THIIIRD Magazine is a female-led, black-owned independent magazine and inclusive creative platform. They believe in amplifying the voices and visibility of talent from underrepresented backgrounds, they achieve this through their annual print magazine. Their latest issue is Defiant Beauty, which explores the multiplicity of beauty beyond eurocentric ideals and the impact of decolonising beauty and degendering fashion, through a focus on the experiences of gen-z and millennials from BIPOC, queer and mixed-heritage backgrounds.
The three women behind THIIIRD Magazine are Rhona Ezuma (the Editor-in-Chief and Founder), Natalie (Writing Editor) and Alicia (Designer). In this interview they tell us all about THIIRD Magazine, their goals, the message they wish to pass across and their creative process.
Who we are:
Rhona Ezuma is the Editor in Chief and founder of THIIIRD magazine. My background is in fashion as a fashion stylist.
Natalie is the Writing Editor of THIIIRD magazine. Her background is a social justice facilitator and organisational consultant.
Alicia is the designer of THIIIRD magazine. Her background is in editorial design – mainly magazines.
Hi THIIIRD, great to have you on our platform. Can you give us the background story of how your magazine came to be?
Rhona: I was working in fashion and just wanted to contribute to a space where I felt representation could feel wholesome, rather than reductive. Where the things I was reading and viewing would feel reflective of the many different types of people I see around me in a city like London, and not just the few, and would also give people who were significantly underrepresented, and under-catered to, a place to feel empowered, connected and forceful. At that time, I also felt I was really fighting against content that felt vacuous, buzzword-y, and clickbait-y when it came to us, so I wanted to see a platform that would inclusively and intelligently deal with things that really mattered; and could have a positive impact on people understandings, worldviews or perspectives of both themselves and others.
Who are the founders? Can you tell us about the wonderful people behind THIIIRD Mag?
Rhona: I founded the magazine and was the leader behind the launch and concept, but there has always been a team that helped me do it. The collaborators I had at the start were other creatives working in the fashion industry, who like me just felt like there was this gap in publishing magazines. And we all admired print and wanted it to be used for more, and for fostering community.
We recently read your newly released issue 5: DEFIANT BEAUTY. Why was that name chosen and what does it represent?
Natalie: Defiant Beauty is about swiveling the scope – about turning our heads and viewing the people, whole communities, outside of what is narrowly defined and promoted as being beautiful. It’s about the power and greatness in refusing to be boxed in, or minimalised, or told that you are unworthy to have a spot on a stage.
Rhona: Yep, exactly that, so celebrating the spectrum when it comes to beauty; and also challenging those structures and standards that make others seem less worthy of being beautiful: be they Eurocentric, binary, or heteronormative.
What social issues are THIIIRD BEAUTY passionate about? And what approaches have been laid down to influence positive changes?
Natalie: We uplift and celebrate the lives of those whose voices have historically been marginalised, co-opted, subverted, reduced… Black people and people of colour, women, our queer community, those living with disability – how we navigate the world, our safety, how we own our own narratives, our art, joy, and spaces. In the Defiant Beauty issue specifically, we explore themes such as heritage and culture, skin and hair, self actualisation, belonging and love, the beauty of the change maker, weight, neuro-divergence…
In terms of positive change, we bring communities together through events – we facilitate safe spaces for marginalised communities and allies to decompress and thrive, from panel discussions to art and dance workshops. We also facilitate corporate training, that is giving businesses and organisations the knowledge and tools to improve their culture, policies, and procedures for the safety and flourishing of employees from communities that are marginalised.
Is there a reading demographic for THIIIRD magazine?
Rhona: We definitely do things with people of colour, queer Individuals and women in mind, and so I would think that would probably make someone who identified in those ways, or an ally to movements that centralise us, someone who could appreciate what we do. But, one of the reasons we chose the name THIIIRD, was because of the concept of being third cultured. The idea describes third cultured kids as a the mix of the first culture, which is that of your parents or heritage/s, and the second culture, which is that of the place/s you were born and live in. I really like this sort of intersectional approach to understanding who a person is, to me it feels messy and realistic of the world we are living in; I think anyone who is comfortable with seeing the world in that way could definitely be a supporter of ours.
If the people at THIIIRD could change three things in the world. What would it be ?
Alicia: Creating policies that end poverty and discrimination of all forms. Starting with more open minds.
Natalie: Ending the forces that drive oppression, whatever they may be – fear, hate, shame…
Rhona: Equity on a global scale to end policies and practices that propagate poverty, starvation, racism, sexism and homophobia.
THIIIRD Magazine is doing a very important work by spotlighting underrepresented people/creatives and also addressing issues that affect minorities. How does it feel to be a part of the few in the media industry changing the narrative and creating space for other people to thrive?
Alicia: Exciting! It is special to be able to contribute to that change. There are so many more platforms today that lift and exchange different people’s perspectives and stories. It’s important that those voices are behind the scenes too – creating the content, sharing these narratives. Growing up as a young adult without those platforms could be quite isolating – if it helps more people today feel open and connected to their identity and heritage then that’s an encouraging step forward with more to be made!
Natalie: Magical, feels like home.
Rhona: Important and necessary.
How often does THIIIRD Magazine put out a new issue?
Natalie: A gem annually. Perhaps in time we’ll have the resources to have more frequent outputs. I feel that one annual release reflects the resistance people from marginalised communities have in access.
Can you tell us about the creative process behind issue #5: DEFIANT BEAUTY?
Alicia: My favourite part was brainstorming ideas with Rhona – discussing what Defiant Beauty meant, what felt relevant to the issue and outside of this too – 2020 in particular. Protest and expression were themes that we discussed, which I then researched and explored through typography, handwriting and bold, clashing colours. Looking at poster design really helped inform me in the initial design stage. When you’re working with content that opens up honest conversation that is both empowering yet also vulnerable, you want the design treatment to really complement that, without distracting from it either. So finding balance was key.
What is the vision for THIIIRD Magazine in the coming years?
Rhona: I want to grow the community of THIIIRD and what we can do with the community. On a selfish level, I know this starts with making more content on our different channels for THIIIRD beside the print and also working more with the wider creative community with brands, organisations, other collectives. And also investing in the business side of the platform. But on a community level, I want to find more ways of bringing people who support us, follow us and read us together in meaningful ways.
As a rising voice in the media, what challenges is the magazine faced with ?
Rhona: Resources – specifically cash flow and funding is a difficult one for any independent publication or business to manage.
Any word of advice or support to creatives who are underrepresented, unseen and unappreciated?
Alicia: Keep doing what you’re doing! Believe in yourself. Keep pushing yourself – there’s no shame in continuing to learn, share, lift others and ask more questions – those doors will open! Enjoy the work you create – it will only lead to better finished outcomes, even if there’s mistakes along the way. Make time for yourself and the projects that you really love, especially the personal ones. Find and connect with other creatives too.
Natalie: You’re not alone, keep going. It is your right to create.