Derrick Ofosu Boateng

Derrick Ofosu Boateng is a photographer and digital artist based in Accra, Ghana. Inspired by the richness of everyday African life, his images are methodically concepted, transforming ordinary scenes with vibrant color-blocking. These soulful images are all shot on his iPhone and edited with Photoshop, Picsart, VSCO, and the internal iPhone image editing tool. 

Boateng wants to use his contemporary photography to change the world’s perception of Africa and its art, which is often viewed through a limited lens in film and media. Through his work he represents the beauty and visual poetry of everyday African culture, lifestyles and behaviors, thereby “changing the story that is told of Africa.” 

“Photography has always made me happy, since I was a child,” he said. “And now it means something important to me because it is the way I have to defend the idea that Africa is not just something negative.” 

You can check out their latest projects on Creatively here. And tap on the “Black Creator Spotlight” at the top of your Discover feed to see all the incredible Black creators we’re showcasing this month!

What is the first creative project you remember?

The first picture I created after searching hard to find my preferred style in photography, which is colorblock. I did a picture called “Life is Like Riding a Bicycle.” That very image wasn’t staged and it was a little boy on a bicycle.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

I would say live, love, evolving.

“Color is a Power” by Boateng.

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

For now, I would say the new one I just did with the phenomenal rapper Common. My images were used for his album covers.

Boateng created the cover image of rapper Common’s latest album, “A Beautiful Revolution Pt. 1.”

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

I learn from each stage of life. Every project prepares me to be better for the future.

An original piece captured and edited by Boateng.

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with, or something you’re taught?

I wasn’t taught to be a creative, or a photographer, or an artist. I feel it’s something that came naturally. I believe one works hard on something to become talented or creative in that field. 

What is your wildest dream?

That my art has brought love to different people with different cultures and backgrounds. It has inspired people and changed the negative attitudes towards Africa. 

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

I would want my art to be remembered as spirit, truth, love, and happiness. How bravely I am fighting to change the mindset of people about Africa or Africans and promoting love among people.

Follow @DerrickOBoateng on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective. 

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life

Coco & Breezy Dotson

Corianna and Brianna Dotson (better known as Coco and Breezy) are the style icons and creative geniuses behind their eponymous sunglasses line, founded when they were just 19. The twins are also music producers, DJs, and owners of a set of bespoke cottage rentals in the Catskill Mountains. 

The Minnesota natives got their start embellishing safety goggles with studs and spikes, DIY-style. They moved to New York City and launched the premium eyewear line that has been worn by icons like Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Serena, and the late, great, superlative style icon Prince. 

They’ve partnered with brands that range from Twizzler to Samsung to Zenni Optical and—most importantly, at the age of 26—they’re writing their own rules for their brand. 

You can check out their latest projects on Creatively here. And tap on the “Black Creator Spotlight” at the top of your Discover feed to see all the incredible Black creators we’re showcasing this month!

What is the first creative project you remember?

Our first creative project was when we were two years old. Our aunt tells us this story that every time she babysat us, she could never put us in front of the TV like other kids so she started to buy us bags of arts and crafts. But if we received the same bag with the same crafts, we would know and we would tell her so she had to mix them up to challenge us more. We always wanted to create something new. 

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

Our aesthetic is unapologetic, effortless, and thoughtful. 

Meet Coco & Breezy Dotson.

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?The most fulfilling collaboration was our partnership with Zenni Optical. It’s an eyewear collaboration called Planet CB x Zenni and we actually just launched in August. The reason why it was so fulfilling was because for almost 10 years, we said we would live on Planet CB in 2020 and then we—funny enough—launched Planet CB in 2020. We wanted to launch affordable glasses for kids that were stylish. What’s great is that a portion of Planet CB proceeds supports Child Mind Institute’s efforts to provide youth of Black communities with greater access to mental health services. 

Coco and Breezy partnered with Zenni Optical to create PlanetCB for kids. Each frame style is named with an affirmation, including I Am Positive, I Am Powerful, and I Am Strong.

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

One creative project we did that taught us something fundamental was when we did the ‘third eye’ glasses for Prince. He taught us a lot about ourselves because during that time, we got to work with a legend. When he told us he wanted us to design glasses for his third eye, we were like: “How the hell are we going to do this?” This was a real challenge. Just being around someone that creative and that special was amazing. Even if an idea sounded unrealistic, he would just say it; being around him made us think bigger. 

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with, or something you’re taught?

Coco: I think creativity is something you’re born with. And I think the beautiful part about creativity is that you don’t have to be artistic to be creative. I tell people who work in jobs that aren’t artistic like accountants that they are creative because they have to find creative ways to do things or creative strategies. That is really the definition of being creative. 

What’s the last dream you had?

Breezy: I just had a dream that Rihanna had a crush on me. She was flirting with me in front of everybody. [Laughs] I was like: “Are you sure you want to do this in public?”

Coco: I don’t remember my last one! Breezy writes her dreams down. 

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

I hope people will write that they got the blueprint to be Black women entrepreneurs. Men aren’t often criticized for having multiple businesses but [according to society], women can’t handle it. If this is the Coco & Breezy blueprint, I want people to say, ‘If they did it, I can do it, too.’ 

Follow @CocoandBreezy on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective. 

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life

Siobhan Bell 

At Creatively, our mission is to champion creative talent and help you achieve your  wildest ambitions—connecting you with work opportunities that help grow your careers. We know, however, that Black creatives are all too often underrepresented and underserved by the creative community. And when it comes to building a creative business, visibility matters. So all this #BlackHistoryMonth, we’re proud to put Black creators at the forefront of all our programming—from the teachers we feature as part of our #CreativelyClasses series to the creative work we spotlight on our social accounts, starting with the incomparable Siobhan Bell. 

Siobhan Bell is a London-born and raised DJ and producer who has become one of the fashion world’s most in-demand talents—both as a musician and a tastemaker.

Bell first got her start as an intern at Atlantic Records in the UK, and then started booking DJ sets in East London. In 2018, she hit it big with her official remix of MadeinTYO and A$AP Ferg’s “Ned Flanders,” which earned a premiere in Complex and was streamed 500,000 times. Now, Bell is considered one of the London greats, commanding sets on Boiler Room, a music broadcasting platform based in London, and appearing on lineups for major festivals alongside A$AP Mob, Migos, and Virgil Abloh. She’s even toured alongside WizKid and Megan Thee Stallion. 

Her skyrocketing popularity on the DJ circuit caught the attention of brands like Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Miu Miu, and Nike, along with media outlets like Vogue and Complex—all of which booked Bell to DJ at major events. In 2019, Bell was featured in CR Fashion Book’s Class of 2019; and in 2020, she released her first fashion collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld—a project that managed to sell out even amidst a global pandemic. 

What’s next for the multi-hyphenate powerhouse? More music, of course. You can follow Siobhan Bell and check out her latest projects on Creatively here. And tap on the “Black Creator Spotlight” at the top of your Discover feed to see all the incredible Black creators we’re showcasing this month!

What is the first creative project you remember?

The first creative project I did was create a club night called Cherryade in East London. It was for me and my friends to have a place to have fun. I also used it to connect with other DJs from different parts of the world.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

“Globe trotter stylish” and “mini size fun.”

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

The most fulfilling collaboration I have worked on was with the Karl Lagerfeld brand this past year. I DJ’d for Karl Lagerfeld’s fashion party in Paris in 2018 and that was such an honor. I have always wanted to grow into being a creative director or designer for a brand, and to now have a collaboration with one of the most legendary icons of fashion is a dream come true.

Siobhan Bell collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld on the release of the new KARL LAGERFELD X MUSIC collection.

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

My “Made in Tokyo” remix featuring A$AP Ferg. I did a club remix of the original song, and the remix process taught me how to put a track together, which helped me with my producing skills. You can listen to it here on Spotify. 

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with or something you’re taught?

For me I can say It was something I was actually taught. In my Jamaican household, music is everything. I was introduced to many genres and sounds from an early age due to my parents being musically inclined. 

Siobhan Bell behind the DJ booth at XOYO in London during the Megan Thee Stallion tour.

What’s the last dream you had?

I dreamt I was in a supermarket shopping. It was unlimited food, but I had to wear a disguise. 

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

I hope people say that I used my platform to bridge the gap between the US and the UK, and that my DJ career became a multifaceted brand. 

Siobhan Bell wears an oversized hoodie and shoulder bag from the KARL LAGERFELD X MUSIC collection.

Follow @SiobhanBell on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective. 

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life

Noa Santos

Noa Santos was only 25 years old when he started the company that would transform his career: Homepolish. He’d been working with one of New York’s top interior designers when he came up with the idea for the business that would combine his passion for interior design with the technology he’d grown to admire while studying at Stanford University. After raising more than $30 million and building a business with over 12,000 clients—not to mention an online community in the millions—Santos closed the doors of Homepolish in 2019 and still considers “one of the best experiences of [his] life.” 

Now, Santos has launched what he describes as his “next chapter”: NAINOA, a new interior design firm that offers design service ranging from interiors to full-scale renovations. You can follow Noa Santos and check out his latest projects on Creatively here.

What is the first creative project you remember? 

I built a birdhouse in elementary school as a class project and I  remember being absolutely thrilled with it even though I don’t remember what it looked like exactly. I’m also relatively certain I cheated and got my grandpa’s help. But I recall vividly what it felt like to be building something as special and significant as a home. 

Describe your aesthetic in three words. 

Collected, not decorated. 

Interior designed by NAINOA Architecture and Interiors.

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on? 

My partnership with my husband, Ross Matsubara (Vice President and Style Director at PR firm Nike Communications). There has been no collaboration as stimulating, challenging, or rewarding as that one.

Noa Santos (right) with his husband, Ross Matsubara.

    

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself? 

Designing our home in East Hampton has taught me the fundamental value of patience and how desperately little of it I have. A home, while it should look complete (and beautiful), is never truly finished. If you’re truly using it as a tool for living your life, it should evolve as you do—and that takes patience. But it’s been marvelous to see, in these uniquely challenging times, how important having a home you love truly is to the quality of your well-being. 

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with or something you’re taught? 

For the lucky ones, I think being creative comes naturally. Personally, I have to work at it—to feed it and balance it against my naturally pragmatic sensibility. However that marriage, I believe, is what separates NAINOA and the work that we do. We aren’t artists creating freely without constraints. We are designers crafting solutions that address our clients’ unique and real challenges. 

Interior designed by NAINOA Architecture and Interiors.

What’s the last dream you had? 

I don’t dream. I fall asleep in five minutes and sleep like the dead. 

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

In one hundred years, I hope people write about how young I look despite all of the martinis—and how they can’t believe I’m still working. Otherwise, I’ll be dead so I guess I won’t care.

Follow @NoaSantos on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective. 

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life

Emmanuel Sanchez Monsalve

Raised in Miami by Colombian immigrants, Emmanuel Sanchez Monsalve took his love of art, dance, and fashion to New York City in 2015 to build a career.

With a background in dance and experience in fashion—including an internship at Wilhemina Models—Monsalve cultivated a distinct photographic style, with an intuitive knack for casting and composition that emphasizes the human body. His images feel at once raw and intimate as well as slick and stylized.

Monsalve’s unique perspective has led to work shooting stories for major fashion publications like i-D, GQ, Vogue Italia, Harper’s Bazaar, Document Journal, and Teen Vogue. Additionally, he’s worked with music artists like Bad Bunny and acclaimed designers like Oscar de la Renta and Christopher John Rogers. You can check out Monsalve’s latest projects on Creatively here

What is the first creative project you remember? 

I always used to paint when I was a child. My mom is one of twelve kids and her brothers are painters and sculptors; I’ve always been inspired by my uncles growing up. I remember drawing an older man from an art book once, and I remember everyone’s reaction. It made me feel good to think that I was continuing a legacy. I don’t paint as much now, but I use photography as a form of art. Does that count as my first creative project? [Laughs]

Describe your aesthetic in three words. 

Fluid. Mysterious. Intimate. My favorite thing is to push gender.  

“Space Cowboy” for Vogue Italia, photographed by Monsalve in 2019.

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on? 

About a year and a half ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Tahiti with stylist Alexander Julian and my best friend, Lina Palacios. We had the honor to photograph  Nonahere (a Tahitian dance team) and two of Tahiti’s top models. That week, our producer, Manu de Schoenburg, took us all around the island of Papeete to location scout. It was the most magical adventure I’ve ever been on and to share it with my best friend was epic. I’ve realized that shooting real people in their own country and environment, as well as learning about their culture, is very fulfilling to me. I left that trip knowing that traveling and photographing culture will be one of my biggest priorities as a photographer.  

A feature for i-D, photographed by Monsalve.

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself? 

This one project was one of my first international editorials shooting outside of the country. I worked with one of the grumpiest fashion editors I’ve ever met. She was very negative and patronizing. Unfortunately, I let her get the best of me, made me question myself, and brought out many insecurities during the shoot. But what I learned from this experience is to not let people’s energy affect you and your work. I had to learn about my self-worth, and this experience has made me stronger. I believe that I had to go through that to learn how to value myself and my career.

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with or something you’re taught? 

As humans, we’re curious. Through curiosity, we create, even without knowing. It can be both.

Fendi in Out Magazine, photographed by Monsalve in 2020. 

What’s the last dream you had? 

Lately, my dreams have been pretty dark, but I did have a positive one last week. I was in Colombia riding horses with my cousins. That’s actually one of my dreams: to own a farm in Pereira, Colombia.

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

I want people to see my work and feel inspired and moved. I want my platform to express all the types of beauty in our era, in our generation. That’s why I feel as though representation is the most important part for me.  I want to go deeper into my culture, for sure.

Follow @EmmanuelSMonsalve on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective. 

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life

Eric Friedensohn

Eric Friedensohn, better known as “Efdot,” is a New York-based muralist, artist and illustrator who describes his work as “art for optimists.” Efdot specializes in large-scale murals and art experiences that Hypebeast aptly described as “abstract-meets-figurative”—playful, vivid, and heavily influenced by skateboard culture.

Since founding Efdot Studio in 2012, Friedensohn has been commissioned by brands like WeWork and USA/SyFy Network to create works in Rio de Janeiro, Rockefeller Center in New York, and more. Outside of commissioned work, Efdot also produces limited-edition prints & apparel. You can check out Efdot’s latest projects on Creatively here.

What is the first creative project you remember?
Building with LEGOs and blocks in my room as a kid. 

Describe your aesthetic in three words.
Bold. Clean. Optimistic.

An Efdot mural on a rooftop football court in Monterrey, Mexico.

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?
Tough call! All of the murals my team created at WeWork, particularly the ones painted in Latin America, are among my most fulfilling collaborations. Other than that, getting to work with Topps this year has been a dream come true. I never imagined to see my art distributed as collectible cards and printed on this large of a scale.

A 2020 collaboration with Topps to redesign iconic baseball cards.

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?
I’d have to say The Optimist Project, which I like to call my “origin story.” This was right after I lost my apartment and almost all my belongings in an apartment fire. I learned through this project the power that my story and my art can have.

This rough sketch was one of the only things to survive an apartment fire in which all of Efdot’s possessions were destroyed. It became a symbol of hope for the artist.

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with, or something you’re taught?
I think everyone is born with some level of creative curiosity. From there, it is something that needs to be cultivated, practiced, and honed.

What’s the last dream you had?
I remember dreaming about being in a hot air balloon and I had no idea how I got there. Luckily, we made it down to land safely.

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?
I don’t think about this very often, but I hope that people will write about my work, saying it provided a joyful escape from everyday life—that is rooted in positivity and satisfaction. With each piece I make, I always strive to encapsulate a sense of discovery that reconnects us to our child-like curiosity, and to each other.

Follow @efdot on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective. 

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life

Synchrodogs

Tania Shcheglova and Roman Noven, the Ukrainian creative duo known as Synchrodogs, don’t fit neatly into a single creative discipline. Their primary outlet is photography (often with Tania photographed by Roman), but their images are like a portal into a surreal, otherworldly landscape—meticulously crafted by two creative minds working in close partnership.

The duo first connected via a photography website in 2008 and started off shooting fairly traditional images before veering into experimental territory. Their creative work has since taken them from the American Southwest to the Carpathian Mountains, and along the way, they’ve partnered with brands like Burberry, appeared on the walls of the Dallas Contemporary Art Museum, and have been featured in outlets like Elle and Bazaar. You can check out Synchrodogs’ latest projects here.

What is the first creative project you remember?

One of the first projects together was taken 10 years ago: it was a cold winter in Ukraine, we got all lakes and rivers frozen, so we went walking and shooting on a transparent and sometimes dangerously thin ice that was cracking when we were walking across. We were shooting with almost no clothes on but can’t remember feeling any coldness at all, we were really concentrated and excited with those clear ice and all the trees around growing just from under the ice.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

Colorful. Fresh. Disturbing.

Synchrodogs for Masha Reva.

 

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

Recently we got our book published by Louis Vuitton called Fashion Eye of Ukraine, even though it has little to do with fashion as such—it is more an art project showing Ukrainian aboriginal aesthetics. We worked on the project for three years and consider it something we can be truly proud of, as it took us so many long and dangerous bike trips to get to those endless landscapes—really a big part of our life.

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

That must be working on the “Supernatural” project, which was a 6,000 km trip across the United States’ most deserted and far-to-reach places. It taught us that we can (and have to) fight all kinds of phobias to achieve the results we want. We have to be really devoted—overcoming fear of heights, poisonous snakes, swimming spiders, shooting in lakes full of alligators, being in the desert with no water, climbing rocks with no wires. No half-measures, only full devotion when our imagination flourishes.

From the “Supernatural” series by Synchrodogs.

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with, or something you’re taught?

Most probably born with, but everybody has a potential for sure—just in different scales—and it is everybody’s sole responsibility and decision whether to develop it or go the other way.

What’s the last dream you had?

It was a really big lunar park with literally hundreds of swings and people on them with beautiful sun rays lighting the scene. The view was rather entertaining.

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

Maybe in one hundred years people won’t write anymore (kidding). We think more about how to do something meaningful during our lives rather than how to achieve the effect of people praising us, so it is a tough question. We really hope that the topic of nature-friendly existence will be more and more important to people with time. We can only have a small influence on that, but if all small influences of all people are collected together, it can make a big change. We would love to be an inspiration for people to be the best versions of themselves, treating planet Earth with love and respect.

Follow @Synchrodogs on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective. 

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life

Adam J. Kurtz

Chances are, you’ve already seen Adam J. Kurtz’s eye-catching work—either on Instagram, where his following has grown to nearly 320,000—or on some merchandise (his web store features, for example, an empty jar marked “Feelings” and a ceramic trophy that reads “You Tried”). The Hawaii-based artist specializes in illustrative work that feels optimistic and funny, while also refreshingly honest and a little bit dark. This unique creative mix has won him legions of fans on social media, as well as featured work in The New Yorker, VICE, Adweek, and more. 

Kurtz’s books—including 1 Page at a Time: A Daily Creative Companion and Things Are What You Make of Them—have been translated into over a dozen languages, and his ADAMJK® art and stationary brand is sold everywhere from Urban Outfitters to MoMA Design Store. You can check out Kurtz’s latest projects on Creatively here.

What is the first creative project you remember?

We did a lot of drawing and glitter glue crafting growing up. No specific memories, but I definitely had the infamous RoseArt folio art kit that so many of us remember. Big Mr. Sketch fan too.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

Simple. Direct. Colorful.

A pack of Kurtz-designed balloons currently for sale on his web store.

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

My Then & Now rainbow artwork began as a Post-It note drawing that I got tattooed for myself. It’s gone on to represent for and with LGBTQ people, as merchandise, as a neon sculpture installed at the Leslie Lohman Museum in NYC (produced with Lite Brite Neon), and then last year as a series of massive parade balloons for Atlanta Pride with Mailchimp. Something simple and personal that has continued to grow (both in reach and physical size) in unexpected ways. It’s really special.

Kurtz’s “Then & Now” rainbow as a neon sculpture in the Leslie Lohman Museum, produced by Lite Brite Neon.

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

My 1 Page at a Time art therapy journal taught me that actually, half a million people worldwide are a little bit f*cked up inside too! Thank you capitalism for making me feel less alone in my weirdo brain and in my art.

Kurtz’s 1 Page at a Time is a journal, scrapbook, and anything else. 

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with or something you’re taught?

Everyone is creative, but it manifests in different ways. You can absolutely learn new ways to grant yourself permission or explore, or you can embrace the things you already do that are rooted in creativity. I believe that creativity itself can be magical, but it’s not magic. We all have it.

What’s the last dream you had?

I very rarely remember my dreams but might remember the mood or tone. I was stressed out about something last night—might have been something I needed to do, a task or challenge to complete? Gone now!

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

I’m barely relevant right now, lmao. There is not a single part of me that expects to be remembered in 100 years, but I do think of my accessible art products as tiny little vessels out there in the world for others to imbue with emotional value. A keychain can be an heirloom. Maybe someone will still have one somewhere because it meant a lot to someone they loved.

Follow @AdamJK on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective. 

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life

José ‘Xtravaganza’ Gutierez

José Gutierez, better known as “José Xtravaganza,” began his dance career at the age of seven, when he was selected out of thousands of students to be part of a dance educational program, and eventually attended the famed LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts in New York City. There, he became a fixture of the underground LGBTQ ballroom scene, including the legendary House of Xtravaganza, where his technical dance training melded with the underground dance called vogue.

His mastery of the dance earned him the attention of Madonna herself, who invited him to audition for her troupe. Not only did he earn himself a spot as one of the lead dancers on Madonna’s “Blond Ambition” World Tour, he was also featured in the cult documentary “Truth or Dare,” and continued to work with the pop icon for years after—earning himself a nomination for Best Choreography in a Music Video at the MTV Video Music Awards in the process.


As a choreographer, José Xtravaganza has worked with Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett, The Rolling Stones, Icona Pop, and more, and he’s been featured in Vogue, Time, Details. In addition to working with director Baz Lurhmann on the Netflix series “The Get Down,” José was a key consultant on Ryan Murphy’s FX series, “Pose,” even appearing as a judge. You can check out José Xtravaganza’s latest projects on Creatively here.

What is the first creative project you remember?

The first creative project I remember was when I was in the third grade in public school. I won a scholarship that was paid for by the New York City Board of Education to learn the arts. Specifically, they taught us ballet and they really trained us. All the students got together and put on a show and I remember that was the first time that I performed on a stage––and it was the first time I did something expressive. From that moment on, I knew that I loved it. That it was something I wanted to do and that I needed to do.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

Unique, Clean, and Passionate. 

Without those three things, all the other elements of the aesthetic are technical and means nothing to me. I think most dancers and artists have a sort of style that can be identified by their movements—even if the performer is completely covered up. I think my aesthetic carries over from my fashion sense (which is very unique, as I don’t follow trends but what speaks to me), and a major aspect is my cleanliness. It’s an attribute that comes from my training as a ballet dancer and something that separates me from the rest. In the heat of a performance or battle, cleanliness is almost always sacrificed unnecessarily for creativity. Clean lines, shapes, poses, and silhouettes are part of my arsenal in my performance. When you watch other voguers perform or battle, the heat of the moment means the loss of lines and to me is the opposite of what vogue is.

Photographed by Carlos Hernández.

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

I’ve got to say, it was working with Madonna during the “Blonde Ambition” Tour. To be a part of such a political moment in pop culture history was really something, and to be honest, it was unbeknownst to me. I was 18 years old at the time. I thought I was just doing my job as a dancer, performing. At the time, you’re not out there to touch people; as dancers, you’re always expected to be looked at in the background. So to learn [later] that through that part of my career, I was a part of something that moved so many people artistically but also personally.

Once, I was approached by a gentleman whose eyes were swelling in tears of gratitude for me simply being myself. I guess living and growing up in NYC afforded me a luxury most rural citizens don’t have, which is tolerance. This guy explained to me that he was borderline suicidal and depressed because he felt alone and felt like a freak because he was gay and feminine. He said he was at a friend’s house watching MTV when he saw the Rock the Vote commercial with Luis, Madonna and myself. He said: Seeing two unapologetic gay men flanking the superstar of the moment—dancing and singing, coming across as so comfortable in their skin—gave him someone to identify with. He explained that seeing us helped him out of depression and more importantly he felt he was not alone—and with that, he felt a reason to keep going, and no longer contemplated suicide. He drove me to tears because I couldn’t believe how much I impacted his life. That showed me the importance of representation. As an artist and as a human, that moment was priceless.

Madonna’s iconic 1990 Rock the Vote campaign, featuring José and Luis Xtravaganza for MTV.

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

Working on “Pose” [on FX] the last two seasons taught me so much about myself. I grew up in the ballroom scene; it is where I discovered voguing, and “Pose” is based on a community’s way of life. That was 35-40 years ago. [Being a consultant on the show] has grounded me and made me appreciate the scene even more, and has added to my artistry. I always saw the beauty of it back then, and now I am sharing that beauty with the world. Today, I get to watch new artists help tell my story. I look at it like that—they’re actors in a real-life story. It’s like art imitating life!

Working on “Pose” has given me [a whole new sense of] appreciation and admiration for the scene. See back then, no gay rights were given––you couldn’t walk down the street, and you could be arrested just for being gay in certain areas. We were not allowed to get married. I think of all my ancestors in the ballroom community who aren’t alive today due to the fact that the AIDS epidemic wiped them all out. All they wanted was what’s happening today: our community having a platform. To be on television, to be looked as an artist, and to be seen as even a human. I know that they’re watching and looking from the heavens. I hope they’re pleased. I always try to remember that, and remember the unsung heroes that deserve all the glory. It’s their story being depicted today. The language, the attitude, the story. [Laughs] Even your weather forecaster is saying things like ‘shady’ and ‘gagged’! And ‘you better work’! It’s strange and it’s weird but it’s great. I’m grateful and happy to be here. Never, ever, ever in my wildest dreams did I think we would have this platform today.

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with, or something you’re taught?

I think creativity is something that you’re born with. And it is something that has to grow within early on for the authenticity of the art. The earlier you realize your passion for it, the better you can express it. From first coming into contact with a craft or watching a dance performance or seeing something that moved you as a child … it can be enough to drive you to say: That is what I want to be when I grow up. And that shows in your artistry better than someone who says this is popular right now and I want to do that. However, it is not something that needs to happen in childhood—sometimes people discover their creativity later in life. The most important part of creativity is the development of your creativity. This means dedicating time to work on your craft to clean and perfect it, so creativity means taking out time to practice creativity. You must be devoted. Being creative is a way of life.

Photographed by Johnny Rozsa.

What’s the last dream you had?

I have a recurring dream that I’ve fallen and it’s weird. Right when I hit the floor, I wake, as I’m an inch from hitting the ground.

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

Oh my god, what would I want people to read or write about me? I want them to say: José was very kind, very charismatic, but also emotional to a fault … because I’m the type of person who leads with my heart and I’m very expressive. As for my craft, I can only hope that they would write: “He touched my heart with his craft. He said so much with the way he moved that he touched my heart.”

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Tyler Spangler

Tyler Spangler is a digital artist based in Seattle whose work plays with color and animation, often interposing bright color with aged black and white photos to create an eye-catching, pop-meets-surreal effect. 

A former psychology student, Spangler’s digital collage work has won him an impressive roster of clients including Chanel, Instagram, Nike, and Starbucks.

He describes his way of working as “a bit obsessive”: at one point, he created as many as 2,000 pieces in a single year, and has created five 440-page books filled with his own designs. Check out Spangler’s latest projects on Creatively here.

What is the first creative project you remember?

My first creative project was when my friend let me draw on his surfboard. I used to draw on my surfboards in my garage with paint pens and bright colors. Eventually, all my friends would want me to draw on their surfboards. That encouraged me to believe other people liked my art and put an emphasis that there is something here to explore.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

Bubblegum. Curious. Nervous.

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

I would say my most fulfilling collaboration was with Coach. I thought it was cool because it was two worlds coming together. If I listed brands I want to work with, Coach wouldn’t have necessarily been at the top because I always work with skate and surf brands and have a punk rock edge, but to work with a fashion company where my mom had their purses was amazing.

Spangler was commissioned by Coach to create a typographic design and pattern based on the Coach monogram. The pattern was used in Coach retail stores, as well as on a variety of handbags.

The coolest part was taking my grandma into a Coach store at a nearby mall. She’d go up to everyone there and say: “Did you know my grandson designed this wallpaper?” To see my grandma so proud was really important to me. She thought I was famous!

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

When I had to do figure drawing in art school, I was absolutely terrible at it. Somehow, all my models looked exactly the same. It was really discouraging looking at everyone’s pieces and to see everyone else’s figure drawings be meticulously crafted. 

I’m not great at realistic interpretations, which is why I prefer working digitally. There’s less of a messy trail and it’s more straightforward. This experience taught me that you don’t have to be good at everything—or the traditional things teachers tell you in school to be good at—to become an artist. You don’t have to be good at multiple things. You can find one thing and be really good at it and go all in.

Spangler created six typographic artworks for Instagram to encourage people to vote in the 2020 presidential election.

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with, or something you’re taught?

I think it’s a little bit of both. In psychology, everything is nature vs. nurture, genes vs. environment. Kids are always born curious and then through whatever path or environment, it either squashes that curiosity or encourages it. I have a four-year-old son and I always try to ask him: “What do you think?”

What’s the last dream you had?

I had a dream that I was getting shipped off somewhere to die––it was an ominous presence. In the dream, I’m being transported to this mysterious place with mysterious means to cease to exist. I woke up and I was like “Oh, I’m still here.” Maybe it’s my soul dying from the election. [Laughs]

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

“It made me smile.”

Follow @TylerSpangler on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective. 

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life