When speaking with Tatiana Pimentel, an adage comes to mind: where there’s a will, there’s a way. It was not always part of her plan to be where she is today, but it was her will that kept her moving forward to find a path through uncharted territory. She took ownership of her presence and the weight it carries to transform our perception of what Fantasy can look like in front of, and behind, the camera.
Together, we explored how the most unexpected of open doors can be the key to finding a side to yourself you might have never discovered. I’m thankful she stayed the course.
What follows is an excerpt from our interview, which will be available in Issue #1 of The Seelie Crow magazine.
The Seelie Crow: When did you discover your love of Fantasy?
Tatiana: I always say it’s by accident, because I had no idea that this genre was so big. And I also had no idea that it was lacking so much representation, because I just didn’t know about it at all, until I got married. My neighbor was at my wedding. He took some photos of me and apparently his coworker, who is the woman that I do a lot of photography with, Joy, she was looking for a model. He said I was photogenic, and I said, “okay, sure.” That’s how it kind of happened. But, I had no idea that this was out there. Then, upon being in it, I had no idea that it was mostly white women, and mostly skinny white women, which was even worse. But, I’m glad that it happened. Maybe it was destiny. Maybe it was just supposed to happen. I was in the right place at the right time in my life.
The Seelie Crow: I totally agree that when you look at the pages of any magazine, but you know, particularly in this specific genre, it is very white. So, it’s very exciting to see you. Did you experience doubt coming into this?
Tatiana: I didn’t experience doubts, but I experienced…I didn’t think anything was going to come of it. So, I experienced the thought of “okay, well that was fun. Exit stage left.” I’m married. I have a husband, a house, and things to take care of. I didn’t think much of it. I was just going to dip out, and I didn’t think that I was going to be noticed and didn’t think it was going to become anything. When it did, and when I would start getting messages from people saying, “oh my God, my daughter I saw your photo and she looks just like you. So she’s looking forward to when Enchanted Living has a post.” And I was like, “well, now I can’t give up,” in a good way! If I had an image of someone that looked like me when I was growing up, it would’ve made a difference to me. I’m not going anywhere now. I’m here.
The Seelie Crow: Why do you think that community aspect is so important in this Fantasy space?
Tatiana: I think it’s important because when we don’t have community, we don’t know who to go to. We don’t know who to talk to about certain things, especially when the person who you might’ve had to talk to doesn’t look like you. So, they don’t know what’s going on in your head, or how you have perceived an issue. Had they been a person of color, maybe they’d have been able to sympathize with you a little bit better instead of brushing you off, or making you feel like it’s just in your head. Whereas, if you have that community of people that look like you, and are going through a very similar situation, it just makes it all the better. It makes it feel like you belong there, but when you don’t have that sense of community, you just feel like you’re in limbo, right?
The Seelie Crow: I do think a lot of times it is put back on the person of color to see like this, like you said, it’s in your head, or maybe you’re making a bigger deal out of it than what it is. And it can be so validating to have someone who knows your experience. Like, of course we’re not a monolith, but there are commonalities. If I come to you and say this happened to me,then I’m hearing back, “that happened to me too,” it makes all the difference. Then, I feel like it’s easier to stay in this space where you’re like, “okay, I’m not on an island. I’m not isolated.”
Tatiana: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it even goes as far as making sure that we have people of deeper complexions, too, because if somebody is talking to me and telling me, “hey, I’m having an issue with the fact that I’m of a deeper complexion” I can at least be like, “oh, you know who would be a great reference? Talk to so-and-so.” I don’t ever want to be in that type of community where you’re bullshitting and saying I understand, when it’s like you can’t understand if you aren’t of a deeper complexion, but so-and-so is. We need everybody.
We need everybody of all the shades, of all the sizes, too. It’s so important.
The Seelie Crow: That’s a great point. Even within our community we still have those, you know, hurdles to leap over. Having more people around is also really important. Thank you for saying that. So, pivoting just a little, I’d love to know when you started making your wings, and having your own business. How did that come about?
Tatiana: I’m like, I don’t know [laughs]. The Universe must not want me to just be. So, it was the same thing: Joy asked. We had an issue coming up for Spring with Enchanted Living, and it was fairy-themed, and she had a lot on her plate of already a bunch of crowns and other crafts that she was going to make for the shoot. She just reached out and said, “hey, would you mind looking at this tutorial and seeing if you could make some wings?” I said okay. And then people were asking after they saw the shots, like, do you sell these, do you sell these? So, I just got to work. I started making them, and I started selling them. Then, just to have my work ethic, I was just like, okay, well now this is business. Now my name’s on this. I have to learn about marketing. I have to invest in my business, invest in machinery, invest in my education of this machinery, invest in so many other things to make sure I’m putting out a product that I’m proud about. We can’t just be putting out half-assed products and hoping that it’s going to be successful.
The Seelie Crow: Right. So from that moment of conception to now – we have Creatures Who Craft – how long did that take? What was that process like?
Tatiana: That was at the end of 2019, into 2020. So, starting right at the beginning of our pandemic. I didn’t even think for a second that, “oh, this could backfire, oh, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and I’m trying to start a business.” I didn’t have any of those feelings that people that already have that thought in their heads that want to start a business have. I didn’t have those. I just kind of went into it. I was just like, people want something from me and I’m willing to make it. I was just so honored that people wanted to try something I had made. I’m lucky enough to keep getting amazing customers that give me feedback and say, “this was a little off, or this, or that.” Then, I fix things, and buy better quality materials, and make it better as people are giving me feedback. If you don’t listen to the customer, and you just keep doing the same thing, I mean, you’re asking to fail.
LaKase: Is it easy to keep those communication lines open to keep getting that?
Tatiana: Oh yeah. I think partially, because of my full-time job, it just made it kind of easier for me to transition into that unknowingly. I soaked up some of that business stuff from my full-time job, and it just kind of translated into my own business. They were just trying to be helpful, because they bought something from you. They spent money on something. They have all the right to want it to be perfect.
LaKase: Absolutely. That’s so important. So, we’ve talked about you getting in front of the camera, and now you’re also working behind the scenes, making art, selling art. Do you think representation in front and behind is getting better? What do you think it’s going to take to keep improving upon it?
Tatiana: I see the representation out there, but you have to look for it. I don’t know if that makes sense. I don’t know if they’re going out of their way to not show it on Instagram, or something, but you literally have to search. I started this mini-series on my Instagram. I take $40 and I buy from Black-owned businesses. I’ve made little reels of me going under Etsy pages and sharing that on my page, because I want people to know about these people, but I also don’t want to be that person that’s reaching out for free shit. I want to buy from you, because I want to support you. And what better way to support you than buying from you? Right? Yes, we can, of course, there’s other free ways. We can support these people by sharing. You need to buy from them, too. But, for some reason, I don’t know if it’s the algorithm, I don’t know what it is, but if you don’t manually type it in and search for these shops and these pages, they don’t show up on the feed. It’s so weird.
LaKase: I think we’re kind of harping on this community aspect, but I think it’s so important, because now you can see your creations out in the world. I’m curious: what does it feel like when you see someone wearing your wings? Does it take some of that anxiety away when you see yourself out in the world?
Tatiana: Yeah. I think the first feeling I get is anxiety in my stomach. When I see all my notifications that someone’s tagged me in something I’m like, “oh, is this going to be good?” [Laughs] Was it a happy thing? So, I go on and all of them are always happy, but I can’t…it’s the sensation. I can’t help it, because I’m competing with myself, and making sure I’m putting the best out there. So when I see that tag, I’m like, oh, I hope this is a happy person, but they are. They’re always happy. It’s amazing. And I’m so happy to see them enjoying themselves and doing fun fantasy things, and going to cons. They’re at all of these conventions and all this cool stuff. I’ve never been to a con. I’ve never been to any of that. Fantasy is so new for me. That’s huge. That’s a wonderful thing.
You can read the rest of Tatiana’s interview and more in Issue #1 of The Seelie Crow here!