As an only child, I’ve always wondered about the experience of sisterhood. Sure, I have tons of godsister’s, but there was just something different about the bond created via shared DNA. On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I caught up with a twosome that I love watching in action. As up and coming artists in their own right Nakeya and Victoria Brown are a movement by themselves, but truly a force when they’re together. Check out their interview below.
NB: Personally, sisterhood has always been about having someone that has your back. I think our relationship has changed over the years. There was a point when I was like “no, you can’t follow me everywhere.” She wanted to be just like her big sister. But at a certain point, I think Victoria really found her voice, found her independence, and said “alright, I am separate from Nakeya and I’m going to move in my own lane, creating my own path.” As her older sister, she’s always looked to me for guidance, guidance, and support. I’ve lived through the experiences first because I am older and we’ve shared a lot of the same experiences so I can give her a little bit of insight.
VB: Having a sister is like always having someone to help you. Someone to love you. It’s like your best friend. We always build off of each other. It’s like “I have this idea! What do you think about this? Oh, I’m doing this.” And my sister will say “Yes girl yes!” We’re always encouraging each other and helping each other out. It’s not do me a favor because I’ve done you a favor. It’s sisters. Family. Sisterhood brought my personal views on the value of women to a higher level because I look up to my sister. I live up to my mother. I think that has also played a role, which is physically seen through my artwork because I’m always painting and encouraging women in my work.
NB: It’s interesting how sisterhood can be literal sisters together, but it’s also about the connectivity between women who have the same values, goals, and dreams. Women that look like you. We have three girl cousins that I consider my sisters. I call my best friends my sisters. While I have a biological sister, I do have a lot of chosen sisters. Without them in my life, I don’t know where I’d be because we’ve all gone through similar experiences together. We’re always looking to each other and asking advice. One of my best friends also has a young daughter, so we call each other up and talk about our girls. I can’t do that with Victoria, because she doesn’t have children. But you can do that with people who’s lives cross.
VB: It’s also a black and brown, urban thing where you just call people “sis”. That means that you look at that person as someone that’s close to you. Someone you can relate to, even if they aren’t necessarily your sister.
SW: I want to circle back to something you said Nakeya. I have to little cousins. One is in college at Howard and her sister is in high school. I stumbled upon the youngest one’s Instagram and found out that she started a YouTube channel doing style videos. It took her sister going to college for her to come into her own. How did you two create identity under the same roof?
NB: A lot of the foundation of identity starts with mom. Our mother was always there. She instilled values in us in terms of education, protecting your sister and brother. Loving and forgiving each other. Always look out for each other. Always be honest and say what’s on your mind. My mother really shaped my identity first. Then, comes my aunts, grandmother, and cousins. I think it really starts at home with your family. When I went off to college, that’s a whole other world of being exposed to freedom, varying disciplines, and having your own time. As you get older, you pull from your past and pull from what was instilled in you earlier on. Then you look to your changing current environments. That’s something Victoria and I have always talked about. Being a younger sister, sometimes you are in the shadow. With my older brother, he went to Rutgers and my mom said “you’re going to school with your brother!” It’s easier sometimes to keep your family together and you try and make it so they blend as seamlessly as possible. Sometimes identities get lost, but as you get older and go off on your own, you really start to find your voice and yourself.
VB: I definitely OD copied Keya. Straight up. For a long time. I moved around a lot, mainly my high school years because of the military. Keya was in college, so I was living the only child life for a couple years. My identity was all over the place.
NB: I would see between myself, Phil, and Victoria, her identity has been the most fluid. You went through so many phases!
VB: Yeah! Emo kid phase. When I was younger, I had the weave and the makeup. Wannabe Bey phase. I went through a lot, but I think I really found my identity in college because I was really alone. I went to Penn State and it was so far from my family. During that time, I was really developing my art. I realized that I liked to wear bright colors and patterns. I like my hair to look crazy. I said ‘this is me!” It’s always been me, I’m just really now discovering it.
NB: Victoria has always been a very expressive free black girl. Always did what she wanted to do. I would never get a facial piercing and she had like three at one point! She was just like “whatever”. Our mom would look at her like “what?!” and Victoria would just tell her relax, it will be okay. She just always stayed true to herself. she’s really grown into herself. It wasn’t an easy road all of the time because sometimes she was unsure if she was supposed to be like this.
VB: At one point, I was living n California. I listened to no hip-hop at all, because I wasn’t surrounded by any black people. My mom and dad weren’t listening to music, so I listened to a lot of rock and indie. All of my friends were White or Latino. When I moved back to Pennsylvania and was back around all black people, it was like “whoa!”. People were asking me if I heard the new 50 and I was so out of it.
NB: Victoria exposed me to so many genres and coding. She was actually working in HTML, hooking up my MySpace. so I looked to her too. She would always say that she looked up to me and I always said “no I look up to you because you dance to the beat of your own drum and always have.”
SW: What has the transition from girls to women been like for you? How has the relationship changed?
NB: Growing up, we shared a room. Obviously, when you share a room there isn’t space to have your own privacy, so I think that spilled into the relationship she and I have. Even after 2012 when I became a mom, I think that everyone in my family shifted gears a bit and perspectives. Yes, I am a mom, but my cousins, sister. sister-in-law, and obviously my mom all look at Mia like their child too. There’s this maturing that goes on, even if you aren’t living your sister’s life. What happens to your sister, chosen or biological, if you’re that close and care about each other, you’re living one and the same. That’s something that comes with growing older as women.
SW: Both of you are artists. How do you serve as each other’s muses, if at all?
VB: Keya really taught me a lot of the technical part of art. She was the one saying that you need to conceptualize and I’m like “why??? I just want to create!” I think by seeing her work and what she’s doing, it’s inspiring me to take my work more seriously. Telling myself, “look at Nakeya reaching all of these levels, you can do it too!” It’s something I’ve always wanted to be come a successful artist.
NB: Victoria is absolutely my muse. She’s just so easy to photograph. She’s always changing her look. She has attitude and personality. Sometimes it’s also just easier to work with someone close. You trust them. They trust you. They’ll do whatever you tell them to do.
VB: I’m also always helping Keya with her photoshoots.
NB: Yeah. Always assisting. Giving feedback.
VB: It’s truly a blessing to have a sister that’s also creative.
SW: How would you describe each other?
NB: Victoria is energetic. Eccentric. Stylish. Bold. Visionary. Intelligent. Sweetcaringloving. I could go on and on. I could give you adjectives for days.
VB: Nakeya is very loving and caring. She’s very inspired by the moment. Spontaneous. Very practical. Very stylish. I got a lot of my style from Keya. She’s always giving me books to read, so definitely very smart. She’s extremely funny and a great mother!
SW: What is your wish for your sister?
VB + NB (simultaneously): Love! Happiness! Success!
NB: Love. Not just between man and woman, but in life. Self-love.
VB: Universal freedom. The ability to be worldwide. Mars, whats good?