Danielle Mareka Murray Wants to Change the World
She’s a student, model and activist with a killer sense of style and a commitment to social justice. Guyanese American beauty Danielle Mareka Murray moved from small-town suburbia to New York City to attend NYU, but outside of school she’s got a great set of extracurriculars. You can find her modeling for brands like MILK Makeup and Nike, or running NYU’s Planned Parenthood chapter. We spoke to Murray about why she wants to change the status quo, and why she loves fashion as a creative outlet.
You were born in Brooklyn and raised in Guyana. How did both places influence you?
Danielle Mareka Murray: My mom’s family is from Guyana and I’m a first-generation child. My mom and dad separated when I was super young, so I come from a very female-centric household living with my mom, grandma and aunt. I grew up there until I was five or six and then I moved here to a very white town called Pleasantville. I had an accent and said things very differently to a lot of people and became hyper-aware of it. I started to take on a lot of white ideals, and because of that I’ve been trying to celebrate more diversity and get more in touch with my culture again. When I got to NYU I started running track and had a lot of girls who had similar experiences to me and we shared those experiences. I’ve been learning about how a lot of things are constructed around race, I have been taking classes about it. It impacts me day to day.
Your Instagram profile says you’re an anomaly, what do you mean by that?
I do a lot of different things and have a lot of different passions, a lot of them are things that people wouldn’t expect of me. I used to be really focused on athletics and wanted to go all-American in track. I also started a chapter of Planned Parenthood on campus, we work with the Planned Parenthood in Soho. It’s the first national chapter in New York City. I take activism really seriously.
You modeled during New York Fashion Week this past season, what did you do?
I was in a presentation for Kim Shui which was awesome. I never really imagined getting into a fashion week show. It was pretty intimidating at first. It incorporated art which was really cool, we were walking on an installation that involved water and was very avant-garde.
What do you like about the fashion world?
I think fashion gives me a creative outlet. I really struggle sometimes with the normative academic path and fashion allows me to be more creative. It gives me an ability to express myself and participate in creative concepts.
What are some of the favorite shoots you’ve been in?
Definitely one of my favorite ones is my MILK shoot. Everything was beautiful, simple and ethereal. They knew what to put on me, I think purple looks really good on me. It was a super smooth shoot.
I also really liked my Nike shoot – it was centered around female empowerment. It was really cool to hang out with other women and we had a chance to talk about social justice and share experiences.
This was one of my favorite creative and fun sets. I previously worked with this photographer on a launch shoot and after that she wanted us to collaborate. She’s truly phenomenal!
What are you studying and how does that align with what you want to do in your future?
I am gravitating towards sociology because it teaches me more about human rights. I am trying to apply for fellowships right now. I want to study the criminal justice system; right now I am learning a lot about the censorship of history in America. For example, I never learned in school the large scale of injustice that’s been going on. I learn about how all minority groups have suffered tremendously in America. I learned about the KKK and how they infiltrated the police. For me it’s hard to understand that an organization like that is still around. I want to create a platform where I advocate for social justice.
You’re wearing a necklace that says “I Can’t Breathe” can you tell me about that?
This woman was selling handmade jewelry in Washington Square Park saying things like Black Lives Matter or “I Can’t Breathe.” I’m trying to really to inform myself because I realized that I’ve been really ignorant to race relations in America. When I saw this necklace, it reminded me of police brutality and why I am passionate counteracting it. I really want to entrench myself in the field and make a difference. I’ve created a safe space for women on campus. I realize the world is not all rosy, but we can work little by little to change that.
I noticed you change your look a lot. Why do you love to updating your appearance and what are your favorite products?
I just get really bored and I think it’s really fun to change things up. Self-expression is important to me, and me playing around with my appearance is really fun. Regarding beauty, I really focus on my skin and try to keep things natural and minimal. I use things like toner, and I use baby lotion religiously. I also love using aloe leaves, it helps lighten blemishes and scars. When I keep it minimal that’s when my skin is the clearest.
What’s the best part of living in NYC?
There’s always a surprise, always an event. It can almost be a little distracting at times. I would say I love the individualism. I am comfortable enough to be myself, especially in my appearance. In my hometown, life was so heteronormative and people didn’t stray from others, people dressed the same. I never want to look like someone else, I really like the fact that I can go out wearing whatever I want without anyone being like ‘whoa that’s different.”