Every year, March and the coming of spring presents an opportunity to awaken. The days are longer, the chill and lethargy of winter starts to fade, and there’s a feeling of optimism in the air. To the collective blue team, March is particularly impactful as it’s Women’s History Month. Women, our sisterhood, and our visions for the future are a huge part of the foundation of our team and of our work. To celebrate this month’s theme of women, we’re featuring three women from The Audacity, “an editorial publication focused on addressing social political issues in a way that forefronts aesthetics.”
Erin Kuykendall (Editor in Chief), Melina Perez (Creative Director), and Maiya Evans’ (Head of Social Media) work and friendship serve as a bright example of what women can accomplish and become together.
The idea for The Audacity originally stemmed from Erin and Melina’s background in fashion and publishing. They worked together for a fashion magazine, and, though they loved the opportunity to create beautiful work, they wanted to produce something with a deeper meaning outside of just “new spring necklaces” and the latest “denim on denim” trends.
“It started to feel more and more unethical to not be talking about what's happening [politically],” shares Erin. “I love doing photo shoots. I like the visual aesthetics of fashion. And I like the act of putting together a publication. But there's a way that we can create that doesn't blatantly ignore what's happening around us.”
Understanding that opportunity doesn’t always just present itself, Erin and Melina set out to create that space for themselves with The Audacity.
“The magazine really solidified the fashion and activism aspects and made it one thing I could work on,” reflects Melina.
Maiya joined the team later on, with similar motivations to express herself meaningfully.
“I met Melina in class,” Maiya recalls with a playfully annoyed look. “She sat next to me in a room full of empty seats.”
After breaking the non-verbal rule of college classrooms, Melina invited Maiya to a party where she introduced Maiya and Erin to each other.
“I stayed after the party and helped them clean and we were singing ‘Higher’ by Rihanna while cleaning up balloons.”
Founded on their shared motivations for progress and admiration for Riri, the baddest girl in fashion, The Audacity launched their first issue in Spring 2016. As the eldest daughter in a conservative family, Erin received some pushback from people back home. Regarding the magazine’s first issue, Erin remarks, “The first issue of the magazine came out and [my mother] was like, ‘Oh, I can see this isn't for good Christians.’”
To which Erin responded empathically, "You're damn tootin'!"
As a white woman in the space between creativity and activism, Erin recognizes not only her privilege but also her obligation to be a bridge between where she comes from and where she wants to go. Citing her younger female cousins as her motivation, she wants her work with The Audacity to present an alternative to gender norms and other harmful beliefs for future generations in her family.
“The reason [the work] is important is that it's visible. Other people see that someone is here fighting for you.”
Both Melina and Maiya also derive their motivation from their lived experiences. Melina grew up in Washington Heights, a neighborhood in Manhattan that’s almost 50% Hispanic. Surrounded by a community that looked like her, Melina never had to question her place in the world as a young girl of color. When her family moved upstate, however, her new and unfamiliar environment caused her to question her own confidence and beauty.
“It was weird because I was so comfortable with myself, but then I would see white girls and I'd be like, ‘Well this is what pretty is.’ I found myself wanting to look like them, wanting to be skinny and wanting to assimilate,” reveals Melina. “It really affected me. I think it's really important that we're providing an outlet and visual representation for women of color.”
As a Black woman, Maiya is all too familiar with the intersections between racism and sexism. Growing up without an outlet to properly express the unfairness she constantly dealt with, Maiya sees The Audacity as a megaphone for all the anger and frustration she previously had to leave unsaid.
“Microaggressions were rampant all throughout my life. And so now I'm like, ‘No, YOU need to shut up.’”
In particular, regressive beliefs about what women “should” do with their lives inspired “The New Stepford,” a photo shoot featured in the magazine’s 6th issue.
“You can't force everyone to be this 50s housewife,” Maiya asserts. “You can't tell them that they have to have a family or what their family has to look like. Or, that they’re already 30 and can’t do anything else later.”
In today’s dense, 24-hour news cycle world, sometimes it can feel helpless to enact progress. It can be difficult to find the balance between patiently understanding that change happens slowly and staying committed to doing the emotionally draining work that needs to be done in order to bring about change. For the Audacity team, the magazine represents a way for them to find that balance and do work that they enjoy while still enacting change as individuals. And when they inevitably get tired and need to turn off for a bit, they have each other and their sisterhood to lean on.
You can support The Audacity through their new online shop! They have merch as well as physical copies of their zine issues on sale. Issue 7 is currently in the works, and the team is planning a release party in May.