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Acne Studios presents

Tasha Tilberg & family

Tasha Tilberg is a Canadian fashion model who moved to New York when she was 15 years old to start her career. A decade later, she met the talent agent Laura Wilson in Los Angeles, and they tied the knot in Mexico the following month. After the birth of their twins, Bowie and Gray, the family left Los Angeles to live on an organic farm in British Columbia on Canada’s West Coast. Here we check in with Tasha and Laura to hear about their experiences of life off-grid, their decision to raise children in nature, and the challenges of setting up a vineyard surrounded by hungry bears.

“I am always fascinated by those people who move away from cities rather than to them. They seem to gain something that I don’t have. That is inspiring. For myself it is about connecting to nature; I find that feeling more and more rewarding.”

— Jonny Johansson, Acne Studios

Where exactly do you live?

Laura Wilson: We’re landlocked in that you have to get here by plane from Vancouver, or by taking two ferries. So it’s either a half-hour flight, or six hours driving and getting on two ferries. Everybody who lives here wants to live here, if you know what I mean. It takes a little while to get to Powell River.

Did you grow up nearby Tasha?

Tasha Tilberg: Not exactly. I was born near Vancouver, an hour outside the city, and then we moved to Victoria Island. I moved every two years as a kid, and when I was six we moved to Toronto. We still moved every two years for some reason, in an around Toronto, and when I was 15, I moved to New York.

How about yourself Laura?

Laura: I’m American. I grew up in Colorado and then California. I’d say I’m a California girl — I’ve spent a lot of time in San Francisco and then Los Angeles, and I met Tasha in Los Angeles, through a mutual friend. We bought a house together in Los Angeles in 2007. We knew we were going to have a family, and Tasha had property up north. We knew that when we had kids — and were talking early on — that we would want to move our kids out of Los Angeles.

Did you not want your kids growing up in a city, or was it that you didn’t want growing up in LA specifically?

Laura: It was more about LA.

Tasha: We were fine initially. When they were babies it was nice, we had a beautiful garden and they were able to enjoy the outdoors all year round.

As LA is more suburban than urban, it’s not so hard to have a house with a garden.

Tasha: For sure, it’s very beautiful, and you can make your house into a beautiful oasis. But we both had a feeling where we wanted to allow them more space.

Laura: I think LA is wonderfully alive and people are very driven — and that’s very exciting — but you also get sucked into this collective energy of ‘go go go’. You’re also in your car a lot, which is not that fun with kids [laughs]. That kind of buzz is good for people when you’re at a certain time in your life, but imagine having small kids... We wanted to instil this sense of keeping it simple and slowing down — LA just didn’t seem right for us.

How did you settle on this house in this specific part of the world?

Tasha: Around 15 years ago, I had a big sheep farm near Toronto. It was 230 acres, but I didn’t connect with the area as much — I felt drawn back west. So I did this big road trip with my mom and we went all up and down the coast, camping and exploring different areas. I came upon this town Powell River on the Sunshine Coast and fell in love with it. We went kayaking, it was just so beautiful, and I was like this is all I want to do — kayak for the rest of my life. I found this amazing property, off-grid, a total shack which needed major work, and I was like ‘I love it!’ So about a year later I bought it — I had to sell my farm, and then got the house and do all this work on the house for about 12 years. When we moved from LA, we moved up to that house. But it was just a bit too remote for us; it was so beautiful, set on a cliff right on the ocean, and we enjoyed a lot of aspects of it, like kayaking off the beach. It was awesome. But driving to town 45 minutes each way with little kids was a lot.

Laura: It was off-grid — that was a new experience!

Tasha: Yeah, I really put you in the bush.

Laura: It’s funny because when Tash and I first got together, she took me up to that house. I said “I love you, but I will never live here.”

What was it that turned you off living there; the composting toilets perhaps?

Laura: That’s it — there was no way. It was a beautiful place to vacation, but the work involved just felt so intense to take on. But of course, we ended up living there.

Tasha: And we loved it.

Laura: Yeah, I actually liked it better than she did.

How long did you live there, off-grid, for?

Laura: For a little over a year. We then decided to sell that house and move a little closer to town, and that’s the property we’re on now. It’s 11 acres, on all the city utilities, but it still has quite a rural feel. We have organic farms on either side of us, but it’s only a 10 minute ride into town.

It looks like the house from Days of Heaven, the Terrence Malick film. Do the kids go to a school in town or are you homeschooling them?

Laura: They would like that — homeschool!

Tasha: Our son would like to be homeschooled. Our daughter Gray likes going to school and all the social interactions. Bowie though would love to be homeschooled — he talks about it every morning. He doesn’t want to get dressed; he wants to have a leisurely morning in his pajamas, playing and doing his things.

I can see on your Instagram account that you’re growing grapes — can you really make wine that far north?

Tasha: It’s only our second year — we harvested some grapes last year for wine; some are table grapes, but the majority is for wine. We haven’t bottled anything yet. We have big glass containers, carboys, of wine, but we really didn’t get that much last year because of issues with the bears and the powdery mildew. This year we hope to be able to make more wine and sell it to people. It’s a learning experience, and we’re still learning.

Hold on — bears? Do they come onto the property often?

Tasha: Oh yeah.

Laura: Everyone wants these grapes: the bees, the wasps, the birds, the deer, the bears. And the bears get the first word, and we haven’t figured out how to manage them yet. At one point Tash and I were walking across the road, and there was a bear lying down, feeding himself grapes like some Roman god.

Do you keep any animals on the farm?

Laura: Yep. We have 12 chickens, we have a rabbit which we rescued, we have four sheep, three dogs...

Tasha: ...And hopefully a cat for Bowie soon. Maybe also a snake, or a lizard.

That sounds like a real farm. Do you guys eat meat, or are you vegetarian?

Tasha: I’ve been a vegetarian since I was nine, but I guess I’m a pescatarian. Gray is also a pescatarian. Bowie likes meat, a lot. I have no problem with raising meat for use, as long as it’s done really well and you know the animal has had a good life. Laura has a few more issues though...

Laura: ...I eat meat, occasionally, but I can’t imagine killing an animal. Even though we watch the cows in the pasture behind us, and we’ve eaten them — we’ve had jerky from them. It’s trippy. When we first got the chickens and I went out and collected the eggs, sitting down to eat them was a little bit weird.

Tasha: It’s a skill, learning to work with animals like that.

How much was the decision to move to a farm guided by the children, or your own sense of wellbeing?

Tasha: I grew up in apartments in cities, so I always had this longing — my mom had a farm years ago, and my family had homesteads before I was born — this desire and interest in surviving off the land and being connected with the rhythms of the Earth. I’ve always gardened; even when my mom had apartments, we would have an allotment garden if we could. I always had this goal of raising my kids in nature and on a farm, and Laura knew that from day one, right?

Laura: Even in LA we had a lot of produce growing in the garden; fruit trees and vegetables.

Tasha: I think it’s super important for kids to know how to plant a seed, and how it becomes food, and to respect it. That whole cycle — I can’t not be a part of it.

Do you see yourselves running away from society, or trying to create a new one?

Laura: I’d say a little of both. Tasha and I have done a lot of travelling, we’ve been immersed in a pretty fast-paced world, her with modelling and me with the music business, so we’ve experienced a lot of that. Running away from that mentality and that pace; yeah, there’s a bit of that. Tasha is a bit of an introvert, so it works well — there’s not a lot of people who just wander onto the farm, or wander into Powell River. It’s not that easy. On the flipside, we’re sharing this mentality of creating something here in Powell River with others in our home and our community. That is really special. There are a lot of likeminded people there, a lot of people who grew up in Powell River, went off, got creative, then came back, had kids — because they see the value of it. And other people are moving here to do the same, to sustain themselves with food, have clean air and clean water. So it’s a little bit of both.

It’s a very conscious choice to say no to the mainstream way of life and the rat race. Did anyone feel threatened by your decision to move away?

Laura: I wouldn’t say threatened. People were bummed out that we were leaving, especially as we have these beautiful kids that they wanted to get to know. But a lot of people — especially in light of what’s happening in the world and the unmentionable leader of the United States — are actually pretty envious of what we have. I have to add though, that every time Tasha goes to Paris, she’s like “We need to move here!”

Tasha: That’s true. I love Paris.

Laura: New York as well. We’ve spent a chunk of time in New York recently, and when you see how resilient the kids are there you’re like “Ah, it would be amazing to live here.” We’re not doing it, but you know.

Tasha: That’s the difficulty; it wouldn’t be sustainable for me to be there for any length of time, in the city, but the cultural things that you gain are so incredible. That said, there’s nothing like sending the kids outside barefoot and they whip their clothes off and they’re running around completely free — I’m not worried at all. They’re just going to play and figure it out.

Laura: I think we made the right decision. You see how the kids are taking the world in. Our kids are now at the age where they’re going to want to be a bit more social, and if we travel to cities with them they’ll get a lot out of it. We’ve gone to cities and we have to remind them that they can’t run off two blocks ahead — there won’t be a bear there, but there might be something else [laughs].

Can you talk me through an average day on the farm? What time do you wake up?

Laura: It’s funny because when Tasha and I are home with the kids, our routines are quite different as we’re quite different from one another. She’s much more on-schedule, and I’m more like, let’s sleep in, we stayed up quite late last night.

What are the early morning chores?

Laura: You have to pack the kids’ lunches, get them dressed, get them fed, get them ready for school. Then you’ve got the dogs to feed, the chickens to let out and give a bit of feed and water to. Then you’ve got the sheep — if it’s nice weather you can let them out, but if the weather’s shitty you don’t want them out in the cold traipsing around in the muck, so you feed them a bit of hay. You’ve got to let the bunny out and feed him. And then there’s the ongoing: weed-whacking, spraying the grapes, things like that.

What else?

Tasha: That’s it presently, but as Laura said, it’s ongoing. In winter all the grapes are dormant, so that’s when you prune the vines. The grass is exploding now it’s spring, so we’ve got a bit of maintenance to do.

Laura: Talking about winter — Tasha is the wood chopper, she’s chopping up all the wood into kindling so we can build a fire. It’s quite chilly in the winter.

Tasha: But not too chilly! It doesn’t go below minus 10. It usually hovers around zero, but still that’s cold enough. Where we are is in the rain shadow of Vancouver Island, so we actually have a lot less rain than Vancouver itself. We still have quite a bit of rain, because it’s a temperate rainforest here, but also a lot of sun — it’s the Sunshine Coast.

How did you learn how to do all these chores on the farm?

Tasha: I’d had a farm before; I’d had about 20 ewes, and chickens, cows, goats, horses — even donkeys at one time. So I was quite used to it. Laura had to learn the routine, and she’s doing really well and enjoying it more; mucking out and feeding the animals, the routine of waking up and letting the animals out.

Which of these chores do you least look forward to Laura?

Laura: Hmm. The only time I don’t enjoy it is when it’s dark and rainy. In the winter when you’re trying to do the evening chores, and you’re trying to cook dinner for the kids, and it’s wet and you’re cold and you’re walking through the muck.... But it passes, so it’s fine. I’ve developed a good rhythm and I pretty much enjoy it.

Why do you believe it’s so important for kids to experience this kind of life in nature? Do you relate it to the bigger picture of the environmental crisis — that what we do not know we do not love, and what we do not love we do not save?

Laura: You nailed it. The fact that our kids know where meat comes from. That you have to kill a chicken if you want to eat chicken. That they understand...

Tasha: ...Chickens have personalities and they are beings. It’s quite a profound thing to know that a chicken is giving their life for your nutrition. They’re not mindless beings which you take at will — you have to have an energy exchange and that gratitude and appreciation.

Laura: And then the kids start to ask questions — it creates a dialogue which feeds into other things. They know about factory farms and the condition of animals there, and not because we’re trying to drill them with something. They’re actually asking us, “Why don’t you eat meat when we go to this restaurant?’ ‘Why won’t you buy that?” Also, where we live has a large population of First Nations people, so the kids learn about how they’ve sustained themselves. We have books on the stories and myths they have passed down, so the kids are learning and integrating that into their philosophies.

Is there a particular tribe that lives in your area?

Laura: Yes, the Tla’amin, who have an amazing history along the coast with the resources that are there, or have been there. It’s quite interesting to learn about how they have been living off the land and the sea. The Tla’amin are self-governing now, so there’s been a lot more reconciliation and interest in learning from them and honouring the practices that have sustained them. I wasn’t aware of the atrocities that were committed in Canada — as an American, I had no idea. It’s good that the kids have the opportunity to understand, as this happens everywhere. They’re asking us what happened to them, what happened to everybody? You have to be careful with what you say sometimes.

Are there any stories of the Tla’amin which particularly resonate with the kids?

Laura: I took a hike with the kids recently, and we were walking along and one of the women here pointed out a tree — a cedar tree. And Bowie told everyone of how the First Nations would collect the bark from the tree to make hats from and so on. There was another tree which you could see bear scratches on, so Bowie asked, “Do you think the First Nations watched the bear scratch the tree, and that’s how the figured out you can use the bark?’ I thought that was great; the kids are learning how to live in harmony with animals. That’s what you learn from nature — how to use it sustainably.

Tasha, from what I understand, you’ve twice quit modelling to go live on a farm in the countryside?

Tasha: At least twice! I’ve taken many breaks to reestablish my connection with myself and my environment, or my life in general. I’ve felt I’ve always had to work and then take a step back to be able to then work again. To recharge.

As fashion and the modelling industry can be...

Tasha: ...Intense. It can be. I’d bought my farm near Toronto when I was 16, and I first took a break when I was 17, 18 after I’d been working so, so much, and I didn’t have anything to ground myself with. I really needed to take some time to go back there, to be able to appreciate myself and the skills I could do physically and mentally that were not related to what I looked like. So since then, I’ve learnt to take steps back and take the time to recharge, and now I feel I have a really good balance. I’m working quite a lot right now, and it’s so nice I can come back to the farm and make things and have my routine to fall back on. I can feel the rhythm of that.

How about yourself Laura, can you tell us more about your work?

Laura: I was in the music business for almost a decade. The last time we left to move to Canada, I was working in a recording studio as a sting producer — it was a lot, 24 hours a day. With having kids, you really want to get into their rhythm, so we were lucky with being able to take some time off when we moved. But I also really love to work. It has been a bit challenging in our area, but I have found work for a non-profit — a great non-profit organisation in our town that arranges all of the social enterprises in our community. I helped launch a coffee shop in our local library, a social enterprise. I started off by volunteering, just showing up for these community things, which is how you network and meet people. I’m still trying to find a rhythm, but it feels good to be associated with things that are benefiting the community. You can actually see, or feel, the change because it’s a small town.

What are your plans for the year ahead, and in the longer term?

Tasha: We’re trying to develop a sustainable farm, and we’re taking it day-by-day, or month-by-month because we are still at the initial stages. There are a lot of ideas. We may make small batches of wine, turn the farm into a market garden, set up a small-onsite store selling local artisan’s wares and the things we produce here. We’re still trying to figure it out exactly, as a business, as a lifestyle — as a thing we can have fun with and enjoy and not get overwhelmed by. We’re not trying to make a big amount of money with it or anything like that. The idea is to have a nice environment for the kids, and to have some kind of family legacy for the kids that we can develop.

Do you see yourselves growing old in the house?

Tasha: It’s really hard as a nomad. I just arrived from New York last night on Philippines Airlines, and I’m like, the Philippines — that looks like a fun place to go! I think I’m ready for a little bit of sun, as I’ve been working a lot recently, and I work hard when I’m here on the farm. I work until sundown, it’s really physical, which I love, but I recognise I need another kind of recharge time also.

Laura: It’s in Tasha’s DNA that every two years she gets itchy feet and wants to move.

Tasha: It’s that Viking blood — “where can I go and find a new spot?”.

Is Tilberg a Swedish name?

Tasha: Yes, it means ‘of the mountain.’ My heritage is Swedish and Finnish and Russian and Irish.

So you’re made for this landscape of pines, lakes and long winters.

Tasha: Yeah! A lot of this land was homesteaded by Finns and Swedes as well. Our old house was near the town of Lund [a famous Swedish university city]. We also had Finn Bay. There’s a big tie here between those people who came and homesteaded here. I really connect with that part of my heritage. I like it.

It looks like we’re nearing the end of our time together, is there anything you would like to add?

Laura: The only thing I would like to say is that having kids, marriage; people might get a certain image of how it is — Tasha’s a model, so we’re doing okay financially — but we have the same struggles as anybody has. Marriage is a lot of work. Kids are a lot of work. You start to wonder what your identity is now when you have kids, as it’s all going to them. I’m really grateful that we’re all healthy, that we’re able to travel, that we’re able to do and have all the things we have. The one thing with kids is how do you keep them grateful? We live in this era where kids are sort of entitled and pampered — it’s not easy.





Interview Xerxes Cook

Creative direction and casting M/M (Paris)

After an original idea by Jonny Johansson

Photographs Craig McDean

Styling Vanessa Reid

This publication
© 2018 Acne Studios

Published by Acne Studios
Floragatan 13
114 31 Stockholm

acnestudios.com

Acne Studios presents

The Kordale N Kaleb family

I have been thinking of the family concept for a long time. I’m very fond of it since I feel that at Acne Studios, we began as a collective and we saw each other as family back then. A modern family.

This is how we found Atlanta-based couple Kordale Lewis and Kaleb Anthony and their four beautiful children, Desmiray, Maliyah, Kordale Junior and Kaleb Junior, and why we asked Inez and Vinoodh to photograph them in the New York City hotel room they were staying in during a holiday weekend.

I’m obsessed with uniform clothing in families and I wanted to portray this phenomenon. I love those images of families dressing in the same outfit, and this new collection dedicated to the face motif also has a similar feeling of staple goods.

It is also a way of highlighting that while every family is different, we all have the same love and want the best for our children. There is no ‘normal’ family—all families are normal.

How does the face motif fit into all of this? Well, it is just an ordinary Swedish citizen. Not too happy, not too sad. Just in between. Lagom in Swedish. Like me.

Jonny Johansson,
Acne Studios

“There is no ‘normal’ family
—all families are normal.”

Kaleb Junior is 8 months old. In the following pages, his two fathers Kaleb Anthony and Kordale Lewis discuss their life stories with Xerxes Cook, an American-born writer and father based in London.

“The new age of social media got us together—we met on Facebook.“

Hello Kordale and Kaleb, I’m sorry for calling you so early in the morning. If you’re okay to begin our interview, perhaps we can start with you telling us a little about your family backgrounds and where you grew up?

Kaleb Anthony: I’m from Atlanta, Georgia, born and raised. My life and Kordale’s are totally different. We come from opposite sides of the spectrum, and there’s no grey area. My parents have been married for 30 years now, and I grew up with the dog, the picket fence, and both parents still together. Both of my parents come from an educated background, and I grew up living with the same kind of model they instilled in me. Kordale has had a different experience than I. My father worked in insurance for over 30 years, and my mom in sales for 30 years. They’re now both entrepreneurs who own their own businesses, and I guess I’m trying to do the same thing they do and to bring those values to our family.

Kordale, I know you’ve written about some of the challenges you faced growing up in your book Picture Perfect. Please could you talk us through some of these moments from your childhood?

Kordale Lewis: I’m from Chicago. I have three biological children—the older three are biologically mine. I can only recall seeing my father once as he’s been in prison since I was two for double murder. My mom has been on drugs since I was five, and she still is. It was a tough lifestyle growing up; I went through foster homes and things like that. I met the mother of my children when I was 15; she became pregnant when I was 16. I graduated high school, did two years in college but didn’t graduate. I then moved to Atlanta and met Kaleb about two years later, and we’ve been together for over six years now. I’ve done some work for Kaleb’s family business: I worked at Comcast, I worked at some restaurants, but nothing too career-focused or whatever—I believe I should be my own boss. For the most part, I enjoy being a father. I’m a family man, and this is my life. This is all I know—I’ve been doing it since I was a teenager, through my twenties, and soon my thirties.

Where are the kids now?

Kaleb: During the summertime we try to ship the kids off to their grandparents. As soon as school gets out, we’re like, ‘Who wants them?!’

What brought you to Atlanta, Kordale?

Kordale: I was getting in trouble with the law where I was, in Dubuque, Iowa, partying, doing drugs. All my aunties and uncles date out of their race, so I grew up with white cousins and Indian cousins, and I had never experienced racism until I moved to that town. It was just the most racist place I’ve been in my life, from the police officers messing with people to the teachers referring to people as certain things. Sometimes I wouldn’t even have done anything and I would get in trouble, for obvious reasons. I knew I couldn’t grow as a person in a small town like that. I was coming out, I needed to find myself, and I wanted to get away from all the scrutiny and find some time for myself. I had always aspired to move to Atlanta since I was a little boy, and then I got accepted to two colleges here.

Did you two meet in college?

Kaleb: Nope. The new age of social media got us together—we met on Facebook.

“Maliyah is more of the mouthy one who thinks she’s smarter than everybody.“

How old were you?

Kaleb: 22.

Kordale: I had three kids by then.

Are you comfortable talking about how the three kids came in to the world, and your coming out?

Kordale: I always knew I was gay—I’ve always been attracted to men. I guess, growing up in the Midwest, it wasn’t something cool to talk about, so I would often hang around extremely masculine guys to try to hide that. I had sex with girls, even though I knew that wasn’t really what I felt. And being a teen, I had unprotected sex, though I didn’t know the first two kids were mine until we had a DNA test. So, that happened, and then I told her [I was gay] when she was pregnant with Kordale Junior, our third child. She was like ‘You’re so gay!’ She suspected it. We broke up a couple months after she had my son. She entered into a new relationship, and I moved to Atlanta.

What’s the name of the mother of your children?

Kordale: Her nickname is Poody, her real name is Destiny.

So you were apart from your three children when you first moved to Atlanta?

Kordale: At first we were doing fine, but the guy she was with at the time was very homophobic. There was a lot of disrespect and a lot of name-calling, and men can be very impressionable upon women. It was a point in time where I didn’t see my kids for a while, because this man had a lot of influence over her. But then Poody got pregnant by this guy, and she asked me to come get all of my children. This was in 2013. She was working full-time, the kids weren’t doing well at pre-school as they had no supervision, and then her boyfriend got in trouble with the law for selling drugs and things of that nature. She had lost her home because she’d fallen off this government programme that helps single mothers with housing. I knew I couldn’t just go up and get them without having custody, so we set up a court date, and we got custody of the kids in 2014.

And it was the best thing that’s ever happened to you?

Kordale: [Laughs] I’ve always been a father; I’ve never been the kind of guy who didn’t want to see his kids. But it helped us.

Kaleb: It helped solidify us, as parents and as a couple.

You are both so young to be looking after four kids. Do you feel you’ve missed out on your youth, going out at night, travelling whenever and wherever you feel like?

Kaleb: Honestly, I’m happy we did it when we did. Kordale being super young really worked out for the best, as you have to think of it like this: when we’re 35, our kids will be self-sufficient. They’re going to be at that age when they’re going to want to do things themselves, and to explore themselves. And we’ll still have Kaleb Junior—and they’re going to be able to help look after him—but we’re going to be able to get our life ‘on’ and do some of the things we couldn’t when Kordale was so young.

“When we’re 35, our kids will be self-sufficient.”

“Kordale Junior is starting to become more outgoing—he used to be kind of shell-shocked, but now he’s developing this kind of asshole sense of humour. I don’t know where it came from.”

“People who know us commend us for not having lost our sense of party, while always putting our children first.”

What have you got planned?

Kaleb: We’re looking forward to 40 and being able to travel the world with just one child. At 40, most people are seasoned in the careers and have a little bit more money. In 12 years’ time, if we continue to do the things we have planned—we’re in the process of putting money aside so we have enough capital to start up our own insurance company—I believe we will be well off enough to pay the kids’ tuition, and do things like tour Italy in the month of July. Kaleb Junior will be 10, 11 years old then, and he can always stay with his grandmother.

Is one benefit of having three kids so young is that you have the energy to look after and play with them.

Kaleb: Yeah—so many activities!

But you also must have sacrificed a lot, like having a social life or just simply going out for dinner at night?

Kaleb: We’ve been really blessed, man. How we look at it is, from Sunday to Friday, we’re all about the kids—we do everything with the kids, have a movie night, play games, cook together. But when the weekend comes, it really takes a village. We have so many friends our age who have children, and we do a trade-off. A lot of people who know us really commend us for not having lost our sense of party and having a good time, while always putting our children first. The kids are our number-one priority in all aspects of life.

Sounds like the good life. How would you describe the kids’ personalities—who is the lively one, or the joker, and who is the more introspective?

Kordale: Maliyah is more of the mouthy one who thinks she’s smarter than everybody. Desmiray is a diva; she’s the 10 year old going on 35. Kordale Junior is starting to become more outgoing—he used to be kind of shell-shocked, but now he’s developing a sense of humour. My grandfather passed away three weeks ago, which was a big deal for me. I sat them all down to tell them, and Kordale Junior said, ‘Oh so this is the breaking news’. He has this kind of asshole sense of humour. I don’t know where it came from.

How were they on the trip to New York for this Acne Studios shoot?

Kaleb: I’m really big on Snapchat, I snap every moment and every second. And I snapped every moment from when we got up, at the airport, taking off, to the truck that came to bring us to the shoot, us being on the horses in Central Park—I tried to snap it all.

Was it the kids’ first time in the city? What did they want to see?

Kaleb: Yes. They wanted to see Times Square—everyone wants to see Times Square. They wanted to walk the streets, go to the park, and then buy toys. We took the kids to Legoland as I didn’t know FAO Schwarz, the giant toy store that I really wanted to show them, was gone. I took them to where Home Alone was filmed. We had ice cream. They enjoyed it; we had a good time.

“Desmiray is a diva; she’s the 10-year-old going on 35.”

And how is life in Atlanta? It looks like you have a big house in the suburbs there.

Kordale: We do, it’s pretty huge. I don’t like cleaning it; I’m over it. I used to be so excited, but now I’d much rather get a condo. I love Atlanta—I’m from Chicago so I like big cities. The price of living here is great, and the people are so nice and have that whole Southern hospitality thing. Atlanta for me, and for black people in general, is where you come and build your foundations. But then to go further, you need to move outside of it. If I had it my way, we’d be in New York or LA. I’ve been here in Atlanta for eight years now, and I could do with a change to take my next step.

Have you ever experienced homophobia in Atlanta?

Kordale: Never.

Kaleb: People may talk about you behind the shadows, but never to your face. We do extra-curricular activities—and we’ll be going to a new park soon, which should be interesting—and at one point the coach was like, ‘That boy has two dads.’ But we’ve been with that team for three years and we’ve never experienced anything negative. We all sit back and drink together. There’s never been anything too bad, even with the school. We’re not really flamboyant guys either; we’re both quite masculine.

Do people sometimes assume you’re two friends who both have kids, just hanging out together?

Kaleb: Maybe. Sometimes.

How have the other children at school reacted to Maliyah, Desmiray and Kordale Junior having two dads?

Kaleb: There was a time when Kordale used to go pick up the kids more often than me, and then one day I turned up and another kid was like, ‘Hold on, I thought the other guy was your dad—you have two dads? That’s so cool!’

Does knowing there’s a generation of children who are comfortable with their friends having two dads or two moms give you hope for the future?

Kaleb: Yes. It’s not as taboo as it once was; it’s quite common now.

How do you explain to your children that other kids have a mother and a father, while they have a father and a father?

Kaleb: I think that is exactly how we explained it. That some kids have a mom and a dad, some kids have a dad and a dad, some kids have a mom and a mom, and some kids just havea dad, and some just have a mom. That everybody grows up in a house that’s different, and they have to know that they’re going to be different from the next person. So in this house they have two dads, but when they go to their mom’s house, they have one mom.

Can we talk about that Instagram photo from 2014 where you’re doing the girls’ hair in the mirror in the morning, that made you guys famous? I was impressed—I have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, and I pride myself on being a pretty modern guy, but I break down when it comes to stringing up her hair in a hairband…

Kordale: At that time we were both doing the girls’ hair, but now they’re old enough to do it themselves. I can’t remember the last time I did their hair—Kaleb helps them now.

Kaleb: When they can’t put it up in a ponytail, they’re like, ‘Okay, Pops, come here and help me.’ If your wife or girlfriend wasn’t around and it was just you and your baby, trust me, you’d learn! Because you don’t want your child looking any kind of way, you want them to at least look halfway decent. And trust me, I started from… well, they used to make fun of me when I was doing their hair—my pigtails were so jacked up. And that’s when our girlfriends were like, ‘Bring your kids over here, let me braid their hair.’ You figure it out—I started watching YouTube videos, too. Now I can put beads in their hair and all that kind of stuff. I flat iron their hair from time to time also, as they like it straight.

”Hold on, I thought the other guy was your dad—you have two dads? That’s so cool!“

From left to right: Kaleb Anthony (29), Desmiray (10), Kordale Junior (8), Maliyah (9), Kordale Lewis (28) and Kaleb Junior (8 months) having fun in a parental suite at the Sherry-Netherland hotel overlooking Central Park, New York.

You experienced some backlash and quite a few negative comments from that post—how did it feel to have your private life scrutinised by people from all over the world when that image went viral?

Kordale: I don’t think they really mattered to us. We were over it after a week. There’s nothing people can do or say that’s going to change the fact that these are our kids.

You just brushed that dirt off your shoulder and moved on?

Kordale: That’s pretty much it. If you have kids, you don’t have time to think about who likes you, who’s talking about you. It’s just so much more stress on your plate, and I don’t believe in stress. The picture definitely did cause a lot of unwanted attention—we’ve always posted candid pictures of our kids, but with that picture, people somehow thought it was okay to create all this controversy. If we had the chance, we would do it again.

Kaleb: When you’re a parent you post pictures of your kids—that’s all you have pictures of! It’s just one of those things that you do.

While we’re on the subject of other people’s misconceptions of you, what are the questions you get asked most often about being same-sex parents?

Kordale: Who’s the girl,who’s the man?

Kaleb: Who likes to be on top?

Kordale: How did you have the kids?

Kaleb: Did you guys adopt? And actually, all the kids have the same mother.

Kordale: It’s funny because we’ve had people get in touch online, men and women, asking us for advice on how to adopt. And we’re like, really, we’ve said time and time again that I’ve had these kids from a prior heterosexual relationship. That being said, I do plan on adopting a kid in a few years time, as I spent so many years in foster care; I know those kids are the most disenfranchised. Nobody understands those kids, but I know I would.

That’s really honourable of you. It might put a spanner in the idea of travelling the world and being free and easy once the eldest three have grown up though.

Kaleb: Oh yeah.

I met an amazing couple recently who raised their three children to believe that birthdays are about giving presents and not receiving them. The day I’d met them, it was the eldest child’s eighth birthday, and she’d spent the day at an orphanage giving out presents.

Kaleb: That’s a great idea. We’re trying to raise our kids along the same lines. For instance, I’m turning 29 next week, and the kids have all made money from doing chores around the house. We’re trying to make the point that they shouldn’t spend this money on themselves when they have others, like us, always giving them things. So I gave them my birthday wish list—an $8 shirt, a $2 hat; things like that. We’re trying to get them out of the mindset of everything being about themselves, and to do things for other people. Going out and giving gifts at an orphanage is a great idea and I would like to do that too, to show them not every child has their own bed, or their own TV, or wears new clothes. They’re so happy to have anything—especially if it’s a pair of Jordan’s—even if someone has worn it before.

Can I ask a question you may get asked a lot? Do you believe it’s important for the girls to have a female role model? Someone who they may be able to learn from, and to confide in about the kind of things they may not be able to with you?

Kordale: Their mother, Destiny, moved down to Atlanta three years ago and she’s very much a part of their lives. She sees them primarily on weekends. I grew up without one of my parents, and I know when the LGBTQ community adopts, the child often doesn’t really have that option [of knowing both birth parents]. I think it’s important that every child has a relationship with their mother and father, as I was envious of others as I didn’t know my father. Kids desire and yearn for it.

And can I ask another personal question that you probably get asked a lot? You mentioned earlier that all your children have the same mother—does that apply to Kaleb Junior? How did you go about the pregnancy?

Kaleb: Sure, we’re pretty open. We were looking at IVF, which was about $30,000. As we were also paying the mother, that would have been too expensive. We then went on to try another process, AI (artificial insemination) which is $3,000 a take, and it’s not always going to take. And we tried it once, and it didn’t take. At the time we had some friends who told us about a device called the Stork. Picture a device that looks like an arm with a cup on top. You put the semen in the cup and then it closes, the woman puts it inside her vagina, and then it releases. So we did the Stork plus natural ways to have a child over a course of 10 months. After a miscarriage, Kaleb Junior was conceived in January, and he was born on October 12th, 2016.

One last intrusive question; who is Kaleb Junior’s biological father?

Kaleb: Me. That was the whole point—them two weren’t going to have another baby! [Laughs].

The thing about having another child I can’t get my head around is how I’ll ever be able to love another child as much as the one I have now.

Kaleb: It’s like a mother bear trying to protect her kids; it’s so natural.

Kordale: You’ll love them equally. They’re going to be two different little people, with different personalities. And when they’re six and three, you’ll realise you have two different little people in your house who you’ll love equally—you’ll realise you have to treat them differently, but you’ll love them the same.

The heart grows… Do you get offended when people ask the kind of personal questions we just went through now, or do you welcome the curiosity as a way to educate people?

Kaleb: I don’t mind it because I feel education is key. You’re ignorant until then. People tend to say ignorant things that can sometimes be offensive to people, so I sometimes feel we owe it to people to educate others that we’re normal.

Kordale: I don’t feel like that. Not one ounce of that. At the end of the day, we are all people, and my family and I deserve the same respect that I would give you and your family. I don’t care if you’re gay or transgender…

Kaleb: We’re saying the same thing, man.

Kordale: No, you’re saying that you owe it to people. You shouldn’t have to tell people how we should be treated in the age we are living in now. I’m over all of that. I don’t make it a point to express that I’m a gay parent—I’m a parent. I love my kids as much as you love yours. I want the same great things for my kids as you do for yours. What I do in my bed is none of your business.

Kaleb: I was speaking in terms of educating people that we’re no different than they are. That two people who live a homosexual lifestyle can raise heterosexual children, and we want them to be as successful as you want your kids to be.

“We’re fathers before anything.”

Kordale: I don’t even think that’s worth my time. We’re in 2017, surely people can know there are gay people with kids, and they’re trying to achieve the same things as any heterosexual couple? It’s the straight parents who are making gay kids anyway. I don’t have to fight anymore. I feel like my voice is more powerful if there’s a legislation that comes up and I can inform my fan base to go out and vote or go to a town hall meeting. Most of the time, if you try to argue or explain to a heterosexual person that I’m gay and I have kids, they already have a preconceived notion of you anyways. Nine times out of 10, you can’t change people’s mindsets through talking. You have to show it through actions. I don’t try to force my opinions on anybody.

Wow. Is there anything else you want to get off your chest?

Kordale: I want people to know that Kordale Lewis loves Kathy Griffin.

Kaleb: What she did was wrong, but the stuff millions of people posted during Obama’s presidency, when they made racist slurs and memes calling him a monkey… This is why it’s important to continue to educate people. Our children will come from a different generation, people who have been raised by a mom who’s white and a dad who’s black, and they may even run a Chinese grocery store or something like that. With so many different backgrounds in one house, people will learn that you can’t control your sexual orientation or your skin colour; you have to love and accept people for who they are.

What are your concerns when speaking with journalists? Is there anything I should keep in mind when it comes to editing this interview?

Kordale: I think we’re very transparent, open people. As long as it’s authentic to what we’ve spoken about in this Skype video, you’re free to write it as wish.

Kaleb: As long as it remains positive and you communicate how we put our kids first above anything else, because we really do, you can feel free to use your pen as you choose.

—Follow the family @kordalenkaleb





Interview Xerxes Cook

Creative direction and casting M/M (Paris)

After an original idea by Jonny Johansson

Photographs Inez & Vinoodh

Styling Vanessa Reid

Grooming Michael Johnson

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