Start-up Spotlight // May 19, 2014

Sisters Kimberly and Wendy Willming finish each other’s sentences. Like a lot of other sisters, they have cultivated a short-hand language over a lifetime together. But even considering their 26 years together, these sisters have an uncanny understanding of one another. They’re twins, and though they’re technically fraternal, they look so much alike that it’s unsettling upon first meeting them. The Willming sisters not only grew up together, but they were college roommates. Today, the two currently live together in Los Angeles and have recently embarked on a creative and strategic adventure together. After a handful of years spent behind-the-scenes at some of the city’s major studios, Kimberly and Wendy have launched Duplicity Studios. A new media one-stop shop.

These ambitious and entertainment savvy twins are developing their own productions, but more than that, Duplicity is art house new media studio. The duo are crafting strategic partnerships and original content for hungry, entrepreneurial brands. With an entertainment industry so deeply cemented in traditional milieus, these two are carving out a new path by bridging classic aesthetics with new ideas.


Kimberly and Wendy are the human manifestation of yin and yang: Wendy’s business and strategic tendencies compliment Kimberly’s creative concepts and acumen. It is this prolific and dynamic style that has carried through to Duplicity’s latest short film (having just wrapped production as of this writing). Alongside that, they are currently collaborating with a multi-faceted local Los Angeles art gallery and think-tank iam8bit for whom they are honing brand strategy and developing content. Wendy notes, “[iam8bit] fully respects our use of mixed media and cinematic flair. Our work with them has been about capturing their daily routine. We wanted to capture how owners Jon Gibson and Amanda White work together in this labor of love.” With iam8bit, Duplicity Studios is helping shepherd the journey of a company whose roots are in the video game industry (hence the name) to that of a full-fledged creative studio that spans across creative marketing, production, products, and events.

MW: How long has Duplicity Studios been incubating?

Wendy Willming: It’s been in the works for a while. Ever since we moved out here, we’ve been wanting to do this but we really needed the studio experience first.

Kimberly Willming: A lot of it is learning the industry and, between both of us, we feel like we can do just as well with all the knowledge we’ve gained to start doing our own thing.

MW: How would you describe Duplicity?

WW: What we want is our platform to display our own works, but it’s also a creative way for us to explore the city and—

KW: And work with other artists around town. We’re going to produce content for others and it’s also a way for us to expose the elements of the entertainment industry that we’re passionate about. We’re starting with this short film we just wrote, directed, and produced. For our clients though, they have a history and it’s all about how they want that to be seen.

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MW: Can you tell me about your short film?

KW: It’s a three-and-a-half-minute Sci-Fi short. It has a very stylistic approach in the vein of Jean Pierre Jeunet in feel and tone. It’s about a female android who, one night, explores something about herself that she didn’t previously realize she could do. It’s a kind of a slice of life, if you will.

WW: It was magical the way everything came together for us on the shoot. We shot at Ray’s Diner near Santa Monica.

MW: Who is an ideal client for Duplicity?

KW: What ultimately we’re looking to evoke [for any of our clients] is that old Hollywood feel but with a modern spin. Streamlining the old and the new.

WW: Definitely brands with that entrepreneurial spirit.


MW: How are you finding the life-work balance of start-up life?

KW: Late nights. Early mornings. But it’s so fun!

WW: Working the nine to five can be so draining emotionally and creatively, so then to know that you have something that you’re managing and you’re passionate about more than anything...it really helps the day to day.

MW: What is unique about your clients?

WW: They work in different mediums. They show prints in their galleries, they make tangibles, they do events. We’re always able to learn from them while at the same time helping them to figure out what and who they are as a company.

KM: They’re niche.

MW: What differentiates you from other studios or media agencies?

KW: We have a very clean style. And the fact that we also will produce and shoot on film in addition to digital. Everyone has a nostalgic feel lately.

WW: That classic Hollywood look never gets old.

KW: Everyone has predicted the demise of film, but really it’s just about having the knowledge. Digital is great, but I don’t think film has gone away completely—and shouldn’t. And by combining the two [digital and film] you can create a unique experience.

MW: Where will you be in a year from now?

KW: In a year, I would like to have our feature done (script-wise) and start financing it. And also as far as clients go, a trust of brands within the city—

WW: Just having great creative collaborations.


Published in Entrepreneurship

Entertainment // January 27, 2014

At Made Woman, we’re always on the lookout for artists that make us sit up and take notice. Great music is made only by those of equally great stature and initiative. As the calendar turns over another year, our eyes and ears are refreshed. We eagerly anticipate those who will define the musical landscape of 2014.  We’re betting these five ladies below will be making this year their own. These are the Top 5 Female Artists to look out for in 2014:



Artist: Yuna

Why she’s Made: Yuna is a Los Angeles-based artist with Malaysian roots bringing a sultry and emotive quality to today’s pop music. Her sound fits into the music annals alongside others like Sia and Corinne Bailey Rae. She can sometimes be as sweet as sunshine, and at others, pull at your heart with the sweet aching nature of her crystalline voice. Yuna began her career with the help of MySpace in 2006, catching the ear of US music labels. Undeterred by the lack of instant mainstream success, Yuna has continued to push forward in the music scene the last nine years, both releasing LPs and EPs and working with music mavens like Pharrell, along the way.  She spent the later half of 2013 finally making waves with the release of her latest Nocturnal album, so look for Yuna to take over the music scene in 2014.  







Artist: Birdy

Why she’s Made: You might not know her by name, but chances are you (and 54MM other people) have heard her cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love”. Birdy, also known as Jasmine van den Bogaerde, can make you feel bad about yourself without even really trying. At just 17 years old this Brit made a splash with her beautifully epic record of covers, and this year she is back to enchant with an entirely original album including a track from The Hunger Games soundtrack. She was recently featured on the star-turning Morning Becomes Eclectic program on Los Angeles’ taste-making KCRW radio station.

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Artist: Angel Haze

Why she’s Made:  Angel Haze is the benefactor of so many musical talents you’d be inclined to think she had multiple personalities. She has innate abilities as a hard-driving rapper and lyricist and is an equally pure vocalist. It is a duality which makes me, of course, think of another phenom: the talented Ms. Lauryn Hill. At 22, Detroit-native Haze looks no more than 15 because -- you guessed it -- she has the face of an angel. An embattled childhood, an independent mind and an unflinching desire for the world to hear her music are what fuel Angel Haze. She recently leaked her own studio debut Dirty Gold ahead of its release. You’ll be thanking her that she did.







Artist: Angel Olsen

Why she’s Made: Another “Angel” tops our list for 2014. Though she, too, often uses music to exorcise some of life’s most tormenting demons, this Angel finds her home in the singer-songwriter genre. There is no pretense about Chicago-based singer-songwriter Angel Olsen. Her style moves counter to the trends of today’s soundscape -- raw, stripped-down and beautifully underproduced. I had the pleasure of seeing her live last year, and Olsen’s performance was beautifully understated belying her grand voice. A voice that is both staggering and unique; and untrained in the best way possible. It sits somewhere comfortably between an operatic belt and the country call of a yodel. Witnessing her natural display, the range and fluidity of her swoons and croons, is spiritual. Her presence will be in no shortage this year as her sophomore LP Burn Your Fire For No Witness is out February 18th.







Artist: Elli Ingram

Why she’s Made: The second Brit on our list occupies the space between AlunaGeorge and Amy Winehouse. Her cadence is playful and her sound is jazzy ala Winehouse on her freshman effort Frank; but Ingram additionally introduces buoyant elements of early 90’s R&B. Last year after covering Kendrick Lamar’s “Poetic Justice” and releasing a take-notice EP, Sober, Ingram signed to Island Records (also home to the late, great Ms. Winehouse). In 2014 the sky's the limit for this import.

Published in Entertainment
Tuesday, 26 November 2013 09:06

MW Behind the Scenes | Marni Epstein


Name: Marni Epstein
Occupation: Writer
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Twitter handle: @PoorGirlGuide
What is your favorite piece of clothing? Why?: My mint green skinny jeans. As a kid I made fun of grandma's obsession with mint green but somehow it has become my signature color as well. I now know why she loved it so much - green is a redhead's best friend.

“Do what you love, the rewards will follow.” So say the career advice books and motivational speakers. And more: “Work for free” and “Internships are key” and “Do favors without looking for anything in return.”

That’s all well and good in theory. But it wasn’t practical. And it didn’t apply to me, as a real person, in the real world, having to pay rent, credit card bills, buy groceries and all the rest. That was until two years ago, when I found a way to ground those fanciful ideas and charted a new career, leaving my desk job behind. Now, as a music journalist I find each day infinitely more stimulating and fulfilling. Concurrently, I am also pursuing my own personal writing projects which have always been the motivation behind my career switch; I will be completing and publishing my first novel in 2014. Through it all, here’s what I’ve learned:

Internships Aren’t Just for College Kids

It’s true. While still working at my 9-5 digital media job in my cubicle at a film studio (what my mom still refers to as a “real job”), I applied for writing internships with music blogs. These positions allowed me to work remotely, at any time of day (while looking busy at my “real job” or in the middle of the night). There was no office “face time.” The only rule was to do good work and get it in on time. In an increasingly digital age, there are more and more opportunities to work remotely and on your own schedule.

Cast A Wide Net

I applied for dozens of writing positions just to find one. I spent hours researching every blog and magazine that was or even might be hiring music bloggers. I created spreadsheets keeping track of the positions, the contact persons and my introductory and follow-up emails. I should have been paid for this.

No Money, No Problems.

It’s funny, the things you can talk yourself into. I simply acknowledged the fact that I would not be paid for this internship, and for likely anything I did in this new field for 6 months to a year. If you set reasonable expectations with yourself, you will never be disappointed.

Just Say Yes

Favors are what make the world go round. I wrote everything my bosses requested. Even if I didn’t like the band, the genre, or the angle of the story, I just said “yes.” Now, the publications I write for are coming to me with extended coverage and column ideas to get me paid. As my name as a music reviewer circulated on the internet, I started receiving requests for reviews from managers, artists, PR agencies and music shows. And again, I just said “yes.”  So a couple weeks ago when HuffPost Live Music asked me to appear as a commentator on their webcast I wasn’t thinking, “am I going to get paid for this?” I just said yes to the opportunity to expand my talents, my professional development and my brand.

As I move forward, I continue to cast a wide net, I believe the most dangerous thing we can do is fall into the trap of complacency. 2013 brought more changes for me than just a career shift, I also returned to school to pursue a Masters in Historic Preservation. So now, as I look to the future and the progress I have made in writing, I look to ultimately bridge all my interests together and focus on expanding my creative works to include historical fictional. Day to day though, discovering, discussing, and analyzing new music is what I do best. You can find my work here, and on a host of Los Angeles-based Blogs and webcasts. For more information you can contact me on Twitter or at my website. 

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Published in Current

Entertainment // October 7, 2013

DJ Lady Sha isn’t afraid to throw off the yoke of tradition in favor of the road less traveled. She is a genre-defying trailblazer in the male-dominated world of DJ-ing. Originally set on a course to study medicine at UC Berkely, Sha bucked medical school for a life of turntables and dance floors -- and she hasn’t looked back. She is an award-winning, globe-trotting entrepreneur whose diligently cultivated and eclectic sets helped her to become the first female to win the Winter Music Conference DJ Spin-off (2008). Although based in Los Angeles, Sha’s drive and spinning prowess has taken her the world wide to New York, Miami, Jamaica, and South Africa, where in 2004 she was the first woman to spin live on South African air waves. I got the chance to chat with Lady Sha after she DJ’ed the Made Woman 2 Year event:


1. Was music a big presence in your home growing up?

Lady Sha: Always, thanks to my Mom and Dad! Whether waking us up with music on weekend mornings or playing it in the car, we were always listening to something. Back then it was a mix of my mom’s favorites from Persian music to Elton John, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, etc...  or my Dad’s choice – anything on KCRW.


2. What/who is your music guilty pleasure?

Lady Sha: I love such a huge range of music from pop to underground, hip hop to dance music, and even country jams that I don’t consider anything a guilty pleasure. Most days I’m digging through hundreds of new and old mp3’s to see what I want to include in my sets, so when I have time to listen to music for pleasure, I just go with whatever I’m in the mood for at that time. On my runs, I like to listen to hip hop and dance music for example. In the car after a long night, I like to listen to KCRW late-night or a country station, something completely different than what I was just playing at an event for four hours.


3. What piqued your interest in DJ-ing?

Lady Sha: I didn’t even know I WAS interested in DJ-ing a little over a decade ago. While I was at UC Berkeley as an undergrad studying Pre-Med & Anthropology, my neighbor happened to be DJ Phatrick. He asked me to sit in on one of his DJ courses on campus. At first I told him I was too busy – not only with school, but with my hobbies as a guitarist, singer, and member of the UC Berkeley Poetry Slam team. With his convincing though, I sat in on his class and fell in love from that moment on. Two weeks after the course ended I bought my own turntables.


4. As an award-winning DJ, and co-partner on various events in LA, what advice can you offer to other female entrepreneurs?

Lady Sha: I think the most valuable advice I can give is to have clear focus on where you’d like to go, make sure your entrepreneurial signature is creative and original -- or improving upon what already exists -- and have a phenomenal work ethic to achieve your vision.


5. Do you find it difficult to make a mark in a scene so traditionally dominated by men?

Lady Sha: DJ-ing more frequently and working around the clock to showcase my style and abilities at gigs and with mix CDs, my mark slowly became increasingly noticeable and present in Los Angeles. Now to expand that to the world...

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6. Music in general is pretty integrated, why do you think DJ-ing skews so male?

Lady Sha: The pioneers of hip hop and dj-ing were male and to quote the film Miss Representation, “you can't be what you can't see”, so I think it took some time for females to break into dj-ing. I hear about so many more females DJ-ing now than 10 years ago. There’s a snowball effect of more and more females entering the industry and finally evening out the playing field!


7. You’ve traveled near and far DJ-ing, what’s your favorite city to DJ in? Why?

Lady Sha: I’ve had a ton of fun at DJ gigs in New York, Miami, Rome, Vegas, and San Francisco as well as in countries such as South Africa and Jamaica. However, nothing is as amazing as a popping dance floor in LA filled with the intense energy of my friends and people that have danced to my sets over the years.


8. Have you found that musical tastes differ in the club scene around the world?

Lady Sha: Not only do musical tastes differ in club scenes around the world, but also from club to club here in LA and from night to night in each venue. One night you may have a hip hop crowd, another night a dance music crowd, and on another night, a crowd that wants to go on a genre-hopping journey with the DJ of the night.


9. What’s your favorite genre to spin?

Lady Sha: My absolute favorite thing to do when I DJ is to play for a crowd that will let me take them on a ride through different genres from hip hop to trap, dubstep, dance music, indie-rock, and hip hop and R&B jams from the 80s and 90s. I’m not happy having to stick to any one genre.


10. Is there one song that without fail always gets a crowd going?

Lady Sha: Show Me Love – Robin S.  The only variable is what I pair before and after the song that affect the impact the song has on the crowd.


Since her new and improved website launches in early November, it’s easy to stay up to date on all of DJ Lady Sha’s happenings including daily updates on her performance schedule and new videos and mixes. But in the meantime to get your fix, you can check out Sha on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Published in Entertainment
Monday, 23 September 2013 04:12

Made Music | The Singer and The Songwriter

Made Music // September 23, 2013

Rachel Garcia and Thu Tran are The Singer & The Songwriter. The duo’s California-folk whimsy updates the swinging sounds of the gypsy jazz of the 1930s and ‘40s; a style that even in its heyday marched to its own beat, so to speak. Garcia’s sultry and booming jazz vocals are the anchor of the duo. A choir singer from a young age, it’s no wonder where Garcia learned to develop her standout voice. I first stumbled upon the duo at the modest 2nd Annual Make Music LA event in Silverlake earlier this summer. The acoustic event was little more than a rug to stand on for the would-be troubadours of the day. It was difficult to hear the day’s acts above the careening shopping carts and murmurs of the Friday afternoon weekend seekers; but Rachel Garcia was not only heard -- she put an exclamation point on the day with her richly textured voice.



 

As independent musicians in this niche genre, it’s fitting then that The Singer and The Songwriter display a special kind of moxie and are charting their own course without the backing of a major label. "There are a lot of unknowns and fear in being an independent artist, but the other side of the coin is the creative freedom [...] I get to choose who I want to be, what I want to sing and how I want to present myself.  The effect that this freedom has is you learn to trust and rely on yourself and your band mate." Garcia and her partner in crime,“Songwriter” and guitarist, Thu Tran began playing together in 2009 in San Francisco. After, a move to Los Angeles the duo hit their stride and have spent the last two years writing and recording. The Singer and The Songwriter are now primed to release their first full-length album, What A Difference A Melody Makes. Just recently the outfit launched their Kickstarter campaign in an effort to put the finishing touches on their LP. The ingenuity and creativity of The Singer and The Songwriter are what enable the duo to carve out a path distinctly and charmingly their own. 

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The wildcard that also makes The Singer and The Songwriter one to watch in the folk scene is the album’s producer, Charlie Stavish. Stavish has worked on albums for bands such as Imagine Dragons, Foster The People, and The Joy Formidable. With a delicate hand to polish off the album, The Singer and The Songwriter could be ready to breathe new life into LA’s folk scene.

Published in Entertainment
Wednesday, 21 August 2013 15:42

Made Music | Where Are They Now?

Entertainment // August 26, 2013

1999 seems like just yesterday -- until I’m reminded that it was, in fact, fourteen years ago. Fourteen! The Thong Song was a whole high schooler ago. Remember how huge Sisqo was and how he was going to be the biggest R&B star, well, probably forever (obvi)? I vividly remember watching his MTV “Making the Video”...yes, fourteen years ago. Sigh. Well, things didn’t quite turn out like either of us planned it, did it Sisqo, old buddy?  So that got me thinking -- what black hole do all our favorite artists of yesteryear get sucked into when they violently tumble from the Billboard charts? And what on earth are they up to these days? Let us explore the goings on of five of the biggest names from different genres -- that you haven’t heard of since middle school graduation.

HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH

Hootie & the Blowfish were ubiquitous in the 1990s. They were nearly synonymous with adult contemporary rock at the time. There were those guys that did the theme song for “Friends” -- and there was Hootie and the Blowfish. That was it. But what happened to Hootie and all his Blowfish -- or should I say Darius Rucker and his bandmates? Well the band’s drummer, Jim Sonefeld battled his demons with alcohol and is now a Christian artist. Rucker himself also did an about face, though not as a Christian artist. Rucker has been releasing country albums for the last handful of years. He cautiously promises that Hootie and the Blowfish will be back though one day. A new album is something, he’s certain, the future will  hold -- though reunion dates have yet to be set.

COOLIO

I was obsessed with Gangsta’s Paradise in sixth grade when it came out. Coolio was, in fact, the coolest. But then Coolio and his Medusa-like braids vanished faster than the Greek lady-monster could turn onlookers to stone. More recently, Coolio has been using ‘90s nostalgia to stage a career comeback for himself in reality television. With appearances in Ultimate Big Brother, Wife Swap, and the UK game show Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (how did you not DVR this one?), Coolio has quickly become the Ryan Seacrest of bad reality TV.

LFO

Remember them? You know, that band made up of initials from the 1990s? They talked about liking girls who wore Abercrombie & Fitch. LFO were the poor girl’s 98 Degrees, who were really the poor girl’s ‘NSYNC so....yeah. Okay, let’s try this to jog your memory: lead singer Rich Cronin at one point dated Jennifer Love Hewitt and penned their song Girl on TV for her. Well, not surprisingly, LFO ran its short-lived course and the band went its separate ways. The band did reunite for a ‘90s nostalgia tour featuring other pop bands of the day, in 2009. These days, “Lyte Funky One” Brad Fischetti is a vocal pro-life advocate in Florida. Lead singer Cronin was unfortunately diagnosed with Leukemia and succumbed to his illness in 2010.

SISQO

We mentioned a few weeks back how much we’d enjoy seeing a Dru Hill resurgence, but do you ever wonder what happened to its shooting star, Sisqo? Sisqo shot to fame faster than you can snap a thong with the summer anthem of 1999 that was every mother’s favorite song to hear their 9 year-old sing, Thong Song.  His initial album, Unleash the Dragon was such a success that Sisqo decided to make a Dragon trilogy. Sadly, he was actually the only one who wanted more. To temper the sting of being out of the spotlight, Sisqo took part in Celebrity Big Brother in 2010. His purported third album of the trilogy, the ironically titled, Last Dragon, was slated for release in 2012, but has yet to see the light of day. As of the beginning of this year the album was again rumored to be coming out this summer...but now here we are now almost in September and the only Dragons I've seen this summer belong to Khalessi.

LISA LOEB

Lisa Loeb was the adorkable manic pixie dream girl for slightly awkward, mostly nerdy guys everywhere, before "manic pixie dream girl" was even a term. With her black framed glasses, petite stature, and coquettish affect, Loeb made weepy sentimentalists of teens and twenty-somethings everywhere with her acoustic guitar. If you saw Reality Bites, or listened to the radio in the ‘90s you probably remember her smash hit, Stay (I Missed You). Loeb fell off the map as the ‘90s progressed despite her continued stream of album releases.  In 2006 she resurfaced -- looking unchanged from 1994 with her signature eyewear -- to take part in her own reality show, Number 1 Single, wherein she searched for love in the big city. Loeb has since married, had two children, released children’s music, and earlier this year put out her first adult album since 2004, entitled No Fairy Tale.

Published in Entertainment
Monday, 17 June 2013 01:25

Entertainment | Best Breakup Songs

Entertainment // June 17, 2013

Sharon and Ozzy. Chris Brown and Rihanna. Katy Perry and John Mayer. Something is in the air but it certainly isn’t love. The music world is uncoupling at a staggering rate. With these couples heading for the door, we couldn’t help but put together a comforting list of the Top 5 Best Breakup Songs. Whether breakups make you want to seek isolation in a dark room for a good cry over a carton of Ben & Jerry’s, or they make you so angry you could throw some sh*%, we have the best of both worlds right here.


5. MoneyGrabber - Fitz and The Tantrums

Money. Success. Both are notorious relationship-killers. You can kiss your sponge of an ex goodbye with this Fitz and the Tantrums tune playing as your own personal soundtrack. With a sound that masterfully marries Motown and new wave, lead singer, Michael Fitzpatrick, warns, “Don’t come back anytime / I’ve already had your kind / this is your pay back, moneygrabber. Don’t come back anytime / you’ve already run me dry / this is your pay back, moneygrabber.” Oozing with soul and an unforgettable melody, the heat from this track is palpable. Let Fitz and the Tantrums show your ex the door the way you had always wanted.


4. Go Your Own Way- Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac’s album Rumors is a veritable vinyl pu pu platter of break-up songs. The 1977 album was the soundtrack for the divorce of members John and Christine McVie, for the breakups of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, and for one succession from the band. All of this added up to a lot of broken hearts and one of the most critically lauded records of the latter half of the century. From “Dreams” to “Songbird,” the album is rife with breakup songs to choose from. Buckingham penned the track “Go Your Own Way” about the dissolution of his relationship with Nicks. While thoughtful and honest, the song comes up just short of sentimental, and is his final emotional and driving release of Nicks. Quality time with this seventies classic rock anthem will get you through some tough times.


3. F**K You - Cee Lo Green

When you’re really angry, you may as well just come out and say it. Radio edits aside, there is no way to hide from the title of this Cee Lo summer groove. “F**K You” might just be the most uplifting song about a breakup you will ever find. If any song can help you dance your way out of your post-breakup funk, it’s this one. If your ex is too caught up in the superficial to see what a catch you really are, then maybe it’s time to make like Cee Lo and say...uh, “goodbye.”


2. You Oughta Know - Alanis Morissette

Before Kelly Clarkson, P!nk, and Fiona Apple, came Alanis Morissette, serving as the creator of the “woman with a bone to pick” genre. Jagged Little Pill was 1995’s open letter to double-crossing men from Morissette. Power, anger, and biting language was - in the music scene - foreign coming from a woman at that time. The brash Morissette burst onto the scene with more than just irony. I still remember the day I found out Jagged Little Pill’s most potent track, “You Oughta Know”, was about Morissette’s soured romance with everyone’s favorite Uncle Joey - Dave Collier. I never watched Full House the same way again.


1. Love Is A Losing Game - Amy Winehouse

Regardless of mood, music is the soundtrack to our lives. Few singers or songwriters have the emotional vulnerability or resonance of Amy Winehouse. In her songs, much like in her life, she was not afraid to paint an honest, and sometimes unpleasant, portrait. “Love is a Losing Game” is a beautiful, heart-wrenching love song drenched in melancholia. Its arching string arrangements are breathtaking. At only 2:49 in length, this brutally honest look at love and loss is epic. This track comes off her Black to Black album, which chronicles her turbulent relationship with not-quite-then-husband Blake Fielder-Civil, and is thus stacked with breakup songs.  If you’re looking for a good cry, however, look no further than this timeless song from a timeless voice. No one understands your pain quite like Amy Winehouse did.



Published in Entertainment

MW of the Month // June 3, 2013

Have you ever felt stifled or struggled to find your own voice? What if you weren’t allowed to make your own life choices, or even choose your own spouse? Surprisingly enough, it is not uncommon to find women still desperately seeking to make their voices heard and make their own decisions in America today. Machismo ideals, rooted in old world culture, have certainly had a lasting impact, and no one knows that better than Shelly Ulaj. Since 2008, Shelly has been helping women find an environment where they can uncover the strength and freedom needed to express their voices.

Shelly (originally born Shqype), is of Albanian descent and grew up in a sheltered Albanian neighborhood in Yonkers, New York. Her family was deeply rooted in the traditions and male-dominated culture of their homeland. She didn’t even learn English until she started school.  She had two older brothers and she often found her basic privileges denied and opinions overlooked.  She remembers, earnestly praying and wishing that she were a boy.

Little in her life was under her control and she struggled under the bonds of her cultural heritage. When she was 16, Shelly quickly found herself headed toward a semi-arranged marriage with a man she had only encountered once. Can you imagine? She developed an eating disorder as a way of asserting control in the only arena which was her own: her body. But even that only went so far; 16-year old Shelly was still expected to play the role of the doting, silent, Albanian wife.

Shelly moved to Los Angeles and began married life.  As she suspected, it was a marriage not of love, but of obligation. Her one salvation was her husband’s promise to let her get an education. She attended college and then pursued a degree in law as means of distraction from her rollercoaster of depression and anorexia. After nine years of a marriage, Shelly saved up enough money from her work as a paralegal, and formulated a game plan to end her marriage. Living in motels for the first two months, she reflected on her own life. She found herself thinking that her experiences couldn’t be unique. Other women must also be struggling to find the self-confidence, comfort in their own skin, and empowerment to establish their own identities in society. This sparked an idea for a business, and with that Shelly established Women Empowered (WE). At first it was just a social group among “like-minded” friends, but with Shelly’s foresight and law background, the group eventually took on a life of its own and became a full-fledged non-profit organization.

With her immense drive and persistence, and the help of of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, Shelly has built WE into a collection of diverse members ranging from college-aged women to grandmothers. It consists of singles, married women, professionals, and entrepreneurs, all with common bonds and a singular goal to promote empowerment and enrichment for each other and for other young women. With mentor and volunteer programs, WE emboldens women in underserved areas of Los Angeles. And with a focus on fulfillment and health in all areas of life, WE maintains a focus of physical well being with yoga days and a dedicated hiking club.

The work is never quite done for Shelly however; while already tirelessly working to give women their voice, Shelly has some lofty goals set for the coming two years. WE’s mentoring partnership is one of the things that makes Shelly proudest.  She would like to broaden the mentor program, and take it from a partnership with a like-minded organization to a full fledged, independent arm of WE. By becoming both a larger focus and more hands on project, Shelly will have the ability to reach more young women with her message.

The organization also just wrapped their 2nd annual WE Connect Networking Mixer for Los Angeles professionals. The event boasted guest speaker Reba Merrill -- a celebrity journalist, author and entrepreneur, as well as a moderated entrepreneurship panel.  “This was only our second annual WE Connect and I'm still on a high from it,” Shelly gushed three days later. The event is a dedicated forum where women can reach out to other aspiring and established entrepreneurs. It is an environment that cultivates the development of not only ideas, but the mindset and courage to move forward with those ambitious ideas.

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Despite all her struggles early on and the life choices that were imposed upon her, Shelly sees everything that she has been through as simply a means to an end. “I had a ‘choice’”, Shelly says of her marriage, “but not really as I felt pressured and saw this as my ticket to freedom.” And in fact it was this move to Los Angeles, and her subsequent education that gave her the strength she needed to escape the shackles of her cultural heritage. Seemingly undaunted by her past, today Shelly takes it as a learning experience. And when asked her if her previous marriage had soured her on the idea of such unions she was resolute. “No,” she said.  She could, in fact, see herself marrying once again. The difference this time however, is that there would be no illusion or cultural misconception that she needs a man to help find her way in the world. If it happened again, this time it would be a marriage of equals - a marriage based in love.

In just a few years, Shelly has embarked on a life adventure that she couldn’t have even imagined for herself at 16. Although she knew she had much more to offer the world at the at that age, she wasn’t quite sure how to carve out that path and make the world listen. Having channeled that unstoppable voice, Shelly envisions a future for WE that is bright and equally outspoken.

Published in Business
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 22:12

Style | Spring Fashion Must-Haves

Style // April 8, 2013 

After winter hibernation it’s no wonder we’re desperate to show off what we’ve got. As a result, spring brings us some of the most daring looks. To stay ahead of the fashion curve for this new season here are a few items to punch up your look. Whether you’re ready to jump off the deep end with us or just want to add a little flare to your wardrobe, we’ve got it all from Grandma’s best to Batgirl-chic.

Capes

Sure it’s not practical but batgirl is a look this spring. Everywhere you turned at the world's fashion weeks this year some waif was being crushed under the weight of her jacket which was supported with nothing more than her shoulders. Wearing proper capes, or draping a coat may not allow for much gesticulation or bodily articulation (Vogue says don’t even think about hugging your friend) but, capes are bold and make a statement of chic power. Thankfully Sunday brunching doesn’t require much movement and thus lends itself perfectly to your cape aspirations. Even newly ordained Pope Francis is embracing the cape trend.

Patterned Pants

Did you buy colored jeans? Yes. You bought all the colored jeans. Great. Perfect. But now we have a new pants trend. This spring brings us tailored (non-jean) patterned pants. From legging tight Chanel-inspired houndstooth to colorful floral work pants, this item goes day to night as easy as a little black dress. They can be flirty and also, elegantly fun for work. Wear them with flats for a day out shopping or with heels and an oversized blazer for a day at the office.

Steampunk Glasses

Steampunk is one of the most eye-catching genres in fashion. Rooted in the Industrial Revolution and revived a century later in Japan’s whimsical world of Gothic Lolita fashion, Steampunk bridges the gap between science, technology, fashion, and fantasy. In a perfect world when Robert Downey, Jr.’s Sherlock and Tim Burton design for Oliver Peoples-For-Target, this is what you would get. In short, Steampunk is the one stop shop for the thinking woman’s fashion revolution. This spring bring your fashion IQ up a notch with these metallic, circular frames.

Rock Glam

If Steampunk is too much of a leap for you, you can get a similar edge with another of this Spring’s trends. Rock Glam is hanging around for warmer temps this year. This typically leather-heavy trend is more for winter but who says you can’t wear your bright yellow mini skirt with some studded or buckle-laden heels?

Brocade

Brocade walks a fine line. It can either say “Look, I’m a walking 200 year old tapestry” or “I must have been aristocracy in another life.” Tread lightly, it is not the easiest thing to take what was probably once the pattern on your grandmother’s living room sofa, and wear it. But if you can - own it!



Items in main photo:

Roseanna Santa Floral Brocade Jacket
WAYF Gym Pants
VTG Style Round Lens 90s Steampunk Glasses

Published in Fashion
Friday, 22 March 2013 22:26

Entertainment | Bates Motel Review

Entertainment // March 25, 2013 

A&E attempts to prove it’s more than just the Storage Wars channel with its newest scripted thriller, Bates Motel, which is meant to serve as a sort of back story to the horror classic, Psycho. Most pilots suffer from exposition-overload to ensure the audience doesn’t feel lost. Fortunately, Bates Motel does not fall into that trap and thus makes for a swift-moving and intrigue-filled first episode. That said, it is a bit contrived and heavy-handed in its foreshadowing attempts. Those familiar with Psycho are painfully aware of the disturbed relationship Norman Bates had with his mother, which resulted in his killing and then dressing up as the dead matriarch (perhaps as a twisted token of his affection). Bates Motel could have left us wanting more by setting a trail of emotionally scarring bread crumbs leading from Norman’s adolescence to his pseudo-oedipal and homicidal adulthood throughout the season. Instead the show basically connects all those dots for us in its first 30 minutes.

The show stars everyone's favorite adorable British child actor, Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) -- now all grown up -- as Norman, and Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) as Norma ‘Mother’ Bates. We’re introduced to the Bates clan when Norman awakens from a nap with a suspicious feeling that something in his house is amiss. Sure enough, Norman finds his father in the garage, crushed under the weight of a fallen shelving unit. A panicked Norman runs to alert his mother, who is locked away in the bathroom, taking a shower. Norma takes her sweet a*s time cinching up her robe. She sighs a breath of beleaguered annoyance, and finally saunters on her merry way. It doesn’t take long to see something is very wrong with Mommie Dearest.

Six months later the twosome are starting anew in White Pine Bay, Oregon; a small, tightly-knit, coastal community. Norman, still mourning the loss of his father, is reluctant for the new start that his mother so desperately desires. With a glint in her eye, Norma shows off the rundown Victorian mansion and adjoining hotel she scored as a foreclosed property. Norman’s not so sure. And he is even less sure when the previous owner, Keith Summers, comes over to express his claims on the property, which he lost as a result of financial problems.

In an effort to make the best of his situation, Norman tries to be social. He takes his teacher’s advice to try out for the track team. Norman requests his mother’s permission to join at the candlelit dinner she’s prepared for him. Again, here we are overtly treated to the suggestion that Norman is more akin to Norma’s husband than her son, because really, who prepares a candlelit dinner with flowers for their child? Less than eager to sign his track team permission slip, ‘Mother’ lays on the guilt so thick about having just opened the new motel and needing Norman’s help that Norman relents. Their slight altercation at dinner leads Norman to sneak out to a party later that night, where he meets up with Bradley Martin, the coolest girl at school.

While Norman is out at the party, Keith Summers breaks into the Bates’ home, handcuffs Norma, and rapes her against the kitchen table, grunting “Everything in this house is mine”. Norman interrupts, mid-assault, and wallops Keith over the head with an iron. Keith collapses, momentarily unconscious, to the ground. As Norman searches for the First Aid Kit, Keith rouses, lumbering again towards Norma. She retrieves a knife, and as Keith goads, “You liked it”, Norma plunges the knife, repeatedly, into Keith’s distended beer gut.

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Rather than suffer the embarrassment of a sensationalized rape case, or the lost revenue from patrons too afraid to stay at the would-be rape and murder motel, Norma declares that the police will not be called. The two dump Keith’s body in the bathtub of one of their motel rooms. Some impromptu midnight motel renovations ensue in order to cover the evidence. While pulling up bloodied carpet, Norman finds a small notebook with anime type female figures drawn inside. Some chained up, some with needles in their arms, all frightened.  The unexpected activity summons the town police for a 2 AM check-in, whereby they miss the dead body in the tub by the narrowest of margins. After the Bates’ close call, mother and son set sail on the lake to drop the body in the water, proverbially washing their hands of this unfortunate incident. It is here that Norma confesses that all she has ever wanted for Norman was a stable, promising life. That was her dream. Though a nice thought, with a body count of at least one -- maybe two (daddy, anyone?) -- and a brewing oedipal complex to rival Hamlet, Norman is in for anything but.

We are left with the final scene where the images found by Norman in the notebook are brought to life. The audience is transported to a basement where a faceless girl is chained up, and a needle is injected into her abused, tired arm. Just as quickly as we arrived in the basement, the show cuts to black. Mission accomplished, appetite whet for episode two.

Published in Entertainment
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