Oyster Convos: Internet/Art Experts Chat Activism, Body-Positivity & Keeping It Raw
Collaborate and listen.
In this world of Netflix-binges that are interrupted by the occasional need to eat, sleep, work and see your friends, it’s easy to forget the healing power of a good old fashioned chat. The gift of the gab is something we recently rediscovered when four of Sydney’s coolest creative ladies came by our office to talk about the importance of inclusion, making things with friends and keeping it raw — which they define as being honest, vulnerable, minimal and unapologetic.
Kitted out in the freshest G-Star RAW threads, Pitch Zine founder Christie Morgan, co-creator and Editor in Chief at The Ladies Network, Arabella Peterson, dancer and founder of Groove Therapy, Vanessa Marian, and blogger Yan Yan Chan chatted through their creative process; from when they feel most uninhibited to how they get in the zone, the girls gave us so many words to live by. They also riffed on the wise words of Pharrell Williams, legendary musician and Head of Imagination at G-Star RAW, who said “Raw is not a noun. Raw is a verb”, encouraging us to look at what lies beneath the things we choose to wear, do and be. So grab a cuppa and tuck into their convo, we promise you’ll learn a thing or two.
ON THE CREATIVE INDUSTRY IN AUSTRALIA
Christie Morgan: I think it’s been really good. I’m new to Sydney, and I felt like when I got here, it was very open. Everyone forms friendships through the creative community but it was still really inviting and people were really open to collaborating and things like that.
Arabella Peterson: I think it’s really exciting being in the creative industry at the moment because I feel like the scene in Australia is still kind of up-and-coming and growing. So I feel like it’s a good time to be involved. But I do feel, on the other hand, that there’s still tall poppy syndrome in the creative industries, especially in Australia. I feel like sometimes people aren’t so supportive of what other people are doing, and maybe there’s still a bit of competitiveness there. But it’s getting better as it grows.
Vanessa: There’s sort of two aspects to me, because the dance industry is a whole world on its own and then there’s the creative industry as a whole. And I feel like myself, along with maybe one or two other dancers, almost have a monopoly within the creative industry because the dancers just stick to themselves. And, because there isn’t much of a career, the dancers are really young; most of them drop off by 21, 22. So it’s really collaborative for me because I don’t really have competition per se when I enter the creative industry. But at the same time, I almost wish people didn’t stick to their own lanes so much and there was a bit more multidisciplinary work.
Yan Yan: I haven’t really had any bad experiences, everyone’s been really supportive, but it’s been really interesting seeing the bloggers-sphere and then working with print and publishing. I’ve found, I don’t know if it’s because the print world is being pushed to be more open with working with the digital scene, that there has been a more positive response from that. But I think because it also is such a small community compared to other countries, I think everyone is quite open and quite supportive of each other, especially when it comes to collaborating.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF FRIENDSHIPS & COLLABORATION
Arabella: Friendship has been kind of everything in terms of The Ladies Network because it started as just a group of friends who just wanted to do something experimental and fun together, and it was never meant to turn into what it’s turned into. So I think that by working with your friends, and people that you get along with and love, it can really inspire you, and things can grow, and you can do what you want to do; you can be honest, creative and experimental. So I think friendship is really important in that sense.
Vanessa: My dance classes were actually born out of stepping away from the idea of a scene and towards the idea of a community. So we have so many friendships and even relationships that have formed through these dance classes and that’s been such a big source of collaboration. When people come to class and then afterwards are like, “Let’s work on a project”.
ON WHEN THEY FEEL MOST FREE
Christie: I feel most relaxed and at ease when I’m off the internet, like, when I’m not online or just with my family or my boyfriend and all my friends, just hanging out interpersonally. That’s definitely when I feel most relaxed and most detached from the stresses.
Arabella: I love reading books. Things like that, which I do very rarely, but I love it and it’s when I step away from the madness sometimes that you get locked into… I feel like young people are never going to know what boredom feels like. They have their phone on constantly. They’re never going to know what it’s like just to have nothing to do, when you just sit there getting bored.
Vanessa: We’re such adrenaline junkies, aren’t we? Life has to always be amazing. Otherwise, it’s just like, not happy.
ON WHAT THE WORD “RAW” MEANS TO THEM
Christie: I was going to say like, simple, or minimal, or something. That’s kind of how I see it… or broken down or something like that.
Arabella: I would say, honest and stripped back. That’s probably how I’d describe “raw”.
Vanessa: Being unapologetically yourself.
Yan Yan: For me, I thought of being vulnerable. Because I feel like, especially ’cause we’re always on the internet and posting all these images and seeing other curated images, you forget to be raw. So when you do get the chance to strip back and be honest, it’s quite vulnerable sometimes.
ON HOW THEY ~GET IN THE ZONE~
Vanessa: Music. A good SoundCloud trawl.
Christie: I like to make a mood board, I love a good mood board. No matter what it is, I think I see very visually whereas maybe you see more, I don’t know… [to Arabella]
Arabella: Yeah, written.
Christie: I’m kinetic.
Arabella: I’m like that but in a writing light, I need to have everything laid out in front of me but it’s all lists; my emails need to be in sections and it’s all written down. I think I get into the zone if I’m feeling like I’m on top of my work and it’s all compartmentalised.
ON THEIR CREATIVE HEADSPACE
Vanessa: I’m just present. If it’s something that I’m emotionally attached to especially; I’m not thinking of the past, I’m not thinking about what this could turn into in the future, I’m just like there. That’s usually a class or a cool rehearsal for something.
Christie: Yeah, mine’s pretty empty, to be honest. I just kind of embrace what’s happening and not think too much.
Arabella: Time flies but I have so much buzzing in my head, and it sounds so dorky but when I’m writing and I’m getting really excited about what I’m writing and I’m on a roll, I get so excited, it’s like an adrenalin rush. Yeah… so that’s really lame.
ON THEIR DEFINITION OF BEAUTY
Vanessa: I think for me it’s rocking what you’re born with. I grew up, I guess Indian and however I look, in Australian suburbia, in Perth, and the media, especially in the 90s will never tell you that I’m beautiful. There’s one definition of ‘beautiful’ in Australia, I find, and that’s slowly changing which is really cool. So, it’s only about five years ago, four years ago that I even rocked my hair curly. I would straighten it every day. I grew up in a culture where you’re told to bleach your skin, try to be as light as possible. So, it’s a big deal for me to just be like, “fuck yeah, I’m rocking my skin and my hair!”
Christie: Yeah, I think, for instance I used to straighten my hair, and my family would be like: “why don’t wear your hair curly? Be natural and beautiful, you know, just be you.” But I felt that maybe I liked being the person with straight hair, or whatever. I just think that beauty is really like what you’re comfortable being. And if that’s not okay to certain people, whatever.
Arabella: I feel like I’ve had a long journey of coming to terms with the fact that physical beauty is so, so low down on what makes you you and what’s important. When I was young I used to think that being beautiful and tall and skinny was the be all and end all, and you’d be so happy and so fulfilled if you could just be like that. But now I realise it’s what’s going on in your mind as well as how you make people feel; because if someone makes me feel really happy and comfortable and is kind to me, then in my head they’re beautiful and I see them as such a beautiful person.
ON THE BEST AND WORST THINGS ABOUT THE INTERNET
Arabella: I think social media is amazing in the way that it opens up opportunities and lets you have a platform where you can really promote your creative work or what you do and who you are. But I do feel sad that young people will grow up not knowing what it’s like not to be connected by phone all the time. I didn’t get MySpace until I was 17, and even then I never used it. So I feel like I really got to know who I was outside of who I was online, before I started to put out who I was online, and I feel like that was an important growing stage for me when I was young. I just feel kind of sad for the really young people now, that they’ll be restricted in the sense that everything that they do will probably be out there on social media.
Christie: Especially ’cause we don’t really know the effects of how that will change in the long term.
Vanessa: Yeah, we haven’t developed social media etiquette… And social media makes being famous seem that much more accessible. It seems like ‘if I just post the right picture’ or ‘if I just get that big break’ I can get famous. It’s not just Hollywood anymore, so a lot of my students especially in the dance realm are just obsessed with being famous. Like, I had one person tell me her only goal in life was to be famous and she didn’t care what it was for.
Yan Yan: Yeah, I get that as well because a lot of my following are quite young… [One time] these two really young school girls, they must’ve been 13 or 14, came up to me and were like, “Oh, how do you become Instagram famous? Because I want to pursue that”. It was so bizarre to me trying to explain that like, it’s not about the fame, it’s not really like a career path, it’s more the work.
Arabella: I feel like if you explained how the world is now to someone ten years ago, they’d be like, “that is not going to happen”, like, you’re not going to have followers who exist online and that makes you a more valid person because you have these internet interactions. They’d laugh at that, but that’s the way it is now.
ON STAYING WOKE ONLINE
Vanessa: I heard someone give a talk where they said something really interesting; they said because of the internet, knowledge is no longer power because it’s just available. Anyone can find it. It’s more what you do with it. And I find that with the dance industry, especially teaching a lot of global styles of dance and street styles, there’s a lot of information, but there’s also a lot of misinformation. I have this strange sort of advantage that I could manipulate and use in that I could put anything up to my Australian audience and be like, “this is a hip-hop move” and most people wouldn’t know any better. But I feel like I really don’t want to culturally appropriate a lot of those dance styles and where they come from and the history and take away from the people who created these genres of dance and movement. To me, I hope that whatever I put out, an OG would see it, if I go to New York or whatever and meet them, and they’d be like: “That’s legit! You’re repping us well in Australia”. That’s really important because it doesn’t happen enough in Australia. I think a lot of culture gets thrown around without people thinking twice about the symbolism of that bindi or that headdress or that movement or that music.
Arabella: I guess, with feminism and activism, that kind of thing, is what I do gravitate towards because I love it and I’m passionate about it. I think that we should be striving to be as open-minded and educated about things as possible and inclusive in what we put out there, but I do think that there’s this outrage culture where nobody gives anyone else room to learn or room to make mistakes. I feel like, the articles that I write, I read through them a million times and say “Have I said anything that can be taken offensively?”, “Should I take that out because it might come across wrong?” because that could be torn down so quickly. I think that’s not a very productive way to be. You should avoid being offensive at all costs, but I don’t think we should stifle each other’s right to an informed opinion or right to a respectful opinion just because someone says some things that you don’t agree with… I feel like there’s like one way to be these days. It’s like this tiny narrowed point of how to be, you know, the perfect feminist or the perfect activist, and if you don’t fit into that, then you’re problematic in a way. It’s important to try not to be problematic at all but we still need to be kind to each other.
Vanessa: I was talking to Tom Tilley from Hack and he was saying that most people aren’t as informed as they think they are, because their Facebook feed just perpetuates what they already believe — it gives them articles that they’re already aligned with. So they actually aren’t as informed on both sides of the story. I have another friend who works for the BBC in New York, and he was saying, you look at the New Yorker and they are super left and you know most publications are really, really left, and it actually prevents you from having a proper informed opinion.
Arabella: We never thought [Trump] would get elected, because, especially on social media we live in an echo-chamber. And especially in the bubble of middle-class Sydney, we live in an echo-chamber where you’re surrounded by people who are progressive and maybe socially active, which is a great thing, but it doesn’t leave you room to learn and to realise why things are the way they are, and how we can change them; because if you are only surrounding yourself by people who want to change it in a particular way then you’ll never realise why things are the way they are.
Christie: Yeah, I think you should question things as well. If all your friends believe in one thing, or one opinion, I think that you should go and research that; if you don’t fully understand, you know? Rather than just following them and thinking I should feel the same way.
Photography & fashion: Gadir Rajab
Hair & make-up: Kristen Brett
Hair & make-up assistant: Madeleine Jurd
Models: Yan Yan Chan, Christie Morgan, Arabella Peterson, Vanessa Marian
All clothing G-Star RAW