Why This Photographer Created the First Black Digital Supermodel
Shudu dropped out of nowhere yet you’ve seen her everywhere. The model behind the Instagram page @shudu.gram has been dubbed one of the most beautiful models on Instagram but no, she is not an actual human model. Shudu is the digital brainchild of Wilson who has shot with the likes of Gigi Hadid and Joan Collins.
We spoke to Wilson to learn more about the why behind his digital creation of Shudu:
How do you identify?
I’m a gay guy. I kind of just identify as me, I don’t feel like anything particularly defines me. I’m not the kind of person to care if I’m not supposed do something as a ‘man.’
Tell us about where you grew up.
I grew up in a small coastal town called Weymouth, on the South Coast of the UK. It’s pretty beautiful and having the sea so close by, I always miss it when I leave. I left Weymouth at 20 and moved to London where I lived for 5 years before moving back to Weymouth in 2016 to take a step back and focus on what my work was saying and expressing my own views of beauty some more.
Give us a little overview of what you do and how you got started. When did you realize you wanted to be a fashion and beauty photographer?
I went to art school when I was 16, I originally wanted to learn how to illustrate comics, but was discouraged from doing so by my tutors. I then learnt some fashion design, makeup and photography skills, but it seemed the photography was the one to stick. When I was 18 I became self employed and after a couple of years I was taken on by an agency.
The same reason most artists create, you just do…it’s like you can’t sleep until what’s in your head is on paper instead. Shudu was an expression of so many of the things I love, as a person, as an art piece and from a technical point of view. She was inspired by South African Princess Barbie, a beautiful dark skinned Barbie doll who represents the Ndebele culture.
Have you received any backlash for creating a black model?
Yes, I think it was inevitable, there’s so much understandable tension now to do with race that I think something like what I’m doing could easily be twisted into something sinister. At the end of the day I’m just an artist creating art, I see mine and Shudu’s differences as beautiful, I think more white people should be using their talents to promote inclusive beauty standards. If I had created a white model, I would be supporting the Westernised standard of beauty [that] I’d love to see broken down.
What’re your intentions with Shudu? What’s next for her?
I’d love her to bring fashion and technology together. I’m hoping she can create a platform to showcase upcoming talents from designers, to 3D artists. She really has so much potential to influence for the better.
What’re your thoughts on diversity in today’s fashion industry? Do you believe that ‘black’ is currently trending?
Diversity within the industry is definitely seeing a lot of support and a lot of growth. We have to be careful that in 2018 companies aren’t using diversity as a tool and to support brands which have always shown an interest in being inclusive. I truly believe that things are changing though, but it’s hard because I’m seeing it from my viewpoint, which may be very different from someone else’s. If we want to see permanent change we need to create new industry leaders. Nigeria is showing some incredible talent and the art and fashion coming from there is beautiful. We need to support these brands so that they have they influence to create change. When the fashion world is run by American and European design houses, diversity will mostly be in the hands of people who may not have had the experience to truly care.