Fresh off the stage in Canada the night before, Destiny Frasqueri, better known as Princess Nokia, arrived to our shoot focused and energized. “I stay ready,” she tells the director when asked if she’s prepared to step in front of the camera. A true fashion chameleon, the “Kitana” rapper pulls off a Men’s Gucci tracksuit with the same confidence as a cleavage-baring Saint Laurent piece. Her movement is effortless. With her free-flowing tresses, electric glow, and an endless supply of confidence, the petite Afro-Puerto Rican artist from the Bronx commands the attention of everyone on set.
The fashion landscape is not new for the rapper, who proudly identifies as queer. Destiny has modeled for Calvin Klein, had her song “Tomboy” used for an Alexander Wang runway show, and has appeared in Vogue multiple times. “Fashion is my first love—design is such a beautiful art. It’s exciting to see my passion come full circle.”
Princess Nokia’s infatuation with style is evident while she’s in the studio. Sashaying first in an exaggerated Sies Marjan high-low hem skirt and a dazzling power pink sweater, Nokia took an eerie-yet-playful approach to her moves. Her rhythm seamlessly complemented designer Sander Lak’s thought-provoking pieces.
Next, the “G.O.A.T.” performer swagged out in a men’s Gucci tracksuit with a ’70s sportswear silhouette. The regal set and richly fabricated ready-to-wear would have intimidated most, but the rapper owned every element.
As the photo shoot progressed, Nokia took to DJing her own music tracks to keep herself in the groove, well into the late afternoon. The artist is a firm believer in creating her own energy in every environment. Keeping control of the vibes from start to finish, Princess gave her input throughout the entire process. “I just want to create safe spaces that are fun, happy and joyful,” she said earlier this year during Brown University’s Women’s History Series. From a young age, the rapper battled heartbreaking notions from losing her mother to AIDS to being physically abused by her foster parent. “Music is my primary escapism. I’ve used music as a tool to deal with so many traumas. It is the healthiest and most gratifying escapism ever,“ she explains. “I lived in a really abusive home for many years, and every time I could let go I would.”
For the last look, the underground rapper let go indeed. Swaying back and forth in a provocative Saint Laurent silhouette, Destiny shed the tomboy look and became a force of feminine energy. “I am a gorgeous woman. I am a knockout,” Destiny says as a mantra. Her confidence and je ne sais quoi is unmistakable.
After stepping out of the studio in Long Island City, Nokia slipped into her car just as effortless as she had arrived. Everything from her East Harlem roots to her unapologetic feminism helped mold Princess Nokia. No matter the obstacles she’s faced, when you observe the New York City native, her sense of self is fully in focus.