by Oyin Akande
Do you remember when Beyonce dropped Lemonade, the frenzy-inspiring visual album that incited a modern witch-hunt and a worldwide Internet debate over the fictitious “Becky with the good hair”? Well, the femme fatale songwriter behind the lyrics from “Sorry”, as well as “Don’t Hurt Yourself” and “Daddy Issues”, Diana Gordon, has recently topped her efforts and this time it is her voice singing her words. Gordon has been working in the music industry for years, producing and writing songs for several artists- such as Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez and Ciara– and performing in dance clubs.
Following her success on Beyonce’s album, the singer/songwriter- and long-time personal favourite of mine- dropped her stage name Wynter Gordon and set out on a career afresh. Reintroducing herself to the world, as the undiluted Diana Gordon, she released a self-affirming poem explaining her decision:
“I release all the negativity surrounding my past including a false name that I wore as a costume,” she wrote. “I wiped it off like smudged makeup after a long night of partying. My real name is Diana. It says so on my birth certificate. And it’s time for me to get to know her.”
She has quickly risen to the star-studded ranks of music and was made the performance coach of Chloe x Halle, the remarkable young sisters and Beyonce’s protégés. Earlier this month, she performed along with music legends Mariah Carey, Patti LaBelle, and Chaka Khan at VH1’s Divas Holiday: Unsilent Night special, and, last week, she released the music video to her single “Woman”, which premiered on Vogue.com. “Woman” is a badass neo-rock anthem that explicitly and apologetically celebrates the power of a woman and is an ode to contemporary motherhood. The music video is a grainy New York cityscape and resembles something of an 80s cinematography shot by Cameron McCool. It features five heavily pregnant, diversely beautiful women, which expectedly made for an interesting shoot. Gordon also rides around town with model Adesuwa Aighewi.
“This song, that celebrates your mother, my mother, your sister, and my sister, is just my way to stand up for the woman next to me and all those unseen. In a time when we are still defending our right to choose, pay equality, moral and ethical equality; a time where single motherhood is on the rise and women are in the trenches raising the next generation largely by themselves, we have to be all-encompassing and stay strong through the worst of situations. We need to stand together”. Gordon hopes her lyrics will be received as unifying rather than as divisive, as they, unfortunately, were with “Sorry”.
“God gave you the answer when he gave you the woman,” Gordon sings and we are definitely singing along.
by Oyin Akande
So it’s hard to imagine a world-class model being told that she’s anything but gorgeous, right? While we are increasingly aware how many mainstream industries push rigid and unattainable ideas of beauty, we have a tendency to overlook that these constructs are even more ruthlessly observed for models than they are for us, the majority of ‘real women’.
French model Anaïs Mali has featured in many editions of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and many other international titles; she has walked down the runways for Michael Kors, Balenciaga, Jason Wu and more. It would seem to most that her success in the industry, at the very least, is a confirmation of her widely accepted perfection. Yet, after landing the cover of French magazine Lui, an adult entertainment title created by Daniel Filipacchi, Jacques Lanzmann and Frank Ténot, Mali posted this on Instagram:
“I always wanted to be a LUI cover girl!! I was told by my ex model agency 2 years ago, that I wasn’t sexy enough for The Magazine. So I wanted to thank first of all @nextmodelsparis for making this happen and a huge thanks to LUI for giving me the opportunity to show y’all what I could do (I’m a pretty shy girl and don’t often pose nude) so this is HUGE for me ! I’ve been criticized by the industry for Yeaaaaaaars because of the way I looked (too skinny , too sexy , not sexy enough, too petite .. blabla). I’m so at ease now that I realized that sexy begins by loving yourself and not caring what others think (EVER). Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you re not good enough for this or that ! If you think that you are .. well you are . If the other are too blind to see it, their loss … And this .. is me”
Anais is not your ‘typical’ pin up in that she is incredibly slender, but Lui magazine has a more ‘high fashion’ slant, using photographers who usually shoot for magazines such as W Magazine rather than Playboy.
Born to a mother from Chad and a Polish father, Anaïs belongs to a generation of gorgeous melaninated models working the fashion and beauty industries. But she’s been fighting the rigid ideals of her industry for a long time. She left France for New York when she was 18 as she found it difficult to get jobs. She was told ‘This is Paris; black girls don’t work here’ and in 2013 spoke out about the persistent lack of diversity on the runway particularly in Milan.
No matter who you are, what you do or what you look like, society’s mechanism can attack your confidence by telling you there is something you lack. Your “imperfections” or simply just qualities you do not possess (because we cannot be all things all at once, right?) become the standard against which you measure your worth. And the female body and identity are historically the choice ‘victims’ of these paradoxical pressures.
The model recently launched, Anaïs a collection of bodysuits created by model v Mali and designer Urivaldo Lopes in 2016. Inspired by the audaciousness of studio 54 and the supermodel era, Anaïs reinvents a 1980’s wardrobe staple for the modern woman with a “Made in Italy” philosophy, creating and armor that empowers its wearer through an urban perspective and irrefutably bold aesthetic.