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KITA: More Than Kawaii

KITA: More Than Kawaii

By Lex Celera
The cheeks are blushed and rosy, the eyebrows on point, the hair colored like ice cream. The body is adorned in easy-looking pastel garb. There’s a  little quirk here and there, just enough for you to notice. And the eyes; they say it all. Is she pensive? Is she happy? The beauty is in the details.

“What I like the most is how I usually draw eyes, like a cat-eyeliner style,” shares Keeshia Felipe. “I just like how sophisticated it looks.” Sophisticated may not be the word some might call it—not just the eyes but the doll-like figures Felipe draws as a whole. They might call it quirky, or kawaii, the Japanese word for cute. But to call it as just that, as just a run-of-the-mill pop art that gets lost in the stream of Tumblr posts, is unfair to the artist. In a world of reviews and reviews of reviews, people forget the relationship between the artist and his art. The artist leaves a part of himself on his art, and vice versa.

Keeshia, or Kita to her fanbase, values her art as a hopeful extension of herself. “When people started noticing I look like the [figures] that I am drawing, it’s because one of my frustrations when I was still developing my style was I can’t wear anything that the girls on my drawings are sporting. Like, I can’t wear a sleeveless top or loud-colored hair because I was brought up by a very conservative family, and the environment which I live in is still not open to looks outside the norm.”

There are a lot of artists like Keeshia who find liberation in expressing oneself through art. One of Keeshia’s icons, Tyler, The Creator breaks through the mold of race and age through his work in music and art. “I’m trying to live how he lives his life. I believe in his teachings that you should find your wings and fly. Do what you want and do not listen to anybody but yourself. Trusting yourself.” It was a very happy coincidence that the two had a connection online. “I was very hyped when he noticed my version of his ‘Cherry Bomb’ artwork, he then reposted it and even included it in his ‘GOLF BOOK’ and he sent me a copy of the book! So awesome! I was very hyped! He skyrocketed my career.”

You might see Keeshia’s work outside the screen through her recent collaboration with lifestyle blogger Chuvaness and National Book Store. “Chuvaness, Cecile van Straten, is actually the sister of my boyfriend’s schoolmate, Ana. Ana knew of my art from my boyfriend Paul, and she liked my work and decided to have herself drawn. She helped me boost my career to another level, and showed me endless support. She’s like a ninang to me.” The result of the collaboration introduced a special line of school supplies, tote bags, and more.

“Now that I am more confident about myself, I can easily express what I want to look like and now I feel like I am one with my drawings. It is such a great feeling,” she shares. Her drawings don’t have to smile to reflect Keeshia’s happiness. The art may just be cute, even simple, but in the coming-of-age yearning for self-expression, Keeshia is a beacon of pastel light. “Everyone is dreaming to be known and to give inspiration to everybody, I want that.” Through her art, she just might get what she wants.

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Lex Celera
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