See a new FENTY film with the stars of Betty and The Skate Kitchen
Ajani and Dede tell us about working with Rihanna’s maison.
Images courtesy of FENTY
The Skate Kitchen originally named themselves after reading comments on their skate videos telling them to get back in the kitchen, and it’s exactly this spirit that inspired FENTY to work with them for a new film. Being unapologetic about taking up space and claiming what you want is obviously key to Rihanna’s ethos too. As Skate Kitchen member Dede says, when it comes to Ri’s vibe: “nothing is impossible”.
The film, directed by India Sleem, follows Dede and fellow member Ajani around New York’s Fort Greene, Lower East Side and Lower Manhattan neighbourhoods, which, due to the pandemic, are more traffic-free than usual. “Aside from it being super smelly I usually like to skate Lower Manhattan because they have a lot of good spots close by where we can get dope skate clips (and before COVID, some good eats),” laughs Dede about the shoot. It’s a New York that’s well known to both women. As Ajani adds, “I grew up near one of the neighborhoods we were in so it felt very natural to be skating there or hanging out in those other areas that I frequently visit. I feel the videos will really allow the audience a window into our slice of New York.”
Watch the film, and read Ajani and Dede’s thoughts on all things FENTY, below.
Why do you think FENTY and Rihanna wanted to make a video with you? What spirit do you share?
AJANI: I have the desire to empower and uplift femme energy and I see similar sentiments within the brand. We both have powerful and intentional spirits that allow us to achieve this by following our passions.
DEDE: I was really excited for the opportunity and at first I couldn’t believe it. As people, we are naturally attracted to the energy of others we relate to and do things that we find interesting. I skate, I paint and I DJ; I make art. There is a nuance in art that we find attractive. That’s where we relate. That’s the spirit we share.
What was the shoot like?
A: It was really comfortable because the photographers and directors India and Izzy were so approachable and fun. India was especially inspiring because of how organic and intimate it was to work with her. I feel they were able to capture my essence and spirit through this project.
D: Given the circumstances we are currently living in, the shoot was very safe and exciting. It was much needed fun; we had a small crew and shot in many locations I haven’t been to in a while due to quarantine and just staying indoors.
The staff was amazing and the photographer India had a really great direction for how she wanted to shoot us. It was a unique vision that wasn’t easy to bring to life. As you know I’m used to skating in baggy clothes or street wear and they had me in some really dope pieces and fits that you would see on a runway.
Who were some of the 'creative weirdo' skaters who inspired you?
A: My friends Nina, Rachelle, this girl Banana, Helen with the red hair, Danielle and Jules (just to name a few) inspire me. I wouldn’t even call them weirdos but their creativity and energy are definitely out of the ordinary. They all practice their own forms of art and it’s evident in their fashion sense and styles of skating.
D: I remember being in middle school and I never had the new or latest Jordans or new anything and that made me feel left out at times, but I knew that those things weren’t me. Being from Brooklyn and hanging out downtown I’m inspired by all of the people I skate with around New York City. At one point they were labeled delinquents and misfits and now it’s all a part of pop culture. These people are all in their own world and mainly focused on skating the way they want and they wear what they want. Any given day I see some of the most outlandish attire and I appreciate it just because that’s what they want to do. These skaters do as they feel and don’t follow trends or look to match anyone. It’s a figurative style.
How did you feel wearing your FENTY fits?
A: Wearing FENTY makes me feel confident. During the shoot I was thinking ‘these are clothes I want to wear because I feel good wearing them’.
D: I felt powerful and strong! I usually skate in vintage worn out tees and loose fitting pants so wearing FENTY felt really good. I always see Rihanna in her FENTY fits and being able to wear that exactly was super dope. It gave me chills.
Tell us about the neighborhoods you're skating in in the video.
A: I grew up near one of the neighborhoods we were in so it felt very natural to be skating there or hanging out in those other areas that I frequently visit. I feel the videos will really allow the audience a window into our slice of New York.
D: One neighborhood was the Fort Greene area. It used to be crazy when I was younger but now the community changed so it’s more family friendly and quiet. I love Brooklyn, it’s all beautiful brownstones and trees. It’s my community. We were skating down hills and skitching up them. To skitch means holding onto the back of a car while skateboarding, so the car is pulling you. Then we hit LES and Lower Manhattan; this is where I typically go to skateboard. The spot we scouted is right off of the Manhattan Bridge. The streets were empty and very clear, which gave us more time to skate the street island. Aside from it being super smelly I usually like to skate Lower Manhattan because they have a lot of good spots close by where we can get dope skate clips (and before COVID, some good eats).
What about FENTY the brand, and Ms Fenty the woman, speaks to you?
A: FENTY is inclusive towards a huge range of body types and individuals which I absolutely love. It brings physical and mental diversity to the fashion world -- meaning more than just race or appearance. Fenty works with people from very different facets of life with a variety of talents, skills and mindsets.
D: Huge thanks to Rihanna and her team for choosing me for this. She’s such a beautiful soul, and aura and she is literally all goals put in one super human being. Her art and confidence is so empowering, she speaks three words to me: “nothing is impossible”. It’s been so moving to watch FENTY as it grows. I appreciate all of the symbolism as well as art direction that Rihanna and her team have incorporated into the brand. I see a lot of my friends in their campaigns and that makes me feel so good. I get very excited about it all because they’re helping to mold this empire Rihanna has started, showing all the young kids that we have a super hero that looks just like us. Now that I am a part of that mold in some way. It’s a very inspiring and exciting time and I plan on carrying the torch.
What makes you hopeful for the future?
A: The amount of people that are speaking up about mental, emotional and physical wellbeing bring me hope. I feel a shift in the values of the people I encounter and it’s truly inspiring. The truths of people that have been ignored and oppressed by society are coming to light and hopefully this will help us move towards a future where all people can be included, supported and loved equally.
D: I love how passionate this generation is about social issues and equality. The times we are in are very progressive; sometimes it’s overwhelming but it must be said and done. I believe that with any choice comes a reaction and I am hopeful that the freedom we are fighting for is also met with more love. Because in the end “It’s All Love” and love conquers all.
Director & Photographer India Sleem
Videographer Steven Mastorelli
Talents Dede Lovelace and Ajani Russell