San Diego I love you! Ms. Unique One is making her presence now in the San Diego Graffiti Art Movement and I am thankful for the opportunity to explore her mind and share her story with the World for the first time; it has been a long journey for this sit down to finally happen, therefore it is very special for the both of us so enjoy!
On January 11, 2013 while working with the Silver Battle San Diego, I had the privilege to meet a lot of new faces; this was my first time reaching out to San Diego’s Graffiti Community and all so welcoming with great talented Graffheads on that side of town. I got the pleasure to meet this sweet and I must say extremely shy Graffiti Artist, all her friends kept on insisting she was a great artist so I asked her and she confirmed. Afterwards, I came back and offered her a wall to paint at the Silver Battle San Diego but unfortunately we ran out of time. I knew at that moment I wanted to know more about her work and to find out she has mad skills and techniques which really made me understand one thing about Ms. Unique, she is not shy; just a very humble person and we all know there is nothing greater than a person who is talented and humble about it.
Ms. Unique is Filipino decent, her parents and siblings moved to Philadelphia in 1979. They migrated to South Florida and that is where she was born but her family moved very short after to National City, California; Ms. Unique was only 9 months old. A couple of months after she graduated High School, they moved to Paradise Hills, San Diego lived there about a year and finally moved to Chula Vista, California and lives there till this present date. She is the youngest sibling so we can all imagine that her upbringings might have been strict and traditional as the only daughter in their household. Life for her was structured as she recalls her childhood, she did not have an abundance of material things, but was definitely spoiled by love; she never wanted to disappoint her parents. Her father was strict and had a really bad temper ” Typical Filipino Dad” Ms. Unique. At least growing up like this had kept her out of trouble.
MS. Unique was obsessed with letters and fonts since she was a little girl, especially since there weren’t any pre-made items with her name on them, she constantly had to make her own. “I thought my name was the coolest thing ever; especially after I found out it was in the dictionary. I have always been the Artsy/Crafty type, if I recall since I was in preschool. Ms. Unique.
The Beginning of Graffiti
Her first exposure and influence in Graffiti actually came from home; her brothers were Graffheads during the early 1990’s.
“First recollection of Graffiti was when I was in the 6th grade. My brothers and his friends had just heard about the latest Sake piece in Spring Valley, over by the Spring Valley Swap meet. There had to be at least 8 guys and myself all packed up in a small old Honda civic Hatchback, so this had to be around 1990-1991 but I didn’t really get into Graffiti and started really appreciating it more till late 1994-1995, when I started to see a lot of party fliers around my brothers rooms and being around more guys my age that were trying to be taggers, gangs and whatnot.” Ms. Unique
It was exciting for her so young being exposed to this culture, especially during those teenage years when one is trying to figure out its own character and personality. As I kept learning more about her influences for Graffiti has evolved from an early age; I find out that she had only been painting for a short amount of time. But it must have been hard to get involved with Graffiti because she had only brothers who at times would try to talk her out if because they thought she might not take criticism too well and especially in a male dominated sport.
“I did get teased a lot of for various reasons, so in a way it made me too intimidated to really get into it like I wanted to, people’s opinions were very detrimental to me back then.”
I think it can be difficult at times for female artists to come out and be strong and confident about their skills since it is for the most part male dominant and it can take up to years to build that strength and confidence to not care and to pursue and evolve as a female Graffiti Artist. For Ms. Unique One, she was not pursing Graffiti as a venue for fame or recognition or because it is a culture that is very popular or trendy at this present time. She has been around this Graff Culture from an early age but many doubts, opinions and not really fully understanding what dreams she wanted to follow. Something had to happen to Ms. Unique to finally break free from holding back from this love and passion for Graffiti Art.
“After my Dad died, my fears about everything started to go away; I started slowly coming out of my shell. 2011 was a huge year for me; being taken advantage of for my niceness, having my heart-broken by all these dudes….that’s what toughen me up. It got to the point where I was like, FUCK ALL THIS SHIT!…none of these people are worth holding myself back from living out my dreams. So yeah, I wouldn’t say that Graffiti toughened me up, it was more me realizing my worth after ending a 7 year relationship and my Dad passing away. “ Ms. Unique.
During this time of self discovery and finding Graffiti as self-expression like majority of Graffiti Artists use this medium for; she really did not know what direction to follow as far as expanding her knowledge and techniques with painting on walls. But a few of her friends were actively involved in the Hip Hop Community in San Diego and began to take her to Hip Hop and Graffiti show. Ms. Unique met Demo at the Armory and invited her to the Barrio Logan Art Show and this is where she finally embraced the Graffiti Culture; still with the respect and appreciation as a Graffiti Lover.
She began to surround herself with other artists and learn more about styles and history of Graffiti Artists in San Diego. She had also began to listen to iHeart New York Station and learned about the Legendary 5 Pointz New York, which is considered the Mecca For Graffiti there. For decades hundreds of artists from around the world had made their way to the 5 Pointz and be a part of history. And Ms. Unique had the honors to actually paint there before it sadly closed down. I would say perfect timing to plan that trip and just make the dream come true to walk thru this legendary sprawling grounds to document and admire the presence of many artists and many different generations in one place. I could just imagine the excitement for Ms. Unique to take in all those styles and colors all at once.
Once she came back home; she really began to network and become more involved in the Graffiti Community. Ms. Unique has been a part of various Hip Hop and Art Shows and it has finally become part of her life; not as an observer but now being part of it. Being humble about learning new techniques and growing not only as a Graffiti Artist but also expanding her passion for Art in other mediums.
“I am obsessed with letters, the only plan is to learn more painting techniques, practice different styles and just enjoy it for as long as my body allows to me to. I am always going to be more of a FAN more than anything. I want to meet a bunch of cool artists and maybe get the chance to paint with 123 Klan and Apex. Also, be able to paint in as many cities as I can. Eventually make it out to the Philippines to get up over there too!” Ms. Unique.
Ms. Unique will be painting at the “Paint Louis” Event in St. Louis, MO. August 26-31, 2014. and then she will also be at “Nasty Approved 2 Show in San Diego, California on September 27, 2014. I will post the flyer soon for you all to get the complete information to show your support if you will be in San Diego that weekend!
The most recent project Ms. Unique was a part of was with Wild Style Technicians, which was painted in honor of Mr. Padre-Tony Gwynn” Mural at Undisputed Gym in Downtown San Diego, California.
CHECK OUT SOME OF THE ART SHOWS AND EVENTS SHE HAS BEEN A PART OF FOR THESE PAST FEW YEARS….I’M SURE THERE WILL BE MANY MORE YEARS TO COME. WE NEED MORE WOMEN TAKING THEIR PLACE AS GREAT ARTISTS AND PROFESSIONALS IN THE GRAFFITI COMMUNITY AND FOR THE SAKE OF HISTORY IN URBAN ARTS. I LOOK FORWARD ON SEEING MS. UNIQUE GROW MORE AND BE A PART OF THIS AMAZING MOVEMENT WHICH IS REWRITING THE HISTORY OF ARTS IN OUR TIMES.
Much Love & Respect to Ms. Unique!
Monica Smiles Tobon
Shout outs to my Daddy for passing on his creativity & talents to me (RIP), to my mother for being extra supportive & actually attending my Art shows & Style-A-Thons!! My brothers for introducing me to Graffiti and hip hop at a young age. To Dizm and Meres from 5 Pointz, Queens, NY for giving me the opportunity to paint my very first wall; if it wasn’t for you two I would probably still be wishing I had the courage to try! TagOne of graffaholiks.com for hooking me up with all kinda of info for that very special trip to NY in 2011! My mentors/Master Jedis; Izze-WST, Sake-IBM-WST and Zone-WST-TFL for every lesson & opportunity to learn about this lovely & amazing thing called “GRAFFITI”!!
My Boyz at Writerz Blok. My bros Keemowerks & E,Vil for introducing me to San Diego’s art scene! ASK25, Zacto & Heck for welcoming me into my very first crew and my ASK family!! Python-BADinc & Tatu-XMEN for recruiting me and the entire XMEN Crew! My girls- Rie, Milky, Flea & Heather! My Fwanktastic and My Kitty for going on graffiti hunting adventures in other cities! “Visual SD, Thumbprint Gallery & La Bodega”
And of course, Smiles, for supporting women in the Graff scene and for sharing my story! I share my journey in hopes to inspire those that have always been too afraid to share their creativity! And to everyone and anyone that continues to show their love and support; it means the world to me!! (Hopefully I haven’t missed anyone… You know I luhhhh you! Ha ha)
~ MS. UNIQUE~