She’s been making ahead-of-the-curve music and mind-bending videos for 20 years—and that’s no fluke. Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah goes behind the curtain with the ultraprivate creative genius.
This article appears in the June 2017 issue of ELLE, on newsstands now.
At the photo shoot, the accoutrements of being her precede her. A tray of acrylic nails and an almost-empty bottle of professional-grade nail polish remover are carried by Bernadette Thompson, the Takashi Murakami of manicurists. A tall, strong-looking man walks around distractedly, wheeling a Louis Vuitton duffel bag that is smaller than his forearm; from time to time, he spins it in a wide circle out of boredom. Jewels—gold chokers, hoop earrings, and rings in a velvet-lined box—are attended to by a thin young man wearing a black Balenciaga fitted cap and high-top Nikes. There’s a bottle of jewelry cleaner harnessed to his chest and a chain of styling clips attached to his hoodie strings; he looks listless, like he has given his body over to the task. On the table, someone has set down two Kangol hats, one tan, one black: fuzzy, wearable homages to the golden era of hip-hop. They sit there like low-key crowns.