For me personal-idol-wise , 2016 has been an extremely heavy year so far. The two people I idolized most , who inspired me in every creative capacity possible ( every shoot I’ve styled or creative directed has some sort of homage to them not to mention all my finals/projects in art school) passed away a little more than two months apart , Vanity & Prince. Their absence left some sort of emptiness inside me , knowing one of the worlds most beautiful women and the most creative musician ( and arguably the most beautiful man) are gone forever is something that stings considering who my generation and the generations after mine have for idols now. There is some comfort in their absence at least in the sense they’re somewhere together now forever , at least I believe so . It still hurts and always will though .
Recently I had taken a break from social media , the ego’s , political opinions , the lack of originality , the booking emails , ect it all was getting to me . I needed to clear my mind after wrapping my last styling assignments for a magazine , I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next , my go to photographer is retiring , my main muse is semi over the industry , and the I city currently reside in isn’t exactly a city where you can get consistent paid work or meet a lot of genuine creative people who can still uphold professionalism and deadlines . It was just one of those weeks . I finally logged back into my instagram and started looking at some of my favorite people just to see what I missed for the week , I came across an accessory designer with a familiar picture of her and my favorite stylist as I read the caption my heart literally jumped , it was her tribute to him , he had died . I could not believe what I was reading , I went to his page and the last pic was one I had like before I had deactivated my account but the comments just reinforced the sad reality , he was gone . When Vanity and Prince both died , the losses of course felt personal , I grew up in households that were influenced by them and eventually had my own journey’s of inspiration with them but with this particular news it felt extremely personal , I’ve lost two close friends before and that feeling of being emotionally gutted , speechless , mad , just everything hit again.
Back in 09 I had just started at M.I.U. under their FRM program , there weren’t a lot of us back then , this was right on the cusp before social media ,so I was lucky enough to get a crash course in the fashion industry before all the influx of self proclaimed designers , stylists , models , creative directors , ect . It was just a small group of us who genuinely wanted careers in fashion and went about them through networking and honest ambition. It was something that chose us somewhere along in life and we all ended up there in our journeys. Despite the constant tropical heat Miami offers, I was always in a vintage biker jacket ( I had a blk and a white but endlessly hunted ebay and thrifts for a red at the time ) and patent leather sneakers , and mostly black attire (some things never changed) , at night I kept my oversized vintage shades on , that was just me or so I thought. One day between classes I came across a blog and it changed me forever. There was another kid out there from Queens in oversized shades , patent leather high tops , and vintage biker jackets ( and he had them not just in blk and white but the coveted red & blue too) and he was always rocking them whether shooting , at an industry event, or traveling like I wanted too. I followed his blog and myspace religiously from that point on , then of course on twitter , ect . I saw him create looks for Miguel ( one of my only modern idols) , Usher’s tour , a collaboration with Android Homme , and even his own line. We eventually crossed paths at an event and as intimidated as I was , he quickly made me feel comfortable and equal in his presence although it was brief it felt like we had knew each other already. Whenever I felt discouraged I would always think back to our special moment and think about his words of encouragement and what it meant to me and what it meant to see him grow and always be his own person , NEVER conforming to seasons or trends like so many do. Like Prince & Vanity another legend leaves us truly ahead of his time. Devastation is kicking in now but so is motivation and endurance to continue doing what I always wanted to do . Leo Velasquez was / is my hero and his legacy will live on through the many many people he inspired including myself. Always let your creative ambition overpower your insecurities. Inspire The Future.