Chika Oranika wasn't afraid to strip down to her skivvies to appear in the latest round of Calvin Klein's #MyCalvins ad campaign. The 22-year-old rapper is no stranger to the internet; She went viral last autumn for criticizing Kanye West's endorsement of right wing commentator Candace Owens. The best part? She did it in a freestyle over his own "Jesus Walks" beat.
“I’ve never gotten a reception like that to any musical thing I’ve done, and I realized I was good at it,” she told TIME in April. “I just wanted to get better from that day forward. I genuinely began to feel like, ‘If this is something I want to do with my life, I want to be the best at it.’ So I kept just posting more videos, writing every single night for a year, just to brush up on the skills and that’s kind of how I fell into it.” Soon after, she landed her campaign with Calvin Klein, too.
“Chika’s lyrics instantly caught our attention. We loved that she built her own profile and we wanted to share her raw talent with the world. She wasn’t afraid to put her most authentic self out there and that made her a perfect fit for Calvin Klein – she’s real and unapologetic," Cedric Murac, EVP, Global Creative, Calvin Klein tells Refinery29 via email.
Below Chika chats with Refinery about representation, preparing for her campaign, and rising above online backlash.
Refinery29: How did you react when Calvin Klein reached out about the campaign?
Chika: I was shocked because I had no idea they knew who I was since I didn’t have a song out yet. It was a happy surprise.
How did you prepare for the shoot? Did you give yourself a pep talk?
It didn’t require a pep talk, but I did clear my mind that morning thinking about what I was doing, who it was going to help, and why I was doing it — in case any last minute nerves did pop up.
Your campaign has received a lot of vitriol online just for being body positive. What do you say to the naysayers?
They picked the wrong one to root against. I think the naysayers are a group of people who like to lose bets.
Do you think your campaign was an important step for the fashion industry?
Yes, because I think it opens up the floor for a conversation and dialogue regarding media representation and diversity. Bodies of different shapes and sizes shouldn’t be censored or hidden. In order to be the change that we want to see, we need to put our best foot forward. This was a great move for Calvin Klein and the industry as a whole.
How loud did you scream when you saw your billboard? What was the first thought you had when you saw it?
I haven’t seen it in person yet but I did wake up to a text from someone in the city sending me a photo of it. It was a very proud moment if I do say so myself.
Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.