Conversations with creatives on finding themselves through self-love while in the midst of a global pandemic.
Words and photography by Emily Berkey.
Los Angeles is a city for the dream chasers and the creatives who hustle to make ends meet. When the pandemic hit the city nearly a year ago and caused everything to shut down, life for most people came to an abrupt halt. Without the comfort of robust social lives and busy work schedules, artists were faced with sudden stillness. However, within that stillness came inevitable reflection, and it became the perfect time for major shifts in lifestyle.
We met with three Los Angeles-based creatives, Daniel Crook, Enkrypt Los Angeles and Modi Oyewole to talk about their personal tragedies and journeys in taking care of themselves in the midst of a global health emergency. Our conversations on self-love and learnings of identity explore the details of human beings finding their way, and themselves, in uncertain times.
May these conversations serve as reminders that you are not alone on your journey.
Perched in a penthouse in downtown Los Angeles is the all-in-one home, studio and office of Enkrypt Los Angeles, a filmmaker and photographer from Northeast Los Angeles. Born Rocio Paredes, the creative’s unrivaled work ethic, tenacity and talent has led to her touring the world to photograph, direct music videos and produce films for an incredibly diverse collection of musicians, artists and brands. Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Enkrypt finds herself confined to Los Angeles. Making the most out of a time when video and photo work has slowed, she has invested in herself and launched her own clothing brand, Inskribe.
We met with Enkrypt early one morning, as the sun poured through her blinds, illuminating the smoke dancing in the air. She took a break from editing video footage for a new Inskribe release to talk about her journey to establishing a routine, healing from heartbreak and the freedom that comes from remembering, “nobody really cares.”
What do you do to recharge and to fill your cup?
I was just talking about this the other day; I try to plan my day in segments based on things that make me feel fulfilled as a human–family time, me time, work time, hobbies. That’s hypothetically how I’d like to live my life. Before, I didn’t have a balance. I felt like if I went full throttle with one of those areas, it would work out. But I realized that focusing on one thing just started taking the space of other things that should have been there. Everyday, I make sure I do little things that I like to do, like exercising, making an espresso, smoking a joint, getting some work done or cooking something I like to eat. I make sure I do something that’s gonna spark some kind of serotonin in me.
What prompted you to start to try to create more of a structured routine around your self-care?
I felt my self-care and my confidence levels started to decline. Quickly. I realized that I wasn’t getting up and getting ready for the day anymore. I wasn’t putting makeup on. I just wanted to work. It became an obsession. I was like, Damn, I was neglecting everything about myself. It started hurting my work; I started not being confident in my work. That’s when I realized that I needed to figure it out.
When your lack of self-care and confidence began bleeding into your work and negatively affecting your livelihood, you felt compelled to take action?
Exactly. If it’s affecting my money, my success and my growth, there’s something wrong that I need to address–no matter how painful it is. Then, that’s when I realized I’m the one causing the laziness and my lack of success.
Did quarantine change how you confront your pain?
That’s literally what messed me up, quarantine. I thought I had Corona in the beginning, but I don’t know if I created that in my head. For a couple months, I was lethargic and weak. I didn’t want to get out of bed. All I would do is sleep. I was nauseous and I’d throw up every morning. It was bad. Maybe I did actually have it.
Being sick kicked your self-care into overdrive?
Yeah, exactly. I was like, Fuck this. I have to figure it out. I need to get back to where I was and find ways to work. I started losing money. Because of COVID-19, all my clients were rescheduling and nobody wanted to shoot anymore. I knew I had to think of something quick or I was going to be broke.
I know you’re no longer in that reality. What did you do to shift your reality in that situation?
I was like, I’m gonna put the money that I have saved right now into one product drop for my clothing line, Inskribe. I created a shirt that said, “El Barrio Unido, Jamas Sera Vencido!” which means, “The Hood United Will Never Be Defeated.” It’s a revolutionary chant in Chilé. In Mexico, they adapted it, and that’s where I heard it, and [in] LA you hear it at protests, too. Anyway, that first release took off. I was like, Oh crap, I just flipped freakin’ $1,000 into $4,000. I did something. I’m doing something! Then, I was really motivated to get all of my other ideas out.
At the time, I was going through a tough relationship situation with my partner where I felt like I was losing her. I was desperate…I even got us a dog. I fucking did everything to try to save it. So, I created another merch drop and photo series called Brown Love. It was part of my vision for us. It was like saying, “We can withhold anything, withstand anything, no matter what. This is our Brown Love. This is our story.”
You shared online, “It’s ironic that I’m sharing this Brown Love series while going through a breakup.”
Yeah, that’s the biggest irony I’ve ever created for myself.
Breakups force you to be alone more, and on top of that, we’re in quarantine. How has your relationship with yourself deepened and evolved this year?
A lot. I was not conscious of reaching out for help when I felt certain ways. Before, I would just keep it in and not say anything, but now I’m constantly looking for help. I’ll be reading about how I feel–like with anxiety, I’ll read articles. It helps me feel like someone’s talking to me and telling me, “Oh, no, There’s studies showing that you’re good. There’s statistics showing that you’re not gonna die right now. You’re gonna be OK.” I’ve been doing a lot of self-help shit. Last night, I was reading; I was like, Is it me? Is it other people? Is there something wrong with me? Am I doing something wrong? But regardless, people are either gonna want you because they want you or not want you at all. At this point, I’m just being unapologetically me, because you can literally have everything one day, and the next have nothing. My main goal at this point is trying to ground myself.
What do you do to comfort yourself when things get dark?
I think about how bad it’s been multiple times before. I think of the worst situations I’ve ever been in and realize it’s not shit compared to what I’ve been through. I literally close my eyes and remember the shittiest moment of my life. I’m like, This thing ain’t shit. Then I feel like, This is nothing. I’m freakin’ blessed. I wake up in a penthouse. I get to go on my rooftop and drink coffee. I get to call my mom; she’s still alive.
What do you wish younger Enkrypt knew about self-love?
Nobody cares. I used to think everyone cared. I used to have this really bad insecurity with my teeth. I don’t have any photos of me in high school because I didn’t want pictures of my teeth. When I was a kid, people would say, “Aw, your teeth are fucked up!” and “Oh, you’re so pretty, only if you didn’t have teeth like that.” And then, growing up…you know Mexican households, they just show you tough love. They would give me a hard time because I was pretty, so they do the opposite so you don’t get a big head. Co-workers would call me “Roach.” I was funny because instead of me thinking I’m good looking, I’d only look at the things I wanted to fix with myself.
Do you wish you’d been able to actually see yourself and just say, “Who cares?”
Yes. Nobody really cares. When I had crooked teeth, I told my friends I was going to get braces and they said, “No! Your teeth make you, you. I love your teeth! You shouldn’t get braces!” But everyone had been saying bad things about my teeth forever. But I listened to myself and I got braces, and the exact same people are like, “Oh my God, you look so good!” I realized my people are gonna love me no matter what. If I could’ve seen who I truly was, I would have loved myself a lot more back then. Every relationship I was in, I’d always feel like I was too much. In reality, those were the dopest things about me, the things I couldn’t even see about myself. Being able to recognize that would have saved me a lot of heartache and insecurity.