Upstate Misfit Becomes Downtown's Sweetheart

Downtown artist making big city dreams come true

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The self-proclaimed "Downtown's Sweetheart" talks her life and career. (Published Thursday, Apr 1, 2010)

    Vashtie Kola has built a successful career out of being herself.

    The twenty-something entrepreneur is a self-described art nerd, tomboy extraordinaire and all around weirdo. Yet she exudes an uncontrived cool most envy. She's an artist who's racked up a resume rife with directing credits for music videos, launched a fashion line, and become a much sought-after party promoter.

    But before she made her name in the Big Apple she was an upstate New York girl who grew up in the “hood” as she says.

    She was born in Albany and is the daughter of immigrant Trinidadian parents. As a kid she became obsessed with music videos back when MTV still played music videos. The look and sounds of those early ‘90s videos influenced her. And it still resonates in her work today.

    Vashtie eventually moved to the Big Apple to attend The School Of Visual Arts. A few years later, she made a name for herself, directing the independent music video "Us Placers" -- a song off Kanye West's Can't Tell Me Nothing mixtape. The song is a collaboration featuring Kanye, Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell, with the trio rapping over Thom Yorke's "Eraser."

    With a shoestring budget and a novel concept she decided to have kids play the boyish versions of the threesome.

    The video became a YouTube sensation getting more than a million hits only hours after being posted. Vashtie earned high esteem from the artists. Even the mainstream media -- i.e. Rolling Stone -- took notice. "Us Placers" opened the doors of opportunity for Vashtie and she has since directed music videos for Justin Bieber, Solange Knowles and Kid Cudi.
     
    In 2006 she teamed with her best friend Oscar Sanchez to create the monthly party "1992". The DJ's played the hits of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Vashtie told NBCNewYork.com she wanted to create a carefree environment where “no one was judged by what clothes they wore” and people simply had a good time.
     
    Word of mouth about her New York parties created a buzz. Celebrities flocked to her parties. And offers started rolling in from Miami, Paris and Amsterdam. In 2008, "1992" earned a nod for Best Party at the Paper Magazine Nightlife Awards and also got ink in the New York Times style section. Although "1992" has taken hiatus, the self-proclaimed "Downtown Sweetheart" created a successful weekly party called "Open" held at Santos with Grammy winning artist Q-Tip.
     
    From parties to style, the influence of the 90’s remain omnipresent in her life. Vashtie’s style is reminiscent of Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet) from "The Cosby Show" and Angela Chase (Claire Danes) from "My So Called Life." She has a flair for all things tomboy, grunge, hip-hop and high fashion.

    On her website Vashtie.com she writes,  "imagine if Louis Vuitton had a daughter living in the Lower East Side - she'd be rocking a luxury handbag and a fly pair of kicks."
     
    In the fall of 2008 Vashtie launched her clothing line Violette. She told NBCNewYork.com she had difficulty deciding the line's name. She eventually decided on Violette for two reasons - the meanings the color represent and a photo of her mother. In the photo, Vashtie's mother is wearing a violet dress and the picture has aged with a violet hue. Vashtie said, "the photo sits by my computer and it reminds me of the opportunities my mother didn't have so it pushes me further."
     
    The further she goes, the more attention she attracts. Thousands flock to her website Vashtie.com to check in on her life's adventures. Vibe named her one of the "31 Most Stylish People Under 31". She also recently modeled for the Rachel Roy Lookbook.
     
    With mass appeal and a humble attitude she has that mix je ne sais quoi that draws people in.
     
    Vashtie is currently working with Brooklyn-based MC Theophilus London on his upcoming mixtape. In April she joins WeResistSimple.com as a contributing blogger.