Q&A: Jazsalyn McNeil
by Ayoka Lucas
There is something quite dynamic about a person who can’t be accurately placed in any one box. So goes the story of the gorgeous multifaceted Jazsalyn McNeil. She is a model whose credits include numerous editorials and NYFW presentations, some of which have landed her features on the digital pages of leading fashion magazines. McNeil is also a designer who specializes in textile science and unconventional media using a range of biosensors, electronics, woven and knit prints and anything in between. Beyond fashion, her recent projects include an initiative to promote health and wellness through curated product offerings to educate and inspire a beneficial lifestyle. This North Carolina native can often be found floating through some of the coolest fashion circles in New York City while ambitiously connecting all of her talents for exciting innovative projects. Over all of the titles one could use to describe McNeil, the one she prefers most is Artist and that is only for the purpose that you must label her at all.
Being a southern girl myself, I found it inspiring to style Jazsalyn for the recent Night In or Night End editorial for ISO: MAG and it was a treat to watch our Carolina roots re-connect through brown girl energy and magic fashion moments. With every look I put her in she brought a new character to life proving that she does indeed understand the artistry behind it all. For some looks we channeled the beauty of the iconic superstar glam Diva, Diana Ross, reveled in throw back style scenarios reminiscent of Aaliyah and gave it our all during a sing-a-long to Amerie’s 1 Thing. The soul of black culture truly emanated from concept to execution of this editorial and Jazsalyn was evoking every ounce of it. I had the opportunity to catch up with McNeil post shoot to get even more incite on this ‘sheroic’ brown girl making waves in the industry.
AL: Tell me about your fashion background.
JM: I have a background in textile/fiber science and fashion design. I'm driven by the future of materials and technology and developing new interfaces for technology.
AL: What is your first fashion memory?
JM: Honestly ‘90s house music is my very first fashion memory. The soundscape of every runway was house. What an era.
AL: Why NYC?
JM: Literally NYC or bust. I moved to NYC to scope out the scene for opportunities in progressive design. Still trying to see how weird and experimental NYC can get and if it's truly a hub to support the future of wearable technology and interactive media. But if I can’t find someone willing to invest in such design concepts here, I might scope out Europe. Although, I’d deeply miss the cultural diversity of NYC.
AL: What’s it like to go between design and modeling? Where do you see this going for you?
JM: I am neither. I am an artist. I don't believe in labels or constraints. Modeling is more of a performance art in my perspective— An extension of anything I create. I'm lucky to be able to share and express this with other designers as well. I plan to continue to develop both my practices, while leaning towards the less defined realm of the arts.
It can definitely be intimidating taking such an undefined career path. I’m not sure if I’ll go back to being a traditional fashion designer. The fashion cycle is insane and didn’t leave much room to research and develop the bizarre concepts I’m inspired by—such as designing clothes that can morph and transform in response to the weather or the human body, for example.
In addition to experimental design, I recently launch a blog/website selling products inspired by ancient and modern wellness practices, at NU | ZEN
Featuring everything Zen from sacred crystal water bottles to jade rollers. My goal is to curate unique products and sell them at an affordable price. There’s no need to put a high price tag a spiritually healthy lifestyle.
AL: Why is this FOCUS that ISO is producing (spotlighting emerging black talent) so important?
JM: Black designers are still fighting for a presence in the fashion industry. Given the landscape of the industry is already cutthroat competitive —most black designers are not considered for design roles at top design brands. As a result, black designers are left to create their own lane/brands to establish a presence in the industry. ISO is providing emerging black creatives a much-deserved platform to further establish their voice in the industry.
AL: If you could walk for anybody who would it be?
JM: Anyone that’s a game changer. As far as NYC goes I’m living it. Pyer Moss! Seeing our people breakthrough and defy the odds. Reconstructing the perception of black fashion. I get emotional before each show.
Also, threeASFOUR. I snuck into their show when I was a teenager and it was my first time in NYC back in 2013. Now I'm walking and an active member of their design team for the A/W 19 Show at the Guggenheim.
AL: What would you say is your typical day uniform (outfit, look)? And for glam?
JM: If I’m chillin’ it’s probably anything oversized. But if I'm living my wildest dreams, I’m an extraterrestrial being in fluid, abstract and unearthly shapes — morphing and responding to changes within its environment.
AL: What influences and inspires your style?
JM: My mood, my spirit and the energy I'm trying to radiate from within.
AL: What does it mean to you to be pro-black and what about black culture inspires you?
JM: Black is everything to me. What inspires me the most is our resilience through exodus. When you look at American culture, you see our resilience to survive. From the middle passage where Africans of different dialects and regions constructed a new secret form of communication through vocal choruses and rhythmic beats created against the hollow deck of the ships— eventually emerging into gospel, jazz, r&b, rock, disco, house, and hip-hop. Additionally, sustaining the core of the one of the first economies in The States, cotton, which initiated the textile industry. The list literally goes on.
AL: How would you describe the overall #mood of this editorial you are featured in? Any pieces you are coveting?
JM: Resilience. The knit pieces, but that's a given. I'm clearly a fiber nerd.
AL: Favorite IG’s?
JM: LOL, when I’m not taking a social media cleanse..
AL: What is your super power?
JM: Being Black ~our ancestors
AL: What is love?
JM: The more I try to define love, the more confused I become. How can you describe a being so abstract? Despite how cliché it sounds, I’m realizing that the love we provide to others will always be incomplete if we don’t take the time to know and love ourselves. If we cheat love, it will only become a broken reflection of the insecurities we’re seeking to fulfill through the other person. If you truly love yourself, you wouldn’t seek to fill such void in the first place. That can’t be love? Love is a being, which exists on its own, rather its subject reciprocates or not.
To be that strong, to be in that state of mind, I’m working towards that.
AL: What are you in support of?
JM: The people. Simple.