We had the good fortune of connecting with Yanel Mayorga and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yanel, let’s talk legacy – what do you want yours to be?
This is a question I think about often. I think the answer to that is how I made people feel. I want them to feel empowered, connected, and beautiful. I think those are the three main things. I am constantly working on becoming the best human I can be and I want to be kind, compassionate, and good to others. If someone allows me into their energy, I want to focus on being the very best person I can be in their space. I have been doing a lot of growth and this year and if you would have asked me last year, I would have said, “I want my work to be the thing they remember.” But in reality, I would like to have them think about how I made them feel. And I hope that feeling is good. I hope it tapped into something deep and personal. My images will last a long time, I hope the feeling does too.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a photographer because I love photographing people. Haha. That is plain and simple. But to go deeper, I have two things that made me decide, I was going to be a family and wedding photographer: I grew up in a home where my mom has pictures on top of pictures of all of her kids and family in frames, photo boxes, and albums. You know the big, heavy photo albums that the biding falls apart over the years and the plastic within the pages stick to the photos so you’re kind of stuck with the old photo album to preserve your images? She has tons of those. And I grew up wanting to have a lot of photos too. I want tons of photos of the people I love. One of the things I think about often is my mom sharing the story of how when she migrated to the US, she lost all of her photos of her mom. She only has one photo of her late mother that is really old and blurry because it was shot on film and not very well and you can’t really see her mom’s face but my mom loves it so much. In my adult life, I have seen it a lot more and she pulls it out and always shares a different story with me about her mom. I think it’s so special, especially when people are no longer with us, we have these amazing still images that tell a story and create a feeling when we see them. And to be a photographer and capture that for people is so powerful and beautiful. Another main reason why I am a photographer is that when I was 13, my mom took me to a friend’s house who was hosting a photo glamour party. Basically, it was 2 or 3 makeup artists in the kitchen, a stylist who would style us in some cool accessories like a cowboy hat or a boa and some costume jewelry, and a photographer who set up studio lights, a backdrop, and a camera in the living room of the home and took our portraits. I remember them working on so many people that day and I thought it was so cool. Not only did I get to have my makeup done, and my hair was done in, and my picture was taken but I felt beautiful. They really made me feel good and the photos were so cute. It was a room full of women and the energy was so uplifting and everyone was hyping each other up and I was really moved. Every time I see those photos in these giant frames with my baby blue boa or my pink cowgirl hat, I think about how good I felt that day. And it really makes me appreciate my mom. So when I decided to become a photographer, I decided that I was going to be a portrait and people photographer because I want to create images that will take you back to that moment but also create this amazing experience for my clients. I want them to feel beautiful but also, capture their bond and connection. If it’s a mom with her child or a couple on their wedding day, I want to create the image of the story that their children will pass down to their children. I haven’t always known that I was going to be a photographer, I have always loved it but I didn’t begin to do it until I was 18. I bought my first camera on black Friday and spent all my savings on it. I bounced from job to job while always freelancing in photography as a source of income. It wasn’t until 3 years ago when I decided that I was going to give myself until May of 2020 to set myself up to become full time. Then, Covid happened and I thought that I would have to work my corporate job because of how unstable the year was financially but of course, work wasn’t going well and I just jumped. I don’t regret it. I am exactly where I am meant to be. Was it easy? No. The biggest challenge in my life has been that I sometimes let others project their anxieties onto me and I hold myself back. When I quit my job, a lot of the people around me told me that maybe I should wait until post-pandemic because it wasn’t the time to quit because of Covid. Even when I toyed with quitting in the past, I was scared of not having a stable source of income. I have learned that you just have to do you. Whatever ‘You’ is. Whoever ‘You’ is. ‘You’ can be fluid and ever changing but as long as you are doing what you are meant to be doing at the moment that you are doing it, that is who you are. Do everything that makes you happy. For me, I want to make the most out of this life. I want to create, I want to serve, I want to leave something good behind. And this is how I will do it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
So a typical week for me is coffee at my favorite coffee shop, Collaborative Coffee in Lakewood. I am either an iced oat milk vanilla latte or their cold brew kind of girl. I particularly love this place because the baristas welcome everyone. The coffee is great but the environment really makes this place a haven for everyone. Then, I go back to my studio to work, edit, answer emails. I like to hike and scout for new locations and hike about once a week. I am constantly on the hunt for cute scenic places. I am really enjoying the trails in OC and LA lately. For lunch, I am always looking for yummy new places that are typically small businesses, some of my favorites are Leaf Over Beef in Long Beach, Pupuseria El Kiosko in Long Beach, Loving Hut in Garden Grove, Kareem’s in Anaheim, Thien Dang in Garden Grove, Xonxitas in Watts, Thuyen Vien in Garden Grove, Earles on Crenshaw, Guru Crafted Indian Cuisine in Artesia and Veggie Y Que in Whitter. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I eat a plant-based diet and I am constantly on the go and love taking a drive for some yummy food. Since I cater to the Greater LA and OC, I have really been able to explore some amazing food. I love all of these places because they make traditional and cultural foods that I loved when I went plant-based without any animal products so I am still eating the flavors I love. All of these places also have a community aspect that I am continually seeking. I always feel valued. If I am showing anyone around my city or the cities that I love, I really focus on the smaller communities. Long Beach has amazing small businesses and micro-communities. We have amazing art and murals, food, and some great small retail shops. There is an amazing Vietnamese and Cambodian community that I have really taken the time to explore. I also love the Wrigley and North Long Beach area, there are lots of Latino and black-owned businesses, a lot of great food, plenty of artists. I like taking my friends to places like Little India in Artesia, Little Vietnam, I want them to meet local artists in our communities and shop at small businesses because when they leave, I want them to have been submerged in enough of the culture here that they know what my city is about.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have so many people to thank for the support. My mom, obviously. I am a huge believer that you can be a strong businesswoman and still hold down the fort at home because she did it. My brother, Alexander, (@mralexandermay), who is the best brother and mentor a girl could ask for. I can tell him anything and he always has the answer, whether it is about life or business. My girlfriends, Lizbeth, Elly, Izzie, Elizabeth, and Stephanie, who I find sisterhood and a home in always. My cousin Yessenia who really is my twisted sister. My mentors, Rocio Rivera (@ rociorivera) and Jonas Peterson (@jonaspeterson) because they really allow me to pick their brain and give me all the tips and tricks. And of course, my partner Darren, (@dekayslaps) who is as passionate about his craft as I am and has been on my side every single step of the way. You really need a partner who understands and supports all your crazy ideas. These people are my tried and true tribe. They are in the fabric of my being and I am nothing without them.