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Meet Sarahi Gonzalez of Your Smile Is A Vibe in Highland Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarahi Gonzalez.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Sarahi. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am a first-generation daughter of immigrants from Mexico and El Salvador, born and raised in Highland Park, Los Angeles. I grew up in a predominantly Latinx neighborhood that later experienced gentrification. I was raised in a single-parent household by my fearless mother, who taught us about God’s love.

After graduating from Franklin High School, I attended the University of California, Santa Barbara and majored in Sociology. Due to immense trauma I survived in college, I practiced art therapy as a form of healing to overcome major depression, anxiety, and substance abuse issues. Through this experience, I became an artist.

Fast forward three years after the traumatic experiences in college, I entered my first showcase for emerging artists called ‘A Night For The Arts’. I will always be grateful for my friend Terra, who allowed me to participate in this event that was a significant marker of growth for me as an artist. After this showcase, art became my passion. Art was my anchor through the obstacles that tried to break me; it helped me heal, express myself, and feel in ways that I could not without it. When I yearned to use substances to numb the pain, turning to art became my new gateway to heal the aching in my heart. Being able to thrive in this newfound positive state of mind, in front of friends that had seen my old broken spirit, made this a defining moment in my life; becoming an artist was something I wanted to pursue full-time. Today, I am living out my dream through Your Smile Is A Vibe.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has been far from a smooth road for me. Throughout high school and most of college, I suffered from depression and anxiety. I underwent a lot of difficult circumstances that hindered my ability to function “normally,” such as the death of loved ones. After graduating and moving back to Highland Park, art and God guided me through healing the darkest parts of myself and gaining the strength to get back on my feet. I used to cry out to God: “Why did you allow these things to happen to me?” Now I know it is part of his eternal, perfect plan for my life. Today, because of what I experienced, I can better understand and empathize with the difficulties that most people go through, and I can help them navigate their challenging circumstances. I realized without obstacles in my life; none of the beauty that I am experiencing now would be possible. I found God, I found myself, I learned to love myself, and through all of this I am in the midst of my artistic journey where I am discovering the delicate intricacies of my soul.

Please tell us about Your Smile Is A Vibe.
Your Smile Is A Vibe is a Latinx female-owned small business based in Highland Park, Los Angeles. I make original unique abstract paintings using acrylic paint and mixed media. I recycle items to paint on or with, and use unconventional methods. The name “Your Smile Is A Vibe” came to me after a transformational summer where I met really amazing people at music shows, which brought so much positivity into my life. Because of these incredible people, and the people I surround myself with everyday, I was inspired to establish this company.

For me, art is healing energy. Creating not only heals me but speaks life into me. When I paint it allows me to be vulnerable yet find strength. It is where my joy and pain are intertwined. I have complete control, yet no control at all, therefore it brings me balance. I create because nothing else on this planet makes me feel the way I feel when I paint, my heart is utterly exposed on a canvas. It is all of my past experiences and all of my hope for the future, over countless pieces. It is my healing journey, a raw representation of where I was and how far I have come. It is everything I have learned and how much I have grown. It is my story. Creating is who I am. It is about who I want to become—all of the confusion, doubt, and insecurities. My passionate connection to my work is my yearning to find healing and truth. I want to see how far art will take me on this journey of introspection, discovery, and healing. My abstract works express the deepest parts of my soul and my heart. To me, it is about opening the windows of my soul, allowing others to see the deepest darkest parts of myself. I know that if art has helped me this much in discovering who I am, what I am capable of, and what I want to do with my life, then it can help others do the same. It is important for people to know all the bad that has led me to all the good. So that they too can find this power within themselves to change their course in life and create beautiful stories of redemption. So that we may all find the healing power of truth.

Revealing this truth can show others the best parts of me, and when I do that, I give people hope that things are going to be okay. No matter what darkness people have experienced, no matter what trauma people have endured, they are going to survive and they are going to thrive. There is nothing we as human beings are not capable of overcoming. I firmly believe this because I went through horrible things and came out on the other side with a newfound passion and love for what I do. I want to guide people through their trauma if we have similar stories, and help them navigate those tough seasons, sharing the wisdom I have gained. Therefore, I specialize in vulnerability. Being vulnerable and courageous enough to speak my truth so that others can speak theirs, so that they feel like they have someone on their side rooting for them. And I want to be that person for them.

My art matters beyond my interest because of the story behind its creation and the person telling the story. I matter. That is why my art matters because I do. And I am here to tell others that they matter too. I was created to make a powerful positive impact on this earth. My art is going to help me do that. It has opened doors for me to step into myself and my calling. People can connect to my art because they too have gone through similar situations where they felt defeated, like a failure, taken advantage of, broken, used, degraded, or put down. They too have scars that they wear every single day, but wear them with pride because they know without these scars they would not be the people they are now, or who they are meant to be. They know that they are meant to go through pain so that others may find joy. They know that they are meant to be loved. And I will give them all of the love that I can possibly share, because I was meant to love. That is my calling. To love on others, inspire them, empower them, free them, show them the exemplification of what it is to be loved by our creator, and how to create that connection with Him through art.

At every single show that I have participated in, I form meaningful relationships with strangers by explaining to them how a specific painting is a symbol for letting go of the pain that I have undergone. When I sell my art, it is like letting go of the past – a form of healing. Once I release the paintings, it is like releasing the pain. Therefore, it is therapeutic to sell my art, as I want people to have a piece of my heart with them. My art is a reminder that people can overcome any of the obstacles that they believe are hindering their progress. I want to inspire people to keep pushing towards achieving their dreams, especially little girls who look like me. My art is about inspiring women who have undergone the same traumas I have gone through. I want to help them overcome their hurt and pain. I hope that each time they look at my painting, they can rejoice in their strength and beauty.

I am proud of myself for never giving up, especially all the times that I wanted to. I have only been writing this new chapter of my life for a few months now, but so far I have accomplished a lot. I have participated in over 15 shows and sold numerous items, with over 500 followers on Instagram. I have built this business on my own, without any prior experience, but have taken the time to do research and put in the work because I am so driven to make this happen for myself. I have never felt so passionate about anything in my entire life and never wanted anything more than this dream.

The proudest moment of my career so far has been launching on March 1st. That was the most frightening experience that I have had so far. Until now, I have always lived a life driven by fear and uncertainty of the future, leading me to never take chances. I have let so many opportunities pass me by just because I was afraid of the outcome or did not believe in my ability. I told myself every reason why I should not do this and every fear came up as to why I am not good enough to run this company, why I should not tell my story or why nobody cares; all the why’s. I quieted all those voices and persevered anyway. For once in my life, I did not allow those voices to take over, and it felt amazing. I put so much work, time, love, and creativity into that website. It is never going to be perfect enough in my eyes, but it is a work in progress just like I am. Therefore, that was definitely my proudest moment because I finally said no to fear and said yes to my dreams.

My website is a platform where I can continue to tell my story unapologetically and put myself out there. I believe it is so important for POC womxn to represent their roots and tell their stories. There is so much power in what we do, not just creatively as artists, but as humans on this planet that have a real chance to make a difference. I hope that by sharing my story, I can open the doors for someone else to tell theirs and we can begin a dialogue about issues that have affected us, but have not broken us. We have each other to lean on. There should not be any comparison or hate between us, only love. I want to help us connect with one another on a deeper level and shine together.

What sets my business apart from others is that my story and calling to help others are unique. God has graced me with gifts that I will continue to maximize. I have always said I have a big heart and I love so deeply, so intensely, so fiercely. Now, I have grown to not only give love to myself but I share that immense love with everyone who needs a reminder of how worthy they are of love. I want everyone to feel loved and cherished because they were created by love, for love, to be loved. And I want to remind them of this.

I believe that each of us has the power to bring joy into the world through our gifts and actions. That is what I want my art to do; to give people hope and bring a smile to their faces. I want to remind them that they are the vibe. They are light. They are everything good in this world. My company’s goal is to demonstrate the beauty of humanity and bring out assets that each of us carry deep within us. Because I believe that together we are made strong again. So I ask each and everyone of you to take this journey with me as we embark on self-discovery and growth.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
No, I would not change one thing. I believe that everything on my path has led me to the person I am today. I am proud of who I am and of my imperfect progress, because I know that I have gained so much wisdom and strength from every struggle that I have endured which has taught me to never give up. I am a fighter!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Mi Vida, The Rainbow Mirror Project, ArtBar LA

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