We had the good fortune of connecting with Diva Dog and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Diva, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
How did this all come about…what is my origin story? Well I started doing colorful and queer street art about three years ago. But really the inspiration for my work goes back to my childhood and the magical dog I had growing up, a little boy beagle named Baron. As a teenager in suburban Philadelphia, growing up queer (in the closet! and in a private catholic high school!!!), my dog was my salvation – he was my loyal friend, fiercest protector, and loving brother. Years later, I wanted to do something that could honor his spirit and memory and the impact that he had on my life. One day, I began sketching out an image of Baron based on my favorite picture of him – a stately portrait I had taken on a warm spring day many moons ago…and, within minutes, everything just came together: the main design, the gay pride colors and the sassy name! And, into this world, Diva Dog was born! (cue triumphant Marvel superhero music!) Pretty quickly after that, I was out on the streets, spreading my dog, and glitter & rainbows, all over Los Angeles!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The main goal of my art & street art is to make people smile with my dog. Sometimes it will include a silly pop culture reference, sometimes a queer-themed message (I’M GAY!) or sometimes it’s just a sweet tribute to my little dog. My main design/logo (the Diva Dog Head) includes the colors of the updated Gay Pride and the Trans Pride Flags so if someone queer walking by notices that, I’d like to think that they’d smile and maybe feel seen (#ifyouknowyouknow). Additionally, sometimes I’ll find a spot on the street that slightly hidden or out of the way to put up a very specifically queer piece…so if anyone finds them, it might look like my character is trapped behind bars or hiding…and maybe whispering “I’m gay” (or screaming it!). All of which, for me, connects back to those moments growing up and being in the closet and not being able to be my authentic self. One thing that stands out in my Diva Dog journey over the last few years was putting up my dog all over NYC for the 2019 World Pride Parade – celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. I flew in the day before and plastered the parade route with as many Divas as I could. And I put one bigger Diva up near the famous Stonewall Inn bar – thinking everyone would see it the next day during the parade. But I didn’t realize that the NYPD would gate off a large section of the square in front of Stonewall for safety reasons. So, at one point during the parade, I asked a nearby policewoman if she could take my phone and grab a picture of “that dog” in the gated off area. I teared up when she came back with the pic of my dog steps away from the bustling parade and Stonewall. Being a small part of the celebration was deeply meaningful. Also I was wearing a Diva Dog t-shirt that day and, at some point, someone passing by stopped and said “hey, there’s that beagle that we’ve been seeing all over!” That truly made me smile… Originally from the east coast (shout out Da Bronx, Northern Jersey, the ‘Cuse, and Philly), I moved out to LA 16 years ago to work in television behind the scenes. Working on Diva Dog was partially born out of a desire to have my own little creative space…something that was uniquely mine. A lot of the time, when you are part of the huge production crew, you work to execute someone else’s specific vision. For better or worse, you can have very little say in how things actually turn out. But, once Diva Dog was born, I felt a sense of true artistic freedom…which felt deeply connected to my little dog…which ultimately just felt like “love.” And I also appreciate having the ability and the platform to express myself as a queer creative. Honestly once I come to stage of completion on a design, I usually say: “I like it…but how can I make it gayer!?!” Case in point, I recently finished a “Harry Styles Vogue Dress” inspired Diva but, even now, I’m still contemplating…”how can I make this gayer?” One of the things that excites me about working on Diva Dog is just the ability to trust my instincts 100%…and never second guess the idea that inspires me. Also I like just like the feeling that all of LA can be my canvas…and any wall or space could potentially have a big gay dog on it! One thing I’d want people to know is there’s an energy in my work that comes from directly from my childhood dog. And it stems from that moment of walking in the door after a horrible day at school and immediately being greeted with my dog’s unconditional love. And there were many days when that was the only thing that got me through. Being different, queer and in the closet, those high school years took their toll both physically and emotionally…but, everyday when I came home, my little beagle brother was there to overwhelm me with love! And that always meant the world to me. So I hope that I can put a little bit of the love and energy back onto the streets of LA (and into the world in general).
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Hmmm….my version of LA…well I haven’t had a car for the last three years (I know, how is that even possible???). So it usually involves a lot of riding the metro and a lot of riding Lime Scooters. I love taking the Metro B/Red Line to DTLA…grabbing a beef dip from Philippes before I head to the Arts District (which is a good area to spot some Diva Dogs too!). Shout out to Corner Cottage in Burbank for their amazing breakfast burrito…And to Henry’s Tacos in Studio City for their incredible & affordable tacos (Tito’s in Culver City is a very close second). My favorite cheesesteak – Boo’s in Silver Lake. Angelinos Trattoria in Toluca Lake for anything Italian. Masa of Echo Park for an awesome hearty deep dish! (RIP to Tony’s Bella Vista in Burbank) The Apple Pan in West LA for the best burger (is it still open? I hope so!!!) And I love any place that makes a good milkshake including Fred 62 in Los Feliz (RIP to The Diner at the Standard Hollywood, The 101 Diner in Hollyood, Swingers in Santa Monica). Being from the east coast, I love walking any chance I can….Venice Beach for the energy, Manhattan Beach for the scenery. The Sunset Strip for the vibe. Anywhere along on Melrose (between La Brea to Fairfax) for the street art where you can usually find a Diva or two. Check out the Street Art Wall at American Vintage (7575 Melrose)….I have a few Diva’s up there…including a one-of-a-kind Mariah Carey “Glitter” inspired one that I just love!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d love to give a shoutout to other queer artists who’s work on the street inspires me: Homo Riot, Jeremy Novy, Ricky Sencion & Amy Smith. Big love to all of them! Check them out on insta! (And, on a personal note, huge shouout to my dad for motivating, inspiring and guiding me. Who I am and how I walk through the world is a direct result of him. I carry his spirit and voice with me everyday.)