Interview: Malaika Astorga of Pink Things Magazine

Malaika Astorga, creative director of Pink Things Magazine talked to our Brand, Partnerships and Interviews manager, Modesty Sanchez, about her work with as an artist.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the kind of work/projects you do? 

Hi! I'm a Mexican-Canadian visual artist currently living out of Montreal, Canada. I'm an illustrator, animator, graphic designer, writer and creative director. I also just graduated from the Communications Studies Bachelor of Arts program at Concordia University. I often work with musicians, collaborating on album art, show posters and occasionally music videos! 

You're the creative director of Pink Things Magazine. What exactly does that entail? 

I am! It basically means that I do a lot. Our team is small but powerful and is based in NYC, Montreal and Ottawa. I create article illustrations, edit written submissions, do email admin, decide who we want to feature, manage the social media, reach out to brands and people we want to work with, organize photo shoots and write pieces for the site. I'm also in the process of finishing the graphic design for our upcoming print edition. There's probably more that I'm forgetting, but I kind of help out with everything. 

I'm also in charge of figuring out what direction I want the magazine's branding/aesthetics to go in. We develop that through our featured pieces and editorial content, as well as with our social media. For example, in the past year, I started a music section of the magazine, and have produced various editorial shoots and interviews. I also do my best to foster community with the magazine in Montreal and in any of the cities that I visit.

What kind of message would you like to send with Pink Things and the various projects the magazine does? 

As an artist, I was (and still am) intimidated by reaching out to a magazine for collaborations or work. I wanted Pink Things to be as open, approachable and inclusive as possible. Pink Things is an intersectional feminist magazine, run by queer femmes who want to support artists, no matter where they're at in their career. We want to support, encourage and help you develop your work into something you're proud of! 

A lot of the artists we work with are just starting out, and are looking for help editing their work. We're here to help you develop your ideas and to give you the confidence in publishing work that you're proud of. If you've never written an artist statement before, pitched an idea for a column, or even name your artwork, we want to help! The world of creative freelancing is a scary one, where everyone seems to know what to do, but no one will tell you how to do it. We want to change that by making our publication accessible and accepting of all kinds of people and creative work. 

The only requirement for our submissions is that it has to relate to pink in some way!

Pink Things does monthly playlists that you're in charge of, correct? How do you choose who gets to curate the playlists and what made you choose to do a monthly playlist? 

Yes! I am in charge of finding a curator for each month's Monthly Mix. I love music and am always in need of new tunes, so when I started the magazine's music section, it just made sense to include a reoccurring playlist of some kind. 

At first, I asked my friends who are musicians, or who work in music to curate the playlist because I know they had good taste. I also generally try to ask non-men to curate the playlists for us, since I feel that a lot of music writing is already done by dudes with pretentious vocabulary and limited diversity in their taste in music. The more that the music section has expanded, the more that artists have reached out to us asking to curate it for us! 

You told me that you're pretty involved in the music scene in Montreal, where you're based out of. How has this influenced your work, as well as opened up opportunities for you and your artwork? 

I definitely owe a lot of my creative career and opportunities to the Montreal music scene. I love music, but I can't make it myself, so instead, I work with musicians on transforming their music into visual work. I got into going to DIY shows when I was in high school, and when I moved to Montreal, I started hunting down cool shows to go to as soon as I unpacked my bags. The scene has given me all of my closest friends, and some very cool collaborators! 

Most recently, I've been working with the band Winona Forever on the visual aspect of their latest album "Feelgood." I created the album art (which is printed on vinyl as well!), as well as many of their show posters for their Canadian and American tours. I also often work with the Montreal promoter Blue Skies Turn Black to provide posters for their shows. It's so cool to see my posters printed and posted around the city!

Pink Things has also been a great way for me to connect with the music scene in different ways. Our first music editorial was with Maryze, who's a Montreal-based singer/songwriter. We're also the official sponsor for Hot Tramp Fest, which is a woman-run festival in Montreal in late August 28th to September 1st. It's really rewarding to be able to give back to the music community that has provided me with so many happy opportunities and wonderful friendships. 

Finally, what do you ultimately wish to convey through your artwork? 

In all of my work, I draw from my experiences as a femme, queer mixed-race person. It may not be explicitly about any of those identities, but they all definitely inform what I create. Being mixed-race is a topic that I focus on a lot, especially in my writing. Trying to navigate being in between cultures, and not really "looking" like either one, is a strange experience. I've found a lot of comfort in the writing of Gloria Anzaldua and other Chicana/Xicana feminists who speak to the femme queer Mexican experience. I try and incorporate aspects of my cultures, spirituality and personal beliefs while still experimenting with visual style and composition. I'm, of course, always inspired by the music I listen to and the musicians I'm working with. My style is continually evolving and changing, and I'm so grateful that I'm able to continue creating work that people can connect with.

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