We had the good fortune of connecting with CJ Catapia and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi CJ, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I am a firm believer in your background and upbringing having the largest impact on an individual.
I’m originally from the Philippines but was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California. I come from a family of six, two sisters, a brother, and the strictest parents you could ever imagine. I was fortunate enough to attend a private, Catholic school from kindergarten to eighth grade. My parents made sure religion and faith were ever-present in our lives. They wanted my siblings and me to be God-fearing and to rely on the church when all else fails. Since my parents worked 24/7, they kept us in extracurricular activities throughout grade school (but also thought it would keep us out of getting into the wrong crowd if they knew where we were at all times). I was in the Filipino church choir, an altar server, took piano lessons, played tennis, enrolled in Kumon, and played recreational volleyball at my local park and on the team at school – the whole nine yards. As much as I hated it at the time, I look back at everything my parents stressed me to be a part of as the biggest blessing.
Having immigrant parents and being a first-generation child means a lot to me. I am so grateful to have had my cultural roots and traditions as close-knit and important to my upbringing as they were – greeting elder family members by “blessing” them, an act of taking their left hand with your right hand and tapping it against your forehead, calling any and every elder Filipino you meet aunt, uncle, older brother, or older sister, even if you’re not related to them in any way as a sign of respect, having white rice with every meal (and I mean every single meal), are just to name a few.
When I was in middle school, my family was suddenly separated. It was a day like any other, my mom dropped my sisters and me off at school and I soon realized I forgot my lunch at home. I texted my mom asking her to drop it off and she wouldn’t respond to me. I tried contacting her a few more times and never heard back. I was annoyed and wondered why she was ignoring me. After school, my aunt picked us up – something she never does. I figured something was up but didn’t think too much of it until we arrived at my aunt’s house. I wanted to go home because I hadn’t eaten all day but was told we will be staying the night. As I got ready for bed, my older sister came into the room crying. I later learned my parents were illegal immigrants – something I didn’t fully understand yet at that age. She informed me that my parents were taken by a group of people that worked for the government called ICE. It was uncertain if/when we would see them again.
Fast forward a couple of months, my parents had been in custody at separate ICE Detention Facilities, we hadn’t returned to our home, my siblings and I were separated into different homes of our extended family, everything was sold inside of our home, and we were about ready to move to the Philippines. One day, my uncle just finished visiting my dad and went out to lunch with my aunt. They were discussing what else they could do to help us as we were all out of options. Someone from an adjacent table at the restaurant they were at overhead their conversation. By the grace of God, it just so happened to be one of my uncle’s long-lost friends that actually worked for the Philippine Consulate. Long story short, with the help of my uncle’s friend, my parents were released, our family was brought back together, and we started anew. My upbringing and this life-changing hardship molded me into who I am today.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I definitely think there has been a lot of progression for my company since my first interview with Voyage LA. I was able to open up my in-home office and CJC PR showroom. This has enabled me to operate a lot more smoothly. In addition to this, I’m most proud of having the ability to offer opportunities to others. Whether it be an internship, employment, or the expansion of up-and-coming brands, I will always keep in mind why I started this company in the first place – to open up a pathway of success for myself and those equally as hard-working and deserving.
Considering the COVID-19 guidelines and circumstances, daily life in Los Angeles is ever-changing. With these unprecedented times, it is difficult to plan events, meet with clients and prospective clients in person, travel for work, and simply keep a healthy state-of-mind on a daily basis. However, the beauty of starting CJC PR during the pandemic lies within the ability to adapt to change and exercise swiftly moving on to the next task at hand, regardless of previous roadblocks. I can thank my faith, my team of supporters, and keeping a strong mentality for overcoming these hiccups.
I want people to know that I don’t really have it all figured out yet. CJC PR is still a start-up company regardless of its progression. There is still a long road ahead to where I envision myself to be. With my baby on the way, I am far from feeling content with my position in life, however, it is crucial to understand that comfortability keeps you stagnant. You must constantly be striving to meet your goals and create new ones along the way. It is also vital to keep in mind that everyone works at their own pace. Never look at your life as a race against someone else’s but let it encourage you to keep going.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Sunday: Uba Tuba Acai Bowls on Fairfax for breakfast then the Melrose Flea Market at Fairfax High School
Monday: Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills then Toca Madera in West Hollywood for Mezcal Monday
Tuesday: Petersen Automotive Museum then Cabo Cantina for All You Can Eat Taco Tuesday
Wednesday: Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade and Pier then Fritto Misto for dinner
Thursday: St. Vincent’s Jewelry District then Poppy Nightclub
Friday: Blu Jam Cafe in DTLA for brunch, Dover Street Market, then Delilah for dinner
Saturday: Nobu Malibu for lunch, Lechuza Private Beach, then Ollo for dinner
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents and family are to thank first and foremost. As aforementioned, I think my upbringing played a vital role in who I’ve become which resulted in what I’ve been able to accomplish today. I thank my trials and errors for leading me to become a risk-taker and having the courage to bet on myself. I’m very fortunate to have my boyfriend support me every step of the way. From the moment we met to the day he pushed me to start my own company to the day we learned we were pregnant with our first child, he has been in my corner, rooting for me. I’d also like to thank my circle of friends and peers who are in the fashion industry as well. Seeing like-minded creatives work toward advancing their passions has always kept me going. This industry isn’t always the friendliest so it’s nice to be inspired by those around you, experiencing the same highs and lows that you can resonate with.