Her personality? Larger than life. Her nails? As long as the Nile River… and her selfies? Better than yours. Don’t let Bee Diamondhead’s dazzling online presence fool you though. She’s definitely not just another social-media savvy fashionista.
Having produced work for titles such as Dazed and Confused, Wound and Vanity Fair along with a three-year stint as fashion editor for Marie Claire South Africa under her belt, Bee is living for more than just the likes. We caught up with the fashion director, trend consultant and self-proclaimed ‘small-town farm girl’ to talk African talent and Idris Elba in his underwear…
So what did a girl from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe do to become Bee Diamondhead?
She worked ha ha! After getting my degree as an art director in Creative Brand Communications and fast realising I wasn’t a sit-in-an-office-all-day type of chick, I started working as a fashion assistant in South Africa. I then moved to London where I did the same at Condé Nast and for titles such as Vanity Fair and Dazed while studying fashion styling and marketing at London College of Fashion. I then moved back to South Africa where I’ve been working as a stylist, creative strategist, fashion editor and brand consultant.
What is it that you do now?
I’m still doing most of the above. Mainly, I work as a youth trend expert and creative consultant. Basically, I help brands understand who their market is, what they look like, what language they speak, what they listen to and how to get their attention.
What aspect of that do you enjoy most?
I most enjoy engaging and observing the kids, figuring out what they’re about, and creating work that inspires them – and me – to be and do better!
Perceptions of Africa, and what it means to be young and African tend to be stereotypical and exoticised – especially outside of the continent. As an image-maker do you feel any kind of responsibility in creating representations of African-ness that challenge or transform these narratives?
Absolutely! I know this might sound corny but sometimes I feel like it is my calling! Never mind globally… even here at home in our creative landscape, the normal kid from the hood is very poorly represented when it comes to creating for the black youth market.
Being young, black, female and as loud as I am, there are definitely people who think I’m all surface and here for the likes. Screw the likes!
Hence my decision to go a little more corporate these days. It is a way for me to help reshape these narratives and transform the way the youth are represented and spoken to. It’s exciting stuff. But at times fucking difficult and frustrating trying to explain (or even worse, sell) this world that you know so well…
Especially when the people you’re selling it to are invariably of the old, white and male variety! Must be challenging at times…
All day, every damn day! I guess I’m lucky in that I was pushed into the workforce early on, where I had to work my ass off proving myself so that no one could fault my shit. But yeah, being young, black, female and as loud as I am, there are definitely people who think I’m all surface and here for the likes. Screw the likes!
It’s actually insane that out of the entire advertising industry here there are only about two or three black female creative directors.
I believe in what I do and am doing it for my little sisters and brothers so that they don’t need to break their backs and continue to starve trying to get through the door…
What changes would you like to see in the SA fashion industry?
Change from within the industry, mostly. It is not enough to have your first black South African celeb on the cover of a magazine. Black professionals are still not getting hired in positions of power. It’s actually insane that out of the entire advertising industry here there are only about two or three black female creative directors. Unfortunately, our industries only hire the privileged. You need to have a car and money in the bank just to intern. We’ve consciously got to hire people of colour in order for that picture to change.
In terms of fashion, if you think about it, people define what is beautiful or pretty based largely on what they are used to and how they grew up. Sometimes I’ll bring models up in a meeting and get responses like, ‘she’s ugly’ or ‘she looks poor’. That shit hurts to the core and unless the industry changes from the inside, unless space is made for different kinds of decision makers, there’s no way that’s gonna change.
I know it’s hard to have favourites, but what recent work are you most excited about?
I’m super excited to have been part of the Boity X LEGiT team. That market is probably the most important to me in that it’s the ‘mass market’ that market advertisers look down on. The markets that don’t have enough data to spend the day trawling Tumblr and blogs to get fresh inspiration and perspectives on a different world to the one they know. Fashion is fashion you know; we can create art all day. But when it makes sense to people that need it the most, that’s the shit that excites me!
You have impeccable taste and an eye for great combinations, particularly with regards to colour, texture and print. What inspires you?
Thanks! I think that it just stems from being everywhere all the time and appreciating all of the world I live in. Being able to chill in the hood with my cousins all December, going to the farm and hanging with my gran and her sisters to having drinks on a roof with famous friends… that’s the stuff you can’t buy. So inspiration is all over!
Music, art, fashion, style… which young Africans are inspiring you right now?
This is a very long list. But I would have to say it’s the young Africans who are creating a fresh narrative and doing their own thing, creating fresh windows to see a different future. I’m very excited for Yannick Ilunga aka Petite Noir. His career has been so nice to watch with Rharha as his creative director. That’s some boss couple shit. I’m very proud and happy for them both!
And cities? Does life exist outside of Johannesburg and Cape Town?
Absolutely! In fact, I would do every single city next year if I could. I love Africa so much. I could never live without the smiles, the accents, the languages, the music and the food. It’s my dream to travel and shoot African fashion.
Ok, time for the goss! What’s the craziest thing to happen on set?
When R Kelly’s jeweller showed up with a tray of diamonds fresh off the plane from NYC for him to try on! I couldn’t even see that shit was so blinding! Also, seeing Idris Elba in his Calvins was pretty damn mind blowing…
I’ll bet… Proudest career moment so far (other than Idris of course)?
They’re all proud moments! It’s really tough being me in this industry. Eleven years on and people think all I can do is pin dresses on models! But yeah, for the number one commercials director in the country to ask for you directly and not argue with a single point you make… that’s really nice!
Summer’s on its way! What won’t you be living without this season?
Shea butter, coconut oil, water, Black-Up concealer, Puma x Vashtie trainers that I have in every colour and wear with everything. All the gold in the world! All the vegetables in the world! All the champagne and tasty cocktails and dancing!
And finally, if you could dispel one popular myth about the fashion scene in Africa it would be that….
It’s all true… Boo!
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