich that I was raised with the people who were with me were covering the Arpels. And designer Biles they have all the collection going back from like it was like I think 99 to like at that point it was like like 2005. We have all of that one they look at all the shows and back again back to all the names that the models were walking on pictures you got to know walking the models were old all the time. Who was that. What helps. So I learned a lot. Me Back then I was thinking like my encyclopedia of school. 


[00:08:06] They have a lot of fashion on margravine for that reason. I would just look at people that you know I was with who you know know like the rings of the mine which is hilarious. 


[00:08:15] Now the mom is now going off to the ball be so conservative like that. So I associate Australia into living with Barbara Bush the First Lady Barbara Bush because she was always very different and she like white house correspondents dinner and I thought that was really funny anyway. 


[00:08:34] So I learned a lot beyond that. And I just it just never stopped. I guess it never stopped. But I was never going to like the fashion stuff that like the radio or I would say like people who are followers of fashion were into the designers. I always always like the Sunday fun stuff especially when I was in high school. So like what was that 0 3 0 4 0 5 0 6. That was like the White River the heat quite precisely peak boasting about it. I was think Milan like fashion week when everyone was really doing it and you know I'm not like a huge fan of fan but like Congi was turning out some real stuff back then and it was all about that Tom DeLay. Tom DeLay Gucci for a minute there too. That was all like another always saying always say about like Mike was Archie Misaki porn it's like simulated sex and like Gucci is like real sex it looks like what real sex looks like. It was very amazing amazing really I think I responded to back then was like ya got this little steer right. 


[00:09:38] Here because he's like he's like a nerd in like brothers like nerds or always be into nerd. 


[00:09:43] My brother is you know when you're younger you're to watch things like things your way. So I was like Star Wars and do all the animation stuff. So watch all of that together. And that was another big influence that my dad was more concerned about like whatever it was way beyond that was always a ball. It's always an issue. It's always Dolce and Gabbana. She was always that kind of stuff. You know what is that. 


[00:10:06] Julie McDonald like a lot of people are leaving Donna will take a bit Deoband read and write he was as you Manjhi which is hilarious like thinking of how the bunchy are up there. Like how it is Stanwick to Julie. Julie McConnell is a very very. I don't want to say tacky. So it's work but it's very flashy and like very loud. 


[00:10:29] You know that you know all those chainmail dresses all the girls were really into the joker like they take care of the dress. 


[00:10:36] I don't think but I do. I think I'm going to look that up right now. Google Kendall Jenner Paris Hilton birthday and the best picture of the dress will pop up and like. 


[00:10:46] Everybody gave them a very direct address like the past like six months. And it was just like something like back and then we got was the Sidor like cool or like to say it was considered something that was tacky and like you know so funny to me the whole length of the early 2000s fashion that people really respond to like. Now in terms of the girls they're wearing what they're going to do like back the normal ceiling. Dress like that it was like ghetto not for like not really like something that was like respected or even seen right. 


[00:11:19] But you know like interesting funny over fun all the time. Just don't worry. 


[00:11:28] Anything that was like anything like being really that is overtly sexual. That is it might seem like too real. It's usually like that. 


[00:11:39] I think that's what you're doing. 


[00:11:42] Thanda people just like being the Salcha breathing the art of it you know my mom always always like my mom always like as long as the you she was there. Was it fun for her. Like look like us were like oh my god guys big shiny black clothes. So by like back then they were like this is like tacky but you know that's just how it works. 


[00:12:03] Stalls are buildings up to be bigger more important what they are. 


[00:12:09] Yeah. So how was that. I was I was always really into that kind of stuff. So it's like fighting now like a lot of the stuff that was all or did. All right. People like it some people will really criticize you and say it was funny because back then my 2003 like she wasn't even wearing anything custom. 


[00:12:30] I if you look mostly just like. Like anything I ever saw anywhere where you're going on a river OBALI or like Saatchi Saatchi. It was always something like Milan always something things a lot of glitter a lot of fur and you know was getting sexy. People were responding to that. 


[00:12:49] Another I think has a lot to do with wine too because like Jennifer Lopez has to dress like in a similar manner like to someone like Jennifer Lopez I think it's like that cross section like her style is always fun to me between like like little kids. For people who were more down to what she did days but like a lot of this she was very similar to the things that most girls did. It wasn't the that it because you know it wasn't mine. So not only. A black body it's like of course it's elevated it's like you can Lamport more desirable to be one of my Shaun White three or however many times you really connect what you think. 


[00:13:27] It's just music. 


[00:13:28] Like I'm not really into the fine art like that like I can appreciate something that if you look into it. But you know that really doesn't make any sense. It's just a different set of rules for that. And I'm just like kind of like always been kind of I don't see it. It just seems like really kind of elitist. 


[00:13:48] Definitely fashion is elitist too. But like art it's just very kind of like if you don't get this then you can get it you just don't know more. 


[00:13:55] Well know that's not true. I know there are so many other factors. Behind this which is why I'm this person. That's how it's like fashion. Like guess somebody is hot it's not because they're making them up. It's not it's not just making something that's like oh you're making something that's like you know all the time that's just responding with people. It's just like all these other kind of things that go into that. 


[00:14:17] So I don't know I'm not really into like fine art like that but mostly just like music. That's like really what it's like oh I. My clothes and stuff like I. Love. 


[00:14:29] Music Oh I'm like I'm fine. I love soldiers. Any kind of sculptures anything like that. I love that. Shit. That kind of shit. Don't ask me why I wasn't. I used to be scared of mannequins of this child becoming deathly here again but like naturally when I got older I just became obsessed manic and might still make shit like that I love it. Like I'm glad he hates spanking herself. She looks like the alien guys thing. I see it all the time. I want to buy. It's my favorite thing ever. So I like I guess like music and sculpture music and film. 


[00:15:06] We don't really read them but I get music and sculpture are part of the world. I don't like those whose EQ and sculpture. 


[00:15:15] Sort of have to do with fashion in a way yeah that's probably what it is. 


[00:15:20] Anything that has to do with that goes back to fashion. And to think of man again. 


[00:15:26] I keep saying that I love my game. 


[00:15:30] Yeah I was definitely afraid of magic as a child. I remember like I was walking up to my brother and I saw a mannequin going stolen or freaking out. My brother said giggling my dad oh my god I'm like trying to like touch something metal like 4 and I was crying. My dad tried to fight this guy. My brother was like well I knew what was happening. I was like crying. Because I wanted to watch. 


[00:15:54] He was like step into it. She that. And I had to get a chill out my. Oh I'm sorry Cleveland. Was. That. Bad. But I've been obsessed with that. 


[00:16:04] And then there's a boulder telling me that story of myself that is my thing. I don't even think of that. I've never heard about that like I have oh my god. That's crap. And tornadoes like seasons are like this a thousand years. I've been saying it it's like high school all over separated by the OR and like a toddler or Mama whatever it is. I don't post a lot of it. I don't know why but I guess that's what the key to victory. So. Anyway. And he just he decided like one season that he wasn't going to put Torre on actual models he stuff all the super. Mike Madigan to shot over to both of us like my favorite thing I've ever seen. 


[00:16:50] So the next question is a pretty popular while we've got at different times on the outside. Which fashion labels do you think don't get enough hype and which ones don't think. Just kind of. All right. 


[00:17:03] You know in terms of like what's going on now I just feel like I don't want to say things it just doesn't really work that way like I don't really believe in things being overrated or great. 


[00:17:15] It's 10x that that's popular. But we're sticking with what we're finding too. Like was already like like guys like you know let's going like be popular because that kind of imagery is who's already kind of popular with a certain kind of people or a certain kind of kids online. It's all like this kind of like the Gore people blog kind of tumbler of static. That's like they like second hand and like really influence right like this like you know sick sick. But you know it works in Italy and you stir it and stuff like that like it's all kind of for the fluence by that kind of thing. And that's all for those already kind of thing going on. But I guess nobody was I got to the house was we didn't even do anything like that. 


[00:17:58] So I was like already tapping into the Markley that was already there in like a space that was ongoing. There's of course people in Iceland. Well I don't mind that one of these like it's like with like. I don't really care sometimes it's cool sometimes I'm just like whatever. Like those boots they like the Manola Blahnik to do the collaboration. I see girls would not ever give a fuck about that month's anything or anything in those boots. Just because they like them and they are hot. If you go to buy them in the store he wanted to wear at your own rate. We're not going to just like the ones that were all wrong. It looks like a monster like Bellerose or like really fast. 


[00:18:35] Growing fast like photographs. No one does that. I don't know why. I'm just like really kind of like Man whatever about like. 


[00:18:44] That. I don't want to say it's a stupid question but I do think it's a stupid question. 


[00:18:50] OK I that answers the question actually. The fact that you think it's a stupid question I think people have an answer now as to who it's just like you you like what you. 


[00:18:58] I'm very much like you like which you like in your age to be like I don't wait. I don't believe in things like guilty pleasures. I just think that if you like something you like it make you feel guilty or not worry about what people think of. 


[00:19:14] I just I'm kind of like I really think so when you are talking we're talking about the Western European designer and we only started by being inspired by all. I guess we just never realized until now how similar occurring as to another designer. 


[00:19:31] That's what it is like it's like not to shave. When did my dad did. I don't like I don't like him. I'm like super. I don't I'm not like supercritical but designers movie you just feel like you know if they are really really kind of hard dogs created like a brand and then like especially like OK it's different like with when with they do they get that monster that fake them and their friends and they are just what they think the school they think is fun and they weren't aware that making friends there making clothes for their kind of people you know what I'm saying. Like when you're like in the big house it's like there's all these other things I think it's all about like in games and they want you to push the backseat and. Sell the shoe to sell and they win. So that makes her whole big business thing that makes where women wear encouraged to produce four collections a year you know resort to the way they make women's wear men's but. So a lot going on school I'm sure you don't want to do it like do a lot of weapons the ones with the like. 


[00:20:31] But look at stuff. I'm like I've seen men like images like that. They got very different things. 


[00:20:39] You know a history books like documentaries certain kind of movies. So it's like I don't know I'm just like I don't want to I'm kind of jaded that I'm not like never the guy dividing thing like shot. So I'm I just think it's keeping that slight. I don't want I don't want to rage like a intellectualising passion either. It's kind of as you say it's like pure aesthetics for me but not like I don't like I like I don't think there's a lot of meaning to it. It's just something I like it's fine and it's like away from my phone. I don't want to be I like terms. In really is other than like some like I might wear certain kind of things I want to see a certain way. I like people right. That's a very very raw. 


[00:21:21] So without much thought either in terms of like the imagery we're seeing is a lot of like a lot of like Mark does that kind of stylus That's a lot of like what is his name like Rob Simmons what rasam is right. Let's take that month. It's like basically all the well off white guys like Virgil just does like wrasse like light which is funny. But wrasslin I don't really like got problems where we don't get to war. But I love these moods where I love it all. I've always loved you just. I love that. 


[00:21:57] But anyway yeah. Yeah. Really there aren't we are all really super referential like you can always see something that someone else did and you know like disproportionate silhouette this like print. Sure. Mike I just think yesterday they were like me getting one with Scott because then my leg just like they put like a Roughriders like shirt on the runway. I thought it would just kind of just sit there and like really weird is true and just like I guess that's the that's the whole aesthetic the whole like thrift shop the static that they come and go for us to start doing something together. The only thing I thought that was weird because he just didn't give them credit for it. They are usually known for doing Mike. He's known for doing that co-operations with white stripe brands like one show. So I think the show that they've been on a lot of libraries that used to get to record. 


[00:22:51] And the Levites collaborated like you know they do all these for all these other brands. Like I think they just did a Roughriders operation even if it was just one or two shirts that were bit like butter. Interesting. But you know you could have used their work and like you know based on the way they not gotten bad press about you they still appropriated like you know black people who are hip hop. And it's a new show without like you know like you know didn't like for it. 


[00:23:17] You know it's a way to do things like respectfully and needs other people like older people and people aren't really interested in genuine cultural change just like you think it's really funny. It's always screaming a whole virgin to exchange your culture like you know there's nothing like really you're not really exchanging with so much culture if you like using something they didn't like making money off it. Not only that they get benefiting from it in any way. The whole truth strange that's kind of way. You take it literally right in the face. And that's just fashion though that they stole from each other reference each other. Like this whole other thing. Like the stylists style if I could stop them like that. You know so that's hot now like she's outspent other shows and the like a child in the streets and a break way. You know there's a bunch of other brands like some or so away from like the pros and everything sounded the same way. That's. 


[00:24:09] Right that it's a really good point that to me it's really not a cultural exchange and I am actually really against people using that term when the other party isn't benefiting at all because then it's not an exchange rate right. 


[00:24:22] No in fact. No no. They're not getting anything off that's expensive. I made a point. 


[00:24:30] About that. So with the hope that she'd be able to honor where we're were going out was. That. 


[00:24:36] I didn't think it was funny. But I you know I'm always in that I kind of stuff I'm just like I don't know if you're like familiar with these people. 


[00:24:44] I'm like I'm always like curious because it just seems like no one is ever familiar with these people or there are always surprises that these things just kind of just look a lot like way. Alex Arndt who does e.g.. I don't want to say Steve. 


[00:24:59] It's like a lot of like a kid and like everything feels like very kind of like you know I don't want to say reference but like it's like you know like antique like it's very like antique clothes or something. 


[00:25:13] It's times like that like you know some like old little shop or like a vintage store or something little thing from a. It's all very like old and delicate and like you know Christine looking at it's kind of look like a magpie that some kind of crazy old lady with all this like jury get like all these kind of patterns and furs and textures on and they acknowledge that all this stuff. So again like Samiti like that shapes that look fits with it that is like that. And the only thing I thought was weird again like the whole not getting credit or not even like doing an effort to do a collaboration collaboration with other people all the time. I thought that was weird and it was funny because I really did like their crew show like in Kyoto and Nicolaas like I'm like Japan. And instead of just like doing like all these Japanese clothing he reached up like they went to his favorite designers CONTO Yamamoto. Like to think big stuff like the 70s because like that. They didn't make a bunch of bags like a lot of Prensky stuff like that like an exchange because like you know you're you're referencing someone's work. But then like you're also like collaborating with them on it. And then now he's going to benefit from that because you know I'm assuming there was a lot of money going on this is gone it's going to make a brand like every time actually it was like they do a lot. 


[00:26:34] They did and they did a lot of clever articles but the idea that like you do like to cash more of a comic that they're really extremely popular early 2000s like the Stephen Spross practice collaborating with Richard Prince. They collaborate with a lot of artists like all the time. So that is commonplace so again I don't understand like if you run into somebody or reflections on my work I don't know why you don't just like collaborate with them and like everyone we all come up together and said you just like taking credit for something you have social media now people find out about it. This is something they've always kind of done but there's been no kind of response from anyone like you can keep earning might like saying thing. But now they have that like. So it's just like you know you might as well just do it the right way so you don't get like fucking dry on my dinner after like you know gays it might lose credibility like you know do people really take that kind of stuff like they really take it seriously. They like no no. All I remember really well was it was a balance that said something like the. Get the new guy that we think we pro-Trump or something yeah it came out it was about I was gay I was like it was. 


[00:27:43] Like nothing else. Seriously just like you said responsible things like. You know the original design to me like you know these people are like. 


[00:28:11] Rabbits. 


[00:28:14] So I feel like you bring up such a good point about responsibility and just how irresponsible it is to take from a culture and to not collaborate and give you know credit where credit is due. And I feel like a lot of people are mistaken and they're they're wrong for thinking that cultural appropriation is innocuous and a timeless which is a really popular opinion a lot of people do truly believe that it doesn't harm anyone and that it doesn't hurt anyone and that it's OK to you know take forever to make a fashion or whatever. You know I brought up Rathmines diamonds a little while ago and that kind of brings me to my next line of questioning. I watched the documentary I think it's called Dior and I it's on Netflix and it was kind of watching and so I sat down to watch with her. And this is the first time that Rabbi Simmons had done a good show. So I guess that was a big part of the documentary as I was watching us. I was watching the documentary and the show was finally happening. And there are no. Non-white models on stage. 


[00:29:23] Like not one. And so I'm a little appalled and I'm watching. 


[00:29:29] And then I catch a glimpse of like someone just like walking by and I was like oh OK there's at least you know there's one there's one nonwhite model. And then it ended up being Pat McGrath. 


[00:29:40] Like I'm not even joking there were no nonwhite models to be seen anywhere. So I guess kind of where I'm going with this is like other than the obvious what is. What are some of the biggest hurdles facing women of color and the modeling industry today. 


[00:29:58] Well you know Nancy I really like is that just being like this is kind of it just not be quite like I feel like those 100 white girls named Bianca who have a modeling contract. And you know just like the of white girls that can make them want more. It's just like you know is this is a bigger secret just like hers just like this guy it's like you know a bunch of white girls. Just be happy. And it's just so many of them. And I'm just saying. 


[00:30:47] This is nothing like the way women like money look like for example well should people like to not like it. 


[00:31:00] It's so much pressure because it just makes you want to meet them. 


[00:31:05] I have no idea that they were doing that strategically I had no idea that they did that kind of thing. 


[00:31:11] That's the thing what they didn't like it. You're you're going to get a bunch of the girls that look like that. And they also do it like you know when China became my horse you trust me. 


[00:31:24] So I guess at one point like Natasha Polly was one of the top three highest paid models in the world. And you know I guess I'm not alone. 


[00:31:32] Last night foggier preverbal and Natasha Pauley and and you know even Freiheit to a degree worked. So to me they had like very similar features. I had no idea that they were doing that as like with some kind of purpose with some kind of strategic purpose. It literally sides because of that I think in some ways and it's always I always think it's funny you like to write like like like like. Like like like they won't like any like you know Afro-Brazilian grow from a business cycle like. Rivera. Think it's great to visit with your girls and. About. Things. Like. Afro-Brazilian and Adriana Lima from the Bible which is like Jordi like. 


[00:32:29] Like like Brazil. I think she's like that too. But most of them were like oh my oh Michael's hair which doesn't make sense to me. 


[00:32:41] They're all like Jimmy Yanar from the German. 


[00:32:45] Yeah they're like from the German positions. They like to eat model clothes and they just like to. I've never been like super pretty pretty into the whole like macro thing. I've always been more like I following the black lines like like Naomi I'm like I don't really. It's just like it's kind of like whatever. You know we live like that because they don't like. Nobody stays around for like a long time. Really no one like really stays around me. They just you know there's certain Bertolucci who are not omnipresent like your god where I've not seen anywhere like recently disposable. Yeah I like this especially with like the black models like the models of color. I remember like when Lego first came out she was like get products you get. She was doing all the Spanish shows you like in front of him. And she was like Look all these shows did all these things. I don't see her anywhere anymore at all. 


[00:33:37] That's so funny you mentioned that because I was just thinking about like a little while ago because I really feel like I thought her a lot in 2015 and I don't really say much anyway. I'm on tumblr. I'm not really seeing her so much in photos or as I really feel like I saw her a lot a couple of years ago. 


[00:33:55] You did. And like you know is that really hard for them to like. Just like maintaining a career. 


[00:34:02] I mean especially with black Rommel's on round models I feel like if you're not one of the top 10 then you just kind of done with the girls who are top 10 they don't really relate. 


[00:34:12] They do like in a toilet. But then it gets the can't your career you start like you know you go from doing like your regular U.S. Vogue and you start doing like little turkey like you know they're actually just like the clergy stuff like that. So like no longevity I guess and the Curry didn't really have a lot of longevity like in the rear. That's why Naomi is like a freak and people like freaked out about her all the time. She's been working steadily with what you know top clients since like 1986. She hasn't had any grapes. She has had any breaks. 


[00:34:44] So one of the most popular questions I actually got was about my only Kimbal. People really want to know what your favorite Naomi Campbell moments. 


[00:34:51] I said I can't. That's like a whole nother show. So let's talk about it now. Like everything looked funny to me but my favorite thing which is kind of negative loop is the whole Tyra Banks do. 


[00:35:07] That always makes you say the thing that makes me laugh because I was telling her all this stuff about how she had said this to her backstage in the light show and how she had this dirty kind of blue shoe. Now she has her. And that was just Rick and I don't really remember that I don't remember. I don't remember that I'm sorry that I read it right. And I thought it was funny because all the new means I get to breathe and you don't eat the stop. You know Cindy Crawford and Christy Turlington and all those brawls. The one thing I ever heard about the other people is that she has like a perfect like photographic perfect memory that you think oh my gosh I always thought it was funny that she said you don't remember anything of that because everyone else will always go to you. 


[00:35:53] And the thing that was funny. You know to be negative but you know and you heard Tyra Banks talk. 


[00:36:01] I. Yeah. I know. Any minute. Yes. 


[00:36:05] I don't advocate bullying feel that you're teaching about how much you can get a plan like that you meet the other black girls around like minded especially. 


[00:36:20] They were like other girls and like were black. Veronica Webb was like the only one with a good cosmetic contact who was black in America the pill White was doing a lot of shows too. And just like retiring she wasn't doing much with other girls that you know like oh like like Sean Bell and Carrie and I'm like blinking for some reason. Oh little kids here are get to it later. Karen Alexander they were like a lot of other black models who were around like you know Stephanie black Stephanie Roberts is another model who gets confusing Amy a lot. 


[00:36:58] Like not in the gap as much as you like Stephanie ROBERTS It's nearly gamble but it's nice and it's funny because you think she's lighter than they are and that's you know that's fine. But anyway so. I was fighting the whole. 


[00:37:12] And she did her community service and she came out like in the final like down my lane. That was pretty funny. I think I like that was really funny but. She was doing a photo shoot for W like with Steven Klein So it was kind of like I'm doing the surveys that I'm turning into a photo shoot. You know she had said something about like she said she felt like they were talking to him or she was all that I know. I thought that was really powerful because I really have that's my whole thing I don't like when people are trying to believe me like take me down and you're like you know bring me down. I was like oh weird thing. I don't know. Anyway what else is music. Naomi is like oh you know it was amazing to see Piers Morgan in the UK may violate her privacy like when they just her. Her Like her AA meetings. 


[00:38:04] I'm like she's like why didn't you change the law over there. You can't like got people going it's like things like that. 


[00:38:12] Yeah in Kenya that wasn't already against libel I wrote a piece of shit for doing that I feel it's really horrible to this violence. 


[00:38:20] There's a lot of things I don't know. I like her needs and she's just like I don't know she's like wild but I just I'm always like astounded by her like her loyalty that she has to be able to tell all the people she works with. Again you've been working with it for ever. Like for her and she's just like really loyal. I was watching her talk on a panel recently. You know I don't she didn't say any names but it's inferred that they're doing a show on the death of Jerry Versace on on like American crime story and GSA director she respect her you asked her to play herself like and it's something that you do when you do with the case. She respected her friend and her family too much it was a 20 year anniversary just like the 20 year anniversary Giani so much since she was talking about that. 


[00:39:11] And I thought it was so like wow you really are that you're such a loyal friend that she will be involved in something like that life would be like oh look for you we are wise we think they show a big like big director at my street you want to it's like a terrier. 


[00:39:30] I was like really. 


[00:39:32] You know with them what about you and Naomi. Thank you both. I like to me anyway and this is I'm speaking of someone who does not know you I'm literally an outsider. 


[00:39:42] I'm just like the fact that you're both undefeatable. You know it feels like that's kind of the vibe that I got from both years of both yourself and Naomi Campbell. 


[00:39:52] I would say I don't think my son was undefeated. I think it is more like that like in so many Claassen or something or other like pointing out something I'm saying that's stupid for this. 


[00:40:04] I'm kind of just like you know what. OK. I understand that I'm sorry and I was like you know things like not to that in life you want to just never apologize right. That's why. People would just have to apologize right now. You say something stupid you say something stupid like made a post out like. 


[00:40:25] Stephen tried like it does like Discover magazine or her and she was like you know in a wheelchair it's like really weird. I made a point to look you know this is just like his daddy. And this is something they do is all the time. And you know we do we take them to task for that. And somebody had mentioned that maybe it wasn't really your big places for people who were disabled or whatever it was you know you write you write Oh you know I don't really consider that to be like I feel like they you know can do something wrong for steak and I apologize. 


[00:40:59] But I find it really difficult. I also like in terms of people who I talk to worry like trying to bring you down and that you know there's a lot of people who try to do that to you. 


[00:41:12] The person was the most fun day of his life. Now as friends. Say this girls hated me. She looked like she would like anything I would think he twists around and is forced to the death of me so I think it's funny. We're like now we're like best friends. You thought it would. I thought it was great. I thought so. 


[00:41:35] I mean undefeatable this is what I'm talking about. 


[00:41:38] Yes. I mean I don't look people you know. All right. Well sure. That's the funny thing. Like I just I really you just need to be on tumblr at least once I do go here. This is like what you. You know not to like life when she's in a fight. 


[00:42:00] So like no body can do this so switching gears that way you're not doing so well. What does something that seem like a therapist that you go to prison guard tour is something you do just to kind of like help them unwind. 


[00:42:16] It's like it's really likes like I don't do my own thing. I would just like to see music. I like to work out something that a lot of my friends talk to like this I would like to see a real and like me she like you know people take advantage. She did. You know. I'll talk to her g g g help me stay hungry like with talk to my friends like that. Say she's like you know she's like this or something like You know I'd go after her like. This. Or you know it's like something like. This for help or something. It's just my friends retreat. So it's just took over. So the next question we got a few variations of that on tumblr is that what this person was. 


[00:43:11] Talking about how their life was sort of felt with the trauma and the people around them had really hurt them because this question was different from the people that were around them and basically they're trying to move on from all those hurt and all of this pain and all of this trauma. And they were just wondering if you had any advice on doing that on overcoming the pain and damage that that you may experience on your. 


[00:43:38] Always think of it. Like only we only get to like live like this it's is one time that we know of. So I kind of just like to like I usually do it just to kind of just do things sometimes man like I don't even like try to like think about that. I'm not really like I don't want to say I'm like I'm not with the healthiest purply person. I kind of just push everything down and just start doing stuff. Eventually you will catch up to me but I'm like deal with it later. So I'm like kind of just. I try not to stop. I always try to keep moving. I don't like to like I don't want to dwell on stuff. Like that in terms of like interpersonal relations with people who are like family or anybody like that wasn't supportive or like me in a way. I was like really just stopped talking to them. OK. I'm famous for like I'm talking to people like I didn't talk to my my partner my grandparent's for like seven years and then they died did not say that I was just I just you know I don't really make when I feel like they think about me. That's funny when people aren't here for me or especially cook or tell you they love you I get mad in my vindictive. 


[00:44:45] I see like is a huge betrayal and all you're telling in my life is that you love me and you know I'm this and I'm back that soon as I do something that steps out of line of what is expected of me that you don't agree with then you know then it's a problem. I just I just don't fuck with the boss when I don't do that. I'm saying myself going to my DVDs to people I don't like I don't do that kind of shit. You're not trying to walk with me on a rock with me. 


[00:45:07] You got to get the fuck out of here. 


[00:45:09] But I feel that that's like 90. Are you sad that you think that that's possible. Not like the healthiest way of coping. I feel like that is probably one of the hardest things to do. 


[00:45:19] This is like something for everyone. Or you're going to do just that out of your life. Tonight depending on where you are you're like 17 you can't just talk to your parents now and say I'll. I don't. I don't know. I never know what to say. Like a hundred kids you can say you know my whole thing. 


[00:45:34] I kind of just like suffered violence dealt with it. 


[00:45:38] I don't believe that you know a great thing to tell people that you know just wait to go to college be like. You know I don't know. I feel like I'm going for options but like what helped me because I just kind of structure I try to find my people. I try to find people who were similar to me. But especially like the Internet was really helpful to all of people. I should like you know what we all do a lot. But you know you're getting old really. 


[00:45:59] And the one thing I can say that everyone was extremely close to one time I met off and we have like a real friendship. 


[00:46:09] I mean I was like best friends with this girl and some more for like three years and now we live together. OK. Who has gotten this crazy with for like a year now. 


[00:46:17] So it's like oh I have no idea as we are living together. OK. That's actually a really good story. 


[00:46:26] Yeah know like you say we'll talk. I'll talk with one strike but you think. Five six of us and we talk for hours and then we just like last year which is funny because like last year we started eating up slowly but surely you know we came here you met me here we had to do that. 


[00:46:43] I mean you're sitting around doing all these things I just mentioned you like most of like my super duper close friends. 


[00:46:50] I never thought I'd hear you say so pretty pretty but I'm so happy to hear that. I think there are some I don't. Speaking of stuff like you have a chance to do or whatever you like a few of your favorite things that you've you've been able to do these past few years. 


[00:47:06] I went to. So power and I spoke at this college. That was funny. 


[00:47:13] It was about of it almost felt like hyper visibility like we're basically like I've been training for men of color or something which I thought was funny because it was like two black crows on the planet and I have group of Jews and I can see what Easterners or something in my home Greger. 


[00:47:30] But like I was just like why is she even here because I don't even think this really pertains third killing all like that. 


[00:47:37] Like when I say that that you know what I'm saying is wrong even though I have a disability. 


[00:47:44] Oh my gosh. But she was on the panel for that. 


[00:47:46] She originally was on that panel asking about what happened it you little sweet girl that you know. I don't I feel like that I don't respond to any I don't I don't go with it. I'm trying to do right. If you're doing something right and it said something on the panel and all you will take the time to go with that. 


[00:48:08] I just feel like that's just gone like you know apology like it's kind of like what is the problem with you all this time I'm not like I didn't go to college and graduate school I'm like super like I guess formally educated like that. But you know I google everything or read everything straight you search. So you're just talking out of my. 


[00:48:27] Time but I don't know about showing how it's been all right. 


[00:48:31] Like really get a handle on things like you know violence there is a presentation and try to navigate the world like in search of like communion of such overwhelming violence that you're talking about creating a trans dating app. And like you know I don't like I don't give a fuck about that. You know I don't care about like my life. My main goal in life is not to find your partner. It's not like we're all like you know if it happens it happens. I'm sure that's late but I'm not like really. 


[00:49:00] I don't I don't know I'm just like like say a life like that number five so now they worry about running into like five that are like really being on the set that doesn't mean it's going to have sex with me. 


[00:49:13] Shine they don't because they do it it's just not a priority for me. 


[00:49:17] I don't care if they get it to happen or if it is natural. Sure. Let's party. 


[00:49:23] But no know otherwise is the spirit that Spidy is cool. 


[00:49:31] So it is simplifying but those are more stressful than. I mean I am so sorry about you still with that sounds really shitty and just really frustrating and. 


[00:49:44] You know what you said about it being such a serious topic and something that you and your community have to deal with every single day. Someone who doesn't even know what a lot of back it was. But you know it's it's extremely harmful that. On top of that it's just blatant disrespect for it. 


[00:50:02] Really does work for me. You know you're the only was always on. We were just it was like really really. So again it's pretty surreal. It just the. Melinda is like like really really like no communication with me. You're just so sweet when you talk what. You never really understand. Is this where the whole thing is. This dude in dance is down. Oh my shrink to you. Barry you think Grace which is yours. You had. No windows. No one cares. 


[00:50:48] Awards around a lot of us are a lot more close calls are from corporate rule just we just don't know about. 


[00:50:58] There should report. No one gives much. No one cares and they feel like you know people who look exactly like you I'm talking about they love you girls. Anything like that. It doesn't. Matter how far this transition. Whoa whoa whoa whoa. Passible perceived me to be still open for about because somebody wants to date the dead here. No one will care. There's no safety in that against no safety and beauty. There's just a thing. 


[00:51:30] There's also a I mean a remarkably low conviction rate right trans fat and victims like. 


[00:51:37] Like you know we all die anyway. A lot of it is like intimate partner violence. And there's a whole other conversation that no one brings down either. You know if you're like hey you're like die. 


[00:51:49] Incredible and mostly that if you're the type of knowledge that people don't ever hold on even when I was a gateway history happening like that and nothing happened and no one ever wants anything. 


[00:52:02] Nothing. It's all over. Anybody want to see this. 


[00:52:06] Crap. Never been that weird about that. 


[00:52:11] Thank you for mentioning that and especially the point about you know being mis gendered even in death. That's such an important piece of information I think for all of us to carry that. A lot of trans girls actually are they're killed. But no one actually will register those statistics or anything like that because they've been gendered at their funerals et cetera. Switching gears a little bit. Do you have a soulmate. 


[00:52:40] Vengeance. I. Think so but you know I've got to let you know. 


[00:52:50] You know I'm not like my inner city not like again. It's not like it's like something I'm sure I'll be ok with this. He said I'm sure I'll find my friends. So like my like you know like my friends like my best friend from like high school like I don't like really about her thing and I'm live without Gradus without any homebrews really no way. I don't want to be like without you I'm not in your lives. And I still like a lot of the times just like society doesn't really like they don't really encourage relations of female friendships it's too late. With competition. Yeah I always with my mom she always said she never really took her like Bima relations be kind of like seriously it was always kind of like those are always on the back burner with the. Credit card being a nice man. I always thought that was really like to do what you know what happens in the way that you talk to. They even like feeling like you're not just like you know move on and try and find other band or something. I don't know a lot of the problems I ever want to live like that and always knew that I had my friends with me I will always be ok. I always had like friends and I always. 


[00:53:59] Had other things with me like a logical purpose but I was doing some great in my room and also told me that was the definition of fun it was actually not supposed to be in Boston but I was actually always supposed to be from friend capacity and that are of course supposed to have. 


[00:54:19] Different soling at different points in your life and have more of a one at one time so I think we're kind of I think I kind of like a little more than a traditional dancer in the same vein. 


[00:54:34] Speaking of you know female friends and friendship and sisterhood. 


[00:54:40] As you know we recently interviewed Jones is the director of sisterhood a film that you wear the biggest part of really. Is there anything that you wanted to comment about the film just the production of the film that expands as a whole. 


[00:54:55] It was just like the way that it was an old school. You were just working with your friends is always interesting. It's such a different ways of doing things. I don't want to say my sympathy because I'm like so trapped in life in general. But like when you come to life I feel like I'm really kind of the baby boy and just try reading a lot. It's it was it was interesting. It's almost funny. I don't think I talk about it when it's about me. We like on set. We're still doing something like that like we have to come home props set is on your person and they don't like something. It was like it was a scene of Lovitz taking her out the dressing room in her Putois to all much of Mardi Gras beads everywhere. And I was. And I guess it was a little bit like is that like my body heat. And I was like just look stupid just take the radio off and like the girl desire to get really upset about it I was going to just wait. If it's not right it's not great making it's really hurt your feelings but it's just like it looks dumb look down on something like we have to know we have a limited time to see he won't even either like for as long as we were feeling secure like having crying because you put some beads on the mirror and someone told you about it. But you know filming was great. Like you know I was surprised. I like actually acting as a hobby or I just never felt like it. 


[00:56:51] I just never felt like my calling even got me going again. I watch a lot of movies and really engage them in lots of time especially when I was younger. I was like OK this is like biting cool. I was no reason to do it so I'm glad I did it and I'm like they do. They are trying to pursue that more about what we were interested in like doing do what you do. 


[00:57:20] We're all cool people to welcome our work from those to our power. All right a real horror story for around by direct pressure. All carols. Correct. So think about that. 


[00:57:35] I don't. I think you do something that I don't believe. That I would be getting a money in order to be like ok. Just love it. 


[00:57:46] So I actually was. I was just wondering if there was something you wanted to pursue. CHRIS All right. I'm just going to work with you know like in a perfect world I would like to be like Sorry Pedro Almodovar is like first English language. 


[00:58:08] Like a musical with like school or something. You can't say like I deal with you like a movie directed by Tom Ford. 


[00:58:18] Oh hey something like that. Did you see Tom Cotton play ball. 


[00:58:24] I watched like Single Man which I felt was like the second one was when he did the last. 


[00:58:30] It was like like he had the last one the last one I watched 20 minutes and the dark really fast angling down her back so that I can do this. 


[00:58:43] I wasn't a huge fan of that. I didn't think I don't think it was that good. 


[00:58:48] I really wanted to like fix Amy Adams hair the whole time so that thought was funny about the movie. You know it gets very important. Yeah but actually like Eva's own foes in the movie. 


[00:59:03] Oh my gosh. So I can't believe you're telling me that because that's the one thing I thought was a sure thing would be that every single piece of clothing be like you see is really scary. 


[00:59:13] She is going to be like you just like I know you he just kind of like that. So we're talking about something like straight out of the top one. 


[00:59:25] But it wasn't so I know that one of the questions that we've been getting a lot. Three times actually the question was asked three times what is your favorite characteristic about yourself. What do you love about yourself. 


[00:59:40] I think I'm hilarious and I just like my nerves. And I always like I don't want to say I like being confrontational but I like it and takes it looks at me like I'm I'm always surprised because I'm like I'm like Normally I'm just like very kind of trying to like duck. And in my mind you can see what I have to take these moments when I think I'm just very kind of like antagonistic for why I don't really work with people. 


[01:00:09] I'm always very surprised by how I react and bring things to me that are like complication I'm always ready. I'm always ready to go. They aren't really when I was younger I used to go to day camp the. And we had to be like a team meeting or something called like a group meeting and I'm. OK I guess we're going to have a meeting and team building exercises. And then everyone had a chance to speak and every single person that spoke had something negative to say about me. It was all about me. They all just went and talked about you know how I was doing this and I was in the fighting and you know as a child you'd expect a child to be really hurt you know and be there. Oh my god. I'm like you these people. I said laughing oh my god I am laughing and I went down. I went down the line and read every word and told them that the book was worth while to keep up with them and they were all the same despite my face I go out every day. I just apparently all of sudden issues with me I don't know why it was and then I know what did cause I had like sort of one of the boys mothers. And then he tried to fight me and then I told him that I was still insulting his mom laughing. I don't know. I just have a link moment but. I always think that that's not what the king of Bahrain personality was like on tumblr it seems like it is because it happens so often. 


[01:01:34] Here's the thing about it. Like normally in day to day and day to day life somebody says something crazy to respond to them like crazy. 


[01:01:43] Right. Right. So I'm. Here I'm just like minding my business. You don't like me. If somebody say something stupid to me or something. My guess the press. Responded like you know yes they think they do. But it's not really a dig at my personality. I deal with bullshit. 


[01:02:02] I say I was thinking about H-2A if I was a member of a group of people. 


[01:02:08] BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG. We want to start from scratch or something. 


[01:02:14] That kind of shit always used to be powerful. Please don't. I love the group thing. Bring it. Like come on Spring. Please back. I have one brother like me. My uncle has like. 5. 8. 5. 0 0 and with all of us together. Being alone in an argument that's like not like that. We all live it. Everyone gets a with paid on every day. Many day to day. We will all get it. With all the help you get when cursing God. That's just that's just life for me ok. Doctors. Are. Like you know. What. That's another thing. Well I guess I'm so quick witted that my mom my brother my older cousin John they were just oh he's so funny and really good with the reading. They were all like this is still Stalock way better than I here he is getting like mad. And you say something like you know me. They actually will like make fun of you and have everyone laugh at you because they are fine as a child. I was never like other kids like my siblings. My way works right. So like other people. What do you guys do. I think doing my best every day. I don't care like you can do to me that my brother my brother one time fighting over here. They were fighting the call for Beyonce and what I give this money like Beyonce was on her first solo tour like Florida's the tickets sold out and I was like really bummed out about it. 


[01:03:51] My brother made fun of me and I was like shut up. And like I need you back it up. Others say back to me when I'm like relatively small I him you know. Huge. He likes you and it might happen like this for like two weeks. So I'm just scared of being with it. 


[01:04:12] And like listen I have to fight it every day here laughter rang through from one of my coworkers that were pretty amazing and culture were like you know just just being to by your family but also just the way my cousins would do up the habit I would about them they were just able to find like the worst insecurity and I have no idea how they pass. 


[01:04:32] But they were just able to pick up on your bed once and for all I'm just like how long we're about I think we really got to just pick up on a song like point let's say goodbye. You know there's like stuff like like someone in our family like in 1996. They still like it. I agree. Yes. It is like the most ridiculous thing. Yeah it's like something a 6 year old girl is 26. You're actually just back from the chair or whatever it isn't really the only thing that's going on no. You know I did something I did something something like we're putting. Words in my mouth and don't like. A response that. I don't. 


[01:05:18] You know I feel like I feel like it's worthless to respond to people like that because they're lying in the first place right. Exactly. 


[01:05:25] So the people who are there is I'm sure there are so many girls who look up to you and you really want to be you someday and definitely see bits of themselves in you. Do you have any advice for them any wisdom that you could offer them. 


[01:05:40] I don't know compromises. All right. 


[01:05:43] Go with your instincts you know terrible things you have done this expect to find people to take your time. Like it took me a long time like really to my ways because like I said I'm 28 by become the first. Three. It was like that was floundering for a really long time. It. Was like I said I don't really know now. 


[01:06:12] We're stating what I want to do. She's just like you know just take your time. Feel like you're in competition with other people because you see them doing things you see. The best way and you're not doing everyone is like a different boy like you do his work. So what you're doing and the like you don't like Don't compare yourself to other people like you know is like they're blessings worse shape. You know you like her sure that's going to happen for you. This study also oh Bob there are worse things about your eyes. 


[01:06:50] You know you're going to have experience with something like that with a very generic advice like you know what it was. 


[01:06:58] We're all very concerned with especially what you thought about instincts are really all about because I think people really often overlook the fact that we have those feelings for on them that maybe we should trust those first time around because this is a really nice example. 


[01:07:13] Any time you dress like the first one it's usually when I go back and lay still this time. Why am I even kidding myself. Which way do you want to do it. 


[01:07:27] You know I agree with Bob. Think about what I look like where. They're all about pain. 


[01:07:37] The stuff you just just pick the first thing that comes to mind and things you see. So for now for a while what I'm wondering what things that really opened my eyes to was just talking about how the fashion industry kind of talks from. 


[01:07:55] Different cultures and also it specifically trans girls on the Internet. Can you speak about a little bit Michael culprit there on where we're seeing that happen because. 


[01:08:07] Well I play I have a model that's. And I remember one season when she's still trying to. Sing like she did my whole thing and you know it was like well it was the show. You know this this thing where they're like did you not like to use a show like that. But like they cancel on her last. And then I watched the show and what they did was didn't you her for the show. They just go for exactly that look in the show. 


[01:08:42] Can you possibly say which show this was. No. 


[01:08:48] There's another girl her name is. 


[01:08:50] She's a model. Her name is Hayes. Where she has her hair which is Megan which was just this big. I know there's a lot of other girl models just start to look like. Right. And I'm just like OK. OK. Sure. Right. That's right. Like 


[01:09:10] these they're basically just lifting the locks but not using the actual originator of the leg. 


[01:09:16] That's what they do. That's what they do. They just want they want to ask you to or they want your child. Why 


[01:09:26] it is the reason behind that if there is one other than just a complete transphobia. Well 


[01:09:33] I think it's too early to say that there are higher ups like it's your own delight. It is. But you know it's a kind of people. Alieni in life. And so I get hurt. Show. You got this week are trying I feel like that's enough. So even with the way we talk we interact and stuff all of which monoculars like it's a really weird to see plot lines on my shows. For example I was watching. The show in a way they taught me a shade between eating all this stuff and they have an actual trans person who they're being incredibly busy too. I think the thing that makes it that originate in our community I always see that kind of stuff is like Whole areas. 


[01:10:30] Now we're talking about I have a lot of people now for years. That's longer. No I do original objects no matter how old a lot of sports are constant roll up. 


[01:10:47] That's like dumb here. So what I want is the girl who has been lost. 


[01:10:55] Well look why I like my family like my mom. Campbell of course they didn't like you know old fashioned stuff like you are really getting. Interesting that Kim and Foxy Brown. You know I really just know that it is just really like fun. Interesting they will wrap around a lot of people their own way. Right. You know but she was like really big to Chloe and like your father and kid was more like you but more like Chris Versace Speedo and stuff like that. Course like Miss Ali like you know does she think she's at times like a. Huge impact to me. I like a lot of them. They don't like hype Williams like as a director like is that the girls you see used to always say really beautiful especially in the late 90s they do like to make actual girls in the video. And like you know that was all this again I responded was just lines like if you you're always want to grow up or something. It was like my goal. And of course like Mary J. Blige was on top of her being hilarious. She just is just like Jesus she's like you take spirit whatever. 


[01:12:08] And then like I say it's just like it's just like everything to me like as a person just like someone like that just to be like did you like that much. Like just like a star acting so unapologetic about legal charges. And I would just take that first. 


[01:12:24] It's like saying if you will join me in my life then the point that a person will respond to and even like I was talking about how I'm going to fashion people. She was a really funny way and kind of like knowing like names or things like knowing what time this happened this is what you want. Who was this and who was the siren. Was it a big and especially what her stuff was like I said earlier to work he said. So she kind of walked all the way. So it was over the people kind of done everything. So I just fold up one person's rear end the guy in the her I know about sewing people where we never knew about it. We thought we had some like you know all these different time designers and stylists and my artists and people who cooperated with her career. My brothers were just like us it's like a learning tool of mine is like for a game that works just fine. And the way she's done it is just like she was has even to go for it. She's been on all the TV shows you some good news of course then all the bad stuff for fragrances. That's right. That's right. That's who I want to get. You can do that. This is not different world. Still be relevant to the power season today. 


[01:13:43] So you know you've talked a lot about the creative director for several several A-bombs which of those would you say are your favorite. 


[01:13:52] Well a time for it. Not a great. Time for it. But I like that these folks are saying I don't want to say it but here he likes think like there's an idea. It works really well. Which ones that are doing this. Puji they like to think now most those folks would be out there. The Grammys always look up or down and say again we found it really sexy that we might use the word humbled. Probably like in early 2000s early 2005 when I was released top he was actually he just five. So I've always been really into it. He's done everything. I mean it's great. You know what. No I shouldn't think the whole effort to get back to the truth like. I did but you know I fantasize about getting through to you all the time all that time. And then there was this show I your fashion last season was called Section 8. I don't know who like buying that and I was like the creative director of that. Where the fuck that was that she was amazing. She was amazing. It was just like a very kind of like business fish moments or whatever like a very kind of like like working woman of like the 80s or whatever kind of moment that she's in there like Kuwait issues actual life issues and their naps. It was crazy. It was wild. It was wild. It's amazing. It was amazing. The thing any doctor will open up and say will let me know. I'm like I like any man. 


[01:15:26] But like you know it is the downside of a jolly hungry teenager isn't just now. I can't really relate to that. I like the clothes. But whatever else styling. Is. Slightly cast in this role better. But I mean like when he does she said again like dumb sexy clothes that are just like you know Kate Short. See I love it. It's weird because I'm like I don't want to say I'm conservative but I'm kind of concerned with him dress but not really. But the only thing that I do not like is when I have to like I hate my legs like I hate my legs that I hate. And then you are super duper need do really skinny. So in order for me it's like look what are you saying all my life is ridiculously short so I don't. Like stick legs like you came out of something I love but I it like being dress like I it. I. 


[01:16:20] Gives me that isn't the right thing. I can actually wear it. You don't feel like you're not feel like weird. So like I love what he does too. 


[01:16:30] Can you name some of your favorite Chancellor labyrinth. Of course I called her on her. I. Love. 


[01:16:37] Her Like that. Like to see Timothy likes who's giving me talk like the next. She was really nice she was sick and like they weren't going to let us take pictures because the only take which was the. And I was like Listen I don't think the only way. I'm like the only other black swans on in the room. That's like you know present day they give me a picture so we get my picture or I'm getting a picture of you looking at your own eyes OK. And I asked her what kind of hair she wore. They told me like you know this whole long story about her working in this company that makes it unique. So it was cool. She's cool. I like trace that she's like I'm transparent. She comes my ballroom you know she's about to walk skating. It's the really important category. Angelica Barondess she didn't make this web series but I can't remember the girl standing in the gym. I forget. But this web series and she's like you know she goes No she's like this really really really beautiful dark skinned black woman. 


[01:17:40] Always I see one of us like in public or media acts kind of like this. I took some. I don't like blaming your model her thing on me. She has the best from the walk I've ever seen in my fucking life. That no one is fucking with it. They know what I love so much. I love college. I love writing. It's funny because when I did think the magazine thing was one of the covers. And this is just like this is Jesus this guy you know Fergie told me something like time in my name was on the cover and get. 


[01:18:18] My elbows on the table to get all the girls to actually have a nice cover. You know I've been like I've been falling on my leg a little stalker seems like my face was I got things like 6 or 7 or something like that but I was like a fool but I'm the same age she was. That's fine. But I love her I love her I love her. She gets so much shit like one line like people reading comics carry her or it makes me cringe. Teachers say they always make me with her and the like really the spare change is just such a fight for her sentence. What are some other things I couldn't do that. Especially like I'm smart. I could not like put myself out there the way she does. Second I don't know how old your heart is. I really have to get there. You know I respect all these women that think the whole thing are quite big respect when everyone dies. Oh my. You know Horie of course. And Giuliana I really don't feel like a lot like a lot. Like I like I like I love her like a lot. She's like you know I. Thought I would follow the audience. I don't know what the check that she still seeks is to follow me. She's great fun and cool. I remember like in December she asked me to like host something just to see the others in New York I was like no in New York City. Oh I'm sorry can't do that. 


[01:19:35] But you know I love you and they didn't give me any money or you gave them you know they're looking out you know just actually you know a lot of things is just like sitting next to them you can't really do anything. But she's like she's legitimately takes on you and this is you know a lot of bitches act like they're like really different. 


[01:19:53] She's a real fucking weirdo and I really appreciate the actually thinking of me like one of the questions is actually like you live in San Francisco right now correct. Yes. Do you plan on moving at any anytime in the future. Do you want to move to someplace new. 


[01:20:08] Like I don't live in. I don't live in homes. It's 30 minutes away. Thank you very much. I just want what's fair. I know you like it because you might as well pull the trigger. Exactly. It's so. 


[01:20:33] It's crazy over that. My friend who I was and in San Francisco he works way from Xmarks and he at one point was like living with six or seven other people and his rent was still a double or triple life and I can't really remember whether it's really really expensive. I'm assuming that that's because of the startups that like the gentrification and just the fact that it's Silicon Valley I don't think so I was the victim here. If you're like all the rest of your. 


[01:21:02] Family comes first. So like the first eight years of my life really wish it was like live somewhere or that you know I'm speaking like a gentleman but I met John to see my old neighborhood and it was just like really. Really great. What Here was like that ramp or something on the House it's really sort of always really frustrating. 


[01:21:35] We're talking about you know about your about your home more than anyone else. 


[01:21:42] You'd have to OK we're going to church my grandmother and all these like white people outside waving. What the hell are you doing here. 


[01:21:54] That's all it works. 


[01:21:56] Oh my gosh. I like to work with that. 


[01:22:01] And when I was like literally peak life experience here and it was like so fucking funny because they were saying you know like we are all like you talk to people and am I going or will you come out here we're going to do this we're going to do that I'm going to have this thing that you're like yeah yeah sure sure that's that's never going to happen that you know fact like opera is like I did like this show like photo series my friend Elizabeth like for a sose make it. What was that like. It's like we shot everything in August listen I don't remember all that. 


[01:22:40] And I feel like it was like it was last summer. Yeah right in August I guess. 


[01:22:46] And then we had like on the party was supposed to be in September moving back to October. I said OK whatever. And like it was like towards the end of October birthdays and early November the furniture it was like New York for like a week. And they paid for the flight hotel the readings and it was actually a free trip like we had like them this big launch party like in the galleries was this huge big deal. And as we were getting on the plane I didn't want to go to. I did the first eight planes I took am traveling. Yeah. It's like tedious shit ever. TSA having like panic attacks probably using all my stuff. OK. Like a lot of my friends make up on that so we always get like this done it's never like I was there were like you girls are wearing make up and like you start wearing your drugstore. It was like instantly like six foundation. Yeah. These are pilots. They use it. You get all these expensive product something like freaking out. I'm going to lose like all this crap that like all my hate growth. And I kind of like this here we have all these weeks looking like really expensive. I'm like oh my gosh like this the only thing that. 


[01:24:01] Matters about this here is who's this machine. But again I think it's not that I don't like Apple flying. Like what does that mean I get from the public of that look like crazy Turbo I don't know it's going to be. 


[01:24:16] I like it. It's just like a lot. They didn't even want to go in my neighborhood for my mom but my mom is like my mom's like really weird. We're like I'm free to speak but she like to think she's a radio operator. You have to get huge argument would you. OUTFRONT now the L.A. Times. Thanks so much. I don't want to go anymore. I I do is blah blah blah blah. 


[01:24:35] So I'm like getting on like literally before I get on the plane not a text message from my party. And I wanted to shoot the next new like the next morning. Oh my God. So it wasn't something I had time before or even knew that was going to happen. Like she mentioned she was a big candy like shit like Mbaye. 


[01:24:55] We both do like a photo shoot like in the cheap for like go there for whatever reason that fell through and she's like OK that's just not like you know my whole model is that is not my blessing this is not something I get to do love you I'll be doing something else let's it's funny but I'm actually thinking about anything. OK whatever. So like I got that and she sent me the thing I said OK. I think you forgive me right. Not only reason going to play but like a reason to give a reason to like actually like you know wake up in the morning and think because like you know Nesmy new you know again fashion for honkies like that's just like my cake and my thing. They just do. They do all the really cool stuff. Another really interesting stuff. 


[01:25:38] Like they work with like I think the design for whatever public image in Paris with all those collages and the screen is part of the study. They just look amazing work. You know what you have people who want to work with you. I always fantasize about that although the model. Shows where to who and where and what I would do anything that was like they were like on the top my lips so funny because I coffee shop with them like two or three times that year. 


[01:26:04] Like always there are a lot of stuff. You know we are like your friends up you're happy for them. I never have been impressed by anything that she ever did or anybody she worked with until she like what with the new. 


[01:26:17] I want to see her and let me know like I got to leave now. So like for Herb and like just mad for me. I want to that. I wanted to make it so funny. She actually texted me this. But she was like oh yeah we're going to do this art. Ok cool. So I get on the plane. 


[01:26:35] Horrible right of course the hotel of course like I didn't I made you my make up because we didn't make right. I think the computer shop. 


[01:26:46] How we were like I on set. OK whatever. So I call my home girl who lives in Queens and I will say that you got to come in and take it back now. Like six. I get up in the morning just like why am I doing that. And I'm like why not. Do you think it's my fucking birthday. You. 


[01:27:02] Getting up at 7 o'clock and wearing your make up for it live it was like losing day day. Just take the biggest load of my life over to my make up and give it back to you again. Megan Galligan this big argument this is the first time you ever had a disagreement in life. 


[01:27:20] DEAR FRIEND She's also New Yorkers and she's an amazing player and she was able to find him and her boyfriend came over like it like that morning. I was doing my hair because then the same time. And I can keep your feet at the top that thing think is just like Scorpio. Scorpio You know like 2007 when Courtney was Chloe. Anyway I separate that from our outpost in the box. And I get downstairs and I can go into the uber uber tech can't blame on me. 


[01:27:50] OK. Don't hide too late. 


[01:27:52] We had to get me down there in button topic I can live in midtown making the little guy in traffic and it would be like it's so stressful when you realize that you can't think about all always happens when you like the later place and things turn canceling and I'm driving like I was just like what the fact is like tripping out but then we got there and of course they did but they're like whatever. 


[01:28:22] And my gosh you are so close. Like you like a rock close to rock up close. You are very close to where. You are. Oh no we are close. Mark sent over some photos of my mom taking a walk. I like doing a family like my first day any work in the morning. It was like the most to lose but I'm like no one does. This isn't happening. When I got the news nobody else do it it was let's do them on the collection one the one with the dread thing. 


[01:28:52] Every room was like freaking out about all this is like OK like you know I was a girl in the grocery when it did me good. I was reading this literally yesterday when I came down on my breast in the collection. 


[01:29:05] Oh my gosh this is hilarious. If I knew how Donna's a sense of humor but being so Don and OK so this close here but I know I'm not getting in any of this. I just knew that wasn't going to happen. So I was like OK. And I saw that movie and I was like dad you know like I love them i. Love them and like you know. So I go in the bathroom like I barely got out. I think it's true that this is like I got rather close. This is I'm going to sell down myself and it is going to arrive in time and it's something that will work and I die because they like like platform like you like the way things are. And people think this round about these shoes don't like it. So how does it go. So I think this is the shoes. Yeah it doesn't matter. OK. That's whatever. So the shoes fit and I go get the clothes. It was like a shirt like this little dress thing of the view that you and I go in the bathroom. I try to put the shirt on and it was just like it. I ripped the shirt and pretty sharp my example. I ripped the shirt. And I did like nothing happened. I just took a sharp real smooth and for some reason across this building I was a girl and sample size. I'm getting on with it. So I'm like I put the dress on the shoes in. The. Garden. So good blah blah blah blah blah. 


[01:30:35] It just took me a little time again to stand up and. Dance. And unprofessional. I really do. There's no personal cheating. It's not that. Guys like me go over to you. 


[01:30:50] And get shooting was really fun and just relax. It was just it was just it was just like some real professional chef but no shame to anybody ever ever work with fake. I was like that was like something real like OK. But this is what you do how you do it. And like it was so funny going OK. It wasn't even like this was like my first real first ever with like the 2000 heartburn. I actually like one close example. And like I like this like that was my first time actually even in person too you know. Yes I have like men talking to her online. It seems like for five years now like the first time. And this is the situation. It was just so funny. This is like the kind of stuff people always talk about one line as a joke and then actually get together was like it was like the wildest thing and it was like a group shoot look for. The girl. They all came I like calling romance and was like it was like and then like later on that night a big party for like my. Photo exhibit with all these misdeeds. Let's face it everywhere and about being on TV it was like it was like a dream. 


[01:32:01] It really does sound like a fairy tale. I'm so glad you got on that plane. 


[01:32:05] Yeah because that was my ass at home big deal. 


[01:32:13] That's just I'm going gosh that even a better story than I could have imagined. I figured that it must have been a good experience but it was vile. 


[01:32:19] It was wild. It was pretty wild. 


[01:32:22] Just one last final question. What kind of impression could everyone what kind of impression would you want to leave while people. 


[01:32:36] You. 


[01:32:37] Oh I'm really happy. I don't know. I just want people to like the. This is someone who really didn't compromise who really was the Salvos and really was just kind of like you know having fun doing it. 


[01:32:51] You know it was kind of just like really like you know are so fake just nine compromising just completely forceful and unapologetic. That's perfect. That's what I want. Well. We're. 


[01:33:08] Unapologetic. I love that so much. 

Beirut's Mashrou' Leila: the Future of LGBT Advocacy in the Middle East

Lebanese indie rockers Mashrou' Leila

Lebanese indie rockers Mashrou' Leila

Written by: Jibril Ali 

Beirut—“The Impossible City”— is both difficult and easy to describe.

It has survived war, terror and political uncertainty for decades, and its identity is scattered among the people who choose to leave it, and those who cannot help but come back to it. Perhaps for this reason alone Beirut is best reflected in the faces of Mashrou’ Leila, an indie rock band formed in 2008. Amidst their dreamy, trance-rhythm and romantic lyrics, one can also expect to find fierce advocacy and dissent.

The Lebanese band is known for addressing subjects that “traditional Arab” societies aren't comfortable with. Mashrou’ Leila touches on LGBT rights, misogyny, classism, and violence in their music. With the band’s vocalist, Hamed Sinno, being openly gay and outspoken about his experiences, he and his bandmates have been the subject of hateful and defamatory vitriol in an attempt to stifle their work since their humble beginnings. Undoubtedly, controversy surrounding the group has brought them a kind of publicity they did not expect--though Sinno rejected the idea of using controversy to gain fame in an interview with the Guardian. Despite the imminent danger they face, the band’s latest album Ibn El Leil doesn’t shy away from their longstanding message.

When discussing “Shim el Yasmine,” a song about the breakup with his boyfriend, Sinno once said in an interview he expected “a tomato or gunshot or something” whenever performing the song. The song introduces the dilemma of Sinno's relationship with another man, and utilizes the masculine pronouns in Arabic, almost defiantly, to express his grief of a relationship that could have been.

Mashrou' Leila performing "Shim El Yasmine"

 The band, made up of architecture and design students from the American University of Beirut, formed after growing tired of the contemporary music scene in the Middle East. Sinno, on an interview with CBC, states the biggest record labels and their partnered multimedia companies in the Middle East hold a monopoly on the type of music being recorded and distributed; most of it being over-refined and contrived pop that the majority of the younger demographic in the Arab world do not have an interest in.

In addition to his outward identity, Sinno is also Muslim. He has been staunchly opposed to the western critique of Islam’s “inherent hostility” towards the LGBT movement, the struggle for human rights, and deferring back to Islam as the root cause of abuse.

Sinno challenges this notion using the band’s experience of performing in a predominantly Christian township in Lebanon where the locals protested their pro-LGBT inclination. According to Sinno, there exists broader conservative and patriarchal attitudes that predate (and exist outside of) Islam which contribute to volatility towards the most vulnerable in Arab/Muslim societies.

This analysis prescribed to Islam can additionally be considered invalid due to its erasure of LGBT Muslims and their intra-faith criticisms of the traditional and conservative elements of Muslim communities throughout the world.

Certainly, the roads traveled by Mashrou’ Leila have led to fierce condemnation from some of the most powerful, repressive and homophobic world bodies.  In early June; Jordanian officials have banned Mashrou’ Leila from performing in Amman for the second time within the span of a year and a half. This time the ban comes after several Jordanian officials petitioned against the pro-LGBT band on the grounds of “preserving traditions and beliefs”, despite having performed in Amman three times before. The interior ministry  revoked their approval and licenses well before they were supposed to perform on June 27th.

 Mashrou’ Leila has responded on their social media channels, condemning the ban and apologizing to the fans who were eager to attend the show. The response from fans has been unanimous with the criticism targeting the destructive values championed by Jordan’s government. Several fans have also criticized Jordan’s willingness to ban Mashrou’ Leila, but not the new Wonder Woman film led by Israeli actress and former IDF soldier Gal Gadot, an action taken by neighboring Lebanon.

 (In addition to Mashrou’ Leila's advocacy for LGBT rights, the musicians are proponents of Boycott Divest and Sanction Israel. In 2012, Mashrou’ Leila refused to open for the Red Hot chili Peppers in Beirut after they refused to withdraw their performance in Tel Aviv. After Mashrou’ Leila’s decision to withdraw their opening set from the RHCP performance, article after article described how the Leilaholics could breathe a sigh of relief after their decision to protest. They’re Lebanese, what did you expect?)

Mashrou' Leila performing "Fasateen"

 Jordan is often seen as one of the more “progressive” Muslim majority countries in the region, and while being gay isn’t outwardly illegal, you would be hardpressed to find anyone in a position of power that isn’t blatantly homophobic. This fact is reinforced with the steps taken by Jordanian officials in banning Mashrou’ Leila--not only once, but twice.

 The outcry against Jordan’s Interior Ministry banning Mashrou’ Leila speaks to an evolving demographic in the Middle East--one that’s not only tolerant of the LGBT communities around them, but one that is  welcoming and willing to advance their rights. Mashrou’ Leila has become the flag bearer for this movement, whether or not this was their intention. The next wave of youth to emerge from the MENA region have a difficult road ahead with respect to the struggle for LGBT rights, but with the example of Mashrou’ Leila's success and their perseverance in the face of unthinkable resistance, the future, however uncertain, remains hopeful.


Mashrou' Leila performing Maghawir in tribute to the victims of the Pulse nightclub tragedy.

For more information regarding this article, contact Jibril Ali @jibrilalpha




ZANAB: [00:00:01] So before we get started, could I possibly just ask how these past few weeks have been for you and just how you're doing overall? 


JOAN: [00:00:11] Oh my goodness. So I'm doing great today specifically. It's like my day off from work so I'm just kind of like sitting around the house drinking way too much coffee. The last couple weeks have been pretty crazy. I graduated college--I was going to say two weeks ago and I think it's been three. Oh my god. I'm losing track of time this year. I graduated college and the release of sisterhood kind of coincided with that. It was my thesis film and so the last month of my life has literally just been me locked away in a dark room just kind of like hammering and hammering away at it until it was like at a place where I was comfortable releasing it online. And premiering it on like a giant you know theater screen in San Francisco. It kind of had to work for both formats like you had to look good for a theater but then it also had to look good on people's computer screen. Oh my gosh that dark room man. I was in there must have been for like two weeks straight at the end of the semester and then I finally released sisterhood. It was a huge crowd. It was in a program with some of the other thesis films, and I set up this like huge premiere at a local theater. And I got them to, you know, give us some tickets for all of our cast and crew and the general public. So it was a really cool experience to get to kind of watch a theater full of people see your work. 


[00:01:34] And then coming immediately off of that I graduated and then everything was kind of over. So I've been kind of in a fugue state for the last like a week and a half not really having anything to do and just waiting kind of for the release of sisterhood to roll out in a couple of interviews I gave to come out on line and just stuff like that. So it's been weird having everything be crazy and busy and then really slow and so I'm just kind of trying to readjust to being a civilian again. 


ZANAB: [00:02:04] So I know you just mentioned that this was your thesis final project; was this the first time that you had released a film on such a large scale? 


JOAN: [00:02:12] Yeah completely. I always dreamt of doing something this big--and I mean I say this big--and it's really just you know I gave a couple interviews and some people showed it on their websites and then we got to show it to the theater. I mean on the scale of filmmaking it's a pretty small release. But for a student filmmaker I feel like I still kind of took this short pretty far. And so I dreamed of it being this day in the little scale of what we're talking about. 


[00:02:40] But I never expected the reception to be so positive. And I feel like growing up on the Internet we are all super connected and so we're constantly meeting people and making connections with people who will someday go onto become the writers and editors and working at various publications. And so I felt like it was kind of an easy transition to make it my first time. I definitely had to send out a lot of emails and really write behind the scenes to get as much press as we have. But it was also kind of easy in the Internet age because all the people I was e-mailing were people I've been online with since like live journal, you know back in 2007 or something. So it's was kind of like "hey you work at Nylon now and I made a movie. And let's talk." So yeah. I never dreamed it would be this big but I'm super super proud of where it stands so far. 


ZANAB: [00:03:35] Can you talk a little bit about the origins of this film for someone who might just be tuning in just now? 


JOAN: [00:03:42] Yeah. So I want to say that I had some huge grand plan for SISTERHOOD and that I've been dreaming of this concept for a hundred years--but I haven't. It kind of came to me really last minute; I applied for the thesis program at my school, there's only about 12 slots and about 150 people applt from within our program. And so I didn't really think I was going to get in. I knew I had a good pitch and I knew I gave a good application and I really hammered away at getting my professors to, you know, submit recommendations and stuff. 


[00:04:20] And so when I did get into the class, you kind of get a summer to think about what you're going to do. And I had just moved into a new apartment, I was living on my own. And one night I think I like saw a video on Twitter of The Hills and I just started watching all of The Hills that summer. This was summer of 2016 and it was like super late one night and admittedly I had totally smoked a bowl of weed, gone through some wine and I thought to myself; "this is so interesting. 


[00:04:50] If you think about where the hills sits within kind of television and media history, it was the first time on such a large scale people kind of faked a documentary about themselves as a bunch of girls and girls living in a city. And the events happening to them might have been scripted but they were real people. 


[00:05:12] And so I started thinking one night, "like that is so interesting and so much more layered than we give it credit for because these girls kind of just got to live their lives and stage an entire television series about themselves." They didn't have to play characters. I mean, they definitely got to play up certain characteristics about themselves but they weren't made up people. They were real people and the consequences within the show really affected them and the things that were happening to them were actually happening to them, but definitely into a controlled environment. And so I had about two three weeks left until the start of the semester last year and I thought why don't I just make a movie about me and my friends because we had such a crazy year last year. All of us moved and there was significant life events happening. Deaths in families, people leaving families, people getting kicked out of homes...moving to new states starting new lives. Just like every kind of significant 20 something year old event that happened to us last year and so I thought "why not just make a movie about that?" And we could just play ourselves and kind of stage the events of our lives based on reality. 


JOAN:[00:06:25] And so sisterhood was born. I kind of have a steel trap memory and I remember things that my friends have said to me and all I have said to them. So a lot of the dialogue was actually like real conversations which definitely played out for a camera. But yeah it just was like one night I was watching The Hills, really what it comes down to, and I said to myself "I want to do this." But it definitely, you know, my own aesthetic and my own taste level. 


ZANAB: [00:06:53] And so when you were looking to make this film what were some of the hurdles that you immediately came across?


JOAN: [00:07:00] Oh my gosh this is such a good question. I love this question because there were a lot. 


[00:07:06] Going into my program--I was one of two women in the 14 people program--and I was the first trans woman to ever be in the program. And so immediately out of the gate I was already kind of at a disadvantage amongst my peers because the majority of them are straight and male and so, you know, going into the program and going into the class structure and critiques and stuff; just at that level I encountered a huge amount of resistance from my classmates and professors because everyone kind of told me that this was a movie that wasn't going to work and one wanted to see this movie. And it was kind of hard at first because I knew people wanted to see this movie. I'm not an isolated case. I know, usually, when it comes to my tastes, if there's something that I enjoy there's probably a lot of other people out there that also enjoy the same thing. And so I was like "no, there's already an audience for this. It's just not in a class of filmmakers who are all men at a state school." It's online. It's teenagers. It's these queer teenagers on the Internet consuming media primarily through the Internet. That's my audience, not these people I'm in class with. And so having to overcome that initial criticism was a huge step for me in making the movie. But then on top of that funding was a huge issue. 


[00:08:30] I don't come from any amount of money. I didn't really have any family members to ask money from. A lot of kids in my program come from money. And so a lot of them, you know, just got like three or four grand from their parents and made their movies with that. And you know I didn't have that luxury and so I went into it thinking I was going to make a movie for $10. And turns out I made a movie for almost $7000 because I had this crazy idea one night to do a real press release, sort of, for a Kickstarter. And I was like "What is the most professional, cool looking Kickstarter I can make." And so I drafted up new fonts. I even got down to nitty gritty like making gifs that we could post on tumblr with links to the Kickstarter. I made a really cool Kickstarter video for anyone who wants to see it. It's just SISTERHOOD Kickstarter. If you google it it's the first result. And so I kind of put a lot of work into that Kickstarter and I tried to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible. And once that hurdle was over and the funding started coming in, it was crazy. We thought we were going to hit our goal $5000 but once we saw that you know we were twenty seven hundred dollars over that. I just couldn't believe that. But definitely like the criticism from my peers and the funding were the first huge hurdles to overcome and they were big ones. Maybe they downplayed it a little bit but my program really didn't want me to make this movie. 


ZANAB: [00:09:59] So this is probably just my naivety talking but it's still so difficult for me to understand why your program was so reluctant to let you make this film. 


JOAN: [00:10:11] Yes, so what it started out as is, I came into class with this script and this script that I came in with was not the movie that ended up being edited together because I knew how I wanted to edit the movie and I knew how I was going to structure the movie in post-production because that's really where movies get made. But the script couldn't look like that because of how cyclical and how looping back and playing and on itself the movie was. So the script was each of the scenes in the movie just kind of play out very linearly, and there's no cross-cutting. And so in the script it's these 5 very isolated vignettes and a lot of the jokes and a lot of the humor and the storytelling was based not just in trans womanhood but in the way that me and the community around me talks. And so there's like jokes that I think didn't land amongst my peers because they probably have just never hung around the gay community or the queer community at all. And so jokes, like for instance my favorite - there's a line in the movie where one of the characters says maybe you shouldn't do anal on the first date. That's something I've probably said to like five or six of my friends probably in the last like three weeks right. But the guys in my class had never heard anyone talk like that before. And so they were like that's so vulgar, that's so disgusting, why would you have that in your movie. Or I would say it was about trans women, but I wanted to not - I didn't want their trans-ness to be in the movie. 


[00:11:42] It was just them as people and they were trans in their trans-ness was motivating the plot but it wasn't the plot. It wasn't a coming out story. And they had trouble with that too. They didn't want me to just make a movie about trans women if they thought it needed to be something else, it needed to be them coming out or them struggling against something or them, you know, fighting to be recognized as people, and I was like we've already made that movie a thousand times. That movie is not interesting anymore, the conversation has moved on. You know, trans women aren't - young trans women aren't just sitting around talking about coming out. We're talking about destroying concepts of gender, what gender actually means, where womanhood and trans-ness intersect in everyday lives, thinking beyond just coming out. And so you know people had a hard time coming to grasp with that. And I think a lot of trans misogyny kind of showed in the criticism. Latent, obviously, nothing super overt, but just kind of threaded throughout all their comments was just you know, me recognizing that they literally had no idea what trans women were really like or just you know the gay community as all because in San Francisco gay community and the trans community are basically one and the same just because of how close they've come up. And so yeah you know it just goes to show that they were living in very isolated environments. 


ZANAB: [00:13:05] So that would actually bring me to my next question. Can you talk a little bit about your cast and how you got to know Rashida Renee and Lotus Lopez and just what they're like as actors, and as people. 


JOAN: [00:13:20] So, I know Rashida from Tumblr. We both kind of ran in similar circles on Tumblr. And last year, I actually was friends with another person and through a crazy set of like coincidences, Rashida and I crossed paths one night and we just hit it off; we started talking afterwards - texting, messaging on tumblr, and then I found out you know she was local and we started hanging out more. And it was really just kind of an organic thing. We always joked that the circumstances around us meeting were so interesting and coincidental, it was just like, you knew this person and we're here at the right time and I was there at the right time and that kind of thing, and so we started hanging out a lot and she's super super talented, super into fashion, super knowledgeable about pretty much everything. And her taste is beyond, and so, I always joked you know, Rashida I'm going to make a movie with you some day because I feel like you are such a talent and like such a force to be reckoned with. And so whatever I did I kind of wanted Rashida to be the focal point and she had always said you know she wanted to dabble in acting. She's really into fashion and modeling and that was kind of the one thing she had never done. And so a lot of our early conversations were just let's make a movie like what movie could we make. And I bounced around a couple of ideas and none of them really seemed to be the project for this time around. 


[00:14:50] So when I landed on sisterhood I kind of went to her one night, actually I think it was like, it must have been pride last year when everyone stayed at my apartment for like the entire pride week, it was such a fun time. And I think one night we were drunk and I was like let's just make a movie about ourselves let's just do that, it's going to be so cool and that's obviously what we did. And then Lotus, the other main character in the movie, is friends with Rashida, best friends with Rashida, and I just met Lotus through Rashida and she was super into art and fashion and she's amazing at makeup. And so originally before we casted her I knew I wanted to fly her out to do makeup because she is probably the best makeup artist I know, and she's so smart about just creating these extravagant, cool, interesting, forward-thinking looks for people, and I was like, I want you to be a part of this somehow. And then we casted a couple different people for her position. They all kind of fell through, didn't work out. We actually casted one girl and she ended up being a racist. And this was totally unbeknownst to everyone. But on Instagram she said something awful and Lotus actually caught it because it was on her feed, and texted me and said oh my God. And I was like oh. So I fired that girl. And then we had this blank spot because obviously I was like no questions asked, I don't care about your reasoning, you're fired. Not having you in my movie. So then we are like Oh God. 


[00:16:21] We're filming in like three, four weeks and we don't have this person. And so I went to Lotus one night and I was like Lotus, I will buy you a plane ticket if you are comfortable being in the movie. And so she said yes. And then yeah - they were all in my movie. And then I wasn't ever supposed to be in it. I wanted to find someone to play me because I'm kind of shy and I like performing but I was like, I just want to make a movie, I don't want to be in my movie. I didn't want this movie to be about me so to speak, because you know we have enough movies about like quirky white women fronting them. We didn't need another one. And so once I did get involved I was like, making myself the supporting character - I cut a lot of my lines, gave them to the other girls because even though obviously I was the filmmaker and these were kind of filtered through my experiences, I didn't want to the face of this movie whatsoever. And so yeah, Rashida kind of organically became our lead. And then Lotus and her had such great chemistry and already just as good friends they are, they kind of became our main characters and then I was just kind of there. 


ZANAB: [00:17:27] You mentioned both you and Rashida are really interested in fashion and Lotus is really into make-up. Did you have someone style you for the film, or were you kind of just allowed to wear whatever you wanted. Was that a bigger conversation that you had while making the film? 


JOAN: [00:17:43] So me and Rashida kind of have a mantra, and usually when we're putting outfits together, it's I want to wear the stupidest clothes possible because I definitely believe in the purity of fashion. I think fashion exists in its own world and obviously it's threaded through our everyday lives but I definitely believe in that very 90s mantra of fashion that more is more. And so usually in my own personal taste, I'm like, overdressed for the occasion and Rashida is the same way. And so when we were putting together the movie and we were putting together, kind of the look book for the movie, I was like, no matter what we wear it has to be over the top and then over the top of that because this is like our one chance, kind of, you know, and I will not lie. It's kind of a vanity project. I wanted all of us to be as fully glam as possible because as people who really never get represented on screen, I kind of wanted it to be our chance to kind of just make ourselves over completely and our truest selves kind of, be what is on screen and normally in film, that's strip women bare, make them go bare-faced, no hair no make up boring clothes. But for me I was like, I want us to just give my actresses the freedom of expression completely. And if they don't want to wear something, they don't have to wear it and if they're in love with something, then they're going to wear it. And obviously Rashida is a super amazing stylist and so she kind of touched on every outfit. 


[00:19:17] She would say oh you need a choker with that or let's put a leather jacket over that or Lotus, let's use the bomber but let's do it off the shoulder, kind of having that moment instead of just zipping it up all the way and let's do your hair up instead of leaving it down. Stuff like that. So Rashida kind of touched every single outfit but the outfits themselves were something where I gave everyone kind of complete freedom and said, here's kind of the look and you can kind of just figure out what you want to wear. I will buy the clothes, I will you know supply all of that. But you know if you see a dress and you're like that's my dress, then that's your dress and I'm not going to be one to tell you not to. So it was really like a collaborative experience. We all kind of pitched in here and there. And obviously as the director I looked at all of it and was like, good. But I didn't really have to critique or, you know edit anything down because going in everyone had such good taste. 


ZANAB: [00:20:13]I recently came across a comment that was made about you I think it was in your hungry TV interview - one of your film professors referred to you as the Elle Woods of film school. Can you possibly explain what that means, a little bit. 


JOAN: [00:20:29] [Laughing] Yes so. So the professor in question. Her name is Pat Jackson. She's a really brilliant sound editor. She's won Oscars and Emmys and really great. She is kind of the figure head of the program. And going into the semester I had always joked that I wanted my life to be like Legally Blonde or Funny Girl because Elle Woods and Fanny Brice were kind of my icons growing up. They were these two women - Fanny Brice being from Funny Girl, Elle Woods being from Legally Blonde, for listeners who don't know - and there are just these women who kind of were their own creatures in worlds where everyone wanted them to be one thing and they wanted to be something completely different, and they went into these structures and kind of did their own thing but still succeeded at it. You know, Elle Woods kind of goes to Harvard and she is wearing you know Juicy Couture and Prada to class and everyone else around her is wearing you know, pumps and twill and all this other stuff. 


[00:21:31] And then on top of that, she doesn't give up her interest in fashion and beauty and art, to be a good lawyer. She can be both of those things at once and so in film school I definitely stuck out like a sore thumb because I would come to class in extravagant outfits and I would do fashion on the side and I would be giving all these different interviews and working in my own little sphere. And then I was also in film school and I was like, I want to do both and everyone said, not really you don't really fit in here. 


[00:22:03] And so in class one day when Professor joked, she said you know you really are the Elle Woods of film school and she probably in that moment was meaning it little bit backhandedly because I definitely did my own thing this semester and probably didn't turn in like half of my assignments - but it was because I was like I know what I want to do and what y'all are doing is not the wave. And so I'm going to do my own thing and I'm gonna be good at it, and the rest of you can just keep on doing what you're doing. And so I definitely was always kind of like fighting the current you know, that little salmon swimming upstream. But, I mean you know, out of all the films in my program, out of all the criticism I received, my movie is the only one doing anything outside of it. So you know, I guess I knew what I was doing in some respect. 


ZANAB: [00:22:52] I think it's safe to say that you definitely knew what you were doing. You mentioned that you had grown up in a smallish town in California and there was at least somewhat of a culture gap. Can you describe what it was like growing up in that kind of environment and how you developed this immense love for film and for art and such a larger than life industry. 


JOAN: [00:23:16] Yeah! So I'm from - most people will not know where it is - it's the south Santa Clara County, kind of the valley, a little bit. And California is very very big. And aside from L.A., San Francisco, and maybe the Bay Area, most people kind of live in the middle of nowhere. And so I'm from one of those middle of nowhere places - there's like 30 miles of farmlands on every side and mountains, and it's really secluded and you can smell cow manure, and it's the garlic capital of the world so you can always smell cow manure and garlic like wherever you are in town. Very disgusting. And so growing up, I was always kind of immediately pegged as an other because I was very visibly gender nonconforming. And in a world kind of pre trans women that was kind of labeled as gay or you know, other things that I won't say here, but I was always kind of immediately labeled as that and I was always an outcast everywhere I went from a very young age, even in like preschool kindergarten etc. I was not allowed to hang out with other kids. I didn't have very many friends because you know I wanted to be one thing and I knew who I wanted to be and that was not what everyone else wanted it to be. Parents and stuff included. And so I lived a very isolated childhood. And I also, you know growing up in the digital age, the Internet kind of followed me throughout my childhood. I think I discovered the internet at like nine and it was probably Neopets. 


[00:24:55] But after that, excuse me, it was LiveJournal and forums and anime and all of these people talking about things that they loved. And you know, I definitely was like the 11 year old in the live journal group full of 18 year olds. But it definitely kind of gave me an awareness of the world around me because there was no culture at home. There was no sense of art, there was no sense of fashion or love of film anywhere around me. And so once I got a whiff of kind of the outside world I was like yes that's it. 


[00:25:30] That's what I want and so I'm a very obsessive person, and I just obsessed over the entirety of film canon, art canon, fashion canon etc what have you. And you know, I was 12 years old looking up Gianni Versace fall winter 1999 fashion shows on my little computer that we had in the living room and my parents were like, why are you looking at all that stuff, or you know, illegally downloading anime, or the entirety of, you know, John Waters' filmography - very young. And that was kind of my only solace, that was the way that I expressed myself because I had no one to express myself to and I didn't really have anyone around me who fit in with me so to speak, or who I fit in with at all. 


[00:26:15] I kind of had to create my own little world in my sanctuary. And most of that was through film and fashion. 


ZANAB: [00:26:22] You had mentioned a little earlier that people were struggling immensely with, kind of understanding why this film about three trans girls wasn't inherently about just the struggle, and you had mentioned that it was important to you to make a film about three girls just kind of living their lives and, you know, experiencing their 20s together et cetera and not having violence be the focal point of the film…a lot of people really weren't understanding that. And the parts of the movie where you do confront violence, can you talk about what that was like for you, what it was like for you and your cast to film those moments and produce those parts? 


JOAN: [00:27:07] Yes so it was kind of, it was hard, because I was brutalized last year, I was, you know, attacked on the street and it was, you know, a trans-misogynistic attack. The person who, you know, attacked me was very blatant about that. And it was kind of in a string of events that happened over a few months and I never - it's kind of sad and a little bit, you know, looking back - but I never really addressed that with my crew and with my other cast members the way I think I should have. But it definitely was the reason why I wrote that in, I wanted to kind of have that moment for myself where I was posthumously I guess you know, going through it again so I could kind of move on, because it really affected me last year. 


[00:27:58] I stopped going out as much. I stopped being as social as I once was. I really didn't go out dancing anymore. I stayed inside for a huge majority of the last year. And so when I did, come time to make the movie, I was like, I want that to be in the movie but I don't want to show violence because there is so much out there and readily available for people to consume. 


[00:28:22] And I just didn't really want to enter that into any sort of canon or into any sort of atmosphere around me because images of brutalized trans women are so readily available on the internet. 


[00:28:37] I mean there was, you know - at the beginning of this year I couldn't get on Twitter without seeing the bloody face of mostly black trans women and so to make a movie and then to address violence, I was like first and foremost, I don't want the violence to be the center of it. I want it to be more about what happens next and how people deal with it, rather than just having to deal with it. So having to film that scene it was really hard. It was the first scene that we filmed of the movie and it definitely affected, I think, how it played out because we were still kind of figuring out each other on screen. We were getting into the flow of things and so, you know I'm bursting into tears halfway through the scene and we're having to start and stop and start over. So yeah it was hard. 


[00:29:27] And I don't really think my cast members ever really understood that that was something that had happened to me, and I had stayed really private about it. I think only really one person knew because I was ashamed. 


[00:29:39] You know, I'm such an outgoing strong quote unquote person. And for me to just have such a weakness about being social and after this attack I was really ashamed. And so I didn't really address it but I kind of used the movie to move past it. And so yeah it was hard. It was weird. It was interesting but worth it I guess because I have moved on. I have definitely resumed my old ways of going out every weekend and what have you so yeah, I hope that answered your question I'm sorry. 


ZANAB: [00:30:15] No absolutely. I think that totally answers my question. It reminds me of what you said earlier that people were struggling to kind of comprehend why it wasn't a fight story, why it wasn't a coming out story and why violence wasn't the focal point. Whereas you had made, violence kind of just, a part of life among other things rather than just the only focus in the story. 


JOAN: [00:30:42] - And going on that, also, just about how I wanted trans women to be shown on screen. There's only really one other movie that tackles trans-ness in any incisive way and it's Tangerine. I don't want to cite it as kind of a touchstone because I think even in the wake of that we still have a ton of work to do towards like, accurately representing and allowing trans stories to be told. But it definitely was like the first movie we saw where trans women were allowed to be more than that and beyond just their experiences but a center point of that movie is violence, and is this very brutal reality and so kind of in reaction to that, I wanted to provide a counterpoint to what Tangerine did and I wanted the conversations to be mostly frivolous and fun and lighthearted. And obviously if you rewatch the movie you can kind of sense there is darker and harder things going on than what's on screen. 


[00:31:50] But I wanted the movie to just be about people living their lives. I love slice of life films. I think it's why as a society we are so obsessed with people vlogging, just watching people live is a huge source of fascination for us. And so I kind of wanted to tackle that a little bit and I wanted it to just be, these are trans women and these are the kinds of conversations we have when no one else is watching. These are the conversations we have outside your gaze and outside your meddling and outside the world around us when we are by ourselves. This is what we're like and what we're like is just people. And so I wanted that to be the focal point. 


[00:32:31] I think it's why people have such a hard time with it because they wanted it to be something that it wasn't, they wanted it to be some grand statement on violence and on trans-misogyny and what have you, and I wasn't going to do that because there's other people making those movies. I wanted to do something that we've never seen before. 


ZANAB: [00:32:50] Was there ever a moment of realization for you during the filming of this movie? Was there a point where you realized something just either by yourself or your relationships with your friends. I know you had said that so much of this film was a recollection of real things that had happened, just told through the lens of storytelling and filmmaking. So during that process did you come across any realizations? 


JOAN: [00:33:17] Yeah. You know what I have been open about it online. I made a lot of mistakes filming SISTERHOOD. It was my first time making a movie, this venture, this big of a venture, and so going into it I had no idea what to expect. And I definitely pushed myself to the limit and my friendships definitely took a hit because of it. I asked a lot of my friends and it was probably mostly undeserved and filming was harder. You know, the events outside of filming and just us coming to grips with this crazy film schedule that we had, definitely affected the movie and affected my direction of the movie. And afterwards, you know, I had to apologize to everyone and say “hey guys that was really crazy.” We did it. I'm proud of us. I definitely never want to do anything like that ever again. I think there's definitely a separation that artists need to have from their art and their personal lives because having just gone through that, it's so messy and it's so needlessly messy. I think, you know Nora Ephron, a very famous screenwriter and filmmaker for those who don't know - Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, etc - said that everything is copy and said that you know everything in your life is up for grabs. And I can understand why she said that. But having made SISTERHOOD I want to provide a counterpoint and say that everything is copy but that doesn't mean it's your copy. And so after SISTERHOOD I probably will never do anything like this again. 


[00:35:03] I don't really think I could ever recapture, kind of, the magic of the movie nor do I want to, because for as much good has come out of it, it was also a lot of hurt too and you know it was hard it took a huge blow on my sanity and on my friendships. And I probably would never go through that again honestly which kind of makes it sound like a huge bummer. 


[00:35:26] I'm really proud of everything and I'm really proud of everyone but it's definitely I think a once in a lifetime experience. 


ZANAB: [00:35:31] So, to kind of counteract that, what was your favorite moment during the film? What was something that was the most memorable thing for you while making this movie. 


JOAN: [00:35:42] My favorite part of the film is - Rashida is the funniest person I probably have ever met in my entire life. 


[00:35:51] There is a wit about her that just kind of exceeds anything else. And I've never met anyone who can kind of say the funniest thing at the funniest time and only her, only she could come up with it. 


[00:36:05] And so there were these moments in it where she was taking the material and just completely making it her own. 


[00:36:13] She was definitely I think a scenery stealer and you know, chewed up everything around her and in the bath tub scene in particular, in the editing process there was so much good material from Rashida in that scene because she took a scene that was super hard to film probably in a way that I would never want to have to film in an environment like that again - it was the smallest bathroom possible with the most amount of crew possible. We had so many hot lights in there, with bubbles, and water, and trying to keep everyone not wet, and doing hair and makeup and all this stuff. Despite all of the things that we were going through on set that day, she completely took everything in that scene and just ran with it. A couple of them made it into the movie. 


[00:37:01] Her eye rolls at what I'm saying. Or her little improv line at the very end, she says, “got to I guess.”  I didn't tell her to do any of that. I didn't give her directions for that and I didn't even know she was doing it until after the fact. 


[00:37:15] So watching it back I was like, there is such a magic in this scene, and such a purity in this scene and it's because she especially was just taking the material and just making it completely her own. She lived her self in that moment. 


[00:37:30] And I didn't really have to tell her to do that. And so watching it back up like that definitely was my favorite part. Also the end. I have such a soft spot for the end because I don't think anyone saw that coming. No one in my program knew I did that ending or that that was going to be our ending and so filming it that day, I kind of was just like grinning the whole time, I was like, I feel such a pettiness about this, I can't wait to put this in a movie and just shock everybody so yeah. Definitely the bathtub, for sure. 


ZANAB: [00:38:01] So from the population of people that you look up to in this industry and directors, actors, personalities in general, if just one of your role models could see this film and tell you their thoughts about the movie, who would you want that one person to be and why?


JOAN: [00:38:25] Oh my goodness. Yes. OK. This is a hard question. Oh my geez you know what, I am going to go completely out on the rails here. And you know I have obsessed and just died for Barbara Streisand since I was like 11 years old. 


[00:38:50] I used to reenact like every scene in every movie she's ever done. You know her and I…I definitely come from the same background …as you know, the big nose. And I was always the awkward girl and I had, you know, the same hair and just the same personality and I always looked up to her, I modelled most of my life after her and I always wanted to be her and so I always have this moment of, in anything that I do, if I could show this movie or any of my movies to one person, I'd want Barbara Streisand to just kind of know who I am. 


[00:39:21] But on a more realistic scale, who would I want to see my movie. Yeah, I think John Waters cause he's kind of my spiritual successor - not successor, predecessor. I think we exist in the same spirit. And so, realistically if John Waters ever saw any of my movies and had even a mild reaction to it, I would die. I would be like OK that's it I can die now, I can stop making movies. John Waters knows I exist. 


ZANAB: [00:39:53] So I have just one final question for you. Inevitably there's going to be a girl out there who watches this film, and this girl might also have a camera, and she might see herself in you or in Lotus or in Rashida. What are some things you would want those girls to know, what is some advice you would want to transfer to this girl?


JOAN:[00:40:27] Oooh. That’s good. OK. I would tell her that there are going to be a lot of people in her life who try to make her art their art, and who are going to try to tell her how to live and how to express herself and what is the proper way to not only be a girl and be a woman but be an artist and a filmmaker maker, and she is the only one who really knows who she is and what she wants to say. And just to remember always going forward that you are the only person like you and you are the only person who can tell your story. And so stick to what you know, do what you love. And if someone tells you that what you're doing is wrong, definitely take it in but also acknowledge the way that their experience differs from yours, and that you again are the only person like you in this world, and you are the only one who can tell your story. That's really what I did with SISTERHOOD and what I wanted to do with SISTERHOOD. There's a lot of people, as women in our lives, who tell us how to be, how to dress, how to look, how to act, how to be women, how to be mothers and daughters and girlfriends and brothers and sisters and whatever have you. And despite all of that, we somehow managed to stay resilient and strong and independent and interesting and creative, and women are the only filmmakers I know still making movies that challenge status quos and are completely new never-seen-before breaking box office records smashing records starting new standards etc.. 


[00:42:02] And so there is a magic in that. There's something to be said for that. We have a point of view that no one else has yet. And so stick to your point of view. Don't try to rehash old stories. Don't try to do something that someone else has done before, because men have been telling stories for a thousand years. You know women finally have the opportunity to tell our own stories and so stick to that. There's pride in that there's nothing to be ashamed of for that. 







A devoted fan base and a massive collection of work were left behind by Bryn Jones, more popularly known by his following as Muslimgauze. Having died at 38 in January of 1999, Jones was resolute in his support for many people in the “Muslim world”. Using that term loosely, he was staunchly against the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Western imperial interests in the region. These are only a few of the views expressed in his music regarding issues rarely discussed by western musicians at the time, and something just as unlikely seen today. 

Jones developed Muslimgauze in response to Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Since then, he began research into the political histories of many of the countries in the region and formed stances that gained him heavy criticism throughout much of his music career. His intrigue with many predominantly Muslim countries and regions such as; Iraq, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan to name a few, was borderline obsessive. Muslimgauze became a staple to anyone who was enthusiastic about ambient and experimental music. His main label, Staalplaat, commented that at one point, Jones was sending in a new album once every week, consistently. Even having a number of LP’s, EP’s, and singles released well after his death. His work ethic is something to be admired, along with his devotion to many of the topics he named song and album titles after; Izlamophobia, and Hamas Arc.

His entire body of work under the pseudonym has no lyrical content outside of the vocal samples he uses from music written in Arabic, Hindi, and other Middle Eastern and South Asian languages. Underneath the thought provoking song and album titles named after cities and religious movements, there lies music laced with repetitive percussion and vocals that closely resemble distant humming. The sounds are hypnotic and faint at times, and callous and violent at others. His music, at the very least, is gripping and almost intoxicating. His devotion is refreshing, although his unyielding support of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah can be seen by some outside of the Muslim world as misguided.

The delicate part about being a fan of Jones, comes with the concern of his identity and who he was--or rather who he was not. He never converted, never learned Arabic or Farsi, and never visited any of the countries he had such strong opinions about. He was a white man from Manchester, England and there was an undeniable privilege in what he was doing. Some rightly criticized him for making a career out of struggles that didn’t affect him, which is something he seemed to have been well aware of himself. His authenticity came into question as well, whether he was genuine with his solidarity or just another artist seeking a new edgy and different trope. There lies a very blurred line between acting as an ally and taking advantage of causes that don't inherently belong to you. No one outside of his closest friends can say for certain where Jones resided past that line, or where he would have been if he were alive today. Those that were closest to him did describe him as a shy and enigmatic character, but one that was steadfast in his political beliefs. He often dismissed criticisms made by Westerners about the fact he never did actually step foot in the Middle East.

As for the people that follow him, the truth remains the common theme among his fans is the motivating force that prompts them to research and form their own opinions of the topics Jones vaguely explores with the titles of his works. This is something that is welcomed when the narrative is commanded by conservative, and even liberal, media in the west. An example being, one could hear the album “Vote Hezbollah” and would in turn drive them to learn about Lebanon's history following Israel’s creation, and learning why the overwhelming attitude among the Muslimgauze following, are critical of the Israeli state.

The first few songs I heard were Jerusalem Knife, Arafat’s Radio, and Zindabad from Hamas Arc. I was engrossed in something completely foreign to me, I felt a really strong attachment to it almost immediately. The more I listened, the more comfortable I felt in being Palestinian. The truth is, I didn’t need a white man to validate me, although there was solace in knowing that there were people that saw humanity in the Palestinian cause. This meant a lot more to me at the time considering the people who claimed to care about Palestine were either incredibly anti-Semitic or would persuade me against claiming my identity, let alone how pro-Israel all white conservatives are in the south--which remains the staggering majority even today. This is not to say liberals were better in this regard. I can't say I totally found that in Muslimgauze either, at the least I found music I was very into during the later part of my formative years.

Surprisingly, there’s not much of a critique on Jones or his music from those in the region he had an interest in. I can only speak for myself as someone whose father is Palestinian, and as someone who was born and raised in the United States. Racism, Islamophobia, ethnocentrism; are all things people in my position are dangerously too familiar with. Bryn Jones' stance on many of the issues concerning a people he doesn’t come from is valued to an extent, and his massive body of work is more than impressive to say the least. Knowing what I do, my fascination and caution with Muslimgauze is equally met. 

For inquiries about this article, Tweet Jibril Ali @jibrilalpha




     I don’t mean to look at it, but I do. In our small hotel room in Tokyo, while my grandmother sends e-mails to home in the downstairs lobby, I am flicking through channels on the ten-inch TV. I am thirteen years old and have spent the last two months of summer with my grandmother, eating fried pork cutlet and going to school in Hiroshima. My best friend Sachi has written me a note on lined blue paper with cartoons printed on the sides that she has instructed me to open once we are apart. Opening the neatly folded letter sealed with a puffy Mickey Mouse sticker, I read the words “CONNIE + SACHI = BEST FREIND FOREVER”, that is followed by a note in Japanese detailing our adventures together. I read it over and over again until my eyes begin to water and I fold it back into its square, tucking it into my backpack pocket for safekeeping.

     The murderer of two high school girls has yet to be found, the moonfaced news anchor wearing her signature tight red pantsuit reports. I try to search her eyes for signs of sadness, but find nothing. She moves on to a segment about bullet trains. Click. A man with a large white hat whisks eggs in a large metal bowl. Today, he is going to teach me how to create the perfect tamagoyaki. I watch for about a minute as the chef measures out spoons of soy sauce and sugar, pinching salt between his fingers, finally pouring the egg mixture into the square shaped pan. He looks proud of his work, and for a second, we beam at the fat golden omelet sitting on the countertop together. Suddenly, a commercial about chocolate bars designed for weight loss cuts across the screen. Click. Commercial about laundry detergent. Click. Commercial about mouthwash. Click. 

    On the TV, a small woman wearing a maid costume rubs her enormous breasts. The camera is pointed at her from above to emphasize her smallness. I know that I must change the channel immediately before my grandmother comes back, in the same way that I know I am attracted to boys. And yet I stare at the way her hands fit so perfectly around the soft and fleshy circles, the small “o” of her mouth that opens and closes like a fish, the small parting of her legs that simultaneously reveals too much and nothing at all. 

    Beeps on the other side of the door. My grandmother is punching in the key code. My fingers fly out from beneath the bottoms of my blankets to change the channel. The maid is replaced by a TV show that teaches children how to speak English just as my grandmother walks in the door, her hair still wet from her bath. Shuffling across the floor in her hotel slippers, she stops before the thermostat, jabbing at buttons and muttering about the heat.

    “Connie-chan. It’s like a sauna in here.”

    “Gomen, I’ll change it.” I climb down the ladder leading to my loft bed. The railing feels cool against my sweaty palms. My feet hit carpet and I walk toward her, noticing again how tiny our shared space is. As I adjust the temperature, letting my hair fall across my face to hide my bright pink cheeks, I see my grandmother watching the children’s show out of the corner of my eye. A thirty-year-old white man strums a guitar, singing along as Japanese schoolchildren yell out the names of their favorite vegetables in English.

    “One day, you could teach English in Japan too.” My grandmother smiles at me.

    I want to be a writer, but I respond, “Yeah. I’ve thought about doing that a couple of times.”

    She nods and switches her attention back to the show. A pigtailed girl is jumping around on the grass off rhythm, the straps of her Velcro tennis shoes flapping up and down. “EGGPLANT!” she screams. The American and the children cheer “EGGPLANT!” in unison. “CUCUMBER!” a boy with gap teeth yells, and the small circle grows in its frenzy, yelling, “CUCUMBER! CU-CUM-BER! C-U-C-U-M-B-E-R!” Spit flies out from the corners of the American’s mouth as he laughs, the children laughing with him, all reveling in the joy of cucumber.


    Despite being the last person to finish running the mile during P.E., I am the fastest typer in my computer class. I returned home to America three weeks ago, just in time for school to start back, and yet my tongue still feels heavy, burdened with a foreign accent and the taste of pickled vegetables. The exercise today is to transcribe a lesson from our textbook about a girl named Martha and her family. I type sentences about Martha eating chicken salad, Martha and her mother Jenny vacationing in Mexico, Martha winning first-place at the spelling-bee until I have compiled a thorough biography of the Martha clan. It is after I have finished the exercise and am looking at inspirational pictures of a two-legged puppy protecting its owner from a vicious cat that I hear J.J. Vincent call my name.

    “Hey, Connie, look at this.”

    I wheel my chair around to look at the back of the class where the members of the JV football team sit, smelling of cheap body spray and toe fungus. On the screen, there is a dating site for men seeking Asian women. A pixelated picture of a skinny woman with small eyes and yellow skin like my own welcomes the site visitors with a curved finger. She looks so fragile in her thin white camisole and loose jean shorts that I feel a sudden urge to give her my sweater. 

    J.J. Vincent and his groupies laugh when they see the look on my face. One of them enjoys this moment so thoroughly that his eyes begin to water and wipes his tears away between fits of joy. I turn back toward my computer screen and continue to look at puppy pictures. My hands can’t stop shaking. I peek up toward the front at Coach Thurton and know at once that he has seen everything by the softness in his eyes. The bell rings and I throw my things in my bag, shoving past rows of people to get to the door. Coach Thurton does not say anything when I accidentally trip on the way out. For this, I am grateful.

    Later that day, my mother and I go to the movies. We do this sometimes to pretend that we are normal, that I live with her instead of Grandma. She talks to me during our drive to the theatre, complaining about the mean lifeguard at the YMCA, her weight, the over-ripened grapefruits she bought at the grocery store yesterday and now has to return. My job is to nod and make the appropriate noises after each reported offense.

“Rose told me that she would stop smoking around me, but she just keeps doing it. I mean, isn’t that inconsiderate? I don’t think it’s too much to ask.”


“Yes, I know. And then Grandma came up to the house and tried to do my laundry! I am forty years old, thank you very much.”


“But then she offered me some of the fish she cooked and I thought it was pretty tasty.”


“What kind? Oh, it was just some salmon.”

The movie, a romantic comedy with a B-list cast, does not interest her for very long. I jab her in the ribs with my elbow at five-minute intervals so that her snores do not disturb the audience members around us. The attractive male lead approaches the attractive female lead to ask her about her music taste. Their conversation about indie bands is drowned out by my vibrating phone. Wrestling my arm from beneath my mother’s drooping head, I open the text message. It is an apology from J.J., telling me how sorry he is for his behavior. Despite myself, I feel a thrill of excitement at the fact that such a popular boy would text me to apologize. I begin to thank him, but am suddenly bombarded with an influx of text messages from unfamiliar numbers. Each one is from a different member of the football team, a variation of transparent sorries that have obviously been constructed by Coach Thurton. What thrill was left over from the first text is now dead, and I feel stupid for having ever thought that a boy would care for me. I do not respond to any of them. The beautiful boy and the beautiful girl are now kissing in a park. Everything about them seems forced and unremarkable. My sleeping mother sighs her agreement.


    The first time I liked a girl, it was on accident. I was in second grade, sitting in the nurse’s office because of a stomachache. Nurse Hardy sifted through the brightly colored rows of the medicine cabinet to find the Pepto-Bismol as I tried to get comfortable in the metal fold-up chair. Despite the fact that I weighed 140 pounds, my fat was situated solely in my stomach, face, and thighs, leaving my butt so flat it was practically inverted. Someone knocked on the door and Nurse Hardy yelled for them to come in, wielding a bottle full of thick pink liquid in her hand as she headed toward me. I looked up to see who the person was and immediately stopped squirming. A boy with hollow navy eyes and cracked red lips that I had seen in the hallways was now standing a few feet ahead of me, thrusting his pointer finger into his ear to lure out small flakes of wax. Glancing down at myself, I wished more than anything that my grandmother would pick out better clothes for me to wear, that she would learn how to do something else with my hair besides pulling it back into a single tight and bushy ponytail that resembled a bundle of burned straw. 

    The boy was wearing a red sweatshirt, his small frame hidden beneath the thick fabric. Two fake diamond earrings glistened in his ear as he shook his head to something Nurse Hardy said. Sniffling, he reached toward one of the rough tissues perched on top of the front desk. I felt the small pack of Mickey-Mouse Kleenex my grandmother had shoved into my pocket before I left this morning and thought about offering him two, or six, or maybe even the entire thing. He began scrubbing at his nose with a fistful of the offensive one-ply tissues before I could even wrestle my pack from within the tight creases of my pants. I was as relieved as I was disappointed—I had hoped that he would see beyond the wire-rim glasses and full cheeks, the Wal-Mart clothing and sensible shoes, and whisper, “thank you, Connie,” like it was a secret. 

    “So, what can I do for you today?” Nurse Hardy’s smile was so wide that the pinks of her gums flashed, firm and healthy.

    “I just came to pick up my allergy medicine,” the beautiful boy said, crumpling the used tissue into a ball and throwing it into the wire waste bin. The other nurse in the room glared at him, shaking her head in disapproval as she punched in a parent’s phone number on the bulky black phone. The boy shrugged, unbothered by her disapproval. How lucky I was to have such a cool boyfriend. He glanced over at me, his eyes lazy and emotionless. Flustered, I busied myself by picking at a scab on my leg that I had gotten from gym class last week. His gaze only lasted for a second. I felt something small and electric nestled inside of my stomach.

    Nurse Hardy walked back to the medicine cabinet and picked up a translucent bottle filled with chalky white pills. “It’s Allie, right?”

    “Yes, ma’am.”

    But Allie is a girl’s name. Did everyone else know but me? In horror, I began to see evidences of girlhood peeking out from behind the folds of my imagined boyfriend’s baggy sweatshirt—small lumps in the middle of her chest, slim wrists, flat, smooth throat. The electricity churned inside of my stomach again in a way that felt destructive.  

    Nurse Hardy measured out the correct dosage in a plastic cup, placing it in the girl’s outstretched hand. “Here you go, sweetie. I hope you feel better soon. The pollen is really bad this year.”

    “Yes, ma’am. It is.” Allie tipped the medicine back into her mouth and threw the cup across the room into the trash can again. The other nurse covered the phone receiver to say something, but Allie headed back out into the hallway before there was a chance.

    “Thanks,” she called over her shoulder, heading back into the cafeteria. I watched her stuff her hands into her pockets, her fists outlined against the firm denim of her jeans. 

    “No problem, sweetie!” Nurse Hardy said before she turned back to me. “Now, Connie, how are you feeling? Oh my goodness, I forgot to give you your Pepto-Bismol.” She began to turn toward the medicine cabinet again.

    “No, no, it’s really fine,” I said, jumping out of my chair so suddenly that I was caught off balance and had to grab the wall for support. “I have to go now anyway. Don’t wanna miss the rest of science class.”

    “Are you sure, sweetie? It won’t take but a second…”

    “I gotta go, really. I’m sorry Ms. Hardy, I promise I’m okay. I’ll come back later. Maybe.” I opened the door and ran to the bathroom, ignoring Nurse Hardy’s concerned voice calling me back. I jiggled the door to a bathroom stall, pushing myself through before it had a chance to fully open. My back crumbled against the greyish green walls as I tried to breathe. I dug my nails into the inside of my wrist and watched half-moon marks form in my skin. Liking a girl who I thought was a boy was bad enough—I was sick, I know. But the most unforgiveable thing was the fact that even though I now knew that Allie was a girl, I still wanted to kiss her, to hear my name vibrate against the hollows of her throat, to know what it felt like to lay my head against her stomach and feel the echoes of her heartbeat throbbing against the sinews of my skull until someone came in and found us.

Connie Shen is a Japanese and Chinese activist and story-teller. A writer of poetry, short stories, andnon-fiction, her work revolves around the many facets of queer, mentally ill, and Asian-American identities. She is currently pursuing her MFA in creative non-fiction at UNC Wilmington.

You can find Connie on TwitterTumblr and InstagramFor further inquiry:


All photography presented in this article is the property of Michael Cruz.

Zanab: So where are you from in New York? 

Mike: I'm from Woodhaven Queens in New York

Zanab: Do you consider yourself to be a native New Yorker? What's like the criteria for that--what does someone have to do to call themselves an NNY? 

Mike: Yeah, I like to call myself a native New Yorker. I guess a better term would be City Boy(TM), because I hate suburban areas. But for me to consider somebody a native New Yorker, right off the bat they have to be born in the city. I hate it when people that come from out of state come in and settle for a little while and they call New York City "their city" you know. What makes a person a native New Yorker in my eyes is at least that they know where to go and know where not to go and know how to take the subway and have a sense of direction you know? And they work, you know, like you're always on the move whenever you're in Manhattan. I can always pick out people walking down the street who's from here and who's not. You can tell because they walk so damn slow man. New Yorkers are always on the move. Whether they're working or trying to get something to eat or you just, you know, you're on the move, trying to get to the next store or their next errand. But yeah, I think that's what makes people a NNY. 




Zanab: You said you were from Queens, and as of 2014, Queens is the most multicultural neighbourhood/metropolitan area in the world. There are so many people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds living in such a high density that it actually takes precedence over Toronto, which is the most multicultural city on the planet. What I wanted to know was; what are some examples of, like, the globalization in Queens that you see on a regular basis? 

Mike: I really like this question because--so I live in Woodhaven, and if you go to the right of me which is only a few blocks away, I'd say about ten blocks, you hit Richmond Hill, and Richmond Hill is very multicultural. You have a lot of Spanish, Guyanese, Jamaican, Trinidadian, Pakistani, and Indian people--mostly the last three. It's pretty crazy, I mean, when I was in high school I was around that crowd a lot so I got to try a lot of different foods. I got to see how a lot of cultures worked. It was pretty cool to see, and it's funny because if you go up about 2 miles you hit Kew Gardens and that's mostly Jewish and some Italian people, and a high density Asian population as well. I'm Dominican and my aunt met this Indian dude and she ended up marrying him and it's really cool because I experienced an Indian wedding and tried so many different foods--which is really fucking good, Jesus Christ. Biryani and--what's it called? That gobi soup? Any day of the week, son. That shit is too good. But yeah that's another reason I really love Queens. You never know who you'll end up with. Every food you can think of is here, and I sincerely mean that. Any food you could think of, you can have. It's not like Brooklyn, you know? Where Brooklyn is just like a hipster cafe on every corner now. It's pretty sad because before it was very diverse and now it's just the same old shit. 




Zanab: That actually brings me to my next question; Brooklyn there's like this overdevelopment where you see the same kinda thing over and over and basically like the same coffee shop on every corner. And that's like a clear result of an extended period of gentrification and reconstruction where Brooklyn was kind of reconstructed to look a certain way and house a certain kind of person. The cost of living has risen by a substantial amount, and New York being the city that it is and being famous for each separate borough, when these places are gentrified it's newsworthy for a lot of people. So I guess my question is, have you ever noticed this kind of thing creeping into your neighbourhood in Queens? Have you seen this kind of thing taking over places that used to look a different way and housed different kinds of people? How do you think it affects multiculturalism? 

Mike: Yeah, I mean, it's wild the amount of gentrification that's been going on in New York over the past couple of years. It wasn't until 2011 that I really began to notice the affects of the whole process. And rapidly within the past years it just changed everything. Williamsburg was notoriously known for a lot of crime, gang-activity, and now you can walk around there without even looking over your shoulder and it's crazy. Does gentrification have an affect on multiculturalism? Definitely. Definitely, it does. Without a doubt. I'm pretty sure there have been businesses that have had to shut down because of the rise in cost of living and that they just can't afford the rent for their business and it's the reason that a really good ass Chinese spot might close down suddenly. Personally, it wasn't until last year I noticed a lot of white families and people moving into the area, and Woodhaven historically has always been a German area, but when I was growing up here the neighbourhood was predominantly black, hispanic and Asian. It wasn't until last year that the makeup of the neighbourhood kind of started changing, and it's become more white since then. I live near the J-train line and when you're on that train you pass through Brooklyn and Williamsburg and Bushwick--which is another place that's just been crazy gentrified over the past little bit. It's pretty scary and it's sad for people who were able to afford a spot and maintain a low-income job while having a place to live that can't have that anymore because fuckin' John and Paul want to move into Brooklyn just to say they're "from Brooklyn." At the end of the day it's all about money. 





Zanab: You know that i've been a fan of your work for a long time, and one of the things that really appealed me to your photos is all of the shows you capture--I think it's like one of your trademarks at this point. I wanted to know if the music you're into influences your photography at all, and what just in general what drives you to take pictures? 

Mike:  Well first I want to say thank you for the compliment, and the question too because I like this one. I feel like I've generated a lot really good memories going to shows and that's probably what drives the photography in that moment. Especially with Show Me The Body shows since they're so intimate, or really any punk rock shows I saw last year. In the zine I put out last year you see a lot of Show Me The Body and Death Grips. DG was a significant part of last year for me and if I had a top ten, DG would probably be number 1. That was the first time I saw them live and it was such a good experience because I really felt I created memories with someone I loved and enjoyed being with, and met some really good people in the process as well. If there's anything I learned about myself last year is that I depend on people for happiness, and I wish it wasn't that way, but that's why I take photographs. I want somebody to be with me whenever I'm trying to memorize one of those moments. It's pretty much an open invitation for anybody to--I seriously hope that one day somebody just finds one of my photos and my work and just hits me up and wants to hang out one day. Out of everything, that's my goal; I want to know people. Through all of these shows I was able to do that, I met someone I could understand and we made so many good memories through music that it drove me to give them a kind of permanence through photography. 




Zanab: Where would you suggest people go when they visit New York? What are some of your favourite places? 

Mike: Stay away from Times Square. Just pick a place and get lost. I think you learn New York a lot if you get lost, because you just find your way somehow. New York is a really big place but if you walk around Manhattan, it begins to feel pretty small. But what I do, for quote-unquote fun I guess, during the summer, I always visit Washington Square park or on the pier on Chelsea. Some of my favourite food spots are near there, like Artichoke Pizza on MacDougal street is by WSP. I love Artichoke's so much that my friend and I were at the point we were getting free pizza from there (laughs). The best thing is to just walk around and get lost in lower Manhattan, you'll always find interesting things, food and people. 

Zanab: Which cities do you want to photograph in the future? And do you feel like, because you're a photographer, you're a better traveler? Do you think you pick up on things that people miss? 

Mike: Hm. Places that I want to go to. Well, I definitely want to visit Canada again. I went to Montreal twice last year and I really liked that spot--specifically Mount Royal, which reminded me of lower Manhattan a lot. I'd like to go there, Toronto and San Francisco. I don't really think California's that amazing to be at but SF sounds appealing. Country wise I'd really like to visit the U.K and experience the London music scene because I hear it's fucking crazy. I'd love to go to Brazil, Japan, India, and South Korea. Does photography make me a better traveler? I don't necessarily think it was photography, but I think New York definitely did. You just have a better sense of direction from all the years of living here and getting lost. For example, it took me an hour in Montreal to really figure out the map and the locations and where I needed to be on trains and stuff like that. So I think it's more being a New Yorker that allows me to navigate cities quickly. At the same time though I do tend to look around and see what's different that some people wouldn't catch in their own home towns. 



Zanab: Finally, where do you see photography taking you? 

Mike: Where do I see photography taking me? I don't know. I really don't know. It's a hobby at this point, but I'm noticing it's getting some kind of traction though I really don't wish to make this into a full time career yet, I don't want to ruin it. I mean, if I grow, I grow. I still feel like none of my work is good, but people seem to like it which means I must be doing something right. 



You can find Michael on Tumblr and Instagram



Jared: So, where are you from?

Sir CRKS: I'm from Houston

Jared: What do you do?

Sir CRKS: I'm just a kid tryna make music, that's all it is really... I go to school majoring in audio production and engineering. I should be done next year. You know...I'm just tryna do music on the side while going to school and going to work, thats pretty much it.

Jared: You said you're just doing music on the side but do you want to make this a full time career or just leave it a hobby?

Sir CRKS: Maybe like two years ago it was just a hobby but right now I really want this to be like a full time career, not just making music and producing songs though I'm really interested in engineering and going more in depth with the music 

Jared: You're from Houston; is that a big influence in your music or--because you're more from the internet era of making music do you feel like you have no borders?

Sir CRKS: As far as me Dj'ing and Chopping & Screwing stuff, thats definitely because of Houston.


Jared: What about the music scene in Houston?

Sir CRKS: It's cool, I got love for everyone out here doing their thing but like...the whole networking process isn't the same cause I mean in New York I got a whole bunch of homies in New York that do music and DJ at parties and they work together and network. It's totally different down here--niggas do not fuck with each other. So I kind of stay to myself.

Jared: How do you feel about people using pieces of Houston culture in their music when they obviously aren't from Houston?

Sir CRKS: I used to feel some type of way but I guess I just got over that and realized you just gotta show some respect like know where you got it from. Like A$AP rocky and stuff; he's cool, he shows respect, he's got a pass.

Jared: In recent history you've had trouble with SoundCloud deleting your accounts with thousands of followers over copyright issues, did that ever make you want to give up?

Sir CRKS: The first time I got deleted I had over 6 thousand followers I was hurt, yo. I was like "this is some fucked up shit" and I tried doing everything to get my account back up and I had to ask myself if this is something I really wanna do and keep trying to build a following. But, I mean, here I am still making music.

Jared: And now so you don't get deleted you usually don't post your Chopped & Screwed tapes on SC you just post a link on your tumblr.

Sir CRKS: Yeah and most of the people that follow me on SoundCloud don't even know I have a tumblr so it's kind of like the people on SoundCloud could be missing out. I do have followers that repost my tracks and I'll share them too but that's really it.

Jared: Do you wish you could post the full tapes on SoundCloud?

Sir CRKS: Hell yeah man! Hell yeah.

Jared: [Laughs] okay. I wanted to talk about more of your original work and the samples you use, they seem to be a little bit more obscure and I wanted to know how you find the samples and get inspiration for these songs?


Sir CRKS (Justin Smith) is an artist from Houston, Texas. You can find him on SoundCloud and Tumblr.

Sir CRKS: Probably about a year ago I started wanting to do more than just DJ'ing and making mixes. I didn't wanna be stuck on one path, I wanted to make my own music. As far as me finding samples... it just depends on what im listening to or what mood im in. I look for stuff that sounds really good looped I go for it and see what I can come up with. Everything right now is just practice.

Jared: It sounds good so far, you must be doing something right.

Sir CRKS: I appreciate it for real, for real. I appreciate everyone fucking with me...but yeah I just feel like I'm constantly developing my sound and finding myself.

Jared: Can you give me some music you like that people wouldn't expect you to like? 

Sir CRKS: I been on an old school r&b wave right now, I listen to alot of old jazz too when im trying to find samples. I listen to a lot of grime lately mostly for the producers more so than the rappers grime producers are crazy I be like "Damn you fucking it up fucking it up for real you raw"

Jared: How about some artists you'd like to work with.

Sir CRKS: I really fuck with Atu and's a bunch of soundcloud people I'd want to work with really.

Jared: Who are some other SoundCloud artists you like?

Sir CRKS: Waldo is nice. Waldo can rap his ass off, him and Sango make a good team. Esta is cool too; he puts in alot of work. 

Jared: Would you ever wanna rap on your own songs or use your vocals for something at least?


Sir CRKS: I mean not really not now at least, I don't really have a mic at my place but maybe in the future. Everyone always tells me I got the voice for some shit like the radio cause it's so deep...Using my own vocals I might do that but I don't think rapping is in me. I'll freestyle sometimes cause i like saying stupid shit

Jared: If you weren't making music and going to school for it what would you be doing?

Sir CRKS: I probably would have graduated already with a degree in computer engineering. I was going to Howard for that-

Jared: Do you miss Howard? How was that experience going to school in DC when you're from Houston?

Sir CRKS: My first two years at Howard were probably like the best two years of my life, there was just so much partying...what people don't know about me is when I was growing up I was an only child and my mom was super protective, so I didn't do shit besides go to school cause she worked at a school too. 

Sir CRKS: I didn't get a cell-phone til i was like a junior in highschool and im 23 now so that was like what, 7 years ago.

Jared: Damn, that's like when the OG iPhone came out.

Sir CRKS: But yeah, Howard was the best... I was just free, I met people from all over the country I never thought id meet. I made some lifelong friends over there 

Jared: What made you realize you wanted to start making music, were you still in DC?

Sir CRKS: My sophomore year I was doing alot of math and I fucking hate math so I was kind of falling off and I used to hang out with alot of Howard DJ's and help them set up for parties and shit so I was just around the whole scene and all the music and it just clicked in my head that this is what I actually wanted to do and I knew there were schools out there for this kind of shit so I just did it...The worst thing I could do to myself is hate what I'm doing in life.

Jared: Are you still DJ'ing at parties?

Sir CRKS: Yup, whenever people ask me when I'm free im always willing to DJ someone's event. I got some homies in New York that I know want me to come up and when I get there ima be DJ'ing parties. I love being a DJ; I love being the one in the car with the aux cord and everyone thinks it's fire.

Jared: Are you into other kinds of art, what else inspires you?

Sir CRKS: I really like photography and painting. I've been posting alot of pictures of flowers and stuff lately on my tumblr because it puts me in a good mood. There was alot going on in my life at one point dealing with my grandmother dying and a break I like sharing pictures that can put anyone in a better mood and I like tagging them as "EP material" for cover art and song inspiration.


Jared: Who gave you the best life advice so far, who has told you something that really stuck with you?

Sir CRKS: I gotta say, probably my grandmother... one day I walked into her apartment while i was back from Howard and told her I wanted to come back home. I didnt wanna do computer engineering anymore and she was okay with it. She told me to do whatever I wanted to do, to just go for it.

Jared: You grew up around music alot, can you tell me a couple of artists your mom or anyone else you were around listening to?

Sir CRKS: Oh man, alright my mom is like 45 years old and she's from LA so growing up in Houston all we would listen to was west coast music like Ice Cube and Warren G and Dr. Dre so music wise growing up I was more like a west coast kid and sometimes I would listen to Houston rap.

Jared: Did growing up in Houston listening to more west coast music alienate you from the other kids?

Sir CRKS: not really I usually kept that stuff to myself and listened to whatever everyone else was listening to when I was around my friends but I remember as I got older I started listening to different in middle school and high school when the whole snap era was hot and Lil John was cool I was listening to like Wiz Khalifa and Kid Cudi in 2007.

Jared: Yo I remember when people would look at me crazy for listening to Kid Cudi.

Sir CRKS: I'm saying! That is exactly what niggas would do to me.

Jared: So looking back on that do you ever feel salty towards those people like alot of those same people are huge fans of those artists now.

Sir CRKS: Nah, I like putting people onto good music and I'll always be there to remind them that they're late to the wave and I been rocking with them since like '08 Haha. We were young anyways I cant be mad at people for being the way they were back then.

Jared: Alright, we're almost done here so i'ma just ask some random questions and you can say whatever.

Jared: What would you do on your last day on earth?

Sir CRKS: My last day on earth... I'd probably just sit back and chill, hang out with my mom not do shit really.

Jared: What kind of future do you want your kids to live through?

Sir CRKS: Well, this is kind of hard to answer but I just hope they dont have to go through any of the shit I have to go through. I don't want them to get profiled like I could get profiled I dont wanna be a parent on the news cause my kid got shot. I know its hard but I just hope everyone can be cool with each other and live peaceful lives.

Jared: Anything else you want to say to anybody?

Sir CRKS: I just wanna let everyone know I appreciate them, everyone that listens to my music and shows me love and support. I know I kind of like just say dumb shit all time but I really appreciate everyone and that's why i be so positive all the time just telling everyone I hope they have a beautiful day cause I mean it I know niggas dont be having the best day.

Sir CRKS: Oh yeah shoutout, All my fade boys, coachcrewneck, jono, uncleflex, shopwitme, shoutout to my nigga Jared on the phone, Jeremy, Rashida, Dani umm there's so many damn people man.

For further inquiry about this article, tweet Jared Zapata @dntdodrugss.



I first discovered poet Caleb Femi after stumbling upon his documentary What Did Love Taste Like in the 70s?, a short film exploring music and culture in the 70s with afrobeat and Femi's own poetry layered in with the series of dimly lit interviews. The film was nostalgic and beautiful; it reminded me of my parents and of looking through photo albums of them being black, young, and African in outfits I envied. About a year later Femi released his latest film, Heartbreak and Grime, all while being a key proponent of London's poetry scene.

On October 3rd, he was named the first young people's laureate for London. Femi's work explores nostalgia, blackness, masculinity, music and culture in a way that's relatable and innovative. I spoke to him about his work and process as an artist; here's what he had to say.

Arfie: Out of all the creative outlets that exist for us now, why did you choose filmmaking? When did you realize filmmaking was something you could do?

Caleb: Before filmmaking, I have also been a huge film geek but I got into creating films, especially documentaries because I was tired of watching failed documentaries about my community either misrepresenting it or fetishising it. They were all about crime and gangs or its 'quirky' culture. So I decided to make my own ones solely for me and people like me. 

Arfie: A lot of the times when we hear artists of color talk about their craft, they always explain a need to see people like them represented. Do you feel like your work centers around representation, or around something else?

Caleb: My work centres around being, being here, in this city, this country, this world. That covers a whole range of issues and representation falls within that. We all know that the erasure of people of colour is a real and insidious thing that continues to undermine the existence of our communities, traditions and cultures.


 Arfie: Who are your inspirations, artistically? Likewise, is there anything that remains constant in your creative process or does writing come naturally for you?

Caleb: As a writer, my primary objective is to make the work serve as theory for me that is the one thing that remains constant in the process. I can only speak of aspirations in regards to filmmaking, I am a huge fan of Bradford Young a cinematographer from the US, his work on the black skin is a revelation; check out a film called Mother of George and you'll see what I mean.

Arfie: Do you think your work has taught you anything about yourself or the way you navigate the world?

Caleb: My work has taught me to trust in myself more as there have been times when I have had to justify much of the choices that I have made within in. Also, it has taught me to be more aware of the wider world and the life that my work takes on after it leaves the comfort of my house. Above all else, I have been taught to accept my failures and see the process in it.

Arfie: Are their creative spaces in your community that you feel you fit into or have you had to mold out those spaces for yourself?

Caleb: I think there as spaces that I can say that I am on the fringe on, especially in regards to poetry spaces however to full thrives as a person of colour the most viable option is to try and mold newer and more conducive spaces. 

Arfie: one of my classes, we were assigned an interview with Pearl Cleage as a reading and she said something about black liberation being the responsibility of black artists, do you agree with that? Do you feel as if it is your responsibility to accurately represent those like you?

Caleb: I agree that in a climate where we are deeply under presented there is a big responsibility to represent people like me. I think the caution we have to take on that is that we cannot represent all black people which often artists think they have to do. A black scholar once said, if there are 40 million black people then there are 40 million ways to be black. We have to represent the small slice of demography within the black community that we fall under and encourage other artists to represent the other slices. 

 Arfie: Heartbreak and Grimeyou unpack a lot of hypermasculinity and sexism that young black men are conditioned to adopt, do you think that you, personally, have unlearned a lot of those preconceived notions? Do you see a struggle with including women in your work or in the spaces you occupy?

Caleb: I struggle every day to unlearn many preconceived notions, that is a fact. Misogyny (especially misogynoir), hyper masculinity and sexism has been imprinted in me since a young boyand every day those notions are still in play and still having subconscious effects on me so the process of unlearning is immensely difficult. I think this process will last a lifetime but it is for the bettering of me and our community.

In a way, I think it is important to maintain the delicate line. I am aware of the reality of women being excluding from many narrative but I am also aware of women being included and misrepresented. My biggest worry when creating the H & G documentary was telling the stores of women that wasn't mine to tell. During editing footage, there was around 2 hours of footage which I had to edit down to 10 minutes and the process of editing stories by women was one that I felt that I didn't have the authority, experience or knowledge to shape (what do you keep what do you take out, what are the nuances etc.). Luckily, I began a conversation with a fellow filmmaker who after our conversation on the issue began making a woman-centre documentary based on the same topic as H & G.

Arfie: How has your upbringing as first generation and as a child of Nigerian immigrants inspired your work? We often notice that a lot of artists from the diaspora feel a pressure to romanticize their struggles or the struggles of their parents, do you feel that or would you rather just tell it as it is?


Caleb: I always tell it as it is. Problem with that is that people then tend to romanticise the rawness. 

Arfie: What do you think differentiates you from other filmmakers and poets with similar experiences? What is something new you want to bring to either craft?

Caleb: I don't know how to articulate what differentiates me but I just always feel like me. I enjoy the freedom in creating things in my way without the external pressure. I think in hindsight I will know what new thing I brought to me craft, for now I'm just enjoying and maintain the freedom.

Arfie: What advice would you give to young black artists interested in filmmaking?

Caleb: Do what you want and make it interesting to you first and foremost. You are more important that your equipment.

Arfie: How do poetry and filmmaking merge for you? Is one more dominant in your life? Do they take away from one another?

Caleb: Poetry is bae. I see it in everything, even filmmaking. To me, filmmaking is a slow poem and I write the stories using cameras and stuff. Get me.

Arfie: Finally, you talk a lot about the media you consumed as a child in your work, how has that media affected your personality? Also, what would someone have to read, watch, or listen to in order to understand you?

Caleb: You'd have to watch british tv from the 90s and 00s. You'd have to listen to uk music, grime, uk rap, garage etc. You have to watch grime dvds like lord of the mics and risky roads, you'd have to have had MSN and myspace. You'd have to have been from the endz otherwise its a myth.

You can find Caleb on TwitterVimeo and Instagram

For inquiries about this article, tweet Arfie Ghedi @awrfie