Posted March 8, 2017
By LINGYUE ZHENG
“Yay, from one Cane to another! I’ll be honored to work with you!”
Within five minutes after I sent out an email asking Jana Carrero if I could interview her, I received her confirmation with a delightful tone.
“Let me know what I can do to help out.”
Later on, we agreed to the time and location to meet up in a surprisingly smooth manner. While I was typing “See you then, thank you,”
I could not help but thinking: Jana Carrero didn’t sound like a fashion blogger who had around 17,000 followers and various style sponsors including Sunglasses Hut, VSCO and Adidas. Too friendly. Two feet on the ground. Too good to be true.
Many fashion bloggers portrayed fashion so high-end with luxury outfits, but Jana Carrero had her unique style. She embraced variety and naturalism. Most importantly, Carrero’s fashion always complemented the look of Miami and went along with her beautiful storytelling and that made her real.
Carrero was graduated from University of Miami in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in motion pictures and she used to be a DJ at UM radio station WVUM-FM 90.5. After graduation, she studied at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York from 2008 to 2010 and was graduated with a certificate in fashion styling.
After participating and coordinating various fashion events, Carrero started her own fashion blog OJ AND CIGS and working as a senior manager at Miami Social Marketing.
In the Mezzanine lobby of Mint Condominium in downtown Miami, a shoulder-length silver hair woman in a baby blue down-to-heels dress wore a big smile. She seemed smaller in real life than on Instagram, but her rosy lips and lit-up smile radiated luster as bright as on those posted photos, but warmer and more welcoming.
Carrero started blogging in 2012 and endowed a unique name to her blog, OJ AND CIGS.
“One day I entered my apartment and it smelled like a mixed fragrance of my morning fresh-squeezed orange juice and the neighbor’s cigarettes. The combination of orange freshness and smoky heaviness awakens me and I think it goes along with my style: swing between extreme relaxing to meticulously classy,” Carrero said.
The reason why Carrero stood out among bloggers was how she defined fashion, just as how she named her blog. Unlike many bloggers who only portrayed high-end fashion products or showing their perfect bodies, her fashion style was not monotonous. Carrero was not a skinny model, nor a blogger trying portraying a Tiffany fantasy. She sometimes dressed up to an impeccable princess, and sometimes dressed down to a tomboy.
“Fashion is subjective. It is not rigid or fixed. I choose my daily armors based on how I feel,” she said in a cheerful voice in the elevator up to her apartment. The lounge was under construction and Carrero offered her apartment as our alternative interview venue. “As long as you don’t mind if my boyfriend and our dog are present,” Carrero laughed.
On Carrero’s social media, bold colorway, mini-skirt, short bob haircut and this was the modernist style.
Pink shirts, jeans and a pair of pink sneakers and socks and that was the style of a girl who lived next doors and always gave you a warm smile whenever you greeted her.
Strolling in long Bohemia dress on an unknown Cuban streets, that was dreamy and elegant.
“Fashion is also an expression of arts and should not be deprived for whatever reason. I maintain my fashion in an accessible manner because I want people to have a sense of beauty is not only exclusive to certain population,” Carrero said with a smile while on the elevator to her apartment.
Entering Carrero’s apartment, I immediately noticed the extraordinary tidiness. Two parallel bookshelves on the left wall, categories with fashion magazines and books including some tourism guides, books about photography, poetry and books about models including Kate Moss.
We sat next to a dining table and looked out of the window. It was 34th floor and high enough to avoid many visual blocks. One could easily glimpse the beautiful skylines and the peaceful Biscayne Bay.
“I read, go to museums and galleries when I have time. Listening to music is also a way to refresh.Those are my inspirational sources,” Carrero said and took out her cellphone to show me photos during the trip to Havana last April.
An exotic country with colorful walls and cars. Deserted antique buildings stood peacefully under sunshine. Kids laughing. Laundry hanging sluggishly on a thin line and vast ocean. In every photo, Carrero seemed alive and communicated with her background. It looked magical.
Being fascinating and impeccable are what audience expect to see from bloggers, yet there is the other side. When fashion bloggers presented the elegance of their life all about wearing gorgeous outfits, traveling worldwide and taking photos, they never presented the behind-the-scene when they experienced sweat and fatigue.
“It was hot to death. We needed to run under the heat for those shoots needed by Sunglass Hut. Carrero had to constantly take care of her make-up and we shot the whole day and she looked flawless in each photo,” said Yesi Laver Flores, Carrero’s photographer who had been working with her for two years. Her long pink hair was flowing in the breeze. “We were exhausted and dehydrated in the end of the day.”
“It was a very unforgettable memory,” Carrero said, nodding her head. “I think one way I can keep my inspiration and innovation is keeping doing things different and new.”
When Jana styled and starred in short film “All Seeing Eyes” written and directed by Andrea Garcia Marquez (another UM graduate student majoring in motion pictures), Carrero recalled that they stayed in Wynwood for the whole day and waited for the “golden light” so her face could be lit up under the orange sunlight. She confessed sometimes taking photos could be a little bit “adventurous.”
When she took a series of photos at the roof parking lot at Miami Design District, security guards came up and requested them to leave because they needed a permit to take photos. Jana and her photographer started packing up the equipment and then rushed to set up after security people left and took three minutes finishing photo-taking two outfits.
“Jana will not complain a word during filming,” said Andrea Garcia Marquez, who graduated in 2016 with a master’s degree in motion picture. “Strict with herself, caring for other crew members and always creative.”
In this introspective film, Carrero played a young woman who rediscovered the meaning of life and love after awakening to find her body covered in eyes. A poetic take on the old adage “to look at life differently.”
“Jana spends a lot of time on her blog and preparations for the contents, but she just does not realize that because fashion is her passion. She loves it and she is gifted in visual storytelling. Her storytelling and vibes help emotion come through her photos.” said Gil Matos, Carrero’s boyfriend and, in her words, life coach.
He works as Admissions Director for New York Film Academy and helped Carrero with several aspects of the blog. He shrugged and laughed.
“The only frustration I have is too many of her outfits occupying our wardrobe,” he added.
“Never be intimidated by competition and remember why you are doing it; pave the way for yourself and be authentic; Getting out of comfort zone and opening your eyes to see.” Jana said that was her attitude in pursuing fashion as her lifelong profession. “You got to be brave and innovative in the world of arts.”
Around 4 p.m., Carrero apologized for she had to leave for a street shoot and grabbed a huge grey bag and her sunglasses.
Basking in the afternoon weak, warm and orange sunlight, this busy lady standing straight waiting for her photographer to come and take her to work. The colors on her were dramatic: silver hair, rosy lips, blue dress, yet they constituted a very pleasing photo. It all of a sudden resonated with the orange juice and cigarettes story and how she started her blog.
On the day of interview, she wrote in OJ AND CIGS:
“So for the sake of transparency, I admit my life is this thing made up of contradictions: fraught with insecurities and a touch of pride, ADHD tendencies peppered with OCD, and yes, paying off debt while balancing a mean shopping habit. But the contradiction that I am actually totally okay with is being somewhat of a creative cynic who’s fond of dreaming and escapism, yet totally aware of the realness of life. And thank you for listening, reading, escaping or thinking with me.”