It’s not often we conduct interviews via Instagram direct message, but it feels particularly apt when considering our subjects are Melbourne five-piece Girl Zone, and have a median age of 13. Friends Atong, Akuech, Zoe, Achol and Nyawech possess the type of energetic camaraderie synonymous with youth – nothing is off limits, everything is for the taking – and an infectious spirit that belies the rap they produce and perform together. “Me, Atong, Nyawech and Akuech [went] to the same school,” Achol explains of the group’s genesis. “Zoe went to another school but we still met through park and cubbies.” After initially bonding over a shared love of basketball, it’s their mutual desire to write music that brought us together today – adorned in fine jewellery pieces from Pandora’s Pandora Me collection.
“[Performing in front of a crowd feels] scary at first, but we get used to it every time we do it.” – Achol
What Fitzroy-raised Girl Zone lacks in industry experience it more than compensates for with punch – this is a group unafraid to call out injustice, and with so many members they’ve got a refreshingly democratic attitude towards their craft. “Everyone [has] a verse that they make. We also have a chorus that we all put together and rap,” Achol says. “Girl Zone first started as just [having] fun I guess. And we got inspired by the older boys.”
“We don’t have many photo shoots but I think we all had fun.” – Zoe
Though the older crowd might have served as initial inspiration, it’s advisable they watch their backs – Girl Zone are coming for them (and their air time). Their recent single, Flex On Them, makes it clear with lines like: You have no fashion / Basketball is my passion / Keep hating I don’t really care and Yeah you know I’m droppin’ this beat / If there’s a problem come and see me / I’ll be in Tahiti chilling with the family / We just chill casually don’t talk back to me. The video for the track follows suit visually, with the group taking over the boxing ring and taking on guys double their size.
And it’s not just in the ring people are taking notice. After performing their debut public show two years ago at Peel Street Festival in Melbourne’s Collingwood, Girl Zone were invited to perform at this year’s prestigious Dark Mofo Night Mass. After appearing onstage in matching tracksuits they rapped about slushies, threw packets of Burger Rings into the the crowd and then serenaded the audience with a rendition of Old Town Road (cowboy hats, and all). “It was actually very good,” Atong remembers of the night. “It was better because people were hyping you up.”
Charming, playful, brash and defiant, all at once; Girl Zone are unapologetically themselves. Theirs is an energy that feels right at home in Pandora Me – a collection of pieces that, like Girl Zone, inspire creativity and self-expression. “I love it so much,” Zoe tells of the small, hand-finished sterling silver blue moon that she wears around her wrist, “I like them all.”
“[It was] exciting because it made our outfit look even better,” Atong says of the collection. Like the girls wearing it, “[It] stands out from the rest.”
“[Girl Zone in one word]: family.” – Zoe
PHOTOGRAPHY Amelia Dowd @ Vivien’s Creative
FASHION Ellen Presbury
TALENT Girl Zone: Akuech, Achol, Nyawech, Zoe and Atong
HAIR & MAKEUP Xeneb Allen using Kevin Murphy, Fenty Beauty and Mecca Cosmetica
MAKEUP ASSISTANTS Anna Marcus and Amelia Mills