TALIBAH SAFIYA: DESIGNER + MUSICIAN
While watching the newest music video for “So Alive” by Talibah Safiya (shot by Racheal Weathers and co-directed by Areeayl Goodwin) I was transported to the first time I saw this multi-talented woman perform.
Three years ago, almost to the day, I went to a Fourth of July party in Brooklyn to pass out flyers
as part of the street team for AFROPUNK Brooklyn. I was a math teacher at the time and not
much of a partier, so I went alone with my stack of flyers to meet some new people.
I arrived early and stood in a dark corner close to the stage while people began to trickle in.
Without intro, a woman stepped to the front of the stage. Once her drummer and bass player
were ready, she started to sing “Number 50” a song which opens with lyrics that any twenty-something in NYC can relate to,
“I keep my feelings in a jar
latent from the rest of y’all cause I’m a pimp”.
As she continued to sing, her pure confidence and the way she held her being with such ease quickly put the entire room under her spell. Once the set was over I stood in a trance. I had to know this woman that held herself so beautifully. Fast forward to today and I am still an active cheerleader in her corner. It was her confidence that pulled me in but her humility and gentleness that kept me. The celebration of herself, her beauty and the womanhood that I witnessed that night permeates not only her music but her other talent as a jewelry designer of The Pretty Bull.
Talibah and I took some time to talk beauty, femininity, jewelry and music. Get to know her in the conversation below.
TGM: When did you begin making jewelry?
T: My family celebrates Kwanzaa and when I was 11 or 12 years old, my dad bought me a
beading kit for Kwanzaa. From there I began making bracelets for myself and my friends all the way through high school... but when I was about 16, beading and I broke up cause it was so time
consuming. Jewelry making reemerged for me when I first moved to New York City because I
was determined to not work for other people. I thought about what skills I had and started
making jewelry. When I began, my friend Nnenna started The Wrap Life and wanted to start selling jewelry on her site. I made jewelry for her and that’s when it became poppin and within a couple months I started my own brand. In 2013 The Pretty Bull became official and we’ve been rollin ever
TGM: I’ve noticed a lot of the jewelry you do now is wire-work. How did that start?
T: Like I said, I started with beading but wanted to do crisper designers that looked and felt
more expensive so I took some wire classes in New York and was Youtube-ing. I started really
researching and practiced a lot to see what worked and what didn’t. I’d make things for myself
and would give things to my friends to get their opinion. After wire work, soldering came
naturally for me.
TGM: On your site, the way you name and display your pieces shows me that adornment is
special to you. What is your relationship with adornment?
T: Personally, it’s about celebrating my femininity. Throughout the process of creating The
Pretty Bull, jewelry making has liberated me from forms of depression that led me to limiting the
way I expressed myself and the goddess within. When I first moved to New York, one of the
hardest cities in the world to live in, I went through a phase of wearing all black all the time and
no jewelry. I went through a time of being mute with my style. The Pretty Bull helped me
express my femininity more. When I first started wearing the jewelry I was making I remember
being so nervous to go outside but when I went past the mirrors and windows I’d catch a
glimpse of myself and felt so beautiful. I have friends that I know feel like part of the
objectification of women comes as a part of them celebrating their beauty, so they will hold back
because they don’t want the negative attention of a man and want to feel beautiful without effort. I definitely feel beautiful without effort, but there is something special about self care when you have fun with it and take your time with it. As good as it makes me feel to put on my favorite pieces everyday, I want to share that feeling with other women. I hope women feel the energy and the space I create when I am making it, which is that you should love yourself.
TGM: You mention women feeling beautiful is really important to you. What is beauty to you?
T: For me, the most important part about feeling beautiful is about confidence and pride. Sometimes as women we feel the need to shrink ourselves to more easily fit into different spaces. I find comfort in giving what I view as my most beautiful self in every space. There are times when I have seen the way someone dresses or wears their hair and thought to myself, I want to be like that. Now, what’s important to me is being able to honor and celebrate the naked me and just spruce it up. Really whatever makes you feel the best when you walk into a room is what people are attracted to. Self celebration is the biggest way to lock into beauty. Beauty to me is real confidence.
TGM: How do you want women to feel when they are wearing The Pretty Bull?
T: I want women to feel luxurious but also a part of something. I don’t want that luxury to make
them feel like they are better than anyone else. I want it to make them feel proud of who they
are and as a part of a movement. I want them to walk into a room and feel no need to compare
themselves to anybody but feel that they deserve to be in that space and really good about who
they are and how they look.
TGM: Where do you draw inspiration for the pieces you make?
T: I make things I want to wear. If I think of something that would look best with whatever outfit
I’m wearing, I try to make it. I’m also inspired by finding ways to intersect classic tribal wear,
classic and simple eurocentric design with the ghetto Black American experience. I try to find a way to cross those things as much as possible and keep it simple and lightweight. I really like those big wooden African beads, clean hoops, wearing multiple earrings and hand-pieces you can stack. I like simple designs that feel loud when you put them on. I try to cross all the cultures that influence me style-wise.
TGM: Do you have other designers that you admire?
T: Maybe not designers that I can name, but I remember growing up being inspired by Black
women with short blonde hair with six earrings in one ear and one on the other or a whole
bunch of rings on. That to me is so beautiful. It has been tagged as ghetto but to me that's real style. That archetype of woman is really inspiring to me. As far as someone who uses simple lines that look effortless, I love Solange’s style and the type of jewelry she wears. I also love a bunch of independent designers on Instagram that I follow. Indie designers that are brilliant and barely anybody knows their name really inspire me. Textiles really inspire me as well. I began working with The Wrap Life, which is fabrics and sometimes I would see the print from the fabric and make pieces that directly compliment the patterns I’d see on the fabric.
TGM: What other ways do you express yourself?
T: I definitely express myself through music. Lyricism is the most important thing to me because I love telling stories. I love putting the story out there and talking about where that story came from. Storytelling and melody are a really big part of the way I express myself. Also, I really love to cook. It makes me feel really good and feminine. The ways I express myself from jewelry making to writing to singing to cooking are all ways to get me stepping deeper into my femininity. They all get me to the same feeling. That same high.
TGM: Where are you hoping The Pretty Bull goes moving forward?
T: I want it to create a new wave of music artists whose merchandise is another art form. I feel
like a lot of music artists’ merchandise isn’t as well thought out as their music. I want
merchandise that is just as much of an art form and means just as much to me as my music
does. When people see musicians sometimes they can feel like that confidence the musician
has is unattainable. Being able to buy the same jewelry that I’m wearing when I’m on stage I
hope helps people feel a little closer to this confidence that I hold that they may feel they can’t
TGM: If you could go back to the younger version of you that first began beading and making jewelry, what advice would you give her?
T: I would tell her to honor the magic that you feel like you have and respect it. Don’t ever forget
that that magic is for you and not against you. I went through a time when I was trying to fit in
and ignore the voice that guided me through childhood and I’ve had to learn to reconnect to that. I would tell her don’t ignore this voice and make that your main practice, not popularity.
To get some beautiful jewelry handmade by Talibah herself, you can visit Instagram
@theprettybull or go to prettybull.com ! You can find her music & information on her upcoming tour on her website and her personal Instagram @magicmamii
Also check out her newest music video shot by Racheal Weather and co-directed by Areeayl Goodwin for her song “So Alive” [insert link:https://youtu.be/qO8HPBpS56U ]