I come from a family of very contrasting backgrounds. Learning about myself has only been a fairly recent pursuit and has only started to make sense recently. I’ve always been confused about who I am and who I’m supposed to be, like what I’m supposed to be like as far as religion and culture goes. My Dad is Egyptian and my Mom is Mexican and White. My Mom is Christian and my Dad is Muslim. My parents met in Egypt and my dad moved down here to be with us and got married here; they eventually divorced due to their religious differences. That’s always been an interesting thought for me, and set me out to contemplate the underlying question of ‘what am I supposed to believe?’ and what governs me? On one hand I was raised Christian and was taught Islam was the wrong way of thinking. Coming into myself now as an adult, I’ve been realizing that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. I know I believe in a higher power and higher energy, that there is something out there that does govern the world. I don’t think there is a right way of thinking or one way of thinking, I think it’s all the same thing just in different languages for different people to understand and to get the same message across to the masses.

That has a lot to do with how I navigate the world. I feel like I’m more empathetic to a lot of people just because I know I’m very different and my background is diverse. Here in America we’re all diverse and we are basically all kids of immigrants. After all, we’re a country built on immigrants, so to see people who aren’t empathetic to that and are blind to it is really sad. I make it a point to be understanding and show people that whatever they’re going through, they’re not alone. I think it’s important that people know that. As far as my art goes, I think I knew I was going to be a creative person when I was a kid. When we used to drive to my Grandma’s house, in the back of my Mom’s minivan I would sketch out the hills and I would always draw this one scene of palm trees and a hammock in between them; I would draw the same thing over and over again. I would write a lot too, I was very contemplative and expressive and that’s how I would hash out my thoughts – writing to myself and drawing little scenes of places I’d like to be or rather be or where I’d like to go some day.

Throughout high school I took art class. That was the only class I paid attention to. I would spend a lot of my time in my art and yearbook classes. They were my sanctuary and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything other than that. It was a really scary thought that I would have to figure my life out and figure out a path that was lucrative and emotionally satisfying also. I didn’t know what that would be.  I felt like I would always end up in the arts, I just didn’t know what I’d end up doing.

Right after high school, since I felt so trapped, I didn’t apply to any colleges. My grades weren’t that great since I passed with just the bare minimum so I opted for the Marine Corps. I thought it was ideal because I felt like I never had discipline in my life. I felt like my childhood was very “I raised myself” type of thing. My Mom was always working as a single mother and was always focusing on my brother. I had it handled, but I was in my own world. I felt like I needed discipline, but I saw my life flash before my eyes. I wanted to instill some discipline into myself, stay fit, and travel the world, so the Marine Corps sounded like a great idea since they’d pay for my schooling. I started training with them for about a year and I was really fit- it was great. I loved everyone there. They were the adult figures I needed at the time. I joined with my best friend at the time, and she moved onto boot camp, but I didn’t because I felt like I would’ve regretted it. I did feel like it was a very valuable experience though because I learned what it would’ve taken and how to discipline myself in exercising all the time.

My friend and I would do Insanity and training every week and it was a lot of fun. I lived and breathed working out. However, I started to notice that it took away from my artistic time, the time I would spend painting or drawing and I knew something was missing. I knew I had to express myself visually to get my point across, I just felt like I had a voice that needs to be heard and I needed to express to the world what I saw and what I felt just because I hoped people would relate – whether they found it comforting or a different way of seeing the world. I felt like that was my calling. After I decided to drop out from the Marines, I ended up moving to San Francisco to be more immersed into the arts community there since it was bigger than Sacramento, And SF was my dream, I just didn’t know what I was in for.

Creatively, I’m an artist and full time freelance photographer which has taken a lot of my time lately. And venturing into modeling is a whole different pursuit. I feel like I go through periods where I’m taking in a lot of inspiration and information for future use, like taking in data and visual data, writing things down, and taking recordings of myself; I have a lot going on all the time and all at once. Now I feel like my biggest focus is moving to New York.

I feel like all of my artistic pursuits intertwine. It’s my way of living now. I live and breathe art, it’s both ridiculous and amazing, I’m so grateful. It’s awesome having all of these tools to express myself and I’m always learning new ways to do so. I’m focused on growing myself as a visual artist and trying to get my photography and portraits to portray that person’s essence or soul, getting the real gist of who they are to show it back to them. I feel like with my photography, I’ll see something in the subject in a way that I want them to see themselves. I think a great way to accomplish that is to share the notion that you don’t have to be conventional in looking or dressing a certain way. I want to share that everyone is unique and that is their power.

It got hard recently, blurring the lines between work and my  pleasure projects. I felt like I had to make a living from my art and I didn’t have time to do it for myself anymore. I learned that I need to make more time for what I want to shoot vs. what I have to shoot. I’ve shifted my mindset now so that even when I have to shoot something, it’s so much fun, and I’m thankful because this is my dream and this is what I wanted. I’m working on perfecting all of my crafts, learning balance between craftsmanship and digital work. I really miss working with my hands, I don’t paint as much as I used to and it’s such an important part of my life, it’s so therapeutic for me and everything melts away when I’m in a state of flow. It’s so meditative; it’s so much more about the process than it is the result. The ritual, action, and process of it – what I love about drawing and painting is the muscle memory of it. Whenever I’m drawing something I’m super attached to the motion of it, and I can remember whatever point I was in my life. Whenever I’m working on something, I’ll look back at the beginning stages of it, the details of what season it was and who I was dating. I’m super attached to my original paintings and drawings more than anything else. I probably won’t sell a lot of my first ones, which is a struggle because eventually I feel like I’d have to sell them, it’s just hard to let go of those memories, which is why I just sell a lot of prints of my work.

When I was 10 or 11, I really wanted to be a Disney Channel actress. I wanted to be on TV and I begged my mom to take me to these auditions. The day before I went to a call back for an American Eagle commercial, I got a terrible haircut, and I was devastated. With Instagram taking off, People began was approaching me to take my photos and I was so awkward. Somehow the universe allowed the modeling market to find me when I began to be comfortable with myself in a time which allows for more diversity, women of color, and unique looks. The internet has allowed for so many opportunities for me – someone had reached out from a modeling agency last year through Instagram and had asked about being interested about modeling for her agency. It was so crazy that had happened because in the back of my head, I’ve seen a lot of girls traveling and doing real cool shit, and I loved seeing that form of expression of how it gave them more strength, confidence, and how they owned it! I thought, “I’m not that terrible looking and I want to travel and set an example for those women who look like me and come from diverse homes.” It started becoming a thought but I hadn’t verbalized it. I took it as a sign when she reached out to me and we set up a meeting. It felt so unreal and I was there telling her about my art, my family, who I am, what I want to do, and everything aligned perfectly with the agency’s ideals and what they were trying to strive for with the image they want to portray about young women and in that industry.

It opened me up a lot because I hadn’t done any shoots, mostly just photos of me taken by Veej. When I asked why she reached out to me, she said she thought that I had something that needed to be tapped into and that she really liked my photography and my vision in general. She wanted me to get involved with the photography aspect of the agency as well. One of the main founders is a photographer/model herself, who is a powerhouse of a woman, which inspired me. I’ve always been modest, I’ve always wanted to be known for more than my looks. People are always taken aback with everything I’m doing, and I make a point to be extra with my creativity, expression, and work ethic; I know I have a lot of power in me, unborn work and ideas, and it’s important for me to get that out in any way I can – which has also translated into modeling.

Everything that has happened to me has brought me to this point with a network of supportive people who have helped push me forward with everything that I do – I’m so thankful for YK Familia because we challenge each other to do more and do better. Throwing events and bringing people together and holding each other accountable. In terms of modeling, it was a total shot in the dark, but building my portfolio has been a process and everyone has been supportive with it in working together bringing this vision to life. It’s always a pursuit of growth and development, and the best thing about life and art is that you’re never going to stop learning and that there are endless ways to express yourself.

My ultimate goal is to be on a billboard, and shoot one as well. I want to direct a campaign starring myself. I want to be an icon for the lifestyle I have created for myself and I continue to create so I can share that any and all people can do this too. I think it’s really important to take into consideration that whatever you give the most time and energy to, that’s what you’re going to manifest. If you decide that you’re not good enough to quit your day job and pursue your dreams, you’re not giving yourself the self worth you deserve. You deserve to live the life you want and to pursue your dreams. I want to be living proof of that, and I’m not giving myself any other options.

I’m not letting myself get comfortable working a part time job, my goal is to be completely self funded and self employed which requires a lot of energy and work – I not only have to be my only boss but my own and only employee. I think I’m getting a lot better at the behind the scenes work that isn’t always fun. There are so many things you have to consider about being a small business, and I feel like I’m innovative in making money but it’s not always easy, you have to put the work in. Money that comes easily, leaves easily too. You have to grow further, and this fast money is not real money. Work smart and not hard. I think I’m on the right path doing what I love. Intentions are what manifest the things I dream of and that’s what governs my life. It’s the most important thing, because when you’re putting out desires and thoughts into the universe, they just hear words and affirmations and intention, so you have to be careful about the words you speak and the thoughts you have even if it is a joke or sarcasm. I’m working on curating my thoughts with intention and love, and desire to help the world to be a more joyful and grateful place.

I just want to always be grateful and portray the beauty in the world through my art. Everything is beautiful if you take a step back and look at it. Through my photography, I try to capture a moment I can never get back and try and bring to the audience a perspective that they wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

I drink a lot of coffee and that’s how I came up with “The Caffeinist”. Coffee has a lot to do with who I am; It’s ritualistic in my family, drinking coffee before or after a meal. It helps me be closer to home since I don’t really have a structured idea as to what home is. I’ve never really been a morning person, I don’t think I’ll ever be.  I’d always get coffee before class, work out of coffee shops, and talk about big concepts over coffee. Everything in my life would revolve around coffee, it’s even a way of showing people I cared about them by making coffee for them. Coincidentally, I think it’s a good analogy for energy and motivation- Caffeinate yourself because you want to stay awake… there’s so much to make and see, so stay caffeinated, stay alive and exhilarated and energized; stay that way and strive for that way of being! There are so many themes revolving around caffeine and being “The Caffeinist” which I found through in journaling why coffee is great and brings people together, claiming that as my life motto.

We had the pleasure of connecting with Amina through our good friend, Veej. During a trip to San Francisco, we talked to Amina about her career as an artist and how she manifests her reality. She’s an incredible powerhouse of a being who shines light through her work. As a painter, digital artist, photographer, and budding model, she shares that this lifestyle is possible with hard and continuous work.

She has a love for coffee that we’re familiar with and embodies caffeinism, living life as if you are caffeinated and living to life to the highest degree. She is an incredible individual who is the perfect embodiment of someone who is following their dream.


Website: aminaelkabbany.com
Instagram: @thecaffeinist
Twitter: @thecaffeinist

*Photos of artwork from Amina’s website*