Sydney's Creatives of Colour Are Here & on the Come Up

Dharug Country

— September 1, 2022 —

Suppose the scarce media representations of cultural difference in Australia indicates how People of Colour truly live their everyday lives. In that case, being non-white is pretty much the world's most devastating and boring punishment. Tales of suffering—which needn't be glorified or erased—consume entire discourses on race before mentioning our humanity as people or our influence on culture. Yet, as these Sydney creatives will tell, our long and intricate histories as communities of colour make up the very essence of our abundance as rising disrupters and change makers. 

Such abundance has never appeared more apparent to me than when interviewing the talented up-and-comers hard at work behind the scenes for this creative collaboration brought together by Reem Elnour and The Blueprint—a visual tribute to the outliers that shape our culture with their innovation and fearlessness. I'm on a set like very few others, a buzz with energy and filled exclusively with the kind of creators rarely included in "traditional" (predominately white) editorial shoots. My company comprises multi-hyphenates with ridiculously diverse skill sets, from makeup artists to movement directors. They're from a host of different backgrounds and have their distinct vision boards in mind, yet chief among them is a connectedness to purpose and trust in the process. They don't wait for permission, praise, or cues; they are our future. 

Bakhita wears Zimmerman jacket & pants, vintage top, Alémais necklace, Jasmin Sparrow earrings, vintage sunglasses; Aweng wears Zimmerman jacket, Ganni jeans & shoes, Justine Clenquet earrings from Distal Phalanx, vintage sunglasses, Valet Studio rings 


Jade D'Amico, 24, is a photographer of South American and Italian heritage who owns some of the best car playlists I've ever enjoyed. Jade's style is distinct; each of her projects feels deeply intimate in how they capture your attention.

"So many people tell me they can tell my work [is mine] before looking at the tag. I want to be that recognisable,"

Her subjects are often cast in dreamlike soft hues, underscored by a palpable sense of power and vulnerability. Yet, working with her is just as energising, as she works hard to cultivate "creative spaces [that are] full of life." You immediately feel safe in her hands, and her suggestions and words of encouragement have a way of disarming your insecurity.

Her South American culture undeniably informs her vitality. "[My culture] is everything to me," she says of its influence on all things, from the hype music she plays on set to the kind of energy she seeks in others.

"We're such vibrant people. We radiate life and are so eccentric."

Since starting photography at 16, Jade has wanted to put together a project that honours these shared traits, but no idea has done her vision “justice” so far. So I ask her then, while that idea ferments, who she's most looking forward to collaborating with in the future. "In the most respectful way, I don't care about brands or big names,” she shrugs. "I respect them 100%, but what I want to manifest is working with people, I don't care who, who love what they do and who have an energy that's on 100 all the time."

Bailey wears Ganni coat, Laura's own earrings & shoes

Almost everyone can recall at least one time a working relationship felt purely transactional or, worse yet, spiteful. So how does one begin to conjure the playful and loving spaces Jade speaks of? The ones that make work feel like "a celebration", as she would say? For 21-year-old Zimbabwean graphic designer Luba Ndibali, it's about your intentions. "Forcing relationships is not productive," she says.

"I try to create genuine and authentic connections and friendships with people, and out of that comes wanting to collaborate with them."

Such connections have even helped the creative chip away at her imposter syndrome as a new starter, teaching her that progress is far superior to perfection. "They push me and pull the creativity out of me. [..] As much as people talk crap about it, the Black creative scene is really beautiful. It's sick."

Hanan wears Bottega Veneta jacket, pants, rings & bag

Tina Matti, 27, Sydney's most beloved fixture in makeup, is a master collaborator with thoughts on this very idea. As a friend to all creatives, new and old, she never hesitates to offer her sought-after skills to a project. "Community is a verb," she says. "I 100% believe there is no such thing as self-made. You can't go at this alone." For her, harnessing the power of community requires one to be amenable to the idea that asking for help or not having all the answers all the time isn’t a weakness. “It’s so easy to try and do everything on your own, but there is strength in leaning on other creatives to help bring your ideas to life,” she explains. “Trust the process. You’re not gonna wake up one morning with all the success. Have faith in the people around you, support and be supported.”

Tina's love of makeup started early, back when she'd offered her services to friends that went clubbing as a teenager. Now she's paid to glam up big artists like American singer and songwriter Tanerelle, but she still finds her greatest spark in the everyday women around her.  

Named just this year as one of Australian Fashion Week’s (AFW) changemakers, Laura Mazikana is the 23-year-old Zimbabwean hair artist and stylist behind Deeply Rooted Hair.

“She mastered hair, and then she tapped into styling. She has these little niches and masters them because her vision is out of this world,” says her close friend Tina.

Yes, the creative is a freak of nature, but my favourite Laura fact is that she’s also the funniest person you’ll ever meet, a regular comedian that was born to light up the big screen (plus, word on the street is that she can sing too). She’s too busy styling one of the models to speak with me or overhear Tina’s sermon, but I find comfort knowing she’ll read it later in print. 

Aweng wears Gucci coat & boots, Alémais earrings

Bakhita wears Ganni dress, pants & boots, Laura’s own jewellery

Charlotte Edwige, 23, is a styling assistant who recalls a childhood spent reciting lines from her ultimate comfort film, The Devil Wears Prada. "I thought I was Miranda Priestly," she laughs. But a career in styling finally seemed possible when she was given a chance to style for Sydney-based R&B artist and childhood friend Thandiwe Gudu (known professionally as Ms. Thandi). Outside of styling, Charlotte is completing a degree in Law. 

"I think my ancestors would be very proud of me. I feel that very much," says Charlotte. "My Mum is a Ngarbal woman from northern NSW. We grew up in Redfern, where I work now [teaching at an Indigenous primary school]. She's a psychologist who gets young Aboriginal men out of prison. It's her who inspired me to start my [law] degree."

While most people go the sentimental route when describing their biggest inspirations, 21-year-old Zimbabwean Kombo Mudzingwa, the shoot’s second stylist assistant, will be the first to admit she’s her own muse.

“I aspire to leave no legacy behind. I just want to be remembered as someone who lives beyond their means until the end and dresses fun,” she confesses.

I’d never met Kombo before this conversation yet it only takes about ten seconds to feel like I’ve discovered our generation’s next it-girl, the only one powerful enough to truly reinstate the power of ‘Bimbofication’ in contemporary society.

I ask Kombo what she imagines her ancestors would think of her life so far, and I get such amusement from her earnest answer that it sticks with me for days. “I think they would probably most likely hate it,” she laughs. “I live a really carefree life, and I think that would probably scare someone from olden times, but I imagine there’s probably at least one of them rooting for me.” I’m not sure what they’d think of her catchphrase, a simple but effective “be slutty and have fun!” but I love it.

Image edits by Luba-Ndibali

Cynthia Musengi, 23, has taken a similar carefree approach to her career. She’s a Zimbabwean multi-hyphenate situated in multiple different industries. Today, she’s the onset hair assistant. “As my Mum would say, I do too many things,” she explains. “By trade, I’m a cook with her own catering page. But I’ve always been interested in beauty. First, it was makeup, and then it was hair.” If that wasn’t enough, I’m surprised to learn she’s also an English tutor who has experience in courtrooms and has worked in literature—a mysterious combo I don’t even attempt to solve.

“I aim to have a school of thought,” says Cynthia. “In high school, I studied Islam, and we talked about schools of thought, and I thought damn, could I imagine my own school of thought?” It’s an Oprah Winfrey-style ‘aha moment’, and I laugh as she says it as though the answer should have been obvious all along. “I want to be immortalised through literature, my ideas, and my thoughts. I want people to say, wow, that’s a Cynthia-ism!” One Cynthia-ism I pick up? That one should always invest in a short skirt.

Bakhita wears Ganni dress, Laura’s own jewellery; Bailey wears Ganni coat, Laura's own earrings; Aweng wears Gucci coat, Alémais earrings

In addition to these grander manifestations of future success, most late teens and twenty-somethings are simultaneously experiencing a second coming of age—our time uniquely shaped by two lockdowns, a global pandemic, and a mass racial justice movement. For 19-year-old makeup assistant Panashe Mapike, a Zimbabwean self-professed soft glam queen, recent months have helped her set boundaries with others. “I’m still learning that you can’t expect yourself from other people,” she says. “I’m a big ride-or-die girl, and I keep dying.” More broadly? She’s also learning to relish in her power as a woman of colour. “Being a melanated babe unintentionally draws so much attention but when you know how to command it at the right place and time, it can open doors you didn’t expect.”

When Pana’s not commanding rooms, she’s helping models of colour do so. Her role as one of the few young Black makeup artists in Sydney is both personal and political.

“In an industry where black models are so highly exploited for their aesthetic but are never actually accommodated for, the value of having a Black makeup artist on set is that we truly understand and see each other,” she says.

For her, this understanding can range from knowing which shades match darker skin tones to knowing what it’s like to struggle for recognition in a predominately white industry. 

For the admirably mellow Eritrean Roy, also 19, the last couple of years have been all about extending herself compassion and patience while balancing her creative ambitions with a 9-5 job. “I’m a hustler, but I’m still learning. I’m giving myself permission to fail because I’m still young.” Her biggest concern is making herself proud, and staying in tune with her emotions is part of that. “It’s about knowing what you want in that particular season,” she says. “I want to do my ideas justice. It’s never by force.” 

It’s a lesson most of us are still mastering but with Roy, patience comes from knowing she’s right where she’s supposed to be. “I honestly can’t think of anything else I’d be doing,” she says. “That’s how I knew I had to do [photography]. I was miserable doing anything else. Creativity always made sense to me.”



Aweng wears Zimmerman jacket, Ganni jeans & shoes, Justine Clenquet earrings from Distal Phalanx, vintage sunglasses, Valet Studio rings ​​​​​​

Aweng wears Gucci coat, Alémais earrings, Jasmin Sparrow necklace

Hanan wears Bottega Veneta jacket, pants, bag, rings & shoes

Christopher Quyen, 27, is one of two videographers on set. They are a jack of all trades (and seemingly a master of all) who self-describes ever so fabulously as "a convenience store". "I have a little bit of everything in me," they laugh. "One aisle has video and photography, and another has acting, writing and music." For Chris, whose desire to be a videographer only emerged during the pandemic, creative work is a return to the self—a warm embrace of the other after “abandoning” their Vietnamese identity early on.

"My work is an effort to get back to who I could have originally been if I didn't try to fit into everybody's definition of who I needed to be.” 

Perhaps this shared experience has helped make the loving partnership between Chris and 23-year-old Abbondanzia Haberecht, our second videographer, so successful. “The reason I started making art in the first place was that I had this identity crisis, where I grew up being mixed and not fitting in anywhere,” says Abbondanzia—who is Aboriginal, Italian, and Polish. During high school, art was her necessary form of meditation, an expansive and healing way to navigate her interiority. Fortunately, she’s now arrived on the other side, in full control of her story, an incredible multidisciplinary artist and “gangsta thug.”

Chatting with the two creatives, it’s obvious that neither party takes for granted the incredibly rare partnership they’ve found. “I’m still enabling [Abbey] to chase her own dreams. I don’t want her to just assist assist assist, and now next week she’s directing a music video, and I’m assisting her,” says Chris. “[Chris is] one of my top inspirations…not a lot of people from my area make it or travel overseas,” Abbondanzia replies. I ask Chris then how, as one of few, they’ve navigated the broader creative industry. They leave me with the following gem, given to them by a friend:

“Once people know what you’re worth, they’ll never change their opinion on your price.”  

Bailey wears Ganni coat, Laura's own earrings & shoes

Diana Jalo, 26, is a biracial African-Australia hair and wig stylist driven by the desire to help Black talent receive proper hair care. Recently she worked on Hamilton the Musical, but today she blesses us with her skills on set. She “specialises in all textures, for all walks of life” but claims she has much to learn. “I feel like that’s the best place to be in,” she laughs. For Diana, our personal connections to Black hair are both spiritual and ancestral. “The thing about afro-textured hair is that it’s gravity-defying,” she says. That might sound intimidating to an average stylist, but Diana assures me that Black hair is capable of holding any style that straight hair can and more. 

“Our hair tells a story, and you feel safer when someone knows your hair by experience. It’s a good feeling,” she says.

Bakhita wears Ganni dress, Laura’s own jewellery

Bakhita wears Zimmerman jacket & pants, vintage top, Alémais necklace, Jasmin Sparrow earrings, vintage sunglasses; Aweng wears Zimmerman jacket, Ganni jeans & shoes, Justine Clenquet earrings from Distal Phalanx, vintage sunglasses, Valet Studio rings ​​​​​​

Diana knows how isolating it is to be the only person of colour on a project, but she’s hopeful that’s not a feeling future talent will experience for much longer.

“Things are changing. You’re not always going to feel like that little excluded kid,” she says. “You have a whole world of aunties paving the future for you in all capacities.” 

For Basjia Almaan, 27 and of African descent, the perfect opportunity came to elevate others when she joined Jordan Gogos’s AFW show as casting director—a process involving street casting that exclusively sought underrepresented talent. “We’ve cemented our presence in a moment in time,” Basjia says about the Black community. “We’ve represented our culture, our body types, or hair textures, and that will translate for years.” Essential to this feat was making sure every person felt like they truly belonged in the space, a skill Basjia brought with her to this project as the onset movement director, helping models feel comfortable in their skin.

“Yes, there will always be the first to do something, but I want to know what’s next for us. We are the blueprint for everything, but what will we do with that?”

Bakhita wears Zimmerman jacket & pants, vintage top, Alémais necklace, Jasmin Sparrow earrings, vintage sunglasses; Aweng wears Zimmerman jacket, Ganni jeans & shoes, Justine Clenquet earrings from Distal Phalanx, vintage sunglasses, Valet Studio rings ​​​​​​

Hanan wears Bottega Veneta jacket, pants & bag

Looking forward to what’s next is exactly what Reem Elnour, 24, plans to achieve with this beast of a project. She’s a Sudanese model, medical scientist, and academic, completing a PhD researching colon cancer, and using her smarts to build a thriving collective of working creatives of colour in Sydney. “If I’m not Black, I’d rather die,” she says. “I love being Black more than I love being anything else.” This project is then both a call-out and a salute to the differences that simultaneously make creatives of colour envied and excluded, but never booked and busy. For her, it’s also deeply personal. “African people are the first people, the genetic and historic blueprint,” she explains. “Think about how many people have come to Africa and stolen from us, looted from us, to build their civilisations. Then they stole us to help build those civilisations,” she says.

“These magazines use Black and POC imagery but have no one Black or POC behind the scenes working,” she complains. “I constantly ask industry people why they don’t hire more of us and they’d always say, ‘This is really embarrassing but I don’t know anyone. Can you recommend someone?’” Consequently, part of The Blueprint involves the launch of a directory years in the making, that will give this industry zero excuses when questioned on diversity. Here! HERE is your talent, your underappreciated and overqualified list of future collaborators!  

“The mainstream industry in Sydney and Australia is very boring, they reuse the same faces, because they’re only comfortable with the white-linen-fake-tan-birkenstock aesthetic.” Understandably, despair over such limited representation has caused some of Sydney’s most promising creatives to ditch Australian soil in pursuit of more inclusive overseas markets. “No one wants to stick it out and establish a community here, but I’m not the kind of person who gives up.” 

“Our Black and POC communities are brand new,” she says, comparing our history in the country to that of Black people in the States or in the UK.

“Our communities need time to grow and need nurturing and people need to be patient. We were under the White Australia policy until like the 60s. We are still establishing these communities.”

It’s a fact as equally frustrating as it is true but accepting that knowledge doesn’t give us permission to sit idly by, it should be the fire that fuels our continued resistance. “I’m okay with not seeing the fruits of my labour in this lifetime,” she says. “It’s the people who refuse to let us through the doors who will have to wonder what to say for themselves in years to come, if they continue to sit on their hands.” In the meantime, creatives of colour are building their own nirvanas, pioneering a future far more exciting and far more inclusive than the outdated pasts they leave behind. It’s time we help them build it.

The Blueprint (Directory) is live now on


Sunny Adcock is a 22-year-old journalist, writer, editor, and podcast host from Sydney. She is an African-American and white Australian with over ten years of experience writing about literature, pop culture, lifestyle, race, and gender. You can follow her on Instagram @Sunny Adcock or Twitter @SunnyTheeWriter

Fashion in feature film in order of appearance: [Act 1] Hanan wears Gucci blazer, skirt & shoes; Bakhita wears Zimmerman jacket & pants, vintage top, Alémais necklace, Jasmin Sparrow earrings, vintage sunglasses; Bailey wears Amelia Turner jacket & pants, Gucci necklace, bracelet & bag; Aweng wears Zimmerman jacket, Ganni jeans & shoes, Justine Clenquet earrings from Distal Phalanx, vintage sunglasses. [Act 2] Bakhita wears Erik Yvon dress, Gucci shoes, Justine Clenquet earrings from Distal Phalanx; Hanan wears Bottega Veneta jacket, pants, rings & bag; Aweng wears Zimmerman jacket, Ganni jeans & shoes, Justine Clenquet earrings from Distal Phalanx, vintage sunglasses, Valet Studio rings; Bailey wears Amelia Turner jacket & pants, Gucci necklace, bracelet & bag.

Creative Director & Producer Reem Elnour

Feature Editor Sunny Adcock

Video Directors Abbondanzia HaberechtChristopher Quyen

Photographer Jade D'Amico
Photography Assistant Roy
Graphic Design Luba Ndibali
Movement direction (stills) Basjia Almaan

Fashion Stylist Laura Mazikana
Stylist Assistants Komborerai Mudzingwa & Charlotte Edwige

Makeup Artist Tina Matti using Sephora
Makeup Assistant Panashe Mapike
Hair Artist Diana Jalo
Hair Assistant Cynthia Musengi

Associate Creative Producer & Poet Nyaluak Leth

Hanan Ibrahim, Bakhita Lual & Aweng Malou are represented by IMG
Bailey Donegal is represented by Stone Street


We acknowledge the Bidjigal people of Dharug Country as the traditional owners of the land on which this shoot took place.


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