September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage month. If you’re not of Hispanic or Latino descent, this celebration might’ve missed your radar. It’s not recognized in the same way that Black History or even Asian-Pacific Heritage month is, but it deserves acknowledgment all the same.
In honor of the oft-overlooked happening, Brisk Iced Tea is teaming up with influential Hispanic creatives—Roc Nation executive Lenny Santiago, designer Rob Garcia, creative director Aerosyn Lex, and designers Coco & Breezy—to give young aspiring artists the chance to express what their culture means to them through music, art, and fashion. The winners get a trip to Long Beach, California, where they’ll attend ComplexCon and receive one-on-one mentorship advice from the group.
We chatted with the twin sisters, eyewear designers, and DJs Coco & Breezy about the program and how their heritage influences their work. Read what they had to say, ahead.
You guys are partnering with Brisk Iced Tea for the Brisk Mode program. Can you tell me a little about how you became involved with the initiative and why it’s so important to the both of you?
We’re really excited about the Brisk Mode program because, for us, we’re all about music, art, and fashion. Not only are we eyewear designers, but we also DJ, and all of our music and our eyewear is inspired by our artwork. We’re half Puerto Rican, half African-American, and the program is a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which is awesome and we’re really excited to express our heritage, express our creativity, and share it with the world with this contest.
The coolest part is that the winners will get a chance to go to ComplexCon and they’ll be able to meet Breezy and I, plus the other influencers that are of Latin Hispanic cultures. We will hang out and mentor someone for each day. One day, Breezy and I might be able to hang out with someone that won an art section and the next day, we might hang out with someone with music since we’re part of music as well. That’s what makes it cool and different for us. I feel like this platform gives people from around the world the chance to be able to meet people that are actually doing it. I think a lot of people have ideas and motivation, but they don’t have the right mentors around them. One of our biggest passions, as entrepreneurs, is being able to mentor other creative people that don’t have direction, so we’re really excited to be a part of this campaign.
When you were first starting out, did you have any mentors?
Actually, when we first started, we used to watch business interviews, and one of the first interviews we watched was with Shane and Shawn, they are twins, and they had a footwear company called Shane and Shawn. The first thing they said in their interview was to find a mentor. As soon as we saw that, we hit them up on Twitter and said, ‘Hey, we saw one of your interviews and you said that people need to find mentors, be shameless, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.’ The next day, they set up to have coffee with us. Since then, they’ve been our mentors.
I think it’s also important too that you have can have more than one mentor. You can have one mentor that helps you with your creativity side, you can have another mentor that helps you with your business management questions, you can have another mentor that helps you figure out how to balance your personal life and business.
When you are serving as the mentors, what do you hope to teach to help guide these young girls and boys who are taking part in this program?
When mentoring our peers, one of our goals is to teach people to be extremely fearless and to never let fear interfere. If they have an idea, to realize that it’s really possible, dream big, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. We want to share our stories. We started from nothing. We started, literally, with zero dollars, an idea, a passion, and moved to New York City. We hope to share our personal experiences with people, because that, right there, is authentic and they’ll feel like they can do it as well. I’m pretty sure that we’re going to be around the same age group as well. We were 19 when we started our company. Now we’re 26, and we’ve been doing it full-time ever since. We are from a Latina background, and the majority of the people will be from a Hispanic background. That’s something that’s very relatable, to show them that we’re here with you, we’re family, too, and you can do it as well. We always tell people that if your family doesn’t support you or you friends don’t support you, Coco & Breezy will support you.
What does your heritage mean to you and how has your relationship with your heritage changed or evolved over the years?
We’re so thankful to be able to grow up with two different cultures: Our dad being African-American from the south, and mom being Puerto Rican. There weren’t a lot of Puerto Ricans where we grew up in Minnesota, and we grew up with extreme culture. We were always different from the other kids, and it gave me the confidence to love our heritage. Our parents always told us to love who we are and love where we came from. Being Latina, it’s helped us in the office with our spiciness, going to meetings—you know how we are [laugh]. It’s just inspired us because your heritage is your roots and your roots are what drive your creativity.
Do you think that your heritage is reflective in your eyewear or even in your DJ work at all? If so, in what way?
Yeah, I definitely think that it’s reflective everywhere. Definitely, in our DJ work, we’ll always mix salsa into all of our sets. We’ll actually leave the DJ booth every time and start salsa dancing in the middle of the dance floor. People are so funny because we are Afro-Latinas, so people also don’t know that we’re Hispanic. That’s why it’s really important to us as well because now we can share and show them how our heritage is important to us and open people’s minds that we are Hispanic; we come in all colors, there’s no certain look. That’s how you show that your culture and your heritage really inspires you, where you can’t just judge somebody by their outside. We are proud Puerto Ricans. Our heritage really helps our artwork, it helps our life, it’s been a really big part of our life. Since we moved to New York, we’re around more people within our cultures. We’ve learned more about it and felt more comfortable about it.