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Letter from the editor
ne of the most magical things about being a creative is being able to see ideas begin to form and take shape. From something that was imagined to something that is now tangible and real.
It has truly been a pleasure and an honor to run Xpress Magazine this semester and take it in so many different directions. This magazine that you are reading right now is a combination of four different issues that we produced during the semester, selections of some of the stories that were told by our amazing staff. To read the full four issues please go to www.xpressmagazine.org. I want to say thank you to the amazing staff that we had this semester, we got off to a really crazy start but y’all were patient and eager and that made everything worth it. Thank you for trying to figure what my vision was and doing an amazing job at executing it. To my editor team who has truly become more than just a team but also a great group of friends, thank you. Y’all stayed up late and gave these stories your all and I can’t even begin to tell you how much that means to me. Thank you Joanne Dietz Derbort and Josh Davis our wonderful and amazing advisors, thank you for your guidance and your expertise, thank you for grounding us and inspiring us constantly. Last but not least thank you Malakai Wade for all your help designing and helping me naviagate this world of being EIC. ”Go forth and be brilliant y’all” -Maddison Rose October Editor in Chief of Xpress Magazine Spring 2021
CONTRIBUTORS EDITORS: Kristen Luna Emily Curiel Sydney Welch Christian Cabang Diani Ellis
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WRITERS: Tèo Mata Justin Garcia KK Interchuck Kenzie Aellig Fernando G. Pacheco Lyn Brook
PHOTOGRAPHERS: Cameron Lee Amalia Diaz Ricardo Olivares Katherine Burgos Ellie Doyen Leila Figueroa Lucky Whitburn-Thomas Avery Wilcox
FASHION pages 1- 26
NATURE AND TRAVEL pages 29- 50
pages 73-94 XPRESS MAGAZINE 3
Photographed by: Ricardo Olivares
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VENENOSA ROPA WITHOUT THE POISON BY: FERNANDO G. PACHECO
DEPOP: HANDING THE FASHION REINS TO GEN Z BY: KENZIE AELLIG
THE CYCLICAL NATURE OF COTTAGECORE BY: KK INTERCHUCK
WHAT DOES GENDER GOT TO DO WITH IT? BY: DIANI ELLIS
VTUBER UPRISING: VIRTUAL UPRISING
BY: LYN BROOK
XPRESS MAGAZINE 2
At the intersection of environmental awareness, spunk queerness, and polished streetwear, sits the creation of Julio Cesar Tello, 24-year old man and founder of Venenosa Ropa.
1 SPRING 20201
POISON Written and photographed by: Fernando G. Pacheco
After looking at the ecological impact of fashion, Julio Cesar Tello spends his time refurbishing found thrifted garments and gives them a new liberated life. Consignment stores collect garments that have remained intact after surviving their first owner. Thrift stores are full of plain dress shirts that have been exiled after accumulating sparkled bleach stains. Ripened denim, once-stonewashed sit at vintage shops while they simmer down into a soft pale complexion. Leather replicas sit in flea markets selling the story of past trendy purses. Before being donated, the garment had a story. Perhaps there were stains, or tears became holes, heat deterioration, but at the moment each garment is picked to be a part of Venenosa Ropa, an online-clothing store selling refurbished garments for all genders, the garment’s leave behind their early life and in exchange, join a collection of garments who’ve all been given a new vision. At the intersection of environmental awareness, spunk queerness, and polished streetwear, sits the
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creation of Julio Cesar Tello, 24-year old man and founder of Venenosa Ropa. Through each collection, a story gets told. The dress shirt collection of ‘Your Dad’s Nudes,’ is about sleeping with that hot dad and keeping his work shirt as a souvenir. ‘Bottoms are superior’ is a denim jeans collection that speaks to the reference of people who are on the receiving end of sexual intercourse.
he wouldn’t be able to pay a university tuition. Instead, Tello began working in vintage shops throughout San Diego to keep his social security running until he became unemployed in August 2020. According to the Congressional Research Service, the unemployment rate in the U.S. peaked during April 2020 to 14.8%, the highest since 1948.
Values and fabric are held together through patches, sewing, chains and safety pins, all strategically placed and secure to elevate the everyday strut. Confidence purchased through Venenosa Ropa, harnessed by Tello.
In May 2020, sewing machines were in high demand as a surge in fabric masks increased, which led Tello to purchase a sewing machine from OfferUp. After letting the machine sit for a month, Google and YouTube became a useful resource that he used to work on garments in the early mornings and the late afternoons.
Tello fell in love with clothes as an adolescent when graphic shirts felt like a form of inner self-expression. Clothes proved to be an antidote for body weight concerns. After coming to terms with his body, sexuality, and curiosity; Tello’s confidence began to build.
Venenosa Ropa’s oversized looks stem from contemporary streetwear: shoulder bags, re-structured jeans, safety-pinned shirts. Tello finds his materials at Goodwill, Salvation Army, and swap meets; items with superficial imperfections that he reworks into polished-queer punk apparel.
Soon enough Tello realized he wanted a career in fashion but when he came into adulthood, he felt
In October 2020, Venenosa Ropa presented their first collection titled ‘Your Dad’s Nudes,’
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button down shirts that use safety pins to hold connected sleeves and bottom parts of the shirt. Venenosa Ropa is a “one man show” with Tello creating a concept, gathering materials, creating the garment, handling the photographs, captioning the photos, publishing online content, packaging and shipping all purchases. He feels successful not for what he sells but for doing the damn thing, or simply, being committed to his passion.
Is the name, Venenosa Ropa, a depiction of the story you’re telling? Or does it differentiate from wanting to give garments a new life?
“The name Venenosa Ropa is in Spanish, my first language and it translates to ‘poisonous clothes’ in English. When I was thinking of the name for it, I was really stuck on what I wanted because I knew that this was going to be a part of my life for, I hope many, many years to come. When I was thinking about the fashion industry and clothing, I felt like a lot of people have this
perception which is really true. I mean, the fashion industry production, mass production causes such a poison to the earth through pollution. That’s why I kind of wanted to adjust the definition of the clothes that I’m doing. In a way it’s not necessarily poisonous anymore because it’s all secondhand and it’s not like I’m mass producing the items myself. Then I guess it becomes more of a play on what I’m doing. It’s already out in the world, at one point it was poisonous which now isn’t, then it starts to go hand in hand with the name, but it’s not meant too literal.”
Q: Where does most of your inspiration come from?
“I always really loved [the clothing brand] Vetements, and how they take everyday pieces like jeans, sweaters and hoodies, and make them so different. That’s where I saw you can take jeans and make it really high fashion. I also really look up to Fecal Matter on Instagram @fecalmatterworld. They take everyday items that they make so-so-so-so cool, and personal to who they are. They make items that once you see them, you’re
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like, ‘that’s Fecal Matter,’ something that I hope I can continue to create with my brand. Those brands have paved the way and really made their own lane in the fashion industry.”
Q: Where does your confidence come from?
“When I first discovered Tom of Finland [pseudonym for Touko Valio Laaksonen who became popular for creating a hyper-masculine homoerotic aesthetic] I felt such a strong connection as if in my past life I was one of Tom’s men. I still do to this day. I started to do research on it, watched the film, the whole thing, and saw how he took day to day professions like a cop, a sailor, a mechanic and made them sexy and showed there’s people in these professions lived these kinds of, you know, secrets. Tom of Finland publishing that work for the world was amazing. The men were drawn exuding so much confidence, like I’m with the cop and, yeah, I’m a cop too showing that they didn’t care, I just felt like I wanted to reflect that. I remember I even had a phase where I was only wearing denim jeans and a white tank top, and the leather jackets, because I just wanted to be one of them exuding that confidence.”
What was a lesson you learned from working retail that you’ve incorporated into Venenosa Ropa?
“If there’s anything that I learned from retail that I still carry on till this day, [it] is visually having cohesive products, placements and having a story to tell. When I was doing visual merchandising, I would have to create stories out of clothing and create a vision out of T-shirts, shorts and jeans. I feel that’s something I did in a store and saw the presentation come together. I knew in the future I was going to be doing [that] with clothing as well. I was going to be taking that lesson with me - what I didn’t know at the time was where I was going to be taking it into, and what I was going to be focusing onto. But I just knew that when it came to clothes, telling a story. Like I knew that that’s what I was going to do. So, I think visual merchandising is definitely what helped me realize that, you know, it’s not just clothing, it’s stories that you can tell with clothing.”
Is there a targeted audience, or specific type of person that you’d like to see wearing your clothes?
“I want anyone and everyone to wear my clothes. I want someone who is looking for essential jeans that aren’t just a bootcut anymore. People that want a little rip and tear or fringe or fray. You know, someone who’s trying to explore with their fashion. I want that person, or you know, a queer gay boy that wants to buy his first bag but isn’t sure what kind of bag and doesn’t want to buy just a simple bag from Forever 21. This brand is for everyone. I feel if there’s anything to take from this brand [it] is confidence, feeling sexy, and you’re gonna feel that with these items that I sell. I just want everyone to feel great in what they’re wearing and why not feel great with something from Venenosa Ropa.”
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Q: What story is your refurbished-clothing telling?
A: “With my brand, the story that I hope that people take from it is that someone’s old trash is my new project and baby that I took in and nurtured, tweaked here and there, and gave a completely new life for someone else to a brand new and loving home. That’s the one thing that I hope that people take from my brand - that I genuinely am just taking accessories and clothing items that people no longer wanted. Since everything that I do is repurposed, re-worked and all secondhand. I hope that people just really see that with my brand is about how I just am giving unwanted goods a completely new life to be loved again.”
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7 SPRING 20201
HANDING THE FASHION REINS OVER TO GEN Z
D E P O P Written by: Kenzie Aellig
Photographed by: Katherine Burgos
Side-by-side, these three young girls could
be mistaken for the main characters of an early 2000s movie.
Their graphic T-shirts, low-rise jeans and glossy lips create an undeniable sense of deja-vu. They’re walking advertisements for their own line of business. Three 21-year-old women from San Diego have turned their affinity for nostalgic fashion into a collective of shops on Depop, a shopping app that’s at the forefront of the latest trends. They call their collective “sister shops” and show their support for one another by modeling clothes, shooting photos, and promoting each other’s individual shops. Located in Oceanside, CA, Donna Villarino, Maddie Lee and Clint Kardas met while working together at Urban Outfitters. The girls grew close as coworkers and quickly bonded over their love of Y2K aesthetics (think early Britney Spears, Paris Hilton). Their shared interest in fashion manifested in the form of frequent outings to thrift shops and ultimately, by June of 2020, the three girls moved in together and dedicated themselves to the world of Depop. Villarino appears casual, cool, collected in her colorful, graphic tee-vintage from 1998. Her
light brown hair is tied back loosely, except for two strands that perfectly frame her face. Villarino was the first of the three to enter the Depop world in 2018, as @vintagebrody. “I always really loved thrifting ever since I could drive myself to the thrift store,” Villarino recalls. “I would always find all this cool stuff but it wasn’t my size or it wasn’t really my style and it always felt like such a bummer.” Villarino’s shop consists of perfectly curated Y2K styles with a special focus on low-rise jeans from the era. She looks to ‘90s icons like Britney Spears and Jennifer Love Hewitt for “weird, funky styles” and “simple, sporty-girl vibes,” respectively. She also takes notes from social media’s “It Girl,” Devon Lee Carlson. Her shop name, Vintage Brody (@vintagebrody), is a reference to the nickname her uncle gave her as a child. “I like the name Brody because it reminds me of my younger self and what my family has always seen in me since I was a kid,” she explains. Villarino currently boasts 14 thousand followers on the shopping app but describes her success as gradual.
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“I remember hitting 1K and being like, so excited,” she says with a laugh. The past three years she’s gone from sporadically posting items from her own closet to intentionally buying items from thrift stores to resell on Depop. As of a year ago, she is the only one of the three girls who has been able to quit her job at Urban Outfitters and support herself solely through her Depop income. The other girls eventually joined Depop and began their own shops with Villarino’s guidance. Lee, known on Depop as 733 Vintage (@733vintage), was next to join the business. She contrasts Villarino’s colorful look with neutral shades of brown and black, complemented by her dark, shoulder-length hair. Her look is polished off by gold hoop earrings, glossy lips and the word “foxy” in silver glitter on her graphic tee is a true testament to her style. Lee expresses that 733 Vintage is named after her angel number.
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“The angel number 733 means you are supported and loved by the angels, and that prosperity and abundance is coming for you,” she explains. Lee started her shop at the beginning of 2020 after her thrifting addiction became “out of control.” Her inventory has evolved from closet overflow to unique thrifting finds. She wants to ensure that all people of all sizes can have access to the latest trends. “I’m a size large-XL,” she explains. “I feel like there’s not a lot of that represented on Depop as much.” Since the beginning of 2020, Lee has refined her shop’s style. “Obviously, with us being 21, we’re very inspired by that nostalgic kind of era of the late ‘90s, early 2000s.” Her shop consists of midi-length and maxi-length skirts, Y2K tops and all things “funky and weird.” She’s inspired by early 2000s movies and TV shows, young Gwen Stefani, influencer Devon Lee Carlson and singer Gabbriette of the band “Nasty Cherry.”
Lee currently has 4,300 thousand followers on Depop and can afford to cut back her hours at Urban Outfitters.
Kardas is drawn to Tokyo street style and finds inspiration from the ‘90s Japanese fashion magazine, “FRUiTS.”
“If I’m struggling with cash or anything, it’s just always there,” she says. “Depop is my main priority.”
“I feel like I don’t have a limit anymore,” Kardas says. “I’m definitely stepping out of the box.”
The newest member of the “sister shops” is Kardas, who joined Depop in September as Happy Berry Thrift (@happyberrythrift). Kardas is illuminated by the soft pastel palette of her wardrobe, accessorized to perfection with symmetrical hair clips, silver rings, and a pale yellow scrunchie. Kardas’ face, framed by her white-blonde hair, lights up at the very mention of fashion.
Since middle school, Kardas has been inspired by the Japanese anime and manga artist and writer Ai Yazawa.
“I only have one brain and it’s just fashion, clothes and shopping. That’s all I talk about,” she says with a laugh. “And boys.” Kardas has been collecting clothes for as long as she can remember. Her closet includes clothes from every decade, every era. She eventually felt the desire to share her collection with others and knew Depop was the most suitable platform for her cause. “I am a trans woman here in 2021, and a 21-year-old, living on their own,” Kardas says. “I feel like everyone deserves the right to wear cute clothes. No matter their race, gender or size.” Kardas describes her current style in self-defined terms and is “crazy” about bright colors and patterns, Japanese streetwear, and the balance between “cutesy” and grunge.
“The main character that she created resonates with me a lot,” Kardas explains. “I just love this kind of wild, not caring attitude.” Kardas’ shop name, “Happy Berry Thrift,” is a nod to Yazawa’s fictional brand, Happy Berry, from a 1995 manga. She currently has about 600 followers and has found a niche community with which to share her unique thrifting finds. “I do like to swap my closet a lot. So it’s like, once I’m kind of done with something I want someone else to love it and wear it.” Kardas describes the feeling of seeing someone wear an item she sold as “seeing your child perform for the first time and do really well…I just get this joy when people are wearing my clothes.” A typical work day for the girls, according to Kardas, can be summed up as “thrift, log, wash, shoot.” They begin their day by visiting various thrift shops all over the county, which usually takes up the entire day. After they get home they log their expenses and price the items, usually about 30% up from the original price. The more vintage an item is, the higher it’s priced.
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Pricing also depends on the rarity of the item and how much the seller personally likes it. “You don’t want to give it up,” Kardas explains. “You want it for yourself, but you also want someone else to wear it because you think they’d wear it more. It’s this whole cycle.” The clothes are then washed and modeled by the girls, who help each other shoot photos in a make-shift studio setup in their garage. Their quirky poses, styling, and accessories, result in photos that are reminiscent of a ‘90s Delia’s catalog. In regards to the question of ethics and the sustainability of thrifting, the girls feel justified in their choice of hobby. “It’s definitely better to thrift rather than buy fast fashion,” Kardas says, but adds that there’s no clear right or wrong on the topic. Working at Urban Outfitters has opened her eyes to the “skeleton” of fast fashion and increased her fondness for Depop. While many businesses suffered from the pandemic, the girls’ shops grew even faster. Stuck inside, people increased their online shopping habits. Villarino explains that they found themselves in a strange position with the higher demand. With everything closed, “we couldn’t thrift during the pandemic, so I really just started posting stuff I already had and then as soon as thrifts opened I racked up as much as I could.” The past year has brought a dramatic shift in the styles they search for in thrift stores. The widely-known social media app, TikTok, has created a turnover of trends that few can keep
up with. Items the girls previously sold at lower costs are now in high demand, as styles come and go on the whim of the app’s top influencers. “A lot of the trends aren’t from designers justdeciding what the trends are. It’s young people getting inspiration from like, ‘90s stuff,” Villarino explains. She attributes the rapid spread of trends to the increased speed of communication provided by social media. Lee agrees, adding that teenagers on the app “see things, then just make it the new normal, whereas when we were younger it was just very weird to be ‘indie’ or dress different.” Kardas views TikTok as an empowering platform that has improved people’s confidence and sense of community. She believes the app has created a “unique sense” of not caring what others think. “Everyone around the world can come together and be with the people that they want to be around and see what they want to see,” she says. “It’s just this amazing platform that empowers a lot of people.” Looking to the future, the girls are dreaming big. Villarino is currently signed to a modeling agency and hopes to further that aspect of her career. She sees herself always selling on Depop, but would love to expand into any other career involving fashion. Lee is studying communications at Cal State San Marcos and aspires to find a creative career in music management, at a magazine, or as a stylist. Kardas plans to continue selling on Depop as a hobby but hopes to use the app as a gateway to a modeling career and to her ultimate dream of becoming a “bedroom popstar.”
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THE CYCLICAL NATURE
PHOTOGRAPHED BY: EMILY CURIEL
13 SPRING 20201
OF COTTAGECORE XPRESS MAGAZINE 14
Written by: KK Interchuck
Sunlight dapples through dense foliage, casting an amber glow onto the wooded path below. The path, if followed, leads to a clearing where a small house sits, flanked by delicate flower beds on each side. An immaculately arranged picnic sits under the shade of a tree, complete with a tea set and a loaf of bread one can only assume has been just baked. The only sounds to be heard are the chirpings of birds or the babblings of a nearby stream. This is cottagecore, an aesthetic movement that glorifies cozy, slow living in pastoral or woodland fantasies, and it has taken the internet by storm. According to a Vox article, cottagecore earned its name around the year 2018. However, it wouldn’t be until 2020 that it would achieve such virality.
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Much of the aesthetic’s success has been attributed to TikTok, with the hashtag amassing over 5 billion views on the video-sharing app. Most videos encapsulate a certain essence of cottagecore with content ranging from baking frogshaped bread to frolicking in meadows at dusk, to foraging for mushrooms and the like, sometimes with a rose-colored filter over top. Other videos focus solely on the fashion of it all. Naturally, it’s sartorial elements like cotton-linen blends, ruffles, puff sleeves, floral prints, and sweetheart necklines that are considered key to successfully dressing the part. “Cottagecore on TikTok had a really big boom in summer,” says Didi Nicely, a 25-year-old fiber artist based in Atlanta. “It was all about picnics and sunshine and that one Mitski song ‘Strawberry Blonde.’”
With such a strong connection to summer, it’s almost instinctive that the fashion would reflect that. Essentially, says Nicely, cottagecore fashion is made up of “clothes that look like they make you want to frolic.”
According to Dr. Amy Dorie, the Apparel Design program lead at SF State, “Cottagecore has a long and cyclical history as a rejection of the modern world and yearning for the perceived simplicity of the country,” she wrote in an email.
The ‘original’ cottagecore
Antoinette sought an escape from the rigidity of the French Baroque court, often leaving for her countryside chateau Le Petit Trianon, Dorie says. At the chateau, she was regularly found in peasant-style dresses, introducing what would become known as the Chemise a la Reine, which directly translates to “queen’s shirt” (though, says Jackson, the term “chemise” was often used to describe a woman’s undergown).
Cottagecore fashion is soft, flowy, and romantic, but it’s nothing new. According to Judy Jackson, a professor of fashion history at the City College of San Francisco, “when new designs are created, they certainly are not just copies of something that came before,” she wrote in an email, “but one can almost always see an influence from the past.” The aforementioned elements of cottagecore are all reminiscent of the pioneer trend of the 1970s. “Little House on the Prairie” was an institution in popular culture at the time. The television show has been argued to be the largest contributor to the prairie fashion craze, popularizing labels like Laura Ashley and Gunne Sax. However, this aesthetic was clearly not invented in the ‘70s and was rather a resurfacing or reinvention of historical garb from as far back as the 18th century. Evidence of cottagecore-esque elements, whether fashion or values, can be traced back to Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France before the French Revolution.
If I’m just making myself a cup of tea, I’m just making myself a cup of tea,” Nicely says. “But if I’m going to make a cottagecore TikTok video about it, I go the extra step to make it look special and sort of romanticize my own life.
According to Jackson, over time, the Chemise a la Reine would evolve and, by the late 19th century to early 20th century, a style called “lingerie dress” would become its revival. Also inspiring contemporary cottagecore fashion is the dirndl, a traditional dress characterized by a low neckline, fitted bodice, and full skirt that originated in the Alpine countryside. Similar to the story of the Chemise a la Reine, the dirndl was originally worn by working-class or peasant women in rural Bavaria in the 1800s before being adopted as leisurewear by the bourgeoisie in the 20th century.
Escapism or mindfulness? Cottagecore’s yearning for simpler times runs parallel to how people have been feeling during the pandemic: wanting to escape the dreariness of today and return to the before times. But is cottagecore serving as a distraction from an unpleasant reality, or might it instead be a vehicle for gratitude? Nicely says that although cottagecore appears to have an inherently escapist nature upon first glance, her experience with it has certainly “allowed for a degree of mindfulness.”
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In this way, cottagecore has some overlap with slow living, a lifestyle that emphasizes a more present and relaxed approach to the everyday.
the culture relies on to exist, not the actualization of life off the grid.
“If I’m just making myself a cup of tea, I’m just making myself a cup of tea,” Nicely says. “But if I’m going to make a cottagecore TikTok video about it, I go the extra step to make it look special and sort of romanticize my own life.”
“I don’t think embracing cottagecore means you have to reject technology or modern life,” Stice says. “You’re escaping, yes, but not to a magical realm with flying horses or something. Rather, you’re escaping into the very real world of nature—which at its height and beauty is awe-inspiring and magical on its own.”
Rebecca Stice is a 33-year-old slow living content creator based in Northern Ireland. After being introduced to the concept of slow living about seven years ago, Stice began implementing more and more changes into her life to reflect that lifestyle until eventually moving with her husband to a small, rural village in search of an entirely different pace of life (due to privacy and safety concerns, Stice prefers for the village to be left unnamed). “People often describe (cottagecore) as romanticizing rural life, but I feel like what romanticizing means is learning to appreciate the little things,” she wrote in an email. It might seem a bit paradoxical for a movement that romanticizes a more rural existence to be largely internet-based, but it’s the idealization that
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One can be Very Online and still yearn for simpler times, so long as they are stopping often to appreciate more. “That’s the thing,” Nicely says, “Once you start trying to make your life look idyllic in order to make videos about it, eventually, you will have succeeded in making your life more enjoyable.”
Fashion reflects the times Since the 1960s, the direct influence that designers have on trends has only declined. These days, popular media, entertainment, and the internet are much more influential. Society is in a novel age of fashion where what exists instead are what Jackson
calls “fashion tribes.” Instead of the one singular or universal look, hemline, or silhouette that previous eras have thus far seen, there is a seemingly endless amount of them. “We have as many fashion trends as there are interests in our lives,” she says, “And each tribe knows who to look for for their trend information.” There is a pattern, however, when it comes to the reappearance of this romanticized femininity now seen in cottagecore fashion: it is almost always joined by some significant societal shift.
During a time in which folks are confined to their homes, there’s been an unsurprising surge of hobbies and activities, such as baking, gardening, and embroidery, that are traditionally associated with domesticity and, for this reason, associated with cottagecore. “It makes sense that the country and country life are seen as ideal and are inspiring fashion trends again,” Dorie says. Nicely attributes the strong appeal of cottagecore to a combination of things.
The 18th century was marked by the Industrial Revolution. Fast-forwarding to the 20th century, the revival of pioneer fashion came around the time of great civil unrest regarding both the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. Today, society endures a pandemic.
“Quarantine, TikTok, free time, summer vacation, people wishing they could be going and doing summer activities with their friends, but they can’t,” she says, “So the next best thing is having a picnic by yourself, and taking a video of it and showing it to people.”
The cyclical nature of fashion doesn’t have a strict set of rules rather than general patterns. Though it is fundamentally inevitable for old trends to be refashioned, it typically takes some time (some say around 30-40 years) for them to resurface. In this respect, cottagecore appears to be right on time.
The English cottage look and fashion elements reminiscent of life on the prairie simply fit into this mindset, Jackson says, “of course, since most of us are no longer working from an office, comfortable clothing is far more in demand now than exciting and exotic design.”
Essentially, cottagecore is a revival of ‘70s prairie, which is a revival of 18th-century rural fashion — an iteration of an iteration, updated and modernized.
Who’d have thought that people stuck at home would begin to value comfortability? Jackson predicts that cottagecore fashion will stick around for at least a little while even after normalcy returns, as people may have adjusted to this new way of life and thus are disinclined or hesitant to revert to fashion formality. “However, as always,” she says. “The eye will tire of it, and we will want something new, and perhaps something that doesn’t remind us of these difficult times. And when we do, something new will emerge.”
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GOT TO DO WITH IT?
PHOTOGRAPHED BY: CAMERON LEE
19 SPRING 20201
THE CONNECTING THREADS OF GENDER AND FASHION WRITTEN BY: DIANI ELLIS
hen it comes to the human race, society always finds an opportunity to decide what’s right and wrong and the types of clothes a person purchases is always a “hot topic.” Genders have been assigned to clothes that are “most appropriate” when dealing with the outside world. 27-year-old Thrum below the Belt, who identifies as agender and goes by they/them, has faced many of these obstacles. “There isn’t a reason why a certain type of person, with a certain type of body, should have to dress a certain way if they don’t like it,” said Belt. “I definitely have had certain issues like when I went to a job interview in a dress and didn’t get hired but then went to a similar interview dressed a bit more masculine, and was hired on the spot.”
There are times where a person doesn’t want to call me the name that I want to be called, or where I have to make sure I’m wearing my ‘boy clothes’ because my safety is at risk,” says Belt. “It’s sad, but it’s just something I’ve realized I’m going to have to go through.” When one sees another in the opposite genders clothes it is most likely assumed that they are gay. However, breaking the binary in gender neutral clothing doesn’t always mean the person belongs to the LBGTQ+ community. Karla Espindola, a 23-year-old heterosexual female, is all for free choice in clothing. “Have you seen the pocket space they give you in women’s jeans?” asks Espindola with a straight face. “Yeah, that’s a no for me!”
Although it shouldn’t matter or affect anyone with the clothes another individual decides to wear, it seems to. In some countries around the world, free spirit in dressing […] or as some like to call it “cross dressing” has been labeled as a crime.
The media and world, however, have a way of using double standards when it comes to males and females by making it more acceptable for a female to be more masculine in public, but society is more standoffish when a male is more feminine.
According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), in 2020 over 44 gender non-conforming people were victims of fatal violence for dressing the way they felt most comfortable.
Society often views a male as “weak” for being or looking more feminine.
“Unfortunately, there are times where I have to put my feelings and my way of living on the backboard.
“Men get a lot more heat and judgment for wearing female clothes. Most see it as cross dressing instead of expression,” says 21-year-old San Francisco State University student Kendal Exum, who goes by he/them.
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Alexis Shelton, a 23-year-old Environmental Technician from Los Angeles, CA who goes by she/her says she also has experienced judgement, but in a bit of a different way. “I think people have a hard time accepting what isn’t socially normal – I feel like people often think I’m buying things for my boyfriend… but the gag is, the t-shirt is for me,” Shelton says. “Thinking back on it,” says Espindola with a strong thinking face. “Men do have it harder when dressed in women’s clothes, and I have no clue why that is, but it’s kind of sad.” AccordingtoNPRWriterColinDwyer,in2017“Joushua Brandon Vallum was the first person ever to be prosecuted under the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, for targeting a victim because of gender identity.” Although this was the first time a person had been prosecuted for their actions, this was not the first
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time the act itself had taken place. Many crimes towards gender neutral clothing go unnoticed each and every day. “It’s sad to say, but my biggest support group isn’t even my family, it’s my friends. My parents do not accept my lifestyle choices. To them, I’m just going through a ‘phase,’” says Exum. “People create this hate in their heart, for whatever reasons, and it just starts to rub off onto others.” Since Vallum’s case, hate crimes towards victims of gender identity continue to increase. However, people around the world are continuing to find ways to express themselves through the clothes they choose to wear. Clothing brands such as Urban Outfitters, TomboyX, etc; are starting to expand their gender-neutral clothing selections.
“I wish they made more dresses, skirts and blouses with male bodies in mind,” Belt says. “It’s hard to find clothes that fit me without alteration. Regardless, we’re only here for a short while. Unless it’s unsafe for you to do so, wear your favorite clothes.”
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VTuber uprising: Virtual fashion
Written By: Lyn Brook
A empty box of brightly colored hair dye makes its way to the bottom of your trash bin as you end your monthly ritual of upkeep on your bleach burnt scalp. You make your way back to your computer desk, past the two outfits you deem worthy of expressing yourself that you could actually afford drowned out, by the closet full of clothes you end up wearing everyday that you feel don’t portray your personality at all. The lights flicker on your computer as it breathes back to life and you swiftly type in your password and log in to your favorite video game. A virtual model appears on your screen, it has the hair and
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color you’ve been desperately trying to achieve for years and the outfit and silhouette you’ve dreamed of owning since you were a child. It’s you. You press the button to go live and begin your stream, you’re a VTuber. Virtual YouTubers or Streamers, commonly referred to as VTubers, have been paving the way for those who do not want to be bound by material means, by creating a whole new level of fashion: virtual fashion. Fashion has always been an opportunity to express ourselves, share our personalities through visual impressions and tell a story, but what if the fashion you desire to showcase isn’t available? Whether
that be due to finances, body-type, non-fictional materials or because you desire to be a whole different being entirely; how would you express yourself and let your personality shine through this medium with the too many possibilities of limitation? VTubers have found solace in limitless options for creating their character models. You can show your personality and aesthetic off to the world in the form of a dragon with red eyes and some comfy casual clothes. Or you could show off your girly side with half blue, half pink hair and some cat ears. No matter what you want to be it is up to how far you can push your imagination in the realm of virtual fashion. “Although I can appreciate the sleek look and functionality of most clothing nowadays. . .I think there’s something magical about having something that might not be functional or conventionally fashionable, but makes you feel amazing,” said Lucastre Mavia, VTuber and fashion student.
“generations” of VTubers, bringing popularity to this new form of content creation. Future VTubers from around the globe began dreaming of their future models with their sights on the ideal and unimaginable. From bright colors to pastels, to tails, ears and wings, to silhouettes the world had not yet seen, the world of virtual fashion had begun its journey into the future. About a year ago, 26-year-old Kisaka Toriama, switched from being a real-life streamer to a VTuber. Toriama’s virtual model can be seen wearing a simple pink and white dress with heart shaped buttons, thigh high stockings, pink shoes, a tail with a pink bow, half pastel blue and pink hair with cat ears. “When I was younger I avoided the color pink, but as I grew older I realized how confident the color pink made me feel, as well as I enjoyed how girly it made me feel. That was something I was interested in and wanted to convey,” said Toriama in an interview over Zoom.
It wasn’t until late 2016 when Kizuna AI, 25, made her debut on YouTube and Since Toriama’s debut as a VTuber her went on to be considered the first VTuTwitch channel has become a realm of ber. Kizuna appeared with long brunette her own imagination and control. Toriama hair with soft pink streaks sprinkled said that the reason she ended up making throughout, which matched her pink the switch from streaming her real face bow and white sailor suit with matchto having a virtual model represent her ing shorts. Kizuna, along with many was because she wanted to have control @KisakaToriama other VTubers, were inspired by other over her image. She wants her audience virtual personalities from the early 2000’s, to know that she is an artist, first and forespecifically virtual singers who used the software most, conveying her favorite imagery within cats, known as Vocaloid. A cultural icon one might reccolors and japanese culture. This is something she ognize from this era, who still makes music today, couldn’t have accomplished without the outlet that is Hatsune Miku; a virtual singer adorned with long virtual streaming has given her. neon teal pigtails, a blouse with a tie to match the color of her hair and a skirt. When an artist is commissioned to create an upand-coming VTuber’s model, they are known as In 2019 a talent agency named Hololive would that VTuber’s parent. Toriama has gone on to help form and begin assembling what are known as create four other virtual models for future VTu-
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even years in advance to creating their model. Their fashion matches their personality, and through that their brand shines. “In designing Bianca, I prioritized simplicity that was striking. I wanted an aesthetic that was immediately recognizable, and yet simple to make into a model. This took the form of mismatched elements, evocative imagery, and relatability,” said Bianca Duba, via Twitter thread.
@BiancaDuba bers and each one of them has expressed an entirely unique aesthetic. “They each had vastly different fashion senses, one was a casual and suave aesthetic with a t-shirt and jeans, the next a dragon-girl with red eyes, a tank top with a jacket falling off the shoulder and tight pants, another a bat-girl with two-toned pastel hair, overalls and suspenders and the last was heavily inspired by anime with intricate details and small patterns,” said Toriama about her VTuber “children”. VTubers who are just starting out, also known as Pre-Debut VTubers, heavily rely on their model and other commissioned artworks/illustrations of their characters to begin representing their personality and brand. Since the only visual their audience has of them is their aesthetics, it is very important for a pre-debut VTuber to choose an outfit that represents them in the best way possible. Generally among the community this isn’t a hard task to accomplish since many VTubers imagine their characters months,
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Another aspect in designing a model might come from a more personal experience. Many VTubers come from the LGBTQ+ community, specifically those who experience gender dysphoria. Those who are transgender, non-binary or gender-queer often find it hard to express themselves the way they want to in reality, whether that be due to having too many masculine or feminine features, or simply because they are too anxious to wear the clothing they would like to express themselves in, in fear of experiencing hate. VTubing has created an outlet for this community to have control over the way they want to express themselves in whatever shape or form they so desire. Belinda Lange, 25, is a non-binary pre-debut VTuber. Their model can be seen as a tall feminine figure beaming with confidence, dragon horns, red eyes, a
choker, black tights, tank top and a fluffy casual sweater hanging off their shoulders. “Something I was going for when creating my model was shapes, angles, and edges to exude that badass, confident aura. But I didn’t want people to think I was unapproachable, I’m a friend, so I gave my hair and outfit curves to exude my soft and caring side,” said Lange in an interview over Zoom.
Lange went on to explain that it was intentional to give their model a more simplified fashion because they want people to be able to dress like them and relate to them. There have been a couple comments from the community so far that their outfit might be “overly simplified”, which at first almost compelled Lange to rethink their models fashion sense, but overall there has been a flood of love and appreciation for their appearance of a powerful individual in charge and radiating with confidence.
Not all VTubers strive for simplistic and relatable fashions, some strive for regal, avant garde or even god-like aesthetics with their models. Leaflit, a popular VTuber who only debuted in June of last year, is a blue slime-girl, with red eyes, a red antenna and red core. This is an example of a fashion that would be impossible to accomplish in real life because not only is the fashion impossible, but Leaflit created their model as a non-fictional species. This is another example of how virtual fashion has created an outlet for someone who wanted to express themselves past the limitations of textiles and being human. Leaflit, and many others, are examples of how VTubing is a way for people to express themselves in whatever way their imaginations can think of. VTuber Edeamous VR, who poses as an animal-like spirit, expresses, “The universe is the most beautiful thing, taking that with you wherever you go and wearing it proudly; what could be cooler than that?!”
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NATURE 27 SPRING 20201
PHOTOGRAPHED BY: LEILA FIGUEROA
ONE CLICK, INFINITE REALITIES
BY: FERNANDO G. PACHECO
EIGHT PLACES TO TRAVEL IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
NATIVE PLANTS: THE BACKBONE OF OUR ECOSYSTEM
BY: KK INTERCHUCK
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Photographed by: Amalia Diaz
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Written by: Fernando G. Pacheco
mountain terrain covered in what seems like fruity-kitchen fabric begins to shift as a model dances around in a floral-unzipped jacket that reveals a cloud-like shirt with “vulnerability” bedazzled on the chest. A repetitive boing-boing-boing sound sets the tone for the virtual fashion show. Blasting over the mountains and down into each of the model’s steps as they make their way towards the center of the frame, appearing as if floating in midair. The internet has become a place to briefly disconnect and heal from what is being called COVID fatigue, an emotional state equivalent to feeling burnt-out. ‘Change is Cute’ is a fashion runway show that introduces a vibrantly animated world to explore and is one way that San Francisco State University student, Jassarae Acosta, uses to escape the reality of being isolated. Released in September 2020, ‘Change is Cute’ is an immersive experience that pairs social representation with environmental awareness, all while draped in lively garments. Running through bushes, twirling in grasslands, and strutting down a doodled neighborhood; it presents models as themselves enjoying nature. When Acosta spoke about Collina Strada’s Spring/Summer 2021 virtual runway show, she could not resist smiling. “She had pregnant women, older women, queerness, I love how inclusive it was and for that, it (the show) left a special place in my heart,” said Acosta. “The show is at an intersection of social justice movements and high fashion. She brought awareness.” For people like Acosta, immersive videos on Youtube, finding inspiration through Instagram, playing multiplayer video games, allow themselves a moment to escape from reality. “It’s hard to escape, unless you go outside but still, then you’re on your phone while you’re outside,” Acosta said.
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A report covering Global Social Media Statistics by DataReportal, stated that at the start of 2021, 4.20 billion social media users were active around the world. From 12 months ago, 490 million new accounts were created and Instagram totaled 1.221 billion users. “I think we’re just attached to the hip with technology,” said Ivan Salgado, also an SF State student. He thinks Instagram is often portrayed in a negative light but admits that it can also be used as a unique way to escape. “You can see what someone else is doing in different parts of the world,” Salgado said. Salgado tries to abstain from using his phone in the mornings. He waits until he gets off work on Haight-Ashbury and gets a good seat on Muni for his commute home, where Salgado uses Minecraft – a video game where players survive by building a shelter from zombies – as his sweet escape from reality. During his commute home, Salgado remains focused on his phone, transforming a pixelated greenland into a city by only using his fingertips. “It’s not like I’m playing god or anything,” said Salgado. “It’s a change of scenery, being able to tweak things and make them better, it’s calming to have some sort of control.” He taps, slides, presses on the screen and after four days of collecting materials and placing individual blocks, Salgado has created a hotel big enough to mimic Trajan’s Market in Rome. Stone columns support arches on the first level, holding up the rest of the hotel that embraces a brick and wood aesthetic. Scarlet red tiles create a red carpet feeling that compliments pine green seating arrangements.
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Rustic windows welcome light inside the building, illuminating the potential for a lively morning inn and a felicità evening hotel.
dancing, not one stiff body insight, and by the end, even Honey Dijon is sweating through her sunglasses.
Salgado was first introduced to Minecraft at 12 years old by his older cousin. He found himself playing day and night and sporadically returning to the game as he grew up.
This performance helps him disconnect, take a moment for himself, even if he can’t go to a show this is the closest he’ll get, and he doesn’t mind it one bit.
Going anywhere, especially abroad has been hard. Until then, Salgado dreams about spending the summer at Lake Como in Italy.
“There was a time and place when we got to enjoy moments like these, and as much as I wanna say we might have taken for granted, it’ll make post-pandemic going to music events even more enjoyable,” said Castellanos.
Dennis Castellanos Jr., a DJ named “Thedennison” based in the East Bay, dreams of dancing under the disco ball once again, feeling the music from the speakers, and seeing everyone celebrate. Castellanos cannot contain himself in his seat. The groove is contagious, coming out of his laptop and for his dance moves. He’s watching Honey Dijon, an American DJ perform at Sugar Mountain, an Australian festival, back in January 2018. A light cheer begins to build within the crowd as Honey Dijon gets announced. A sonic tune bangs in the background until the beat bursts and the crowd cheers; all within the first five minutes. Everyone was shouting in an embrace. “It’s that moment of realizing, I’m not there (in person at the show). I’m here in my room and I’m still getting the same energy that the crowd is getting in that live production when it happened,” said Castellanos. “I get that feeling every single time.” He describes the feeling as a sense of celebration, where everyone in the crowd is
Castellanos remains hopeful about attending shows someday, perhaps not anytime soon, but he believes concert attendees will value being able to attend concerts post-pandemic. When music touches people, an instinctive rush to pull out a phone and begin recording blooms. In that moment, while feet are planted on the ground, the minds focus on capturing the moment. “Is it better to have that moment on video or internally have it and process it for the rest of your life?” Castellanos asks and without hesitation answers, he believes having a memory of a special time in people’s lives is better than having a video of it. He offers Boiler Room, Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube as antidotes for going back in time to that particular show. Someone will always be recording. He advises anyone attending a concert to resist the urge, breathe and “live in the moment.”
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EIGHT PLACES NORTHERN
PHOTO BY: EMILY CURIEL
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TO TRAVEL IN CALIFORNIA
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MONTEREY B Y: SYDNEY WELCH
Each year, millions of visitors from around the world visit California beaches to surf, kayak, fish, dive, or just enjoy the scenery. According to Sinauer, California borders the Pacific Ocean, which makes up almost half of the world’s ocean area and is home to much of the planet’s biodiversity. Just offshore, Monterey Bay Aquarium expressed that the California Current is the feeding grounds for millions of fish, mammals, and birds. On California’s central coast, the waters of Monterey Bay include a two-mile-deep submarine canyon, kelp forests, and coastal estuaries.
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LAKE TAH O E B Y : JUN UEDA
Lake Tahoe is the second-largest naturally occurring lake in California and sits on the border of California and Nevada. Tahoe is also the second deepest lake in the United States after Crater Lake in Oregon. On average, approximately 20 million tourists visit Tahoe each year for summertime activities on the lake as well as winter sports in the nearby mountain peaks. Temperatures range from highs in the 80s and lows in the mid-20s annually.
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FORT BRAGG B Y: E M I LY C U R I E L
Fort Bragg is a tourist destination for its charming views of the Pacific Ocean. It has an average elevation of 85 feet above sea level and is known for its point-of-interest like Glass Beach and the California Western Railroad. The town was founded in 1857 before the American Civil War as a military garrison. Later in 1889 it was incorporated as a city and was named after Braxton Bragg, a U.S. Army officer who served in the Mexican-American War.
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LEGGETT B Y : JUN UEDA
Leggett, which was once formally known as Leggett Valley, is home to some of the largest redwood trees. According to the 2010 census, the town has a population of 122 people. Its “Drive-Thru Tree Park” is a hot spot for tourism, where guests can drive their car through a 276 feet Sequoia called “Chandelier tree.” The name derives from its particular limbs which look similar to a chandelier.
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(Y O S E M I T E )
B Y : JUN UEDA
Half Dome is located within Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park. This iconic granite formation is 8,800 ft above sea level and has access to a 14.2-mile day hike via Misty Trail that takes roughly 10-12 hours to the peak and back. Among many other trails in Yosemite, the view at the peak overlooks Yosemite Valley. Near the end of the hike closer to the peak, there are twin cables that hikers use to scramble up the back-face of Half Dome. Permits are required to take this trial.
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C R E S C E NT C ITY B Y : L YN BROOK
Crescent City is a beautiful coastal town known for its beach access, redwood hiking trails, and small-town vibes. Many visitors might not know the city has its own unique aquarium, bowling alley, museum, and places to venture along the city lines. California coastal highway 101 cuts directly through the center of town, where family-owned businesses, street artists, tsunami-themed shops, and restaurants are found. Crescent City is known for its tsunami-themed companies. Unique signs warn visitors that the town is a tsunami hazard zone which only scratches the town’s history. Past tsunamis have shaped the land and this shows on the markings on the ground.
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NAVAR R O B Y: E M I LY C U R I E L
Along Route 128 is the hidden town of Navarro, located about 75 miles north of Santa Rosa and within Mendocino County. It’s home to the Navarro River Redwoods State Park, which covers 660 acres and is a secondary redwood forest, a woodland area which has been re-grown after a timber harvest (logging). The forest stretches about 11 miles, from the town to the Pacific Ocean.
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BIG SUR B Y : JUN UEDA
Big Sur is an 85 mile stretch of coastal land across California and is home to mostly underdeveloped serene landscapes. McWay Falls, located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park within Big Sur, is an 80 ft waterfall (also a tidefall during high tide) that flows into the McWay Cove along the Pacific Coast.
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY: EMILY CURIEL
ush meadows, multi-colored flower beds and majestic forest stands are just some of the thriving greenery Golden Gate Park has to offer. The iconic park is also a home to many plant species native to San Francisco.
NATIVE PLANTS: THE BACKBONE OF OUR ECOSYSTEM WRITTEN BY: KK INTERCHUCK
With California’s diverse climates, it’s able to support the lives of all types of species, from the fan palms and Joshua trees in Southern California to the Redwoods of Northern California, or even the quintessential California poppies that crop up all over the state. However, these native plants do much more for humans than pleasing the eye, and in fact, act as the very backbone of our ecosystems. Native plants have evolved in a specific geographic region and would still exist in the absence of humans. San Francisco, specifically, has a Mediterranean climate. A unique climate characterized by mild, wet winters and dry summers that are only found in approximately five other places in the world. Hence the Mediterranean climate, the species native to the San Francisco Bay Area, has evolved to withstand wind, fog and periods of drought. Alongside the evolution of native plants is that of native insects, birds and mammals which all depend on one another to maintain local ecosystems’ health. According to California Native Plant Society board member Noreen Weeden, “90% of insects depend on one particular plant as its host. So, the insects might live their entire life in this one plant,” she says. An example of this is the California pipevine, a perennial vine endemic to the San Francisco Bay Area, which is also the only food source for the California pipevine swallowtail butterfly.
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Jason Cantley, botanist and assistant professor of biology at San Francisco State University, says that the California pipevine swallowtail will only lay its eggs on the pipevine plant, which the caterpillars rely on for food and shelter in order to pupate.
Biodiversity is simply the variety of life on earththat healthy ecosystems depend upon. “Ecosystems that are composed mostly of native plants function such that they have the environment working in a harmonious way,” Cantley says.
“Because the city has really disrupted the habitat of this plant,” Cantley says. “We’ve really lost those butterflies in the city.”
More specifically, native plants in the Bay Area have adapted to the soils and climate here and have evolved with traits that promote optimum water table regulation and fire suppression.
Aside from their obvious role as pollinators, these butterflies are part of a much larger ecosystem, one that, if healthy, promotes biodiversity.
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The habitats that do this well, Cantley says, “tend to have high levels of biodiversity, and that biodiversity is uniquely adapted to that place.”
widespread. The general public was confronted with the very real possibility of losing the main pollinators of food crops. One of the more accessible ways suggested to #savethebees is planting native plants. “If everybody had native plants, then we’d have a lot of bees,” says Bellal Naderi, a graduate student at the SF State Department of Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology. “They don’t have to only exist way out in nature somewhere,” he says. “They can exist right here in the city.” Something as simple as a balcony planter or small yard plot of native flowers can aid the health of bees in San Francisco, as they won’t have to fly as far and likely exhaust themselves to get to their next pollination destination. Not only do they require less water, fertilizer, and herbicide to grow, but native plants are also more attractive to native pollinators and, in turn, benefit other native species. “Not all non-native plants can be used by the species that are here,” says SF State professor of biology Gretchen Le Buhn, “There’s a really important role that native plants play because they support native insects that support native birds, native birds support native predators.”
Pollinators as a keystone species Most flowering plants depend on pollinators to help produce fertile seeds. Because pollinators are depended on by countless other species, and pollinators evolved to depend on native plants, native plants are vital to maintaining local ecosystems’ health. As a keystone species or a species whose removal would drastically affect an ecosystem, pollinator populations’ health must be prioritized. With the virality of hashtag activism campaigns like #bringbackthebees in 2014, the knowledge of the rapidly declining native bee population became
Nature serves humans Ecosystem services, or how people benefit from nature, are also essential to sustain human life. As mentioned, biodiverse ecosystems are typically the healthiest, and it is these systems that provide humans with the air they breathe and the water they drink. Once the biodiversity of an ecosystem is disrupted, ecosystem services are lost. The example Cantley gives is losing a plant species that happen to be great at erosion control. Once the ecosystem begins eroding as a result, other species will be lost as well. Among those
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species might have been a plant that was good at maintaining water in the ecosystem. “Suddenly,” Cantley says. “You have an ecosystem that is not only eroding, you’re having one that has much less water than it had historically when it was a biodiverse and pristine native environment.” Apart from the obvious food and water availability, other ecosystem services include carbon sequestration, soil stabilization and erosion prevention, largely due to native plants. “In fact,” says Cantley, “The fires in California and a lot of the water issues in California (are) the result of humans altering the ecosystems and changing where native plants occur.”
Non-native vs. invasive species Opposite of native plants are non-native plants, species that arrived in a specific area “either because they’ve been moved here by humans, or because we’ve changed the landscape so much that they now thrive here,” says Le Buhn. All invasive species are non-native, but not all non-native species are invasive. Basic non-native plants exist in ecosystems and don’t play a very large role, if any at all. They become invasive once they begin to outcompete other essential native species. An example of this is the Eucalyptus tree in the San Francisco Bay Area. Eucalyptus trees were brought over from Australia in the 1800s to be used for lumber.
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However, “It turned out Eucalyptus didn’t grow the same in our soil environment as it did there,” Naderi says, “For whatever reason, the tree kind of twists a little bit as it grows here,” which no longer makes it the ideal lumber wood. Instead of cutting them down, the trees were left to spread and eventually naturalize. They can now be found all over the city and surrounding Bay Area. Eucalyptus trees change the soil composition and, in turn, the life forms directly nearby. Not only do they produce a toxin that prevents other plants from growing, but they are also quite the stubborn species. “They grow very fast, they produce a lot of seeds,” says J.R. Blair, a former biology lecturer at SF State, and “when you cut them down, they sprout like crazy.” Adding yet again to the list of reasons why Eucalyptus trees are problematic is the flammability aspect. Not only do they regularly shed dead bark and leaves, but all parts of the tree are rich in oil, which is a fire-prone state like California can mean a recipe for disaster. Other non-native plants that end up dying become flammable material as well, Cantley says. What results are fires that spread faster and more often. Once the non-native plants burn, they are promoted to recreate themselves, “and they just keep building up more and more biomass that’s flammable, and in the process, it kills all the native plants that are not used to these frequent and high-temperature fires,” he says.
What can be done? As far as restoration and conservation of native habitats, individuals can push for native plants in local parks and common areas, including planting their own in personal or community gardens. “Make sure you’re being thoughtful about what you’re introducing into habitats,” says Le Buhn. “And when you have the option, choose native.” If, for whatever reason opting for native species is not possible, folks can refer to resources like the California Invasive Plant Council to be certain that a non-native plant they may be introducing is at the very least not invasive. “Do not plant species in your garden or local park just because it’s pretty or beautiful,” SF State lecturer of biology Maria Jose Pastor-Infantas wrote in an email, “Look into the name of the species, and think twice before planting certain plants.” According to Le Buhn, simply valuing and appreciating the wild areas in parks where biodiversity exists can go a long way as far as conservation efforts. “Another way to get involved is to volunteer at your local park or botanical gardens, and get more involved in your community,” Pastor-Infantas says. “You learn so much by getting down in the dirt!”
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Photographed by: Emily Curiel
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A STAR ON THE RISE IN INGLEWOOD
BY: TÉO MATA
RESURGENCE OF VINYL RECORDS
BY: CHRISTIAN CABANG
HEADPHONES IN, HEALING MODE ON
BY: JUSTIN GARCIA
DJS: THE WOMEN RULING THE SCENE
BY: KENZIE AELLIG
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ON THE RISE
IN INGLEWOOD BY: TÉO MATA When 22-year-old Joshua Luellen was just a regular student preparing for his high school talent show, he had no idea that the performance would alter his music passion trajectory. After rehearsing for weeks, he still felt nervous on the day of the show. Behind the curtain, Luellen described himself as anxious and jittery; he remembers peeking out and seeing a full house. After an encouraging talk with his friend, he collected himself, went out and performed “Billionaire” by Bruno Mars, calling the moment an “out of body” experience. “The crowd started screaming. I was like, that’s my fuel. That’s my drug. I need that,” said Lullen. “And we did great, that show is the reason people know who I am. So I will forever hold that performance near and dear to my heart.” Residing in Inglewood’s highly saturated city - in the greater Los Angeles area - with emerging musicians and artists, Luellen tries to separate himself from other artists by taking local gigs. Thanks to his breakout performance, which started as a hobby, Luellen’s began making music his future career goal. After college, Luellen worked on multiple singles including the song titled “Frozen” in 2020, “Party at T’s” in 2019 - which was his most popular and the latest single, and “Attention,” which was released in February of this year. His first album, “T.A.L.I.A,” was released in 2017 after high school.
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After numerous projects, he is still trying to find his niche and audience. Luellen is working on his second album titled ‘Into the Night.’ Luellen aspires to continue his late grandfather’s musical legacy and make his family name a household name.
Q: Who inspired you to make music? A: For the first nine years of my life, I had strict
parents, and the only artist I was able to listen to was Michael Jackson. Watching his videos, listening to his music and just that confidence and swagger he brought in his voice; It was pretty dope. When I was able to listen to other songs as I got older, I started with Drake, and then I listened to the Weekend, Childish Gambino and Charlie Puth. I mean, a lot of things sparked me to be a musician. It was a talent show, it was my love for music and storytelling and my grandfather being a musician in the past. It was just a bunch of things that made me want to pursue it. It’s in my genes and it’s in our family. I want to continue and amplify what he started.
Q: What was your plan after high school? A: I decided when I graduated [high school] that I wanted to go to school for music. But I think I was a little too immature to handle college. When I first started college, I didn’t have money and my
PHOTOGRAPHED BY: MADDISON OCTOBER
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college was far, so I had to Uber. I was struggling, I would do my work but I didn’t know how to balance everything. I got a job at Jamba Juice and then I worked at ‘& Waffles’ in North Hollywood - going back and forth was a lot. Obviously, at some point, I’m just going to blank out and not have any focus on schoolwork at all. I did feel behind for the most part because everyone already knew what to do. All I knew was songwriting and just wanting to use my voice as an instrument. In the end, I made it. I still graduated.
cember 2018 was mediocre. I still, to this day, hate some of the versions of songs that I did. I just wanted to build a catalog to overshadow the old one to get rid of the old records. I started with my big comeback, which is my song “Wish you were here.” It was the first single off my first album, and I put it out, and everyone loved it. I was shocked.
Q: What did you do after college? Did
A: I wrote the album ‘Good guys love lasts’ throughout 2019 and a little bit of 2020. I released the first half as ‘Just good guys,’ and then I released the second half as part of the whole album. That’s when I realized people are starting to like my music. I felt like anything was possible as long as I invested myself, which I had never done before.
you start working on any personal projects?
A: After college, that’s when I started work-
ing on what I want to say, resurgence as an artist because anything I put out before De-
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Q: Did this give you the confidence to
make an album?
Q: What reactions did you receive, and
how did it make you feel?
It was the next big step in my music. It was a new era that I’m promoting, and I wanted to be so cryptic with it. I think I handled that the best way possible. Everyone was reaching for it - leading up to the release when the song came out [August 2020] - so when it came out, people bought and streamed the song. It was hitting numbers. That same day the song came out I was in Pasadena filming the music video, which came out the following week. Today, it’s sitting at 1.4 thousand streams and people love this. The only issue is marketing the song. I don’t know how to get it out there to more people. I’m still trying to find out where the audience is. I’m still scrambling to find out where and how to reach them and bring them to my social presence.
Q: What are you currently working on? A:
Right now, I’m announcing it first. I’ve been kind of low-key about the title for this album, but I’m currently working on my second album called ‘Into the night,’ which dramatizes my breakup. It starts pretty much with me being mad about the breakup. I’m angry about something. So lyrically, you’re going to listen to this and think, ‘Oh, you’re mad about a girl?’
In what ways would you like your music to impact people?
I never really had inspiration like that. I want to be the voice of inspiration for a lot of kids and a lot of people in general who want to do music and put themselves out there that are not really confident enough to do it. Another friend of mine came to the studio a couple of times while I was recording this album. Just being in an actual studio made him feel inspired, after not doing music for like three, four years, just because of me taking him into the studio one day. It inspired him and made him want to do music again.
Q: Where do you envision yourself to
be in five years?
A: I see myself just beginning. Honestly, I feel like I will be hitting that mark within two, three, maybe four, or five years from now. If it happens sooner, I already have a plan outlined for everything. I want to immediately start my label and my own production company. Basically cover all bases for everyone to where my label is the Apple in the music industry. I want to give everyone a platform to show off their talents because an artist can’t just walk into a record label, and I want it to be like [that] if you’re going to be on my label. I want to give you a chance to apply for a job. Go through many interviews, auditions and show what you can bring to this label. What can you bring to my label that I don’t already have? And that is the big goal. XPRESS MAGAZINE 56
RESURGENCE OF VINYL RECORDS BY: CHRISTIAN CABANG
57 SPRING 20201
For the first time since the 1980s, resurgence of newer record collectors pushed vinyl record sales to surpass CDs during the pandemic in 2020. According to RIAA Revenue Statistics, record sales are up 3.6 percent and CDs are down 47.6 percent. Steffen Franz, founder of Independent Distribution Collective (IDC) predates his love for records as early as a teenager in 1966. He first bought vinyl through a mailing subscription service where he’d tape pennies on the back of a card, mail it in, and receive a record per penny. Starting from when he was a kid, his collection grew to over 10,0000 pieces of vinyl, and as a young adult, he often used those same records to DJ across the country. Franz expressed that his feelings associated with vinyl came nowhere near other forms of tangible music. To this day, his collection still holds significant value in his life – much like a friend. “As a collector over my life, I have collected records that were important to me when I was younger. I’ve collected records that I played out in clubs,” said Franz. “I’ve collected records because they were sample-able, and I wanted to sample what was on them. Then I collected records because they were collectible. I wanted those records; I wanted to own them.” Vinyl records have stayed relevant due to the fact that they come packaged with physical benefits. PHOTOGRAPHED BY: JUN UEDA
Part of experiencing music through vinyl is
the act of listening – the sound of the needle touching the record, the light buzz from the record player and the occasional audio skip from old, beaten records. Often, it’s the act of holding a physical, tangible copy of the music that gives listeners and collectors a much more enjoyable experience.
Camilo Landau, the founder of Round Whirled Records, described vinyl’s appeal through the senses that are activated when interacting with records. “It has a good hefty weight to it,” said Landau. “It has a smell that you can smell when you open up the record. People perceive value in that.” The physical interaction with the record becomes part of the music experience – choosing the record, taking it out of the sleeve, placing the record on the turntable and then pressing play.
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Erik Peper, Professor of Holistic Health at San Francisco State University, explained that with more body movements, “we tend to store information or emotions better.” Peper explains the nostalgic part of music through older adults placed in convalescent homes who struggle to physically move. “You try to get them to do movement – it doesn’t work well,” said Peper. “But if you play the music of their childhood or when they were teens and 20s, then their whole body will start moving as if it recaptures that earlier time.” Rare records also draw people in. George Chen, the founder of a record label known as ZUM, describes record collectors as “people who are willing to spend a little more to have a rare object.” Being on the opposite side of the consumer, Chen limits the number of records produced for his label. “It’s very expensive per copy,” said Chen. “I know I’m putting up a lot of money to do this but I think ultimately, there will be at least 300 people interested in it. I think each of these will find a home.” Small communities on Facebook such as “Japanese Vintage Vinyl” have shared their Japanese-pressed records from the 70s and 80s. One of the novel things about these records is that they are pressed in Japan and Japan only. The noticeable difference between Japanese-pressed records is the Obi strip along the album cover’s sides, which signifies that it’s an imported record. Because of the oil embargo in 1973, manufacturers had to cut down vinyl production costs; therefore, records sacrificed sound and production quality. Dominic Siracusa at Originals Vinyl explained that the “Japanese
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at that time didn’t have the oil embargo, and so they were still using 100% virgin vinyl.” A more recent phenomenon is a Japanese genre called City Pop, which originates from Japan’s 70s and ’80s. Siracusa says that a DJ market drives Japanese city pop. The genre itself is very catchy, danceable music and is highly well-produced. DJs often collect these records to rock parties or keep them as collector items. Millions of listeners have gathered together on YouTube to listen to these records and are frequently spotted in record shops around town. Ben Wintroub, owner of Tunnel Records, expressed that the Japanese records he receives sell rather quickly. “It’s hard to stock consistently because [...] if it’s a new product it’s usually done in small quantities and if it’s a used copy, I get one copy, then it’s gone,” said Wintroub. Collecting records is also a big business.
Original pressings of artists like Frank Wilson, The Beatles, and Wu-Tang Clan auctioned online started at thousands of dollars. With websites like rarerecords.net, which sell high-priced records from the 70s and 80s, vinyl records still show a substantial value in the marketplace. With streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal, the newest song is easily accessible with one quick search. With playlists categorized by genre or mood, music is often used as background music for cafes, stores, and everyday life. These subscription services are often seen as devaluing the music. Even though producing a vinyl record costs slightly more than a compact disc, CD sales continue to fall with vinyl records proving their worth to music lovers who associate some type of significance to the music. “That is exactly the tie that I think anybody who buys vinyl today feels. They feel like that thing has a special place in my life, and I will keep it with me as a keepsake of that time. Forever,” said Franz.
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Headphones in, healing mode on WRITTEN BY: JUSTIN GARCIA PHOTOGRAPHED BY: MADDISON OCTOBER
61 SPRING 20201
For an ordinary activity such as listening to music, there are many different components we all share. It is a melodic way of easing our minds, elevating our moods, embracing heartaches and simply creating vibes in any environment. One of the aspects we tend to miss about music, while we’re doing the dishes or dancing with friends, is that we’re essentially healing in the process. “Music has always been an important form of escapism for me and a way for me to cope with hardships and trauma. I love that an artist can share music about their own hardships and make it universally relatable to the hardships of their audience and fans,” said San Francisco State University student Isabella Doumitt. Everyone has different experiences with music but the power of music can be more profound than we realize. According to the Music Therapy Program at UCSF, music therapy is a form of therapy that connects the mind, body and spirit. It supports pain management, reduces stress, enhances emotional expression and develops coping strategies. Natalie Moore is an LA-based holistic psychotherapist, as well as a licensed marriage and family therapist, who focuses on “empowering individuals to make positive changes to optimize their life,” according to her website. Natalie Moore is an LA-based holistic psychotherapist, as well as a licensed marriage and family therapist, who focuses on “empowering individuals to make positive changes to optimize their life,” according to her website. “There are different elements of music that are therapeutic,” said Moore. “One of the elements is the rhythm aspect, which actually stems back to our earliest relationships that we had when we’re an infant.”
Rhythm is what many music listeners gravitate towards. If it’s an upbeat or mellow song, the production or beat can transport you to places that are reminiscent of that sound. For Hannah Nichols, 22, of Austin, Texas, music is essential. Nichols acknowledges music as a way of helping her get through life. “Music is important to me because it heals me and keeps me going. It also makes me happy,” said Nichols. The lyrics of songs allow listeners to connect to an artist or even relate to what an artist is going through. Songs have the capability to bridge the divide between the listener and musician. Whether it’s a love ballad or a screamo song – if it speaks to you and you develop a personal connection, no one can take that away. “Another element is the lyrics of the music that we’re listening to. It can be therapeutic to listen to music where the lyrics really speak to your internal experience. They might speak to events that you’ve had in your life, [or] they might speak to emotions that you’re feeling,” said Moore. Music grants listeners self-expression either through the rhythm or lyrics. It allows the listeners to escape their surroundings. “I can’t imagine my day-to-day life going on a walk without my earphones or sitting down to draw without any music. It aids me to have a more precise thought process and free myself of stress after my job. I can confidently say that music helps me live because it is crucial to have an escape from all the stressors around you in today’s society,” said 22 year-old San Francisco resident Nicole Bondarenko. Wendell Hanna, professor of Music Education at SFSU, discussed how one’s body becomes relaxed due to music.
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“If you’re listening to music that you enjoy, you go into what’s called parasympathetic mode,” said Hanna. “Your heart rate lowers, your blood pressure lowers, your breathing becomes deeper and you start to feel relaxed - this is all very good for the body.”
— whether in the background, by focused listening to recordings or at musical performances — had a small positive impact on mental well-being, depression and anxiety.”
According to Harvard Medical School, “the parasympathetic nervous system acts like a brake.” It promotes the “rest and digest” response that calms the body down after the danger has passed.”
“[Artists] can take that therapeutic element even further because they’re creating a rhythm that is unique to them ... It can take past painful experiences and memories, and turn them into something that that person has more of a sense of control around. Taking something negative and turning it into a positive,” said Moore.
Music therapy isn’t just for listeners. Musicians, songwriters and even poets can benefit from a form of music therapy. It also doesn’t matter if one is just starting as a beginner in these fields. According to a 2020 AARP Music and Brain Health Survey, “a nationally representative survey of 3,185 adults found that listening to music
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Some people also find making music therapeutic.
The next time you’re listening to music - while completing a household chore, driving around town, dancing with friends or crying over a breakup - take a deep breath, sink into that parasympathetic mode and let the music heal you.
Songs with a deeper meaning: Hannah Nichols, 22-year-old “A song that has always been important to me is Trouble on Central by Buddy. I listen to it whenever I am feeling down, or upset. It makes me deal with my emotions and actually feel. Not ignore,” said Nichols. Ariana Solorio, 21-year-old “Ribs by Lorde. It reminds me of all my college experiences with my friends. I love listening to that song when I want to feel nostalgic and missing the full college experience since it was cut short,” said Solorio. Isabella Doumitt, 22-year-old “A song that means a lot to me is A Little Bit Longer by the Jonas Brothers. This song is particularly meaningful for me. I would listen to it during moments of childhood trauma when I was younger and continued to listen through difficult times in my life as I’ve gotten older,” said Doumitt.
Nicole Bondarenko, 22-year-old “На заре - Brainstorm - This song reminds me of my great-grandmother. I remember coming to San Francisco to be with her while she was in the ICU. For the week that we’ve been in the city, we all knew where it was going. At the end of the week, we were given a slight glimpse of hope that she would be okay and we would all go back to good. After the excellent news, I went on a walk to the beach and was thrilled that she actually woke up and was responsive that day. Little did I know that would be the last time I saw her alive. The songs’ lyrics talk about youth and how much one can dream and do while being young, which makes me angry and sad that my great-grandmother didn’t have this youth. It was stripped from her during WW2. I just hope that wherever she is now, she is happy. This song has significant meaning to me, but I can’t listen to it without crying,” said Bondarenko.
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DJS: THE WOMEN RULING THE SCENE WRITTEN BY: KENZIE AELLIG
65 SPRING 20201
COURTESY OF: LINDSEY SCHIFFMAN
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[The following article includes an experience of a sensitive situation involving sexual assault.] As multicolor lights sweep the darkened room, bodies sway, connected for a moment in time. The ground vibrates, sending waves of curated energy throughout the room, the music pulses to a beat carefully chosen, perfectly coordinated by an artist - a DJ, a curator of ambiance and atmosphere. They’re DJs. They’re women. They’re creating space for themselves in an industry they’ve been traditionally excluded from. In doing so, they’re opening up a world of possibilities for generations to come. Three DJs discuss their personal journeys, musical influences and experiences within the industry.
MAR.E.FRESH, OAKLAND Maryela Perez, a 31-year-old DJ, and visual artist is at the heart of the vibrant Oakland scene. She’s made a name for herself by bringing smooth, rhythmic sounds of Cumbia music to the community. Perez was first introduced to the music scene while living in San Jose over six years ago. Her sound is a mix of Cumbia, reggaeton, R&B and hip-hop. She describes the San Jose music scene as “close-knit,” especially within the Latino community. Perez never intended to become a performing DJ. She was happy to enjoy it as a hobby simply because she loved music. After gaining popularity in the San Jose area, she was approached to join Chulita Vinyl Club (CVC), an all-vinyl collective of women and gender non-conforming DJs. “It’s different than DJing with men,” she says, adding that men in the industry tend to be ego-driven. “In spaces like Chulita Vinyl Club, there’s such a support system. It’s engraved and I think it’s because these spaces were originally not made for us.” Despite finding a musical safe space, Perez notes that unequal treatment is still very much alive in the industry. She describes a situation when CVC was approached to open for a “pretty famous” band that didn’t want to pay them, despite having a large budget.
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While she doesn’t know for certain, she believes if her DJ collective were all-male they would’ve been paid. “It feels really disrespectful to just not compensate folks for their work, especially when other people are getting paid,” Perez says. “We’re artists too. We are dedicating time to this, we could be doing other things.” For Perez, DJing is about giving back to the community. Her goal is to create a space where everyone feels safe. She grew tired of seeing male DJs “playing music for women” and building their egos with the purpose of “making girls dance.” Perez has made it her goal to eradicate that narrative and instead DJ “to make my friends dance.” She acknowledges that ego is a common theme throughout the industry. Rather than be discouraged, she sees this as an opportunity to break through and connect with people even more. Perez hopes to overcome the issue of gatekeeping in the community. She explains that the Bay Area, especially, has been overtaken and changed
drastically by gentrification. She hopes that through music, the community can retain a sense of closeness. “At the end of the day, music is just some kind of frequency,” she says. “There’s so much power behind music and what it can do and if you’re able to curate a certain mood for a room, I think that is so freaking cool.”
PASSIONFRUIT, BERKELEY Tana Yonas, known in the DJ world as Passionfruit, brings an eclectic, international element to the room through her unique vinyl finds. The 34-year-old DJ has recently emerged in the San Francisco scene as an undeniable force of musical vibrancy. After collecting vinyl records through her many travels, Yonas finally found the time to invest in her craft during the lockdown. She’s now made a name for herself DJing for local underground radio stations such as HydeFM and writing articles for In Sheeps Clothing.
She refers to her sound as a beautiful oddity. “It attracts a more thoughtful person, someone who intellectualizes their music,” she says. The rarity of her vinyl collection sets her apart from the competition of nightclubs and popular music. Music was something Yonas always wanted to be a part of. “Being an outcast in school, music connected me to a world that I knew existed, but it wasn’t anywhere in my life,” she says. When choosing a college, Yonas narrowed her choices down based on how strong the university’s radio program was. She eventually settled on UC Riverside and radio became the center of her life, both socially and creatively. Yonas emphasizes the importance of confirming her presence in music. As a first generation Ethiopian-American woman, she feels most comfortable on “cultural edges.”
On these edges, “there’s nothing to cling to. You have to develop a brand new self-identity. This idea of home has always been very complicated to me. I find home on these cultural boundaries,” she says. She’s found a supportive community of artists in the Bay Area. “Who you are as a person will attract the communities where you’ll be the most comfortable,” Yonas says. As a result, she has unintentionally found herself surrounded by mostly female DJs, whom she describes as “some of the nicest people ever.” Yonas credits this community with giving her a platform to improve her skills as a technical DJ. There is still room for the community to improve, however, as they strive towards a more inclusive environment Yonas recalls she has rarely been asked to play at an event that isn’t advertised as a “female-only” lineup.
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“In order to disrupt the power structures, we need to have integrated lineups,” she explains. “People need to be very conscientious about not slapping a ‘female-only’ thing on an event and saying, ’look how progressive we are.’”
“It’s not just the fact that I’m a woman, but the fact that I’m a Black woman,” Yonas says. “So much music is affected by Black music. And yet, there’s not very many Black people, especially women, who are popular DJs, who do get the big accolades or the attention... it’s just odd when you consider where the music came from.”
FELLY FELL, SAN LUIS OBISPO For MacKenzie Fell, DJing is about empowerment. “I love curating an environment that allows people to feel comfortable, feel amazing in their own skin and express themselves through dance,” Fell says. The 22-year-old DJ found success curating mixes of house, disco, and desert-tech in San Luis Obispo. She creates upbeat, positive atmospheres through pounding basslines and heavy beats. “The term DJ, you think of a man,” she explains. Fell has made it her mission to change that. Fell was introduced to the world of electronic music after attending Coachella as a sophomore in high school. At the time, she was a self-described “AUX cord DJ,” known by friends as DJ Felly Fell. After watching an amateur male DJ perform at a Cal Poly State University fraternity party, Fell knew she, too, could make a space for herself in the industry. “That was the first time I saw somebody on a similar level to me. I was like, ‘okay, if that guy can do it, I can do it,’” Fell says.
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COURTESY OF: LINDSEY SCHIFFMAN
She explains that the issue goes beyond the topic of gender.
She bought a mixing board, adopted the stage name “Felly Fell” and taught herself to DJ before starting her first semester of college. As one of the only female DJs in San Luis Obispo at the time, she was painfully aware of the role gender played in the music scene. “I think I got so popular so quickly because of my gender. Nobody had ever seen a female DJ, so all of these frat dudes were just like, ‘we want this chick to DJ our event.’” Despite her popularity, Fell still finds herself in situations where she’s been mistreated. She describes her discomfort in the far-too-common scenario where she’s underpaid, or not paid at all. Promoters often argue that exposure is payment enough for DJs. Fell disagrees. “No,” she says. “This is my craft, this is my art, I’m making your events sick.”
She admits it’s never easy to ask for money, but “why would I question being paid for something that is my job?” Being a rarity in the industry has its advantages, Fell describes her success with this crowd as “super awesome” but also disappointing as it has highlighted the disparity between men and women in the industry. “Freshman year, I was getting asked to DJ parties left and right and I knew that it was because I was a woman DJ. But, I was like, ‘Okay, whatever. Yes, I’ll DJ your party. Pay me $100 an hour.’ I made a lot of money off of frats,” she says with a laugh. “It has been a pro and a con at the same time but using it to my advantage has been awesome.” Being alone as a woman in the music scene inspired Fell to encourage other women to join the community. Her mission became to empower underrepresented people in the industry such as trans women, non-binary folk, and femme-identifying individuals. Fell had been DJing at the Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo radio station, KCPR, for two years when she was approached by SubSessions, an arts and music collective based in SLO. After playing a few events, Fell realized she was ready for a leadership role in the collective and advanced to the role of director. SubSessions was a breath of fresh air for Fell, who found herself in the midst of a toxic work environment prior to joining the collective. She describes an experience with a “misogynistic” leader of a previous collective, who ran things as a “dictatorship.” “He would give people better or worse slots based on their actions towards him and how he felt about them at the time,” she says. For the women of the group, this treatment extended to whether or not they would flirt with him. This controlling behavior came to a head after a show where Fell performed.
“He had given me a really good set time because was on his good page at that time. I got super, super nervous and I drank too much,” she recalls. “He actually ended up sexually assaulting me.” It took Fell a while to comprehend the severity of his actions. “I don’t think I realized what it was for a very long time,” she says. “And nothing ever happened because I didn’t think that anything could really happen.” Fell recognizes that coming forward with her story is equal parts difficult and necessary. “This has happened to so many artists in the music industry, I can’t even imagine,” say says. “I feel like people don’t talk about that or publish it because it’s like, who knows what the backlash is gonna be, but it needs to be talked about more.” Fell has since removed herself from that environment and found a safe space in SubSessions. She describes the collective as a place to express herself with more support and room for creative freedom. Her passion project is Femme Sessions, an event thrown by SubSessions that aims to highlight femme-identifying DJs. She describes an otherworldly energy at these events, unlike anything she’s experienced before. “Seeing people dancing with a smile on their face, having the time of their lives is what keeps me going,” she says. Above all else, Fell stresses the importance of uplifting underrepresented people without tokenizing them, calling it a “fine line.” “I’m proud to be a woman and be a femme-identifying person and have that be highlighted,” she says. “But also, I don’t want to be booked just because I am a woman. Like, I am a fucking DJ.”
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Photographed by: Ricardo Olivares
71 SPRING 20201
I AM A GAMER
BY: LYN BROOK
BY: SYDNEY WELCH
LIVING IN A WORLD THAT IS BLACK AND WHITE, LITERALLY
BY: MADDISON OCTOBER
SOCIAL MEDIA: ONE USER’S LOSS OF IDENTIY
BY: KRISTEN LUNA
STOMPING GENDER NORMS ONE STEP AT A TIME
BY: TÉO MATA
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I AM A GAMER
73 SPRING 20201
WRITTEN BY: LYN BROOK PHOTOGRAPHED BY: AMALIA DIAZ
It was a Friday; A relief for many, but for Reiko Yuu, 23, it meant tradition -- the day of the week they looked forward to the most. As the school bell rang, Yuu hurried down the street to Dairy Queen to meet their brother, grab some food and make their way to their mom’s house. Upon entering the house, the brothers flung their shoes off, tossed their backpacks, and ran down the hallway entering the familiar room where their PCs sat awaiting them. They turned them on, booted up World of Warcraft and continued the tradition of journeying through Azeroth, together, to kick off their weekend. The gamer identity is still relatively new in the grand scheme of things. Only three generations (Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z) firmly identify with its culture. As these generations grow up, the culture and identity of gaming rise with them. For many people, gaming is more than a hobby. It’s a lifestyle that becomes deeply intertwined with their personality and overall identity, influencing how they dress, decorate their rooms, who they interact with and how they interact with the world.
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My childhood was built by a family who had a strong identification with gaming and being gamers,” said Yuu. “Both my parents and my siblings all loved video games and it was an essential part of how we bonded growing up.” As a current computer science student in Canada, Yuu has many aspirations and dreams, but video games still play a vital role in their personal and professional life. “A look around my room is like playing i-Spy. If you know what to look for, there’s a lot of video game references, including posters, books, figurines, old video game boxes and a replica Frostmourne blade (World of Warcraft iconic sword) mail-opener,” described Yuu. Yuu’s ideal situation is to graduate and use their degree to bring to life the ideas they have conjured up of possible video games. Hopefully, one day becoming a full-time streamer via Twitch, where they can use their virtual avatar to play video games with a community they created themselves. Yuu recognizes becoming a full-time streamer is a long shot. Still, their main motivation for it is “sharing their favorite video games with people, and enjoying other’s favorite video games alongside them,” they reveal. Although many gamers have aspirations to become full-time streamers, like Yuu, they also use streaming outlets for other purposes. For many, it can be a safe place to meet like-minded people and make friends, an outlet to socialize in an atmosphere where they feel welcomed and bond over similar experiences and knowledge. Wrestling coach by day and identified gamer by night, Martin Ruiz, 32, is set to begin streaming as a hobby and use his platform to meet others in the community and make friends. “Everyone begins streaming for fun and the friends,” said Ruiz. “You’re able to be more open and authentic because the commonality of video games breaks you out of your shell and relates you with people.”
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Ruiz grew up playing video games with his dad and two brothers but explains that he didn’t truly begin identifying as a gamer until around middle school. It was then when he met his first group of friends who also played video games. He has fond memories of going to his neighbor’s house after school to play video games with them - most memorable was Halo. Going into high school, Ruiz was really into sports. He found that the competitiveness between him and his teammates translated into friendships where they would play video games with each other off the field. Competitive by nature, it only made sense that Ruiz frequently played competitive video games like Call of Duty, Halo and his current favorite, Apex Legends. A first-person shooter game that also refers to an FPS game. Ruiz enjoys participating in tournaments for Apex Legends. These tournaments are where gamers come together to prove their skills to one another—hoping to be noticed by sponsors and recruited for an esports team. Esports is an avenue of gaming that has been around, believe it or not, since the very first official esports tournament in 1972. Like gaming, esports tournaments started in arcades and evolved into a grand production broadcast on television and arenas. Esports has given the gaming community a more public setting. Esports has been highly criticized for its controversy about whether it could be considered an actual sport. However, a research study on Esports concluded that “Esports is groundbreaking in its use of networked technology to bring people around the world together through organized, competitive games.” According to a sudy in The Sport Journal, “Another advantage esports has over varsity sports is the number of viewers that watch esports and the ability to watch via the internet.”
Similarly, a literature review on esports found that, since the popularity boom in 2002, esports is now recognized at the same level as traditional sports, like football or baseball-- drafting teams, fantasy leagues, tournaments and more. It has evolved into a booming industry worldwide with many interested individuals rooting for their favorite teams.
“It’s a really unique and fun experience,” said Ruiz, who cosplays at conventions when he can. His most recent cosplay was of Shikamaru, a character from the anime “Naruto.”
At tournaments, gamers come worldwide to support their teams and show their pride for their favorite video games via “cosplaying.”
Cosplayers are known for their dedication and craftsmanship when creating their costumes. Taking on the identity of their favorite personalities from games, whether that be a ninja, a giant barbarian, a high-elf leader, a mischievous goblin or anything you can imagine.
As stated in the Journal of Cult Media, “Cosplay, short for ‘costume play, is the modern practice of wearing costumes, props, and accessories to represent a character.” Cosplaying is most popular at gaming conventions and gaming tournaments, where individuals show off their “fandoms” - being a fan of a specific video game, genre or anime.
“You get to step into your favorite character’s shoes for a day and feel what it’s like to be them,” said Ruiz.
Thanks to the invention of the internet, gamers are connected all day, every day. They are not going anywhere, anytime soon. Pingu Mumbo confesses, “I think for me, playing games as an everyday part of my life just makes me consider myself one (a gamer)!”
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ASIAN-AMERICAN IDENTITIES WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY: SYDNEY WELCH
This photo story looks at three Asian-American women who embrace their individual cultures that form their identity. California alone has the largest Asian American population in the U.S. As of the 2020 U.S. Census, there were over 6 million Asian-Americans in California; 15.5% of the state’s population. If including those with partial Asian ancestry, this figure is around 17%. This is a jump from 13.8% recorded in 2010.
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The largest Asian American ethnic subgroups in California are Filipino Americans, Chinese Americans, Vietnamese Americans, and Indian Americans. Asian Americans in California are concentrated in the San Francisco and Los Angeles metropolitan areas.
Shaira Natividad was born in Manila, Philippines, but was raised in Nueva Ecija, Philippines and lived there for a total of eight years, she then moved to California in February 2008. When she arrived she didn’t know how to form sentences in English, Natividad said she a difficult time adjusting to the first couple of years. “I think I was lucky that I moved at eight years old, since it’s easier to pick up a
language when you’re younger,” she said. “School definitely played a significant role in the improvement of my English and social skills.” Pictured above is her eating a Filipino dessert called “Halo-halo.” Natividad said she was only exposed to Filipino cuisine for the first eight years of her life. “Lumpia was a must during my birthday parties and Halo-Halo during the humid summer days,” said Natividad.
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Jasmine Yuen showcases her “Chut Thai” on a bamboo blanket. “My mother is Thai and my father is Chinese, but he was born and raised in New York.” Nguyen strongly feels engulfed into her Thai culture because her mother made sure to keep her cultural roots alive within their family. A traditional Thai outfit includes a necklace, bracelets, shoulder side jewel string, belt, and earrings. “This outfit means a lot to me because I grew embodying my Thai culture whether it be Thai dancing, music, or language,” said Yuen. The outfit she is wearing is called “Chut Thai”. It means “Thai Outfit” and can be worn by men, women and children. Yuen said that Chut Thai for women usually consists of a pha nung or a pha chung hang, a blouse, and a pha biang.
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Sarah Naini showcases her jewelry as she clutches a bag that was given to her by a cousin from Iran. “We both share a passion for fashion, and I love to represent my culture through colorful bags & jewelry,” said Naini. Sarah Naini’s, culture is very important to her. Being in San Francisco has really helped her embrace her cultures. “I love the diversity and sense of community that surrounds me everyday,” said Naini. Sarah Naini showcases her jewelry as she clutches a bag that was given to her by a cousin from Iran. “We both share a passion for fashion, and I love to represent my culture through colorful bags & jewelry,” said Naini.
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WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY MADDISON OCTOBER
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LIVING IN A WORLD THAT I S
BLACK AND WHITE, LITE RALLY
The year is 1967, after an almost 10-year-long
process, Mildred and Richard Loving walk out of the Supreme Court, creating history by legitimizing their marriage as a Black woman and a white man.
“I say, I think marrying who you want to is a right that no man should have anything to do with; it’s a God-given right I think,” said Mildred in an interview in 1967. The Loving v. Virginia case legalized love no matter the skin color for generations to come. With racial tensions in the United States so high, being biracial can feel like an internal and external battle between two identities – too white to be Black, yet too Black to be white. How does one navigate two different worlds, worlds where it was illegal to exist in the confines of marriage only 54 years ago?
The Present Fast forward just 49 years, a whole generation later, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the percentage of interracial marriages grew from 7.4 in 2000 to 10.2 percent in 2012-2016 and continues to grow. With increase comes new experiences and unfamiliar territory to navigate, yet still, some things stay the same. In May of 2020, Los Angeles and the rest of the world erupted in protest over the deaths of Jamarri Daiwon Tarver, Tyree Davis, Tina
Marie Davis, Alvin Cole, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and hundreds more.The ever-present chasm throughout the country deepened that summer. “[...]it feels like I’m not Vlack enough to stand up for the cause [The Black Lives Matter movement] sometimes,” said Tiffany Richardson, the daughter of a Black man and white woman –now a mother to a four-month-old multiracial child in Southern California. That summer, relationships ended, hurtful words said, fear ran high and families had tough conversations. Richardson said that time was especially difficult for her family. It was the first time she saw her mother, Debi Ferguson, actively defend the movement to her side of the family. In Ferguson’s family, there are a few police officers. As a result, many of the opinions from her family were fueled in defense. “I think that was the first time all of us, my mom, my sister and my brother, felt tension within our (extended) family,” said Richardson. Ferguson couldn’t recall any conversation about race when she began dating her children’s father. Nor when she first became pregnant but found it interesting that 30 years later, tough conversations were now taking place. “You’d think there would be a progression, but there really wasn’t,” said Ferguson.
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There are millions of combinations that can occur in any family based on the parents’ physical characteristics. That number increases significantly when the parents are from different races. The only real obstacle Ferguson recalled learning was how to do Richardson and her sister’s hair. Richardson has tight bouncy curls, whereas she described her sister as having wavy hair. “I just remember when you [Ferguson] did my hair it was crazy, my stepdad did my hair,” Richardson laughs. “I learned from him too, how to braid her hair,” Ferguson admits. Richardson remembers her stepfather braiding her hair on most occasions when she was younger because he was more familiar with what curly hair requires. Small things can add to this feeling of not belonging, such as having a parent whose hair is unfamiliar to their own. Luckily, now with the immediacy of the internet, there are resources, such as YouTube and blog tutorials, for parents to learn how to style and manage different hair textures. The Pew Research Center in 2015 surveyed multiracial adults in the United States. It found, “by contrast, six-in-ten Americans with a white and Black background (61%) believe they are seen as
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Black, and only 19% say they would be seen as multiracial (an additional 7% say they would be perceived as white only).” The survey also found that roughly one-in-five multiracial adults felt peer pressured to identify as a single race either by people close to them or society as a whole. “When you’re with your white family, you feel like you’re not white enough, right? When you’re with your Black family, you don’t feel like you’re Black enough,” said Richardson. “Even with my friends, [I] always got the stereotype like, ‘Oh, she’s a good dancer, because she’s Black.’ But then, ‘Oh, you’re talking like a white girl right now.’” The tension between living in a Black and white world can sometimes feel tangibly disorientating. How does one live in two worlds at once? Based on what race you “present” the most, assumptions start to form. For Richardson there were “a lot of little things” her Black friends would reference in passing assuming she would understand. “I can’t make that connection because I didn’t experience that,” said Richardson. Growing up in Irvine, Richardson was hardly around anyone who looked like her besides her siblings. She has always been deemed the “Black friend” among her non-Black friends.
Similarly, among biracial adults, one in five in the Pew survey said they have felt as the go-between between different racial groups. The Journal of College Student Development published an article written by Assistant Professor at University of California, Los Angeles Jessica Harris entitled, “Multiracial Campus Professionals’ Experiences with Multiracial Microaggressions.” In the article, Harris writes that the definition of racism is so cut and dry. “Put simply, if an act of racial discrimination does not fit the narrow definition of racism, put forth by white society, then it cannot be named, addressed, nor redressed,” writes Harris. According to Harris, for those that experience racism outside the form of segregation and terrorism, it becomes almost impossible for white people to understand how their microaggressions, subtle remarks, or the institutions put in place could be “racist” when racism only takes on the form of a white hooded white man. “It’s the little things that end up building up over time,” said Richardson.
considered a felony. The couple was then forced out of bed and into a jail cell. Rather than sentencing them to a year in prison, which was customary at the time for that crime, the judge decided they were not allowed to come back together to the state of Virginia for 25 years. The Lovings didn’t accept that answer, which started their 10-year long fight and resulted in today’s world.
The Future In 2019, Richardson married a man named Jesse Ben-Ron, who is half Filipino and half white. Together they welcomed their son Ezekiel Ben-Ron into the world this past January. According to the 2018 United States Census, by the year 2045, the majority of this country will completely flip. No longer will the majority be white. It will be multiracial. Because of the Lovings 10-year long fight, we have now created a society within four generations that will soon no longer be able to keep track of race as a result of how interwoven we will have become.
The Past Richard and Mildred weren’t the first to start this fight towards legitimizing interracial marriages. They were just the ones to end it. In 1883, before the Loving’s, there was another love story. Tony Pace, a Black man, and Mary J. Cox, a white woman in Alabama. The court ruled that this anti-miscegenation law, the banning of mixing races, was constitutional because it equally punished Black people and white people. The couple were each sentenced to two years in the State prison - simply for being in love. Similarly, five weeks into the Loving’s marriage, the couple were asleep in their bed when Mildred awoke to a sheriff shining his flashlight in her face at 2 a.m. Unbeknown to them, their marriage was
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Illustration by: Ellie Doyen
One user’s loss of identity Written by: Kristen Luna 85 SPRING 20201
the breakup of his 12-year relationship in 2016, a then 36-year-old Michael Victor walked outside his San Francisco home with a camera in hand, which unknowingly was the start of a new identity. “My love of photography was reborn after my long-term relationship ended,” said Victor. As a way to cope, Victor took walks after work with his camera to capture unique perspectives of different neighborhoods throughout the city. Not only did Victor’s newfound passion for photography lead him up steep hills in the city, but it also steered him toward roughly 75,000 followers on Instagram. On April 27, after five years as @415guy on Instagram, Victor suspended his account. “It’s really consumed my identity. Everyone knows me as the @415guy now. I began to realize that people want to meet me because I’m the @415guy. They don’t know Michael,” said Victor. “I need to work on separating these two identities. There’s @415guy, and there’s Michael; they’re two different beings. But for five years, it’s been the same thing.”
Becoming @415guy Victor’s love for photography started as an 8-year-old child when his parents gifted him their old Nikon 35mm camera. “I’ve always been into photography,” said Victor. “Not to the extent that I have been doing it, but you know, just random photos around the city when we go places and whatnot, architectural shots.” As he ventured out into the city with his newfound freedom, Victor nostalgically sent the pictures he took to friends and family. After
receiving positive responses, his sister encouraged him to start an Instagram account. With no presence or experience on any social media platform due to being a private person, Victor was hesitant to use his real name; with the help of his sister, he found one. “She was like, ‘Well if you’re gonna take San Francisco photos, what about the @415guy?’” said Victor. Being a third-generation San Franciscan, Victor is no stranger to the city. After work, he would drive to a new neighborhood to photograph and post on his page. “You really got a flavor of the city,” said Victor. “I was gaining followers because it was that unique perspective of a native San Franciscan who is showing more than just the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m actually going into neighborhoods and showing what city life is really like.” With his rise in followers using hashtags and consistent content, Victor started contributing to articles at SFGate. It wasn’t until the summer of 2017, when the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a feature on Victor, that his followers increased tremendously. “Literally, I think in one day, I gained like, 9,000 followers,” said Victor. Victor was soon flooded with only followers but the realities running a successful social media page.
“The more followers you have, the more comments you get, the more engagement you get, the more people that are sharing your photos, the more your photos appear in explorer feeds, and hashtag searches and hashtag queries,” said Victor. “That was really the progression.”
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Last year, Adobe held a significant campaign for one of their Lightroom apps and chose three photographers from around the country to work with them. “I was one [of them],” said Victor. Prior to becoming @415guy, Victor had no presence on social media, nor any desire. He did find that running a successful page, which led to notoriety and career opportunities, was gratifying. “Personally, it’s almost like a dopamine effect,” said Victor. “I might be bored one day, then I look at my phone, and I’m like, ‘Oh, wow, NatGeo travel mentioned you in a comment.’ It’s like, ‘Oh, wow, I got featured on National Geographic travel, and they’ve got 19.6 million followers.’ Who doesn’t like to be appreciated for what they do?”
A disconnected identity Since the mid-90s, social media platforms continue to make their mark on our society. Each decade produces new platforms for people to engage with one another and express their identity. “The one thing that’s universal is the desire to share,” said Mark Hoffman, assistant professor of Sociology at Stanford.
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According to a new national survey of 1,502 U.S. adults conducted by the Pew Research Center, roughly seven in ten people have used social media sites, with YouTube and Facebook leading social media platforms. The survey also found that “seven in ten Facebook users say they use the site daily, including 49% who say they use the site several times a day.” According to Pew Research Center, the pattern is similar for Instagram - 73% of 18-to 29-yearold Instagram users say they visit the site every day, with roughly 53% reporting they do so several times per day. Hoffman’s research focuses on computational social science. According to the Annual Review of Sociology, computational social science “applies computational methods to novel sources of digital data such as social media, administrative records, and historical archives to develop theories of human behavior.” “It’s [social media] not just that it has this kind of independent effect on us that we don’t control. It’s not just from the outside; we’re part of it,” said Hoffman. “One thing that all social media, and much of the internet, depends on is a desire to share with others, which is a kind of fundamental human aspect
that we kind of exploit.That fundamental human desire gets taken to an extreme.” While his success as @415guy led to roughly 75,000 followers, Victor felt the weight of follower’s expectations diminish his creativity. “At the same time, as an artist, you begin to feel more confined,” said Victor. “After a while, you begin to see what people like and what your audience likes. It begins to affect how you see things, what you see and what you share.” However demanding social media can be for someone who wants to disconnect, it’s difficult not to acknowledge the universal influence over us as individuals and as a society. “The ability to connect with people, the ability to meet people from around the city, around the world. I mean, it’s crazy,” said Victor. “People follow me in Iceland and Africa. It’s just the weirdest thing, but it’s a very powerful tool.” Akin to an actor having an audience when they perform, successful social media accounts typically have many followers who become their personal audience. It’s easy to not equate followers with an audience because social media began as a way to connect with friends and family. “I’ve long since realized what the reality is, but at first I wasn’t able to distinguish between people following the @415guy, San Francisco photos and people following Michael, the person,” said Victor. Not being able to distinguish between followers interested in his photography versus him as a person, Victor’s friends felt compelled to point out the distinctions. “Friends began to tell me, ‘They don’t know anything about you. They follow you because they like your photography. You take nice
photos of the city, you say nice things, and they like the photos. They don’t know you the person,’” said Victor. “I definitely came to realize that, but it can be lonely. Seventy-five thousand people, but I’m not close with any of them.” Each new follower brought a new revelation, and each new revelation brought Victor closer toward realizing the truth behind his use of social media. “I realized I’m basically using this app to fulfill all of my needs and that’s not healthy. It should just be a place where I share photos of things I love,” said Victor.
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When generating a social media account, choosing a username, followers, who to follow, what to post, what to like and what to comment on is all part of creating your online world.
Social media gives us the freedom to express the nuances of our identity. In Victor’s experience, he found it to be very limiting.
According to Hoffman, “In many ways, we build the type of social media that we want to see. There’s always been a clear divide between the online world and the real world, but the line seems to be becoming more blurred.
“These past five years, I really haven’t taken the time just to be me. It’s all about taking photos that people like and generating content,” said Victor. “Not that I don’t enjoy that – I do, but I think I’ve been so focused on it. Honestly, it’s affected my identity.
Hoffman discussed moments in his childhood when his mother tried to convince him to play outside instead of playing online video games with his friends. “It always was weird because the online space was a space in which I was interacting with people. It’s not like it was somehow less interactive, per se than in person,” said Hoffman. “There’s this sort of mindset that there’s this offline world in this online world. I think what’s interesting is how much they’re becoming intertwined.” According to their website, the Media Psychology Review Center focuses on examining the ways people consume, produce and distribute information in all forms of media through research and assessments. A 2016 theoretical analysis on Simulated Identities found that “identity is no longer a concept that gradually evolves. Rather, it is a ‘conscious’ process that we are able to construct through social media.” Their analysis further stated that “identity construction in social media deconstructs the grand narrative of a single identity an individual has in the actual/physical world…In this regard, identity is reconstructed over and over again in a continuous process controlled by individuals.”
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According to the Media Psychology Review Center, “Simulated identities should not be disregarded or underestimated because, in today’s growing web of social media platforms, it is expected that new media will provide new realities that are of virtual grounding. These new realities [...] will shift the hierarchical positions of the binaries of the real over the virtual.”
Re-identifying Michael While Victor takes a step back from social media and being the @415guy, he acknowledges that the consequences of his social media presence were his own doing. “No one is pressuring [me] to do anything, but most of my life is spent in the city,” said Victor. “I would like to go to other areas, explore other parts of the Bay Area, and travel more. I feel like much of my life has focused around photographing the city that I haven’t spent much time doing [traveling outside the city].” Besides his love of photography, Victor is passionate about interior design and plans to redirect his focus to renovating his home into a vintage, retro aesthetic. “The house was built in 1939. My goal is when you walk into the kitchen, it will look like you step back into the early 1940s.”
He plans to return to Instagram to reopen his account in the future, but only when he can get back to the person, he once was.
tor. “I’m not there right now... I want to be true to myself. I’m not using social media as the be-all; end-all my source for everything. My source for happiness and self-confidence and esteem and relationships and dating; I don’t want all that. That’s what I hope to get out of it; separating out the identities.”
“I want to get back to those carefree days where I don’t care what I share,” said Vic-
Update: As of press time, @415guy has reactivated his account.
After only a few days of suspending his account, Victor expressed that he already feels at ease.
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S T O M P I N G
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WRITTEN BY: TÉO MATA
PHOTOGRAPHED BY: MADDISON OCTOBER
GENDER FASHION NORMS ONE STEP AT A TIME
During a party in 2013, Sophia Jaime, 24, found
herself in a sea of skinny denim jeans, overpriced Hollister printed v-necks and excessively ripped denim. “I felt like a diamond surrounded by Michael’s craft store gems,” she recalled. Her outfit that night? A sleeveless Levis button-up with black striped leggings and a pair of Jeffrey Campbell night walks. She expressed that, to her, everyone looked “normal.” For her, they were too casual and boring, and their lack of individuality made her feel special. “There’s nothing I have in common with these people, look wise, personality-wise or anything,” she said. From that point on, she decided to continue to pave her way and stand out in a way that was uniquely her. She began dyeing her hair. The only bleach blonde at school spiraled into a never-ending effort to make a fashion statement - immersing herself in the fashion world. Today, the go-tos in her closet are the famous hoove-looking shoes from Maison Martin Margiela, known for creating luxury pieces led by John Galliano. She loves to wear bodysuits like the bedazzled sky blue bodysuit along with her pink teddy fur sweater. A green tutu skirt with a green crop top and heart printed skirt with cyan seven-inch platforms is only the tip of the iceberg of all her looks.
“I use clothes and fashion as an avenue because I do not see gender in clothes. Why is fashion so one-sided? Like why can’t it be fun? Expressing myself with clothes is always nice,” said Jaime. As a trans woman, Jaime described the transition as challenging. She recalled her friends often tried to force her into a box of what a woman should be and how she should dress. She always knew she was different from other people in her neighborhood and schools. As a teenager, she ignored the possibility of being trans but still wanted to wear women’s clothing and do her makeup. “I knew that I was gay, but being gay was just not it. There was something else that didn’t feel right,” said Jaime. “When I was 16-17, I started doing my makeup and did not want to take it off. I liked how I looked. Then 18 comes around, and holy shit — I realized I’m trans. I’m not just gay; I want to be a girl. I am just in the wrong body.” After graduating high school, she decided to start hormone replacement therapy and remembers the transition as a “crazy journey.” She still has days where it’s hard to feel comfortable in her body, so she reminds herself that her transition is a process. Jaime described her process of standing out as a labor of love. She uses fashion to leave her mark wherever she goes, unapologetically and staying entirely true to herself.
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Hidden under her bed is a colorful collection of designer shoes. She believes that a nice pair of shoes could make or break an outfit and make a basic outfit look unique. It’s been two years since she started her self-described “shoe obsession,” and she continues to look for her next best pair. Currently, she is saving up for a pair of Saint Laurent boots and a barney purple Telfar bag. Her dream is to one day own a pair of red bottom Christian Louboutins. “The first-ever designer heel that I fell in love with was Christian Louboutin. That red bottom makes it so unique. Just a sleek heel with a tiny stiletto and like a big high arch was just so beautiful,” said Jaime. Most of her shoes have heels and soles well over four inches. She describes this as a confidence booster and a “powerful” fashion move. Wearing boots that have a seven-inch heel is a norm for Jaime. She loves the feeling of being the tallest in the room and standing out. “When people look at you up and down, they look at my shoes, and it’s like, ‘Oh she’s wearing those shoes?’ It just makes me feel powerful,” she said. Feeling powerful is essential for Jamie, especially during times where she feels uncomfortable. Finding comfort and acceptance within oneself is important for trans individuals, according to Tray Robinson, lecturer of Multicultural and Gender Studies at Chico State University. “It is incredibly important for someone transitioning, and anyone in general. One may say they don’t care what others think. But in reality, if we are accepted into society for who we are, we have a sense of belonging,” said Robinson. “In the case of a transwoman or transman, if they feel accepted by society, then it brings a sense of comfort.”
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Robinson added that unisex clothing and androgenous clothing could play a big role in the future. “Stores that sell unisex clothing do a good job in fighting the gender norms. If this continues, people that identify as the non-binary will feel comfortable and accepted,” said Robison. A study in 2018 by The European Journal and Social Science Education titled “Deconstruction of Gender Stereotypes through Fashion” described how fashion houses aim to eliminate masculine and feminine labels in their garments.
tioning at age 18. Often, he wished clothes would just fit everyone the same way. At a young age, Cabrera found his tomboyish style comfortable because it allowed him to be himself. He eventually wanted to find clothing that would match his masculinity. He noticed men’s clothing was a lot bigger in size and grew frustrated when he could not fit in some clothes. Now 23, Cabrera is happy to go to a store and fit into most men’s clothing. “Honestly, the unisex section saved my life as a kid. The shorts that fit everyone and the one size fits all type clothing; it was comfortable too. It was something I was able to enjoy, well out of my range away from women’s clothing,” said Cabrera. Cabrera and Jaime have different transition stories, but both have found ways to find clothing that make them feel like themselves. Although she owns designer shoes, Jamie never felt the need to buy the clothing. She expressed that designer garments are too overpriced and make her feel “broke.” Because of this, she limits herself to only buying designer shoes. It also mentions that doing so will help break gender discrimination in fashion and society. The article highlighted fashion houses like Gucci Catwalk in 2016 and Calvin Klein by RafSimons in 2018. These fashion houses use color, silk and floral patterns to deconstruct stereotypes of gender in clothing. The clothes in the collections are interchangeable and can be worn by anyone, no matter their sexual orientation. Bay Area resident, Cricket Cabrera, identifies as a transman. He described his struggles of finding unisex clothing at a young age, before transi-
“A shoe with a toe split is expensive, and people won’t understand why I buy them. But they will never understand because they aren’t wearing them,” she said. The most important thing to Jaime is being herself and feeling like she can be the center of attention at any given moment. “I’m looking forward to seeing what new pieces I can find, just to even own them for a bit so I can just bask in its glory and feel like, ‘Yes, I did that because that is all I need sometimes,’” she said.
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