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A WRITTEN PORTRAIT

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WORDS Tessa Swantek 
INTERVIEWEE Camri Hewie
ART PORTRAIT Tessa Swantek 
PHOTOS by Camri Hewie and Isabel Malia

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”

-RAINER MARIA RILKE

In her pink-flushed frosted fantasies, CAMIRI HEWIE promenades around the Palace of Versailles on polished pink points. Incoming warm air dances in pirouettes around the orangery as the smell of citrus interlaces with her vanilla-rose perfume beneath her lacey collar. The orangery’s air melts like a creamsicle and spring’s sweetness surges in. Flowers blossom and animal’s closed eyes wake, welcoming in the saccharine promise of newness being whispered between the garden’s marbled heads. Tchaikovsky's pas de deux 1877 floats around the lightly spewing fountains. Each curved finger on the harp’s strings creates a highly contoured atmosphere like the gold-framed portraits lining the walls. Versailles’ color palette paints much of Camri’s portrait in shades of purple, signifying royalty and elegance. Her pose is one of regal self-assuredness, while her eyes look towards the past as she tells us, “I feel like I’m like little Camri again. I’m confident, I feel comfortable speaking my mind and can dress and talk how I want.” 

As she circles Versailles’ labyrinth around sputtering fountains and sculptures inspired by Aesop’s children's fables, her mind swirls with soft childhood musings. Versailles' vastness creates perspective shifts, but despite that, Camri seldom loses herself in the tangled maze. She ties her present to her childhood self in a neat bow that remains secure no matter how far the ribbon stretches past childhood. Her eyes are still those that sparkle at the sight of Aphrodite-esque beauty in swans, scalloped pearls, and satin. Camri is a dancer, model, and content creator, with the latter blossoming to fruition during the pandemic. She tells us of using all of her unemployment money to purchase beautiful clothing from her favorite brands to then model on Instagram. While she had already had a social media following for quite a bit of time on Tumblr, she began to secure brand deals and modeling work. Her love for intricately detailed beauty is anything but frivolous. This sentiment is one that colors much of her portrait in lavender and pearl-toned splashing swan makeup and windswept ribbon on a scalloped blouse contrasted against her unwavering pose. 


Our conversation is like walking around the palace, twisting at every corner with surprise and fantasy. We talk about renewal in spring, childhood nostalgia, self-understanding, fashion’s beauty, and Lana Del Rey! Read below for the full interview along with MUSINGS OF A MUSE, Q&A with photographer Isabel Malia who captures Camri in a Renaissance lens.

"I feel like I'm little Camri again. I'm confident, I feel comfortable speaking my mind and can dress and talk how I want." 

CAMRI HEWIE
INTERVIEW 

Spring is all about renewal, so when do you feel most renewed or what makes you feel most renewed? 

I love to do a lot of spring cleaning in my home like decluttering my space and getting rid of clothes that I don’t wear. I even like to do a social media detox and if there are accounts that I’m not very inspired by or interacting with, I just want to clear it out. I want to go into the new season feeling fresh and lighter. 

Does renewal on the internet ever feel difficult given that you are so closely associated with a particular aesthetic? 

There have been times where I’ve thought that, but more so in a joking way. I think my aesthetic is just who I am to my core. I have been this way for the longest time. I’ve noticed recently that ballet core and the coquette aesthetic has become a trend, but for me I feel like my aesthetic has always fell into those categories. I’ve been doing that! But personally, I like to follow people who have completely different aesthetics from mine. I find myself being inspired by those who are not similar to my aesthetic at all. There’s this creator @linmick, and she’s very maximalist. She styles looks in a way that’s so different from the way I would. I just think she’s amazing. She also has her own knitting brand as well, she’s very inspiring.

It’s interesting that you say that because sometimes I think it’s hard to differentiate between who you are vs. what inspires you. Some people get caught up in things that inspire them and want to naturally replicate it, but it doesn’t mean that it’s true to them. 

A lot of people are just trying to recreate what’s trendy for engagement, which I understand but it’s obvious that that’s not going to last. It’s best to stay true to who you are and that following will come naturally. 

So you feel like you have a strong understanding of who you are? 

Yeah I definitely have a very strong hold on who I am. I know what my interests are. It’s been a long time coming. I went through a lot of different phases of self-discovery. I’m very secure with who I am and what I like. I’m happy that I finally got to that point. I think today it’s so hard when you have so many things being thrown at you and so many people doing so many different things. For me, I’m like ‘you know what? I know what I like and I’m sticking to it.’ I'm proud of myself for that.

You should be! On the theme of spring nostalgia, is there anything you’re currently nostalgic for? 

Hmm that’s a good question! I’ve been having a lot of things come up on my For You page on TikTok of old cartoons and one was Angelina Ballerina, I used to love that. It’s so soft and relaxing. She lives in a little cottage and goes to ballet class and has picnics. It makes me excited for it to get warm out and have my own picnics and to show off all of my spring looks. So I’ve been really into watching those clips. 

Yeah I think as soon as it gets warmer, it makes everyone nostalgic. 

Yeah, spring is my favorite season, I love it! 

Mine is actually winter but it wasn’t great this year because it didn’t snow at all!

Yeah, it barely snowed! I love when it snows, especially during Christmas. I’m from Detroit originally and we had a white Christmas, it was so beautiful. 

I love a white Christmas! On the topic of nostalgia, is there a trait that you think you had as a child that you may have lost in adulthood? 

Hmm… honestly, I feel most like my childhood self right now than I ever have. More so when I was in college and late high school, I was trying to please other people and wanted to be who other people wanted me to be. I was hyper-critical of myself and I didn’t really know what I wanted. I remember as a child being very decisive and confident. I was more of a leader, but something shifted between middle school and college. I became very shy and wasn’t able to speak my mind. Now I feel like I’m like little Camri again. I’m confident, I feel comfortable speaking my mind and can dress and talk how I want.

 "I used to love [Angelina Ballerina]. It’s so soft and relaxing. She lives in a little cottage and goes to ballet class and has picnics. It makes me excited for it to get warm out and have my own picnics and to show off all of my spring looks."

CAMRI HEWIE
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Now I want to get into more about your work. Can you just walk me through your journey to get to where you are now?

 

I would say I’m a dancer/model/content creator. I’ve always danced my whole life- my mom put me in dance classes when I was 2 years old but I didn’t take them seriously until I was about 13. I was doing ballet competitions and moved out to New York in 2014 to attend Marymount Manhattan College where I received my degree in dance. Dance has always been a part of me, but when I graduated I was pretty burnt out because I had never taken a break. Then the pandemic happened. Right before it happened, I was ready to get back into it, but once the pandemic happened, I was like ‘okay, I guess I’m taking another break!’ [laughs]. 

It was actually the pandemic when I started to get into content creation and modeling. I had always been interested in working with my favorite brands. During quarantine, I made a list of all of the dream brands I wanted to work with, and I just used all my money that I received on unemployment to purchase clothing from all of my favorite brands and took pictures. I started tagging the brands, and they eventually started offering paid work. That’s when I gained a following and casting directors would find me and book me for jobs. 

I didn’t sign to an agency until the summer of 2021 but that’s also been very helpful for me to be able to get more work and increase my rates. I’m back dancing again now and have been collaborating with choreographers and taking class for fun, but I’m more so utilizing it in a way with my modeling career. It’s a great skill to have when you go into castings. Sometimes I like to incorporate it with my content creation as well.

The story about how you started content creation is amazing.  I think during the pandemic, a common theme is that a lot of people just really dove into something that they wouldn’t have otherwise tried. I think a lot of people are now living on a path that is so different from what they originally intended. 

I was always online creating content but more so for fun, I didn’t care who was seeing it. Even now, I post what I want at the end of the day. But when I saw that people were making good money out of it, I was like ‘okay, I think I could do this!’ Oh my goodness, I was always on Tumblr! It’s kind of where I got my start and really found out where my interests were and who I really was. I had a Tumblr account at 14 and I still use it to this day! It really shaped me and my personality. It’s kind of where I got my start in recreating certain images and having fun photoshoots with my friends. 

Oh wow Tumblr! Did you find that dance helped you as a model in terms of being comfortable with movement? 

Honestly it was kind of hard for me. I really wasn’t comfortable in front of the camera at first. I think it’s because there’s a certain look that models have when it comes to their movement and I was thinking of movement from more of a dancer aspect. I’ve been on shoots where they say, ‘okay not too dancey.” I’ve tried to find the happy medium between being too posed and too casual. As I’ve done more work though, I find myself becoming more confident with my posing. It’s still something that I struggle with though! If I do a movement shoot, that’s fine, but sometimes if you’re doing E-comm and just modeling clothes, it can be awkward. 

Honestly I commend anyone who can do that because I would never be able to do that [laughs]! And by the way, I love your content and think you’re so talented and have such a great eye for what you like. Your point of view really comes across. 

Thank you so much, I appreciate that.

In ballet in particular, you’re doing choreography but you’re also playing a character and telling a story. Do you find yourself being a very story-centric person even in just a quick snapshot of a picture? 

It depends. If it’s a shoot that I’ve been planning, I’ll go on Pinterest and get inspiration for the location, the posing, the styling, but sometimes I just kind of wing it [laughs]! Sometimes it’s just about how I’m feeling in the moment and I don’t think too much about it. 

Yeah that makes sense, because sometimes there is no need to really overthink something and it’s best to do what’s natural. 

Exactly. 

How was your experience with Fashion Week? Do you mostly always feel comfortable in the fashion space? 

For the past couple fashion weeks, I’ve had pretty positive experiences. I enjoy seeing so many familiar faces. It’s like a reunion for all the people you know online. Everyone comes from out of town and you can reconnect. I’ve always found that people are really nice when I’m meeting them at events. I know it’s not the same for others. 

I think that’s really nice! I wanted to ask because I’ve seen so many articles that are like, ‘Do we really like fashion week or are we all pretending to like fashion week?’

That’s so true! I will say, there has been a rise in brands inviting content creators who don’t fall under the fashion umbrella. I think people were talking last fashion week about a couple popular TikTokers complaining about how much they hate fashion week, but they’re not even fashion creators. Of course they wouldn’t be into it. I think brands should be more mindful of the people they’re inviting and not just looking at the numbers.  They should look into people who will actually appreciate it and those who are involved in fashion and want to work in the industry. A lot of times they’re inviting people who are the most popular but nine times out of ten these people don’t care.

Yeah I feel like there was starting to be a shift towards fashion influencer content being really genuine but now we’re at this point like you’re saying where the most popular influencer is invited and they might have nothing to do with fashion. And you could tell when the influencer doesn’t mesh with the brand they’re wearing - you’re not paying attention to the clothes, you’re just paying attention to who is wearing them. 

Yeah, we thought! You can even see the people that are chosen sometimes to be brand ambassadors and sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. I also feel like people aren’t really into influencers though now, or celebrities in general. I think there’s really going to be a downfall with public figures. 

Exactly, I keep seeing everyone saying that the movie star doesn’t exist anymore. I think there are positives because I think people are realizing that idolizing someone and putting them on a pedestal is strange. Human beings are rarely considered icons anymore. 

Yes, I agree. You can appreciate people for their talents but at the end of the day we’re all gonna die. We all poop and pee [laughs]. We’re all human at the end of the day. That’s the thing with cancel culture too. Obviously cancel someone if they’re doing something terrible, but if people make very human mistakes and the public catastrophize the whole situation it’s like, well you shouldn’t have been putting these people on a pedestal anyway and having these expectations. 

I couldn't agree more!

I want to move into a bit of a fun fashion question. If you could pick two or three fashion items in your closet that you feel like tell a story either about you or about how you got it, what pieces would you pick? 

I have a baby pink fur coat from Charlotte Simone and that was my first big girl coat purchase. I never spent that much money on a coat before. It’s very me in a coat. That definitely is me. 

I also have Simone Rocha ballet platforms. They’re pink and have pearls on them. Whenever I wear them, people always ask to take pictures of them. Simone Rocha is one of my favorite designers. I think her pieces can be viewed as frivolous since she uses motifs with swans and pink and frills and bows. It is hyper-feminine but she incorporates a bit of an edge. Even her menswear is feminine. Her designs encapsulate how I want to express my style. 

 

I’ve definitely seen them on your Instagram!

Yeah I just love that brand. It’s my dream to be on their PR list.

"Simone Rocha is one of my favorite designers. I think her pieces can be viewed as frivolous since she uses motifs with swans and pink and frills and bows. It is hyper-feminine but she incorporates a bit of an edge. Even her menswear is feminine. Her designs encapsulate how I want to express my style. "

How are you not? You should be! You mention the swan motif and that leads into another question of mine. If you could create a dream world to live in, what would it look like? 

Oh my goodness! There would be a lot of swans, it would be spring all year round! I’d live in this huge rose garden with a lot of statues of Aphrodite and a lot of Venetian inspired pieces all around. That’s a crazy question! 

There would be harp music playing in the background all day everyday. It would be pink and heaven on earth! It would be like a huge Versailles, but even more extravagant and mystical. 

I love that! I want to live there. 

Let’s go! 

I saw on your Twitter that you love Animal Crossing.

Oh my gosh, yes…I was literally just playing yesterday. 

I haven’t played but my sister does and my responsibility is picking out her outfit for her character everyday.  I’m obsessed with Story of Seasons which is pretty similar! 

Wait, I love that! I’m just so stuck on Animal Crossing, it’s my game! 

Both games are really escapist. Would you consider yourself an escapist type of person?

Oh definitely! When my grandparents got their first desktop computer, every day before and after Kindergarten I’d be on Barbie.com in my own little world. I’ve always had escapist tendencies even if it’s getting lost in a book or scrolling through Pinterest and Tumblr. 

I used to play something called Ty Girlz all the time! It was before I got an ipod and it would play Glamorous by Fergie on the computer and you could buy a doll, almost like Webkinz, who would then live in a virtual world where you could do makeovers and design your house and chat with other people. It was amazing.

 

Wait, that’s so cute! I don’t know why I’ve never heard of that because it’s something I would definitely be into! 

You definitely would. Even today I wish I could play it. 

Yeah all of those games don’t really exist anymore but I’d do anything to play them again!!

I wanted to do something fun since I know you love Lana Del Rey and I love her songs so much! I wanted to use some of her lyrics as a base for some questions. In “Violets for Roses” she sings, Larchmont Village smells like lilies of the valley/ And the bookstore doors are opening/ And it’s finally happening. Do you have a visual equivalent to this? What setting makes you feel this way? 

Hmm! I feel like The Union Square Market in the spring when everyone is in line to get fresh fruit and flowers and honey is what I imagine when she sings that line! 

In “Brooklyn Baby,” she sings, They judge me like a picture book, by the colors, like they forgot to read. With such a prominent online presence especially on Pinterest which is basically a picture book, do you ever feel judged like one? 

I think people have perceptions of me and the upbringing they think I come from. On Tumblr I had to turn off my Ask there because people are just being bullies, but I think a lot of people have a perception of me. I’ve had people who know me online and meet me in person and say, ‘oh you’re so much more down to earth and super funny.’ I guess they definitely have perceptions of me. 

Yeah, so you have sort of answered my next question a bit. It’s one of three signature questions; How do you view yourself? Do you think it’s different from the way others tend to view you? 

That's a deep one. It depends on the day. I have struggled with having a negative view of myself on and off for many years, but right now I’m sure of who I am and very in touch with my femininity. I love fashion and am very empathetic. I love people, I love music. Those are positive things, but sometimes I struggle with self-comparison. It’s hard in the age of social media. For the most part, I try to view myself in a positive light and I know that I’m a good person deep down. 

Yeah, like you’re saying it’s so hard to not compare yourself but as long as you keep just liking yourself for who you know you are then that can really keep you grounded when you are tempted to compare yourself. 

I always remind myself that there’s only one of me. What I bring is so unique and I should honor that.

"I have struggled with having a negative view of myself on and off for many years, but right now I’m sure of who I am and very in touch with my femininity. I love fashion and am very empathetic. I love people, I love music. Those are positive things, but sometimes I struggle with self-comparison."

CAMRI HEWIE

If you could bottle three scents, what would they be and what do they remind you of? 

When I first went to Paris there was a rose bush at the ​​Trocadéro and one of the bushes had a rose that I’d never smelled before. I really wanted to turn it into a perfume. It stuck with me for so long. 

Also, the rose macarons from Ladurée should be their own scent! 

Also, I love a good simple vanilla. I love sweet and floral put together. 

Last question, do you have a favorite saying or piece of advice you’ve heard from someone? What are words that really touched you when you heard or read them? 

Ooo, let me think! The past couple years, I’ve been in and out of therapy and had certain things that really struck. In regards to healing, knowing that the way that people treat you isn’t an indicator of your worth is something that I’m always trying to make stick in my head. That can be with being rejected from a job or having a bad day. Nine times out of ten it’s not an indicator of your worth and I try to keep that in mind if I’m having a hard time. 

Yeah, I can definitely relate to that of really trying to not take things so deeply personal. 

Exactly. What’s your sign? 

I’m an Aries! 

I’m a Libra, so we’re exact opposites. 

I never really felt like I aligned with Aries qualities though. 

Yeah they’re very impulsive and competitive. I have a best friend who is an Aries and she’s like a textbook Aries. 

Yeah I’m not like that at all. Definitely not impulsive - I’m so specific about everything I do. And I’m not competitive either! 

Yeah, you might align with other parts of your birth chart!

MUSINGS OF A MUSE

Q&A with Photographer Isabel Malia who captures Camri in a Renaissance lense

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Your photos of Camri are so gorgeous! I saw the floral-themed series you had posted of her in which you comment on flowers as a form of expression and symbol. Camri and I had talked a bit about flowers in our interview, so I was wondering, if you could assign a flower to signify your perception of Camri, what would it be and why?

Camri is a Peony, elegant, classic, but her beauty demands the room.

For you, what makes someone an artistic muse?

Someone with a unique style and look, nothing cookie cutter. There has to be personality because it shows in the final results!

A signature of your work seems to be in that the women you photograph often look to be in deep reflection, you can almost hear their thoughts through the photograph. Can you tell us a bit about this element of your photography?

I like to capture people like they're posing for a baroque portrait! I hide little meanings in the photos. I'm also sick of the Terry Richardson style of photographing women that focuses only on bodies - I want my subjects to be as stunning, thoughtful, and powerful as they are in real life.

From a renaissance-inspired perspective, what do you imagine the thoughts of the women photographed to be about?

I think they think of a lot of things. Lovers, life, maybe even sad thoughts. It depends on the mood of the concept we are capturing. I want the viewers to wonder what they're thinking about.

From a technical and artistic standpoint, what does the neo classical or renaissance inspired aesthetic mean in terms of saturation, lighting, backdrop, etc?

It's a style that throws back to different periods of paintings that has since been lost. Usually it involves a lot of motifs from art history and societal commentaries that are still relevant today. It's just the next evolution of the classical style.

What makes you gravitate towards a cottagecore or coquette aesthetic?

I love the vibes of the aesthetic and I've been collecting old dresses since I was 16 so I wanted to make use of my collection!

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