Richie Shazam Demands Respect
Artist Richie Shazam is redefining beauty standards and making space for Queer communities.
Queer, Guyanese and a newcomer to the downtown New York City scene, Richie Shazam was destined to be seen and recognized. Eventually finding a community of creatives who challenged gender, sexuality, style, and aesthetics, Shazam is now giving back and fighting to rewrite beauty standards.
This self-proclaimed “NYC Bollywood Princess” has traveled the world walking runways for Lou Dallas, Ashish, and starring in campaigns by Bottega Veneta, H&M, and Barragán. But while quarantined away from any runway or photoshoot, Shazam launched a limited photo series raising funds aimed at guarding transgender lives.
“If you’re not taking action, you’re not doing anything in my book,” Shazam told V.
Born and bred in a West Indian Jamaica, Queens’ household, Shazam is no stranger to disenfranchised communities. With recent attacks on Black lives across America, Shazam believes there has never been a more important time to stand up and demand respect.
“I am so sick and tired of feeling the utmost fear of when I leave my home and not knowing what can happen to me and people who look like me, walk like me, talk like me and present like me,” Shazam said.
Through their activism, modeling and photography, Shazam is working to dismantle standard definitions of gender, sexuality and beauty. They want the Queer community to be valued, appreciated and have the ability to exist alongside other creatives.
In a recent project with Playboy Fragrances, directed by Nadia Lee Cohen, Shazam is seen in a blue outfit covered in diamonds and jewels. Shazam’s hair is curled and vertically hairsprayed to perfection. Gazing through purple-shadowed eyes, the camera shows Shazam’s norm-shattering presence among men in a barbershop all receiving the same heteronormative haircut.
“I think the freedom really stems from paying an homage to my predecessors,” Shazam said. “We’re still fighting to exist.”
Shazam embraced their Queer community’s fight to exist by taking part in multiple campaigns during this year’s socially distanced Pride Month. Joining Calvin Klein’s #ProudInMyCalvins campaign, Shazam shared a few photos wearing rainbow printed top and bottom pieces along with personal anecdotes of their Queer experience.
“Pride is about being the ultimate shape-shifter. Queer resilience and power and our ability to navigate adversity is unmatched,” Shazam wrote on a post in July.
The force driving Shazam’s work derives from a life-long yearn for freedom. Working towards liberation, Shazam wants to create spaces and content infused with escapism and fantasy. They want their work to go “against the grains” of how they were raised by placing audiences in a state of discomfort and revealing Queer identities.
Shazam is now taking their beauty redefining mission to television. The VICE Canada eight-episode documentary-series will celebrate transgender and gender-nonconforming lives with the help of Shazam and musician/trans-activist Lucas Silveira.
VICE Canada’s currently untitled project places Shazam as a mentor and documents as they help multiple subjects in the transgender and gender-nonconforming community overcome body dysphoria, anxiety, and a whole host of other weights pulling them down.
“We’re working to reprogram, to give visibility to things that are constantly unseen and unheard,” Richie said.