In the cutthroat world of modeling, where everyone is a size 0 and looks more or less the same, she is a model that chooses to unapologetically stand out from the crowd.
Yes, Gabrielle Richardson is beautiful. She has fronted Gucci campaigns, is all over Urban Outfitters, and just graced our email inboxes as one of the faces of the new Outdoor Voices x Allbirds collab. The 22-year-old is a highly sought after model on the rise. But her true star power comes from something much deeper than looks alone.
Modeling was never her intention when she came to New York from Philadelphia two years ago for a college internship (she has a degree in graphic design). She had some friends who were getting photography degrees at New York’s Parsons School of Design and she’d occasionally be the subject in their shoots. Once the photos hit the Internet, however, a beast was created and soon she was getting street casted and signed by Muse NYC. “It was something that seemed so random to me, and then it just became a career,” she says a little whimsically.
While she definitely is appreciative of this pivotal twist in her career path, she is determined to use her newfound pedestal for the greater good to get her voice heard. Passionate about race and gender rights, the model views herself first as an artist (she paints and makes sculptures) and activist, and is one of the founders of Art Hoe Collective, a digital platform that showcases the art of underrepresented creators of color and the LGBTQ+ communities.
“The art world is very much classist and set up by inaccessible institutions,” explains Gabrielle. “Being able to have your artwork be considered ‘good’ requires privilege that most people aren’t afforded.”
Because most of the art scene is based in either Los Angeles, New York or London, Art Hoe Collective provides representation and accessibility to artists that aren’t generally situated geographically to be seen, and also, for those who feel that art might not even be an option for them due to their race and socio-economic class.
Fed up with the lack of places she could go to see work by these artists, Gabrielle and a group of friends she connected with via Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter created a Tumblr page that quickly was inundated with submissions from creators, thus, creating the Collective. “We were just a bunch of young artists making work who were upset that the Internet was the only place we could go to see work by young people of color,” she says. “We would go to the museum and only see people that were creating artworks that used people of color as a fetishistic tool, not really as a whole person, but as an aesthetic — when there are countless other works [not being displayed] made by young black kids, showing young black kids as a representational tool… instead of something to just use as a prop.”
Gabrielle believes Art Hoe Collective can be the voice the underrepresented need to bring their creations and messages to the forefront. She views the Collective as something she shares with a community that has the potential to really make a difference.
“It’s the creators, the people who are submitting their work, and the people who are viewing it. It’s a three-way conversation. It’s not just me, but a whole group effort.”
Currently in the process of turning online into offline, Art Hoe Collective has hosted multiple pop-up art shows throughout the States and have raised funds for local charities and those affected by DACA.
A go-getter through and through (she was editor of her high school’s arts magazine, captain of the spoken word team, and would regularly curate art galleries around town) Gabrielle Richardson is a force to be reckoned with and will undoubtedly use her stage to make big changes in the world. “Growing up in a matriarchal family with a lot of powerful women who were the head of the family taught me to go after what I wanted and not to compromise my ideals and beliefs,” she shares. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way, so stay true to yourself and love yourself… because nothing can really be radical unless it’s accessible.”