In recent weeks the Solent University School of Art, Design and
Fashion were lucky enough to host guest-speaker Leyla Reynolds.
Reynolds is the Art Director of London based magazine, gal- dem.
gal-dem is an online and print magazine produced by women
and non-binary people of colour. The publications was launched
in the September of 2015. The gal-dem mission is to represent
women and non-binary people of colour in the media and give them
a place in the otherwise underrepresented media world.
Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Liv Little, was frustrated at the
appalling lack of diverse voices in the media and together with Leyla,
created a network that were the beginnings of gal-dem.
Covering topics such as arts, music, lifestyle and politics, gal-dem isn’t just in the realms of publishing. There are bi-monthly ‘Sugar’ club nights and museum takeovers - events that allow fans and readers of gal-dem to get together and meet like minded individuals.
During her talk, Reynolds covered her own personal journey of how she got to where she is, her affinity with art and illustration and some of her favourite artists. In attendance were students from across Solent University’s BA Fashion Styling and Creative Direction, BA Make-Up and Hair Design and MA Creative Direction for Fashion and Beauty, to name a few. The AnonStyle team caught up with Reynolds following her talk to talk all things gal-dem and the importance of diversity in the media.
AS: Just to know a little bit more about you and how you got to where you are.
LR: I’ve done art all my life, obviously, I’ve considered pursuing an arts career but was very torn between arts and academia, so got into a thing at Camberwell and was like “Ooo, maybe I’ll take it” and then was like “Wait, actually I could do academia and then do arts afterwards” maybe, so I plumped for like, I did politics at Bristol University, which I find very random. It was actually a good decision in the end as I met Liv and started a really great network of people of gal-dem. I was more on the art side and she was more of the editorial side. I was more commercial based but also the illustrators, making gal-dem have a really strong brand identity, realisation and visualisation. So that was all at Bristol and after three years I left Bristol University and then came out and just plunged head long into gal-dem, basically.
AS: Do you think the politics you studied helped with work?
LR: That had always been my theory. I’d always been like: "I’m provide my work with context". I might be going off on this random avenue, but I think with the artwork I that produce, I always want it to be political, because I want it to have something that it’s grounded in. But then to be honest I feel like my political standing has remained the same, although I don’t know if I necessarily needed it.
AS: Were you inspired by any political artists?
LR: Well obviously I looked at Gillray. I think more recently I’ve been into Wolfgang Tillmans, I’m obsessed with him! I’m very illustrator-y, but Wolfgang Tillmans is truly amazing, isn’t he?! I listened to an ‘In Coversation’ with him and a Guardian journalist at the ICA a while ago and he’s just so cool. He's a very classical liberal so I don’t know if I completely agree with everything he’s saying. The Guardian journalist was more social liberal but quite more Labourish. I find it a bit more opposed to him, but it was a really inspiring and was really interesting to see how that translates into his work. With Liberals it can be so freeing and then with art it's more idealistic.
AS: It’s quite an inspiration right? Like that’s the ideal.
LR: Exactly. I can’t think who else I’m inspired by. Oh, Hannah Buckman! She’s an illustrator for gal-dem. She’s my absolute flipping favourite. I feel like she’s going to be huge. She’s like very Picasso-y. I’ll show you.
*pulls up Instagram* All of you check her out! She just did the Time Out for carnival and Polly Nore. She’s very distinctive. I feel like her subject matter is really cool.
Oh I was starting out I obviously was inspired by Evon Sheila too. Classic. It’s just like a line drawing and it was so nice.
AS: What drove you (because you said you didn’t have funds) onwards to make this magazine?
LR: I just think that there was a gap in media for the themes we cover in the magazine. It’s everywhere so like we just could see that in the curriculum. I think that it was predominantly the curriculum. We need to sort out the media. That’s why we need diverse voices in the media because who is that person who’s been like "oh that’s a fine story to write up". Destroy this girl’s life. She’s doing loads of stuff and work experience and trying to work as hard as she can. I know that girl has worked harder than everyone I know, and she’s so hard working. And they were like we’re just going to pick on this and we’re gonna destroy her. It’s kind
of incidents which prove to us why we need institutions like gal-dem. Because everything else is very geared towards connections and people. So we need institutions that don’t prioritise that, which is why when people have an issue with gal-dem being produced by a certain group. It’s going away to redistribute the balance. It’s not prioritising anyone, it’s just because everyone else is slightly more in favour.
AS: It’s like saying as well with women as well, why all women? It’s been men for 200 hundred years that’s why only women. We need to balance it out.
LR: Yeah, exactly. And people think it’s some kind of bias but it’s really not.
AS: Travel also makes you realise you’re different too. I’d like to ask how your magazine can bring change into the industry? What do you for in gal-dem’s future?
LR: I really respect schemes like there was a Guardian scholarship scheme a couple of years ago which was a diverse talent Guardian scheme and we need more things like that but we also just need it to have that and then for it to become a natural part of the newsroom.
AS: It’s not really necessarily that about rebalancing more changing those who are already there. If there becomes more publications inspired by yours will it become like them and us? There’s no getting together to understand that there should be a common perspective that people should stop having to look through magazines and be like "oh this is a diverse magazine", "Oh no this is a normal magazine". It can’t be given those labels because humans are humans and there should’t be a difference between anything because of colour or culture.
LR: I think that like encouraging part of it is that a lot national newspapers as you can see with The Guardian take-over, are taking note of it. And a lot of the people who have probably not had journalism experience or editorial experience before, they got involved with gal-dem have now gone on to work at these papers or do internships at these papers. So I don’t necessarily think that we’re working in opposition to the establishment, I think we are contributing and we’re also working as a step-up point for people that don’t have a lot of experience. I think that’s one of the important things about gal-dem. We’re not just taking on standard journalists; there are some experienced journalists but there are a lot of people that just have aspirations to be journalists that contribute to us. And illustrators as well.
AS: So you wouldn’t say that someone who wants to be in your magazine, they should just have passion for the art and what they do and be able to pitch you something that interests your magazine, and that they don’t have to come with "I’ve got this degree and I’ve done this".
LR: Exactly. That’s the case that I have to make clear too. That’s the case of the art side too. We talk about editorial a lot, but my side is the art side and with illustration. You don’t need anything, you just need to be able to pitch and show me a portfolio or a few examples of your work. Hannah, for example, who I bloody love, I literally saw her Instagram, when she had barely anything, like one paint sketch, I was like: "hey, would you be interested in contributing and now she’s one of our most known illustrators. If you’re creative, that’s all you need.