This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Giving Back." In an effort to create social change, each day we will highlight one charity or non-profit organization, and provide information on how you can support them by giving back. Click here to read more!
“Never underestimate the power of a girl and her pen” is the motto for WriteGirl, a nonprofit that helps underprivileged girls find their voice, and hone their creativity through writing. Since they began in 2001, WriteGirl has made waves from LA to the White House, where Michelle Obama honored them with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program award - the highest national honor for such programs. The organization’s unique mentorship program is highly individualized, providing girls with one-on-one meetings and monthly writing workshops that explore poetry, creative non-fiction, songwriting, screenwriting, and more. During their twelve year history, 100 percent of the girls in their Core Mentoring program have gotten into college, many of them with full or partial scholarships. This is WriteGirl’s proudest accomplishment, despite the numerous plaques and medals that adorn their walls. As Keren Taylor, WriteGirl’s executive director, explains that there is nothing better than being able to “give a girl tools to be able to be positive and thrive and rise above whatever challenges she’s facing.”
Keren Taylor grew up in Vancouver, Canada, where she kept a list of the hundreds of books she read per year during her teenage years . After being recruited by her 9th grade teacher to help assess her high school’s summer reading list, they discovered how few women writers there were and even less books with female characters. In a recent Los Angeles Times interview, Keren explained, “That was the important moment for me in realizing the importance of women’s voices being heard by young people.”
It wasn’t until she was laid off from a corporate job that she found the time and inspiration to finally work on getting that voice heard. She always knew that she “wanted to do something that would be inspiring and something that would have meaning for others." So she began dipping into her savings to create her vision.
With Keren’s ambitious mindset, and previous experience with nonprofits (she helped start a literacy program for young girls while living in New York), she had no problem getting WriteGirl on its feet in LA. WriteGirl’s hands on approach to the often overlooked issue of literacy among teenagers is just another reason why this nonprofit is so successful, “[We] have a fun way to lure teens into writing is what makes us unique.”
Los Angeles has long struggled with high school dropout rates, usually hovering around 35 percent. WriteGirl has made it their mission to help young girls “get creative, get through high school, and get to college.” In 2004, WriteGirl launched the In-Schools Program, which currently serves four Los Angeles schools in Lawndale, Azusa, South Los Angeles, and Santa Clarita. Many of these students are foster youths, on probation, pregnant, or already mothers. Young girls in their situations rarely get the education and encouragement they need to stick it out through high school, let alone get into college, but with WriteGirl’s help they are able to develop self-confidence, critical thinking skills, and creativity that will provide them with endless opportunities. Many of these girls experience an ah-hah moment through WriteGirl’s program. In her CNN interview, Keren described these moments as, "eye-opening experiences that really give them a lot more hope about their future."
Along with being awarded the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program award from the First Lady, WriteGirl has received 58 book awards for their anthologies, including "You Are Here: The WriteGirl Journey" and "Bold Ink." Just this past month, Keren Taylor was named a CNN Hero for her incredible story. This year, 350 girls from 60 different areas in Los Angeles will be participating in WriteGirl’s mentoring program – the most they have ever had. Keren and the rest of the WriteGirl team are confident that all 350 girls will make it to college and they’ve got the track record to prove that they can do it.
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Remember last October when I was invited to LA Style Fashion Week? Well, they must have liked me, because I was invited to attend again and get a sneak peak into what will be the hottest trends for fall/winter ‘14. Once again, the LA Live Event Deck was packed with people all in attendance to celebrate the collections of the some of the biggest and brightest designers in fashion... and once again, your girl was in the building.
The marketplace area is loud and bustling with media, stylists and spectators chatting before the start of the shows. Even though it was all pretty similar to last year’s setup, this year’s opening ceremony did offer something a little different. Instead of just hosting fashion, there was also a silent auction with the proceeds going to support the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. I thought it was really cool for the event to not be one dimensional and only focus on the world of fashion. After shaking a few hands and taking a couple pictures, my tour of the marketplace was coming to an end and I was ready to get inside the runway rooms to see some fashion.
Before the show began, the Co-Founder and President of Style Fashion Week, Veronica Welch was joined by the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti to come out and say a few words. They were both extremely supportive of designers, media, models and everyone in between who gives their time to make these collections come together. Their encouraging words were the perfect upbeat tone that that the night needed before we dove head-first into fashion.
The first show of the evening was from fashion powerhouse, Ina Soltani -- welcomed back this year to display her fabulous 2014 collection. Her clientele includes celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Katy Perry, Kristen Stewart and more, all donning her designs. Her fall/winter collection was FIERCE. Black leather ruled the runway. Her style is best described as classic with a twist. She sticks to simple lines, but plays with texture; maybe adding a cut-out, pop of color or other accent to make her designs unique. This collection’s “rocker chic” accent was having her models walk the runway with leather crowns - how cool! Fall/winter fashion tends to be more muted with neutral, black and white color schemes, but Ina Soltani has found a way to make it edgy and I’m here for it!
Trend Alert: Leather will be big for fall, but when dressing for the season, try to find a way to mix bad ass leather with other feminine pieces. Add a peplum top to your leather leggings or pair a lace blouse under your leather jacket for a different feel.
The second and final show of the night was from Tatyana Khomyakova. Tatyana presented her own collection, Designs by Tatyana, as well as her collaboration with one of my favorite designers, Bettie Page. I LOVE this retro style of fashion. I like how even though it’s a vintage style, a modern woman can still wear it and make it feel fresh and new. The Tatyana collection was feminine, colorful and all about accessories as the models strutted down the runway with purses, gloves and hats - so chic! Tatyana’s collection challenges the thought that you can’t be bold during the fall/winter season with your fashion and I love that she incorporates color and patterns even though the season calls for more toned down styles.
Trend Alert: A black pencil skirts is a pin-up girl staple, but for the upcoming season, make it new by playing with color and adding a skinny belt. Also, consider adding satin gloves into your fall fashion wardrobe for a modern perspective on a vintage style.
LA Fashion Week’s Opening Ceremony was everything I thought it would be and I wasn’t disappointed. I had a blast mixing and mingling with everyone and I’m so glad I got to jump start my week with fashion.
If you're in LA, it's getting warmer and you can feel spring coming your way. If you're not in LA... Well, we're sorry. Either way, spring is coming and it's time to update your nail game. We asked our staff to share their picks for nail colors. Check out these great nail looks for spring!
I love a French manicure! It's the perfect nail look for every occasion, but I'm down to mix it up for spring! Instead of the traditional style, I could totally see myself rocking the multicolored tips. I love the pastels and how it's just the right amount of color without being overbearing. - Jasmin
This nail look is so cute to me! It's a softer color, but it still adds a bit of a pop. It's somewhere between a power blue and a turquoise, which I think would look good on brown skin. I think it's fresh and clean for spring. :) - Serena
These nails have been “spotted” on several of the models from New York Fashion Week. The dotted look is fun, cute, and easy to do yourself! Expect to see much more of this style come Spring, with bright colors and Easter pastels. - Ava
These nails are so pretty! After months of winter, it's exciting to get to wear bright pink, and the gold glitter really makes them pop. - Jillian
This is a fresh, fun take on the classic french manicure. This color duo is chic yet playful, but different combos will deliver different levels of intensity. I love that it's simple enough to do at home! - Lindsey
I love this Union Jack French. With the Olympics going on, it's fun to show some national pride on your nails. - Beth
I like a little bit of a design on my nails when I'm feelin' funky. Not something over the top, with chains and jewels hanging down but I do like a bit of creativity. Hey! Your nail bed is your canvas! This look is cute but not too much for work. - Serena
I LOVE coral! It's one of those universal colors that looks good on every skin tone and it's fun! I typically keep it as a mainstay for my pedicures during the warmer months, but I know it would look just as fabulous on my hands. - Jasmin
I love this look! The classic light pink works on several different skin tones and the girly nail art is subtle enough to wear at the office. It kind of reminds me of an Easter egg -- perfect for spring! - Lindsey
Strange things happen when fear takes over a community. People give up hope and the predators of the world win. A group of concerned individuals gathered this past Saturday, January 11th, in Santa Monica to combat this fear and come up with solutions to make Los Angeles safer for women. The event was the United States National Committee (USNC) for UN Women's Los Angeles Chapter 2nd Annual Special Assembly on "Safe Cities: LA" (#SafeCitiesLA). I attended, proud that Made Woman had been asked to host the live stream and social media content, and left inspired by a community’s dedication to making a better place for its women.
According to a CDC report released in 2013, 50% of women in California will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. Scary statistics like this are the reason the greater Los Angeles Chapter of USNC for UN Women was formed two years ago. Its goal is to educate the community about UN Women and its global projects; advocate and increase awareness about women’s issues like human trafficking, violence, gender-based poverty, and political equality. With the launch of the UN Women “Safe Cities” initiative, cities all over the world have begun discussing in depth how we can better the lives of women -- because, well, we’re awesome.
The room was packed with great exhibitors, entrepreneurs, and community leaders. The mayor of Santa Monica, Pam O’Conner, spoke near the beginning of the event about how important an initiative like this was to Santa Monica and proclaimed the day “UN Safe Cities Day” on behalf of the members of the city council. She challenged the women in attendance to step up and take part in local government.
Human trafficking survivor Cody Foute moved and energized everyone in the building with her story about overcoming years of abuse during her time as a teenage prostitute trapped in “the life.” She credited people in the community for saving her life and teaching her about self-worth. The theme of ownership within the community was set.
Everyone soon broke up into circle discussion groups and got down to the real work of figuring out how we can stop the proliferation of inequality for women in the LA area. Topics ranged from exploitation and bullying, to health and creative expression. Participants were able to rotate circle groups and take part in all of the discussions. Shared knowledge and real concern generated some great constructive dialogue and you could feel change in the air.
Some huge takeaways came during the panel discussion. Panelist Rohida Khan of the US Department of Homeland Security and Lt. Andrea Grossman of the LAPD gave the cold hard facts about the state of violence against women. But what I loved was that community members were able to dissect the issues and assemble new ideas for how the city around them should work. I was also able to interview the other partner organizations in attendance and was fascinated to see how hard people are working in the community to make life better for others. Organizations like POD (or Playground of Dreams) pairs kids with mentors and teaches them how to harness their talents and creativity. A few of the children involved in the program put on live performances, reminding everyone why it’s so important that we fix our communities.
The organization did a great job of bringing people together with constructive purpose. Efforts to support, encourage and elevate women are needed in all areas, but Los Angeles definitely needs special attention. As a woman, I appreciated everyone there and was glad Made Woman Magazine could be a part of the “Safe Cities” movement. Equality and safety for women and girls seemed a bit more in reach after this meeting of minds.
Soul artist Raquel Rodriguez is a Los Angeles native with a penchant for emotional vocal runs, a bright, driving style that will get your blood pumping, and for just being one of the ‘guys’. Rodriguez’s influences are a collection of both old and new school soul - from Sarah Vaughan to Adele -- and you can hear elements spanning the decades in all of her music. She blends the best of decades past with a modern surge. And with a seldom-seen-these-days six-piece ensemble, The Big Guys, backing her, Raquel has moved swiftly from self-titled EP in 2012 to debut LP release. An entrepreneur in her own right taking command of her career, Raquel is spirited woman with a mission to get her music out to the world. After recently releasing her first LP, Miss Me, on June 21, Raquel can take a moment to relish in her accomplishment. But just a moment, because there is no doubt that Raquel has plans to check a lot more off her to do list.
Soul music has always been a huge part of my life. My mom would only play good music while my brothers and I were growing up. In my teen years I definitely gravitated to the pop/hip-hop stuff, but as I got older I found myself going back to my roots. I started to mimic the sounds I used to love and wrote about things that were important to me.
Destiny. [Laughs] Seriously though, I met all of the (Big) guys pretty much through school. Whether it was because we had a class together or just a mutual friend, I met all of them through USC. It took me awhile to find "my band," but now that I have, I'm so grateful. These guys are what make the music what it is and they're all like family to me.
Tough question, but if I have to choose one, definitely Sarah Vaughan. I love Billie Holiday’s vibe and soul, but Sarah Vaughan has got the voice! Man, I remember when my voice teacher at USC had me transcribe one of Sarah's solos for homework, and after that I just went on a SV craze. She's dope! I definitely learned a lot from her just listening to different albums.
Change is inevitable, and whether it's good or bad, it's going to happen. I think a lot of things contributed to what mainstream music is now. Technology, politics, location, life, whatever it may be, it's all taken part in what music is today. I love that Soul music is coming back because I honestly believe that it's healthy for people. It's called Soul music for a reason.
It's awesome! Most of the time it's so easy because I grew up with two older brothers, so I'm used to having boys around. I'm definitely a little bit of a tomboy sometimes. The only thing that's tough about it is that I find myself starting to act like them a little too much. I'm pretty sure I burp louder than any of them.
The album is called "Miss Me," and it has that old school vibe. A lot of music today is so produced, which can also be cool, but we didn't want that for this album. Sam, who plays drums on the album, produced the whole thing and wrote a lot of the music, so he wanted to make sure that we recorded it right. We spent A LOT of time making sure things sounded exactly the way we wanted them to, all while keeping in mind that this record is being pressed to vinyl.
The [Raquel Rodriguez] EP was a lot more "calm" in a way, and the recording/production process was MUCH different than what I expected. The EP was made up of songs that I had written when I was younger and I wanted evidence of that. I've grown as a singer, songwriter, musician, performer, basically just as an artist all around, and I think "Miss Me" is definitely a good example of that.
Andrew Scheps was AWESOME! We learned so much from him in the one day we spent recording with him. He gave us so much advice and he was so knowledgeable and passionate about what he was doing. Definitely a huge inspiration. If you don't know what he looks like, just imagine a tall, powerful wizard with a long beard and that's him.
I dream more about playing in places that I've never been before. I want to travel all over the world in whatever venue that'll have me.
Listen to Raquel’s latest album and check out her site here.
There’s nothing like a good weekday workout. Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to attend the Jamba Juice Fit Trends Expo at the Annenberg House in Santa Monica. The Fit Trends Expo is part of Jamba’s Team Up For a Healthy America campaign, aimed at combating obesity and encouraging healthy living. Venus Williams, professional tennis player, designer, and Jamba Juice franchise owner, was the keynote athlete at the event. Trainer, Samantha Monus, and nutritionist, Tara Gidus, also provided their insight on taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle. On a local level, the Expo’s goal was to encourage community fitness, health and nutrition, as well as to expose people to workout opportunities in their area.
Our day was jam-packed with great activities. From 9:30am-1:30pm, Jamba Juice held an array of fitness classes and nutritional samplings. Among the local fitness studios present were: Broadway Bodies LA, Piloxing, and LA Blast. Fitness guru Tony Horton of P90X even stopped by the event and took a lucky few through an impromptu exercise outside. I did my best to keep up with the routines, but as a girl who usually runs and lifts weights, I felt super uncoordinated! Despite this, the atmosphere was fun and relaxed. It was quite inspiring to be around a group of people dedicated to getting fit and staying healthy. In between each class, Jamba gave everyone the opportunity to try their array of juices, smoothies, and food products.
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Overall, the energy at the event was extremely positive. Jamba Juice did a great service for the community by generating increased awareness of local health and fitness outlets. Venus Williams, Samantha Monus, and Tara Gidus had some extremely helpful information to share. For those of you seeking guidance on how to stay disciplined with your workouts, Williams insists that you keep it fun and not worry about perfection! I think I can abide by that! I hope everyone in attendance was activated to carry the spirit of the day beyond the event and incorporate what they learned into a healthier lifestyle.
If you’re interested in learning more about Jamba Juice’s commitment to healthy living, check out their health campaign website: MyHealthPledge.com. My Health Pledge encourages everyone to make a pledge to change their daily habits. It’s free to participate, and for each pledge, Jamba donates $1 to local schools and organizations to support their athletic and fitness programs.
On April 29, 1992, the city of Los Angeles caught on fire. I was only seven but I still have a few memories from that chaotic time. I remember the billowing smoke near my grandmother’s house in Compton, tanks rolling down Long Beach Boulevard, and receiving three silk shirts from an aunt who swiped them out of a department store. But the strongest memory I have from that time is the sense of fear that took over me and my family. I wasn’t old enough to totally understand what was happening, but I knew one thing for sure: a lot of folks were angry because four policemen were found innocent after they beat a black man – a beating that was captured on tape.
As I grew older, the details about what occurred were made clear. Rodney King became a household name and the charred buildings near my grandmother’s house were replaced with new ones. But the fear that I had as a child still lingers. Mostly because the racial tension and economic conditions that plagued parts of Los Angeles 20 years ago are similar to, if not worse than, what they are today.
While the 1992 riots were definitely about crime and police behavior, poor economic conditions, poor education, and years of frustration over unequal protection under the law were also contributing factors. Today, crime is down and the relationship between the LAPD and the community has improved, but other than that, many believe not much has changed.
“Are we producing a better group of students? No. Are there access to more jobs than in that era? Probably not. Are there higher paying jobs? Probably not,” former LAPD Police Chief Bernard Parks says in a new and gripping VH1 Rock Documentary, “Uprising: Hip-Hop and The LA Riots.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Parks is right. The median income of blacks in South L.A. is lower than it was in 1992 and the unemployment rate is higher. As an educator who spent nearly five years working with teens in South Central, I can attest to the dire state of some schools in the area. Kids are frustrated and failing. And just as tragic, the recent shooting of Trayvon Martin, a black teen in Florida, is as heartbreaking as the 1991 shooting of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins, which many believe helped spark the six days of violence following the Rodney King verdict.
Both Martin and Harlins were unarmed when they were killed and both cases sparked national outrage. Thankfully, one glaring difference between the Harlins and Martin case is that while people rioted and looted in 1992, the protests surrounding Martin’s death have been mostly peaceful. All kinds of people rallied together to vent their frustrations in communities throughout the country. The images of folks donning hoodies are remarkably different than the images of four men pummeling Reginald Denny on the corner of Florence and Normandie.
While the protests are peaceful these days, the fact that there is still a need – 20 years later – to march, sing and hold signs for the same issues causes great concern. If the Martin’s shooter doesn’t go to jail like Harlins’s shooter didn’t go to jail 20 years ago, will people forget the costly aftermath of the riots and set the city on fire one more time? I hope not, but only time will tell. If conditions don’t improve for struggling communities, tensions can certainly boil over, again.
It’s Friday night and you are ready for a little bit of nightlife. You know once you stride into the room with your fierce stilettos, fly outfit and subtle hint of dreamy perfume, you’re sure to turn heads, necks and chairs—so why should you settle on sauntering into a deserted dump or waste your time in line at the “hottest” new Hollywood nightclub with the “douchiest,” rudest bouncers?
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of some of the sexiest LA lounges and restaurants, where everything – the décor, ambiance, service, cocktails and design – makes bold, sizzling statements that are bound to give you a memorable, sensual experience. Whether it’s a smokin’ hot date or a just fun night with friends, the next time you’re in the mood to feel grown and sexy, make sure to check out one of these highly recommended destinations:
Nic’s Martini Lounge
The sexiest thing about Nic’s is the expansive variety of devilish martinis. The bartenders here know how to perfect every type of martini under the sun–from the standard dirty martinis to the fruity Lemondrop Blush–all with fresh ingredients and heavy doses of spirits. Grab a seat at the swanky bar and a few of these potent martinis for a long evening of conversation in ritzy Beverly Hills.
Beverly Hills, www.nicsbeverlyhills.com
Perch is a sensually captivating rooftop bistros 15 stories above the ground in the downtown district of the city. Here, the toughest decision is where to sit: on the balcony, amidst the sparkling, lit-up skyscrapers…or under the soaring ceilings of the main lounge area while lounging on plush, oversized couches. Regardless where you end up, you’ll be able to experience a good dose of Perch’s mesmerizing French charm, with its roaring fireplaces, live Parisian music and decadent cocktails.
Set in the quiet, sleepy foothills of South Pasadena, this drinking parlor serves artistic old-fashioned cocktails that are guaranteed to please just as much as its rustic, earthy setting will. It’s an adorable place to snuggle, whether it’s on the shaded outdoor patio or in the main area. With only about 22 seats and barstools, this former caretaker’s cottage is intimate and quiet—the perfect destination to sip and savor finely crafted artisan cocktails within a rugged, historic setting.
The best seat in the house is on the café’s killer patio. Smack in the middle is a soaring oak tree, with leafy arms that shade the entire length of the patio. The main source of lighting comes from the strings lights dangling from the tree branches and the candles strategically placed by the base of the tree and on table tops, creating a natural yet sultry vibe. The ambiance at Cliff’s Edge is still worth the trip alone, but this Silverlake restaurant also has amazing European/Middle Eastern-inspired food.
Walking through Tagine’s nondescript doors and into this one-room restaurant, you’re miraculously transported from Los Angeles to a splendid Moroccan retreat. It’s a world where massive mirrors delicately hang on dark walls–where black-and-white photos of distant lands and lustrous tiled floors intertwine with one another to create a seductive, romantic getaway. Underneath the faint flicker of candles placed on worn wooden tables and hanging from ornate ceiling fixtures, feast upon traditional Moroccan dishes and sip sweet mint tea. With its serene atmosphere and Tasting Menu for two, Tagine is a spectacular date option.
Los Angeles, www.taginebeverlyhills.com