Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Lani Cupchoy.
Lani, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
As a multi-ethnic native of Los Angeles, CA, I am proud to share my creative works as a public intellectual-creative seeking to interconnect different worlds rooted in a self-reflexive patchwork of cultural consciousness which has manifested in academia-teaching, film, visual art, music, photography, and modeling. There have been many powerful influences as well as deep spiritual moments that have shaped my life and the different ways in which I highlight the beauty of our human experience. I am honored to partake in a collaborative stage with a soul tribe of so many other creative spirits working to transform this world through socially conscious art and who share a passion in the healing power of storytelling thereby strengthening our global community. I also seek to ignite a new wave of creative spirit and inspire humanity to carry oneself the same way we try to navigate life – with passion, light, and joy.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My journey as a public intellectual-creative has guided me toward a few core beliefs that inform everything I do, create, and teach. These philosophies have helped me overcome many obstacles. One of the biggest challenges was learning to develop seamless connections and acceptance beyond theory-based works in creating cultural products within academia connected to industries in visual arts, music, and film. I believe that part of overcoming this struggle is attributed to the many mentors who contributed to my personal and professional growth processes as well as the generations of students who deepened my commitment to education and in fostering an intellectual community through academia and the creative arts. An important part of that journey was learning to listen, share, heal, and navigate through uncharted messy worlds in order to find alignment with the vibration of my life’s purpose.
This semester, I am excited about piloting a digital storytelling course for the Intercollegiate Department of Chicanx Latinx studies at the Claremont Colleges – Pomona Campus in which students are creating short documentaries to premier at a film festival in Fall, 2020. In an effort to foster praxis connections between Academia and the film industry, I partnered with Creating Creators, Lineage Group Entertainment, and Anthony Gilardi Studios because they built their independent companies holistically from the ground up and understand the great need for a stronger bridge between both worlds. It has been an enriching experience to see my students, from little to no film production backgrounds and diverse positionalities, transform their testimonios into compelling and emotionally engaging films emerging from their respective communities. Additionally, as this course seeks to build a high school to college pipeline of storytellers, the film festival will show student films on culturally relevant issues from locally partnered schools including Chaffey Union High School, Pomona High School from Pomona Unified, Mt. Olive Innovation and Technology High from Duarte Unified, Arroyo High from San Bernardino Unified, Los Angeles School of Global Studies from Los Angeles Unified and Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory.
Please tell us about Pinkjade Creations.
I consider myself a self-contained creative and passionate storyteller rooted in social justice and K-18 education through my label Pinkjade Creations. As a University educator, currently at California State University Los Angeles, with K-18 teaching experience since 1997, I maintain a deep commitment to developing culturally relevant knowledges-pedagogies-practices and civic engagement that empowers communities stemming from innovative student-centered pedagogies, active-learning methods, and socially engaged projects. Grounded in community-based histories that have raised and nurtured me, I seek to continue improving equity and inclusion systems through teaching, scholarship, civic engagement and other creative works that deepens intellectual work and makes it accessible to broader audiences.
In 2009, I returned to my childhood charcoals-pastels and began to paint as personal therapy to cope with the rigors of graduate school. That same year, a Chicana gallery-boutique owner based in Whittier, CA, where I was a frequent customer of, asked to see some of my pieces and then ended up featuring them in a collaborative all women’s art show. It was my first exhibition that successfully launched my hobby turned professional career as a visual-multimedia artist.
I am a self-taught artist with professional experience in murals, print culture, wood mediums, digital graphics, and living sculptures since 2010. Embodying an eclectic style that stems from my unique Mexican-Hawaiian-Chinese heritage, I implement diverse techniques on different media that documents and celebrates the rich diversity of the human experience including kitsch Latinx art, Muertos works, mindful art, and political cartoon-social justice pieces. Launched under the art label, Art by Lani Cupchoy – Pinkjade Creations, my portfolio encompasses a wide range of solo exhibitions, collaborative shows, community events, installations and teaching workshops throughout California, Hawaii, and New York.
I took a traditional photography class in college and learned about the power of photographic processing which opened up a new world for creative possibilities. My first camera was a 35 mm Minolta that would capture these interesting light leaks with every image and that was the moment I fell in love with photography. I moved from hobby to professional photographer one year after establishing my label upon discovering the transformational storytelling power of images. Employing a photojournalistic approach, I began my early work chronicling an insider view of athletes and competitive sports which gained a reputed style in the world of professional bodybuilding, martial arts, Jiu-Jitsu, and boxing. Since then, utilizing storytelling photography, I have showcased several solo photographic exhibitions and have been featured in various magazines and print advertisements.
Since 2011, I stepped in front of the camera to model for magazines as well as digital advertisements. In addition, I have had the pleasure to work with many photographers, companies, organizations, and non-profits from around the world. Modeling has taught me about the power of self-awareness and being in tune with all of your senses including enjoying the moment. I have discovered that an image is often a reflection of a team of creatives – photographers, make-up, hair, accessory-wardrobe – performed by the model.
A few years ago, I ventured into the world of filmmaking and storytelling. My credits include Director, Writer, Executive Producer, Producer, Cinematographer, Editor, and Choreographer. In 2016, I launched my first award-winning documentary short “Truth Seekers” which captures the story of Bell Gardens Elementary school teacher Leslie Hiatt and her students who inspired a bill to become a law requiring that the unconstitutional deportation of Mexican Americans during the 1930s be included in California textbooks. “Urban Seeds” (2019) is my second award-winning documentary where I serve as executive producer-producer-writer, currently in the film festival circuit. Urban Seeds tells the story of children from Bell Gardens Intermediate School who inspired the School Grown Movement and made possible school-based gardens and other programs in all campuses of the Montebello Unified School District. Truth Seekers and Urban Seeds illuminate the power of youth activism, community engagement, and ethnic studies. Film has allowed me to deepen and broaden scholarly activities that disseminate scholarship in more accessible ways while fostering civic engagement and empowering communities.
In early December 2019, I released two music singles “Aloha Oe” and “The Prayer” to honor the memory of my Chinese-Hawaiian father Robert Cup Choy, who was my first vocal-music teacher and taught me how to play the ukelele. Grounded in my ancestral roots from Maui, Hawaii, these singles initiated a life-long dream of breaking into the music industry as an independent label – singer/songwriter/musician. I am currently working on my next album that stems from Rancheras, Afro-Caribbean beats, R&B, and Latin Soul.
A recent addition to my company is the Energy Institute, 501c3, which nurtures the awakening and empowerment of individuals and their families with ancient techniques-knowledge that are viable for 21st-century everyday living. The Energy Institute offers workshops and classes such as Tibetan Feng Shui (the art of timing and placement), Inner engineering (programming, past lives, ancestral lineages, balancing karma, etc.) and Food as Healing (herbalism, alternative medicine) as well as products like clearing sprays, body scrubs, and herb-based cleansing packets to assist individuals to clear, heal, and protect their own energy fields for a more, healthier lifestyle. Emerging from a growing collective of powerful healers from around the world, the Institute remains dedicated to peace building and developing a teaching community of awareness that assists students in connecting to the sacred ‘vibrational codes’ of the universe so that they can fully awaken to the power that is within themselves and express their unique truth.
With so much happening in the world today, I believe that the radical work of healing our communities remains central to civil rights activism and social justice struggles. I see Pinkjade Creations as my vehicle for contributing to global healing.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I consider success to be relative, individualistic and based on personal goals. For me, building, strengthening and deepening connections through collaboration or the “We” mindset has been key to how I seek to take part in a global community. That is why I have always approached my teaching, scholarship, civic engagement and other creative works from a space of honoring and loving the essence and authenticity in people. In other words, when other’s shine in their respective work, I consider that success.
- Website: Lanicupchoy.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Facebook: Art by Lani Cupchoy – Pinkjade Creations
Richard Briseño and Beto Gutierrez