Model and Singer, Alexia has been living in Berlin for four years and a half. Her grandparents raised her in Detmold, a northwestern town located in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia. Growing up In Detmold has been not always easy. During her childhood, she was not particularly paying attention to her skin color. However, she knew somehow that she was different, due to how she was treated. After school, it could happen that she would sometimes be thrown stones or even beaten up. Some neighborhoods were also definitely to be avoided. However, her relatives never made her feel how different she was.
After graduating with a vocational high school diploma, she decided to pursue her studies in photography. Why photography? Because she loves creating, taking portraits, discussing with people, getting to know them. She has lost this passion unfortunately since it is hard to make a living as a photographer and in which she must be involved. She was also under the impression that she was paying to much attention to others‘ interpretation and opinion. From now on, photography gives way to music and modeling.
I met her in a café in the Kreuzberg area. She told me about her life, her professional career, and then we discussed some of the topics I wanted her opinion on, namely colorism and cultural appropriation in the arts.
Alexia, between modeling and music
At the age of 14 years old, she took her first steps in modeling. It is only in the last three years that she been pursuing a professional career in a specific branch of modeling. She is an atypical model, evolving in the non-traditional modeling industry. This trend which came from London, which aimed to bring more realness and break the beauty mold. Conformity and the fashion world are somehow associated, often we want a certain homogeneity for models. This is not the case for atypical models, who are noticed by an essential asset, their distinctive look.
The fashion industry is slowly opening up to diversity by also taking models that do not necessarily meet European beauty standards. However, colorism is still a reality.
Alexia is aware of her privilege as a light-skin person. Agencies have in mind that customers are predominantly white, so they prefer to take models who do not have dark skin, since customers must, in one way or another, be able to identify themselves. By putting a black man or woman on the billboard, white customers will not feel concerned,” says Alexia. She also noticed that there is a difference in how a model of color and Caucasian models are treated. For models of color, there is no distinction between them; one tends to put a label on them and at their looks. On the other side, for Caucasian models, this is less the case, personality will also be part of the selection criteria, they will be less associated with each other. She hopes that this mentality will change with the new generation of stylists and customers.
Besides modeling, she would like to focus more on her music. Music is entering a new era, the digital age. On the one hand, most of the songs can be listened to or downloaded for free. This makes it more difficult for artists to make a living from their music. On the other hand, music has become more democratic; it is possible to make oneself known thanks to streaming sites and social networks quickly. She is also Dj and singer. As a DJ she mixes genres, afrobeat, baile funk, with a touch of Electro and Trap. As a singer, her style is mainly RnB with a synthesizer. Her songs deal with different subjects. This ranges from love to the sexualization of male and female models in the fashion industry.
She wouldn’t want to do anything else for anything in the world. She sometimes thought about giving up. However, passion is stronger than anything else. Hoping that success will ring at her door.
Cultural appropriation, a subject also debated in the artistic scene
In the fashion and music industry, people are becoming more and more aware of the existence of different cultures, of cultural appropriation,” explains Alexia. What is cultural appropriation? According to Express styles, a French newspaper “It is the act of borrowing rituals, beliefs, aesthetics, cultural productions from a culture other than one’s own, freely and without compensation. “. It should also be added that before borrowing something from another culture, a culture that has often been despised by the group borrowing it.
How does it manifest itself in the artistic scene? In modeling, some patterns, clothes will often be borrowed from culture and the model used will be a model that does not come from that culture. For example, Karlie Kloss, an American model, dressed as a Geisha, posed for Vogue Magazine, for the March edition.
Another example is the American model Ondria Hardin who, during a shooting in 2013, was transformed into an “African Queen” for Numéro magazine.
In music, cultural appropriation is more subtile seconding to Alexia „because most white artists will not deny the roots of Hip-Hop,“ she says, (which unfortunately is not the case for Rock music). One of the things that annoy her the most is that hairstyles like braids, Bantu Knots that have become trendy and promoted by magazines, completely change their names by putting Caucasian models wearing this type of hairdo.
On the other hand, some believe that cultural appropriation does not exist, they only see it as an appreciation of culture. Indeed, we live in a globalized world, cultures mix with each other, whether or not there are a slight exaggeration and paranoia on the side of the defenders. The boundary between appreciation and cultural appropriation seems to be blurred. Why? Cultural appropriation is in a way linked to colonialism, a period characterized by the plundering of colonial powers at the economic, social and cultural levels. It awakens a much deeper wound, that of seeing one’s culture re-appropriated, modified or destroyed again.