Milandou AKA Young Paris is an internationally acclaimed musician and creative director currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. He is known for his eclectic sound – a culturally nuanced blend of rap and electronic dance music layered over traditional African drumbeats. He has been featured alongside Lenny Kravitz and SZA at Afropunk Festival and is the face of their annual Music Fest in Brooklyn.
Milandou is also the founder of #MelaninMonday, a successful and highly relevant visual movement that celebrates men and women of color. Racial pride is a delicate subject as it is often misconstrued as anti-whiteness – too often these conversations fall to the wayside of status quo and political correctness. #MelaninMonday, on the other hand, is a deeply nuanced movement that empowers melanated peoples by writing them back into the social narrative while focusing on healing and cultural inclusivity.
I was initially drawn to the concept of #MelaninMonday, well before I discovered Young Paris or his music. It epitomized a pristine, non-politicized version of self love that I am still very much in the process of learning. The imagery was carefully curated and executed to depict wholeness and integrity – a refreshing departure from the exotic caricatures that people of color are often drawn up to be. Naturally, when I discovered that the founder of #MelaninMonday was the brother of a friend of mine, I was intrigued.
Working with Milandou was a dream. We drew some inspiration from a Jimmy Nelson portrait and sourced styling elements to visualize his Congolese heritage. We spoke acutely about the nuances that we wanted to evoke and the machismo gender characteristics that we wanted to dispell. When Milandou showed up at my apartment to drop off a suitcase full of discarded fur coats to complete the backdrop, I knew that we were both equally stoked about this collaboration. With the talented Ntangou onboard with us to do the face painting and add final styling touches, we were in capable hands.
Milandou has an inimitable grace about him, a natural regality that we seldom see in our age demographic. His confidence permeates the room, yet he is also deeply cognizant of his family, his community, his heritage. In a society that actively fetishizes wealth and individual desires, Milandou and his music serve as an antidote, a much-needed reminder that integrity is found not in external factors but in our cultural origins.