I have literally waited for over two years to tell you all this story. I had a vision as to how it would all play out from the very beginning and so I fought the urge to prematurely talk about what happened to me. I chose to be patient, trust my journey and let the story unfold. When I want something, I figure out a way to make it happen regardless of what my circumstance may be. So when I first met Nipsey Hussle back in 2015, it was no surprise to my friends and family. I focus on what I want, believe it is going to happen and then I work my ass off until it does. I have just always had hustle in me. To anyone who is chasing their dreams or maybe just want things to change within themselves or their lives, I hope that this story inspires you and opens your eyes to the possibilities within your own life.
It was December 2014 when I finished up my very first painting of Nipsey Hussle. It was one of, if not the most meaningful paintings I have ever done. It was inspired by his song “Overtime” which had gotten me through so many sleepless nights of chasing my dreams. I was working a full time job and trying to manage a full time art career. It was absolutely exhausting both mentally and physically. I would stay up until 430am sometimes and cry my way through exhaustion as I painted while I played that song on repeat. My goals didn’t care if I was tired, no. My goals kept me up at night and kept me pushing.
That painting (titled “Sleepless Nights”) was for my solo show “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” coming up that February 2015 where it would be on display for the first time ever. I decided this piece was going to be a gift for my little brother. But. I really, really wanted Nipsey to see. I HAD to figure out how to get it in front of him. So I took to Instagram to see if I could get his eyes on it. I sent it to everyone I could find who was in his circle. Producers, artists, DJs & anyone I could find who was tied to him received a DM with the photo of my painting and a quick message. Everyone loved it, some even posted it but I never heard from Nipsey.
April 2015 rolled around and Nipsey was scheduled to come into town for a concert for the first time in a couple years. I knew this was my chance. I remember laying in my bed on a Saturday the week before the concert and thinking “How tf can I get this painting in front of Nip?” and then it hit me. I came up with a brilliant plan that (little did I know) would change the course of my life forever. I decided that I was going to draw a picture of Nipsey’s DJ. At the time I had a little crush on him and he was super active on IG, so I knew I could get him to see it if I posted it. I planned to post the drawing on a Monday as my MCM. I figured if he saw it he would repost it and tag me. I thought if he did that then I would let him know I could either ship the drawing to him or I could give it to him in person when they were in town Friday that same week for their concert. I did exactly that and it happened EXACLTY how I envisioned it. It was crazy!
“I’ll grab it from you on Friday in Phoenix. Here’s my number. Hit me!” His DJ responded after I let him know his options. I was stoked. I remember Friday rolled around and I got a text from his DJ that they had just gotten into town. Reality set in that I was finally going to make it happen. I told him that I would let him know when I got to the venue so we could meet with him to give him the artwork. My friends and I rolled up to the concert all wearing shirts that had one of my original Nipsey paintings on them. We grabbed all of my artwork and got ready to head inside. I went into the meet and greet to give work to his DJ and was able to finally walk straight up to Nipsey and get my painting in front of him. “This is dope af! You’re the one that did this? I saw this on IG!” Nip said to me. “Did you really!?” I responded, “I have been trying so hard to get you to see it!” I exclaimed. He replied’ “You did the one on your shirt too huh? I saw that one too!” I was beyond excited to hear all of this. We talked for a minute and then I went over to chat with his DJ and give him his piece. He was so excited and grateful for it. He told me that he had never had anyone do a piece of just him and he was going to hang it right above his bed. “Let me walk you guys out” his DJ said to me. As we headed toward the door, Nipsey stopped me and told me to come back. He shook my hand and said “Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep going.” “I will!” I said. “ I’m forreal!” He responded. When I left that concert I felt so accomplished. I made a plan and executed it all within a week. It really had my mind thinking… if I could accomplish all of that within 6 days then what could I accomplish with that same passion within a year? What could I accomplish within five years or even ten? I instantly felt this overwhelming sense of desperation. I kept hearing Nipsey say “Keep going!” and I knew I had a decision to make.
That desperation I felt was the equivalent of being trapped under water and my face being only inches from the surface but not being able to break through to the surface to get to the air. That air was my liberation in the form of artistic entrepreneurship. I had met Nipsey on a Friday, thought all weekend about what had happened, how it happened and what more I wanted to accomplish and then… cried on my drive to work Monday. I pulled into the parking lot in tears and told myself that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I literally sat in the parking lot and called my job to tell them I was going to be out sick. I pulled out, drove home and started to make a plan on how I was going to quit my job and chase my dream. It took me 10 months to execute that plan and quit my job and another 8 months to get through a transition plan I set for myself. I have been a full time independent artist ever since which has been over a year now.
Along your journey you will find that there will be a handful of very pivotal moments that shape and mold your path. This was one of the most important moments along my journey to full time artistry because it was the final push I needed to commit to give my dreams all I had. I told myself that one day I was going to meet Nipsey again and that I was going to thank him for that day and tell him what he helped me do. There was never an inch of doubt in my mind that our paths would cross again, I just had to wait and trust in the Universe. So, fast forward to now! August 2017, almost two and a half years later. The amazing Jazmine Nash had recently asked me to display artwork at her event, The Cluture Show Phoenix where she had booked Nipsey Hussle to preform. I jumped at the chance! I briefly told Jazmine my story and asked her if she would be able to let me give Nip a painting and tell him thank you. She wasn’t sure if she could but let me know she was going to try! Even if she couldn’t, I was just grateful that she was even willing to look into it.
I had a painting ready to give him. I will never forget sitting at my booth at the Phoenix Convention Center with all of my art that morning while Nipsey was 100 feet away on stage for sound check. He was wrapping up and I knew it was time! I sent a text to Jazmine and said “I have my painting to give to Nipsey if you can make it happen. If not I am just grateful to be here!” Not more than two minutes later I hear Jazmine yell across the room to me, “Do you have it ready!?”, “Yes I do!” I yelled back. She went to walk Nipsey and his entourage off stage and brought them straight over to my section.
“I’m Antoinette” I said as I shook his hand. As soon as I started talking I immediately noticed how present and focused he was on what I was saying to him. I told him about how I had met him a couple years ago and reminded him of what he said to me. I told him how I left that day a changed person and how I credit him for sparking something in me. I said to him “That was such a pivotal moment for me and my journey and I appreciate you so much.” He genuinely seemed so touched by the story I told him. I told him how after that day I knew I had to quit and go for it and that I have been doing this full time for over a year. He instantly smiled and laughed a proud laugh and exclaimed “You’ve just been doing it!” I said “Yup and this is all of my work!”, as I pointed towards my set up. He then had a chance to look at all of my art. He told me that my giant Outkast painting was amazing and that it caught his eye from across the room. He said he had seen a few more of my pieces like my Kobe and Dom painting online and that it was all amazing!
I then was able to finally give him the painting I did of him. “This is my thank you to you and my way to say I appreciate you!” I said. “This is so fucking dope! I’m hanging this up in my house as soon as I get home!” He said. His whole crew loved it. I asked to take a picture and he said of course! Afterwards he gave me a big hug and told me to keep going and then thanked me. It was a surreal moment that had been over two years in the making. Not once did I doubt that moment would happen and once it did my heart was overflowing with gratitude. I didn’t want anything from him, not a post or a tag. I didn’t care if he bought art from me or not or took a business card or not. All I wanted was to express my gratitude and let him know what that day and his words meant to me. And I did.
After the event I was outside waiting to load up my paintings when Nipsey and his crew were leaving the building to head out. “Bye Nipsey!” I said. He walked over to me with his hand raised for a high five and said “Keep doing what you’re doing!” “Always!” I responded. It was in that moment I was able to close the chapter on one of my biggest personal accomplishments to date. I felt so unbelievably thankful and fulfilled that day. The power of projection is real. The power of knowing it will happen even if you don’t know how is real. It will happen if you trust in your ability to figure it out over time and you hustle. By all means, statistically I should not be in the position I am. I am a young woman of color who was raised in a single parent household in the hood. Statistically I shouldn’t be where I am today. But I made choices that shaped my life into what I wanted it to be. It took sacrifice, dedication, loneliness, investments and patience to accomplish what I have. But the only difference between me and the average person is that I made the choice to go for it with all I have.
Within the past year I have been able to accomplish more than I could’ve imagined as a full time artist. I have been able to build relationships with some of the leading art organizations in the state including the Phoenix Art Museum and The Phoenix Center for the Arts. I have been able to help raise over $5000 for the Boys & Girls Club alongside the legendary Evander Holyfield. I had the complete honor to launch the J.A.R.R. Initiative (In honor of my late Aunt Julie Ann) which brings free high quality fine art & performance art programs for teens into communities that need it most and work with dozens of teens who fill my heart with so much joy. I had the honor of creating album art for Olympic medalist and artist Will Claye and have begun to build a following of celebrity clients. I was recently awarded AZ Foothills Magazines Best Local Artist of 2017. I have accomplished more than I have room to type in the blog and watched my community support through it all! My gratitude honestly cannot be measured in words.
I say all of this not to boast or brag, but to show you what “taking that leap” opened up room for in my own life. These accomplishments could not have entered my life if I didn’t create the space for them to inhabit by removing things that weren’t meant for me. I want you reading this to know that if I can do it so can you. I literally had a dream and not a thought in my mind on how exactly I was going to make it happen. BUT. I still went for it and I am still climbing. There is no better time than now to take a chance and make that choice. Just make sure to believe in your ability to figure it out, work hard, project positive thoughts and emotions and most importantly (in the words of Nipsey Hussle), keep going!