Azarra Amoy is a London-based artist whose work is a reflection of the super heroines in her life. Growing up with a single mom, grandmother and aunties, she was surrounded by strong, beautiful and relentless women. Azarra found a way to not only memorialize them, but seductively charm us with the sass and strength of a Woman.
My name is Azarra Amoy. I’m from London, born and raised. My mum is from Jamaica and my dad is from Trinidad. I’m an artist, free spirit and overall creative soul. Being an artist is something I can’t live without. Nothing can replace my love for art and freedom of self-expression. It’s my happy place.
Coming from Jamaican and Trinidadian parents, heritage and culture played a big role in my life. The West Indian culture was and still is present, from playing Mas and wearing costumes at carnival, to the way I talk and cook. I was raised to be proud and embrace my heritage and culture. And hopefully, I will pass this on to my own children one day.
I was raised by my mum. I have one sister who is ten years old and a brother eight years older. Growing up, I was with my mum most of the time. My mother and father split up when I was baby, so my father wasn’t around that much. I think I had a good childhood. I was surrounded by women: Mum, grandma, aunties, cousins, family friends. They were all strong, independent characters.
When I was younger, I actually wanted to be architect. I have no idea why (lol), but I was always creative from a young age. I really enjoyed making things. Making things and drawing was my preference. I grew up in a time where a computer was a luxury and iPads didn’t exist. So we used to make things and use our imagination to entertain ourselves.
My environment was creative, especially being around my mum—from her style to the way she decorated our flat. She was a hairdresser with bright red hair and she made her own clothes. My brother is also someone I look up to creatively; he’s an amazing drawer, and I used to try and copy him.
I felt different, especially at primary school being the only black person in class. It was obvious I was different from the rest of the kids. I had a couple experiences with racism: one boy told me not to touch him because my black dirty skin would rub off on him. Don’t worry, Mum handled it. My escape was my family and having strong women around me. This protected me, insulated me from getting down, and taught me to be proud of who I am regardless of what people think.
When I was younger, other kids used to ask about my hair: Why does it look and feel a certain way? I actually remember a girl I used to play with compare my hair to a Brillo pad. And then I got a relaxer at a young age so I could feel what it was like to have straight hair. I loved it—my hair was all the down my back! But by the age of eleven, it started breaking. My mum decided to stop and let me grow it out, thus beginning the transitioning process: pressing combs and the start of secondary school. In secondary school, I got a completely different reaction to my hair. People would say “You have good hair,” and “I wish I had hair like yours!” It was like going from one extreme to the other. At 22, I realized I actually did not know what my natural texture looked like. I’d been straightening my hair for years, and to be honest I was tired! Tired of having to straighten, letting my hair dictate what activities I could or couldn’t do because I didn’t what to risk my hair frizzing out or getting wet. So I made a conscious decision to just stop. My mum actually told me that my hair wouldn’t look good natural and that I should keep straightening it. I didn’t know what to expect (which is a crazy thought to have, to not know what your natural hair looks like). I washed it and let it air dry. My hair was a messssss! Years and years of straightening had left me with some serious heat damage, patches of straight and curly hair. I had to cut most of it off. It took a while to understand my hair, but I got there and haven’t looked back since. My hair doesn’t define me. But it has been a definitive part of my journey to being comfortable in my own skin.
My biggest challenge has been trying to understand myself in a world that tells you what must be this way and that way. Taking a chance on myself to follow my dreams and passion sounds like a simple thing to do, but it’s not that straightforward.
My passion wasn’t obvious from the beginning. I went on a long journey trying to pinpoint what I wanted to do, from Art College to University Bangkok. My gut told me to specialize in fine arts, but I went with the sensible choice of graphic design. I hated it. I felt so restricted. But I needed a degree in something, right? I let society dictate what I needed in order to be successful and graduated with a BA with honours in magazine publishing.
Happy days, I’d done it! My mum was happy that the first of her children had gotten a degree. But no one in university warns you that there aren’t any jobs out there. So I stayed in my job that I’d had whilst studying, at a charity shop (thrift store). The longer I stayed there, the more I hated it. My art was the one thing that kept me sane.
I was a Family PA (personal assistant) once in Bangkok. I loved Bangkok and learning about the culture. Everything was super cheap; the food was good, and there was always something to do. As time passed, I realized I was back in an environment where I stood out—being the only black person, not speaking the language, trying to adapt. I worked long hours, counting down the days till my day off. I got really bad anxiety despite Face-timing my family daily. Then it hit me: I had given up my art.
My job was well paid, but no money was worth my sanity. That’s when I decided that if art makes me truly happy, I don’t want to do anything else. So I quit and came back home and spent my time painting, used my savings and took a risk on myself. Through the whole process I felt vulnerable, thinking, Am I good enough? Will people understand where I’m coming from? Most of the artwork I create is personal; they are real feelings, emotions, thoughts, and dreams. Did I want people to see this? Then I thought: This feels too good for me to be worried about being exposed.
My passion is art and all things creative. I have passion for the creative process, the experimentation and vulnerability of going with your instinct and not knowing the outcome. I don’t want all my pieces to just be made to look amazing and flawless; that’s not what art is about. Some of my art may not be appealing or obvious in its message, but it’s always the expression of myself in that moment.
I look at my pieces of work as the pages in my diary; it’s the easiest way for me communicate what I’m feeling. Whether it makes you happy, angry, sad, or reminds you of someone or something you once connected with, I want people to feel some sort of emotion after encountering my work.
I always thought I had to be loud to fit in. I felt insecure in my quietness and shyness; I hated that I found it hard to socialize because of it. I wasn’t so much teased for being quiet, but I think quiet people can be an easy target or misunderstood. Now its one of my favourite characteristics. I have learnt that you don’t have to be loud to have a voice.
Is there anything from your past that you now look back and realize, “This is why I choose to portray black women and mothers as superheroes, superhuman?
Simple. The women in my family. I am them and they are me.
AZARRA AMOY X UDD
SUPERPOWER FOLLOWING MY INSTINCT
Embrace your awkwardness.
You are a spirit being first. Go with your instinct/gut feeling, it is there for a reason follow it. Be patient with yourself and respect the journey, sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. Life is full of lessons and blessings. Even though some are hard, you will soon realize they are blessings in disguise.