Dolly Bills’ art has earned recognition from rap stars like Future, Trippie Redd, Roddy Ricch, and DaBaby. We spoke with the artist about her work, growing profile, and more.
Last year, at the Unruly Citizens festival in Frisco, Texas, multimedia artist Sadef Jaura snuck in a locker room at The Star and waited for four hours to meet Future. With her was a 36×48 portrait of the Atlanta rapper in Balenciaga glasses with Chanel and Supreme logos dripping in the neon background. Jaura had an art exhibition the same night but had a friend pretend to be her — an easy task because of her face mask and hijab. The attire helps Jaura, who goes by the moniker Dolly Bills, shield her identity online.
Future didn’t appear in the locker room, and, eventually, the police escorted her outside. There, she ran into the rapper in the parking lot. She was able to hand him the painting, which he later posted on his Instagram Stories. This wasn’t the first time Jaura went to great lengths to meet a rap icon. Earlier that year, she attended JMBLYA 2019 in Dallas, where she got to meet Gunna. After she snuck backstage, he posted the art on his Instagram and gave her a pep talk.
Who would have guess that, in a couple of months, tour promoters would start regularly inviting her backstage so artists could marvel at her work?
At 22-years-old, Dolly Bills’ art has earned recognition from rap stars like Future, Trippie Redd, and DaBaby. She fuses cartoon-like portraits and designer labels like Gucci and Louis Vuitton with precision, and remarkable combinations on shoes. Like paisley printed Nike Air Force Ones. Or, a painted canvas of Richie Rich, Mr. Monopoly, and Donald Duck hanging out in Texas. Often, her final touch of resin with glitter to coat paintings goes viral on TikTok. She tells me it’s tricky to perfect the process, though she makes it look easy.
@dollybillsResin application 😁 ##dollybills ##resin ##epoxyresin ##resinart ##tiktokartis ##artistsoftiktok♬ Sparkle (feat. Young Dolph) – Lovele$$
At the beginning of her three-year career, Jaura started to wear a face mask on social media. It became a recognized brand, so she began to wear it full-time; she tells me people don’t approach her if she’s not wearing it. The artist started to sell these masks from bedazzled ones to Louis Vuitton masks made with real fabric. It’s a play at disrupting designer labels and imprinting a Dolly Bills brand. Jaura hopes to collaborate with streetwear brands like The Hundreds and Diamond Supply. For now, she says she’s happy with establishing herself and letting experience shape her work.
I recently spoke with Dolly Bills to learn more about her process, her collaborations, and how she hopes to grow her business.
How did you start, and how did your career progress?
I planned on going to dental school after completing my bachelor’s degree, but I realized the medical field was not for me. Ever since I was a kid, I would draw. A few years ago, I started off painting for fun, and my friends started to buy things from me. From there, my work became customer-based and experiential. I feel like I branded myself this past year…I started to keep paintings signed by rappers like DaBaby and Roddy Ricch.
I think music, art, and streetwear complement each other — like, how Drake mentions Takashi Murakami in his music. I draw inspiration from many pop culture icons such as Pharell, Murakami, Kaws, Kanye [West], and NIGO.
So, you have a habit of meeting the rappers you paint. Can you speak more about those experiences?
Meeting Gunna was a cool experience, and he set the bar high for all the people who came afterward. He gave me some good advice and told me to always keep going. Meeting Future was cool too, but I wasn’t able to talk to him too much. I met DaBaby twice — once at Jmblya and once when he was on tour in December. I got a painting signed by him and Stunna. When I met Shawn Cotton, he had already heard of me before, but I gave him a cotton candy-colored painting because of his cars. It was dope because I met him before I started taking off, but at the time, it was like a sign that I was moving in the right direction.
As a South-Asian myself, I know how difficult it can be to venture towards an artistic career. Are there any obstacles you face from the community?
When I first started, I wasn’t receiving the support I wanted from the Muslim community. But, it got to a point where I was like, OK, I’m just going to continue to do me and if they agree with it cool. if not, that’s cool too. But once my work began to expand, I came across a lot of supportive Muslims, and that made me feel a lot better. To a lot of people, that support wouldn’t matter, but as a hijabi, I felt like I needed it because it gave me a sense of belonging. I come from two worlds on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, and my artwork is how I make sense of it all.
Tell me about the process of extending your artistic talent to clothing.
I started painting canvases, then shoes, and then I started making masks. All of these happened back to back, so I started painting, and a few weeks in I started doing the shoes. Once I saw that more people were beginning to pay attention to my work, I began to wear the face mask and even sell them at art shows. In terms of aesthetics, it just depends on if I want bright colors or something else. I post progress photos, but the final product always ends up changing.
How has coronavirus affected your business?
It helped me in terms of face masks that are my best-seller now. But as an artist, it’s a lot easier to make some face masks real quick in comparison to a painting or shoes. Those things take a lot more time to make, so the face masks help keep me afloat.
Can you talk about an instance where someone was unprofessional or took advantage of your talent?
At a Money Man concert, I had a promoter tell me he’d personally make sure I got to Money Man. This was big because a lot of the time, I [had] to sneak my way around things to get to the artist. In the end, he left my painting at the venue and somebody else had it. I tweeted for people to hit me up if they saw somebody trying to sell, but he messaged me and said he knew who had it. Even now, he claims he went and got it, but I don’t know how true that is. It stinks when situations like this take place because I went to the concert as a fan, but the personal situation makes it to where I don’t want to listen to their music or associate with them anymore.
Despite obstacles, where do you see your future plans, and what has been your proudest moment?
I want to drop a jewelry line called “Dolly’s Diamonds,” and I would like to do more clothing like graphic tees. Paintings take a lot of time, and they cost a lot more, so I want to be able to give people a Dolly original but at a more affordable price.
My proudest moment, I think would have to be a tie between meeting Gunna or Roddy Ricch. I had a little bit of time to talk to both of them, and it’s amazing to hear encouraging and loving words from the icons you look up to.
Amina Khan is a freelance writer and painter based in Dallas, TX.