San Francisco to Sweden

This love story started with a swipe in San Francisco. It was October 2016, and little did Alisanne and Karl know that this first date would change the rest of their lives.

Karl and a friend were visiting San Francisco for a week. They came to the Bay to attend a gaming convention, and would move on to visit Mexico City after. It started with a Tinder swipe. Alisanne honestly doesn’t remember coming across Karl’s Tinder profile, and believes that a friend may have been the one swiping on her account. Either way, she’s happy that their paths crossed.

They met up for dinner in Hayes Valley, and Alisanne made sure to bring a friend with her to the date. They really enjoyed each other’s company, and Karl asked if Alisanne would like to meet up during his last few days in San Francisco, since his week here was almost over. They hungout more and ended up really liking each other.

However, Karl was visiting San Francisco from Sweden.

After his week in San Francisco came to an end, Karl and his friend headed over to Mexico City. But Karl and Alisanne still kept in contact, even when he went back home to Sweden. In fact, they communicated almost everyday. The time difference from San Francisco and Sweden is 9 hours, so communication was not always easy.

It was also not easy for Alisanne to tell her parents about her new flame. She considers herself close to her parents, but there’s just some topics that she knew would be difficult to open up about. Her love life was one of them. When she finally opened up to her parents about her long distance relationship, her fears of their disapproval turned out to be true.

“For my parents, they really thought it wouldn’t last,” Alisanne explained when I asked how her parents reacted to her long distance relationship. “They always did the whole ‘oh, why can’t you stay here,’ and, ‘you might find someone else.’ They were upset that my long distance relationship took up most of my time (talking to Karl) and sometimes they would try to get me to stop ‘wasting my time,’ but I told them it was my decision to be in this relationship and they couldn’t really force anything on me.”

Alisanne admits that defending herself against her parents’ opinions sometimes scared her. It took a lot for her to voice her opinions to her parents that at the end of the day, she’s an adult and will be doing what she wants. And that is somewhat against the Filipino culture. Most of the time, Filipino parents don’t view you as an “adult” until you’re moved out, married, and providing for yourself.

After Karl left San Francisco, he and Alisanne continued to get to know each other over the phone. After 2 months of talking, Karl invited Alisanne to visit him in Sweden. At this point, the two had no official title labeled on them. Still, Alisanne accepted the invitation.

This was Alisanne’s first trip out of the country solo. She was nervous and scared, and now that she thinks back to it, she realizes how dangerous it all could have been. But at the moment she was excited to see Karl and his family. When she told her parents that she was going to visit Karl in Sweden, her parents were freaking out. Her dad demanded Karl’s number, Karl’s mother’s number, and Karl’s address. Her dad even talked on the phone with him before she left. She knew that her parents were just worried and was just looking out for her, but she does see how crazy it must’ve been to an outsider – given that she was 21 years old already – an adult. This was just the beginning of the culture shock of being a Filipina from the Bay Area and dating a chill Swedish guy from Katrineholm.

She spent New Year’s with Karl and his family, and Alisanne got to meet his family and friends. While Alisanne’s family was trippin’ out, back in Sweden, Karl’s family welcomed her with open arms!

“Alisanne came to visit me in Sweden the first time only 2 months after I left,” Karl said. “I didn’t have a driver’s license back then so I asked my family to drive me to the airport in Stockholm to pick her up. That’s not a small favor to ask when the airport is a 4 hour drive total from where I live! They said, ‘ok let’s go!’ 4 hours later we had lasagna together with my family before we got back to my place.”

After Alisanne’s first trip to Sweden, the couple made things official and started doing long distance. She visited Karl about 3-4 times throughout their long distance relationship.

It was August 2017 when Alisanne decided that she wanted to apply for a visa to move to Sweden. She was just about to start her last semester at San Francisco State, and knew that it took about 8 months to almost 2 years to get approved for a visa. However, the universe was on her side and she somehow miraculously got her visa in four months!

“Karl and I did talk about who would move and I eventually decided for myself that it might be pretty cool to move to Sweden,” Alisanne said. “I just finished my bachelor’s in business admin & management, had some money saved up from my last job, and had no plans after school. I also thought it might be harder for Karl to move to the U.S. with all the hectic immigration rules and papers.”

When Alisanne first told her family that she was applying for a visa to move to Sweden, they kind of brushed it off. She believes that her parents thought that it would take over a year to get, because she thought the same thing. When they realized how fast the process was going, that’s when it got real. They were all shocked, Alisanne included, when she got approved in 4 months! Her parents started to get sad and worried because they didn’t think it would be so soon. She completed her last semester at SFSU, and moved to Sweden December 2017, a year to the date of her first visit to Sweden.

Her parents were sad, but in the end supported her decision. They reassured her that she could always come back home if things didn’t work out. She left with one suitcase with all her belongings. This thrilled her little sister, since she could take up Alisanne’s closet space. Alisanne was nervous to move to Sweden, but was ready for the change. At that point, some of her extended family members moved away from the Bay Area. She was done with her degree and was dying to move out of the house.

She did have some fears though. All her and Karl ever knew was long distance over the phone. As you can imagine, getting to know your partner and learning each other over the phone is not easy. There were plenty of fights long distance, and Alisanne feared that they would continue those trends in person. Fortunately, that was not the case, and the couple rarely fights now a days. Karl was worried about Alisanne transitioning to the Swedish lifestyle. He feared that she would be homesick and not like her new home.

Alisanne was homesick for a period of time, but with time she adapted to her new surroundings. The cultural differences and way of life amazes her. Sweden is so different from the Bay Area. She was so used to San Francisco’s diversity – the melting pot of different cultures. Now a days, she finds that she is sometimes the only Asian in the coffee shops and stores. However, thankfully nobody has given her a hard time because of her ethnicity. In fact, almost 2 years of living in Sweden, Alisanne has discovered the Filipino community out there! She describes the Swedish culture to be laid back, chill, and very accepting. So different from what she grew up with- in a very traditional Filipino household.

July 2018 Alisanne and Karl learned that they were expecting! Alisanne was very hesitant to tell her parents that she was pregnant. They reacted kind of sadly, and almost a little disappointed. But her dad let her know that they just want what’s best for her, and being a parent is a big deal. This bummed Alisanne out for a short time, but her parents came around and supported her throughout her pregnancy – checking up on her and asking how she is.

Over a year later, and baby Svea has caught the hearts of everyone around her! Her family from San Francisco and Sweden adore her. This past summer, Svea officially became a U.S. citizen. She is officially Swedish American. She has yet to visit San Francisco, but Alisanne and Karl plan to visit once Alisanne renews her visa.

“Svea has brought out loving parts of us that Karl and I have never seen in each other before,” Alisanne shares. It makes me really happy!”

For right now, Alisanne and Karl are holding off on more kids. She would love to give Svea siblings closer in age, but the cost of another child for the couple right now isn’t ideal. Karl is a teacher’s aid for grades K-6, and helps kids who need extra attention. He also helps out at the after school program. It’s convenient because the school is one block away from their apartment! He comes home during his lunch breaks to spend time with Alisanne and the baby, since she’s currently a stay at home mom.

Alisanne has been a stay at home mom since Svea was born. For the past 1.5 years she’s been unemployed in Sweden, but Sweden’s maternity leave is pretty sweet. The parents get maternity leave of more than 400 days split between the two. She plans to start looking for jobs around March.

Alisanne wants to put her degree in business administration to use in Sweden. However, she fears that most jobs in her field will be in Stockholm, which is 4 hours away from where they live. But she knows she needs to get her foot in the door eventually, and is looking at a neighboring city, Norrköping, which is a 20 minute train ride away.

Since Svea has been born, Alisanne’s family is persistent and hoping that they will come back to live in the Bay Area. For the time being, Alisanne is focusing on renewing her visa, since her 2 years is almost up. Once that gets sorted, Alisanne wants to book a trip to San Francisco as soon as possible! As for living back in the Bay, Alisanne and Karl are uncertain about the cost of living back in California. They definitely want to stay in Sweden for about 5 more years, but don’t have any solid living plans after that, they may stay, or they may consider moving back. For now, they are content with their little family in Katrineholm, Sweden.

“Alisanne and I met the first time when my friend and I were on vacation in SF,” Karl explained. “We matched on Tinder and I asked if she would like to show me around the city. I had my first date when we went out to dinner together, I was confident but not expecting much. The whole evening passed and closer to midnight we said goodbye, looking forward to seeing eachother again. I tried to not get my hopes up too much, I’d rather have a happy surprise than get disappointed. One could always dare to dream. We’re all looking for ‘the one’ to share our lives with. Here I am with a family of my own. They are fantastic and I could not wish for anything else in the world. Who would have thought that a match online could lead up to something like that!?”

Much Needed Reunion

I know I usually talk about the negative effects of social media, but there are some positive perks.

I love how I can connect with people I’ve grown up with, people that have watched me grow and have helped in my upbringing, and people I want to keep in touch with. Social media gives us a chance to stay connected in certain people’s lives, regardless of distance and time. There’s some people I haven’t seen in over 5-10 years, but I could tell you what’s going on in their lives from what they post on social media. It’s kind of nice to stay in touch without really staying in touch.

With life and goals constantly on my mind, I admit that I have lost balance in keeping up and keeping in touch with friends. I guess that’s just life. We get busy, life happens, we start realizing there’s not enough hours in the day. In other words, I started adulting. And to be honest this shit is depressing. And I’m a little upset that nobody really told me how you gradually disconnect with friends and you realize you’re living your own ass life. And at some point it hits you, wait, I haven’t seen or talked to blah blah in years.

Anyways, y’all know I’ve been feeling a little disconnected and just not myself lately. Riding another wave of the post-grad blues has not been easy, I’ve been dealing with it by trying to talk and hangout with friends more.

This weekend my best friend of more than 15+ years baptized her son, and made me one of his primary godparents. I officially became Jalen’s Ninang. And it’s crazy. These are moments that me and April would talk about growing up. She’s been one of my best friends since 4th grade. We’d always talk about going through life together, being at each other’s weddings, being Ninangs to each other’s children, living on the same block and being neighbors (💀🤦🏻‍♀️), and all these milestone life events that we would share together. And here we are. Actually living it.

I don’t know why I’m surprised haha. Obviously these life moment were eventually going to happen. But it really got me like, wow, time really waits for no one. Cliché I know, but it really feels like just yesterday we were talking about all these “future events,” and this weekend, I stood behind her and watched her son get baptized.

After the baptism took place, I looked around in the crowd. And I saw a familiar face. I gasped and walked over in pure excitement to greet Mrs.Volpe. A person that means so much to me!

Mrs.Volpe was our school librarian, but she deserves the title of Mother of Epiphany. I attended this school from kindergarten to 8th grade. She literally watched me grow up right before her eyes, but we got really close during my middle school years. Like 6th grade to 8th grade is when I needed her the most.

Like I said in a previous post, by the time we hit 8th grade, for the most part, we’ve been riding with the same crew and classmates for almost 10 years. We ran deep with each other and gave some teachers hell just because we were a team and going through our rebellious phase. We were a hand full to say the least.

I admit that I was a rebellious kid. On a one-on-one basis, I was pretty well-liked by teachers. I was that student that gave you hell, but behind closed doors you hated to admit that I could connect with you on a personal level. And for just a second they could forget that I talked my ass off in class and questioned authority figures. Our whole class got a bad wrap, but for the most part I feel like I had a reason to my rebellion. I was always that kid that questioned authority figures that expected me to act a certain way just because they said so. The more they tried to control me and demanded respect, the more I resisted. That was just my nature. A true mess. Hahaha. Bless all of their hearts.

But since I had this reputation, sometimes I felt like I wasn’t given a fair chance most of the time. They already labeled most of us “the problem.” And it was like there was no changing any of their minds. And the person we would all run to would be Mrs.Volpe. And she would actually listen to us. Hear our side. When it was our fault, she would tell us. She wasn’t afraid to let us know when we were being little assholes. She’d try to make us see our teacher’s point of view. And even though we didn’t like it or what she had to say sometimes, she always told us the truth. But when we weren’t being treated fairly because of our prior reputations, she would also stand up for us. And that’s what a lot of us “rebellious trouble making kids” needed. Someone to atleast hear our side, to ride for us when everyone else was against us. And that was her. And to be honest, she was a lot of people’s go to person to vent to. She just got us. And during a fragile time in our early teenage years, she was our voice of reason. We all truly saw her as the mom of Epiphany, because she gave us an earful when we were in the wrong, but stood up for her little ducklings when they were being targeted. There are so many current students and alumni that look up to Mrs.Volpe, me included.

Mrs.Volpe is one of those people that I kept in touch with on Facebook. She’s never missed one of my birthdays without posting a sweet message on my wall. For every life event, she has always came through with a comment. She watched me grow up all through my Epiphany days, and has continued to watch me grow through social media. There has been multiple times where Mrs.Volpe has crossed my mind, and I wanted to message saying lets catch up, and I’d always tell myself I’d message by this day/date and forget. Or I’d plan to message and visit during my spring break, any vacation, etc., but didn’t come around to it. It’s a lame excuse, but this is real life. Things just get in the way and sometimes you don’t get to hangout with the people you want to. We had planned to grab lunch or dinner in August, but there was so much going on in Mrs.Volpe’s life as well, that we never got around to it.

And there she was. In the crowd. The person that has been cheering me on from the sidelines for so many years. We embraced and I couldn’t believe that she was at Jalen’s baptism. My heart was full! Especially since I’ve been feeling weird and off lately, this is the reunion my heart needed.

At the reception she met my boyfriend. And it was something special. I’m telling you, she was the mom of Epiphany, so it really meant a lot for her to meet the guy I’ve been with for 4.5 years. We talked and we caught up, and it was such a good time. I think I ran into her at Safeway once, like almost 5 years ago. Come to think of it, I think she met Christian that day, but it was a brief catch up. But other than that, I haven’t had one of Mrs.Volpe’s in person pep talks in 10 years. I graduated Epiphany in 2009. And here we are 2019 catching up. Funny how life works.

We caught up and I told her how I’m currently a preschool teacher and jokingly said I’m getting my karma for being such a rebellious child. She couldn’t believe it. How much time has changed! She expressed how proud of me she is, and I really needed that. She has always been cheering me on from afar. And I’m so blessed to have a person like her on my team. On my side. It has been 10 years but I know if I needed her she’d be right there. Like she has always been.

It was then I realized that she is everything I want to be as a teacher. Even though teaching isn’t my forever career job, it is still currently my job. And talking to her on Saturday made me realize that I want to be a Mrs.Volpe in someone’s life. Tell them like it is, but hear them out. Be firm when you need to be, but show so much love and support at the same time. And if I can be atleast half of what she is as a teacher, I’d be doing a great job.

This is a woman who has seen and witnessed her fair share of heartbreak and pain. But you would never realize by how she lives her life and treats others. Hands down one of the sweetest, loving, supportive, and most of all happiest people I have ever met in my life. And she has blessed so many Epiphany students and families with her presence and support.

It was important for my boyfriend to meet her, because I really feel like she knows the true me. She has witnessed honor roll Marinelle, rebellious Marinelle, angry Marinelle, heart broken Marinelle, and all the above. And I feel like she’s a person from my past that he should meet. I never thought they ever would honestly. I always imagined she’d meet him at my wedding or something haha. I’ve described her to Christian on multiple occasions as the only teacher who was ever on our side. And now he finally got to meet and talk to the woman I’ve talked about for all these years.

I told April, “Your party is what I needed.”

And its true. I’ve been feeling off and emo as hell riding this post-grad wave. Who are you? What do you want to do? What are you going to make of yourself? What career path are you going to take? How will you accomplish that? What’s your next goal? By what deadline? What are you doing with your life? Figure it out. Come up with a plan. Hurry. Time is ticking.

And for a second, those anxieties and worries faded. I was surrounded by my best friend of 15 years celebrating her son, my godson. I was reconnecting with a teacher I adore and look up to. My man is with me and around people that I grew up with. Life is good.

I needed this in so many way. Seeing people that take you back. Back to less stressful times. It took me all the way back to the times when meeting up for the movies was our biggest issue. 🤣 It was a meeting that my heart so desperately needed. That even though time is moving and life goes on, these people that have been with me since day 1 are still with me, are riding with me, and still rooting me on from the sidelines. They remind me of who I am and where I come from. They took me back to simpler times.

The Execution

I shared my story about my post-grad depression journey, and to be honest, its all I can talk about.

If I’m hanging out with friends, it seems like the topic of the future always gets brought up, and one by one we go around and vent about what’s bothering us. That’s what I like about the people I surround myself with, we’re super open and can talk about hopes and dreams, those real life shitty moments, to Spongebob references, and all the above.

Sometimes I think about writing a series like “Sex and the City,” about me and my friends. But instead of documenting our sex lives and love interests, I’d name it, “Stress in the City,” because adulting… dis tew much 😭. It seems like we’re all just trying to chase a dream and make something of ourselves. Which is motivational and depressing all at the same time.

What a time to be alive. With all my friends, it seems like the one thing we can all agree on is the fact that this age is such a crucial point in our lives. We feel the outside pressures of the world telling us we need to have a job in our field, we need to make X amount of money a year, we need to have this this and that by this age… and it’s like….. well, fuck. You just don’t know where to start!

Just for the record, you shouldn’t compare your journey to someone else’s. You can compare if its healthy motivation, but if you’re using it to make yourself feel worse about the position you’re in, it’s just not going to help. There’s no need. We are constantly bombarded with a realm of all the “good” in our peers’ lives. You scroll through social media and you see your friend who just got engaged, who just graduated, who just landed that 6 figure job, who just bought a new car or house, who started that business…. but honestly, did you know what they had to go through to get to that point? You see the accomplishment, but not all the hardwork that had to be put in. There is so much more to what you see on the ‘gram.

I truly believe that what’s yours is yours, and that there’s a time for everything. With that said, I still stress about every little detail about my future. But, deep down, I know that my time will come for everything I plan to do. Or atleast I hope.

“YOU CAN DREAM BUT DON’T NEGLECT THE EXECUTION…” (J.Cole, “Change.”) That quote right there. You can dream all you want, but if you stand there idle, it’ll just remain a dream. The execution is where so many people give up before even trying. Me included! I struggle with that every day! Some days, I’m motivated and so pumped to make moves towards my dreams of becoming a successful writer. And other days, I’m lazy. I get overwhelmed. So I give up for the day. And sometimes, it turns into days. Until I overthink myself to death again and get a burst of motivation to start all over again. It’s a torturous cycle, honestly, when you want to do great things and have so many ideas and plans, all the while trying to juggle the things you’re dealing with now, like a fulltime job and trying to stack your money. The realization that there are not enough hours in the day, and even when you set aside time at the end of the day for passion projects you sit there and you’re like…. yo… I just want to sleep. But also realizing if you don’t do anything for a prolonged period of time, you’re going to make no progress with your dreams and goals…

Especially living in the fuckin’ Bay Area. We dream big because we have no choice, everything is so damn expensive. What drives me to make it and be successful is the thought that I have to keep up with San Francisco and the Bay Area pace, or the rich people who aren’t even from here will run me out of my city. That’s a whole blog post on it’s own though.

I recently went to a baby shower that seemed like a high school reunion. I caught up with a good friend who I was pretty close to in high school, but we lost touch throughout the years. He told me about how he struggled to find a job after graduation a year ago, and how it really tested his confidence in himself. But now he’s here, working for Google and doing his side passion projects, focused on trying to retire by age 35-40. We talked dreams. We talked passions. We talked realistically about the future, and what steps we each have to take to get to the right path. I revealed to him my book idea, something I rarely share with others. And if you know about my book idea, consider yourself special, and I know ya ass better keep that shit a secret so no one steals that book topic 💅🏽

“YOOOOOOOOO, I feel that shittttt, ughhh,” he told me.

“Right! It’s something that needs to be talked about in our community,” I said, relieved that he didn’t think my book idea was lame.

“You know what though, I know you’re gonna make it cuz you know your WHY. You got the passion and the why, start that shit now, bruh. Don’t worry about the process of publishing, worry about that when the book is done. But start writing that shit nowwwww. And you know what, if there’s any way I can help, if I myself will be in the book, or if you need me to ask around for people you can interview, just let me know.”

It was such a nice push of encouragement, when your peers are down with your vision. After that talk at the baby shower, I was mad motivated. What I’ve learned since I started writing is that some people will pretend to support you, but when it comes down to it, its really just all talk. But then there’s others that are so supportive, and will root for you and vouch for you and your work.

I’m an Aquarius, so I’m always in deep thought… one day I tweeted: “Whatever moves I choose to do NOW with my career will really determine what kind of life I live. That’s the most motivational/ terrifying thing honestlyyyyy.” I don’t use Twitter often, so I screenshot it and posted the tweet on my Instagram story. To my surprise, a few people reached out saying they feel it, but a friend’s reaction made my night.

He told me that seeing my tweet motivated him to start his music projects. He always wanted pursue his music career, but you know the drill, too shy to start, not consistently posting, holding it off because fear… He started writing his songs that night, and is actively writing and planning so he can bless us with his vocals.

You just never know who you’ll touch with your work. So here’s a public service announcement: SUPPORT YA FRIENDS. DON’T BE A FAKE SUPPORTER. MOTIVATE YOUR FRIENDS. BOUNCE IDEAS BACK AND FORTH OFF EACH OTHER. IF YOUR FRIEND HAS A BUSINESS, PROMOTE IT. BUY FROM IT. RECOMMEND IT WHENEVER YOU GET THE CHANCE. SUPPORT YOUR CREATIVE FRIENDS. IF THEY’RE WRITING, SINGING, DESIGNING, DRAWING, PAINTING, WRITING POEMS, MAKING THEIR OWN CLOTHES, ETC, SHARE THEIR CONTENT, LIKE IT, SEND IT TO YOUR OTHER FRIENDS.

AND ALSO: IF YOU’RE WAITING FOR SOME TYPE OF SIGN TO START YOUR PASSION PROJECT, HERE’S YOUR SIGN! START IT!

REMEMBER: “You can dream but don’t neglect the execution…” We’re all really just trying to make it here…

Not Go-Go-ing Anywhere Just Yet

 

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Alex “Lex” Hui has been in a few dangerous situations while working as a Go-go dancer in The Castro. He has been chased by a stalker after a nightclub event, and had to escape by climbing a fence that resulted in cuts all over his body. But what is Hui most afraid of?

Aging. Hui has been professionally dancing since he was 18, and will be 40 this summer. Hui loves his job as a Go-go dancer because it keeps him feeling young, healthy, and alive. With his birthday nearing, Hui is dreading the thought of being another year older.

“At the party store I came across the 40 decorations,” Hui said. “I couldn’t even touch it. I don’t want to accept it.”

Hui has been dancing for over 20 years and has thought about retiring his dancing shoes a couple of times. But he is hesitant to give up the job that has made him the person that he is today. For it was dancing that made Hui come to terms with who he really is, and started to live his life according to his truest self.

With his petite stature, standing at about 5’5, Hui is always noticeable in a crowd because of his “I’m here!” attitude. His black hair is combed over to the left side, and he is almost always wearing form fitting clothing that shows off his arm and leg muscles that he works so hard for.

Growing up, Hui was confused about his sexuality. Though it is hard to believe now, since he is such a friendly, talkative, and bubbly person, Hui was once a shy person who kept to himself. He was unsure as to who he was, and wanted to be like his male buddies. At the same time knew he felt different than them.

Hui’s family on the other hand knew all his life that he is gay. It was kept hush hush, but everyone was aware. In fact, Hui never officially “came out” to his family.

When he was 18, Hui felt more comfortable and started going to gay nightclubs. He was approached by the club manager, who told him that he would be perfect for a dancing job. And that was how Hui got introduced to dancing at nightclubs, bars, and events.

At first Hui tried to keep dancing a secret from his parents, but they turned out to be very supportive of his new career. Around the age of 21, it was no longer a question whether Hui was gay. His mother, Cossette Hui, is his number one supporter.

“Dancing is an art,” Cossette said. “I’ve always been proud of him. When he’s on the float during the gay parade, I’m so proud and always say, ‘That’s my son.’”

Cossette has always supported whatever made her son happy. According to her, she knew Hui was for a long time, even before he came out. She caught school kids making fun of her son, calling him derogatory names, and she would confront the kids and stick up for her boy.

Hui’s mother knows the dangers that can come with her son’s job, like being followed, having stalkers, and possibly being assaulted at any moment on stage, so she is very protective of him. She sleeps earlier in the day so that she will be awake just in time to sit in the living room and wait for her son to come back home after each night of dancing. She likes that he decided to come back home to the Bay Area.

When Hui was younger, dancing brought him to various places outside of The Castro. The most interesting place he worked in was Las Vegas’ Chippendales from 2002 to 2004. Hui worked as a host and dreamed to be one of the performers, however his height prevented him from accomplishing that.

It was the same problem when Hui tried to pursue modeling. He started modeling at the age of 12 at shopping mall fashion shows. He made the cover of Playgirl magazine in 2002, and wanted to be a high end fashion model. Managers told him, “We wish we could stretch you!”

So when modeling fell through and Hui gave up the dreams of walking on runways abroad, dancing professionally brought Hui back to the Bay Area from Los Angeles. Even though he’s been in the dancing industry for a long time, he still gets butterflies right before performing. His favorite event to dance in is the Pride Parade, because it is usually for a cause like AIDS, and he likes to show his support and help raise money.

Friends know Hui more for what he does off the stage than on the stage. Dancing keeps Hui young and aware of his figure, so he is always working out and staying active. His friend, Max McDaniel, knows that dancing is the perfect profession for Hui because he has the right type of energy for the job.

“When Lex walks into a room, you know he’s there,” McDaniel said. “His energy is high, he’s always involved, and working as hard as anyone I know.”

Dancing is a competitive line of work, and Hui is concerned about the younger crowd of new dancers. They compete for hours and the attention of the audience, and Hui doesn’t know if he should give it up and let the younger dancers have their moment.

Still, something in Hui wants to keep going. He has spent a couple thousand dollars over the years on all his outfits. From leather shorts to sporty revealing tops and bottoms, Hui has an outfit for every themed event.  He enjoys the thrill of dressing up and being the center of attention, keeping the crowd going, and living the bachelor life.

Dancing made Hui realize who he is, and it acted as an outlet for him to express himself. He knows he eventually has to give up dancing, and is now trying to embrace his age and where dancing has brought him in life.

“Until someone says, ‘Who wants to see that old Go-go dancer in that box?!’ is when I’m going to give it up,” Hui laughed.

Mr. & Mrs. Cruz

Amberly and JT met and started dating when they were 16. The first time JT met Amberly he told his friend, “I’m gonna marry her.” Through many bumps in the road, they managed to stay together because their love for each other was stronger than the outside drama that was going on around them.

On their 8 year anniversary, JT popped the question, and in 2012, they officially became Mr. and Mrs. Cruz.

They waited a little over a year after getting married to start trying for a baby. On Thanksgiving 2014 they announced to their families that they were expecting.

Devastating news hit Amberly and JT when the doctor informed them that their baby girl was developing a mass in her lungs. At that point Amberly was still pregnant and blaming herself. She was thinking it was because of her that the baby had a mass in her lungs, she thought maybe it was something she ate or her trip to the Philippines that caused it.

Aly was born June 2015, and February 2016 she got the surgery regarding the mass in her lungs. She is happy, healthy, and always smiling.

“It was amazing to see how the roles changed between us,” Amberly said. “We’ve been together for almost 13 years and I was always the “strong one”… Like I’d know what to do or say in a situation and usually be the one to keep JT at ease. But when I found out Aly had a mass in her lungs and will need surgery, I was a mess! I was (and still am) constantly worrying/ paranoid. JT was my rock throughout everything. He listened to me, consoled me, and even handled the paperwork for her surgery, usually I handle everything but it was too much for me.”

Having a baby brought the couple closer together, and when life tested them, they stood by each other and consoled one another. The birth of their daughter has brought so much joy to their lives.

“It was really comforting to see the change in JT,” Amberly said. “Usually he’s quiet and I have to be the one to ALWAYS be strong. It was nice to let my emotions flow and have my husband be my rock throughout everything. As corny as it sounds, we are a team and I’m really lucky to have such a strong support system.”