Think you need an expensive college education to be successful? Self Portrait Queen Chinelle Rojas and I discuss how our college experience let us down and that pursuing your passion on your own time can lead to far greater success and fulfillment.
Chinelle also discusses some of her incredible self portrait series including this one featuring the beauty and versatility of food commissioned by Fuji Film.
Tune in to find out how Chinelle creates her incredible self portrait images with minimal gear and props (I mean she used groceries and an off white wall for that food series!!!), how she navigated from 4 time college dropout to a Fuji Film X-Photographer (congrats!!) and balances homeschooling children while doing all of this and more.
People make careers posting on social media. That’s what we tell our kids all the time. It’s like, okay, you enjoy watching movies. Oh, you enjoy building with Legos or whatever it is that you enjoy doing. You could turn that into a career. If you choose, you could keep it as a hobby if you want, but know that you have the possibility to turn whatever you’re passionate about into your full time job.
Chinelle Rojas: I ended up racking up like $5,000 in student loan debt, which isn’t that it’s not that much, but when you were basically getting paid to go to school, any debt for going to school is like, why is this even like, why do I have this? Like, I shouldn’t. So after racking that up , with absolutely nothing to show up for it and not even a passing GPA, because again, I hated homework, so I literally had nothing to show for it. I decided that I was done wasting my time and money on something I was not interested in. And I ended up doing that when I was like 21, 22, I still only had one kid. And I had tried college for the last time online and I was actually doing pretty good. But then I realized, like I made the conscious decision at that point, not because I was failing, but just because I’m like, I don’t, I’m not into this and I’m wasting time, energy and money doing something I’m not that interested in. So I just stopped at that point. But yeah, long story short. College is not for everybody. Don’t do it.
Twyla Jones: This is Emotional Storytelling, a podcast to support you in pursuing your passion, living more creatively and finding work life balance all while growing and scaling your business. I’m Twyla Jones, a photographer and educator based in South Florida. I created this podcast to share the stories and strategies of creatives and masterminds, to inspire photographers to live a more creative, productive, and balanced life. Each week I’ll be sharing inspiring stories and practical advice to motivate you, to keep showing up for yourself, live more creatively and enjoy the journey.
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So the selfie queen is here. Welcome Chinelle Rojas.
Chinelle Rojas: Hey.
Twyla Jones: I’m so happy to have you, I’ve been trying to get you on for how long now, months,
Chinelle Rojas: something like that. I’m a slacker, so…
Twyla Jones: Well, I’m glad we finally got it together. And I’m just so happy to have you. I love you. I love your work. It’s so inspirational to me, although I see that and then I still don’t act on it. You know, like I see your self portraits and I’m like, yes, especially , the food series that you did.
Chinelle Rojas: Oh yeah. That was fun. And also very time consuming.
Twyla Jones: They are incredible. I was just telling a friend of mine that , just came over, how amazing they were and she just, she couldn’t believe it. I want to see are, have you printed any of them yet?
Chinelle Rojas: I have it available in my shop for print. , but I
Twyla Jones: But you don’t have your own set,
Chinelle Rojas: Not yet just because , where I’m located and stuff like that. I haven’t found. Okay. Rather, I haven’t really looked, obviously I wouldn’t find something I’m not particularly looking for. Yeah. I haven’t found any lab that I would trust to print quality pictures. Yeah. But once I get back to the States, I really want to get my hands on them printed.
Twyla Jones: Well, I feel like we should describe – so for anybody that hasn’t seen them, will you explain the set that we’re talking about?
Chinelle Rojas: Okay. So at the end of the summer, I partnered with Fujifilm to create a set of self portraits and they are – the set’s called Plant-Based because I am plant based. I’m like lowkey vegan, but not like the extra vegan where I’m like, throw paint on fur… like, I’m not that kind of vegan, but dietary, we eat plant based.
So I did a whole series. It was like 24 images of portraits and I was wearing different foods. So like I have one where I have a pineapple earring and a piece of pineapple on my head. I have another one where I’m wearing like a papaya as earrings, which mind you, is like, ridiculously heavy. Um, I had to rig it to make it look like it was on my ears, but if it wasn’t, I would look like I had some weird like alien ears.
So, , it ranges. So I have rice and bananas and apples. Like,
The rice one –
Twyla Jones: I love that. And that was, I mean, I don’t know. They’re all my favorites.So good. So creative.
Chinelle Rojas: Thank you. Thank you. Um, it was fun. I would not have been able to do that without my husband, going to the store all the time in the middle of the pandemic to get me various fruits and vegetables.
He’s just like he would go to the store and take a random picture of something that looked cool. And he’s like, how’s this? I’m like, perfect. Get me something else too. I need something green or orange, or I need a different color. And he would go to the store and pick out all my fruits and vegetables.
Twyla Jones: I love how they were all kind of like monochromatic too – your background changed with the color of the food that you were photographing.
Chinelle Rojas: Yes. That was fun.
Twyla Jones: Yeah, that brought it together for me for real. So, did, did you, were you actually changing the color of your background or did you do that in post?
Chinelle Rojas: I did that in post.
I have a little trick that I use and light room actually that changes the background of the images or whatever. So I did that for all of them. Obviously some are easier than others. Like the white. Yeah. Cool. Because I don’t have any backdrops here. Cause when we moved to Trinidad, I did, I like sold all my extra gear, so I don’t have no backdrops. I don’t have like, none of the accoutrements as my mom would call them that I had back home. So I just kind of use what I have access to. And make it work.
Twyla Jones: Well. Okay. So that makes me think , I have had the pleasure of taking your self portrait class. And one of the things that I loved so much about it was how simple all of your setups were. It wasn’t like a lot of fancy gear because they’re, I don’t know, there’s nothing worse than taking a class and being inspired by the work. And then like, Oh, I just spent thousands of dollars to be able to replicate the things that they did. And it just so relatable. Cause it’s, I just really see how you create these like incredible images and you’re just like in your house.
It’s against a wall with like some regular light, you know what I mean?
Chinelle Rojas: Exactly.
I love it. I feel like it really does help to challenge your creativity a little bit. When you have to look around and figure out what’s going to work, you know what I mean? You really have to kind of be mindful of your surroundings and be inspired by stupid things.
Like I did a few pictures recently with some bubble wrap that I got in a package.
Twyla Jones: They’re so good.
Chinelle Rojas: And it’s funny. Cause my daughter kept bugging me about the bubble wrap. She was like, can I pop it, can you please can I pop it? And I had it for like three months. So she’s been asking every time she caught eyes on it to pop the bubble wrap.
I’m like, no, I’m going to do something with it eventually. And I finally did recently and I liked how they came out. Like it just kind of shows that you don’t need any super fancy set up. I don’t have, you know, a big lighting setup. I don’t have backdrops anymore. I don’t have any of that. I literally have my camera and a tripod and a couple of flashes and that’s about it.
So yeah. I don’t know. It’s cool to just kind of try different things.
Twyla Jones: Yeah. You know, I do, it does make me think so back to me wanting you to have a gallery wall of your food. I think, I feel like somebody needs to hook you up with a printer though. I think you could just print your own.
Chinelle Rojas: I know that would be amazing. Like right now I’m a little bit ghetto with it. I have a regular, like, what is this HP, a little HP printer at my house. And you know, I’ve been printing a whole lot of worksheets and crap for the kids. For the whole virtual school homeschool thing that we’re trying here. And I decided I don’t like we don’t have anything on our walls right now.
Cause we’re renting and the walls here are actually all made of concrete. So you can’t just, you know, happily and easily drive a nail into the wall because it’s concrete. So I’m like, how the heck I want pictures on my wall. So I’ve been like low key printing crap, like random pieces of artwork on regular pieces of printer paper. I need to upgrade, cause this is kind of ridiculous. I want something bigger than this and I don’t want to have to tape it all together with 8.5 by 11 pieces of paper.
Twyla Jones: I have a large photo of you on my own wall in a frame
Chinelle Rojas: I’m jealous.
Twyla Jones: That’s funny. It’s still front and center too. It’s just like you walk into my house and you see this photo of you on my wall.
Chinelle Rojas: That’s so amazing. I cannot tell you how exciting it was when you had placed that order, because that was the first time somebody had ever purchased a picture of myself for their wall.
Twyla Jones: I can’t believe that!
Chinelle Rojas: My mind was blown that somebody would want to hang me on their wall.
Twyla Jones: I mean, the first time I saw that image I wanted to. And so I was super excited to see that you had it in the shop. I do also want the tee shirt of it as well. Did you put, do you have the food photos in your shop?
Chinelle Rojas: I have the food photos for print yes. In the print shop. I don’t have them yet as wearables. I am actually in the process of creating artwork with all of the food things. I’m like only two pieces in. And so I have a long way to go, but I’m basically illustrating all of the fruit pictures myself so that I can then create maybe like a poster or something. So maybe it’s a little less weird. So it’s not just my face. It’s just like, it’s an art – it’s a piece of art.
Twyla Jones: Well I love your face though, I mean, I feel like I would choose the photographs, but I think that those would be amazing, in just anybody’s kitchen, but also like a restaurant or something. I mean, if I was an interior decorator, decorating a place, I would want those on the walls. For sure.
Chinelle Rojas: I think if my walls in the place that I was renting right now were white and not this weird kind of like, it’s not even yellow. It’s like a, I don’t know. It just, I feel like it makes my skin look dead, but , like kind of a warmish color with like a green undertone. I don’t like it, but it just won’t work very well with all the colors that are in the fruit and vegetable plant based project.
Twyla Jones: I feel like instead what you do is just make a gallery wall where literally the frames are touching.So you can’t see any of the wall. You have enough photos.
Chinelle Rojas: I do.
Twyla Jones: You just plaster it like wallpapered in your face.
Chinelle Rojas: That would be funny. Cause my husband, this is a funny tangent story here, but my husband he’s actually… weird. I don’t know why he’s like married to a photographer, but he’s like, I, he doesn’t agree with having pictures of yourself on your wall because
Twyla Jones: I get it.
Chinelle Rojas: He’s like people know that you live here. Why would you have pictures of yourself on the wall? I’m like, because…
Twyla Jones: But I think when
Chinelle Rojas: they’re artistic.
Twyla Jones: And especially the way that you do them. Like, cause I’m the same. I don’t want a photo of me and my family, like smiling at a camera on my wall. I want them to feel like, you know, pieces of artwork.
And, and I think that that is just one reason why I really like taking these faceless photos of people. I never realized I did it so much until someone asked me about it a couple of years ago. I’m like, wow. And at the time, like might be literally, you can see anybody’s face, but I think that that’s why.
Chinelle Rojas: Yeah , because then it’s like, it transcends time. So like, despite the age and stuff like that, like, you’re going to know that, oh, that was, was mom’s hands. That was my hands and stuff like that. Like, I don’t know. Part of my issue though, was because when we were living in Colorado , he was gone, he was deployed. And when he came back, there were like, three, like 30 by 40 inch pictures of our boys on the wall.
If you don’t know how big that is. You might want to grab a ruler, cause it was like obnoxious, how big they were.
Twyla Jones: I have some canvases, they’re all 30 by 40 in my house. Yeah.
Chinelle Rojas: It’s either go big or go home. I’m not going to get an 8 by 10 of something. If I’m going to get a piece of like a photo to put on my wall , it’s going to be ridiculously big.
But I only had the boys and I had like different art of the boys all over my house. And then I had my daughter and I hadn’t gotten any large canvases printed. So guess what? None of the canvases were on the wall. Like if they all can’t be on there then no one is on there. So, the struggle, like, I don’t know, being a parent like multiple children and you gotta make sure everybody feels loved.
Twyla Jones: Yes. Everything’s even, well, the same, that’s making me think, like I don’t have, I have a print that Guy, my third baby is in, but he doesn’t have a giant canvas, like everybody else does. So I guess I also have some printing to do.
Chinelle Rojas: It’s like, yeah, exactly. And then, you know, I didn’t want to, because I knew we would probably be moving from where we were. And I already had the canvases of the boys at certain ages and I’m weird. And I feel like they should all kind of like flow together. My art, on my walls should flow together and I wouldn’t be able to get something like that of my daughter. And then it would throw me off because the boys were at younger ages than she is now.
So like , that’d just be weird to me. Like, timeline and being like, things like that throw me off. So part of the reason I don’t have enough things printed, but I will, whenever we settle down in a specific location and I get to decorate the way I want to better believe there’s going to be an obnoxious wall full of different art.
Twyla Jones: It really is the best feeling. We, when we moved to Florida, we were renting for a couple of years and our walls were also frustrating because they weren’t white, white. It was like an off white, but not in like a good way, like it had a yellow cast to it and I hated it. And there was nothing I could do about it.
So that was the first thing that I did , when we moved, I was very pregnant at the time, so I literally, I wanted it done so bad. I just hired somebody to come and paint all the walls , all of these really just deep, dark colors. I think just being, you know, in those white walls for so long, I really just wanted some color and for everything, I don’t know, every room kind of feels like a cocoon at this point, but it’s really nice. They’re all so cozy.
Chinelle Rojas: Right? I’m weird though. And I really like bright colors and I think part of my issue right now with the color that I’m staring at right now, it’s just driving me crazy , is the fact that we’re in a townhouse right now in the bottom level. It gets so it’s like dark, you know, like mostly dark. It doesn’t get a lot of light. So the fact that the walls aren’t very bright either. It’s just, I feel like I am solar powered and not feeling, or really seeing that light from the sun during the day, it makes me not as productive as I can be.
Twyla Jones: Yeah. That makes total sense.
Well, I’m excited for you to get into your own space and get to be like creative with all of that. And just, I don’t know, be able to use the things that you worked so hard to produce, because it’s a totally different experience, having it printed out on paper, canvas, whatever, and just getting to see it. And I always feel like when we, when people come to our house, they should know that I’m a photographer. You know, like I, I should have proof of this on my walls. If this is what- the experience I offer other people I should have for myself as well.
Chinelle Rojas: Exactly, exactly. I’m like, how can you be married to a photographer who doesn’t have any photos on the wall? Like yeah. Their work, like, are you even good? Yeah.
If you’re not going to print your own stuff, then, um, what are we doing? You know, so…
Twyla Jones: I mean, this is like my showroom. Like if you come over, you should want to hire me so you can have that on your walls as well, you know?
Chinelle Rojas: Exactly. I completely agree. One day, one day, I’ll get there one day.
Twyla Jones: I know you will. Alright. I want to go backwards. So. I really want to know more about your journey to get where you are now. So , you say that you’re a four time college dropout, which is so impressive to me. And honestly, and you’re self taught in all of the different things that you do, which is a lot of different things. So I. I like seeing that because I also went to college for something that’s totally unrelated to what I do now.
Human biology. And I, you know, I enrolled in college because I thought that’s what you were supposed to do to be successful. And basically that it would guarantee success. That you would be successful if you poured all this money into this expensive college and finished. And I just, while I was there, I found myself very uninterested and bored and had a really hard time choosing a career path.
So one day I just said, you know, how can I get out of this as fast as possible? I’m really tired of going to school and taking tests, all of that. And I like definitely would not say I was successful after I had that degree and had a job. And it wasn’t until, you know what I mean? Like, it didn’t even feel like I could afford to do anything that I wanted, I still felt very poor. Right? And so it wasn’t until many years later and two kids that I finally connected with what I was passionate about and was able to start pursuing that instead of, you know, I was just going through the motions, like you finished high school now, this is what you do, you know? Even without a plan, like, Oh, just get started, take gen-eds and you’ll figure it out. And I did not, and I wasted a lot of money doing that. So did you, was that like a similar experience for you?
Chinelle Rojas: I’m a little bit similar. So just like you, I had enrolled because I thought that the next logical step after high school was college. And then I was an adult. Right? I actually excelled in grade school and I graduated high school with like a pretty decent GPA, like a 3.8. So I’m not dumb, you know, but when I got to college, I realized that I did not have the desire to keep doing what I was told and didn’t quite get along too good. So I ended up dropping out of a scholarship.
Like I was getting, I was at the point where I was basically getting paid to go to school between the scholarship and grants and stuff like that. I ended up dropping out of like USF. So like a major four year college I dropped out. And then, I decided to try a few other colleges and degree paths. So when I first went to USF, I was trying to be like in sports medicine, and anybody who actually knows me would find this hilarious because like, I am not that into sports. Literally, the only reason why I chose that was because I was like, I could be one of those people on the sidelines with like football games and like the basketball games tending to the players. That was my thought. I’m like, that could be pretty cool. But like, I don’t like to do homework so that didn’t work out very well.
Twyla Jones: That’s a lot of like science-y classes and stuff too!,
Chinelle Rojas: It is, and you know I’m, I’m that person , for instance, in high school, I, basically finished all my math and science credits by my 11th grade year. So as a senior, I didn’t have to take math and science. So I did not. So when I went to college the first time and I attempted to do the math and science there, I’m like, this is nothing like, I remember, I don’t know any of this anymore. But yeah, back to the journey, my bad, I ended up racking up like $5,000 in student loan debt, which isn’t that it’s not that much, but when you were basically getting paid to go to school, any debt for going to school is like, why is this even like, why do I have this? Like, I shouldn’t. So after racking that up , with absolutely nothing to show up for it and not even a passing GPA, because again, I hated homework, so I literally had nothing to show for it. I decided that I was done wasting my time and money on something I was not interested in. And I ended up doing that when I was like 21, 22, I still only had one kid. And I had tried college for the last time online and I was actually doing pretty good. But then I realized, like I made the conscious decision at that point, not because I was failing, but just because I’m like, I don’t, I’m not into this and I’m wasting time, energy and money doing something I’m not that interested in. So I just stopped at that point. But yeah, long story short. College is not for everybody. Don’t do it.
Twyla Jones: Yeah. I just think, you know, just from my experience, like there’s a lot more value in things like trade school or apprenticeships, or, you know, literally I think what we’ve both done and just kind of, you can teach yourself, like, if you are whatever you’re interested in, just kind of follow that interest and you make up your own curriculum, you read the books by yourself, you know?
And at this point there’s so many people teaching online. Like you can really just piece together and specialize in whatever it is that you need to do. And you don’t have to pay these giant universities tons of money. And go like completely in debt.
Chinelle Rojas: Yeah, exactly. And that’s something that we’re going to be pushing for our kids too. Like school or college is not the mandatory next step after you finish your basic grade school work. Like that’s not the next mandatory step, unless that’s something that you want to pursue.
Twyla Jones: Yeah. And I just, I wish that that was something that had even, I don’t know that I’d been, or I, I knew a role model or something. Somebody that had chosen another path, because for me, I didn’t feel like there was any other choice. Like if I want to get out of like living in a small town in Kansas, I have to go get a degree. And guess what? When I finished, I moved back in with my parents and was living and working in that same small town in Kansas.
It got me nowhere, but you know, like $30,000 in debt.
Chinelle Rojas: Exactly. Like it just, it’s kind of ridiculous how this American dream is kind of like. That’s all a lie.
Twyla Jones: Yes. I agree, Yes, it is.
Chinelle Rojas: You can just literally make your own path. I honestly was not super into photography growing up. Like I would draw and generally I was creative, but I did not pick up a camera to actually take photos outside of like a random take a picture of my cat, which I don’t have. Outside of doing that I didn’t have any experience with photography. So I ended up getting a camera just to, it was for my birthday, for my husband while he was deployed, he got me a camera and then told me that the camera was kind of expensive. So maybe it would be a good idea to see if I can make money using the camera.
Then I’m like, I guess I could try that. And from there, like I found something that I was good at and I actually really enjoyed doing and pursued that.
Twyla Jones: I think it’s just so important, because I was, it was similar for me. Like just encouraged to get a camera, and I just was so obsessed with it. I just wanted to learn more and more.
I wanted to stay up all night long. You know, I, I, it was really hard to stay up all night, like cramming for a test in college, but with this, I was sneaking it in all the time. I was thinking about it all the time. And I think that when you can, I don’t know, identify a passion like that , you, and especially now, the way social media and, you know, the availability of things online, like you can literally make a career out of anything. I was just telling you, I hired, Tiana Tai recently to help me. I gave her money to help me figure out who to hire for my business. And she helped me write up job descriptions and, you know, interview questions and things like that. And that’s something that she’s amazing at. And she’s like literally made a career doing that thing.
Chinelle Rojas: Exactly. People make careers posting on social media. That’s what we tell our kids all the time. It’s like, okay, you enjoy watching movies. Oh, you enjoy building with Legos or whatever it is that you enjoy doing. You could turn that into a career. If you choose, you could keep it as a hobby if you want, but know that you have the possibility to turn whatever you’re passionate about into your full time job.
Twyla Jones: Yeah. Yeah, I I’m grateful for the experience. I think going both ways to just be able to share that with my children, as well.
Chinelle Rojas: Yeah. And the irony for, for our kids is I’m a full time college dropout. My husband has a master’s degree, so we balanced. Right. So, um, they actually have two life paths that they could, they see firsthand. Okay. We could go this way. Dad, my dad, my husband is not working. Like right now, I was going to refer to him as dad. Cause that’s what I do when we’re like referring to each other in the house. like, I guess that’s. So I wanted to clarify my husband, He’s not utilizing that degree right now.
But he was able to make a career using the degree that he was able to get. And I just show that it’s possible that you don’t have to have a degree to do something and to make money like, you could legit take care of your family doing something you’re passionate about.
I never could
Twyla Jones: have made what I make now working for myself on the path that I was on after college, always would have been struggling, you know, I would still be paying off all of that college loan debt and it wasn’t until I started working for myself and just using my own brain, to you know, think of great ideas and then be able to be rewarded for them instead of having great ideas for somebody else, but still making the same wage or just hoping for like a 50 cent or a dollar raise a year or something. I just, I can’t imagine being in that place anymore. And, I feel like I worked really hard for it. Cause I don’t, you know, I worked that full time job and had two kids while I learned all of this stuff, but I just, I dunno, I’m I feel very lucky to have connected with it, I think.
Chinelle Rojas: I agree right there with you. Yeah.
Twyla Jones: So tell me how you ended up getting your start with self portraits then.
Chinelle Rojas: So again, this one kind of happened while my husband was deployed to Afghanistan, actually. I literally just was trying to take some sexy pictures for him so that, you know, he doesn’t forget me.
Twyla Jones: So thoughtful
Chinelle Rojas: Right? I’m over here where it’s really cold and I have nobody, so it’s just me and the kid. And so , I actually got, started doing more boudoir types of portraits and it was more so stuff to send to him.
And then that just digressed into they’re moreso for me now, and I just happened to share them with more people. Yeah, but it was super simple, humble beginnings with a Nikon D3000. And kit lens back in the day.
Twyla Jones: I love that, and then you just kept at it.
Chinelle Rojas: I just kept at it. Like, it’s been kind of like the thing that is like comfort food.
Twyla Jones: Yeah.
Chinelle Rojas: I always seem to come back to it no matter where I’m at in my journey with photography and what my, whatever my niche at the time is, I always do my self portraits. I might go through phases where maybe I don’t take a self portrait for a couple months. Maybe I’m going through some stuff, but it’s always like meeting an old friend when I get to do it again. So, I really enjoy it.
Twyla Jones: Well, I, I don’t know. It shows just- your creativity is mind blowing. Oh, you know what? I also wanted to mention, because it was just so perfect for the time as well. The series that you did with the appliances.
Chinelle Rojas: Yes. Those were fun.
Twyla Jones: How did that idea come to you? So it’s obviously one of my favorite. Everything you do is my favorite.
Chinelle Rojas: Okay. So honestly, I think it might’ve been like an ad I saw on Instagram, I think it was for some vegan cheese or something. . And the angle of this ad was from the perspective of inside the oven. And the guy was like, you know, pulling out something really cheesy looking from inside the oven.
And I’m like, that looks delicious. I don’t think that’s vegan. But whatever. And I was like, that looks really cool. That perspective. So based on that one time, seeing that random ad , I was like, I want to try to take some selfies from inside my appliances. So, I happened to get a new lens recently from Fuji film.
Uh, the, what was it? 10 to 24, I think?
Twyla Jones: Oh, perfect. Yeah.
Chinelle Rojas: So I’m like boom, using that. That’s what made everything seem so large on the inside and just literally stuck my camera into things. The one picture that I did with the oven is funny because it was actually some pot brownies I bought from someone else. And I’m like, I don’t have anything to put in the oven for this picture. And I’m not about the bake anything right now, because then I’ll have to wait for the oven to cool down. It’s just like,
Twyla Jones: Oh yeah, you cannot put a camera in a hot oven.
Chinelle Rojas: It was just going to be a whole fiasco. I was like, I have this whole tin of brownies. So let me use that. I stuck that bad boy in the oven. Put my camera in the air turned the oven light on and snapped a picture. And I just had to go in and edit out where I had cut them because anybody who’s had pot brownies before you have to make sure that they’re like a. You can’t have like regular sized brownies with… so they were already like precut and I had to go in and like edit out all of the cut lines.
Twyla Jones: The cuts, that’s hilarious!
Chinelle Rojas: You’re not going to have cut food in the oven, just baking away like that. It was miraculous.
Twyla Jones: I like that image so much more now, that I know that backstory.
Chinelle Rojas: So, yeah, and I made a lot of noise doing that. I was trying to do it- all the pictures that you saw, they were taken like probably before 6:00 AM, while everybody in the house was still sleeping and the sun is just now coming up. So like you get this really cool moody darkness behind me with all the appliance lights. So it was just a really fun little series to do. I’ve been thinking about how I could add to that some more and I’m like, I gotta find some more places to stick my camera.
Twyla Jones: Yes.
Chinelle Rojas: So I will be on the hunt for that. It’s a little different in this new house that we’re at now, just because – my old house here in Trinidad , it was very bright and airy and we had our own yard and I felt like I could do a lot more things, but this one is not so much. I could be like how I was the other day when I had this great idea of what to do for my self portrait – what I was going to wear, how my makeup was going to be. But I had no idea where in my house I was going to take the picture. So I spent an ungodly amount of time trying to take a self portrait set that no one is ever going to see, because I don’t like how it came out.
Twyla Jones: Well, I’m glad you said that because it was making me think – it’s so good to hear that, I don’t know an artist who is as incredible as you, especially at self portraits. Like you just always inspire me to take them, but it is also a pretty frustrating process.
Like not everything that you take is going to be amazing. And sometimes nothing you take is going to be amazing. I did that the other day. I – we have this awesome treehouse that Gary built in the backyard and I filled it with all of my plants and I went up there thinking I was going to take, you know, these like awesome self portraits or at least one, I never go in thinking, you know, I’m going to get a whole set of images. If I could have one, I would be really happy and literally none of that.
Chinelle Rojas: Oh my gosh. There’s a couple of sets that no one will ever see because I’m like, I don’t like, and you know what it is? It’s the freaking wall color. Wall color and most of the bare walls in the house, which is just freaking ugly color that doesn’t look good with my skin. And it’s really just frustrating. Cause I’m like, I can only wear so many things with this. And we live in a townhouse type community. So COVID and stuff like that. I don’t want people out here looking at me crazy, cause I’m out here without a mask on. And it’s just a lot. It’s just a lot.
Twyla Jones: I feel like I need to ship you a piece, but you know, you could just get one of those Savage seamless rolls of paper, but just tape a piece of paper to a wall near a window or something that way you would at least always have that little spot.
Chinelle Rojas: See, that’s what I did when I was in Florida. When we had our house in Florida, I had a room where I had all my backdrops. And I just like, I had it all set up and it was like, almost like permanently set up. I taped pieces of seamless paper to the wall. To me, it looked like it was the actual wall and cut it at the bottom so you’d have the baseboard and everything.
Twyla Jones: Oh, nice.
Chinelle Rojas: I was legit.
Twyla Jones: I mean, I was just imagining like, you know, lots of tape, like X’s on the corners of paper.
Chinelle Rojas: I used tacks because we had drywall so you could just tack stuff on there. Yeah. But I told my husband recently, I was like, I need to get at least one backdrop.
Twyla Jones: Yeah. You at least need one piece of paper. Yes.
Chinelle Rojas: Maybe two. So I can have a white and a black, I can have that option. Cause this freaking, it’s like a puke yellow, you know what it looks like? Oh my gosh. It looks like baby poop. That’s the color.
Twyla Jones: That’s the color of the skirt I have on right now. it’s nice on a skirt, but I don’t think I would want it on a wall.
Chinelle Rojas: Yeah. It’s poop color walls. That’s what it is. Yeah. Breastfed baby poop.
Twyla Jones: Right now the list of things you need: the printer, two backdrops. And also before we started recording , we decided you were going to hire somebody to come cook for you.
Chinelle Rojas: Yes. Because your girl needs to eat and I’m running out of ideas.
Twyla Jones: This is a really solid list, but also I feel like very simple. These are simple requests, but they’re going to dramatically improve your life.
Chinelle Rojas: Definitely. And my birthday is next week, so I could probably put these things on my list.
Twyla Jones: Yeah. Or just make a birthday list.
Chinelle Rojas: Right? Or like just buy myself and be like, happy birthday to me.
Twyla Jones: I buy myself everything. Yeah. Nobody else could get it right, I don’t think.
Chinelle Rojas: Right? Because everybody else will look at you crazy for wanting to spend as much as you want to on something. I want to spend how much on a lens.
Twyla Jones: No, I just do it.
Chinelle Rojas: I’m trying to be better about my purchasing habits though, which by the way, moving to Trinidad has really helped that , because you can’t just get Amazon Prime shipped to your house the next day, it’s just not going to happen.
And then you have to deal with customs and stuff like that. So buying things is very scarce for me because I do like getting things shipped. And I do not like paying a ridiculous amount of money in customs. So I’ve been saving a lot of money this year. Unintentionally, I still have so many things I want to buy, but I can’t because., you know customs.
Twyla Jones: So my recent thing that I’ve been spending all of my money on is homeschooling stuff. We just transitioned to homeschooling for this school year. And I’m obsessed with all of the beautiful books and the curriculum. And then like last night I bought a paper cutter. And heavy paper to put in my printer, you know, instead of just like regular printer paper, like 60 pound paper to put in there.
And so I know I’m getting very fancy and like pins and stuff. So we have all the supplies. We have a really nice supply closet of things now, but I am still really struggling to work out a routine where we actually do all of the things. I’m just collecting supplies.
Chinelle Rojas: I got it. Last year was our first year homeschooling our kids. This year we decided this school year, we decided to try to do the virtual school. But it was still like homeschool, but it’s virtual school that, so they have access to the teachers and the lessons and all that kind of stuff. We did that to make sure that we, you know, weren’t dropping the ball with the whole homeschooling thing.
Twyla Jones: Yeah, that’s where I’m at right now.
Chinelle Rojas: But to be honest, our first year homeschooling, like we were – we winged it so hard. We were, the closest thing we had to a curriculum was actually IXL. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but it’s actually a great resource, it has a series of almost like assessment type things. Little click through quizzes type thing that the kids can go through. It also has like a diagnostic. So you could see what their level is at for math and reading. Or language arts or whatever. , they have all the core classes, math, science, language arts. And what is the other core class? Social studies or something.
Twyla Jones: Yeah.
Chinelle Rojas: One of those, it has all those. So we use that as like the guidelines, you know what I mean? Like you do a little bit IXL, so every day, and we know that you’re like somewhat on track with other kids who are in your grade level. Yeah. And everything else we just kind of did our own thing.
Like the kids spent barely any time learning at all during the day. Like sit down learning during the day. We would teach them different things like casually. Like oh, how does modeling work? You know what I mean? That kind of thing. So we were a little bit nervous that we were , like drop the ball on them last year.
But it turns out when we put them in the virtual school for this school year, all three of my kids, including my kindergartener are actually all ahead of schedule. My sixth grader. It’s like, he’s just fresh in sixth grade, he is set to finish his math and probably his science classes by December. So by January he could actually be taking seventh grade math and science classes.
Wow, that’s amazing.
So, and we just got started. What – end of August? Actually, probably beginning of September is when we got started. So just flying through, but it has been like, what people don’t realize is that virtual school is significantly harder than homeschooling.
Twyla Jones: Yeah.
Chinelle Rojas: Especially for the parent, it’s just so stressful. It was like a whole full time job trying to go that route. It’s not fun, especially when you have three kids, three different grades and they all seem to look to you as the primary teacher and not your husband.
It makes getting your work done when you’re a self employed, a work from home person.
Twyla Jones: Impossible.
Chinelle Rojas: Yeah. Pretty close to impossible. I spent so many times just like, I just want to cry in a corner. Can you guys just leave me alone? I love you. You have a whole nother parent. Can you go ask him? Or at least try to ask him? And if he doesn’t know, then come ask me, but try first. Yeah.
Twyla Jones: Yes. Well, I, you know, that’s what I’ve been learning about homeschool. Just the more that I learn about it, like. It is, it can be overwhelming when you get started and thinking that you’re just messing your kids up, and not giving them enough, but that’s the beauty of it too. It isn’t the same as going to school. So your days don’t look the same. They’re not like as structured or anything. And you know how you and I talked about you really get to kind of follow their passions and .sort of build lessons based on those. So I, you know, my kids, I told you before we started are chasing lizards all the time very interested in nature. So we have a lot of curriculum that are just nature-based and all of their learning is around that. And we have something. Have you heard of wild math?
Chinelle Rojas: No, I have not.
Twyla Jones: It’s really cool. And it’s all just math that you do outside with literally things that you find like sticks and drawing in the sand. And it just basically, it’s just a bunch of games, almost like every sheet there’s a concept. And it’s just a list of all these different games that you can play for them to get it, you know, and that works out a lot better for my kids because they get frustrated if we have to sit down and listen to a whole lesson about something or fill out a boring worksheet or something. So it just, it kind of makes it fun.
Chinelle Rojas: I agree. I agree. Especially playing to their strengths. If they’re into a certain type of thing, teach them the way that they will learn best. You know what I mean?
Twyla Jones: Yeah. I feel like otherwise they would be behind and we were getting, like having talks about it last year for my middle son, because he was having a really hard time paying attention in class and staying focused and all of that. And instead of having to explore putting him on medication or something like that, and just teachers getting frustrated with him, we can change the way things are presented to him to get so that he can learn in the way that is best for him.
Chinelle Rojas: And then you make learning fun, you know? And I was looking on my husband for saying this, cause he’ll sometimes say something along the lines of like, you’re supposed to be over there learning. It’s not fun time. And then I’m like, it could be fun.
Twyla Jones: Yeah.
Chinelle Rojas: You know, but he’s like, again, he’s the one with the master’s degree and I’m the more go with the flow type person.
So I’m like, dude, they’re going to get it the way that they’re going to get it. Don’t force them into figuring something out and conforming and that’s kind of what I have to do a little bit with this virtual learning thing. Like you have to do the stupid, common core way, which is like, I hate you all.
But like, I don’t know. I guess you’re learning how to do it that way, but you’re also kind of getting indoctrinated and I’m like, I learned how to do it this way. It’s vastly easier. And, um, you know, just try it this way too. I just kind of give them the different options and avenues that are available to them to learn a specific task. It will just be so much more beneficial for them in the long run.
Twyla Jones: Yeah, I agree. And I, you know, just any way you can prevent them from like literally hating a subject, I think is really great, so that there is still some interest for them to, you know, if it’s like geometry or something, they don’t have to hate it because it can be presented to them in a way that I dunno, it makes sense to them and is interesting to them.
So I think we may stick with this. And you know, that’s the other thing about me collecting all these things. It needs to be interesting to me too, and beautiful. So I need all these beautiful books to be reading to them out of and give them lessons out of so that I want to do it everyday, too.
Chinelle Rojas: Exactly. Creative people problems. It needs to be pretty like,
Twyla Jones: yes,
Chinelle Rojas: when I go shopping for items, I’m like, okay, it’s functional, but does it look cool?
Twyla Jones: Exactly. That was my paper cutter. Like I couldn’t get the one that just looked like plastic and gray. I wanted a really nice looking one.
Chinelle Rojas: I had like a gold stapler. Like, you know what I mean? Like if I can get something that looks way cooler than the normal stuff I’m going to do that because I can, and it makes me feel better.
Like, you know, so do what works for you at the end of the day. Do what works for you.
Twyla Jones: Yeah. So, okay. So. You are homeschooling, you take amazing self portraits. You partner with Fuji. Are you like a Fuji ambassador? I think. Is that right? Yes. That’s incredible. Congratulations. Um, okay. You are a birth photographer. You are a logo designer. You are a wife, mother to three kids. I ask this question often, cause I am just endlessly interested, but how do you feel like you manage to balance all of that while also making room for creativity, which is like literally your entire job?
Chinelle Rojas: Um, so full transparency. I often drop the ball on that.
I try to keep my kids on a schedule-ish when it comes to their work. So that helps organize us a little bit , so like math on Mondays and science on Tuesdays, just to kind of keep, okay, this is what we’re doing during the day or whatever, kind of keeps me on a schedule. Otherwise, I’m a very go with the flow type person, like I said, so I can, and often do get sucked into whatever project I’m working on for hours until it’s complete. Like right now I’m currently working on a secret project that I hope to release here soon pending on how well this goes, and then hopefully
Twyla Jones: Didn’t you just release a secret project yesterday?
Chinelle Rojas: I did.
This is another secret secret project.
Twyla Jones: Tell everybody your secret project that dropped yesterday, so we can link it.
Chinelle Rojas: So yesterday I dropped my melanated film presets with Looks Like Film and Meridian.
So that was kind of a big deal. It was a lot
I was so stoked to
Twyla Jones: see that I had no idea. And I, I work with them, you know, with some things too. And I had no idea you were doing that.
Chinelle Rojas: Yes, I’m a Ninja. Yeah, I’m pretty excited that it is out. It’s a whole set of 42 presets and five adjustment brushes.
Twyla Jones: It’s 42?
Chinelle Rojas: Yes.
Twyla Jones: I didn’t know that. Obviously I haven’t grabbed them yet, but I’m going to. They look beautiful.
Chinelle Rojas: Thank you. It’s an obnoxious amount, but I love it because the photography industry is unfortunately very racially biased.
Twyla Jones: Yes.
Chinelle Rojas: And so are its origins and a lot of the editing programs, editing presets and stuff like that, they don’t typically take into account melanated skin as something that they need to make sure is done right when you edit, usually the models for the pictures and stuff like that tend to feature fairer families. But that’s not what I did when I created the melanated film presets. I actually use melanated folks as the base when I created all 42 of the presets.
Twyla Jones: 42, I can’t believe it.
Chinelle Rojas: And the beauty of doing it that way is that it actually works really great on fair skin tones too. So that’s like a whole little, I don’t know. I don’t know the word I’m looking for. Like, wow. Like it speaks to a larger picture because when you focus on, you know, making sure that people of color, black people, for instance, people who look like me are being taken care of, then everybody else is automatically being taken care of as well.
Twyla Jones: And I love it because it’s like, you don’t have to buy these and hope that it’s going to work for different skin tones and darker skin tones and all of that, like, you know, that right off the bat, like it was built using them.
Chinelle Rojas: Exactly. And the biggest thing too is like, we all have different undertones.
And I don’t think people is realize that, especially when it comes to more melanated skin, you will see more clearly. Like for instance, I have the picture that’s being used as the promo picture for it right now. That was a really beautiful, seamless Savage paper that I had behind me. And it looks really great with my skin tone. This wall does not.
And that’s because it has a different undertone. So that kind of theory and that kind of like observation and stuff like that is why it has so many different presets because some work better for somebody who has more olive skin or more mahogany type undertone.
Twyla Jones: Yeah.
Chinelle Rojas: Where, like others are better for more chocolate skin or paler, you know what I mean? So it just works and it’s pretty versatile. And it also has amidst all those skin base, because it actually creates a whole look across the whole picture. So it’s not just focusing on the skin. But aside from just the skin based ones, it also ha s a few one click type presets as well, so you could get a whole look where maybe all you have to do is just adjust the white balance a little bit or your exposure and then boom. Like finished picture. Yeah. , it has those available in the set as well. And I was very particular about having all the things in there. So…
Twyla Jones: I love that.
Chinelle Rojas: Hopefully people like it.
Twyla Jones: Of course they will. I’m excited to check them out. So I’ll link those in our show notes as well as your self portrait class. What else do you have going on?
Chinelle Rojas: My secret project.
Twyla Jones: Oh your shop?
Chinelle Rojas: Yes.
Twyla Jones: Your shop your shirts and stuff, Coco and Sol is that what it is?
Chinelle Rojas: Yes, it’s Coco and Sol. Okay. And because chocolate and sun,
Twyla Jones: I love it, it is such a good name.
Chinelle Rojas: Yeah.
That has all kinds of shirts and stuff. And they’re basically shirts that are based on things that I personally am interested in. So like,
Twyla Jones: I know I love it. I love how you can choose, like kind of choose your destination, what you’re into, and then it shows you the [00:54:00] shirts that you would like.
Chinelle Rojas: Exactly. It’s for people who like vibe with me. Like in general, like you have similar things that you’re into like photography, or maybe you’re into like you’re pro cannabis or you like crystals, or, you know, just focus on being pro black or whatever. Like yeah. You have all these different options to choose from. And they’re basically just things that I’m into. So I’m like if I would I, they’re shirts that I would wear personally.
Yeah. I love that.
Twyla Jones: Well, you’re so accomplished and so inspirational to me, just, you know, all of the different types of things that you have going on all of the time and, you know, doing that with the family and homeschooling them and all of that.
So, I wish I could get you back to Florida just so we can hang out, you know,
Chinelle Rojas: I will be back soon if for nothing else to come visit. Once these borders open up, we’re traveling. We’re not going to be, that’s something that is on our to do list, ideally for 2021, when the borders open back up and we can actually leave Trinidad.
Yeah. Yeah. We want to be traveling the world. So first stop is going to be back to the States because I need to order things off of Amazon and get them delivered to me. Yeah. That’s pretty important. And Target.
And Target, yes.
And family too, I guess. We’re going to be back there first. We have hopes to go to like Costa Rica and Honduras, and
Twyla Jones: We were talking about moving to Costa Rica the other day.
Chinelle Rojas: We’re highly considering actually moving to Costa Rica. Just cost of living wise is even better than where we are right now in Trinidad.
Twyla Jones: Do you want to do a commune with us? Gary could be the cook.
Chinelle Rojas: Okay. Yeah. We’re vegan. So it has to be like,
Twyla Jones: all of our friends are vegan, so he’s used to it.
Chinelle Rojas: Good. As long as he cooks with flavor.
Twyla Jones: Oh yeah, he does. He’s amazing. He’s amazing. I do. Like as soon as you do come over, like come see us, please. And let us cook you dinner.
Chinelle Rojas: Um, you don’t have to tell me twice. Okay.
Twyla Jones: I just want to impress you. That’s all.
Chinelle Rojas: I want to say.
Twyla Jones: It’s at Fort Pierce. So it’s, it’s basically like an hour and a half South of Orlando and right on the water. Like we live, I don’t know, five minutes from the ocean.
Chinelle Rojas: Okay. Yeah.
Twyla Jones: Yeah. It’s a great place.
Chinelle Rojas: Actually. I want to live closer to the ocean.
Twyla Jones: Yeah. I love it. It is really amazing.
Chinelle Rojas: Yeah. I grew up in Tampa actually. So Tampa is home for me. Yeah. Um, And then my sister lives in Orlando, so we gotta, yeah.
Twyla Jones: Awesome. Good. So I’m definitely going to be seeing you as soon as you can get over here.
Chinelle Rojas: Exactly.
Twyla Jones: Awesome. Well, thanks for talking with me today. It was such a pleasure. And again, well, I’ll link all of your things in the show notes so people can find you on Instagram.
You have a couple different Instagrams, right?
Chinelle Rojas: I do. I’m obnoxious. I know.
Twyla Jones: No. Like, I don’t know. I have three or four. I think You need a home for everything.
Chinelle Rojas: And I, some of them that I don’t post on very much because I’m like focused on other ones. So I can never really balance everything. Something always falls.
Twyla Jones: Yeah, well, that’s just the way of it, I think. But you know, you have a home for everything and they’re just portfolios, so that’s your most recent thing. And when you’re onto something else, like that’s what gets updated. I do the exact same thing.
Chinelle Rojas: I just so good to know. I’m not alone with that.
Twyla Jones: Yes. It’s like whatever season you’re in, you know, and I think that as creatives, we just definitely have these very like. I mean, we have seasons, right. You know, sometimes I can be really good at creating courses other times I just want to shoot other people’s families. And then sometimes I just want to photograph my family.
And it just kind of, I think when you don’t let yourself get like, uptight about it. And, you know, just, I don’t know, worried about like, not keeping up with all of the things, like, just do what you feel like doing and do that well, you know, and then move on to the other thing.
It’s always going to be there for you.
Chinelle Rojas: Exactly. I completely completely agree.
Twyla Jones: Yeah, well, keep being amazing and, um, yeah, I’m just, I’m so happy. We got to talk today and, um, I can’t wait to see you in person one day soon.
Chinelle Rojas: Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate you listening to me. Ramble about randomness.
Twyla Jones: Oh my gosh. Thank you for doing that. It’s my pleasure. I’m so excited for your episode to go live, because that means I get to post all of your beautiful work. It’s just so incredible.
Chinelle Rojas: You’re so sweet.
And I really need to see a really nice picture of that picture on your wall. Like
Twyla Jones: yeah, I’ll take it. I’ll take something nice for you. I will, because it is nice and it has like stars around it and I should, because I sent you a really crappy cell phone photo, I think when I got it on the wall, but I’ll, I’ll take a nice one for you.
Chinelle Rojas: I cannot wait to see it. Yeah, I can tell my husband I’m like see people would be
Twyla Jones: See it looks good.
Chinelle Rojas: Exactly.
Twyla Jones: Awesome. Cool. Well, I, um, I’ll let you go and we will talk again soon.
Chinelle Rojas: Thank you.
Twyla Jones: Thanks. Thanks for listening to the emotional storytelling podcast. You can dig into this show notes and other episodes atemotionalstorytelling.com. If you love the show, be sure to subscribe and share with the creative and need of a little inspiration and join the emotional storytelling community group on Facebook.
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