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Interview: Amal Fashanu

The niece of late, gay footballer Justin Fashanu discusses how her uncle inspired her latest work...


Hey Amal! Can you tell us a little about your new fashion label?
Black Heart Label is a fashion brand which is aimed at increasing awareness about issues of discrimination and inequality. The brand does this through encouraging its fashion-forward, target audience to make a stand for what they believe in. We encourage our customers to wear their hearts on their sleeves and believe in the power of change through the actions and education of an individual.

Where did the inspiration come from to create Black Heart Label?
I have always been passionate about fashion. I have blogged for many years and also have modelled in various editorials and campaigns. It seemed like a natural career progression to end up in the fashion industry, so that’s where the inspiration for the label came from. The Black Heart concept was a way to merge my career with a cause I felt strongly about. My uncle’s story and the impact it had on my life motivated me to find a way to encourage other young people to stand up against discrimination in all walks of life. Using fashion to make a stand against discrimination felt like a great idea. For the last decade, various other campaigns have used the same model to raise awareness with great results.

In July 1991, Justin was interviewed by Gay Times – and appeared on our cover – 22 years later you’re here and carrying the torch for him. What does that mean to you and what do you think he would say?
I was very touched that Gay Times featured him on the cover. For me, it means that Justin’s trials and the prejudice he experienced after he publicly came out are still very much relevant to the gay community today and making sure that society fully evolves away from where it was 22 years ago is definitely still a cause worth fighting for.

Nice! On the 22nd October 1990 the Sun ran the headline: “1m Football Star: I AM GAY” How do you think everyone would react now if they ran the same headline?
I genuinely think it would create just as much of a commotion as it did back then. The media would perhaps be kinder and more cautious with how they carried out any follow up reports as there are a lot more guidelines now and regulations against discrimination in the press, but I do genuinely think people would be very shocked if a footballer made such a public declaration especially if it’s a well- known premier league player. I mean, there’s still a lot of shock over the WWE’s Darren Young who unexpectedly admitted to being gay during an interview earlier this week.

Indeed, although footballer Robbie Rogers came out as gay after an intermittent period of being away from the game. Do you think it’s any easier to be a gay footballer now?
Whether it’s easier or not is not for me to conclusively say. But the fact that gay players feel that they aren’t able to come out suggests there are still many hurdles in creating a completely safe environment which players can thrive regardless of their sexuality.

We’ve noticed on Twitter you enjoy your hashtags – could you use 5 hashtags to describe your new fashion range?
#fashionforchange #diverse #niche #equality #young

Now – 3 hashtags to describe yourself?
The first two would have to be #passionate and #determined and the third would be #perpetualoptimist

What message do you hope to leave the world through your work?
Young people need to follow their dreams and believe in the power of the individual versus the masses, because guess what.. the individuals create the mass!

Find out more about Black Heart Label and Amal

Words: Lee Dalloway (@Leeroydalvin)

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