Dreams Over Fear

Meet Hunter Owens:

The curator, nutritionist and model looking to reconnect the African Diaspora through meaningful communication.

Hunter is 24 and currently resides in Alabama, where she also grew up. Cary’s photo of Hunter came from a photoshoot that took place in Houston, Texas, in 2017. To get to the shoot, Hunter paid for a Greyhound bus ticket and took a twenty hour journey there; ‘it was worth it,’ she recalls. Cary had put out a call for people of color to take part in the shoot on Instagram and Hunter, who had followed the photographer as a result of his work with Solange, reached out to him via DMs. ‘I didn’t have any expectations; I was really just stepping out on faith [to] see if I had a chance,’ she explains, noting that she hadn’t, at that point, considered how she would get to Houston. Ultimately, the journey didn’t deter her and it’s an opportunity that Hunter cherishes. ‘I was just so honored to be a part of the editorial. The people I worked with, the clothes I was able to shoot in, and to experience the home (Frank Lloyd Wright’s) that we shot in – all of this was an experience in itself – and I felt like I received what I needed from that.’

Hunter attributes the fact that she took that chance to work with Cary and step out on faith as the reason for why she’s no longer doing ‘the same thing I was doing before [which was] what I thought I needed to be doing, instead of what I wanted to do.’ After high school, Hunter had left her home town, Phenix City, Alabama, for Mobile in the south of the state. She was working full-time and had her own apartment, but felt unfulfilled; ‘I just felt like existing, but not living.’ A friend had recently started an online boutique and asked Hunter to model the clothes, which she did. ‘That was the beginning for me, and after that it gave me confidence.’

Now, Hunter is working towards getting her certifications in holistic nutrition. She embarked on a journey towards holistic living in 2015, having been introduced to vegetarianism by someone she was dating at the time. Hunter also began to do her own research into different dietary practices; ‘I’ve been vegan, I’ve been vegetarian, pescatarian – you name it, I’ve done it.’ But, for Hunter, the impetus for taking holistic living seriously came after an incident in which she nearly lost her life. ‘I remember a doctor telling me [afterwards] that I should be grateful because my health, it helped me; it saved me,’ she explains. ‘So that just made me want to take it more seriously because, if I can help myself in this way, I could possibly help someone else.’

For Hunter, advocating holistic living isn’t just about ‘what you’re eating’ – rather, she wants to assist people with what she terms ultimate health. It’s about disconnecting; there’s a lot of chaos around us which impacts our emotions and, Hunter explains, ‘if you’re always feeling, you aren’t connected to yourself.’ We have to find ways to disconnect daily, she adds, especially at a time that is as ‘scary, uncertain and overwhelming’ as now. Disconnecting, of course, ties in with the message and concept behind timeless goods, but there’s also value in reconnecting that Hunter advocates for.

Hunter is the curator of Hidden Content Network, an online platform founded by Serah Beckley and Success Edioma which aims to ‘reconnect the African Diaspora through events and media content.’ Hunter’s involvement with the network began after she was contacted by Beckley, who had seen Hunter’s personal Instagram through a mutual follower. On Instagram, Hunter uses her profile as a form of self-expression, sharing and crediting art and artists that she connects with emotionally. Her role with Hidden Content Network now is something similar and allows her to use her creative eye; she sifts through the content that members of the group submit and creates the feed. Hunter is also involved with the network’s events, for which she sources talent, vendors and business owners of color to be promoted and endorsed.

Hidden Content Network has brought Hunter into contact with people across the country – both Beckley and Edioma are from North Jersey – so the work they do includes the north and the south in its remit. Of the network, Hunter explains that she feels that there is, and has been, a ‘divide between our people and it’s so necessary for us to work together, especially in times like this.’ Highlighting similarities is more important than defining differences; for example, both Beckley and Edioma are from Nigeria but, as Hunter points out, ‘in reality we all came from the same place and we all go through the same things.’ The aim of the network is to come together and talk, in order to identify shared issues and to find resolutions. Last year, Hidden Content Network registered as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, which is testament to its commitment towards making real change.

Though the pandemic has made physical events and meet-ups impossible for the Hidden Content Network for now, that cross-country connection between Alabama and North Jersey remains important to Hunter. The platform has given her the chance to create opportunities for herself, her peers and others – opportunities that, growing up in Phenix City, Alabama, weren’t available. Likewise, she views her journey to Houston, Texas, for the shoot with Cary, as evidence that taking a risk would pay off. So when Cary told Hunter that he wanted to make her image into a puzzle, the idea seemed crazy to her.

Of the concept of puzzles, Hunter calls them a ‘lost art’, and sees them as timeless in the way that, one day, she can pass her puzzle down to the generations below. Similarly, anyone can work on piecing together the individual fragments, ‘figuring out puzzles of my face’ in their own homes. ‘I never thought that that would be a thing for me,’ but, Hunter concludes, her story is one that she hopes will be an inspiration for someone else. ‘I’ve been through a lot that could have stopped me, scared me, and discouraged me. And it has, don’t get me wrong, it has discouraged me, but I’ve been able to push through. And every time, there’s always been good things on the other side of that. If you want to do something, do it, because you can.’

by Ellen Brown, writer & art historian