Kashmir Thompson is creator of Kashmir.VIII, a lifestyle brand known for turning black pop icons into original art. Kashmir transformed her artsy vibes into a big cartel business, boldly saying no to her comfort, and yes to her dreams.
I'm Kashmir Thompson and I'm a visual artist in every way—traditional, graphic design, a little film and photography. I’m from the east side of Cleveland, OH. Midwest made. Some kids say they wanna be a doctor, an astronaut or a ballerina. As for me, I’ve always wanted to do and be one thing: an artist.
My childhood had its highs and lows. I was surrounded by lots of books, lots of love, my grandmother Honey—but also a lot of poverty. We didn't have much growing up, but I loved my neighborhood and where I was from, and swore I would never leave.
As a kid, I was teased for my voice a lot. I had a speech impediment that took like five years of speech therapy to cure. Kids would say I sounded Jamaican (what??). There were just a ton of words I couldn’t properly pronounce in elementary school.
Growing up, I was a lot bigger than a lot of the kids. I have always been chubby, and though sometimes jokes were made, I was never really made to feel bad about my weight until middle school. I was teased for being fat; I was teased for being smart, and I never saw myself as a “nerd”. But at this school, being smart wasn't a cool thing. I was just different from these kids. I dressed differently from most of them too. You see, I see colors and patterns differently than most. And despite dress codes, I always found a way to incorporate an eclectic mix into my uniform. I’ve always been artsy. I was teased for that too.
My ugly duckling phase didn’t last too long. Had it, it might have killed me.
People always wonder what problems a little kid who commits suicide might have. Those people have never stepped foot inside Margaret Spellacy. In elementary school, I was just a normal kid in a normal, loving and friendly environment. But then there was middle school. The first half of my sixth grade year; I was teased every day. I was picked on, bullied, and could never understand why. I hadn’t experienced these problems in elementary school. Not in a malicious way. Kids crack jokes on each other and I got that. I did that—we all did in elementary—but we still had such love for one another! But when I got to this new school, it felt different, like kids wanted to see me cry. I felt like they really hated me. I got into four or five different fights, even got jumped by a group of kids...it was terrible.
I kept to myself. I was quiet. I did my work...whenever I had it. The kids in this school were so bad that we rarely learned anything. Most of the teachers literally gave up. We eventually stopped switching classes, because kids would fight so much in the hallway or just not go to their next class. It got to a point where we literally stayed in one classroom ALL day, like elementary kids, with just one teacher teaching all the subjects. Only our teacher didn't teach. She cried mostly—out of frustration I’m assuming. Tried to teach when she could. It was bad. My armor has always been my art. And during this time, I felt like even that couldn't save me. I was depressed. I hated school. I hated home. I hated myself. My biggest fear during that period was that I would die. That they would kill me or I would kill myself. I had never felt so hated. The following semester, I transferred to another school where my smarts were appreciated, my art was appreciated, and I could go back to just being a normal kid.
The biggest risk I ever made was moving down to Atlanta. I don't have any friends in Atlanta. I don't have any family in Atlanta (minus a few cousins, like, an hour away). But there was a man I loved here. I decided to relocate for love. And we all know how fickle love can be...especially in your 20s (lol). Being so far away from my family and friends was and is still hard. But what really happened was that I got snatched SO far out of my comfort zone by moving here that I had to fight my way out of the pit I was in, and I fought so hard that I ended up making a life better for myself than I could have ever imagined. My art, my business, and my being flourished!
The only thing I hated about myself as a kid was my weight. I'm still fat and I still hate it. But back in 2012-ish, I lost a ton of weight. Well, maybe not a ton, but a good 40 pounds. Man, I thought I was the baddest! (lol) Even though I’ve gained it all back since (sad face), it gave me a confidence boost at that time that I’d never had before. I was more outgoing, my social life was amazing, and I met my fiancé not too long afterward. I started realizing that 40 lbs. heavier or not, I should have been acting this way. I should have been more outgoing. I should have been more confident. I should have BEEN loving myself and showing the world Me. Regardless of my weight, I'm beautiful. Period.
I would never change how outspoken I am, and I would never change how hard I fight for the things I believe. I am a Black Woman. I know that my art and I appeal to mostly black women. I love, fight for, and hopefully inspire the Black Woman, and that will never change. I am here for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to inspire, edify and celebrate the Black Woman. And if I happen to also inspire and lift others along the way? That's amazing, and I'm grateful for that too.
I'm finally proud to be me. I got to this place by making a lot of mistakes, but making sure I learned from them and applying those lessons to my everyday life. Some people make the same mistakes over and over and over...I try not to be that person. I work proactively to improve myself. You can't change what you do not like about yourself if you never try. Some people know their hiccups and never try to fix them, chalking it up to just being "who they are." I evaluate myself and my traits, and if there's stuff I don't like...I fix it. Period.
My life is really as cool as it gets right now. I have a fiancé who loves me to the moon and back, I love my home, my art career is advancing day by day, and have you seen my puppy? Life is good. I can't complain. I do what I love, I go where I want, and I'm happy. I'm truly happy. I see myself as a powerhouse. A mover. A doer. An influencer. I'm am an artist and a bad mothafucka — and I know it.
KASHMIR THOMPSON X UDD
SUPERPOWER MY PERSONALITY
My wit, my gift of gab, and my sense of humor — they're all a part of the thing that makes my invincible. A personality like mine can never lose *wink*
You are beautiful, you are special, and you are unique—no matter how much you may disagree with any of those sentiments some days. Always know and believe this, and always believe in the goals and dreams you've set for yourself, no matter how much someone else doesn’t.
Number one tip is to stay confident, even if you're not confident. Fake it ’til you make it. Confidence takes you further than talent ever will. Trust me (LOL). Eventually, you'll start believing in yourself and your own confidence.