Digital Creatives of Color to Know in Italy

by Tamu McPherson

digital influencers of color to know in italy all the pretty birds

 

Within the past few years, diversity and inclusion have been two main matters of concern throughout the fashion and creative industries. With a generation of consumers who are more ethically aware than ever, brands are being held responsible to match their desire for international capital with marketing, advertising, and employment strategies that reflect an authentic interest in the diverse markets they wish to benefit from. It’s a simple moral standard that is expected to be upheld throughout all sectors of the industry and especially within the four major fashion capitals of New York, London, Paris, and Milan. The latter, however, has been the weakest link. Apart from the runway diversity percentage which the city has only recently been improving on since 2015, there is an even greater lack of diverse industry personnel on the digital and fashion landscape in Italy. This is not from a lack of human resources, but rather as a result of a surface-level approach being attempted by brands that often result in feeling like a mere PR exercise.

 

Digital Creatives of Color to Know in Italy

This is why All The Pretty Birds has partnered with Italy’s national chamber of fashion Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, with the support of ATPB founder Tamu McPherson, Digital Strategist Tia Taylor, and Fashion & Culture Journalist Jordan Anderson to shine a spotlight on a fraction of the vast reservoir of Digital Creatives of Color in Italy and highlight their individual experiences. With this small gesture, we hope to take the conversation a few steps further by creating visibility with a more direct approach and opening grounds for collaboration, dialogue, fresh engagement and unique points of view. 

 

 

Evelyne S. Afaawua | CEO & Founder of Nappy Italia | @evelynesafaawua 

 

All The Pretty Birds: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black woman?

Evelyne S. Afaawua: My greatest joy has been growing up with so many different perspectives and points of view: visual, cultural, intellectual and even personality-wise. I have always been a bit of an eternal nerd and still am in my own way. But today, this diversity of mine, on all fronts, has become one of my greatest strengths. I rediscovered an intrinsic potential in what for years I tried to hide, change, and modify, unaware that it was perfect as it was. Which led me to embody that black curvy woman/entrepreneur/model. Through my growth, this has been the icing on the cake, being able to be this figure for someone else to look up to. 

 

ATPB: What has been the biggest struggle as a creative black woman working in Italy?

ESA: The lack of representation both on a professional scale and otherwise means that in the minds of a lot of people, the existence of someone like me, who does the work that I do is not likely. This results in me being doubted by a lot of people, which means I have to work twice as hard to prove myself worthy. Having your own beauty, identity and qualifications continually questioned, is a challenge that can’t be overcome without strong self-esteem, determination, and perseverance.

 

ATPB: What fundamental changes are you hoping to take place within the next few years in the local creative industry?

ESA: In a positive perspective, I hope more black-owned companies will be born, where risk becomes not a make or break, but an incentive to create/reinvest/innovate, in the creation of products and services, conceived and studied specifically for the Black market as well as to generate cash flow that can be reinvested in other sectors.

 

 

Johanne Affricot | Founder & Creator of GRIOT Mag | @johaffr

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black woman? 

Johanne Affricot: My greatest joy working in Italy as a culture curator and creative was to found GriotMag, a media platform, and creative collective. Thanks to that, over the years I was able to meet many creatives, artists, cultural producers, scholars, both Afro-descendant Italians and from the international African diaspora, and to design and create cultural and artistic projects that highlight the black body, their story, shed light on a new narrative, and provide a platform and space of artistic and cultural expression.

Another one of my biggest joys was my project ‘Mirrors’ a contemporary dance and video art performance that I created and produced for the Integrated Promotion Programme of Italy around the world of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
The 2019 programme—“Italia, Culture, Africa” was addressed to the sub-Saharan Africa. We toured the show for three weeks last summer, to Johannesburg (UJ Arts and Culture Theatre), Addis Abeba (Giuseppe Verdi Theatre of the Italian Cultural Institute of Addis Abeba) and Dakar (Daniel Sorano National Theatre). As an Italian-Haitian-Ghanaian it was really a pure joy to travel to these countries, with a show that was about identity and belonging.

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black woman? 

JA: Well, the biggest struggle at the very beginning of this journey was to find other black Italian creatives, artists, and cultural producers to network with. In general, a black Italian audience is sensitive to certain types of artistic and cultural content. It’s still a struggle sometimes, especially if you compare it to Paris, London, New York (cities I frequently travel to both for work and to visit my family and friends), and Berlin as well. In general, thanks to the work done in the last five years, I managed to create a very strong network and audience. Nevertheless, there’s still a lot of work to do, especially in terms of inclusion and representation.

 

ATPB: What fundamental changes are you hoping to take place within the next few years in the local creative industry?

JA: I was thinking about the word change some days ago and I came to this conclusion: I mean, if you ask me what fundamental changes I hope to take place, honestly I would say nothing, because when you just hope it is like waiting for external help. However, if you envision a change for yourself and your community, that makes a difference. I hope I will always be driven and able to put into effect the change I envision, by producing cultural and artistic contents with/supporting the local and international industry I’m inspired by and collaborating with art, cultural, academic institutions, brands, and media companies.

 

 

Bellamy Ogak | Activist & Digital Content Creator | @darkchocolatecreature 

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black woman?

Bellamy Ogak: My biggest joy is to be a representative of a certain group of people. I know that to a lot of people this is kind of a burden, but I don’t see it as such which is why I started making videos because I did not see anyone that looked like me online. I consciously decided to create content as a black Italian girl, because I wanted other people to see someone that looked like us that didn’t necessarily speak English and that was not from the States or the UK. I opened my YouTube channel as a hobby reviewing wigs and nobody was reviewing wigs at the time. Then I started making videos in Italian. Being a content creator is still not seen as a profession in Italy. Here, everything moves very slowly. I felt a calling to really own and change the narrative about black Italian people, which is why I created Afro Italian Souls. It started as a web magazine for black Italian excellence. We started to portray the experience of black, Italian bodies in Italy and started making videos about racism, hair, mixed couples, and everything else. It’s like we have our own media outlet, where the younger generation can see someone that looks like them doing regular things. We don’t need to see people doing extraordinary things, sometimes it’s really the simple things like opening the news and seeing a black person telling the news instead of the regular person. Representation counts in every little thing.

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black woman?

BO: Not being taken seriously, especially when I talk about the struggle of the black body. Italian people have a very hard time accepting the fact that racism exists in this country. Now more than ever, this is evident. My biggest struggle is having my voice and my experience valued and accepted. Whatever I do and say, is always scrutinized and people are always trying to prove me wrong when I’m talking about my experience. People here do not want to understand or be corrected when it comes to handling race.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

BO: When it comes to media, I would like to see more representation of people such as journalists, tv presenters, producers, magazine owners. Both in front and behind the camera. I would like to see stories told by people from all different backgrounds. I would like the change that is evident in the people that live in this country to be represented in the media as well because we are already here but we aren’t given the opportunity to speak.

 

 

Winta Beyene | Visual Merchandiser | @winta_beyene

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black woman?

Winta BeyeneAt the moment I think we’re too behind to applaud positives, there are some changes happening but there still exists a more dominant level of negativity.

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black woman?

In my experience I’ve been fortunate enough to not undergo too many struggles. However an issue that’s been continuous is knowing that many Italians will never accept my identity and the identities of people similar to me for what it is. Which is a sentiment I learned as a little girl.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years?

My dream would be for there to be no types of distinctions in regards to identity. I’d like everyone to be as open as someone like Franca Sozzani and have an open mind open to learning like she did in order to facilitate relevant changes.

 

 

Jon Bronxl | Photographer & Art Director | @jonbronxl 

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black man?

John Bronxl: Whenever the clients you work with finally take the moment to give you some sort of recognition and take the time to listen to you. What happens a lot of the times is that in Italy you’re always the only black person on a team so whenever the team actually acknowledges you it’s an amazing feeling of power when they are interested in hearing what you have to say.

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black man?

JB: For me that would be continuity. For many, people of color are often used temporarily, a filler for a diversity campaign or an occasional project, it’s very difficult to find people and brands who want to invest in you and help you grow which is very important.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

JB: Well firstly I think it’s important to give more space to young creatives as a lot of the more established creative entities of today don’t allow much room for new blood. Which also means investing resources scholastic resources in minorities. I’d like local fashion schools here to cater to minorities through scholarship opportunities and/or grants dedicated to this. Many Italian fashion schools aren’t interested enough to dedicate their resources to help, and the bar is set at a level we are not able to financially reach. I’d like to see efforts in making these changes for educational value.

 

 

David Blank | Singer, Songwriter, & Podcaster@davidblankofficial

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black man?

David Blank: I would say my biggest joy is the fact that as creative people of color in Italy we are all working towards a common goal. There’s a sort of togetherness in the struggle, a sense of community. Although we’re all from different parts of the world and have different experiences, the conversations seem to all be the same. When we’re all together or when we come across each other on any type of platform, there’s always a great joy in seeing each other succeed and for me that’s representative of a strong sense of community. 

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black man?

DB: Being honest. As an artist, one is meant to be honest and have some sort of a message, but when the intersectionality of cultures comes into play it’s where the struggle begins because you have different facets of your life and of your identity that seem to go against each other. Like being black and gay, or furthermore being black and Italian is another paradox (at least it is for white Italians), and imagine being all of those three things at once. At the end of the day, what I strive to do is make art, and art is not just for myself but it’s for an audience that can relate to me on some level. Needless to say, there aren’t so many people able to relate to such a paradox. So the struggle remains as staying true to all aspects of myself as opposed to trading this in for relatability. 

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

DB: I want to see more people of color in Italy in the music industry and especially people of darker skin tones. Brands tend to opt for the lighter skin tones as a way to not have to go too far from the general standards so I’d like to see people with darker skin being represented more. To show the world that there are also black Italians, not just locally but internationally, for people on the outside to also understand that there are different representations of our identity. 

In the music industry, I want us to shift from the culture of disposability, of fast art. I want for people to actually become interested in genuine stories, in music and art that means something and can last a lifetime.

 

 

Jean Sebastian Diaz | Performer | @jy.dn

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black man?

Jean Sebastian Diaz: The fact that I’m always myself and I’m able to express myself in every way without feeling the fear of what people will say or think. I’m always going to be me. My joy comes from the fact that I’ve worked so hard in order to be able to think like this. As a child, I always felt insecure, like I didn’t have a set identity and that other people needed to define me. Thankfully I had the strength to find my identity which took the weight off my shoulders and enabled me to do things the way I wanted.

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black man?

JSD: The fact that I won’t have the same opportunities as other people and that I have to work more in order to prove myself more than non-POC. However, I use it as a motivation to work harder.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

JSD: We’re working on it, but we need more inclusion and not just because it’s a trend. We need people, not just POC, but everyone to talk about it and realize it’s a serious thing to help us live in a world where we really feel included.

 

 

Haiyan Fu | Digital Content Creator@digitalmodernfamily

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative woman of color?

Haiyan Fu: My greatest joy is having the ability and opportunity to work with my family, this is the greatest satisfaction. Coming from a very traditional family I would have never thought that a job like this was possible considering my family considers jobs to be the traditional standards of 9-5, so for me a job like this which is the complete opposite of those standards is a dream for me.

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative woman of color?

HF: I honestly haven’t had many major difficulties in this regard. So far, being Chinese has always been a plus. However I’ve come across a lot of fashion agencies that think with the mindset that because I’m a mother that I can’t also be closely connected with fashion. They expect that because I’m a mom and it’s so visible that I should have the persona of a stay at home wife, while of course in my opinion none of that is true.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

HF: I’d like us to develop a better rewarding system. I think it’s important that we learn to merit people not because for what they’re worth as opposed to the internal networking of nepotism or friendship as the pretty closed. I’d like for us to evaluate and value people for what they are actually worth.

 

 

Ifeoma Emelurumonye | Medical Doctor & Blogger | @ifyze

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black woman?

Ifeoma Emelurumonye: Two things are currently making me very happy: the first one is that, in this moment in Italian history, we finally have examples of successful creatives of color to draw on for inspiration. Secondly, being able to educate people about my culture and engage with an actual community about it is a true joy. Especially since about 80% of the people that follow me are white. I’m from the Marche region, where the black community is an even smaller minority than in the rest of the country, so it feels even more important to share photos about natural hair, African clothes and textiles, etc. Getting feedback and questions regarding these things is very satisfying. When someone asks me why it’s not ok to touch my hair rather than telling me that I’m exaggerating it is quite satisfying because it proves people are actual interested in learning.

 

ATPB:What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black woman?

IE: Dealing with stereotypes. For example, I am a doctor and for many people simply seeing an educated woman of color is strange. The jobs they associate with women of color are cleaners, caregivers, and even prostitutes. 

Even in everyday life, people have said to me “Why are you wearing wigs? Why are you wearing braids?”. I’ve tried to no avail to educate them about protective styles being a part of our culture but the stereotype is that I always have to show my blackness, my god given African-ness; but I’m an African-Italian, living in between two cultures and free to express either side I choose.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

IE: Definitely for people to listen more ! It’s become a cliché to be inclusive, but it’s extremely important. We don’t have enough black Italian representatives in the industry. I would like the industry to focus on and invest in people of color in the same way they invest in everyone else.

 

 

Macy Macoura Fofana | Fashion Content Creator | @macyfancy 

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black woman? 

Macy Macoura Fofana: In my opinion, the most beautiful thing about being a content creator and furthermore being a black content creator here in Italy is that you get the chance to demonstrate that there is more— there is something more than Italy in black and white. You also get the opportunity to show people what would be a faraway culture but with your own Western twist. 

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black woman? 

MMF: The biggest difficulty is being taken into consideration and being taken seriously. We aren’t really considered as creators, despite the fact that we create every day and we have always created throughout history. It’s difficult to have them accept us and allow us to show our actual qualities which at the end of the day is what’s really missing — opportunity.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

MMF: In the next 5 years, if I’m being optimistic, I see an industry that doesn’t just depend on a token to show their ‘diversity.’ I hope that in the future, there will be more people working as opposed to one who is expected to represent an entire group which is made up of different souls.

 

 

Faisa Abdullahi | Content Crestor & Model | @lafayza

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black woman?

Faisa Abdullahi: There is not a lot of diversity and black women in the creative sector don’t have it easy. There’s a lot of struggle, [as well as] resilience, creativity, and originality. Seeing other women and my black sisters do what they love and what makes them happy despite what society tells them and define beauty [as] inspires me and empowers me and other younger girls.

 

ATPB:What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black woman?

FA: Parents and family who want you to take a safe job or safe road and don’t understand the creative stuff. Also, it feels like we have to work not twice but four times harder in contrast to non-POC, even though we are Italian and we are born and raised here, it’s not the same. From one side it’s society and the other are the cultural aspects.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

FA: I would love to see representation. Not even more, there isn’t any representation at all. Like skin color, religion, short, tall, different sizes, even younger girls. For example, [seeing Fathi in Vogue] it was the first time I saw a black Italian girl on a Vogue cover. It was what I needed when I was younger. When I was 10 or 12 seeing magazines, I never saw black women in magazines and if they were, they were always Americans. I never saw someone like me.

 

 

Loretta Grace | Singer & Actress | @graceonyourdash

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black woman?

Loretta Grace: For me, the greatest thing is that I love what I do on different platforms and social media. It allows me to create beautiful connections with people who follow me, which is what gives me the strength to continue. It’s a desire that I’ve had since I was a little girl to have a point of reference on Italian beauty and music that looks like me, and I enjoy being that for younger girls.

 

ATPB:What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black woman?

LG: My greatest struggle as a creator in Italy is trying to raise awareness around important topics that are often difficult to discuss. It’s not very easy to explain the complexity which my skin color and diversity bring about to others that have not experienced this reality and at times I’m misunderstood because of this. 

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

LG: In the coming years I hope to see successful black-owned business become realities as well as greater representation and more investments in diversity. I find that in Italy there is still great room for improvement, and certainly, the expansion of “different” exponents behind the scenes in the creative context could make the real need of Italian diversity be heard and met in a more sincere and effective way.

 

 

Reina Gomez | Natural Hair Care Expert | @_reinagomez_

 

ATPB: What is your biggest joy of working in Italy as a creative woman of color?

Reina Gomez: One of my greatest joys is meeting many other girls just like me. I work with many Italian hair stylists and whenever they find out what I do I immediately get their attention because I do something that they’ve never heard before; they see me as special. Taking care of afro hair is an art, it’s not just about the look, and they recognize me as an artist. As a professional and an expert, It’s important for me to be in this field representing women like me.

 

ATPB: What is the greatest struggle for you working in Italy as a creative woman of color?

RG: Honestly, my biggest struggle right now is everyone else! I struggle with making Italian hair stylists understand that there’s a new generation of Italians who might not look like the previous ones; it’s unbelievable that they don’t know anything about caring for afro hair and that they refuse to learn enough about it in order to offer these services. For example, I’m Latin-American, I was very young when I moved to this country and as a teenager I couldn’t go to a salon with my friends even though I wanted to, because as soon as the hairdresser would see me they would get scared. There was nothing for me in their salons and this was very difficult.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

RG: I hope the change is the one I am currently working hard to make happen. I would hope for more experts and salons across the country who offer professional hair treatments to women of color as today this is certainly not the case.

Women of color shouldn’t have to feel like their only options are so limited. The real job of a hairstylist is to emphasize a person’s beauty, so every different type of beauty should be represented. No one should ever feel refused or dismissed whenever entering a salon.

 

 

Raveena Goswami | Digital Marketer & Artist | @raveenagoswami

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative woman of color?

Raveena Goswami: I honestly don’t think there is much joy as everything seems to often get clouded by the bad, but if I had to say, it would be getting attention for being multicultural. One positive thing is that people seem to commonly assume that I’m more knowledgeable in terms of a global perspective because I’ve traveled a lot. So they’ll look to me for open-mindedness and a different outlook on the world which can be gratifying at times.

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative woman of color?

RG: Initially the most difficult part of my journey was getting a job. I was turned away a lot of times because of my documents because I’m from Africa they’d see that I have a Zambian passport and they would attempt to belittle me and offer me less than what I’m worth. Thankfully I’ve gotten past that and I now have a great job with a great boss, but I had to go through a series of disappointing denials before I could get here which was very challenging. 

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

RG: I’d like to see more people of color on the basis of advertising and marketing of brands in general. I believe in Italy, the goals need to be thinking with a more global mindset and being a bit more accepting of and interested in different cultures. Also in terms of social circles, it would be nice to see the industry integrate a bit more and not stick to the traditions of what and who they know. I hope we are able to move away from the idea of standardized beauty.

 

 

Rachel Howard | Digital Marketing Manager | @howrae

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black woman?

Rachel Howard: Those rare times when my input is implemented on a larger scale, whether it be commercially or editorially. A lot of the times during work there’s a lot of brainstorming happening with a ton of people, and many of those times you are so easily overlooked. So, those few moments when someone actually takes the time to consider your professional opinion is a blessing. 

 

ATPB:What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black woman?

RH: That would definitely be getting my foot in the door. Oftentimes you have to prove yourself worthy being both black and a foreigner. Italian circles are really tight and although I try to work twice as hard there’s 10 times more pressure because people naturally assume laziness so I always have to ensure I put on my A-game because I’m not given much room to slip up. 

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years?

RH: I’d like to see more people of different races, sizes, gender identities, etc. represented on mainstream campaigns, especially with Italian legacy brands. I say this because there are a lot of brands whose international campaigns are super diverse but when it comes to Italy, their local ads are often tailored to a more traditional audience and it’s important for one to practice what they preach both on a national and international basis. I see glimpses of positive changes taking place, and I’m hoping for it to speed up.

 

 

Mesha Korte | Digital Marketer & Entrepreneur | @justadd000

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black woman?

Mesha Korte: My own individuality. As a black person working in the creative industry, we have such a deep and profound history that there’s so much to give, so much to talk about. For people that are not of color, they too can learn from us. We’re doing things all over the place. When did hip-hop become mainstream?! We have a lot to offer and it’s something to be proud of and there’s so much more to come.

 

ATPB:What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black woman?

MK: The greatest struggle would be stereotypes. Black people get put under an umbrella of one type of persona and it’s impossible for our identities to be restricted to one type of person. Take me for example. My mother is from Trinidad and I grew up in the States. You have so much diversity coming at you from different angles, there’s not just one cookie-cutter black person, that doesn’t exist. I don’t want to be the spokesperson for every black person. I am proud, I love to represent, but I can’t have an educational course with you every time I step into an office. 

Also, there are a lot of misconceptions here in Italy. People think we moved here because we needed to. I came here and studied at Bocconi like everybody else [then] got married to an Italian and everything fell into place but when people look at you they don’t see that.

 

ATPB: What major changes would you like to see in the next 5-10 years in regard to people of color?

MK: More of everything! Especially a bit of openness in terms of mindset and not being afraid to learn.

 

 

Tommy Kuti | Artist & Musician | @tommy_kuti

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black man? 

Tommy Kuti: Two years ago I was under a contract with Universal Italia and in their HQ there was the photo of all the artists, myself included, signed to them… and just to think that of all the 300 artists signed to Universal Italia, every single artist was white except me. The situation is bittersweet because on the one hand, I’m happy that I can open certain doors for future generations, but it’s sad that there aren’t others like me. 

As a second-generation afro-Italian, I’m bringing forth a story that unfortunately people aren’t used to hearing as people aren’t used to interacting with us so our work does come with a certain importance because we have a greater task than most Italian artists. This isn’t about me just making music but it’s about me representing a group of people who have never had a chance to speak and that gives me joy. 

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black man? 

TK: As time passes, I realize more that the hardest thing for us is that we’re trying to talk about a generation and a group of people that the public knows almost nothing about. The professionals, the directors, the producers, the industrial managers, and unfortunately the average Italian knows almost nothing about our story. 

In the end, if you’re a young black kid in Italy you have your identity— you grew up in the country and you lived certain experiences but these experiences don’t have anything to do with what the world perceives of us which is based on stereotypes and cliches. On the one hand, they think that we’re these poor Africans that they have to help, otherwise they have the cliche of the black American rapper in their mind. So for us, the difficulty is to affirm and bring forth a completely new story and discussion from a completely new group of people that people don’t know. 

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

TK: I hope that there will be more professional musicians with my background. Everything I do is to give more opportunities and platforms to other kids with talent and a similar upbringing so that they can achieve their dreams in Italy.

 

 

Eva Lavigna | Student, Model & Interviewer | @eva.lvgn

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black woman?

Eva Lavigna: The biggest joy is the coming together of different cultures. Even though there’s a lot of separation between African brothers and sisters, I don’t feel that here in Italy. I feel like we really come together as one when we need to. I have friends here who are from the Dominican Republic, friends that are Nigerian, Ghanaian, Tanzanian, Congolese, that all come together. The fact we’re from different countries doesn’t bother us.

 

ATPB:What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black woman?

EL: I don’t like the competition that is instilled in us that there can only be that one black person or POC in the workplace when it should be a community. A lot of people internalize this and think they have to outshine each other because they’re only going to hire one of us, so then you start hating your friends because you’re constantly in competition with them.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

EL: Diversity! I want to see diversity be normalized and not be something that people have to instill. It has to be normal to hire Asian people, black people, or any POC. Italy has a long way to go and I just hope that we get there. The only way it’s gonna change is if people of color are put in positions of change because we know the experience and what to do to make it better. We just need to be given the opportunity to get there.

 

 

Afef “Miragal” Jmili | Musician | @miragalmusic

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative woman of color? 

Afef Miragal Jmili: The fact of knowing that I’ve got something interesting to say and I’m able to express that in different ways. I have a rich heritage that really helps me to always be inspired by new things. I’m from Morocco, so we’re talking about Moroccan culture, African culture, North African culture & Arab culture. Ever since I was younger I always felt out of place in the small town where I grew up. We were like the only immigrated family there. Walking around everyone stared because my mom wears a hijab and my hair looked weird and messy. It took me a few years to really embody my identity and realize how valuable I am. I speak 4 languages, I know cool music, I belly dance, I eat with my hands. A lot of cool shit.

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative woman of color?

AMJ: Being put in a box or category of one type. I’m a lot of different things altogether, not just that Moroccan girl, but I am many things at once and that’s okay. People expect you to be in a certain way, for example, I was born and raised Muslim and those who know me well understand that I’m outside of the box. “You’re Muslim and Moroccan? Why do you dress that way? What do your parents think?” There’s always a bit of that curiosity which comes off both a bit invasive as well as ignorant.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the music industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years?

AMJ: I write my music in English mixed with Arabic, but here in Italy, if you want to make successful music you have to do it in Italian. But why? My music is for a wider audience, for people like me. So why should I limit myself to Italian when Italian can’t express what I want to say? I originally tried with my music and the response was “you’re in Italy, sing in Italian.” You have to tone your music down because it’s too weird, but honestly, I don’t want to! The music I make is for people that understand what I’m saying in a way, not for the average Italian, who doesn’t care to learn English or understand anything different, and that’s the struggle, to push these boundaries. I only hope the scope of mainstream music widens in the next few years.

 

 

 

Michelle Francine Ngonmo | CEO & Founder of Afro Fashion Week Milan | @michellengonmo

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black woman?

Michelle Francine Ngonmo: When I founded Afro Fashion 5 years ago, it was because representation and inclusion in the society were priorities for me. The general media wasn’t reflecting the society I lived in; I mean in Italy there are more than 1 million people of color, you have many black Italians and yet they weren’t being represented. So, I decided to create a platform to promote equality and representation. In our association we promote each and every talent with African inspiration, the focus is on emerging fashion creatives. 

We organize many events such as workshops in collaboration with fashion universities in Italy and Africa. My greatest joy working in Italy as a creative POC has been to see some of our models coworking for brands like Benetton and Moschino and to see models getting emotional and crying during the catwalk in Duomo and receiving email from POC, telling us that they finally felt represented. It’s just as beautiful as it is empowering. 

 

ATPB:What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black woman?

MFN: Being undervalued is the routine. The biggest struggle I had to face during my journey was being underestimated. Being black and a woman in a caucasian and mainly male chauvinist society was a major disadvantage. Usually, people undervalue my level of education and experience, they tend to believe my objective information or analysis is not based on deep research of the sector in which I specialize. Through the course of time, experience taught me to simply ignore this and focus on my work. 

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

MFN: Changes in the fashion industry are not only about adding more black models, or having more bloggers sitting at the front row during the fashion show. It’s not only about having a black model on the cover of some famous magazine once a year. I mean it’s not only about blackness, but it’s about context and storytelling. Fashion is a powerful tool and plays an enormous role in shaping how we view and value people.

I hope that more prominent actors or actresses, bloggers, and journalists will use black creatives, not only because they are black to show that they’re not racist, but because they are worth it and because they’re talented. People who have the power to change things need to give POC an opportunity to show their worth. We are in 2020 and still, POC need to prove themselves, they need to struggle twice as much to show that they’re worthy. The fashion industry should try harder to reflect the society we are living in.

 

 

Ruth Nkechi Ibeawuchi | Personal Shopper & Hairstylist | @ruthymilano

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black woman?

Ruth Nkechi IbeawuchiMy biggest joy is being a Nigerian here. There are few of us and each time I get recognized by a Nigerian the energy created is something to be joyful about. Another is providing a service for people and witnessing the sense of satisfaction they get afterward, more specifically speaking to hairstyling.

 

ATPB:What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black woman?

RNI: Not being recognized enough. Milan is supposed to be more international for fashion and creative industries and I believe we’re excluded a lot here. Sometimes when I go to events, I don’t even see black people around. It’s a shame for me. That’s not encouraging. Sometimes I turn invitations down to avoid being the only black woman.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

RNI: I want POC to be included more and be involved. I feel they’re scared that we’ll take over the fashion world! I think pretty soon everything will get better, it’s just a matter of time. Some companies and fashion brands are including [POC], but some are yet to get there.

 

 

Nnamdi Nwagwu | Artist & Dancer | @nnamdi_01

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black man?

Nnamdi Nwagwu: The biggest joy is receiving recognition within the world of dance and to act as a point of reference to many. There is almost a double recognition when you get to a certain level and start winning some awards. Although the recognition is often labeled as “the black dancer”, and personally it’s hard to shake off.

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black man?

NN: The limits that are imposed by others on me as a black dancer. For example having to hear that a part in a ballet doesn’t require a black dancer. Especially since I am a contemporary dancer. In Italy this is viewed as strange. There are very few black male dancers that aspire to do this professionally, there’s only about five or six of us and It’s very difficult

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

NN: Many things need to change. For starters, as a black dancer, I would like to see more ballet companies accepting people of color. I also wish that we could finally put to rest once and for all the stupid stereotype that pairs black dancers solely with hip hop. There is so much variety among us, even if it’s not currently recognized. I truly hope this will change.

 

 

Polly & Pamy Ameyibor | Hair Stylists, DJs & Designers | @pollyandpamy

 

ATPB: What have been your greatest joys working in Italy as creative black women? 

Pamy: One of the greatest joys is being an example for the kids growing up today. Since we grew up here and given that it wasn’t easy, I’d hope that we could be a kind of example for the future. I want them to see us and think ‘wow, they’re like this and they’ve accomplished that, I want to be like that too.’ We want to give them the possibility to believe in themselves and what they can accomplish.

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as creative black women? 

Pamy: The biggest struggle is that you always have to push hard, and it’s not like the first door that comes along you can just open it and go through. You have to constantly push. For example, it happens that when working with us, people tend to think twice… they think about how the public will react to seeing us vs. someone else who they may be used to seeing more. There’s the battle of trying to convince them, but not convincing them enough.

Polly: Another thing is that you have to trust yourself without listening to others. They may say over and over that they don’t think something is possible [for you] but you just have to keep pushing towards your goal. In Italy, you have to fight for just about everything.

Pamy: It’s not really because they don’t want to work with you, they just worry too much about what other people think. To give you an idea, we were picked recently for a job, but then soon found out there were already two black guys in the project. Since they were two black guys and we were two black girls, they decided to cut us because otherwise there were too many black people. For us, this is a struggle because what does that even mean? 

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

Pamy: In my opinion, we’ll become like our neighboring countries — France and the UK. Because in the end there are always more of us. Our parents were some of the first to come in the 80s and 90s but we’re one of the first generations of black Italians born and raised here and we’ll be the ones who are able to change things. I really feel that in the next 10 years the industry will be a lot more diverse.

 

 

Louis Pisano | Cultural Commentator & Writer | @louispisano

 

ATPB: What is your biggest joy of working in Italy as a creative black man? 

Louis Pisano: I feel great joy whenever I’m able to bring something new to the table – a new way of doing something, a new idea, a new opinion to people through social media. In doing so also influencing people to rethink the ways that they previously thought or operated. They don’t necessarily have to always implement it in their daily lives but for me, the greatest joy is when they take the time to think about it and we have a constructive dialogue about new approaches.

 

ATPB:What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black man?

LP: That I always have to yell to be heard and that this can backfire on me. I think it’s particularly difficult for me. I have another layer added because I am very opinionated and loud, very conspicuous and argumentative. I get really fired up about things I’m passionate about and that can turn a lot of people off. When I look around and see other people who aren’t as passionate or don’t care about what they’re doing or being it really fires me up.

 

ATPB: In the next 5 years, in Italy, what do you expect or would you like to change in the industry?

LP: I’d like to see a change in who and what is prioritized. What kind of beauty is prioritized, and what kind of attitudes or aesthetics are prioritized. It doesn’t always have to be the same formula or basic prototype. There can and needs to be an evolution. I would like to see diversity manifest itself in the mainstream sectors of the industry.

 

 

Aya Mohammed | Digital Content Creator | @milanpyramid

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative woman of color?

Aya Mohammed: My greatest joy is when I can feel the support of the people that I represent and their joy of seeing one of us be represented. Recently I had an event with Adidas and the feeling in the room was not light, it was this heavy, but intense, beautiful feeling because the people that were there were there to support me not as Aya but as one of them and they were believing in the value of the message of my presence there. It wasn’t just a collab with Adidas, it was a Muslim girl wearing a scarf collab-ing with Adidas.

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative woman of color?

AM: Being respected in a certain way and stereotypes. When a brand or company decides to collab with me they have to take into consideration the way that they’re going to represent me is not the way they represent any other influencer because ethical and religious value behind me that has to be shown in a respectful way and not stereotyped. That for me is hard to deliver and communicate. I find my way around it and get my point delivered.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

AM: I would love for the industry to become more inclusive, not because diversity is a trend, but because they believe in inclusivity. I would love for it to become more respectful of the work that bloggers or influencers do when they are creative content creators. A person like me that represents a certain community that has huge participation, engagement, and support has a huge value in the market to a brand, more than just the number [of followers]. The way people support me is beautiful and it goes beyond commercial [value]. My mission that started everything was to break stereotypes around the Muslim communities, especially Muslim girls that wear the headscarf and to create a place where people like me can feel welcomed and inspired.

 

 

Nneya Richards | Digital Content Creator & Media Personality | @nneya

 

ATPB: What is your biggest joy of working in Italy as a creative black woman? 

Nneya Richards: What makes me happiest is being able to relate with the strong pride of cultural heritage that Italians hold. I think that speaks to my Jamaican side. I’ve never met people as boastful about their culture as Jamaicans until I met Italians, and being able to add that to my creative content and to have that inform my work, it’s a blessing.

 

ATPB: What is the greatest struggle for you working in Italy as a creative black woman?

NR: That’s the other side of the coin, is that the cultural pride they have here makes them sometimes impervious and reticent to outside influence and change. It can be frustrating trying to understand the norms about how things are done here. That’s the obstacle that I hit here more often than not. Things take a bit longer and it matters more about who you know. In the US right now, diversity and women’s empowerment are such hot topics and they’re at the beginning stages of it here. There’s an elementary education that they don’t have here in terms of civil rights and female empowerment. They’re not well-versed on things like that. As a black American, I come from a position of privilege but, it’s important for civil rights here to be led by black Italians, and not black Americans or internationals.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

NR: I would like diversity to be more than a marketing stunt. I want it to be more ingrained in the local industries and by that I don’t mean on campaigns or faces, but who’s working behind the scenes. No change really happens in front of the camera until it happens behind the camera.

 

 

Leslie Sackey | Musician/Singer | @offlesslee

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black man?

Leslie Sackey: The greatest joy is being able to represent a different side of the singing spectrum. Growing up in Italy as a second generation immigrant born from Ghanaian parents, there was no one on TV to look up to. For me, being that person now is both an honor and a responsibility. It feels as if I am a representation of something bigger and more important than myself.

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black man?

LS: The fact that there are not a lot of people like me, with my background, and a consequence of this is that few people understand the facets of my art. That’s normal. Different people have different musical tastes, but sometimes being different is met with diffidence. That being said, I’ve been lucky to never have experienced problems that were big enough to prevent me from expressing myself. Italy has a beautiful history of music, from opera to songwriters, but I’m very soul and R&B so sometimes it’s a bit difficult to blend it.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

LS: I would definitely want to see more diversity [in] mainstream music. I hope for soul and R&B to become, more popular, to the same level that hip hop has become. Italy is not quite there yet when it comes to this variety, so there’s still a lot of work to be done. I would like there to be more representation in the music industry, across all genres. More diversity in the festivals and shows that we watch, so that minorities can feel represented.

 

Betty Sosa | Make-Up Artist & Blogger | @bettysosa 

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative woman of color? 

Betty Sosa: To see and hear and see people being fascinated in me and my identity. Being a minority, there are times when people are genuinely fascinated by your culture and identity. For me this is a great joy being seen as special and knowing that people want to learn more about me.

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative woman of color?

BS: Being constantly underestimated by people who don’t know me simply because of my race. I’ve had my abilities doubted a lot of times in comparison to my white peers which is always quite difficult.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

BS: I’d like there to be a lot more opportunities. For example in the makeup industry we are a bit behind because I know there are some brands that won’t be interested in working with me. So I’d like there to be a great opening for chances and opportunities for people of color.

 

 

Sumi Saiboub | Digital Content Creator | @coveredinlayers

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative woman of color? 

Sumi Saiboub: Every now and then when working here it feels like a breath of fresh air, and that mainly comes from me expressing myself through different manifestations of my identity. For example what it means to be Italian, what it means to be a daughter of immigrants, what it means to be a third culture child, and having this dense pool of rich culture to pull from and express through my creativity and the creation of my own narrative. 

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative woman of color?

SS: Having to constantly be in the background, because beauty and creativity are so strictly defined by singular standards while also being stigmatized against women like me. I’ve had to watch people attempt to tell my story for me. There’s been a single story going around about women like me to the point where we’ve been stripped of intellectual, creative, and cultural properties, so one of the greatest struggles is being taken seriously and listened to. 

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

 SS: I hope to see more women who look like me in Italy doing what they love. Following their dreams and passions without having to deal with anything limiting them because of their physical appearance, which sadly currently happens a lot in Italy. So in the future I’m hoping employers, teachers and so on will look past the face value and focus on the talent at hand.

 

 

Tako Sibi | Entrepreneur & Owner of Misstako Hair@iammisstako

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black woman?

Tako Sibi: Meeting people like me. I really enjoy working and connecting with people who think like me, that enjoy the same things as me. That gives me joy. Sometimes when you live in a society which is different or new, it makes you feel like an outsider, as it’s difficult to make friends or find people who you connect with but once you meet people who are like you and can relate to you in sharing common ideas and interests, that inspires a lot of joy.

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black woman?

TS: Judgement has been a major problem. As a black woman, especially if you’re good looking, there are a lot of people that will judge you upon face value. Although you’re a professional and you’ve been traveling and working so much for years, they don’t see that when they meet you. They judge you as an immigrant or label you wrongly and although I’ve traveled and lived in many places, in Italy I’ve found it particularly difficult to become a part of the society as it seems very closed. 

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

TS: I’d like for us to develop a system and a mindset that judges people on their qualifications, potential, and experiences as opposed to their skin color or beauty. I want to also see a wider perspective of the world and cultures applied to marketing and advertising.

 

 

Moufy Traore | Fashion & Beauty Blogger | @itsmoufytraore

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy working in Italy as a creative black woman?

Moufy Traore: For me, the greatest joy is the amount of possibilities and talents that exist for us and in us being so unique. Although they may be difficult for us to put into place, there’s so much joy in knowing that we have great potential.

 

ATPB:What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative black woman?

MF: Being seen solely for my color and never appreciated for my actual value. Not being noticed for my talents and the passion in which I put into things.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

MF: To be seen equally and given the same opportunities and not to be labeled as that black but to be labeled as the girl who can dance, or who can do makeup really well or something else pertaining to the values of my skills.

 

Niki Wu Jie | Digital Content Creator | @niki_wujie

 

ATPB: What has been your greatest joy as a creative woman of color working in Italy?

Niki Wu Jie: People who want to know more about my habits and culture, which acts as a form of conversation and inspiration. Sometimes it feels as if my face brings freshness which is a good feeling.

 

ATPB: What has been your biggest struggle working in Italy as a creative woman of color?

NWJ: People initially thinking it might be difficult for me to blend in or integrate into the general way of living because I’m different, but with perseverance, I’ve managed to make it work and get along harmony.

 

ATPB: How are you hoping for the local industry to evolve within the next 5-10 years? 

NWJ: Having more acceptance and respect for different types of people and cultures.

 

 

Jordan Anderson | Fashion & Culture Journalist/Producer | @symbiosity 

 

 

Tia Taylor | Digital Strategist | @misstiataylor_

 

Credits & Acknowledgements:
A special thank you to President Carlo Capasa of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana and his team for their support and contribution to this project.
A special thank you to White Balance Space for the use of its studio in support of this project.
A special thank you to Underdog Pictures for its photography support for this project.

Photographer: Tamu McPherson
Words: Jordan Anderson
Curator: Tia Taylor
Stylist: Sophia Lemaire
Makeup Artist: Sicilia Tumbiolo
Photography Assistants: Matteo D’agostino, Priyanka Bapodra
Assistant: Milan Ball

 

Related All The Pretty Birds Posts:

6 Nigerian Designers to Know Now

Tamu on ABUNDANCE & ABUNDANCE

What’s Changed? Nothing. Then?

Career Talk: Lacy Redway

You may also like