On the heels of her debut album, 'Colonial,' NYC artist Torraine sits down with Milk.



Torraine on ‘Colonial,’ Transgression, and Art as Catharsis

Torraine is a bit of a nomad, to say the least—she’s constantly restless, always plotting her next move, and won’t reveal her true origins. In her own words, it’s “multiple choice…I’m from New York, but I’m also not from this planet.” Make of that what you will; as far as we’re concerned, it only adds to Torraine’s layered depth. She also happens to be a trans high fashion model, dominating NYFW from Gypsy Sport to Vaquera (no small feat).

Colonial, her debut album, is the last piece of a bigger puzzle: Transgression: A Self Centered Art Project, and it’s even more intimate than the rest, touching on all of the heartbreak and struggle that Torraine experienced throughout the course of her transition. If it seems dark, it is—and that’s what makes it real. We sat down with the artist to dissect both projects, figure out how they’re connected, and look at what’s next for Torraine in 2017 (hint: it’s big).

First things first—congrats on your debut album, Colonial! Could you walk us through the inspiration behind it and how it fits into your larger project, Transgression: A Self Centered Art Project?

Yeah, I knew for a couple of years that at some point I would make an album. I’m the kind of person that’s just like an aggressive creative—I can’t really control it. I’ve always thrown myself into projects without having any experience or training, it’s just that my heart tells me to do the thing and I just figure it out. And that’s how music came about—the stars sort of just naturally aligned to the point where it became unbearable for me not to do it anymore [laughs].

And I’m always very inspired by tumultuous times—like whenever things are going really great I don’t feel the need to document it, but I think it’s a kind of therapy for me whenever something’s not going great or when things are complicated or confusing. I need to journal about it and possibly make art about it. So all of my points of references are always things like heartbreak, tragedy, sadness, depression, or whatever.

It sounds like it’s pretty cathartic to get it all out there. Is it a learning process the whole way through? What’s the end result that you hope for?

I aim for it to be cathartic. It usually is—just getting my thoughts down. Cause you can feel a bunch of things in your head but its not until you get to actually write them down that you have to analyze and rationalize them. And your head is just a bunch of aggressive, fiery emotions but then when you write it down you’re like, “Okay, this is how I really feel or this is what this really means,” so with the album I got to say things that I never got to really say; things that I put down in my journal but it was the first time that I got to actually say them and cement them forever. That’s been really good for me. I guess I’m still dealing with the aftermath of that. It feels really good. I do feel like there’s been a chapter that’s been closed. I don’t need to think about those events anymore. I mean, I’m sure they do have some effect on my everyday life and how I interact with people, but there’s not a weight sitting on my chest of being unable to express something appropriately, because I’ve done it all, and it’s over.

That’s dope. Can you talk about the project as a whole, Transgression: A Self Centered Art Project?

Sure. So I started shooting for it in the summer of 2014, when I was sort of coming into understanding my “otherness.” There are two parts of it that are very important. The first part is about someone who was my soul mate, who I lived with and someone who I’ve known for seven years, who passed away very unexpectedly. Dealing with that and probably directly from that I started to live my life more purposefully and actually be fulfilled, because you just never know when this whole thing is going to be over. So I tried to be very fulfilled and I started thinking about what I wanted and that’s when I started thinking about my gender and gender expression and exploring and thinking about what would make me happy. It was about presenting in a sort of gender non-conforming way, and about starting to identify as gender queer. So I had this sort of silly idea to document the process of physical changes that I had made—in retrospect it feels like a very lazy idea of a project…but it turned into more than that.

The other part of it was just trying to still be understood by people. As in, I didn’t want to seem like a bulldozer or someone who was totally oblivious to other people because I knew that wasn’t true. And so I want it to contextualize how I got to where I am and hopefully show that first of all, I am a vulnerable person and not a bulldozer and also that it’s okay to be proud of the things you’ve done.

Cool, so what I’m hearing is that you’re putting out all of this really intimate work out into the world—is that a nerve-racking experience? What’s that like?

Yeah, it’s really fun. Its easier for me than being vulnerable to one person because all of my projects are self contained. With the album, I wrote every song, I produced all the musical instrumentals, did a story arc, sang everything. And so most of the time I’m just on my own, and it’s like a diary for me. It’s just about putting it out there. It’s empowering for me and so much easier for me. So it’s very empowering, to put all of those things out there in hopes that you’ll be understood, or just that other people will feel like they’re not alone.

What’s it like balancing your music with your modeling career?

Well it’s so random…it’s just my brain; I can’t stay still. And I feel like I’m more of a ball of creativity than I am a person. I fell into modeling not exactly intentionally but I thought it was very exciting when people started reaching out to me to model and then I started to take it seriously and all of a sudden I’m here. And once again it’s another part of my art where I do everything on my own—no agent, managers, or whatever. So when the ball started rolling, I started trying to find myself more modeling jobs and it’s been a huge success for me—probably the most successful thing I’ve ever done. And I make art films, try to paint sometimes, do photography, collage, and make music, but modeling is the most consistent thing. I’ll give my brain a couple days of downtime before I start plotting the next thing. I guess I’m kind of uncomfortable having downtime.

New York can do that to you!

Yeah… it’s a very New York thing. It’s like shameful to have downtime. I’m a very New York kind of girl.

So since you’re always onto the next thing, what do you have planned for 2017 that you can share with us? Anything cool in the pipeline?

Well, there’s this thing that’s gonna kill me basically. I’m going back and forth—well I know I’m going to do it ultimately but I’m trying to do it in a healthy way. Because when I finished my album on January 8, I was originally going to take three months off and only do modeling, but you know it came out like 10 days ago at this point and I’ve been plotting the next big thing for like, four days now.

It’s going to be related to the album. And it’s very ambitious, the most ambitious I have planned. And I want it to come in the next few months. It’s a huge project; it involves lots of different parts. It’s the biggest project that involves the most people and involves a lot of organizing. All I can really say is that it’s related to the album—an extension to the album—and I’m hoping to get it out in the spring.

That sounds dope.

Yeah! Otherwise, I think 2017 is going to be a big year for my modeling career. I have a couple of huge ad campaigns that are dropping in the next few months that I’m super excited about. I’ve done smaller ones in the past, but these are big, so I’m hoping that they change my everyday life in a better way. So I guess I’m trying to put out the energy of expecting big things.

Images via Wonderland Magazine and Torraine

Stay tuned to Milk for more multi-faceted artists who slay.

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