Raven White is an Atlanta native and an amazing visual artist. She's been setting the timeline on fire back to back with her work.
It all started with a love of Pokémon and an IG classic from Solange.
That post sent White's imagination into hyperdrive. And she did what talented black people always do – make magic.
The tweet went viral, as it should have, and all of the Pokémon stans came out to play (myself included). But it was her most recent masterpiece that caused me to press her for an interview, which she graciously accepted. Because of another spark of inspiration from one of her followers on Twitter, another celebrity couple got the Pokémon trainer treatment.
Atlanta's very own president and first lady – Gucci Mane & Keyshia Ka'oir.
Tell us when you knew you wanted to become an artist.
It was in high school. A SCAD representative came by and said, "Hey, you can come here for animation." And then I thought, "Well, I'm not going to be a psychologist anymore, I'm going to do animation, I'm going to do television shows. Because I love cartoons and I love video games – definitely I'm going to go for it."
I didn't see the representation that I wanted to see, and everyone that tried to do it wasn't doing a good job. So I'd rather do it myself.
What were your favorite cartoons growing up? Were you into western animation or anime?
Both. It was during the era of Toonami, and they gave us a good mix of both of them while I was growing up. I watched lots of Nickelodeon while I was growing up. Cartoon Network introduced a lot of anime like Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon. Others (I watched) included Atlantis, Prince of Egypt and Iron Giant.
So what was the first spark to draw celebrities as Pokémon trainers?
Pokémon Go was a hit at the time and Pokémon Sun and Moon was around the corner. I was just in the mood for it. I was also having an emotional break down because of student loans. But as soon as I saw Solange post about feeling like a Pokémon in her Met Gala dress I was like, "right there, I have to go ahead and do this, right now." She's so aesthetically pleasing to look at and has such a look that it made sense, because Pokémon gym leaders have such a look that she fit. I had to go for it.
What was the first Pokémon game that you ever played?
It was Sapphire, and I lost it. I don't know where it went. So I had to go and immediately get Alpha Sapphire. I finished that recently. I had it for over a year, but Ferguson things were happening at the same time. I also had to graduate from school and show my senior film, so I was stressed out.
Have you played Sun and Moon at all?
Yes, I'm almost done with it!
Do you love it?
I have mixed feelings. I do enjoy it, but I think Team Skull is kind of co-opting blackness so I feel a little weird about. Other than that the gameplay is fun. This is my first time using a lot of bug and grass type Pokémon.
What if Professor Oak came to you and said, "Raven, you can have any starter in the world that you want." When you're going off on your Pokémon adventure, what do you choose?
I'd have to say, maybe, Honchkrow, because I love crows. Well, duh, my name's Raven. So I'd probably go along with the Gucci Mane route.
Ok, so you walk into Gucci Mane and Keyshia Ka'oir's Pokémon gym. What does it look like?
Of course it has to be dark, there has to be a lot of fur, and there has to be a lot of gems and diamonds up in there. A lot of people have been telling me, "Yo. Burr, c'mon where's the ice type?" But he also took the ice cream off of his cheek, and I specifically asked my Twitter followers what Pokémon would they want, and they came through. So, it looks great. It all flows together. But most of all, of course his music has to be playing.
But when you defeat them, what badge do you win?
It has to be ice cream related.
(I then suggest that it's a shiny ice cream cone badge. To which she replies, "Yasss.")
So, are you going to keep this going? Are you going to do more celebrity Pokémon mashups?
Yes, I like the idea of engaging my Twitter a lot more and I liked the process of this one. The first two, of Solange and Chloe & Halle I chose the Pokémon teams. But bringing Twitter along and having them decide gives me a chance to sit back.
Don't think that Pokémon art is the the glass ceiling for Raven White. She wants to tell our stories through animation via her other projects, and for years to come in her own television series. Just from meeting her this one time, I wouldn't be surprised if we're showing our future kids her work as she represents the black experience on screens everywhere.
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