10 Questions with our #CFFAs Backstage Experience Host: Jaé Joseph
This is your first time collaborating with Cinemoi to co-host The CFFAs Backstage Experience, which part of the CinéFashion Film Awards are you most excited about?
Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan, need I say more?
She is every woman, every human, every musical note.
As an artist and entrepreneur, what is your creative process usually like? How do you brainstorm and put ideas into action?
Normally I write in a journal and then a storyboard. I have an entire wall in my place now that is from floor to ceiling with about 8 mood boards, consisting of text, images, found objects, and post-its. As long as I can remember, I have been interested in how, through our consumption of and submersion in culture, we animate, motivate and inspire ourselves and others. The best, if often unwieldy, tool we have is our emotions. It is this tool that forges and informs our connections with others and with ourselves, undergirds our art and activism and shapes the landscape of our public life together. I often think our imagination and our emotions must be intrinsically linked, dependent on each other and kindred spirits. There is a connection between what we imagine for our lives and the energy of our emotions that spur us to action, as important today as it ever was, and our responsibility as artists and progenitors of culture is to try to stir something within the collective imagination and our emotions that not only allows us to be with others meaningfully, but to also encounter and be with ourselves.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from so many different aspects of everyday life, it could be a conversation with my family, architecture, music, or just simply being still and daydreaming. My work and my passion is to bring ideas, art and experiences to places and spaces in new and novel ways and to foster conversations at the messy, wild and fertile intersection of our emotions and imaginations. These conversations may be with others, at dinners convened in celebration of the immense contributions our communities continue to make to art or more intimate conversations that never leave the tender and thoughtful terrain of our hearts. And I’m a world-builder. Sometimes I build worlds that are my own visions (because I’m an artist) and sometimes I help others build their worlds, realize their own visions. I think this ability to oscillate between my own imagination and those of people I admire acts as a bridge; and so to then invite people into those worlds and invite them to enjoy them, experience them and feel them is what gets me out of bed.
Which fashion designers do you most admire and why?
At the moment I am really enjoying Christopher John Rogers, his use of color, the construction of the garments, and the whimsical playfulness are incredible.
Which filmmakers do you most admire and why?
Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, and Jordan Peele, each have carved out an aesthetic of their own.
Which form of entertainment could you simply not live without and why?
Film and theatre, both have been an intricate part of my life. Storytelling is the most expressive and vulnerable art form in my opinion. In 1944, James Baldwin wrote in a letter to his friend Tom Martin, “I think that art is positive and that it is directly responsible to life… I can see no virtue in art divorced from life or art which distorts or negates it.” Art, my first and most enduring cultural love, is a reflection of the human experience, and it is in this reflection of the human experience – as we experience it through art – that helps us to be, see and love ourselves. It’s why I sought out and was honored to work with artists who summoned from the depths and expanse of their lived experience as a queer, black, or a woman, is a dazzling portrait of the Black experience, the breadth of its beauty and the unmatched elegance of our form. In the artist’s expression of their experience, I see the women and men who nurtured me, the people who helped shape me into the man (and feminist) I’ve become. To walk alongside such artists is to encounter the divine, such is the power and resonance of individual experience shared for the collective heart.
As a founder of the Black Apothecary Office, you work with Black and Latinx entrepreneurs to help them grow their brands and businesses. What do you think is the most difficult part when it comes to incubating an idea and seeing it through?
The barriers to entry for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs are rooted in financial isolation. The biggest challenge that Black entrepreneurs face is access to capital or the difficulties experienced in attempting to get a bank loan. Some of the reasons have to do with lack of collateral, or with the fact that African Americans experience a wealth gap so large that few can jump through the fiscal hoops that many banks require.
“Social distancing” is a new term for some, but in the black community, it means something different. Can you elaborate on this?
We’ve long practiced social distancing to keep ourselves safe and lessen our chances of a shortened life span: not because of a contagious disease, but because of racism. The horrifying attack on Floyd, the agitated police call on birdwatcher Chris Cooper, the shooting death of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery, the police killing of Breonna Taylor, and all other recent assaults and killings of innocent African Americans are an all-too grim reminder: too many, people with black or brown skin are a threat simply because they exist. So we social distance.
What changes do you hope to see in the fashion and entertainment industries once the pandemic has ended?
I think we have been speaking of diversity and inclusion for so long that I am now just wanting to see people where they belong. Companies need to cease using this as a marketing tool. No more talking, just action!
What is your proudest moment?
My proudest moment was waking up one morning and deciding to just love me for who I am. Do away with what the world thinks you should be or what people say you can’t be. Authentically loving the person in the mirror more each day.