Sky Katz Issue 17
09 19 23
Music Playlist 07 Sky Katz 09 Isabella Nicole 19 Caroline Romano 23 Fashion Carrie Berk
Culture Bryce Lorenzo 31 Thalia Tran 33 Ava Kolker 37 Natalie Sharp 41 Batouly Camara 43 Alexa Curtis 47 Makenzie Moss 51 Kendra “K.O” Oyesanya 55 Words of Wisdom: Kat Stefankiewicz
Editor in Chief Carol Wright is a Senior 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.
Nicole Cox is currently a Senior, 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.
FEATURES Sky Katz Isabella Nicole Caroline Romano Carrie Berk Bryce Lorenzo Thalia Tran Ava Kolker Natalie Sharp Batouly Camara Alexa Curtis Makenzie Moss Kendra “K.O” Oyesanya Kat Stefankiewicz
CONTRIBUTORS Jeff Vespa: Photographer Remedy Creative: Photographer Lee Clower: Photographer Alex Stone: Photographer Sandrine Kolker: Photographer Ashley Ross: Photographer Rowan Daly: Photographer Clayton Hansler: Photographer Mika Fowler: Hair Stylist Cara Gordon: Stylist Courtney Houser: Makeup Artist Harper: Makeup and Hair Stylist
EDITOR’S LETTER “A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.” -Diane Mariechild
On September 14, 2015, the very first issue of Nyota was published. I remember being nervous to put my brainchild out into the world but also excited because starting the magazine helped to put my future into perspective. Now, four years later I can’t believe how much the magazine has grown and how much I’ve grown along with it. The September issue is always an exciting one because it’s our anniversary/girl boss issue and it is jam-packed with inspirational stories and great advice. Rapper and actress, Sky Katz graces this month’s cover and I hope her interview pushes you to go after your own dreams, regardless of your age. As always I hope you enjoy reading and you learn a thing or two along the way.
Carol Wright @_carol_wright
Playlist Playlist curated by Sophie Sachar Artwork by Sophie Sachar
UCKERS // Shygirl Pam Grier // Luna Party Down // Shormey MALAMENTE (Cap.1: Augurio) // ROSALĂ?A love gang (feat. Charli XCX) // Whethan Hounds of Love // Kate Bush Cream // Mannequin Pussy Take Off Ur Pants // Indigo De Souza Equal Mind // Beach House Woman // Angel Olsen
Sky Katz Interview by Carol Wright Photos by Jeff Vespa Hair by Mika Fowler Styling by Cara Gordon Makeup by Courtney Housner for Exclusive Artists using Tarte Cosmetics
s an actress and rapper, you’re obviously a creative person. Do you have distinct memories of putting on shows or writing songs as a kid? Yes! I was always writing songs and performing them whenever we had company at our house. My audience would be ‘treated’ to watching me act out my songs. I wish I had some on video, they were hilarious. People became aware of your rapping skills when you competed on “America’s Got Talent” at age 11. How did you feel at that moment, performing on national television? It was so surreal. I had always watched AGT and to be out there standing on the ‘X’ on stage felt like a dream.
“I’ve learned so much about the process of making music. Things I never would have known before. I’ve gotten to work with so many amazing producers and technicians.” We’re in a time where female rappers are becoming more common but it’s still rare to see female rappers your age. What has starting your career at this age taught you? I’ve learned so much about the process of making music. Things I never would have known before. I’ve gotten to work with so many amazing producers and technicians. Who are some of your rap influences? I love old school artists like Biggie, Tupac, and modern-day greats which include Nicki Minaj, Megan 12
Thee Stallion, and J. Cole. Where do you often pull inspiration from for your lyrics? I get inspired by things I do in life, what I think about and dreams I have for the future. What’s your favorite song you’ve come out with? That’s like asking my mom who is her favorite child lol! I really love so many of my songs. Each time a new one is put together I say ‘this is my favorite’ but then we do the next song and I end up loving that one too. What drew you to the role of Tess in “Raven’s Home”? I love Tess’ sarcasm and loyalty to her friends and family. I can relate to those traits very well. Do you have a favorite episode you guys have done so far? The musical episodes have been my favorites because I get to merge the two things I love most - acting and music.
“I get inspired by things I do in life, what I think about and dreams I have for the future.” “Raven’s Home has been very successful and has garnered a large fan base. Did it take a minute to adjust to having fans and being recognized for your work on such a large scale? I love it. People are so nice and complimentary when they recognize me. It’s so nice to meet fans! What has been one of the coolest things that have happened since you started working on the show? Disney invited our cast to the premiere of The Lion 13
Dress: Maje Jewelry: Betty Bones Shoes: Charles & Keith
Yellow blazer: ASOS Dress: Fendi from @theshop_boutique @destination1610 Shoes: Fendi from @theshop_boutique @destination1610 Earrings: Iris Trends
“A girl boss to me is a woman who is in charge, does a great job, works hard but manages to do it all while respecting and inspiring the people around her.” King and I got to meet the Queen B herself - Beyoncé. What could be cooler than that??!!! Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does the term Girl Boss mean to you? A girl boss to me is a woman who is in charge, does a great job, works hard but manages to do it all while respecting and inspiring the people around her. What advice do you have for aspiring musicians? My advice would be to stay true to yourself and put out music you are proud of.
Jacket: denimcratic Choker: Betty Bones Jeans: Dickies Shoes: Marskinryyppy
Isabella Nicole Interview by Carol Wright Photos courtesy of Isabella Nicole
When did you realize you had a passion for singing? I was always really into music from a young age and started dancing when I was about 4. Being around music all the time I naturally started singing along, but when I moved to Canada when I was 7 I realized singing was my true passion. I knew singing was the career for me when I was about 12 and really realized how much I love being on stage and performing. What’s your songwriting process? I haven’t been writing songs for that long, so for me, it is still a constant exploration of learning new ways to write music. The first song I ever wrote was my single “Headphones,” so I have only just recently begun taking writing more seriously. In terms of my process, I always like to first think about a topic for a song that is super relatable to me but also to the fans. What inspired the sound and lyrics for your song “Headphones”? Music has always been the number one inspiration for me and drive. I wanted to channel the importance music has to me in my first single. “Headphones” is really about shutting off your brain and all the responsibilities; it’s thinking about just listening to music in your own world. This topic was so perfect because it’s so relatable to me but also to everyone 20
“Being a Girl Boss is feeling empowered by yourself. Taking action and feeling confident that you can do anything.” else. This is really just a genuine and relatable topic placed in upbeat music, that hopefully makes everyone feel good. Can we expect more original music from you soon? I don’t want to say too much, but I am heading back into the studio during the summer and working on my first EP. What is your favorite part about being a performer? Being on stage is definitely the best part. Even though I could have worked for days and days on one song, it is all worth it when I finally get to perform it – even if it’s over in just 4-minutes. I love seeing the audience and their reactions to the music. Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does the term Girl Boss mean to you? Being a Girl Boss is feeling empowered by yourself. Taking action and feeling confident that you can do anything. No one has to stand in your way and you shouldn’t be held back by classic male workplace stereotypes. My advice is to be confident in yourself and work hard.
Caroline Romano Interview by Carol Wright Photography by Remedy Creative
Was music a special part of your childhood or was there a song that you connected to that made you want to become a singer? Music has always been a core part of who I am, even from a very young age. I’ve always been a pretty shy, reserved person in day-to-day life and activities, but I feel like music has always been the thing that has brought me out of my shell and shown me who I really am. I’ve always known that pursuing a life and career in music would be the path for me. The rest of my family isn’t musical, but I’ve loved the musical arts for as long as I can remember. You grew up in a small town in Mississippi. Were you ever nervous to share your dreams of becoming a singer? I was extremely nervous to share with people in my hometown that I was pursuing a career in music. I dealt with a lot of bullying in school, so I was absolutely terrified to share something that meant more to me than anything in the world with the people who knew nothing about this part of me. I decided to keep this side of my life very private from everyone but my family for many years. It wasn’t until I had my first song on the radio that people in my hometown started to find out. People were pretty shocked, to say the least, and some people were kinder to me about it than others. I’m just glad that it’s all out there, and I’m free to be myself! Who are some of your musical inspirations? Some of my greatest musical inspirations include Lorde, Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes, Alec Benjamin, and Avril Lavigne. I really admire these 23
artists’ songwriting abilities, the way they’ve conducted themselves, and how they continue to grow throughout their careers. Songwriting is something so incredibly personal, and I love how these artists are able to tell their stories in a way that connects with people around the world. How does it feel to have shared the stage with pop stars like Shawn Mendes? What did that experience teach you? It’s definitely a surreal experience to open for an artist who I’ve admired for so long. I think the biggest thing I take away from experiences like that is the motivation to do more, as well as the gratitude to see how far I’ve come in my career. It’s really cool to see that
I definitely have plans to release an EP or some collection of songs in the upcoming months. I have so many songs banked, and I’m really excited to be able to tell a story through a collection of songs, from beginning to end. I’m really looking forward to it. Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does the term Girl Boss mean to you? To me, a Girl Boss is someone who owns who she is, no matter what comes with that. A Girl Boss writes her own story and is confident in the path she chooses. I think it’s all too common that women, especially young girls, get pushed and persuaded into settling for less than they are capable of or deserve. A Girl Boss makes her own rules and chases after what she
“If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will. You need to write every song, play every performance, and walk into every room with the mindset that you can make it.” these artists were once in a position much like my own, but they’ve managed to turn their dreams into a reality. I’m always so thankful for experiences like that, and those moments will always hold a special place in my heart. How long did it take you to write and create your song Games? I think I wrote “Games” in under a few hours, and we recorded it the same day! It was one of those songs where everything just seemed to click into place. Writing songs like that is always fun because I just get to focus on the music without stopping or changing creative direction. It was a cool song to create!
wants in life. I think we can all aspire to live like a Girl Boss! What advice do you have for aspiring musicians? The biggest advice I can give to an aspiring musician is to believe in yourself. I know that’s a stereotypical thing to say, but it’s so true. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will. You need to write every song, play every performance, and walk into every room with the mindset that you can make it. You’ve got to put in the work, you’ve got to better your craft, and you have to believe that you are capable of achieving your dream!
Should we expect an EP or album from you soon? 26
Carrie Berk Interview by Carol Wright
Each of your projects stems from your passion for writing. Was there a certain story or poem you read that got you interested in writing? Growing up, I’d love reading Judy Moody books! I would always make spin-off stories of them, and one day, at a meet-and-greet with the author, she encouraged me to start making tales of my own! That same year, I came up with the idea for my first book series, The Cupcake Club, inspired by my love for cupcakes as well as the bullying that I’d seen in the schoolyard during my elementary-school years. My second-grade teacher taught me about realistic fiction, and I was captivated by the idea that I could explore significant real-life themes within fictional scenarios. It takes courage to put yourself out there and create content. What motivated you to start your style empowerment website? I was often bullied for my bold sense of style. People told me that my glitter sneakers were “too out there” and my blazers were too fancy for school. But over time, I recognized that your style is your superpower, and there’s nothing more beautiful than staying true to who you are. That’s why I launched Carrie’s Chronicles, a style empowerment website encouraging you to embrace your individuality through fashion, beauty, food, fitness, and beyond. A unique part of your blog is Carrie’s Q&A. How do you decide who’d you like to interview for that series? I search for movers and shakers in the entertainment industry that are not just successful but use their platform to empower others as well. For example, I recently interviewed Sebastian Grey, the most recent winner of Project Runway; he epitomizes the American Dream, as he comes from a family of immigrants yet worked extremely hard on his craft in order to achieve his goals. How would you describe your style in three words? Bold, creative, and feminine. 28
“...your style is your superpower, and there’s nothing more beautiful than staying true to who you are.” Tell us about your book series ‘Ask Emma’. What inspired you to start that series? I was watching the movie Clueless with my mom, and although I loved it, I did feel like it was a bit outdated. I thought that if the storyline was made suitable to modern-day, Cher would be an advice blogger who helps others through a series of online responses. As someone who has been cyberbullied numerous times on social media, I saw this as an opportunity to spread awareness for that cause as well, encouraging others to always practice positive posting.
putting words onto the page, the better you will get at writing. Staying dedicated to your craft and never wavering in the face of adversity (“writer’s blocks” are real!) will pay off in the long run--I promise. You can keep up with Carrie at the social media sites below! Instagram: @carrieberkk Twitter: @carrieberkk Facebook: Carrie’s Chronicles
What type of work do you do as a teen ambassador for No Bully? How could our readers get involved with No Bully?
Pinterest: Carrie’s Chronicles
Most recently, I collaborated with No Bully, The Kind Coalition, and numerous teen celebrities on a public service announcement called “Girls Against Bullying.” I wrote the script as well as appeared in the video itself; the ad calls attention to the fact that bullying is rampant, especially among girls, and it is our responsibility to do something about it. We must lift each other up instead of tear each other down, and always choose kindness. To get involved with No Bully, I encourage you to share our video with as many people as you can, and you can also contact the organization to come and speak to your school about their mission as well.
Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does the term Girl Boss mean to you? Being unapologetically you without fear of judgment. A girl boss also speaks out in order to spark change on significant issues we face, ultimately striving to make the world a better place. What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Write as much as you can. The more you practice 30
Bryce Lorenzo Interview by Carol Wright Photography by Lee Clower
When did acting become your passion? When I was 6 years old it became my passion because performing in front of a camera made me feel alive. I always loved the feeling of knowing that people would be able to see me on TV but as I became older I realized it wasn’t just about me being in front of a camera. It is me loving to be able to access all of these different emotions as I portray and give life to new characters. What about the show ‘Happy!’ interested you?
You’re going to be in upcoming crime Drama ‘Nicole and OJ’ playing Sydney Simpson. Were you nervous to portray a real-life figure? I wasn’t necessarily nervous but I was curious as to how I should go about playing someone that was actually a real person. So I had to do research to get a better idea of who Sydney was, what she did and what she went through. Outside of acting what do you do for fun?
I liked how crazy it was because I knew there weren’t many shows like Happy!. So when I got the script and saw how unique it was, I knew right away that I wanted to be a part of this new and thrilling show.
I love to skateboard and go shopping, of course. I also like to hang out with my friends— We like to explore new places in New York, go to museums, take hip-hop classes and make lots of fun videos and overall, new memories.
What have you learned from working with Christopher Meloni?
Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does the term Girl Boss mean to you?
What I have learned from working with Christopher is that less is more and that it’s okay to sometimes improvise on scenes. These tips helped make the scenes better because they became more real and it was less acting and more reacting.
The term “Girl Boss” to me means to be fierce, to take charge, and to never stop fighting to accomplish your goals. And to slay all day!
What is the most unique aspect of working on ‘Happy!’?
My best advice is to stay true to yourself, always believe in yourself and never give up!
The whole crew were so lovely and caring that it made me feel as if everyone was one big family which I felt lucky about because that’s something not every show has.
You can find Bryce on Instagram at @brycelorenzo
What advice do you have for aspiring actors?
Thalia Tran Interview by Carol Wright Photos by Alex Stone
What initially got you interested in acting? My first love was actually music. My parents always tell me stories about how I used to hum myself to sleep as a baby. From there, my love for music only grew. I began taking vocal lessons, and shortly thereafter, I started piano and guitar lessons as well. One day my vocal coach recommended that I take acting lessons to help improve my performance skills. I signed up for a lesson just to try it out, and I immediately fell in love with acting. What I love so much about acting is that I get to step into the shoes of these different characters, and I get to explore the world through their eyes. In many ways, acting has helped me develop a better understanding of people’s thought processes, and it has given me more insight as to why people make certain decisions and why they act the way they do. How did it feel to be a part of Marsai Martin’s monumental movie “Little”? I am so truly grateful to be a part of “Little”. It is such an empowering movie, especially for girls. With “Little”, we not only get to entertain the audience, but we also get to promote positive messages and address important issues like bullying. It’s a reminder to embrace who you are, no matter what other people say or think. Also, the fact that Marsai Martin is the executive producer and one of the creative minds behind the movie is truly inspirational. It proves that age is not a limit. How did the opportunity to be in “Council of Dads” come about? When I read the script for “Council of Dads”, I immediately knew that it was something special, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. After my auditions, my family and I would wait at home in anticipation, hoping for some good news, and when that good news finally came, I was speechless. I absolutely love the role of Charlotte, and to be given the opportunity to bring Charlotte to life on the screen and share her story with the world is simply incredible. 34
Can you tell us a bit about the show? Council of Dads is based on Bruce Feiler’s bestselling novel. It’s about a father, Scott Perry, who is diagnosed with cancer. Upon discovering the diagnosis, he decides to establish a “Council of Dads”, a group of his close friends who would help guide his children and support his family in case he doesn’t survive. I play Charlotte Perry, his adopted daughter who is struggling to figure out who she is. It tells the story of how all of us cope with the devastating news of the cancer diagnosis while simultaneously struggling with the other challenges of our lives, challenges that are magnified by the prospect of losing Scott. What drew you to the role of Charlotte? Charlotte is somebody a lot of people can relate to, especially teens. Your teenage years are the time to figure out who you are, and her struggle of figuring out her identity is escalated by the fact that she is adopted. A lot of people are experiencing similar
have such a wonderful support network, and I love to spend as much time with them as possible. Also, I am currently studying martial arts, and while it’s definitely difficult, it’s something that I really enjoy. Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does the term Girl Boss mean to you? Being a Girl Boss means following your heart, regardless of what others say you can and can’t do. It means breaking stereotypes, defying expectations, and exceeding limitations. A Girl Boss is someone who never lets someone else define her or tell her what she is capable of. She takes control of her own life and is unapologetically true to herself. I am so lucky to have so many strong female role models in my life who have inspired me to dream big, work hard, be kind, and never give up! What advice do you have for aspiring actors? I would say that one of the most important things to
“...embrace who you are, no matter what other people say or think.” challenges, so I hope that Charlotte will offer people some comfort and peace of mind in knowing that they are not alone in their struggles. I hope that by telling these stories, we will give people the strength and confidence to open up about their own difficulties. That’s what’s so wonderful about this show, and that’s what’s so wonderful about playing Charlotte. We get to address these real issues that are especially relevant in today’s world, and we get to start conversations about these topics. I truly believe that by talking about these issues, it’ll help people get through tough times. Outside of acting what do you like to do? Besides acting, I love singing, playing instruments, and composing music, but outside of everything having to do with the performing arts, I love spending time with my friends and family. I am so lucky to 35
remember is to surround yourself with people who believe in you, encourage you, and inspire you. By separating yourself from negative people, it makes everything so much easier because there are already enough obstacles out there. Also, every aspiring actor should be aware that whether or not you get a role is not a measure of your talent. There are so many other factors that are part of the casting process, and some of them you can’t change. Rejection and criticism are a part of Hollywood that you simply can’t avoid. You just have to stand back up and keep on moving forward. It can be really difficult sometimes, but if you truly love acting, your passion is something that nobody can deny or take away from you!
Ava Kolker Interview by Carol Wright Photos by Sandrine Kolker
When did you get bit by the acting bug? Actually, I had the acting bug at 2 years old, and we have home videos with me saying, “when I grow up, I’m gonna be a movie star”, but as long as I can remember, I really wanted to act. Who are some of your acting inspirations? Definitely Lady Gaga, and Dove Cameron and Sabrina Carpenter. I feel like they can do it all, sing, dance act. I would love to have a career where I can sing and act and maybe even get into fashion. What drew you to Olive on “Sydney to The Max”? When I read the script of “Sydney to the Max” I loved how it was a show that I thought everyone could relate to, kids AND parents. My parents, my sisters and I love it when we can watch something that we all enjoy so I thought this would be that kind of a show and that really excited me. Plus, when I read Olive, I thought she’s so quirky and funny, I can really get creative and do a lot with her character and I loved that. I was really hoping and praying they would pick me for the role, and couldn’t believe it when I found out I booked it. What have you learned from working on the show? I have learned that the schedule of a series regular on a show is non stop, and so busy but I love every second. I know now without a doubt that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. 38
“I have big dreams and I encourage every girl to go after what they love to do to achieve their dreams too. We can all tap into our talents to make our dreams come true, so go for it.” Outside of acting you also sing. Tell us a bit about your single “The Good Ones”. What inspired the lyrics? Yes, I am so excited about recording and singing now as well. The lyrics came from the fact that as I get older, I realize that there are some people who don’t always have the best intentions or may have an agenda in being your friend, or maybe they’re not your friend. That’s ok, you just have to“focus on your good ones”, and you immediately feel better. I feel so blessed to have great people in my life who have been loyal and true to me through my ups and downs and never fair-weather friends, and “the good ones” is about them and for them. When you’re not working what does a normal day look like for you? I like to be active so I do karate, and if it’s during school, I do my schoolwork at home during the day. I also like to record or take singing lessons as often as I can. Then, if there’s any time left in the day, I love to meet up with friends for dinner. Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does the term Girl Boss mean to you? To me, it means to take control of your life and be a powerful girl with no limits to what you can achieve. I have big dreams and I encourage every girl to go after what they love to do to achieve their dreams too. We can all tap into our talents to make our dreams come true, so go for it. 39
What advice do you have for aspiring actors? I would tell them to keep working hard, and keep getting better, always be prepared, network and take every opportunity to learn something new to make yourself as noticeable as possible. It’s a very competitive business, so think about what makes you different, embrace it, and highlight that in your auditions. You will get a lot of nos, but stay persistent, positive and excited and never ever give up!
Natalie Sharp Interview by Carol Wright Photography by Ashley Ross
Growing up did you always know you wanted to be an actress? I have been performing from the age of two. I was dancing and singing, but I always loved watching people on screen. I remember watching the Lizzie McGuire movie (Hilary Duff being my idol at the time), and suddenly pointed to the screen, and announced to my mom that I wanted to be an actress. I’ve been pursuing it ever since! How did you react when you got cast on ‘BH90210’? When I got the call it was definitely a shock! I facetimed all of my closest friends and just screamed with them! Less than 24 hours later, I became a redhead, and started filming with all of these legends! I felt like I was dreaming. What about playing Anna interested you? Anna is definitely my most empowered self. She is also the first character I have played that is 1: a professional and 2: actually older than I am. She is confident, sassy, witty, and makes bold choices. What did you learn from working on ‘BH90210’? Being able to work with this cast has been incredible. They can improvise for days! They allow for so much play on this set, and it is a huge reminder that it should always be fun. In your show ‘Hit The Road’ you played an aspiring 41
singer. Was singing a love you had before acting? Singing was definitely my first passion. I started songwriting when I was in high-school and I felt like that was a very honest way to express who I am. Music is such a powerful tool that reaches so many people, and it is something I have always admired and wanted to be a part of. You studied drama at Loyola Marymount. What skills did you develop in drama school that you’ve applied to your career? We had some incredible professors at LMU, with completely different backgrounds. I feel so blessed and grateful to have had the opportunity to explore so much material. We were constantly stretching beyond our limits and playing in the absurd. There isn’t one thing to take away, just an entire experience of being surrounded by the most supportive, fearless, inspired people, constantly creating! Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does the term Girl Boss mean to you? Girl boss: Driven, fearless, and inspired. What advice do you have for aspiring actors? Be a YES MAN. Do that short film. Read that Shakespeare play. Try the Alexander Technique. Direct your friends in a scene. Maybe do stand up! And that’s not only for acting. Be a “yes man” in life too! The more you experience, the more you grow
Batouly Camara Interview by Mckenziee Belton
How long have you been playing basketball for? I have been playing basketball for 12 years now. I started playing when I was 11 years old! What does basketball mean to you? The meaning of basketball in my life is always changing. It is something that I love to do and has always served as a source of freedom and belonging for me. It is the game of basketball that has awarded me the opportunity to attend an incredible university, meet amazing people and travel worldwide. It means that with a lot of work, we can create spaces wherepeople who have shared different experiences can come together to have fun, learn, and compete. Can you tell me about your trip to India where you participated in Dribble Academy? I went to India for three weeks to volunteer with Dribble Academy. Dribble Academy uses sports as a medium to educate 200+ kids from Gheja Village, Noida, Uttar Pradesh. These kids come from weak socio-economic backgrounds where they face poverty and domestic violence and are at a huge risk of drug abuse, child labor, and exploitation. I had an amazing time getting to know about the kids in the village. My role was largely focused on creating and executing practices, speaking and advising children, and learning how to make a sophisticated cup of chia haha! You started an organization called W.A.K.E. can
you tell me more about it and how you came up with the idea? Women and Kids Empowerment (W.A.K.E.) is an organization that was created in 2017. W.A.K.E. works to empower young girls through education and sports. I grew up experiencing first-hand lack of accessibility to sports and always promised myself that if I was ever in a position to act on that I would wholeheartedly. I repeatedly stated one quote to myself every single day since I was nine and that was, “Don’t look down on anyone unless you are pulling them up.” I am not sure exactly who said it, but it stuck with me. I look back and realize that the quote was missing a huge part and that was; if someone is pulling you up, you must climb to get there. Opportunity is often the missing link, but when young girls are connected through sports channels numerous studies have shown an improvement in self-confidence, physical health, and advancement in leadership positions. In ten years, what would you like W.A.K.E. to look like? In ten years I would like W.A.K.E to be established across Africa. My hope is to create a free boarding school experience where sports are available to all students. This would offer accommodation, extracurricular activity, and high level training. I would hope that in ten years those who have been a part of the organization will be running the entire school and that it is completely self-sufficient.
You did a TEDx talk, which was amazing! What was that experience like and what was it like preparing for it? Thank you so much! It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life thus far. It was a very emotional experience for me as I prepared for it. I was sharing my experiences in sports for the first time, and that took a lot of soul searching. I was also sharing a story that was not only mine, which I constantly thought about while preparing. Once I began to write it began to feel authentic. It felt like home. I had to memorize the entire speech so I constantly went over it every single day, and about one week before I presented it I looked in the mirror and everything felt okay. I was nervous, but I was excited about the opportunity to open up a door to more growth and discussion. You have dedicated your life to serving others, especially young girls, what inspires you?
they see an ounce of goodness in me it is a reflection from the light they carry within. I would want young girls who look up to me to know that I love them, I see them, I am not perfect, but I want to fight for what they want. I want them to take the journey of self-discovery and become their own best friends because when you know yourself you can conquer anything in the world! What do you like to do when you have a day off? On my days off I always start by checking in with myself. I think it is extremely important because I need or desire different things on different days. I enjoy starting my day off with morning prayer, tea, yoga, a podcast, reading, and writing. I try my best to schedule appointments with people I have to meet or want to connect with. I call as many family members as I can. I also enjoy going to events in the local area in order to experience something new. It all depends, but I love being active on my off days learning and experiencing new things.
“Until we all make it, none of us have made it. None of us has the right to feel like it is not our place or our part to do for others what was done for us.”
I am inspired by the girls I meet all over the world. This feels like an embodiment of who I am and it’s just being manifested through this work. Until we all make it, none of us have made it. None of us has the right to feel like it is not our place or our part to do for others what was done for us. I am inspired because this is just the beginning and somewhere maybe somehow God will use me as a vessel to answer someone’s prayers, but I can’t do that by doing nothing. That wakes me up, that gets me going, that drives me! What piece of advice would you give to all the young girls who look up to you?
Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does the term Girl Boss mean to you?
A Girl Boss means someone who is vulnerable, fearless, and authentic in their pursuit of greatness! It is important to understand who you are and what you are fighting for. Inky Johnson once said, “The strongest thing you can take into a battle is a reason,” and that has stuck with me! A Girl Boss, also knows what they need in order to feel at their best. When the road gets hard and doesn’t look great they ask, what is this lesson trying to teach me and how can I master it. A Girl Boss most importantly empowers other women!
I would tell young girls that whatever they see in me that they admire is an extension of who they are. If 46
Alexa Curtis Interview by Carol Wright Photos courtesy of Alexa Curtis’s team
Your blog was originally about fashion before you made the switch to a lifestyle blog. Why did you decide to make that switch? I decided to change the site to be about social media and mental health after I spoke at a conference on the topic. I walked away from the conference wishing I had been taught more about the topic in high school, and I just knew I had to switch things up. I always adored fashion but I didn’t feel like I was writing about what I loved anymore, and I knew I loved inspiring teens more. The minute I changed the site is the minute I really found my purpose and when I think my career started to take off. You pull a lot of inspiration from your personal life for your blog. How do you decide what to share with your readers? Honestly, I think one of the reasons I have the fans that I have is because I’m so authentic. I like sharing the highs and the lows of this world and the career I’m pursuing, which means often being more vulnerable than I even understand. It’s so important to me to be transparent and let people know what I do during the day so that they can also feel inspired to pursue their dreams. I don’t share too much about my family because I like to be careful with what I put online and protecting their privacy, but career, personal and friend wise- I’m really an open book and that’s how I like to be! You hosted your first-ever Be Fearless Summit at Drexel University. Why did you decide to create the event and what was the biggest challenge you faced when planning it? The Be Fearless Summit was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever accomplished career-wise. I’ve been lucky to speak at tons of summits, colleges, and conferences, and whether I was speaking or attending, I 48
“...there are many people out there who will try and bring you down so you don’t succeed. Don’t let those people deter you from pursuing whatever you want to do for a career...” always walked away feeling like I wanted a bit more out of the experience. I figured if I can’t get it right now, why don’t I make it happen? I embarked on this crazy adventure to plan my own summit, and I managed to pull it all together in four months! Planning wise, there were so many obstacles I wasn’t anticipating when I came up with the idea. I honestly thought I’d email a college, call some executive friends up and that would be it- boy was I wrong. I learned so much, and I look forward to using all of the knowledge and my mistakes from the first summit towards making the next summit bigger and better than the last. From planning the food, to getting the speakers to the college, to simply keeping my mental health in check, there were challenges every hour of every day. But I pulled it off, and when you’re an entrepreneur embarking on something new, all that matters is that the final project happens and leaves people happy. You’ve been running your blog since 2011 and have worked on numerous projects along the way. What has running your blog and building your own brand taught you about yourself? Resilience and patience. Two words and actions that need to work simultaneously to create success. I don’t think I ever expected to have this much on my plate at 21-years-old while doing it completely on my own, but I couldn’t see myself running any other company or working for anyone else. There’s something to be said about truly getting out of your comfort zone and learning something new every day, which I’m lucky to say I do with this job!
What is the biggest thing you hope readers take away from your blog? Never take no for an answer. You are your biggest critic, but there are many people out there who will try and bring you down so you don’t succeed. Don’t let those people deter you from pursuing whatever you want to do for a career- if someone says no today, it’s only a no for the time being, not a definite no in two years from now. I know this for a fact too! Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does the term Girl Boss mean to you? Man, Girl Bosses rule the world! Everyone has Girl Boss traits inside of them (passion, confidence, happiness) but many people are afraid to let them shine because they don’t want to be judged (me included!) Remember that you ARE good enough- every single one of you is a girl boss. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs? Get out of your comfort zone and get used to making mistakes. Making mistakes along the way is one of the best parts of being an entrepreneur because you get to look back and realize how much better you’ve done on your next project or on your future goal. It’s the craziest feeling to be told no at one point, and then they say yes eventually and you’re like wow, I was so upset and all I had to do was wait for the right moment. Get used to the ups and downs because they keep this career path so interesting!
Makenzie Moss Interview by Carol Wright Photography by Rowan Daly Hair and Makeup by Harper
How has being a young actress changed your childhood? Acting has definitely changed my childhood. When I was little I missed lots of birthday parties, activities, play dates and of course some school because I had auditions or I was working. But now it will affect my life more than ever because instead of going to a traditional school my schooling is done on set with a studio teacher. In addition to school, I work as an actress five days a week in a mostly adult environment. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world as I truly love what I do! How did the opportunity to be in “The Unicorn” come about? What about the show interested you? Like every pilot season, my agent and manager send me out on a series of endless auditions. It’s really a challenging time of year as you might go on like 20 auditions and never get one job. But “The Unicorn” felt different. From the first time I read the sides, I knew this show was special. I really felt good about “Natalie”… I just could really relate to her not to mention her dialogue was so snappy. So once I got through the first audition (which I felt pretty good about) I quickly got a call back which went equally as well. Then I was brought into the producer’s session which seemed to go pretty well as I was able to make the producer’s laugh which is always a good sign when you’re doing a comedy. I guess it worked as they brought me into the testing for studio phase which is kinda scary. You walk into a big room with all the executive producers, director, casting people and you have to tune everybody out and give it your best shot. It was a bit nerve-racking until I met Ruby, who would soon play my older sister on the show. We were grouped together and had instant chemistry which I think everyone noticed. It wasn’t too long thereafter that I got the job… I was sooooooooooo excited that I started crying (happy tears of course) It goes down as one of the BEST days of my life. 51
“The Unicorn” centers around two daughters helping their father navigate life after their mother dies. Were there a lot of emotional scenes you had to prepare for? What I love about The Unicorn is that it’s a comedy but it has so much heart that as an actress it gives me the opportunity to be both funny and dramatic. In the pilot there were was one scene in particular regarding our deceased mom which I had prepared for but once on set and when you have talented actors to work with like Walton Goggins and Ruby Jay, it all comes naturally in the moment. What was it like working with Walton Goggins? Did he give you advice on set? First of all, he’s like the nicest person ever! He made both Ruby and I feel so comfortable from the first moment we met him. Walton was very much about making our relationship feel real so he took the time to hang out and get to know us. The best advice he gave us was to just keep everything as natural as possible. He’s a real Dad and I bet an amazing one too!
Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does the term Girl Boss mean to you? A Girl Boss is a girl taking charge of her own life. Someone who knows her worth and won’t accept anything less. For example, a few years ago, I really wanted to try this dance studio that I watched on Instagram and I kept asking my Mom to call them and sign me up. She said she would but didn’t do it. I didn’t want to wait any longer and I took the matter into my own hands, called the studio, signed myself up for a class and told my Mom,” I am going to this class on this day “ and I did. I still dance at this studio. What advice do you have for aspiring actors? My best advice is if this is something you truly want to do then you need to work hard and fight for it. Nothing comes easy in this business as you’ll have to learn to take rejection over and over again. But if you stick with it and don’t give up something will happen and that “Yes” will be so rewarding!
Outside of acting you also dance. Do you hope to become a professional dancer one day or is dance more of a creative outlet for you? I would love the opportunity to somehow combine dance with acting. Whether it’s Natalie performing a dance routine or if one day I’m cast in a film or television musical and I get to dance. I can’t live without dance in my life because it makes me so happy! As your career develops do you hope to get involved in other aspects of the industry such as writing or producing? Definitely. My dad is a writer, producer, and director so I’ve had the opportunity to watch him behind the camera and I really think it would be something I’d enjoy. Even when I have been working over the years I have absorbed so much information and knowledge about the filmmaking process. There are so many interesting parts behind the camera. It is a team effort and I can really see myself behind the camera too. I ‘ve already had the opportunity to write little screenplays, as well as produce and direct short films. I just love all areas of filmmaking and would love to continue to learn and do more.
Kendra “K.O” Oyesanya Interview by Carol Wright
When did you realize you wanted to pursue dancing as a career? I realized I wanted to pursue dance after I won Pepsi’s Dance for a Chance contest back in 2013 for Beyonce’. Myself and eight others won an all-expense-paid trip to New York and filmed a super fan video with Beyonce’s choreographer Chris Grant. Chris is the person who actually told me I should move to LA. When the super fan video came out, all of my family and friends were so excited and also encouraged me to pursue dance professionally. A month later with no family or friends, I moved to LA and everything just fell into place. Because of social media and the way dancers and creatives rise to fame on certain platforms it’s easy for young people to think success can happen overnight. What was the biggest obstacle you faced when you were trying to break into the dance industry? Success definitely doesn’t happen overnight. One of my biggest obstacles was being confident when taking dance classes or auditioning. I’m not a trained dancer so when I moved to LA I was really discouraged by all the amazing dancers that had been training since they were kids. Once I started taking more dance classes in LA and believing in myself more the process got easier. Although I haven’t been training long, I knew there was something inside of me that was special. When I finally stopped doubting myself I saw a huge difference in my performance and my peers and choreographers did too. Your dance videos are more creative than most, for example, your ‘Us’ and ‘Black Panther’ videos. Do you often use pop culture as a reference point when creating your videos? Whenever I create my videos I definitely want to stay true to the culture and the art first. When I came up with the idea of doing a video for “Black Panther”, I told all my friends to come dressed in African attire. “Black Panther” was all about culture and unity and I wanted to make sure we showcased that while also throwing our own flare to it. With the “Us” video we wanted to stay true to the storyline because Jordan peele 55
created such a creative and interesting story. For the dance moves, we definitely used pop culture because we wanted to make it our own and fun for the audience watching. How did it feel to be apart of Beyonce’s Coachella performance? What did you learn from working with her? Being apart of Beyonce’s Coachella performance was an amazing feeling. It didn’t hit me until the day of our first show that I was actually about to perform with one of the biggest artists of our time. I learned what it really takes to put on an epic show. I was apart of
you to your character Poppy Martinez? I auditioned for the dance portion first, made it to the end, then the casting director gave sides to who she felt matched a particular role. After I read Poppy’s description I knew she was me! Poppy is a fierce, sassy, and confident dancer with a lot of soul. She is confident in her own skin and doesn’t let her size stop her from going after what she wants. Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does the term Girl Boss mean to you? The term Girl Boss is a girl who knows what she wants and won’t stop until she gets it. She is success-
“Success definitely doesn’t happen overnight. One of my biggest obstacles was being confident when taking dance classes or auditioning.” history and years from now people will still be talking about Beychella. Beyonce is a hard worker and it clearly shows. She knows what she wants and is very clear about it.
ful, confident, and speaks her mind. She is powerful and works hard in everything she does. A girl boss empowers and inspires other girls to reach for the stars and be a Girl Boss too!
You were recently in Chris Brown’s music video for “Wobble Up”. How do you choose which projects you want to be apart of?
What advice do you have for aspiring dancers?
Being apart of Chris Brown’s “Wobble Up” video was a lot of fun. He is actually one of the best and most down to earth artist I’ve worked with so far. I had never worked with Chris Brown before and I always admired him as a performer so it was easy to accept this project when I got approached. I choose projects based on the team and the artist. I know Chris Brown’s choreographer and he is super cool and always has good vibes so I knew the process would be professional and fun.
To all my aspiring dancers it’s never too late to chase your dreams. Be encouraged and trust the path God has for you. Most importantly be yourself, always.
Along with dancing you also act and can be seen on the show ‘Step Up: High Water’. What drew 58
Words of Wisdom
Kat Stefankiewicz Interview by Carol Wright Photography by Clayton Hansler
When did you first become interested in telling stories? Thinking about it, I’ve really been doing it since I was just a kitten. Creativity and self expression were encouraged in my household growing up. I don’t remember a time where there wasn’t music and singing and doing arts and crafts instead of watching television. My siblings, cousins and I would create shows when we were together and would sing and dance and then perform them for our parents as post dinner entertainment. My favourite classes in school were art, photography and creative writing which then led to drawing, taking photos and writing stories without a due date. I started journaling consistently at eleven years old and still have the book. I also spent my formative years as a dancer and this was a form of storytelling through movement and emotion. So in the end, I am grateful that my parents always encouraged creativity and self expression that I carry into my passion for storytelling today. They taught me that acknowledging how you feel whether positive or negative is important, that daydreams about a joyful future will drive you and that you can make something magical from nothing if it’s supported by an open and confident heart, a no boundary kind of imagination and a whole lot of soul to be brave enough to go into the unknown. In college, you studied music theatre performance. Were you intending on acting or going to broadway? To be honest, it took me some time to find my footing when looking into the future. I knew that I was my happiest when I was performing but at the time when I was transitioning from high school to post secondary, a career in the arts was not something many attempted and with that, not exactly supported. “What are you going to do with a music theatre diploma?”, was something that I was asked more than I wanted to hear, from faces that showed concern for my success. But I kept going and 60
“A girl boss is someone that has an ambitious vision of what they want and they continue to seek it through the rumbles and fumbles.” used it as fuel. So off I went, putting energy into what I loved for three rewarding and emotionally exhausting years at theatre school without a finger on exactly what I wanted to do on the other end. But I graduated grateful for a broad skill set and moved forward with an ambitious heart that was open to opportunity. I used all of my skills to crack into the industry, attending auditions for musicals, film and television. It was dance that gave me my first professional performing job as a member of the Toronto Raptors Dance Pak. I did however know that being a professional dancer was not my ultimate but I had done it, I was in, and I wholeheartedly loved every moment of my dance chapter. And it allowed me to practice my craft consistently, gain exposure and connections and continue moving forward with curiosity. And that job has led me to where I am, now using my voice as my tool in both a live and television setting. My ‘dream job’ changes as I continue to grow as a performer, artist, creator and woman. I would absolutely love to do theatre again, in fact, I have been craving it a lot lately. Once I accepted that I didn’t have to be just one thing and do just one thing in this world, everything began to fall into place. What led you to working in the sports and entertainment world? I giggled when I read this because I could not have told you that I would end up here but hear me out on this one. Now digesting my path years later, I realize that when you put energy into what makes you thrive you will be rewarded for following your truth. As mentioned, performing was a passion when I was young but so were sports. I played competitive baseball, my brother played competitive hockey, my Dad was a hockey referee and coached us both and the game 61
was always on TV. I’ve loved the world of sports since I can remember, have tried my hand at most of them at least once and still play softball in the summer. So the fact that I landed in the world of sports as a performer still blows my mind but now it makes sense. It’s exactly where I am supposed to be because I do believe everyone can make their passion their living. How did you react when you got the news that you would be the in-game host for the Raptors? I was ecstatic! And scared. And I think the combination of opportunity being both rewarding and challenging is something we should always be seeking. It provides a perfect balance of kudos for getting here and a kick in the butt to keep going. I had training that I applied to begin my on-camera journey but I did put in a lot of hours of ‘figuring it out’ once again by studying and practicing endlessly. My challenge was taking what I knew as an actor, the script and delivery, but then adjusting to the fact that I wouldn’t have a ‘character’ to hide within. I had to trust that Kat was enough and that can be difficult, especially when you are still trying to figure out who you are. Being authentic is something that I hold strong in my core and I never wanted to do it like everyone else because I wasn’t like everyone else. So I didn’t hide my quirks, mannerisms and over-the-top, theatre type of expression.. I used them to be recognized. I used them to be different. Different is cool when you stay true to you. What has being an in-game host taught you? Being an in-game host has taught me that not only in a live moment on camera but in life too, anything can happen! And you need to be open to everything that is thrown your way. You need to be open to your
vision shifting course a bit without your consent. You need to be confident in your ability to ride the wave that is presented. That it is healthy to play and try new things (even if you fail) instead of getting stuck in repetition. That the ability to be relatable to people of all ages and backgrounds is possible when passion and life experiences are what unite you. And that the space just below perfect is just as perfect. In fact, I almost like it more. It’s real, it’s messy and it’s a showcase of vulnerability which is important to carry with you through life. What was the energy in Toronto like when the Raptors won the finals?
working hard enough, immerse yourself in your craft even more. Listen to advice from others but trust your gut when it comes to what you absorb. Socialize and network but don’t be too pushy. Be multidimensional. Accept the late nights and early mornings but find a beautiful balance between the hustle and humble beginnings. If you’re in it for fame and a celebrity status, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. Figure out what those reasons are and come back to them when the late nights and early mornings are making you want to quit. Accept that you will feel like quitting and have someone or some few in your life to tell you that you’re a boss and to keep going. (Support is legit the s#!t!) And always follow your heart.
Absolutely electric. My mind is still blown at the power and passion that our city showcased during the entire playoffs run. Everyday there were more and more people standing with pride for not only the team but our country. The power of sport is wild. And it was more than incredible to see a community rally together with nothing but positivity, hope and joy. Everyone was included and isn’t that something we should strive to do more of in life. Our September issue is our ‘Girl Boss’ issue. What does the term Girl Boss mean to you? A girl boss is someone that has an ambitious vision of what they want and they continue to seek it through the rumbles and fumbles. They have a strong grip on goals but make time for the simple things in life because they are just as important. They don’t follow the so-called ‘right path’ but they follow the path that’s right for them because their drive comes from the heart. They’re confident, considerate and kind. They’re fighters. They hold a healthy balance of space for others and space for themselves. They’re generous with their energy. You know when a girl boss walks into a room because they have a fierce ‘get shit done’ glow about them but then they surprise you with warmth and compassion when they speak. They’re electric, honest and take pride in leaving the world a better place. What advice do you have for people who want to work in the sports industry? I feel like this advice can be applied to anyone on the road to career fulfillment. One, never stop learning. “There is always someone better than you”; let that drive you. Work hard and when you think you’re 64
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Nyota Issue 17 featuring Sky Katz.