Follow your passion

artwork credit: MENYU

“There’s always going to be a reason to create [..] Just because the world stopped in the way it has for now, it doesn’t mean that our creativity has to stop as well.”- Rick Quintana

By Jessica Militello

Ricky Quintana who fittingly goes by the artist name MENYU is an English teacher, father, and husband by day, while at night, he delves into his creative mind to form another piece of expression through his mediums as DJ, singer, songwriter, producer, poet, and beatboxer. He is constantly creating and putting out new projects and I was interested in learning more about his mindset in how he comes up with ideas and what keeps him inspired. He recently released the Dali Moon, which he considers some of his most honest and vulnerable songs yet. I spoke to Quintana about the inspiration behind his work as well as what inspires him and what keeps him creating no matter what.

JM: What is the Dali Moon?

RQ: So normally, when I do any facet of art, I go by MENYU, but Dali Moon is a totally different representation of another side of me. It’s the vulnerable side that deals with my personal issues stemming from my childhood, to present day life, to my worry of the future. So it’s kind of my true other personality that I have never shown to anyone else outside of my own personal realm, which is the reason why it’s called Dali Moon. It consists of two characters known as Salvador soul and Moon Sin.

JM: And were other musicians also involved for this project?

RQ: It’s originally just me; I composed and created everything, the vocals, I wrote all the songs, the original song lyrics are mine. But when I create the music, it is no longer me, it’s these two, different personalities that have existed inside of me that were created by trauma, disorder, anxiety, hurt, betrayal, depression, and anger. These characters that we create subconsciously, are the ones who are coming out through my music. As a poet we have a tendency to write how we feel, some people have a diary. This is, in a sense, my diary, but it’s hard for me to talk about it so these personas that exist inside of me are the ones who are speaking my past, present and my reality.

JM: Do you feel with the pandemic creating more time to sit with ourselves, that it inspired this kind of really honest writing?

RQ: Yes, it was definitely a huge inspiration for me. I can’t function unless I am artistically productive. But being in this pandemic, it’s hard for us to really function the way we normally have, and the nighttime has always been the worst for me, ever since I was a little kid. So because of that, I was always in my thoughts and my anxiety kicks in. And there were times where I would write poetry, or come up with music, I’d produce a song here and there. Some of my best songs that I’ve produced throughout the years have been done at 2, 3 in the morning. But this is an entirely different mindset for me where I’m thinking about my future, relationships of the past, my present relationship, insecurities, my age, and health. I started thinking about my past with my family, I lost both my parents and I had a really tough childhood. That sounds cliche, I think everybody has suffered a severe childhood in one way or another. And with all of that, I started feeling like an overpoured glass of milk, you don’t know when to stop, and it just overflows and now it’s just this huge ass mess all over the table. So I knew I wanted to create music, I wanted to do something different. Instead of writing about my problems and my vulnerabilities, I’d rather just do it in a different way that expresses who I really am.

JM: Do you think when people hear these songs it could be cathartic for them to hear someone else being really honest about what they’re going through?

RQ: That’s a very good question, so the album doesn’t have a title. The title is just two eyes, like when we used to type emojis on a Blackberry back in the day, and the reason why I named it that is because I want the music to be a reflection of whatever way you take it. The title can say so much, but sometimes symbols say so much more. Even with the logo, it’s a crescent moon and Salvador Dali’s mustache. I’m a huge Dali fan and he’s so out there, but his stuff is so surreal. So that’s my music, it may sound confusing, it may seem a little uncomfortable with some parts, especially with the first song, “OCD,” but it’s open to interpretation. People can ask me what the song was about, or they can just take it in and interpret it in their own way and absorb it in a way that might relate to them. Which is the reason why it’s titled the way it is, so it’s your perception of the album.

artwork for the Dali Moon-artwork credit: MENYU

JM: For artists who may be newer or unsure of what to do with the stuff they are creating or how to even begin to get some sort of following of their work, what advice can you give?

RQ: So there’s always a following and that’s one thing that artists should understand, not to feel hopeless, because there’s always going to be a group of people who are looking for your exact expression. Nowadays, we’re so drowned by this ocean of simplicity and repetition, but if you put a hashtag that is representative and reflective of your craft, that’s who is going to appreciate your artistry. Tik Tok obviously is one of the top three most popular social media platforms now. Also, if you really want to boost your platform, look up artists that are in the same category. I consider myself to be like new wave or new wave experimental, electro, so what I’ll do is, I will look for people who follow that hashtag, who might have a large following and believe it or not, with little comments, you know, people pay attention. And last is the consistency, we have to be consistent.

JM: When it comes to releasing new work, how do you make decisions of what you put out and the order in which you release new projects?

RQ: I’m very goal oriented and it’s also the experience that I have, so I start off wherever I’m starting, you know. Even when I wrote my second book of poetry, it was not an intention. My goal was not to write a second book, but I started posting poems. And without even realizing it, I had about 25 poems, so I decided to write another book. But while I was creating the album, I was writing some other songs that I really enjoyed, but I didn’t want to rush to post them because they didn’t sound good just as instrumentals, they needed the vocals. And I think with real artists, and I’m writing ‘real’ in bold letters, real artists don’t rush anything. That’s why there’s no relevance to Soulja Boy or [Tekashi] 69, because everything is rushed. That’s why you haven’t heard Kendrick Lamar drop anything recently because artists take their time, because they’re going for greatness. So once I started recording the songs, and they were longer, and I needed vocals, I already had a plan to release an album.

JM: What about those who feel frustrated or hindered by the pandemic and its restrictions?

RQ: My advice is that there’s always a way to create and there’s always going to be a reason to create. This pandemic should not be a reason why you have to stop. Just because the world stopped in the way it has for now, it doesn’t mean that our creativity has to stop as well. We’re still going to be thinking about the obstacles in our lives and inspirations, and just because we might not be playing shows the way we used to, it doesn’t mean that we can’t still cater to our audience. So the pandemic is, you know, obviously, everybody’s struggling; I lost a lot of gigs. I was supposed to DJ a gig in the Dominican Republic, and the week we were shut down was the week I was supposed to leave, so I lost thousands of dollars from DJing alone. It’s a struggle, but it shouldn’t stop us from creating and finding a new platform.

JM: Where is Dali Moon available to listen to?

RQ: It’s on Spotify, Amazon music, YouTube, SoundCloud, iTunes, Apple Music, Tik Tok, and Instagram.

JM: Is there anything else that you want to mention that I didn’t ask?

RQ: I will say one more thing; I think that it’s important to be original. Just because you want to get some sort of notoriety or fan base, you follow what you think is poppin’ right now, but that’s not going to last and I guarantee you’re not going to last. It’s just artificially flavored fake sugar as art, so you always have to be sugar in the raw.

Follow MENYU at and find more of his work at and

His new album Dali Moon is available on all listening platforms

Presenting The Dali Moon artwork credit-MENYU

How do you start a lash company and make it successful?

photo credit:

Q&A with Ashlyn Coco, the owner and creator of AshLash

By Jessica Militello

AshLash is an online lash company based in California that was started in 2017 by entrepreneur, model, creative, and ultimate Hollywood glamour queen, Ashlyn Coco. I first discovered her lashes via Instagram at some point in 2018. I remember scrolling through the feed and seeing images of the golden era of Hollywood and its glamorous women, the color pink, Lana Del Rey quotes scattered throughout many of the captions, and lashes that seemed to perfectly compliment its wearers each and every time. I was always fascinated and inspired by how someone would even go about starting their own line. Ashlyn was kind enough to take the time to answer my questions via email on what inspired her and how she used her dreams, passion, hard work, and tons of research in order to create her dream lash brand.

JM: Where did you first get the inspiration to start a lash brand?

AC: I got the inspiration to develop a lash brand based on the fact that what I truly wanted in a lash was not available on the current market. In the many years of wearing lashes I felt that they were either too heavy, too itchy, or not quite cut how I would want them – or a combination of all! I also felt packaging was really lacking. Like most, I’m a sucker for presentation, and thought how wonderful it would be to create a box that evoked my style, and something I could carry my lashes in. I was always losing my lashes, forcing me to buy them more often. Any of the ones I was using, I usually wore about three times, then discarded. This was another thing that made me wonder if I could create a brand with all the things I really wanted for myself, and probably many others!

JM: Do you own AshLash by yourself?

AC: I began as a sole proprietor. To my surprise, there was interest from a few people to invest in my idea. I was fortunate to get to work with others who I still think of as my close friends, and mentors, who helped me really bring my brand into the public eye! I currently own AshLash.

JM: I love how your aesthetic combines old Hollywood glamour, pin-up girls, movie stars, and current singers who’ve subscribed to that vibe like Lana Del Rey- what inspired you to market your brand this way?

AC: I had no idea that there were so many people like me, and that there was such a community based on a certain “aesthetic.” I noticed this style was gaining traction on Instagram throughout different subcultures/fandoms. I just sort of created my brand based on an amalgam of all things I loved personally, and it seemed to capture so many different people, coming from different interests! 

JM: When did you first become interested in the old films, movie stars, etc.-and how has it shaped your opinions on beauty?

AC: I love this because the memories are so vivid. I spent a lot of time growing up in upstate New York, around my traditional Italian family. All of the houses I spent time in were built in the early 20th century, and the old music was always playing. My uncles had old Playboys, pin-up magazines, and just about any vintage memorabilia in the basements. I loved that nostalgic feeling, even before I really knew what that was.  I think my family just kept it “old school” automatically, as if nothing had changed, so it was all I knew!

AshLash founder Ashlyn Coco-photo credit:

JM: What is your background before AshLash?

AC: Anything artistic! I went to cosmetology school as a teen, but realized I wanted to do a little bit more. I also loved fashion, creating, and designing new ideas/products. I began my own swimwear line with my Dad many moons ago!

JM: How do you choose the names and styles of your lashes?

AC: For some, I thought of people who inspired me, and tried to tie it to a modern take on a lash that they would wear today. For others, I thought of “looks” I would want to create and based the names on vibes/ matching aesthetics I wanted the lash to imbue.

photo credit:

JM: Why was it important for your lashes to be vegan faux mink?

AC: When I began all my research and sampling process, I really learned a lot about the materials and where things come from, if not synthetic. Personally, the mink lashes on the market were beautiful yes, but very heavy and not so comfortable, which went against what I had originally set out to create – a comfortable lash. I had done more research on the confusing “cruelty-free, mink lashes,” and realized that there was indeed cruelty behind it. Of course, I didn’t think it was ethical to use animal products for vanity.  I understood why people wanted mink based on the natural curl, and appearance, but it inspired me to find that with a synthetic lash.

JM: How much research and networking are involved in starting a beauty brand?

AC: SO much. The process is very hard, but if you learn from the ground up on your own, through trial and error, nothing is more valuable! Being self-taught is very important, and things will continue to happen if you find the right people and mentors.

JM: How did you know where to get started or what the first step was to begin a lash company?

AC: I did have a little experience from creating brands before. Dreaming up the branding is the fun part but taking it to paper is another thing. Sourcing was an important first step, because moving forward with a superior product is first and foremost!

JM: What are your memories of when you first started promoting the brand and trying to build a client base?

AC: I think that because I already had a little Instagram community of people with similar interests, it was definitely a head start on targeting my client base. I remember being nervous, but also very excited that I could finally give someone a new glamorous option for their beauty routine. I knew our packaging was unique, and I remember having fun photographing the little powder boxes (we have patented!) 

AshLash’s patented boxes! photo credit:

JM: How did you know which lash manufacturer was best for you and what was that process in finding one like?

AC: This was extremely hard. The US currently does not have any infrastructure or factories to create lashes, making all false lashes imported. I began by testing, testing, testing. A lot of lashes are very bad quality. They may look beautiful, but the durability and feel in real life is crucial for quality. My manufacturer is wonderful because they have really taken my sketches to life and created what I had hoped for in not only the lash itself, but also the packaging. I went through hundreds of samples, different materials, making methods, and sketches back and forth, with many different companies.

JM: Did you have any doubts or worries about starting a brand and having success-what inspiration did you go to in order to overcome it?

AC: Always! I worry constantly, haha. Mainly because I get overwhelmed with ideas, and have a hard time figuring out what to move forward with, and failing. There is never a crystal ball, so you have to take the chance and see how it goes. Starting small is a good thing, and if it’s a small investment with your time or money – then start! Ensconce yourself in learning on your own, every single day. In this case, I would definitely say my Dad inspired me to overcome any obstacle, or excuse not to start. 

JM:  Do you think social media has been your most effective method for spreading the word and building a client base?

AC: Yes! This was how the brand probably captured most of its fanbase, over anything else.

JM: Has the pandemic had an effect on your business in any way, if yes-what ideas have you come up with in adaptation to it?

AC: In a way, but not how you would think. People might want to be more frugal in these uncertain times, or some may want to create from home, and want to splurge on beauty products. My idea might seem very odd in response, but with the state of the world, I have felt it a little difficult to promote products as often. We are always around and running though! 

JM: For 2021, are there already some new lash styles and other accessories in the works to come out? 

AC: So glad you asked, as we’re quietly working on a collaboration due in time for V-day. Can’t wait for you to see what it is! ❤

photo credit:

Check out AshLash on Instagram at @Ashlashofficial or go to the website to add some glamour in your life at