Creating Alimah: Style and Public Image

As a debut artist, Alimah rode the old school hip-hop, nu-rave, and hypebeast popularity during the mid-2000’s MySpace days (yes, I’m showing my age). Artists like M.I.A., Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and NERD, Kid Cudi, Lupe Fiasco, Santigold, and Kelis were a big part of the style in this era. In her debut years, at the ages of 17 and 18, Alimah had style and spunk similar to Lil’ Mama, Tokyo Diiva, and Teyana Taylor, although she wasn’t a rapper like Lil’ Mama and Tokyo Diiva. She even had a gorgeous curly afro, girly tomboy swag, and performer energy like Teyana. Those three ladies were top NYC-based trendsetters who heavily influenced that fashion era for Black and Latina girls in the scenester subculture. Unfortunately, the record label and Alimah’s management forced this image onto her, as they were unwilling to take risks marketing her as a rocker for her debut.

During the revamping of Alimah’s rocker persona, I drew inspiration from the artists Fefe Dobson, Aaliyah, Angel Haze, and supermodel Omahyra Mota. With the exception of Fefe Dobson, these women aren’t rock artists (even though Omahyra was in a punk band, if I’m not mistaken). However, they were inspired by punk and industrial rock music, fashion, and culture and incorporated that into their personal style and persona.

Fefe Dobson is one of the major inspirations for my creation of Alimah.

Fefe, a Canadian rock/pop artist, had a presence and style that seemed heavily inspired by Joan Jett and Jim Morrison, which pretty much made her a one-of-a-kind Black female artist even to this day. I can’t think of any Black female musician with global visibility who came into the industry with the sound and look of Fefe Dobson, so it isn’t surprising that she made a major, albeit underrated and overlooked, impact on pop and rock music. Despite the unfair comparisons to her peer Avril Lavigne, Fefe broke a barrier in music that alternative Black artists of this generation benefit from, in a genre of Black origin which had become predominate white-male and continues to alienate or block Black artists. I pulled a lot from her for Alimah’s character as a barrier breaker, the only Black woman with moderate mainstream, MTV-recognized success in North America performing punk rock and alternative rock music. Also, Alimah has a similar stage presence and energy to Fefe Dobson.

Although Aaliyah was an R&B performer, she also dabbled in pop and rock (Nine Inch Nails happened to be one of her favorite bands).

She also had a unique urban fashion style that inspired many ghetto goth and vampish tomboy fashion trends; her influence is evident with the current crop of female alternative R&B and indie-pop artists. Plus, Aaliyah was also admired for her mysterious aura. She gave off subtle yet intriguing sexuality without being borderline pornographic or stripping butt naked, a perfect model for Alimah, who demanded a “no-nudity clause” in her contract.

Angel Haze is an alternative hip-hop artist who inspired many of the style aspects of the Alimah character, such as the “Gucci goth” look or stylish streetwear meets fashionable goth.

Omahyra Mota influenced the character Alimah in terms of her more masculine, gothic style that had hints of femininity. However, Alimah’s fashions are way less avant-garde and extreme than what designers put Omahyra in. I included some examples of Omahyra that helped inspire Alimah’s style as a public figure.

Here’s a visual inspiration for Alimah’s style through her rock career:

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