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story + photos / Ericka Clevenger

I find the psychology behind color very interesting and wanted to explore the relationship between color and people. Red is often described as vibrant or intense and is a symbol of love and power. In traditional Chinese style weddings, the bride wears a red dress while in South Africa the color red has been adopted as the color of mourning. Color means different things to different people and starting as young children we use color as a way to stand out and express ourselves. As we get older the color of our toothbrush becomes less import but I don’t believe the importance of color ever really leaves us. Colors run through our veins in our cultural traditions, memories, and self-identity; it is tied to our psychology and the physical landscape for how we see the world.

I started my series “The Colors of Youth” off with my good friend Nalysia K. Tea who is a Marketing and Event Planner in Southern California. I joke that I’m her agent because I’m always trying to get her in front of the camera for everything I do. We talked about the color red, and her family. She had the opportunity to visit her home country for two weeks earlier this year with her father. It was really cool to see her come back from that experience and talk to her about what her culture means to her.

What does the color red mean to you?

Red means admiration, love, passion, madness, bold, fearless, and respect.

What does your culture mean to you?

The blend of my cultures means overcoming obstacles with strength, humility, and opportunity.

Do you have any memories involving the color red?

Many memories come to mind of Ma because it was her favorite color. It makes me think of all the red flowers she plants, the red lip she always wore, and how cheery

she looked in red

Where are your ancestors from?


You mentioned your parents left Cambodia because of the war?

Yes, my parents risked their lives when they fleed the concentration camp with nothing but clothes on their backs because they knew everything they’d known as home was lost in the horror and coming to America meant better opportunities for their future.

What was you experience growing up as first-generation American?

Being a first-generation American feels like a constant uphill battle. Growing up, my parents ingrained “do good in school so you get a good job” because that meant good fortune and would have made all their sacrifices coming to America worth it. I felt like I owed them. It was during my adolescence when I grasped the American mentality of independence and the pursuit of dreams. The polarity of these different

cultures is what marks my identity crisis of being a thriving American and holding onto to the skins of my Cambodian roots.

Do you use your voice the older you get?

Yes, Growing up I was accustomed to having my voice suppressed by my family and peers until I started challenging my culture by speaking up and having an opinion.

Did you grow up going to the Buddhist temple?

Yes we went to the temple because it was a sign of respect to pray for my family and ancestors but my parents didn’t force us to go.

FASHION CREDITS: Earrings: Doodad and Fandango. Shoes: Reebok Red Classics. Pants: Vintage American Apparel. Mixed Vintage on everything else.
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