HAZZE MAGAZINE | VOL. 20 "Epiphany of Onism"

Page 1

Vol. 20

May 2022

AAPI Heritage Month

Ciara Riley Wilson

on Netflix's 'Freeridge', 'On My Block', & being Asian American

Alec Benjamin Lexy Panterra

Peng Peng Lee & More !

Epiphany of Onism

Volume 20 May 2021 Epiphany of Onism Editorial HAZZE MEDIA www.hazzemedia.com hazzemediainfo@gmail.com

Founder/Editor-in-Chief Ezzah Rafique

Design Director Mohja Filfil

Press Director Orchee Sorker

Website Director Camila Camacho Contributors Evgeniya Dovgalyuk Ana Amaral Carla Petrone Stephanie Siau Andrey Lukovnikov Jewel Fiorillo Anastasia Silaeva Nikita Sukhih Dodonova Viktory Allie Bretz

Interviews with Alec Benjamin Lexy Panterra Miles Gutierrez-Riley Peng Peng Lee Sara Kays Tzi Ma Vanessa Yao

Cover: Ciara Riley Wilson photographed by Olivia Tindall




hazzeamediainfo@gmail.com https://kavyar.com/hazze-magazine www.hazzemedia.com/submissions

A Letter From the Editor In this issue, were celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander American Heritage month during the month of May! We have some incredibly talented actors, actresses, business owners, and singers talking about how being Asian American has impacted them! This issue was also themed "Epiphany of Onism," which described an urge for exploring the world and oneself.

Ezzah Rafique Founder/Editor-in-Chief




Euphoria Photographer: Evgeniya Dovgalyuk @evgeniya_dovgalyuk Makeup Artist: Anastasia Osokina @aosoka_makeup Wardrobe Stylist: Tanya Torez @tanya.torez Model: Masha @ Select Management @massha.aa


on Netflix's 'Freeridge', 'On My Block', & Being Asian American CREATIVE DIRECTOR/PHOTOGRAPHER/JOURNALIST Olivia Tindall @oliviatindall ACTRESS Ciara Riley Wilson @ciararileywilson BTS VIDEOGRAPHER/PHOTOGRAPHER Emily Beck-Hallstrom @emily.bh_ MAKEUP ARTIST Robert Bryan @robertti HAIR STYLIST Erika Vanessa @erikavanessa

O: Well, thank you so much for sitting down with me for this interview. I'm just going to start off by asking what your favorite thing is about being an actress right now? C: I would say I really love diving into each of the roles I get to play and learning a lot about myself in that process and getting to look at this character and analyze, how are we similar? How are we different? And then I feel it always jumpstarts a self-growth era for me. To look at a new character in the eye. And I also really think of my life as seasons and episodes. I feel a lot of people do that. And with the lifestyle of acting, you get to work on a project for maybe three months at a time. And that feels like the marker for a new chapter. And I really like setting my life up like that. I just think it's fun. O: How did you get to where you are today from Portland to LA? C: So I started acting in Portland, in radio voiceovers and commercials. When I was, I wanna say about 10 years old. And then I did an acting camp in LA for just two weeks during the summer. And at the end of that acting camp, there's an agency showcase. And then this agent reached out and said, you should come to LA. But I was so young at the time and I had a brother back in Portland, so I was thinking, I don't know. I also did test runs at the time. O: And you were 10 at the time? C: Yeah, yeah. Really young. But when it started to pick up and I started doing well, we did more month to month leases until my the whole family migrated out here with me.

O: What is it like to be an Asian American in the film industry? And what does it mean to you? C: That’s a great question. It was honestly really difficult growing up just because…not only was I as a child in the industry, being hyper-aware of how I was being perceived, but I was also having to think about, am I Asian enough for this role? Or am I white enough for this role? And back when I started, I did not get an audition for a lead role in the movie. It was the Asian person that was always the best friend. And I just kind of accepted that fact. And nowadays, thankfully it's changed a lot, in the past three years, but it was definitely hard having to start it out that way. And having to, sit with that fact that, oh, I'm just going to be the best friend. That's just the best I'm going to get. O: So it's evolved though, over the years? C: It has evolved. I think so many more people are realizing that everyone has main character stories and not pigeonholing people into certain roles. It's gotten a lot better.

O: What do you look for in companies on their means of supporting Asian-American communities as well as other minority groups? C: I think it's really important for companies to support minority groups because a lot of the time America is made up of so many minorities. And so that's the people that they're trying to market to. Those are the people that are gonna find their products and watch their shows. It means a lot when a company can show those people what they are seeing. And, I can see myself and when a brand is having people with my skin tone, it changes everything.

O: How did you get into fashion design and what inspired you to start sewing at such a young age? C: I started sewing during quarantine and actually I was just bored and just needed a hobby. It turned out a lot easier than I thought. This is random, but I really liked putting together IKEA furniture when I was younger, because I liked sitting down and getting really into something that was a tedious [job] and sewing is really similar to that. And so you kind of zone out. And then I found it really interesting to go thrifting and upcycle things and just give them a new life. And that's kind of how that started. And then I started posting on TikTok too. It was really fun. O: That's so cool. Just going into that, what is O: Were you posting mostly about your favorite part about making upcycled fashion fashion and stuff? and what are your goals for working within that C: Yeah. I was doing little sewing kind of industry? tutorials and just… I would watch, C: I really liked looking at something and it [is] like fashion shows, or a pattern that you really like, maybe a super bowl project runway, and then I would take the pattern, but it's like this giant, challenge and try to do it myself with whatever, something that would never look good on random scraps I found around, so that was you and just getting creative with how you can really fun. completely change the garment. I think that's just really cool to not only, make something from scratch, but to actually see something and completely flip the switch. It's just fun. And I feel I found my style a lot this year, and it's been cool to see how my sewing has evolved to match my style more. I feel they are intertwined. With the show I’m doing, there’s going to be press and my goal is to make every single outfit that I have on that. And on the red carpet, that’s my goal. And eventually a clothing line.

O: That's super cool though, because then you'll just be wearing all your own stuff. C: Yeah. Totally. O So it's my understanding that you'll be a part of the upcoming spinoff of “On My Block” on Netflix. What are you most looking forward to on that project? C: So we actually just wrapped our first week of filming this last week and oh my God. I'm so excited. I'm stoked. This is my favorite project I've ever done. It's really, really cool that it's a spinoff too 'cause it’s a phenomenal show and it's the whole team behind it. It's its own thing, but there are definitely little Easter eggs throughout the whole thing. And it's the same exact energy. And I just think it's a really fun show. It's very youthful. It's funny. But it also touches on a lot of really important issues. It's about teens growing up in downtown LA. It's just fun. I really like my character… she’s my favorite character I've ever played. She has a really cool fashion sense. And the show runner even said, maybe down the line in the later episodes, I can wear something I make on the show. She just brought that up casually the other day. And I was like, really? O: That's really cool that they like, are accommodating that. C: Yeah, they're all about collaboration there. It's cool. Cause I got cast in the show a year ago, so I've had to wait a long time for it to start and sit with the character. They've been really awesome trying to take our personality traits and blend them into the characters. So that's like really cool. I’ve never had a project do that.

O: Yeah, I was going to ask, besides maybe this character that you're going to play on the spinoff. One is your favorite character that you have played in the past, in your career? C: I would probably say Athena from the live-action Kim Possible movie. It was really funny because the storyline was, I was like this really meek kind of nerdy new girl at school. And then it develops from there. I get really good at all the things that Kim can do. And then like the, if you haven't seen it, spoiler alert, there's like a plot twist and I ended up being the villain and then I ended up being a robot, not even a real human. I like to take my face off. And that was just fun because it was like, I got to play like six different characters and in one project. O: That's crazy. So, what is your favorite part about being on set on a film? C: The people. You just, it feels like summer camp, literally everyone. I mean, obviously, people are working and there are deadlines and stuff, but it's just really great. I've been lucky to have worked on projects where the people are all my age, so it really feels like I just meet my best friends. Sadie who played Kim in Kim Possible has literally been my best friend on the entire planet for the past five years, and so just the people you meet. O: So, did you guys meet on the set? O: Oh, that's so cool. C: Yeah. C: Yeah. O: That’s sweet you can make those connections. What has been [the] most memorable moment in your acting career? C: I mean, there has been a lot, but one that comes to mind was so when we were cast in “Freeridge” , it was a potential spin-off. So they didn't know if it was going to be greenlit yet. And I found out like three months later, three months of anxiously waiting. I found out it was picked up when I was in Paris at night. And I went to a club and I bought the entire club shots. But I did not have the money yet. So it was a good moment. Cause I was like, wow, I'm in Paris. And it got picked up and they is like so much to look forward to, so that was fun.

O: That's so great. Well, I think that's it. Thank you so much for your interview with me. C: It's been great to meet you. Thank you.

THE RIDING CLUB Photographer Olivia Tindall @oliviatindall Models: Angela Lopshire @angelalopshire CB Yevoli @cbyevoli Lolo Raggio @lolo_raggio Rylee Sprinks @rylee.sprinks Hailey Thompson @lowkey.thompson Stylist @seanypstyles & @imadphelps HMUA's: Brianna Ortega @briannaaortegamua Dylan Bruer @dylainamua Bella Gervasi @bellagervasi_mua

WAYFARER Photographer: Andrey Lukovnikov @lukovnikov.photo Makeup Artist/Hair Stylist: Natalja Tarasenko @natalia.muah Assistant: Ekaterina Lukovnikova @chicken__traveler Model: Khrystyna Buderatska @kristina_buderatska


Model Agency: Trend Model Management @trendmodelsmgmt Fashion Designer: Ted Baker @tedbaker Male Model: Mario Milan @Trend Model Management @msbmario_milan Photographer: Ana Amaral @agam.photography Fashion Designer: Chall K Vintage Bcn @chall_k_vintagebcn Model: Lara Giardina @laragrdna Shoes: Dr. Martens @drmartensusa

MILES GUTIERREZRILEY Photo Credit: Emilio Madrid Interview by: Orchee Sorker

How did you get started in acting? M: I started acting in my local community theater when I was in sixth grade. I continued with performing arts through high school, and I started writing and directing. It was my passion. It was everything I wanted to do. When it came time to apply for schools, I sort of realized that there was nothing else that I wanted to study other than this. I applied to acting schools in New York and LA, and I went to my top choice in New York and started working pretty soon after I graduated.

You play Ivan Taylor in season 2 of The Wilds. Did you see any similarities between yourself and Ivan’s character? What was one of your favorite scenes to shoot? Ivan’s character was first seen this season. What was it like meeting with the cast? M: I see similarities in that…We're both very unafraid to express who we are. We're both very comfortable being true to ourselves and speaking up for what we believe in. The key differences lie in the way we go about advocating for ourselves and our beliefs. He's a bit of a provoker and is a bit more conflict ready than I am. I can see his immaturity, and he's still in the process of figuring himself out.

My favorite scene to shoot was the locker room scene with Charles who plays Kirin. It was very intense and very emotionally difficult. I hesitate to use the word antagonistic, but he's definitely walking a moral gray zone in that scene. I get to play with such intense emotions, especially when someone is talented as Charles, was very exciting. I think that the scene came out really nicely.

The cast was amazing. It was like all these new best friends and like a given family. It was amazing to meet the boys, see all their personalities, and get to know them through working with them. Meeting the girls was just amazing. Seeing people that were so comfortable. I'm confident in the work that they'd already done coming back and like showing us the ropes. It was a lot of fun to be with everybody.

Your character, Ivan, portrays a POC LGBTQ+ narrative. Why do you think representation is important? Do you think The Wilds did a good job presenting Ivan? In what ways, can Hollywood improve with representation on screen? M: The Wilds does an amazing job with LGBTQ+ POC representation because Ivan is not a two dimensional character. He's very complex. He is in the wrong often, even though his intentions are correct. Humanity and complexity is more exciting to me than being someone who is on the surface or someone that is instantly likable and relatable and fun. As humans, we all make mistakes, we all try to go about getting the things that we want in ways that may hurt other people. To play Ivan in a world, they've crafted some really deep dark corners of his soul, but also given care and attention to them is very special to me. It's an honor to play him. Following the example of The Wilds, this is a great place to start. To have an LGBTQ character is not enough. You have to make sure that you're presenting them, not as just the best friend, not as just someone who's there to crack the jokes, but as someone with depth and complexity and, and vulnerability. It is important to dive into the ways that they are full bodied, wellrounded dynamic people. Hollywood is going in the right direction, but there's more work to be done.

I heard you will be in the upcoming film On The Come Up. What is it like being in a major feature film? Can we get an insight on your role? What is the expected release date? M: It's obviously very exciting and fun. I'm smiling so big thinking about it. On The Come Up is based on Angie Thomas's best seller book. I play Sonny who is also a queer character who lives very out and proud the best friend to our protagonist Bree. He is very sunny. He's really loose. Playing him right after playing Ivan was a great way to just sort of let go, have fun, and crack jokes. It felt very light. That felt equally important. I'm excited to see the movie and excited for people to see the movie. We shot it in Atlanta last year. I do not know the release date, but I'm hoping for the end of this year. We'll have to wait and see. I'm on the edge of my seat! What is one dream role you want to play in the future? M: I'd love to play a queer character in a love story that is complicated and heartbreaking and touching. Something as heart-wrenching, as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, but make it gay.


Photographer: Carla Petrone @charlotte_sometimes93 Model: Yun Kim @yunll2_kim Assistant: Serena Solinas @serenaxniente Fashion Designer: Rosalba Filosa @errepuntoeffe Model: Beatriz Barthe @beabarther


Model Maelyn Roland @maelynroland Photographer Allie Bretz @alliebphotographs


Manager: Aaron Rothe - aaron@vantablackmanagement.com Musician: Kayla Ruby @kaylarubymusic Photographer: Stephanie Siau @stephaniehsiau


Former Chinese-Canadian Olympic Coach and popular TikTok content creator with over 4M followers, Peng Peng Lee shares her story, process behind creating videos, mental health, and representation on social media. Stylist: @alexclough.style Hair Stylist: @sydstaehle Make-Up: @houseofdaphne Photographer: @lindylinphoto Interview: @orchees_photos

To anyone who may not know you, how would you introduce yourself? How did you begin your gymnastics career? Was it always something you wanted to pursue? Now, you are an artist, actress, influencer, and host. Do you think there are aspects of gymnastics that you are using in your everyday life now? P: My name is Peng Peng. I was born and raised in Canada. I was a former national Canadian gymnastics team member. I went on to compete for Canada for about 8 - 10 years. Then, I went to be the 2012 honoree Olympic team captain. I went to UCLA to also pursue gymnastics and graduated from college there. Now, I am pursuing entertainment. Gymnastics has always been one of those sports as a little girl I loved. I actually quit when I was seven, so I didn't love it at one point, but my family, my parents, always put me in sports. I was always doing activities…it could have been like in the arts, I did theater camp and a bunch of different camps.

I didn't realize that after gymnastics, I would still use those life lessons that I learned in the gym and practice them every single day. I have taken my work ethic and my athletic mentality definitely into the real world today. Whenever I do something, I want to give my 110% because I feel like if I don't give that full effort, I'm not going to reach my goal or I'm just not doing myself the honor of being able to.

What made you start creating content? Why were you driven to TikTok specifically? P: It's funny because when I was in college, I didn't know what I wanted to do. Everyone was saying, “the world is your oyster. You can go whatever direction you want to go into.” Being a student-athlete, I didn’t have a lot of time for internships and working on campus. Something I really wanted to do was entertainment, whether it be hosting, acting, or anything in that realm intrigued me. Someone said, “why don't you get on social media? It can be kind of like your resume; your way to practice. It's on your own time.” Everything in college is about your resume. For me, I just really had a hard time. Having those aspects to put on my resume. So, I got on YouTube. I was doing things on Instagram, and it was only during the pandemic that I got on TikTok. After college, when I graduated, my world still revolved around gymnastics. YouTube and Instagram are very heavily gymnastics-based content. I was having a harder time branching out and really exploring and creating new content. During the pandemic, I got on TikTok to have fun with the platform and literally just do everything that I've wanted to do from singing, dancing, and transitions.

What made you start creating content? Why were you driven to TikTok specifically? P: It's funny because when I was in college, I didn't know what I wanted to do. Everyone was saying, “the world is your oyster. You can go whatever direction you want to go into.” Being a student-athlete, I didn’t have a lot of time for internships and working on campus. Something I really wanted to do was entertainment, whether it be hosting, acting, or anything in that realm intrigued me. Someone said, “why don't you get on social media? It can be kind of like your resume; your way to practice. It's on your own time.” Everything in college is about your resume. For me, I just really had a hard time. Having those aspects to put on my resume. So, I got on YouTube. I was doing things on Instagram, and it was only during the pandemic that I got on TikTok. After college, when I graduated, my world still revolved around gymnastics. YouTube and Instagram are very heavily gymnastics-based content. I was having a harder time branching out and really exploring and creating new content. During the pandemic, I got on TikTok to have fun with the platform and literally just do everything that I've wanted to do from singing, dancing, and transitions. My college and athletic mindset definitely comes into play often. When I was a student-athlete, everything had to be planned out and I was not a planner. I am naturally very spontaneous, but post-college, I have become a planner. I very much enjoy planning out my days now and setting aside those content days. If I were to go with the flow, I would get stressed to a point where my life would be a little too much all over the place. I kind of write everything down about what I want to do. I love seeing other creators and what they're doing and adding a little twist to it. I'll take a day and film about 5-6 videos. There are definitely times when I see videos where I just film on spot and allow time for myself to have fun.

Until October, I was living in my onebedroom apartment and I was filming a ton in my bedroom. My workspace and my sleeping space were in the same room. It was hard to have peace in my room. So, I ended up moving. Now, I have a separate studio space, and it has been a game-changer. I have my little stand-up desk in my office and makeup in there. I have my ring light. It just makes it all more efficient. I feel so much better just getting out of my bedroom and having that one space to do work.

Usually, when everyone talks about representation on screen, it is referring to the Hollywood industry. However, most of the content people consume today is on social media. Do you think diversity and representation in these platforms matter? What is it like being a POC in the social media industry? P: When I was younger, I never put a lot of thought into ‘there aren't a lot of Asian people on screen…or there's not a lot of people of color on screen’ just because I think I was too young to even think about it. Now that I'm older, I actually do think it matters. I realized that when I was younger, I wanted to be blonde. I wanted to have colored eyes. I wanted all these things that I just couldn't attain. I just wasn't born like that. It's really fun to see on social media nowadays, the representation. There was one comment that I got, even when I was a gymnast that has really stood with me. This mother came up to me and said, “It's so awesome to see an Asian American or Asian Canadian, just doing her thing and being a gymnast and a face for the younger generation.” I never thought about that until that day. I didn't have a lot of people to look up to…maybe Jackie Chan was kind of like the one person who I really looked up to when I was younger. It's so awesome to see more people of color inspiring the next generation to have those role models who are just like them.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. Why do you think mental health is important? Are there any ways you create awareness around this topic? P: I have learned that mental health is so important. It was one of those things I never really put a lot of attention to. As an athlete, you're learning to push through everything. You're learning to take no days off. Whenever I was sad, I felt I was weak. After I graduated college, that's when a lot of things started coming up, and I was starting to have a lot of anxiety. I was having a lot of pressure and anxiety about what life is and where I'm going. In school, you always work on the next exam. For me, it was like, ‘what is the next thing in life?’

I am still on this mental health rollercoaster myself. I'm learning a lot about myself that I never paid attention to. I do love sharing with my platform by being honest with myself and being true to myself. It’s very scary for me to share and open up about because I have never really touched upon it. I encourage people to really think about something that really makes them happy in sad moments or in those moments where they feel like they can't get picked up again. That's been really helpful for me because I was one of those people who locked everything in. I did not talk about it. I didn't want to share anything. As I've gotten older, it's been very helpful to reach out to friends, family, and people… and learned the importance of having a great support system. Music has been one of those things that have been very therapeutic for me. Music saved me from getting into a darker place. What are your upcoming goals for yourself and your brand? Do you want to focus on one niche or create various content? P: My upcoming goals are very open-ended. I'm open to anything. Whether it be acting, music or more content, I love being open to just learning and being inspired by other people. I have always been inspired by James Cordon and The Rock. The Rock grew up as an athlete, but he does acting. When I am older and I could see myself down the road, I would love to be like The Rock where he just explores everything. They have a very well-rounded background and don't stick to one niche. Besides gymnastics, music has been one of those big dreams of mine. Again, when I'm in those anxiety and stressful moments, writing music has been one of those things that has just helped me look past the darkness of the moment. I would love to share my background through my music. It's almost easier for me to write it down through a song rather than talking about it. I look forward to when I do drop my music, and for people to learn a little more about me than what they see on social media or gymnastics or anything like that.

THE DREAD OF GROWING UP Photographer Jewel Fiorillo @jewelfphoto Model Michelle Bell @ms.notperfect

ANTISELUHI Photographer/Retoucher Aleksandra Pashan @antipicturess Model Aleksandra Bazhenova @risok_saharok Model Anastasia Silaeva @silaeva_life Model/Creative Director Galina Lyubimova @galinalyubimova Model Gregory Zhuravlev @gregory.with.an.i

NIKITA SUKHIH Model Nikita Sukhih @@Fp_model_agency @nikitasukhih Agency FP models


Photographer Dodonova Viktory @dodonova.vik


Phoenix-born, LAbased pop singersongwriter, Alec Benjamin, sits down with Hazze Media to talk about his North American spring tour, first-time experience of performing at Coachella, new album (Un)commentary, learning Mandarin & wisdom about pursuing your passions.

Interview & Photos by: Orchee Sorker The Pageant St. Louis, Missouri

Hi, how are you doing and how has the tour been? A: I'm good! Tour has been really great! It's been weird. Normally, we rehearse at a rehearsal studio. Then, the bus shows up, and picks us up, and takes us to the first destination. But, we didn't have a bus for the first two weeks because we did Coachella after the first two shows...where we were flying for those shows. So, it didn't feel like the traditional start of a tour. It's been a weird tour, but it's been great.

What has been your favorite moment during this North American tour? A: I'd have to say the meet-and-greets have been really fun. It's nice to see people. It felt like everything was going back to normal. When I did the last North American tour, you know before everything closed down again. Just having the opportunity to perform for people again and do meet-and-greets and just get to be face to face with people that you don't have to wear a mask for everything.

For this album (Un)Commentary...how did your creative process differ from your writing in Narrated For You and These Two Windows? Why is it called "un" commentary? A: Well, the creative process was different just because it was immediate during the pandemic. It was very solitary. It was mostly in my house and when I collaborated with people it would be via zoom and FaceTime. So that was, that was different. The things that I was inspired by were different because with such an unprecedented time and everybody was like locking their house. I was watching a lot of the news and, kind of, reflecting on what was going on in the world. I used the album to journal my feelings about what was going on. I didn't necessarily feel like I had to tell a story because I felt like the story that was taking place in the news media and the world at large was just so crazy that I kind of just wanted to make the album my commentary on. The stories and things that were unfolding. It was just supposed to be like "uncommon commentary". I was maybe talking about things that people were reluctant to talk about. You know, just told from my point of view, which I feel is unique because every person is unique and seeing it as individual.

My new favorite songs would be “Shadow of Mine” and “Devil Doesn’t Bargain”. You use a lot of metaphors when you’re storytelling. Was this a technique you practiced over the years of writing or does it come naturally? A: Some of it comes naturally and some of it needs practice. I try to find parallels between things that don't necessarily appear related at first glance. Then, I use that in my songwriting as a tool to get my point across. I think that makes my songwriting unique. The month of May is "Asian/Pacific American Heritage" month. Going back to when you recorded “Let Me Down Slowly” & “Water Fountain” in Mandarin, what inspired you to learn Chinese? What aspects of the Asian culture do you admire? A: Growing up, I'd been indirectly inspired by like Asian culture in a lot of different ways. My dad is a medical doctor, but he also practices integrative medicine, which is like some medicine from the East, like acupuncture and stuff. My first exposure to East Asian culture was doing a Chinese form of karate. Some of that influenced me to learn the language. A lot of the things that we learn in karate were written out in Chinese characters and maybe that inspired me. Ultimately, I think the West has in large part discounted and ignored the East, and I think that's a shame because there's a lot to be learned from some of the longest-lasting cultures in history. This was your first time at Coachella. What was the experience like being a part of this massive festival? For you, what is your opinion and experience of the Coachella crowd vs. your tour audience? A: Everyone talks about it, and I've been hearing about it since I was a little kid. The fact that I got to participate in it was pretty cool. At the end of the day, it was awesome! It was the biggest stage I've ever performed on physically. So, I learned a lot from that. As much as the audience was watching the stage...the audience was crazy. I was watching the audience. People wore crazy things and they really went all out for the festival. It was very fun for me. I felt like I was also a spectator, even though I was performing. For my music, the people who are going to come and see my set are normally people who have heard my music before and people who are going to know the words...like you're not going to just show up to my set. It felt like the people who are at our set were there intentionally and weren't just there peripherally. They were really engaged. At least from my own personal experience, I can say that we had a great audience. I can see how there can definitely be people who come to festivals who want to go and check out stuff that they're not familiar with. Maybe that sometimes leads to having an audience that's maybe less enthusiastic than a headline show, but I didn't really notice too much of a difference. I guess the difference between that and a headline show would be the time. We played at 4:00 PM. It was really hot out, and it was also outside. Shows on tour are inside. So, sometimes it feels louder because the sound is inside. But, I had a good experience at Coachella. I felt like the crowd that was there was really invested in it.

Personally, I have recently changed my career path to entertainment, and I am beginning to compare my work and life with others. For aspiring creatives, what is your advice to those who are wanting to pursue careers in the creative industry? How do you avoid falling into comparison? A: Well, I compare myself to everybody and I never feel like I'm doing a good enough job. So, I think I'm the wrong person to ask. If you are pursuing something that you love, that's the best thing. If you're doing something that you don't like, it's difficult. You know, you have one life, right? You should do what makes you happy because ultimately you're going to work the hardest for that. Like, I had difficulty focusing and doing things in school, and I know that if I wasn't pursuing something that I didn't genuinely enjoy and genuinely want to do, then I wouldn't be able to maintain this level of focus. My only recommendation, which seems like what you're already doing, is to just pursue something that you enjoy. You know, if you don't like it, you can always leave.

How did you get started with music? Who are your inspirations? L: As soon as I came out of my mother's womb, I was singing. That's what she always says. I've just always loved music. Growing up, I listened to all pop on the radio. I definitely looked up to those people. My personal favorites are the really big voice singers like Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and Mariah Carey. I've always sang those records growing up. Stylewise, I love Rihanna and I love my R&B music. I love Kimani, Jhené Aiko, and some newer artists that are coming out now. Those are my vibes.

LEXY PANTERRA Photo Credit: Cristine Jane (@visiblevibez_) Interview by: Orchee Sorker

What type of genre would you describe your music? L: My music is very eclectic. I'm a Gemini, so it's everywhere. I have pop, R&B, and rap. I really don't stay in a genre. That's been a hard thing for me in my independent music career. When you're an artist, they usually tell you, you have to stick to one genre, but I've always loved all types of music…which you can hear when listening to my singles/albums.

Your new single “Girls” was released on May 20. What was the creative process behind the song? When did you start writing it? Would you like to shoot a music video? L: I did this song five years ago. I was in my feelings about this guy, and he was a celebrity actor. Everyone always tells you not to date celebrities, just because it's always a “problem”. They're all **** boys. The thing is when you're in the business, you're only really around those people, you know? I have dated my share of popular people. It's kind of about finding out that he's been DM-ing these girls and confronting him in the song, just not in person. I lived out my dream of how I knew about this… but I didn't really say that to him, even though I knew what was going on. That's where the inspo came from. My girlfriend and I just got together. I kind of ranted to her, and I was explaining to her what it was about. Then, we just went in to record. The song is also about being shown in public with paparazzi and TMZ around. All these blogs that want to pick up your stories and them just trying to hide you for whatever reason it could possibly be. Maybe because it doesn't go with their “brand” or they're hiding you from other girls. I want to do a video for this. I've just been coming up with so many concepts that I have no idea what to do. I’m getting inspiration from the girls. It's definitely gonna come. I just don't know when yet, but it should be dropping in June. I hope we'll see if I have enough time, I'm going to try a thousand percent.

You have a wide audience with over 1 billion impressions across all platforms. Do you want to have this large audience or a condensed audience that is more interested specifically in your music? Ultimately, would you like to focus just on music? L: That's been definitely a double-edged sword for me because a lot of them are men and I love my women. I'm all about independence, empowering women to do what you like, and being confident in teaching. This was also in my twerk out class. I became popular from all those workout videos. Yes, I do wish that I did have a base that really focused on my music. Everyday, I definitely push my new fans and old fans to my new music…in hopes they turn into my music fans everyday…praying above. I'm blessed to have the fans that I do have for sure.

What is the Real Influence Agency project? What are your goals for the brand? L: Real influence agency is not getting too much attention. Eventually, I want to gather all my contacts/relationships I've built and just pick artists that I really believe in and help them in music or anything entertainment related. It's kind of a project that I want to focus on when I get a little bit older. I don't want to step away from what I'm doing to tap into that. It’s about monetizing your content. Also, helping out with the OnlyFans platform because that platform was a huge opportunity for me to get on and monetize my content so that I could actually pay for my music, videos and whatnot.

What is one thing you would like to say to your fans? L: All I gotta say is be you, that's the best you can be. People will love you for that. Don't try to be anybody else.

VANESSA YAO Photo Credit: Evaan Kheraj Photography Interview by: Orchee Sorker

To anyone who might not know you. Tell me a little about yourself. What aspects of your life contributed to your love for the arts. Why did you decide to become an actress? Was it something you’ve always wanted to do?

V: My name is Vanessa Yao and I was born in Montreal, Canada. I've always loved performing arts and public speaking. I love making everyone laugh. I love engaging everyone in a story. When I was about to choose where I wanted to go to university, I decided to go back to Beijing where my parents were from. I wanted to find out more what it meant to be Chinese. I ended up going there and got a Bachelor's degree in Film. Here I am today back in Canada. It's been a full circle. I'm a very efficient person and I wanted to get more opportunities to show the world what I can offer. Speaking of my parents…at first, my mom was not supportive. She was worried and wanted me to do the traditional route and have a normal 95 stable life. My dad was like, “go for it.” I never felt like I fit in that traditional box. Now after some accomplishments, they're definitely much more supportive.

Growing up, did you have any Asian characters in fiction or role models in tv/film that you related to the most? Did representation on screen affect how you felt about your Asian identity? V: I feel like, while growing up, there were basically almost no characters. They were either portrayed as comedic relief or it was never something serious. However, once I got to China, it was nice having more of an opportunity to play any kind of role. It was really eye-opening and I felt like there were more of a range of characters. Kung Fu is the first network drama featuring a predominantly AAPI cast. What has been the most rewarding part about bringing that level of representation on screen?

V: I was coming in as a new fish. It was really nice to see that the cast were so bonded. You could sense the community. In Kung Fu, the way the storyline is portrayed, it's different from just having diversity in the cast. They don't overplay it too much, and it’s still relatable to people who might not be Asian as well.

You play Mia who is Nicky’s runaway cousin in Season 2. How did you get the role of Mia? What is your favorite scene you played as Mia? Do you see similarities with yourself and Mia? V: I actually auditioned from Beijing through Zoom. After sending in my selftape, I got a callback and booked it. It was only a few days' processes and before I could even believe it, I was flown to Vancouver to start shooting season 2.

My favorite scene I played was probably in episode 7 where I got to see my mom get shot. I could speak to her, but she couldn't speak to me. If I ran away from home, had so much guilt, and I got to see my mom again, but she couldn't hear me…it would be so damaging. She would never be able to accept my apology. That hurt so much. Hopefully, everyone could feel how vulnerable, raw, and very honest I was about that whole scene.

I feel like Mia’s strength and her vulnerability come from me. I have a pretty hard shell. I don't let people in very easily. I am quite sensitive as well and I feel a lot. Obviously, Mia is definitely way more unstable…but I do feel like there are definite parallels to me.

What is one dream role that you’ve always envisioned yourself in that you’d love to do in the future?

V: Mia is already quite a dream character. I never thought that I would ever get to play someone with so much depth, layers, and baggage. I've always loved characters like that. I wouldn’t be opposed to getting more evil characters. Bad guys are never bad just because they're bad. Things happened to them that made them change. I’m open to any role, but those are some that do peak my interest. It’s not just about representing diversity but also the type of roles we as Asians are given. What are some ways we can hold the media accountable to represent diversity accurately? V: I think not focusing too much on cultural differences. We as humans are all very similar. I think not putting an emphasis on our differences will help with equal representation.

SARA KAYS Interview & Photos by: Orchee Sorker

Indiana-born, Nashville-based viral pop singersongwriter, Sara Kays, sits down with Hazze Media to talk about opening for Alec Benjamin this spring, new single "Math", and finding her audience through TikTok.

How would you introduce yourself and how did you get started in music?

S: To anyone who doesn't know me, I would first say, ‘hi, I'm Sara!’ I first started music cause I liked to sing when I was younger. Then, my mom got me a guitar, and I started just like singing and playing together. I just really loved it, and I started learning how to play my favorite songs. I started busking some in my hometown, like on the little street corner. I just grew to love it more and more, especially after I started writing songs. What is it like opening for Alec Benjamin this spring North American tour?

S: Opening for Alec has been so sick because I have been a fan of him for so long. I found his music at a time when I was learning how to write songs and trying to become better at it. I was so inspired. So being able to open for an artist like him is amazing, and I'm grateful for it. Tour has been great. A lot of the fans have been singing my songs, which has been so awesome because I had no idea what to really expect going into it, but I'm having a lot of fun.

I love your new single “Math” and it is really relatable. What was the creative process behind the song? When did you start writing it? What was your favorite math class?

S: I actually started writing it like a year ago when I wrote the first verse. I thought it was just like a cool little concept. Then, I finished it like two months ago when I was just deciding what song to release next. I just went back to it.

My favorite math class…I wasn't very good at math. I feel like math particularly...I had no idea what I was doing, but somehow passed. My favorite math class was probably one of the first ones like kindergarten because it started getting really hard after sophomore year.

I first found your music after listening to “Remember That Night” and just kind of fell in love with all your music afterwards. I think TikTok kind of contributed to the success. In what ways has social media impacted you?

S: Social media has been really great for me and my music just because TikTok in particular is where I was able to reach people who would relate to my songs. It was kind of at the start of the pandemic too when I started using it. That was convenient because I wouldn't have been able to find people otherwise. I'm grateful for it. Over the course of a few years, I kind of felt stuck because I was using things like Instagram and Twitter. It just felt like you couldn't reach anyone beyond who had just already followed you like your family and friends. It just felt like I was releasing songs into thin air. TikTok plays a big part in the music industry right now. For me, it helps me reach people.

TZI MA Interview by: Orchee Sorker Photo Credit: Diana Ragland

How did you begin your career in Hollywood? Why did you decide to become an actor? T: I started really young. I had really good teachers in junior high school. I came from NYC. New York has a really strong theater tradition. My art teacher (Ms. Hopper) and math teacher (Mr. Goodman) were both Broadway enthusiasts, and they would find time to do field trips to Broadway. The first musical I saw was Annie Get Your Gun. The school play is the event of the year, right? They created a drama club and I was invited. The first play I did was also Annie Get Your Gun where I played Buffalo Bill. It gave me an opportunity to kind of circumvent a lot of the racism that was happening at the time because I was kind of a minor celebrity in school, so that really helped. That kind of planted the seed for my love in acting. I started doing a lot of theater in New York for the first, probably first 25 years of my career, mainly. I had an opportunity to do a play in 1988 called In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe by Eric Overmeyer. That play was written for me and I did the four characters in that play. In 1988, that was the first writers’ strike in town. There was no, no work and they all came to see the play in Orange County. They were like, “Nice to meet you and saw your play. We like what you did and you are a New York actor.” Back in the day, New York was seen as having bad actors. Anyways, the writers went back to work the following Monday, and I was working on Wednesday. The first TV show I did in Los Angeles was LA Law. I had the intention of going back to New York. Then, I realized that film and television is such an incredible medium, it has such a bigger, wider reach than the theater. I was going to at least give an opportunity to change perception of who we are. You know, in Hollywood, because there's already a lot of damage done in terms of who we are, how we have been portrayed. Since then, all the projects I was involved in hopefully made an impact.

You have many years of experience in the industry. How has representation on screen and in the industry changed over the years? T: In the last 10 years, there has been significant change in the industry – I believe because there are more people of color involved behind the camera. Diverse people who are involved in writing, producing, etc. I think that's really important. We produced some really wonderful things. As actors, everything comes from that page. Right? And if the page is already challenging, that means we have to work many, many times harder to try to flush out the character, trying to lift them off the page. Lately, all the stories have been able to give us multiple levels. A lot of times negative portrayal, to me, is anything we do too much of. So if all of us are doctors, then it’s not so good. I think diversity is really important. In diversity, meaning not only our make up as a cast but also the roles. It’s important that the world sees us in all of these different shapes.

You played Mulan’s father ‘Zhou’ in the liveaction Mulan which was released back in March 2020. It was considered a success. Even though, the release was during the start of the pandemic where most theaters were closed and streaming brought in a lot of revenue, increased subscribers, and downloads for Disney Plus. All to say, what was your favorite scene when shooting? How do you think the release of Mulan during that time affected its audience? Do you think it would have been different if it was released now? T: Well, if it was released now, it would be seen in theaters. Mulan is a really epic cinematic experience. These are some things that need to be enjoyed in the theater. It was our misfortune that it premiered the day before everything shut down…at least people got to see it. We spent a lot of effort and time and money making it. I hope maybe Disney will think about re-releasing it in theaters. I think it's really important that the story is told. It's a love of family and a young lady who took huge steps. The love really is between father and daughter. I think that's important to show the audience. In our culture, we tend to favor boys. This image of a father daughter relationship is compelling. My favorite scene is the reunion scene when Mulan gets to come back home. The scene embraced the fact that she is the most important thing in Zhou’s life. Not all his glory and being a hero, but that he gets his daughter back home.

You also star in CW’s “Kung Fu”. Kung Fu was originally a show released in the 1970s. How was filming the new adaptation of “Kung Fu”? What aspects of the original show do you think has changed? T: It's very different from the original show. The original show stars a supposedly half-Asian monk in the Wild West. Our vision was a young woman who is in present-day San Francisco. Our hero is a heroine, as opposed to a hero. We promote the love of a family that encourages their children to pursue their endeavors as opposed to dictating what they should be. Our delivery device obviously is the martial arts because the martial arts is really exciting and it's something that I believe crosses all ethnic lines. Something that is easily absolved. It shows how we relate to one another and all the trials and tribulations of any family. If you won, we would be able to see the universality of the family dynamic. This has been a dream project for me. I feel that the character of the Asian dad is a very positive portrayal. Our dads, you know, a lot of times they're so wrapped up in providing and maybe a little lacking in terms of emotional support to our children. In this portrayal of the father, they can see that providing needs and love are both important.

For aspiring creatives who are POC wanting to work in the entertainment industry, what is one piece of advice you would like to give to be successful? What do you hope we as the younger generation can accomplish? How can we help bring equal representation in Hollywood? T: Do not be afraid to tell your story, and don't let other people dictate what your story should be. Tell your story and the audience will find you. Don't compromise. Really stick to your guns and eventually, you will succeed. The more you compromise, the more you'll be unhappy about it. Success is not about having it right; success is about having it done.


VOL. 20

HAZZE MAGAZINE VOLUME #20 May 26th 2022 Cover Story: Ciara Riley Wilson by Olivia Tindall