Base photo credit to Gary Haze.
NEW YORK, NY
Shut up you stupid chink. Haha you short ass smurf. Nice shoes, nerd.
The cold taunts and verbal assaults still looped inside Gary’s head, making his walk home from school seem longer and his footsteps heavier. All he could do was try to patch the freshly reopened cuts and slashes to his self-esteem.
Gary Jiang, 21 year-old also known as Gary Haze, recalled in our interview how being the only Asian kid in his elementary school made the majority of his early days a constant struggle. Not only that, Gary had a tough time with self-identity as he grew up in a neighborhood that was on the edge of East Village, Alphabet City, and the outskirts of Lower East Side of Brooklyn, New York. He described his block back in the 90’s as “ghetto” with “a ton of heroine addicts” roaming the parks he would play in.
For Gary, his childhood classmates had always verbally pricked his self-esteem for being Asian, for being the smallest kid, for being smart, for not wearing name brand sneakers – for simply standing out from the crowd. To this day, he still credits his private, introverted and somewhat reclusive personality to the persistent bullying and hostile environment he had to endure growing up. As Gary shared in our interview, “[the bullying] really impacted my self-esteem growing up and to this day, I’m still pretty shy when it comes to larger groups.”
So how did Gary evolve to hatch from his cocoon of reclusiveness and privacy to end up becoming a leader of a promising young company? Gary is the co-founder and current CEO of MuffinMilk, a clothing brand that embodies the lifestyle of the hungry, ambitious, and passionate hustlers. Founded in 2008, MuffinMilk have sold out countless collections.
It turns out that instead of letting the bullying morph him into a sad, depressed, isolated machine of tears, Gary had found peace through his own creative release. He turned to art, graffiti, stencils, and silk screening in order to cope with the bullying. Eventually, his artistic imagination and creativity led him spend his free time doodling comic strips.
One day, he decided to print one of the doodle monsters he created when he was 14 years old on a t-shirt and wore it to high school. Weird, funky, and catchy, the art seduced his classmates’ curiosity and eventually caught their attention. Gary was bombarded with an unexpected demand for more of his t-shirts. That’s when his doodle monster, “MuffinMilk” became his first clothing brand.
What started out as a therapeutic creative release seven years ago on the canvas of his own artistic imagination had become his first entrepreneurial venture – one that would continue to grow to this day.
The one lesson we can learn from Gary’s story is simple.
What others think about you is THEIR reality; it does not have to be yours. For Gary, sure his self-esteem was getting battered everyday but that did not smear his own reality or deter the growth of who he was artistically, and more importantly—intrinsically.
Instead of sulking his days away, he found the one thing that made him happy and allowed personal growth. And that was to create. As Gary explained, whether it was creating a doodle, a t-shirt, a photo shoot, or a video, he found therapy through “understanding [himself] in terms of what [he] was capable of creating and in terms of what was in [his] mind that [he] could turn into something.” The translation of his mind to physical art was his much needed catharsis.
Gary was a true entrepreneur before he even knew it. When he faced obstacles that were destroying the quality of his life, he explored and found an opportunity that could solve it—a perfect example of the entrepreneurial spirit. Through the source of his creativity and entrepreneurship, he was able to improve, grow, and ultimately better himself and his intellect.
Looking back at it all, Gary shared what entrepreneurship meant to him:
“It made me a stronger person. It taught me how to take risks. It defined me as a person. It framed the way that I looked at the world. It has an impact on all of my decisions whether business or personal, and it’s helped me develop great relationship too.”
If it seems like the entire world is held against you… that is not the point where you should give up. That’s when you should push back harder. Push harder to understand yourself. Push harder to explore the corners of your creativity and imagination that you’ve never visited before. Get lost in the maze of your mind. Then find your inner self you didn’t know existed. Because if you don’t even understand yourself – how can you possibly expect anyone else to?
Read Gary’s full interview.
All photo credits goes to MuffinMilk.
Gary is a rising senior at Babson College concentrating in marketing. He is currently the CEO of MuffinMilk and the Creative Director and Brand Manager for Superego Clothiers, a social marketplace retailing streetwear brands bent on sustainable products and practices. Gary aspires to one day start and run his own hybrid consulting and advertising agency focused on delivering culturally relevant marketing initiatives for brands and companies. When not working on his ventures, you can find him riding around on his bike taking photos of the awes in life.
Check out his dope brand by clicking the smooth links below.
Scroll through some tasty art from the MuffinMilk team in the album below
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