Updated: Jul 15
A reflection on Charcoal Magazine’s 7th print issue, nude, hearing from all throughout the team on what nude and this entire year has meant to them.
Entering this semester, Charcoal set out on one notion: how can we make the most honest issue we ever have? After much deliberation and debate, we ended on one universal truth. Boobs. Everyone’s boobs to be clear, we don’t discriminate over here.
For the past five months, our team has navigated some of the rawest storytelling we have ever attempted, all while balancing college lives in the (hopefully) nearing end of a global pandemic. Take a read at how they felt to bring this magazine together, baring it all for anyone willing to read.
Archelle Thelemaque, Editor-in-Chief
“Right before we wrap an issue, we begin brainstorming the next. As we were brainstorming for this issue, I asked the team, as I usually do, “what’s next,” and then jokingly, I said “what if we did something with boobs...” and the e-board was like “👀👀,” and the rest is history.”
Shamayam Sullivan, Co-Creative Director
“The initial idea for nude came as a joke. At first we were talking about having more nudity in Charcoal and showing more of the physical form. I think it really started out with boobies (Archelle mentioned boobs) then it went to naked and finally we landed at nude. It was a full collaborative piece. As the executive board, we just kind of threw stuff to the wall and hoped that something would stick. Once we had solidified our contact in our overall theme, we were really all-hands in to make that vision come to life. It's difficult, but exciting to see something come to life, but there are a bunch of little parts that you don’t quite consider at the moment of ideating that become so crucial. Before everything else, we needed to have a good vision board to articulate what we wanted to do.”
Ramsey Khalifeh, Photographer
“For me, shooting “Bare” was such a humbling experience. To be given the opportunity to share a space with other individuals who were comfortable with being vulnerable was quite special because it meant they were also comfortable with me capturing that essence. As always, the support I received from Sham, Jess and Archelle to help execute the vision and choreograph the models/set is more than a photographer could ever ask for. Coming into this project, I was curious to see how my background in black and white photography (in an analog and digital medium) would aid the goal to capture the human body in its different shapes and textures. I think what made this shoot especially incredible was how we collectively figured out how to play with light to express and highlight the different nuances of the body. In the collection of photos you can see how the main light source came from different angles and intensities with each their own purpose. It's a blessing to be able to contribute a project to Charcoal, and I thank everyone on the team tremendously for letting me be a part of it.”
Izzy Yap, Photographer
“Regarding my experience, this is the first time I had the pleasure of taking photos for Charcoal since I joined the staff as a photographer. The two shoots I was able to help with this semester were the first campus magazine shoots I have ever done. With “In Color,” I was very excited because I love the concept of restructuring Eurocentric art to center people of color. It was amazing to see different cultures be honored in that space to show the beauty that was originally excluded. Zakiah’s pictures were probably one of my favorite compositions from the shoot. There was so much great movement from the fabrics and her headdress, which I loved. Also I just want to highlight all of the talented people that I am so grateful to have worked with. It was such a wonderful environment and everyone truly has amazing artistic ability.”
Brianna Gilmore, Model
“I love expressing myself through earrings and accessories so styling the look with Ria and Jess was really fun. Seeing everyone’s embodied artistry throughout the shoot was inspiring and empowering.”
Toni-Marie Gomes, Model
“So “Bare” was my first shoot with Charcoal, which was really nerve-wracking! I was excited but really nervous. I loved how comfortable everyone made me feel, even before the shoot. From the other models to the photographer and the creatives, it was a really welcoming environment, and I loved that I could be a part of such an amazing shoot! Charcoal, for me, is about expressing myself and being comfortable being uncomfortable, and I think “Bare” is a perfect example of that.”
Ejiro Agege, Model
“I’d say immediately I felt very comfortable with everyone there: the photographers, models, and other stylists. It was a very seamless process and even though we all had different amounts of experience with modeling, everyone was very supportive, encouraging, and overall just there to hype everybody up which I absolutely loved. Six hours flew by extremely fast with that group.
And in terms of the shoot concept itself, overall I’d just say it was super dope how all of us looked like queens and royals but still had our own personal statements. For example, modern styles like Doc Martens, which I was wearing, different kinds of sneakers, and jewelry, like hoop earrings that obviously weren’t characteristics of the Renaissance period [laughs].
I thought it was just a really creative blend of old and new, so props to the creative directors.”
Atiyyah Mayaleeke, Make-Up Artist/Model
“Excess” was the first Charcoal thing I really got to be involved in since before we left for COVID, so it really brought me a lot of joy and excitement, especially as I had contributed to the shoot’s idea. There was a lot of creativity, styling, and just contribution from everyone who was present that day, and I think seeing that collaboration is what really allowed that shoot to be as successful as it was. Makeup for “In Color” was definitely a bit more stressful on my end doing so many faces in such a short time but being able to use so many different colors on each of the models to complement their outfits for the shoot was really fun to play with and mix it up. The end result of all the beautiful people sitting together radiantly surrounded by flowers and color is when I felt I had done my job for the day, and it was something worthwhile.
Ria Wang, Stylist
“Being part of the Charcoal issue this semester was such a rewarding wrap to my time at BU. I had so much fun making magic with some of the most talented people I have ever met. I usually hate waking up early, but I had no problem waking up every time we had a shoot. The most noteworthy aspect about working on “Excess” and “In Color” was seeing our visions conceptualize from bits and pieces to a full print magazine. I especially felt fulfilled when everyone’s face on set would light up after seeing the models give life to my pieces. Watching a simple fit transform the attitudes of the models and seeing everyone hyping them up is all I could ask for. I am so grateful for the effortless collaboration of the entire Charcoal team that really allowed everyone’s creativity shine.”
Angelina Wang, Managing Editor
“The written pieces we included in nude really encompass being ‘naked’ with oneself in all its aspects, from being comfortable with our bodies, our names, and our appearances, to what it can mean to be naked. Just the word ‘nude’ can be used in different ways, and I’m really proud of our writers for being so open and vulnerable with their work and their experiences. As managing editor, I worked with Archelle to shape and polish the writers’ initial pitches, as well as edit and cut pieces for the print issue. The act of pitching and writing itself is being ‘nude’, as someone you’ve probably never even met in real life reads through something very personal and decides what’s good and what to cut in a somewhat detached way, too. It’s been an honor working alongside so many talented people this year!”
Mya Turner, Writer
“I had such a great time with nude. I remember during the first pitch meeting Angelina and Archelle had said that they wanted to produce stories that were about us being mentally, physically, or spiritually nude. Or how we would cover that part of ourselves. Instantly I thought of my boobs. They’re this massive part of me that has always given me pause. But it’s also the first thing people often notice about me, and for a long time that made me insecure. I consider myself a rather confident person, but for a long time, I was not. With nude, I wanted to tell that story and how I was able to create the beautiful person I am today. In the first iteration of my article, I focused on a friendship I had with a friend in high school and how this relationship influenced my self esteem. However, the kind editors, Angelina and Archelle, challenged me to focus internally and tell the story of how I was able to change and become this version of me I always dreamed of. It was tough. I literally had no idea what to write for days because the thoughts, statements, the terrible things I used to tell myself, I was not ready to share. But then slowly it unraveled, and when I finished my piece I teared up. I have come a long way from being this shy little girl with big boobs. My Coming of Age Story is a statement of my power; a remembrance of my glory.”
Lauren Richards, Writer
“I had to dig deep in self reflection to start my narrative piece. I sat on my bedroom floor with an open laptop for an entire Saturday trying to get in touch with myself and write from a place of rawness. From there I was able to craft a glimpse of my story. I then approached the rest of my work from that space of vulnerability. I spent hours interviewing others and writing the stories they offered. I was honored to hear their stories of accepting themselves—body, ethnicity and all. I believe my contributions to the issue invite others into self reflection and curiosity about themselves, and enables them to imagine themselves as beautiful in their skin and bare self. I think that openness with oneself is essential to my work, and what makes my pieces embody the notion of being “truly naked.”
Sabrina Weiss, Co-Social Media Director
“I think simply pushing other content continuously during the past several months was a major key to creating attention and excitement for nude and the Flash Gala. The use of Music Mondays, nude-colored aesthetic posts, and relevant reposts on the Instagram story really garnered a social media identity for Charcoal. Most of all, the Sexpectations and Good Hair campaigns (spearheaded by Traci and Chike) were absolutely beautiful, impactful, and helpful in outreach for the issue and event. There was so much heart that the marketing team and our outreach was really centered around constantly pushing and amplifying POC artwork and voices which kept engagement active throughout the semester and transitioned to the launch event. By staying true to what Charcoal stands for, we were able to beautifully and organically promote nude and the Flash Gala.”
Seyun Om, Art Director
“For me, nude was about being yourself and being open. I believe being yourself is beautiful and I wanted to bring that kind of love and acceptance of oneself through the layout of the magazine.
I utilized the skin tones as the main visual anchor of the issue but didn't want that to be the only element that was on focus, so I did my best to utilize the colors and layouts in as many ways as I can. While reading the issue, I hope the reader can also feel the love and confidence of the body that I felt while editing the issue.”
To say we put everything we had into this issue would be a huge understatement. Bringing this issue to life took more unity and sacrifice of our staff than ever before. We wanted to make sure each of us were able to see ourselves in the final product of nude. We hope you can see yourself in those pages too.