“I get where you are coming from, but I believe in being lively rather than trying to change to an aesthetic. Don’t become your blog, be the Valentine who writes, not Valentine Writes. Be human.”
– Mthokozisi Mabhena, 2020
When The Weeknd rose to prominence, we hardly saw his face. He was a disembodied voice. A highly seductive, dispassionate call to a dark underworld of bittersweet debauchery. It’s fleeting joy, copious drugs, numbing pain. He was intriguing in his mystery.
By the time The Weeknd released Beauty Behind The Madness, he was gunning to be a global popstar. His Michael Jackson inspired aesthetic in the video for, “I can’t feel my face.” was right on brand. Just as he was now so clearly associated with a distinctive mane of hair. Supermodels would swarm to this superstar.
Daft Punk, served as support to the next inflexion point of the weekend. One not aiming for, but reaching the pinnacle of fame. A starboy. The video of the same featured a P1 cleaner than your church shoes. The lyrics boasted of “Made your whole year in a week.” The Weeknd cut his hair.
The Weeknd released an album in 2020. True to form, the new album had a distinct aesthetic. Of blood, and vampires. The masses often felt confused, disoriented by it. Some pinned for Kissland Weeknd. Some just could not be comfortable with this direction. Some though, loved the fantasy world he created…. Could resonate with the darkness when the sun is no more. After hours.
I am inspired by the changing aesthetics that artists employ, especially ones so intentional and deliberate. Where the dress, the colours, the words, the sound, the promotion, the feel, the images…. All work as a cohesive whole to invoke an idea, a concept, a mood.
Its with this in mind, that I took time to reflect on Mthokozi Mabhena’s words. What value is branding? What is lost when one becomes, “Their blog”. What choices differentiate Valentine Writes and Valentine who writes? Should I strive to be… Human?
Questions that remain unresolved. You see, sometime in 2019, I changed all my profile pictures to some abstract art pulled from pixabay. Paintings with a mood, but barely any meaning. It was my form of silent protest at the commodification of the human face. I felt increasing uncomfortable with my ideas / stories / concepts getting minimal traction, but I could induce a reaction through pictures of “The real me”. I was averse to utilizing my face, my friends, my family as currency to buy double taps, comments, retweets, likes.
My new profile picture is a rescinding of this contrarian position. Loosening the need to control and project an aesthetic. A pivot from inhabiting persona to embracing personality. A hint, maybe, of a crooked smile.
Here are a few of my faces. #Newprofilepic. Being. Human.
You may access my new gallery here: https://valentinewrites.co.zw/gallery/