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Antonio Rodriguez Of RAYMOND NICOLAS: I Am Living Proof Of The American Dream

Photo by Oscar Huespe

Perpetual learning — Never stop questioning and learning new subjects. There is a market for every skill, and you become more valuable as an individual who can provide different services.

Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive. As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Antonio Rodriguez.

Antonio began his creative journey with RAYMOND NICOLAS after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Interior Design from The Miami International University of Art & Design. After living in several different countries and experiencing a wide range of cultures and beliefs, Antonio developed a unique, well-rounded, creative, and cultural point of view that shines through in his work and thought process.

As the Junior Designer at RAYMOND NICOLAS, Antonio helps develop projects while still in their conceptual design stages while also curating furniture, lighting and finishes of Residential and Commercial projects alike. He is also proficient in CAD (Computer Aided Design) as well as 3D modeling and sketching, allowing him to ideate projects from their early stages, setting a strong foundation for their development. Antonio has worked to become a multifaceted designer, helping embody the multidisciplinary essence of RAYMOND NICOLAS.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in Luanda, Angola in 1998. It was an interesting upbringing that exposed me to many aspects of life very early on. Although I moved out of the city at age six, I do remember the strong contrast between what we had at our house as a middle-class family, and the environment right outside our door where kids my age didn’t have a safe place to sleep or security for their next meal. I think that growing up in a city which had then just gone through a Civil War that left both economic and social atrocities made me appreciate what I was able to have then, and what I have now. We left Angola as a family in 2004 to settle in the Canary Islands, a small archipelago off the coast of Morocco. This move was fueled by the aspirations my family had to give me a better education. During my six years in Tenerife, my mother still ran her business in Angola, which became detrimental for our relationship as she had to continuously travel back and forth in order to see me. As a result, we decided to migrate to Cape Town, South Africa, a country close enough to Angola where I could continue my education while learning English as a third language. I formed strong bonds and a very tight community in this new city and will always hold it very close to my heart. After finishing grade 12, I spent a year abroad in the United Kingdom, furthering my education and refining my english. In 2015, I flew back to Cape Town to pursue a Bachelors degree in Film Production, but after two years, I came to realize that the only aspect that I really enjoyed was designing and building sets based on storylines, which sparked my interest for Interior Design.

Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?

I believe my trigger was not only having some family here, but also understanding the opportunity to study and grow professionally in a country like the US, where one could argue that it’s easier to become anything you set your mind to. The fact that Miami ranks within the top five cities for Interior Designers was also a great selling point.

Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?

In late 2017, I switched careers from Film Production to Interior Design, a career I completed in 2021 here in Miami. Because of my diverse upbringing, I felt that it was relatively easy for me to move to the US. As third culture kids, we get used to migrating, adjusting to new environments and, unfortunately, having to break meaningful relationships. However, there is a strange excitement about having to move to a new country every couple of years that I know a lot of people don’t get to experience.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?

Certainly the family I have here. Both my aunt and my cousin supported me a lot when I first moved to the US and I didn’t know many people yet.

So how are things going today?

They’re going well! I feel like I have established a good foundation for my future in this country. I’ve lived in South Florida for nearly six years now, and have had the opportunity to travel to a couple of other states. I have been blessed to study exactly what I wanted to, and I am extremely grateful for the job I have today.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As Interior Designers, we affect people’s lives in a way that is not usually looked at. Human beings spend about 80% of their lives inside buildings, so the way that they are designed has a significant impact on human behavior and emotion.

You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?

Although I do indeed have first hand experience with this system, I am yet to encounter any issues with it myself. I understand it is a complex department with many branches and I feel there are more knowledgeable and experienced people to comment on this.

Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.

  • Be persistent — I likely applied to over 100 job listings before I got accepted to one.
  • Stay true to yourself — Out of those 100+ applications, I turned down a handful. Opportunities will come your way, but make sure to stay true to who you are and not just accept anything simply because it is an opportunity you wouldn’t have back home.
  • Chill, literally — This country moves so fast. As my dad would say, “In the US, you live to work. In the rest of the world, you work to live” This saying still rings very true today. You can easily get swallowed by the fast paced, hustle mentality of this country, which is great for being successful, but you can burn out quickly. Make sure you also take some time for yourself.
  • Perpetual learning — Never stop questioning and learning new subjects. There is a market for every skill, and you become more valuable as an individual who can provide different services.
  • Network — There are so many people in this country and you would be surprised to learn about the incredible ways in which they are connected. You might meet somebody by chance who is capable of changing your life for the better.

We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?

  • Desire for improvement — There is a constant need for improvement in the world in general but I do feel this country takes pride in that and really fosters it.
  • Talented people — I know there is a huge amount of very talented people in this country and that makes me very optimistic about the future.
  • Technology — The US is known for being one of the leading countries in developing new technologies both for the good of our species and the environment, which also makes me highly optimistic.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

I wish I could have met Virgil Abloh. He was somebody who opened so many doors for kids like myself and his influence in the design world will live forever.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

Follow @raymondnicolasdesignhouse on Instagram.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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