"Picture a world with your ideal vision of equality—what does it look like?" I asked Gabrielle Richardson, mere days after Trump's zero-tolerance immigration policy created an unprecedented backlash in the media. The 23-year-old model, artist, and activist has been fighting for equality for years, raising funds and awareness for women's rights, Planned Parenthood, and the LGBTQ+ community. "In my ideal world, I picture more than just equality, because equality is where everyone gets the same thing—but we have to realize that some people need more things than others," she told me.
Wise beyond her years, Richardson has a heightened empathy for underrepresented groups and an astute understanding of how they can be affected by other people's bigotry. It's one of the reasons she became a founding member of Art Hoe Collective, a platform dedicated to giving a safe space and exposure to creatives of color. "When you say equality, it pushes the narrative that we all come from the same place and we don't have our own set of obstacles," she continued. "I look at it from a reparation standpoint, where some people do need more help than others. Everyone does not need the same thing, but everyone, in the end, should be on equal ground."
Richardson, now a NYC transplant, grew up in Philadelphia in an artistic family. At age 14, she remembers going to museums and asking about the African art, and she would always get the answer, "Oh, there isn't really African art at this museum. You have to go to the National History Museum to see that." She recalls being indoctrinated at a young age about what was "good art" versus what wasn't considered art at all—and consistently seeing art made by people who looked like her fall in the latter category.
"It was really interesting to see art from my culture be invalidated and seen as not as art but as an archaeological piece," she told me. "When you go to museums, especially as a black person, where your ancient art is devalued and you can't see any contemporary work that reflects yourself, it's disheartening."
Richardson joined Art Hoe Collective in its early inception for that very reason. She was 19 then and felt compelled to help create a space for people of color to create art because she felt, like many others, underrepresented in the art world. "When we came together, we started seeing so many people responding positively and engaging with us. We were engaging with the community and making people feel like they were seen and heard."
The community, which has now grown to over 78,000 followers on Instagram, has become a virtual gallery of sorts, where creatives can submit art to be featured—and Richardson is now one of its main curators. "One thing I want people to take away from Art Hoe Collective is that people of color have a vast and rich culture that doesn't always look like one thing. As we grow and evolve, so does our artwork. It's a reflection of ourselves and our experiences, our hopes for the future, and of our past."
Beyond her work as curator for Art Hoe Collective, Richardson is exploring the intersection between her career as a model and her work as an artist. "Modeling has given me so many amazing opportunities to see the process of creating something from different viewpoints. I learned to appreciate performance art and photography more. I just love being on different sides of creation. I can have different viewpoints, and that has influenced my own craft."
Never wavering from her own integrity and sense of self, Richardson brings her message of equality and tolerance with her into the modeling world as well: "We need to continue to allow people of all body types, people who are differently abled, people who are nonbinary to walk down the runway," she told me. "We need to do more than just put in one person of color and say 'We're done' because that's not enough; it's barely the tipping point."
Richardson is lucky to have built a thriving social platform, both on Art Hoe Collective and on her own Instagram @fridacashflow, which now has over 81,000 followers. And she doesn't take it for granted. She relentlessly uses her voice to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights, gun control, and for children being separated from their parents at the border.
"What's happening in the U.S. right now—children being literally being ripped away from their families and put in real internment camps—doesn't impact me directly, but it still needs to be talked about," she told MyDomaine. "People are human, and you have to respect people’s humanity. Once you realize that things that have nothing to do with you are super important, then you can just become a better person overall."
The young artist gets a lot of heat for being vocal on social media, but she doesn't let it deter her. "That's what the block button is for," she laughs. "At the end of the day, internet bullying is a real thing. If I see someone say something to me, I ignore them because I'm not going to let this evil into my life." Instead of focusing on the negative, she shifts her attention toward others and focuses on listening to people with different experiences in order to grow her own empathy. "Once we stop listening to other people's experiences, we lose our empathy and our ability to grow."
Many people could benefit from Richardson's wisdom on empathy and equality. The artist's own experiences from a young age have propelled her into a spotlight where she can work to support underrepresented groups—be it artists of color, the LGBTQ+ community, or children separated at the border.
In a time when hateful rhetoric is at the forefront, we need voices like Richardson's to steer us toward a kinder, more empathetic, and hopeful future. We need to recognize everyone's humanity—regardless of where they come from, their skin color, or their sexual orientation. Most important, we need to recognize that we have a lot of work to do to repair the disparity that already exists in our world. We need to strive for a future where everyone can support each other to reach the same starting line. Because only then will we truly aspire to reach equality.
Next up: "Women, remember who you are—total badasses"—Cleo Wade's unfiltered advice.