Prospect park south
There isn’t much this 22 year old cannot do. At 14 Bianca decided to leave her home in upstate New York to live in the Big Apple with her grandma. Since arriving here she has become a successful hairstylist, published rap artist and has just launched her own brand of denim shorts. Basically, she’s killing it.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Jersey in West New York, right on the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel, a very ‘city’ area, not suburban. At 9 years old, I moved to upstate New York, and then at 14 I moved to Brooklyn. I’ve been back and forth between upstate and Brooklyn for the last 8 years. It’s been pretty hectic.
My mother is from Brooklyn, my dad is from Yonkers. My parents basically wanted to raise their children in a different atmosphere upstate. But I would always visit my grandmother in Brooklyn. I always loved the city, but they wanted us to grow up with a different ‘vibe’.
What is the vibe there? Suburban?
No, it’s very rural. The total opposite of here. The first house we lived in there were 7 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms; we had horses and acres of land. It was a whole other life. It was cool at first but when I grew as a teenager it wasn’t me.
Do you have siblings?
I have a twin sister, and I also have 2 other sisters and a brother. It’s funny, my oldest sister was raised in Brooklyn, and my second oldest sister also. My twin and I are the youngest, and when mom was pregnant with us they decided to move to Jersey where we were born.
Was that because it was difficult to have kids in the city?
I think so, that’s part of it. A lot of people move to Brooklyn now, but it wasn’t always like this. My mother and father weren’t always fond of it. I think they wanted to give their children a better life, an easier life, less fast-paced.
When I was 14 I convinced my mother to let me move to Brooklyn to live with my grandmother.
And you left your twin sister behind?
Yes, that was the first time we had split up.
I did my freshman year of high school in Cobble Hill, and then I ended up moving upstate for the next year. Then once I graduated I moved back to Brooklyn.
I’ve literally been alternating each year! I’ve been bouncing around but I’m pretty much here to stay.
How was that growing up, and being a bit of a nomad?
It was super difficult. When I moved upstate I was the outsider, “the kid from the city”. I had an accent to them. By the time they were all in high school they had photos together from when they were all in first grade together. I didn’t have that.
I find the twin thing so fascinating! It’s like twin super powers. Where is she now?
She actually lives upstate, and is in college. She graduates in May.
Are you guys super close?
Super close! She’s literally my everything. We’re fraternal so we don’t look exactly alike.
Does she want to move to New York?
No. She’s the opposite of me. She’s very conservative; she’s going to be a teacher. She went to college, I didn’t. There are a lot of differences. She’s not a city person at all, it overwhelms her.
So does that mean you guys will never live in the same city again?
Yeah, I don’t think we will. Maybe when I get a little older I’ll buy a house wherever she lives.
What’s your family heritage?
My mother is Italian/Irish/Puerto Rican, and my dad is black. I don’t want to say African American because his roots are supposedly from the Bahamas. Most people see him and think he’s Jamaican.
So what was your path to where you are now?
I graduated high school, but was also doing beauty school at the same time. I got my license and diploma and immediately moved back to Brooklyn.
How did you do that at the same time?
My school had a program where you could travel to vocational school. Your last 2 years you only had to take 1 academic class, and then learning a trade would take the place of the additional credits. Cosmetology, which I’m licensed for, involves science and math.
I moved to Williamsburg, and started working.
Do you like being a hairdresser?
I do like it. I love doing hair. I’m good at it and it’s a passion. But I don’t want to do it for another 5 years. There are some people who can do hair for 15 years, they eat, sleep, and breathe it. I do love it, and I love what I do. I would like to own a salon one day, and overlook it.
I always imagine hairdressers having this kind of community, sort of like bartenders. A whole different lifestyle.
It’s fun, and different. It’s a really cool working lifestyle, we can wear what we want, and it’s a flexible schedule.
But I see more for myself.
You currently work at Fox and Jane, how long have you been there?
A year and 3 months.
How do you find the relationship with clients, we were talking to another Bird, Sophie, who is a makeup artist, and she was talking about the intimate nature of what she does in relation to people.
I think makeup is more intimate. But the hair thing is intimate as well, I’m used to it at this point. My very first year doing hair I was very nervous. But now I love dealing with the actual person. The best part is the end, when they love their hair. I still get those really good reactions, that’s the reminder to me as to why I do this.
I would be terrified to do my first haircut.
Thank god my first hair cut ever was something very simple. I’ve given a bad haircut in my earlier days, that’s how you learn.
So what happens when it’s bad? [Laughs] “Oh sorry, it’s shit!”
It’s not really so much that the haircut is uneven; rather it wasn’t exactly what the client wanted. Or you misjudged and the look wasn’t for them at all. All of a sudden it looks like shit [laughs]. One time I could tell the client didn’t like it, and I didn’t like it either. I was like ‘crap, why did I do this?’ That’s the other aspect of being a good hair stylist; it’s not all about doing the hair, but being able to foresee the end result. What will look good and what won’t. In your earlier days, you aren’t able to see that. To know people’s face shapes and what colors will and won’t work.
Have you had to convince people not to do something?
Oh, of course. Now I’m experienced I do that, no problem. It’s going to reflect badly on me, and if I feel in my heart that it won’t look good I won’t do it. They’ll look in the mirror and feel that it doesn’t look good because I didn’t put that energy into it.
So much pressure! I feel like people have a vision of what they think they’re going to look like, and the reality is so different. Like when people bring in magazine photos…
I always wonder if they’re telling me they want hair like that, or they want to look like that.
I’ve done that so many times, where I’ve brought in a photo of a celebrity, and the stylist is like ‘that’s exactly what you have’. But I don’t look like that! [Laughs]
You’re also working on an awesome project …
Yes! I’m launching a denim shorts line; it’s called Brooklyn Denim. I’m launching with 5 designs, it goes live March 3rd.
For over 2 years now I’ve been making my own shorts, just for myself. I love denim cut-offs. They’re always way too expensive, so I wanted to make my own. I started buying jeans and making them. I was getting a lot of compliments, all the time while I was working.
Where do you get the jeans? Are they second hand?
I’m buying them brand new. I cut them into shorts. None of them are identical because each one is hand made. That’s the cool part; you have a special pair just for you.
I’ve never found a pair of denim shorts that fit me …
Everyone that I’ve been working with has said that. They try my shorts on and they’re like ‘oh my god, I love them’. They’re very affordable as well, pricing starts from $45.
What’s your goal with the line?
My goal just starting out is to sell some shorts! I just want to see how it goes. This was something I wasn’t anticipating doing. It kind of popped out of nowhere. You know, if by summer it does well then I want to see where it takes me.
It must be a huge amount of work; it’s just you starting a whole business …
I do everything, from cutting the shorts to the marketing. I don’t sleep much [laughs]. I don’t really have a social life. I devote a lot of my time to this business.
So you’ll just be posting these out yourself? Doing everything?
All myself. My mother lives about an hour away, and she will be my first hire once I launch. I plan to bring my mother into this, and let her keep the first month’s profits. I’m going to need help, especially if it does well.
This is really exciting; I foresee it just blowing up … especially now coming into spring and summer. You’ve already got so many bloggers interested
I honestly don’t know how. I’m blessed that they are. I only thought of this business over Thanksgiving last year. I had been making them, but had never thought of selling. I started doing so much research on selling products, sourcing jeans … it took me a few months but now March is almost here!
Sizing has been really difficult. At first I just googled conversion charts, I sent my first pair of shorts out, and they were way too small. It was trial and error, now I understand my sizing. Companies can put whatever size they want, there are no rules.
That’s why it’s so depressing when you shop at certain places, why am I suddenly two sizes larger!
That whole process was a little discouraging at first, but I’ve figured it out.
As well as this new business, you also make music?
Yes, I do music as well. I rap, which I’ve been doing since I was 9 years old. I write my own music. Right now, I’m still just recording and writing a lot. I’ve been demoing and have music videos. Every day my fan base grows, but I’m unsigned and my goal is to get a record deal.
Amazing! You were telling us before the interview that music is your ultimate goal…
That is my ‘mother goal’.
The top of the pyramid goal ….
Yes, definitely. I would love to be a full time artist, rap and make music. I would also love to own businesses. A lot of musical artists, they get into the entrepreneurial side … clothing, fragrance. … I’m doing it the other way around. I’m working to achieve that goal.
How do you actually produce the music?
Right now I work with producers, they make the beats, some of them play instruments. They send me beats, and I write to them and then go into the studio to record.
Do you perform live?
I have performed many times in New York. I don’t have any upcoming shows right now because I’m working on new material. I’m working on a project that I can perform and give to people, rather than a song here and there. Right now I’m not selling my music, I just want people to hear it.
What’s it like being a female rapper?
I think now it’s easier than it was. Before it had a really bad reputation. Now, it’s very accepted. You’ve all heard of Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea. It’s mainstream now, which is good, it means it’s accepted. It means as a female rap artist I can reach higher grounds, the door is wide open. Like any other business, you just have to grind and not take ‘no’ as an answer.
I think I’ve gotten to the point in my music where I have my own sound. When I first started people would always ask ‘who do you sound like?’ Now I don’t know how to answer that question. I feel like I sound like myself and I had to evolve to that point. I’m still developing as an artist.
You live now in Prospect Park South, how do you like it?
It’s OK, I don’t mind it. I was very exposed to Brooklyn at a young age, so for me Brooklyn is cool. But as I get older I love Manhattan. To me that is where everything is and where I would love to be.
This area is average right now; there is a lot of work to be done. They just opened up a King’s Theatre right around the corner, Diana Ross performed at the grand opening. It was a huge deal for the area, it was sold out. Money is coming back into the area and it’s up and coming.
Not yet infiltrated by hipsters …
No, nothing like that yet.
What about food recommendations around here?
There’s some Caribbean food, and a lot of pizza. But I’m in love with Thai food. There’s not a lot of that here yet.
Always on the hunt for good Thai food!
There are a million places in the city …
Tell us …
Working in the Lower East Side there are Thai places everywhere. Hi Thai on Ludlow is great. It’s where I go if I want Thai. Then there is an amazing Japanese place called Mimi and Coco, they’re booming, their food is amazing.
So what lead you to this area?
I was in a rush to find an apartment, and this is what I found [laughs]. I love my apartment, but the area isn’t my favorite. This street is still pretty dangerous; there are a lot of undercover cops.
Do you feel safe coming home at night?
I’m a tough girl. There has maybe been once or twice where I’ve felt unsafe in my car. Once I was parked, and I didn’t get out of my car right away. Four guys approached my car coming out of a van.
I literally almost had a heart attack. Turns out they were undercover cops making sure that I wasn’t doing anything illegal. They couldn’t believe that I was just sitting in my car and not doing anything. I was like ‘look I’ve had a really long day and I was just catching my breath’.
Shit. I would have died. I would have thought I was going to get murdered.
I truly believe if you give off that vulnerable vibe you are more prone to being attacked. I walk fast; I’m always looking around me. It sounds silly, but it’s what you need to do.
Totally. Whenever I see someone walking with both of their headphones in really loud it’s terrible. I hate doing that. You have to be aware.
For people who aren’t from here, they don’t know the dangers because it’s still so up and coming. This area, and even places in Williamsburg sometimes, a lot of crime happens. You have to be careful.
Growing up in New York, your mother must have some crazy stories. Especially living in Williamsburg and seeing the changes …
Totally. Williamsburg is worth a lot more now, the property and the building developments. But it’s still changing. That’s what fascinating. You can not go there for a month, and there are new places when you go back. There is one store that’s been there since I was born, and they’re turning it now into something else. People moving there now have no idea what used to be there.
What do you think about when you think of New York?
Fun [laughs]. I think of New York as a big hustle. You can be anything you want to be and go anywhere you want to go. This is the only place I could truly live, and live in every sense of the word.