Francis Buseko is 26-year-old model who has been making waves in the fashion industry for sultry, piercing photographs that destroy gender binaries one article of clothing at a time.
He grew up in a conservative Zambia, where he quickly became fascinated by “how everyday people could transform themselves solely on what they wore, what colour blush of make-up they put on or even what style wig they had on”.
The self-identified gender neutral model teamed up with South African photographer Rich Mnisi (who has his own fashion house) for an electric photoshoot in which Buseko daringly plays with notions of gender and masculinity.
Indy100 spoke with Buseko; why did he decide on wearing a dress? What was the reception? You can read his answer, below:
Did you always want to be a model?
"Growing up I was always fascinated by how everyday people could 'transform' themselves solely on what they wore, what colour blush of make-up they put on or even what style wig they had on. I definitely think that in a way spark my modelling interests.
Being able to get into different characters is such an exciting thing for me.
I draw myself inspiration from many people but if I had to funnel down to a few I would have to say Grace Jones, Prince and Rihanna.
"These names are probably my biggest influences meanly because of how fearless and unapologetic they are in their respective art forms. I always sought out to 'break the rules' as they did when it comes to my work and I think I'm doing pretty damn good."
Tell me about the Rich Mnisi shoot – what was the inspiration for it? Why did you decide to wear those beautiful dresses?
Rich is a very dear friend of mine and working with him was nothing new to me. We share a common interest when it comes to fashion representation/expression in africa and have the same vision about the current state of African-masculinity and we want to change that narrative through the many different collaborations we have together.
"We casually share ideas and that is how this photo shoot came about. He texted me one day and asked if I would wear a dress and I responded 'I've always wanted to play a princess' and the rest is history."
What kind of response did you get wearing the dresses?
The entire experience was a dream. I felt like I was literally getting ready for the Met Gala, and I was the 'belle of the ball'. The response was overwhelming positive which I did not expect. Some negative too of course but nothing I'm not used to and can't handle.
The photoshoot flirts with different definitions of gender. People are saying that a black man wearing a dress is breaking gender stereotypes?
"I was drawn to this particular project because I wanted to challenge the norm and the way people think about gender masculinity, especially when it comes to African men.
Growing up in a conservative & highly censored country myself, doing this shoot was near and dear to me.
Wearing those dresses for me was a way of lifting my middle finger to toxic patriarchal masculinity and freeing myself from expectations placed on me.
"Everyone should be allowed to wear what they want, love who they want and be whoever they want to be without being policed."
So the photoshoot challenges masculine norms?
"Challenging the norm of masculinity has always been the core of my work and this shoot was an amazing opportunity to open up these much needed conversations. We played around with soft hues because that highlights vulnerability and we added guns to represent the many possible facets of masculinity metaphorically."
Fashion for me is certainly one of the most important vessels in aiding such an important revolution and it's really amazing that the fashion industry is finally shining light on gender identities that fall outside of the heterosexual mainstream.
Queerness has often been omitted or over looked in the fashion industry, and I take my hat off to brands and creatives that are paving the way for 'genderless' fashion or aesthetics.
Which one is your favourite photo in the shoot, and why?
"Definitely the full length shot of me in the purple dress because it's a perfect representation of my carefreeness, my freedom of expression and my strength.
"I personally understand the power of representation and just how much it matters today in Africa particularly'.
I want to continue using my platform as an African male model to keep inspiring freedom of expression, break barriers, turn stereotypes on their head and change the view of masculinity through my work. This is just the beginning for me, I would love to keep this experience for as long as I can and hopefully get to share my work with the rest of the world and to keep inspiring change.
You can follow Francis Buseko on social media.