This month’s Elle magazine is just what Black History Month ordered. Despite one or two articles that required a side eye worthy of Sasha Obama, the latter half of the publication restored life to my weary soul. The giver of this life? Samira Nasr, the magnificent fashion director at Elle Magazine. Ms. Nasr styled covergirl Solange Knowles in addition to a 16-page love letter to Harlem, both of which I am immensely in love with. Her gingerly undertaking and interpretation of Solange’s style kept her recognizable yet, transfixed me. Nonetheless, it the editorial entitled Take the A Train that shook the table.
I very rarely get this feeling when perusing the glossy pages of fashions periodicals but it appears that Samira’s approach to styling and production involves pensive thought, understanding of and extensive respect for her subject. She takes the time to research and investigate her topic. The end products bear witness to an arduous pre-production. For example, Take the A Train didn’t plop a model into Harlem “hotspots” and iconic landmarks, called it evoked neighborhood artists, OGs, and pioneers such as realtor Lana Turner and historian John T. Reddick. She involved design-hustler extraordinaire Dapper Dan in the 16-page spread of Harlem, affirming Black creators in these spaces that they are not moot and will not be overlooked -on her watch.
Most importantly, Take the A Train is a much-need, reassuring, balm. Harlem, as are all Black and Brown communities in the U.S., is undergoing gentrification and with physical displacement, cultural displacement accompanies. This editorial gives readers who may not live in my neighborhood a glimpse at the very real, vibrant, culture that exists there sans the majority.It presents the landmarks and streets of Harlem as self-sufficient and thriving, qualities not normally attributed to minority spaces. The numerous cultural institutions that were created for us and by us are on full display, behind the beautiful styling of Nasr, and represent a reassuring detail of the editorial. The array of beautiful and prominent neighborhood features soothed an aching fear I’ve been feeling with the many recent changes in central and east Harlem. This spread gave me an unflappable feeling of ease knowing that Harlem’s legacy is a much-recorded installment in America's history thus, it can not be easily erased. Thank you, Samira Nasr.