via: Interview Magazine
CIPRIANA AND TK QUANN IN NEW YORK, MARCH 2016. PHOTOS: ELLINOR STIGLE. STYLING: KAROLINA BROCK. HAIR: YUHI KIM/ BRIDGE ARTISTS. MAKEUP: YUCO AOKI. PHOTO ASSISTANT: GRACE MCGOWEN. STYLING ASSISTANT: MARCUS LESLIE. SET DESIGN: OBJECTS IN GENERAL. RETOUCHING: RETOUCHED STUDIOS
*click to enlarge photos
When stationed between twin sisters Cipriana and TK Quann, you’ll find yourself swiveling your head between their identical faces as they volley off each other verbally. You’ll wonder where exactly they got it—”it” being the conviction and comfort that it takes to piece together two careers from all manner of risky creative interests, and to consistently speak out about race in a fashion industry that is never super keen on hearing about it.
Ask them, and they’ll reply immediately (and in unison): “It’s our mother.” Cipriana is quick to clarify, “She wasn’t sitting down and teaching us lessons or anything, but just looking at her every day was such a huge influence.” By their count, she taught them by example about the beauty of natural hair, the importance of personal style, the right to confront racism where they see it, the special tenacity it takes to find and make a meaningful career for oneself—all “lessons” that crop up again a little while later when they talk about the values they try to promote at Urban Bush Babes. The site, which Cipriana founded five years ago with her friend Nikisha Brunson, and where TK works as an executive contributor, has amassed both of them a sizeable social following, on-the-list status at every fashion-press event in New York, and a contract with IMG that’s landed them campaign for brands like Gap, & Other Stories, and Rebecca Minkoff.
On the side, they work with organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, helping high schoolers pick out their prom wear, and with 13th Floor Storytellers, who host spaces for foster care survivors to share their stories with each other and the outside world. TK also works as a musician under the stage name TK Wonder, touring Europe every summer for the past few years with her Macedonian collaborator, composer Kiril Dzajkovski. When she’s in town—she’s leaving any day now, just in time for festival season—she works on her own brand of hip-hop-inflected electronic music.
And then there’s a new project: together TK and Cipriana are working, somewhat secretively, on an “online presence” dedicated just to food and drink. The night we met up with them at a hotel bar in Greenwich Village, they’d just come from a day full of tastings for said project. Very varied lives they lead.
ETHEART: Cipriana, what was it that drove you to start Urban Bush Babes with Nikisha? What role did you see it playing that wasn’t being served by other media?
CIPRIANA: Urban Bush Babes was always about creating a platform where women of color could feel comfortable being themselves. So we wanted to show the multifaceted lives of different women—you know, we’re chefs, we’re lawyers, we’re students, we’re doctors, we like Pink Floyd, we could be in the middle of the woods fishing… We just wanted to show different examples of what wasn’t being shown in mainstream media. And it kind of blossomed into much more than just women of color. The unifying message of it is to be who you are and love yourself, because when you love yourself, you’re able to do anything. Just imagine if everyone in the world loved themselves and they were doing what they loved. This would be a very different world today. So we wanted to promote that platform and do it while showing a different side of beauty and fashion, and showing it in a more diverse way.
TK: The platform, I think, is that diversity is beauty and it’s no longer the minority. Our country is more diverse than it’s ever been, and I think that so many companies are set in their ways of promoting the same sort of images when “all-American” beauty is no longer just blue eyes and blond hair. But sometimes companies hold onto this old ideology and this old way of thinking about an American beauty that no longer exists. So I think it’s really important to encourage this message of diversity. And people are sometimes like “Ugh, you know,diversity.” But I mean, if you’re tired of hearing it… When it changes, I’ll get tired of saying it.”
To read much much more of our interview with Interview Magazine (no pun intended visit interviewmagazine.com here)