I think turning 30 makes you reconsider your life and what you actually give a shit about.
In this series, contributor Georgia Graham brings together a group of her friends on the advent of their 30th year.
Since moving to New York, there have been two primary objects of my affections; my friends, and the city itself. Thus in creating a project from the heart, it seemed immediately obvious that these two elements should take centre stage.
Just as in a relationship, it is my friends who have helped me navigate the moments of infatuation and frustration that characterise my affair with New York City. Coincidentally, this year sees many of my closest friends celebrating their 30th. Between us, age is something we discuss a lot. New York is often compared to Neverneverland, a playground where one never truly has to grow up. Empowering as this can be, it is also a crippling ally to popular culture’s unhealthy obsession with youth. At 24, these friends are people I look to often for advice and information, the kind that they have accumulated in the years that separate us in age.
I decided to conduct the following interviews as a means of celebration and examination; celebrating these individuals, their creative minds and experiences, whilst also examining the idea of age and the concept of living in New York. The accompanying photo series was shot by Mitchell McLennan. Like the friends I have asked him to photograph, he is both an artist I admire and a friend I cherish.
Harmony and I met in New York at the start of 2015. She’s Australian but grew up in England; I’m English but grew up in Australia. She gets a cockney accent when she’s drunk, I get an Antipodean twang. Over the past few years we have hung out in London, Paris and New York, and complained together about the trials and tribulations of modelling, travelling, and life. Over the course of our friendship she’s gone from brown to blonde, girl to boy, model to musician, and back again, all whilst being one of the most dynamic and genuine people I know.
First off, where are you?
I am currently in New Mexico learning how to build off-grid sustainable housing at a place called Earth Ship Biotecture.
Why did you decide to embark on this project? Does it have anything to do with your turning 30?
I think turning 30 makes you reconsider your life and what you actually give a shit about. I wanted to commit some time to the things that I’m always telling people I think are important.
How have your priorities shifted over the past decade?
When I was in my twenties I was very focused on what the world owed me, on how I could make my mark and be remembered. In my early twenties it was just about me wanting to be famous and rich, and using that fame and wealth to then put my money towards good causes. But now I want to be a part of the charity that I would donate to – be the person that’s making other people throw money at me!
How old were you when you started modelling? What has it taught you?
I started modelling when I was 24. Just before I became a model I was sexually assaulted and modelling actually helped me get over that a lot. The choice of how much I wanted to give myself to someone was taken away from me, and modelling kind of brought that back. It helped me take back the control of my body and to choose what people saw of me.
It’s also taught me how to be business woman. But it didn’t teach me how to save my money! (laughs)
You’ve done so many amazing things and been a part of so many interesting creative projects. What stands out as a highlight?
My band Vuvuvultures was a really special band. I got a chance to talk about things politically and views on the world that I may not have been able to do had I just been making music by myself. I was very proud of what we made.
Modelling-wise there’ve been a lot of things that I’ve been involved in where I didn’t know how big they were at the time, like shooting main fashion for Vogue with [Stephen] Meisel. I just did it and was like: “Oh this is cool” and then I look into it afterwards and I’m like: “Holy crap this guy’s kind of massive!”
What are you most proud of yourself for achieving right now?
I think I’m most proud of putting my money where my mouth is and actually committing to something and following through and doing it. Also, not drinking for 3 months.
What environment do you find most conducive to making music? Is there a particular city that gives you a particular energy?
I think I definitely write better in a non-city environment. When I’m in a city I find it much harder to let my mind be at ease enough to actually produce something that’s not just me freaking out about the world.
What are your feelings about New York? As someone who has lived here, London, Australia and Paris, what are the things that are quintessentially New York?
Pizza! (laughs) I don’t love New York very much at the moment so it’s hard to talk about it. To be honest I had 8 months where it was basically a black hole, so my memories are flashbacks of moments that I’d probably rather forget. But I’m going to give New York a second chance.
“There was a reputation that was sold along with my talent, and at the time I didn’t realise how integral it was to selling me as a product.”
You were married for a period of your 20s. How does it feel to have moved past that milestone so early?
It’s funny because even though it was a gay wedding it was for the most conventional reasons. I look back at it and I feel like it wasn’t a marriage for us, it was more a marriage for our family and friends.
Do you feel like music allows you more freedom to be yourself than fashion?
I think they are the same. For instance my band were unintentionally keeping me in a fucked up artist-type life because I was the front person. I think that in fashion, I was also kept like that a little bit – it was praised that I was a bit fucked-up. There was a reputation that was sold along with my talent, and at the time I didn’t realise how integral it was to selling me as a product.
Coming into this I definitely felt like I had to be a certain way, but as I’ve matured with music and fashion I’m becoming more confident in myself – I can dictate my image. I think that before, I used to try and play up to an image, now I feel like I can create the image of me.
How do you feel about being touted as the “androgynous” one in your modeling work? Do you feel there is a certain tokenism on account of being openly gay? Or do you find it empowering that the industry celebrates diversity?
I don’t really mind, fashion’s all about that. What you are, you’re gonna be a token for something. When you’re a model, you’re a brand, and you have to be sold as something. Fashion encourages and discourages individuality because if you haven’t come to them with a strong enough idea of who you are then they will put you in a box. The thing is though, if you try to make someone into something they’re not, then they’re gonna be shit at it!
The only bad thing is that sometimes I don’t get jobs because they don’t think I can be feminine enough. I’ve had a shoot not used before because they found out I was gay. I was hanging out with them afterwards and it came out that I was gay, and the designer turned around said: “Oh that’s weird. I probably wouldn’t have booked you if I’d known that. I would be worried you wouldn’t appeal to my male audience.” But I was like – “you booked me based on my pictures, not on my sexuality.” They never used the pictures.
What would you like to stand for now?
Be the change you want to see in the world. Hopefully when people look at me and see what I’m doing they can see that I am trying to be better for the world, and stop being selfish. Use the fact that I’m a young white woman in a first world country to actually do something.
Do you think 30 is an empowering age? What does it mean to be 30 in 2017?
I think the generation of people turning 30 this year, “87 babies”, we kind of slip through that gap of before and after internet, stuck between doing things the old way and the new way. People who are 5 years younger than us are a lot more savvy because they’ve grown up with it more. They had the internet when they were 10, but we had the internet when we were 15 and I think that it’s those years that you figure out how you’re going to be who you are. And then you figure it out again. And again… and again!
Interview by Georgia Graham
Photography by Mitchell Mclennan