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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

15 Jun 2021

Text by Tiffany Chung

CITIZENS: TYLER ADAMS

15 Jun 2021

Tyler Adams is a multidisciplinary artist specializing in photography, art direction, and casting with a wide array of clients such as Def Jam Records Opening Ceremony, Beyoncé x Adidas. In this edition of Citizens, the LA native tells us about his early creative beginnings and shows us that there is more than one way into the industry.

 

Hey Tyler, you wear several hats. Put these three things in order of importance to you: photography, creative directing, casting.

“Oh wow, okay so photography is definitely the most important because it's what led me into the other avenues of my creativity. After that would be casting and then creative directing. Uh, wait, no. But that's hard to be honest because when I first started shooting, I was doing all these things in my personal work. I wanted to create images, but I wasn’t seeing the type of people that I wanted to shoot, so I started casting for myself. I didn’t have budgets to go to a showroom and pull clothes, so I was either putting together things that friends or the talent were bringing or even pulling out of my closet and putting that together. So, all of it is kind of important to a degree in order to make art. But I guess photography is the most important because that’s how I got into all the other things."

 

Why did you gravitate to photography in the first place?

“It was kind of an innate thing. I say that I've been shooting since I was 5. Growing up, my grandma had an old school Polaroid 600, and I would just run around with it, create, and shoot things. It's always been something that was there and that just started my fascination with it. I've always been a visual kid."

 

Tyler in Mexico.

 

What would you say makes a great photograph?

“Great’ I feel can be subjective. I think perspective is very important, not so much composition, but I mean like my personal chase. Like what I may think is a great image may not be a great image to you. You may be into colors or compositions or location, but all of that has to do with your perspective and what makes the most sense to you or what you move to personally."

 

Do you have a favorite photograph?

“Yes. Actually, I do. My favorite photograph of all time – I get so excited thinking about it – is Richard Avedon’s portrait of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar before he was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In New York, it's a picture of him on the basketball court. He's tall and lanky. His posture and everything is so elegant and beautiful. It's the freshest thing. I've tried to recreate the essence of it in my own work a couple times."

 

So, do you prefer to photograph people?

“Professionally, I do shoot a lot of people, like fashion portraiture. But I still have some weird tether to wanting to photograph cityscapes, different vignettes of buildings, or graphics and shapes. I usually try to make them both kind of work together in my work – people, spaces, and architecture."

 

Drake Jazz by Tyler Adams.

 

You've worked with a lot of brands. Any favorites?

“That’s a tricky one. I don't want to play favorites but if I had to choose...Opening Ceremony was one of my first big fashion clients. Just being a fan of the brand, that was like one that I really wanted to work with. I shot with them for a while, I did some social and editorial stuff. Then, they let me shoot fashion weeks and I worked on a couple of their shows. So, that may be my favorite one because that got me to where I am today."

 

Was it hard breaking into the industry?

“Oh my god, yes. My friend and I laugh about it now. Photography has changed. It's mind-blowing how different photography and the whole industry is now versus what it was like 6 to 10 years ago. At the time when I was in college, the mindset was that you went to school, you built your book, you took your book and you moved to New York. It wasn't until you worked in New York that you would pop off and actually get to work. But out of college it was like you assisted somebody for years and then at some point you move from being 30th assistant to 1st assistant before having your break or whoever you are assisting being like, ‘I have a job that I don't want to do, you can do it’, and then that's you’re beginning. I didn’t go that route because I was like if this is what it's going to take for me to put food on the table, it’s going to take a while. But I didn't want to move outside of my creativity.

SO I started helping a really close friend of mine who was an upcoming stylist. She occasionally needed help and I feel like that’s what changed it for me because being on set in that capacity is different from being a photographer's assistant. When you assist a photographer, they don't want you to speak to the client. But everybody else has a different relationship, when you're with the stylist and those people for 8 hours on set, you actually get to know people by name. It allowed me to build relationships and be like, ‘oh you know I'm helping the stylist, but I actually shoot.’ Photography assistants can’t do that. They can’t say, ‘yeah check out my work’ because it feels like he's trying to take the photographer’s clients."

 

Opening Ceremony by Tyler Adams 1/2.

Opening Ceremony by Tyler Adams 2/2.

 

 

What’s your most memorable shoot?

“My second time in Paris was pretty memorable and cool for me because the first time I went to Paris I didn't shoot which I was bummed out about. I always try making an effort when I go somewhere new or somewhere different to actually create work in those spaces. So, I was with Kendall, and we shot in the Tuileries Garden. There was a carnival, and he just grabbed his skateboard, and we were just chilling. It was an evening in June, so the light was amazing, the weather was nice, it was a good time."

 

When you cast people for a shoot, do you keep diversity and representation in mind?

“Always. That's the first thing. When I was starting out there wasn’t any. Even now, if clients ask for diversity, there aren't a lot of options of people who look like me or people who come from the areas I come from. In general, I'm usually trying to extend opportunities and bring more people in, to experience being on set and working, or being in front of the camera. The cool thing about today is that you don’t have to look like a runway model to book a campaign or to get work."

 

TStyling for Highsnobiety Magazine.

Styling for Exit Magazine.

 

 

What do you do when you're not working?

“Not working? I don't know what that is. Ha. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing, but I feel like my work isn't necessarily work all the time. I'm usually at home or I go to the beach, I go for drives and look at architecture, I see my friends every now and then."

 

Instagram filters. Like ’em, hate ’em, or no opinion?

“I don't use them in my work, but for stories and selfies they’re super fun. I don't get tripped up by that shit, they’re fun. Also, Instagram is a tool. If you have a business or if you’re an artist, it’s a quick way to get going."

 

Complexcon photo with Pharrell.

Maison jumpman. paris, 2019.

 

 

Do you see things in black and white or shades of grey?

“Wow, that's deep. Definitely shades of grey. I think that two things can be true at the same time, it's never as cut and dry as things may appear."

 

What's the last song you listened to?

“Introverted Intuition by Lance Skiiiwalker."

 

Name one thing in your closet you can't live without.

“Damn, I can't live without any of it. I'm not a hoarder and I don't have a crazy amount of things, so none of them can go. I do have this pair of cargo pants that are always in the rotation, and I wear a lot of shoes. I’m a shoe person.">

 

Young Tyler.

 

Can you name a person, a place, and a thing that inspires you?

“My mom is really inspirational. She encouraged my creativity and to do the things that I wanted to do. She wasn’t trying to get me to be the person that she wanted me to be. Instead, she gave me the tools to be who I am and to develop the things that make me happy. I haven't been to Tokyo. Tokyo inspires me from a distance. I feel like they live in the future. It's 2021 here, but it's like 2025 there: technology-wise, lifestyle, and how they lay out their space. Being a digital kid, it just always felt like that was the future and everything is cooler there. It’s just a city that looks cool, there's a different light there. It just feels cool, clean, peaceful, and modern. The thing that inspires me is architecture. That's where I get most of my inspiration from now. It makes me happy. I like how people think about the allocation of space, how people interact with space, and how cities are laid out. All that stuff is super inspiring and drives me crazy. I go through a rabbit hole of architecture and design and when my day is over that's usually where I'm at. "