All Posts By Erin Tatum

Actress Alondra Delgado Brings New Intrigue to “All American”

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Like many actors over the past year, Alondra Delgado found her career momentarily suspended by COVID-19. After many months, her perseverance paid off and she was cast as newcomer Vanessa Montes on the hit teen football drama, All American. While Alondra didn’t know much about football at the start, already being an avid fan of the show certainly helped!  If her secret past with Asher is any indication, Vanessa is definitely shaking things up on season 3, currently airing on Mondays at 8pm on The CW.

Cliché: You’re an actress, writer, and producer. Has wearing so many hats enhanced your understanding of the industry at large?

Definitely! An actor, writer, and producer have many different responsibilities and each of them are essential. There is a unique feeling when writing something that truly means something to you and then watching it being brought to life. It is amazing to see how people create their own take on your words, and this creates more depth and meaning to the stories. Being a producer for the first time made me admire a lot more everything that happens behind the camera. The whole process of putting a film together, the before and after takes so much time and it’s what really permits the film to be accessible to the world. Being an actor brings everything to life and it is what makes the public connect with the film and have meaning. Having the opportunity to do all three has helped me learn a lot and appreciate the art of filmmaking a lot more. 

How has the pandemic impacted your acting career?

COVID-19 has changed everything and definitely the filmmaking industry. When it all started a year ago, I was not able to film or book anything for eight months. During the whole first quarantine I only sent two self-tape auditions and continued my training by taking online Zoom acting classes. It was hard. You feel so much time is passing by and your dreams are farther and farther away. Once productions started back up, I started to audition via self-tapes a bit more often and that’s when I landed my All American recurring role back in October.

Tell us about your latest role, Vanessa Montes, on All American. 

Vanessa Montes is my second recurring role. I was very excited to get cast for this, given the fact that All American is one of my favorite shows and I’ve been watching it since season 1. When I got cast I couldn’t believe it, and still to this day I am overly excited every time I get to be on set. It has been a great experience, everyone in the cast and crew is amazing and have made me feel welcome. 

How much did you know about football prior to being cast?

If I am being honest, the only football I knew was thanks to the show. When I started watching All American a couple of years ago I started to learn a couple of things, and when I booked the show I was like “okay, maybe I should ask my friends to explain the rules to me.” I know the basics now and definitely admire the sport because it looks tough for sure! 

What can we expect from Vanessa in season three?

Vanessa will bring a new energy to the squad. She has some secrets that might create a bit of drama. She wants to enjoy high school and make friends, but we’ll see how that goes being the new kid and the new head coach’s daughter. It’s a lot of pressure for sure.

 

Vanessa is very confident. Would you describe yourself as a confident person?

Vanessa indeed is a very confident young girl who carries herself well and knows what she wants. I do identify with her right now. It has been something that I’ve worked on but I describe myself as a confident person. I believe in my talent and know that if I work hard enough I can achieve the goals I have set for me. But it is definitely something I still work on every day and grow and learn. 

She also has a history with one of her classmates. Without giving too much away, tell us more! 

It is definitely a very interesting situation that I know will have everyone at the edge of their seats with intrigue. I can’t spoil any details, but I can say that Vanessa knows Asher from before. 

What do you hope 2021 has in store for you, both professionally and personally?

Personally, I hope everything that is going around in the world gets better and people stay safe and this nightmare goes away. I am grateful for the blessings 2020 did give me and I hope these new opportunities open more doors for me. I want to land my first series regular role soon and another lead role in a feature film. Fingers crossed for 2021!

Read more Celebrity Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Actress Alondra Delgado Brings New Intrigue to “All American.” Photo Credit: Tim Schaeffer Photography @timschaefferphoto. Hair and Makeup: Johnna J. Perez @johnnajmakeup. Styling: Sean Dylan Perry @seandylanperry.

“General Hospital” Star Sydney Mikayla Talks Joining the Legendary Soap

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Actress Sydney Mikayla found her breakout role playing the titular Olympian in The Gabby Douglas Story. She recently joined the cast of General Hospital as Trina Robinson, a straight-laced teen whose relationship with her father could be described as complicated at best. Sydney is confident that she can handle anything the acting world throws at her…just don’t ask her to be your apocalypse survival buddy! Follow Sydney on Instagram and Twitter.

Cliché: Do you remember when you got the acting bug?
Sydney Mikayla: I really felt like I caught the acting bug when I did The Gabby Douglas Story in 2014. Even though I had been acting since I was five, when I did this movie, I just felt everything click! Getting to train and meet Gabby herself, working with Regina King, and meeting friends who I would watch grow into major superstars (like Riele Downs) really made me want to continue working within the industry. I knew the memories from the experiences I had in Canada would last me a lifetime and I could not wait to continue having those new and fun experiences in the future.

If you had to pick one moment that you would describe as the highlight of your acting career so far, what would it be and why?
One of the highlights I think would be playing Ashlyn on the set of Fuller House. Live studio audiences are almost extinct in the world of comedy, so being able to do a show with a live studio audience, hearing the cheers and warmth of laughter from real human beings just felt so inviting. This was an experience I was really grateful to have before COVID-19 took over.

You had the opportunity to train under actress Wendy Raquel Robinson. What would you say is the most valuable piece of advice she gave you?
Just one? Wow, that would be entirely too hard to choose. She taught me so much, from how important it is to be timely to each and every job opportunity to dressing like your character in rehearsals and even auditions. I think the most important quality she taught each and every one of her students was how to be professional. She shared that life on set is not always easy, and sometimes requires more patience than you may think. But because of the discipline she provided, her students have gone on to Broadway, to write and produce their own shows, and create their own fashion brands featured in New York Fashion Week. I just hope to continue the legacy.

You’re on General Hospital! How does it feel to be involved with such an iconic show?
It feels absolutely incredible to be a part of the GH family. General Hospital has so much amazing history and it’s so interesting when the writers decide to bring back previous characters on the show. Working here definitely keeps me on my toes and I just love how the fans are so invested in the show.

Tell us about your character, Trina Robinson.
Trina is an 18-year-old straight-A student, with a passion for track and a love for art. She is a great friend, a reliable daughter, and a trusted intern. In Port Charles, Trina finds friendship, an art mentor and her then dead and now alive father. Whether Trina’s being kidnapped or simply going to a school dance with her friends, her determination to find the truth always makes her such a fun and feisty character to play.

Are you excited about where Trina’s arc is headed?
Absolutely! I really can’t wait to see if Trina will ever forgive her father, and how that will all play out. I know that she has always looked up to her father, and so she feels deeply betrayed and hurt by him. Hopefully Trina will forgive him soon so we can see more of the father daughter bonding time that the audience loves.

How does it feel to be able to work with Maura West?
Incredible! She recently told me to check out The Wilds, a new TV show on Amazon, and watch and learn from the actors on screen. It’s just another example of how Maura always shares her wonderful expertise and inspires me to become a better actor. Her professionalism and beauty makes her truly wonderful to work with and watch on screen.

You also star as Wolf in Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, which is about a post-apocalyptic adventure. What’s your post-apocalyptic survival strategy? Who and what would you bring with you?
This may be a bit morbid, but I think I would just die. Think about it, constantly getting chased everyday by talking animals? I wouldn’t be able to survive like Wolf did. I think I would just try to get some extra food, and if I happen to get eaten, so be it. It seems like too much work to try to outrun everything in order to stay alive. The stress would probably kill you anyway.

What kinds of roles would you want to tackle over the next few years?
Recently, I worked with the director of Disney Channel’s Sky High. He said that one day there might be a sequel to that movie, so I would be super pumped if I could play a leading role in that movie. Besides that, I would love to be in an August Wilson movie adaptation of his work. I just started getting into his plays, and I would love to be in one of those films and work with Viola Davis. I would also love to be on Broadway someday.

Read more Celebrity Interviews on ClicheMag.com
“General Hospital” Star Sydney Mikayla Talks Joining the Legendary Soap. Photo Credit: Jim Warren.

Singer Erin Kirby Teams Up With TikTok Star JVKE for New Single “Bad Luck”

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Renowned singer/songwriter Erin Kirby has never been afraid to bear it all in her music. Now, the pop star is collaborating with TikTok sensation JVKE in a catchy new single, “Bad Luck,” which captures the desire to hide your feelings and blame yourself as a relationship crumbles. But Erin has confidence that her faith can lead her in the right direction, in spite of the temporary obstacles. Stream “Bad Luck” HERE and check out Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok

Cliché: Why is Atlanta such a special place to you musically?
 
Atlanta has had so many incredible artists come out of it. The city is also very accepting of all genres!! 
 
You won Jezebel Magazine’s songwriter of the year! How would you describe your songwriting process?
 
 I usually start writing a song by sitting down with my guitar and coming up with chords. The lyrics and melodies grow from there. 
 
How has the pandemic and quarantine impacted you as an artist?
 
 I have learned so much about myself as an artist while in quarantine. My writing skills have grown and I started recording a bit at home. 
 
Tell us about your new single, “Bad Luck.”
 
“Bad Luck” is a chill pop song that anyone can listen to. We have all a person that holds us back and they feel like our “bad luck.” That is what this song is all about. 
 
What was it like collaborating with JVKE?
 
 J and his brother are super great to work with! I love writing with them and every time we create a song it’s a blast. 
 
The song is about feeling pressured to hide your emotions around others, especially in a bad relationship. How have you dealt with toxic relationships in the past?
 
When I am stuck in a toxic relationship, I ask God to guide me through it. Whether that means I have to end the relationship or help the other person through whatever they may be dealing with, I let God tell me how to handle the situation.
 
Going off of that, it’s easy to blame yourself for a failing relationship. In your own experience, how do you remove yourself from an unhealthy situation without internalizing the idea that it’s your fault?
 
Removing yourself from a toxic relationship is extremely difficult. I have found that the easiest way to do it is to get our quickly and then lean of the Lord and my family. If you find people that really love you then you will see how much happier you are outside of the toxic relationship you were stuck in. 
 
Do you think you’ll have better luck in 2021?
 
I truly do hope so!!! I guess we will just have to see what path God has for me.

Read more Music Interviews at ClicheMag.com
Singer Erin Kirby Teams Up With TikTok Star JVKE for New Single “Bad Luck.” Photo Credit: Melinda Kirby.

Celebrate Your Everlasting Love This Valentine’s Day with East Olivia’s Valentine’s Day Collection

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Valentine’s Day is fast approaching! Normally, when we think of the ideal Valentine’s Day gift, we think of classic roses. However, live flowers don’t have much of a shelf life. East Olivia has remedied this situation by offering a beautiful selection of preserved roses, each with their own beautiful vase, in their 2020 Valentine’s Collection. We had the chance to catch up with East Olivia founder Kelsea Olivia about her stunning new collection, as well as how the pandemic prompted her to reinvent her business. Check out the Valentine’s Collection HERE!

Cliché: What is it about flowers that speaks to you as an artistic medium?

I believe beauty is a human right, not a luxury, and nature is evidence of that. That belief and that truth is what made me fall in love with flowers. When I began working more with flowers, which started when I worked at Anthropologie and BHLDN in NYC and taking many visits to the NYC flower market, I got exposed to hundreds of varieties of flowers I had never experienced before. That experience helped me realize the connection between the human spirit and our exposure to beauty and how important that relationship is. Even though flowers aren’t the only way to experience beauty, they are the medium that inspires and excites me most. 

Tell us about your company, East Olivia

We are a female founded, women-led creative agency based in NYC who (pre-covid-19) specialized in large scale floral installations. Post-COVID-19, we have shifted gears to launch our direct to consumer online forever floral shop and our fresh-flower therapy boxes in an effort to still bring beauty and blooms to the world while we’re all stuck at home.  

We want to hear all about your new Valentine’s Day collection!

The new Valentine’s Collection is so exciting because we are introducing a brand new ingredient which we have never used before, where our persevered roses are scented! Most other companies that sell preserved roses keep them in boxes – we believe the beauty shouldn’t be kept in a box and these roses should be displayed in an arrangement instead. The roses are 100% bio-degradable and last a year if taken properly and the scent lasts up to a month.

Why did you want to create preserved roses?

Preserved roses have been a trend for a long time, but they are always contained in a box. I have been working with preserved roses for a long time and believe that beauty doesn’t belong in a box. Being a floral designer, I like to take our ingredients and be expressive with them, rather than keep them contained. 

What message did you want to send with your Valentine’s Day collection?

The collection represents everlasting love – how beautiful is it to be able to express your love to somebody with flowers, but with flowers that will last more than a week?! There’s nothing wrong with fresh flowers, however it’s a great medium to be able to express love and admiration for somebody with flowers that last longer. 

What are some Valentine’s Day gifts that you would recommend?   

I would recommend any and all of the gifts in our Valentine’s Collection at shopeastoliva.com. We’ve curated a beautiful collection of not only forever florals with scented roses, but a variety of fun, and on-trend candles and cards to complement our forever florals. 

As a creative agency, what was your process in terms of cultivating a unique floral experience for every event?

Our floral installations have always been bespoke and have always been the result of the narrative of our clients. We partner with our clients to create a unique floral expression of their overall vision. It is always about connecting with the client and being clear about the narrative and purpose of the event and what they want their guest to feel like. It always starts with a story. It’s so fun to bring clients purpose and vision to life with our florals

How has the pandemic impacted your business?

It completely destroyed our events business overnight, cost us millions of dollars in 2020, and wiped out my ability to maintain my staff. It was through launching the forever floral shop and fresh flower therapy boxes that made it possible for us to hang on this long. That being said, the road ahead is still very tough and it’s quite challenging financially for us and millions of other small businesses that relied on events. We hope and pray each day that that part of our business will come back very soon! 

What lessons have you learned thus far by switching to e-commerce?

I’ve learned that customer #1 is our staff and team, meaning that our customers from our e-commerce can’t have a great experience if our team and staff aren’t taken care of. This is extremely challenging amidst a global pandemic when resources are extremely scarce. Also, the creative process is just as fun as events. Myself and my team have a blast creating each collection – coming up with the names for the arrangements and shooting the products. It’s just as fulfilling as the creative work of events – but nothing can replace the in-person connection that we had during events and that part we still greatly miss. Lastly, the finances are far more complicated. Bootstrapping a direct-to-consumer business is very challenging – if you want to scale your business, you have to spend more money in order to make more money. 

Do you have any advice for businesses that are struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic and (different degrees of restrictions) but are nervous to make the switch to e-commerce?

My advice would be to begin inward within your own industry. We turned inward towards our industry first for support and also to see how we could support one another. That’s how the flower therapy box came to be. Shifting to an e-commerce platform is something I had been wanting to do for many, many years. I think staying true and authentic to your own brand and offerings is most important and don’t necessarily think that shifting to an e-commerce platform is the right answer for everybody.  

Read more Celebrity Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Celebrate Your Everlasting Love This Valentine’s Day with East Olivia’s Valentine’s Day Collection. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kelsea Olivia.

Comedian Daralyn Kelleher Turns to Woodworking to Cope with Quarantine Boredom

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Like too many of us during the pandemic, Daralyn Kelleher found herself furloughed from her job and suddenly with a mountain of time on her hands. Thankfully, her disorganized apartment helped illuminate a new pathway for her and she soon launched an organizing and amateur woodworking channel on YouTube. When things return to normal, she hopes to travel, but for now she will content herself with journeying towards a fully furnished apartment. Check out Daralyn on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.

Cliché: What is it about acting and comedy that appeals to you?

Daralyn Kelleher: Well, I suppose my answers to each are different. I like comedy because ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had an excessive need to play. There’s something so incredibly joyous about surprising someone and making them laugh. Honestly, life is just boring without it.

When it comes to acting, I like it because a storyline is always going somewhere, which always leads to a new emotional truth for the characters. I feel like a lot of people, myself included at times, live life sort of stuck tolerating things they don’t like or numbing their unpleasant feelings to get through the day, but in a story, that character would do something about what they don’t like, and so a piece of why I’m drawn to acting is to live vicariously.

Who are some of your favorite comedians?

My favorite types of comedians are absurd and often times arrogant in their personas. I really like Zach Galifianakis and loved Ellen DeGeneres’ stand up in 80’s.  

Why did you choose to settle in Los Angeles?

I chose Los Angeles because I had been performing stand up comedy in NYC for a number of years, and I had an almost opportunity to be on a sitcom in LA that ultimately didn’t pan out . However, almost landing that opportunity made me realize how much I wanted to be out west. 

How has coronavirus prompted you to start a new chapter in your life?

Basically when I was furloughed from my job at the beginning of the pandemic, I was suddenly overwhelmed with fear and too much spare time. To both make myself feel like I had purpose and to fill up my schedule, I began making a cleaning and organizing show on YouTube. Turns out you *can* get your apartment to it’s cleanest state after a couple months, and so I then turned the show into a furniture making series, as it was the only way to continue improving my apartment!  

You have a YouTube channel and you decided to devote a series to amateur woodworking. How did you get involved in that hobby?

As mentioned above, I kind of just needed furniture, lol. I had been watching a number of DIY woodworkers, and I very much admired what they were capable of, and I also like that it came with the freedom to customize your pieces to be exactly as you want them to be.

Any pro tips for fellow aspiring woodworkers?

Well, I would just say to keep going even when you get frustrated or feel stuck. Hmmm, maybe that sounded cliché. Perhaps I should also start a bumper sticker writing business.

Where do you hope your passion for woodworking and furniture building will take you?

I hope that it takes me to a fully furnished apartment, haha! In addition, I would like to just continue to get better and better at crafting things. I gain so much freedom and happiness from being creative, and so I just want to keep improving my skills.

You also used to work for a cat rescue, Luxe Paws, prior to the pandemic. Are there any cat-related issues that you wish people had more awareness of?

 Yes, in these cold months of winter, please do check your cars for huddled up cats trying to stay warm near the engine. 

What are your plans for after the pandemic?

After the pandemic, I so badly want to travel! Highest on my list is to go see my family in Boston, but I also desperately want to visit NYC and Paris. One day! 

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Comedian Daralyn Kelleher Turns to Woodworking to Cope with Quarantine Boredom. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Daralyn Kelleher.

Nicholas Hamilton Captures Our Collective Desire to Ditch 2020 in New Single, “Different Year”

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Facing the complete shutdown of the film industry amidst the pandemic, actor Nicholas Hamilton switched his focus to music. Having always felt an affinity for songs that present darker moments of life through an uplifting lens, he knew exactly how to channel his 2020 angst. The result was his new single, “Different Year,” a surprisingly cheerful ear worm that expresses the restlessness of seemingly endless quarantines and lockdowns, as well as the sense of loss and missed opportunity they’ve left in their wake as the weeks and months blur together. We all wish we could escape, but Nic remains upbeat that brighter days are ahead. 2020, or more accurately the coronavirus, can go kick rocks, but at least we can always depend on stellar music to buoy us through even the most challenging of times. Listen to “Different Year” HERE.

Cliché: How has the pandemic changed the way that you perceive your career?

Nic Hamilton: I’ve been acting since I was 11, almost half my life, so I’ve never really experienced being unemployed through no fault of my own. There were bouts where I wasn’t getting jobs, but that was always on me. Covid forced me out of work for what’s coming up to a year now, so I guess I perceive my career now as less of a constant. I also used to never really see money as an object, now I’m budgeting everything, so 2020 made me more financially mature, I guess. Being not able to work also allowed me to work on my music a ton more, I genuinely don’t think I would have music out in the world right now if I wasn’t so inactive last year.

What have you learned about yourself and your relationship to music in 2020?

I learnt almost everything I know about music in 2020. How to make a good demo, how to write with passion, even how to improve my voice. Above all, I really learned how much I loved music last year. I’ve always had an affinity for good tunes, but once I dove deep into creating them, I was fully hooked. I love songs so so much, they tickle a little part of my brain that I didn’t know existed a few years ago.

What can you share about your upcoming EP?

It’s a 15-minute-long diary, essentially. When it came time to pick the songs for the EP, it was less about finding my favourite 5 songs I’ve ever written, and more about the tone I wanted to create. There are some songs that didn’t make it on there that I loooooove, purely because they didn’t match the tone of the rest of the EP. We eventually settled on 5 songs that encapsulate the chapters of my life up until this very point. I think they all blend really well together.

Talk about your brand new single, “Different Year”.

As much as “Different Year” is about how I felt during 2020, it can really apply to any point in anyone’s life where they’ve felt like they want to legitimately time travel in order to get away from the situation they’re in. I can’t state the amount of love I have for songs that are about something so depressing and heart-breaking, but are produced in an overwhelmingly positive and uplifting way. I wanted to achieve that with “Different Year,” and I think we really got there. The plucky synths and the picking guitar melody that guides the verses allow the listener to not get bogged down with how sad the lyrics are, but instead bop their head to a chill pop tune.

You co-wrote the song with Britton Buchanan, runner-up on Season 14 of The Voice. How was that experience?

I love Britton, he’s stupid talented and an absolute legend to write with. It’s cheesy but there’s no wonder he went as far as he did on The Voice a few years back. “Different Year” was the second song we ever wrote together, back in August. After our first session went better than we could’ve anticipated, we met up as soon as we could for the next one, which is when we wrote “Different Year.” We were both so proud of it, I couldn’t stop playing the demo we made that day for everyone who would listen. I’ve continued to work with him ever since.

Why do you think you’re so drawn to songs that present heavier emotions in a positive way?

I love the dichotomy of happiness and sadness in the same song, it allows what could be a fully depressing song to not get bogged down, but I also love songs that represent 100% of either emotion. I love songs about dancing and laughing that make you want to dance and laugh and songs that are about break-ups and crying that make you want to sob. I personally just love making songs that are a bit of both. Songs that you can cry to and dance to, I love love.

How did you cope with feelings of loneliness and isolation during quarantine? 

I wrote songs about my loneliness and isolation. Writing music has been my coping mechanism for a minute now and 2020 was no exception. It just happened to be that I often wasn’t writing about someone in particular, I was writing about a whole calendar year. Other than music though, I’ve been playing a ton of video games with my friends across the planet. It’s really the only way I can be fully social right now, so it fills that hole.

How do you stay optimistic that better days are ahead? What message of hope can you offer to your fans who might be feeling lost?

I take life one day at a time now. I never used to, everything was always building up to a bigger eventual goal that informed my current decisions. Now I fully understand how unpredictable life is, and how planning anything other than what I’m going to do today that will make tomorrow better, if tomorrow even exists, is unreasonable. I’m obviously not saying don’t have goals, just know that life can turn on a dime and you have to be ready to learn how to quickly adapt to it, in any way you know how.

If you could time travel to any point in your life (past or future), which would you choose and why?

This is a great question. If I have to say a specific time, it would be the start of 2019, when I moved to the states. Knowing how 2020 was going to go, I wouldn’t have taken my only “normal” year in LA as much for granted as I did. I made silly decisions because I thought I would have a stable life forever, I’d like to go back and relive that year the right way. If I’m allowed to be vague, literally any time when Covid’s “over”, if that ever even happens. I’d like that time to be now, please.

Read more Music Interviews at ClicheMag.com
Nicholas Hamilton Captures Our Collective Desire to Ditch 2020 in New Single, “Different Year.” Photo Credit: Mike Falzone.

D!XON Revels in The Excitement of New Love in Latest Single, “Arms Around Me”

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D!XON has learned to embrace his whole self – and eagerly invites his fans to do the same! The gender non-conforming artist faced backlash growing up, but quickly found kinship with other people in the 2SLGBTQ+ community. His newest single, “Arms Around Me,” captures the nervous adrenaline that comes with meeting someone new. D!XON hopes to pave the way for a rising generation of 2SLGBT+ artists and wants to encourage everyone to love as loudly as they can. Watch the video for “Arms Around Me” below and follow D!XON on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Cliché: Who are some of your biggest musical inspirations, past and present?

I am influenced by artists who are either entertainers and/or songwriters. I have always felt both masculine and feminine energy as a performer throughout my childhood so I get my inspiration from powerful female voices in music like Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, and Toni Braxton, along with non-binary/gender non-conforming artists such as Michael Jackson and Prince. In terms of more contemporary artists, I really enjoy listening to Tinashe, Years & Years, Tove Lo, Jazmine Sullivan, JoJo and Sam Smith.

How would you describe your relationship to gender? What does gender expression look like for you?

My gender expression is whatever I want it to be depending on my mood. When I go out or I am on stage I feel free, liberated and powerful when I wear a sickening hairstyle, have make-up on and put together a hot ensemble from both the male and female section of a clothing store. I often tell people I love to shop in the men’s section inside of the women’s section. There are just so many more options in female fashion compared to male fashion, unfortunately. I cannot wait for that to change, and see more affordable fashion items in the male section of a clothing store. Internally I feel both male and female energies and I am not afraid of embracing it. With that said I am very happy with my body and find no need for altering it.

 You received daily death threats in high school for your sexuality and gender expression. You also felt stifled by your religious upbringing. What kept you going through such a dark time in your life?

Honestly, music kept me going! I use to lock myself in my room and writing songs for hours orchestrating melodies and telling my story through literature. It was the only thing that I had some control of in my life. Of course, I had to keep it a secret, I hid all of my lyrics in a box and placed it in the attic for safekeeping. My grandmother also bought me a PSP (Play Station Portable) which I was able to download music on, and I had a small handheld radio where I could hear the latest hits on top 40 radio (both of those devices were also secret, haha). My mom threw out the TV, all radios, CD players and media devices so we didn’t have access to digital media or music.

 How liberating was it to finally be able to connect with the 2SLGBTQ+ community when you left home?

I finally felt like I could connect with people that relate to me and understand me on a deeper level. It was inspiring to know the like-minded individual, and it’s always humbling and interesting to hear everyone’s experience navigating through their 2SLGBTQ+ lives as a child and youth. It reassured me that I wasn’t alone and that I have friends/allies who are fighting this great fight for equal rights and a more inclusive world with me.

Talk about your latest single, “Arms Around Me.”

I wrote “Arms Around Me” while I was falling in love with this particular boy, I was hopelessly mesmerized by him and haven’t felt that way about someone in a very long time. The way that he looked into my eyes had me intoxicated with desire and filled me with so much warmth. I found it really important to capture the essence and feeling of suspense with the pulsing synth in the song which gives you that tug of war feeling when you meet someone new and you’re anxiously waiting for that text. I also added the saxophone because the sound of it is very sensual, and if there is any instrument that’s a “gay” instrument, it would definitely be the saxophone lol it was a must to have it! When it comes to the lyrics, melody and vocals I wrote it and performed it in a way that emulates delicacy, mystery, sensuality and romance. I really focused on layers of textures, harmonies, to artistically frame the dynamic melodic choices in my vocal performance.

 What was it like having the opportunity to work with Dan Lemoyne, Hollywood Jade (Drag Race Canada resident choreographer) and Marc Andrew Smith (Drag Race resident stylist)?

Honestly, they are all the dream team! It was such a wonderful experience working with them all! Things happened organically and came from an authentic place. Dan is so gentle, down to earth and has great creative energy. Hollywood and I have been working together for a very long time, we understand each other and complement each other very well! He is so knowledgeable, creative and efficient in the way that he works! He gets the job DONE! This was my first time working with Marc Andrew Smith, he absolutely blew me away with his creative energy, ideas, and taste level. A big take away for me with Marc is how passionate he is about art and fashion. He went above and beyond on this project. I am so happy and humbled I was able to create with them all.

What words of wisdom would you offer to folks out there who are afraid to love who they love?

Life is too short to hold back, especially during this time. A lot of emotional and mental stress that goes into suppressing your natural feelings towards another human, or gender is too high of a cost. I know it can be hard and take a lot of courage to step outside of your comfort zone, but you owe it to yourself to be the most authentic YOU! If there is someone you have strong feelings towards, let them know. If you don’t tell your loved ones that you love them often enough, now is the time to let them know. This is the time to love on people, there is so much going on in the world and we can’t take the time we have here and the relationships we have for granted. LET THEM KNOW, please!

Tell us about the success of your Drag Masterclass!

In 2019, I created the first Drag Masterclass in North America through my position with the City of Toronto which provided free professional training to the LGBTQ2S+ youth with mentors such as Sofonda, Priyanka (Winner of Canada’s Drag Race Season 1), and Hollywood Jade (Resident Choreographer of Canada’s Drag Race Season 1). This masterclass provided job opportunities to marginalized professionals from our very own Church and Wellesley area and it also created job opportunities for the participants in the Masterclass.

Any exciting plans on the horizon?

As of right now I am working on my forthcoming album and focusing on songwriting/producing as many songs as I can while releasing content on social media platforms. I’m really sad that I cannot do live performances the way that I originally expected. COVID-19 has forced everyone to get creative and think outside the box when it comes to work and engagement. I’m just focusing on creating and staying in a creative state so that when this pandemic is over, it’s time to PLAY! I can’t wait.

 

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D!XON Revels in The Excitement of New Love in Latest Single, “Arms Around Me.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of D!XON.

Trumpism, Identity, and The Death of Debate: Making Sense of Things with Natalie Wynn

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            Our collective experience of 2020 feels akin to being swept up in a hurricane of chaos, with ceaseless torrents of anxiety and a generally unshakable sense of impending doom. Luckily, for nail-biting leftists and folks of all political stripes, YouTube user ContraPoints has cemented her place as a trusted voice of reason in these turbulent times. ContraPoints (also known as Natalie Wynn) first rose to prominence through her thoughtful examinations of the far right, though the rapid cultural evolution of the far left has captured her imagination in recent months. Her video essays, each a self-contained cinematic experience in their own right, are gleeful and irreverent displays of decadence, playfully blending elements of drag and camp to cultivate a visual that is as bold and unapologetic as their content itself, as Natalie gamely tackles complex sociological issues with gusto. And with over 1.1 million subscribers, it’s clear that folks are listening.


            Like many of us, Natalie has been observing the election fallout with clenched teeth. “The first two weeks after the election, I was definitely spiraling into the gospel panic about June apocalypse. I mean, that week after the election was brutal to me. I don’t think I slept more than hour or two on election day itself,” she admits. “I was imagining all kinds of scenarios where he’d find a way not to leave. It looks like it’s not going to work, so I’m calming down a little bit.” Still, the President’s continued reluctance to endorse or participate in a peaceful transfer of power – irrefutably the marrow of any healthy democratic society – has done little to calm frayed nerves. “I definitely will not exhale until January 20th. I think that I will believe he’s gone when he’s gone and until then, I still feel like it’s President Trump in charge. Well, it is. But yeah, I just hope that we can all agree to unfollow him on Twitter and I hope the media decides to just not pay any attention to him now, if he’s no longer president.”  But the media’s self-engorging fetish for Trump is a definite cause for concern, making vigilance and self-reflection from outlets more imperative than ever, as Natalie points out. “I really hope that the press has learned in the last four years that they’re helping him. And the best thing to do when he is out of office is… because he’s going to continue tweeting his same thing. It’s just to see if we can, as a society, find a way to ignore this because if not, I worry. It’s like he’s going to be still president. You know what I mean? With people paying more attention to him than they are to Biden.”
            Trump leaves in his wake the bleeding shards of an intensely fractured body politic. “A lot of the problems don’t all go away when he leaves. It’s a great relief, I think, to have him leave, but it’s true that there’s 60, 70 who knows. I don’t know, a million people who believe that… They will believe anything this man says, and it’s a huge amount of power that he still wields, and I think the underlying problems, right? That sort of lead people to support Trump in the first place, these are problems that… A lot of them go back to the founding of this country. I mean back to civil war. This is a kind of deep dug division in this country that I feel like it seems to only be getting worse lately,” Natalie laments. Of course, the broad overarching question remains: how do we move forward in a country where people are not only fed separate realities, but where one side conceives of the other as cartoonish super villains satiated only by baby blood? Natalie is at a loss: “Rational argument assumes that there’s some kind of shared presuppositions between the two sides. And if one side thinks that the world is run by Kabbalist satanist pedophile pizza enthusiasts or whatever, it’s just… I don’t know how to argue with someone who thinks those things. I don’t share enough in common with them in terms of beliefs for me to build any kind of argument or to have… There’s no place to go to dialogue from when you live in such totally walled off realities.” She can’t shake the worry that Trump’s destabilizing effect could have reverberations in future elections. “It is frightening to think, absolutely, the way that… The kind of rationality that Trump has employed to justify ignoring an election, basically, you could probably deploy to not have an election at all. And I think that there’s probably a significant portion of this country that would be happy to go along with that.”
            So how did we get here? White anxiety, and more specifically white people’s ambition to cling to authority in the face of an inexorably changing demographic tide, appears to be the central catalyst. “I think that part of the reason why this is happening now in the first place is that white people are losing our grip on the majority. When people can no longer win just by appealing to the power of whiteness then politics will have to change, and I’m hoping that what we’re watching is a last dying gasp rather than the new dawn of some awful authoritarian future.” Natalie has observed that a sense of mainstream alienation can create a sort of pride in angering liberals in particular, compelling them to flock to a bully like Trump. “There’s a lot of white people who just kind of feel like the mainstream of politicians and media just… It does not represent them. And instead of finding an alternative that does represent them, they’ve coalesced around this figure who they like simply because he irritates the people they don’t like, right? There’s this kind of troll tendency that I’ve noticed in some Trump supporters. Not even just necessarily on the internet, but even Trump supporters of an older generation… What do they like about Trump? They like that he makes the people on CNN angry. And it’s like it’s hard for me to understand voting for that reason. But I think that to some people, there’s this pretty nihilistic streak to it.” As a nation, we continue to grapple with America’s formational identity conflicts that have endured for centuries. “These issues are rooted in some very old debates in this country. Is this a country for property owning white men or is this a country for everyone? Is this a country? Is this a one nation or is this a loose union, a confederacy of States that each are their own ruler? I mean, it’s like these debates go back to the 18th century and I feel like both of them are kind of present in the current moment and they’re both sort of… One side is, I think, represented by Trumpism.”
            Without a doubt, one of the most consequential byproducts of Trumpism is the fundamental distortion of truth, a concept that endlessly bewilders Natalie as she witnesses society become increasingly unmoored in real time. “True is not just some kind of a glossy philosophical goal. The truth is a pragmatic thing a lot of the time. Right? And if you are truly not in touch with it, there’s going to be a point where that keeps you from being able to accomplish basic things, right? And I think that that’s something that this is going to run up against at some point, right? When at some point, I don’t know, are people going to demand accountability from their Congresspeople like, ‘Well, why are you getting rid of the deep state? When are you getting rid of the deep state reptilians?’ Or whatever, and it’s like, oh, there aren’t any. What do you do about this?” Tragically, the corruption of truth has impacted how many perceive the threat of the pandemic, in that they refuse to acknowledge the virus is real, even as they teeter on the brink of succumbing to COVID. “There was a viral tweet going around a couple of weeks ago of a nurse. It was a nurse talking about patients in, I think, South Dakota who were basically dying of COVID and on, essentially, their deathbeds, filled with spite and anger, and in denial. Basically, ‘This can’t be happening. This disease… No, this is a media hoax.’ And it’s like they should be calling their families, instead. They’re literally sitting here dying, in anger and denial. And that is really an extreme. I mean, you would think that once you get this disease… It reminded me of the HBO Chernobyl series, where it’s so inconvenient that the nuclear reactor core has exploded that no one involved can accept it until it’s been dumping radiation in the air for 24 hours straight. And the top people are literally… their hands are burning off from radiation poisoning. It’s frightening to think that humans are capable of this level of self-delusion. Because usually people… the survival instinct kicks in at some point, and people drop their fealty to the party line when it concerns their own survival. To watch people not even do that is something I didn’t ever think I’d see,”  she  marvels. And the pandemic has seemingly only further entrenched this commitment to callous individualism. “There’s almost a sense of pride in refusing to get to the empathy, as if empathy itself is some kind of politically correct bullshit. Empathy being… I understand. Being asked to empathize, they feel that they’re being… condescended to or lectured at, but to truly have so little curiosity about other people’s existence? It’s a failure of the human soul. God, it’s sad to watch.”
            As the relative relief of the Biden administration hovers on the horizon, it remains apparent that we must demand more than a passive return to the Obama-era status quo. “The problems that we have seen in this country since 2008 are going to be very much present. And Ferguson happened under Obama. Black Lives Matter started under Obama. And it’s continued under Trump, and it’s going to continue under Biden. And I’m hoping, I’m really hoping, that a Biden administration takes it seriously and listens to the demands that are being made and listens to the problems that are being highlighted and doesn’t just kind of retreat into, ‘Well, we’ll add a second body camera,’  or whatever.” Biden and Harris will be walking a political tightrope with respect to policing, exacerbated by each of their respective complicated histories with (or, some would assert, their naked fealty to) mass incarceration. Still, it’s a contradiction mirrored by society at large. “I saw a recent study showing that… I think it was a majority of people said that they supported reducing funding for the police and redirecting it towards other community-building things. But a vast majority of people are against ‘defunding the police.’  That’s just a linguistic difference,” Natalie says. “So I guess people have mixed sentiments about this, and it’s hard because you’re trying to balance all these things at once [along with] the justified rage of the people who have seen their families murdered by the cops in this country, essentially. And then, on the other hand, you have a populace that’s very terrified of riots and very terrified of crime and wants to be secure and wants to be protected. And it’s not easy to kind of politically navigate these conflicting demands. And I think, in fact, they are not conflicting. So that’s kind of what needs to be shown, is that there’s alternative ways of dealing with the problems of crime than more brutal policing.” While the full picture of potential (much less attainable) policy won’t come into focus until the critical Georgia runoff elections of January 5th, the path to demanding concrete change will depend, as it always has, on the dedication of the people to hold those in power accountable.


            Beyond politics, Natalie is a celebrated anthropologist of online spaces, devoting untold hours to delving into the bowels of Reddit or sussing out subcultures on twitter. The significance of this vantage point in history is not lost on her. “It’s probably something that the implications will not be understood… There’ll be historians talking about this in 500 years, still. We are in those first couple of decades of it. And there’s not a person alive who really understands what’s going on. I think, on some level, we don’t know. There’s no theory here. There’s no plan. There’s no blueprint for the way that knowledge and community functions in this completely different world that we’ve created over the last two decades.” And she warns that the ramifications of a perpetually accelerating social media galaxy could be far more lasting than we realize: “This is definitely a big influence on the sort of disintegration of the sense of stability, right, is that information is not anchored in the way that it was. When you had three big news stations or whatever, and you always have racism. You always have the crackpot cults in this country. Some of it is just the American spirit. There’s a strong train of prophetic, mad mania in this country, that leads people into these weird, little, cultish kind of movements. But I think that, online, it’s kind of everyone, now. Everyone is in a sect. And a lot of the sects are incredibly destructive, not just to other people, but also to the people who are within them.” Such an ideological mitosis has been most prominent in the communities where Natalie originally solidified her identity just a few short years ago. “Watching the way things have changed with trans people is the most shocking to me as I’ve seen these communities go from basically total lack of trans acceptance to this sudden wave of awareness and debate about it. Over the last five years, basically a drastic change of what it even is to be trans. The terminology has proliferated beyond where anyone could imagine 10 years ago. I feel exhausted in the middle of this as I’m finding myself this outdated creature among this community that’s kind of conceptually moved past me at a rate that I cannot keep up with. I’m trying to get a grip on it… I’ve not been here for more than a few years and already it’s like I’ve lost sense of where here is. I’m burdened with this sense of shame that originates in a stigma that’s no longer even intelligible under the present ideological framework. It’s a weird situation to be in.” Despite feeling admittedly fossilized at times, she has a growing sense of respect and awe for the rising LGBTQIA+ generation. “The queer identity discourse of 19 year olds today, it really is medieval to me in terms of the level… when I say medieval, I mean scholastic. The amount of categories that they have created is… the philosophical sophistication that it is hard to conceive of generating from the minds of 19 year olds, but there it is. You have to admire it, right? It’s this incredible creativity that has led to this drastic shift in the way that young people are thinking about something that so recently seemed this fixed, eternal structure as gender. Now the amount of imagination [behind] transforming that structure. It is cultural.”
            In February 2020, Natalie uploaded a deeply personal video in which she came out as a lesbian, having struggled to reconcile her gender identity with her sexuality. Performing heterosexuality and heteronormative desire, she thought, would be the linchpin to at last securing total legitimacy as a trans woman and enjoying assimilation into broader (cis) society. But ultimately she could no longer deny that her assumed attraction to men was just that – an elaborate performance. What followed was nothing short of an existential crisis that prompted her to examine why she was so loath to acknowledge her attraction to women, specifically her initial revulsion at the mere concept of identifying as a trans lesbian. “Now there’s, I feel like sort of double revelation,” she explains. “Okay, it’s not so bad being a trans woman. I don’t know if it’s that, but when I then also start to explain that I’m attracted to women, it’s like that’s admitting to being a crazy monster. It’s just a multiplying stigma. It’s hard to articulate exactly because it’s a situation that there’s not really… no one really has any awareness of this as a thing, so no one really has any awareness of the stigma. I feel like I have to invent the language to describe my own situation. Not that I invented trans lesbianism… it’s just not something that’s on most people’s radar. That’s another difficulty to explain.  At least I’m done having to explain it to myself. That part is over.” It’s a heavy internalized bias that unfortunately has strong historical roots, through multiple marginalized lenses. “There’s a notion that trans women are predators, trans women are going to prey on women. There’s also an older notion that lesbians are those who prey on women. When you combine the two of them with the idea… the femaleness even of lesbians is historically often questioned, not to mention the femaleness of trans women is rarely granted. The combination of these things, I think that the average person just simply would laugh in your face if you said you’re a trans lesbian, right? It’s something that I feel can never really have a public existence for me, apart from me and my YouTube channel explaining it…I guess what I’m saying is that it’s just hard for me to imagine a time in my life when I’m not always on some level feeling like hiding who I am or allowing it to implicitly go unnoticed is the only reason that I’m not a joke to people, or a danger.” And while Natalie continues to strive to accept herself, self-criticism and self-policing still invade her thoughts on occasion, spurred on by the specter of social ridicule. At the end of the day, she recognizes that queerness has to go hand-in-hand with a certain degree of indifference to judgment if you’re going to live a happy, productive life. “If I was someone who said, ‘I don’t care what other people think about me,’ well, I do care that other people think about me and that’s not… If you’re going to be a queer person, you should learn to care less, very fast, or things are going to be hard. But at the same time, I find that in reality, that’s not an easy thing to shake. I think it’s pretty natural to care what other people think and it seems to me, almost inauthentic to suggest that you don’t care.”
            In that same vein of authenticity, Natalie has discovered ways to exist with flaws and forgiveness both as an artist and a person. Despite upwards of a million people scrutinizing her every move, she remains a pragmatic realist conscious of her own boundaries: “I cannot be a perfect human. I think that finding a private part of my life where I’m allowed to find a version of myself that’s real and flawed is definitely part of maintaining sanity, or doing what I do, I think that that’s a sort of personal problem, which I think that is something that I can eventually work out. Then there’s also the more professional problem, which is how do you make art when people expect moral perfection? I don’t know, maybe what I’m doing is not art, but I guess I want it to be. I guess I’m having this entertainer’s impulse, that I feel like I if I try to do more, if I try to be perfect, that precludes a whole lot of risk-taking, which I see as essential to being interesting. If you can’t be interesting, then why are you bothering?” Most content creators live in fear of cancel culture, but she stays even-keeled in the face of vitriol. “It’s necessary to take risks that will lead to you sometimes messing up and sometimes being flawed, and I guess I just need to find a way that I can find this balance between taking those risks and sometimes messing up, but also not letting myself get destroyed by, or not destroyed, but psychologically torn apart by these kind of backlashes… It’s a tension. I want to be successful, but I also want to be me.” Contemplating the endless philosophical badminton of social media discourse, she yearns for us to apply a more three-dimensional humanity to those we see online. “Sometimes there needs to be room for a more literary understanding of a human being. I mean literary as opposed to just the moral systems theory. We need to understand the human behavior, not just as problematic or permissible, but as passionate and filled with the same flaws and weaknesses that have filled human lives for thousands of years.” Until that moment arrives, Natalie will be here, making sense of the intricate social Jenga that comprises our world – and looking fabulous while doing it.

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Trumpism, Identity, and The Death of Debate: Making Sense of Things with Natalie Wynn. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Natalie Wynn.

Artist Jade Laurice on Alternative Fashion, Sex Positivity, and Body Empowerment

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Artist and blogger Jade Laurice discovered herself along with a vibrant community through her exploration of fashion and art. Her clothing line, Pocalondon, featuring hand-painted pieces, serves as another avenue for her creative self-expression. Jade is also a fierce sex positive advocate and is one of the queer women featured on The Lesbian Guide to Straight Sex, in which Jade and her colleagues stage a relationship intervention for sex-stymied couples. Looking ahead, Jade is excited to release a men’s collection for Pocalondon! Follow Jade on Instagram, YouTube, and twitter.

Cliché: How did your passion for art and fashion develop?
Jade Laurice: As a child, art and fashion was my escapism and self expression. The only thing that’s changed really is that now I share my art with others and that’s really empowering. I also believe that art is fashion and I use my body as a canvas every day! Fashion has made me grow as a person because wearing what I want gives me the confidence to be fearless in everyday life.
 
What is it about styling and alternative fashion that speaks to you?
It’s a way I can feel like an individual in a world where everyone is trying to be everyone else. I’ve always found power in standing out.
 
Tell us about your clothing line, Pocalondon.
Pocalondon is all hand painted denim, leather and anything I can get my hands on really! I created Pocalondon initially to escape and paint my stories on clothes. I was in a dark place when I created my brand, but I turned all that pain into passion, which is what a lot of artists do
I guess. Pocalondon is fun, expressive and loud just like me. It’s also my inner child and a reflection of my love for women. I just want people to wear art and that’s basically what Pocalondon is.
 
Do you have any guidance for folks who are new to alternative fashion?
My biggest advise would be to stop comparing your craft  if you want to create anything unique. Stop scrolling and trust your own creativity. No one is you and that’s your superpower.
 
How did you become involved with your show, The Lesbian Guide To Straight Sex?
I guess they found me online after I began speaking my truth, talking about my queerness and opening up conversations about female pleasure. I am so unapologetically me on social media and that’s what the shows about. Normalizing conversations about sex, knocking down stigmas and opening people’s minds!
 
What do you wish more men and people in general understood about female pleasure?
I wish more people would listen to women or anyone with a vagina about their sexual desires and pleasures. But I also wish women and people with vaginas would ask for what they want.
 
How can we more clearly communicate our sexual needs and desires to our partner(s) without fear of awkwardness or rejection?
Find out what you like first, that’s the most important thing. Then open up a conversation with your partner naturally in a safe space about what you both want. Awkwardness is fine, it doesn’t have to be that serious. It’s just sex at the end of the day.
 
You’re enthusiastic about promoting body confidence on your platform. How would you describe your own journey towards body confidence?
I am a big advocate on body confidence. I believe we all have our insecurities and it’s not about getting rid of them necessarily. It’s just about loving your body just enough that your insecurities don’t even matter anymore. Things that I used to worry about don’t bother me now because I realized that I’m way more than my body. Plus, your body has gotten you where you are today, so you should love every part of it for that!
 
You’ve expressed frustration with white influencers being prioritized and celebrated over Black influencers. How can the fashion and beauty industries better acknowledge and respect Black designers and influencers?
 
Yes, as a social media girl I guess I’ve seen a lot in the industry that’s made me feel uncomfortable and often oppressed. Brands need to expand their target audience and advertising needs decolonizing, especially on social media. Black lives matter and equality needs to run through every level of the fashion and beauty industry. POC influencers, models, camera men, artists, designers, etc. need to not only be hired but treated and paid equally to their colleagues. Changing the status quo isn’t going to happen overnight, but I do believe we’re on our way to change.
 
What advice would you have for those struggling with body image or low self esteem?
My advise would be to take it back to basics and focus on the parts of yourself that you love even if it’s something small. Everyone has something someone else wants and we all want what we haven’t got. I try not to compare myself to others especially on social media. It’s not healthy to give yourself unrealistic exceptions because perfect doesn’t exist. Be kind to yourself. Talk to yourself with respect and practice self love at every opportunity.
 
Any exciting projects coming up?        
I’m currently working with some great brands this year on social media but I’m also working on my @pocalondon men’s collection for next year. Lock down has been a chance for me to focus on myself and perfect my craft so I’m excited for a new chapter. Roll on 2021!!

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Artist Jade Laurice on Alternative Fashion, Sex Positivity, and Body Empowerment. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jade Laurice.

The Quest To Find Pets Forever Homes Continues in New Hallmark Special “Tails of Joy 2”

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On the heels (or paws) of their first highly successful special, SoCal animal rescue Paw Works has teamed up with Hallmark Channel again for “Tails of Joy 2.” The new special follows the Paw Works team to Louisiana where they are on a mission to clear the St. Landry’s Parish Animal Shelter with the help of Cathy Bissel’s BISSELL Pet Foundation. We caught up with Paw Works Co-Founder Chad Atkins on how the pandemic has galvanized us all to keep saving animals in need. Check out Hallmark Channel’s “Tails of Joy 2” HERE and follow Paw Works on Facebook and Instagram!

Cliché: How has the pandemic impacted Paw Works?

Chad Atkins: On March 19, COVID-19 shuttered the world as we know it.  With two adoption centers in local malls, Paw Works was forced to close our locations per local ordinances and state requirements.  It was at this time I realized that in order to continue our life-saving mission, I needed to have an innovative approach to animal rescue and adoptions.  With my amazing team, we quickly emptied our adoption centers and created an onsite adoption center at our facility.  On March 21, 2020 Paw Works held its first outdoor, mobile adoption event at our facility.  With proper social distancing and mask wearing, Paw Works processed over 70 adoption and fosters that first weekend.  Since the pandemic, Paw Works has had a nearly 400% increase in our adoption rate with saving over 1,500 dogs and cats in just 6 short months. (In 2019, Paw Works rescued a total of 1,640.) 

Initially, many shelters were having to restrict their adoption hours due to social distancing. Have you managed to find new ways to connect people and pets?

 Closing or restricting our adoptions and rescues was not an option for Paw Works.  Not only do the animals that we rescue and need rescuing rely on us to continue forward, even in the worst of situations, but the individuals I employee depend on their paychecks to care for themselves and their families.  With this determination and need to continue, my team and I came up with a solution to run all adoptions out of our facility, which is not usually open to the public.  Although, wait times have been long for potential adopters, sometimes as long as 8 hours, my staff and community have been incredibly supportive of our process.  All animals are met on a ‘first come, first served’ basis through proper social distancing and protective wear. 

Your adoption rate has increased 400%! Why do you think more people are deciding to adopt during the pandemic?

 Our adoption rates have always increased during summer months and holidays, when people are home more often.  With stay at home orders in effect for California and many states nationwide, people suddenly had ample time to spend with a new pet.  Many adopters are hesitant to adopt when they don’t feel like they have the time to give to a new pet.  In addition, due to the self-quarantine rules, people have felt isolated from their friends, family and co-workers.  A new pet has helped alleviate many of those negative feelings of sadness, isolation and loneliness people have felt. 

Hosted by Larissa Wohl, this inspiring special follows an extraordinary effort by rescue groups in multiple states to clear St. Landry’s Animal Shelter of its 200 dogs. After they get vet care and TLC, they’re ready to live happily ever after in their forever homes. Photo: Larissa Wohl Credit: ©2020 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Alexx Henry/Alexx Henry Studios, LLC

Talk about your new Hallmark Channel special, Tails of Joy 2

Hallmark Channel’s “Tails of Joy 2” follows the journey of shelter animals as they are each given a fresh start. The newest installment begins in Opelousas, Louisiana, where St. Landry’s Parish Animal Shelter takes in more than 5,000 abandoned dogs and cats each year. Striving to give as many animals as possible a second chance, the story follows one massive transport team from Michigan, Florida, and California that come together at St. Landry’s to clear the shelter of almost 200 dogs. With Cathy Bissell from Bissell Pet Foundation supporting the rescue efforts and continuing their mission “Until every pet has a home.” 

Through the tireless efforts of staff, fosters, and volunteers of all ages, each animal is bathed, vaccinated, fed, microchipped, and given a warm, safe place to sleep, showing them the attention and care that all animals deserve. As each animal slowly begins to flourish, they are placed in loving homes. The story offers a powerful message of hope, encouraging everyone to adopt their next furry family member. “Tails of Joy 2” is hosted by Larissa Wohl and features rescue teams from nine rescues nationwide, including Paw Works from California.

How did people react to the first special?

We received a lot of great feedback for our first special.  Through our social media presence and press interviews, people’s reactions were extremely positive.  The public enjoyed seeing the destitute situations these animals came from through the process of rescue and into their fur-ever homes, or as we like to call them ‘Tails of Joy’!

Why is it so vital to continue clearing overpopulated shelters even when the rest of the world feels interrupted?

Domesticated animals have had their worlds interrupted for generations after being left to fend for themselves or abandoned at shelters and rescues.  Even though adoption rates have skyrocketed for many organizations, there are still countless animals that need to be rescued.  Also, pet overpopulation was created by our society for our need for excess and lack of proper care for our animals – and it is our problem to solve no matter how interrupted our lives have become.

Hosted by Larissa Wohl, this inspiring special follows an extraordinary effort by rescue groups in multiple states to clear St. Landry’s Animal Shelter of its 200 dogs. After they get vet care and TLC, they’re ready to live happily ever after in their forever homes. Credit: ©2020 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Alexx Henry/Alexx Henry Studios, LLC

What are the mutual benefits for both pets and prospective pet parents of choosing to foster or adopt right now?

Pets are great companions and extremely empathetic to our moods and feelings.  During self-isolation, the companionship of a pet allowed many people to refocus their loneliness, desperation and fear that was experienced during the pandemic. 

In addition, there are many health benefits to owning a pet.  Owners of pets have statistically lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels as many times they provide increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities.  This boost in health allows for a stronger immune system, which in returns leads to a longer life.

Are there ways to make our pets more comfortable as some folks start to transition back to work and school after months of being at home?

 As many people transition back to work, it is crucial that we begin to get our pets on a routine that will be ideal for your work schedule.  Pets thrive on routine and are at their best when their owners keep them to that routine as much as possible. 

In addition, crate training is something we suggest to all our adopters and is extremely helpful in allowing our pets – especially dogs – to have a safe, comfortable space where they can rest while we work.  Crate training can also assist many times with separation anxiety, which may have developed during isolation. 

Finally, allowing our pets to stay at home for short periods of time while we run errands, go out for dinner, exercise, etc. will assist with them beginning to spend time by themselves. This will in-turn help you learn what additional needs your pet will have as you transition back into the work environment.

Although there are many people that would like to pretend the pandemic is over, it’s unfortunately still going strong. How can we continue to support our local animal rescues, pets, and pet owners during this time?

There are so many ways to help your local rescues and shelters.  As always, financial donations are always extremely helpful in the rescue, care and adoption of animals.  Non-profit animal rescues are typically run-off donations, not taxpayer dollars, and thrive on monetary donations.  However, if financial help is not within your means you can always foster animals that may need a little extra help in finding their fur-ever home. As volunteering currently may not be possible at your local shelter or rescue (per COVID-19 protocol) there are always ways to volunteer your time. For example, laundry assistance, enrichment assistance, donating your business service, etc.  Finally, if your local shelter or rescue has social media, it is so helpful to follow their page and share their posts.  Like Paw Works at @pawworks on Instagram and Facebook!

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Hallmark Channel Spotlights Paw Works in Animal Rescue Special “Tails of Joy.” Photo Credit: ©2020 Crown Media United States LLC — Photographer: Alexx Henry – Alexx Henry Studios, LLC

 

Lila Yin and J.Ar.J Explore the Complicated Feelings of a Situationship in New Single, “Oxytocin”

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Singer Lila Yin and music producer J.Ar.J met by chance at a workshop – and the rest is history! The two have collaborated to produce their latest single, “Oxytocin,” which deals with the realization that situationships aren’t always what you want or need from a relationship. In spite of the initial pain, they want to underscore that it’s important to love yourself enough to separate from the emotional roller coaster. Check out the video for “Oxytocin” below!

 

Cliché: How did each of you discover your own unique sound?

Lila Yin: There are definitely certain sonic elements that I seem to gravitate towards (e.g. warm pads/synths, vocal swells, layered harmonies) but I’m not sure I’m at a place where I can truly sum up what my sound is. It’s a work in progress!

J.Ar.J: When it comes to a unique sound, for me, it just develops overtime from constantly creating different ideas regardless of genres and finding sounds you like and processing sounds in a way that you personally find pleasing. Also definitely music you listen to growing up does influence what directions you take when creating melodies and chord progressions. But as Lila says I think a unique sound is always a work in progress, as we as people are always a work in progress.

What was the moment when you realized you’d be amazing collaborators?

Lila Yin: We both attended a masterclass run by SG Lewis as part of Nando’s Yard last summer. We walked back to the station together afterwards, showing each other our work the whole time and that was it! Jordon is honestly one of the most hardworking and chillest people I know. He has a great ability to make you feel comfortable during a session, especially when I was less sure of myself & my creative ideas. 

J.Ar.J: For me, I’ve worked with a lot of artists and can usually tell from conversations about how well I will get on with them. I had a good feeling about Lila from the beginning as we had really good conversations about music and what her inspirations are and I felt we definitely are very similar when it comes to music. Like musically I consider her able to read my mind, literally always thinking to do what I’m about to say or suggest. Every session we’ve had has always been really inspiring and just fun!

What was the inspiration for your new single, “Oxytocin?” 

Lila Yin: A situationship that ended badly. Sometimes we accommodate for the other person because the chemistry between you both is so strong and then neglect our own needs in the process! And they let you – because it works out for them. 

J.Ar.J, how did it feel to be able to bring “Oxytocin” to life?
 
It was really fun! Lila and I both produced the initial track at our session in the Nando’s studio. And literally everything just worked don’t think we actually changed much from the first version we did that day. We just added parts to help create that spacey vibe the song has. Also I feel that this song is maybe the first track that I could say is my sound in terms of production. Usually I’m either developing a sound for a new artist or slightly evolving a more experienced artist’s style so usually there’s elements that I would leave out as it wouldn’t give the right feeling for a particular song.
 
Sometimes we can convince ourselves to stay with someone longer than we should because of chemistry or physical connection. How do you separate yourself from that high to realize you aren’t getting what you deserve out of a relationship?

Lila Yin: Knowing what you want from a relationship and having the self love to really own those wants. Self love is at the heart of it though, because it gives you the strength to remove yourself from situations that aren’t good for you, no matter how painful it seems.

In each of your personal lives, what have past experiences taught you in terms of recognizing your self-worth and pursuing healthier relationships?

Lila Yin: Your relationship with yourself is so important. Emotions can be fluid, people can grow in different directions and not everyone has your best interests at heart. A lot of the time people don’t even know what they want or how to communicate it! But as long as you do, you’re good. Life’s too short to waste time.

J.Ar.J: Number one rule for me is that your partner should be a cherry on top of the dessert that is your life, meaning they’re not the source of your happiness, you are responsible for your own happiness and they are an addition that helps make everything that bit sweeter. 

What’s next up for both of you? Can we look forward to more collabs in the future?

Lila Yin: I’ve just started an Electronic Music Masters so I’ll be focusing on that for now, but there will definitely be more collabs in future! Jordon & I always have something on the backburner.

J.Ar.J: We’ve made many ideas and definitely will be doing more work together in the future. I also have a lot of new music coming out from various other artists for the rest of the year. You can follow my Spotify account where I have a playlist with all my latest productions.

Read more Music Interviews at ClicheMag.com
Lila Yin and J.Ar.J Explore the Complicated Feelings of a Situationship in New Single, “Oxytocin.”
Photo Credit: Krishana Sivathasan (@krish.ess).

Tyler Rusher on Their Unexpected Ascension to TikTok Comedy Royalty

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Wanting an escape from the stress of beauty school, Tyler Rusher finally decided to make a TikTok, a decision that wound up changing their life. As a Black, non-binary, fat, and queer creator, Tyler wasn’t sure how big of an audience there would be for their content, but now with over half a million followers, those doubts are forever put to rest. The road hasn’t been easy – Tyler has had to face multiple permanent bans and racist harassment – but their future looks bright. Tyler wants to become more involved in the acting world and hopes to one day land on Netflix or Hulu, as well as explore their passion for music. We’ll be watching! Check out Tyler on TikTok and Instagram.

Cliché: How did you first become involved with comedy?

It’s a crazy story actually. When I was younger I was getting bullied a lot and one day my mother told me to crack a really mean joke “Well tell him his mother looks like a cr*ckhead” I wasn’t the type of child to play the dozens or go at someone but when I did that day, not only were kids laughing at him and not me but I got punched in the face haha! As I got older though, I wasn’t always using it as a defense. Sometimes I did just use it to make people laugh and when I was 16 I made videos on Facebook recapping high school which made people laugh and gained me wide popularity & different kinds of friends from all walks of life. At 19 I just decided to do standup, it felt like a natural progression. 

What motivated you to start making TikToks?

Two of my friends in beauty school actually. They felt that I would be so funny and just super entertaining. I did NOT agree. I felt that my humor was gonna either come off too adult, too mean or just too weird like I’ve been called my whole life. They insisted though, over and over until I just gave in and made one. Since beauty school was already becoming a mental warzone for me I thought why not have a mini escape from something that I thought I was going to love. 

Were you surprised by how quickly your following blew up?

ABSOLUTELY! Especially being black, queer AND fat. There’s no way that this many people wanted to watch me and liked/loved me. It was weird. It almost felt like some sick joke I created in my head for a moment but everyday when I woke up there was a new gang of people and new wave of support.

Your account has been permanently banned without warning twice. How did this affect you? What was it like to suddenly have your platform ripped out from under you?

The first time it happened it came as a complete and utter shock. It was early in the morning I went to scroll the For You page and when I opened the app it said, “Your account has been permanently banned.” I started welling up with tears, sending emails, shaking, crying, confused & yet nothing was changing. All day long I sat in my room wondering what I did KNOWING I did nothing wrong. 3 days. It was 3 days before I got my account back and they told me the reason as to why they took it down or even why they were giving it back. I was so tired of TikTok at that point. Between the racism, a man stalking me and now THIS I thought who was I doing it for. Watching the videos though of people crying and screaming and demanding my account back, seeing mutuals stick up for me, I knew then, that’s why and that’s for who. The second time I got banned I was HIGHLY annoyed and then 10hrs later BOOM my account is back. Stressful isn’t even the word I’d use for this app!

  

Why did you decide to come out and what was the reaction like? How are you finding navigating the Internet as a queer Black person?

I felt like 22 was late enough to be in the closet (for me personally take ya’ll time) my mother’s reaction was “I always knew you liked bitches Tyler I was just waiting on you to say something” I was shocked. Later when we talked more in depth she said she always sensed it and just never wanted to push me and knew she’d love me and fight for me either way. Her sister thinks it’s a choice, my brother thinks I’ll burn in hell & I’m the “white man’s whore” ahhh family. My original friends in Cleveland Ohio love and support me and so do all my new friends I’ve made since leaving the state. Now being Non Binary, Bisexual & very well known on the internet I love being that helping hand for young people still in the closet or out and just feel like they don’t have support. 

You’ve spoken about the racism you’ve faced on TikTok. What does TikTok need to do in order to address racism and anti-Blackness on the platform?

Delete the accounts that actively harass its black creators. Crack down like bigger platforms like YouTube and don’t let these big creators who do racist things and small creators who do it slide by. There’s also a HUGE grooming and sexual predator problem that they have to deal with with big creators but since they make money for the app, TikTok won’t speak out or take them down. They’re also massive bullies but I guess bullying is cute these days. 

How can TikTok users better support and elevate Black creators?

Verify more of us, put us in ads, give us deals and more support as much as your white creators. Have them collab and show real unity on the platform and not just say it. Stop muting and taking down videos that black creators make about police brutality and racism we experience just because it makes you uncomfortable. Why is it better said with white lips than my black ones? 

You recently hit 500,000 followers, congratulations! What does that milestone mean to you?

THE WORLD!!!!! I’m still in shock to tell you the truth. It’s blowing my mind. I can’t believe that half a million people find my silly ass entertaining. To get beautiful art and messages and comments, that’s the fun part for me. My fans genuinely make me laugh as well as me making them laugh. I never make content with the intent of going viral either, I just want to make people feel good and laugh. Never thought being myself would do this. I said it in high school but damn…does doing it feel better. 

What inspires you to continue making content? How do you see your comedy evolving moving forward?

My followers, society, my life, my past and just because I want to be seen, change the world, flip it on its head and have people go “Damn Tyler so crazy!” I definitely see it evolving past TikTok and hopefully into a career on Netflix or Hulu or some kind of acting. That’s where I eventually want to go. I’ve always wanted to be a comedic/dramatic actress. So hopefully that’s where I go! And lots of volunteering 

You also have many other career ambitions including acting, modeling, and singing! What do you think the future holds for you in terms of exploring other opportunities?

I’m definitely thinking of making a mixtape of covers for my followers since the cat’s out of the bag that I can sing haha. When it comes to modeling, I hope so. Being an alternative model with piercings and tattoos who’s plus size is something that’s needed on the scene right now. Plus I love experimenting with hair so it’s nothing for me to have blue hair one day and green the next. I’ve wanted to act since I was 3 so clearly my next stop is the big screen not just your phone screens!!! 

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Tyler Rusher on Their Unexpected Ascension to TikTok Comedy Royalty. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Tyler Rusher.