Sheri: My awareness of the need for more black super heroes is not new, as it really just stems from people of color all over the world needing overall positive representation. Black people in particular, from all cultural backgrounds, have constantly been portrayed in a negative light. Because we have not been in control of our image, and at the mercy of other people’s perspectives, we are constantly being portrayed as savages; barbaric and violent, when in fact this isn’t our truth. I have been to Africa and many other mostly black populated countries and feel like I have seen “OUR” truth with my own eyes.
Not everyone will be lucky (or enlightened) enough to see this truth for themselves and so we need to take responsibility of shining light on everything that is positive and beautiful about us as a people. The trend of men of color dying their hair blonde directly correlates with this. People forget that as a race, we have the ability to produce any combination of features; Fair or dark skin, light or dark eyes, straighter or curlier hair, silkier or kinkier…. blonde hair is as much a part of our truth as anyone else’s.
As for the ideas for beauty direction for this story were produced, I wanted to bring in elements of our truth. That Africa has the largest concentration of gold in the world and has always been a part of our traditional and royal garbs. The golden hair also being a play on our hypothetical crowns; gold wire woven through with the structure of the Atom as inspiration, representing our universal connections as living beings and our higher selves. With the makeup application we kept the skin clean to exhibit the beautiful diaspora which we casted to showcase our diversity as a people.
I know Myles and El will elaborate on their ideas and visions they brought forth to this story, but as the originator of this vision, I couldn’t have worked with a better or more talented team. This project in my eyes is sort of an homage to young black men everywhere to keep their heads up and keep striving even in the face of adversity, so having a team of young black men was imperative to the translation of this story. As I directed the models on set my main message was for them to be themselves. That this story was only capturing a usual day in the life of a black man living in his truth; Happy, educated, talented, sophisticated, stylish…. We are constantly called ghetto for wearing our own trends, though it always seem to be cool when other groups own it. I wanted them to know that we love to drip in gold and diamonds because that is of our land, our DNA.
EL: I think Sheri, Myles, and I really connect with the 90s era. In that time, black superheroes, sitcoms, movies, and music showcased our culture so beautifully and authentically. Also, the political climate in those times were really high with the Civil Rights Act of 1991 which made employment discrimination based on color, race, gender, and religious creed illegal. Also, the Los Angeles Riots and The Rodney King Trial of 1992 were pivotal moments in Black American History. Sheri understood the beauty aesthetic whether it was fantasy or real time. She is very in touch with reflecting times from hair to skin. Myles has a very unique approach to photography and mixed media. The pop inspired pseudo-documentary capture worked perfectly with his raw eye. For me, styling was about understanding unity and brotherhood, high end with street wear, and fantasy and reality.
Myles: It’s part of what inspired the visual research for this project. We were very inspired by those old black and white photos of civil rights activists (i.e. Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King Jr.), and civil rights protests. In my opinion, those brave men and women who took to the front lines to fight for our rights were very much like superheroes of their time. They were powerful and fearless, and stood up against so many odds. I also studied the work of Jamel Shabazz, and Gordon Parks. I felt like the power and beauty that they showed in black people was something that we really needed for this project, and so a lot of their work served as inspiration for the way I positioned the models and the way that I photographed them.