Immediately noticeable about Isis Nicole magazine are the bright colors and maximalist aesthetic. Babeo Baggins, the break-out member of the Drake-approved, non-binary rap group Barf Troop, poses on the cover of the zine's fourth issue with their blue, curly buns blending into the background of the LA sky.
The cover star—photographed by Charlotte Rutherford, who has taken candy-colored portraits of everyone from Paris Hilton to Marina and the Diamonds—is an accurate indicator the Tumblr-influenced content that follows. Indeed, Isis Nicole could be one of the definitions under the dictionary entry for "peak Tumblr": It follows the ethos of individual curation (the magazine is named after its founder, Isis Nicole), leads with rebloggable imagery, and features niche designers and creatives you've probably never heard of. But for all its familiarity, the zine still manages to surprise and delight. Inside, Babeo Baggins talks about which Rae Sremmurd song encapsulates their current mood and calls for more LGBTQ and female artists in the rap game. There's also plenty of fashion and beauty shoots to dream over.
Finding myself obsessing over the photo spreads of brown girls, smiling in bright makeup on nearly every page, I called up the founder and her publishing partner, Hannah Black, to discuss the makings of Isis Nicole. Like many girls with Wi-Fi and an entrepreneurial spirit, the two women behind the Chicago-based zine are witnesses to the power of the DIY and the Internet.
BROADLY: How did you two meet?
Isis Nicole: I met Hannah at a Glossier event at the W Hotel [in Chicago]. Ever since then we've been working together. This is our second issue together. I was pretty much doing the magazine on my own before, asking friends for graphic design help. For the first issue, I found a bunch of disposable cameras for, like, five dollars and sent them out to people who I wanted to contribute. Then I just went from there. By the time the second issue came out, photographers from Tumblr just started to submit to the magazine. The third issue was really when Hannah and I started to curate it.
I love how this issue is so focused on women of color. Are you mindful of that when you curate that magazine?
Isis: I guess now I am a little more conscious of that. I definitely wanted to feature women of color in the magazine, but it didn't start out like that. Sometimes I'm afraid of [Isis Nicole] being cornered as an "African American specific" magazine—or even a women's magazine. I don't want that. I just want to do fun stuff and make a beautiful publication.
Hannah Black: For me, I definitely want to normalize representation. I don't ever think about "I want to feature this many white people and this many black people." I want mainstream magazines to see that people respond to awesome art no matter what. Personally, I just want to feature things and people I'm interested in.
What are some of your inspirations for the magazine?
Isis: I scroll through Tumblr all the time. The artists themselves are honestly my inspiration. Anytime I feel emotional about an artist and their art I want to interview them. I just want to tell stories.
Hannah: I'm a huge magazine geek. But going through photos in Love, and V, and Lula—publications that tend to feature white girls and pastel—it's all very similar. I just wanted to make something that I was excited to see, something vibrant and something that really grabbed you.
Isis Nicole issue #4 is available for pre-order here.