Quenlin Blackwell | That Burning Side Stitch, Those Physical and Invisible Connections

Via Issue 188, The Eternal Flame Issue!

Written by

Bree Castillo

Photographed by

Sarah Pardini

Styled by

Michy Foster

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SHAWNA WU top and skirt, ACNE STUDIOS necklace and bracelet, PAULA CANOVAS DEL VAS bag, and PETAR PETROV sunglasses.

We are never in one place—our physical bodies might be, but our consciousness is harder to bind to the nonsensical limitations of time and space. Like fire, we are always reaching, breathing, longing, looking for something to feed on and to be freed from. With our arms constantly stretched wide, grasping everything we hold dear all at once, I ask Quenlin Blackwell if she's finding herself in the present—is she truly attached to every moment, aware of every breath and the silence in between? She replies, “In society or on the internet?”

SERPENTI dress, STREETZIES shoes, and USELESS OBJECT lip ring.

For Blackwell, born into the cyberage—a life of never-ending feeds, of parasocial relationships, of communication through the motion of fingertips—she lives in two worlds. Like most of us, the 22-year-old’s first trace on the interweb might be the Facebook page that she created at age 8, before parents had even heard of The Social Network. It was the 2000s, where before we knew long division, we had Tumblr to show us...well, a lot more. But unlike many of us, using our newfound digital presence to poke our crushes or forward email chains of bad luck, Blackwell made people laugh.

On the late video app Vine (RIP), a precursor to today’s TikTok, Blackwell amassed a following with her sweetly timed comedy and relatable quips of existentialism with all but six seconds. But the downfall of Vine didn’t see Blackwell succumb to the inevitable ubiquity of trends. No, instead she continues to comment on culture, never straying far from herself, evolving as fast as the algorithm. Today, Blackwell’s followers tune in via Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and now Twitch, privy to wherever her mind is that day and the silliness that might ensue. 


And the fanfare is greatly deserved because she is funny. Blackwell is the type of funny that is self-aware, introspective, and analytical. For her, comedy might be as spiritual as self-reflection. “The way that I continue to stay funny is just to exist in reality, and observe and think when I’m observing,” she shares, “and come to conclusions and pull out my phone and talk about those conclusions I came to.” I share that her process sounds almost philosophical. “I don’t think it is,” she laughs. “It’s just how you make a joke.” Some recent conclusions Blackwell has come to are, “early internet access is DEEP FRYING the youth,” “existing is fucking horrific,” and “we need to STONE whoever started the ‘pads are gross and tampons are superior’ discourse” via Twitter (sorry, I mean X). 

Blackwell has now found herself streaming on Twitch, where users can watch and interact in real-time. With the immediacy of the platform, she is navigating a new way of connection that’s almost as intimate as sitting in a room with friends. But should we have this much access to someone? Can there really be a long-lasting connection through a screen? “If your intent is to make money and get people obsessed with you, and it’s all ego-based, then it’s bad, and it’s scary,” Blackwell considers. “But if you use the internet and Twitch and streaming to build another community for people to exist, then things are going to be okay.” Questioning developments like live streaming and VR is like asking if innovation is also inherently evil. So maybe it is about blaming the player, not the game? 

KASIA KUCHARSKA top and ACNE STUDIOS pants and shoes.

Blackwell is immersed and ruling the cyber sphere, yes, but she is also proving that the unexamined life can still be one worth living. She notes that she continues to find healing through nature, always returning to it as a reminder of what is real, to feel her existence through blades of grass. She says, “The internet is an algorithm. It is not a person, and it doesn’t care about how its heart feels because it doesn’t have one. It cares about how many clicks it has.” Blackwell, who does in fact have a passionate and blazing heart, doesn’t care about the clicks at all. She reflects, “I used to be so scared of failure that I didn’t realize that not doing anything at all would make a worse feeling which is fucking regret.”

With fearless abandon, then, Blackwell will soon release her first clothing collection, which she describes as “fun clothes,” inspired by hysteric glamor and childlike technicolor. This will mark the first product Blackwell has ever released solely as herself, not an ad or lively vessel for someone else. She confesses, “That’s another thing that I want for my future...to not be moved by the fear of failure rather than hope for the future.” And the thing about her is that she will never do anything halfway, which might be why she hasn’t released any of the 60 songs she’s written and teased for years. She shares, “I’ll release music when I’m ready to do it and am proud of the product that I can deliver completely.”

DSQUARED2 coat and shorts and SONORA boots.

No stranger to screens, handheld, and now panoramic, Blackwell shares that she attends acting classes three times a week. It is through the kinetic energy of deeply transposing emotions from subject to viewer that Blackwell yearns for. Moments where reality drifts and all you do is sit in the moment and feel the release from the constraints of daily life. She confesses, “The universe—whatever the fuck this all is—I feel put me here to...give people a break.” Not just to entertain, but also to connect in the same way she is vulnerable online. “I don’t think impact is through virality, as much as people swear it is,” she says. “I think that human impact is from the soul. So, I feel like the way that I will impact the future is by moving people with my heart and theirs. And I feel like I am going to do that through acting.”

ADOLFO SANCHEZ coat and RUI bodysuit.

Following her heart is something Blackwell will continue to endlessly kindle. And when living in two worlds, one of ceaseless noise and another with moments of isolation, it might be hard to find a home in both. But she is on the way to creating a haven of love irl and online. “I think of my ego as the hurt kid inside of me,” she shares. “And I’ll close my eyes and think of myself as a kid, and when I feel like my heart is closing, I’ll think of my older self hugging my ego. How I keep my heart open is to not let my ego close in, and figure out ways to allow myself to feel safe enough to keep it open.” 

Quenlin Blackwell is living everyone’s dream, but what’s her own? “My dream,” she says, “is to wake up comfortable in my spirit, and not to feel like I have another task to conquer, another person to become. My dream is to be surrounded by joy.” And she reminds us that maybe when the fyp isn’t for you anymore, you can always log off.

ACNE STUDIOS dress, RENE CAOVILLA shoes, and VITALY bracelet.

This interview was completed prior to the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike.

Photographed by Sarah Pardini

Styled by Michy Millions 

Written by Bree Castillo

Hair: Asia Trebian

Makeup: Rachel Goodwin at A-Frame Agency.

Flaunt Film: Isaac Dektor

Production Assistant: Chloe Cussen

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Quenlin Blackwell, Bree Castillo, Sarah Pardini, Michy Foster Flaunt Magazine, Issue 188, The Eternal Flame Issue, Acne Studios, Kasia Kuscharska, Shawna Wu, Paula Canovas Del Vas, Petar Petrov