What’s going on man, go ahead and introduce yourself to the people
I’m Kuya Kevin! I’m 18 years old, I’m a photographer, and I like to make clothes!
How was life growing up for you?
My life growing up was alright, I don’t like to speak about my life at home but growing up was alright. My mom had me sit down with a piece of paper and crayons for the longest of time, and I really appreciate her for that because otherwise I’m not sure where I’d be right now. I grew up in a cultured house hold, my parents raised me the way they were raised, but eventually we got a TV and cartoons raised me. I was super awkward and still am, I’m a huge introvert which plays a big part in my story. I didn’t grow up on social media till way later in like 8th grade, I’m not going to lie I was really behind on trends and friends because everyone else was on the Facebook and Instagram wave, and I’d just go home and train my Pokémon till I had to go to bed. School was pretty rough for me until high school, I had only about 4 friends to be honest and no one really talked to me aside from the friends I did have. Most of the time I was picked on by the upper class man for being the weird husky kid who loved art. I I fell into this depression that stuck with me for the longest of time, I was always upset with the way the world was, and how I was treated by many. That’s currently still with me, but I’ve come to learn that most creatives go through this and I’ve come to accept the way my head works. My freshman year of high school things got a bit better, I made more friends who liked the geeky things I liked but those who thought that where better than me gave me a lot of negativity for the things I liked still. Eventually though puberty kicked in and things got better for me and I grew out of my comfort zone. I always took art classes, and made sure I had one every semester, this lead to me making friends who actually liked to sculpt clay, draw and paint, or work with programs and cameras.
When did you begin to witness your creative talents?
I know how to do a lot of things when it comes to working with my right brain. It started off with drawing, like I mentioned earlier my mom always had me drawing and that eventually lead me into drawing every day of my life, I stopped drawing my sophomore year of high school if that helps. I took a 3D art and design class my freshman year which involved working with clay and making sculptures and pottery, this was really cool for me because I had never expanded from drawing and this was so new to me, I liked it a lot! I’m also good at working a camera which is what I’m mostly known for. I’m really good with computers which is funny because I was never allowed to touch the one we had at home, but once I was able to get access to one I got really good with Photoshop, which helped me out so much later on.
When did you get into photography?
I decided to choose photography my sophomore year in high school because the concept of it seemed really interesting to me, I loved the idea of being able to capture something and keep it forever. My photography teacher plays a huge roll in my life, she’s essential a mother figure to me and I couldn’t be more thankful for her. She’s honestly a blessing. Thank you so much Mrs. Nustra for everything you’ve done for me. She made me want to stick with photography, and eventually I grew a passion towards it, she’s the reason I do it and why I got so into it. She showed me what was possible when you mix creativity with a camera.
You’ve been able to work with a ton of artists, what was the first big gig you were able to shoot?
My first big gig for me was shooting BTS for this Vic Mensa music video way back when I was 15 going 16. My sophomore year of high school I just constantly blew off school to meet up with artists and see what opportunities waited for a kid like me in the city of Chicago. It honestly was such a risk, and I’m so glad it turned out good for me in the end. Working with Vic was incredible and a dream come true. I will always remember that day like it was yesterday. I’ve been listening to Vic since my freshman year of high school so when this opportunity came up I took advantage of it and tried my best to keep up with all professionals.
How were you able to get introduced to people like Chance and Ian Eastwood?
Vic essentially lead to a lot of open doors, the way that worked out tho was pretty cool. My teacher had an assignment for the class which was photo journalism. Basically the class had to go out and document something new, And Vic happened to post something about filming a video so I found the verluxe email and reached out. Him and verluxe were looking for interesting people to be in his video, so I entered my friend Dandre because he’s double jointed and is really amazing with controlling his arms. He can bend them and move them in crazy unusually positions it’s so sick. Trip (Cody, Vic’s manager) eventually hit us back and was like come out to these auditions. So that all went smooth and everything. We went to the video shoot for this song that still hasn’t and probably will never come out 😦
It was so cool because I’m not sure what got over me, but I talked to him and asked him if I could take his picture and he took me to this room which happened to be The room of Leftyoutthere!! And we ended up having a private shoot, another funny thing is I sucked with a camera at the time. I’m surprised I came back with decent results.
Chance was another dream come true of mine, I met him a bit after so I was 16. He was filming Sunday candy in this really big studio and it was so sick. My friend Renzell ended up being one of the dancers on set and in the video and he brought me along because he knows how much I love Chano, from there he became a homie. It’s actually funny because when I met SOX stix came up to me and asked if I was René brothers. René Marban is another favorite creative of mine and I’m so glad that happened to be honest. So from there I became René’s little brother to the crew. That experience was unforgettable for me though.
Ian Eastwood came from my good friend Nick, Nick took me to my first dance workshop and it was Ian’s, we were awkwardly young and it’s funny to me till this day. From there we just kept going to a lot of them, it became a tradition for us to always go and eventually that whole photography thing came into my life and I was already comfortable with him so I just started snapping at his Events.
At one-point last year you wanted to quit photography because you weren’t happy and then half a year later you got to shoot Kanye West, Tyler The Creator and Chance at Magnificent Coloring Day. How was that experience for you?
I was at a complete down fall at a certain point, I couldn’t really handle a lot of things anymore and I just stopped doing a lot of things I liked and I considered drifting away from my camera. Then this whole thing kind of just slapped me in my face, I took it as a sign. It was incredible. I couldn’t really Believe it, I was 17 and in my head I was like” I wonder what would have happened if I would have quit a year ago” sometimes I just feel like life knocks me down just to bring me up.
You currently attend Hoffman Estates High School. How has the support been from your schoolmates?
My home town has been such a blessing. I grew up here and know the town and it’s crazy to see how much I’ve grown as an individual. I never would have imagined to have the support of my school and classmates ever in my life. I’ve grown and have a lot of friends now, and I’m glad to have been raised in such a diverse community. It took until my junior year for kids to start recognizing the things I do, and once they found my Instagram they all started showing more respect towards me. It sounds bad in a sense, but I’ve proven myself to so many people and I’ve gained the respect of many people who I never would have thought to be kind to me. My school isn’t one to care much for the art as they do for their athletics in all honesty. But it’s a high school you know? Basketball and football will always be more important than anything else, it sucks that it is that way but it’s just a thing that’s been around forever. So my teacher and I decided to start and open mic so that anyone can come by to display their talents. I want to thank him for having a heavy influence on me, Mr. Jenner has helped me make history at my high school. If it wasn’t for him there wouldn’t be an open mic at all. Shout out to everyone that comes by to our open mics!!
Talk to us about your clothing company MUST BE NICE
Must be nice is my clothing line, and it’s something that’s been catching on. The story behind it isn’t anything cool to be quite honest. I’ve never in my life had a girlfriend (still don’t if anyone’s interested and into art hit me up), and originally I would always just say the phrase when I saw a couple out in public. It was an inside joke between me and friends, and I thought why not make a shirt out of it? We live in a world where you don’t have to put much effort in a design because the more “aesthetic” or “tumblr” it looks the better it is. Also I’m just a really simple person when it comes to clothes, to much on a shirt just doesn’t roll with me. So I put the phrase on a shirt and didn’t really expect the outcome it has today. I’m super glad it came out well though, because of what it’s becoming I’ve been allowed to fund more material for more detailed designs. I eventually started having low-key in school pop up shops from my locker. I did this about 3 times, the third time the line wrapped around the corner and kept going Down the hall, I got caught and was shut down after that third time. I made a Valentine’s Day drop and I loved it because I had the ability to draw something and use it on a shirt, before that would have been expensive to fund. I don’t do any of this for the money, I hate money personally. It’s not really important to me, I use all of it to just make more stuff and see if people will like it. That last amount of income I had led to the pop up shop I had outside of school! I just want to give me back to everyone. I spend countless hours peeling off vinyl and cutting it making sure the design is right before I press it together, but I do it for everyone who likes my stuff.
This past winter you got the opportunity to put MBN in Maybe Sunday collective in Pilsen. How was that feeling for you?
It was one of the greatest feelings ever!! Huge shout out to Mike, he’s likes an older brother to me, he’s taken me in and has taught me so much about life and the real world. He helped me meet with the management over at Maybe Sunday!! He’s honestly the greatest, I love him so much. We meet with JaJa who ended up looking at my clothes and signing me. She pulled out a contract and signed me to the store, it was an amazing feeling honesty! It’s hard to believe sometimes, since then I’m now also in another store! My clothes are in AMFM!
Last week you had a pop-up shop, talk about that.
Last week I had a pop up shop, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Kids in the suburbs have never experienced a pop up shop, this Whole concept was new to many of them. I pretty much rented this building for the whole day, and decorated it with as much pink as possible. I had stations set up everywhere, from making your own Valentine’s Day cards to playing super smash Bros. I wanted this to be a fun environment with a Kevin touch. I had a round coloring table, and like 4 TVs set up, and one wall which was used to hang up some photos of mine. I added an art gallery portion to this, I love art gallery’s so I wanted to throw my own. It turned out to be an amazing outcome, I had people from Chicago show up and people I’ve never even seen before show up. Overall it was a dream come true, and I’m so thankful that so many people enjoyed the event.
What’s your obsession with the color of pink?
My obsession form the Color pink has to come from my mom. She loves the color pink, she has so many pink clothes and pink accessories and stuff. It was a color that I grew up seeing a lot, and eventually it stuck with me. I never saw anyone really touch pink garments and try to make it a thing. I tried it out and at first it was weird because kids saw it and they were just confused over the fact that someone was wearing pink, especially a male ya know? Eventually people started buying it and it was so tight!
How does it feel knowing you’re only 18 and have made successful moves and have people looking up to you?
It’s honestly pretty strange to me, I’ve never had anyone look up to me or say a word to me till recent. Like I said I’m pretty awkward so when people come up to me it’s so weird, I’m just not use to spotlight ya know. I really appreciate the impact I’ve made and it’s made me want to keep going with life. It’s cool to see older people looking up to me, everything at the moment is so surreal to me. I’ve accomplished so much from the age of 15-18 that if I were to die at this very moment that the reader is reading this I would totally be fine with it. I’d say I’m content with my accomplishments, I’ve done most things I’ve wanted to do and met most people that I never thought I’d meet. To me death wouldn’t be a huge problem, I’d die pretty content.
When its all said and done how do you want to be remembered?
I wake up every morning asking myself what I can do today to be remembered by at least one person. That may be me giving someone a pencil because they forgot theirs, or me just going out and photographing a concert and wowing my followers. I want to for sure have some sort of legacy left behind. I wanna be remembered for having a positive impact on people and the world, it sounds really absurd but It’s a dream of mine. And at this point I’ve learned that anything is possible.
Written by: Nicholas Rud