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12 Visionary LA Creatives to Watch in 2018

2017 was an amazing year for queer visibility in arts and entertainment, but there’s still much work to be done. With that in mind, we had photographer Jamie Luca shoot 12 emerging LA artists and entertainers who are pushing for more queer visibility in the new year. Get a jump on 2018 with his portraits and interviews below.

Adam Rippon


Occupation
I am a competitive Figure Skater.

What does being creative mean to you?
Creativity means having the freedom to express yourself. I think creativity comes from the power to be confident in your own ideas.

What’s the biggest barrier young people face in the creative arts?
I don’t know if this applies to all young people, but when I was young the biggest hurdle I ran into was that I was trying to create things that I THOUGHT people wanted to see. I wasn’t doing what I was passionate about. When I let go of trying to impress others and focus on putting something together that gave ME joy, I felt my most creative.

What’s it like to producing art in the age of Trump?
Producing art in the Trump age is more important than ever. As an LGBT person there are times when you really don’t feel welcome or represented by this administration. I think now it is so important to be a voice for young kids and let them know that there are role models out there and it’s okay to be yourself.

Instagram
@adaripp

Tristan Lahoz


Occupation
Fashion Designer.

Tell us about yourself?
I was born in the south west of France from an Argentinian father and French mother. I grew up in art and creativity, as my parents and older brothers are all artists. When I was 16 years old I decided to be a fashion designer and graduated few years later from fashion school (ENSAD) in Paris.

I got an internship at Balenciaga when I was 22 and then started working for Balmain in the embroidery studio. Then I became freelance and started working for Chanel Haute Fantasy jewelry, and at the same time got an offer at Saint Laurent. After three years at YSL studio in Paris, I moved to LA and became one of Hedi Slimane’s assistants. Hedi left YSL and so did I to start my freelance designer life in LA.

Today I work for different American brands doing consulting, styling for shootings, shopping, designing, and also working on my own projects. I love LA and feel home here since I touched the ground of the city.

What does being creative mean to you?
For me being creative is showing a singular point of view, being surprising to others and even to yourself.

What’s the biggest barrier young people face in the creative arts?
I guess the biggest barrier young people face is probably this gap between our fantasy and the real world.

What’s it like to producing art in the age of Trump?
For me Trump is the craziest mistake in American political history, but at the same time LA has this weird thing that makes you feel in a different world, somewhere far from him and his administration…but this is maybe because I am not American and still new in California.

TwoTom


Occupation
Artist, illustrating my fantasy boys.

Tell us about yourself?
Born in Japan, based in LA since 2015, used to live in Paris for 18 years working in fashion.

What does being creative mean to you?
Romantic and innocent.

What’s the biggest barrier young people face in the creative arts?
To find your own specific land.

What’s it like to producing art in the age of Trump?
Just focus more what you like and are inspired by.

Instagram
@twotomland

Niko Karamyan


Occupation
Actor, photographer & director.

Tell us about yourself?
First generation Armenian queer born and raised in LA.

What does being creative mean to you?
To me it means being playful with my friends.

What’s the biggest barrier young people face in the creative arts?
Sexism, racism, ageism, elitism, and nepotism.

What’s it like to producing art in the age of Trump?
Producing art in this day and age is a privilege.

Instagram
@nikotheikon

Symone


Occupation
Female impersonator.

Tell us about yourself?
Ah well, my government name is Reggie. I’m 22 years old and I am from Little Rock, Arkansas. I first started dabbling in drag when i was 16 and have been performing for four years now. Drag has definitely saved my life and changed it in ways I couldn’t have imagined at 16. Currently I do drag and go to school in Little Rock, but I’m looking to branch out to LA in the near future.

What does being creative mean to you?
I think being creative is being able to take an original or imaginative idea and provoke thinking and emotions in other people.

What’s the biggest barrier young people face in the creative arts?
I think that young people have the barrier of perception to deal with in a way we haven’t before. We have always had to deal with others thinking art isn’t as important as the maths and sciences, but it seems to be more prevalent nowadays.

What’s it like to producing art in the age of Trump?
Right now I feel like artists, along with journalists, are basically the front lines in the resistance against this man. As far as how it feels, I feel honored to be a proud gay black man from the South spreading love and beauty through the art form of drag. It’s SO important to be even louder and more visible with who we are and make it known we aren’t going anywhere, baby.

Michael Verdegaal


Occupation
Artist.

Tell us about yourself?
I am a queer activist focused on the prosperity of queer youth in a heteronormative society that actively stunts our growth.

What does being ‘creative mean to you?
Being creative is simply the will to be different. We as queer people have one of the strongest perspectives in culture.

What’s the biggest barrier young people face in the creative arts?
Our greatest barrier is our own inherited self-doubt. Once we conquer that we can do anything.

What’s it like to producing art in the age of Trump?
Producing art in an age that tells us were accepted yet obviously aren’t is like an act of inner war. Just accomplishing a piece of our own is a victory. Being different will always be our greatest strength.

Instagram
@scarletstarlet84

Marko Monroe


Occupation
Freelance designer/maker.

Tell us about yourself?
I grew up in a conservative family with three brothers in central Arkansas, so carrying around my Ariel Barbie at the local water park wasn’t celebrated. I found ways to cope and was active in school participating in drama, set building, soccer, art, clubs, etc. I started to explore art more after a knee injury my final year of high school. In college my focus was strictly on the creative, which led me to a BFA degree in Sculpture. I found my tribe – The House of Avalon – soon after returning home from an internship in NYC.

What does being creative mean to you?
I think being creative means having patience while working to understand the balance of play and problem solving. It also means having the freedom to make decisions and adjusting to the consequences. This relationship is important because it allows the artist/maker to discover what they love.

What’s the biggest barrier young people face in the creative arts?
This may be a cliché, but the biggest barrier that young people face in the creative arts is themselves. With the over-saturated internet and social media, it is easy to get wrapped up in a voice outside of one’s own.

What’s it like to producing art in the age of Trump?
Producing art in the age of Trump has reignited a sense of purpose. Everything produced outside of his fantasy is now an act of protest. Even though at times it can be difficult to navigate the mixed energies of such an insane reality, it’s all worth it. In times like this, it is one of the most important jobs of an artist to push through and shed light on issues poetically.

Instagram
@marko_monroe

Lisa Renée


Occupation
Actor and Producer.

Tell us about yourself?
I grew up in the Amazon jungle before coming to study in the US and UK. While working as an actor in London, I was delighted to discover the collaborative nature of filmmaking and started focusing on film work. After producing the award-winning feature, Coma Girl: The State of Grace, I moved to Los Angeles, with appearances including the upcoming Laboratory Conditions with Marisa Tomei and Minnie Driver. Through my production company Humdiddlee, I’m developing several projects, including a feature film and an international TV show.

What does being creative mean to you?
It’s hard to describe something limitless, but I feel that it has something to do with allowing, with an opennesswhether that is allowing some form of expression out, or having the courage to open yourself and let something or someone affect you. It’s working from a place where risk and vulnerability encounter power and freedom.

What’s the biggest barrier young people face in the creative arts?
Technology gives us access to the work of inspiring artists at the top of their fields all over the world. While that can be exciting, it can also skew our perspectives, leading us to believe that without the recognition of thousands of strangers, our art doesn’t have value. We need to hold space for creativity and the individual experience, outside the arena of mass approval.

What’s it like to producing art in the age of Trump?
Making and sharing art is vital right now. When truth, mutual respect, and the common good are being sold off to the highest bidder, we can powerfully respond by connecting heart to heart and through our imagination. It’s time to signal boost the voices of resistance. Raw honesty and devastating beauty are our water and oxygen.

Instagram
@bylisarenee

Tzef Montana


Occupation
Model, Artist, Performer.

Tell us about yourself?
I was born and raised in Greece by a Belgian mother and a Ethiopian-Greek father. I’m a gender nonconforming model who has been featured on the cover of “PEOPLE Magazine Greece” with a 6-page cover story and interview, opening a discussion about sexuality and identity in my home country. Prior to full-time modeling I got my Bachelors of Arts from London Metropolitan University before receiving a Master’s degree in entertainment studies from UCLA a few years ago. Only recently did I leave job at Interscope Records managing some of the biggest metal bands in the world including Slayer and Mastodon.

I currently split my time between L.A. and New York as a model, dancer, and queer activist. I’m passionate about representing gender non-binary and queer people in mainstream entertainment. I’ve walked in fashion shows for designers including Eckhaus Latta, Barragan, and Hardeman, and have been photographed by famous fashion photographers like David LaChapelle and Ryan McGingley. I’ve also appeared in numerous editorials for publications including Luomo Vogue, ID, and Purple Magazine.

What does being creative mean to you?
It means using your efforts and creative mind to create something your own. For example, I find dressing up an amazing outlet to be creative. I have a pile of clothes at my house and I invite friends, we listen to music, we dance and we constantly change looks and moods. The only rule is that when Uber gets here and it’s time to go, we have to exit the house in whatever we’re wearing. I feel creative doing this.

What’s the biggest barrier young people face in the creative arts?
Capitalism. Serving a client, having to be aware of the markets and all the restrictions the industry might set. We push boundaries in a game where the norms and rules have already been set by others. This forces us to develop excellent marketing and branding skills, which as creative as it can be, is not the essence of what creating art should be about. Moving within these limits and having to cope with an anachronistic perception of how life should look makes it challenging to be truly innovative or progressive.

What’s it like to producing art in the age of Trump?
Extreme and political. It has affected everything because when someone is pushing from one side, you need to push harder from the other. It’s definitely giving me another reason to do what I do.

Instagram
@tzefmontana

LaRayia


Occupation
Creative Director/Designer/Event Curator/Lunch On Me Founder.

Tell us about yourself?
I’m Afro-Latina, based in Los Angeles. I spend time creating and feeding the homeless six days a week on Skid Row.

What does being creative mean to you?
Creativity is channeling your most authentic self. Understanding your essence and sharing all that you’ve channeled from different spaces and times.

What’s the biggest barrier young people face in the creative arts?
I think often in our youth we forget we are whole and perfect in our true selves. There’s a pressure to be what’s relevant & trending. We have to learn to dig deep and find our truth. And share that. The world wants something raw and real. But often we believe that’s the opposite of what others seek

What’s it like to producing art in the age of Trump?
During the Trump error it’s important that people of color unify. When life tries to keep you from your voice, that’s when you shout. Trump brings a darkness that us light workers are forced to shine brighter. We must focus on what’s most important: our light. Bringing more love and peace. Kindness, understanding. Those are the toughest ways for us to show our strength. This error is a challenge to refine ourselves and grow past our circumstances

Instagram
@larayia

West Buchanan


Occupation
TV Production Assistant & Model.

Tell us about yourself?
I’m a Texas native who just moved to Los Angeles in September. I love improv. Lately I’ve been eating too much pasta because I found this seasonal sauce from Trader Hoe’s that I am obsessed with.

What does being creative mean to you?
Creativity to me is the way you interpret life day to day. Seeing humor and beauty in things that aren’t normally considered funny or beautiful. Creativity to me is also the ability to evoke emotion. Day to day I think if you have stimulated someone’s brain enough to make them feel something, then you have been creative. That’s why I feel the most creative doing improv; creating humor on the spot and hearing a crowd’s reaction immediately is so rewarding.

What’s the biggest barrier young people face in the creative arts?
I believe young artists today face oversaturation. Everyone has a popular Insta page, a YouTube channel, a short film they made, a theater they perform at. To me there are so many talented artists out there, but the challenge is finding a way to be seen in a sea of other creatives.

What’s it like to producing art in the age of Trump?
God, if I didn’t see artists expressing how we all feel, if I wasn’t able to make people laugh … I think I would go crazy. Art is important in times like these to keep the creatives out there from only seeing darkness in the world.

Instagram
@westbuchanan

Horace Gold


Occupation
Singer.

Tell us about yourself?
I’m a Christian LA native who’s happy and driven.

What does being creative mean to you?
Creative means being able to live boldly and acknowledge all of life’s beauties and rarities.

What’s the biggest barrier young people face in the creative arts?
The biggest barriers are comparisons, self-deprecation, and fear.

What’s it like to producing art in the age of Trump?
Producing art in the age of Trump has required that all artists become activists. The age of the internet is too transparent for artists to not to voice their resistance or allegiance to the tyranny.

Instagram
@hisnameishorace

Tags: Art
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