Q&A with Twentyhood Mag
We sit down with founder Stephanie Kleanthous to chat all things Twentyhood Mag. The magazine which is dedicated to giving a voice to creatives in their twenties is celebrating it's first print issue!
Thanks so much for agreeing to speak to us Stephanie and congratulations on the launch! First things first, where did Twentyhood magazine start?
Thank you for having me! I love Sludge, it’s really informative so I’m very excited about this. Twentyhood was first discussed late summer of 2018 when I was attending a spoken word night in Dalston. I’d just had confirmation that my first article was going to be published in a magazine. It was sick but it made me think, why can’t I make my own mag? I was with my friend Ruby and suggested we build an online one. We then asked my housemate at the time, Helena, if she’d like to be involved and we started brainstorming ideas in our overpriced, 2 bed, no lounge flat in Stoke Newington, Hackney. We saw there was a gap for an inclusive platform that was all about 20-something creatives and after months of working on the site, we officially launched February 1st 2019, making it an Aquarius baby like me. Helena and Ruby ended up stepping back in late 2019 as their other jobs required more attention, but I’m so grateful for the work we did together and for their continuous support. They’re two of my best friends.
The illustrations that make up your online presence are integral to the platform's identity. Was it always the plan to be so illustration heavy?
Of course, the platform would be so different without all of the wonderful illustrations and I can’t thank the illustrators enough for the work they’ve put in. They’re all so lovely to work with! I love having everything illustration-based because it makes any brief possible. Initially, the plan was to have original illustrations and photography but we soon realised photography wasn’t the right route. None of us even had a camera, whereas Ruby and another incredible bestie, Emily Nash, helped to kick things off with their illustrations. Scrolling right down to the bottom of the Instagram feed, Emily Birch, Shazmeen Khalid and Laura Buckell were also some of the first to contribute and they still produce stuff for the mag now! They’ve always been great but it’s been nice watching them grow as artists and experiment with styles.
As a magazine founder how do you navigate wanting professional standard illustrations without the ad revenue to fund commissioning artists?
Most of the time I’m approached by creatives wanting to put their work out and asking how they can get involved. I’m always transparent from the first message that the online platform is non-profit - I am sorting out invoices for the exclusive content for Issue 1, however. I have a list of writers and illustrators (68 total at the moment) who receive regular briefs that they can pick and choose from when they have the time. There’s no pressure but there are deadlines, so if it’s not for you that week, it’s fine because someone else can pick it up. I really like working like that and I think it works for everyone. I’d like to think it’s something fun that they do in-between other jobs and usually, I give room for creativity and always put across that I’m open to their ideas. Collaboration makes everything stronger! The aim has always been to build up a big enough platform in order to receive funding as I would like to be paying both writers and illustrators for their amazing work.
You're a bit of a creative polymath. From your personal IG we've seen you have a penchant for spoken word poetry as well. How long have you been doing this?
Thank you! I’ve been writing poetry on and off since I was 10 and I’m 25 now. The feminist in me is crying as I say this but, it all started because I wanted to impress a teacher who I had a crush on. He introduced us to different forms of poetry and even though I was often in detention for not doing my homework, I wrote several poems so I could perform them the next day (which no one else was doing). I got back into poetry when I was super depressed in sixth form. I rarely attended and would spend all day in bed. I sought help on my own eventually, got in touch with a psychiatrist, started taking SSRI’s and began art therapy on the NHS at 17. I kept a diary and wrote poems about how I was feeling, suicidal thoughts and of course, dating/relationships. In a way, writing in whatever form, has just been a great outlet for me. I think I’ve always felt things quite intensely and it’s hard to know what to do with it all sometimes so when words are just spinning around my head, I need a release. It really improves my mood as well because I feel like the harsher emotions have been alleviated, especially when I’m happy with what I’ve created.
Covering socio-political issues is super important but can be mentally overwhelming. How do you strike the balance of protecting your own mental health whilst staying informed?
The past few weeks I’ve cried almost every day watching the videos of police brutality at the protests and vigil but if we hide away too much and don’t pay attention, we can’t push for change as a collective. It’s heartbreaking seeing this continue over and over and it’s made me feel pretty powerless. I’m based at home in Birmingham at the moment so when the protests start here, I’ll be there. It can definitely be overwhelming and as individuals, we can’t fight every single cause, but it’s also a privilege to be able to switch off entirely. Finding the balance is tricky but for my mental health, I try to keep to morning rituals and meditation. I enjoy cooking regularly - I’m Greek Cypriot so that’s a big part of our culture. But the main thing is dancing in my room every day! Sometimes for more than half an hour at a time. With gyms being closed, and the only local scenic route near me for jogging being a hot spot for creepy men committing violence against women, I’ve had to make sure I keep movement part of my life and I just love dancing.
Your platform has a pronounced feminist consciousness, although the patriachy is nothing new do recent events in the U.K. drive home the importance of centring women's voices even more for you?
Definitely! I had a couple different pieces planned for March but I put them on hold in order to get out what’s important currently. I think it’s good to find a balance between uplifting people in tough times and letting people in on other’s perspectives on what’s going on. I love women. I love seeing other women thrive. We are the most resilient beings with all the stuff we have to go through on a daily basis but we’re so much stronger when we’re together and uplifting one another. The best thing we left in the 00s was the toxic culture of women dragging down other women! I think we also need to focus on centering Black women, women of colour and trans women’s voices more. There’s a lot being spoken about at the moment which I found through Simone Yasmin and Maxine on how “girl boss culture/feminism” is too focused around white women and it’s not uplifting everyone. We need to listen to each other, adapt and learn from our mistakes because we’re bound to make them. Our feminism must be intersectional. However, if men aren’t hearing us out and making the change amongst themselves to help marginalised genders, we can’t reach the equality and safety necessary.
Putting together a mag on InDesign is undoubtedly a long task so we imagine a good soundtrack helped you through it, what're you listening to right now?
I learned InDesign from scratch so music was essential! We have some fire playlists up on our Spotify which have been curated by some great DJs like Joshua Mooney, Joski, Clarabelle and Paige. I also listened to a lot of Erykah Badu, Barrington Levy, Erika de Casier, Azealia Banks, Tirzah and Bel Cobain. I’m a big fan of Shygirl too, her tracks make you feel sassy and sexy, she’s really doing something different and pulling looks all at the same time. If I need healing energy I usually look to Jhené Aiko. She has a song called Trigger Protection Mantra which is great for meditating, sage cleansing or to just feel relaxed when carrying out stressful tasks. Her live sets with crystal sound bowls are so soothing. I listen to a range of genres depending on my mood really!
Do you have any dream collaborators or even more attainable creatives around the midlands you'd like to work with in the near future?
For Sounds of the Month playlists I’d love to have LCY or p-rallel curate! Illustrator-wise, I’m really into Polly Nor and Nyanza D so it would be a dream to collab, and then from Brum, I think Carlton Matthews is amazing. There’s so much talent round here and you can find a lot of it on platforms like Surface or 0121 Collective. I also really want to put an event on like a late Issue 1 launch party. I’m thinking about spoken word performances by myself and others. Annie Wilson’s work is very powerful but to be honest, I really need to discover some more spoken word artists from here and message around! I’d love to get some DJs involved after the performances maybe through Bad Girls Club. My friend Shaun has already taken the MC spot so I can’t wait for stuff to reopen so I can make this happen, bring the vibes and hopefully sell a bunch of mags!
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