portland in color | 005: jasmine onya'e kelley

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I'd like to introduce today's feature with a reminder of how important it is to pay and support friends who are artists. Regardless of the medium, I've heard countless disheartening experiences from artists whose friends expect labor without compensation or regard for the time, skills, and challenges it's taken to be an artist in the first place.

Artists can spend years, even decades, learning their craft. But there is an unfortunate assumption in society that because these skills aren't attained in the same measurable, commonly-understood ways as non-creative professions, that there isn't work involved. Or, that the work is effortless (for the artist) so it isn't worth compensating. Rarely do these friends consider how much time and effort has been invested to make this work effortless.

On that end, I'm excited to introduce Jassy Onya'e who's natural skincare line is a blend of multiple creative skills— homeopathy, design, and photography. 

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Name: Jasmine (Jassy) Onya'e Kelley

Pronouns: Her/She

Background: African American

Medium of choice: Creating and designing my own natural skincare line where I also incorporate my photography and graphic design skills

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Karaoke jam: I’ll jam to anything from Purity Ring to Aminé's "Caroline"

Tell us about one of your favorite Portland memories: This may sound funny but before I actually moved to Portland, I took a 10 day vacation alone. It was one of the best times of my life. I went to all the coffee shops, art shows, walked around downtown, and I got lost and had fun not using any maps. I went to the coast alone and just enjoyed the super cold water and took time to journal. I even went to my first live comedy show. I met amazing new people who, over three years later, are now my friends. Me traveling alone in Portland has been the best memory here so far. I felt like a big girl because I was dealing with a lot of issues back home and needed to discover something new. Glad I had the opportunity to.

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Please share a time it was difficult living in Portland: For me, this was during the time when police brutality was happening weekend after weekend. It got to me hard and dealing with that, while moving from home, made it even worse. I was homesick, depressed, and I felt hopeless to what was happening around me. That, plus the stupid racist march that went down in downtown Portland disguised under free speech. But ya know what? I was living in a small town bubble, and it reminded me of reality all over again. That life [before I moved] was not perfect and was only surrounded by vineyards and doors that didn't have to be locked. It’s hardcore and a little frightening.

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How do you stay inspired in Portland? Constantly speaking to other creators here keeps me inspired. When I visited Portland back in 2014, I was inspired by the creative pull I felt compared to back home in California. And I observed young adults my age create successful businesses and hustle their butts off. I personally felt a creative block lift off when I visited Portland.

Now that I'm here, I'm hustling my side business and growing it as much as possible, with the help of good conversation from some creatives in this city. I even see what you're doing and it's freakin' inspirational (editor's note: *blush*)

How can Portland support you and/or your community? By listening! Not pretending to be “woke” or taking advantage of that word cause it’s cool. Have more diversity [focused] events. I know that it’s 70% white BUT, there are plenty of POC here and a lot to be discussed.

You can support Jassy directly by shopping at her natural skincare line, Onya'e Naturals. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Have you learned something from what you've read? Donate to Portland in Color to keep the series going.

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