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February 10, 2021

South Philly native makes history with Billie Eilish photoshoot for Vanity Fair cover

Quil Lemons, 23, who now lives in Brooklyn, is the youngest photographer to take the magazine's lead image

With a style as recognizable as that of musician Billie Eilish, it's no surprise that the slime-green haired, Los Angeles native is gracing the cover of another fashion magazine, with her upcoming appearance on Vanity Fair.

A lesser-known artist from Philadelphia is being thrust into the spotlight along with her.

Quil Lemons, 23, is making history for his photos of Eilish that appear on the magazine's March cover. Lemons, who grew up in South Philly and now lives in Brooklyn, New York, is the youngest photographer to shoot Vanity Fair's lead image, the Inquirer reported.

Growing up in Philly, Lemons attended Charter High School for Architecture and Design. He started taking pictures at a young age and starting established a large online audience, and he moved to New York to attend college at the New School.

The issue featuring Eilish, a step forward in his career, was released last week. 

"I’m a 23-year-old gay black man who is now the youngest photographer to shoot the cover of Vanity Fair. This cover means so much. Thank you to everyone that took a chance on the little kid from South Philadelphia!" said Lemons in a post.

Lemons previously had shot musical duo Choelle x Halle for Vanity Fair, and was hired again to take photos of the five-time Grammy-winning singer, he told the Inquirer. 

"They asked me if I wanted to shoot Billie Eilish for the cover and I was like 'Yes!' That was a no-brainer. I was just astounded that these people even knew who I was," Lemons said.

The photographer now has more than 90,000 people following him on Instagram.

Although the Vanity Fair cover is a milestone, Lemons' work has already been featured on the front of other well-known magazines, including Variety, GQ, TeenVogue and The Fader, according to his website. 

He described his photography as "a distinct visual language that interrogates ideas around masculinity, family, queerness, race, and beauty," exemplified in his 2017 project "Glitterboy," which featured male models of color wearing traditionally feminine makeup.

In a video interview with photography magazine Aperture, Lemons said he hoped the themes he tackled could also be an inspiration to younger artists of color.

"I think I have a lot of goals in my work, if I’m combatting the ideas of queerness and masculinity, or I’m tackling the big thing of like Black femininity," Lemons said. "But I think ultimately I’m just trying to show Black kids that we can do anything we put our minds to."

Eilish is also often brought up in discussions of femininity and gender, due to her decision to dress in oversized clothing. The singer revealed in 2019, when she was 17 years old, that she dressed that way to avoid be sexualized or judged by the public while being in the limelight at a young age.

Eilish's Vanity Fair cover is coinciding with the much-anticipated release of the music documentary, "Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry," which will be released Feb. 26 in theaters and on Apple TV.

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