Before Jasmine Star was a photographer and business strategist, she was a UCLA Law School student, an experience that made her aware of how much she did not want a traditional career.
“As a first generation Latina, a first generation college student, and a first generation post-grad student, I was entirely on my own,” explains Star. “I was chartering waters my parents didn’t understand, but wanted to support me. When I look back, I realize that I went to law school because it was the ‘safe’ path to take as the daughter of an immigrant.”
Now, Star owns her own business which has expanded to include both photography and business strategizing for other entrepreneurs who want to grow their social platforms.
“‘[Being] a photographer and business strategist might seem like a weird combination, but as I built my photography business, I quickly realized I had a knack for entrepreneurship,” explains Star. “My family jokes that you can take the girl out of the hood, but you can’t take the hood out of the girl. Yes, I’ve used my street smarts to take the little I had and turn it into a digital empire (…okay, maybe empire is a stretch of the word, but for a girl from the barrio, it’s nothing short of that).”
While the accolades around her work have stacked up, for Star the real impetus to keep going is being able to pay it forward to others through whatever iteration of her work makes the most sense. For some who come to her, what she gives may not even be just advice around business strategy but on how to navigate the emotional toll of putting yourself out there altogether.
Below Jasmine Star shares insight on how she’s built her career, what advice she has for other Latinas, and what milestones have reminded her she’s on the right path.
How did you start ramping up your work to be able to turn this into a full-time job?
“I had a part-time job working Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I’d spend Tuesday, Thursday, and the weekend to practice photography. When I say practice, I mean it in the most literal way — I carried my camera everywhere (I still do to this day), I’d shoot an orange tree in my backyard, I’d shoot my breakfast (before it was cool to do on Instagram), and I’d shoot anyone who’d sit for a portrait. I wasn’t very good (okay, I was kind of terrible), but I was so elated to be shooting that I remained undaunted. I Googled every tutorial, I signed up for a night class at a junior college to learn Photoshop and then I volunteered my services to anyone/anything who’d take me. I slowly build a portfolio and began charging for my work, then gradually raised my prices until I saved enough to quit my part time job and pursue photography full time.”
What have been some milestones that help remind you you’re on the right path?
“I think it’s easy to point to recognition or accolades as barometers of success, but those things don’t matter to me much. I mean, it’s truly wonderful to be recognized for my business acumen, but my milestones are measured by impact, purpose, and legacy.
“I know I’m on the right track when a female entrepreneur tells me she retired her husband because of the help I offered in her business. I’m on the right track when a business owner learns how to show up on social media with confidence and lets me know how I helped him. I know I’m on the right track when people tell me that I made them believe that the impossible is possible. Nothing’s better than that.”
What advice do you have for other Latinas who are veering away from the traditional career paths/what is expected of them and banking on themselves and creative pursuits instead?
“On December 31, 2004, my family surrounded my mother in a hospital bed. It was past visiting hours, but the oncology nurses at USC Norris Hospital in Los Angeles looked the other way. We wore party hats and twisted noise-makers. We were there to usher in the new year with my mom. She looked around with tired eyes and thanked us for being there, keeping her loneliness at bay. We talked about the things we wanted to do, the people we wanted to become.
“On that night, my mother didn’t talk about what she did, she wondered about all the things she didn’t do. Her regrets filled the air and hung dark shadowed streamers just before midnight. I felt so empty, so desperate. I was slapped with the realization that failing at something you love is better than succeeding at something you hate.
“Life is too short to wonder “what if?” There’s no guarantee that your creative ventures will pay off, but then again there’s no guarantee that they won’t either.”
What has been your biggest lesson learned while building your career as a photographer and now as a business strategist as well?
“Make mistakes as fast and as frequently as possible. I’ve learned more from mistakes than by perfectly executed perfection. The quicker I make mistakes—and the quicker I rebound and learn—the better off I am.”
What has helped you leave room for growth in your career so that you could expand into strategy too?
“This is a geeky answer, but creating systems and automation has allowed me to scale in massive ways. Once I created a system for aspects of my business, I was able to teach it to an assistant and trust that it would be done. I worked solo for over a decade, but now have a team of 16 people, all working toward the goal of empowering business owners to believe that the impossible is possible for them.”
With Instagram (IG) it sometimes gets rough as a creator when content doesn’t perform the way you expect it to — how do you handle the ups and down of IG?
“I need to be very clear: I don’t care. I don’t care when a post is a smashing success, and I don’t care when a post tanks. I don’t treat content like a beauty pageant, secretly hoping that every post is crowned as Grand Supreme Sweetheart. I use social as a division of my business and life. Sometimes my posts resonate in a real way, other times it totally flops but the key is to learn my audience better, offer more value, and engage with them. If I focused too much on how well a post performed, it’d strip me of my authentic voice and purpose. I create for me, I create for connection with others —I don’t create for validation.”
Photo Source: JD Delatorre