Confessions of a Rick Owens Stepper, Shauntele Dishes on Her Experience
What was your most memorable moment from the performance?
I loved the moments where we were facing the crowd. To see the reactions and hear the shouts of encouragement and appreciation was a great feeling. It was further proof that the hard work we put in was not in vain and the effect was not lost on the audience.
What was the chemistry like between the steppers?
Whenever you bring a large number of people together there is an initial social dance that takes place. You move around in cautious steps to feel each other out, quickly recognizing that some personalities are larger than others and that some are more docile, sensitive and focused. One of the moments that brought us closer together was the “lock up” performed at the very end of the routine. In this formation we were linked together and holding onto the woman in front of us with great force so that no movement could break the chain. This physical closeness creates an emotional connection as well.
Some critics are saying the performance was inappropriate. In fact, many are saying Rick wanted Blacks to step in his fashion show, but didn’t want many black models. What are your thoughts on that?
Rick Owens NEVER stated that “he wanted Blacks to step in his fashion show, but didn’t want any black models.” To Rick we were American steppers. As a matter of fact there were other non-black troupes considered for the show as well. Rick Owens’ admiration stemmed from a genuine appreciation of the art of step, not the race of those who perform it. That is not to say we should ignore the fact the it was an indelible moment in fashion history to have models like us represented on the runway. From the mostly positive response to our performance I am optimistic that we as people of color have begun to release ourselves from the heavy self criticism that stunts our own self expression. Sometimes we are simply fighting imagined stereotypes that may not truly exist within the minds of others. The crabs can have that barrel. As a black woman I am many things from feminine to fierce, from jovial to angry. Can we give our fellow humans the chance to understand us before we begin underestimating their ability to relate and appreciate our cultural uniqueness?