Name: Alejandro Villagran
How do you identify? If I have to choose a label, I’d probably say nonbinary. I usually don’t go by labels. It just doesn’t feel comfortable to me to go by it, but it is what it is. I’m Latino. I’m from Mexico originally. I’ve been here for about a decade, but I’m originally from Mexico. My family comes from Spanish and Indigenous roots.
Where do you live? I live in Springdale, but I’m kind of all over the Northwest Arkansas area. I work from coffee shops, from the library, from parks.
Do you have pets? I have a Yorkie. We were just out walking this morning. I just took her out for a walk before this interview. I used to have a Great Dane, he passed away a couple weeks ago. He was 11 years old, so was getting older. Right now my Yorkshire Terrier is my life and I love her and she’s just this little ball of hair that I love and she just brings so much joy to my life honestly. Her name is Leah, my sister named her. I don’t know why she chose that name, but that’s her name.
What do you do for work? I’m a graphic designer. I have a marketing creative strategy job, so most of what I do is graphic design. I’m also an artist on the side. I do a little illustration, I do photography, just a little bit of everything when it comes to creative.
How did you get into creative work? I’ve been doing it my whole life. Since I was a really young kid, I found out that this was something that I really enjoy doing and I was good at. I hate to be like oh, I’m good at it, but I always found that I had a skill for it. So I started with drawing. I would ask my mom to draw things for me and then I would try to replicate them. Instead of asking, you know the regular kid asks for a bedtime story or something like that, I would ask her to draw something for me like Sailor Moon or The Little Mermaid, something like that, and she would draw it and I would try to replicate it. I would also do a lot of little clay figurines and sculptures. I would do painting. I was just experimenting with what I liked and I found out that it was just something that brought me a lot of joy and that I was good at, better than other things I would say. Like I tried sports and I didn’t like it and I was not very good at it. And then I tried, obviously, video games and all that…but it was always going back to the artistic side of me that was what made me the happiest.
If you weren’t an artist or graphic designer, what would you be instead? If I wasn’t a graphic designer, I would just like to be a full-time artist because my graphic design job is what pays the bills. But if I had my way, I would just be an artist 24/7 and do what I want to do and people would pay me for that. So I think just being a full-time artist would be what I would do and just not have to focus on anything else besides that. It would make me really happy. Not that I don’t love graphic design, but I think it’s just an alternative. So I think I would just love to do that for a living.
If you could wake up tomorrow with any new talent or skill, what would it be? Probably time management. A lot of people consider it a skill, I consider it a little bit of both — a talent and a skill. Or just being able to socialize a little bit better, like be more social. I think those two things together would bring me a lot more opportunities and I think it’s something that I’m never been the best at. I think I’m a little bit of an introvert, and then I like to take my time with things. I like to do things my way, so sometimes it might take a whole day just to get into the creative process versus it could take me 15 minutes. So I think if I were able to manage my time a little bit better, I think I would be able to achieve more when it comes to my work. And also socializing, I think it would bring me a lot more opportunities. Just having the ability to socialize with more people and being liked and all that. I think it’s a skill itself and a talent that not everybody has. So I think those two things would be great. I don’t think I could choose just one.
What makes you, you? My existence. I think everything that I’ve lived, everything that I’ve learned, what I know, what I can bring into the world, what I’m still yet to to to learn and to experience. All of these things make me who I am. I think we always focus on what makes you who you are, we focus on whatever you do for a living or where you went to school for it, but I think it’s more than that. It’s just like your whole existence is what makes you who you are.
What’s your favorite characteristic about yourself?
What’s your most treasured possession? I don’t think I have any possession that I consider to be treasured. I have things that have meaning to me, but I wouldn’t really consider them like, I’d still consider them objects. I think if we talk about treasured possessions, I think my memories. I think the things that I’ve lived, what I’ve experienced — to go back to the question what makes you who you are — these things have meaning, who I am, those are my most treasured possessions I would think. Like I possess those things. As far as physical things, I don’t think I have anything that I would really consider a treasured possession.
What sparks joy in your life? I think living in the moment brings me a lot of joy, also looking back into happy moments in my life. I think I’m quite nostalgic so I always look back at things that have made me feel happy in my life or moments that I just cherished and that I enjoyed. It’s not living in the past, I think it’s just looking back at those moments and realizing that your life is so valuable and so much more than whatever anyone could say. So I think that living in the moment and also looking back at happy memories. Living in the moment, it will eventually create those memories.
What do you do for fun? Browse the internet. I go on the internet for way too long. That’s one of the things I do for fun. I come to coffee shops a lot. Even if I’m working on a small little independent project or something for myself, I like to come to coffee shops. I also do art, whether it’s digital art or drawing. I got into a lot of drawing, so I do that for fun a lot. I’m trying to be more outdoorish. I’m not the most outdoor person, but I do enjoy going out to the park or going out hiking or whatever it is. I do enjoy that sometimes so I’m kind of trying new things so that’s one of the new things. Especially, we’re in Arkansas so there’s a lot to do with those things though. Take advantage of that.
When are you the happiest? Living in the moment is when I’m the happiest. When I’m with my friends and I’m enjoying that moment. When I don’t have to look at my phone and I don’t have to worry about anything, that I forget about everything is when I’m the happiest. I don’t think that there’s a specific scenario, but more like whatever I’m experiencing. Whether it’s like a mutual conversation that it’s going well — like right now I’m enjoying this — so I think just living in the moment. It’s the same thing like I think I’m the happiest when I’m living in the moment and I’m just enjoying that. If it’s a positive experience, I think it’s when I’m the happiest.
What brought you to Northwest Arkansas? My parents brought me to Northwest Arkansas. We were living in California back in the 2008 Recession and my dad actually left his job. I know a lot of people were losing their jobs and dad, he just left it and we were going back to Mexico where we’re from. We didn’t know what we were going to do because my dad was the only provider at the time. And we were really fortunate and kind of privileged to be able to do that, but we decided to stop by this state and my mom has a brother who lives here. So we just kind of stopped by and I wouldn’t say that we liked it at first, but we just decided to give it a try. And so I got enrolled in school like the week after and we just kind of stayed here. I eventually started to like it because summer came back — it was over the winter so I didn’t like it — but then summer happened and I realized this was kind of a perfect place for me at the time. Then I went to college here and I’ve been here for over a decade. So it just kind of happened.
What’s your favorite spot in the region? Probably this coffee shop [Onyx Coffee Lab downtown Rogers]. I just go to different coffee shops and those are my favorite spots in Northwest Arkansas. I know there’s a lot of nature and a lot of things to do out there, but I’m more of a homebody so just being at a coffee shop is my favorite thing in the world.
Where’s one place in the world that you haven’t been that you’d like to visit?
What trait do you value most in your friends?
Do you think representation matters?
Growing up, did you have any members of the LGBTQ community that you could look up to?
What advice would you give a young person of color who has decided to come out?
Do you have a favorite Pride experience or memory? I used to not go to Pride a lot when I was younger. I’m a very homebody type of person. Back in 2019 before the pandemic — and I look at it back now because you know it’s been two years since we haven’t been able to go out — back in 2019 I was in Dallas with my brother and my sister. I don’t remember why we were there for the weekend. It was the beginning of June and there was a Pride event happening and I got to go with my sister and my brother and I think that was really special because I really love my family and I cherish the fact that they’re very supportive of me and not a lot of people have that privilege. And they don’t make a big deal about it, it’s just like anyone else. But I really enjoyed going with my brother and sister to Pride. I really want to take my mom this year, so we’ll see what happens, but that’s a memory I cherish is going to Pride and just being able to be your authentic self with your family. I think that’s really valuable.
What’s one thing you’re most looking forward to this year?