Born and raised in NYC, Nova A. is a boundary breaking published model, actor, and multi- disciplinary artist who authentically speaks about navigating the industry whilst navigating their intersectional identity. Growing up without positive or accurate representation of Queer, Muslim, Bangladeshis galvanized Nova to be the representation they sought. They have since done what others told them was nearly impossible; walking NYFW2020, getting signed as a petite, curve model, and making their acting debut Off-Broadway.
Esther Lee is a queer/gender fluid, Korean-American multifaceted artist with a concentration in photography/digital art. They were born and raised in Queens, NY and their work often centers the intersectional/BIQPOC identities/narratives among the Asian Diaspora. Lee was the photographer and Creative Director of “After the Incision”, published by Adolescent Content; a photo essay by Dena Igusti and Lee based on Igusti's book “Cut Woman” which explores what it means for Igusti to live with the trauma of female genital mutilation.
Tell me the story of how you met. What do you remember thinking about one another?
Nova: I found Esther to be really warm and kind, not realizing the flirty eyes they were giving me. Something I couldn’t put my finger on stuck out to me about Esther, and then I later found out they were ~gay~.
Esther: Nova was auditioning for a role in an off-Broadway production I was co-producing, but I already had a crush on them. I was kind of nervous because I was meeting them for the first time. I was like omg I can’t believe they’re here in front of me.
How would each of you describe your relationship? What’s your favorite thing about your relationship?
Nova: Dynamic, perpetual growth, full of laughter, creative, invigorating. My favorite thing is that it makes me look forward to the future.
Esther: Our relationship is wholesome and comforting. My fav part of the relationship is that we're always laughing together and encouraging one another. A close second is that we have the same taste in food.
Compliment shower: name 5 things you love about one another.
Nova: Esther is a visionary who aims to uplift themselves and their communities simultaneously through their work. They show up for others, they’re always leveling up in their work, they’re handsome and very pretty at the same time, and they’re the best nap partner.
Esther: I love that Nova is an ambitious person who wants to bring their people up with them. They're very loyal and are so considerate of others around them. If Nova walks into a room of opportunities, they're bringing you with them. They are talented in so many different areas and make me want to get better in my own life just by being them. I also love how they try their best to get involved in their communities and how nurturing they can be.What is one thing you’ve taught/learned from one another?
Nova: Esther taught me to be a lot more gentle and patient not just with others but with myself.
Esther: Nova has taught me to have the courage to try everything I want to do.
Describe your favorite memory together, one you’ll never forget & why.
Nova: My favorite memory of us is when Esther was supposed to drop me home but we would end up parked in front of my place talking until 5 in the morning.
Esther: My favorite memory together is when Nova threw me a surprise birthday party. They got all my close friends together and I just felt so loved. I was going through a pretty hard time around then, so being reminded that I was cherished meant a lot to me. Even to this day, it's one of the most special things anyone has done for me :)
In what ways do you support each other? How do you inspire one another creatively?
Nova: It’s awesome that the industries we work in overlap because we give each other a lot of constructive critique and are able to build on one another’s projects. We help each other push past our limits because we're in it together. So many of our goals align because we want to change the industry for the better through our stories.
Esther: I think we support each other by trying to understand how we function as individuals and by communicating our boundaries and needs with one another. We try our best to alleviate each other's problems when we can but acknowledging the effort one another puts in goes a long way. Nova inspires me creatively by overcoming adversity and breaking standards. They give their 100% into everything they do and seeing that drive makes me want to give things my best effort too. And because we're in similar/intersecting industries, we're always bouncing ideas off each other and talking about new concepts and ideas we want to explore in our work.
What are some of your love languages?
Esther: One of our love languages is definitely cooking for each other. Whenever we're feeling down, we know making each other's favorite foods, which cheers us up. Who can stay sad after a yummy bowl of kimchi jjigae?
Nova: Esther could not have said it better. Our relationship is just us packing each other Bangladeshi and Korean food until we die.
Do you consider your relationship to be romantic? What does romance look like for you?
Nova: I would say our relationship is romantic even though I’m not that much of a romantic myself. Esther is the romantic in our relationship but I think in terms of surprises and sentimental things I win! Romance is just knowing all the things that make your partner blush.
Esther: I do consider our relationship to be romantic! Nova never stops flirting with me (lol) and we always come up with new date ideas, but we haven't been able to do a lot of them because of Covid.What color do you feel best reflects the other person?
Nova: Esther is baby blue! It’s a cute, handsome, and stylish color that reminds me of the sky.
Esther: I don't think there is a color that defines Nova, but I think they're iridescent. There is always another side of them yet to be discovered.
How does your ethnic background / identity bring you closer? How does each of your upbringings effect your relationship?
I think us having intersectional identities helps us relate to one another more and brings reassurance because we have someone who understands without having to explain ourselves. I think having similarities in our upbringings as 1st gen POC kids also helps us. We’re both Asian American Queers with religious families.
What are 5 qualities that you believe are essential to a healthy & happy relationship?
Communication, boundaries, being considerate of the other person, understanding the way they love and want to be loved, consistent check ins. And lots of laughs!
Have you ever fought? How do you navigate disagreements? How do you reconcile?
Nova: Yes and every time we wrestled I won.
Esther: Yes. It depends on the situation, but if we need space or don't have the capacity to have that conversation, we'll take space. Then we'll try to understand where the other person is coming from. But we don't really fight for too long, one of us will start laughing and we'll get through it.
What does your love feel like to one another? When do you feel closest to each other?
Nova: They tell you love is supposed to be a rush that makes your heart flutter and all that but I think true love is peaceful. I feel the closest to Esther when we stare into each other’s eyes and smile without saying a word. That’s enough for me.
Esther: Our love is warm and comforting. I feel closest to Nova when we're cuddling or taking a walk together; doing really simple things that involve being in each other's presence while doing our own thing.
Where do you see your relationship this time next year?
Nova: We worldwide!
Esther: I see us growing together and even more content in our love. We are in the right places we need to be.Do you believe that relationships between womxn/femmes are essential to each of your wellbeing? Explain why these kinds of relationships are important for growth & safety.
Both of our relationships with men versus our relationship with each other has been drastically different. The level of toxicity we've endured with men have been things we both still need to heal from but it has been made easier to do with one another. Our truths are affirmed and our experiences aren't invalidated. It is just safe. One time a Desi Auntie asked me what it was like to be with a womxn and the best way I could describe it was: "You know when you have to repeatedly ask your husband for something? (ie. Love, Affection, Reassurance, Support, etc.) With a womxn you get that before you have to ask.”