Q&A: WEIWEN BALTER
Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
A. I'm Weiwen. I'm a freshman at UCLA. I'm a Sociology major, but I'm applying to the Design | Media Arts. We'll see what happens there... I've never actually taken any formal art classes though, so we'll see...
Q. Where are you from?
A. I'm from Michigan.
Q. Oh! That's exciting. I didn't peg you as a Michigan kind of girl. I totally thought you were an L.A. native. How does it compare?
A. Oh my god. No, I'm from a series of small towns in Michigan. Oh my god. There's no comparison. Even just coming back from break, things are just better here. The sun is brighter, the people are nicer.
Q. Before we get into anything else, let's first talk about your hair.
A. I just get bored really quickly, and I can't have the same hair for more than a month at a time. I used to have your hair [short & buzzed] where it was all shaved off, and that was fun. But it just kind of all grew out into this weird mess. But actually, if you want the real story, the first week of school, my hair was all black, which is my natural hair color. But then really gross guys kept like hitting on me on Bruinwalk. It was really nasty, so I was like, "I'm gonna dye my hair bright red so [that] they stop talking to me." And it worked! It's just not cute when you're trying to get to class.
Q. Do you ever plan on growing it out long?
A. Yeah! I kind of want to, but that's a lot of work. It's been a while and I've forgotten how I look with long hair... I just don't think I'd look cute, but I'd love to try it.
Q. Awe, I'm sure you will! Moving on, describe your style in 3 words.
A. ...Is there a right answer... Queer. Fairy. Grunge.
Q. What's your approach to fashion? It's definitely a vague question, so take it however you like.
A. Oh. Gosh. Well, one thing is that I'm really clumsy. I'll like spill food on myself. Like everyday. Just this morning I spilled toothpaste on myself. I'll like, rip things accidentally. So when it comes to fashion... First of all, I'm like a broke college student, so I don't let myself buy nice things. I'll get things that I know are purposely broken, so I can't cause more damage to it.
Q. That's hilarious. So I'm assuming, "ripped" and "distressed," are a part of your look?
A. [Laughs] A little bit! But only accidentally though.
Q. You're interested in the arts, I assume, since you're applying to DESMA. Where do you see art and fashion overlapping?
A. Gosh, um... Well to be honest with you, I was never a person that thought much about how I dressed until I met a couple of my friends who are going into Fashion Design. They started telling me, you know, just like with visual arts, it makes an impression on your viewer, right? You're trying to convey something, and that's the same thing with how you dress yourself. Even your mannerisms, and your voice. So I guess it's just really recently when I started to think about that. Like senior year.
Q. What would you say are your influences, and are there any people whose style inspires you?
A. Um...Hm. Okay, so one thing about me is that I'm genderfluid, so I identify as between a girl or a boy, sometimes it switches. So on some days my style is really masculine, and on some days, it's really feminine. So honestly... Taiwanese boy bands...I like that look. So that's definitely one.
Q. So are you into Taiwanese pop, or K-pop then?
A. Not so much. I just like the way they look!
Q. What are some places you shop at besides high-street chain stores?
A. I spend a lot of time in my friends' closets. I steal from them, but they steal from me, too, so it's all good.
Q. That's cute. Are you looking to buy anything, as of right now?
A. In Taiwan, they sell these hats where the top part says, "Boy" and the under part says, "Girl." I really want one of those.
Q. What other things are you really passionate about?
A. I draw a lot. I'm trying to teach myself to animate, right now. I also really like music. I sometimes play ukelele on the street, sometimes for kicks, sometimes for money. Whatever sounds good on the ukelele.
Q. Oh my god. What's that like?
A. I mean, I'll usually do it for an organization, but even when it isn't. People are generally really friendly. They'll come up and talk to you. Sometimes people who play other instruments will come up and talk to me and be like, "Oh hey, I have my guitar. You wanna, like, jam?" And you're just like, "Sure!" People are pretty nice. I haven't done it in L.A. though, so I wouldn't know if it's different here.
Q. What advice would you give to someone who wants to further develop their own style?
A. Talk to random people who you think dress well. Like if you see someone on Bruinwalk, and you think, "Dang, you look good." Go up to them, and talk to them about it!
Q. What obstacles have you gone through as a creative person, and how has that impacted you?
A. I had a traditional East Asian upbringing, so there was a lot of emphasis on math and science, and less so on the arts. Being a child of immigrants, I thought that I should definitely be in college studying something that has "hard skills," but I don't really have those. So it's just really been about not wanting to let down my mom, and trying to do what I'm good at.