She wasn’t kidding. Ms. Safai had a hardscrabble upbringing in L.A. She lived with her single mother, and in middle school she joined a gang, the Toonerville Trece, who nicknamed her Flaca. She brought wholesale candy to school instead of her books, and pulled up to $100 a day. Most of it was spent at the Hello Kitty Store, the rest slipped into her mother’s purse. She dropped out of school at 14 and had a daughter—Tiger—by 19. (Tiger, for the record, chose to stay with family in Los Angeles for the summer.)
“I don’t come from smiles and sunshine. This whole project has been to, like, redeem myself and have enough self-control to pull me back from the dark side. Because I should be a crack prostitute, you know what I mean? I should be on drugs, I should be addicted to drugs. I should be on death row somewhere.”
But after dropping out of school, Ms. Safai found herself drawn to aesthetics, studying textiles and fabrics in the Salvation Army, browsing vintage literature in used-book stores and exploring new neighborhoods like Hollywood and Little Tokyo by bus. After attending community college at just 16, she enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in 1999, and later landed a position designing hotel interiors for André Balazs. She met Mr. Pollock, an L.A. musician, in 2004. Before long, he left his band to help her realize the “lifestyle brand” of candy, clothing and music she’d been concocting for years.
Now, two years after they started, the couple has arrived in New York, leaving a pistachio Heartschallenger operating in L.A. In October the pink truck heads to London, Paris and Tokyo on tour with Heartsrevolution—that’s the name of Ms. Safai and Mr. Pollock’s techno dance band—and will be replaced with a tangerine one. A violet Heartschallenger is headed to Miami. A lemon one is in the works.
There’s currently a huge waiting list to rent the Heartschallenger for private parties. Ms. Safai charges $350 to $3,5000 an hour, and though she’s hush-hush on clients’ names, her trucks have become a staple at celebrity children’s birthdays in Hollywood. Ms. Safai is also juggling invites to collaborate with magazines, clothing lines and cellphone companies, and with 10 full-time employees, Heartschallenger will be featured in October’s Entrepreneur magazine.
“People would have said, ‘Oh, it’s too late for you, you’ve already defined who you are as a person.’” Ms. Safai said about the recent success. “To be like, ‘No, I’m not that person, I’m going to be the person I decide to be, and I am what I love, not what loves me.’”
She added later, unprompted, “If I don’t do this, then I’ll probably end up dead.”
A schedule of the Heartschallenger’s daily locations will soon be available at http://www.myspace.com/heartschallenger.
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