Don’t hate me. I almost forgot I had these photos. I will come clean and admit that I seem to be getting suckier at organizing my files—still trying to figure out an effective way to maneuver through this thing called a Mac! This shoot right here was one of those that were spur-of-the-moment. I know, I know, very uncharacteristic of me, because, as most of you might know by now, I am nothing without all the planning, the countless meetings, not to mention my mood boards. But, hey, I was in L.A., and I had to assimilate somehow! The British model and columnist Peaches Geldof once wrote that Los Angeles “isn’t self-conscious, it’s just doing its thing, and it’s for that reason that I love this city.” I felt like in order for me to capture the very spirit of this place, to effectively take its pulse, I had to let some of that self-consciousness go somehow and just, well, go with the flow!
Let me just be clear: It’s called assimilating, OK, and not compromising. Being in a place like California is hardly what I’d call a compromise. Especially the part where all roads lead to the beach. It’s kind of amazing, really, how whenever you want to do something or whenever you’re looking for something, you almost always end up in some beach. Itching to go to a carnival? Why, the Pacific Park is right there, perched atop the Santa Monica Pier! Need to play ball, sweat it out a little? Why do it in some park in the middle of the city when you can do it and have an incredible view at the same time at Laguna Beach’s Main Beach? Even stuff as trivial as, say, bread pudding—why look further when the ones at Schulzies (especially the Blueberry Muffin Pudding!) down the Venice Beach Boardwalk is to die for?
This whole thing right here was not a different story. After asking around for where I could score some Baja hoodies for cheap (I’d found some at Urban Outfitters but they cost $29, and even some vintage at Wasteland down Melrose but they were at $50-$60), I found myself in the backseat of my friend Nikki Paden’s car—she and her boyfriend Paul Marrer were going to take me to Venice Beach, where just a few days back they’d gotten authentic-looking Baja hoodies for under $15 apiece! I’d been to this place countless times before, but just never bothered to look inside the souvenir shops along Ocean Front Walk! After I got my hoodies (yes, more than one), we decided to walk around the beach a little bit—and that’s when I thought that, hey, why not take their photos while we were at it?
Nikki had just transplanted herself to California some 7 or 8 months back (she’d left Cebu immediately after helping me style singer-songwriter Cattski for the latter’s album cover shoot September of last year), and so far she was loving every minute of it. Paul was not from around here, though—he lived in Switzerland with his family, and was only here for two or so months to visit his girlfriend. I thought it was really sweet of Paul to ask for an extended vacation from work just so he could spend some time with Nikki in her new home. Apparently they loved doing this for each other. Just a few years back, when Paul had moved back to Switzerland from Cebu, Nikki had moved to London for a year so she could be closer to him. Some couples flail at the idea of an ocean between them, but not these two. Just one of the things that I admired about them—not only were they intent in testing the boundaries of their relationship, they were intent on breaking them. (Don’t expect Brandy’s “Long Distance” to become their theme song anytime soon!)
Another thing that cemented their bond was their common love for the beach. For years since the day they’d first met, and prior to leaving Cebu/Asia to see the rest of the world, that was all they’d ever done—escape to Boracay, or Camotes, or Pandanon Island, or Panglao (Bohol), or Siargao, even Phuket. (I wasn’t sure how much of these SoCal beaches they’d covered over the last couple of weeks, but they’d probably seen enough already, considering they were at this very moment already talking about flying to Maui [yes, Hawaii!] in a couple of weeks!) And so it just seemed right for me to photograph them right here, on the beach—more than any other place in the world, this was home to them.
Also, it was the least I could do in exchange for everything they’d done for me. Yes, they did more for me than just hook me up with those Bajas. Just a little over a week back, the day before my birthday, they’d stood patiently in line with me for two or so hours at the Grove Barnes & Noble as I waited my turn to talk to my dream girl Lauren Conrad and get her autograph! Of all the people I knew in this town, they were the only ones who’d said yes to chaperoning me to what most people from around here considered to be an “unglamorous” situation (yes, if you have friends in L.A., they’re gonna lay some ground rules, and the number one rule is to “not freak out when you see a celebrity, and pretend like you don’t care about them at all”). And when I’d said there was nothing I’d wanted more for my birthday dinner than some good old fashioned Louisiana-style fried chicken and coleslaw, they’d made a beeline for the Hollywood Popeyes, never mind that it took hours to get there because of the traffic, never mind that it took forever to find parking space when we finally got there—and never mind that it meant having to sit beside some scary-looking people like plastic surgery addict Steve Erhardt. I’m blessed with so many friends in this part of the world, but I gotta admit not all of them are willing to brave the hellish Hollywood traffic and mingle with the Hollyweirdos with me. So, thank you, Nikki and Paul! You guys are awesome!
Paul Stanley Marrer and Dominique Paden | Photographed by Angelo Kangleon in Los Angeles, CA, on May 1, 2012
Couple of photos that I took of my sister’s best friend Theresa, who’d flown in from Amsterdam to visit us in California for 9 days. Yes, you read that right: 9 days. Apparently that’s all the vacation that some people need, and I salute them, because to the impractical and impossible little brats like myself if it’s not more than, say, 60 days it’s not considered a vacation at all!
Actually she wasn’t just there to visit us. She was on a mission, too—or, make that two. One was to get a box of those fiendishly delicious Avocado Egg Rolls from Cheesecake Factory for her boss (apparently they don’t have Cheesecake Factory in Amsterdam), and two was to eat at every single American diner-inspired restaurant that we stumbled upon. The latter proved to be a challenge, because although it wasn’t hard to find establishments in L.A. that served stuff similar to traditional diner cuisine and that had interiors that mimicked traditional diner décor (hello, Johnny Rockets), it was rather toilsome to look for one that had a vegetarian menu! Yes, Theresa here is a vegan—I don’t know when or how it all started, but it was somewhere between her move from London to Amsterdam. I admire people who have a certain discipline when it comes to what they put in their plate, but, damn, girl, must you make it hard for the rest of us, too? (Just kidding!)
Backpedaling to the 9-day issue: I only got to see her for 5 ½ days because I had to leave for New York, and so we never got to have the real deal photo shoot that we’d planned (the original plan had been to shoot at Malibu’s Paradise Cove, because she’d asked to be photographed at “the most beautiful beach in California”). I kept on asking her to extend her stay, but she said it wasn’t that simple because she was anticipating a busy time at work. Turned out that although the 9 days weren’t enough to afford us a decent photo shoot, they were enough to make her fall in love with America—and to convince her to consider moving to L.A.!
During her first few weeks back in Europe she wouldn’t stop messaging us about how California wouldn’t stop calling her name in her dreams. (I couldn’t blame her—I’d had the exact same nightmares, too, only a few years back, after my first visit to L.A.) I have no idea what happened between then and now, but today it looks like she’s a little undecided: she’s smitten about America, yes, but at the same time she can’t bear the thought of leaving her beloved Amsterdam behind. I’m thinking I should send her some photos that I took of Paradise Cove—you know, to remind her that we’ve got unfinished business, and to convince her that people who say “there is no place like home” have obviously never been to California! LOL. Seriously, though, my only wish is for her to stop overthinking—and for her to just follow her heart.
Theresa Marie Wakeley | Photographed by Angelo Kangleon in Los Angeles, CA, on May 3, 2012, and in San Diego, CA, on May 5, 2012
There is one thing I love more than California, and that’s my little niece Mikaela, who happens to be, well, made in California! To say that I’ve adored her since she was born is kind of an understatement—truth is, I’ve been head over heels with her even before she could pop out of her mommy’s belly! My sister and I were taking a stroll down the Venice Beach Boardwalk one excruciatingly hot afternoon in the summer of 2010, and that was when she first announced to me that she was preggo. So there I was soaking up the scenery, thinking of Tom Kapinos’s Californication because this was the very place where many of my favorite scenes from that series had been shot, especially that one scene some 8 minutes into the second episode of the fourth season where Madeleine Martin’s character little Becca Moody plays her electric guitar at the Boardwalk for some cash—and here was my sister telling me she was expecting, and that it was probably going to be a girl! Suddenly my mind was running wild with thoughts of what this baby girl was going to turn out like. Was she going to be the quintessential California girl, à la Lauren Conrad—you know, a sucker for the beach, adored dogs, obsessed with shopping and makeup, and with a megawatt smile that looked like it had a thousand summers written on it? That would be nice, I thought. But then as I walked further down the Boardwalk, past the Schwarzenegger types pumping iron at the Muscle Beach Gym, past the turban-sporting electric guitarist on roller skates, past the ageing hipsters taking a nap under palm trees (or holding up placards that advertised “Shitty Advice for $1!”), I realized that deep inside I didn’t want a California sweetheart for a niece—I wanted one who was hardcore, someone who got mad guitar skills, just like Becca Moody! And so for months that was the stuff my daydreams were made of: my niece playing her electric guitar for passersby at the Boardwalk—and it would be a song with a killer guitar solo, too, like, say, “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, or “Yellow Ledbetter” by Pearl Jam—and me sitting on the bench behind her with a proud, arrogant smile on my face. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
What I failed to consider was that babies don’t just turn into guitar-toting teenagers overnight—they actually have to go through a phase called, well, babyhood, where all they like to do is coo, crawl, and cuddle. (Hey, we’ve all had poor sense of time at one point or another, right? LOL!) Not to say that this disappointed me, of course. When I returned to L.A. this year and saw this little munchkin waiting for me at the airport, my heart melted all the same. I mean, come on, look at those chubby cheeks! And those big, round eyes! And those plump legs! She had just turned one, so her coos were a little loud now, and she was slowly transitioning from crawling to walking now—the cuddling part didn’t come until a little later (she would not come anywhere near me during the first couple of days), but when it did I found it very hard to stop!
I thought it was kind of cute how she didn’t have a lot of hair on her yet. At first I found this a little alarming, but then my mom told us that that had been us, too—”It wasn’t until you turned 2 or so that you began to grow a full head of hair.” It was just amusing and awkward at the same time how people would come up to Mikee (that’s how we call her) and say, “What an adorable little boy!” and so I had to explain, every single time, that “She’s actually a girl!” It didn’t help that, every time we tied a bow around her head or made her wear headbands with girly girl detail (rosettes, lace trimmings, etc.), she’d only put them on for a few minutes before taking them off and tearing them apart! Such a monster when it comes to those head adornments, I kid you not—she thinks of them as the enemy!
She’s also a monster when it comes to French fries, and by that I mean she devours them like there is no tomorrow. Some folks’ brows are going to raise, because you really aren’t supposed to expose babies to that kind of stuff, but can you help it if it’s the only thing that makes their eyes light up and their mouths water? I’m not sure how it started, but we were at the Hollywood In-N-Out one afternoon, and while the rest of us were busy surreptitiously taking photos of Derek Hough (of Dancing with the Stars) and Maria Menounos (of Extra, formerly of Access Hollywood), she remained oblivious to the celluloid-crazy world around her and carried on with her fries, leaving none for us! Yes, she is very, very territorial about them—she will gladly share everything else, like her Apple Jacks or her Pinkberry or her Wetzel’s Pretzels, but she will never share her fries, thank you very much!
But dislike of headbands and French fry hoarding aside, she really was just a sweet little thing. Funny that she turned out to be the California sweetheart that I had initially wanted to take a pass on, yet I was enjoying it immensely. For one, I love that she turned out to be a water baby, squealing with delight every time we brought her to the beach, or some pool, or even if it was just the bathtub—and she could rock the bikini like no other, too! She also had a soft spot for dogs, and this one time she stopped a middle-aged dog walker dead in his tracks on the corner of Hollywood and N Orange so she could make friends with his chichi Chihuahuas. She also loved it whenever we took her shopping—which was 80% of the time—and even if she wasn’t old enough yet to choose her own clothes (of course) she was always willing to try on every single thing we picked for her, and she enjoyed rummaging through our shopping bags, too. Another thing she loved rummaging through was her mom’s makeup kit—my sister would leave the whole thing unattended, and five minutes later there’s lipstick and eyeliner and compact powder all over the place! And then there’s her smile—I don’t really need to describe it because you can see it in these photos, but if I really must then I will need to borrow a line from that one Collective Soul song: it’s got that “sunshine bright-eyed California cotton candy taste!”
So I never got the Becca Moody that I’d hoped for, and instead I got a little Lauren Conrad, but that’s totally fine. The Becca Moody phase will manifest sooner or later. Happy to report that her musical inclination is starting to kick in already! Just a couple of weeks back my brother-in-law (her dad) expressed that he wanted to get her a present, but was torn between a puppy and a guitar—he’d seen how much she adored dogs (the Chihuahua encounter in Hollywood), but could not discount the fact that every time he picked up his guitar she would stare dreamily and even try her hand at strumming. This problem was solved a few days later when he got her a guitar in the shape of a hound dog (by B. Toys) from Target! And speaking of Target, I must not discredit the fact that, during my last few days in L.A. and we would find ourselves in a Target to shop for camera accessories, she would gravitate towards the musical instruments department, pick up some drum sticks, and just start banging away at every surface in sight (we even got into trouble at one of the Culver City Targets when the salesperson approached us and asked us to “please watch your baby because these are very expensive drum sticks”)! And when we took her to Griffith Park so she could play in the grass she was quick to pick up two dead twigs the size and shape of, well, drum sticks, and that was all she played with the whole time! And when we took her for a stroll down the Venice Beach Boardwalk she was first to spot this miniature piano (that belonged to a piano-playing Malti-Poo called Coco), and rushing towards the thing was the first time she’s ever ran so fast in her life!
So now I don’t know: Is she going to grow up to be a guitarist, or a drummer, or a keyboardist? One thing is for sure: She is going to go places. And she is going to rock people’s worlds. I mean, she’s already got a head start—she’s already rocking mine!
Mikaela K. Arradaza | Photographed and styled by Angelo Kangleon in Los Angeles, CA, on April 2012, and in San Diego, CA, and Van Nuys, CA, on May 2012