maria oliveira

This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month vibrates with a unique energy. In 2018, the political spotlight shines on the Latinx community not only as a celebration of culture, history, and success, but also because of the demographic’s growing influence. The midterm elections are inescapable in the news, especially in the midst of Texas’ heated and close Senate battle.

For this month’s feature, the collective blue team was intentional about highlighting an individual that represented both sides of the coin -- creator and political activist. We were incredibly honored to sit down with Maria Oliveira, co-founder of Passport Vintage – a vintage shop that’s been featured in publications such as Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, and Refinery 29 – and social media coordinator for Jolt Texas, an organization that brings Latinos from across Texas together to exercise their collective influence and power.

Over the past few years, Maria has thoughtfully combined her experience in the fashion industry and determination to create diverse spaces to advocate for the Latinx community. While interviewing her at Greater Goods Coffee (another local business owned by a woman of color), she talks about her relationship with immigration, fashion, and the Latinx community.

 nina ho // collective blue

nina ho // collective blue

At 11 years old, Maria left her home country of Brazil with her family and settled in Ft. Lauderdale.

“[At first,] I didn't speak a word of English. Nothing,” Maria reveals. “I had a really hard time.”

The school that Maria attended didn’t offer English as a Second Language Services, so she had to overcome both the challenges of learning in a classroom setting and piece-mealing together an unfamiliar language. Despite the obstacles in front of her, Maria ultimately excelled.

“I won a full ride scholarship in the sixth grade. But because I was undocumented, I couldn't use it.”

Due to her legal status and family finances, higher education wasn’t an option. Maria started working at American Apparel immediately after graduating from high school where she worked her way up from Retail Associate to District Manager in Miami and then in Chicago. Eventually, her relentless drive led Maria to take a chance on herself. 

“I've always felt like I live my life for everyone else, so my big dream before I turned 30 was to do something for myself. That dream was to start my own business.”

Passport Vintage came about as a result of a timely business partnership and Maria’s “political awakeness.” Although American Apparel gave her a crash course in retail and fashion, Maria was discontent with the lack of representation and opportunities for people of color in the industry. She knew that if she wanted to improve the industry she loved, she had to create that opportunity herself.

“I've always felt like I live my life for everyone else, so my big dream before I turned 30 was to do something for myself. That dream was to start my own business.”

 nina ho // collective blue

nina ho // collective blue

Although newcomer brands like Fenty Beauty have been revolutionizing the beauty and fashion industry, there are many long-term giants in the space that tout diversity and inclusion as marketing ploys as opposed to a true priority. Maria believes that it’s important to support brands that stand for the right values from their inception as opposed to those seeking to capitalize on recent trends.

“I'm tired of screaming, ‘Make a shade for me,’” asserts Maria. “No, let's support people that are us and are supporting us. I'm more about elevating people of color who don't have those opportunities than to beg these businesses to cater to me.”

Maria’s activism extends beyond Passport Vintage. The passing of DACA in 2012 ignited Maria’s advocacy for immigrants’ rights. Her previous status as an undocumented immigrant and her brother’s status as a DACA recipient became driving forces for her political activism. After moving to Austin, Maria felt that it was “serendipity” that led her to meet Cristina Tzintzún, Executive Director of Jolt Texas.

“Jolt is knocking on a hundred thousand doors to mobilize people to vote for Beto. We want to mobilize young Latinx voters so that we can change Texas.”

“Jolt is knocking on a hundred thousand doors to mobilize people to vote for Beto. We want to mobilize young Latinx voters so that we can change Texas.”

 nina ho // collective blue

nina ho // collective blue

In today’s political climate, we often waver between righteous action and paralyzing helplessness. Living in America as a woman, a person of color, or a member of another marginalized community can be exhausting and feels like we’re in a constant state of resistance.

Sometimes we just want to be and create without constantly feeling like we have to fight. Since there is often not much representation of diverse creators, it can feel like we’re not allowed to produce imperfect work because whatever we produce represents the quality of our communities as a whole. However, we shouldn’t forget that the fact that our work even exists – and that offering individualized perspectives into our shared identities – is resistance enough.

For Maria, resistance looks like creating a space for herself in an industry she loves and prioritizing her own dreams. She’s found a balance between combining work that makes her happy and helping her community move forward.

“As I've gotten older, I'm meshing all the different parts of myself that I kept compartmentalized for so long.”

When asked about how to best support her, Maria told us to go vote. Given the current political environment, your vote this midterm elections could make a significant difference in bringing about change.

Below are some helpful dates and links to help you get out and vote!

October 9, 2018 - Last day to register to vote  

You can register to vote by printing out the form from this link and follow the directions to mail in your voter registration. If you’re unsure if about your voter registration status, you can check through that same link – www.votetexas.gov.

The non-profit organization vote.org is also another credible source that’s easy to navigate and user friendly with simple language: www.vote.org/state/texas/.

(Be wary of phishing sites and only enter your personal information to check your registration status on credible websites.)

marias-voters-guide.png

October 22 - November 2, 2018 - Early voting period by “personal appearance” (aka in-person)  

Here’s a list of early voting locations in Travis County. There are also mobile voting locations as places like local supermarkets and recreational centers. We highly recommend voting early to avoid the crowds on election day.

November 6, 2018 - Election Day

Here’s a list of election day voting locations in Travis County.

Where can I read up on candidates and issues for the 2018 Texas midterms election?

Political news sites like Texas Tribune have a breakdown of the Texas Elections. You can also search for your general election ballot here by entering your county and then doing research on the candidates on your ballot.

Additionally, Maria has also provided her own light-hearted voter’s guide below. (But obviously we recommend you doing your own research on the candidates, too.)

Lastly, you can follow Maria, Passport Vintage, and Jolt Texas on Instagram to stay up to date with their work.

tim cole jr

People tend to make a lot of assumptions when they first see Tim Cole Jr. He has a strong presence that’s hard to ignore. Some see his stature and think he should go back to playing football. Others might learn that he recently graduated with a Master’s in advertising from UT and think his next step should be working at an agency.

Amidst all of the assumptions and “shoulds” of others, Tim does things his own way.

“I don't want to just follow something blindly. We can all think critically for ourselves.”

For Tim, regardless of the goals he pursues -- in sports, career, or personal life -- there are two things that remain constant: he does it because he wants to (and not because of anybody else) and he sees it through until the end.

“After my senior year, I trained and I did Pro Day at UT. I'd been playing football since I was 6. I saw Pro Day as an ending chapter. I didn't want to say, ‘Oh, I'm not going to try it.’ and then always wonder, ‘What if?’”

Tim didn’t end up getting a call back from any teams, but he admits that it was a “blessing in disguise.”

 nina ho//collective blue

nina ho//collective blue

Shortly after Pro Day, Tim got involved with Elite Sweets, a fitness brand that makes gluten-free, high protein donuts for those who are both health conscious and possess a sweet tooth. As a co-founder and CMO, Tim put himself through the wringer to learn about and execute on his new role  all while pursuing his Master’s. Before joining Elite Sweets, Tim had never pitched before. Months (and lots of practice) later, Tim and the Elite Sweets team won an $180,000 grant through the WeWork Creator Awards.

“When you start [off], people don't understand your vision, and they don't understand your ideas. They'll be like, ‘Oh, how's your little company?’ because they're not expecting it to be anything. And then when you reach a level of success they tell you, ‘I always knew you were gonna be good!’

When you start [off], people don't understand your vision, and they don't understand your ideas. They'll be like, ‘Oh, how's your little company?’ because they're not expecting it to be anything.
 nina ho//collective blue

nina ho//collective blue

Tim’s learned to block out the noise, especially when it comes from people who only know him from a distance. Even when we were in line buying coffee before our interview, a stranger started a conversation with Tim, found out that he used to play football for Texas, and then proceeded to suggest that he go back into sports without knowing the fullness of his accomplishments, passions, and goals.

“People get excited to tell you what you should be doing. They project their fears on you because they probably tried, and it didn't work. But they don't know what I'm doing. They don't know what type of work I'm putting in every night. They don't know if I can make it or not.”

“People get excited to tell you what you should be doing. They project their fears on you because they probably tried, and it didn't work. But they don't know what I'm doing. They don't know what type of work I'm putting in every night. They don't know if I can make it or not.”

Fortunately, Tim has a solid support system. His parents followed an unconventional path themselves, so Tim knows that navigating through life isn’t always as simple progression through college, marriage, then kids (in that order) as society would have you believe. And like many of us, Tim has intentionally created his own cheering section consisting of other creators, entrepreneurs, and ambitious people – all chasing their own unique definition of success.

“My friends and I challenge each other to be more than just one dimensional. Eventually, the whole nucleus of friends is elevated from supporting each other.”

Tim’s ultimate goal is to pursue his interests in music, fitness, and fashion while simultaneously creating a positive impact for the people that his work affects.

“Whether or not the things I do are [considered] ‘successful’ touching someone's life and motivating them is a success in my eyes.”

For now, Tim is focusing on the work he’s doing as CMO of Elite Sweets and as a Manager for Gold Ain’t Cheap – an entertainment management company and creative collective.

Look out for Elite Sweets donuts in stores around town and catch some GAC shows! You can stay updated on his work through Instagram.

 nina ho//collective blue

nina ho//collective blue

mike melinoe

Mike Melinoe possesses a sense of deep reflection. His train of thought is fast-paced and ideas connect like a spider web, loosely connected by fine threads but still tying back to a central theme.

During our conversation, that central theme was happiness. Mike’s background -- black, raised by a single mom in Detroit, hungry to get to the top -- doesn’t lend itself to a fairytale definition of happiness. For Mike, happiness is about self-discovery and freedom, moving away from not only from the expectations of others, but also from his own fears.

“Lately I’ve been thinking, what do I really really want? Why do I work? How am I going to get it? Everything after that is all action. All the other shit is just irrelevant.”

Lately I’ve been thinking, what do I really really want? Why do I work? How am I going to get it? Everything after that is all action. All the other shit is just irrelevant.

Before Mike could focus on knowing himself, he had to let go of trying to please others. Growing up, his surroundings led him to live life with a chip on his shoulder, always trying to prove something to someone else. It was draining, and eventually he realized that he needed to tune out the noise and focus on what’s inside.

 nina ho//collective blue

nina ho//collective blue

“I just took my energy and instead of complaining, I told myself to be more visual and concrete [about understanding myself]. If I had never gotten to that point of understanding who I am and that I'm growing every day, I'd revert back to trying to fuck shit up.”

Of course, finding out what you need to do and actually doing it are separate and different challenges. In the past, Mike intentionally avoided traditional routes like higher education or the military, and he continues to choose the unconventional route today.

Taking the path less traveled usually means relying more on yourself as opposed to other people’s precedents, a lesson Mike is now familiar with. Self-reliance comes with its own unique challenges.

 nina ho//collective blue

nina ho//collective blue

“[My brother told me,] ‘I always know you gon' figure it out.' And that's the hardest thing right now. Everybody expects me to figure it out when in reality I'm just as human as everybody else. Trying to make everything make sense.”

In Mike’s case, “making everything makes sense” involves a lot of grinding, a lot of meditating, and the occasional sports metaphor.

“In sports, you work hard every day, you figure it out. In the realm of creating, it's not like you just gon' catch a ball and it's going to be thrown to you. What if you never get the ball thrown to you? Now you gotta to learn how to be the person throwing the ball to catch it.”

In the realm of creating, it's not like you just gon' catch a ball and it's going to be thrown to you. What if you never get the ball thrown to you?

The benefit of creating your own opportunities is that you get to dictate what you spend your time and energy on. You can lose so much of yourself – time, motivation, mental bandwidth – by pursuing what others think you "should" do, even if these opportunities don't align with what you want for yourself.

Mike’s in a position where he’s risking security to define not only what happiness looks like for him, but also what kind of artist and man he wants to be.

“I'm not trying to be the artist that's just known for being able to rap well. I want to be a writer, creative, all these different things. That takes time and understanding of yourself.”

I'm not trying to be the artist that's just typically known for being able to rap well. I want to be a writer, creative, all these different things. That takes time and understanding within yourself.

Right now, Mike is working on one of his most ambitious projects yet, “6.” The EP’s title alludes to an old apartment he lived in after his family got evicted and had to split up.

“This project is the next big thing for me. I'm putting everything into it. I'm being vulnerable. I feel like I'm peeling back the layers of what's more important.”

6 is set to drop in the next few months. You can stay up to date on Mike’s progress and support his creative journey on Instagram.

 nina ho//collective blue

nina ho//collective blue