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Nik Noriega
Service Manager at The Pie Spot — Portland, Oregon 

I think my biggest passion in life is just to live authentically and be proud of who I am every day. I can directly attribute that to my mother. My mom, aunt and uncle were children of Mexican immigrant parents, but even in Arizona with such a large hispanic population, it was really difficult growing up for them because they were subjected to a lot of hate and anger because of their heritage. My grandmother actually refused to teach any of her kids Spanish because she was afraid they would be targeted should anyone find out who and what they were.

My mother also knew she was gay at a very young age. So she not only had to hide where she came from, but who she was as well. When I was old enough to understand, she and I talked and I saw how much she struggled with hiding who she was all those years. I knew I could not live my life hiding who I was or where my family comes from. It was these conversations with my mother that really helped shape the person I ended up becoming. Someone who is honest, upfront, caring, and is proud of their heritage, sexuality and gender. I'm lucky I have a parent who understood those struggles and knew what I was going through, and loves and supports me unconditionally. I try to be that for my daughter, my chosen family and my friends. I want them to know that who they are is amazing and that they're loved and supported.

I could not live my life hiding who I was or where my family comes from.

I wasn't expecting to be as homesick for the Southwest as I ended up being after moving to Portland. I really miss all the sounds and flavors of my Mexican heritage. Going to mercados like this feels good and familiar, like I'm home.

My grandfather was probably my biggest creative inspiration. He built and upholstered furniture, and he taught me the importance of recycling products and to be as environmentally conscious as I could be, but probably more importantly that I could build any damn thing I wanted to and that working with your hands could be very rewarding and satisfying.

To me, there’s no sound more pleasing than that little crackle at the beginning of a record.

My family has different tastes, in pretty much everything. But music was one thing that varied so wildly I got to hear many different genres of it as a child. There was always music. My mom had a large collection of records and I think that's where my love for vinyl and passion for collecting came from. To me there’s no sound more pleasing than that little crackle at the beginning of a record.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, I would love love love to have dinner with John Waters. I think it would be a really life altering experience to be in his presence for a few hours. One of the most admirable things about him I think is that he's found a way to not just live but thrive outside of the mainstream. I think so many people (myself included) want to walk that path and so for that reason he's really an inspiration to me. I also have his whole face tattooed on my leg. I love him.