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

tk tunchez

This year, Pride Month feels sharp, like a sunbeam that pierces through blinds that were intentionally closed. This month marks the second anniversary of the Pulse shooting, a terrorist attack at a gay Orlando nightclub that took the lives of 49 LGBTQ individuals (mostly of color) and injured 53 others. Pulse serves as a reminder that despite all of the rainbow merchandise and legal progress we’ve made, the LGBTQ community can still be a target for hate.

Though the LGBTQ community has learned to find joy and energy to laugh in the face of fear, maintaining that energy for generations can be taxing. In today’s volatile political environment and 24/7 news cycle, it’s easy to want to shut down. Pride Month gives the LGBTQ community a reason to take a break from resisting and instead ask ourselves, “What do we take pride in?” so that we can assert and celebrate our identities.

This Pride Month, we’re featuring TK Tunchez of Las Ofrendas. TK is an artist, entrepreneur, and community organizer who is creating intentional spaces for QWOC in Austin. Over beer and coffee, she talks about coming out, her relationship with queerness and identity, and living an outlaw’s life.

Coming out stories are as unique as the LGBTQ community itself. Contrary to popular belief, being “out” is not simply the opening of a door and the crossing of a threshold. Often, getting to the door or even knowing that the door exists can take years.

 nina ho//collective blue

nina ho//collective blue

“When I was 17 years old, I had two kids and lived in a homeless shelter,” shares TK. “One of the women who lived in the homeless shelter became my mentor – I call her my queer mom. She was a dyke and a Chicana. She made me realize, ‘Oh shit, there’s a way you can take up this space and speak for yourself and stand in your power.’”

She made me realize, ‘Oh shit, there’s a way you can take up this space and speak for yourself and stand in your power.’”

Even with such an impactful mentor and role model, at the time, TK wasn’t quite able to connect the dots between what she so deeply admired about her mentor (her unapologetic confidence and unabashed queerness) to her own identity and sexuality.

“My first girlfriend was my best friend. We were best friends for years and years and years. We got together, we hooked up. I remember telling her to her face, ‘I don't think I'm gay. I think I just like people,’” TK smiles ruefully, laughing at her past self. “One day she was like, ‘I want to be your girlfriend.’ That's why I came out. At that moment I had to choose a language.”

My first girlfriend was my best friend. We got together, we hooked up. I remember telling her to her face, ‘I don't think I'm gay. I think I just like people.’

Since her first girlfriend, TK has made an effort to consciously explore her queer identity and compares her discoveries about queerness and herself to peeling back the layers of an onion. “In general, society just duplicates what we know versus creating an alternate paradigm for what the possibilities are. [Unlearning that pattern] is hard work. It's hard emotional work to ask, ‘What ways am I perpetuating patriarchy in the relationship that I'm looking for as a queer femme?’”

Growing up in a religious household, TK’s first introduction to the LGBTQ community was hearing hushed whispers about “lesbians” and how two women in her church community were being ostracized for their relationship. She’s come a long way since then and now, after years of exploring her identity and some help from mentors and friends, she knows that, for her, “liking people” has always meant “queer.” TK looks back at the support she received through her journey and makes it a point now to pay it forward.

“I think, especially for younger people, to see queer people of color at the forefront of things is super fucking important.”

As a queer mentor in her own right, TK wants the LGBTQ community (especially people of color) to subvert the status quo.

“My anniversary with my partner is on Loving Day,” TK shares. Loving Day is celebrated on June 12 and commemorates Loving v. Virginia, the US Supreme Court decision that struck down anti-miscegenation laws in 1967. “I think about that a lot because I'm in an interracial relationship right now. I couldn't have married my partner even if we had been hetero 50 years ago. And four years ago I couldn't have married my partner in the state of Texas.”

 nina ho//collective blue 

nina ho//collective blue 

Under TK’s matter-of-fact tone lies a layer of rebellion. “There are so many reasons that our love is not accepted and has been legally outlawed. So I think about June as Pride Month for being a fucking outlaw.”

I think about June as Pride Month for being a fucking outlaw.

Last year, TK started producing Fuego ATX, a monthly dance party and vendor market by and for queer people of color. “[Fuego] is a space where we want folks to come, dance, and see themselves.”

Join us and celebrate being an outlaw with TK and her team at Sahara Lounge on June 28! There’ll be dancing (TK promised us Afrobeat), QPOC vendors, and a special photobooth by the collective blue team.

Keep up with TK on Instagram and come see us next week at Fuego!