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Donnie Smith of

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


DONDAS HOUSE inspiring organizations


IN EVERY ISSUE Editors Letter 4

Meet the Team 6


MUSIC MUSTS Festival Adventures



Fashion Gives Back


Meet State Bags 28 Bloggers Who Do Good 32 Community Awards

Rescue & Restore

Getting over Cabin Fever

Giving with World Vision




LED By HER 60 68


Meet the Designer: Paulina 84

WTF Star’s Modas 92

Guilt Free Industry 96

Blue Meets Blue 104

Heeling Heels 110

The Looks for Less 116

Meet SELA fit 124



FEATURES Meet Donda’s House 128

Puerto Rico Rising Chicago 140

The Light of the Heart 144

Salt & Light Coalition 150

GROOMING/HEALTH The Beauty Beat 156

Must Haves for Him 158



N’Sights for the Soul


Closing Thoughts

Must Haves for Her Dr. Lolis Dermatologist Katy Q. Celeb Stylist 166

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017

170 182


Welcome to our Annual Giving Issue readers!

This issue is a wonderfully uplifting and inspiring issue. The writers, photographers and creative team have worked with me to pull together features highlighting some of Chicago’s greatest organizations, brands and individuals who are making a positive impact on their community.

We open up the issue with a feature from Jennie highlighting State Bags’ work with Chance the Rapper this school year. The organiza-


tion worked to give school bags and supplies to some of the most financially unstable communities in the city. Michelle also highlights some Chicago based bloggers are who truly making an impact through their work and we give out our First Annual Halfstack Community Award. As the weather get’s colder, it can be hard to get out and do things, but Stella has some great indoor options to help you beat cabin fever this winter. As if we didn’t miss the warm weather as it is, Jennie pulls together one last festival recap for you in the music section.

This issue is dedicated to the unsung heroes, the people whose work is changing people’s lives every day. The people who don’t expect a thank you and still throw their heart and soul into their service based work. Kandy highlights a Florida based organization doing just that: Rescue and Restore. I feature a couple Project Entrepreneur Alumni in this issue as well. Led By HER works to empower women through education and entrepreneurship. Healing Heels focuses on empowering and helping cancer patients through fashionable footwear. Hiral also pulls in a feature on World Vision and Jennie spotlights a Chicago based brand that gives back: SELA Fit.

Our features include a strong lineup of amazing organizations that


are based right here in Chicago. On our cover you see Donnie Smith, the Executive Director of Donda’s House. Named after and inspired by the mother of Kanye West: Dr. Donda West, the organization was Launched in 2013 by multi Grammy-award & Oscar winning artist


Che “Rhymefest” Smith and distinguished educator, Donnie Smith.

Donda’s House, Inc. provides unprecedented access and education from leading experts in the music, fashion, and entertainment industry to Chicago’s creative youth and young adults.

We also highlight a grassroots effort that was coordinated to aid in the relief funding after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico called: Puerto Rico Rising. Louis showcases an Aurora, IL based non-profit: The Light in the Heart Art Therapy Program. Stella has an incredibly inspiring feature on the Salt & Light Coalition. With 25,000 women and girls falling prey to trafficking every year in Chicago alone, Salt & Light Coalition manifests


change by providing a volunteer-driven, one-year long program for survivors of trafficking with the dual goal of healing and empowering women to get jobs in the wellness sector. You will find some great fashion features and beauty features from Danielle and Michelle as well to get you excited for the holiday season. And Nisha closes us out with a beautiful sentiment on giving and making an impact in the community through teaching.

I hope these stories inspire you to go out and do some good. Our greatest strengths as the human race include our ability to love, empathize and connect with one another. I hope this issue empowers you to empower others to make this world a better place.

light of the heart community art therapy program - PAGE 144

Happy Holidays readers and thank you for your support in our creative endeavors! - Jennifer M. Veguilla-Lezam | Editor-in-Chief

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017




jennifer lezan creative director @halfstackmag

LAURA LOPEZ lead photographer


ryan siu

perry fish

staff photographer @ ryan.siu.photography

staff photographer @alluringchicago

SHIRIN KORIL lead photographer @pickaposephotograpy

pearl shin staff photographer @bigdipper4


meet the

teresa cutrera fashion editor

team 6

& blogger

yaritza ramocki set stylist

carolyn portner west coast correspondant

jennie velasco set stylist/editor

thom olson blogger & online digital editor




STELLA QUIMBY Sr. Fashion Editor



Creative & Graphics Designer

Creative & Graphics Designer


Creative & Graphics Designer

Creative & Graphics Intern


OLIVIA LEMLEY Staff Writer/Blogger

DENISE GUEVARA Staff Blogger/Youtuber



KARLI BUTLER Staff Writer/Blogger

Celia A. Pena Staff Writer/Blogger

MICHELLE LANDRIAULT Staff Blogger/Youtuber

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017

Andre Thompson Staff Blogger

EMILY EHARDT Staff Blogger

Louis Vasseur Staff Blogger


Digital Blogger

DWIGHT BEJEC Social Media Director







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State Bags: Give. Back. Pack. In 2017

Brands that Give BY: Jennie Velasco

Scot and Jaq are the architects

behind the statement making, modern-futuristic, chic bags and backpacks known as STATE bags. They have long carried out an objective of alleviating some of the burdens of inner city youth while being advocates for other initiatives such as “Erase the R Word,” featuring people of the LGBTQ community, and allies of Black Lives Matter. As recent as this summer, this power couple sought to collaborate with a notable Chicago representative to bring a positive light to the name of our city. “We really wanted to bring some positivity to a city that is draped in negativity, and it’s our mission to tackle the tough uncomfortable topics,” says Scot whose known as the “give back guy.” “We knew there were high-need communities and we wanted to be able to provide because that is what STATE bags is.” Their sights were set high in order to obtain the right Chicago face as an ambassador of their generosity for the city…he mentioned the Obama’s and Oprah (talk about a high target, right?!). However, they found themselves tied with another notable who has also been making generous strides in Chicago. Future Chicago mayor: Chance the Rapper. The foundation known as Social Works, led by Chance, has been providing art programs and supplies for at risk schools and has also materialized some incredible funding for Chicago Public Schools over their crumbling budget. The summer initiative was set so CPS students could receive backpacks packed with school supplies at Chicago’s annual Bud Billiken parade. This event is an


Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


annual showcase of the city’s most talented and brightest that is the marker setting off the school year for CPS schools. The excitement from the two came through the phone as they announced that they had broken the 6 figure mark in donations and giveaways in bags. Nine years ago Scot and Jaq started a non-profit summer camp for urban youth in New York City called Camp Power where almost 200 kids would attend. 9 years ago, it was a week-long motivational camp that reached out to some of NYC’s underfunded neighborhoods, empowering youth while providing some of the camp experiences they wouldn’t otherwise get that inspired the idea. In partnership


with the Country Roads Foundation they’ve created a safe haven for kids while tapping into their potential as future leaders. It was here where they noticed kids were bringing trash bags for their belongings. With the support of the Country Roads Foundation who supported them in Camp Power, they utilized their entrepreneurial spirit to create STATE bags. With their fashion and design backgrounds, Scot and Jaq produced functional and fashionable bags with a 1:1 model for every bag sold one would be given to a child in need with; a model inspired by TOMS shoes, but with an intention to serve American children.

Scot mentioned, “adding a layer to a socially conscious brand” by fully extending its provision in its initiatives. Scot and Jaq balance a family on top of their business ventures and our conversation held a few attempts at putting some babies to sleep. As momma reached a content place of some littles finally snuggled up in their beds, Jaq took an opportunity to talk about what the experience was like here in Chicago as well as what feeds her fashion soul to create such chic bags and backpacks. From materials to functionality, they wanted a product that would represent the entire family. Some key items that are both

brilliant and fresh are Star Wars themed materials and on trend holographic bags with bright straps. Jaq states that she “has fashion in her blood” and has a passion for discovering textiles and trends with functionality as “top of mind.” With an equally passionate product and development team, they share the same excitement in discovering ways to push fashion and functionality. With everyone on the go and hooked to devices, innovation in creating tech-friendly bags has also been important. However, the priority to Jaq is “capturing the spirit” which doesn’t always coincide with overdoing the fashion portion of their product. With consumers

making informed purchases, durability has been what sustains STATE bags as a formidable product. Arriving at the conclusion of our conversation, this power couple took the time to encapsulate what it meant to have a fashion product with heart, the importance of empathy and giving those who wouldn’t normally be highlighted, a voice and a platform to be heard. “We wanted to give this population a voice while providing something unique and special,” said Jaq when it came to how Camp Power and STATE bags came to pass. With a passion to give beyond just material, it was signifi-

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017

cant how provision was what emboldened this company to be what it is, “we want to be exactly what we say we are and it comes from a genuine place.” Scot and Jaq continue their pursuit in providing for their communities and were recently shining some light and laughter in Houston following the tragedies of Hurricane Harvey. See more amazing highlights of their giveback initiatives and find ways to donate at www.statebags.com STATE bags will also be participating at Social Works “Night at the Museum” event at the Field Museum in Chicago. For more information on this event visit: http://SocialWorkschi.org



Mindy City Beauty:


The Plus Size Prep:

Mindy is an amazing person who is changing the world one post at a time. If you follow her on instagram https://www.instagram. com/mindycitybeauty/ you’ll quickly have your day brightened by her amazing fashion, or a sweet smile. She also partners with Care.org to help her community fight poverty. Mindy is about to take over the world so y’all better sit back and watch!

My girl Jaye is the bomb.com baby! Her instagram https:// www.instagram.com/curvatude/ is full of amazing fashion and super good tips for women over 40. Jaye is a mature beauty who prides herself in changing her mantra, and aligning her chakras with meditation and style. Her feed is always positive, and so is her attitude. Jaye is a gal you will always have in your corner, she’s a great friend, and I’m proud to have her in my life.

aka Charlotte https://www.instagram.com/theplussizedprep/ is someone I met just this year, but I’m in love with her attitude and style already. Her and I share the same love of coffee and obsession with mules. With her sweet smile and trendy fashions her feed always brightens my day. She’s got the best attitude,and top notch style advice. So, make sure you check her out!


Join us! We are hosting a Shopping and Style Soiree at Eloquii Chicago on 12/16/17 from 1-4PM at the Shops at Northbridge! Come get the inside scoop from your favorite bloggers to help you pick out the perfect holiday outfit, or just come take some #selfies with us! We will be celebrating Halfstack’s Winter Giving Issue release where we will be showcasing other bloggers who are also making a difference giving back to their community. I hope to see you all there

We will be at The Shops at North Bridge at 520 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611 December 16th 2017, from 1-4PM. Be there or be square! Email: events@eloquii to RSVP

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017







Sometimes, in life you meet people who really change you. Recently on my journey, there have been two people who have not only changed me, but also the world around me. In Halfstack’s Winter Giving Issue I couldn’t wait to honor them, and hopefully touch their hearts as much as they have touched the ones around them. Due to their constant inspiration and giving hearts, I worked with the Halfstack team to coordinate and organize Halfstack Community Awards. These awards go to an activist, a role model, a game changer, a positive thinker, people who will be the change this world needs. This year I’ve found two people who are so deserving of it and who are truly making an impact in Chicago.

for any Chicago woman, but she is also a true friend. She features so many articles on her blog that deal with everyday life issues that people can connect with. But she is never afraid to have some fun and also include things like fashion and the best wide width shoes! She is the one stop shop if you’re a gal on a mission to find a good blog to read on the internet. I find her to be inspiring and informative! Dasha is a planner, and all around strategic thinker! If you’ve got a problem she will solve it, and tell you where to get some great hand

Dasha Guyton of Windy City Wardrobe https://windycitywardrobe.com/ is our first honoree. Dasha and I met this year and she has completely changed my world. She’s always had a keen focus on leaving a positive impact on the local community and making a way when there wasn’t one available. Being a proud woman of the LGBT community, (and the PlusSize community) she has paved a path of positivity, style, and grace for others to follow her lead. Dasha is not only a positive role model

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


Julie is way more than just a pretty face with amazing style advice. Julie is a mover and a shaker, and a prime example of someone to look up to. Julie gave me the best advice of my life, she told me “You need an A-team, and your vibe will attract your tribe.

Julie Hightower of A Better Day with Julie http://abetterdaywithjulie.com/ is our second honoree. Julie is way more than just a pretty face with amazing style advice. Julie is a mover and a shaker, and a prime example of someone to look up to. Julie gave me the best advice of my life, she told me “You need an A-team, and your vibe will attract your tribe.” It made me start to think about the people in my life and how I was assembling my A-team. She always told me that your A-team are the people who are always there for you, the people in your corner at all times. For me, Julie was always one of those people. She has given me opportunities when no one else would even look at me. She’s brought more Plus-Sized bloggers together in the last couple years than our community has ever done since I started blogging in 2009. Julie brings people together, creates opportunities, and makes things happen. From charity work, to fashion advice Julie is the best of the best in Chicago. To the both of you, I love you to the moon and back, and on behalf of all of us at Halfstack Magazine, Thank You! Thank you for being yourselves, for changing people’s hearts, and for always doing the right thing. Xoxo - Michelle


Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


Cabin Fever Solutions Written By: Stella Quimby Layout Design By: Olivia Lemley Its winter, it’s snowing, it’s dark and it is gross outside. The family is going nuts, and you are about to have a titanic melt down. What is there to do? Don’t worry, we have all been there and have some solutions for you! Here’s a roundup of amazing family friendly indoor adventures, near Chicago, that you should definitely explore this winter.

The Wilderness Resorts consists of different hotels within A Get Away For The the big resort, allowing you to feel as if you visited many Whole Family : The Wilderness Resort Wis- different locations at one time. There is the Wilderness consin Dells Hotel, Glacier Canyon Lodge, The kiddos are missing the Wilderness on the Lake and pool days, you are missing villas, condos and cabins. the relaxation that you reThere are also many different ceive when those kiddos are waterpark options! Not just busy splashing away. Why not one, like other resorts in the go to a resort that not only area. The indoor water parks concentrates on providing lots include: Klondike Kavern Waof pool options for the family, terpark, Wild Water Dome but is a short car ride away? Waterpark, Wild West WaterAt the most, the Wisconsin park, and Cubby’s Cove Indoor Dells is about 3 hours from Waterpark. most Chicagoans; it is a mini getaway that doesn’t involve Klondike Kavern has 65,000 tons of road trip planning. Lo- square feet of indoor watercated at 511 E Adams Street park which includes tubes, in the Wisconsin Dells, the body slides and a lazy river. Wilderness Resort is located The Wild Water Dome is my right off I94, making it an favorite waterpark. It is like easy place to find. a large beach with waves, and


the glass windows around the waterpark allow for tanning year-round. As for the kiddos, they have family raft rides and a kids water play area. Not to mention, the best part of the Wild WaterDome is an adults only swim-up bar! The swim-up bar is only for those 21 and over, and it is a great hide-away from the kids. Lastly, the Wild West Waterpark is 70,000 feet of water park that includes twisting tubes and body slides for the whole family. As for the adults, there is an indoor/outdoor large hot tub! That’s where you’ll find me. These are all amazing indoor waterparks that will leave the kiddos tired at the end of the night. An added plus is that they provide towels for everyone! The bad thing is sometimes there isn’t enough seats.

The Wild Water Dome is a great option to get over the winter doldrums with over 19 places to get some food, spa time, golf and a fun pass for the whole family which includes the following activities: sky ropes course, mini golf, laser maze, bumper boats, go-karts and a zipline tour.

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017

No excuses, if the whole family is going stir-crazy inside your house, get a weekend bag ready and go for a short 3 hour drive to visit the best indoor waterpark(s) in the Dells. Make sure to make your reservations today at 800-867-9453 and visit them online at https://www.wildernessresort.com/


For the Stir -Crazy Adu lts: Bad Axe Chicago

The holiday season is full of STRESS, right? As adults or if you are entering the adult world, you’ll start to notice that not only do you have to work to survive, but during the holidays you are expected to buy gifts. Gifts add up and they require MONEY! Therefore, all this stress adds up. You need an escape already, right? Well, don’t worry, there is now an escape in our back yard. Right in the heart of Chicago, there is a place where we can release our anger and have fun while doing it— it’s called Bad Axe Chicago. The world’s biggest urban axe 40throwing club. They are

bringing the traditional Canadian backyard pastime to urban communities. What’s not to like? Bad Axe Throwing allows walk-in’s, and there is even an axe throwing league. You can even host bachelor/ bachelorette parties there! Is it super expensive? Nope. It is only $20 an hour and you don’t need a reservation ahead of time. If you find yourself falling in love with the sport, what’s not to love? Sweat, throwing and feeling good; you can always join their league. They have a Bad Axe Throwing League that only costs $120 for 8 weeks, which includes cost of the axe (you don’t have to purchase one).

Bad Axe Throwing was founded by CEO Mario Zelaya in 2014. It is new company that is definitely standing out from the crowd. He was based in southern Ontario. Therefore, the first doors they opened were in Burlington, Ontario. In just a few years, they expanded across Canada and into the United States. They have 16 locations including: Toronto, Ottawa, Kitchener, Edmonton, Surrey, Winnipeg, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Indianapolis, Oklahoma, San Francisco and Washington DC. In Chicago you can find them here: 165 N. Loomis Street, 888-4350001. Make sure to visit them today and let that stress out in a healthy way that doesn’t include donuts.

For the Out-of-Co ntrol Minio ns: Pump It Up; Various Locations

If you are unable to drive 3 hours for a day at the Dells, but the kiddos are going crazy staying inside the house, why not go to a staple in parents’ lives? Pump It Up is a fantastic option to get the kids out of the house and into an active environment that is sure to wear them out. Since 2000, Pump It Up has become the best children’s go-to place in the United States. They are located all throughout the United State. Chances are high that you have one right in your backyard. I couldn’t forget to mention that there are camps too! The camps are available when there’s no school, during summers and winter break. Camp hours are half day or all day. For a place that offers so much, Pump it Up is a great bang for your buck. Pump it Up is not only the best local family fun place around, it is also very affordable. You won’t drain your wallet to keep the kids entertained. So, make sure to visit them online today https://www.pumpitupparH a land f s t a cfind k Myour a g a z iclosest n e | D ePump c e m b eIt r 2 017 41 ty.com Up.



St. Louis is home to some culturally diverse scenery; a mix of old and new. In many ways it reminds me of home, but with a subtle flavor that makes St. Louis an original. This would be my first time experiencing the LouFest. There really wasn’t much thought process to this venture, but you knew that with headliners like Weezer and Snoop Dogg, it was bound to be a good show. Typically, when you arrive to summer in the windy city, there is a lot of discussion about Lollapalooza; a staple to summers in Chicago that practically disturbs the entire function of the city. Regardless, you can’t go into any building, workplace or bar without hearing someone ask someone else if they’re heading to Lolla. When


we arrived to St. Louis we showered off the long drive and went out to experience the local neighborhood prior to the festival craziness. As expected there was much talk about the upcoming performances, but still I couldn’t eavesdrop enough to find out more details. LouFest kicked off their weekend of shows with LouFest U, which was opened up to college students and 20-somethings to be inspired and look up potential employers post-graduation. The headliner for the evening was Hail! Hail! Chuck Berry. This is a tribute band consisting of family members and artists who worked to bring some of the hometown legend’s tunes back to the modern era. They also were

the opening act to Snoop Dogg’s Saturday evening performance where they brought members from Cage the Elephant, Huey Lewis and Capt. Kirk from The Roots. Forest Park played host to the 3-day (ish) festival, which was not ideal for parking in the slightest. Still, wherever you may have ended up in the park, you were bound to find a few of the parks 18+ features. The lands are massive and consist of winding roads, but the scenery is breathtaking. This includes The World’s Fair Pavilion with a grand staircase and a massive terrace to enjoy park views and some other hidden gems within the park. There was a bit of a walk, but all within a survivable distance of the festival grounds. (Just following CONTINUED ON PAGE 48...





Halfstack Magazine | December 2017



Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


the sounds was essentially how we made it). For a local festival, LouFest was organized similar to a Bonnaroo where there were activities and socials, a miniaturized food vendor area and a decorated retail vendor area, as well as hidden gems like a small stage area where we witnessed jazz/hip hop fusion artists performing among some fancy spirits. Not to mention a gorgeous air balloon available to see views of the park and the city and the trademark Ferris wheel that you’d see at any local festival. A smaller area of the festival was sectioned off for LouKids, with kid-friendly artists and dance performances from local studios. A giant chess board game and tons of bubbles were


also there to enjoy and frolic in the moderate heat. Saturday’s lineup consisted of Marian Hill, Hippo Campus, and one of my favorite artists, ZZ Ward. ZZ recently released her second album The Storm to which I realized; I wasn’t the only one who already knew all the words to her new tunes. She brought a familiar sound to the musical reputation of St. Louis with some blues, r&b, and mild pop sounds partnered with her sultry voice. Jonny P was another remarkable performer similar in a vintage r&b sound and some incredible vocals and had the crowd falling in love to his song “Say I Do.” Local band Starwolf had their debut performance at LouFest and graced us with a fantastic interview on what to expect in the coming year (stay tuned).

Undoubtedly, I knew most would be there to see Snoop Dogg, but the incredible diversity of the crowd is likely what surprised me the most from age to ethnicity. You have to admit seeing a 60+ year old white guy going H.A.M to “Gin and Juice” would be a sight to see, and I thought that shit was incredible. Sunday’s schedule felt overwhelming, and we really were running from stage to stage to not miss absolutely anyone. Incredible acts like Future Thieves, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, Noname (from Chicago!), Run the Jewels, Lecrae (who I accidentally ran into while watching Noname), Lizzo who brought so much diva and sass and had men and women

embracing their inner kween) and Robert Randolph and the Family band. The last time I witnessed Robert Randolph must have been sometime in 2003 and I’m almost positive no one could have appreciated their performance as much then as they did now. The Jersey natives with some church roots brought the most bounce, dancing, and overall sweat to cover the entire weekend in joy. I had chills with every song and Robert Randolph’s electric energy; there was no standing still.

including those that stuck around for Run the Jewels to complete their set. By far, this mini trek was worth exploring a city like St. Louis to experience some culturally mixed neighborhoods and equally diverse acts. This wasn’t an overthe-top hipster festival with all the fitting stereotypes; it was a down home, locally invested, community engagement that had some top name acts that allowed for some amazing entertainment.

To stay up to date on LouFest tickets and lineup, checkout their webpage: http://loufest.com/ All photos courtesy of Ryan Siu

“Hola, its Weezer time!” is what greeted us at the closing of the whole weekend, with the whole family enjoying old and new Weezer hits. By now, we’ve probably made a few trips to food vendors (i.e. loaded nachos, insane donuts, and red bull). Closing night felt a lot more low key with crowds winding down Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


The South Brings One More Commemoration to the Finality of Summer


Nothing, I mean absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the kind of heat I experienced in Franklin, TN at the end of September. Mind you, I’m not just talking about the southern sun and the intense heatwave it seemed to bring; but the soul-bursting, love-inducing, jump-out-ofyour-skin type dancing that pulled in an energetic heat like Pilgrimage this year. What I once thought to be one of your local, hometown festivals turned into something that I felt multiplied overnight. The festival organizers were undoubtedly prepared for the onslaught of human bodies that would take over the festival. This year’s headliners included: Eddie Vedder, hometown hero (and neighbor to Franklin): Justin Timberlake. The sun’s intensity was no match for festivalgoers determined to check out JT Saturday


night; and there was still plenty to indulge in until show time. Pilgrimage featured a newly curated feature: The Americana Music Triangle Experience. In this area was the Antique Archeology Storytelling Stage that included performers and musical storytellers that best represent each of these historical hamlets located on Gold Record Road.

lowed attendees to enjoy the full Pilgrimage experience. There was really no getting there early enough since nearly every act was fantastic. From soulful grooves, to some good ol’ Americana crooning and funk…the acts were all worth recognizing. Shadowboxers presented a mix of pop, funk and r&b courtesy of producer, Justin Timberlake.

The Art Barn staple featured local artists and the new Farm To Turntable area filled your belly’s desire with plethora of food trucks that showcased delicious local eats. I definitely lost count on how many food and drink vendors there were, but my staple when I’m in the south is southern sweet tea. They really don’t make it as good anywhere else BUT Tennessee (just saying, but feel free to send me samples!) Also, new this year was an earlier gate opening that al-

Big Sam’s Funky Nation was also among the handful of bands that got the dance party started early. Walk the Moon brought their jumpy and happy songs that we all recognize from radio and Gary Clark Jr. had one of the most talked about performances with a cover of “Come Together” by the Beatles. This cover by Gary can be heard on the new Justice League film, in case you want to experience mere fraction of what I did live. I’ll be honest; no act can CONTINUED ON PAGE 56....

Photo by Mickey Bernal -Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival


Photo by Mickey Bernal -Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival


Photo by Erika Goldring-Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival

Photo by Erika Goldring-Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival

Photo by Erika Goldringl -Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival

Photo by Erika Goldring-Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival Photo by Erika Goldring-Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival

Photo by Erika Goldring-Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival Photo by Erika Goldring-Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival

Photo by Erika Goldring-Getty Images for Music & Cultural Festival H a l f s t a c k M a g a z i n e | D e c e m b e r 2 0 1 Pilgrimage 7



Photo by John Shearer-Getty Images for M2M Construction

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


match the talent of Justin Timberlake. There may be a few that could certainly challenge, but still…no match. Perhaps it was cause he was in his hood and his people were there supporting him like family, JT didn’t stop short of providing an incredible set. Some of his best songs from Justified and Future, Sex, Love Sound were among some of his newer tunes like his collaboration with Jay Z’s “Holy Grail.” Justin even brought a few surprise guests after keeping all of us in epic anticipation once he announced he wanted to make this performance a memorable one. Chris and Morgan Stapleton were introduced to sing a few songs including “Tennessee Whiskey.” And just when my crazy, JT loving face thought I couldn’t take anymore, JT closes the show with “Can’t Stop the Feeling” that he blended… YES BLENDED with the classic Bill Wither’s hit “Lovely Day.” A perfect conclusion to day 1 of Pilgrimage Festival. Other Saturday performers included:

Ruby Amanfu +Steelism The Shadowboxers Shovels & Rope Trombone Shorty and Orleans Ave Walk The Moon Big Sam’s Funky Nation Nikki Lane The Texas Gentlemen Better than Ezra The Avett Brothers Gary Clark Jr. Banditos Blackfoot Gypsies Sinclair Colter Wall Cody Huggins


Ivory Lane Jillian Jacqueline The Bros. Landreth Colony House Angaleena Presley Aaron Lee Tasjan Jerry Douglas Band Day 2 felt a lot less chaotic and you could feel in the air that there was a hangover from Justin Timberlake’s performance the night before. The heat was also not as face melting as the day prior, which allowed patrons to actually enjoy the grounds and not just the scarce shaded areas. Pilgrimage organizers had installed more drink stations overnight in anticipation of another heat wave, but lucked out only a little bit. The retail vendors were unique and original, local artisans and small business contributed to the eclectic array available. I normally don’t purchase anything from festivals, cause once I start I cannot stop, but JT made available some original Pilgrimage gear via his design label William Rast along with denim options (but no one was getting denim in the heat). The smaller crowd also gave us an opportunity to enjoy more food and more drinks and more ice cream… did I mention how intense this heat was? You can imagine the amount of calories burned this weekend! Sunday Performances included:

The Settles Connection Larkin Poe Bishop Gunn Towne Kingfish Muddy Magnolias Valerie June

Karen Elson Jonathan Singleton Rosi Golan Joseph Langhorne Slim Band of Heathens Devon Gilfillian Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives Amanda Shires Charley Crockett The Revivalists Mavis Staples Ryan Adams Fitz and the Tantrums Pokey Lafarge The Sweet Tea Project The Sisterhood Last year, I mentioned the gorgeous backdrop that included the mountains covered in trees and the gorgeous sunsets. This year was certainly no exception on day 2 as we watched the sunset during Mavis Staples’ set. Pilgrimage continues to be a very family marveled festival with plenty of littles hanging out enjoying the last moments of summer. If you are a music lover that never wants summer to end, Pilgrimage offers you a lot of southern charm in a weekend. It’s also appropriately tucked away from city bustle, but still familiar enough to not make it feel completely out of place. Every part of making the pilgrimage to this end-of-summer solstice commemoration is surely to create some amazing memories! *A suggestion, though, is to bring your own water bottle and prepare to make frequent trips to the water stations! DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES UNDERESTIMATE THE SOUTHERN SUN!!!

Photo by John Shearer-Getty Images for M2M Construction

For more information on next year’s festival; already slated for September 22nd & 23rd visit: https://pilgrimagefestival.com/ for updates on tickets and next year’s festival lineup!

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


a Q&A with

Rescue and Restore Written by Kandace McVickar


ou never know where life takes you or who you will meet along the way. On a recent trip to Orlando, Florida I had the honor of sharing a ride and having a conversation with an inspiring man who helps the homeless with a mission to inspire the world to help one another. This man is Drummond Sykes (Dru), co-founder of Rescue and Restore. Over the years Dru had a feeling that he had a greater purpose to serve in Florida, but he did not know what that exact purpose entailed. He had ignored the feeling simply because he was scared to leave his job and financial security along with the fear of the unknown. Then one day his pastor told him, “I don’t know why you are still here.”, that had given Dru and this wife Robin


the momentum to finally go forth and set sail on their new journey. While they were getting settled in Orlando their purpose to help others was starting to get clearer and clearer. By then Dru had met 6 individuals with the same goal of helping the homeless resulting in Rescue and Restore. Rescue and Restore is a non-profit organization that is part of One Body Outreach, Inc. They are a team of men, women, and youth including educators, mentors, administrators, and coaches with over 20 years’ experience. Their primary focus is on the growth and development of the homeless and hopeless; to enable them to become contributing members of society once again. “We aim to successfully change the lives of everyday individuals, regardless of classification of homelessness, leaving no individual behind”Rescue and Restore.

What inspired Rescue and Restore? Rescue and Restore is a burning desire to help the people that society has forgotten about. My passion relates to the homeless and hopeless because I was once homeless and had to deal with many of the same issues that plague the homeless today. Someone took the time to encourage and inspire me when I was at my worst. And if each one of us takes the time to do that with one homeless person, there would be would not be homeless people in our communities! When did Rescue and Restore start? We started Rescue and Restore in February 2016. How often do you go out and Restore? Rescue and Restore organizes a monthly food program called “Feed The Need” which occurs once a month. We give out nonperishable food to about 200 people over the past 3 months and our turnout continues to grow.

on their applications. Once they’ve started working, we place them in housing to help them build rental history so they can move on to greater things! There are a few other outreach programs as a part of One Body Outreach, Inc. - Grace Restoration Church which provides spiritual growth and developmental teachings for all ages and genders, with the intent of biblical discipleship that reproduces for Christ and His kingdom. Grace Community Center provides various needs of assistance to our youth and the public. Another program offered is “Virtuous By Design”, dedicated to women whose mission is to empower and inspire all women to live a purpose-filled life in Christ, regardless of denomination or church affiliation. In November, we launched “Blessed from Birth” a local affordable housing community located in Clermont, FL. We also are in the early planning stages of “Kingdom Preparatory Academy”, our Christian private school, ranging from infancy through college.

“We aim to successfully change the lives of

everyday individuals,

regardless of classification

Are there any other services Recuse and Restore offers other than feeding the homeless? Under One Body Outreach, Inc. along with Rescue and Restore operates a 4-step restoring process. Step 1: Addiction rehab; Helping addicts recover from their addiction, and anyone suffering with psychological issues support with medicine and counseling. Step 2: Spiritual growth; Introducing the individuals in our program to Jesus Christ and provide opportunities for them to grow in their relationship with Him. Step 3: Job and vocational skill training; Beginning by helping them with resume writing, interviewing skills, trades, and entrepreneurship, and financial stewardship, so they can comfortably seek employment opportunities and be successful. Step 4: Job placement assistance and permanent housing; Assisting them in their job search, providing transportation, and even serve as references for them

Does Rescue and Restore plan fundraisers? Food Drives? We haven’t had any official fundraisers yet or food drives, but we plan to do more in the future. We have developed partnerships with other charities who have supported us by donating food to our cause. At every event, we ask for donations by having representatives from organization or volunteers stand on corners asking for donations.

of homelessness, leaving no individual behind” -Rescue and Restore.

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017

What are some ways people can help Rescue and Restore? There are several ways that people can help. But one major way is to take the time to help even just one homeless person, so there would be would not be homeless people in our communities. Reach out to us for volunteer opportunities. Donate through our website www.onebodyoutreach.org, mail to P.O. BOX 121545, Clermont, FL 34712, or text GRC to 77977.




LEFT PAGE All images courtesy of led by HER

Led by HER – Empowering Women to Pursue Entrepreneurship WRITTEN BY: JENNIFER VEGUILLA-LEZAN

Four years ago Chiara Condi created Led By HER (www.ledbyher.org) in Paris. Led By HER is a social incubator that helps women who have suffered from violence become entrepreneurs through a one year program. This program was coordinated and built with two business schools (IESEG and ESCP) and individual mentoring and events (including hackathons). Today, the organization has grown immensely including a community of more than 250 volunteers and collaborates with various large companies (Google, AXA, Orange, DELL. BAIN, BNP Paribas, Salesforce, Starbucks). Led by HER is very active in awareness raising activities focused on women’s entrepreneurship, innovation and women’s rights. The former minister for innovation, Axelle Lemaire, sponsors the organization. Led By HER collaborates today with the European Commission and the OECD around creating a more inclusive world for women’s rights and access to entrepreneurship.

While there is a rise in female entrepreneurial endeavors, research from the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute supports that things still need to be fixed in order for female entrepreneurship to survive and flourish. There is great power in female entrepreneurial endeavors. Female founded ventures can greatly and positively impact a country’s economy. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), “found 126 million women [are] starting or running businesses, and 98 million [have been] operating established (over three and a half years) businesses. That’s 224 million women impacting the global economy.” Women’s access to capital and opportunity globally is still a major issue. According to the National Women’s Business Council, “overall, access to capital was the most important issue, cited by 28% of respondents. More than half of the women surveyed found it difficult to secure the capital to start their business. The majority of respondents were most likely to rely on personal savings as their primary source of start-up capital,

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017

followed by reinvested business earnings, loan, or lines of credit.” When looking at entrepreneurial opportunities, perceptions of that opportunity and the capability to actually connect that to an entrepreneurial activity, lead into a woman’s likelihood to pursue that activity. Basically, if a woman thinks she will succeed and will be supported on the journey, she is more likely to try to pursue a venture. Organizations such as Led by HER are working hard to make changes that impact women pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors. Founder Chiara Condi works to mobilize communities to help women who have suffered from violence become entrepreneurs. 1. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what led you to pursue launching your social incubator? We wanted to learn more about Chiara, her journey and the impact that Led by HER is making in the communities it is working in. Keep reading to learn more:


1. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what led you to pursue launching your social incubator? My name is Chiara and I grew up between Italy and the United States, before living in London and Paris. As an undergraduate at Harvard I had an incredible experience directing the only student-run homeless shelter in the country and creating a program to help the homeless access resources directly in shelters. The power of this volunteer experience helped me set the foundations for much of the work I do with Led By HER, combined with the professional work I did on empowering women. After getting my masters in economics in Paris (Sciences Po) and London (LSE) I worked at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to include gender as important component in investment projects. Everything I learned there helped me innovate on the ground and choose my approach once I set my own organization. Led By HER works on innovation, women’s rights and entrepreneurship. The organization offers numerous awareness-raising activities, hackathons and events to raise public awareness around these causes. It also offers a one year incubation program that helps 20-30 women who have suffered from violence rebuild themselves through entrepreneurship through 300 course hours co-created with two business schools (IESEG and ESCP), companies and individuals as well as individual mentoring. Led By HER offers companies an array of workshops around innovation and entrepreneurship, offering them the chance to work directly with and learn from its entrepreneurs. The organization also works s to make sure that the work provides new sources of inspiration and ideas for policies. 2. Can you tell us more about how the idea for LED By Her came about? Was there a spark of inspiration or experience that opened your eyes to the needs for your type of organization? What has this journey been like for you? I started my professional career working for an international organization to maximize the impact of its investment projects on women. When I went to work there, I believed that by working for an international organization I could change the world because I worked on large projects that affected hundreds of thousands of people. I then learned that the opposite was true-- that it was not the number of


people helped, but the innovativeness of the approach that would make a difference. In order to be innovative I felt that I needed to be on the ground, close to the people that I was helping and their problems to come up with new and unique solutions. I learned that the micro could then have an effect on the macro because even the smallest action can have a loud echo if it means enough. Today I bring my idea and vision that this work has given me to institutions and organizations so that it can influence policy work and have a wider effect on society than what I can do alone. Often people ask me why I started where I started, and the truth is that by working on the topic of women in so many different countries I learned that we could not separate the realities that women truly faced in their environment and our wish for their economic empowerment and independence. It seemed to me crucial that rights and entrepreneurship go together, because in order for women to advance economically, the whole environment around them needs to change to foster their success. I used to think that it was impossible to change the world because you needed to move the ocean, but the truth is a single drop can have a huge ripple effect. 3. Can you share more about your launch and development and what the process was like going from this idea to actually having a full blown organizations with hundreds of volunteers? The best thing I did was to start working on my project right away. Often we think too much about the grand vision for our project and lose ourselves on the way there. Everything starts with the single first step. To any entrepreneur I help today I say that there is always something, no matter how small that can be, done today. What I did back then was think about what I needed most and narrowed it down to one single thing! Since I wanted to create an entrepreneurship program, in my case it was classrooms and some kind of academic structure. So, I sent out two emails to the professors I wanted to work with most and they both happened to love the idea. We decided that we would launch a pilot and see where it went. Everything I have accomplished today started with those two emails and then I kept building from there, adding to the edifice each year as more people and companies joined. Now, we have around 250 volunteers. We organize

awareness raising activities, hackathons and events. We sell workshops and our work. The impact has multiplied over the years. What I had the first year was extremely rudimentary compared to what I have now and our impact has grown exponentially over the years, but I like to always remind people that it started with nothing. As we have grown I have always kept true to my starting philosophy and everything we do starts with a quick test and develops from there, turning ideas into action quickly by finding the smallest way to make it work. 4. Can you share some insights on what LED by Her does for the communities it works with and what you are doing to empower women? I like to say that we are revolutionizing the place of women in society one person at a time. The most important thing I learned is that each woman whose life is transformed can create exponential change in the world. That is why our program helps a small group of women (up to 30 each year) and focuses on entrepreneurship as a way to create life transformation. In order to create that personal and professional evolution in each of the women we work with we have put together an intensive entrepreneurship program that focuses heavily on the individual and her contribution to the world. We think that no matter what happened to her, a woman can become a leader in her own life, in her community and in the world in general. By working with survivors of violence in this way we are changing the narrative around violence and its stigma through positive role models. We are also using the things we have learned from that work to create a better world for women in general by creating activities that foster that world. These activities include awareness-raising events, communications, and tools targeting the wider public, policy makers and companies. 5. Are there people, mentors or figures that have made an impact in your life and career? If so, how? I would not be where I am if I did not have so many people who believed in me and the value of my work. I am grateful for all those people who took a chance on me when my work was only an idea and in the big scheme of things not important or very realistic. Most people will always tell you that things will not work out and the reasons it must be so. Which is why it is so important to find those rare first

Chiara Condi - Founder of Led by HER

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017



Halfstack Magazine | December 2017



believers who can see beyond today’s reality. They are the ones who gave the momentum to everything and inspired me to continue.

issues are still at play that can have a negative impact on young girls and women worldwide?

Entrepreneurship is also a game of stamina. It was difficult for me to build such endurance, but I learned to develop it.

I feel that my greatest mentors have been the women I have met on this journey, through everything I have done, whether it is my program, conferences, and articles. It is the biggest factor that gives me hope for the future and for my work. I am sure that when they all bring their projects to light, the world will be a much better place and I am committed to helping them do so.

It all starts with women’s rights. If a woman does not have the right to exist and to live freely in this world, then there is little else we can promise her that she can achieve in reality. In a world where one third of women are still subject to violence, there is little we can guarantee them in terms of fair chances and progression in society. We have to think about that when we think about how we want women to progress. Rights are the key to everything else, including economic empowerment. I am grateful that today we are much more conscious about the importance of creating a culture and environment that fosters diversity and that we do not merely expect it to emerge.

9. What has been your greatest success or proudest moment to date?

6. Can you share some insight on the realities of women worldwide when it comes to violence, independence and the need for monetary stability and career opportunity that you have experienced in your years running LBH? Unfortunately, one third of women in the world are affected by violence according to the United Nations. Of course violence is such a taboo issue that the statistics must be marginal compared to the truth. I believe that at the root of all violence is inequality. Inequality shows up in many ways, including in the way we are brought up, our culture that keeps us from rising to the level of our potential, our environment that keeps us from earning us much as men. Violence is a manifestation of that inequality, and that is why in order to eradicate we have to go to its source and create a massive cultural shift in the way our world perceives women. As I built my organization, I found it hard to believe that although so many women are affected by violence, there is so little to help them rebuild their lives after the emergency. Only when women get a second chance to create the lives that they want and to contribute to society will they ever be truly free. We also want each woman in that situation to feel that she can speak out, because there should be no stigma attached to her situation with regards for the future. The women we help are the proof that no matter what happens in a woman’s life she can be anything she wants and that a woman’s life and her choice of what she wishes to do with it belongs only to her. 7. Can you share some thoughts on the importance of diversity, women’s rights and personal development in 2017? Have we come as far as we like to think? What

I learned that through my work, change needs to be produced. Equality will never just happen, but rather we have to create it. We have a collective responsibility as a society to create the equal world we want to live in. The time is now to create programs for women to get them in places they are not accessing enough, whether that is in entrepreneurship or in companies and to empower young girls with knowledge and choice. I am sure that if we do all that work today, once our daughters grow up organizations like mine will no longer exist because they will have become completely obsolete. I hope to see that day. 8. Were there any obstacles on this journey? If so – what and how did you overcome? I like to say that when you are an entrepreneur you live on an obstacle course. Every day there are challenges and problems that arise from the most unexpected places. I used to take everything to heart and whenever something happened I would take it personally. I would somehow explain to myself that the reason this was happening to me was because I was not good enough. At some point I realized that this behavior stopped me from going forward and taking risks. Now, I say to entrepreneurs that in no matter what you undertake there will be dark days and storms, but you have to know why you are in there and think that just behind that there will be something good. How quickly you let go and get back up is a huge factor for success.

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017

I will never forget one day a woman who left her abusive husband who had joined our program called me and said “this is the first day of the rest of my life.” It made me think a lot about choice in life and that every day we have a choice to start our lives all over again. If there is a common denominator to our humanity, it is our ability to dream and hope and nothing, no past however awful, can ever take that away from us. That day also happened to be my birthday. I would also like to share something about success because I struggled with this in my own life. We often think of success as something external, something outside of ourselves defined by our achievements in the world. Success for many of us is a lot more about how other people see us than how we see ourselves. For me success is about narrowing that gap and working on the best version of myself as well as the work that I put forward so that I am proud of what other people see. 10. What kind of advice would you offer someone looking to launch a social incubator or NFP? Start as small as you can, start helping as few people as you can, but make sure that for each one of them their life is transformed. Amazing things will come from there to inspire the rest. 11. Finally, where can we learn more about your organization, donate or connect for volunteer opportunities? If you want to contribute your dollars and cents to women’s empowerment please go on: www.ledbyher.org We are also very active on social networks. You can also check out my personal website: www.chiaracondi.com


Claire, a 4-year-old girl, smiles as she walks through Vedaste and Beata’s garden in Nyaruguru, Rwanda. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee)

Giving Back With World Vision Written By: Hiral Lloyd-Jomes Layout By: Kandace McVickar

Most of you have probably heard of the Christian humanitarian organization World Vision. One of the organization’s goals is to “pull up the roots of poverty and plant the seeds of change.” It certainly has managed to do so in many communities globally, serving nearly a 100 countries, having helped over 15.4 million disaster survivors and refugees, sponsored the lives of 4 million children, impacted 1.7 million jobs and brought clean water to 4.6 million people. It especially strives to empower children and youth. For World Vision children are the core reason to their charity work, “if a child is thriving, everyone is thriving” is the organization’s belief.


Margaret Ayo is a mother of seven kids who lives in an area in Uganda where most people are low income earners that can only afford the mere basics which makes clothing a luxury itaem. Margaret was one of the lucky moms who benefitted from World Vision’s Gifts in Kind in the form of baby blankets. Such a small gift of a baby blanket, which we would really think nothing of, made a big impact to Margaret and her baby Esther. She nursed her baby through pneumonia, although arguably medication was the most important, the blanket was a key part to her nine month old baby Esther’s recovery, keeping her warm to stop the symptoms from exacerbating. Margaret received a baby blanket for Esther, who was sick with pneumonia. (©2013 World Vision/photo by Sylvia Nabanoba)

Another story comes from Niger’s Ngagala Community that is host to many refugees and families displaced from the ongoing crisis in neighboring Nigeria. Eight year old Sadia and her grandmother Goumsou, who just by luck happened to receive help from World Vision’s response staff dealing with the Chad Basin crisis. This story is all about the right place and right timing. Sadia and her Grandmother had walked for 5 miles early one morning on an empty stomach in the hopes of receiving food from another humanitarian organization. They were in the hopes of replenishing their food supply which they had received a month prior. After standing in the scorching sun for hours, her grandmother collapsed from heat and hunger. Sadia cried out for help and people Eight-year-old Sadia sits next to her grandmother, who is receiving treatment at the gathered. Some tried to revive Goumsou by N’guigmi hospital in Niger. (©2017 World Vision) splashing water to her face instead of giving her some water to drink. World Vision’s team who happened to be close by heard Sadia’s cries and rushed to see if they could be of any help and help they did. They put Sadia and her Grandmother in one of their vehicles and transported them to a health facility that was over seven miles away (note that a lot of roads in rural Africa are pretty much dirt tracks so it can take longer to get to where you want to go). After hours of medical help, Sadia was finally relieved as her grandmother, who is the only person who looks after her as insurgents killed her parents, regained her energy. Had the World Vision team been somewhere else, the events would’ve taken a different turn. There are so many stories such as the two above of how the generous efforts by the World Vision teams, not just abroad but here in the United States, have impacted the lives of others. It is not just the recipients that are affected and touched, but the donors and the volunteers too. Emmy award winning Actress Patricia Heaton, who is a longtime supporter of World Vision, had a life changing experience on a trip to Zambia where she went to help promote the work done by the organization. On her trip there, she had a firsthand experience of the quality of life within these impoverished communities. She witnessed various programs led by World Vision in action such as medical clinics, clean water projects, and also how the organization’s gift catalogue generates enough funds to supply communities with basic necessities that we would take for granted. After her experiences and seeing the impact of the work the charity was doing, she partnered up with World Vision to create “The Hope Bracelet.” A wearable reminder of the power of hope.

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


“The Hope Bracelet reflects my personal style and keeps my World Vision sponsored child, Gracious in mind,”

Actress Patricia Heaton meets her World Vision sponsored child 8-year-old Gracious, in Hamaundu Zambia. (2015 World Vision Photo by Eugene Lee)

“The Hope Bracelet reflects my personal style and keeps my World Vision sponsored child, Gracious in mind,” said Heaton. “When I met Gracious in Zambia, I saw how one act of generosity can light up an entire community. My dream is that the bracelet will ignite that fire in others.”

The Gold adjustable cuff was designed with a nod to her personal style – modern, simple and bold. World Vision partnered with Gifts with A Cause, a fair trade organization to produce this bangle. This ensures all employees receive fair wages, safe working environment, and business development training to enable them to grow and establish themselves. The Hope Bracelet has been thoughtfully crafted through a multistep process involving bending, welding, smoothing, plating and quality checking, it has provided jobs for 20 artisans in India.


Shamim Jahan (right, in blue) cuts and bends the wire for the Hope Bracelet by Patricia Heaton. (©2017 Photo courtesy of Gifts with a Cause)

The bracelet reminds me of Africa. Having grown up in Kenya, I used to see women carrying firewood on their heads or even the Maasai bomas (thick thorny acacia tree branches stacked to make a protective fence). I am not sure if this was where Heaton drew her inspiration from for the Hope bracelet, but to me it did remind me of rural Africa. I have the bracelet and I like my jewelry to stand out. I don’t like too much jewelry, but I feel a statement piece works best and I loved how this bracelet is so versatile. I love the organic shapes of the design and yes it is a modern piece and bold. The World Vision catalogue also features other hand made gifts that would make great gifts for a special occasion or for yourself. You can also make a donation or sponsor a child through their gift catalogue.

Sponsored girl Rosemary holds one of the offspring from the five goats her family received through World Vision’s Gift Catalog. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017




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Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


Come on the journey to find the new faces of the Chicago Fashion Industry...the “next� fashion designers, stylists, make-up artists, and much more will be featured along with events, and even the new fashions on the streets!! In Estrella Modas, we keep an eye out for the stars of fashion of tomorrow! READ THE LATEST > 76


Halfstack Magazine | December 2017



Halfstack Magazine | December 2017












A couple of my favorite places to shop have been giving back to their communities in ways that are immeasurable. Whether it’s clothing or monetary donations, they are changing the world one garment at a time. Eloquii is the first brand that pops into my mind. They are a powerhouse brand with fashion bursting through its seams, and they’ve only just begun. Eloquii was born as a plus size brand inside a larger company. They’ve now branched out and are their own independent brand based out of NY and OH. With pop up shops opening this year all over parts of the US, Eloquii has taken the plus size fashion market and turned it into a whole new ballgame. They have donated apparel as well as monetary proceeds to Dress for Success every year, and I believe they are changing the world with their donations.

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Who is Dress for Success? They are an amazing organisation that empowers women! They give them economic independence by empowering them with networks, professional attire, and developmental tools for life. Founded in 1997, they have already helped thousands of women get back on their feet. They’ve just recently celebrated their 20 year anniversary and launched #OpenDoorProject. If you want to learn more and how to get involved in your area you can reach them here.

Another amazing brand that works with Dress for Success is Universal Standard. They have an amazing program for the consumer called the UFL (Universal Fit Liberty) where you can return items for up to a year after they’ve been purchased in case you fluctuate in size. They then donate those items to Dress For Success to help those in need. I’m really glad that people are getting work wear that is going to last them a long time. Kudos to you Eloquii and Universal Standard for making garments that we can pass around to our friends and even strangers that will be impacted and that will last a lifetime, not just a few months.

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017



I have a creative process that is a little long since I like to get deep into the subject. I like to have all the content I need and complete a lot of deep research. When I’m designing time I approach it from a research perspective, the process includes things like review documentaries, researching in books, taking field visits and more.



written by:jennifer veguilla-lezan Exploring & Investigating the world of creatives


PA U LIN A LUNA Paulina Luna is a designer based out of Jalisco, Mexico. Her work is known for her creative risk taking within the design process. She’s elevating the womenswear and the shoewear industry with an artistic approach to design that hasn’t been seen in quite some time. Her ideas are visionary and her approach is meticulous. She dives deep into research as she develops each collection. Her work goes more than skin deep and that is evident in her curiosity. Her creative endeavors began at a young age. Being surrounded by her father’s work as an architect influenced the work she would pursue in the future. In her most recent shoe collection, she’s taking functional art to a new level. Materials such as woods and metals intermix to create eye-catching and fashion forward designs. We wanted to learn more about her journey and career so the Halfstack team sat down with her for an intimate chat. Keep reading for her full story. 1. Can you tell us more about yourself, your background and what led you to launch your company? I studied fashion design in Guadalajara - Jalisco, Mexico. The passion I feel for fashion generates a different and competitive brand. This is something I was born with from a very young age. When I was a child I saw how my


father worked in his architect studio and it is there when this interest in art, fashion and architecture began. 2. Can you tell us more about how the idea of your new shoe collection came about? What inspired you the most? I launched my first collection: INFINIE during the FW2016 season and it occurred to me to make footwear line to complement my work only as a whim. Yet, I knew that they had to be very different and authentic. I could not do something simple if I was going to get into that footwear sector . The inspiration was Saraceno – taking a focus as an artist and bringing in architecture. I wanted to take these geometrical shapes and juice it up with beautiful asymmetrical cuts 3. How does your creative “process” look as you develop your collections? Can you share some ideas on how to go from the sketch to the final product? I have a creative process that is a little long since I like to get deep into the subject. I like to have all the content I need and complete a lot of deep research. When I’m designing time I approach it from a research perspective, the process includes things like review documentaries, researching in books, taking field visits and more.

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017

This ensures that my ideas are very defined and can be differentiated as a brand. When we already have the design, what we do later is to create an unstoppable search to find the right materials that work with the designs – we do this to see textures, feel of the fabric, the weight and everything that goes into creating the final product within the design process. We then complete the necessary pattern tests on a special fabric and then later pass it to the original design fabric. This ensures that we have margin of error with the test samples in order to not face any issues when working with the actual textiles of the collection. 4. What are your goals for your brand in the next 2-5 years? How do you expect to have an impact or what kind of growth are you waiting for? I have my eye on the prize. My goals keep me moving forward. With a company formed and consolidated in Mexico and eventually having a position abroad. I want to be enjoying my work with my husband and my biggest motivator, my son. 5. Are there people, mentors or figures that have had an impact on your life and career? If so, how? Yes, of course, my biggest inspiration is in my son. The brand was founded when he was born. This makes



everything so much more special. The person that drives me every day is my husband as well as my father. There is a long list of all the people who have supported me and I appreciate their faith and trust in me and in my journey. 6. What are your thoughts on being a woman in the competitive global business? What are the difficulties women face in entrepreneurship and how do you think we can change the narrative when it comes to Latina and Hispanic businesswomen? Well, I feel very proud and happy to be in this big and competitive industry. To demonstrate my work to the world day by day is a dream. I believe that women have all the power and inherent wisdom of being. Of course due to being a woman, we are faced with more work and sometimes difficulties. Society has done this for decades, but we are changing this worldview that often has machismo undetones. I think we are all working towards getting in front of any situation to forge the way for others. We are seeing more leading woman and businesswoman. These women are taking this opportunity to go out into the world with that dream and hunger to tell everyone that we can do this. 7. How is your brand remaining innovative in terms of the footwear industry and how do you feel it is competing / standing out when it comes to the big traditional brands? If I think that creating footwear as a designer has given me a very open mind and has allowed me to take more creative risks. Yet, I think it was the fact that I wanted to see a change for all women who are lovers of shoes and fashion. I wanted to especially showcase something with a very contemporary twist, but without losing elegance. To mark the clear difference of our brand truly counts in what we do, but the craftsmanship and creative

risk taking is how I can differentiate myself from the big brands while still maintaining the quality of any other luxury brand. 8. What type of obstacles have you faced as a business owner over the years and how has it overcome? The list is so long, but my dream, my love of fashion and art has been so great that my perseverance and persistence e has always been and always will be. Overcoming my own fears has been the most difficult, but I think that is part of the creative’s insecurity. S,o day by day I try to be the best version of myself and transmit that into my brand. 9. What has been your greatest success or your most proud moment to date? I think that when my pieces arrived in New York was a major milestone. I was present in other countries outside of Mexico! When I was in Guadalajara, they gave me a new Mexican talent award and that was a moment I won’t forget. 10. What kind of advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business? Something that you really should think about before jumping into running a brand? Follow your dreams as you follow your own shadow. Maintain that consistency in your work and persevere always. I think it is also important tobe very clear about what you want and where you want to go because without that you can not start your journey towards your dreams and goals. 11. Finally, where can we learn more about your brand online? You can keep up with me on social networks! Follow me Facebook: Paulina Luna Mexico Instragram: paulinaluna_mx Thank you very much!

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


Escrito por:jennifer veguilla-lezan Explorando e investigando el mundo de los creativos


PA U LIN A LUNA Paulina Luna es una diseñadora con sede en Jalisco, México. Su trabajo es conocido por su capacidad de asumir riesgos creativos dentro del proceso de diseño. Ella está elevando la ropa de mujer y la industria de calzado con un enfoque artístico al diseño que no se ha visto en bastante tiempo. Sus ideas son visionarias y su enfoque es meticuloso. Se sumerge profundamente en la investigación mientras desarrolla cada colección. Su trabajo va más allá de la piel y eso es evidente en su curiosidad. Sus esfuerzos creativos comenzaron a una edad temprana. Estar rodeado por el trabajo de su padre como arquitecto influyó en el trabajo que realizaría en el futuro. En su colección de calzado más reciente, está llevando el arte funcional a un nuevo nivel. Materiales como maderas y metales se entremezclan para crear diseños atractivos y modernos. Queríamos aprender más sobre su trayectoria y carrera, así que el equipo de Halfstack se sentó con ella para una conversación íntima. Sigue leyendo para conocer su historia completa. 1. ¿Puede decirnos algo acerca de usted, sus antecedentes y qué le llevó a seguir lanzando su empresa? Hola, si claro mira yo estudie diseño de modas en Guadalajara, Jalisco mexico. La passion que siento por la moda y generar una marca diferente y competitiva, nace desde muy chica, cuando era niña veia como mi papa



trabajaba en su studio de arquitecto y es ahi cuando empieza esta inquietud en el arte, la moda y la arquitectura. 2. ¿Puede decirnos más acerca de cómo surgió la idea de su nueva colección de zapatos? ¿Qué fue lo que más te inspiró? Mira yo lanzo mi primera coleccion INFINIE FW2016 y ahi se me ocurre hacer calzado para complementar mi coleccion solamente como un capricho , pero yo sabia que tenian que ser muy diferentes y autenticos no podia hacer algo simple si ya me iba a meter en ese sector calzado. La inspiracion fue tomas saraceno un artista y la arquitectura tomando estas formas geometricas y jugano con cortes asimetricos 3. ¿Cómo se ve su “proceso” creativo a medida que desarrolla sus colecciones? ¿Puede compartir algunas ideas sobre cómo pasar del boceto al producto final? Tengo un proceso creative un poco largo ya que me gusta meterme a fondo del tema y tener el contenido que necesito hacemos una investigacion muy presisa. Si claro mira cuando yo estoy diseñando tiempo atras ya tuve un proceso de investigacion libros documentales visitas de campo y de mas. Esto hace que mis ideas seas muy definidas e ir podiendo marcar una deferencia y un and de marca, cuando ya tenemos el diseño lo que hacemos posterior es hacer una busqueda te

extiles imparable esto lo hago a la par con los diseños par aver texturas, caida de la tela, el peso y todo lo que me va disendo mis diseños. Hacemos las pruebas necesarias en una tela especial para posterior pasarla a tela original del diseño. Esto para no tener margen de error ya al momento de estar trabajando con los textiles de la coleccion. 4. ¿Cuáles son sus objetivos para su marca en los próximos 2-5 años? ¿Cómo esperas tener un impacto o qué tipo de crecimiento estás esperando? Tengo el ojo sobre la fleche. Con una empresa formada y consolidada en mexico y tener posicion en el extranjero. Disfrutando mi trabajo a lado de mi esposo y mi mayor motor mi hijo. 5. ¿Hay personas, mentores o figuras que hayan tenido un impacto en tu vida y carrera? ¿Si es así, cómo? Si claro, mi mayor motor en mi hijo la marca se fundo cuando el nacio esto hace todo mucho mas especial y la persona que dia a dia me impulsa mi esposo y mi padre. Y asi hay una lista larga de todas la personas que me han apoyado y agradezco mucho su fe y confianza en mi. 6. ¿Cuáles son sus pensamientos sobre ser una mujer en el competitivo negocio mundial? ¿Cuáles son las dificultades que enfrentan las mujeres en la iniciativa

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017



empresarial y cómo crees que podemos cambiar la narrativa cuando se trata de mujeres empresarias latinas e hispanas? Pues me siento muy orgullosa y feliz de estar en esta industria tan grande y competitiva. El demostar dia a dia mi trabajo al mundo. Creo que la mujer tine todo el poder y la sabiduria de estar, claro que por el hecho de ser mujer nos cuentas mas trabajo asi lo ha hecho la sociedad durante decadas pero vamos cambiando a este mundo con ese machismo y creo que estamos a todo por delante de cualquier situacion somos mas la mujer lider y empresaria, el mantener esa guardia para salir al mundo con ese sueño y hambre de decir a todos que si podemos. 7. ¿Cómo es que su marca sigue siendo innovadora en lo que respecta a la industria del calzado y cómo siente que está compitiendo / destacando cuando se trata de las grandes marcas tradicionales? Si creo que en el calzado como diseñadora me ha dado una mente muy abierta y arriesgada pero creo que era lo que queria un cambio para todas la mujeres que somos amantes de los zapatos y de la moda sobre todo con un giro muy contemporaneo y sin perder la elegancia. Marcar la diferencia claro que cuenta y mucho pero asi puedo diferenciarme de las grandes marcas y tener la calidad de cualquier otra marca de lujo.

de la inseguridad asi que dia a dia trato de ser lo major de mi y asi trasmitirlo en mi marca. 9. ¿Cuál ha sido tu mayor éxito o tu momento de mayor orgullo hasta la fecha? Creo que cuando mis piezas llegaron a Nueva York, el estar presente en otros paises fuera de mexico . y cundo en guadalajara me dieron un premio de nuevo talent mexicano. 10. ¿Qué tipo de consejo le darías a alguien que busque lanzar su propio negocio? ¿Algo en lo que realmente deberían pensar antes de dar el salto? Sigue tus sueños como a tu propia sombra. Manterner esa constancia y perseverancia siempre. Creo que tener muy claro lo que quieres y a donde quieres llegar porque sin eso uno no puede empesar los sueños y metas. 11. Finalmente, ¿dónde podemos aprender más sobre su marca en línea? Claro, mis redes sociales puedes seguirme Facebook: Paulina Luna Mexcico Instragram: paulinaluna_mx Muchas gracias!

8. ¿Qué tipo de obstáculos ha enfrentado como propietario de un negocio a lo largo de los años y cómo ha vencido? Muchismos una lista muy larga pero mi sueño, amor a la moda y al arte a sido tan grande ue mi constancia y perseverancia a estado siempre y lo estara. Vencer mis propios miedos ha diso lo mas dificil pero creo que eso es parte Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


WTF? By: Stella Quimby

*An Examination of Star’s Modas* 2017 WINTER EDITION

Layout By: Kandace McVickar

First Victim or Star, whichever you prefer: Elle Fanning (Dakota’s little sis) Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Marilyn fan, but to have her face plastered all over your dress at an event show? GURL…nope. Plus, her face is all neon colored. As if Marilyn needed more color to add to her luxurious life. Elle came prepared with matching shoes, to add even more horrific color to this garment that should have been banned from an InStyle show…can I say the event has STYLE in it? Yep, big disaster, nuff said.


Photo by: Chelsea Lauren/REX/Shutterstock

Photo by: Chelsea Lauren/REX/Shutterstock

Second Star: Ellen Pompeo We went from tasteless color to boring Mumu. What the hell is Ellen wearing? You are not 90 Ellen; Although, I do know some 90 year olds with better style than this hot mess. The only thing Ellen has going for her with this look are those heels, sexy. But the oversized smock thing overpowers the disaster she is wearing on top. Again, do we need to remind these celebs that when they attend an event with style in the title, please follow the rules and showcase some style.

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


Third Star: Kelly Rowland

Photo by: Chelsea Lauren/REX/Shutterstock

Why are you so happy dressed like that Kelly?! Did your pimp just give you a larger cut for the day? Cause if so, please replace those hideous looking things on your feet! Also did she decide to go with skanky Vegas bride look for this show? Last I checked, that look was only allowed in a state that also has other things legalized…just saying. Maybe it was a good thing that Beyonce left Destiny’s Child, before some of this “style” rubbed off on her.


Fourth Star: Petra Flannery (Who?) So, apparently this lady, Petra Flannery is a stylist. Yeah, right. Are you shaking your head too? She is one of Hollywood’s top stylists; now I know why Hollywood can’t dress anymore. All I have to say is that this stylist, desperately needs a stylist now. When did granny wear become the “in” thing? Maybe I am the one who is not stylish because I am not raiding my great grandma’s wardrobe? Ruffles, fake tie looking thing and puke green; yep she is one of the best stylists (insert sarcasm). This even makes Ellen’s Mumu look hot. Ok, gotta go before I start lowering my clothing standards. Beware reader.

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017

Photo by: Chelsea Lauren/REX/Shutterstock


a Guilt-Free Industry Written by Olivia Lemley


our nation has recently been through it all— hurricanes on the east coast to blazing fires across the west coast—it is important to recognize these events are not a coincidence. The natural disaster wildcards our country has recently endured are the product of environmental ignorance. Mother nature is a craftswoman in the sense that she can adapt to the changes, but humankind will not be as flexible. There have been flooded communities and homes burned to ashes as a result. It is now more important than ever to support the many efforts to take care of the Earth’s natural beauties with which we’ve been blessed. The fashion industry has a thirst that is destructive to quench. It’s more than landfills overfilling--the industry has taken humans for granted. Sustainable, socially responsible, eco-friendly, and ethical brands have started quite the movement; through inspiring campaigns, these brands have surpassed expectations and made sustainability a macro-trend. Taking a look into couture fashion, we have been seeing an abundance of nature inspired collections. Autumn/Winter ‘18/19 fashion has a strong presence of a homegrown theme, keeping designs beautiful yet minimalistic. As showcased at Lineapelle textile

trade show in Paris, leaders in the industry are putting forth major efforts to raise the apparel industry into a sustainable powerhouse. Upon perusing through all the companies and manufacturers at the event, I discovered many of the eco-friendly booths were the most populated. Due to both business professionals looking to consciously source materials and curious students with a driven mindset, I have great hopes for the growth and success of sustainable practices. Peeking into the common goods market, we are seeing more and more ethical, recycled and sustainable products emerging. These brands have made a huge presence through social media, gaining popularity and market share. Through hosting focus groups made up of Generation Z and Millennial participants, I have concluded that these groups seek out brands with such values and ethics and are willing to throw extra cash for their products. Brands using recycled material have developed a high-quality connotation— although the materials are reused, these products are constructed to be of top quality. To celebrate the companies dedicated to responsible practices, I have provided an assortment of my favorite brands out to make a decision:

VEERAH: VEERAH is a Luxury Women’s Shoe company that has surpassed expectations with

groundbreaking innovation. VEERAH APPEEL is their new collection of stilettos constructed with leather produced from apple peels. As they are cruelty-free, their motto “Eco-Sexy” fits them well. A sustainable material made from taking dry apple peels and extracting fibers to construct apple leather is exactly what the leather industry needs. This leather not only resembles genuine leather, but it is breathable and durable for your craziest days, chemicalfree, and UV resistant. Their classy yet playful designs can go from fun to formal with their detachable accessories: bows, tassels, brooches, straps, and fringe. The Orchid Collection is a notable line to obsess over, more specifically The Mulan with the green VEERAH tassel. With a soft, original floral print, you are sure to make a modest statement.


HoodLamb: HoodLamb is a European fashion house that has dedicated their outwear and knit collections to be cruelty-free. The company has been pioneering hemp—one of earth’s strongest natural fibers with an ecological impact lower than cotton—into fashion. Not only does HoodLamb provide highend outwear, but their efforts address a serious market void for fashion-forward, eco-friendly winter wear alternatives. To reach an even higher level of responsibility, the company sources their hemp from family-run farms, and their entire collection is Peta Approved Vegan.

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


Patagonia: Patagonia has been a leader in the apparel

and gear industry heading towards complete sustainability. They take pride in their conservation efforts as they focus campaigns on minimalistic practices, practice fair trade, dedicate an entire department to repairing your damaged Patagonia products to reduce waste, and utilize recycled, organic and sustainable materials. As they have created an empire of ethics, I have named only a handful from their array of responsible efforts. Patagonia has been a trailblazer in the clothing industry. Since the early stages of selling rock climbing equipment out of the trunk of his car, Yvon Chouinard has raised Patagonia from the ground up into a billion dollar company.


Woodchuck USA: Woodchuck was the result of a college student

on a mission to bring nature back into daily life. With every purchase, whether it is a bottle opener, a journal or any of the distinct Woodchuck products, their team plants a tree. Better yet, you can see exactly where your tree has been planted. The Woodchuck USA website has a running count of how many they have planted since the company was founded—Madagascar is now in the lead! Taking on full social responsibility, their collection of products are made in the USA to ensure fair working conditions.

Pela Case: This company stays true to their zero-waste policy by creating phone cases made from sustainable plants. Flax straw is added into the case for natural shockabsorption. By doing so, these products completely decompose in their post-consumer life to leave behind nothing but nourished soil. This is a phone case that will make dropping your phone a lot less cringe-worthy. If you are interested in getting your own Pela Case, follow the link provided for 20% off your order in addition to Pela Case directing $3 of your payment to a charity. http://pelacase.refr.cc/olivialemley

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


Green Banana Paper: Unlike apple and pear trees, the banana plants only fruits once. After the bananas are harvested, the plant naturally decays away. For this, Green Banana Paper has struck pure sustainability and transforms trees into wallets for the wanderlust! The founder, Matt Simpson, fell in love with Kosrae, Micronesia and its people while volunteering as a teacher at the local high school. He found that there were very few jobs available on the island and knew he could make a difference. The company began as a Kickstarter; Green Banana Paper raised $25,000 to invest in more equipment and pay local workers of Kosrae a fair wage. His vision created 16 full-time jobs on the island of Kosrae and supports 75+ farmers whose banana plant remains would otherwise be waste.


Yuhme: We are all human and should make it a priority to take care of one another. Yuhme water bottles are our link to support those whose daily battle is just to survive. Yuhme strategically developed their water bottles to not only minimize their footprint, but to have a negative footprint. By using bio plastic made from sugarcane, every ton of this plastic used removes 2.4 tons of carbon dioxide from the Earth. The importance of human lives is recognized at Yuhme through their philanthropic commitment to sub-saharan Africa. Each water bottle sold provides 6 months of clean water for an individual in Central African Republic.

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


Rice Love: Rice Love is a unique company to stumble across. Not only are their responsible efforts unique, but every bag

sold is a one-of-a-kind. Their backpacks are made from recycled textiles, so no two bags are the same. There is a mesmerizing assortment of colors and patterns to scavenge through before picking your perfect fit. In addition to using recycled materials, Rice Love puts forth change with their philanthropic values. For each bag purchased, a kilo of rice is hand delivered to a family in need. My favorite aspect of this company is their tracking system; after you receive your bag, you can see exactly how your purchase has contributed.

“There’s a number on each of our bags that looks something like this: #RL00000. Enter your number on our website, and we’ll show you exactly who your rice is feeding. By the time you get your bag, your family has already received their rice. You’ll be able to see them right on your screen. See exactly how you made a difference.”


-Rice L ove

Green Goo: Meet your new go-to for body care products like soap, lip balm, bath salts, sunblock and deodorant. Green Goo makes shopping for such basic products interesting! With an entire store of products 100% made from natural herbs and oils and made in the USA, Green Goo promises high quality ingredients and simple, yet effective products. Sourcing their ingredients from organic farmers, Green Go infuses fresh and dried herbs in organic oils to increase the medicinal value of their products. Their products were used to help heal at the Hargeisa Orphan Center in Somalia and to provide 600+ patients with premedical care in Honduras.

U Brands: Upon purchasing their stationary or desk accessories, U Brands will donate a portion of the proceeds to Kids in Need FoundationÂŽ to ensure no child is unprepared to learn and succeed in a classroom. There are children without access to basic school supplies that immediately puts them at a disadvantage. No child should be deprived of the opportunity to learn, therefore U Brands is out to make a difference and touch the lives of those less fortunate. By topping your desk with trendy accessories, you will take part in the movement! Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


Blue Meets Blue – Fashion Meets

Humanitarianism Written By: Jennifer M. Veguilla-Lezan Layout Design By: Olivia Lemley

More and more organizations in the fashion industry are adapting business models similar to fairtrade. Fairtrade is a unique model of doing business within growing and developing economies. Companies who work within the principles of fairtrade work with businesses, consumers and campaigners to create better opportunities for potential employees who are looking for ways out of poverty. Farmers and workers have an equal say in these businesses opportunities. Empowerment is at the core of what these businesses do. One major group of people who are currently facing displacement, poverty and dire circumstances are those who are a part of the refugee crisis. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the number of refugees and internally displaced people has reached its highest point since World War II. There are currently 65 million refugees and internally displaced people around the globe. After learning that we are facing the biggest refugee crisis since WWII, Blue Meets Blue founder, Shahd Alasaly wanted to find a way to help. She com-


bined her background in fashion and psychology alongside her desire to make a difference to launch Blue Meets Blue. Blue meets Blue is an ethical clothing line that employees refugees in the USA. Many of these people left war torn homes on a journey to find a better life for themselves and their family. The Blue Meets Blue team is composed of artisans, designers, seamstresses and creative artists recently displaced from their home countries, seeking solace in America.

to craft luxury, made-to-order garments. Alasaly provides a safe space for her refugee employees by offering individualized training programs, fair pay, ethical working environments, and uses her psychology background to help give advice, guidance and emotional support to her employees dealing with the concerns and realities of resettling in a new, foreign country.

Organizations such as Blue Meets Blue are taking the typical fashion business model and turning it on its head. Rather than focusing on cheap prodEvery refugee employee is ucts made with cheap labor, brought onto the Blue Meets the brand is looking to create Blue team under the supervihigh quality products that are sion of its founder Shahd Alanot only beautiful but have a saly to embrace the process as beautiful mission, to empower a blend of a unique form of art individuals and make a differtherapy, while gaining the train- ence in their lives. ing and practice of learning

The fashion industry has been facing a crisis of it’s own over the years when it comes to sustainable production and ethically made products. The fashion industry is a 3 trillion dollar a year business and only two percent of apparel companies source from suppliers that pay their workers a fair and living wage. It can be hard to connect the dots when consumers are so far removed from the unfortunate realities of an industry they are a part of on a near daily basis. When you are single mother or young student with student loans that take the majority of your paycheck, it can be difficult to make ethical fashion a part of your life. In a perfect world, the decision wouldn’t be so difficult. It would be the industry executives who are profiting off of cheap labor who would make the decision to change the industry. Yet, the reality is that isn’t the norm. Brands like Patagonia who are making a directed effort from the top down to change the industry are the exception. Yet, that doesn’t always have to be the case. There are many consumers who are looking to support brands who keep in mind their impact on the world and society at large. People want brands to be stewards of the future. It’s companies like Blue Meets Blue who are looking beyond the bottom line and thinking about how their decisions affect society as a whole. It’s the younger and smaller companies who are keeping in mind their impact from the very beginning. We wanted to learn more about the journey of Blue Meets Blue founder, Shahd Alasaly, and she took some time to answer our questions. Keep reading for the full interview.

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017



ries were had in Damascus. From a very young age my grandmother would sit me down next to her and teach me the art of sewing. She was incredible. Her children never wore clothing that was store bought; that would have brought her much shame. Everything was handmade down to the bibs and cloth diapers. She taught me the quality of fine fabric, the importance of sewing my own buttons, and the love for fashion. The refugee crisis hit at an all time high while I was completing my graduate work. My thesis was focused on the challenges that refugees face upon arriving to their new country-especially about ways to alleviate symptoms of depression and PTSD from the trauma they had witnessed-upon fleeing a war torn country. I decided to combine my psychology background with my fashion background and focus on fashion psychology –and Blue Meets Blue was born. QUESTION: Can you tell us more about how the idea for Blue Meets Blue came about? Was there just a spark of inspiration or did you experience something that led you to pursue building on this idea?

the interview QUESTION: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what led you to pursue launching your company? ANSWER: When I was younger I remember summer days spent in Syria. The country I remember from my childhood with the jasmine flowers that scented the streets and draped the walls, the early dinners followed by afternoon siestas, and my grandmother waking me to the delicious mint green tea that she would make as the family sat in the living room and chatted. It was a country of peace, family gathering, and much hospitality. My family is Syrian, and while I personally grew up in Phoenix Arizona, some of my best memo-


ANSWER: Upon learning that we are facing the biggest refugee crisis since WWII, I wanted to find a way to help by combining my love for fashion with my background in Psychology. The hope was to create a unique form of art therapy by producing an ethical fashion line. QUESTION: Can you share more about your vision for the brand and what you are doing to disrupt the typical fair trade market? ANSWER: Our vision is to have Blue Meets Blue sold in major stores around the US. We want to be able to create a more sustainable income for the artisans involved. We also want to encourage others to create more ethical projects, whether in fashion or any other kind of business- there is always a way to do good.

QUESTION: What are your goals for your brand in the next 2-5 years? How do you hope to be making an impact or what kind of growth are you looking forward to?

She also has a sick mother and a very sick brother. She is the main caretaker for the family. She couldn’t be very far away from them in case of an emergency; Blue Meets Blue was such a wonderful fit for her. She was not only able to ANSWER: Our hope for Blue Meets Blue is to: stay close to her family but she did work that 1- Empower women by providing them fair em- she enjoyed doing, work that she felt she could ployment and an opportunity to support their contribute to and felt confident in doing. Many families by working in their prior skill-set. of the other women that we work with speak 2- Create a sense of community amongst new- of the very difficult journey they took to come comers. Because of our gatherings, they have to the United States. Upon leaving their home one another to share their stories and hopes country, they did not know it would be the last with. It has created a network of women with time they would see it. Two of the women we common goals and shared values while becom- work with have homes that were completely ing a form of art therapy. destroyed after they left. Now, they don’t have 3- Steer away from the fast fashion industry and anything to return to. create clothing with meaning. It means something to the people who made it and to those Their journey took them to many different who will purchase it. countries, refugee camps, but finally they found 4- Eliminate a lot of the misunderstanding refuge in the wonderful United States of Amerabout the refugee crisis by spreading awareica. While they miss their homes, families, and ness and love through our fashion. they miss their friends, they are so grateful to be here and so happy that their children live in a safe country and are provided with an equal QUESTION: Are there people, mentors or fig- opportunity for their future. Working with Blue ures that have made an impact in your life and Meets Blue has given them an opportunity to career? If so, how? work professionally while taking care of their family. It has given them flexibility and hope. ANSWER: Starting from an early age my grandmother was definitely an inspiration. She taught me the importance of valuing my cloth- Question: Can you share some insights on the ing and valuing high quality. realities that refugees face – and why empowerment through income and work stability is important in their lives? QUESTION: Can you share some insight on how you work with refugees and the impact Answer: Blue Meets Blue is an ethical cloththat your brand is making on their lives? ing line that directly supports refugee women in the United States. Many families receive ANSWER: One of the artisans at Blue Meets only $500/month after resettling in the United Blue was previously a seamstress in her home States, which is barely enough to cover grocercountry-before working with Blue Meets Blue ies. This lasts for only a few months and after the only job she was able to find was at a meat that, they are on their own. While grasping the factory that was about two hours away from her language is difficult enough, most are unable home. You can imagine how she felt when the to find work in their previous fields. The list of only job she could find was cleaning a meat challenges goes on, but they are resilient and factory after hours. She really wanted to do strong, and want the best for their families and something in her skill-set (she used to work at a their new country. garment factory in Turkey).

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


QUESTION: Did you face any obstacles on this journey, if so – what and how did you overcome? ANSWER: Upon starting Blue Meets Blue, I was very worried about how people would react to the line given the current political climate in the US. But to my surprise this climate was the very reason we gained consumers and supporters. People in the US have come together and realized that there is so much more that unites us than what divides us. We really put ourselves out there and are very thankful to the outpouring support we have received. QUESTION: What has been your greatest success or proudest moment to date?


ANSWER: I love seeing art therapy come to life in my everyday work. These women have gone through so much, our work is therapeutic and oftentimes as we are working we have very deep conversations –I have seen them work through many issues and improve their depression just by having work, friends, and people to talk to! QUESTION: Can you share insights on the role that slow fashion is playing in the industry? Why is it important in terms of sustainability and the impact that the fashion world has on society and the environment? ANSWER: I think there is a fashion revolution happening. Many consumers are waking up to

the detrimental effects of fast fashion, on the environment and on the workers involved in creating the garments. So many documentaries have beautifully portrayed the sad reality involved in the fast fashion industry. Workers are underpaid in some of the poorest countries, they are forced to work under unbearable working conditions because the competition is just too high, if they strike there are simply thousands of others waiting to fill their place. Many children inhale the toxic gases, families are ripped apart from one another so that mothers can work in these factories and provide for the entire family, and so on. The environment takes a big hit. According to the documentary True cost ” The average American throws away about 80 pounds of textile waste per year –which adds up to 11 million tons of textile from the US alone. For the most part, these textiles aren’t biodegradable, which means they sit in landfills for at least 200 years. As a result, they release harmful gases into the air.” Consumers have become much more knowledgeable about their purchases and are taking a much more definitive stance in their purchases.

slow fashion line can help consumers feel like they are making a difference in the world. QUESTION: Finally, where can we learn more about your brand online? ANSWER: URL: www.bluemeetsblue.com FB: https://www.facebook.com/bluemeet/ IG: https://www.instagram.com/bluemeetsblue/?hl=en

QUESTION: Why is it important to your brand to create opportunities and do good in society and why do you think people should keep that in mind when deciding what brands to choose to support? ANSWER: Our brand was born to solve a problem. We wanted to find a way for refugees to feel welcome and to help them get past a lot of the trauma they experienced by working in their skill-set, building that confidence, and creating a community they could rely on. It was also born out of a frustration with the current fashion industry (low wages, sweatshops, 52 seasons of clothing a year, and environmental destruction). MANY consumers are also frustrated with this issue, supporting an existing ethical

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


Healing Heels

Empowering Courageous Cancer Patients to Keep Fighting Written By: Jennifer M. Veguilla-Lezan Layout Design By: Olivia Lemley


best friend is like finding a soul mate. They are there through the good, the bad and the ugly. Often, a best friend can inspire and help you find your motivation through the darkest of times. Sidne and Lauren of Healing Heels know the journey of friendship is filled with beauty, but can also find moments of darkness. Their very own friendship saw dark moments. Yet, together they found light. After a battle with cancer, their lives would never be the same. Four years ago Lauren was diagnosed with breast cancer. At just 26, this was something she didn’t see coming. As most young women who encounter breast cancer, the battle is something they likely could never imagine having to go through. Adding chemo on top of it all creates a crippling experience. Yet, Lauren didn’t let it get the gift during her first chemo treatment, best of her. In fact, Sidne wouldn’t was the moment of impact. These allow it to get the best of Lauren. 5-inch, bright blue, glittery and spike covered stilettos were the shoes in The friends shared a mutual love for which fighters kick ass. shoes. A week before Lauren’s first round of Chemo, Sidne stumbled Lauren wore those very shoes to every upon a pair of the most amazing, single treatment she had without fail. statement making shoes. These were Overtime, she started to look forward not birthday shoes, but they were to wearing those shoes. She began to THE pair of shoes that she knew associate chemo with the shoes and would be Lauren’s chemo shoes. The they gave her a reason to smile. She moment Lauren opened the surprise found her light during some very


found her light during some very dark times. Three years later, Lauren and Sidne knew that the shoes could make an even bigger impact. Healing Heels was born out of the idea that a pair of shoes could change the world through empowering courageous cancer patients to keep fighting. Their mission is to line the soles of every woman fighting cancer. We wanted to learn more about this journey and Lauren and Sidne’s friendship. Keep reading for the full interview:


QUESTION: Can you please tell us a bit about

QUESTION: Can you tell us more about how the

your-self, your background and what led you to pursue launching your company?

idea for Heeling Heels came about? What has this journey been like for you and Lauren?

ANSWER: Sidne and I met in college and became

ANSWER: The idea for Healing Heels really came

instant best friends. We both went on to become photographers, backpacked our way through Europe and spent most of our twenties inseparable. Then, when I was 26 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Cancer in your twenties is never something you see coming so it’s safe to say this was a pretty big shock. On my first day of chemo, Sidne handed me a gift. I was instantly excited and distracted from everything that was going on around me. When I opened the box, inside were a pair of bright blue, glittery, 5-inch, spike-covered stilettos. Sidne told me they would be my ‘chemo shoes’ because in those shoes I was going to kick cancer’s ass. Which is exactly what I did. We decided those shoes had a bigger story to tell so we started Healing Heels. A gift option for the loved ones in your life fighting cancer.

from our story. When Sidne gave me my original pair of shoes they changed everything for me. They became something I looked forward to in a pretty dark time. Once I made it to the other side we both knew we wanted to figure out a way for our story to continue on and help other women. It’s been a very challenging yet rewarding journey. We’re two photographers who had to figure out how to manufacture a line of shoes, which has been quite the adventure. But seeing the smiles on every woman who opens her box of Healing Heels makes every bit of the hard work worth it.

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017

QUESTION: Can you share more about your launch and development and what the process was like going from this idea to actually having a live product that you were getting into the hands of cancer patients?


ANSWER: We are currently working on launching a new style, which we are very excited about. We’d eventually like to expand beyond just cancer and ultimately become a line of shoes for anyone facing adversity. We’d also love to launch a kids line…the options are endless! Cancer is near and dear to our hearts so we always want to be giving back to cancer patients in some way. The bigger we grow the more women we can touch. Our ultimate goal is to line the soles of every woman fighting cancer.

QUESTION: Are there people, mentors or figures that have made an impact in your life and career? If so, how?

ANSWER: Guiliana Rancic is a huge inspiration to me. She went through her cancer journey right before I did and when I saw her fight with such bravery and grace – I knew I could do that same.

QUESTION: Can you share some insight on what it is like for women in the competitive startup world as it relates to launching, execution and themes like funding?

ANSWER: Honestly, so far it has been a huge adANSWER: We started with a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign. We really didn’t have a big plan, we just wanted to get shoes into the hands of cancer patients. Once we realized wholesaling wasn’t go-ing to be the right option for us, we started the manufacturing process. Which is the equivalent of learning a new language, upside down and back-wards. It was a long, uphill battle but through a little luck and lot of hard work we found a manufacturer who made our dream a reality. A little less than a year after we started the manufacturing pro-cess we got our first shipment of heels (The Lauren’s).From there we planned an epic launch party along with our first Gifting Day at Creticos Cancer center. It was such a surreal experience seeing it all come to life.

vantage to be women who have lived what we are selling. When women hear our story or wear our shoes, they relate knowing we’ve literally stood where they have. We’ve created a community of solesisters that has become a source of incredible support to so many. I know as we continue on we are going to face some challenges, but so far we’ve been pretty lucky.

QUESTION: Can you share more about the charitable component of your brand, how you built up the partnerships you are a part of and how they are making a difference within their communities?

ANSWER: For every pair of shoes we sell, we do-

nate a pair to a woman fighting cancer. We partner with cancer centers and do what we call “Gifting Days” where we show up and hand deliver a pair of shoes to every QUESTION: What are your goals for your brand in woman receiving treatment that day. They are really magical days. Seeing the looks on their faces as they open the next 2-5 years? How do you hope to be making an impact or what kind of growth are you looking forward their shoes is incredible. They instantly smile, laugh and immediately put them on and do a little cat walk. We are to?


lucky in that we get to keep in touch with them and hear stories of how their shoes changed their cancer experience. A lot of our solesisters have gone on to purchase shoes for other patients they met during treatment. We are just the beginning of a domino effect that is really, really special.

QUESTION: Were there any obstacles on this journey (cancer, launching a shoe brand and merch collection – super hero status!!) If so – what and how did you all do to overcome?

ANSWER: There have been so many obstacles. The biggest was figuring out how to manufacture a line of shoes. We literally knew nothing and had to figure out a way to know everything. We researched and worked as hard as we possibly could and it worked! We’ve never been afraid to ask for help which has helped us a lot. There’s a lot of strength in community so when you have an obstacle, we believe there is some-

one out there who can help you overcome it. Even if that someone is Google. ;)

QUESTION: What has been your greatest success or proudest moment to date?

ANSWER: We recently heard an interview with one of our original solesisters (someone who has received our shoes) on a news segment and listening to her talk about what her shoes meant to her was a total full circle moment. We spend a lot of time working on what’s next and that was a moment where we could really stop and say, “wow, this is really happening.”

QUESTION: What kind of advice would you give to someone looking to launch a startup or enter the world of entrepreneurship?

ANSWER: Get ready to work harder than you ever thought possible but know it is all worth it! It’s the


hardest thing in the entire world but there is literally nothing better. Also, if you’re the smartest person in the room – you’re in the wrong room.

ANSWER: Finally, where can we learn more about your brand online, where can readers donate and what other sites do you want to share?

QUESTION: If they know someone fighting cancer (or who needs help kicking a little ass) they can purchase shoes (or shirts/totes) right from our site. There is also an option to make a purchase as a “Shoe Fairy” and we will ship a pair of shoes directly to someone in cancer treatment. You can learn more at www.healing-heels.com

Healing Heels—Empowering Courageous Cancer Patients to Keep Fighting 114

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


The winter season goes hand in hand with the holiday season. The atmosphere changes into something magical throughout the city. The weather might be frigid but the warm and giving nature of the season makes up for it. It also helps to have a warm and stylish wardrobe for the winter! Since the holiday season can be so hectic, I’ve done the legwork for you and scoured the best steals for this season’s hottest trends! On the women’s side: everything from holiday sequins, modern metallic, to eclectic spot prints are the hot items for winter. On the men’s scene: red is the go to color with traces of fleece and tracksuits trending as well. It’s the season of giving so these make perfect gifts for family and friends, but don’t forget to treat yourself too! Here’s to an amazing and stylish holiday season!

Women’s Trends Season of Sequin

A little sparkle is always nice, but during the winter season, sparkle is king! Sequins were everywhere during F/W fashion week. Whether it’s a pair of killer boots or a classic bomber jacket, you can’t go wrong with sequins for winter. Focus on one key sequin piece and work your look around that. It’s a sure way to make heads turn!

Sequin Dress // $119.00 Zara

Fall/ Winter 2017 Milly


Motel Square Sequin Mini Dress // $79.00 Urban Outfitters

Sequin Text T-Shirt // $22.90 Zara

Sparks Fly Sequin Joggers Rose Gold // $48.00 ViciCollection.com

Looks for Less By: Teresa Cutrera, Fashion & Style Editor Layout: Kandace McVickar

Puff and Puffier

It’s a must to bundle up during the winter. The “it” jacket this season is the puffer. These jackets are the go to outerwear for winter. I found a ton of looks for less in this trend, but some of my favorites are in vivid colors and fun textures. Outerwear is a great chance to step outside the box, so go for it!

Fall 2017 RTW Versace

Harriet Boutique Velvet Padded Jacket // $56.00 Boohoo.com

Hooded Puffer Jacket with Faux Shearling Trim // $150.00 Nordstrom

Light Before Dark Teddy Puffer Jacker // $109.00 Urban Outfitters

Puffer Jacket // $89.90 Zara


Modern Metallics

Metallics made a big statement this runway season. Dresses are always a classic way to wear the metallic trend, but designers showed metallics in accessories and even coats. If you’re not totally ready to make the splash into this trend, try out a simple accessory first such as the hat I found for a bargain at Zara. Of course if you need an excuse to wear metallic, try it out at your next holiday party. It’ll be a statement maker for sure!

Metallic Hat // $15.90 Zara

Silver Metallic Dress // $49.90 Zara

PrettyLittleThing Metallic Fuax Fur Trim Hooded Coat // $98.00 ASOS.com

Heavy Metal Metallic Moto Jaket // $68.90 ViciCollection.com


Fall 2017 RTW Micheal Kors

Spotting Winter

Designers were definitely seeing spots this winter. The eclectic print also has a very classic feel that you can work into your wardrobe in a fun way. If you want to make a bold statement, go for a larger polka dot print in a classic black and white. If you prefer to be a little more tame and classic, opt for a smaller polka dot print on a simple piece such as a dress or blouse.

Fall 2017 RTW Balenciaga

ASOS Jumpsuit in Structured Fabric in Polka Dot // $103.00 ASOS.com

Backstage Imperial Tie Front Polka Dot Top // $139.00 Urban Outfitters

PrettyLittleThing Polka Dot Open Back Mini Dress // $48.00 ASOS.com

Polka Dot Dress // $29.00 Zara


Men’s Trends Rebel Red

There may not be a more vivid and emotional color than red. Other than it being one of the classic earmarks of the holidays, red is also the “it” color in menswear this season. The best part is that red is probably one of the most universally flattering colors for men. You can really have as much fun with the color as you want. You can wear it casually with a hoodie or dress it up with a suit.

Fall 2017 Menswear Dries Van Noten


UO Relaxed Faux Fur-Lined Red Corduroy Trucker Jacket // $129.00 Urban Outfitters

Reclaimed Vintage Inspired Oversized Varsity Hoodie // $64.00 ASOS.com

ASOS Super Skinny Fit Jacket in Red // $95.00 ASOS.com

Contrasting Red High Top Sneakers // $69.90 Zara


The casualwear trend continues in menswear with the tracksuit making a comeback. Some of the best tracksuits are in greens, reds and yellows. If you think a head to toe color is too much for you, try out a track jacket with denim or even track pants with a simple polished sweater or jacket. There’s no doubt that this is the comfiest trend of the season in menswear.

AAA Black Stripe Joggers // $65.00 Topman

Retro Sweatshirt // $49.90 Zara

FILA + UO Arkley Track Pant // $69.00 Urban Outfitters

Publish Wyatt Side Stripe Jogger Pant // $84.00 Urban Outfitters

Fall 2017 Menswear Gosha Rubchinsky


Feast Of Fleece

Fleece is never really a trend that goes out of style for winter. This season, fleece is a big trend in the essential outerwear scene. Anyone can wear fleece and look ultra polished or ultra cool. Try a fleece-lined jacket for a surefire classic touch to any outfit. If you prefer a cooler urban vibe, opt for a utility inspired jacket like the one from Urban Outfitters.

ASOS Borg Worker Jacket in Ecru // $79.00 ASOS.com

Fleece Coat // $179.00 Zara

River Island Fleece Lined Jacket in Black // $135.00 ASOS.com

Poler Half Fleece Jacket // $130.00 Urban Outfitters


Fall 2017 Menswear No. 21


The puffer jacket trend was unisex this winter. The guys have some awesome options both in length and in colors. If you want to go for an edgier style, try a long line puffer jacket in a classic camo green. If your style is more casual and classic, go for my awesome ASOS Espirit find!

Fall 2017 Menswear Balenciaga

ASOS Puffer Jacket with Taping and Color Block // $95.00 ASOS.com

Espirit Long Down Coat in Khaki // $157.00 ASOS.com

ASOS Super Longline Oversized Puffer Jacket with Hood in Black // $127.00 ASOS.com

Camouflage Down Puffer Coat // $99.99 Zara


Embrace your Journey with SELA fit

Brands that Give BY: Jennie Velasco

Jenny Gresla is the founder of SELA Fit. She describes her line as: for the women who are independent, outgoing, busy, but not perfect. It’s an active wear brand that’s meant to evolve with women. You can say that progress, not perfection could be the motto for SELA fit. Jenny had a long life in fitness and activity, and when met with a challenging point in her life she was confronted with emotional and physical changes. It was here where she found a void in active wear fashion. For as expensive as workout wear can be and the escalating prices you already pay, imagine having to continue to shell out pennies every time your body goes through changes. Jenny saw a need and immediately wanted to address it and get feedback from women facing these same challenges. A simple survey would address the need to find work out gear inclusive to all body types in whatever journey they may find themselves in. Their mission statement: SELA Fit believes that striving to be the best version of oneself is about



Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


much more than just the start and finish, but rather it’s about the journey. It’s all about the in-between. No one is perfect, nor should they be. The journey begins with seeing one’s potential and ends in taking action. (Or should we say it never ends!) • See your potential • Embrace the journey • Live with intention • Act with perseverance Jenny described the arduous journey it took to start such a peculiar business as a pre-med student and without any real knowledge of design to put together an active wear line. Her determination had merit and Jenny prides herself on a “go big or go home” attitude. With the responses she received from women looking for some sustainability and the support of her family, Jenny arrived at a soft launch of 4 tops that were well received. The feedback she received even had happy customers wearing her workout gear outside of the gym and to every day activities. Many brands are focused on the end result, overlooking beginners or those in the middle of their journeys. SELA Fit is always working toward the end result, but acknowledges every stage of the process. With this outlook, it affirms Jenny’s goal to help women with body positivity and embrace their journeys as they progress. SELA has begun a philanthropic partnership with Girls in the Game, a Chicago based organization that provides opportunities for every girl to find her voice, discover her strength, and lead with confidence


through fun and active sports, health and leadership programs. The program is specifically catered to girls in elementary through high school years to instill body positive motivation and aid with healthy habits. As a previous volunteer of the program, Jenny found it fitting to give $5 from every SELA Fit top sold going directly towards fulfilling the Girls in the Game mission. SELA Fit is passionate about inspiring the younger generation of fierce females at a time in their lives where lifelong habits and confidence are forming. Looking at the bigger picture, Jenny would love to take the brand to a global momentum with brick and mortar stores and is open to all the success that SELA Fit can provide while being inclusive to all women. Jenny is an all-around multitasking entrepreneur and is not falling short of going big while juggling a day job. This doesn’t slow her down in the slightest, in fact she considers this part of her life as a “passion project” and although there is urgency to continue to fulfill the needs of onthe-go women, as she says, “slow and steady wins the race!” For more: Shop SELA Fit: www.selafit.com/shop Follow SELA Fit on Instagram: www.instagram.com/sela_fit Like SELA Fit on Facebook: www.facebook.com/selafitusa Find out about Girls in the Game: www.girlsinthegame.org/ IMAGES COURTESY OF: SELA Fit

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


Donda’s House – Empowering Students & Making a Difference through the Arts in Chicago Written By: Jennifer M. Veguilla-Lezan Photography by: Ryan Siu

The arts make a difference in education. This is a statement that artists and arts educators have been fighting to make relevant for decades. For the last twenty years, many have seen the efforts to raise standards and focus schools on academic fundamentals in the United States. The goal has been to close the achievement gap. With a focus on STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) the focus on the arts in public education has slowly faded away. There is an ever-increasing concern that U.S. students are falling behind internationally and that U.S. schools are insufficiently rigorous for youth to grow, develop and compete in the global market. This is most evident in places such as the inner city. Often, the arts compete for a place to even be seen at the education table. Creative programs have to stand against other programs with subjects that appear to make more compelling claims for time and resources and they often lose out. When one looks at arts and education, the creative ventures are often seen as expressive oppor-


tunities—not always academic or cognitive. Therefore, they aren’t seen as important as traditional academics. The arts are seen as enrichment and rewards for students who are lucky enough to have them. Yet, more and more studies are showing that the arts programs integrated into traditional education are relevant and that the arts can make a difference in education. This is especially so within inner cities and for low-income students. These programs shouldn’t just be for the gifted and talented. Rather, if incorporated into daily learning activity, the arts could end up positively serving troubled, atrisk and low-income youth. Yet, these studies are often ignored. An overview from the ASCD’s Educational Leadership publication explains, ”Researches who looked into the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS: 88) database found a significant correlation that increased over time, between arts participation and better academic performance. The highest gains of academic performance were seen for students who were placed into arts program and who were in the lowest-socioeconomic-status quartile. These were students who were seen as

most at risk of academic failure (Catterall, Chapleau, & Iwanaga, 1999). When after-school programs for low-income youth were reviewed, it was found that the arts programs attracted higher-risk students than sports or community service programs and these same art programs had a much stronger impact on academic and developmental benefits. (Heath, 1999).” Many innovative artists and teachers in Chicago have made it a point to pursue change in how they approach arts education in their public schools. They have worked to create curriculum that combines parallel processes in specific art forms, arts-related activity and a more traditional academic activity. Artists and teachers are working together to make these connections and in the process allow the students to make those same connections themselves. Whether it is a music teacher working alongside a mathematics teacher showcasing how math plays into creating beats or an English teacher working in tandem to highlight how poetry is the basis for lyrical prowess in music, they are finding a way to


connect creativity with traditional academics. These opportunities lead into students being able to actually connect their learning to their own experiences and feelings. This allows them to create something that has deep personal meaning and can inspire their families and communities along the way. While Chicago still has a long way to go, the local government is seeing the impact that the arts are making on student communities. In 2015, Mayor Emanuel announced a $10 million investment in Arts Education. In a press release on cps.edu it was explained that the funds were, “dedicated to helping schools meet the District’s first-ever comprehensive Arts Education Plan.” Mayor Emanuel explains his vision by stating, “The value in

arts education goes beyond learning to play an instrument or perform on stage, because when you invest in the arts, you invest in the potential of a child. These experiences help students find their voice, enhance their education and tap into their undiscovered talents, and this $10 million commitment will help infuse arts into more of our schools.” Although, this is a fantastic investment, many schools two years later in 2017, are still not meeting the recommended weekly arts minutes. Organizations such as Donda’s House Inc. are hoping to change this. Rather than solely focusing on arts programming in school, Donda’s house is providing unprecedented access and education through extracurricular programs that they are also tying

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017

into the school systems. Launched in 2013 by multi Grammy-award & Oscar winning artist Che “Rhymefest” Smith and distinguished educator, Donnie Smith, Donda’s House, Inc. provides unprecedented access and education from leading experts in the music, fashion, and entertainment industry to Chicago’s creative youth and young adults. The organization was named after the late Dr. Donda West, the mother of Kanye West and a distinguished educator. The Donda’s House organization hopes to carry on Dr. West’s passion for helping young individuals reach for their dreams. Dr. Donda West will be remembered as the mother of Kanye Omari West, but she also stands on her own merit as a doctor of education, professor of English, curriculum designer,



entertainment manager, and world traveler who inspired her students to fulfill their potential. Donnie Smith Executive Director and Co-Founder of Donda’s House, took some time out of her busy schedule to sit down and talk with Halfstack about her experiences at Donda’s House and how the organization is making an impact on the local Chicago community. Donda’s House has direct access to the most accomplished professionals, artists and curators in the industry and leverages these connections to provide training, incentives and employment opportunities for the programs participants who are 14 – 24 years old. The organization has served over 500 youth artists through its curriculum-based programs. Donda’s House also curates large-scale community events including AAHH! Fest in partnership with Common and the Common Ground Foundation, Peace on the Beach and Teens in the Park (TIP) Fest with Chicago Park District and in 2017, the organization partnered with Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and AARP to create an intergenerational music program called Bridges which connects youth to established Blues Artists, resulting in performances at the historic Chicago Blues Festival. To date, Donda’s House has offered satellite programming at the ARK of St. Sabina, Harold Washington Library and Columbia College.

The core of the Donda’s House team includes: Che Rhymefest Smith and Donnie Smith. In 2005, Che won a Grammy for co-writing the historic record “Jesus Walks,” performed by his childhood friend Kanye West. He has served as co-writer on many of Kanye’s albums including: Late Registration, Graduation, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus. Donnie is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Donda’s House. She brings over 10 years of experience as an educator, writer and youth advocate. Donnie has served as an English teacher in the Chicago Public School District in both alternative schools and Magnet Schools for 12 years. She’s always been very passionate about literature, literacy and the power of words. Despite the success she has seen, Donnie’s early life in Kansas City, Missouri and Minneapolis, Minnesota began as tumultuous as many of the inner city students she has mentored during her tenure in the Chicago Public School System as well as her time at the Donda’s House organization. Donnie is a first generation college student and came to Chicago to pursue her education at DePaul University 16 years ago. To say her story and experiences are an inspiration is an understatement. Growing up, Donnie was the child of a mother who was held in the grips of a crack addiction. Donnie’s life wasn’t easy, from the difficulties she faced growing up to being a survivor of sexual as-

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017

sault, she’s always found a way to overcome. She never allowed herself to become a victim of her circumstances. She credits journaling and writing poetry as the two things that were her saving grace. They kept her focused and allowed her to take the trauma she experienced and turn the hardships into something productive. Facing the harsh reality of potentially being put into the foster care system after her mother was incarcerated, Donnie’s grandmother took her granddaughter under her wing. When asked if there were any truly influential people or mentors who have had a great impact on her life over the years, Donnie explained her grandmother was at the top of the list. Despite the darkness that Donnie has faced over the years, her inner light shines bright and that allows her to be a beacon for young individuals who are facing similar circumstances. Donnie’s ability to be open and honest with her students about her experiences allows her to connect with them on a much deeper level than many realize. The transformative aspect of her story and the ownership she takes of her personal narrative gives students the motivation necessary to see that they can be whom they want to be no matter what hardships they may face. Donnie explains that she carries all of those experiences with her every day in the work that she does at Donda’s House and she, “is grateful that [she’s]



Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


had those experiences because ultimately [she’s] like the young people that [Donda’s House] serves.” This allows her to understand each student’s journey and needs so much better than someone looking from the outside in. Donda’s House is inspired by Dr. Donda West’s vision, but the organization’s driving force is a marriage between the expertise of Che and his talent with creative writing and music along with Donnie’s experience and talent in education and curriculum development. The organization has several programs that cater to young people ages 14-24 years old to provide training, incentives and employment opportunities in the creative arts. Focusing on the music, fashion and entertainment industry, the organization provides students with access and education from some of the leading talent in these industries. Donda’s House is best known for their Got Bars program. This is their signature music/lyric composition and performance program. The curriculum is based on the teaching philosophy and pedagogy of Dr. Donda West with a focus on collaborative and experiential learning. Combining both creative writing and studio recording, the participants of the program compose original music starting from initial idea building up to recording tracks followed by the final performance showcase featuring their new portfolio of original songs. The (PRO)ject US program is in partnership with Chicago Public Library’s YOUMedia and Commonwealth Foundation. It


is a hybrid fashion, music and media program where youth between the ages of 14 – 23 create apparel, music and media for established brands. Students have worked with brands such as Leaders 1354, Sir & Madame and Kenneth Cole. In combination with the educational aspect of the program students also have the opportunity to coordinate and engage in trunk shows, fashion shows and other showcasing events. This provides a platform for young creatives to engage the fashion, media and music industries. This program was one of the first places that Chance the Rapper recorded his first mix tape. Having access to a free studio as a teenager allowed him to pursue his music from a young age. Other programs include the Behind the Mic series where high profile musicians and executives such as Big Sean, No ID and Big K.R.I.T work with the organization to coordinate small intimate keynotes and Q&A sessions with the program participants. In 2018, the organization is looking forward to launching a podcast, the Now What program and Chicago Hip Hop Tours. The podcast will allow young people to learn the new business of radio while the Now What program is dedicated to professional workshops that will build off of the momentum of the Behind the Mic series. The Donda’s House programming is available to any young person 14-24 who is interested in the arts. The goal is to ensure that things like income or circumstances do not get in the way of a young person pursuing a passion or having access to the arts. Everything that Donda’s

House does for their students is 100% free to them and includes a robust variety of curriculum and development opportunities. Upon completion of the program, students who are involved become a part of a wide peer network that is truly the backbone of the creative community. This network is an invaluable aspect of the program that the young people will truly benefit from for years to come. When it comes to success in many of these industries, it is often whom you know and not always what you know. Donda’s House is opening up the doors to the often-mysterious creative world that can seem impossible to break into. By building a peer network, the organization empowers young people to not only pursue opportunities, but to create them as well. Rather than waiting around to be discovered, many participants are creating opportunities for themselves through collaborative efforts with others in the network. They are not waiting on finding someone who has already “made it” to help them make it. Rather, they are “crowdsourcing” the talent as well as opportunities and working together to bring one another up. Donda’s House is diligently working to not only impact their student participants, but to also make a positive impact on the local Chicago communities and beyond. On November 28, 2017 (Giving Tuesday) the organization announced a new partnership with Walter Dyett High School for the Arts, located at 51st and King Drive in the Bronzeville community. Donda’s House will have office space

within the school and will be offering programming both during the school day and after school. This opens up opportunities for the local student population to get everything they need in terms of academics, extracurricular activities and arts programming right within their school and community. As programming like this is hard to come by within many Chicago public schools, this allows Donda’s House to anchor their already developed and strong programs to the community and provide students with positive after school options. In addition to their partnership announcement, the organization has also been working to acquire the homes of famous musicians and historical icons to turn them into living museums and park spaces dubbed “Lighthouses”. In November 2016, the organization closed on Kanye West’s childhood home in the South Shore community. This will be Lighthouse Donda’s House and is set to be a 3-5 year project due to required renovations, fundraising and the like. The goal behind this project is to create connections between the influential individuals and the communities to draw in opportunities for the surrounding population. Often, in low-income communities the idea behind success and making it is to “escape the hood”. Yet, through these types of community spaces and endeavors, the hope to is keep influencers, musicians, artists and creatives in the community to build them up. This in turn will aid in diversifying the neighborhoods and creating development opportunities as well. Donnie explains that, “the lighthouses

will be anchors within the neighborhoods that are visible no matter the storm and ultimately the catalyst for further economic development.” The basis behind all that Donda’s House does is truly embedded in mentorship. Connecting students with a vast and diverse network allows them to get guidance that inspires them for years to come. Donnie and Che both act as mentors in their daily work. The organization coordinates the Redefining Possible Mentorship Program in conjunction with AARP and Chicago Sky. When asked if Donnie has benefited from any mentors throughout her life she highlights Marian Wright Edelman as a constant source of inspiration throughout her journey. Marian Wright Edelman is an American activist for the rights of children. She has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. She is president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. The Children’s Defense Fund is one of the oldest organizations in the country dedicated to advocating on behalf of poor, at risk and minority youth. Donnie was a part of the CDF’s Freedom School Program during the 6th grade. The CDF Freedom Schools program seeks to build strong, literate, and empowered children prepared to make a difference in themselves, their families, communities, nation and world today. By providing summer and after-school reading enrichment for children who might otherwise not have access to books, the CDF Freedom Schools program plays a much needed role in helping to curb summer learning loss and

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017

close achievement gaps. This program is a key part of CDF’s work to ensure a level playing field for all children. It was during Donnie’s time in the Freedom School program that she connected with other young people like her and that her passion for social justice grew. She credits her experiences in this program as the spark that pushed her forward on her journey. She was one of the first Freedom School participants to get their coveted Beat the Odds Scholarship that allowed her to attend college upon graduating from high school. It was during this time that she first shared her dark experiences and difficult journey. Donnie explains that it was because of Marian that she was able to truly embrace her history and that the traumas she experienced were nothing to be ashamed of because she couldn’t control them and ultimately they helped mold her into the person she was. She continues to keep in touch with Ms. Edelman and from time to time is invited to help fundraise for the organization and speak at events to raise awareness for their cause. Due to Donnie’s personal experiences and life journey, she has an intimate understanding of the issues her students and program clients face on a daily basis. Donda’s House is an organization that makes it a point to cast a wide net for their network, not only for their program participants, but also for the organization itself. They are truly laser focused on their mission, but that doesn’t mean that their program clients aren’t facing difficulties outside of the


Photo by: Pearl T. Shin On site at Donda’s House Giving Tuesday Event Donnie & Che Smith with Sorority Sister: Kathy Coley of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.


Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


program. While, Donda’s House may not be able to meet 100% of the needs of their clients, they have built amazing relationships with other community programs. The organization has done this so that they can connect their clients with other organizations during times of struggle or when they are facing an obstacle that Donda’s House may not have expertise in. The truly collaborative nature of the organization is evident in these types of situations and highlights the positive impact Donda’s House is making in Chicago. The myth of the starving artist is something that still continues to persist. Donnie and the volunteers at Donda’s house are working hard to put this myth to bed. In the essence of empowerment, they work to educate their program participants and graduates on how they can create a living through their art. One graduate, Matt Muse is a true success story having found his voice and building a career with the Young Chicago Authors organization as a teaching artist. This idea stays true to Donnie’s goal of opening up opportunities for the creative individuals she connects with day to day. She’s a firm believer in building a bigger table. When she sees an opportunity to bring in young people of color, women and other creatives into experiences where there is not enough diversity, she takes it on as a personal challenge to be the catalyst to spark the change. She’s working to help young people close the gap between their dreams and reality along with making room for more people at the table.


Donnie’s work and the work of the organization is never done, her goals for the organization stretch far beyond her. She looks at Donda’s House from a macro perspective and is working on the big picture. The organization is one that she hopes will outlive her and grow from a global perspective. When asked about the greatest success she has seen to date, she mentions a trip to West Africa that was coordinated with the Abolition Institute to create awareness about the issues of modern slavery in the country of Mauritania. This trip was meant to investigate the situation and gain perspective, but also ended with an opportunity to create a song with local artists who were formerly enslaved.

You can make a donation directly online and your donation will help with programming, transportation stipends for students, and compensating the young artists and event coordinators who work with the organization. In many instances Donda’s House is one of the first true employers and paychecks that these young artists are experiencing. Currently, the organization is coordinating their annual end of the year campaign: Rewrite the Narrative. Their hope is to get 500 people to donate $20 before December 31st to meet their fundraising goals.

She hopes the organization can return to Mauritania with young people from Chicago to meet with those very same artists and continue with the collaboration. Donda’s House was started because of a need for an arts focused program in the community and they are working to fulfill that need daily. She sees success as being able to positively impact the youth that they currently work with, but she understands that if there are still young people to serve, than Donda’s House still has work to be done. Donnie is hoping to continue to build up her team, so that one day, the youth she is helping today, will be the youth taking over Donda’s house tomorrow to carry on the legacy of the program.


If you are interested in learning more about Donda’s House you can visit the organization online at: www.dondashouseinc.org

You can also learn more and keep up with the organization on social media at: www.instagram.com/dondashouse https://www.facebook.com/dondashouse/

The organization utilizes social media to activate, advocate and bring awareness to issues that young people and creatives are facing in the community – specifically stereotypes and breaking down those barriers. The visually striking and emotionally moving Rewrite the Narrative campaign was produced by alumni of Donda’s House and will be showcased online during their campaign from Nov. 30th through Dec. 31st 2017. Check out our behind the scenes video of our interview with Donnie Smith on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=UEfBey6kyrI

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


Intro Written & Interview By: Jennifer Lezan-Veguilla Layout By:

Puerto Rico Rising

Kandace McVickar

Chicago’s Puerto Rican Community Works to Help an Island Their Roots are Connected to Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to hit the U.S. territory in almost a century, ravaged the island of Puerto Rico, demolishing homes and knocking out all electricity. It could take half a year to restore power to the nearly 3.5 million people who live there. It was difficult and heart wrenching watching so many people endure not knowing if their family was ok. Even in the aftermath, when the storm died down, the residents of the island faced difficulties for weeks on end. No electricity, no water and the relief efforts seemed unorganized leaving many people to wonder if they would make it out of the mess ok. The island was and still is in dire straits. The power grid on the island is still in shambles and many people are living in conditions that no one should or could even imagine. At one point, the main exception in terms of power was the generators powering only the highest-priority buildings like hospitals. That meant that in many places there was no water to drink or bathe in or to flush toilets. There was and still is limited food, fuel, and cell service. It typically took several days for reporters and rescue workers to be able to reach remote towns and villages. Puerto Rico’s infrastructure has been severely impacted. These are major problems that will make living even in a house that has not been ruined more difficult in the coming weeks and months for the people of Puerto Rico. The storm knocked out 80 percent of the island’s power transmission lines, the Associated Press reports. Weeks into the catastrophe, nearly all of the island’s 1.57 million electricity customers were still without power according to energy.gov. Fresh water was and is still scarce and cell phone towers have been knocked out making communication with anyone on the island difficult.


“Make no mistake — this is a humanitarian disaster involving 3.4 million US citizens,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said in an interview. There are 3.4 million US citizens who live in Puerto Rico. The reality is that they are entitled to the same government response as any state. But half of Americans don’t even know that and it seems as if aid to the island has been occurring incredibly slowly. Many organizations in Chicago have been working hard to coordinate donations on their own in an effort to go beyond what they hoped the government would do or to at the very least work in tandem with the Red Cross Relief efforts to find a way to help the island. Two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit, aid remained a bureaucratic quagmire. Many claimed it was being mismanaged by FEMA, the FBI, the US military, the unfortunate corrupt local government. The island was like a scene from a movie, destitute imagery stuck somewhere between the nineteenth century and the apocalypse. In Mid November, 2 months post Maria, protestors marched on Washington D.C’s National Mall to draw attention to the situation in Puerto Rico. “The Unity for Puerto Rico March” featured politicians as well as boldface names, including Lin-Maria Manuel, whose agenda was to turn a spotlight on the devastated island territory, and work to update the 1920 law called the Jones Act, which mandates that American ships distribute all its goods.

The Jones act has been hurting Puerto Rico for decades. The hurricane only tore open old wounds with a vengeance and once again people are organizing to reveal the realities that have been hidden in plains sight. A 2012 study from the New York Federal Reserve found that shipping a container from the US East Coast to Puerto Rico cost $3,063. But shipping the same container on a foreign ship to the Dominican Republic nearby cost only $1,504. More broadly, the island loses $537 million per year as a result of the Jones Act, according to a different study conducted in 2010 at the University of Puerto Rico Puerto Rican businesses and consumers feel the impact of the Jones Act daily. Yet, it gets very little attention on the mainland. The Puerto Rican economy is fragile. Even if the Jone’s act is only adding mere change to everything the people use on the island, the reality is that this amounts to thousands of dollars a year in an economy that can’t afford it. The unfortunate issue only became even more evident in light of catastrophe. US Government officials temporarily waived the law to make it easier to ship emergency supplies, but this was only a 10 day waiver in a situation that is likely to affect the island for YEARS to come. The hope of those marching was to bring attention to the issues the island is still facing and to put a spotlight on the Jone’s Act. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) has been a long time supporter of repealing the law explained, ““It is unacceptable to force the people of Puerto Rico to pay at least twice as much for food, clean drinking water, supplies and infrastructure due to Jones Act requirements as they work to recover from this disaster.” A solution has yet to be found, but Puerto Ricans near and far have been taking relief efforts into their own hands. Despite the fact that the island is in ruins, residents on the island and friends, family members and people afar in places such as Chicago have taken a DIY approach to the relief efforts. Restaurants, organizations, local communities began working together to feed hundreds of people a day on their own dime as the rations from FEMA consisted of things such as: skittles, pudding, cheez-it crackers, beef jerky, and tuna chunks. Organizations coordinated by the people of the island have worked to provide free meals to people throughout the communities, distribute goods donated by locals and those abroad and even organize brigades to clear roads. The people of the island are and have always been hard working, strong and thrifty. Their ability to get back on their own two feet despite what seems like defeat due to hurricane Maria only proves that the people of Puerto Rico son fuertes (they are strong). The efforts of the islanders have been matched by help from the diaspora in places such as Chicago. One gentleman in particular, Julian Seda, made it a point to activate his connections, community and fellow Puerto Ricans in the Windy City. He has been leading a group of volunteers focused on Puerto Rico relief efforts known as: Puerto Rico Rising Chicago. The group, which started as a grassroots movement, has now grown into multiple chapters in cities around the US mainland including Miami. Julian took some time to tell us more about the efforts of Puerto Rico Rising and how we can do more to help the island:

Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you went about launching Puerto Rico Rising Chicago? I’m Julian Seda and I’m a Puerto Rican living in the United States since 2011. I moved to Chicago in May 2011, right after finishing my Bachelor’s at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus. I spent a year and a half in Los Angeles, CA from mid-2015 until the end of 2016 before returning to Chicago on January 2017. Currently, I’m a Manager at the firm Deloitte. Since September 22nd, 2017 I have been leading a group of volunteers in Chicago focused on Puerto Rico relief efforts, known as Puerto Rico Rising Chicago. This group started as a grassroots movement, right after Hurricane Maria, when I was contacted by a cousin of mine in Miami, who was organizing a group of people in Miami to coordinate relief efforts. I decided to get involved and create a chapter in Chicago. Other friends in other cities were also getting involved and creating their own chapters.

Can you tell us more about the work that the organization is doing and how they are working in communities in Chicago and beyond? Since starting the group, we have worked with different groups and organizations in Chicago and Puerto Rico to help the people affected by Hurricane Maria. We held 2 donation drives that allowed us to collect over 68,000 pounds of supplies that have been shipped to the island and will be distributed in the coming weeks for those in need. We’re also working to ship around 45,000 pounds of water later this week (week of Nov. 13) with the help of a local company that specializes in water solutions, Darley, and folks from United for Puerto Rico. We’ve also held fundraisers to help with the relief efforts and have been getting involved in the community to help in any way possible, whether is for people on the island or people that came from the island to Chicago.

Can you share more about your vision for PR Rising? My vision is for this to create a movement that brings unity and awareness about the issues and realities that affect the people of Puerto Rico and the island itself. It’s really about creating a community that looks for ways to help others in any form possible. I don’t know what the long term will be for the group, but I hope that it has made an impact to open the doors for anyone to get involved in issues like what Puerto Rico is going through and others that people face day in, day out.


Can you shed some light and share some insights to the realities that the island is facing that we don’t necessarily see on traditional media? How long do you think this disaster will continue to impact the economy, people and government of PR? Puerto Rico is a beautiful island with great and happy people. Unfortunately, it is also an island that has been facing many different challenges throughout the years and these are things that will take time to get addressed. A disaster like the hurricane just added more challenges to the island, unfortunately. Beyond the beaches, the beautiful landscape and the people, there are things like the economy, infrastructure and government that all have their challenges and need help. The reality is that many of these things have been deficient before the hurricane, but I feel like the disaster has helped, to an extent, bring more clarity and awareness into what issues the island is facing. Some of these, like the economy are well known, but things like education and housing are not talked about; these are things that need help and are very important. The media will always focus on what brings in the news and attention of people, also focusing on what is well known, such as things in the capital, politics, etc. but what isn’t receiving as much attention are the people that almost 2 months after the hurricane are still struggling to survive and are looking for a place to sleep. I think the hurricane has definitely added more weight to the challenges that Puerto Rico is facing with all of its issues that existed before, but this also gives an opportunity for rebuilding better than ever before. It is also an opportunity to do things differently. It won’t be easy, it will take time but it is possible.

How deep is the impact felt on the island, and how are organizations such as yours working to combat the hardships? One of the great things I’ve seen is that there are many organizations, all over, focused on helping the island. From sending much needed supplies to the island to exploring ways to rebuild the island. I’m very pleased to see so many people from everywhere looking to help. I can say that from speaking to friends and family in the island, everyone there is very grateful for the efforts that have been put in place by many different organizations.

What has been the most difficult aspect of getting aid and funds to PR? What have you done to overcome? I think everyone has had their own challenges, but I would say the logistics have been the biggest challenge of all. This is evidenced by the news that has been published around the docks and ports being a bottleneck due to different reasons. What we have done in order to minimize the chances of encountering such issues is to send our shipment through a private moving company that handles shipments end to end on a regular basis and has warehouses in PR. While it was a longer process, I felt it was the safest method to get things to the island.

Do you feel that the current administration has done enough for Puerto Rico? If not, what else do you think they should be doing? I really don’t play politics (nor am a fan of them). So, I won’t get into it, but I will say that the efforts done, so far, by them have a great amount of room for improvement. Moments like these are about uniting people and focusing on solutions, not problems.


What is happening to the citizens being displaced off the island, how is your organization looking to help those who are coming to places like Chicago? There are many folks from PR that have left the island to the US. We have been talking and working with other organizations to see how we can help people coming to the Chicago area. We’ve been focused on identifying centers and places where people can get information and help during these times and have been helping spread the word through our channels, like our Facebook page, which has a great group of followers.

What can people do to continue to help the people of Puerto Rico? How can people get involved in helping organizations such as PR Rising Chicago? Are there any additional suggestions you can offer in terms of people communicating their desires to support aid to the island to local US government officials as well? I think every effort counts! People can continue looking for ways to help PR, whether it’s making donations, volunteering, or even just spreading the word- everything helps! Puerto Rico Rising Chicago right now is focused on finalizing the distribution of the shipment sent and raising funds for our efforts. We will continue to work on our mission and keep our supporters updated. There are many organizations inside and outside the island that are working to help the island; my suggestion is to find one that aligns with how you would like to help and get involved. The recovery process for PR will be a long one so we should all continue to do what we can for as long as we can. If you have questions, ask! Someone will be able to point you in the right direction.

Finally, where can we learn more about your organization online and can you share any upcoming events through December/January that you will be organizing? You can learn more about our group through our Facebook page: facebook.com/PuertoRicoRisingChicago You can review our posts for updates and send us a message in case you have questions. We are currently planning various fundraising events so please follow our page and be on the lookout for more!


COMMUNITY PROGRAMS The Light of the Heart Community Art Therapy Written By: Louis Vasseur Photography By: Dwight Bejec






Hedlund pursued her calling and learned that art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses art therapists and the creative process of art-making to holistically make changes to the mind, heart, body and soul that foster growth, healing, mindfulness, connections, or whatever you may need in that moment in time. Yet, Hedlund still felt something was missing from her path. She had worked in a variety of settings, everything from relational trauma to an inpatient psychiatric hospital to working with cancer patients. “I just never felt at home,” explains Hedlund. “Each job was amazing. But I knew that each was temporary for me and that I was working towards something. I didn’t know what at the time so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and kept moving and learning”. In 2010, Hedlund received a call from a friend who asked if she would be interested in being the Art Director for a summer camp at a church in the east-side community of Aurora, IL, a western suburb of Chicago. Despite the camp being located in a “bad neighborhood”, Hedlund felt curious and adventurous. She accepted the job. The children in the camp came from at-risk families that were severely under-resourced. The only meal that many of the children had all day long was at the camp. Some had experienced violence and significant trauma in their young lives. It was Hedlund’s job to create art with these children. She went to work. “The children arrived at the camp defeated, looking at their feet and not very excited about being there,” remembers Hedlund. “By the end of the two weeks, they left singing, smiling, dancing, and with a sparkle in their eyes. They were living in the moment and connected to the light”. Hedlund’s life was changed forever as she discovered what had been missing in her career up to that point. The Light of the Heart was born in Aurora’s east-side community working with those children. This not-for-profit community art therapy project provides high quality art therapy programs to at-risk and under-served youth in the Aurora community.







IT IS MY LIFE’S MISSION TO CONNECT PEOPLE WITH THE LIGHT OF THEIR HEARTS THROUGH ART Since its inception in 2010, The Light of The Heart has worked to provide a positive and creative outlet for at-risk youth in the Aurora community. “I believe art and love can change the world,” says Hedlund, the organization’s Executive Director/Founder. A community art therapy project, The Light of The Heart is the only organization of its kind doing this kind of work in their community. With the rise of gun violence and gang violence, there is an incredible need to provide a creative outlet for youth to express their pain and anger. The Light of The Heart strives to fill that need. Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. The creative process involved in expressing one’s self artistically can help people to resolve issues as well as develop and manage their behaviors and feelings, reduce stress, and

improve self esteem and awareness. Art therapy can achieve different things for different people. It can be used for counseling by therapists, healing, treatment, rehabilitation psychotherapy, and in the broad sense of the term, it can be used to massage one’s inner self. In a way that may provide the individual with a deeper understanding of his or herself. Using art as a tool to work with at-risk and under-resourced populations is not new. Social pioneer Jane Addams understood the power of art to germinate ideas. Consequently, painting, music, and theater became powerful factors in the vitality of Addams’ Hull House “It is my life’s mission to connect people with the light of their hearts through art therapy,” explains Hedlund. “The Light of The Heart’s mission became to provide a safe

and encouraging environment for individuals to uncover the light of their hearts through the creative process of art making.” While many challenges remain, Hedlund prefers to focus on some of the program’s successes. She tells of a middle school boy who was referred to The Light of the Heart. The young man was being raised by a single mother and was being targeted for gang recruitment. Historically a good student, once in middle school his grades slipped dramatically. Even more disturbing, he suddenly refused to talk. As she worked with him, Hedlund discovered he had a talent for creating art. Plus, he seemed to enjoy it. As they continued to work together, the young man’s art became more expressive, providing him an outlet to express his personal hurt and anger. Both his disposition and his grades improved dramatically with his new-found

expression. “Art saves these kids,” says Hedlund emphatically. Hedlund plans to continue to grow The Light of the Heart to address the many challenges young people face day in and day out. Currently all of The Light of the Heart’s services are focused on their Schools Program and Mobile Art Therapy Program. However, Hedlund knows there is so much more they can do. For example, she would love to reopen the art therapy studio the program closed a few years ago. For now, Hedlund watches the smiling faces of the children as they create their art and feels grateful for all the good. To learn more about The Light of the Heart and their programs, visit: www.thelightoftheheart.org


WRITTEN BY: STELLY QUIMBY Non Proft Spotlight: Salt & Light Coalition




It doesn’t take a big person to make a difference, it just takes a person with a heart WE ARE SALT. WE ARE LIGHT. AND THANKS TO YOU, WE ARE A COALITION.


Serendipity was just 10 years old when her mother sold her into prostitution to support a drug addiction. Her mother was initiated as a prostitute as a child and subsequently had many children. Her mother’s pimp lived with them and at a young age started sexually abusing her. When Serendipity was 12, she already had 2 kids. She didn’t know that sex lead to pregnancy, with the abuse and prostitution, it was inevitable. She was following her mother’s path. 1 OUT OF 3 CHILDREN WHO RUN AWAY FROM HOME WILL BE LURED INTO FORCED PROSTITUTION WITHIN 48 HOURS. At 20, Serendipity was gang raped and left for dead. She was buried in a shallow grave and thankfully a man walking his dog encountered her hand sticking out of the grave. She was still alive. Serendipity was in and out of treatment for years, now at the age of 56 she finally was able to stop that cycle. Thanks to Salt & Light Coalition and their partners. CHICAGO RANKS THIRD IN THE COUNTRY FOR THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING. Dr. Izabel Olson practicing yoga This brings us to Dr. Izabel Olson. She was an educator, born and raised in Rio de Janeiro. Izabel holds a PhD in Education with a background in the health and wellness sector that includes experience with dance, holy yoga, health coaching, and competitive bodybuilding. Izabel grew disillusioned with academia and in 2014, upon earning her PhD; she decided that the best way to create an impact was by working at the grass roots’

level. Being a lifelong fitness enthusiast, she began teaching holy yoga at the Cook County Jail in 2015. She taught women in a recovery program at Chicago Dream Center (a nonprofit that assists victims of human trafficking and more).While instructing Yoga there, she learned that the majority of incarcerated women, were survivors of human trafficking. Over 25,000 women and girls fall prey each year to human trafficking in Chicago (statistic taken from the Salt & Light website). “Two women, every hour in Chicago, are trafficked every year” Izabel stated the shocking fact.

program for rescued women from tracking. The program teaches coping skills for PTSD and practical job training for securing work in the health and wellness industry. “We manifest change by providing a volunteer-driven, oneyear long program for survivors of trafficking with the dual goal of healing and empowering women to get jobs in the wellness sector.” Salt & Light provides 6 months of

One third of them first getting trafficked by the age of 15 years, and 62% by the age of 18 years.

care and counseling, followed by six weeks of individual mentorship and job-readiness training in health and wellness career paths.

She also started noticing a trend; her students were scared about their future. Her students had anxiety related to their future beyond the program. “People assume that when the women finished their program, they are ready for the workforce. Most have no work experience and are not sure how things are going to work” Izabel explains. 70% of the women have PTSD symptoms, but no money to pay for treatment. So, what happens after they leave the treatment program at the jail? The majority go back to what they know best, and like Serendipity, many only know the sex trafficking trade. Over 50% of all victims in human trafficking incidents reported to the NHTRC are U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPR). Izabel then knew something had to be done. There had to be something for these women after they left the program in jail. She then decided to create the Salt & Light Coalition. This is a yearlong

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017

There are two phases in the programs. In the first phase participants learn skills they can use to overcome trauma. They are taught for 3 hours a day, twice a week, for 6 months. The participants also receive a $10/per hour stipend to help with costs so they don’t have to go back to selling their bodies on the street while trying to transition their lives. They also receive a CTA pass for train and bus transportation. The women are taught trauma-sensitive yoga to heal PTSD symptoms and cope with anxiety and depression. They also learn about exercising, healthy eating and spirituality. In the second phase, participants are mentored by an expert in their field of choice and are given the support to attend training to become holy yoga teachers, personal trainers, or another profession in the health and wellness sector of their choice. Women attend a 200hr yoga teacher training for 20 weeks learning teaching


Serendipity was in and out of treatment for years, now at the age of 56 she finally was able to stop that cycle. Thanks to Salt & Light Coalition and their partners.


techniques and methodology, yoga philosophy, anatomy, yoga business and marketing. Each woman is placed as a teacher at a partner organization & an affiliate yoga studio and is mentored throughout the first six months of her first job. Also, if they do not wish to pursue a career in yoga, they can choose another career. Izabel stated that out of the group they have, one is a talented writer and she is placing her with an accomplished writer that she knows. The first group of 5 women began the program this July 6, 2017; the coalition is very young. “We started a coalition and become bigger than ourselves by doing what we do best.� Izabel credits her partners in the coalition for helping her make a difference in the community. Partners include; Holy Yoga (they provide the training certification for the women to become yoga instructors), Shytown Fitness (also provide training for patients), and other trafficking partners such as TrafficFree, Stopit and more. I T I S E S T I M AT E D T H AT THERE ARE 4,400 STREET PROSTITUTES ACTIVE IN CHICAGO IN AN AVERAGE WEEK.

Cannot volunteer time, no worries. You can still donate here: https://saltandlightcoalition. com/donation-store

Photos provided by: Victoria Chukarov vc@victoriacphotos.com http://Victoriacphotos.com

If you want to attend their latest fundraiser, which is taking place on February 10th, you can find additional information here: www.saltandlightcoalition.com/ events 70% OF SURVIVORS OF TRAFFICKING SUFFER FROM PTSD.

Inspired? Ready to help make a difference in your community? You can volunteer either in the office or if you are a fitness professional or a nurse you can share your expertise with the women. Contact http:// saltandlightcoalition.com/volunteer There are also mentoring positions that you can volunteer for here: https://saltandlightcoalition. com/mentor

Halfstack Magazine | December 2017


Beauty Beat

Holiday Gifts for the Beauty Lover By: Michelle Swoons

Layout: Kandace McVickar This is the best time of the year for gifts, and if you have a beauty lover in your life, I have some suggestions for you! Holiday is the best time of the year for me, that means that I can cash in and finally get what I’ve been waiting for. Usually, it’s my favorite makeup item or a gift card to my favorite shop! Here are my suggestions for the beauty lover in your life for the holiday season..

1. Commodity Fragrance This place is so bomb.com and they have something for everyone. I suggest getting over to Sephora and checking out the perfumes. The candles are great too, but if you’re going to spend the money, why not get that awesome perfume? I’m sure most of us would appreciate a perfume more than a candle. Well, I know I would! They have some amazing gift sets as well, so you can get the most bang for your buck!

Caviar and Rubies Eyeshadow Pallette

OR Limited Edition Moon Glow Highighter


2. Bobbi Brown Holiday Bobbi Brown has some of the best of the best when it comes to beauty. I am in love with all of their highlighting products, and I am really into their skincare products as well. They have the best holiday sets around usually! So, strap in, this is going to be a bumpy ride of “omg I need this too!” If you’re not sure what to get your beauty lover, I would suggest the Caivar and Rubies Eyeshadow Pallette or Limited Edition Moon Glow Highlighter in the collection this pallete is also great for someone who doesn’t have a lot of highlighters.

3. Kiehl’s Aside from having amazing skincare, Kiehl’s just partnered with Disney to help Feeding America. This limited edition packaging, with some of your all time favorite Kiehl’s products, features Mickey doing what he does best… Holiday! I remember watching holiday cartoon movies with my family, and Mickey’s were always the best. It would only be perfect to have him carrying some presents on my favorite body lotion right? This collection features 4 special gifts with Mickey and 100% of the proceeds go to Feeding America! Through the Disney x Kiehl’s collection, Kiehl’s will help provide 1,100,000 meals to families this holiday season through its nationwide network of food banks. That is amazing!

4. Zoya Zoya is the number one nail polish, in my opinion. The collection has some awesome holiday sets that I like to call stocking stuffer gold medals. They are at a great price and have a wide variety to choose from. Did y’all know that they made lipsticks to match the nail colors?! That has to be my favorite thing about this line! I personally love when my nails match my lips! There is something so classy about the coordination. I also really like the quad sets, and for $15 dollars you cannot go wrong. These are the best stocking stuffers for the beauty lover, everyone loves a good nail polish. I also have to admit that my stocking is always my favorite part of the holidays. As a kid, I loved coming downstairs and seeing it stuffed with goodies. I feel like a kid again just thinking about it on the fireplace!

5. Huda Beauty Huda has the best highlighter palettes on the market. They have large pans of 4 colors and you cannot go wrong with the sets. All you need to know is a general skin tone and you can find the perfect highlight from these options. For $45.00 you get a lot of highlight for the price! I know it sounds kind of crazy, but if you know makeup, than you know that $45.00 is not a lot for what you’re getting in this set. Trust the makeup experts! If you compare these sets to other highlights on the market, their counterparts are selling one pan highlighters for $38.00. For $7.00 more you are getting triple the amount of product and colors! In addition, you’ll get a gold star for best gift under the tree, believe me!


Beauty Beat Winter Skin Care Revival By: Michelle Swoons

Layout: Kandace McVickar Every year, we have to bring back some skin care ideas to help change that routine you are in during the cold winter months. Switching out your skin care for the seasons, really makes a big difference in your skin. How it feels, and its appearance over all is impacted by the weather, so these simple switches can make a world of difference. I even do this with my haircare routine! People tend to need more moisture in the winter, even if you’re oily… trust me! Try switching out a couple or things in your routine and you will find it is going to make a big difference. Many times people assume that because their skin is oilier they don’t need to worry about moisture or keeping their skin supple, but the truth is you do friend! Your skin could be producing more oil because you aren’t giving it what it needs.

Step 1:

Switch your cleanser for a cleansing oil. This will be a huge help in the winter. Plus you won’t be over moisturizing, you’ll just stop stripping your skin of its natural oils. I love the Ceramide cleansing oil from Elizabeth Arden or if you’re into a more natural cleanser that’s really going to get that job done I say grab some of Scratch Goods’ Cleansing Oil.


Step 2:

Add some boosters to your skincare. These are simple things you can do to mix up your routine. By adding something in front of that moisturizer you will get some extra vitamins into the skin. I like adding a serum to my routine in the winter, but you can also get some boosters to add to your moisturizer on your own. Among other things when you’re getting sick, these are like boosts or vitamins for the skin, that take your skincare to the next level. I love the Clarins Double Serum. The Lash and Brow Oil from Scratch Goods has really stepped up my lash game! It’s like food for my lashes. I just add it to my lashes at night while I am doing my skincare regime, and BOOM!



Step 3:

PUT THE LOTION ON THE SKIN! I opt for a heavier lotion, or oil in the winter months. I moisturize with an oil because it’s just better for me and my skin all around, but in the winter I slather it on. I think switching out your lotion based moisturizer for an oil is a really good idea. This simple change alone will make a huge difference in your skin. My Favorite oils are Scratch Goods Light and Heavy oils.

I’m also a huge fan of Clarins Blue Orchid Face Treatment Oil if your skin is dry, or the Lotus Face Treatment Oil if your skin is oily, These both are amazing! They are so easy to use. All you need tp do is put them on at night and sleep in them. When you wake up in the morning you’re a new person. These products transform your skin overnight.

I also really like the Elizabeth Arden staple... AKA a Makeup Artists BFF… 8 hour cream! This is the orignal formula that is my BEST friend for life. I NEVER leave home without it. It’s a very thick salve cream that I use in my professional kit for everything, really everything! You can shape brows with it, use it as a balm for the lips, cuticles, put a little on the lashes to make them look thicker and stand out. I just love this stuff. They’ve now formulated a line of this product, and I am loving all of that as well. Just check it out, you will thank me later, I promise.

Step 4:

Often the skin can look dull and somewhat dreary in the winter months. I say wake that skin up girl! Try adding some glow based skincare items to pump up that volume. I really like the glow that Bobbi Brown gives me. I use a lot of these skincare based items under my makeup, and my skin always looks flawless. I suggest trying the Vitamin Enriched Face Base as your new makeup primer. Your foundation will sit flawlessly on your face and you’ll thank me later. If you need a little boost of moisture in the morning, I also really like the Hydrating Face Cream to put on before I start my makeup routine. I usually do all my skincare at night. That way, in the morning I just apply some cream and get the party started. This particular product is awesome, it doesn’t clog my pores or make my makeup slide around at all.

The Illuminating Moisture Balm is another product that takes my makeup game to the next level, seriously! Depending on my day or my mood, I sometimes use this as my make-up primer and let the stars shine! It looks flawless under makeup. I can even add more glow on top of this and it’s just PERFECT to truly illuminate the highpoints of the face!

Ok so a little re-cap! 1. 2. 3. 4.

Switch out for a cleansing oil. Get yourself a little boost by adding a serum, or a lash oil to your regime, you can also add a boost to your moisturizer and complete it all in one step! Add a Beauty Oil to your skincare regime at night to sleep it in, or switch out your moisturizer for a heavier duty moisturizer. Focus on the glow!!!

Can you do that this winter?


Jack Black Beard Lube Conditioning Shave ($17, getjackblack.com) This product truly is amazing. It is a

pre-shave oil, shaving cream and skin conditioner all in one. When I received this, I decided I was actually going to try this as opposed to having my husband test it and I am now obsessed with this stuff. My skin felt so amazing afterwards and it helped prevent any nicks or razor burn.

Jack Black 5 Blade Razor ($18, getjackblack.com) When I received the sample of this

razor, I knew I was going to be the one to try it out and boy I am glad I did. This is by far the best razor I’ve used in quite a long time. It glides so easily over the skin and provides a close shave. Also, the blades don’t get clogged with hair or residue from shaving.

Au. Articles Fall/ Winter Body Cleanser ($28, store.auarticles.com)Enriched with essential oils, this “classy”

body cleanser feels and works like something you would get at a spa. Due to the essential oils, this cleanser won’t strip your skin of moisture. In fact it will help heal any dry patches you have. According to my tester it actually moisturized and cured dry patches they had on their body.

Au. Articles Fall/ Winter Face Moisture ($38, store.auarticles.com) Just like the body cleanser this face

moisturizer contains essential oils along with hyaluronic acid which is used to replenish moisture as well as revitalize the skin’s outer layer. This product will leave your skin feeling nice and soft.

Cremo Beard & Scruff Cream ($9.82, Amazon)

This lightweight formula contains natural oils, softens your beard while also conditioning it to help with beard growth. Another great thing about this product is that it goes on smoothly without clumping up or getting flaky in your beard.


Scotch & Porter Hydrating Shampoo ($18, scotchporter.com) When I read about this product, I knew ex-

actly who I wanted to try it and according to them this didn’t disappoint. This shampoo gently washes your hair without striping it of it’s natural oils. A pro tip off the S&P site: If you have coarse hair, only wash your hair no more than once a week. If you have fine or oily hair, wash your hair no more than every 5 days.

Scotch & Porter Nourish & Replenish Conditioner ($18, scotchporter.com) Just like the

shampoo this product doesn’t disappoint. This conditioner is actually a deep conditioning treatment that moisturizes, repairs and strengthens hair.

Scotch & Porter Hair Balm ($15, scotchporter. com) “This stuff is awesome.” Those were the exact words of the

man that I had test this out for me. This is coming from someone who doesn’t wash their hair every day, but styles it every day. This product is made for all hair types and will add a soft natural hold.


Must Haves A. Dr. Teal’s Pink Himalayan Mineral Soak ($.4.99, Target)

The holidays can be stressful which can affect your mood as well as your skin. Whenever I feel like I need to take a major breather I take a nice hot bath and add this product into the tub. Not only does it help relieve stress, it helps tired and achy muscles. I even notice that my skin is nice and soft after the bath. A little tip, I am not one to just sit without doing something. So, I actually like to read a book while soaking. Especially since the recommended soaking time for these salts is 20 minutes.


B. Lavera Lip Gloss in Soft Mauve

($7.94, OrganicHarmony. Net)

As much as I love bright colored lips, nowadays I tend to lean towards the more natural lip colors. I swear this has been the color I have been looking for. It is so pretty and very neutral. Also, this gloss is so different than most glosses I have used as it goes on super smooth and isn’t sticky at all. I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of sticky lip gloss.

C. L’ANZA Healing Style Thermal Defense Spray ($23, Ulta)

I rarely use hot tools on my hair and that includes blow drying it. However, with the holidays coming up I know that I will be curling my hair more than usual. One thing my hairstylist tells me to do, is make sure you use a thermal spray to protect your hair from heat damage. I love this spray, not only does it protect my hair from the heat it also helps it stay. If I curl my hair and use this I know that I will still be able to rock it the

for Her

Written By: Danielle Hazekamp Layout By: Aira Aquino next day and sometimes the day after that.

D. Aminocare Blueberry Boost Mask ($25, Aminocare.


This isn’t like your typical mask. For one it doesn’t dry on your face at all. It also stays the same consistency for the 10 to 15 minutes that you are wearing it. Then, instead of rinsing it off with warm water you rinse it off with cool water. As much as the process threw me off, I have to tell you, this mask worked wonders. The minute I rinsed it off my face, my skin was nice and plump as well as super soft.

E. Invisabobble Original Traceless Hair Ring ($8, Sephora) Now that I am mom, I tend to wear my hair up in a pony more than usual. Due to this I was starting to notice damage from my pony style. These hair rings will do no damage to your hair and surprisingly they can hold up my thick hair. I love, love, love these and tend to not use my regular ponytail holder any

longer. Also, if you check out their site they provide different hairstyles to try while using the hair ring.

F. FACE Atelier Ultra Skin First ($50-1oz, faceatelier.com

First off, this brand is highly recommended by pros in the industry. When I got my chance to get my hands on a sample I was very eager to try. I will say this foundation doesn’t disappoint. Perfect for the winter this foundation is silicone based meaning that it provides a silky feel and doesn’t need to be set with powder. This is nice because in the winter skin can get dry and setting with a powder can just make you look drier. Another benefit with this product is that this formula is long lasting. I was surprised at how well it stayed on and how lightweight it is. It really did feel like skin. Coming in a tube with a pump is nice benefit for application. You can apply it with a brush or even your fingers.

G. Dream Dry The Dream Turban ($30,

dreamdry.com) I barely ever blowdry my hair. I

can honestly say the only time my hair gets blow dried is when I get it done. That being said I have long thick hair and so when I get of out shower it is dripping wet even if I ring it out. That is why I love this. I put this on after I have towel dried my hair and will wear it until it is time to go to bed or leave the house. My hair when I take it off is usually wet, but not sopping wet like it would be. Also due to it being super soft it won’t damage your hair like a typical towel would

H. Beautycounter Body Oil ($73, beautycounter.com)

I usually don’t use body oil, but when I got my hands on this product I knew I had to give it a try. I am so glad that I did. Yes, it is an oil but it is an oil unlike any other. It goes on like a regular oil, but absorbs superfast into your skin, leaving your skin soft without that greasy feel. Also, if you are nervous about just applying a straight oil to your skin, you can add a few drops of it in your body lotion to boost the effect.


Q&A with

Dr. Lolis Written by: Danielle Hazekamp


Layout By: Aira Aquino

is a part of life and there is no way to physically stop it. However, that doesn’t mean I want to look my age. I want to age as gracefully as I can. Thanks to board-certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist, Dr. Margarita Lolis, you can learn how to slow down the aging process. Afraid it is too late? No worries! Dr. Lolis also shares her knowledge on reversing the signs of aging. If there is one thing to take away from this interview, it is to make sure you take good care of your skin.


Everyone needs to be utilizing a sunscreen, moisturizer, antioxidant such as resveratrol and ferulic acid, brightening cream. Let’s talk about antiaging, what are some things people should do to slow down the aging process?

So, there are two types of aging processes: internal and external. Internal aging is just an aspect of life that everyone goes through. External factors of aging are more easily controllable. This includes decreasing sun exposure, wearing sunscreen and smoking cessation. Cutting these out can slow down the aging process. In terms of controlling the internal factors of aging, that’s where skin care and non-invasive procedures come into play.

What are some key ingredients that we should be looking for in an anti-aging product?

Simple. Everyone needs to be utilizing a sunscreen, moisturizer, antioxidant such as

resveratrol and ferulic acid, brightening cream (ingredients include vitamin c, alpha hydroxyl acids, hydroquinone, and kojic acid), my personal favorite is Lytera, retinol to build collagen, as well a growth factor serum to increase collagen products.

What, if any procedures, do you recommend as far as to keep a youthful appearance? Chemical peels every two to three months. Fraxel treatments, which builds collagen and minimized pore* size. IPL to help improve overall tone of the skin (gets rid of browns and reds), and skin tightening such using radiofrequency devices.

Lastly, what are the most important things we should be doing in regard to taking care of our skin in general.

SUNSCREEN and SUN AVOIDANCE is paramount, no smoking, wearing hats, sunglasses to prevent crow’s feet, even applying sunscreen on hands to slow down breakage of collagen which causes thin crêpey skin, and dark spots. Don’t forget about the neck and décolletage. I’m a firm believer of preventative botox. Start early, that makes a huge difference!

Are there ways to reverse aging? If so, what do you recommend.

Reversing would include more aggressive treatments, such as ablative co2 lasers, erbium, and erbium micropeels.


“Sunscreen and sun avoidance is paramount. No smoking! wear hats and sunglasses to prevent crow’s feet. Apply sunscreen on hands to slow down breakage of collagen.”


“There are tw o types of agi ng processes: int ernal and exte rnal. Internal aging is just an asp ect of life that eve ryone goes th rough. External facto rs of aging ar e more easily c ontrollable.“ -Dr. Margarita Lolis, MD


. Q y t a K Q&A with

Written by: Danielle Hazekamp Layout by: Aira Aquino

I love learning about hair, especially when it comes to products, and styles. What I love even more is getting the opportunity to interview someone in the industry and then they deliver beyond what I could imagine. Thanks to Celebrity Hairstylist Katy Q, this is one of them. Katy Q. has worked with celebrities like Hailey Baldwin, Justin Bieber and other young celebrities as well as magazines like Elle & GQ. When off set she can be found at Salon Prive in the Sherry Netherland Hotel. Thanks to Katy Q, you can learn all about taking care of your hair and perfecting some winter trend hairstyles.

1. Winter can be harsh on your hair, what are some ways to winter-proof your hair? What products would you recommend? To help keep hair healthy and shiny during the winter, I always recommend my clients use a mask treatment two times per month and use the right products for their hair. Don’t over shampoo and use styling tools all of the time because it dries hair out and makes it brittle. I love to use the Klorane Dry Shampoo because it is clean and doesn’t produce build up or a residue on the hair like many other dry shampoos.


2. What are some hair color and style trends for winter? How can someone achieve these styles at home?

nd a l a Form ed t a c i t s Sophi

BELLA HADID’S 90’S BOB This is a cute, easy, fairly-low maintenance look. Hair is cut all one length with minimal layering at the front which makes it easy for you to style at home. HOW TO STYLE: •You can play around with your part. Put it to the side, in the middle, or no part all work. •You can wear it sleek, straight look with shaping around the face (Bella wore this look to the Met Gala) - To achieve this look, blow dry your hair with large round brush, shape hair around the face by rolling up hair in brush, letting hair cool while still in brush then gently releasing brush and guiding the hair so it shapes your face. Play around with backcombing around the crown. A little height adds a little more glam to this look.

d n a l a Casu Cool

BELLA HADID’S OFF-DUTY LOOK Add a little more texture to your hair. You can do this at home by using a mid-size curling iron to create a beachy bend to the hair. You can go a few days without washing and re-doing it. HOW TO STYLE: • Shake your head upside down and add dry shampoo. This will create more body and texture. • Play around with hair accessories (Think Cher from clueless. It’s very 90s). HERE ARE THE PRODUCTS I LOVE FOR THIS LOOK: •Dry shampoo (Klorane brand is my favorite.) •Privé finishing texture spray •Unite Beach Day Spray •R and Co Outer Space Hairspray

HOW TO GET THE GLOSSY TOP KNOT LIKE GIGI HADID OR JLO Healthy hair starts from your diet and overall scalp health. Don’t wash your hair every day. Allow the natural oils to penetrate through from the scalp down to the ends of the hair. Hair Remedy from Bubble Pop Beauty can also be used in this look to promote growth, shine, and elasticity, especially in colder months. A glossy top knot is a good look, especially for dirty hair. Use your hair’s natural oils to create a sleek looking ponytail. Then, you can put it in the top knot by twisting the hair in the ponytail, backcombing the twisted ponytail - all in one section is fine - then tying a knot with the hair and securing it with a pin. Hair looks effortless but still done and polished. This also gives you a little facelift.


3. Your hair color and style should complement your skin tone and face shape, how would one figure out what color and style works best for them? Look at your eye color and skin tones to determine the best hair color. You can also look at celebrities with similar skin tones and eye color to determine your best hair color. It will give you an idea of what that hair color will look like. 4. A lot of people don’t have the time to style their hair every day, what are some tips or tricks that can help eliminate time spent? Use a dry shampoo. Instead of washing your hair with regular shampoo in the shower, spray dry shampoo into your hair and have fun with a textured top knot. Dry shampoo is a great way to add volume to even the thinnest and lifeless hair.


Have thin spots of hair? Eyeshadows are great to fill in the hairline and cover gaps. This will help give you the perfect selfie look. We do this often in photo shoots and fashion shows. Use a toothbrush to finish off your hairstyle and tame flyaways. Apply hairspray to the toothbrush and gently comb the hairline, part and tame any rogue flyaways with the bristles of the toothbrush. This is another trick we use on photo shoots because it tames the frizz without flattening the hair and weighing it down. (Any toothbrush works). 5. In general, what are some great hair care tips that you believe that everyone should follow? Eliminate heat styling tools when you can. Don’t shampoo your hair every day. Put your hair in a voluminous ponytail to get the ultimate off-

duty celebrity-perfect hair. Backcomb the pony, stick a pin in the base then cover the pin with your hair. Clip-in extensions are a great way to add volume and length to any hair type. They will not damage your hair. You can prepare them the night before, then clip them in in the morning, and then be on your way. Clip-in extensions are great to thicken hair, add 4D color depth, as well as to use in up-dos.

Katy Q. is a celebrity hairstylist and colorist who has worked with some of today’s most high-profile and notable celebrities including Hailey Baldwin, Zac Efron, Justin Bieber, model Caroline Forsling, fashion blogger Christina Caradona, and countless other young Hollywood stars. Her work has also been featured in top magazines such as Grazia, ELLE, GQ, and more, and she now calls Salon Prive in the Sherry Netherland Hotel home. She specializes in working with blonde and thin hair types. Originally from Bondi Beach, Australia, Katy spends her time between New York, Miami, and Nashville. She currently lives in Manhattan with her husband, Kade and young daughter. Connect with Katy on: https://katyq.cloud/ https://www.instagram. com/katiiq/


N’Sights from the Soul

Giving: A Gift that Never Ends

Written By: Reynisha Lindsay Layout By: Kandace McVickar

According to the dictionary giving is defined as “to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; bestow.” Now, how many people are willing to give without receiving? People today seem so self-absorbed that I am not confident that if I were in need of help someone would actually help me. I am not just talking about financially, as I have discussed that previously. In light of what is going on in the world today, if I was being robbed or was injured on the road, would someone stop and help me? I am not sure. I know people tend to help in a group situation, meaning when more than one person is being attacked or is injured, people come to aid. Talking about this brings to mind a Bruno Mars song called “Grenade”. In the song, he is saying all these things he would do for a woman that he loves, but he knows she would not do the same. I mean he is saying some extreme stuff, like: “I’d catch a grenade for ya (yeah, yeah) Throw my head on a blade for ya (yeah, yeah) I’d jump in front of a train for ya (yeah, yeah) You know I’d do anything for ya (yeah, yeah)”


Now that is love...mixed with some crazy, but it is love. However, the point he is clearly making is he would die so she could live. It says in the Bible in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus gave His life so that we might be saved. His giving changed the world. Today, we can give in the spirit that He gave. I think most of us would help a loved one in their time of need. However, the question remains. Would a stranger who does not know you, put his or her life in jeopardy to save you? Giving without expectation is what makes strangers help others they do not know. Some of us volunteer to help people we may never even meet. We do so by giving blood, becoming an organ donor, donating items to food pantries or donating items to organizations like the Red Cross, The Salvation Army and the Goodwill. Others who are environmentally conscious give a cleaner and safer world to our children and others by recycling and performing acts of green. In these instances, you do not personally know who will benefit from your giving. (Consequently,

I do realize the later donations can be a tax write off. However, we are not looking at the motivation, just the giving.) While all of these examples of giving are wonderful and may even save several lives, there is still another important way to give. Perhaps it is one of the most important ways to give, at least in my opinion. It is teaching. Teaching is a gift that keeps on giving. Have you ever heard the following proverb? “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” To me, this characterizes why teaching others is so important. It is essential in order to perpetuate life. No one has achieved what he or she has today without the help of another. I am not talking about parents or family but individuals like your teacher, your coach, your pastor, your best friend, spouse or significant other. They gave something to you that is priceless. They contributed to making you the person you are today. Whether it was through lessons, advice, words of wisdom or just listening, they gave you their time. Do not overlook the significance of what I am saying because not everyone received this gift. Some people did not have a teacher who made sure they understood the lesson. Some people did not have a coach who instilled a work ethic in them. I could go on, but I think that you comprehend the point I am making. As you know, giving sometimes comes from what you have to offer. When I was a child, my parents put me in dance lessons – ballet, tap and jazz. (Dance classes these days seem like a rite of passage for a little girl.) For the most part, I enjoyed it. However, as I grew older, I became less interested in dance. Even though, I worked hard to wear the coveted “toe shoes”. They look beautiful on the outside, but hurt on the inside. Yet, I loved to wear them. My love soon diminished as I entered high school. I soon gave up dance for other things. (That is a story for a different day.) Therefore, after all of those years of training since I was 3 or 4 years old, I did not really do anything with it. It was not until I was in my mid 20’s that dance would re-enter my life. I saw a need at my church to teach dance. I saw a dance group at another church and thought that would be great for the young girls at my church. Then I thought, wait…I could teach them. For that reason, I went to my Pastor and said I would like to put together a Praise Dance group for the girls. He told me he had just prayed about having a Praise Dance group, but did not know who could lead it. It

seemed, as if I was the answer to his prayer, literally. At that moment, it seemed clear to me, what all those dance lessons were for that I took as a child. They were preparation for what I am doing now – directing and teaching young girls to Praise Dance. I select songs and put movements to the words to express the meaning through dance. I have taught girls from ages 6-17 years old. It has definitely been a challenge, yet it is rewarding as well. Many of them have told me how they have enjoyed dancing and that it has improved their confidence. I am happy to give of my time to the girls, especially when they are appreciative. While I am there to teach dance, I do find myself mentoring them in other aspects of their lives - school, sports, friends, siblings, etc. I wonder if my parents knew the impact of putting me in dance lessons, would have on others. I guess their money was well spent after all. The dance lessons not only impacted me, but almost 2-dozen other girls and the number keeps growing. One of the young girls that I taught moved and joined another church, where as a young adult she is assisting with Praise Dance. She is sharing with others what I taught to her. I never imagined that I would be able to inspire one of them so that they would want to give what the learned to others. I realized that one act of giving can be multiplied numerous times, equaling hundreds of acts of giving. It just takes one person giving of himself or herself to inspire others to do the same. I did not start teaching dance because I thought I would get something in return. I started the Dance Ministry because I saw a need. It just so happens that I got something in return – joy. Joy in watching these girls blossom into young women and grow in grace. You see the gift of dance was not just mine to keep. It was a gift for me to pass on… a gift that never ends!



Halfstack Magazine | December 2017



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We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” — Winston S. Churchill

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