kordale and kaleb, instagram's fave gay dads, star in an amazing acne studios campaign
Kaleb Anthony and Kordale Lewis talk modeling for the Swedish brand and raising four kids in today's America.
Fotografía Inez & Vinoodh
Kaleb Anthony and Kordale Lewis met on Facebook, and got famous on Instagram. In 2014 the Atlanta couple went viral after posting a shirtless mirror selfie while doing their daughters' hair before school. "Being fathers is getting our daughters up at 5:30am making breakfast getting them dressed for school and putting them on the bus by 6:30," they wrote in a caption. "This is a typical day in our household. It's not easy but we enjoy every moment and every minute of #fatherhood. #proudfathers #blackfathers #prouddads #gaydads." Since then their family has grown to include four beautiful children: Desmiray (10), Maliyah (9), Kordale Junior (8), and Kaleb Junior (8 months). Pretty impressive considering neither dad has yet turned 30. And while flat-ironing Desmiray's hair still creates the odd struggle on school days, Kordale and Kaleb have faced difficulties before. Kordale recently recounted his own in his soul-baring memoir Picture Perfect.
When Acne Studios DM-ed Kaleb and Kordale to propose a fun family photo shoot at a hotel in New York, they were driving the whole clan down to Orlando for a vacation, something that required two separate cars. Acne's Jonny Johansson had found the couple and their kids after obsessing over the idea of a modern family in matching outfits. (They eventually went with a relaxed combo of block stripes, chunky beanies, and cozy socks. One photo prominently features a takeout container from which Kordale had devoured a giant sandwich.) "I was telling [Kaleb] about the message that I had received and he was like, 'That would be an awesome opportunity,'" Kordale tells i-D over a Skype call from his Atlanta kitchen. "I don't think either of us knew how big the campaign was until we actually got to New York. The experience was breathtaking." We talked to the proud dads about keeping it 100% real while becoming poster boys for a more inclusive America.
Hi Kordale and Kaleb! Have you done much modeling work before? The pictures are gorgeous.
Kaleb: The way that our daughters shined in those pictures — the way that we were looking at Maliyah and Desmiray… To me this campaign was about them. I was proud. Proud. Our girls want to act and model, so seeing them in that light was awesome. They were the stars. Kordale and I were like, "What about me?" I see Kordale trying to make abs, and I'm trying to make abs, and our girls are doing all these model poses. They're probably upstairs now dancing and modeling.
What does a "modern family" mean to you?
Kaleb: A modern family is 2017. A modern family can be an interracial couple, a modern family can be a gay couple, a modern family can be a heterosexual couple. A modern family is one that loves their children and loves to be together as one, despite their sexual preferences or the color of their skin.
Kordale: Today, a modern family is not defined by a man and a woman. It can be two parents, or one parent, taking care of kids. You have single parents, homosexual parents, straight parents, then you also have parents who do the surrogate thing to have a baby. It's a couple that is willing to provide for their kids.
Do you find that kids are more accepting of non-traditional lifestyles than adults are, in a way, because they haven't internalized these prejudices?
Kaleb: Have you ever heard the saying that kids are innocent? Kids are very innocent. Kordale and I believe the most heinous crimes to be committed are crimes against kids. When babies are born, they don't know yes, they don't know no, they don't know right, they don't know wrong. They just know what they've been taught. When a kid comes into the world, they don't know they're supposed to have a mom and dad, they just know that they are supposed to be nurtured. This is our kids' normal.
Children who come from a homosexual household tend to receive a lot of love because of the scrutiny that a lot of homosexuals receive growing up as a child. You have a lot of parents who don't necessarily care or approve of their child's lifestyle when they come out as gay. When that person finally has a child or is granted the opportunity to have a child — because it's very hard to have children as a homosexual man or as a homosexual woman — they tend to show the child a bit more love. It's hard for us, in this world, to be parents.
What is it like having such a large social media following? Do you guys consciously try to be role models?
Kordale: Not so much. At first, yeah, but I've got to a point in my life where I just want to be happy and locked into who I am. It's a problem when people scrutinize their lives and worry too much what people say, until the point where they're really not happy. I want to be myself 100%.
You post a fair bit about politics. Has the election changed how you talk to your kids about homophobia and racism in America?
Kaleb: It's crazy. My kids are biracial. They're more black, but their grandmother is white. They went to go stay with their grandmother this past June, and my eldest daughter came back to me and said, "Dad, why didn't you vote for Trump?" I thought it was a joke. Our kids go to all the polling booths with us, because we want to show them that voting is something you do when you get older. My eldest girls had been following the election and the campaigns. We were really Team Bernie Sanders, but he didn't win, so we got on the Hillary Clinton bandwagon. That was a big thing for me because my daughters were inspired by her as well.
When Donald Trump came along with his misogyny and hateful remarks, they were watching that stuff with us. We were watching the electoral college results come in and we were all disappointed. Then we watched the Women's March on TV. They know how passionate I am about gay rights, women's rights, and human rights. Then she came back from her grandmother's and asked me why I didn't vote for Trump. I was like, "Oh my God." We looked up YouTube videos of Trump saying the minimum wage was too high and should be lowered to $7, and one video where Trump said that hiring pregnant women in the workforce was a threat to the work environment. I had to show her physical evidence of what this man had said.
I love how fact-based your solution to that problem was. Presenting hard evidence is a good way to show adults that they're being duped, so I think it shows real respect for your kids' intelligence.
Kordale: I was very passionate about this election towards the end, especially because of my daughters. In a couple of years they'll be teenagers. I grew up in inner-city Chicago and I knew a lot of girls in junior high and high school who made some not-so-smart decisions, but they had the resources to take care of themselves. Girls might have caught something, or got pregnant, and in a lot of cases they don't always feel comfortable telling their parents right away. For them, and for a lot of my cousins, Planned Parenthood was there for them. I'm a father, I have daughters. When they go to school for eight hours, we can't always be sure what they're going to do.