Leah Lu, 19 | Los Angeles, CA | Chinese-American | Writer & Illustrator
by Celeste Scott
Known for her distinctive lettering and illustration style, Leah Lu is a truly passionate creative, whose work reflects her unapologetic honesty. I had the pleasure of sitting down with her in her hella stylish dorm room, where we talked about her beginnings as a creator, her vulnerability on Instagram, and her various creative outlets.
Q: What titles would you give yourself as a creative person?
A: I’ve been struggling a lot with juggling a lot of mediums. Which sounds kind of pretentious in a way, just because I feel like everyone’s trying to be everything. But I’m really interested in illustration and I really love writing. Writing is the root of everything I do. I love words. And everything else is kind of just another channel of expression. I just love capturing moments so any way I can do that, whether it be through words or photos, or illustration, or music even, is something that I’ll try to pursue.
Q: How did you get into doing lettering/illustrations?
A: When I was little I would always try to do handwritings every single week. In elementary school I would do say, okay I’m gonna do bubbly handwriting this week, or I’m gonna do really straight, tall handwriting this week. It kinda seeped into high school when I would get chronic stomach aches all the time, just for no reason. I would just start writing in cursive and watching the pen move, and that would calm me down. And that just became something I did all the time. And I never really thought it was anything special until people starting pointing out “Hey, that’s really cool. It looks like you typed that.”
I think words are so powerful and so beautiful. I find solace in them. I find comfort in them. And so I wanted to find a way to kind of combine illustration and fonts and sharing words that mean so much to me that could mean something to someone else. So that’s when I started getting into lettering different quotes and different sentiments that I thought were important and meant something to me. And then I would just share them on Instagram. And people resonated with them.
Q: What has Instagram been for you as a creative person?
A: It’s almost kind of cathartic in a way. I’m a really verbal processor. Sometimes it’s a bad thing because I’m very, very open about the ideas that I have and the thought processes that I’m going through. But for me it’s kind of a visual diary for myself. I get to post the pictures that I’ve taken, wherever I go and then along with that I get to document the day through words. I’m a big fan of the “late night post.” I think that’s my thing. It feels almost secretive in a way. Even though it’s so not. I think there’s just something really interesting about connecting really vulnerably with people over the internet. It’s a way for me to process my thoughts but also receive dialogue from other people that are also going through similar things or have advice or just want to talk.
Q: Do you feel more known on Instagram than you do with people in real life?
A: I think that it’s possible to be very authentic on Instagram, contrary to popular belief. But I don’t think that it replaces human connection and in-person relationships. I think that you can be known to an extent on Instagram. And I think it’s really cool that we can pursue that, and that it succeeds most of the time. But obviously there are so many things that you learn about a person when you’re sitting with them on couch, and you see their mannerisms and get to know their quirks, and these things that you can’t really portray online.
Q: Ideally, where would you be living and what would you be creating in the future?
A: I would love to do something that combines writing, illustration, and visual art and featuring really cool people. I have always loved New York. It’s been my favorite place since I was little. After the times I’ve visited it just confirms that that’s the place that I want to be for some period of my life. Just because I feel like there’s so many interesting people there. And places to go, and things to see, and people to learn from. I think something that really draws me to the city is that it’s a place that forces you to cut the fat out of your work. You don’t have room to mess around or fake it. It’s a place where people are just really gritty and serious about what they do but so passionate about it. And it’s really inspiring to me.
Q: What’s the thing that you’re proudest of that you ever created?
A: It might sound cheesy but it’s not a specific piece that I’ve written or a drawing that I’ve done. I think I’m really proud that I’ve been able to turn something that society deems superficial into something that is a pretty true expression of who I am. Through my internet interactions and the opportunities that I’ve gotten, I’ve grown as a person and as an artist. And I think I’ve created some really solid relationships through it.
Q: In what medium do you feel most free to express yourself?
A: Writing has always been a really interesting medium to me. It’s always hard for me to be really comfortable with writing because there’s always these rules in the back of my mind. And there’s this really formal literary community in the back of my mind that’s gonna be reading my work and that’s gonna be judging me for everything that I do. So, in a way it’s the most freeing and the place where I feel my best self. But it’s also the place I feel very insecure in. But I’m learning slowly that it’s a process and you don’t have to reach a certain level to define yourself as something. Words have always been my refuge. I say that a lot. Reading them I feel comfortable and I feel safe. And writing them is my coping mechanism.