Honeysuckle Spring 2017
Street. Culture. Underground. Each of these elements embodies model, actor, performer Justin Bullock. Bullock, on probation since age 16, will be released this May—just when you’ll be reading about him in these pages.
Discovered at the age of 16 by photographer Ari Marcopoulos, he was approached in Subway’s “Eat Fresh” to do a collaboration of Adidas and Bathing Ape. At 16 he was also arrested for grand larceny, and six sequential arrests have kept him on probation until he turns 21—this month.
As soon as he does, he’ll be on the beaches of Mexico. International agents of all kinds have been waiting for his release so he can travel internationally for work.
Little did we know, when requesting him for our own “Home” issue, that the actor, rapper, and songwriter is now homeless. He could have had his own apartment by this point, he says, but was held up taking care of his family, who are homeless. Evicted from their apartment in the South Bronx, he and his mom had hopped around in shelters, while his dad made the rounds with his two older brothers. He reports: “We scattered ourselves into Air B&B’s and hotels and stuff, bounced around at friends houses. It was stressful; I’ve never been homeless.”
Justin said the hardest part about being homeless is not being able to show emotion in public, something he wasn’t even aware that he was doing, having grown up in the hood. Being too emotional can draw attention and bring trouble on the streets.
“My mom wanted to keep trying to stay in the system,” Bullock said, referring to the messed up system of homeless shelters, which he says “don’t really want to help you. Like they feel that you have somewhere else to go—when the whole point is, you don’t.”
The shelter system is very regulated, set up with one hoop after another to jump through. “Like, for example, having to make it to places that are far away when you don’t have any transportation. And when you ‘fail’ the application process for permanent shelter status, it’s like starting back at ground zero.”
His mother was beyond frustrated. “She was like: ‘let’s just try again;’ I was like: ‘like why?’ I’m out. Finally I said fuck it. I had to leave, and she was really upset.” At the time of this interview, Justin is staying with a friend in Connecticut, coming back to the city frequently. New York City is the place he absolutely calls home.
In order to regain his footing and care for himself, he had to to detach from his family—though he makes an effort to keep up with them.
Being African American in the hood and on the streets has schooled him in the harsh realities of social justice and race, and informed his artistry. “Everybody is different,” he said. “But, like I tell the kids in the juvenile hall, where I mentored: If you’re African American or from the Bronx you’re already born to lose. And they don’t make it easier for you, so don’t make it easier for them by fucking up. Your circumstances and upbringing dictate who you are to some. Like for me. For example, I was born into poverty. Like, I didn’t get certain things other people got, like presents for Christmas and things like that, but do what you do and try to make it out the hood.”
He goes deep with talk of the ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline,’ which criminalizes young students (mostly impoverished, African American or Hispanic) and puts them in prison instead of regular punishment at standardized schools or rehabilitation centers. These severe sentences install them in the system behind bars—or set them on a fucked up, inescapable trajectory of crime for decades.
At the end of the day, he says if you want his advice or opinion, come and ask. “You gotta want it, otherwise I’m not wasting my time.” When he’s released from probation, he looks most forward to “not feeling like I always have to watch my back. The cops are just looking to arrest someone.”
Justin plans to leave the country and travel, as he’s been offered jobs on large campaigns such as Nike in Hong Kong, as well as other shoots in Mexico.
He’s eager to live as a free, creative person, taking advantage of the many contacts he’s made in entertainment. He hopes to grow as an artist and develop platforms for his many pursuits, which include filmmaking, rapping, and acting.
If he can stay out of trouble through mid-May, he’ll be doing just that.
Fly high Justin. We’ll be waving up at you.
Supply in Demand
lyrics by Justin Bullock
I got a cold fuckin heart
Cause I go so fuckin hard
Just to be comfy what I want
And I come from the south Bronx
Where u niggas can’t stunt
If ya face not familiar
U might be workin for the judge
U might be workin with the judge
And the system so fucked up
U just Don’t know Who toTrust
So bout anybody else
U could just give like 2 fucks
As a youngin i am trouble
I am so mischievous
& at homies we got products so just tell me what you want
Who got supply
Who in demand
Who in control
Who make the plan
Who make the rules
Who is the man
Who got supply
Who in demand
Photographer: Rinze van Brug
rinze.com, dutchhouseofphotography.com; @rinzevanbrug
Stylist: Angelique Gerritsen; angeliquegerritsen.com; @angelique_image
Hair/ make-up: Christina Natale; christinanatale.com; @bella_venom
Models: Justin Bullock; @justinjbullock; Veronika Losyuk; @veronikalosyuk