Few things are as liberating as a fresh start—to which Nichole East, better known as The Baroness in the toy and art worlds, will attest. In 1999, she arrived in New York with a duffle bag, $500, and enough exuberance, sass, and style to start a dance party in a dentist’s waiting room. Today, she works with illustrators, artists, and tattooists, helping to bridge the gap between the art and toy scenes. She has also collaborated with such pop culture institutions as Playboy and The Simpsons.
Nichole started making waves after joining the world’s premiere art toy company, KIDROBOT, in 2003. Since then, it’s been madness. She’s organized fashion shows—Kidrobot’s Superspectacular Fashion show in Toronto Fashion Week 2008; curated toy series—Seven Deadly Cins Ci-boy Series and Tattoo Dunny Series (a recent seller in Christie’s Pop Culture Auction; and even designed her own toys—the 3" “Baroness” Dunny and the 8" glow-in-the dark version a year later. Now, she heads up the Marketing and Events department, leading the company's promotional, social networking, and event-related efforts. This basically means she does everything she’s always done, but also dreams up fresh marketing techniques like live painting shows, trading parties, chase races, and the always-awesome scavenger hunt.
All her hustle has paid off. A toy she helped make happen—the “Hello, My Name Is” 8" Dunny, by Huck Gee—was accepted into the permanent collection at New York’s Modern Museum of Art. She has also been profiled in a host of magazines, including INKED, Time Out New York, Juxtapoz, Clutter, Super, Hi Fructose, Tabu, and more.
Recognized as both a party starter and an engaging student of the world, The Baroness was asked to host the Grand Opening of the CiRCA Nightclub in Toronto. And she continues to expand her enviable repertoire, which constantly blurs the age-old line between work and play, hosting parties and appearing as a guest speaker in venues across the globe.
Of course, it’s not all parties and painting and toys all the time. Within the party girl supreme lies a deep humanitarian spirit. She realizes how lucky she is to have had the opportunity she’s to mesh her love of art and the creative process with her desire to see the world, and her ultimate goal in life is find a way to combine those passions to help support people across the globe. She took a step towards this by getting 30 of her friends to each design one toy for her, which comprised the 30 Customs by 30 Friends auction in April, 2009. The auction raised $7,100 for the children of Cambodia.
After 10 years at Kidrobot, Nichole left the cold East Coast for the warm rays of California. “I loved New York, but I was ready for a change and California was just what I needed for my soul,” she says of her life changing decision. “I didn’t know what I was going to do for work, but I just knew I had to stay with the Arts.”
In 2013 Nichole started managing tattoo artist NIKKO HURTADO and the BLACK ANCHOR WORLDWIDE brand. Using her background in business and art she helped both artists expand artists' brands through marketing, collaborations, community education and special events like “Black Anchor Academy” in 2015 and “Meeting of the Masters” in 2017.
In 2016 Nichole teamed up with Artists 4 Isreal to form HEALING INK, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help survivors of terrorism and violence heal through the art of tattooing. “It’s my greatest passion to help people through art,” she says. “The events and trips that we do really help people and show the power of tattooing.”
Throughout it all Nichole has also overcome personal struggles. Being overweight most of her life, she chose to take control of her health in 2013 and successfully lost over 80 pounds by drastically changing her lifestyle. “It is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life,” she says of the process of staying committed to food and exercise, “It’s a lifelong battle, but it is worth it”. Although Nichole still has a ways to go for her personal goal, she has dedicated her social media to helping women with mental and physical health challenges.