top of page

A Utopian Society Full of Black Women

An Interview with Taira Rice by Xime Izquierdo Ugaz

Taira Rice is an artist and world-maker based in New York. She creates her drawings using pencils, pens, watercolor pencils, brushes, and watercolor paper. Many of her characters are taken from people in her real life, forming memetic worlds in which the Black queer folks in her illustrations are free to be. 

Xime Izquierdo Ugaz: What is going on for Taira at the moment? How would you define her, what is she most passionate about right now?


Taira Rice: I would define myself as being very self-reflective right now and eager to dissolve any limits I’ve set on myself. I’m most passionate about creating a real world for my characters to live in and to be able to tell their stories from. Although I feel like my characters have enough presence to stand on their own, I think it’s important to not have them all separate; I want them to be able to join together at some point within a narrative in order to truly build their community and be able to represent the love and support that the actual Black femme/non-binary community has created.


Xime Izquierdo Ugaz: How exciting to hear about the comic, to think of the characters coming together! How does one of your characters usually come to life? Are they based on real people?


Taira Rice: I usually think of a pose or situation/environment I want them in first, and once I’ve established that, I then think of what kind of person would be experiencing it. Since there’s no one kind of person that would be doing a certain thing in a certain place, a lot of my characters are a unique combination of all the types of people I meet everyday. I am inspired by the faces I walk by everyday and the faces that I interact with daily (friends, family, schoolmates).

I think of what kind of personality they have, where they’re going, who they’re seeing, what’s their name, etc. All of these details down to the freckles on people’s faces give me a plethora of references for my characters.

Xime Izquierdo Ugaz: I've been following your work for a while, always excited to see what else you have cooking up. When did you start drawing? What are some of the themes you keep coming back to in your work and why?


Taira Rice: My earliest memory of drawing is in preschool, so I’ve been drawing for the majority of my life. I’ve always drawn mostly women, and at first it started out as me just loving and studying the female form; I wanted to be able to depict it in a way that I thought represented not only my own body but the bodies of other women so that they feel seen.

As I’ve gotten older, I see my art playing with themes like sexual liberty, the duality of women, and how we can represent ourselves in millions of ways. I want to represent the powerful yet sultry nature of African-American women and how we deserve to be seen as the multifaceted beings that we are. After I started to develop my own style and way of viewing the world, I started to want to create my own world of women that was based on love, friendship, and unapologetic confidence in oneself and each other. I also wanted to be able to depict the daily life of Black women and speak not only on large issues in our community but also the everyday situations and experiences, good and bad, that shape us as individuals and make our stories unique.

Xime Izquierdo Ugaz: The unapologetic expression and depiction of Black queer women is deeply present in your work. As you say, in media these stories are often not depicted, and it's refreshing to see queer people of color's regular daily lives, hanging out in their room, playing with their cats. It's needed, especially when a lot of the content we see in the media is portraying suffering, do you see your work as combatting some of that? Have you seen any depictions of Black queer folks in media recently that felt real?


Taira Rice: I do feel like I am combatting those stereotypes because although I know that bad things have happened to queer Black women and people in general, that should not be the only part of the story that is told. I keep coming back to these themes because they not only help me flesh out feelings that I have about myself, but are also themes that are often overlooked or not seen by people outside of the queer Black femme/non-binary reality; people should see and try to understand the struggles and beauty within our lives. 

Some depictions of real queer Black life that I’ve seen have been the art that my peers are making. I’m kind of in my own world a lot and don’t really stay on social media, so I’m usually late when it comes to new things coming out in the world, but I’m lucky enough to have friends and colleagues in the art world that make work about their own experiences and really display a raw image of themselves and their community. Their work inspires me to stay true to myself and my message.


Xime Izquierdo Ugaz: What are some of the stories you are excited to connect in your comics?

Taira Rice:  I’m excited to explore ideas about gaining self-worth, finding your own path in life. I’m also interested in platonic and sexual love between women, not being afraid of yourself, and taking risks in order to broaden your perspective on the world. Right now I’m working on a story about a deep love between friends and a galaxy that separates them.

Xime Izquierdo Ugaz: What is J.U.G and how did it begin?


Taira Rice: J.U.G (Just Us Girls) is a world I created for all of my characters to live in. It’s a utopian society full of Black women where the focus is on creativity and the act of supporting one another. It’s a perfectly imperfect world where people come as they are and are accepted for being themselves and where the only rules are to be kind, loyal, and uplifting. Not to say that nothing can go wrong in this world, but it’s more about the attitude they have towards problem solving and an overall consciousness of their surroundings and a respect for each other’s pasts, presents, and futures.

This idea came to mind when I was pretty young but has become more realized within the past two years; I’ve always drawn women coming together and just being themselves. I wasn’t always as optimistic as I am now, and I’ve gotten to this point by not only drawing women who looked and acted positively, but also believing and knowing that this idea isn’t imaginary. It is a real thing that can be experienced and lived in by building your own community and uplifting those around you.