Meet the women helping pave the way for females in the creative industry
In today’s society, females are breaking down barriers and smashing through ceilings. We are in a new age of ‘girl power’, where women are rewriting the rule book and reshaping the way they are viewed and treated by the world.
We spoke to some of those who are at the forefront of changing perceptions and improving opportunities for women in the creative industries.
For those that don’t know, what is BBZ?
BBZ (Bold Brazen Zamis OR Babes) is an exhibition / tun up centering on femme identity and eradicating misogyny for queer womxn, trans folk and non binary people of colour.
Providing a platform to explore a plethora of mediums, primarily within visual arts, while interrupting accessibility issues within arts institutions.
What inspired you to start BBZ?
Feeling displaced by the rapid effects of gentrification in London, particularly on the nightlife scene, as well as struggling to find spaces that felt safe and inclusive of LGBTQ+ people of colour.
Are there any projects that you have done as BBZ that particularly stand out for you, or you are particularly proud of?
Our week-long residency at the Tate Exchange last December really sticks out for us. Being able to take up space in an institution which historically turns a blind eye to the voices of women, black people, and LGBTQ+ community with free reign and complete support from the facilitators was exceptional.
Who were your role models growing up, and who would you describe as your role models now?
Growing up as a queer black woman in london, I can’t say that I had many, other than the matriarchs in my family that were always holding it down and forging a path so that I could be my fullest self. I think they still remain the people I look up to in terms of their resilience and grace in the face of babylon.
What’s next for BBZ?
Nuff tings! We like to play our cards close to our chest because things are always changing and evolving, but we definitely want to be less reactive to the hype and more focused on QTIBPOC (Queer, Trans, Intersex, Black, People of Colour) across the diaspora.
If you could give some advice to your younger selves, what would it be?
Find solace in your otherness, it will bring you so much joy in the future, have conversations in real life with your community and don’t mix your drinks.
Where and when did your passion for music start?
I’m not sure really, it’s just always been at the forefront of my life. I was raised by two massive music lovers, to the extent that our “coffee table” when I was a baby was practically my dads turntables. My parents used to joke around and say one of the first things I learnt to say was “woo-hah” from the Busta Rhymes song. Big tune.
Why is music so important to you?
It just compliments everything I do; it’s a healer, it’s a companion, it’s escapism, it’s an enhancer, it’s a universal language. I know just how much music has done for me, and I get to watch what it does for other people when I play out. I love that.
What struggles have you faced being a woman in your industry?
The same struggles most women face in any industry, if we’re keeping it real. From my own personal experience, I just wish the respect was at the same level as men, from the jump. While in my studio sessions, I’ve had people literally ignore me and introduce themselves to all of the men in the room, presuming I’m a tag-along. I don’t like the presumptions that come with being a woman in music; you’ve either slept your way to the top, or you’re a bitch. Well, I’m neither of those things, and the only thing I slept with to get to where I am was my satin pillowcase.
Is the industry moving forwards in regards to the way it’s receiving female DJ’s?
I see promoters and press being more proactive, and the conversations around booking and supporting more female DJs is thriving. I understand the importance of keeping the conversation going on this issue, but at the same time, I’m not into making the fact you’re going to book more female DJs on your lineup a PR campaign. You should just be booking great talent anyway, gender aside. There’s enough talented female DJs out there.
This goes back to the previous question, because I feel like the way people go about booking female talent adds to a part of the struggle sometimes. Nobody wants to feel as if they’re only on a bill to fill up part of a percentage, or because the line-up needed to be “more diverse”. Fuck that! Nobody wants to feel like they’re a sympathy booking, and just as importantly, you don’t want other people to think that either. There’s a constant motivation to prove myself to people that I wish wasn’t fuelled by; the fact I know men will always be sceptical and box you in before they’ve even heard you play.
Who are the other female DJ’s we should be looking out for?
UNIIQU3, Venus X, Bambii, Nguzunguzu, A.G., Snoochie Shy, theres loads.
What advice would you give to a young person trying to enter into the music industry?
Every opportunity you have to ask questions and to gain advice, utilise that opportunity. Never stop asking questions.
How would you describe Sukeban?
Sukeban is a largely non-profit online platform dedicated to supporting up-and-coming and aspiring talent from all countries and areas of creative industries. We are also primarily focused on supporting people of colour, in particular women of colour.
What made you want to start Sukeban, and why do you think it was needed?
Erika and I founded Sukeban in December 2016 as we felt that the creative industry was very exclusive, and we could see that talent of all levels were being overlooked at times due to the fact that they didn’t have a large following or were largely unknown. We didn’t feel that social media or general popularity were factors that could always dictate whether a body of work was interesting or not, and we wanted to showcase and bring attention to people’s work regardless of their age, who they had worked with, and how many followers they had on Instagram.
We also felt that the creative industries, whether fashion or art, were particularly hard to break into for people of colour, and it was important for us to bring awareness and attention to work by minorities, as well as focus on work that touched on minority issues. At the time, we could only see one or two large fashion platforms that focused primarily on people of colour, so we felt it was important to create a platform that shied away from tokenism, and create a space that felt more inclusive in this way.
Do you think it’s harder for women to break into the creative industries than men?
Yes, unfortunately, regardless of the fact that women make up the most profitable demographic for the fashion industry, the industry is still largely dominated by men in terms of the more powerful or higher-paying positions. I think it’s harder for women, and even more so for women of colour, to break into any industry, and the creative industries aren’t exempt from this. It’s harder for women to be more domineering without being judged for it, and conversely, women have to work harder in order to be listened to or taken seriously. Women get paid less than their male counterparts for the same positions, including within the creative industry, and they are also judged (however subtly) on their external appearance regardless of how much this has to do with their actual occupational duties.
What other publications do you think push boundaries for women, if any?
My favourite platform and publication of all time is Gal-dem. The women who work there, and the content they produce, is continuously inspiring and gives me hope for this generation of people in the UK.
What female role models/icons did you look up to growing up?
I had three major icons: Lara Croft, Mulan, and Naomi Campbell. Growing up I didn’t see anyone that I could relate to that was put on a pedestal; the really popular women on TV and in music at the time were mostly Eurocentric, and although there were definitely strong non-white female singers (like Destiny’s Child and J Lo), I was more obsessed with movies and fashion when I was at the age of around 11 or younger.
Mulan had an impact on me from a very young age, just because I respected the story so much and I didn’t feel much of an affinity with how other Disney ‘princesses’ were portrayed. When Lara Croft came out I was completely enamoured, I had never seen a main, non-cartoon female lead that was at times coarse, rude, good at fighting, intelligent, independent, and rich.
When I started getting into fashion it was alienating to see the same image of beauty in magazines, with maybe at most two Latino, brown, black or Asian models in an issue.
My mum was a big collector of Vogue Italia, and what stood out for me was how often I would see Naomi in her own spread or on a cover; she stood out so much because of how little non-white models were in Vogue, but also because of how strong and confident she was, regardless of this. As a woman of mixed Asian heritage, I can’t relate to Naomi in terms of her ethnicity, her personal experiences with race, and how she looks; however, it was apparent to me that I was ‘other’ from a young age, and to see someone who was so different from the Eurocentric norm and so confident and proud made me feel like it was wrong to deny my heritage, even if I felt pressured to.
What advice would you give to young women who hope to get into the creative industries?
There’s so much! I constantly remind myself of things and have my own way of doing things, but I think personal advice can be applied to so many situations; learn how to listen and take advice when it is needed; never compromise, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t; even if you see other people behaving in a certain way, treat people with respect, but learn to avoid people that continuously don’t give you the same back; also, go out of your way to learn everything you can about what you’re interested in, whether it’s by asking people with experience or doing research online in your own time.
Photography by Olivia Jankowska
Words by Hannah Alkindi