Missy X

by Gillian Sagansky

I Know All the Interesting People
“Press the second buzzer. We’re one flight up,” says the charming British voice on the other end of the phone. I’m in the heart of Brooklyn and the voice belongs to Ros Okusanya, who I have been communicating with over the last few days to set up a play date/interview with her 12-year-old daughter, Missy. By the time I reach the landing, Missy is there to greet me, holding a rainbow M&M cookie and sipping on a grape-flavored juice box. She’s wearing jeggings and a rainbow T-shirt, her pink-streaked hair pulled back into a ponytail, a yellow Lego piece hanging from her right ear.

“You can have one,” she offers, noticing me eyeing her cookie, bringing over the box of Chips Ahoy. Cookies in hand, Missy X (“the ‘X’ is a kiss!”) leads me to the ultimate crafts table, cluttered with bright crayons, markers, note pads, and stickers. This table is Missy’s office, where she creates for her business Tees by Missy X—a T-shirt and bag line featuring her original drawings of celebrities that she started at age nine, after showing her mother a portrait she drew of Karl Lagerfeld. “I brought it into work to show my colleagues, and everyone said ‘You need to put that on a shirt!’ So we did,” Okusanya recalls. “Then top models saw the T-shirts and started wearing them and then it all just happened.”

Just three years later, Missy is signed to IMG (they plan to take her brand worldwide and represent her as a designer) and has a host of impressive clients—Wiz Khalifa was her first commission, Azealia Banks retweets her, and a number of supermodels can be seen wearing her designs backstage during fashion week. She is currently being courted by some of the biggest names in fashion to feature her drawings on their clothes. She thinks of herself as a designer, less so an artist, and eventually wants to place her illustrations on rings, cups and necklaces. “When I think of an artist I think of Leonardo da Vinci, and other ancient people,” she tells me.

We’re hanging out near her crafts table, flipping through her sketchbook filled with portraits of Donatella Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, and Obama. “Show her your Anna Dello Russo!” calls her mom from across the room. “How do you even know who she is?” I ask, impressed as I am surprised that a 12-year-old would know (or care) who Anna Dello Russo is. “I know all the interesting people—like fashion designers and stuff—because I look through my mother’s magazines,” she explains, pointing to a pile in the corner. “That’s Wiz Khalifa!” she says when we flip to his portrait. “He contacted me and asked me to draw a Bob Marley for him.
I went to his concert VIP and Amber Rose had to move out of the picture,” she says proudly, reliving the memory. And Justin Bieber, who she turned down for a portrait request? “He’s too traditional. You have to be different!”

While “different” is a word she most certainly owns, she is also a pre-teen, facing the tribulations and cattiness that come with middle school. “When people found out about what I was doing they were like ‘Oh my god!’ and then they wanted to be my friend,” she says of the kids at school who had teased her before she met success. But Missy is resilient and often escapes into her own world of creativity, Tumblr, and endless collections.

“What are these?” I ask of tiny Japanese toy figurines on her desk. “I have a lot more of them!” she says running into her room and bringing out an entire tub filled to the rim. “What else do you collect?” I ask, intrigued. “I have a bunch of nerd glasses.” Nerd glasses?

She guides me into her room, apologizing for the mess, and brings out a shoebox full of neon-colored non-prescription glasses that we take turns trying on. “But I also love Hello Kitty and Supreme hats,” she says, the glasses now old news, and leads me to a bookcase that houses the masterpieces from both collections.

“Supreme hats—do you skate?”

“YES!” she shrieks, sprinting into the living room to dig up two skateboards that her mother has tucked away. “I almost broke my spine the other day,” she brags, proceeding to mount the board and mimic her fall.

“Want to meet my gecko?” Hmmm…“Well I have two. I’m only going to show you Y-3 [named after Yohji Yamamoto] because the other one bites.” She lets him run loose around her shoulders.

“Well she’s definitely opened up to you,” says Ros, as dinner hour approaches and our play date draws to a close, with Missy performing
a twerk routine for me in her living room. “She learns all of this at school—from god knows who.”

Would she ever draw twerk master Miley? “No.” Missy says. “I don’t know what she’s doing but she’s just too young for whatever it is.” Ah, such wisdom.

Photographer: David Agbodji for Heartofbullstudio.com. Stylist: Georgia Mitropoulos. Hair: Roy Liu. Makeup: U-ki Nakamura for heartofbullstudio.com. Producer: Seona Taylor-Bell.