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Cult Days – The Pen, The Hand, The Mind Behind @ThePinkCatDaily

Saba Moeel, most commonly know as Cult Days, is a triple-threat. She’s a designer with a degree from Parsons, a budding musician, and the artist behind Instagram’s latest favorite cat (in its long list of favorite cats) @PinkCatDaily. Reminding you not to waste your time with f*ckboys, or that you may need to meditate, Pink Cat is a total mood. The Oakland-based designer sat down with NBGA to talk art, Islam, her plans for Pink and the ins and outs of her cult.

What was your relationship with art like growing up? Were you always creative, like an artsy kid? Or did that develop later?

Yeah, I was always artsy. I took art classes. My mom was really good about fostering that in me, bringing me to private water-color classes, and buying me art supplies all the time. So, I was really fortunate.

That’s sweet. So, I found about you through your Instagram page, @PinkCatDaily. Where did you come up with that character? And can you tell me a little bit about her? What influences her?

I love cats. I’ve had cats my whole life. Whenever people would say, like, “what animal are you?” I’d always pick a cat. I really relate to them. I grew up reading Calvin & Hobbes, and Garfield and other things, like Peanuts, and The Pink Panther as well. She was definitely influenced by comics I’ve read. When I started to draw Pink Cat, I was in a marriage at the time that was not good for me. And I had my daughter. So, I started to draw cartoons, to kind of express how I was feeling, you know, in my marriage, and how I was feeling in life. I had been drawing a little cartoon cat in college too, but it was like a little black cat, so I had already been experimenting for a couple of years with that cat cartoon. Pink is my favorite color, so I was like, you know what, “I’m just going to draw this little cute, funny cat”. I did it at my friend’s house. And my friend is Korean, and she was living with her family at the time, with her brother and her sister. So, I started google translating them into Korean. And they all thought it was so funny and cute, and I was like, “OK, let me keep doing this. I’ll make a little Instagram account”. Why not?

That’s so cute.

Yeah, it was just for me and my friend. I didn’t think that anybody would really care about it. So, it’s still such a pleasant surprise to find that so many people are connecting to it because I’ve been an artist for so long, and have kind of struggled to connect with other people and have people understand me. I remember going to the Metropolitan Museum in New York and walking through the Egyptian exhibit and seeing these enormous 15-foot-statues of cat-headed people, and being like “wow, for thousands of years, the figure of the cat has been with us”. You know? We see it all over the world. In my generation it was Garfield. For the generation before that it was The Pink Panther, the generation before that had Felix The Cat, in the 70s it was Fritz The Cat, with Ralph Bakshi. So, I just kept going with it, developing it, and it became comfortable for me. I did it as much as I could, committed to doing it every day, and that’s when it sort of took off.

You actually segued into my next question, did you expect Pink to take off how she has? I’m pretty sure I see her at least once a day, on somebody’s story. She’s like the people’s champion.

I never had any expectations that she would take off. When I created her, in my narrative of her, she’s kind of like the captain of earth. So, she is here for everyone. And it’s not me. It’s not Cult Days. It’s a cat. A cartoon. In my mind, she is the collective.

You’ve explained that Pink is influenced by internet culture. And while she’s all fun and memes, she also gives great personal growth and spiritual advice. Does that aspect of her come from where you are in life? Or is it advice that you’ve heard and just wanted to share?

When I say “she’s the internet”, I mean she’s literally influenced by every single thing in the world. Including memes. Including black culture. Including middle eastern culture. Including Islam. Obviously, including western culture. It’s everything. And she thrives on input. As I mentioned in a previous interview, she is black. And it’s very much encapsulated in the Bay Area. The Bay Area is so many different cultures. We have Asian, Latino, Black, so she’s a mix of those things. She’s supposed to encapsulate the spirit of the bay area. I was thinking she’s kind of a mascot for the Bay area. So, it would be silly to deny that she was also black. And she’s very much so. 

Absolutely.

And going back to your other question, about the spiritual thing. That is where I’m at personally in life. I’m a very spiritual person, I believe in God. I come from a family that doesn’t believe in God, my parents are kind of like communists. So I’m like a black sheep there, but it’s something that is special to me. And when I say God I don’t mean a person, I just mean “the inner voice”, “me”, inside, karma. The laws of the universe that aren’t necessarily agreed upon or talked about, the boundaries I’m testing out, of spirituality. And the rules of engagement for society, especially because we have the internet now. No previous generations that we know of have had that. So it’s kind of changing our norms and behaviors, and we’re able to check each other and check on each other. A lot of the spiritual advice is things I’ve seen elsewhere, that resonated with me. And then I want to re-illustrate. A lot of the times, the messages you get on these generic, spiritual pages are powerful and true, but they get diluted because the images are so ugly.

I completely agree. Seeing the way you portray stuff with Pink, through her interactions with Blue, or Aqua, or whoever, make it a lot easier to relate it to your personal life. 

Exactly. It’s really easy to dismiss it when it’s coming from these awful pages that also sell these awful pieces of jewelry.

I was trying to make it a little more digestible for myself, and for everybody I know. And, like you said, using the other characters, putting it in context. 

What we’re trying to do is create Pink Cat into a cartoon, with all original material, no memes, or other people tweets in it. It’s all just pretty much based on my life. But the page that I have is just my personal art page, that everyone else has access to. It’s for me and what I want to share. Like “omg this is happening to me right now”, or “this is relevant to me right now”, and then other people happen to respond “this is relevant to me, too”. Sometimes I feel silly, sometimes I feel ratchet, sometimes I feel spiritual. Whatever wave I’m on, if other people are on that wave that’s great, but if not then, you know.

Totally. I know you’re an artist, I know you design clothing, I also read that you make music, all under the brand, or umbrella “Cult Days”. Can you tell me a little bit about Cult Days? Is it really a cult?

It definitely is a cult. It’s a cult and it’s growing. There’s definitely an inner circle. But it’s not the kind of cult where you do weird stuff, like “let’s all have an orgy and not tell anybody about it” or drink blood as other cults do. I’ve done research on cults, and I read about a cult in Berkeley, in the 1970s and it was terrifying. The things that you can make people do. So it’s a cult, but the cult aspect is that we are all working together. It’s not Black vs. White vs. Asian. It’s people who understand we all have the same values. It’s not a racial thing and it’s not a borders thing, like who has a membership to this country, who has a membership to that country. I’m Arab-Iranian and the word Iran comes from the word “Aryan”. But Aryan doesn’t mean “white”, it means “enlightened”. And the whole idea of Iran, because Iran is a mixed racial country, and what really united everybody, was a way of thinking, and shared values. So when I think about the cult, it’s people of every race and every walk of life who just want to be positive, who want to plug each other. When you have sororities and fraternities, everybody hooks everybody up. When you’re in The Masons, everybody hooks everybody up. And The Masons run the world. So my thing is: we’re not going to have these old, boys’ club, we’re not going to have The Masons, we’re not going to have the fraternities. And this is just all united under Pink Cat, and under the religion being “Pink”. The logo that I’ve developed, the moon and star, is based on the background of Islam but is inclusive of every other person, and every other thing. So yeah, the cult is definitely real. And there are outsiders. And the outsiders do, unfortunately, make themselves apparent. When they do, the inner circle does come together. They help me, support me, and understand. You can see that it’s growing. When they talk about ideas being viral, or something having a “cult-following”, it’s because ideas are contagious. And they change your brain, the chemistry of your body, and it creates certain alchemy within you. And I’m seeing this change in the followers. I don’t want to say they become “radicalized”, ‘cause that’s like way too much power, but these messages are reaching people, and making them think new things. And they’re all meant to empower, and point out the obvious for us. Especially as women, the things we weren’t taught because of supremacy. It’s like “wait a minute, we weren’t taught that. But it’s starting to make a lot of sense now”. My following is like 90% women, so I kind of say it’s like a female-led cult.

Which is rare.

Yeah, when you think about The Masons, it’s all men. Of course, they have a women’s branch, but they’re not at these halls and meetings. So this is my answer to that. It’d be great to have a Pink Cat HQ in every city, and franchise that business. We do have an HQ here, in Richmond, I’m actually in my second month of rent. 

Congratulations!

Thank you, if you’re ever in L.A. let me know. It’s really small. But we have a salon chair, we have a tarot reader, we have another girl who’ll be our aesthetician. We’re going to get a tattoo artist in there. It’d be great to franchise the business and have other women run them in other cities. Why not? *laughs* The masonic temple is so ugly and it’s in every single city. So why can’t we do that? We absolutely could.

I 100% agree.

Do you know The Wing?

Yeah.

(NBGA Note: For those who may not know, The Wing is a network of work/community spaces for women. They have locations in tons of cities like NYC, L.A., and London, and they’re all very chic.)

So, The Wing is the really high-end version of what I’m trying to do. It may not have the spiritual connotations, but I think of The Wing, for young women. Do you know what I mean?

Absolutely, I love that. So, I know under Cult Days there’s the specific line called “Islam is Ok”, that features Islam-centered clothing. Can you tell me a bit about where it came from? 

It’s a collaboration between me, this guy Tash, and my best friend, Hawa. We’re all young Muslims, and we had this idea– it’s sort of like an Islamic Illuminati that we’re forming, for young Muslim people who are forward-thinking, trendy, and who understand hype. With Islam, you see so many images that are violent, totally off-base, uneducated, or corny. Islamic people and people with Muslim backgrounds, stay away from openly representing Islam because it makes you a target. And not only does it make you a target for western people, but for eastern people, too. Eastern people will target you just as much as white people. So Muslims shy away from it. And it’s a shame because we have such a strong aesthetic in Islam and so we also want to represent. When we were younger, we didn’t have any clothes like that, we didn’t have anything like that. So we’re kind of just doing it for the younger kids. To make it a part of mainstream culture, and society. So when you see Islam, you’re not seeing it under “a bomb is going off in ___” on CNN, or like machine guns, or the call to prayer or any of those corny montages that people see. It’s just a normal thing, and we want to re-appropriate our imagery into streetwear and into the mainstream.

I love that. The Jumma Rolex shirt took me all the way out. My boyfriend is Muslim, so I’m going to buy it for him. He’s going to think it’s absolutely hilarious.

Oh my God, I love that! That makes me so happy!

To circle back, when we talked about Pink, and you mentioned turning her into a show. Is that something you’re actively working on or are you letting things flow as they will?

No, we’re actively working on it. We wrote a pilot, we story boarded it, we sent it out, we’ve gotten the feedback. The feedback was: write six more episodes. We’re either going to start pitching it to Cartoon Network, Netflix, Comedy Central, or we’ll just self-produce and put it up on Youtube ourselves, just like the Instagram. I mean, you know as well as I do that people on Youtube make a lot of money.

Oh, yeah. Youtube money is sweet.

So yeah, I’m not sure which lane we’re going to take, but we definitely have a plan.

I’m a cartoon addict, so I’ll definitely be watching. So, what’s next for you, Cult Days, your work? What can we be looking out for?

So I have a mixtape coming out, under Cult Days.

Oop.

Yeah, I mean I make music, but I’ve taken a lot of time off. Not only because I was going through a divorce, but this and that. I want to make my music high quality, relatable, more pop, you know, digestible, so I’ve been recording a lot. I have 6 songs coming out, with a music video. It’s like “Cult Days”, but it’s also like “Pink Cat, Caliph of the internet”. So the music video is me, but it’s also Pink Cat drawing and cartoons. It’s like the melding of the real world, sort of like Roger Rabbit-y, but way more low budget. *Laughs*

*Laughs* Amazing.

So yeah, that’s the next project. I want Pink Cat to have various types of media. Once we have the mixtape, we’ll have the music, which can score the show. And then we want to have a youtube channel, where we can interview other women. I have a couple collabs, pink cat and Kiana, we can do interviews in the shop, so people can connect with other people I associate with, stuff like that.

Love that. Saba, thank you so much for making the time to chat! I’m super excited for you, and Pink, and all the stuff you’re working on!

Thank you!

 

Keep up with Pink Cat’s art page @ThePinkCatDaily!  

By: Vanessa Fajemisin
Cover photo by Hawa Rahimi