Inside Janice Prempeh's world 'Opalslut Universe' you'll find her 3D character Opal relaxing in her own dreamy space. In an ongoing series of what she calls 3D selfies, Janice explores what it looks like to "just be" outside of the male gaze.
"When I was in high school, my friends and I noticed that whenever we posted anything related to women’s topics and freedom of sexuality, men would comment things like “You’re a thot” or “You don’t like wearing clothes because you’re a ho.” I realized that no matter what I do, someone’s always gonna think I’m a thot or a slut. We started using the term 'Opalslut' as a way of reclaiming the word 'slut'.
I created the 3D character Opal when I was 20. She's how I want to depict myself in self-portraiture. I decided to create a separate account for the selfies where the premise is “I be chillin’ in my room.” When I’m alone in my room, doing nothing, I don’t need to present in any way; that’s what I’m trying to show through my work.
A word I would choose to describe Opal is comfortable, and not “comfortable” as in “comfortable in my sexuality.” Every Opal image is technically a selfie and since I’m not trying to express anything sexual in my nudity, the same goes for Opal. Opal’s nudity doesn’t make her sexual or comfortable with sex–in the images I post, she’s just comfortable in her body."
Choosing to be sexual
"People look at Opal’s Instagram and a lot of the time their impression is that she’s supposed to represent this free, liberated, ‘sexy’ woman. It’s only the ‘sexy’ thing that makes me really uncomfortable because I think it’s a boring way for people to process Opal! I think it’s because I don’t like the allusion to sex and sexuality just because she is naked or not clothed. That’s what gives me a motive to produce work that conveys a stronger message.
If I could say one thing to people, it’s that you CAN be naked and comfortable in your nudity without it having to be a sexual thing. That’s important. You are the one who determines when and how you are sexual.
When men call you a thot/ho/slut, they’re really just saying that you don’t deserve respect. That they’re not gonna value your opinion. They don’t feel the need to think deeply about nudity and being too sexual because they don’t have to. They don’t know better than to not have to consider these things."
Asking for nudes
People hit me up all the time asking for nudes of Opal. As much as there’s nothing wrong with capitalizing on your time or image, I just don’t want to use Opal as a tool for that because a large part of her symbolism is inherently so anti-Male Gaze™.
Fetishizing the black female body
"As I continue to work with Opal, I’m gonna get more annoying in my Instagram captions. I’m gonna start asking things like, How does this make you feel?
Sometimes people think that I’m erasing or fetishizing black female bodies because I choose to work with a 3D render over a "real" body, and there is an assumption that there isn’t a real black woman behind the page. My work is meaningful to me because I'm the Ghanaian black woman behind this page.
I can do so much more with Opal than I can in real life. First of all, Opal wears clothes. Janice in real life doesn’t wear clothes; I would be butt naked right now if I wasn’t on my period! The idea of Opal is rooted in how I view and feel about myself in my real-life space, but it becomes more because 3D allows me to explore much more.
I love Opal because I can create whatever I want with her as long as I find the skill for it on my computer, at no cost. That’s why I use 3D in the first place–I am only bounded by my creativity and what I want to present to people.
An unexpected outcome of creating Opal is the solidarity that's formed among my followers. At first this project was so self-focused, but now I see it becoming a place of community and conversation for some people. People identify with Opal, which is awesome because it means she's empowering for them, too."