Article taken from The Face Volume 4 Issue 004. For more exclusive images, order your copy here.
Coming back after a 15-year absence, THE FACE magazine wasn’t expecting to have to take further leave of absence just three issues in. But then came Covid-19 and there went our summer issue. Except we haven’t been away at all – we’ve been more present than ever through the incredible, indelible stories we’ve been telling on theface.com and our socials since the world went into lockdown.
Normally an editor’s letter introduces the magazine to come, but it’s only right that this one also recognises what’s happened in the past six months, and champions what THE FACE team produced in this unprecedented period. It’s been exhausting but energising, tough but transformative. Big thanks to the whole crew.
I’m beyond proud that THE FACE was so quick to recognise key workers as the pandemic’s true “superheroes” (even if that term did take on a strangely sickly sense in the national media and start to feel like a distraction from the Boris government’s ineptitude in handling the virus). We ran weekly photo celebrations of the UK’s Clap for Carers (see a round-up on the next spread), which united the country with cheers and pot-banging at 8pm every Thursday. And for four weeks we celebrated the young men and women working on the new front line in supermarkets and post offices, and delivering our essentials in vans and on bikes. Our digital covers and films of Kezia, Connor, Alex and Amira were so spot-on, we’re publishing them again on this page.
In that time there were other major digital moments, too, with Brooklyn DJ Yaeji, HBO’s skateboarding Betty cast, Liverpool’s Premier League-winning right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold and British band The 1975. The latter’s site takeover was a full-on cultural happening, with Phoebe Bridgers, Rina Sawayama, Clairo, Gracie Abrams, Cavetown, Pale Waves and Beabadoobee performing covers of their tracks, plus podcasts between the band’s frontman Matty Healy and his musical heroes: Stevie Nicks, Brian Eno, Mike Kinsella, Kim Gordon, Conor Oberst and Bobby Gillespie. It was a dream distraction during some seriously trying times.
And if the coronavirus felt like the biggest issue we could possibly face, the killing of George Floyd by police in the US raised far more deep-rooted and disturbing issues around prejudice, power and privilege. As protests raged from Minneapolis to Manchester, Los Angeles to London, we recruited photographers and writers to capture the anger, energy and hope on the streets, and to inform people about activists being tear-gassed and imprisoned.
We shared resources, reading lists and protest playlists. We looked at The Black Curriculum’s fight to change the way we teach kids, spoke with Raquel Willis, who captivated the packed Black Trans Lives Matter march in Brooklyn, and went back to Minneapolis two months after Floyd’s death to explore how the city was healing and where it’s heading after becoming the epicentre of global change. We commit to continue telling these stories.
In this issue the good work rolls on, with an epic, excoriating report by Andrea Domanick that looks at the US “warrior police”, how they treat communities, how they handle protest and how they need to change. It’s a beast of a piece but I urge you to stick with it.
As well as reforming the police, another thing Americans can change in November is their president. Much as the international media’s sense of the US centres around New York and Los Angeles, it’s the swing states that settle elections there, so we headed to Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Georgia and Florida to gauge the mood. In an unashamedly partisan report we hear from politicians, activists and campaigners who are sick to death of the Cheeto-in-Chief. “Trump winning will put us past the point of no return,” said one. As our back-page interviewee, Public Enemy’s Chuck D, raps in this year’s track State of the Union (STFU): “Vote this joke out, or die tryin’”.
Pop culture has definitely provided us with the escape we’ve so deeply needed this year, and so we’re happy to bring you the best of the business. For music, there’s everything from London’s drill MC Dutchavelli to Toronto’s Drake co-signed Mustafa, and from queer DJ Avalon Emerson to the Bronx’s Sie7etr3 crew. For TV and film, we’ve got Kelvin Harrison Jr (a welcome addition to the cast in season two of Euphoria), Saint Maud’s Morfydd Clark, and the hot young stars of Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino’s new HBO show, We Are Who We Are.
Our other escape this year was nature itself. In big cities people were primordially drawn to the parks, marshlands and heaths as the tarmac, steel and stone became deserted. We wanted to document this strange long summer, to capture the emergence of a “New Leisure Age”, sunbathers showing it all off in Sitges and a group of Black birdwatchers gathering in Walthamstow. Rainbow Milk author Paul Mendez followed #BirdGang down to the wetlands and reminded us “there is no discrimination in the natural world… this is open for all of us”.
All this, plus an in-depth chat between Dior Men’s artistic director Kim Jones and THE FACE’s Creative Council member Tremaine Emory, a mega-celebration of Lulu Kennedy’s Fashion East as it turns 20 and Bolade Banjo’s portfolio of the photos he took at London’s Mr & Miss Teen Nigeria beauty pageant, accompanied by an illuminating conversation with his 17-year-old cousin Rahmat, which tackles religious difference, colourism and spaces of Black joy.
And finally to our cover star, Travis Scott, who announced himself as newly committed to the fight for social change in an Instagram post after George Floyd’s death. “The rage that we are all feeling is from direct personal experience and the constant pain of wanting our voices to be heard,” he said, calling for greater equality and police reform. “Me and the team are gonna do everything possible to make sure these issues are addressed on a long-term basis.”
In his interview with Ira Madison III, he says he’s relieved that the wider world is at last waking up to the injustices the Black community faces. “People are finally seeing the oppression that’s been happening and overlooked, and that we as a culture have been fighting through every day,” he says. In an all-day shoot with his friend, AstroWorld collaborator and THE FACE alumnus David LaChapelle, Travis gave Ira an intimate glimpse of himself as more than just modern rap’s megastar, revealing a father, partner and lover of computer games, dogs and musicals.
Pretty much everything we touch on in this issue has been impacted by the pandemic, Black Lives Matter or the upcoming US election – and sometimes all three. This year has been a huge challenge and, as Cape Town’s Mikhailia Peterson says in our globe-spanning portfolio that tracks 20 twentysomethings, we should all be in awe of ourselves for getting through it.