Volume 3: Experiences

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Volume 3 Fall 2015

IN 7-8 michi’s dubai experience

9-10 #stayawake

11-14 kristel lorena’s experience

5-6 anonymous’ experience

17-20 15-16 lizbeth’s

michi’s body art


menstruation & sustainability



Editor-in-Chief Brian Rivera Managing Editor Vikki Tou Co-Editors Maria Alejandra Gonzales, Viviana Zuluaga, India Ferguson, Aurora Alcaide Visual Editor Ana Maria Reyes Special Thanks To Michael Bisnett at the print lab Jason R. Chandler

My psychedelic trip took place at the end of the Spring 2015 semester. My friends and I wanted to take mushrooms together and spend time at Oleta State Park in North Miami on the Saturday after finals. As the day grew closer, I began to reminisce on the times I did shrooms with my friends in high school. Many of my psychedelic trips in those days involved my friends and I walking through our neighborhood, hiking in nearby forests to lose ourselves in nature, having hour-long conversations, and building forts for us to lay in and watch the stars. That was years ago. This time I wanted my experience to be different. I’ve learned a lot more about myself since that last trip and have entered an entirely unique period in my life. On an early Saturday morning, we all gathered our backpacks and drove to Oleta park to begin our journey. On our way to the park, my friend R told me he was a bit nervous since he had never taken psychedelics before. I comforted him and told him not worry. I empathized with him because I remembered how nervous I was the first time I took shrooms. I told him to remain calm and think of mushrooms as watching a really visually intense movie. “You won’t die or do anything crazy, you’re just going to see a lot of beautiful things that you’ve never seen before!” He smiled a little because this was comforting to him. We placed the mushrooms in a hamburger before we get into the car and munched on them, so that by the time we reached the park we could begin to feel it. As soon as we arrived to Oleta, we ran into the forest and began our journey. After walking several miles into the forest, we encountered a mountain bike trail that branches off further into the woods. As we trekked to the entrance of the woods, we started to feel rain drops hitting the top of our heads. At this point, I began to feel the effects of the shrooms because every rain drop felt like it tickled the top of my head, and the sensation spread throughout my body.

“I felt as though each droplet was vibrating through my body”

Soon the rain turned from a light drizzle to a heavy shower, which intensified our highs. My friend R twirled around in circles with his mouth open in complete awe of what he was seeing. He then ran underneath a tree, pulls out his sketchbook and begins to sketch the world through his eyes. While watching him from afar, suddenly it began to look like someone turned up the saturation setting on Photoshop, because the trees and even my friend’s faces appeared extremely vivid and powerful. It’s almost like I went from watching a 480p video to watching a 3-D movie in high definition. I slowly turned towards the sky and observed how the wind blew towards me and gently rustled the trees, which then made all the water droplets bounce off of the vibrant green leaves and brought them rushing down toward my face.


Once the rain slowed down, we continued along the trail and found ourselves walking alongside a river. As we gazed at the river, the rain poured down on us. The first time the rain poured down on me I felt as though each droplet was vibrating through my body, but this time I felt as though I was being washed away with the rain. We sat down under a shady tree near the river so we could still have a good view. While we sat under the tree, my friends and I started talking about everything. Family, school, life, girls, our troubles, the past, the future. We weren’t even looking at each other at this point because we were so mesmerized by the movement of the water. At one point, we stopped and looked at each other with the same thought in our minds - we grabbed our bathing suits and ran into the river. The second the water got in contact with my body, time slowed down dramatically. I jumped up as the water rushed over me and I felt my worries and stress wash right over my head. My feet began to sink into the sand at the bottom of water. Each tree that swayed with the breeze displayed a crystallized composition of multiple shades of green. Every time I turned my head, it was as if Mother Nature was revealing her secrets to me. We couldn’t help but look up at the sky, describing the constant color changes of the horizon and the forest. Even though the 3 of us were seeing different things, it was as if we were watching the same movie but pointing out the things we missed. When the fervent wind made a loud noise, we matched our breath to the sound of the wind.

After spending some hours in the water, we all jumped out to see what else Mother Nature had in store for us. We wandered back through the forest laughing and shouting about the mind-blowing visual adventure we were embarking on. After walking into random rails and open spaces in the woods, we arrived back at the camp’s entrance which was not too far from where we last left our things. Near the entrance we noticed the beautiful beach which we rushed past when we first got back to the park. The beach was beautiful, the coconut trees and sea grass lining the dunes reminded me of the hidden tropical gems that Miami has to offer. My friends and I sat neck deep in the beach water staring into the river’s abyss, watching as the clouds danced above our heads. We didn’t speak. We barely moved. Words weren’t needed because we knew we were feeling the same exact stillness within ourselves. Before we knew it, the sun began to set. The different shades of purples and pinks mixed in with yellows and oranges revealing the most enchanting sunset I had ever seen in my life.

Submitted by Anonymous Edited by India Ferguson

Night began to fall and as the day ended, so did our trip. What started out as a day filled with rain, nervousness, and uncertainty ended in euphoria, stillness and one of the most beautiful scenes I had ever witnessed.

Alquilé un tour que me llevaba a conocer el desierto en un carro por todo el terreno...

Burj Al Arab Jumeira (above)

[For the english translation, please visit www.awakesoa.com] Después del desierto, el tour incluiría un show donde había una comida acompañada con bailes árabes tradicionales. Al final de la jornada, el mismo tour se encargaría de recoger y llevarme al hotel. El señor que manejaba me recogió a mi primero y luego fuimos a recoger a una familia hindú con la cual compartiría el viaje de regreso.


Después de recoger a la familia, fuimos a explorar todo el desierto con otros carros de la misma compañía. Luego fuimos a un lugar donde nos encontramos con aproximadamente diez carros más ya que todos íbamos juntos. Una vez que todo finalizó le pedí al señor que por favor me dejara a mi primero en el hotel porque yo estaba sola y ya se estaba poniendo un poco tarde. Sin embargo, ignorando mi petición, el señor fue a dejar a la familia primero. Apenas salimos del hotel de aquella familia, ellos me preguntaron si quería ir a comer, y yo le dije que no porque yo había comido durante el show. El señor,

a mi sorpresa, me preguntó si quería ir a la playa. Yo le dije que no mientras él me seguía diciendo que la playa era hermosa de noche. Él insistió. Me preguntó si quería ir al hotel a cambiarme que él después me recogía para ir para la playa. En ese momento me empecé a asustar. Ya estábamos en la carretera en camino hacia el Downtown Dubái, donde se encuentra el edificio más alto del mundo, el Burj Khalifa. Yo había escogido un hotel al lado del Burj Khalifa por mi seguridad, sabiendo que esta área es segura, además de que es fácil de identificar a larga distancia debido a la altura del edificio. Mientras seguimos por la carretera, yo vi que el conductor pasaba la salida que decía “Burj Khalifa.” Traté de no entrar en pánico y intenté de imaginarme que quizás la próxima salida era más cercana. De repente, lo escuché hablando por teléfono con alguien y claramente hablaba en árabe y no entendía nada… Tan solo veía todos los edificios del Downtown desvaneciéndose a la distancia, cada vez alejándose más y más…

El conductor, de repente, tomó una salida a una zona oscura. Ahí me di cuenta que no nos dirigíamos al hotel, ¡y comencé a gritar! Grité y grité hasta que el señor detuvo el carro, respondiéndome con gritos aún más fuertes diciendo: “I was going to take you to the Dubai Mall, I got confused because I was on the phone!” Sabía que me estaba mintiendo… Mi hotel, el mall, y el Burj estaban todos en la misma área y ya la habíamos pasado hace mucho. Felizmente todo no pasó de ser más que un susto y al día siguiente mandé un reporte a la compañía con todo lo que me había sucedido.

Pero a pesar de todo… Dubái fue un encanto. Hubo un momento en el que la gente estaba viendo TV y de repente apagaron todo, pusieron como un cantico, y todo el mundo se detuvo a rezar. Luego me informaron que hay cuatro rezos al día y que en el lugar que sea, hasta en el mall, a la hora del rezo la gente detiene todo y se pone a rezar… Si estás trabajando

o haciendo algo importante, se puede dejar para después pero, ¡no puedes perder ni un solo rezo! Eso me impresionó muchísimo. Usualmente, nos da pereza ir a misa los domingos por una hora mientras que ellos, ¡rezan todos los días! Además, antes de rezar, es necesario lavarse las manos y los pies tres veces.

Photography by Priscilla Cuadra Written by Michelle Chedraui Edited by Vikki Tou and Oscar Valdez



@elisemfrancis: what keeps me #AWAKE during the many all nighters is knowing that I am doing what I love and learning so much with every step I take towards achieving my goals! I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else at the end of the day! As the saying goes “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” - Confucius

@camic95: architecture is my biggest passion. So what better to express myself than drinking coffee out of my favorite architecture chick mug?

@zuluviv: this summer I’ve kept #awake by becoming a LEED Green Associate and a homeowner. For the most part I’m always drawing something, taking pictures, playing with plants, yoga or just slaving away in studio.

@olgakusig: I #stayawake because I like to think. I like to think about things I’ve read and things I’ve seen. My go-to thinking tool is my sketchbook, which is always on me. It is full of lines that form a range of anything from hatches, sections, plans or figures to letters and paragraphs.

@mariuhh00: Life builds new bumps everyday on my path yet I take caution to continue. Thats how I #stayawake. I want more. Accomplish more. Live more. Laugh more. Smile more. Dance more. Draw more. Build more. And rest more.

The goal of our #stayawake campaign is to promote each individual’s creativity and passion for the arts and architecture. We invite everyone to tag @awakesoa on your creative instagram selfies while answering the question: what keeps you awake?

@anamary_fz: [this summer] I achieved my goal of becoming a LEED Green Associate which has kept me educated and mindful of our environment and constantly thinking about my actions and surroundings in a sustainable way.

@krie8ta: My passions include designing, exploring, capturing moments, eating great food, plants, and most importantly family. I #stayawake by dedicating my time to my passions and always trying to go the extra mile.

@sundrily.arts: I love being outside and feel the warm sun and breeze everyday, either by running, gardening or just having fun with the kids. My goal is to create outdoor spaces that would create a hub for people to come together and exchange ideas, knowledge and culture while experiencing and connecting with nature.

@verojaile: what’s design? To me it’s the endless search for the beauty in things, it’s about the process, the evolution of our thoughts. The evolution of yourself in the process. The reason why we are all here: to find something, and to find something you have to search for it, so we begin to search and we start finding connections at every scale. “It’s all about the details” and the details lie in the depth. We learn how to read our thoughts, how beautiful is that?! ...those “ah ha” moments, in those moments we recognize our true self. We live for those moments. So in the end, what drives me? That inner force we all have to learn, understand, and feel something. to see the bigger picture. The reason we study what we study, is to get others to see that bigger picture too.

@sharitb: For me, architecture is the road of expressing through physical space and the intangible in it. Everything we do is done according to the way we understand our being in the world. I #stayawake for that moment we call NOW. Now motivates me to do, to want, to express, to understand and to live disregarding time. I guess I just strive with the idea of transcending and being a part of someone’s NOW through architecture and beyond my physical existence. “Don’t look at what I do, See what I saw,” - Luis Barragan.



Photography by Myrna Pelaez Co-Written and Edited by Ana Maria Reyes & Brian Rivera Special Thanks to Kristel Lorena Velasquez Lopez

I have Synovial Sarcoma. Lorena was interviewed by Ana Maria Reyes and Brian Rivera on March, 2015. Questions asked by the interviewers are bold and italicized. What most people don’t know is that when you undergo treatment as aggressive as this, it targets not only cancer cells but also fast and slowgrowing cells all around the body – including the lining of the stomach, nails, and hair, hence the hair-loss during chemotherapy. Up until now, there hasn’t been any worthwhile developments in medicine that targets solely cancer cells. My cancer is located in the joints between my lower jaw and skull, namely the temporal mandibular. It creates bad joint pain and sometimes doesn’t let me to chew, talk, or eat. When I was first diagnosed at the beginning of this year, the doctor gave me two options: surgery to remove the cancer cells or an ongoing treatment. Why isn’t surgery the best option or the easy way out? Well, the doctors wanted to make sure it doesn’t spread to my lymph nodes – where it can then be spread everywhere else in the body. The good thing about taking the medication is that, unlike chemotherapy where the effects are immediately felt, it takes longer to take over. It’s not injected through an IV but instead consists of pills being swallowed periodically. The effects come an hour or so after I ingest the medication. The thing is, the medication prolongs the symptoms and drags it throughout the day. In the beginning of studio, for example, I would feel fine. But then, towards the end I start to feel nauseous, crappy, and really tired. However, the medicine gives me more control. Postponing or delaying the treatment for a few hours a day is an option – although not recommended – and it allows me to adjust it based on my schedule.

Speaking of studio, you’re really determined to stay in school despite your circumstances. Definitely. Staying in school was my main choice. The last time I went through this, I took time off from school and it set me back. [For those who don’t know, Lorena was previously diagnosed with a different form of cancer 2 years ago. She underwent intensive chemotherapy and was momentarily cancer-free.] I’ve experienced leaving school once before and it affected my family, my friends, and myself. It was a very emotional experience. It felt as if I was going to have to drop out for good. I told myself: If I don’t help myself, then my mental and physical health will deteriorate. I wasn’t going to give up that easily especially after everything I worked so hard for. Fortunately, right now my professors are all supportive. I have the resources, and a sense of feeling better this time around. It’s still a struggle – and the workload we have as architecture students is impossible to keep up with at times. There’s days where I’m physically not capable to do anything. And then there’s bad days... Once, I woke up to get ready for school, but I ended up in the bathroom all morning. I then made an effort to look presentable and head to school – but the minute I arrived I began feeling nauseous and light-headed. I called

my aunt and she said: tomorrow will be better. Today is just a bad day, so accept it and remember it will get better. That’s how I stuck through that day.

Worst Days

I’m tired of certain people. Architecture is a clicky environment - not everyone gets along. And that’s fine, I accept that. But people talk and whatever they say will eventually get back to me. I shouldn’t let it bother me, but ultimately it does. Last Fall, I broke my foot and had a car accident, which prevented me from having my work completed. People now see me as lazy, or a slack. “…that’s exactly how she was last semester.” And it’s not like I’m ever going to come and yell at them. But it just sucks when people talk and don’t know the full story or the whole experience. And it shows a lack of support. Yes. But then there are people out there who are always supportive of me and willing to compromise for my own sake. For the London/Berlin study abroad trip, for example, my roommate agreed to share the room with me understanding the full extent of my circumstances. I gave her and my professors a heads-up to avoid shock or any surprises down the line. The only thing I asked of her was to answer a question: do people really say stuff about me?

And she confirmed that they do indeed talk. How was it like, cutting your hair back in 2013 when you underwent chemo? Cutting my hair short was the hardest part, emotionally. Days before, I would brush my hair before applying conditioner in the shower, and saw large amounts of hair on the brush. That got to me. The thought of having patches of hair, or no hair at all in some places was scary. One of my friends suggested I cut it short, so that if it does fall out, it won’t be as noticeable. Hair is a symbol of you – especially as a woman. It frames you, and boosts your self-esteem. There’s such a big impact – ripping away a part of you. And it hurts when you have no control over it, or no choice at all. It’s a transformative experience, but it comes with its reaction. I received a lot of positive feedback, which made me feel better. It gave me the security, and I’m mentally prepared to take that step again, since I’m not emotionally scarred by it. [As of the writing of this article, Lorena has had to undergo chemotherapy again. She cut more than 10 inches of her own hair on Tuesday, June 23 2015 during sunset. It was a bittersweet moment.]


In 2013, during my first diagnosis, my boyfriend-at-the-time went with me to my first appointment. Then later on that day, I was on my way to fly to Denver and fell extremely ill after taking the wrong combination of pills. It was a disaster – I threw up on the way to the airport, on the plane, everywhere. Later that week, my mom had suggested I get pill containers with the days of the week marked to avoid the same mistake. After coming back from the pharmacy and laying it out on the table, he gave me a death stare as I sorted out my pills, and said: “Can you please not do this in front of me?” And that hurt. “It’s hard enough to know, but I don’t want to see it.” That was all he said. I had to hide in the bathroom to organize and take my pills. After that, nobody has ever seen me taking them. It was like everyone


was uncomfortable by my situation and wanted to ignore it all in disregard to how I felt. Most people think these experiences change you negatively. However, for me It didn’t; It made me stronger.


I became close to all the nurses and doctors. I’ll never forget when one of them told me: “I can only imagine how your mom is feeling.” I never resented being there. People genuinely cared and did the most to make you feel better. The hospitals definitely were not the worst of this all. Undergoing cancer treatment deteriorates your immune system, and you’re prone to getting sick. Once, I was hospitalized for 10 days and I had a cardiac monitor and was intubated. Being there just started to feel normal.

I keep all my hospital bands and visitor passes from people who visited me. I still have my hospital robe, and the Relay for Life memorabilia. When you’re hospitalized, you don’t do much and are bored all the time. During my stay, I actually read 50 Shades of Gray. I watched a bit of TV, had conversation with the nurses, and slept A LOT. You sleep more than you want to, because there’s nothing else to do. With that much time, you just have a lot of time to think of the good things and bad things. I would sometimes think of how things would be if it got worse. I also discussed with my mom what I would’ve wanted if I passed. It’s a conversation nobody ever wants to have: nobody likes talking about death.

Yet, we find ourselves with the thought of what if. I mainly just wanted to let her know what I wanted, in the event that the “what if” were to happen – such as that I don’t want to be cremated, but sent back home to Colombia and buried next to my grandparents and uncles. I discussed who would keep what. Such as my cousins getting my clothes, etc.


I’ve had sit-downs with the doctor, and we would discuss the projection of what the future looked like. I had a direct sibling with this – who was also affected around this age – and an uncle who had lung cancer at only 24 without ever smoking in his life. My half-brother was diagnosed at 24 with Stage 4 and passed away. And now me at 22.

“All this is happening where I need it to be because of where I’m moving with my career. I’m able to design based on my experiences. It’s so different when you’ve been in it yourself.”

My chances for relapse were high, which is why I wasn’t surprised this time around. For my first diagnoses, I was in denial. This time it’s just so different. When you talk about it, it’s in a very calm demeanor. When people think that, I’m just like, “I’m sorry, but am I supposed to tell you this crying?” I’ve already done the tantrums, the crying, the drama. I victimized myself at such a young age, that at this point, I’m just being honest. It is what it is. When you told me, you were calm, as if it was regular dialogue. I see that you don’t want to act like the victim. But you have the right to be. You shouldn’t have to censor yourself to us. We should censor ourselves to YOU. Your exboyfriend, for example, struggled when he should’ve seen the struggle in you. Your demeanor is strong because you’re strong. I let other people’s actions and words get to me. People always ask, “Why do you say you’re sorry?” Whereas other people just feel helpless. For example, one of my close friends said to me, “I hate seeing you like this, because I don’t know what to do.” I hate making them seem helpless. I’m very apologetic, and I want everybody to be okay. I worry about others more than myself. Is there any way we CAN help you? I need help with certain things that I can’t be helped with by others. People are usually like, “I’ll do your homework. I’ll do your model. Or your drawings.” I’m like no, teach me what you know. I have such a crutch with architecture. I’m always 3 steps behind. I can’t be satisfied with other people doing the

work for me. I need to learn how to do it and only then will I feel accomplished. Help me keep up. If I made the decision to stay in school, I’ll work extra hard to stay on track and learn. Nobody can make my pain go away, but they can help. Some of my friends have distracted me so much, and I felt better because my mind was somewhere else. My mind wasn’t focused on where I was feeling pain.

other peoples’. Just because you’re the top doesn’t give you the power to say someone’s work is crap. Unfortunately, things are happening in the background that you’re unaware of. We forget what we’re doing – we become engulfed in this major that things just stop being right. All these experiences have definitely given me the absolute certainty with where I want to branch out in architecture – which is healthcare design. That’s definitely something I want to

“...we’re in a major where it’s all about the betterment of somebody – we’re designing somebody’s home better – someone’s office better. Conservative this. Conservative that. We have so much vocabulary. But we don’t apply it in the environment ourselves.” Mind Over Matter

If your mind isn’t on it, you won’t feel it as much. That’s when you realize the power of your mind. If you focus on it, it’s not going to go away. I feel that the architecture environment is ironic how we speak of being sustainable – we’re in a major where it’s all about the betterment of somebody – we’re designing somebody’s home better – someone’s office better. Conservative this. Conservative that. We have so much vocabulary. But we don’t apply it in the environment ourselves. We’re too clicky. We’re so competitive that we talk about other people to bring them down unaware of what their circumstances are. I’m not only referring to my situation, but

do, after spending so much time in hospitals. Hospitals have this stigma where they’re known for being eerie or sick. But there’s an irony in what the hospital is for – which is to make you better. We’re designers, we’re there to improve. Are we doing that amongst ourselves? If you have all this knowledge, instead of rubbing it in my face, teach me. I think we’re lacking in that environment. We’re still immature in that aspect. Hospitals could definitely be better. There’s plenty of room for improvement. People are scared, however, because hospitals take away the freedom of design – of being artistic – because of standards and codes.

I’m lucky that I’ve been diagnosed in the stages of 0 and 1. Stage 4 means it’s been metastasized. Stage 1 means it’s centralized and they know where it is. Stage 2 means your lymph nodes took it to another place. I’ve seen stage 3 and 4, and these people never leave the hospital. I have the liberty of taking total control of my medication. There were people in the hospital my age going through this and much worse. While staying long times at hospitals without anything to do, why can’t they simultaneously go to school there? There’s a lot of possibilities. I truly believe things happen for a reason. All this is happening where I need it to be because of where I’m moving with my career. I’m able to design based on my experiences. It’s so different when you’ve been in it yourself. It’s the biggest reason why I stick through school. If I go through it again, then fine, but I’m sticking with my degree and my school. I want to ultimately do healthcare design – and that’s why I’m staying. Why is it that we feel so great at the museum but feel terrible at a hospital? Then what’s the hospital’s purpose? There is all this advancement in technology and you’re still not getting better. It’s the environment that needs to change. If you’re not happy where you are, things aren’t going to get better. Hospitals need to improve in all aspects, not only medicine, and in that way, patients will get better. That has become my drive; my purpose; what I want to do with architecture.


Below is an unedited transcript from the interview. For the full story, visit www.awakesoa.com. Many of us know of Lizbeth Diaz’s story, but for those who don’t here’s a summary: the pressures of family illnesses and a recent heartbreak coupled with an overwhelming amount of studio work led to her becoming Baker Acted.

Liz: Yeah. All the work I put in and then just at the end I tripped. Cause… it’s always cause I’m going through some like big emotional thing, for some reason my life just cant just be stable and ‘ok’. It’s just crazy s**t happens to me. Like oh! This person just died from your family and this other person died right after this person ends up in the hospital, both of my uncles. There was one point that I had like three people in the hospital at the same time; I’m visiting them all in the same hospital. All while balancing studio work. Maria: You take it really to heart because you care a lot. Liz: Yeah

The Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, commonly known as the “Baker Act,” allows the involuntary institutionalization and examination of an individual. There must be evidence that the person: - possibly has a mental illness (as defined in the Baker Act). - is a harm to self, harm to others, or self neglectful (as defined in the Baker Act).

Brian: The nervous breakdown.... Did it just happen or was it like a process? Liz: It was building up for three days and finally my body stopped functioning. I thought I was stupid. I was so convinced that I was an idiot. No one could prove me wrong. My sister was like “how can you say that? You made the Dean’s List last year! You’re not making any sense!” But I was like “no, I’m stupid!” Everyone is capable of doing all of these things and I’m not. I was CONVINCED. No one could tell me otherwise.

“You’re Liz tried to harm herself after a long episode of depression.

not in control Nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from some mental illness, enduring conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

If you or a friend is dealing with depression or any aformentioned experience, seek help immediately. It doesn’t always have to be the hospital or clinic, it can be a friend you trust, and simply taking your mind off the stress. Studio will always be there when you get back. Take care of your health and body - they are the original instruments in everything you do.

And, more importantly, get 8 hours of sleep each day. We know it’s tough in an environment such as ours (and yes, the title of our school’s magazine is AWAKE), but to be Awake you must have had a good night’s sleep prior - that’s the only guarantee of your fullest capabilities and flow of creativity.







Michelle “Michi” Chedraui hails from the flavorful and vibrant Ecuador; yet, she more closely resembles a Russian nesting doll. Her petite appearance might fool you at first, but as she opens up, you’ll be sure to discover doll upon doll of vigorous passion. While focused in obtaining her Masters in Architecture, Michi is also well versed in photography and the art of body painting. After our collaboration photoshoot, I interviewed her about how this hidden talent came to be. Body Art by Michelle Chedraui Photography by Oscar Valdez Edited by Brian Rivera Models Lil Iturria and Alexander Esquenazi

Oscar: Tell me how you started, what was your inspiration and what was it that made you start? Michi: Since I was little, I liked art and painting and doing stuff. Even as a kid I usually bought paint and I used it to paint on my dad’s face. I started doing more face paint and even practiced using my own body. I fell in love with the process, so I went to McFatter and obtained a technical degree. Oscar: What did you do there? Michi: I put 2 things together: makeup and photography. After that, I decided that I had to do it because it was my dream. I loved it. I loved it more than anything. My mom made a huge effort to pay for me to attend so I was able to finish, and I also graduated with a degree in makeup artistry from the Coxmix School of Art in Oakland, Florida.


Oscar: That’s awesome! So tell me about Cosmix? I first learned about it when you showed me examples from an event you attended. What was it exactly, and what was your role during the event? Michi: They do it every year and it’s free, but you have to put in your own paint and your own materials. And then you bring your model and people bring friends and you just do whatever you want.

Oscar: Its like an artwalk, but for body painting. Michi: Yeah, and we’re in a room or situated outside in the park. We just meet anywhere and bring food and have a good time while learning about other artists, what they’ve been doing. Some artists, like myself, are also into different things like fashion or architecture. Some aren’t generally doing makeup anymore, they’re busy doing other creative endeavors. Or live in other places and come just for the event. Oscar: So you can build a strong network with other people. Michi: Yes, even for people starting this for the first time. Or have second opinions about makeup. Oscar: So, its good that you bring that up. What made you switch, and why didn’t you continue to pursue makeup? Michi: Because, first of all, the career is very expensive and materials are extremely expensive. A little bottle for airbrushing is like $10 and you can only do an arm for that. So its nothing! People can’t seem to afford it, or don’t think it’s worth it. And plus, its hard to find a job, unless you rely on freelance jobs, which means you have to find jobs on your own

and accept smaller pay. You wind up loosing a lot. But that’s the only way you can build up your portfolio, and theres a time frame when you might realize, “I’m not gaining anything. I’m losing.” Oscar: Is working at the body paint industry mostly freelance? Because the only place I’ve seen it mainstream is on the “Face Off” Show. I actually really like it. They come up with really creative stuff but that’s really special effects makeup and more intense. So, does Cosmix help you out in getting a career or is it more like you graduate and you find your way? Michi: You have to find your way. And they usually tell you, go to Macys, go to this place, and try from there and get experience. It’s a lot about learning about the body. People just think it’s about the painting, but its about learning the face, the definition of the face, the body, curves, etc. Since every painting that you do is on a unique body part, you have to study the area really well. Oscar: So it’s very skilled; a lot of complexity?

Oscar: So Its more about the synthesis of the idea? Michi: Right, ideas. Do something with an idea that you develop but maybe integrating the two together. Its a little more complicated. Oscar: Do you think you’ll ever design a body-painting studio? Michi: (laughs) Hopefully! For myself! I would love to have one! Oscar: And what are the types of paint and brushes that you use? Michi: The type of paint depends. It depends on airbrushing or body painting. When you do body painting, there are two different styles. People confuse body painting with airbrushing. Airbrushing is body painting but not the other way around. You can do body painting with a sponge and brushes and when you airbrush you only use high definition paint, which involves a different technique.

Michi’s Body Paint Set She used these paints on the models’ skins for the Eco/Art photoshoot.

Oscar: So airbrushing is for finer quality? Michi: Yes, you have to practice a lot. People have different contours in their eyes, for example, and you have to learn about the techniques for each. People have different skin tones and you have to create a matching foundation. Oscar: So you mix and match and it makes it very personalized. Michi: Yes, its very personalized. Oscar: Now that I know architecture is another one of your passions, do you think that they are related in any way or that you can take something from body painting and apply to architecture? Michi: Yes of course. For me, it is the concept. When you paint you have a concept, similar to architecture. And not only that, but the definition of what you want to express. How you have to blend stuff in the face, the same thing has to be done in architecture, you blend the space. You blend architecture with a concept. You blend architecture with the people. In that sense, they both relate to each other.

Michi: Yes, its more like using it to give a more overall cover. You do body painting, on the other hand, with a brush or sponge and give a smaller spot more definition; like details. Oscar: So basically body painting is that you’re able to do a lot more detail, which is basically where the art is, just like in architecture. There’s a saying that goes “details are everything in how things come together.” And you mentioned both detail and the way things blend, so it’s nice to see the relationship. I have one last question for you and that is: how do you stay awake? Michi: (laughs) How do I stay awake? With coffee and a lot of coffee! Oscar: What else REALLY keeps you awake? Michi: Architecture; that’s the only thing that keeps me awake all the time (with the help of coffee).


Written by India Ferguson Photography by India Ferguson Edited by Maria Gonzales

menstruation &


During my time as a Sustainability major, my class discussions about climate change and global warming often involved an analysis of the waste in landfills, agricultural pollution, the consumption of meat, and municipal sewage placement. After further examining the products that fill our landfills and oceans, I realized there was an important item that continues to degrade our environment but was not mentioned in any of my lectures or class discussions: Disposable menstrual products. The reason why most environmentalists aren’t talking about the destructive aftermath of disposable menstrual products is because talking about menstruation has become a social taboo that is deeply embedded in our society. Even for those who have their periods, the underlying notion is to keep it to yourself because no one wants to hear about it. For many people who have their periods, it’s become a point of embarrassment and shame and for those who don’t have it, most don’t even want to hear the word. While some may debate whether the social stigma of menstruation is harmful, what is undeniably harmful is how our lack of conversation about menstruation has far fetching consequences that continue to affect our lives right under our noses. This is not the fault of the women but rather the companies that profit off of their customers’ need for menstrual products. By not analyzing the ways in which menstrual hygiene companies are affecting our environment and how consumer menstrual product waste is handled, we are continuing to add onto the problem rather than invest in a solution. According to the reproductive education company Lunette, in the United States there are 84.7 million women aged 15 to 24 who use an average of 22 menstrual products per cycle. 22 menstrual products may not seem like a great deal, but 22 products per person equates to 286 products per year, which leaves a total of 24.2 billion products that are thrown into landfills per year.


To put that in perspective, imagine that 3 menstrual products were handed to all 7 billion people on this planet and at the end of year each person threw the products into a pile. (And add 3 billion more on top of that, and that’s the amount discarded every single year.) The large amount of plastics and electronics that are misplaced in landfills further extends the decomposing process of menstrual products which can take

nearly a thousand years to break down completely. Due to the lack of oxygen in landfills, as bacteria decomposes the landfill waste it produces a potent greenhouse gas called methane which seeps into our groundwater system and escapes directly into the atmosphere. Methane is responsible for 14% of

climate change and is mainly released by agriculture and landfill waste. It leaks from the landfill onto the vegetation layer and seeps into the underground water table which is where we receive our household water. In addition, an enormous amount of energy and nonrenewable resources are used in order to create these products that end up being tossed away every four hours by the millions, which create harmful carbon emissions during every stage during production. However, the environmental issue of menstrual waste reaches far beyond the landfills on U.S soil. In rural areas of India, women who do not have access to menstrual products are left with no other options but to use old wash rags from their previous cycles in order to collect their menstrual blood. This often leads to bacterial infections and ailments that affect millions worldwide. Using blood stained rags as a way to collect menstrual fluid is a common problem for many financially unstable families in countries that lack access to proper sanitation and clean water. Considering these items are being throwing away by the millions every minute, it’s simply unsustainable to

continue manufacturing and using these products. To combat the environmental aftermath of menstrual waste, many people are ditching disposable menstrual products and switching to more sustainable alternatives. Sex educators, engineers, product designers and scientists across the globe are putting their minds together to make menstruation safer for people and the environment. There are many sustainable alternatives to disposables such as cloth pads, biodegradable tampons, sea sponges, but my weapon of choice is the reusable menstrual cup. Many women have completely ditched their disposables and switched to menstrual cups simply because they are more cost effective, comfortable, odor-free, provide 12 hours of protection, and my favorite trait: completely leak proof. Even though the menstrual cup has become popular amongst women worldwide in the last 5 years, menstrual cups were actually created in the early 20th century but were a flop amongst consumers and were eventually bombarded by disposables which came to the market in 1896. Menstrual cups today are made of a flexible high grade silicone that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Due to its safe silicone alone, it beats tampons by a mile. Here’s how it works: the cup is folded and placed in the vagina where it is able to suction onto the cervix and collect menstrual fluid rather than absorb it which keeps the walls of the vagina from drying out. After usage, the cup is able to be washed out with water, sanitized, and used again for an additional 12 hours without risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. The highest absorbency tampons typically absorb 0.3 ounces of fluid compared to the

average menstrual cup which holds typically 1 full ounce. Next to holding more fluid, due to its flexibility silicone menstrual cups are more comfortable and can be worn overnight, while playing sports, in water, and without the hassle of leaking through and staining clothing. Menstrual cups not only completely eliminate menstrual product waste but also help start a long needed conversation about menstruation. Typically, when we talk about menstruation we only talk about it in the context of women’s bodies,

which doesn’t leave space for how menstruation intersects with other parts of society. As scientists, architects and designers begin to embrace the idea of climate change and build the way towards a more sustainable future, our lack of conversation about menstruation creates a dichotomy where menstruation is viewed only as a reproductive issue that concerns only women. I am a strong believer that every woman should know their options when it comes to their menstruation cycle, and by choosing reusable products we are creating a safe space for future women and the environment.

“Methane Emissions.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 16 July 2015. O’Rourke, Evelyn G. “Using Disposable Menstrual Products- What Are the Environmental Impacts?” Web log post. Bleed With Pride. WordPress, 26 Nov. 2012. Web. 16 July 2015. U.S. Department of State (2007). Projected Greenhouse Gas Emissions. In: Fourth Climate Action Report to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change . U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, USA. “Why Use A Cup.” Lunette. Lunette, n.d. Web. 16 July 2015.


Volume 3 Experiences Version Fall 2015