Collage by Maria Ines, using a photo courtesy of Vashtie.

Collage by Maria Ines Gul, using a photo courtesy of Vashtie. All other illustrations by Maria Ines Gul.

You know how some artists have done it all—and so well, so consistently—that their last name just kinda disappears? Such is the case with director, D.J., and all-around creative force Vashtie (full name: Vashtie Kola). She’s made some of our favorite music videos, and for people like Kendrick Lamar, Solange, and Justin Bieber, to, you know, name a few names you may have heard before. She also launched a series of beauty videos in which she calmly discusses some of her favorite skincare products (this is something we find to be quite soothing to watch). She recently took a break from being a true mogul to tell us about some of the other things she loves.

glold1. Gold jewelry. My family is from Trinidad. Like many other cultures around the world, gold jewelry is a major part of our culture. From when I was an infant, my parents adorned me and my brother and sister in gold earrings, bangles, and chains. Not only does my gold jewelry represent my culture, but my choices are identifiable to me and my style. My New York–inspired charms, my nameplate ring, my moonstone studs by Anna Sheffield: my jewelry is me. I like to imagine that much like the Egyptians, I will be buried with my jewelry. If I’m unearthed, for whatever reason, future generations will be able to know me through my accoutrement choices.

NY2. New York City. I grew up in Albany, the capital of New York—only three hours away from the Big Apple. Ever since I was six, I knew I was destined to be an artist and to dwell in New York City. My brother and sister were seven and eight years older than me and would sneak there on the weekends in high school to shop, buy music, or hit up raves. They would come back and tell me all their stories, feeding the fire inside me. At that time, we did not have the internet, so I buried myself in fashion and skate magazines, wasting time in record shops, and digging through the local library—anything that could tell me about the world outside, but more about New York. When it came time to apply for colleges, I only applied to schools in New York City. I never even took tours of them. I just took the portfolio reviews and interviews, and when I got accepted to the School of Visual Arts, I peaced out of Albany and found myself in a dorm room I had barely seen in the school brochure. Not the wisest decision, but thankfully—it worked out.

italiancinema3. Italian Cinema and Italian auteurs. I was introduced to Italian cinema my first year of film school, in a film history class. It was a genre that resonated immediately with me, outside the more famous filmmakers I already knew and loved. The first film I saw was Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief, then Fellini’s , then Bertolucci’s The Conformist. The cinematography roped me in, and from the opening scenes, my mouth literally watered. An auteur is defined as “a filmmaker whose personal influence and artistic control over a movie are so great that the filmmaker is regarded as the author of the movie.” It was an idea I naturally gravitated toward.

underground4. Underground Youth Subcultures. I grew up in many scenes: hip hop, punk rock, hardcore, skate, and tattoo—I worked an after school job at a tattoo shop from ages 12 to 19. All of these worlds afforded me a look into how other groups of kids styled their clothes, worked as a community, and lived their lives. I was always fascinated. As a kid, I would hear adults say “kids dictate trends”…but even in my young opinion—and my now older opinion—I always found that it was youth from underground subcultures who created trends, and [other kids] eventually copied it, making it a bigger trend.

wellness5. Veganism. My love for animals is what ultimately got me interested in [veganism], and eventually wellness. I loved animals early on and spent my free time rescuing abandoned furballs and critters, creating a haven in the apartment my family and I lived in—against [my family’s] will. I became vegetarian in junior high, and by eighth grade I became vegan after a straight edge friend educated me on where most dairy and meat comes from. It started as a way to not participate in hurting living creatures, but I still spent the following years living off soda, french fries, and fast food options, just without meat or dairy. It wasn’t until film school that I started to actually integrate water into my diet and raw leafy greens. I noticed a major difference in my energy more than anything, which propelled me to educate myself more. Ever since, I’ve been improving my eating habits, and now enjoy my life eating mainly raw and vegan foods. I started to see the connection from internal to external. Instead of looking at breakouts, for example, as just a topical thing, it made me realize it’s a result of something happening inside me also. ♦

As told to Erika Ramirez.