When it comes to fashion and beauty, rules are meant to be broken, And, a jack-of-all-trades from New York City is determined to be the new face of the rapidly changing world of art.
It’s a sunny morning in New York City. As we arrive outside 210 5th Ave in the Flatiron district of New York, Vinzar steps out to welcome us. There is something about Vinzar. It is not the ever-changing hairstyles. Neither the avant-garde outfits he is known for, or the fashionable shoes he walks the streets of New York City in. There is something about Vinzar the man. When Vinzar walks into a place or walks out of a building as in this morning, people notice, people watch, people are curious. In a way we cannot explain (even after 12 years of knowing him), people simply gravitate to Vinzar. They want to know him, be around him; be part of the energy he exudes. They want to experience Vinzar. However, even after all these years, to say we know Vinzar would be an overstatement. He has an ability to reinvent himself, from his career to his image, that is unique to him. It is an ability that many artists wish they could have, but the very few possess.
As we walk together into Mauricio Hair, the hair studio he co-founded with his business partner almost a decade ago, one of his clients immediately jumps up to hug him. “This man is special,” she says smiling. “He is magical!” As she sits on the stylist chair, Vinzar starts to work this magic his client just raved about. “I was born to do this,” he smiles. “I was born to be an artist.”
The story that is Vinzar, the artist, is a special one. It is a story that we could share with you in our own words, but doing so would be packaging Vinzar within our point of view. Vinzar is not someone you can encase to fit a mold of thought. This story is best told by the man behind the brand. As he continues to work with his client, Vinzar shares with us his story, his vision and his new goals, and what is coming next in the world of Vinzar.
Tell us about your beginnings and when did you know being a hair stylist and an artist was your passion?
The story is quite ironic. I studied Nutrition Science and Food Studies as an undergrad, and have a Masters in Clinical Nutrition from NYU Steinhardt, with a Minor concentration in Business Administration from the NYU Stern School of Business. I practiced for a few years but always felt that this was not who I was. Since I could remember, the arts were what I identified with. I can remember that as a little child, I would stand on top of a chair and start playing with my grandmother’s hair. I would try to style her hair. Throughout my childhood, I continued to have this pull towards hair styling. At the same time, I had a natural ability to draw and would find myself drawing hairstyles, and designing dresses, or how my living room would look as an adult.
You are from the Dominican Republic. As we know, those were different times. Was this passion you showed as a child accepted by those around you?
I’ve always had a keen inclination towards beauty; always was a very artistic child with a very histrionic personality. Unfortunately, in my culture, being that “flamboyant” was not really accepted. My passion for hair became a source of shame because the thought was that a boy should not be doing girly things! Both kids my age, as well as adults in my life, bullied me for it. I had to hide it. I would practice secretly with my cousins, aunts, my sister and my mom. My next-door neighbor had a little salon in her backyard, and I used to love watching her while she worked on her clients. I taught myself to braid. My grandmother’s rocking chair had a crochet cover that had fringes towards the bottom; you would find me any afternoon laying under the chairs braiding the fringes (he laughs).
When my sister turned 6, my mom got her a Barbie, and I was in love! The Barbie had long brown hair which then became short hair; Miss Barbie doll became my first client as I gave her a bob haircut! I was five years old. As I got older, I became more and more agile and could deconstruct the hairstyles my mom would get done at the hair salon. I would analyze every inch of it and then recreate them to perfection; sometimes they would turn out better than the original. My mom would be supportive, but the bullying became more intense as I got older. At some point, she didn’t allow me to do her hair anymore. She wanted to protect me. Nevertheless, one of my aunts would take me into her room and would tell me “Come, you can do my hair”, and we would close the window shades so nobody would see.
Do you feel choosing a career in science might have been a way to compensate for society’s disapproval?
I believe so. Luckily, I was a bright student. At the time, I would envision a career as a doctor. A plastic surgeon at that! (He laughs). This would have in a way allowed me to express my aesthetic point of view. At times, my own self was my biggest opposition. At some point, I believed it wasn’t okay to be me or to like and do the things that are my true talents. That is exactly why I wanted to become a doctor; to feel that I would be respected and admired by others. Fortunately, today, my talents are my magical tools. They have opened all the doors for me and continue to do so. I am blessed.
How was the experience of arriving in New York City for you?
When I moved to New York, I was very young. I was about seventeen, and very confused about the educational system, and what I wanted to do in life. My curiosity about the artistic part of me was always there, so I decided to take some action. I started visiting different schools of fashion, but that did not go far. A part of me was still fighting against the mold society wanted me in.
I didn’t know the language well, and with all my dreams and aspirations I had to start somewhere. My American cousins helped me fill out an application for a community college, and that’s where I ended up. Still inspired to one day become some kind of medical professional that performed beauty jobs, I decided to concentrate on a 2-year program in Dental Hygiene. At the time, this seemed to be the closest to what I envisioned maybe one could help me to bring beauty to people; by creating beautiful smiles.
I made an extreme effort to learn the language and to be accepted into the program. The effort paid off and I landed number 2 on the exclusive list of 14 students the program chose every two years. However, a twist that changed my life came about: The Community College gave me a counter offer to accept a scholarship to NYU where I could further my career. I was paralyzed with so many emotions. It had been such a hard process to get to this point and declining either was a big decision. I decided to go for the scholarship and started a brand-new life at NYU.
I remember you from this community college as we both took nutrition courses together. I have witnessed the changes you have been through since then. When did you decide to go back into the arts, and how did you get back to your passion?
Something within my heart kept pushing me to try the innate beauty talents I left behind in my childhood. At this point, they were only shameful memories. I was living in the projects of the South Bronx, and working at a restaurant part-time while going to school full time. Every day, on my way to the train, I would pass by a beauty supply store which would remind me of those childhood memories. One day, I was brave enough to go in and purchased my first mannequin head. After, I went back for more! (He laughs). I was back in my elements! That summer, I decided to enroll in beauty school while I took a break from NYU. I obtained my certification as a professional makeup artist and got my cosmetology license. I was confused myself, not knowing why I was doing this, but something greater than myself was pulling me.
That same year I met my angel Mauricio. He became my first love and my mentor and taught me to start seeing the world through a different lens. When we met, we both had business cards that said, “Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist.” He was embarked on the idea of opening his own salon concept; the first organic hair salon in NYC. I did not have his professional experience, but I came in with a burning fire to learn. I was young, full of ideas, talents, a strong academic background and some money I had saved from waiting!
Tell us a bit about your other passions as an artist, and the reinvention of your brand as Vinzar?
As passionate as I am about hair, designing and creating are also a part of me. As I grew older, drawing silhouettes and portraits became natural to me. My style has changed over the years. Two years ago, I decided to start sketching a fashion collection, creating samples and putting together looks that would communicate my image. In that creative process, I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by many other talented people who have understood my vision and have supported the process. VINZAR is my interpretation of style, my way of seeing life. It is a blend of different styles which are iconic and memorable. My intent for the next few years is to position the label in the market; both building fashion statements as well as hair products. I aim to create an experience that changes the way humans interact with one another. I believe fashion is a powerful tool to achieve this!
What does art represent to you?
Art represents the voice of humanity. It talks about our inner emotions; the emotions that sometimes we are not allowed to say in the societies we live in. There are a lot of rules for humanity. Art allows you to explore outside of those rules. We artists play a major role in shaping the world, how people love and tolerate one another. Artistry influences people. To me, Art is like religion; a powerful tool that moves the masses.
How does Vinzar define creativity?
Creativity is our ability to imagine, our ability to create from a place of lack. My most creative ideas have come to life from a place of lack. I personally don’t like anything easy. When you must work hard for something, you come up with alternative ways to make things work.
What inspires you and drives you?
I have a little anecdote for this one. My maternal grandfather sat me on his lap one night and told me to stare at the garbage can across the street. Then he asked me: “Do you see it” and I asked, “see what?” He said, “the woman in the garbage wearing a fedora hat.” The piles of garbage and the contrast between the shadows and the light created the shape of a woman wearing something that looked like a hat! That was such a magical experience and to this day, I am grateful for that moment. It taught me to look beyond the obvious and to see the beauty and inspiration even in the most undesirable places; even in the garbage. So, yes, the garbage inspires me! (He laughs). I also love people watching. Everyone has their own interpretation of fashion, and everyone creates his or her personal style. As RuPaul would say, “We are all born naked, the rest is drag”.
Most of us struggle so much in trying to find our purpose in life, and I think the answer is always there. In my case, I innocently did it at a very early age, and today I embrace it and I am nourishing it. I think everyone should have the opportunity to do so. Our lives are constantly evolving, but I do what I do because it is who I am, what I love and what I thrive on.
During your career, and life, what do you feel has helped you to build strength, and face the difficulties that can arise in life?
I have faced a lot of bullying. Nobody understood me when growing up. My flamboyant self was constantly ridiculed in front of others. People would call me names. I think that has been the most challenging. That continues until today.
I feel that my strength comes from that. I learned to create such a big shield to protect myself that it no longer affects me. On the flip side, it has been positive as it has pushed me to dare to be different in a world where all we know to do is to judge one another for what we think makes us different from each other. I am most proud of my courage and my strength. Nevertheless, sometimes I still struggle with rejection. People either love me or hate me. I try to always have positive energy, and I love sharing it with others. I think the human race is magical. We can choose how we want to impact others. I choose to irradiate love, even if you can’t understand me.
I think people have no choice but to accept one another. This is one thing I strongly stand behind. I feel for those who have had their lives taken away because they are not understood because the world does not know how to love them because humanity doesn’t understand the different shades and colors that make us all beautiful in our unique ways. I think it takes balls to be yourself in a world that doesn’t understand how fortunate we are for being all uniquely different.
In the future, how would you like for Vinzar, the man, the artist, to be remembered?
I would love to be remembered as a magical being. As the one who walked into a room and filled it with magic and love. As one who would unite people; one who believed that the impossible is always possible. I’d like to be remembered as a chameleon, one who explored a different side of himself constantly, one who believed that reinvention is key to our success in life. -GM
Camera: Nikon D810
Lens: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
Strobes: Profoto B1 x 2
Modifiers: Profoto Beauty Dish Reflector 20.5″ & Profoto 5′ rfi Octa Softbox
Location: Flatiron District, New York City