Can one find glamour at the Salvation Army? Just ask Vintage Vandalizm (real name Jasmin Rodriguez), whose bombshell beauty and pinup couture makes her one of the coolest Latinas you‘ll ever meet. Guys love her hourglass figure, bedroom eyes, and Bettie Page do, whereas the ladies adore everything she wears, whether it be a Betsey Johnson gown or an old Hollywood-era dress found at a local thrift store. Vintage Vandalizm isn’t just an avid couture collector-she’s also a model, fashion designer, artist, and renowned blogger. Her website allows readers to get a sneak peek into her day-to-day life finding breathtaking outfits minus wallet-emptying prices. Plus, if you need help in channeling your inner screen siren, this Puerto Rican muse can also serve as your personal stylist and shopper. Vintage Vandalizm easily struts and writes her way into your heart and instantly inspires other Latinas to dress up to celebrate their bodies. NocheLatina chats with Vintage Vandalizm about her passion for fashion, how Latinas can feel sexy, and why the Salvation Army can be your new it-place to get glam.
nocheLatina: You’re everything from an artist, fashion muse, designer, and even collector of vintage couture. When did you first embark on these paths?
Vintage Vandalizm: Sometimes I believe it was meant to happen. I have been modeling and blogging since high school. I went from making blogs on AOL to writing about my adventures in modeling and fashion on Blogspot. Today, I’m on Wordpress talking about my life as a blogger, fashionista, stylist, and model with a name that is now a business.
nocheLatina: How did you discover the world of pinups?
Vintage Vandalizm: There were many elements that contributed to my love for pinup culture. My dad is a mechanic who specializes in classic car restorations. He has car magazines full of pinups from the old days. Films like Grease and Cry-Baby also took part in my love of pinups.
nocheLatina: What is it about the pinup culture that empowers you as a Latina?
Vintage Vandalizm: The pinup culture is empowering for a Latina like me because most pinups weren't Latin. There is no well-known Puerto Rican pinup from the 1950s. I'd like to think I’m making up for it.
nocheLatina: On that note, talk a little bit more about your adoration for the late pinup icon Bettie Page, as well as old-Hollywood actress Debra Paget. How did these women become role models for you?
Vintage Vandalizm: I don't really remember when I was introduced to Bettie Page; I think it was right after high school. When I saw her picture and did my research, I fell in love with her image. Bettie Page was fearlessly ambitious and that is something I idolize. Despite her hardships throughout her life she continued toward her dreams. How can I not admire that? As a Latina, I could relate to many things about Bettie, including her style, her curves, her hair, and her drive. She’s someone I could identify with on so many levels. Debra Paget was a beautiful and talented actress who primarily played ethnic roles. Aside from being gorgeous, she was fluent in many languages and educated on so many cultures, which helped portray any character. She owned the screen each and every time. She’s a chameleon and this is something I can also identify with. When it comes to fashion, I like to play different characters.
nocheLatina: You mentioned on your site that you’ve grown to love being the black sheep. What were some of the challenges you originally faced in being different from other Latinas on your block in Queens?
Vintage Vandalizm: To be completely honest, the saddest part of growing up in my neighborhood was that there weren't many Puerto Ricans. To top it off, the only Puerto Ricans that lived there didn't even like me. Many times people would call me ‘white’ and tell me I wasn't Latina because of my style or personality. I often thought it was a shame that people associated style, or anything different for that matter, with being Caucasian. That’s when I started to embrace being me because I knew I was breaking the mold. I knew that eventually they would learn to appreciate me for being me. I was constantly teased and bullied and it only fed the fire in me. I was a rebel and the more they tried to make me conform, the more I rebelled against it. I am almost 24-years-old now and many of those people respect me today.
nocheLatina: Some people wouldn’t associate couture with the Salvation Army. Describe your experience with the Salvation Army at 15.
Vintage Vandalizm: After being a customer of the Salvation Army since 15, I have seen it change. It was cheaper back then and I found more vintage items. Now that vintage is popular, many merchants buy from the Salvation Army and sell these cheap pieces for ridiculous prices. However, I still manage to find treasure.
nocheLatina: Any tips on buying gems at the Salvation Army?
Vintage Vandalizm: I think the key to finding treasure in the Salvation Army is to know what works with your body and personal style. You have to be open minded and try different things. Usually, if I look through a rack and I question something, I try it on immediately. It ends up looking great, but I would have probably passed it up. If you question something for even a second, it doesn't hurt to try it on. You just have to look and be patient.
nocheLatina: You’ve mentioned in a past interview that putting your life on the web for the world to see does at times make you uncomfortable. How do you handle those pressures?
Vintage Vandalizm: I am still growing as a blogger and as a person. One of the key things I learned is that I have to separate my personal life from my brand. It seems the more depth I gave the world, the more they wanted to know, and that’s when it became uncomfortable. I have separated the two and I only write slightly personal things on my Tumblr. That’s where people really get to pick my brain because it’s laid out for them in images and inspirational quotes. My website only showcases fashion and my endeavors as a model and socialite. I have grown to love my privacy. Now I guide without reason and my readers get it.
nocheLatina: What’s your relationship like with the Latin community?
Vintage Vandalizm: I do appeal to the Latin community. I just know I can be more involved, which I am working on now. I think the main issue is that I don't know Spanish so I feel kind of disconnected. I understand it, but I can’t speak it well. I grew up in an Americanized household. My mother is from Queens and my dad is from Brooklyn. My dad has a strong Spanish accent and my mother talks like she's from Jersey. This doesn't mean that we go around saying we’re American. In fact, we proudly say that we’re Puerto Rican. Lately, I have been doing research on Latin pinups from the 1950s. I think it’s important to include culture in fashion because it adds an element of history and art that many people can appreciate.
nocheLatina: What are some of your upcoming projects?
Vintage Vandalizm: I plan to create a swimwear line inspired by the 1950s. I want women to feel sexy and comfortable in a bathing suit. I want to create pieces that change the entire fashion game as we know it. I think the fashion world is lacking creativity and taking the safe route. It’s time to shake things up a bit.
nocheLatina: Why is it important to advocate the idea that you don’t have to be stick-thin to be passionate about fashion?
Vintage Vandalizm: After working in the lingerie field, I have seen the lengths women go through to be thin, tall, and everything else you can imagine. Women used to embrace their curves back in the day and they loved it! It’s so sad that people identify the word ‘beautiful’ with being stick thin. I once worked with a girl who thought seeing your neck bones and rib cage was beautiful. She’s a size 2 by the way. The most beautiful women I know are over size 8. You don't have to read too deeply into what society thinks is a ‘perfect woman.’ These magazines brainwash them into thinking they need to lose weight, get plastic surgery, and alter all of these things about them. We are all designed a certain way and I believe every woman should embrace the art that they are. All women are beautiful, no matter what shape or size. I’m a curvy size 2 and I eat like a truck driver. I love food and there is no way in hell I’m going to give that up to fit social standards. I hope that when girls find my blog, they learn to accept themselves and embrace those insecurities.
nocheLatina: What does it take for a Latina to look and feel glamorous?
Vintage Vandalizm: It doesn't take much. Latinas are naturally beautiful. I think the key to feeling and being beautiful is to respect yourself and others. Be confident, follow your dreams, and be proud of where you came from. Don't waste your time with insecurities, life is too short. Love everything about you.