All Posts By Madhura

A Historic Moment For Women Directors

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The 2021 Golden Globe nominations presented a historic moment for women directors everywhere. In a category that has only nominated 5 women in its 77-year history, three received nominations this year. Chloe Zhao, Regina King, and Emerald Fennell are all up for the Best Director accolade, alongside David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin. With Barbra Streisand being the only woman to have won, these nominations are raising a lot of hope. 

While the Academy is yet to nominate an Asian American woman director, Chloe Zhao is the first to be nominated in Golden Globes’ history. Nominated for “Nomadland”, she has enjoyed quite the success for it already. Nomadland is the first film ever to win the top prize in both Toronto International and Venice Film Festivals. It received four Golden Globe nominations.

Fellow nominee, Regina King is no stranger to stacking up trophies either. King’s “One Night in Miami”, her feature directorial debut, earned three nominations. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival, a first for an African American woman director, and received an outpour of appreciation. While she already boasts quite the impressive list of wins, people hope she will bag this one too. Many have however drawn attention to its absence from the screenplay category.

Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” has also enjoyed stellar success and has received four Golden Globe nominations. It is also her feature directorial debut.

How celebratory is this moment?

The question here would be, is it too little and too late? One has to admit that news of this kind is always a little sad. Precisely because these moments are “historic” even now and far from regular. Women directors are yet to occupy their rightful place in cinema.

The nominations this year are undeniably a result of the severe backlash that the industry has met with recently. A lack of recognition of racially diverse films led to #OscarsSoWhite, just as the same for female-centric narratives led to outrage last year. In 2020, women directed a record number of movies. The last year has thus seen many a historic moment for women directors. However, as far as Golden Globe nominations go, Michaela Cole’s “I May Destroy You” was tragically snubbed.  Additionally, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” undeniably deserved more recognition. Regardless, many are hopeful as it is a definite improvement on last year. It’s safe to say that even though the industry has a long way to go, we might just be on the right path.  

Featured Image from- @iamreginaking
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Internet Star, Jojo Siwa, Comes Out

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“No matter gay, straight or bi… lesbian transgender life. I’m on the right track, baby I was born to survive!” Internet star Jojo Siwa danced to these iconic lyrics from Lady Gaga’s Born this way on Tik Tok. This got everyone talking and speculations hung in the air. Later on, Siwa tweeted a picture of herself in a shirt that said “Best. Gay. Cousin. Ever.”. Jojo immediately received an outpour of positive responses across various platforms welcoming her to the queer community from fans and celebrities alike. 

In an Instagram live two days later, she addressed her announcement. Siwa talked about how she had always known. “…I liked people. If that person happened to be a boy… great! If that person happened to be a girl… great”, she said. She happily gushed as she answered further questions during the rest of the live. “I am the happiest I’ve ever been!”, she said, smiling. Answering a question about labels, she mentioned that she didn’t quite know yet and did not want to ascribe herself a label. She highlighted time and time again that despite her overtly positive social media image, she had not been this happy in a while. Above all, she thanked her fans repeatedly and mentioned that she wanted them to know that this world is filled with so much love. 

While she received an outpour of positive reactions, not all were happy. A commenter on Instagram mentioned that she would never let her daughter watch her again. Siwa’s response was short and sweet.”Okay!”, she replied, in a comment that has over 50k likes. 

Siwa on stage with a mic in hand.

What this might mean-

Coming to the limelight while competing in Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition, she quickly rose to fame, growing especially popular as a cast member on Lifetime’s Dance Moms. It truly will be a moment to remember considering that Internet star Jojo Siwa has a massive online presence that keeps expanding. With hugely successful tours and products with her name on it in major stores across the States, she continues to be a force to be reckoned with.

Boasting more than twelve million subscribers on YouTube, 30 million followers on Tik Tok, and 10 million on Instagram, she is in a position to positively influence millions. Especially considering her young fanbase, this ultimately, opens doors for further conversation. Firstly, the millions of kids that watch her might be encouraged to challenge heteronormativity. Above all, however, they get to learn that safe-places for queer voices exist and are welcoming of queer youth. 

Images by- @itsjojosiwa

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Kid Hastings Returns With Dreamy New Single “Call Me Up”

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Indie pop artist Kid Hastings returns from a year-long hiatus to release a new single + music video for “Call Me Up” from his forthcoming EP, releasing via Ourros.  Previously, “with his debut EP, Golden, Kid Hastings made an incredibly impressive statement as a writer and producer, capturing his subject candidly and with an articulation that seems beyond his years” – Ones To Watch
 
Kid Hastings, AKA Jake McEvoy of Hastings, England (though raised in New Jersey) is a jazz and choir kid turned bleached-hair indie rock/pop guitarist and songwriter. Drawing heavy influence from the jazz greats such as Thelonius Monk and Wes Montgomery, he approaches dreamy, sunny bedroom pop sounds with a sophisticated flair. His complex melodies, layered vocals and unique self-produced soundscape span a diverse catalogue of songs broaching solipsism, unrequited love and taking yourself less seriously. Check him out on Instagram and Tik Tok.
 
With the help of friend and fellow creative, Ava Doorey, the two devised a video for “Call Me Up” that embodies the complexity of Kid Hasting’s persona. These self-proclaimed “reformed theater kids” cooked up a concept that not only allows for Kid Hastings to present his unparalleled physical performance prowess, but also creates freedom through freedom. As the world kept turning, the pandemic made us all stay still. That said, McEvoy stepped into the zone of self-expression through artistic movement, and the freedom of identity that is the basis of the video allowed McEvoy to feel blissfully free himself. 
 
Images provided by Ourros.
Featured image by  Eddie Mandell and Aamir Khuller.
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Sleepwoka’s “Together We Are” Reflects On Resilience Of True Friendship

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In a time when many of us are feeling disconnected physically from our friends, family and loved ones, Sleepwoka’s “Together We Are” reflects on the resilience of true friendship, even if we are spread far and wide.

Sleepwoka’s strong use of analog synthesizers brings a nostalgic 80s vibe and a captivating and surreal tone to his projects.

London based Ukrainian producer and songwriter, Sleepwoka, returns with another poignant single enthused with uplifting electro-pop soundscapes. Since he burst on the scene just last year, Sleepwoka, has released a string of successful singles gaining the attention of BBC Music Introducing London, Earmilk, Variance and Atwood Magazine.

As Earmilk concluded after his last single, “How I Was wrong”; “Sleepwoka’s music succeeds in pursuing relatable and thought-provoking narratives, with the hopes to make listeners evaluate their everyday lives through intricately crafted electronic music.” The new single, “Together We Are”, perfectly follows suit.

The message that “Together We Are” conveys- 

In a time when many of us are feeling disconnected physically from our friends, family and loved ones, Sleepwoka’s “Together We Are” reflects on resilience of true friendship even if we are spread far and wide. He explains: this single is a tribute to all my friends that are scattered around the world. Although we live different lives and rarely see each other, it feels like the invisible connection only grows stronger. It’s a connection that reaches beyond messages on your phone. It’s the feeling that you get when warm memories from the past remind you of the strength of the friendship – which is especially important right now. Whatever this crazy world brings to us, it still feels like we’re in this together and no distance or time can change that.”

It’s a powerful and much needed reminder during the ongoing pandemic that we are not alone even if it has felt like that at times. 

Sleepwoka’s music is produced in his bedroom in North London. The strong use of analog synthesizers brings a nostalgic 80s vibe and the dream-like atmospheric visuals add a captivating and surreal tone to his projects.

Image provided by @sleep_woka

Follow Sleepwoka’s Instagram, Facebook & Twitter.

Read more music on Cliché

 

Ebony Buckle Drops A Whimsical New Single

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Ebony Buckle is a London-based singer/songwriter. Taking listeners on a whimsical leftfield-pop journey with her complex harmonies and imaginative storytelling lyricism, Buckle sings about universal themes of romance, broken hearts and depression, to more poetic themes of disgruntled mermaids, lonely whales and joyous, hypothetical alien invasions. 

Buckle’s latest single “You’re Loved” is a calming and encouraging song. It’s something we all need in our lives at the moment. Have you ever wished you could send a message to yourself, just to let yourself know that you are ok? Well that’s exactly what the songwriter has done, sending a reassuring message to her future self. Buckle confides, “This song is something I wrote one winter when I felt really lost and alone. The song just came out and it was like I had needed to hear that voice saying ‘it’s ok, you are ok’.” Sonically, “You’re Loved” builds and builds, elevating until we’re hit with a release offering a sense of freedom for the listener. Through layered harmonies, soaring string arrangements and atmospheric percussion, the emotional song delivers a comforting feeling. 

All about Ebony-

 Ebony writes and records her music with musician and producer Nick Burns (also her Husband). “You’re Loved” was no exception. The song is written in a call and answer style – the verses are full of doubt while the choruses respond as if another voice is speaking. Buckle sings, ‘take a breath and breathe it in, you’re loved, you’re loved, you know.’ Reminding us to keep holding on, the songwriter shares, “I hope this song finds people wherever they are and reminds them that they are loved. This is my hug in song form.”

The singer and actress has performed in The West End and on screen for the BBC. Her role in George Gently as a Geordie folk singer gave her the platform to perform her vocal talents. Her music from the show reached number 1 in the iTunes World Music Charts. Buckle continues to have her original music receive extensive airplay from numerous BBC stations across the nation, garnering her considerable blog attention. Lastly, through her lyricism, music and poetry, Buckle continues to feed our imagination with her beautifully kaleidoscopic music. Come along for the ride – her unique world is completely enchanting.

Featured image provided by @ebonybuckleofficial.

Follow Ebony Buckle on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Read more music on Cliché.

Meet GottMik: RPDR’s First Openly Trans Male Contestant

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Meet GottMik-  RPDR’S first openly trans male contestant! I need to be the first trans winner of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, period”, he said in a “Meet the Queens” video. In what is a historic moment for the show, Gottmik was announced as a cast member for the upcoming season in December of last year. Appearing alongside thirteen other talented queens, the fashion and design student turned makeup artist and performer is one to watch.

“I like to play with gender a lot”, he says. “I’ll still draw on a mustache sometimes. I love to look like a weird alien freak thing.” He highlights that the biggest misconception regarding him is that he can only do makeup. Already known for his head-turning makeup, his silhouette is sure to catch the eye too. He describes it as, “Very edgy and punk”. Even prior to joining season 13, he has been known to work with quite a few industry heavyweights. Above all, he says, his spirit is a fair blend of competitiveness and calmness. “Not giving a f*** is almost the way that I deal with stress”, he laughingly says. 

A History Of A Lack Of Representation-

But for many, there is still a long way to go. Upon joining the ongoing season, he is now a part of only a handful of trans queens who have made it on the show. While queens like Jiggly Caliente and Carmen Carrera came out after their appearances on the show, Peppermint and Monica Beverly Hillz were out prior to and during their appearances respectively. Furthermore, the show has had a history of transphobia. The show received quite the backlash in 2018 when Ru Paul said that queens that have undergone gender-affirming surgery might not be allowed to compete. The show had also featured a segment with a transphobic slur for many years.

Former contestant Detox also tweeted about the need to do away with “feigned inclusivity” and push for authentic representation instead. In an interview with Colbert, Ru Paul was asked about what he had learned hosting the show. His response was short and simple. “To keep an open mind”, he said. He then highlighted how the contestants continue to redefine and expand the boundaries of Drag as an art form. 

Gottmik and the future-

Getting back to Gottmik, being on the show means a ton. “The more I got comfortable with my gender identity, the more I got to play with the drag Gottmik side”. Citing season 3 winner Raja as one of her big inspirations, he mentions being excited at having a chance to bring the crown back to LA. He mentions, “Especially being a trans going in! A feminine perspective of a trans guy… The trans movement is getting so big, so powerful, so strong.” Above all, he’s out there to win it for his community and we just can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeves. 

 

Meet GottMik, RPDR’s First Openly Trans Male Contestant, on his new YouTube channel. 

Read more entertainment on Cliché.

Images provided by- @gottmik, @magnushastings.

 

Emily O’Brien’s Comeback Snacks Offers Food For Thought

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From being manipulated to smuggle drugs to turning her life around by starting her own business, Emily O’Brien’s story will spark inspiration in just about anyone that comes across it. While still in incarceration, the idea for a business that combines “prison and purpose” struck her. And that’s how Comeback Snacks was born. Emily’s Comeback Snacks expands far beyond just gourmet popcorn, it is more so about second chances and equal opportunities. In this story, Emily takes us through the myriad hurdles she has had to cross in her fight for ex-inmates and their rights. 

To start off, I would love to know a little bit about you. Not just your story, but what you love to do, what you think your purpose in life is… that sort of thing.

I guess I would describe myself as perpetually curious, and always seeking to explore. My favorite destination is uncharted territory. Growing up, I was always at the library. An avid lover of non-fiction, my mom would constantly see me pulling home a wagon full of books on just about every subject: animals, computers, planets, crime (LOL), you name it. This love of learning led me to want to explore the world as soon as possible and, as soon as I turned 18, I was on a flight to Costa Rica to go volunteer for a month. Exploring while helping others really helps build perspective and it also helped me appreciate how fortunate I was to have the opportunity to embark on such journeys.

It also brought me a sense of calm. I was never nervous traveling, and although sometimes I almost gave my mom a heart attack (I may or may not have taken an overnight bus with chickens to Cuzco in Peru), I was more excited than scared. That being said, my purpose is to always be exploring in a meaningful way and to be helping others when I can. Exploring doesn’t have to be international however, it can be within your community, your city, or backyard. Again, it’s all about perspective. There’s always somewhere to go, and there’s always something to learn.

Could you give a glimpse into your backstory?

You mean the one where I went on a trip to the Caribbean with my then-partner and arrived back home at Pearson International Airport with two kilograms of cocaine strapped to my body which landed me a 4-year prison sentence?

Yep, that was an absolute nightmare, but the good thing is, nightmares don’t last forever. They scare us enough to wake up though.

Many, especially myself, look at my upbringing and are shocked that I ended up in that situation. Great family, a good education, good values, what could go wrong? The thing is because I was pretty introverted as a kid (the results of a bowl-cut and bullying), I didn’t really know how to socialize when I got to high school. Combined with pressures to fit in, I discovered alcohol. This became a pretty regular part of my high school weekend routine, which then became a part of my university routine, and eventually my adulthood routine.

But I never drank because I was sad—until I did. We went through a very challenging time as a family in 2013 and I didn’t know how to cope, so I drank and used drugs under the illusion that it was making me stronger. I knew it wasn’t sustainable, and when I met Mark in 2015 through work, I thought he was going to help me get sober. He was so kind and told me that he wanted to help me get through it, without the substances. He was so different than anyone I’d ever met. But unfortunately, his intentions were faker than a $200.00 Rolex.

And then?

He invited me on a trip with him, an all-inclusive vacation to St Lucia. Traveling with others was nothing new to me; after all, I embraced spontaneity and exploring. That was my M.O. His M.O., however, was for me to be his drug mule to help him cover some alleged debts he had incurred. Bait and switch. A week in the sun turned into a week in hell when he told me that I would be bringing drugs back into Canada with him. Oh boy. I did not have the qualifications for that, and after a mind-numbing plane ride home, I was sent into secondary screening and arrested. After being on house arrest for 2.5 years, I was sentenced to 4 years in prison.

However, this turned out to be my route to freedom. Instead of seeing it as the end, I took it as a challenge. This was my new beginning. If I did nothing good with this situation, I would truly lose. And I wasn’t about to lose because I knew I was capable of so much more. I had so much to offer the world and so much life ahead of me. So, I created a new life and a new direction—and it all started with popcorn.

Was there a specific moment when the idea for Comeback Snacks came to you, out of the blue?

I had been in prison for a few months, adjusting to my new “home”, with my new family. I went in with an open mind and took every minute as a learning experience. After hearing the stories of others, I began to realize that we had all gotten there not because we wanted to harm people, but because we all had gotten caught up in less-than-ideal circumstances that forced us to make an illegal decision. I also saw so much kindness and goodness in others, and so much potential all around.

I wanted to create something that could help shed light on this. We were having a Super Bowl viewing party and people had made various dishes. Food brought people together, it brought laughter, and it brought healing. Popcorn was also a popular prison snack, and I liked it because it was reasonably healthy. That’s when I knew I could combine popcorn and prison to create purpose.

 

 

Also, love the name! How did you come to choose it?

Originally, we were called Cons and Kernels, after I did a survey and found that it was the name of choice within the prison. But as we grew, we thought the name was a tad alienating. One of our messages is that we are all human and we all make mistakes, but we are also capable of making a comeback. After being out of prison for a year, that was exactly what we had done. We weren’t just cons—we had made a comeback—so, we changed the name to reflect the positive growth. Plus, it’s way catchier!

How did you use your business to turn your life around?

I used the business to create not just employment for myself but also to help spread a message and help others. Not only do we sell popcorn, but I also do speaking engagements with a variety of different audiences. Once you have positive momentum, you just keep going. It fuels itself. Having a busy schedule isn’t stressful, it’s what keeps me going. There is no turning back, but I think it’s important to look back to see the progress you’ve made.

How has this journey been for you? Could you comment on some of the ups and downs? What are some of the obstacles that you continue to face?

This journey has been full of excitement, frustration, fatigue, but overall, been incredibly fulfilling. I don’t see obstacles as obstacles, I see them as hills, and conquering hills is good. They might leave you out of breath, but they make you more mentally and physically fit.

The biggest hill I’ve had to climb is fighting for my mandate with the correctional system. When I came out, they didn’t want me hiring others that had criminal records. After a year of back-and-forth (and me being reallllly persistent), I was granted the “privilege” of being able to hire those that needed work. It was the best boxing match I’d ever won. Aside from that, there are industry-related obstacles, like figuring out pricing and distribution, product delivery, and much more, but again, I like to learn. I call it my “lived experience MBA.”

How has the reaction to your business been?

Overall, it’s been great! In the beginning, there are always nay-sayers, no matter what business you have, but that was motivating to me. The best way to silence stigma is through proof. And when you can make your mission relatable—like centering it around the fact that we ALL make mistakes and we ALL struggle and we ALL have made poor choices at some point in our lives—it actually brings people together rather than pushes them away. Also, it helps to have a good product to go with your mission. We made sure ours was top-notch, with a variety of unique flavors.

I would love to know how you wish to use your voice to change your community. What is the message you are trying to send with your and Comeback Snacks’ story?

The message we are trying to send is that no one is immune to struggle, and no one is immune to making mistakes. We have all had to ask for forgiveness, and if we want to receive it, we need to be willing to give it as well. Second chances can really save individuals, families, communities, and the world.

Follow Comeback Snacks’s  journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

Read more lifestyle and business articles at ClichéMag.com
Photographs by Girl and A Camera.

Karissa Ella Drops Feel-Good Single Girls

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (August 21, 2020) –Karissa Ella is encouraging women to remain true to themselves with her new single “Girls.” Exclusively premiered by Celeb Secrets and Celeb Secrets Country, this song is bound to be the song of the Summer with it’s important message and feel-good vibe. Karissa is encouraging all the girls to be independent and reminds them that they are all beautiful with this new song. Listen to the single here.

“This song is a reminder to embrace who you are and never change!  We are all strong, unique, and beautiful. Keep doing your thing and keep taking over the world! I am excited to hear what listeners think of my new single ‘Girls,’” says Ella.

“A catchy hook that encourages girls to be the best versions of themselves.” – Juliet Schroder, Celeb Secrets

“Girls” was written by Karissa Ella with Kalsey Kulyk and producer Alex Seier and is featured in Nashville Briefing’s New Music Round Up playlist and NYCountry Swag’s New Country Music playlist.

As most artists have experienced a change in plans this year, Karissa is no different. Making the best of the situation, she has been busy working on new music. Expect more from the budding singer/songwriter throughout the rest of the year. Keep up to date with Karissa on her websiteInstagram and TikTok.

About Karissa Ella
Karissa Ella’s youthful and soulful style is a breath of fresh air in today’s world of country music, and she’s been recognized for it by Radio Disney Country, CMT and countless media outlets. Inspired by the likes of Shania Twain, Gretchen Wilson, Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood, her music, writing and live performances attract people of all ages. Armed with a Music Entertainment Degree from Belmont University and having been singing for crowds from the young age of 10 years old, Karissa is one of country music’s rising stars! Karissa Ella currently resides in Nashville and performs at venues and private venues throughout the U.S, especially in Tenn., Wis. and Ohio. In June 2018, she completed her first EP, having co-wrote two of the three songs. Her second EP, Blossom, came out Summer 2019 with songs like “VACAY” featured by Parade.com and “Me and Luke” by Medium and Taste of Country. Expect more new music from Karissa in the coming year. For more information, visit karissaella.com.

Read more music press releases  at Cliché.
Images provided by 117 Group.

The Prom- A Heart-Warming, Definite Watch

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The Prom is an upcoming musical comedy and is a cinematic adaptation of the Broadway play of the same name. Boasting a star-studded cast, including the likes of Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, and Andrew Rannells, it is set to be released on December 11, 2020, on Netflix. Set mostly in Indiana, the story follows a bunch of failed Broadway actors as they take up a cause far greater than themselves. Featuring a blend of comedy, drama, great music, and above all, an underlying social message- Ryan Murphy’s The Prom is shaping up to be a heart-warming, definite watch if musicals are your thing. 

The Broadway play follows Indiana high-school student Emma who is at standstill with a crisis. All she wants is a regular prom with her girlfriend, Alyssa. Despite initial support, the PTA head- who is also Alyssa’s mother, bans them from attending. What follows is a potpourri of emotions and extravagance. The Broadway stars eventually let go of their egos and devote themselves to organizing a memorable prom for all of Indiana.

The story and what it tells us

The Broadway play is fun and extravagant- but more importantly, it has something to say, something to stand for. It is a story that we, in many ways, need to hear. Queer representation of all kinds is of paramount importance. Queer-ness, just like most other identities, is not a “one size fits all”. To see oneself represented in a queer narrative can be a milestone in coming to terms with one’s identity. Above all, societal issues linked to gender and sexuality are often perceived to be concepts far too mature to be discussed with kids.

On the contrary, normalizing a spectrum of identities from the get-go is the only path to an inclusive world. And, that is precisely what the play does. By bringing high school kids and their stories into the picture, this queer coming-of-age story aims for two birds with one stone. Firstly, it creates a narrative that queer youth, closeted and open alike, can identify by.

Secondly, by showcasing the innocence of young love, it encourages conversation around acceptance and normalization. Perhaps, the hallmark of it all is the joy that is inbuilt into the arc- the joy of being able to help out and the joy of being able to be one’s authentic self. And, that is precisely why The Prom is a truly heart-warming, definite watch. My favorite track from the play says it all- music blares and no one cares who your unruly heart loves…

Images provided by- @promnetflix.
Read more entertainment articles on Cliché.

Billie Eilish Just Dropped New Single ‘Therefore I Am’

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The voice behind 2019’s chart-topping single Bad Guy, is back at it again. On November 12, Billie Eilish just dropped her new single Therefore I Am.  The dark pop track comes along with a minimalist, fun music video that absolutely screams Billie. From the signature fashion to the layered vocals that we have come to associate with the artist, the entire piece drips with swag.

Shot in Glendale Galleria mall, the video features Billie running around the empty space, vibing to the track, with a pretzel in her hand.  She artfully switches between rapped verses and a catchy chorus to keep the track from getting monotonous. The title itself is a witty reference to Descartes’ Cogito ergo sum– I think therefore I am. She smirks as she sings about how the media uses her name for clout so often. “Get my pretty name out of your mouth”, she raps as she casually drags paparazzi culture. In her chorus, she mocks an unknown subject as they claim to be important despite not knowing who they are. She explains that she is an individual that is completely capable of taking her own decisions.

While the video adopts a stripped-back approach, the song itself flaunts a significant amount of layering. Combining pop with hip-hop influences, the track features rapped verses and a chorus laced with a recurring synthesizer.

Inspirations, upcoming music, and the future:

In an interview with BBC Radio 1’s Annie Mac, Billie said that quarantine had been quite the uninspiring time for her. For an entire month, she had not been able to productively create. Her mother suggested that Finneas and her should try sticking to a schedule and that was what changed the game. On the very first day, they ended up writing the lo-fi single, My Future. She also goes on to mention that the pandemic forced her to create tracks that she was extremely happy with, to the point of not caring what others think of it at all. 

In her live-streamed concert, where she performed her hits Ocean Eyes and Bad Guys, among others, she urged her fans to vote out Trump. She has long been outspoken about her stance on the Trump presidency. She addressed this in the interview as well, stating that Biden’s win had changed so much. “I think that there’s just a hopefulness in the air, that was not there before”, she said. When asked about the future she envisions for her generation, she emphasized the need to pay attention to the needs of the climate and handle the looming crisis. She then went on to say that anyone that has a platform needs to be vocal about issues that matter.

Billie Eilish’s interview with BBC Radio 1- here

Listen to I Think Therefore I Am- here.

Featured Image provided by @billieeilish
Read more music at Cliché.

‘A Woman’s Place’- On Trailblazing Women In Culinary

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In a world leagues away from achieving equity, works such as A Woman’s Place offers a fresh perspective on the seemingly mundane odds one encounters on a daily. Directed by Rayka Zehtabchi, the aptly titled documentary flips the normative gendered narrative on its head by adding to the question- why it is that the kitchen is a “woman’s place” only within the four walls of a household?  A Woman’s Place is a story on trailblazing women in culinary. Created with the aim to empower women in the industry, the documentary looks at how three women, Karyn Tomlinson, Etana Diaz and Marielle Fabie, are carving out their own niches in the cut-throat world of the same. With a humble smile and an enthusiastic demeanor to match, the Academy award winner opened up to Cliché about her most recent work.

I would love to know how this project came to be. 

This project came to me through Ventureland, which is a production company I work with quite a bit. The project really originated from KitchenAid. They essentially saw that there’s this issue in the culinary industry. I think around 50% or so of culinary school graduates are women. But when you look at the statistics for executive chefs, only 7% of them are women. So there’s this disparity between culinary school graduates and what is actually happening in the industry. And, they wanted to look at these biases that female chefs face as they navigate the culinary industry. KitchenAid basically partnered with Digitas and Vox Creative to help them make this film. 

They did a lot of heavy lifting before I even came into the picture… in terms of choosing the subjects for the film, interviewing them beforehand, and really kind of whittling things down. So when the project came to me, we knew that it was going to be these three subjects- a restauranteur, a butcher, and a chef. Really, when I came on board, it was a question of… what is the creative vision of the film? 

The three subjects… they encounter different glass ceilings, different pushbacks. I was wondering if you could comment on that? 

I think it is interesting that you ask about me having to shatter glass ceilings. And I think this was one of the main reasons why I was so excited to direct this film. I felt so connected to the project and to the women as well. Even though I knew nothing about the culinary industry before I came on to direct the film. I just felt like I understood the women and so much of what they were going through. I understood so much of what they had to fight for every day, just working in their industry. And that is why I felt so connected.

A crew member with a camera in hand- behind the scenes of the documentary shooting

Adding to your point, another thing that I felt was wonderful about the project is that they all touch upon different biases. They all have their unique, distinctive experiences. No one experience is ever the same. But I do think there are significant overlaps and similarities between them. At the end of the day, they are trying to climb the ladder in an industry that really does not support them. They have to fight, not just for themselves, but also to be leaders. It is about trying to figuring out what is important to you as a leader… what is your management style? Are you going to repeat the same acts that were pressed upon you when you were trying to climb the ladder?

Or are you going to lead in a different way by trying to garner respect by respecting other people who are climbing the ladder with you? 

Bearing in mind the previous question, what kind of glass ceilings have you had to encounter and shatter yourself?

I really enjoyed speaking to the subjects about a lot of that. I felt like it is very much something that I experience being a young filmmaker. We had a lot of discussions about questions like- what is it that you have had to fight through to get to the place you are in? What does the future look like for you in this type of an industry? It was really great. Another thing that I really loved and appreciated about the project is that KitchenAid as a client fully financed the project. Yet, they had no interest in having their logos or product shots all over the film.

They really wanted us to make a truly authentic film that came… not from KitchenAid but from the subjects themselves. Let them guide the film. I really appreciated that as a filmmaker. Authenticity, for me, is really important in my work. I also think it is one of the most effective ways for audineces to connect with the characters on screen. I just think audiences are smart and nowadays, we can tell when brands are trying to attach themselves to a cause. 

We see different approaches to leadership in the documentary short. One of the subjects, Karyn, states that she does not want to be the archetypal “rough tough chef”. Could you perhaps comment on why that is important?

The question is… why do we all have to be that way in order to be taken seriously. I love that. In my eyes, these women are trailblazers. They are kind of going out there, kind of into the wild wild west, and figuring out ways that work for them. Ways in which they can be leaders. They are creating a world that they wish to see, a world that I think we all wish to see. In that world, you can be a boss and have people working under you but you can still respect them. It is a collaboration between the team members as opposed to there being just one superior. 

I think this is especially interesting as Karyn wants to take up space outside of where she is expected to, she does not just want to be a pastry chef.

Rayka Zehtabchi and Karyn Tomlinson while shooting A Woman's Place

And there is nothing wrong with that. What a lot of them are saying is… there is nothing wrong with being a pastry chef. But why should that be the only option available to me just because I am a woman? Etana says, “I want to be a butcher!” She has had all of these experiences coming into the industry where the men sort of set the rules. They tell you what your role is in their world. By taking the leap, selling everything she had, and moving across the globe to be a butcher, she sort of rejected all of that, that certain narrative. She said… I am going to create my own story.

I think that is why, in my eyes, these women are trailblazers. It is because they do not continue to play a role in the patriarchal structure. 

Has there ever been a moment in your life where you have felt like it was time to change things up and amplify unheard voices? If so, how do you incorporate that into your creative voice?

I have always kind of felt like an oddball. I think it was just the fact that I was an Iranian growing up in America. Inherently, you sort of feel like an outsider sometimes. My identity is one of the reasons why I feel so compelled to be a filmmaker and tell stories. Growing up, I did not see a lot of people like me on the screen… whether that be seeing a lot of women’s stories or Iranians that were being accurately portrayed. Once I started growing up, I think I knew that I had a distinct voice. I had something to offer since I have a more unique perspective. My way of seeing the world could offer a lot to the film industry as a storyteller. 

Every project I look at is automatically filtered through that perspective. It is not like I intentionally go out of my way to tell certain stories, it is just who I am. I think it is what I will always naturally gravitate towards. 

What can we expect to see from you next?

Speaking about identity and being Iranian, this is a project that I feel like I have been working on for forever now! But I finally feel like I am getting there. It is a script about my family coming from Iran to America and settling here. It is a story that is really close to my heart as it includes a lot of my personal memories. I do not know when that film is going to be made, but I am getting close to the script, hopefully!

More about Rayka Zehtabchi- here

Photos by Amanda Scherping.
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The Boys In The Band- A Brilliant, Must-Watch Film

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I don’t understand any of it. I never did. Michael, played by Jim Parsons, utters these words towards the end of the film. In many ways, the entirety of The Boys in the Band hinges upon this statement. The film lays bare the tensions between the desire to live authentically and the need to conform to societal norms and it does so, by weaving vulnerable stories of love and anguish together. All in all, The Boys in the Band is a brilliant and must-watch film to understand queer identity and struggle pre-Stonewall. 

Set in 1968, the cinematic adaptation of Mart Crowley’s play is an unfolding story of a birthday party that eventually goes awry. Each of the leading eight characters is forced to confront twisted truths about their pasts and who they are because of it.  While some feel the pangs of unrequited love, others struggle with their inner demons. Tears, pain, and insults hang heavy in the air as the characters fight against the brutal strain of social rejection.

Performing a heterosexual identity:

Donald, Larry, Hank, Bernard, Emory, and Harold meet at Michael’s to celebrate Harold’s birthday. Cowboy, a sex-worker and Harold’s gift from Emory, arrives as well. All is fine and well initially. All the ingredients to a good party- music, food, alcohol, dancing, and gifts are present. However, an unwelcome visitor turns the party topsy-turvy. Alan is Michael’s old roommate from college. He represents precisely how the society at large felt about homosexuality at that time. He states that he doesn’t have an issue with people’s personal lives as long as they don’t make things public.

A few hours before the party is set to take place, Alan, crying on the phone to Michael, asks to speak with him urgently. Michael turns him down politely as he does not want to put Alan in an uncomfortable position. For the most part, he does this to make sure that the party remains a safe space for their authentic selves. However, it is apparent that his discomfort also stems from his personal dissatisfaction with being homosexual. 

When Alan shows up despite saying he is busy, one after another, things go askew.  Initially, Michael asks everyone to “cool it” and try to not betray that they aren’t straight. In retrospect, it is because he is embarrassed by who he truly is. Alan insults Emory’s flamboyance and ends up punching him after the two engage in a squabble. Michael does everything possible to control the mess. He gets embarrassed when any of his friends display stereotypical homosexual traits in Alan’s presence and tries to subdue them. He even sends Emory, the most effeminate of them, to the kitchen. Essentially, he tiptoes around Alan because he hasn’t come to terms with his homosexuality himself.

Self-hate and internalized homophobia:

Eventually, however, Michael starts drinking and Harold and him trade insults rooted in deep insecurities. Harold delivers eloquent yet casual jabs at Micheal about his age and debt-ridden lifestyle. The back and forth goes on for a while and with each passing minute, Michael gets more and more hostile. Michael stops Alan from leaving and forces him to play a party game. Each of them needs to call someone they truly loved and confess to earn points. He is the catalyst for most of the hatred that runs rampant as they start playing.

Bernard and Emory are brought to tears when they are forced to confront, yet again after years, that their love wasn’t returned. Hank and Larry makeup after a fight as Larry calls Hank to confess his love. Before ending the game, Michael confronts Alan about his ambiguous sexuality and brings up his relationship with a college friend- Justin. While Alan denies that he is a homosexual, Michael continues to taunt him. Since Michael’s insults towards his friends were based on truth, his taunts towards Alan take on new meanings. At that moment, Alan and Michael are quite like each other. Both struggle to deal with their sexuality and are homophobic, albeit in different ways.

As the film draws to a close, Michael sobs in Donald’s arms and asks him who was it that said- Show me a happy homosexual, and I’ll show you a gay corpse. Much of who Michael is revolves around this statement. The more he attempts to seek refuge in God, alcohol, and therapy, the more he ends up having to confront his demons. Not being able to bear the brunt of societal shaming, he has internalized homophobia and hates himself for it.

Why the film moves us today as well:

The film is a window to how queer people in the past paved the way for the current generation. Much of the struggle that they underwent and fought against, especially through movements like Stonewall, changed the course of history. The film is akin to a time-capsule that captures the dissonances between society and sexuality pre-Stonewall. Not only does it do that, but it also portrays the tensions between self and sexuality and that is precisely why The Boys in the band is a brilliant, must-watch film.

The incessant spewing of hate and casual racist remarks towards Bernard, the only Black character, might be highly displeasing to today’s viewers. However, addressing matters of racism, homophobia and ultimately, intersectionality is still just as relevant. A raw and real approach helps to look back authentically while shedding light on today’s problems. All in all, the film paints pride and pain in many different hues ranging from anger to hatred- some bygone and others, more relevant than ever.

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Featured image provided by @netflixfilm