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Trusting my gut and leaving my comfort zone, with artist Alana Kay

Name: Alana Kay Latiolais

City and State: Fort Worth, TX

Occupation: Artist and Designer

Alana Kay Latiolais next to one of her paintings
Fort Worth Magazine

How did you go from having a corporate career to stay-at-home-mom to artist and designer?

I was on the very typical path that all girls are told to pursue to have the life that is most rewarding as a grown woman. Graduate high school, go to college, find a boyfriend, graduate college, land a great career, get married, get a dog and have a baby or two. I got to the "have a baby or two" part and slammed on the breaks after ONE baby.

I found myself as a stay at home mom and not enjoying it. I couldn't figure out why I didn't like this role like I saw other mom friend's loving it. I felt unfulfilled and every day I longed for achievement of some kind. I put some band aids on that feeling along the way by selling MLM products and being a professional volunteer, but it still wasn't enough. I had a burning desire to create something and I had no idea what that thing would be but I was searching and listening.

I was a few years into my son being in school full time and having lots of flexibility and freedom during the day when I had one of my crazy ideas to do an art project and paint an old desk I had laying around. I posted pictures of that finished desk on social media afterwards and started getting requests from friends and friends of friends for me to paint paintings for them. They wanted to pay me! I said, "Sounds great!! Let's do this."

After my first several paintings in the first month, I looked at the digital images I captured of the originals and saw beautiful, unique patterns that I envisioned on women's apparel. I had no clue how I was going to pull this off, but I took to the internet and produced my first product, women's leggings, four months after I painted my first painting.

What is your philosophy on "trusting your gut"?

I wasn't really sure why or how but I just knew AlanaKayART needed to exist. I saw a void in bold, aesthetic enhancing products and knew I could find a way to bring them to life. The problem with that is there is no road map. I have done things in building this brand that have worked but I have also done lots of things that have failed. In both cases, I followed my gut. My gut instinct is always right, and so is yours. Even if I run full force down one path and it ends up failing, I believe it led me to someone or something that moved me forward on the path of building AlanaKayART.

When you started creating art and branding your self as an artist, how did people react? And how did you react to their reactions?

I have always been creative and worked in creative types of careers BUT I am not a classically trained artist and do not have a fashion design degree. I will never forget the moment someone I did not know asked me, "Are you an artist?"

I paused to make sure I answered this question the way I wanted to be seen. I answered, "Yes I am." Confidently. It was the first time I put those words together in answering that question and it was an important moment in the building of this brand. No one will ever believe what I am building or championing until I fully believe it myself. If I don't deliver the answer confidently they won't even hear what I say.

From the beginning, I had a vision for this brand. I am still the only one who truly sees what I am building. Sure, it looks more cohesive and like it all makes sense today, but I am really only getting started. Family, friends, acquaintances all have their own opinions and often cannot understand why my life is so different or why I am pouring myself 24/7 into building this brand. That is okay. I have lost friends, I am not as close to some family members but at the end of the day I see all that I am doing in a day and I hate to spoil it for you, you can't do it all. I choose to surround myself with positive, uplifting, creatives and entrepreneurs because that is how my mindset stays in the right place to do great things.


How do you feel about comparing yourself to other artists? And what do you do to stay authentic to yourself?

I actually do not compare myself to other artists. I don't even follow many artists on social media. The type of art I do and the specific way I do it is my unique spin on the process. If I find myself running down the social media comparison game for any length of time I remind myself to KEEP YOUR BLINDERS ON.

It does not matter what that famous artist or designer is doing. What matters is what I believe I need to be doing and then executing that. This brand is really my authentic self. I have often been referred to as a lot, too much, over the top, too fancy, extra, and that is what AlanaKayART is. So, right now in start up mode I am staying authentic by pouring 110% into building this brand.

What advice would you give to someone who has an idea but wants to give up when it's "not working"?

To be an entrepreneur you not only need one great idea, you need a million ideas. Lots of them will be great, more of them will be not so great. Ideas are the acorns you're picking up to lead you down your perfect path, made just for you. When something isn't working, learn from it and pivot.

COVID has elongated the start up phase of my brand. Just when I was getting momentum, the world stopped and is now going to operate in a new normal for years to come. Some things that I had poured time, energy, passion and money into developing are now categories that are no longer growing. I remember being a month or so into pandemic lock down and thinking, I am FAILING. Nothing was selling. I had debts owed to markets and manufacturers for events and products that never happened and were no longer relevant.

Instead of just giving up, I decided to pivot. I went into new product categories that people were buying like masks, t-shirts, etc. When something isn't working, it means you need to pivot. It doesn't mean the idea was a bad one but it needs to be adjusted until you find the path that works. Pivot is not a bad word.

What is the best lesson you have learned about yourself since becoming an artist and designer?

I can do great things! Sure I have birthed and raised a human before, but there are lots of books to tell you how to do that. AlanaKayART did not exist before July of 2017. I did not have loads of excess cash sitting in a bank account to pour into something like this. I do not have a mentor meeting with me weekly and telling me what to do next. I have to get up every day and look at where my business is right now, what is in the pipeline, what is working, what is not working, manage relationships all over the world and ultimately figure out how to put all of the puzzle pieces together to build this masterpiece.

I had no idea I could do this when I started. I just continue to take the next step and I do everything scared. Yep, I said it. You may see false eyelashes, a fancy dress and some big fluffy hair but so often I am doing each step on the verge of vomiting from fear. And you know what? Doing these things without all of the answers and with a dose of fear builds some amazing character and experience that I know will be helpful in the future.

Alana Kay in a swimming pool on an inflatable unicorn

Anything else you want to share with us?

I grew up on 86 acres in the middle of nowhere Texas raising sheep, picking rocks, and thinking I wanted to be a veterinarian one day.

A question we ask everyone...what do you want to be known for?

I want to be known for getting women out of their comfort zone with aesthetics. Whether that is their wardrobe or their home, we should be able to express ourselves in a bold way without fear of rejection or criticism. Hot pink isn't just for little girls!

My favorite quote is...

"It's an artist's duty to reflect the times in which we live." Nina Simone

Connect with Alana @alanakayart, find her on Facebook, or connect on LinkedIn.

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