Hip-hop enthusiast and Graphic Designer, Reine Jensen shares her grit……….
How are things going?
Pretty good actually. Lots of change is brewing and the sun is coming out, easy to be grateful to live on the West Coast right now.
What are some projects you’ve been working on lately?
Right now it’s primarily been getting all the final projects completed for school and video and print work for my clients. A lot of my personal work has been put on hold while I’ve been going through school, as classes can be a bit of a creative energy drain.
I have an art project called Stranger Beside Me that I have been working on over the last couple years.I realized that for a lot of my life I had been living in this small bubble in my head that had caused me to lose focus on the world around me. So I began photographing and spending time with people that I would otherwise have just passed by, in an attempt to reconnect with the human race and really experience the world for the first time in a new way. I then create digital paintings that reflected my own experience of these people and our interactions as a reminder and homage to the small tiny moments I was now able to experience. It was a way to really focus my energy and attention on being present. Some of them are beautiful, some are sad, some are jarring. I’m hoping to be able to really dedicate some time and energy on this project once I’ve graduated and settled down.
You’re making a move to Vancouver soon, what are your plans when you get there?
First get myself all settled in and situated. Then to start job hunting. I would love to get in with a local graphic design studio and begin learning the ropes there. I have so much still to learn about the inner workings of the industry and business and am excited to see where my path takes me. It’s interesting moving and just being open to any of the possibilities and opportunities that may come my way, instead of trying to micro-manage every aspect of it. I just want to see where life takes me and go with the flow.
Vancouver is my old stomping grounds and with everything that has changed in my life and the personal growth I have faith that all will work out. Its like coming home as a different person. No, not different, I guess more me than I was last time I lived there. Plus, being near my family has become more important as I have gotten older. I want to be there to participate in their lives and enjoy whatever time I can with them.
I also want to get back into creating my art and collaborating with other artists I know there. I have really begun to miss that part of my life with school having become the main focus over the last few years. I have become more confident in my abilities to create and express myself, which I know is going to open up new doors for me creatively, though I’m sure it will bring new struggles as well. I’ve come to learn that being a creative person is no easy task. There are hills and valleys emotionally that you have to ride through. I spend a lot of my time thinking my work is absolute crap, or wondering why I put myself through the anguish of birthing a project or art piece, only to be elated and feel joy when it comes to life and the reinforcement that I am doing the right thing and it is where my heart and soul reside.
Will you be working freelance?
Absolutely. I have been primarily working freelance for the duration of my school and will continue to do it while I look for a job and beyond. I find running my own business is something i am definitely going to need to learn more about in depth though. As a creative person I am not always geared towards thinking about profits, cost evaluations and legal documentation, so it is a bit of work for me to do that. It’s a big part of why I want to get in with a studio and learn the inner workings of running one before I make any decisions about going freelance full time. See how others have their structure set up, what is the best way to deal with clients , etc. Those are things you can only learn by doing and working with others who have been at it longer than you.
What are some fears you have with making this move?
Oh man, fear is a good friend of mine.
I guess the biggest fears are those that I battle all the time, The fear that I am not good enough, the sneaking suspicion that everyone knows something that I don’t and I’m going to miss something important because of it. The fear I wont get a job or succeed in my goals and dreams. The little voice in my head that tells me I’m a failure and will always be one or whispers “You aren’t worth anything, so why bother trying”.
I have had to really battle my mind when it comes to fear and resistance. Fear can make me crazy, it can drive me to do crazy things, or force me to stay the same. I used to be absolutely controlled by it. Now I try to just ride out the fear. Fear can tell me a lot about myself but I don’t have to let it control my actions anymore. It lets me know where I’m not looking into the back of the closet for the skeletons that are hidden. It lets me see where I’m threatened (real or imagined) and I can suss out how to deal and respond to it instead of just automatically reacting.
I think fear is one of those topics that people shy away from because we perceive having fear as being weak and undisciplined. Paradoxically, it takes strength and dedication to face those deep seeded fears in the core of our being and to be able to give them voice. Because when you lay out the fear and anxiety, get vulnerable and open your mind to the pain and emotions you realize that they aren’t so secret and uncommon. Everyone feels fear, it’s natural and important. Once I got it into my head that everyone is walking around afraid of something, even those we perceive as tough, successful or untouchable, it leveled the playing field for me.
So hell yeah, I’m afraid to be going back to Vancouver, to start a career, to change my life but I’m also thrilled and excited. I won’t let that fear take the helm and steer me into the shallow waters of the familiar. I will take it by the hand and say “Let’s go Buddy! I’m going to be here right with you and we can do this together.”
You do a lot of work with ladies regarding body awareness, can you tell me how this became something you felt so passionately about?
In the fall of 2011 I came into recovery from an eating disorder and substance abuse that I had struggled with since the age of 14. I had gotten to a point with my addiction where I realized that I was going to die — seems like an obvious revelation now but I really was so unaware of the extent of the damage I was doing to myself physically, mentally and spiritually. Nor did I particularly care. I was 23 years old and completely lost, Couldn’t die, couldn’t stay the same. I hit what I guess people routinely call “my rock bottom”. I’m just grateful that bottom wasn’t 6-feet under like it is with some people.
My eating disorder was my primary addiction, and manifested as anorexia and bulimia in my behaviors. From the minute I opened my eyes in the morning I thought about food, my body and my weight. I had this voice in my head I referred to as my “Drill Sergeant” because that is what it was all day, everyday. It told me I was ugly, fat, a pig. It ordered me to not eat, throw up, run, hurt myself. It told me I was worthless, pathetic, weak. And it never stopped. Every part of my life was marred by this presence — every interaction, every relationship, every moment got infected by my diseased thinking.
I look back now and I see how penetrated my mind was by the disease, I was effectively possessed and completely unable to control my thoughts and actions around food, my body weight and all the things that came along with it. I take ownership for my behavior back then, but I also have compassion for myself and see that I was completely insane. This also was coupled with the fact that I had such a warped view of my physical being and place in the world. Coming into sobriety from an eating disorder means that you face these warped thoughts and views head on. It is one of the hardest things I have had to do to date in my life.
Body awareness and positive body image is a complicated issue for many people, men and women. There are multiple factors that need to be addressed and examined when we begin to talk about it. Things like societal influence, cultural standards of beauty, consumerism, advertising, gender stereotypes and narratives, systemic oppression, race, sexuality — the list goes on and on. I had to really take time and care with the help of a community and professionals to examine where I participated in things that made it impossible for me to practice in body awareness and self love. This included constantly and continuing to examine where I use in judgement, body shaming, negative self talk, rigidity of thought and inflexibility in my life.
One day at a time, one meal at a time, one prayer at a time, I began to get my mind and then my body back. And over nearly 3 years I can say I have finally began to know myself in a way that I never thought possible before. Part of continuing on that journey is sharing my story with people and pushing people to see where and how they view themselves and others. It’s a real joy and honor to get to share my experience with people and maybe, have one person see that there is another way to live. And along the journey, I get to grow as a person through watching others change and become themselves.
What is your definition of “sexy”?
I see “sexy” as an energy and power that people can exude. It isn’t exclusively about physical appearance and attraction because that can be fallible and disconnected from the multifaceted beings that we are naturally. So sexiness for me has more to do with seeing people in all their complicated and sometimes messy glory. When you are at peace with yourself and practice balance of your emotional, spiritual, physical and intellectual aspects, sexiness is just a given.
Some traits I find that people whom I personally find sexy seem to have in common are: confidence, respectfulness, social consciousness, intelligent, articulate, bold, fearless, shameless, aware, creative, open and connected. The traits of well balanced individuals really.
What do love about your body?
I love that it is a well tuned, miracle of life that carries me through each day without me having to worry about it. After the abuse I put with through, I marvel at how my body has bounced back and I love that it is the vessel I was given. I see my body as a gift from the universe that I can choose to use for good now.
What has been something you felt insecure about at times, and how do you get back to self-love?
My biggest insecurity these days is in my work. I constantly fret about if it is good enough, smart enough, pretty enough. Occasionally it acts as a motivator to push myself with my work and get better, but most of the time it paralyses me. That is why it took me nearly a year to get a website in some semblance of completion! It’s so scary putting your heart and soul out there to potential judgement and rejection!
I have to constantly remind myself that I too am learning and that my best work is the work that I am doing right now. Failure is only real if I let my insecurity and fear stop me from working. My work is just one facet of who I am, it doesn’t define me as a good or bad human being. It is just part of how I communicate and find meaning in my life, and that tends to bring me back to self-love. Because I am more than the total sum of my parts and no one segment can dictate how I feel about myself unless I choose to place too much weight and security in it. Sometimes I am better at that than others but it’s all just a learning experience.
What has been a challenge in the past few years that you, at one point, felt you would never overcome?
I started trauma counseling a couple years ago for sexual violence I have experienced and that was a scary prospect. I had lived with my PTSD and trauma for so long that is seemed like I would just have to learn how to bare the pain for the rest of my life. I honestly wasn’t optimistic about the process of therapy but made the leap into it because I was tired of how it was effecting me and those around me.
So slowly over the last couple of years, I have been moving through that pain with the help of my therapist. It has really only been in the last 6 months that I have begun to really notice how differently I am relating to the world. I don’t freeze or cringe when I think about what happened to me. I don’t spend very second I am out in public evaluating my safety or the possible threats. I have begun to let go of my fear and control and perfectionism. I no longer feel like I’m damaged good hiding some dirty secret, I am not ashamed of being me.
I have come to understand that because of the sexual violence I experienced, I began to internalize the pain and blame myself for things that happened. I never felt like I could be loveable, attractive, sexy or beautiful. When someone treats you like that, you disconnect from yourself to cope and for me that changed my whole perception of who and how I had to be in the world. I am so grateful to the people who have helped me through the journey because today i can look at myself in the mirror and say” You are beautiful, you are important and I love you.”
How did you surprise yourself with that situation?
I discovered I was so much stronger than I initially believed myself to be. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I could survive things, I already had, but these were the events that I spent almost half my life avoiding because I was unsure of whether I would get lost in it. These were event that fundamentally changed how I viewed the world. What was surprising about the whole experiences is I no longer look at it as just coping or surviving, I’ve begun to thrive! I walked through some of the darkest moments in my life and came out the others side a better person. There is still a lot of work to do, but I have faith now in the process and know that only more good will come of it as I move forward.
You’re finishing up school for Graphic Design, where would you like to see your career in 5 years?
Well, one thing I know is that when I make a plan, God laughs. That said, in 5 years I would like to be in a company as a Jr. Art Director or something like that. I have a serious passion for restaurant branding, menu design and food packaging, so if I could be specializing in that in my freelance work or at a studio that does a lot of that kind of work, I would be one happy camper. But where ever the winds may take me, I shall sail, so I’ll let you know in 5 years where I’m at and if my plans pan out!
Top songs on your summer playlist?
Back of My Mind – Oddisee (his whole album Tangible Dream is amazing)
Constant Surprises – Little Dragon
Einstein Rosen Bridge- Venetian Snares
My Yout – Joey Bada$$
Say Hey Kid – Death Grips
The Forward – Evol Intent
Into the Sun – White Buffalo
Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste – Norma Jean
Feel Tall – OnCue
Man I can’t believe how hard that was.
Best moment in the last year?
It’s a toss up between the moment I met my cat Daeny for the first time (I often refer to her as my soul mate. Eyes locked across the room, love at first sight kind of thing) or when my sister and I began to really reconnect over Beta5 cream puffs in Vancouver. I talk about those cream puffs all the time and whenever I have gone back to Van, we go and get a little something from them together. She introduced me to them because cream puffs are amazing and the branding and packaging was done by my favorite design studio in Vancouver, Glasfurd & Walker ( If you read this HIRE ME!)
Funny how that sums up my life up nicely. Family, food, design and my cat. I have solid priorities now.
Can you tell me a little bit about what inspired you to get your chest tattoo?
Well, my first tattoo was two crows on my chest at 18 years old, but after a couple years it just didn’t feel complete anymore. When I moved to Victoria, I became friends with Cory over at Urge Tattoo and he had a style I really loved so I decided to fill in the chest piece and make it more complete with him.
I chose a buck because they are considered in many different mythologies to be guardians of the forest and their antlers are kind of like the antenna to the creator or higher planes if you will. Living on a spiritual path, I wanted to have something that I would see everyday and would remind me that I do have a connection to the high powers. Also lets face it, they are pretty bad ass looking. Cory also does absolutely beautiful roses so I wanted to incorporate those into the piece. I’m ecstatic with how it turned out. I love how vibrant the colours are and he did an absolutely amazing job. Go get tattooed by Cory (Shameless plug!).
Any plans for more tattoo’s?
Always. I feel like I have so much space and time to get myself covered in ink, that I constantly am planning the next move. Some people laugh, but anyone who knows me well, understand my level of obsession and love for Harry Potter. It’s a bit ridiculous. I’m a grown ass women who gets excited at the prospect of there being a REAL LIVE Hogwarts Express that I can ride. So I am definitely planning on a Deathly Hallows tattoo in my near future.
Any words for someone out there who might feel they don’t live up to what the media tells them is beautiful?
As a graphic designer I see first hand how the tools of my industry are used to create this grand illusion of the beauty ideal. Those images you see in the mall campaigns, in the fashion magazine and on the TV have been sculpted by professionals. They are not real. An entire industry worth billions of dollars stand on the simple fact that they have manipulated you into believing that it is real and it is attainable. That is bullshit. No cream or pair of pants is gonna make you love yourself and think you are beautiful. No extreme diet or fitness regime is going to magically make your life this complete package. We cannot distill our beauty and happiness into the realm of the physical only. It is but one part of our spirit.
So I say fuck them. Fuck their beauty ideals, and fuck the lies about who we need to be and how we need to look to be happy or beautiful. Fuck the corporate infrastructure that has place this burden on each of us to up hold. Each of us is good enough and beautiful. They do not hold the miracle to happiness and success. Snake oil salesmen the whole lot of them.
Each of us needs to define our own beauty. Whether you are thin or voluptuous or freckle faced, you and only you gets to decided what beauty means for you. But define it with critical thinking and the understanding that “god don’t make junk.” You are a complex, emotional human being and so is everyone else on this planet. The journey to happiness and feeling beautiful begins in ourselves, through our heads and our hearts.
In my opinion one of the greatest acts of resistance and rebellion in today’s society is loving yourself. By loving yourself, you are harder to manipulate and control because you are surefooted. Self-love equals compassion of yourself and others and on the whole it makes the world a better place to live in.
THANK YOU, REINE!! YOU’RE THE BOMB!!