Keeva Moselle is an artist who grew up in Portland and creates large scale interactive art installations, immersive beauty experiences, costumes, and multimedia art primarily using post-consumer waste and salvaged materials. She is a graduate of Oregon State University, where she studied socio-political ethics. Keeva is an environmentalist, and a Black Feminist thinker and author.
In 2011, Keeva created the character “The Queen of Unicorns,” as a public persona to inspire imaginative play and give young girls, especially those of color, representation in the cosplay and festival community. She’s presented at the 2nd Star Festival, Faerie Worlds, and was on a panel at the Rose City Comic Con to talk about Black representation in pop culture and film.
Keeva is also one of the 2021 recipients of the Career Opportunity Grant sponsored by the Oregon Arts Commission, The Ford Foundation, and Business Oregon.
Mind telling us a little bit about yourself and the work you do that adds to Portland’s weirdness?
I grew up in Portland during the ‘80s. I have always loved unicorns and equines of all types. I have also loved costumes more than regular clothes my entire life. As a kid, I made every Halloween costume from the age of nine on, and I’ve carried that tradition throughout my adulthood.
After I graduated college, there didn’t seem to be many opportunities to wear costumes or really over-the-top fashion. The opportunities were dwindling, and I had to wear adult business casual. I refused khaki at all costs. Beige was my nightmare.
I increasingly became aware as I shuffled off to jobs in the public and corporate employment structure that I was weird. No surprise there — I never fit in with the cool kids. They were much too cool to be any fun, and I was bored to death with “normal,” but I didn’t fit in with the nerds (pre-Pinterest) because my fashion sense always drew too much attention.
As I taught myself skills and worked through my creative process, I found my own voice, which is where I flourished in the idea that I am a cosmic being that inhabits this flesh suit on this earth. I am just as much connected to all the intelligence of the past as I am to all the possibilities of tomorrow. I decided to exit all conformity and allegiance to a system that was depleting all of my cosmic energy, chipped away at my worth, and balked at my creativity.
I knew then that joy is the key to unlocking everything. Find out what brings you joy and do more of it more often! The only way to find joy is to choose it at each moment and reject the alternatives.
Keeva in the Unicorn Palace, pre-pandemic, inspiring others to embrace their inner magic. (📸: Courtesy of Keeva the Unicorn Queen)
How did you get involved with Weird Portland United?
I have always loved that Portland was weird and artsy. That’s why I never left. I began really diving into the unique culture here when I moved back after college and noticed that everything was starting to change and the unique weird fun quirky “so Portland culture” was starting to meld into a homogenous Californiafication. I wanted to cling to the old Portland vibe as long as I could so I started seeking out more like-minded people, which led to meeting other weirdos like the founders of WPU.
This year and a half has been difficult with the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the countless others that have lost their lives to a system that favors the wealthy and murders Black humans. I was so proud of every Portlander who marched for one day or all 100+ — our city stood up! I wanted to channel all of my emotions into uplifting people with all my heart and soul and put it into art. The piece “Promises” is about what comes out of that pain — the promises of our labor and the beauty from our ashes.
How long have you been practicing your art here in Portland, and what got you interested?
When I wasn’t daydreaming or playing pretend, I was drawing, designing, making and creating art. Creating three dimensional, wearable, or usable objects appealed to me. Because beauty you can take with you on your journey as you move and live and breathe in the real world…those items are like little companions, reminders to our souls and they become our talismans and treasures. These are the items we can take from our altars and shelves and reveal our uniqueness to others to display our most beautiful inner selves.
What does contributing to the wonderful weirdness of Portland mean to you?
Helping, healing, service, and preserving a culture Portland is unique for. Helping everyone find freedom to be their most authentic selves without fear of being bullied, teased, or outcast. I promote freedom of self expression and radical self acceptance. I’m a champion of that!
I also feel it is especially important as a queer Black woman to live out loud so that other young Black girls and women feel inspired and know that they too can let go of fear and conformity. And that they know they are powerful, capable and beautiful. That they see somebody that looks like them in the world being magical and full of joy and hope.
I created the public persona because as a child nothing made me more happy than to day dream and play make-believe. Like most girls, I was obsessed with horses and as an ‘80s kid that included unicorns, Pegasus, and the hippocampus. When I wasn’t playing My Little Pony and putting my 20 equines out to pasture on a large ranch built upon the olive green pasture of shag carpet in the living room, I was cantering and galloping around the playground tossing my mane and whinnying.
Self-Love is the Best Love! Once you really get in touch with your inner child and begin to nurture her with beauty and joy and compassion, you really begin to self heal. I am writing a self help book that empowers others to channel their joy into healing and find freedom from the judgements and approval from others, to live unapologetically in self alignment and radical self acceptance and love.
I hold this candle for everyone to share the light. I use she/her pronouns and female centric language such as goddess and “Queendom” because as a Black woman in America, it is important I get to experience myself as the norm. Black women have never gotten to experience oneness and the celebration of their contributions, their beauty, and self agency; in their Blackness and in their femininity. We are taught to be strong and to model our idea of strength from a racist, stereotypical, patriarchal, masculine-normative mold. We don’t often get to experience femininity or our womanliness in our skin, in our bodies from our own ideals. In my realm we live in the harmony of “we” in a Unitopia.
As Keeva The Unicorn Queen, I hope to inspire other young women and women of color to seek healing and fully commit to who they are so they can find and choose their joy, feel empowered,and utilize their talents and skills to better themselves and their own realm of influence — their own queendoms.
I also aim to inspire transgender people, non-binary folks, men, all living beings, the ecosystems, and our mother earth to join us at the table of equality. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being pro-women. I still feel especially as a Black woman that we have yet to have had any real change in our communities for Black female victory and justice, but that time is now and I am part of that change! That’s what my inner goddess is the champion of. That is my mission statement — to walk in self alignment, to choose joy and to inspire others to live a beautiful life.
Keeva is my innermost being seeking to be the best version of myself in this exact space and time each and every day. I want to share this magical transcendence with others even if it is just a fairy tale. Isn’t it more fun to live fully and to create and believe in something, rather than to spend all your time complaining about the way things are?
“I also especially feel it is important as a queer Black woman to live out loud so that other young Black girls and women feel inspired and know that they too, can let go of fear and conformity,” Keeva Moselle. (📸: Courtesy of Keeva the Unicorn Queen)
Where can people find you online, and do you have any upcoming events, news, things you want to shout out?
I cheer for the Rose City Wreckers roller derby team and volunteer with unhoused Portlanders by teaching women how to find their inner joy. I am also working on several projects including a book. Do you want to add a dose of Unicorn Magic in your life? Take it home with you! I make custom, one-of-a-kind accessories, headdresses, and costume pieces, as well as custom one-of-a-kind event and living space aesthetics.
Her art will be featured in the Newberg Parrish Gallery in the Chehalem Cultural Center as part of a group show curated by Tammy Jo Wilson from June 22 to July 31, and you can find her art installation “Promises” displayed in the virtual Oregon Country Fair Festival this summer, and next.
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