From her bedroom, gal-dem was born – an online and print magazine that celebrates women of colour and non-binary people of colour. Fast forward three years and gal-dem is re-shaping the industry from the inside out. Whether organising inspiring editorials in print, hosting late nights at the V&A to a recent takeover with the Guardian Weekend, Little is breaking down barriers in the fashion, arts and publishing world. HUNGER caught up with the young creative to talk new narratives, how to amplify your voice and rules for success.
Hey Liv! When and why did you launch gal-dem, what was the driving force behind it?
I launched gal-dem in my final year at university. I really wanted to connect with like-minded people [and] it’s kind of grown since then. Everyone at gal-dem fits it around other jobs and commitments. For the first year it was running I was studying, doing my dissertation, juggling two jobs waitressing and also nannying! Then, at the end of last year I had a loss in my family – my stepfather passed away. It’s almost been a year this month. I took a few weeks out and then I went straight into a new job at the BBC; I was helping to produce digital content for a woman-focused strand. In January, I got offered a well paid job in a big organisation and I was like in order for this to grow I need to start developing [gal-dem] as a business rather than just solely a passion project. I’ve been working on developing our brand side of stuff. Obviously we’ve had the Guardian takeover and big accolades but for me it’s about really pushing it and getting that formal investment. It’s a lot of work but we have an incredible team who all work in different parts of the media. Day-to-day in our office inside Peckham Levels it tends to be our deputy editor, video editor and me. I feel like at the end of last year a lot of good things were happening but it was also incredibly stressful and painful.
What was the gap in traditional mainstream media that you wanted to fill?
There’s still a gap and I’m glad that we’re actually able to move towards filling it. If you look at the Guardian takeover that’s absolutely huge, that’s never happened on a national newspaper: every bit of content was produced by a woman or a non-binary person of colour. I hope things like that spur on other organizations to see that we’re good enough for not just a one off to have a voice [but] think we need to hire and work with those people continuously. We’re all guilty, it takes a little bit more effort to hire someone you don’t know but it’s worth it if the people who are hiring are only hiring people that are quite privileged and tend to be white. I can only hope that things like this signal a shift in the right direction in terms of where the future of media is going.
What practical steps need to be made to bring about a more inclusive and diverse media in 2k18, reflecting authentic experience?
I regularly work with the BBC in their digital factorial commissioning team to try and get more content which is a bit more representative of black people – based on the ‘Black and British’ series they did before. I think something that is really important is that it’s not just enough to hire a black actress or someone in a one-off role. The fact is, yes, being in front of the camera is really important but it’s also really important whose telling the stories. If you look at the fact that journalism is 94% white, who is getting to tell their stories? Who is working behind the scenes to make things happen? That has a direct impact on what happens on-screen. The first thing I would like to see is more people being hired in permanent roles behind-the-scenes, making the decisions. Until you have enough people who are making the decisions I don’t think you’re going to see the change perfected on what’s happening on-screen or on the cover of magazines.
What’s been a career highlight for you with gal-dem?
In 2016 we took over the V&A for a Friday late and it was the biggest one they’d done! I think 5000 people came on the night and we had managed to commission over 150 women of colour to take part in the space, from DJs, grime MCs or ‘In Coversation With…’ artists. That was the moment we thought ‘Oh my god, okay we’re on to something,’ and a community really will turn out to support. That was a really beautiful moment.
You’ve also signed to Storm model agency. What emerging designers are you really excited about?
We’ve worked a lot with Essie Buckman [Fortie Label] and HANGER and I really respect them and I really respect that they’re coming from an ethical standpoint – that’s what I love about them as much as how the clothes look. When we had our sustainability event it was really great that ethical fashion doesn’t have to be one certain type of hippie clothing. If I like something I wear it and that’s it.
Who is your forever style icon?
Any female creatives HUNGER readers need to be following on Instagam at the moment?
We have an amazing team of illustrators I’m really inspired by. One called Hannah Buckman (@texchures) and also our art director Leyla Reynolds (leylareynolds) – love love love! Her eye is really brilliant. Yuki Haze is really cool too (@yukihaze).
gal-dem’s HQ is inside the new creative hub Peckham Levels – what is your all-time favourite South London hangout?
Van Hing in Camberwell, it’s a Vietnamese restaurant and it’s really good food and it’s been there for as long as I can remember. That’s my main spot! I grew up in Camberwell and I just moved to Stratford so that’s an interesting change. When I have my grown up life I will so have it in South London!
What musicians are you really into at the moment?
I love Nao, she has a really beautiful voice, Raveena Aurora is great as well and brother KAMAU – his voice is stunning.
Finally, what’s your number one piece of advice you’d offer to any young creative wanting to start their own brand, be it in publishing or otherwise?
Just go for it! I didn’t really go in with the intention with it being a business as such it was really what I thought needed to exist in that time for me and people around me. But I didn’t know what it would become. I think that’s the beauty of it. If you have the right people behind something that are willing to put in a lot of effort then you can make things successful. I look at things like Black Girl Fest which was co-founded by two of my really good friends Nicole and Paula and they came up with this idea of running a festival for black women and they ended up having massive success in Shoreditch and now the second year is going to be even bigger and better and more brilliant. That’s because of the consistent levels of hard work they’ve put into it.