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According to Z: The Quintessential NYC Artist Sits Down With Milk

Z is a quintessential young New York creative who put a personal tragedy, hardships, and growing pains in the rear view mirror to take a chance amongst the chaos. As a multidisciplinary artist, Z makes music, art, writes and was snapped up into the Gypsy Sport family to help challenge the stifling expectations of conventional of runway models. Photographer and Milk fam Andrew Boyle hung out with Z on her rooftop this summer to snap some photos before reassembling them into a physical zine peppered with his observations and their words, as a follow up to his recent collaboration with Marquale Ashley. Check the full zine above and read more from the rooftop in their conversation below.

How did you come to find yourself in New York City?

I lived in Jersey for the beginning part of my life. I think I grew up kind of fast. I understood i wasn’t supposed to be in the environment I was in so I started sneaking into the city at a really young age. I was in a bad place for the majority of my teenage years, the plan was to drop out and move here, work a job that hopefully i didn’t hate and focus on my music and art. I ended up graduating school and also reconnecting with my partner earlier in the year, and now I’m pretty much following through with the life I was talking about for years.

You’ve just wrapped up school recently. What’s on the horizon from here?

It’s actually so funny to think about because I remember hearing what colleges my classmates wanted to go to in second grade and how confused and repulsed I was by that. I just was never a school oriented kid. I loved learning, but the environment and basic school system principle is so fucked. I know there are more people than they let on that thought things were going to go to shit for me, but I can only see growth in my future; growth in my modeling, self, financial stability, art, music… my end goal is to live comfortably off the things I love to do.

You create music amongst a bunch of other things. What’s your inspiration for your sounds and where do you want to take it?

My inspiration is my life experiences and my feelings, but mostly my feelings. I rely a lot on sadness to help me write music that sounds “right” for me. or maybe I’m just lazy and can’t get out of whats comfortable for me. Currently my main focus has been on modeling, with my physical art coming second. My music was the first thing I loved about myself.

You’ve been modeling this year, and killed it again at Gypsy Sport. What’s your take on the rush of diverse brands in the last few years casting outside of the typical cookie cutter mentality of talent?

I am grateful for companies like Gypsy Sport that cast their models with the appreciation of difference in beauty. It really makes my heart so warm seeing so many more brands seeking out talented models that would have been looked over and seen as ‘hard to market’ 20 years back. While I am excited for the future, I’m also extremely skeptical. I see so often corporations that capitalize off movements like Black Lives Matter and Pride when in reality, if racism and homophobia were still widely accepted, I don’t think those companies would be saying the same message. But is diversity with capitalistic interest better than no diversity at all? I guess so. I’m just skeptical.

What’s behind your ’26’ face tattoo?

I got it on my 17th birthday, my brother passed September 18, 2016, and was only 26. I was in a hospital when he died and then went straight to a group home. Things got really hard there but I wanted to live for my brother, that’s when I thought of my tattoo. When I was younger, I never thought i was going to make it to 16. Now that I’m 18, I want to make it past 26. The tattoo is for my brother but really more for me and a physical reminder for myself to keep it pushing.

You enjoy writing in a ‘stream of consciousness’ style. Are you sometimes surprised at what comes out when reading it back?

I really don’t read the things I write until a couple years after. Recently I read my notebook from when i was in the group home. I relied on it. I had no electronics so I wrote and painted constantly in it. It had a lot of art and pages and pages of grief anger and sadness. Its nice though, sometimes I read something that happened a year or two ago that I forgot about, some small deed of kindness and that can make me happy now.

NYC can be a pretty crushing pace that grinds through creative people. What keeps driving you? 

My brother. Also I’m very stubborn. When someone tells me I can’t do something, I will definitely find a way to do it. And also a lot of centering myself; I look at where I was, and where I am now.

Stay tuned to Milk for more DIY art we love. 

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