Interviews

Kelsi Davies’ Quest to Demystify the Spirit Realm

by
How would you react if you realized you were psychic? For Kelsi Davies, it was an integral part of growing up. As she got older, she began to share her abilities and recently decided to use her gifts as a medium to help people heal and connect with loved ones who have passed on, altering countless lives forever. Kelsi chronicles her experiences with the paranormal on her incredibly popular TikTok and on her YouTube channel. She wants to demonstrate to others that spirits aren’t always scary or evil. When she’s not communicating with the beyond, Kelsi is empowering others through music. Her new single, “Heartbeats,” is about rediscovering joy after leaving a toxic relationship. Check out the video for “Heartbeats“ below!

Cliché: How did you first discover that you had psychic abilities?
Kelsi Davies: I have been psychic since I was young. I found out this year that these gifts run on the Native American side of my family. I would always know things about people or see future events. I did not understand what I was feeling or experiencing, which caused a lot of social anxiety in my life. My mediumship was always there, but I blocked it out. In 2020 I began to tap into my mediumship and connect others with deceased loved ones.

Was that an overwhelming discovery to make as a young child? How did you process that revelation?
I thought it was normal. I always had terrible social anxiety and my gifts would kind of shut me down. Growing up, I was introverted, the exact opposite of how I would describe myself now. Once I understood that not everyone has these abilities, I started coming out of my shell and explaining it to people; I feel more understood now.

Why do you think people are so fascinated with the paranormal and spirits in particular?
It’s controversial, unknown, and unexplainable. Many people have had paranormal experiences and have had them throughout history. It’s a topic that people are afraid to talk about, but are so intrigued by at the same time.

You’ve also recently undergone a spiritual awakening. What has it been like using your gifts to connect people with their departed loved ones and why do you believe that’s your calling?
Yes, it has been incredible. It amazes me every time with what comes through and the spirits that come to me for people. I have made some very close friends due to experiences that changed their lives. It gets very emotional at times, but usually ends in happy tears and relief. I know I have these gifts for a reason. It took me a while to understand them, but now that I do, I have seen their effect on others. I genuinely believe this is something I’m just meant to do.

What has been the most exciting paranormal experience you’ve had thus far?
I’ve had countless experiences, both good and bad. However, one of my favorite experiences was when I connected with someone’s deceased loved ones recently. The mother of a family friend passed earlier this year. Mid-conversation, I start to receive visions of her. I had never met her, so I was unaware of her appearance. Usually, I will explain who is coming to me and what they look like if they are coming through clearly.

I was able to see her height, hair color, clothes, etc. She had a few things to say, but I asked her to show me something personal. She ended up showing me a silver necklace with a cross on it and its details. As I explained it to the woman, her eyes lit up. She knew what her mother was showing me was a necklace that she wore very often.

Why is it so important to destigmatize spirits or show people that not all spirits are scary?
There is a misconception of spirit communication. Many people are taught that it’s evil and demonic, but that just is not the case. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. I just hope people can keep an open mind to things. I genuinely believe no one knows exactly what the afterlife is like until we are there. There is a balance in this world, good and evil. A lot of the time, your lost loved ones are still visiting and looking out for you.

Do you have any advice for people out there who are hoping to communicate with spirits?
Just be safe. Again there are good and evil spirits. If you feel negativity around you or feel like something is off, I would stop the session and protect yourself. There are a variety of ways to protect yourself. I don’t know much about the other side, but I have firsthand seen these ways of protection work.

For the uninitiated, please explain who Lola is and the role she plays in your life.
Lola is a sweet spirit of an 18-year-old woman. She is attached to a porcelain doll because it looks a lot like her! She was born in 1901 and died in 1919 from an illness. All of my friends have had incredible experiences with her. We all love Lola. I often see her walking around in her long white nightgown. Sometimes, she sits in the back of my car, and I feel protected. I believe in spirit guides, but maybe Lola can protect me the way my spirit guides or angels do. She doesn’t talk a whole lot, so I’m not sure. Other mediums have said she is getting stronger and braver. I feel that way as well.

On another note, you’re also venturing into the music world! Talk about your new single, “Heartbeats.”
My new single, “Heartbeats,” is about a toxic relationship I was stuck in. I wanted to turn something negative in my life into a positive. It was difficult to relive those experiences again, as it was an extremely dark time for me. However, I’m so grateful for everyone who supported me through this traumatic time. They helped me turn my pain into something extraordinary. I learned and have grown from this experience. I have found my authentic self because of it. “Heatbeats”  is about moving past that toxicity in your life, no matter what it is. Knowing you do have the strength to get past it and be authentically yourself.

Do you have any advice for people who are afraid to leave a toxic relationship because they don’t want to be alone?
Ask yourself these questions about the person you are with. Do they make you happy? Do they trust you? Do you trust them? Do you see a positive future with this person? If you answered no to any of them, it might be time to rethink some things. It’s like ripping off a bandaid. Things will get better as long as you know your worth. Also,  don’t be afraid to talk to others about your situation. You are strong.

You frequently collaborate with PrideHouseLA! What message do you hope to send to your fans who also identify as LGBTQ+?
Yes, PrideHouseLA are great friends of mine. They helped me have the courage to come out as a pansexual. I hope that anyone part of the LGBTQ+ community knows that you are so loved and accepted here. Be your unique self. If people don’t accept you, there is a huge community that will.

Read more Music Interviews at ClicheMag.com
Kelsi Davies’ Quest to Demystify the Spirit Realm. Photo Credit: Tim Schaeffer Photography @timschaefferphoto. Hair and Makeup: Christine Hazelhurst @christine_pro_makeup.

BANDS INTERVIEWING BANDS: Audrey DuBois Harris & Lyia Meta

by

Singer-Songwriter and visual artist Lyia Meta, and vocalist Audrey DuBois Harris get together to discuss their influences, creative processes and overcoming obstacles. 

LM:  What a beautiful voice you have.  I’m absolutely blown away by your range!!! Your passion appears to be grounded in songs of faith and inclusion, especially your recent release LIFT EVERY VOICE.  

ADH: Thank you so very much Lyia! I am intentional about creating positive, uplifting, loving and spirit-filled music that speaks to all people. LIFT EVERY VOICE is a project that was created with that intention in mind. I wanted to offer a collection of songs of unity and hope for the future.

ADH:  What a rich and soulful voice you have! It has been a while since I’ve heard such a deep, beautiful, and smooth voice.  

LM:  I am humbled by your comments as I’ve always strived at improving my craft.

LM:  What would you say is the most difficult part of being a vocalist?  How do you keep your vocals well-tuned?  

ADH: As a vocalist, my main priority is to maintain the health and vitality of my voice. That means staying on top of my physical health, getting proper rest, staying well hydrated, limited use of my speaking voice when I’m not singing, and dedicating time for vocal warmups. 

ADH:  Growing up in Malaysia, who were your biggest musical influences?

LM:  My biggest musical influence was my father! He was a civil servant and the lead singer in a band.  It sounds crazy now but back in those days, most government departments used to have an in-house band and my dad would perform.  I was used to having musicians coming and going since I was knee-high!  As I grew older, we listened to what was popular on the radio, but my favourite was rock and blues.

LM:  We both have performed internationally and are always trying to increase that footprint.  How does it feel to have to re-introduce yourself to a new audience?  What has been your most rewarding, and most challenging, performance so far?

ADH: As a LIVE performer, I introduce myself all the time to new audiences. I also enjoy meeting new people and appreciate hearing how my music has moved and/or inspired them. One vivid memory is singing for President Obama in NYC. There was a hush in the room while I was singing, then the standing room only crowd erupted in cheers and applause. I don’t give much focus to challenges beyond trying to find a way to overcome them. 

ADH:  Your music stretches across several different genres.  How do you define your personal sound and style?

LM:  Like every singer, I’m in the moment and my favorite genre or style is whatever song I’m feeling.  I find that doing only one single genre can be very limiting, I’m grateful that a variety of songwriters and producers have approached me to collaborate.  I find that different genres help convey different emotions and nuances, but I always have to make each song my own.  

LM:  How did you manage during COVID?  With schedule changes, cancellations and constant uncertainty, how did you keep your body, mind and voice in shape?  

ADH: To me, the pandemic reaffirmed that we are all connected. What happens to one person on the other side of the world affects each one of us just the same. I, like so many others, had great career plans mapped out for 2020. Although it was a time of great uncertainty and grief for us all, I made a conscious effort to remain positive, creative, and productive. My full project LIFT EVERY VOICE and the first single from that project We Shall Overcome was both recorded and released during that time.

ADH:  What is your writing process like?  Where do you find your greatest inspiration for new song material?

LM:  My greatest inspiration comes from the world around me and how it affects me physically and emotionally—body and spirit.  Spontaneity and inspiration work hand-in-hand for all of my pieces.  The creativity road leads me to wonderfully strange outcomes and there’s a feeling of self-accomplishment once I’ve exorcised my demons!  When a personal calm sets in, the song (or piece of art) just feels complete.  

LM:  I saw that you grew up dreaming of becoming the new Mariah Carey but your mother and voice teacher rightfully exposed and steered you to classical music and opera. Do you have any desire to try other genres, either live or recording?

ADH: Actually, that is a misunderstanding. The short version of the story is that when I was a little girl, my mother overheard me singing. She was very surprised by my voice and said that she would find me a voice teacher. To my 8 or 9 year old understanding, I was going to instantly become an overnight Pop star!!  My mother encouraged and inspired me the most to move in the direction of opera. It became the foundation of my technique and preparation. My music now is definitely a fusion of differing genres.  I’ve always believed that what I bring to the table is uniquely special.

ADH:  During the pandemic and global shutdown, what were some of your favorite things to do to remain positive, productive and creative?  Do you look forward to returning back to the stage for LIVE performances?

LM:  I turned to my visual art to keep me sane.  During the pandemic I drew almost a hundred commissioned portraits, two children’s album covers; designed the cover of my Metal single, painted art-glass surfaces; and wrote a few more songs that are now being demoed.  I also participated in several online digital fundraisers,created my own home “studio” that I never needed before!  I opened my own kitchen and cooked and delivered lunch boxes, pastries and cakes.  In the course of this stopgap measure I was named a Eurasian Food Culture Heritage Food Ambassador by Eurasians International.  Staying occupied in every way possible helped keep my creative side well-oiled.  I am a live performer first.  The stage and engaging with an audience will always be my first love.

LM:  We’ve both strayed from our music comfort zones to try something new.  What will you draw on for inspiration next and how will that affect your song choices?  Where would you like to experiment in terms of musical “stretch” goals? 

ADH: I draw my inspiration from different sources: culture, art, film, fashion, conversation and life experiences. As an artist, I need to constantly stretch and evolve. In terms of “stretch goals”, I think the next step for me is creating a lot more visual content/music videos for my music. 

ADH:  In addition to being a singer/songwriter, you’re also a visual artist.  Do you consider your paintings and music as one continued form of expression?  Or do you view them as separate aspects and forms of your artistry?  Is your artwork available to the public for purchase?

LM:   I don’t think I will ever be able to not express myself through art.  It has become such an integral part of me.  What I cannot express through lyrics, I express with my brushes.  I dream in colour and I am always humming to new melodies and disjointed lyrics.  In addition to my own art, I am a full-time commissioned portraitist.

FOLLOW:
Audrey DuBois Harris

Website / Facebook / Instagram / Spotify

Lyia Meta

Website / Facebook / Instagram / Spotify / Twitter

Read more Music News on ClicheMag.com

Photo credit: Audrey DuBois Harris (top) Will L. Lewis lV Photography. Lyia Meta (bottom) Khahin Meta

BANDS INTERVIEWING BANDS: Love District & Ricky Mendoza

by

Alex from the rock group Love District and singer-songwriter Ricky Mendoza got together to chat about musical influences, how the pandemic affected their music, and what is coming up next for them.  

Ricky: I really love your music! I love the way the bass protrudes and how the synths vibe out a feeling of the music that I used to listen to when I first fell in love with music. And y’all do all this with a sound that feels new, yet retaining a retro spirit. 

Love District: Thank you so much for the kind words!  We’ve been working hard through the years and we’re glad that our vision is coming across as intended.  We wanted our sound to have a nostalgic feel, but also refreshing and unique at the same time. 

 

Love District: Tell us about your new single, “I Just Died.”  I really enjoy the rawness of your vocals and the instruments.  

Ricky: Thank you so much for the kind words. It is part of the new album called “The New Hurt” and it’s about a new love in my life. Here I was, inspired by love but the twist is that whenever there is a new love, there’s also a new source of pain.  If anything happens to them it’s gonna hurt like hell. 

Ricky: I’m really curious about the process of an artist/band and how the music actually gets made, so what comes first, the lyrics or the music? And how do the songs come together?

LD: It really depends on each song.  We’ve written songs inspired by a melody, chord progression, a riff, or a phrase/idea. We usually start with a chord progression or a guitar/bass riff that the rest of the instruments would follow and build along to.

LD: Are there any current artists or bands that have recently influenced your music for this new phase of your career?

Ricky: Neutral Milk Hotel and Against Me! have been my north star for a while now. I love how NMH makes their folk songs sound other-worldly and magical, while Laura Jane Grace and Against Me bring brutally honest lyrics and an in-your-face punk rock; it’s inspiring. 

Ricky: Can you walk me through the creation of “Feels Like Home”? Specifically, how it came together. 

LD: Chris came up with the progression and the melody and brought it to the band.  We jammed together for a while and worked out the format and different parts of the song before going into the studio to record.  In the studio during the pandemic we were really able to take our time and dive deep into the song and really get the sound we wanted.

LD: As this will be your third album release, how do you continue to evolve your sound and progress from your old releases?  Is there a concept to your album or do you view it as a collection of songs?

Ricky: All three albums are about phases in my life. The first one was about hitting my rock bottom and what it felt to be there. The second one is all about getting my shit together and trying to really discover myself and that is aptly named “No One Has Their Shit Together – especially Ricky Mendoza”. And shortly after the album came out, I fell in love and I felt like I was in complete control of my life. I spent five years living and making what is now, “The New Hurt”. 

Ricky:Is there a principal songwriter? Do several handle songwriting duties? And do y’all modify the lyrics to fit the music after the lyrics are written?

LD:  Chris and myself are the main songwriters in the band.  Either he or I will bring an idea or demo to the table and then we would work out the ideas together.  We would get the rough draft of the song and then bring it to the band.  In the studio, the songs naturally evolve.  The rule that I follow is the “best idea wins” and “is it making the song better?” 

LD: How has this past year during the pandemic and quarantine affected your ideas on music and being a musician?  

Ricky: In terms of being a musician it was great to have time to actually sit and record at my home studio. I’ve recorded all my albums by myself but this one was particularly challenging because I wanted to go deeper as a musician and add different instruments that I had never played (accordions, theremins, trumpets, etc). 

Ricky: As with any relationship, it gets tough to decide on certain artistic elements, career choices, lunch, etc. How do y’all make it happen as a band of four? 

LD: That is something that we all are continually trying to get better at hahaha.   We have been a band for a while now, and have developed a musical trust with each other that can only develop from experiences and failures.  We are at a point where we can have honest and open communication as a team. 

LD: With live shows being taken away, how were you able to adapt and still move forward as a musician?

Ricky:Live shows are a small part of my musicianship, so not having them wasn’t that huge of a blow. However, I really needed to take the time to record the new album.

Ricky: What habits do y’all attribute to your progress/success as artists?

LD: Keeping an open mind when it comes to creating a product as a band.  We all are seasoned vets when it comes to playing music and have opinions or ideas that may differ from one another.  It is important to listen and try new things or ideas and evolve.   

LD: Talk to us about your band.  Have you been playing with the same musicians for a while or do you like to switch things up?  

Ricky: For the recording of my album, I did not have a band. Since this was a very personal project, I decided to record all the instruments myself. However, for live shows, we do have a band together and we’re all based in Austin.

Ricky: I see that y’all teach young children about music and its importance and I’m very curious to hear about your perspective on why music is important to our world?

LD: Music has played such an important role in all our lives and we have learned so many life lessons throughout our musical careers.  We feel it is important to pay it forward when it comes to the next generation of musicians.  We want to show our students that we are playing in bands and making music for the right reasons.  There is no better feeling when we see our students start their own bands and create their own music.  

LD: Are there any activities or hobbies not music-related that inspires you?  Any other sources of creativity that could influence your music?

Ricky: Absolutely! I’m a total nerd when it comes to the science of storytelling, of how we all are connected by stories and the best possible ways to tell stories. Most of my songs are story driven, I want people to see themselves in the songs and relate at a deep level to them. After all, it’s about our human journey and how we fit in this weird, beautiful thing we call life. 

FOLLOW:

Love District

Website / Instagram / Facebook / Spotify / YouTube / SoundCloud / Twitter

Ricky Mendoza

Website / Instagram / Facebook / Spotify / YouTube

Photo credit: Ricky Mendoza (top) credit Laura Zamorano. Love District (bottom) Mad Harmony Photography; Ricky: Laura Zamorano

Read more Music News on ClicheMag.com

Saje Nicole Makes Her Debut in the 2021 “Sports Illustrated” Swim Issue

by

Determined to be a role model for her daughter, Saje Nicole boldly entered the modeling industry. She’s made a splash in more ways than one, most recently being featured in the coveted 2021 Sports Illustrated Swim Issue. The historic issue showcases three Black women on the cover for the first time – Megan Thee Stallion, Naomi Osaka, and Leyna Bloom! Saje is honored to be part of such a trailblazing issue. She wants to continue to inspire conversations around diversity in the industry and pave the way for other curve models. You can also see Saje in the new Amazon Prime series, Making The Cut

Cliché: What was behind your decision to leave nursing school to pursue modeling?
Saje Nicole: I thought that because I loved seeing people happy and healthy, that a nursing career would be great for me. But once I started the classes, I started to realize that nursing just wasn’t my passion, and there are many different ways to help people be happy and healthy. I wanted to go after my dreams. Especially, because I tell my daughter that she can do anything, so I want to be the best example for her. I made the decision to pursue modeling and I haven’t looked back.

How do you deal with the lack of diversity in the industry? How can we work to ensure that the modeling industry has equal opportunities for women of color?
The lack of diversity in the industry has been a topic for many, many years. It’s not until recently that brands are starting to really listen. I think as consumers, we just need to hold brands accountable. Not canceling – because that doesn’t help anyone, but being open and honest about what makes us feel represented. We are in a time where brands want to do better and help shift the culture. I’m happy to see that they are so open to this new change. There isn’t one type of beauty or one body type. The more we continue to push the narrative forward, the quicker we will be able to get real and lasting change.

Tell us about your new show, Making The Cut.
Being a part of Making The Cut has truly been such an honor and dream come true. Not only did I get to work with amazing designers, but I’m on a show that I’m actually a fan of! We also filmed this during the pandemic, so the fact they were able to pull this off under extremely strict health guidelines is so impressive! I cannot wait to see the rest of the episodes, the designs are EPIC!

How would you describe your relationship to body positivity? How has that relationship changed and developed over time?
My relationship with body positivity is one that is always changing and evolving. I allow my body room to grow and change. Whatever that may look like. But of course, it wasn’t always that way. Paying attention to images in the media or certain influencers can really take a toll on your perception of beauty. So my method is to eat well, exercise daily, remain in a great mental space, and focus mainly on my health. Everything else will follow after that.

Any tips on improving body confidence?
Oh yes!!!! My advice would be to love your skin, your curves, your frame, and your flaws too. I think it’s all the imperfections that actually make you beautiful. It makes you unique. It allows you to stand it. I have stretch marks on my hips and buttocks, I have a small fupa, I have hip dips, and last but not least I have size 10 feet! If we spend all day criticizing ourselves, we would be miserable. Let’s celebrate every single part instead.

What was it like being featured in the 2021 Sports Illustrated Swim Issue?
It has truly been a dream come true!!! I have looked up to the women of Sports Illustrated Swim since I was a child. The exotic locations they traveled to, the women and their stories, the bikinis, the level of sophistication. All of what we know to be Sports Illustrated Swim today. So, to see myself in the magazine is absolutely surreal! I’m still in shock and it hasn’t fully sunk in yet. I’m sure it will in the coming weeks. 

What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to be involved in an issue that showcases so many powerful Black women?
It means the world to me. Before this issue, the only Black women that were on the cover were Tyra Banks and Danielle Herrington, who are both great and beautiful women, but the magazine has been in circulation since 1964. To be a part of this legendary triple cover issue makes me feel so happy, represented, and seen. Thank you, Sports Illustrated Swim!

In what ways do you want to inspire others?
I want to represent an idea. An idea that no matter where you were born, your past, or even your current circumstances, you can do whatever you desire. I’m an immigrant that came here at the age of three, had to learn English in ESOL class, and whose dad passed away at age eight. If I can do it, I want those who follow my story to know they can do it as well. We all have different dreams, and we all need to unapologetically go after them.

Do you have any advice for aspiring curve models out there?
My advice to all models is to stay focused on what you want, your message, and don’t take no for an answer. In the age of social media, you can create your own audience, spread your own message, and launch your own products. There are so many avenues you can take. Just make sure you’re doing what’s best for you.

Read more Celebrity Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Saje Nicole Makes Her Debut in the 2021 “Sports Illustrated” Swim Issue. Photo Credit (in order): Alanna Gilbert, Lalo Torres, Megan Claire (third and fourth photo), and Ronald Wayne.

Kennie JD Blends Makeup with Bad Movies in Hit YouTube Series “Bad Movies and A Beat”

by
Makeup enthusiast Kennie JD originally conceived of her YouTube channel as a way to help herself learn Korean. An avid fan of fellow YouTuber Bailey Sarian’s “Murder, Mystery, & Makeup” series, she decided to combine a similar concept with her ardent love of bad movies. In the resulting series, “Bad Movies and A Beat,” Kennie does her makeup while dissecting the most laughable and cringeworthy elements of terrible films. When she’s not devoting hours of her life to sifting through cinematic garbage, Kennie has started to further explore her interest in music and is excitedly awaiting the release of her upcoming EP this summer. Check out her music HERE
 
Cliché: Would you say makeup is an avenue for you to express your personality?
Kennie JD: Definitely, it’s a great way to be a little bit of a different person if you choose to, or even show off different parts of yourself.
 
Which looks do you gravitate towards the most?
It depends on the mood of the day honestly. If I’m feeling more dramatic and over the top, then I can reflect that in my looks. The same is true on calmer days. 
Describe the essentials of your summer beauty routine. 
Sunscreen! I’ve gotten a lot better at using it more religiously. Also, lightweight/glow makeup (tinted moisturizers/lightweight foundations, etc.), a lot of blush and bronzer, and just taking it easy because it’s hot and gonna fade throughout that. Lighter/glossy makeup tends to fade more gracefully than heavier makeup.
 
Why did you decide to start your YouTube channel?
Originally, to help learn Korean. But over the years it’s kind of followed all of my various interests and it’s been a fun ride watching what it becomes each year.
 
Your “Bad Movies and A Beat” series is particularly popular. Where did that idea originate from?
I was a big fan of Get Ready With Me content and while watching Bailey Sarian’s “Murder, Mystery & Makeup” series I realized that I had a niche in loving bad movies and makeup and thought it would be a great idea to try it.
 
What’s the most bizarre or most memorable movie you’ve reviewed? 
Cats. Never again.
 
What’s your favorite makeup look that you’ve created during a review?
My Showgirls look is pretty great, haha.
Are there certain elements that can elevate a movie into the coveted “good trash” category?
I think there’s an element of sincerity needed. When movies try to be bad, they tend to be forgettable and annoyingly try-hard. But ones that come from a genuine desire to make a serious/respectable film but fail are usually the most enjoyable. 
 
Do you have any projects or collaborations coming up that you are particularly excited about?
Been delving more into music making these last few years and have a new EP coming this summer. But I have two out already on all streaming sites!
 
Read more Celebrity Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Kennie JD Blends Makeup with Bad Movies in Hit YouTube Series “Bad Movies and A Beat.” Photo Credit: Courtesy of  Kennie JD.

Bands Interviewing Bands: Luke Justin Roberts & Sandra Bullet

by

This week we’re bringing together pop-rock artist LJR and alt-rock singer-songwriter Sandra Bullet. The two chat about their best tips for creating an irresistible music video, how to find new fans, and how to balance being a musician with juggling all the things.

LJR: Seems like we have a lot in common! I love that you switched from engineering to music (I did the same, also with an MS in mechanical!). How do you feel like your technical background has helped you in your music career? 

Sandra Bullet: That is such a great question! Usually, people think that they are totally unrelated areas, which is definitely not true. It has helped me a lot in terms of organizing all the different tasks I need to do. I have a methodical approach to everything I do, and that doesn’t go unnoticed. Other artists have told me I’m the most reliable person they’ve ever worked within the music industry; and that goes a long way for me.

Sandra Bullet: It really is super cool that we have the same Engineering background! I see that you got into music when you were very young and had other people in the family who were into music too. So why did you decide to study Engineering?

LJR: I was really good at math and science, and despite a deep love for the arts, my family saw music as a dead-end career path for a long time. It also took me a long time to discover who I was and what I truly loved. On the way there, it seemed like a smart decision to play it safe and get a stable “backup plan.” I’m glad I finally got out of that mindset, but that only happened because of a lot of encouragement from my older brother Daniel challenging that narrative about the arts.

LJR: I see you’ve got your new album out! Can you tell me about the experiences behind it?

Sandra Bullet: It’s just a dream come true! These songs are my first compositions. Some of them were made 15 years ago. I was in a band that played just for fun, and so we never recorded anything properly. I always believed in these songs though, so I always had this idea of releasing an album with all our compositions. In the process I decided to reach out and include my former band members, and that brought us close to each other again, which was such a wonderful feeling! And sharing it with my fans, there are just no words to describe it.

 

Sandra Bullet: I love all your video productions! How did you get into video production?

LJR: Thank you!! I learned video because I thought I needed kick ass music videos to get attention online. Of course it helps, but it wasn’t enough to build a following without more consistent content. I loved Boyce Avenue, so I tried to figure out where they put their lights and what gear they used, and built a custom rotating camera rig to get moving angles without a camera man. I also learned a lot from some friends of mine who knew film and photography and just tried creating things I liked. I also learned a TON from YouTube tutorials.

LJR: I’m a huge videography nerd and shoot all my own videos too; what got you into doing your own video work and how did you learn it?

Sandra Bullet: It started out of necessity to be honest, just like many things I do today. I’m a curious person, and I’m a fast learner. My creative side has the vision, and then my methodical side steps into action and makes it real. And I have a lot of fun with it! I learned it all by myself, watching tutorials and experimenting. You can learn pretty much anything online today. I started with small edits, then with my Bulletized covers I took my editing skills to a whole new level. 

Sandra Bullet: How do you feel now that you’re about to share your first album with the world?

LJR: I’m so excited!! With all the covers I did, I feel there’s a level to which I never showed the world all of who I am. I’m excited to share more of my journey with the world, and I’m hopeful that it helps people know they’re not alone.

LJR: Doing all the things you do in your own music business is really hard, and I rarely meet anyone who is able to manage everything on their own and produce quality material. How do you balance and prioritize everything so you get it all done?

Sandra Bullet: It is hard, and I’m still learning how to do it. I’m always taking notes and I follow my calendar strictly, but the most important thing I’ve learned lately is the importance of saying “no.” I am invited to be part of many cool musical projects and it’s hard for me to say no; as a result I ended up doing a lot of studio work for other artists in the past, and I never had time for my own music or my fans. Now I choose my work carefully. My music and my fans are my priority, and that’s the way it should be.

LJR: How do you find new fans and run the business side of things? Do you run ads, post a ton on social media and YouTube, or TikTok?

Sandra Bullet: I started growing a following 2 years ago, when I was invited to start live streaming on a new app. I started connecting with my audience and that’s what motivated me to start working more on my own music. I was never a social media person and that held me back for quite some time. All the fans I have right now found me through live streaming, other artists I worked with or through my Bulletized covers on YouTube. But lately, I’m investing a lot of time in understanding social media and finding new fans this way. I know my target audience and that is already a huge advantage.   

Sandra Bullet: What’s next for you? What would you like to see happening next in your musical career?

LJR: After this album finishes releasing one song at a time per month and I (hopefully) get some traction online, I really want to put together a band and tour in 2022. I also have a bunch of individual singles (some old and some new) that I’d like to start releasing as well that didn’t really fit onto the album. 

LJR: What is coming for you in the next 3 months?

Sandra Bullet: I wish I could say live shows, but with the pandemic, I don’t think that will be possible; so I’ll be focusing on growing my following and reaching more people with my music. 

Something I’m also really trying to do is showing musicians here in Portugal that you don’t have to be famous or know the right people in order to make a living as a musician. 

I will also be producing and recording an album for another artist. We are in the planning phase now and I’m really looking forward to that project.

About LJR: 

Hailing from Maryland, LJR is a tenacious and passionate pop-rock artist who strives to empower and inspire his audience to live their lives to the fullest.

LJR has opened for platinum-selling singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson and acclaimed duo A Great Big World, and his distinctive, resonant style has won him fans around the globe. 

LJR is currently preparing to release his 12-track debut album “When the Sky Began to Fall,” which he will share with fans one song at a time beginning on April 30. Recorded over the course of three years, the album promises to showcase LJR’s brilliant songwriting skills and will serve as a testimony to the last decade of his life, detailing his personal evolution through discussions about his insecurities, relationships, and journey through faith. “I hope it brings a deep joy and hope to people’s lives,” he shares about the album. “I’m also really excited to create sacred moments with people at shows. I think those times are opportunities to share the deepest parts of ourselves while freeing others to do the same.”

For Fans Of: Walk the Moon, The Fray

Follow LJR: 

Facebook I Instagram I Youtube

About Sandra Bullet:

Sandra Bullet is a Portuguese alternative rock singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with an indie twist and an old school sound.

Besides her solo career, Sandra also collaborates with other artists in other genres, and as a streamer, she performs weekly online concerts on YouTube and Twitch. She sets the bar for all independent artists out there, showing them that it’s possible to be a musician without musical education and without labels, and that nowadays any artist can produce, mix, master and release their own music. Although she loves working with other artists, streaming, and crafting her extravagant “bulletized” covers, her main goal is to work more on her original music and share her sound with everyone!

For Fans Of: Avril Lavigne, P!nk, Alanis Morissette

Follow:

Instagram I Twitter I Facebook I YouTube I Website

Read more Music News on ClicheMag.com

(Left) LJR photo credit Eric Brown (Right) Sandra Bullet photo credit: self-portrait (Right)

Bands Interviewing Bands: Brandyn Killz & Bryce Bowyn

by

This week’s feature presents dance-pop icons Brandyn Killz and Bryce Bowyn discussing their latest singles, songwriting and production processes, and how they’ve been handling the pandemic. 

Brandyn Killz: Your newest single “Ruthless” is such a bop! What’s the story behind the song?

Bryce Bowyn: Thanks Brandyn! “Ruthless” is about a guy I was rebounding with after a nasty breakup. He didn’t really understand boundaries at all and was very manipulative. I like to consider myself a nice person, but I was sick of being heartbroken and disrespected so I decided to be the heartless Casanova for once. 

 

Bryce Bowyn: I remember listening to your song “Bones” last year and being blown away. It feels like such an amazing throwback to late 2000s electropop, like Kesha or Femme Fatale-era Britney. What draws you to that particular sound? 

Brandyn Killz: Thanks so much. Yasss, that’s exactly the vibe I was going for with “Bones.” To me, that sound is such a mood. I get so happy and energized when that sound hits and it’s hard to stay still. I can’t not dance, and nobody’s unhappy when they’re dancing 😝

Brandyn Killz: Your songs seem to always have a personal touch and go really deep. What song of yours is your most personal & why?

Bryce Bowyn: I would say with each release, my songs have become more and more personal. My song “Nostalgic” was the first time I really addressed my own relationships rather than writing from the lens of a character. That song is about romanticizing dark times in your life and realizing you’re happier in the present.

Bryce Bowyn: The production on your tracks is immaculate. Tell me about that. Do you work with producers, do you produce yourself, or is a combo situation? 

Brandyn Killz: Aww, thank you so much. I am very hands-on when it comes to everything I put out. I generally always work with producers in getting a foundation for a track, and then I’ll add all kinds of synths and random sounds. I record and produce all the vocals, and complete most of the post-production as well. It’s been a crazy learning process, but I’m gettin’ better with each release.

Brandyn Killz: How has the pandemic and the last year affected your music, life, and career?

Bryce Bowyn: I would say the pandemic made me go back to square one and re-invent everything I was doing. It’s the one silver lining of this mess. With all the isolation and downtime, I’ve written some of my best work. All of the songs on my upcoming EP were written in the first few months of quarantine. Being able to access that creativity also helped with my social anxiety surprisingly. All in all, I think I’ve come out of 2020 more confident and sure of myself. 

Bryce Bowyn: What was your most challenging song to create and why? 

Brandyn Killz: “Outta Control” was the most challenging. It’s probably my favorite song I’ve ever written, but getting it to sound like I wanted it to sound was a hurricane. It was one of the first times I had to pull rank with a producer and basically say “This is how it’s going to be.” It definitely taught me a lot, but the finished product is exactly what I dreamed of. 

Brandyn Killz: Take me through your songwriting process. For me, it takes a village. How do you make it all sound so perfect and so easy?

Bryce Bowyn: I would say I start with a concept. I take tons of notes on my phone. Whenever I think of a good lyric or concept, I write it down. Then I’ll go for a walk or something that doesn’t require too much focus and the melodies start to pour out. From there, I’ll sit down at the keyboard and find the chords. 

Bryce Bowyn: “Losin’ It” is such a banger. I can’t wait to see a crowd lose their mind to it once we are all safely able to party together again. What inspired that track? 

Brandyn Killz: OMG, I can’t wait to perform that song. It’s going to be wild. The song was inspired by a friend that was struggling with addiction. It was just my anthem to let him know that I’m always here fighting for you and I’m not gonna give up on you. A way to give him and anyone fighting the good fight a reminder that I’m your #1 fan and we can win this thing together.

Brandyn Killz: What’s the most challenging part of being an artist in 2021?

Bryce Bowyn: Being an independent artist in 2021 often feels like a Herculean task. You’re in charge of everything. You’re the talent, the producer, the writer, the manager, the promoter, etc. It can be very overwhelming. It’s important to remember to be kind to yourself.

Bryce Bowyn: What’s one non-music positive thing that you took away from the hell that was 2020?

Brandyn Killz: It’s been incredibly fun getting so much extra time with my husband while the world was falling apart. All the laughs, binge-watching, good food and quality time has made life consistently feel almost normal.

Brandyn Killz: I’m on pins and needles waiting for more of that ‘Bryce Bowyn’ sound. What do you have coming up that you’re most excited about?

Bryce Bowyn: Well, an EP is for sure on the way and I couldn’t be more excited. We just filmed the video for “Ruthless” and I think it’s going to be wild and unlike anything I’ve released yet. And I have some conversations brewing about live performances. Hopefully, with the right safety measures and whatnot, we can do some shows by the end of year. 

Bryce Bowyn: What made you want to create pop music? Is there a particular cultural moment that made you say “I want to do that”? 

Brandyn Killz: I’ve had such a huge love for music in general since I was young. But pop music and the fandom that comes along with it has always fascinated me. Michael Jackson. Beyonce. Lady Gaga. Britney. One Direction. The way their fans absolutely adore them. I just want to be loved. 🤣 But in all seriousness, seeing the power that music has to inspire, heal, hype, and change people is why I create.

Bryce Bowyn: And last but not least, it’s time to spill. What’s next for Brandyn Killz in 2021? 

Brandyn Killz: I am working on the title track for my next EP as we speak. It’s another banger and I’m really happy with the “dancier” sound that I’m playing around with these days. That should be out in late May. And I’m really hoping to be able to shoot a fun music video for it as well. 

About Brandyn Killz:

If you were to combine the soulful stylings of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, then mash them with contemporary electronic acts like Galantis, you’d end up with BRANDYN KILLZ.

Brandyn is a San Diego-based producer of what he dubs electronic soulpop, a fierce blend of pop and modern electro with tendencies echoed from the classics of the ‘70s and ‘80s. While electronic at heart, Brandyn’s music is built on a bedrock foundation of analog-meets-digital and incorporates a plethora of live instrumentation rooted in rich drums, along with detailed synthwork and edits. The result: ridiculously catchy tunes that are “all electronic & dangerously pop,” as his fans call them.

Intent on inducing feelings of empowerment and independence, Brandyn’s infectious songs are often anthemic in nature. For him, music serves as a form of release and escape; a place where he can be whoever he wants to be, and where he can invite his listeners to do the same, even if only for a moment. Above all, however, Brandyn desires to create something new, timeless and different in the LGBTQ+ community, which he is a proud member of. With every song he releases, he aims to bring his fans “Closer to Closure,” helping them navigate a positive headspace while dealing with heartbreak, loss, anxiety, and other complex emotions, and bring them back to the dance floor.

Brandyn is also a professional ghostwriter with tracks that have been featured on radio and top 40 albums. With 10 years of music production experience under his belt, his artistic persona serves as a brand new outlet through which he can showcase his unique approach to electro soulpop. He is currently preparing for the release of his next single “Losin’ It,” which is set for release on March 5.

Follow Brandyn Killz:

Facebook I Instagram I Spotify

About Bryce Bowyn:

Dance-pop singer-songwriter Bryce Bowyn has established himself as an unstoppable force in the industry thanks to his utterly hypnotic brand of uncensored, unfiltered dynamism.

Based in Washington, D.C., Bowyn’s anthemic electropop tracks have captivated audiences throughout the nation’s capital and beyond. Delivering story-focused songs like “Nostalgic,” a club-ready ode to romanticizing young heartbreak, and “Just Love Me,” a smash inspired by the beauty of queer nightlife entertainers, he effortlessly pulls listeners into his ethereal world and invites them along on an incredible journey of endless entertainment.

An innovative audiovisual artist and self-proclaimed horror buff, Bowyn ignites his tracks with esoteric and evocative music videos that provide a dark edge to his irresistibly sweet, addictive melodies. The demonic, skin-crawling bloodbath of “Nostalgic” and the sultry, mermaid-themed saga of “Cabana Boy” turn up the heat, showcasing the complex and expansive spectrum of the talented visionary’s extraordinary creativity.

Drawing inspiration from iconic pop legends like Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, Bowyn’s live presentations combine his infectious synth-driven tunes with high-octane spectacle. From his explosive performance at Pittsburgh’s 2019 PrideFest to the critically praised show BRYCE: Hydrogen Blonde (Capital Fringe 2016), he never fails to bring the house down with tight choreography and dazzling theatrics.

Bryce Bowyn is an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and has garnered high praise from outlets such as The Art of Being Queer, the Q Review, and Culture Fix. In 2021, he will continue his reign as one of the most brilliant figures in pop music today with the release of scintillating new singles and a bewitching EP, which promise to enthrall and mesmerize his fans all over again.

Follow Bryce Bowyn:

Follow Bryce Bowyn:

Facebook I Instagram I Spotify

Read more Music News on ClicheMag.com

(Left) Brandyn Killz photo credit Karina Broden (Right) Bryce Bowyn photo credit Clarissa Villondo 

Actress Connie Giordano Shines in “Mare of Easttown”

by

A Philly local, Connie Giordano delighted at the opportunity to play a character close to home – and opposite Kate Winslet, no less! Connie stars in Mare of Easttown as the titular character’s high school friend, Patty DelRasso, whose daughter quickly finds herself neck deep in the town’s murder mystery. Connie hopes Patty and Mare’s relationship can be further explored in later seasons. All the more reason we have our fingers crossed that Mare of Easttown will return for season two!

Cliché: Who or what encouraged you to pursue acting?  

Connie Giordano: I’ve been performing since I was a kid. My parents always encouraged me and my twin sister, we took piano lessons, dance, etc. My father has always been a tremendous support to me especially, and he’s not in the entertainment industry at all…he was in Insurance Sales and Real Estate. I have family members in the entertainment business. My second cousin, Patsy Grady Adams, was in Serial Mom with Kathleen Turner, and my cousin Denise Stout, is a performer in Chicago. So it’s in our genes! 

Tell us about your Mare of Easttown character, Patty DelRasso. 

Patty and her husband Tony own an Italian restaurant, DelRasso’s. She’s also a nurse. Our daughter Brianna attends the local high school. My character was a basketball teammate of Mare’s in high school. We’re part of a very close community in Delaware County. (Delco)

How would you describe Patty’s relationship to Mare? Do you think the fact that they grew up together gives her any kind of special insight?

Their relationship is something I’d love to explore in another season! I think there’s a mutual respect, but I’m not entirely sure how much respect.  I think their history provides insight for Mare, sure. She is pretty familiar with my daughter and how she’s been raised because of our high school relationship, and being in such a tight-knit community.  

 

The show delves into the dark side of the community and the secrets we all keep. How do you think Patti perceives her own role in Easttown?

 I think Patty assumes a matriarchal role to her daughter and her husband. I don’t necessarily agree with that personally in regards to her husband Tony, but I think she’s quite the “Mama Bear.”

What was your favorite scene to film?

Well, I filmed one that didn’t make it into the final cut, but that happens sometimes! Besides that, my scene with Tony and Mare outside her home when Tony approaches her to “talk.” 

What attracts you to murder mysteries? Did you ever think that Patty could have something to do with the multitude of crimes plaguing Easttown? 

Sure, why not? Everyone has a dark side! I love mysteries, and I loved the writing from Brad Inglesby because I never guessed correctly when I was reading each episode. I loved that!  Life has so few surprises; mysteries are a real treat! 

Kate Winslet has raved numerous times about the magic of Wawa. Did you get a chance to try it? 

Oh yes, I love Wawa. I grew up in the Philadelphia area, so I’m well-acquainted. Their food is always fresh since they have a dairy in Southern Chester County, and they have great coffee! 

Read more Celebrity Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Actress Connie Giordano Shines in “Mare of Easttown.” Photo Credit: Ken Volpe: www.transposure.com Hair and Make Up: Brittany DeCheine at D Cheine Beauty.

Emma Berman Shines Bright in Disney and Pixar’s Luca

by

There are a few achievements in an actor’s career that provide that “I’ve made it” feeling. Landing your first leading role, walking on a red carpet, winning an award are all obvious markers of this. However, one of the most underrated achievements is being able to lend your voice to  a character in a Disney and Pixar film. This is an accomplishment that 12-year-old actress Emma Berman can cross off of her bucket list. Emma stars as Giulia in Disney and Pixar’s latest feature film Luca, out now on Disney+

Luca, has been making a splash since its release on June 18th. Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, Luca is a quintessential coming-of-age story about a teenage sea monster boy, Luca, voiced by Jacob Tremblay, who finds a friend in a fellow teenage sea monster named Alberto, voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer. Alberto introduces Luca to the world of possibilities that is living on land. The two, joined by Emma Berman’s character Giulia, enjoy a summer of gelato, scooter rides, and ultimate adventure. 

 

 

While Luca marks the first Disney and Pixar film for Emma Berman, the actress is no stranger to voice acting. Since the age of 8, Emma has been voicing toys for the educational toy company LeapFrog. In addition to voice acting, she has appeared on stage in the Bay Area in productions of “Once” and “Gypsy” as well as in “A Christmas Carol” at the American Conservatory Theater. As a young performer who is dedicated to her craft, Emma’s future is bright and limitless. We were lucky enough to catch up with her to talk about Luca and much more! 

Cliché: What made you want to become an actor? 

Emma Berman: When I was 8 years old, I asked my mom to enroll me in a 2-week theater camp with the Bay Area Children’s Theater that was staging a production of Annie. I remember there were lots of little girls just like me there and we all wanted to get the part of Annie. It was very exciting to try out and even more thrilling when I got the part. It was the most incredible experience to perform in front of the audience. I got the theater bug and just wanted to keep doing theater from then on. 

You’ve lent your voice to so many different projects. What are some secrets you can share about what it takes to be a great voice actor? 

Emma Berman: I don’t know if I can really speak to what makes a “great” voice actor. I don’t think of myself as one, or maybe not yet, because there is so much more that I have to learn. But one thing that I really try to focus on with all of my auditions is making sure that I have really clear diction and that I have some specific emotions behind the lines. I always make multiple takes and listen back to see which one I like best. I try to make it funny by finding the beats and playing around with the speed of how I deliver the lines. Adding physicality when I say the lines helps me and I do it standing up.  For my very first voiceover project for LeapFrog, I had no training or coaching at all. I just read the script and my mom recorded it on her cellphone. For the last few years, I have been taking classes in performing arts, voiceover, and acting. I think the combination of this training definitely helped to shape me into a more versatile voice actor.  I love learning and discovering all the amazing things we can do with our voices.  

Cliché: Tell us about your new Disney and Pixar film, Luca.

Emma Berman: I am so excited for everyone to see this film! It is not like anything you have seen before. Luca is about the kind of friendships that change us, make us curious, and help us overcome our fears and conquer our dreams! It’s a story about the unforgettable summer adventures of three underdogs, Luca, Alberto, and Giulia, set on the Italian Riviera in the post-war era (the 50s and 60s time).  This film encourages kids who might not be very popular or think they don’t belong to accept themselves and all the aspects that make them who they are.  Luca is a very inspiring story, and the main three characters are very unique and empowering. I think the coolest thing we learn from this film is that we should open our minds and hearts and be accepting of others. We can then make new friendships that change our lives in the most unpredictable ways. 

Cliché: How do you relate to your character, Giulia?

Emma Berman: Giulia is about my age, 12 years old. She is a bit awkward and goofy, and she really wants to make new friends. She has a great deal of determination, but everyone thinks she is this weird kid who doesn’t belong. That’s how she and Luca connect, they both feel like outsiders. For Giulia, winning is important because that is her chance to prove herself. She really wants to be accepted and be looked at by everyone as the winner. I would say that I am similar to Giulia because she is super outgoing, she loves to make new friends and she has a hunger for adventure. I think I am also kind of goofy and determined and we both follow our dreams. Oh!! And we both have a cat! 

Emma Berman

Cliché: The story takes place on the beautiful Italian Riviera and your character Giulia is Italian. How did you prepare to voice a character with an Italian accent? 

Emma Berman: For the accent, I worked with the dialect coach Bettina Devin.  She is a lot of fun to work with! She is really funny and an incredibly talented actress and coach.  I also speak Russian at home which I think helps me pick up the accents in general. I also got the Babbel app on my phone to practice Italian words and was listening to Italian songs in the car. Before the recording sessions, my mom would take me out to get Italian food at the Trattoria da Vittorio, our local neighborhood restaurant in San Francisco and I would practice ordering in Italian. There are a lot of Italian food references in Luca and it was really fun and inspiring for me to discover so many pasta dishes and delicious flavors of gelato! 

Cliché: How does it feel to be in a film alongside other great actors like Jacob Tremblay, Maya Rudolph, and Jack Dylan Grazer?

Emma Berman: It totally feels like a dream. I feel immensely lucky and honored to have given my voice to Giulia. I have always been a Pixar fan and these are the movies I grew up watching. Not in a million years would I have ever imagined that one day I would hear my own voice coming out of a Pixar character or see my name next to all the incredibly talented actors.  It is really mind-blowing. I still can’t believe it!

Cliché: What’s your favorite Disney and Pixar film? 

Emma Berman: Ooooh this is the hardest question because I am a huge fan of all Pixar movies! Well, I guess I’ll have to go with Inside Out because it is set in my hometown San Francisco where I was born and raised so it is just a little more special for me for that reason. 

Cliché: What can we expect next from you? 

Emma Berman: I am currently recording at home for a fun new animated series project coming up soon and I can’t wait to share more when I can!

Read more Celebrity Interviews at ClicheMag.com
Images Provided by Tenley Clark

Mike Heslin Satirizes Pursuit of Social Media Stardom in New Mockumentary, “The Influencers”

by
Many of us dream of becoming an influencer. But how far would we go to achieve fame? What happens when we lose control of our manicured Instagram persona? Creator Mike Heslin affectionately parodies this scramble to the top in his new series, The Influencers, which follows a group of thirsty social media starlets as they battle it out for a brand deal. The Influencers is now available to stream internationally on Revry, the first LGBTQ+ virtual cable network.
 
Cliché: How excited are you to be able to have the opportunity to work with Revry? 
Mike Heslin: Super excited! As a queer filmmaker, it feels like a great fit since Revry is a LGBTQ network. One of my production company’s missions is to elevate LGBTQ+ stories, characters, and artists – so we are thrilled to find a new home and partner in Revry. 
Tell us about your new show, The Influencers.
The Influencers is a new satirical comedy series that follows six social media “stars” as they compete in a series of creative challenges under one roof for an exclusive brand deal with the latest millennial juice craze: Jücytox. As cameras capture each influencer in real life, the manicured versions they present to the world online implode before our eyes. Witty and fun with a dash of heartbreak, The Influencers combines the best of mockumentaries such as The Comeback and Best in Show with the latest obsession-worthy reality TV formats to provide a satirical behind-the-scenes look at the lengths people will go to in their quest for (insta)fame. 
 
What about the influencer world lends itself to the mockumentary format? 
Everything! Influencer culture is all about a perceived, curated “reality”, so the idea of a show within a show where we get to see both the filtered versions they present online as well as what they are like in reality when they can’t perfectly edit and manicure everything really tickled me. For people who so carefully curate their image, I thought it was a compelling and interesting idea to see what these people would actually be like if you put them in a big-brother style house where they no longer have control of the edit.  
Influencers are often stereotyped as vain and superficial, which is perfect for parody. Are any of the characters inspired by your own experiences or interactions with influencers? 
Some of them but I can’t reveal which characters! I was between acting gigs and was freelancing for a social media agency working as a social media director and creative director. Casting and contracting influencers was part of my day to day and while there are tons of influencers out there who are super intelligent and incredibly business savvy, I happened to work with a few that were gorgeous, sweet, but who were lacking any real skillset. I started to wonder what would happen if these individuals had to prove themselves in a real public forum and how they would fare on an unfiltered platform where you couldn’t perfectly curate your persona. Thus the inception for The Influencers was born! 
 
Would you say you’re attempting to poke fun at the influencers or humanize them? Or a bit of both? 
It’s satire, so a bit of both. Most of us are active participants in today’s social media culture in some shape or form, so I think it’s important to be self-aware, to laugh at ourselves and to not take everything so seriously. 
What do you think it says about the current state of our society that everyone is so obsessed with follower counts? 
I don’t think it’s a new phenomenon. I think with or without social media, everyone just ultimately wants to be liked and respected. That being said, social media certainly can exacerbate the need to be liked and can be very polarizing (especially in times of political turmoil and a pandemic). I worry about the effect it has on our youth who are being raised in an era of unrealistic standards, but ultimately would argue that social media connects us and brings us together despite all of the negative attributes that can come with it, and connection is always a good thing. I feel connected to more people and like checking in with and keeping tabs on distant relatives or old friends from back home that I probably would have lost touch with had I not had social media. I also think it can be a great tool to market and educate but again, it definitely is a double edged sword. 
 
Does the show examine what drives people to want to become social media influencers? 
It more so examines what comes with online fame and the lengths people will go to to achieve it. It also examines what happens when you put someone who essentially doesn’t have a real skill set in coveted positions of power and/or responsibility. 
 
If you were an influencer, what kind of content would you make? 
I try to do my part to help advocate and educate for my LGBTQ+ community online already, but if I could be any kind of influencer I’d want to be a travel influencer. Getting paid to jet set around the globe and stay in five-star hotels in different countries doesn’t sound like the worst job in the world.
 
Read more Celebrity Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Mike Heslin Satirizes Pursuit of Social Media Stardom in New Mockumentary, “The Influencers.” Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mike Heslin.

 

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

by

            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.

Read more Celebrity Interviews on ClicheMag.com
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”

by
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.”
 
Read more Celebrity Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Filmmaker M.H. Murray Examines The Anxiety of Modern Dating in New Short Film, “Ghost.” Photo Credit: Courtesy of M.H. Murray.