If you’ve ever spent time around my best friend and me, you’ve likely heard the story of how we met, probably more than once. The funny thing is, there isn’t much to the story — just two high school wallflowers who met in class. But typically, after a few drinks and with the right audience, my bestie and I love to reminisce on the day I walked my little wedges into class (and into his life). We knew we had a special connection when we exchanged our first quirky laughs. And together, we stepped out of our shells, unleashing our inner rebels.
Fifteen years later, we now live on opposite coasts. Yet, we regularly vent over the phone and laugh obnoxiously loud about everything from bad dates to weekend shenanigans. These conversations usually end in us fantasizing about the charming retirement home (and luxury-filled closets) we hope to one day share.
The beauty of friendship is that it provides a space to be our most authentic, most vulnerable selves. A friend inspires growth but, most importantly, allows you to see and cherish your virtues — whether it be your fabulous sense of style or your innate ability to comfort others with your sense of humor. In a friend, you often discover what makes you, you.
I spent a Saturday afternoon chatting over Zoom with four pairs of friends, who recounted stories about how they met and what sparked their connection. These conversations contain touching moments with many laughs — from their first impressions of one another to how they now creatively stimulate each other. Each one of them expressed sentiments that only a true friend can proclaim.
For Women’s History Month, Latina teamed up with Converse and asked each set of friends to customize Chucks in a way that captured their individuality and shared expression. Working directly on a wearable canvas, each young woman designed a pair of sneakers that their partner-in-crime would undoubtedly love. Each duo was then tasked with photographing one another in their newly stylized Converses, portraying their counterpart’s spirit and inner beauty.
FLORDALIS + ARIELLA
Based in New York City and New Jersey, film photographers Flordalis, aka “Dalis,” and Ariella lovingly capture the value of uplifting your friends. The creative duo met in 2020, but anyone who knows them would assume the two go way back to pre-pandemic times. Not only do they share a similar Yashica TLR camera, but they also share a passion for portraiture and storytelling.
“I remember coming across her page and thinking, ‘Okay, this woman is on another level! Who is this?!’ I saw the big curly hair, style, and photography work and was in awe,” says Ariella after finding Flordalis on Instagram. Soon after, to Ariella’s pleasant surprise, Flordalis reached out, and they met on a hot summer day in the Bronx for a shoot. “We were both holding our Yashica’s and wearing these foxy black dresses and just sharing so much joy,” adds Ariella.
Their friendship is anchored by shared Afro-Latina roots: Flordalis is first-generation Dominican-American, and Ariella is Afro-Puerto Rican. Over time, the duo has also learned that they were brought up with similar hard work and self-care values. Their shared culture has helped the pair better understand one another. “It influences who we are, what we connect on, and what we choose to capture within our film practice.”
The two best friends roamed around Washington Heights, by the George Washington Bridge, for their shoot. The location bridges the gap between the two — Ari lives in New Jersey and Flordalis lives in New York. They agreed on a beauty supply store as their primary location because, in their words, they’re “two curly-haired girls.”
Ariella designed Dalis’ converse to evoke her friend’s Bronx roots, painting the Yankees symbol on the side with two flowers underneath.“She has that New York grittiness and realness. But the flowers reveal that nurturing and peaceful part of her,” Ariella shared.
As for Flordalis, she designed her friend Ari’s converse with butterflies in mind. For her, butterflies symbolize their friendship — when they’re together, they often notice butterflies or dragonflies fluttering around. As a final touch, both creatives added film camera charms to their sneakers to reference their shared passion for taking photographs.
Although photography brought the two creatives together, their friendship has since deepened. They have created a safe space for healing — a space where they can both be vulnerable and speak about pain, wounds, and past experiences without fear of judgment. The two have built a new yet close friendship based on their shared love for photography, community, and compassion.
The support they provide each extends beyond their craft. “We’re stronger together because we believe in each other and build each other up. We’ve helped each other by holding space for one another.”
Images of Flordalis and Ariella together by Creative Closet. Carrousel images by Flordalis Espinal and Ariella McCall
LEAH + JHEYDA
Finding a suitable roommate is never easy. But at times, you might get lucky and find a valuable friend that supports and stimulates your creativity. Originally from San Diego, Leah was desperately looking for housing in Los Angeles when a friend sent her Jheyda’s Instagram post regarding an open room. Although seemingly different at first, Leah being an introvert and Jheyda a proud extravert, the two complement one another.
Reflecting on the moments that defined the strength of their friendship, Jheyda said, “When I was going through a lot, Leah took her time to help me with dishes and errands, and she validated that I’m on the right path. It felt so maternal and warm; I knew then this was someone I could genuinely befriend and not just occupy space with.”
Leah shares that although she tends to be shy when she initially meets someone new, Jheyda made her feel comfortable and opening up to her proved to be easy. The two value open dialogues about mental health and experimental lifestyles that allow room for mistakes and growth. As roommates, the two have established the importance of spirituality in their lives.
Leah is a writer, and Jheyda is a photographer, but they make time to listen to each other’s ideas. “Jheyda is a talented artist, and we share a love for visual storytelling. While her work is multifaceted, her outlook on photography has definitely pushed me to think about television and film differently,” explains Leah.
Leah and Jheyda also share Mexican roots. Leah is mixed Mexican, Yaqui Native, and white; Jheyda is first-generation Mexican-Guyanese-American. For Leah, their ancestral connection is bound by practicing Mexican traditions, but she recognizes that their practices are idiosyncratic. For Jheyda, their shared roots come through in moments of unspoken sisterhood.
When designing shoes for one another, the two were keen to use materials and methods that reflected one another’s aesthetic propensities. Jheyda designed Leah’s Chucks with love of collaging in mind: “The design on one side is her nickname ‘Lee’ with sparkles. I spray painted a collage of images on the other side: stars, flowers, a Chicanx style clown and Virgin Mary.”
On the other hand, Leah was inspired by Jheyda’s love for vintage clothing and ’70s patterns. She dyed the Chucks a golden tone and settled on earth tone accents — cool and simple, much like her best friend.
When it was their turn to shoot one another, Leah and Jheyda wandered around Highland Park, where the two live. Here, the duo felt comfortable and could embark on their shared love of long walks. As they meandered through the eastside of LA, Jheyda recalled,“Once in a while I’ll lose all sense of reason, and walk from East LA all the way to Koreatown.”
When asked where they see themselves in the near future, the two see themselves prospering and creatively collaborating — bringing each other support and success in their respective projects. “Maybe we’ll have an A24 movie or Netflix show or something crazy like that.”
Images by Jheyda McGarrell in collaboration with Leah Fuentes.
SARA + ALYSSA
Sometimes our friends help us discover new music, and other times, music helps us discover new friends. Sara and Alyssa have Chicano Batman to thank for this one. In 2017, Alyssa was looking for someone to attend their show with her. Not knowing anyone she thought would appreciate the band, she turned to Instagram and came across Sara’s IG story, whom she had never met in person, and decided to invite her on a whim. Years later, Sara giggles as she confesses that she had never heard of Chicano Batman, which was news to Alyssa. However, as they laughed together, they realized that life would be different had Sara rejected the invitation from her new online friend or had Alyssa been too shy to ask.
Meeting Instagram friends can be intimidating, but their encounter proved to be everything but that. “I remember feeling her literally radiate so much joy the moment I met her. Sara has such a bubbly and beautiful presence.”
As first-generation Mexican women (Sara also comes from a Salvadorian background), the creative duo is tied to Los Angeles, their hometown. For them, it was crucial to incorporate the city that raised them into their designs.
The two scoured the Dollar Tree in Pasadena for decorative pieces and crafting tools to create customized Chucks. While both share commonalities in style and self-expression, they each designed sneakers that celebrate their differences. For Sara, Alyssa not only tagged her name on the Chucks, but she also adorned them with hoop earrings because, according to Alyssa, “who is Sarita without her hoop earrings?”
Today, the two models share an apartment in Los Angeles and are closer than ever. Their strong bond is so palpable and shines (like their glowing skin) through the camera as they both share beautiful affirmations about one another. They put as much work into their friendship as their skincare routine.
When asked where they see themselves in a few years, Sara and Alyssa both finish each other’s sentences. “To see us both signed to a modeling agency that respects us and the work that we’re doing. Happy, healthy, and prospering.”
For both, their love language is quality time — a trait they deeply admire and respect. That quality time has deepened their relationship and built a strong bond Alyssa can attest to. “I owe so much to Sara. She’s given me safety in moments I felt like I didn’t have it. She’s given me joy in moments when I felt solemn. She’s been a light to me in more ways than I could count.”
Images of Sara and Alyssa outdoors by Jakob Laca. Indoor images by Gabriel S. Lopez. Styling by Mom n Dad Vintage.
CAMI + ROCKY
A promising first date is nice, but there’s nothing like experiencing that same joy with a platonic love who later comes to occupy a special place in your life — and your home. And that’s how wellness and pole dance guru Cami and jewelry designer Rocky established their charming friendship.
Cami explains how she first came across Rocky’s handcrafted pearl pieces in 2020 when she saw someone share Rocky’s work on Instagram. Cami says she thought, “oh my god, I love this, I want my whole life to look like this, and I was in love immediately.” Soon after, they met in person and shared a beautiful day of jewelry making, snacks, jacuzzi time, and pole dancing. Who can beat that?
They immediately discovered that they were seeking roommates and sealed the deal soon after. Cami and Rocky describe that gut feeling of just knowing when a connection feels right. The two have established a home that encourages a lot of dancing and cooking and is always warm and inviting. They agree that there’s nothing better than coming home and sharing a meal.
The two share a belief that their lives’ quality depends on the quality of their relationships. Rocky attributes this to their Latino roots: Cami is Mexican-Nicaraguan-American and Rocky is Mexican-American. “Our culture values social relationships and family. So we do everything we can to help each other and amplify our voices and dreams,” said Rocky.
Together, their energy is infectious. As they designed sneakers for one another, Cami and Rocky aimed to capture the individuality each one possesses. As they put it, “Cami loves flowers and is sunshine in human form. Rocky loves the color blue-green and is also sunshine in human form.”
The two settled on shooting at home and in their one-of-a-kind greenhouse commissioned in their Silverlake backyard. “The greenhouse represents our manifestations and dreams coming true. It also represents a safe space for community, connection, and embracing our inner child that exists within each of us.”
Together, they’ve been working to provide a safe space for each other and their friends — an environment that nurtures health and creativity. “We have this ongoing joke that our ancestors are in heaven with controls saying, ‘they need to meet, they need to meet!’” says Rocky.
Images by Raquel Monzerrat and Cami Arboles.
Our Women’s History Month campaign is done in collaboration with Converse in honor of their latest collection, We Are Stronger Together. The collection is concepted and designed by women to inspire creativity, growth and strength in unity.