As I entered the seventh grade, I made a fateful decision. The way the foreign language program worked at Furnace Brook Middle School in Marshfield, Massachusetts was that in sixth grade, when your language center is already nearly solidified, you take half a year of French and half a year of Spanish and then decide which of the two you’d like to continue. I did what any sensible twelve year old would: I considered the demographics of the United States, thought about our neighboring countries, and deduced that Spanish would help me the most in life.
Now I can’t say what French may have done for me – I can order bouef and vin rouge in Paris. But you know what? I think the French delight in the ignorance of the American traveler. I think they find it cute how we monolingual Americans clumsily navigate their country. But my Spanish, rudimentary as it is, has proven to be an asset. I lived in Los Angeles (Spanish for “The Angels” – see? I am good) and worked in a restaurant there for several years before I became a diamond expert. My coworkers were from all over the US and South and Central America. Working in the restaurant industry inflicts more than its share of trauma, but damn, it could be fun.
One day, one of my colleagues made a joke in Spanish. “¿Puedes repetirlo?” I asked him (Can you repeat that?) His face lit up. “¿Hablas español?” “Un poquito,” I clarified. My accent is decent but I have the vocabulary of a first grader. In middle school and high school we students would always roll our eyes when our teachers insisted that we speak only Spanish in the classroom. But immersion definitely works! I reached a point horsing around with my coworkers where I wasn’t doing mental work to translate my thoughts into speech, I could just say what I wanted to say, albeit with clumsy grammar. I am so grateful to my prudent sixth grade self because I got to do all kinds of things that I think I otherwise wouldn’t have – I went to a quinceañera, I went to a Mexican Christmas because I couldn’t fly home for the holidays – my world was richer for it.
I had a recurring bit that went over pretty well. I would be prompted with the question posed in Spanish: “Why did you borrow all that money to go to college and then wait tables?” And I would respond: “Mis padres me dijeron, ‘Brandon – el mundo te necesita. Deberías ser doctor o algo así.’ Pero yo dije, “Lo siento mamá. Lo siento papá. La única cosa que yo quiero hacer en este mundo loco es hacer tacos por la gente buena en la playa.’ And then I sang the refrain: “LA ÚNICA COSA QUE YO QUIERO ES SER TAQUERO DE PLAYA.” (Translation: My parents told me, “Brandon – the world needs you. You must become a doctor or something like that.” But I said, “I’m sorry mom. I’m sorry dad. The only thing I want to do in this crazy world is make tacos for the good people of the beach. THE ONLY THING THAT I WANT IS TO BE A TAQUERO AT THE BEACH.”
I never achieved full fluency and since moving back to the east coast the Spanish part of my brain’s language center has wilted a bit, I am proud that I was able to crack up mis compadres in their native tongue was good enough. I say this to tell you that I am uniquely situated to enjoy the music of Latin music sensation Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio, more famously known as Bad Bunny. Bad Bunny started out releasing self produced tracks on Soundcloud that people flocked to in droves, leading to the release of his first full album in 2018. After taking the world by storm, he used 2020 to release three projects including the one particularly close to his heart, YHLQMDHG (Yo Hago Lo Que Me De La Gana, or ‘I Do Whatever I Want’). For this project he didn’t bother making what he or studio executives thought people wanted to hear – he just made what he wanted to exist. I say that I’m uniquely situated to enjoy his music because he doesn’t sing or rap-sing too quickly, he enunciates very clearly (can we do away with ‘mumble rap’ completely?) and so I bob my head along to the catchy beats and melodies while every fifth or six words my brain lights up. Compartir means share! Hey, I remember that subjunctive conjugation! Ooh, this is the chorus – he’s saying that he’s no saint, but neither are you, and without you he’s finally himself.
At 29, Bad Bunny is just getting started. He’s also made forays into acting, appearing in the movie Bullet Train alongside Brad Pitt. He also happens to be one of those delightful celebs who treats fancy glitterati events as an opportunity to have fun with his over the top outfits, and he is constantly bedecked in beautiful, eye-catching natural diamond jewelry. I don’t share his talent or his stylistic fearlessness, but at his core I think he too is serving metaphorically delicious tacos to the good people of the beach. Here are some of his best and blingiest looks from over the last five years.
2018 Billboard Latin Music Awards
If you’re going to be lugging around this many natural diamond carats on your wrist, fingers, neck, and ears it is indeed wise to add a pair of sunnies to the mix. No need to scorch your own retinas while you’re dazzling everyone else’s. He didn’t end up taking home the award for the the year’s Best New Artist, but he reminded everyone of why he got the nomination and let ‘em know he wasn’t going away any time soon.
EDDI Member Marvin Douglas Moment!
A participant in the Natural Diamond Council’s Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative, Marvin Douglas Linares has formed something of a close partnership with Bad Bunny. Here’s BB swagging out at the Billboard Latin Music Awards, decked out in Marvin Douglas Jewelry and shoes that I am scared that I want. Symmetrically aligned bejeweled and iced rings? A classy watch peeking out of a tastefully draped oversized jacket? Foregoing a tie for a natural diamond encrusted hexagonal pendant? I know he’s outwardly scowling but that’s gotta be a facade, this man is living his best life. Way to go, Marvin!
Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio pictured here atop Mt. Olympus, unbowed by the mighty ensemble of natural diamond encrusted lion’s heads mounted on an enormous gold link chain and oh so weary of the absurd conflicts that plague humanity. Can we not see that we are meant to care for one another, that our good Mother Earth will provide for us aplenty if we could only attune to her rhythms and see ourselves in each other?
2023 Lakers Game
Not sure who the girl in the white tank and snakeskin knee highs is (JK, KJ!), but I know my man’s pulling the Lakers’ focus with his chic black and white fit and the bright overhead bulbs bouncing off his icy ring.
The man himself at the 2021 Grammy Awards offers us a sunflower in full bloom. Peeking out from ‘neath the here-today-gone-tomorrow cheerful flower is Bad Bunny’s natural diamond encrusted ring that looks like he got from winning the Super Bowl. He stepped from the red carpet to the podium to accept the Grammy for Best Latin Pop or Urban Album for YHLQMDHG.
Aw come on man, can’t you just enjoy reigning over the music industry? You’ve got to be in movies too? Some of us are trying to feel good about our little lives. Here he is as “The Wolf,” an orphaned turned violent kingpin who howls to the heavens after vanquishing his foes in Bullet Train. He wears his eponymous gold wolf bolo while duking it out with Brad Pitt. I am sure this is exactly what he foresaw when he was a teenager uploading his music to Soundcloud.
2022 Met Gala
I haven’t yet received an invitation to the Met Gala, but I’d like to think that if I went, I’d have as much fun as Bad Bunny seems to. He makes a delightful spectacle while looking through his delightfully impractical spectacles in a Ricardo Tisci assembled outfit for the ‘Gilded Glamour’ themed 2022 Met bash, blending male and female fashion elements inspired by the Puerto Rican Gilded Age style.
He looks like an art teacher who isn’t mad, just disappointed that my buddy and I are goofing off instead of absorbing ourselves in our still life sketch. Although I don’t recall my public school art teacher pinning her hair up with pearl centered gold flowers while a sparkly natural diamond dangled from her ear.
2022 American Music Awards
I don’t love this look, but hey if you let needing everyone to love every look hold you back then are you truly living? For me, it’s giving Nepo Baby if your famous dad was the Night King from Game of Thrones. Would I say this to his face? I would not, for I saw his combat acumen in Bullet Train and I’m not interested in engaging in fisticuffs with someone sporting a giant natural diamond embedded ring on their punching hand. I’d say, “Thank you for the music. I wish you continued success and many beautiful diamonds. You wear both well.”
Here’s our hombre taking a moment to appreciate the peak he’s ascended to: transforming the 2023 Grammy’s audience into a dance party, rocking a could-have-been-basic look while showcasing EDDI alum Marvin Douglas’ signature honeycomb natural diamond studded pendant. Adding to the weight of his iced out watch was the Grammy for Best Música Urbana Album for “Un Verano Sin Ti” (A Summer Without You).