I was introduced to Alaina Latona by a music video. It was during a meeting with my Project:Women partner, Jamie Bullock, and we were sharing some things that had inspired us recently. The video is called “HOTEL” with visuals by Latona and sounds by musician JNUARY (watch it here) and I was like, ok… I dig this. Jamie put me in touch with her and I was thrilled that she was up for an interview. On top of being an artist, Latona is creator and publisher of digital/print magazine PERJUS.
Now, I’ll let her introduce herself because she does it better than I could…
Hi, I am Alaina Latona, and I live on planet earth. I’m very interested in learning more about our environment and what the human contribution should be. A recent hobby of mine is developing the best homemade cheeseburger recipe. I hope one day all beef is sustainably created, even if that means I can’t always find it in the grocery store.
Can you tell us a little bit about PERJUS— What it’s about and how the idea began, and what does the name mean (and how do you pronounce it)?
As seen on the last page of our first and second issues, PERJUS is a platform for equality in output. It is a collection and celebration of creativity; a curation of what is important to me and all of the people in my atmosphere. Basically, since art is subjective, I wanted to put together a bunch of cool pieces that I, subjectively, find attractive.
PERJUS came about early 2014 when a friend of mine moved back to the UK. I wanted to collaborate on photography with him, but due to one circumstance or another that never happened. So, one day I sent an email to a large BCC’d group of friends/acquaintances with 3-4 “prompts” they could respond to. With every response I received, the project expanded into something bigger. I don’t remember when, but I decided it needed a name.
I began looking up words… any words. I used a random word generator, I looked up synonyms for words I liked, and eventually settled on PERJUS. It’s a two-part word: PER-JUS (pronounced Purr-Juss). The first half “PER” comes from the word “Permissive” defined as “allowing or characterized by great or excessive freedom of behavior”, and the second half “JUS” comes from the word “JUSSIVE” defined as “(of a form of a verb) expressing a command.” The two words together makes PERJUS, which is what I was doing when I first began fielding for responses: I gave solid directions, but these directions allowed for the freedom of behavior.
What is the process of creating an issue like? Do you go by instinct and pull together whatever you like visually, or is it a more structured evolution?
I use my music-based A&R skills but on the visual parts of the internet. I reach out to anyone who creates things I find interesting. I send hundreds of emails hoping one out of every 10 will generate a response, and then from those 1/10 I hope the artist will work with me on model release forms and submitting their art on time. There’s no rhyme or reason to how I find content. Once I have an artist release form, model release forms and hi-res files, Ariella can put the layout together.
In addition to being the creator of PERJUS, you are an artist. You do photography and create and edit short videos. Do you also make other forms/mediums of art, and what is your favorite mode of creative communication?
I like flowers a lot. I used to live near a wholesale flower shop, that was nice. I like to paint, too, but I’m not any good at floral design or painting. It’s fun to make things with my hands though.
What kinds/styles of art are you most attracted to?
No idea. All of it? None of it? I have noticed I tend to be attracted to creations that are repulsions to commonalities in culture. I like it when humans communicate their disdain for perfection and/or sheep mentality via not playing into (usually very boring) trends.
Did you grow up in an artistically-inclined family?
My mom always had music on in the house. She also edited together our family videos very nicely. My mom would also babysit all of us (her nieces/nephews with my little brother and me) and her idea of fun was having us do fashion shows, plays, short movies, etc. We always had a lot of “dress up” clothes, access to cameras, as well as tons of different craft tools. I wouldn’t say we were “artistically inclined” but I was always encouraged to play and create. Both of my parents/my entire family is also really big on cooking.
What is one of the first pieces of “art” (however you wish to define that term for this question) that you ever remember sharing publicly, and how did it feel?
I don’t remember the first thing I ever shared that felt like, “I made this, and now I am going to let it live.” I remember my Instagram slowly became part “photo gallery” rather than wholly an account of my daily life. So I guess sometime in 2013 I’d say I started getting publicly creative with my iPhone.
Does putting your work out into the world ever make you feel nervous, or are you quite comfortable with it?
I don’t really get that nervous about sharing anything I create. If someone dislikes what I make, that’s fine. They don’t get it. I don’t care. The only thing I get nervous or have anxiety about is annoying my friends on social media by posting too much.
You post some rad music on your PERJUS mixtapes. What is your personal favorite music right now?
Indie R&B + industrial/indie R&B (ie: Jai Paul/AK Paul), Pop (ie: Justin Bieber, Meghan Trainor), Avant-garde 3D/art based music (ie: Arca, Zora Jones – even though they both probably don’t want to be defined). Michael Jackson always. Bach keyboard/organ works.
Most recent female artist discovery?
I wouldn’t say this discovery is super recent but I really love That Poppy. Her visuals and YouTube videos are crazy.
Biggest female influence when you were a teen? (Famous/living/dead/fictional)
Favorite place ever traveled to, and why?
I haven’t been that far, planning on getting my passport sometime this year, so I don’t have a crazy “study abroad” story or anything like that. I went to Los Angeles for the first time this year, that was pretty cool.
Do you have any advice for women who are thinking about starting their own digital magazine?
Learn as much as you can about self-publishing before you get started. Printing is expensive, and there are difficult price points to meet. I had a pretty heavy advantage as far as email, legal and organization goes as I have been working for a major talent agency for the past 3, almost 4 years. So, just be adamant about responding to and keeping up with emails. Don’t accept any artwork without written permission from the model in the photo. Work with your local Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. Get release forms drafted that suit your needs. Don’t let anybody push you around. If someone says no, keep going and find someone else who will say yes.
*Bonus Question* If you could only eat one kind of food and read one book for the rest of your life (and assuming, obviously, that you would never get sick of them in this bizarre alternate universe), what would they be and why?
SUSHI. Or cheese doodles. “The Definitive Book of Body Language” by Barbara and Allan Pease or any other book relating to body language.
Featured image (at top) courtesy of Alaina Latona, edited by Tara Tona