Musician | Model | Advocate | Visual Creative
Atlanta born and raised, Iman Hill  aka hip hop’s “Mona Lisa” (ref: If Mona Lisa Could Talk) is a trailblazing musician, model, advocate, and photo/videographer currently residing in Brooklyn, New York. A force unlike none other, her works of various creative mediums have been published in Vogue, Nylon, Paper, Office Mag, I-D and more; the world is truly her oyster. In her works of activism and advocacy, she is a community organizer/dot connector for the black trans community; additionally, with efforts to immortalize the beauty that resides within her community presently Iman has recently created and coined the brand entitled “Kunt Kollections : The Kunt News Network” (@KuntKollections on IG) — a series of original photos and videos capturing authentic expressions of the house ballroom scene inspired by the archives of ballroom icon and black history contributor Kerri Mizrahi.
“We are The girls. We Are Cunt. And we Are here.”
00:00:01:17 – 00:00:39:08
Sage Dolan-Sandrino (SDS)
Who are you; How do you show up and how would you best describe your work and identity as a changemaker and community leader?
Iman Hill (IH)
I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know. But what I do know is that I am feminine. I know that I am woman. I know that I am maternal. I know that I am transforming. I am transforming, no pun intended to my identity, but I am ever evolving and I am ever present with the sensitivities of my body and wherever that is. And I think that [my] destination is not concrete. I think that womanhood and femininity and identity go like this. So when you ask me who I am today, I’ll be over here, but tomorrow I’ll be over here. And I think that transcends through all of our lifetimes, whether you are young or old. So there is no point of arrival. So to answer your question, I do not know. But I am here. My name is Iman Hill. I am multi hyphenated. I am an artist. I am an advocate. I am a mother. I am a sister. I am a friend. I am a musician. I am a child of the arts. I am a child of storm. I am a child of the rainbow. I am a child of alchemical processes and magic. I am. I am.
My work is very tumultuous and controversial. My identity is tumultuous and controversial. I’ve never been a soft lover, even as I love myself. I’ve always been hard and critical and abrasive with the love that even I give myself. So in turn, I love very passionately, and hard, and vehemently. And sometimes it rubs people the wrong way. Just like our identities as trans people rub people the wrong way. But it is pure and it is authentic. My work is a testament to policy. My work is a testament to resilience, and my work is a testament to community.
00:02:38:04 – 00:03:09:10
What does the concept of “giving flowers” mean to you?
I’ve always been other people’s biggest cheerleaders, so I always find myself giving other people flowers and then when [flowers are] given to me I’m like “ugh.”
So the concept of giving flowers to me has changed, but I think it is just the acknowledgment of humanity. You are here and you are present. And I think that our presence enough deserves… our presence alone and I will say that again, our presence alone is flowers to me. What it means to give flowers is to acknowledge that, sweetheart, you are here whether you’re talking to yourself or you’re talking to someone else, you are here and you deserve to take up space.
00:03:09:20 – 00:03:36:18
And that doesn’t always have to be in the form of floral arrangements, but it can be in the form of affirmation, acknowledgment, rejoicing, the fact that we are here and we are holding hands as people to say we’re in this together, all of these pandemics, all of these endemics, all of these -demics to say the least, we’re all in it together and nobody’s greater than the other person, whether you’re rich or poor. So I think flowers to me is just the acknowledgment of our presence as human beings and I think about who we are as people. Our only job here on earth is be ourselves. And at some point you have to make it to the end. So whatever you do in between, you’re here. And it is our job as people to lead one another to that finish line and then cross over to wherever is next.
When do you feel most celebrated?
I feel most celebrated when I myself see myself as worthy. As I said before in this interview, I’ve always found it difficult to receive compliments, and I have received many accolades, thankfully, in my career thus far.But sometimes I receive them and I shelve them as if they mean nothing because I myself don’t see myself as worthy. I feel most celebrated when I look in the mirror and say, I see you. And being trans is about aligning that spiritual identity with the physical and what you feel on the inside. With the outside, it’s about that alignment.
So when I feel aligned and I look in the mirror and I say, Wait, everything is matching up and everything has now married, that’s what I’m like. I don’t have to go anywhere, but I can be in the house and feel so euphoric and I don’t need to do anything. There’s no body or one person that needs to tell me anything.
And it’s not about a surgery. It’s not about an accomplishment. It’s not about a milestone in a career. It’s about internal euphoria. So that’s what I feel most celebrated when I feel internally happy, when I feel divorced from myself. It doesn’t matter who says you look good, it doesn’t matter who says you to a good job because I’m divorced from the person that you see and sometimes other people see our greatness before we do.
So when that aligns, that’s when I feel most celebrated. I’ve talked a lot about myself, but I’m a lover, I’m a giver, and I need that back. Sometimes I feel exhausted with just giving and giving and giving and giving and giving and giving and not for nothing and not getting it back. And it doesn’t vilify those who I’ve given to, but I’m left feeling empty a lot of times.
And I’ve been in cycles of of giving and I’m like, you know, you’re put in this new environment. And I’m very transformative in the sense that I moved from Atlanta to New York starting over, not even my name. I wasn’t even trans at the time. And that reset for me was like a blank slate to say, find those people who are going to give it back to you.
00:07:21:02 – 00:07:51:14
What do you find yourself needing inorder to feel happy, whole, and healthy-ultimately what is required in order for you to thrive.
Here [I am] again, three years later, I’m running into those same cycles again. So I’m like, why isnt that working for me? And it’s because I haven’t found that outlet so that it’s reciprocal. So what do I need? Not only do I need community, but I need loyalty, I need love, I need unconditional love, which these days is hard to find.
That’s all I need. I don’t need money. I don’t need material things. I don’t need accolades. They didn’t have any of that 5000 years ago, but they were happy. So how do we get back to those roots? We love? We love. We give love to not to receive, but we need it back. So that’s what I need. I don’t just mean community.
I don’t just need resources. I don’t just need money. I don’t just need an Instagram post. I need you to share my posting. You know, certainly I need a boost. I need actual reciprocity in this world in order for me to thrive. Life experience. I get writer’s block as an artist when I’m not experiencing things, when things are stagnant, I can’t write. What you want me to write about? I haven’t been through nothing. Or if I stay in one spot too long and I’ve absorbed that environment already, it’s just like a plant. If you put it in a pot and you water it, it’s only going to grow, but still high. You have to put it in a bigger pot because it’s already use the resources in that small pot.
00:09:13:12 – 00:09:45:23
I need to be replanted in order to give you something musically, artistically or whatever. And I find myself to be very nomadic. New York City is not my final stop because eventually this pot will be too small for me. So as of right now, what’s next for me is to find a bigger pot; mentally, spiritually, points of interest.
00:09:46:23 – 00:10:07:04
What do you feel the next step in your work is?
I find myself being very obsessive sometimes, so if I find a new interest, I’m diving into that. Photography is one of those things now, even though I’m a model. But I’ve found myself behind the camera recently, and that has brought new life that in itself is a bigger pot. I have started a new venture and it is called Kuntkollections.
00:10:07:04 – 00:10:34:18
It is my legacy that I leave for my community and my time, a capsule of the house and ballroom scene. Authentic expressions, familial expressions of our community through my eyes, but through 35 millimeter film, which to me is nostalgic. I have to give my flowers. And I know that might be the next question. I have to give my flowers to Kerri Mizrahi, who inspired me directly to begin shooting these images because she [is] a black trans woman who took her camera everywhere and she now is gifting us, because it is a gift, […] these images from her life that we have never seen before. And [they] are authentic to our community.
00:11:03:00 – 00:11:21:14
And I think to myself along with [an] individual by the name of Miss Chantal. I don’t know how to pronounce her last name, so I won’t butcher it on camera. But Miss Chantal has taken some of the most iconic pictures of our community on film and these are women. One is cisgender, but Kerri is a woman of trans experience, and we don’t have that now. I don’t see any trans women trying to immortalize our community now. I think everyone is caught up in, if you want my honest opinion, everyone is caught up with being the girl on the floor. Everyone is caught up with they want the celebrity. They want to be the one in front of the camera. But who’s going to pick up the camera and take a picture of you? So that you have these memories for life? Someone has to do it. We can’t all be the girl in the picture. Someone has to take the picture. But you can be both as you see. You can be the girl in the picture and the girl behind the camera.
It’s important to me to do these things because oftentimes we leave it in the hands of men or outsiders in our community who won’t ever [let us] see that picture, and they’ll monetize it and profit off of us. And then you’re like, well damn, I didn’t get a contract, I don’t get paperwork, I don’t get anything. I don’t get acknowledged. They don’t even know my name. They misspelled my name. They did this and that. And the third and you don’t know who to contact because there was some white person at a ball who was sitting down and you didn’t even know that they paid their $20 or $30 to get into the ball to take a picture of you to put it on Vogue.
What rights do you have [to] that picture? So I consider it a gift to my community. And I also, if I never, ever walk another ball, this will be the legacy that I leave to my community to say that I was here. So make sure you follow and make sure you keep up with my updates.
00:13:00:13 – 00:13:25:11
Who are some folks you want to #GiveFlowers?
My first trans mother, her name is Rose. Rose, she was a Chanel. Now she is one of the overseers at the house of Maison Margeila. And she’s another lady whom of which I have to get my roses, too, because without her, it may have taken me a little longer to get here. But I thank her for her tenacity and her resilience to survive. She’s a woman of the 90s, a time where you had to survive—and not many of us did at that time. So to have the gift of women in our community from that time is a privilege that I don’t take lightly. I must also give my flowers to again, Kerri Mizrahi, but also Venessa (Mizrahi) Zion, Niambi Prodigy, TempressMaison, Margeila, Simone Maison Margeila. All of the women who have impacted me personally, those are just a few, but I have so many on my level that I must give thanks to and give flowers to because they impact me so much as well. I have to give my flowers to… Can I see myself first? Can I just start with myself because I don’t do that enough?
Yea, I’m going to start with myself, Iman. Nekia, Kabirah, Asuza, Sage, Olivia, Yara, Ivy, Morticia, Elie may she rest, Yasha, Sin, Angel, Jordyn Jay, Mojo Disco, Fatima Jamal, Ahya Simone, oh Miss Ahya Simone. All the girls, everyone, those I’ve mentioned, I know I’ve left out a few, but we all deserve. And honestly, if we had time, we all deserve to be here as well as in this chair. I am lucky enough to be here, but I represent everyone and I oftentimes can be a voice. But our united voice is what’s going to make the change in the world. We are the girls. We are cunt and we are here.
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