Raven B. Varona is a star, the kind that illuminates so others in her orbit can only shine more radiant. Over the last few years, Raven has found great success capturing celebrity photos and events, telling intimate stories with her pictures while grabbing the artist's best side. Raven has toured with The Carters and Future and has photographed Kanye West, Lebron James, Big Sean, Migos, Daniel Kaluuya, and many more.
Born and raised in the Bronx, it is no surprise that this New Yorker's appreciation for her city shines through in her works and first solo show, And The B is For. She describes this presentation as a love letter to the Bronx. Perhaps the joy seen in Raven's photos worldwide is because the beautiful girl behind the camera is celebrating, happy, living in her dreams, and owning her legacy.
I went into this interview with admiration for Raven's journey, her putting her heart and soul into her work, and her ability to make you feel connected to her photographs that make you feel like you are experiencing each personal moment with her. In her 20's Raven was a budding entrepreneur, taking on side jobs as a photographer, cultivating relationships, and blossoming into the woman she is today. Presently at 30, she leads with this sentiment, "Follow what makes you feel joyful." But that doesn't mean at times she doesn't get shocked at the freedom she has with getting paid to travel for work, living the lifestyle she wants while taking care of her mom in New York City.
"I feel like it's crucial, especially in these times to remind myself that I am living my dream, and I sometimes have to talk to my 21-year-old self and remind myself to embrace where I am now. It is easy to think about what the future holds," Varona says. "Even while living in the present, you don't realize you're surrounded by all you've worked for. The fact that I am living my dream every day and creating new goals. I had to pause and say, "Let me live in the moment and enjoy all I have worked on."
Raven enjoys spending time in nature, with friends, cooking, and reading when she is not working. During the pandemic, she and her best friend started the Read the Room book club to build another community based on books. She is very grateful that this all-women book club continues to grow with women of color, reading books by women of color.
"Tanisha and I believe that you learn a lot about people and life through fiction. Many people read self-help books that I don't see anything wrong with, but you can learn a lot from character development and fiction's beautiful overarching stories. I've learned a lot about my relationships, friendships, life, and what it means to be a woman by reading about these characters. I think it's essential to build communities, and books are other vessels to build on them." According to statistics, people aged 15-44 spend ten minutes or less a day reading. We spend so much time scrolling through social media or ingesting the news, it is essential to connect, and fill our time doing what and who we love.
"Relationships are a form of currency; being a good person to help each other pave the way to bigger things. A lot of this industry is what you can do for me, but my strength is that I care about people and believe in genuinely building relationships without wanting something from people."
Raven also loves cooking, a foodie who doesn't have a favorite food but eats based on her cravings. When she travels to New York, her favorites are Caribbean food like Jamaica, Dominican and Chinese. After living in the Bronx her whole life, Raven transitioned to Los Angeles, where she enjoys Osteria La Buca - an Italian spot with good Brussel sprouts, Wokcano, and Robata Jinya for ramen and skewers.
I left our interview feeling full, inspired to explore this next season of my purpose with Sunday Forever and allow all of my passions to align and come together. Also, excited to see where Raven's talent and vision take her in the future, she hinted that although she is focused on improving her photography skills, she could be interested in directing. Finally, when I asked Raven about her most important project, she said she doesn't just have one. Just a lot of baby steps leading to the bigger picture.
Speaking of full, you know I am so excited to try Foxxy and Cay's new recipes!! Both recipes sound like a good time and a perfect way to spoil yourself this week. Two words: Seafood Nachos. Foxxy's recipes always include some of my favorite food items, but these nachos are jam-packed with shrimp, crawfish, Mexican cheese, and guacamole. Have you noticed that the recipes get better each time? Cay's Cloudy with Chance of Lemons sounds like the perfect combination of sweet and smooth! I'm headed to the store as we speak to buy a bottle of gin, lemons, and simple syrup!
Summer is ending, but we're just beginning to live in our dreams.