40oz BOUNCE x HELPER

It was 12:45 a.m. and I was in the venue's back office trying to wrestle my mildly claustrophobic boyfriend into a mascot costume. 

I had spent almost a year pitching this idea: our surprisingly relevant Helper brand could represent the #theculture by throwing a bonafide party. No covert marketing agenda. Just good music. Dancing. And warm cheeseburger macaroni (because bias aside, I believe in my heart of hearts that Helper is the dankest late night food). 

So when the only thing standing between me and the Helper glove swag surfing with 300 millennials was a lil' oxygen, I had to make power moves.

Sorry, Zae. But you killed it!

Over 3,000 people RSVP'd to a birthday party hosted by Hamburger Helper on a Wednesday night. It was unexpected and people loved it. I wrote a whole case study about it here, but the results didn't matter to me as much as the relationships I made along the way.

The day before the party, I was elbow-to-elbow in the backseat of an Uber with four teammates I had just met. They were going back and forth about their plans for the weekend, and what gigs they had to work. Me being me, I stopped to ask what felt like a fundamental question: "Ok so...is this your main job? Like what do you do?"

Their responses had my mind racing like Bradley Cooper on that limitless pill. They produced massive events, networked with brand sponsors, and even worked a night shift to keep the bills paid. Passionate. Driven. Plotting for the future. A group of 20-somethings, on their way to execute a six-figure corporate marketing initiative. 

The tide is turning. Millennials are the nation's largest living generation and 80% of them express a desire for brands to entertain. We're in an era where a 12-year-old YouTuber has more marketing influence than a conference room of MBA's. There's a lot of power in the creative intuition of our generation. 

"Listen to the kids, bro!" Kanye West said.

There will always be "adults" to answer to and results to prove. But if you're passionate about what you do, then you're unstoppable. If you have a vision, chase after it. Pick up a night shift. Volunteer your significant other to dress up in a mascot costume. Re-write your pitch deck 14 times just to sell your big idea. 

Do whatever it takes. You are the limitless pill. And you don't need to wait on a traditional career path to take you where you want to be.

My biggest role models are my entrepreneurial peers. Niles Stewart, a 19-year-old YouTuber I met through the Helper mixtape who now writes for the award-winning FX show Atlanta. Dev Cobbs, who conceived the idea of the 40oz Bounce tour when he was just 22. Brynn Casey, who harnesses the power of Instagram to very successfully sell her ocean paintings. 

Never stop grinding. Get home from your 9-5 and clock in to your side hustle from 5-9. Push your boundaries and act boldly. Our generation is out here setting trends, making chasing dreams a lifestyle. So go for it. 

BRAND IDENTITY: TATI CHIN

My blog is no stranger to the works of Tatiana Sheree Chin. She's my best friend, podcast co-host (Dos Cocos reboot coming soon), and entrepreneurial soul sister. So when sis needs a logo for her thriving food blog, you know I'm delivering in a big way. 

FUNCTIONALITY: Bold, clear, adaptable for different platforms. It's important to have a logo that can be translated across social media graphics, business cards, websites and still look like a cohesive brand.

MEANING: I drew over 30 unique icons to represent the ingredients that characterize her recipes. She's a mixed chick influenced by her Southern and Chinese-Jamaican roots (peep the Jamaican flag in the bottom right!). I wanted this core aspect of her personal brand to shine through the logo.

Follow Tati on Instagram, or snag a recipe from her website tatichin.com

BRAND IDENTITY: BE POSITIVE

From client:

#InTheMeantime: B+ (Be Positive) will be an open discussion to share my story of overcoming the first year after being diagnosed with HIV. I would like to also encourage others who may have recently contracted the virus to stay positive about their new lives. Additionally, I want to spread awareness to our community about getting tested and reducing the spread of HIV/STI.

WIP: ILLUSTRATION AND TYPE

Illustration and typography concepts for an upcoming brand identity project. I always start my designs in black and white to stay unbiased to pretty color palettes (and stand the test of single-color print scenarios). However, I'm excited to wrap up phase one, and begin splashing these designs with a soft pastels and summer hues. 

Snapchat Filter: 2017 Carolina Cup

If you're from South, you know that the Carolina Cup is iconic. This derby race signals the beginning of spring in South Carolina. Ladies are dolled up in sun hats and the gents in bow ties. Some might even call it the "Southern Coachella".

College students and young professionals make up the most spirited majority of the race attendees. With this in mind, The Carolina Cup commissioned two Snapchat filters to promote race day.

a weekend on the couch

It wasn't planned. 

Going into my Friday afternoon, I had no idea that I'd be sucked into two days of unadulterated couch lock. But as plans began to fall through, and the temperature plummeted to a bonus round of winter, I felt my desire for adventure wane. 

For those less privileged with the gift of time this weekend, here are four noteworthy highlights from my media and culture binge:

1. Walmart sponsored the Oscars: Walmart made its advertising debut at the Academy Awards this year with a TV spot concept that pushed the limits of product placement. Many films are based on a book or true story, but what about a receipt? Walmart challenged 3 film makers (including Oscar-presenter Seth Rogen) to produce three 60-second short films based on a store receipt with bananas, paper towels, batteries, scooter, wrapping paper and a video baby monitor. Watch here.

2. Amazon and ESPN won an Oscar: You heard about Matt Damon's Manchester by the Sea, but did you know it was produced by Amazon Studios? Or that ESPN's OJ: Made in America documentary was the first TV series to win an Oscar? Streaming services pose a major threat to the traditional movie industry with their slim production budgets and foothold on the millennial audience. Netflix and Amazon are in an arms race to defy the status quo by racking in Emmy's, Sundance Awards and now an Oscar.  Read more here.

3. Dolce and Gabbana Goes Millennial at Milan Fashion Week: Social media influencers were cast as the runway models in Dolce and Gabanna's Milan Fashion Week show. YouTubers, fashion vloggers and celebrity offspring brought their own millions of followers along for the journey. This is not the first fashion house to work with the young "it" crowd, but DG's millennial takeover represents a shift to democratize fashion and usher in a fresh, young audience. Read more here.

4. The Toy Maker on ABC: With the smashing success of Shark Tank, ABC couldn't resist a youthful spin-off hosted by Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet. The network partnered with Mattel Creations to invite amateur inventors to pitch their toy inventions to a panel of kid judges. The winner will have their toy brought to market by Mattel, including marketing and manufacturing support. The show premieres April 7 on ABC. Read more here.

These highlights add dimension to a growing trend across industries: democracy. For decades, creative direction for any major brand has been held in an (expensive) unattainable ivory tower. We're now seeing companies source content from untraditional, fresh creatives who resonate with the digital generation. Power to the people! 

My feature in MPLS St. Paul Weddings

So stinkin' grateful to be featured in the MPLS St. Paul Weddings SS17! It's an honor to design Snapchat filters for the bride's big day. Every detail of a wedding has been lovingly planned, and I take that into careful consideration when designing my filters. I love getting to know the bride through the consultation process and understanding her vision for her most important season.

Read the full article here

Mungo Wedding Snapchat Filters

Mrs. Mungo is unapologetically the queen of Snapchat. Gaby came to me to design custom Snapchat filters to commemorate every milestone of her wedding season. Drawing inspiration from the look and feel of her invitations and decor, I designed 15 Snapchat filters for all of her wedding events, including:

  • Bridal shower
  • Bachelorette party
  • Spa day 
  • Bridal brunch
  • Rehearsal dinner
  • Wedding day
  • Cocktail Hour
  • Reception
  • After party

The filters were a HIT! Gaby's family and friends used the filters over 350 times, which totaled to 32,000 views on Snapchat. 

Her favorite? The bridal shower "Partying with Mrs. Mungo" filter. She loved the detail-- the charicature matched her bridal shower outfit down to the engagement ring! 

My favorite? Gaby's after-party was NYC nightclub themed, so I cleverly recreated the 1 OAK Nightclub logo with her wedding date and name. 

PHOTO STYLING: HAMBURGER HELPER

At General Mills, we have the luxury of a full kitchen studio and staff of recipe developers. I partnered with the Kitchens to create seasonally relevant recipes for Hamburger Helper to promote on our Facebook page. Keeping in mind that our consumer is a working mom, we developed recipes that took under 30 minutes to prepare, and involved just a few pantry-staple ingredients.

On set of the photoshoots, I styled food and props alongside a photographer and chef. 

Why Cuban-Americans are Celebrating Now that Fidel Castro is Dead

In the middle of the night, I received news that Fidel Castro, Cuban dictator for nearly five decades, finally died. I screamed. 

With joy.

I woke my mom and siblings out of bed and we rushed over to a Cuban landmark in Miami where thousands of people had already flooded the streets in pure celebration. Black, white, young and old, Cuban-Americans were banging pots and pans, waving Cuban flags and crying tears of happiness upon hearing about the death of an evil man who wrecked the lives of so many of our families. 

There was no question in our minds that Castro's death was more of a reason to party than a Dolphins Superbowl win and New Years Eve combined. Until I checked Twitter...

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I couldn't wrap my mind around the ignorant commentaries that spit in the face of every struggle my family overcame to make it to this day. Condoning Fidel Castro feels as offensive as telling a black person, "But slavery was great for the economy!" However, I knew that lack of education on the Cuban situation was the root of the problem. So here are a few reasons why you should let Cuban-Americans have their moment:

1. FIDEL CASTRO WAS A HOMEWRECKER

Communism looks awesome on paper. When Castro and his guerrilla warmongers took over in 1959, they promised equality and political liberty. To do so, he would "redistribute the wealth." Reality: he robbed citizens of their personal belongings and made it government property. This meant that there would be no more private property or business of any kind. From now on, Cubans would be 100% dependent on the government to provide them with food, employment, housing and education. 

Our family, like many others, would not stand for this. They fled for the U.S., in hopes of shortly returning home to Cuba when Castro was overthrown. (My grandmother remembers being devastated to leave behind her high-school sweetheart when her parents moved her to Florida "for the summer") Her father, lovingly known as Papi, returned to Cuba to continue running his lucrative family business. Little did he know that by the time he got back, everything had been seized by the government. 

Imagine: Papi, a started-from-the-bottom guy who spent a lifetime building up enough wealth to send his 9 children to private schools and summer camps...Now, stranded in a one-bedroom shack in Florida, working at the University of Florida cafeteria for $1/hour. Unfortunately, an even more dismal future was ahead for the family and friends left behind in Cuba.

2. FIDEL CASTRO WAS A MURDERER

Like my family, many Cuban-Americans have loved ones who were killed or imprisoned simply for disagreeing with Fidel Castro.  For example, when my uncle attempted to escape from Cuba, he was thrown into a work camp where he was beaten with batons all day long; my uncle's leg had been broken so many times it never actually healed. At night, campers were banished to solitary confinement in small, dark dungeons, tormented by the sound of loud banging noises on repeat. The years that followed meant enduring murder, poverty, starvation and the complete demise of a beautiful, progressive island.

Here's a rough body count: 

  • 30,000 executed by firing squad
  • 2,000 extra-judicial assassinations
  • 5,000 deaths in prison due to beating by guards and denial of medical care
  • 60,000 deaths while trying to escape Cuba by sea. 
  • 78,000 innocents may have died trying to flee the dictatorship.
  • 5,300 are known to have lost their lives fighting communism in the Escambray Mountains (mostly peasant farmers and their children) and at the Bay of Pigs.
  • 14,000 Cubans killed in Fidel's revolutionary adventures abroad, most notably his dispatch of 50,000 soldiers to Angola in the 1980s to help the Soviet-backed regime fight off the Unita insurgency.

3. RACE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT

America has a polarizing race issue, which was reflected in some of the responses to Castro's death on Friday night.  "I see a lot of white Miami Cubans celebrating Castro's death...I want the opinion of a black Cuban!" Please realize that not everything has to do with race, particularly global affairs...but if you want to go there... 

On paper, Castro abolished legalized discrimination. He met with Malcom X in the U.S. to discuss race (cue Kaepernick's controversial t-shirt). One author comments, "For many of us in Black America, Castro represented the audacity that we have desired and sought in the face of imperial and racial arrogance." However, when your people are starving and dead on the street, what has truly been accomplished? Black, white, gay, straight...the Castro regime tortured everyone the same. Talk about equality! 

And yes, a majority of Cuban exiles are "white". This makes sense given that "whites" likely had more resources to flee the country. Many underprivileged Afro-Cubans were sadly left behind to suffer at the hands of Castro. However, I urge you to read this thread for the opinion of a black Cuban for more insight. 

4. ...NOR DO PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS

Many attempted to discredit the celebratory Cuban-Americans because they voted for Trump, which labels them as a racist burden to progressive society. Though I did not personally vote for Trump, I urge you to consider the reasons why many Cuban-Americans did:

  • Trump represents capitalism. Obama represents socialism = the ideology that wrecked Cuba. People voted for Trump to not support Obama politics. For more perspective, here's Trump vs. Obama's reaction to Castro's death:
    • Trump“Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights. While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.”
    • Obama: "History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him...Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro's family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future."
  • Many Cuban-Americans feel that Obama's move to lift the embargo made us look gullible and weak; Trump promised to renegotiate the deal to bring justice to Cuban-Americans. 
  • A common misconception is that Latinos wouldn't vote for Trump because of his commentaries about illegal Mexican immigrants. Though appalled by his ignorant remarks, many Cuban-Americans were able to overlook his commentaries because that is not their personal situation; all Latinos are not the same. Cubans are not "illegal immigrants"-- they are political refugees. 

As a proud Miami Cuban-American, I ask for a moment of silence from the critics. The death of Fidel Castro symbolizes freedom and justice. In reality, Raul Castro (Fidel's brother) is currently in power and Cuban politics will remain the same for many more years. However, Fidel's death represents the hope for a brighter future in Cuba. Many of our family members died waiting for this day. Let us salsa dance in the streets, bongo-drumming to the rhythms of freedom, for all the lives lost at the hands of an evil tyrant. 

For more information on the subject, visit these resources:

nature makes me mindful

I suffer with anxiety. The root of my issues is worrying about the future or dwelling in the past, which is the classic formula for hell. They say the key to mindfulness is living in the moment. To unlock this mysterious level of mental peace and happiness, I'm supposed to think about the present. What am I doing right now? How does it feel? What can I be grateful for? (I mean, I can't even think of any other hypothetical questions because I'm really un-mindful.) 

So here I am, an anxious millennial being told to chill tf out. But I just can't. Besides the 1 minute a day that my Apple Watch cues me to "breathe", I spend most of my day mentally constipated with anxiety. Except for when I walk outside...

Nature is breathtaking. Fall in Minneapolis is just stunning. The LEAVES are SO COLORFUL.

I HAVE ALL OF THESE FEELINGS ABOUT TREES.

But it's not just fall. It's summer when the sky is blue, or winter when I stomp around in the snow like a 2-year-old because it's a magical substance. When I'm driving in the car with friends, I shout, "Look out the window!! Look at the sky!!" and they laugh at me. They're right. I've seen it all before. But lately, I just can't get enough.

I'd like to think that my profound appreciation for the outdoors is a blessing. In a world where I can't escape my own brain, I find peace in moments reflecting on the HD skyline above the rush of traffic. I lose myself pondering the depths of the crystal blue lake, or the incredible hues of fall leaves. 

So if you think I'm corny, but slightly interested in achieving extreme levels of earthly appreciation, here are some thought-starters for the next time you're outside:

  • The ground you're walking on has been in existence for millions of years. Some horse-drawn buggy rolled through these streets. A Native-American probably pitched a tent here. A 1940's teenage couple probably snuck out of their houses to make out in this exact spot. The possibilities are endless. 
  • The colors of nature are trendsetters. Seriously, they were being beautiful centuries before any machine found a way to replicate them.
  • At one point, someone stumbled across this same land without a map. Imagine what it looked like undeveloped?? Forests for days!! The world is so vast and multifaceted. 
  • Nature is ALIVE. All of the trees, grass and animals are living beings that cycle through time like humans. We need the plants and the plants need us. How cool is that? 

I know. It's a lot. But the world is a beautiful place. 

CHZY SZN MERCH LINE

As a riff off Justin Bieber and Drake’s merchandise pop-up shops, Lefty the Glove (me) designed a line of apparel after dropping the most fire mixtape of 2016. The fluid relationship between fashion, music and social influence has made it possible for artists like Kanye West to secure a deal with Adidas and dominate culture with his YZY SZN collection. I envisioned a similar narrative for Lefty when creating CHZY SZN.

Comprised of an all-black sweatsuit, "dad hat" and 2 graphic tees, the merch line taps in to the norm-core trend. After designing and producing a limited collection, I directed a Lookbook-esque photoshoot to model the apparel. Photos were shared via @Helper and followers instantly fell in love: 

#ComplexHustle Inspiration: you can't define me

Growing into your own skin, finding your way...it's all Mr. Krabs meme. Especially when you're creative. Society tells us to fit into a box:

"Oh, so you're a graphic designer" 

Well, yes. But...

"So you love social media...you'd be a great social media manager"

Not quite...

In this interview, Rashad preaches about our generation of creators that is indefinable. "Our creative class is multifaceted, multidimensional, cross-functional..." In every job I've ever had, I've always felt like I have more to offer. I have an eye for the big picture, but also every detail that plays into it. I guess advertising agencies call that a creative director...but what if I want to impact more than just brands?

If there's one thing I know, it's that this generation is paving its own way. No one really knows what they're doing. The consumer landscape changes every 5 years and somehow the old white men that used to know everything about marketing now can't even log into their own smart phones. And oh yeah,  a sex-tape star was on the cover of Vogue and Donald Trump is running for president. Literally. Anything. Goes. While it would be nice to have creatives come before me to set the path, it's invigorating to think that I am that creative. Right now. 

SAINT PABLO VS SUMMER SIXTEEN

It's concert season: that magical time when artists comes out with new music and then tour at the same time with no consideration of your bank account or day job. But I'm a hustler, so I went to the Atlanta Saint Pablo Tour and Summer Sixteen Tour within two weeks of each other. Here are my thoughts:

SUMMER SIXTEEN TOUR

  • HEADLINER: DRAKE AND FUTURE
  • SPECIAL GUESTS: DVSN, ROY WOODS, GUCCI MANE, YOUNG THUG, USHER

 CROWD HYPE: 9/10 | SET LIST: 7/10 | VISUALS: 6/10 |  ATTIRE: Grown and sexy

I saw Drake during his NWTS and Take Care tours, but this time was something special. Drake is on the top of his game now; his confidence was understood, but not rubbed in our faces. (I've been to many concerts where the artist acted "too cool" for his own show, but this was not one of them.)

Drake and Future brought out their greatest hits, not just their most recent albums. The concert felt more like a club; everyone was dancing (not just me for once). As a surprise to the guests, Drake brought out Gucci Mane to the tune of "Back on Road", which blew Atlanta's mind. On the second night of the tour, he apparently brought out Young Thug and Usher...much to my chagrin. Bringing out guests is the magic touch to any performance, especially when you're in the hip-hop capitol of the world. 

If I had one criticism, I'd say the concert actually went a little too long. While I enjoyed Drake's back-to-back bangers, it became draining. I wish he played a little harder-to-get because the crowd lost energy and interest towards the end. There are only so many songs to which we can scream our hearts out. 

SAINT PABLO TOUR

  • HEADLINER: KANYE WEST
  • SPECIAL GUEST: KANYE WEST

CROWD HYPE: 7/10 | SET LIST: 8/10 | VISUALS: 10/10 |  ATTIRE: Your coolest f*cking outfit ever

This was my first time seeing Kanye and I had been told that it was going to change my life. Of course, that's what every stan says...but I'm a stan, too...so. More than the actual concert itself, I was overly excited to get my hands on Saint Pablo Tour merchandise. There were around 6 different booths throughout Philips Arena that sold the merchandise (we'll save this for a future blog post). It's worth noting that everyone there was extremely well-dressed; it's like I walked into an Urban Outfitter's lookbook. 

No one opened for Ye, which was odd and buzz-killing; We figured he'd at least have a DJ hype the crowd. Instead, we waited an hour and a half past start-time to be greeted by his first song, "Father Stretch My Hands". It was rumored that Ye would only perform T.L.O.P. songs, but the crowd was pleasantly surprised when he played hits like "Gold Digger" and "All of the Lights". 

We've all heard that his stage floats from the ceiling, which was great because the back of the arena felt like front row at times. In true Kanye fashion, he was a perfectionist about his songs; If the sound team skipped a beat, he'd call them out to restart the song from the beginning. 

Bottom line: Summer Sixteen was a full-on party. Saint Pablo was a curated masterpiece.  

3 MEANINGS OF KANYE'S "FADE" MUSIC VIDEO

Kanye West's premiere of his newest music video "Fade" at the 2016 VMA's was nothing short of intoxicating. I went from drooling in front of the couch to sweating in the gym with Teyana Taylor on my mind. 

The video begins with a three-minute dance number that is a cross between Flashdance and soft porn. Our minds were blown by her rhythmic sex appeal. As I watched for the first time, I told my friends, "This is hot...but I wish something controversial would happen!"

Yeezus answers prayers.

The video cuts to a steamy shower scene with Teyana and Iman, her NBA star fiancé. No filter. And in the last 10 seconds of the video, Kanye takes us back to the gym, this time with Teyana costumed as some kind of sexy lion Avatar, standing over her husband and baby Junie in a room full of live sheep.

......WHAT DOES THIS MEAN??? After studying the video and countless Reddit threads, I've developed 3 concepts for the deeper meaning of Kanye's "Fade" music video: 

LEVEL 1: FAME Kanye is always pushing boundaries for the newest generation of Hollywood's elite. In his prior video release of "Famous", we saw Bill Cosby in bed with Taylor Swift, Ray J alongside Rihanna. He draws attention to the unconventional blend of society's most influential members. Kanye continues with this theme by spotlighting the talented Teyana Taylor, My Super Sweet Sixteen princess turned G.O.O.D. Music rapper turned NBA wife and mother. 

Teyana and Kim have a lot in common. They're both ambitious bombshells that have leveraged their sexuality for fame. Kanye worships the juxtaposition between thirst trap and ambitious career woman/mom. The "Fade" video is an ode to his muse, Kim, who has paved a new lane for fame. 

LEVEL 2: PUSSY POWER In line with the fame theory, one could take a more metaphorical approach. Teyana's dance number seduces our most carnal, animalistic desires. We were glued to the screen for a solid three minutes. She takes us to the next level with none other than her husband, representing the pinnacle of intimacy (one could even argue success). And then, BAM. Cue sexy lioness. We're caught with our pants down. We've been lured in like prey. All of us. Sheep. Led blindly by sex and fantasies of #GOALS.

Teyana's lioness character represents power. Queen of the jungle. She has it all: fame, family, fortune. You could even call it pussy (heh) power. Kanye is validating the new generation of "royalty", reminding us that the equation for success is simple; we're all animals brought together by primitive desires.

LEVEL 3: LION AND THE LAMB Maaaaybe it's a stretch, but there's potential for a biblical allusion. I mean, it is Yeezus. Life of Pablo (Paul, the disciple). A passage in the book of Isaiah (11:6) describes a time in the future when all creatures will coexist. In this utopia, lions and "fattened calves" will roam together peacefully without persecution. 

Could Kanye be setting the tone for his perfect society in which different groups of people can coexist? A world where rap and street culture can mingle with the elite Vogue group he begs? Or could this ladder up to social justice? Black and white? Classism? Sexism?

Or maybe it's not that complex, Liana. Maybe it's just another provocative dance video to promote his up-and-coming signed artist. The world will never know.