This is story 2 of 10 of LoveYourzStory’s Creatives Series. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of getting to know 11 individuals who are passionate about creating. It was interesting to learn where each individual drew their inspiration from. I wanted to shift the attention on other Creatives and tell their stories on what motivates and excites them in their respective field. Thank you to everyone who participated in this series! – Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory
Lex is a Los Angeles / Bay Area-based Afro-Latina artist. Her talents range from digital art, drawing, designing posters, and so much more, but her preferred medium is painting. Her art is heavily inspired by her culture. Being a Black, Honduran, and Guatemalan woman, Lex’s goal is to uplift and inspire women of color with her artwork.
“I have been exploring art mediums since I was a little girl, I was always known as the ‘artsy kid’ at school,” Lex shares. “Art has always been a way for me to express my inner voice and it’s a calming meditative activity. I am passionate about bringing art into my community to uplift voices…”
Lex’s mother always encouraged her to take art more seriously if it was the profession she was trying to get into. So she started to get serious about her craft. When she was a sophomore in high school, she tried to take AP Art, even though she knew it was only offered to seniors. But Lex tried to shoot her shot anyways and spoke with the AP Art teacher. She explained that she didn’t want to wait that long to hone in on her craft, so the teacher suggested that Lex apply for a scholarship program that would allow her to utilize her time where she could still learn art at a higher level until she was a senior. She is so grateful that she made the decision to talk to the AP teacher because she ended up applying to the scholarship program and getting in.
This wasn’t a typical high school course. In fact, it was actually a college course at Otis College of Art and Design. Different art professors from around Southern California and other universities would teach high school students art. These classes taught high school students the basics and fundamentals of different art techniques. Lex remembers working with acrylics in the class, and has used those skills to this day. The course touched on different styles like figure drawing, portraits, drawing, body proportions, architecture, shadows, and perspective. Lex was completely open to whatever the teachers had to teach, even if she was more interested in some lessons more than others, she knew that everything taught was for her benefit.
This is a scholarship program meant for those that take art seriously and are dedicated to learning more. This is because it’s a course that takes place during the weekends. For 3 semesters, Lex spent her Sundays at Otis for 4 hours. She remembers trucking her art supplies and portfolio back and forth to class every Sunday without fail. Lex never missed a class because her parents wouldn’t allow it, but also because she never wanted to. She was totally immersed in all the new techniques that she was adding to her art toolbox. The course never gave a grade for any project. Instead, they would get critiqued on how to improve or do better. It was an experience she was so grateful to be a part of, because it expanded her artistic knowledge.
After being in the scholarship program for 3 semesters, Lex was finally able to be in the AP Art class at her high school. Even though she transferred high schools, she is still grateful for the art teacher at her old school for introducing her to the scholarship program. It really made Lex more focused her senior year, and her last year of high school was dedicated to building her portfolio and strengthening her techniques. To this day, many years later, Lex still looks back to her earlier projects from high school for inspiration. She likes that she can improve an old idea, make it come to life in another way, or digitalize it with the new skills she knows now. For her, her old work is inspiration to keep creating because she can always go another direction with it.
“I’m going back to them and trying to think how I can make them better in the way that I do digital art,” Lex explained. “Or even my paintings now, I’m like, ‘Okay, that was a nice idea, but how can I reform that into something better?‘”
Her freshman year of college, Lex mentally laid out her options on the table. She wanted to pick a major that was more technical but still allowed her to be artsy. Lex entertained the idea of graphic design because she knew she wanted to do something creative in the long run. She was inspired by the idea of all the different work possibilities that graphic design could offer. So she searched up if San Francisco State had a graphic design program, and to her luck, they did. She applied for the program on the very last day and got in.
It was stressful at first when Lex took her very first graphic design class. At this point, she was so used to physically creating art. She felt as though she had mastered acrylics and was always trying to find new materials to practice on. Anything she got her hands on, she would experiment with it. Now, it was a different ball game. Lex wanted to be on the same level as her peers who already had knowledge on graphic design. But her peers were very supportive – reminding her that she’s there to learn, and never to fear because YouTube will always help you out! With that, Lex was excited to learn more about digital art and totally immerse herself into her major. Throughout her college years, Lex would do her best to juggle being a student, having jobs, and working on her own art side projects outside of school assignments.
Lex is the first in her family to pursue an artistic profession. Before she went to college, her parents’ vibe was very supportive. They knew how passionate Lex was about creating art, so they encouraged her to learn and practice as much as she could. When she got to college, her parents were a little worried about her decision to pursue art, but only because they had the typical parent reaction to their child pursuing something outside of the medical or law field. But they have always came back to the same conclusion – as long as Lex was passionate about what she was pursuing, confident about her work and in herself, and knew what she was doing, she had their full support. They didn’t know too much about design, but they genuinely felt like it was a good choice that if she were to study art, San Francisco is where Lex should be.
And the Bay Area is where Lex remained even after graduating college. She jokes that she still feels some type of way about referring to herself as a “Bay Area-based artist,” because she wasn’t born and raised in the area. She grew up in Southern California and considers herself an LA-based artist because of it. Even with 6 years living in San Francisco under her belt, Lex laughs that she doesn’t want Bay Area natives coming for her because she respects and loves the Bay. She does find herself traveling to SoCal often to see family, friends, and attend art events, so she is very much so equally a LA/SF-based artist.
For Lex, representation is everything. Her art gravitates towards her feminine energy. She absolutely loves painting women of color. Lex appreciates all the love and support that she receives from women who resonate with her work. This is really important to her because the margin of women in art galleries are about 3% of the total, leaving the other 97% to men. So she makes it a point to represent the women of color who are not represented in the art scene. Lex loves to paint women with really curly hair. Her Black, Honduran, and Guatemalan roots shine through her pieces. She knows that women of color will only make it in mainstream media if women of color continue to push out content of women of color.
Lex likes to sell her stickers and her prints at any art event she can attend. She appreciates that she can showcase her art in that way. She always tries to attend art events mostly in the Bay Area or SoCal because she wants to be a part of the artist community. Her friend, who is also an artist, will send Lex information on any art events that she knows of, and together the 2 friends will apply. They’re always finding new events through word of mouth. Her goal is to meet new creatives and surround herself with like-minded individuals. Being around creatives and other artistic people inspires her to keep creating as well.
Lex goes against the grain in many ways as an artist. She doesn’t sell her art with the hope and intention that she blows up and can turn it into a big business one day. Instead, she creates when she wants to create and makes sure that she enjoys the process. To her, quality over quantity is the key. Lex knows that there are people out there that will take her work seriously, she doesn’t have to try too hard to get people to recognize her work. If people resonate with it, awesome, if not, then it doesn’t. For those that do appreciate her craft and ask for custom pieces, Lex is always happy to take personal commissions.
Lex is aware that commissions are not necessarily what she would want on canvas, but more so what the other person wants. She has her own style of painting that attracted the customer, so it is “hers” in that sense, but at the end of the day it’s the customer’s vision and opinion that matters. This is why Lex makes sure that on top of commissions, she is also working on art for herself. She did a commission for a family friend where she did a family portrait with simple shapes. This inspired her to start a new series trying to capture the essence of family and what that looks like to different people.
Her series focusing on families is inspired by Africana art, using simple geometric shapes, a lot of color, and minimal details. Lex’s vision was to grasp the meaning of family and togetherness, emphasizing that family looks different to every person. To Lex, your family and those you choose to surround yourself with makes you who you are. Your identity stems from your family roots. Family looks different to everyone, whether that be your blood family, friend group, or even a pet. Who you consider family is a reflection of yourself. She has posted some of these paintings on her Instagram pages, @graphixbylex & @mythirdeyee.
“I find creating art as my meditation,” Lex said. “I find so much joy and confidence in it that sometimes I stray away from posting every art piece on the internet because of harsh criticism, people /companies stealing your ideas, or setting an expectation that if I post online – it will gain ‘this amount’ of interaction.”
In the past, Lex tried to keep up with social media algorithms to promote her work. As an artist, of course you want your work to be seen, so it can be easy to get lost in the rules and restrictions to make sure your account is successful. Instagram is Lex’s social media platform of choice, but after a while, it stressed her out keeping up with the different tips to essentially stay relevant. All the algorithms made Lex feel as though social media forces creatives into posting a certain way and fit into the same box to gain followers, and that was something she was not okay with.
Lex decided a while ago that she wasn’t going to stress herself out with all the tips and tricks to be more “visible” on social media. If she were to abide by those standards, she feels as though her creative process would be rushed. She doesn’t like the pressure of feeling the need to post every 3 or so days to stay relevant. Instead of promoting creativity, it restricts creatives and becomes chaotic. It starts to feel like a mandatory action, which takes the enjoyment out of the process. For Lex, it’s quality over quantity. She enjoys taking her time creating and doesn’t let the idea of views get to her. Instead, she uses social media as a tool to showcase her work that she’s most proud of, nothing is ever forced.
She knows first hand the struggle of wanting to be totally immersed in her craft, but knows at the end of the day she has bills to pay. She took on a job during the pandemic and felt as though it took all of her time and energy. Lex didn’t really have much of a summer, didn’t have time to travel, and then also got COVID which resulted in a time period of huge creative block. She wanted to have time to create for herself like she used to, but had to find a balance in her life to make that possible.
On top of that, 2022 brought on a lot of changes. After she lost someone close to her, her motivation to create was non-existent. Lex knew she had to focus on her family at the time, so gave herself grace and patience. Lex thinks the most important thing as an artist is to remain grounded. She didn’t force herself to create during the difficult times in her life, but instead chose to do things that made her happy. Lex finds solace being in nature, sometimes literally grounding herself like taking naps in the botanical gardens when she had a chance. She takes time to recharge by allowing herself to take breaks, go to art museums, and talking with family and friends to spark that interest again.
A big goal that Lex hopes to achieve on day is being recognized in Art Basel. Lex describes it as an event where they highlight artists in the community and sell their paintings. She would love to be recognized in that platform, not for the clout or attention, but because it would mean that people resonate with her art at a higher level. Lex wants people to know how much representing her culture means to her. She wants to represent women of color in her work until she doesn’t have to say she’s the first / only Black, Honduran, and Guatemalan woman to do XYZ. She thinks it’s so important to make roots in the communities that she’s a part of, so you’ll always find her supporting women of color, going to art events up and down California, and being invested in the community. She is also part of the reason why SF State has the Afro-Latiné Club.
Another personal goal that Lex has is to open a program for children in the next 10 years or so that is art and science based. This is something that her and the person she lost earlier this year would talk extensively about. Lex is very passionate and motivated to get that program running and focus on the 5th grade level. Growing up, Lex wasn’t a science person, but believes that had she had access to it at a young age, it could’ve been a possibility. There are not many programs that focus on science and art, so she feels that this is something her community could benefit from. It’s important to her to funnel back that love, support, and inspiration back into the community.
Lex’s creative journey has not been an easy road. She has dealt with her fair share of ups and downs: dealing with art block, having to go to school while balancing 2 jobs, feeling the pressure of posting consistent content online, and losing family members along the way. Life has thrown her many curveballs, but nonetheless, she still chooses to use creating art as her favorite form of meditation.
Ever since Janelle’s daughter, Kayla Kale’a, was born a little over 3 years ago, she found herself doing a lot more “Do It Yourself” projects – especially decorations. For Kayla’s baptism, 1st birthday, and 2nd birthday party, Janelle made all of the decorations by hand. She described the process as tedious and time consuming since she had to cut everything one by one. Still, she did it every time because she knew her local party stores didn’t have the aesthetic she wanted. She was never completely satisfied with the items sold at party stores, and really loved the idea of adding personalized touches to her daughter’s decorations. After Kayla’s 1st and 2nd birthday party, Janelle finally decided to invest in a Cricut. She knew that she wanted to customize all of her daughter’s parties and milestones going forward. And it was also a long time coming since Janelle wanted a Cricut since Kayla was 5 months old!
The Cricut has been the new must have item for every DIY fanatic. But what is it even? And what’s the rave about? Janelle describes the Cricut as a machine that makes very precise cuts. It cuts through different materials exactly how you want it – and in bulk. Some Cricuts can cut through materials such as thin wood, acrylics, leather, fabric, and other materials. It can also be used as an engraver. Janelle says it’s like a printer, except it doesn’t print, but it can draw and write for you if you have the specialized pens. The crafter would design their designs on the Cricut’s app, where it would soon come to life. Basically, the Cricut is every crafter’s dream.
Playing around with the Cricut can also get a little expensive. To be good at something, one has to practice. For the Cricut, practice means using materials for trial and error. Janelle confesses that she still makes a lot of mistakes, even though she has had it for a good amount of time. She is still learning about her machine and how to improve or use different techniques. So she doesn’t consider herself a “master” of the Cricut just yet. She watches a lot of YouTube videos and tutorials to learn more about it and expand her knowledge. Little did she know that her love for crafting would soon turn into her small business, KA.LE’A Creates.
When the mandatory Shelter in Place was in effect, Janelle needed a creative outlet. She started her Instagram craft page to post and show what she created after purchasing her Cricut. She had no intentions of making her craft page a business page because she didn’t want to invest so much time into a small business. She also didn’t think that she would sell that many things. But to her surprise, a lot of her friends reached out to her, offering to pay for customized products. So, around June 2020, with the pandemic showing no signs of letting up anytime soon, Janelle decided to making her craft page into a business. She was worried that, like many others, she would be left unemployed or furloughed. With some encouragement from her brothers, boss, and best friend, Janelle finally decided to really invest in her business, and KA.LE’A Creates was born. They reassured her that her creativity could get her far if she really tried.
“Luckily, my job and income wasn’t affected by the pandemic,” Janelle said. “However, it did suffer in terms of clientele for a little while, leaving me with just a little extra time to do crafts on the side.”
Janelle named her small business after her daughter, Kayla Kale’a. Janelle knew from the beginning that she wanted to somehow incorporate her daughter’s name in it, and she came up with the name and tagline KA.LE’A Creates – create hapiness. In Hawaiian language, the word “Le’a,” by itself means, “joy, pleasure, and happiness.” This is why Janelle decided to separate her daughter’s name and break it up into two parts so the word “Le’a” was isolated. It seemed like the perfect name for her small business because crafting really does bring her joy and happiness.
Even though Janelle loved crafting, she still had a lot of doubts about starting a crafting business. She started to doubt her creativity, and the thought of being her own investor really stressed her out. She went back and forth on the idea, thinking it wouldn’t be worth it to pursue a crafting DIY business. Janelle does admit that she gets discouraged very often – almost every week – but she doesn’t want to throw in the towel. She just wants to keep on learning and improving. Like the rest of us, Janelle wishes she had more time in the day – more time to focus on her small business, to perfect each project and task at hand, each item she customizes, and each original product drop. She humbly acknowledges that there is always room for improvement.
“I know that with each product that I put out, that there will always be something I can do better,” Janelle said, explaining how she mentally prepares herself for ups and downs that comes with being a small business owner. “I try not to take each negative feedback to heart, and use it more as a way to learn how to do things better.”
Janelle first advertised her customized products on her personal Instagram. She was pretty successful getting customers through her personal account because it helped in letting her followers know what she was selling and what she could create. Her best friend, Anthony, who is also a small business owner, helped promote her products in the beginning. Others started reposting her content as well, helping spread the word that Janelle was the girl to go to if you wanted a customized product. During COVID, a lot of people have made the conscious effort to support small businesses more, so Janelle has definitely felt all the love.
Janelle was surprised by not only the amount of support she got from family, friends, and strangers, but other small businesses as well. She was surprised when larger and well known small businesses would reach out to have customized products made. From there, Janelle got a glimpse of how tight-knit the small business / crafting community is. She was surprised and happy that other small businesses trusted her and her craft to make items for their own small business. Making products for other small businesses also helped get KA.LE’A Creates’ name out there to people she did not know personally. She has completed many orders to date, but her favorite ones to do are for other small businesses because she is supporting them and hooking them up with a cheaper price. She loves that she gets to help others in her community and witness them grow – as a business and as a person.
Her initial prediction that nobody would be interested in customized products proved to be wrong. When Janelle first started KA.LE’A Creates, her most popular items were her decals. Then she started advertising her customized reusable masks, and those became the top item. As she dropped more and more content about personalizing different things like keychains, water bottles, cake toppers, clothing, etc. – she started to see that there wasn’t really a top #1 popular item. It was always changing depending on what people wanted, and what time of the year it was. If a customer had an idea for a customization that has never been done before, Janelle would take it on and see if she could do it.
“I can customize a whole lot of things, whether it’s clothing, party decorations, drinkware, I’ve even made stencils for someone to paint their shoes with,” Janelle said, thinking of all the personalized items she has done since opening KA.LE’A Creates. “Customers generally inquire about specific items they’d like to get customized and I try my best to see if it’s doable before turning them down. And most the of the time it’s doable.”
Janelle expected that the holiday season would bring in a lot more business for KA.LE’A Creates, especially since she was dropping her personalized snow globe ornaments. And she was right, she was booked and busy with orders. Majority of the orders she had over the holiday season were mainly gifts for others. After all, customized gifts are very thoughtful and are fun to keep as keepsakes. She felt so grateful that people were doing their holiday shopping and buying from KA.LE’A Creates, as she had doubted how far she could take the DIY craft business in the past.
Getting a decoration order for a wedding was the cherry on top for Janelle. After so much self-doubt in the past, getting the wedding order made her realize how far she could really take KA.LE’A Creates if she really tried, put her mind into it, and gave it time to grow. Janelle was so happy with how the wedding decorations turned out, and her coworker was thrilled with the end results as well. She has so content knowing that she could help her coworker out, since COVID ruined a lot of the original plans for the wedding already. Janelle felt so honored that her friend trusted her to make decorations for her big day.
As much as she loves making her customers’ visions and crafts come to life, Janelle has a couple of ideas herself. Her last “big drop” was her RYM (Respect Your Mother) collection. At first, she wanted to make a “mom tee” clothing line. The more she sat on the idea, the vision for her first clothing collection kept evolving. She wanted the first line she dropped to be a mom tee, but also a PSA about Mother Nature. Janelle and Kayla would take daily walks and they would see used masks, gloves, and other trash on the street and in parking lots. That’s where Janelle got the inspiration to go in the direction of “Mother Nature,” still a mom tee, but with multiple meanings. The RYM line was the perfect combination of everything Janelle embodies – being a mother and also thinking about how she can be more eco-friendly.
Besides having full-time job and having her own small business, Janelle is a mother first and foremost. She wants her customers to know and remember that she is a full-time working single mom, and juggling all these things can get pretty crazy. On top of all the madness, she is moving her and Kayla back to O’ahu, Hawaii. Janelle wants her customers to keep these things in mind when she doesn’t reply to DM’s or order requests as quickly as some would like. She is trying her best to balance everything out and is still learning how to multi-task her day job, small business, and practicing self-care, while still putting her daughter first. She realizes that it is very likely that she can get some orders wrong, so patience and compassion is all she asks.
“I want to be able to enjoy my craft, but when people are persistent and think that their orders will be done once it is placed and the next day they’ll have the item, it gets really stressful,” She explained.
Because she’s so busy, Janelle really has to plan out her schedule. She has always been a planner, so knowing that she is going to do on a week to week basis really helps her stay organized. When Janelle is working on orders for KA.LE’A Creates, it is most likely taking place during Kayla’s naptime. She really values her time with her daughter, especially working a 9-5 job. If Janelle gets home and Kayla is awake, she will spend quality time with her until it is time to put her down for bed, and then she’ll fulfill orders, working out, cleaning, or anything else that needs to get done. She wants to give Kayla quality mother daughter time because she doesn’t want her daughter to think that all she does is work – working a full-time job and then coming straight home to work on KA.LE’A Creates. Especially since an item or several items she works on can take anywhere from 2-3 hours.
Janelle’s advice to other crafters and small business owners is to stay organized. Especially for those who are parents, Janelle stresses the importance of keeping everything neat and tidy. Everyone can relate – starting off very organized, and little by little things start to pile up, and you’re faced with a huge mess. That’s exactly how it went for Janelle, as orders started coming in, things started compiling, and she found herself in not only a cluttered living situation, but mentality as well. When she would see how unorganized and disheveled everything got, it made running her business stressful and took the fun out of it. She lost a lot of time for herself and Kayla when things started to get unorganized, so now, she really relies on keeping everything in line.
For the time being, Janelle is keeping KA.LE’A Creates as her side hustle that brings her a lot of happiness and creativity. She would love if her small business could one day be her main source of income, but she is sticking with her career goal in Human Services. Janelle laughs and says that KA.LE’A Creates will remain a side hustle until she retires – which she doesn’t plan on doing anytime soon. So until she retires, you can find her working on her crafts after her little one is asleep.
Janelle and Kayla are back in O’ahu after the much anticipated big move. While they’re settling down and unpacking, Janelle is very hopeful for 2021 and where she can take KA.LE’A Creates. She still plans on continuing her small business from Hawaii, after she settles down in her new home and job. She is keeping her fingers crossed to open back up and take orders again in February. Janelle has a lot of ideas brewing, and she can’t wait to capitalize on them. Her RYM collection did better than she expected, and she is excited to work on dropping more of her own gear and clothing. All the love that she received in 2020 motivates her to keep going with her small business. Janelle loves that it keeps her creative juices flowing, as she finds crafting very therapeutic and relaxing.
Being a part of the crafting community is what touches Janelle the most. She has participated in a handful of giveaways, some where she reached out to other small businesses first, and some where they reached out to her. When small businesses reach out to her to participate in a giveaway, they will usually offer to pay for the items. But Janelle usually donates her item as a way to support other small businesses and their followers. Especially during COVID, she is glad that she has found a community that welcomed her with open arms, since she believed it would be the complete opposite going into it. Her love of crafting has opened the door for making connections with others, and supporting other small businesses.
“Going into it, I first thought that there would be so much competition, but really it’s not about competing for customers,” Janelle said. “Since I opened, other craft shops that have found me have been really helpful and supportive in so many ways. It makes me really proud to be a part of this craft / small business community. It just goes to show that we all love to help each other out, especially during these times.”
CaliVamp is a handcrafted jewelry and accessory brand focused on spreading love and healing energy through fashion. Deziré created CaliVamp in 2013, and since then her products have expanded – from wire wrapped healing crystal jewelry, home and car decor, crystal infused glosses, healing crystals, and energy cleansings kits.
Deziré just celebrated the 4 year anniversary of launching her website, http://www.calivamp.com , this past October. CaliVamp has flourished tremendously in 2020, and all the hard work throughout the last 7 years is finally starting to pay off. Every small business has a story. Behind every small business is a business owner with a dream. We’ve seen CaliVamp’s success as a small business, but it wasn’t always like that. But the support of her mother, and those closest to her is what keeps her and CaliVamp going.
Deziré remembers back to when she was about 5 years old. At the time, her mom had her own office space for her clothing business. She would tag along with her mom at work a lot, so her mom would have to find different ways to keep her occupied. Her mom presented her with a box full of beads and wires. Deziré remembers her mom taking the time to show her how to cut and loop the wires together. While her mom worked on creating designs for clothing, along side her, little Deziré worked on her own creations.
“I believe this moment of trying to just keep me busy really set the tone for my creative abilities,” Deziré recalls, thinking back to where it all started.
Deziré has always been a natural born hustler. She has always been intouch with her artsy side, and loved to create – whether that be crafts or baked goods. Since elementary school, she would exchange her creations for money. It started off as her making things for friends and teachers, but it really took a turn in 2011. Deziré had just made a pair of earrings for herself and wore them to school. I remember that day clearly – I saw her earrings that connected into a necklace and thought it was the cutest statement piece. I asked Deziré to make me a pair and I’d pay her. This gave her the confidence to start selling her creations for actual income. Since then, whenever she needed or wanted money, she would create things for people to buy. Word of mouth from herself, her brother, and sister is how she let people know what she had for sale.
The start of CaliVamp’s foundation started in 2013. The push that got the wheels rolling was when Deziré enrolled in Cosmetology school. She had just moved to Fresno and didn’t know anyone out there. She saw this as a perfect opportunity to start her online website. Deziré also saw this as an opportunity to showcase her hobby of creating jewelry and make some extra money while in school. She didn’t have any doubts because her focus was on finishing up Cosmetology school, and Deziré never expected that CaliVamp would be her main source of income. She was so eager to start CaliVamp that she’s “pretty sure I came up with the name at 3 in the morning.” For those wondering about CaliVamp’s name, Deziré is from California and “Vamp” because she’s a night owl – it’s a combination of where and who she is.
While in Cosmetology school, Deziré began to realize what different paths she could take. As a hairstylist, she learned that she can either be her own boss or work under someone else. She realized then that her end goal was to be her “own boss” and create her own brand. She didn’t think of it only in terms of being a hairstylist, but knew that this way of thinking could be applied to any aspect in what she wanted to do – hair or selling her creations. Ironically, once Deziré got licensed, she realized she didn’t enjoy doing hair like before. She started to dislike the process of doing people’s hair, and noticed that she started to fall in love with creating jewelry more and more, even though it was originally her side hustle.
CaliVamp’s foundation started in 2013, but Deziré didn’t have an official CaliVamp Instagram page or website until 2016. In that 3 year gap, Deziré was still creating, tweaking her products, and trying to learn the business aspects of having a website. In fact, she had a website that she started in 2014, but never advertised, posted, or sold anything on it. She was just trying to learn the ropes of the industry. From 2013 to 2016, she was mostly creating for friends and family, and didn’t incorporate crystals in her jewelry yet. Everything was word of mouth or was posted on her personal Instagram.
When CaliVamp finally had an Instagram page that launched on February 2016, that is when Deziré started advertising her work. Advertising and posting on Instagram helped get word around that she was selling jewelry. Calivamp.com launched about 8 months later on October 5, 2016. CaliVamp finally got its feet off of the ground, but business wasn’t booming just yet. Up until this point, Deziré advertised her work through hear say and word of mouth from friends and acquaintences. Now, she could publicly display her crafts and get feedback from anyone. Having a public Instagram page benefited her because she had people messaging her for custom orders. To Deziré’s surprise, she started to realize that having an Instagram page and a website was just the first step.
“WOW!” She said when I asked what surprised her about going into the business. “Once you get your feet wet you realize it takes A LOT of hard work, time, and energy to really build a foundation and make back the money that you’ve invested. I was excited to get into it thinking I would all of a sudden start being able to financially support myself… but nope. It’s true what they say, in business ‘you need money to make money.'”
Deziré recalls being discouraged from time to time because certain family members were skeptical about her small business. They questioned whether this business could financially provide for Deziré and if it was “good money.” Deziré admits that, no, it definately wasn’t good money, especially when you’re building from scratch. Especially since the first couple of years were slow due to working part time and going to school. There were times where Deziré thought about slowing down on CaliVamp and getting another job – full-time or part-time. Whenever she got discouraged, her immediate family and friends pulls her back to center and reminds her that her creativity is something special. She’s grateful that her support system has always outweighed any doubters.
And one of her biggest supporters is her mom. In fact, without Mama CaliVamp, CaliVamp wouldn’t be a healing crystals jewelry brand. Deziré’s mom has always been into feng shui, energy, and the power of healing crystals. When Deziré purchased a wire wrapped citrine ring from a street vendor in New York on August 2016, her mom suggested that CaliVamp start incorporating crystals in its jewelry. It started to all come together in the beginning of 2017 when she was given the opportunity to have her jewelry displayed in ISSO San Francisco. One of the owners, Marie, told Deziré that she liked her jewelry, but would prefer that there was a collection or theme with the products. Marie told her to create a collection and come back. Again, Deziré’s mom suggested healing crystals.
Deziré knew healing crystals had meaning and special properties behind them. She didn’t feel comfortable selling and promoting products that she knew nothing about. So, she started doing her research. With the information she acquired through researching, she would incorporate into her daily life. She began to wear the wire wrapped citrine ring that she got from New York daily and started to notice an increase in her creative energy as well as business opportunities. Even now, Dezire is still researching and learning about different crystals and their properties. CaliVamp’s Vibes Collection set the tone for the business’ brand – Deziré wanted to spread love and healing with her work. She explains:
So crystals have their own specific crystalline structure and vibrate on a molecular level. Which allows them to have their own vibration and specific healing properties. When they come into other energetic fields they can imprint and pass those vibrations on. The first two crystals I had started wearing on a daily basis was citrine and lapis lazuli. Citrine helps with businesses, increases creativity, promotes joy and abundance. Once I began to wear or use this crystal on a daily basis I noticed an increase in all these areas. Lapis lazuli is a performers stone and helps with communication and confidence which are two things I lack the most in. If you are open and have an open mind about the ability of healing crystals over time you can see a difference in your own energy field and things around you. It’s sort of like the people you meet – you either vibe with them or not and certain people can increase or decrease your vibes or energy levels as well. It’s not really something that you can explain in full detail or sell someone on. It’s something you have to experience & be open to in order to believe & reap the benefits.
A couple months before quarantine, Dezire stopped being a lash tech because she developed De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, a painful condition that causes swelling of the thumb and tendons. Repeated wrist / hand movements can make the hand and thumb area hurt more. Deziré threw in the towel with doing eyelashes, because wearing a brace 24/7 on top of physical therapy just didn’t seem worth it. She also had to ask herself what career path she would rather do – do hair, do eyelash extensions, or make jewelry? Deziré decided to drop the beauty industry and focus all of her energy on only CaliVamp.
With that decision plus the quarantine and pandemic hitting, it made it easier for Deziré to give all of her attention to nurturing CaliVamp. The pandemic has affected CaliVamp in a very abundant way. She doubled in sales since Shelter in Place. She believes it’s because she wasn’t 100% focused on CaliVamp pre-COVID. The Shelter in Place was really a blessing in disguise for her small business, because she could really focus and plan out her next moves. CaliVamp has been consistently selling out on products since the Shelter in Place. Deziré humbly admits that selling out fast can be due to the fact that she only has a limited amount of products. Sometimes she only has a limited amount of specific crystals, or can only get a few crystals at a time. Regardless of how many products she has in stock, she always feels fulfilled when she sells them all. Deziré feels very proud and happy knowing that she is creating products that people enjoy and can benefit from.
She is especially grateful because 2020 is the first year that she started to gain actual profit from the business. Yes, you read that right. She has been building CaliVamp from the ground up since 2013, and has officially had the website running just a little over 4 years. It wasn’t until COVID and Shelter in Place that she began profiting off of CaliVamp. When she launched the website in 2016, everything she made from selling jewelry went back into buying materials to make the next set. I remember Deziré breaking it down for me at the 85° Bakery almost a year or 2 years back. She began going over making the jewelry, the costs of the materials, the cost of the website being up, stressing that if she made 2 sale for the month, after subtracting the material and website cost, her end of the month profit would be 50 cents. So 2020 was really CaliVamp’s break through year, and she’s not stopping there.
Her best products come from trying to create jewelry for herself or others. Deziré has sensitive skin and because of that, has trouble finding certain styles that she’s looking for in jewelry. So, she’ll start to play around with products she already has and messes around with it until she is satisfied. But her favorite way to stay creative and design is when she brings someone else’s vision to life. Deziré loves when clients give her the base of what they want but gives her complete creative control. Usually, it leads to a new product or a new style. If this happens, Deziré names the product after the client.
A product has to hit certain bench marks before it hits the CaliVamp website. Deziré has to first start out with creating. This usually leads her to the prototype. The 3rd step is the quality check. Deziré will wear a product a few weeks or a few months to see how the design and materials hold up. The people in her household also test out the products because they all react differently to jewelry – some have sensitive skin and some do not. If the product passes the quality check, it moves on to step 4 – posting it on social media and seeing how CaliVamp’s audience reacts to it. If she gets a positive response, she will begin to finalize the details, product description, and variants. She’ll go on to creating the products and having all the details written out so she can take product pictures and enter the information on the website. She’ll then create flyers, social media posts, and write out emails to hype up her release date.
Deziré is more motivated than ever to continue on with CaliVamp. 2020 really made her reflect on what feeds her soul and what makes her happy. All roads led her back to CaliVamp. Her goal for 2021 is to expand her office, her product lines, and do more collaborations with other artists. The pandemic was the push that CaliVamp needed to rekindle the flame of passion. When asked if she would go back to doing CaliVamp part time when things “get back to normal,” I was greeted with a “Hellll naaahh!” When things start to open back up and we figure out our “new normal,” Deziré plans to go even harder! Continuing to put her 100% in CaliVamp until she feels called to do otherwise.
Deziré wants her customers to know that she is human! She tries her best to provide quality products and quality service. CaliVamp’s main goal is to spread love and healing while being able to look fashionable. She wants her followers and customers to know that she was once a skeptic about the healing powers of crystals. But she has experienced the energy of healing crystals and wants to spread those high vibrations with those around her.
“Everyone is deserving of peace within themselves and happiness,” she said.
Deziré believes that her followers and customers can help CaliVamp thrive in different ways. She appreciates corrective criticism, honest reviews on products, and letting others know about CaliVamp. After all, her business started through word of mouth! A simple shout out, tag, or repost can really help a small business gain a following. She appreciates those that have bought from CaliVamp and continue to help spread the word about her jewelry and mission. Her advice to other small businesses is to keep going! She’s a firm believer that every situation is an opportunity, or it’s making space for a “bigger one.”
CaliVamp is about 7 years old now, and the journey has been long but worth it! The seeds Deziré has been planting for the last 7 years are finally starting to sprout. She is happy and excited to know that this is just the beginning for CaliVamp. 2020 showed Deziré where CaliVamp could go if she put her 100% into the business. She admits that this 7 year long journey has been tough and discouraging, but now that she has had a taste of success, it makes her more excited to see how far she can really take her business.
“I’m proud of how much CaliVamp has grown, and the whole process of how I’ve gotten to where I am,” Deziré said. “I’ve built CaliVamp from the ground up. Everything that I’ve learned has been from experience or research. I’ve gained knowledge from others and applied it to CaliVamp. No one else did the work for me.”
For the sake of the individual’s safety and privacy, they have chosen to share their story anonymously.
Do you ever think back to the times before something very significant in your life happened? You can remember the exact moment when someone entered your life, and little did you know at the time that life as you knew it would never be the same again? This is one of those stories. Their story started with a handshake.
It was kind’ve awkward to be honest. Jordan said hello, but Alex stayed mute, keeping their eyes down to the ground, and finally they shook Jordan’s hand. At work, they befriended the same people and were in the same department. They were bound to have conversations and bump into each other regularly. Alex started to notice that Jordan was taking an interest in them, maybe even trying to pursue a relationship. Jordan was very flirtatious, and Alex didn’t know how to feel. Alex definately thought that Jordan was out of their league – there was no way a romantic relationship would develop between the two. But Alex started to feel themself getting attracted to Jordan’s charming ways. Alex really liked that Jordan’s presence came off as “in control.” One day Alex caught a glimpse of Jordan’s eyes in the sunlight, it was a done deal.
From there, the couple moved pretty fast. They moved in together about 6 months into their relationship, and they were already planning a wedding by the end of their first year together. Alex describes everything in their relationship as “moving fast.” From “I love you’s,” to moving in, to taking “what’s mine is yours,” very literally, and so on. At the time, Alex didn’t see that as a red flag. And why would Alex second guess Jordan? Jordan swept Alex off of their feet and played the part well – making their love look so real, and making Alex feel like their love would last a lifetime. Alex was ecstatic, they never thought that a person like Jordan would be in a relationship with them. However, moving fast in the relationship was just 1 red flag of many. And unfortunately, Alex’s happiness did not last very long.
Alex explains that initially, these red flags didn’t even come up as red flags to them at the time. Why? They were so wrapped up in the “bubble” of happiness and the relationship, that they didn’t think twice about the manipulation. In fact, it took almost a decade later for Alex to understand that they were a victim of domestic abuse. Alex’s therapist helped Alex see all of the red flags that they missed throughout their 8 year long relationship. Moving fast in the relationship, Alex learned, is a tactic narcissist abusers use to start controlling their partners. But Alex was so caught up in the bubble, that they didn’t even realize Jordan’s actions were signs of control.
Very early on, Alex would hear the way Jordan would treat and talk to their ex-partners, since Jordan had children from previous relationships. Alex would always try to get Jordan to see the ex partners’ side, especially since Jordan had to co-parent with them. Jordan would boast about having children with different partners, and how there were probably more children they didn’t know about. Alex thought it was odd that Jordan would take pride in that, but brushed it off. 7 months into their relationship, Alex and Jordan got news that they were expecting. Alex never expected that co-parenting would soon be in their distant future, and they would be in Jordan’s exs’ shoes.
As soon as their relationship started, so did the rules. Jordan didn’t like the fact that Alex had personal social media accounts. Alex was forced into deleting their personal accounts, and had to replace them with joint accounts that they shared with Jordan. The people that they followed were mostly Jordan’s family and friends. Every friend / follower was approved by Jordan. Jordan got to choose who Alex interacted with on social media, and made sure Alex wasn’t searching or interacting with anyone they didn’t approve of. This meant that Alex couldn’t keep in contact with their own friends if Jordan didn’t approve of them. The first round of cut off’s happened with social media, and Alex didn’t know that they’d lose a lot more friendships due to Jordan down the line.
Jordan wanted the joint social media accounts because they wanted to keep tabs on who Alex spoke to. The agreement was that both of them would delete their personal accounts and just have the joint relationship account. Alex discovered that Jordan had personal accounts of their own. Alex couldn’t believe it, they thought it was bullshit that Jordan went out of their way to control the followers and accounts, only to have their own accounts secretly. Alex was pissed, so they decided to make their own personal accounts again. This would only add more fuel to the small fire already burning.
Alex started to lose a lot of friendships quickly. Some ended because Jordan demanded Alex end the friendships, and others ended because some friends were trying to tell Alex that this was not a healthy relationship. Alex would blame themself for the way Jordan treated them – not trusting them, accusing them, and controlling them. When Alex would vent to friends, their friends would tell them how the relationship wasn’t normal behavior. Alex would brush it off and try to justify Jordan’s actions, being oblivious and in denial about their reality. Jordan didn’t approve of Alex’s friends that were of the opposite sex. Jordan forced Alex to block and cut ties with many friends, but the rules never applied to Jordan. They were still friends with people of the opposite sex, and being very suspicious with a certain classmate. It was a double standard, and Alex was the only one having boundaries and rules.
Jordan started to accuse Alex of cheating. To make sure Alex’s self-esteem was low, Jordan would verbally put Alex down – commenting on their appearance, weight, and claiming that they could sleep with anyone. It was ironic to say the least because majority of their fights were due to Jordan’s flirtatious ways. Sometimes, the flirting would happen right infront of Alex. But when Alex would get upset, Jordan would brush it off as Alex having jealously issues. No matter what, Jordan always made Alex feel like they were doing something wrong and sneaky.
“No matter how many times I defended myself, I was always wrong in (their) eyes and I was the cheater,” Alex recalls. “I was upset of course. I could give reason – a valid reason – but (they) would never accept it as the truth.”
Jordan never let up on accusing Alex of cheating their whole 8+ year relationship. But there were multiple times where Alex caught Jordan cheating on them. And everytime Alex would confront Jordan about it, Jordan would say Alex is delusional. But the proof was in the pudding – all the messages, lies, and things not adding up. This put Alex in a difficult situation because by this time, they had a couple of children together already. Alex was tired of Jordan putting them down for things they were not guilty of. The least Jordan could do was admit their wrong doing, instead of projecting it back on Alex.
But that’s what Jordan was best at. Jordan would emotionally abuse Alex by not validating their feelings, ignoring them when they needed support, being very detached from the family. Alex admits that almost 9 years together and they still didn’t feel like they knew much about Jordan. Jordan kept to themselves, and didn’t give too much detail about their personal life and upbringing. This sense of privacy angered Alex because they just wanted to bond. Alex felt as though they only knew snippets of who Jordan really was, and there was no sign of Jordan budging or letting anyone in. They knew the basics of Jordan – like their favorite color, simple likes and dislikes, food, but anything passed that, Jordan kept Alex in the dark.
“8 years with (them), I’m assuming I was the only person who stayed the longest, and I learned about (them) from others,” Alex said.
Throughout their relationship, verbal abuse was very common. Jordan would call Alex names and put them down all the time. Everytime Alex tried to confront Jordan of cheating, even having valid evidence, Jordan would resort to name calling. Psycho. Stalker. Crazy. The list went on. Jordan would comment on Alex’s appearance, saying they gained weight, they should work out, they should do XYZ to themselves. Threats, insults, name calling, and being put down was common in their household.
On top of the verbal abuse, Jordan was notorious for their gaslighting. Jordan was constantly lying, making Alex believe the things they claimed – even if Alex had solid proof. Jordan’s go to defense mechanism was to deny deny deny. Jordan would deny saying something, even when Alex recalled the conversation and the details. It seemed like everything Jordan was guilty of, he would just project it back on Alex. Any questions Alex may have had were always met with accusations of Alex being a cheater, liar, and being at fault for causing a fight. Alex was miserable, but at the same time desperately wanted Jordan’s love. It was a love hate relationship, and that’s what made it all the more confusing.
Alex kept all these red flags from her family. They didn’t want their family’s perception of Jordan to change. Alex was protecting Jordan’s honor, and wanted their family to still see Jordan in a positive light. Therefore, Alex dealt with the abuse alone. Alex’s mother was extremely fond of Jordan. From the moment Alex brought Jordan home, Alex’s mother thought Jordan was great and really loved them. For 8 years, Alex’s family didn’t know how tumultuous their relationship was. On top of that, Jordan started to shit talk Alex’s family. Jordan would categorize them with certain stereotypes, and would judge them. To make Alex more insecure, Jordan would say that Alex’s sibling(s) wanted to have sex with them. Jordan claimed that Alex’s sibling(s) have mentioned it/ have hinted that they would be down for a sexual encounter. Alex didn’t believe what Jordan claimed, but was weary. Alex no longer wanted their sibling(s) around Jordan, fearing that what Jordan claimed was true. Alex started to distance themselves from their siblings.
Alex believes that this is part of the reason why Jordan wanted to move so far away from their family. Alex now sees, over 10 years later, that this was Jordan’s way of isolating them from people they were close to. They moved to another state – far enough that Jordan was confident that Alex’s family couldn’t afford to visit. They moved around a lot because Jordan was never satisfied with their location. Within 2 years they moved 4 times, from apartment complex to the next, to out of state, and another relocation after that. They finally settled in California. Alex had no family and no friends near by. All they had was Jordan, their kids, and Jordan’s family and friends. Alex felt alone throughout their relationship, but this time, they were actually alone, with no one to turn to except their abuser.
Alex was really lonely in California. Jordan would tell Alex that they were boring, and would act as if they were helping by forcing their family to hangout with Alex. In reality, Alex knew that they were just a burden to Jordan’s family, and Jordan forced others to hangout with Alex so they themself wouldn’t have to. Alex’s main and only concern were their children. But it seemed like Jordan always put their family last. Alex had enough. They were tired of the mind games, the name calling, the abuse, the cheating, not feeling good enough, they didn’t even recognize themself in the mirror anymore. Alex hit their breaking point. The relationship was going on 9 years, 9 years too long.
“I wanted to be loved, noticed, valued, and appreciated… but I wasn’t,” Alex shared. “I know now that I will never get those things from (Jordan), (they’re) incapable of it. Instead, I felt like I was a chess piece in (their) mind, just waiting to use me for (their) personal gain.”
A month before their 9 year anniversary, Alex made the decision to end their relationship. Alex was in the shower, taking extra long to avoid their reality. Something about that shower made Alex realize how unhappy they were in the relationship. It dawned on them that they were in a relationship with Jordan for almost 9 years, and never really knew the real them. Alex got out of the shower, and Jordan walked in the room with their phone in hand. Alex knew they had to end it.
“I don’t want to be with you anymore,” Alex told Jordan.
“Okay,” Jordan said.
Not a week later, Jordan was in a relationship with someone else. Alex was heartbroken. Jordan didn’t hesitate to say “okay” to not being together, and didn’t put up a fight for their family. And just like that, Jordan was repeating the same cycle with someone else, saying “I love you,” fast -less than 1 week after breaking up with Alex. On top of that, their lease was ending. Alex wanted to stay in the apartment and was going to take full responsibility of the rent and bills, and just needed Jordan to sign off on the lease. But Alex knew they couldn’t depend on Jordan, so Alex started to look for short term residency for themself and the children, not waiting for Jordan’s response.
Jordan didn’t come through with signing on another lease. This left Alex and their children homeless. For a month they lived in a motel, while Jordan moved in with their new significant other. When the children would go with Jordan, Alex would crash on a friend’s couch. Jordan never offered for the kids and Alex to stay with them in the meantime. Eventually, Alex found a place for themself and the kids. But California was just too much – too expensive, too stressful, too much for a single parent. Alex and the kids had to move back to Alex’s home state.
Alex and the kids moved out of state, and for a while the two were co-parenting from a distance. Alex finally decided to seek help. Therapy was Alex’s way to regain control of themself again. Alex felt lost, they couldn’t eat, they couldn’t sleep, and they wanted to find another way to cope with the failed relationship. It is at therapy that Alex learned that they were in an abusive relationship with a narcissist. They couldn’t believe it. When the therapist pointed out all the red flags and all the ways Jordan manipulated and abused them, Alex broke out into tears. 8 plus years of abuse validated. The therapist was confirming that Alex wasn’t crazy, they weren’t psycho, they weren’t making things up and misremembering information. It was abuse.
For a while, Alex felt like they were in a better place mentally. Their progress was tested when Jordan moved to where Alex and the children were after a couple of years of co-parenting from different states. Alex and Jordan became fuck buddies, and with time, it started to give Alex hope. Hope that they could possibly be a family again, or atleast co-parent respectfully. Alex was wrong. They realized once again that Jordan would never be the partner they wanted them to be. Alex admits that the fuck buddy system was put in place only because it was familiar.
The two stopped being friends with benefits, and Jordan found another partner to move in with. After all these years, Jordan was still pulling the same tactics. But even though Jordan has a new love interest, that doesn’t mean they’re over playing mind games with Alex. Jordan brings up occasionally how the two should try for another child. Alex thinks back to the crazy custody battles and how difficult it is to co-parent with Jordan, and shuts down the idea.
To this day, Alex’s family doesn’t know the truth about Jordan and their relationship. Only one of Alex’s siblings knows the truth. When Alex’s mom boasts about Jordan doing a good deed or brings them up in general, Alex can’t help but roll their eyes. But they don’t divulge their deepest darkest secrets, they don’t try to get their family to hate Jordan too, they don’t tell a peep about anything from the past. And in a way, Alex still fights this battle alone. They notice a huge change in the person they have become, but still won’t share it with the family.
And the same goes for friends. After Jordan and Alex broke up, Alex tried to rekindle the old friendships they lost. Sometimes it was successful, and sometimes it wasn’t. They acknowledge that these friendships ended due to Jordan, but sometimes it didn’t seem worth it to rekindle. Long absences usually calls for catching up, and Alex didn’t want to explain the past and relive what they went through. It was their business and they didn’t feel comfortable to share. They also didn’t feel like they needed to explain themself.
“I reached out to them, sometimes it worked and other times I realized it wasn’t a good situation to rekindle anything,” Alex said. “When you’re forced to remove friends from your life and you go back and rekindle things, you face judgments and you go into catching up with them. Oftentimes, there are questions, and I didn’t want to answer any of it so I just left it alone and left the friendship alone.”
Alex’s advice for the outsiders worried about a friend’s relationship is to be understanding. They advise that you hold your judments and opinions, and simply just be there for your friend. It’s easy to say and give advice when you are an outsider looking in, but when you’re actually in a toxic abusive relationship, it’s hard. Yes, give your opinions and voice out your concerns, but don’t make the person feel worse about themselves.
Alex and Jordan was in a relationship for almost 9 years, and they will have to both be in each other’s lives to an extent for their children. Alex has lost hope that they can co-parent peacefully with Jordan. Alex sees how happy their children are to have Jordan back in their lives, and they say that’s what made this journey worth it. But Alex does admit that co-parenting with a narcissist is nearly impossible. They feel as though they’re being sabotaged majority of the time. Alex doesn’t know yet if they’ll ever tell their kids the truth about Jordan. Their main concern is to protect the kids from the illusions Jordan tends to paint.
Alex has come a long way with working on themselves. They put up boundaries, and try hard to not let Jordan’s words get to them. Alex stressed the importance of thinking before reacting, and that has saved them a lot of tears. But of course, there are days when Alex just can’t stand Jordan – they break, they cry, they yell, they blast music to try to remember the bulletpoints of how Jordan tries to manipulate and control situations. There are days when Alex just writes. They write down all the negative things they want to say to Jordan until they feel better. They’ve put up walls, and they know they’re not the same person they used to be. Alex is at a constant battle fighting for themself, their mind, their heart.
“After the relationship ended, it took a while for me to accept what I went through, what my kids went through,” Alex said. “Now I accept it, I no longer deny my experience and my past. It is not my fault. What I went through was never my fault.”
A letter to my future kids about this historic day.
This is on some How I Met Your Mother shit, which is totally like me, so don’t even act surprised. Anyways, I wanted to write and document this day before some time passes and I forget some details…
For reference, let me rewind it 4 years prior to this day. November 2016. I’ll never forget going to school the day after America learned that the next president would be Trump. Going into school was depressing. There was such a heaviness in the air on San Francisco State campus. Trump being president was the topic of discussion in every conversation, every class, and on the news. Everyone was disappointed and scared of what the next 4 years would be like.
My journalism teachers were especially devastated. Journalism is already a challenging profession, but to also have a president that claims certain news outlets as “fake news” would make the job that more challenging. My professors would always add how we are going into the industry at a very delicate time. There will be people that don’t believe us, will question our credibility, and will refuse to talk to us – following the lead of Trump. They were worried for their students’ futures and the country. What would the next 4 years be like?
I can’t believe its been 4 years under Trump. In these 4 years he has caused so much hurt and divide. When he was elected, it brought to light all the broken parts of America that still need fixing. Suddenly, racism wasn’t something to be ashamed of anymore, locking kids in cages wasn’t seen as inhumane, whether black lives mattered or not was now a debate, and following orders to stop the spread of a disease was taking away rights. Just 2020 alone is so bizarre. And some of us in America had enough. Especially with a pandemic to add to all the turmoil that Trump had caused, we demanded change.
Kids, I’m sure your textbooks will go over what kind of human Trump was. Your textbooks will probably have screenshots of some of his ridiculous tweets and statements, you’ll probably see videos of things he’s said and done, and you’ll probably wonder, “how the hell was this guy the president?!” And I’ll be sitting there just as confused as you are. I’ll be there to tell you my experiences – being a college student studying Journalism and Women Gender Studies when all of this was going down. Unfortunately, I’ll have to share how decisions under his term hurt people I was close to and made a lot of people fear for their safety. How he acted and influenced others made me fear for my safety as a woman. I’ll even have to open up about the divide it had on the world and in people’s homes. What weird times.
I felt especially guilty because I didn’t vote in 2016. Yup, I admit it. To this day, I still feel so ashamed and embarrassed. It was a mix of knowing California was going to be blue anyways, thinking no way Trump would be elected, and honestly just not taking initiative or making time to register. Right after Trump was elected, I made sure to register and vote for everything that came after. When 2020 came around, I knew I had to redeem myself. If I wanted change, I had to be a part of it. If I wanted to complain and bitch, I had to make sure that I had a say in the decisions being made.
Seeing how America decided to vote in 2016 scared me. To add to that, the pandemic made people hesitant to vote in person. I voted through the mail, and did it weeks in advance to make sure it was recieved in time. Me and your Ninang Merl had a voting session where we sat at the livingroom couch going over props and candidates for Daly City. We debated over certain things, but it helped because it made us take into consideration the opposite side. It forced us to ask ourselves – who would this effect? What’s the pros and cons? For presidency obviously it was an easy Biden / Harris vote of course. Kids, did I mention this was the year that Kanye West was on the ballot? Remind your Papa Lando about this and you’ll hear an earful. Hahaha.
But, we filled out the ballots about 2-3 weeks in advance and we mailed it in that same day, right after visiting your Great Tatay Jacinto. That is also another story… By this time we were about 7 months into the pandemic life. We usually visited Tatay Jack’s place every other Sunday along with all your great aunts and uncles, aunts and uncles, and older cousins. We would gather and have dinner, putting on animal planet shows because that was Tatay’s favorite, or America’s funniest home videos. Tatay also didn’t have cable on his TV. But with the pandemic and Tatay being 96, we had to stop the gatherings. It was too risky. So, he spent his 97th birthday Sheltering in Place. It still makes me sad to think about. But your Papa Lando, Ninang Merl, and I would try to drive by every Sunday to drop off some bread for Tatay and Tita. And when I mean drop off, I literally mean drop off. We wore masks, stayed more than 6 feet away, tried not to touch anything, said hello to Tatay, and left. The whole encounter would take about 1 minute max.
That was around mid-October when we mailed in the ballots. But when November started to loom around the corner, I started to get nervous. I did my part, but would the rest of America do its part? I wasn’t the only one stressed. It’s all everyone and anyone could talk about. We had your Ninang Cam’s baby shower on Halloween. It was a good little distraction from the election. Your Ninang Justine, Ninang Lyn, Ninang Cam’s mom, and I planned it for your God brother, Jojo. We were so excited because Kuya Jojo was the first baby to be born in our group. Even though it was in the middle of a pandemic, we kept the event small and made sure people were taking proper protocols. But once the baby shower was over, all of our attention went back to the dreaded election.
The first couple days of November was nerve wrecking. Once it was November 3rd, my eyes were glued to my phone. At this time, your dad and I had moved in together, but we didn’t have cable, only Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime video etc. So I didn’t have access to the news. Now that I think about it, refreshing the results on my phone was probably better for my anxious ass, since your Ninang Merl was saying that hearing the news anchors’ 5 cents made her more stressed. Everybody was saying that it would take days – maybe even weeks to know who the winner was. Especially since voting was taking place during a pandemic. Some states said it would take a week or two to count up all the mail in ballots. Still, I refreshed and refreshed my phone on November 3rd.
I woke up November 4th and went straight to my phone, thinking that I would have a notification with the winner. Nope. Throughout the workday I would refresh my phone, making myself anxious looking at the percentages. I couldn’t help it. It was like watching a train wreck. I just couldn’t look away. And even if I could look away, I’d be getting updates from your Auntie Hong at work. She was on it. I loved working with your Auntie Hong. She’d give me updates while she was on break and I was on duty about the election. Little did she know I had the tab open on the laptop as I did my work, refreshing every 10 minutes or so.
Kids, when you’re in distress, turn to memes. I will say that the memes about waiting for Nevada and how fuckin slow they were counting their ballots was what kept the situation light. The memes made it funny, even though inside everyone was trippin out. By Thursday and Friday, I just assumed that we weren’t going to know the winner until atleast November 12th – the date Nevada gave us regarding their mail in ballots. I tuned it out of my mind, but still I refreshed my phone screen everytime it came to mind again.
On November 7, 2020, at around 8:12 AM, your Papa Lando and Ninang Merl came to pick up your dad and I from our San Francisco house. We were going to meet up my Auntie Salvie, your Uncle Michael, Uncle Ryan, Kuya Jacob & Brayden, and Ate Ava to go hiking. This is something we starter during quarantine. We couldn’t be at Tatay’s house, and we were all cautious about social distancing. But we missed the family hangouts. So we would hike every Saturday, wearing masks and catching up.
“Here.” Your Ninang Merl texted me.
Your dad and I got in the car, and we were on our way to the hiking meeting spot. Of course, all we could talk about was the election. Your Papa Lando and Ninang Merl kept talking politics, talking about which states we needed to win, how corrupt both parties are, etc. Through all this noise, your dad pulled out his phone. He said out loud that Biden won and showed me his phone. I looked at the top that read “The Associated Press has called this race.”
“Wait. The Associated Press called it. That means its official?!” I said in disbelief, searching it on my phone.
We all couldn’t believe it. But something in me was hesitant to believe. So I waited it out. We went on the hike, and your Uncle Ryan and Auntie Salvie started getting notifications through apps and websites. We had a new president. I was still hesitant to look at my phone. I didn’t want to be taken out of the present moment to be glued to my phone, so I saved my stalking and fact checking for after the hike. I couldn’t get it out of my head the excitement and relief I felt. This was really happening? I couldn’t believe it.
After the hike I went on social media and everyone was posting about it. We had a new president. We got Trump out of office, and by his tweets, he was not happy about it. I was in awe. I will say that I had little to no faith in America to vote Trump out. I really hoped we would, but was I confident? Hell nah. I really thought that these swing states were going to disappoint again. I’m so happy that they didn’t though.
I had so many things racing through my mind. Trump was out of office! But there was a lot of work to be done, voting him out was the first step to rebuilding. And then I thought… holy shit, our Vice President is a woman. Not only a woman, but a Black and Indian woman. The first woman to be vice president. I couldn’t believe that I was living this historic day in history. I got to see the first black man become president, and now, I got to see the first black and brown woman to be vice president.
This was big. Your Papa Lando was dropping us back to our San Francisco house because we still had a lot of laundry to do. But I knew people were going to start gathering on the streets. I knew there were celebrations about to explode. And I was right. People took it to the streets, from San Francisco, to New York, to even Canada. I wanted to go out and celebrate as well, but your Papa Lando was afraid for our safety. Which I was hesitant about too. Not only that, but your dad reminded me that we’re in the middle of a fuckin’ pandemic. So, your dad and I celebrated by ordering food and gorging ourselves. By 8 PM we decided to swing by the Haight. Your dad had something to pick up, and we decided to pick up some pizza while we were there. It was dark, cold, and getting a little late, but people were still driving by honking and cheering.
We ordered our extra large pizza and waited outside, that was the new thing to do in the COVID era. I remember looking into the pizza shop and seeing their TV on the news. They kept showing scenes and clips from different parts of America of people celebrating. Clips of Biden and Harris filled the screen. That was our new president and vice president. I thought of how historic this day was. How cool it was to finally have a woman as a vice president. Thinking it won’t be long until we have a woman as a president.
I was hopeful for the future. The last 4 years under Trump was like watching a Circus shit show. The end to his presidency was what America needed after a rough 2020. Kids, I hope by the time you read this that the world has changed for the better. I hope you’re in complete shock that a woman was elected for the first time in my lifetime, because there are so many women of color in office as you read this. I hope this post ages well, and I can tell you that Biden and Harris did a hell of a good job. I hope they do, and it’s up to me and other Americans to hold them accountable.
Kids, that’s what I was doing on Saturday, November 7, 2020, when history was made.
Daly City / San Francisco born and raised. Daly City, California, is known for the huge Filipino presence. People joke around that Daly City is basically “Little Manila.” I was fortunate enough to grow up in an area that is so culturally diverse, but also, had people that had the same background and traditions as myself. I know that a few hours out of the Bay Area in either direction is a totally different story. So I didn’t realize until my early 20’s how lucky I was to grow up here. I know there are a lot of people that have stories about being some of the only Asians at their high school and feeling the need to conform to those around them, which usually meant acting more white.
Of course, when I was younger, I was unaware of how fortunate I was to live in an area where some people have the same features as me, speak the same 2nd language as me, and have similar traditions as my family. At the time, all of this was my normal reality. I went to a Catholic school that highlighted a Filipino-Chinese Saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, every year. And everytime September rolled around, we would have San Lorenzo Ruiz’s mass during school hours. I would feel such a sense of pride. Mr. Mills’ class always “hosted” that mass, and I remember since Kindergarten going to the mass every year.
One student would recite sentence by sentence Lorenzo Ruiz’s story in English, and another student would translate that sentence in Tagalog. I can still remember the script: “Lorenzo Ruiz, our first martyr.” “Lorenzo Ruiz, una naming martir…” There was a specific song we sang at the mass that was entirely in Tagalog. I couldn’t understand the whole song, but I could understand majority of it. This was my “normal” growing up. Celebrating a Filipino Saint, for example, was “normal,” but now I look back and realize it’s because we had such a big Filipino community in the Bay Area. And I took so much pride in it. I was so proud.
When I was in 5th grade I was finally in Mr. Mills’ class. I was excited because I knew that I had the chance to play a role in the mass since he hosted it every year. When Mr. Mills started to ask for volunteers, my hand was one of the first to shoot up in the air. I wanted to be a part of San Lorenzo Ruiz’s mass so bad. The mass highlighted Filipinos and our language, and I wanted to be involved. Luckily, Mr.Mills picked me to have a part in the mass. I was going to be reading the English translation of Ruiz’s story. I was so excited because it was something I had watched for years from the church pews, but now, I’d be the one presenting it.
I practiced every night with my lines. The mass was going to be in front of the whole school, definitely more than 600 people. We would practice in the church, and I would have the microphone. I was known for being a loud mouth, which is probably why I was picked to read and have the role. Mr. Mills would always tell us, “Project your voice. Enunciate!” I could probably use my regular voice and people in the church could hear me without a microphone, so I was solid. I remember the day of the mass, I started to get stage fright. I looked out into the crowd and saw all eyes on me, as Ivan and I stood infront of the whole school. We told Lorenzo Ruiz’s story in English and in Tagalog, and after, I felt such a sense of pride that I got to be a part of something that highlighted my people.
Even though I grew up in a place where there were a lot of Filipinos, I still didn’t understand why nobody on TV looked like me. I would get excited watching shows that had an Asian person, and it was even more heart eyes if I knew they were Filipino as well. It was to the point where my sisters and I would say things like, “Look, an Asian!” “Do you think they’re Filipino?” “I bet maybe they’re half,” when we would see an Asian on TV. So even though I came from an area that was very Filipino/ Asian dense, I knew from a young age that Asians were not being represented on the TV screens. From Manny Pacquiao, to Shay Mitchell, to Apl.de.ap, to Jokoy, to Jasmine Trias on American Idol, once we caught wind of them being Filipino, we rode hard for them. On Balitang America, the Filipino news station that broadcasted American news through the Filipino lens, they would feature any Filipino making a name for us in America. From the music industry, to entertainment, to education.
I feel like Filipinos are very proud of other Filipinos who “make it.” Even if they have a small following, just claiming their Filipino heritage will have other Filipinos rep them. I even remember going on Shay Mitchell’s Ask back in the day and asking if she was really half Filipino. She actually responded and confirmed that she was in fact half Filipina. It made me so proud that an actress that I looked up to was representing us on the screen. I even recall reading interviews where Shay talked about growing up in an area that was mostly white, and being biracial had her feeling left out. Seeing people that look like me on the screen was important growing up. I was the kind of kid that literally set a “Filipino For Lyfe” themed MySpace background. Jokoy described seeing other Filipinos on TV as motivation to go for his dreams and make it as well.
When I got to high school the history books just touched on Filipino American history oh so briefly. I used to skim through the history books in middle school and see where Filipinos or the Philippines was ever brought up. It wouldn’t be much. High school was a weird time. Going to a high school in Daly City meant that there were gonna be a lot of Filipinos. It wasn’t always the case, but sometimes there would be snarky comments (sometimes from people I was even cool with) complaining about how the whole school is mostly Filipino / Asian. Being Asian or Filipino in Daly City didn’t make you special. You were just like everybody else. Which I saw was a good thing when I was younger. But then I hit my teen years and wanted to be different, I didn’t want to be “like everyone else.”
I wasn’t ashamed to be Filipino, but I wasn’t repping it hard like I used to. Why would I have to rep it if everyone and their mama was Filipino in Daly City anyways? Don’t get me wrong – I still would be happy when I saw a Filipino coming up. But at the same time I wouldn’t plaster “Filipino For Lyfe” as a MySpace background anymore because I thought it was cringe. At this age I was on the prowl for a boyfriend (cringe lyfe), and when people would ask if I would ever get with a Filipino guy, I’d respond in a way that made it seem like “never in a thousand years.” Which I thought was okay, since I’m Filipino too. “What if I find out they’re my cousin or something?!” I would say. Which by the way, isn’t too far fetched, my family on both sides are pretty big.
I would say it wasn’t until I got to SFSU and joined the journalism program did I start to get that sense of pride back again. Suddenly, my whole perspective shifted. I took on the role of “journalist” and was bothered over the fact that a great portion of newsrooms are ran by white people. White men to be exact. The lack of diversity in journalism is what ticked me off. And I wanted to change that. I wanted to represent my people and capture stories of people in my community, and branch out further. Suddenly, that pride was back. But that pride was matched with determination. Determined to make change and actually make a difference. I wasn’t giving people a “voice,” because everyone has a voice. I wanted to be so open and chill that anyone felt like they could open up to me and tell their stories, and describe to me their raw emotions.
Suddenly, I had a mission. I wanted to get more in touch with my culture, the good and the bad. And since being on this journey, I have learned a lot, just by talking to people casually about their own experiences. I started to embrace my Filipino culture with open arms again, like how I did when I was a kid. I didn’t care if I was 1 out of 2 billion Filipinos in the Bay Area. I didn’t care about the “Little Manila” jokes anymore. I wanted to learn more about my people’s history, their stories, their struggles. And I wanted to write it. Not some random journalist who is just trying to bang out another story. I didn’t want someone else to be writing our stories.
Especially being out of school, I have made efforts to try to educate myself on my own. I remember writing a paper in community College about how my dad’s side of the family arrived to America. Just by talking to the members of my own family, I uncovered historic events. My great grandfather was a prisoner of War and survivor of the Bataan Death March. This information I would’ve never known if I didn’t have the school assignment, and if I never asked for the story. I started becoming obsessed with other people’s stories. My whole life I’ve been the talker. And now, I’m taking on the role of listener and teacher.
October is Filipino American history month. Every month, we teach the kids at my school about a new country. This month, I chose the Philippines. Over the years I have seen the Bay Area, but San Francisco is particular, changing. And changing fast. And it’s nice to teach my 1.5 – 2 1/2 year old students about my culture and traditions. One of my students got picked up and told her mom she painted a flag for activity. Her mom asked if she remembered what country’s flag she painted. My student responded with, “Well, it’s where teacher Marinelle’s mom and dad is from.”
I had the right idea when I was in 5th grade, “Filipino For Lyfe.”
The last week of May 2020 will definitely go down in history. The political climate of America is shifting. The inhumane death of George Floyd is what broke the camel’s back. Thanks to social media, videos of George Floyd pleading for his life while Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck until he suffocated to death, went viral and caught the eyes of many. People’s anger towards law enforcement, the people in power, and the justice system (or lack there of) is beginning to boil over. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this is all long over due. People are angry, rightfully so, and are desperately fighting for change. How many more black lives will it take for some of you to open your eyes?
I remember I was in the 8th grade when Oscar Grant III, 22, was murdered in 2009. This incident stuck with me since it was so close to home, taking place in Oakland, California. I was so upset when I saw the videos on the news, taking place in the Fruitvale BART station on New Year’s Day. Why was it so hard for grown adults to see that this was murder? And that this was wrong and should’ve never happened? Why was it in plain sight to a 13 year old me – who at the time, didn’t know much about the justice system and in school we were just learning the surface of the injustices African American people have faced – that Oscar Grant’s death was a big deal?
At that age, my outspoken and blunt nature got me in a lot of trouble. I forgot what the conversation was, or how the topic even came about, but suddenly I got the urge to speak up in class. I don’t remember verbatim what I said, but it was along the lines of “Johannes Mehserle killed Oscar Grant, and he should be in jail.” My teacher snapped.
“You have no idea what its like to be a police officer, you don’t know what its like to be under that pressure.”
I tried to argue back, saying that yes, I have no idea what it’s like to be an officer. But I do know that he was mistreated because the color of his skin, and that the police used unnecessary force. If they felt their lives were in danger, wouldn’t you reach for your taser before a gun? And even then it didn’t make sense to reach for anything since Grant was unarmed and on the ground. I was in an argument with a teacher… It was then I realized that regardless if you have valid points, there will be some people out there that will always take law enforcement’s side. Probably because that’s what they were taught, or simply because they never had unjust encounters.
In the Filipino culture, it’s very common to be taught to let things go, or not take things too seriously when an elder has an opposing view. To avoid conflict with family / their elders, many ignore the racist views and comments. We are taught to keep our beliefs to ourselves, and if you disagree, fine, just don’t you dare try to argue it. This has created tension within families, not only in Filipino households, but more so a lot of first generation children. The “disagree but stay hush hush” is something first generation children deal with when it comes to conversations on race and equality.
Getting into journalism was no different. Except this time they called it “being unbiased.” In times of distress, journalists still need to remain neutral and unbiased. This is something I’ve struggled with. It bothered / still bothers me to know that if I were to cover a White supremicist rally, that I would have to remain “neutral” while writing or documenting my piece. And the only time opinions in journalism is “acceptable” is if its an opinion piece. In times of racial tension, staying neutral and silent is the last thing people should be doing.
There are some people out there that act as if racism doesn’t exist. And other times there are people that know racism still exists, but choose to not address it because they’re scared to stir the pot. But turning a blind eye to something so apparent and disgusting helps nobody. No change comes from being silent. This reminds me of first generation children and their age gap with their elders. They know its wrong, but don’t speak up. By avoiding these hard conversations, you give hate and racism space to grow.
And it sucks, because we live in a time where you have to conceal what you believe because it can effect your professional life. I’ve heard countless times in journalism classes that whatever we post can be held against us. If we are seen at a rally, a protest, a march, it can mean losing our job. If we are posting anti-Trump content, giving our opinion on our personal platforms, it can mean losing your credibility as a journalist. Some people have to conceal their identities at the Black Lives Matter rallies because if they are identified, they could be putting themselves in danger. This is part of the problem, that some people have to choose between their job or publically speaking out or showing out for racial inequality.
And then there are some people that act shocked to learn that African American people still get treated like this in 2020. There is a shock factor that we all initially go through when new video footage surfaces of an African American being wrongfully murdered. But to be so baffled about the structures of oppression, the unjust ways of the system, and racism in general, that’s your privilege showing. For those that “can’t believe it,” you are denying the reality of so many individuals. Oh, you can’t believe it? When there are so many black lives that have been taken by law enforcement that we can name multiple victims by name just from the top of our heads? Wake the fuck up. If you’re surprised by everything taking place, its because you’ve been turning a blind eye to your brothers and sisters in oppression.
Like I said, the last week of May 2020 will go down in history. We have all been Sheltering in Place for almost 3 months, and in those 3 months we are bombarded with video footage of more police killings, more black lives being lost, more evidence of people falsely accusing black people of crimes. All. On. Video. This is not hearsay. There are so many videos from this Shelter in Place alone that I couldn’t keep up with it all. Everyday it seems like there is something new, someone else being killed, another cop acting out of hate, another hashtag going around of the newly deceased. This isn’t right.
And being Sheltered in Place only showed everyone’s true colors. Being at home gave us all extra time to keep up with current events. This has been building up over decades, but Sheltering in Place shed light on the broken parts of the system. Everyone’s tired of this shit. When is enough enough? How many more people have to die for actual change to happen?
Covid-19 really put into perspective what’s important to America. When mostly white protesters went against Shelter in Place Orders to have their “freedom” back because they can’t stay inside for the sake of medical field workers to flatten the curve, Trump supported them. Describing them as “very good people” that are angry and want their lives back. But when people protest the murder of one of their own, they are “thugs.” Its all about how the media portrays different groups of people, and when the president is the one to spew out hate, it further divides us as a people. The truth is, George Floyd can never have his life back, because a man who’s duty is to supposedly “protect” decided to end his life.
Why is it when these Trump supporters protest and hold up their “Trump 2020” signs with no masks in the middle of a pandemic, they have a right to protest? But when all races come together to peacefully protest the murder of a black man, a curfew is set, people are being tear gassed, rubber bullets are being shot, and the military is getting involved? The anger has been building up for decades, and we are now just seeing the outcome of people’s wrath.
I saw this tweet going around that stated:
“…Looting is the ultimate strike against a system that deems mass-produced objects to be far more precious than life itself. It is humanity demanding to be recognized.”
I know a lot of people have different views on looting. But to me, under these circumstances, I’m not so easily for it or against it. And I’ll tell you why:
In general, I do not condone looting. I personally wouldn’t do it. I believe peaceful protests will make change, and fighting violence with violence will only give the oppressor the upper hand. I genuinely feel for all the small businesses that have been effected by looters. Covid-19 has already put some businesses in a shitty spot financially, and on top of that to have your businesses broken into or burned down, my heart goes out to them. I feel like small businesses should be excluded from vandalization because it’s not some corporate company with millions of dollars, you’re hurting someone in your neighborhood trying to make a living. And that’s where I definately don’t agree with the looters making small businesses owner’s lives hell, especially with the devastating effect Covid-19 has had on them already.
However, I do see why some people resort to looting big well known companies. People are upset. Years of feeling ignored, unsafe, and dehumanized will take people to that breaking point. I explain it to some people as “I don’t agree, but I understand.” At the end of the day, I’m not black. I don’t know first hand what its like for my people to be the main targets of society. And I recognize that that’s my privilege showing. That’s why who am I to judge how some people grieve? Its true, America values the dollar more than a life. And it shows. “Seeing a black man plead for his life won’t pull at your heart strings? Okay, loosing profit off of your products will though.” Its anger driven, but I understand. And I also understand that majority of these looters are not affiliated with the protests and are just using this situation as a cover up. And to them I say – fuck you, you’re not shedding light on anything and you’re there for the wrong reasons.
I saw the video of CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his crew getting arrested on live TV with no explanation. Another reporter and her crew got rubber bullets shot at them. Journalists have a right to document and report on these issues. Its so disheartening to see things like this on the news and all over my feed. I’m seeing so many videos of peaceful protesters being sprayed and abused. All I have to say is: THE WORLD IS WATCHING. The true colors of some of these cops are being exposed. You can’t hide behind your uniform anymore, the world sees you, the real you.
It seems like the media focuses more on the violent parts of the protests, not the peaceful side. For the most part, the protests have been peaceful. There are even some videos out there of some officers walking with protesters. Videos of mass gatherings of people having a moment of silence, taking a knee, and human baracades to protect black and brown folks, makes me have hope in humanity.
We have hit the threshold, and now it’s time for change. Now is not the time to be silent. Its time for all races to stand up and fight alongside our black brothers and sisters. Enough is enough. Say it loud and say it unapologetically : BLACK LIVES MATTER 🗣
Before this Shelter in Place, I complained about not having enough time to practice self-care, do hobbies, or have a moment to relax and just be. It seemed like there were never enough hours in the day. I found myself falling into routine, and I had to find ways to switch up my week. That included spontaneous taco truck trips with my girls, meeting up for dinner with friends I haven’t seen in a while, and some more meet ups with friends in a food setting. Sometimes though, the best plans were no plans at all. I’m such a homebody, and knowing I could go straight home and relax after work was something I got excited about. It seemed like that was becoming my life story – the girl who never had enough time.
And then COVID-19 happened. And all I can say is wow. I definitely did not see this coming. And now, the girl who craved to be at home with no plans, is literally at home with no plans. Its as if Mother Earth heard my silent pleas for a break. Yo, Mother Earth, thanks but no thanks, you did it in the most fucked up way, but here we are, and I have no choice but to accept it. And now, I have plenty of time to do some of the things my heart desires, from home that is.
When all of this was first going down, I thought of the Shelter in Place Diaries series immediately. I knew I wanted to show how some people were using their time during Shelter in Place. What we are living through right now with this pandemic will probably be in history books. I picture myself being a wise grandma talking about, “back in my day during the COVID-19 pandemic, I spent my time… blah blah.”
I tried my best to reach out to different types of people to get different view points of your everyday Californian. From a single young woman living alone in San Jose and working from home, a mother having to find different approaches to teaching her 3 year old son in SoCal, an aspring rapper and producer in the Bay Area, a fitness coach having to convert all of his in-person classes to Zoom sessions in Elk Grove, to me – a writer / professional overthinker doing Zoom meetings with 2 year olds in Daly City.
I not only wanted to share my story, but my struggles as well. If you’ve been following me or have been a reader of mine for a while, you will know that I stress the importance of being transparent and real. In the era of social media and faking it till we make it, I want to be that voice that speaks the truth, and let people know it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to not be 100% all the time. It’s okay to be honest with yourself and not put up a front for others – whether that be on social media or real life. Not everyone has it together. And anyone that seems like they do, probably don’t. And for those reasons, I decided to document my Shelter in Place Diaries.
To be completely honest, I was on the fence about doing an episode on myself. There where times where I thought about deleting the videos I recorded, or just not doing it at all. But I knew that if I could ask someone to document about a week of their Shelter in Place for MY blog, that I should be able to do it as well. So, I decided to follow through and give you guys a glimpse into my Body Positive journey.
I find myself on my phone more, now that I have all this free time. Like I explained on my videos, sometimes roaming through social media can open up someone’s box of insecurities. And sometimes, you need to find a way to pull yourself out of that dark place before you’re stuck feeling like shit about yourself. I imagine that this Shelter in Place is tough for anyone who struggles / has struggled with body dysmorphia, eating disorders, or abusive self-talk.
I don’t take the “quarantine weight gain” jokes seriously or to heart, but I do understand that that can be a trigger for someone who is struggling with self-love. As a foodie, I’m out here chilling at home, ordering from UberEats and doing takeout to support local businesses, eating all my quarantine snack, and most likely gaining weight.
People turn to food for different reasons, whether that be for pleasure, to self-sooth, stress eating, emotional eating, or maybe even out of boredom. If you are overeating, it is okay. Its not the end of the world. If you’re gaining weight, it is okay, and your outward appearance does not define you. If you haven’t put on real clothes in weeks, that’s probably a sign that you’ve been complying with stay at home orders, and I applaud you! If you don’t like the person you’re becoming during Shelter in Place, find activities, TV shows, home workouts, or find small improvements that you can make to better your stay at home experience.
For me, that was drinking atleast 96 oz of water everyday, and going on an hour neighborhood walk. I was binge eating, and once I started recording what I ate on my food diary, I realized I was just eating because I had nothing else to do. I didn’t want to restrict myself from eating what I wanted, so instead, I would try to incorporate more fruit and water into my diet. Drinking a lot of water kept me from wanting to eat everything in sight, but also help keep my face clear.
I also practiced a lot of makeup looks, because for once I wasn’t on a time crunch. I cleaned my room, I did these projects for my blog, and I catched up on my Avatar books. But there were also days where I did absolutely nothing. And I appreciate those days as well because pre-COVID-19, I didn’t have the luxury to be chillin when I pleased. So I’m definitely trying to take advantage of my lazy days.
I made it a point to not put pressure on myself to create, to clean, to workout, to read, etc. My life before this was so routine-based. It feels good to do things on my time and when I feel like it. Originally, I thought this Shelter in Place was going to only last 3 weeks. But now knowing more information about COVID-19 and how it spreads it will most likely be a couple of months. I never would’ve thought that I would have this much time to create / work from home / be home. And I’ll probably never get this opportunity again. Its a good time to reflect, create when I want to, and map out future goals.
Thank you all so much for following my journey and supporting me! Truly means a lot! Here are my Shelter in Place Diaries: