Moses Aina

Moses is a rising freshman at New York University and will graduate alongside the class of 2024. Moses is pursuing a degree in Drama under the direction of the Studio: Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. Moses also spends time expressing himself through fashion and with makeup in such beautiful and refreshing ways. You can find all the looks and images he has been able to create via instagram @mosesoaina.

For this challenge Moses had creative direction and Brazen lead photographer, Rachel Marsh, had the privilege of working on sight with him on this look. Here is his take on the Self-portrait challenge, and a deeper look into Moses as a creator.   

Words From The Artist:

From the very moment a newborn baby is born, they are labeled by society as either a boy or a girl. But these labels are actually expectations that society requires all of us to abide by for the rest of our lives. That means that girls are expected to love pink, play with makeup and barbies, and aspire to submit to their husbands. Meanwhile, boys are expected to love blue, play sports, not cry, and aspire to “be a man.” But what many people do not realize is that these expectations placed on gender are poisonous, especially towards young black/African boys. Within the black/African community, little black boys are expected to walk like “men,” talk like “men,” dress, and even act like society’s vision of what a “man” should be. As a result, many little black/African boys who are more in touch with their femininity (or the pink side of themselves) cannot openly embrace that femininity out of fear of being rejected, and are therefore forcing themselves to to live fruitless lives in order to “fit in.”

But I have always had a love for clothing myself in feminine clothing. Like many other black and African boys, I initially felt like my love for being who I am was wrong because society had beat that idea into my head. But no matter how hard I prayed to the burning candles on my birthday cake to be normal, my identity did not burn away with the candles. No matter how deep I immersed myself in holy water to cast away the “demons” in me, the demons did not leave. Every night, I would fall to my knees and beg God with every fiber of my being to “be a man,”  but it seemed like God never answered those prayers. But in the midst of all this pain I felt as a little boy, the one thing that would bring me joy was when I would sneak into my mother’s closet and immerse myself in her makeup and clothes. In those few moments, I felt unleashed from the cage of societal expectations that held me prisoner

I do not identify as trans, I am not a drag queen, and I do not see myself as a crossdresser contrary to what many would believe. But I am a man who exhibits his gender identity through clothing himself in feminine clothing. And that is what makes me a man. Being a man is not about the clothing that I choose to wear, but the fact that I am daring to be myself in a world fighting so hard to conceal it. 

Whenever I am choosing an outfit, I foremost find inspiration from a piece of clothing, a color, or shapes. With this outfit, my foundation was built on a black slip dress that I wanted to wear. From there, I really wanted to experiment with bold eyeshadow and blocking my eyebrows. However, the inner Libra in me poured out as I changed my look appropriately 4-5 times during my process, and I ultimately ended up cutting my vision for the black slip dress. I often have a vision for a certain look one day, but then completely choose something else the next. I never believe anything is perfect, hence I am constantly searching for ways to make whatever outfit I’m thinking of better. As a result, I made my last change to my outfit merely a few hours before we decided to shoot the look.

With this specific look, I really wanted to explore a color that I haven’t explored much before: silver. I had a bunch of silver glitter, so I experimented with some silver glitter on my lips and a matching silver eye. From there, I found an old silver necklace that I transformed into a headpiece and attached some blue jewels to the headpiece to complement the jeans. Now I went back and forth on whether I wanted to do something for a top or if I wanted to go shirtless. I decided to go shirtless because I really wanted to embrace the body that society constantly tells me I should hide. I wanted the pictures to radiate the love I had for my stretch marks, my flabby arms, and stomach rolls. My body may not be sculpted to society’s idea of perfect, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the love I have for myself, my body, and who I am.

Challenges I had to face…

I was raised in a Nigerian home with parents who are intensely religious and homophobic. I mean my parents were brought up in a country where LGBTQIA+ people are beaten, jailed, and in some cases stoned to death for simply being who they are. So naturally, my parents finding out that their firstborn son likes to wear “women’s clothes” was not met with a pleasant reaction. They’ve refused to help me pay for my schooling at NYU, leaving me to cover the expenses. This is just one of the many examples that black boys face for choosing to be who they are. But I have never been one to back down from a fight or to allow a challenge to remain a challenge. As a result, I have accumulated enough scholarships in order for me to financially support myself while at NYU. But my challenges do not stop there. Growing up in a suburban town outside of Dallas came with me being engulfed by people who just want to fit in. Everybody wanted to be the perfect piece that fits into the puzzle that was my town. But in me defying to fit into the puzzle, I am a consistent victim of homophobic remarks, side-eyes, and stares of disgust.

But it’s ok boo, I’m still the baddest bitch 😉

Follow Moses:

Instagram: @mosesoaina


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