Natasha Tsuji camped out for the Red Nike Foamposites. She camped out through the rain for the What The Kobes. She camped out for shoes she didn’t get, for shoes for someone else. She camped out with Facebook followers. She camped out over and over again, and eventually, her mother had enough.
So when the holiday season came around in 2011 and the daughter got ready to head to the mall to camp out for the Air Jordan 11 Concords, the mother stopped her. What are you doing? Where are you going? Why do you go to the mall so late? Some parents might’ve freaked out, nervous about what exactly their child was getting into. Instead, Tasha’s mother asked to go. Together, they arrived at the mall in the early morning. Together they went to two different stores. And together they got into fights and arguments when others tried to steal their spots in line.
“My mom finally understood what I do,” Tasha says. “It was a bonding moment.
“Even though I’m a grown adult, she always thinks I’m her little girl.”
Find another sneakerhead that’s camped out with their mother. I dare you. The thing is, Tasha — aka @lovetasha — isn’t like most sneakerheads. She’s a female. She’s from Pearl City, Hawaii, on the island of Oʻahu. And she’s a tomboy.
Growing up, it wasn’t Michael Jordan that got her into sneakers. Or Penny Hardaway. Or Charles Barkley. It was TLC and Aaliyah and her white/gray Air More Uptempos. In kindergarten, during story time, Tasha still remembers a classmate making fun of her for wearing boy shoes. It hurt at first, but eventually Tasha realized that, hey, the dude was probably right.
“It’s been a long struggle up until the last couple of years where my boys shoes are now cool,” she says. “They are girls shoes too. All of these celebrities rock my boys basketball shoes now too.”
But even for a sneakerhead, growing up in Hawaii was tough. There weren’t as many options, only a few stores, and on release days everything was unpredictable. Because of overseas shipping, release days fluctuate. Sizes change. No one is ever sure just how many pairs they’ll actually get. On the night she camped out for the Red Foams, Tasha wasn’t told by security until 7 a.m. that the stores weren’t getting the shoes. During the campout for the What The Kobes, sneakerheads tried to save their spots in line with chairs.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that happen, people parking their chairs,” Tasha says. “That was surprising to me. I thought we were all in this together.”
She still left a big imprint. When Tasha moved to Las Vegas a year and a half ago, the Hawaiian Facebook group she started for female sneakerheads was thriving at nearly 8,000 strong. In Vegas, she started a similar group. It now features 13,000 members.
Once settled in Vegas, Tasha started going to more sneaker conventions, meeting up with Instagram friends like @TheInfader. She started finding more and more people just like her, comic book nerds “except with sneakers.”
Her collection now features gems like the Yeezy 2, the Tiffany Low, and stacks of Air Jordans. (She wears sizes 5.5/6.5-7.) One hundred deep, with a storage unit back home in Hawaii. Even her parents stumble upon old sneakers of hers at home, and Tasha has so many she forgets about them. One time her mother discovered the Space Jam SBs at her house, after Tasha had forgotten they were even there. By the time Tasha actually had a chance to wear them, the shoes were already yellowing.
Tasha plans on teaching the young generation about the sneaker culture hustle, but that doesn’t mean she’s hanging them up to take on a new role quite yet. In the past, she was all over eBay, looking for grails. Now?
“I don’t want to be looking for something because if I find it it’s going to be $500,” she says. “I wait for stuff to come my way.”
Tasha still wants to get the Red Octobers and the Aunt Pearl KDs and all of the SBs that she doesn’t have anymore, all of the sneakers that she had during her senior year of high school and freshman year of college. They remind her of better times, childhood, playgrounds, elementary schools … the good ol’ days.
“I want,” she says, “to have more stuff that reminds me of the past.”
Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney