Phlo Finister: “I was born in Oakland. I grew up singing in church—my grandfather was a pastor, my grandmother was an English-Literature teacher—she was very strict.
“I had a very restricted lifestyle as a young child. I only grew up listening to classical music and gospel. I wasn’t permitted to listen to hip-hop and R&B as a pre-teen. I was a ballerina for 12 years.
“When I came to L.A., it was not by choice. My mom just brought me here. She wanted to relocate. I was living off in the Long Beach area—Paramount—and I moved to L.A. when I was a teenager and I was going to school at Crenshaw High School. It was like a big joke from being sheltered to being in the hood. I was living in “The Jungles” during my high school life—I lived in some really rugged places and I went to Crenshaw for a year.
I didn't talk to my mom for four or five years...[Living on my own] was like, 'You were born alone, you’re going to die alone, and it doesn’t really matter.'
“I read a lot of philosophy—I’m a low-key braniac. I read Machiavelli. Even though I dropped out of high school, I’ve always been interested in art history, education, and English literature because my grandmother was a teacher. I was always into education.
“Around the time that I was in high school I started living on my own—I was 15. I made the decision then that I had to find my career path and something to do with my life. So I got into styling—it wasn’t a job, it was sort of a hobby thing. It was something I was just good at.
“I talk to [my mom] now but I didn’t talk to her for four or five years. My mom was a wild child. She’s a wild card. I had a lot of responsibilities at a young age, which today I’m proud of because I’m more independent. But back then, you just want your mommy. You want the perfect family. You see all your friends with their parents and it was very hard. It’s fine now though, everything is good.
“[Living on my own] was like, 'You were born alone, you’re going to die alone, and it doesn’t really matter.' I took that as a harsh reality and kept going. When you come from not having a lot, you always think about your future and the success you can gain on your own. I always have been a believer and a fighter—I’m never gonna not fight.