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Tiffany Chung

26 Dec 2020

Text by Tiffany Chung

ØLÅF CITIZENS: VICTOR CRUZ

26 Dec 2020

Super Bowl winner and record-breaking wide receiver, Victor Cruz, is best known for his explosive plays and celebratory salsa moves. Now that he’s retired, he’s showing the world his many talents extend far beyond the field. In this edition of Citizens, we talk to Victor about life after the NFL, fatherhood, and giving back to the community that inspires him.

 

What’s your life like right now during the pandemic?

“Ha uhm, life is interesting right now. Just trying to navigate this new world that everyone has to get used to and finding my joy within that. I have an 8-year-old daughter so we’re doing the virtual school thing here and still trying to manage social life. It can be a lot. But I think I’m doing a good job of just scheduling my time and making sure I’m adding new things to the portfolio that maybe I didn’t do before."

 

Like what?

“Golf is a hobby that I always wanted to start. It’s probably the only thing you can do to be socially distant right now. All the golf courses are open. So, that’s something I’m doing and my daughter has been golfing for 3 years now too. To be able to grow in the sport with her is an added bonus. I think that’s what got me even more into it."

 

Victor with his daughter Kennedy.

 

As an athlete in the NFL, you must have a lot of experience managing stress.

“There were definitely some ups and downs. Every day there was stress. I just started realizing the amount of pressure that I used to feel going into the building every day just to play football. There’s something unnatural about having that much stress on you. It’s like every day you’re fighting for your life. Especially the way my career took off. I was an undrafted free agent. You don’t know, especially that first year, when your last day could be. But I learned how to live with it and use that feeling of stress as motivation to not hold back. I wanted to look at it as fuel. I think that’s what I do now to keep myself mentally strong. I’m the type of person that has to have a schedule. I have to have things to do. The gym has been one of those things. Just staying in shape and healthy in general. I think it's about having that routine and a good support system of people you can lean on and I think I have that."

 

Is the way you train, eat, and treat your body different from what you did in the NFL?

“Well, not really because my trainer is a psychopath and still thinks I need to do football-style workouts. Which is true. We do a good job of meshing in the stuff that I would do as an athlete when I was playing and the things we do now. But I love it. I love working out, I love taking care of my body."

 

In interviews like this, what is the question you get asked the most?

“The question I get asked the most is ‘what’s the weirdest place I’ve had to salsa dance?’. Uhm yup, that happens all the time. Ha."

 

 

What is a question that you wished people asked you?

“I wished they asked me more about my foundation or things that I’m doing outside of football or entertainment."

 

You're talking about the Victor Cruz Foundation.

“Correct. It’s called the Victor Cruz Foundation and it’s geared towards STEM education — science, technology, engineering, and math. In 2013, I went to The White House Science Fair and one kid really opened my eyes. It’s the saddest story. He lost his baby niece in a car accident because the dad forgot he had the newborn in the backseat. So this kid invented a neck pillow with a device in it that would connect to an application on your phone. It not only gauges if the baby has a temperature and tells you about overall comfort in the car, but it also sends you an alert if the baby is overheating. It could have saved the baby’s life. He made this at 11-years-old. I was like wait, I need kids where I grew up to have the same kind of resources to even have ideas like this. I immediately began the foundation and started to work with the Boys & Girls Club in the neighbourhood that I grew up in, Paterson. We made it a really modern sanctuary for kids to relish and grow in. Also, with the recent renovations, we’ve done a good job of making it appealing to older kids and making them want to come back. Even if they don't want to be a part of the program, they can be volunteers, they can work there, they can be mentors, they can just come and hangout, whatever. I think that’s been the biggest feat thus far.

 

 

That’s really amazing. Are you getting your daughter involved in STEM too?

“Thank you. Yeah, absolutely. We do STEM things here all the time. We do puzzles. Obviously, throughout her school, they do a lot of hands-on STEM work too. I’m going to do a little science cooking video here with her soon. So that should be fun. But yeah, I want to incorporate her as much as possible. She’s got a lot on her plate."

 

So what requires more focus, playing in The Super Bowl or being a dad?

“Oh man. I think both need equal amounts of focus. Actually, I think I’m going to go with being a dad a little bit more because The Super Bowl is like a finite amount of time, it’s two weeks to prepare, you get ready, you got your game plan down, you’re super focused, you play the game and it’s done. But as a dad, it doesn’t end. Ha. It’s been 8 years and counting now and there is no end in sight. The level of focus to be a dad is incredible. I mean you’re always on. There isn't a single second that doesn't pass by where I’m not thinking about how I am going to make Kennedy better. Just being a father or parent in general is a 24/7 job. 24/8 job. If there’s an extra day of the week we’ll take it because it never ends."

 

Victor & Kennedy at the Nickelodeon awards.

 

You do get to have a bit of fun though, you were on First We Feast’s ‘Truth or Dab’ and Serge Ibaka’s ‘How Hungry Are You?’. Would you eat The Last Dab Hot Sauce OR Alligator claws again?

“Oooh. Uh, I would go with...the alligator claws. They were tasty. I was like, ‘this is chicken, what are we doing here? This is really good.’ But you just have to block out the claws. If I could eat it with my eyes up, I would probably try to eat it that way because of the idea of this hand on your plate, it’s a lot."

 

 

What interests you more, music of fashion?

“You can’t do me like that. They’re both so intertwined. Okay if you’re making me pick one, I gotta go with music. As much as fashion is there, I don’t do anything without music. As soon as I wake up I put music on. It just puts me in a space. Certain songs, certain energies, certain mornings. I'm in different moods and I want the music to match my mood and just wake me up. I have a rule, no rap music before noon. We need to hear Anita Baker, Shaday, Marvin Gaye, something that wakes us up like angels. Once we get in the car and I’m ready to start my day and go somewhere, then we can put the rap on and raise the energy level."

 

What did you listen to today?

“Today was a little different. Today was Nipsey Hussle, One Hunnit. Nipsey just puts me in a frame of mind. When I listen to Nip, it's like let me get my mind right today. Let me get my thoughts together and align myself. I think Nipsey does a good job of aligning your chakras with his music. It just helps you start your day."

 

Warming up.

 

Speaking of starting the day, how do you decide what you’re going to wear?

“I'm kind of maniacal about that too. So there’s a whole brain process before bed — Where am I going to go tomorrow? What do I need to put on? Do I want to wear something new? — It's like a match game in my head depending on where I’m going. Someone told me, ‘every time you step out of your house, you have to be ready to go somewhere.’ You never know where the party is going to be and you never know what opportunity may arise. You never know when someone is looking at you. There have been times where something that I have worn may have gotten me a second call, job, or opportunity. Fashion is just so important and so influential in the way that people observe you and depict who you are. They paint a whole picture before they even speak to you by what you have on."

 

Since you’ve retired, what projects are you most excited about?

“All of it. I started working with E! Entertainment. We had a show but it was canceled due to COVID. I also got into acting a bit. It was crazy because I started doing acting classes and just like anything else, like football, I want to practice before I play the game. I was attacking it from that mindset. But low and behold, wIthin two weeks my agent got me an audition for a play on Broadway. I had only taken 3 acting classes at that time and didn’t feel ready. But I went anyway. It was the most terrifying thing in the world. When I was done, they said I understood the character and have the role. Obviously, things are on hold but when it happens it'll be fun. I like to do things outside of the box, things that people wouldn't expect me to do."

 

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with New York Giants Wide Receiver Victor Cruz in the audience after delivering remarks at the White House Science Fair in the East Room of the White House in Washington, April 22, 2013.

 

So if you’re going to be remembered for only one thing, what would you want it to be?

“The person that just stayed true. That was always true to himself, true to his culture, true to his heritage, true to what got him there."

 

For our last question, can you name a person, a place, and a thing that inspires you?

“A person that inspires me is Barack Obama. I've been watching him at interviews and speaking engagements. He's always going to continue to shock the world and be a better person than we even thought he was every time he opens his mouth. A place that inspires me is Paterson, New Jersey. That’s my hometown and everytime I pass by or visit someone, it just inspires me to be better. It goes back to that feeling of knowing where I came from. It just reminds me every time. A thing that inspires me is this book I read about Phil Knight, ‘Shoe Dog: A memoir by the creator of Nike.’ If you think about how influential Nike is in so many different things around the world, it's just incredible. I think that level of ambition and the story behind how Nike was invented and created is pretty dope. So yeah, those are the three. "

Tiffany Chung

29 Nov 2021

Text by Tiffany Chung

ØLÅF CITIZENS: Emmanuel Lawal

29 Nov 2021

Emmanuel Lawal is a man of many talents: model, DJ, music producer, brand consultant, but first and foremost, creative entrepreneur. In this edition of Citizens, the born and raised Londoner tells us about his city, career, and latest project – The ACS Show.

 

Hey Emmanuel, how’d you get your start in music?

“In terms of knowing what I wanted to pursue in my career, it was from being at fashion events and afterparties. I wanted to do more than just be a guest. I knew I’d love to be part of it, do nights, program nights, DJ, and everything else. But my actual start in music was just from being around musicians in general and having a community of musicians that gave us the opportunity to DJ for them, produce for them, and get immersed in their own careers."

 

How did you and your business partner, Ashton, meet?

“We were signed to the same agency when we first started modeling. I was 19 and Ashton was 16. Going to Milan, Paris, all these shows in Europe and America, we just created this bromance from traveling, living, eating, and working out together. Being like-minded individuals, we decided to join forces to create something."

Photography by Travis Gumbs.

With Ashton.

 

How would you describe your partnership?

“Whether it’s business, creative, or financial, we both do the same stuff. In terms of role and character, I’d say Ashton is the good cop and I’m the bad cop."

 

Tell us about The ACS Show.

“We were doing a lot of radio shows in London, both commercial and underground, NTS, Rinse FM, Capital XTRA and BBC Radio 1Xtra. We had these small residency series off the back of DJs that were already on those shows and what we wanted to do is to create a show within those spaces but realized very quickly that we had no creative freedom. So, we decided to just make it ourselves and do something that feels a bit more us. Be in a position to pick the guests and tailor it to our own interests. We just wanted to give people inspiring, insightful conversations from people that kind of look like us and speak like us."

 

 

Is there anything that you want to try next?

“Not really. I just want to keep carrying on with the broadcast and keep creating spaces for me to breathe in when it comes to fashion, music, and lifestyle. Everything else is just up to destiny. I'm just happy with where I'm at now."

 

Music, fashion, travel, sport. If you had to give up one for the rest of your life, what would it be?

“Easily sport. Music is something I listen to every single day. Fashion is something that I have to think about in order to get ready. Sport is something that I do when I have the off time, it's a bit of a hobby, and I'm definitely not making any money from sport haha."

Fashion is something that I have to think about in order to get ready.

Self care.

 

 

What is the best and worst advice you've ever been given?

“Worst advice is probably somebody telling me somewhere along the line of ‘this is impossible, and you can't do this’. The best advice was ‘move towards it’. It wasn't even advice; I was speaking to one of my mentors at the beginning of the year and saying how much juice and energy I have at the moment and how much I wanted to create. His response was actually just ‘move towards it’ and it made me realize that even a step forward is better than a step back, even if it's a tiny step forward. "

 

What has been your favorite brand to work with?

“Prada. I loved Prada since I was a child. From the age of 12 to 15, I wore Prada to school. I didn’t go to an affluent school where people had unlimited pools of money, I saved up so much money to buy it. So, it was one of those full circle moments working with them. It wasn't something I did for the paycheck, I'm proud to wear the stuff because of the child in me that just loved to wear them in school."

 

Working with Prada.

 

 

 

What's your staple fashion item?

“My staple item would probably be jewelry because we change clothes. So, I would say somewhere between my Cartier bracelet and my Rolex."

 

Three songs that best represent you.

“At the moment:"

 

Name your favorite part of London.

“Greenwich, probably. I grew up there and it’s so different anywhere else in London. It’s not super fancy and it's not super hood, it's just normal. It’s so diverse, it’s got both historic and new monuments, and the O2 arena. It’s a good balance."

 

If you were to live in another city, what would it be?

“Berlin. We love Germany. We haven't been able to go back for a while, but we’ve been fortunate to play a few things in Berlin. It's not like there is a massive hip hop presence but the kind of people there just love the music and are there to have a good time."

 

Emmanuel with the ØLÅF Puffer Jacket.

 

Best music venue ever?

“The Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. I’ve never been there but I’m dying to go. It's incredible, from the layout of it, to the chairs, the light, acoustics, the whole thing. The design and architecture make it the best venue in my opinion."

 

 

Name a person, place, and thing that inspires you.

“Person. That’s a hard one. Can I say God? I’ll say God."

 

“A place that inspires me is London. Naturally. London has so many success stories whether it's football, music, fashion, community lifestyle, culture, business. So many people have made it here."

 

“In terms of a thing that inspires me, I would probably say, it’s an idea. The idea of achieving everything. Knowing that you could possibly achieve what you put your mind to. Even if you haven’t achieved everything that you want to achieve or know how to exactly, it keeps you going, getting to one hurdle, conquering it, then another. Then you realize everything can be done. I think that is so inspiring."