Even in the roughest of times, 22 year old Aurora native, Udeme Salter, finds the inspiration and motivation to express herself through art. She talks to RFLX 5280 about loss, acceptance, and focusing the future.
Udeme Salter knows a thing or two about the relationship between Black people and the measures of beauty around the world. As 1 of 8 children born to a Nigerian mother and African-American father, the 22-year-old fashion and retail merchandising student experiences it firsthand. At the start of our conversation, she tells me about her struggles with her own standard of beauty.
“When I’m alone or with people who understand natural hair, I feel so beautiful,” she offers. “But when I’m out with my friends and they’ve all got their weaves…” There’s no disdain in her voice, only the purest of frustration. “My skin is more chocolate-colored, I’m thicker, and I have this nappy Nigerian hair…the guys I like are looking for that kind of girl– long straight hair and caramel colored skin.” She sweeps her gorgeous twist locs over one shoulder and continues. “I cut my hair off when I was 19 on Mother’s Day. I wanted to learn to love myself as I am. It was a challenge, even though I never felt more beautiful until I went natural.”
As an art student at The Art Institute in Denver, it’s interesting that Ms.Salter also pledged Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. Greek life isn’t common in the art world. “I was definitely the weird one on my line. With me being the Ace – the number 1 – I always had to stand out and come up with ideas, so my artistic side helped me out in that sense. I may have had more of an open mind than the other girls, but it was a beautiful experience. It was something I’ve always wanted to do since high school. I have family on both sides that are Deltas, so it’s kinda like the family Alma Mater.”
I ask about the artwork she set up in the great room of her family’s South Aurora house and it’s clear that much of her inspiration comes from her emotions. “My mom passed away a few years ago while I was a Fine Arts major. Everything I felt really came out through my art.”
Each piece evokes a triumphant sadness and the chaos of her grief. I am particularly moved with her Photoshop work. Although she switched majors and studies fashion and retail merchandising, visual art is one of Udeme’s strengths.
As great of a visual artist as she is, fashion styling is her passion. “Originally, I studied fashion design, but I did NOT like sewing class,” she laughs. “I really love to style and I love other people’s ideas but I love the way I put things together a little more than I like the way other people do.” She’s not boasting. The words are sure and true. “I would really love to work in a showroom.”
When I ask about her other dreams her answer is steady and simple. “I want to always be passionate about creating.”
What’s on her playlist?
“SBTRKT, Solange, Robyn, Jazz, hip hop east coast old school, a little bit of dubstep, and of course, Beyonce.”
What does your style say about you?
“It says that I am cultured, artistic, daring, eccentric, comfortable, and confident.”
Her style icon:
“If you look in my closet right now, you’ll mostly find…” :
“Lots of scarves, cardigans, maxi skirts, cut-off shorts, flats and sandals.”
Which trend(s) do you dislike most?
“Faux fur boots with or without a heel.”
What are your favorite places to shop in Denver?
“The Arc, Unique Thrift Store, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, Aldo, and H&M”