Los Angeles-born streetwear stylist/model Aleali May has been on the receiving end of criticism for an editorial using Queens’ famed Queensbridge Houses (home of Roxanne Shante and Nasir Jones) as a backdrop. The shoot was organized by Tommy Hilfiger which partnered with vintage retailer Procell to pull pieces from the brand’s archives.
Once a Tommy Hilfiger ambassador, Aaliyah was tapped as the muse for the editorial, a choice that makes sense not only because of the label connection but also because May is frequently compared to Aaliyah and also has freely stated her appreciation for the deceased r&b singer on many occassions.
Feedback of a disgruntled nature started on Twitter and was, weirdly enough, picked up by the NY Post, a right-wing rag not known for taking up the causes of the City’s poor and working class neighborhoods.
While the comments on May’s Instagram feed are all love, in the NY Post article a Queensbridge resident is quoted as stating, “People die here. People starve here. People go missing here. Ain’t nothing cool about that.”
Pushing back on the critiques, May noted that she grew poor in the Baldwin Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. Not impressed by May’s resume, one woman who’s lived in Queensbridge since the ’70s stated, “If she lived here, she would be at home. But she don’t live here, so she shouldn’t be taking pictures.”
May explains the shoot was chosen in part because of its proximity to Long Island City where the Tommy Hilfiger archival product is housed. She noted, “We all walked over there and were just kickin’ it in the neighborhood and met some amazing people.” As for the adorable pit bull, May pointed out it belongs to a person who lives in Queensbridge Houses.
Rappers often state it’s impossible to return to their old neighborhoods once they’ve hit the big times because of safety concerns. The criticism of May is different, however, because she’s being accused of using poverty as a prop even though she herself grew up in a low-income neighborhood.
Does a person like May who was raised in challenging economic circumstances receive a pass to rep for their childhood status in any hood globally? Apparently there are a lot of strong feelings on both sides of the argument.
Check out the controversial editorial below.
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More favs from @TommyJeans Archive x @Procell shoot🖤Friends at work 📷 @onlunchbreak 💄 @sage.white 👖 @iammontechristo had a belly chain made for me inspired by Kidada’s😢 paired with my personal jewelry for Los Angeles • Last slide me and Momma/•\ 🙏🏽#blessed avail at Tommy Jeans Platform in Brooklyn