“I think that’s part of the magic of a show is like, not knowing what is gonna happen.”

With the release of her 2020 EP, Ache of Victory, the singer Zsela was able to satiate an audience who had been waiting for this moment. Her voice – deep, sultry, smooth – breezily carrying the introspective five-track record along, from start to finish. Ache of Victory was a while in the making, with the artist taking her time to make it. She collaborated with the producer Daniel Aged, who’s worked with the likes of Frank Ocean, FKA Twigs and Kelala – a strong indication of the kind of sound that shapes Zsela’s EP. But Zsela’s voice is distinctively its own. If Ache of Victory fits within the current realm of R&B, it’s worth noting that the singer has previously supported the likes of Angel Olsen and Cat Power – and Zsela’s voice exudes a real soulfulness. In 2020, she joined Porches for a cover of ‘Porcelain’ by Red Hot Chili Peppers as part of the synth-pop band’s virtual tour on Instagram. And as a native of New York, Zsela’s become something of a glittering presence in the city’s fashion and art circuits. She covered Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’ at MoMA PS1 for New York brand, Vaquera, at their “Vaqueraoke” in 2019, and performed Tim Buckley’s ‘Song To The Siren’ alongside tracks from Ache of Victory at the Whitney Museum’s 2020 annual Art Party. The cover of Buckley’s song appears on a three-track EP, Live! (2020), alongside a rendition of Nina Simone’s ‘Don’t Let Me Be Understood’ from a 2019 performance at Zebulon in Los Angeles, and a cover of Talk Talk’s ‘I Believe in You’ from Zsela’s performance at the iconic New York venue, Joe’s Pub (take a glance at the “Notable Performers” list on the venue’s Wikipedia page if you need confirmation).

More recently, Zsela sang at Marni’s S/S ‘22 show in Milan, as part of performance composed by singer-producer Dev Hynes. Dressed as a “Marni mermaid” (as per a post on Zsela’s Instagram), the singer was accompanied by a live orchestra as she performed the song ‘Guide You Home’. But what’s next for Zsela? When the pandemic started, she found herself in Los Angeles – where she continues to live for now. She’s got a string of tour dates in the United States this spring, and has also been working on her first full-length LP. Speaking to NR over email, Zsela explains that this album will be less a continuation of Ache of Victory than about “letting go”. And on a phone call from LA, Zsela discusses taking her time with the album, the joy of performing live and her excitement for sharing new music. 

NR: You’re currently working on your first full-length album, how’s that going? Over email, you mentioned that this is about ‘letting go’, rather than being a continuation of your EP, Ache of Victory

Z: Well, it’s been a slow process. It’s finally starting pick up and things are coming together. I guess it’s kind of my brand [to take] time. It’s intentional and not intentional, because, at the same time, I’m just trying to be okay, or be better with myself with my mind and my environment – to be healthier. And that’s a slow process. At the same time, I’m so excited about the songs and I feel like, if over time I still have that drive and momentum for what I’m making, then I guess that just proves that I like them still – so I want to put them into the world. Right now, I’m seeing the light a little bit – getting things done – and that feels really exciting.

In terms of “letting go” versus continuation – with the EP, I was on such a mission to get that done because I had been sitting on those songs for a long time. Me and Daniel came up with this world of sound that we really drew from, and everything fit into that. But recently, I’ve been letting go completely because I feel that I’m happy with that introduction to me – but [also], there’s so much more that I want to let people into, about myself. And for the first time, the songs that I’m writing right now are doing that – they’re letting more out and more in. I feel that I’m letting more out through a different tone; Ache of Victory was a very strong singular tone. And this now feels like there’s more freedom; I’ve been feeling freer and less worry. Ache of Victory was wrapped up in a lot of pain; pain that I felt. So, letting go is related to that because, especially this year, we’re not out of the pandemic, and there’s so much pain. I was watching an interview with Prince where he was like, “music should uplift, only”. And hearing that, I’m like, yeah, I want to do that. We need that; I need that. 

NR: As you say, you’re taking your time and seeing how things go, but do you have a sense of how this album will work and when it’ll come to light? 

Z: I think there will definitely be new music this year. How much of it, and in what shape, I don’t know. But, talking about the album versus the EP, I’m wanting more levity in my life.

“There’s so much you can’t control and there’s so much uncertainty, but I’m chasing levity.”

And I’m doing that in this new music too, in a new way that wasn’t a priority with Ache of Victory. When I said [over email] that “fun is a priority in my creation process”, it really is for me now because making something from nothing is a beautiful experience. And to have fun with that is something I want because there’s so much else that’s part of the process that can be painful. Or, obsessive, like – “Oh my voice makes it sounds like this.” But I’m having a lot of fun with songwriting and seeing where my voice can go physically.  

NR: The theme of the magazine if ‘celebration’ – so I wonder, does that apply here, especially as you’re talking about introducing levity to your new work?

Z: Yeah, I think it really does. I think it’s very in the realm of what I’m talking about, I’m very interested in anything that we can [try] or celebrate. 

NR: When it comes to performing live, does that give you an opportunity to test out new music or to experiment with something? 

Z: When I went on my first tour, my first and only tour, I was playing songs that were already recorded. And that’s pretty normal, but right now, I’m about to go on a tour again and I think I’m gonna do a lot of new songs. I’m really excited because I’m learning that it’s a rare opportunity to be able to sing something before you’ve recorded it. When I did my first tour, I realized how much you learn from singing them and you’re like, “Oh – I probably would have done it like this.” So I’m excited to be able to try things with these songs before they’re actually finished. Especially because, with what I’ve been saying about trying new things and sharing more of myself,

“with these songs, I feel like I want them to breathe a bit in a way that I can learn from.”

I’m really excited for them live; I can already feel them live. Before, with Ache of Victory, I wasn’t really thinking about that as much when I was making them. But with making these new songs, it’s been more like, “Oh my god, I’m really excited to play this one.” 

NR: How does performing at fashion shows, versus gallery spaces, or on tour compare? 

Z: I don’t know how to compare – like, playing at a church, versus a bar, versus a wedding I didn’t know was a wedding, the Whitney? I don’t know. There’s no real comparison. But I think that’s part of the magic of a show is like, not knowing what is gonna happen. And being in different environments and being able to shift the energy – that’s exciting to me. 

NR: So what is the joy, or pleasure, of performing live for you?

Z: Singing into people’s eyes.


Creative Direction · JADE REMOVILLE
Special Thanks to · MIGUEL AVALOS

Sylke Golding

“every day is a plus – to wake up and be healthy, and to find myself in this unique position”

I speak to NR cover star, Sylke Golding, over the phone a few days after the shoot. How did it go, I ask? “It was great! A great little team. I always love it when they pick me,” she says. “At this point it’s such a plus.” Sylke started modelling at the age of 18, scouted – as she explains below – when living in Sweden. Now, age 55, Sylke is still modelling. After a break of a couple of decades in between, that is. Over the past couple of years, the fashion industry seems to have opened itself up to more diverse representations – widening the pool, as Sylke says. She had begun noticing this shift in the kinds of models she was seeing, not long before modelling came calling (again). It started around four years ago, when a colleague’s photographer friend was looking for models for an editorial with mature models. After came the runways (for amongst other brands, Deveaux), the street style spots (on Vogue) and the fashion editorials in print. Sylke’s certainly got the look – but as she ponders, what is that? “The way my bone structure is, because of the way the camera picks it up through the lens?”

It’s curious listening to Sylke discuss the similarities and differences between her experiences of the fashion industry as a young woman, versus in her fifties. She describes the former experience of being about fitting a certain mould – and a quick stalk on Sylke’s Instagram brings up some throwback snaps from back in the day. There’s a shot by Patrick Demarchelier and an outtake from a Grazia cover by Steve Landis; it’s true, her bone structure really does work with the light. But what really shines through in her modelling work from today (and again, reflecting on what Sylke discusses below) is a certain joie de vivre – a smile that’s incredibly infectious, where great cheekbones can’t be replicated.

As important as someone like Sylke’s visible presence marks a shift in the fashion industry – the grey hair, the lines, the signs of ageing – it seems that she also really enjoys just doing the job. She speaks of how, though photographers more often shoot digitally these days, the recent resurgence of interest in film is interesting too. Sylke describes the “raspiness” that comes with film – “I love the dirt on it, so to speak, and the hue”. And there’s a different set-up that comes with film, too. “Now it’s all digital and usually you see it on a little laptop, and you get an idea but, [this shoot] was all on film. So, you take the first picture to check the light, take a few digital shots, but then you’re kind of in the dark. Sometimes, you just have to trust the process.” I ask Sylke if she finds it easy to trust the process, to trust the team. “It’s funny you ask that because, in my regular life, generally, I need to have control and I always try to think ahead and say, ‘What can I do?’” But with modelling, it’s about switching off – “it’s kind of freeing,” she says. Going with the flow, especially given the past two years of the pandemic, and being able to model breaks up the monotony of everyday.

NR: Is there anything you take with you to a shoot – something that never changes, regardless of the different jobs, teams or concepts you’re working with?

SG: Yes – it’s being me. All I can bring to the table is me. You know, sometimes I think, what are the expectations? But as much as I think, “Why me?” I’m also thinking, “Why not me?” I always try to remember that, with social media and my agency, [clients] pick me [for who I am]. I’m turning 56 in July, and although the modelling pool has gotten much larger because there’s more inclusivity, my age group is still much less represented. So, when [a client] picks me, then it’s like, they want me. I don’t know where I read this recently, but I read it and it sort of stuck with me, that people don’t change, they only become more of themselves. I think there is a lot of truth in that. I can be inspired by people, but then it still has to be translated into something because otherwise, we are all just copies, you know? It doesn’t work – and I think the camera knows that as well. You know, if you’re not comfortable within yourself, the camera will read it – and the people around you will read it. So I love that challenge of expressing you, and to answer your question, that doesn’t change.

“That is the challenge – to be actually me, to give them who I am.”

NR: Something you mentioned before we spoke on this call was the idea of destiny – and in relation to what you’ve just said, I wondered how that is realised for you?

SG: Destiny ties into when I first became a model. I lived in Sweden at the time, my family had left East Germany when I was 14. And then I was scouted when I was 18 and I started modelling in Italy and Paris. [Being scouted] came at a time when I really desired change and wanted to leave Sweden. But back then, there were only really one or two ‘moulds’ of model. I worked with a lot of beautiful young women, and we were all trying to fit that mould. If you didn’t fit that mould, there was work but it was much harder to reach a point where you could work consistently. And then when you reached 25 or 26, it was done. It really slowed down to the point that you couldn’t help but see the messages: “Look, there’s a door and it says exit. See it?” So then I just stopped at that point and turned away from modelling. I had dropped out of university to pursue modelling, and [then] I had to find out what I wanted to do next. I did a bunch of jobs, a couple of decades went by – you know, the quote un-quote ‘regular life’. And I never really thought about modelling again. But in the past five years, I started seeing little signs that something was afoot. Friends would say, “Maybe you should model!” But I was like, no. No, I should not. And

“lo and behold, modelling came and found me again; I was asked by a photographer who was looking for a mature model.”

And then I was like, “Alright, what the hell? Why not?” I did it, it hit social media, and then it just happened. So I often find myself thinking about destiny; I feel like both times modelling came, I didn’t actively pursue it. It pursued me. I would say that the only way I would do it again is if it came and knocked on my door. And I said it many times. So, lately, I’m really of the mind that you should be careful what you say because once you say things out into the universe, it has a way of responding. And it’s for the good, it’s for the bad – whatever the energies you put out there, you will attract them. So, I wonder how actively, or subconsciously, did I will this to happen?

NR: Do you feel like your visibility is as important for you as it is for other women to see?

SG: I hope so because you see women, or society on a whole, struggling to accept age – women growing older, men growing older. I see men colouring their grey out and I think it looks ridiculous because you can see it. I try not to judge, but it’s just, you can see it. I rationalise the process for myself, and it makes me stronger, which is that in the end, people are scared of dying. And we all, in some way, have to get to grips with that. And I think the problem is that, of course we want to postpone it, but that’s all we’re really doing. I want to encourage everyone to find a way to accept it because I’m trying just the same to accept this. So, I hope that [my visibility] helps. I hope changes in the industry are here to stay; that they are truly opening up, and that the pool remains larger, and become larger. And that everybody is included because, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Who’s to say who is beautiful or not? I want [to push for] acceptance of what is real; I strive for that. I want to be honest; I want it to be real – to reframe that into a positive. And I hope it encourages people.

“I hope [my experience] tells the story that, you know, you could be happy with growing older. You can be fulfilled and satisfied.”

NR: The industry is notoriously gravitated towards youth. From your experience of being a model at a young age, before coming back to the industry later on, has much changed?

SG: It has, and it hasn’t. The first shoot I had, it was like nothing has changed – the hair, the make-up. The process of getting ready hasn’t changed. It’s still the same creative process. The pool has gotten a lot bigger. I work with models that could be my children; if I had children, they could be my children. Back then,

“I think it was more about fitting a mould, and it was less about who you were as a person.”

And now, it’s much more like, “Oh I like them. I think they could really contribute to the story.” I think that’s a huge change – they want character, you know. They don’t just want a prescribed performance from the model. I think it’s much more collaborative, even from the model; it’s like, “Show us who you are.” Overall, it’s the same industry. It’s the fashion industry – it’s the same. Same exciting, crazy journey and I think it’s full of people who just love excitement because every day, you pretty much meet new people and it’s a new scene.

NR: On your Instagram, there’s a post where you say that it’s a myth that age is just a number. And going back to what you said about how, as you age, you become closer to who you truly are – is that what you meant about this ‘myth’?

SG: You don’t have to be confined by the number of your age, I know what people mean by that, I think it’s well-meaning. And I used it too in the beginning, but then I thought about it. It isn’t just a number. Age is about acceptance, it’s not just a number because I’ve got here. I’m lucky to be here, every day is a plus – to wake up and be healthy, and to find myself in this unique position. And I’ve said this before and I think it holds true: every spot, every wrinkle tells a story.


Photography · RICKY ALVAREZ
Creative Direction · JADE REMOVILLE
Fashion Assistant · JOAO PEDRO ASSISS

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