“What the fuck, you put just one black girl in to make sure you’ve ticked a box? Like, do you go to London, to Paris, to New York? I think you see as many black and Asian people there as white people”
– Olivier Rousteing, Creative Director, Balmain
Nafisa Kaptownwala from London is one global citizen putting her foot down and saying no, something’s got to change in the modelling world when it comes to cultural diversity. Lorde Inc, is her modelling agency and her contribution to the matter. Created specifically to book models of many colours — with a focus on humans that break commercial and mainstream hierarchies — even gap-teeth and freckles are on Lorde Inc’s radars, actually. For Nafisa, Lorde Inc is a space to challenge non-mainstream standards of beauty and here at Serum, we’re all for it.
What was happening in your world the day you decided to create a modelling agency with a focus on ethnic diversity?
I just graduated from art school and saw a lot of my contemporaries on the come up and none of them were shooting people of color. Thought it was pretty wack, so I wanted to challenge them on it.
@TRUSTMEDADDY cause she’s just bossy, smart, cute and brown. @ANONOMYSS she’s just in love with herself, and it’s so nice to see someone so into celebrating themselves to their friends. @COM.PASSION she unearths the myspace/nexopia/asianavenue aesthetics that you probably thought was the early 2000s’ trash, but it’s actually pretty cute (mostly jokes). Special shoutouts to @KUKUIUO and @BADGALRIRI. This list was so hard to put together! There are too many to count.
How do you feel, or find yourself reacting when you’re in mainstream spaces and there are occurrences that make you feel the need to rectify or correct stereotypes or discourse you know is wrong or racist or ignorant…
I honestly I don’t have the patience in dealing with the fuckery. In the past I’ve tried to correct people, ended up in huge arguments (see: white fragility) and tears. Now I just don’t play. If you’re gonna pull some really ignorant/hurtful shit you may as well be dead to me. But if I love you and you’re really apart of my life, I’ll talk it out, but most of the people in my life are 100 and I don’t really have to have those talks. They wouldn’t be in my life if I did.
Are people receiving your agency the way you’d like them to?
I think the people that get it are the only people I want to fuck with anyways. So yeah, the reception has been better than great!
What are your goals/vision for Lorde Inc?
I just wanted to create a space where people of color could feel safe and welcome to participate in. So far it’s been so good.
The more present we are, the less we’re seen as like a side piece, then our narratives will be front and center and taken seriously.
How is a model scouted for you guys and what is it about potential talent that captures your attention for the Lorde Inc brand?
We just try to work with people that enjoy having their photo taken. For those that rarely have people that look like them in visual spaces, having your photo taken, displaying your beauty, owning your identity is an act of resistance. We just try to reach out to people that look like they’d feel comfortable being apart of that.
In your view, what are some key factors that need to change, in the short term, to achieve a long term change for ethnic diversity in mainstream fashion (that doesn’t feel appropriated or like a token — like pastels on very dark girls or American Indian headdress on the cat walk)?
We need to see more designers of color, photographers of color, models of color, creative directors of color, stylists of color etc. The more present we are, the less we’re seen as like a side piece, then our narratives will be front and center and taken seriously.
How are people of colour also guilty of contributing to mass ignorance, in your experience?
Read: The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House by Audre Lorde.
How do you feel about Beyoncé?
Do you feel she’s empowered girls of colour or set a standard of blonde hair and being very made up for an idea of ‘brown or black’ beauty and sexuality, in your opinion?
She isn’t perfect. Yes, there are a lot of aspects of Beyonce’s public persona that are problematic and I wouldn’t encourage for women to adhere to. And yes, there are a lot of other more positive examples of Black Womanhood, but I’m not Black and I don’t really feel comfortable fully answering this question cause whatever Beyonce represents doesn’t affect me in the same way it affects Black women.
I just think she’s extremely talented and that alone deserves endless applause. A lot of non-Black women want to shame Beyonce for being a fake feminist and for having a weave or using her sexuality and I think a lot of that is rooted in Anti-Blackness and that’s completely unfair. Those are aspects of her identity we, as non-black women, have no right to criticize.
Do you feel the mainstream is diversifying for good or that it might only be a season that might die out when the trends of hip hop/R&B and the popularity of urban culture changes to something else?
I don’t think the mainstream is diversifying enough. And if it is diversifying a little bit than yes, I think a lot of that is contingent on trends. Like East Asian culture might be in one season and Black culture is in the next. Realistically, I think Lorde Inc. is going to be cool now but when people forget about the importance of diversity we’ll be passe. All we can really do is constantly encourage resistance.