The Siblings Empowering Queer Identities
Being yourself is truly how to find connection with others, say Georgia and Joel Palmer, London-based multi-hyphenates.
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"Being mixed-race and gay, there weren't many relatable role models when I was younger", says Joel, 28. Now, together with Georgia, their 20-year-old sister, Joel is helping build a creative queer community to make space and opportunities for others. "We see our platform as a space to inspire people. In our style and aesthetic, we always push non-conformism and gender boundaries".
The siblings grew up in Birmingham before moving south to London, where they found a queer community that encouraged and embraced their individuality. Georgia followed her brother into modelling, a profession that's been a jumping-off point to explore acting and music. Joel is also a creative director and co-founder of the fashion and movement consultancy Major Zcene.
Joel and Georgia have been quarantining together in a warehouse alongside 15 other creatives, with whom they collaborate on work projects, host at-home club nights and swap clothes. Throughout their endeavours, both surround themselves with and uplift queer people of colour.
"We've built this strong circle of people around us who are seen as minorities in the industry and who we can help elevate", says Georgia. "I want to be able to project people's voices".
"There is strength in numbers, right?" adds Joel. "There's more visibility together".
"Queer creatives are a minority, so that's what brings us together. But everyone's their own individual character, and that's where the power comes in".
You have plenty more shared experiences than most brothers and sisters do—you model together and collaborate together. What strength do you find in each other to keep doing what you do?
Joel: I think me and Georgia explore our talents with each other, and then put it into practice when it comes to our work. Georgia's definitely one of my muses. It gives us space to progress together in so many different ways and push each other in so many different aspects. Like now, Georgia's getting into acting, aren't you?
Georgia: Yeah. I'm trying to do acting and DJing music.
Joel: She's got an exciting short film coming out. I guess we've just been each other's door handle into a new world. Our strength together is definitely something you have to see for yourself on set. Watching Georgia perform as a model is like watching a piece of art.
Georgia: My style of movement has come from you.
It seems like dance, music and style have influenced your work as well as your identities and self-expression. Can you talk about that?
Joel: Our collaboration is tight and strong together because we developed this particular style of movement as a family. I had a lot of dance training when I was younger, and when it comes to style, we like to swap clothes. We have this Black Panther-y, punk-y, Afro-punk look. It's a play on many different things, and it's definitely loud sometimes.
Georgia: It really depends on the character you want to be that day. London's nightlife scene is where all of our community found each other: a bunch of fully artistic, creative people of all sexes, genders, sexuality, everything. [The club is] for us a safe space and how we socialise. One thing we're all grateful for and have in common is that love of music, dance, movement, fashion and style.
Both of you also self-identity as queer, adding another dimension to your relationship and journey as creatives of colour. What does queer mean to you?
Georgia: I identify as queer because I am in the queer community. It's all I know. My friends are queer, the language that I speak is queer, and the people who I stand for are queer.
Joel: To me, queer is a freethinking mindset. Being queer doesn't necessarily mean you have to be attracted to the same sex. It's a time now, particularly, where every artist, talent and model, due to social media as well, can be completely themselves and outlandish.
Georgia: Yeah. I'm quite confident in being in tune with my body, and I feel like I'm able to move, be abstract, and play different characters. I'm constantly learning new things about myself.
Joel: We haven't been conventional models. I was openly out, queer, and I wasn't going to change that for anyone. So we had to push each other, let each other know that we're doing this to inspire other people who are younger than us. If we can do it, you can too. That's what's pushed me to be a creative director rather than just a model. I can actually create worlds and spaces for people to feel that they are part of rather than just being the face. We can do more than that. We can actually bring opportunities.
"Georgia's definitely one of my muses. Watching her perform as a model is like watching a piece of art".
You both attended Black Lives Matter protests in London. What have you learnt about yourselves in that sense, and how has it affected you personally and creatively?
Joel: One thing that we realised at the marches is that we have connections to get things out. We saw ways to project to the world that this is really happening, and it's also a safe space. This whole movement has been really interesting because some of our family didn't really support us with that. It was interesting to know that systemic racism was happening within our family. Disconnecting from them was quite sad.
We wanted to do a test to figure out our heritage on a deeper level. We've been told our whole life that we are just half-Jamaican, half-English, but there's so much more. We found out that we [also have roots in] South America, Asia, the Congo and Benin.
Georgia: But the movement has brought us closer together, and it's something that we should have spoken about before.
And what does collective power mean to you, especially being people of colour and part of the queer community?
Joel: Our collective is a community of like-minded individuals and freethinkers. Queer creatives are a minority, so that's what brings us together. But everyone's their own individual character, and that's where the power comes in.
We always only really find true inspiration from our own circle of people. We inspire each other. And then, when another person enters our circle, it's like, "Wow, you are a true star in your own way".
How did you push each other forwards in this reflective, revolutionary time, and how did your creative process have to change?
Joel: We looked at animation, 3D, digital, just playing around with who we live with. We live in a warehouse with amazing space, and there were, like, 15 of us in quarantine together—designers, photographers and set designers. We missed the clubs so much that we would set up the decks on the weekends and just invite the neighbours.
Georgia: We were just given time to fully look inside of ourselves and be creative. We were so lucky to have the space to do it in.
Joel: We've now got more of a drive to push within our work and in everything we do. That's what's brought us together during this time.
Finally, what other causes are you both as passionate and proactive about?
Georgia: It's all about inclusivity, diversity and elevating minorities. I have a lot of trans and Black women around me, and I see plus-size models who don't get included in shoots. I want to create this creative space where we're able to discuss career highs and lows and create more awareness.
Joel: Definitely trans rights. We have to be completely appreciative of our trans community. They're the only reason why queer, gay communities even exist. I feel like our own personal journey, what we talked about when we were very young, was using our platform to gain enough experience, money and abundance so we can give back to all of those things that we are fighting for.
"We have to be completely appreciative of our trans community. They're the only reason why queer, gay communities even exist".
Reported: July 2020