Nirvana: A combination of a few things, mainly conversations between Kamal and myself. I wanted to pay homage to immigrant women. I remember when I was very young my sister and I used to go for walks with my Nani (grandma) and Nana (grandpa) and Nani used to wear a sari, cardigan and walking sneakers. Most of us would have seen these Nanis, Aajis, Kakis, Mamis, Mausis, Fuas (aunties) around our neighbourhoods with similar outfits on. The pride they hold for our indigenous clothing combined with amalgamating into a foreign space and just wanting to stay fit. This became the focus of this shoot.
S: With the creative direction what did you hope to capture in this shoot and do you feel you achieved it?
N: I wanted to deconstruct ideas on how garments are worn and bring a street style element to traditional clothing in a respectful way. I hope I did!
S: What are you most proud of this shoot?
N: I’m proud of everyone involved. I’m proud of the models involved; I took them straight out of their comfort zones and they owned it in every way. I am forever grateful to everyone involved for having faith in me too.
S: What is Curry Gang
N: It’s still very much a working concept and I want it to forever grow and expand. I also don’t want to be the only one that decides what Curry Gang is, I am very keen for it to be a discussion. Essentially a safe and loving space for all curry kids to be who they are.
S: Where do you see it/ hope to see it sit in NZ’s creative scene
N: I am not sure to be honest, I haven’t done something like this before! I will appreciate any love or appreciation I receive in the creative realm.
S: Who are the models you chose and where are they from?
N: Chloe, Hebah, Sonika and Kavita. Hebah, Sonika and Kavita are Fijian Indian – Aotearoa born and Chloe is South African. We all share a history of our ancestors being indentured workers so it was very special for us to share this experience together.
S: Who are the creatives you worked with and why did you pick them?
N: Kamal; he chose me! He saw something in me that I didn’t at the time and had faith in me to be able to do something. He takes dope photos and had no doubt in my mind he would bring justice to it.
I knew that Hebah would be able to do an amazing job with the makeup and I wanted to give her a space to do more creative makeup and she truly delivered.
Aleyna has been my friend for a long time and I’ve seen her move creativity for a while! I knew she would capture the shoot in her own way and I wanted that energy to be a part of it! So glad I asked.
S: Where are you from?
N: Lots of places. I am from Oranga. I am from Aotearoa. I am from Fiji and in some ways I am also from India.
S: What’s next for you?
N: Any and everything creative. I am really looking forward to working with other POC in a creative sense but also combining it with something bigger. Discussing social, cultural or political matters through swag would be really cool.
S: What does international women’s day mean for you?
N: It means to celebrate all women and this includes anyone that identifies as being a woman. To celebrate who we are and to honour all those that fight for us now and have in the past.
Linking up with one of Auckland’s cutest couples Misha and Sizwe before they appeared together at New Zealand Fashion Week 2019, it was a surprise to learn this would be Misha’s first ever interview. The couple talk to S E R U M about what it’s like being Kiwi but also originating from another country, dating in the spotlight and also being boujee on a budget:
How did Not For You Clothing come across you two when they were casting for their NZFW/2019 show?
Misha: Just Instagram and DM
Sizwe: Most of our works through Instagram
And for you two it would be often hey?
Sizwe: This one (points at Misha).
Misha: Just promoting stuff
How did that start for you?
Misha: I just enjoy taking photos and dressing up and stuff, then occasionally like brands will just hit me up to promote their clothing, from there it just got bigger and bigger. Random brands would start inviting me to events and stuff, I honestly don’t know what the heck, I wasn’t expecting it but I guess promoting on Instagram is the new way of advertising.
Who’s the biggest one that you were like wow, cool.
Misha: Fashion Nova.
Where were you when you got that DM?
Misha: I was just on my bed and I saw the DM from this lady, it was actually just Fashion Nova who DM’d me, I’ve never worn their clothes before or DM’d them so when I saw that notification I was just like what the heck and my heart started racing, I screenshot it and put it on my story, then Seez screenshot it and put it on his story too pretending he got sponsored [they both laugh out loud] but yeah that was so cool.
So how does it work when you model an item for them?
Misha: They just asked for my address, I choose a few items from their website and I have to post a picture within four weeks of receiving the item.
So not an issue
Misha: Yeah nah it’s pretty easy, its my hobby, so yeah.
Do they pay you for that girl?
Misha: Fashion Nova doesn’t, like big brands like that they just have heaps of stock, but small brands like New Zealand brands do.
Ohhh who are the Kiwis let’s always support our local!
Misha: There’s Premium Clothing, me and Seez are both sponsored by that, it’s a New Zealand brand and Australia, then there’s Bambi Boutique we’ve been to a few events of theirs and Benefit Cosmetics NZ they’ve sent me some stuff too and then we’re walking for Not For You Clothing today too.
What took you to the States recently was that for modelling?
Misha: Oh I got sent to the States to be in a Snoop Dogg music video.
So that’s still done through Instagram?
Misha: So for Instagram I was getting heaps of brands and heaps of emails from brands trying to organise something and this man from Instagram DM’d me, he’s now my manager and was the one who got me the opportunity to go in the Snoop Dogg video. He answers all my emails for clothing brands and stuff and organises a price because I suck at that, I just do everything for free and he’s like, ‘No you have to make money off it.’
So you’re slowly learning the business side of it as well?
Misha: Yeah I’m like ‘OMG you can make money off it like Instagram is a real job’!
Sizwe: I wouldn’t say I am an influencer but if those opportunities come by, especially with this one, there are people that want us to work as couples and all that, modelling. I guess through me shooting my fits on Instagram and then opportunities will just come like, ‘Oh this guy knows how to rock his clothing.”
For you, Insta’s not just rocking clothing though hey, you’re also a rapper.
Sizwe: Nah, it ‘s me trying to build an image but it all goes around music. If I was to get fly or anything or put on any piece of clothing I’d hope that they’d be like ‘Oh this guy’s cool let’s go check out his page’ and then find out that my main focus is music.
So for you, when you wake up in the morning and you’re thinking about what to wear, what does your appearance do for your mood or vibe in the morning when you’re planning for that day?
Sizwe: I always try, I don’t want to look like anyone else. I want to put on something like when I walk down the street it will stay in your mind forever even if they just see me once and I’ve had people tell me that, then that’s a successful fit to me like, ‘Oh you’re that guy that was wearing this and that’. Someone once told me, ‘You’ve got that kind of look that will stay in my mind for like 10 years’ and that’s when I was like, ‘I like this shit, I like what I’m doing’.
Since then working with Jet was a big one for you, too?
Sizwe: Jet was a big influence, the biggest thing he told me was, in fashion and dressing there should be a theme. You’ve got to try and have a theme with it so that was the biggest thing, he told me but obviously he’s designing and stuff, he always put me in his clothes which is cool and I love helping out young people who are designing.
Because it is a passion aye it’s not just.. like about clout and shit… if I was to sum up your style like real quick I would say like…. hood gothic…
Sizwe Yeah! Hood goth definitely.
What about you girl..
Misha Hmmmm, how do clothes define Misha…
Misha : Yeah just going for that bad bitch Insta baddie or Bratz Doll…just like what you see on Instagram that’s what I wanna be in real life.
Do y’all mostly get support for what you’re doing?
Misha: Mostly support yeah but it does attract unwanted attention just for standing out and stuff.
Can we talk about those things a bit more?
Misha: Yeah sure, me personally because I am Indian there’s not a lot of girls who wear, I guess we will say revealing clothing so there’s a lot of Indian people that will look down on me but then the majority are Indians who look up to me because there’s the sense that they can wear whatever they want and not hold back…Young girls mostly that’s my main audience, young Indian girls and that’s cool that I can inspire them, so yah.
It’s cause you’re challenging barriers or old school restrictions hey
Misha: Yeah even with my own parents and stuff they would not approve of my outfits until they saw that I could create a platform and stuff out of it and now they just approve of it it’s all they can do but they don’t really say anything too.
Sizwe: Yeah just let you walk outside and pretend they didn’t see it.
Misha: Yeah they let me walk out the door.
Lol were there times where there times where they wouldn’t approve?
Misha: Yeah they’d just be like, ‘What are you wearing’!?
Are you from New Zealand?
Misha: I was born in India and so I moved here when I was one so I was brought up here as a Kiwi.
Sizwe: I’m from Auckland, born and raised here but I’m from South Africa, I’m part Indian too – my dads Indian, I don’t know my dad I wasn’t raised with him, I was raised in a South African household – always been in Auckland Great North Road, Avondale ways, Waterview.
Would you guys called yourself third culture kids?
Sizwe: Definitely Kiwis but with my culture – I don’t know my mum didn’t never force culture on me .
Misha: Same as me like my parents moved here so I could grow up with this sort of culture like be more free, I guess.
Sizwe: Yeah same to be honest
Yeah cause it’s your generation now that get to kinda make those rules and forge that identity for the future
Sizwe: Yeah I don’t know how to explain that too but I get what you mean – I know exactly what you mean my mum – it’s just not forced on me – but as an immigrant I don’t know, you’d expect us to hold that like that South African Indian thing, but I don’t know if it’s just never been pushed on to me.
I feel like a lot of us in those positions take on dress and pop culture, as our culture, like it goes a lot deeper than just material on your body it’s another way to make your own identity right?
Sizwe: As soon as I noticed that and started going on the gram and noticing and getting into fashion I started feeling like I can do this, I can make my own culture, I can make my own wave I just felt like it could be my own thing and all my people, my family overseas they see that and they’re fine with it and all that.
What are you hoping the youth will pick up from you as a popular person?
Sizwe: I guess with my music I feel like …the kids need to say it at a young age. When I started – I met you when I was 14 – I was just talking through my music and with the dress code I think, dress however you want and not let age be a limit.
Cause in New Zealand you can right?
Sizwe: Yeah cause like it’s real hard shopping in New Zealand, like finding pieces.
Misha: That’s so true.
Sizwe: Getting to know your local designers and all that is like being in touch with what’s next and what your local designer’s gonna put up, I think the kids should be involved in that because I don’t know where to shop in New Zealand, like I really don’t.
Where do you shop?
Sizwe: Online or through friends like I went to Australia and went through heaps of my mate’s designs, so I just got heaps of his shit.
Is it because you’re just not into what NZ has got?
Sizwe: I was to go to the store and get something right now it would be like an Adidas tracksuit at the most. They just don’t have what you want here. In Oz it goes harder but not really here I can’t find anything here – what is there like Loaded?
How do you guys feel like paying $300 for a pair of jeans, I think that’s on average what you pay here for ‘style’…
Misha: Nah bougie on a budget that’s what I like to go by.
Sizwe you’ve just signed to Gallatino I mean aesthetically they’d be one of the most on point in NZ so far, I’d say…
Sizwe: True Tapz and Mzwetwo, I think they put me on because they needed someone young and in touch with the internet I don’t even know how to put a name on their swag but Otis has had my back forever, he was the one who put me in the studio first and as soon as I linked with Tapz and worked on my new shit ‘Why’, I’ve just dropped ‘Why’, I’ve seen more opportunities come through to do with music. Otis is a good manager he’s cool and Tapz is just like the best big brother, I just wanna be like Tapz to be honest I’ve always looked up to Tapz he’s just always travelling I wanna do what he does.
That’s the plan?
Sizwe: That’s the plan for sure.
Now that ‘Why’ has come out what can your people’s look for next?
Sizwe: Album, more tracks this year.
Sizwe: This year…Nah I promise this year we looking at like December.
And also… couple question, being a couple dating both definitely have got Instagram heat, whats that like?
Misha: I’ve always wanted it like I can’t picture myself with someone who isn’t into dressing up and flexing and stuff so Seeze is just like, we enjoy it, it’s our hobby.
Sizwe: I mean we’re just like the same people, she’s like the girl version of me I’m the boy version of her. It always takes us hours and ages to get dressed because we’re so fucken picky with our outfits.
And you do it together?
Sizwe: Yeah we do it together we rate outfits she’s like, ‘nahh you can’t wear that today, nah nah nah’…I love having someone who I personally think looks good and can see me get dressed too you know what I mean it’s probably the best part of it too.
Did you think you’d find that with someone when you met her?
Sizwe: Nah I didnt but to be honest when I saw it I was like ‘Nah I need that’.
And so it was like a long game thing or was it like ‘You, come with me’.. .
Sizwe: Nah that was exactly it, ‘you come with me’ literally.
Misha: Yeah it was just like, you’re my girlfriend now, he never asked me out he just said ‘okay now you’re my girlfriend’ (lols) And I’m just like, what, like ask me out but it’s cool.
Sizwe: The exact words was like ‘I’m ready to be loyal’ that’s it.
Misha: Yeah I was just like what, ‘what does that mean’…like what?
What’s it like dating a rapper
Misha: Omg it’s cool, yeah …But I’d like to go to a few shows and stuff, we’ll see, it’s cool when fans come up to him on the street.
Sizwe: Being in Auckland it’s real small so getting your name out, I couldn’t imagine this much hype, like when we’re walking on the street people stop us like someone just stopped us on the way here.
Misha: It’s like why me you know I just take selfies and people come up to me to get photos like, huh.
Is it a bit awkward to have that much attention?
Misha: No it’s cool but you always just feel like..
Seez: I love it, it’s cool
Misha: Yeah I love it too …
Sizwe: I wouldn’t say ‘Why me’ I feel like I worked a bit and got a reason.
Misha: Yeah he’s a musician so I get why he receives that much attention, but I’m just an influencer so I didn’t expect it . But I obviously love all the positive attention and support, it means a lot.
Is there a difference between an influencer and a model?
Misha: Yeah there’s a huge difference. Models aren’t their own boss, as they never have a say in how they want to look. However, I always get to choose the clothing I promote and I can always do my makeup how I want which basically means I’m always guaranteed to feel comfortable and confident knowing I’m being myself.
So you get to make your own rules in a way?
Misha: Basically that’s what I wanted to do, I don’t want to be with an agency but I’ve modelled for a few boutiques and stuff.
What is it about an agency you don’t vibe with?
Misha: They won’t let me do my own makeup and stuff, I like the way I do my eyelashes, little things.
Who are the top five people that influence you guys style wise?
Sizwe: Kanye, Kid Cudi, Playboi Carti, Jet and my mum, just with emotions and dealing with life.
Is clout chasing important:
Misha: No?! What.
Sizwe: I noticed the difference between clout chasing and being hungry, I think being hungry is important I could say clout chasing and the best example of it is like fake fuckign with people, or fake showing love or just riding waves and all that – that’s not cool like that’s not important but being hungry is definitely important and letting people know that you’re hungry is definitely important, I like showing people that I’m hungry.
And what 3 tracks would you put on your own runway playlist:
Misha: Aw yeah that Lady Gaga one, ‘walk walk fashion baby’….
Sizwe: Yeah what’s that one called again – is it Bad Romance?
Misha: Paparazzi! I’d have like Nicki Minaj, any of her songs hey, she just puts me in some sort of mood.
Sizwe: Okay, Paparazzi Lady gaga, Kanye West Black Skinhead and Kid Cudi Dance for Eternity.
Yo, have you guys practiced your walks?
Misha: We were just doing that walking across the road like ‘try not smile’, when we on our way here actually.
Anything I haven’t asked you that you want people to know about modelling, rapping, being a couple or being cute in general..
Sizwe: Respect women, dress how you feel.
Misha: Be confident.
Sizwe: Definitely always do your best, give it your all and make an effort to make people smile during the day, love your parents especially if you’re an immigrant you gotta like know, you gotta know how much your parents did to get you here and not let them down. That’s got to be my biggest part and that’s my inspiration I always think about what my mum did to get me here from South Africa and that just gets me out of bed everyday.
“It’s finally my turn” says Princess AKA Gabriel Halatoa, gently brushing her chest with an elegance that presents itself to be a distinction of her as a writer/ director/performer. We’ve just finished our interview and she’s going back to rehearsal with COVEN, her collective. It’s the second to last Sunday before opening night and here, mid-winter at sunset tucked away at Kete Aronui in Onehunga, I am invited into their space and privileged to witness a snippet of Princess’ self-written, debut theatre production, Housekeeping; a seductively bougie, raw and touching reflection of being brown, divine feminine and a member of the LGBTQIA community in Auckland City in the 90s. She says: “This has been meaning to happen for so long because I’m a child of the hotels – I was raised in the hotels, so this is the development of my first solo performance called ‘Purple Trees’ which is about my life as a hotel child and my mum raising me in the hotel and bringingme in.”
Housekeeping is Halatoa’s first attempt at a theatre show and a once in a lifetime audience experience set in the five star hotel scene in which Princess grew up. It’s beautiful in its rawness and dark in it’s truth – but one which couldn’t really be told by anyone else. From primary school years Princess remembers waking up at 4am on cold South Auckland mornings and travelling into Aucland’s CBD with her mother – who is still remembered and respected as someone who stood up for her staff and made sure her workplace was a fair one.
What Princess has done, is what COVEN founding member and ‘house father’ Cypris Afakasi describes as, ‘kind of a weird flex’ because Princess finessed her script as if holding up a mirror to her reality; she let its reflection fall on her house sisters and now here they are, back at their Basement Theatre residency, sprinkling their truly magical powers onto the stage. It’s their energy you won’t want to miss out on. Housekeeping is for anyone who already knows about the magic of COVEN and for anyone still wondering what the fuck mercury in retrogade even means, this is for you too.
Although you have done other works together this one in particular is a celebration of your bond?
C: Definitely..it’s kind of like in a weird way, a little bit of a flex.
There goes the title!
C: Princess did this thing where all the characters that are real people, she noted them to sisters in C O V E N who she felt were energetically similar and so just to watch it all unfold. They’re not always following their lines but their able to bring out parts of the character that are otherwise… the lines wouldn’t allow for. It’s really beautiful to see that happen and it reflects these real people as well as them which is something I haven’t been able to sit down and see before. I really appreciate that part.
Describe that flex, the feeling of writing your reality into a fictional work. C: It’s a bit like when you’re going down the steps and it’s a bit creaky and you’re like I don’t want to step on any toes…. I don’t want to step on grounds that are shaky, I really want to respect these characters all of these feelings but in essence we have had to push it forward anyway and ask the questions after just to make sure we’re not making any of these characters too unreal.
What’s it been like working with your director Cas? C: Working with Cas has been amazing I haven’t worked with her in the director’s seat before and it’s a total change like I’m loving all this big dick energy it’s lovely to have a manawahine at the forefront punching this narrative forward like a tautoko. Because she sees the world differently – from a point where the characters wouldn’t be able to see and when you put the cast in there she’s able to be like that’s unreal…She’s really good at snapping out those things. She knows and she really sees and I feel, in that sense of nowness, everyone’s got that.
Hi my name is Cas and I am co-directing Housekeeping. I’m a freelance artist and I have a full time 9-5 – I also manage a retail store so, yeah
So this is your side, side love.
C: This basically my love, this is my passion. I love this. It’s my first time directing so usually I’m on stage but I love to write and I also love to be behind the scenes on shows as well.
Whats your fav part of the story?
C: My favourite part of the story is just seeing them on stage as sisters and I think that’s like a big theme behind this is sisterhood so everyone can relate to just having people like that family outside of your family being there for you and I think that’s what’s beautiful to see when they’re all on stage together is that naturally they have a way of coming together and showing that sisterhood – that’s probably my favorite part I don’t have a favourite section or anything but besides the dance scenes the dance scenes are really bomb.
Next week is the opening hey, what do you hope audiences will take away from this work?
C: The biggest thing I want audiences to take away is that I think just being there, being kind and being there for everyone, I think that’s a big message more now than ever, especially what’s going on in the world we are not just living our lives for ourselves but we all have a bigger purpose on this earth and that’s definitely to be a community and be together and be there for each other but yeah that’s a message I would love for everyone to walk away with.
From watching the rehearsal there’s a lot of raw, brown humor in the work obviously the contrast is that you’re in a bougie hotel which I love! Can we talk about being a brown person coming up in a bougie world like that?
P: Girl, all the secrets! Like if there’s any place for a brown person to move and not be seen and revel in all the secrets and all the brokenness of society and the white-hetero norms like the shiftiness of it – it’s definitely in Housekeeping like there’s no better place to have a proper eye into actual issues and shit
So you were around that from age five or six until adulthood?
P: Yeah, half my life and then I went off on my own, broke away from Housekeeping.
What did you do after when it was your time to leave your mum?
P: Mum kind of stopped working there because she had two younger kids and kind of like became a stay at home mum but before she did that she was hiring my friends which is Sandy in there, into Housekeeping, and so hearing more about sisters and their stories in housekeeping is still ongoing for me because mum’s still blessing my life and my sisters in housekeeping so yeah.
When your mahi offsets other people, that’s quite a victory story.
Has she seen this work, what does she say?
P: She’s very proud, because the stories actually gone through some changes one of my friends dropped out so she was playing mum – she was a very important character but she pulled out and so I had to change the whole story around so now it’s just a LGBTQI-strong story and I’ve pulled me and mum’s story out which is like a very heartbreaking for me because that was one of the narratives that the whole show was based on and so this is new territory for me, finding a way to be able to authentically showcase these stories and not pull back on the authenticity.
I mean it’s such a unique upbringing, what’s your favourite part about having that perspective?
P: I guess maybe understanding where I stand. [The hotel world] …It’s so structured and so hierarchy and just understanding that these people [there’s a way in which] they think I should be, [mean time I’m thinking] ‘But you’re all shady and you’re all fake ass and so I feel like I’m above you’…So there’s nothing they can tell me to make me feel any less than I am and that’s from mum – I got that from mum, being able to see that.
Hold your head up?
P: Yeah like I’m better than that shit it’s all fake.
So you grew up going to the school from the hotel and you had breakfast and dinner …so what room service?
Girl, tell me about room service!
Haha that’s what I want to know …
P: Well ok, so mum because she’s the queen of the hotel I’d be able to get that, I’d have to come in at four in the morning, stay in a room have my cartoons turned on have like Weetbix sent to the room and toast and stuff because all her friends were the community which is like the LGBT community, they’re all porters and valets and pool cleaners and housekeepers and they’re all just coming up to the room like ‘Gabby do you need anything else’ and ‘here, I found some chocolates in the rooms’ and here, ‘this is for the bed in 302 but you can have it, here’.
And you said that was at the Pullman?
P: Yeah, pretty much just, all around…The different food and beverage staff, the housekeeping staff, they’d all just gel with each other. Especially the sisters and housekeeping would all be drawn to mum and that because she’s quite for the people kind of person.
This work will be a huge thing for community, seeing your lives retold on the Basement Theatre stage?
P: Yeah, it’s generational like I’m inviting all of mum’s housekeeping friends and they’re going to be seeing a younger generation and their take on them so I just wanna do it well, I wanna do it good.
How long have you been in COVEN?
P: I am one of the founders, Mistress and Fang and myself founded it in 2015
Cause you guys as well, I just wanna get it right, was it FAF SWAG first and then COVEN?
P: FAF Swag were an established collective for awhile and then COVEN formed later, same sisterhood but different collectives yip.
COVEN has that magic element too hey?
P: We are all practicing witches and a lot of our practice comes from cultural activation and fusing with our vogue and witchcraft so we do a lot of ritualistic things. Certain things I can’t talk about, but before we get into shows we have our ritualistic things we all gather with the full moon and we really charge and channel from our ancestral paths, we channel our islands and our bloodlines…Mistress is probably the best person to talk to because she leads us all in our spiritual journeys and stuff like that.
The energy between you guys – there’s a realness I recognise.
P: Because we’ve all trained and been a part of the Vogue scene me and Fang’s bodies are quite in-sync and so we’re the Legendary scene here, that’s the first generation Vogue scene.
You guys have carved something out for people that didn’t exist before?
P: Yeah, absolutely.
How does that feel?
P: I feel like our people is where it’s born. We’re not the only ones doing it, I feel like there’s this rise in art and creativity and expression and voicing happening. I feel so grateful to be a part of that wave right now – it’s happening all at once, we’re just a small part but we’re doing our part.
I mean there was a time not that long ago where brown content was actually hard to find, like not even that long ago…
P: Like less than 10 years .
And it’s not just a brown story it’s uniquely like you’re not going to be able to find it anywhere else, kind of story.
P: This will be Coven’s first attempt at an authentic theatre show – our last one was quite experimental and borderline edgy whereas this is quite traditional theater, experimental, performance.
Who are your writing influences?
P: Victor Rodgers definitely if it was New Zealand writers – I really admire his storytelling, (Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, Club Paradiso, Girl Around The Corner), Rebecca Sugar – Steven Universe, I love me some anime shit.
How has humor played a role in your life because Housekeeping is hilarious too!
P: I feel …humour comes from trauma… and so I feel like humour is what has made my life long friendships with each of the cast members individually. Everyone that’s involved in there I’ve asked like ‘Hey sissy, would you live to be apart of this’? And they’ve all been like: ‘Bitch. Yes’, so humour is definitely one of the things that has been a staple in each of my friendships with these girls.
COVEN are a collective from South Auckland specialising in Vogue culture and performance art. Their roots as performers are in the NZ underground Vogue Ball scene, expanding out into performance art through activating rituals and ceremonies in galleries, book launches and academic symposiums. Some of COVEN’s most recent achievements include performing on the stage of TED Talks, appearing in Vice’s Underground Vogue Scene documentary, and being part of the award-winning Fafswag Interactive Documentary. COVEN’s members are Moe “Mistress” Laga, Jacob “Duchess” Tamata, Cypris “Fang” Afakasi, Gabriel “Princess” Halatoa, Logan “Honey” Collis, Sandy “Empress” Vukalokalo. And introducing Spencer Papali’i and Tekeepa Aria friends of COVEN
“I love the whole different beauty and natural beauty – I’m not really keen to shoot people with Instagram eyebrows. I have nothing against it but that’s what I want to promote, what I find appealing and want to see more of.” Chloe Manickum is the owner and creator of Us Places a monthly club night held at Cassette Nine in Auckland Central. She’s also a photographer and creative director by day. We talk about how knowing your own self worth in the creative industry is a liberating feat, and once it is attained, a person becomes unstoppable.
CHLOE: I look at what they’re up to in the community and what they’re bringing to the table, bringing to the world. I’m trying to get through this life thing while making as much positive impact now. Not just doing things to be cool or for money anymore – it’s so much bigger than that.
Photography is – I didn’t even know I was good at it, I was just taking photos and then I was editing it and people were like ‘Oh that’s really cool‘ then one day I thought, I’m just going to try this thing out and my friends got on board and it just started snowballing.
It was super cool and now even my friends that have known me for a while know me as Chloe the photographer and I find that so cool like, ‘ Okay, that’s part of my identifier.'”
So that’s what I’m up to and just trying to build on it trying to create beautiful images of people just in the moment, in their element showcasing them and also trying to see myself through them. When people are like ‘Oh my god, I love the photos’ or ‘I didn’t know that was me’ I’m like, ‘Okay, my mission is complete’ you know, ‘I did it’. People acknowledging that now is so, so cool.
SERUM:Sort of like a signature?
CHLOE: Yeah, like my little impact on the world. It’s pretty cool to show life through my eyes especially because I’m not a typical girl or haven’t been through like normality, so to show that disorder and craziness and uniqueness and sometimes what everyone is not doing that’s cool too. It’s so hard to be that person today to just stand in yourself and be like I’m cool, I’m loving I’m kind, I’m caring, I’m smart, I’m intelligent, I’m creative, I’m artsy I’m…whatever you know but to truly believe it, it’s pretty hard for people these days.
SERUM: Do you think, that’s potentially improving though in Auckland?
CHLOE: Absolutely, well I know for me and who I’m around everyone’s owning their stuff and there’s definitely a shift and I can see the fake aren’t lit anymore – genuine, authenticity that’s all a seller. You don’t really need to sell that you know it sells itself and it’s so easy to spot. The energy is just so infectious for someone who loves themselves and is doing it for the right reasons. You can just feel people with agendas so easily now and I feel like they’re just getting left behind and it’s everywhere it’s like in all the cliques or groups or whatever and I think that’s really awesome because it’s like yeah, we’re not tolerating it anymore.
SERUM: You would have had to wade a bit of that starting out right?
CHLOE: Little things when you starting out you now like not even giving me photo cred type thing like come on I didn’t charge you or anything for it like you need the content – it’s that common decency thing.
SERUM:How would you say those experiences shaped you as a creative and how would you describe where you at now?
CHLOE: It definitely taught me business is business even when you’re with your friends business is business and people who respect that are people that I wanna work with. Even little things like cancelling on you, it’s like some of us are really out here putting our time and effort into it and the shoot is not just the time that we shoot it’s also preparing everything for it, getting everyone together – all those sort of things and when you realise how much goes into it just for that one shot – I think it’s a whole new appreciation of it.
To have people that are like-minded and appreciate punctuality, also being open-minded and able to collaborate with other people, being a team – those are all so important to make beautiful images or content or share stuff.
I learned how to filter through the clout chasers, it took a lot to be like actually I’m not going to charge you for my time I’m going to charge you for my worth because I know what it is and I know what I’m bringing to the table.
I feel like once I was like that in myself, I attracted a lot of people who appreciated that. I definitely believe if I’m not up to a shoot or something I just know the pictures aren’t going to be good and if I’m not into the person or something I think why even do it? I’d rather just focus on people who share a common goal or mindset.
SERUM: With everything that’s happening now within Auckland’s creative community Us Places is definitely a strong presence for people to see positive change being implemented. What’s the Us Places’ mission?
CHLOE: I was given an opportunity with Cassette Nine to host DJ nights once a month so I was like let’s find the cool bedroom DJ’s and the kids who have the drive and ambition and the talent and let’s give them the platform lets show that’s it’s not just a select few that can represent New Zealand, they’re everywhere – on the streets so fashion forward and smart and creative and crazy and its mind-blowing. It’s like I wanna be associated with you, you know, you got that drive it’s fresh it’s new and when they come and perform they’re like ‘Oh my god this is my first show’ and there’s a packed-out crowd for them and people are bopping even though they don’t know their music; it’s just so fulfilling to see them in their element.
I’m feel like this is why I did this and also to collab with them and get to know them. I want to be a part of the community and I love that I can give this opportunity to people. Whoever does want to [perform] please let me know, I have this and it’s not just for my group or my friends it’s for everybody – it’s not just a hip hop thing if you love what you do and you’re actually doing it , yeah hit me up let’s make it happen.