Working on the #BeautyTruth campaign for Bobbi Brown was an incredibly special and soul-affirming experience for Madeleine and I, because it speaks to a level of progress within the industry. The stories you'll read here and on The Twenties Club in the coming weeks will, hopefully, suggest that beauty doesn't need to be "redefined", but that it needs to be un-defined. Let's stop limiting beauty to everything it can't be and instead open our minds to all the possibilities of what it could be. Expansive. Inclusive. Bold. Just like the women in this campaign. Here's Soraya LaPread, music producer and DJ, as told to SAUCE.
“My father is African American and my mother is Persian. Growing up, mum imported Persian carpets and antiques from Iran so we would often go on buying trips overseas for two months at a time and I’d go with them to see the world and visit family. This kind of exposure to other cultures meant that I’ve never seen just one type of beauty and I’ve never been alienated by what’s deemed “different”. When I was called names at school because of the colour of my skin, or when I wasn’t cast as the angel in the Christmas nativity because they wanted someone with blonde hair and blue eyes, I could look at the situation rationally and see that those people just had a small-minded attitude - a lack of knowledge.
I spent eight years living and working in Los Angeles as a music producer, I had no idea how to DJ but when someone asked if I was available for a gig at The Standard in West Hollywood I jumped at the chance. It was a great way to make some extra money and now it’s a big part of my career. I’m really good at reading the crowd and playing the music they want to hear – it’s all about removing your ego and getting people dancing, that’s what brings me joy. LA is heavily fixated on aesthetics and while I learnt a lot of amazing beauty tips from my friends who were modelling, I also realised that no matter what gig I was being booked for, the first question my agent would be asked is “How does she look?”. This brought back memories of when I was younger and would use chemical relaxers in my hair, or wear my mum’s face powder to make my skin as light as hers.
But I also know that if I wasn’t in the music industry I wouldn’t be able to fully express myself – I love wearing false eyelashes in bright colours like blue or purple, and a bright red lipstick always puts me in the right energy space for performing. Music has been a beautiful environment for me to evolve my personal style. I inherited my love of makeup from my mother; I spent my childhood watching her sculpt her eyebrows meticulously, draw on lipliner and apply lipstick with a picture of Sophia Loren next to the mirror as her inspiration. She wanted to emulate that glamour. I have great-aunt’s who I’ve never seen without a full face of makeup, it’s incredible.
There’s a philosopher, Khalil Gibran, who is a Capricorn like me and he said, “Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.” I think Gibran is right - I often meet people who, on first glance, look stunning but then I discover they have an ugly heart. The opposite can be true also. When I moved back to New Zealand this year I made a point to reach out to other female DJ’s and see how we could support each other; I firmly believe there’s space for all of us to succeed and we need to stick together. When women of colour get into the room, that is something to be celebrated, even if they’ve let you in for the wrong reasons. Use that opportunity to prove yourself, show your work ethic, and then make way for the next woman.”
Styling and Production: Zeenat Wilkinson at Sauce
Words: Madeleine Walker at The Twenties Club
Photography: Clara Pafundi
Makeup: Blair Gamblin
Hair: Shirley Simpson
SORAYA ON INSTAGRAM HERE