SafiaElena X Connect Forward

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Check out the original interview via Connect Forward

“Something that many people don’t know about Elena and I is that we both pursued science-based majors in university upon completing high school. We know that back then we were afraid to pursue something creative, but now that we’re older we recognize that the fear we were experiencing was partly due to a lack of information. I mean there was a flood of information and resources readily available on science and business, but information on art seemed more scarce and difficult to access. Sometimes we wonder how access to information on different creative career paths would have shaped our decision-making process. Would we have gone another way?

“At the end of the day though, we have no regrets. Our journey so far has been nothing short of incredible, and we are grateful to have discovered our inner creatives along the way. That being said, we understand the struggle and conflict that others face along their journeys which is why we were super excited to hear what our friend, Rebecca Walcott, was aiming to do with the brand Connect Forward.

“For those who may not know, Connect Forward is a “collaborative, digital workspace dedicated to providing resources for students & entry level professionals”, who may need some guidance on how to make informed, educational career choices to create the future that they want.

“If you are in a position of uncertainty due to a lack of information and access to proper resources (like we were a few years ago) we encourage you to check out Connect Forward and reach out to Rebecca via this Contact Sheet to find out how to go about designing the future that you’ve always envisioned for yourself.

“Here’s a small preview of our interview with Connect Forward where we share some of the information we’ve learned along our creative journey thus far! We hope that our experiences can provide some insight into what being a creative in T&T is really like. Be sure to check out the FULL interview “Q&A: CARIBBEAN CREATIVE INDEX – SAFIAELENA” on their website!”

-Safia & Elena

Safia Elena Ali & Elena Marquez

Safia Elena Ali & Elena Marquez


Tell me a bit more about some of the challenges you faced when you started. How did you get your brand and business off its feet and what helped you get there?

SAFIA: The biggest challenge we face is a shared challenge among local creatives- money. There are many people who still undervalue creatives; they think “How hard can it be to take a photo? How hard can it be to dress someone?” The process for creatives isn’t as simple as just taking a photo or just dressing someone; creatives are analytical too but of their own craft. Plus, as with any job, time is money, and just as people would expect no less than their promised salary for their 8-4, creatives should also expect to be fairly compensated for their time and expertise.

ELENA: Safia works and I’m still in University. Finding time to bring our ideas to reality has always been a tough one. While it’s difficult, we still make the time because we both really love what we do. It’s a great de-stressor.

What’s the best piece of advice/ resources in the Caribbean you’d like to share with the younger generation? What resources do you wish you had when you were starting off?

ELENA: I would definitely say that surrounding yourself with people who really accept and encourage you is key. This can be a bit difficult at times if you are new to the creative community or trying to branch off into something. It’s great though, because this community is growing and welcoming.

SAFIA: The best advice I have to give is to be fearless and confident in who you are (keep that ego in check though! Humility makes us open to learning). We’re all different and we can all bring a new perspective to the table, so allow your natural uniqueness to propel you forward. And don’t worry about “being weird”. We’re creatives- we’re all weird.

Can you talk a little about collaboration in T&T, what are some of the benefits and drawbacks of doing collabs with local creatives?

ELENA: I just truly believe that exposure to like-minded people really encourages the expansion and development of the many creative processes and just overall, truly positively impacts individual creativity. Even if your personal experience with a creative isn’t the best, you still gain the knowledge of what you don’t like or how you’d prefer to operate differently.

SAFIA: Collaboration is really what knits the local fashion community together. It’s a fantastic way to learn and experiment, and I would 100% encourage creatives to work with and engage with each other- even if it’s just for advice. However, it’s important to ensure that when you collaborate there’s a challenge for you in there. If there’s no obvious challenge, then design a challenge for yourself.

What message do you have for the younger generation who are thinking of pursuing a career like yours?

ELENA: Your life is yours. If the creative route interests you, then explore it. Take photos, paint something. The internet is a fantastic tool for inspiration. Surrounding yourself in an environment which promotes growth and development is also key. Reach out to friends and create with each other, it all starts there.

SAFIA: Remember that everybody starts off somewhere. Don’t be discouraged by where you are now or whatever the current issue at hand might be. Make use of what you have and reach out to other people for help and guidance. BE BRAVE; being a creative takes a lot of courage, a lot of persistence and a LOT of hard work. The journey is long and difficult and never-ending, but being able to wake up every day and do what you love will make it all worthwhile.


Click here to read more on our experience with collaboration, our favourite shoots to date, and the future of SAFIAELENA!

Q&A with Maya Cozier

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Trinidad and Tobago-born filmmaker (/dancer/artist) Maya Cozier has been praised throughout the region for her ability to highlight the Caribbean’s rich culture through the art of filmmaking. Having looked up to Maya as her junior in secondary school (shout-out to all my Holy Name girls!), and having had the ability to work with her on more than one occasion, I know that there’s so much more to her than meets the eye. Maya is a daring individual with a keen sense of self-awareness and appreciation for individuality and uniqueness. Her body of work speaks volumes to her character and inspires creatives such as myself to be truly fearless. She is a force to be reckoned with; a strong, independent, Caribbean woman.

I’m extremely grateful to have gotten the opportunity to work with Maya again this past weekend. I decided to ask her to share with me a few things about her that most people don’t know, so here are a few fun facts about this local she-ro:


What does beauty mean to you?

Beauty to me is about challenging the norm and experimentation. I always find the most striking people to have some unique feature that stands out. I mean think about why a model like SlickWoods is so popular? Her energy is alluring. Confidence and individuality are beautiful. We’re no longer going to accept the same one dimensional beauty ideals in 2018.

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Slick Woods | Image from hypebae.com

Who are your favorite people to follow on Instagram?

Right now I’m really loving Savannah G Baker. She curates the PumPum Gyals page and her styling work draws from an electric mix of influences.  Mykki Blanco is musician and he’s not afraid to say it like it is. I find his messages about being an openly trans artist quite inspiring. And well Museum Mammy is your quintessential art world cool girl.

What does feminism mean to you?

My feminism is intersectional. I’m not a fan of elitist feminists that exclude women based on race or class. I love when women without a college degree claim feminism as their own. Isn’t it powerful that ex strippers like Cardi B and Amber Rose can be a part of a movement that’s meant for the liberation of all women (including trans women)? I think we’re giving into the same patriarchal systems we’re trying to fight by excluding some and including others.

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Amber Rose and Cardi B | Image from Wetpaint.com

How would you describe your personal style?

Growing up I always borrowed shirts from my dad. He would complain about shirts that have gone missing over the years. I never limit myself to what I feel a woman should wear. My personal style draws on DIY elements where I would piece together things I’ve found and try to make it work. I always like looking free, comfortable and effortless. I was made fun of a lot in secondary school for some of my style choices but I think I really learnt to embrace that side of myself when I got to NY.  I realized then that it was kind of OK to be weird.

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Photography by Bernard Alexander

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Photography by Bernard Alexander

What’s your favorite music?

There’s so many genres that I vibe with but on most days I listen to R&B. I remember discovering SZA and Kehlani on Spotify before they blew up. I love Blood Orange and Frank Ocean. I love listening to Nina Simone one second and Vibez Kartel the next. My music taste is all over the place.

I know you don’t want to reveal too much but what can we expect from your next film, She Paradise?

You can expect sisterhood, discovery and a lot of jump splits lol

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Behind the Scenes Look at She Paradise the film


Follow Maya and She Paradise the film on Instagram to stay in the loop and learn more about Maya and her projects!

Instagram: @mayacozier

She Paradise on Instagram: @sheparadisethefilm