Original Photo Credit: Aundre Larrow
Some days you wake up to find some one or some thing that has gone viral, such happened to me when I discovered The New Stereotype, a while back. The image series– sharpening the Black male stereotype through the lens of fashion–is curated by Marquelle Turner. An inspiration turned friend-in-my-head, Marquelle and I conversed about his life, journey, his [graytness], his current endeavors, and his words of motivation in his GRAYT People Profile.
With approximately 8 minutes of your time, enjoy Marquelle’s candid and inspirational responses to questions curated to address the importance of faith on this roller-coaster we call life, the impact of living abroad on the black identity, and the importance of creating positive imagery in the next four years, amongst other things.
We open discussing what cultivated his creativity, at an early age.
- How did growing up in a small town in North Carolina birth your dreams and give life to your imagination?
Marquelle: Growing up in a small, rural town in North Carolina, all I had was my imagination. There wasn’t much to do and I grew up with a limited income, so I let my thoughts take me places I couldn’t otherwise have gone. I can say as an adult that imaginative trait still exists today and allows me to be optimistically open-minded in an unconventional way.
- Living abroad has a way of broadening the lens in which we interpret life. How did living abroad in the south of France shift your perception and/or internalization of your identity & blackness?
Marquelle: Living abroad in the south of France and now in the Middle East, has allowed me to understand the global perception of black men and women in a much more complex way. I don’t personally feel like I’m a representative for all black people but unfortunately we are grouped as one and when people see me they want me to help affirm their “black narrative.” I can say that what I’ve been very proud about is making sure that I’m unapologetic about being a Black American. From my discussions on music and culture to politics and civic rights, I’ve been very candid about what that means to me as a black man. In the past, I may have reverted to a “code switch” but now I’m much more comfortable being transparent. While the world watches and is well aware of the many challenges back in the States, I want them to know my spirits are still high and I’m very hopeful about progress. I can also say in Europe and the Middle East they’re a bit more open minded about bringing your true self to the table, so that certainly helps.
- Every now and then, when we experience doubt and/or discouragement, we return to various values we internalized in our upbringing. What are three (3) specific institutions (home, college, city, church, small group, etc.) that shape(d) the pursuit of creatively impacting society in a formal and/or informal manner?
Marquelle: For me the three institutions that have shaped the pursuit of creatively impacting society undoubtedly include: church (various churches throughout my life), undergraduate (Fayetteville State University), and a small group of friends mostly based in Brooklyn that I affectionately call “Lit Fam”.
- Church: I grew up in the church and didn’t have a choice on going or not (lol). My grandmother forced me to go but later on in life the principles and values I learned within that small church served as “saving graces” during very difficult periods in my life. Furthermore, those principles gave me a certain level of confidence to pursue a few eclectic ideas.
- University: Going to Fayetteville State University constantly reminded me of our ability to “do both.” We can wear the finest of clothing and appreciate the most ratchet music and we can wear joggers and Yeezys and discuss political reform.
- The Lit Fam: My very close friends from Brooklyn, are a group of friends who further reinforced the beauty of being yourself and being comfortable in every aspect of your life. We all have nicknames and I am jokingly called “Magical Marq”. I can’t tell you why (lol), but I can say that they’ve allowed me to be myself and it has spilled over into other aspects of my life. This uninhibited environment propels my thoughts and confirmed one of the first events I helped plan called Tuxedos, Toasts, and Trap.
- What do you identify as your differentiating factor among other style influencers & creatives?
Marquelle: Great question. You know, I don’t consider myself an influencer at all. I consider myself a “man who’s accepted his right to live life in a very full way”. If I had to say there was something that set me “apart” it is simply understanding that I don’t want to cater to a brand that’s not authentic to myself. A few months ago I decided not to work with any brands as an influencer but rather to use my social media outlets as a forum for sharing stories of not only myself, but also others. Life is not this pretty packaged product that comes with assembly instructions. Life is difficult and it forces you to make very hard decisions. I’ve been candid about my struggles and I use my imagery to tell stories not to sell products and ideas.
- What advice can you give another millennial or young professional on the importance of bravery in pursuing one’s personal [graytness]?
I’m currently in Qatar working for one of the largest groups on a luxury experience center as a Menswear Buyer and Commercial Lead. My goals are still formulating but right now, I want to be a men’s fashion director for a luxury retailer. I decided to do The New Stereotype because I didn’t feel the need to be hired to do something or be given permission to do something that I was already equipped to do. One of my roommates in college, Steve, once told me “God doesn’t look for ability, but He does look for availability.” Those words will always stick with me because for a while I didn’t know my worth. I was scouring the earth looking for someone to calculate it for me and we know if you leave it up to someone else they will discount you every time. Everything we want in life is on the other side of fear. As long as you’re not afraid to struggle, what you want is within reach. Perhaps one day TNS will be a full-time venture for me, but it isn’t something I do for the money but because I love my people.
- What are three (3) routine practices you deem important in consistently aligning your purpose with your profession?
- First, looking ahead and what could be and tracing a map back to where I am currently.
- Second, taking time to detach from the world from time to time. I put my phone away, I listen to music, and I just think. I don’t answer messages and I just clear my mind.
- Lastly, talking to God and trying to listen more always helps with my alignment.
(Photo, Top: Aundre Larrow; Photo, Middle: Olushola Bashorun)
- The New Stereotype is all about challenging the status quo on the visual perception and visual representation of the Black Man in Westernized society, specifically America, why do you believe this will be a significant pursuit in the next four years?
Marquelle: The New Stereotype highlights and celebrates the many diverse layers of black life in America. I am encouraging my melanated brothers and sisters to take the writing instruments of life and to construct their own narrative. Earlier in the year, I read “The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color” by Kathy Russell and I learned about the deep-rooted cultural washing that black men and women have faced throughout the years. I want us to be proud of whom we are in every form and/or shape. The name “the new stereotype” is actually a pun because there isn’t anything new. I am simply sharing the stories of amazing people through a fashion lens and providing a platform. This will continue because there are many stories to share and not enough platforms to share them!
- What are three (3) impacting scriptures/quotes/mantras that you use to guide your life?
- Proverbs 18:16 – “Your gift will make room for you and bring you before great men.”
- “You can complain because a rose has thorns or you can rejoice because a thorn has roses, it is all about perspective.”
- Let the beauty of what you love be what you do
- What is one show (episode or series), song, movie, and/or book that has motivated you to constantly push towards your dreams?
Marquelle: “F.D.A.” by Alex Isley changed my life. When I moved to NYC a little over two years ago, I came on a wing and a prayer. I had no money saved up and no true job prospects. I was sleeping on a couch and trying to find my way in life. I remember sitting and listening to that song for about 4 hours and crying repeatedly. The song is about her losing the man that she thought was meant to be her soul mate and trying to make sense of this feeling of it all slowly falling down away. This specific message does not relate to me at all, but the feeling of losing it all did.
What did speak to me is this idea of shedding myself of expectations, worry, and this thought that I needed approval or dependence for completion. Once I brought myself to the core of life, I found out what was important. It was a liberating feeling and sticks with me to this day. It’s a constant reminder of what is truly important. Because of this I don’t need to “flex,” buy certain clothes, live in certain places, or be friends with anyone. I’m not driven by money and I’m focused on what makes me happy.
- What was one moment of personal failure or personal success that would motivate someone else to persevere towards fulfilling their dream?
Marquelle: On my site, I have a spot called “Last Night I Gave Up.” This blog is about me surrendering to the flow of life and managing my perspective. One day while at work (back in NYC), I was working late and I was very overwhelmed. I was asking my colleague, Kriti, for some support and I just started crying out of nowhere. I was so frustrated with life and I wasn’t very happy at all. I went into the bathroom and inside of a stall I said, “God, I give up. I don’t know what to do!” I didn’t know what that statement meant at the time, but I later understood it meant to just trust in the process. Understand that it all has a purpose and a part of a much bigger design. These things aren’t happening to you but happening for you. My friend, Porscha, told me about a year ago, “Marquelle, you’ve gotta get your faith up.” And she was right. Faith is like a muscle and in order for it to grow, you have to pull, push, run, jump, and work. Now isn’t the time to throw in the towel, but rather to take the towel, wipe your sweat off and keep pushing. Even I get discouraged sometimes, but I’ll never stop pulling, pushing, running, jumping, and working!
[GRAYT PEOPLE] Profile Series curates an informational collective of inspirational individuals who have shown what it means to mobilize confidence to challenge [GOOD] and mobilize courage to champion [GRAYT]—highlighting their past, their journey to their [graytness], their efforts and ethics, their motivation, and their aspirations.