It was a real fish! It was a koi fish. There was a balloon over the head to cover it and protect my mouth.
I’m a fisher, I’ve been fishing since I was a kind. So I actually have a very strong connection to fish! And I like things that are shocking and that I know are going to shock other people. That’s what makes fashion and the art and culture so great, because people are always pushing limits and boundaries. Even if people don’t like it, I think that’s what art is supposed to do: it’s supposed to get you to think, and make you feel something.
I think there were a lot of different meanings behind the fish. It obviously brings up a “fish out of water,” like the new kids on the block—it was Akeem’s first [independent] show. And in the gay world, fish can be a bit of a derogatory term, but it’s also a term that’s embraced and used casually, in a funny way. And of course it’s shocking, but I don’t think it’s one of those things where they did it just to shock people. That’s why I was all for it, because it just felt right. It’s crazy, but it didn’t feel like Akeem was just doing it to get people to look at his stuff—he’s fabulous on his own.
Akeem and I met in 2015—he does a lot of stuff for Hood by Air, and I’ve been working with them since 2015. And it’s such a family. That’s why I continue to work with them and they continue to bring me back; it’s family, and it’s fun, and I believe in their vision. They’re such amazing innovators. Akeem is just so dope. We worked on HBA and on the Berlin Biennale last year, which was really sick. I’m such a fan of what he’s able to do, and how he’s so ahead of the times. Section 8 is great. Even just the name is so powerful.
I grew up modeling, and it’s so different from when I was younger. I started getting tattoos as a teen, and I still wanted to model, but there was no real outlet. And so now I think we’re at a place where brands are starting to recognize that they need to change it up. There are people of color who need to be represented; people who have tattoos, who have freckles, who have scars, who aren’t 5’10 skinny blondes. There are all of these different types of people, and I think that the industry is starting to slowly but surely embrace them.
As a black creative, there’s so much history of having ideas stolen. And so I think it’s cool that Akeem is able to go back and reflect on his life. I don’t know if he ever lived in Section 8 housing, but even so, I know that he grew up in Jamaica, and he is a black, gay man in America, and he’s dealt with certain things that other people don’t have to deal with. So I think it’s really cool when you can take a hardship, or something “lowbrow,” and make it fabulous. We are fabulous.
People who come from poverty—no matter what your race is—have to be creative. You have to be creative with everything, from food, to your clothing, to how you look. You don’t have a lot of resources, and I think that’s where the creativity comes from. So I think Akeem is doing a really great job at using all of his experience and expertise while matching it with that grittiness that he’s really familiar with.
Images courtesy of Marz Lovejoy. Check out more from her here.