Lifestyle

What's Your Online Persona?

I haven’t written or shared anything online in what feels like forever. To be totally honest, I’ve developed a total love/hate thing with the internet/social media/the digital age. On one hand, everything is super accessible — which is exciting because opportunities to create and connect are endless. On the other hand, everything is super saturated — which is disheartening to me as an artist/individual because it puts so much pressure on validation and not enough on authenticity. Maybe I’m just hyper-aware of it, but I often find myself over-analyzing my “digital presence” to the point where i don’t even want to post at all...

With that said, I’ve realized that for me, the most positive use of this platform is to be genuine and share content that inspires me, so that hopefully, it evokes creativity and thought for anyone scrolling through. As I thought about ways to achieve that, the answer became clear -- it was time for me to go back to a place I hadn't visited in years, my blog. 

Nowadays, I think a lot of people, especially those of us who struggle with this "anti-social-media" mindset, often associate a negative connotation with the word "blogger." Not to diminish anybody's hustle, there are a ton of bloggers whom I follow, respect and admire, but truthfully it's become a bit of a cliché. Often times, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear "blogger" is a tall, tan, overly-peppy beach blonde posing for a Boomerang in front of the pink Paul Smith wall on Melrose with a peace sign (#content). 

But some time before the blog market was mind-numbingly saturated with endless posts around Coachella, avocado toast and lattes, I looked to my blog as a place where I could easily share the work I produced with my peers in a creative way, like a storytelling portfolio. I'd collaborate with other creatives on photoshoots to make art, I'd write therapeutic articles about issues I was going through hoping it would make people sharing those struggles feel less alone, and I'd conduct interviews/features with amazing artists/entrepreneurs I came across in order to share their stories with my readers. My purpose was to create and inspire.

So as it all comes full circle, I realize I have a choice to make. Either I can continue to be reclusive and avoid having a digital presence, or I can empower myself to use that platform to build something that's bigger than me. I acknowledge that the Internet is not going anywhere. It's a powerful tool that can be used to tell a story, build a brand, and cultivate a community. As a woman, a creative, and an entrepreneur I'd like for my contribution in this saturated digital space to be an honest and conscious one.

I know that I've changed a lot since my first blog, both personally and professionally, a lot has happened over the years. While it may be hard to just pick up where you left off, there's always the option to start over. 

xo, Has

Queens at Work

“I want people to be afraid of the women I dress.” – Alexander McQueen

When I was about 10 or 11, I wanted to be a fashion designer – which is funny now, even though I work in the fashion industry, because I can’t draw if my life depended on it nor do I have the patience to go through the stages of evolving a design.. But as a child, it was my dream. I had a sketchbook full of drawings and a scrapbook full of magazine snippings – I would update both feverishly. I spent my days making tons of beaded “jewelry” and convinced myself I was a pro at altercations – which meant I was great at ruining my clothes by chopping them up into pieces and pretending I could sew them back together. I’m not even the least bit crafty now, so it’s safe to say that my DIY urges in the 5th grade have faded, but I loved creating. That’s one thing that definitely hasn’t changed.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman I wanted to be.” – Diane Von Furstenberg

I would come home from school and immediately flip to the Style channel. My favorite segments were the beauty product documentaries (ex. the process of choosing scents/packaging for a shampoo company – hence my marketing side) and of course, the runway. I would get in a total trance during the DVF shows. Her models always looked so elegant, I tried designing a wrap-dress myself a hundred times at least. Betsey Johnson was my other fav because who doesn’t love a free-spirited blonde with choppy straight bangs wearing bright pink lipstick and a neon tutu cartwheeling down the runway?

“Never had love from a man as I’ve gotten from a fan” – Betsey Johnson

I think of those two women today and the legacies they’ve built and it’s mind-blowing. They both stayed true to their visions and built their empires. They inspire me not only as a creative, but as a woman. Being a creative is hard enough as it is because you’re constantly dancing on this thin line between your personal work and your career. Sometimes they fuel one another, sometimes they clash, sometimes you lose yourself momentarily in the midst of figuring it out; but the moments that you actually maintain your balance on that tightrope, are like no other. I’m in a place in my life right now, where those moments are the only ones I’m focused on.

“She loves her work more than she does he, and honestly at twenty-three, I would probably love my work more than I do she.” – Jay Z

I may not be the fashion designer I was dreaming to be as a little girl, but I’m creating work that I’m proud of. There’s a lot of pressure and I have mini-meltdowns at least 3 times a week but it’s through that where I can feel myself evolving. Every leap over a hurdle, every successful step forward, is bringing you closer to yourself – Once you come to that realization, your momentum is unstoppable. 

If you want to add to this momentum, take Marketing Director for RVCA Women’s, Andrea Hellenbuyck’s advice:

“Don’t compare yourself to other women (negatively), but be stoked on their success. I don’t know, I’m in this whole babe power mindset where it’s like, stop looking at other womens’ successes as a threat and more of a “f-ck yea if she’s doing it, that means we can all do it.” Surround yourself with women who are similar to you, in the sense that they want more, they want to better themselves and support each other. Surround yourself with other women who are doing rad things, not only will it give you support, but it’ll inspire you and push you to do more…rather than hanging around with negative people, [especially] girls who talk shit about other girls. In our industry (action sports/streetwear) we’re so outnumbered (by men). We have so much potential though. I feel like there’s this hill, once we get over it, we’re really gonna run things. It doesn’t even matter if someone else is doing the same thing you are, there’s room for everybody.”

It’s been so rad meeting all these women and hearing their stories, but it’s even more fulfilling hearing all the exciting feedback from women who read the Love Made Babe of the Week series and get inspired. Makes me happy to know that I’m doing my part as a woman in the arts to bring together the rest of us in the creative community. I don’t know how I got here. Everything is different now; it feels strange, but it makes sense.

xo, Has

Exhausted (Self)Love

Last year, someone was reading through my most recent posts and asked me if I was heartbroken. To be honest, that’s what I was most worried about when I decided to take this route of sharing my written pieces about the more personal topics. My answer to their question – I think that everyone is heartbroken to some degree, there’s levels to it; but that hasn’t been the intended focus upon any of my written pieces in a while. The thought that has been swimming through my mind for the last two years or so surrounds the importance of the idea that one must find comfort in their own solitude.

It seems that every which way I turn, I see the same patterns.
1) First, there are the women who always have a boyfriend. We all know those women -- someone who posts pictures of their significant other on Facebook with an essay caption professing their love, then 3 months later you scroll down your newsfeed to them post a carefully-formulated, semi-spiteful (new haircut, cheesy Drake-related caption, partying in Vegas) selfie, then right before you know it she’s engaged to someone new and they have a dog together.
2) Next, there are the men who swear they absolutely despise being in a relationship. These are the men who will reach out to you every few months because contrary to what they say, they constantly need a woman in their life to text throughout the day or grab coffee with on call in order to make themselves feel less lonely. These are the men who secretly love putting up with the “crazy ones” (even though they say they hate the “crazy ones.”)
3) Finally, there are the men and women, both, who are trapped in 7 year relationships with someone they’ve grown to despise but can’t seem to cut loose. All they do is bicker, argue and complain about their partner, yet stay complacent and stay together.
What they all have in common is a weak bond of companionship and an even weaker relationship with themselves.

Why is that? Why can’t people wrap their minds around the idea that it is okay to be alone until the right person comes along? Why are they so terrified of being alone for 30 seconds, long enough to hear themselves think? Is it because they’ll have to face their problems with no help from a partner? Or are they so insecure they need their ego stroked by someone 24/7? Does misery really love company that badly?

Let me tell you, you’re never going to find the right person to love you if you can’t love being by yourself first. As cliché as that might sound, it’s a well known truth which most are too worried to de-mask. It’s necessary to shut off and recharge. Discover what scares you then go conquer those demons, alone. Assess what you really, really want, and then you can think about who you’re willing to give it to. Stop being afraid of yourself. Being comfortable with being alone is the most powerful and possibly the most peaceful thing in the world. Don’t fall into the mindless cycle.

Interviewer: I mean, I know it’s none of my business, but you are married to one of the great women of the world who adores you. My God, if anybody has made you happy..Man being interviewed: She insists she is in love with me, whatever that is. What she means is that she prefers the senseless pain we inflict on each other to the pain we would otherwise inflict on ourselves. But I’m not afraid of that solitary pain. In fact, If I don’t strip myself of all this clatter and clutter and ridiculous ritual, I shall go out of my f-cking mind. Does that answer your question?Interviewer: What question was that?Man being interviewed: You asked me why I was getting divorced.Interviewer: Oh listen, it’s your life.. I’m sorry I even asked. (Altered Minds, 1980 cc: Exhausted Love - Eyedea and Abilities).

xo, Has

Being the "Cool Girl"

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? ‘She’s a cool girl.’ Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer.. while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl. Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every f-cking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: ‘I like strong women.’ If he says that to you, he will at some point f-ck someone else. Because ‘I like strong women’ is code for ‘I hate strong women.’)” – Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl

Men often categorize me as one of these women who wears the Cool Girl hat. Yes, I really do enjoy watching Goodfellas and rapping along to old-school Tribe Called Quest vinyls while I’m cleaning the house or getting myself glammed up to go out. No, I do not like letting people know what is going on with me, so I maintain my composure and smile when I’m upset rather than sending angry 5 paragraph texts or letting my mascara run at work. And more often than not, I try to let things slide, I try not to cause a scene, I try to be kind and understanding. Ironically, the second I remove the Cool Girl hat to smooth out my hair and handle a situation which theatens me, I, as all other Cool Girls, am instantly thrown the Crazy Girl dunce cap.

“He looked at me like I was crazy. Most of my lovers do, and that’s partly why they love me, and partly why they leave” – Jeanette Winterson

“Maybe I love too much and maybe I show it too little.” – R.M. Drake

I’m tired of being treated like I am difficult to love

Labeling any non-submissive, non-bland, non-dormant woman “crazy”  is an age old practice. I’ve learned to stop caring about the label men place because it’s usually nothing more than a projection of their own insecurities along with their fear of feeling or being felt. But the real issue lies in the question – what is so wrong with feeling? What’s so wrong with being felt? Why are people so scared of showing they care or saying what they really mean and really want?’

“What I want is to be needed. What I need is to be indispensable to somebody. Who I need is somebody that will eat up all my free time, my ego, my attention. Somebody addicted to me. A mutual addiction.” – Chuck Palahniuk

“I wanted the whole world or I wanted nothing” – Charles Bukowski

It’s okay to want. It’s okay to feel. It’s human. It’s unavoidable, no matter how long or hard you try. So is being “crazy.” If being crazy means standing up for yourself, cutting off those who have wronged you, showing who you are and what you care about when you feel its necessary, then I guess being crazy is pretty cool.

xo, Has

The Art of Detachment

People always tell me that I soothe them. “Your vibe is my everything.” They tell me that I look at them with kind eyes, listen patiently, and make them feel understood without having to say too much. “Do you ever feel like you were meant to understand but not to be understood?” It still surprises me because I think that I am actually a very anxious, impatient and neurotic person. “Extreme” is the best word to describe it. I either love something with my entire heart and soul or shut off and detach completely. I’m aware that my all or nothing personality will be the death of me one day, but “I give because I know how it feels to want.” I’m a very private person and it gets overwhelming. I know that feel things heavily; that’s why I don’t like leaning on others, that’s why I’m always sinking so deep into my head.

“She’s never where she is, she’s always in her head”

but

“Even when I detach, I care. You can be separate from a thing and still care about it. If I wanted to detach completely, I would move my body away. I would stop the conversation mid-sentence. I would leave the bed. Instead, I hover over it for a second. I glance off in another direction. But I always glance back at you..” - The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

I’ve been thinking a lot about love, lately. I mean, I know that it exists because I’ve been there before, most of us have, but I’ve come to the conclusion that love is temporary – especially for an artist.

I’ve spent weekends with women who loved me, and years with women who haven’t.” – Brandon Villasenor

There was a time in my life where I was so deep in love, I don’t think he even knew the intensity of it. When it ended, I shut off and went to a dark place for quite some time. It was difficult, but it eventually turned into a dull ache. One day, my curiosity got the best of me and I decided I wanted to feel something again. Don’t we all? I peeled myself out of my shell and began to explore. Though my walls were high, my habits were the same – my empathetic nature would see the silver lining in every disaster of a man I would come across. The same men who wore thick cloaks of standoffishness were the ones who were most desperate to be loved. I tried to understand them and make them feel wanted, but at the end of it, all I ever got in return were shrugs and blank expressions.

“I’m the type of person that falls in love with everyone I meet. It’s not a hopeless romantic or a need of affection, I just see so much potential in everyone. Whether you’re heaven or whether you’re toxic, I have a classic habit of seeing your worth. I love everyone and it’s starting to drain me.” – Sadie Brooks

“It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so deeply” – David Jones

“People need me. I fill them. If they can’t see me for a while they get desperate, they get sick. But if I see them too often I get sick. It’s hard to feed without getting fed.”  – Charles Bukowski

It took me twenty-something years to realize that I’m an artist. Ever since I have, it explains everything. There’s no going back. The world just looks different to me. I couldn’t stop creating, even if I tried. As artists, we feel things more heavily than the average human. We work to communicate these feelings through different mediums and in that lies the biggest contradiction: no matter how deeply we feel and want to connect, solitude is our sanctuary. It’s difficult to let people in for too long without having them clutter our worlds. So maybe artists are meant to fall in love solely to gather inspiration and move on. Maybe we are meant to cross paths but avoid staying too long. Maybe falling too far will just take us down the rabbit hole and awaken a side of us that we cannot recognize and do not wish to.

“He asked, ‘I wonder what it feels like to be loved like someone like you.’ She replied, ‘Probably like you’re drowning; maybe the euphoric state, maybe the struggle, maybe both.'” – Emery Allen

“‘Tell me where it hurts’ she’d say. ‘Stop howling. Just calm down and show me where.’ But some people can’t tell where it hurts. They can’t calm down. They can’t ever stop howling.” – Margaret Wood

xo, Has

 

The Secret to Understanding Women

Did the title scare you? What I’m about to share with you is quite a simple concept actually. The problem is, it needs to be understood and exercised by both men and women, simultaneously. I had been thinking about this earlier this year, it all clicked when I saw this Lady Gaga GIF. She said, “If you’re laying next to someone that really doesn’t make you feel like the goddess that you are, you need to rediscover what it is that you truly want and need.”

Doesn’t matter what context you take this in – in any relationship, whether romantic or just a hookup, the person you are with needs to make you feel like you are celestial, as you should be doing so with them as well. There is nothing sexier than someone who wants you just as much as you want them. There is nothing more powerful than intimacy, be conscious of who you share that kind of energy with. It is completely valid and absolutely necessary to ask yourself which category your partner fits in: A) Are they reciprocating your celestial vibes? or B) Are they making you question the supreme being that you are, even for a split-second? With so many radiant souls in the Universe, what are you gaining from being with someone who can’t do A)?

In today’s society, where a 2am text saying “yo..” is considered the most romantic gesture, we are constantly living in the fear of labeling “what we are” too soon, blaming ourselves for “f-cking everything up,” and identifying every *heart eyed emoji* comment as a threat. Stop it. Stop asking yourself if you’re dating, talking or just hooking up (btw what is “talking” anyway, really?) Stop checking up on their social media trying to put the puzzle pieces together. Instead, try spending your time recognizing the energy you’re sharing. And where does that intuition ultimately stem from? Within.

Women, understand the power that you have. Do you think you’re a good human being? Do you understand how unique your beauty is? Do you feel like you deserve to be treated well? Well then, when your partner starts slipping, what are you doing doubting yourself? Once you’re conscious of your celestial vibes, you won’t see anyone as a threat and you’ll learn to recognize when someone’s intentions aren’t the same as yours. At that point, you’ll be able to cut ties with no hard feelings whatsoever. Accept when someone is on a different wavelength as you and move forward. Allow yourself to be open to new connections. Stop holding on to toxic vibes, there is nothing to decode or dwell on.

Men, understand that women aren’t complicated. What every woman wants is for their partner to make them feel special. Do you know how to do that? Just reciprocate that energy. It’s not weak to show interest, it’s weak to overlook the good woman laying next to you. You want her? Tell her. You don’t have to get married in a week, you just have to text her letting her know you were thinking about her. When a man is honest with his intentions and consistently boomeranging positive energy, his woman is at peace. What better equilibrium?

Everybody deserves to be at peace. Doesn’t matter what type of relationship you’re looking for, if you’re investing your time and sharing intimacy, you should be doing so with someone who values that. Mixed signals in the beginning equate a definite “no” for a future. It really, really is that simple.

xo, Has

The Year of Exploration

After a long and hazy 2013, 2014 was the year of discovery. Perhaps not even discovery, but consciousness. I became conscious of my creativity, my ambition and my ability to effectively communicate with and inspire others. I became conscious of my vibes and my presence in the Universe. I found peace in that.

I don’t particularly advocate cheesy New Year resolutions like going to the gym or cutting down on caffeine, but on a grander scale, what better feeling than a clean slate? Time is an illusion, but experiences are personal. Personally, I worked feverishly to tie up my loose ends and to get all my ducks in a row so that I could end chapter 2014 on a good note. By doing so, I came into the New Year with a clear and vibrant mindset. 2015 is the year of exploration – exploration of self and the world around us.

My biggest goal for this year as an artist is to focus on my craft, both as a writer and a photographer. I spoke to a fellow artist recently and she told me that her journey as a photographer began when someone gifted her a film camera. She was feeling uninspired at the time, as all artists habitually do, and so she let it sit on her bedroom dresser for weeks before she even touched it. She explained that she could feel the power and the potential that the small object held and wasn’t quite ready to unlock it. One day, she decided to just give it a shot (pun intended) and from then on it was, what all artists describe a new medium to create with, magic.

Indeed, realizing the potential of a new form of inspiration is overwhelming and exciting. I think that is something that I, myself, have been struggling with as well. So this year, I am going to explore. I want to explore new places, new people, new experiences, new inspiration. I often find so much comfort in solitude, I dig too deep inside myself and forget that I can delve into the outside adventure that awaits me. I am going to try new angles, new perspectives, new directions. I am going to put myself out there more and allow myself to share more of my personal work. That means more shots, more words, more thoughts – raw. I hope this inspires you to continue creating and continue exploring and continue exposing yourself fearlessly for that is the triple threat formula of growth. Day 12 of 365, the adventure has just begun. Remember, not all who wander are lost.

---

I was on such a great wave as 2015 rolled in, it bums me out that it had to take such a horrible turn in May. I miss you every day. I will continue to explore now that I have an angel traveling with me. 

xo, Has

“I can’t write” “Write about it”

I don’t know what’s been going on with me lately, but I haven’t been able to write. I don’t know what’s been stopping me though. I have all these ideas and thoughts in my mind, but there’s something blocking it – like a dam. I can literally imagine the ideas building up behind it, unable to pour through. I had been putting this aside for weeks and weeks but today was the day. Today, I felt like it was time to let it pour through. I told myself, “What does a writer do when they begin to think to themselves ‘I can’t write’? (pause) Write about it.”

So here I am.. It kind of reminds me of elementary school, when we would come back from recess and our teachers would make us free-write an entire page in our journal without stopping. You know, you try writing some random sentences at first to fill up the page, but before you know it your subconscious comes up with some sort of truth like, “Why was that kid with the striped shirt sitting alone under the tree during lunch. I think I’m gonna ask him to play with us tomorrow.” Well, today it’s “Maybe the reason I think I can’t write anymore is because I’m holding back.” Whoa where did that come from?

“It’s so dark right now, I can’t see any light around me.” “That’s because the light is coming from you. You can’t see it but everyone else can.” -Lang Leav

To be totally honest, when I started this blog I didn’t envision it to turn out like this. At the time, I wasn’t having any luck job hunting; I kept trying to tell possible employers – “I’m really good at xyz” but nobody was listening. So I thought, “Whatever, nobody hears me so I’m going to show them.” I made it thinking it would be a single, organized, presentable space where I could curate all my professional projects. Almost exactly a year since, I went from starting a blog called HasWestCoastSoul.com to being Has WestCoastSoul. 

I took a U-turn, did a backflip and totally tangented off from the super-professional-portfolioish-blog side and allowed myself to use the power of creating. As I became more and more conscious of my skills and the true volume of my voice, I taught myself to use it purposefully. Needless to say it’s been the catalyst to my growth professionally and personally. I’m extremely thankful that I’ve built this platform for myself to create with and that I am constantly using this as a tool in my evolvement – but here’s the real curveball..

“I handle my failures way better than I ever handle success” – Royce Da 5’9

This blog hasn’t just affected me personally, but somehow it’s influenced others. That means other people actually read it too! I mean yea, of course I see the stats, I know people click it, but I didn’t get it that they actually READ it. I know that people hate reading nowadays if it’s more than 140 characters, so I didn’t expect much. But the fact that people actually take the time to read and reflect.. is just so… beautifully overwhelming. THEN, they actually approach me (either physically or virtually) and tell me how it’s inspired them?! I think when it finally hit me that there are more than just a couple of pairs of eyes on this and that people actually read this, care what it says and let it affect them, the pressure was on. I think all this accumulated positive energy made me overjoyed and I put myself in denial of the true, strong, positive power this little blog held; With all the great feelings positive feedback brings, at the same time, it’s undeniably nerve-wracking to have people except great things from you. It’s like when you’re out enjoying yourself, but once you feel someone staring at you, all of a sudden you forget how to walk in a straight line so you decide to just sit down for a bit. But where does that get you? Nowhere. Literally, nowhere. Worrying and holding back gets you nowhere.  

“Being an artist means forever healing your own wounds and at the same time endlessly exposing them” -Annette Messager

An artist first and foremost, creates for themselves. This is the most precious form of self-expression, process of healing and act of celebrating we have. The acceptance and enjoyment that others receive from it comes secondary to that. It is a possible result, not a factor of creation. And as an audience, we must remind ourselves that we are only able to truly understand the creations of an artist from our own perspectives. We must remember to avoid making assumptions about the artist, assumptions kill art. Fear of these types of assumptions leads to lack of focus and eventually creating with the wrong intentions. As soon as an artist creates for pure commercial purpose, it looses its previous rawness. It’s not personal anymore, so how can we even expect you to relate? We are all human, we all need to do things in our own way. We can’t always make moves to make things comfortable for others. Don’t dim your own shine, don’t walk on eggshells, don’t sugarcoat your words. Keep it raw. Artists have to remind themselves that. I think that I needed to type that all out to remind myself as well. This was a free write afterall.

Bottom line, I am thankful for 2014 because being Has WestCoastSoul has given me so much strength and inspiration. With this, I am able to inspire others. Therefore, I will stop holding back, take out all self-set limitations, and continue to create and grow. If any of that resonates with you, I am beyond happy. May 2015 bring us all peace, strength, faith in ourselves, creative energy, a powerful momentum of hustle, good vibes, growth ad success. Thanks for reading, love you all.

xo, Has

Artist by Nature, Photographer by Accident

It’s weird, I honestly never had any intention of getting into photography as a profession, it kind of just happened on accident. I had always liked the idea of photography but I guess it was awoken when I scrolled through images created by street photographers. It inspired me to begin capturing shots with my iPhone. Then one day, I was cleaning out my closet when I came across my dad's old Canon and I haven't put it down since. 

Shooting the streets was my forte, naturally – I was comfortable on that side. I didn’t have to interfere with the subject, just capture it and tweak the tones here and there. Though I had creative directed, styled, produced and assisted tons of shoots in the past couple years, the thought of simultaneously shooting a model made me so uncomfortable at first. But where is the fun in getting comfortable? Would I ever be able to maintain my free-spirit/takes-shit-from-no-one persona by remaining comfortable? No. So, I let go of my skepticism and self-doubt and decided to try it. Instantly, I was in love. It's been inspiring, overwhelming and strange. 

I was talking to a fellow photographer recently and they made an interesting point: As an artist, it’s impossible to stay on that positive wave all the time, no matter how hard you try. That resonated with me. The tides are what make our experiences unique and give us insight on creating, high or low. So what’s the secret? You don’t have to stay on a high or a low to continuously create good work, just be conscious of your experiences, remain willing to work hard and never stop creating.

They also told me that I needed to figure out what distinguished my art from others. As I look through all the photos I've created, I understand: Everything that I create is partly from my own experiences, partly connecting and empathizing with others. I want the models I shoot to radiate as strong, beautiful, edgy but free-spirited individuals. I want them to be raw and unapologetic. That’s how I feel inside and that’s how I want all individuals, especially women, to realize that they have the power to feel. I don’t want to shoot based on trend, commercialization or a forced cheerfulness. I want my work to portray the power of the human body and that no beauty exists without strangeness; each individual I shoot, has their own unique experiences, energy and spirits. It is possible to be edgy and ethereal – there is power in that type of juxtaposition.

Finally, they said that a camera is like a passport to meeting people and going places you would never otherwise be. I agreed, but as the year took a turn for the worse – I felt like my passport had expired forever. My hands and heart were so heavy carrying grief, I couldn't carry my camera anymore. It finally renewed on my trip to Hawaii in July when I got to collaborate with Tiare, Kecia and BJ. Open doors, bare feet, sun kissed skin, reggae blasting with surfboards, seashells and Buddha sculptures everywhere, the instant I stepped foot into Kecia’s home to prep for the shoot, I could feel the great energy we were about to create as a team.  Every time I want to give up on art, the hope and excitement I see in other artists keeps my faith strong. I feel so fortunate to have crossed paths with such genuine and loving souls through my work. I'm so thankful to have picked up my dad's camera that one day. 

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” – Ira Glass

xo, Has