Questions asked:

Fashion and beauty are their own forms of storytelling—the industry at large has long been telling stories that center on whiteness, and Eurocentric beauty features. For you, what story do you hope your work tells?

I love this question. We all have things that make us a little visibly different. And for me, I’ve always felt like it’s my birthmark. My mama says as I grow up I will find ways to become the person I needed as a child, so embracing my birthmark feels like just that. It used to bring me the deepest shame, my goodness. I’d cover it with hair and hats every day. It stopped me from doing the simplest things, like swimming, sweating, feeling a strong breeze on my face, etc.

In my early teens, I’d never seen a portrayal of beauty that included a person with a big ole mole on their forehead, and why not? It would be so beautiful if kids who aren’t white, thin, straight, cis, able-bodied, hairless, blemish/beauty mark-free didn’t have to spend their adolescence (and even adulthood) unlearning and relearning what beauty looks like. If they saw it first hand if they actually saw themselves!

Speaking of your work, your artwork features stunning imagery of Black women. To what extent are your illustrations an exploration of identity?

Ever since I came out, it honestly feels like everything I do is an exploration of my identity. Only natural that my work is too.

VR Niti Sejpal