Princess Nokia Is Curating Pics on Instagram, Talks Importance of POC Photography – Teen Vogue

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Princess Nokia does not believe New York City is dying, but rather, it belongs to the kids. “I've been in the parks with the kids. It's very alive. It's maybe too alive," she says with a laugh. "Youth culture has the biggest spirit, and I have a wonderful first-row view to all the people around me."
It's been an eventful summer for Princess Nokia, who’s on tour in Europe when we spoke. With a cameo in HBO Max’s reboot of Gossip Girl and a starring role in Kacey Musgraves’ music video “Simple Times”, she is an undeniable force. Her song ”I Like Him”, also became a viral TikTok trend, with over 250,000 videos made. But when asked about its success, the New York native casually admits, "It was something I didn't anticipate.” Her artistry was never dictated by the business side of music. “I've always had an innocent blind eye to it. It's such a beautiful new experience. It really made me cry."
Destiny Nicole Frasqueri grew up in Lower Manhattan with a deep appreciation of nostalgia. "Punk culture, St. Marks Place, Tompkins Square Park are the places I grew up and walked through frequently. I was inspired by the people around me." In 2012, the artist began releasing songs on her Youtube page and Soundcloud before her EP mixtape, 1992, garnered her national attention with chart-topping singles such as “Tomboy” and “Kitana”. In the nine years since, she’s toured the world, put out two mixtapes, two EPs, and four studio albums. She’s also shared her love of fashion, art, and created a lip kit line with NYX.
With her new multimedia project, After School Special, Princess Nokia hopes to capture the spirit of New York that shaped her perspective. "I draw inspiration from the world around me and the people I find amazing and beautiful and unique and peculiar," she says. "I've spent hours photographing people and walking around the city." Now, through Instagram, she's ready to share her vision with the world.
"I'm not a non-POC person. I'm not an art student. I am a girl from the barrio taking pictures of my own people and my own experiences."
The 29-year-old traces her love of photography back to humid Saturdays spent at the Puerto Rican Festival in East Harlem. Growing up, she regularly visited the block party with her sister and cousin to enjoy the frituras, dance, and fanfare. "Around 2016 is when I picked up a camera because I had to document the beauty and the culture that was surrounding me," she said. The photos of After School Special pay homage to the women she met there: draped in Puerto Rican flags, wearing gold hooped earrings, dancing reggaetón, and smiling euphorically into the camera.
After School Special showcases the diversity of subcultures that influenced Princess Nokia. "The kids – me, myself included – in those photos were inspired by punk, grunge, alternative. They're timeless. They're an effervescent coming of age, and it's truly coming back in fashion and spirit more than ever."
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"Punk isn't just music. It's a way of life. It's a spirit. It's what the kids embody. That's what we embodied. It's hanging out all day. It's scrounging up money to buy beer and just sit in the park and have a good time and not conform," she says. The photos of After School Special animate these scenes of adolescent boredom and rebellion. In one of the photos, two girls stand behind a chain-link fence in leather harnesses and pentagram chokers, looking listlessly into the camera.
Skateboarding – one of the singer's early influences – is also represented in the photographs as a totem of friendship and female empowerment. She had been skateboarding since 16 years old before she had to stop due to an ankle injury. Despite this, she's thrilled to see gender diversity represented in skateboarding. "I first-handedly saw the wave of female skaters becoming more popular around 2008. It's the most wonderful thing to witness," she says.  
There's a magic and authenticity to Princess Nokia's photos that she attributes to being uniquely qualified to tell the story of her people. "I'm not a non-POC person. I'm not an art student. I am a girl from the barrio taking pictures of my own people and my own experiences." Because of this, she argues that the people she photographs exude comfortability and tenderness in the photos. This has connected her with the community in a profound way. "A lot of the people that I photograph, I happen to photograph 2-3 times each year. And they remember me, and they have a lot of love and respect for me."
Princess Nokia hopes her photography inspires women to see the beauty and eccentricities in their own communities. "Pick up a camera. Walk around, don't be scared. If something really inspires you, don't be scared to ask to take their picture," she says. Inspiring a new generation of women to be interested in photography, to tell their stories on their own terms, excites her. “If I can inspire other young women to pick up a camera and go for it, that's cool."
On September 24, she released a single titled “Boys are From Mars”. While whimsical and tongue-in-cheek, Princess Nokia explains that the song is a ballad of self-love. "It's a song about female empowerment, creating boundaries and knowing when to let go of a person if they aren't treating you respectfully or the way you deserve," she says. "Focus on yourself, your career, the abundance, and the blessings."  
Even with all her accomplishments, it’s clear that Princess Nokia is just getting started. “I'm excited to continue what I've always wanted, which is to be at the forefront of my creativity and prolong the ownership of my art. I just make the songs, I write them, and they come to life and it's really special."
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