C: I’ve dealt with so much shit because of this lifestyle. Everyone from my neighborhood…everyone I grew up with, my brothers, my mom’s family…are dead, locked up, or out on the streets. But that’s reality. So when I see these little girls that tell me they look up to me…I can relate but when they start to glorify it…that’s when I step in and tell them my experiences from it. I’ve lost too many friends. I’ve lost] two friends this year to the streets. I’ve been stabbed before, I’ve been shot at, I’ve got jumped by grown men. And then I see a lot of these guys who are in gangs rape women, like I’ve seen it in front of me and it’s like you feel so helpless at times…and especially like the older cats and gangs that [make] you feel helpless. Especially being a woman [and] part of this. You feel sometimes like the men are the ones who take charge…usually it’s about money, drugs and just, you know, power.
AR: WAS THERE A CERTAIN EXPERIENCE THAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET OUT OF BEING IN A GANG?
C: A lot of my friends died at a young age. I had a friend named Alex who was like one of my closest friends. I must’ve been 14 at the time. He was already like 19 or 20. He told me it’s too late for him. He’s like, you’re still young and you got way more to go. One night we were at a party, you know, things went wrong. Alex, unfortunately, was murdered and I saw it and it freaked me the hell out because that was like one of my best friends and it just, it fucking tore me apart. It didn’t take me a long time though. It took me until I was… around 15 or 16 [to be] like fully done. These traumatic moments that you experience you always carry with you…not a day goes by that I don’t think about a lot of my friends whose lives were taken.
AR: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT GIRLS WANTING TO DRESS LIKE CHOLAS OR WANTING TO BE ONE, WITHOUT REALIZING THAT IT’S SO MUCH DEEPER?
C: It’s a certain kind of look, but it’s more to just that, you know, people think like, put on a pair of Dickies or Nikes like I’m a Cholo or Chola. No, like, it’s so much deeper than that, you know, I mean it goes way back to the Pachucos and zoot suiters. People don’t understand our struggles or what we had to go through… like what even those clothes put us through. And like just going back to what you said… a lot of people glorify it as a trend, but it’s not that.
AR: DO YOU HAVE ANY CURRENT DREAMS OR ASPIRATIONS?
C: To be honest, I really didn’t think I would be alive at this age. I really had no idea. Right now I’m in college so I plan on transferring to UCLA hopefully. Yeah. So I’m pretty stoked about that…and I’m taking it day by day…my goal is just to be happy whatever I’m doing, and just not go back to the past and just leave it behind. I mean I don’t know exactly what I want to do in life just yet, but I just know that I have an idea that I do want to be successful no matter where I’m at. And I know that I want to help people because… I know there’s a lot of people who need help with a lot of things… like me when I was younger, I didn’t have anybody really to turn to about a lot of things. So I wanted to just do the most I can for people.
AR: HOW DO YOU VIEW CHOLAS?
C: I have respect for them because I understand what it’s like to be in that lifestyle. You can’t fully understand until you’ve lived it yourself. It’s more than a look. It’s a cultural thing. I would want to see an end to the violence but not necessarily to the culture itself.