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David Zambrano of “DezCustomz” Talks to Us About Family, Art, And When He Finally Thought He’d “Made It”

David Zambrano isn’t your madre’s artist. Zambrano, the owner of DEZ Customz Art, is part of the new guard of artists and content creators on the internet who march to the beat of their own drum. The LA-born and DC-based artist and shoe customizer (known as Dez to his customers) started his art career customizing cars before he pivoted to shoes. Although Zambrano will be the first to tell you that his journey to success was long and difficult, he worked at his dream long enough to become the shoe-customizer to the stars. You can see Zambrano’s artful customizations of sneakers, cleats, and high tops on countless all-star athletes, from Tom Brady to Stephen Curry. 

But his client roster isn’t the only thing worth being impressed by. Zambrano boasts 115,000 followers on Instagram, landing him squarely in social media influencer territory (even if he doesn’t like the term).  A quick scroll through Zambrano’s page will expose you to the depths of his talent. Recently, we had a chance to talk to this Latino visionary about family, artistic integrity, and why he doesn’t think of himself as an “influencer”.

M: Tell us a little about your process–where do you get your ideas from? Do they come to you naturally or do you have to brainstorm them?

DZ: I get inspiration from everywhere. When customers come to us for work, we have to cater to their requests. I love taking their ideas and making one-of-a-kind pieces from them. I love graffiti art. A lot of my canvas works have elements of graffiti art in them. I’ve always loved that style.

M: How did you get into customization?

DZ: My road to success has been a rough one. It didn’t really take off until I was in my late 30s. It’s a long story, but I’ll give you the short version. It was a fortunate combination of incredible circumstances. I’ve always been in art. At the time, I had tried to start a few art-focused businesses and they all failed. I had resigned myself to the fact that art would be a hobby for me. I was managing a body shop and painting artwork on cars, helmets, and motorcycles. A kid approached me via a phone call and we started to work together customizing shoes. He brought me clients and I did the artwork. We were invited to NY Sneaker Con for the first-ever Ace of Customs Competition and we won. That was the beginning of it all. 

M: What did you think when your designs first started to gain attention online?

DZ: The first time you see your work on a sports broadcast, or really anywhere, is crazy. One of the first times was when I did cleats for London Fletcher for his last game in the NFL. It got picked up all over the place–images were on the news. It was crazy. Another time I did cleats for AJ Green of The Bengals. It hit everywhere, sports blogs and everything. It was all surreal. I was among some of the first customizers to have their work picked up online through multiple media outlets and on TV. It was crazy. It still is really cool when the work gets picked up.

M: Can you tell us about the time when you first thought to yourself, “I’ve made it”?

DZ: It took so long to believe that I was even okay in this business. So many failures make you doubt and even resist success. I was always waiting for the rug to get pulled out from under me. I was always prepared to go back to work for someone else. I had kids and couldn’t afford to be prideful. So it took about 2-3 years of steady business for me to believe I had made it. It’s weird to even say it now.

M: What did you think when your designs first started to gain attention online?

DZ: The first time you see your work on a sports broadcast, or really anywhere, is crazy. One of the first times was when I did cleats for London Fletcher for his last game in the NFL. It got picked up all over the place–images were on the news. It was crazy. Another time I did cleats for AJ Green of The Bengals. It hit everywhere, sports blogs and everything. It was all surreal. I was among some of the first customizers to have their work picked up online through multiple media outlets and on TV. It was crazy. It still is really cool when the work gets picked up.

M: Can you tell us about the time when you first thought to yourself, “I’ve made it”?

@dezcustomz/Instagram

DZ: It took so long to believe that I was even okay in this business. So many failures make you doubt and even resist success. I was always waiting for the rug to get pulled out from under me. I was always prepared to go back to work for someone else. I had kids and couldn’t afford to be prideful. So it took about 2-3 years of steady business for me to believe I had made it. It’s weird to even say it now.

M: Why do you think people resonate with your work?

DZ: The reason I feel the work resonates with people is that they see the detail, pride, and passion. Another reason I think is that I don’t make my personal life some weird secret. I post my failures, my struggles, about the love I have for my family, my kids, my life and art. I think people like to see that. I think when you’re human, people find it easy to root for you. At least I hope they do. I always tell people: if you knew what I’ve been through, you would cheer for me! I really believe that. I have suffered for this craft. There was a time my family had to move three times in three years because I couldn’t make the rent. The last time, my son was only one year old. I had to be away from him for a month because of the living situation. It killed me. 99.9% of people wouldn’t go through that, no matter how much they love something. I’ve shed blood and tears for this. I feel like that comes out in everything I do artistically.

M: Of all the shoes you’ve worked on, what’s your personal favorite?

@dezcustomz/Instagram

DZ: Choosing one shoe as my favorite is sincerely an impossible question to answer. I have so many favorites. There are some that have emotional ties, others that have just been very near to me, like a favorite show or movie, actor or character. I’ve done portraits of people that have died, those always hit me hard. So yeah, really it’s impossible to say.  

M: When you first committed to this career path, were there any people in your life who didn’t believe you could make a living off of customizing shoes? How did you overcome self-doubt?

DZ: Committing to this was hard because of the failures that I had already experienced, some of which I mentioned earlier. I was constantly worried that I would let my family down. Incredibly, my wife had the most faith. She pushed me, and that meant a lot. More people doubted me than the number of people that thought it was possible. That fueled me. That gave me all the resiliency I needed to keep going. And honestly, for me, God. I believe that a person like me is blessed with a life like this only through the grace of God. I don’t push my faith on anyone, but that’s what I believe wholeheartedly.

M: On your Instagram, you’ve spoken a lot about how important art is to you. Was there ever a time you turned down a commission based off of your own artistic integrity? What would make you refuse a customer?

@dezcustomz/Instagram

DZ: We don’t turn down too many works as long as we’re allowed to be creative. There are occasions where we have, though. Simply, we don’t copy work. We won’t recreate something that someone else has already done. I won’t create hate art either. I won’t create something that relates hate towards another human.

M: Who are some Latino artists that you look up to as role models?

DZ: I don’t think I could name a favorite artist. To be honest, I have a fascination with all things art. I respect so many artists that I would not feel comfortable naming any, even a couple. I take influence and inspiration from everything I see. I think as artists, we simply see things more vividly, we feel things deeper. That’s what brings the art out.  

M: What exciting things do you have planned for your next career move and your future as an influencer?

@dezcustomz/Instagram

DZ: I have no idea what the future holds. In all honesty, whatever I do I know that art has to be involved. In a perfect world, I would be more focused on canvas work, interior murals, and tattoos. I don’t see myself as an influencer. I think that word is overused and I feel like it waters down an individual. I see some influencers post constantly and ‘create’ content constantly because of the pressure to stay relevant, but in doing so the product suffers. I sometimes don’t post for days. And that’s ok. I’ll post when I create something that inspires me to post. 

M: What would you tell fans of yours who are looking to follow in your footsteps as shoe artist, content creator, and an influencer?

DZ: I would tell anyone looking to become a shoe customizer or simply creating art, period, be true to the art. Never do it for popularity, likes, attention etc. Value your skill and people will learn to value it. And if they don’t, then that’s not a reflection of you.   

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A Woman On TikTok Gave Her Followers Insight Into What It Feels Like To Be Paralyzed

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A Woman On TikTok Gave Her Followers Insight Into What It Feels Like To Be Paralyzed

Atsushi Tomura/Getty

In 2009, the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health reported that almost 5.4 million people in the United States live with paralysis. Still, despite how common this is, few people understand the condition of paralysis and how it affects a person’s daily life. Twenty-two-year-old Jessica Tawil, of New Jersey, recently set out to explain the experience on TikTok last year.

Since her first post in November, the TikToker has garnered over 1 million followers with content that focuses on her experience of being paralyzed from the waist down.

In a post shared on her TikTok page, Tawil explained an exercise that might give people a chance to understand the sensation of being paraplegic.

@jesstawil

#foryoupage #fyp #foryou #whatilearned #stemlife #needtoknow #weekendvibes #bekind #spinalcordinjury #productivity #disability #medical #paralyzed

♬ Epic Emotional – AShamaluevMusic

In a post shared on her TikTok page, Tawil shared an exercise with her followers that demonstrates how it feels to not be able to move a ligament. In this case, it’s your finger. According to Buzzfeed, Tawil came across the exercise after looking through posts related to disabilities. “I remember feeling so blown away because my legs felt the exact same way as my finger did,” she said.

“Not many people know too much about paraplegics and their capabilities, so I wanted to be that light to inform, educate, and even entertain people,” Tawil explained to BuzzFeed. “I want people to know what it’s like to be paralyzed … so that they can be a little bit more appreciative of what they have and remain humble.”

Tawil’s video demonstration currently has over 12 million views.

Tawil explained that a kidnapping and car accident led to her paralysis when she was in her teens.

Tawil explained that the accident took place on Nov. 15, 2014, when she went to a friend’s house in high school. When she arrived, Tawil discovered that men were present and instantly felt uncomfortable when she further learned that they had brought drugs and alcohol.

“When I eventually asked them to take me home, they took me to an abandoned road instead. When we got to this road, the driver stopped the car and put his foot on the gas and brake at the same time, doing a burnout with his wheels. He lost control of the car and crashed into a tree,” Tawil explained. “It was at this moment that I got whiplash, split my head open to the point where my skull was exposed, and sustained a spinal cord injury — leaving me paralyzed the moment we crashed,” she said. “Paramedics said that I lost the equivalence of a ‘Coca-Cola bottle of blood’ out of my head, and didn’t think I’d make it if they drove me to the hospital. So they drove me to a nearby soccer field where a helicopter airlifted me to the ICU. From there on, I went through seven months of rehab and remained permanently paralyzed and wheelchair-bound.”

Speaking about her injury, Tawil says she was “robbed of my ability to use the bathroom normally (I depend on catheters and enemas).”

Sadly Tawil says her experience led to her reclusiveness and weariness to trust others. Still, she finds that her disability comes with positives. “On the positive side, I have become a lot more spiritual and grateful to have been given another chance at life,” she told BuzzFeed. “My accident has emphasized the fact that we are not promised tomorrow, and that we should always be grateful for the simplest things in life… I also want to show people how I live my life in the present day — what is life like as a wheelchair user? — and devote my channel to being a blog where people can get to know me on a lot more of a personal level.”

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Fans Think This Photo Of Barbie Is Proof She’s An Out And Proud Lesbian

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Fans Think This Photo Of Barbie Is Proof She’s An Out And Proud Lesbian

Mattel/ Instagram

The fact that the early days of Barbie were not quite so inclusive to all of us comes as no surprise. The blonde, impossibly figured doll with a penchant for similar-looking friends is a far cry away from the Barbie of today who has friends of all shapes, races, sizes, sexual identities, and abilities. Even better, today’s Barbie crew includes dolls who give queer children a broader playgound for their imagination.

Recently, Barbie has added a new addition to her friend group whose bringing more power to her LGTBQ fans.

Social media has dubbed the LGBTQ positive Aimee Song doll Barbie‘s girlfriend.

Twitter’s latest excitement is about a theory that Barbie and Aimee Song are dating. Photos of Mattel’s doll Aimee Song doll show her wearing a “Love Wins” T-shirt that supports LGBTQ+ rights. The Mattel doll was inspired by fashion blogger Aimee Song and recently caught renewed attention in a viral post shared to Twitter.

The “Love Wins” photos are only now going viral but were actually released in November 2017.

The photos of Barbie and the Aimee doll were shared to Twitter last Monday by user @kissevermore and now has Twitter debating whether the two are dating.

The pictures of Barbie and Aimee show the two dolls eating avocado toast. petting a dog, and smiling at each other. The images have fans questioning when Barbie came out and how she managed to nail a hot girlfriend before they did.

Even REAL Aimee Song weighed in on the images to confirm the relationship.

“I am the girlfriend,” she tweeted with a photo of herself and the Aimee Song doll. 

While Mattel has yet to officially identify Barbie as a lesbian, the original Instagram posts related to the Love Wins Barbies are proof that she is at least an ally.

Confirmed or not, true or not, one of the best parts of Barbie is that she is meant to be whoever her fans want her to be.

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