Hustle Chat with Tania Guerra - NSFW
LH: Can you tell us about yourself?
TG: Nervous, [but] sure!
LH: I'm super excited and nervous too!
TG: I guess for this I [have to] go back: I was born in the Dominican Republic, bred in New York City, some things happened in between, and finally I studied graphic design at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
LH: PERO BUENO! Tú eres de mi Patria?! (You're from my home?)
TG: Seriously?! Giving you a gigantic hug right now.
LH: That's so exciting. A fellow Dominican. Just when I thought this couldn't be anymore perfect.
TG: I love this! I love meeting Dominican women who are killing it.
TG: I think you might know the feeling, like we had very little representation in the media of women like us to look up to and I'm so happy that's changing.
LH: Yes, absolutely. There has been a strong Female Dominican presence in the media lately.
A lot of the cast of Orange is the New Black are Dominican, and a lot of actresses landing larger roles--it's been very exciting to see!
TG: YES! Absolutely.
LH: What do you do now?
TG: I'm working at Glamour magazine now. I translate the art team’s beautiful print pages for our Tablet readers along with some exclusive digital content.
LH: Wow, that is incredible! So the digital readers have you to thank. Thank you, Tania!
TG: Haha! Thank you, readers!
LH: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
TG: I knew I wanted to be creative in some way. How I was going to go about that constantly changed and is still changing. I always had to do a visual representation of everything I worked on in school. I always did a graphic cover page when I turned in essays in school. Things like that.
TG: I think what I was most obsessed with growing up (and anyone who knew me from junior high school and earlier can attest to this) was designing clothing--but that hasn't evolved into anything...yet. I think that stopped in high school, haha.
LH: Got ya! That's amazing -- I see a lot of KILLER designs in your artwork on Instagram. Speaking of which: it should never stop! I'll wear it ALL!
TG: Haha, then I must start sketching those again.
LH: So for me, there is a sense of rebellion towards societies' standards for women, or "feminism" if you will--in your art. What inspires that?
TG: I'm glad that actually came across in some way. I wasn't intending on it, but I guess it's a part of me. I've always questioned authority, and I had always been the kind of girl that felt forced to play a role in front of company. The way I should sit or talk, but I'm sure my family quickly understood I wasn't going to conform to any of that. I like women who encourage other women. I hope I can be that person too.
LH: I love that! -- When you sketch, are those pieces representations of how you feel at the moment, or are you just inspired by things you see and then make them your own?
TG: A lot of it is based on something I see. At times it's a moment of "Oo! Oo! I wanna sketch a girl with triangle hair!" I just put my five-minute timer on and sketch. I didn't want the source of inspiration to be limiting, so it's a free for all.
LH: That's incredible and important.
LH: Your sketches are all five minutes or under?
TG: All are supposed to be five minutes or under and I think I've noted where I go over by one or two minutes [on some].
LH: That's impressive! -- Now I want to go back to growing up and being where you are now.
LH: So, how old were you when you came to the U.S.?
TG: I was about to turn four when I came to the U.S. I don't have a single memory from when I was four or younger. I'm the youngest of four children, so I was the one who immediately was placed in an almost entirely English-speaking class. I think it explains how different I am from my siblings. "Black sheep," is it? I grew up with a lot of MTV and VH1 influence, haha.
LH: Oh I can relate! -- Having the opportunity to come to the U.S., having hustling parents-- did that ever make you feel pressured to do a certain thing or act a certain way?
TG: The only thing I guess that makes me feel like, "You can't fuck this up, Tania," are the memories of seeing the hustle from my parents, especially my mom. I think we (my siblings and I) feel like we owe it to them to do well.
TG: A lot of children of immigrant parents share that sentiment, I think. While some of our peers might be working to better themselves and pay their own bills... we're also thinking "Man, I'd really love to pay my mom's bills too."
LH: Who or what inspires your hustle?
TG: On the hustle question: I think the previous question touched on that in some way. I've also always been a little too aware of our mortality and that can lead you into an abyss of self-doubt and regret, but that clichéd line of "You only live once" is really taking over and helping me make better decisions in everything from work to my personal life.
LH: Because our parents hustled so hard to be here, it's often said that understanding art as a career is a difficult thing for them. I have personally experienced and know of many other children of immigrant parents who don't always feel creative freedom, and therefore struggle in choosing a career or a professional identity. Did you have this problem growing up?
TG: Yes, I definitely understand the difficulty people might feel when wanting to pursue art as a career...
TG: I'm so lucky that my mom always encouraged me to pursue art. She saw it was all I liked to do in my free time at home and never once even questioned me. She would be like "cuando tu sea una diseñadora famosa..." ("When you become a famous designer.."). Like... damn, let me get through elementary school first.
TG: My mom's pretty amusing. You're right! So encourage your kids, ladies and gents.
LH: On support from mom- that's incredible. Not many people can say that have that support.
LH: There's always that huge stretch with Dominican Parents. They're either super against whatever it is, or like GO FOR IT! "Mira mi hija si la diseñadora. Ella es famosa. Todo el mundo en esta calle la conoce" (Look at my daughter the designer.. She's famous. Everyone on the block knows her..") and you're like, Ma.. I'm 11!
TG: My mom doesn't know what I do. I'm sure she thinks I draw cartoons on the computer.
LH: So what is your ultimate hustle dream? Where do you want to be in a year or two?
TG: I'm coming to terms with the fact that I want to create more and more. I think it's never too late to pursue new passions and to understand we weren't made to necessarily follow one path alone. My ultimate hustle dream would start with learning to trust my own decisions, my own hand, my own imagination and hopefully that inspires other people to trust me as well. I'm still struggling with calling myself an artist per se, maybe 'cause I keep thinking there's this threshold you have to cross to deem yourself one (spoiler alert: the threshold is in your head). But any artist just wants to share something with everyone else and encourage everyone else to do the same. That's where I want to get to.
LH: I guess you sort of answered this one in your last statement-- What advice do you have for lady hustlers in general? Then more specifically, what advice do you have for lady hustlers who want to be as expressive as you are in your art, but are doubtful or fearful of truly being themselves--or at least the part they've discovered about themselves.
TG: I mean, I'm still going through that doubt and fear but I'm using that to push myself more. A really important factor of all that are the people around you. I'm embracing those who are encouraging and taking notes from those who I think have their hustle game down pat. I went to see Junot Diaz speak a few years ago, and he said something along the lines of, 'You're the only person that can tell your story,' I love that. I keep that thought in my pocket.
LH: We love Junot Diaz!
TG: He's amazing.
LH: Seriously he is! -- Okay last question. What are some things that you learned from your mom's hustle?
TG: Wow, that's a loaded question, but I'll keep it simple if I can.
TG: A few things I've learned are to not let fear overcome you. This isn't to say that she was fearless. She was riddled with fear and it prevented her from doing so much. But when it came to taking care of her family, the woman had her eyes on the prize. She was a strict mom and now that I'm older, I understand and appreciate that. She didn't come to this country to let her kids slip through the cracks. For a shy little lady, you can't deny she hustled the best she could. I totally didn't answer that properly 'cause it's hard to think about all the lessons you learn from growing up.
LH: No way! That answer is absolutely perfect. It says a lot without you having to say much. I totally get it.
LH: Thank you Tania! It was such a pleasure speaking to you!
Tania is a kickass graphic artist over at Glamour Magazine. Stay in touch with Tania via INSTAGRAM.