I open the Facebook app and within one full thumb swipe I see a video preparing to play. To my surprise, this eloquently produced masterpiece was celebrating black men, unapologetically and through flawless fashion. No, it wasn’t a commercial, a short or even a movie trailer; in fact it was The New Stereotype. A movement created by the one and only, Marquelle Turner-Gilchrist.
Marquelle Turner-Gilchrist: In the first quarter of 2014, I lived in the south of France as I was finishing up my graduate studies in global luxury management. When I first moved back, I felt I was out of touch and became a bit fixated on cultural, social, and political climates within the US. To “catch up,” I spent several hours looking at old news clips and speeches. After I moved to NYC, I decided that I wanted to find a creative way to speak to a lot of media propaganda.
As a man with a personal affinity for style, I felt that fashion and photography would provide an interesting and engaging avenue to “speak up.”
The stories are just as important as the pictures. Fashion and photography are the vessel, but celebrating black life is truly the message.
CB: What has motivated you to become (and continue to be) a successful visionary?
MTG: After the first installment was released, I knew immediately that we would have to do another. The reception on social media was overwhelmingly positive and from there the “QUEEN Edition” was released and shortly there after “The Reclaim.” The positive feedback and support from the participants help move this project forward. To see people inspired and express the need for projects like this serve as “validation.” To date, a Chicago and London versions have been created and there are talks of a Detroit and Dallas version. We’ve had press as far as Portugal and interest in Brazil. On Facebook, our video has 17,936 shares and 528,000 views. Shola, our photographer, once said “energy is never created because it can only be transferred.”
I feel the energy I put into this project is fueled by people who support it and also from the participants.
And for each of them to be apart of this experience where I see them find a bigger or even different platform than what they had previously, is a blessing to me, because I always think about them when I make these projects. They put themselves in a very vulnerable place for people to know their stories and maybe even dissect them in some cases, so the fact that they believe in me and trust my vision means a lot to me and I’m happy to see it yield positive responses and support for their personal endeavors. It’s a good feeling and I want to continue to do that as I share additional and different stories of some of the many amazing black people in America.
MTG: Actually, we are in the process of planning an event in NYC that will bring together young professionals. The exact concept is still being decided but I’m quite excited about it. We also have another women’s shoot planned for this summer in Washington, DC as well as another men’s shoot. Both shoots will be quite elevated and will also include video.
Outside of loving everything this project represents, I must admit, I also truly admire Gilchrist’s appreciation for all of the men that helped his vision come to life. During our interview he requested that I also speak with the phenomenal man behind the lens, his friend, Olushola “Shola” Bashorun, of aQut Photography. As I spoke with Bashourn he let me know that there was no hesitation to join the project, in fact, he was thrilled to! And after the first edition went live, Bashorun admitted that he was left speechless by the response of the public and especially, from his family. Noting that he is originally from Nigeria, he knows that being a professional photographer was not the profession his family would have picked for him. Though, when he recently returned home he found that “they were so receptive and super supportive!” after seeing the impact The New Stereotype has had on those in the states.
Another honorable mention has to go to the man who is one of Marquelle’s oldest friends, Aaron “AJ The Gent” Robinson. A rising star in his own right, Robinson truly shared the same enthusiasm and passion that Gilchrist and Bashorun conveyed. “Initially, I was a little reluctant to be apart of it, but when I thought about it and thought of the things that I’ve done and aspire to do… I would have been remised to not have taken the opportunity to be apart of this project,” he stated. The most amazing part was hearing how The New Stereotype, created to inspire others, also empowered it’s participants; as Robinson now accredits the project to helping him gain the courage to pursue his dreams and utilize his natural talents.
As you can see Gilchrist is not just a visionary, but he is also an honorable leader and friend. So ladies and gentlemen, please join us in saluting our Empire Man of the Month, Marquelle Turner-Gilchrist! We applaud you, sir, for not only providing this powerful message, but for also sharing the positivity and shine with all who have embraced it!
I really just want to share that this project has provided quite an amazing journey. While I understand everyone will not support, I’m extremely grateful for all of the re-posts and words of encouragement. This project has never had an aim to stop racism because racism is an institution and this project doesn’t have the foundation to tackle it. This project truly is a way to celebrate the many diverse layers of black life and encouraging others to have a sense of pride. As long as that always comes across, I will move forward. – MTG
If you’d like to know more about The New Stereotype or the featured participants and photographer, feel free to click any of the links in the text above and be sure to search the hashtag #TheNewStereoType, on Instagram. Who knows, they may a rendition of the project happening in a town near you!