All Posts By Erin Tatum

From Anti-Blackness to Anti-Racism: Deconstructing White Supremacy with Jordan Simone


            At 6’ tall with a statuesque build, Jordan Simone was frequently encouraged to pursue modeling. Her friends convinced her that TikTok would be a great way to gain exposure, so she created an account. One day, she decided to post a video about the seven things she felt the Black community needed to work on. The enthusiastic response blew her away. “I was like, ‘Wait a second. If you want to hear what I have to say about Black people, wait until I have to say things about white people.’ At the time, I was thinking a lot about white allies and white activism. I’m like, ‘Do that, but also y’all do that in a weird way. Here’s some critiques. Here’s gentle critiques that were gentle, but not gentle.’” Her videos became a source of education for users eager to learn about anti-Blackness and how to enhance their allyship. “I just started answering people’s questions or making content around what people were saying. It became its own thing from the things I was already passionate about featuring this need as a society. Society was like, ‘Hey, I actually want to know more about this and you deliver the information in a way that doesn’t make me angry or upset. You’re not yelling at me making me feel like an idiot. There are things I don’t know, but I appreciate that you’re not making me feel bad about not knowing things.'” Despite amassing nearly 300,000 followers, Jordan continues to focus on her contributions to various movements, characteristically conscious of the perpetual drive to grow and improve her own awareness of social issues. “I always called myself an aspiring activist, because I never feel like I’m doing enough. Maybe that’s the imposter syndrome. But ever since I was 16, I have a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong and what personal liberties are versus what the collective needs. And so when life decided (and TikTok decided) that this was something I was good at, I was like, ‘People have questions, and I actually have the answers.’” She extends that same understanding and compassion to her followers. “My mom’s always been a teacher, and as someone who is a teacher and teaches and has always been around teaching, I’m like, ‘I know I can’t judge you for not knowing things. Thank you for just asking and being willing to learn and listen.’ And so that’s made a safe space on my page,”
            Unfortunately, TikTok is notorious for having a contentious relationship with Black creators, suppressing their discussions of racism and whiteness – while happily enabling white creators to profit off of content stolen from Black creators. It wasn’t long before Jordan found her own content was being censored. The community is rallying to demand change, planning a Blackout for the first half of May, strategically targeted to deprive the app of content to make a statement about the power Black creators hold. “I know there are a lot of conversations happening about leaving the app for a little while, because it takes a trend two weeks to come in and out of fashion. The two week trend will end-ish sometime in early May. They’ll be looking for something new. We’re not there to give them something new.” There are some simple ways users and creators can show solidarity with Black creators. “You can support Black creators by actually watching our content all the way through, or even most of the way through, engaging with it and making sure that people give credit where credit is due, and hearing us when we speak.” Most crucially, don’t avoid or ignore conversations about racism because they’re difficult. “When Black creators have something to say, listen to it and hold it with value. As opposed to just ‘It makes me uncomfortable, so I’m not going to engage with it.’ We need to be as okay as we can be talking about race and racism. Because if you’re not, all that upholds is the systems of whiteness and white supremacy and TikTok is already trying to push down those videos. You have to be willing to seek them out and engage with them, so TikTok can’t do that. Because at the end of the day, it’s just a computer we’re fighting. But we are losing to a computer and that feels wrong.”

Recently, white creators have found yet more ways to appropriate from the Black community, most egregiously by co-opting Cynthia Erivo’s “Stand Up” (a song about breaking free from slavery) as the soundtrack for the 97% movement, which aims to spotlight the overwhelming proportion of women subjected to sexual harassment. And while the 97% movement is extremely important, so is allowing the music to continue to exist in its original context. “When you’re Black and seeking representation in music or on TikTok or wherever, that impact matters. And so if a Black creator makes a song about Blackness, it’s important to leave that alone,” Jordan says. “Because number one, that was the whole point. I wrote it down so that we can use it for this moment. But number two, is we don’t have a lot of spaces we can go. We don’t have a lot of sounds that represent who we are, and while it feels like it shouldn’t be a big deal because white people don’t have to have that desperate search or that desperate cling to something to feel represented, Black people do.” She urges critique of false calls to unity. “It’s great to say, ‘We’re all people. We’re all equals.’ It’s a great concept. It truly is. It’s something we all should aspire to, but we’re not there yet. And until we get there, these things matter because it’s what we have. And also just listen to the lyrics. Just put your listening ears on and just hear what they’re saying or read it or whatever you need to do. But I think it’s very intentional, both on behalf of the creator and on behalf of the user to be aware of what they’re saying and what their goal was, and also what that impact is. And so if that song speaks to you as somebody who’s not Black, that’s great and that’s cool. But recognize what they intended and move accordingly.” Most often, this insistence on “coming together” is a barely disguised pressure campaign designed to silence Black folks within the very spaces they themselves crafted as safe havens. “The point is, you have other places to go. You don’t need to come into my house. Why are you in it? And more importantly, why are you shoving me out of it in that?” Jordan wonders. The full weight of TikTok’s algorithm is already behind white creators, so the least they can do is be more intentional in their song selection.”TikTok loves white people. The internet loves whiteness. And so all of those things are automatically boosted to the top of the algorithm, to the top of the For You page. All of that is just boosted straight to the top. And so it’s important to know that and be aware that the privileges that you hold mean that ‘If I do this thing, I’m going to be seen, and I’m going to be heard. I need to be aware enough to not interject myself in this space. Does it mean maybe I miss out on a cool sound? Sure. Do I have literally 8 million other songs to listen to or to actively choose? Yes. And so in my awareness of the privileges I hold, I will move accordingly until I don’t have to.’ And if we all have that mindset, we can probably knock out systemic racism in like 20 years. It’s hard, but it’s really not that hard.”
            This sense of whiteness as default fortifies resistance to criticism, which Jordan attributes to white people’s misconception of racism as only confined to overt hatred and violence. “Number one, we need to redefine what being racist means. Growing up, we learned racism is the lynchings of the 60s, the KKK (which is still around…what the heck?) And hate crimes. Cool. Important to talk about. Essential to talk about, because all those things are still happening today. But racism does not start and stop there. Racism is a systemic issue built into every industry that we have, because when we built this country in oh dark 30, the foundation was led in a racist way. When this country started as three fifths of a person, that doesn’t end because you changed that one law. The foundations are still there. Our building has rot, and we need to take the rot out. And, when I say, ‘Hey, somebody taught you something racist, and you’re doing it.’ You’re not a bad person. I’m not saying you are the KKK. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is in this racist system, you learned a racist thing, and you need to unlearn it in the same way that I do.”Jordan has spent years unlearning her own internalized biases, which ran so deep that they impacted (and dictated) perceptions of how she spoke. “We all have racism built into us. I have anti-Blackness built into me. Growing up I spoke in AAVE for 11 minutes. My mom was not having it, but I spoke that way. I had a Southern accent. I still say things like ‘six one way, half a dozen the other.’ And nobody knows what I’m saying, but I was taught that talking like that is ignorant. It makes you ignorant. It makes you dumb. You won’t get a job. I went to speech therapy. I didn’t particularly need it. I just spoke in AAVE. But I went to speech therapy. I had it beat out of me. And now I say things like ‘exponentially’ in casual conversations, which stresses other people out. There’s no balance here. It is what it is. But it took me years to learn that you’re not dumb for speaking in AAVE. That is its own dialect. It has its own rules. There’s a form to this. And even if it wasn’t, you’re still not dumb. But it’s a studied, researched, mini language of its own, and it’s not bad to speak like that. It’s stigmatized. If I have to unlearn that as a Black person, you mean to tell me that as a white person, you didn’t pick up on a shred of racism growing up? You did, because you and I went to the same school. You learned what I learned, and what I learned made me hate me. Which means you in your own way definitely learned something that should make you not like me or have some prejudices or stigma. It is what it is. Stop fighting it.”

            We must re-engineer these conversations to shift understanding of racism as a whole. “If we restructure the conversation around – this is what racism is. It’s not just active hate. Racism is active hate. It is also a system we were all born and brought up in and we all have some unlearning to do. We can have those conversations around…‘Okay, so this is how white people uphold racism. This is what a microaggression looks like. This is all this other stuff.’ Now we can have productive conversations.” Failure to acknowledge the spectrum of racism inevitably leads to acquiescence to white fragility, corroding the vitality of the movement long-term. “I read this article. Some activists and organizers were talking about how they have to be very mindful of what they protest against. They have to be very mindful with what they preach, because white people have briefly started putting themselves on the front lines in terms of protest. If the police show up, white people will make a line with their bodies to make a barrier. Great. If they upset too many white people, they will stop coming to the protests and Black people lose that source of protection. Now organizers are like, ‘We have to be very intentional with what we do in a different way to protect whiteness. Because if we don’t, we lose the help that we have.’ And that’s not a productive way to go about this. Because at the end of the day, we want to undo those systems that mean you need to be on the front lines at all. But I can’t undo those systems if you’re not in this to win this. And that means you also have some learning to do.” The process would be smoother if we could all learn how to soften our defensiveness and be more receptive to criticism. “People don’t like to be told that they’re wrong. People don’t like to be told that they did something racist, because we made racism rightfully, but also in a way, wrongfully, this big, bad, scary thing,” Jordan muses. “It’s like saying you did something racist does not mean you lynched me in the backyard. It means that you called [my natural hair] floofy. I didn’t like being called floofy. Just adapt and learn. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world, if you don’t take it to that place. But that’s where we are taught to take it, because in your defensiveness, I am forced to uphold whiteness. It was a beautifully designed system. But if you don’t check yourself or let me check you, all we’re going to do is uphold the same system. We will simply rebrand everything under a new name for the 15th time and call it a day.”
White women in particular have a penchant for weaponizing their whiteness as a means of dominating discussions around misogyny to cajole Black women into silence when they attempt to talk about the violence they’ve experienced through the lens of race and misogynoir. Jordan herself was harassed by white users into deleting her video discussing her personal connection to the 97%. She recalls: “Other women went viral for the same conversation. But I wasn’t allowed to have it. I wasn’t allowed to be in that space. There was nobody letting me exist here. I’m like, either A, stop crying or B, let us have our own spaces. Black women do have these conversations in our own spaces, in our own ways. But white women always find themselves, ‘Oh, this happened to me too.’ Great. Perfect. Fine. But then it becomes about them. It becomes about their comfort. It becomes about their safety and not at the cost of our own.” This erasure is especially harmful because understanding the intersection of anti-Blackness and misogynistic violence is imperative to fight sexism. The intense focus on white women in the media gave young Jordan an incredibly dangerous false sense of security. “I didn’t think Black girls got kidnapped growing up. I didn’t think it was a thing that happened to us. I was like, white women are desirable. White women are cute. When I looked at the milk carton, it’s a white girl. When I look at the posters, it’s white girls. Black women don’t get kidnapped. I’m safe. And then doggone it, I grew up. And one day I was scrolling through Twitter and they were like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ It was like 60,000 Black women are missing right now. Black girls, Black kids are missing and we’re not talking about it. And…I was like ‘60,000? We get kidnapped?’ And they were like, ‘Yes, we get kidnapped most often.’ But we’re so far pushed out of the conversation that I genuinely thought that was not a thing that happened to us on a regular basis, when it happens to us at a disproportionate rate. By centering all the conversations around whiteness, we create not only an exclusion of Blackness, but a culture of ignorance. I was so dumb, I could’ve gotten kidnapped. And I would’ve been none the wiser.” Black women deserve spaces to speak freely without worrying about tone policing or having to accommodate white women‘s feelings. “We need to make these safe spaces, because if we don’t, people walk around like me. Dumb as a sack of rocks and thinking it can’t happen to you, when it totally can and totally does. I think that to have these conversations, you have to be able to say, ‘This happens to Black women, even though they’re strong, even if you think that they’re all tough, because we’re just humans. Even if you think we’re masculine.’ We’re not, but okay. It happens to us. We need to be a part of these conversations too, in all of the ways that they come in and our input is valuable. And I think either the best place to do that is you either let us talk about it in our own safe spaces with each other, so that we can at least know what’s happening. Or stop silencing us because you didn’t want to talk about it on Monday. If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s cool. That doesn’t mean I can’t talk about it. It means you need to leave, because I need to talk about it today. That’s not to say my comfort trumps your comfort or whatever. But if we’re having a conversation about trauma, and I decided to speak up on it today, you can’t decide I can’t speak up on it because you don’t want to talk about it today. I respect you and your choices, but that means you need to leave. Not, I need to be quiet, and that’s okay. I don’t need you to hear me. I mean I need you to hear me, but if you can’t do it today, as somebody who has experienced trauma, okay, I respect it. Go ahead, but I also need to process my grief and my hurt. And if you can’t be a part of that today, that’s cool. Goodbye. But you can’t tell me not to talk because you don’t want to hear it.”
On a broader scale, the process of dismantling white supremacy to rebuild an anti-racist society relies on sweeping change. “I think on a big level, we need to do some big institutional work. And this is the thing that I think will take the most time,” Jordan says. “That’s why when people are like, ‘Do you think if we worked hard enough we could end racism tomorrow?’ I’m like, ‘Absolutely not.’ Our infrastructures will crumble. Everything will fall apart. No, but the work needs to be done. Because things like policing, for example, because that’s on my mind lately. It was built on slave catching. The whole system needs to go. It wasn’t designed to be safe. It just needs to go. We need to replace it with something else. We need to reallocate funds. The whole thing needs to go. We need to try over. That’s going to take time. It’s a big deal. It’s necessary. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take labor. Or politics. Our political systems were created when I was three fifths of a human being. I couldn’t even be the whole human being. The whole thing needs to go. I think it should be replaced with things that are more inclusive. And I don’t just mean laws and acts that need to be replaced every so often. The Voting Rights Act – it’s got, I think two parts of it that are still standing. Everything else has either expired and not been renewed or replaced with something worse. And that’s our pinnacle of success is the Voting Rights Act. And it’s almost dead in its entirety. We can’t replace it with laws. We can’t replace it with acts. We need to replace it on a fundamental structural level. It’s going to be a big job. It’s going to take more than me. Good luck, Charlie.” In addition to redressing institutional racism, we also need to keep that momentum going to tackle everyday racism. “On a micro level, we need to talk about racism in terms of big and little picture. Racism is ‘I hate Black people, yada, yada, yada.’ It’s also, ‘Hey girl, your hair is really floofy.’ It’s the way that we do Black minstrel shows on the internet, where people get super dark tans and long acrylic nails and start wearing bonnets. And girls start talking [in a parody of a blaccent] all the time. And it’s funny to you. It was funny to me in 2008. And then I was like, ‘Oh, that’s how they see me.’ The joke is funny if it’s not harming people, but when it harms people, stop the joke. We need to stop being so uncomfortable because a critique isn’t a criticism on your whole person, it’s a critique of your actions. I had this one substitute teacher who was like, ‘I never hate you. I might hate what you did, but I don’t hate you.’ Same energy, same energy. I’m not judging you. I don’t hate you, but you did a bad thing. I will gently correct it. We can go on with our evening. That’s it.”
Nonetheless, a vocal and disgruntled few have taken issue with Jordan drawing attention to the racist undertones of recent trends like fake tanning and lip injections, accusing her of trying to “cancel everything.” However, it’s crucial to understand the appropriative aspects of these “hobbies,” which have insidious roots in the fetishization of Black bodies. (And a history that many would prefer to ignore, as illustrated by one user’s misguided boast that Europe is supposedly free of racism, prompting Jordan to unfurl a laundry list of evidence to the contrary. “I think I pissed off the continent of Europe as a collective,“ she informed me with a grin.) She is eager to unpack the violence undergirding the popularization of these so-called aesthetics. “I think it’s important to talk about it, because when you don’t, you think that you are doing a good thing or a non-harmful thing, when you are actively perpetuating systems of harmfulness. When you don’t see Black women on TV, when you don’t see Black women in media, but you do see Rebecca with the darkest tan that they offered from a bottle of, I kid you not, the blackest black suntan lotion with lips that she injected super large. Because these are all things that are in trend. Number one, why is my face a trend? You can’t get to pick and choose when you get to participate in my face. But why is my face a trend without me? What is wrong about me and my Blackness that makes me less desirable than someone who went and bought all the aspects of Blackness and then perpetuated them? And that all traces back to Sarah Baartman and the way that her body, when she died, was put on display. Not only did you take a Black woman from her home because she was thicker than a bowl of oatmeal and toted her around Europe for her whole life without her consent and never liberated her, when she died, you took her body and took it on the road. That trauma is still there. That fetishization is still there. That’s why that hypersexualization is all still there. And for you to appropriate it, because it’s a trend, because it’s cute, but still demonize my face and my existence. I’m still shut out of the modeling industry when you have to get a super dark, fake tan. They’re not trends. You think you need to look like that, because it’s cute. They think it’s cute, because they think Blackness is cute when it’s distanced from Black people. We need to dismantle that train of thought. Because at the end of the day, if you really want to be happy, we should probably start working on liking ourselves the way that we look for starters. But even if we don’t, even if you want to change and adapt or whatever, be mindful of what you’re participating in, and how you’re perpetuating systems of harm.” She continues: “It’s the same vein of thought, but a different execution [with] the people who bleach their skin…which please don’t, but it’s a whole industry because we were all taught that being white is beautiful. And being white and pretending to be dark is beautiful, but being dark is ugly. And in my pursuit of being perceived as beautiful, I’m told to bleach my skin. I’m told to straighten my hair. You’re not told those things. You’re choosing to look like me, because that makes you marketable. Because we all like to play Black. We all like the big hoop earrings. We all like the tan skin. We all like the big lips. We all like the fat ass, but we don’t like the systems of oppression that come with it. It makes us uncomfy. You want to play Black without being Black. And until I’m free to be Black in my Black skin, that I didn’t have to buy, you can’t pretend. That’s not cool. It is important to acknowledge that because racism is a big issue everywhere. And colorism is a big issue everywhere. And you can’t pick and pretend when you want to be Black or not without liberating Black people and all people of color. Some people will say, ‘They don’t look Black, they look Hispanic.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s also wrong.’ Racism isn’t just against Black people. It’s against people of color period. That’s also wrong. You’re still wrong for that.”

Complaints about “cancel culture” are often the go-to deflection to derail discussions around important issues like cultural appropriation. Jordan loathes cancel culture and is frustrated with what it’s become – namely, an empty and performative gesture centered around shame and punishment as opposed to growth. “Cancel culture I think when it started was meant to hold people accountable. It was meant to say, ‘There’s this person doing a bad thing or there’s this thing that’s bad. We should stop doing it. Cancel it.’ What happened is that it fell into the wrong hands. And so what people started doing instead was taking it to this weird extreme where it’s like, ‘I accidentally misgendered somebody. And I went back and I fixed it, but now I’m canceled.’ And in those moments of not allowing people to grow, it became this tactic for fear. And so people now are like, ‘You can’t cancel my favorite thing. You can’t cancel this. You can’t cancel that.’ Or ‘You’re canceling this. You’re canceling that.’ And in its propensity and its use of being a fear tactic, it lost all of its value. And so now it means nothing. It’s like, ‘You’re canceling syrup.’ And I’m like, ‘No one’s canceling – you can’t cancel syrup for starters.’ But even if you could, in saying this is canceled, it now has no value. All we’re doing instead is drawing attention to it, because we’re talking about canceling it and nothing is happening. We’ve lost its intention of holding people accountable, We should just go back to holding people accountable. We don’t need to say, ‘We’re canceling Tony Lopez.’ Don’t say it. Do it. Because when you say it, nothing happens. We’ll just do it. Stop subscribing, stop watching videos, stop engaging with content and just cancel it. End it. And I think that if we don’t, we will continue to have these conversations about, ‘We’re canceling this or we’re canceling that,’ without actually doing the work of…We get to blow it off. ‘That’s canceled.’ Whether it’s good or bad or neutral or whatever when I say, ‘It’s canceled. It doesn’t matter,’ we’re not learning about why it’s canceled. We’re not learning about how we are perpetuating those systems of harm that made that thing get canceled. We are not holding the people who needed to be canceled accountable. All it is, it’s a catch-all phrase for…either you’re too sensitive or you’re not sensitive enough.” Sadly, most problematic figures with actual power wind up raking in more cash as a result of the uproar. “JK Rowling is still rolling in money, mad transphobic. Do something about it. Stop buying all the Harry Potter merchandise. And it hurts to say it, because that’s really upsetting. Or stop buying stuff until they agree to take a diversity class…learn a thing, do the research, do the growth. And until you do, we’re not engaging with you. Because you refuse to grow, and I refuse to be a part of that. Instead, what happened is we were like, ‘JK Rowling is canceled.’ She wrote a letter with 50 other people who should be thrown to the wayside about how cancel culture is toxic. We set over it like a speed bump and kept it pushing. And nothing happened except JK Rowling got richer off of the scandal. Stop scandalizing and start holding people accountable, because otherwise we’re stuck in a feedback loop and it’s silly.”
Given the draining and continuous labor of unpacking anti-Blackness on an antagonistic platform on top of the seemingly endless reports of police brutality against Black folks dominating recent headlines, Jordan is mindful of routinely stepping back to prioritize self-care in order to preserve her mental health. “I recognize that I exist in the world, and I have a place in the world. But also I can take a break from it. It’s not exclusively who I am,” she reflects. “I do my makeup all the time, partially because it’s TikTok and partially because it’s fun. It brings me peace. It’s the same reason I braid my hair at night. It’s just very soothing for me. I dress up like a fairy and just do something else, because it brings a lot of peace. But I also know that my mental health means more than just taking bubble baths, which I can’t do. I can’t fit in a tub very well, but like taking bubble baths and lighting candles. It’s journaling every day. Do I always want to? No. I’ve missed a couple of days, but I need to process what I’m thinking and feeling in a safe space and that safe space has been my journal. Or going back to therapy and doing the hard work and working through my own traumas as an individual and also my traumas that are given to me by the world as a whole.” She enthusiastically embraces even the smallest things that bring her joy: “I have a very thick collection of Avatar books, like Avatar: The Last Airbender. Love it. Adore it. Favorite show. It is what it is. It’s a mode of escapism for me where I’m like, ‘Hey, I’m really stressed. I’m going to go read about the exact same world that I live in, but in terms of Avatar.’ Because that’s fun for me. That’s a distancing for me. It’s doing the fun stuff. It’s doing the hard work. I can take a nap, and I can come back to it later. I will always be anti-racist and pro-Black and unapologetically myself in whatever way that arises in. But I also recognize that my existence is an act of rebellion, and it’s hard to rebel all the time. I deserve the nap and I deserve the white chocolate Snickers bar. And I deserve to watch Avatar for the 1800th time between episodes of Ouran Host Club and Miraculous Ladybug.”

There are things that we can all do to uplift the Black women and girls in our lives. “I think the best thing you can do is hear us and validate us and make spaces safer for us. I know growing up, I felt like I wasn’t Black enough. Because I was told I wasn’t Black enough by Black folk. And I wasn’t white enough, obviously, for white folk. And it made me feel insecure in my Blackness and my existence. It made me feel hard to love. It made me feel like what I loved wasn’t worth loving. I loved Avatar. I’ve always loved Avatar. I love to read. I love to read. I’m really into astronomy. I’m also really into astrology. I was all those things at once, and I felt like they weren’t spaces that I could be in. I wasn’t worthy of those spaces and I wasn’t worthy of the people in those spaces,” Jordan admits. This sense of ostracism deeply impacted her personal life and her perception of her own self-worth. “I ended up in a string of…they weren’t bad relationships. The relationships were fine, but with people who loved me conditionally. And I gave them my all. I was like, ‘This is the person who loves me. Nobody else is going to love me. I have to make it work. I have to make it work.’ And I stayed in relationships consistently longer than I should have. Because I was so desperate to be loved, because I didn’t feel like I was worth loving. I thought we were unworthy of being kidnapped. That is a bonkers ideology to have. And yet there I was with it, because I didn’t feel like I was worthy as a writer, because everybody I read was white. I wasn’t worthy as a woman, because I felt like I was hard to love.” We can break this cycle through simple acts of listening and acknowledgment, particularly when it comes to empowering Black children. “If you make spaces safe, if you validate us when we’re little, we don’t grow up to be big and broken. And so now I’m learning how to heal from stuff. If I had been validated and felt safe and loved younger, I wouldn’t have to heal from this now. And so as a grownup, you can hear us out. You can help love and support us just by being there and uplifting us. When we want to talk about something, don’t silence us. When we say something matters, understand it matters not because we’re nitpicky, but because…if I sat around all day and picked on everything that’s racist, I would never stop talking. When I do decide to talk about something, understand that it’s probably valuable in at least some way and to hear it. Understand that that is valid and valuable and to take it and move accordingly. But when we’re little is when it matters. The people who told me I was a good writer when I was little are why I’m going to grad school today. But without them, I wouldn’t be here. And I think that’s important, because not all little Black girls have those people.”

Ultimately, Jordan feels as though we’re in the midst of a transformative cultural moment as a society and remains cautiously optimistic that we might finally be ready to undertake those growing pains as a collective – if only we can be patient with ourselves. “I think that it’s important to not just have these conversations. We’ve been having them for generations, but to really actively engage with them. I think it’s important to not just think like…I think this past summer was a wake up call for a lot of people, which is wild. Because the Black community was sitting around looking at each other like, ‘They got another one. Tragic.’ But for nonblack people, it was seeing it for the first time. And in that moment they experienced the exhaustion, the fatigue and the trauma. And I think it’s important to remember and to recognize and to hold close that this is not just a one-off incident. This happens all the time. There are so many more that we don’t know about, because they weren’t on camera. And to hold that close and to think, ‘I’m tired today, but I can’t stop now.’ Because I like to think of it as a backpack. You can carry your backpack around. Maybe your backpack is 10 pounds, and you carry a backpack everywhere. It’s got your laptop. It’s got your notebook. It’s got everything you need in it, but it’s heavy. It’s okay to put the backpack down, but you can’t abandon it somewhere. It has all your stuff in it. Activism’s like that. You can put the backpack down. People don’t understand either you’re on or you’re off. No. I have days where I sit down with a thing of Oreos and I watch Ouran Host Club, because my brain can’t take another heavy thought. I can’t do it. I get back up tomorrow or the next day or after therapy or whenever, and keep going. People like to either do it for now and then stop. Or they don’t like to do it all, because they know it’s heavy. We need to do it. We can also put the backpack down and pick it up later. It doesn’t have legs. It’s not leaving you. It’s going to sit there, and you can pick it up when you’re done.” The next step involves reimagining our activism to be more substantive. “I think that we need to push past the…for number one, the infographic being peak activism. It’s not. They’re very cute, but it’s not. But also recognizing that we can decide what the future looks like. As nothing matters, nothing is real. We can pick and choose what this looks like for us. And if we really want to have a world where you can wear box braids and you can wear your sari in public and you can do whatever it is that people like to appropriate, we have to push past moments like these to get there, because no one’s saying you can’t wear a sari. The issue is that I can’t wear it in public and therefore, neither can you, the person who made the decision that I can’t wear this in public. You know what I’m saying? Either you can take the selfish route where it’s ‘I want to do what I want to do, I have to push past this,’ or you can take the ‘we’re all in this together and I care about other people’ route. I don’t care which route we take, but you’ve got to push past it to get to whatever the end goal is. And it’s going to be scary. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to take a lot of unlearning and a lot of practice.” Above all, our activism must be unconditional and steadfast. Jordan knows this firsthand: “I misgendered onlyjayus the other day. I felt awful,” she says. “I recorded the whole video over again. I felt terrible, because I didn’t think to check their bio before I filmed. It slipped my mind. Did it suck to take another hour to record a video about somebody who intentionally threw slurs about my community around? Yes. But what that says is, and what that means is that the people like all my nonbinary friends know that I’m still a safe place to go to even if we have beef, even if there are grievances. Because it’s not just about me, it’s about all of us succeeding. Even if it takes extra time, even if it’s extra labor, even if you don’t want to, even if you hate that person, you gotta do it.” What’s at stake is nothing short of our generational future. “We get to decide if we’re going to live like Republicans for another 50 years, or if we’re going to do anything else. Anything else besides that. Take the backpack off if you need to. Take the breath, get some water, sit under the apple tree and discover gravity for all I care, but come back to it when you’re done.” However long the journey takes, we must commit ourselves to bringing everyone along for the ride.

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From Anti-Blackness to Anti-Racism: Deconstructing White Supremacy with Jordan Simone. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jordan Simone.


Filmmaker M.H. Murray Examines The Anxiety of Modern Dating in New Short Film, “Ghost”

Many of us are all too familiar with rejection when it comes to dating. And whether intentional or not, we’ve all probably ghosted someone at some point – or been left wondering why we were ghosted. Filmmaker M.H. Murray explores this sense of anxious abandonment in his new short film, Ghost, which follows a gay man, Benjamin, struggling to come to terms with the reality that he’s been ghosted by his lover, Simon. Murray believes that kindness and underscoring one another’s humanity is key to a more compassionate dating experience. 
Cliché: What kinds of messages do you attempt to convey through your films? 

M.H. Murray: I think that most of my work is about love, in some way, shape, or form. I’m interested in the way we as humans express or don’t express what we feel, and how those expressions or lack thereof can affect our interpersonal relationships. I am drawn to telling stories about queer characters who struggle with feelings of anxiety or loneliness, or people who feel isolated from others. Growing up, I definitely yearned for more queer characters on screen, especially in romance or horror movies, and I want to continue doing the work to help fill that void for the next generation. 
Tell us about your new short film, Ghost
Ghost is a short film about a gay Torontonian man named Benjamin (played by Mark Clennon), who is “ghosted” by his lover, Simon (played by Nykeem Provo). We follow Benjamin over the course of one day as he indulges in various distractions to avoid the painful sting of rejection. I’ve had this film bubbling around in my brain for years. When I met Mark, we clicked creatively, and this film was the perfect opportunity for us to collaborate, explore, and create something special together. 
How was the experience of showing the film at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF)? 
I was a bit bummed that the festival had to be virtual this year because I have always wanted to visit Seattle. I love the west coast. That being said, the virtual festival was awesome. The programmer, Cory Rodriguez, was a dream to work with, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to screen at a big festival like SIFF. I hope to screen there again and again and again. 
The film features no spoken dialogue. Is this intended to be a commentary on the psychologically isolating effects of ghosting? 
Definitely. I wanted to play with form and use things like framing and sound design choices to bring the viewer deeper into Benjamin’s mental space, and the choice to exclude any spoken dialogue, I think, heightens those feelings of dread that often manifest when you are waiting for something. 
What difficulties have you found with modern dating? Would you say that dating in the LGBTQ+ community either magnifies these differences or presents its own challenges? 
I don’t know. I like dating. I like meeting new people, getting to know them, learning about them. But I also think that being vulnerable and opening yourself up to someone else can be difficult. When you throw being gay into the mix, it complicates things even further. I remember being in high school and struggling with my sexuality and being a bit envious of my straight friends who didn’t have to worry about that extra layer that I had to worry about… The fear, the hiding, the societal pressure to come out, the bullying, all of that. I think many queer people in general have a hard time loving and accepting love because of the different ways our sexuality can expose us to harm as we grow up and because of the way people negatively perceive us and treat us. It can be hard to carry that baggage and to not let it colour the rest of your life and experiences. And I think all of that trauma sprinkles into the dating scene. 
Why do you think so many people prefer ghosting nowadays? Would you say it’s the endless choice of dating apps and profiles making people more complacent about individual connections, or just general self-absorption? 
I know that whenever I’ve ignored a message or left someone on read, it was usually a mistake or due to intense laziness. It is rarely personal. That being said, if someone hurts me and then they try to apologize or reach out, sometimes it does feel good to keep them waiting a little. I think every situation is different. But I think the problem I’m exploring in Ghost is when the communication isn’t there; when someone leads another person on emotionally and sexually and then leaves them hanging. Some people get a kick out of using other people and then dropping them, ignoring them, or making them squirm, which I think is messy. 
Many times, the person doing the ghosting simply moves on without a second thought, but the healing process for the person who is ghosted can be much more complex. The main character of Ghost, Benjamin, deals with these feelings in real time throughout the film. Have you found the experience to be different from typical rejection, and if so in what ways? 
I would say that being rejected, whether it is face-to-face or virtual, hurts. But I think with social media, sometimes everything can feel oddly heightened. We can see each other’s profiles; we are often documenting our lives in real time. Before cell phones, maybe the mystery made things easier. I don’t know. Sometimes being ghosted by someone you like is a blessing in disguise and sometimes they come crawling back—in fact, they usually do, in my experience. I think the best thing you can do in the face of rejection, like Benjamin does in Ghost, is to find solace in yourself, in your own body, in your own space. Whatever that looks like for you. And I would also prescribe a good binge watch to distract yourself. I recommend HBO’s Search Party
Do you think the increasing role of technology in modern dating means that we have to more consciously buoy our own self-esteem from within and make an intentional effort to recognize the humanity of others as more than just an endless stream of profile pictures? 
Sure. I think recognizing each other’s humanity is a key element of existing, for sure. When it comes to dating, I think it is important to move on from the social media/app phase as fast as possible and get to know the person behind the pictures. What do they do when a lull happens in a conversation? Things like that. Simple things like speaking on the phone, seeing each other in person, or even on FaceTime, can make everything feel more real, which is a good thing. It should feel real. Ultimately, I think we need to be kinder to each other because we will all die someday. Like Paddington’s aunt Lucy says ,“If we’re kind and polite the world will be right.”
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Filmmaker M.H. Murray Examines The Anxiety of Modern Dating in New Short Film, “Ghost.” Photo Credit: Courtesy of M.H. Murray.


Ramona Blue Has No Time for Lies in Debut Single, “Curious”


After spending her formative years in a punk band and inspired by other LGBTQIA artists, Ramona Blue decided it was time to carve her own path. Confined in lockdown and reeling from her ex’s infidelity, she penned her first single, “Curious,” an empowered assertion of her worth. To anyone else coping with the aftermath of cheating, she wants to emphasize that it’s a problem with them, not you. Stream “Curious” below and follow Ramona on all her socials HERE.

Cliché: When and how did you get into music?
Ramona Blue: I began with being really into musical theatre when I was a kid and I was always obsessed with different singers and how they sang the way they did. I was very inspired by strong and powerful singers like Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato from a young age but then grew and began listening to EVERYTHING ranging from Lana Del Rey to Muse to Rico Nasty. I like to listen to a range of music so I can inspire myself in all different areas and come up with something really uniquely personal and ‘me’. I started my own post-punk band with some of my close friends when we were 15 and spent three years playing gig after gig. It was so invigorating to be a young teenaged girl and to feel the entire room of like-minded teens screaming your songs right back in your face. I decided to branch out as I wanted to create my own sound from all the music I’d been listening to and to find who I was as an artist without any labels attached. 

The LGBTQIA community is a central part of who you are. How do you identify yourself and how does that influence your music?
I personally identify as a Lesbian woman and have felt so grateful to have such supportive family and group of friends who accept and love me for me. In fact, I never actually ‘came out’ as I never felt that being gay should be any different from straight. I just date who I love and that’s that. I always listened to my friends’ stories of their struggles with coming out and not feeling free and comfortable to fully be themselves and I just always felt that there was a lack of mainstream representation of LGBTQIA artists in the media. I feel that if there were, more young children would feel comfortable and identified, regardless of what their family believes in. I wanted that to be an integral part of my music and brand because I lacked a role model growing up and I want others who lack the support I so luckily had to feel that they have that, no matter where they are in the world, through my music and my message. 
Who are your favorite LGBTQIA artists?
I think the main one is Lady Gaga because, not only is she bisexual but also used the FUCK out of her platform and success to stand up for the LGBTQIA community. I always found that inspiring considering she is one of the biggest artists in the world where most artists would shy away from supporting a community in fear of losing followers or money. Demi Lovato also raised me and her coming out was another major inspirational moment for me. Later on, I got into a variety of LGBTQIA artists from Hayley Kiyoko to this really underground girl punk band called GRLwood. 
How would you describe yourself as a musician?
Blunt, feisty and strong. I won’t ever sugar coat anything and will always be 100% authentically me within my music and my identity.
What has your experience been like within the music industry?
Interesting. When I was in my band, I experienced a fair amount of misogyny from industry people making comments like ‘you’re good at punk for a girl’ and just a lot of general demeaning. Patronising and belittling comments. Things like this never affected me because, growing up with such a strong-headed mother who always taught me that all humans are humans regardless of anything, I always felt I was fair game and that me having a vagina changes nothing. Having spoken to a few different labels, managers and agents throughout the last three years has really made me realise that the industry is a business and that artists aren’t seen as anything other than money makers which can be discouraging when you are trying to create your art, but once you learn how to use this to your advantage and essentially become an entrepreneur, you won’t be manipulated easily. I am still learning myself and growing every day.
Talk about your debut single, “Curious.”
I wrote this track around a year ago when the first lockdown started. It was one of the first songs I wrote on my own and it was a MASSIVE confidence boost for me and really the moment that I realised that I had something there. I always knew I wanted this to be my debut single because I think it really shows the attitude I want to bring to pop music and all the rest of my songs. Pop needs more anger and more fire and I want to bring that.
The song is about an ex who cheated on you. Did writing the song help you in your healing process?
Yes! Of course. Music is therapy and always will be.
How did you move on from that betrayal while keeping your self-worth and confidence intact?
Someone betraying you like that is so damaging but I learned that it’s nothing that I am lacking but they evidently need to fill some hole in their soul that is missing that has nothing to do with me and my worth and my confidence in myself and my love will always stay.
What advice can you offer to folks dealing with infidelity or dishonesty in their relationships?
Toss away, forgive and move on. Don’t be scared to trust and love again. Your love and generosity is so powerful and trumps all dishonesty and negativity. Do not waste time trying to understand why or find the ‘reason’ because there isn’t one and they will most likely try to make you feel responsible for their deep rooted issues. You gave all your love and they didn’t cherish it so it is ultimately their loss. Your love and time is too precious to be wanted on someone who would rather give it away. 
What are your plans for the future?
I am planning on releasing 3 more tracks this year for you all to stream until your ears bleed. 🙂 I have so much I have to share with the world and I am never stopping until my message is heard. 

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Ramona Blue Has No Time for Lies in Debut Single, “Curious.” Photo Credit: Kasia Dabrowka.

TikTok Superstar Sienna Gomez on Her Journey to Self Confidence and New Maybelline Partnership


After years of struggling with body image while pursuing competitive dance, Sienna Gomez had her entire perspective change thanks to one insightful judge. She began posting body positivity videos on her TikTok, quickly going viral. Within weeks, she was crowned as one of TikTok’s 12 Trailblazers in the Latinx community. Sienna’s career has skyrocketed exponentially since then and she recently announced a partnership with Maybelline. She is excited to embrace one of her favorite brands and hopes to continue to spread her a message of confidence for all. 

Cliché: How did you first become involved with dance? 
Sienna Gomez: I started dancing competitively five years ago for a studio in my hometown. I took recreation dance classes for several years before being asked to audition for Company (the competitive program). I made it that first year and didn’t look back! I’m no longer part of Company just given how crazy my schedule is right now, but I try to get onto the dance floor and train at least a few nights a week in either my hometown or in LA, depending on where I am.
Competitive dancers often face a lot of pressure to have a certain body type or look a certain way. How did you learn to embrace yourself and your differences in that environment? 
In 2019, I was called on stage during awards at a regional dance competition by one of the judges, Wyndee McGovern. She presented me with a coveted award unique to that competition for my stage presence and power – each of the judges could call out one specific person from the competition. She told me, “You were born to stand out. Have confidence in who you are and what you bring to this stage because I promise, you will be a star.” I literally cried on stage because here was this woman who zoned in on and called out my biggest insecurity: I had spent years comparing myself to my tall, thin friends and always felt so short and big next to them. That day – her words on that stage in front of all of my peers – released me from whatever that insecurity was. That’s the moment I started embracing what made me different – my skin color, my big muscular legs, my curvy figure – and started really loving myself for who I am. I think just being seen and validated and encouraged among the hundreds of dancers there was the fuel I needed to really start on this journey of self-love.

You went viral on TikTok for your body positivity videos. What message do you want to send to your followers about body image, especially now that you have such a massive platform? 
The biggest message I want people to take away from my content is that they are beautiful just the way they are and that we are all struggling in our own ways – meaning, no one is “perfect” despite what is depicted on social media. Because I’m on a journey of finding self-love and body confidence myself, it only makes sense that that’s part of what I post on TikTok. I think many people feel alone in their struggles – whether that’s struggling to accept themselves or their body, eating, friends, etc. I want people to feel like they aren’t alone – that we are all more alike than we are different – and that it’s super empowering to put your real self out there.
How does it feel to be chosen by TikTok as both part of their Top 100 list and as one of 12 Trailblazers in the Latinx community? 
It fills me with pride. Just a few weeks after my first video went viral, TikTok reached out and told me they would like to include me as one of 12 “Trailblazers” in the Latinx community. I only had 1 or 2 million followers then, and they said they had no doubt that I was on my way to becoming one of Gen Z’s Latinx digital entertainment leaders. Then in December, they recognized me again as a “Voice of Change” in their 2020 “Top 100” list. Both designations mean so much to me. The Trailblazer award really made me feel validated, like I had “made it” on the TikTok app and was representing for so many other people. The Voice of Change designation made me feel proud. It’s not easy being vulnerable on TikTok but that’s what I try to do with my content: to show that you don’t have to be “perfect” to be powerful, or be skinny with a face of makeup to be beautiful. Being considered as a trailblazer and voice of change for our generation is something I definitely do not take lightly.
Tell us about your partnership with Maybelline! Why did you decide to partner with them? 
I am so honored and excited to be Maybelline’s newest ambassador. It’s the first time in Maybelline history that they have enlisted a Gen Z, Latinx, digital-first talent for a long-term partnership. I’ve been using Maybelline products since I was a little girl in musical theater, so partnering with them was such an easy decision. I love that they are okay that I like being a little more “natural” looking and also appreciate that our very first campaign together was angled more at teaching young girls how to properly apply makeup vs. assuming that they already knew how (with celebrity makeup artist Ariel Tejada on Maybelline’s YouTube channel). My values and Maybelline’s also really align: that you are beautiful the way you are. 
What was it like learning to do your makeup with Ariel Tejada? 
Amazing – he is literally so talented and kind! Ariel and I still stay in touch and text often. He is one of my very favorite people, and I know we will work together again soon.

What projects do you have coming up with Maybelline? 

I make regular content with Maybelline products, which is super fun for me. I’m also really excited about hopefully attending New York Fashion Week this year. I love getting dressed up and going to events, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it happens! And I recently partnered with them on their global cause initiative around mental health, called Brave Together. I’m looking forward to supporting that initiative however I can. 
How can we all learn to be more confident in ourselves? 
I get this question a lot. There’s no magic pill for confidence, it’s just something you have to work on every day. I have to work on it every day! I think the most important thing centers around learning to love yourself, whether that’s your body or mind, or both! You only have one body (or mind) and learning to love it or at the very least accept it, even when it’s not perfect, is step one to being happy. Every person in the world has both flaws and strengths but it’s so much better to focus on what you like vs. what makes you feel insecure. If there are things about your body (or mind) that you want to work on, then do it in a fun way. But most importantly, I would focus on what you love about yourself and pour all of your energy into that. Self-love is an awesome step toward confidence.

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TikTok Superstar Sienna Gomez on Her Journey to Self Confidence and New Maybelline Partnership. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sienna Gomez.

Madison Walsh and Michael Musi are Engulfed by Family Secrets in New Mystery Thriller, “Something Undone”

How well do you know your family? It’s a complicated question for many – and we might not always what we uncover. In CBC Gem’s new mystery thriller, Something Undone, foley artist Jo (played by Madison) becomes consumed with her quest to find her own answers, even as it jeopardizes her relationship with her partner Farid (played by Michael). We spoke to the actors about the show and the power of familial love.
Cliché: Are you passionate about true crime in real life? 
MM: I don’t know that I would call it passion but it really fascinates me. I go through waves. Sometimes it’s all I listen to and sometimes it’s Drake and Justin Bieber. All about balance. 
MW: Yes. But I get bored with the over-extended TV docs. The Jinx is an exception. I prefer dramatized versions of true events like the recent The Investigation from Denmark. 
Tell us about your new show, Something Undone, and your characters, Jo and Farid. 
MM: Something Undone is a thriller-mystery about a foley artist, Jo (played by Madison), who goes home to settle her late mother’s estate while also recording the required sounds for her true-crime podcast she runs with her partner Farid (me!). While in the house, a haunting sound leads her to a dark family secret and she becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth. 
MW: I play Jo! Our story is all about sound – so pop in your headphones when you watch! 
How did you adapt to filming the project under COVID restrictions? 
MM: It was tough. But we designed the show to be shot during COVID; one character, one house. Sound is a MASSIVE part of our show and it allowed us to create a very full story without breaking any pandemic rules. 
MW: We actually thrived with the creative parameters! I think the idea of an artist’s “blank page” is hell.  
Madison, you play a foley artist! Did you gain a new appreciation for the craft in prepping for the role? 
MW: I am such a nerd for foley. We were lucky enough to get a Zoom chat with Andy Malcolm – THE Canadian foley artist – and he showed us all around his amazing farm/foley studio.
Your characters run a true crime podcast. Would you say that the pressure to always investigate the next story has created some distance between them? 
MM: I think they had a pretty good balance up until this point. They’re both so passionate about what they do and are lucky to be able to do it together. But they both have obsessive natures to them that make it hard for them to peel themselves away from the job. Speaking of the drive to investigate, Jo finds herself consumed by the need to know what really happened with her mother’s death, which could be suspicious. 
How would you describe Jo’s bond with her mom? 
MW: Tenuous. Complicated like most women’s relationships with their mothers. That specific connection and the patterns of theirs we repeat is something I wanted to write about. 
Michael, can you give us some insight into Farid’s perspective on Jo’s journey? 
MM: Farid is a really supportive partner so being away from her during this time is really difficult for him. Jo has struggled with her mental health and Farid’s constantly worried about her. When he begins to notice her destructive behaviour, he’s terrified for her well being. 
Without giving away any spoilers, how would you say Jo and Farid’s relationship changes throughout the season? 
MM: They definitely drift apart. As Jo gets consumed by the family secret, she pushes Farid further and further away. 
What messages do you think the show has to offer on the strength of love and family, even beyond the grave? 
MW: You only get one family. So don’t give it up. 
MM: Losing a parent is horrible. I lost my mom when I was 24 years old and there are things I wish I had done/said when she was alive. Honestly, I would be really happy if this show made our audience pick up the phone and call their parents.
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Madison Walsh and Michael Musi are Engulfed by Family Secrets in New Mystery Thriller, “Something Undone.” Photo Credit: Courtesy of Madison Walsh and Michael Musi.

EMELINE Pushes Back Against Industry Sexism with New Single, “6 foot deep”


EMELINE has had a bumpy road finding her voice. Discouraged by the pervasive misogyny in the music industry and feeling alone, she was inspired to write her new single, “6 foot deep,” in fiery defiance of those who had done her wrong. Finding strength and humor in the situation allowed her to triumphantly reclaim her self-worth – and being prompted by the pandemic to independently hone her music skills has helped, too. Watch the video for “6 foot deep” below and follow EMELINE on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter.

Cliché: What would you say is your mission as an artist?

EMELINE: My mission is to always express true feelings and to just be myself. I hope to inspire other people to embrace being unapologetically themselves too. 

As a songwriter, which lyrics are you proudest of and why?

That’s a great question. One of my favorite lyrics is from my song “Hush” that goes- “So now I’m conceded or I’m insecure, there’s no in between I’m a prude or I’ma hold on to who I am”…It’s clever, conversational, and a fun thought process to listen to. It’s saying that no matter what a woman does she is critiqued. So I cut myself off while starting to say “whore” and instead I say I’m going to hold on to who I am, meaning that I’m just going to be myself because in this society, I can’t win even if I tried. But poetically I think the lyrics to “Where The Moon Hides” (my collaboration with Garza) are stunning and some of my favorite. The first verse opens up with “Lost in disbelief in things you couldn’t see but I’ll never falter. Tilted house of cards built with all our scars but I’ll never fault ya” It paints these visuals of a relationship and the physicality of objects inside of the story. I love writing about the moon.  I was thinking about a line from Shakespeare when writing it. Where Juliette says, “O swear not by the moon, th’inconstant moon, That monthly changes in her circled orb, Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.” The sky is never the same just like people, but it’s a beautiful thing to look at to be retrospective with someone or about someone.

Has 2020 and the pandemic changed your approach to music at all?

Making music during a pandemic is definitely strange. It can be really difficult to have a physical disconnect when making creative work. The good thing about this year is that since I’ve had to do so much solo recording I’ve been able to dive deeper into growing as a producer. What I’ve ended up making is really raw and true to myself. I think everyone had to face the past year more alone than expected, and with that came lots of unpacking instead of distracting. I spent a lot of time reconnecting with my guitar since I stayed out of the studio. I’ve found a lot of inner strength and you’ll be able to hear it in the new music. 

Talk about your new single, “6 foot deep.”

I wrote it during a really dark point of my life. “6 foot deep” isn’t about finding happy endings, in fact, it’s about finding solace in a state of numbness. It was inspired by struggles I’ve experienced being a woman particularly in the music industry. I’ve felt quite objectified and belittled time and again and it caused me to hit a breaking point, which is when I wrote this song. Creating it with Oscar Neidhardt and growing with our art and friendship was really beautiful. Making all that we did helped me re-realize my worth and that everything will be okay. I love throwing a bit of my humor into the music I make. I want the listener to be able to hear my eye rolls through the track when I say things like, “does it feel good to be so tall? I know you like the view.” While it’s a very vulnerable song and story I still manage mock the people who have hurt me, which is especially fun to do when they’re probably too dumb to get the joke. 

How does it feel to be branching out in your solo career?

It feels really powerful and full circle. Especially because I wrote “6 foot deep” during a time where I felt numb, almost like I didn’t exist. When it hit me that my new music was in the world, I had never felt like I existed more.

The song seems to center around another person enjoying having power over you. In your experience, how have you broken free from these dynamics?

Now that I am branching out as a solo artist I have been able to have full control of who I work with and who I keep around me. It’s definitely been a journey to find my people and team and I’m grateful to be here. However it is an industry of weird power dynamics so I think there is a bigger conversion to be had. How do we make sure that women feel safe and welcomed into this world where there is no HR department, union, or support team? I am always open to being a mentor for young girls, but I feel like we need to make systematic changes to the industry.

You have big plans for 2021! Give us a sneak peek of what’s to come. 

In terms of my future music, I have a lot of it lined up! I will be releasing many singles this year with a series of self-directed videos, following “6 foot deep” to accompany the music. I couldn’t be more excited.

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EMELINE Pushes Back Against Industry Sexism with New Single, “6 foot deep.” Photo Credit: Courtesy of EMELINE.

Maria Mena Processes the Pain of Divorce in “You Broke Me”


Maria Mena experienced quite the tumultuous decade in her 20s, capped off by a devastating divorce. This heartbreak ultimately compelled her to create her latest album, They Never Leave Their Wives, including her new single, “You Broke Me,” a lament for her lost love – and what she felt was the loss of herself. In spite of the hardships, Maria has resolved to view temporary people as lessons instead of destroyers. She hopes to write happier songs in the future, but remains committed to portraying her life authentically through music. Watch the lyric video for “You Broke Me” below and check out Maria on Instagram and Facebook!

Cliché: What would you say has been your most defining moment thus far, both personally and professionally?

Maria Mena: Oh, there are so many, I would have to separate them by phases and decades. In my teens,  I believe personally it must have been moving from my mother to my father and cutting out all contact with her. It was that choice that eventually led me to songwriting and the music industry through my father’s contacts. 

In my twenties, my anorexia, my relationship with my ex-husband and my divorce. It has been a huge part of the inspiration behind the albums that were released in my twenties.

Now I’m only halfway into my thirties and I would have to say that the toxic relationship that is the inspiration behind this album and the recurrence of my eating disorder has defined who I am today greatly. I was almost forced, through that, to choose life and to choose to learn how to love myself, flaws and all.

Your latest album, They Never Leave Their Wives, was written about your break-up. Did you have any hesitation about sharing such an intimate aspect of your life?

Well yes, and I think that’s why it took me five years to finish it. I wasn’t that afraid to tell the story, but I felt such shame about the whole ordeal… I had to come to an acceptance within myself, that I had made the choices I had. And allowed someone to treat me like I was nothing. 

What was the writing process like? Was it painful to revisit those emotions, or did you find it cathartic?

It was very painful. But of course extremely healing… I just, I felt so sorry for the girl I used to be. but it felt so good being strong enough to finally be able to address it in songwriting. I had avoided it for so long.

Tell us about your new single, “You Broke Me.”

It’s about a time where I was sure I was broken. That this person I trusted, broke my ability to feel love. like real naive love. I would date. and just feel numb. I thought that I had to completely just let go of my dreams of one day being with someone again and dream of a family because this person had not only broken my trust and my heart, but he managed to break the bond I had with myself.

How have you managed to heal from past relationships? 

Well, you live, and you learn. I’m a strong believer that everyone that passes through your life does so for a reason and that it is up to you to find that reason but that does not mean it isn’t painful to have to let someone go. Take your time! 

What advice would you have for those who are struggling to get over someone?

Unfollow them on social media. Cry. Feel every single feeling fully. Hold yourself like you would a child. Do nice things for yourself and with good friends and remember that no other person can break the strong bond you can have with yourself if you work on it. Cry again. And remember that one day. you’ll look back and smile at this! I promise!

 In your experience, have you emerged from low points in your life with a greater understanding of who you are?

Absolutely… I would not change anything! I wish I would have learned quicker sometimes but I’m stubborn and the time it took was probably time I needed to understand.

Can you share anything about your other upcoming projects?

Lighter songs are coming! But I’ll always write these autobiographical songs, so it depends on where life takes me 😉

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Maria Mena Processes the Pain of Divorce in “You Broke Me.” Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maria Mena.

Actress Alondra Delgado Brings New Intrigue to “All American”


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!

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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


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.

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“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”


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.

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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


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 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.  

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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


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.