Darkwah Kyei-Darkwah: the multi-disciplinary artist making space for authentic queer expression
The content creator’s work is powered by a passion for their community and platforming historically marginalised voices
words Megan Wallace
To celebrate our first birthday, woo has curated a list of our ones. The people in our wooniverse who are redefining fashion, music, clubs, culture and much more.
Speaking to Darkwah Kyei-Darkwah, it’s clear that the London-based creative puts even the most frenetic of multi-hyphenates to shame. A former fashion editor, they’ve since spread their (very stylish) wings and moved into content creation, collaborating with brands such as Coty, Samsung, Weekday, Sleek Makeup and Ugg. But that’s not all, far from it. Their other job titles include musician, performer, actor and author: anything creative, you can expect they’ve tried their hand at it.
As they inform me, they’ve got more music on the horizon and are due to perform internationally this summer. Then, there’s the fact that they're among the cast of Amrou Al-Kadhi’s debut feature Layla, a love story between a British-Palestinian drag queen and a white, cis gay man in the corporate world. And that’s not even mentioning the book that Kyei-Darkwah is currently working on. You can imagine that their Google Calendar is stacked, right?
Throughout this multifaceted output there is, however, a unifying thread: a passion for platforming the voices of historically marginalised voices. And at a time when trans and non-binary people, especially those from ethnic minorities, are receiving increased negative scrutiny on social media and in public, it’s powerful to see Kyei-Darkwah’s work celebrating the effortless, endless joy and beauty to be found within these identities.
Describe what you do in your own words.
Creating media that people can engage with that platforms historically marginalised voices and communities and helps audiences relate to and understand these communities.
And how would you describe what you do to a date?
I would say that I am a content creator whose main focus is platforming historically marginalised voices… while also being very entertaining.
How did you get into your chosen career?
I was always headed this way. I grew up with a father who was very big in the media in Ghana and West Africa. He produced, presented and directed beauty pageants for close to 25 years and he also produced fashion shows. I worked as his assistant so I learned how to produce and create content. While it was never social media content, more like adverts, that helped me with my understanding of how to communicate visually.
As I got older I just really wanted to create, I didn't care what I was doing so long as I was creating. I worked in vegan restaurants and so long as I was making new recipes or new smoothies, I was happy. Someone who saw my creativity was Josh Rivers. When they were at Gay Times, they made me the Fashion Editor and I then started creating content in a fashion and advertising context again. And after leaving Gay Times, I decided that I was no longer going to do that for other people, but that I was going to start doing it for myself.
Are there any upcoming projects we should look out for?
I am super excited because I am going to be releasing some more music. I've also dipped my toe into the acting pool. I appear in Layla which is the first feature film directed by Amrou Al-Kadhi. It’s a journey through the eyes of a Middle Eastern non-binary person into their queerness, told with beauty and joy. I'm currently writing a book which will hopefully serve as a really good guide for allies, as well as for people within the community.
What’s one thing you'd like to see change in the world?
I would like to see more compassion in the world. I think that a lot of our issues come from nitpicking differences in communities, whether that's gender identity, sexual preference or race. We focus on the differences to try and define ourselves but also forget that the one thing that defines us all is that we are all human. If we actually stopped and thought about the ways we’re treating our fellow humans then we would genuinely move forward to a world where we can all exist more freely, have conversations more openly, and be more honest with ourselves.
And is there anything you do that you think helps that change along?
I think what I do [with my work] helps to change things a little bit. I think. I know my career journey has meant that there have been parts where I've been very far away from my family and very close to my family, documenting my queer journey and putting out my thoughts and feelings. The way that I do this on social media relates directly to me but has also allowed my family to better understand me and it's made for much better communication and a better relationship. Knowing that and knowing the things that we have gone through, I can sleep peacefully knowing that [my work] might also be helping someone else with their family or their friendship group.
And what's one thing you would do if you were Prime Minister for the day?
I don't know enough about the constitution of British law but I would go back into one of the laws about rights and change the wording so that every living, breathing human is entitled to healthcare that pertains to every existence. I’d enshrine that in the law.
Is there any one thing you do on the regular to take care of your mental health?
It used to be meditating. But now I sing and dance, like sing at the top of my lungs and dance full energy, to one song that I love every day. That just reminds me that even when my body feels heavy and tired or my voice feels like it isn't being heard, I can still make noise and move and be joyful.
What's one lesson that changed your life?
One lesson that changed my life is “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. It’s from Hamlet but I read it in The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. I read that book about nine times and when I read that line, it clicked. I was like, okay, things are going to happen because life happens and nothing truly is predictable. What you have to do is react as best as you can, or limit your reaction as best as you can. That allows you to take care of yourself and move through the world.
How about one moment in your career that you will cherish forever?
Dancing at the front of the crowd, and then onstage, at UK Black Pride last year and opening up a runway for everyone to come together. When I go to an event, I have performer privilege because people know that I am a performer and will allow me to get on stage. I will intentionally amp up the energy in the room and get on stage with people and dance, just really pull the focus. Once you've pulled the focus, you can step off and let other people go in as well and everyone can have a moment of feeling joyous, loved and like their full selves with everybody.
What's one thing you want to achieve in the next year?
I want to take my ambassadorship with Sleek Makeup a whole step further. I’d like to go out and do workshops with young queer people, young gender-non-conforming people and young trans people so they can come in and learn different ways to use product, present as themselves or liberate themselves. I’d like to give them a space which they can exist in that is recognised by an institution like Sleek Makeup and let them feel seen.
If you had a number one song, what would it sound like?
It would sound like my debut single, "When I Dance” that's out now on Spotify.
Who's your number one fan?
My guardian angel, my grandmother Chicago who passed away when I was 23. So many significant things in my life that have changed the way that I live and experience the world have happened on either her birthday or the day that she died or the day of her funeral.
And who's number one on your speed dial?
Name one person who's killing the game right now.
My best friend and co-collaborator Virgin X. They are freaking amazing and just released a new single called “Billionaires” which is a witty commentary on destroying capitalist structures and cannibalising billionaires like Jeff Bezos.
What's one piece of clothing you can't live without?
I don't really like wearing clothes, so I'm just going to be honest. It's my pink, velvet side-tie thong.
Anything you’d like to add?
I want to add that anyone who reads this, if they can, should donate to Not A Phase, which is a charity that supports trans people. And they should know that July 8 is London Trans+ Pride and it’s marching from Trafalgar Square. Bring flowers, Pride is a protest.
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