ISSUE 2 / web EXCLUSIVE / INTERVIEW
The View From AAbove
INTERVIEW WITH AARRON RICKS BY CHRISTINE BE
ART DIRECTION AND PRODUCTION BY LEXIE COON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SHANE ROONEY
STYLING BY AARRON RICKS
HAIR AND MAKEUP BY KATY PURDY
at 6 foot 5 (and a half!) inches tall, "Down to earth" would be the last THING you would call AARRON RICKS but it would be the most accurate description of this performance artist, model, stylist, and muse about town. AARRON is fast becoming a NOTABLE presence in the New York City nightlife and art world. Just don't tell him there's no room on the train for him—you make room!
LIAR: Hey Aarron!!!
Aarron Ricks: Hey Christine!
LIAR: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this.
AR: Of course! Thank you for meeting me and wanting to do this feature.
LIAR: Of course, you're a fascinating person. How would you describe yourself?
AR: Hmmm to put it simply—I would describe myself a fighter and hard worker. Growing up I was lower middle class and I didn't grow up needing anything, but there were definite struggles in many capacities from the life I was raised in as a homosexual black male with a Pentecostal Christian family. I felt almost like my sense of self wasn't established in the ways that I needed to see them.
Once I got into my teens I started to rebel and push buttons to find out whom I was and doing that that without a lot of support from family and being fairly surreptitious about my life I went through a lot of hard choices and decisions. To get to where I am today I really needed to fight for the life I wanted to have now. That fight has been for my own sense of self-expression.
LIAR: Where did you grow up and how did you end up in NYC?
AR: I was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up in New Carrollton, Maryland. I always remembered being fascinated by New York City at a young age. When I turned 17 I started visiting here more just to experience the city and the pulse, as a bus from D.C. to New York City was $20 round trip at the time and 4.5 hours away. I moved to New York City when I was 22 upon getting accepted into The Fashion Institute of Technology.
LIAR: So you decided to make NYC your home after school?
AR: Yes. School was just the first step in my establishment here in the city. I knew if I went back home after school I wouldn't have the same opportunities. D.C. is a political city and I wanted to focus more on the creative arts.
LIAR: What do your parents do? How do they feel about you and your life path?
AR: My parents had a very specific mode of thinking when it came to my career path. They wanted me to pursue going into the Military. I was in JROTC in high school. Like most parents, I knew they would have preferred that I lived my life in a more structured way that fits in with societal norms. They've gotten acclimated to my life now and understand that it's working for me. So nowadays I have their support. My parents are working class people.
LIAR: Same. I think parents always want the best for their children, but in the end they need to let their kids follow their own path, wherever that takes them.
AR: Yeah, I feel parents get clouded in the idea of their children being images of them and often forget that they're raising another person. And their job isn't to dictate their lives, but more so to guide and support them.
LIAR: The instinct seems to be to try and guide children to an easy life, but that doesn't necessarily equate to a good life does it?
AR: Not at all. Easy does not equal good. Especially because both of those concepts are matters of perspective. On one hand I understand a parent wanting the best for their child and wanting them to do well. However, those ideas usually come from the parents projection of what success is rather than encouraging them to do what makes them feel happy and fulfilled, which in my opinion is what success is—doing what makes you feel valued.
"Easy does not equal good… because both of those concepts are matters of perspective."
LIAR: What did you do after FIT?
AR: After FIT I started working for a fashion PR firm in SoHo. I did a lot of press for new and emerging contemporary designer fashion brands as well as production for fashion shows, pop up shops, and product launches.
LIAR: How did it feel going into fashion PR? I know the fashion world has it's own set of rules!
AR: While at FIT I studied advertising and marketing. So I was excited about going into fashion PR because I always thought about that as a career venture. Fashion does have its own set of rules. And one thing I learned was that it NEVER sleeps! When doing press for a brand or multiple brands you need to be caught up in what's happening all the time and it’s often in stressful situations.
But I learned so much about myself at the firm. I learned to be assertive, to be extremely organized, and have great social skills to help me connect with others. It's helped me so much with organizing my life for what I'm doing now.
LIAR: I'm sure you've had some interesting challenges there, what was the motivation or turning point for you to move into a new creative path?
AR: Honestly, I started drifting away from my PR job. I felt like it was taking a lot more out of me than what I was benefitting from it and I started to become very unhappy. I moved from doing that to doing retail visual merchandising, which also ended up not being a good fit. So I left that and didn't have a job for three months.
During that time I met some of the most beautiful people in my life that gave me encouragement to try something new and different and a lot of them were giving me a bunch of odd jobs. So I started learning new skills and built upon those with others. So it just got to a point in which I was able to fit the puzzle pieces together from my experiences and blend them all together. And modeling for art became one of them.
LIAR: I definitely know what you mean, at some point I was also becoming deeply unhappy with my work in advertising. At some point you really need to step back and reevaluate how you want to spend your life. I didn't like the person I was becoming. That's why I started the magazine. What was one of your first modeling for art assignments?
AR: All of us need an outlet. And the one thing that we should understand is that an outlet doesn't mean you need to give your job away—it literally means rest or a sense of mental retreat. If you can find a way to make money out of it, then that's great. But we should all also use our time to do thing that is fulfilling for ourselves.
My first modeling assignment was for a head sculpture. It was the weirdest four hours of my life. I couldn't really move my face and the artists were so close and staring so intensely at me. Overall I enjoyed it but I just wasn't used to that level of people staring so much at my face.
LIAR: What other assignments have you had?
AR: I do everything from drawings, paintings, sculptures, and photographs. They include nude portrait, oil paintings, themed or costumed illustrations and paintings, animation, and experimental film.
LIAR: Who are your favorite artists? Is there a person or persons you really want to work with?
AR: Well there are so many great artists out there, but I really love animation and comic art. I've really been interested in virtual reality. I would have loved to work with Monty Oum the creator of RWBY.
LIAR: I love animation and comic art too. I feel like it's so underrated. What do you think about video games as an art medium?
AR: They are heavily underrated. I feel most people think comics and animation is such an age-restricted thing for the youth when honestly, it's not. There's so many different ways to take it as it is with television—from sitcoms, reality, comedy, etc. I think video games, as an art medium, is genius. In essence, our lives are very much like video games. Our mind and soul is using the controller to dictate our next move we make decisions and those decisions have effects. Putting it into a 3D realm just gives it that much more depth. And of course the convenience of being able to die and return back to square one. We get to see the consequences of choices. It makes it that much more real in a sense. And those video game designers are SMART!
LIAR: Are there any video games you've played or have been playing lately that stand out?
AR: Lately I haven't been playing much, but I LOVE the Bayonetta series.
LIAR: Oh yeah, I've seen that one, doesn't she have guns as high heels? That's some crazy character design!
AR: Yes! She's so badass! The whole game is designed heavily around fashion, as they wanted it to stand out. The outfits are great. Especially in the anime they made. It's a hack and slash game that is essentially about two opposite powers and their struggle for the world while they sift through three levels of existence: Heaven, hell, and purgatory. Bayonetta has been sleeping for 500 years and is recalling her memories. It's insanely amazing!
LIAR: I could totally imagine you as a character model for a video game character, what do you think your special move would be?
AR: (Laughs) Way to spot me. I would totally love to be a fighting game character or main character for a hack and slash. I've recently been taking Aikido classes at a space around the corner from my house, which has been amazing. I'd like to mix that with Tahtib, which is an Egyptian form of martial arts. I think it could be really beautiful. They both are reminiscent of dance so it could be so cool. My special move would be something aerial with a series of kicks, flips, punches, a throw to the ground, and ending with a severe sword slash or stab.
LIAR: I'm sure I'd totally use your character all the time! And I bet you'd have a great selection of outfits to change into. You have quite a fabulous fashion sense, where do you get your outfit inspirations?
AR: Thank you. Yeah, my character would have quite the selection of clothing options. Inspiration for me comes from anywhere. I have ideas pop into my head all the time. Sometimes I'll see someone wearing something on the street and then I'll daydream about how I would wear it. I normally like to mix quite a few different concepts into one. Most people would think it’s confusing, but it's actually quite interesting to see how they come out.
"…our lives are very much like video games. Our mind and soul is using the controller to dictate our next move we make decisions and those decisions have effects."
LIAR: who inspires you fashion-wise?
AR: Well first and foremost it would have to be my great grandmother. She was truly special. She always loved embellishments. She had the best jewelry collection ever, most of it costume jewelry. My mom also inspired me in so many ways as she had a huge closet while working with a small budget. Then I discovered Parliament-Funkadelic and David Bowie who brought all of these crazy antics and ideas into play. It inspired me to just be who I was. Not that I could be them, but could be the rendition of myself that carried myself in the same ways that they do.
LIAR: I can totally see that from your editorial shoot. The shoes you wear—you choose a lot of platforms! You're already a very tall person, what are you? Like 6' 4" without the shoes? Do you like being up on a pedestal?
AR: I'm 6' 5.5”! Yes, I love wearing platforms. I get shit on the street from random people sometimes for wearing them, in which I just laugh it off. For me, it's not about being taller or being on a pedestal. It's a form of expression and I love having fun with clothes. Shoes especially.
LIAR: What are some of your favorite comments from random people on the street?
AR: Hmmm let's see: “… as if you needed to give people another reason to feel short," "Excuse me, can I borrow your shoes to grab the paper towels on that top shelf," and "OMG! YOU CAN’T FIT IN THE TRAIN!"
I have actually hit my head on low signage in the train stations from time to time if I'm not careful!
LIAR: Oh boy, as a somewhat tall person that wears heels on occasion, I feel your pain. It's embarrassing, like you have to walk away like nothing happened and hope no one saw you!
AR: Yeah, we go through a lot. It's not all glamorous when people get a little nervous to date you because of it or when you hit something and look like a clumsy fool! There's only been about three times no one has seen me. Most of the time I literally get seen by so many people. Usually because people are staring at me anyway, so I just have to laugh. But I'm still somewhat embarrassed.
"…it's possible to meet the right person at the wrong time."
LIAR: What's the dating situation like as of the moment?
AR: Oh lord, you had to go there. Haha! Joking. Right now I am single. I've been focusing on work more than anything. I used to be a person that chased relationships, but I've learned that doesn't do much except creating heartbreak and insane dialogue in various ways. I'm just living in the moment and doing me for right now and focusing on what I need to function at my best.
LIAR: Haha, well I'm sure everyone wants to know! It's definitely challenging to meet people on the same level in New York City; everyone is so ambitious and focused on their careers. But I'm sure when the right person comes along at the right time it will be magical and you will both bring out the best in each other.
Do you feel like there's someone for everyone out there? Like a salt to your pepper, so to speak?
AR: Oh absolutely! I couldn't agree with that more. I also think it's possible to meet the right person at the wrong time. I think the best thing to realize is that relationships always change so we should embrace what we have at the moment if it feels right and allow it to run its course. Relationships are about partnering—learning from one another. To lift the other person up, to lift ourselves up, and allow us to be lifted by the other person—a giving of yourself fully. Sometimes those things last forever.
LIAR: So true. What projects are you currently working on?
AR: Currently I'm working on a film with a good friend of mine. I play her husband in a melodramatic reality film. Also I’m working on a few costumes and clothing pieces for a fine art painting.
LIAR: Let's end with the question I ask everyone: State two truths and one lie about yourself. Don't tell us which is which.
AR: Hmmm let me take a few minutes to think about this...
1. I am polyamorous
2. I almost fathered a child at the age of 15
3. I only wear thong underwear
LIAR: Brilliant! I'll think on those. Thank you for the interview!