Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Los Angeles: A Restrospective.



Optimistic at first. That quickly changed.
My dad says life is what you make it; you’re in control of what happens to you. I heard these words spoken to me on more than one occasion, usually after recounting the stagnant, uneventful schedule I had had in LA that day. Too many of these meaningless, unproductive days found their way into my life, or through my dad’s perspective, I created too many of those days myself. I dwelled on what wasn't happening rather than making something happen. I mustered phrases of discontent all too often, leading to the inevitable question, What are you doing here, Joey? What was I doing in Los Angeles anyway? I had traveled to the Bar Area in late May and had had an epiphany while on that trip. Needless to say, it was the catalyst for me wanting to leave the city. In San Francisco, I was surrounded by so much culture. People wouldn’t stare at me while I walked down the street. Everywhere wasn’t a “scene”, nor did people walk around like their shit didn’t stink. Basically, it lacks the aura of desperation LA has. It possesses an indescribable level of sophistication, yet a tangible amount of relatability. You can be famous and not be known. Seemingly, you can live how you please without being bothered. I quickly realized the Bay Area was more my groove, more cohesive to my style, my pace, my values. It’s a walking city, at least for me. I don’t mind the hills. In LA, you can definitely walk places, but it’s not necessarily pedestrian friendly. That small detail aside, I came to the conclusion that I wanted something conducive to my life, not a place I found myself changing to assimilate into. It took seeing what I wanted to realize what I didn’t.

First catering gig: Veuve Clicquot Polo Match.
I’m back in San Diego now, typing this entry from my old bedroom that overlooks our lush backyard. I began this post at the beginning of July. It’s July 21st now and I’ve yet to complete it. This afternoon is similar to the first day I started writing about my LA retrospective. There’s a slight breeze outside, thus making my room pleasant and airy. My dogs are a mere 20 feet away and my mom is in the family room watching a movie with my niece. I’m alone in my room, but I’m content. In LA, I was alone for days on end. That’s what happens when you move to a city with no job and no friends. No grasp on reality, basically. I moved there expecting myself to make shit happen, to be miraculously scouted as I was walking down the street. Unfortunately, it was quite to the contrary. Sometimes I’d mutter not 50 words in an entire day. I'd walk to the store to buy groceries I didn't need, walk down Santa Monica Blvd. hoping something would spark my interest, walk to The Grove to see a movie I wasn't particularly interested in. I was existing in that city, going out and socializing maybe once a week, if that. I'd hoped people go out with me, but frequently I found myself possessing the most idle time over anyone else. For a social person like me, that’s torturous. The most stimulating interactions I had were during catering jobs, which I'd jump on any chance I got. My friskier tendencies manifested through Grindr or Tinder, trying to somehow connect with anyone that’d show me attention. I’d turn to podcasts and old radio shows on YouTube for substance. I'd go to bed with music playing, or listening to Howard Stern. I seldom had anyone to talk to other than over text. I used to wake up every morning with no agenda, no lust for life, no zeal for the day’s potential. My initial concern was what I was going to make for breakfast, followed by exercise to counteract the inevitable sitting I’d be doing all day. I’d want to go hiking at Griffith Park, but dreaded the traffic-packed route to get there. I’d sit all day working on shoes, taking a few hours break because I got bored. I’d walk whenever I could – to the post office, to the movies, to my optical place - because I had nothing better to do. In hindsight, I honestly can’t recall how I utilized my time. I had no life, no purpose. I really don't know why I was there, nor what reason I had keeping me. Every time I was prompted with the question, “How’s LA?” I’d respond with, “Eh…” Now if that wasn’t a clear indicator of my sentiment throughout my stay then I don’t know what was. Not to suggest LA isn’t a fabulous city, it’s just that in my experience, I struggled.

My apartment after getting my rug back from my ex. Homey, right?
The first month I immersed myself in as many catering gigs I could work. After all, it was the easiest way to make friends. Which I did at first, then later lost. I literally had a bed, two chairs, my desk, and a table as my only pieces of furniture. No rug, no couch, not even a lamp. It was absolutely, positively, pain-stakingly depressing. The true antithesis of inspiration. And oh so fucking lonely. On the 30th of October I met a guy that would change my entire Los Angeles experience. I joined a friend at this club called Hooray Henry’s after working a 12-hour catering shift in Beverly Hills. I did not look cute and was in no mood to socialize, but I figured let’s see what happens. I showed up to the place wearing my catering outfit for that evening: at that point a food-stained white shirt and ill-fitting khakis. The interior of the club was loud as hell, full of what I’m sure were LA’s rich and fabulous set. These people were the epitome of bourgeois. You know those kids, the ones that think they’re hot shit and are constantly fed that nonsense because they’re either actors, models, “stylists,”  or worse: YouTube stars. Needless to say, I couldn’t have cared less about the who’s who that night. I was, however, oddly fascinated by the whole scene of it all. While sitting at our booth, where we like totally had bottle service, I struck up a conversation with the stranger sitting next to me. Lo and behold he had an Australian accent, which is dangerous for me. Plus, he was sweet and offered his number up easily. What the hell? It's never this easy for me, I thought. Fast-forward a month: I fell madly in love with him, not only as a friend but as someone I cared about. Of course, the feelings weren’t mutual. Funny enough, we fought like friends that had known each other for years. He was going through a break-up and I was there to console him. He confided in me, I in turn offered advice. I saw him cry, cooked him food, even rubbed his head until he fell asleep. My fondest memories were us driving aimlessly around LA, listening to music and connecting on a spiritual level. I relied on him for companionship; therefore, we hung out multiple times a week. It was my first time having a gay friend my age, but I got emotionally invested. Side note: we’ve all been there, right? We’ve all compromised our time, our patience, our hearts to be there for someone we’ve lusted after, hoping that they’d eventually realize, I love you, too. We so want them to love us the way we love them. Well, that didn’t happen. I had to hear about his sexual escapades, his incessant ramblings about his ex, something funny someone else that I didn’t know said. It became annoying, and I got frustrated. He even admitted that he never told anyone about me, yet I was subjected to stories about his friends. It was that kind of friendship. I began to see his true colors, which had me torn because I still had feelings for him. Alas, I didn’t want to be just an earpiece for his thoughts. I didn't want to be the last resort person he'd text after everyone else said they were busy. I was better than that. I deserved better than that. I, more or less, ended the friendship.

Having no money, the shoe I basically repaired for free.
To make matters worse, work with both Redo My Shoe and catering had flatlined. Come to think of it, I don’t recall booking one catering gig the entire month of November. Consequently, I had no money to enjoy LA or my own hobbies. Hobbies that required capital, unfortunately. Every huge paycheck went to rent. Every ounce of my being went into worrying about money. I had nothing to keep my mind off him or the situation. In the desperation of it all, I stupidly agreed to repair a client’s shoes from over two years ago. I'm at the point where the client's satisfaction is my number one priority. I also operate with a perfectionist mentality, so knowing that my exisiting technique wouldn't match the pre-exisiting crystal placement, therefore creating an unbalanced shoe, I ripped all the existing crystals off and started over, investing hundreds on a repair that I was compensated $100-$200 for. I didn't even get a Thank You email. Asinine move on my part, at a time when I could barely pay the bills. I was very pleased with the outcome, but kicked myself for being taken advantage of. The last thing I wanted was an unhappy client, especially when finances were rough. On average, my housing and internet fees totaled $1,500 a month. With groceries and gas it came to about $1,700. In the scheme of things, my rent wasn’t that drastic a number to complain about, but when you have no money coming in it’s extremely stressful. I think I was able to pay my rent once without my parents help throughout the duration of my stay in the city. It felt so liberating, but I knew the feeling was fleeting. I went to bed worried about money and woke up scared about paying my bills. I couldn't cultivate a social life because I simply couldn't afford it. There were months where I'd have one week to come up with rent, having $200 in my bank account. I was beyond terrified of being evicted. Not to suggest I would be, but I didn't want to slack on my obligations as a tenant. My house was in a perpetual state of disarray because I couldn't afford storage units to house my crap. Laundry went undone because I didn't have enough quarters. Bills were late, parking tickets went unpaid, orders were behind because I didn't have enough crystals. I went days scrambling together what little ingredients I had because I couldn't afford produce. A lot of meals consisted of kale, because it was cheap. Toward the latter part of my residency, I discovered how to make edibles and started eating one of those every day so I could escape the incessant stress. Working catering was the only thing that kept me sane because I was killing two birds with one stone: hanging with friends and getting paid for it. I looked forward to days that I could actually schedule my mundane activities around, ones where I knew I was doing something good for my wallet and my psyche. Looking back, I hated my circumstances. I legitimately hated coming home to my apartment. I wasn't prepared to be on my own and pay my own way. I barely was able to manage my money back in San Diego, but I magically thought I'd be inclined to do so whilst being my own man in LA. I loathed the life I was living and the gradual toll it was taking on my self-esteem. During bouts of depression we always question, What if I wasn't here? Simply: What if I was dead? I wanted to escape my reality but I still had that stubbornness convincing me to stick it out and struggle like the best, or rest, of them. Without a doubt, suicidal thoughts ran across my mind. I felt like I was doing nothing with my life, enriching no one nor making a difference whatsoever. I love helping people. I love being vibrant and brightening someone's day. I thrive off the relationships I have with people, so for me to feel like I wasn't affecting anyone's life really did a number on my self-worth. 

One of the few times I got to showcase my services in person.
Redo My Shoe was bothersome at that point; a hobby in some peoples' eyes. I felt like there was no way of spinning it to make it sound prestigious or craveworthy. I wasn't getting those exciting commissions like I used to receive. My Instagram following was laughable and still is somewhat pathetic. I was frustrated that the local clientele didn't know about me yet. I desperately wanted to market myself but I just didn't have make enough to produce my own pieces. I lacked the funds to subsidize personal projects that required more than $50. And I definitely didn't have money to go out and socialize, much less the Rolodex to socialize with. I had given up on trying to network because I knew, not assumed, there was always someone cuter, taller, and younger that would capture everyone’s eye. Legitimately, some desperate individual that’d sleep with someone of importance to secure a job. That, I would not do. Thus, I was broke through the majority of my residency. I moved there last October on borrowed money, hoping Redo My Shoe would thrive in a city that’s all about glitz and glamour. I actually thought business would pick up. I anticipated being “discovered” and subsequently thriving, creating shoes for the stars! I mean, I wanted to have JLo's number in my phone! But hey, when you’re not going out and socializing, how is anyone going to know about you? Come to find out, everyone talks the talk but seldom would they shell out money for anything special, much less something as “frivolous” as Swarovski-adorned shoes. I must have shelled out at least 75 business cards while I was there. May not seem like a substantial amount, but look at it this way: that’s 75 times I had to explain to people what I did because they seemed interested. It’s comical, but I didn’t expect anyone to actually follow through. LA is all about talk, for the most part. God forbid an artist is paid for their time, or an item for its exclusivity. The tricky thing about this business is how the final product is marketed. Swarovski's sparkle. You cannot capture sparkle through a picture. It needs to be worn, seen, adored, coveted! I have the opportunity to do that now, but in LA I didn't meet those type. I made connections with people I knew could connect me with the right type of people, but did they ever? Absolutely not. You know why? Because everyone is LA is “busy” with their own lives. Or, they’re in it for themselves. It’s surprising how little people wanted to help me out. Granted, it wasn’t their responsibility, but if you have the contacts by all means make the introduction. It came down to priorities; was a custom-embellished shoe more titilating than a $2,000 bag? Evidently, it wasn't. My potential was exponential, my marketing was pedestrian. In the mental state I was in, if I didn’t have a social life, dear god let me distract myself with work. I had neither, and I was at my tipping point. After my Bar Area trip, I admitted defeat. I was spending thousands to live a life less exciting than the one I had in San Diego.



Catering selfie at Burberry.
I truly did move back anticipating a fresh start, an opportunity for reinvention. I was single, eager to meet people, and excited about forthcoming Redo My Shoe prospects. Supposed prospects, in hindsight. I beat myself up above the move, questioning my motives and belittling my aspirations. I viewed my initial plan through a naïveté lens. Friends and family view it from a different perspective, though. They tell me it took courage, that I took a risk uprooting myself from San Diego and trying to establish myself in the epicenter of crazy. Los Angeles is insane, to say the least. It’s competitive, it’s cutthroat, it’s difficult in general. It's majestic, but it's intimating. It’s a place where seemingly everyone is vying for the same thing: fame. In the entertainment industry, people sell their souls to be associated with celebrity. Intelligent, creative, hard-working individuals have to bite their tongue and pretend so-and-so’s arrival to their cocktail soiree is the second coming of Jesus. They have to act like person is legitimately better than them. The scary thing is that some people actually drink the Koolaid. The level of stress, anxiety, and desperation involved is comical. It borderlines on pathetic, though. I presume most of these people are capable human beings. They have more to offer than tending to an A-, B-, C-list celebrity. On any given day, they're nicer than how they treated us supposed "minions" tray-passing the champagne. But in the moment, whatever so-and-so wants, so-and-so gets! No one is better than me, though. I put no one person on a pedestal unless they’ve achieved greatness. I will absolutely show them respect, but in no way will I jump through hoops to appease someone of perceived inferiority. In today’s culture, all too often actors and musicians are viewed with a Messiah complex. They’ve accomplished fame in part to how they're marketed. Many of them are talented, yes. But, does an actor deserve more courtesy than a woman buying kale next to me at Whole Foods? Hell damn no. They're actors, for Christ's sake! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked a catering job and thought, This is all so stupid. Catering is an industry where your ego is left at the door and the propensity to feel degraded increases with every hour. Seeing celebrities is fun, but they're just people. Honestly, I had the most fun spending time with my coworkers. We were a family. We had each others' back. I miss them terribly. To reiterate last month's post, I was in a league all my own; the funny, gay, inappropriate staff member there for entertainment value. Lightening the mood, making the sex joke, dancing; these were all things I did every shift. Applying for Cory Martin Events was single-handedly the best decision I ever made whilst living in LA. I miss seeing my friends, but being back in the city isn't worth it to me at this time in my life. Me being as desperate as I was, I wouldv'e gotten sucked into catering gig after catering gig. The money was good, but it was not stimulating at all. I didn’t want to become another statistic in that respect. I knew if I stuck around long enough I’d become comfortable not seeking other work and just relying on event staffing as an income. Having to wear black all day? Not fabulous.

A huge reason for moving to LA was the hope of falling in love, which is always a
dangerous(foolish) mindset to be in. I hadn't experienced much of San Diego's gay scene at that point so I figured LA was the place to meet someone. The guys there were and are hotter, and who knows which one would eventually become famous. I liked that notion, albeit a shallow one. Work had been slow, but my lust for men was racing exponentially. Seeing as my friends were busy with their own lives, in typical Joey fashion I pursued romantic ventures over social outings. I didn't have many friends to go out with anyway. I turned to Tinder for dates, Grindr for rondevues, OkCupid on occasion for when I truly wanted to get to know someone. I was slutty, I took risks, I embarrassed myself too many times to count. I, like most twenty-somethings, think about one thing more than anything else. Believe me, it's no different for a gay man than it is for a straight one. As such, I kissed guys I didn't even like. I even cringe at some of those memories. Deep down, though, I always longed for that deeper connection. I still do. The fingers intertwined, the soft kisses to the neck, the cuddling sessions; I love that. I take Redo My Shoe very seriously, but I take my heart even more so. I'm ashamed to admit, but this business is one thing I would frequently downplay when explaining to guys what I did for a living. I knew only a true artist would appreciate the craft, and I didn't encounter many of those. Therefore, I breezed passed the fact that it was a wildly creative, labor-intensive job, simply referring to myself as an artist and seldom elaborating on the title. I even considered just saying I was an actor because that seemed to be the default vocation. I found difficulty engaging in a meaningful conversation with anyone. Everything was surface because I wanted to get to the intimacy. How sad is that? Talk about selling myself short. I went on dates, made out with good kissers and bad, fell in lust with a few guys, and learned so much about myself in the process. Oh my God I learned. I'm a different person now. I realized that actors and models were guys to stay away from. A normal guy with a normal job was what I wanted, even that wasn't who I was. I had true feelings for one of those men, like gut-wrenching feelings. If he ever came on and read this, I'd hope he knew who he was. I wish I had acted differently with him, but I can't change the past. Wasn't meant to be, perhaps. You think finding a job in the city is hard? Well, finding someone to date is even more difficult. Landing a second date is a feat in itself! I cannot tell you how many numbers I got and never saved in my phone, how many stories I regaled to my girlfriends, how many nights I went to bed wishing I was next to someone. Love usurps everything in my opinion. Work comes second. I was unfulfilled by both and it only added to the sadness. I found myself hiding who I was just so I could land a first date. Then, once they met me it was up to them. That type of self-destruction started weighing on me. I was changing who I was to fit the mold of a city I didn't even enjoy. A city that wasn't fulfilling me in any way. A city, despite its shortcomings, was the place I felt I needed to be in.

It was a rough holiday season last year, one made particularly gloomy by the declining health of my older brother, Paul. Seven years ago, at the age of 23, he was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma. The tumor had been located in his brain. The countless  surgeries and reparative operations that followed affected him tremendously. He lost his vision, most of his mobility, and a portion of his speech. I had never personally observed such a profound decline in a family member’s health until my brother’s situation. On January 29th, Paul passed away. It was the first time I had ever seen a human life escape its body. I’d grown accustomed to seeing my mom break down on occasion, but seeing my dad cry was an unnatural sight. I didn’t cry when it happened. I felt wrong for not doing so. Five minutes later, though, I lost it. It was that indecipherable speech you utter when you’re overcome with emotion. From that moment on, I was forever changed. Since Paul’s diagnosis, I have been changed. I was so affected by the disruption of our family’s routine that I don’t think I ever quite recovered. I grew up faster than I wanted. My personality became reactionary; the sarcasm, the false confidence, the insatiable desire to relate to people all came back to my brother’s diagnosis. You see, when you’re left alone for a majority of your formative years, you conjure up an idea of what the world is predicated on your limited life experience. I didn’t have enough people telling me I was talented so I told myself I was. I built myself up because no one else would. I engrained it in my mind that I was hilarious, compassionate, beautiful, worthwhile all around. I convinced myself that I was an asset to LA. Needless to say, when these feelings weren't shared by my fellow Los Angelinos, it hurt me. I wasn't able to make many friends because of this. It sounds conceited because it is. If they couldn't see how great I was, then I didn't need them anyway. My residency was a bruise to the ego for sure.

One of my best commissions this year
When I first started Redo My Shoe, I didn’t drink or socialize. I spent most of my nights inside working or scheming ways to entertain myself. If I wasn’t going to have a legitimate social life, then I’d have a prominent online presence. And I did. Redo My Shoe made a big splash its first year of operation. I was so busy. Money was rolling it and going out just as swiftly. I was not afraid to let my feelings be known about any problem I had with a client. I had no other outlet, after all. A majority of my posts were inflammatory. I was just a stupid, inexperienced boy. Freshly out of the closet, I had my own issues. I really didn’t know how to relate to people beyond Redo My Shoe. So I started blogging, and opening my life up to the public. Sometimes to my detriment, but in most cases with open arms. Fast-forward to now and I’ve never been so raw, so personal, so open about my life and my struggles. Nor has my attention to detail ever been precise. As I evolve, Redo My Shoe does. I have seen a decline in clients, yet an improvement in my skillset. My competitor is flourishing, but her work is inferior to mine. Her prices are lower, though. Oh well. From the looks of it she’s a trust fund baby.

Dom's graduation; a trip that would've been difficult with Paul.
After my brother’s passing I became overly cognizant of my stance in Los Angeles, and of my position in my family. My mom needed me, my dad needed me to be there for my mom. I needed my family. We all needed to be together. I drove back up to the city a few days after with no concrete agenda. I planned on working a catering gig in Las Vegas, but it fell through. I wanted to take my mind off the situation because it was so surreal. We all had anticipated his death for so long, but once it came to fruition it was a hard pill to swallow. Paul’s passing occurred on a Wednesday and I had two parties I was invited to the following Friday. I didn’t go to either, opting to just stay home and be by myself. I remember just laying in bed, thinking, replaying the past seven years in my mind. It’s an odd thing when a family member passes. You instinctively regret all the things you didn’t do and all the hurtful words you did say. I had major regrets. The guilt had risen to an all time high. Being alone, the only solace I found was with myself. I did whatever I could do alone until the isolation became unbearable. Long walks with my headphones in were my cure, for the most part. When I wanted a connection, I looked to Grindr or Tinder. I placed emphasis on a select few guys, letting myself become emotionally vulnerable to situations that never had any true promise. I was so completely miserable. Sitting alone all day had become my life. I escaped to San Diego whenever a lapse in my catering schedule permitted it. After all, my family loves me. Me being the mess that I am on any given day is good enough for them. One thing my mom said to me as I floated the idea of moving out of LA was, “I just want to know that you’re safe. In LA I worry about you.” That's the only validation I really needed. All any of us need to know is that someone cares about us. I felt so tossed aside in West Hollywood. I felt so unappreciated, so undervalued. I'm a relatively strong-willed individual, but I let the city get to me. I felt myself falling into that trap so many young people succumb to: working catering for five years, trying to make their dreams come true in the process. I met wildly talented photographers and actors who just weren't getting work. I met people with  clouds around them. The best friends I made were struggling like me. It's not fair, because we are talented. The city is all hit-and-miss, it seems. Timing plays a huge factor, but who wants to sit around waiting for the stars to align? I started to put out negative energy and I hated it. I didn't want to be the buzzkill, the guy with nothing exciting going on in his life. The pity party went on for too damn long. I couldn't stand the man I had become, nor did I care about the fame I initially sought out. I made the decision: I was done. I had unfinished business, but I got out of there as fast as I could.

Now that I’m back in San Diego, the thought of going back to LA gives me anxiety. In fact, I’ve rescinded my availability for multiple catering gigs because the days leading up to them have been so anxiety-ridden. I figure the extra $200 just isn’t worth the stress. That city really did a number on my confidence. On more than one occasion I’ve wanted to post an LA-related picture as a Throwback Thursday on Instagram, but scrolling through my iPhone’s camera roll prompts feelings of melancholia. I look back at my face in the hundreds of pictures taken and I know, although I may be smiling, I wasn’t happy. I was so absolutely miserable there. I was just always so depressed about what wasn't happening, that my delusions of grandeur weren't actually coming true. Is it self-indigent to feel sorry for yourself? If it is, I’m guilty. I reflect back on my eight months in the city and I pity that Joey. I look at pictures and think, Poor guy… You were so scared. I got annoyed with the perpetual pity party. Ask me a few months ago about leaving LA and I would have told you I "needed" to be there. I had something to prove to myself, but there's only so much weight one heart an take. Ask me about LA now and I'll say that I escaped. When I find out my peers' plans for moving to LA I think, Good luck with that.

At San Diego Gay Pride, confidently wearing a strassed shirt.
One of the most difficult aspects about my entire LA experience - December 2012 until now - is the notion that I missed out on something. 23 to 24; a year and a half of struggle. A twenty-something is typically wrought with indecision, societal pressure, and financial hardship. Being a gay twenty-something, that's another story. Social media further perpetuates all my insecurities. I frequently make the mistake of comparing myself to my contemporaries, feeling left out when I see them attending pool parties, bars, clubs, you name it. It's such irrational thinking, I know. As a young gay man, I feel expected to do these things too. Alas, my wallet and my body can't tolerate such socialization. I already struggle with my weight and seldom have no more than $200 to my name, so constantly drinking and going out isn't necessarily conducive to my reality. I do get bummed out, though. I think it's natural to feel left out when you know you have a lot to offer. I just reassure myself that my time will come. Relative to my peers, the advantage I have is the fact that I struggled. Struggling gives you a perspective unlike any other, one that trains you to acknowledge lapses in communication above anything else. It's a mindset that allows you to think one step ahead of the next person, to anticipate every reaction. I'm highly intuitive and fairly intelligent. I don't have the patience for small talk or superficial conversations, which is mostly what you encounter at these types of outings. If anything, I want to be the exception... Yet again. I want to have beauty and brains. I want to experience the bourgeois lifestyle, because I know it's bullshit. You know why? Because there are always a select few guys that are doing exactly what I'm doing. We know how to play the game. We know how to market ourselves to the right person. We know that our outfits are always on point, but as soon as we get home we're in our underwear within 30 seconds. The challenge I'm met with in San Diego is becoming known, but not overexposed. I mean, who the hell else is going to wear crystal shoes here? What I wasn't in West Hollywood I can be in Hillcrest. Down here, I have the potential to shine, pun intended. I'm surrounded by loved ones every day and am now in an environment that encourages authenticity. I've been back less than three weeks and have already made some great new friends that like me for me. I even have a prominent fashion store that wants to interview me for their new and only San Diego location. That has me excited for the future. All I need is for someone to take a chance on me. At this point, a second job is what I'm craving. Redo My Shoe has currently been relegated to the backburner of my life. I'm prioritizing my happiness more than anything right now. Ironically, San Diego is exactly where I need to be. I'm just a constant work in progress, a young man simply going through the motions of being a young man. I have moments of nostalgia, missing the catering gigs and the great friends I made from it. I have those memories in my heart, though. What I don't miss is the excessive effort to accomplish anything. It's easier here, more lenient and less judgmental. I was raised to have standards, but I wasn't brought up to possess inferiority. LA is its own beast. I tried it, I failed, and I learned. I'm a better man because of it. With this new-found confidence, I'm excited to start the day.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Update

To be twenty-four; it's an amazing age. For me, it's been a truly formative year. Quite possibly more erratic than twenty-three. Let me preface the following with this: it's a probability, but for the sake of this post, let's view it as a hypothetical. With me, you never truly know.

Last summer, I found myself back in San Diego - alone, desperate, feeling like a failure - with no prospects for a brighter future. I had just been dumped, relocated to my hometown, and business was suh-damn-low. That's slow, for those of you that don't know my style of phonetics. Redo My Shoe had seen a drastic decline since the beginning of last year, either because my competitor was now monopolizing the game or people in general just lost interest in this former juggernaut of a business. I even noticed a decline in my Facebook activity, but that's a separate issue. Those three months - July to September - were spent hustling with whatever inventory I had, trying to accumulate enough funds to move back to Los Angeles. At times, making $20 would excite me. Throughout that struggle, every little bit helped. My main objective was recouping the thousands of dollars I had and still have invested in crystals not being used. Simultaneously, I was trying to find myself and rediscover the man that was lost after the break-up. In my eyes, I had lost my identity. I had wasted eight months of my life in LA and four of those with a boy I didn't even love. Come to think of it, a boy I didn't even like either. Actually, a boy that annoyed the shit out of me. I was so smitten with the idea of a boyfriend that it clouded my judgment for what I thought was right for me. I felt abandoned, most prominently. I recall my brother's birthday last year; we all went out as a family to a beautiful restaurant in San Diego called the Great Maple. He had just dumped me that afternoon and you couldn't pay me to crack a smile. Immediately after that dinner, I was heading back up to LA to pack my things and move out of my ex's house. Oh, I didn't mention we lived together? Yeah, MASSIVE mistake. Incomprehensibly idiotic decision-making on my part. But that's beside the point, which was that I was entering someone else's house where I was no longer wanted, retrieving my possessions from a room that I no longer shared, and the worst part, I had to sleep over on the couch. It was a bad situation all around, made more unsettling by the fact that I misplaced my Cutco steak knives in the process. Where the hell are those, anyway? I'm glad I can laugh at it now, because in the midst of the separation I felt unworthy. The lessons learned were substantial, but unfortunately the progression made dulled in comparison. My grasp on the future had been pried apart, so much so that I felt lost in my own home, surrounded by the people that loved and cared for me all along. I didn't even enjoy working. I didn't enjoy anything. How could I? At 23, I was experiencing what most people go through in high school; that self-perception of feeling unlovable after being broken up with. Whatever ambition I possessed had vanished. Although, I still new Los Angeles was in my future. I wanted to go back with a Can-do attitude. My game plan for LA was a pipe dream though, strategized out of duress and a longing for reinvention. In other words, a delusion of grandeur. You do know, those of us that move to the city do so hoping that one person will notice us from the pack and take a chance on our willingness to conform. Some reside here for years holding out for that person that will actualize their dreams and subsequently capitalize on their talent. Retrospectively, the stories are true; it's all about looks in this town. It's all about being more beautiful than the next person, which is exhausting. After taking those three months to work on myself, I moved back with slightly more confidence but no official course of action. If only I hadn't been naive enough to think I would somehow be the exception.

I hopped at the first place that approved my credit check; a quaint 750 square-foot, one-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood. In hindsight, completely wrong for me. I wanted to be in Los Angeles so bad that I would have taken a 400 square-foot place if I had to. Little did I know just how unhappy I'd be there. One thing I've now learned about moving to a new city, or just being in any place, is that your environment needs to be inspiring. Your home should be a sanctuary, that proverbial sigh-of-relief you have after a long or stressful day. My apartment was never like that. Granted, I was spoiled in San Diego living in an actual house in the upper middleclass neighborhood of Kensington. A neighborhood where walking at 11PM is enjoyable, or finding my parents in the garden on the weekend is the norm. In LA, my new neighbors were disruptive, the complex had no curb appeal, and the cherry on top: it's on Fountain Avenue. Frequently I'd smell weed, always detect cigarette smoke, and be subjected to either the yappy dogs barking downstairs or the blaring television of the tenants below and across the hall from me. In fact, I had to call the sheriff on my neighbors twice within the first two weeks because they were making noise at 2AM. I liken it to that scene in Big when Tom Hanks moves to New York City and has to sleep in that hotel room for the first time by himself, being scared and alone. I've felt like that on one too many occasions. To clarify, I don't live in a dilapidated complex. My apartment itself is quite cute and has major potential, but I lack the funds to do anything substantial. My life doesn't warrant a fabulous apartment. In fact, I've been so low on money this year that eight months have gone by and I still don't have drapes installed. It was a subconscious choice, as if I knew I wouldn't be staying there permanently. Therefore, establishing roots was out of the question. On the contrary, I liked the place because it was mine. I liked having an area to call my own, a kitchen that no one else used, a bathroom where I could leave the door open, a couch that was always available. The option of walking around naked was always one I took. But it got lonely. It is lonely.

I fled from my family twice now, but why? What was I running from? Supposedly, chasing a dream that I didn't even have figured out. In all honesty - judge if you're inclined - I came here to be discovered. In San Diego, I'm the big fish in a little pond. I'm cherished by my family and friends. I'm Joey; I make the best salads! I make everyone laugh, my aunt inquires about recipes, my mom solicits my opinion on interior design. In LA, I'm a minnow. Amidst a town of actors and models, I'm nobody. At 5'7, I don't command much attention. And in a city where everyone is doing their own thing, my perspective doesn't seem to matter. Work-wise, taller guys are chosen over me based on that notion that "it looks better." So much money hasn't been made because I'm simply not tall enough. I never thought it would be this discriminatory, but it is what it is. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to live in a city that values looks over talent. Physicality sets the precedent. I had it in my mind that I could break the mold and make people think differently about what they thought was beautiful, about what they perceived was an asset. But here I am, it's almost June, and nothing has happened. I've been existing for eight months, emphasis on existing. I don't live in LA, I survive by the seam of my short-shorts. My objective every month: how I am going to pay rent. Almost every dollar I make goes to paying my rent. That's no way to live. Every day I'm scared that I'm going to be evicted or have my internet disconnected. On the 1st, I'm worried about coming up with money for next month's rent. On the one hand, I haven't put myself out there like I should have, foolish enough to think Redo My Shoe could have sustained me while I pursued other opportunities. On the other hand, being your own boss for four years thwarts you from putting yourself out there, where $10 an hour is the status quo. I just can't do it. I have standards for myself. I have stipulations. There's a criteria that needs to be met in order for me to feel comfortable. In times of crisis we resort to the familiar. Redo My Shoe is familiar to me, albeit unfulfilling.

I will tell you, the best decision I ever made was applying for a catering job. If you're new to the city, do catering. I have contacts for you. Catering is an INDUSTRY in Los Angeles. People will hire staff for the opening of a shoe box. I've worked for Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Burberry, you name it. And the general consensus: people spend way too much fucking money and care way too fucking much. For this very reason, I've sworn off event planning in my future. It's the one thing I'll miss terribly when I'm gone, though. I've made the greatest friends a newcomer could have, better friends than I ever had in San Diego. Event staffing is a job where your ego is left at the door. You are degraded, subjected to demands from Botox-laden wannabes, embarrassed, flat-out ignored, you name it. But if you're working with your friends, you really don't care. We're all in the same boat. It's the type of environment where you stand up straight on the floor, are respectful, fake smile, and accommodating to the guests, but as soon as you enter the stock room, the profanity starts flying, the jokes come out, the dances moves let loose. Life stories are exchanged, gossip is spread, true connections are made. And we laugh, most importantly. And if I have a drink on the job, I giggle. It's all the more fun that way. I can't tell you how many times I've "Popped it like Beyonce" in the stockroom of some high-end store. You see, I'm that one in the group. One of my employers in particular, we're a family. I'm the outlandish one, the openly gay one(honey...), the comedian, the inappropriate, sex joke-making, hair-flipping guy who says stuff like, "I need to ask you a serious question... How does my hair look?" Alas, we're all hoping to get discovered. This job has been my savior, my motivation on many days to be productive and plan by day around a catering shift. And for what, the chance to serve champagne or tray-pass hor d' oeuvres to complete strangers? For me, that's enough because I feel safe with this group. I feel comfortable enough in my ability to execute a task without direction. That's the main reason I've been hesitant to seek other employment. I hate feeling incompetent. I hate being the new guy, the one making mistakes or inconveniencing someone else. With me, I've always been the guy to help out the newbie. Oddly enough, I've found that many people are unwilling to help the new person out because it's a hassle. People care about you until it starts to affect them.

On that note, what is with the people in this city? You'd think that because we're all here to make a name for ourselves that there'd be a level of comradery prevalent in almost any field. You're new and need contacts for catering companies? Sure, I'll help you out. You need headshots? Use my friend, Chris. Because I know what it's like to have nothing, I'm always willing to assist the newcomer. I can't tell you how many times I've given my business card out to people that say they want to introduce me to their friend who knows this person who can help me out with that. Come to think of it, not one single person has followed through or even followed up. It's the nature of the city. It's all about who you know. Only if that person believes in you enough, without the threat of competition, maybe then will they actually help you. I've made great contacts from taking the initiative and contacting countless individuals about what I have to offer. I could be swimming in money if I made networking my full-time job, but I'm not able to concentrate where I'm at. I literally cannot focus under the circumstances I'm in. The recurring theme I've heard from people about LA is this: Unless you have something to offer them - you know someone, you have a job prospect - they don't show you the time of day. I've encountered a lot of these people through catering. Even at 40, some women are still leaching onto their friends, attending these cocktail soirees, hoping to make it into some style column in god knows what magazine. The worst are the young people, the "stylists" and "bloggers" that go to every fashion function, drink free champagne, and Instagram pictures of themselves with their fabulous friends who wear sunglasses indoors. I ask myself, What do these kids do? Who is paying their bills? Some life they lead, eh? It's all the more reason why Los Angeles is not the place for me at this time in my life. I'm talented, I'm attractive, but I'm struggling. I don't envy the parties these kids go to, nor am I jealous of the clothes they wear. I want what they appear to have: happiness. At this juncture, I can't even fake that. I don't want to be that bitter young person anymore. I want to be in the position to think, You know what, good for them. Rather than rolling my eyes, I want to congratulate. I want to look at these young people and be inspired by their life, because I'm capable too.

I've found myself wandering aimlessly through the city, having no real agenda. I've walked whenever a car wasn't necessary, listening to music and escaping my reality. I've escaped my apartment at night just to clear my head, even though the streets of LA aren't safe. I've isolated myself for days on end, contacting no one because I wanted to justify the notion that no one cares enough to contact me first. I've been delusional, paranoid, stressed, scared beyond belief. I've been wasted, promiscuous, shameful for being so careless. I've sought solace in hook-ups, put too much emphasis on first dates - a first kiss. I've found comfort in the lips of a boy I didn't particularly like, all because I was lonely. I've fallen in lust, I've been flaked on, I've been hurt too many times to count. We've all been there, right? I'm on Grindr, Tinder, and OkCupid; constantly updating my profile to reflect the image I want to portray. All for what? Who the hell knows. A connection, seemingly. A guy that'll understand me at my core and uplift me when I'm sad. A Tinder match that'll actually graduate above a five-message exchange. A chance for excitement in a city that can crush one's soul. I've dreamt about a new life, being a movie star, a model, a member of the LA "scene." Being admired, adored, objectified. These fantasies seldom come true. As such, I've been angry, bitter, lacking self-assurance, convinced that I'd be relegated to the backburner. Convinced that this city would never give me the credit I deserved. I've been broke, overdraft, purged whatever I could to make a few dollars. I've been tossed aside so a 6'0 guy of lesser or equal capability can fill my position, losing that paycheck in the process. Alas, one thing I maintained was my hope. Never did I think my circumstances wouldn't get better. In the midst of despair, a good night's sleep was the remedy for me. I came to realize each moment was fleeting, that I wouldn't feel this bad tomorrow. Having the ability to acknowledge your strength is priceless. Knowing your self-worth is an invaluable trait. Building myself up is the one thing that saved me. Sure, I may have spent one too many Friday nights alone, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with me. I'm not missing out, they're missing out. While I've doubted myself, never did I think I wasn't worthy. What I have is unattainable; raw talent. You can't teach someone how to be funny, or creative, or talented; we're born with it. And with this talent there's an understanding that perhaps now is not my time to shine, that my moment will come eventually. A friend of mine told me the most beautiful things in life don't need to be told they're beautiful; they just are. If I can take that notion and apply it to my life, my success will come in leaps and bounds. If I can just be me and not remind everyone that I'm being "me," opportunities will present themselves. I realize I'm in a transition phase in my life, making all the mistakes necessary for personal growth. These mistakes are exhausting my money, time, well-being, and at times my sanity. They are whooping my ass right now, but I'm learning I tell ya. I'm evolving. I'm enlightened, much more so than I was before I left San Diego.

I jumped into this city with both feet, but didn't have the financial, emotional, and motivational wherewithal to pull myself out when the waters got choppy. A huge part of me feels like a failure, that this is too premature a departure. I'm giving up, I must admit. But I've come to realize that what gives me the most fulfillment is the relationships I share with others. The talks with my friend, Erin. The heart-to-hearts with my cousin, Katharine. The advice bestowed upon me from my parents. The unconditional love from my dogs. Not to say I haven't cultivated life-long connections with people here in the city, but it required a lot of energy. That's energy I don't have when I'm trying to focus on rebuilding my life. Energy that I need to work on myself, not spent worrying why I don't have a social life. Energy I can utilize for financial gain, enabling me to experience the life I crave. This energy has to be put toward more productive outlets, like educating myself, traveling, becoming the guy that has something thought-provoking to add to any conversation. All these things will enrich my being, manifesting itself positively in both my personal and professional lives. Ironically, I was more successful with Redo My Shoe before moving to Los Angeles. I got distracted, that's why. I was seduced by the possibility of fame, or even notoriety. I soon came to realize I wasn't quite ready for this fast-paced life, that the simpler things give me greater pleasure. And surprisingly, I discovered the adult in myself that simply doesn't possess the patience for the bullshit. I don't care about celebrity anymore. The Who's Who, the red carpet, the bourgeois, the predisposition to feeling inferior before stepping in a room. It's all nonsense. And if you think it's real, well then I pity you. Because those people aren't happy. They hurt just as much as I do, but can afford to cry in their BMW while I drive around in my dirty Mini Cooper. Will I find happiness somewhere else? Success? It's up in the air. Will I wake up one morning and think, What did I do? Absolutely. I will cry, undoubtedly. I will miss the city. I will miss catering, miss my friends, miss the exhilaration of the city, the proximity to the unattainable glamour that I so wanted to be a part of. I will always think about what could have been, about the boys I will never meet, the parties I will never work, the nights I will never dance away. Although, who's to say I won't discover that somewhere else? Who's to say my life won't change here in one month, making this post look ridiculous? I left San Diego before experiencing any kind of social scene, though. That alone is incentive enough for me to move back. Seven years of my life I missed. I have a lot of to catch up on. And being the hopeless romantic that I am, I'm excited at the possibility of going on a date and not having the guy I'm with look at someone else. It's LA afterall, land of the beautiful people. In other words, land of temptation.

As this post comes to a close, I wonder if all I've written is merely an entry in the diary of my life or a probability for my future. It's difficult for me to reevaluate my existence because it forces me to examine the current circumstances I'm in and the path I've already taken. I'm almost 25 and haven't accomplished much. Thus far, my twenties have kicked my ass. I didn't envision one thing in particular that I'd be excelling at right now, but I had hoped for some level of success at this point. As it stands, I'm unhappy. I have no family here. I miss them terribly on a weekly basis. I miss my friends, my former coworkers, my beautiful dogs, the familiarity of home. I miss having a fireplace. I miss having a big kitchen. I miss the cold October days, the ease of getting to the beach, the fact that I can come home on a Sunday and have my mom making sauce for Pasta Sunday. All those things I took for granted because I'd been accustomed to them for so long. I had nothing shaking up my world until I moved here. I tried it, I didn't succeed. I would have regretted not giving this another shot. I may give it a third try down the road, but for the time being, come October I'll be gone.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Helen's Lipsinka 120mm in Moonlight strass.

Talk about a transformation. Moonlight is one of the most underrated Swarovski crystals currently in production, at least in my opinion. I remember back when I first started offering this service to my clients, a customer was considering using Moonlight instead of clear Crystal on here shoes. Having only a color chart for reference, I suggested she just stick with Crystal; my reasoning being that they looked exactly the same(and that the former was cheaper). Boy, was I wrong. To the naked eye, Moonlight appears to be just that: a clear stone. But upon further examination, it's graced with reflections of blue and the softest hints of beige. I'd venture to classify it as a unisex stone; one a sneaker or a heel it'd look fabulous. On Helen's Lipsinka, I really wanted to highlight the undertones of blue so I painted the leather cerulean. A custom blend, of course. The results are just jaw-dropping. I mean, this is a completely differently shoe. Dare I say it - even with that pique heel - more feminine and softer than before. And oh so wearable. I'd pair it with a sky blue Herve Leger in a heartbeat.

Strassing: $800 / Painting: $35 / Shipping: $35







Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bianca's Lady Peep 150mm in Aurum strass.

I'm still in a mental debate as to whether I like Aurum. A gold shoe is flashy, eye-catching, luxe-looking; the color in general suggests wealth. However, used on the wrong shoe, it looks downright tacky. Silhouette is everything when it comes to strassing. I've cringed at the end result on some of my commissions, in fact. Not because the work was haphazard, more due to the fact that the shoe was just not right for crystals. Alas, I need to pay my bills so there's an aesthetic compromise that happens on occasion. Luckily that wasn't the case with Bianca's Lady Peep. I'm a firm believer that this style shoe can make any stone look premier, even some of the duller, opal-hued Swarovski crystals. What do you guys think? Did I nail it? The great thing about Aurum is that, while dramtic, it maintains a level of versatility many stones don't. A gold shoe can be worn with rouge, cobalt, nude, champagne, plum, indigo, fuchsia, coral, you name it. A red shoe, though, is limited to outfits on the primary color wheel. At least in my opinion. Anyway, one issue I ran into with this commission was the texture of the surface. It's called baseball material, according to the brand. And it makes strassing a bit strenuous because it's uneven, therefore some stones laid flat while others were slightly askew. Nothing noticeable, though. But knowing me, I notice anything and everything. This is one order I'm particularly proud of. Why? Solely on the basis of aesthetic, I just love the way they came out. I appreciate the attention they received when posted on my Instagram and Facebook. Basically, I liked that people loved them.

Strassing: $1,800 / Painting: $55 / Shipping: $50








Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 wrap-up.

Woah, how is it already a new year? Did these past twelve months not fly by or what? For me, they flew at lightning speed, because every month presented me with another challenge, another formative experience that shaped how I interpreted and later reacted to each moment thereafter. I moved twice, got fired, made new friends, lost new friends, made even greater friends, reconnected with old ones, got dumped, had my heart broken twice, contemplated suicide, lost a pet, been so broke it hurt, tried a new business venture, shopped and sported women's clothing, cried hard, and laughed harder. Evidently, I've been all over the place. I have no problem referring to myself as a mess. Come on guys, I was. I still am, but in better clothing. All these things happened for a reason, though. 

Last year on December 31st, I remember talking to my dad on the phone, watching the Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper New Year's Eve celebration on TV. At that point I was residing in Los Angeles for the very first time - in La Canada - having just moved there on the 8th. I had tears in my eyes, not in response to what others saw as a new beginning in 2013, rather due to the fact that here I was, in a new city, in a new house, all alone, with no prospects of any sort knocking on my door. No close family, no friends, no steady income, no man, just my dog, Cali. What was I doing? My heart hurt, to be honest. Fast-forward to now, I'm typing this entry in my apartment located in West Hollywood; a changed man I am. I remind people, in 2013, never had I been so low, nor felt so high. 

I'm sure you all witnessed the trainwreck that was Joey back in June, when I separated from my ex. It was the most difficult period of my life, yet I came out of it a completely changed man. Never before had I been that affected, that emotionally traumatized by a single person. And ironically enough it later sparked something in me, a feeling of empowerment. Liberation, even. I was sitting with my friends at Urth Caffe two weeks ago on Melrose, having breakfast. Across the street there was a construction wall installed and on it read: Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction. This quote resonated with me so much in regards to the man I was whilst reading it. I was wearing a women's top, cut-off shorts, a chunky scarf, and Ked's hightops; so not the Joey from even six months ago. But from the heartache this man was born. I had to be torn down to be built up. I had to be rejected to feel accepted; accepted not by my peers, but by myself. 

I went through an era of self-doubt in high school, progressing to self-loathing before coming out of the closet at 20. Once that door flung open, my life got better. My confidence increased. There was still a weight that remained, though, one that consistently held me back from experiencing life. Roughly a year ago did I loosen my grip on that weight, and only about six months ago did I toss that excess baggage away. I started dressing to feel sexy; deep v-necks, short-shorts, crystal accents. And when I moved back to LA in October, I really didn't hold back. Trips to the store involved more time spent in the women's department than the men's. Short-shorts were paired with high-tops, scarves, and oversized sweaters. In an array of colors, too. I soon came to realize that styling myself incited a wave of sensuality never had I experienced before. Girlfriends would tell me, "You dress better than me!" My own mom even observed, "You know when you see two patterns that you wouldn't think go together, but they actually work with one another; you pull it off." Coming from my her, who in the past has rolled her eyes at my fashion get-ups, I was sincerely flattered. But Alas, this is Los Angeles; i.e. my new found style doesn't necessarily fit into what most people deem as attractive. But you know what? I don't let it affect me too much. In my eyes confidence is the most attractive trait. I had an acquaintance warn me, People aren't going to embrace your style because it doesn't fit into the mold of what L.A. typically is, at which point you can cave in and dress to assimilate, or march to the beat of your own drum and not care one bit. The latter is what I chose, needless to say. 

This is all part of the journey I'm taking at the moment, where judgmental eyes watch you wherever you go. I can choose to let the stares bother me or welcome the intrigue and view it as people's desire to be that comfortable in THEIR own skin. That's truly the root of it all; people who are unhappy tend to pass the most judgment. I love myself. I love who I am, what I believe in, the things I value, the people I hold near to my heart. I appreciate all I have to offer. Regardless if whether it reads as self-indulgent, how people interpret me is their own prerogative. I'm sure you're reading this thinking, Damn this guy is full of himself. And believe me, I think that too occasionally. Upon stepping back I remind myself that it's not a matter of being conceited, it's the confidence and self-assurance that people find uncomfortable. Boy is this most evident in the gay dating world, which for the most part is nonexistent. I joke, of course, my point being that this arena of relationships is pathetically superficial. Guys don't know how to interpret me. I'm this 5'7 guy walking down Santa Monica Blvd. with my hairy legs and cut-off, 4" inseamed short-shorts. I look fly, so I pay no attention to the stares. I tell them about Redo My Shoe, they're less than impressed. I'm funny, they're less than thrilled. Apparently the only thing they're interested in is my face, which I must admit is pretty cute. But, it's not what I want to be noticed for, most of the time.

This business turns a lot of guys off, ironically. I mean, aren't all gay men fabulous? Clearly not. Many of the posers - the ones that perpetuate the facade of "machismo" but secretly dance to Britney Spears and dress like women on Halloween - don't know what to do when presented with the fact that I'm an artist, a loosely-proclaimed crystal connoisseur. It's like feminine by association. Because I work with heels, I MUST be wearing them too. Side note: I STILL cannot believe that people, upon viewing my Instagram, don't understand what I do for a living. It's not that difficult to comprehend! But Instagram is another topic I'll blog about later. One word: morons. Anyway, like I was explaining, there's a perceived correlation between my level of femininity based on what I do. As much as I'd love to wear heels on a daily basis, I don't. They're too uncomfortable for my wide feet. Plus, I like the way I dress as is. Although, I will say if I ever stumble upon a Julian Hakes shoe display, I'm slipping my sneaker off and trying that bad boy on. But I digress, again! Bottom line, gay men don't get me. When I like them, the attraction is seldom mutual. The way I see it, most of them are exhausting so much energy trying to fit in that they don't even know what they're attracted to. Knowing what you like comes with age, and struggle. I tell you, nothing ingrains your interests in you like living paycheck to paycheck, where you're forced to rely on your own personality for entertainment. And nothing will solidify your values like going at it - life, that is - on your own while seemingly everyone around you is basking in the splendor of life. 

I've reached a maturity level at which I don't let rejection manifest itself as destructively as before. I mean, it hurts to not be appreciated for you as a person, but there's nothing I can do but be the best person I can be. They're the ones missing out. I'm a catch and a half, I'm fabulous, I'm self-deprecating, I'm funny, I'm talented, I can cook; what's not to like? Where is this post going? I don't know, I'm rambling. It feels good to write, though. I forgot how much I enjoy it, because while I'm not the most eloquent writer, I do think I'm relatively engaging with my reader. The gist of this post is a 2013 wrap-up. But you guys know me; when have I ever been swift about blogging? I've been intermittent, but never apathetic. I've actually had people write little blurbs about me on their blogs, and frankly, to pull a Ja'mie King, "I don't wanna be a bitch but you guys are really boring." Not everyone, though! Just a select few that have totally breezed over and watered down what I do to the point where I think, Why did you even write this? I appreciate good writing, so that factors into my critique. Seriously, though, let me channel my thoughts into a concise post. Or at least the remainder of this one. 

In 2013, I tried three new business ventures: headbands, bowties, and cellphone cases. The headbands I presumed would be a hit, because who doesn't like a little sparkle in their hair, especially when it's supplied by me? Well, they flopped, like bad. But I tried. Honey I tried to peddle these like the world was ending! Lesson learned! Plus, I realize headbands aren't necessarily my market. Slightly too juvenile a product, based on my previous portfolio. Bowties I love. And my followers loved them, too. This is a venture I'm going to pursue, not solely for financial gain, but for my own wardrobe. Men's accessories are limited to shoes, socks, scarves, bowties, ties, and belts. Throw a hat in there every now and then, but the aforementioned are the primary contenders. I don't wear ties, most belts come in leather(which I don't wear), socks I'm intrigued by, shoes we all know how I feel about, and bowties; well, they're just so god damn fun to wear when crystallized. Seeing as I can knock one out in a day if I really try, I can have a sparkling bowtie in every color by January's end. And lastly, cellphone cases. This category is all-encompassing to me, because a case is no different from a wallet or a clutch. They're all the same medium, just varying degrees of space. I think the best way to market this sector of Redo My Shoe is to strass as many cases and clutches for myself and wear them out wherever I go. Don't mind me, just popping into Whole Foods to buy kale with my strassed clutch. "I love your wallet." "Thank you, I made it." I'm already envisioning the exchange. I live for these moments. Don't take everything I write at facevalue; I'm just having fun given the circumstances I'm in. I'm adding a little sparkle to my otherwise dull life, pun intended. All this being said, how I come across to people is not my problem. I'm doing me the best I can do. The challenge is finding those who accept me for my eccentricities, or those that can inspire me to be better. There are plenty of people I've met whose lives I've been jealous of, but it's their life, not mine. 

2014 is not the year for sensationalizing all my dreams. Surely I won't strike fame that easily. I appreciate the struggle, the hustle, the grind, the drag through the mud people go through to inevitably achieve greatness. At this point, I'm a conditioned optimist. I've trained myself to see the glass half full. Maintaining that level isn't the goal, it's filling that glass up to the point where it overflows. I strongly feel Redo My Shoe has seen its glory. No longer can I rely on it for my sole source of income. I mean, it's just not realistic. I'm simply not busy enough, nor am I as passionate as I used to be. And to be honest, I want to be around people. Fashion PR may be my calling. I'm going to look into that. Cooking is my true passion, but fashion is a close second. I revert to something my dad said recently, "It's not about the tasks at hand, it's about the time given to complete those tasks." He is so right; I'm all for setting goals, but prioritizing them within a specified timeframe makes them more realistic. Otherwise, where's the incentive? Who's to say I won't fall flat on my ass this year? No one. I'm in control of what happens to me. It's my responsibility as a young adult to take risks and see what happens. And rest assured, I will keep you updated along the way. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Lacey's Lady Lynch 120mm in Jet Hematite strass.

Seriously, where have I been? It's been nine weeks since my last confession. Holy hell, how did that happen? Slacking, you'd naturally assume, as my posts have been few and far between as of late. I assure you, though, that's not the case. Vacation? I wish. In fact, I had to postpone a trip to New York City earlier this month and reassess my circumstances. Needless to say, I was bummed. But I digress. Hustling to pay rent? Now, that's more fitting. "It's difficult to make money as an artist these days," my mom has said to me on more than one occasion. And boy do I know how that feels; it's really, truly, mind-numbingly stressful. Redo My Shoe's volume has seen a drastic decline from the years prior, not necessarily indicative of strass being a "trend", rather people finding cheaper alternatives to what they perceive as simply, "crystals on shoes". My customers have become clients, and those clients are now clientele. They come back to me not only for my excellent excellent craftsmanship, but for the simple fact that I care about the end product even more so than them. I've found that as the frequency of commissions increases, as does the trust level. Some clients give me free reign on the end result, others are eager to hear my suggestions. Alas, the look is mutually praised. In Lacey's case, she wanted something neutral. Neutral enough, but not underwhelming. I believe Jet Hematite was her idea, but I was in full support nonetheless. The chunky glitter, to be candid, was a pain in the f***king ass to remove. Post sanding, I had glitter remnants flying around my house. And still do, mind you. But, it was all for the love of the challenge. With transformations like this - the shoe's versatility has completely graduated - trying to see beyond the fact that people are partial towards a deal than they are quality, I maintain the mentality that what I do isn't fluff; it's art people! Strassing is an art form. Placing stones one by one is monotonous. It requires patience, dedication, the willpower to not rummage the fridge while working. The latter is the most difficult! It's a skill, though. Skilled people should be compensated for their efforts, right? Pertaining to my new followers or those of you plain ol' looky-loos, it's easy to make the conclusion that I just "bedazzle" shoes for a living. I mean, in that context what's the big deal? Anyone is capable in that regard. While I can't slight you for making a judgment, I can elaborate on it. Yes, I do embellish shoes with crystals, but there's a method to it. Much like I don't know the first thing about cutting hair, many people can't strass. Everyone excels at something, so why belittle it? My work is delicate, intricate, and extremely tedious. Ask my amazingly talented friend Kellie from Crystal Ninja; she's far more experienced than I but is still met with challenges on a daily basis. Not every commission may be our best work, but we still devote a lot of time and energy into giving our clients exactly what they want. The way I see it, we're creating a fantasy; perpetuating a lifestyle where glamor is factored into your daily routine. Crystal shoes? Sparkling clutches? Swarovski iPhone cases? What?! Most people don't wear this because they deem it, "not their style," or, "too flashy." But some of us live for this drama. We thrive on the attention our wardrobe receives, because ultimately, it's something we assemble on our own; something we have control over. And when someone acknowledges our style for the positive, it makes us feel good about ourselves. I myself have been influenced by my clients. For the longest time, I would create these glimmering pairs, envision how they'd be worn, ship them back, and reside back to my mundane wardrobe. Up until about a year ago did I finally start incorporating strass into my wardrobe in the form of bowties, shoes, and clutches. Well, the clutch is in progress. The point being that I allowed my love of beauty and color to manifest itself into the easiest and most evident form of self-expression: fashion. I'm finally able to grasp that feeling my clients get when they wear their strassed shoes. It's a powerful one; sensual, albeit liberating. Not to suggest Lacey's Lady Lynch didn't have that effect before, but trust when I say, upon sliding your foot into a pair of strassed shoes, clasping an embellished bowtie around your collar, or pulling out your crystallized phone, your mood will change. Confidence will exude, your self-assurance will increase. No pun intended, it's your opportunity to shine. Funny how the right outfit can do that to you.

Strassing: $1,100 / Shipping: $40 / Painting: $35








Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Stephanie's Miu Miu Frames in Tri-Color Strass.

 Strassing a pair of prescription frames is out of my repertoire. Although, I'm learning that as long as I maintain a consistent look, anything can be strassed. With Redo My Shoe, you will always receive a pattern that's incomparably organic-looking. I've now had three years to perfect my craft, and I feel these Miu Miu are indicative of my skill. I wanted to achieve a look that was fluid, almost as if crystals were sprouting from the frame. I used a combination of Amethyst, Smoked Topaz, and Greige, all colors that compliment each other beautiful. As a woman with a darker complexion, Stephanie wanted to lessen the severity of the ivory as she felt the contrast would be somewhat overwhelming. With the frame's caramel base, naturally she opted for a brown stone. I had many Smoked Topaz crystals left over from Alice's Miu Miu two and a half years ago(remember those?), so I was thrilled to use them on these. I also wanted the end result to look retail so I utilized larger stones as well. Miu Miu is a brand known for their whimsical and sometimes avant garde accessories, and I think I created something that looks on classic, fashion-forward, and somewhat edgy. What you'll find with many crystal-embellished designer glasses is that from far away the placement will appear whimsical, but up close the execution is quite technical and even deceptive at times. By deceptive I mean the frames will be interspersed with hollowed-out circles that are painted silver to coincide with the neighboring crystals, which in turn warrant a hefty pricetag. But that's just a handful of the ones I've seen. After this project, I'd definitely like to take on more similar commissions and really have fun with this medium. I feel I've only scratched the surface of what can be done with glasses. Just imagine how outlandish we can go on a cat-eye style?! I'm all in!

$75








Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Michelle's iPhone4 Cases in Heliotrope and Ombre Fade Strass.

Upon contacting me, Michelle knew for sure she wanted Heliotrope on one of her cases. As for the other one, she suggested an ombre fade from purple to pink. I agreed, having never executed a fade before. The perfectionist that I am, I was nervous to try my hand at this type of pattern. My main concern being that the fade wouldn't look fluid. As such, it took me awhile to complete the second case. I started by placing one size, then filled in the rest from there. Surprisingly, using 16ss and 20ss aided in this process because I was better able to tie in certain colors with a concentrated hue. On the faded case I used a combination of Amethyst, Purple Velvet, Heliotrope, Ruby, Fuchsia, Rose, Vitrail Light, and Violet. I think using a mixture of at least five colors is where you should start when working with an ombre design, as you need similar colors to make the fade look more natural. Keep in mind both these cases were a textured ivory, which I sanded and painted. I recently got the iPhone 5C, and after having completed these two without question I will be assembling multiple cases for myself.

Strassing: $250