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featuring

Navia Robinson Issue 11


Contents

Playlist 2 Hannah Faye 3 The MarĂ­as 7 Alli Fitz 11 Madi Rindge 13 Symon 17 Dara Carter 19 Sydney Franklin 25 Andrew Shiau & Demetrius Beckham 29


Awakening Into Spring 31 Words of Wisdom: Ruth E. Carter 39 Music Festival Essentials 43 Navia Robinson 45 Victoria Haughey 55 Words of Wisdom: Melissa Ice 57 Why Art Matters 61 Marija Abney 63 Words of Wisdom: Shawn Prez 65


The Team Editor in Chief Carol is a Sophomore studying Journalism and Business Entertainment at American University. She realized at the age of eleven that photography was her passion and it was photography that ultimately led her to create Nyota Magazine. Carol is also passionate about public speaking and was given the chance to give a TEDx Talk at the age of seventeen where she talked about the lessons she learned from creating Nyota. Carol loves to create and hopes that wherever life takes her in the future, photography will be at the center.

Creative Director Niara Wright is a motivational speaker, fashion stylist, fashion designer and all around creative. She has directed and styled two fashion shows at the Cherry Hill Mall and one in Philadelphia Fashion Week and has styled fashion editorials for the Courier Post and SJ Magazine. Niara also taught entrepreneurship and served as a counselor for Independent Means at Oxford University, England. Niara is the CEO and President of TWL (The Wright Look)Personal Image Firm, owns The House of Flair Lifestyle Boutique and helped her sister, Carol create Nyota magazine. Niara has a Fashion Industry Certificate from the Teen Vogue x Parsons program and is continuing her education at Rowan at Burlington County where she is getting her associates in fashion design.


Art Director Haley Bowcutt is a senior at American University studying Film and Media Arts, Graphic Design, Marketing, and Business and Entertainment. In addition to being Art Director for Nyota, Haley leads graphic design efforts as the Vice President of Marketing of the American University American Marketing Association. Haley is currently the digital design intern at POLITICO and looks forward to continuing a career in marketing and design when she graduates this May.

Lead Graphic Designer Nicole Cox is currently a Sophomore, majoring in Graphic Design at American University. Starting at a young age, Nicole has always enjoyed creating art, whether it was writing stories or painting with watercolors, she always found a way to create, but she never expected the computer to be used as another medium for her creativity. Thanks to the help from her college professor, Kate Resnick, she was able to explore her interest in Graphic design and hopes to one day pursue a career in the field and become a User Interface Designer.

Assistant Editor Jaha Knight is the newest addition to the Nyota Magazine team. She is a Sophomore at American University, and is studying Broadcast Journalism and Business Administration.


FEATURES Hannah Faye The MarĂ­as Alli Fitz Madi Rindge Symon Dara Carter Sydney Franklin Andrew Shiau Demetrius Beckham Ruth E. Carter Navia Robinson Victoria Haughey Marija Abney Melissa Ice Shawn Prez

CONTRIBUTORS Jeff Vespa: Photographer Paul Blanch: Makeup Artist Preston Wada: Hair Stylist Manny Colon: Stylist Chris Martin: Photographer Chris Soffer: Photographer Kyle Drew: Photographer Djeki Morris: Photographer Lakumi Dias: Writer Ryan Watanabe: Photographer Johnny Nunez: Photographer Taylor Burrell: Stylist Myles Cream: Photographer Chelsea Danielle: Makeup-Artist Dina Baez: Model Rieko Copeland: Model JaxonPhotoGroup: Photographer


& EDITORS LETTER We are two years in and with each issue of Nyota I’m learning something new. One lesson that keeps pushing itself to the forefront of my mind is quality over quantity. With Nyota being an independent publication there is nothing holding us back and that, in turn, allows our creativity to flow more freely, and those creative juices turn a few interviews and photos into a final product our team is truly proud of. The theme of this issue is ‘new beginnings’ and with spring officially in bloom, we couldn’t think of a theme more fitting. To me, new beginnings signify a change or shift in life that pushes us towards something greater. Our features in this issue are all experiencing pivotal changes in their career that are allowing them to have new experiences and grow as artists. I hope each feature inspires you to go after your dreams and proves to you that there are truly no obstacles you can’t get over if you truly want something. I’d like to give a special thanks to Jeff Vespa and the team at Navia’s cover shoot, as well as my team that puts their hard work and energy into creating amazing issue after amazing issue. Carol Wright Founder & Editor in Chief @_carol_wright


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New Beginnings Darker / Hannah Faye Just One / Madi Rindge Cooks / Still Woozy Disease / Alli Fitz Another / Ruru Superclean / The MarĂ­as Blue Ocean Blue / LAKE Just Friends / Morgan Saint

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Hannah Faye an interview by Carol Wright photo courtsey of Djeki Morris

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At thirteen years old most of us are getting our braces tightened, stressing over papers that are longer than two pages and getting excited about middle school dances. Hannah Faye, is not like most thirteen year olds. This California native has already had her original song “Darker” in the major motion picture Wonder and is working on her first album. She has also been performing with her new band around LA and has signed a deal with a well established manager and will be signing with a big agency later this year. Get familiar with the name Hannah Faye before her music takes over the pop charts.

When did you begin to write music and sing? When I was eight years old I started really writing songs but I’d always try when I was younger to write whenever I could. Having your dad work in the business did you know from a young age that’d you want to get into entertainment or did your passions end up leading you into it? I didn’t focus on my dad being in the business it was more about the music for me. What was it like having your song featured in a major motion picture? It was really cool to watch the film being made and see how hard it is to film for so long. Being able to see the movie and have my song be in the soundtrack was awesome. What inspired the lyrics to your single “Darker”? It’s called Darker but it’s about seeing the light past the darkness, getting through hard times, and hope. Those things were my inspiration for the song. Who are some of your music inspirations? I’ve been listening to a lot of Miley Cyrus she’s been a big inspiration and Adele and right now I’ve been listening to a girl named Billie Eilish who is young. My favorite songs off of Billie’s EP right now are “idontwanttobeyouanymore” and “My Boy”. What other creative outlets do you have besides music? I’ve been doing some art at school which has been fun. I’ve been taking a lot of art electives. I love art and a lot of people in my family love art so I get it from them. Do you have any friends of yours that make music that’d you want to collaborate with in the future? We all do different things which is really cool. Some

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of them dance and do other things and we all support each other. Besides the piano what instruments do you play? I’ve been working on drums and I have a ukulele and a guitar. The guitar I’m trying to learn off of Youtube and then the ukulele I learned a while ago off of Youtube so I can just play a little bit. Do you think growing up in this digital age has helped a lot of young people get to do what they love? Yes, because when you follow people from your favorite tv show or your favorite artist on Instagram or Snapchat you see them and what they do inspires you to do more. Would you ever see yourself acting more and putting your music into your movies or would you stick with music? I would stick with music because I’m actually a really bad actress. I just laugh the whole time and it was really hard for me while they were filming [Wonder] because I just wanted to laugh during the funny parts. Once my brother was making a movie for his Spanish class and he wanted me to be in it and I had to be a murderer and I was holding a knife and just started laughing. What can we expect from the album you’re working on? I’m really excited because I have some songs on there about inspiration and doing what I love to do, fitting in and there are a lot of different things that I’m excited to share. What advice do you have for aspiring singer/ songwriters? You have to try really hard and keep following what you want and keep following your passion no matter what because there is a big chance it’ll happen.


Check out Hannah’s new song “Racing” which can be heard at (1:42) in the video below (https://youtu.be/5F_Vmxln_8M )

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The MarĂ­as an interview by Carol Wright photos by Kyle Drew

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How did the The Marías come to be?

Who are some of your favorite artists right now?

María: Josh and I met at the Kibitz room which is this historic venue next to Canter’s Deli which is a really well known deli in LA. We met there when I was doing a solo show and Josh was running sound so Josh asked if we wanted to record at his studio and I agreed and after that we fell in love and the rest is history and we started making music together and then once we realized that we wanted to be a band and play these songs lives we asked a couple of our closest friends to join and we’ve been a band now for a little over a year.

M & J: We’ve been listening to a lot of Mild High Club, Sunset Rollercoaster, they’re this new band from Japan that was just on tour with Mild High. We’ve been listening to the greats, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, The Beatles, a lot of Bossa Nova, Antônio Carlos, Elis Regina.

Does your relationship inspire most of the lyrics to your songs or do you pull from your environment? M: I think naturally since we’re in a relationship we do pull a lot from that but we also pull inspiration from life and people that we meet and other people in our lives that aren’t necessarily each other. A couple of songs were just insecurities we were having internally and so we definitely pull inspiration from our relationship. We have highs and lows just like any relationship. Living in LA do you feel a sense of competition with other artists or inspired because you’re surrounded by so many people chasing their dreams? Josh: There’s definitely a lot of bands and musicians around the world, but in LA specifically I wouldn’t say we feel like there’s a competition because a lot of the people that we’ve played with so far have become good friends and everybody wants the best for each other. I’ve been in a few other bands where I have definitely noticed a competition. I guess when it comes down to the business side I can see how labels and other companies will compete for an artist and there’s definitely competition in that but I think between musicians themselves it has never been competitive at least with the people that I know it has always been cordial. M: I think that as artists we all share the same struggles and we all share a lot of the same goals and adding competition to the mix is another added thing that nobody wants. On top of everything else don’t compete against each other cause that’s a headache you don’t want for yourself and everybody else.

M: There’s a new song that I love, it’s a project by the woman from Alabama Shakes called Bermuda Triangle and they have this song called “Susanna” that I’ve had on repeat lately. I think it just kind of changes, we’re always trying to find new music but some of the greats we’ll always go back to. J: Kendrick Lamar. I’m a huge Kendrick fan. Would you say when you’re listening to other artists you’re also pulling inspiration from their sound? J: I don’t think we look at it and say oh I really like this one tone that Radiohead got in this one song and try to emulate that. We’ll record a song and then after the fact be like ‘oh that’s kind of like that one sound.’ We won’t go back and change it unless it’s like way too similar but stuff like that never dawns on us in the moment unless it’s blatant and extremely obvious. Afterwards we’ll go back and listen and know we were inspired at that time, but you never really know when you’re inspired while you’re being inspired. Your music videos are like mini movies. Is it a collaborative effort when it comes to creating them or is one person responsible for the creative direction? M: The director that we work with Ian Lipton has been great to work with and he adds that cinematic feel to it. J: He’s got an amazing eye and is extremely talented behind the camera and also comes up with really good ideas too. I’d say so far it has been a collaboration between María and Ian. When they put their heads together they compliment each other in many ways and I don’t want to speak for María, but I will tell you she has a very good eye with aesthetics and she has a clear vision of what certain things should look like or ideas of what’s going on on screen. Ian comes in with unbelievable angles and amazing camera technique and amazing editing and together they really are a great partnership.

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What was your reaction when you found out you’d booked Coachella? J: I’m born and raised in LA and I first went to Coachella in 2008 or 9 and that was when I first heard about it, and I’ve been in a band since then and every year it has always been like ‘oh I think we’re gonna get Coachella this year’ and then that ended a few years ago I just kind of gave up. Throughout high school between me and some of my friends I would always say ‘we’re gonna play this year’ and they were like ‘yeah sure we’ll see’ and so after that I kind of gave up trying and just hoped maybe if it happened one day it’d be cool. So this year I did not expect it at all. It really just came out of nowhere and we didn’t hear about a possibility that we would play. When we found out it was like “you guys are playing” and it was extremely exciting and we all had a little celebration at our place and it was hard to keep it quiet too cause we knew a couple months before the lineup came out and we weren’t supposed to tell anyone. There were some friends of mine during highschool that I told ‘we’re gonna play this year’ and they would give me shit for it jokingly and with attitude so I was very excited to tell them this year. Would you guys take a political stance within the lyrics of your songs or would you stick to uplifting audiences through the good vibes of your songs? M: I think just for ourselves and to get our frustrations out we will write songs like that. A few weeks ago we wrote this Spanish punk song about Trump and all the lyrics were just kind of about him and I think we wrote a couple songs about him actually and those songs will probably never be released. We’re thinking about doing another version of the Spanish punk one but they were to just get our anger out. Definitely we need to spread positivity and good vibes but we are opinionated and aren’t just gonna stand back when we see wrongdoings going on, just on all fronts, whether it’s political or not. We will stand up for what’s right and we’ll make people know about that because I think musicians and artists and anybody that has an audience should use their platform to spread, obviously their art and their craft, but I think they should also use their platform to spread awareness about wrongdoings that are going on whether political or not.

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What can we expect from Superclean Vol.2? J: First off, I would say a couple of hot bangers and maybe a slow jam, maybe a classic spanish song or two and maybe a hot dance track. You know all around. M: My word of advice would be to not expect anything from it. I think just keep your mind open cause it might be a little bit different from Volume 1. J: Remember that Volume 1 was our first release and we’re still growing as a band, so I agree, be open minded. What advice do you have for aspiring musicians or people trying to go out to LA and pursue their passions? J: Unless you’re living in very remote area that’s out of contact then sure you can try LA but my advice to others who have access to maybe a studio or internet. I think it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than a little fish in a big pond with millions of other fish. Cause that will get the LA labels attention quicker, if you’re big in a small area then everyone in that area is talking about you and you’ll get more attention than having a couple people at the Whisky or the Roxy in LA talking about you. Also, my advice would be to keep creating and to release as much as you can and be yourself and do things differently, think outside the box. You have to think of a way to get people’s attention without seeming like you are trying to get people’s attention. M: I think just being yourself. To some people moving out to LA they get more inspired and they feel more encouraged and feel like they need to be more driven going out there, and for that person, do it. Just do what feels right to you because everybody is on a different path and you can’t just take one persons case study and think it’ll work for you because it won’t. I think just following your gut and your instincts and really honing in on what you want to do and what you want to accomplish and figure out your own way to get there. J: Yeah, I take my answer back now.


THELIFESTYLETREND.COM

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Alli Fitz an interview by Carol Wright photo by Chris Martin

If you were an avid Vine user from 2013 to 2017, then the name Alli Fitz is sure to ring a few bells. This rising singer first started out posting comedy videos on the social media platform and since its shutdown has managed to use Youtube to build an even bigger audience. With the music video for new single “Disease” already at 110,000 views, we know she’ll be known for her music in no time.

You originally started out on Vine. What made you start posting videos there? To be honest I had originally made a Vine account to follow my celebrity crushes. But then I started seeing regular people (not pop-stars, actors, etc) making videos and gaining lots of supporters. I thought that was pretty cool, so I started making videos too. With your natural knack for comedy have you ever thought of pursuing acting? Yes I did think of pursuing acting. I went to college for theatre, so they had lots of mandatory acting classes for us to take! They were fun and I do love acting as well. Was it difficult making the transition from comedic videos to posting music? Yes it really was. It was hard for people to take me seriously with music since I was well known for comedy. What inspired your song “Disease”? Disease was inspired by a toxic relationship I was in about two summers ago. It was like we were in a relationship but there was no title on it. It was really frustrating because I could never tell if he was really into me, or what the situation was.

What was the music video making process for “Disease”? What was it like to see the final product? It was so much fun working with my directors “Cue the Bird”. They were so creative and knew how to help me tell the story of my song with amazing visuals. Your videos have a lot of choreography, could you ever see yourself creating a visual album? I haven’t thought about it until now...that would actually be so cool! Being popular on social media it is easy to be susceptible to hate, how do you block out the negativity? I try to only read the nice comments. Ignore the negativity. They just want a response. And if you give them one, they’ll just keep going. What advice do you have for aspiring Youtubers? Consistency is key! Keep posting videos! :) What advice do you have for aspiring singers? Your voice is a muscle. If you stop using it, it’ll weaken. So keep on singing!

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Madi Rindge an interview by Carol Wright photos by Chris Soffer

Growing up in a home with a grammy award winning father, music has been a constant part of Madi Rindge life. This LA native has already gained critical acclaim for her string of hit singles she’s been releasing to gear up for her EP that’s set to release on April 1st. Madi’s career is set to take off and we’re happy to be along for the ride.

Did growing up with parents who worked in the music industry spark your interest in becoming a singer?

Your song “Perfect” focuses on female empowerment, has it been uplifting seeing so many women stand together in solidarity in recent months?

I think so. I definitely got a more realistic view into what it really means to be an artist or a musician in general. Which is really helpful because there’s certain aspects to it that can be glamorous but for the most part it’s a lot of hard work and dedication and persistence and self-belief and all that stuff. Which only helped me decide that I did want to do this, and my dad got my brother and I started on the piano at age three. So were doing classical piano and performing, doing recitals and things like that. It wasn’t until about middle school when my parents got divorced and I was sort of rebelling from playing the piano that I picked up on singing through choir and that’s when I really started to get interested in singing and from there I’ve stuck with it.

I think with everything, including the Times Up defense fund, and all of the women that are standing up for each other in an industry that is very male dominated has been really great to shine a light on. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced personally things where my reputation was going to be at risk if I said something I didn’t like or if I felt like someone was coming onto me and I didn’t feel like it was professional if I said anything. There’s all these fears that I know that I have had and many other women have had as well, and unfortunately most of the time the male word is taken over the female word but I think that is changing very quickly and very drastically which is super exciting for us. I finally feel like women are being heard and being believed which is really cool and is something that I’ve been talking about and what I believe. So I’m super excited to be part of this huge movement.

What can we expect from your forthcoming EP “Just One” and why did you decide to name the EP after this particular song? The EP is gonna be out April 1st and I’m titling it after the first song that I released from the EP. I named the EP after that song because I feel like that song really represents what I’m going for as a whole in terms of a message that I’m trying to send. Which has a lot to do with self-love, self-belief, needing just one person to really hold you down and be there for you. That’s sort of the vibe that made sense and that’s why I decided on this conceptual release which was based around releasing a new single off the EP on the first of each month until April 1st which is when I release the whole thing.

What is your favorite song off of your EP? That’s tricky. I love all of them individually for different reasons. One song that I’m super excited about is actually the last song that I’m going to be releasing, it’s called “Stars”. That’s gonna be released on March 1st. There’s something about it that feels really right and sort of unique. Stars is essentially a metaphor for the unique qualities someone falls in love with you for and I wrote it from the perspective of my best friend. So that was sort of a cool thing to try and tap into her world and experience something that I personally didn’t experience.

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“Continue to do what makes you happy, no matter what that is. If it fuels your soul just continue on that path even if you have to sacrifice other things.” What inspired you to write from your best friends point of view? Was it something she told you? I haven’t been in a relationship where I’ve actually fallen in love, like true love and I don’t really know what that means. So this was her first experience at starting to feel that and neither of us really had experience with what that was like or what to expect and she would just bounce ideas off of me. Everything was just so positive and the way he made her feel was just something neither of us ever thought really would exist because we had never experienced it before. She was just telling me different things and I wrote from her perspective of what it felt like to be guarded and then have someone really help open you up by just being there for you and not expecting anything. I love the idea of someone falling in love with you for those weird qualities we have that make us individuals. You had a sold out show at Sofar Sounds LA on January 5th. Do you hope to do more live shows as the year continues and possibly go on tour? I actually played a show last night at the venue in the Hollywood area, it’s called Howl at The Moon and that was so much fun because I played with my whole band and we ran tracks and it was a big performance.I really plan to tour, we’re thinking about creating our own tour but ideally I want to open for an act. Someone who is already going on tour and someone who I feel like my music matches. It just depends on what’s available and open but I have another show on February 10th here in LA which I’m excited about because they have a relationship with the regions and they basically can get me on an opening slot for an act, so we’ll see how that goes. What are you most proud of so far in terms of your career? I’m most proud of the belief I have in myself, my hard work, my persistence, because I know that this is gonna be my life and I want it more than anything so I’m gonna stick it out no matter what. I have a lot of friends who are starting to give up and I get it. I have days where I’m like “what am I doing?” but then I have days where I’m like “hell yea this is clicking”. 15

It’s very up and down and if you can stick with it, you can do it. Who are some of your music inspirations? Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Daniel Caesar, Sza, Sabrina Claudio, Marc E. Bassy. Those are some huge influences right now. Just in general I’ve grown up on jazz, motown, all sorts of different things. I’ve definitely got that pop twist because I love pop music but I’m really into urban music as well. I love R&B, soul, all that stuff. It really gets me moving. Do you think being in California and being surrounded by people trying to pursue their dreams continues to motivate you to go after what you want? Definitely, there’s so much access to live music, people who are working towards the same thing and that just in general is so inspiring. Even performing last night at a decently small venue it just sort of reignited me. Everytime I do something like that I’m like, “yes! That was so much fun I want to keep doing this, can’t wait for the next thing.” Then you meet people who are at your show and they’re like “hey that was awesome I think we would vibe well together. We should work together.” Then it’s not so much “how much money are you gonna pay me cause I don’t care about this work” and more like “wow you inspire me, I’m inspiring you let’s see if we can make something.” That’s what I love about being in such a busy city, but at the same time I lived in New York for a little bit while I went to school at NYU and New York for me was a little too crazy. Too much energy, and then of course I grew up in LA so the weather was just like “ahhh, I can’t do this, it’s like ten degrees.” I do think that LA is the best place for me to build my career for the next whatever amount of years but I don’t know long term. I’m definitely open to living elsewhere but while I’m building my career, performing, making albums, and releasing music. I think LA makes the most sense. Also, my family is here and a lot of my friends are here.


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What are some of your favorite spots to hangout at in LA? I’m a huge coffee drinker so I love exploring new coffee shops, that’s a huge thing for me. I’m a big outdoors person as well so I love going on hikes, there’s actually one close to my house so that’s convenient. Otherwise, I absolutely love seeing live music and I’ll go to venues. A lot of the good venues are downtown Silverlake/ Hollywood area which is a bit of a trek for me. Actually, I think my favorite venues are in Silverlake. I’ll go see my friends play there or people like Daniel Caesar, and then discover people.

What advice do you have for aspiring musicians? Continue to do what makes you happy, no matter what that is. If it fuels your soul just continue on that path even if you have to sacrifice other things. That’s of course what everyone wants to do. The end goal in life is just to be happy, whatever that is. So if you’re an aspiring artist and you like to play bass, continue to do it no matter what. Keep on believing in yourself. Keep working and take any no’s with a grain of salt.

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Symon an interview by Carol Wright photo courtesy of Symon

Symon is a pop singer on the rise. She first came onto the scene with her song “Say” that was a hit across multiple radio stations. Now this LA native is making music on her own terms and if her newest single “Lonely Girl” is any indication of what we can expect. Let’s just say we’ll be anxiously waiting for new music.

When did you realize a career in music is what you wanted? I just knew my whole life, my first-grade yearbook said, “I dream of being a pop singer”, I always knew. It’s hysterical! I look back at that yearbook and I die laughing. I always knew that I wanted to do it, it was my escape, it made me happy, and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else but being in entertainment. There’s no better feeling for me than just expressing myself in art. I said to myself, “IT’S HAPPENING!” and I am not giving up. What moment in your career so far are you most proud of? I have to be honest, I think it’s putting this video out, putting the lyric video out. Lonely Girl in general is my most proud moment because it is a song that is truly through and through me. This is me, this is authentically me. This is just who I am and people are going to like it or not. I’m talking about something so 17

personal and hurtful. I feel like so many people in this world can relate to that. People need to know that they’re not alone and that they can get through this. This has been a powerful moment for me and it’s an accomplishment to put something so real out, as an artist. You must be willing to put out things that are vulnerable, and Lonely Girl coupled with the fact that I did sign language in the lyric video is my biggest accomplishment thus far because it’s authentically me. I just found out that “Lonely Girl” is now 49th on the pop radio chart and that’s really cool too! How has working at Sirius XM helped your career? First of all, it’s crazy that I get to be on this show Monday through Friday North America wide! It’s insane to be able to have a voice and to have a young, female, voice through North America talking about what us as women, us as people want to say. I feel so blessed to be able to have that outlet and


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that platform to talk, and it’s also taught me so much about people in general. It’s fascinating to watch how radio stations work, how labels work, how labels work with their promo teams and how promo teams work in pitching to radio, the charts, and everything behind the scene and the politics of it all. Also, what artists like to be asked because I’m the artist on the other end, so I get to learn what people like to be asked, so having that hat on the show (being the artist to artist part on the show) is really cool. I just feel like I’ve learned so much and Sirius XM Hits1 is supporting me so much as an artist, and more so than an artist but as a person. Not much more I can ask for, I’m just super grateful and it’s just leading me to so many wonderful things and I absolutely love it, it’s so much fun. What inspired the lyrics and sound of your song “Lonely Girl” it definitely has a different feel than your more upbeat tracks. I’ve been trying to find myself as an artist and what feels right and what feels authentic. I was listening to so many people in the beginning of my solo career and I just knew that Lonely Girl felt real to me. I just knew that for the song, I wanted it to be really clean and minimal. That doesn’t mean that my next single is not going to have a bunch of synths in it because it could. That’s the fun of being an artist! You can constantly evolve and mix it up. Did creating the song “Lonely Girl” make you start to focus on music that you wanted to create and not what other people thought you should create? I now know I can no longer make music that doesn’t

100 percent come from my heart and feel true. Something that isn’t completely you just will not work. Songs that truly resonate with me are the only ones that will come out. Our world is filled with such toxicity and people want something real. I was scared to put Lonely Girl out because it was the most authentic record I had ever put out as well as the lyric video but it’s the most reactive record I’ve ever had. That gives me the confidence that being me in this business is enough. Just got to keep going and creating. Who are musicians you look up to? So many artists inspire me constantly, but some specific ones would be Alanis Morissette, Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Gwen Stefani. They are all so uniquely talented and are powerhouses. Not only in their music but in careers overall in fashion, film, and television. What advice do you have for aspiring singers? Keep practicing your craft constantly. From the ages of 15-21, I had six-hour rehearsals Monday through Sunday. In those rehearsals, I would be writing songs and practicing with other musicians. Be consistent, keep going and going and get your craft to the best it can be. Also, ignore the people around you who are telling you that you can’t do it. They are either jealous or haters and you must keep the “blinders” on. When people would tell me, “oh you’ll never do it, you know, there’s so many people out there,” I thought screw you, I need to block that out and just go for what I believe in. So, I would just say to younger people practice, practice, practice, don’t listen to what other people say because you can do it.

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Dara Carter Interview by Carol Wright Photos by Brelan Butler

Dara Carter’s music is a breath of fresh air. Aiming to create music that doesn’t fit in one particular genre it is apparent that Dara is set to be an unstoppable force in music. Originally from Georgia, this singer and activist has been able to use her passions to make a change in this world. Now out with an EP titled The Gem In I Dara aims to reach people all over the world with her music and we can’t wait to see her do just that.

What was your first introduction to music? My dad really loved music, so as far back as I can remember, it has been a major part of my life. Sometimes I’ll watch old tapes from my childhood and without fail I can always hear Stevie Wonder, Prince, Speech, and other great artists in the background. I was about four years old the first time I popped a CD into the CD player myself. That CD was “Hoopla” by Speech of Arrested Development. I was in preschool with his son at the time the album came out and my dad gave it to me to listen to. Over the next few years, I learned every word on that album as well as many of the other albums in my dad’s collection. My parents decided to start off my classical piano training when I was three. By then it was a tradition in my family to start playing piano at three as my siblings had before me. You wrote your first song at the age of eight. At that age what were you writing about? “He stands on the side of the road. A cup in his hand -- glove on -- and a chip on his shoulder. He exists in the palm of his hand. Tell me, who is this man?” These are the lyrics to one of the first songs I wrote entitled “Prayer to a Blessed Sky”. I remember riding in the backseat of the family van in downtown Atlanta and seeing the tents that homeless people had pitched

up under the highway bridges. I remember watching people interact with these people as if they were not just as human as any other person, refusing to look them in the eye or empathize with them. At that young age, things were much simpler and I could not understand why people would treat other people that way. Most of the songs I wrote as a girl came from experiences like this. When I was growing up people always called me an old soul. Even as a child I was always hyper-aware and pensive. When it came to writing, the music and lyrics came straight from the heart, unobstructed by insecurities or the opinions of others. Some of my best work thus far was written in this innocent part of my life. Who are some activists you look up to and learn from? I consider myself a consciousness activist. Growing up in an Afrocentric household, I was taught the black history that unfortunately does not find itself between the pages of modern education. I learned about the injustices that had been buried and erased. My identity is that of a black woman, one of the most misrepresented, misunderstood, and mistreated demographics in this country. Race relations are so poor here, but many people would rather be guided by the many

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“You are the only person with your voice. Let it be heard.”

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distractions instead of face the ugly truth. My allegiance is to my roots, but I also understand that for race relations to improve, we have to transcend race. We have to start somewhere higher than race, and to me, that place is consciousness. My goal is to spread the understanding that intolerance, hate, anger, envy, and all other negative emotions have no place in spaces of higher awareness and conscious thought. Unity can only be obtained through a collective agreement that race is only one of infinite identities. The problem is that we pay far too much attention to the differences between races. I aim to pull people’s attention towards more unifying identities such as our capacity to love, to share emotion, and to have compassion. I look up to many activists, specifically Angela Davis, and I also look up to those who have dedicated their lives to guiding people into higher consciousness, such as Mooji and Sadhguru. Who are some artists that you believe blend music and activism together well? It takes real iconic artistry to blend music and activism in a way that ite artists mastered this art. Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Michael Jackson had this gift. They were able to create songs that people enjoy and dance to while pushing themes of black power, world peace, and unity. In my own special way, I plan to carry on this style of writing. What was it like working with Jan Smith? What has she taught you? Jan Smith -- or “Mama J” as her students call her -- is a tough, compassionate, empowered woman. She can light up any room with her confidence and commands her space. I’ve known and worked with Mama J for about eight years now and not only have I learned how to take control of my voice, but I have never left her without having learned a life lesson. She has watched me grow from an adolescent with a powerful voice, but no solid idea of what to do with it, to a woman with the same powerful voice, and a plan. When I visit her we talk about life and purpose. She has taught me how to be fearless in an industry that can chew up and spit out those unprepared. Over the years she has taken on a mentor position in my life and I couldn’t be more thankful to her for accepting me with open arms. What influenced the sound of your album “The Gem In I”? This is a tricky question! While I am inspired by many

artists and musicians, my songwriting comes from somewhere deeper than influence. It comes from a quiet space inside that I tap into. I have always believed that my songs are channeled through me. They emerge somewhere inside and it is my job to translate them into music. What I’m saying is, the sound of “The Gem in I” had no influence. The album was a beautiful experience because it felt like another being, opening up to me as I went along. Its as if the album created itself, taking me along as the interpreter for the world. And when it was complete, and I looked back at what was created, I found out that it was my true self -- the “gem” inside of me -- that created this album. Like most people growing up, I went through my share of trauma and identity-defining situations. I lost myself along the way and replaced myself with a replica. Only, the replica had to be perfect and liked by everyone, and forced me to suppress my authentic self. This album came from the heart, from the gem deep down inside. It follows the paradigm shift in my life of growing up and finding the self I’d lost years ago. I can say the album healed me. What do you think makes your music not able to be categorized and how has it helped your career thus far? I do not categorize my music for one simple reason. I am not and never will be one thing. People are constantly changing an molding themselves. While I do believe that some people can thrive in one lane, I know that is not how I function. Today I may want to push towards a bit of rock and tomorrow I might want to dip my song in jazz. Of course, I’ve been warned by people that I should stick to a lane, and believe me, I’ve tried to. But it goes against what I stand for. I aim to be like the wind; going wherever I’m carried. I feel that labeling my genre will be the same as putting a wall around me. I want to fly. As it turns out, this has benefited my career in many ways. I have been able to perform at underground clubs and in the same week play at a formal banquet. I have been able to share the stage with some of the greatest jazz legends and sit in as a keyboardist for a rock band. This versatility of sound has allowed me to experience many different people with different vibes and background. It has allowed me to travel to all different types of places and perform at many different venues. It has given me the opportunity to share my

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music with people of all shapes, colors, and beliefs. It allows me to be unpredictable, yet still captivating. I’ve found that the key is to add my own distinct flavor to whatever sound I choose. You are a burgeoning model. Are there any brands or designers you wish to work with? Yes, I am excited about my career as a model. Not only do I enjoy doing it, but I want to use it as a platform to show young black girls that their black is beautiful. As far as designers, I would love to work with Marc Jacobs one day. But also, I am blessed to be around many upcoming talented designers in Atlanta including Luci Ali with her brand Luv Patch and Aries Tyler. Why do you think bullying is still a pressing issue among kids and teens and what are some ways you hope to combat it? Bullying is still an issue among kids and teens because many of the adults that they pattern their behavior after demonstrate bullying. Unfortunately, our country has become slowly more tolerable when it comes to bullying. Bullying is not only found in the hallways, it’s found in the television shows we watch, in everyday life, and now in the highest office in our country. Children learn their behavior from the stimulants around them. Ultimately the “cure” for bullying would start with the adult population. However, I do think that

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by creating school programs we can at least bring awareness to children. In high school, I created a program called “SCAB” (Schools against bullying). It’s a program based off of the anti-drug D.A.R.E. program which includes anti-bullying activities, items, and assemblies that will fit into one week. At the end of the week, the students will have a better understanding of exactly what bullying is, how it can affect people, and how to end the vicious cycle. What advice do you have for aspiring singers? If you’re reading this and you want to sing, please take heed to what I am about to say. Do not try to be anyone but yourself! There is nothing wrong with having idols and singers that you will look up to, but when you sing, find your own voice. You are the only person with your voice. Let it be heard. My other tip would be to have a goal. There are many reasons to sing. Figure out your “why”. Do you want to be an international recording artist? Do you want to sing for intimate crowds at coffee houses and lounges? Do you want to be in a prestigious choir? The first step is to figure out why you want to sing, then pursue that goal accordingly. Lastly, focus on progress, not perfection. I wish someone told me this years ago! If you’re too worried about being perfect, you will be too hard on yourself or lose interest quickly. Don’t worry about sounding bad for a little while to get the result you want. So, be yourself, be clear about your intentions, and focus on progress! ​


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NOT JUST ANOTHER ONE HIT WONDER A PODCAST THAT INTERVIEWS A "SOCIETY PROCLAIMED" ONE HIT WONDER & DIVES INTO THEIR LIFE BEFORE, DURING & AFTER THEIR SMASH HIT.

♪ SONGS LIKE ♪ COTTON EYE JOE BUST A MOVE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

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Sydney Franklin Interview by Carol Wright Photos by Ryan Watanabe

Sydney’s soulful voice captures your attention from the moment her songs begin to the moment they end. Through her music Sydney hopes to connect with the audience in a way that makes them numb to except the music. She wants audiences to feel as though they are lost in a world without fear even if it’s only for a moment. With her debut EP Make It Hurt already out and a string of live performances lined up we’re sure you all will fall under Sydney’s musical trance soon enough. Tell me a bit about your EP Make it Hurt and what the creative process for it was like? Make It Hurt is about me coming to terms and being honest with myself, about certain scenarios that have happened to me in the past two years. For example, last spring I was picked up by a talent shopper who introduced me to some major labels out in LA. It was an amazing experience and lesson learned, but it didn’t end pretty. While in these meetings I was told what should be expected, if I were to sign with a major label. They were telling me how songwriters would be writing for me and how little control I would have as an artist, and during these meetings the executives picked up on how much control I needed in order for me to succeed, as an artist. I’m all for co-writing with different artists but I don’t want to just stand there and look pretty, while they shove a song down my throat that I had absolutely nothing to with. When I got back from LA I was turned down by one of the labels, I was hurt, but also so many different people were telling me what to do next - that’s when “Noise” just poured out of me and that’s why I’m with House Studios. House allows for the conversation to happen and for the artist to create on my their terms, they allow me to be an artist. As for the creative process of this project, it was primarily based off of my current state of mind and emotions, they were my reactions to instances like meeting with major label executives. When “Make It Hurt” was created with Mike Irish, Mannywellz and Sloane Warner up at Shifted in Brooklyn I was feeling very heartbroken at the time, and I wanted the person that caused me pain to experience everything they had put me through. A couple days before I headed up

to create at Shifted I typed a line in my notes that actually sparked the direction that the song went. I had written “I’m gonna hurt you like you did me, it sounds cynical baby, but it’s purely physical” I tend to write in my notes app about how I’m feeling, what I’m thinking about or sometimes an entire song will pour out of me, but I try to keep it real and honest. Even though “Make It Hurt” is about heartbreak doesn’t mean someone who isn’t feeling heartbroken can’t relate to the song, it just means it might be more relative towards another situation they may be going through. The next day in Brooklyn “Forever” was created. I hadn’t seen Mac since we were both at Berklee, and we’d never worked together before, but it ended up working really well. His drummer Chris Anderson was in the booth, vibing out, while the rest of us were in the control room, with Mac on the keys. It all happened so naturally. I started writing some lyrics down on a notepad and sang some adlibs here and there but one line in particular stuck - “is there a place out there for me?” Mac suggested that I hold the word “place” and it improved the entire phrase, when I sang it. The opening hook “feels like forevers got a hold on me…” was actually part of a song Mac has previously written, but never released. It went with the vibe and meaning of the song, so we kept it. As the session proceeded I wrote down “even when people are searching high and low, I can’t be found” in my notebook. I began to sing it in a couple different way and the one that’s on the record is the cadence we went with. Personally I can feel lost in this big world, like I don’t have a place, so I tried writing something as blunt as I could but also a 26


tried to make it a little poetic. A few weeks later I had gone up to New York for the day, and as I was riding the train back to D.C. I was reflecting on whom I had just seen. I had feelings for this one guy, but I also couldn’t quite forget someone from my past, because he always found a way to enter my life again. I was comparing the two guys, and thinking about how different they were from each other. The next morning I had a co-write with Dan Strauch at House Studios and as soon as I walked into the studio I heard this hypnotizing guitar melody that my current guitar player in my band, Daniel Roberts, was playing. It reminded

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me of Let It Go by James Bay. It was a sweet melody that I could listen to forever. Dan had only written the chorus, thus far - “I had it all ‘bout figured out, until I met you” - I fell in love with the song immediately and pulled out my phone, to then try singing what I had written the night before on the train ride home. It was the weirdest thing, how my verses and Dan’s chorus went together, as if we had sat down and written the song together. I’ve never created a song that way, and don’t know if that could ever happen again, but I’m so happy that it happened then.


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What made you decide to name the EP “Make it Hurt”? Does this song embody your message and sound? The EP was originally titled “Noise,” but the more I listened to the song “Make It Hurt” the more I felt it best displayed my sound, as an artist. I would definitely describe myself as an R&B/Soul artist with a touch of Pop. Growing up I remember dancing in the car with my mom and sister to “Family Affair” by Mary J. Blige. It’s such a fun song that nowadays makes me feel so nostalgic. My sister, Morgan, and I used to run into the car and switch the current CD out for a Backstreet Boys one, before my mom got in the car. I loved music that was fun and upbeat, that people just enjoyed themselves when listening to. As for the music my dad played, that was all classic rock. He raised me on Led Zeppelin, U2, and other classics like Billy Joel and Elton John. Even though my parents are both accountants, I’d say they did a pretty good job on what they filled my ears with, music wise, growing up. All of those artists had soul and a fire within them, that burnt brightest when playing music, and that’s been the sound I wanted this EP to embody. I’ve been playing your song Forever featuring Mac Ayres on repeat. Do you hope to do more collaborations in the future? That’s so awesome, thank you! There will absolutely be more collaborations with Mac, in the future. During our freshman year at Berklee, every Friday our friends, Mac and I would perform at Boloco, Boston’s version of Chipotle, for free food. He was as smooth of a singer and songwriter back then, as he is now. You attended Berklee College of Music for two years before leaving to pursue music full time. What was the most valuable lesson you learned there? The most valuable lesson I learned, while at Berklee, was to just be open to this big world of opportunity, and to not be intimidated by other talent. New creative and collaborative experiences can lead you to amazing places if you allow them to, so let them!

reach somebody in New York City and in a small town in the middle of nowhere, without ever leaving your house. I think it allows people to be creative because there is that sense of security from being inside your own four walls, rather than out performing live. But, if I’m being honest, when I post a video on Instagram I post my best take, compared to performing live, where you get one shot. What people put on social media is their idealized version of themselves, so it’s extremely easy to get sucked in. But I really do try to keep it real. After all we’re all human. For anyone who would like to follow me on social media can do so @ sydneyfranklinmusic. I’m currently studying in DC and am always on the hunt for new places to go. What are some of your favorite spots to go to in DC? You asked the right person, I absolutely love adventuring around. I actually have albums on my camera roll of all these museums, coffee shops and restaurants I’d like to visit in major cities. You should definitely check out The Renwick Gallery and The Hirshorn; they have some great exhibits and are constantly changing, so you never get bored. When you get hungry I would check out A Baked Joint and South Block, which is an Georgetown - also a really cute place to explore. What advice do you have for aspiring singers? Take your time, and enjoy the ride. I’m not someone who has any patience, what’s so ever, so I really should be telling myself this, but while music is a tough journey it’s also a beautiful one. So, don’t take it for granted and wish that you could skip over the things that get you to your end goal. Take it one day at a time, because before you know it you’ll sit down and reflect on how far you’ve actually come. One more piece of advice I would give to an aspirating artist is to ask for help, don’t think you can do this all by yourself, because you can’t, none of us can. We need people to survive and to thrive, so take advantage of the ones around you.

Do you think social media has given way to a rise in more authentic musicians or do you see social media used more as a way for people to have their five seconds of fame? I’ve seen both sides, social media can reach many different audiences and it’s great in terms of promotion. Whether that be genre or where you’re from; You can

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Andrew Shiau & Demetrius Beckham an interview by Carol Wright

Describe your style in three words. Subtle, versatile, intrinsic

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#NYOTAfashion

When did you begin to have an interest in design- Do you think social media has made it easier for up and coming designers to get their work out ing clothes? I’ve always loved creating art. Growing up I experi- there? mented with drawing, painting, and some film work. Social media has been a crucial part of our brand to In high school I took some art classes but didn’t spend date. The ability to seamlessly create and share short time making any art outside of the classroom. When form promotional clips, interviews and mood piecDemetrius approached me about being involved with es, is the CAMP brand. Beyond that, we’re able to redefining collegiate apparel I saw a new medium I source ideas from other designers and artists and get inspired. wanted to create on. Who are some of your favorite designers? Some of our favorite designers and creative directors What clothing trends should people try and incorinclude Tyler the Creator, Gianni Versace, Jerry Loren- porate into their wardrobe? Among others, the elongated t-shirt design is a cool zo, and Virgil Abloh. way to completely change the dynamics of an outDoes going to school in New York inspire your fit. In addition, playing around with muted colors is a great way to enhance a fit. clothing? Definitely. NYU is a university without a distinct cam- pus so we’re exposed to the diversity of fashion in What is the most important thing you’ve learned New York constantly. On our way to classes or to hang while studying at NYU? out, we get to see a lot of different styles on a daily Be your individual self and be confident in that perbasis. When we see something we like, we bring it up son, because no one else will develop that person. to each other and find ways to incorporate the style We all have unique interests and perspectives that and our collegiate experiences to create something can and should be shared with the world, and no one else will champion that process but yourself. novel. What are your current career goals? How did the idea of CAMP come about? Demetrius was in NYU Stern School of Business’ Pat- Demetrius: Function in unique spaces professionally terns of Entrepreneurship class and came up with by establishing a network of hard-working, driven, the idea to create high fashion collegiate apparel. powerful creatives that aren’t afraid to make open He worked on the skeleton brand with people in and and honest art. As opposed to being another number out of his classroom and created some prototype de- at a large firm. signs. Months later he approached me and brought me onboard to establish CAMP as an apparel and life- What advice do you have for aspiring designers? style brand. Go out and do. Instead of stalling, start. If you aren’t confident in your own artistic abilities, find someone you trust that is artistically inclined and can support your idea. And then create. 30


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Awakening into Spring Stylist: Taylor Burrell Photographer: Myles Cream MUA: Chelsea Dannielle Models: Dina Baez (painter) @dinafairycake & Rieko Copeland (lead singer of Tsugaido) @unamericandragon

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Dress: Crocheted Couture Leggings: Urban Outfitters 33 and Necklace: Latasha and Lamar Earrings

Top: Urban Outfitters Dress: Free People Shoes: Aldo Earrings: Spot By Dots Necklace: Vintage


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Dress: a star is born Shoes: Sam Edelman Earring, Necklace and rings: Latasha and lamar

Top: Ă le by Alessandra Pants: equipment Shoes: wejuns Earrings: Spot By Dots Bracelets: Zakia

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Top: Urban Outfitters Dress: Free People Shoes: Aldo Earrings: Spot By Dots Necklace: Vintage

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Top: Free People Bra: Urban Outfitters Skirt: Loft Socks: American Apparel Shoes: dolce vita Earrings: Spot By Dots

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Dress: Crocheted Couture Necklace, Armband, Belt: Vintage Boots: French Blu

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Top: Urban Outfitters Dress: max studio Pants: Crocheted Couture Boots: Jeffrey Campbell Earrings: Spot By Dots Necklace and Bracelet: Free People


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Top: Crocheted Couture Dress: Spirit of Grace Tights: Urban Outfitters Shoes: via Spiga

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Words of Wisdom with

Ruth E. Carter Interview by Niara Wright Photo by JaxonPhotoGroup Movie Stills Courtesy of Marvel Studios

After introductions, phonetic pronunciations of names (mine) and two dropped calls. I was able to speak with Ruth E. Carter. As much as I would have loved to meet her in person. Ruth is understandably very busy after her success from Marvel’s Black Panther. The makings of this superhero blockbuster was not Ruth’s first go around for costume design in film. She is best known for her work in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and Steven Spielberg’s Amistad but she’s also responsible for creating the looks of some film favorites such as Do the Right Thing, House Party 2, Love & Basketball, and School Daze just to name a few. Being a fashion enthusiast, I was beside myself having the opportunity to speak to this legend. Here’s what I learned about her.

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What sparked your interest in costume design? I was always feeling like i wanted to be in the dramatic arts and I went to college to be an actress. I like story telling, I feel like there’s a lot of stories in me. When I was given the opportunity to dress a play in the drama department it was a way I could express myself through my art. I had a few skills I taught myself growing up, I could draw, I taught myself how to sew and those two interests worked for me when I did the play and so it was like a marriage, a great marriage. Shortly after you had an apprenticeship at the Santa Fe Opera, how was that experience? That was such an enriching experience. Because being an intern, you are at the lowest tear and there were so many of us that we banded together and became a family. And New Mexico is such a beautiful place and opera was such an amazing place to learn costume. My group was really good at the fast changes and we would do a fast change in a matter of a minute. It was such a fun way to learn costume. I can relate from doing fashion styling in fashion shows, I too love the chaos and fun of the quick change. Yes! And It’s rewarding! What would you say is your favorite project that you have worked on over the past 25 years? I would have to say Malcolm X directed by Spike Lee ( which she was nominated for an Oscar!)

In Black Panther, you were able to mix traditional african aesthetic with modern day style. How did you approach designing the looks for Black Panther? My first thought was that I didn’t want it to look like other films that dealt with African aesthetics. So I stayed away from them and advised my staff to do so as well. Secondly, the beauty in the African aesthetic can be seen throughout the continent therefore I sought to use that as a direction for the detail of each garment. And also to not use it in an anthropological way but in a way that would honor it and imagine it if it were developed with a contemporary perspective. Who was your favorite character to dress on “Black Panther” and why? I spent a lot of time with Lupita. She, different from the rest of the cast, plays a spy. So it was fun to create her many disguises. She is a Nigerian captive, a war dog, a traditional warrior, a Nigerian princess, a CIA operative, a girlfriend, and a warrior. That was challenging and also fun to find with her. What advice do you have for any young people wanting to get into costume design? Be prepared to work hard. If you don’t like to spend long hours figuring things out, then this job is not for you. If you are easily distracted, then find the right creative outlet that suits your passion because this profession requires great sacrifices. Some of which you’ll never get back again. But the reward in the end is pretty spectacular!

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Ruth is currently working on her latest project Yellowstone which premieres in June 2018.

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Music Festival Essentials Music Festival season is starting soon and you have to be ready with the best accessories and essentials to complete your look! We rounded up three of our favorites this time around. Like what you see? Subscribe to Nyota Magazine for your chance to win one of these prizes!

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By Lilla ($12-$24): Keep your hair out of your face as you work up a sweat! Whether you’re a stay at home mom juggling the kids and school, walking the halls of middle or high school, or hustling through that 9-5, find your new beauty BFF in By Lilla! Creating arm parties that double as hair accessories, By Lilla is on a mission to get rid of all ugly hair ties and change the world – one beautiful hair tie at a time.

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Fashion company, OMG Accessories – has introduced trendy and high-quality mini backpacks that won’t break the bank. These backpacks are perfect for on-the-go people and start at $38.

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Proudly made in the USA, Love Bottle is crafted with up to 40% recycled, eco-friendly glass. Enjoy the fresh taste of water again from a glass bottle! Starting at just $25 or get yours customized with your own design! www.lovebottle.com

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Sheer top: Lotuz Dress: Nadine Merabi Earrings: Jewelry Bar

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Navia Robinson Interview by Carol Wright Photos by Jeff Vespa Styling by Manny Colon Hair by Preston Wada At Opus Beauty using Kevin Murphy Makeup by Paul Blanch at Opus Beauty using Hourglass Cosmetics

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How did you get into acting? I used to ask my parents all the time when I was really young if I could do acting classes and I would watch tv and movies and I knew that’s always what I wanted to do and so at first my parents were kind of timid about it because they didn’t know if I was going to change my mind every week but then I kind of stuck with it and my parents put me into acting classes. So I have them to thank for being able to pursue my career and they put me into classes and from there it kind of just kicked off and I developed a real passion for what I did and one thing led to another I got an agent and “well” you know the rest. What was the audition process like for Raven’s Home? There were a lot of steps in the process. I first did a self-tape in Atlanta which is really where I live, but we travel back and forth between Atlanta and LA, but yea I did a self-tape in Atlanta, that got sent into LA and then I did another call back in Atlanta. From there I got sent out to California and I had a few screen tests and then I did two reads with other characters. It was a lot of steps, but I got the role. What do you like to do when you’re not working? I typically like to catch up on some rest, but other than that I’m somebody who can’t stay at home for one day without feeling unproductive so I’ll get school work done, I’ll go out and maybe meet up with some friends, have ice-cream with some friends or go to different little places around LA. I like going to Melrose, The Grove or places like that that are kind of good for shopping but they also have activities. I hate feeling unproductive. How has working on a Disney show changed your life? I think a big part is not being able to spend as much time with my family in Atlanta as before. We still facetime and talk every day but that’s definitely something that I miss. We’re weighing out our options, seeing what’s going to work best for our family as the seasons continue but I think that’s definitely the biggest change. Also, switching from public school to homeschooling has been a big shift but I’ve definitely enjoyed it because I get to work with my other castmates as if we are like a class in a regular school which is super cool. So I think pretty much every aspect of my life shifted in a different way, but overall my family and I have figured out a way to make everything function together and I’m very thankful for the fact that 47

my parents and my brothers are so flexible and work with what I do. Can you relate to your character Nia? I definitely can. I think Nia’s very independent and very self-sufficient in a way. She’s intelligent and is always the one to come up with the solution to the problem which I think is similar to myself in real life. There are certain things that I think are different between me and Nia, for example, Nia is sometimes nervous and she’s not comfortable with going up to people and speaking her mind to people depending on who they are. For me, I think I’m a person who is always willing to stand up for what I believe in, and I think Nia is too but she has trouble expressing that. Where as me personally, I don’t. I love to stand up for what I believe in. I think it’s so important to use your voice when you know what you’re talking about and what subject. What is it like working with Raven Symone and Anneliese van der Pol? Do they give you advice on set? Of course, they even will have little sessions with me and the rest of the cast with how to develop our acting skills and how to get better because we really are learning on the job. We come in with an understanding of acting but we keep on building every single week and I see that growth when I watch episodes from the first season and seeing some cuts of the episodes from the second season. I can see the growth and that is largely from what they taught us, and I’m so appreciative of that. They teach us how to be natural when we’re acting and still being on Disney they try to keep it entertaining for a younger and older audience which is such an important skill so I think after the show is done hopefully years from now. I’ll have come out with a lot of experience and knowledge and be able to go further in my career. Raven’s Home debuted at the number 1 live-action cable TV series premiere in two years in its target demographic. How did it feel receiving that news and what has it been like gaining and interacting with fans of the show? With every show you’re taking a risk and taking a gamble to see if it’s actually successful and so I think everyone’s always a little nervous no matter how great you think your show is gonna be, sometimes it doesn’t get the attention that you hope for. When it panned out that it was really successful we were all just so excited and we realized that our hard work had paid off and that we were doing something good for those who


Silk top: Hottie + Lord Skirt: Silvana Tedesco Belt: Nadine Merabi Shoes: Chuck Taylor

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were watching. Maybe we were making them laugh and I think that just filled us with so much joy. Every time I think of those who support me, and my followers it makes me happy that maybe I bring them joy by posting a picture and it makes them smile. Regardless of how many followers any of us have, I think we really just value how we can possibly help people or make their day and things like that. What’s your favorite on set memory? There are a lot. One of my favorites was when we were filming a scene I want to say in the second episode when I was having this whole internal thing about the privacy that I had and I wanted to express to my mom that I needed privacy and it was basically this whole scene where she had a bra and she was showing it to everyone in the house like how cute it was and it was mine. It was really fun to film that because I just wanted to laugh. That is one of the only scenes where I broke a few times during filming because it was just so hilarious what Raven and Anneliese were doing that entire time. I had a line at the end of the scene after they did all the whipping around of the bra, just being crazy putting it on their heads and I was going strong I really was, but I couldn’t get it out. I really couldn’t. I just tried to say it and I burst into laughter and I fell into Raven’s lap and continued laughing and it was just one of those moments where I was like, this is what we want when we’re filming something like this as a cast. This is the moment we want to experience together and it just felt really good.

to talk with these adults and hold conversations with them has definitely helped me and helped me learn and develop as an actor. I think what a lot of people don’t realize is even though on a Disney show it’s really fun and what you see on screen is just jokes and laughter, when you’re filming you do have to maintain an amount of focus while still having fun. You have to zero in on what you’re supposed to be doing, and having worked on a set like “Being Mary Jane” before doing the Disney show definitely helped me learn that. That’s where I got my acting roots and I’m forever thankful for that. I learned so much there. You also had a role in the popular Netflix series Free Rein. What was it like filming that and what are some of your favorite memories from that experience? Well, a lot of actors, especially kid actors don’t get to travel outside of the country that they’re born in to film something and me being able to do that was such an incredible blessing. Getting to see a different side of the world. There’s so much of the world that’s undiscovered to me and I was so excited to get to go over there, and also bringing my family over there was amazing and my brothers getting to see this place that they’d never seen before. That was definitely the best part. Being able to experience a new country no matter how similar it is to America it was still different and I got to learn a lot while being there just about a different side of the world, and their culture in a way. Their humor is different, which surprisingly enough I think I learned on the show a lot about British humor and I think I could definitely act it if I wanted to and an accent too which will help in my acting career. Also, horseback riding on the show. In the first season, I don’t horseback ride but you’ll have to watch the second season to see if I do on screen, but I got to learn which was amazing. I got to learn with one of the best coaching families in the UK so that was so cool and I wouldn’t have probably learned if I hadn’t had gotten that job. It’s such an awesome skill to have too. I can put that on my resume as one of my experiences which is super cool.

“Regardless of how many followers any of us have, I think we really just need to value how we can possibly help people or make their day.”

During your time on Being Mary Jane, what did you learn from that experience and what is something that Gabrielle Union taught you that you brought over to “Raven’s Home”? I think that all of the castmates off of “Being Mary Jane” taught me to be mature. I was always a really mature young person, but working there made me even more mature and made me even more confident in my acting skills. I think all the castmates taught me that it was important to have a bond off-screen with each other rather than just on-screen because that chemistry definitely shines through and so being able

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Jacket: Lotuz Pink Ruffles: Baruni Shorts: Mossimo Earrings: Kat Ong Ring: Jewelry Bar

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Blue dress: Patty Ang Shoes: Chuck Taylor

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Sheer top: Lotuz Dress: Nadine Merabi Earrings: Jewelry Bar Shoes: Chuck Taylor

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Who are other actors you hope to work with in the future? I’d love to work with other really successful kid actors out there like the actors off of “Stranger Things” or Marsai off of “Black-ish”. I think they’re so incredibly talented and I think it’s so cool when kids collaborate and make something amazing since we’re the future generation. I think it’s awesome that we have unity for what’s to come. Outside of that though I’d love to work with Meryl Streep and Viola Davis. I’ve always loved them and found them as such inspirations in my acting, and I hope to be to their level one day and I would love to work with them and learn from them. You also sing, do you hope to pursue music in the near future? I think acting for me will always take priority over anything, but I definitely love to experiment in singing because it is something that I’ve always been interested in as well as acting and modeling, so I’d definitely love to eventually to maybe do some covers and experiment with that a little bit and see where that takes me. I don’t know as of right now but I for sure would like to try out doing some things with singing. What advice do you have for young, aspiring actors? I would say continue practicing which is so important because if you don’t maintain things that you’ve learned you lose them. In acting, I think that’s really important because every day when I was in acting classes I would go home and I would practice and I would try out new monologues which is also a really great strategy. Go to your favorite show. If you go online and search for a script you can typically find one, print it out and then practice. See how you can add different inflections and different layers to the script and kind of dissect it and analyze it and you’ll along the way learn a lot of new acting techniques and strategies. That’s very important. That’s something that Raven and Anneliese have taught us, and I think it’s very useful if you’re gonna pursue a career in acting.

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Trending with Tori an interview with Victoria Haughey by Carol Wright

What initially got you interested in making YouTube videos? During my junior year of high school, I found the YouTube beauty and lifestyle community on the Internet. I started watching tutorials on fashion, makeup, DIY crafts, and other fun things, and I instantly became inspired. Specifically, YouTuber Bethany Mota, inspired me to create my YouTube channel. Every time I watched her videos, I thought to myself, “I could do this too!” I’ve always been a super creative and artsy person, so I wanted to create a channel of my own one-day. However, I let the fear of being judged stop me from creating my channel sooner. It wasn’t until

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January of 2015 that I gained the courage to start my YouTube channel. I took advice from my friends, encouragement from my family, and a chance on myself! Looking back, I’m so glad I did! What is the hardest aspect of having a YouTube channel? I think the hardest aspect of having a YouTube channel is finding your niche and the occasional self-doubt. Nowadays, there are so many other YouTubers in the same video genre or community. Sometimes I question if what I’m creating and producing is “different” or “good enough” for my subscribers. When I think


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like this, I remember why I started in the first place— creating videos makes me happy!! So, I found that the best way to find your niche and end self-doubt is to simply do what you love and be yourself! My subscribers support my passions and me. They are also who I turn to when I feel like YouTube gets hard.

ber out loud and think “WOW!” I can’t believe it! I remember when I first hit 100 subscribers, and I was so incredibly excited! It’s an amazing feeling to know that over 20,000 people support my journey and me. I am forever thankful for each and every one of them!

You recently posted a video discussing why you took a YouTube hiatus. Do you think in today’s environment detoxing from those social media platforms is good for users? YES! In today’s environment, it is so easy to get caught up in social media and what it portrays. In the past, I found myself endlessly comparing my life to others’ and their accomplishments. In fact, I was so invested in other people’s lives, that I stopped focusing on my own. That’s when I knew I needed a break. Detoxing from social media from time to time is so essential, and I stand by that! The break I took helped me clear my mind, focus on myself, and come back with more motivation than ever!

What are your other interests besides creating videos? Other than creating YouTube videos, I love to go on adventures with my boyfriend Matt and my family! One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is to go outside to someplace new. I love visiting local towns with little shops, food truck festivals, local wineries, small mom-and-pop restaurants, and more! There’s something about experiencing fun places with my family and Matt that I just love! We laugh a lot and make a ton of memories together. I really value the time I spend with the people I love!

“Quit waiting until you’re “ready” because you’ll be waiting forever. Get out there, be passionate, and just simply be yourself!”

You often post baking videos on your channel. Do you think you’d ever start a baking business or channel focused solely on baking? YES! I’ve actually always loved culinary arts and baking. When I was a kid, I loved watching the Food Network and other baking shows. In fact, I loved it so much that I had my mind set on pursuing a culinary arts degree after graduating from high school. Evidently, I changed my mind. Instead, I pursued a business degree at Rowan University because I felt as though I already knew how to bake. I wanted to learn what it takes to own and start a business, and that is why I chose Entrepreneurship as my major in college! So, I definitely think that I will start a baking business in the future someday! I’ve always dreamed of creating my own cupcake bakery or cupcake truck! I would love for it to be in Old City, Philadelphia—something cute, retro, and quaint. I’ve never thought of a channel solely on baking, but that’s something I could consider for the future as well! Did you ever expect your channel to grow to having over 20,000 subscribers? No, I never expected my channel to grow to having over 20,000 subscribers! Sometimes I say that num-

Who are some of your favorite YouTubers? This is a hard question!! I watch so many different YouTuber’s from all different genres! But, if I have to pick a favorite, it would be Ciaoobelllaxo (also known as Megan Leigh). She’s so inspirational because she keeps it real. She’s more than just a beauty guru or makeup artist. She shares her life with her viewers and talks about topics that are relatable for many young girls. She talks about her struggles with self-confidence, doubt, and anxiety. I really look up to her because I can relate to her. I think that’s why she’s one of my favorites. What advice do you have for others who may want to create a YouTube channel? The best advice I can give others who may want to create a YouTube channel is to just do it! There’s no better time to start than now! Quit waiting until you’re “ready” because you’ll be waiting forever. Get out there, be passionate, and just simply be yourself! Leave your quirkiness and mistakes in your videos and have fun with it! People will be drawn to your true, authentic self!

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Words of Wisdom with

Melissa Ice an interview by Carol Wright

When you were growing up did you always have a feeling you’d become an entrepreneur? Honestly, no. But something that has served me well as an entrepreneur is my innate desire to take a risk and being willing to see what’s even possible. I would say that I spent most of my twenties carving out my own path, and not feeling overly pressured to follow status quo. I did not finish my bachelors at one university or within a 4 year time frame, but rather at 3 schools in an 8 year time frame. I spent a chunk of that time traveling in a comedy troupe to pursue my love of acting, and living for brief stints in other countries like Nepal & Morocco, and volunteering for organizations I was passionate about. Entrepreneurs usually don’t take cues from culture or follow in the perfectly laid paths set out before them, but instead forge their own experiences, ask too many questions, and work hard to be able to do what they truly love. A decade ago I wasn’t sure if I was simply being irresponsible with the journey I chose, but now I can see how the sum of those experiences got me to where I am today. What have been the biggest lessons you’ve learned through creating your own companies? I think the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that you do things scared and just figure it out. That it’s ok to fail a whole lot in the beginning, and that trial and error is the only way to take steps forward. I’m into the Ennea-

gram right now and as a 1, a reformist/perfectionist I like things to be done in the​right​way. However, anytime you start something from scratch, pretty much everything you do, even if it feels like failing, is just teaching you how to do the thing you used to not know how to do. I love the Albert Einstein quote, ​​“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”​​It’s so true. I’ve also learned to listen to those you are hoping to serve through your company or organization. You can have all these grand and beautiful ideas, but unless they benefit people and impact them in a specific way, then what’s the point? Whether it is the patrons who dine at our restaurant or the homeless people we share a meal with each week, or my volunteers, they all have a voice and my goal is to serve them as best as I can. Good ideas become bad ideas when they don’t actually meet people’s needs. How did The NET Fort Worth come to be? It was a group of TCU students sitting in my living brainstorming and dreaming up ways we could love people in poverty in our city back in 2009. We prayed, asked hard questions, read some books and then hit the pavement. We started having playdates at a local apartment complex that housed refugee families that later evolved into an after school program for kids. We visited a homeless park on Saturday mornings

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and built friendships with people there. We started going to the jails and visiting girls who have a history of prostitution or trafficking and offered them encouragement and hope. It was all very organic and built on the idea of restorative relationships. I am happy to report that the heartbeat has not changed despite The Net’s growth. We now have offices, 5 full time staff, 1 part time staff, and 1 more full time person starting this summer. We host almost 40 relationship building events per month most of which happen at our facility. We serve hundreds of impoverished people in our city with our amazing and committed volunteers, and our team is having a blast doing it all. It is neat to see what a bunch of young people can do who just try to love God and love people, and have fun while doing it! What has been the most rewarding aspect of creating The NET? We are a highly-relational model and our services focus on development versus relief. We truly believe that when you empower someone in need in the context of an on-going-consistent relationship, true life change can occur. At The NET, we avoid paternalism at all costs. Paternalism is the idea of doing something for someone when they are capable of doing things themselves. So instead of asking, “What is wrong with you? What can I do to fix your situation?” We ask, “What is right with you? What can YOU do to fix your situation because I believe you have ideas, gifts, talents, and the skills to do it. I want to be here for you every step of the way!” We don’t shuffle people through a system, rather we have genuine friendships with folks in need and support them as they move towards a better future. That’s truly what makes us different from other organizations. We fight every day to create a process of offering services that never deviate from the idea of giving people dignity through those services. For example, we have a breakfast every Friday morning called Bingo and Bagels for people experiencing homelessness. At this breakfast we say, “We don’t serve a meal, we share a meal.” At Bingo, there is no ‘giver/receiver roles’ you commonly find at a serve event, instead you would walk into a room of 60+ people all sitting down chatting over a cup of coffee and eating bagels. Like one big family.

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“It is neat to see what a bunch of young people can do who just try to love God and love people, and have fun while doing it!” How can people get involved in the work that The NET does? If people are local, then there are lots of easy ways to get involved! One of the first is to simply follow us on Instagram. I only say that because justice work can honestly seem hard and scary unless you get a glimpse of ordinary people doing it. We have a high value of story-telling and one of the ways we do that is through our instagram and facebook accounts so that people can see exactly what it looks like to serve with The Net and the life transformation that occurs. Next, I would encourage people to go to our website which outlines ways to either ​jump right in​(to sign up to serve right away) or g ​ et trained​, in order to be an advocate or mentor for our Ladera Kids (our outreach to refugee youth) or Purchased (our outreach to women and girls who have been sexually exploited or trafficked) Programs.


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You’re also a woman of faith. How has that helped you in your career? It is the fuel and foundation for everything I do! I serve a God who cares deeply about justice and for the poor. It is laid all throughout scripture how God feels about people who are oppressed, vulnerable, or marginalized. He invites people into this work and equips them how to love with a steadfast love. Caring for hurting and broken people is not for the “supernaturally called,” it is the natural impulse of first being loved by a God who redeems and restores broken things. My faith has kept me from pursuing a domesticated and boring life chasing after a mirage of ​stuff ​that will supposedly make me happy. Instead it is filled with excitement and adventure, because nothing is more exciting than human flourishing and seeing lives transformed! You and your husband are both entrepreneurs. Do you often find yourselves giving each other advice and brainstorming different ideas for new companies? Yes! We are both dreamers and doers, which can be difficult at times because we both have lots of ideas and strong opinions. However, at the end of the day we are each other’s greatest cheerleaders as well. We both get excited about the next thing we want to do and try, whether its something brand new or just expanding our existing companies into a new stage of growth. I would say most date nights have some element of dreaming-up-the-future type convos and that is unashamedly our idea of fun! What advice do you have for women who want to start their own companies? My advice would be to count the cost. I hate to be a debbie downer when people come to me with ideas but I am also a realist. It is hard work and I’m not doing anyone any favors pretending it is anything but that. But for the people who are willing to put in the hard work, I would say, “what are you waiting for?” I’m a firm believer that we only get to live one life so we shouldn’t waste one second of it. Call it scarcity mentality, call it impatient, call it what you will. But my motivation anytime I’ve started anything new is that I might as well start now and be found out there in the arena trying and failing, versus sitting on the sidelines

wishing I had the guts to try. We only get one life and we aren’t promised tomorrow. So if you work really hard, are you ok with failure, and give it your best shot then there’s nothing to lose! I love listening to entrepreneur podcasts that highlight how businesses got started to remind me that no one stumbled into their new successful company. Instead they took practical steps to get there and didn’t quit when the going got tough. As Winston Churchill said, “ ​ ​Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

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Why art matters Words by Lakumi Dias

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I’ve taken art for granted. I grew up going to a Waldorf School where the visual arts were integrated into every subject I learned, and now as a senior at Solebury School, I’ve taken a visual arts class every trimester of my 4 years. I took its benefits for granted and never stopped to think if every education placed enough value on visual arts as the one I was privileged enough to receive. After learning that only 27 states consider art a core subject, I began interviewing art teachers to see what they think about the importance of art in education. I conducted interviews with seasoned art teachers from the West Windsor Plainsboro School District, West Windsor Arts Council, Solebury School, Delaware Valley University, and Orange Korner Arts in Philly. Every teacher I talked to has noticed the substantial impacts art has had on their students, from improving their mental and emotional health to developing their motor skills, decision making, problem solving, visual learning, and attentiveness. Most importantly, the visual arts, I realized, are building blocks for a skill being prioritized in the job market: creativity. According to studies conducted by the Americans for the Arts Foundation, 72% of employers say that creativity is of primary concern when hiring, yet 85% of these employers can’t find the creative applicants they seek. Why is it that a skill so important for workers in the 21st century can be so easily pushed to the side and considered a luxury at schools that are facing budget cuts, lack of time and minimal support? It is not for a lack of studies and research initiatives conducted. Even the College Board has recognized that art helps students draw connections between different subjects. However, there’s still a lack of public awareness of just how much art can impact students. Among low income students, the ones engaged in art are more than twice as likely to graduate than their peers who aren’t. Visual arts doesn’t just mean arts and crafts for Halloween and Christmas, and in the rush to get through content and teach to the test, it is easy to forget that incorporating visual arts into the classroom is crucial to addressing and engaging every learning style, and that the results go beyond tomorrow’s biology test. So, my goal with all this is to advocate for the developmental and therapeutic benefits of an arts-based education on students by using my interviews to write articles and by giving a TEDx Talk on this topic in May. I want to reach students, teachers, and parents who don’t already feel the need for art in their lives or in the lives of their students. I want to address the countrywide need for stronger and more cohesive arts programs at schools, especially in an increasingly technological world where students are required use their creativity and engage in hands-on learning less and less, although they actually need it more and more to succeed in the workforce.

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Marija Abney an interview by Carol Wright Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

How did the opportunity to be a part of Black Panther come about? I received an FB message from an old friend (who was also cast as a Dora Milaje) saying that Ryan Coogler was looking to cast African warriors for his upcoming movie. I hadn’t spoken to her in about 5 years so it was the most amazingly random message. So I submitted my headshot and resume to her, she submitted me and some other women to Ryan, the production flew a few of us down to Atlanta to audition, and Ryan chose two of us. I’m still in awe that all of this sprung from an FB message!

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If you had a movie such as Black Panther when you were a kid, how do you think that would’ve impacted you? It definitely would have sparked a confidence in me that I didn’t find until I was a woman. The Dora Milaje, Nakia, and Shuri are such badasses! The women are so prominent in this film and they succumb to no man! As a girl growing up in South Carolina, I was taught to be a lady: mild mannered and gentle. As a bald headed, black woman living in NYC I am quite far from that. I found myself and the woman that I found is a warrior! Seeing Black Panther as a little girl would have alerted me to that possibility


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long ago. I would’ve been far more comfortable in my skin. I recently reposted a picture of 6 little black and brown girls, somewhere between 6-11, going to see Black Panther in full Dora Milaje uniforms. This was amazing! This excites me so much! These little girls have a greater sense of pride in their culture, their kinky hair, and their melanated skin because they see themselves represented as queens, geniuses, and warriors! I’m so excited to see the impact that Black Panther’s franchise will have on future generations! What was your favorite memory from the Black Panther set? The director, Ryan Coogler would greet us every morning with “It’s a beautiful day in Wakanda guys!” Regardless of what time it was or how cold it was, his voice saying those words at the start of the day united us under the Wakandan flag. I loved it! Did the other actors ever share any advice on set or tips on how to improve a scene? Florence Kasumba was great! She was always so open and willing to discuss set etiquette. I learned a lot!!! Just observing a master at work, Forest Whitaker, and being in awe of newcomer Winston Duke, taught me so much! You’re definitely a fitness buff. Did that help when preparing for your role as a Dora Milaje warrior? Absolutely! Being a Dora Milaje is very physical. Even in the scenes when you’re not fighting, you’re standing guard: scapulae together, chest out, fists clenched, feet shoulders width apart. Just standing this way for say ten hours a day taxes muscles in a completely different way. So going into the movie in great shape made things much easier (and a lot less sore) for me. Mastering the physicality of a Dora Milaje helped me with character development and being present in each scene.

doing leaps across the stage in Lion King and my pants fell down, like to my knees. You have to figure out what to do and the best way to do it. Unlike film, there are no second takes. So theater has taught me to take advantage of every shot because you never know how many you’re gonna get. What are your favorite things to do on a day off? I love blowing bubbles! I’m still fascinated by the magic of iridescent floating spheres! The giant ones are my favorites! I love to walk around NYC with my electric bubblegun, watching people’s faces light up as they’re surrounded by bubbles! It’s magical! A day in the park with bubbles, music, and good food and I’m golden!!! What tv shows and movies are you loving right now? Black Panther of course! Even outside of being in it, there’s sooooo much to say about it! It’s just a brilliant movie! Queen Sugar is great! It’s just real and the characters and their relationships are relatable. Getting into Seven Seconds, I have a lot of respect for Regina King’s work! What types of projects do you hope to pursue in the future? I’m thrilled because things are changing, finally! Black and brown people are no longer relegated to roles of “the help”, “thug #2/stripper #3”, and “sassy black woman”. I strive to have a career playing complex characters; representing women as they are: strong, vulnerable, intelligent, beautiful, messy human beings! I’d love to do more film and tv and I’ll always love theater, so I guess I’m saying I want it all! What advice do you have for aspiring actors? Dont’ quit! Hearing “no” is just a part of the game, don’t let that stop you! DO NOT QUIT!

You used to be a part of Lion King, what was that experience like? What skills did you transfer from Broadway to the silver screen? I was actually a part of Lion King, Las Vegas and I did After Midnight on Broadway. These experiences were incredible. There is nothing like live theater! It teaches you to be present at every moment because you never know what’s going to happen. Once I was

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Words of Wisdom with

Shawn Prez an interview by Carol Wright Photo by Johnny Nunez

P.Diddy is known for his incredible work ethic. What did you learn from working with him? Perseverance probably top of the list, matter of fact we’ll put don’t take no for an answer that at the top of the list. Ultimately my greatest attribute is that I always try to lead by example and I don’t know if I necessarily learned it from him but I can say that’s 100% one of his strongest attributes. He puts in the work. He demands a lot from his team and his staff but he is right alongside you and he’s out working everyone. What made you make the transition from working at music labels to creating your own company? I love entertainment. I love music but this was never my destination. It was the road I needed to travel and I wanted to travel on but it was never the destination. I always knew that I was never gonna work at a record label forever. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, that’s just who Shawn Prez is since I’ve been a little boy. It was natural for me. I really wanted to be part of the music industry and I had a wonderful career working alongside Sean Diddy Combs and I was able to establish great relationships and some really awesome memories, but at the end of the day, I was building his brand. It was important for me to build my brand and create a business that would last long after I’m gone.

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Why did you think it was important to create an award show dedicated to DJs? Well, DJs were a big part of my career. At Bad Boy, I was the head of the promotion department for many years. It’s interesting and a lot of people don’t realize this, but we always started our records with the DJ. The DJs were our unofficial A&R department. Whenever we would get a record we would test it out with the DJs and if the DJs came back to us and said that this record was a stiff, we would never go with it. The world would not know it, but we would pull back and go to another record. Whenever the DJs told us, ‘oh my God you’ve got a record!’ Those were the records that we pushed, and if you look at the history of Bad Boy. All of our records were club bangers, we made records for the club. In the club, the DJs are the maestros. They are the ones who are the dictators of what’s going on that night. So, I always appreciated the power that DJs held and appreciated their contributions to the music industry and the entertainment industry overall. (but) I noticed that they weren’t recognized. They weren’t even recognized by artists that they broke. In the beginning of any artists career, they have time more than anything, so they are jumping on conference calls with the DJ community. They are going to radio stations and talking to the DJs and giving them personal attention. When they blow up and they hit that Grammy stage or they get these awards, they thank everybody in the world except the DJ. So I just felt that it was necessary for DJs to be given a platform that honors them and recognizes them for their contributions to music and entertainment.

kind of be where they’re at. To bring it out to LA, it’s just an amazing achievement for us and we’re really excited to be there. Timbaland is receiving the lifetime achievement award and Jermaine Dupri is going to receive the breaking barriers award. How do you go about deciding who gets these honors? We honor DJs and when you really think about it, this is our 6th year doing the Global Spin Awards. So, we have gone through a lot of the pioneer DJs that really paved the way for so many of these newer DJs who are making millions of dollars a year. We’ve had an opportunity to honor Grandmaster Flash, the Kid

“I believe that the difference make it and the people wh who do are always moving fo they take their licks but you

What made you bring the Global Spin Awards to California? This was always part of our plan. We modeled ourselves after the most successful award ceremonies. If you look that’s where the Grammys have been held, they moved back to New York this year, but for the last fifteen years, they’ve been in LA. The Oscars are in LA, the Globes, the Emmys so forth and so on. So for us this was a milestone moment because if you want to be taken seriously on the level of all of the award ceremonies that you aspire to be, you have to

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Capri, DJ Premier, so forth and so on, but this year we wanted to switch it up a little bit. We wanted to remain true to who we are in honoring the DJs, but we wanted to focus on the DJs who are taking their talent beyond just the turntables, and who have done amazing things in music but still had the DJing as the basis of what has always made them successful. Timbaland started off as a DJ and if you look into all of his beats and all of his music, he still uses that DJ acumen in terms of the tempo and the beat that he creates. Same thing for Jermaine Dupri. Jermaine Dupri currently is still a working and active DJ. He has residency in Las Vegas and if you listen to his music, it all comes back to his days as a DJ because he knows what moves the people. He knows the type of beats that will make people want to dance and make people want to get up out their seats. It was a little bit of a transition for us but in order to continue to move the show forward, we wanted to focus on DJs who have done amazing things outside of the turntables and those two guys were a natural fit. What has been the most rewarding aspect of creating the Global Spin Awards?


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There are so many rewarding moments. One of which stands out to me at the top. I’ve worked with Sean “Diddy” Combs since we both were young men and I’ve watched him and been part of helping to make his companies what they are today. Obviously, he’s at the helm, but having him attend the Global Spin Awards and walking the red carpet with him at my event, that’s one of those moments that I take a lot of pride in. Obviously, he is there to support me in all that I do, just like I’m here to support him, but him coming and walking down the red carpet with myself; I felt that that was a big moment. Another moment that always stands out to me is having so many of

stream, and the music industry is flourishing in a way that it hasn’t flourished in about twenty years. There have been major changes along those lines and how we consume music. What advice do you have for young people hoping to create their own companies? First I would say you have to believe. You have to see the thing before it can ever come to fruition. There’s nothing that I’m doing today that I didn’t see years ago. I might not have thought as specific, knowing that I’m going to have a Global Spin Awards one day and I’m gonna have multiple companies but I knew I was gonna have my own company. I knew that I was going to have multiple companies for that matter. I saw a lot of what I’m doing many years ago, so you have to be able to see it in your own head. More importantly than seeing it, you have to believe it. I speak to so many people and they don’t believe. They don’t believe that it’s possible. They don’t believe that they are the same as some of the most successful businessmen out here. There’s no difference, there’s a belief that these businessmen have that they say “hey I have an idea and I believe in it so strongly that I’m going to move forward with it. I believe in myself that I can get this done.” I would give a piece of advice that I have learned over the years. You have to always be moving forward. By that I mean, you’re going to have setbacks, you’re gonna have days where nothing is going your way, months where nothing is going your way, years when nothing is going your way. To stop doing what you’re doing is the biggest mistake that any entrepreneur can ever make. You always have to be doing something that is putting one foot in front of the other. That is making you move forward, and I don’t know what that is. It could be making phone calls. It could be researching. It could be just never giving up and I realize that I’ve failed this way and that way but I’m just gonna keep moving forward in this other direction because maybe that will be the time that it becomes a success. I believe that the difference between the people who make it and the people who don’t is that the people who do are always moving forward. They take their hits, they take their licks but you’re not gonna stop them. I might be moving forward at a slow pace but I’m still moving forward.

e between the people who ho don’t is that the people orward. They take their hits, u’re not gonna stop them.” the pioneer DJs in the room with the new age DJs. The DJs that that inspired them or the DJs who they inspired to pick up the turntables and having all of these men and women in the same room under one roof and seeing the glow and the pride that they take that there’s finally an award ceremony that recognizes them. That’s always so cool for me, just watching the older DJs shake hands with the younger DJs and taking pictures. Everybody is here and saying “this is for us. I can’t believe I’ve lived to see the day where we have our own ceremony.” What has been the biggest change in the music industry from the time you started to now? Of course, there’s been so many changes I don’t know where to start. At one point there were physical records, there were CDs. That doesn’t exist anymore. Everything is downloaded and streamed. It’s so interesting because technology was really the death of the music industry in the late 90s coming to the early 2000s because so many people were able to just download music for free. That same technology is now the savior of the music industry. So many of these streaming platforms are now paying artists per

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Nyota Issue 11  
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