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Rising Stars: Meet Michelle Saori

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Saori.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I was born in Indonesia but originally, I am half Japanese and Chinese. Growing up, I had a pretty adventurous childhood. My family is in the seafood industry and often took us (my siblings and I) traveling with them. My memories as a child are mostly on a boat in the middle of nowhere or a bustling city that was overwhelming in the best ways. I was always fascinated by the places we went to— the patterns on textiles, details in trinkets from various places. I always had a little handicam just recording anything and everything. Editing it on the computers at school. I guess that sense of wonder always pushed me creatively at a young age. But of course, the classic Asian trope, I knew I was expected to do the opposite. I went to school where I had to do the whole Cambridge route, I was really unfulfilled and dreaded becoming something I didn’t want to be. Also, society just works a little differently, and there are definitely expectations set on women, things I just didn’t want to do.

When I was 15, I graduated from high school and decided that maybe what I was looking for was outside of this little bubble I lived in, and very fortunately, with the help of my parents, I moved to America for college. I started in Cupertino for two years before transferring to an art school in Los Angeles called Otis College of Art and Design. And cumulatively, those years taught me more about myself and just life, more than I would have ever known. I truly think that putting yourself in new situations can really propel you to grow.

I graduated in 2019, just a year before the pandemic. I interned a whole lot my entire time in college so I got my first job fairly quickly at Picturestart which is a film company started by the CEO of Lionsgate. I worked at a cryptocurrency company doing digital and web design. Took on a whole lot of freelance projects and now at 24, I am currently a Visual Designer, doing both graphic design and motion, currently at GOAT. And most importantly, I can say that I’m really happy.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has definitely not been a smooth road. While I am extremely fortunate with having parents that supported me along the way, I think moving to a brand new country at 16, without knowing anyone was definitely a culture shock. Living alone is like a pressure cooker. I kind of had to deal with a lot of unresolved feelings that I felt about my other life back home. Those years felt restricting in a lot of ways, and I had to find myself maybe a couple of times as I kept evolving. It’s really liberating but also very guilt-ridden when you try to live life for yourself but have this inner dilemma that it’s a bit selfish in the eyes of your family.

Also, trying to stay in this country as a foreigner is really difficult. Really really difficult. You’re almost set to fail in a way. The process is expensive and you only have 1 year to execute that, and art, in general, is expensive and you have to support yourself simultaneously. It felt discouraging but I knew I had to work ten times harder if I ever wanted a fighting chance to stay here and that was a driving force for me throughout my time here, and even now in my career. I just had to prove that I could do it.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a multi-disciplinary designer but these days my work leans more toward digital design and motion. In my spare time, I’m learning a generative art software and I’m working on some typography design. People say my work has a very distinct feel to it. I’m really interested in abstraction, juxtaposition, and cultural integration.

While working at GOAT, it’s really cool to see your work live on a grander, tangible scale. We’re working on a new publication now which is amazing. But I’m proudest of my senior thesis because it was so personal and I put so much of myself into it, it just has so much sentimental value.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
Yes, absolutely! I always joke that COVID robbed my early 20s from me because that was the period where I took on two full-time jobs to try to widen my portfolio and get a better chance at staying in America. But I learned that it’s okay to just let things unfold. It’s ok to take time for yourself because it’s crucial in both our personal life and just creatively. The best work comes organically. And if you put in the effort, some things just fall into your life for a reason.

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