Nikki Richard is a multifaceted artist. Hir first book, Pretty Things, was recently published last May. Hir stories and poems have also been published in literary journals and anthologies including Mosaics, FIVE Poetry, and Skelter. Hir solo music project, STRKGRLS, infuses dreamy pop synths with hard-hitting trap beats and airy vocals. Nikki also likes to pretend ze is a sketch artist, and can never stop doodling with sharpie markers.
Born and raised in Southwest Louisiana, ze is a graduate of the MFA program of Creative Writing and Publishing Arts at the University of Baltimore. Ze currently lives in Baltimore with hir wife, daughter, and cat.
Nikki kept it raw and real with us about the struggles of gender dysphoria, self-acceptance, and hir killer personal style. Get to know Nikki and follow hir on Instagram and Soundcloud.
(bio source: nikkizrichard.com)
The Stylette: We see you’re in a band! That’s so dope. How did your music project STRKGRLS come about?
Nikki Richard: I’ve been playing music since I was thirteen, and I’ve played bass guitar for a variety of bands on all sides of the musical spectrum: pop, metalcore, church music, punk, etc. However, I’ve never been a part of a musical project that I fully considered my own. About two years ago, during the early stages of my transition, my gender dysphoria got so severe that I was hardly sleeping at night. I’d lie in bed crying and praying that God would make the pain go away. After a while of the same thing night after night, I started getting out of bed hours before the sun came up to mess around with Ableton Live (a software music sequencer) and teach myself programming. I played a lot with droning synths, electronic piano, and trap bass, and then blended them together to make these dark pop beats. From that, STRKGRLS was born. The project became an escape, a creative outlet where I could address my personal demons in a way that stared them back in the face and said, “I’m terrified of you, but I won’t let you kill me.”
TS: How would you describe your personal style and how does it reflect who you are?
Nikki: I’m definitely a melancholy soul. My personal fashion icons are Wednesday Addams and Lisbeth Salander, because they’re these alternative gals who are tough and take no sh*t. I wear a lot of black, obviously, and I tend to avoid bright colors or complex patterns. Solid prints and subtle pastels go much better with my tattoos.
Also, this may seem contradictory, but I want to be a gorgeous babe while still flying under the radar. Like, I just want to be that oddly attractive wallflower in the back of a party you’d probably miss.
TS: You published a book last May! Tell us about it.
Nikki: Pretty Things is a collection of short stories I wrote while I was in graduate school. All of the characters are dealing with some sort of major life transition: a newly recovering drug addict, a teenage victim of abuse being placed in foster care, a wife dealing with her husband’s recent gender change from male to female. Overall, the collection deals a lot with personal faith, love, and finding beauty in the messiness of life. And there’s also a vampire story. I love vampires.
TS: What has been some of your greatest challenges as an artist and how are you overcoming them?
Nikki: Rejection sucks, and it’s always hard not to internalize the “no’s.” I wrote a sci fi novel last year and was lucky enough to get connected with an amazing literary agent. She’s been working hard pitching the manuscript to a bunch of publishing agents, but so far everyone has passed. It’s easy to feel like I’m not good enough, like I’m this talentless imposter. I tend to negate my advances and only focus on my weaknesses. So whether it’s my music or my writing, when I find myself in a downward spiral of self-hatred and pity, I try to remind myself to look back at where I came from. Have I learned anything new? In what ways have I grown? I think as artists we tend to be our own worst critics. If we want to be successful, and not kill ourselves with our own scrutiny, acknowledging our growth is key.
TS: How do you find inspiration?
Nikki: I can find inspiration everywhere: books I read, city streets I walk, music I listen to, the new Netflix series I can’t stop binging. But for me, the best inspiration comes from relationships. My wife, Elise, has taught me so much about personal strength, fierce love, and unshakable faith. My daughter’s ability to laugh as she endures various procedures and treatments for her leukemia is nothing short of a miracle. A friend’s past struggles with addiction or abuse and their ability to rise above the pain leaves me awestruck. More than anything, people are my inspiration.
TS: A quote you live by?
Nikki: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” – E. E. Cummings