"I’m originally from Albany, but my parents are from Trinidad. It was really weird being a Trinidadian in Albany. I grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood and there were a lot of other families from islands, like Jamaica or wherever, but they all looked very African American and I didn’t. So I got those kids saying like, ‘You kind of look like us, but you don’t,’ and then the Indian kids were like, ‘You kind of look like us, but you don’t.’ Then they were like, ‘But you act really white,’ and then I got a scholarship to a really nice, pretty much all-white Catholic high school, and to them I was really black. It was very weird; I guess it's what mixed people go through in America. But I always found my crew of friends.
I worked at a tattoo shop in high school called Lark Tattoo. I was 12 or 13 when my sister got her navel pierced there, and they had all of these art books and flash sheets. I was obsessed with art, so every day after school I would just go hang out at the shop. They eventually gave me a job just doing stuff that nobody liked to do like scrubbing grips and tubes and sterilizing. It was funny because I looked like I was 12 and I was there after classes in my Catholic school uniform working. People would come in and assume that I was Bruce’s [Kaplan]—the owner’s—daughter. I worked there for probably 7 years, and I never got a tattoo. [Laughs] But it was really nice how all the guys at the shop really exposed me to a lot of cool art and music.
I still worked for Bruce later on at a shop on Canal Street when I was in the city going to the School of Visual Arts. I studied film, and probably the reason why I’ve been able to maneuver around other art worlds is because I started directing music videos and people kind of knew me from that. I was also known as the tomboy who wore Jordans all the time, and a couple of years ago I got the opportunity to be the first woman ever to design a pair with Nike. Now I’m working on a collaboration with Cam’ron to sort of replicate that famous photo of him wearing the pink fur hoodie and holding the pink phone—it’s called Violette Haze because he had an album called Purple Haze and my own label is Violette.
My style has always been really boyish, I’ve pretty much always been tomboy. I like to flip it, though, so during the day I’m definitely more of a dude, but at night I dress up. Like if I’m DJing I’m really girly in a pleated mini skirt and a crop top, but always in sneakers—crazy shoes I can’t really do. But my approach to beauty is how I am with food and everything else. I’m super organic and green, I’m all about it. I’ll do research for products on Safe Cosmetics Database. They rate everything on a scale from 1-10 from least to most toxins. For example, I wear contact lenses so I looked up the most toxic brands of contact solution and actually the drugstore brand is the one that ranked the lowest. Sometimes you think, ‘Oh I have to get some boutique line in order to not have all the bad chemicals,’ but you’d be surprised.
A lot of it is about being green, but it’s a health-conscious thing, too, because I think that you should ideally be able to eat whatever you’re putting on your skin. I’ve been really conscious of this kind of stuff for probably the past 10 years, but I feel like I’ve only been super committed to the entire lifestyle—diet, beauty, whatever—over the past five years because it’s pricey. Raw food is so expensive, so I like to just make salads and soups at home. I would say I’m not 100 percent raw, probably closer to 80 percent.
I go to a raw facialist—she’s amazing! Her name is Monica Watters, her studio is on Grand Street in Soho. She’s a holistic healer and does Reiki; I just found her through Google! I started seeing her because I was breaking out on my forehead and she was like, ‘Oh that’s the digestion sector of your face,’ and she had me start taking these digestive enzymes which help break down your food, and my skin cleared up. My friend went to see her about all this bruising after a scooter accident and Monica just massaged her and did some drainage and all of her bruises went away.
I also see another holistic doctor, Dr. Gabrielle Francis, who’s like my general practitioner. I started seeing her because I was really tired all the time and had low energy. She had me do a hormone test, which was basically a box of all these tubes that you just spit into every hour before they're sent off to a lab. She went through all of my results and told me that my cortisol levels were out of whack. She said that cortisol is what regulates your energy and most people have it as soon as they wake up, but I had zero during the day but all of it at night, which explains why I was an insomniac. And my hair was falling out and my skin was really dry all the time. So she put me on these herbal pills to help balance it. Sometimes it’s not just, ‘Oh I just need to use a better moisturizer,’ you know what I mean?
So about my products, I love Luzern, which is based out of Switzerland—my facialist recommended it. Their Radiance Skin Brightening Serum is good for getting rid of marks and scars. It has a certain kind of mushroom that helps with pigmentation. I also like their Absolut Firming Collagen Booster Serum. This cream that they have is the bomb—the Luzern Force De Vie Pure Oxygen Cream. It’s really good. I realized that these things go bad though, so I get tongue depressors to dip it out of the jar. I do it every time; it’s so annoying. I’m obsessed with the Dr. Alkaitis line, which is super organic—you could eat it if you really wanted to. Both their Organic Enzyme Exfoliating Mask and their Organic Cellular Repair Mask are really good. All that’s in it are things like raspberry, blueberry, and oat buds—and it’s powder, so it doesn’t go bad and you can mix it in with water or yogurt or honey. RMS products are amazing; I love the Raw Coconut Cream. Then Weleda for deodorant, and EO has a really good breath spray that I use every single day because I’m trying not to chew gum anymore—I chew a lot of gum.
I wear makeup for certain events, but not every day. For my face, I’ve been using this company Afterglow, I love their Fawn Organic Infused Foundation. And I’m obsessed with this eyeliner—which is another healthy product that I use—Rejuva Minerals Eye Crayon in Black Sapphire. I also love the RMS Uncover Up in 44. It’s the darkest one they have; they really need to make darker shades. I use NARS for lipstick even though it’s probably really full of chemicals I try to avoid—Jungle Red, I like a red lip. I try to stay away from mineral oils and petroleum because from what I know, they’re pore-clogging and not great for your skin.
My facialist uses these sponges from Prosana, which I’ll use to take makeup off even though I have this Clarisonic thing—I always forget to charge it. And I always try to clean up my eyebrows, but I’m just too afraid. A long time ago, when I was in high school, I used to pluck them really thin—who didn’t? Now I’m just letting go.
For my hair I was using Giovanni Hair Tea Tree Triple Treat Invigorating Shampoo and Conditioner, and it was great. But then I was like, ‘I want to do a clarifying shampoo!’ And so I googled it and found a recipe for baking soda and water shampoo, and I haven’t stopped using it since. They also say to condition it with apple cider vinegar, but I hate the smell so I never put it in. The baking soda and water shampoo will feel a little bit soapy, but it doesn’t lather. It just feels so clean and it lets my curl kind of breathe because sometimes when I use a shampoo and conditioner it can weigh it down. This is my natural hair—it’s a nice curl, so I can’t complain."
—as told to ITG
Vastie Kola photographed by Emily Weiss on April 16, 2014 in New York.