29 Nov 2020
Life & Culture

Up Close With Chrostin: “Gen-Z Culture Has Everything an Average Boomer Is Afraid Of”

We teamed up with Tommy Jeans to capture the new generation of upcoming artists and media personalities who have the power to change our society and perspective on life by using their influence for good. In collaboration with the iconic denim giant, we portrayed five influential front runners in their favorite Tommy Jeans look and had an introspective talk about their personal motives, view on our society, and future plans. We already spoke with Flo Windey, Chris Bogaert and Miss Angel. Now, it’s time for one of our favorite cartoonists and all round creative; Christina De Witte, aka Chrostin.

This year has been an important year for Christina De Witte. The 24-year-old creative, who’s known for her hilarious alter-ego Chrostin, used the lockdown to rethink and change her perspective on life and our society. Christina isn’t just another influencer trying to gain thousands of likes but instead uses her platform to address important topics. We talked to her about feminism, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the fine line between being critical and funny.

You’re close to 100k followers on Instagram. Do you see that as affirmation or is it extra pressure?

I’ve never thought about that. It’s not that I want to come across as if I’m super humble, but it’s just because I really do not care. There were definitely moments in the past where it was really important to me because I wanted to prove myself, but now it can be stolen from me, and I wouldn’t care.

Corona really made me realize what’s important and whatnot. My family, friends, and partner are the most important things in my life, and I do live for moments like this, but I’m absolutely not active on social media. If I post one comic a month, that would already be a lot. I’m very contrary to everything Instagram stands for. They want you to post as much as possible because that lets people stay longer on the app. Even if I only post a comic every three months, I notice that people stay because people understand that I’m a human being.

Your comics are funny but critical as well. How do you try to find a balance between humor and criticism because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but you want to bring across your point?

That’s a great nuance because that’s the difference between a political cartoon, which is very socially critical with a layer of humor, and what I do. I think it’s reversed with me. I always start from a positive point of view, humor, or something that happened to me, and then I think about how I’m going to portray that.

There’s one rule that’s super important to me: always end with a positive note. I don’t want to insult or target anybody, even when I don’t agree with their vision. I would never call them out, but I’m still a human being with an opinion, and there are certain things I simply disagree with. However, being silent is picking the side of the oppressor, so I’m not going to do that either way. It’s indeed difficult to find the right balance, but I think I’m doing pretty well.

Your alter-ego Chrostin is portrayed in black and white. Is there a deeper meaning behind it or is it just a style choice?

I’m just very lazy, and I always loved fine line comics. When I scanned my drawings, they were automatically black and white. Eventually, I continued doing that and it became my signature style — I don’t know a lot of people that still draw in black and white — partly because I don’t prefer coloring. It’s just a time-consuming process, I’ve never done color studies, and it’s a waste of time for me.

I’m super minimalistic when it comes to my comics because less is sometimes more. The fewer lines I’ve drawn, the better because that means that I came to the point. I don’t need shadows, colors, etc to make my message come across. That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate someone else’s style, and I have a lot of respect for every artist, but it’s just not for me.

There are some comics of yours with a bit of color. When do you decide to add some color to your drawings?

I do it when I feel like it and that’s mostly just a detail. My friends push me to use more color because that pops and my drawing style allows that too. I’m not super fond of color and vice versa, that means that everyone can fill it how they want. If I had to colorize Chrostin, I would give her a darker skin tone because I’m a woman of color. That doesn’t take away that other people can’t give her another skin tone in their mind because Chrostin is a universal character.

You often use recognizable situations from your daily life as inspiration. Does it make it easier for you to share these personal feelings or struggles because you can hide behind Chrostin?

100%! It’s easier to channel all your energy in a third person because it’s not you. You can be angry, sad, vulnerable, … and that’s my way of expressing how I feel. Chrostin is my combination of a diary and an artistic outlet and helps me to keep up with my life. I’m extremely forgetful and never know when I did what, but when I scroll and see a comic, I know exactly how I felt that day.

I can perfectly reimagine how I was drawing my cartoon and which emotion was going through my body because it really takes me back to the moment of creation. When I had my breakup a few years ago, I could leave it behind once I made a comic. It’s my processing process.

In 2018, you published your book The Ultimate Survival Guide to Being a Girl, where you answer some life questions. Was the writing process of that book confrontational for you?

The book is quite special because I didn’t make it consciously. I was only nineteen or twenty, so writing a book that should help teenagers is very ambitious and somehow a bit arrogant. But I learned a lot from that process and mostly felt that it’s not my favorite thing to do. I did it, the book took a lot of my time but that’s it. When I look back, I see so many things I’d change, and that’s not only because I’m very critical of myself, but because it could be better.

On the other hand, I have to screw back a bit and recognize that I was very young. Five years later, I see that I can do better, and I do it better. The process itself wasn’t very confrontational because I was still in puberty and was questioning who I was. Now, I know that I’m ready for the next chapter of my book, and I’d love to work on a graphic novel. This time, I would center it around my personal experiences and translate them into a visual story. Ironically, I’m not really a reader myself …

How far are you in the process of creating your first graphic novel?

Normally, I should have been in Thailand right now to do some research and capture the scenery of my story. My boyfriend is a photographer, and he’d take pictures, so I could create a realistic image of the environment where the story takes place. I’m still figuring out the plot and hope to work on it soon.

Generation Z is very impulsive and ready for revolution. Do you recognize yourself as someone in her early twenties in this new generation?

I’m born in 1996, so technically I’m part of Generation Z. I do feel that I’m slightly part of the millennial generation, although I don’t want to associate myself with them. Millennials are fucking boring, for some reason: all love Harry Potter, throw corona-parties, and eat avocado on a daily. They love normie memes instead of edgy memes, and I can’t live with that. (laughs)

I think Gen Z-culture is amazing and has everything an average boomer is afraid of. I just love to kick boomers in the shins because it’s so funny. For example, ‘Karen’ or ‘OK boomer’ triggers people, and I live for that. It doesn’t matter what you do or say, your presence is — for them — already a threat to their existence. I do identify myself more like someone from Generation Z, but I swing between Gen Z and the Millennials.

Talking about revolution, you used your platform a lot to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned these past months?

That it took too long before we had this conversation about inequality. Maybe even too long. I learned that my black friends have to undergo so much more than we could initially imagine. I always knew that it wasn’t easy for people of color in Belgium and the rest of the world, but feeling this unanimity for two weeks was a great feeling.

I was quite exhausted because I was occupied with it from the moment I stood up until I went to sleep, but it was what I was supposed to do. I didn’t have a choice. If you want to take it up for others, you need to completely go for it. You can’t make a difference between the people you want to defend and not.

I’ve had discussions with people that say ‘ALL LIVES MATTER’ and that found me egoistical because I went to the Black Lives Matter protest in Brussels. Nothing happened afterward. The number of infections didn’t increase, but above all, there’s no structural change for the problem. It’s great that there’s a representation, that there are more people of color on our screen and in mainstream media, and it’s great that people stepped back from their racist thoughts. But that’s not the only thing that needs to happen. There has to be structural change from scratch. You can’t cut down a tree and say the problem is solved when you don’t take the root out of the ground.

When I try to explain this to others, it’s sometimes very difficult to grasp, but it’s made like this, it’s built like this. And that was another moment where I realized that this wouldn’t be solved if we don’t show any resistance. I can’t live with that, not over our dead body!

You’ve described yourself as a feminist in the past. What is the definition of a feminist for you?

Feminism has to be intersexual. You can’t call yourself a feminist and make a choice who you want to support. White feminism is something that occurs mostly in America and means that white women deserve more power, money, … but that’s only in favor of a white woman and keeps the vicious circle turning.

Feminism, pur sang, is the equality between women and men. That’s the most basic definition. But if you don’t defend the rights of trans women, poor women, disabled women, sick women, …, you’re not getting it. Feminism rights are human rights. When someone asks me if I see myself as a feminist, I always tell them that I don’t see myself as a feminist because I am one.

I don’t understand why this word sounds so silly to many. It’s probably because some people misused the word or are very radical in their thoughts, but that’s not feminism for me. J.K. Rowling is not a feminist for me and even though she might inspire a big part of the word with her books, I haven’t read a single Harry Potter book in my life, she doesn’t have the right to make such wrong statements. She’s the textbook example of everything feminism isn’t. As long as your feminism isn’t intersexual … it’s just a no!

Christina is wearing boots, knit sweater and high rise jeans from the latest collection of Tommy Jeans.

Photography by Ines Vansteenkiste-Muylle
Productionstyling and creative direction by ENFNTS TERRIBLES StudioDries Vriesacker
Makeup and hair by Gladys Ferro
Interview and text by Maxim Meyer-Horn, assisted by Nelke Roose
Photography assistant: Syntyche Boda

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