Art

Kanye-Inspired Brain-Tumor Survivor Katiana Elena Made a Film About Yeezy

Tonight at Space Mountain, you too will be able to pose for pictures with Kanye — sort of.
Tonight at Space Mountain, you too will be able to pose for pictures with Kanye — sort of. Gmartnx
In 2015, Katiana Elena was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The 16-hour surgery that removed the mass left her legally blind and lying in a hospital bed, barely able to walk and struggling to hold onto hope. But as she battled through her recovery, she found what some might call an unlikely source for that hope: Kanye West.

Elena says West's music, bravado, and creativity played a major role in her motivation to heal. Two years ago, she spoke to New Times about her experience and how it had led her to buy a VIP ticket to see West at the American Airlines Arena during his Saint Pablo Tour. Elena's goal: Meet her hero.

Fast-forward to 2018. Elena has regained the ability to walk, earned a fellowship with the Borscht Corporation, and graduated from Miami Dade College with a degree in film and TV. Unfortunately, though, she never met Kanye.

But not getting the chance to snap a perfect picture with her idol hasn't made Elena any less of a fan of the artist who's both renowned and reviled the world over. Now she's showing her love for him through a short film — Kanye Room — which premiers tonight at Space Mountain.


"My main goal is not to meet Kanye anymore. I know it's gonna happen, definitely. I'm certain, and I know nothing is impossible, but that isn't my main goal," Elena says. "Being a filmmaker, that is my goal, that's what I'm in for."

Kanye Room combines those two passions. The 3 minute 20 second film will play on loop for four hours, though only one of those iterations will include sound. Elena's intention with the short was to portray the global superstar in a more flattering light than the one in which he's often cast. 

"I have many cool clips, clips that show a different side of Kanye, what people have forgotten [about] who Kanye is," Elena explains. "It's definitely a positive viewpoint on Kanye... I feel like there's a lot of negativity out there about Kanye, and that stops people from seeing the good side of Kanye."

The evening will be about more than just the short film — it's a whole experience. Elena has made sure to curate all the details of the premiere to produce an atmosphere befitting the subject of her film.

"I wanted to create something that would complement my short film. I wanted it to also connect to Kanye's personality, his taste, and his originality," she says.

The decor will be minimalist and mostly white and silver — West's favorite colors, according to Elena. The room will be filled with white balloons, and the music will be happy and upbeat, because this will be a celebration of Yeezy.

There will also be cardboard cutouts of the man himself so attendees can pose for selfies with West, if only in facsimile. It's a nod to Mrs. West.

"Kim Kardashian, of course, loves taking selfies, and I love to take selfies, so that's very personal," Elena says. "I love to make things interactive."

Another focal point of the premiere will be a light installation designed to show Elena's adoration for Kimye. Twenty candles will be arranged in the shape of a heart on the floor, and in the center of the heart will stand a pair of devotional candles. But rather than depict saints, these candles will bear the likenesses of Kim and Kanye.

West is the person who inspired Elena when she most needed inspiration. That fact makes him more than a part of her work, she says — it makes him a part of who she is. 

"I feel like Kanye and me are, like, connected in a way," Elena says. "That's something that you throw up to the universe. You love something and you're passionate and it's something that you involve in your life."

Kanye Room. 8 p.m. Friday, March 23, at Space Mountain, 738 NW 62nd St., Miami; spacemountainmia.org; Admission is free. For more info, visit facebook.com.
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Travis Cohen is a writer for Miami New Times and covers subjects ranging from arts and architecture to marijuana and monkeys with herpes. He graduated with honors from Vanderbilt University with a bachelor's degree in English in 2012 and began working with New Times shortly thereafter. He was born and raised in Miami.