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Meet Leila Youssefi of LvL Up Kid in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leila Youssefi.

Leila, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I come from a Persian-American household. Like many children of Iranian ex-pats who fled during the Islamic Revolution, I am full-Persian and first-generation American. My culture is extremely family-oriented, poetic, and almost always down for tea. As I’ve witnessed within myself, having a binary culture can induce feelings of disassociation with both cultural and geographic homelands. However, this outlook has also offered me relatability towards a broader community.

With the nature of the world being that humans will ceaselessly emigrate and mix races, I believe the key to a compassionate future lies in the cumulative understanding that underneath our color – we are entirely soul brothers and sisters. As I approach a new focus in my art practice, I aim to apply my split cultural lens to help bridge our differences and emphasize the empowerment and understanding of mixed peoples. Through social practice, I presently engage in creating inclusive community spaces as a proud member of the music & arts collective “Space Milk.”

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Existential realms are an invariable motif. As I have come to accept, “life purpose” seems to arrive in the form of shelves – shelves which level off (stability), only to drop off into nihilistic voids (WTF moments), and eventually find their equilibrium once again (*phew*).

Choosing to be part of the visual collective consciousness is a life path untrodden. There is no specific school or job that will undoubtedly deliver the next step. Being an artist is an agreement to live within that framework. Step, reassess, step, reassess; so on and so forth. Although this arrangement is capricious, it rewards the freedom of exploration; the space to flow between disciplines and arrive at unorthodox avenues. Coming from an educational background of both Environmental Studies and Art, I consider the interdisciplinary link made present in this process as obligatory to the development of unity. Synthesizing disciplines creates space to visualize humanity’s most challenging issues, such as racism or climate change – with visualization being the keystone for change because of its inherent accessibility and pathos.

LvL Up Kid – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Today, I work under the moniker “LvL Up Kid.” To speak to how I arrived at this nickname is an explanation interwoven with my past. I grew up with an auto-immune disorder called Psoriasis. This is a skin disease which during flare-ups covered up to 75% of my body. For most of my childhood and my young-adult years, this was something that negatively affected my lens of the world, interpersonal relationships, and myself. Even though not physically present in my life currently, its imprint manifests in great heights of self-criticism. Borne from frustration with my own impasse was a tool to help me cope; this became the world of “LvL Up!”; a realm of whimsical cartoon characters and prismatic tableaux which represent the dualistic nature between confidence and self-doubt. By bringing awareness to this hindering dualism, the playful creatures aim to liberate us from ourselves.

The emblem of this narrative is the “LvL Up Worm.” These sly, curvaceous figures cheer you on and remind you to move forward. They slink their way into view, flirtatiously prompting you to forge onwards. I employ this little guy often to encourage personal progression – the theory of LvLing Up.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
For me success is the harmonization of soul purpose and occupation. If my career is what I’m spending the majority of my life doing, I want it to align with bringing about core beliefs like unity in diversity and world peace. Although this may sound utopian, it can display itself in smaller scenarios. I recently received an email from someone expressing that one of my paintings had affected them positively. To receive a message such as this gives me tremendous satisfaction and confirmation to keep on keeping on.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Natalie Goldstein,

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