We had the good fortune of connecting with Cel La Flaca and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cel, career-wise, where do you want to be in the end?
I don’t feel like there’s a true end goal for me per say. I think there are breathless “aha!” kinds of moments where I can feel some satisfaction, and then continue to pour myself back into learning the craft. I’ve found my engagement with art, whether it be illustration or film, to be a winding road that has lead me to so many experiences and people that it’s hard to constrain that to a career path or position.
Not to sound cheeky or try to deem everything I do so ethereal, much of what I work on is very accessible and by no means groundbreaking. However, I’ve always found magic in the mundane, the pedestrian, and do gravitate towards expressing my personal work in a more avante garde fashion. All of this being a rather long winded way to say, by the end of my career, my life, I hope to have made things for people to engage thoughtfully with themselves and others. A simple albeit Herculean task.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Recently I participated again in Titmouse’s 5 Second Day shorts with a sequel to my submission last year, “Coffee Crush”. It was…a real short, one could say! 20 odd seconds! I was so happy, because in addition to doing the storyboards for it, I did clean up on the animation. I was a tad disappointed I couldn’t congregate with my friends in the studio like I did yesteryear, but to be able to work from their files and put work into it, was a different kind of intimacy I hadn’t shared before. It felt very satisfying; even more so when I saw the final piece and then put it online.
I’ve reflected on the years that have led up to this point, the hardships, guessing, transphobia and harassment I had endured in the public work spaces. I think I said this in the previous interview, but I’d like to think that me still standing and creating is a testament to all of that not being true or enough to eclipse what trans people or BIPOC people can bring to the table in the American animation/art scene. I’d also like to think that I help things like that happen less now or people know never to tolerate it, just because I once did.
Going forward I’d love to pitch “Coffee Crush” and not be shy about my ambitions, nor think “just wait your turn.” I think it’s fine to be vocal about what one wants for themselves and their communities, and to boost others who haven’t had a turn at the table. We’ve waited long enough.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I fancy myself a flâneur, so often I cater my tour of the area to the person’s taste…however, were it absolutely left up to me? A dream day out would consist mostly of coffee, driving, and walking. Granted, I’m imagining this to be a pre-COVID itinerary.
For the morning, I’d start with a lovely open air breakfast at Jist Cafe on Judge Aiso Street. The obaachan who waits tables and her chef son always have great tableside manner and a menu to match. The last time I ate there, the kinoko toast really hit the spot. My partner is partial to their coffee cake and chashu hash skillet. All of this surely to be washed down with some Bicycle Coffee.
After a nice filling breakfast, a stroll down through Little Tokyo through the Jungle assorted shops, to say hello to friends who work along the shopping strip, and pop into Kinokuniya for a nice piece of fiction, an artbook, or stationery goodies…perhaps a peek at the awning and window seats at Sushi Enya, where we’ll return for dinner.
Into the car and taking a drive, I’d make a point somehow in a very roundabout way (certainly not the quickest way) to go down Mulholland Drive and talk endlessly about David Lynch’s filmography and Twin Peaks.
For a quick coffee pitstop, I’d drop by COFFEE COFFEE on Fairfax for their Special with oat milk; perchance boba from Pearl’s Finest if my guest was particularly indulgent, and I’d show them the streetwear fare down the way (HUF, Hundreds, Supreme, BAPE, RipnDip, the works). Then (eventually!) for lunch, I’d pop into Poké Me on La Brea to grab a quick bowl and continue onward.
Fully caffeinated and energized, I’d go to LACMA, conveniently close to my home, and explore the latest exhibits. There’s still that Nara exhibit I haven’t gotten around to seeing…I’m hoping to when it’s safer.
From there, relaxing amongst art, a trek back into DTLA and stopping off to The Last Bookstore. I rather enjoy seeing their rarities in the cabinets
Of course, dinner at Sushi Enya–an LA staple for me since 2014. A hearty dinner with fresh nigiri and hot ocha is a must.
And to cap the night off, to visit my most special place…would be CAFE LOFT on 6th and Oxford. Jessica, her husband, and her daughter, Semi, all who are like family, run this small coffee shop in a historical building and make homemade sandwiches and drinks that make you feel like you’re home. I never go to this place with someone unless I really trust them, it’s truly my heart.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
As always, one thanks their family and friends. Though in particular, I’d like to thank my mentors Alex Kwan and Brian Ellis. I consider them my “work parents”. It’s very rare in the animation industry that you find two people, so kind hearted and open to take me under their wing as I dive deeper into art and engage in the battle of making it my entire life. Funnily enough, they very much mirror my actual parents: a tiger mom with a thick, unforgiving exterior and an unnervingly zen dad who likes to pal around and support your interests.
Youtube: Cel La Flaca
Haley Gansert Shintaro Kago Cel La Flaca