MOC FEATURE: RAUL ALEJANDRO
Name: Raul Alejandro
Age you Feel: 27 on a good day
Your Hustle: Senior Graphic Designer @ Nike Inc. for Global Football ... I design Soccer Jerseys for a Living ... or how the rest of the world calls it, football shirts. I also illustrate my hopes and dreams from time to time in elaborate handwriting via my instagram handle: @draw_ul
Where you grew up: Cliffside Park, NJ ... a small town where everyone generally knew everyone, 1 square mile but overlooked New York City. I always felt like the Hudson River was that divide of where I was at the moment and where I would go to learn about who I was meant to be.
Background/Family is from: I'm a Colombian American. I myself was born in Brooklyn but the rest of my family is from Colombia, Medellin and Cartagena to be exact. Don't catch me with that JBalvin playing or I'll forget where I am and have to break it down for you all real quick.
We’re celebrating men of color all of July! What’s your favorite thing about being a man of color?
I think it has to be the immense sense of responsibility that comes with it. I think the ability to break down barriers and stigmas has been something that has been the most challenging but the most rewarding for me. I think now days it's hard enough being a human being, let alone being a man or woman of color. I think a moment for me that has caused me a great deal of pride recently was the fact that I got to design the uniform for the United States National Soccer Team. Of course it's a shame that they didn't qualify for the World Cup but being able to design those uniforms meant a lot to me because of the journey.
My parents came to this country because they wanted a better life for my sister and I. They didn't speak any English and really didn't know a whole lot about "American Culture." What they knew was that they wanted to do whatever it took to give their children opportunities that they didn't have.
Fast forward to 2018, in a time in our country where walls want to be built and a president that doesn't have a favorable opinion on immigrants, a Colombian American, son of two immigrants got to design the uniform for the United States Soccer Team. Idk about anyone else but as a person of color it feels pretty awesome, that's as American as it gets.
What’s a misconception or stereotype you feel people attach to you that you’d like to see vanish?
I think being Colombian in particular a lot of people immediately think about Pablo Escobar and the drug cartels that are associated with Colombia. It's a part of Colombia's history for sure, one that we can't forget but there are so many positive things happening in Colombia right now and so many great artists that are doing a great job of changing the perception.
To the young fellas coming up behind you, share a piece of wisdom nobody told you growing up:
If I were to answer this question honestly I'd have to say that there was always wisdom in everything everyone ever told me. I think the difference between knowing it's wisdom and not knowing it's wisdom is if I'm actually listening vs hearing. I've always felt there's been a lesson in every conversation and every experience. I truly believe that. Everyday, every relationship, every experience is an opportunity for us to grow.
What’s something a woman in your life has taught you that has made you better?
My mother, who is the sun and the moon for me is the most influential person in my life. Unfortunately she passed away when I was 11, but I always felt that she taught me more about being a person in those 11 years that some people learn in a life time. I think the most powerful thing she taught me, which ironically ties back to the previous question, was when she was going through chemotherapy. As a Latina woman, my mother was always dressed up, took forever to get ready. This was in the 90's— so picture, bright lipstick, the blazer with the shoulder pads, the crazy prints on the shirts... you already know. Well, chemo really took a toll on her. She lost her hair, she could barely get out of bed, and she had to have one of her breasts removed because of the cancer.
Everything that society tells you makes you a woman had been taken from her. She would get up in the mornings, put on her makeup, still take forever to get ready. She would pick out her brightest, most expressive head wrap and walk out of the house to take me to school feeling like a million dollars. She didn't let the cancer define her. She was going to deal with it her way, on her terms, and she was going to do it with a smile. Yes for her kids, but most importantly, for herself. People will say that when my mom passed away, that cancer got the best of her. If taking the time to get ready when your body doesn't want to isn't beating cancer then i don't know what is. Those moments stuck with me because I've never believed that I couldn't do anything. I think about my mom and that motivates me to just go after what I want.
Tell us more about your hustle, what inspires and drives you?
My parents inspire me. I already told you about my mom but my dad... that guy. That guy went almost 7 years without buying himself a pair of jeans so that my sister and I had food on the table and had what we needed. He was making $10 dollars an hour working something insane like 96 hours a week. That's my guy. He would tell us that we couldn't use the word "Can't." He said he was a single dad with no English and we were kids that could speak English and had our whole lives ahead of us. Our job was to figure out how, not to talk about all the reasons why we couldn't. So, that's my dad. I think growing up watching my dad and my mom fight the way they did for us really left an impression on me. I just want to push myself and the people in my life to be their best selves, whatever they feel that is.
My hustle these days is being a part of an amazing company that empowers me to tell stories. I love being able to connect sport and the human connection into something tangible and Nike gives me the platform to do that. I don't think I ever realized that before getting there but when I see how emotionally connected fans are to jerseys that have been part of their families for generations, and then to think that I've been able to craft a small part of teams' narratives that have been around for hundreds of years, that's pretty tight.
The other part of my hustle is my personal work, the hand lettering. I think that gives me an opportunity to really connect with the journey I'm on in life. It's my real thoughts and emotions right there on paper. I never thought it would gain the following that it did but I think it resonates with people because in some way it let's them know they aren't the only ones thinking the things that I'm thinking. I like to think that while I'm motivating myself and inspiring myself, I'm inspiring them too.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what would you be pursuing?
I'd love to direct movies one day or write scripts. I think i'll always find a way to tell stories and i feel like I'm always day dreaming. I'm the type of person that will describe things with hand gestures and sound effects because that's the space I'm most comfortable in. In a perfect world, I'd day dream and just project those images onto a wall or something and get paid.
The world feels really shaky right now, how do you manage to ground yourself and not fall into a state of constant anger?
You know, that's a good question haha. I focus on things that make me dream and make me happy. If I walk around absorbing all the things that make me angry then I'm going to be consumed by anger. The world has enough angry people. I like to think that if I try my best to be positive then the people I interact with will also be happy and positive, and then when they interact with someone they'll give off the same energy, so on and so forth. It's like when you hold the door open for someone, they might say " thank you " and then they'll hold the door open for the next person. Nothing is fixed overnight, but in my heart I hope that if enough people hold the door open for each other we'll eventually walk through them all together.
Women talk a lot about self-care, do you have any routines or things you practice?
YES! I recently learned how to cut my own hair. I mean like full on bald fade etc. It's taken me like 6 months of watching youtube videos and wearing a lot of hats because I've gotten a little too ambitious. I'm proud because it's HARD AS HELL! I'm like sitting on my bathroom sink doing all kinds of wild things just to get the right lighting but thats my routine now, every Saturday morning because practice makes progress ( nothing is ever perfect and that's ok ).
What makes you feel vulnerable?
Everything. There's strength in vulnerability because I think deep down inside we know it makes us stronger. The times I've been scared of the most have been when I feel i've grown the most. I've been fortunate enough in my life to experience a few things and of those things many have terrified me. I like to think i've been better for going through every single one of those experiences, even if it didn't make sense to me until years later.
Share something that moved you to tears:
I was fortunate enough to partner with Hallmark with a set of cards. With that collection I got to do a "Mom" and "Dad" card, for father's day and mother's day respectively. When i was drawing the artwork for it I couldn't keep myself together. I thought about the journey, their journey and it was like I really got to make something to honor them. Something that other sons and daughters could buy to let their parents know how much they meant to them.
What makes you feel joy?
Chocolate ice-cream. In a waffle cone, in a cup, with a brownie. IDC. That could be another answer for the question about moving me to tears.
Which woman(en) do you love to follow on social?
I guess all of them. I like to see everyone of them doing their thing. My sister especially because of how she's been able to turn it all around for herself and her kids. It's inspiring. I'm also a huge fan of my girlfriend because she's just herself and loves it and has inspired me to remember to be that way also.
Theme song to your life:
I have no clue. I don't think it's been invented yet. It would have to be something like Carlos Vives ft. Drake, JBalvin, Khalid, and Sade.
If you could only own one book, which would it be and why?
Ha! Well, lucky for you I only own one book, The Alchemist, and for obvious reasons.
What do you want your life legacy to be:
I just hope that when people talk about me when I'm gone they say that they were better for knowing me. There are so many people that have made me better because they crossed my path. I hope people feel the same about me one day.
Shameless plug moment:
Haha no shame! But I like to be low key. Chances are you've seen the stuff I've worked on during my time at the swoosh but I'm really proud of my personal work because the most personal. That's on instagram via my @draw_ul account.
FINISH THIS SENTENCE, THE WOMEN IN MY LIFE ARE____:
The reason I wake up in the morning. A reminder that real strength isn't what you say, it's what you do for yourself and the people around you... funny, strong, vulnerable, intelligent, and most importantly, my equals.
all images curtesy of Raul!