ON THE COVER
KRNL OUR MISSION
The mission of KRNL Lifestyle + Fashion is to promote the individuality, creativity and uniqueness of storytelling by University of Kentucky’s students utilizing all of our publishing platforms.
KRNL Lifestyle + Fashion strives to bring awareness to the stories that inspire us – through art, human interest, enterprise, investigative, health and well-being or recreation – on and around campus and throughout our community.
Whether through words or pictures, our diverse staff invites, welcomes and embraces all perspectives, allowing us to bring to life a variety of stories that we want to tell.
Produced and distributed in the fall and spring semesters on the campus of the University of Kentucky and throughout the city of Lexington, KRNL Lifestyle + Fashion aspires to be an important voice for our community.
K R N L K R N L K R N L K R N L K R N L
There is nothing more daunting, at least for me, than taking on a leadership position, which is precisely what I did when I applied to be the editor-in-chief of this very magazine. Since I first joined KRNL as a blog writer my freshman year, I developed a passion for this publication that made it one of the best things to come out of my time as a college student, so taking the reins this year and having the opportunity to lead — to be responsible for taking KRNL to the next level — was a scary prospect initially. Now, two issues in, it has turned out to be the most rewarding, most eye-opening experience I could have ever asked for, and my love for KRNL has only grown stronger now that I have learned what my role within this publication is and what my impact looks like moving forward.
This spring, we have decided to continue with our experimental journey that started in the fall by trying new things in terms of design, storytelling and — most importantly — solidifying KRNL’s voice as a publication. With the departure of almost half of our staff now that they’re graduating at the end of the semester — some of them having been a part of KRNL for all four years of their college careers — it felt more important now than ever to make sure this magazine was prepared to grow and evolve now that a new era is on the horizon. Who knows what KRNL will look like a year from now?
Five years from now? A decade, even? The important thing is that we are ready to take this publication further and higher, and that all starts with this issue. With feature articles highlighting various artists within the Lexington community, from authors to poets to painters, as well as a deep dive into a recent Lexington-based marketing campaign that has taken the country by storm, KRNL is here to continue our mission of shining a light on the stories of our communities and documenting how we’re growing and evolving as well. Our editorial shoots pay closer attention to what’s trending in the fashion world, highlighting the knowledge of our brilliant styling team and giving them the opportunity to showcase their talents. All in all, I have never been prouder of what the KRNL team has been able to accomplish during all my time as a member of this organization. My vision as editor-in-chief for KRNL to be at the forefront of collegiate magazine publishing, to take risks and to allow room for our team of creatives to do what they love has come true right before my eyes, and it makes me feel like this magazine can do anything it sets its mind to.
I hope you enjoy reading this semester’s issue of KRNL, and I hope it inspires you to get in touch with your own creative side. We say this every semester, but right now it has never felt truer: this is our best issue yet.
‘I’M READY TO DISRUPT’
Lexington, Kentucky-based artist Deja Corin discusses her creative process and her move back to her hometown.
A WORD TO THE WISE
Conversations with Frank X Walker, Beth Connors-Manke and Crystal Wilkinson shine light on the closeknit literary community in Kentucky.
AN INSIDE LOOK
LONNIE ALI’S LEGACY OF LOVE
On the 81st birthday of the late heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, his devoted wife Lonnie reflects on how she has not only expanded her husband’s legacy but cemented her own as well.
POLAROID PROJECT INVITE ONLY FUSION 48 8
Explore and play with the fashion from both the future and the past with this editorial, shot at Lexington’s one and only Miller House.
A stylish group of friends spend a glamorous night at an exclusive dinner party. Dress code is classy couture.
UNEXPECTEDLY COOL: HOW ONE LEXINGTON ARTIST USED HORSE SHOES TO BREAK INTO THE SNEAKER GAME
Local sneaker artist Marcus Floyd earns international attention for his new project, Horse Kicks, and builds his business on making sneakers for horses.
A GLOBAL BOOKSTORE: THE INTERNATIONAL BOOK PROJECT CREATES CHANGE, ONE PAGE AT A TIME
Behind the scenes at the International Book Project, an organization dedicated to providing books of all kinds to underserved communities.
YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL
A look into the growing industry of cosmetic procedures among college-aged students.
TENDING TO THE EARTH AT BLACK SOIL
An agritourism company strives to redefine the produce industry through strong relationships between farmers and clients.
LOOKING OUT FOR THE LITTLE GUY AT GOOD FOODS CO-OP
Faces of Lexington’s Good Foods
Co-op discuss the grocery store’s unique business model and their efforts to supply shoppers with locally-sourced, organic food and product.
Retrofuturism is a creative concept in which we depict the future as one would from an earlier time. We accomplished this with the use of bright colors, tight clothing and unique geometric interiors.
We want to thank Steve Taylor and Genesis Quadija for allowing us inside José Oubrerie’s Miller House to envision and explore our own definition of retrofuturism.PHOTO BY OLIVIA FORD 8 | KRNL LIFESTYLE + FASHION
DRESS | 25
NECKLACE | 16
BRACELETS | 9 EACH
SHOES | 100
VINTAGE THERAPY BAG | 25
SHIRT/PANTS SET | 24
GLOVES | 10
EARRINGS | 7.5
SHOES | 100
VINTAGE THERAPY BAG | 25PHOTOS BY LILY FOSTER
What started with the simple question, “What could only happen in Lexington, Kentucky?” exploded into an international sensation that garnered billions of views and changed the course of one local artist’s career.
Horse Kicks is a Lexington-based shoe brand kickstarted by Marcus Floyd, a local artist that specializes in sneaker deconstruction and reconstruction, in partnership with Cornett, an award-winning Lexington advertising agency and VisitLex, the city’s tourism bureau.
“It was kind of a joke. We thought, ‘What if there was a shoe store for horses?’” said Jonathon Spalding, associate creative director at Cornett. “And then we were like, ‘Wait a minute, what if we actually did that?’”
The Horse Kicks campaign began as a publicity stunt, a way for Lexington to earn media attention around the Breeder’s Cup, which took place at Keeneland Race Course on Nov. 4-5, 2022.
“For me, it was never a publicity stunt because that’s my business. I love to take orders and I don’t mind making more [shoes],” Floyd said. “That goes back to the original — when they approached me about making a horseshoe, they said, ‘It doesn’t even have to be wearable, it just has to look good.’ I told them, ‘I need to make it wearable, because if this thing blows up and someone wants a pair, I can just duplicate what I’ve already done and put it on a horse.’”
Floyd’s early models included the New Balance 650, Jordan Court Purple and Yeezy Boost 350. Although designing sneakers for horses had never been accomplished before, Floyd said he had heard crazier ideas and decided the campaign was a “cool opportunity.”
He ended up using a medical protective boot commonly used on horse hooves as a base for the shoes, incorporating a process called cut and sew reconstruction to take apart shoes meant for people and create new (horse) shoes out of the pieces, “almost like a puzzle.” Floyd said he learned this technique during the pandemic in classes at The Shoe Surgeon’s SRGN Academy in Los Angeles, California.
“I believe art is one of the few things that supersedes going to college or anything. I think maybe they can teach you some techniques, but for the most part I think a lot of people are born with the gift of it and are able to draw naturally. That’s just an opinion,” Floyd said. “I like to think I’ve always been an artist. I’ve always drawn since like kindergarten. I remember excelling in art from an early age, so naturally throughout the years I just continued to do that.”
Floyd already knew what direction he wanted his art to take from a young age, even though he didn’t act on his abilities until recently.
“I’ve always been into sports, particularly football, so I remember early high school years I would try to paint my cleats and different things just to give me a different look. That’s kind of how I started doing merch. That was my first attempt at merging my art with doing sneakers and cleats, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I decided to fully go all-out and start customizing sneakers,” Floyd said of his background in sneaker art.
Floyd is proud to be one of the only sneaker artists in the area that produces art that utilizes not only paint,
but full reconstruction of shoes by combining pieces of existing sneakers. Incorporating this technique into wearable sneakers for horses, though, was no easy feat.
“[Floyd] was a great partner from the get-go. He really just jumped in and figured it out, recommended publications we could target and everything, all while working a full-time job and having other clients. He was full-on busy with other shoe orders during that time too,” Spalding said of Floyd.
While he said his goal has always been to dedicate himself to his business and art “100%,” he is currently trying to find the balance between his art and his fulltime job as a third shift maintenance team leader at Toyota.
Right now he works at Toyota from 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. before clocking in at his personal business once he returns home, working on shoe orders until noon or 1 p.m., depending on his deadlines.
Though each custom order can take Floyd about a week to complete, the attention he has garnered from mainstream media has launched the artist to international acclaim.
He now fields calls from names such as Luka Dončić, NBA superstar and player for the Dallas Mavericks; Jas Prince, known for discovering musical artist Drake; the Seattle Seahawks and the Compton Cowboys, an organization of African American horse riders in Compton, California. All sought to order custom shoes, either for people or horses, from Floyd after hearing about his work on the Horse Kicks campaign.
“When I started this campaign, I never thought that it would overshadow the rest of my work, but it’s opened up some doors for me as well with my other work. Now I’m known. I went from Infinite Kustomz to ‘the horse guy,’ the guy that makes shoes for horses, so, I mean, it is what it is. It’s still my art,” Floyd said. “It’s given me a lot of notoriety and it’s shining a light on my other artwork as well.”
Infinite Kustomz is the name of Floyd’s personal shoe business that he started out of his home studio in 2017.
Besides taking shoe orders from household names, Floyd, VisitLex and the team at Cornett have gained unparalleled attention for the city of Lexington. Horse Kicks turned out to be what Robert Baker, director of social strategy at Cornett and photographer for the Horse Kicks campaign, called the group’s “biggest success.”
“Horse Kicks cost us $60,000, and it could have flopped,” said Spalding. Instead, the Horse Kicks campaign accumulated over 3 billion earned media impressions, which would have cost the agency over $100 million in advertising spending.
By contrast, one of Cornett’s most successful campaigns for VisitLex before Horse Kicks, The Harmon Room at the 21c Museum Hotel (themed after the Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit”), earned 800 million media impressions. In total, the campaign earned “tens of millions if not nine figures worth of ad revenue,” Baker said.
In addition to monetary success, Horse Kicks has racked up over 275 earned media placements in publications like The Washington Post, Vogue Italia, People magazine, NPR, Adweek, The New York Post, CNN, Complex and BBC. Horse Kicks was even mentioned in a Tweet by the Indianapolis Colts. The campaign also broke into the talk show space with features on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Drew Barrymore Show in November 2022.
“Waking up to see [that Horse Kicks was featured on] Jimmy Fallon was cool. You can’t get bigger than Jimmy Fallon,” Spalding said. “There’s no other tourism brands who consistently put out work that people want to talk about around the world. That’s a unique opportunity for us and this client. This was, by far, our biggest success in the
Now I’m known. I went from Infinite Kustomz to ‘the horse guy,’ the guy that makes shoes for horses, so, I mean, it is what it is. It’s still my art.— Marcus Floyd
earned media space.”
For Ty Duckwyler, content creation associate at Cornett and a photographer for the Horse Kicks campaign, the campaign’s success exceeded all expectations.
“Horse Kicks was actually my first campaign that I’ve ever worked on, so to see it kind of go the long mile is insane considering it’s the first thing I’ve ever touched or been a part of,” Duckwyler said.
But why exactly did Horse Kicks skyrocket to success the way that it did? By hitting a combination of two niche markets and making the outcome relevant to as many people as possible, Baker said.
Horse Kicks combined two markets that people are “crazy about” — horses and sneakers, which Spalding believes made the campaign a “guaranteed success,” especially with such an eye-catching visual.
“What we have seen come out of this is, ‘Oh, there is actually a segment of the population that are Black horsemen that don’t think their culture is represented in the equine industry.’ No one knew about that. It was such a closed-off, niche community and this gave a little bit of a spotlight on that,” Spalding said.
The team also thought that part of their success came from the fact that the idea developed in Lexington, the self-proclaimed Horse Capital of the World.
“Lexington still has a smaller mindset than some of the other bigger cities that I’ve traveled to and got to see the sneaker culture there, but it’s growing. Up until now I’ve been hindered by living in Lexington, but I think the fact that Horse Kicks took off was because of Lexington… because of the fact that I’m from Lexington. I don’t think that it would have gone off had I been from New York or somewhere else,” Floyd said.
Until this campaign, Spalding believed that Cornett (in partnership with VisitLex) hadn’t yet broken into Black culture.
“That was something that we wanted: an idea that could help put VisitLex and Lexington in front of people who hadn’t seen us before, who hadn’t felt like we were for them, maybe. That’s why we loved it. This idea is great because it’s going to connect Lexington with the side of culture and sneaker culture that we’ve never connected with before,” Spalding said.
The group’s challenge was to position the city of Lexington in front of the public to “get people’s attention in unexpected ways,” Spalding said.
“One of the things we talk about is being unexpectedly cool,” Baker said. “You wouldn’t think that Lexington would know about the biggest Hypebeast sneakers at the time, you wouldn’t think they would be culturally relevant to a certain extent. I just feel like we did it the right way, the most ethically responsible way. We did it in a way that showcased that it’s genuine, so it’s not anything fake, we didn’t just do it for the money.”
Duckwyler’s takeaway from the campaign was to show the world that Lexington is not afraid to experiment with culture and to share different dimensions of the city.
“We want to accurately reflect each person that’s represented in the city. We’re not afraid to take risks, it’s a lot of fun and unexpectedly cool as well,” Duckwyler said.
The public’s close-minded view of Lexington is about to evolve, the team at Cornett said.
“People come [to Lexington] and they have one thing in mind. They might come for horses or for bourbon or whatever, and they get here and they’re like, ‘Damn, this is actually a cool place. I didn’t expect this creative
VisitLex is the tourism agency, but it exists to support locals and local businesses and local artists, so the fact that we were able to uplift an artist and put them on the map is probably the coolest part of this whole thing.”— JONATHON SPALDING ASSOCIATE CREATIVE DIRECTOR
culture,’” said Spalding.
After seeing the overwhelming positive reaction both to Lexington and to Floyd, the team at Cornett thinks this campaign will change how they approach ideas in the future.
“VisitLex is the tourism agency, but it exists to support locals and local businesses and local artists, so the fact that we were able to uplift an artist and put them on the map is probably the coolest part of this whole thing,” Spalding said.
From sports frontrunners to music industry legends, Floyd has certainly earned his time in the spotlight.
“It was just funny because [Floyd] really wanted to do a shoe for a football player, and now his stuff is all over the world. He did one for an NBA superstar,” Baker added.
Currently, Floyd is working on an exclusive pair of
Horse Kicks for the Pegasus World Cup in Miami, with coverage from NBC.
Floyd said he believes Horse Kicks will “fit right in with the culture” of horse racing in Miami, which has “a whole different vibe than what we have here.”
In the future, Floyd said he hopes to continue to hone his craft and use the spotlight placed on him from Horse Kicks to grow his personal brand and potentially even find a company to mass-produce Horse Kicks based on his designs.
He “loved” his experience with Cornett and VisitLex and hopes to collaborate with the team more later on.
“You never know what’s going to happen, especially with an idea that’s crazy. For us it started with a conversation about making sneakers for horses and it turned into changing this guy’s life completely,” Duckwyler said. •
“Associate creative director at Cornett Jonathan Spalding (left), Director of Social Strategy Robert Baker and Content Creation Associate Ty Duckwyler pose for a portrait on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, at the Cornett offices in Lexington, Ky.
YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL:
GEN Z’S FASCINATION WITH ANTI-AGING AND INJECTABLE PROCEDURESWRITTEN BY SAVANNA BURKE PHOTOS BY OLIVIA FORD
In the age of the selfie, the discourse surrounding achieving a filter-like appearance has never been more relevant.
Aesthetic treatments have created a way for individuals to physically edit themselves — correcting perceived imperfections sometimes before they even appear — making the perfect Instagram shot that much more achievable.
“The younger generation is highly influenced by social media because it’s so available now,” said Emary Mueller, a body positive activist and senior at the University of Kentucky. Mueller also has an Instagram account, @emarylifts, dedicated to midsize fitness and embracing healthy relationships with food.
Social media has given rise to “influencers” who use their established platforms to share content detailing their lives and appearances. In the midst of an incredibly connected generation set on meeting ever-changing beauty standards, the aesthetics industry has found a new foothold.
When celebrities like the Kardashians rose to a level of popularity some might refer to as “American Royalty,” the beauty standard for women evolved to include a thin waist and voluptuous curves. This is in direct opposition to the tall and slender ideal of the early 2000s, a look Mueller described as “heroin chic.”
To achieve these looks, some turned to drastic cosmetic procedures like Brazilian butt lifts, breast augmentations or even the removal of buccal fat from the face. However, some of the most popular treatments among the younger generation are less extreme.
“Being on Zoom from a pandemic really made people aware of how they look on camera,” said Chasity Hester, PA-C, of Be Medispa, a medical spa located in Lexington, Kentucky. Chasity treats patients alongside her husband, Dr. Paul L. Hester.
Chasity said that aesthetic treatments in this “Zoom generation” are “wildly popular,” and that Be Medispa is well-suited to being in Lexington due to the college-aged demographic.
“Gen Z is educated. They’re on social media, they’re reading and they take more time to make their decision to come see us. We embrace that because we want to meet them where they are and continue that relationship,” she said.
Keesha Watts, CRNA and co-founder of Bon Bini Aesthetics, explained that given how much information younger generations have access to, there is less fear of cosmetic treatments.
“The best wrinkles are the ones that you never get. In our younger clientele, we’re addressing things like acne, melasma, pigmentation, pore size, texture and all of the things that make you look not as good as in your photos… Everyone wants to kind of have an airbrushed look,” Chasity said.
A well-known treatment is the injection of botulinum toxin, also called “Botox.” Botox offers a way to slow the aging process by blocking chemical signals from nerves that cause muscles to contract, according to Mayo Clinic.
Jenna Lawrence, RN, is a 22-year-old aesthetic nurse injector who has received Botox in addition to microblading and lip filler. Lawrence said she received Botox between her eyebrows to treat her migraines, highlighting the multifaceted nature of the procedure.
When Watts treats her younger patients, she sees many are just in need of a good skincare routine and topical products that help prevent signs of aging. She explained that many of her patients opt for treatments like preventative “baby-tox,” which is similar to the normal Botox procedure, just in smaller doses.
“There’s not any aging volume loss or fat loss yet… but that all comes later. The steps that these younger patients take now will help, you know, 10 years from now. So that’s even healthy eating, sleeping and drinking water daily,” Watts said.
Dr. Hester explained that when he was growing up, “it seemed people talked about aging until they got a facelift.”
“People do not like to look like they’ve had work done. They want to look good for their age,” he said, which is why preventative measures are heavily emphasized by health professionals in this field.
Lip fillers are another popular treatment among younger generations. Zoe Stinson, a University of Kentucky senior, explained that when she was growing up she saw women with bigger lips and always wanted to have them. Stinson now receives a syringe of filler every 12-18 months.
“It’s not something I regret; I’m happy with the way that they look,” she said.
However, Stinson said she wishes she would have waited until she was older to get her lips done due to the migration of the filler over time. She said she will eventually have to get the filler dissolved to prevent further issues.
Part of the buzz surrounding aesthetic treatments stems from the media’s focus on botched procedures. Dr. Hester said that anyone could point to a botched celebrity they had seen or heard about, but that “we [Be Medispa] use techniques to avoid that. Our first technique is that we educate ourselves and we go to medical school, and the techniques that we use on a daily basis are the ones that are going to be safest for the patient.”
As an activist for body positivity, Mueller feels people should do whatever makes them feel most comfortable in their bodies.
Our clients are taking care of themselves. And I don’t want people to feel guilty about taking care of themselves.”
— KEESHA WATTSDr. Paul L. Hester and Chasity Hester, PA-C, pose for a photo at Be MediSpa on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in Lexington, Ky.
For some clients, this can include treatments that may play a key role in unlocking a physical part of them that may have been lacking at birth. Gender affirming procedures often include cosmetic treatments as a way to match a patient’s outward appearance with their gender identity and expression.
“We really have to decide with them what they want. They may want to look a little more square -jawed and a little more masculine,” Dr. Hester said.
“A transgender female will really want to have a more feminine look and we use some feminizing techniques to really enhance their features,” Chasity said.
Cosmetic procedures have the power to shape how a patient not only sees themselves but also how the world perceives them. However, no matter the motivation to get them done, these treatments are often considered luxuries that require patients to have the money to pay for them and the time to properly recover.
The average cost of botulinum toxin injections is $466, according to the most recent statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). The ASPS also reported that according to 2018 pricing data, the average cost of hyaluronic acid, a popular dermal filler, is $682 per syringe. The average price for a breast augmentation, a more invasive cosmetic procedure, was reported at
$4,516. These prices do not account for working time lost to recover, operating room facilities or other necessary expenses. Prices like these can be out of reach, especially for college-aged students.
“The younger generation is seeing all of these women get this procedure or that procedure. They’re going to want it because they know it makes them look the best,” Mueller said. “Without meaning to, it can hurt body image, because if you look at someone and they have lip filler, you may want it badly, but can’t afford it, and then you compare yourself.”
Mueller added that cosmetic procedures can also be damaging for younger people because a lot of people are not upfront about altering their appearance through fillers, implants and so on.
“There are a lot of people who do look negatively on aesthetic procedures if they know you’ve had something done, so most women avoid sharing what they’ve done,” Lawrence said.
Watts said that at Bon Bini, “we really strive to make better the stigma that’s associated. I think a lot of people view it with a negative connotation, that they’re not going to be authentic… or that we’re changing them. That’s definitely not what we do here.”
“Our clients are taking care of themselves. And I don’t want people to feel guilty about taking care of themselves,” she said. •
POPS RESALE SPONSORED CONTENTWRITTEN BY AVERY SCHANBACHER | PHOTOS BY CARTER SKAGGS
POPS Resale’s checkered floor and colorful walls hung with vintage albums make the space feel almost like a time capsule, even a museum.
After passing tall shelves of retro electronics and studying bowls of nostalgic statement pins, visitors enter a wide corridor packed with rows of music and are free to peruse the extensive library of records and CDs housed there.
The back of the store, once walled off by a military-grade parachute, has slowly been revealed and packed with eclectic finds as the store’s expanded and gathered its current collection of clothing and collectibles.
Although they may be relics, items here live in the present, not the past. Each unique piece is ready to begin a new life when the right person finds it. Daniel Shorr, owner of POPS Resale, takes pride in making sure there’s something for everybody.
Shorr recalled selling everything from clothes, records, a spiral staircase, to a full-size decorative cannon. Shorr’s friendship with local musician Tyler Childers even brought in a collection of limited edition “Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?” albums, made specially for POPS Resale.
Shorr’s store has been at the same location, 1423 Leestown Road, ever since he and his wife opened it in May of 1996. The idea for their very own resale store started when heart trouble and stress brought Shorr to the realization that it was time for a change from his fast-paced career as an electronics manufacturer’s representative. He and his wife thought of a few options, including opening up a mall booth version of what would someday become POPS.
Eventually, they settled on its current form as a store of its own. Since then, Shorr has run his shop with many of the same small staff. “People realize that even though we may not be blood family, everybody that works here is pretty much family,” he said. “And that’s how we try to treat the customers.” This sense of care and camaraderie contributes to POPS’ welcoming and homey atmosphere and keeps customers coming in time after time.
“It’s beyond what I envisioned,” Shorr said. The store has grown significantly since its founding: Shorr even said the store could use another couple thousand square feet to meet the needs of a growing inventory and customer base.
POPS has also grown in the local vintage community it fostered by constantly striving to create a unique environment, fill new niches in the local vintage scene and meet any needs that aren’t being met.
Today, people come to POPS from every state and even across the globe.
“Generally,” said Shorr, “people tell us that this is only one of a small handful of stores like this that they’ve ever seen. There are vintage clothing stores, there are record stores, there are video game stores, but there’s very few that wrap all of it into one package. And that’s what we try to do.” In short, there’s only one POPS, so make sure to stop by and check it out.
to ‘I’m ready disrupt’
ARTIST DEJA CORIN COMES HOME
HAVING JUST RETURNED FROM CALIFORNIA, 20-YEAR-OLD ARTIST DEJA CORIN DISCUSSES WHAT’S NEXT FOR HER CAREER WITH JUSTICE McKINNEY NOW THAT SHE’S BACK IN HER HOMETOWN . PHOTOGRAPHED BY MARTHA McHANEY.
Deja Corin, a Lexington-based artist, poses with her painting of singers Rihanna, Jack Harlow and SZA at her family’s home on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, in Lexington, Ky.
Deja Corin, a Lexington, Kentucky-based artist, has returned home to the Bluegrass and is “ready to disrupt the art scene.”
The 20-year-old self-taught artist has been drawing for as long as she could hold a pencil. Corin began as an artist by using only basic pencils to sketch and draw on paper. She had grown tired of the colorless work she was creating and wanted to progress, but had run into an obstacle that led her to where she is today.
“I couldn’t afford the markers that I wanted because they were super expensive, so I thought that paint would be cheaper… it’s not, but I kept up with it,” she said.
Corin began painting in 2018 and has been practicing ever since. She chose to discontinue school and focus fulltime on her art. Corin said she feels good knowing that she loves what she does and is appreciative that she’s known that from such a young age.
With the support of her parents and twin brother, Corin has been constantly surrounded with encouragement to pursue her artistic capabilities and dreams.
She said she has always felt that art was the only thing she was really good at.
“You know how people say they are a jack of all trades or a master of none? I feel like that, except with art. Nobody can tell me if it’s good or bad. I just feel good when I make it, and it’s just something I love to do, so why not do it for the rest of my life?” Corin said.
Her art consists of portraits that she does of musicians, influencers, fashion designers and loved ones who are close to her heart.
“I try to make all my paintings somewhat meaningful. All my pieces look a little bit different depending on what mood I’m in or how I’m feeling,” Corin said. “If I’m listening to music, the strokes get a little bit different depending on what I’m playing.”
For the last two years, Corin called California her temporary home until she returned to Lexington this past December. During that time, she would paint artists whose music resembled home for her. She started with a portrait of Rihanna, a reminder of her mom who would often play Rihanna’s music around the house during her childhood.
Corin also completed portraits of Jack Harlow and Bryson Tiller, inspired by their newly-released music. Both are Kentucky natives that reminded Corin of home and have reached out through social media to compliment her artwork.
Although most people have positively interacted with her work, Corin said that “art is subjective, so not everyone you come across is going to like what you make.”
Corin’s shading and blending techniques are where she said she thinks can most improve in her artwork. Whatever piece she is currently working on always turns out to be her favorite until the next one comes along.
Corin said she feels like she grows each time she makes something different, always aspiring to become better with each piece she takes on.
To obtain her own style for her art, Corin loves doing portraits and painting faces.
“I always look at the eyes since they’re such an enthralling part. It just pulls you in. I always want to have those be very intense when you look at my work,” she said.
“I didn’t start painting until 2018, so I wasn’t very good at it when I first started, but no one could tell me that back then,” Corin said. Since she first started two years ago, Corin has painted over a dozen portraits and feels her art has significantly grown.
She likes her work to have random pops of color that people wouldn’t expect to see in a skin tone or hair. Corin wants her artwork to show a lot of different brush strokes to prevent her art from looking perfect but appear a little messy instead.
“I don’t want it to look like a picture; I want you to know it’s a painting,” Corin said.
She has encountered people that haven’t liked her
work and have asked, “Are you sure this is what you want to do? Why aren’t you in school? Why not choose something safer for a career?”
She responds confidently each time knowing she’s certain of this career path. At the young age of 20, she finds it difficult to explain why she has chosen art as her profession and why school wasn’t in her future.
“I didn’t know I wasn’t going to go to college — I thought I was. I had a 4.2 GPA and was taking all these AP classes and then I thought about it. It didn’t just make sense for me,” she said.
She’s said she has been very passionate about art her entire life, so it wasn’t a surprise to her that she chose what she loves. Corin sees her age as such a weird point in her life because it can get distracting seeing peers doing so many different things and everyone all at different stages of their lives.
I don’t want it to look like a picture; I want you to know it’s a painting.”
— DEJA CORIN LOCAL ARTIST
“A lot of people go to school and have no idea what they want to do and they spend a lot of money trying to figure it out, and I didn’t have to spend a lot of money to figure out what I’m good at,” she said.
Corin said she knows she’s meant to do art and pursue her gift in all the ways she possibly can. She has begun taking inquiries from people who want her to paint a portrait of them. Varying her price by the size, detailing of the client’s wishes to be portrayed and the materials which would be needed has made it a requirement that nothing she produces will be below $700.
She said she knows that the price may be seemingly absurd to others, but said that “some people would say they would never pay that amount of money for that on a piece of paper, but they pay that amount of money for shoes.”
Corin greets opportunities with open arms when people seek her out to do work for them.
In her recent accomplishments, Corin met a music artist, Bran Movay, in Los Angeles who wanted her to do a piece for one of his music videos. She was given a week’s deadline by which the piece needed to be completed so that it could be incorporated into the music video. Corin said she charged him $800 for her work but wasn’t phased by the time limit she was given considering her previous work.
Corin tries not to take longer than two weeks to
complete a portrait because it becomes unlikely she will return to it. Her self portrait took two weeks due to the size of the five-foot canvas, while the SZA and Jack Harlow portraits took three days. Depending on the time she wants to commit to a piece, it can be completed in as soon as two days, as was her Rihanna portrait.
Getting into the mindset from start to finish, Corin said she normally begins her process by putting on some music and “studying” the picture of what she will be painting.
“The drawing is what’s most important to me because it’s one of the more fun parts about it and perfecting that layout before I even put any paint on the canvas,” Corin said.
Her space normally resembles a big canvas littered with pencils and many eraser shavings on the ground. She finds the process kind of dusty and messy but fun all at the same time.
Whenever Corin finds herself going through an “art block,” she goes back to the basics of what she knows best.
“I try to just draw and go back to how I started, which is on pencil and paper,” she said.
She has faced many challenges when completing portraits, but the hardest to accomplish is the piece Corin said she is most proud of.
While painting a portrait of Teanna Wiley, an LA designer, Corin had the hardest time with this work because she went through so many phases with it; the canvas had ripped, she was unhappy with the colors on the canvas and found her technique not displaying her true capabilities.
Corin admitted to hating it at first, but then growing to love it the most because she “had fought the hardest with that one,” she said.
Even when wanting to give up on a piece or two, Corin has always been encouraged in the best of ways. Her family motivates her to be free and explore her likes and dislikes through her art. Their impact has had a positive influence on taking her work seriously and knowing that art is what she loves and what she’s good at.
“I liked that they never pushed me to do anything that I didn’t want to do because a lot of people don’t look at art as a serious career,” she said.
Corin’s art profession has been a journey for her with opportunities she’s grateful for. In 2019, before her move to California, she had a solo art exhibition in Lexington where she presented 14 pieces. She considered the accomplishment “a character-building moment.”
“I feel like I don’t do things the proper way the art world does them, I kind of just, like, find myself falling into these opportunities. I’m appreciative of that,” Corin said while reflecting on her journey as an artist.
Her move from Kentucky to California was one of the biggest adjustments in her artwork, but Corin said she grew a lot as an artist during her time away from home.
Art was her main focus and working every day towards getting better at it. Her family had only seen her art transformation through her online presence because they haven’t seen everything in person.
“My art is so much better than when I left,” she said.
Corin liked her time in a new environment and “wants people to know it’s good to go to places like LA, New York, Atlanta and Chicago to discover yourself out there and get inspiration, but it’s nothing you can’t get from here.”
Since her return to the Bluegrass, Corin has explored some of the city’s artistic corners.
“I’m really proud of Lexington. Our city is so beautiful,” she said. But now that she’s back, Corin is “hoping to have a major contribution to our art scene.”
Other than presenting her work to Lexington, Corin is hoping the future will hold her bigger aspirations.
“I want to be selling art all over, having shows and galleries,” she said. “I just want to help other people with my art, share my art and put it out there.”
Corin said she hopes people can see the emotion she felt when painting her pieces. But as an artist, she said, “I like to let the viewer decide what my art says about me.”
Corin has big plans in the new year, including an art show for her 21st birthday in September. She is hoping to present a portrait series of loved ones in her life in Lexington that matter to her in various ways.
“I just want to inspire people here because I really love Lexington. It’s where I grew up and it’s made me the person I am,” Corin said. •
I try to make all my paintings somewhat meaningful. All my pieces look a little bit different depending on what mood I’m in or how I’m feeling.”
— DEJA CORINA detail of Deja Corin’s signature at her family’s home on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, in Lexington, Ky.
A WORD TO THE
NIKKI EDDS SITS DOWN WITH THREE KENTUCKY AUTHORS AND EDUCATORS TO AMPLIFY THE VOICES OF THOSE THAT WRITE, TEACH AND PROMOTE DIVERSE AND CREATIVE LITERATURE. PHOTOGRAPHED BY CARTER SKAGGS.
Literature is how stories are immortalized. Authors use these stories to share, to educate or to transport readers into immersive fictional worlds. Words on a page have the power to influence how the human condition is collectively experienced by encouraging readers to listen, empathize and learn from one another.
Kentucky is full of intentional authors with stories that need to be told and educators capable of captivating the students that need them most — several of them right here in Lexington at the University of Kentucky.
Frank X Walker
The X in Frank X Walker’s name originated because people thought he looked like civil rights leader Malcolm X in high school.
That same X now appears on the covers of his 12 books, above “Director of Creative Writing” on the namecard outside his University of Kentucky office, next to “Professor” on syllabi and on a sign in his hometown that reads “Home of Frank X Walker Kentucky Poet Laureate 2013-14.”
A native of Danville, Kentucky, Walker is the first African American to be named Kentucky Poet Laureate. Inspired by his experiences as a writer of color in Appalachia, Walker coined the term “Affrilachia” and co-founded the Affrilachian Poets collective.
“That term, Affrilachia, forces and challenges people’s definition and perceptions and preconceptions of what Appalachia is and then allows people of color to exist in the same space,” Walker said.
Walker, who began reading at a young age, was introduced to creative writing while attempting to mimic the style of his favorite comic books. His love for comics and their heroes persists today. Walker currently has what he believes to be “the largest African American action figure comic collection in the United States” on display at the Lyric Theatre.
However, Walker said that he would not be a creative person or even believe he could make a difference with his words or art if it had not been for his mother.
Walker’s mother was a seamstress in addition to being a nurse and a Pentecostal minister, but he said she never thought of herself as an artist. One of 11 kids, Walker often watched his mother sew his sister’s clothes and even make wedding dresses in the home.
“Once she had sat down to make these pieces of clothing, she would do everything an artist did. The way she thought about them, the way she put them together, her sense of completion at the end… I marvel at that,” he said.
Walker entered his undergraduate years at UK as an engineering major. While he said he should have come to study writing, he wasn’t encouraged to do so. His love for reading and writing led him to major in journalism for two years before ultimately switching to English.
“At some point I wandered into Gurney Norman’s fiction class and a lightbulb came on. I’m like, ‘I love this.’ He was able to pull these stories out of me,” he said.
Walker has since gone on to step into Norman’s shoes as a creative influence and driving force for his students. As a professor in the English department, he teaches a variety of courses including Affrilachian literature, large intro to creative writing classes as well as small seminars for graduate students.
Walker emphasized the impact that proper guidance and counseling can have on a young student attempting to find their career path in a creative field. He cautioned against using trial and error to stumble into a career simply because it’s the last one left. “That’s a lot of wasted money, a lot of wasted time,” he said.
That term, Affrilachia, forces and challenges people’s definition and perceptions and preconceptions of what Appalachia is and then allows people of color to exist in the same space.”
— FRANK X WALKER FORMER KENTUCKY POET LAUREATE AND DIRECTOR OF MFA IN CREATIVE WRITINGFrank X Walker poses for a portrait with his children’s book titled “A is for Affrilachia,” a term he coined to represent the African American artists, writers and musicians hailing from Appalachia on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, at the Dickey Hall Education Library in Lexington, Ky. 39 SPRING 2023 |
“When you choose a major, or if you have a minor, or if you choose to double major in something, it should not be about, ‘I can be rich when I finish this degree;’ it should be about, ‘I really love this thing, I want to learn as much about it as possible and believe that there’ll be opportunities for me to keep developing and become the best I can be at this thing and then find employment in it,’” he said.
Since high school, Walker said he now views the X in his name to represent the unknown, especially when it comes to understanding his past, his family’s past and their history. He is currently in the process of writing a book about African American Civil War soldiers in Kentucky.
“I’ve found out all these things that I never learned in high school, or in a book or on television and I continue to be stunned at all this new information that was formerly unknown,” he said.
While researching, Walker said he came across the story of a soldier in the Union Army who had signed his name using an X on his enlistment form because he was illiterate.
“It kind of made me tingle inside to realize that that X is connected to my X. He was using the X because he didn’t know how to write, and my using the X acknowledges
that I’m connected to him. My commitment to literacy is somehow connected to his wanting to write and needing to be literate.”
Walker believes that stories like these should be general knowledge. The widespread reach of this kind of information may shape people’s perception of Kentucky history, Kentuckians and the role of African Americans in this space, he said. Walker himself plays a crucial part in the distribution of these stories through literature.
“I remember being in the library as an 11- or 12-yearold and asking the librarian why there weren’t more books about Black people and she said, ‘Why don’t you write one?’ I remember being stung by that, you know, that hurt. I was just a kid,” Walker said. “But I also remember feeling challenged by it. In the back of my mind, I remembered that and it kind of gave me purpose; why not write one?”
Frank X Walker’s 13th book, “A is for Affrilachia,” is set to come out this year.
Beth Connors-Manke chose a career in literature because she is interested in people.
Now an associate professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Studies at the University
of Kentucky, Connors-Manke’s enthusiasm for studying English began her first year in college and led her to earning a doctoral degree in the field.
“I remember my first year of college, I thought, ‘I’m either gonna major in psychology or I’m gonna major in literature,’” said Connors-Manke. However, after taking a psychology course, her decision was made clear. “I’m interested in the way literature helps understand people in that deeply described way.”
In addition to already being an avid reader, ConnorsManke explored literary analysis, creative writing and everything in between during her time as an undergraduate student. Her educational background all falls under the large umbrella of English studies.
“I’ve ended up in all of them. It’s fun, I’ve gotten to expand over time and go a lot of different directions,” she said.
Connors-Manke teaches a variety of writing, rhetoric and digital studies (WRD) courses that include both freshmen and upper division students. She said she leans heavily into the compositional aspect of writing due to her love for working with language and students in terms of how they find their voice and make arguments.
The biggest challenge of approaching undergraduate students who may be struggling to find their niche in a WRD course is identifying a method of instruction that works on a student by student basis, she said.
“Usually once we slow down, and I look a student in the eye and I’m like, ‘What’s interesting to you? What have you written?’ and let’s take it apart. Once that
connection is there, I don’t have to do more persuasion because we can find what suits the student and how they can work through their learning,” she said.
She encourages her students to take inventory of their day-to-day lives and try to think of a time when they don’t have to write something.
“We are so saturated in textual language, it’s almost the air we breathe,” Connors-Manke said. Between reading the subtext in text messages, to interpreting the tone on a social media post, to deciphering extensive technical writing, being asked to not use the skills of a writer is like being told, “don’t breathe for a day and see how that goes,” as she puts it.
Many of the courses Connors-Manke teaches allow students to hone their skills in style, voice or other special topics throughout the semester and then use that developed skillset to create a final, cumulative project. Students are given the freedom to explore their own personal interests or interpretation of topics as long as they stay within the realms of the general rubric.
Connors-Manke told the story of a particular student who, as a freshman in an argumentation course, was tasked with creating a final paper depicting “the good life.” The student, being a political science major, wrote a political manifesto, rolled it up like a historic manuscript and tied it together with a string before turning it in.
“It was so cool because it was where she wanted to go in the future with her discipline and she was doing the work for our class,” Connors-Manke said.
We are so saturated in textual language, it’s almost the air we breathe.”
— BETH CONNORS-MANKE ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR IN DEPARTMENT OF WRITING, RHETORIC AND DIGITAL STUDIES
Throughout her career, both as a student herself and an associate professor, Connors-Manke has been able to center her work around specific research interests. These interests include composition and eudaimonia, pedagogy and mentorship, style and voice in composition, editing and community publishing, argument and philosophy, and public rhetorics and advocacy, according to her profile on UK’s WRD department website.
She poses related research questions, including, “How can reciprocity be enacted? In particular, how is reciprocity experienced — and enacted — in the classroom?”
Connors-Manke described how the classroom setting is one of give and take between a teacher and a student. While both parties have something to offer each other, they are able to pick and choose which things to leave and which to enact. For this to occur, there has to be a certain level of respect present, she said.
Reciprocity in the classroom may prove to be one of the crucial ingredients to reach eudaimonia, one of Connors-Manke’s research interests, within the academic sphere.
Eudaimonia, an ancient Greek word loosely translated to “human flourishing”, was a topic largely explored by students in Connors-Manke’s recent “rewilding” course, a subtitle of WRD 401.
In the summer of 2021, a section of this course was conducted in the forests of Olympic National Park in Washington State. The four-week course was modeled with the first and last week on Zoom, with the middle two weeks as immersive, in-nature experiences. During those two weeks students participated in reading, writing, hiking and mindfulness activities like meditation while staying at a lodge on Lake Quinault.
Connors-Manke explained how reciprocity was further emphasized during this course as students were encouraged to attach themselves to nature, to something that is not themselves and that gives back to them.
Connors-Manke aims to use these pillars of reciprocity in her personal life and in her career as an educator. “It means being willing to be like, every day, ‘What do my students need from me? What does my family need from me? What do my colleagues, what do my neighbors need?’ Because if they’re not doing well, what do I have left?”
One of Crystal Wilkinson’s favorite memories from her time as Kentucky Poet Laureate begins in the same library she worked at as a high school student in Casey County.
Wilkinson had traveled back to her hometown to take part in “Crystal Wilkinson Day,” where she would spend the day engaging in conversations with young, prospective writers, doing readings from her books and sharing her love for literature with the friends, family and teachers that had inspired it.
Wilkinson, who currently serves as Kentucky’s first female poet laureate, is the award-winning author of “Perfect Black” and three works of fiction: “The Birds of Opulence,” “Water Street” and “Blackberries, Blackberries.” She teaches at the University of Kentucky as a professor of English in the MFA in Creative Writing Program.
Being raised by her grandparents in rural Kentucky without neighbors for almost a mile on either side, Wilkinson was always what her grandparents would call “bashful” as a young child.
“I didn’t speak a lot, and writing and reading were always an outlet for me,” she said. “For me, it was a way to have company because I had a very lonely childhood… I entered a whole other world in my imagination, and it was to express that and be in touch with that.”
Wilkinson took this life she had built in literature and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Kentucky University. Following graduation, she told herself that if she could just get published in a magazine she recognized she would be happy if that’s as far as her career went.
However, in adolescence, Wilkinson recalled looking up on her shelves and seeing few women writers and no Black writers.
“And I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ But I don’t think that young, Black girls from rural Kentucky, that this is what we need to be doing,” she said. “I found out later that, of course, it’s something that I could have done and did do. But I think if you can make that connection to your passion and continue to look for ways to do that, that is the way to go.”
As she continued to get published in more magazines and journals, Wilkinson began to recognize the very real possibility of seeing herself join the authors she had once seen on her shelf. She went on to earn an
You have to be vulnerable enough to tell the truth. To speak the truth and not flinch away from what the truth might be, no matter how horrible. And then you have to sort of walk around in it.”
— CRYSTAL WILKINSON
CURRENT KENTUCKY POET LAUREATE AND PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH IN THE MFA OF CREATIVE WRITINGPROGRAM
MFA in creative writing from Spalding University, which allowed her to step into the role of educator as well.
“When I’m teaching creative writing, one of the things I say is that we’re all haunted by something, meaning that there are recurring thoughts or recurring feelings that we have or things that we want to talk about all the time.”
Wilkinson said her mother dealt with mental illness, leading her to be absent from the home during much of Wilkinson’s childhood. This experience solidified mother-daughter relationships as a “haunt” of hers. Readers of Wilkinson’s works of fiction, poetry and prose can recognize this complex idea explored as a recurring theme.
“What I do as a fiction writer, and even as a poet, is take the foundation of those personal experiences and layer the imagination on, and so then you get the fiction,” she said. “Or I examine it from a distance, and so then you get the speaker of the poem that is not necessarily me, but may have some common experiences that I had.”
Wilkinson does an exercise with her students where she encourages them to explore personal experiences, family relationships, connections to religion, to place, to food, and pretend it was not happening to them
or wasn’t their experience, but instead, a made up character. She poses questions such as, “What would you say to the character of your own experience?” “How would you diverge from the truth?” or “What are you curious about?”
“I think you have that thread of truth,” she said. “There are commonalities that are part of the human experience, no matter what race, no matter what religion. There are common experiences we all have.”
It can be easy to explore these situations in the classroom without the added pressure of hundreds of others reading the deeply personal words sprawled on the page. However, that secrecy is lost when it comes to publishing, a concept that can feel intimidating to young writers and creative students.
However, Wilkinson sees vulnerability as one of the crucial aspects of being a poet and a writer. She emphasized the importance of a willingness to stand up in front of the world naked, not literally but figuratively, she clarified.
“You have to be vulnerable enough to tell the truth,” she said. “To speak the truth and not flinch away from what the truth might be, no matter how horrible. And then you have to sort of walk around in it.”
Following the release of “Perfect Black” in 2021, Wilkinson saw the effect this baring of her soul can have on readers. The collection of poetry and prose detailing her rural roots, experiences with racism, sexual abuse, religion and more won the 2022 NAACP Image Award and garnered a community of readers who were left forever impacted.
“I became so emotional because I started to get emails and letters from women — young women — all over the country for different parts of the book,” she said. “Some had gone through sexual abuse of some kind and they read that part and they clung on to it. Others of them had been brought up in rural geographic areas and had been called country before and had seen that as a negative, and so they reached out. Each one of those young women, each example of that kind of interaction, I think touches me, and each of them touch me in a different way.”
Wilkinson credits the close-knit group of Affrilachian Poets for initially fostering this sense of community during the drafting side of the writing process. She encourages her students and mentees to establish their own artistic and creative communities built on trust so they can all become better writers.
“The members of the Affrilachian Poets are my brothers and sisters. Not only in the word, but in our lives. We’ve all seen deaths of parents, deaths of grandparents, marriages, divorces, illnesses… We’ve seen each other through all kinds of milestones,” Wilkinson said.
As the literary community continues to grow in Kentucky, Wilkinson praises the younger generations for embracing diversity in creative voices and hopes to see social media used as a place of celebration for this.
“I’m extremely proud as a native Kentuckian to be the first Black woman poet laureate in the state. But I shouldn’t be the first Black woman poet laureate in the state... I’ll be so glad when there are no more firsts and it’s just like, oh, you know, it’s Crystal Wilkinson, or it’s Frank X Walker or whoever is the next one and the next one.”
Wilkinson’s culinary memoir, “Praise Song for the Kitchen Ghosts,” is anticipated from Clarkson Potter/Penguin Random House in 2024. •
KRNL Lifestyle + Fashion Magazine has provided us a space where we can feel, question, create and actively inspire. The world of fashion serves as a creative outlet and allows for ever-changing means of self-expression through collaboration in photography, styling, designing and creative vision. Over the past few years the growth of this publication has been awe inspiring, further instilling the gratitude we feel for being a part of it. KRNL has become our home away from home.
With this issue, we wanted to push our creative boundaries both photographically and stylistically. Through our Andy Warhol inspired photoshoot, we aimed to convey the collective individuality of our senior class – a group of students that have been incredibly instrumental in establishing the KRNL we know today. “Fusion” allowed us to work in an architecturally historic shooting location, providing both obstacles and opportunities for capturing our desired photos. “Invite Only” provided an opportunity to depict a sense of community found at dinner parties, yet also the chaos that ensues as the meal portion of the evening winds down. With each distinct photoshoot, we strived for excellence; it is always an honor and a privilege to help execute the making of the art in this publication.
As you spill over the pages we have worked tirelessly to create, we hope something speaks to you. Whether it is a heartfelt story honoring the life of Lonnie Ali or a photo that grabs your attention, we hope that you enjoy reading half as much as we enjoyed creating.FASHION CO-EDITOR
The dining table is arguably the location for our most formative moments. While we indulge in delectable foods, we also indulge in conversation. Adorned in sequins, pearls, rufﬂed blouses and luxe furs we share laughs, anecdotes and opinions. The food itself is hardly the star of the party.
The dining table is arguably the location for our most formative moments. While we indulge in delectable foods, we also indulge in conversation. Adorned in sequins, pearls, ruffled blouses and luxe furs we share laughs, anecdotes and opinions. The food itself is hardly the star of the party.
A very special thank you to Spindletop Hall for volunteering their space to make our fashion shoot come to life.
A very special thank you to Spindletop Hall for volunteering their space to make our fashion shoot come to life.PHOTO BY MARTHA McHANEY 48 | KRNL LIFESTYLE + FASHION
WEARHOUSE SHIRT | 22
SHOES | 34
BLAZER | 22
STEEL MILL & CO. PANTS | 59.5
Lonnie Ali’s LEGACY LOVE OF
LONNIE ALI TALKS TO RANA ALSOUFI ABOUT THE LIFE SHE HAS DEDICATED TOWARD KEEPING HER LATE HUSBAND’S LEGACY INTACT WHILE ALSO REFLECTING ON THE LEGACY SHE WISHES TO CREATE FOR HERSELF. PHOTOGRAPHED BY MARTHA McHANEY.
On what would have been Muhammad Ali’s 81st birthday, the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, stood empty and quiet. The Center and all of its exhibitions had been closed off to the public, but Lonnie Ali, Muhammad’s devoted wife, made her visit to the Center, which she co-founded with her husband in 2005, to reflect upon and remember his life. Many of the qualities she admired the most about Muhammad, such as his “golden heart” and his “infinite amount of patience,” rushed to her memory on that important day.
“Muhammad would literally give you the last dime in his pocket and the shirt off his back. I’m being honest — he would,” 66-year-old Lonnie said. “It’s hard to be like that. And he never worried about having to replenish it or where’s he going to get another one. He didn’t care about that.”
Rather than a painful reminder of what was lost to those who idolized and were close to him, Lonnie chooses to use Muhammad’s birthday as an opportunity to remind herself of all the things she loved about him.
“Muhammad loved birthdays. Not the aging part — he loved the gifts part,” Lonnie said with a smile. “I think today is an opportunity, what I think, to spread joy, to spread that… that… you can’t even name it, really.”
To Lonnie, the day is a chance to encourage others to be more like Muhammad and to give back to the community in Muhammad’s honor. In Arizona, where Lonnie currently resides, homeless residents of St.
Vincent de Paul received home-cooked meals prepared by various local chefs in the late heavyweight boxing champion’s memory.
“It’s an opportunity to remember those who have been forgotten and to be kinder,” Lonnie said. “To remind myself to be kinder, nicer to people in my encounters, to be more patient, more loving.”
Lonnie’s spirit and compassion are two qualities that come to the forefront of her personality, said WAVE 3 News TV and radio personality John Ramsey, who has been close friends with both Muhammad and Lonnie for over 35 years. He said that she shares those qualities with her late husband as well.
“There was a huge void in my life [after Muhammad died]. I can’t imagine what it was like for her, but when Muhammad passed… I guess the way I always put this is I get my dose of Muhammad when I’m talking to Lonnie — that I remember him because they’re so much alike,” Ramsey said.
It is difficult to describe just how much love and admiration Lonnie holds in her heart for her late husband. From the day she first met Muhammad when she was only 6 years old — Muhammad 21 years old — in their neighborhood in Louisville, a unique and unbreakable bond formed between the two of them.
The young Lonnie recalled coming home from school one day and seeing every little boy in her neighborhood gathered around a man sitting on his porch across the street from her house. Her mother was peering out the
window at them, and, curious as to what was going on, Lonnie asked her who the man was.
“That’s Cassius Clay,” her mother said.
Lonnie described him as having been “very conservatively dressed, very neat.” She watched as all the boys around him listened to his every word with their eyes wide open, full of awe and wonder. Spotting her watching from the window of her house, Clay (his name before he converted to Islam in 1964 and changed it to Muhammad Ali) asked one of Lonnie’s brothers, who was among the crowd of children, who she was. When he learned of Lonnie, he asked her brother to go and get her. Being the shy little girl that she was, Lonnie was hesitant to go and meet the man whom everyone seemed to be absolutely enthralled by. But she did, and the relationship between the pair evolved and only grew stronger over time.
When Lonnie turned 17, she knew then and there that
she was going to marry Muhammad Ali and spend the rest of her life with him.
“He was a mentor, like a big brother. Living in Louisville, your view is kind of narrow — kind of focused… and Muhammad gave me a broader view of things, of the world,” Lonnie said. “He wasn’t even in town. I was just walking in our neighborhood, and I just remember that thought went through my head: that one day I was going to marry him.” The two married on Nov. 19, 1986, in their hometown of Louisville.
It is precisely because of Lonnie’s deep connection with Muhammad that she has dedicated herself to preserving the legacy that he created and to making sure that his impact on the world is celebrated and honored for the rest of time.
“Most of my life is dedicated to that Ali legacy, and it’s a feel-good legacy. You know, it’s something that you get up and you feel good about because you’re doing good in the world and you’re helping people and you’re reaching out to people and making them feel good too, which Muhammad did every day of his life,” she said.
Lonnie Ali, born Yolanda Williams, grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, the city she will always align herself with despite not living there anymore.
“I think really, as far as a close relationship — more of an intimate relationship — with the city started when I married Muhammad because Muhammad was so connected to this city. He loved it regardless of where he lived. He was always a Louisvillian and he loved being home,” she said.
...I think that’s really what legacies are about: you try to do the best you can do every day, try to spread a little joy or happiness every day.”
— LONNIE ALI CO-FOUNDER OF THE MUHAMMAD ALI CENTER
She attended Mercy Academy as a high school student before graduating and getting her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Vanderbilt University. She initially aspired to become a child psychologist, but, afraid that she wouldn’t be accepted into any graduate programs, she applied for a position at Kraft Foods back in Louisville as a backup plan.
After receiving an acceptance letter to attend the University of Illinois on the same day she was offered a position at Kraft Foods, she chose to take the business route and went with the latter choice.
That being said, none of the skills Lonnie developed while studying psychology have gone to waste, even today. “I have applied psychology in business a lot, especially with dealing with people,” Lonnie said. “Personalities, situations that come up in business… body language, a lot of things, why people do the things they do.”
Having a background in psychology has proven to be useful to Lonnie with her everyday social interactions as well.
“My first instinct is to be trusting and open, and I think psychology sort of gave me that extra layer of being able to see people’s true motives, and sort of figure out the dynamics better of who they were as individuals and who I was doing business with,” she said.
Lonnie then chose to broaden and refine her business skills by receiving her MBA from the University of California Los Angeles, after which Muhammad decided to put her in charge of all of his business affairs. Muhammad was not someone who cared much for business, but Lonnie was, which he recognized and acknowledged.
“He entrusted me with his business, which was not normal for most people,” Lonnie said. “And what was so good about Muhammad is that he knew what he knew and he knew what he didn’t know, and he got out of the way.”
Recognizing where his strengths were and where he needed assistance from others was one of his best characteristics, Lonnie said, which led him to provide her with the chance to grow in the field that she wanted.
“He gave me the opportunity to sort of blossom and become that business person and entrepreneur. And of course, I felt that I was there to support him in his mission: his humanitarian missions, his life mission, his health, his welfare, everything. I felt that that was where I was supportive of him, and making sure that his life ran smoothly — that he didn’t have to worry about those kinds of issues regarding business, finances, personnel, none of that. All he had to do was be Muhammad, which
he did well,” Lonnie said.
Lonnie chose to assume responsibility for most of Muhammad’s affairs, especially as his battle with Parkinson’s disease began to worsen. She was his primary caregiver throughout their time together, which included taking him to all of his physician appointments and taking care of his needs when he was unable to do so for himself. On March 16, 2019, Lonnie was honored with the Keep Memory Alive Caregiver Hero Award, granted to her by Cleveland Clinic Nevada, for the dedication she exuded toward taking care of her husband, an accomplishment Ramsey believes she is incredibly deserving of.
“People who knew that I knew Muhammad well would say, ‘How’s Champ doing? How is he doing?’ I said, ‘He lives like he wanted to live, he lives like a king,’ and Lonnie made sure that he had that life. When Parkinson’s really set in on him, he needed help, and Lonnie always got the best of help,” he said.
Being Muhammad’s caregiver was a responsibility Lonnie took on proudly as his devoted wife, but the stress of having to take care of both someone else’s needs as well as her own was one she was not readily prepared for.
“I will admit, I thought I was doing really good. I thought, ‘Okay, I’m gonna do this,’ you know, did all my annual physicals and exams, exercise, try to eat right. But still, the stress of being a caregiver takes a toll on you. I don’t think that you even know until afterwards. So I realized that even though I thought I was taking good care of myself, I wasn’t probably taking the best care, because part of that care is giving yourself mental breaks — mental and physical breaks — and not everybody can do that,” Lonnie said.
Ramsey said that he noticed how Lonnie would very often put Muhammad’s needs before her own, sometimes neglecting to take care of herself as a result.
“She didn’t take time off, she knew that she was the one who took best care of him, and Muhammad was most comfortable with her too. So it was kind of a twoway street; she wanted to be with him and he needed her,” Ramsey said.
Lonnie is a big advocate for Parkinson’s disease research and has dedicated much of her philanthropic endeavors toward the cause.
The Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix was founded in 1997 to provide Parkinson’s patients with the same high-quality level of care that Muhammad was fortunate enough to receive, Lonnie said.
I guess the way I always put this is I get my dose of Muhammad when I’m talking to Lonnie — that I remember him because they’re so much alike.”
— JOHN RAMSEY WAVE 3 NEWS
“It’s the kind of care that I wanted, that Muhammad received that we wanted everyone else to receive, and so we still build on that,” she said.
Lonnie’s advocacy for Parkinson’s disease treatment goes beyond just research. She focuses much of her own time and resources on outreach and connecting with those who have been affected by Parkinson’s in some way.
“The research is the research, but I’m more about the outreach and making sure people can live quality lives on a daily basis because that’s where the challenge comes in: it’s that day-to-day living. How are they experiencing that? How are caregivers experiencing that?” she said.
Another philanthropic cause Lonnie is passionate about is education — “the key to success” — and providing access to education in some format to every child. Her adoration for children is also evident in how much time she likes to spend with her 12 grandchildren.
But above all else, Lonnie is the most dedicated to Muhammad and his legacy, and what she can do to spread his impact farther than just Kentucky. Muhammad Ali died on June 3, 2016, and since then Lonnie has chosen to use her own legacy to uplift that of her late husband, which mostly consists of putting energy toward the Muhammad Ali Center, where she said she spends around 80% of her time as the figurehead for the Center despite dividing her time between Kentucky and Arizona. It is at the Center where Lonnie said she feels connected the most with Louisville, and where she and Muhammad have always felt closest with their beloved hometown.
“I think Muhammad’s legacy is for everyone, you know, so social justice especially is one of the key components of our new strategic plan [for the Center]... So that is one of the things that we will be pursuing and advancing here more so than we did in the past,” Lonnie said.
Muhammad Ali has no doubt left an impact on the world by his own merit, but it is Lonnie Ali who has cultivated a life dedicated to making sure the world never forgets her husband fueled by the love she has had for him all of her life. Lonnie was not someone who walked in the shadow of her husband, but beside him, and although she prefers to avoid the spotlight when she can, the work she has done behind the scenes to preserve Muhammad’s legacy — both during and after his life — has been plentiful and continues to advance.
A podcast starring both Lonnie and Ramsey titled “Ali and Me” is currently in the works aimed to “bridge the divide” in society, as Lonnie put it, through Muhammad’s social impact. Guest stars such as LeBron James and Mike Tyson are lined up to appear on the podcast to talk about how to use their platforms to speak up about causes that are important to them, the way Muhammad did.
“I am very honored that she trusts me with the brand and what Muhammad stood for. She knows I know him, and I’m very protective of his legacy as she is, and I think she knows that,” Ramsey said.
A musical about Muhammad’s life, written by the Louisville Orchestra’s musical director Teddy Abrams, is also in development, which Lonnie hopes will be able to premiere in Louisville before making its way to Broadway.
Lonnie is also involved in the creation of a threeseason television series about Muhammad produced by Amazon, and that’s not even the end of it either. There will always be a new Muhammad Ali story to tell, a new project to be released, all in the effort of expanding his legacy, and all of it orchestrated by the person who has always cared for him the most: Lonnie Ali.
“A lot of people wouldn’t like me saying this, but I really don’t think about my legacy because it’s so
intertwined with his [Muhammad’s]. My legacy is to be that wife, to be that guardian of his legacy, and to ensure that it’s there for generations to come,” Lonnie said.
“But it’s also to be the example of that legacy, and that’s a tough nut, I’m telling you, because Muhammad was extraordinary… So however people want to remember me in that regard, that’s up to them, and I think that’s really what legacies are about: you try to do the best you can do every day, try to spread a little joy or happiness every day. And it’s helped people remember you and what that means to them and how that may inspire others after you’re gone. So if I can do that, especially for my grandchildren, then I’ve done my job.” •
My legacy is to be that wife, to be that guardian of his legacy, and to ensure that it’s there for generations to come.”
“PHOTOS BY STEVE SCHAPIRO
SEEK & DESTROY
ANJELA TV GIRL
ISSUES/HOLD ON TEYANA TAYLOR
ESCAPISM. RAYE, 070 SHAKE
WHEN DOVES CRY PRINCE
GOD TURN ME INTO A FLOWER WEYES BLOOD
THAT’S WHERE I AM MAGGIE ROGERS AT LAST ETTA JAMES
ACROSS THAT FINE LINE NATION OF LANGUAGE
MY SKIN MY LOGO SOLANGE
SHE’S A RAINBOW THE ROLLING STONES
HIGH TOPS DEL WATER GAP
HE GETS ME SO HIGH BEABADOOBEE
SATELLITE HARRY STYLES
BOY’S A LIAR PT. 2
PINKPANTHERESS, ICE SPICE
L ooking o ut For The Little Guy At C o - opWRITTEN BY FRANKIE ROWLAND | PHOTOS BY CARTER SKAGGS
Since its inception in 1972, Good Foods Coop has extended an opportunity for Lexington citizens to support and sample products from over 250,000 Kentucky-based farmers and producers, according to their website.
As the only cooperative grocery in Central Kentucky, Good Foods Co-op provides shoppers with locally sourced natural, organic and non-GMO products.
According to National Co-op Grocers, cooperatives are member-owned, member-governed businesses that operate for the benefit of their members based upon common principles agreed upon by the cooperative community.
Marketing Manager of Good Foods Co-op, Merrick Johnson, said the business offers a diverse display of products similar to popular grocery store chains, yet differs though emphasis of its local food system.
“Kroger defines local as products grown in the next state. We define local as roughly an hour or two maximum. We support everyone, from farmers, to coffee roasters, to people who make hats and soaps,” Johnson said.
of the difference in cost that comes with bringing organic products to shelves. There are stricter rules to qualify products as organic that farmers and ranchers must follow that make producing foods organically more expensive. It is also costly for food handlers and processors to separate organic and non-organic ingredients, and retailers must allow for separate shelf space for organic foods to prevent commingling of both organic or nonorganic unpackaged products.
Nevertheless, many consumers are willing to pay more for organic options, as the sector has been on the rise for the past two decades.
Williams said her family has long shopped at the Co-op for these kinds of organic items. This led her to develop a relationship with the cooperative well before she began working at the store in 2007.— DACIA WILLIAMS GROCERY STORE MANAGER
To provide equitable access to healthy, minimally processed food, Johnson said the Co-op encourages all to shop at the store, as access to such products is a fundamental right.
“For me, it [the Co-op’s mission] is access to healthy food for all. I grew up in a low-income household but my parents always put a lot of emphasis on healthy, organic food,” grocery store manager Darcia Williams said. “I like to emphasize that the Co-op is working towards getting our prices down so that lower-income families can shop here, as well as higher-income families.”
According to the USDA, organic products typically cost more than their non-organic counterparts because
“Back in 1980, my mom shopped at the Co-op when she was pregnant with me. She had been a shopper for many, many years. She lives in Cynthiana, Kentucky, and would drive up here just to shop at the Co-op,” Williams said.
Before joining the Good Foods Co-op staff, Williams had worked as a Chipotle manager for several years.
“It became stressful. I was newly married, wanting to focus on starting a family, and I was looking for a change in lifestyle and what I was doing for a living,” she said.
When she heard the Co-op was hiring during a routine grocery run, she said it was the perfect opportunity.
“I saw they were hiring, and I was like, ‘I’d love to work there.’ I was already knowledgeable about the products since I shopped there. I was the meat department manager for five years,” Williams said.
I like to emphasize that the Co-op is working towards getting our prices down so that lowerincome families can shop here, as well as higher-income families.”
According to the Good Foods Co-op website, seven University of Kentucky alumni formed the Coop in 1972 on the precept of “the customer is the company.”
In its infancy, the Lexington-based cooperative was organized as a buying club, where members met at each other’s homes to prepare bulk shipments of locally sourced organic and unadulterated whole foods.
The club quickly gained traction in the Lexington area and outgrew its workspaces. To accommodate their expansion the business moved to the third floor of the YWCA on North Mill Street.
The business found its official home in the early 2000s on Southland Drive and became a true cooperative. For the first time in its history, members could become partial owners of the store through the purchase of shares.
“We are owned by our owners. We don’t have a small board of executives or this secret board of shadowy figures that oversees everything,” Johnson said. “We are owned by your friends, family and neighbors.”
Johnson said Good Foods Co-op celebrated the signing of its first owner in 2003, and boasts over 9,700 today. Owners have voting rights in the cooperative, a chance to serve on the board of
directors and more.
“I became an owner in 2007, shortly after I started. I have access to all the great food and supplements I eat here every single day, I don’t get sick of it,” Williams said.
When reflecting on what she enjoys the most about being involved with the Co-op, Williams said, “We care about our people and our shoppers. Businesses like this invest in our community and the money stays in our community. Having the little guy around is still super important.” •
We are owned by our owners. We don’t have a small board of executives or this secret board of shadowy figures that oversees everything. We are owned by your friends, family and neighbors.”
— MERRICK JOHNSON MARKETING MANAGER OF GOOD FOODS CO-OP
A GLOBAL BOOKSTORE
The International Book Project Creates Change, One
Page at a TimeWRITTEN BY RAYLEIGH DEATON | PHOTOS BY ABBEY CUTRER
Lexington’s Delaware Avenue is home to a swath of commercial businesses, residential properties and boutique eateries on the fringes of downtown. Nestled among the mid-century buildings is an unassuming brick structure, a giant paper airplane and the words “Int’l Book Project” blazoned above the door. From the outside, it is one of many such industrial buildings found in this part of the East End. But inside, it houses treasure — stacks and stacks of it.
This building houses the International Book Project, a nonprofit organization that provides books and promotes literacy around the world. Working with partners both domestically and internationally, IBP ships curated selections of books to communities in need. Since its founding in 1966, IBP has shipped over 8 million books to 167 different countries, according to IBP’s Executive Director Lisa Fryman.
The front of the building is a bookstore, with shelves of books on a range of topics found along the brightly colored walls, as well as office space for staff members. But the back of the facility is, in Fryman’s words, “the room where it happens.” Through a set of glass doors at the back of the store is a warehouse, with rows of shelving holding boxes decorated with the organization’s signature paper airplane. A row of rolling bins, filled to the brim with books divided by genre, sits along a side wall.
This warehouse is where every book the IBP sends around the country and world begins its journey. Books are collected from donations and book drives, and a team of staff and volunteers sorts them by genre, packs the books into boxes and on pallets and weighs them to be shipped. After a shipment is packed, the boxes are loaded into a sea shipping container and delivered to a port near their destination. Fryman said that the journey from warehouse to doorstep typically takes a few months.
Partners that can receive books include organizations, schools, libraries and communities that apply for a shipment, which can range in size from one box to multiple pallets. The application allows partners to specify what type of books they need, whether it be university textbooks, children’s books or fiction novels. Fryman said it is this curation that sets IBP apart from other, similar nonprofits.
“I love the fact that people only get what they need and [what] they ask for,” she said. The books are free; partners are only asked to pay for customs and clearance fees, as well as a small portion of the shipping costs for larger shipments. In summer 2022, IBP sent a shipment to Poland for Ukrainian refugees sheltering there, packing 54,000 children’s books.
Stacie Musser, the organization’s director of operations, worked directly with the Universal Reading Foundation to coordinate the project.
“When we finally got the container out, we had maybe half of one bin of kids’ books left,” she said. “We sent everything we had.”
The organization is currently working on a shipment of books bound for a group of schools in Tanzania, relying on the help of volunteers to reach its goal. Musser said over 600 volunteers participated in 2022, some helping once and others weekly. Because the organization’s staff consists of “three-and-a-half” – three full-time employees and one intern – she said volunteers
are vital to IBP’s work.
“There’s always something to do, and that’s, in my opinion, the main vehicle for driving the work,” she said. “Without the volunteers, there’s just no way.”
Rick Berlin has been volunteering with IBP for two months, working a two-hour shift once a week when not at his full-time bartending job. Berlin said IBP’s mission drew him to the organization.
“I’m a lifelong learner, self professed, and I like books,” he said.
“I think all of that and education, providing the opportunity for those that don’t have it, I think, is tremendous.
The idea about volunteering is just a little something. We’ve all got time, and just going and helping an organization is doing good work.”
Berlin was helping to sort and pack books for the Zambia project, going through the bins and looking for K-12 books on STEM, literature and the arts.
I love the fact that people only get what they need and [what] they ask for.”
— LISA FRYMAN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
“We are trying to reach a country that doesn’t have access, so I’m trying to look at it from the eyes of a kid in Zambia,” he said. “What would I want to know about this outside world?”
If a book is too worn or falls under a category of books the organization does not accept, such as religious or self-help books, it is recycled. Musser said this is hard sometimes, but she tells book-loving volunteers that each book has a natural lifespan. She said she also thanks each book for its service before throwing it away.
“The value of the book is its content,” she said. “We’re not throwing away a book. We’re just throwing out paper and materials that are worn out.”
IBP also serves local needs through programs like Books in the Bluegrass, affectionately called the “bookshelf program.”
The organization sends a fully stocked bookshelf to every Habitat for Humanity house or refugee family in Central Kentucky, the books curated to the family’s specific needs.
Fryman said volunteers enjoy filling the bookshelves, often including Kentucky-specific books to welcome families to their new home. “It’s like shopping,” she said.
The books used in shipments, Books in the Bluegrass and the bookstore are all donated, either from individuals or companies like Better World Books. Around 80% of IBP’s supply is local, coming from residents of Central Kentucky. Musser said there were 40,000-50,000 books on the warehouse floor at the time, and they receive around 1,000 donated books per month.
Similarly, all of the organization’s funding is from grants, donors and special events. Fryman said that while 30-40% of IBP’s financial backing comes from grants, it still heavily relies on the generosity of individuals and businesses.
The idea about volunteering is just a little something. We’ve all got time, and just going and helping an organization is doing good work.”
— RICK BERLIN VOLUNTEER
IBP volunteer Rick Berlin organizes books into categories on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at the International Book Project in Lexington, Ky.
Jill Gookin, IBP’s director of development, said while the organization currently partners with several businesses, including Ball Homes and Keystone Financial Group, it is trying to grow its corporate sponsorship program.
“We have many generous [partners] that are either here in Kentucky or international businesses,” she said. “We are grateful to all of them, but we know there’s others out there that just don’t know we’re here.” Fryman said that a problem the organization faces is a lack of donations to the “general fund,” which is where proceeds from the bookstore go.
While donors often send money for a specific purpose, whether it be to purchase books, buy a shipping container or fund Books in the Bluegrass, the organization does not often receive money for less glamorous expenses, like paying salaries or covering operating costs. “I think this is probably true of every nonprofit,” Fryman said. “That’s kind of one of our goals, to expand that list of people [donating to the general fund].”
Ultimately, IBP’s hope is to continue the work of its founder, Harriet Van Meter, whose portrait hangs prominently on one of the bookstore’s walls. According to the organization’s website, Van Meter was inspired to send books to communities in need after returning to Lexington from a trip to India in 1965. She placed an ad in an Indian newspaper promising to send books to anyone who wrote to her. She received over 400 letters, the website says.
Van Meter turned the basement of her Lexington
home into a makeshift warehouse, inviting friends to come pack books for those in need. Fryman said the grandmother of a current IBP board member was a friend of Van Meter and helped in one of these basement packing parties.
“[Van Meter] used to invite everyone over for lunch and give them little cucumber sandwiches with the crust cut off and wine,” Fryman said. “And then she’d say, ‘Okay, now everyone’s going to the basement!’”
In 1983, IBP bought the building it currently calls home, and Fryman said when the attic was being cleaned out before a recent renovation, the staff found every check Van Meter wrote since 1966. Van Meter was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 “for her efforts to increase world literacy,” the website says. “I have this feeling, from the people who said it about her, that [she was] of those people that didn’t take no for an answer,” Fryman said.
Since the first box that Van Meter sent, IBP has been committed to her vision of providing books and promoting literacy. Gookin said she loves her job because she feels like each day she is making a difference, both in Kentucky and around the world, to increase the quality of life of those in need.
“Literacy is a globally-recognized solution to ending the cycle of poverty around the world,” she said. “So every day when you come to work, as a person, you feel that you’re just moving that needle ever so slightly, the more books that you have the opportunity to get to people.” •
BLACK SOILWRITTEN BY AMANI KAJTAZOVIC | PHOTOS BY MARTHA McHANEY
The warehouse is the main center of operations for Black Soil KY: Our Better Nature, a statewide agritourism company that aims to reconnect Black Kentuckians to their legacy and heritage in agriculture.
“We had a pipe burst during the ice storm, so please excuse the mess,” Ashley C. Smith, founder and CEO of Black Soil KY, said with a laugh. A small puddle of water gathered below a table of organized products made from their local vendors.
Smith, a University of Kentucky alumna with a background in sociology and business, said she admitted to being an unlikely candidate for this agribusiness success story.
“I am an industry outsider who had no clear idea about farming. I knew I wanted to be in business, and I spent 20 years in corporate, from nonprofits to event planning,” she said. “If I am being honest, I got recruited to work in agriculture.”
Smith said she stresses the value of integrating rural farmers into the urban market.C.
“Being from Lexington, and having a good pulse on what’s happening in the landscape, we’ve created our business model on solution-based matchmaking. We build relationships with farmers and learn their stories regarding the land and how they make a living off of it,” she said. Smith explained that Black Soil serves as the bridge between homes, restaurants and institutions like the University of Kentucky to promote direct and long-term relationships with farmers.
Tending to the Earth atThe warehouse of Black Soil contains produce on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Lexington, Ky.
SMITH CO-FOUNDER AND CEO OF BLACK SOIL
[Black environmentalism] is tending to the soil and the Earth in a loving and regeneratively minded approach.”
Smith said missing markets, inconsistent customers and consumers questioning the value of their product were some of the worries preventing local farmers from taking it to the next level.
“Rural-based farmers need markets and the majority of the consuming public life in the urban communities. Though the rural farmer does service and source for their direct rural community, they have a greater opportunity to reach more folks and get more products out,” she said.
“The ethical way of achieving this greater opportunity is being farmer-centered, being led by seasonability, being led by what is coming out of the ground rather than forcing it out, and teaching the consuming public that mainly lives in urban communities like Lexington and Louisville,” Smith said.
Black Soil functions through a symbiotic relationship between farmer and client.
“I love our customers,” Smith said with a smile. “We had folks with us since 2020 when we started our public distribution. We have brought on long-term restaurant partners who make decisions on behalf of their customers. They all decide on how to ethically source with an aggregator like Black Soil who pays the farmer their full price.”
With the growing modernization of urban communities, it can be increasingly difficult to ethically source produce and create longstanding relationships with local industries. Smith said the key to Black Soil’s success is thinking long-term, with sustainability as a top priority of their business model.
“Small-to-medium scale operations do not get the visibility and access to those transformational opportunities. Unfortunately, capitalism proliferated through agriculture. It was the demand for free labor, from enslaved men, women and children, so we were caught in a vicious cycle,” Smith said.
Smith explained that slow and steady doesn’t always win the race. But for Black Soil, their homegrown work has already impacted families statewide. With donations, they provided over 500 families with fresh and local produce in the Georgetown, Kentucky, area, securing their credibility and fulfilling the needs of their public clientele.
“Black Soil wins because we get to see the beauty of a farmer and a family connection and that family can know firsthand where their food is coming from… the farmer wins because they get to do what they love, allowing them to always sharpen their experiences in many ways,” she said, gesturing past the smaller table to three tables where locally made products sit for purchase.
Displayed around the warehouse are handmade F.L.Y. Girl candles, bags of West Lou Coffee, Beeing2gether raw honey, and refrigerators and freezers that store seasonal produce. Black Soil’s inventory reflects a business ecosystem built on integrating healthy lifestyle choices with the genuine needs of rural and urban families.
“Traditional capitalism would say, ‘If you want to sell at scale, you have to knock your price down to fit within the mold of the box door grocery chain that is willing to pay pennies on the dollar,’” Smith said. “I’m not here to haggle. I am here to agree with the worth that they say they need and go from there. And it has been a fruitful relationship. We have been able to thrive alongside farm families that go back three generations.”
We want people to see themselves in the sector because that is how you motivate people to join.”
— ASHLEY C. SMITH FOUNDER AND CEO OF BLACK SOIL KY
The biases are not lost on Smith, nor the majority of Black farmers, who have felt the prejudices from large companies. There is a certain poetic justice to incorporating Black and Indigenous farmers into the urban landscape.
“Farming is the oldest occupation that is held by African Americans. In collaboration with land acknowledgment, labor acknowledgment recognizes the stolen land was cultivated by stolen people,” Smith said. “Both groups have been pushed to the margins regarding understanding who cultivated and innovated on the land and the industry that flourished on top of it.”
Smith explained the biases against Black and Indigenous farmers means they face an 80% to 90% decrease in market value for products, arbitrary rules, gatekeeping and creating processes and procedures that are not transparent.
“What other hoops do we have to jump through? We are here to sell vegetables. We are not trafficking an illicit drug,” Smith said with a laugh.
“It’s dumbfounding to see a company withholding information and potentially losing a valuable relationship due to their biases. They have attempted to build a barrier, but more than anything, it has been delayed. We are six years in, and if people still have doubts about our abilities they can speak to a long list of clientele who have put their trust in what we bring to the table.”
Black Soil continues to promote Black leadership through its workshop classes that teach young Black Americans how to succeed in rural and urban markets, according to their website.
“Agritourism is usually identified in a white, older, male, and perhaps multi-generational and ruralbased,” Smith said. “What Black Soil aims to do is broaden that visual. We want people to see themselves in the sector because that is how you motivate people to join.” •The warehouse of Black Soil holds goods on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Lexington, Ky.
We have been able to thrive alongside farm families that go back three generations.”
— ASHLEY C. SMITH FOUNDER AND CEO OF BLACK SOIL KY
KRNL POLAROID PROJECT
KRNL POLAROID PROJECT
KRNL Polaroid Project is a monumental shoot for our staff because we are saying farewell to 22 seniors this year. We all share a feeling of bittersweetness for this chapter’s closing in our lives. Our community, love and excitement for this publication are unmatched. KRNL has altered our college experience for the better, and we are forever grateful to have found this publication that allows us to push boundaries and work together to produce an award-winning magazine unique to us and that grabs the attention of many. Andy Warhols Polaroids 1958-1987 was a massive inspiration for our Creative Director and Lead Photo Editor.
KRNL Polaroid Project is a monumental shoot for our staff because we are saying farewell to 22 seniors this year. We all share a feeling of bittersweetness for this chapter’s closing in our lives. Our community, love and excitement for this publication are unmatched. KRNL has altered our college experience for the better, and we are forever grateful to have found this publication that allows us to push boundaries and work together to produce an award-winning magazine unique to us and that grabs the attention of many. Andy Warhol’s Polaroids (1958-1987) was a massive inspiration for our creative director and photo editor.Written PICTURED ABOVE: ABBEY PURCEL, ALLIE DIGGS AND EMME SCHUMACHER by Allie Diggs | Photos by Martha McHaney, Abbey Cutrer, Gianna Mancini, Katie Brown and Lily Foster MARTHA M c HANEY | ALLIE DIGGS
I first grabbed one of the cardstock KRNL magazines in search of another, more creative organization to join. Freshman me was instantly enamored by the cover and even more so by the pages it contained. I found myself on the third floor of McVey Hall searching for the tucked away Kernel office. I found the editor-inchief and creative director at the time working on the latest issue and asked if I could fill a position. They told me they would love to have a conversation after they sent it to print about hiring a new staff member. I continued to visit them in the office so they would know my face. I’m not sure what possessed me to stay on them because I’m relatively shy, especially around more seasoned people. Still, I wanted to be on staff so severely to tell people’s stories, direct photoshoots and help design this publication.
One of my first assignments was to shoot a swim meet for the Kernel even though I had never held a camera before. The photos were unfocused and just plain awful. I attended a staff Christmas party even though I knew none of the 15 staff members.
I had a blog, “Living like a Local,” that I blasted on social media even though I was terrified of people reading my work. Looking back, it makes me giggle a bit because they were probably like, ‘Who is this oddball freshman sticking around?’ However, following two interviews with absolutely zero experience, I was hired as KRNL’s “everything girl” for the next issue. I started as a nobody-kook who overstayed their welcome in the tiny McVey office, but it worked. I have had many roles in this publication, from an assistant to a photoshoot coordinator, creative director assistant, writer, editorin-chief and creative director. This publication and Kernel Media have shaped my college career by making me confident in my abilities and allowing me to explore and grow in my passions. I have found my niche. I have met some of my closest friends, pushed myself beyond my limits, created tangible projects I am proud of, networked and most importantly, found my passion. Best seven semesters I could ever ask for. I love this community so much! I love KRNL and can’t wait to see what’s next.
Online Content Editor & Copy Editor
Assistant Lifestyle Editors Emma Reilly, Justice McKinney
Writers Amani Kajtazovic, Savanna Burke, Frankie Rowland, Avery Schanbacher, Rayleigh Deaton
Assistant Photo Editor Olivia Ford
Photographers Lily Foster, Carter Skaggs, Abbey Cutrer, Katie Brown, Gianna Mancini
Assistant Photoshoot Coordinator Leanna Marji
Assistant Digital Editor Grace Swartz
Videographer Vyn Lane
Outreach Coordinator Jess Govea
Outreach Team Members Jasmine Sturgeon, Savannah Krift, Haley Brown, Sydney Baumgarten
Lookbook Coordinator Reagan Newman Stylists Madysen Clarke, Emma Blazis, Alana Blackman, Caroline Bloodworth, Mallory Gray, Lauren Burkeen, Mustafa Abdulrazak, Shane Harran, Bennett Sloss
Makeup Artists Raegan Baldwin, Brooke Wagner
Assistant Creative Directors Emme Schumacher, Abbey Purcell
Designer Hunter Grace Hayes
Podcast Organizer/Host Karrington Garland
Hosts Nathaniel Lilly, Duce Ralls, Angie Goff
behind the scenes
1423 LEESTOWN ROAD
LEXINGTON, KY 40511 859.254.7677
KRNL POLAROID PROJECT
NAMED IN SHOOT
INVITE ONLY LOCATION
THE CLUB AT UK’S SPINDLETOP HALL
STEEL MILL & CO.
THE MILLER HOUSE
LORD JOHN VINTAGE
All prices are subject to change without notice. While the KRNL staff makes every effort to provide the most accurate, up-to-date information, occasionally one or more items may be mispriced. In the event a product is listed at an incorrect price due to typographical, photographic or technical error in pricing information received from our suppliers, merchants have the right to refuse the sale of the product listed at the incorrect price.
LIFESTYLE + FASHION
VOLUME 5 | ISSUE 2 | SPRING 2023
A NATIONAL AWARD-WINNING DIVISION OF KERNEL MEDIA
UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY
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