Tallinn-based stylist and make-up artist Liisa-Chrislin Saleh’s Origins shows off a generation of Estonian creatives who refuse to conform to established and rigid gender roles and seek to create change.

She explains her selection of models by saying their style reaches beyond aesthetics. “It’s not just about clothes, hairstyles or make-up. It’s the way they carry themselves, how they challenge the social norms through their art or being politically active,” says Saleh, whose half-Estonian and half-Yemeni heritage and contemporary alternative culture inform much of her work.

As she puts it: “They are a generation of men — or people assigned male at birth — rejecting the classic notions of masculinity and choosing to walk in their own lane, accepting the femme and playing around gender instead. By creating space and visibility, they are changing the local cultural landscape in a small but powerful way.”

“They might be the outsiders and weirdos of yesterday, but they are the new superheroes of tomorrow.”

Johann Kööp


What do you seek to capture in your art and photography when you create self-portraits?

Long before even being aware of it, photography has been important for me as it allows me to express thoughts and feelings that I couldn’t really communicate verbally.

On one level I seek to find out more about myself and create environments that make sense to me for specific thoughts and emotions. On another level I seek to create scenes that exist slightly beyond the present tense.
They take place in the near future which makes them fragile and include a sense of surreality.

When I put myself into these scenes I still don’t necessarily reflect on my own experience, on a larger scale it’s always a mix of personal and collective.

Mark-Alexander Ummelas
DJ and community organiser

How does the sound of Tallinn and its communities play into who you are and what you do?

The sound of Tallinn is a dizzying mix, kind of like one of those cocktails that your best friend mixed together from the contents of their parents liquor cabinet before your first party as a teenager.  You don't really know what it consists of and it sort of tastes like wood alcohol mixed with something way too sweet, yet you keep on drinking it. It’s completely unique, that’s for sure.


The stuff that I have created has been heavily influenced by the sounds of Tallinn, and I think that the same applies to many young people within the local music scene. The wish for change, which is focused on bringing forth a more artistically liberal and humane society, is fairly universal and I can safely say that the Future Sound of Tallinn will be more positive, uplifting and inspirational than ever before.

You should definitely listen to it.

Helgi Saldo
drag performer and
LGBTQ+ activist


How does your performance connect to your activism and vice versa?

For me, making any kind of positive change is about showing up as yourself and being as kind, smart, sincere, inclusive and transparent as possible. It may sound like the bare minimum, but it can be a lot harder than people think. Especially when there are so many histories around and within ourselves we need to unlearn.

On the stage, I am still myself, just with more makeup and less hair. Whether there is any “revolutionary potential” in what I do is questionable, but in drag I try to confuse, inform, surprise, inspire. Both in social media and in the club I want to shed light on how we construct our realities and how the narratives about oneself and their community can be reclaimed and rewritten.

We just have to overcome our learned shame, have the courage to step into our power, and do it.

Jaan Männima
dancer, performance artist and musician

How do you define and balance the multiplicity of your identities?

Ballet is a super strict, conservative and sexist form of art. On the stage of the Estonia Opera house I have to be more masculine than I really am, and I hate it.
There is no space for individuality and diversity. It’s really hard, especially for the people who identify as non-binary. I am a part of this community and in my opinion it’s not possible to be who you truly are if you choose to work in the classical theatre.

Music, modeling and performance art are my passions. I don’t have to compromise anything when I do it.
I feel so much freedom and it’s made me understand what I really have to do with my life.

There is no point in killing your creativity just for the money and that’s what ballet is doing to me at the moment.



Mattias Reinula

Where do you find the courage in exploring the outlandish with yourself as the canvas, both at home and abroad?

I think I never had to find that courage, it was always in me. My passion is too powerful to feel embarrassed to show it to the world. I like to do many looks on myself, because I get those crazy ideas and I want to make them happen this instant.
Also I feel like this is one of the ways for expressing my world of thoughts.

I feel trapped in a human body, so I constantly try to create new skins on myself.

Moving from Estonia to London has definitely made me even more open and creative. In London I have no limits. I get ideas everywhere and from everybody all the time. It’s amazing, I love it. Think I’m at home. Back in Estonia there was this judgemental ghost following me around in public. Here it’s only compliments - this is my inspiration.