Wearing the Hat with Creator Courtney Collins

by Bella Taylor February 07, 2024 12 min read

“Wearing the Hat” is a series where staff writer Bella Taylor showcases the incredible people in the Isla Vista community and all the “hats” they choose to wear as they bring their passions to life. 

Courtney Collins ( @_untamedyouth_ on Instagram) is a 21-year-old UCSB Senior from Agoura Hills, California. She’s the founder and creator of “Untamed Youth,” a digital platform that strives to showcase passionate people through letter-writing and photographs. Collins’s ability to seek out what’s special and noteworthy about others is what sets her brand apart and truly makes her vision deserving of recognition.

Courtney wearing the Isla Vista Agave Cap.

The inspiration I felt from Courtney after first meeting her at a classic UCSB backyard band show influenced my own aspirations and is what led me to interview her today. Whether it was the retro 70’s inspired posters or Courtney’s motivating advice to “turn comparison into inspiration,” Untamed Youth has captivated me and many others within our shared community. My conversation with Courtney shows exactly why, but not without a little touch on Freebird’s and Dev’s first: 

What is your go-to Freebird’s order? 

CC: Normally I’d say the classic nachos but the other day I got a stuffed quesadilla. You have to get it with the shredded beef and you have to get the guacamole. Burritos are fire too, though. 

What is your favorite spot in Isla Vista? 

CC: I honestly love the bench at Dev’s. I love just sitting, watching, bringing my cup of coffee and a book, love that. I also love my garage and my house in IV. 

What is one item on your bucket list? 

CC: I think one item would be to go to Morocco one day. Hopefully that’s in my near future. 

Do you have a favorite music artist? 

CC: Dope Lemon, oh my gosh, love him. He is epic, he’s the coolest. I saw him not too long ago, my favorite concert ever. 

What is something you truly value about yourself? 

CC: I value that I get to see the spark in other people and hear their stories and, I don’t know, that fuels me. 

What do you do for a creative outlet?

CC: I guess my creative outlet is teaching yoga. I get to be super creative in my sequence and my flow. I grew up as a dancer so sometimes I’ll get in the studio and dance or just dance in my garage. So yeah, I would say yoga and dance. 

Is there a day or moment in your life you’d like to relive? 

CC: There was this trip that I went on in Mexico called Scorpion Bay and I went with my whole family. It was my dad, my sister, my brother, the whole fam. It was just so much fun. It was one full day from the second we woke up all the way to sunset and it was just us. We had our car and we surfed all day. We took our car on an off-roading trip and we were trading off taking videos of each other and it was just so awesome. I would love to relive that day. 

Collins gives credit to her surf-instructor father for growing up as a surfer along with the rest of her family. She shares that surfing is a big hobby of hers, as well as yoga, dance, and horseback riding. She notes that these hobbies “ground [her]” and “bring [her] back to who [she is] and what [she] loves and started doing as a kid.” She comments that they all give her “a sense of gratitude” and remind her that she “loves the life [she] lives” and “loves being able to share it with other people around [her].” 

Courtney’s passions certainly radiate through her website and her way of life. She explains more about her ultimate passion project in my interview with her below: 

How would you describe Untamed Youth? 

CC: I call it my digital journalism platform where I have people write letters for what they’re passionate about. I reach out to people who I either see they have a huge passion for, and it could be for anything, I don’t have a scope of what I want it to be. It can be sports, art, fashion, anything. Basically, everyone just kind of has their story to tell and I think it’s so empowering to listen to people your own age and get a feel for what they’re going for to help give you ideas of what you could go for with your own dreams. 

What is the inspiration behind the name? 

Cc: So “Untamed Youth,” super crazy, I guess I had it locked in my head. When I made it, I loved “youth.” I wanted to use that word and I was like, “Untamed Youth, that works.” I think it was a couple weeks after I made my website, I was going through my camera roll to find photos, and freshman or sophomore year of high school, I made a collage and it had said “untamed youth” in it and I freaked out. I guess I just kept that in my brain for so long and I love it. It felt meant to be. 

You also make custom merch for Untamed Youth. What is the process behind that and do you find it difficult to keep up with clothing, posters, and social media content on top of your actual website? 

CC: This was so fun. I bought a kit from an art store at home and I was like, “I can do this, I don’t need the fancy light, I’ll just sit with the light I do have for as many hours as it’ll take for this to burn on a screen. It never burned, and I was like, “Dang it.” And so I was like, “Well, I’d probably spend the same amount as I would if I had someone make the screen for me.” So I had this person in Thousand Oaks make this screen for me with the Untamed Youth that is my own font I made in my graphic design class. So they made this personalized screen for me and I get T-shirts either from Michael’s or from thrift stores. I found these sick pants from the bins and I just threw the Untamed Youth on there for my friends when they put in custom orders. I have this make-shift piece of wood that I put in between the t-shirts and I put the screen down and I layer this paint that came with the kit and just squeegee it on and let it dry for 30 minutes outside and run it through the dryer and then it’s all done. 

She continues on about balancing her schedule: 

“The posters were pretty cool because that was when I was taking my graphic design classes so it was a project of mine so it didn’t really feel like work because it just so happened to align with Untamed Youth. Making the t-shirts and merch are what I don’t do the most; it’s more for, like, a random Sunday if I have the time. It kind of all balances each other out. In a month, I’ll have one day where I reach out to people to write letters, one day I’ll make merch, and then one day I’ll go on Photoshop and try to figure out posters.” 

Can you expand on the beginning stages of Untamed Youth?

CC: I started it my junior year of college, about a year ago, and I think it was in January. I got Square Space, I got it for the whole year I think. I was putting in the work so I was like, “Let’s just start it.” And so then, I decided I didn’t want to do any set formats they had, I wanted to start from fresh. I made the site in a day and it’s definitely way different than what it is now. I had a long scrolling page and at that point, I only had a portion of the letters. My first letter was this girl who was also a big inspiration in helping me start this because she basically sparked my passion in this. Her name is Maddie Malmsten and I met her when I was first working in this shop in downtown Channel Islands. She was my first letter and it was super special having her be my first letter. Ever since then, I’ve just been adding more letters and it’s really taken off. 

Do you think the past year with Untamed Youth has gone by fast?

CC: Yes and No. Once I started, it was kind of going really fast because I was putting everything in it and was always changing it so it was always fun to see where it would take me. But once I got in the groove of what I wanted to do with it, I started to slow it down. But this summer, it got a lot of traction which is super awesome because summer is also easier for people to go and write a letter so I felt like that was super fun. 

As mentioned before, letter-writing is the biggest aspect of Untamed Youth that Collins has made space for on her website. In these letters, Courtney’s zealous peers write about their callings and Untamed Youth gifts them to us to learn from and read about. 

What is something that you’ve read in another person’s letter that really inspired you? 

CC: In Lane Young’s letter, he said “It won’t happen overnight, but if you quit, it won’t happen at all.”I read that today when I released his letter and I was like, “You’re so right.” You just have to put one foot in front of the other and see where it all goes. 

Other people write for your page. Are you a big writer yourself?

CC: So funny, in elementary school, I thought I was a terrible writer. I would go on long tangents where I would write too many pages or I wouldn’t ever actually get the prompt. I was always bad at reading comprehension so I didn’t think it was my thing. I got to college and I started writing and taking classes and doing creative writing on my own and I was like, “Wow, I really like this, why did I think I was bad at this?” That’s when I started journaling. I love the creative, descriptive types of writing so I took some classes and I loved it. I was really impressed with myself when I wrote my own letter for Untamed Youth and I thought that I could do something with it so I’ll write the captions to my Instagram posts for UY. Right now, I’m in the writing minor and I’m doing the editing track. I had 3 tracks that I could choose from. I picked multimedia writing, business, and journalism and I didn’t get any of them. I totally thought I would get multimedia so I was just dumbfounded. I thought to myself that I wasn’t going to do this and then the editing professor reached out to me and said he would actually love for me to be in the editing track even though it wasn’t my top pick. It actually works perfectly with Untamed Youth because I’m editing all the letters so I’m finding my niche, for sure. 

Something you stated in your own letter was “We have three types of stories we tell: external, internal, and core stories.” Where did you learn about this and could you explain more about it? 

CC: Shout out to Shaune Lundstrom, she’s my roommate and best friend. We are both in the Comm major together. I forget the Comm class she was in at the time but we were on a walk together at Dev’s and she was just telling me about what she learned. She said she had learned about this and suggested it would be great for Untamed Youth. We both stopped and I was like, “This is awesome, I can’t believe I haven’t learned about this yet, this is so cool.” It just hit so close to home because it’s kind of what the whole point of Untamed Youth is because I was always going on Instagram and thinking to myself that this doesn’t feel like a real story, like, I want to hear someone’s voice. So then, that’s where it all came from and it inspired me so much to write about it in my letter. 

I ask Courtney if she has decided what her 3 stories are: 

“My internal story is what I tell myself. Sometimes, I honestly have the self-doubt where I’m like, “Oh my gosh, is this something that I can do?” But I know, in my heart, it’s something that I really want to do so I battle that. Also, with my internal story, I’m definitely more of an introvert and I like to listen to people. With my external story, I’m definitely more like the bubbly go-getter and I love going out and doing things. I think that is my story, that I get to jump around and be open like that. My core story, I definitely have a huge heart and I just want to hear other people’s stories because we all have a story to tell.”

Did you ever feel insecure or nervous when you first started to publicize your digital journal on social media? Were you scared of what people would think or if they didn't like what you were putting out into the world? CC: I think honestly, at first, also thanks to Maddie, we both were on our journey of figuring out how we wanted to be creative on Instagram and I was so inspired and excited about it so I wasn’t really scared to release it because I thought it was so cool and I couldn’t wait to share it. But definitely once I started to revamp my site, I was like, “Okay, we could’ve done a little bit better with the site in the beginning.” But with what it is now, I love it so much, I think I was just too excited to stress about it and I just wanted to share it as fast as I could. 

Is Untamed Youth long term for you? Do you see yourself stopping the letters any time soon? 

CC: I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. I would love to create this into something even bigger, that’s definitely one of my goals with Untamed Youth. I always thought creating events would be really cool or having creative spaces was on my big 5 year plan with Untamed Youth. It would be so sick to have either a place, like, a garage that I could rent out and have people come to do their creative passions like sewing, art, photography, anything. Just a place where everyone can kind of vibe off of each other and inspire others and help out with their own individual projects. I just want to bring the community in person. 

Garages seem to be a popular space for business owners in IV (*cough cough,* Garrett Gerstenberger & IVO). 

What would you like to do career wise? 

CC: Right now, I am also doing junior event planning and I love it. It’s really creative and again, a place where I can bring a community of people together. I would love to do something with event planning/Untamed Youth. Anywhere that I can be a creative director, I guess. 

Collins finds herself staying in the Santa Barbara area after she graduates from UCSB. Looking towards the future, she can’t wait to own a Golden retriever oneday and her very own house. She expresses,

“As much as I’m sad to leave here, the next chapter is living in SB. And I definitely want to finesse having my own boat some day, just living my life in Santa Barbara,”

she jokes. As hard as it is to leave a place we love so much, Courtney reflects on how much she has learned from this beautiful place we call home. 

“Isla Vista has definitely taught me that community counts. The community you have around yourself is the one that is going to grow you, the one you have to rely on at some times. The first couple of years, I didn’t have anyone from high school here, it was all the people I met through my house and to this day I still have a lot of them in my life and I’ve just gotten lucky with the girls I’ve been living with the past couple of years. They’re honestly my rock and best friends. I also got super lucky with all of my high school friends who came up last year and this year. I never want to leave, it’s great having all of my best friends live all within a mile of each other.” 

What’s been your favorite piece of advice that someone has given you?

CC: My best friend, Sophie, her mom says this, and it’s been a common theme recently where the fear of the unknown is way bigger than the fear of the action itself. All the things that we work up in our head about what we want to do is way bigger than when you're actually in the moment and who knows, it might not even be a fear when you’re in the moment. So the fear of the unknown, you can work it up as bigger than the fear itself. 

Courtney’s own piece of advice comes straight from her heart and pierces right into ours: 

“Just keep doing your passions. Whatever it is, as small, as big as it is, your passions are what grounds you and what keeps you who you are so just keep doing that even when it’s hard. Just a little sense of familiarity that sparks something in your heart, keep doing it. It’ll all find you in your own path.” 

Courtney Collins is victorious in her intentions with Untamed Youth as she sincerely speaks for the people by creating a corner for everyone to stand in. Her talent for highlighting other people’s passions and purposes accurately reflect who she is and exactly what Untamed Youth is for. She encourages those to surf the wave, ride the horse, do the dance, and write the letter. And send it to her after, preferably. Thank you, Courtney.

Bella Taylor
Bella Taylor

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