Rikki Byrd is a writer, educator and scholar with research interests in Black studies, performance studies, fashion studies and art history. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri – Columbia, a Master of Arts in Fashion Studies from Parsons School of Design and a Master of Arts in African American Studies from Northwestern University. Her master’s thesis at Parsons, Black, the Color We Wear: Representing Blackness in American Fashion, explored how Blackness is centered in popular culture and offered a new approach to reimagining dialogue concerning the Black body. Since its completion, her research has led her to creating innovative spaces to engage students, scholars and industry professionals in conversations on race and representation.
Her research has been published in several academic journals and books, and exhibition catalogs, including: Companion of African American Theatre and Performance, QED: A Journal of GLBTQ Worldmaking, and Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts: Thinking about History with the Block’s Collection (2021) . She has also written for Teen Vogue, Artsy, Hyperallergic, among several other media outlets. She has interviewed formidable professionals in art and fashion including André Leon Talley, Mickalene Thomas and Amy Sherald. She has lectured and participated in panel discussions with Instagram, Google and The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), Parsons School of Design, The Barnes Foundation, Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn and Saint Louis Art Museum. She is the co-founder and editor of the Fashion and Race Syllabus, and was a guest editor for the Spring 2017 International Journal of Fashion Studies, where she curated a special section on Black Fashion Studies. She also co-launched Artists in the Room (AIR) in 2017, a collective that supports emerging Black artists in St. Louis, Mo. by connecting them with professional Black artists and arts professionals who visit the city. The collective has connected the St. Louis Black arts community with people such as Mickalene Thomas, Sanford Biggers, Derek Fordjour, and more.
From 2016-2018, Rikki was a faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis, where she developed new courses on the intersections of fashion and race for the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and the African and African American Studies Department. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in African American Studies at Northwestern University and resides in Chicago, IL.
Rikki was born and raised in St. Louis, Mo.