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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

23 May 2022

Text by Tiffany Chung

ØLÅF CITIZENS : Virgil nicholas

23 May 2022

With honesty, well-being, and respect for oneself and each other as the foundation of Danish shoe brand, Vinny’s shoes, Virgil Nicholas has founded a shoe company with real soul. In this edition of Citizens, we step into the creative director’s classic leather loafers and discover more about his work, style, and way of life.

 

Hi Virgil, why loafers?

“Good question. I've always worn loafers and compared to all the other types of footwear in my wardrobe, they‘re the one pair of shoes that I wear to death. A couple of years ago, just before starting Vinny’s, I was looking at my rotation of the same four to five shoes I wore over and over and noticed I was missing that perfect loafer. I realized that's where I have a genuine heritage and story to tell, so it made sense that I bring that to the table myself."

 

How should one feel when wearing a pair of Vinny’s?

“I think the loafer, for me, is like when you put on a blazer jacket. It shapes you as a person, your back gets a little bit more upright and you carry yourself a bit more elegantly. Loafers do the same thing. I want both men and women to feel comfortable, relaxed, well-dressed, and feeling confident. I think when we feel our very best, we're better humans to ourselves and to our neighbors and next of kin. So, it's really about building self-respect."

Still from podcast.

From interview with Illum.

 

Is that what makes you feel confident?

“A good pair of loafers, yeah. I think one of my confidence boosters is definitely always a good outfit."

 

Do you think good taste is something you’re born with, or can it be developed?

“I think style and taste is definitely something that you can learn. It’s about what you're interested in, what you’re exposed to and influenced by. It's definitely something that you can adapt and grow into and out of. Personally, the influences from my mom and my dad and their post-colonial heritage, my African heritage, but also the urban references from when I was a kid, shaped my wardrobe. I always go to the same things. I have pieces in my wardrobe that go ten years back and it's the stuff that I love to wear the most. Then, occasionally you add new things."

 

With Silas Oda Adler.

 

What are your tips for someone who is developing their own style?

“It starts with knowing who you are. A fashionable look or outfit can sometimes become a way to dress yourself up or to hide who you are, whereas style is about what we actually like and what you can see yourself wearing over and over again that resembles you. Also, read about pieces, find out how the penny loafer came about, the history of the slip dress, or research style icons. What makes hairstyles iconic today? Why do we like 90s fashion so much right now? Why's airport style interesting? I know a lot of men that research trends and decades and fashion and it's really been a way of shaping who they are. I've done the same, more from a research and creative perspective but it definitely helps me to also keep my own style universe sharp."

 

Who's your style icon?

“My dad. He always inspired me a lot."

With kiddo.

Vinny's.

 

Do you hope to be a style icon for your son?

“He already dresses way better than me. I think he already passed me. I just want to be a good role model, that's the most important thing for me."

 

Has becoming a father changed the way you work?

Only that I have to leave work a little bit early. I love to work, so that's why I hate having to leave work early. When he sleeps, I really love to work. Especially when I get to live out my dream. I'm so blessed and lucky that he loves coming into work with me. He's an open-minded kid and really at ease around my colleagues. I can bring him anywhere and that really makes my workflow a whole lot better.

 

At parelstudios.

On the road.

 

What’s your favorite place to work?

“We got our office four months ago and we have a red couch that I love sitting on. The most amazing thing is that our office is an old apartment, so we wanted to create a homey feeling. It's always hard to leave the office which is a good sign of a good workplace, at least for myself."

 

Where do you like to relax?

“Benches in my city. I love just sitting there and people watching. Not having any plans or any distractions, just a good pair of sunglasses to watch people. If you see me on a bench, you know what I'm doing. It’s the most relaxing thing ever."

 

As a successful creative, you’ve had a lot of great ideas. Tell us about your worst idea.

“My worst idea? Ha, that’s a good one. I don’t know, I’ve had a few. There was this one project, it was right after I started my first label, I wanted to create something that was more urban. So, we started making baseball t-shirts and the execution was good, but the name was horrible – it was a combination of three French words. I speak French with my parents, so it’s a big part of me and almost everything I do creatively starts with French. We actually got a lot of traction in France, but no one understood what we were trying to say. It was just the most horrible thing I've done. We had to shut it down quite quickly for numerous reasons but mostly the name was just a killer."

 

Name one thing you hope to get better at.

“I'm always on the go, always thinking about the next step, the next collection, the next campaign, am I picking up my son? I think what I need to be better at is enjoying the present. Enjoying the moment with people that are really dear to me. The thing I really value the most in my life are my relationships. It’s easy to make up an excuse not to meet up or make time for family and friends, but if it matters, then you need to remember to prioritize them. Time flies so fast."

 

Counting blessings.

 

Tell us something you hate to do but have to.

Every month, I have to go through all my expenses and find all my receipts. It’s a work thing that I hate to do. I try to be really good at it, but I hate it.

 

And something you love to do but rarely get to.

I love to read and listen to audiobooks. I hate that I don't have or take the time to do it enough.

 

Do you have a favorite book?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Love it. It was really a kickstarter for how I started to believe in myself and knowing that anything you set your mind to is possible.

 

What's one song you listen to on repeat?

Gold by Prince. I saw him perform it live at a festival here in Denmark. It was a crazy experience.

 

Young Virgil.

 

Lastly, name a person, place, and thing that inspires you.

One of the places that inspires me a lot is Marrakech. I like it because it's a place where I always calm down, but I also see so much culture and so much honesty and genuineness in the population. I think, in general, Africa is fun because it's very true to its roots.

 

For people, I've always been a huge fan of, it’s so cliché, but Denzel Washington. I love that guy mainly because he's really talented and he can wear a lot of hats, so to speak. His body of work combined with who he is as a person, from what he says, how he thinks, how he operates, and his composure is inspirational.

 

I'm really inspired by tech and how it creates communities. For example, who would have thought even just ten years ago that there would be a car service where you can drive awesome cars without taking anything but your mobile device, logging in, driving it, then leaving it to share with another human being? It’s stuff like that, the whole shared economy in tech, I think is fantastic. It's about being helpful to each other. If the shared economy in tech could be integrated with fashion in a mainstream way, not just in the niches where it is right now, it would definitely be game-changing for the whole world.