Spark Magazine Issue No. 13: Activate

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ISSUE NO. 13

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activate

DECEMBER 2019

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SPARK leadership

staff

joanne xu editor-in-chief

lynette adkins, lauren aguirre, hassan ahmad, mariam ali, tosin anjorin, megan arimanda, riya ashok, lauren bacher, madeleine badinger, eunice bao, akins baptiste, emme baysden, megan bennett, grayson best, justice beverley, tejal bhikha, leah blom, chloe bogen, nicole bolar, sydney bui, analisa camacho, jenna campbell, alex cao, mia carriles, faith castle, divina ceniceros dominguez, valeria chĂĄvez, melanie che, nastassja collak, rodrigo colunga pastrana, cassidy crawford, juleanna culilap, kaia daniel, anuja daulat, isa droz, gabby duhon, rohma ejaz, ivanna sofia english, wis echer, maya fawaz, madee feltner, rion fletcher, lindsay gallagher, alejandro garcia, ingrid garcia, julie garcia, adrianne garza, eddie gaspar, william gonzales, jessica gonzalez, kalee sue gore, kaden green, erica grifaldo, luiza gruntmane, anapaula guajardo, ira gulati, olivia harris, kaitlyn harris, sophie hart, sydney hatmaker, xandria hernandez, ella hernandez, jeanette hoelscher, kaylee holland, rusama islam, victoria jameson nonnon, jennifer jimenez, alora jones, kelsey jones, talee jones, urvi joshi, ife kehinde, cameron kelly, christian kenoly, hyo chul kim, allison knodle, jax knox, sarah krueger, tiffany lam, carmen larkin, alissa jae lazo-kim, jane lee, paul leonardi, vivienne leow, ellen li, sophie lindsey-gilles, bryanna lopez, kim ly, katerina mangini, teresa martinez, bella mcwhorter, farah merchant, ajĂ miller, meghan mollicone, estefania monarrez, anai moreno, zion mpeye, jessica nguyen, thao nguyen, alyssa olvera, ethan ramos, prerna pamar, elianna panakis, katie pangborn, samantha paradiso, diana perez, katherine perks, saanya pherwani, luisa pineda, brandon porter, pranutha punukula, eric qui, shreya rajhans, marissa rodriguez, andrea sanchez, sophia santos, amanda jewell saunders, ben scarborough, marybeth schmidt, shelby scott, nick sheppard, mana singri, sheridan smith, garrett smith, taylor stiff, kaitlin street, jeffrey sun, jasmy lui, erika takovich, alejandra terrones, tiffany tong, jacob tran, caroline tsai, sandra tsang, elodie tusac, sarah umandap, doris umezulike, celena valentine, julia vastano, abhi velaga, teresa vu, erin walts, izellah wang, susanna wang, rebecca wang, kelly wei, mia wei, betsy welborn, carlie whisman, kalissa white, lily wickstrom, mijolae wright, jessica wu, karen xie, jessica ye, vivian yu, chongyin zhang, caleb zhang, andrew zhao, shuer zhuo, samara zuckerbrod

managing editor madi janysek art director maya shaddock assistant art director rebecca wong assistant art director adriana torres senior editor jade fabello associate editor chloe bertrand assistant editor laura nguyen creative director carlie roberson assistant creative director nikita kalyana director of hmu sarah stiles assistant director of hmu amber bray assistant director of hmu anna strother modeling director jacqueline porteny assistant modeling director cruz rendon assistant modeling director maggie deaver photography director anna droddy assistant photography director paige miller co-director of styling courtney fay co-director of styling shannon homan business director melanie shaw co-director of events jillian westphal co-director of events nakhim seng marketing director haneen haque assistant marketing director malaika jhaveri communications director ayu sofyan digital director maya halabi senior web editor daniela perez assistant web editor patricia valderrama assistant web editor ty marsh

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fingers via the platform of your choosing. Spark is championing this union.

from the editor

In 2010, a photo-sharing app was introduced that changed everything. Overnight, friends across the country could watch life unfold in real-time, and mom could suddenly live vicariously through your feed. Then it was the content industry’s turn. One by one, magazines turned their attention from analog to digital, and the race to see who could adapt first was on. Some prevailed, others folded. In the process, this baby app from one tiny corner of the tech world — Instagram — would change the way that people think about content forever.

This season, we’ve decidedly given Spark a new look and feel — on and offscreen. Online, Spark writers immersed themselves in the worlds of HBO’s “Euphoria,” Black cowboy culture and brujería, in our first-ever exclusive digital editorials. Offline, we’ve recalibrated the way we value, produce and think about content and the way it touches our readers. And all around, we’ve reprioritized our “members-first, product-second” promise, creating space for more voices and perspectives. There’s been this largely unsettled, contentious debate ever since about the future of print. What’s the point, who’s still reading, what goes in and what comes out? This debate, we’ve decided, is bullshit. Print isn’t ceasing to exist; the world’s not over. Things are just shifting in nature. We predict that this new age of content creation demands an equal partnership of print and digital — a marriage of delectable reads delivered to the tips of your

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“Activate” is both an homage to those who have stood by our sides for the past halfdecade and a glass-half-full celebration of the future. As we all keep on toward this new normal, Spark will do more. Be brave. Try big. And we’ll sure as hell have fun doing it.

Cheers,

Joanne Xu Editor-In-Chief 5

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contents

spark magazine issue no. 13 activate

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features signed, whitney ransom ashley makes you feel less alone in this wild world.

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perspectives the boxer magic, she wrote just breathe the women’s department do you even need those? embracing white noise the reflection of a recluse some big lights made me sad. clothing rx sound of silence her clothing, my grief

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afterthoughts men writing women that’s hottt that je ne sais quoi seeing red age of discontent daisy fresh selling persona london calling the barest threads between shades of black a roaring return

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editorials jaded. let’s play a game min, max scrap regalia epilogue of the earth android

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The Boxer by CAMERON KELLY

layout ANAI MORENO & MAYA SHADDOCK photographer NICOLE BOLAR stylist LUIZA GRUNTMANE hmua LAUREN BACHER model JUSTICE BEVERLEY 8

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aying my head down on the backseat window of the family car, I stared outwards as our headlights reflected off of radiant green signs. The opening lines of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” fluttered into my ears. My mom sang quietly to herself, unaware I was still awake. Her voice synced with Paul Simon’s, and I was at peace despite the rumbling road. We all have artifacts from our childhood that remind us of who we are and where we come from. Whenever I hear this song, I’m reminded of these nights I spent trying to escape from my own reality. Then, the music was a token of my happiness traveling with my family. Never would I have thought it would become a vehicle to express my authentic self.

In a 1984 interview with Playboy Magazine, Simon admitted that the song was about him. “Everybody’s beating me up,” he said. “It took two or three years for people to realize that we weren’t strange creatures that emerged from England but just two guys from Queens who used to sing rock ‘n roll. And maybe we weren’t real folkies at all! Maybe we weren’t even hippies!” Simon announced to the world that he was “The Boxer,” a fighter greater than the assumptions placed on him. He’s Paul Simon, and that’s enough! It takes time to develop that conviction in ourselves, especially in youth. Coming into my 20s and venturing off on my own, I’ve found myself crafting my own Boxer. Though not fighting the judgment of others, my journey reflects a battle of the self: self-criticism, self-judgment, self-deprecation, and hopefully, self-love. By sharing my story, I hope I can lead you to become your own Boxer. “Squandered my resistance for a pocket full of mumbles such are promises …” It was Halloween, but I didn’t want to wear a costume. I wanted to be me. My mother attempted to adorn me in a hypersexualized women’s garb that parodied womanhood. Though she had no ill intention, she couldn’t comprehend that I wanted to look like a normal woman. I felt embarrassed and ashamed to vocalize this, however, I knew that I didn’t want to parody femininity; I embodied it. I felt empowered seeing her place a long curly wig on my head and painting glittery-green eyeshadow on my eyelids. My clothes gripped my hips and thighs, and my earrings dangled so delicately. I looked in the mirror and felt a feeling I had never felt

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before: self-love. It’s hard to explain how it feels to see yourself for the first time. It’s like you were floating in a void the entirety of your life, and suddenly, you’re grounded. My reflection was me, not just an image peering back at me. In that reflection, I saw a glimpse of what my life path could be: a transition into a woman. After that night, I knew I needed to take the necessary steps to live my own authentic life. I first needed to grow out my hair. I saw myself more and more with every inch my locks would grow. My curls were the first symbol to the outward world of my femininity. That night, I felt power and adoration in my ability to grasp what I truly wanted. Even with the newfound sense of desire, I still needed the world’s approval on how I lived my life. I wanted people to validate me based on my achievements. My focus was on academics and academics alone. School was my antidepressant. Seeing good grades made me feel wanted and a part of the world. If I embodied the ideal student, I mattered. “When I left my home and my family I was no more than a boy in the company of strangers …” I departed to college with a sense of self and direction. I walked in the world with a presentation that reflected me. My hair was long and in delicate curls, I wore makeup almost every day, and I feminized my body. All signifiers to the world of my womanly nature. I felt freer, more able to meet people and be myself. At this point, I was unaware of how my body would change. I didn’t prepare myself for how challenging the journey would be. The only questions I asked were: what job will I secure? And how much money will I accrue? I distracted myself with materialism to cope with the world, and to suppress the reality of my gender dysphoria. “Asking only workman’s wages, I come looking for a job but I get no offers …” I sat in my car reflecting on my career path. I thought working in a med chem lab would satisfy my aspirations, and hopefully, make me happy. But, in truth, I hated my schedule, hated the work I was doing and didn’t like the people around me. I didn’t feel connected to my work. Every day, I would look out the window in my lab and watch the planes depart from the nearby airport. Through the glare of my goggles, I saw them climb through the air, eventually leaving my field of vision.

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“When you stand still, you allow the demons to overpower you, and you become a slave to self-deprecation.�

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I imagined myself sitting in the window seat of each plane, looking out over the city skyline. I knew then that I was unhappy with the path of my life. I bolstered myself to be the perfect student and chemist, but life around me was beginning to change. In the lab parking lot, I sat in the front seat of my car without my mom or Paul Simon to sing to me. My grip tightened around the steering wheel as I began to panic. Everything I was working for, the identity of my determined profession was dissolving around me. The distraction I relied on for years had vanished, and all the feelings I had suppressed started to arise again. It was soon after that that my dysphoria came back, and I sought out my first therapy session to discuss if the feelings I felt signified that I was transgender. At this time, I was passively seeking answers to my identity, however, nothing could have prepared me for the isolation, stress and self-hatred that was soon to come.

“In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade, and he carries the reminders of ev’ry glove that laid him down, or cut him till he cried out. In his anger and his shame, I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains …” Even after my endocrinology appointments, I still found myself in constant trepidation. Should I take these next steps? Am I really trans? Can’t I just be happy with how I am now? My anxiety increased, and I fell into deep panic every day. I became agoraphobic. I was so depressed and frozen in my own terror that I couldn’t leave my house. I lost all sensibility in who I was. Part of me wanted to do it, I felt like it was necessary for me. Another part of me lived in fear of making a mistake. My life was drowning, and it felt like I was never going to resurface. I was so afraid of being alone with myself and my thoughts, that I began seeking random excursions with men who could make me feel less alone while I gave my body to them. I felt used and guilty, but a part of me needed their company. I felt like my life was over, my energy and youth was depleted, and I had no will to fight anymore. I was no fighter. I was no boxer. Sitting in my sister’s car — despite the anxiety, fear and worry, I knew that I deserved to take a chance, and that’s enough. I twirled my tiny orange estrogen bottle in my hand. Fear shot through me as images of selfhurt and sadness crept into my mind. “I know I deserve a chance,” I repeated rhythmically. With a quick slip of my hand and a pounding heart, I unscrewed the estrogen’s cap, took a deep breath and took my chance.

“Whores on Seventh Avenue … so lonesome I took some comfort there …” I stood in the bathroom and collapsed into one of the lowest points of my life. Looking at my scalp and seeing the thinning of my hair, I realized that my life was changing in ways that I could not control. While on the surface, this seemed like blatant vanity, the reflection staring back at me in the mirror was a constant reminder that I was destined to age like a man, that the world will only see me as a man in makeup, that I would have to fight harder to be seen as more womanly. I felt as if I was losing my sense of self, as if I was becoming just a shell, void of no one. At some point, I knew no curly wig or glittery-green eyeshadow could bring me back to a place of contentment. I was for sure lost. Having my hair long, down to my shoulders and back, was one characteristic that made the public question if I was a woman or not. I knew I wasn’t just a man in makeup. Granted, I didn’t know what I was, only what I was not. I wish I could say that I was kind to others during this time, but that would be a lie. I lashed out at my friends and professors. I was angry, didn’t care about life and wanted others to see my pain. I headed down a path of self-destruction. During spring break of that year, I found myself crying and venting my frustration to my mother. With tears swelling in my eyes, she sat next to me and told me that she’d accept me no matter what path I decided to take. I laid in her arms as she cuddled me. Every tear shed in my mother’s arms led me closer to the realization that I was approaching a turning point in my life: I needed to begin my gender transition.

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Change is what I needed. When I first entered adulthood, I was fighting for my profession. I thought that my whole life was wrapped up in what I did, not who I was. When my gaze shifted from materialism to introspection, I began fighting for my identity. Though I’m still in the beginning phases of my transition, I’m learning that I am my own fighter, that I hold the key to my own happiness. Standing still amidst adversity is the worst thing that I could’ve done. When you stand still, you allow the demons to overpower you, and you become a slave to self-deprecation. Every day, I remind myself that I’m a fighter and that I deserve to fight for myself. No longer am I victim to my own fear. I’m in the ring, fighting my own battles and acquisitioning my own happiness. We all deserve a chance. This is the story of my chance, though just beginning. A chance that’s leading me to find peace and self-love. One day, I hope you find your own reason to fight, to write your own story, to always remind yourself of your worth, to be The Boxer. ■

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“I knew that I deserved to take a chance, and that’s enough.”

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MAGIC, by DIVINA CENICEROS DOMINGUEZ

layout REBECCA WONG photographer KAIA DANIEL stylist ELLA HERNANDEZ hmua IRA GULATI & MONICA BALDERAS models INGRID GARCIA & JADE FABELLO 16

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Growing up, I was taught several things: Don’t hit your brother, eat your veggies and don’t fuck with the exorcised salt in the kitchen pantry.

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very time I have a headache, or experience even the slightest inconvenience, my grandmother will say the same thing, “bárrete con un huevo.”

This roughly translates to getting an egg cleanse. I’m not entirely sure why we do this, or even where this comes from, but the process is simple: Take an egg (make sure it’s room temperature), then run it through your or someone else’s body to get any evil energy out — to cleanse. I’m not particularly religious, but my grandmother would insist on making cross-like shapes while almost inaudibly muttering strings of Ave Maria to “get the evil out.” Finally, my favorite part, fill a glass cup with water and crack the egg open. Like magic, you’ll find patterns and shapes in the egg white and yolk that wouldn’t be found had you normally cracked open the egg. Depending on the formation, you can tell if someone is compromising your energy due to gossip or envy, if you have a physical or emotional illness or even if someone’s performing black magic or brujería on you.

There are different variations to this practice, but it’s a custom that you won’t find anywhere else but in Latin America. Our indigenous mythology and history of colonization breathe a unique experience of superstition and religious motif into our lungs from the day we’re born. It’s these experiences and traditions that gave birth to magic realism — the literary genre that housed legendary classics like Gabriel García Márquez’ “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.” These writers imagined worlds where you can reset time to walk inside a dream. A world where rainstorms last four years, 11 months and two days. Magic realism fuses several concepts together: realism, surrealism and indigenous Latin American mythologies. Realism departed from romanticism and the Romantic era by its interpretation of concepts and subject matter with no added bells and whistles — the black coffee of literature. With no more room to hide, creative mediums are backed into a corner to produce art distilled to its simplest molecular structure, letting the art speak for itself. This is why most magic realism writers depict subjects and experiences unique to working-class, lower-income people. Centuries of colonization and exploitation of our raw resources for the capitalist profit lends itself to corruption; economic disparities and rigid structures of power play significant roles in our daily lives.

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“Realism departed from romanticism and the Romantic era

by its interpretation of concepts and subject matter with no added bells and whistles — the black coffee of literature.”

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Surrealism, on the other hand, is more like absinthe. Spurred from French ideas of the unconscious mind, surrealism welcomes dream-states and juxtapositions of the unnerving, illogical and improbable. Nevertheless, surreal elements in magic realism are never gimmicky or without intention. At its core, the genre blends realism with the surreal by presenting the fantastic and supernatural with a mundane, commonplace tone — as if it were just a regular Tuesday. The last and perhaps most important component of magic realism is our lore. During the 60s and 70s, Latin America was undergoing political and socioeconomic strife from the Cold War and capitalist exploitation. From this period of uncertainty, Latin American writers developed a desire to write about their experiences and histories. In “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Márquez writes about the effects of a banana company on their town of Macondo, exploiting their workers and the earth. Novelist Carlos Fuentes personifies the Mayan Rain deity in “Chac Mool.” Their combined efforts to remain true to their native history and denounce imperialist attacks on their homeland influenced the development of what was called the Boom Period of Latin American literature. Growing up Mexican, it’s easy to see how magic realism originated in Latin America. My great-grandmother passed away a decade ago, but I still feel her presence with me every time I read Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende or Laura Esquivel. The way these writers so effortlessly bewitch their storytelling is so nostalgic, as if she were the one reading it back to me. activate

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When she was still alive, I remember not wanting to share my snacks with my brother. My great-grandmother, who was embroidering a pillow, paused to glance at me from the corner of her eye and ever so menacingly reminded me that children who don’t share their food choke on shit, “los que no comparten, se les atora mierda en la garganta.” Her ability to nonchalantly insert ominous lore into everyday life was the very essence of magic realism. Despite my great-grandmother being gone, my family still talks about her as if she were still here with us. Lights go out? ‘Buelita Maria is here. Say something especially inappropriate? Best believe Maria heard that. Every culture has its own interpretation of and connection to the spirit world, but our culture understands that no one truly dies until they’re forgotten. The supernatural and magical are both so embedded in our culture it feels second nature. After living in America for almost 15 years, reading magic realism novels in a way feels like coming back home. It’s not just about the stories we share, but the way we share them. We might not remember the minute details of every conversation with our mothers, but we remember the love with which they brewed us chamomile tea with honey when we were sick. Like magic, it was as if the tenderness of their actions produced an elixir so powerful it could conquer any ailment. We might not remember every word exchanged during breakups, but we remember cursing and hexing after midnight with our closest confidants. Hearts were wounded, drinks were poured, but the umbra of the winter is the daybreak of the spring. Lovers, family, friends — people come and go. Sometimes for a season, other times eternally. Although we wish we could, we can’t hold onto them forever the way we can our memories, traditions and stories that transcend generations. ■

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“My great-grandmother, who was embroidering a pillow, paused to glance at me from the corner of her eye and ever so menacingly reminded me that children who don’t share their food choke on shit�

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by BELLA McWHORTER 24

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layout ADRIANA TORRES photographer PAIGE MILLER stylists JESSICA GONZALEZ & SOPHIA SANTOS hmua ANNA STROTHER & LAUREN BACHER models JULIE GARCIA, RUSAMA ISLAM & SAMARA ZUCKERBROD activate

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llow me to introduce myself. I’m a hard worker, something you can tell from the way my full brown eyebrows crinkle, from the way my long locks of hair fall into my hazel eyes, and I pay it no attention. I guess you could say I’m beautiful but hardly notice it, and that I’m, um, yeah a hard worker? Let’s just say it: What an unfortunate place the literary world would be if we all had to write female characters the way some of our exemplary male writers do.

“Her small breasts moved freely beneath a painted Dothraki vest, and a curved dagger hung from her medallion belt.” So, George R.R. Martin, is this really how we’re writing Daenerys of House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, etc. etc. etc. and Mother of Dragons? Because, of course, her breasts are the best descriptor for the empowering, strong, forever my queen, Daenerys, in a moment of self-doubt and insecurity.

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I’m here to tell it loud and clear: Female characters deserve more than a glorified description of their physical features. In the literary and film world, male writers often give females the shaft when describing their characters. Talented male writers, including George R.R. Martin, seem to forget that all characters need a description that extends beyond their physical attributes. A woman needs more than a description of how her body moves, or the way her hair perfectly ties into a bun. Moments, not descriptions, define some of the best characters in fiction. They’re defined by their actions, and not written through their physique. In the original screenplay for “Star Wars,” powerful and revealing words introduce us to Darth Vader:

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Let’s just imagine for a second if Darth Vader, a beautifully complicated and revered character, had been introduced as female characters so often are: by his physical attributes, and not a defining moment.

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PARTY DRESS | Top Drawer Thrift HEELS | Top Drawer Thrift

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SEQUINED DRESS | Top Drawer Crestview CHUNKY HOOP EARRINGS | Top Drawer Crestview

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This is no exaggeration. Mentions of a girl’s placement on a Top 5 List often exist in their character descriptions. Recall Sarah O’Connor in “The Terminator,” a character who underwent quite a journey to become a hardened, determined fighter. In the original screenplay, her character is introduced as follows:

All male writers should have a perspective that goes beyond a female character’s physical worth. Paint me a woman with actions that achieve, words that strike, flaws that show. Let’s welcome the female character who carries a story with her wit and her intuition, not just her breasts. A tip for male writers who are guilty of miswriting women: Try letting your male characters build themselves up. Often, females are used to attest to a man’s better qualities in storylines — her purpose is to look pretty for a man, to tempt or distract a man, or to be a beautiful damsel in distress. Female characters don’t have the time anymore to help make a man look good with nothing more than exaggerated physical details of herself. Now, female characters are rightfully busy playing meaningful roles in stories, as well. If it’s still not clear where we’re lacking in writing our female characters, reference these writers who have done oh-so-right and see how much stronger their female characters make a story. In 2018, Marvel released “Black Panther,” a film filled with highly praised storytelling. Ryan

Coogler and Joe Cole wrote the screenplay, and among many successes, they nailed their female characters’ stories and identities. Take away the female characters in this film and pivotal moments would be erased — the story would fall apart. Nakia is the love interest of the Black Panther, and she was written as a character that surpasses that definition. She holds much responsibility in the film, offering counsel and saving others who can’t fight for themselves. Then there’s Okoye, the head of the all-female Wakandan special forces and the protector of the royal family. And Black Panther’s sister Shuri, who used her intelligence to spearhead technological advancements in Wakanda. We don’t want characters who are only pristine, flawless, large breasted, sexually desired and basically unidentifiable on any level deeper than physicality. The women in the Black Panther’s life often prove to be equally, if not more, skilled than the male protagonist. He depends on them not to boost himself up, but for their impact on Wakanda’s success. So let me say it again for the writers in the back: a wrong way to write women exists. If you can spend hours researching the location and setting you want to use in your story, then you can learn how to write women. If this isn’t possible for you, then you might not be as good a writer as you think you are. Step aside for the artists who write females correctly. Allow me to introduce myself again. I’m a hard worker, something you can tell from the way I’m an annoyingly attentive perfectionist. Something you can tell from the absurd length of my to-do list. Something you can tell from the way I dedicated 1000 words to let male writers know what female characters deserve. ■

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by MAYA FAWAZ

When I have a billion things on my plate and feel overwhelmed, I think, “what would the voice from Headspace do?”

layout KELSEY JONES photographer AKINS BAPTISTE stylists ALYSSA OLVERA & MADEE FELTNER hmua GABBY DUHON model JACQUELINE PORTENY activate

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n alarm blares and jolts me awake. I resist its call and remain curled up in bed, fully immersed in its pillows and covers.

I realize that I’m late. Again. Brush teeth, throw on clothes, comb hair ... breakfast? There’s no time.

A bus moves to its destination: Head down. I go on my phone. Scroll, scroll, scroll, I didn’t know she went to London. Scroll, scroll, scroll, how is her waist that tiny? Scroll, scroll, scroll, I wish I had her life. I have a presentation today. I imagine cracking jokes and making my classmates laugh. I am confident and entertaining and charismatic and stop. What if I’m jinxing it? What if by thinking positively and having high expectations, I end up disappointing myself? I remind myself to be mindful and live in the present. Slow down. Breathe. Don’t think. Breathe. Calm down. breathe … Many of us walk through life in a trance-like state, going through the motions. I would constantly distract myself and avoid con-

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fronting my emotions. My tendency to overthink and my overflowing to-do lists proved to be my way of avoiding time alone with my thoughts. I was afraid of the emotions that would surface if given the opportunity to contemplate who I truly was. There was deeply rooted loneliness inside me that I could never quite put my finger on. Repressing and pushing down these feelings made me feel powerful in their so-called conquer. I would often fill that void by piling on work, finding a love interest and attending every social event possible. I lived like this for most of my life. My anxietydriven schedule caused me to continuously yearn for control, something absolutely unattainable. It can be easy to romanticize a busy lifestyle and feel pressured into overbooking yourself. A colorful and intensely packed Google calendar means that we’re “getting our bag” and “hustling.” However, there’s beauty in the chaos of life and in learning to trust and listen to yourself by taking time out of your busy schedule. Mindfulness, the practice of fully experiencing the present moment, is not meant to be an escape from everyday life, rather a way to integrate peace in your daily routine. Through apps such as Headspace, Calm and Smiling Mind, it’s easier than ever to integrate mindful practices in your day-to-day life. Yoga and meditation are popular trends in bus-

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tling cities, helping those with anxiety and high stress levels learn to decrease their effects through breathing techniques. Allowing your mind to let go of everything and focus on the present has been known to improve memory, help with focus, create more cognitive flexibility, provide relationship satisfaction and promote less emotional reactivity.

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It takes a lot of mental discipline to become aware of our lack of introspection and stop the overthinking before it spirals out of control. Mindfulness is a tool to cancel out the noise and quiet the negative voices in our heads, rather than doing their bidding and consistently filling empty gaps in our lives. Mindfulness serves as a reminder that our success isn’t measured by our business, and that being alone shouldn’t incite loneliness. The hippy-dippy practice sounded ridiculous to me at first. My hard-headed nature refused to sit in silence and “focus on the present,” whatever that meant. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make my

“Mindfulness serves as a reminder that our success isn’t measured by our business, and that being alone shouldn’t incite loneliness.” brain shut up for more than 2.75 seconds. I figured it wouldn’t take long before the random voice in my head would say, “I need to do laundry” or “where should I go for lunch?” Mindfulness is an intentional pause. It’s stopping on your way to class and noticing the textures and colors of the world. It’s paying attention to life around you and letting yourself be immersed in its noise. I’m still working on understanding my thoughts. I’m still understanding more about myself each and every day.

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I’m still learning that being on my own doesn’t mean I’m alone. I’m late to catch my bus. Headphones pop in my ears. Head down. Walk. Walk. Walk. This time, I gently pull myself out of my rush and bring my attention to my surroundings. Has the floor always looked like that? When did that building get there? Why haven’t I ever noticed that pattern on the walls? 1 ... 2 …. 3 … I take a deep breath and let the fresh air seep into my lungs, every crevice fills with sweet oxygen, my chest expanding with every second. I become aware of the space I occupy, and I’m conscious of how my body feels as it’s pressed against its seat, how my arms rest by my side and how my head is perfectly balanced between my shoulders. Finally, I exhale and let go. ■

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layout KALISSA WHITE & MAYA SHADDOCK photographer LEAH BLOM stylist CALEB ZHANG hmua SOPHIE LG & TIFFANY LAM models BRANDON PORTER & ELIOT-ZION MPEYE

by ETHAN RAMOS 40

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CROPPED MUSCLE TANK | Revival Vintage BEADED NECKLACE | Revival Vintage

As the silk enveloped his body, his skin felt sparkly. He now towered over the very men that wanted his sparkle but couldn’t put on the damn dress.

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ro, no homo but that ‘fit you got on goes hard” or “I don’t usually tell guys this but … you look nice tonight in your lace.” Comments from the past I’ve heard from men who admire my apparel, want to dress better but don’t shop anywhere other than Old Navy. Mostly heterosexual males who’ve been raised to only browse at certain sections of department stores. Boys wear clothes marked for boys, and girls wear clothes marked for girls. Simple enough, right? Fuck no. Individuals ahead of the modern fashion world dress themselves in whichever garments they please. The spectrum of outfitting should not be confined to what our parents made us comfortable wearing before adolescence. I’m tired of straight men asking me where I found half of my wardrobe when my answer is the same every time: “I got it from the maternity section of the women’s department.” Gentlemen, a blouse will not f*gify you when you wear it, it may just make you prone to ridicule from your homies who still wear Sperrys. Get new friends. Clocked in. I’m at my 9 to 4 cashier shift, regretting waking up. Man walks through the door thinking, “I needs me a new shirt.” Finds one, a special shirt. Tries it on, fits great. He feels sexy, comfortable and the shirt doesn’t even give his armpits a wedgie. He struts up to the register claiming he’s found himself a treasure. Shirt costs $7.49, making his new treasure a bargain. The man can’t find where to insert his debit card before our store manager reaches for his hand (yes, it was this dramatic) and proclaims, “You do know the shirt you’re about to buy is a women’s shirt, right?” A women’s shirt. The shirt he probably took a tacky fitting room selfie in because he activate

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felt that outstanding in its fabric. He puts his payment card away faster than a middle-aged gay man running to a Forever 21 sale. In disbelief, “I’m sorry, I- I didn’t realize it was a girl’s shirt,” remarked the man, leaving the store empty-handed. Conforming to traditional standards of dressing prevent the man from wearing apparel he felt happy in. Here’s society making fun of a guy for dressing how he wants when strewn across the globe are men being killed for wearing clothes outside of gender norms. Some countries, such as Russia, outlaw gay men from embracing their queer self. Uganda has recently passed a bill titled “Kill the Gays,” urging for the persecution and mass murder of any lgbtq members found. In the us, men and women who cross-dress are legally discouraged from seeking employment by the country’s military. Because we don’t always witness this widespread hatred or fear firsthand, we take the liberties Western civilization possesses for granted. Throughout our planet it’s a crime for gay men to “be themselves,” a motto we’ve preached in modern culture since “Mean Girls” came out in 2004, but yet here American men are, still struggling with the concept of wearing fabric labeled “women’s.” Perhaps these men can find a way to make amends with the voice in their head that calls them a f*g every time they put on a pink shirt. Maybe these men can procure enough bravery to wear a blouse despite its feminine stigma. How beautiful if everyone could support the freedom of gender fluid dressing rather than ostracize the individuals that participate in such expression. Let this be a challenge to all men regardless of social class, clique or heritage: start small. Try on a t-shirt found in 41

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the women’s department of a store. Feel the ordinary fabric against the skin. Recognize the not-so-foreign material that you thought would label you as a homo. Cindy’s fragile little feet trail her broken shopping cart as she browses her favorite section of the store. Like many older women, it’s the cardigan aisle. Knitted textures scratch or comfort her fingers as she searches for the ultimate apparel piece that’ll make her the talk of bingo night. Cindy suddenly notices something strange, out of the ordinary to her usual shopping routine. A boy. As she glances around, she notices several other pairs of eyes attracted to the same boy, browsing — no differently than they — at the lovely wardrobe options the women’s department offers. That boy is me. I’ve never appreciated making women uncomfortable when I shop in their domain, but sometimes there are no alternatives. Sure, I can endure the beaming eyes of women, but what do men fearing judgment do when they wish to browse women’s apparel? Growing up, I can even admit to falling victim to women’s department shopping anxiety. All this pressure can be a bit much for any boy, that’s why some resort to the intimacy of online shopping. As a manager of an online clothing business, I can personally say selling garments to those who don’t identify as male or female is extremely fulfilling. My blog’s intention isn’t to categorize someone for what they wear, but to give them a platform where they can simply exist — not as a boy or girl, but as a being that enjoys wearing all clothing types. My mission is to allow a smalltown boy who wants to try on dresses, without fear of being black-eyed by some hick, to do so in the comfort of his own room. Modern technology makes any article of clothing accessible to a boy’s front doorstep. He can try on anything without alarming his parents. So if shopping next to Cindy seems too daunting, try ordering a blouse that intrigues your fashion eye. I promise your public image won’t be tarnished, just your pride. Now’s our time to erase the stigma. I say we go to JCPenney’s, knock down signs that read women’s and men’s department and give ‘em hell! No, don’t actually do that. Just act as if those signs aren’t there when shopping. Forget the conformist ideals that have been drilled into our brains and dress yourself in what you want because you like how it feels. Do it for all the boys who couldn’t. It’s 2019. Shouldn’t we all be able to enjoy the wonders of the women’s department? After all, it’s just fabric ... ■

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GOLD ACCENTED DRESS | Revival Vintage DROP EARRINGS | Revival Vintage

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layout SANDRA TSANG photographer SHERIDAN SMITH stylist SHANNON HOMAN hmua OLIVIA HARRIS & SARAH STILES models KAITLYN HARRIS & TOSIN ANJORIN

by TY MARSH 44

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he year is 2007, it’s 2 a.m. and you’re leaving a random club in New York. You were supposed to leave earlier, but it’s a Friday and you’ve had a tough week. Your bodyguard leads you to the back exit. However, as you both already know, the paparazzi has the club surrounded. With the swing of the heavy club door, you’re instantly within their firing range. Dozens of flashes bombard you as you walk out. Faceless voices of men decades older than you begin yelling your name, begging for your attention. Insults about your body are aimlessly thrown in your direction. You’re asked about your ex, about his new girlfriend, about the breakup. Eyes to the ground, you push forward to the car where you’re ushered into the safety of its leather interior. It only took 20 seconds to get from club to car, but the pictures from this night will be on the front pages of countless magazines for weeks to come. You ask yourself what rumor the tabloids will create to accompany the photos this time: Will tonight be painted as a wild night out, or will they say you’ve gained weight? Will they accuse you of a breakdown for going to the club after a breakup, or will they call it revenge for not inviting him? There’s nothing to do but wait to see what they will say in the morning. Such is the life of a celebrity party girl in the 2000s.

She was the Britney, the Paris, the Lindsay, the Kimberly. She lived the life that every twentysomething wanted to live: a life filled with Friday nights in the club, Saturdays at mansion parties and Sundays for rest — unless she wanted to party more on Sundays, which she most certainly did. Her pink razr flip phone buzzed nonstop with the details of a new event to attend. Her outfits were impeccable in the best, worst ways possible. Her fashion all but told you what she wanted to say without her needing to say it. She gave you dating advice with her Dump Him shirt. Her oversized Louis Vuitton purse hung at her side, begging to be swung at someone being “fucking rude.” Her Juicy Couture pants lay below her hips on her lazy days. The archetype of the ‘00s party girl was an enigma of her time. She was the anti it-girl, the trainwreck no one could seem to take their eyes off of. Tabloids loved her for her scandals, the public hated her for her carefree nature. She was a sensationalized topic. We constantly dissected her whereabouts — her decisions compiled to create the “facts” of a rumor, her clothing picked apart to provide details of her sex life. She was seen as a figment of pop culture, someone stripped of her humanity and draped with the burden of being a public figure. activate

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Unfortunately, such shaming of party girls is still not yet gone in the culture of today. Take Slayyyter for example. Slayyyter is an underground, self-made pop artist who’s inspired by the party girls of the 2000s. Her music sounds straight from a club in 2005, and her visuals are reminiscent of a time when the Blackberry was the smartest phone on the market. In Nov. 2018, at the very beginning of her career, online trolls doxxed her, leaking her real name and private information, such as past photos as an online sex worker. Devastated, Slayyyter opted to delete all of her social media accounts, admitting to fans that the information leak was the cause of her indefinite hiatus. Hiatuses from the public eye were a common occurrence for party girls in the 2000s. The constant slut-shaming and intrusion by tabloids was often too much for them. Rehab was often the only way to get away from the media eye. However, it was almost always covered by the very publications doing the harm. Substance abuse was caused by the spotlight placed upon them, and the same spotlight was used to shame them for such illnesses. In rehabilitation, the women were allowed to heal without exploitation. A week after Slayyyter removed herself from the public, it was believed that she was never coming back. Had this been the 2000s, this would’ve been the end of her story. She’d live the rest of her days in comfortable seclusion, away from the spotlight that exploited her, yet still questioning what could have been. Thankfully, the trends of the past are no longer the case for today. Instead, Slayyyter revamped her career with a bang, releasing an exclusive shirt with a tabloid Star cover mockup titled, “What’s Up With Slayyyter?” Pictured were the sexual photos that were used against her during

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her doxxing, ironically placed where paparazzi photos were usually found on magazine covers. By turning the concept of the tabloid on its head, Slayyyter made a statement that sent a message of power to those who wished harm upon her. In reclaiming the private photos once used against her, the artist exemplified the power of the sexually liberated woman of 2019. She is unashamed of her past, unashamed of being a sexual woman. The culture of the 2000s didn’t yet allow women to make this sort of statement, especially in regards to sexuality. Tabloid magazines of the time shamed a woman for her sex life in almost every issue. They scolded women for dressing too promiscuously in public. They speculated who she was sleeping with and why. This is a key difference between Slayyyter’s use of party girl aesthetics and the reality of the 2000s archetype. Where this type of woman was routinely shamed without a chance of defense, Slayyyter is able to correct the misogyny she’s exposed to, using the same aesthetics and thriving from it. Slayyyter took the concept of the tabloid magazine and used it to normalize a situation that was used to shame her for being someone who, as most people do, has sex. The culture surrounding women and sex is changing, and Slayyyter acknlowledging the fact that she’s a sexual woman has become a staple in her music because of it. Slayyyter’s revival of the 2000s party girl aesthetic is an homage to the women who lived through it. In embracing and destigmatizing her sexuality through these visuals and sounds, Slayyyter is acknowledging that what these women went through was because of their time, not because what they did was wrong. ■

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by EUNICE BAO

layout ADRIANA TORRES photographer KATIE PANGBORN stylist CARLIE ROBERSON hmua RIYA ASHOK & TAYLOR STIFF models SUSANNA WANG & WILLIAM GONZALES

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In front of the glowering “E” eye chart, I stammered on line four … I had just joined the forces of the optically challenged, and there was no turning back.

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“I was left behind — with no one to look up to but Asian dads who all seemed to be wearing the same wire-rimmed frames.”

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by CHLOE BERTRAND layout MAYA SHADDOCK photographer EMME BAYSDEN stylist NIKITA KALYANA hmua TAYLOR STIFF

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“I PROMISE. IT’S ME IN HERE. I’M STILL WHITNEY.”

ridged over a suede chair, her hands find their natural place of business settled deep in the pockets of a power suit. Her eyes close as she laughs at her own disposition, and maybe that’s the only time she sleeps. There’s no rest reserved for a woman reclaiming her time. Local artist Whitney Avra, formerly Whitney Turetzky, is Cofounder and coo of both atxgals and East Austin’s newest coworking/event space, The Cathedral. When her double dose of entrepreneurship shook hands with life, 2019 yielded massive transition and growth. “I started as an artist accidentally. I was an elementary school teacher, and I was burnt out,” she said. “And so we moved to Austin in 2013, and I thought ‘maybe I’ll reinvent myself.’” Avra made the jump with her husband and daughter, then enrolled in art classes at acc with intentions to attend the Fine Arts program at ut. After applying, she received a personalized rejection email expressing that her portfolio was too succinct.

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“My portfolio was all these halo ladies and powerful social and political pieces,” she said “But they said, ‘We can’t help you build a voice. You already have one.’” Fleeing from the preconceived idea that she had to have a degree to legitimize her artistry, Avra began applying for art shows and getting accepted. She became known for her pieces that featured painted haloed women on cabinet cards. The pocket-sized work space felt safe to her at the time, like there wasn’t enough room for a foul brushstroke. This later translated on a larger scale to her most recognizable collection: Wild Women. Each piece from the collection portrays a colorblocked portrait of an outlaw-esque woman with intricate stitching in the details. Avra was inspired by women who refused to live under the reign of a man, so they took to the Wild West to become painted ladies and put a little cash in their garters. “For Wild Women, I wanted to focus on really rugged women that took no bullshit, that were really vocal about their power as a woman, that took matters into their own hands,” she said. 59

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“I FOUND MYSELF IN A BOOK BOUND TIGHTLY BY A STORYLINE THAT I DIDN’T RECOGNIZE ANYMORE.” 60

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“So I became obsessed with this idea that women were moving out West to be their own boss.” Avra’s recent divorce in 2018 influenced her to create Wild Women. As an introduction to her change of course, she made an Instagram post expressing her experience to her followers. She stood to the right of one of her collection pieces in the photo — the haloed lady’s smize heralding better days. Part of the caption read as follows: “I found myself in a book bound tightly by a storyline that I didn’t recognize anymore. Not only did I not recognize it, I realized that I was not in control of the pen being used to fill in the last lines,” the caption read. “It was like watching the tide rise and wash away a beautiful sandcastle that you worked an entire day to build, or in my case, nearly nine years.” “In a direct way, I don’t have a critic anymore. So I feel more free to make what I really want to make,” she said. “That series was an ode to women who had it figured out. I definitely feel like I’ve had to figure it out.” She announced she was going back to her maiden name — Avra, never to change it again. She could no longer sign her husband’s name to her artwork. “It feels like an epic homecoming of sorts — like I’ve been on a decade-long journey of self-discovery only to return to the original soul and body I was given,” she said.

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Avra and her 7-year-old daughter now live together in their quaint apartment. She’s a single mom juggling the role of coo to two blossoming businesses. “As an entrepreneur and an independent artist, I’ve really had to think about how to allocate my time,” she said. “I can tell when things are out of alignment when parenting gets hard because that just means my daughter’s not getting enough of me.” Avra met her current business partner, Monica Ceniceros, at an art show in 2016. In light of the election, they decided to create an allwomen’s art show for Austin. They became atxgals. Their first pop-up in 2017 sold out before the doors opened. To date, they’ve hosted 13+ events serving women in the Austin creative community with similar stories to Avra and her partner. “We’ve had incredible growth. It feels like it’s been overnight. Our goal was to help artists and accelerate their careers, and with atxgals, we’ve been able to do that,” she said. “Most artists usually sell hundreds of dollars worth of work at our events.” Artists keep 100% of their sales from each event. In addition, atxgals donate a significant amount of their profits from each event to local organizations. This includes the Girls Empowerment Network, safe Alliance and the Young Women’s Alliance.

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“I’M A BELIEVER THAT YOU MAKE YOUR OWN MAGIC.” “The community is so engaged and involved. They love supporting women artists and giving back to future generations,” she said “It’s a win-win in our eyes, and it’s something we’re so passionate about.” However, Avra and Ceniceros took notice of a recurring vocalized need within their community. Artists needed an affordable place to create; so the partners sought out to find one. Independent of atxgals, The Cathedral is a 1930s church renovated to be a creative’s hallelujah. It houses artists of every practice, small businesses, a professional art scanner and local attorneys specializing in copyright law. It was generating buzz around Austin long before the doors could even open because of the speculated opportunities for artists and its potential to be an epic event space. “It invigorates us. We’re hoping The Cathedral is everything we’ve ever hoped and dreamed it would be, and that the magic we see in it, others can see too. That our vision becomes other people’s vision,” Avra said. “Wherever you want to be, we’ll get you there. That’s the whole point.” The Cathedral will be included in East Austin Studio Tour this year where Avra will be

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showcasing past and recent works, including her latest series — Bitches: inspired by the main bitch(es) in every woman’s life. “What I hope is translated in my work is that we are a part of this collective womanhood. There’s room for all of us at this table,” Avra said. “The experiences we’re having today, our mothers probably had, and our sisters are having, and our children will probably have on some scale. I guarantee you the feelings women have are the same feelings throughout generations.” In the last year, Whitney Turetzsky became Whitney Avra, and Whitney Avra became a Wild Woman — forging connections for emerging women artists, creating art until dawn cracked to greet her, ripping up flooring that once lay beneath pews and championing motherhood all the while. Today, she makes moves with a spirit of graceful disobedience and regard for her fellow woman, doing as the Wild Women do. “I’m a believer that you make your own magic. And I feel like I’ve finally found myself. But for me, that involved divorce,” Avra said. “So coming back around to my original last name, it’s like, ‘Oh yeah. This is me. This is who I’m supposed to be. This is who I was born to be.’” ■

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SWEATER | St. Vincent de Paul Thrift SCARF | Blue Elephant Boutique BRACELET | Blue Elephant Boutique SHOES | St. Vincent de Paul Thrift

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JE NE SAIS QUOI

layout KALISSA WHITE photographer THAO NGUYEN stylist DORIS UMEZULIKE & MEGAN ARIMANDA hmua ADRIANNE GARZA & TIFFANY TONG models LINDSAY GALLAGHER, PAUL LEONARDI & WIS ESCHER

by SYDNEY HATMAKER

She’s ageless, chic, definitely has more sex than you and probably even smells better too. Enter the French Cool Girl. activate

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century ago, fashion monolith Vogue alleged the state of French skin: “The fashionable French woman of the moment presents an appearance of freshness and beauty that makes it difficult to guess her age, as she retains her youthful appearance for an unusually long time.”

Vogue’s 1921 piece could’ve been ripped from the average American woman’s Twitter feed today, long obsessed with French glamour. The detailed, expensive guide that followed on how to glow like the “fashionable French woman of the moment” elevated an entire population to one elusive, mystical, almost mythical figure. Youthful and desirable, it will take work and money to look like her. And we’re willing. Like bumper sticker residue or a judgmental in-law, the fantasy of the “French Cool Girl” has stuck fast to the American pop culture imagination, alluring us with the je ne sais quoi, a French saying, translated literally to “I don’t know what,” that she refuses to share. The French Cool Girl moves and molds with time but remains a firm matriarch over our

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closets, feeds and publications. What began as a chic and youthful European aesthetic has received the 2019 treatment. Specific trends promising access to the French Cool Girl (or, at the risk of kitsch but promise of brevity, the fcg) drift in and out of fast fashion stores, closely following Instagram influencers. Cheaper, skimpier and more fleeting than the look our grandmothers chased, today’s fcg mirrors our own culture and social media habits. It seems our obsession reveals something about ourselves. Maybe it hasn’t much to do about the French at all. The American media creates, sustains and sharpens our collective image of the fcg. Whether it’s Audrey Hepburn’s Sabrina or a Refinery29 article on how to date like a French woman, the message is the same: she is chic where we are gaudy, effortless to our high maintenance. This sanitized glorification is full of clichés, ideals and impossible sex appeal. The generic and trend-based result is undeniably us. All virtues that attracted us to French women in the first place are lost. Vogue, designed for the wealthy women of New York, ran constant updates on what French women were wearing,

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PINK TOP | Blue Elephant Boutique JEWELERY | Blue Elephant Boutique

doing, eating, even smoking. In their first issue in 1892, the magazine alerted its readers that public smoking, considered unladylike at the time, was now in, because influential Parisian women said so, of course. In smokey prose, Vogue reported that French women “rest in the beautiful conviction that life bears a far more beautiful aspect when seen through the opalescent clouds of the fragrant smoke that issues from their delicate lips.”

are not a trend that can be adopted — that’s the point. That’s why we love them so much. Quel paradoxe! There is no one way, nor fifteen ways, to be a French woman, but we have designed our very own French Barbie. No wonder it all comes off so plastic and manufactured. Thankfully, there are avenues for us beyond the poor imitation of the French and the slightly better; our own fashion values certainly differ but are equally worthy of embracing.

Today, the image of the cooler-than-thou French woman taking a drag over late-night conversation holds strong, birthing a new generation of artsy nicotine addicts long after the us quit smoking. The carcinogenic allure of the fcg inspires us to mold our lifestyles around hers. Simon says, or rather, Simone, says smoke cigarettes. Simone says wear short skirts. Simone changed her mind, Simone says wear long skirts. Simone says wear less concealer (or, really, Simone says have better skin). We try to keep up.

Maybe the absurdity of American fashion is a virtue of its own. After all, the preposterousness of Iris Apfel and Betsy Johnson rendered them icons. Our weirdness, our too-muchness, defines us in the landscape of runways and the internet. We don’t belong to a refined, controlled culture. It’s why we have so long been pioneers.

The genuine French aesthetic will remain elusive so long as we reach for the fcg over actual French values of personal style, timelessness and well-made basics. Real French women

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When we abandon our cultural identity in pursuit of the French Cool Girl, we cease to innovate and make bold moves in fashion. If we continue to morph into these aloof fantasy women with aesthetically pleasing fantasy lives rather than lead our own real, joy-filled, messy ones, we will eventually be defined by our unoriginality. ■

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Seeing Red by VALERIA CHAVEZ

ll artists have rituals. Dancers stretch their bodies, singers run their scales — and a bullfighter dons his traje de luces, the suit of lights. Gold thread surrounds the image of La Virgen de Monserrat, illuminating her with a corona. He speaks to his patron saint, asking for the courage to fight with honor and the chance to be el Número Uno. He prays that this fight will not be his last.

layout MAYA SHADDOCK photographer ALISSA JAE LAZO-KIM stylists JACOB TRAN & KADEN GREEN hmua ANDREA SANCHEZ & MONICA BALDERAS models ANAPAULA GUAJARDO, CRUZ RENDON & RODRIGO COLUNGA

Before stepping out for el paseillo, the parade, he performs one final ritual: liar el capote de paseo. A silk cloak, embroidered with flowers and religious iconography. It is the most intimate moment for the torero, as he delicately wraps himself in his beautiful shroud and mentally prepares himself for what he is about to do: take a life so his art can live.

A bullfight is not the time nor the place for introversion. Equal parts opera, fashion show and bloodsport, corridas are spectacle and sport rolled into one. It’s man vs. nature in its most flamboyant form. The bull must be convinced the final torero, el matador de toros, is a worthy adversary. Bulls are never taught how to fight. By regulation, a fighting bull must never charge at a man before entering the ring. Like humans, bulls learn from experience. If they were trained, there would be no fight. The

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bull would win every time. Although it’s rare, there have been occasions where, for one reason or another, the bull is declared the champion. A bull that wins a fight is destined to become a star. Names such as Islero, the bull that killed Manolete, the world’s greatest matador right as he was on the brink of retirement, and Murcielago, a bull so passionate the crowd begged the torero to spare his life, have been immortalized in the form of Lamborghinis. Like sportscars themselves, victorious bulls are rare, revered and expensive. It’s one thing to control a bull, but the true beast is the crowd. The fans are not faint of heart, neither are they bloodthirsty. For them, bullfighting is a tradition, a way of keeping their culture alive. Where else will you see men dressed in 18th Century Andalusian garb in 2019? They expect a performance full of drama and action, to witness the macabre and elegant pasodoble that ends with only one winner. Fail to live up to their expectations, and they may begin to cheer for the bull. The torero steps out onto the soft dirt, greeted by the cheering crowd. His suit, his shining armor, fits bien apretado, tight. It is imperative he looks his best. This could be the last thing he ever wears. Chest puffed, hair slicked back, he struts to the center of the ring, every step carrying an air of bravado, breathing out any semblance of fear. He takes his position, his sword at his side and cape flowing over his shoulders. The president of the ring orders for the bulls to be released. The band begins to play a familiar Carmen-esque tune. The spectacle has begun. A faena lasts 15 minutes. Any longer and the president will declare the match over and the bull is proclaimed the winner and freed. But if the bull is hurt beyond recovery, he is taken out back and slaughtered. The matador is shamed for not fulfilling his duty and bringing suffering to the magnificent creature. He understands the responsibility of his job, struggling through the cognitive dissonance of his act. He must bring pain, but in doing so he must bring it to a swift end to limit suffering. He must bring dignity to the bull by delivering a clean kill or risk dishonor by hurting the animal he cherishes most. Bulls

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are his livelihood, his reason for being. Toreros have a deep respect for the animals and consider it a privilege to fight them in the ring. The true matador de toros is the only person in the ring during the last third of the faena. He enters the ring with only his muleta, that infamous red cape on a cane, and a sword. It is the movement of the muleta that guides the bull, urging him to step in time with his bipedal dance partner. The cape hypnotizes the bull as he fights through his pain, having already been impaled with lances by the picadores and banderilleros from the first two rounds. The honor and responsibility of taking the bull’s life goes to el matador, literally meaning “killer.” He swivels just as the horns graze his muleta, planting his feet firmly on the ground, a cloud of dust rising into the air. The matador’s movements are smooth and elegant, guiding the horns through his choreography. His arms are reminiscent of a flamenco dancer, replacing castanets with spears. On the surface, they appear to be leading, but any wild animal cannot truly be controlled. A matador only gets one chance to strike the bull directly in the heart, delivering a fatal blow and ending the bull’s life. He is fierce in every sense of the world. He has to be if he wants to survive. Violent and passionate, gory and glamourous, complex and contradictory. The modern matador is an artist. He is a living historical artifact, keeping his culture alive. He is a romantic, in love with what bullfighting represents and what it once was. He is afraid of what will happen if the world fails to see what he sees. He does not pray for acceptance, only respect. ■ 73

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age of discontent by BEN SCARBOROUGH

JEAN PATOU SCARF | Ermine Vintage TAN CORDUROY PANTS | Revival Vintage CLASSIC WESTERN SHIRT | Revival Vintage MUSTARD JACKET | Revival Vintage

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layout ADRIANA TORRES & PRANUTHA PUNUKULA photographer PAIGE MILLER stylist KAYLEE HOLLAND hmua MIA CARRILES & TIFFANY LAM models BETSY WELBORN, HASSAN AHMAD & HYO CHUL KIM

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RED VELVET DUSTER | Revival Vintage

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Psychedelia is back — and we need it now more than ever.

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hroughout my life, I’ve felt an institutional pressure to know more about myself and about life than I do (and, I think, more than I possibly could). What is the right way to act? What will be my future? How do I become more acceptable, more accessible to people? I was presented with answers I couldn’t make sense of, that felt more like rules for fitting in. Be social, but not overbearing. Be interesting, but not strange. Don’t deviate from expectations; don’t cause a disturbance. Keep your head down. It took me until very recently to realize that I never asked myself why I wanted to know the answer to any of those questions in the first place. I did, however, know what appealed to me. Privately exploring my own tastes, I soon discovered that I had an affinity for the bizarre and psychedelic.

The more I talked to people, the more I understood that I was far from alone. I learned that I’m part of an entire generation that is, at least in significant part, generally unhappy with the rules of life. The single most important thing I’ve realized about these individuals is that we’re entirely unwilling to reshape ourselves to fit what we’re told is the right way of talking, acting and existing for our society. We long for a world in which we’re accepted for who we are — individuals, each with a unique story, each with an incredibly intricate and interesting way of thinking and existing. We long for a world where free expression of self is accepted. We long for the privilege of descent into blissful decadence on occasion without fear of being shamed or ostracized by employers, the government, professors, parents or society at large. Having given up on the circumstances of our present, we have no choice but to look back.

RED, VELVET DUSTER | Revival

Fifty years ago, the youth counterculture of the sixties (disdainfully dubbed the “hippies” by both their Beat Generation predecessors and their traditionalist conservative opposition) had everything I think I’m looking for in this time — most specifically, a willingness and desire to fight against the establishment and for the unique self as an end to be pursued. Wherever these dissenters gathered, a palpable atmosphere of benevolence, acceptance and individual expression could be found. Nowhere was this more visible than at Woodstock. Exuberant colors, nonstop

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music, an abundance of lsd, a generally peaceful atmosphere and a raw, unhindered love that gave the atmosphere a tangible sense of joy and belonging. Yet it was not simply benevolence for the sake of benevolence. It was benevolence despite. Individuals in the counterculture were anti-war, anti-establishment hippies who were frustrated with the forces of conformism that were as present then as they are now. They objected to society’s judgment by brazenly accepting unabashed, delightfully strange individualism. Things are different now. While it’s a pipe dream to fully recapture the counterculture of the sixties, we can at least use it to explore our frustrations. The recent re-emergence of psychedelia in music, fashion and culture is the mouthpiece for our expression of these feelings. Psychedelia describes the people, art and culture inspired by psychedelic drugs like lsd, dmt, Mescaline and Psilocybin. And it’s nothing new — psychedelic expression was a cornerstone of counterculture expression back in the day. However, modern (or neo-) psychedelia is more melancholic and wistful in tone than its half-century-old predecessor. There’s a distinct sense of longing for something deeper and more meaningful than we see in our everyday lives in the 21st century. The most obvious and increasingly mainstream expression of psychedelia is through music. Psychedelic music features some combination of exotic instrumentation or microtones, expression of modality in the melody and lyrics, the creation of a surreal, ethereal feeling, an emphasis on experimental instrumentals and elaborate studio effects. Most artists’ goal is to alter the listener’s perception of time and reality and produce a variety of complex emotions, from dreamlike wonder to passive distance. Tame Impala, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra are just a few members of the neo-psychedelic wave that has swept through the musical scene in the last few years. Their music is for those of us who, having grown tired of being told what is right, are ready for something new, interesting and outlandish. They are sonic wizards, creating kaleidoscopic visuals and feelings of mind-bending, psychotropic completeness within their audience. At live performances, the music comes alive — pulsating inside your skull, clutching your consciousness and twisting it into bizarre and fantastic forms, providing a sublime release you didn’t even know you were craving, scratching an itch you didn’t even know you had. It lets listeners let go of their lives for a few minutes to immerse themselves in dreamy freedom. It offers an escape. Psychedelia involves experimental patterns,

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vivid colors and creative expression of self. It is both a callback to the flowery, bohemian styles of classic sixties looks and a bold new project in experimental creativity. People are using their clothes as a way to express that they absolutely do not need to stick to old traditions, thank you very much, and in fact they can fight against them in an incredibly individualist act of defiance. Psychedelia in 2019 means being okay with shunning the old ways and the traditionalist conventions in favor of individuals expressing themselves how they, individually, see fit. Neopsychedelia sees the original psychedelic culture half a century ago and adapts it to the pressures of the 21st century. It’s made melancholic by the circumstances under which it arises, yet it’s joyful in its ability to break loose from convention. It is creative, dynamic and complex. And maybe it’s just me (though I don’t think so), but I’m certain that it’s exactly what our generation needs right now.

“We absolutely must find a way to let ourselves be happy.” We want so badly to be unhindered by fear of ostracization. We ache for it. We are desperate to express ourselves freely, to show off our love for our fellow humans, to listen to and celebrate the sheer artistic joy of music, or visual art, or dancing, or fashion, or anything creative. It’s no simple wish, it’s a need, a fundamental and instinctive urge to create something beautiful. We should be able to celebrate and perpetuate beauty as something that makes us human, something that binds us together as brothers and sisters. Fortunately, we’re gradually emerging from our timid shells and shaking off our fears, urged on by the need to allow ourselves to shine, unabashed. This isn’t to say that everyone manifests their need to create beauty through music, or art, or dance. The same need can be found in people who pursue passions in mathematics, or biology, or physics, or law, or government, or economics, or anything that scratches the great human itch. The medium through which a person chooses to pursue self-expression is not remotely as important as that expression itself. We all have something to say, and we all want simply to be as we are, without others telling us that that isn’t okay. We absolutely must find a way to let ourselves be happy. Whatever you choose to do, make it beautiful to you. ■

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by LAUREN BACHER

layout MAYA SHADDOCK photographer ANNA DRODDY stylist SHANNON HOMAN hmua JANE LEE & TIFFANY TONG models CARLIE ROBERSON & SOPHIA SANTOS

On Vera Chytilová’s reclamation, the daisy fresh girl is more than simply innocent in spirit and dress. activate

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oll-like girls with creaking limbs sit eye-to-eye with audiences as they move stiffly and contemplate the social order they are operating in. “I am a doll,” Marie 1 exclaims in Czech, as she picks up her flower crown and plops it on her head. The word used for doll in this scene is panna, which is literally translated to virgin or doll. The interchangeability of the word is purposeful as their virgin-pure status keeps them in order as women. Although they may be acting as dolls, their time for play is just beginning. The girls deliberately fall from grace as they dance around a tree of life, plentiful with fruit for the taking, which they

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eat. The adventures they begin take hold of their doll-like trope as they indulge in the spoiled world they’ve been hidden from. The Czech new wave film, “Daisies,” by Věra Chytilová, is a psychedelic feminist revolt filled with destruction as the two main characters, Marie 1 and Marie 11, run amuck around town. “Although they may be acting as dolls, their time for play is just beginning.” These daisy fresh girls are not as pure as they appear with their baby-doll dresses and sweet, little giggles. Flirting

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with older men and leading them on, they wave their virginity in the face of society and quickly yank it away before it’s placed in its hands. Their feminine fashion is displayed as innocent but enacts a hypersexualization by the men who fall for them. Baby-doll dresses, short and lacy pajamas, and a flower crown they share all act as symbols to others of their childlike innocence. Purity has always been attractive and sought after by men, and it’s transcended into fashion targeted toward women. From wearing a flower crown to show you’re suitable for marriage to wearing a white dress on your wedding day to mark your purity, a woman has always been forced to show she is deactivate

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sirable through her virginity. What better way to display your purity than by reverting to girlish fashion trends of lace, ruffles and flowers? These nostalgic pieces call on the innocence of youth that many find freedom in. It’s lust for life — Lolita fantasies that twist these trends and make them promiscuous. “Daisies” flips this concept on its head by calling out the eroticism of the baby-doll aesthetic and the expectations that are placed on women. Marie 1 and 11 do so through their teasing appearance, seemingly dainty and pure. However, things are not as they seem as they tend to cause disruption and chaos to the norms they’ve been taught. Crushing taboos by flaunting these baby-doll 83

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fashion trends, they reclaim what’s been over-sexualized. Through what they choose to wear, or not to wear, they take back their bodies and act as they please, tricking men and taking up space. Challenging the hypersexualization that begins to creep in, the girls in “Daisies” subvert the domination and make life a game. In a controlled society, they’re meant to keep their messes behind closed doors, but they do this with the blinds wide open. They constantly make messes in their room by cutting up magazines, eating in bed, setting fires for fun and inviting strange men into their home. Instead of cleaning up their mess, they march into public. They laugh loudly as they go on dates with older men, get drunk at dinner shows and overeat in an era where food was scarce. They are full of life and intend to indulge in what the upper class gets to have. Through what they choose to wear, or not to wear, they take back their bodies and act as they please, tricking men and taking up space. The Maries are never seen physically giving up their virginity, but that shouldn’t be the point. It doesn’t matter what others think, they can still wear what they want and cause a ruckus no matter their status. The film is meant to be a threat to show that strong activate

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women can cause a riot even in the smallest of dresses, and this threat was taken seriously as Czechoslovkia found the film banned in a 1968 Soviet clamp-down. The reclamation of the lace and ruffles then perfectly matches their wild child behavior, that can inspire anyone to this day. All of their antics and adventures are choppy as the celluloid is tinted with different effects. The film is experimental, yet some still ask, “What is the plot?” Věra Chytilová’s warning at the end of “Daisies” suggests for viewers to not overthink the plot. These daisy fresh girls dress to please themselves and cause a riot for the hell of it. The man has scolded them and said “no,” but their aspirations and rebellious attitudes have said “yes.” That’s all that matters. This film is monumental in saying: white is not reserved for the pure, and the flower crown now represents their freedom. Their virginity is not a status or a fashion statement, but a taboo to be played with, and this concept is still relevant today. Chytilová types out at the end; “This film is dedicated to those who get upset only over a stomped-upon bed of lettuce,” just as this story is dedicated to the rabble-rousers who can wear whatever they want and act as they please despite what society deems. ■ 87

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I was suffocating in folds of white fabric when her spindly hands reached into my soul. She wasn’t out to kill me; she was breaking the identity that caged her. by LAURA NGUYEN 88

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layout XANDRIA HERNANDEZ photographer ERIN WALTS stylist JACOB TRAN hmua ANDREA SANCHEZ & JANE LEE models MAGGIE DEAVER & SHERIDAN SMITH activate

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“I WAS

DROWNING IN DEATH, AND SHE WAS PULLING ME

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nxiety laces itself across the surface of my skin. My heart throbs with each toss and turn, body giving out in the most wrenching, impactful movements. She’s reaching, she’s finally reaching —

I awaken.

It was only a matter of seconds before her long nails enclosed around my throat — my soul, actually. Her prominent, sickly gaze extended into my eyes while she made her purpose clear: she was out to get me; to reach into me and steal every little bit of me. The long folds of her white dress surrounded me, choking me. Paralyzing me. I was drowning in death, and she was pushing me deeper. But I was safe now, away from sleep. Away from her. As a child, the creepy, crawly monsters that rose goosebumps onto my skin were the dark, unknown creatures of the night. They rattled against the tree branches outside my backyard, and had long claws and indecipherable growls. But as I found myself growing older, going through different phases of life, my fears took to different, specific qualities: a malevolent woman in a purely white dress. It wasn’t just the woman and her horrid appearance — it was the white dress attached to her. The mere sight of the dress made my stomach twist, and I avoided everything that had to do with it. White, when attached to something so dreadful, alludes to a fear far greater than the typical horror norm. It’s as if using the color was a mere attempt to conceal the sin she exudes. Pure white stands out against sallow skin, dark, reaching eyes and sinful crimson. Such an opposite dynamic leaves the viewers in distress, their minds wondering why such an innocent young girl ever transformed into that. That, describing a dehumanized, almost creature-like character that crawls unnaturally on all fours, that comes to grab you. Atrocious. How could someone so normal ever turn into something so inhumane?

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Perhaps we’re all accustomed to the media portraying women as these vulnerable, perfect little humans, with an absence of ill-intentions and sin. And when that perfect little bubble of our worlds pop, every fear comes for us. It’s a threat to our assumptions, to this balance of a female character being hidden and overshadowed. Director and movie editor Brett Sullivan says, “When you think about a younger girl going from innocent to evil, that’s the biggest journey you can ever take. Historic images of women are damsels in distress, and women aren’t supposed to be dangerous or deadly. When someone metamorphoses that role into a killing machine, it’s unexpected.” She becomes the main attraction, with all her ugly tagging along. And her white dress comes in front with her, breaking the symbolism and meaning of the iconic attire. Instead of white evoking meanings of purity and cleanliness, it reveals an imprisonment of identity and role. White dresses constricted me with their meaning of what it meant to be a woman, and that my identity — my fears, would be lost amidst this definition. Julia Petrov and Gudrun D. Whitehead’s book, “Fashioning Horror: Dressing to Kill on Screen and in Literature,” reasons that “ ... the Victorian sense that female sexual activity is for procreation reasons only as well as the dress being symbolic of women’s loss of property rights also haunts the fabric.” La Llorona’s a connection to a duty mothers have, but she’s also tied with a fear that children could be taken away from their mothers. But in the end, she overpowers the identity she’s defined — a mother and wife — in exchange for a representation of her fears, despair and imperfections.

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“SHE’S NOT

CHAINED TO HER DRESS — SHE’S CHAINED TO HER

With the antagonist’s lack of perfection, beauty and identity encased in maternal functions and innocence — without the presumed elements of femininity embodied in this white dress, the woman is considered eerie. Deathly. Unsightly. She’s considered inhumane, and her only tie to humanity is the white dress that dangles on top of her. But she breaks out of this incarceration of expectations that’s kept her feelings inside. And that’s something worth celebrating in the end. She survives. Well, kind of. She’s killed, destroyed, but she looms. She’s there. She’s the existing evidence that my problems are real. She’s in our memories, in our fears. She, and her portrayal of her sins are framed forever. And whether we like it or not, she’ll continue to be there. The white dress that attempts to cover up her fears has no effect; she destroys and takes as she pleases. She’s not chained to the dress — she’s chained to her insanity. Like her, I’m breaking my own expectations of myself. This fear of hiding inside, the veil over suppressed “negative” emotions and flaws — it needs to stop. There’s no need to hide the awfulness that bottles up inside, no need to wash the “blood” off our hands. We aren’t conformed by what was determined before our existence. A white dress will not confine the atrocity within me, nor will it attempt to define what is beauty. It won’t keep me pretty nor dainty. White dresses don’t scare me anymore. Instead, my palms expand over the fabric to smooth it over. I try to find the emotions that once controlled me, but a longing desire flusters up in my soul instead. They give me courage to portray myself, fears and all, without being imprisoned inside responsibilities and roles. These iconic, pure white dresses make me want to unravel — unravel the unpretty inside me. ■ activate

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The Reflection

OF A RECLUSE by MARYBETH SCHMIDT

Once hidden from the world, Vivian Maier is now among the greats of street photography, yet she still doesn’t know it. Never quite hidden from the world, I strive to be known as a photographer.

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layout SHUER ZHUO

photographer MARYBETH SCHMIDT

stylist MADEE FELTNER

hmua CELENA VALENTINE

model IFEOLUWA KEHIND


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C

radling a Rolleicord camera to her hip, she creeps through the streets of Chicago, her broad shoulders scarcely grazing those she passes. The store window mirrors her serious face, long eyebrows and heavy-weighted clothes. She pauses for a moment, gazing at her reflection. No one notices her, except the woman whose eyes echo back. She is there but invisible to the tragedy, the insecurities, the pride, the folly, the innocence and the truth that walk by. Her voice does not shout at the sun to fill this dark misfortune that she's seen. Instead, she remains on the outskirts, walking alongside it all. With my digital camera, I creep with her.

about politics or men. Seemingly a European woman — unapologetically independent and with a delicate French accent — she was born in New York City in 1926 and moved to Chicago as an adult. She worked as a nanny while developing her passion for photography. With her medium format camera, Vivian moved through Chicago as intimately as the wind, a lone wanderer obsessed with taking photos of life. Her subjects were often the underrepresented, the downtrodden. She keenly captured the unusual — the oddity, the frankness, the embarrassing, the unappealing aspects of being human. She was very specific in her choice of what she photographed, and that is precisely how she made her point.

Vivian Maier was a mystery inside an enigma. She wanted to be private, so she stayed intensely guarded until she needed to speak her mind

Yet Vivian never showed her photos to anyone; she was unknown, unpublished and also poor. She was unimpressed by material wealth. She

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had storage lockers stuffed to the brim with photography books, knickknacks, newspaper clippings, magazines, home films and undeveloped film. After Vivian’s death, over 100,000 negatives and hundreds of undeveloped rolls of film were unearthed. Vivian’s photographs unclothed Urban America, illuminating the second half of the twentieth century from the late 1950s to the 1990s. Obscure, with barely a grin, she mastered an art form that bared the incongruity of life. She is now among the greats of street photographers.

“Obscure, with barely a grin, she mastered an art form that bared the incongruity of life.” Vivian’s movements are mine, synchronized yet she doesn't know it. With my digital camera, I'm moving through the streets of Austin, attempting to capture even a glimpse of emotion that she did. Skyscrapers graze the clouds as the people are trapped below. Lost in the mundanity and repetitiveness of human success. I watch them to climb on top of each other, whether attempting to pass another or gasping for air, I cannot tell. I see Austin in the way she sees Chicago. My photographs switch this colorful city into black and white. Growing up, that’s how I always saw the world. I was able to break people down to their core and see the suffering and loneliness resulting from the constant need for more. I started photography at a young age. Not really knowing what the point of it was, but I was simply shooting what I saw. I looked up to creative minds. The ones who saw life and color the way no one else had. As I’ve matured in my craft, I bring this mentality toward my photos. I think to myself, what does the world need to see; who can I be a voice for? Now I know what I'm seeing, and I'm intentional about what I shoot. However, I often have a jack-in-the-box moment — surprised by the hidden images uncovered in my photos. Those are the moments I live for. I have

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“When I see my subject through the lens, it is a clear and unfiltered window. I am connected to this stranger, and unlike Vivian, I don’t let the connection fall with the shutter.” the power to surprise individuals in the same way. To bring the desires, qualities and tribulations of one life to another across the world. We are all one unit needing to learn from one another. The images I produce aim not only to expose reality, but to uncover the unbelievable scenes of jubilation in life.

why. Why she kept everything hidden. Vivian photographed our social history in completely new and uncommon ways. Her images noted the societal norms and hierarchy that so clearly drive our beings. Yet, she cowered with the others beneath the buildings. She didn’t look at her own images or let them be a voice for others. Her photographs were simply Vivian’s reflection will always be one I giving dust a place to fall. Fortunately, will try to echo as I continue my jour- for the rest of us, someone brushed ney. Her work is brilliantly inspirational. away the dust and showcased her talWith empathy and respect, she seizes ent. Yet, I have to wonder if she wanted strangers’ most private moments and this fame in death. We invade her space vulnerable feelings. I aspire to be like in the same way she invaded stranger’s Vivian in more ways than one. We share moments. If karma is an actuality, then a recluse photographer space, practicing is it fair to bring familiarity to this unquiet observation. As I walk the streets known woman? Yet she only captured following Vivian, I start to lose her in these individuals, she did not reveal the the space of my thoughts. I begin to step photographs. We are not only unveilout of sync with Vivian. She was so fo- ing Vivian, but also hundreds of people cused on being on the outside, did she with her. ever let anyone in? Completely removed from family and friends, was her own Perhaps Vivian knew fame would taint photographed shadow or reflection the a truthful reflection. Yet for me, I will only person she wished to see or interact always treat photography as a voice with? As I watch Vivian, I wonder if she to expose reality, evoke life and unite ever truly felt alive, seen or heard. Or did worlds. As a vital means to generate a Vivian have a new breath in life, one we kind of moment where two presences haven’t inhaled before. I'm so focused on can vibrate as one. Photographs have getting other people to acknowledge my the power to declare infinite varieties work, I neglect the responsibility of dis- of perception, interpretation and exebanding from the marching line to cre- cution. When I see my subject through ate my own steps. So focused on pleas- the lens, it is a clear and unfiltered wining the eyes looking down on me, am I dow. I am connected to this stranger, the one who has not felt alive? and unlike Vivian, I know the importance of sharing photographs. Unlike Weaving and waiting but always watch- Vivian, I don’t let the connection fall ing her, I try to catch up to Vivian. I ask with the shutter. ■

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SKIRT | Revival Vintage

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Some big lights made me sad. by JADE FABELLO

Panicking on 42nd and Broadway, I wished for a life where I didn’t have to lose any more loved ones.

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layout ELIANNA PANAKIS photographer ABHI VELAGA stylist LAUREN AGUIRRE hmua ADRIANNE GARZA & JULIE GARCIA models NIKITA KALYANA & REBECCA WANG activate

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hen I went to Times Square, I was terrified that I might be somebody. If you’ve never been, Times Square looks like it does in the movies. Big glowing buildings glow next to other big glowing buildings, as a McDonald’s bag drags over your foot. Giant led screens coat the area with reflective nylon, which makes it seem like the sun is out at night. The spectacle can be debilitating, especially if you’ve had a few drinks, haven’t slept in 24 hours and are trying to forget that your family has cancer.

I often am pretty okay with life, but the spring of 2019 hadn’t been kind. I was shambling through my first heartbreak and a near-death experience when my ma delivered the news that my godfather had colon cancer. I slowly approach the age my stepfather was when he died. And with years since I last heard his voice, my birth father feels about as distant as the dead. I was frankly pissed at the idea of possibly losing a third dad. In New York, I was tired of losing. So when I, a Black-Filipino kid from South Austin, looked up at those screens in Times Square, I resented the idea that I might be somebody. Models, talk show hosts, public figures — all the people whose giant images were staring down at me — those were somebodies. If I admitted to already being somebody, it was proof that life didn’t get any better. Panicking on 42nd and Broadway, I wished for a life where I didn’t have to lose any more loved ones.

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I wasn’t upset with the capitalism or consumerism on display in Times Square, at least not any more than I would be on a typical day. I was upset with this arbitrary bar I was comparing myself to. My definition of being somebody was a hangover from our culture and my childhood — a romantic idea that rested somewhere in my soul that a perfect, tragedy-free life could exist. Now, I do subscribe to the radical idea that all human life has inherent value beyond our social status. But if anyone were likely to have this free pass on future trauma, it was those somebodies up on the screens. The lights felt hot on my skin. I hated the shadow they made me cast. My godfather’s diagnosis happened despite my apparent status. When you’re a nobody, there seems to be the possibility that you can reach a point where nothing will ever go wrong again. I didn’t want to be somebody and done. I wanted to be nobody and have a chance. I have no illusions that people spend their days thinking about me. But the nature of what I enjoy doing requires an audience. I showcase my heart and have always done so, to help me make sense of the world. Writing, political speaking — they allow people to remember my face in my hometown occasionally. Whether it is 100 people, a dozen or just my ma, I occupy space somewhere in somebody’s mind. As a kid, I did want to grow to be somebody. I had been taught my tragedy was my strength, that it’d allowed me to reach whatever

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“If I admitted to already being somebody, it was proof that life didn’t get any better.” activate

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relative heights I now had. When my other two fathers left, people would commend my brother and I’s bravery for having had life happen to us. We were ‘mature for our age,’ better slated to handle the world. I had my fair share of teenage drama surely, but that didn’t stop me from thinking that some of my peer’s problems were on a lower scale. I excelled, scoffing at the teenage dilemmas around me. I bit my tongue in an everlasting state of ‘nothing I couldn’t handle.’ But what I hadn’t realized was that supporting my strength was the belief that I had already paid my suffering to the world. I was done with that part of life. New trauma never registered. I confused emerging pain with weakness and weakness with being nobody special — and teenage me was on the track to being somebody. I barrelled through new pain, not realizing that every new trauma tore flesh from my core. In college, other tragic seasons knocked my bravado down into the

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concrete. I went from ignoring to downplaying, quieting my pain instead of silencing it. By the summer I arrived in New York, my world view was intensely attuned to suffering. With all of the painful noise of my unkind spring, I was looking to shrink down into nothing and nobody. New York City during the day filled me with immense joy. Hours before arriving in Times Square, I negotiated with my default jadedness to allow myself to feel the romance of New York. I was in awe of every window. The shape of millions of lives formed before me. Resting in a park by nyu, the gentle air made me smile. I had never seen so many people gathered comfortably in one place. The city was radiating life. A percussionist played his full kit in the middle of it all. Skaters’ wheels scraped the nearby earth, tall Black women with green hair rose in the sun and hopeful artists put their souls on display. Power, I felt power for the first time since the traumas of the spring. The

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residual color and heat reached me. I felt truly anonymous. And in being small, there was only possibility ahead. The sun warmed me, and I smiled hard. I was in pain, but shrinking down gave me a goliath to fight. I could push on ahead, knowing that one day I would completely conquer pain. But at 2:22 a.m., my eyes felt heavy, and I turned quickly at each mechanical sound. My day of joy had been real, but it was crashing down around me in Times Square. I kept my gaze on the hard pavement, but that too reflected the lights from the screens. Those lights burning down on me didn’t let me hide from the reality of trauma. This whole life thing we are doing can be very hard. No amount of growing or shrinking can prevent the arrival of a day that may rewrite your life for worse. But that doesn’t mean that waiting for those days is all we have. I am nobody. I am somebody. I am neither and both. I am a human being, and in between my definitions, I want to feel it all. A few months after my crisis in Times Square, my godfather, godmother, uncles, brother, ma and I surrounded a small dining table. We all found time on a Monday evening. Each of us competing to be the funniest there. I helped serve slow-cooked pork on shiny-

white square plates that my ma has had for years. We laughed, and we laughed hard. We discussed our loved ones who weren’t dining with us, and experienced joy that did not crumble before my eyes. I do fully believe that life can always improve. What they don’t always tell you is that sometimes trauma is trauma. You can learn a thing or two and be humbled now and again, but at some point, pain is pain. You don’t have to be happy about bad news or take it in stride. There are traumas from that unkind Spring that I have still not admitted. Pain I haven’t dealt with — pain that I am unsure of when I will deal with. But when I let myself feel my pain, I get access to all my other emotions too. When I ignore or downplay it, I’m unable to truly feel joy. I still want to hold everyone I have ever loved and demand they come back to me safely. I still wish that I never lived some of my trauma. And I still don’t look forward to any new days of tragedy that lay one phone call away. But I do look forward to loving life and loving it hard. Sharing more meals on square plates. Loving or detesting every experience as they come. And walking through this world as both nobody and somebody. ■

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G O NA

L L E SERSI N P

by NICK SHEPPARD

The future of branding is all about personality. These two designers show us how it’s done. layout SYDNEY BUI photographer ALYSSA OLVERA stylist MAYA HALABI hmua CAMERON KELLY & OLIVIA HARRIS models AMANDA JEWELL SAUNDERS & CHRISTIAN KENOLY

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ishnet gloves, cross motif jewelry, a bold red lip and a wild mop of hair … sound familiar to any of you ‘80s fans? If we got ourselves a Delorean and bopped back to circa 30 years ago, we would see the influence of America’s hottest new cultural sensation: Madonna. From thumbing through the pages of Vogue to spying on fashionistas bopping to "Material Girl," we’d see the imprint of her badass-punk-meets-Marilyn-Monroe persona on every corner. Now, let’s go back to the future. Instagram. Go on, I give you permission. Search @matieresfecales. Do you see it? The secondskin silicone boots with a fleshy horn stiletto. Black eyeliner all the way out to over there and Comme des Garçons levels of platform shoes. Now, look up @pisssy_pusssy. Just look at those velvet masks whose Cheshire Cat grins look ever so gently bound by a thousand dainty safety pins. Imagine the fringe on that purple and orange reptilian headpiece bouncing to the thump of techno. Fecal Matter and Pissy Pussy — yep, you heard me — are very much not Madonna. They're strange and creepy creatures whose looks put the word “commercial” far down on the list of descriptors. But ... they’re captivating. Enthralling. Mystifying. You can’t

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look away. They offer a window to a fantasy where a crosswalk is as good as a stage. Have I lost all but the freaky-deakies out there? If you’re still here, may-haps you want a piece of the action. You’re in luck. Fecal Matter has set up shop on Depop and Pissy Pussy just moved from Etsy to his own merchandise website. If you find yourself in Montreal or Brooklyn, they’ll even make a house call if you want to throw down some serious pesos. (Remember those silicone heels I mentioned? Mmmm, yeah, they’re $10,000. #fuggetaboutit) Here’s what I’m getting at: while these two artists seem niche, they’re followings and influence are growing day by day. Fecal Matter has won several major design awards and had a garment worn by none other than Lady Gaga. Pissy Pussy just had some of his designs featured in Mont Blanc and Lavazza coffee campaigns. Their notoriety and their ability to support themselves financially off their very personal designs is an example to the fashion industry that the future of branding lies not in commercial appeal, but an appeal to consumers’ fantasies and identities. “Oh my god, is this boy talking about pee and poop? I thought this was a fashion magazine ... like, uhhh wtf??”

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“THE PERSON UNDERNEATH THE FABRIC HAS VANISHED FROM SIGHT.

Don’t worry, doll, let me explain. Fecal Matter is a brand and creative duo based in Montreal, Canada, that was formed by twenty-somethings Hannah Rose Dalton and Steven Raj Bhaskaran after they finished design school. They sell their brand’s clothes and accessories on Depop, produce high-octane club music and operate their Instagram account you’ve presumably perused by now — if you haven’t, what the heck, girl? Why the provocative name? Dalton told Vogue, “It’s things that we don’t like in the industry, like the child labor, the waste that goes on in the fabric industry, the dyes that are harmful for the environment.” They also want their brand to promote critical thinking about beauty standards and our relationship to our clothes and, even further, our humanity. Their looks embrace perceived opposites and marry them. Hard and soft, masc and femme, large and small, Hollywood glam and Halloween drag co-exist in a singular look to synthesize something otherworldly. Their designs are rooted in morphing the body, something they take to an extreme with their makeup and photo editing. Wearing Fecal Matter, just like wearing any kind of big name designer, isn’t just about the garment itself. It’s about what that garment stands for. The message here: a fat middle finger to gender, to beauty standards

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A

CREATU RE O F T HE N IG H T(LIFE

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and the idea of being human at all. If you’re down diggity with that vision, there are several ways to buy into their message. Scroll through their Depop offerings and you’ll see a range of enticing products. On the more affordable side, they sell accessories like necklaces made from hardware store chains and small bags with dildo handles. If you want to spend a little more serious money, you could get a custom-made repurposed blazer with chains cinching in the waist or a bright orange sculptural latex dress. Pissy Pussy, while equally fabulous and campy, has a completely different story. Pissy started as a club kid drag persona for the 25-year-old Robert Reed when he moved to New York and got hooked on the nightlife scene. As he’s developed the persona, Pissy Pussy has built her aesthetic on a few distinctive characteristics. First, a signature mask covers the entire head except for three little baby grommets where the eyes and mouth should show. Second, all capitals: tall shoes, be it seductive stilettos or brick-like platforms, that’ll squash all the basic bitches in the disco. Third, and the most striking aspect of a Pissy look, is one bold print that covers every inch of her. Absolutely no sign of a human body shows whatsoever in most of Reed’s designs. The person underneath the fabric has vanished from sight. A creature of the night(life) is born.

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While Reed does make head to toe custom Pissy Pussy looks for clients, the majority of his sales are Pissy masks and merchandise. Buying a Pissy Pussy mask is a PP-lite (teehee) version of the whole experience. You still get the sensation of skin-tight coverage and body erasure, but only focused on the head. You at least get to see through the tiny little eye holes that Reed himself looks through when he gets into full drag. It sort of reminds me of the way a Sia wig functions. Maddie Ziegler is just herself without the wig, but as soon as she puts it on, she's part of Sia, a little mini-me. You put on a Pissy mask, and you transform into a mini Pissy Pussy — a lil' baby Pissy Pussy. There's a greater perceived feeling of intimacy between the designers and the customers than a typical fashion brand. Both designers have brands founded in caricatures of themselves. When customers purchase a piece from their collections, they move about their own worlds with a piece of their favorite creators. This relationship isn’t constructed on empty and arbitrary values like higher status or wealth. As Dalton of

Fecal Matter put it, “You have to really like what you’re buying into and you really have to love the design and the textile [as] opposed to just buying it because it's Dior.” This more personal and emotional connection customers have with the brand build fans and a community, not just a customer base. Take the recent launch of Rihanna’s clothing line Fenty as a more mainstream example. Like Fecal Matter, Rihanna is simultaneously creative director and muse for the brand. She is the brand as much as the brand is her, and we eat. It. Up. Fecal Matter and Pissy Pussy act in the same way, embodying the brands they've created. They're sharing and selling the visual parts of their identities and the philosophies attached to them. People have a deeper connection to the things they buy when they feel that they can point to it and say, “There! That right there is me.” Fecal Matter and Pissy Pussy are the Steve Jobs of selling funky, wild, crazy personas. They’re selling the fantasies people didn’t know they had until someone showed them. Who can relate? ■

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layout KELLY WEI photographer KATHERINE PERKS stylist NIKITA KALYANA hmua AMBER BRAY models JEANETTE HOELSCHER & MAGGIE DEAVER

by KIM LY

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Kids bred to perfection, albums as proof of a wife’s duties outdone “Yea, it’s in the hamper,” Husband told me when I asked him where to go for dinner

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White roses behind picket fences, redone three times for the neighborhood’s approval Behind the confines of a beautiful Victorian house, how did this become happiness?

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SAN FRAN SOWETO BEIJING LONDON CALLING CDMX NYC

layout ELIANNA PANAKIS photographer ABHI VELAGA stylist MAYA HALABI hmua CAMERON KELLY models ALEJANDRO GARCIA & DIANA PEREZ

by IVANNA ENGLISH

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WITH SUNSHINE TO MY BACK, THE THOUGHT OF ANARCHY CONSUMED MY MIND AND I REMEMBERED MY RAGE WITH THE WRONGS OF THE WORLD. FEND OFF THE ENEMY, PASSIVITY. RESTLESS, WITH FIRE CAPABLE OF EXTINGUISHING INJUSTICE, A PUNK’S PASSION COULD SAVE THE WORLD. “London calling to the faraway towns Now war is declared and battle come down London calling to the underworld Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls” —The Clash

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he cry of apocalypse belted into a cold world — empty, yet bellyful of injustice, corruption, pain, fear, silence. Something about being positive, something about avoidance, and it’s also not my problem. But it is. It’s everyone’s problem, but it’s not a cross that most care to bear. Gathering our bearings, we point to the world with sardonic smiles and surface-level composure. Or perhaps we fill our brains with ridiculous optimism, or naiveté that the world is indeed a happy place. However, the unabashed, angry youth challenge with raw emotions that the world thirsts for a passionate wave of change. Amorphous in expression, punk subculture possesses a large dose of passion-informed people that desire to live in a better world. In combination with loud voices and bleeding hearts, the ideologies of anarchy, activism and sincerity leave no choice but for punks to save the world.

Punk was born amidst the birthing pains of a dissatisfied generation that felt oppression and the conviction to do something about it. Anarchy is punk’s predecessor. Dating back to ancient China and Greece, philosophers questioned the necessity of a powerful state and its restrictions on individuality free from coercion. Since then, human resolve has abandoned questioning and taken to demonstrating against a state to affect change — reminding the state that its members are conscious, self-aware beings.

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A core to being punk is individuality and preserving self at all costs. A love so intense that it seeks to destroy hierarchy and the limits it imposes on its people. There is a storied history of anarchy in the infamously class-systemed Great Britain. With a plummeting economy, post-war UK incubated dark, disillusioned punks, whose density dissipated sunshine along with the hippies. Anarchy isn’t unique to British monarchy; the Korean People’s Association in Manchuria (KPAM) executed the same ideology as they sought freedom from Imperial Japan. Communism sustained the KPAM without a regulating body; its gift economy was backed by mutual aid and lasted from 1929 to 1931. In these territories, mutual banks, trade cooperatives and democratic schools were established, and operated without private property, class structure and currency. Fearing their influence would lessen in the area, Japanese and Stalinists killed off leading anarchists, and thus wrought the fall of KPAM. Though short-lived, KPAM could be considered an anarchist’s daydream operating in full living (red) color. Surprise! Not all anarchists wear black and bleach their heads, they wear red too — and they’re not afraid to shed it. Anarchy isn’t only a movement of opposition to governing states and class systems, but also to norms. Modern punk women served as a fierce force against gendered injustice. Despite not achieving major commercial success, trans performer Jayne County used her talents to create a space in punk and Manhattan’s Lower East Side where trans people could be open about their identity and be comfortable in it. Courage is ardent self-love lathered in selfacceptance — especially in a world that fears anything other than what is called normal. Courage personified, County was a trailblazer for expression by turning norms on their heads and giving the bird to those who disapproved.

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“It’s hard to be true when they point and stare at you Conditioned to portraying the mask of masculinity Another blend of different shading I am what I am I don’t give a damn.” — Jayne County Diversion from norms extends beyond spoken language and into presentation and performance. Siouxsie Sioux from Siouxsie and the Banshees performed “asexual,” “violent, angular gyrations” that didn’t fit the patriarchal binary of being either a virgin/mother type or a lustful femme fatale. Journalists lacked the vocabulary to understand and convey her. She didn't fit the mold, and being a multi-talented musician (lyricist, songwriter and drummer), her range gave her a heavier air of ambiguity. It was believed that women could “only perform within the scope of music, rather than be an active player that engages with it.” Sioux, however, not only engaged with her craft, but roughed it up in her own fashion, while extending the scope in which women could be perceived. Anarchy may be based on disruption and destruction, but it’s demolition to create room for a better world. However, calamity doesn’t precipitate without adding heat; to start a fire, someone has to light the match. Punks are also activists. While musicians called out the world for its injustice, other famed punks have taken to the streets to display their disapproval. The very stitches in clothing made by Vivienne Westwood are a mad rebellion against societal norms — with bold font democracy in the context of the current British monarchy. Asymmetrical, almost dizzying designs distort reality, metaphors for how unaware we might be to the world before us. Are we so lost in our own worlds that we can’t do anything about our shared world? Westwood designs gave us the iconic punk look for decades — tattered and torn sleeves with flairs of color that remind us of the joys and rages of life. Even deep into her seventies, Westwood continues to create thought-provoking pieces, and now fights the climate crisis. Clad in an

earth-tone flannel and joggers with pops of rouge flowers and the iconic chaos beanie, Vivienne Westwood stepped foot in the Arctic to witness the current devastation — mounds of brown earth, distant melting glaciers and the absence of polar bears. Her concern has led to reconciling mass production, mindful of her ecological impact. She also partnered with Greenpeace, designing a logo for the now familiar “Save the Arctic” graphic tee. Photographs of celebrities from Naomi Campbell to Chris Martin wearing the tee lined the walls of Waterloo Station in London. “Don’t listen to the politicians; listen to us, to the scientists,” she said at the exhibition’s opening. “Bear a lily in thy hand; Gates of brass cannot withstand One touch of that magic wand. Bear through sorrow, wrong and ruth; In thy heart the dew of youth, On thy lips the smile of truth.” ­— H.W. Longfellow The lilies have long-wilted in the hands of youth, their faces strewn with stern opposition. Activism is a battle for the young, often attracting collegeaged and educated youth. Youth often participate in the problems of adults to undo the grown-ups’ messes. Oftentimes peaceful activism by youth leads to tragedy, violence incurred by police brutality and armed forces. A young activist’s power is great, enough to topple the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia through peaceful stubbornness, enough to aid the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa with mass protesting. These students were active players of affecting change; it didn’t matter who they had to face — steadfast, loud, joyful, angry in their convictions. To be rash and abrasive is integral to being punk; speak your mind and be true to the core of your identity. In the veins of love and acceptance, sincerity would gush forth would it not be dammed by ironic, sardonic culture. Sincerity encapsulates punk, as it exposes the crude humanity in us

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all. While there is the experience of joy, there is anger; where there is courage, there is fear; when there is peace, there also lies frustration. Punk denies living at half-empty, where full expression of raw emotions is desired. Who would choose to live in a world where only the sun shines? While this world may give the essence of an endless summer, the beauty of the night sky would never be known to us. Getting comfortable in the dark is excruciatingly personal, and irony shields soft hearts from the edges in the world. In the process of protection, we become calloused, and the passion that affects change for a better world is hindered. The darkness, anger and frustration of punks is an expression of love. If punk were averse to these emotions, that would validate that there is nothing to be mad about, and that nothing, indeed, is wrong with our world. It’s not just a movement, punk is a way of life that's freeing not just for an individual, but the world. And the more emotion, the more activism, disruption and destruction that's evoked, the more I'm convinced that punk will save the world. ■

“THE MORE EMOTION, THE MORE ACTIVISM, DISRUPTION, AND DESTRUCTION THAT'S EVOKED, THE MORE I'M CONVINCED THAT PUNK WILL SAVE THE WORLD.” activate

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THE

BAREST

THREADS

by SHREYA RAJHANS layout SYDNEY BUI

As we strip down Suprematist fashion, we find true bliss, once lost, in ourselves.

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olden orange, cranberry red, deep blue, cold grey. Voluptuous circles coinciding long rectangles running into awkward triangles littering a canvas. No, this isn’t a five-year-old’s arts and crafts project. It can’t be. This hangs in a museum. Moving to the piece hanging next to it, all hope is lost. It’s a black square painted on white canvas. Seeing, not quite believing. How can something so simple be art? How can something so simple be worthy of appreciation? Contrary to popular belief, the answer to that isn't a resounding “nepotism.” Breathe in. Hold that breath. Keep holding.

This is Suprematism. Created by a man just as tired by the world in 1913 as we are by it today. Kazimir Malevich was looking beyond reason and logic. Testing how far he could deconstruct art yet still have it be art. Trying to detach objects, forms from a painting. And in doing so he started a revolution. His

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ideas were watered and cared for by other creatives until they blossomed into modern art. Art, film, music and fashion were never to be the same again. A certain tour de force by the name of Coco Chanel fabulously reinvented Suprematism’s geometrical designs into iconic pieces like the babushka headscarves and striped blue-and-white undershirts. Rei Kawakubo of Comme de Garçons whimsically channeled Malevich’s spirit into statements like the color-blocked skirt. Designers continue to embrace Suprematism in subtle ways, and we continue to be inexplicably drawn to it. Something so mundane just can’t be fashion. Actually, it can be. And just to bask in everyone’s incredulity, it might just be the most superior form of fashion. Offering a new look into how we can feel the happiest while being the barest. We tend to feel. Most of the time too much and, when it counts, not enough, but we feel.

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Somehow happiness is elusive, though. Just beyond our reach like a bubble we can never hold, lest it pop and cover our hands with soap. We spend lifetimes trying to blow the roundest, largest bubble but sometimes our breath runs short. There’s not enough soap water on the stick. The gust of wind gets its way. Left with sleek disappointment, steeling ourselves to never even try, we abandon that dream. Malevich, Coco Chanel and Rei Kawakubo would tell us to stop trying to blow the most perfect bubble and to instead become the bubble. Admitting what makes us blissful is hard because it forces us to attach the objects or people to our emotions. That’s why Suprematist fashion is the answer to our woes. Fashion is a personal choice. It’s our vulnerable, wideeyed, idealistic child ready to change the world. Watching that child grow into a frustrated adult makes us doubt our choices. Suprematism asks that adult what it meant to be a child. It strips our fashion of glamour and illusion until all that’s left is our bodies held by color, light, shadow and line. And when we're at our most genuine,

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Suprematism allows us to hold fashion not as a shield but as a veil, offering a glimpse of the true nature of our joy.

“SOMEHOW HAPPINESS IS ELUSIVE, THOUGH. JUST BEYOND OUR REACH LIKE A BUBBLE WE CAN NEVER HOLD, LEST IT POP AND COVER OUR HANDS WITH SOAP.” Suprematist fashion is the abyss we look into to see our most primitive selves, absent of any distraction. There is no excess of fabric or overuse of decoration that distorts or conceals us. Instead, we see the truth of who we are, something that we may have lost. Having the ability to find that truth and embrace it, through something as external as fashion is a powerful thing. It allows us to reconnect with the happiness that was slowly scratched away by the world over time. Suprematism through fashion brings us joy beyond all else because it makes us recognize the source of our happiness and embrace it. And by embracing bliss, we can readily feel it more often. ■

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layout ANAI MORENO photographer AMANDA JEWELL SAUNDERS stylist LAUREN AGUIRRE hmua TIFFANY LAM model SUSANNA WANG

by REBECCA WANG

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Tearing away at my skin, I was uncertain that my prayers for a cure would ever be answered.

I

was at a crossroads here. Resolved that I wouldn’t tion, encouragement and kindness. And I understood then swallowed every part of me. Always living a half in those moments that my scars didn’t make me weak. life, an incomplete life. What a tragedy, I thought. Through their eyes, I was loved. And this uncovering unHere I was, alive and well, except that I felt, lived, leashed every sweet thing I held for myself. fully unwell. I couldn’t shake this shadow haunting me, something much more intimate than a shadow, be- And so I began my new life wearing turtlenecks, mock cause it was attached to me, a part of me, on me. necks, zip-ups, everything up to the neck. Jeans, leggings, down to the ankle, every day. And for a fleeting period, I lived 18 years, a majority of my life, with eczema. Upon it was enough. I was beginning to live a little again — if entering college, I was fighting a hard-fought battle. No only just to attend class, scrape by with office hours, study matter what I did, I never got a moment’s rest, never got any groups and the mandatory student org meetings. Yet, inreprieve or relief from the symptoms of my disease. I could side, a new battle was waging. I was able to get through scratch my neck and arms until I felt for sure I was halluci- my days outside through grit and determination, but on nating the blood that would appear, and my pain from the the inside, I was starting to doubt and despise my idenrawness of my skin sometimes felt as that of a burn victim’s. tity. I was continually upset at the clothing that I had to Consequently then, much of my life was spent with myself wear in order to function. It was completely out of sync feeling confined in my head, this detrimental grip begin- with my style. ning to manifest itself into my physical life, confining me to my bedroom, and even when I was out. I was wishing, I can’t recall when I began to consciously use clothes to praying, hoping desperately to come home soon enough cover my symptoms and express myself. It could have been to be relieved of the physical discomfort, social anxiety a scarf I saw that, when worn with a crew neck shirt, sudand insecurity. denly materialized in front of my eyes as a functioning turtle neck. It could have been that bracelet that, if paired with At this point in my life, I was in the infancy of discovering a three-quarter length top, suddenly hit me as a replica of my garments to help me live a fuller life. When I couldn’t a long sleeve shirt. It really didn’t matter what the premise guarantee what parts of my body would be the victim of my was that got me here. My evolution to this stage gave me a symptoms, I could rely on the fact that my turtle neck sweater newer, better normal. I cherished it deeply. would always cover me from wrist to neck. College was supposed to flip my life upside down. And it did. But I didn’t an- Throughout my developed consciousness towards ticipate it to be like this. Admitting fully to my hopeful and clothes, I cannot discount the inner change I’ve experiwide-eyed teenage self, I couldn’t fathom my dreams suc- enced. I have become less obsessed with the idea of havcumbing to something as uncool as this disease. I waged ing flawless skin. Being unblemished and unmarked on philosophical battles with myself and my mother, who was the outside isn’t the only definition of being beautiful. my best friend and practically therapist, on how I could One day, my confidence won’t be defined by the realmove forward with my life. But my disease was constant. estate of skin my clothes can cover. And then, I will express myself fully through my love for fashion. Perhaps In spite of all this, I held tightly to my newfound freedom. I I’ll magically heal from my autoimmune disease, and out was leaving the house more and more. I filled my days with of pure fate and circumstance, I’ll get to unite with my obligations I couldn’t meet from the comfort of my bed- love of clothes. Whatever it may be, I know one thing for room. I thought that if I could cover the parts of my skin certain. At any point for the rest of my life, when I disthat made me feel so staunchly different, I could bargain cover someone else suffering something similar to what I back some of my confidence. Looking back, I realize I was have endured, I will shower them with love, with understruggling to reach acceptance — which I assumed would standing, with whole-hearted kind eyes and gentle words. equal defeat. But in the past few months, I took many last I will do everything in my power to never, ever, ever let nervous, deep breaths before candidly opening up to each them live like the way I did for so long before baring their of my friends. And as they each traversed from unknow- vulnerabilities in order to bloom into the individual they ing to knowing, I was met with nothing but awe, admira- long to be. ■ activate

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WHITE BOOTS | Blue Elephant Boutique

by

L BEL

c AM

O WH

RT

ER

layout JULEANNA CULILAP photographer MARYBETH SCHMIDT stylist KADEN GREEN hmua JENNA CAMPBELL models CAROLINE TSAI & MANA SINGRI activate

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Let’s play a game, shall we ... I spy a shiny golden clock, two orange flowers and my high school lock. I spy the cherry for two and a pineapple in blue, and that smiley face that is for you If you spy in between this arid array of me and you.

CORDUROY JACKET | Blue Elephant Boutique SEQUIN DRESS | Blue Elephant Boutique

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BLUE VELVET JACKET | Blue Elephant Boutique SILVER PANTS | Blue Elephant Boutique

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generation z represents a new age acceptance for vulnerability and individuality. 148

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by PRERNA PAMAR

layout JENNIFER JIMENEZ photographer LUISA PINEDA stylists KADEN GREEN & LYNETTE ADKINS hmua CELENA VALENTINE & RIYA ASHOK models ELODIE TUSAC, RIYA ASHOK & ZION MPEYE

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RANSOM ASHLEY

makes you feel less alone in this wild world. by JADE FABELLO 156

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layout KELSEY JONES photographer ANNA DRODDY stylist SHANNON HOMAN hmua TIFFANY LAM


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hen Ransom Ashley says goodbye, he’ll confirm where you’re from. He wants to know if you’re already aware that in the South: we hug. Ransom Ashley, 27, is an internationally recognized photographer, actor and cinematographer with work appearing across publications like Teen Vogue, Tribeza and The New York Times. Ransom is always looking for what connects with people. Whether he just said hello or had a three-hour chat with you, it will feel bittersweet to have to end a conversation with your new best friend.

Raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, Ransom moved to New York to pursue photography. But he would return to Louisiana for family reasons. Now, he and his fiancé, Hunter, live in Austin. A lot of Ransom’s work explores both his coming-of-age story and the emotions felt by vulnerable populations in the South. On the Monday we met, Ransom sat with the sun at his back at the new creative coworking space, The Commune (where he serves as community manager). His hair fell perfectly out of place, and even after the space closed and all the busy creatives cleared out, his voice rarely rose above a gentle and plodding timbre.

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“I like feeling like I’m in a place where I’m connected to those early experiences that caused me to make art in the first place.”

So I take it Shreveport fashion didn’t quite do it for you. How would you describe it? There's a country element, but it's just so safe and banal. I think people are too scared to rail against the status quo because you could be targeted in those smaller towns if you do stand out too much. Mind you, my experience was probably a little harsher because I was in a religious Baptist school. I had friends that went to a magnet school that I wish I could’ve gone to. I would've needed less therapy. So from Shreveport Baptist schools to Parsons New School of Design in New York — that sounds like two very different experiences. Oh my God, it was. I remember buying so many cool pieces of clothing on Topman and asos — ‘cause God knows we didn't have any stores that were fashionable in Shreveport. And I’d buy them thinking that I was somehow going to gain the courage to walk downstairs without wondering what my mom or dad was going to say. The clothes would just sit in my closet. But then I remember packing those up and taking them to New York. I finally felt free.

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A lot of creatives dream about moving out to New York, but you’ve talked previously about feeling disconnected from the work you made there. What was it like to return to Louisiana? I didn't pick up on a lot of things about my upbringing until I came back and saw them through a different lens. I think there's a richness in the way that the South made me feel. It sounds so masochistic. But I like feeling like I'm in a place where I’m connected to those early experiences that caused me to make art in the first place. The South is still your home. Yes. I think I realized who I was when I came back to Louisiana. It's funny to reflect on this because now I'm in Austin. But in general, down here, I'm observing the experiences of marginalized people, and in New York, it's almost like it blended into the walls more. And now that I think about it, maybe I was just too happy and busy in New York. Disconnected. I grew up with the land. Being in a place with so much noise and concrete — there was just too much static. Louisiana put me back in touch with this emotional fire that I felt as a kid that I

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“If you can use your gifts or your career, your resources — whatever it is — to make someone else feel less alone, then you should do it. You know?”

didn't know how to express. And it's like New York gave me the confidence that I needed to come back and to channel that fire into creating meaningful work. You talk a lot about grief in some of your social posts. So how exactly do you engage with grief? I’d consider myself a pretty emotional person. I usually try — and it doesn't always work this way — to express the emotions that I feel, whether it be grief or loneliness, in the most constructive way that I can. If you can use your gifts or your career, your resources — whatever it is — to make someone else feel less alone, then you should do it. You know? Because that’s what I needed when I was growing up. There were so many times where I felt like I didn’t have a soul in the world that would understand me or embrace me for who I was. So much of that has changed now, but I still am so connected to those feelings and how important it is to tell those stories. If I can tell a story or post a picture that makes someone feel represented or seen or beautiful, then not only should I do it, but to me, that’s the best thing about what I do.

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Did you ever have doubts about sharing deeply personal work? I remember doing one of my first interviews and talking about my experiences coming of age in the Bible Belt. I was reluctant in the first place because I knew I was going to be talking about things that people maybe didn't want to confront about the place I lived and went to school in. It did get backlash. There were people that felt like I was talking about them, but I was just talking about my experience. It's something that I've had to shed: stopping myself from doing things that I need to do or saying things that I need to say. It's important that we don't wash over our experiences. So much of healing is being honest with what we went through and what we experienced. It shouldn't be controversial to exist. Do you remember a particular shoot where this all became real to you? Where you felt that you weren’t simply snapping photos? Hmm. I'm, like, going on this journey with you. I haven't been forced to think about these seemingly transient,

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mundane moments that happen. They can kind of skim by like whispers. But it’d probably be with my best friend at the time. I remember her laying down in this grassy field by my house. There was a sadness that I saw, and I felt so connected to it. I can't quite say if it was that moment where I realized I was doing something more than just taking pictures. But I do remember seeing her and realizing, ‘I'm not going to take a picture of her running through the field. Those raw emotions are what I need to capture. This is the story that I want to tell.’ As you get more intentional as a craftsman and creative, do you fear losing that unfiltered, raw component? Absolutely. It's such a balance. You can be intentional yet not contrived. But it's hard. I do fear that if I steer in one direction too far, I could

become less effective. I'm learning now that I have to surrender, because the shot is not always going to be the idea that I have in my mind. I hope that I have the objectivity to see that even when it's not what I expect it to be, it's still okay and powerful and people can still connect to it. Apart from the craft, what’s something odd about you? Do you collect anything? Oh, miniatures! My fiancé Hunter gave this toy crane to me for Christmas one year. It has like a little claw that you can maneuver around to pick up these little miniature toys and bring them back up. When people come over, we let them put a coin in and choose something out of the crane. There's just something so fun and colorful about it. Color is so connected to emotion with me. I think that also goes back to Louisiana. It's a very colorful place. ■

* This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

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“I do fear that if I steer in one direction too far, I could become less effective. What I’m learning right now is that I have to surrender”

“It’s important that we don’t wash over our experiences. So much of healing is being honest with what we went through and what we experienced.”

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Between Shades of Black

layout PRANUTHA PUNUKULA & REBECCA WONG photographer EDDIE GASPAR stylist ALEX CAO hmua AMBER BRAY model JULIA VASTANO

by ALLISON KNODLE

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launting a stark white wedding gown, she hovers down the aisle like a dream, prepared to pledge “Till death do us part.” Wed locked. In a blink, she struggles to pump air from her lungs, suffocating in a barbed wire corset. Grief ravaged the shell of a woman she is without her true love, dearly departed. Her cheeks painted pale. His eyes glued open. A man, nothing more than a mannequin, posed like a doll on display. His palm draped on her sunken shoulder. Vacant glare, flash and click. Will he thrive in heaven or burn in hell? One way to tell — if he’s been good, flowers will grow upon his grave; if he’s been evil, only weeds will sprout.

A husbandless wife is doomed to a grave of mourning, entangled by dark garments dubbed widow’s weeds. Fogged by death’s dinge, frocks of chartreuse, mauve and turquoise collect dust. In full mourning, she hides behind black billowy sleeves, a thick veil of pebbled crepe, silhouette shrouded in sorrow. As suffering dulls, a pearly sheen radiates on dense fabric, her color palette expands to brown, gray, lilac and navy, occasionally white: an ironic homage to a tragic bride. The Christian philosophy of memento mori, Latin for “remember you must die,” becomes macabre jewelry, decorating her veiny skin with jet stones and locks of his hair woven into a broach. Two and a half years after death, she purges her closet of ratty weeds; bad luck to save for another untimely end.

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Under the scathing gaze of a thousand eyes, static sadness rusts her porcelain skin.

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“Yet at the crux of this strange ritual is a morbid kind of retail therapy, confrontation of grief that may otherwise be ignored.”

Waves of sympathy intoxicated elites, who contorted the trend into an expectation. Queen Victoria, mourning’s poster child, wore weeds from her husband’s death until her own passing — nearly 40 years later. Black dominated her identity as an icon of sobriety and ideal Christian widowhood. She was worshipped by a country rampant with disease and an average life expectancy of just 45. Infatuated by death, Victorians dwelled in grief to supplement the lives of those taken too soon. Society mourned eagerly, limited only by the depth of their pockets. Blue bloods hoarded black catalogues of clothes, noses upturned to the poor who penny-pinched for just a single gown. An industry built on social awareness peppered cities with warehouses stocked full of dresses for every occasion — even mourning bathing suits strutted on sandy beaches. As constricting as a prison jumpsuit, this grim pageantry left women under the tyranny of taboo. They were forced to reject social invitations, and couldn’t drink or even dance (arguably the best form of self-care). “Gone with the Wind’s” stubborn Belle Scarlett O’Hara, in the dusk of mourning, waltzed with a handsome 168

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bachelor at a crowded party, ignoring the guests’ disgust at her promiscuity. How could she be so disrespectful? Maybe the guests hadn’t considered that everyone has their own unorthodox way of grieving; rules and regulations only intensify the misery. More oppressive than expressive, vanity poisoned good intentions, dressing to mourn was no longer a matter of healing sorrow so much as parading wealth and pity. Yet at the crux of this strange ritual is a morbid kind of retail therapy, confrontation of grief that may otherwise be ignored. Fashion reflects emotion, sometimes more so than color. It reminds the mourner that death is daunting and a fate no one can escape. Avoiding the thought of it protects from the overhanging fear of demise, but realization breeds acceptance, almost contentment. To stay sane, people constantly fiend for prestige, thirsty for attention to deflect their worries. It’s natural to be comforted by status security. Compliments and compassion extend a reassuring hand to hold, especially when most vulnerable. Communal support is enough to keep heads held high, tears dry and move on in a life that guarantees nothing but death. ■ spark

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ne hundred years … Eternal. Unfathomable. Upcoming.

The moment New Years Day, the twinkling lady she is, happens upon this wintry January eve, rings the doorbell with a flourish, and prepares to waltz in, we’ll be one hundred years from the start of what we now call the Roaring Twenties — one hundred years from dazzling nights, fast cars, jazz and wild youth.

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And what of it? We precariously border our new century’s age of the twenties, and before tumbling into these next ten years, I ask that we look back. Let’s explore the impossible and intricate happenstances that incited 1920’s cultural awakening and birthed its dancing disillusioned. Let’s mirror those circumstances to the conditions we see today and analyze if a similar fate may befall our decade of the twenties. Will we, too, begin with a Roar and end with a Crash?

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As we embark on this reflection, it’s prudent to first delve deep, look past the glitter and fringe to the beginning of the night — the setup for the casualties, the fouls. Look to the origin of 1920’s beliefs and ideologies to better understand the why when unfolding the final what. The 1920s were born out of exhilaration and exhaustion — the world had just gone to war, and America returned home victorious — or did she? World powers fought in bloody, stalemated combat only to end with a meager and irresolute compromise, so the young people in the front lines returned with a cleared but haunted vision. In that instant, many grasped the odd futility, yet urgency of life, thus sparking this decade of the wild youth who wanted to see a change. And today? We seem to be tiptoeing a similar threshold, having experienced some peak in the War on Terror in the 2010s. However, unlike the spirit of the 1920s, we’re still left with a lingering question: “is there more?” And while attacks mirroring that of the last decade have lessened within the years, attacks from within our nation have multiplied. Take for haunting ex-

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ample: the nightclub shootings, the synagogue shootings, the car attacks and the abhorrent manifestos, conducted by the deeply rooted racial and social divisions of our time. We have a president who will build a wall, who will “take back America,” who has closed our doors to immigrants and devised a narrative: us vs. them. To many, this nativism is shocking, perhaps new, but truthfully, it’s not unlike that of the 1920s. Ah, so the Roaring Twenties was not all late nights and speakeasies, jazz clubs and stomping feet — the decade kicked off with the Red Scare from 1919-1920, which fueled a similar anti-immigrant frenzy and sought to revitalize an older, Anglo-Saxon America. This ideology, compounded by the uncertainty of national security following the war, gave way to the Immigration Act of 1924. This act barred entry for Asians and Eastern Europeans while still allowing for the immigration of individuals from the British Isles and Western Europe. Sound familiar? See 2018’s Speaker Paul Ryan push for thousands of Irish visas while Latino immigrants and refugees languish at the border.

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Oh, how we seem to have set the stage so identically! The political and societal events of the past four years have many afraid of similarly explosive consequences in this upcoming decade, especially approaching the 2020 presidential election. We teeter on the brink of a new morning, and there is uncertainty. Will the sun rise or will it set? But I ask that we take heart — parallels in setup do not equate to identical finales. Let’s look to the people for proof. Of all the past decades’ icons which, like beacons, gleamed among the years, the Flapper Girl must be its brightest. The giddy flapper, careening in a drunken stupor to the strains of a jazz quartet, might seem reckless, but she served a fiery purpose. With her new wardrobe: trimmed hemlines and dropped waistlines, a chopped bob and a boyish figure, the Flapper Girl symbolizes the rejection of the Gibson Girl, the idealized feminine and voluptuous lady of the earlier century. And much to the horror of older generations, fathers and mothers, the Flapper Girl explored sexuality and that which was taboo, smoked cigarettes and danced until dawn. She was a New Woman, a liberation and a revolution. As twilight beams on our horizon, this New Woman rises and dusts off the night — there is still work to be done, and she will not readily give up. 2017’s exposure of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct and the subsequent #MeToo movement gave women across the nation a revolutionary voice as they spoke out about sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. time’s up rendered this solidarity an entity and fights to return a voice to silenced women. 2019’s passing of heartbeat bills across the nation caused uproar as the nation’s women once again unified — this time, under an urgent fight for reproductive rights. Evidently, this revolution has yet to be won, and the plight of the woman is but a glimpse into every other political, social, environmental fight that is brutal and ongoing. The list seems never ending. But the New Woman continues to toil, knowing that failure in the past does not mean failure in the future. Look to her spirit in times of despair — for twilight may bring discouragement and disillusionment, but she dances and she laughs, knowing there is the promise of golden daybreak.

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Yes, we stand now on a precarious threshold, peering cautiously into the void of What Might Be, as What Had Been whispers ominously in our ear. But armed with learning and persistence, with remembrance of past flames, we remind ourselves that history does not have to repeat itself. A new decade is a clean slate, a promise of opportunity to still do something. And do something we will. So let’s step forward: I sense continued parallels perhaps, but when are strings not pulled across decades, centuries? We will always be bound to our past in more ways than detectable, but unshackled is our will to change, innovate, improve — and in that, I sense 2020 may shine as the brightest decade yet. Ah, finally. There she is! New Year’s Day, the beaming lady she is, has arrived with the first rays of morning sun, prepared to make her entrance. So ring her in! Blare the trumpets, trombones! And let our world thus roar. ■

“history does not

have to repeat itself. a new decade is a clean slate, a promise of opportunity to still do something.” activate

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layout KELLY WEI photographer PAIGE MILLER stylist LAUREN AGUIRRE hmua SARAH STILES models IFEOLUWA KEHINDE & JUSTICE BEVERLY

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IN THE QUIET MOMENTS OF MY LIFE, I DISCOVERED THE BEAUTIFUL ALLURE OF THE NOISELESS. ALL IT TOOK WAS A SEVEN DAY TREK ON MOUNT KILIMANJARO.

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sound of silence

layout JESSICA NGUYEN photographer TERESA MARTINEZ stylist VIVIAN YU

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by JAX KNOX

he mountain’s terrain seemed inviting yet a daunting feeling overwhelmed my gut. No one was talking. Everyone was taking in the serenity of the fleeting moment. It was silent, and that terrified me.

I stood at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, and there I experienced the unending void of sound. No whispers, no birds calling out to their young ones, not even the sweet hum of Paul McCartney in the distance. Just pure nothingness flowed into my ears. That was silence. In today’s world of constant noise, silence is rare. Between music, movies and television, we have learned to run toward the noise, avoiding the silent altogether. I used to crave noise. Silence caused loneliness. The silent moments were the ones where I felt like it was me versus the world. No team backing me up. No family to love on me. Not even an enemy to fight against. In the silence, there was just me. activate

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In high school, my humanities teacher used to challenge us to sit in silence. “Two minutes. You guys can do this,” he would say. When the time started, the room heard only the noise generated by the dusty desktop computer. But before the second hand of the clock could make a full circle, the giggles would start. Behind our shared oval desks, our awkwardness and teenage angst rebelled against the silence. We would squirm and smile, only ever keeping quiet for the full two minutes a few times. I hated the silent room; the childish giggles gave me much needed comfort. Back on the trail with my backpack on and journal in hand, the initial days of the climb were full of curious grins, sweaty bodies and eager eyes. We all knew that we would shortly be on the literal top of the world. But when summit day hit, the altitude changed our attitudes. Our wake-up call came promptly at 11 p.m. With groggy bodies and tired faces, we put on layer after layer of clothing in total darkness to prepare for the grueling seven-hour hike. 181

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When I stepped out of my tent into the cold night, I didn’t know that the entire hike, with minimal exceptions, would be in silence. And I mean utter silence. The kind where every inhale and exhale vibrates through your body, every thought you have pounds your ears. My head was trapped by the hood of the giant down puffy jacket, muffling the sounds of the world around me, causing this excess of internal noise. “ EVERYTHING FELT LONG.

EVERYTHING FELT LIGHTLESS. EVERYTHING FELT LONELY.”

Physically, my body revolted with the effects of acute mountain sickness. Mentally, I was scared of the silence. Everything felt long. Everything felt lightless. Everything felt lonely. After three hours in still air, something changed. The void of sound felt calming. The worry that previously encompassed my mind passed, allowing for a wave of peace. Positive thoughts began to circle my brain. In the dark, I was able to use the muffled silence to enhance my eyes, finally noticing the terrain beneath my feet and the steam coming from everyone’s breath. In that moment, I realized there was so much beauty to be found within the quiet. It invited my senses to be on high alert, catching sights, textures and scents I would have otherwise missed. The quietness opened up the opportunity for my mind to entertain thought after thought and experience emotion after emotion. I was finally able to witness the growth possible in the silence.

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BLAZER | Austin Pets Alive! Thrift

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“IN THE SILENCE, I WAS ABLE TO SEE THE BEAUTY, BEAUTY THAT WOULD HAVE OTHERWISE GONE UNSEEN.”

SKIRT | Austin Pets Alive! Thrift SCARF | Austin Pets Alive! Thrift BLAZER | Austin Pets Alive! Thrift PANTS | Prototype Vintage

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“For the most part, the hike was quiet. No one was talking, and I thought it was just because everyone was miserable. But now, sitting down, back at camp, I realize that everyone was using the silence to take in the surreal world around them. They were trying to get the most out of the climb.” — Journal entry from atop of the world.

Those seven hours were incredibly rewarding. Yes, getting to the top of a 19,341-foot mountain held its accolades, but the final ascent delivered so much more.

The void offers more than just potential loneliness, it invites beauty. Beauty to develop your passions as you engage fully with the world around you.

In the silence, I was able to see the beauty, beauty that would have otherwise gone unseen. Not only the beauty of the world around me but also the beauty within myself and others. I realized that I am capable of great feats, that no matter what the world tells me, I can do it. I was able to fully recognize those around me as the intelligent, determined souls that they are — full of eagerness, full of beauty, full of hope. By observing others appreciate the silence, I learned what caught their interests. The curiosity behind their eyes would blossom, and with the absence of sound I could enter the world through their eyes.

For me, the silence taught me that being in the wilderness, surrounded by isolation, does something to your mindset, something amazing. It took the feelings of loneliness and transformed them into thoughts full of awe. Awe of myself. Awe of others. Awe of the ground beneath my feet.

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I know I can’t go back to make myself sit in silence for those two minutes during all those high school days. But I wish I could take back some of those giggles so I could’ve learned the allure of the sound of silence earlier. ■

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layout REBECCA WONG & SANDRA TSANG

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photographer CHLOE BOGEN

stylist DORIS UMEZULIKE

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models MEGAN BENNETT & SHELBY SCOTT

hmua SARAH STILES

by SAMANTHA PARADISO

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As I sat defeated in my closet, clutching piles and piles of clothes, I wondered if I would ever be able to let go of my grief.

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A

bathroom mirror reflects a child peering over her mother’s shoulder, watching her navigate through the steps of her ritualistic routine, going through the motions without a second thought as to which step follows. Eyes level with the glass, the child, now alone, observes all the products strewn across the counter. She brutishly twists the bottom of a lipstick tube. Lines emerge and diverge across her face, a map of roads not yet traversed. She travels to the closet where a teal dress hangs. She plucks it off the hanger and slips it on, a trail of fabric following her where she goes. Teetering about, her giggles increase with the clacking of heels all too big for her diminutive feet. Reminiscing on bittersweet memories such as these, I never considered that the joy I felt in playing with my mother’s clothes would turn into shameful resentment as I coped with my grief. Sharing an article of clothing is an intimate exchange that binds two individuals together. This is not to say that the dark wash denim jeans with the studded back pockets you borrowed from Stacey to wear to the rodeo that one time means your souls are now forever conjoined. But there’s something very personal about entrusting a piece of yourself to another person. Our clothing is not just our clothing, but our memories attached with them. So when we lend “that one jacket from that one time” or “the sneakers activate

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we wore when,” not only are we openly sharing our experiences with others but in turn, we’re allowing them to create their own, the blending of our narratives formulating something new altogether. This exchange is true for mothers and daughters especially, the sharing of their wardrobes allowing them to blend identities. This was not my reality. I was always a chubby kid. Chubby arms, chubby legs, chubby tummy, chubby face. I had baby fat. That baby fat then turned into adult fat, and here I am today. But listen — this is not some tired narrative about a fat girl overcoming her insecurities and loving herself. Despite my non-traditional body type, I had no qualms about my weight. Wearing my mother’s clothing wasn’t an issue for me (though in retrospect I’m disconcerted that a ten-year-old could exchange wardrobes with a middle-aged woman). My indifference changed once my mother got sick. When someone’s diagnosed with stomach cancer, there’s a couple of routes doctors can take to treat the illness — a partial or total gastrectomy. Under this procedure, surgeons remove the patient’s entire stomach, connect the esophagus to the small intestine and create a literal food chute. My mother was diagnosed at stage four, so I’ll let readers take a wild guess as to which surgery she underwent. After her medical 189

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“For every box I tore open, an old wound would resurface.”

release, my mom had to learn how to eat again. Practically reverted to infancy, her food choices ranged from Gerber’s mashed peas to puréed apples. At her sickest, she barely weighed a hundred pounds. No longer capable of caring for me in the way she had, our roles as parent and child shifted. In the latter stages of her illness, there wasn’t much my mother could do outside of laying in bed. Most of my mother’s clothing came from the juniors’ department at this point, a section of the store I had long outgrown. We couldn’t bond over clothing and fashion in the same way we used to. I no longer knew how to act around my mother. And though I wish to say that through this hardship our bond grew stronger, our relationship only withered, driving my mother to tears with how lonely I made her feel. Watching her, feeble bodied and weeping in a bed that seemed to swallow her whole, I was made to recognize my mother’s mortality. After she passed away, I gained a lot of weight. I outgrew my clothing and hers. Her entire wardrobe was inaccessible to me. Pants, shirts, sweaters, dresses, jackets. These articles collected dust in boxes, closets and the far recesses of my mind. Every once in a while, I would return to these items in hopes of trying on a piece and having it fit. For every box I tore open, an old wound would resurface. No matter how desperately I tried, I couldn’t force myself into spaces that weren’t meant for me. I squirmed, writhed, grunted, whimpered, and still could never get that one shirt to button, or 190

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that pair of pants to zip. Even in death, I could not participate in this familial ritual that was taken from me during my mother’s illness. When I got to high school, I hyperfixated on my weight. Within a year, I lost close to fifty pounds. I didn’t gauge my success by the amount of weight I lost but by how close I was to fitting into my mom’s old clothing. By closing the clasp on an outfit, I zipped up my grief, one dress holding in all of my baggage. Not being able to fit into her clothing proved my defeat, depriving me of the small ways I could find to connect with my mother posthumously. Feelings of inadequacy festered in my head, and the only way I could treat the infection was through this infatuation. If this were a novel, this would be the point where I assured readers that I’ve come to terms with my grief and my body dysmorphia conveniently vanished. But life doesn’t follow conventional plot devices. Grief has no clear resolution. Some days I’ll feel great and all of a sudden I’m flat on my back gasping for air. Every morning I gamble with my closet, not knowing whether I’ll recoil at the article of clothing I try on. Yet as I sit in my bathroom applying creams and lotions and moisturizers, I look back on all the times I would watch my mother do the same. And as I outline my lips with my own lipstick, I’m reminded of the lines I once messily drew, and of the lines that have newly emerged since then, an entire map of the roads I’ve encountered and have yet to cross. ■

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layout XANDRIA HERNANDEZ photographer ANNA DRODDY stylist CARLIE ROBERSON hmua ANNA STROTHER model JULIA VASTANO 192

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WHITE HAT | Carlie Roberson

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SKIRT | Carlie Roberson PUFF SLEEVE TOP | Carlie Roberson 196

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BLACK HAT | Carlie Roberson

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BLUE PLEATED DRESS | Prototype Vintage

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by REBECCA WANG

layout JENNIFER JIMENEZ photographer SHUER ZHUO stylists ALLISON KNODLE & COURTNEY FAY hmua CELENA VALENTINE & JANE LEE models CRUZ RENDON, DIANA PEREZ & ERIKA TAKOVICH

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Face isolated Trading it for my vision Chasing Nerves, skin, plastic I can’t grasp it Everything slips Now gone, gone, gone I fight for it back Looking in the darkness Wait. Do I even want it? Where am I?

Face isolated I feel around for my mouth It’s there It’s beautiful My tongue catching on my sharp edges Tongue sensation? Weird Wet smell I can’t ask my burning question That’s swallowed in my throat. What am I?

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BLUE METALLIC SHIRT | Prototype Vintage

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Body grotesque Slick limbs I crease Deformed The rubber suit dissolves Clink clink Uncomfortable Unpleasant Mute I could stay like this forever I? I? I? I scream and I worship. Who am I?

Face changing Fingers chasing Mind losing I was always I will be I am Android

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