In a thought-provoking interview, Michelle, the queer Canadian artist and spirit behind Kiss My Art, shared her journey as an LGBTQ entrepreneur. She discussed how her brand wholeheartedly embraces and celebrates the LGBTQ community within its industry. Her inspiration for establishing Kiss My Art stemmed from a deep-rooted passion for better LGBTQ representation and inclusivity. Despite unique challenges, Michelle remained resilient and steadfast in her mission and values. As for future goals and aspirations, she expressed excitement for upcoming initiatives, particularly those focused on enhancing LGBTQ representation and impact. Wrapping up her interview, Michelle extended her advice to budding entrepreneurs eager to spotlight LGBTQ representation and inclusivity, emphasizing the importance of authenticity, tenacity, and dedication to their mission.
Michelle is the queer Canadian artist behind Kiss My Art. Kiss My Art began as a side project while she completed her masters degree and has since flourished into a successful small business. Through her brand, Michelle gets to combine her passion for painting, digital art and physical art along with queer culture and connect with others in a unique and creative way. Michelle’s art business is a forever-evolving journey, and she’s excited for you to follow along and enjoy all that’s to come.
Pride Month is a time to celebrate diversity and inclusivity. How does your brand embrace and celebrate the LGBTQ community within your brand and the industry it operates in?
Kiss My Art is all about celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community through art and exposure. My main goal is to create LGBTQIA+-themed items like stickers, pins, temporary tattoos, prints, clothing, and colouring books to positively impact other queer people. I try to fill the gap within the art community for queer people and create fun, festive art that helps people feel seen. Whether it be through your first gay colouring book that appeases your younger self, a t-shirt that sneakily and safely shows others that you’re queer, a pin that says “your gaydar is right” and makes others laugh while creating a safe space to be queer, or a temporary tattoo that gives you a few hours of happiness to be openly proud and loud about it, my art provides a space for queer people to feel seen and proud in a world that isn’t always so accepting.
Can you tell us more about your journey? What inspired you to create your business?
I’ve always been passionate about viewing, digesting, and creating artwork, and when covid hit, I had extra time on my hands, so I started making even more. At that point in my life, I would create something and then let it sit in my house, and my friends and family would ask me why I wasn’t sharing it with others. I really had to think about what journey I wanted to take my art on. I started seeing TikToks about other people like me, who built their businesses out of their passions, and I finally thought, what’s stopping me from doing that too? I had no idea where to start because my art was so broad, but I started by making some simple designs for stickers and queer string ornaments. At the time, I was still exploring my queer identity, and having the space to explore that through my art was beyond rewarding and healing. Then the positive responses I got from those itemss, especially through my TikTok account, propelled me to create more and more art until I finally got to where I am today.
As an LGBTQ entrepreneur, have you faced any unique challenges or opportunities in the business industry? How do you navigate those experiences while staying true to your mission and values?
As an LGBTQ+ entrepreneur, I have faced a number of unique challenges in this business industry. I wanted to create art that would make me and other people smile but also make sense from a business perspective. When I started creating queer-themed art, I knew I was potentially pigeonholing myself, and I was terrified I wouldn’t get any traction from it. I have received numerous comments that my art is “silly” or “too gay”. Not surprisingly, those comments came from straight people who have all the representation they could possibly get. But despite that, I was happy creating this art, and my first 2-3 clients gave me such raving reviews that I knew that if a small string ornament with a queer theme could have a positive impact on someone’s life, then I was definitely doing something right. This year I received numerous opportunities to exhibit my art alongside other queer artists, and I am so grateful for the chance to do so and to be somehow recognized in the art world. I still struggle with what I’m passionate about, what others will like, and what makes sense for the business, but that’s a challenge I will always have and am excited to overcome continually.
Looking ahead, what are your future goals and aspirations for your brand? Are there any new initiatives or developments that you are particularly excited about, especially regarding LGBTQ representation and impact?
I have huge goals and aspirations for my brand, like participating in more art shows, promoting myself in more meaningful ways, and getting back to making more paintings, physical art, and digital art, which are the roots I come from. This is also my first year participating in art shows, and I plan to keep attending more and more art shows as long as they have me. I want my art to be seen and will continue to explore new avenues to display it. This year I learned how powerful representation can be through my art. Once again, I’ve received reviews from LGBTQ customers thanking me for giving them an outlet to express themselves with others, and that makes it all worth it. Representation is critical to our community, and I will continue to offer it to the world through my business.
Can you share any insights or advice for individuals who may be interested in starting their own business, particularly those who want to highlight LGBTQ representation and inclusivity?
Do it. Go for it. Push yourself. Think about what your message is, what your passions are, and how you can reach your goals. Find the right way to market yourself, to connect with others, and to showcase your work. The LGBTQ community needs all the representation it can get, and if your work, no matter how small, will impact even one other queer person, then I’d say it’s worth it to try.