Ro.lexx On How Sports Prepared Her For Life As A Creative
The photographer shares her story, her love for the color blue and how she rocks the WMNS Air Jordan I and Air Jordan XI Low.
Words: Johnell Gipson
As a visual artist and photographer, Ro.lexx is known for her colorful visuals and electric blue hair. While her hair is a key part of her personal style, Rolexx’s commitment to authentically capturing her subjects is what truly sets her apart. Her talent is evident in album covers, music videos, editorials, and campaigns, including 2018’s Air Jordan XI Concord campaign featuring Victor Oladipo.
Ro.lexx didn’t always know that she’d become a photographer, even though she had access to her dad’s camera early on. Growing up in Long Beach, she aspired to play collegiate softball and got a scholarship to do it, following in the footsteps of her older sister. A career-ending injury during her senior year of high school halted her plans, so Ro.lexx went back to the drawing board. Barely any time went by before she started focusing on mastering photography, knowing early on that her chemistry with subjects would be key. Social media enabled her to connect with some of her first clients and collaborators, namely some of the most important artists in pop, hip-hop and R&B. The rest is history, and at 23 years old, Ro.lexx’s story is still being written.
Timed to the release of the blue-toned WMNS Air Jordan I High Tie-Dye and Air Jordan XI Low, we asked Ro.lexx to take some self-portraits in them and explain how her softball days supplied her with the intangibles required to navigate the creative industry. Coincidentally, the Air Jordan XI was her first Jordan, too.
Fans of your work know you for your photography, but most don’t know that your first love was actually softball. What role has sports played in your life?
I grew up playing sports, and that was literally it. I didn’t have a life outside of sports. I was the youngest of three girls, so even when I was really little, they were playing softball. When I was young, my dad coached football at our neighborhood college and high school. I would be at his practices doing my homework, and I was raised with that kind of discipline. I was always around sports.
There’s a sense of pride that comes with being an athlete. You work so hard to be good at what you do. I carry that same work ethic into what I do now. When I first got into photography, a lot of people were impressed when I’d send back pictures on the same day as the shoot. But that’s how motivated and excited I was.
Hard work doesn’t faze me. For instance, when I’m working with an athlete for a shoot, I’m literally running with them to make sure the photos come out right. At the end of those shoots, I feel like I’ve had a whole day’s worth of softball practice.
Speaking of photographing athletes, what was it like to shoot Victor Oladipo for the AJXI Concord campaign almost two years ago?
That was my first time working with Jordan Brand. It was an indoor studio shoot, which was out of my comfort zone back then. I knew it would be a new experience for me. Real life always comes at you during a shoot, especially when you’re working with talent. You may only have 20 minutes to get the whole shot list. I was super excited to do it. I feel humbled and grateful that I have the opportunity to do this work.
You were a pretty promising talent as a softball player. How would you describe your path to photography?
My dad didn’t believe in flying, so we would drive across the country for my softball tournaments. One summer, my dad and I drove from North Carolina back to California. He had just bought a really nice camera. I got into using it, because I didn’t have anything else to do during that trip. During my senior year of high school, I got really into editing, creating and telling people I could photograph for them.
I got injured during my senior year of high school, which ended my softball career. After that, I started working two jobs, just grinding to save money for better cameras. I didn’t even know photography could be my career; I thought it would just be a weekend thing.
I was so unhappy with my life at the time. I remember pulling up to work at 8 a.m. and leaving at 8 p.m. I’d feel like my day was gone, like I hadn’t done anything to make the world better. One day, I decided to just quit my jobs and figure it out.
Are there any similarities between the obstacles you had to overcome as a female athlete and the ones you face today, as a female creative?
People tend to second guess you, in both sports and creative work. People question if you can do things. Clients tend to feel more confident in men. Being a tour photographer as a woman is also different. During my first tour, it was just me and 15 guys. That was tough. I had to learn how to not take things so personally. It was like that in sports, too, like when a coach yells at you, even though they’re just trying to teach you something.
Women offer such a valuable perspective and are usually more empathetic to other people’s experiences. We can provide thoughts and ideas that someone else might not have had.
Growing up, what did owning a pair of Air Jordans mean to you?
I never had Jordans until my junior year of high school. I didn’t even wear them to school. They were a representation of my hard work, because I had to pay for them with my own money. My parents never spent money on nice things like that, so I had to pay for all the things I wanted. I never even wore them, I would just keep them in the box and respect them.
Is there a classic Air Jordan design that’s most meaningful to you?
The Air Jordan XI has always been my favorite. They mean a lot to me, because they’re so synonymous with my journey. They were the first pair of Jordans I ever bought, and I had no idea that one day I’d be shooting for Jordan Brand. Years later, the first campaign I ever shot with Jordan Brand was for the XIs. Now, I’m doing this editorial with the WMNS Air Jordan XI Low. Seeing all of those moments come together is so symbolic of my journey. It’s surreal, to say the least.
There’s some synergy between the AJI Tie Dye and your blue aesthetic, too. What inspired your look, and how has it helped you differentiate yourself?
I first dyed my hair blue on my 19th birthday, as a fresh start. It’s been a journey to find this signature color that I have now, but back then, my blue hair established my personal brand. People who I work with now have noticed me and connected with me based on my hair color and having a different look.
Initially, choosing the color blue was random, but over time, the meaning came to life. I have a tattoo now that says “why is the sky blue,” and it means that there are some things in life you’ll never know or understand, and that’s what life is about — navigating through things you don’t know. I suffer from anxiety, and blue is a calming color. Maybe I dyed my hair blue subconsciously, knowing that it was something I had to do.
You’re 23, which a lot of people identify to be their “Jordan year.” How has this year been significant for you, in regards to life changes, major accomplishments or developments in your career?
I feel blessed for the opportunities I’ve had at the age of 23, from photographing major brand campaigns to directing my first music video. At the same time, as much as I’ve received this year, I’m still very aware of and sympathetic to all of the things going on in the world. It’s hard to feel good about what’s happening in my life when so many people are facing hardships.
Jordan Brand’s ongoing campaign is called UNITE. Can you speak about the importance of uniting during this time, particularly in the midst of the social justice issues in our communities?
I think it’s more important than ever that we come together to tackle these issues of systemic racism and injustice. Given my place in the culture, I personally feel a responsibility to do more, so I’m reaching out to my friends, listening to other perspectives and trying to be in the right conversations to take action. I’m taking my compensation from this WMNS editorial and donating it all to causes that serve minorities. I’m registering to vote and pushing my peers to do the same. I’m signing petitions confronting issues that need to be addressed. I’m committed until we see change.
“There’s a sense of pride that comes with being an athlete. I carry that same work ethic into what I do now.”
A lot of your work gets significant attention on social media. How has the Internet affected your career, and what role does it play in your life currently?
Social media has played a huge role in getting me to where I am now. I actually connected with the main artist I work with now via Instagram. The Internet has given me opportunities to connect with so many creatives, to build with people in different communities and to help others. I try to use my platform to speak up about important things and hopefully have a positive influence on other people, too.
Speaking of influencing others, do you have any advice for aspiring photographers who are looking to sharpen their skills or begin shooting for major artists and brands?
Relationships are really everything. Connect with people on the real, human side of things. I genuinely care about the people I work with, their personal lives and who they are outside of what they do. There are other photographers who may be just as talented as I am, but I think the fact that I genuinely care, and bring good energy, helps opportunities come to me.
I didn’t make money for a long time. Differentiate yourself, develop your own style and produce work that doesn’t look like anybody else’s.
The WMNS Air Jordan I High “Tie-Dye” is available starting June 26 on Jordan.com and SNKRS. The WMNS Air Jordan XI Low is available starting July 10 on Jordan.com.