When I was a toddler, I used to spend summers in Palm Springs with my Lola (in Tagalog this means grandma, but in my fam, we use it for great grandma). Every day, we’d walk to the classic car shop at the corner of her street. For some, this may be a simple stroll, but to me, it was an event. There I was, a chonky toddler (yes, I said CHONKY), wearing a t-shirt, diaper, and my Lola’s oversized heels… all dressed up just to go a block down the street. So, you could say my love for style came at a young age.
As I got older and started dressing myself, I could never leave the house without adorning myself with an accessory. I always had a headband, bracelet, necklace etc. and if I didn’t have something, I would freak out… well, not much has changed. Today, even if I’m just running to the store, I wouldn’t be caught dead in PJ’s, let alone without my nameplate necklace and some gold hoops. Because there is always an occasion for a good outfit. There’s always a reason to give yourself a moment to be a little or alotta extra. One quote to live by: “She’s doing the most, or he’s way too much, but why would you WANT to do the least?” – Janet Mock
I think it stems from having the best of both worlds growing up. I had over-protective parents that would never let me leave the house lookin’ like a hot mess, mismatched, or not color coordinated (we had “house clothes” – if you know, you know). But then I had a very free-spirited grandma that would let me run wild with whatever I wanted to wear. My sister and I had a whole closet just for dress up and we would have fashion shows in her driveway. Sometimes, I look at old pictures and can’t believe my grandma let me leave the house that way. But, I’m equally glad that she did. Between the two, they taught me this beautiful balance of always presenting myself well, while being as expressive as I want to be.
Speaking of my grandma… a lot of my style inspiration came from her, my aunts, and my mom. I would love to watch them get ready, doing their hair and makeup. When I got old enough, I would recreate my grandma’s look on my little cousin (yes, I burnt her head a few times with the curling iron… lol). We’d always do tight curls with a bold red lip, big diamond earrings, and use eyeliner to draw on fake moles/beauty marks. My aunts always had their own unique style as well. One, with all her bold statement jewelry and vintage dresses (my real-life R&B singer, like young Janet in Poetic Justice) and the other, in her effortless athleisure wear and cool band shirts (my real-life Sporty Spice). They made me want to have a band shirt and jewelry collection of my own.
As far back as I can remember and even up until now, my mom is and always has been dolled up and well dressed (I mean, the woman can outlast me AND all my friends combined in a pair of stiletto heels). I remember going to the nail shop with her and wanting long red nails just like hers, or even just watching her blow dry her beautifully highlighted hair. I will never be able to get the vision out of my head of her reapplying her brown, nude lipliner combo after dinner. All I knew is, I needed to experience this level of beauty. I’m also inspired by the everyday person and enjoy seeing people dressed in their best. Sometimes, it’ll be strangers walking along the street, people I see on social media (men included), and even my close friends – yes, my friends are the flyest. Even when they don’t know it, each of them is inspiring me or giving me new ideas to bounce off of.
As a creative, I need multiple outlets of expression and getting dressed is just one of them. I don’t really like to put myself in a box of having just one certain look. One day I’m feeling streetwear casual, the next I might be serving Miss Frizzle, and the day after that, edgy pop queen. I try to refrain from telling myself “I’d never wear that or that’s not my style” because try everything once, right? People always tell me, “You could pull anything off” and it’s because I’m not afraid to. I’m not afraid to be the most overdressed or the weird looking person in the room. I also refrain from judging others and their style choices – because whatever works for them is what fits them best. Once you stop doing that or comparing yourself to others, you’re able to shine that much brighter. But no matter what your style is, as long as it feels right to you, DO IT. When I’m getting ready, I rarely like to ask people “How does this look on me?” or “Do you like it?” Because it’s not about how it looks, but HOW I FEEL. Even down to how I do my hair or what chonies and socks I put on – is an emotion. Sure, some days I’ll have on a pair of baggy jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers – and that in itself is poetic. Even when I work out, my gym outfit needs to be on point – because if ya look good, ya feel good.
Self-expression and style are not just about the clothes. It’s from my head to my toes, literally. Since 8th grade, I’ve had every color (well, besides green), style, and length of hair. COVID was rough – let’s just say Lord Farquaad made an appearance, but we don’t need to get into that. My nails play a huge role as well, and coincide with whatever mood I’m in at that moment in the salon. My nail tech and I have a love/hate relationship because she says I always challenge her with something new and different. I never like to do the same color or design twice. And of course, as an artist, how could I not adorn myself with tattoos?? The truest form of my style is literally the art on my body. From Disney villains (because who doesn’t love a misunderstood character?), to a cowboy Chester Cheetah, to sexy ghost face, to a beautiful portrait of my Lola (who btw was the ultimate style icon). Even my room is filled with my own unique style and artistic expression. My bestie literally says it’s like a little museum because there’s so much to look at.
At heart, I’m truly a collector and maybe that’s why I love to thrift so much. The thrill of finding that one piece out of a bundle of clothing feels like I’m adding something special to my collection. I guess you can say I surround myself with all the things I love and that make me the happiest. And I’m not saying material things are the way to happiness, but the love for yourself and the joy you feel inside, can transcend and be expressed outwardly. And sure, I have my insecurities about my body. There’s been MANY melodramatic mornings of not being able to achieve the exact look I had in my head. Those days usually start with “It’s not giving, I want more, I need something extra, or I wish I had this or that” but then I realize if I have to wish for it… it’s really not me. It’s not who I AM. I remind myself that I am everything I want to be and I have everything I need.
I’ve also been completely blessed to be in spaces where I am accepted. To have friends and family that let me be who I am – no matter what I wear or how I look, they accept me. Sure, I’ll get a judge-y comment from my dad or grandpa, but that’s what they do, right? It’s important to find your people. To find the ones that hype you up on your best AND worst days. To find the ones that may not always agree with you, but they still understand you. They’re the ones that you can truly feel comfortable around and get as creative as possible with.
The easiest way to be unapologetically you is just by sticking true to what you love. And if you’re unsure of who that person is, or what you might or might not love, I suggest you explore. Take style risks and be bold in your expression! Don’t be a duplication because there’s only ONE you in this lifetime. You’re ONE-OF-ONE, baby! So, no matter what anyone says or despite how it makes someone else feel, in the end, it all goes back to how YOU feel… It’s all the things that make you feel good. Because let’s face it, life is rough and at least by being unapologetically you, you can face the days not only by looking good, but FEELING good too. And know that you can be proud that you are authentically 100% yourself through it all.