We discovered Berlin-based model and singer Tara Meite, also known as Nyah, through photographer Jürgen Freymann. Fascinated by her versatility and charisma, we asked her for an interview.
In this feature, she takes us with her into her world as a model, singer and songwriter and talks about fashion, her plans for the future and how she thinks art and politics are connected.
Tara, please tell us a little bit about yourself to begin with. How old are you, Where were you born and where do you live now, What is your profession and do you have other besides modelling?
I am 25 years old. I was born in Abidjan/Ivory Coast but my family used to travel and to move a lot. I now live in Berlin/Germany. Besides studying for a Masters degree, I focus on composing and performing music, as well as on building my own company.
What do you love most about modelling?
Modelling can be compared to composing music. Once artists meet and start to create something together, magic can come into play and give birth to a work of art. Of course, sometimes, magic keeps hiding and then, to be honest, it’s a rather repetitive procedure.
What really goes on behind the scenes as a model?
Every shoot and every show is a unique situation with its own dynamics. I can’t really make general statements of what we experience behind the scenes.
However, as a non-white person, one situation I repeatedly had to deal with, is the lack of experience when it comes to darker skin and to a different hair texture. Some years ago, most of the make-up and hair artists would ask me to bring my own make-up and to do my hair on my own, because they expected me to „know best, what fits to the rest“.
But this is not the standard any more. Sometimes, I even meet make-up artists who are almost obsessed with my skin tone and texture, because, as they say, it is easier and much more fun to work with it.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
From my experience, the most successful collaboration is not necessarily the most inspiring. So, speaking from a personal highlight, I really do appreciate creative shootings. I do not only want to always reproduce an expected image but to play and to create something interesting. However, this also means that the projects which encourage such an approach do not necessarily have mass appeal.
Tell us about some of your recent shoots.
One of my latest shoots was supposed to be for the cover of my upcoming release. It was a very intimate shoot and the most silent one I ever had. The photographer would not say a word during the whole shoot and this is why we started to communicate through the camera. The result is absolutely breathtaking.
Which photographers in the industry do you most enjoy working with?
To name one person always means not to mention other great photographers. Although I have to admit, that there is a brilliant female photographer, I had the pleasure to work with, who is very talented and sensitive enough to create a unique atmosphere.
Define your personal style.
As a mixed person, my personal style is also a mixture which reflects where I lived and what I experienced so far. When I compose a new song, I like to challenge the status quo. That is also the approach I have when it comes to fashion. I love to combine contrasting styles that you would not expect to work together, a priori. For instance, a vintage wax print top with a pair of classic dress pants.
Who would you say is your 'style muse'?
Music is my style muse. Every music genre comes with its own fashion style. I cannot say that I like one genre more than another, so everything that inspires me is welcomed. Whether it is the elegance of the jazz divas from the thirties, or a wilder afropunk look, it is all part of the mosaic that completes my own style. By the way, contemporary musicians are also contributing to this with the fashion choices they make. I really do admire artists like Yemi Alade (for her powerful style), Oh Land (for her bold combinations) and Corinne Bailey Rae for showing us that a great outfit does not mean you can not wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
Your favourite designer is...?
It is not possible for me to name only one designer. The first designer I ever met is Gilles Touré, the most famous Ivorian designer. My sister used to model for him when I was eight or nine years old. From the very beginning, I would always find very personal aspects of my own biography in his designs. That is probably the reason why, every design he creates, is an invitation to reflect on my own past and present. Nevertheless, I also find the work of younger creatives very inspiring. There is a whole list! Sarah Diouf, Amina Khalil, Dauvia Nijenhuis, Diarra Bousso, Ewa Herzog - just to name a few - they are all great designers!
Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar?
Vogue for starting a debate via Teen Vogue about the role of fashion magazines when it comes to political issues. There are still critics who argue that fashion magazines should not cover political topics but I think that every single thing we do is a political act. If we want to be heard, we have to use the tools that we have and fashion, as well as music, can be a very powerful tool for political activism.
Is there any particular designer piece you are crushing on right now?
No, not really. However, there is a particular natural product, which is used by the fashion industry, that I adore. It is the cowry shell. Every shell is a beautiful and unique piece. You can’t really fake it, which makes it easy for consumers to know if it is real. This is the reason why it once was used as a trading currency.
What do you hope to be doing in the next 5 years?
I am currently building my own company and I will release an EP very soon. I hope that this is only the beginning of a wonderful journey. The quintessence of what I want to do is to add meaning to what I do and to bring joy to the people.
If you could be anywhere else but here, where would you go?
I love the mountains! I will not tell you where exactly because the most precious thing about that place is its peace and calmness. But you can be sure that it is a place above 2000 meters.
photo credits for this article:
Jürgen Freymann, Christoph Weise, Philippe Rives, Jens Wolter, Alexander Thürling,
Büttner Schindler, Kuno von Norden, Theo Retisch VoToGraph, Bundesverband der Hörgeräte Industrie
cover by Christoph Weise