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Meet The Designer Of The Caribbean's Most Exciting Carnival Costumes

Designers
Photos by Randell Richards and Yannick Reid

We spoke with Keisha Als before she chipped down di Trinidad Carnival road

The greatest show on earth is not a Beyoncé or Rihanna concert (sorry, ladies!), but rather the vibrant and illustrious display of history, pageantry, and peak Caribbean design that takes center stage during Trinidad Carnival. Though there are carnivals all over the Caribbean and its diaspora, some with direct historic connections and some without, Trinidad's Carnival is deeply rooted to the history of its people, and every year is a celebration of its past.

Though Trinidad Carnival's aesthetic and practices have evolved over time, what's constant is the two most anticipated days: Carnival Monday and Tuesday. On Carnival Monday, revelers adorn themselves in "Monday wear," a muted-but-still-bold sister to the fullness that's displayed in Carnival Tuesday's costumes. But neither day is complete without having an inspired costume designer making inspirational looks, and that's where Keisha Als comes in.

If you're familiar with the Caribbean Carnival scene, then you've heard of Als; the Trinidadian-based trailblazer is widely known for her Carnival costume designs, particularly for her Monday wear costumes.

"The Caribbean has a plethora of amazing, talented designers," says Als. "The fashion is alive, and Carnival is definitely the center point for Trinidad and islands outside of Trinidad." With almost 10 years of design experience via Trinidad Carnival, she's been commissioned for other big festivals, like Barbados' Crop Over, and growing Carnivals in other islands and the diaspora, like Miami's Broward Carnival, Jamaica's Carnival, Notting Hill Carnival in London, and Sugar Mas in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Growing up in Trinidad, being indulged in Carnival and with a keen sense of curiosity, Als decided at 19 that she would try her hand at designing. "I was just talking to my friends, and I'm like, 'Guys, I'm just going to design a costume, and we're all going to play in it'. That thought just stuck and it never left," Als says. She flirted with styling before she settled on designing and has since been part of a growing wave of designers making power moves in creating gorgeous Monday wear designs.

We sat down with Als to talk about Trinidad Carnival, the science of Monday wear, how she stays innovative, and more.

What is your approach to making Monday wear?
Monday and Tuesday are completely different days. Tuesday, you're in your full glory. The star of the show. You're in your feathers, you're in your jewels, you're never wearing this piece again. You kind of max out on that experience of shining, but Monday there is versatility.

It gives you a chance to stand out in a different way because, regardless of how well you accessorize your costume on Tuesday, you still have a hundred other people in your piece, whereas Monday, there may be 10 other people. There's this chance to be a little more original on Monday.

In my experience, the pieces that have sold the best for me are the ones that offer masqueraders a chance to reuse that piece, so they know that when they're spending their money, they can use it as swimwear again, pair it with clothes, with a wrap or with pants.

How is your approach different when designing a full costume versus designing Monday wear?
They're two very different feelings. Costumes have sort of shifted along the lines of mirroring the body wear of Monday wear. If you look at a lot of Trinidad Carnival's frontline costumes [the more elaborate and expensive costumes, opposed to midline or backline costumes], they might have monokinis, which wasn't present five years ago. For the smaller island Carnivals, even though that's how we've evolved in Trinidad, I still like to give elements of a Trinidad-type carnival costume.

As much as I could have done a monokini for Queen of the Nile, I still wanted to do the [traditional] wire bra, that sexy, sexy type of costume because, to me, that's a costume. A monokini is not a costume. A monokini is a monokini. The costume that I did for Jamaica Carnival—the Queen of the Nile—[there are] Monday wear elements, the full-coverage monokini, and then you have a costume: two-piece wire bra and panty, the full works with the feathers. It's just beautiful!

Out of all of your designs, do you have a favorite?
I think my favorite would be a 2017 section in Yuma called INTI. I hadn't designed a costume for a few years because I was focusing on Monday wear. It just celebrated the moment that I was at in my life. It was fiery, but it was beautiful and sexy.

Talk to us about Tropix by Keisha Als.
Tropix started four summers ago, and I thought maybe I could do a little swimwear collection just to see how it works. I didn't really consider myself a swimwear designer. It wasn't something that I was prepared to do year-round. So I put it in my mind that Tropix would be something that I did specifically for the summer.

Every single one of my Tropix pieces is named after a tropical place in the Caribbean. Some of my best-selling pieces are JUJU, which is a beach in Barbados; another really popular one from Tropix season two is PORTIE, like Jamaica's Portland; and then Tropix season three's most popular piece is a monokini, it was called YARRA, and Yarra is a beach on the north coast of Trinidad. There's an energy in the collection that makes it a Caribbean product.

What does it mean to you to be on the frontiers of Trinidad's Carnival design scene, but also, by extension of your work, being a vanguard of Trinidadian culture?
This is the debate that comes up all the time. There is this one school of thought that [Carnival] belongs to Trinidad and, creating [costumes] for other islands or helping the other carnivals grow, it's almost like a betrayal of using your skill set to give another economy money when, in fact, that's a very armchair critic approach.

Trinidad Carnival started in Trinidad, it's flourished in Trinidad, but we have taken a festival of music, fashion related to Carnival['s] instruments, and we've been able to make it a home to people in the wider diaspora. The [other] islands have been inspired by us, even though [they] may not have historical [connections to] Carnival.

We have taken our culture, and our culture has been able to transcend hundreds and thousands of people over decades throughout the world from London to New York to Miami to wherever Caribbean people are, and that is a very beautiful thing. I would never stifle sharing that with the world, firstly.

Secondly, behind the scenes? The growth of other carnivals has created an enormous amount of revenue supply for local Trinidadian artisans: seamstresses, wire benders, featherers, designers, entertainers. The money is flowing in a way that it hadn't flown when I started to design. [During Trinidad Carnival], a seamstress now has a job. Right after Trinidad Carnival, she has hundreds of pieces to do for Jamaica. And then after Jamaica, she has hundreds of pieces to do for [other Caribbean and diaspora carnivals]. It is now year-round, and that is something that we have to give credit to growing our own economy, by supporting these small carnivals.

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Screenshot via YouTube

The band shared details about their new St. Vincent-produced album that will drop "you into the world of catastrophe"

Sleater-Kinney just shared more information about their St. Vincent-produced album and dropped a new single.

Per Billboard, Sleater-Kinney revealed that their new album, which they've been teasing since early this year and will be their first since No Cities To Love from 2015, will be called The Center Won't Hold. It's due out on August 16 via Mom + Pop Records. "We're always mixing the personal and the political but on this record, despite obviously thinking so much about politics, we were really thinking about the person—ourselves or versions of ourselves or iterations of depression or loneliness—in the middle of the chaos," Carrie Brownstein said in a statement. Corin Tucker further noted that the new album will "[drop] you into the world of catastrophe that touches on the election."

Janet Weiss noted that the band will "explore a different sound palette" with this album, and pointed to St. Vincent as the reason behind it. She said that St. Vincent "has a lot of experience building her own music with keyboards and synthesizers so she could be our guide to help us make sense of this new landscape and still sound like us."

To satiate us until then, the band released a lyric video for new single, "The Future Is Here," which is very grungy. Bump it, below.

Sleater-Kinney - The Future Is Here (Official Lyric Video) www.youtube.com

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB

This is so satisfying!

Even Jon Snow knows just how unsatisfying the final season of Game of Thrones was, and he's ready to apologize. Well, a deepfake of him is at least. A heavily-edited version of Snow's speech from the fourth episode—just before the bodies of those lost in the Battle of Winterfell get burned—now features Snow apologizing for the conclusion of the show and lighting the script on fire.

"It's time for some apologies. I'm sorry we wasted your time," Snow begins. "And I know nothing made sense at the end. When the Starbucks cup is the smallest mistake, you know you fucked up! We take the blame. I'm sorry we wrote this in like six days or something," he adds, before signaling to his peers to light the script with torches and "just forget it forever." "Fuck Season 8," he says before the pages begin to crackle and burn.

If there were more lines left to alter, we would have loved to see Snow also tackle how messy Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister's story line ended up, as well as Bran's kingship, Cersei's boring demise, and the water bottle appearance.

Watch the entire deepfake and try to heal the wounds left by HBO below.

BREAKING: JON SNOW FINALLY APOLOGIZED FOR SEASON 8 youtu.be

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Photo by Darren Craig

It premieres today, exclusively via NYLON

In LP's song "Shaken," the most recent single from her 2018 record Heart To Mouth, she tells the story of seeing her lover out with someone else—ouch. Today, exclusively on NYLON, she releases a cheeky animated music video that pokes fun at the song's heightened drama and perfectly demonstrates all the angst that comes with falling hard for someone.

"She looks at you like I used to/ And I'm just sitting in the corner sh-sh-shaken," LP sings, as the visual—with art by Maayan Priva—depicts the singer hanging out in a bar, watching the girl she likes meet up with another girl. Despite the situation's inherent drama, "Shaken" is less of a ballad and more of an upbeat bop. LP told us she loves the way "this little video captures some of the fun of the song, and its inherent comical anxiety." Sure, heartbreak isn't that funny, but our (sometimes) overly dramatic reaction to it kind of is.

"'Shaken' feels like a bit of a wild card on this record," LP says. "It's the closest I've come to writing a musical, which I hope to do one day." We heartily endorse this idea: Please, LP, give us the queer jukebox musical we crave.

Until that day comes, though, you can watch the music video for "Shaken," below.

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Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

This cameo has the Beyhive buzzing

I went to see Men In Black: International alone. Which would have been fine if it wasn't for the shock I received when I saw two specific characters on the screen. Unable to keep it to myself, I shared a curious look with the stranger next to me, who was obviously thinking the same thing as me. "Is that them...?" I whispered first. "I think… so," she replied. Then the two men in question started to dance, and we were both sure: "Yep, that's them."

It was Laurent and Larry Nicolas Bourgeois, better known as Les Twins. Fans of Beyoncé will recognize the duo as the talented brothers who often accompany her on tour and in music videos. In Men In Black: International, the two of them play shapeshifting entities—they're more like energy forces than aliens—who pursue Tessa Thompson's and Chris Hemsworth's characters throughout the duration of the film. The twins' ability to manipulate their bodies in ways that are graceful and otherworldly really helps sell them as extraterrestrials and is fun to watch.

So if Thompson in a suit or Hemsworth shirtless weren't enough motivation, here's another reason to go see it. If you look close, you can see them in the trailer below.

MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL - Official Trailer www.youtube.com

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Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

"I am honored to share this bonding experience with my own daughter"

In a heart-warming Instagram photo, Serena Williams shares the history of hair braiding and the importance of the tradition. The tennis player shared a photo of herself braiding her daughter Olympia Ohanian's hair and spoke about how "honored" she was to be able to "add another generation" to the tradition of the practice.

The photo shows Williams attentively braiding her daughter's hair while Olympia smiles, obviously loving the experience. Williams noted that hair braiding was created by the Himba people in Namibia, Africa, and that "we have been braiding our hair for centuries." "In many African tribes braided hairstyles were a unique way to identify each tribe," she continued.

Williams pointed out that braiding is a bonding experience. "People would often take the time to socialize," she wrote. "It began with the elders braiding their children, then the children would watch and learn from them. The tradition of bonding was carried on for generations, and quickly made its way across the world."

Williams closed her post with a sweet message about her daughter, saying that she's "honored to share this bonding experience" with her.

See the post, below.

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