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Bull Magazine


Fall 2016/Winter 2017

Backstage at LA Fashion Week Some like it rough and raw

Front, back, front inside cover, table of contents, staff photos and editor’s photo by Alan Castro. Back inside cover by Marielle J. Stober



Meet the Staff


Editor’s Letter



Pierce College professor talks work, family and what it’s like drawing for Disney


Playhouse Powerhouse

Racquel Lehrman shares her story of how she went from working in public relations to owning and running multiple theaters




Game Face

Father-daughter duo touch on the finer points of game development and creating a world of their own


AX Exposed

An insider’s look at the chaotic life of an Anime Expo volunteer


The Heart of Music


S/S 2017 Fashion Week


All By Design

Fashion designer Chipo Mudzengi-Hwami pulls back the veil of the world of fashion


The Visionary

College graduate finds inspiration for her artistic works in the morbid and surreal


Speak Easy


With One Voice

A capella singer Ali Hepps touches on the ups and downs of stage life


Sweet Smooth Jazz Musician takes jazz to church




Welcome To The Dungeon

Get insider access to the intricate and pleasurably painful world of BDSM

Marielle J. Stober Editor in Chief

Marc Dionne Managing Editor, Online Editor

Samantha Bravo Vanessa Arredondo Copy Editor Social Media Editor

Alan Castro Photo Editor, Multimedia Editor

Bull Magazine Staff

Shir Nakash Reporter

Jose Herrera Reporter


Randi Love Reporter

Amy Au Tanya Castaneda David J. Hawkins Photographer Reporter Photographer

Welcome to the anti-hero middle sister of popular culture. This edition of The Bull Magazine peels back the nip-tucked skin of the entertainment machine to reveal the other side of the industry that frequently goes unrecognized. As a native Angeleno, I grew up harboring a deep fascination for all things glamorous and absurd. Yet, I found it strange that too often people would obsess over celebrities and skip out on the end credits of a movie. Those names that are nothing but white noise at the close of a film belong to the people responsible for turning pipe dreams into realities. From the key grip to the foley artists, each member of the crew is as important as the actors and actresses we see on screen. There is so much more to the entertainment business than the latest Kardashian scandal or what Kanye West is aimlessly ranting about on social media. And while this installment of The Bull could not begin to cover every tributary that flows from the confluence of Hollywood and Vine, it gives a glimpse into the lives of the people casually lingering on the walls of cramped nightclubs. This is a shoutout to the alternative speakeasies and the Queens and Kings that make walking in eight-inch heels look like child’s play. This is for the imaginative minds at work behind the birth of a runway collection and the scored fingers that push and pull a heap of wet plaster into a face that screams quietly back at the viewer. So tighten your garters and fix your nylons, because the show is about to begin. Cordially yours, -M. J. Stober

Life I L L U S T R A T E D

Story by: Samantha Bravo Photo by: Alan Castro

Disney animator to instructor entertainment



t starts with a blank sheet of paper. Concentrating while a cascade of ideas release from the lead of a pencil onto the page is how animation begins. Animator Scott Claus used to work on one drawing an hour sometimes for 10-12 hours of work. Born and raised in Oregon, Claus studied motion pictures and television at the University of Oregon in Eugene before moving to Los Angeles. The animator created films, musicals and novels but started teaching about the field at various colleges in 2013. “I knew from the minute I was born [animating] was something I really wanted to do,” Claus says. “I saw movies and television and I saw how animation was done and I immediately started training and started my own Scott Claus uses a drawing disc, “We used them in the 90’s, now we use computers.” animation.” Claus worked at Disneyland as a Jungle Cruise operator, and from there, as an assistant animator. Claus had how to use computer animation, you an opportunity to work with Pixar no longer have a job,’” Claus says. he started looking into editing. “I loved Disneyland; that’s why I animation in the 1990s but passed “As long as you pay attention to what’s wanted to work there. I wanted to work because he wasn’t interested in the new going on in the universe, don’t be so in a place where it’s magic,” Claus technology they were starting to use. stuck on what’s going on now. Look In the 1990s, Claus worked on around and see what’s happening.” says. “I wouldn’t have done any of this Disney films, such as Pocahontas, The if it weren’t for that opportunity.” Claus was part of the team that won Claus worked his way up to Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules an Oscar for visual effects for the film Feature Animation and DreamWorks. and Tarzan. Life Of Pi in 2013. The film took three “It was roughly 12 hours, and this years to complete and Claus personally He said he didn’t feel like he was at work because he loved what he was was just drawing, no computers, 12 worked on the film for six months. drawings per second, and that’s just for doing. “My job on that film was to be in Some of the first films Claus one character,” Claus says. “If there between the directors and a team of worked on were Prince and the Pauper were two characters, we had to do 24 artists,” Claus says. “I would represent in 1990 and Swan Princess in 1994 drawings per second.” those teams of artist to the director.” One of the first characters Claus Claus attended the Annie Awards worked on was Pocahontas. Claus says in 2013 where they won for Best he used to draw her character everyday, Character Animation in a Live Action about 50 hours a week. Production for Life of Pi. Part of Claus’ profession is using Claus worked on the characters storyboards and creating multiple called Manticore and Centaur as an images and frames that give an illusion international animation supervisor for of movement when displayed in the 2013 film, Percy Jackson: Sea of rapid sequence. This is the process of Monsters. Claus personally created the animation. cyclops character, Tyson. “They’ll do the whole movie Claus went through a few hurdles in first, using what they call animatics his career that almost made him give storyboards and they’ll take sections of up on animation. Shark Tale and Yogi it and give it to us and then we animate Bear were Claus’ least favorite films it,” Claus says. that he worked on. He lost interest in In 2002, DreamWorks and Disney projects that didn’t match with him, but announced their transition to computer continued until the film was over. animation, which worked for Claus, Retiring was not on Claus’ mind just because he had already started learning yet, but as soon as he was sitting next these new programs. to a 23-year-old employee fresh out of Scott Claus flips through his drawings at “DreamWorks and Disney said to college, he realized it was time to move Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif. on their employees, ‘If you don’t learn on. Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016.


Scott Claus uses a HB #2 pencil to trace out the cuffs on a character, Miguel from The Road to El Dorado.

“I couldn’t stay where I was and it was time for me to do something different,” Claus says. “So I thought to myself what I could do. I’d like to teach and pass on what I know to the next generation. Not just skills and animation, I want them to know what they’re going to face in Hollywood.” When Claus was younger, he wanted to be like director, producer and editor Steven Spielberg. “I was a Star Wars baby and I saw all those films and I thought to myself, ‘I want to do this when I grow up,’ Claus says. “What I wanted to be all along is what I am now– a storyteller.” Claus also published multiple drawing books in his career. The sketches are drawings he made and collected over the years. “While I was working in animation, I spent a lot of time in meetings,” Claus says. “I would get bored and doodle in notebooks and someone told me to make books out of these.” Claus also wrote, directed and produced musicals, such as the 2015 musical Sin: A Pop Opera. He was inspired by director Ken Russell, who created the 1975 British musical film Tommy. The film is based on the 1969 rock opera album Tommy by The Who. Sarah Kennedy, a Cal State Long Beach graduate from the Theatre Arts program, worked with Claus on the musical. The experience was

both enjoyable and an eye-opener for Kennedy. “Scott’s an awesome guy. He wrote the musical [Sin: A Pop Opera], so he had a very clear idea of what he wanted,” Kennedy says. “He showed us a couple of his animations and they were very unique. I learned a lot from working with him.” When Claus started producing musicals, he realized he needed to work with someone who knew the business. That’s when he met Kay Cole. Cole is a director and choreographer and teaches acting for film and television at Emerson College LA Annex and UCLA’s Musical Theatre Conservatory. “We have similar work ethics. He was very fun to work with,” Cole says. “He’s a very creative and terrific writer and animator. I’ve seen all his films he’s worked on.” Other than animating, Claus wrote three books. One of them is the 2014 novel My name is Christina Barry and I hate you. He was inspired to write this novel after not having a plan after college. Claus’ favorite film that he worked on was the The Road to El Dorado for DreamWorks in 2000. He worked on the character Miguel. The film took about two years to complete. “It’s really amazing to get to work all day to make people happy,” Claus

says. “Making characters and bringing life to them.” Giving up was something Claus didn’t want to do, but the constant critique of others made it difficult. “It was hours of hard work and getting rejected and having people tell me I wasn’t good enough,” says Claus. “As long as you stay focused and do what you love, pay the rent, be patient, stay focused, it’s going to come.” Claus says the reason he started teaching was to be the resource he wish he had when starting out. “You have to work really hard, you have to be passionate and you have to love what you’re doing and not listen to people who say no,” Claus says. “If you don’t feel that way about something, don’t do it. That’s the only way you’re going to survive.” Claus says he wishes he had been more patient and persistent when he was younger. His advice for beginning animators would be to build relationships and not to let one failure stop them from achieving their goals. “You learn by making mistakes and not by succeeding,” Claus says. “You come to school to learn, get frustrated and make mistakes. So that way, when you get into the real world, it gets easier. Make sure you’re doing it because you love it. Don’t do it for the money. Don’t do it for the fame. Find that passion that you have and just keep doing that.”

An eraser, sharpener, pencil and pencil shavings remain on the desk after drawing Claus’ character.



Producer On The Run New York native brings Broadway to Los Angeles

Story by: Tanya Castaneda Photo by: Alan Castro



uxtaposed against her thin frame and bubbly personality, Racquel Lehrman plays a leading role in theater entertainment. Despite being almost 3,000 miles from New York, she is bringing Broadway to Southern California. Theater is Lehrman’s greatest passion. Her goal is to help keep the art alive as she runs her production company in Los Angeles. She believes in the personable touch that theater presents to the audience as well as the many different manners which they can express something. To her, sitting through a show is all about observing how the director chose to convey a story without the shams seen on television. “There’s nothing more real than right then and there, someone is having a moment with another actor and telling a story in front of you. Anything can happen,” Lehrman says. “It’s truly magical. On any given night, it changes, and there’s so many different ways to tell a story in theatre.” Lehrman began her career in California after leaving New York for a change of scenery. She noticed there were more theater opportunities in California and that people were taking on more roles than they should. A single person may have been producing, directing and acting in one play. It was then that Lehrman recognized the need for more theater producers in California. After posting flyers in a theater to advertise her work, she got her first gig producing for a show in that same venue. “God knows what they paid me I didn’t care. I was just happy that somebody was actually paying me for this idea that I had just thought of. It was a

Lehrman was asked if she worked in public relations and if she could manage to get the theater in contact with the Los Angeles Times. She responded yes. As the words were coming out of her mouth, Lehrman began to stress because she had never actually worked in the field before. Following the encounter, Lehrman ran to her studio apartment, crawled under her covers and began to cry. Self-doubt began to poison her thoughts and sapped her confidence. However, her persistence pushed her to take on the challenge. For Lehrman, the experience serves as a life defining moment. She had two options: give up or start calling the Times and other major publications, and start a list, which she did. “That’s how I landed in publicity. By opening my big mouth,” Lehrman says. After eight years in public relations, her business had grown substantially. Lehrman began working on several different shows a year and was eventually faced with a decision: continue to pursue both public relations and producing or focus on one. She chose to dedicate her talents to producing after realizing she felt more fulfilled putting on shows than promoting them. About 80 percent of the works Lehrman’s company produces are original pieces. She takes pride in the rewarding feeling she receives after fulfilling a client’s vision and making it come to life. Her day usually starts when a client comes to Lehrman with a script. It is her job to animate the manuscript, and in approximately three months, it is on stage. “Creatively, we’re making a baby. You’re making a one of a kind that’ll never

very cool to try to meet those challenges,” Lehrman says. Lehrman believes the challenges she faces are what motivates her to keep going. With obstacles such as time constraints, budgets, and sometimes, limited resources, she enjoys a career that keeps her on her toes. Lehrman also serves as both an administrative producer and a mentor for young, aspiring producers. Long-time colleague and associate professor of theater Michael Gend touches on the tributaries that flow from her organization. “Part of her company’s mission is to help artists who have an idea for a production and want to produce their first play but don’t have the technical know-how or the experience,” Gend says. “She fosters new producers that then set off on their own and are very inspired by the process and want to continue further.” Amber Bruegel, a former Pierce College student and current venue manager for Lehrman, can attest to the claim. “She’s very knowledgeable about how theater works and she’s has a great company to work for. She loves teaching new young ones the ways,” Bruegel says. “You learn a lot working underneath her and it’s a fastpaced environment, which I think is great.” Although she is a successful producer, Lehrman does not plan to pursue anything other than theater. She has no desire to move on due to her passion for what she does. “My husband often says to me, ‘You’re such a good producer, go make more money in television or film,’ but that genre just doesn’t interest me. I don’t know that world, I don’t care to learn it. I’m a theater gal; it’s

business idea that I thought, ‘I think this might work,’” Lehrman says. This lone idea was what fired up her company Theatre Planners 14 years ago. With a first show under her belt, Lehrman’s business began to expand. Working on different projects provided more opportunities, which led to her philosophy of “shows breed shows.” Shortly after, the producer’s unreserved exuberance landed her in a different business—public relations. During a meeting with a potential client,

be recreated again,” Lehrman says. “That’s why I love original work and that’s why I never get bored of opening night; because you just gave birth.” Operating anywhere between 15-to20 shows a year, Lehrman credits both her creativity and her colleagues for her success. “From one moment to the next, I’m tuning my creativity to change how I’m thinking. There are so many creative people I interact with everyday. Working with them sparks my juices and gets me going. It’s

who I am. And anyone else that’s a theater person just understands that,” Lehrman says. Despite living in an area with little to offer in the performing arts, others in the field have taken note of her success. Gend says her “dedication and stamina is impressive.” “I think she’s done really well, especially in a community like Los Angeles that’s really Continued on page 32

Photo: Racquel Lehrman lounging in the Lounge Theatre




Visually moving movies to watch

a kid and I was in awe. I was trapped in Tarzan’s journey through the trees and even cried at the end. My parents helped fuel this new passion of mine and would bring home a new VHS for me and my siblings on payday. I was always at Blockbuster Video and I wanted to watch everything. These are a couple movies Written by: Salvador Fariaz you shouldn’t have to go Special to The Bull Magazine through life without. They The moment the lights aren’t necessarily the best start to dim and the chatter films ever made, but they’re around you begins to ones that will leave a lasting simmer down, you are at the impression. Intouchables mercy of the silver screen. It is a French movie about Movies are an enormous part of the entertainment the friendship between a industry and can bring much quadriplegic man and his caregiver. I know that might joy to people. I remember going to see sound like the most boring Disney’s Tarzan when I was and dull synopsis I could

Music review:

have given, but that is what the movie is about at its core. This movie balances so many different emotions. It is thoughtful and hysterical. The casting choices and the script is a match made in heaven. You walk out of this movie wanting this kind of friendship in your life. The funny moments would not stand out like they do if it wasn’t for the grief and serious tones the movie dives into. This movie needs to go on the top of your watch list. Whiplash The best way for me to describe this movie is that it’s the best sports movie that has nothing to do with sports. Most of the elements

that you would find in a sports movie, like hard work, coaching and a big performance, are found in Whiplash. The star athlete is just replaced with a young drummer. Andrew Neiman, played by Miles Teller, is a student at one of the top music schools in the country. He dreams of being the greatest drummer of his generation. To get there, he has to go through one of the toughest and most well- respected music teachers, Terence Fletcher, played by J.K. Simmons. The biggest upside to this movie is the ending. It has one of the best final scenes in a movie I have ever seen. I won’t give it away, but it is powerful.

Skylar’s top ten 2016 albums

indie-house dancefloor hits. 3. Chance the Rapper Coloring Book Released: May 12, 2016 Chance the Rapper’s debut album Coloring Book is a gospel-inspired hip-hop album that can leave even the non-religious listeners feeling uplifted. 4. Andrew Bird - Are You Written by: Skylar Lester Special to The Bull Magazine Serious Released: April 1, 2016 1. Beyoncé - Lemonade On his newest record, Released: April 23, 2016 Bird plays violin and The surprise album is guitar, sings and hauntingly an emotional outpour that whistles with instrumentexplicitly tackles the theme like precision. This album of infidelity. is an essential if you want to 2. Rüfüs Du Sol - Bloom start off your morning with Released: Jan. 22, 2016 mellow jams. Bloom epitomizes chill 5. The Coathangers summer vibes by fusing Nosebleed Weekend EDM and pop. The trio Released: April 15, 2016 combines poppy synths and The Coathangers’ album heavy baselines with soft is proof that the band’s melodies to create catchy sound has really matured


and has become more cohesive. Their new album contains some fun and playful tracks. 6. Local Natives - Sunlit Youth Released: Sept. 9, 2016 The album features a much lighter, dancier synthpop sound compared to their previous two releases. 7. The Kills - Ash & Ice Released: June 3, 2016 No longer the fire and water combo of the past, the duo has become ash and ice, a far less volatile mix, producing catchy melodies with a dark vibe. 8. The Growlers - City Club Released: Sept. 30, 2016 The record is far more experimental than the psych-rock sound of their past. Though it will take some getting used to, The Growlers present an

unapologetic funky style on City Club. 9. Santigold - 99 Cents Released: Feb. 26, 2016 Santigold’s third album features a danceable, happy and bright art-pop sound, offset by a heavy critique of consumerism. Presented like packaged meat, Santigold has created an album suitable for mass consumption. 10. Phantogram - Three Released: Oct. 7, 2016 The upstate New York duo combine synth and sampling to produce a sound that still makes you want to dance.Though loss is an obvious theme, there is no clear storyline or narrative, which is why Phantogram’s Three comes in at 10 on the list.


Dream Team Father-daughter duo join ranks to launch a video game that has been years in the making. Photo and Story by: Marc Dionne


fter hours of work, the birth of a video game comes to reality for 18-yearold Leilani Toone. Face etched in deep concentration and buried in drawings, moving objects appearing on two computer screens, a short-haired blonde head bobs up from a desk smiling at her partner in crime, her dad. The game started for Toone, a student at Pierce College, as a high school project from her childhood drawings. Since then, she has continued to develop it. The name of the game is Very Bunny, which is a play on words for very funny, and is now available on computers and tablets. “I was given an SDK [Software Development Kit] called Unity,” Leilani Toone’s father, Rob Toone, says. He was given this game engine by Mass Media, the video game company he works for. Rob Toone used his new SDK to create various games that were never completed, however, he continues to learn Unity with Very Bunny, alongside Leilani Toone. Unity is a game engine that is used for 2D and 3D games such as Temple Run, Kerbal Space Program and other titles. This engine can be used on computers and mobile devices.

Leilani Toone says that the original concept of the game was based on Harvest Moon, a basic farm simulator role-playing game. However, the game changed as ideas were shared among the two creators and the storyline became more cohesive. Upon starting the work on the game, both Toones knew they had to master and accomplish techniques they had not tried before. “When you’re writing a game, you become a person wearing many hats,” Rob Toone says. Rob and his daughter work together on the animations, writing, art and designs for the game. They poured their time, sweat, and joy into their game, but have never kept track of the hours they’ve spent because of their passion and dedication for developing. The game will feature voice actors. The dialogues currently have voices and sound effects which are place holders, but may change over time. Rob Toone has also paid for some of the music, but he does want an original musical score for the game. “I think probably the best quality thing in the whole game is going to be the voice acting because we know the professionals for that,” Rob Toone says. They have worked on the

Above: Leilani and Rob Toone working on digital art for the game Very Bunny in her room in Simi Valley, Calif.

game for a year and a half and are hoping to finish within a year. When it is finished, finding the right release date is important. Hank Murphy, instructor of the app development class at Pierce College, understands how crucial the launch date for game developers is. He thoroughly explains the reason to his students during class lectures. “The best time to have a game appear is about the days of Dec. 10 and 17,” says Murphy. These are popular days to release a game on the App Store because people receive new phones during the holiday season. The father-

daughter team have a mind to make Very Bunny available on mobile platforms. Murphy says that to make a game successful you need nerds, who are the programmers, the ponytails, who are the artistic people, and the suits who advertise the game. “You need nerds, ponytails and suits,” Murphy says. “What I’m really hoping for is a big enough success that we make money.” Rob Toone says he wants to use the money from the residual funds to pay all those who contributed to the game. He could also use the money to pay for Leilani’s college tuition in the future. Continued on page 32



Volunteer task force AX

The manpower behind an animation extravaganza Story & Photos by: Jose Herrera


air as light as a low simmering ember, tied back with a black hairband into an impeccable ponytail, anthropology major and Pierce College student Brenna Perteet increases her pace as she rushes into Starbucks. Cream, sugar, spices and warm baking dough engulf her senses while she cuts ahead of the growing line. She ordered her coffee online the night before. Outside she takes a few gulps of the caffeinated concoction, chasing away any remaining sense of weariness. She’s dressed in civilian clothing and takes a moment to readjust her hydration pack and plug batteries into her headset. Perteet completes a sound check, confirming that her headset is ready to handle the next 40 work hours ahead of her. With everything in place, she heads down the street into the fray where a line snaking around the Los Angeles Convention Center for the 2016 Anime Expo foreshadows the chaos to ensue, all the while her identification as assistant manager tails behind her. “I started originally volunteering at


Top: Artwork by R.J. Palmer, featured at the 2016 Anime Expo in Los Angeles. Above: Volunteers huddle together for their congragulatory group shot commerating the end of Anime Expo.

Anime Expo as an attendee because they have volunteering where you can help out for a couple of hours with your pass, and I saw how much work goes into it and how much people appreciate the work that they do, and so I became full-time staff after doing the attendee staffer postion for two years,” Perteet says. The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA) has hosted Anime Expo for the last 24 years.

The 2016 Anime Expo brought in approximately 90,500 attendees during four days, July 2-5. SPJA brings together Japanese animation (anime), manga, which is similar to western comic books, artists inspired by anime, writers, costume players (cosplayers), companies and shop owners for people to enjoy and participate in a multitude of events and panels. Throughout the event, men and

women of varying ages wearing rose-colored shirts with the words “Volunteer” stamped in the center welcome and assist attendees. “Nobody realizes that most every single staff member you see at the Anime Expo is actually a volunteer,” Perteet says. “The only ones that aren’t [volunteers] are the ones wearing red polo shirts because they are hired by the convention center. But everyone else, if they are wearing a vest, regular clothes, or have the staff badge, they are a volunteer. We don’t get paid. We do it because we like it.” According to Perteet, there are more than 200 volunteers organized Above: Attendees in cosplay stand in front of a booth inside the Anime Expo’s Artist into teams in various levels, such as Alley in Los Angeles, Calif. the Corrective, Customer Service, Stephanie Zavaleta, 25, is a Zavaleta explains that in the job Premiere Lounge, Access Control and freelance digital artist inspired by industry people have to work in teams, Pre-registration departments, which Disney. During high school, she was and that it would be insufficient to try to has sub-categories of Exhibit Hall and an avid viewer of anime, but when be the lone wolf. She says volunteering Artist Alley. She managed one team she attended Otis College of Art and is a good experience that demonstrates composed of seven for the Exhibit Hall. Design, she stopped. However, she that. During the four days, it is the job Perteet’s duties included hiring staff, began volunteering in 2014 and worked of the volunteers to represent the SPJ heading the interviewing process and as an assistant manager under the Artist positively and accurately. managing her team. However, there’s Alley department. “When guests come in to the Anime an extra duty her position requires. Zavaleta describes herself as the Expo, especially guests who are going “On site our job is to get yelled at, so kind of person who’s only interested in to the convention for the first time, if any of our staffers are getting yelled the Exhibit Hall and the Artist Alley. you are their first user experience,” at they can be like, ‘Hold on, let me Zavaleta says. “You are the first people get my manager.’” Perteet says. “They that they are going to connect with, and come bring us and we basically are the if you give a bad impression right away ones who take the brunt of it.” that’s going to impact their experience Anime Expo lasts four days, with an at the con immediately.” extra day before anything takes place Attendees come from across the for attendees to obtain their passes. Day country and even from different parts zero, or “line con,” is when hundreds of the world. Perteet recalls a day of people wait hours for their passes so when she helped look for a Chinese that they don’t have to wait during the interpreter to communicate with a guest convention days. who had came from China to attend the “We were dealing with the Exhibit expo. Hall,” Perteet says. “We weren’t Although volunteers are there to dealing with the regular attendees. So, work, they are able to explore what the Exhibit Hall is a lot easier and a “I get bored easily afterwards, so Anime Expo has to offer. The managers lot harder at the same time because we what do I do now,” Zavaleta says. “I are accommodating and flexible with aren’t dealing with someone who payed decided to take on volunteering and their teams so that volunteers have time $90 for their pass. We were dealing I did it. It keeps me entertained and to be part of the wonder, Perteet says. with someone who payed $5,000 for a keeps me feeling like I have a purpose. “It wouldn’t be fun if you didn’t get little booth. And I did have that number Overall, my best interest is to make the a chance to explore,” Perteet says. “We thrown at me, that’s how I know.” The following days become the convention as wonderful as possible make sure our staff has enough time progressively better as the workload and that guests are having a good time. to go see things, too. We specifically gets lighter, according to Perteet. She That’s the reason why I decided to schedule time off so that we all go at one point or another during the day so has history with the Anime Expo. She volunteer.” Volunteers need to be willing to that we can get into Artist Alley and attended multiple times before because commit the time, effort and cooperation Exhibit Hall.” she had an interest in the subject. to effectively work within a time frame; The SPJA also provides benefits to However, volunteers don’t need a those are the qualities that Perteet and their volunteers such as paying for the strong affiliation with animation to Zavaleta want. hotel and Continued on page 32 participate.

“If they are wearing a vest, regular clothes, or have the staff badge, they are a volunteer. We don’t get paid. We do it because we like it.”



LOS ANGELES FASHION WEEK Diverse designs, local impact Story and photos by: Alan Castro


ows of white padded chairs sit idly on the flanks of a long polished runway inside the Gymnasium at the Hollywood Athletic Club. On one end of the runway is the press section for photographers, videographers and journalists from various publications. Opposite the media pool is a LCD screen as high as the trussed lights displaying the acronym “LAFW” for Los Angeles Fashion Week. The LAFW holds a biannual event dedicated to raise awareness of Los Angeles role in the nation’s fashion industry. The event showcases 18 diverse designer companies for the spring/summer 2017 lineup—50 percent of which come from outside the United States. Some are award-winning designers, such as Cindy Wei Zhang, who was awarded bronze and silver for the Chinese Elements International Creative Award in 2014 and 2015. Other designers have some connection to LA, such as Russian fashion designer Bezgraniz Couture, who was supported by the Los Angeles Commission on Disability and the California Commission on Disability Access for its promotion of fashion, functionality for people disabilities. Bezgraniz Couture used models with various disabilities for runway. Arthur Chipman is the founder, executive producer and host for this season’s event. “A place does not define creativity– people do. We want to be that gateway to global fashion,” Chipman says.


2017 Top: A model practices walking down the runway before doors open to the public on the second day on LAFW’s runway event. Page Opposite: A model stands still during a performance featuring the Blond & Bieber spring/ summer 2017 fashion line on the second day of LAFW’s event in the Hollywood Athletic Club in Hollywood, Calif. on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. Left and Right: Bezgraniz Couture, spring/ summer 2017. Bezgraniz Couture featured models with physical and mental disabilities, including Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, wheelchair users and people with other mobile limitations. Below: Makeup artists apply cosmetics on to the models hours before doors open to the public on the second day of LAFW’s event. Visit for more photos

Los Angeles Design, AfricaN Couture Perfection is a way of life for a Pierce College fashion designer from Zimbabwe. Story and Photos by: Alan Castro


long black hooded sweater is laid across the table. Stuck somewhere between a cardigan and a robe in its style, the soft quilted fabric reflects little light due to its semi-matte finish. This contemporary article of clothing draws inspiration from Los Angeles street fashion and the rich heritage of Zimbabwe. At the helm of its design is Zimbabwe native Chipo Mudzengi-Hwami, the owner of the award-winning Marimba sweater by Panashé Designs. Mudzengi-Hwami was born in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe. In 1998, she travelled to the United States through a contact from Ohio. Later, she moved to Chicago, then to Texas for different opportunities and weather. MudzengiHwami now studies business marketing at Pierce College. “I hated Chicago weather. I hate snow, so I moved,” Mudzengi-Hwami laughs. “My friends were out there [in Texas], so I moved to Texas. But my move to California was because I was getting married. My husband was [in California] so I lost the battle.” Though her garments are identifiably L.A. style, MudzengiHwami’s roots come from her inspirations back home, her mother, a seamstress, and father, a leatherworker. Both are a part of the clothing industry, but with their own specialties. “My dad came from a very humble background. He started this leather company. He was not educated. He hardly did, I think, first or second grade and that was it,” says MudzengiHwami. “He started this company of what he called Shungu Leathercrafts. Shungu is almost like a drive, like a determination, that’s what it stands for. Looking at him


Chipo Mudzengi-Hwami pins together her latest design inside her Chatsworth home.

working, essentially from nothing, to making something that is really big and tangible [was] admirable. He was really good at what he did.” Her mother also played a key role in shaping and inspiring her eye for fashion. Though she was never properly trained, she was able to create from what she learned from her mother. “When I started off with my designing process, I didn’t know how to make patterns either so I just remembered what my mom did and kinda just worked from there,” says Mudzengi-Hwami. A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Mudzengi-Hwami would usually struggle with her designs. “There was always a doubt that person will definitely come back and say ‘This doesn’t look right’ or ‘Look, what you did over here.’ So I always struggle with that.” That’s when Mudzengi-Hwami decided to receive proper training at Los Angeles Trade Technical College’s Design (LATTC) and Media Arts department in 2013. “At some point, I was like, ‘You know what? I really want to know how to do this the right way so I can be confident in what I do’,” says Mudzengi-Hwami. “Going to LATTC gave me that boost in my confidence. I went through the fashion design program and it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I was fortunate enough to have the best teachers around me. You can tell they are passionate about what they do and want to empower and pass on what they know on to the students.” One such teacher is Thomas J. Walker, who mentored Mudzengi-Hwami at LATTC. Walker has been an instructor

“When I get into a fabric store I feel like I’m in a candy store. I feel like a kid in candy store. Ideas would just be running through my head.” at the college for four years. He teaches basic fashion and art, as well as the technical classes related to the design of clothing. These classes provide students the knowledge to create concept sketches, learn about fabric, draw out the garments, as well as learn about price points in merchandising the products. “She always went well beyond what’s expected in the students. I don’t know of any weaknesses that she had. Her strength was the fact that she actually wanted to achieve the project. She made sure she executed the projects really well,” Walker says. Even while in school, Mudzengi-Hwami maintained the shungu lifestyle she learned from her father. In spring 2015, Mudzengi-Hwami enrolled in what is known as the “Gold Thimble” class. “The Gold Thimble is a class that the students take usually at the end of their stay in the design program. This is almost like the crowning glory for the students because, at this point, they get to show all their skill sets that they’ve learned and acquired while they have been here,” Walker explains. “With that, there’s also a fashion show that actually displays the product where the faculty members, as well as people in the community, are able to attend.” All students who take the class can participate in the fashion show. The show is comprised of eight categories for judging the theme of the show, swimwear, sportswear, men’s wear, evening wear, day dresses, children’s, and “After 5.” The theme for the spring 2015 show was the ‘90s era and designers had to create clothing inspired from the 1990s. Mudzengi-Hwami won and was presented the award by fashion designer and hip-hop recording artist and producer Kanye West. “First of all, it was a shock that I had won,” says MudzengiHwami. “I just could not believe it and having to have him give me the award was kind of just like a cherry on top. I didn’t even realize how big it was that moment. I was just in another world, on cloud nine. Didn’t even realize what was going on. A couple days later I was like, ‘Wait a minute, that was Kanye! My award was handed to me by Kanye!’ So I put that on Facebook and it went wild. People in my country went wild. They put me in the papers. It was huge.” Mudzengi-Hwami’s theme entry was a Lion King-inspired long skirt named “African Pride.” The colors, textiles, and

A close up on the stitching that Chipo Mudzengi-Hwami sews on her award winning Marimba sweater.

patterns all played with the idea for a cohesive story. “For some reason, I’m not sure what it is, but I like orange. I like the rust, orange color,” says Mudzengi-Hwami. “Orange seems to stand out a lot for me. There seems to be a little bit of orange everywhere, but it’s the deep rich orange color, not the orange color in the fruit.” Mudzengi-Hwami’s inspiration comes from anything she sees that fascinates her. From a picture, to a flower, or from the various fabrics, she will pick san item’s element and create from it while adding a little bit of her Zimbabwean charm. “When I get into a fabric store, I feel like a kid in candy store. Ideas would just be running through my head,” says Mudzengi-Hwami. Mudzengi-Hwami is currently attending Pierce College. It is her goal to get an associate’s degree in business marketing—a skill set she plans to apply to her company Panashé Designs. “I don’t know the business side. I only know the technical side of what I do. I thought it was good for me to actually have a background, to know how to run the business,” says Mudzengi-Hwami. “It’s not to say that I’m a one-man-show, but I’d like to get an understanding.” Krista Stewart models for Mudzengi-Hwami’s products. After meeting Mudzengi-Hwami in 2015 for a job opportunity at Panashé Designs, the two quickly became close friends. “Chipo told me when I met her that the photographer was the one who sent her his pick and then she did the final pick. She really liked my look and that’s why she brought me in for a physical audition,” Stewart said. Since then, Mudzengi-Hwami and Stewart have kept a close relationship inside and outside of work. “She actually designed a few pieces that she’d let me wear to premieres and other events for my acting or modeling. It’s really cool to have special perks but, among that, we became very close friends because she’s just a wonderful woman,” Stewart said.



O ther Wo r l d l y Grad student visualizes visualizeshumanity’s humanitys future with plaster, paper and ink

Story by: Marielle J. Stober Photos by: Alan Castro


half-formed face pieced together from scraps of clay stares at the blanched ceiling—voiceless yet unnerving. Its hollowed eyes gaze upward in a state of perpetual shock while its mouth—prodded and pulled out of alignment—hangs slack-jawed as if it was screaming. Like the many of the other sketches and sculptures that litter Naomi Nadreau’s modest home, the mask is a work in progress. Above the face left out to dry on Nadreau’s desk hang three sketches of street thugs wearing elaborate masks. It is baroque meets cyberpunk. “[The masks] have to be functional,” explains Nadreau, 22, as she repositions herself on the living room floor. “If they aren’t then there’s no point. In the world they live in, everything has to have a purpose. Nothing’s wasted.” Nadreau is in the Masters of Art program at California State University, Northridge. Though she did not intend to pursue art as a career in her earlier years, it has become both her profession and an obsession that has filled countless sketchbooks and now has begun to bleed out onto the parchment white walls of her Northridge apartment. Interlaced together are black inked images of gangly pedestrians and the aptly named “Meat Men” carrying sacks of raw meat through city streets, dodging idling subway riders fitted with World War I era gas-masks. Behind the busy metropolis is a vast expanse of dimly lit pillars that appear to be teetering on the edge of ruin. “I’m drawing trash,” Nadreau says with a shy laugh. “Literally, everything in that picture is garbage. The buildings, the towers—all of it’s made out of compact cubes of e-waste. And everyone that lives in that part of the city [and in the towers] has some kind of health condition or deformity from breathing in the toxins and fumes the garbage releases.” The idea for the “Trash Towers,” as Nadreau calls them, came to her while researching disposal methods for electronic waste in the United States. “The reason [Americans] don’t have an e-waste problem is because all of it is shipped overseas,” Nadreau says. “The majority of used electronics we throw away are dumped in landfills in China and India because it is easier

“The reason [Americans] don’t have an e-waste problem is because all of it is shipped overseas.” for big corporations and it doesn’t cost them as much as it would to properly dispose of it [in the United States].” An investigative report released in 2016 by American environmental watchdog group Basel Action Network echoed Nadreau’s concerns. According to the report, the majority of American e-waste is shipped to China and Hong Kong. Other deposits from the states can be found in landfills in Mexico, Pakistan and Thailand. The reports state that fires are a permanent fixture at the recycling fields. Black plumes of smoke streak across blue skies, filling the air with toxic fumes released from the burning scraps of junk left behind by scavengers. Nothing—not even weeds—can grow because the soil is saturated with hazardous chemicals that have oozed out of the aging electronic heap. Entire families can be found riffling through mountains of computers and unwanted iPhones, dismantling them piece by piece for valuable parts. This present-day dystopian world also played as the backdrop for the short film Nadreau provided services for that would later fuel her in other endeavors. University of California, Los Angeles graduate Aaron Isaacs began production on And Upside Down In The Sky Were Towers in 2010. The neowestern silent film plays with the idea of what the planet’s future would be if technology and underhanded politics formed a union. Isaacs, 24, chose Nadreau to spearhead the set design and props department. “Naomi [Nadreau] went far beyond my expectations for the movie,” Isaacs says. “It was a massive undertaking

because there were only two people in the department, but she really took charge and brought the world from my script to the screen.” Like the scavengers rifling through the landfills in India, Nadreau pilfered back alley dumpsters loaded with wasted tech pieces and pillaged scrapyards for props. For certain shots, like those inside a tinker’s shop, Nadreau had to construct working models of prosthetic limbs, clocks and other miscellaneous gadgets. Apart from set construction and design, she was tasked with creating a holographic interface. “One of the main characters [in Towers] is a scientist and he has this office in his home that he works out of,” Nadreau says. “When I was told about the character I knew that his workspace had to be practical, so I designed it like a filing system you’d find in a computer. It’s functional and the information can be accessed quickly, which matches the character’s line of work.” Before she decided to nurture her passion, Nadreau dabbled in physical sciences. As the daughter of a nurse, she had always experienced a level of pressure to follow in her mother’s footsteps. After taking a number of courses in medicine, Nadreau knew she could not part with her first love. “My mother wasn’t very happy about it when I told her I was changing my major,” Nadreau admits. “It was hard for her, and part of it is that I feel like she wants me to have a good future.” Following the revelation, Nadreau committed herself to her work. While the sources of inspiration may be in a constant state of flux, she has always had an eye for the morbid, a little strange and surreal. “I watch a lot of [Stanley] Kubrick’s films and those have really played into the futuristic idea I have going on,” Nadreau says. “Elon Musk has been a huge influence too.” Mixing the darker themes from shows like Psycho-Pass and Ghost In The Shell with her background in anatomy and a wealth of economic knowledge, Nadreau carves her way through projects with a signature flair. Continued on page 32

Opposite page: It Speaks for Itself, is a plaster mask with wires by Naomi Nadreau, at the CSUN Shed gallery.



Welcome to the Cabaret H Photos and Story by: David J. Hawkins

ands moving in a fluid like motion gracefully fluttering fingers display a flurry of emotions visually telling a story. American Sign Language (ASL) Cabaret is a variety show produced by Mona Jean Cedar and Jo-Ann Dean. “ASL Cabaret has already exceeded my expectations,” Jean Cedar sais. “We started three years ago in a punk dive bar and now at a cool dinner club on Hollywood Boulevard. Wow!” Jean Cedar was a dancer and a poet when learning ASL before creating the idea to start the ASL Cabaret. She did not understand the language well at the time but knew she wanted to see artists perform with intense creativity and advance expressions to share the linguistic knowledge of the deaf culture. For 25 years she waited for the opportunity to arise to create a production. In 2014 Jean Cedar partnered with Dean to start the first production of the ASL Cabaret and had her husband Jeff Boynton provide technical support resulting in a successful start. “I feel blessed by how warmly the deaf community has embraced the idea,” said Jean Cedar. Fast forward three years Sept. 18, 2016, John Maucere a deaf performer, hosted the ASL Cabaret on Hollywood Boulevard. in Hollywood, California. This show featured Hula Bella an LED hula-hoop dancer, and rap artist Sean Forbes. Every show features two voice interpreters that translate for beginners or those who are being introduced to the language. The following month, on Oct. 23, 2016, Ricardo Joseph hosted the event featuring the signed version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and several other performers including Maxim Fomitchev a traveling comical clown. The show ended with a flash mob performing The Rocky Horror Pictures Show’s famed Time Warp dance to a standing ovation from the audience cheering.


Top: Host John Maucere opens the night by welcoming the audience to the show using ASL comedy.

“We started three years ago in a punk dive bar and now [we’re] at a cool dinner club on Hollywood Boulevard.” Opposite page: Hula Bella performs with an LED lit hula hoop, creating a wide array of colors in circular motions. Above: Actors Sandra Mae Frank and Miles Barbee huddle in fear as Josh Castille performs and Kyleigh Herrera dances across the stage in the background. Left: Jo-Ann Dean, center right presents a birthday cake to Maxim Fomitchev as everyone signs, “Happy Birthday!”



Hepps (center), singing Circus by Britney Spears. Photographer/David Hawkins

MusicAli Speaking

C Tune into the inner workings of the ScatterTones’ soprano and business manager Story by: Shir Nakash Photos by: Alan Castro and David J. Hawkins


he sound of 17 carefully blended voices fills the room in a swelling crescendo as the cohesive group of UCLA students concentrates on executing the songs they’ve spent more than 100 hours rehearsing. One soprano with shiny dark hair and a powerful falsetto stands out among the assembly. Ali Hepps is a 19-year-old student starting her sophomore year at UCLA and acting as business manager of the competitive student-run a cappella group, ScatterTones. Hepps, who has been singing since second grade, entered the university as a music major in the fall of 2015. “I’d sung before that, but my mom told me the first time she ever noticed and said, ‘Wow, she sings,’ was when I had a solo at our second grade assembly in elementary school in front of the entire school,” Hepps says. “I sang Thank Goodness from Wicked.” Since then, music has always been a big influence in her life. Hepps started taking piano lessons at age 5, then started participating in musicals in elementary and middle school. But the thing that changed everything for


Hepps was the a cappella program at Calabasas High School, which has won several national awards since its inception in 2004. Hepps auditioned for an a cappella group called Bare Rhythm during her freshman year and says that getting accepted helped to build her confidence. “It made me feel like I can actually do this, not even for a living, but for my life,” Hepps says. “I could sing and do something with it.” Though Hepps enjoyed being a part of Bare Rhythm, the group she wanted to get into most was another ensemble at her high school, which went by the name of Unstrumental. Hepps wasn’t accepted as a freshman and then faced rejection once more as a sophomore. “So you can either take the ‘I’m done trying, I’m not going to do this anymore, it’s so frustrating’ approach or you can take the other route, meaning ‘I’m going to work even harder to get in next year,’” Hepps says. “And what the a cappella program did for me is it always faced me towards that latter direction.” Hepps was accepted into Unstrumental as a junior. Another

member of Unstrumental that year was Ameet Kanon, who later made it to the Top 51 round on the final season of American Idol. During Hepps’ first year in Unstrumental, the group decided to compete in the Los Angeles A Cappella Festival’s 2014 Scholastic Competition. The weekend festival, which has been held in Los Angeles every January since 2009, only accepts groups for competition that are made up entirely of full-time students or that are a recognized student group affiliated with a high school, college or university. It just so happened that, although Hepps had no affiliation with them at the time, ScatterTones was also accepted into LAAF’s competition that year. “That’s where we first met her,” Adam Turney says of the 2014 scholastic competition. “We talked after the competition ended, and when she said she was considering UCLA, I immediately thought I have got to [informally recruit] her for ScatterTones.” Turney, 21, is a senior acting as ScatterTones’ president for his second consecutive year. Kyle Frattini, also 21 and a senior at UCLA, is the a

cappella group’s choreographer and music director. He, too, remembered taking note of Hepps at their rivaling competition in 2014. Unstrumental had competed in LAAF’s Scholastic Competition for the previous two years, coming in second place both times. In 2014, Unstrumental and ScatterTones made it to the final round and went head to head, with the high school group ultimately coming nabbing the firstplace honor. “It’s whatever,” Frattini says of how he felt about Hepps’ group beating them, “She’s in ScatterTones now, so I’m not bitter.” Hepps later auditioned for ScatterTones with a song by Jessie J called Big White Room. Both Turney and Frattini were part of the executive board at the time Hepps auditioned and had to try to remain impartial. Flash forward to today and Hepps has officially joined Turney and Frattini, sitting comfortably in the executive board’s third seat as the elected business manager. “I’m a crazy a cappella nerd and I love being in the group so much,” Hepps says. “It’s important to be able to sing and have talent, but the most important thing is being dedicated and wanting to put your all into the group.” When she wasn’t busy rehearsing with ScatterTones, Hepps spent her first year at UCLA exploring a music major. Toward the end of the year, however, she decided that the program wasn’t a good fit for her and started looking at other options. Hepps ended up opting for a cognitive science major instead,

Ali Hepps poses for a portrait shot. Photographer/Alan Castro

“Everything about it is so collaborative, and it’s not always easy, but I love that it takes every single person in the group.”

elderly patients. She was inspired to pursue this path by her paternal grandfather Richard, who, along with being the only other singer in her family, suffers from a form of Parkinson’s disease. “His brain capacity is very much diminishing and he doesn’t remember much, but whenever you start singing his favorite song from the ‘60s, he knows every word,” Hepps says. “That’s the kind of thing I want to research and see how that works, maybe see if there’s some sort of medical treatment there.” Since UCLA doesn’t have a music therapy major, Hepps is using the hands-on experience she’s gaining from ScatterTones to learn as much as she can in the field. As the group’s business manager, Hepps’ responsibilities includes booking gigs, organizing funding, and managing the groups finances. Although it’s an extracurricular activity, the group rehearses twice a week for a total of five hours. “We want people to have fun and not be super stressed out because we already have a million other things going on outside of a cappella,” Turney says. Hepps says she loves the collaborative effort it takes to bring a successful ScatterTones arrangement to fruition. “There’s something so incredible and beautiful about the entire process of a cappella,” she says. “Everything about it is so collaborative and it’s not always easy, but I love that it takes every single person in the group and their cooperation and their passion to make that experience.”

C with a possible emphasis in ethnomusicology. “Ideally, I’d want to study music therapy, which takes a lot of studying on how the brain works, and that’s where the cognitive science comes into play,” Hepps says. Hepps wants to research how music can be used as a treatment for mental degenerative disorders, mostly with

The ScatterTones clown around after a rehearsal at UCLA. Photographer/David Hawkins



Laying Down A Beat A conversation with Jon Siebels about songwriting Story and Photos by: Amy Au

The mass of fans packed into the Troubadour in West Hollywood, chant “Eve6, Eve6!” with religious fervor. Later, the opening notes of Inside Out are played, driving the crowd to scream and shout. As the lead vocalist sings into the mic, the fans echo the lyrics with mounting enthusiasm. Q: When did you start writing music? Jon Siebels: I started writing songs right around the time when I first started bands, which was really about seventh or eighth grade. At that time, it was like getting together with guys and coming up with a guitar riff and playing it over and over again. Once I was in high school, I started working on actual songs with people, mainly Max [of Eve 6], actually. Q: What do you do for inspiration? Do you go outside and walk around? JS: I think that just being around people definitely helps. The one cool thing about Downtown LA, and as far as LA goes, it’s just so diverse. It’s everything from the bums to the banker, and everything in between. Q: What do you write first? Lyrics or music? JS: For a lot of bands, a lot of times, it’s music first. It really is always different, but sometimes I will write, like make music and put down a beat and chord progression. Sometimes we sit down with an acoustic guitar and just come up with something. Q: How do you come up with the lyrics? JS: Sometimes we’ll even

sort of mumble sing over that [music] and then we start to form a concept. A lot of the times, especially with other people, it’s a matter of just sitting around and chatting about things and then you kind of get on a subject that you’re, ‘OK, cool,’ let’s go down that direction. Sometimes it is totally abstract. Sometimes lyrics can be more of a vibe. But, generally, I have some sort of an idea of a concept of what a song is about, or a subject, or an actual situation, because even it doesn’t come out seeming like that to the listener, at least you have sort of a path to head down. Q: How do you know when a song is finished? JS: It is never finished. You just have to call it a day. You have to just learn when the things you are doing are not making it any better. And I see people get stuck on this all the time, especially artists when it’s their own stuff. You’re always going to look back on something you did, and be like, ‘I wish we would have done this differently.’ You always will. Part of being productive is learning when to be, ‘This matters, but this doesn’t matter. This is something that I‘ve got in my head that is bothering me, or that I hear that could be different.’ That’s not going to change the way anyone else perceives the song. In some ways, the more you start to go around in circles, the more you water it down. It’s something you have to learn. For me that came when I was working with other producers, as well as producing for other artists.

Opposite Page: Jon Siebels plays the guitar with Eve 6 at the Troubadour. Top: Jon Siebels plays the piano in his studio. Middle: Eve 6 band members, Jon Siebels, Tony Fagenson, and Max Collins, performing at the Troubadour. Bottom: Jon Siebels at the sound board in his studio.



Jamming With The

Lord Devell Riley rehearses on the drums at Valley Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Reseda, Calif. Photographer/Amy Au


he ambient light glares on a pearl white drum set arranged on the sound stage encompassed by an array of instruments, while the musicians accumulate to perform a piece. A mocha-skinned man in glasses, tattered jeans and a plain T-shirt strolls to his drum set looking nonchalant. Devell Riley has played the drums for as long as he can remember and has never wanted to put down the sticks. Riley fell in love with music at the age of 4 and wanted to play in his church band. His desire led his mother to buy him a percussion set. He started playing bongos and maracas at his church in South Central Los Angeles in 1964. Throughout his life, he has developed a discipline for music that has allowed him to have experiences that would not have occurred.


From churches to concert halls, this musician conveys his soul sensitive messages with music Story by: Randi Love Photos by: Amy Au and Alan Castro “Music has been a passport to a rich and fulfilling life. It has taken me to places and to meet people I would have had no chance of meeting,” Riley says. “These chance meetings have enriched my life, and I have met people that have had a big impact on me. It’s amazing how these people have made it to the top but are so humble and encouraging.” As a self-taught musician, Riley strives to understand and build a relationship with the instrument he plays. Although drums are where he is most comfortable, he knows how to play acoustic and bass guitars. He has built instruments from scratch and modified others. “As a percussionist, you can make an instrument out of almost anything,” Riley says. “A five-gallon bucket, a five-gallon water bottle—put some

dried beans or uncooked rice in it and you’ve got instruments.” Riley retired in April 2016 from Southern California Edison, an electricity company, after working there for more than 30 years. “I have always had different interests throughout my life, but it always led back to music. I love working with my hands, like mechanical stuff, electronics and working with wood,” Riley says. “That’s probably what led me to wanting to build bass guitars. It’s the same for drums. I like fixing drum kits and bringing them back to life.” Chris Elliott, an amateur musician and former trumpet player for the late Mighty Sam McClain, has played with Riley multiple times in the past year. He recalls how immediately impressed he was with Riley’s versatility. “I ran into Devell at a jam session in Santa Clarita and we were short on

drummers that day. He says, ‘Oh I can play drums,’ and he had signed up to play bass,” Elliott says. “I was like, ‘ok, here’s a guy that plays the two most in demand instruments.’” Now that Riley is retired, he has considered going back to school to sharpen his musical abilities. According to John Schneider, an instructor of music in the Performing Arts department at Pierce College, some students that go back to school have to learn to break bad habits. Schneider adds that there are also those who have never learned to read or write music, which makes learning that much more difficult for them. “There’s this issue, even in the West Valley, about illiteracy. There’s a lot Above: A small sample of Riley’s musical arsenal. Bottom: The first guitar Riley has ever of people out there that are making a built. Photographer/Alan Castro living, raising families, but they can’t music can be just as difficult. It took me a while before I got to know read and write,” Schneider says. “So This is especially true for musicians him.” there’s such a thing as being musically during jam sessions when they do not It is Dywer’s belief there are illiterate as well. You can play great, always know what will be played or musicians who boast, but Riley never but most of the people making millions what the correct pitch or key is. gave him that impression. Elliott, of dollars can’t read a note.” “It’s all about following the leader,” too, considers Riley a delightful, Riley notes that reading and writing Riley says. “If you were to go to any opinionated and well-educated man music isn’t easy and learning new place at any time and somebody that leaves his talent for the stage. just walked up to you and started a Elliott says he hears time well and conversation, you would answer. Well, knows how to play under the beat, and “In a sense, when musicians speak the language of music. this works well with the band and the All that is up there is a conversation audience. you’re playing for between musicians.” “He’s not flashy. He doesn’t do Although Riley performs around jewelry, or a jerry curl or wicked entertainment you’re the city, every Sunday he plays for his threads. He’s a gentlemen and he comes band. Riley says that the “level on low key and under the radar,” Elliott Barack Obama, and in church of freedom you have while on stage at says. “It takes a little sensitivity to see is much different than what you a person like that, but people like that a secular sense you’re adoshow in church.” have a quiet confidence boiling inside Playing to convey a message and of them.” Mitt Romney.” display meaning is found in the gospel In addition to nurturing his love of genre. music, Riley has channeled his energy “In a sense, when you’re playing for into learning an array of disciplines entertainment you’re Barack Obama, ranging from the expected to the and in a secular sense you’re Mitt unlikely. Romney,” Riley says. When he isn’t jotting down a new Riley has been playing at least 20 composition or weaving together a years at Valley Vineyard Christian freeform rift with his fellow musicians, Fellowship alongside senior pastor Bill Riley can be found fine tuning his Dwyer. He says that Riley is a humble sharp-shooter skills. To some, shooting servant of the Lord that grew up in the is a dangerous pastime. For Riley, it is church. controlled calm that draws on his days “His mom was like a church mother. with the Boy Scouts of America. She was this incredible lady. I went “It was a different time and a much down with him to her funeral a couple different world… The cool thing about years ago,” says Dwyer about Riley, it was [that it was] all about safety; who attended West Angeles Church of safety and responsibility,” Riley says. God in Christ with his mother as a child. “It wasn’t all glamorized. It was “I had no idea he had this heritage in practical applications. Continued on his family of godliness and goodness. page 32



Record Store:

CD Trader

Story and Photos by: Samantha Bravo

The iconic vocals of Axl Rose fills the room as “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses plays. CD Trader, located on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana, has been the place of pilgrimage for music enthusiasts. The store is known for its broad selection of music and movies and rare collector’s edition records. Patrons are welcomed by the employees behind the counter. To the left is a shelf of books about bands and music culture. To the right is a room packed with CDs, DVDs, cassettes and records. Spread throughout the space are racks of band merchandise and shirts with the CD Trader logo on hangers. The store is divided into sections. At the center of the room and along the wall by



the window are rows of CDs of every genre. The rare box collections are kept behind the counter. Their selection of 45-rpm records and used CDs and DVDs start as low as $2. Though it is easy to become immersed in the ocean of alphabetically arranged album sleeves, guests should take a moment to browse the dozens of collectible records that adorn the shop walls. In a spacious airconditioned building with entertaining music, the good vibe makes one feel like they’re in “Pretty in Pink.” Yes, purchasing CDs and movies at Best Buy can be quick and convenient, but little beats a cool day searching for treasures that could appear in this store. Used records start at $.50 and can reach up to $40, depending on the condition and value. Customers can

Coral Tree Cafe

Story by: Vanessa Arredondo and tools adorn the inside Photos by: Samantha Bravo and tie together the cabinshed theme. In the middle of possibly the busiest boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, there is a rustic building that resembles an old wooden shack. Surrounded by freeways on all sides, the roads are filled with loud traffic every morning, but once inside, the hominess of a nostalgic western American cabin sets in. Built with large open windows, the inside of the restaurant is illuminated by a natural sunlight that adds Inside the restaurant, the to the welcoming and cozy first thing many notice are atmosphere. The interior consists of wooden walls, the pastries prettily displayed tables, and floors. Barrels in the shelves at the register.


CD Trader is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is located at 18926 Ventura Boulevard, Tarzana, CA 91356 Phone: (818) 705-3544.

find used CDs for $3 or new ones for $12. Cassettes, depending on how popular the artist is, can be as cheap as $3. As for movies, used are $4 and new are $20. CD Trader is organized and has a cozy feel. It’s small enough to meet a few people who have similar music and movie taste. The employees are friendly and are full of music and movie knowledge. If a customer is looking for

something specific, they are happy to help them find it or order it. After the tenth purchase of an item of at least $5.99, the next item, $7.99 or less, is free. Have a collection to get rid of? Their buy and sell policy is reasonable. The store offers the seller a sizable sum of what the item’s worth. The relaxed atmosphere makes combing through bins enjoyable.

Fresh-baked cookies, brownies, tarts, cakes and pies entice one as they walk up to sizeable chalk menus, which reveal that this cafe is more than tea and crumpets.

aspect of Coral Tree is the main draw that brings in the morning crowd on an early Thursday. For a quick and sweet, but not saccharine, waker-upper, the lattes do the job for a reasonable price. The big portions are served in white teacups and are available in vanilla and caramel flavors, and to brighten up the morning.

Visit for more

Coral Tree Cafe: Located on the corner of Ventura and Encino Blvds. The cafe is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The restaurant serves Breakfast is served on breakfast, lunch and dinner, weekdays until 11 a.m. and and it also has a happy until 3 p.m. on weekends. hour bar. The coffee shop

WorkHard, Play Harder

Photo: “Jay,� a regular patron at Threshold, poses for a portrait.

Story by: Vanessa Arredondo Photos by: Alan Castro




ertain characteristics, such as height and hair and eye color, are determined by a person’s genetic makeup before birth. It has been argued that personality traits including sarcasm or shyness, can be passed from parent to child. For BDSM community member Janice Pettit-Hartz, the apple did not fall far from the proverbial tree, genetically speaking. Pettit-Hartz and her mother came out to each other at the same time. It was an opportunity for both women to gain a better understanding of one another. Though she had already visited a number of the websites her mother brought up during their conversation, Pettit-Hartz was not prepared for one lot of items in particular. “I got up and went into my mom’s room and I said, ‘So you’re into BDSM?’ So she gets a purple gym bag and plops it down and asks me, ‘Do you want to see my toy bag?’ and pulls out this giant purple dildo. I’m like, ‘No, I don’t want to see your toy bag! No, I changed my mind!’” Pettit-Hartz says. Pettit-Hartz entered the alternative community when she was 18. As the collective acronym entails, the subculture consists of bondage and discipline, dominance and submission,


and sadism and masochism. Now, at 34, Pettit-Hartz is the co-event coordinator for Threshold Society and does community outreach for BDSM. While Pettit-Hartz could take solace in knowing that her mother accepted her shared interest, some members of the community are not as lucky, nor do they feel comfortable enough to let others know. Those who do choose to come out are often stigmatized. Brit-El Mabourakh, program director for Pierce College’s, has been in the BDSM scene for five years. When she was 15, the therapist she was seeing told her mother her secret. Mabourakh’s mother was not pleased when she learned the details of her daughter’s private life. As reprimand for her involvement in BDSM, Mabourakh lost friends that she had once been close to. “People think that I’m some kind of self-hating person or [that] you can’t be a feminist and be kinky and [that] all men who have rough sex hate women,” Mabourakh says. “I’m open about it because I don’t want it to be an issue with people. If they are going to have an issue with the fact that I am a 24/7 kinky person, then you don’t want to

be friends with me. It’s not something I shove in people’s faces, but I think it’s always going to be a part of my life.” BDSM is an umbrella term that covers every branch and subgroup in the community. It includes what they do as well as the types of personal relationships they create. “There are two schools of thought in BDSM. The old motto is safe, sane and consensual. But if you like things that are more hardcore, I’m more of the school of thought of riskaware consensual kink, which is more serious impact play,” Mabourakh says. “Yeah, you’re going to get a little more banged up, but it’s something that’s communicated and negotiated.” It is common practice for people who indulge in this pastime to closet their activities. This is either done out of fear for their personal or professional relationships or because they are ashamed of their inclinations. “One of the things that’s important for them is that separation of a private life and a professional life,” PettitHartz says. “There are people who don’t go out and participate in things in a more public manner. We don’t have to hang out and dress in our fetishy latex to feel like we are still a part of this community.”

According to therapist and fellow kink enthusiast Jennifer Marsi, people become involved with BDSM for any number of reasons. Some are working through past trauma. Others are trying to gauge their limits. Then, there are those looking for a rush. “It’s a deeper exploration of themselves and their partners. I have a lot of friends and family that may not understand it, but they support me and they get that I’m safe,” Marsi says. “For some, it’s merely a fun addition to their otherwise vanilla life. For others, it’s how they live. It’s how they structure their significant relationships.” For some, this is a leisure activity used to release the cumulative stresses that have been experienced throughout the day or week. For others, this is their profession and they have learned to balance work and play. Masri, who is a marriage and family therapist, has been part of the BDSM community for six years. While her practice is open to all, the majority of her clients are people in the scene. “When I started my practice, I was already heavily involved in the scene and teaching classes. I specialize in alternative lifestyles, BDSM, poly, kink and dominant/submissive relationships. It was a natural progression that people would hear about that,” Masri says. “Therapists that specialize in this are hard to come by.” For similar reasons, Mabourakh intends to pursue a career in psychology with a focus in alternative relationships. It is Mabourakh’s belief that those who are not in the scene—referred to as the mainstream or vanilla—are often unable to understand the relationship dynamics in the community. “People think that BDSM is an exaggerated version of normal sex. In BDSM, you sit down [and] talk to each other,” Mabourakh says. “Communication and consent is such a huge thing. People have a hard time wrapping their minds around it because in their head you don’t hit the people you love, you don’t cut the people you love.” There are several roles with which members in the community can identify. The most accessible ways to identify participaters is in one of the three: dominant, submissive or the switch. Other identifiers are the top and

Opposite and Above: Brit-El Mabourakh and her boyfriend, Brandon Elkington, engage in some light play with various toys.

“For some, it’s merely a fun addition to their otherwise vanilla life. For others, it’s how they live. It’s how they structure their significant relationships.” the bottom. Though top and dominant—and bottom and submissive for that matter— are often used interchangeably, there is an important distinction between the two sets. “In my experience, if someone identifies as purely a top or a bottom and not as a sub, a slave, a dom, or a mistress, typically it’s because they are interested in play and not a power exchange,” Masri says. “Those that identify as a bottom know that they like to be on the receiving end of play, but are not comfortable with giving up that power.” A dominant and submissive relationship is defined by who has psychological control over the other,

such as one person controlling and commanding another’s behavior. Top-bottom relationships are defined by who performs the acts and who receives them. Someone can be bottom during sexual acts and still be the dominant person in the relationship. They can also be a switch and alternate between all of the positions. “I think a lot of people coming in are focused on the physical aspect to it,” Masri says. “There’s the relationship dynamic and a lot of people don’t think of that because they don’t go past the idea of chains and whips.” The emphasis on communication and strong relationships has been a bastion in the community. While recent published works have attempted to shed light on the subculture by bringing it into the mainstream media, few have succeeded. According to Masri, 50 Shades of Grey has portrayed the BDSM communityinaccurately and is a major cause of misconceptions from outside perspectives. “I read the entire series, which I did out of obligation because I knew I’d be speaking about it at some point,” Masri says. “I really didn’t like that they portrayed his character as someone who had evolved into a dominant due to abuse and his salvation was becoming more vanilla. A vanilla character came in and she ‘fixed’ him. It falls into a couple huge stereotypes, which was a bit more upsetting to people in the scene.” One major aspect that the series neglected, Masri says, is the absence of aftercare and the lack of emphasis on communication and negotiation. “There’s a lot of communication in the scene and there has to be, because we are doing things that are risky physically and emotionally. I’m seeing studies done for vanilla relationships like, ‘Checking in with your partner on a regular basis can increase happiness by this much’ and I’m here like, we already do that shit,” Masri says. “There’s a lot of stuff we do that is really healthy, relationship and communication-wise, that you now see mainstream society picking up on and not giving us credit for, repackaging it for the vanilla world.” Visit for the full story



PRODUCER ON THE RUN Continued from page 9

television and film dominated. To run a successful theater producing company is no small feat. It takes a lot of work and dedication because we’re not like New York City or some other cities throughout the country where theater is a more thriving culture,” Gend says. “Theater is more underground in Los Angeles.” Theater is where Lehrman pictures herself for the long haul. It is where she feels the adrenaline rush of being challenged and getting things done despite the obstacles along the way. The performing arts allows her greater freedom to express herself everyday. Lehrman lives her life out of the norm, which she prefers. “We’re creatures of habit. People don’t want to try new things,” Lehrman says. “In my life, I want to keep trying new experiences and every show is a different experience.”

GAMER DREAM TEAM Continued from page 11

As developers, they have the flexibility and freedom to add more content. Should the game be a big success, they will start planning a sequel. “It’s built in a way that we could add more mini-games, or add more storylines, or characters and not just bug fixes,” Rob says.

VOLUNTEER TASK FORCE AX Continued from page 13

subsidizing some money to purchase food. Apart from the benefits, Zavaleta says the best part of the experience is not the panels, exhibits, or things she purchases, but the people she meets. “I can say I got close to the other managers who I started working with three years ago,” Zavaleta says. “We do things outside of con, so, for example, I just registered with them to run half a marathon in October. You definitely build a strong sense of friendship and community after con.” Associate Professor of Psychology Chadwick Snow explains that in the field of social psychology there is research out there that supports the hypothesis that people who volunteer do it out

of some form of personal gain. Another possibility, Snow explains, is that the person or people are in a good mood and desire to substantiate it, or people volunteer out of empathy for a cause. People search for like-minded individuals or communities that they will feel accepted in, Snow says. “From an evolutionary perspective, there is a primitive emotion to protect your own,” Snow says. People who have an interest in something uncommon to the masses, such as Japanese animation, are sometimes faced with negative opinions. “This is their passion and they’re in a community that they’re really interested in,” Zavaleta says. “This is what makes them comfortable and being in this community makes them happy. It’s something that should be respected.” By the end of the fourth day, volunteers gathered in the west lobby of the Los Angeles Convention Center to congratulate each other on another successful year. “Honestly, it’s a really rewarding feeling,” Perteet says. “I helped put this on. Holy crap, that’s so cool.”

OTHERWORLDLY Continued from page 19

Though her pieces are not an outright political commentary, they speak volumes of the world she sees through her eyes. This mentality is one that many other denizens of the profession share. Melody Cooper, a professor of art and the department chair of art and architecture, has been teaching at Pierce College since spring 2000. In her tenure, she has taught an array of students with vastly different personalities, and while no two people are alike, Cooper has learned that they all share one commonality. “I think that one of the things that sets them [artists] apart is their courage to bare their souls in front of people, because when you’re doing your artwork, it’s a reflection of your personality,” Cooper says. “When you do artwork, it’s an autobiography. Putting it out there for people to criticize, it is a very tenuous position.” While Cooper makes a point to

try to work when she is happy, the professor admits that some of an artist’s best pieces are produced during time of hardship. “I think that when a person has a bit more adversity in their life it does improve artwork. You can approach it from a joyful standpoint, which is what I try to do. But it’s much more cathartic when you have an issue because it is a way to express it,” Cooper says. Similarly, Nadreau produces the lion’s share of her work when she needs a relief. During high school and early on in college when she felt the strain of her mother bearing down, Nadreau immersed herself in her sketchbooks and the worlds that filled them. During this time of soul searching, Nadreau’s personality developed into the more “quirky, intellectual thinker” her friends know her to be now. “Naomi was very shy at first. I met her through my girlfriend, who was a high school friend of hers. I didn’t really get to know Naomi until later on in college,” Isaacs says. “She’s a fun person to be around and has a calmness to her which makes her approachable.” This demeanor has helped Nadreau wade through college life and also as a teacher at the KidsArt in Northridge. Though it is her job to lead and inspire the children that come into the center, Nadreau finds herself encouraged by them. “The kids can be a handful at times and keep me on my toes,” Nadreau smiles. “But it’s fun and they always have something new they want to draw.” Like Nadreau and her students, Cooper believes that the mistakes an artist makes are their best teacher. While there are so many things that can go wrong in the world of art during the creating stage, it is that “one success out of a 100 failures” that makes it worth it. “There are so many parts that are seductive and so many parts that are just aggravating,” Cooper chuckles. “There’s also this camaraderie in the community that you don’t really find anywhere else. Those few successes and the people who can share in those triumphs are what make you come back.”


Continued from page 27

It was about how to handle yourself, the weapon, and being hyper aware of your surroundings.” It takes time to learn how to properly use a firearm but the Boy Scouts helped Riley learn the necessary skills. He connected with the gun, and liked to go to shooting ranges. His collection is largely single shot bolt-action rifles. Similar to music, the challenge of mastering a foreign skill was something that appealed to Riley. “Like music, it was the discipline that drew me in, knowing how to get around your weapon. Then there is the challenge of trying to master yourself and your technique of hitting that target,” Riley says. “All the little things that come into play that you need to adjust for to meet your goal. For me it wasn’t about how many rounds you can pop off; it’s about precision and accuracy.” The Boy Scouts not only introduced him to gun safety, they also taught him how to survive on his own. Over the course of numerous camping trips he learned the value of the organic world around him. “It’s a sharp contrast to city life to be in an environment that’s not electronically driven. It allows for a different type of connection mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically,” Riley says. “To be out and listen to a stream as the water gently flows over rocks is very beautiful, peaceful and serene. To camp by the ocean and to look out over the horizon at night and watch the waves crash under a full moon is powerful.” In his youth, Riley camped in a tent. Now he uses a 25-foot RV with a bed, kitchen and bathroom included. But even when Riley is out in the expansive wilderness and can absorb the natural beauty around him, nothing compares to the feeling he had after playing in Anaheim Stadium. For Riley, the most powerful moments are when complete strangers are linked through music. “It’s mind blowing when you’re doing a tune and you are getting back from the audience just as much, or more, energy than you’re putting out,” Riley says. “When you connect with another human being it’s memorable.”

The Bull Magazine Fall 2016 / Winter 2017  

Theme: Entertainment

The Bull Magazine Fall 2016 / Winter 2017  

Theme: Entertainment