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featuring

Madeline Stuart Issue 13


CONTENTS

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Music Alex Weksler 8 Hadassah 10 Olivia Cella 12 Alexa Ferr 16

Culture Chelsea Rendon 34 Makenna James 36 Albert Tsai 38 Katherine Bailess 40 Victoria Konefal 42 Violet Brinson 46 April Brinson 50 Madison Iseman 54 Words Of Wisdom: Jess Poulin 58 Words Of Wisdom: Angela Lewis 62 Words Of Wisdom: Tara Reid 66

Fashion Madeline Stuart 18 Kendall Clark 22 Nana Agyemang 24 Ahdia Harris 30 Words of Wisdom: Elizabeth Jeffer 32

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THE TEAM Editor in Chief Carol Wright is a Junior 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.

Assistant Editor Jaha Knight is our Assistant Editor and one of the newest additions to the Nyota Magazine team. She is a Junior at American University, and is studying Broadcast Journalism and Business Administration.

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 Nicole Cox is currently a Junior, 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. 4


FEATURES Alex Weksler Hadassah Olivia Cella Alexa Ferr Madeline Stuart Kendall Clark Nana Agyemang Ahdia Harris Elizabeth Jeffer Chelsea Rendon Makenna James Albert Tsai Katherine Bailess Victoria Konefal Violet Brinson April Brinson Madison Iseman Jess Poulin Angela Lewis Tara Reid

CONTRIBUTORS Naa Lamptey-Mills Quianna Ali

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EDITOR’S LETTER I can’t believe it but Nyota is officially three years old! I’ve found myself reminiscing a lot lately, especially about the day I first decided to create the magazine. I was sitting on my floor, a copy of Teen Vogue in my lap; wondering how I would ever become a professional Photographer when it hit me. In order for me to pursue my dreams, I would create the opportunities myself. In the beginning, everything was exciting because it was so new. The magazine could go in whatever direction I chose and no one could tell me how things should be run because I was the boss. Now things are still exciting but for different reasons. I’ve been able to build a team, meet other creatives, create opportunities for other people my age and work alongside my family. I feel blessed to be able to do what I love at such a young age and want to thank everyone who has continued to read issue after issue. Everyone knows that in the magazine world who covers the September issue is always discussed in length. We’re proud to say that our September issue cover star is Madeline Stuart. Madeline is the first professional Supermodel with down syndrome and has continually broken down barriers in the fashion industry. I hope you are inspired by Madeline’s story and that she motivates you to go after your dreams. With love, Carol Wright @_carol_wright

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Alex Weksler Interview by Carol Wright Photo by Karly Cronin

When did your interest in music begin?

and I’m obsessed with her voice and her songwriting.

I grew up with music all of my life because my mom is a huge music nerd! But I think I became really interested in it my freshman year of high school when I started playing guitar. I was having a rough freshman year, so it was a nice release for me; then that interest kept going from there as I started writing songs.

Does living in New York inspire your music?

Your EP ‘Air’ tells the story of a relationship from beginning to end. What inspired you to create an EP that tells a story? It actually was sort of an accident! I just wrote a bunch of songs about everything I experienced that year, sort of falling in and out of love. I didn’t realize until I was picking the songs for the EP that when I ordered them they told an awesome story. What is your favorite song off of the EP?

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Yes, absolutely! New York is just such a scenic and diverse environment to live in. Most of my songs are about instances I’ve experienced in Brooklyn or where I live in Queens. I consider myself so lucky to live in New York. What is your favorite album right now? The album I’ve had on repeat lately is Expectations by Hayley Kiyoko. It’s just such a mood lifter and everything you’d want from a pop album! She’s just the coolest. Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does being a Girl Boss mean to you?

That’s a tough one since they all mean a lot me! I would probably go with, “Chase Me.” I just love how the production of it came out and it’s my favorite song to play live for sure.

I see a Girl Boss in all the women I know in my life! From my Mom to my best friends, they’re all so driven and go out of their way to empower other women. I think a Girl Boss is someone who goes after what she wants and lifts others up along the way.

Who are some of your music inspirations?

What advice do you have for aspiring singers?

I’m inspired by so many people lately, but right now I’m really into The 1975 and the Lumineers, they’re always a go to on my Spotify. My all time hero is probably Stevie Nicks though. I grew up listening to her

To be honest in your songwriting and enjoy what you do! There’s no better feeling than creating a song that describes exactly how you feel.


#NYOTAmusic

Hadassah Interview by Carol Wright Was a career in music something you always saw yourself pursuing? I’ve always loved music and have always wrote songs, but a career in music wasn’t considered realistic in my family unless you went the classical music route. It wasn’t until I was in my junior year of college that I decided to take control of my life and create the life I wanted for myself. Your EP Oakmere Drive is all about love and loss. Was this EP therapeutic for you? Most definitely. My mother had passed away and I was dealing with so many shifts in my life. Being out of college, selling the home I grew up in, being away from my sisters. It was a lot. The music helped me stop and heal and reflect While you were writing the EP did you ever have a time when it became too painful to continue writing? What helped you keep going? It’s crazy that that has never happened to me. When I write it’s a very out of body experience. I’m not really thinking about my feelings, it’s a stream of consciousness and it usually isn’t until after I have finished creating that I step back, take a look at the song, and then I feel the true impact and how I was feeling deep now. I like to say my music reveals me to myself. What is your favorite song off of Oakmere Drive? That is really hard to say! I really love “Visions,” and “Heavens Basement.” Both of those songs really capture my mental state. You titled the EP Oakmere Drive after the street you grew up on. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood and Oakmere Drive the place? Yeah of course! I grew up in a little neighborhood in Long Island. As a child my mom used to dress my sis-

ters and I in matching outfits and people thought we were triplets. My younger sister and I shared a room that we painted pink and purple, because purple was my sisters favorite color and pink is mine. The house I grew up in was beautiful and I miss it. I remember every Christmas Eve my family and I would sit by the fire and open up one gift in our PJ’s. Oakmere brings back such great memories from my childhood that I will always cherish. It was so therapeutic to put some of those memories and emotions into a musical project. Being a woman of color in the music industry, have you had any major obstacles in your journey? How did you overcome those obstacles? Yes, I could say access to resources can be difficult being a woman, and artist, of color. I’d also say a lot of people wanna put you in a box. In terms of resources I’ve just learned to pay no mind to that and be creative and work hard. If you don’t have money you can leverage time and education. I also ignored the fact that people wanted to put me in a box. I just do my own thing the best way I can. Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does being a Girl Boss mean to you? Yassssss. So to me a Girl Boss is someone who takes control of her life, and works hard for exactly what she wants. Women are so freaking powerful, we literally have the power to give life and that extends beyond just giving birth, we are creators at our core. A girl boss recognizes that and builds. What advice do you have for aspiring singers? Hmm the advice I’d give is be prepared to work hard and be patient. Nothing is impossible. If there is something you want to do, research, create a plan, and step by step get it done. And girl don’t be afraid to get a job. Stack your coins and spend them on your dreams. 11


Olivia Cella Interview by Carol Wright When did you realize you wanted to be a singer? I started singing at a very young age. In fact I don’t remember a time when I didn’t sing. It is part of who I am. Singing makes me happy and makes my life happy but I hope my singing and my songs bring joy and happiness to others as well, to me that is the most satisfying part. When someone reaches out to me to tell me they added MISSING U to their playlist or they have the song on repeat I feel so fulfilled. What inspired the lyrics to your song Missing You? I am kinda the go to person that my friends turn to for advice. I don’t know why. They all have different relationships of course however the core issue is usually the same. They like someone and don’t spend enough time with the person they like. They are missing them. So the song kinda developed from there. We all want love and to be loved so the song is very raw and expresses a common feeling we all feel from time to time. You also released a video to accompany the song. What was it like coming up with an idea for the video and then seeing it brought to life? I love shooting music videos. I am also an actor so I love being in front of the camera and acting out my scenes to my lyrics. Coming up with the ideas for the video allows us to be very creative and gives me the opportunity to express myself. Picking out the clothing to be worn in the video is one of my favorite parts as I love clothing, fashion and envisioning the outfits in the video. I have been lucky to have worked with some fabulous directors. Through the entire creative process there is a fundamental bonding and I am still friends with all the directors I ever worked with. You have a Youtube page where you have over 8K subscribers. What made you decide to start posting covers online? 12


In 2013 when I was out in LA for acting I was approached by a singer/songwriter to shoot a cover to her song to help promote her song I was just 12 years old. I thought sure it would be a fun experience and from there I just started shooting covers. I did three Taylor Swift covers that year too which really gained me popularity and thousands of subscribers. Especially my Blank Space video which currently has over 550K views. I really love how that video turned out. How has Youtube helped you build your career? Youtube helped my career a lot. Not only do I post singing videos on my Youtube channel but I also post makeup tutorials and DYI videos & many other fun videos. It is a way I can connect with my fans. I love it when I hear back from someone letting me know how much one of my makeup tips worked for them it is very rewarding. Can we expect an EP or full length album from you in the near future? No plans for an EP, I am focusing on releasing singles at the moment. I have a new song ready to be released. I just need to shoot a music video to it and hope to have it launched out to the public by the end of this summer. The song is called US2. It is a pop song with R&B tones to it. I think you are really going to like it. Can’t wait to share it with everyone. Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does being a Girl Boss mean to you? Being a Girl Boss means to me - fearless, confident, and strong - and you don’t let anything or anyone or any circumstance hold you back from doing what you want to do. Always believe in yourself. I consider myself a Girl Boss. I am naturally a strong person with strong ideas and vision. I want to inspire other girls to believe in themselves as well. #GirlPower What advice do you have for aspiring singers? Besides practice, practice and more practice. My advice is to keep going. If you fall down and feel like you failed - turn that attitude around and look at it as a learning experience and a step towards success. Don’t compare yourself to others because there is only one you, and you are unique. We are all unique and there is room for all of us on top!! 14


#NYOTAmusic

Alexa Ferr Interview by Carol Wright Photo by Blair Caldwell

Growing up, was music a large part of your life? Yes! Ever since a young age I was always dancing and singing around the house or I would entertain my family. I remember my mom always playing Madonna and Michael Jackson records while she would clean and I would just dance and sing along! She also used to love watching the music videos on MTV and Much Music and BET so I was always watching them with her and they just intrigued me and definitely influenced me as an artist today! How did you feel the moment you released your first single? I was 15 when I released my very first single I remember feeling nervous, yet excited and definitely happy to put original music out for the first time. Was it a bit of a shock when you first moved from Toronto to Los Angeles? Not really, but only because I had travelled back and forth so often since I was 15 that by the time I moved out to LA at the age of 19 it didn’t feel too weird for me. I knew some people and was used to everything out here. What inspired the sound and lyrics of your single “If You Only Knew”? I went through a situation where I felt that my significant other was talking to girls behind my back and flirting with them and it really hurt me but I was also thinking “if he only knew that I could be doing the same thing he’s doing, but I don’t because I’m 100%

loyal to this man or whoever I’m with when I’m in a relationship”. So I had a session with the producer of this track, Th3ory and he asked me what’s been going on in my life, I explained the story and the record flowed out pretty naturally. What is your song writing process? It depends. Sometimes I’ll be going through something and have it weighing on me so I’ll start to write out words. Other times I’ll hear a beat and instantly picture a visual in my head that either brought memories from my personal experiences or someone else I knew. It’s always a feeling though. Who are some of your music inspirations? I grew up being inspired by artists like Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Brandy, Aaliyah, Rihanna, Jojo, Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson. There are so many more but those are the main ones for me. Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does being a Girl Boss mean to you? To me, being a Girl Boss means that you are strong, you stand up for yourself and what you believe in, you’re a go getter and someone who doesn’t let what others say affect them because you know your worth! What advice do you have for aspiring singers? My advice would be to trust and believe in yourself. Don’t change for anyone and truly put the work in if it’s something you are passionate about. Stay true to yourself. 17


Madeline Stuart Interview by Carol Wright Photos by Wildflower Portraits and Paulina Duczman

When did you first become passionate about modeling? When I was 17, I went to a fashion show with my mum and I fell in love with the catwalk as soon as I saw how much fun the models were having and how beautiful they all looked. It was funny because before I got interested in Modeling I hated make-up and would be happy to wear anything, now I like to try on at least 3 outfits every morning to make sure I look just right before leaving the house. Mum says I have become a Diva. When your career was just starting did you have to face rejection often? What kept you motivated to keep pursuing your dreams? Actually when my career first started I was going Viral. I think I was in the press constantly for the first 2 years so there was some negativity, especially from trolls, people say you know you are going Viral when the trolls get involved. Outside social media there was not a lot of rejection as we never really approached anyone as people kept reaching out to us so I didn’t understand rejection, it seemed most people just wanted to support me and support diversity, it was very much the trend at the time. Now over 3 years later I do not get as much press as I am not a new sensation anymore, most people know who I am and we now reach out to a lot of companies and we have learnt what rejection is but that is a good thing as now we are reaching out to people who would not 18

usually consider diversity and even though they may say no to me it will open their minds and they will start seeing what is happening in the world and with time they may become open to it. I think the one thing that always keeps me motivated is people, I love meeting new people, I love it when people recognize me and ask for a photo, I love being on the catwalk and the audience cheering, it is the most amazing feeling in the world to be accepted and loved. Do you feel as though the fashion industry has been taking significant steps in terms of diversity or does the industry still have a long way to go? Yes it has taken significant steps but at the same time there still is a long way to go. There is always room for improvement in any industry. We still try our hardest to push the boundaries but the boundaries are constantly getting bigger which is amazing and this tells us the fashion industry is changing. If you looked 12 months ago we were fighting to get campaigns to include diversity and we have seen that on lots of occasions now, it has gotten to a point where only some campaigns receive press which tells me it is becoming the norm, of course it still has a long way to go, I think the next step will be when someone with a disability becomes the face of a brand, that would be amazing progress and it would tell the world that disabilities do not define someone but just a small part of who someone is, they are a person first and foremost and their disability does not define them.


Your health and fitness is very important to you. Can you tell our readers a bit about your tips for living a healthy lifestyle? It is all about calories in and calories out, my diet is very consistent, for breakfast I have toast and eggs, then for lunch I always have a grilled chicken wrap, dinner is white meat and salad or vegetables and in between I will have fruit. Occasionally at a party or to celebrate I will have sweets or junk food but that is only maybe 10 times a year. I also am very active, I spend an hour in the gym at least 5 days a week starting on the treadmill to warm up and then I do battle ropes, the sled, kettlebells, medicine balls, a lot of machines like lat pull downs etc. and I love boxing so if I am not feeling it we always end up in the boxing room just to add a little more fun to the routine, I also dance with my dance school InsideOutside Dance at least 4 times a week and I play cricket and basketball. I am very active and healthy but please don’t think I am like this only because I want to be a model as when I first lost 50lbs it was not to become a model, it was because I have 3 holes in my heart and a leaky Mitral valve and I had started to go into heart failure, my doctors told me to get fit or risk open heart surgery again, as a result I got healthy and then became a model. You’re an inspiration to so many. What has it been like interacting with other kids with down syndrome who hope to model one day or work in the industry? It is always beautiful when I get to hang out with other people with Down Syndrome, I feel at home, it is always nice to be able to give them and their families hope that you can follow your dreams and you do have opportunities in the world. It make me so proud to help others. What fashion brand do you dream of working with one day? I would love to walk for Chanel or Louis Vuitton ,Versace and especially Victoria’s Secret or Pink. How did you feel when you walked your first New York Fashion Week show? There are no words to describe the feeling, it was truly amazing, so exiting, a dream come true.

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Outside of modeling do you hope to work in other parts of the fashion industry? Yes of course I would love to do some tv commercials but I also have my own fashion label called 21 reasons why so I will continue with that and I am releasing my third collection this NYFW this month. On a day off what is a typical day like for you? I wake up have breakfast, get ready for my classes, go to gym and dance and maybe do a photo shoot a couple of times a week. I hang out with my friends and see movies or go bowling. I am just like everyone else. What advice do you have for aspiring models? Work hard, be fit as you will need to be fit to be able to work very long hours, understand you will get rejected but everyone does, it is not necessarily because of who you are but people may be looking for a different look. Never stop believing in yourself and loving yourself.


#NYOTAfashion

Kendall Clark Interview by Carol Wright Photo by CreativeSoul Photography

You’re only eight years old. What made you want to start your own company? What made me want to start my own company was to help people while making money and making a difference in other people’s lives. Do you hope to inspire other young black girls to be entrepreneurs? Yes, because girls can be whatever they want to be even if they are really young and small, they can do anything they put their minds to. Tell us a bit about Kendall’s Beauty Box and how it started. Kendall’s Beauty Box got started when I was watching tv and I was thinking about selling stuff and helping people. My teacher said to always help people even if they are strangers so then I asked my mom and she helped me launch my own company. I have eczema and wanted something that would not irritate my very sensitive skin. I offer all-natural bath products that make my skin very soft. I sell all-natural bath bombs, bath salts and soaps which are all made in the U.S.A. My bath bombs are my favorite because I love to see them dissolve when they hit the water.

school I attend Girls, Inc. which is an after school program just for girls where we learn about entrepreneurship, Girl Scouts, healthy eating where we have a cooking class, we learn to sew, learn about Science and inspire each other. I am also a cheerleader and attend tumbling and flyer classes weekly. I take swimming and skating lessons once a week and also take acting classes to perfect my acting skills. Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does being a Girl Boss mean to you? Being a Girl Boss means being responsible, respectful and ready to learn new things from mentors and people who have become successful in business like Oprah. What advice do you have for young people who want to start their own businesses? My advice for young people would be to have good customer service and listen to your customers. You must work hard because nothing worth having comes easy. Just because you are cute won’t make people buy from you. You have to show why they should spend their hard earned money on your product.

What’s a normal day for you look like? A normal day usually starts off by making an inspirational post on @kendallsbeautybox. I then get ready for school. I ride the bus to school everyday. After 23


Nana Agyemang Interview by Niara Wright Photos by Alessandra Angelini

It was a hot day in Soho when I met Nana Agyemang for a photo shoot and interview. Agyemang is the founder and CEO of Every Stylish Girl. She started ESG in 2016 as a blog telling the stories of diverse fashionistas but just within its two-year lifespan, it has grown to be one of the go-to platforms for women of color in the fashion industry. If you think that is impressive, just wait until you see what ESG has to offer in the near future. With this being my first time meeting Nana I didn’t know what to expect. I met up with photographer Alessandra Angelini, ( a girl boss in her own right) outside of Nana’s apartment. Both of our jaws dropped as Nana made her way through the revolving doors. It was like a scene out of Gossip Girl and Serena van der Woodsen was walking towards us in the most glamorous of a slow-motion stride except Serena was Nana, she had beautiful chocolate skin, long flowing black hair and legs for days. “Hi! It’s so nice to finally meet you!” Nana said with the brightest smile I’ve ever seen as she shook my hand. Is this girl even real? After introductions, we started our shoot. It was a hard-hitting 95 degrees, Alessandra and I were sweating our lives away but, it seemed as though the sun was Nana’s energy source. She continually posed for the camera like a pro, hitting all of the right angles and giving the camera a smize that Tyra Banks would be proud of. We finished up the shoot in time for lunch and a quick chat at Sweet Green. As we sat down to eat, I treated them to some salads, drinks and thank you gifts for their time, yes, my mom taught me well. Originally, Nana was going to wear a bright yellow suit but instead, she wore a plum colored, mini skirt suit. I was not upset at all about the outfit change but I had to ask. 24


So what happened with the yellow suit? I love this, of course, I was just wondering. Well you know it’s all about the monochromatic looks, right? I had this yellow blazer, the one I sent you a picture of, but no yellow bottoms! I went everywhere, I went to Topshop, I went to Zara but no luck. I showed a worker at Zara what I was looking for and she said to do purple because purple isn’t embraced enough on dark skinned women. Oh, I love that! I am so happy you went with the purple. These pictures are the bomb! What else do you do besides work at Refinery29? There are a lot of blurred lines between being an entrepreneur and working under a company. I’m really surprised at how Refinery29 has taken ESG under its wing and has been super supportive of everything we do, non-stop. But actually, sometimes it can be seen as a conflict of interest because we have similar audiences; women empowerment, girl bosses, etc. But we are a little different because we focus more on the beauty and fashion aspect so that’s what I think makes ESG so phenomenal and so unique because there was really no other platform for women of color that was bridging together storytelling between fashion and beauty. There was nothing like that even on Instagram. I mean, there is FashionBombDaily, reposting photos but not really going into storytelling and looking at those people who are up and coming. That was something I always wanted to do Her eyes lit up as she swallowed a huge bite of her sweet greens salad. The internship program is what’s really important for me because I always felt like mentorship was really how I got here! People have asked me ‘How were you working at the New York Times at 22?’ and honestly it’s mentorship. I knew people in the company and I built close relationships with them knowing that they would be helpful to me one day and it came around. So, what got you into fashion in the first place? My brother would make fun of me and say ‘I wish people would come to see your room in Ohio from when you were a preteen’ I used to cover my walls with fashion covers. I did this when I was about 13 or 14, I was so obsessed but I was also so frustrated because I never saw a reflection. I never saw black women, nev-

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er saw natural hair; all of these spreads were always a white woman, blonde hair or brunette. That’s when I really started to notice that this industry that I’m dying to be a part of isn’t even a reflection of who I am. One of my biggest goals, like any other girl, was that I wanted to work for Vogue and working there I could really make a difference and pave the way for black women at Vogue to really enter into this space of journalism. So, when I was in high school, I was a part of the yearbook club as the photographer and I was psycho, you guys. I would style all of my friends for this big fashion shoot or make them send me pictures of their outfits so I can approve them. I would set up my home, make sure everyone matched, make a backdrop ( my mom said I was so obnoxious). But it was little things like that when I knew this was something I was really passionate about. And I talk a lot so I knew to be in journalism and being a person of communication was also something I had to be in alignment with. This slowly built up to things I did in college. I became the Editor in Chief of our only black magazine on campus, Ace Magazine. Then Instagram started to become such a huge thing so that’s when I first realized that I wanted to be a fashion blogger, that was going to be my ticket in. I was talking to my brother who is like my mentor, he’s my everything when it comes to creative ideas for business and I told him what I wanted to do on Instagram. He told me ‘ Yeah, that’s cool but everyone is doing that. Wouldn’t it be cool if you turned the camera around and focused on other women? Tell their stories and take photos of them.’ She admitted feeling reluctant at first, wanting to show off her own style and all but she thought about it. Then it hit her. During her senior year, Nana created Every Stylish Black Girl, the original name of what is now known as Every Stylish Girl. Having a large number of other friends from other ethnic groups, she wanted to include all WOC making ESBG into ESG but focusing on diverse women in fashion. How did ESG grow so quickly? It really started to pick up after my senior year. I moved to NYC to attend Columbia for grad school for journalism and that’s when my life changed. I was working at Elle Magazine and everything was moving


#NYOTAfashion

so quickly. I was getting in front of celebrities, I met Yara Shahidi and was able to feature her on ESG who then gave us a shout out in Teen Vogue. I thought to myself that this was what I was supposed to be doing because everything was happening so quickly. That’s when I realized I was building a community. I started getting so many DMs from women asking if they could meet me, tell their stories, and connect with the girl bosses we were featuring. I knew I needed to create something to connect all of these women and that’s when ‘Sip ‘n’ Slay’ came about, our women’s’ career and networking brunch. We bring together girl bosses on a panel and me knowing all of these movers and shakers and knowing how hard they are to meet, I bring to these events for young women to connect with them. I’m really trying to bring these profound young women to show how they started their careers and how they can help other women break into their own. Truly inspire them. Can you explain the set up of ESG? How does it work exactly? Within our internship program we have workshops, we have a training session, we have bi-weekly meetings. It’s different how we are set up because we are a training program, we are training you to build your own skills, break off and be your own badass. That should be on a shirt! That’s a good one! Let me write that down! I tried to add in that once that shirt is made I should get 10% but Nana seemed to laugh it off as we moved on with the interview. I brushed it off and continued the conversation. Who is in your intern program now? How big is your group? Right now we have 11 interns broken up into different areas like photographers, content creators, and social media bosses/ writers. Its cool because they are all getting this experience, they were all just featured in Refinery29 so it’s definitely beneficial. They never thought that they would get featured in Refinery and who knows what we will be able to connect them to next. This is really a great way to help them build their own brands as well. Where do you see ESG going in the near future?

What’s on the horizon? We are really leaning towards videos and experiences. We are revamping and pushing our Youtube. We want to create informative videos like Jada Pinkett’s Red Table Talk series or a lookbook on how to style a blazer in 10 different ways. We are really trying to teach women, especially WOC that you are represented. Too many media companies do not push WOC on their video content! Nana bangs her hand on the table passionately and though I was startled a bit, I felt what she was saying on a spiritual level. It’s honestly so weird to me. Why can’t you get black women on video, why can’t you get black women on magazines?, I don’t understand why this is such a trivial topic. Even plus-sized women and exploring more in body diversity. It’s really not that hard! And that’s another thing about ESG, we have featured so many amazing women to choose from. We kinda created this directory of photographers, models, and other talents that big companies like Vogue or Refinery can pull from when they are looking to fill this space. Do you see ESG going global? Yeah! I would love to have a Sip ‘n’ Slay in London, I would love to host one somewhere in Africa. That is a goal of mine. So the theme I’m seeing here is that you spread the love. You love giving an opportunity to others. Yeah, I’ve done partnerships with Revlon and Puma and whenever I get an opportunity, I will call a friend and say ‘Hey, do you want to style this shoot for me?’ I am always trying to put my friends on. And I always say to my interns, who are applying for jobs right now and reaching out to the highest person in these big companies, reach out to your peers first. My peers are the ones that got me where I am, not the directors and editors. Don’t reach out to them, they’re chilling, they already have their jobs, they don’t know you, what do they have to do for you? Build yourself up with the people you know. Nana was truly preaching to the choir. It felt so amazing to sit and vibe off of this confident women who is killing it in her field. I truly felt inspired. As the conversation was coming to an end, I had to 27


ask the most cliche yet vital question of all. What is one key piece of advice you have for other girl bosses? I have two. First, I would like to share this quote; ‘Short-term sacrifices for a lifetime in paradise’. What does that mean? Right now is when you hustle, this is when you sacrifice and work so you can spend a long time in paradise, stress-free and comfortable. I gave myself that quote in high school so I can say that college isn’t going to be easy but it’s something I have to do to get to what I want to do. I knew that starting ESG would be a struggle, I’m not going to hang out, I’m not going to go to parties, I’m not going to have a social life but that is short term. Be disciplined in life and remember those things can come later and be even greater than they are now. The second thing is the goals. This may seem corny but making a goals list will really help you. My brother made me make a 10-year goal list and I almost cried but I still reflect on it to this day and it’s amazing how a lot of it lines up with my life today. I realized that I can make my life whatever I want it to be. I always encourage my friends to make a weekly goal list but to definitely do a 10-year goal list. If you don’t have a goal, you will end up confused and easily manipulated because you don’t have a focus, you don’t know what your goal is. Since I know my goal and know where I want to be, you can’t manipulate me or throw me off track. I know I want to be a girl boss and run my own company and I won’t let anything get in my way. With that, we finished our salads and parted ways. Nana is just one of the amazing women doing great things to change and grow her industry and we hope she inspired you to do the same. You can follow Nana on Instagram @itsreallynana and Every Stylish Girl @ everystylishgirl. Also, Nana, I know you’re reading this so I wanted to remind you that I still want 10% for that t-shirt idea.


#NYOTAfashion

Ahdia Harris Interview by Quianna Ali What made you want to start your own business? I wanted to be my own boss! (giggles). My dad started his business before I was even born so all my life I only remember him working for himself and he loves what he does. I want to be like my dad and ran my own company. I love fashion- I modeled when I was younger, but I like to be more creative and love to make my own art. So I just did it! I told my mom my plan and she said she’d help me any way she could. Where did you get the idea behind the “More Than Pretty” collection? Girls are always told how pretty they are, which is nice to hear, but I don’t want that to be the only thing people think about or mention when they see us. And I don’t want girls to think that’s all they have to show the world. We can be pretty, but we’re smart, and funny, and have different talents and skills. So that’s what More Than Pretty means- not being afraid to show and tell the world just how amazing you are without it just being about your pretty face. What do you want to accomplish next? This has been a great year so far. I got to be a vendor at my very first pop up shop, I got to meet you and get this awesome opportunity! So my plan for the future is to keep going. Draw more, create more, work on new collections, and hopefully inspire other girls to start their businesses and follow their dreams too!

Our September issue is our “Girl Boss’ issue. What does being a Girl Boss mean to you? To me, being a Girl Boss means independence. Who are some designers that inspire you? Um, my dad inspires me. Myself… I don’t really know a lot of designers; I just like what I like. So like one of my favorite stores is Justice. So I like stuff like that. I think the girl who started the Flexin in My Complexion shirts, I think she’s cool. What advice do you have for other young girls that want to create their own companies? Start with something you’re passionate about and then match it with something you’re good at. And if there’s a cause that means a lot to you, like Water for South Sudan, find a way to give it purpose. So it’s passion paired with talent- or whatever you’re good at, and have a purpose behind it all and just go for it! Like for me, we learned about the water crisis in South Sudan after I had already started some shirts, and I just knew that that’s something I wanted to help with. So that’s something that I want to do next with (The Whimsical World of) A.Sanaa.

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#NYOTAfashion

Words of Wisdom

Elizabeth Jeffer Interview by Carol Wright

When did you become interested in fashion? I think I’ve always enjoyed fashion as a visual escape and a creative outlet. If I have to choose a jumping off point I guess I would say it started with Barbies around the age of 5. My barbies had a whole mess of clothing.

How do you go about choosing what gets put in the boutique? I go to shows in Paris and New York. Designers and Reps send me info. I see things on Instagram and in the world. I have a very specific market I’m trying to reach so I know pretty quickly if it will fit in the mix.

What got you interested in creating an online boutique?

The theme for our September issue is ‘Girl Boss’. In your own words, what is a Girl Boss?

I had wanted to open a store since my mid twenties but kept putting it off. I’ve known for many years this project utilized my strengths but I put if off … I worked for too many boutique owners and knew how how hard it was to make it work properly. Once I hit my forties and had danced around the big leap I just decided to take the plunge lest I never gave it a shot….

A Girl Boss is a boss who happens to be a woman. There is no difference from a Boy Boss… only a Girl Boss maybe brings a more well rounded set of skills to the table: Compassion, smarts, drive…. As long as women don’t feel threatened by those around them and instead, feel secure and empowered they can be amazing leaders. We definitely need more and more Girl Bosses out there.

How did you come up with the name Roztayger?

What advice do you have for women who want to start their own businesses?

Rosalind (Roz) Tiger was my Grandmother on my father’s side. (Her parents immigrated from Lithuania during WWII and their name was changed to Tiger from Tayger). She was always stylish and understated and always supported other women and the arts. She never took fashion too seriously but she was always put together. She had the correct priorities. She was an amazing woman and an inspiration (much like my mother). Because she passed away a year before I launched I thought it was a fitting homage.

Do your research. Do some soul searching. Is this a dream, your passion ? I think if you start your own business you had best be obsessed. It will carry you thru the low points, the tough times…. If you over think sometimes you miss the opportunity to go for it. Better to try and fail than to not try.

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Chelsea Rendon Interview by Carol Wright Photo by Vince Trupsin When did you first become interested in acting? I think I came out of the womb ready for it, but watching Selena at the drive-in when I was little was the real moment that I knew. What drew you to the role of Mari on “Vida”? Her strength. She’s a badass and I love that about her. Do you think with today’s political climate a show like “Vida” holds even more importance? Of course. I think now more than ever people need to see that Latinos are just human beings like everyone else. We’ve been talked about negatively in the media and we need to change the narrative. Are there any topics “Vida” has not touched on that you hope are explored more in season 2? I’d love to see more of the Sanchez family dynamic, including Johnny and Mari’s close bond, more of Lyn’s back story, and why she is the way she is. Who are some of your acting inspirations? Denzel Washington, Michelle Rodriguez, and Viola Davis Outside of acting, what other areas of the film/television business do you hope to dip your toe into? I’d love to direct and produce. Creating my own content is something very important to me! Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does being a Girl Boss mean to you? A Girl Boss to me is a badass chingona! What advice do you have for aspiring actors? Never give up!


#NYOTAculture

Makenna James Interview by Carol Wright Photographer: Jeff Forney Hair: Derek Yuen Styling: Sonia Young Makeup: Anthony Merante Was there a particular movie or tv show that got you interested in acting? There wasn’t one specific piece of work that inspired my interest. It was an accumulation of a lot of different performances: Rami Malek in “Mr. Robot”, Leonardo DiCaprio in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”, Saoirse Ronan in “Brooklyn”, and many more. I would cling onto a specific actor that I loved and watch their entire portfolio from their earliest to most recent work. What was the casting process like for “American Woman”? Intensive, in a word. I was flying back and forth between Los Angeles and upstate New York, where I was conducting a research project at the time, for several auditions. It ended with a screentest with Alicia Silverstone and I was notified a few weeks after that. I earned a ton of miles that month. Did Alicia Silverstone give you any advice on set? Lots of bits and pieces over the episodes. The one thing that really stuck with me, though, was her advice when we had a somewhat challenging director in one of our earlier episodes. She assured me that being flustered at that stage was normal, told me not to dwell on it, and said that acclimating to technical direction simply takes practice. What was your favorite part of filming American Woman? Meeting and befriending our cast and crew. I came into the filming process a bit socially awkward and nervous about the prospect of being surrounded by strangers. Once filming neared its end, I didn’t want to leave. Everyone was so fantastic.

Definitely films, with an emphasis on drama. Also, as a ginormous Marvel nerd, I would love to be involved with that franchise at some point in my career. It isn’t uncommon for actors to work and not go to school. What pushed you to continue to pursue an education? Education was always my number one priority. It never mattered if I was successful in other endeavors– college was a constant pursuit in my life. I have many interests outside of acting, which require much more learning than I am capable of doing independently. I firmly believe in having more than one career during my lifetime. How did you feel when you got accepted to Harvard? Do you have an idea of what you’d like to major in? It was such an amazing moment. My voice raised at least four octaves–to the pitch of a normal female voice–and I screamed. Per my major, I am officially undeclared, but have an interest in criminal justice and environmental science. Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does being a Girl Boss mean to you? A Girl Boss pursues goals with fervor and passion, allowing nothing to deter her. What advice do you have for aspiring actors? Put in the time and effort to develop your character. Don’t read lines how you expect them to be read. Have thick skin. But, above all, ensure that acting is something that is fun–it shouldn’t feel like an obligation.

What types of projects do you hope to pursue in the future? 37


Albert Tsai Interview by Carol Wright Photograph by Keith Munyan What initially got you interested in acting?

You Wrather” livestreams.

I did a school play when I was 7 years old, and that is what sparked my interest in acting. I started auditioning, and a few months later I got my first major role in the ABC family comedy Trophy Wife.

What was it like auditioning for a Disney show? Is it any different than previous auditions you’ve done?

Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on so far? I love all of them because each of my projects has brought me unique experiences. I’ve loved the opportunities to try different characters and work with different people. I always like to challenge myself with roles that are dramatic and try new types of projects, such as feature films. You played Ken Jeong’s son on the comedy “Dr. Ken”. What was it like working with Ken? Did he ever give you any advice? Ken was great and hard working. He was both an executive producer and the lead actor on the show “Dr. Ken”. Because he had to manage these two different roles, sometimes Ken had a more serious side when he was a producer, and a more comedic, funny side as an actor. He is very good at improv and physical comedy. We had a fun time on set. Can you tell us a bit about your new show “Coop and Cami Ask the World” and your character? “Coop and Cami Ask the World” is about a brother-sister duo, Coop and Cami who have a “Would You Wrather” livestream channel, where they solve almost all their problems by crowdsourcing opinions from their fans. I play Fred, Cooper’s best friend. They always hang out together and Fred joins his “Would

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It was quite a special experience for me. I went directly to the producer callback for “Coop and Cami Ask the World”. I was excited about it, because I watched Disney Channel shows since I was very little. Disney Channel’s auditioning process is a little different from previous auditions I’ve done. Outside of acting, what are you interested in? Outside of acting, I am interested in reading, and traveling. So far, I’ve been to 12 different countries on 3 continents (Europe, Asia, and North America) to explore history & different cultures. Both reading and traveling enrich my life. Besides that, I like swimming, horseback riding, and watching movies. Our September Issue is our Girl Boss issue. Who are some girl bosses in your life? The girl boss in my life is definitely my mom :-) What advice do you have for aspiring actors? My advice for aspiring actors is to believe in yourself, do what you love, and never give up. Always be persistent, do your best, and follow your passion.


#NYOTAculture

Words of Wisdom

Katherine Bailess Interview by Carol Wright Photo by Ross Ferguson

You started out as a dancer. What made you transition to acting? I tell people all the time that dance is acting without words. I was always a little “dramatic,” lol. But I fell into acting while living in NYC. I was a dance/musical theatre major at Marymount Manhattan College. While doing my first musical at school, I was discovered by a manager and she sent me out on my first audition. I was very ‘green’ but the experience was thrilling. I immediately enrolled in a two-year intensive program at the William Esper Acting Studio in NYC. This changed my life for sure. After graduating I moved to LA and booked my first audition. But trust me I’m not always that lucky lol. What has been your favorite episode of “Hit the Floor”? That’s a hard question! I love them all but I’d have to say my favorite would be from season 1. It was the dance calendar shoot episode. It had just the right amount of comedy, drama, and sexiness. And the dance was EPIC in my opinion. Can you tell us a bit about your film Deadly Matrimony?

and a thief and maybe a killer with multiple wives and identities. She teams up with the other women to take him down and make sure they aren’t the next on the chopping block. If you were to be on any Broadway production right now, which production would youlove to be a part of? I would die to play Roxy in ‘Chicago’ on Broadway! That has always been a dream of mine. Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does being a Girl Boss mean to you? Girl Boss to me is taking charge of your life, following your dreams and not taking ‘NO’ for an answer. Like Beyonce says in her song....’Who run the World? GIRLS! GIRLS!’ What advice do you have for aspiring actors? Dream BIG, Focus, know who YOU are and trust your instincts. The hardest challenge I would say is all of the rejection. But if you LOVE the craft and stay persistent, it’s all worth it in the end.

In ‘Deadly Matrimony’ I play Sara Ross, a blushing bride who ties the knot with her seemingly perfect husband Leo. Sara soon learns that Leo is a con man 41


Victoria Konefal Interview by Naa Lamptey-Mills Photographer: Birdie Thompson @birds_eye_photo Hair & Makeup: Allison Noelle @allisonnoellemakeup Clothing: Pin-up Girl @pinupgirlclothing

What lessons do you take away from playing Ciara Brady on Days of Our Lives? Whether it be personal lessons or acting techniques. Filming everyday gives you an opportunity to develop your craft, and that’s the best practice I can hope for as an actress. Every work day is a learning experience, and I’m so grateful for that. The environment I work in is fast paced, sometimes we film 3 episodes a day, so I’m forced out of my comfort zone. That’s when you really learn, when you’re forced to survive in a situation you’re not used to. It’s instilled this work ethic in me that I am so proud of. I just feel so blessed for everything this experience is giving me. What do you learn from your Days of our Lives co-stars? I’ve learned so much, but the most important thing I’ve learned is how to truly feel the material. Some of my cast mates have been doing it for decades, and I’m just amazed at how they con42

tinue to connect and grow with their characters. It takes a lot of patience and practice to play the same character for 30 years, and they’re still so good at it! They find something fresh to play with every time they shoot and watching that is amazing. How did your experiences at LaGuardia high school shape your acting goals and aspirations? I’m really fortunate to have received the education I did at LaGuardia. It was a school that focused primarily on performing arts, so it really gave me a chance to fall in love with creativity. Once I spent four years acting every single day, there was no way I could turn back. Which actors or actresses do you admire? Who are your role models? I really admire Angelina Jolie, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Aniston, Anne Hathaway and Kerry


Washington. I could go on forever, but those are the first few that come to mind. My mother is my biggest role model, hands down. What did it feel like when Days Of Our Lives won Outstanding Drama Series at the 45th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards? The feeling was unbelievable. It was my first award show and I had the honor of walking on the stage with my cast and crew, to accept something that we all worked so hard for. It was a dream. I am just so proud of everyone. Your character, Ciara, has a troubled past with the law and her parents. What helps you play a character who is potentially very different from yourself? I draw material from my own life experiences that could be applicable to what Ciara is going through. It’s difficult because characters on soap operas have such dramatic lives that drastically differ from anyone’s reality. It’s hard sometimes but you just have to truly believe the situation your character is in when you’re filming. That’s the only way it works. What is your dream role? My dream is to play a strong athletic lead. I want to have something that my character is passionate about. Whether it be boxing, crime fighting or being in charge of some crazy undercover conspiracy, I want something exciting that will get my adrenaline pumping, and hopefully have the same effect on the audience. What advice do you have for aspiring actors? Never change who you are to fit in. It’s important to grow as an individual, but you can’t do it if you’re trying to turn into something you’re not. Accept your individuality, and let it show in your work. The casting director wants to see YOU, not some warped version of what you think they want.

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#NYOTAculture

Violet Brinson Interview by Carol Wright Photos by Benjo Arwas You and your sister both started out as dancers. What got you interested in acting? I always loved to read and play imaginary games as a kid, so creating stories and imitating people has always been very close to my heart. It wasn’t until I was older, though, and had been dancing for some time that I convinced April to try out an acting class with me. We both fell in love with it and I knew then and there that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. Growing up in Oklahoma where the entertainment industry is not as prevalent was there anyone who doubted you could pursue an acting career? How did you push through any doubt? No one said anything specific. It was very unconventional thing to do and when we decided to move to L.A and there was a lot of disbelief that we were actually going for it. But honestly, we were surrounded by a very loving and supportive group of friends, so although there was some incredulity, there was even more encouragement. How did the opportunity to be in Sharp Objects come about? How did you react when you found out you and your sister had both been cast? Oh, April and I were beyond ecstatic. We were jumping on top of each other and laughing. I couldn’t stop smiling even when my face started hurting. And getting to share that moment with each other just made it a million times more fantastic. What was it like working with Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson? Did they ever give you advice? It was amazing! Both Amy and Patricia are beyond talented and just being able to watch them work taught me so much about my own craft. They also taught me about who I want to be, not only as an actress but as a person. About how to conduct myself on set and how to treat others. It was a great learning experience to be surrounded by two women

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who are not only extraordinarily successful, but warm, hilarious, and generous. What was it like delving into the world of Sharp Objects? In an interview on CBS Amy Adams said playing a messy character was freeing. Was it freeing for you to play a character that stirs up trouble? Sharp Objects is a very disturbing show and I love that kind of stuff. There is something especially intriguing about a story that is so dark, and twisted, and messy. Playing a character like Kelsey is definitely very freeing. You get to give in to all the whims which common sense and decency would otherwise have prohibited. You get to let go and explore the mind of someone who is quite different from you. Your character Kelsey is often tearing Jodes down. Is it ever hard to get through those scenes, especially since you and April are actually sisters? I think it actually made it easier. Being sisters, April and I are extremely comfortable with each other. We know that we love each other no matter what. If I say something mean and hurtful in a scene, it’s helpful knowing that the other person supports you in real life, so you’re not worried about really hurting anyone’s feelings. Can you discuss any upcoming projects? There’s nothing I can say right now. We are both very busy with work and auditioning and I can’t wait to talk about that kind of thing at a later date! Outside of acting what do you enjoy doing? I love reading and writing. We go on hikes all the time and just hanging out with my friends, going to the movies or just having a ‘lay by the pool’ day is some stuff I really enjoy. What advice do you have for aspiring actors? Just stick with. Work hard, do your best, and show up. Never give up, even when it’s tough and you haven’t heard back from an audition that you desperately want. Just keep at it.

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#NYOTAculture

April Brinson Interview by Carol Wright Photos by Benjo Arwas

You and your sister both started out as dancers. What got you interested in acting? Violet’s actually the reason I started acting. She really wanted to try an acting class and didn’t want to have to go alone, so I went with her. From the moment that class was over, I was obsessed. I had always been very imaginative, but being able to channel my love to create into acting was a dream come true. Growing up in Oklahoma where the entertainment industry is not as prevalent was there anyone who doubted you could pursue an acting career? How did you push through any doubt? While in Oklahoma I didn’t face a lot of doubt, but no one thought acting would be a long-term path for us since it isn’t prevalent there. However, Once we moved to Los Angeles, people thought we were crazy. I really feel like having Violet by my side made anyone’s doubt fade away, because no matter what, I had someone who understood what I was going through and would always support me whenever I couldn’t stand on my own. How did the opportunity to be in Sharp Objects come about? How did you react when you found out you and your sister had both been cast? Booking Sharp Objects was an exciting ride. Before our first audition, casting didn’t know we were sisters, Violet and I thought we were auditioning for the same role, and we had to learn to roller-skate. Obviously, we were both very nervous for various reasons (one of which was the roller skating), but we support each other 100% even if we’re going head to head. We try to channel Venus and Serena Williams, they’re our sister idols. However, once we found out we were going to work together, we were beyond thrilled. We found out while we were at lunch together and we couldn’t stop laughing. We would calm down for a minute and then one of us tried to process that we were going to be on set we would both start laughing again.

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What was it like working with Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson? Did they ever give you advice? In one word it was incredible. I have grown up watching them in movies and idolizing them. My first day on set, I had a scene with Amy and I thought I would pass out. When we started working though, she eased all my discomfort right away. She was very warm, friendly, and said if there was anything I needed or had questions about I could ask her. Because of how comfortable she made me, I was able to stay conscious throughout the day and do my very best work. Patricia is not only an amazing actress, she is a fabulous person. She was always warm and open towards me and really made me feel a part of all that was going on. I felt that just by watching her work, I learned so much. She’s truly inspiring. What was it like delving into the world of Sharp Objects? In an interview on CBS Amy Adams said playing a messy character was freeing. Was it freeing for you to play a character that stirs up trouble? I love to play characters that are the complete opposite from the way I behave on a regular basis. We all have multiple sides to us that we don’t share with the world all the time. So, being able to play a wild child on set for several months was very liberating. I could express all of those darker sides of myself in a safe environment. Your character Jodes gets picked on. How do you prepare to play Jodes and get into that vulnerable headspace? Can you relate to Jodes in any way? Throughout filming, I really had to identify with the moments in my life where I have felt less than or unwanted. I also had to find the desire to please Kelsey and Amma even though they continued to treat me poorly. In order to have these emotions up front and ready for filming I would spend time writing or thinking about specific instances in my life that are similar to Jodes. After I found the triggers that Jodes and I shared, I could often use them as a way to understand other emotions and situations that Jodes was in that I have not experienced in my own life. Can you discuss any upcoming projects? There’s not much I can say right now. I’m auditioning lots and can’t wait to tell you about upcoming proj52

ects in the future. Outside of acting what do you enjoy doing? I love to be outside and active so, I’m always hiking, swimming, or biking. I also really love to turn unhealthy recipes into healthy ones and then cook. The best day is always when I get to do these things with my friends. What advice do you have for aspiring actors? If you love it, stick with it. Sometimes you just have to push past all the hard stuff to get to the good stuff. Once you reach the good stuff though, it makes the hard stuff worthwhile. Also, don’t be afraid to celebrate your accomplishments. If you book a job don’t feel like you need to stay quiet. Share your excitement with the people you care about. After lots of rejection, the celebration can remind you why you love to act.


Madison Iseman Interview by Carol Wright Photos by Jonny Marlow Makeup by Amy Strozzi Hair by Sami Knight Styling by Sonia Young

You moved out to California at 16 to pursue your acting career. What were those first few months like when you were doing audition after audition? Were there ever times you wanted to quit? The worst. The best part about moving to LA when I was 16 was that I was still in school. Because of that, finishing school was probably my main priority, and I had that to turn to after getting rejection after rejection. The first two years of living in LA were very tough. It wasn’t until I was 18 when I booked a stable job. Looking back, I am beyond thankful for those two years because I learned so much and it prepared me for where I am right now. I had thought about quitting for sure, but I’d be miserable doing anything else. In middle school you explored your love of acting through creating short films. Has this knowledge of the camera and creating a story been beneficial to your career? Possibly. I was still extremely behind in knowledge and experience compared to the other 16 year olds when I first moved out here. But more than anything it sparked an interest in me that lead to to where I am today. In the future do you hope to direct or produce films? I would love to produce films one day, especially my own. I’m a bit of a control freak. 54

You got the chance to act alongside Billy Ray Cyrus in Still The King. What was it like working with him? Billy Ray is the best. He taught me so much of what I know. I started working on that show when I had just turned 18. I was still very green and hadn’t worked on anything that was more than a couple episodes. Not only is he so nice and down to earth, he’s also very smart and passionate about his projects. He made work very easy. You had a breakout role in Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle what was it like working with that cast of A-listers? Did you and Jack Black have numerous sessions to flesh out your character Bethany? I had such an amazing experience working on Jumanji. Working with those guys was something I never even dreamed I’d be doing. Jack and I actually got to do a good amount of work on Bethany during pre-production. I was very impressed with Jack’s work ethic. The guy is a genius. He studied me and asked me every question he could about what it’s like being a teenage girl, ha. You can tell his hard work paid off, he absolutely steals the screen in the film. You are going to be in the new Goosebumps movie. Did you read the Goosebumps books growing up? I actually didn’t! I was way too scared, haha. But, I


remember seeing them everywhere. I would get scared just by looking at the covers and my mom wouldn’t let me read them. Were there ever any moments when you were truly scared on set? Not really. Goosebumps is more “goofy scary” as we like to put it. Also, most of the movie is CGI, so half the time we were acting with literally nothing. Just reacting to our imaginations. Can you tell us anything about your upcoming projects Riot Girl or Feast Of The Seven Fishes? Riot Girls is an independent film that takes place in its own world and time. It’s about two badass women who join together to save Nat’s older brother who has been taken. It’s a story about love and discovering who you are. Feast of the Seven Fishes is another independent film that’s set in the 80s where two kids fall in love under unfortunate circumstances. A bit of a Romeo and Juliet, but a happier ending. It’s actually based off a cookbook for the “feast of the seven fishes” which is an Italian tradition on Christmas Eve. Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does being a Girl Boss mean to you? Being a Girl Boss means being your own individual. Knowing who you are and owning who you are. Working hard, and not stopping for anything. Being the strongest woman you can be. What advice do you have for aspiring actors? My advice is to never stop creating. Read, write, make your own films, do whatever you can to keep creating. You can never stop learning, so take in as much knowledge as you can. I think if you love something enough you can make it happen.


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Words of Wisdom

Jess Poulin Interview by Carol Wright

What initially got you interested in PR? Honestly, I went into college as undecided. I had no clue really what I wanted to do. My college made you pick your major though after sophomore year and a teacher of mine actually suggested I’d be good at PR. I started taking the classes and realized that I really loved it. But I never went into college WANTING to be a publicist. It just kind of fell into my lap and I was really good at it, haha. You recently quit your agency job to create your own company Woke Media. What made you make that final push and start your own media company? My boss at the time. I had been working there for a little over a year and had several issues with him throughout my time there. He was very disrespectful towards me, and I had had numerous conversations with him about his behavior, as well as with his wife who ran the company with him. I wanted to be able to grow with them as a company at first so I tried to discuss what I was feeling and my frustrations with the way I was treated and how things were run, but some people really just don’t change. At the end I was just sick and tired of having to repeat the same things every month or so about his behavior towards me. It was one of the most empowering moments of my career though to finally realize I

deserved so much better, so much more respect, and at the end of the day I realized I could do it on my own. During a 20 min. phone conversation of him yelling at me about something he had messed up for one of our clients, I simply just said “You know what, I quit,” and hung up on him. I had been planning to leave in a few months anyway and start my company, but it came about 2 months sooner than I expected haha. I got off the phone, scheduled an appointment to purchase my laptop at the Apple Store, bought my business cards and boom it happened a day later. I was super terrified at first, not only because it was something so new but because I know how small the PR world is, especially in NY. I know what kind of person my boss is too and was afraid that because of the way I left he would try and run my name into the ground with any press people or industry people I had met through him. I felt a little better though when I started telling my clients I was leaving. I tried to be as discreet as possible but they also could see his demeanor and most of them decided to cut services with him shortly after I left. One of my client’s managers even reassured me that there was nothing my boss could say to them about me that they would believe, or make them change their mind about who I was as a person. What type of work will Woke Media be doing? I’m super excited about everything Woke Media will 59


be focusing on! I always strive to help change the narrative of how women relate to each other, and I want Woke Media to be at the forefront of that. Ultimately, Woke Media is a creative media agency designed for today’s leading ladies in entertainment, music, interior design, publishing and more. We’ll look to have a strong focus on brand management and client development, as well as specializing in the curation of boutique events; Public Relations through Jess Poulin PR; Design consulting; and publishing pieces for our women’s lifestyle blog, Winsome & Canny.

well. That’s what I hope I can achieve within my own company, and as a Girl Boss, inspiring other women to finally say “screw it,” and quit the job they hate and start their own company. We can never have enough Girl Bosses. :)

One of my newer projects I’m working on is launching our very own podcast this fall, as well. The podcast will center around feminist topics and allow my artists an additional platform to either perform or discuss issues they care deeply about. My long term goal for the company is to branch into publishing so that we will be able to house and sell our own selection of female-written books ranging from non-fiction, young adult novels, children’s books, etc.

You can keep up with Jess here:

Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does being a Girl Boss mean to you? As I’ve moved throughout my career over the years I’ve really looked to other female bosses to see how they maneuver the work force and how I could improve on what they’re doing. But, it really is so difficult for women in the work industry to be seen and respected for the work they do. I definitely feel the looks and vibes older male professionals give me when I’m the one that shows up for meetings or press runs. I look young and inexperienced to them, and if I even try to assert myself I’m considered b****y or pushy, so it’s hard. For me, I need to have the balance of charming the people I do business with, but also making sure they understand I do mean business. I want to empower the women, and even the men, that end up working for me. The idea of a ‘Girl Boss’ has the ability to mean so many different things, but ultimately it’s about setting goals, and achieving those goals. It means more to me to be a Girl Boss because there are so few of us out there. We’re told that the men are in charge, so there’s something so empowering about defying those odds. Sticking it to the man so that they finally realize how powerful we really are. And it’s true, we as women are way more powerful together, united, than at each other’s throats. I think behind every Girl Boss is another Girl Boss that inspired her to kick a** as 60

What advice do you have for women who want to start their own company? Just do it! Yes, it’s scary as all hell but the reward of it all outshines the fear.

www.winsomeandcanny.com | @winsomeandcanny www.jesspoulinpr.com | @jesspoulinpr


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Words of Wisdom

Angela Lewis Interview by Carol Wright Photos by Bobby Quillard

When did you realize you wanted to be an actor? I’ve always known! The first time the desire was confirmed was in second grade when my teacher felt I had exhibited enough stage presence and talent that she created the role of ‘Little Snow White’ in the school play for me. I took that opportunity and ran! I knocked it out the park and haven’t looked back! What drew you to the show Snowfall? Initially, it was an opportunity like any other. It was a chance to do a coveted pilot, in hopes that the pilot would get picked up. It was a chance to work with John Singleton, on FX no less. I also liked the writing, and the character ‘Aunt Louie’ seemed fun and different from me.. Playing ‘Aunt Louie’ must put you in a completely different headspace. What do you do to get into character? I get loose and ready to play. I have to get rid of my insecurities and fears of looking a certain way, or not looking a certain way. I have to get rid of being nice and kind and pleasant. I have to be warmed up and ready to react impulsively. I observe my cast mates closely, particularly Amin Joseph, who plays ‘Jerome.’ He’s usually the one getting ‘Louie’s’ pressure up! Lol When I’m tuned into ‘Louie,’ we can “toss the ball” back and forth in the most deliciously explosive way! What has been your favorite episode of Snowfall so far? So far, episode 203 has been my favorite. There’s a couple more that I love coming up as well. Season 2 really does raise the bar.


What should fans expect in season 2? Fire!!! We just go harder. Everything, the writing, directing, acting, cinematography, art direction, the music...everything goes to the next level in season 2. I’m really proud of the work we did as a unit! You started out in the theatre. Do you think starting out on stage helped your career? Absolutely! Theater life, particularly New York theater life is like a kiln. Working in the theater helped me to understand storytelling and the part I play in any given project. It taught me how to use my instrument, and care for it optimally. It taught me how to collaborate, and how to offer my thoughts constructively and with respect. Theater taught me how to have stage presence. It gave me stamina. All things creative teams look for/hope for/notice in every medium of this business. It also set the stage, so to speak, for me to know what I want and don’t want business wise. I would be a totally different actor if I didn’t have my training and experience in the theater. As an actor it is common to have to deal with rejection. What kept you motivated in the early stages of your career when you had to deal with numerous no’s? Just out of college, I taught K-8 drama full time for a year to save money for my move to New York. At the end of the year, the principal offered me the position of department head if I stayed. I had to think long and hard about that one, but in the end, I knew in my gut that I would always regret it if I didn’t follow my dream. There were some teachers there who called me crazy. They said I was so “cute” for thinking I could make it in New York. They said they tried New York, and then they smirked in my face, and told me, “You’ll see. You’ll be back”. It was the first time ever in my life, anyone had told me I couldn’t do it. Fast forward to the ridiculously expensive cost of living in New York. Anytime I felt distracted or off track or discouraged, I would look at my empty bank account and the grits I was eating for the third time that day and make a choice. I could go back home to Detroit and make a decent living as a teacher, hating myself for quitting, and those awful teachers for being right, or I could get myself focused and do what I needed to do in New York to be the actor I wanted to be, with the career I wanted to have, eating the kinds of meals I thought were delicious, and wearing shoes that didn’t 64

have holes in them. It was go hard or go home, and I refused to go home. Your husband is also an actor. Do you often give each other tips or advice? All the time! We coach each other for auditions. He’s really business savvy, and coaches me through the business aspects of the industry all the time. We talk to each other when one of us is worked up or discouraged. We have a rule - we don’t indulge each other in self-deprecation. It’s one thing to feel bummed about a “no.” It’s a whole other thing to start doubting yourself and your talent. That is not allowed. Conversely, anytime one of us gets a win (doesn’t matter, big or infinitesimal), we become a human mix-tape and do a celebration dance together! Outside of acting what do you enjoy doing? Traveling, meditating, hanging out with friends, laundry (it’s calming), going to the beach, doing something new, being with the hubby, experiencing my oneness with all that there is, Face-timing with my parents. I just enjoy life. Whatever it is I’m doing, I like to enjoy it. What advice do you have for aspiring actors? Don’t try to rely solely on your talent or your looks. There are so many talented and beautiful people in this world. Hard work and preparation is what separates you from the rest; This career is a journey not a destination; Don’t beat yourself up; Stay in class; Ask questions; Use your resources; Don’t make excuses. If this is important to you, you’ll find a way; In the beginning, don’t be so worried about finding an agent. If you found one now, you wouldn’t know what to do with them, and you’d blow it. The representation will come; You only get one shot, so don’t be raggedy with it. Make sure your materials and tools are professional and top notch; Everyone’s path is different. You can learn from others and borrow snippets, but no one’s path will be exactly like yours, so stop comparing. There will always be someone taller, shorter, skinnier, fatter, lighter, darker, funnier, more serious, and on and on. You can’t worry about all that. You have to just be you; Shine your light; There is room for everyone.


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Words of Wisdom

Tara Reid Interview by Carol Wright Photos by Shot by Sham

Tara Reid’s career took off when she played the role of Bunny Lebowski in The Big Lebowski and only continued to skyrocket when she played Vicky in American Pie. Now 20 years later she can be seen starring in the Sharknado franchise, six movies that have become cult-classics. I got the chance to hop on the phone with Tara and discuss how she feels about Sharknado coming to an end, and what projects she has on the horizon.

What initially got you interested in acting? What drew you towards becoming an actress? The first time I watched E.T. with Drew Barrymore in it, I wanted to do it. I was like ‘I wanna do what she does.’ I loved it. I didn’t even know it was acting I just wanted to do that and that was my inspiration. It’s so funny, years later after American Pie. I saw Drew Barrymore in a sushi restaurant out here and she came over to my table, which is the craziest thing, and she was like ‘hi I’m Drew I just wanted to introduce myself. I love your work.’ How did the opportunity to be in Sharknado come about back in 2013? What about the film interested you? I’m not gonna lie to you, when we got

the first script it was not called Sharknado, it was called Dark Skies. So I thought alright, they offered me a good amount of money for this movie called Dark Skies it’s on SYFY no one’s gonna see it. Little did I know this was gonna be one of the biggest cult films and like five days into it they’re like we’re changing it to Sharknado. I’m on the phone with my agent like ‘they can’t call it that, I can’t have that on my IMDb’ and you know they were right it turned out to be great and if it was called Dark Skies it wouldn’t have worked. This is the last film in the Sharknado franchise. How do you feel with this series coming to an end? Is it bittersweet? To me you don’t want to try and do too much, you don’t want to be the last one

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to leave the party and I think that this is the time that we are leaving at the height of the party. The last one, this is the best one. I mean they’re all so crazy, we all know how bad they are, that’s what makes them good, but this one you let it go because the concept is so insane. What types of projects are you hoping to pursue now? We have so many. So the next movie that’s coming out is called Ouija House, and it’s about the Ouija board, it’s a horror film and it’s pretty cool. The next one is called Party Bus to Hell which is awesome, it’s my favorite one out of all of them and I’m already making the sequel to that one. This one you gotta watch, it’s good. It’s good in a way that it breaks all boundaries. Remember how American Pie did? We did things that you’re not really supposed to do. The reason why that worked is because everyone related to a character, everyone related to someone in that movie and that’s what makes films work a lot it’s like an escape. You see a movie and you get away for an hour and a half, it’s amazing. The problem with films these days is that they’re not doing that, they’re going down the same stream. There are no new storylines and that sucks, but I’m doing a lot of independent movies lately and I’m doing movies I’m proud of. It’s believing in new artists. A lot of people are like I don’t want to work with this new Director, they’re too new and I’m bigger than this. That’s bullshit, they might be the next Steven Spielberg and I’ve learned to say yes to so many things that when I was younger I would’ve said no cause I would’ve thought ‘I’m bigger than that and my ego is bigger than that or we can’t do that it’ll ruin my reputation’ and that’s all bullshit. I’ve been working with some of the youngest, most creative people in the world. Could you see yourself tackling tv? Recently we’ve seen a lot of movie stars making that transition? I’m not gonna lie, to be honest with you if I got a good show on HBO I would definitely do it because I want stability. Movies are not stable, I don’t know if I’m gonna make five movies next year or 1 or 10. TV shows right now are better than films. The writing is fantastic, they’re getting bigger stars right now that are only doing TV. It’s a safe zone, and would I like to be in the safe zone? Yes. Do I mind doing what I do? 68

I love it. Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on? My favorite film ever to this day, it will never change, is Josie and The Pussycats. That was the one I loved the most. Playing Melody was the best, she was always in a good mood, she was always happy, always singing. I’d wake up playing this character who was the happiest girl in the world every day. It was great to play her. That’s the beauty of acting, that’s the fun of acting, that’s where you learn and we’ve learned on so many things. I’ve done like, I don’t even know 67 movies now at least and they’re all different characters but each piece of every movie I’ve ever done is inside my heart. It almost makes me a crazy person, I’ve played 67 people, it’s a bit confusing at times but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I have to admit I love my job, things are going really good. We have five movies coming out, more than that I signed a five-picture deal, things are going really good. I appreciate it this time. As a kid, I didn’t know. You don’t know how big it is to be in films and be in number 1 hits. You think it’s always gonna happen and it doesn’t and then when it started coming back around this time there wasn’t a way I couldn’t appreciate everyone’s job. From the set to the lighting, to the crew, everything. I’m just so happy. It just shows if you really believe in yourself and you believe in Karma, I mean this. I’m the example of it, and everything just changed. I’m better than I’ve ever been. I’m 42, and most girls wouldn’t be bragging about that. I’m happier at 42 then I was at 21. What advice do you have for aspiring actors? It’s hard. It’s hard. As an aspiring actor, you have to have a backbone, it shouldn’t be a hobby. It’s really hard but if you’re great at what you do and you believe in it. You’ll get your break one day but it might not come at 20 or 18, it might come at 50 you never know. You can’t put all your hands in one card.


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Nyota Issue 13