Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Cotton.
Chris, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I’m a product of my alma mater, Florida A&M University. During my tenure there, I was able to learn so much about myself in the realm of the creative arts because of a fashion/modeling student organization that holds near and dear to my heart. Images Modeling Troupe groomed me like a poodle at its favorite dog hotel. I’m a nerd, loved being an honor roll student growing up, and I definitely fit the stereotype of what that looks like in how I dress. So trying out for a fashion organization was out of my norm & my polyester shirts made it pretty obvious. Haha. I ended up making the cut and became a model. I was a pretty square & quiet guy, however by the end of that semester I broke out of my shell in a myriad of ways. This experience is what catapulted the creative side of myself.
Being a model turned into trying out graphic designing for the organization. We needed flyers really bad, and I decided to try making a few designs. They were not the greatest but I continued to improve my skills. The same thing happened with photography, modeling training, fashions show directing, etc. After some time I was President of the organization, I really came out of my shell and really honed in on what we now call being a creative. I knew this sort of training ground was going to be a backdrop for my professional career.
Post receiving my Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, life took a turn in 2013. Without visiting, I decided to move to Los Angeles, CA on the whim of a feeling. It took about 3-4 months to make my decision but I began to have a series of significant signs that I felt pointed me to move here without having much knowledge or logistics in place. I booked my one way flight out of Tallahassee & I had a colleague who gave me 30 days to stay in his living room and $600 saved up as my set up. Four to five months later, things just felt heavy and creatively I felt roadblocks to pursue photography and fashion-related things. Simultaneously, I had a blog that I continued writing (posting snippets on Facebook as well) and sending to a small group of friends via email. At the top of 2014, I received a Facebook message from an individual who told me I should write a book. It really had me consider doing it, which eventually led to self-publishing “Receive this Moment: The Gift that Keeps on Giving.” I never saw myself as an author prior to moving to LA, so it was really hard to embrace anything related to book publishing or sharing my personal writings on a large scale. I released it on my birthday & the following year, I was able to travel and share my book in 5 different cities.
Interesting enough, I also found myself wanting to build community and create safe spaces for authentic conversations. During the summer that I was writing my book, I had a conversation with a dear friend Haji Daniels, who’s now transitioned, concerning the LGBTQ community and faith. It was like I felt a burden I needed to carry, to be a bridge builder in efforts to relieve the sting and reduce the harm created by unhealthy ideologies regarding queer persons. This led me into a deep study of the Christian church, the psychological and physiological understandings of sexuality and gender identity as well. Alongside a good friend Anthony Badami, we began creating these safe spaces as a bi-weekly meetup group under the name ‘One Love Hangout’. Since then, I’ve made it known and made myself available for conversations and speaking engagements in the intersection of faith + sexuality.
Fast forward to present day, I have started a retail brand, ‘Black Vibes’ which currently focuses on amplifying blackness in style through apparel and home decor. In a nine years arc of being ‘put on hold’ on my professional creative pursuits, I currently stand in a place of a full-circle moment; now having the ability to put all my skills and efforts into a business that will express all of who I am. In the future, I can totally envision the brand expanding to create opportunities for individuals to expand their creativity in the areas of writing, photography, & film. We just wrapped up a writing competition for our first Black Vibes Star Award.
At the end of the day, I like to represent myself as a multi-dimensional creative. As a good friend of mines always says, ‘There’s no boxes in this house.’ I hope to continue to create my own lane and powerful waves in the world.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The road to the launch of Black Vibes has not been easy nor smooth. Between lack of capital, lack of inspiration, and getting clarity on what I’m supposed to put out into the world…it was all conducive for mental confusion and doubt. However, I’m learning that all of the emotions and ‘distractions’ we endure are a part of living in purpose too. It’s hard to accept that at times, but I can’t help but reinforce the notion that we can’t miss what is destined to be ours. My faith & patience has played a role in not throwing the towel in.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
What I am most known for is my advocacy and activism for the LGBTQ+ community. I want the world to know I’m a safe space to talk all things sexuality + faith + spirituality.
I am most proud of my book “Receive this Moment”. I see it as a stepping stone to the fact that we can evolve and break out of the norms of having one lane of work.
I believe what sets me apart from others is my calming nature. Adding that alongside my ability to shapeshift, ignite a fire & unlock levels in other individuals is an unmatched quality.
Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
I consider myself a pretty simple individual. On a surface level: Tiktok, new shoes, & my mother’s lasagna. On a deeper level: I love to see people hold their peace in the middle of a storm. I also love to see others breaking free from toxic and unhealthy thinking patterns. This makes me happy because we should be moving away from small minded-colonized & indoctrinated thinking.
- Shirts $30+
- Hats $30+
- Hoodies $40+
- Canvas Prints $40+
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.blackvibesco.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/blackvibesco