A Talk with the Founder of Belladonna Magazine
Maacah Davis, founder of Belladonna Magazine, is only 23 years old. Her publication is not only the first fashion magazine in Alabama but is also the "first black woman owned print publication to hit markets in years." Born in the small West African country of Cameroon and then living in both Nigeria and Ghana, Maacah moved to Birmingham when she was 11 years old.
Fashion was never something that Maacah was genuinely passionate about. For her, everything is storytelling. One of the reasons she created Belladonna was because she wanted to see better narratives in fashion editorials. Instead of focusing solely on the products, Maacah uses the editorials and art within her magazine as a vehicle to communicate these tales. Maacah is able to find stories in almost anything.
"I chase after what makes me happy, and all [of] those together tell you the story of art," Maacah says. She takes videos and pictures and builds sets and props for Belladonna. Most recently, she started hosting a video dinner party series called “Maacah Eats.” Originally beginning as a hashtag on Maacah's Instagram and Facebook to document her unique food experiences around Birmingham, #MaacahEats quickly evolved. After realizing the hashtag’s popularity, Maacah reached out to local chefs that could help her create what she calls a unique food experience.
Maacah wanted to eat foods that could not be found anywhere else, and this concept became the topic of her video series. If people show interest in a video, she will post a simplified recipe and the chef's contact information so that anybody can enjoy the food they see. Maacah also plans to include interviews with the chefs in the videos to come. "It creates a positive and unique experience," Maacah says. “Also, it is a great excuse to dress up and have a dinner party with friends."
Maacah says that she decided to stay in Birmingham because she looks at the city as a unique place that she can help build upon. Maacah says that she already sees the impact that she is making.
"I see the potential, and I know what I can take it to," Maacah says. She found most of the people that she works with because she says that she was willing to explore Birmingham's creative capacity. She explains that she found many people through social media, a place she views as a great way to expose one's art to the surrounding community. Maacah believes the problem with Birmingham is not a lack of creative people within the city, but, instead, the problem is finding a way to get those creatives to stay.
Maacah found that people are generally responsive on social media, more so than one would expect. She believes that "when you do what you’re supposed to be doing, you'll meet who you are supposed to meet." Maacah met those creative people in Birmingham and continues to collaborate with artists of all kinds in the city.
In Belladonna's first issue, each photo and piece of artwork has the artist or photographer listed, in addition to the body art, wardrobe, jewelry, etc. featured in the piece. Each artist was included, no matter his or her medium.
"Every issue of Belladonna comes with its own set of challenges," Maacah expressed. "But pushing me to capacity introduces me to new boundaries." Maacah first knew she could keep going with Belladonna when people outside of her family would see the magazine and buy the issue. The name "Belladonna" means "beautiful woman" in Italian and is also a type of plant called deadly nightshade. The name perfectly encompasses the magazine because it shows that women can be both beautiful and powerful.
Recently, Maacah came to speak at Birmingham-Southern during common hour. Her talk was titled, "The Adventures of a Want-To-Be Mogul." Norton auditorium was packed with students only a few years younger than Maacah. After the talk, there were free issues strewn about an outside table. They were all quickly snatched by eager students. If you want a copy of Belladonna, the magazine is available around Birmingham, including Church Street Coffee, The Birmingham Museum of Art and Revelator Coffee. If you cannot make it to any of these locations, the magazine is available for order on the Belladonna website. Maacah tries to place her magazine in venues as unique as her magazine and herself—places that share art through stories.
Feature photo courtesy of the Cross Cultural Committee.