Rhona Ezuma has always been fascinated with the art of storytelling. After studying English literature at uni, she did some journalism work before gravitating towards fashion styling, working with the likes of GQ, Vogue Arabia and Adidas.
Outside of her styling work, Ezuma is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Thiird, a Black-owned independent magazine and creative platform amplifying the voices and visibility of talent from underrepresented backgrounds.
It was after her first year of freelancing as a stylist that the idea for Thiiird started to form in Ezuma’s mind. “As a stylist you work within this whole fashion ecosystem that includes designers, the ideas behind their collections and the ideas that emanate from that, combined with yours – I love that!” she says.
“However, when I started doing my own work I realised that there wasn’t the space to tell the sort of stories I was really invested in – stories that would sometimes stem from being someone who grew up in London around so much diversity, and being Black/Nigerian/British and a woman in queer circles, who was coming to understand the multiple ways in which bodies are politicised by representation.”
Ezuma explains that there are several layers of meaning behind the name Thiiird, including the idea of the third eye, which speaks to a higher consciousness and understanding, and a third or hybrid space, where binaries in identification are allowed to mingle and form new non-hierarchical sets of meaning.
“Then there’s the idea of being third culture,” she adds. “The first culture is usually talked about as the culture (or cultures) of your parents and your heritage, the second culture is that of the place (or places) you grew up or live, and the third is a combination of all these cultures, which I guess highlights how multifarious people’s stories are.”
Each issue of the magazine starts off with a theme that aims to say something about the times we are living in, while the content inside its pages ranges from fashion editorials and interviews to personal writing and poetry.
Its latest issue, Defiant Beauty, aims to explore beauty in a way that challenges the idea of an ideal or standard. “There are so many ways to be beautiful, but somehow the whole spectrum of it gets reduced to having the correct set of features or traits,” says Ezuma.
“A lot of BIPOC, at one stage or another, have had our ideas of beauty warped due to internalising Eurocentric and westernised ideals about what that is. These ideals are also highly gendered and create barriers for queer beauty being understood. Moving past them can require a process and journey of unlearning, self-acceptance, and self love. This issue has been about speaking to people who have in some way or other been on that journey and come out the other side.”
The issue includes interviews with culture figures including singer Poppy Ajudha, actress Kelechi Okafor and performance artist Alok V Menon, while the art direction by Alicia Fernandes adds to the magazine’s spirit of protest with bold type and clashing colour tones.
Now five issues in, and having survived a pandemic, Ezuma would love to see Thiiird keep on evolving beyond its existing remit of the print magazine, podcast and series of events. “Primarily, we’re a platform and a community of good storytellers with a network of creative talent, which we want to do more with,” she says.
“I think embarking on partnerships and making use of our team and the roster of talent we’re connected to is an obvious next step. What we represent shouldn’t exist within the space of just our magazine; good stories about underrepresented people are still so needed! And having these foundations is what will help us continue to grow as a platform.”