The Rise by Holly Burgess | A Sneak Peek At The Nike Cortez Project Featuring Rapper JessB


Last month I had the honour of interviewing nine bold, intelligent and strong young women for a Nike project led by photographer and friend of mine Holly Burgess to celebrate the iconic Nike Cortez shoes. As a writer, it is your responsibility to bring words to life, to make them three-dimensional, and I felt pressure to not only do justice to the stories of these women but also to the stories Holly has told through her photography. These women were chosen because they have reached a place in their lives where they feel free to be their most authentic selves, and I hope the people that read this magazine feel inspired to do the same.

The magazine can be found in be found in cafes all over Auckland or online here.








Occupation/Your “thing”:

Musician/Rapper/Professional Snacker


What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

Achieving my goals is what gets me out of bed in the morning!! The ability to do what I love and take it as far as I can to achieve my own dreams keeps me focussed and driven. Ultimately though- looking to the future I want to be in a position where I can positively influence youth/ women/ minorities and encourage them to follow their dreams too. Being told we can fulfil our potential & then also having the means to do so is a privilege that many people here in New Zealand don’t have. There is so much talent out there that we don’t get to see. I would love to be a part of something bigger that could allow a platform for people who don’t have one.

Staying fit and active has always been something that I have strived for and enjoyed in my lifestyle also – so this is something else that gets me out of bed when my alarm screams at me. Lol.

What do you think defines YOU?

I think that there are so many facets that make up and define who a person is, not one thing in particular but rather a collection of experiences and/or challenges we overcome. I do believe that I am also defined greatly by my family and friends that have been around me to support me and love me even when times have been the hardest.  I have been blessed with amazing parents, and a network of supportive, honest, intelligent and driven friends who are constantly motivating me to continue to develop myself in so many ways. I don’t want to be boxed in, musically or outside of my creative life so I just do me. It is also important to remember that we are forever growing; evolving and changing so what “defines” me now may not in 10 years!



How did your upbringing and experiences from your childhood shape the kind of person you are today? Did you ever face adversity?

I am of Kenyan descent but grew up in New Zealand with my Pakeha family. Although I never would have wanted to grow up any other way, I spent a lot of my childhood and especially through my teen years struggling with my own identity and self-worth, really not liking who I was and the skin I was born in. I found myself often caught feeling like I fit neither here nor there. This is a common feeling for mixed children from all kinds of backgrounds, and can be extremely isolating. I am also an only child and so I didn’t have siblings to relate to or share experiences with in this way either.

Music has been one of the areas of my life that has helped me learn to love myself the way I am. Because I didn’t grow up with anyone around me who completely knew my experience as a mixed child in a country with very little African influence, rap and Hip Hop in particular allowed me to see people that looked like me and were cool and beautiful and talented. These were people that I wasn’t seeing on my TV, at the park on the weekends or in my school. I am very much still on this journey, but I now realise that being different and standing out isn’t always easy – but it can be equally as rewarding.


What makes you “unapologetic”?

I believe that the stories that I choose to share, and the emotions that are conveyed in my music make me unapologetic. I am sharing real life experiences, good and bad times I’ve been through for the world to hear and judge. People are going to love what I do, and people will also hate it. At the end of the day, as long as I am proud of the work that I am creating and the messages I am sending to the world- then that is all that matters to me. If people are down with the vision then that’s awesome, but I believe being myself and not replicating anything that isn’t true to me is being unapologetic.

In addition to my music I believe I am becoming more unapologetic with the way I choose to dress and present. Fashion is such a cool way to express yourself and I am starting to care less about how I “should” dress, whatever that means, and dressing more with the way I feel. Catch me in a skirt on Friday night, peep me sagging my pants on Saturday. It is what it is and I love it.



What do you believe in?

I believe in people. I believe that love is the most important thing we’ve got and at the end of the day, no success is really a success unless you have people you love to share it with.


Images by Holly Sarah Burgess