To kick-off the 2022 we’re continuing our Creator Spotlight series featuring multi-hyphenate creative Harmonie Malengo. Fuelled by Congolese culture, her network and surroundings, Harmonie is constantly seeking to develop meaningful concepts. Calling in from New York City where she is currently based, Harmonie walks us through her approach to networking, conception and execution.
HM: So my name is Harmonie Malengo, I am an aspiring creative director, and I model as well. I've been doing creative direction for almost a year now. I first got introduced to the industry or art form, as you would say through just creating my own concepts and collaborating with photographers. Eventually I kind of started to also do this for other models. And that's how I got into this.
HM: So growing up, I've always been intrigued by art and especially expressing myself through art. It began through dance and that was my first form of creative expression. I did ballet and tap dance. I trained in that for a couple of years growing up. As I got older into high school it translated more into visual art where I was doing a lot of paintings, drawings, creating a lot of things with my hands. At one point, I had a duct tape phase. I don't know if you remember those, but It was super big and I was selling these duct tape stuff that I would make. So I feel like growing up, I would lean on anything creative. I kind of tried it all basically I just had a lot of fun, like trying a lot of creative things. And they have all contributed and helped to mould what I'm able to create now. And I think that is also what helps me create variety in my work now.
HM: Oh my gosh, I am influenced by a lot of things. For example, one of my favorite places to go and get inspiration is just a record store. I love walking through the record store and looking at different album covers. They are just, like, amazing, and I get so much inspiration off of that. Another way is just like being surrounded by creative people. I have a lot of very artistic friends that know how to draw, some are photographers, some are designers, so I get a lot of inspiration through my community as well. And inspiration from my [Congolese] culture, or from wherever I am, like right now I'm in New York and I'm getting a lot of inspiration in the city
HM: It's very random, So I use my notes a lot. An idea will come to mind, and I'll write it down on my, on my notes on my phone. And eventually, transfer that idea to a notebook. I just pick from there, and I see what makes the most sense to create at the time. So for a certain concept I usually already have a photographer and model in mind. So it would make sense to just go with that project. Then it's on to the development part. That includes setting up the structure, shoot location, who's going to shoot it, what time and where, etc, all those logistics. Then I move on to sketching out different scenes of the concepts I then reach out to the rest of the team. And we usually set up a meeting to discuss everything, finalize everything. I make sure to allow time for the photographer's models, or whoever is involved to also have their own creative input. And that has been really great because sometimes you don't think of something but like someone else thinks of something great and it ends up working better. This is just so we can create something more organic as well. I usually keep a copy of the raw images and do the editing myself. And then from there, I get it posted and stuff.
HM: So the best advice I received is actually from Issa Rae, she didn't directly tell me this. But I was actually watching just a short clip of her on Twitter, and she was talking about networking. And this resonates with me to this day. She basically talks about how a lot of creatives and artists always try to network up, they immediately want to collaborate with the model with the most followers or the most renowned photographer to try to, you know, also build themselves up. And they fail to realize that there's a lot of talented people right by their side. And that if they actually network across, they could build themselves up and those people up as well. And you actually create longer lasting connections in the industry that way. A lot of the people that are in her show right now were just her friends and she was, you know, able to bring them in. And now most of them are like, out there acting in other shows etc. I've been doing a lot of community work recently and ever since I've been doing that I don't even have to spend as much time looking for people to collaborate with because it was already done. And so, I'm able to start building up my portfolio so that I can start networking up. So it's like you're networking across and at the same time moving up. So that's something that's really stuck with me, and something that I have implemented in my creative journey.