WHAT IS IDENTITY? – NR MAGAZINE ON THE STACK

From meeting at a law school to branching out the magazine into a myriad of niches, Jade Removille and Nima Habibzadeh, co-founders and creative directors of NR Magazine, sit down with Fernando Augusto Pacheco of Monocle’s The Stack to discuss NR Magazine and its recent print issue on Identity

“NR is a print, bi-annual publication that we co-founded in 2016 in London. It is a way for us to narrate a story through different artists, photographers, cultures, and creatives that we are inspired by and that we want to give a platform to and for our readers to discover because, for us, NR is a window to what is around us and what is going on in our society,” says Jade as she introduces the magazine.

The conversation moves along until it touches upon issue no. fourteen. The Identity issue covers interviews with Willem Dafoe, Omar Apollo, Remi Wolf, and a Bottega Veneta fashion editorial special. It enshrines the readers an escape towards the creatives’ utopia: a journey through the varying creative processes, an overview of their private lives, an in-depth understanding of their philosophy, and their personal perceptions of identity. The issue opens up dialogues concerning the fluidity and fertility of identity: all masks lifted, all truths bared.

“We work with so many different people globally. We try to work with people that are not necessarily heard of from Ed Templeton who is a professional skateboarder and photographer to Eddie Plein the creator of grills. We like to touch upon so many different people within the art and culture world while also bringing together people in the music world in the fashion world. It is a combination of different people coming together,” says Nima.

Listen to the full interview here.

WORDS MATTHEW BURGOS

 

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Miguel

“I’m more interested in exploring the subtext of the why”

Why does purity have sex-appeal? What happens when you ask desire to strip? Is it cumpassion or compassion standing there? Have the closed fists of a lover around your heart understood what it meant to pray? Did they pray for you or did they just have you on your knees? 

The difference between intimacy and sex has long evaded many of us for far too long as we wrap our naked bodies in sheets instead of awareness, checking our phones before we even turn to see if the person next to us has batted an eye in waking consciousness. When we’re unable to communicate with ourselves or our better halves, we turn to music, we turn to Miguel. The Grammy Award winning artist is known for his sensual ballads. His 2017 critically acclaimed album War & Leisure, debuted at #1 on the Billboard R&B Albums chart and #9 on the Billboard 200 chart. But as we’ve been waiting for our next, favorite slow-jam, waiting to read the lips of an angel before they even part, Miguel turns the lights on. 

He needs more, he is more and his cravings no longer can be fulfilled simply by tender embraces and physicality chained to emotion. Miguel is looking for something deeper, looking to fill up space as he is, instead of carving it out of self-censorship, longing and lust. As he matures, he’s been making an effort to become his own friend, admitting to the fact that for some time, the person in the mirror blinked back but didn’t look like the person he wanted to be. He’s focusing on genuine understanding, relatability instead of selfhood dependent on difference and exploring darker tones with his new music because as he says, “there’s no way to tell the whole story without actually presenting the whole. I’ve shown everyone one side of me but now let me show you the other side, too.”

I know you’re also close with your grandma who left Mexico, sacrificing her own career in music to make a life for your family in the States, helping to shape your identity and inform your relationship to music and home. My own grandma recently turned 100 so I’ve been thinking a lot about matriarchy and home in general. 

My grandmother’s are almost polar opposites in terms of their temperaments. I didn’t get closer to my grandmother on my mom’s side until I was an adult and that’s been a whole other, fun relationship to develop that I didn’t expect to have at all. She was stern because she had to be and I only am able to see that now. The opposite goes for my grandmother on my father’s side, who you mentioned. She was always really warm, affectionate and loving but as I got older and business and life made it much harder to be there physically and it just wasn’t as much of an adult relationship. I look at family as being a sense of not only your journey as an individual, but as a representation of the bigger journey.

It’s like your legacy almost?

Yeah and not even as a measure for your accomplishments but just in your disposition, your humanity.  

“Our temperaments, our choices, our affinities are informed by our families.”

Yeah it’s this idea of a foundation. You’ve been likened to Prince and been a sex symbol in the minds of many and that was your foundation almost on which your career was initially built. But as you matured, you’re shifting that foundation as sex perhaps becomes intimacy with yourself as you begin to explore these darker tones in your work? 

I am anything I want to be, everything I want to be and sometimes that is sexy but not all the time. I welcome whatever it is that people need to connect with and I don’t control it. If I am sexy to certain people, great, that’s awesome but I just know that that’s not all I have to offer. It’s certainly not what keeps me interested in anything. I gravitate to things that feel sexy but I’m more interested in exploring the subtext of the “why” that is and so much of that comes from the depth of the darkness and the light, the interplay of it all.

It’s interesting because we aspire for depth but we don’t always equate it to being anything to do with darkness per se, we see it as a positive thing associating it with emotional growth. We’ve all been exploring this within the past year as we’ve had to confront ourselves. In what ways have you become more intimate with yourself and what do you feel more distant from?

I’ve been going back to this analogy recently because it’s the easiest way for me to remind myself but think about how often the operating systems on our phones get upgraded, now it’s like every couple of months, there’s something new, something better, a more efficient version. Life for humans should be experienced this way, in abundance, happiness and fulfillment. For me it hasn’t necessarily been new things, it’s just being able to see what needs optimizing and sometimes that means having to discard things we once needed.

What are some of those things for you that you’re cutting out of your system?

A lot of fear-based survival stuff, a lot of choices that reflect growing up having to move around, or not necessarily being in a place where we could afford things everyone else had, or feeling like an outsider based on the fact that I’m brown and black. What we do throughout life is to find ways to protect ourselves and for a lot of people that becomes their reality and stays their reality. For whatever reason, I was really lucky. I had parents that even though they weren’t together, they still held me down as much as they possibly could. I had enough of a support system to believe in myself, which is really at the end of the day, the core factor of anyone doing anything fulfilling. That ends up in great ways, fueling you and then in other ways, maybe weighing you down.

Right so it sounds like fulfillment to you is synonymous with self acceptance and we see that manifests on the Art Dealer Chic EP series. It’s funny when you realize what the difference between creating space and filling it up as you are feelis like. People seem to be gravitating towards this place you’ve stepped into especially with the release of Funeral and the new music on your greater horizon. 

Yeah I definitely just want to do the work. At the end of the day, an artist is about their work and I want to do my work with as much freedom from my even from my own feelings of requirement, or efforts to tick any kind of boxes per se. Inevitably, when you know your livelihood comes from your art, it’s going to find its way in one way, shape, or form so you need to be vigilant about creating clear boundaries. I’ve definitely experienced those moments where it becomes a challenge to see clearly and remember what the whole point of the gig is and I just remember that hey, I’m here to share, that’s what I’m here to do and I found a means of doing it through music.

“I get to be of service when I am my most honest here in this arena.”

Why is sharing so important to you? Why is that your driving force?

Probably because of the feeling that it generates. There’s been a couple of really awesome conversations I’ve had with my friends and fans that have shown me to the moon type support and they never really knew me but the connection was so genuine and there was a lot of belief there. I think of those people, and the people who I haven’t met yet but that I might meet through my music that I could possibly help to just feel good.

“That’s the awesome thing about any medium – the opportunity to connect with someone else that makes you forget your differences.”

Sharing is also interesting because like you said you might not know these people and nevertheless, that boundary you previously mentioned, begins to dissipate and maybe that’s the thing that we’re all looking for. The work you do as an artist is a lot emotional labor, you’ve broken down the boundaries yourself so that those listening are free of inhibition and able to access the parts of yourself that you’re putting forth in a way that mirrors intimacy. 

To add to that, it might be that I’m craving deeper connection in my life so I’m looking for ways to build that however I can and obviously that starts with a deeper connection with myself. I’ve really made a genuine and consistent effort over the past few years to really hone in and check in with myself, asking, “how are you feeling about you?” The more I’ve become my own friend, because I don’t know that I necessarily was, I realize how important this lesson was and it allowed me to shift, transition. I proved that I can write a good, even great, love song, I provided that I can do sexy, but what is that? Is that fulfilling? Does that fulfill me? I don’t think it really fills the cup all the way. 

What fills your cup all the way then? Even when you say you’re seeking out these deeper connections — what does that look and feel like to you? What is a “deep connection”?

Just like complete support, you know? I think that I’ve yet to really tap into what makes me relatable as a human being. I think that’s probably where I feel the most excited, the most uncomfortable and undeveloped. I don’t always lead with that. It’s interesting to look at the ways that we do our best to stand out and for a long time that was very, very important to me. But as I’m maturing and looking at the world, I’m going that’s not how I help right now. I used to champion being “an other” or different but like, we get it. You’re different and so is that person, and that person, and that person but let’s find the connection. 

Credits

Photography · RICKY ALVAREZ
Fashion · SHAOJUN CHEN
Creative Direction · NIMA HABIBZADEH and JADE REMOVILLE
Grooming · NADIA MOHAMMADPOUR
Production · THIRTEENTH PRODUCTION
Location · PEERSPACE
Interview · LINDSEY OKUBO
Special Thanks · Edge Entertainment