What was your experience like growing up in the UK?
It’s hard to be objective because I have nothing to compare it to, but I remember my childhood being fun, creative and full of laughter. I was born near Birmingham in the Midlands, but grew up in the South West near the sea surrounded by beautiful countryside. My Dad had a cheap old red Citroen 2CV, which would always break down. He would drive us to school in it and everyday in the summer with the roof rolled back. We didn’t have many other kids living nearby so my brother and I would spend a lot of time playing music, arguing and casting spells. Thinking back it was pretty idyllic.
Are schools generally supportive of creative kids?
Even though the creative industries are worth well over £90bn to the UK economy, schools generally can’t afford to invest in creative education. As our disgraceful conservative government continues to cut funding to schools the arts continue to suffer. When I was in school I had some wonderful teachers who recognised my creativity, but more broadly speaking I think there’s little sense of value or possibility attributed to creative pursuits in school. Children are being forced to consider their futures with a terrifying sense of certainty from a really young age and I think that’s really damaging.
How early were you interested in the clothes you wore?
I’ve been interested in clothes and fashion from as young as I can remember. I come from a long line of fabulous women, so I think that has something to do with it. My Nan, who was disabled and unable to walk unassisted, used to insist on wearing high-heeled shoes every single day. She took a great deal of pride in looking put together. I also have such vivid memories of my Mum, a very glamorous woman, heading off to work in a really fabulous suit and high heels. Before she would leave the house she would apply some Top Cote, a famously chemically substance, over her lipstick, and only after she put this on would she kiss me goodbye, stinging my lips. I would ask her why she wore something that hurt like that, and she would say that it’s worth the sting to look good.
I’ve understood from really early on that what you wear tells a story and that’s always fascinated me. I love the idea that in your everyday life you can create a character or an impression through how you look. I had a habit when I was younger, which I haven’t quite grown out of, of cutting my clothes up to try and make them look cooler or more unusual. Unsurprisingly, this had varying levels of success, but by doing this I really gained an appreciation of how clothes are made and I started to understand how playful clothes can be.
When did you first decide you were going to be an artist?
I had a fairly limited understanding of what art was, or could be, when I was young. My interest in clothes, penchant for theatrics and fascination with pop-culture, in my mind at least, translated to wanting to be a fashion designer, an actor or a journalist. As a teenager I was frustrated because I felt like there were too many, ostensibly disconnected things, that I wanted to pursue.
Over time I came to see myself as an artist because I saw that my interests all manifested in art and performance and film. Moreover, I came to understand that those things weren’t mutually exclusive.
How much does your body inform your work?
My body informs my work a lot. My work navigates the polarisation of masculinity, particularly within performance art. By pitching camp and machismo against each other, my work actually presents a mediated understanding of male identities and this plays into bodies too. I think there’s something really funny about making work that speaks about a sort of underwhelming normality.
Believe me, I know that there’s art being made at the moment that is much more important than mine. The world doesn’t need another cis-gendered white male artist yabbering on about identity but, I’m an artist and my work really just tries to offer some levity in a complicated and unfair world. The best reaction I could ever wish for with my work is for someone to laugh at it.
How did you connect with ASOS as their plus size model?
A friend of mine recommended me because he knew someone at ASOS and had heard that they were looking for plus sized male models. I dismissed the idea and thought nothing of it but, when they messaged me the measurements they needed I fit the bill exactly. Even though I would never have thought of myself as a model, I had done a six-month residency on live TV with my brother Shy Charles and my best friend Liv Fontaine as a performative-fashion-comedy trio called Best City Fashion (check it out!) so, being in front of a camera felt natural for me. I went in for a test shoot the following day and the rest is history.
Do you feel connected to a body conscious scene in London?
I'm drinking a soy latte, I get a double shottay, it goes right through my body and you know I'm satisfied. I drive my mini cooper and I'm feeling super-duper, yo they tell I'm a trooper and you know I'm satisfied. I do yoga and pilates and the room is full of hotties so I'm checking out the bodies and you know I'm satisfied. I'm digging on the isotopes, this metaphysics shit is dope and if all this can give me hope you know I'm satisfied.
shoes by Christopher Shannon, vintage shorts, jumper by Fruit of the Loom, vintage jacket, hat by Paul Smith / shoes by Dr Marten, vintage shorts & shirt / shoes by Christopher Shannon, vintage shorts, jacket by Wacky Wacko, vintage hat / shoes by ASOS, jeans by Levis, vintage shirt & jacket / shoes by Dr Marten, vintage chaps, shorts by Levis, belt by ASOS, hoodie by ASOS, vintage jacket