Interview and Photos by K. Cecchini
Tonight at Dawn: How did you conceive of Afro-Pinup and what the original inspiration for it?
IV Valentine: I came up with Afro-Pinup after looking at a book in the library on the history of the African-American Supermodel entitled SKIN DEEP.
The first page was about Josephine Baker. I thought, ‘WoW…this is where our history in beauty and fashion begins; Vaudeville, Burlesque, Pinup Modeling. And that’s how Afro-Pinup was born.
I was inspired by the idea that Women of Color have contributed so much to the American Entertainment Industry, but so few of them do we actually know anything about.
Tonight at Dawn: What are your top 3 goals for Afro-Pinup?
IV: My top 3 goals for Afro-Pinup are:
1-To create a coffee table book full of beautiful images inspired by the history of women of color in burlesque and performance art,
2-To archive this history so that it is available to generations after me,
3-And to create a network of support for other artist and artist development.
Tonight at Dawn: Please give us a brief history of African-American women as “pin up” women.
IV: Pinup Modeling goes all the way back to the late 18th early 19th century with what was then known as the “Gibson Girl”. Later during WW1 the image of a woman was referred to as a “pin-up” because it was traditionally tacked up on the wall. Early pin up models of color included major motion picture stars like Dorothy Dandridge and Lena Horne.
Tonight at Dawn: I know you and your husband, Sefu, have 3 beautiful girls of your own, how do you consciously try to encourage a positive self-image as they are young and as they grow into young women?
IV: Well, with our oldest Miriam, who just turned 8, we’ve always made sure to keep positive images around her and to expose her to events and literature that celebrate the beauty and intelligence of women of color
Tonight at Dawn: What about Sefu?
IV: Sefu has been a tremendous support to me and the girls. He’s always been very encouraging and reassuring that what I am doing is necessary and impactful even to him as a man of color. Throughout our marriage, Sefu has always made me feel pretty…
Tonight at Dawn: How have you developed your own positive self-image?
IV: It took time. Historically there is a lot of pain and shame associated with black beauty. It took me until very recently to appreciate my complexion, my hair, and my body type. It’s not easy and its definitely an on-going process. Being an artist is a tremendous help. The creative process has always brought about great revelation for me. I read and studied about black women and beauty. I looked myself in the mirror and began to appreciate what I saw.
Tonight at Dawn: What is your background in the arts?
IV: I started out as a Theater Major and that evolved into me becoming a makeup artist for stage, commercials, editorials, videos and weddings.
Tonight at Dawn: When I enter a magazine stand and look at a wall of female magazines, besides the ones geared towards a specific market like Essence, almost all of the covers are of thin, Caucasian women? What impacts do you think it has on our American culture and how can this be changed?
IV: People believe in images…they believe in what they see. Ultimately they believe in what they are told is beautiful, powerful, successful and desirable. This is what magazines do.
So, we have a society of people that believe the only women in the world are white, thin, and blonde…Unfortunately, society is repeatedly being lied to.
Change comes when people do change. That is why Afro-Pinup.
As an artist and activist this is My way of doing change. I am actively flooding all my timelines with images of Women of Color being beautiful, powerful, successful and desirable. The response has been overwhelming.
Tonight at Dawn: What type of projects have you done with Afro-Pinup? What are you planning for the future?
IV: Afro-Pinup has done several events as a means to fundraise for the project. Our first event was a Yoga & Mocktails event. Then we were blessed to partner with Atelier in Montclair, NJ. for Fashion Night Out Montclair sponsored by the Montclair BID.
What’s next? I’ll just say ‘something grand…stay tuned’.
Tonight at Dawn: Please share one quirky thing about you.
IV: Hmmm… I talk to myself out loud and I tend to answer my own questions. *hysterical laughter*