Frankie Zombie has showcased his artistic work for major brands, companies and celebrities. Soon, he’ll be showcasing his talent on the television screen.
Zombie co-stars on the new show, “Artfully Designed,” an interior design show debuting on the Magnolia Network on April 1 at 2 p.m.
He, alongside interior designer Natalie Papier and muralist Racheal Jackson, works with Charlotte clients to personalize specific rooms of their homes.
The 34-year-old Spartanburg native said he grew up watching television shows on interior design and home improvement. Now, he says, co-starring in his own show is a “blessing.”
Finding a creative outlet
Zombie never expected he would become an artist. Growing up in the Bronx, N.Y., his first career aspiration was to play basketball in the NBA.
His family moved to Spartanburg when he was a child, and athletics became his focus. It wasn’t until his senior year at Dorman High School that his focus changed.
“I started really gravitating toward fashion and music and how to produce music and color palettes and stuff like that,” he said.
Zombie worked a plant job after graduating high school in 2007, but he credits the song “American Boy” by Estelle featuring Kanye West for inspiring his next career aspiration.
“Something hit me in the bass and chords of the record as I’m driving to work,” he said. “I’m just saying to myself, ‘I think I wanna be a producer.’”
He moved back to New York City and began producing music with his uncle at hip-hop label Young Money Entertainment.
He produced music for three years, but after slipping into depression, along with the news of his mother’s cancer diagnosis, he moved back to Spartanburg, S.C.
It was creating art that helped him during the difficult time.
“When I did my first abstract painting, that was just a whole nother unveiling to my life,” he said. “ I knew almost from that point the one thing that would always help me get back to center was art.”
Zombie painted guitars and pianos because he could not afford art supplies like traditional canvases.
Each piece showcased his signature colorful geometric shapes and writing.
His unique style and personality garnered clients’ attention, and he expanded to other mediums, including shoes, backpacks, and cars.
He has created a number of murals throughout Spartanburg and Charlotte. Some of his most notable projects have been with brands such as NASCAR and Mercedes-Benz, networks like HBO and NBA TV, and a number of celebrities.
In a Q&A with QCity Metro, Zombie talked about the show, his journey into the art industry and why he has decided to call Charlotte home.
Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
When did the opportunity arise to be a part of “Artfully Designed?”
It all happened ironically. A photographer contacted me, saying she wanted to take a picture of a local artist with their work. I didn’t want to take a picture beside a regular canvas, so I painted an entire piano instead. The photographer and I contacted Natalie, a local interior designer, to take the photo with the piano inside her home.
Natalie loved my piano, and I loved her interior design. She actually ended up buying the piano, and we became good friends. A couple of months later, she reached out to me about pitching this show idea to this television company and asked me if I’d interview for it. There, I met our other cast member Rachel, and we all clicked so well. A few months later, they contacted us to do the show.
Are you all freestyling the design to surprise the client, or do they give you suggestions of what they want?
The clients pour out their emotions and tell us their interests. We just go through that gumbo pot [of ideas] and start digging into what makes sense as a collective to display in the design.
What do you hope viewers take away from the show?
I hope people take away that it’s ok to be vulnerable. Connection is another big takeaway. The trade-off between each family is they get to know who I really am before I start painting anything, and I get to know who they are. Even when the project is done, every time you walk into that part of the house, it reminds you of a certain memory you had with me, Rachel and Natalie.
You’ve been a full-time artist for a few years now. What were some of the challenges you faced finding your footing in the industry?
I’ve realized a lot of things early in my career. You’ll deal with egos. You’ll deal with jealousy and crab mentality. You’ll deal with galleries and curators, thinking they know what’s best for your life.
I’ve dealt with racism. There were times when people were ready to sign on a dotted line until they saw what I looked like. I’ve been around manipulative energy, dealing with people that felt entitled to me and the moves I made.
I’m grateful for all of it because they all fuel me.
What was your favorite project and why?
I have to say my experience working with Team Live Fast in NASCAR. I’ve watched NASCAR since I was a kid, and to walk onto that track and see the car I created, I was instantly emotional.
NASCAR is also a predominantly white sport and, in the past, has been known for being segregated and racist. My friend told me that I was the first Black artist to design a car for NASCAR.
To this day, I have people reach out to me about how that inspired them.
Many successful artists move to New York or similar cities, and you have decided to stay in Charlotte. Why?
Charlotte has always been supportive of me. People never gave me the cold shoulder. Whenever I tried to dive into what was happening in the city, I was always welcomed with open arms. This is one of the first big cities that really showed me love.
You did your first solo exhibit show, “2’s Of A Woman,” on Jan. 28. You’ve been on the art scene for a while. Why did you finally decide to do it this year?
I felt it was the right time because God told me it was the right time. I’ve been a full-time artist for quite some time now, but I never wanted to feel like I was rushing anything when I started my career. I had to take my time and follow God and what God has planned for me.
There was a moment when I felt like art was becoming work. Spiritually and emotionally, I was ready to tap into something else I’d never shown the world. It’s been an idea I had in my mind and spirit, and heart for the last 10 years.
I read that the exhibition represents balance, paying homage to the women in your life who have influenced you to become who you are today. Tell me about those relationships and how important it was for you to do that.
I am nothing with the women in my life. Physically, if it were not for my mom, I would not be here on this earth. If not for my grandmothers nurturing me as a child, along with my aunties, and bigger cousins, I would not be the man I am today. Women have helped me a lot throughout my career
First, my show was supposed to be nine men and nine women, but God, in my spirit, just kept saying, this is the moment of self-reflection.
There are so many different ways I can respect and be thankful for what a woman has brought to my life.
Do you have any upcoming projects we should look out for?
I’m getting ready for the Dreamville Festival this weekend. I’m continuing to work with NASCAR and a few sports teams.
We also got approved for season 2 of Artfully Designed, so we should be filming that pretty soon.