Originating from South London, Chyna is that cool kid next door that everyone wants to be friends with. She has an exuberant personality, a well suited TV personality. Yep, I personally think Chyna should have her own show. She’s stylish, she’s sassy, she’s outspoken and intelligent as hell. What I also admire about Chyna is that she doesn’t feed into popular opinion. We live in such an image-conscious society, so that kind of individuality and confidence is so refreshing to see. Not only is this evident in her experimental and colourful fashion sense, but also in her opinions on culture. On a deeper level, Chyna’s experimental fashion sense has much wider connotations. Personally, the way she breaks boundaries with her style, inspires me to take risks in my own life. Beyond the scope of fashion, I’m reminded to take risks in my career, to live, to move out of my comfort zone and not live in regret.
Aside from being a cool kid, Chyna delves into photography and has a wicked aesthetic! At the young age of 20, she has already managed to make a number of connections in the industry.
She has grasped the art of networking, opening herself up to a world of possibilities. She is an unstoppable force with a positive outlook on life. She is set to do BIG things. She sat down for a full-length casual conversation…
Let’s get straight in shall we. Your quirky fashion sense, how did it come to be? Can you name some of your style inspirations?
I’m so random, you never know what you’re going to get with me. I do like to surprise people. I find it difficult to say where I gain inspiration from. I feel like it just happens naturally. I don’t even realise that I’ve just soaked in some inspiration.
Rihanna has a pretty huge influence on my fashion sense. I like how she changes it up from one outfit to the next. I’m also obsessed with how she styles a lot of oversized pieces, adding a very edgy and sexy touch. I honestly have no words to explain just how much I adore Rihanna. Like sis…please stop snatching my edges and taking my coins! I secretly think I’m a little bit to obsessed with her…but isn’t everyone?
I think we all can admire how daring and innovative her fashion sense is!
I received the biggest compliment a few months ago and it honestly gave me chills. Someone said to me, “if Will Smith aka The Fresh Prince of Bel Air had a little sister, it would be you”. I couldn’t believe that someone would put me in the same category as Will Smith. Although, I’m obsessed with the 90s, I don’t have a particular style. I wear what I want, when I want. I don’t like the feeling of being restricted. I just like to have fun with it, whilst breaking the rules of course…
You produced some awesome shots for menswear brand M.P by Mimi Poliana. Just how did that collaboration come about?
Thank you! Honestly, it was an absolute pleasure to be involved in such an incredible project. I appreciate that I was given the opportunity to contribute some of my own magic to the project.
So, if you don’t know HOT SINCE 91 is one of the only karaoke nights in London, that is dedicated strictly to 90s music. Three rooms of pure nostalgia, games and music – one of the biggest club nights in London. I happen to work very closely with them. We’ve had two incredible years. That’s actually how my friendship with Chris came to be. Listen, Christopher has the best energy in the world. I thought I had the best energy, when it comes to turning up. But, I met my match when I met Chris. I’m so grateful that I have someone as talented, hardworking and beautiful as Christopher in my life. He was in the queue for the photo booth, serving pure Fresh Prince of Bel Air vibes. We just clicked ever since. We’re ALWAYS ready for good vibes.
He got in contact with me and explained that Mimi was in the process of producing her final collection at university. As soon as I saw a few pieces of her work, I instantly fell in love. I knew how much pressure she was under so, I wanted to lend a helping hand. I know how stressful it is to study Fashion Design. It’s not easy being a student and I made it my mission to take away some of that stress. We all agreed to meet up at Ravensbourne, to hold a meeting about the entire project. I wanted to make sure that I had a clear understanding of her vision. It’s a completely different story when you’re creating your own visuals. When you’re creating for someone else, you have to take every single detail into consideration. It was a collection that was deeply influenced by the art of psychedelics.
She’s based her entire concept around how your mind and thought process changes, when your consciousness is altered by the psychedelic drugs.
I had such a wonderful morning, shooting the lookbook for Mimi’s final university collection with the ultimate dream team. I’m incredibly proud of her, as I know she was super duper stressed with everything to do with her deadline. She’s such a talented and gorgeous little flower with such a bright future ahead of her! You’ve just got to support your friends progressions. I’m the type of person who is going to work my way to the top, bringing everyone with me. We haven’t got time to be leaving anyone behind. You only get one life and I think it’s so important to be kind and good to people.
Love that mentality! Wow…how psychedelic drugs alter your consciousness. That’s crazy. Mimi is so ahead of the game. You can see the concept so clearly in her designs. The fact that she is able to capture that so vividly is amazing. She’s hit the nail on the head, in a way you wouldn’t expect to see normally.
Yes! I attended Christ The King Sixth Form College about three years ago. So, that’s how my wonderful friendship blossomed with my love Troy. We’ve been so close ever since. I literally class him as family. Almost everyone thinks that we are siblings, so we just run with it. Troy is one of my closest friends. We don’t even have to see each other all the time, we just pick up where we last left off. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain how proud I am of his growth. I will always continue to praise him and forward opportunities his way!
I’m just so lucky to have the waviest bunch of friends man!
It’s great seeing your creative style and that emulated in your photography. You recently did a shoot for @shopslit sporting their beige v-neck slit set. Which do you prefer and why, being behind the camera or in front of it?
You’re just killing it with the compliments throughout this interview girl.
Haha, just stating facts!
I personally enjoy being behind the camera. That’s my profession and where I feel most confident. I don’t have an exact reason why. I just think it’s because I’ve got such a special love for photography. I get lost in shooting and it feels wonderful.
A lot of people appreciate my personal style. That is the main reason why I get to undertake such awesome jobs. I just like to lend a helping hand when I can really. I’m not somebody who’s going to run and add “Model” to my Instagram bio. That’s not how I see myself, if I’m totally honest. If an opportunity comes my way, I’m definitely going to take it. You only have one life, so why not make the most of it?
My profession isn’t being a model, so that does have to be taken into consideration. I do find modelling slightly nerve-racking actually. Simply because, I’m not really sure how I should pose or anything like that. I feel like I literally just pull the same facial expression in every photograph. I swear. I do enjoy the modelling side of things though, I just don’t think it will ever be my profession. It would be pretty cool to become a professional model though. But, do you know what’s so disappointing? I will never see those photographs. It turns out that the photographer’s backpack went missing, whilst he was at the airport. It had all his equipment inside, including the memory card. I don’t know what happened exactly. It’s very unfortunate. I was gutted, but it was still a great experience!
Wow, that’s unfortunate. It’s good that you can excel in a number of things and that you don’t limit yourself. So, what do you love most about photography? What do you hope to capture through your pictures?
From a very young age, I’ve always had a passion for photography. I would takeover the family camera on vacation and just start snapping away, like my life depended on it. I am now collaborating with other creative individuals, to produce exciting projects and concepts. I do this whilst working independently to build up my own personal portfolio, with the plans of setting up my own photography and lifestyle blog. I really do love fashion photography! Why do I love it?
Well, for me, it’s vivid colours and strong compositions.
I admire the fact that as a fashion photographer, I go to great lengths to get what I require out of a shoot. Even if that involves sleepless nights, editing on Photoshop or spending days travelling to different locations, to produce spectacular outcomes. I think it’s all about the excitement – the overall buzz that kicks in. Once I’m behind the camera, my magic is performed and brought to life.
Photography is something that I get so immersed in. I lose myself in shooting, all my worries and daily stresses just melt away. It’s a great form of art and self-expression. It continuously grows on you. To put it simply, it’s just something I find easy to do. Though, it comes with it’s challenges it is also very enjoyable. Some images can change the way you view the world for the rest of your life. Strong stuff.
Strong stuff indeed. Likewise, I get so immersed in writing. It’s like a whole other reality, one where I can really express myself and showcase who I am within.
Definitely and photography changes the way you see things.
It’s actually quite an incredible transformation to experience. Suddenly, you begin to notice light, shapes, colour and textures. In fact, the list is endless.
Everything around you looks different when you start to see the world as a photographer. Your mind starts to form cycles, you start noticing small details and you inevitably start to see how much beauty is around you.
Everyday is filled with it in the most ordinary and unexpected places.
When you begin to feel happiness from seeing some particularly awesome light, it is at that point that you’ll realise that photography has altered your everyday experience. It’s always such a blessing to create absolute magic with such incredible souls. I’m just so grateful that I’m given the opportunity to create and perfect my craft everyday. When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear. True learning takes energy and a burning desire. I hope to convey self-love and equality through my photos. I want people to be able to observe my photography and feel like they can connect with my visuals in some way. When people take a moment to look at my photography, I want them to automatically pinpoint that it’s my work.
That sense of individuality is really important in an industry that seems to be so saturated with photographers. Often, I find it difficult to differentiate between who truly values the art form of photography and who is simply just in it for the culture. Just by the way you described it, I can see how passionate you are about the art form. That same passionate resonates with me and writing. You put that perfectly to be honest. Standing out is key.
Aside from taking photographs, what other cool things do you like to do in your spare time? Can you put the readers onto any cool places to hangout in London?
I’ve always been a home girl. I adore the comfort of being in my own home. I think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. I’m not even sure if that saying is even relevant right now. It sounded pretty cool, so I’m just going to slide it in this interview lol! As I’ve matured with age, I’ve learnt to appreciate the smaller things so much more. I soon came to the realisation, that a lot of my time and energy was being wasted on some people who didn’t deserve it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret any of my movements. Looking back, I definitely experienced a few learning curves. This is why I decided to take a few steps back to focus on my growth as an individual. I just feel overjoyed now whenever I’m snuggled up in bed, with an oversized hoodie, messy hair accompanied by Netflix and plenty of food.
Wise words. Huge netflix fan right here as well by the way!
I watch an unhealthy load of television, reality shows especially. On the sly, I pretend to act like I’m not interested, but you’ll catch me peering over the laptop to get involved.
Haha, I’m a massive Made in Chelsea fan. So, what type of shows do you watch on Netflix? Stranger Things fan?
How could I forget my love for Stranger Things? What? I haven’t had an obsession with a television series for such a long time. I didn’t know what to do with myself once I finished watching season two. At the moment, I’m just living the good old binge-watch life until season three gets released. If you haven’t seen Stranger Things then you need to stop reading this interview and spend the next couple of hours catching up. Once you watch one episode you will automatically get sucked in and you may even get caught by the Demogorgon. So, good luck. Also, if you think your house is lit, you haven’t been to Joyce Byers’ home yet…
LOL! Shoutout’s for cool spots in London?
Well, I do spend a lot of my time in Carnaby Street! I work in a beautiful shoe store called Irregular Choice, which is out of this world! So, if you do happen to be in the area pop in and say hello I won’t bite! Come shake a leg or two and join the glitter collective. It’s such a laid back environment, which is really refreshing. If I’m completely honest, it’s quite hard to pinpoint all of the cool things I like to do in my spare time.
Hopefully, you get a few friendly faces popping in to say hello to you at work. If you had to compare yourself to any chocolate bar, what would it be?
I’d like to describe myself as a Kinder Surprise, with the chocolate shell you crack open to reveal the wonderful toy inside. I’m very spontaneous. I never know what I’m going to get up to. I have scheduled days, but I do enjoy when I can just wake up and see where the day is going to take me. I think the best things happen when they aren’t necessarily planned. I’m just chilled. I love being at home with my mum and my little brother watching films and catching jokes.
I ALSO LOVE TO BANTER! I would say 99.9% of the time, I am laughing at myself and my own jokes. I think I’m hilarious, in fact I don’t think – I know. I’m really just my own best friend and I can entertain myself for days. If you follow me on Instagram, you will be well aware of my famous videos that get uploaded to my story quite frequently. Videos of me making a fool of myself. I’ll put a playlist on shuffle and just pretend that I’m in a music video and lip-sync. It gives me so much power and makes me feel as though I’m the musician who created such a masterpiece. It’s getting a bit out of hand now. I’m receiving song requests as if I’m presenting on CapitalXtra. I don’t know if I can handle that type of fame if I’m honest.
It’s funny because I do the same, I’ll send random videos to my friends. They all know I’m a little eccentric. So, how would you describe your artistic style?
I would definitely say that I am influenced by my childhood and my upbringing. A lot of moments in my life have been documented. I feel like that has had a huge impact on my fascination for photography and filmmaking. I’m also very proud to be a woman of colour. I truly love and appreciate my blackness. I can’t explain how happy it makes me feel to be black. I like to reflect myself and my culture in my photography. I want us to feel celebrated and applaud our growth as a race. My work is very bright and reflects my bubbly personality and flamboyant personal style. My race definitely places into this and has made such a massive impact on my self-confidence. It helped to mould me into the young woman I am today. I’ve always been attracted to colour, it makes me feel so powerful within. I feel like I can take on whatever life throws at me. Sometimes all you need is a little splash of colour to brighten up your world.
My artistic style is just a true representation of my mind. It’s me stepping out of my comfort zone and experimenting with everything I do. I’ve received so many lovely messages across my social media accounts lately, spilling with positivity. It’s been super overwhelming. I feel so humbled to know that individuals take the time to observe my work. I appreciate everyone who continues to shower me with unconditional love and supports my craft. You all have such a special place in my heart.
I thought I’d get you to talk a bit about the photographs you took at AfroPunk in July last year. I adore them! Why is it important to you that we continue to have events like AfroPunk Fest?
Thank you so much! Whenever someone praises my work, I get all warm inside and I really don’t know how to act lol! I’m just super appreciative for all of my blessings. I had such a magical experience at AfroPunk, London in July last year. It was sensational and I’m so happy that I was lucky enough to attend such an empowering festival. I felt so confident and comfortable. I wish that I could rewind the clock back, because it was just out of this world. It was definitely one of my highlights from last year. It was slightly overwhelming for me at times, because everywhere I looked my eyes were blessed with the sight of just pure beauty.
Can’t imagine how good it would’ve been. The social media pictures always look spetacular!
I was so excited when the dates got released, it didn’t clash with anything I had scheduled in my diary. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to attend the year before last. So, as soon as I found out it was in July I was mentally preparing myself….as my edges were about to be snatched! I even purchased a new camera lens. It was that deep to me. The level of excitement was equivalent to a little kid in a candy store. I kid you not. I was really living my best life. I’ve also got to take a few moments to appreciate all the sweet potato fries that I consumed that weekend, because they were so bomb!
Why is it important that we continue to have events like AfroPunk?
Well, because it brings us all together – to celebrate our beauty and culture! It’s also a gentle reminder of how far we’ve come as a race. Thinking back to our history and everything we’ve had to experience simply, because of the colour of our skin. It’s a safe place and I believe everyone deserves to have a place where they can truly be themselves – without fear of judgement. It’s a fantastic feeling, because there’s no limitation. There’s nobody telling you that you can’t be who you are. We want to feel celebrated. Not judged. AfroPunk does a great job at providing a community, a safe haven for people of colour to come together.
Very true. To some, AfroPunk may just be a music festival. You’ve definitely pointed out why it is more than that.
Yes, I believe that AfroPunk is more than just a music festival. It’s become a massive part of black culture. It is a magical place where black people are able to express the full diversity of their lived experiences and are able to come together to unite as one beautiful family.
It means comfortability – a place where we can all come together to unite and be ourselves. It is extremely important to black culture right now, especially with everything that’s happening within the black community. We’re loving each other and protecting each other, all while having fun. Let’s continue to be carefree – to blossom beautifully! Let’s continue to attend events that allow us to collectively gather in our own experience. I will continue to support platforms that celebrate our existence and applaud our growth as a race. When I was there, it really felt like home.
I used to really study music videos. I adore the wild-authentic style of Azealia Banks in 212 and 1991. Missy Elliot was another fave of mine. Can you name some artists whose style has really stood out to you in their music videos over the years?
Oh girl! I secretly believe I’m the star of many music videos.
I get a little bit to carried away when living my best life. I forget that I’m not actually the musician.
Yep, happens to the best of us!
I watch music videos just as much and an unhealthy load of television. Especially, when you click on one and then you discover that autoplay is active and just throws up a playlist. Inevitably, this turns into a party that ends at three o’clock in the morning. Then you realise that you’ve got to be up to get ready for work at seven. Yep. That’s the story of my life folks.
I love to watch music videos to gain inspiration. To be able to appreciate the transition from one era to the next is such a gift. I don’t really know who Missy Elliot thinks she is. She needs to let me know as soon as possible really. I need to tick that off the list, so maybe you could get that to me girl? You’re an inspiration, ok bye.
It’s not a surprise, but I would definitely say Pharrell Willams. He just wins at life.
Pharrell Williams, Pharrell Willams, Pharrell Willams, Pharrell Willams, Pharrell, Pharrell, Pharrell, Pharrell, Willams, Willams.
I just can’t get over him. I’m so intrigued by how his mind works – how he comes out with all these brilliant ideas. It’s overwhelming. I stutter when I talk about Pharrell, because he’s one of my biggest inspirations.
Wow! I’m so mesmerised by his creativity. I’m always left so inspired. Pharrell Willams for president? I think that’s a no brainer.
Pharrell is a mastermind. He’s managed to stay relevant for years. He also doesn’t age…I’m gonna need that skincare routine pronto! When I head out, I’ve always got to have my pair of AF1s on me. Personally, I think they are timeless. Obviously, there’s also a lot of hype now with Virgil Abloh’s Custom Air Force 1 Kicks. You can also never go wrong with a pair of VANS for a cool relaxed look. What would you say are your go-to-trainers?
They are very dope actually. If I’m being completely honest, I’ve never really been a sneakerhead. I do however have a strangely large collection, which doesn’t make any sense. I mean any of the sneakers that I own are all pretty girly. I used to be obsessed with the brand Pastry a few years, back which was created by Vanessa and Angela Simmons. I kid you not, they were my obsession. The sneakers I’ve bought all stood out in some way, otherwise I would have never bought them. I personally don’t really get the hype with the whole Virgil Abloh’s Custom Air Force 1 Kicks. I think they are cool, but for me personally they don’t appeal to me in anyway.
Despite my love for AF1s, I do agree that the hype around the Custom Kicks is slightly overrated.
I will make sure that I educate myself on the hype of the collection, once I’ve wrapped up this interview though. You can never EVER go wrong with a pair on Vans.
You definitely can’t!
It’s impossible. Before I went to Orlando in August, I had my heart set on the Sk8-HI model. Then, I discovered that they had a platform version and they just won my heart. I searched high and low at so many different shopping malls and outlets. They were sold out in my size everywhere. I was convinced that I couldn’t leave the country, without having these shoes in my suitcase. So, my grandmother kindly ordered them and got them sent to our villa. Luckily they arrived before we left, otherwise we would have had some serious problems.
I get tons of compliments on them and they are pretty much my go-to-sneakers. They are so versatile.
What do you think about the photography scene in the U.K. Which other young photographers standout to you?
I think that the photography scene is extremely inspiring actually. Like I said earlier, there are a bunch of creative individuals who are killing it right now. I wouldn’t really say that I focus my energy on what other photographers are producing.
I automatically enter a toxic cycle. I begin to compare myself to others around me and I find that extremely damaging. Especially, if we happen to have a similar body of work and we’re both trying to reach the same audience, with the images that we produce. I then start to compare my achievements to a photographer who just shot a campaign with Nike. I’m still trying to get myself noticed, so thinking like this is not good for my mental state.
True and that’s something we all go through. That comparison phase that stems from us not truly appreciating how far we’ve come.
There are so many photographers out there, working their buts off to showcase their skills! Photographers that I would like to highlight. But, I don’t want to single anyone out. So, I’m just going to shine the light on all those who are grinding within the photography industry. You are very much appreciated. I’m so grateful to be surrounded by such hard working individuals, who are just hungry for success. I would definitely say that I just try to focus on my journey, as a photographer and I do gain a lot of inspiration from myself. I think that it’s very important to develop a healthy balance of how much you engage with social media. As it can become a poisonous bubble, that often needs bursting so don’t forget to switch off when needed.
Discover your own personal style and simply just create. I feel like a lot of upcoming photographers try to mirror the really successful photographers.
They assume that they have to produce the same visuals, in order to make their mark within the industry. This is extremely damaging to the soul. Not only are you praising someone else’s work, you’re dismissing your own creativity and self worth. Imagine, if you scrap the Canon and start using disposable cameras? You’ve stepped outside the box. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s so much cooler than trying to mirror another photographers work. I don’t even class myself as a well known photographer. If I’m completely honest, that’s because I’ve got so much more learning to do. Just remember to have fun with it. I believe in you. Don’t let anybody second guess your ideas or put you down either.
Where do you hope your artistic style will develop to in the next five years?
In five years time I’ll be 25, which is a gentle reminder that I’m getting very old! All I really want to do is be happy. I know that sounds pretty cheesy, but it’s the honest truth. I want to feel at ease with myself. I want to be in a comfortable place, both financially and mentally.
That’s a very important topic actually. Especially for many young people in the media industry (including myself), who inevitably have to make a number of investments on equipment…etc Not enough is said about finances.
I just need to make sure that I don’t fall flat on my face with the financial side of things. I’m on a gap year at the moment, so I would love the opportunity to travel a lot more this year and definitely within the next five years! It would be absolutely incredible to attend festivals in other countries, for those unique experiences and capture their glorious street style. I feel that it would be very beneficial to my growth as a creative individual. Los Angeles and New York are at the top of my never-ending travel list. I’ve already lined up some promising collaborative opportunities.
That sounds exciting!
Although, I tend to specialise in portraiture and fashion photography, I want to show that I can switch it up – that I’m skilled in many areas of photography. So, I’m currently in the process of setting up my own photography and lifestyle blog. I’m hoping that I can try and land some more industry related jobs that will help boost my profile.
That’s awesome, versatility is key!
I also hope to learn a lot more about myself. I want to grow and continue to blossom. Pharrell hit the nail on the head with his self-produced smash hit Happy. That fully explains how I want to live the rest of my life.
I want to inspire individuals across the globe, to encourage them to be themselves and to love the skin that they are in. I feel like I can do so much whilst I’m on this earth. I want to shed light on the fact that it’s fantastic to be different and embrace your flaws. I would like my photography to reflect on a lot of the things that are wrong in the world. I want to spread awareness and continue to share my work on a much bigger scale.
I will make sure to nurture my little baby – my upcoming YouTube channel. That will be launching this year and will hopefully receive a great reception. I can promise you that I’ve got some extremely beneficial content up my sleeve, so keep your eyes peeled! I’m pretty confident in saying that my main objective in life, is to spread unlimited buckets of positivity. I would like to continue my life with the mindset I already have. I appreciate every blessing that has come my way. I shall continue to push myself to where I need to be. That’s a promise.
A final message from Chyna…
“Before I go, I want to let you all know that it’s so hard not to get caught up in this social bubble and how the world is becoming now. But, please remember to try and find your happy place. I know it’s very difficult, as we all experience some real roller-coasters. But, you will overcome it and return so much stronger. Every little thing is going to be alright, just like Bob Marley said. So, continue to stay in your magic that you were blessed with. Blossom like the beautiful flower you are. I love you all to the moon and back thank you for rocking with your girl!!”