Marquelle Turner-Gilchrist Tells Us Why Black is the New Black
Marquelle Turner, 29, is the mastermind behind The New Stereotype, a movement dedicated to changing the way people of Color are seen and respresented in the media. Living by the mantra "Pray. Eat. Style", its only fitting that Marquelle create a movement using his talents to inspire, encourage and empower (and the double-breasted blazers are a nice touch). Even though in times like these it seems like there's nothing we can do to keep from being a target, The New Stereotype is a refreshing reminder that we are a beautiful people with lives that matter and stories worth telling. I had the opportunity to ask Turner a few questions about himself and the unique movement that's taken a life of its own with extensions in Detroit, North Carolina, Georgia, and the United Kingdom. Read our conversation below:
1. You mention in previous interviews that The New Stereotype was birthed simply because you were not pleased with the imagery of our black men in American media. Having the opportunity to live in Sophia Antipolis, France what was the stereotype of Black men there? Is there a need for a "New Stereotype" overseas?
When The New Stereotype (TNS) was created, my simple goal was to encourage my melanated brothers and sisters to take the writing instruments of life and to create their own narratives. I didn’t want to leave it up to media outlets to paint the pictures for us but rather for us to create our own masterpieces in truth and authenticity. Living in Europe helped me understand just how wide and deep the African diaspora has spread and with that there are many people throughout this world who have been labeled unjustly and by those who look and don’t look like them. To date, we currently have an extension in London (UK) and interest in the project in Brazil and Portugal. I would say all over the world there is an opportunity to create our own narrative and I’m on a mission to help encourage others to do it.
2.The New Stereotype sets the bar for all of us to deliver a positive message about who we are as Melanated people. What is required of our Gentleman and Queens to fit this New Stereotype?
TNS is a pun. It’s simply a play on words. The attributes of the participants in the editorials are not new attributes but rather attributes that don’t often have the platform to be celebrated. One of the things I love about TNS is the opportunity to highlight the many diverse layers. I love that we have so many dynamic layers to our lives. For example, we can wear a double-breasted, pinstriped suit with monk straps while listening to Future in our headphones. Or we can wear the latest Yeezys and our favorite tee from KITH and discuss social, economic, and educational reform. I love that.
3. TNS celebrates "the many diverse layers of black life in America through fashion, photography and film". What layers of Black life do you think go most overlooked? Why? I would say our resilience and ability to create dynamically is often overlooked. Unfortunately, we are victim to a lot of cultural wiping or appropriation and sometimes we are victims of Columbusing. Columbusing is when someone discovers something that was already thriving in another subgroup or culture and claim it as new or their own. We’ve contributed a lot to society but we aren’t always given that credit.
4. "TNS3: Tuxedos, Toasts & Trap" was an incredible success. Congratulations on your first event! You also worked alongside DateWhileYouWait, Young Black & Brooklyn, and Camp Ryan, who held a clothing drive at TNS3 collecting gently used clothes for those entering the job market. What impact does partnership and collaboration have on the movement that is The New Stereotype?
Partnerships are a new part of the TNS platform. With doing our first event, I wanted to make sure it was with partners that made sense. I love YBB for educating black men and women in NYC on their rights and on ways to protect themselves. Camp Ryan is a true testament to entrepreneurship. Their whole mission is to reinvent the art of giving through ways that are natural. Lastly, Date While You Wait’s goal is to reconnect and invest back into human engagement and interaction. It was great to bring together black creatives in a strategic yet meaningful way. Partnerships are effortless when they make sense.
5. TNS's newest project, "Golden Ambitions" uses fashion to explore the sacrifices and aspirations of six men. The transparency and authenticity of their accounts prove that this movement is about more than double-breasted blazers and lapel pins. What message do you want people to take from this deeper look into the lives of The New Stereotype? What I want to share with people who engage with Golden Ambitions is that this project is beyond the surface level. In this documentary we go through the phases of ambition. It starts with a vision, enters into a state of grind, and ends with the dream realized. We did most of the filming in Toronto alongside a 4-part photo shoot. I wanted to let people peek into our lives a bit and find out about our journeys to where we are and hopefully connect with many others along the way. While our stories are not everyone’s story, I believe there will be many parallels. After many have had the opportunity to watch it, my goal is for people to feel inspired to know that no matter where you come from or what you’ve done you can begin again and you can move forward. Ambition is golden and it is without flaw if you’re willing to work.
6. According to your blog, MarquelleTurner.com, you're a lover of Mac & Cheese (4 cheeses!) Who holds the "Best Mac & Cheese" title? What restaurants do you recommend? (If any)
I absolutely love this question (Lol). Yes, I love mac and cheese. Although it isn’t good for you, it is so good to you. My favorite places to eat mac and cheese in the city include Amy Ruth’s and Syliva’s (both in Harlem). Personally, I will admit that I haven’t mastered it yet, but it’s definitely a #lifegoal to make it happen.
7. Your style is undeniably sharp! What is one item in your wardrobe you absolutely cannot live without? Who are your style inspirations? I appreciate you saying that. Currently, I can’t live without my smoking slippers. I grew up pretty poor and learned early on how to make the most with the least and that principle still lives on with me today. Smoking slippers are amazing because of their versatility. They are season-less, transitional (day to night or work to weekend), and even work well for some formal events. People I see every day in the streets of NYC inspire me. They wear clothes with confidence and this unapologetic attitude that is infectious. I love it!
8. As the saying goes, "You can take the boy/girl out of the 'hood, but you can't take the 'hood out of the boy/girl." Being from a small town like Johnsonville, NC, what characteristics about Home do you carry with you everywhere you go?
I love being from the south. It was a blessing and a beautiful design to have been born in the south and to spend my formative years growing as a man there. I would hope that my southern charm would go with me all the days of my life. In the south we love to connect with people and I feel that’s a dying art. We connect in the south for no reason at all other than the fact that you’re living and breathing. No alternate agenda. I also hope to keep this appreciation for the simple things in life. While I love to be social, I also love to stay home and watch tv and laugh for hours on end. I’m not driven by money but by happiness. I am driven by this joy of being able to experience life in a new and refreshing way and to do it with those I love and care about.
9. Any last words?
I’m a big quote hunter. I seek out quotes as small affirmations to remind myself of how to navigate through life. One of my favorite quotes is: “You can complain because a rose has thorns or you can rejoice because a thorn has roses. It’s all about perspective.” Perspective plays a huge role in our life trajectory. We often focus so much on the final destination that we forget to enjoy the scenery along the way. There’s beauty in the struggle but you have to be willing to see it. Everything we want in life is on the other side of fear and if you keep that perspective rooted deep into your heart you’ll experience life in a new way.
Thanks for reading!