If you got to meet an artist who had obviously worked a lot of magic to become successful–say Janelle Monae–wouldn’t you want to learn about more than her favorite producer? I know plenty of women, like Iman Milner, who want to see more than the same media interviewers asking the same celebrities the same simple questions. Women of color, I think, have a special appreciation for the fact that if you want things to go in a different direction, you’ll often have to clear the path yourself. Iman, collaborated with friends, Camara Mathis and Ashley Nguyen, to create a project that would take us from the surface to the edge.
EDGE Magazine was created to showcase the diverse experiences and perspectives of young artists of color. The magazine features kindred creative and entrepreneurial spirits talking about topics like world affairs, vulnerability, and destiny, always with an exciting and youthful flavor–not the conventional features for people of color that mainly focus on sports, entertainment and gossip.
Talking to Iman about EDGE Magazine’s development, immortalizing black women’s beauty and living unchained was like a breath of fresh air–I guess everything’s just crisper on the edge…
You’re an actress, writer and editress. Where do you think all that creative energy came from?
My father was a Broadway playwright as well as a director and my mother is a professional dancer who was once with Alvin Ailey American Dance Company as well as an actress. I got it honest from them both. I spent my early years growing up backstage on Broadway and touring with my parents. They instilled the importance of being a lover of the art and talent you’ve been blessed with first and foremost. With that in mind I’ve committed my life and time to being the very best artist I can be.
I study acting as much as a doctor studies medicine. I am relentless in my quest for knowledge when it comes to those things that I love to do. I focused so much on acting for most of my life that I neglected my writing abilities for a while. Now that I have the time to split between the two, I am enjoying the opportunity to do both.
How did EDGE magazine come about? What’s the big picture for the project?
Honestly, EDGE came about because I was tired of walking past magazine stands and not seeing women and men who looked like my friends and I. We’re all talented and beautiful and some of us are painters or dancers or actresses others own their own businesses or design clothes. So, why aren’t we applauded and honored?
I remember how important it was to get Essence every month and see beautiful women and men of color and read their stories. But I also remember feeling that it missed out on a large demographic of younger readers. After I left college I decided I would do something about it rather than complain about it. I went to my friends Ashley and Camara. I knew that Ashley wanted to be able to develop her style as a photographer and that Camara was looking to start something of her own and once they were on board, we just went to work.
My main focus was to show that we are more than sports and entertainment, even if that’s how we make our living. We all have stories and have overcome things and are inspiring and beautiful. Our men are intelligent and respectful. Our women are more than objects of lust and made for entertaining.
I wanted to show who we are as people. In all of our complexity and sometimes contradictions. I wanted to show my peers that if they can do it, we all can. We can be doctors, lawyers, athletes, art gallery owners, singers, models, businessmen and women…the possibilities are endless. I want EDGE to show people that.
10 years from now, I want my vision for EDGE to still be alive. I want people of all races to see themselves represented and honored. EDGE will be a household name in this country and abroad in 10 years. But overall, I want people to say that EDGE has inspired them to do more, want more and achieve more. I want that to be rich in our legacy.
You know how much I loved your article on painter Daisy Giles. When reflecting on I Dream a World you mentioned: “I made it a point to search for renderings, reminders if you will, of how special WE are, how much beauty WE possess and how deserving WE are of praise and admiration.” Why do you think this has remained so important to you?
It’s remained important to me because I was brought up that way. I was brought up to honor and respect the Lena Horne’s and Ruby Dee’s in our culture. I was
taught to not only do things to honor my family and myself, but also my race and the women who will come after me. I have a little sister who’s 12, shouldn’t I be her first role model? I know how important it has been for me to see women who are strong and talented and classy and who look like me. It’s simple: I want to be that for someone else.
I would like to see more artists not be afraid to show us in our many complexities. We have so many layers and are so vastly different, there are many stories to tell that haven’t been told. We have to be willing to make GOOD work. I think often times we think that if we make work that has purpose and substance that no one will support it so we make “safe” work, work we think will help us make money but work that doesn’t move anyone or make people think. We sell out in our own hearts and minds by cheapening our art because we’re afraid. Artists have to take more pride in the platform they’ve been given to change and affect the way we’re viewed in this world.
I also liked your idea of “immortalizing our beauty.” What makes you feel beautiful?
There are a lot of things that make me feel beautiful. A nice haircut. A good mani and pedi. Little things like that. But the main thing that makes me feel beautiful is seeing other women of color whom I am close with and admire. We all have this confidence and beauty that is unmatched by any other women in this world. Our hair, our skin, our attitudes…we’re amazing. Knowing that I am a part of such a wonderful race of women makes me feel beautiful every single day.
Black women should know that no matter what happens and what’s the new trend, we are always the originals. Our lips, our bodies, our beauty, it’s timeless. We’ve never needed to change to conform to the standard because, believe it or not, we are the standard–always have been.
If you could have a personal live concert featuring any woman from history, who would it be?
Man, that’s a toughie. Probably a Sarah Vaughn, Lauryn Hill, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone quartet.
Finally, what does living unchained mean to you?
It means not being afraid to be and do you. You only get one life, live it for yourself. If you have a dream or a passion, living unchained means that you’re not afraid to fight for that even when it seems impossible and people stop believing in you.
As an actress, I know how hard it can be to stick with it, to keep your heart and mind tied to your passion when you’re hearing more people say “no” than “yes” can be a challenge. But giving yourself the freedom to keep working and moving towards your goals, to find the love and respect you deserve and desire in this world and the power to truly be the change you wish to see in this world…that’s living an unchained life. Being fearless and confident in every new situation.
Iman’s message to beloved readers like you:
EDGE magazine is always looking for writers, photographers, poets, etc., to have their work displayed. We made EDGE so that our peers could have a platform, you don’t have to be famous to be in our magazine. You don’t have to be a singer or an athlete either. We want people who are inspiring and who have a story that people can relate to and that could be anyone, could be you. Contact EDGE Magazine for more information.