Why 'Museum Mammy' believes the feminist movement 'will never be perfect'

Dana Oliver
Beauty Director
Kimberly Drew, aka Museum Mammy, can teach us all a lot about evolving the feminist movement. (Photo: Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Fashion)

To mark the International Day of the Woman on March 8 and Women’s History Month, Yahoo Lifestyle is exploring notions of feminism and the women’s movement through a diverse series of profiles — from transgender activist Ashlee Marie Preston to conservative campus leader Karin Agness Lips — that aim to reach across many aisles. 

Anyone who has encountered Kimberly Drew would probably agree that she is a walking piece of art. The 27-year-old, who is the social media manager for The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the creative force behind the Instagram account @MuseumMammy, instantly captivates with her vibrant sartorial choices, blond-highlighted locs, and passionate yet soothing speaking voice.

While some believe the art world is still very elitist, Drew has managed to break down walls and create platforms such as Black Contemporary Art, where diverse perspectives are at the forefront and part of the ongoing conversation. Her ability to get people to “sit up and notice” is one of the reasons she was recently named a Mercedes-Benz #WeWonder visionary. This collective, which includes musician-activist Solange, designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony, and rising model Slick Woods, are creating projects that challenge social norms where race, age, gender, fashion, and tech intersect.

Yahoo Lifestyle sat down with Drew during the 2018 South by Southwest Conferences & Festivals (SXSW) to discuss how she avoids “blending in” to white spaces, the women (and man) who influence her work today, and what she believes is missing from the feminist movement.

Having launched her career before entering into institutions, Drew says she “didn’t have these infrastructural pressures to dress this way, talk this way, or act this way.” She connected with like-minded individuals during her college years at Smith, as well as through social media and Tumblr, and knew who she wanted to be.

Drew adds: “As I look back on the last six years, what was the point of importance for me was I didn’t really have people telling me I couldn’t do something. And I think one of the things that is difficult in creative fields, at large, is there are so many forces telling us we have to be a certain way to achieve a certain level of success, or this is the highest level of success that you can reach.”

She respects the art of understanding how things work traditionally (i.e. exhibition building, creating a catalog, etc.). However, as she matures, the millennial art curator wants to “bring some scrappiness to it.” Drew tells Yahoo Lifestyle that putting her own twist on things has allowed her to become better at being herself.

Kimberly Drew is a young, black creative you need to know. (Photo: Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Fashion)

Studying women creatives in art has also had a profound impact on Drew’s career and life. She credits Thelma Golden, the director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, as her biggest inspiration. “I take notes from her book all the time!” says Drew. Her list of muses also includes: Valerie Cassel Oliver, a curator of modern and contemporary art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; the Whitney’s assistant curator Rujeko HockleyRyan Dennis, the public art director of Project Row Houses; and the Hammer Museum’s assistant curator Erin Christovale (someone whose life she wishes could live.)

Drew reveals the man who has recently shaped her work is fellow #WeWonder visionary and art curator at London’s Serpentine, Hans Ulrich Obrist. She says, “He’s become this golden figure in my mind because he really is a person that leads with intuition, challenges institutions, comes at it with this square-peg-in-a-round-hole mentality, which is how I’ve done my career, because this is what feels right.”

Mulling over what’s occurring in the world today, Drew naturally observes through her lens as a lover of art. When asked what does feminism mean to her, she responds: “It’s like architecture — it can be all around us but it really is up to us to understand infra-structurally how it can hold us up. I think oftentimes we navigate and don’t see all of the beauty that’s possible. But if we stop to look at what a feminist can do for the world, we would be better uplifted, supported. And then that way it can be so organic.”

And if there’s anything this young, black creative can impart on those working to evolve the feminist movement, Drew says they need to understand that we haven’t figured it out and there needs to be more sensitivity.

She explains: “It’s not perfect. It will never be perfect, but it doesn’t have to hurt. We have to keep flexible and in flux because all of these identities are constantly on a spectrum and all of these oppressions are constantly on a spectrum — there are always new ways in which people get cut out. As we are in this moment of accelerated production of ideas, objects, we have to understand in which the way a lot of these frameworks of society operate are going to be flawed… The more right we think we are, the more that it hurts other people.”

Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for nonstop inspiration delivered fresh to your feed, every day.