Jean-Michel Basquiat's niece, Jessica Kelly, recently walked in Coach's Fall 2020 runway show, which featured a collection of pieces inspired by the late artist. After the event, Kelly, a New Jersey–based beauty entrepreneur, was joined by her mother, Lisane Basquiat, the sister of Jean-Michel Basquiat, for an interview with Vogue.
During her time with the publication, Kelly was questioned about her runway modeling debut. While she had done photoshoots in the past, this was the first time she'd ever walked in an official runway show.
“I can’t even call it overwhelming, because I think that I handled it pretty well,” she said.
For the event, Kelly donned a grey knee-length skirt, a leather cream button-down, a burgundy trench coat, Coach sneakers, and a brown leather handbag featuring Basquiat’s signature crown motifs and a 1980's piece titled Untitled (Car Crash).
“I’m assuming it represents the time that Jean-Michel got hit by a car when he was seven years old,” Lisane said of that particular piece. “It’s a beautiful work, and it’s absolutely beautiful on that bag. It just feels surreal to see my daughter walking a show wearing something branded with Jean-Michel’s work on it. It’s just incredible.”
As talk progressed, Kelly recalled one of the first times she was asked about her uncle, whom she never met as he passed away before she was born. She remembered going to school in the sixth grade wearing a Basquiat-modified hoodie.
“My teacher flipped out," she said. "‘Where did you get that? That’s so cool. That’s my favorite artist.'”
Kelly went on to add that she mostly learned about her uncle through stories from her mother and other family members. “The stories weren’t about art—they were about him pranking people and doing things like that, just really normal things at home,” she said.
In the same vein, Lisane remembers her brother more for his personal behavior as opposed to his artistic prowess.
“The stories we tell are different," she stated. "They’re stories of being at home; they’re stories of childhood. We’re not talking about Jean-Michel the painter as much as we’re talking about Jean-Michel the uncle, Jean-Michel the brother, or Jean-Michel the son.”
Lisane concluded that those who often ask about her brother in terms of his work can find answers through his art.
“It’s almost like he left a journal," she said. "If you want to know what Jean-Michel thought about something, just look at his work, and I’m quite sure that you’ll find the answer to it.”
Follow on over to Vogue for more on Jean-Michel Basquiat from family members Jessica Kelly and Lisane Basquiat.