We Love This Babe: Johanna Toruño

Visual artist, Johanna Toruño, wanted to find a way to celebrate and honor the stories and art of people of color, which she felt was not properly represented in today’s society. So she created the Unapologetically Brown Series to do just that using the streets as her personal gallery and social media as her platform to show her art to the world. The work she creates is inspiring and she’s most definitely someone we are proud to feature on Glitter Guide today. Get ready to be inspired!

What was your mission with creating the Unapologetically Brown Series?

I wanted to create a body work that spoke to people of color specifically because I have always felt that our stories/art have not been celebrated and honored the way they should be. Communities of color, but specifically black folks are the makers of culture and we don’t see it translated well on the streets. So after figuring out what I wanted to do, I realized I’ve always had something to say through my work. I just needed to find a way to make it accessible. The streets is the home to my work—my personal gallery.  

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You have over 64k followers now. Did you ever think you would grow the brand to be this large? Was your growth on social media strategic, or did it happen organically?

I don’t think of myself as a brand. I am not a brand. I am a visual artist who has used the streets in a real sense and social media to merge a platform for my work. The growth on social media has been completely organic. It’s been really beautiful and life-changing to have this community behind me supporting my work because they believe in its intention. That’s a huge honor for me.

What do you hope that the future will bring for the Unapologetically Brown Series?

More opportunities—more opportunities to create and infiltrate different sectors that maybe haven’t been by a young queer street artist of color.

You’re a visual artist. Do you think that your profession has anything to do with the movement you have created with the Unapologetically Brown Series?

It has everything and nothing to do with it because when I first started this work, I had no idea what I was doing. I watched YouTube videos of street art basics, wheatpaste and everything that I could find that helped me get an idea to build the foundation of the series. Now, I am a “community taught” artist (a beautiful quote I heard by a Chicago-based artist that really touched me). I have learned everything about what I do one day at a time through practicing.

Your artwork is very inspirational. Where do you draw inspiration from?

My sisterhood, my community—the people that I see every day. I can walk in my neighborhood and say “hi” to everyone on my block—people inside the bodega and the pizza spot on the corner, the ladies at the hair salon and so on. They inspire me.

How have you seen yourself personally grow since starting the Unapologetically Brown Series?

I’ve grown with my work most definitely. My life has changed in the last year and a half—I am figuring out myself and my process. It’s been so beautiful to grow with my art.

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How do you separate your personal brand from your business?

Like I mentioned earlier, I am not a brand or a business. I am an artist. Artists have to eat, so I do credit myself for being able to hustle and be able to sustain myself and my work independently!

Do you have any advice for others who are looking to create a movement as strong as yours?

You won’t know you’re budging a movement until you’re in the middle of it and even then you didn’t do it on your own. Be humble and remember who and why you do it. Remember to always set a table not only where you eat at.

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Your online store is fantastic! Do you have any plans on expanding your product line?

Yes! I am working on a couple of things, but right now as far as “product” is concerned, I am working on designing my own pair of overalls, which I am super excited about because if you know me you know my uniform is a pair of overalls. It makes me really happy that people associate me with them and have shown interest in owning a pair I design! I love mixing my love for so many mediums of art into my work in one way or another!

Connect with Johanna on Instagram and her online store

Author: Samantha Welker

Samantha Welker is the business manager at Glitter Guide. She has an Master's in Corporate Finance & Sustainability from Harvard Business School but prefers working in the creative industry. She also hosts a weekly business podcast for creative women called Pretty Okay Podcast. She loves spending time with her husband and her son, Rocky, in sunny San Diego. Follow along on Instagram