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Latina Muralist Sand One Celebrates Women At The Margins

“I’m here to make money and to put on for other women.”

When you see a Sand One original, you know it. With big eyes, big attitudes, and big pockets, the spray painted dolls created by East Los Angeles born artist and entrepreneur, Sand One, are the epitome of street diva femme. Raised by a single mother, graffiti maven Sand is of proud Mexican and Guatemalan ancestry, something that is reflected heavily in her work.

All of Sand’s dolls boast a name, story, dream, and hustle. Never shying away from the ultra feminine, Sand creates dolls that seamlessly merge the girly and the street. Many of are endowed with elongated eyelashes and razor sharp acrylic nails, reminding us all that femme does not inherently equal fragile. Her diva caricatures are larger than life, splayed across entire walls, taking up space and echoing a message of girls and women empowerment.

Sand’s works are part of the LA landscape and her dolls can be seen all over the city in various hoods and barrios, eating elotes, counting money, dumping boyfriends and plotting their next moves. In an interesting switch up of typical gendered stereotypes where women are usually depicted as sex objects for male desires, Sand paints men as play things and teddy bears: small, soft and dispensable.

“I don’t draw men, I draw teddy bears. Boys are toys, don’t stay stuck. Buy a new one and keep it moving,” she says adamantly. The active subjects in Sand’s art are mujeres. She paints women that are larger than life, that love hard and take no sh*t. Sand describes her dolls as young women, between the ages of 15 and 35: “My dolls and bad bitches, they’re rude, and they’re selfish with their time.”

When Sand first started painting Dolls on the sides of trucks and buildings, they were not imbued with the weight and meaning that they are known for now. “My dolls had no meaning. As I got older and started painting more," she explains, "I met other women and heard their stories, and my dolls began to evolve and change.” It was in 2010 that Sand began to create dolls with names, personalities and stories. One of them, known as Stacks, is a hustler. Her boyfriend, a teddy bear known as Blue Panda, is a weed dealer. In true f**kboy fashion, Blue Panda cheated on Stacks, so Stacks did what she had to do— left Blue Panda on the street, and kept it moving. Another one of Sand’s character's is named Cakes. “Cakes is for the dark skinned girls. Cakes is for the Black girls and the dark skinned Mexican girls, las Oaxaqueñas,” Sand notes. Like Cakes and Stacks, each doll that Sand brings to life has her own identity and character traits, a quality that draws so many women to Sand’s work.

When one thinks of fine art and art collectors, rarely do we think of Latinas from East LA, much less single mothers, strippers and hustlers. Art collection is often reserved for the white, affluent and connected. Sand One, however, is confident that her work and vision are more than worthy of the “fine art” moniker, and the people that buy and appreciate her art challenge the notion that art collection is solely a white or elitist enterprise.

My can shakes bring all the boys to the yards 💸💫

A photo posted by Sand (@sandoner) on

The fans who collect Sand’s art are women that connect with her work on a deeply emotional level: “They understand where I come from. They’re women like me and they get the meaning behind my dolls like Smooth Hustler and Mascara." She insists that although her art is valuable, she wants it to be accessible and affordable to her fans and collectors.

Like the subjects of her work, Sand is a go getter and an entrepreneur who always has new projects underway. Most recently, Sand designed her own line of leggings and phone chargers, which feature her doe-eyed beauts front and center. A Sand collector (like Betsey Johnson, for example) might own a $5,000 painting on canvas, or a $10 air freshener or phone charger. Sand has branched out her production to include products because for Sand, “creating products is a way for my collectors to have my art. A product like a charger is more affordable than a canvas."

While hustling and financial gain are major themes in Sand’s work, heartache and rejection figure prominently in the lives of her dolls. “Part of being a woman is heartbreak," she adds. "Girls, my collectors, see my dolls in the streets on their daily commute. My dolls have been with them through abortions, miscarriages, single motherhood, jail time.”

After 3am 💅🏼💸💫

A photo posted by Sand (@sandoner) on

And although her dolls experience relationship drama and deal with soft toy fuckboys, they don’t allow emotional pain to keep them stagnant or to derail them from their dreams and goals. “Put your feelings in a box and get this money," Sand pontificates. Her philosophies toward relationships and sorrow have a lot to do with the realities of living life female, especially if you don’t come from money and have safety nets to fall back on in times of crisis. There are many women who don’t have the luxury of taking time off to mourn after a major life event or crisis, for example, who have to get back up and continue working in order to survive and take care of their loved ones—even in the face of immense sadness or trauma. Sand’s work speaks to women who work hard because no one else is there to take care of them.

“I wanna put on for the single moms, the hustlers, the bad bitches, make-up artists, girls that sell waist trainers, strippers," she says. Her work recognizes and embraces women who are often looked down on because their socio-economic class, race, and work fall outside the parameters of "respectable" womanhood and femininity.

Perhaps one of the major reasons why Sand has cultivated such a loyal following is because of the way that she actively engages her fans and followers on social media and in person. Sand utilizes Snapchat and other social media platforms to not only promote her work, but to bring her fans into the fold of her life and business. Sand is known to post extensive Snapchat stories, providing play by plays of her daily life and grind. Her fans are included in every step of her creative process, from the moment she wakes up in the morning to her late night sketching sessions before bed. Sand uses Snapchat as a way to disseminate information and advise to her followers on how to start your own business, get your name heard and seen, and rid any negative people from your life.

Classy California Chola 🔪💸💗

A photo posted by Sand (@sandoner) on

“Act like you have $1500 to spend every day. Don’t waste it. Don’t spend it on fuckboys," she preaches, "don’t spend it on lurking, spend it on yourself. Double up on that life money.”

When Sand is getting ready to paint a new wall, she puts the word out to all of her followers so that they can join her while she creates. When Sand is painting a new doll in the streets of LA, you can be sure that a group of her followers will be there to join in her creative process: “When I climb up on a ladder to paint a wall, it’s a congregation of bad bitches that show up and bring the hustle."

Sand also maintains an open studio where her followers can drop in, buy art and connect. As much as Sand gives to her fans, they give to her in word and deed. During our interview at Sand’s Downtown Los Angeles workspace, a Sand art collector named Evo came by the studio and handed Sand a custom leather wallet with one of her signature dolls imprinted on the front.

"This is dope,” Sand tells her fan “where did you get this?”

Evo, a Latina who has been following Sand’s work for about two years now, asked her brother to create the leather wallet as a gift for Sand and as an idea for a future business collaboration. Sand had no idea Evo would be bringing her a prototype of a new product featuring one of her dolls, and it was just a coincidence that I happened to be there to witness this warm moment between Sand and one of her loyal collectors.

I'll be mommy and daddy 💗👶🏻 #mothersday

A photo posted by Sand (@sandoner) on

While Sand may have a loyal female following, there are a lot of men out there who are not so fond of her or her message: “This is a girl movement that makes guys scared. I’ve had female fans tell me that their boyfriends heard them watching and listening to my snap story. Their boyfriends told them to stop following Sand One."

For a lot of her fans Sand is more than an artist, she’s a confidant and friend. “Girls message me and tell me their life story," she divulges. "Girls have messaged me to tell me that their boyfriends abuse them and I’ve told them that they can be one of my art collectors once they dump their abusive boyfriends."

One thing that Sand makes clear is that abuse from men is always unacceptable, a message that she consistently delivers to her followers. It’s not just insecure boyfriends that have a problem with Sand though. She's experienced hate from male artists as well. “Guys have tried to come after me and take my walls," she says.

In spite of any negativity or hurt feelings from men in the game, Sand has built the foundation of an empire for herself and shows no signs of burnout. Her art has taken her across the globe, from Miami to Japan, Mexico, Guatemala and Thailand.

Nothing 💸

A photo posted by Sand (@sandoner) on

In Thailand Sand was featured on the cover of the Bangkok Post’s weekly magazine, The Brunch. On her roster of impressive accomplishments includes collaborations with Urban Decay, Jeffrey Campbell Shoes, Sheikh Shoes, Red Bull, Levi’s and NBA Cares, to name a few. Always staying true to her roots, Sand continues to participate in Latino Heritage and Women’s empowerment events with the Mexican Embassy, the City of Los Angeles and the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. Sand’s street murals have been featured in National Geographic and LA Weekly, and Sand has also been featured in segments and documentaries on Latin networks like Univision and Latination TV.

It seems that there is no cap on Sand’s imagination and the future is bright for this diva. We're beyond excited to see what the future has in store for Sand, and it’s clear that on her way to the top, she’ll be bringing a gang of other women up with her: “I’m here to make money and to put on for other women.” —Mala Muñoz

Get a glimpse of Sand’s art and life here, or follow her on Instagram.

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Netflix Unveils New Teaser, Release Date For Highly Anticipated ‘Selena’ Series

A new trailer for Netflix’s upcoming series on Tejano singing legend, Selena, has arrived. The streaming giant unveiled the teaser and official release for the highly anticipated Selena: The Series on Tuesday (Oct. 6).

The Grammy winner is portrayed by actress Christian Serratos, best known for her role on The Walking Dead. Standing at just over a minute-long, the teaser shows Serratos on stage while Selena’s “Como La Flor” plays in the background.

A native of Texas, the Latin singer sold approximately 30 million records world wide and remains a music icon decades after her death. Having already found success in the Latin arena, the 23 year old was on the brink of crossing over into the American music market when she was shot to death by Yolanda Saldivar, a friend and former manager of her Selena Etq. boutique. Saldivar, 60, will be eligible for parole in 2025.

Since her passing, Selena has received several accolades and honors including a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a Madame Tussauds wax figure, and a MAC lipstick collection honoring her memory.

Selena: The Series debuts on Netflix on Dec. 4.

Watch the trailer below.

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Supreme Court Blocks Trump Administration’s Attempt To End DACA

The Supreme Court voted to block the Trump Administration's attempt to end the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program on Thursday (June 18). The decision, handed down in a 5-4 vote, protects 800,000 DACA recipients who came to the U.S. as children, from being deported.

The SCOTUS vote delays the Administration’s potential efforts to rescind DACA versus blocking it indefinitely. The court ruling determined that a DACA reversal is not unconstitutional.

“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Justice John Roberts wrote.

Roberts, the swing voter, joined Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer. The remaining Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorusch, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh, voted to rescind.

Sotomayor was the only Justice who acknowledged the argument that ending DACA was motivated by discrimination against Latinos, who make up a large percentage of DREAMers.

Former President Barack Obama, who created DACA in 2012, reacted to the SCOTUS decision on Twitter. “Eight years ago this week, we protected young people who were raised as part of our American family from deportation. Today, I’m happy for them, their families, and all of us.

“We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us American are our shared ideals. And now to stand up for those ideals, we have to move forward and elect @JoeBiden and a Democratic Congress that does its job, protects DREAMers, and finally creates a system that truly worthy of this nation of immigrants once and for all.”

...and now to stand up for those ideals, we have to move forward and elect @JoeBiden and a Democratic Congress that does its job, protects DREAMers, and finally creates a system that’s truly worthy of this nation of immigrants once and for all.

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 18, 2020

Thursday's SCOTUS ruling hands a second blow to the Trump Administration in a matter of days. Earlier in the week, the SCOTUS voted to add a provision to the 1964 Civil Rights Acts that bans employers from discrimination based on sexual orientation of gender identity.

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Carlos Perez

Anuel AA Breaks Free

In 2015, an entourage of close to 30 men drew guns among one another during a traditional Christmas parranda in Puerto Rico. The scene turned into something straight out of a movie when a pair of gangsters clandestinely attempted to kidnap local rapper Anuel AA. After a brief scuffle and flagrant shouting match, however, the man born Emmanuel Gazmey Santiago went on to finish the evening’s holiday spree in the boisterous company of his loyal posse.

Months later, after ushering in the new year on a promising note by featuring on one of Latin trap’s first global hits – De La Ghetto’s sex anthem “La Ocasion” with Arcangel and Ozuna – someone delivered Anuel AA a divine premonition of sorts: “If you keep talking about this stuff in your songs, something really ugly is going to happen to you.”

A Puerto Rican music legend, Hector “El Father” of reggaeton-turned-son of God, paid Anuel a visit to share his foreboding message. “He and I did not know each other,” explained Anuel, who prides himself on waxing poetics about the real-life experiences Hector was concerned with, “but God spoke to him and Hector felt he needed to reach out to me. When he warned me, he said it with so much conviction that he even cried.”

Having forged a legacy of his own as one of the key trailblazing reggaeton entertainers of the ‘90s who later signed a deal with JAY-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records, Hector – now a devoted Christian – understood life imitated art when it came to Anuel’s lyrics.

“My lyrics talked a lot about God and the devil, so when he told me that,” Anuel continued, “I knew I needed to make some changes. Those themes, good versus evil, they were my mark and what separated me from the rest.”

On April 3, 2016, just two weeks after meeting with Hector, Anuel was arrested and held in Guaynabo’s correctional institution on charges of illegal gun possession. Following his biggest musical break yet, just as he was touching the cusp of international stardom, a court judge sentenced Anuel to 30 months in federal prison without bail.

Raised east of San Juan, in the Puerto Rican city of Carolina, Anuel AA has a lot in common with many of my favorite MCs: he’s charming, resolute, and lyrically gifted, yet marred by a criminal past, complicit misogyny and the constant struggle between right and wrong. “I had no choice but to carry those weapons with me, because of the issues I had on the street,” the rapper said to VIBE Viva over the phone, while quarantined in Miami. “I thought to myself I’d rather be locked up than found dead.”

Indeed, Anuel had evaded his probable demise when he was nearly abducted and landed right behind bars months later, fulfilling a prophecy that cost him both his freedom and a flourishing start at the tipping point of trap music en Español. “I was being forced to reckon with all the bad things I had done for money in the past,” Anuel expressed, regretfully. “I started reading the Bible for the first time and realized that my talent and blessings came from God, not anywhere else.”

Anuel had begun to take music seriously around the same time his father, José Gazmey, was laid off from his coveted A&R position at Sony Music. With his back against the wall, a scrappy Anuel left home at 15 and began to engage in felonious activity to help provide for his family and finance his music endeavors.

Like many rappers on the island, Anuel was influenced by popular culture and trends on the mainland, most discernibly by contemporary trap. Anuel understood the genre’s synonymy with street life and the drug enterprise and immediately took to Messiah El Artista, a Dominican-American rapper VIBE profiled for championing Spanish-language trap music all over New York.

“I figured if Latin trap was doing well in New York, it was for sure going to pop in Puerto Rico,” said Anuel, who had signed with the Latino division of Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group the year prior to his arrest. “I spent about a month in New York before I returned to Puerto Rico. Then I started to release all the songs I had, one by one, and they began to gain popularity.”

While artists like J. Balvin helped breathe new life into the reggaeton genre in Colombia, Anuel wanted to spearhead a movement in Puerto Rico with a sound all their own. “I recorded the ‘Esclava’ remix with Bryant Myers and it might not have taken off worldwide, but it became a huge trap song in Puerto Rico.”

Akin to the heydays of reggaeton, an Afro-Caribbean genre-fusing hip-hop and reggae that originated in Puerto Rico, trap music was considered lowbrow and was heavily criticized for its vulgarity, violence, and explicit lyrics. Puerto Rican critics and artists alike had very little faith in the music’s potential and therefore denounced it. “DJ Luian, who is like a brother to me, couldn’t understand why I wanted to put all my energy into music that none of our artists wanted to sing.”

“Reggaeton went dormant for years,” he continued. “It was necessary to make trap music, because it felt like reggaeton was stuck in another era.” A self-described student of the late and oft-controversial Tupac Shakur, Anuel thought reggaeton had reached its pinnacle and believed Latin trap would be its successor.

Songs like “Nunca Sapo,” where Anuel channels Rick Ross’ Teflon Don ethos and spits a grimy slow-tempo flow over a sinister 808-laden instrumental, helped put a face to Anuel’s little-known name in the US. On cuts like Farruko’s “Liberace,” Anuel speeds up his delivery for fun and plays on the “Versace” rhythm popularized by Migos, who all hail from Atlanta—the widely credited birthplace of trap music.

For Anuel, whose life mantra “real hasta la muerte” is now a famous hashtag, music aspirations had little to do with radio play. Anuel, 27, was largely concerned with dominating the digital space, especially while incarcerated. Despite his arrest, he continued to release music from behind prison walls while his team fed his massive following up-to-date content.

Hear This Music CEO, DJ Luian heeded what Anuel was trying to accomplish and began to work with Bad Bunny, the Latin Grammy-winning artist and star voice of the current Latin trap movement. “When I was locked up, Luian helped develop Bad Bunny and he basically became in charge of keeping trap alive while I was away,” said Anuel, who ironically came under fire recently and was accused of throwing shade at Bad Bunny for the video treatment of “Yo Perreo Sola,” in which the rapper-singer dresses in drag as a stance against toxic masculinity.

“I couldn’t believe something like this was going viral,” Anuel interrupted anxiously before I could expound on a question concerning their relationship. “It looked like it was something that was edited or put together to make my Instagram posts read that way. I immediately texted Bad Bunny about it and he was like, ‘Don’t worry, people are always going to be talking sh*t.’”

Anuel considers Bad Bunny a genius at what he does and maintains that despite not knowing each other very well, he and his fellow compatriot are friendly collaborators with a working rapport: “When he and I do a new song together, what will people say then?”

Today, the collective jury will reach a verdict upon listening to Anuel’s newly-released sophomore studio album Emmanuel, where fans will find a track titled “Hasta Que Dios Diga,” a sultry, mid-tempo reggaeton number. Fans can expect to hear a star-studded project riddled with guest features, including Tego Calderón, Daddy Yankee, Enrique Iglesias, J. Balvin, Ozuna, and Karol G, to name a few.

Discussing life during a global pandemic, Anuel spoke fondly of his partner-in-rhyme, Colombian singer-songwriter Karol G. “She’s the love of my life. She’s been there with me through the good and bad. People who really love you are the ones who stand firm by you when things are bleak. In my toughest moments, Karol was there. She’s shown me how to be a better man,” he gushed.

“Karol comes off as super feminine—which she is, but Karol also has a really tough masculine side,” Anuel laughed heartily on the other end of the line. “She rides motorcycles and likes taking them up these crazy hills. She rides jet skis too! She’s like a dude, haha. We work well together and we give each other advice all the time.”

The pair are making the most of quarantine life in South Florida, releasing a self-directed and self-shot music video for their joint single “Follow,” a reference to flirting over social media in the era of social-distancing, the idea that shooting one’s proverbial shot can lead to a budding romance.

On July 17, 2018, Anuel dropped his debut studio album, Real Hasta La Muerte, hours before he was released from jail. By September, the RIAA certified his introduction to the game platinum, garnering the attention of Roc Nation artist Meek Mill. When the Philly wordsmith released his fourth studio LP in November of the same year, followers were geeked to learn Anuel had earned himself a place on Meek’s highly anticipated Championships album with “Uptown Vibes.”

I always wanted you and anuel aa to make a track together bc i feel like he’s the meek mill of spanish trap , how was it working with him ?

— Nagga (@naggareports) December 17, 2018

“Recording with Meek Mill for me was like when Allen Iverson played with Michael Jordan for the first time,” Anuel said, singing praises about their first-ever partnership. “I’m a huge fan of Meek; when his music took off I was still in the streets, so I related and identified with a lot of the things he was saying.”

“Meek doesn’t understand a lick of Spanish,” he mused in jest, “but he’s always with a bunch of Latinos. When I speak to him he says, ‘I don’t know what you’re saying, but my Spanish [speaking] ni**as tell me you be talking that sh*t!’”

Anuel leveraged his knack for storytelling and released “3 de Abril” earlier this year, an emotional freestyle about the day he was arrested and a graphic snapshot of his trials and tribulations.

“I did things without caring about the consequences. I thought I was a man because I was street smart. Now I know what it’s like to lose everything, so I wanted to talk more about my life and the experiences of me and my family,” Anuel described the inspiration behind the song.

Following the release of “3 de Abril,” Anuel again turned hip-hop heads when he and Lil Pump shared a fiery audiovisual for their collaborative effort “Illuminati,” stamping Pump's first new song since summer 2019. This year, Anuel also has songs with Colombian pop empress Shakira (“Me Gusta”) and with the late Juice WRLD (“No Me Ames”).

Albeit Anuel and Juice WRLD never got to meet in person, Anuel learned about the Chicago rapper from listening to his singles on the radio in jail. “The same year I won Billboard Latin’s Artist of The Year award, Juice WRLD won New Artist at the American Billboard Awards. We ended up recording the song after that but held off on releasing it for a bit because he and I had respective singles coming out at the same time,” Anuel explained.

“By the time we were finally ready to premiere it, Juice WRLD had passed away. We were never able to record together in person, but at least we got to feature him on the video. I know the tribute gave his fans and family some needed strength.”

Less than 30 minutes have gone by and already I am forced to wrap my conversation with Boricua’s burgeoning superstar:

Anuel, explain “real hasta la muerte” for me. Why exactly is this mantra of yours so important? 

“I can’t betray anyone. I don’t know what it’s like to really betray someone. I’m very loyal to my circle, my family, and those I hold close to me. Being real is what keeps me humble. It doesn’t matter how much money I make or how much I accomplish. What’s critical is staying real to myself and keeping my feet on the ground. That’s what helps keep me going.”

This interview was translated from Spanish to English and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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