Lora Mathis

I interviewed Lora last September and it's still one of my favorites:

“I do all the things you used to hate. I dye my hair colors that make the church ladies stare. I go to bed without dinner and subside entirely on air. I make tea and pour cream in after. I give up reading. I give up The Beatles. I never eat another plate of scrambled eggs. I shape myself into someone you would dislike. My speech sharpens. My teeth turn to fangs. I let go of the softness that drew you to me. My fingernails itch to become claws and I don’t fight it. This is what it takes to survive. I let people into my bed that I would have walked right past with you. He is sad-eyed and needs my flimsy paper wrists to support him. I pour every late night with you into him, until he says, ‘I love you, I love you’ and I say, ‘Shh, you’ll ruin the fun.’ I do what it takes to forget you, and at the end, have more bruises than the ones I started with, but I can finally look at a sunset and not feel anything at all.”  I Practice Death to Forget You – Lora Mathis

Intense, but that was the first poem I had ever read by the sultry SoCal poet; needless to say, I was hooked. Over a year ago, I was going through a really rough time in my life where one of the only places I found comfort in, were Lora’s words. We were obviously strangers unaware of each others personal mishaps, but for some reason I felt like she knew what I went through and she felt it too. At a time when you feel most aloof and unattached from the world around you, a little empathy goes a long way – whether it’s premeditated or coincidental. That’s what being human is all about right? Embracing life as it happens; it happens to all of us.

Let’s get the obvious question out of the way, when did you begin to write?

I don’t know, everyone asks that! I wish I had a set time, a life event to center that around, but I don’t. I’ve been writing, really, for as long as I can remember.. I decided to make a blog just dedicated to writing when I was 18 and once I created a blog, I actually had a place to put all of my work. Before that, poems would just sit in my journals and collect dust. I like typing more than writing and barely journal anymore. Now everything I write is on Tumblr.

It takes so much courage to pour your soul out into a public space like Tumblr, I admire the rawness. Did it scare you to put yourself out there like that, under your real name and everything?

My url is now my first and last name, but it used to be Soggy Poetry. Finally, I was told myself, “Okay screw it, if you Google me anyway all this comes up.” The internet’s weird, but it’s also been very helpful. Any success I have is completely attributed to the Internet and Tumblr and people finding it.

Now that you have put yourself on out there on Tumblr, your readers not only relate to your writing, but ask for your advice on their personal problems. How does it feel having this voice?

At first it was the occasional question,  but now it’s people who are going through incredibly difficult issues. I wanna help them, because I feel like if they’re asking me, it’s my duty to at least respond as best as I can, but I don’t have the answers. Sometimes it can be overwhelming because I feel like they need someone to offer them significant help and my contribution I is so small. On the other hand, I’m honored that people actually care about my opinion. That really means something to me. I’m glad we can connect because of things I’ve written, but nobody knows everything about life, especially me. I have my own problems. I don’t even know how to deal with breakups! Everyone thinks I’m like a breakup leader and I’m like I don’t know how to deal with it, I suck at breakups!

Speaking of breakups, in part of the dialogue from 10 Reasons to Be Alone, you write, “We both know poetry is a bunch of lies that sound pretty.” Are your poems based solely on real-life experiences, or do you tangent off of an experience that has inspired you? 

It really depends on the poem. Some of them are clearly directed at one person, but others are completely fictional, like a poem I wrote that was inspired by Lolita. In general, I’ll start with someone in mind and then skew it with my own perspective. However, I suppose when you rule out the handful of poems that are completely fictitious, and not based on my own experiences, than yes, my poems are about someone, or the idea of someone. Some are about an idea of someone or even an idea of myself. When I write about myself, it’s not entirely me, it’s just a side of my personality. What I show is my perspective, but it’s often not the whole picture.

In It Could Be Home, you write, “I never felt like myself until I saw who I was in your eyes.” Do you feel like you often write about this one specific person in mind?

Yes and no. Everyone inspires me to write-strangers, family members, friends, people I’m romantically involved with. I believe that poem was written about my best friend, Mindy. For awhile, much of the poetry I was writing was about a “you” that was one specific person who I’d ended things with romantically. I think it’s obvious, I mean, if I’m writing about breakups that much, something must have happened or else I’m really good at making things up (laughs). For a while, all of the poetry I read was them, and I hated it. But dealing with my emotions and thoughts through poetry was a large part of the healing process for me. And now, realizing other people connected with what I wrote helped significantly. I don’t know if I’m always conscious of who I’m writing about though. I only say I “wrote a poem for this person” because I was thinking about them when inspiration hit. Often, I’m not writing a poem about someone in a way that would allow them to recognize themselves. I’m writing a poem with a “you” and although I know who that “you” is, it’s very vague.

Everyone has that “you” in their past who has put them in a dark spot, this may feel isolating. Do you feel like isolation is healthy while coping through darkness? 

It depends. I don’t think shutting yourself up alone in your room and going hard and cynical is a good way to cope with being human. However, personally, I feel like I’ve gone through a lot of things, a lot of healing through isolation-keeping to myself, writing a lot of poetry, and staying away from people. Whether or not that was by choice or simply circumstance, I’m not sure. But I spent a good year or two just coping and not really feeling a total part of the outside world. That can be pretty lonely – but I think that loneliness is, first of all, what drives you to create and second of all, a natural part of life. You’re gonna go through it either way. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s especially positive to stay alone in your room, ignore everyone’s calls, and hope you feel better soon. Figuring out who you are when you’re alone is positive. But reaching out for help and continuing to connect with others is as well. For me, it didn’t take cutting out contact with the outside world to heal. It took spending some time with myself, experiencing new things, and figuring some emotions out in writing and conversations with people who understood and cared about me.

 Finally, tell us two of your favorite poems – one of your own and one from another poet.

The Crunch – Charles Bukowski. He really got me into poetry because of his hard-hitting style. He says what he needs to say and nothing else. My favorite poem I’ve written is I Am Not the Sea and it mentions Bukowski so even better.. I wrote that and had no idea where it came from. It just poured out of me one morning.

xo, Has

Jackee Gee

It's crazy how life works. Ever since I interviewed Jackee last September, we have become good friends. We had even discussed moving to New York together. We were both inspired and determined to make it to the city by the summertime but we were both unsure of exactly what we were going to do. We decided to pause the idea for the time being. Fast forward to August, after everything that happened I decided I needed to follow through with my plan and disappear to New York for a month. I bought a plane ticket, rented a loft in Brooklyn and left. Two days after settling in, I noticed Jackee posted a Snapchat story in geotagged in Manhattan. Turns out she had bought her ticket and moved that same week, living just a few blocks away from me. 

Either of us barely knew anyone in the city, so it was comforting to see a familiar face with a mirroring soul. She helped me find peace in my one month getaway and I helped ease the transition of her move. We were sitting on my roof one night talking about life, overlooking the Manhattan skyline and she said, "Look at this, we're here. We said we'd do it and we did it. No matter what happened, we did what we said we'd do. We have to remind ourselves to give ourselves credit. We have to remind ourselves to be thankful."

Jackee's drive and positivity always inspires me. She's a constant reminder that whether you're a successful creative freelancer or you're still paying your dues, if you're doing what you love to do, keep goingOne of the most powerful and fulfilling things in life is knowing you’re being true to yourself. And if you’re positively influencing others along the way, more power to you.

Read her interview:

I met Jackee almost three years ago when she was working at MAC. It wasn’t one of my happiest birthdays, but she did my makeup, made me feel glamourous, confident and beautiful as ever. I really needed that, that day. Ultimately, I loved her energy, both as an artist and as a human being, so we stayed in touch. It’s been so inspiring to watch Jackee grow since then – from hustling at MAC to hustling as an evergrowing freelance makeup artist, working on photoshoots, music videos, movie sets, just as focused and motivated as ever.  I interviewed her last September:

What inspired you to leave MAC and focus on freelancing?

Basically, the money and just the lifestyle, I guess. The lifestyle of being my own boss and not having to answer to anybody. I don’t have to clock in. I can say “yes” or “no.” I can live my life how I want to live it. I feel like the money is a lot better. It caters more to the life I want to live as far as being my own boss and not being under anybody. I still have a long way to go obviously, I don’t have my own company yet. 

What’s your favorite part of being a makeup artist?

Making people feel good. A lot of people, surprisingly even the most beautiful people that many look up to, a lot of them are not comfortable without makeup. Makeup is a big part of the entertainment industry.. People walk in with their heads facing down and when they leave they have their head held up high because, you know, it’s kind of a security blanket. Not that it should be, not that I promote only feeling beautiful with makeup, I don’t. I don’t think that that’s true. But I love to make people feel good.. I love that people trust me. A lot of the times I’ll ask, “What kind of look do you want?” They’re like, “I trust you, just do what you wanna do.” Then I feel good, because I think, “Okay, they know that no matter what I do, they’re gonna feel good and feel comfortable.” I feel like I get to be creative, I get to let out a lot through my art. I’m an artist.  It’s basically like painting a canvas; my canvases are peoples’ faces.

That’s an important point – It’s not only about the makeup, but the confidence?

Yes, women should really be confident in what they wear. For example, there could be a girl that can get away with blue lipstick and then there’ll be another girl that thinks she can’t get away with blue lipstick. So automatically, you are what you think; You think you look crazy, so you probably look crazy. But if you go out and you rock the shit out of that blue lipstick, nobody can tell you nothing. I’ve gone out with black lipstick and I felt like it was normal. Obviously some people thought, “Whoa she’s crazy” but I mean, being creative has no boundaries, being yourself has no boundaries. I feel like as long as you’re comfortable and you’re confident, you can really get away with any lipstick, any look.. It all depends on what you like. As long as you’re comfortable and confident. People will dig that shit.

Amen. On that note, was there ever a time you weren’t as confident about your career as you are now? Was there ever a time you wanted to give up?

I don’t think that there’s ever been a time I’ve wanted to give up. I think that I’m a tough person, I’ve been through a lot, so giving up is really not an option for me. I just think that being a freelancer, it is hard, but it has to do a lot with faith and living off faith and just knowing “I’m gonna be okay.” I have bills, I have things to attend to, I have a roof over my head that nobody pays for but me, I want my parents to be proud of me, I don’t want to ask for help, so in that sense, I know that I have to grind. I know that I have to hustle. I feel like it’s good to just know that you’re gonna be okay. You know there’s been months where I didn’t have a lot of money, or I didn’t make as much money as I wanted to, or I felt like I could have done better, but it didn’t stop me from being extra great the next month that came around. It’s always going to be challenging. You’re always going to have your ups, you’re always going to have your downs, but in the end it’s always worth it because you’re doing what you want to do, what you love to do. I could have easily gotten a 9-5 at Mac. Realistically, I’ve been freelancing for MAC for 3 years, so me getting a [full-time] position, I don’t feel like would have been that hard. You know, it was my dream for a while to work at MAC but I’ve accomplished that dream, and I feel like now it’s time to dream bigger. I feel like you should never stick with the same dream, just because you reach one goal, you shouldn’t stay there. You should expand, you should grow, and you should always want more for your life.

What are your dreams now? 

Professionally – I want to open a Makeup Academy where it’s very small and secrete, only maybe take 10 students at a time, to where they’re getting the knowledge that they want, they’re getting the time. I definitely do want to do something like that eventually. I have so far to go, but I’ve come a long way.

Careerwise – I want to be well-known and inspirational. I want women to know that they’re beautiful either way [with or without makeup]. A lot of women struggle with that, being self-conscious, not wanting to be themselves, not wanting to open up. I definitely want to be a positive influence. If I can do that through makeup somehow; I’m still trying to figure out what I can do and how I can incorporate it, but I have faith, so that will take me further than anything else will.

xo, Has

Mariella Angela

Updated - December 2015

Ever since I interviewed Mariella last July, we have become good friends. It's been a blessing to see how much she's grown so much in the last 2 years, both as an artist and a human. Her dream had always been to have her own solo art show, so I did everything I could to help her make that a reality and curate it for her in April. It was beautiful.

Read her interview:

My favorite community will always be the hiphopheads. We are those who respect the classics and are open to the underground. Whether it’s by our willingness to bake under the hot sun to headbop at Rock the Bells or by our dedication of standing in line on Record Store Day to cop an exclusive vinyl – we’re always there for our favorite rappers, because their music is always there for us. Dope souls who spread peace + goodvibes; you’ll love us too, just listen. I recently got a chance to sit down and speak with a fellow hiphophead who shows her appreciation to our community with her insanely dope portraits of our favs, all done in oil paint. The soulful, talented, and self-taught, Mariella Angela.

It all started last February with a birthday gift for the OddFuture LAlien, Tyler the Creator. Digging up some leftover oil paints from high school, a small canvas and a single brush Mariella’s story begins,

I was thinking, “Alright, for shits and giggles lemme just paint him something.” I painted and it took me weeks, I would update it and post pictures of my progress and everyone kept saying, “Oh my god, it’s so good!” I started thinking, “Oh wow, it actually is coming out good.” Once I finished the painting I gave it to [Tyler] and he was just like, “WTF! this is an oil painting, that’s crazy!” He posted it on his Instagram and all the OddFuture kids were coming to my Instagram. I ended up gaining a bunch of followers and everyone kept asking me, “When are you gonna do your next painting, when are you gonna do this one, when are you gonna do that one..” So I think it was just the fact that I had so many people looking at me I thought to myself, “Alright, lemme do another painting.” -M.A., 20

It all started with the Tyler painting, what made you want to continue painting hiphop portraits?

Everyone thinks because you’re a painter you can paint anything, (laughs) I can only paint portraits.. I didn’t want to be one of those people who just paints someone because I know that other people like them.. I wanted to paint people I actually like. I do this thing when I paint, where with whoever I’m painting, I listen to their music.. I think each artist has their own personal vibe, so listening to them reflects on the canvas. My early Tyler paintings are super “666 devil-ish” because all of that time I was listening to Goblin, a lot of my newer paintings of him are super colorful because I started listening to Wolf.

The foundation of my blog and the entire concept of “WestCoastSoul” is based around the legendary Tupac Shakur, so I have to ask, have you painted him yet?

I fxck with Tupac on the actual context of what he stands for. I like reading his stuff more than listening to it. I still like listening to it, but I like reading it because I feel I get more of the deeper meaning. As a person, his views on life are crazy. If you see my work, you’ll see I grew as an artist. I have a few big canvases and since the beginning I would always say, “I’m gonna do a Tupac painting, I’m gonna do it one day,”  but I’m always at a point where I think, “No, I don’t think I can do enough justice to it, I’ll wait until I get better.”  I think before the summer ends I’ll do a huge Tupac piece. I just feel like someone who’s inspired me that much should have a dope ass painting, I don’t wanna halfass it. I feel like he deserves more. 

Tupac aside, which rapper inspires you the most, both as an artist and as a human?

Music-wise Blu. Personality-wise Tyler. 

Blu because I think his music made a huge impact on me when I was younger, especially Below the Heavens. When I’m down I’ll turn it on. He has songs where he’s talking about people who are dealing with all this shit, like being addicted to drugs, their parents died, they went into prostitution, slanging, etc. and I feel like I’m lucky because I have it easy. I’m in an environment where I’m safe and my mom is super-hands on. So whenever I’m feeling sad for myself I’m like, “yo there’s some people who have it worse than me.” I think Below the Heavens always reminds me that there are people who have it worse and they’re dealing with it, so just be thankful and pray to God. 

Tyler was one of the first people who fxcked with my work. He was the first person who believed in my art and was like, “You’re gonna make it somewhere.” You know his whole thing where he’s like “Do what you love!”? When he was talking to me, he was telling me to believe in myself and even if you read his tweets, forget all the dumb shit he posts, you’ll notice he’s always saying – you don’t have to always follow the whole “go to college, become a doctor” path, just do what you love and it’ll work out in the end. I tell that to everyone too. 

What’s your advice for upcoming artists?

Everyone always asks me what’s your advice on being a painter. My advice to everyone who wants to do what they love is to just fxcking do it and honestly, that’s the only way you can do it. There’s no process, you just do it. Even if you’re bad at it you have to keep in mind you’re gonna be 5 times better in a few months and you’re gonna be 10 times better in a few more months. Just don’t quit. Thats what I realized. If I were to quit a long time ago when I thought my paintings sucked, I would have never gotten here. Every [time],  I have a shitty painting, I think, “Okay you know what, next month I’m gonna look back at this and laugh at it because I’m gonna keep getting better.” So I think anything you do, painting, drawing, writing, dancing, singing, rapping, it’s all trial and error. You have to suck to get better, as bad as it sounds. If you really love it and the intentions are right and you’re not paper-chasing – it’ll work out in the end. People who are truly passionate about it, it’ll work out in the end. 

xo, Has