Achok: Gucci’s Beautiful Muse
During his tenure at Gucci, the alchemic creative director Alessandro Michele has changed the glamour game. With each catwalk and campaign Gucci have challenged beauty standards and shifted previously fixed notions of good and bad taste. The mercurial master now turns his focus to makeup with the launch of Gucci Beauty. At the brand’s launch in New York, Beauty Papers got to know Achok: Gucci muse and inside out beautiful person.
Interview MAXINE LEONARD
Image MARTIN PARR FOR GUCCI
Beauty Papers: What is your first memory of glamour?
Achok: Glamour! So that would be make-up, colours, over-the-top, over-done… Kinda like Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody music video. Yeah, that very Hollywood – lotsa bright lights. [giggles]
BP: Do you associate with the word today?
A: Personally, elements of it. I would take certain elements and put them into my own routine or you know, way of my own living. But, in terms of a glamorous way or life, I think I’m more low-key. Well, I know I’m more low-key. I stay away from glamour. But I love watching it.
BP: Although, you are wearing sequins.
A: Is this glamour?
BP: She’s fairly glamorous for breakfast.
A: This is glamour? Oh, this is FUN to me. Okay, so yeah, I incorporate parts of glamour.
BP: Or maybe you associate with the word fun more, which is better.
A: Yeah, ‘cause glamour to me is kind of old, what you see in those movies.
BP: Who’s poster did you have on your bedroom wall when you were growing up?
A: Of course, Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan. Those were my two.
BP: Yeah. I had Michael Jordan Trainers. [laughs]
A: Nice. I love Michael Jordan.
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BP: The bigger the tongue the better.
A: Yeah, he had a basketball camp in my hometown and I got to go and play with him. It was really cool.
BP: Oh, did you? Where did you grow up?
A: In Santa Barbara, California.
BP: As a teenager, what were your first hair and make-up statements? How did you start to experiment with your look?
A: I remember being in sixth grade, I used to have single braids, individual ones. We’d sit, my mom would braid ‘em and it would take a very long time. I wanted blonde. So, I had her braid it but then I had the front four braids in just blonde. Like bleach blonde. And then I would wear just one line of blue eyeliner, I thought I was the coolest. [laughs]
BP: You were allowed to wear make-up to school?
A: See, that’s the thing. I don’t think so but I think how I did it, it was okay because it was a statement, a little fun.
BP: Did you wear a school uniform?
A: No. I went to this school – it was a foundation, and there were a lot of hippies. And so, we were taught a lot of gratitude. If you didn’t wanna wear shoes, I think that would be okay. We had a community garden and Tibetan monks would run around our campus. It was a very beautiful school and we were taught a lot about love and about treating each other well.
BP: Good character.
A: That’s something I picked up and I think that’s why I am super chill, not into the glamour, even within the industry I am not really fazed by anything. I am very grounded.
BP: We all need that, babes. When did you first feel beautiful? Did you acknowledge your own beauty?
A: You know, growing up I was taught that beautiful is about being intelligent, how you act and how you treat people, how you treat yourself. So, no matter what I felt beautiful.
BP: Where were you first scouted?
A: I was scouted my whole life! People would constantly tell me to model, but I didn’t want to until I was ready. And then when I was I walked into an agency. I was twenty when I properly started. Before that I had tried bits of modelling and I really didn’t like it. And so, it’s kinda been a little dance for me. And I have to be honest with you, it still is a little bit of a dance with me. I very much like it, and I feel that it’s incredible and I’m doing exactly what I should be doing but I am only able to deliver in such a way when I am aligned with working with like-minded individuals who also work on that same level.
BP: What star-sign are you?
A: I’m a Libra, Scorpio rising and a Gemini moon.
BP: Ah, my daughter’s a Gemini.
A: What about you?
BP: I’m Capricorn with a Pisces rising.
A: Oh, nice.
BP: Capricorns are a bit complicated. [Laughs] So, your first Gucci gig, what was that like?
A: My first Gucci was the cruise show. Here in New York. I was new in town and there was a casting. When I got there, they had broke for lunch. I literally heard an inner voice saying go get a snack, sit there and wait. And that was the best thing I did because everyone who had been there earlier started coming back and I was up in front. I met Alessandro, Davide and Michela. They took me into a fitting and I was so nervous and not really comfortable walking. Alessandro was so big about me feeling comfortable, “just walk comfortably, you know it’s just like walking down the street.” Little did I know, I would be walking from this big warehouse across the street in Chelsea, with everybody watching. [laughs] And from that show, it’s just been a whole experience… where we go with each campaign, who shows up, the whole Gucci family is an experience.
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"Growing up I was taught that beautiful is about being intelligent, how you act and how you treat people, how you treat yourself. So, no matter what I felt beautiful."
BP: I’m sure it must be extraordinary to be a part of that.
A: There are so many different elements that go into it, but so much fun that we have during the whole process. What I love so much about Gucci is you work really hard but you have a good time while you’re working… And then also the food, I have to say.
BP: Italians do it best. [laughs]
A: One hundred percent. When it comes to food, they eat well and they really take that time to break and sit and eat their food and have a conversation.
BP: My family is Mediterranean, I’m used to a siesta after food. Tell me about the Gucci Beauty campaign – you did it with Martin Parr?
A: Yes. Oh, Martin Parr.
BP: He has also photographed my daughter.
A: Oh, really?
BP: Very funny man.
A: He is so funny. I’m laughing and smiling because there was a lot of banter with Martin. You know he likes cantaloupe. I don’t know who likes cantaloupe. That’s like the fruit that’s left behind. Who likes cantaloupe? Martin Parr!
BP: He is also an avid Star Wars collector.
A: [laughs] I’m not surprised. So he’d have cantaloupe and one sausage and that’s his breakfast.
BP: Simple man. [laughs] Where did you shoot the campaign?
A: We shot it in London. The thing I love the most about Martin’s photographs for the campaign are the lipstick marks on the teacups.
BP: Beauty stains.
A: It leaves its trail, if you want it to. And that’s pretty cool. I also love the mix of women that are in the campaign, and you’re gonna see more coming now. It’s really, really beautiful and fun what they did. Christopher Simmonds [the art director of Gucci’s campaigns], I call him an OG Original Gangster because what he taps into is so cool, if you see all the different campaigns, you see how he really gets you thinking. Alessandro is very very big on us all feeling our best, rising to your highest powerful state of being a woman, whatever that is to each woman.
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BP: Good vibes.
A: I think that’s why Gucci is different from the other brands, because it’s how you feel. I call it almost a state, it’s very powerful. With Gucci you don’t even need to see a name – you know and that’s how cool it is. But then you do see the logo and it’s one of the most recognizable logos in the world. I joke with my friends, oh in Italy Gucci must be like the third word learned by a kid and then globally the fifth. [laughs]
BP: My daughter is nine and knows Gucci.
A: Everyone knows Gucci. Go to Africa, my cousins there, you know, they’re wearing Gucci.
BP: Where are they from Africa?
A: From South Sudan. And then I have some all over like Uganda, Kenya. I went there one time in my life and my cousin was wearing Gucci.
BP: Well with Africa particularly, there’s such a glamorous scene.
A: Yeah, there is! They love their gold.
BP: What is your beauty routine?
A: My beauty routines are – I get up, I brush my teeth, wash my face.
BP: What are you using on that gorgeous skin? Are you quite simple with your routine?
A: Yeah, I’m very simple. I use very minimal products and I think I’m staying more towards organic. Less is more to me. Sometimes I love a nice little mask. This morning I got up at 5am and put a mask on. I could not sleep, I was up three-thirty wondering if my alarm was gonna go off.
BP: When you know you’ve got loads of work the next day and your minds going kiktitkitkitkitk. You’ve got a big night tonight as well.
A: So yeah, I brush my teeth, wash my face – sometimes a mask. I love a shower or a bath, then I moisturise and go.
BP: What’s in your bum-bag?
A: So, I’ve probably got some moisturiser, phone, my room keys.
A: Charger yeah. But I play a game where I dance with the charger. I don’t want to be on my phone too much so if I’m not working, I don’t take the charger.
BP: Yeah, that’s healthy.
A: Yeah, it’s a nice little game I play with myself.
BP: Who is your beauty hero?
A: My beauty hero…
BP: Or your hero? Doesn’t have be about beauty.
A: You know, I’m just going to say the first person that came to my mind… Should I be so Cliché? But honestly, I will say it – it’s Alessandro [Michele]. Since this person and his team have come into my life, I have personally changed so much. I started tapping into creativity. I have started you know, looking deeper into the beauty of life and wanting to focus on how I live every day. I completed two yoga certifications and that’s all from the inspiration I found by being on set, from traveling and all these different experiences. Alessandro is a person who has a vision and also has the power, the understanding and the gift to really create so much, and bring so many people together.