We had the good fortune of connecting with Celina Sarmiento and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Celina, let’s talk legacy – what do you want yours to be?
I see every person as a universe of their own stories. Events have been canceled due to COVID-19 but the most fulfilling part for me about showing up is finding all these people I can talk to. It’s like traveling. They give me a tour of their universe and I give them a tour of mine. I’m someone who’s delighted to share myself with the world and connect to others through my experiences, especially since I’m in this unique yet uncommon position of being an immigrant, woman-of-color. So I want to be remembered as a storyteller. I want everyone to know how I saw the world in hopes that my story gives them a perspective to consider and something to relate to.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My public persona is “Captain Senpai”. It’s the handle I used when I started creating fanart back when I was 17 years old. Before I knew it, I’ve been doing it for almost a decade and most of my work revolved around my love for Japanese aesthetics and pop culture. I also started a new project called Overthought Kitchen which marries my love for writing and illustrating cute things. While Captain Senpai preserves the cool and edgy side of me, Overthought Kitchen presents the introspective, evolving person that I am. I also have a separate graphic design portfolio on celinabernice.com for freelance work. It’s definitely a ton of different stuff on my plate but the most important overlap is that everything I do is so deeply personal to me that anyone exposed to my work received a piece of me – a piece of my time, my heart, my story. Since I’m a graphic designer and illustrator, it’s easy to assume that the “art” is the design or the illustration. But for me, the story behind it is the “art”. The story is the gift inside the box. Everything else is just gift wrap. Anyone can do the things I do and execute it much better than I can but I feel that what sets me apart is the journey of how I got there. What was I experiencing during the time I created the design? Why was it significant? What led me to frame the experience a certain way? A million thoughts race through my head every day and some of those thoughts converge and inspire me to create something I could use to present the story to others. Sometimes it’s a drawing. Or packaging design. Or enamel pins. Sometimes it’s fashion. Or even a selfie!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is a hard one. I have such a diverse group of friends and it’s really important to me to cater the experience to each of their personalities for the trip to be a success. I take my itineraries seriously! Let’s say I’m touring myself or someone exactly like me, these places will definitely have to be in the itinerary: Coffee & brunch: Broome St General Store Verve Coffee Roasters Doubting Thomas Museums: The Getty in Los Angeles Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino Shopping: Secret Headquarters Soap Plant Wacko Pop-Hop Books & Print Now Serving The Last Bookstore Hightide Store Amoeba Music Hiromi Paper Store Baum-kuchen Stationery Store Food: Wanderlust Creamery Motto Tea Cafe Tea Master Matcha Cafe and Green Tea Shop Galco’s Old World Grocer Milkfarm Cacao Mexicatessen Ma’am Sir Sun Nong Dan I could keep going!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I believe that finding your place is always going to be a challenge, but looking for that sense of belonging as a perpetual foreigner in this country I call home, brought in its own set of hurdles and setbacks. So I feel extremely fortunate to have found a solid support system of people who I can trust to act as puzzle pieces to fill in gaps and help me complete the picture. Whatever it may be – insight, perspective, experience – I feel like I have someone to turn to for that. I have my mom who has survived so much and did so without any complaints. She’s a kind-hearted person who demonstrates resilience and perseverance without this narrative of being a tormented soul. I have my inspiring tight-knit group of friends who reserve no room for toxicity. With them, it’s never a competition. We celebrate each others’ achievements and support each other through tough times. And of course, my fiance Arthur Loftis who’s been with me through all seven years of ups and downs, acting as both emotional support and voice of reason. He’s my home and safe space. I wouldn’t have succeeded if he didn’t provide the means for me to try and grow.
Other: Overthought Kitchen overthoughtkitchen.com instagram.com/overthoughtkitchen Celina Bernice celinabernice.com instagram.com/celinabernice
Austin Bennett and Anna Diep