Ajani Shines Bright

Ajani Shines Bright

Ajani Shines Bright

Actor and skater Ajani Russell sparkles like a star in a cloudless sky in Armani’s new high jewelry collection.

Actor and skater Ajani Russell sparkles like a star in a cloudless sky in Armani’s new high jewelry collection.

Photography: Max Papendieck

Styling: Aryeh Lappin

Text: Kala Herh

It’s not often you find yourself teleporting to enemy battle stations in an effort to save the earth from acid pollution. But for Ajani Russell, this is just one of her many vivid dream experiences. The model and mixed media artist uses the metaphors and experiences in her dream-state to form the basis of her work.

Ajani wears all clothing and jewelry Giorgio Armani throughout.

For the Brooklyn-born, L.A.-based multi-hyphenate, art is the medium through which she heals: “I just want to keep making things that inspire people to fight those oppressive barriers and obstacles that make them feel like they can’t be themselves,” the 22-year-old says. “I hate seeing people unhappy.” Here, she’s photographed wearing Giorgio Armani’s new high jewelry collection, Si, which reimagines the female olfactory system as a black onyx flower encrusted by clear and black diamonds.

When she’s not making Carrie Mae Weems-inspired photographs, sculpting pseudo-bodies out of clay, or working on her senior thesis project for CalArts, Ajani’s skating down the streets with Skate Kitchen, an all-female skate collective she helped found. Theirs is an evolved womanhood, where femininity can mean whatever, and solidarity matters over all else.

A few members of the girl gang caught indie director Crystal Moselle’s attention on the subway and their stories inspired the plot for the 2018 film, Skate Kitchen and subsequent HBO series, Betty (its second season premieres later this year). In response to sexist “go back to the kitchen” comments that internet trolls had made on female skateboarding videos, the name “was about reclaiming that stereotype and making the whole world our kitchen because there’s no one place for a certain person to belong,” Russell says.

The series chronicles their day-to-day lives as they ollie through the maledominated skateparks and navigate the winding road of adulthood. “All of the stories were not easy to share, like making myself vulnerable to a large audience, but I also know the weight it holds in inspiring a younger generation of women,” she says. Here, Russell is a true one-off, and its seedings of an oeuvre already in bloom.


Makeup: Seong Hee Park (Julian Watson Agency) Hair: Hos Hounkpatin (The Wall Group) Manicure: Nori (Artlist Paris) Production: Alexey Galetskiy (AGP NYC), Felix Cadieu (Catalysme), Digital technician Kevin Lavallade, Photo assistants: Chad Hillard, Mia Andre and Location Sid Studio


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