Taira Rice is a 20-year-old illustrator from Harlem, NY.
Her illustrations speak on the topics of intimacy, confidence and the duality, within the context of being a queer woman of color. Rice attempts to challenge the flattened representations of African American women that we see in the media. Her goal is to show Black women’s try to different ways of being—their complexities, their flaws, and especially their sexuality.
Her earliest childhood memory is of creating. Growing up, she spent a lot of her time observing others, their mannerism and what make them unique. Illustration has remained Rice’s outlet for self-exploration and social change because she has always been fascinated by what makes people different. She seeks to identify these differences to show that they are what make us good and should not be used as a tool to ostracize.
She said, “When I am drawing a character they represent an attitude or an energy that consists of complete contentment with one’s self, unapologetically. There’s subtle and individual mannerisms in their clothing, the way that they move and everything hints toward what they are confident about. I personally am trying to transform outdated definitions of romance and pleasure and individuality, to normalize queer identity, femme sexuality, and represent women of color without searching for approval from anyone or anything.”
As a queer Black woman, Rice is has been troubled by queer women of color’s erasure from media. She has always had a love for movies and comics, but found that love challenged when she realized that there was no one who looked like her playing any of the roles she idolized. IN the future, Rice plans to write her own graphic novels and create cartoons that better represent her and the millions of Americans who identify as Black, queer, or simply different.
“As a Black woman, I never saw myself in any of things I was interested in, like comic books, movies and a lot of forms of media in general. Since I never saw myself, I figured I’d draw women that I could see myself in and that other women could see themselves in, so that they did not feel they were being left out of the world,” explained Rice.
Because her subject material deals with many controversial issues, Rice has receives some negative backlash from her work. But she believes that the lives she touches greatly outweigh any of the criticism. Rice proves that even if your message is difficult for others, you must always remain honest to it if it is what you believe in.
“Some of the things I make, some people will really love it and some people will think it’s too racy, but at the end of the day I am trying to represent us in a way we haven’t been represented before so that’s obviously going to get some different opinions. But I know why I’m doing it. The responses I’ve gotten from other women inspires me to keep going because I see that the are seeing themselves, and that is the entire goal,” Rice said.
You can see more of Taira Rice’s artwork by following @i_dead_dont_know on Instagram. For clothing featuring her designs, check out @j.u.g.nyc on Instagram.