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belladonna summer 2014

summer 2014


editor’s letter

table of contents Acknowledgments: 2 - Editor’s Letter 3 - Founder’s Note 4 - Contributors 5 - Special Thanks

Cover Story: 38 - The Mi’a Empire Featured Game Changer: 28 - Millena Oliveira, C.V.O Editorials: 18 - “Oberon and Titania” 40 - “Vernal Bloom” 44 - “Here, there be fairies” Style Gazers: 8 - Shop our Theme 10- Tyler Martin 12 - Kerrilyn Gibson Beauty: 14 - “Flora” 16 - 7 Ways to Get a Classic Red Lip 17 - What’s Up with Vegan Makeup? Artist Watch: 22 - Linetic Motion 32 - Be, the Movement 52 - Chasity Sereal Music: 56 - Gabriel Tajeu, Finding His Way



As a kid, I wrote “novels” for my mom. As a pre-teen, I wrote cheesy love poems I still remember and refuse to recap. As a teen, I wrote darker, but equally cheesy, song lyrics. As I got older, I found my niches: fiction and blogging, both of which came easier than anything else I’d tried--and are, coincidentally, not as painful to re-read. Everything reads easier when I’m writing about something that matters to me, rather than writing for the sake of writing, and that’s how it should be. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to help spearhead “belladonna,” despite being nervous about the leap from writing for myself to writing for an audience. So far, it’s been so good. There were tons of emails, redos, late night (early morning) Google Hangout chats. There were ctrl-alt-delete moments. There were time zone complications, and so many surprises. Several jars of Nutella were harmed in the making of this magazine, and I can’t even distribute blame, because there was never anybody in the room with me. In fact, no two staff members were ever in the same place at the same time, because we are all scattered not only around the United States, but around the world. On top of it, most of us are juggling school, jobs, and other time consuming obligations. It has been a challenging, but exciting, experience, and I look forward to doing it all over again this month. And next month. And the month after that. Within the pages of each issue, you’ll find food, fashion, straight talk, resources, amazing people who are doing amazing things, and maybe even yourself. I couldn’t be more thrilled. Enjoy! Lori Jones, Editor-in-Chief, belladonna


founder’s note

t the beginning of the summer, I pitched an idea for something that seemed so ambitious that I found it hard to call it more than an experiment: just a test, to see how it would go. Belladonna magazine was to be the umbrella for several creative ventures: most immediately, a magazine, an independent publishing house, and a digital platform for the creation and curation of multimedia presentations (Veraci-TV). I decided to take it one step at a time, starting with the magazine. “If it works, and there is an audience for it, then great. If it doesn’t, we all get material for our portfolios,” I told the artists, writers, models, and photographers, who agreed to undertake this endeavor with me. The response was so positive and enthusiastic that here we are, several months later, presenting belladonna: the fashion, lifestyle, and art magazine that is the most immediate facet of Belladonna magazine. For weeks, I drove around with multiple ballgowns and emergency fairy wings in the back seat of my car, in preparation for the “fairy rockstar princess” photoshoot featured in this debut. I am lucky to not only be surrounded by people who entertain such ideas, but also help me solidify and expand the concept of Belladonna magazine. And, that is the point of it all: to link together creatives of all facets of art, to hone our skills, and to provide multimedia platforms where we can showcase our work. I have no doubt that with time, and the right team of people, Belladonna magazine can eventually cross every single goal off of its list. belladonna is only the beginning. We are young, wildly imaginative, and constantly exploring new ways to surpass limitations. Belladonna magazine’s potential is not lost on me, or on the brilliant team of game changers with whom it is my privilege to collaborate. For your enthusiasm, affirmation, collaboration--and, now, your audience, thank you. Dear reader, welcome to our Midsummer Night’s Debut. Welcome to wonder, beauty, and whimsy. From Birmingham to Berlin, we are the magic of our cities. Welcome to belladonna. Welcome to Belladonna magazine. Sincerely, Maacah Davis Founder, Belladonna magazine Founding Editor, belladonna.

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contributors: Lori is a semi-fresh-out-of-college gal who is currently spending her time figuring out to which state she wants to move. She plans to get her Master’s degree in Journalism or Communication. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, playing with her neighbor’s pets, and watching documentaries and Criminal Minds. One day, she is going to start that blog everyone encourages her to write. In the meantime, she can be found writing and reblogging about social issues, kittens, fandoms, and food at Tyler Martin is the Listings Editor at the Detroit Metro Times, the largest alternative newsweekly in the country. She enjoys living the freelance lifestyle by procrastinating on that novel she should have finished three years ago, feeling awkward in the local nightlife scene, and discovering new vegetarian recipes she’ll never cook. While her ultimate goal is to become a Fashion Director at a reputable magazine, online or print, she’s happy to contribute free style advice to the interwebs via the style and culture blog, Amanda Cantu is a freelance photographer who loves to participate in fat-shion blogging, art, intersectional feminism, open minds, safe spaces, and anything fair. Roma Panganiban is a Masters student in Modern and Contemporary Literature at the University of York, where she lives in perpetual denial of her bleak job prospects. She loves living abroad, but misses chocolate chip cookies. She dreams of having glossy, frizz-free waves, but would settle for bangs that don’t look weird when she runs. Her other freelance work, including articles on Harry Potter, hamburgers, and Albert Einstein, appears on An archive of her existential questioning and frivolous complaints can be found on Twitter @romapancake. Tiffany Doley is currently pursuing a degree in Environmental Justice. She enjoys being on her school’s debate team, and is also passionate in creating workshops and trainings on anti-oppression and teaching others about liberation. She is from NYC and practices alternative fashion styles in her free time. Raiha Naeem is a rising sophomore at the University of Alabama, majoring in Journalism. Her many talents include being able to wiggle her ears, extensive napping, and drinking too many mochas in a day. Sometimes she can hold intelligent conversation with people, but more often than not, she responds with “ugh” to everything. She once caught a lightning bug, and it was a very exciting time in her life. Then it flew away. Dani Janae is a writer from Pittsburgh, PA. She graduated from Allegheny College in the spring of 2014. Along with writing, making art and music, health and beauty are some of her biggest passions. Veganism is important to her definition of health and beauty. She is dedicated to making and discovering items that are free of animal products and those that are not tested on animals.



penny for your thoughts:

belladonna special thanks to:

Saige Pilgrim Lynsey Weatherspoon Photography Will Hamilton Photography Jared Jones Photography Joy Krystal Khadijah Paige

summer 2014





summer 2014


jeans, with just a touch of whimsy to suit your playful side. Available online at Meteorite Earrings, $39 Hey earrings, did it hurt… when you fell from heaven? This solstice, dangle a little celestial homage from your ears, in thanks to the solar system that gives us starry skies and sunny days alike.

Ribbon-Tie Floral Garland, $28. Floral crowns don’t have to be left to music festival-goers (and their questionable, culturally-appropriative tastes). Add a touch of color to a plain outfit, or really go for it by coordinating with a floral-print dress, and be one with this summer’s bright blossoms. Very fairy chic. Available online at

Multicolor Rhinestone Statement Necklace, $49 Flower crowns too frivolous for your taste? Try a more grown-up take on the rainbow-hued statement piece with this heavily embellished rhinestone necklace: lovely with a little black dress or a simple white t-shirt and



Monarch Butterfly Hair Clip, $6.04 Jewel-toned butterflies alight in your hair is the stuff of princess dreams, made possible by these colorful and affordable handmade accessories. They come in six brights, as well as a range of glitters and pastels, for whatever your mood (or outfit) demands. Available online at shop/beauxoxo

Phases of the Moon Sweater, $34.99 Days are warm, but summer nights still get cold. This cozy black pullover takes just a second to layer over your strappy tank top or sundress of choice, and will keep the chill out as you snuggle around a bonfire in a friend’s backyard. Available online at

shop o

Star-Print Shoulder Bag, $18 Equally perfect for the beach, a hike, or a spontaneous overnight road trip to visit a friend, this durable canvas tote is the ideal size for any summer adventure that might come your way. Available at Old Navy stores and online at

“Starry Night” Skirt, $89 It’s hard to say whether Vincent Van Gogh would have approved of one of his masterpieces being splashed across the fabric of a skirt, but there’s something special about wearable art for those of us whose budgets run more to framed prints than original canvases. Available online at

Glow-in-the-Dark Star Ceiling, $108 If the indoors are making you too antsy but the outdoors has too many ants, compromise by creating your own starry night with this DIY star ceiling kit, handmade in Australia. Stars included in the pack charge quickly in daylight and glow with various brightnesses in the dark, mimicking the actual night sky for an interstellar experience from the comfort of your own bed. Available online at

ur theme! by Roma Panganiban

“Are you sure That we are awake? It seems to me That yet we sleep, we dream.”

Purple Cable-Knit Blanket, $108.56 Beginners Knitting Kit, $14.99 With summer just starting, it might seem strange to already be thinking of knitting, but there’s no better time than the present to prepare for when the weather cools down again, all too soon. Even better, vacation or no vacation, summer is the perfect time for new knitters to take up the hobby, leaving plenty of time to get around to hats by November. Blanket available online at; knitting kit available online and in stores at various Jo-Ann and Michaels craft store locations.

“Paper Dream Tent” Collage Print, $24 Even if you’re stuck under a roof rather than dozing right beneath the stars, let this cheerful night scene inspire you to dream a little bigger, darling. Available online at papertaxi

Black Sweetheart-Neck Playsuit, $38.11 Black is, of course, universally flattering, as is this cap-sleeve, sweetheart-neck style. Rompers aren’t only for kids anymore, either; big girls with big plans can frolic freely without worrying about skirts or dresses getting in the way of climbing over fences, walking on a windy day, or running for the ice cream truck – we won’t judge. Available online at

Floral Minaudière, $45 With its sweet floral print and glam gold buckle, this minisize shoulder bag is roomy enough for daily essentials (phone, wallet, keys, lip balm, tissues, emergency chocolate bar – the essentials!) and chic enough for evening wear. Available online at

summer 2014


style gazing with Tyler Martin, of

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They’re weird, they’re here, but should they be allowed to stay? Tyler Martin walks us through some of the odd trends that have crept back onto our runways, and into our wardrobes. This hat is as painful and awkward to remember as a middle school dance, but take a walk back into the 90’s again and glance at the bucket hat. See it in its hideousness, and try to forgive it for every outfit it ever ruined, because it is back again. Everyone’s mom and middle-aged uncle has been trying to convince them that bucket hats are stylish. Well, it seems like this year, Unk is the trendsetter (but don’t let him know that). Floral print baseball caps are also hot this year. High fashion acknowledges that the snapback is here to stay, so rather than fight against its inevitable sportiness, the runways have embraced it and incorporated it into a fun, feminine look for summer.

New Era Island Bucket Hat, $57

Jeffrey Campbell Weekend, $135

Kate Spade Canvas Bucket Hat, $78

Jeffrey Campbell Scully, $160

Gold Birkenstock, $130

Dogtown Blue Denim Baseball Cap, $75

The Floral Printed Cap, $29

Floral Birkenstock, $245

Tory Burch Sadie Slingback Pump, $295

Philip Lim Darwin Peep-toe Slingback Loafer, $260

Summer and spring of years past have been dominated by two opposing flat sandal styles; the barely-there flip flop and the strappy, caged gladiator. But, in 2014, fashion has found a happy medium in the revival of the 90’s-inspired chunky sandal. It is often referred to as “the ugly shoe movement” because, let’s face it: a decade ago we would have been casually donating these shoes to the thrift stores. However, there is something about the way they look and feel now that has the fashion world captivated again. Birkenstocks have also reemerged from the woodlands and are tiptoeing back on the streets in reimagined shades and shapes. Straps have gone from dental floss to two-fingers width, and soles have transitioned from potato chip-thin to mile-high platforms. The platform heel trend was visible from a mile away during 2013, and this spring it’s uber mainstream, with the majority of retailers and designers, like Jeffrey Campbell, offering taller platform options in their collections. Just as if it’s 1993 and the newest TLC video has just aired on MTV, the year 2014 is about kicking it old school and towering over everybody in the process. In addition to the chunk, another big trend this year is the cutout shoe. It’s occurring in boots, loafers, and oxfords. Rather than brave the sweltering heat in a fancy pair of patent leather flats, suit up with something more breathable like slingback loafers or lattice oxfords.

Hemlines are having a moment. We’ve seen them go from ultra mini to floor-grazing maxi, and this summer they’re settling in the middle with the popularity of midi (also known as tea-length) sundresses and skirts. There’s nothing new about midi length apparel, but it seems that fashionistas are getting bolder with it. Generally landing an inch or two below the knee, midi designs can

be tricky to pull off. They can sometimes make ladies look a bit dowdy and catlady-esque, but this summer a high-waisted midi skirt is almost a necessity for the crop top enthusiast. Additionally, the ugly shoe trend was seemingly made for this length of dress, showing just enough leg to draw attention to statement-making footwear.

Leanna Pleated Woven Skirt, $40 Chambray Spliced Midi Skirt $68

summer 2014


kerrilyn gibson Speaking of ugly sandals, a friend once asked if I would still talk to him if he bought a pair of Birkenstocks. Of course, I feigned shock that he would think I was shallow enough to disassociate myself because of his footwear choices, because I absolutely wouldn’t (unless he bought and proceeded to wear sparkly, pastel Sketchers D’lites the way I did circa 2004. In that case I would have to completely cut him out of my life). Anyway, I told him that I kind of wanted a pair myself and I probably would only make fun of him if his toes were gross.

But it’s not just Birkenstocks. The fashion community has met and decided to welcome (almost) all ugly sandals with open arms. Isabel Marat, a designer known for setting shoe trends -- sneaker heels, anyone? -- came out with a chunky slip on sandal, reminiscent of a Velcro strap shower shoe or your grandpa’s open toed, plastic slippers, which in my opinion is not the most flattering approach to the trend. Teva recently announced a collaboration with Open Ceremony. Having redesigned their most popular styles to fit the needs of trend hungry twenty-somethings, Teva and Opening Ceremony hope to add some comfort to the feet of their fashionable customers navigating an urban jungle, as opposed to an actual jungle. And as I mentioned earlier, Chaco sandals have been extremely popular among somewhat outdoorsy, WASPy types for years. It is not impossible to take a Chaco’s chunky soles and incorporate them into a stylish outfit-I’ve seen this feat accomplished a few times.

Granola-hippies and pseudo-outdoorsy sorority girls caught on to the emerging “ugly sandal” trend quite some time ago with over-worn Birkenstocks, molded to their feet, and Chacos in every color, respectively. But the rest of the fashion world took a little while longer to come around. Ever since a reimagined, fur lined version of the trend came strutting down the Ćeline Spring/Summer 2013 runTo me, all “ugly sandals” are not way, street stylers and fashion gurus alike necessarily ugly… at the same time, some have been head over heels for anything are definitely less pretty than others. Howchunky, strappy, or somewhat orthopedic. ever, despite the stigma “ugly sandals” car However, that one Ćeline show ry, I support their goal of bringing the heels wasn’t the only avenue that ushered of the stylish a tad bit closer to the ground. in this somewhat confusing trend. With I must admit that I have fallen victim and a 90’s revival taking center stage in the am an active participant in the trend. I supfashion world over the past few months port ugly sandals because they support (i.e. crop tops, flatform shoes, grungy me (in all seriousness, I am extremely flat tartan, slip dresses, the list goes on and footed… hello arch support!), and because on) the rise of Birkenstocks, in particu- Target sells a spectacular pair of black lar, was pretty inevitable. As platforms Giambattista Valli lookalike Birkenstocks disappeared from stilettos, they reap- with gold studs that I simply couldn’t leave peared on flats. That appearance some- on the shelf. I’m not sure how long the how morphed into a cushy, cork footbed “ugly sandals” trend will last, but one thing that could cradle weary fashion-girl feet is for certain, I will ride this wave until my as a welcomed reprise from constraining, ugly sandals leave me looking like the religiously worn, cramp-inducing heels. washed up tree hugger that I secretly am.

smile, laugh, and style-watch with Kerrilyn at

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summer 2014


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5 must-haves for flawless summer makeup:

4 Easy Steps to the oJ y Kr ystal Perfect Red!

recommended by editorial makeup artist,


by Tiffany Doley






1. Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 | *perfect for those hot summer days, sheer enough for the lightweight summer looks. 2. Strobe Cream | *perfect moisturizer for that a glow without too much shine 3. All Nighter Setting Spray | *it’s like your favorite hair spray--but, for your makeup!

Step 1: Apply concealer to the outline of your lips. Step 2: Line your lips with a dark plum color. Step 3: Apply your matching plum lipstick over the liner, leaving the center of your lips bare. Step 4: Apply a bright red color to the center of your lips and blend so the ombre isn’t too harsh. bonus step: pout, smile, and smirk away!

4. Rosebud Salve | *easily one of the best long lasting lip hydrating products 5. Mineralized SkinFinish Natural | *lightweight, buildable, flawless and smooth finish

Photographer: The Davenport Design Model: Amina Coghlan Makeup Artist: Joy Krystal For makeup tips and product reviews, follow editorial makeup artist, Joy Krystal, at @dangshawtybeat GlamoureyezdBeauty

summer 2014


by Roma Panganiban

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what’s up with vegan makeup? Dani Janae

Most non-vegan people think that veganism is just eating grass and drinking kombucha, but veganism is just as much about animal welfare as it is about consumer health. Veganism is a lifestyle that extends beyond food, to apparel and beauty. As someone who makes a concerted effort to find products from brands who practice ethical testing, we came up with a handy guide for understanding what makes a cosmetics brand vegan, and where you can find some!

what makes a product vegan?

vegan make up does not contain any animal by-products. However, it can be difficult to figure out which brands are vegan, as most lipstick tubes are not labeled with by-product warnings. Animal by-products found in make-up are usually different dyes that are made from insects such as cochineal. Different animal fats and oils are also found in cosmetics, as well as animal hairs used in make up brushes. Biotin is also an animal by product often used as a texturizer. Casein is a milk protein that is often found in cream-based make ups like foundations or concealers. Many lip colors and glosses contain bees wax as a moisturizer, and most are appropriately labeled as such. PETA provides a full list, but it would be extremely difficult to memorize all of the non-vegan ingredients, which is why I’ve laid out some brands for you. First, we need to discuss the difference between vegan and cruelty free and why both of these things are important.

vegan cosmetics brands a. dorn cosmetics ABBA pure performance hair care Beauty without Cruelty Bye Bye Parabens e.l.f. Glam Natural HUGO Naturals Meow Meow Tweet Nars Nature’s Gate Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Swagger Cosmetics The Fanciful Fox Urban Decay Wet n Wild Whole Foods Brand (365) Yes to Carrots

vegan vs cruelty free:

while having no animal by-products makes a product vegan, cruelty free means that a company does not test their brand on animals. Animals often used for testing are rabbits, small cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice and rats. Forms of testing include skin and eye irritation tests which entail rubbing a product in an animals eye or a shaved portion of skin and watching how the affected area reacts. The animals are restrained (eyes pried open, feet and arms secured) and are offered no relief from their pain. Some animals are force fed measured amounts of a product to determine, if ingested by a human, what sort of sickness or illness can occur. More sinister is the “lethal dose” testing that involves force feeding an animal large amounts of a chemical to determine the lethal dosage. Just because a product does not contain any animal by-products does not mean that no animal was harmed in the making of cosmetics. the easiest way to determine whether a product is cruelty free is to look. Most cosmetics are labeled with a pink and white bunny logo that signifies it is cruelty free. Other cosmetics will say in bold print that the product was not tested on animals. If you are not sure about a certain brand, check their website and you’ll probably find all the information you need under the FAQ section. whether you go for the convenience store brand or the professional cosmetics products, knowing that your make up was not used to harm any animals makes the price seem less significant. Happy hunting, and stay beautiful! summer 2014


Oberon and Titania photographer: Zack Carpenter models: Warren Goings and Maacah Davis body art: Alora King wardrobe provided by: Harold&MOD jewelry: Alabama Funk stylist: Allie Phifer

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I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine: There sleeps Titania sometime of the night.

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Linetic Motion The Kinetic Sculptures of Joyce Lin art by Joyce Lin story by Raiha Naeem

Study in bird motion 8” x 28” x 6” (at rest) Wood, mylar summer 2014


Study in Bird Motion

Each sculpture is just a hand crank away from coming to life: a wall hanging takes on the form of a bird gracefully flapping its wings; what first looks like a baby’s crib turns into a fascinating exploration of a sleeping disorder; a bare light bulb surrounded by circular wooden sculptures becomes her portrayal of love and intimacy. Joyce Lin's work is the manifestation of whimsy, and a vision of the delicacy in simplicity. Her materials of Popsicle sticks and Mylar may be simple, but the things she creates with the are never far from awe-inspiring. Much of her work features simple wooden wheels that, when activated manually, give her sculptures a kinetic form. She says, “At some point, I became obsessed with wooden wheels, and thought about how they moved, and how I 24 belladonna

interacted with them; and, I started developing a language of doweland-craft-stick gears that became the foundation for all of my kinetic sculptures. “I loved that I just had to think of a particular motion and then chase after it, solving one problem at a time and establishing a dialogue with the gears, until some final form manifested itself. It felt like something was evolving in my hands.” Lin is currently a rising junior in a dual degree program, majoring in furniture design at the Rhode Island school of Design and Geology-Biology at Brown University. Her interest in Geology and Biology can also be seen in her art: she relates her work to aspects of Geology and evolution, as the motion of the sculptures makes her “think of DNA and atoms and waves, which all have reasons for the shape of

their structures.” She says, “When you think about it, everything goes through some evolution of design in order to coexist with everything else in this world, whether it be a sculpture, organism, etc. Learning how things evolve is sort of a main point in Geology, where you follow the history of the universe to learn why our planet is the way it is today and how we can coexist with it.” The interest in majoring in furniture design came from wanting to improve her craft, and the focus on physical interaction with objects has helped her with working with wood, metal, modeling technology, design thinking, and more. Among all of the work that is building up her portfolio, her Study in Bird Motion project caught a lot of attention. Feeling “antsy” some time

(clockwise, from top): 1. Parasomnia 2. Inverted Spiral Sphere 3. Steambent Table 4. Spiral Sphere 5. Kinetic Breathing Click the images to experience the motion of Lin’s works. View her complete portfolio:

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last winter, Lin decided to create a series of small models using water-bent crafts sticks. She credits the initial inspiration for the bird to a scrapped idea for “some weird rowing machine.” Out of curiosity, she attached a wing shape to it, and was surprised by the realistic flapping motion. The project rapidly garnered attention when she posted it on her online portfolio. “Someone linked it to their Tumblr, and within a week a bunch of online blogs, as well as Discovery Channel Canada, caught on to it.” Lin says, “I even got a few messages

from people asking for the measurements to my bird so they could make their own.” Though Lin is amused that the project that took her the least amount of time to create received the most attention, she has enjoyed the response, and hopes to continue to make work that excites. Keeping an open mind, Lin is not sure what kinds of projects she will pursue in the future. She would like to “continue exploring ideas about form and function that are informed by my studies in Geology-Biology. Right now, my focus is

learning as much as I can from my professors and getting accustomed to new tools and environments.” From technical drawings and miscellaneous sketches, to distinctive furniture pieces such as the Ascension chair, to eye catching kinetic sculptures like Kinetic Motion, as well as personal projects like Portable Memory of a Home (a wooden suitcase opening to reveal a reconstructed model of her old house), Joyce Lin’s portfolio is the showcase of a diversely skilled artist, and both she and her art should remain in motion.

Sinusoidal Motion 40” x 72” plywood, dowels, Popsicle sticks, string, K’nex toy motors Alabama School of Fine Arts Spring 2012

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an exploration of truth... indulgence of whimsy.

belladonna belladonna magazine



belladonna magazine belladonna magazine

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28 belladonna

Millena Oliveira, C.V.O Meet the 19 year old spearhead of an organization for social change

photographed by Alexander Levy summer 2014


by Roma Panganiban

As other college students were gleefully breaking free of their final exams and diving into their summer vacations, Millena Oliveira was emailing me after a long day working at a drama camp: work that blends her interests in youth mentorship, music, and the performing arts. While most undergrads have enough trouble choosing a major or, even choosing an outfit for the day, Millena has one very clear goal: to change the world, by bringing educational opportunities to those who need them most. As the Chief Visionary Officer (CVO) of the student-led Equality Initiative, this University of Alabama at Birmingham sophomore has big dreams and a plan to make them happen. Although Equality Initiative formed, in many ways, the same way a new rock-climbing club or a cappella group might, in this case, the shared interest was not Ultimate Frisbee, rather “enabling the future generation to help the world.” What started as a casual conversation between two friends developed into a fullblown organization with executive officers, a diverse membership, and a budding web presence. The current EqIn team has members in charge of everything from finances, technology, and communications to media, marketing, and outreach, everyone working in concert to help others help themselves. Founder and CEO Sudhi Kaushik was in India at the time of this interview, helping to implement the first of EqIn’s initiatives (more on that 30 belladonna

later!), but I had a virtual chat with Millena about how Equality Initiative came to be and where they plan to go. The following interview has been edited for clarity and length. The Equality Initiative’s Origin belladonna: Your team seems to have come together from very diverse backgrounds, you studying Public Health, Sudhi doing International Political Economy, others in Neuroscience, Chemistry, etc. How did you all come together to form this organization? Millena Oliveira: Sudhi and I are both in the UAB Honors College. Sudhi had the initial idea and one night he came to me because we had talked before and shared the same commitment to improving the lives of others across a global network. From there, he asked if I wanted to be a part of Equality Initiative and help make it happen, and I agreed. Then we started brainstorming about a core team. We decided to hand-pick people we knew would be passionate about the idea and who would also provide different perspectives and skills because we felt like that was important to the organization, since we wanted to work with, essentially, the whole globe. Then he and I started contacting people. On Being Young and Passionate belladonna: So the moral of the story seems to be that networking is important. Being such a young group (both in terms of being founded recently and being comprised of students), have you

found your age to be a hindrance in any way? A benefit? MO: It can definitely be a challenge to be taken seriously when you’re only 19, but it also depends on how you go about it. I think if you ultimately show that you are serious, passionate, and have done your research, you’ll get a more welcoming response. The benefit is hopefully that since we’re young, we’ll be at it for a long time. Because of our age, we can connect with others who are just as young and ambitious and can even provide inspiration for others to rise up and decide that they too can be a positive influence. belladonna: Your official title is “Chief Visionary Officer.” What does that position entail? MO: I’m basically the creative visionary and innovator. I try to keep the organization focused on the big picture and keep us growing to sustain a future for EqIn. I try to get everyone on the board’s opinion to make sure that we’re spending time considering everyone’s issues and giving them the attention they need. The Bigger Picture belladonna: What makes EqIn different from other organizations working to create and promote global education opportunities? MO: Right now, the bigger picture is to expand our network. What makes Equality Initiative unique is the network – the initiatives sector. You might have an idea that you need help making concrete or you want to talk to others who have had experience in the field, but you don’t know where to start. Those people can come to EqIn and we’ll provide them the tools they need to implement their ideas. I haven’t seen another organization provide that before.

belladonna: So would you say it works as an advisory board for others as well? MO: Yes! One thing that I felt was missing was the connection between the core team and the outside world, so created the Fantastic Four. The FF are the front line for contact into the organization. People from the outside are able to talk to one of the members of the FF to get questions answered, for advice, to help expand our network, or even to get more information about one of our initiatives or education projects. belladonna: Nice, so a kind of resource hotline. MO: Basically so! They also help come up with educational resources that can help others understand the current projects. Getting Kids in Classrooms MO: Currently, we’re trying to start our educational program in India [called SEFI: Social Equality for India]. We took out an ad in the newspaper to hire teachers within the country. The candidates were then interviewed by one of our network connections. The teachers hired are all certified, and are all teaching a statebased curriculum, which includes English, Hindi, reading, and math up to multiplication and division. [Using a] state-based curriculum means that students in rural villages are being taught the same curriculum as other students in the country who attend a [more traditional] school. belladonna: So is it simply a matter of hiring more teachers for more places? MO: Not exactly. There are a lot of different reasons why children don’t attend schools. Some common excuses are that the family doesn’t have enough money to pay for the

uniforms. Well, we’re teaching in your village so there’s no need for a uniform. Another is that the parents need the children to work and can’t send them off to school for 8 hours a day. Well, we’re only teaching for 2 to 3 hours a day so it won’t take much time away from working. One of the first things Sudhi mentioned to me was that children of a lower caste that attended school were sent to the back of the classroom and were responsible for cleaning out feces with their bare hands. Sudhi once asked a principal why they were doing that instead of learning, and she replied with something along the lines of, ‘’They’re training for what they’re going to do the rest of their lives.” So, even the administrator of the school had prejudice against the children. We hope that since we are teaching in villages, we ease the tension and educational inequality people of a lower caste face. Glances Back, Leaps Forward belladonna: What has been the Equality Initiative’s biggest accomplishments so far, and how are you able to accomplish global work when most of you seem to be based in Birmingham (not to mention undertaking full-time study!)? MO: We did a trial of the educational program and were able to see that 75 kids were taught and that’s absolutely fantastic for a first go at it. We also got a very good response from attendants of a conference in Sri Lanka last month. But honestly, I think that our biggest accomplishment was getting a really great group of

people together to work on something beautiful. We wouldn’t have been able to do anything without our support system and members. We’re aware that all of our members have lives outside of the organization, but having outside connections is what it’s all about. Just because we’re in Birmingham doesn’t mean we can’t think globally or be an influence elsewhere. I feel like all of our studies, interactions, and experiences can contribute to the success of EqIn. Pitching In belladonna: You have pages on your website anticipating partnerships with college and high school chapters, but what can a single individual do to help? MO: Observation, education, and communication are key. Be involved with the world outside your own as much as you can. As for getting involved with the organization, donations are certainly welcomed, but if you have an interest in what we’re trying to do, you can submit an email to questions@equalityinitiative. org. One of our friendly members would love to get to know you and add you to our network!

For more information, visit, check them out on Facebook at The Equality Initiative, and/or tweet @equalityinitatv

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Art by Alejandra Garbutt Story by Maacah Davis “Be brave, be open, be positive." That is the core of artist Alejandra Garbutt's summer project: Be, the Movement. She has a vested interest in building and bettering her community by bringing light, color, and art to Birmingham, so she created a movement that is all about being "brave enough to do the right thing; open enough to respect different perspectives; and, positive enough to accept the gift that is now." She meets me at Makarios, wearing a lime green shirt with the self-designed "be" logo emblazoned across the front, and tells me that "today is a very good day." Her eyes are bright and her smile is infectious as

she tells me about the mythology she created to flesh out "Be, the Movement". Its logo is on her shirt, on vinyl stickers, and, in true guerrilla style, has also been placed on various walls and posters around the city. Against the backdrop of a noisy Middle Eastern restaurant, she says, "I knew I wanted to be an advocate for ‘oneness’, so I did a bunch of spiritual work, self reflection and meditation, and what I did first was come up with a personal mythology.” Her mythology revolves around non-corporeal parts of a collective consciousness. These beings inhabit another realm, and are on a per-

petual journey to enlightenment. They actively shy away from the label of ‘enlightened’, as they do not consider enlightenment to be a destination. She says, “They spread positivity and non-judgment, and I felt like people like that would make the world a better place, and that’s why I wanted to make art about them." She created her mythology in a drawing and recording class, and brought it to life by using willing friends, body paint, and fabric, to create portraits of the beings. Her media is mixed; she uses gouache, suminagashi (ink-marbling), and she also digitally renders traditional works and fabrics to make the composites her

posters are made of. Where does this all come from? "People inspire me," she says, citing poets Rumi, Hafiz; writers Osho, Eckhart Tolle, Khalil Ghibran, as well as; her friends, their hearts; the goodness of people, and the city of Birmingham herself. When all is said of what much there is to be done, she bikes away from me, to the UPS store to sort out the details for shipping from Be Movement's online shop, and I wave goodbye to an artist who chose to make her summer all about creating something that everyone could relate to: the very universal idea that whatever you choose, you should just Be, and Be well. summer 2014


Above: manifestations of Garbutt’s mythology.

Join the movement! Shop the movement! Instagram: @bethemovementbham Tumblr: Twitter: @be_themovement Facebook: Be the Movement

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The Mi’a Empire A Conversation with the Crowned.

story by Maacah Davis

“Oh, should I have brought my crown?” Mi’a Callens asks, when I hold a dress up to her frame and absently ask if a [flower] crown would be an appropriate accessory. It is not a question many people get to ask with sincerity, but it is a very practical one when it comes from someone who has been collecting titles and crowns since she was in high school. Her first title was Miss Jefferson County’s Outstanding teen, as which she competed at the state pageant and was crowned Miss Alabama’s Outstanding Teen. As Miss Alabama’s Outstanding Team, she traveled around the state promoting scholarship, style, service, and success--which are what the four points of the Miss America crown stand for. With the MAOT title, she represented Alabama at Miss America’s Outstanding teen and acted as the state ambassador. If being a title-holder seems to be all about the glitz and glam, Mi’a will be the first to tell you that it is so much more: there is a focus on honing your talent, sharpening your interview skills, and being aware of current social and political climates. She says, “the program is truly about creating empowered, hard working young women, and it focuses on

providing opportunities to succeed.” Through the Miss America Organization, Mi’a has earned over a hundred and fourteen thousand dollars in scholarships. The program also places great emphasis on community service, and each contestant must have a personal platform. Mi’a’s platform is a youth empowerment and character building initiative called “Beyond the SurFACE.” Using her platform, she has hosted family-friendly events that encouraged community bonding, like her charity fashion show, Love the Skin You’re In. Given how abundantly titled she is, some might be surprised to discover exactly how unentitled she behaves. From the moment she walks on set to when she has to fly off to another of the day’s pageant obligations, she is so accommodating that stylists, makeup artist, and photographer alike agree that she is one of the easiest models with whom they have ever worked. The second of three children far apart in age, Mi’a presents a sincerely charming persona. The self-proclaimed “music nerd” works with Summer Show Offs, a show choir camp that uses music and dance to teach first through twelfth graders confidence and

character. She does so because, “I think it’s very important to give back to a community that has given so much to you,” and claims it as one of the highlights of her summer. Mi’a is a rising college junior majoring in Media Studies and minoring in Africa Studies, and she would like to, some day, host a talk show about empowering and leading healthy lives. Of the talk show format and medium, she says, “I think it’s a great way to connect with, and impact those around you. Hey, you never know - you might see me on TV someday!” And, who would doubt that? Despite calling herself “just another everyday college student,” she is clearly a multi-faceted gem who knows how to work both a crowd and a crown. She placed in the top ten at the 2014 Miss Alabama pageant after medaling in talent arenas, and having already collected the titles of Miss Patriot 2013 and Miss Jefferson County 2014, she will compete as Miss Patriot at the 2015 Miss Alabama Pageant. Although the crown she wears here is only of gerber daisies, I dare say Mia Callens could make a run for royalty, if she so desired. summer 2014


m o o l B l a n Ver

cah Davis creative direction: Maa ilton photography: Will Ham d Jones re photo enhancement: Ja y styling: Saige Pilgrim , by mayflowersandmol ne O ild W e Th d an e, Brid jewelry: The Bedouin OD M wardrobe: Harold& shoes: Steve Madden ood makeup: Terez Underw kdill set assistant: Macy Stoc

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here, there be fairies Photographer: Lynsey Weatherspoon Concept: Maacah Davis Wardrobe provided by: Saige Pilgrim and Maacah Davis stylist: Maacah Davis models: Hunter Mid, Nayeli Gutierrez, Alexandrina Williams, Angel Turnes Hair: Khadijah Paige Makeup: Joy Krystal


Over hill, over dale, Thorough bush, thorough brier, Over park, over pale, Thorough flood, thorough fire, [fairies] do wander everywhere. A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act2, scene 1

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l a e r e S

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photography and story by Amanda Cantu

Certain people are born to be great; you can just feel it, and Chasity Sereal is, clearly, one of those people. The beautiful, soon-to-be mother-of-two, is a self taught fashion designer from Houston, Texas with a brilliant mind and great talent to design artfully crafted formal gowns and women's red carpet wear. Taking full advantage of the opportunity to study her designs up close, I notice that the garment she is currently working on is remarkably symmetrical. I have to ask how she does it: sketches? purchased patterns, or self-made ones? But, she adheres to none of those. She is pure skill and raw talent: she says, “It’s so funny, now that I sew, I don’t sketch. I just let the fabric do its thing on the mannequin, and I just flow with it. I don’t draw anything.” Chasity has always been artistic, and she had another hobby I could relate to; she used to cut up socks and glue rhinestones on them to make clothes for her barbies. Although sock clothing did not turn out to be the inspiration for any of her designs, she still decided to follow fashion’s calling. In addition to her daughter, she also cites her modeling experience as one of her inspirations: “...being in that industry and looking at garments made me think, ‘I want to do that, but I don’t know where to start’.” Four years ago, her mother bought Chasity her first sewing machine. Laughing, she says, “it was the worst sewing machine ever. I thought I was horrible, but it was 54 belladonna

actually the sewing machine’s fault! I’m embarrassed to admit how much hot glue I used to make my first little piece.” Well, it was all uphill from there. Chasity’s designs are for the glamorous, yet approachable woman: “she isn’t a snob, but she wants to look good. She wants to be the one in the room who just has that wow factor.” I am surprised to be answered in the negative when I ask if she is The Woman who wears her designs. She explains, “Growing up, I wasn’t the most popular girl. People called me a broomstick, and I had braces and glasses. I was very awkward and didn’t fit in.” Her collections are the exploration of an alter ego: Chasity trying to relate to, and connect with, her “inner Beyonce.” Though she accessorizes more than she might be able to if she were still going to castings, the model’s simple casting uniform of a tank top and jeans is still Chasity’s go to outfit. She is a surprising introvert: “I am not the one to be the center of attention. It makes me nervous to feel like everybody is looking at me, but it’s also fun, and I’m starting to get use to it, and gravitate towards it.” She has already been featured by publications like 002 Houston, Ellements, and Luxxe, to name a few; and she outfitted The Real World’s LaToya Jackson for the 2012 VMA’s red carpet. She hopes to connect with stylists who will bring her designs to more red carpets. It is a good thing she is acclimating to attention, because her future plans will demand her com-

fort with it. While her current focus is crafting non-traditional bridal designs, she wants to create a showroom from where photographers and stylists can pull things for high-profile red carpet clients. “I don’t want a boutique. I don’t want three of the same garment, because every woman wants that piece that no one else has, and I feel like there’s not an African-American Alexander McQueen, or an African-American Chanel, and I want to be that person.” She is a big dreamer, but she knows that outfitting the catwalk will not be a cakewalk. She says, “When I first started, it was really hard, and when I did shows, they were “urban”, because that was the only place I could fit in.” The young, African-American mother’s journey to signing her name in the South’s fashion history ledger is made even harder by being selftaught. “I’ve been to so many shows at design schools here, and as a designer, you have to have a vision. You just can’t throw stuff together and call yourself a designer, and I saw that being done, but they would be placed above me because they were in school, [they had higher connections that I did], and being a young, self-taught, African-American-woman, it’s ten times harder.” As she started to network, her admission that she was self-taught, to people who were interested in her designs, was not always received with enthusiasm. “It was like people in the Houston fashion industry gave me the cold shoulder, and it was like a club: everybody knows everybody in that club, and they don’t want outsiders, and that’s not fair. I don’t think Beyonce, or Rihanna, or a celebri-

ty stylist would say, ‘Did this designer go to school?’ They’re going to want to know if it’s hot, and that it’s not going to fall off, or rip. In Houston, it’s like you have to have that piece of paper in order to define yourself as a designer, and I feel like artists are born--you can’t teach that.” Despite a palpable frustration, she still keeps her sights on her ambitions, and tells me something she would have wanted to hear growing up as who she was: “I would tell a younger me not to listen to opinions. Don’t care about what other people have to say about you, or let everyone walk all over you, just because you’re young.”

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Gabriel Tajeu Finding My Way

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photos courtesy of Gabriel Tajeu story by Tyler Martin If there is one thing that Gabriel Tajeu is passionate about, it is trying to halt the tangible decline in pop music that he’s witnessed over the years. A natural born performer from Birmingham, Alabama, Tajeu plays R&B with playful hints of jazz, folk, and rock. He is a southern soloist with a voice like bittersweet chocolate: velvet, with a sting of coul, but despite the carefree vibe his falsetto-infused music videos give off, he is not the type of performer to just grab his guitar and hit the road. He is a man with a plan, keeping a keen eye on the business aspect of his career as well as the future of the music industry while it quickly evolves. belladonna: You’ve been in Birmingham for eighteen years. Has a certain Birmingham sound crept into your music over the years? gabriel tajeu: Being down here in the South, you can’t help but be exposed to blues and soul music—even jazz, with the New Orleans connection. So, yeah, there’s definitely more of that organic, home-grown feel to my music that’s creeping in. belladonna: At what age did you realize music was going to be really important to you? GT: Well, if you want to include the time that I sang “And I Will Always Love You” in front of my family when I was like, seven years old, that might be the first time. The response I got was incredible. I didn’t know what I was doing back then, but I always had that ‘butterflies-in-your-stomach’ feeling when

I would sing and when I would play music. belladonna: Do you still get the butterflies? GT: I do. I really do. It’s hard to explain that to people who have never gone onstage and who have never experienced that connection with the universe and the crowd. It’s basically a high you get when you perform and it’s taken me a long time to figure it out, but…I’ve realized that it’s literally a connection to everything around you. You’re experiencing something that everybody can share and you’re a conduit by which people can laugh, cry, feel emotion, get-together, find a new girlfriend or a new boyfriend. It’s crazy, the function of a musician in society and how we can bring so many different people together. belladonna: Was your family supportive of you decision to become a musician? GT: My family has always been supportive of me as a musician, just as long as I cover my bases.They’ve always encouraged a practical approach to music. They’ve always been very supportive of music and recognize my talents…but they’ve always wanted me to operate in a worldly fashion, I guess you’d say. Not too carefree. It’s actually allowed me to develop a better business sense and a little bit more pragmatic thinking and approach to… the things that go into getting the music done. belladonna: So it wasn’t just about grabbing your guitar and hitting the open road. GT: No. It’s been about getting my-

self to a place where doing that— Actually I think I’m at that place… where, when I do that, I don’t have to worry about anything except for going out there, being on the road and playing music. belladonna: Tell us about your debut album, Finding My Way. GT: It’s my first statement musically to the world, and it actually got distributed over in Japan. belladonna: Whoa. How did that happen? GT: To be honest, at first I thought it was spam. Then I realized that they had heard my music and the company wanted to talk to me a little bit more. So we talked over a couple of years while I was actually making my album. They heard some of the older songs I did with a couple of hip hop artists around Birmingham, and we made it happen. [Finding My Way] was nationally distributed in Japan by Tower Records, by HMV Japan, and by iTunes Japan. And, “Raindrops” actually made the Tokyo Hot 100. It got all the way up to 48 I believe. belladonna: So you’re famous in Japan. GT: Well, you know, we’re hoping to get over there pretty soon. I’ve never been to Japan…but we’re aiming at those goals for the near feature. belladonna: What has been your biggest obstacle so far? GT: Probably just the current climate of music and [its] value of music in our society…It’s pretty interesting to see how little people want to pay for music and pay for summer 2014 59

live music. It’s interesting to see how people don’t pay for music anymore. It’s a natural fact. It’s taken for granted that these people out here are really just for everybody else’s enjoyment and entertainment. So I think that’s, for me, the biggest stumbling block so far, but we’re overcoming that with different methods. belladonna: It is the chicken and the egg argument where [we ask] it is the internet’s fault? Is it free downloading’s fault? Is it the climate’s fault? We don’t know, but there’s no support system in the structure that could support and create a large number of acts. It really dilutes the talent pool and the competition. When people are competing, just like any business, there’s a larger market pool, and you get better talent. You get more people valuing music. It creates a better situation. how would you change the music industry? GT: I think that the nature of capitalism suggests that you try to make the most money off of the fewest individuals and you try to keep the money to yourself once you make it. That would not be my model. You see a trend in music where there are fewer and fewer large acts. The money is put behind fewer…acts, and the expectation for artists is that they’re further and further in their career before they’re even picked up. belladonna: speaking of advancing careers, what do you hope people will take away from your debut album?

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GT: It’s taking me a little while to get there as far as the ultimate goal of what I’m hoping for…Originally I wanted to make the best album I could with the songs that have meaning to me. Now, I really hope that people take it as a musical statement—as an example of what pop music could be. There’s incredible pop music out there currently…but [the album] represents getting back to all live musicians and getting back to something that’s not as cookie-cutter as what’s out there.

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Profile for belladonna magazine

belladonna - summer 2014  

the midsummer night's debut of belladonna magazine.

belladonna - summer 2014  

the midsummer night's debut of belladonna magazine.