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Wolfgang Tillmans and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II on set for W magazine’s “New Originals” issue.

Wolfgang Tillmans Photographer, “Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

What does originality mean to you?

It’s nothing that can be forced. And at the same time, one
can’t be sloppy about it and rely on hoping that something will turn out “original.” Interesting thoughts and genuine interest in something—these two ingredients create originality. 

Whom do you consider original, and why?

Nobel Prize winners. It’s so good to read about science yielding good results for mankind. I never understood how anyone can develop contempt for science.

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Who was the first person who made you realize you could break the rules?

Udo Kaschel, my drawing teacher in the ’80s, once came to my parents’ house to see the stuff I was experimenting with. Since I was not traditionally talented, I was never recognized as an artist. He was the first to say, “You are an artist.”

Photographed by Dan Ipp.

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Jeremy O. Harris Interviewer, “Michaela Coel

What does originality mean to you?

Originality means following a spirit that only you speak the language of. 

Who was the first person in your life who made you realize you could break the rules?

My mom. She had me when she was 19, and she did a lot of things that people didn’t expect of her in the raising and rearing of a young Black man. She taught me to follow my gut and be myself.

What is the most unoriginal thing that people ask you?

“How do you come up with your ideas?”

How have you embraced your individuality this year?

I produced an online play called Circle Jerk, which streamed live on Vimeo. It was exhilarating and surprising.

Courtesy of Jeremy O. Harris.

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Campbell Addy Photographer, “High Impact” 

Whom do you consider original?

Young children, for they haven’t been altered or tainted by the world yet.

How have you embraced your individuality this year?

I’ve been dabbling in makeup a lot this year, blurring the lines in how I choose to present. It’s exciting.

What does originality mean to you?

Originality is always synonymous with authenticity. 

What is the most unoriginal thing that people ask you?

“How does it feel to be a Black artist creating in 2020?”

Photographed by Edvinas Bruzas.

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Jenny Comita Writer, “Next Stop: The World

Do you have a memory of a time when you broke the rules in a positive way? 

As a young reporter, right out of school, I crashed a celebrity wedding to get a scoop!

Whom do you consider original?

The writer and artist Maira Kalman, because she brings an infectious sense of curiosity to everything she does, from exhibiting her late mother’s underpants at the Met to making an illustration of -Gertrude Stein.

How have you embraced your individuality this year?

I’ve taken a complete pass on Zoom social life.

Courtesy of Jenny Comita.

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Rasharn Agyemang Photographer, “Turn It Out

Do you have a memory of a time when you broke the rules in a positive way?

I always wanted to photograph and style, but agents told me to focus on styling only, because they felt it would be impossible to be successful in both fields. Three years later, I did both on a cover story. 

What does originality mean to you?

Being true to yourself, being your own No. 1 supporter, never giving up, and not feeling frustrated if success seems far away.

How have you embraced your individuality this year?

I started designing furniture, and I restarted designing clothes.

Courtesy of Rasharn Agyemang.

Related: The Originals: 19 Creatives Who Transcend Categorization