AliyahsInterlude Wants To Dress the World
Story by Jade Gomez / Photography by Edwig Henson / Styling by Kareem ColeApr 21, 2023
At some point on your TikTok For You Page, you've probably heard Aliyah Bah's signature "What's up, what's up, what's up y'all" blare out of your phone speakers. In many videos, her companion's deceptively plain clothing stands in drastic contrast to Bah's eccentric outfits. In seconds, it all changes.
Much like the serotonin-inducing dress-up games of our childhoods or the satisfying process of customizing a Sims character, Bah, who's best known by her screen name AliyahsInterlude, takes clothing to its limits. Layers upon layers of fishnets, mini-skirts, necklaces and furs engulf her and her friends — but happiness peeks through. This is the magic of #Aliyahcore, a fashion movement where excess is always welcome.
Bah is part of a new class of Black creators that are using social media as a space to connect, educate and inspire. Her rise speaks to the beauty and importance of platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and Twitter as hotbeds for emerging trends, this time from the creators themselves. Evocative of Tumblr-era powerhouses such as Mars, co-founder of the Art Hoe Movement, and DIY rap collective Barf Troop, as well as newer Black fashion figures such as Rian Phin and Momo Pixel, the undeniable influence of young creators, educators and influencers of color continues to permeate into our collective consciousness. And while content theft is still rampant, especially when it comes to Black creators not being properly credited for coining memes, phrases and trends, it's becoming increasingly easy to work back to the source. Bah has taken it a step further by birthing an entire fashion movement named after herself.
Bah's light radiates from beneath her many layers of clothing. While she never claims to have invented the aesthetics she pulls from, the meticulous way she builds her drool-worthy maximalist ensembles is refreshing. Bah is using her platform to democratize alternative fashion across budget, identity, body type, religion and gender. While it helps to add a leg warmer to an outfit, the core tenet of Aliyahcore is to be unashamedly yourself.
Below, read our interview with Bah about the power of #Aliyahcore, uplifting Black creatives and the liberation that comes with self-expression.
Tell me about the aesthetics that make up "Aliyahcore."
I'm such a big fan of Harajuku culture. I'm a girly girl in everything that I do. I like to do it to the fullest extent, and I'm super dramatic. I'm a Leo moon!
So basically, my earmuffs and fur leg warmers are Harajuki-inspired. I also love Y2K and a good mini-skirt because, I don't know, I just love wearing skirts. I'm not a pants person. Low-rise jeans are so cunt and so spicy. There's something about it. And then fishnets are inspired by alternative culture. It just adds everything to the outfit! Your outfit could be super basic but as soon as you add fishnets, it just gives. Then I do it differently. I put a fishnet on one arm and then a fishnet on one leg, and then the garter just so they complement each other. I do it with every single outfit, but all the outfits look different. That's the point.
Usually fashion movements and "-cores" are coined by big brands and celebrities, and you're one of the first people in recent memory to coin something after yourself. What has it been like to see it go far beyond just yourself?
It feels surreal. I used to be such a shy person. Nobody believes me when I say that, but I was extremely reserved and shy. That was never who I wanted to be, it was just my environment. Now that I'm sharing my fashion with the world and it's been received really well, it feels super nice being validated for the first time in my life. I'm a dark-skinned Black woman so my entire life has always been, You're not the beauty standard. Being able to create my own aesthetic and not caring about beauty standards or any of that stuff is just what I want to do forever. I wish I'd had somebody like me that I could look up to when I was younger. That's the main purpose of all of this.
What was the closest thing you had to representation growing up, whether it be fictional or real?
Back in the '90s, there were a lot of Black shows that were centered around dark-skinned Black women. But when I was growing up in the early 2000s and the 2010s, that wasn't the beauty standard. It was either racially ambiguous or lighter-skinned women. There was a shift. For my influences, I would say Issa Rae or Keke Palmer. Issa Rae created everything for herself. She has her own company, she created Awkward Black Girl and then went on to make Insecure on HBO. That's such a big deal! She made all those opportunities for herself based on pure talent. That's what I aspire to be. I've looked up to her since high school. I've always been in love with her. And then there's also Keke Palmer. She's just authentically herself in every single way and I really, really love that. That's how I feel every day.
One of the reasons my best friend got into the fashion industry was Keke's old show, True Jackson VP. It was revolutionary and speaks to how important representation is.
Exactly! It is crazy how just one person could do that for so many people. That's why we need more representation of people who look like me, or just Black women in general, in fashion. Fashion is an industry where if you're not white and skinny, it's so hard to be actually respected and have high fashion brands wanting to work with you. I hate that, but I feel like me doing all of this stuff right now is making it more accessible.
Going back to y2k, a lot of the aesthetic's resurgence also points back to and erases things popularized by Black and Brown women. How does it feel being part of the group of young influencers reclaiming those roots?
I'm still witnessing it every single day. It's something that, unfortunately, I've gotten used to. I see white creators taking and recreating ideas and then watering them down in order for them to be more digestible to their audience. It's just something that I'm used to — but at the same time, it feels really good re-doing it and owning it. I will not let anybody take this away from me. This is something I created and I feel like me putting my name in the fashion subsect that I created, Aliyahcore, makes it to where there's no way you can try to rip it off.
Are there any moments that stand out where you realize that what you're doing is bigger than yourself?
I feel like that when younger girls come up to me. I never thought that people under the age of 13 or 14 watched my videos. I should stop cussing! It's crazy but it feels good. One of the things that stands out to me is whenever I see a younger girl and they're with their mom and they're too scared to come up to me. Their mom is like, "Can she please take a picture of you? She talks about you all the time." Yes, of course! It makes me feel so bubbly inside. Those are my favorite experiences that I have. Sometimes older people come up to me too. I had somebody come up to me that was in their 40s or 50s and they were like, "I love what you're doing. I love seeing younger creative girls take over." Aa lot of times, older people be hating lowkey, but a lot of them be loving the content too.
What would your ultimate goal be?
My ultimate goal is to be multifaceted. I want to do acting. Honestly, though, my next move is a talk show. I want a talk show where I interview celebrities about fashion. I also want to make music. I want to make pop music.
I think part of why alternative culture has been welcomed into the mainstream is because of people of color, especially Black women.
When I first started dressing like this in high school, I got so much backlash for it. People would like it, but it would always be like, she's weird, but that's just what she does. People liking it more makes it so that a lot of other Black girls want to do it. It's really cool to see. Now when I go outside, people notice me for Aliyahcore. They know that this is my style. Especially in the Black community, there's just so much backlash on alternative fashion. They see it as white people shit. We really be creating most of these trends anyway, and we get ripped off. It's really not white people shit. It's shit we been had!
You told me you grew up in a predominantly Black area and then moved to a predominantly white area. How did that affect your self-expression and identity?
It affected me quite a bit, honestly. When I grew up in a Black area, I felt like I always fit in because everyone looked like me. I was so young that I wasn't even worried about fashion. But as you get older, that's when you start to discover yourself. That's when I was in that mostly white community. I didn't just get backlash on my fashion, it would be for my race, for my skin tone, all of that. I just wanted to assimilate. I wouldn't do the things that I wanted to do or dress how I wanted to just for fear of being judged. Once I got to 10th or 11th grade, I just stopped caring about that stuff.
It's an act of defiance and it feels so good! Once you realize no one can stop you, the sky is the limit. Let's piss them off more.
Literally. They already don't like my ass. I might as well do what I want to do! Once they see you doing it all the time, they just get used to it, too. It's not like they can do anything about it. All that shit is so temporary in middle school and high school. In a couple of years, I won't know any of you people. I won't talk to any of you guys. I might as well start now.
What have you learned about yourself through this process?
During the pandemic, I truly discovered who I was. Now, through fashion, I'm discovering who I am even more. All of those ways that I feel inside finally spread to my outside, too. I've learned that I'm a super expressive person. How I feel has to be exactly how I come off, so if I'm wearing this, it's because I'm feeling like a rock star, I'm feeling cunt, I had to wear this. I love being complimented on being authentic because that's really what I want to give off. That's who I am and authenticity is the most important thing to me.
Who are other creators that you think are changing the game that should be looked out for?
Wisdom Kaye! He's a fashion content creator and he revolutionized it to the fullest. He makes fashion videos and now he gets invited to these high fashion shows. Before this, unless you were a musician or an actress, being a Black person, especially an influencer, you don't get invited to high fashion shows. He gets PR from Louis Vuitton and Gucci! It's so beautiful to see and I'm so happy for him. I'm manifesting the same for me and all the other Black fashion creators.
I definitely think Doechii is into that alternative shit too. A lot of times with Black girls when they rap, they have to be about one thing or whatever the fuck. She's different. She screams on the track and we eat that shit up because it's hardest. Also Bree Runway!
I'm happy for Black people. This is our year for sure.