Morgan Zakarin is the latest Betty’s darling for our third edition of Closet Worship. A 19-year-old creative powerhouse with a long resume attached; Photographer, Dj, visual artist, talent manager, fashion week correspondent. A fun side note is that she really spruce up a pair of JNCO jeans. Her style and her pursuit of different ventures have been on my radar for quite some time, and for our theme of “Feelin’ Myself”, the timing to reach out felt perfect. I visited Morgan at her dorm room for Parsons: The New School, and it was lit -- with pretty purple lights, articles of clothing all around, and intriguing posters and self-made art hanging on every wall. Tbh, I was really siked to finally meet her. She's doing a lot out here, and that's what NYC is all about.
J: Not gonna lie, I've followed you on Instagram for what feels like forever now. You always screamed “New York Girl” to me in a refreshing/exciting way. I also think we have a ton in common??
M: I feel it, I feel it too.
(Disclaimer: We totally did.)
J: I wasn’t sure when I wanted to ask about this but I may as well get it out now -- When I first followed you, you went by the name ‘Sub Culture Gyal’ for awhile and have now dropped the moniker. Why is that?
M: I was thinking about changing my name a lot. Some people like to call me different things, like “oh she looks like the IRL mermaid”, or “Pop-Off Princess” since I like to say ‘pop off’ so much...and Sub-Culture Gyal made sense when I ran a blog, but I don’t update it so much anymore. “Sub-Culture Gyal” was a name that explained too much. I never stick to one sub culture and it’s so apparent that I’m really all over the place anyway so it felt unnecessary. I’ll play with drag, I’ll bounce around in Brooklyn, I’ll be grimy and then I’ll be put together - it’s all random shit. I wish I had a name that felt right because Sub Culture Gyal no longer does. I want to get on the professional track as well because a lot of kids my age are starting to do that so I want to have my full name out there.
J: So before this dorm room, you used pure youth and outside wonder to formulate a persona for yourself. how do you want to get on this professional track?
M: I switched out of photography into a major called Integrated Design. With photography, I've done it my whole life and I’d say I am good at it, but I needed to get an education in something that is more meaningful and could/would be better for my future. I use photography as the medium that will be demonstrating my visions (fashion editorials) – but I just don’t want to graduate with a degree in photography. So now, I'm in this major and it it’s for your niche to be integrated into the world for success and they find your “pathway”, mine is fashion communications. When you do that you’re taking design classes, PR, marketing, and history classes for fashion and that’s all I want to do!
J: What were the influences throughout your formative years?
M: Oh! I think about that a lot actually because of how important those pieces and people are to me.
There’s Kathryn Sauma, who has been my family friend since I was a baby, she was a gateway for me to find out more in life than what was available whole growing up as a Jewish girl in Rye Brook, NY. She was the first to show me music like Major Lazer, M.I.A., Santigold, and that was honest , REAL music, to me. I was dancing a lot way before that even happened. I was with a dance company for 4 years and took every class I could. I did ballet, pointe, modern, tap, jazz, hip-hop, even theatre and whatever else. But then I took some classes with Mela Murder at the Brooklyn Zoo (Mela is Diplo’s former backup dancer) and she showed me the type of dance that I had been longing to do, dancehall. I drove/took the train to take these classes… They wee really important to me. You know there are all these styles and moves and footwork. You have juke, there’s dancehall, there’s bounce. Those are some of my favorite sub-genres of dance music (what I specialize in when I DJ.) I just wanted to reach those sub-genres of dance and I finally did at that point.
J: I've been liking your design work for Paper Magazine. Are you there mainly for illustrating?
M: It varies from day to day but one big project I had to put together was for beauty trends that come and go. I did all these side by sides like man bun vs. grown out shaggy or top knots with clean lines and I just had to illustrate that. Other times it will be small drawings here and there. One I did last week was of Cakes Da Killa floating heads admiring the Green Power Ranger… Haha! It’s random and fun but I completely prefer to have the hands on work.
J: Where are the current influences coming from?
M: Azealia Banks has given me a rebirth so to speak. After my friend blasted Liquorice in her car one hot summer day, I ate up everything else she had ever done as soon as I got home. I really could not believe that someone like her existed. Her lyrics filled me up with the utmost confidence. While she is originally from Harlem and has her own personal style, she is up on my screen… doing the “Wild Wild West” look, the “Americana” look, and then she PULLS the BDSM mama look… ALL IN ONE VIDEO. She enraptures so many different concepts and she doesn’t even care about fashion, but she makes a scene and I’m all about scenes. I’m finding more influences lately that are all living in LA. I don’t know if that means I should move there but the influences are here for me more now than ever.
J: Is there a common theme amongst the NY and LA influences?
M: My favorite LA girls on Instagram are Natasha Lillipore (@lillipore), Signe Pierce (@signepierce), Josephine A.K.A. Baby Almond Eyes (@princessgollum), for her conceptual looks, and I’m very inspired by the NY club kids in a very big way. Pulling LQQKS is not easy (LQQKS are Morgan’s word for pulling off a look, a very recent contribution to club kid dialect). I’m so inspired that there are people putting on these huge parties and pulling these breathtaking looks one after another.
J: As you align yourself along the paths of those you admire, you seem to be preparing for executive realness. How do you see all of your skill sets coming together?
M: I’d say you’d see all of it trickle down into the world of fashion and one day I’ll be a fashion editor for a magazine. These small projects that I’ve created are just notes to me and will amount to something bigger...that’s where you’ll see me serve that executive realness.
J: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “Feelin’ Yourself”?
M: I think of Jungle Pussy’s “Feelin’ Myself”… what an iconic rendition of the many different musical versions of “Feelin’ Myself.” Shayna means the world to me as a person; she’s so humble and friendly. Wants the best for everyone around her… you can just tell.
Personally, I go with the phrase “Feelin’ My Oats” on a daily basis but you know, it all means the same thing. “Feelin’ My Oats” it is so campy that I have latched onto it.
J: How do you practice self-love?
M: Dressing up in my own way every day is how I feel comfortable in my skin, which goes into loving myself. I’m not the skinniest girl in the world so seeing plus size models have helped me in incredible ways. I had been confident about my body after I finished puberty… with all of its imperfections… as soon as puberty was pretty much over I looked at myself and told myself this is what I have, and DAMN I should be proud, with all of these glorious stretch marks. Besides my body, I would be a very different person right now if I didn’t stay true to myself and the style I was to get into from day to day. Rather than only identifying myself with one style, I’ll just go as I please with how I feel when I am choosing an outfit.
J: How does your style correlate to your art?
M: It’s super eclectic, kind of trippy (as fuck), effervescent, and one good example is back to the beauty trends I drew for Paper -- those drawings reflect my eclectic tastes for sure and I think I just made them all look like me in some way. But some days I wake up and feel like a boy… wearing a five panel and no bra… it's constantly evolving.
J: What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t know how to feel themselves?
M: Follow a path that leaves you to be in touch with yourself. That mindset is important to have even during the times you don’t want to feel yourself! As self-centered as that sounds, you need to make YOU the center of your world. Put yourself first because relying on others doesn’t work out most of the time… I wish everyone could feel themselves but that’s what people like you and me are for, getting that message across to other girls and boys.
J: Whose closet do you worship?
M: Right now I can really relate to Missy Elliot’s style for how sporty she is and for being a curvier woman. I would love to raid Azealia Banks’ closet, Natasha Lillipore’s closet too, and Rihanna’s closet would be an unreal experience to go through. I even have some close friends whose styles and closets I die over.
J: Morgan, you are fantastic, this was fantastic, and I’m so glad to have gotten to know you. This has been SO MUCH FUN and thank you for taking part of it!
M: YAAAASSSSS thank you so much!