By Alixandra Rutnik and Brett McKenzie on Nov 01, 2023

Get to know the phenomenal class of Young Guns 21

After 85 incredible finalists and intense deliberation, the Young Guns jury has narrowed it down to the 29 winners that make up the class of Young Guns 21. An astounding collection of animators, illustrators, film directors, typographers (a few Ascenders 2023 winners as well!), graphic designers, and photographers make up YG21.

Every year we interview the Young Guns winners to get to know them better as artists and people. And as always, we are welcoming another class of outstanding individuals into the highly coveted Young Guns community.

Now that you know the YG21 winners better, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating them in person at NYC’s Sony Hall on Wednesday, November 15, 2023, at 6:30 PM. See you in two weeks and get ready to party!

ILLIMITÉWORLD: Aus Taylor & Marleaux Desire


Florence, Italy & Los Angeles, CA


Baltimore, MD


What were your original impressions of the Young Guns competition, the award, and the community?

MARLEAUX: It’s prestigious. Important directors have won the award, so it's a prestigious stepping stone. It's multidisciplinary, which fits our approach and mentality, and people from all kinds of creative disciplines, which is cool.

AUS: Any kind of recognition is cool. People recognizing you for what you're good at is always honor for sure.

How did you end up in the creative field anyways?

MARLEAUX: Art and being creative was always something I had interest in since I was a teenager. So it was all intentional, everything. But our expansion into advertising kind of happened by chance. The right people saw our music video work and that transformed into working in advertising, honestly.

AUS: I've been into art since I was a very young kid. My mom’s an artist. My first love was storytelling and then I met Marleaux in high school, and that transmuted my love for storytelling into music. He kind of helped me jump off my love for creating. I had never really made anything before that. I mean, I had made art at home and stuff like that, but I recorded my first song with Marleaux. Then from there, me and Marleaux became collaborators for a long time, up until this day. We kind of went from music to doing our own videos and then into people asking us do videos for them. So now I've designed tours, and I guess I've done all types of stuff now.

Congrats on the W! Why did you decide to enter this year?

MARLEAUX: I think we entered to see what it was about, and what would happen because we were proud of our work.

AUS: For ILLIMITÉWORLD, I feel like we're constantly evolving exponentially. We haven't had a year since we started that we went backwards. We're doing bigger, more ambitious projects, and for me personally, I'm expanding my horizon. I'm doing things I wasn't doing last year. I’m designing retail stores. We just did Steve Lacey's last tour. So, I think the main thing that’s changed creatively is going into other mediums. It's been cool and a fun journey to see where life can take you and how you can tell stories through different mediums, not just music videos or advertising.

You only get to submit six projects that embody you and your talent. The best of the very best. So, how did you decide which pieces were good enough to make the cut?

MARLEAUX: I feel like all of our stuff is really good. So, we just chose the projects that we liked. It wasn't really a complicated process. We kind of just ran with it.

AUS: I'm confident in the work. There's nothing I've done in the past three or four years that I'm not proud of. We're proud of what we do and what we make, because we do it with intention. Everything with us is a passionate project– we can't take the passion out of it. We can never do it just for the money.

What was your reaction when you discovered that you won?

MARLEAUX: I'm thankful. I feel a lot of gratitude. I’m blessed to be able to create for a living, honestly.

AUS: I found out about the win when I was I was in my hotel in Italy, and I was honored. Recognition is always good. Sometimes I think about how many directors there are on Earth and how many directors put out stuff, on Vimeo or YouTube every day. So to be recognized and selected definitely means a lot, especially being young and Black. When I was a kid I didn't really see anyone that looked like me. I never even thought people like me would be able to do a Sprite campaign, a Facebook campaign, or a Beats by Dre campaign, you know? I think it's good for visibility. I want someone else who is also young, looks like me, and dresses like me to be like, “Oh snap, it’s possible.” Or “Dang, he's cool.” I didn't have anyone really cool to look to that was in the storytelling field who was close to my age.

In what ways does your hometown inspire your creativity as an artist? What about your current city?

MARLEAUX: As far as my creativity as an artist, one of my favorite television series of all time was shot in my hometown - The Wire. The Wire’s one of those shows that depicts every aspect of life, from the good to the bad. It has so many different layers. All those layers inspire the work we do because we always try to show the full spectrum of emotion and touch on humanity in our work. Coming from Baltimore has spilled into our creativity, with that sense of humanity.

"All those layers inspire the work we do because we always try to show the full spectrum of emotion and touch on humanity in our work."

And LA inspires inspires me all the time. In Maryland, the ceiling for creativity was pretty low. You can easily reach that and then there's nowhere else to go. But in LA, the possibilities of what you can do are endless. There's a lot of creators in the industry out here, so I'm constantly inspired by friends that make music, photographers I know, and filmmakers.

AUS: I always say I'm super grateful that I'm from Baltimore because I carry that energy with me everywhere I go. And not just everywhere I go physically, but when I go into meetings I feel like it gives me this fearlessness. I'm not afraid of any project, or anything really. And to move from Baltimore to LA and then to Paris takes a lot of bravery. I'm constantly taking a leap of faith after leap of faith. So, that's what Baltimore has done for me the most. It’s taught me to jump out there.

Name a creative and professional dream project that you have yet to fulfill — maybe Young Guns will propel you in that direction! Who would you love to collab with?

MARLEAUX: I would love to collaborate with Pharrell Williams or Kendrick Lamar to do music, or maybe a visual album.

AUS: I want two things: I want to creative direct a fashion show and I also want to design a children's playground. Playgrounds are very typical– they have the monkey bars and slides - not saying you can't have those too - but, I feel like there can be more interesting shapes and polygons and audio things. So yeah, I would love to do stuff for kids. I think there's a playground that can be designed for both kids and adults.

"I want two things: I want to creative direct a fashion show and I also want to design a children's playground."

I would also love to collaborate with Flying Lotus, Nai Palm from Hiatus Kaiyote, and maybe Rei Kawakubo from Comme des Garçons.

This is YG21, but what do you imagine you’ll be up to when YG31 rolls around in 2033?

MARLEAUX: I don't know, man. Probably by that time, we will have multiple feature films in the box office, exhibitions, and all types of stuff. And I can see myself somewhere in the equator, directing movies.

AUS: Who knows? I might be sitting on a mountain in Nepal, not even thinking about awards. I'm sure by that time we will have done so much. My daughter will be 14, so I'll have a teenage daughter. Hopefuly we'll both be alive. But it would be awesome to have some feature films done, maybe a TV show, and a couple of exhibitions, including solo exhibitions under my belt. Honestly, I hope I'm at a place in my life where I'm happy and healthy, and me and Marleaux are still friends. To be honest, it will be the biggest success if we're still friends through this.

Will we see you at the YG21 party in NYC in November?




Come party with us and celebrate all the Young Guns 21 winners on Wednesday, November 15 at Sony Hall! See you at 6:30 PM in NYC!

Get tickets! It's party time!

The class of Young Guns 21



Fire + Fragility: Zuzanna Rogatty's YG21 Cube Design
Young Guns 21: Max Amato
Young Guns 21: Justin Au
Young Guns 21: Tess Ayano







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