Lorraine O'Grady: the inspiration behind Tracee Ellis Ross' Met Gala look

Art Is... by Lorraine O'Grady

Amongst the plethora of camp looks at the Met Gala on 9th May was Tracee Ellis Ross with an empty frame. But it was much more than that. Her black Moschino dress was gorgeous (as was she because it’s freaking Tracee Ellis Ross) but the golden picture frame was there as a tribute to Lorraine O’Grady.

Born to Jamaican parents in Boston in 1943, Lorraine O’Grady grew up in the West Indian Episcopal church. It was the first of its denomination in the city and “until her sister, Devonia, died then she stopped believing”. Her journey into art took a few turns via a major in economics, a minor in Spanish literature, working as a translator, a critic and a government intelligence analyst.

In 1983, as her persona Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, she created Art Is…, a parade float entered into the annual African American Day Parade in Harlem. She persuaded the performers and parade watchers to pose with empty frames. The reclamation of blackness as beauty through the medium of fine art was, and is, the idea of “black campness”. Pardon my French but that’s fucking genius.

“Camp taste nourishes itself on the love that has gone into certain objects and personal styles. The absence of this love is the reason why [certain kitsch items] aren’t Camp.”

Susan Sontag – Notes on ‘Camp’ (1964)
Mlle Bourgeoise Noire (New Museum performance, 1981), shared via the CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.
Mlle Bourgeoise Noire (New Museum performance, 1981), shared via the CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.

The idea that such a beautiful nuanced look was done so effortlessly in the eyes of millions warms my heart. Tracee Ellis Ross addressed the look on Instagram with the caption, “RECLAIMING THE NARRATIVE ~ black camp. Thank you #lorraineogrady for existing and creating ‘Art Is.'” As Gianluca Russo said for Teen Vogue, “the outfit opened the eyes of many to the contributions black men and women have had on camp fashion.”

Which brings me onto Lena Waite’s amazing outfit: a Pyer Moss pinstriped suit with “Black Drag Queens Invented Camp” emblazoned on the back and the pinstripes made out of lyrics from Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out”. Thinking about it is sending my head spinning because of all the connections to black art, campness, queerness, black power… wow. It’s really a lot and I’m grateful to be around in a world where it exists.

(And credit to Shelby Ivey Christie on Twitter for shining a light on the subject.)

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An interview with Shanarà Phillips


Her love of visual storytelling has taken her around the world and she recently had her video, He’s Not Like That, featured at the BAFTAs as a finalist. We interviewed her for Black History Month.

What is your favourite city in the world?

To not be biased and say my own, I would say Oslo. I recently went there for a little weekend trip to visit one of my best friends and I wish I could have stayed longer. Such a beautiful city, friendly people and the food is great. Plus the flights are really cheap!

What’s the most unusual item you take everywhere you go?

There’s nothing usual that I take with me, although I’ve weirdly had a few people ask me before why I carry moisturiser with me all the time… I mean who wants ashy skin? Especially when you already have eczema.

Why do you do what you do?

I do what I currently do because I’m passionate about film and TV. So I currently have a full-time job as a logger for a production company and we’re working on a series about Formula 1 racing which will be on Netflix. I also do the odd videography/editing freelance job. It’s all to help pay the bills and fund my filmmaking hobby so that eventually I can start producing my own work for film/tv.

When was the last time you told someone you loved them?

I can’t remember and that’s terrible.

Where do you go to relax?

The only place I have to relax is my room really. I came back home last year and my room was still the same way I left it at 18 and so as I’m almost 23 now I decided it needed a makeover to match the woman I am now. So I’ve been slowly turning it into my own relaxing sanctuary where I can just edit and write, or watch crap on YouTube.

69, 280, or 420?

420, always.

How do you say goodbye in your culture?

Unfortunately, I don’t know Vincentian Creole, but my family have this habit of mostly saying ‘in a bit’.

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Gabrielle Union eats hot wings, discusses Twitter fools & DMX

Gabrielle Union Impersonates DMX While Eating Spicy Wings | Hot Ones

Gabrielle Union is a treasure. When she’s not being a brilliant actress, absolute beauty, or a best-selling author, she enjoys a wing or two. First We Feast’s Hot Ones series has guests talk about their lives while eating the spiciest wings available. During Gabrielle’s wing stop, she discussed her husband Dwyane Wade’s friendship with LeBron James, the time she took Michael Jordan to a lesbian white party (that one passed me by) and when she drank beer and watched Golden Girls with DMX. Yep, that last one happened too. And she also drooled and snotted because the Scoville scale was too damn high.

Have a glass of milk nearby.