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All Hail the Queens


Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


IN EVERY ISSUE Editors Letter 4

Meet the Team 6


MUSIC MUSTS The Allah-Las at Thalia Hall 32

Second City & Booth

Meet Zach Cannella

Adventures on a Budget





Meet Driftseed/Little Stones 40

Immigration Fact Sheet 48

Don’t Give Up that Starbucks 66



GROOMING/HEALTH Scratch Goods 112

Spring Beauty Must Haves


Spring Style Edit 72

The Looks for Less


All Hail the Queens 88

The Kit Kat Lounge


Spring Trends Plus 84


A Little Soul Vista 106


Spring Skincare 120

Latest Fitness Crazes 122

The Fitness Muse 126

ART & CULTURE Meet Luis Sahagun 130

Leilah Henry 138

Queen of Mildred 142

EDITORS LAST LOOK Halfstack Top 5 in 5 148

N’Spired Thoughts 150

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


Hello readers!!!

Welcome to the Spring 2017 issue of Halfstack Magazine. This issue is a special one to us! This year is the 5-year anniversary since we launched our first issue way back in 2012. This publication has come a long way and it has grown beyond my imagination. The team that is involved is as dedicated as ever before and I am honored to be able to work alongside them. The spring issue is always one of the hardest to release, but it is always a relief when it get’s done. I always have high expectations of the issue because it is not only a celebra-


tion of our time here on, but also a reminder of how far we have come and where I hope to take us. I’m a firm believer in dreaming big. If we don’t, we won’t ever know how far we can go. So, with that idea in mind – I had some high creative aspirations for the cover shoot and the team did NOT disappoint. We shot in Chicago with Laura Lopez of Pickapose Photography, featuring two gorgeous Queens: DiDa Ritz and Serena Fiierce. Hair and Nails were custom fashioned by the talented Christopher Harris of Haired by Harris and the talented Julio Delgado was lead on makeup. The images are show stopping. The feature alongside the editorial showcases Christopher’s journey as a creative business owner as well as the journey of both DiDa and Serena and their evolution as performers.

The focus behind this issue was the idea of acceptance and finding joy in what makes each of us unique and different. During these tumultuous and divisive times, I wanted to create something beautiful to escape in, but that also reminded us to find the humanity in people even if they look different than we do. What makes America so special is that there are so many different people from all walks of life standing in solidarity. There is an empowering message in that. I wanted to showcase people who are not afraid to be out there and


be themselves. Allowing their freak flag to fly so to speak. I hoped to highlight that we can find confidence in trusting ourselves to just be who we are - unabashedly.


This issue is about loving yourself and your nuances and the empowerment that can come from that simple idea. You can take it for what it is, but with the state of the world we really need more love and acceptance, right? We need to show that being different doesn’t mean that we should be afraid, rather we should use that as a way to connect. I think that’s what makes me so proud to be here in the USA - my family believed in the American dream - my abuela came here to chase hers in music and met so many people from all walks of life and backgrounds and cultures along the way. America is made up of so many different people living together and despite what the news makes it seem - we are doing so harmoniously – even among a small percentage who don’t want to. Chicago opened my eyes to amazing people - all kinds of different people - and we are surrounded by a robust and beautiful creative community filled with beautiful weirdos just like us and I want to celebrate that. I want to celebrate acceptance of the unique this issue and the creative, zany and interesting people here in Chicago. I dedicate this issue to all of you out there and I hope you find comfort, joy and inspiration in these pages.

Jennifer M. Lezan-Veguilla | Editor-in-Chief

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017





jennifer lezan creative director @halfstackmag

LAURA LOPEZ lead photographer


melinda myers

staff photographer @ melindajanemyersphoto

perry fish

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



Creative & Graphics Designer


Creative & Graphics Designer



Creative & Graphics Designer

Creative & Graphics Designer


Creative & Graphics Designer



Creative & Graphics Intern

STELLA QUIMBY Sr. Fashion Editor


DENISE GUEVARA Staff Blogger/Youtuber


OLIVIA LEMLEY Staff Writer/Blogger


TRACI CICARELLI Staff Blogger/Youtuber




Digital Blogger

Digital Blogger

Staff Writer/Blogger

Celia A. Pena Staff Writer/Blogger

JENNIFER OQUENDO Staff Writer/Blogger


Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

Andre Thompson Staff Blogger

KARLI BUTLER Staff Writer/Blogger

JENNIFER GORDON Staff Writer/Blogger

Louis Vasseur Staff Blogger

DWIGHT BEJEC Social Media Director

MICHELLE LANDRIAULT Staff Blogger/Youtuber

DREW POWERS Staff Blogger


EMILY EHARDT Staff Blogger

OLGA IVANIDI Staff Blogger/Youtuber




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Halfstack Magazine | March 2017






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The Second City & University of Chicago Booth School of Business Partnership Launch Event Written By: Louis Vasseur Layout By: Kandace McVickar

Photo Courtesy of The Second City

Leaders of The Second City and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business partnership pose for a photo, from left to right: Anne Libera, director of improvisation science at The Second City; Heather Caruso, executive director of Chicago Booth’s Center for Decision Research (CDR); Kelly Leonard, executive director of insights and applied improvisation at The Second City; Doug Hutton, vice president of operations at The Second City Works; and Nick Epley, professor of behavioral science at Chicago Booth’s Center for Decision Research (CDR).




Chicago’s creative community has a long history of collaboration and giving back to those audiences that supported their journey. So, it was no surprise when Second City Works and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business announced the creation of RewireU, a new partnership to study how improvisation can promote better workplace dynamics. The partnership makes sense on so many levels. The Second City, a world-famous improv institution, educates more than 15,000 students annually – both children and adults alike – the Training Centers in Chicago, Toronto, and Hollywood. In recent years Chicago Booth has welcomed improvisors to campus from the worlds of theatre, jazz, and ballet. Add to the mix The Second City was founded by three University of Chicago alumni – Paul Sills, Bernard Sahlins and Howard Alk – and another iconic Chicago story comes full circle. The new partnership looks to explore how evidence-based insights and practices of improvisation can enhance communication, collaboration, and well-being in everyday life. The first step in for this partnership joining art and business is the launch of RewireU, an educational program with classes at The Second City that began in February. Related content will follow for Chicago Booth executive educational programs, starting with Strategic Business Leadership in mid-March. By way of a pop-up research lab at The Second City, the partnership of these two iconic Chicago institutions will integrate insights from Chicago Booth’s Center for Decision Research with Second City Works and The Second City Training Center’s teachings to identify how improvisation can create happier and more productive individuals and organizations in the increasingly collaborative workplace. “Improvisation is at the heart of everyday social interaction, whether it’s adjusting to new environments, responding to obstacles or pivotal strategy in the workplace,” says Kelly Leonard, newly appointed Executive Director of Insights and Applied Improvisation at The Second City. “Inspired by The Second City’s educational methods, we are partnering with Chicago Booth to take improvisation beyond the traditional performance space and empower individuals to leverage it for professional and social success.” Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

Photo Courtesy of The Second City

Doug Hutton, vice president of operations at The Second City Works, announces an academic partnership with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business at a kick-off event at The Second City Training Center on Jan. 30.

Photo Courtesy of The Second City

Kelly Leonard, executive director of insights and applied improvisation at The Second City, brings the kick-off event at The Second City Training Center on Jan. 30, to a close by opening the floor for questions from event attendees.


The idea which ultimately became RewireU was formed during a difficult transition for The Second City staff. About a year and a half ago, many of The Second City offices were destroyed by a fire. During the restoration process, a good portion of the staff had to move to temporary office space in downtown Chicago. While grateful for the use of the space, it wasn’t ideal for what The Second City does. People were crammed into a space that was quickly dubbed “The Beige Palace”. During this transition, Leonard read several books on negotiation which mentioned the importance of being able to “improvise” if you wanted to excel as a negotiator. However, none of the books went any deeper than that. The cramped workplace lead to open discussions about what if they found an expert in negotiation, maybe they could co-create a workshop. They decided to pursue the idea. A Google search of “Chicago, academic, negotiation” led Leonard to Chicago Booth and Heather Caruso. After a series of discussions, the concept of RewireU was born.

Photo Courtesy of The Second City

RewireU is geared towards companies that want to empower their high-potential employees in rethinking how they work to advance their careers. Employees will learn new tactics for handling conflicts, sharing opinions, championing projects, overcoming change, and collaboration. The program will help empower employees through improvisational techniques cultivated over 50 years of entertaining a wide range of audiences. “Our commitment to understanding real human behavior makes this partnership a natural and exciting collaboration for Chicago Booth’s Center for Decision Research (CDR),” said Heather Caruso, Executive Director of Chicago Booth’s CDR. “As any participant in improvisational exercises knows, these practices make it possible for each of us to more clearly recognize some of the most interesting aspects of our everyday human nature – our impulses, hopes, anxieties, habits, and our untapped abilities to guide ourselves toward more fulfilling behavior through insight and practice. We look forward to sharing our findings in the classroom and beyond.”

Kelly Leonard, newly appointed executive director of insights and applied improvisation at The Second City, introduces Chicago Booth’s Center for Decision Research (CDR) and The Second City’s latest educational offering, RewireU, at a kick-off event at The Second City Training Center on Jan. 30.


Photo Courtesy of The Second City

Nick Epley, professor of behavioral science at Chicago Booth’s Center for Decision Research (CDR), and Anne Libera, director of improvisation science at The Second City, lead event attendees in a brief activity to demonstrate The Second City’s new RewireU program at a kick-off event at The Second City Training Center on Jan. 30.

As the first educational offering to emerge from the partnership, RewireU will teach students to better improvise their way through the workplace with attitudes and skills such as being nimble, adaptable, and accepting of ideas. Classes are broken into two halves, with the first immersing participants in improvisational exercises and the second applying resultant evidence-based insights to the workplace through reflection, play, and discussion. RewireU will be offered in both intensive two-and-a-half day or immersive five-week courses. For more information about the program and a full RewireU class schedule, visit

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

Photo Courtesy of The Second City

Heather Caruso, executive director of Chicago Booth’s Center for Decision Research (CDR), explains how the partners will collaborate to conduct behavioral science research, engaging audience members, students and clients that come through The Second City at a kick-off event at The Second City Training Center on Jan. 30.


Iwant to stress that taking off vacation days for road trips will never be regretted. I know there are some of you that have saved their time off for who-knowswhy and ended up leaving them untouched. Take advantage of your time off, because it can change your life, your perspective, and your appreciation for all that is around you.




written by: olivia lemley Thrifty options for pursuing your adventurous spirit



   LIFESTYLE                                     TNH OUTDOORS

It is cold, it is windy, and we have been homebound for winter. Nothing gets me through these cold months better than hot tea, movie marathons, and adventure planning. The common conspiracy on traveling is that it is “too expensive”. This just as much of a myth as “don’t eat before you swim”; I am a college student with side jobs here and there, and I managed to travel from California to Chicago for very little. Planning a few months in advance allows time to save up your money and be prepared! How did I do it? Road Tripping: Taking a road trip not only allows you to change your schedule as you discover

more and more places, but it also saves money and energy. Although planes get to your destination faster, does it really save time? Depending on where you plan to go, take a look at the facts: you need to drive to the airport, arrive at the airport 1.5-2.5 hours prior to your flight for security lines, be on time to the flight, take the flight (usually with no wifi and little room to yourself), wait at baggage claim for your suitcases, rent a car, and drive to your desired destination. I’m tired just thinking about it! Roadtrips allow you to rest when needed and adventure off to see more than just a couple spots the internet recommended. I have found that talking to other hikers or travelers have brought me to

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

some of my favorite places. For now, ”Roadtrippers” is a great, free app that can help you plan along the way. In this app, you can plug in your current location and your intended destination, and it will help you not miss anything worthwhile. Nothing is more frustrating than coming home from a long trip to find out that you missed something sensational on the way. Camp: Set up camp for most of the nights on your trip. It allows you to really get a feel for the place you are visiting. That’s what you’re there for isn’t it? Some campsites are free, some have a small fee to pay for your lot, but it’s worth it! First, a quality tent will be on your list. There are various brands and


sizes of tents with different features to choose from. If you are inexperienced, my tidbit of advice when choosing a tent is to go a size up. When it says a two-person tent, it really means “two people when cuddling”. You may not always find campsites to set up your tent in a fluffy field, therefore, TNH Outdoors Sleeping Pads are never a bad idea. Often times, you come across sleeping pads that are completely deflated by the time you wake up. By then you have a sore back, little sleep, and your day of adventuring is thwarted. That is why finding a trusted brand is vital for all endeavors. TNH Outdoors is a brand I have found to be a five-star, well-trusted brand for your traveling gear. More or less of a necessity, there is no harm in getting some fun gear for those late nights in the woods. It is always nice to kick back and sit around the fire. Such a night is made even better with a TNH Outdoors Hammock to gaze up into the stars. Finding campsites with at least two trees to hang a hammock are far too common, so take advantage of your resources. Veering deeper into the wilderness, you may be getting a bit more rugged! The best views are often reached by backpacking; although it is not as common as day hikes, backpackers must be prepared. When picking and choosing what supplies you want to carry on your back, do not sacrifice your pillow. Check out the inflatable pillow by Klymit to pack for your next expedition. Since the Pillow X Large hardly takes up any space, you will be able to keep that extra bit of comfort while you travel into the wilderness. TNH Outdoors & Their Purpose: Going off away from home to adventure, is risky without proper gear. TNH Outdoors understands


what makes quality gear and that you cannot afford to have gear let you down in the wild. On top of their admirable consumer responsibility, they take care of our environment. Their belief is that to have our beautiful outdoors to explore, we must reduce consumer waste. Their packaging is both minimalist and biodegradable while their products are also produced by sustainable practices. This team of multi-taskers are taking care of all those who are wanderlust in addition to preserving our environment and the beauty of nature. Klymit & How They Take Care of Their Customers: Klymit takes progressive action for all the outdoor enthusiasts out there. They are a solution company that makes backpacking through the outdoors seem almost luxurious! Each step Klymit has taken has been to enhance experiences for curious adventurers through technology. Providing the best comfortable, rugged and lightweight gear, Klymit is a quality brand for your next trip because who knows where you’ll find yourself! Another great and innovative product they supply is The Hammock V. It is a sleeping pad for your hammock to maximize comfort. Don’t miss out on their ingenious products available. Eating Out of a Cooler: Sandwiches

never get old in my book (perhaps if you were eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Buy an assortment of meat and cheese, and you won’t get bored of them too fast! Meal bars and fruit keep well in a cooler for breakfast. Buy a loaf of bread, turkey, ham and cheese; you’ll be set with lunches for the week. After your long day of adventuring off who-knowswhere, come back to your humble abode for hot dogs or hamburgers

over the campfire. Top it off with s’mores for dessert. Coolers are always fun because you can take your meal anywhere--perhaps drive on a bumpy road up to a nice mountain top. Spread out your cozy Sackcloth & Ashes Blanket to reserve your table. The blankets consist of soft designs that can take your #MealOfTheDay photo post to the next level or keep you toasty as you end your day taking in the beauty of the outdoors. Take your cooler, make your sandwiches, crack open a bottle of wine and enjoy the view. Do NOT risk taking glass up to such a natural area. Bendiware has your solution to the problem. These flexible wine glasses can be folded up and put in your pocket. It makes the transportation easier and risks lower than taking glassware. It’s important to leave nothing more than your footprints while exploring nature. Sackcloth & Ashes is One For The People: As it gets colder and colder, we tend to just hibernate in our homes. Sometimes, it may slip our minds that not everyone is as fortunate. Sackcloth & Ashes is on a mission for the less fortunate; each high-quality blanket that is sold, they send a blanket to a homeless shelter near the buyer. This fun aspect of the company makes it all the more personal because by buying a blanket, you will be helping the homeless in your own community. Don’t let the homeless slip your mind this winter--get yourself a toasty printed, alpaca, or fleece blanket to cuddle up in during your adventures. Bendiware & How They Are Saving the Environment: Broken glasses is hard to clean up and is dangerous if not done properly. On top of that, glass is no fun to pack either. Whether you are off to the beach or camping for the week,



Bendiware is your new best friend. Easy to clean and transport, these silicone wine glasses can be folded up into your pocket and dropped a thousand times without needing a clean up crew. Leave nothing behind but your footprints when traveling. Pack Wisely: On the road, you are not going to have a nice washing machine with fabric softener at your fingertips. Yes, perhaps you would be able to find a laundromat if you are traveling through cities, but some of the best adventures are in remote areas. Packing smart means you do not assume you will be dressing up more than once during your trip. What if you do end up going out more than you expect? Layering can change an entire outfit. Layers are great for traveling because sometimes the weather is too unpredictable. Don’t let summer fool you, it still gets cold at night across the country. Your hands and head are major conductors of heat, and this is why we need to seal them up to stay warm! Give’r gloves are universal when it comes to what you can use them for. Does your hike involve cables, and you want to protect your hands? Will you be mountaineering or scrambling across rough rocks? Is it just cold,



and you’d enjoy it more if you had feeling in your fingers? The answer to your problems is Give’r gloves. As for keeping your head warm, Give’r has a line of hats that cater to everyone and anyone who cares about the warmth of their ears. Their Classic Beanie is a thick and soft hat that is perfect for winter traveling or chilly nights. Not to mention, it is a fun design with a twist of color. Lastly, pack what is going to make a successful journey. No one wants to find themselves massaging their legs halfway through a hike. Not everyone can power through like the nomads during steep or lengthy hikes. This is why trekking poles can make a world’s difference. Timberline provides various styles of trekking poles, but the Alps Mountaineering Trekking Pole is the most durable and lightweight option. Although you may purchase one, buying two is the best option to prevent from overcompensating. Not only will it reduce the impact on your knees and joints, but it will also increase your speed. Whether you are skiing or hiking, you can adjust your poles on-the-go to fit your intended purpose. Give’r & Why They Have My Full Trust: One of the most amazing and breathtaking states in the

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

U.S. is Wyoming. Outdoor adventures are never limited; there is always more to see and to do. Give’r is a brand that is passionate about travels as they are based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming—I think they understand more than enough about the outdoors to have our faith in them. With the definition of Give’r being “To give it your all, go for it”, the brand certainly encourages people to get out and do more than what is expected. The Give’r team strives for more than just providing products for consumers, they provide their consumers with the ability to go out and discover more than your backyard— unless your backyard is the mountains, and if so, lucky you! Timberline & How They Won’t Break The Bank: Like I have been preaching, traveling does not have to suck all the life nor money out of you. How to maximize your energy: take advantage of outdoor gear because you want to enjoy every minute of your travels, and it just so happens to seem like technology makes everything easier. How to minimize money spent: shop for your gear at companies like Timberline. They strive to provide the lowest priced goods possible, yet withhold high quality standards to offer the best for their customers


(not to mention, the founder of the company is 16 years old). Don’t forget to use our coupon code at the check-out for 10% off your purchase. COUPON CODE: HALFSTACKMAG How to Get the Most Out of Your Money? The Spivo Stick: Planning your road trip out right can make for a smooth and memorable vacation. Your memory isn’t that great? Well then capture it on video! The Spivo Stick is an innovative way of taking your phone or GoPro photos and videos to the next level. With the Spivo Stick, you can capture yourself in addition to what is in front of you. With 180° rotation, you can continue to share your lively experiences for a lifetime. GoPro: Although GoPros are more expensive and a bit more of a commitment to purchase, it’ll provide you with high-quality documented film and photos of all your best moments traveling. Memories are pretty amazing to have, but trying to put them into words is tough. Plus, if you do something extreme and thrilling, you’ll need evidence to show off! GoPro has come out with the new Hero5 which is even more compact and simplified than their previous collections. How to Play the Part? On the road, you will run into people out traveling for the same reason you are— to do something out of the ordinary somewhere far from home. These people may just be the most interesting men and women you’ve ever met. Sometimes, it is the people that


make the place. We must keep in mind the saying we grew up with, “stranger danger”, but hikers and travelers are some of the most down-to-Earth people I know. Not to mention, exchanging stories will give you goosebumps! I met an entire group of Chicagoans hiking in the Grand Tetons because the young man was wearing his high school sweatshirt. This is why I have had an eye for Wear Your ROOTS. There is no better conversation starter than having an article of clothing representing your roots. Connect with a t-shirt, tank top, sweatshirt or hat that has the outline of your state. Wearing outdoor-themed clothing that makes you fit the part is great because it puts you into exploring mode. Allow Always CA to show you the ropes of dressing for the occasion. Getting away from the busy streets filled with honking and taxis is vital for a clear mind. Go explore and discover all that the U.S. has to offer with a hoodie to go along with it. Even in the summer, it gets chilly at night, so come prepared with the You Know Where to Find Me Hoodie or the Mountain Man Crew Neck to stay warm and represent what you are traveling for! These hoodies are more than meets the eye; not only do they have cool designs, but they are ultra soft. I cannot tell you how often I find myself searching for a truly cozy sweatshirt, but Always CA has surpassed my expectations! River Runner Neck Coozie: Goofy, I know. That’s the best part of it. Imagine you and your buddy doing some of the coolest, most adventurous things you’ll do, all the while you have a coozie hanging down from your neck. Now, I’m

not saying this is a necessity, but I think it is a great and inexpensive gift to bring some smiles to your trip. Check out the River Runner Neck Coozie because no good story starts with someone eating a salad. As cheesy as it sounds, getting out to find yourself while experiencing what the world has to offer is priceless. Being inspired by a photo of a magical place is one thing, but to go and see it for yourself is so much bigger. Brainstorm ways to get yourself out to take your own photos, to live in the moment, and enjoy where life has taken you— you’ll find it’s not difficult. Traveling is an easy thing to miss out on; it is simple to make excuses such as “I don’t have the time”, “it’s too expensive” or “I don’t know the first thing about camping”. My answers to those excuses: You can always make time, traveling can be made cheap when done properly, and cave men could handle the wilderness, so we can too with the proper gear. FINALLY, I want to stress that taking off vacation days for road trips will never be regretted. I know there are some of you that have saved their time off for whoknows-why and ended up leaving them untouched. Take advantage of your time off, because it can change your life, your perspective, and your appreciation for all that is around you. There is nothing better than heading out to get to know the world yourself. Pictures just never do it justice.


Halfstack Magazine | March 2017





Halfstack Magazine | March 2017



Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


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GRO OV ING IN CH I CAGO Playing March 16th at Thalia Hall with a fresh new spin on a classic sixties beach vibe!

   DETAILS                                     legendary Amoeba Music record store. “We were all music fans before we were musicians,” says Correia. “We’ve spent a lot of time listening to music, and understanding what works for us and what doesn’t.”

Sometimes it takes a new sound to wake up to new parts of one’s self. Music has a way of getting a hold of us and taking us somewhere we have never been before. And sometimes, to somewhere we want to revisit. If you feel like taking a groovy trip to the early sounds of The Monkees or The Animals, with a fresh new 2017 spin, and a classic beach vibe, then look no further than Allah-Las. They have all this going on and more. There is so much rich material to sink your teeth into as Allah-Las releases their critically acclaimed album, Calico Review (out now on Mexican Summer). Following

their international tour, the band is embarking on a 20+ city tour that will bring them to Chicago on March 16th at Thalia Hall.

Show starts at 8:30 sharp! Don’t miss this opportunity to refresh your music repertoire with some trippy new beach vibes. There will be those days you’ll want to relax your brain with the melodic, melancholy, and often groovy sound of Allah-Las.

For the album, Allah-Las experiment with new instrumentation adding violin, harpsichord and Mellotron to their sound. The music has many layers that invite you to reminisce on love, melancholy, freedom and exploration. Allah-Las is composed of Pedrum Siadatian (vocals/lead guitar), Miles Michaud (vocals/rhythm guitar), Matthew Correia (vocals/ drum), and Spencer Dunham (vocals/bass). The band was formed in 2008 while three of the members were working at the

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017






The siren call of the muse has affected artists’ lives since time immemorial. Painters are attracted to Paris, actors are drawn to the bright lights of Broadway and the movie studios, and musicians gather in the musical meccas of New York, LA and Nashville to showcase their music. Singer/songwriter Zach Cannella is one of the latest musicians willing to make sacrifices to pursue his art. Growing up in a musical family and surrounded by music, Chicago native, now Nashville resident, Cannella knew he wanted to pursue music as a career. He started playing the guitar at age 6 and began writing songs as a sophomore in high school. Cannella studied music composition at a music conservatory. Through this path, he discovered songwriting was his most honest form of artistic expression. When Cannella won first place in the Literary Magazine Awards of the Community College Humanities Association, his artistic die was cast. .

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

He started to play out live at several venues in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. While he was developing his musical chops on the live stage, Cannella was also beginning to feel the pull of the Music City. “I miss Chicago,” explains Cannella. “But I realized that I couldn’t go much farther with my original music in Chicago. I could go the cover band route or be a backup guitarist, but I really wanted to expose my original music. I looked at several cities -Austin, Los Angeles, and Nashville. I visited Nashville in 2012 and I realized that I would move here even if it wasn’t for the music. So, it was an easy decision.” Cannella moved to Nashville with the plan to write songs for other artists. He quickly began networking and soon was co-writing with various friends he met. However, he soon realized that writing for others wasn’t necessarily for him. “I decided I would rather do the singer/ songwriter thing,” said Cannella.


The Chicago native arrived in Nashville with a different outlook on the genre of country music and a unique interpretation of what makes an “indie folk” musician. Cannella’s music has ranged from having a pop sound to a more acoustic/alternative sound. Throughout, his musical sound plays off his classical training. Cannella counts Sufjan Stevens, John Mayer, Bon Iver The Beatles, and Dave Matthews among his musical influences. 36

Cannella released his first EP, Bottom Shelf, in 2016. In January 2017, he released a new single, “Jephthah”. Using a unique vocal style and layered vocal harmonies, “Jephthah” muses on the uncertainty of modern life and our struggles to live up to improbable expectations. Cannella also released a music video for “Jephthah that he made with several friends from high school. The music video has been received well, gaining over 3,500 views on YouTube in just a few weeks. The video has also generated comparisons between Cannella and UK-based singer/songwriter Ben Howard. He is currently touring with a couple of Nashville songwriting friends throughout the Southeast to support the releases. He is hoping to return to Chicago to perform sometime in late 2017.

“I write every day even if I’m not feeling anything creative. I still have a lot of ideas that aren’t full songs yet.”

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017



Although things have been going well, Canella knows as an indie artist, he still has a lot of work to do. He continues to network hard, promoting his music. Plus, he still works to perfect his craft every day. “I write every day even if I’m not feeling anything creative. I still have a lot of ideas that aren’t full songs yet.” To learn more about Zach Cannella and his music, visit

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017



Written By: Jennifer Lezan-Veguilla

Jhulan, a dance movement therapist and survivor, dances at Kolkata Sanved’s 10th Anniversary Celebration. Credit: “Little Stones”

dances in Kolkata, India. Below: Jhulan, a dance movement therapist and survivor, dances at Kolkata Sanved’s n. Credit: “Little Stones” If there is one thing that the tumultuous year of 2016 inspired, it was mass mobilization of the women’s movement. The year helped bring major attention to the issues that women in the US and worldwide continue to face in terms of equality, rights and safety. Yet, it is important to note that there have been many people and organizations that have were tirelessly working to shed light and push for change on these issues far before the Trump Protests. Two women in particular, Sophia Kruz and Meena Singh, traveled all around the world to chase and film stories of inspiring women, using their creative talents and abilities to spark change for women in their countries. The end result of this epic journey is the documentary film: Little Stones.


Little Stones is a documentary profiling four women who are each contributing a stone to the mosaic of the women’s movement through their art. From a graffiti artist in the Favelas of Brazil raising awareness about domestic violence to a choreographer in India using dance to rehabilitate survivors of human trafficking. The concept was originally inspired by Film Maker: Sophia Kruz’s experiences during her time and travels abroad meeting women who were creating for change. She teamed up with the talented cinematographer: Meena Singh. Meena is a Los Angeles based Cinema-

tographer whose work has been celebrated in New York Times and Hollywood Reporter. Her tenacity and unwavering belief in Sophia’s concept truly helped this film come alive. Alongside the making of Little Stones, the concept of Driftseed was born. It’s a program dedicated to education, outreach, documentary storytelling and building a better world for women and girls. During a time of turmoil, where women are still at the center of debates over reproductive rights, equal pay and worker’s rights – organizations such as Driftseed and films such

sophia kruz Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

as Little Stone are desperately needed. Not only does Little Stones inspire and expose the world to women pushing forward a movement, but also Driftseed empowers through education. Education is a vital component to creating change in the world and the Sophia and Meena are doing this through their story telling. In a speech given by: Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization, at International Women’s Day in 2010, she explains that, “We will not see sustainable progress unless we fix failures in health systems and society so that

meena singh 41

girls and women enjoy equal access to health information and services, education, employment and political positions.” She highlights that, “Amnesty International also points out, Governments are not living up to their promises under the Women’s Convention to protect women from discrimination and violence such as rape and female genital mutilation. There are many governments who have also not ratified the Convention, including the

U.S. Many countries that have ratified it do so with many reservations.” Seven years later, the words of Dr. Margaret Chan are even more relevant than ever. Women continue to face discrimination, they are still fighting for equality and are still denied rights. Thirty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), many girls and women still do not have equal opportunities to real-

ize rights that they have and that are recognized by law. It’s a travesty that in many countries, women are not entitled to own property or inherit land. They face social exclusion, honor killings, female genital mutilation, trafficking, restricted mobility and early marriage. At times some are even denied the right to health and see an increase illness and death throughout their life. Sophia and Meena understand that all women are a part of the mosaic that

Brazilian graffiti artist Panmela Castro’s work around Rio de Janeiro. Credit: “Little Stones”


From left: Meena Singh, Anna Taylor and Sophia Kruz in Kenya, 2015. credit: “little stones“

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017



Above: Sister Fa performs in Berlin, Germany. Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


inspires change. Throughout their film, they are showcasing empowering movements worldwide. They are the epitome of using their gifts and talents to do more in this world. They realized a dream, were changed for life and found their calling through this project. The duo also realized how important the educational component of their project would be in order for them to continue to work towards change. Due to this, they continue to build on the mission of Driftseed. The idea behind Driftseed comes from the name for a seed or fruit, like the coconut, which is adapted for long distance dispersal by water. Most drift seeds are produced by tropical trees, and can be found on distant beaches after drifting thousands of miles through ocean currents. At Driftseed,

the team believes powerful stories, told with compassion, can carry ideas quickly over vast distances. Like the seeds whose name they have borrowed, they hope their documentary work will disperse to far away places, take root, and build a more safe, just and equitable world for men, women, boys and girls around the world. You can check out the trailer for Little Stones, the first documentary coordinated by Sophia, Meena and their Driftseed team here: http:// If you want to learn more about Sophia and Meena, get a preview of Little Stones or learn more about Driftseed, check out: www. You can keep up with the organization on Instagram and twitter as well!

festival schedule If you’d like to catch a screening of Little Stones, check out the following schedule of their upcoming festival tour dates here: World Premiere Vail Film Festival Fri, March 31, 8:30PM Sat, April 1, 5:30PM Vail, CO Vail, will be their world premiere. The festival is focusing this year’s program on female filmmakers. They’ve given Driftseed 2 screenings in their festival that only lasts a few days! West Coast Premiere Newport Beach Film Festival April 20-27 (exact date & time TBD) Newport Beach, CA An incredibly noteworthy festival, bringing in industry professionals from Los Angeles. East Coast Premiere Greenwich International Film Festival June 1-4 (exact date & time TBD) Greenwich, CT

Sohini Chakraborty


Greenwich, is the films east coast premiere. This festival is a young film festival started by women that focuses on works that create social impact.

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


Know Your Rights & Organize Immigration Fact Sheet & Resources WRITTEN BY: JENNIFER LEZAN-VEGUILLA

In the wake of Trump’s immigration plans, many within the migrant/refugee population have heightened concerns regarding their safety within the United States. Their worries are not in vain. The reality is that international treaties recognize that non-citizens, in particular, face significant exposure to human rights abuses because they are often removed from their communities and support networks. Immigrant women and children are even more vulnerable, often being denied access to health care and education, exposed to abuse of various kinds, and subjected to trafficking and arbitrary detention and deportation. Trump’s executive order in January was the tipping point in the current state of affairs dealing with immigration and refugee rights. Trump’s move to ban more than 218 million people from the United States and to deny entry to all refugees reverberated worldwide on Saturday January 28th 2017. Chaos and confusion ensued throughout US airports, American law enforcement agencies and foreign countries who were trying to grasp Washington’s new policy and figure out the nuances of the quickly thrown together executive order. This same order was reformatted and re-released in March of 2017. A particularly vulnerable immigrant population, refugees and asylees, have seen some of the harshest realities due to this executive order. These people who have been forced to flee their homelands are amidst a group of people who are most affected by these sudden changes. These people are not terrorists; in fact they are often fleeing terror. As a vulnerable sector of the world population, international human rights law stipulates that non-citizens must receive the same treatment as citi-


zens in the areas of the right to life and security, equality in the justice system, freedom of religion and culture, and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. Yet, despite what international human rights law states, Trump’s decree caused travelers who fit the ban’s criteria and were already in the air headed for the United States to be stopped and detained upon arrival at US airports without due process. Others with valid visas and airline tickets were prevented from boarding planes destined for the United States -- some stranded in foreign countries -- as airlines and foreign airport officials scrambled to understand and comply with the new US immigration policy. The reality we saw in the aftermath of Trump’s Immigration Executive order, showcase that U.S. laws do not always uphold human rights. Certain state and federal laws discriminate between citizens and immigrants, or between documented and undocumented immigrants. Immigrants may experience discrimination and intimidation in the workplace and in society at large. As one report concludes, “U.S. domestic law protects migrants against violence and intimidation, but in recent years, the extreme and often racist rhetoric surrounding immigration issues has increased the threats migrants face to their personal safety.” A key

example of this, according to the FBI, showcases that hate crimes against Latinos increased 34% between 2003 and 2006. In particular, migrant women are more likely to face domestic violence and sexual assault than citizen women. Immigrant women are less likely to report abuse to police due to factors such as language barriers, social isolation, lack of financial resources, and fear of deportation. Sometimes U.S. laws even create arbitrary infringement on these individual’s civil liberties and deny them their fundamental right to due process. The 14th Amendment guarantees that all people living in the United States, regardless of race, nationality, or citizenship status, have a right to due process and equal protection under the law. Yet, many migrants are frequently stripped of these basic human rights, especially in the post-9/11 era. According to, “Since September 11, 2001, over one thousand migrants were detained for minor immigration violations while also being questioned and investigated about terrorist activities. During these investigations, immigrants in our communities were detained in abusive conditions, denied access to attorneys, and detained for months without ever actually being charged with a crime.” Detaining migrants

without probable cause until they are cleared by a criminal investigation denies them the presumption of innocence that all people are entitled under the U.S. justice system.

RESOURCES Migrant Legal Resource Center Family Preparedness Plan resources/family_preparedness_ plan_v2.pdf

Due to the chaos and misinformation that has ensued since Trump released the Executive Order on Immigration, it is vital that migrants know their rights. Here are some resources that can aid you if you are in a situation in which your rights are being imposed upon.

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights Card

cut me out

Use Your Cellphone to Document and Expose Immigration Raids in Your Community (America’s Voice) CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD New York Immigration Coalition Community Tool Kit CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017






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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 > 64


Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


To Get Rich You Don’t Need to Avoid Starbucks, You Need to Avoid “The Creep!” Written By: Drew Powers

Layout By: Kandace McVickar

It’s so easy. How many times have you heard different tips and tricks for saving money that started with: “It’s so easy: Skip the trips to Starbucks and retire with an extra $150,000+!” Sounds good, I guess. But can we get real? IF you currently spend $5 per day, 5 days per week, 50 weeks per year on your Starbucks coffee, and IF you skipped that expense entirely, and IF you actually, physically saved that $25 per week, and IF you did that for the next 30 years, and IF that pile of money earned a straight 8% compounding return, and IF you could attain those returns without any fees, and IF you could somehow never pay taxes on that money, and IF (and this is the biggest IF) you could actually forego coffee for the next 30 years and NOT murder someone... That’s a lot of “IFs” and about 0% of that could ever actually happen. But IF it did, okay, then you might have over $150,000. How many times have you heard different tips and tricks for earning money that started with:


“It’s so easy: Join this multi-level marketing company, sell products, recruit others, and earn unlimited income.” Let’s get real again. Long story short; most of us are connected to our careers more than ever before, and time is our rarest commodity. IF we could actually find the time, and IF we actually used it to promote our “business”, and IF we recruited people as eager to sell as we are, and IF and IF and IF. The reality is that most of us don’t have the time because we are tethered to our jobs 24/7. That’s not to say one absolutely could not excel at a multi-level marketing activity, it’s just that so few actually do. Finally, how many times have you heard “It’s so easy: Just pay yourself first!” and thought to yourself, “Pay myself first?!? I think my credit card companies, mortgage lender, and utility providers would all have a problem with that!” Paying yourself first is just another way of saying “Save First, Spend Later.” But too many cannot do that because they have already committed to spending.

The Creep. The problem is not that you spend $5 at Starbucks. The problem is not that you failed at selling make-up/beauty products/long distance phone service/cleaning products/protein shakes. The problem is not that you have bills. The problem is The Creep. “The Creep” used to be called “Personal Inflation” or “Lifestyle Inflation” but these days I am hearing more and more about “Lifestyle Creep.” Regardless of the term, it always means the same thing: As we earn more money we tend to spend more money. Our homes, cars, and even the coffee we drink tend to get more and more expensive. And it happens ever so slowly. It just creeps up on us!

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

The two major problems with Lifestyle Creep: 1. It only goes up, it never goes down. 2. It operates on a U-shaped curve. Let me give you an example to explain what I mean. About 6 years ago I had a client cancel a meeting. He had decided that he was going to pass on an additional investment I had proposed, and instead bought a BMW 3-series with plenty of extras. You see, he had just gotten his first pay raise, and decided he needed to reward himself. (By the way, even with the raise he couldn’t really afford that car.) I can still hear his voice: “I know I should save more money, but if I don’t do this now I will never have a chance to. When we have kids I know I’ll have to get a family car or get a [expletive] minivan…”


He now has two kids, and he was right—he did need a bigger car… He now has a fully-loaded 5-series. (It’s still too much for his pay scale, even after another raise.) And his problem is supposed to be coffee? Can you see the difference? He bought a $45,000 car when he should have been buying a $25,000 car. And he upgraded to a $70,000 car when he should have been buying a [expletive] $35,000 minivan. Starbucks savings would equate to a grand total of $37,500 in contributions over 30 years. ($5 per day*5 days per week*50 weeks per year*30 years). This guy has already overpaid $55,000 in cars and he is only 6 years in!!! His problem is definitely Lifestyle Creep in two parts: The first problem: There was no way he was ever going to “downgrade” to a minivan. Once you’ve tasted German engineering, there’s no going back! The second problem: As his income went up, his spending went up at a greater multiple. See, not only do we tend to spend more than we can afford, but as we make more money we tend to spend more at an increasing amount. If you could only really afford a $10,000 car, you could probably find a way to swing payments on a $12,000 car. It’s only 20% more, right? My client above should have bought a $25,000 car, but he spent $45,000 or 80% more. Then, he got a raise which would have let him afford a $35,000 [expletive] minivan, but he spent twice as much—a full 100% more! (That’s the first half of the U-shaped curve. The second half represents theoretically infinite income vs. maximum retail prices. For example, someone who makes $1,000,000 per year might only be overspending 2 or 3% on a $400,000 Rolls Royce.) I could tell you 100 stories with the same theme: bought a bigger house, dined at expensive restaurants, big bar tabs… shopping sprees, luxury vacations… But you get it, right?


Do you own your stuff, or does your stuff own you? Why can’t you get away from the office and pursue that small, home-based business? Why can’t you pay yourself first? Why does a $5 coffee seem like an expense? It’s because all of that stuff you own actually owns you. Big mortgages and big rent lead to big property taxes, big upkeep, and big utility bills. As do expensive cars and maintenance, parking, registration, licensing, insurance. The same can be said for every expense. (Even designer clothing, which I know is going to be a point of contention with readers of this publication!) You need to slave away at your job so you can earn enough to maintain your possessions, and those possessions were supposed enhance your lifestyle, but your lifestyle actually sucks because you are always working and not enjoying your possessions. I recently had a 30-something graduating surgery resident inform me he could not afford $150 to put his disability insurance policy in place. He told me this while wearing a $200 Façonnable shirt, sipping on a Starbucks (!) – a $22 parking receipt lay on the table next to car keys made by Acura. Medical residents make about $50,000 per year, by the way. Granted, he was a few months from starting a $300,000 per year hospital position, but he was risking it all by not covering a disability. (Disability insurance is vitally important for surgeons, as something as small as a broken finger could keep them from ever practicing again.) Why did he have to risk millions in future income? Because he had already committed to big car payments and clothing that were way above and beyond his current means. And if it continues, he’ll find that he is always at the hospital so he can afford fancy stuff he never gets to use because he’s always at the hospital...

Fixing the Problem: An ounce of prevention or a pound of cure?

just going to take more time and effort. First, get a handle on your budget. Take an honest look at the amount you earn, the amount you save, and the amount you spend. Second, take an equally honest look at everything you town or spend on, and make the decision that you are going to “downgrade” it all at the earliest opportunity.

If you are currently living in a cramped apartment in a less-than-desirable neighborhood, and a regular dinner item is Ramen Noodles, then let me tell you the good news: You only need an ounce of prevention. If, on the other hand, you are living way above your means, well, we’re gonna need a pound of cure.

How? Rent a slightly smaller place, or sell your current home and buy one for less money. Lease or buy a slightly less expensive car, and keep your phone for an extra 6 months, even a year. Commit to buying less expensive dinners and bar tabs. For you the process will take longer, but it is not impossible.

Let’s tackle the Ramen crowd first. As you earn more money, think long and hard about how much more space you really need, and if you moved out of your less-than-desirable neighborhood, would you really need the hottest neighborhood or just a step or two up? Do you need to upgrade straight from Ramen to Filet Mignon? The answer is, of course, No. Be aware that The Creep is coming, and that you need to fight it at all costs, pun intended.

The result will be literally life-changing. You will be able to finally pay yourself first, because there will be money left over to pay everyone else. You could find the time to start your own business venture, because you could afford to transition to a less time-demanding job while getting it started. All it takes is the commitment and follow-through to spending less now on your biggest expenses.

If you find yourself at the other end of the spectrum, don’t worry, it’s never too late; it’s

But as for that dark, rich, life-sustaining, murder preventing cup of Starbucks… go ahead, drink (and spend) away!

Disclosure: The above information and content is provided by the author for educational and informational purposes, and should not be considered a recommendation, tax, legal or investment advice. Any example or scenario mentioned above that referenced a particular security is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to portray a recommendation to buy or sell a particular security.

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


W RI TTEN BY: S TEL L A Q U I M BY Photos by Invision/AP



First Victim or Star - whichever you prefer: Jessica Biel (Cat woman?)

2nd Star: Ryan Gosling (super hunk with bad style)

3rd Stars: Mr. Grey himself and his actual wife


JT’s beautiful wife decided to go the “ala cat woman” route. That’s ok if you are going to something low-key such as the MTV Movie awards, but not the damn Academy Awards! She literally looks as if she got into a fight with an actual cat prior to the show. Maybe it was pissed she tried stealing its style! But in my opinion, I believe the cat probably would have pulled this look off because Jessica certainly didn’t.



We were all in awe during the Notebook with Ryan, but are we in awe of his style at this year’s Oscars? Did he drag out this tux from a storage unit that hasn’t seen daylight since 1983? Does he have such horrible taste in style that he believes he looks good? Is he obsessed with John Hughes movies and he is secretly pretending to be the leading man in one of them? Honestly, he should just have showed up in his birthday suit! I doubt anyone would be complaining. PLUS it is a much better look then the aged dump he is wearing. What a waste of a sexy man - no wonder he didn’t win an Oscar!


Jamie Dornan the original Mr. Grey, I would imagine him milking his character’s fame and wear gray, but instead he wore a white top tux? Does he have a server gig after the awards? Is 50 shades not paying him enough that he has to wear a tux from his past jobs? Let’s not mention his wife. Beautiful lady, but man does that dress look like a maternity gown from the 1950’s. Is she expecting? The gown makes her look like if she’s expecting twins. Maybe it’s all that kinkiness and bondage…just saying!

FA S H I O N & S T Y L E


As is tradition with WTF, we have decided to highlight the UGLY at this year’s Academy Awards. Not only did the Best Picture screw-up rock this year’s Oscars, but the hideous garments also made a shocking statement. Let’s talk a look and dissect these “garments.”

4th Star: Blanca Blanco (I don’t really know who she is)


I seriously don’t know who she is? Is she another poser who thinks she is a model? Such as Amber Rose? Or is she an actual actress? Gosh, I am so confused! Anyways, her shoes look like the Grim Reapers fingers are reaching out to scratch you; maybe that’s her form of birth control? Now, what is the fabric that is tightly stretched out against her body? Is this a dress or dance competition garment? The top part yells “Couture” the bottom part yells “Stripper.” Who are we to believe? Any wrong move and the bottom part wins with a flash of her no-no spot! Although, the shoes do protect her no-no spot from unwelcomed hands! SMH….

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

Final Stars: Pharrell Williams & Wife (They Brits now?)


Pharrell has always been music royalty, but is he now applying to be knighted by the Queen? He’s all British-y and looking sharp, but is this a costume or an honest plea to the English Queen? I thought you had to be British to be knighted? Also, does the front not match the bottom? Sorry Pharrell, those black Mardi Gras beads do not cover the fact that the jacket doesn’t close. Also, if you are focusing on looking British, why add Louisiana in the mix? His wife, I had no idea she was near the Queen’s age with her gray hair; unless she is channeling her spirit to get knighted too? Ugh, for such an awesome singer/producer/etc., he sure can’t keep a costume looking accurate.


(You)nique Style By: Emily Ehardt Spring is all about renewal and rebirth, especially when it comes to your personal style. Style is something that is very unique and special to every single person. However, defining what your iconic look is takes time, energy, and a whole lot of shopping. Style, to me, changes as you change. I went through a lot in my high school years that, I think, helped to evolve my style into how it is now. Going though these tough and, in the end, liberating times really brought that edginess into my look. As I continued to grow up, I became much more independent and confident in myself, which definitely is seen through my fashion choices. Even though my style has evolved and will continue to, I always stick to my mantra of “Stay Classy!” For this issue, I decided to choose some of the pieces that are unique to my spring looks and show you how I’ll be styling them for the season. I encourage you all to embrace who you are and let that person shine from the inside out. Choose clothing that makes you happy, makes you feel good, and embraces your core values and beliefs. Don’t just follow the trends, set them this spring!

Look 1: Coated Leather Jacket Leather jackets are a seasonless go-to of mine; however, for the spring, I will be wearing this cropped, coated style. It is a very fresh take on a timeless silhouette and can be styled many ways. I’ll be pairing mine with denim culottes, a patterned blouse, peep toe booties, and a silver choker necklace.


Look 2: Off-the-Shoulder Top Lately, I’ve been loving the off-the-shoulder trend and will be sporting it in the spring. I’ll be styling mine with a pair of white flare jeans, flatform sandals, and a cute collar necklace. This look is all about being casual, but still fun and flirty.

Look 3: Body-con Dress A lot of individuals are opposed to the body-con dress, as they find them to be too constricting; however, I love this style. The cut flatters my figure and is a great layering piece. I chose this floral dress that I layered like a vest over the figure hugging silhouette and tossed on my grey booties and a silver pendant necklace to complete the ensemble.

Look 4: Skinny Ankle Pants I tend to dress very professional for work, so dress pants are essential to my wardrobe. Typically, I go for a skinny ankle style, as they are flattering, comfortable, and show off my cute shoes. A sheer blouse with appliques adds a feminine touch to these pants, so too does a pearl necklace. For some added color, I chose to go with a mauve jacket and mauve pumps.

Visit for weekly styling tips and be sure to follow me @emilyehardtblog on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest! Stay Classy! ---Emily Ehardt--Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


Looks for Less Written By: Andre Thompson Layout By: Kandace McVickar

There are many great trends for the 2017 Spring Season. However, one does not have to break the bank in order to keep up with the wave of this year’s fashion. Many do not know that they can be just as fashion forward without obtaining high-end luxury brand products. Although, if it’s something that you like and can afford it, why not!? However, for our budget conscious shoppers below includes a snapshot of the upcoming trends and where you can find alternatives for less!


Men’s Trends For Less Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


Creative Prints

Prints of course are something that are still being worn for the spring season. With that being said, florals are a must. Whether it be tees or trousers, getting a good deal is not hard to find. Forever 21 has many selections for men showcasing floral garments at a very low price. Phillip Lim// $179.00


Forever 21// $12.90

Camo Cool

Camouflage is always a print that can dress any outfit up or down. Instead of buying a Saint Laurent jacket for $1,990; one can be purchased at Forever 21 for $19.99.. Saint Laurent// $1,990

Forever 21// $19.99

Functional Style: Back Packs Backpacks have made their way into the fashion scene as an additive to an outfit and viewed as an accessory. Of course not any backpack will suffice, instead look for those that are somewhat practical and still stylish. Louis Vuitton damier is retailed at the price of $2,780 and it is classic but if you’re on a budget, a Herschel backpack is still trendy enough and can last you for a while also and retailed at the price of $80.00 Louis Vuitton Damier// $2,780

Herschel// $80.00

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


Bring on the Bucket Hat

many options from fabric, colors, and designs. This multi-colored Kenzo bucket hat is retailed at the price of $155 and can go with many styles. However, Asos carries a few selections with Adidas being one of them priced at $30.00 which is camouflage as well. Kenzo// $155

Adidas// $30.00

Skater Vibes with Black and White

Black and white checkerboard prints have made their way into the fashion scene giving us a throwback to the vans inspired 80s vibes with the print combination. With the likes of Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, and now DSquared, the style is popular, but you can pick it up at a fraction of the price from Fred Perry. The brand has incorporated this trend along with more color selections. DSQUARED/ /$995


Fred Perry// $70.00

Trenching Through Spring

Lastly, since it is spring, you want to make sure you are ready for the rain when and if it comes your way. Instead of going for the classic trench jacket retailed at $1,619, the one retailed at $65.00 from ASOS online will be just as trendy especially with its neutral color. Burberry Mid-Length// $1,619

Asos// $65.00

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


Furry Footwear Fur being added to footwear is a style commonly seen on boots. Now, it has made its way to shoes for the spring and summer: from fur slip-ons to fur pumps. There are variations of colors and styles. The P.A.R.O.S.H. is an example of a fur-embellished sandal retailed at $142. A pair of sandals that are similar if not better looking can be found at your nearest ZARA or ZARA online on sale for $9.99 P.A.R.O.S.H.// $142

ZARA// $9.99

Stunning Stripes

Stripes have always been a fan favorite since it is the classic pattern. However, for this year’s spring season incorporating rainbow stripes of bright, bold colors are now the new way to dress up any outfit. Here are some examples from the Missoni M collection showcasing a Chevron striped shift dress retailed at $390 while an example of a Forever 21 off the shoulder striped top is retailed at $38.00. Missoni M//$390


Forever 21// $38.00

Women’s Trends For Less

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


Strut in Structure

Structure is in order for bringing the work style to your daily wardrobe. Utilitarian inspired clothing is a must try for this season. Boxlike shapes, oversized jackets, and even drawstring cords and toggles are all on trend. Here the Vanessa Seward Utility jumpuit is retailed at $230 and Abercrombie & Fitch retailed at $88.00 Vanessa Seward// $230

Ambercombie// $88

Bold Bralettes Ladies, you know how the usual is to hide your bra making sure it is not seen through your clothes? Let alone the straps poking out from your sleeves? This year that rule no longer applies. The “Bra out� trend is hitting the scene - actually making outfits sexier and more casual. Furthermore, instead of a regular bra, an embellished one tends to make a stronger statement. Here’s a Janiero strapped bra retailed at $80 while a strappy lace bra is $10 at Forever 21. Janiero// $80


Forever 21// $10.00

Go Big or Go Home

Oversized bags have been an ongoing trend. Yet, this look has now gotten a revamp in much larger styles. The look has garnered more attention from many, especially those that are more into the street inspired looks. These extra, extra large bags definitely make a fashion statement and help to complete any look. Maison Margiela// $540

Sole Society// $65

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017



SPRING STYLE + written by: Michelle Landriault



Spring has sprung baby! Part of having your own style and fashion is about accepting and loving yourself. You can put any garment on, and if you don’t feel yourself in your own skin then it doesn’t matter what’s trending, because you will never accept it on yourself. Get with it baby you’re amazing! You’re the only YOU out there, so stop trying to be everyone else, and be the most important thing in this world... yourself.


Once you’ve accepted that you are a sexy beautiful soul, then try out some of these fashions that will look so hot on you!


If you want to look effortless, and put together, AND on trend... this is the easiest way to do it. Mixing a muted tone top with some deconstructed jeans is so simple and always on trend. Some of the easier trends also don’t require too much, pair a sexy lace bralette under a ripped and distressed top... you’ll be so on trend that Yeezy will be jealous.

they keep you cool and sexy, who doesn’t love that? I’ve also worn this with a cool leather jacket over for a night out, and the sexiness level just goes up and up!

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017





A good graphic tee honestly will go with anything. Asos has some super cute graphic sweatshirts right now that you can grab and take with you anywhere for those chilly spring nights. It is so easy to wear a graphic tee with leggings and a jean jacket. You can style them so easily and wear them with literally ANYTHING!

Muted floral are going to be super in this spring, which is different than other springs of the past. I remember seeing a lot of color-blocking, and bright colors this time of year. But, this year I’m seeing a ton of different patterns hitting the scene that are much more muted tones and friendly looking. I’m also finding a ton of fat friendly options when it comes to shoes!



Don’t fret my pets, its time to start thinking about the summer and swimwear, just to put the bug in your ear look at this hot galaxy print from Torrid. This is one of my faves, but I’ll have a lot more options for you in our next issue, so stay tuned!will look so hot on you!


I’ve seen some really cute t-shirt dresses at Target, and their plus size line seems to be really easy to wear for me. Between Ava and Viv or the new Who What Wear collections, I seem to find some really cute items. The t-shirt dress can be dressed up or down depending on what shoes and accessories you pair it with. I’m a fan of how flowy they are and how forgiving they are on the body.

These Lue La Roe ladies are on to something, mixing your primary colors, and mixing prints are the non-matchy stuff I love. They seem to be mixing floral with stripes, which I like, and the idea of color mixing is also intriguing to me. Yet, for a chubby girl like me, this can be a bit scary! So, remember these little tips. Mix big with small when going for print mixing. For example, small flowers with a larger striped top or vice versa are good options. I’m telling you, it helps a ton when mixing prints! Also, another tip when mixing colors is to remember to mix primary colors! You can also mix muted shades together as they always seem to work perfectly.

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017




The rise of the queen in modern culture has been an amazing thing to watch. In the 90s, the world was exposed to the firecracker and original Queen herself: Rupaul. From Rupaul’s uber popular single “Supermodel: You Better Work” to the amazing variety show Rupaul had on VH1, people couldn’t get enough of the flamboyant personality and the fashion - the glamorous, bright and spellbinding fashion. Equipped with 5 inch stilettos, a sparkle gown and big hair – a drag queen could conquer the world and Rupaul did. Nearly 2 decades later and Rupaul continues to set the bar for fashion, flare and drag quality on LOGO Network. Rupaul’s Drag Race has created a cult following and shone light on the beauty that is drag culture. What is even more beautiful is the fact that these shows go beyond the superficial. They highlight the real human spirit that is within each of these performers. In an interview with The Guardian, Rupaul explains: “We’re dealing with people who have been shunned by society and have made a life regardless of what anyone else thinks of them have decided,” Rupaul continues to explain that the experiences highlighted on Rupaul’s Drag


Race “shows the tenacity of the human spirit, which each of us watching relates to. And we root for them. I think that’s what’s so captivating about it, seeing how these beautiful creatures have managed to prevail.” And prevail they continue to do here in the Windy City. Chicago has bred fierce talent in the queens who have risen to the ranks of Rupaul’s Drag race including Dida Ritz and those who are making a name on the performance circuit such as: Serena Fiierce. In this issue, we feature the queens in all their grandeur while showcasing the talent behind some of their most iconic looks: Christopher Harris – the founder of Haired by Harris. Two years ago the Redline Project released a feature that put Chicago Drag Queens on the map. A younger generation of ambitious and stylish performers has continued to establish themselves as fixtures of the local drag scene in Boystown. The creativity, style and thought that goes into establishing a personality takes a vision and sometimes a team of people. One entrepreneur who has found his calling and is pursuing a dream within the industry of big hair, fabulous nails and beauty is Christopher Harris. Known for his striking and imaginative take on wigs and hairstyling in general, the Haired by Harris brand has become a not-so-secret trade secret among the drag crowd in Chicago. His creations are like a one two punch to the jugular of style. They are the crowning touch to the look that any drag queen is in search of. The Halfstack team wanted to hear more about Christopher’s journey and what it has been like launching Haired by Harris and he was kind enough to share! We also wanted to get the lowdown into the industry and insight into the journey of two iconic Chicago queens: Dida Ritz and Serena Fiierce – the faces behind the Spring 2017 Feature shoot for Halfstack.


Keep reading for the full interviews!

Christopher, we’ve featured you before, but do you mind sharing a bit about yourself, your journey and current career endeavors within the beauty industry? For Suresty! My name is Christopher Harris and I am the founder and lead stylist behind Haired by Harris wigs. My work background is in the cosmetology field. I launched Haired by Harris last September of 2016. Mainly catering to nightlife performers and stage acts. Within this past 6 months we have launched a successful ecommerce store. Our wigs have been seen on some of the top Drag Queens on 4 continents thus far. What has been the evolution like as you build your brand: Haired By Harris? With Haired by Harris being under a year-old I feel that this question is still being answered. I honestly consider myself more an Artist then a wig stylist which allows for a more creative viewpoint. A creative viewpoint that I feel strong in and luckily it has been received surprising well among the masses. As I grow and live life and experience more of what it has to offer I pray that my wigs showcase and represent that as well. What has your personal experience been like as you pursued working with performers within the drag community? Have you faced obstacles and if so how have you overcome? My experience with collaborating and working with performers has been pretty epic. I was lucky and had the opportunity to work in a gay bar and become a part of Chicago’s drag scene early in my twenties. Ten years later and those relationships have nourished and allowed for me to have an in of sorts I guess you can say. With that being said I will say the biggest obstacle sometimes the lack of structure that working within this industry can have. Performers are free-spirited and that makes for meeting and appointment times to be a little hazy

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at times. But who doesn’t like a little spice every now and then. What has been your most life-changing and iconic moment as you have pursued this art form? Hands down the most iconic moment Haired by Harris has been was being a part in comeback of Tatianna from Rupaul’s Drag Race All-stars Season 2. She allowed us to make two iconic wigs for her and she basically wore them for her comeback tour across Australia and Brazil. When we think of wigs/extensions in the traditional sense, we think of basic looks, but your brand is truly elevating the beauty game to the next level – how are you trying to be different and what is the overall aesthetic you try to pull into your product range? We pride ourselves on using proven old school tricks with a little bit of fresh urban edge. We aren’t trying to make a wig that is being massed produced. I mean if I have to see one more queen perform in a 40’s inspired teased wave wig I will scream. Drag is individuality and we feel that should apply to the wigs as well. What does this upcoming year look like for you in terms of growth, what are you doing to remain competitive and make an impact? The name of the game this year is “Be Seen!” Haired by Harris spent the first 6 months perfectly our product and gaining traction. The next 6 are for us to get our


wigs out to the masses in hopes that they love them as much as we do. Our first major convention will be Rupaul’s Dragcon in LA in April. Last year they had a total of 25,000 attendees so we feel this is the perfect launching board. In a time of such polarized debate and politics, what do you think people can do to embrace our differences and show that our communities welcome diversity no matter a persons creed, religion, sexual preference or cultural background? By doing just that. Embrace each other, respect each other and learn from each other. You don’t have to agree but you do have to LISTEN! How are you trying to make an impact as a creative in Chicago, and how are you working to try and support other creatives within your industry? Truth be told I’m trying to put Chicago Wig styling and Wig Artist on the map. We don’t get enough respect due to being in the Midwest but we will change that. Haired by Harris for the most part only works with local Chicago Drag Queens, Photographers and Fashion Stylist. We want to offer a platform that allows Chicago to be showcased to the fullest! Do you think there is a need for improvement on transgender issues within the gay community? If so, what do you think we can do to support or push for change?

I think that is one of many issues that need to be improved on with the gay community. I always find it strange how a community of outcast turn around and cast the same shame and guilt on to certain groups within the community. I personally support the transgender movement and them having the same rights I have. What was your inspiration as you worked through creating the looks for this current shoot, what does the creative process look like for you? I’ve been watching a ton of old Hollywood movies lately so I wanted to incorporate old Hollywood glam mixed with a fresh color palette. And as also I had to throw some Dolly Parton Big hair in to the mix. Once that was decided the creative process flows pretty effortlessly. I try not to over think the process itself and just let the wig and styling happen organically. Finally, Where can our readers learn more about you online and connect with you over social media?

As always all wig request and custom orders can be placed via our website at www. and or directly at Please follow us on social media for all your behind the scene visuals. Instagram: @Hairedbyharris Facebook

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


Meet Dida Ritz Can you share information about yourself, and your journey into performing and developing your craft?

It’s been interesting because when I started drag it was just a hobby and something I did on the side. Now, it’s turned into a full time job. I would say for me learning and developing my craft is something I’m still working on which is really fun for me right now at moment. I’ve been really lucky to work with some great people in the industry who are so inspiring, and through them I feel that’s helped me push my craft to the max!! The idea of fame and attention is still something I’m getting used to. It happens when you least expect it, meaning when you’re walking down the street and someone randomly walks past you and says “Hi DIDA” which happens often lately! What has been the evolution of your transformation experience as you have created your DiDa Ritz persona?


When I lived I NYC I worked a few parties and did some shows, but I also focused other creative outlets. I took some time to myself to remember why I started drag in the first place. During that time my drag mother passed away unexpectedly and it really affected me in a scary bad way. I had to question if I even wanted to perform anymore. But it also gave me time to really think about what I want DIDA Ritz to be, how I want her look, and how I want to be seen by people. I owe a big thank you to the drag scene in NYC during that time. They were so welcoming to me, and played a part in the evolution of today’s new DIDA most see. Whenever I come to visit or work its definitely a second home. What has your personal experience been like as you pursued performing within the drag community? Have you faced obstacles and if so how have you overcome? I’ve felt so blessed in my personal experience because when I started drag it was so different. I’ve gotten to work with some of the great legends and I do mean legends, movers and shakers the firsts of this industry. I mean, MiMi Marks is my Auntie! It doesn’t get any better then that. But with success does come stress and I’ve had a great deal of obstacles to handle. The more I grow up, I’m learning how to stand up for what I believe and want. I trust myself more, but also know when to be an adult and walk the other way. Life is filled with obstacles; there are no exceptions with drag.

What has been your most life-changing and iconic moment as you have pursued this art form? Surely getting on DragRace! I mean to be recognized by one of the top performers in the industry, that’s was an ahah! moment for sure. Performing in front of the late great Natalie Cole, and to be honest meeting the fans when I travel, it’s shocking how long people will wait in line to meet you, or bring you gifts, cheesecake etc. I guess for me to know I have that kind of impact on someone make me remember blessing are real, and that life could be way different if I didn’t count my blessings one at a time. How has the entertainment industry’s focus on bringing the spotlight to the community through shows like RuPauls’ Drag Race impacted the drag/ LGBTQ/trans community? Has it helped or hindered in any way and if so how? This is a really good question I get asked often. I do think it helped every drag community around the world. Most definitely you can work as a drag queen professionally on the books and make money, and that makes me feel accomplished. But with all that said, I do get scared that some forget about the people that have paved the way and who are true icons in drag.... we seem to focus more on likes & status posts than ART In drag. Depending on who you talk to their idea of drag and who started it, is different. For

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some people DragRace is their first introduction to drag and seeing those queens on TV. Yet, I also want people to learn about and research people like Tommy Ross, CoCoVancCartier, Whitney Paige & so many other great legends that were and still are out here. Doing it before we were even born, going hard just so the younger generation and I can have a voice.

to start giving it to each other. That’s the only way we’re going to get through this wild ride. It’s really crazy how rude and ill mannered some of the world is right now.

How has the Chicago community pulled together to show support for those in the Drag & LGBTQ community? Are you seeing positive changes as someone who is a part of this community?

Right now, for me it’s all about being the best DIDA I can be. I said it earlier, the impact that I’ve made in Chicago and throughout the world is outstanding for a small gay boy from Lansing Michigan that just wanted to move to the big city. I love to inspire and make people feel happy. I would like to pursue more modeling and acting. I enjoy Fashion a lot, music, the sky is the limit for me right now.

I am seeing some positive change. I’ve noticed more opportunities, parties and shows, that have opened up. More girls are starting to come out in face, and also move here to the city. The Chicago sisterhood of drag queens is fun and we’ve got a good melting pot of creativity. We all bounce off and support each other. In a time of such polarized debate and politics, what do you think people can do to embrace our differences and show that our communities welcome diversity no matter a person’s creed, religion, sexual preference or cultural background? I think all we can try to do is be kind. When I walk pass someone I might say “hello” or compliment him or her just because that might help make someone’s day better. Even simple things like opening or holding a door for someone. Positivity is a chain reaction and we have

How are you trying to make an impact as a performer in Chicago, what are your goals in terms of success in the coming years?

Do you think there is a need for improvement on transgender issues within the gay community? If so, what do you think we can do to support or push for change? I really believe there’s some people who are queer and are just are not that knowledgeable about trans issues. I know this because I asked questions all the time to my friends who are transitioning. The one thing I hear from them constantly, is “people only believe what they read and don’t understand that not every person who is trans is going to have the same story.” But I do think people want to do something to make change. Yet, I think they are scared to ask or don’t know how to go about getting involved.

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

I’ve felt so blessed in my personal experience because when I started drag it was so different.

What are some upcoming performances you can share with our readers that you are excited about? I have a few things coming up! “All things BEyonce” once a month at SideTracks and “BlackGirlMagic” at Berlin in April both in Chicago. I am getting ready for DragCon and Pride and before you know it the year is almost over! HAHA! Finally, Where can our readers learn more about you online and connect with you over social media? All of my social media sites such as: Twitter and Facebook are @ DiDARitz IG is @DiDASwag. For Booking inquiries email: or visit my website



Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


Meet Serena Fiierce Can you share information about yourself, and your journey into performing and developing your craft? Well, for starters I’m everything and beautiful! Lmao just kidding, kind of.. my name is Sergio Nieves and I’m 26 years old, born and raised in Chicago, IL. My drag persona Serena Fiierce originated a little less than 7 years ago. I started out just wanting to do it “once” for the experience, little did I know I’d fall in love with the art form of female impersonation. Serena Fiierce is an entertainer who loves to talk a lot of shit, dance her ass off, make people laugh and genuinely feel good! It’s taken much practice and dedication to feel 100% about my craft. When it


comes to my full look I always love to embody my mother. She has been one of the main inspirations for Serena. What has been the evolution of your transformation experience as you have created your Serena persona? The evolution wasn’t always so beautiful. I’ve always tested out different looks and makeup trends to really figure out how I wanted Serena Fiierce to look. A little variety never hurt anybody!! I always like to keep up with trends and evolve with drag while keeping true to my aesthetic. More than that, my evolution has helped me become more confident about myself in everyday life. What has your personal experience been like as you pursued performing within the drag community? Have you faced obstacles and if so how have you overcome? Ever since I started it’s been a whirlwind of experiences. I’ve met so many great people within the industry and community. I’ve been so blessed to touch so many people and have people respect the art form. It took me a while to be comfortable telling people I was a female impersonator. I always worried about guys not wanting to date me because of that.

But I had to learn, if you’re going to do it, own it, believe in it, and keep on moving. You will always find someone who will love and support you for all of you. What has been your most life-changing and iconic moment as you have pursued this art form? My most life-changing moment was becoming a cast member at Hydrate Nightclub. Hydrate is one of the most prestigious show bars on the strip. Having such big names within our community working at this bar like Mz Ruff and Stuff, Mimi Marks, and Naysha Lopez, I feel like the luckiest person being able to be included in such a legacy. How has the entertainment industry’s focus on bringing the spotlight to the community through shows like RuPauls’ Drag Race impacted the drag/LGBTQ/ trans community? Has it helped or hindered in any way and if so how? It definitely has helped people outside of the LGBTQ community understand who we are and what we do. HOWEVER within our community it had it’s up and downs on the views of what drag is. I think sometimes a lot people expect to only see what’s on drag race in show bars, But drag is so beyond what’s just

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on the tv show. I love to see all sorts of drag slay in their own way. How has the Chicago community pulled together to show support for those in the Drag & LGBTQ community? Are you seeing positive changes as someone who is a part of this community? Chicago has one of the most sickening and diverse drag scenes in the nation. There are plenty of people who come to our shows to show support that aren’t part of the LGBTQ community. Every Friday and Saturday at Hydrate Nightclub we have our Beautis and Beaus Revue hosted by Mz Ruff n Stuff and Naysha Lopez. This show is usually a sold out revue with 80% of the reservations being people not of the LGBTQ community.

Do you think there is a need for improvement on transgender issues within the gay community? If so, what do you think we can do to support or push for change? Yes, I definitely think there is a need for a lot more support and security for our trans brothers and sisters. In this time of crisis where trans people are getting murdered so frequently we all need to take the initiative to step up to the plate. What are some upcoming performances you can share with our readers that you are excited about? This Thursday I will be at Hydrate Nightclub for R/X Thursdays This Saturday I will be at the dynamic show Drag Matinee at Berlin Nightclub

How are you trying to make an impact as a performer in Chicago, what are your goals in terms of success in the coming years?

Finally, Where can our readers learn more about you online and connect with you over social media?

I honestly just want people to smile when they see me on stage. I want people to come to my shows even if they’re having a terrible day, just leave that all at the door and truly let go in the art of drag. As well, I plan to make it on RuPauls Drag Race and slay all those hoes!!

Facebook: Serena Fiierce Instagram: @SerenaFiierce Twitter: @SerenaFiierce


Every Thursday at Hydrate Nightclub hosting for RUNWAY & R/X Thursdays. Every week I post flyers on every social media site of where I will be for the week at different bars within our boystown community.


Chicago has one of the most diverse drag scenes in the nation! Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


Kit Kat Lounge is one of those places where you want to enjoy your time with company! 104




I took one adventurous leap to Kit Kat Lounge. Walking through the door, I was consumed by the colorful, but intimate, lighting. The black and white films playing on the walls caught my eye. And upbeat music dancing through my eardrums kept me engrossed in my surroundings. The smell of great food cooking nearby stopped me in my tracks. I was so entranced by the atmosphere I forgot that the host was helping me with my coat! I sat down on a chic printed zebra chair and was immediately pulled into the universe that is The Kit Kat Lounge. As I looked around everyone had a smile on their face. Laughter, forks tapping plates, and upbeat tune filled the room. I couldn’t help to feel happy myself. Even my partner-in-crime had a smile on his face. Kit Kat Lounge is a place where you truly want to enjoy your time with company. As we read through the menu, our smiles grew. The names of the entrees and drinks will leave a good taste in everyone’s mouth. Some martini options include: Jenny from the Block, Rosmopolitan, and Sake-it-to-me. The dinner entrees include: Mae West, Coco Chanel, Elizabeth Taylor and much more. We order the Big Apple and Lady Gaga martinis and the Yoko Ono. Yoko Ono is a salmon filet - teriyaki salmon filet with wasabi mashed potatoes

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and broccolini. Trust me, it is as good as it sounds. This was my first time eating salmon, and I don’t really like fish, but there is a first time for everything. Even my partner-in-crime who is a very picky eater enjoyed the salmon! Our favorite part of night was the performance by Sunny Dee Lite. My guest and I agreed, “Sunny added even more excitement to the night with her performances”. She included a great selection of songs almost everyone will know and was singing to. Just make sure you have your tips ready! Sunny Dee Lite was absolutely stunning and so fun. Her style is impeccable, and each ensemble is unique.

Her personality absolutely lit up the room. Kit Kat Lounge is a fun escape from the stress of every day life. If you can’t afford a vacation right now, let Kit Kat Lounge be your next adventure.




Chicago based band: Soul Vistas is definitely in a genre all of their own and they’re making quite the impact on the Chicago music scene. Their sound is immediately captivating, and keeps your toes tapping to the beat. Yet, at the core of their music is a deep history that is inspired by Chicago’s musical movements. Check them out on Band Camp: https://soulvistas. Chicago is known for the distinctive “Chicago style” of jazz. This style originated with southern musicians moving North after 1917 and bringing with them the New Orleans “Dixieland” -sometimes called “hot jazz” styles. King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton became stars of the Chicago jazz scene. The city is also known for it’s incredibly strong and historical blues scene. Chicago blues is a type of urban blues that evolved from classic blues following the Great Migration, which was both forced and voluntary at times, of African-Americans from the southern United States to the industrial cities of the north, such as Chicago.


Muddy Waters directly joined that migration in an effort to avoid the more harshly southern Jim Crow laws. Bruce Iglauer, founder of Alligator Records once stated that, “Chicago blues is the music of the industrial city, and has an industrial sense about it.” Over the years the Chicago music scene and the working musicians in it have evolved to carve out their own place in history. You can feel that industrial vibe in what many blues inspired musicians are bringing their sound back to, in the modern movement we see today. Musicians and bands such as Soul Vistas continue to build on this legacy adding their own unique sound and allowing the Chicago music scene to grow beyond a myopic vision of what it should be and is focusing more on what it could be. Soul Vistas has created a sound that combines the soulfulness of Chicago blues that has a darker tone hinting at noir, with a post apocalyptic neo soul that just hits you to the core. SOUL VISTAS is led by singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Curtis Anthony Bozif. He’s joined by Matt Alley

on guitar, Graham Caldwell on keyboard, Dan Budai on bass, Mike Curran on drums, and Alex Santilli on percussion. Their instrumentals add the ever-prominent groove that makes it hard to not want to dance while they are playing a live show at some of Chicago’s most popular venues. Soul Vistas is creating the Chicago soundtrack for the urban dwelling, hip cool cats who aren’t afraid to listen to something of substance. They’re a band we are in desperate need of in a time of repeat pop music and top 40’s. The band’s self-titled digital album is a chill fusion of genres that create a fluid and dynamic sound. The band draws from a variety of musical inspirations including: blues, R&B, soul, funk, hip hop and jazz music. The beats are unmistakable and leave the listener wanting more. Bozif’s unique voice creates a dark and melodic underscore that blends beautifully with the instrumental progressions found in each song. A prime example of this blending is showcased in the track: Prettiest Words.

SOUL VISTAS PLAYING ATHMARTYRS alfstack Magazine | March 2017


The song is also a great feature of Bozif’s penchant for writing meaningful lyrics that hit you right in the feels. The band’s talented front man took some time to share more about Chicago’s music scene, the journey of Soul Vistas and his band mates and how music impacted him. If you’re interested in learning more about Soul Vistas read on for the full interview: 1. Curt, can you share a bit about yourself, Soul Vistas and the band’s journey as musicians? I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and first moved to Chicago in 2006 to attend Northwestern University where I earned my MFA in Art Theory and Prac-

tice. Not long after graduation, I started playing lead guitar in a garage rock outfit with a country/blues tilt to it called bourbon. The band was led by a good friend of mine from St. Louis who had recently moved to Chicago. We made some weird demos and eventually a four song EP and dissolved shortly after having never played a show. That was back in 2013. After that I began working with our bass player, Dan Budai, who we met through craigslist. I’m completely self-taught as a musician, I definitely have a chip on my shoulder because of that, but Dan has some real training and understands music theory. He’s been a solid collaborator over the years and I’ve learned a lot from him.


We thought we were starting a straight-ahead blues band. I‘d been singing and writing songs since I began playing guitar in high school. So I set to work writing some blues for this new project that still didn’t have a name. But it wasn’t long before I got bored and started writing songs that challenged what you might call traditional blues conventions. I’m talking about things like song structure and harmony. So while these new songs maintained extended passages for improvised soloing, I started to incorporate more complex chords and progressions like you might find in jazz, and writing choruses with tight hooks. Mike Curran joined us on drums in the spring of 2014. He was perfect for what we were trying to do because

in addition to being a creative drummer who plays with a lot of power and expression he’s also extremely versatile. He plays drums and percussion in a variety of other kinds of bands. Playing everything from punk and ska, to hip-hop, and straight up blues. We quickly evolved into SOUL VISTAS. 2. Can you tell us more about the experience pursuing a music career in Chicago? At first it was a challenge to find bands to play shows with because our sound is all over the place. And that was really frustrating. We shared bills with traditional blues bands, indie rock bands, jam bands, even a New Orleans style brass band once! But today we see our eclecticism as a strength. We’re pretty versatile and that’s allowed us to play with some really great bands. 3. Where do you draw your inspiration when you perform and for the music you create? I think a lot about history and time and what we choose to do with it and I worry a lot about the future. A lot of my imagery comes from nature. Many of my songs, in one way or another, are about the end of the world. That might sound dramatic but if you’re a serious artist today you’re paying attention, and if you’re paying attention you’re probably concerned. I think you have to make work about your concerns. Even with something as simple as a love song, to

me it’s important to place that love in the context of a world with an uncertain future. That two people are lucky enough to find happiness in each other in a world where so many suffer, I find that amazing. I mean, how does human emotion come from stardust? 4. Can you tell us more about the type of music you play and how you developed your very unique sound? I like to describe our sound as apocalyptic neo soul, indie fusion, and blues groove. Our songs feature soulful melodic hooks and extended passages of improvisation. Usually supported by a funky basslines and a hard driving beat with a touch of swing added for good measure. We’ve had a lot of lineup changes over the last few years but today when everybody can make a show we’re a six piece that includes myself on guitar and vocals, Matt Alley on guitar, Graham Caldwell on keyboard, Dan Budai on bass, Mike Curran on drums, and Alex Santilli on percussion. Everybody brings something unique and exciting to the mix. 5. What the writing process entail when you are working on a new song? Anything special you do to really tap into creating a story within the music? Every song is different. Sometimes the idea for a new song starts with a compelling lyric, sometimes it’s a pretty melody, or an interesting chord change,

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

or a challenging rhythm. I do a lot of my songwriting while I’m walking. Something about walking unlocks creative thinking. I’ll record new ideas on my iPhone and go back and listen to them when I can sit down with a guitar. I think of this process like sketching. I try and finish a new song before I present it to the rest of the band. I’ll write out charts to give the guys and I’ll just start playing. Working with really talented musicians allows you to do this. They’ll jump right in and respond to what they’re hearing. For me that’s when it really get’s fun. 6. Have you faced obstacles on this journey and if so, how did you overcome? There’s been a few obstacles. Finding the right musicians and keeping the lineup consistent is one. Right after we began recording our debut album our guitar play, Matt Alley, left Chicago for Indiana University in Bloomington, IN to pursue a PhD in Ethnomusicology. That was a real blow to the band because Matt could play in a variety of different styles. He was also a really talented improviser and like all great improvisers he was a great listener which is so important and surprisingly hard to find. He really helped define our sound in the beginning. Luckily for us, Matt and his wife Connie weren’t happy in Bloomington and so they moved back to Chicago and Matt rejoined the band.


Another obstacle was finishing our debut self-titled album. We worked with our friend Jason Schmidt at RaxTrax Recording. Everything was done on a shoestring budget. And we didn’t make it any easier on ourselves because we had so much we wanted to pack into each song, and we weren’t making three minute radio friendly songs either, many of our songs are over the five minutes. But working slowly over a year and half allowed us to really dig deep and think a lot about our sound. We got to experiment and make mistakes and include all the little details that in the end make a huge difference. 7. What has been the proudest moment over the last 2 years as Soul Vistas has grown and developed? The proudest moment was definitely this past September when we finally released our debut self-titled album. You can download it at www.soulvistas. com or on bandcamp or iTunes or stream it on Spotify. Or you can pick up a CD at one of our shows. 8. Why are the arts important to the world today? It seems so often when school budgets get cut the first thing to go are the arts programs – what are your thoughts on this experience and how has music transformed you as an individual?


Playing music is all about collaboration. It’s about listening, and sharing, and negotiating with others. These are important lessons for any person. It’s also about self-discipline and focus. You gotta pay attention. You gotta practice. You never stop learning. And, I think this is really important, music is physical. In this age when everything is dematerialized and digitized and uploaded to the cloud and only looked at on tiny little screens. Live music is immediate, unmediated, and physical. And if you’re playing it right, it’ll move people. It can physically move bodies. When you’re on stage and you see people get up out of their chairs and start dancing to your music, that’s incredibly rewarding as an artist and a performer.

community find what we’re doing threatening to the traditions that they hold so dear or would we be seen as innovative? I also think collaborating with hip-hop artists could be really fun and rewarding. And, I wonder if there’s a place for what we’re doing in the DIY scene in Chicago.

9. How is Soul Vistas attempting to innovate in the Chicago music scene? What are you doing different to pursue your music and dreams?

11. Finally, where can we learn more about you and any upcoming shows?

That’s a really good question and makes me think we can be better at challenging ourselves. I think our range of styles is a good start. We’re not easily categorized and that’s a good thing. I’d be interested to see how folks would respond to our music from inside the traditional blues scene. Like, what would happen if we played our music at B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted, or Kingston Mines, or Buddy Guys for that matter? Would that

10. What kind of advice would you give people interested in pursuing a career or even just experimenting in music? Listen to everything. Practice. But don’t be afraid to mess up. Take walks. Put down your iPhone. Support live music and don’t be afraid to talk to the musicians after they get off the stage. Question everything and make the music you want to hear. Trust your listeners.

Folks can connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and twitter. We post regularly. And our website: has more info. about our music and upcoming shows.




Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


Written By: Danielle Hazekamp / Layout by: Kandace McVickar

Image Courtsey of Scratch Goods

What is better than getting pampered? Getting pampered alongside your friends! That is exactly what happens when you visit Scratch Goods in Chicago. At Scratch Goods, you are experiencing beauty from a different perspective by learning how to do your own facial with their all-natural products. When I say all natural, I am talking so natural that it is safe to actually eat! All of this beauty education awhile hanging out with your friends is a treat any beauty maven can appreciate. Did I mention that this place allows BYOB as well? I had the pleasure of receiving their premium service, which includes a DIY facial; it also includes a hand mask application and an amazing foot soak while your mask is drying. I absolutely loved my experience there and the products! I highly recommend that if you are in or near Chicago and looking for something different to enjoy with your friends, try Scratch Goods. Don’t live in the area? You can buy Scratch Good products online on their website www. Along with the opportunity to visit Scratch Goods, I had the opportunity to interview Maureen, one of their co-founders to discuss more about their mask bar, products and what is next for Scratch Goods.


I must say I have never heard of a mask bar, what made you think to open one? Elizabeth deserves the credit for this idea, which came to her in the shower one day. We were a year and a half into our first storefront, which was operating as both a retail store selling our handmade skincare, and as a small facial salon, booking out two chairs for facials with our on-staff estheticians. The facials were designed to use only our handmade products, giving customers a natural facial while also introducing them to our retail line. We received good feedback from the treatments themselves, but were still fielding lots of questions about how to mix up the masks at home. We also noticed that our non-traditional shared facial space was giving rise to a new kind of experience: the two chairs were often booked by couples or pairs of friends who wanted to share this experience with someone - they’d bring their own drinks, and wanted to take selfies and chat while their face masks dried, not drift off to soothing music with cucumbers on their eyes. It occurred to us that we were using an older service model that didn’t impart much knowledge, nor was it addressing our customers’ desire for a fun group activity. So, when Elizabeth explained her crazy shower vision of a ‘mask bar,’ we knew it was perfect for us. We added another chair to our space and installed three self-service stations, allowing customers to interact with us and each other as they are guided through their own mask mixing and application. This new workshop-style setup kills two birds with one stone: it educates customers more fully on the product through hands-on learning, while giving them a fun, social self-care experience.

What makes you stand apart from a spa where someone can go and get a facial? Traditional spa facials feel nice, and are definitely relaxing, but our main beef is with the products being used: they’re questionable at best (never as natural as we’d like), and incredibly pricey. And we’re not really into medical procedures like chemical peels and microdermabrasion - they are pretty drastic fixes and can easily turn dangerous. The main benefits from a spa facial comes from the massage, performed by your esthetician - their 60 minutes of touching and pressing and rubbing your face is what stimulates blood flow and gives your skin that post-facial glow. That’s also the easiest part to recreate on your own, through detoxifying clays and the techniques taught at our mask bar, created by our on-staff estheticians. So, our customers leave feeling pampered, relaxed and glowing, but with the knowledge and confidence to apply these same techniques at home and see real results. Also, I’ve never been to a spa facial where I can choose my own music and have a beer with two pals :)

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


All of the products that are used for your services are part of your skincare line that is actually handmade and made from locally sourced ingredients, what made you want to go that route? Creating natural products with sustainable, pronounce-able ingredients was the sole reason for creating Scratch Goods. We were grossed out by the parabens and pthalates that are so prevalent in body care and cosmetics, mainly used to preserve and stabilize products as they are shipped over from China, then stored in big box warehouses. These baddies are getting recent attention due to our body’s ability absorb them into our bloodstream, where levels have been shown to build up over long-term usage, possibly altering our hormones. It turns out that the average woman applies 168 chemicals onto her body each day, most of which are not scrutinized or even tested by the FDA, as the American cosmetic industry is very lightly regulated. Sulfates are another item that we wanted to cut out of our routine: they are the foaming components in all soaps, shampoos and body washes, and are strong degreasers that can easily strip too much oil from our delicate skin and scalps. Regular use of sulfates can throw our bodies out of whack and into a cycle of over-production of oil, leading to breakouts, irritation, dry patches and an increased need for cleansing. Eliminating sulfates is one of the most important parts of our skincare line, as it allows skin to calm down and reach a much more sustainable balance. The easy solution to avoiding these ingredients was to start a whole skincare line from scratch, not just find similar replacements in the same old products. We forego sulfates by cleaning with natural soaps or oil cleansers, which are unable to strip all the natural oils from our skin. Then, we eliminate the need for strong preservatives by eliminating water as an ingredient from nearly all of our products. When there is no water activity, there is no risk for bacterial or mold growth, and no need for harsh parabens and pthalates. The few ingredients that we do use are sourced locally whenever possible, to ensure freshness and quality. These local suppliers are also a wealth of information: Jana from Bike a Bee has taught us so much about the healing properties of raw honey, and Dark Matter Coffee has schooled us on the different acid contents of their coffee varietals. Really connecting with our ingredients, while eliminating all of the questionable ones, is what makes us tick.

I love that your products are so natural that they are safe enough to eat and they work amazing too, how did you come up with your formulations for your products? Maureen is responsible for the science behind the goods. Her background in chemistry and food science has given her an eye for formulations and a reliance on real research (largely ignoring the boatload of anecdotal claims on the internet). We log several formulations and trials on each product before rolling it out in our retail line. The soap formulas are actually rooted in an old-fashioned cold-process style that was popular long before sulfates flooded the market, and is similar to what both of our great-grandmothers used to make on the farm. Our oil blends are formulated with total fatty acid composition in mind, blending oils with profiles that complement each other to deliver a full spectrum of nutrients that a single-origin oil could never provide. Clay mask powders are blended according to mineral content and electrical affinity for water so that we can better predict their strengths. Essential oils are used to gently scent some - but not all - of our products, and are chosen both for their aromas and their functional skincare properties. Each and every formula and ingredient is a conscious choice that is always being re-evaluated and improved upon, so you’re sure to see more and better products as we continue to grow..


You started your own business as an Etsy store and now you have your own brick and mortar store, what obstacles did you have to overcome to get where you are today? We’ve been pretty fortunate in our nearly 6-year journey from Etsy page to brick-and-mortar, and probably because we’ve taken the whole process very slowly and grown from within. We’ve never taken on outside investors and have operated relatively debt-free by putting all profits back into the business for a long time. The freedom we’ve had with this model has allowed us to be super flexible and to grow in ways we never could have imagined from Day 1. That being said, we’ve definitely struggled with time - never having enough of it. When we started the business, and for years afterward, it was just the two of us, both still working fulltime jobs. Now that we have more time to commit to Scratch Goods, and some amazing staff to keep us going, time management is somewhat easier, but we still struggle to keep normal personal lives. We always struggle with big decisions - is this the right location? the right direction? - and probably even more with the little ones - should we change the font size by 0.25 pt? - but we have a pretty amazing support system in each other, and in our great family and friends.

What do you see next for Scratch Goods? Some exciting things are coming! We’re looking at expanding our mask bar, possibly in a newer, bigger location. We’re working on a cool new project with Flowers for Dreams, and several new products are in the pipeline. After a great run of meditation classes with guest instructors this January, we’ve decided to add more community events and workshops to our calendar. And we intend to give back bigger than ever before: this year we’re looking to double last year’s soap donations to Sharing Hope Preschool in Mozambique, keeping even more little hands clean and safe. Stay tuned!

My Favorite Scratch Good Products Scratch Good Cleansing Oil- My skin has been sensitive lately and so I need something gentle yet effective. This cleansing oil not only removes my makeup completely it also leaves my skin super soft after it is removed. Scratch Good Dark Matter Coffee Scrub- I always love a good scrub especially when the key ingredient is coffee. I mean who doesn’t love coffee? What is also great about this scrub besides how amazing my skin feels after using it is that this scrub is gentle enough to use on your face.

Scratch Goods Clansing OIi, $15

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

Scratch Goods Dark Matter Coffee Scrub, $18


Must Haves For Her Written By: Danielle Hazekamp Layout by: Kandace McVickar


3Lab Healthy Glow Lip Balm

I always love a lip balm that leaves a light pinkish tint to my lips and this lip balm does that while adding moisture bad to my lips. I am not going to lie ever since I received my sample of this I would I say I apply it almost every day. I am obsessed with this lip balm. //$55

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


dr. Perricone Refreshing Shower Mask

I absolutely love this new mask from dr. Perricone. First I love that is a shower mask. All you do is put it on when you get in the shower, let it do its thing while you shower and then rinse off before you get out. I also love how gentle yet effective this mask is. It is designed specifically to help protect your skin from heat stress that can be caused in the shower so there is no red blotchiness afterwards from using this in the shower. I love that once you wash it off there is this amazing cool effect that takes place and I was surprise how long that it actually lasted. I was also surprised how amazing my skin felt and looked after one application. //$50

M.A.C. Lip Scrubtious

When I saw that M.A.C. was releasing these lip scrubs I knew I had to go out and get one. I will say when you look at the ad you think that the scrub will stain your lips the color of the products but it isn’t the case. This sugar based scrub will not stain your lips but it will remove any dead skin and hydrate your lips instantly. I used this about 3 times a week and I have yet to have any issue with over exfoliating, if anything my lips are nice and smooth. Also, these scrubs come in 5 different scent/flavors all of which smell amazing. I had a hard time at the store to decide which one to get. // $16


Pure Hemp Herbal Hand & Foot Glaze: Limited Edition Now that I am a stay at home mom, I am constantly cleaning something as well as washing my hands. I have never had my hands so dry in my life. This glaze is amazing, not only does it smell good it also softens my hands instantly. Also, I feel like it doesn’t leave my hands greasy like some of the other hand lotions/creams that I have tried in the past. //$15.95

Aveda Tulasara Bright Concentrate Serum

I have always loved Aveda’s skincare and this product is just another reason why I love them. Long story short I walked into my Aveda store for a different product and ended up walking out with this one as well. This serum is part of their new tulasara collection. Since becoming a mom I have noticed a lot of hyperpigmentation on my cheeks and forehead. All I have ever want is a nice even skin tone and thanks to this product I have a chance. From using this for about a month or so and I have noticed a difference in my skin. What I also like about this product is that it is 98% naturally derived, meaning that its ingredients are from plants, non-petroleum minerals and water. //$59

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


spring skincare

clinique super balanced


Skincare is something that I’ve always been interested in. I feel like most of the things people try to cover up with makeup, they really should just be using the correct skincare to help alleviate the issue. The goal should be to correct the issues you have with skincare, so you don’t have


to wear as much makeup. Here are some things that you can use at any age that will help combat what ails you. Perricone MD makes some amazing products in skincare and makeup lines now. They are known for the “Plasma” lines that really combat the signs of aging, but there are a couple options in their line that I would recommend to anyone. The

Daily Foaming Cleanser, and the Oil Free Hydrating cream are safe for young and old, and because its all oil free you can use them even if you’re acne prone. Elizabeth Arden’s Ceramide Line is amazing! It’s like an insurance policy for your skin. It helps combat the signs of ageing or reverse them. The Ceramide Capsules are the number one seller in the Arden skin-

care line, and there’s a reason for it. They have youth restoring systems as well as illuminating ones that help with dull skin. I love everything about this line. Cleansing Oil is a great option for any age as well. If you’re older this is great to keep the moisture in the skin, and if you’re younger cleansing oils are really good for makeup removal. They also help reduce the signs of aging due to the, being vitamin enriched and healthier for your skin. I LOVE the Ceramide one from Elizabeth Arden, but there are so many cleansing oils on the market - just try one! Clinique Super Balanced and Prevage foundation are a foundation and skincare in one. If you can get some vitamin enriched foundation, or foundation that has some skincare properties in it, this can be way better for your skin. I personally love the Clinique brand of foundation. So, I don’t feel like I’m compromising at all when I get their super balanced foundation. I also love the Prevage skincare line; so similarly, with this product I don’t feel like I’m loosing out on that skincare that I love. I switch these up a lot!

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

cleansing oil

elizabeth arden

prevage foundation

perricone md



T H E FIT NES S C R AZ E 2 FAVES T O T RY T ODAY an affordable rate with the convenience to go whenever you wanted with the availability of a trainer. In 2013, Cross Kicks Fitness was created. It had the personal training atmosphere without committing to a certain time frame. Cross Kicks makes high quality personal training affordable for everyone.

Fitness, a word in everybody’s mouth, especially since it is so close to that season which requires swimsuits. We currently have that winter bod (let me tell you, mine is NOT pretty) and need to get the summer bod ASAP. So how are we going to achieve those abs? How will we squeeze our bodies into those tiny strips of fabric called swimsuits? Diet and exercise. Here at Halfstack we are highlighting 2 innovative ways to exercise and lose those love handles! Make sure to test them out yourselves and enjoy those results!!

Crossfit gym with a slightly different name. But when I tried it out, it was honestly a whole new ball game. You do everything from the dreaded running, TRX (I honestly love that), HIIT Training, rowing, boxing and the list goes on. So, I had a little conversation with the brilliant mind behind this new gym that is making others look a little bland.

Tony, the creator of Cross Kicks Fitness, has been in the fitness industry for 10 years. With a background in Sports Science, he fell in love with Cross Kicks helping people. One of those people who he influenced, When I originally came became his business partner. across Cross Kicks, I hon- Tim was an entrepreneur and estly thought it was another wanted to open a gym chain at


The atmosphere at Cross Kicks is electrifying. It contains all like-minded driven people all at one gym. Everybody works hard and has similar goals making everyone more productive! Also every membership includes a one-on-one weigh in (every 6 months or when decided with a trainer) and also measurements taken. Every single person sets goals and you and your trainer both keep track of it. This isn’t just any gym where you come in and workout. You are held accountable! It keeps people involved, dedicated and motivated to your goals. So, what do Cross Kicks workouts look like? First, they are never repeated. Each center which consists of 4 locations (Roselle, Algonquin, Lake

H E A LT H & F I T N E S S


The atmosphere at Cross Kicks is electrifying. It contains all like-minded driven people all at one gym. Everybody works hard and has similar goals making everyone more productive! Also every membership includes a one-on-one weigh in every 6 months or when decided with a trainer along with body measurements.

Zurich and Hoffman Estates that share the same management) has a great training staff that designs each workout daily. There is nothing from a book or video, each workout is trainer developed. It is a 40 minute high intensity workout. You can come in, workout and leave. Plus, if you wanted a longer workout there are bonus rounds every day. There are NO class times which people such as myself love, and there are nutrition experts on staff (since nutrition is 80% of the battle.) Each day has a different focus; Mondays/ Thursdays are Core/Leg Day, Tuesday/Fridays are Arms and Wednesdays/Saturdays are TKO pure cardio days which focus on big calorie loss. Cross Kicks includes but is not limited to Kettlebell work, rowers, boxing, kickboxing, HIIT training and much more. There are even Professional MMA fighters and boxers on the trainer staff. The trainers show you how to do those moves, no prior experience needed. Cross Kicks is for people that have never worked out, people that were die hard CrossFit enthusiasts, and it is a program that is modifiable to everyone. It is unlimited training with a personal trainer. It consists of a high intensity circuit style training. Plus an added bonus is that all the trainers know everyone’s

name. Yes, I feel special walking for lean muscle increate and fat in everyday when I am greeted loss. There are multiple people by name. with a fat loss of 100 or more pounds. Cross Kicks also offers a 90 Days Total Body Transformation Still not convinced to try Challenge twice a year that Cross Kicks? Well the 1st has seen huge successes. The workout is always free. It is challenges are in the fall and NOT a sales pitch! You get to January and there has been experience Cross Kicks and continual growth in participation get to see what they do and in those challenges. This recent if you are not ready, you can January challenge has seen do the program whenever you over 80 participants club wide. are. Plus, they offer one-onThe Algonquin location (the one one personal training, sports I work out in) has 39 participants programming, and more. Their and a team goal of 790 lbs. lost entire staff was collegiate athsince Monday February 27 and letes, so they work with sports has seen a loss of 352 lbs. 305 teams too. There is currently a of those pounds are straight promotional event running: the fat loss, which is a crazy sta- Friends and Family Special! If a tistic. Cross Kicks uses InBody, member refers a friend/family to an industry leading technology come and join Crosskicks, they that breaks down body mass, get Cross Kicks cash to use in lean mass, fat mass with 98% the facility as well as the person accuracy. That information tells referred. This is extended till the the trainer what specifically your end of March! goals are. It helps the trainer accurately track success. This Unlimited training for under challenge is a fat loss chal- $100 at Cross Kicks, you can’t lenge, and people are rewarded find that deal anywhere else! So, visit your local Cross Kicks

B u s i n e s s M a g a z i n e | A p r i l 2 0 11 Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


They are 5 zone heart-rate interval training facility.

and see why, in such a short time, this new fitness chain has been making a name in the fitness world! Visit and try a free class today! Orange Theory Fitness Orange Theory Fitness is a name I have been hearing everywhere! So, I decided to pay it a visit and see what the fuss is all about. Since 2010, Orange Theory Fitness has developed a heart rate-based interval training that utilizes the rowing machines, treadmills and a variety of strength-training equipment. Each participant wears a heart rate monitor throughout the workout. The workouts are broken up into


different sections of work, and by the ability to view your heart rate percentage on a screen, which encourages you to do your best! What sets Orange Theory apart from other fitness facilities is the fact that it is backed by Science! The science of post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), the heart-rate monitored training is designed to keep heart rates in a target zone that stimulates metabolism and increases energy. The heart rate should be at 84-91% of your maximal heart rate for 12-21 minutes during the workout I was told. Also, Orange Theory clients burn an estimated 500 to 1000 calories per each 60-minute workout.

Orange Theory Fitness offers 60-minute workout sessions split into intervals of cardiovascular and strength training with heart rate monitors to track intensity and maximize metabolic burn. You also get to work out in a group setting, which provides accountability and structure to help achieve fitness goals. People who work out in groups stick to their goals more consistently than those that workout alone. Also the heart-rate monitor and the instructors constantly push you to tap into your “orange zone.” (The display chart shows your progress in real time through five different heart rate zones: gray, blue, green, orange, and red). The orange zone specifically—which is 84-91% of your maximal heart rate—is the targeted range Orange Theory would like you to stay in for 12-20 minutes of your training time (thus called Orange Theory). In doing that is what helps keep your metabolism revved post workout and continually burning calories for up to 36 hours after the workout.

their location. There are more than 200 locations nationwide with 150 more opening in 2017.

Consistent weight loss is another reason the Orange Theory Fitness stands out in the Health & Fitness world. Clients can expect to see an estimated loss of three to five pounds per week by attending three to five sessions per week and with proper nutritional planning. I completely agree with that since I was swimming in sweat after just 20 minutes. Also, if performance is a person’s goal, with Orange Theory you can expect to see an increase in power, speed and strength after your first two weeks of attending two to four sessions per week. So, what do you expect to see at an Orange Theory Fitness center? Top-of-the-line equipment, upbeat music and motivational trainers that make the Orange Theory Fitness environment the most energetic fitness environment around. Studios have 12 treadmills, 12 rowing machines, 12 suspension unit systems and plenty of free weights and benches for sessions of 10 to 25 people. Each studio has separate men’s and women’s restrooms and showers for convenience and comfort. Lockers, courteous staff, and modern equipment complete the experience. There are class times you have to sign up for prior to coming in. You can try a class for free at any of

Orange theory Fitness is a franchise of the Ultimate Fitness Group, LLC, an executive team of brand consultants, business plan experts and franchising thought leaders with varied backgrounds in the health and wellness, restaurant and food, and resort and leisure industries. Orange Theory Fitness is a little pricier than other gyms, but again it is different than other gyms. Visit orangetheoryfitness. com and try your free class!!!

What sets Orange Theory apart from other facilities is that it is backed by science!

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017



THE FITNESS MUSE: MEET DANA BUJALSKI    INTERVIEW                                   We are all living in a health and fitness culture and there is no escaping it. It isn’t such a bad thing after all, it is forcing fast food chains to rethink their menus and our generation looks at food and exercise as the key to physical and mental wellbeing. Not only has this consumer mentality impacted the food industry, but also the fashion industry.

I was always involved in some sort of sporting activity as a child and my mom was the biggest influence. My mom has been involved in sports and weightlifting her whole life, I remember her waking up early every morning to exercise on the Nordic Track and do planks right outside my bedroom. I count myself lucky to have been surrounded by health and fitness.


We no longer live in a world where only being skinny was seen as beauty but we are now embracing our individual body types and learning to listen to ourselves, but are we really? We are all working our busy schedules that don’t leave enough time for the gym and preparing healthy food. Often finding ourselves doing one or the other or neither. We all know that without a healthy diet you are not going to get the results you want from your exercise routine and the same could be said vice versa. I like to think of myself as a healthy eater and a somewhat regular gym goer, but as of late I too am guilty of eating “convenient foods”. Although I think I have a very good sense of healthy eating, I do find myself overwhelmed and confused with the variety of foods that are out there that brand themselves as healthy, honest or natural! I was lucky to realize how much I was spending on my groceries and the special trips to the health food store to buy protein rich snacks (of which some were not so healthy), not to mention the time I was dedicating to cook meals for myself and different ones for my family, I pretty much drove myself up the wall. I was constantly on the lookout for healthy quick recipes that would satisfy the need of two little kids and their parents alike. I have a very heavy Pinterest board with healthy recipes pinned for whenever I need them, if that virtual board was on a real wall it would probably take the wall down with it! If you are someone like me who is always on a constant search for motivation and recipes into being a healthier you without a heavy wall breaking Pinterest board, look no further. Meet Dana Bujalski, Chef/Owner at Body Fuel by Dana Renee. She is also a bodybuilder and a fitness coach. I met Dana two years ago right before she started Body Fuel. I noticed this beautiful and bubbly lady at my local gym, she was definitely in tip top shape! That would be intimidating to most, but Dana

is very down to earth, and super approachable, always ready to lend a helping hand. If she is not working out (most times putting the big boys to shame) then she is bouncing from one person to the next saying hello even if they are struggling on the machines. After getting to know a little more about her through short conversations here and there, I always left with a sense of motivation. She is like a jack in the box! She is just bursting with positivity. I follow her on Facebook and Instagram soaking up as much info she has to offer as far as the positive changes I can make to my overall routine. She shares with her followers ideas like food items that should be staples in your pantry or fridge, the dos and don’ts of pre and post workout foods as well as innovative ways in which you can use the various machines at the gym or workouts you can do at home. She is the girl next door, she doesn’t glamourize any of it which makes it less intimidating. I finally got her to sit down with me for a long conversation telling me all about her journey and her work. How did you get into fitness, can you please tell us about your background? I was always involved in some sort of sporting activity as a child and my mom was the biggest influence. My mom has been involved in sports and weightlifting her whole life, I remember her waking up early every morning to exercise on the Nordic Track and do planks right outside my bedroom. I count myself very lucky to have been surrounded by health and fitness. The turning point was when I had an exercise induced asthma attack on the soccer field my mom decided I wasn’t going to be playing anymore, I was lost I had all this energy but nowhere to release it, soccer was where I was able to do so. Soon after I found myself working in the child care are at the health club my mom worked at and that is where

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

I realized my passion and figured out different ways in which I could get that release without wearing myself out. So I am guessing your passion for cooking was also a given seeing as you come from a family that is so fitness oriented? Yes, but the real obsession started when I got my first copy of FitnessRx magazine and I saw pictures and read stories of all those women. They all looked so in shape, it made me want to push myself too. I started following nutritional advice from the magazine and concocting my own recipes and prepping my own meals which then lead to my family eating the way I did too. I also shared what I was doing on social media and found that my audience numbers had grown. Was it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle whilst you were in your late teens early twenties due to peer pressure? I mean most people at that age are partying.


Well, it hasn’t always been easy. It was difficult for me to explain to my friends that this was my drug of choice. Although, I did go through a rough patch when I was around 20/21. This age was very rough because it was the legal age to drink and like I said, I am a social butterfly. So, I went out with my friends a lot. For a year my consistency in the gym dropped and my eating patterns were out of whack and I knew something had to change, I wasn’t myself. Once I realized, I started concentrating on my fitness and I had to turn down invites from friends to go out partying because I felt terrible about who I was becoming and looking. Over that period of time of changing my ways and staying in on the weekends, I lost quite a few of my friends who I loved due to my lifestyle. I didn’t have the same interests, and some felt intimidated as they thought I worked out like a maniac! What they did not understand was that was my way of living. It was very difficult trying to explain to friends that I couldn’t go out anymore and I wanted to work out instead. I earned a new level of respect from my new changed lifestyle. Dana how and when did you get into Bodybuilding and competing? Age 22. One day a lovely very in-shape and fit trainer who competes in bodybuilding shows at the gym approached me and straight up told me I should compete because she saw it in me that I could do it. Little did I know what I was getting myself into! I saw these women in the magazine, but never would have thought I could be that girl too. She believed in me and wrote me a plan- 2.5 months from the first show. I got to work and she helped me along the way. After my first show, I was obsessed and loved the thrill of competing and changed my lifestyle around it. What are the shows like? How do you feel up there on stage?


My first show and the experiences! All I could think of was OMG! What did I get myself into! After just learning how to diet for a show, then came the tiny bikinis, the high clear heels I had to squeeze my toes in and the tanning a lot of tanning, finding jewelry, learning how to pose and it was a little weird, but I did not mind being sassy! It was fun! A week before the show I still had no idea what to expect so I just followed the advice and drill I got from a personal trainer at the gym who competed times before me. I was eating very little to no carbs and I had to start decreasing the amount of water I was drinking to “dry out” for show time. And then it was time to get the infamous spray tan! Everyone asks about why we need to be so tan. That first time I remember being at the show; mostly everyone did his or her own thing. People did not converse too much with each other and now I realize that it is nerves and no one wants to panic last minute. I noticed everyone staring at each other and their crazy dark tans. Honestly, we all looked ridiculous and dirty and smelly. Once you have your first tan on the day before, you keep the tan on so it gets darker over time. We did this a couple times to reach the desired color. My first time I felt like a total outsider, but thanks to my social skills I soon overcame that. Once I got to chatting with everyone I felt a sense of belonging, everyone was on the same page as me, and they understood my journey. We were allowed to watch our fellow competitors whilst they went on stage and we waited our turn I couldn’t figure out which one was more nerve wrecking being on stage or watching someone pose and probably do it right. Finally it was my turn, all I remember is the bright lights and many eyes all watching me, but once I got on stage my adrenaline kicked in and I did my best to show my personality through my poses. As I was walking down the stairs off the stage I nearly fell, my muscles were extremely tense from holding the poses and it didn’t help that I have very little water in my system. The best part is after the show, everyone has worked so hard and deprived themselves off the delicious treats, so everyone digs into a treat of their choice. Mine was cookies followed by a Pizza and milkshake dinner with my family! After my first show I was hooked and I wanted to compete again. Does your family get involved, I know your mom is pretty into fitness, I can only imagine she has a lot to offer? Well, actually my dad has been extremely

supportive, so has my mom but it was kind of funny how it all came about. For my second show he was all about helping me figure out the right bikini to wear and helping me design it! I bought one, which he helped alter the look of to my specifications. He also threw me and two other friends who were competing a spray tan party in our back yard. He turned a deck stain sprayer into a spray tan machine! Let’s talk about Body Fuel and how you decided that was what you wanted to do? I went to culinary school whilst I started competing. I learned a lot of different techniques there, which helped me to understand food better, but not everything I learned while I was there was healthy of course. Yet, I did learn a lot and even from the unhealthy recipes I was able to take away the bits that I liked and combined them with healthy alternatives. After my second show I visited my sister In LA. She is actually my photographer, and on my visit at that time I had a strong desire to move there and so I did. During that time I was a personal chef to a few families. It was all going well until towards the end of the year I started to feel overwhelmed and I wasn’t feeling well, I decided I needed to move back home to Chicago. I did my third show and I won second place and about this time I realized my following on social media was growing and more people were asking me about nutrition and recipes, programs and this is when it finally clicked. I thought to myself, why not turn this into a business? I had enjoyed cooking for people while in LA and I was already doing the same for a family locally. I started researching how I could cook for multiple clients and how to get this business up and running from scratch. I did it all. I would have a trial stand at my local gym, farmers markets, and shows and got more people interested. As time went on my clientele grew in the meal prep business. I

was making people’s lives easier, this meant they had to spend less time cooking and overthinking their meals, they could now concentrate on their workout routines or whatever else their busy schedules required of them. I was providing them with 5 nutritional meals a day for the whole week. Dana you stopped your meal prep service, you were doing so well. What happened? I am a strong believer in being happy and being able to do things you love as well. I found myself lost again as I had done twice before and I had to take a step back and rethink my purpose. The business was fantastic the response I got was amazing for a new business to pick up so well. You couldn’t ask for more, but I wasn’t doing the other things that I loved so much. I wasn’t able to work out and have time for myself. I was constantly working. My weekends were spent meal prepping for clients, my weekdays were spent on , planning, shopping, labeling, ordering, cooking, packaging, driving, meetings, and repeat. I was getting worn out. I have a lot of energy more, than anyone I know but I wasn’t feeling so during this period. Everything was changing and so was my outlook with my passion in cooking, but not the fitness side. I yearned to be in the gym, but I found myself trying to avoid it because I did not want to see anyone. I was depressed and I needed to change, I took some time and decided to make the difficult decision of ending the meal prep service. I do not regret anything I have done, I loved it all, I learned through it all. I am a strong believer in being at one with yourself, listen to what your body needs and if I find myself spiraling into a downward motion, I stop and I go back to basics. I have to go back to where I am happiest. I started doing things for me again, meditating listening to positive thinking podcasts, reading books on

self-development and finding myself again. What plans have you got for the future? My goal has never changed, I want to help people understand their individual health and fitness goals as well as educate them about the food they are eating. I still want to motivate people. So, my goal never changed. I just changed my plan. This next chapter for me is going to be all about coaching people. Now that I have an understanding of what my target market needs and wants are and with my social networking skills I want to use these tools and reach out to a wider range of people. While I was cooking meals for people, I felt I was disconnected because I was behind the scenes cooking constantly. I did build good relationships with my clients, but I was not able to educate people. I just felt like a chef with regular clientele that liked my food and they knew it was healthy, but I was not able to share in their experiences and help them. I have now become a Personal Trainer through the studies of ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association) (Fitness and Nutrition). I thrive to expand my knowledge, I don’t think I will ever stop learning, this is the only way I will be able to carry on doing what I have set out to do. To help people reach their goals, inspire those around them and for them to do the same. I feel like I was born to guide people to their own success, the way they envision success to be. When you love everything you do, life begins to happen and unfold in this beautiful state that you never imagined. The hustle in me will never end, believing in yourself is key. Listening to your mind and body and taking into account all that it is telling you is very important, you will find that the answer is waiting within you of where you desire to be and who you desire to help.

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

You can follow Dana Bujalski on facebook and Instagram @ to be in the know of new innovative ways in which you can keep it simple yet exciting in your fitness and health regime.


The Mythology of Luis Sahagun

Written By: Jennie Velasco

“Creativity takes courage.” Henri Matisse

Photos courtesy of Alex Ochoa


Mexican-born Luis Sahagun has long been involved in creating. However, his self-discovery as an artist came as a late bloom in a lengthy journey. “I wasn’t completely naïve to being an artist, I was always a drawer,” describing his transition. Even in his early years as a sketch artist, Luis would find himself going through a few more with thoughts of becoming an architect or work in automotive body work. This, joined with prioritizing happiness, a career with the promise of money-making would lead him to choose product design as a major in college. “I was hard-headed cause I wanted to be a designer. I get to make things and get paid really well. You can make 6 figures within 5 years, you can be the guy that designs the next iPhone. It just seemed trendy; make money and be happy.” He goes on to say that it wasn’t without a passion for making that would allow him to continue this route. “In high school I used to be really good with fixing bodies of cars, painting them, making them look nice. I really loved it, and a professor [in high school] just motivated me to be more. When I found out what product design was, that was the first time there was a match. A match between working with my hands and I could have this academic degree that’s going to make me money and bring me a career.” Luis would find an opportunity to attend Southern Illinois University through the chance program, a two-semester extended academic transition for students who do not meet the standards for admission. After being undecided for two years, here he was still often recognized for his talent, “I could have been a minor in drawing cause I had to take so many art classes and everyone told me I was a sculptor; that I should be a sculptor.” Even after being encouraged to do more with his talent, Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

he would still blow off the art thing. Still not to be deterred from his dream job working for a consulting firm, Luis would indeed find a career and adequate pay in design, but not the happiness he also sought. “I enjoyed what I did cause I was doing drawings everyday. I was around these amazing objects, but there was something missing and I didn’t know what it was. It felt so superficial.” He never once mentioned his unhappiness stemmed from a difficult boss, long hours, or a bad benefit package; the cliché complaints of most millennials that move into the work force. “I worked there for almost a year and a half and that was when the recession affected me and I was part of a whole design team. At that time I didn’t want to be a designer anymore. It wasn’t for me. At least the field I was in.” When Luis made the decision to leave his


“After learning more about myself and about what I make, now I work differently, now I know that it’s about that ‘moment’ and I try to (dissect) that moment. 132

well-paid and very interesting job, he was given a favorable severance package to settle his life and grudgingly stumble into the next phase of his life. “I took an internship at a local gallery in Chicago Heights called Union Street Gallery, after not knowing what to do. I didn’t even know there was a gallery in my hometown.” He spent his days doing administrative work, shadowing artists, and learning a lot of the behind the scenes action that takes place in a gallery. It wasn’t until a helpful connection was made with a professor at Governors State University that would begin the bridge into pursuing an MFA. When speaking to Luis, his ability to tell his story in a seamless continuum is not overshadowed by the obstacle that it was to get to this next phase. He briefly talks of his battle with depression when he left his job and this empty space between his former employment into this internship. Its important to note that although it seems quite linear, going through the motions of

what needs to be done vs. what he wanted to be done was a frequent imbalance for Luis and it would later play a role into his current works: unapologetically raw. School, regrettably isn’t free. So with a handful of odd jobs, attending a few classes, and landing an assistantship, he managed to have the support of the school to assist him in tuition after a brief waiting period. It was here where his connection (turned mentor) helped him build a portfolio in order to obtain an MFA from

NIU where he learned classical styles of painting. His work ethic continues with the same quality as it did while attending college: persistent. He maintains that his handful of jobs and school attendance



Photos courtesy of Alex Ochoa Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


didn’t allow him the luxury of waiting around for a new idea. As he was driven by “moments in life that were particularly beautiful,” he realizes that it was somewhat of a consistent idea throughout this progress. “After learning more about myself and about what I make, now I work differently, now I know that it’s about that ‘moment’ and I try to (dissect) that moment. What am I trying to tell?” Luis has had residencies in Oaxaca, Mexico and at the Roswell Artist in Residency in New Mexico. All of which gave him fresh perspective on his approach. “The reason why I wanted to tell stories was because for some reason when I was in grad school, I rejected stories. I started investigating stories; I thought it would be a challenge and it would also give meaning to the work I was doing.” He was allowed freedom to work at his pace without an agenda in a program that completely funded his lodging and materials. This gave him the inherent capacity to put together what would be his recent solo show at Kruger Gallery. “I like to try to push the idea of what art can be for me. Cause art did transform me, it gave me purpose, it made me happy. I wanted to get away with using art to connect with my family.”


He goes on to describe connections he’s made with his parent’s infatuation or connections with certain animals with the hope that they would make the connection. His work at his Leyendas de un Bracero show immortalized fallen and imprisoned friends and family. The stories are in the work itself, which provides an illustrious mythology in the materials he uses and its visually raw finality. Any unsmooth edges, sketch marks, exposed hardware are all intentional and it gives his materials a different voice. “I believe materials should be truth. I’m not trying to fool anybody. You know its cement. Its important for me for materials to keep its identity.” He even goes as far as to bridge his materials to a deeper representation of himself and his existence. Although his identity is not fully discussed he touches on how his materials have dignity aside from just humble tools. “When I first started making artwork, I would associate being brown with cardboard; and maybe this idea of trying to dignify this piece of cardboard, materials already have dignity, people already have dignity. This is how I grew up, and maybe handling my materials that I’m not enough for this country…I’m just a guest. Yet these are enough, I don’t

need to cast these in bronze or gold. This is a deep metaphor for having an unapologetic existence.” Luis has already been working diligently on his next project that encompasses a theme of love. This includes rituals, prayers, and stories or a spiritual connection that he plans on turning into performance art. “I want to activate my sculptures. I want to inject meaning into them and right now I’m doing that with stories.” He describes what the performance would consist of with an invented ritual of his own making with the use of masks or an object in its place. “I would be creating a history, now its much more than an object. It now has a purpose for a ritual, and not a ritual for ritual’s sake but in my own twisted mind I believe in that ritual. That ritual is going to consist of a history of my own childhood.” A specific time in his childhood where, he battled what he called a “dark energy.” Or as his mom professed as “fighting with the devil,” acknowledging his connection to the spirit world. Something his family has said, he inherited from his grandmother. Expect for this exhibition to encompass experimental dance, allegorical use of the body, cultural and spiritual references with the use of his


signature style sculptures. His most recent show opened in January; and features works created in his time in New Mexico and indeed reference not just friends, but is a fitting representation of his experiences. Having spent time working in construction, his show title translates to “legends of a laborer.” His choice of materials are relative to that of a laborer or construction worker, but its his knowledge of his materials and how they are controlled is what truly makes it unique. Cement, wood, wax, large scale paintings are all that surrounds Kruger Gallery with an influence of Mexican heritage and a resonant voice for under-represented communities. Beauty and darkness, vibrancy and subtly, storytelling and visual aesthetic compel a viewer to the mythology that Is what his art represents. Currently Luis works part time at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Institute and weekends at a coffee shop where he is perfecting latte art. What I failed to mention is how he has managed to draw a favorable list of accomplishments along with this story full of art journey, in just 6 years. Luis has been accredited for winning best in show at Chicago’s School of Audio Engineering Institute’s Emerging Artists


Exhibition in 2012, completing his year-long artist residency in Roswell, New Mexico in 2015-2016, and is currently a Bolt resident at Chicago Artists Coalition. Proof that there is unearthed talent that would require the kind of sacrifice that most of us would not have the courage to make. A consistent work ethic from idea to execution, and an ultimate goal to become a professor and a passion for his craft has allowed him to be as he describes, “content as a human being.”

His work is currently on display at Kruger Gallery in Lakeview until March 16th and select works will be on view at the National Museum of Mexican Art in late March. To learn more about Luis Sahagun, visit his website

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017



East coast born and Chicago raised choreographer Leila Henry premiered her “Sincerely” series last month in front of a packed crowd in the South Loop. She has long been highly regarded throughout the Chicago dance community even with a reputation of shyness; you would not know that to be a small culpability from her recent project. A little sex appeal, rage, sass, and an air of quirkiness are all that surrounds the seven deadly sins project. Timidity is certainly not present at all in the overall flow, rightfully so considering the subject, but Leila’s very bio will bring up the perplexity of her teachers and peers when she performs. To continue, it is regarded as “a liberating moment for her, and she never looked back.” A precise representation of what Leila would soon accomplish with her talent. “Sincerely” was meant to be an interpretation of the seven deadly sins, to which she says the concept developed after working on a previous mini dance film that was called “No Gluts No Glory.” This was based on a gluttonous subject that followed three quirky characters fighting over a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “I was so intrigued by the idea of telling a complete story in a short amount of time,


that I came up with the idea of creating a series of ‘shorts.’ The ‘gluttonous’ nature of “No Gluts, No Glory” inspired me to base the series on the seven deadly sins.” Her collab-

NO GUTS NO GLORY oration with local cinematographer Katie Moffitt is what helped give this vision the support it needed along with several rehearsals, to finalize it in just over a year. “It is a playful, quirky, yet dramatic series of seven concept videos, each illustrating one of the seven sins. Conceptually, I decided to use relatable, every day scenarios to show that everyone ‘sins’ in one way or another,” says Leila on how the concept was developed. She goes on to explain what kept her inspired throughout the process of creating the choreography, “Most of my work is concept and

story-driven, and the story inspires the choreography. In my process, I developed the concepts first, and then created the movement. Once I am deep into the choreographic process, I become immersed in it. I’d compare this feeing to being lost in a good book or hypnotized by a great movie. I’ve never written an actual script, but I imagine that writers visualize every scene, plot twist, and detail of their film as they’re writing, as if they are watching the movie in their mind. This is what happens as I create. I can visualize the story as I choreograph, and before I know it, the piece is complete.” Since the popularity of social media outlets like YouTube or Vimeo, it isn’t uncommon to see a dance video with a full story or a class that is professionally shot. It seems that a lot of choreographers are utilizing this outlet to further drive the creativity of what dancers represent instead of just a background accessory. “I absolutely love choreographing for the stage, but I chose to create films for many reasons. As an artist I value the art of storytelling, and there are unique elements of fantasy and story telling that can only be captured on film. Photography and film are moments sealed in time that can be viewed over

Photos provided by Leila Henry

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


Photos provided by Leila Henry


and over again, and this series will be no exception. Because films have more tangibility, this series has the potential to reach audiences far and wide. This project has given me a newfound appreciation and passion for film, and creating dance for the camera.” However compelling it may be, having the overall vision and getting down to the concept and execution can also be draining. Leila did meet some challenges, “For the most part, I felt relatively in control in rehearsals, because I had a vision, and generally knew what I wanted. The first few videos were the easiest for me to get through. The ideas were fresh, and I was still newly inspired and excited to take on a project of this magnitude. However, after completing five out of the seven videos, I finally hit a three month long rough patch. I became burnt out. I was drained of ideas, stressed beyond belief, and I became uninspired to create. I knew it was time for a mental break. I took a little time away from the project, and after what felt like 8 billion idea changes, I finally found a concept that worked and I ran with it.” What seems like probably the easiest part of putting this project together was utilizing talent for her concept. Chicago has

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

exponentially grown in the arts since the expansion of urban dance on a global scale. This is the benefit of being part of a growing community, “almost everyone I associate with are

IT WAS PRETTY EASY TO FIND TALENT dancers, so it was pretty easy for me to find talent for the videos, and I’m thankful for how enthusiastic all of them were to be a part of this project. It makes my job so much easier and more fun. There is so much raw talent in Chicago, too. I’m so glad I have a platform to showcase it.” Currently Leila doesn’t have any plans for any upcoming projects, but solely wants to focus on promoting “Sincerely” beyond Chicago and the Midwest. She plans on releasing each of the seven videos via social media for public view, and 2 have already

been launched. Seeing this project to completion had some overwhelming benefits according to Leila, “To have an idea or a vision is one thing, but to be proactive enough to make the vision a reality is another. I have only been creating for a few short years, but this is definitely my biggest project thus far. Prior to “Sincerely”, I had only created four other concept videos over the span of four years. Creating seven videos in ONE year was an intense process, but I am overwhelmed with the feeling of accomplishment, and I am extremely pleased with the outcome. Putting myself out there as been a scary, vulnerable, but necessary process, because I am hoping that this series will encourage aspiring dancers and choreographers to explore their artistry and create their own work.” There are many that have an aim to bring Chicago to the forefront as far as talent and art. What Leila Henry is doing for the community of dancers based here is far from just an expansion and can be considered a more personal reach to unify it. Leila’s premiere party was faithful to this concept when I witnessed the support she received that evening. Truly this has more than just connected them as a community, it is a family.


A Chicago Profile: Meet the Artist “Queen of Mildred” Story Profile By: Celia A. Pena Layout by: Kandace McVickar

“One of the most beautiful things about humanity is the ability to be yourself. We take things day by day to figure out who we are, what we are capable of, what makes us different but trust and believe when it’s all said and done, each and every one of us is a gem, a work of art in its most original form”- Celia A. Pena

Queen of Mildred


Chicago is full of talented individuals like Melissa Garcia, so when I found out that this month’s issue embraced the concept of being unique, I almost automatically knew that this was going to be the person I wanted everyone to get to know. You see, Melissa and I go way back, and when I mean way back, I am talking about high school. However, we were never best friends and we thankfully were not enemies. In fact, the most that I knew about her was that she sat next to me in math class, and we always referred to her as “kitty.” Well, it was a random day per usual where I caught myself scrolling through my everyday news feed on Facebook, when I took notice to an image that popped up on my screen. It was strange, beautiful, most of all strange, but it was so captivating that I could not take my eyes off it for even a second. It was art and it was not just anyone’s art, but it belonged to Melissa Garcia, the girl that sat next to me in math class. Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity in getting to know this talented Chicago artist, and I am here to introduce her not as Melissa but as Mildred, her reincarnation and artist name. The story behind this artist is truly one of inspiration as well as dedication and without reflecting on some very intense moments of her past, we would never truly know the individual that is today the unique and talented artist “Queen of Mildred.” Melissa Garcia (who for the remainder of the article will be referred to as Mildred), is a proud Chicago native, 26-year-old Latina, and independent artist straight out of Humboldt park. Although being an artist is seemingly a talent on its own, learning to embrace her artistic skills was a struggle itself, when it came to finding out that art was indeed her passion. “I always thought art was just a hobby, and it wasn’t until college that I finally realized that art was something you could do professionally.” Mildred said Alongside growing up in poverty and due to a lack of proper educational access to art at her local CPS high school, her interest in art did not fade, but was not her first choice as a major when she applied for college. Still, she graduated high school, and went on to receive a full scholarship to Dennison University as well as experiencing a major transition from city life to a rural suburbia. However, it was also during this major transition, that Mildred unfortunately suffered the loss of her mother only a week before her high school graduation. Though it was surely one of the most difficult moments of her life, it is

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

Beautiful Period

“I always thought art was just a hobby, and it wasn’t until college that I finally realized that art was something you could do professionally.”


Mother Mildred


important to note that her mother is the inspiration for Melissa Garcia’s artist name as “Queen of Mildred”, Mildred being her mother’s first name. “I take after my mother in her looks, and I was her only daughter….I feel that I am her reincarnation and I am her second chance at life. I am her Queen.” Stated Mildred Dealing with both the newfound experience of college life as well as attempting to cope with her mother’s loss, she entered Dennison as a Biology major for her first year, hoping to silence the societal expectations in the back of her mind, which also caused her to overlook art as a possible career choice in general. “When I was growing up, I always remembered that it was always about you know you’ve got to get a job to make money because you’re poor, you’re from Humboldt park…you’ve got to do something that makes you money. Art is cool but it is not a job. ” Mildred recalls. Nevertheless, she still continued to receive countless invitations from professors, and with a little self-motivation, she began embracing her school’s art department during her sophomore year. Though the department itself pleas-

Melissa Garcia and her mother Mildred

antly intrigued her, she was both hesitant and curious asto whether or not she could truly turn her passion into a career. During this time, she came in contact and began receiving guidance from an artist and professor by the name of Jeff Mitchell, whom she admits, “Changed her life and her perspective” “Jeff Mitchell was my first art professor and encouraged me to take his studio arts foundation class. He saw something in me; he saw a passion in me. I used to just draw for fun…I never really thought it was something you could make into a career but after taking my first art class with Jeff Mitchell, I told myself no more. I am going to develop my skills, and learn about this industry. I’m going to be an artist” From that moment on, Mildred declared her major as art. While unveiling and embracing her artistic passion in college, she began recognizing that art was no longer something she looked at as a hobby, but it was a path to a career, and more importantly a method for coping. After suffering the loss of her mother, Mildred contemplated discontinuing her academic path; seeking for ways to express her grief and mourn her loss.


Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

“I didn’t know how to deal with losing my mother. I didn’t know how to mourn. I thought to myself well, I don’t want to do drugs; I don’t want to drink myself to death? How do I cope?” said Mildred


“I had a final B.F.A show and I couldn’t think of a name. My final show was about my mother’s life story and her personal demons. A professor by the name of Ron Abram came into my studio to look at my work and I told him my frustration with not being able to think of a show title. We stood in silence for a full minute and then he suddenly looked at me and said “Mildred”. Since then, I made the choice of turning the memory of mother into the legitimate name of my brand” Despite her hardships, Mildred graduated from Dennison University and received her Bachelors in Fine Art (B.F.A). From there, and in an effort to explore the world while also maintaining a position of employment, she chose to move abroad landing a position in China as a teacher of the English language. While in China, she visited a number of places, met plenty of new people, and never stopped working on her art. The reality however was also setting in the Mildred had not yet turned her beloved art into a career. Mildred in Thailand

The answer was art. As she continued to expand her knowledge of art in college, she began producing her own personal pieces that started to follow her own unique format of repetitive lines. As a very prominent feature of her art, they are always in black and white, are extremely open to interpretation, and allude to the artist’s imaginative state of mind or a “dreamy state as Mildred calls it.

After spending an additional 6 months in Thailand and after much contemplation, she concluded that she was ready to pursue art as a full-time career regardless of the financial stress that she, like other independent artists, have often encountered. With this in mind, she changed locations once more, deciding there was no other place that she would like to launch her career and see her artwork prosper more than in her beloved city, Chicago.

Interestingly, Mildred also shared that she developed her artistic lines while attending a church mass during a family vacation to Puerto Rico in her first year of college. “Church is not my thing, but I have respect for my aunts and respect for my Puerto Rican culture, which religion is a huge part of so I went. I sat in the pew and I randomly started drawing lines repeatedly, and it just kind of formed into something. So later that night when I went back home, I tried doing these lines again and sure enough it turned into something” The repetitive lines became Mildred’s pattern of choice, and they have continued to be until this very day. Like the story of how she obtained her art format, there are many memories regarding Mildred’s art that were made during her college experience, including one very important one that remains significant to how Melissa Garcia essentially transitioned and redefined her art-self as well as her art into the “Queen of Mildred” Birdcage the Queen


Hell is Pretty “I had a big change of heart and decided that I wanted to start my artist career in Chicago. It’s my origin, my roots, and where I want to remember that this is where I started.” said Mildred. It’s been 2 months since Mildred has returned to Chicago and to her old neighborhood, Humboldt Park. While being here, she has been fully dedicated to making her artwork known to the public, as well as getting her name out there for recognition. Today Mildred has remained determined in making her art available for sale by participating in Chicago based art showings, promoting the selling of her own art via Etsy since 2016, (as well as other social media handles prior to that), and last but not least, taking in custom requests for friends, family and respectful potential clients. Queen of Mildred is well on her way to making herself known, and I even got the chance to hear of places where she is currently doing art showings as well as upcoming public events. As of right now, she participates every week in public art showings known as “Art Daze”, and they take place at a variety of coffee shops throughout Chicago. Her Etsy shop, which has been open since 2016, is where potential buyers can purchase her artwork, or requestcustom artwork from her through the site.

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

Finally yet importantly, you can catch Queen of Mildred at an upcoming show, in collaboration with artist Susan Mullen where they will be reinventing portraitures based on the unidentified persons of the Cook County Morgue. It will take place at Hoof Print Gallery in November of 2017, with official date and time TBA. Given that this is an issue centered on individuality and being yourself, I asked Mildred, if there was any final comment or advice that she had for upcoming artists or individuals who might be looking into art as a career too. Her response: “NEVER GIVE UP. Make sure that the art you are doing is what you want to do. Don’t give into the mainstream, and really take the time to put in your work. Let them know that what they are looking at is yours. The goal for my art is to never be real and never be ordinary to the eye that sees it. Just be yourself, but be yourself through your art,” If you’re interested in viewing or purchasing Mildred’s artwork please feel free to contact her with inquiries via any of her social media handles listed below • Instgram: @queen.of.mildred • Etsy shop: • Email:


It’s been an amazing opportunity to watch the Halfstack team and each issue grow and evolve. Every issue is like a child that we must build up, nurture and push to grow into a freethinking and inspiring adult. Every release undergoes an intense amount of work and when it’s all done, the stories live and breathe because of the heart and soul put into the effort to create them.


Here are my Top 5 moments from the last 5 years of releases from Halfstack Magazine. Each one embodies a moment in time for me and is a reminder of the progression that our platform is moving in. What started as a digital fashion and music zine has transformed into a publication that hopes to inspire, highlight inclusivity and offer subject matter that is meaningful to our readers. Some might call it subversive and others may see it as a way to promote finding beauty in the diverse world we are a part of. I see it as an opportunity to give our readers something different than what’s readily available on the newsstands and I hope it stands the test of time. It’s been 5 years of ups and downs, but it’s been 5 years of personal growth for myself and the team at Halfstack. Each of these moments was a step towards the direction I hoped we could take the magazine in. Each showcases an idea that a team of people believed in and brought to life through creative collaboration. Enjoy this walk down memory lane.




AGENTS OF CHANGE - FALL 2016 Agents of change was a shoot that made us rethink the messages we hoped to communicate in each issue. It allowed us to showcase the humanity inside of all of us through each interview.



A love affair personally brought me back to my roots. Born and raised in HP, the area holds a special place in my heart. Being able to create art where I grew up brought me full circle within my life.

THE EQUALITY ISSUE - SPRING 2014 This was one of the first issues where we pushed the boundaries in terms of the statement we were making. Showcasing love in all of it’s forms was an amazing thing to do and share with our readers. We shot this right around the time the marriage bill was passed.

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017




N’Spired Thoughts: The Vulnerability Veil Written by: Reynisha Lindsay Layout by: Kandace McVickar

I often think about how much of my true self I should let others see. Should I share my real thoughts, my honest thoughts? Will people like them or even understand them? Do I want them to know who I really am? Would they really like me, if they got to know the “real” me?


I believe these questions run through people’s minds every day. I think most people want to be accepted. Yet, they do not want to expose themselves for fear of being rejected. It is scary to put one’s self out there and abandon all inhibitions.

However, irony comes into play because as we are trying to be accepted, we are showing less of our true self. We become insecure. To mask our fear we become the funny one, the perfectionist, the yes man or woman and unfortunately sometimes the bully. We seek out in others what we lack in ourselves – meaning the imperfect one portrays the perfectionist, the insecure one plays the bully, etc. It is easier to put the focus on someone’s failures, bad habits, fear, and weakness then to address our own by calling attention to ourselves. It is easy to gossip about what so and so is wearing (or not wearing) or what she is doing than to admit we have the same or similar issue. Yet, if we just open up we can learn that from failures, come success – that from adversity, comes character – that from openness, comes creativity. So many people think that if they wear the right clothes, or drive the right car or have enough money, they will be seen. They will be accepted. However, what would people be seeing? In order to be seen, you have to put yourself out there. You have to be vulnerable. I heard someone once say that vulnerability is the most accurate measure of courage. Now, that does not automatically mean that everyone gets the right to know your intimate thoughts and beliefs. I am not saying be naïve. People have to earn your trust and the right to know your story – to know you. The dictionary defines vulnerability as susceptible to physical or emotional injury. Yet, it is required to gain insight to your emotional self. Many call vulnerability a weakness, but as an optimist, I call it a strength. Reason being, it is more difficult to expose yourself to others’ judgment than it is to accept their judgment of you. To know your true self and be comfortable with it is more valuable than what anyone else thinks of you. Thus, we all have to be comfortable in our own skin – figuratively and literally. Therefore, no matter the color of your skin or the condition that it is in, we must embrace it in order to be happy. We cannot compare ourselves to others regardless if it is a physical feature, a relationship or a job. I once read, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Do not let comparison steal your ability to be happy in yourself Our differences are what make us unique. Now, I know you could be saying, “I do not want to be unique”. You may be perfectly content looking like “so and so” because he or she may be your perception of beauty. Yet, do we know what he or she has gone through to look like that? Is it natural beauty or artificial beauty? We have to be

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

careful of making physical beauty and the people who possess this illusive beauty, idols. For those of you who do not know, idols are not just gold statues that you have read about in the Bible or Greek mythology. Idols are eople or things that are greatly admired or loved. My favorite dictionary meaning of idols is “false conception”. It is a false conception because idols can only be idols if you are obsessed with them. If there were no obsession, there would be no idol. Many people today are longing to be something they are not - longing to be like someone who is not real. It is better to be the best version of yourself than a copy of someone else. You are an original work of art. There is no one else in the world like you. What an amazing feeling to know how special you are! Some of us have distinguishing marks or physical features that define us. I have freckles. The older I get the more they appear. However, they are part of me and I would not change anything about them. I saw these beautiful identical twin girls, and one had a condition called heterochromia (a condition where a person has 2 different eye colors). She had one brown eye and one blue eye. Even though the girls look exactly alike, their eye color is what makes them unique to everyone else. Their Mother and Father are the ones who know them as individuals because of their personality traits. Thus, they can tell them apart because they know them. While their beauty is visible, it does not define them. Their real beauty comes from within. See we all have physical traits and personality traits that blend to make us uniquely beautiful. Once your blend has been created, share it with the world. Do not hide it. Do not mask it with artificial enhancements. I know it may be a challenge for you to be your own person. Nevertheless, take the time to get to know you. Love yourself for who you are today. Do not waste time on dreaming of another life or wishing for features or traits you do not possess. Let the authentic you be present in the moment. Forget all the naysayers or gossipers or anyone else that may criticize the real you. If at the end of the day you can look in the mirror and say, “I like you”, then you are headed in the right direction. It is important to show up and be seen even though you may not have control over the situation. It is okay to be vulnerable. Someone once said that vulnerability is the birthplace of authenticity. For that reason, please hear me when I say that the bravest thing for any of us to do is to be seen as who we are. Take a risk. Lift up the veil from vulnerability so the real you can meet the world.








Halfstack Magazine | March 2017



G. I. R .L . 154

Girl Scouts are groundbreakers, big thinkers and role models. Girl Scouts design robots, start garage bands and improve their communities—and yes, they still sell the best cookies on the planet. When she’s a Girl Scout, she’s also a G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™. These are traits that define girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. These traits can define you too— whatever your age, gender or background! The only question is, are you ready to take the lead... like a Girl Scout?

Join, volunteer, donate at

Halfstack Magazine | March 2017



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Halfstack Magazine | March 2017



Halfstack Magazine | March 2017

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Halfstack Magazine | March 2017



We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.

– Max de Pree


- steve jobs






Halfstack Magazine | March 2017


Halfstack Spring 2017  

The Anniversary Issue - this issue is dedicated to showcasing the diversity in the creative community. Featuring Dida Ritz of Rupaul's Drag...

Halfstack Spring 2017  

The Anniversary Issue - this issue is dedicated to showcasing the diversity in the creative community. Featuring Dida Ritz of Rupaul's Drag...