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cindy renee

Where are you love? 

Where is God hiding you? 

Is your spirit on a journey? 

Black Happiness series - an observation of representation in non-black places.

cindy renee

During Showcase Noir, a very handsome gentleman asked me why I chose to focus on two women who were not in the US?

The answer is complex.

When I started this project I thought about a variety of things.

  •       The struggle for accurate representation of Black Americans in the media.

o   Why can’t American media get it right? We aren’t a monolith.

  •        How many people abroad are persuaded into believing stereotypes of Black Americans based on what they see in American media?
  •        Is there anyone challenging these perceptions?

o   Specifically, within South Korea.

I’ve always known that American media – specifically music is consumed on an international scale. With this one must recognize the huge influence of Black Americans on American culture and it’s changing cultural trends. In short, anyone who consumes American culture has come across something which traces back to Black Americans.

A bit of Context

Being a Black Kpop fan is a struggle for many reasons – blackface, cultural appropriation, colorism, anti-blackness within fandoms. We've experienced how Black music (mostly Hip hop and RnB) has been globalized -- and how others have used our looks, hair, lingo, swag as a means to prove their authenticity. Or how some have simplified the value of Blackness to being "cool."  Although the mistakes of a few entertainers make fans bitter, we all make our  own decisions on which faves we cancel after a swift dragging by black kpop twitter (yes it exists.)  

For many, positive fan experiences outweigh the negative (I’m not going into detail here) one of which is seeing the impact of my culture on another. Whether positive or negative - the idea of “Black cool” is universal, and our “cool” carries over into the international K-pop fandom.  


Representation matters

Back to the original question. Earlier I spoke about my thought process around representation of Black Americans in the media. Both women in these paintings are of African American lineage.

Alexandra Reid (pictured left) is the first African American (non-Korean) K-pop idol in a girl group.





Michelle Lee (pictured right) is a Korean/African American singer ( born and raised in South Korea) who got her start as a finalist on Kpop star.


While following their very recent careers, I've found it interesting to examine the reactions these two women have received from Korean audiences. Alex with the disadvantage of being foreigner, and Michelle who has the disadvantage of being biracial in a homogenous country - which also struggles with colorism. Not only are these women participating in the industry during an era of multiculturalism in Korean media - but they are individually representing varying aspects of blackness in a non black space.

They are not the first Black women to gain visibility in the South Korean entertainment industry, but I want to work my way backwards. I will give more details about these two women in a few follow up posts. 

Until next time,





Inner dopeness and finding my audience.

cindy renee

Alex Rid | 이밋쉘 (Lee Michelle)       A work in progress. 

Alex Rid | 이밋쉘 (Lee Michelle)       A work in progress. 

Tasha Reid | 윤미래 (Yoon MI Rae)       A work in progress. 

Tasha Reid | 윤미래 (Yoon MI Rae)       A work in progress. 

I've come across an abundance of dope black artists on the twittershpere. From naive, abstract, hyper-realist, installation, pop, to good old folk art -- you can find it all. We're in an era of revenue via social media, consciousness of black buying power, and the interest in supporting black owned businesses -- art included.   It sparked an ongoing internal conversation about the definition of black art, being a black artist, and finding your audience. 

 Fan art and pop art are very popular across social media networks, but what happens when you don't use recognizable black people as your sole subject matter?  Are they still inspiring?  Does the work still stir emotion outside of your niche? 

As an active member of Stan twitter -- people don't fuck with my work. As a member of Black twitter -- people still don't fuck with my work. I don't want to spend my time making fan art, and I'm not open to doing commissions either. I often wonder how am I ever supposed to win?  Yet I keep telling myself there's an audience for everything, and that successful people just don't pop off overnight. So I'll keep focusing on what moves me -- observing Black girl magic in other places, and hopeful my audience will find me soon.


Placemaking in the places I'm from. Pt1

cindy renee

Even when a person is ignorant to the word and its meaning, they still acquire the inescapable fear of how change impacts their surroundings. Perhaps they felt it during the demolition of the Penn Avenue high-rise, and the welcoming of Trader Joe’s into East Liberty. Or maybe they graduated from the courtyards of Garfield Heights to the night markets and “Unblurred” first Friday’s on Penn Avenue. As our city continues to progress and renew its identity, many residents of working class neighborhoods are wondering how this new identity will include them.

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Dreams and the loss of youth.

cindy renee

I participated in my first group exhibition last week. It was the dopest feeling. After almost 12 years of pursing being an artist, my success came in the smallest form. 

The tragic thing about being a late-twenties something, is that the whole world has convinced me that I should have my entire life together by now -- and that’s not it. 

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