Mario Epanya: The Evolution of Black Beauty …
When we speak about the world of fashion and style, the word Vogue carries enormous clout wherever you go. When you watch the 2009 movie, The September issue, one can actually see how much respect and reverence is given to this monumental magazine and their larger than life editor, Anna Wintour. The Vogue brand is so colossal that it’s published in 18 different countries (France, Spain, Japan, India, Brazil, Germany, China etc) – but surprisingly, in 2011, there is no Vogue Africa. Mario Epanya, a photographer and make-up expert originally from Cameroon saw this huge, glaring omission and took it upon himself to start an online campaign to initiate a Vogue for Africa. He styled and shot several spec Vogue covers that caught fire on the internet. Although the buzz didn’t translate into Condé Nast starting a new African Vogue, it allowed Mario Epanya to start his own magazine called Winkler – a progressive publication geared towards sophisticated and avant-garde ideals of Black Beauty. Style Blazer caught up with Mario Epanya to ask him a few questions about his past and exceedingly bright fashion future.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background, being from Cameroon and how you got into makeup and fashion?
Well, I’m 35-years-old, was born and raised in Cameroon. I started as a painter and during an exhibition in 1996, and a friend asked me if I could do make-up for a show that was taking place in the same place. That was how I first got into fashion and till this day I never stopped
Your Vogue Africa images and mock-ups really caught fire on the internet and blew up all over the place. How did you first come up with the idea for that – and were you surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response it received?
Personally, I knew that was a major idea because after years working in the Fashion industry. I realized there was a lot of frustration in the black community because there a lot of talented entrepreneurs, designers, photographers, hair -makeup artists, but none of them are really represented in high fashion magazines. So I told myself, “You should propose a Black Version of Vogue and see if I could get a license.
Was I surprised by the response? No I wasn’t because I knew it was the one thing Condé nast had left to do. But in the end they didn’t understand my vision.
Tell us a little about your new project Winkler Magazine - what is the mission and vision behind it – and is it strictly an online magazine or is there going to be a print format as well?
Winkler magazine is an avant-garde Beauty magazine dedicated to Black women worldwide and afro-descent creatives, entrepreneurs all over the world.
The mission is to promote Black creativity and products ,to organize events like Fashion show ,contests to find new talents ,work with different associations to aid Black women in need and help them to get back the confidence and identity some of them are still looking for …and there are a lot of other surprises in store too. For now, we’re starting off as an online magazine, but of course I’d love to have a print version, but the future will tell.
So where are you based now? Do you go to Africa often – and where do you find all the gorgeous women you shoot in your editorials?
I’m based in Paris now and this where I work too. The last time I was in Africa was five years ago… As far as where I find my models, there are lots of gorgeous black and colored models everywhere. Magazines and editors just got to give them those covers!
Who are some of your personal fashion icons in the fields of photography, modeling etc?
Koto Bolofo , Giampaolo Sgura, Eric Traoré, Greg Kadel are some of my favorite photographers
My favorite models are Iman, Naomi Campbell and Ajak Deng.
In one word – what is the definition of black beauty?
(Keep up with Mario Epanya here).
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