THREADS: DOPE SAINT JUDE

Dope Saint Jude is a unique artist on the music scene in South Africa. Very much associated with the queer subculture, her work, and her style, is rooted in her lived experience. Chatting to her while she fishes for outfits from her closet, she’s one of the most approachable, open people I’ve met, and her personality comes through in her features – her wide smile an indication of how comfortable she feels in her skin.

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We begin our shoot outside, on her Honda Rebel motorcycle, which is evidently one of her most prized possessions. She sports a pink helmet, which, coupled with her feminine attributes, makes for an interesting contrast to the uber-masculine machine. This is something she acknowledges. She tells me that before she began her persona as Dope Saint Jude, she used to be a drag king (a woman who dresses up like a man). Through the artistic and performative process of dressing up as a different gender and embodying those qualities, she was able to embrace her own femininity much more. “It also made me realise that gender can be quite fluid, and so I could move between them. I also find that juxtaposition in my relationship with my motorbike. Being the kind of woman I am, with the features I have – there’s a contrast there,” she smiles, “But I enjoy that stylistically.”

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As an educated, queer artist of colour, she has an inherent understanding of how her subculture confronts society’s heteronormative and hegemonic ideals, especially around gender, sexuality and body image. But she also makes it clear that she does it very naturally, “It’s not intentional for me to move from masculine to feminine or whatever, but I also really believe that artists like me [...] we are a niche group of artists who queer artists, brown artists, and in a way we’re kind of ahead of the trend.” Intrigued, I ask her to elaborate on this. She explains that the idea of disrupting gender norms has only now become a fashionable trend in the mainstream media, whereas for her, that revolution took place a long time ago. “Fashion,” she states “is always the last industry to comment on something because it’s more a reflection of what’s happening in society, whereas artists who create in other mediums are working more with what they’re feeling right now.”

Dope Saint Jude’s style very much emulates who she is an artist, which comes from a place of total authenticity. The way she effortlessly picks out her clothes, the way she poises herself in front of Jono’s camera, and the way she speaks about her ideas and intentions is further evidence of this. But she also likes to work with people who push her out of her comfort zone stylistically; “I enjoy working with people who see that I have the potential to kind of move in a different direction with my look,” and she mentions her collaborations with designer Micah Leigh (who custom makes clothes for Dope Saint Jude), stylist Fatima Arendse (who styled the ‘Keep in Touch’ video) and photographer Jody Brand.

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Dope Saint Jude’s style very much emulates who she is an artist, which comes from a place of total authenticity. The way she effortlessly picks out her clothes, the way she poises herself in front of Jono’s camera, and the way she speaks about her ideas and intentions is further evidence of this. But she also likes to work with people who push her out of her comfort zone stylistically; “I enjoy working with people who see that I have the potential to kind of move in a different direction with my look,” and she mentions her collaborations with designer Micah Leigh (who custom makes clothes for Dope Saint Jude), stylist Fatima Arendse (who styled the ‘Keep in Touch’ video) and photographer Jody Brand.

I enjoy working with people who see that I have the potential to kind of move in a different direction with my look
— Dope Saint Jude
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Talking specifically about the intersection of her music and her public image, I ask her if she is conscious of the way she integrates the two aspects of her creative expression, “I like to allow them to compliment each other, and I like for that to happen naturally, to not be too constructed.” She’s also aware that the industry she’s in is very image-oriented, “When I’m making music,” she adds, “I think a lot about how that is going to be visually represented.” She expresses that it’s very important to her that her message is conveyed in all aspects of her performance, from the visuals that accompany her on stage, to what she’s saying, down to what she wears – “they all need to work towards the same message.”

That’s the kind of example I want to set: be unrelentingly, and fearlessly yourself, and do that even in the way you dress
— Dope Saint Jude
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When asked what that message is, her answer is simple: “I mean it changes all the time but I guess the common thread is to be unashamedly myself.” She smiles before continuing, “I try very hard to be authentic and come back to what I know is me,” she reiterates, “so that’s the kind of example I want to set: be unrelentingly, and fearlessly yourself, and do that even in the way you dress.”

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Words by Kelly Powell for Redbull.com