Hungry in Paradise

I sipped the can of root beer he gave me, looking out at one of Oahu’s best beaches on my free trip to Hawai’i. The water was an unbelievable blue. The mountains rose in the sky, the palm trees swayed to the perfect breeze. The sound of happy tourists wasn’t loud enough to be annoying.

Why would he give me a soda?

I turned my back to the beach and stole a last look at his tent. He was hidden behind the others, but I knew he was right where I left him. Probably looking over the fruit and pastries I brought him. He just wanted to give me something back. Somehow, I understood that. The grasping at the assurance you earned something, even as a homeless man accepting food from strangers.


I was on staff for a volunteer trip. I was pretty much in Hawai’i in charge of 30 teenagers for 10 days. Our very last service project was to bring food to the homeless (or, in correct terms, “houseless”) at Waimanalo Beach Park. We handed out sandwiches, chicken, fruits, to the people who lived in tents by the ocean. These people were there illegally, so every once in a while security would do a sweep and they’d all have to pack up and move to another spot, cycling locations like this one.

But we’d been in Waimanalo Beach before, though just to swim in the crystal clear water. How did I not notice the tents when we were there the first time? Why did I just go about my fun, blind to the hurting?

What a thought, to be hungry in paradise. 

The irony of living in a tent, unsure of your next meal, right next to one of the most beautiful beaches in one of the world’s biggest vacation spots.

Throughout my time in Hawai’i, I would find myself at a homeless shelter one moment and snorkeling the next. Handing out food on the streets one second and shopping for souvenirs the next. It reminded me of every trip I’ve made to the Philippines, navigating through the slums with orphans clinging to my arms one day and the next being delivered a mango smoothie by the beach at a private resort with my extended family. driving past kids digging through the trash on my way to a nice restaurant.

I used to hate the irony. I hated myself for it. I double and triple checked my motives when Hope worldwide sent me Hawai’i to help run this program. Because not going to lie, it’s nice here. Really, really nice. But I knew I wasn’t coming for a vacation. I was coming to do work.

So how does one explain that? “Yes, I’m going to Hawaii this summer, but it’s for a volunteer program.” How do I talk about it without making my trip sound like something it’s not? If I post too much about the service it’s like I’m hiding that I did fun stuff too. If I post all the fun stuff, everyone will think the whole “service trip” thing was just a facade. If I post both, it seems like I’m two-faced. 


But the thing is, there are so many places around the world where poverty and privilege dance around each other in a clash of cultures. Everywhere neighbors the rich and the poor, we just don’t always see it. 

A place has just as much depth and complexity as a person. A person can be loud and quiet, shy and confident, happy and sad. A place can be a #1 vacation spot and have families living on the streets. 

So what now? If we take time to realize that some of our favorite luxury vacation spots are miles away from starving children, does that mean we can’t enjoy said luxury? Shall we demonize the rich to compensate for ignoring the poor? When would that ever be a solution?

Guilting people into not enjoying their vacations does not seem like the answer to me. To me the only thing that seems helpful is to see the opportunity within the irony. To acknowledge the abundance that I have, whether that be assurance of my next meal or the ability to fly to Hawai’i, to see the needs around us and acknowledge their proximity. To see that our neighbor is hungry and to capitalize on exactly that. That they’re our neighbors, which means they’re right there.

Maybe Jesus was on to something when he said to “love your neighbor.” I’ve grown up taking Jesus’ metaphors as they come no matter how seemingly random or confusing, but maybe his choice of “neighbor” as a metaphor was a reminder and an encouragement. There are so many people in need of love in this world, it can be overwhelming. So what’s the good news? They’re right there. Neighbors.

Seeing the poverty in Hawai’i made me uncomfortable. The thought of thousands of people coming in and out of these islands unaware of the hurting made me uncomfortable. But isn’t this the case anywhere you go? Wherever you live there’s Uptown and there’s the ghetto. So whether I’m flying to Hawai’i or going to school in Dallas, it’s something to keep in mind. People have a different experience in every city I go to. And I think the key is to remember that everywhere you go there’s something beautiful to see, something fun to do, but also someone hurting to help. And I’d hate for that thought to drive guilt, but rather, awareness that there is always something to be done.

I think we should always enjoy our vacations, I think we should rest and soak up the fun and live in the moment and squeeze every bit of happiness out of life that we can. But perhaps we can do better at seeing our neighbors and how their prison might be our paradise.

Oh, am I being a downer?


My Ticket In To See President Barack Obama

“Being a journalist, it’s your ticket into any room,” said Lauren Smart as we sat at a downtown hotel coffee shop next to her gorgeous black dog, Lilo. Lauren was the professor who had gotten me the Dallas Observer job over a year ago, and we get coffee every once in a while to catch up. I had just told her I was going to cover an event with President Barack Obama.

“I’m not interviewing him,” I laughed, clarifying a misconception some people had when I had posted on my Instastory in all caps I AM COVERING AN EVENT WITH BARAK FREAKING OBAMA. Yes, I misspelled the President’s name. No, I didn’t notice until too late, I was drunk with excitement at the time. “I’m just going because I can, basically,” I said.

My editor had asked me to cover a breakfast with America Ferrera at a Diversity conference at the Hilton Antole in Dallas, so I was in the email thread when the conference’s PR had asked the Observer if our editor in chief wanted to cover that night’s keynote speaker, by the name of Barack Obama. (See? I know how to spell it, I promise.)

The Observer turned it down, but since lil’ ol’ me saw the email chain, I asked my arts editor if I could cover it. She said they probably didn’t need an article but that I could just go for fun. I promised I’d write an article anyway but just really wanted to go for the experience.

That day was crazy. Of course, I still had to cover the America Ferrera breakfast, which was fun. I hadn’t ever done a job that involved free food before. I was, however, running excruciatingly late and ran frantically in my heels and the borrowed blazer from my mom to get there. The breakfast was at 8, and I think I got there around 8:20, but luckily I was told by the PR people that America was still in her dressing room and I was fine. Gosh, Dallas traffic. I wrote about the Ferrera breakfast, and that article was published.

After the breakfast I had to book it to my 11am Typography class at SMU. I had back-to-back lectures and had to turn in a final project, and was finished around 4pm. I then camped out at La La Land Kind Café, a new favorite, before I headed back to the hotel to see Obama.

My pants were very tight all day, that’s mainly what I remember from this period of time. But the most satisfying part of the day? There were thousands of people in line to get into the President’s speech, all having to go through metal detectors and bag checks. But I got to walk past them all with my “Media” badge, and that felt nice.


The VIP guests got a red carpet in front of our metal detector, and there was no line. Perks. I was told to walk in with an influencer who didn’t really know what was going on half the time and was told to get off her phone a lot.

Eventually I was seated in the VIP row. The only person sitting in front of me was the President’s personal guest and friend, a former mayor of New York and former member of his cabinet. Barack Obama and I made contact many times as a result of me sitting right behind his friend, directly in front of him. In a room of over 3,000 people, I was right there in front of the 44thPresident of the United States.


I did write up an article on this, but since there were lots of changes going on with the arts editors at the Observer at the time and I was never officially given an okay to write it up, it didn’t get published. So here it is, my Obama article!


Who better than President Barack Obama to speak at the 15thAnnual Diversity & Leadership Conference? Thursday, the former President came to the Hilton Anatole to inspire thousands of leaders towards facilitating more inclusive workspaces.

The Trinity Ballroom at the Anatole was set up with seating for 3,000 people, and still there was not enough room. Up until the last minute, hotel staff were scrambling for chairs for some of the highest VIP ticket holders. Companies like Amazon, Toyota, and more had their leaders seated at the president’s feet.

Dennis Kennedy, the chair of the National Diversity Council who started the organization in Dallas which led to a nationwide movement that caught the attention of the President, moderated the event. He introduced Obama, as a “name synonymous with change.”

When President Barack Obama stepped out onto the stage, the cheers were not unlike when a boyband heartthrob appears at a concert. It had been exactly 811 days after he left office, according to Kennedy.

“What have you been up to?” Kennedy asked when the crowd finally settled down.

The President mentioned catching up on sleep and spoiling his wife Michelle, saying, “Whatever she wants, I do. I owe her that.” He has also spent a lot of time with his girls and is working on writing a book.

“I’m a little behind Michelle, she’s about 30 million copies ahead of me,” he joked.

After the brief catch-up, the President spoke on the big topic of the conference, diversity. He began with the fact that we must “overcome these instincts that there’s an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ and start moving toward a ‘we’.”

In a time where it feels like left and right millennial-bashing is trending, Obama was quick to point out something to learn from them. “You’ve got a generation coming up that instinctively understands and respects inclusion, they appreciate this instinctively,” he said.

The President gave practical examples on how organizations can better their inclusivity. He had to speak up about wanting a diverse staff during his time at the White House. He wanted to make sure he had different types of people in the room, going through a process of making sure it wasn’t only white men as candidates for jobs. “Once you do that process, you may not have people with the experience in which you can elevate them to a higher level. So we implemented something at the White House,” said Obama. Since he noticed minorities weren’t given the same opportunities and so weren’t always qualified with the same experience as others, he made sure the “hot shots” as he called them, who had potential and not as much experience were trained “to be qualified to fill in those senior spots later.” Then he added, “be patient, it doesn’t happen right away.”

“You have to shut down the idea that diversity and inclusivity is an opposition to excellence,” said the former President. He went on to talk about gender equality. “Every study shows that an organization that is made up of half or more women outperforms the organizations that don’t… Performance shows women will get the job done.”

He made sure to point out the different types of diversity. He wasn’t just talking about race, because diversity is so much more than that. He emphasized the importance of having people of different socio-economic backgrounds, religious beliefs, and more. “We each come to the table with blind spots,” he said, stating that the goal is that “everyone comes to cover each other’s blind spots.”

He talked about the different ways in which he tried to be inclusive in the situation room or with his cabinet members as well as things he learned about leadership during his time as President. “I learned that I like having people smarter than me in the room.”

Obama never directly talked about the current White House administration, though he did say that when he was at the White House, “we didn’t have scandals or people going to jail… people might make stuff up, but we didn’t.”

The former President was also asked for marriage advice. He kept the audience laughing with funny anecdotes of the ups and downs of one of the most famous marriages in the world.

And then, probably the most controversial topic of the night- barbeque.

During a rapid fire miscellaneous questions segment at the end of the night, Dennis Kennedy asked Barack Obama who had the best barbeque, “Kansas or North Carolina?”

The audience got heated.

“What about Texas?” Obama asked. “Let me say, there’s some good barbeque in Texas… without naming a place, the best barbeque I ever had was in Texas.”

And with that, the audience was satisfied.



The Wild Detectives: One of My Top Favorite Places in Dallas


The Wild Detectives is probably the coolest coffee shop in Dallas. And anyone who knows me knows that I’ve evaluated about all of them.

Located in the Bishop Arts District, the Wild Detectives is not only a coffee shop, but also a bar, a music venue, and an excellent bookstore.

I wrote an article about this place for the Dallas Observer last year, interviewing my professor and friend Lauren Smart about the events they hold to empower women.Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

I went back this year to cover the Wild Detectives, this time for its 5th year anniversary for my video class. The owners and staff were wonderful and even gave me a Topo Chico. I mean, what’s not to love about this place?

My news package for SMU TV is linked below. It covers the trend of bookstore closings and how the Wild Detectives is doing a stellar job at keeping the interest of their customers.


Let’s Talk About Coffee Shop Instagram Culture

I’m a coffee addict. But besides stopping by the Starbucks my best friends work at, you can almost never catch me hanging out at a coffee shop chain. I go to coffee shops for the experience.

I don’t consider myself a coffee connoisseur, but I do consider myself a coffee shop connoisseur.

I recently made a survey for a class in which I asked people different questions to try and see what their perception of me is, and one of the questions I asked was, “What place best describes me?” And 39 out of 52 responses were some sort of coffee shop. People know what I like.

In December of 2017 I made one of my most popular blog posts, a list of some of my favorite coffee shops. My school newspaper also heard about my affinity for these establishments (absolutely no idea how), and asked me to write a list for them in 2018.

And yes, I pay attention to the quality of the coffee and of whatever food these places serve, but honestly? What I love most is the atmosphere.

Is it just me or are coffee shops getting prettier?

This is a hypothetical backed up by no data whatsoever, but it seems to me that coffee shops are becoming more and more about appearance as time goes on. I can only assume it’s because of the Instagram culture, because what’s more basic than a coffee pic? Taking photos of the places you’re getting your coffee is normalized. We don’t whip out Instagram for our grocery store runs, but when it comes to coffee, it’s become so much more about image.

I’m guilty of this. I. Just. Can’t. Stop. Taking photos at coffee shops. It’s a compulsion. I don’t know why, I just can’t not.

In my Media & The Art of Fashion Design class, we’ve been discussing stores that have turned into things that resemble museums. More high end stores like Louis Vuitton or Prada, for example, are more like an experience. You go in, you’re waited on, you observe the modern art and the way the store looks, but there isn’t a pressure to buy from the thousands of items on display. The stock is minimal, the salespeople are accommodating.

This is something I see in coffee shops now. Yes, you go for your drink of choice, but so many go for the “feel” of the place and the look of the place. As if the cool aesthetics help one get their work done better or facilitate better conversation. But there have been so many new places popping up with such attention to interior design as to firmly weld that marriage between the words “cute” and “coffee shop.”

It’s almost as if we pay for the Instagram picture. A $5 to boost your feed. An extra shot to add to your story. Maybe even a muffin for a new profile pic.

According to Wes Gay on an article on, “Millennials aren’t necessarily drinking more coffee than other generations, but they are spending more money on coffee. In other words, they are spending more on higher quality coffee experiences. ‘Millennials have a lot of disposable income,’ says Kahn. ‘But they aren’t spending it like their parents did on cars and clothes. Instead, they’re spending it on a better food and beverage experience.’”

Different studies have pointed to this generation spending more on experiences than things. And I think that has trickled into Instagram coffee shop culture. Here is my hypothesis:

A coffee shop is only as good as it is photogenic.

Though, wouldn’t you agree? Yes, I understand that the real coffee drinkers don’t care if they get their bean water from a hole in the wall, but for most of the world, we flock to the pretty places. Starbucks is always trying to catch up, seemingly renovating their stores every other year, but they will never beat the local hipster shops. Slap some cool art on the walls and some man buns on the baristas, and presto! you’re tagged in a million Instagram stories and could serve brown paint for all these kids know.

Got Paid to Let Hamilton Blow My Mind

Before Wednesday, I thought Hamilton was over-hyped. (Hence, the title of my article on the Observer.)  It feels like the entire world would not shut up about it.

A couple summers ago, I found myself trapped in a van full of theater nerds- as you do- and they decided to play the entire Hamilton soundtrack. They had the whole thing memorized front and back, every million-miles-a-minute spitfire rap line. And none of them had ever even seen the musical. Their passion came from simply streaming the music on Spotify, and I didn’t get it.


(All photos credited to: Joan Marcus)

Hamilton fanatics like these are found everywhere. They live among us. Maybe you see a t-shirt with the famous star logo, maybe you see a phone case with the “Schuyler sisters” in their iconic hoop skirt dresses. Maybe, like me, you tried to listen to the soundtrack and even Googled the musical and got even more confused. I even took a History of American Musical Theater class, and we spent a few weeks studying the musical and watching a documentary on it. And as an immigrant myself, I’m all for diversity, but what’s with black men playing some of the most famous slave owners in our history?

Confusing. It feels like everyone who likes Hamilton loves Hamilton.

Well, I need not bother you with a theater review, because I already did that. It’s on the Dallas Observer for your reading pleasure!

Screen Shot 2019-04-11 at 4.56.48 PM.png

In the editing, however, some of my more political commentary got cut out. Which is fine, I just had a hard time trying to explain Hamilton without getting political. I mean, besides the fact that it’s about politicians, the production itself is an incredible statement.

I talked a little about it in my article:

Miranda’s script seems to perfectly juxtapose where we’ve been as a nation with where we are and where we could go. The cast of Hamilton is performing to audiences at what seems like a pivotal time in our nation’s history. Folded into an inspiring rags-to-riches story is the theme of immigration, carved into a romance plot line are nods to women’s rights.

But I would love to elaborate.

I’ve been thinking about diversity for the sake of diversity. Approaching this material, the story of the founding fathers of America, one has a very specific America in mind. Let’s face it, the historically accurate way to tell this story would be through white men. And let’s face it, a lot of them were slave owners. Talk about awkward. I’m all for inclusion and diversity, but as someone who usually likes historically accurate portrayals, I have to admit I was the slightest bit hesitant for the “why.”

But after I saw the musical, it was obvious. Every decision- the casting, the music style, it was all genius. And seeing all the pieces together the way it was meant to be seen, it all finally made so much sense to me.

As Lin Manuel Miranda has said, the musical is “the story of America then told by America now. It looks like America now,” according to CBS news.


It also looks like America now because much of the issues they are battling in the musical are issues we battle today. You have Hamilton and Lafayette representing immigrants and that infamous climb towards the American Dream, played by a hispanic and an african-american. Because though those two characters were white, they represent a demographic that is very racially diverse. And by looking like today’s immigrants we are able to connect with them in a way that we couldn’t with a historically accurate portrayal.

And it goes on and on. By watching the show, you are watching the story of our nation being built. And it makes one think, what nation are we building today? These are crazy times. It seems like left and right our nation is shifting and wobbling and being molded into- what, exactly? 

This is the genius of Lin Manuel Miranda. Today’s political climate feels like new territory. How will he get the next voting generation to think about the nation that we will build, with the technology and advancements we are privileged to be equipped with? By connecting our nation’s beginning with our nation’s today, and asking about our nation’s tomorrow. All in a couple hours of Broadway hip hop.

The Daily Campus | Video Project

Hey again, I’m back with another video on that borrowed $3,000 camera I told you about in previous posts.

For our third video project in my Basic Audio and Video class, I decided to cover our school paper.

The nice thing about doing a video of my fellow journalists is that they made things so easy for me. They knew exactly what I needed when I said things like “match on action” or “checking levels,” all that. They’d all taken this class before so their patience? Amazing.

Our school paper is called the Daily Campus. It is run by a handful of students that were great to spend time with.

Screen Shot 2019-04-10 at 1.35.31 PM.png

After filming one of their meetings, I decided to try for a leadership position on their staff. So we’ll see!


I Asked Hillsong UNITED for Worship Advice

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 4.44.36 PM.png

This interview ended up being about 3 or 4 times longer than most. Here’s why.

I lost my marbles when the Observer asked me to set up an interview with someone in Hillsong UNITED. I sing and play their songs on a weekly basis. I’m a worship leader at my church, so I can’t count the amount of times I’ve sung or led a congregation in singing Oceans, The Stand or Hosanna. To say that worship has had a huge impact on my life is an understatement (though I’ll probably write more on that in a later post). I spend hours a week rehearsing worship songs, or singing to God on my own or with friends, especially my boyfriend. I’ve sung at churches around the country, and so much of what I play is from Hillsong. Not everything, but a lot. Most of the song requests I get are Hillsong songs. And I know some people bash them for having songs that sound the same or whatever, but all I say to that is “let’s see you do better.” Is that mean? Whatever.


I respect Hillsong United so much because of how well they’ve been able to create music that is cool and accessible to youth while holding on to the heart of what worshipping God should be about. So when I got a call from JD, one of the OG members of Hillsong United, I lost it. I mean, the guy gets to sing to God for a living.

(JD is the guy in the video with long hair and glasses.)

It was early in Australia but late afternoon where I was answering the call. After my initial gush of “omg I love worship too” super professional intro, we dove in with some intro questions like what’s the difference between UNITED and Hillsong Young and Free, and stuff like that.

Some things I learned?

  • JD was 13 when he and his youth group friends started writing songs and formed Hillsong UNITED.
  • When they’re not on tour, they’re part of their worship teams at home and participate just like any other volunteer.
  • Hillsong UNITED is the “original” band, with Hillsong Young and Free being a band that started to focus more on the youth. And Hillsong Worship is their actual church’s worship.

Here’s some snippets from the interview:

JD: Thursday nights we do rehearsals we call team nights and we come together and do devotions and pray and rehearse and then be a part of Sundays. Most of us are, like I’m one of the worship pastors here in Sydney so we just help out. Make sure the church is happening on weekends and there’s a lot of people not in United that are making it happen as well and I just work alongside them.

Isabel: Because worshiping God and playing music is in a way a job, how do you balance that? …

I think what’s been amazing about our journey is we never set out to make a job out of it or that it would become what we do with our lives, we’ve always kind of viewed it as our service to God and our volunteering and involvement of church. The truth is all of us were doing this for years and years before it ever became a job and we’d be working- I remember I did everything from working in McDonald’s and working in cafes and then leading worship and doing our youth ministry…. None of us started this to get a job out of it but it’s been amazing and we’re amazed at God making these opportunities for us. And I think United is really a family and a strong community so we make sure that if anyone’s feeling down we’re able to pick them up and if anyone starts to be a little too high we can pull them down, it’s the great thing about  I think church or family or cumminty. If someone’s going to get a big head then there’s plenty of brothers and sisters there to help that head gets small but more importantly when people are down or struggling we’re there to lift them up and it’s an amazing dynamic.

That’s awesome. So what do you think makes a good worship band?

I think skinny jeans and long hair.

That’s true!

I’m glad you’re laughing.

But I think going off of what I just said I think the desire to bring glory to God, the desire to establish God’s truth here on earth and tell everyone that we can that we have some really good news and that is that God sent his son Jesus so we wouldn’t have to be lost but that we could feel comfort in our pain and the greatest gift of all is salvation. So I think in my mind it’s great to have big dreams and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to write songs that people around the world will sing or people want their songs to travel to millions and billions of people and to go and travel the world to large crowds and that’s great but to be honest that’s the least important thing when it comes to having a worship band. The most important thing is that our lives will bring honor and glory to God. Paul writes in Timothy that we need to live a life worthy of the calling that God has for each and every one of us….

I eventually started asking him questions about their upcoming tour, his musical influences… the typical things you ask when you interview an artist. But right when the interview was reaching to 3x longer than what’s unspokenl-y expected, I ventured to beg for a couple more questions.

Alright, I only have two more questions for you. I could honestly ask you questions for hours but I won’t take up too much more of your time

All good. That’s fine, I wish I had hours as well! I’m glad to talk to someone as passionate about it!

So my worship team is practicing tomorrow night, and I was wondering if you had any advice for a worship band, worship team? Any words of wisdom?

Ugh. Gosh, I could talk for hours on this because I love it and I’m on this journey myself of trying to do the best I possibly can but I think that in what we do as a worship team there’s two elements. There’s obviously the spiritual side of trying to lead people into the presence of God and getting people’s eyes and attention to God and there’s also the practical and physical element of trying to make the songs sound as good as they can and not stuffing it up, singing the right words, hitting the right chords and all that and staying on time and all the things that come. So there’s always this tension of, can I keep up? It’s one eye on God and one eye on the people type thing. There’s that balance of actually worshipping yourself but also making sure all these elements are lining up as well as possible to get people to go to God with as much ease as possible. So I think my biggest advice would be from my journey of doing this is that that’s all important and we got to do it all as best as we possibly can but never, ever, um I would say never ever- I’m trying to word it best as I can but never ever take the focus off trying to honor God and worship who he is ourselves. I think the greatest way we can actually lead people into worshipping God is to worship God. And so the temptation is to perform or the temptation is to sing a song really well or for people to think the service is awesome but to be honest it’s great to do all that stuff but as long as it becomes a very long second to when we’re on that platform in a worship sergice actually worship God for who he is. People see that and that’s contagious. And that’s attractive. And so keeping that pure heart of okay we’re going to worship God first and foremost. You can’t ignore all the other elements otherwise we’ll lose people but don’t get it around the other day where we do everything to set it up to be amazing and then we try to worship God. No, you start with trying to worship God first and people will see that and if you lead someone in worship worship God first.

Thank you so much for that. I know, I said two more questions, but can I ask you one more? I’m so sorry this is taking so long.

That’s alright I’ll give you one more.

I was wondering what your convictions are on the pairing of music and faith and why music is such a key part in worshipping God. I know it’s a big question.

It is a big question and I’ll answer as quickly as possible but it’ll be, number one, because God created it. God created everything to bring glory to worship himself. The Bible talks about how even the rocks will cry out. God created beautiful creation, I think we see even a sunset and a beach, God created that. And it reflects his beauty. Everything reflects it…. I think we can take God’s creation like a mirro… Music in its purest form was created to glorify God. That’s why we all love it and some people out there aren’t using their music to glorify God but even those songs  in the mainstream like big anthems everyone loves that’s a big extension of God’s creation. I think, number one, it’s so powerful because God created it, but I think secondly if you read all scripture it teaches us to sing. It teaches us to break into song. And I think we’re also instructed to use whatever we have to show people who God is. Music is one of those but it’s also kind of a universal language. I can’t remember who exactly said it but it’s that music has a way of entering your heart without asking permission. So I think that if that’s what we love and with UNITED and we sing songs and travel, my favorite is when we hear people who have never set foot in a church or don’t have anything to do with God or maybe had a bad experience when they were younger or have disbelief but somehow someone will play them one of our songs through the beauty of streaming with Spotify or Apple Music and all the rest of it, and our songs find their way into random playlists and people listen to our music without even realizing that it’s worship or Christian. And the testimonies people email us like, I didn’t want anything to do with God or church but there’s something about this song that makes me cry or gives me peace. I think that’s the power of music. And it’s powerful because God created it and it’s at its purest and best form when it’s giving him glory or telling the glory of who God is or what he’s done.

That’s awesome. Wow. Thank you so much for your time.

No problem, it was fun. It was good to talk to someone who is so passionate about worship!

There it is, folks. To be honest, I almost didn’t want to share it because it was just something so special to me. Sure, a lot of Hillsong songs sound similar, or whatever people wanna say about it, but their songwriting has gotten me through a lot and has helped me in my spiritual and emotional connection to God. And for that I am forever thankful.

Click here for the article!

I Guess I’m Rich

In my fashion class, my professor played the documentary “Sweatshop Deadly Fashion,” a film I now highly recommend. The film follows three fashion bloggers as they journey to Cambodia to discover the working conditions of sweatshop laborers.

The documentary was very well made and is one of those things I wish I could force the whole world to watch because we should all be more aware of where our clothes come from. If you wear clothes, you should be paying attention to the fact that your purchases at H&M or stores like it cost someone on the other side of the world everything.

I won’t try to explain the movie, you should see it for yourself and see its impact firsthand. Click here to watch.

But the funny thing about watching this film in class was the context in which I watched it.

When the first few scenes rolled across the classroom projector, I thought the movie was set in the Philippines. The third world scenes playing out in front of me were so familiar. It looked like home.

The weird thing? I was sitting in a room of SMU students. Now, I am fully willing to admit that not everyone at Southern Methodist University fits the stereotypes we’re usually placed in, but the majority do. It costs over $60,000 to go to SMU every year. I go to school with a pretty high tax bracket. Most of my classmates come in to class with Gucci bags, Chanel wallets, leggings that cost more than I spend on food for a month. It’s a different world over here.

When I lived in the third world, I wasn’t very poor. My family was considered middle class. And that’s what we are here in the America. Middle class. Not poor, but never quite reaching the lifestyle of some. Which I like, but it’s just a little weird sometimes.

I’ve written before about my struggle with living amongst the privileged and coming from a place where I saw poverty everywhere I went. It’s an odd weight that comes with chasing the American dream.

The sweatshop documentary shined a light on the way factory workers lived, what they earned, how hard they worked. The term “unfair” doesn’t even begin to cover it. And the fact that everything happened through the eyes of fashion bloggers was even more interesting.

Because (and I say this as a blogger myself, though not a fashion blogger and not by any means an earning blogger) let’s face it, fashion bloggers are often seen as rather shallow or spoiled, even. They live picture perfect Instagram lives and make their living off either shopping or receiving very nice free things. At least, that’s what’s usually thought. Am I wrong?

But I realized- looking from the Gucci girls sitting next to me in class, to the fashion bloggers on the screen, to the poor factory workers they were speaking to- I was at a strange crossroads.

So many of my people are the ones working for less than $3 a day under horrible conditions, but instead of being there with them, I’m on the other side. I found myself sitting with these girls who grew up in mansions and online shop to their heart’s content. Obviously I’m an odd one out because I’m a scholarship student who has to work at least a couple jobs to get by, but sometimes I forget that I’m rich. I’m so, so rich. Sure, I’ve never shopped at Gucci. I can’t even afford the Gap most times. But I live on the other side and I have a duty to take responsibility for that.

I don’t know why I get to be the one buying clothes instead of making them, but I need to learn to make my purchases in a way that I don’t have to be ashamed of.

Probably my favorite way of practicing ethical shopping is buying all my clothes at a thrift store. Not only is it super duper cheap, but by recycling clothes in that way, I am proud not to waste the hard work of sweatshop laborers.

This is only the beginning of my journey to work on being more and more ethical, but it’s a start, isn’t it?


When Sizing Makes You Feel Small

Isn’t it funny that the sizes printed on clothing tags to tell is if we’ll fit something don’t matter at all? We still need to take it all with a grain of salt and make that awkward walk to the dressing room carrying 5 of the same dress in our arms.

We can all be proud of the fashion industry for taking strides towards inclusivity and body positivity. We’ve normalized plus-sized models and welcomed curvy or petite options in many clothing lines.

“…there are major (ultra positive) changes happening in the world of fashion inclusivity, too. “The apparel industry is beginning to see the light—both in terms of financial benefits and the gains to the consumer,” says Alexandra Waldman, co-founder and creative director of Universal Standard, a brand with a mission to bring the same elevated shopping experience to a size 6 and a size 26. J.Crew, Madewell and Reformation are just three of the brands that have expanded their size ranges this year—and there’s more to come in 2019 from lingerie fave Lively and new denim brand ASKK NYY (founded by Rag & Bone alums Katrina Klein and Andrea Suarez), for starters.” – “The Rihanna Effect: Brands Are Getting Real About Sizing and Shades,” Well+Good Editors

For some interesting reading on body positivity, check out this article on Vox called “Body Positivity Is a Scam.”

So though we have made so many amazing steps towards acknowledging that *shocker* the world is made of wonderfully different human beings, we have a ways to go. But there is so much to talk about.

What about vanity sizing? What about stores calling someone a size 2 just because it’s what she wants to hear?

According to Time’s “One Size Fits None” article by Eliana Dockterman, so-called “insanity sizing” is becoming more and more of a problem.

The rise of so-called vanity sizing has rendered most labels meaningless. As Americans have grown physically larger, brands have shifted their metrics to make shoppers feel skinnier—so much so that a women’s size 12 in 1958 is now a size 6. Those numbers are even more confusing given that a pair of size-6 jeans can vary in the waistband by as much as 6 in., according to one estimate. They’re also discriminatory: 67% of American women wear a size 14 or above, and most stores don’t carry those numbers, however arbitrary they may be.

Dockterman also provides an interesting infographic that shows the changes of sizing over the years. For example, Twiggy was dubbed a size 8 in 1967 (the smallest size available at the time), but nowadays would be a 00. Joan Collins was a size 8 in 1983 but now would be called a size 2. Mindy Khaling is today’s size 8.

Living in the US, I’m used to considering myself small. But it’s funny shopping in Asia feeling like a giant. When I’m in the Philippines I walk into a store and reach for my typical size small, but it’s hilarious how tiny those can turn out to be. Things really are so different and I think that’s interesting. But I don’t hold an emotional attachment to the “S” on my shirt. Then again, it’s an “S.”


Video Journalism Adventures Pt. II

Click here for the first post, you know, for context.

This video project was a How-To video. Which is funny because I had no idea how to do the project. I had to move last minute and missed class the day my professor was teaching everything I needed to know for it. So you know, that’s always fun.

Anyway, after some blood, sweat and tears, I made a thing. I made the video about how to cut a mango, because apparently people not from the Philippines usually have no idea how? So I had my mom enlighten them.

Screen Shot 2019-03-24 at 11.40.59 PM.png

My Video Journalism Adventures

I love journalism. It’s been amazing getting to study it. The Journalism department at SMU is incredible and has been such a blessing.

But there’s one class I’ve dreaded taking.

And the funny thing is, the professor of that class is probably going to read this blog post.

You see, I love writing. It’s my thing. It’s the thing that comes the easiest to me and I have no doubt it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Writing news is exciting and fun to me. But it’s not all there is to journalism. There’s this other world that I haven’t touched yet.

Broadcast. Video.



The class is Basic Video and Audio Production. I’ve put off taking it for two years.

I didn’t understand why all Journalism and Fashion Media majors had to take this class. Most of us were writers, anyway. The thought of all the work that was going to go into the labs, the projects, the news show participation, was stressing me out. I always preferred reading the news to watching it, and I had no desire to be a TV anchor.

But I’m a few weeks into the class now and I have to say, I get it.

Am I going to work in TV? Probably not. Am I going to become a camera man or a news anchor? Almost definitely not. But I’m starting to understand this other world of journalism more and I’m thankful for it.

So here I am, with the knowledge of how to work a $3,000 video camera. I’ve been going to the news studio at SMU twice a week, often at 7am, to help produce a real life live news show. I now know how to work a teleprompter, another camera bigger than a small horse, and important news writing software. So no, I don’t think this class will turn me into a TV personality, but I’ve been enjoying the journey of understanding video journalism and every step it takes to do it.

So with no further ado, I present to you my first video project. Shot by said $3,000 camera.

Dear Isabel, (12/2018)

Dear Isabel,

I’m writing at a family getaway by a lake, a couple hours from town. And for the first time in a while, I feel like I can breathe.

You’re about to start a crazy semester.

You have a hard time saying no. So with your full load of school, by the end of this coming semester you’re going to have 3 jobs, 2 internships, 2 majors, a minor, and are going to be mentoring 2 girls and be a part of 2 worship teams. You’re crazy, but that’s besides the point.

Because what do you do when you’re offered jobs and internships other people would kill for? You were born in the 3rd world at the other side of the globe, so your everyday life is an unimaginable blessing- the opportunities that come with living in America are treasures coveted by much of your kin. So you take every blessing you can get, feeling a duty to say yes for those who will never get the chance.

And that’s good. And that’s bad.

But there are a couple of things you can’t forget.

Don’t forget to reflect. With saying “yes” to more comes a lot of adventure. Many ups and downs. Always take time to look back even if it’s just at the day you just had. Keep up your journal, that’s important.

Don’t forget to prioritize. Something will slip. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re failing at everything since you’re stretched too thin, but always remember what’s important. And never discount self care and creativity as important, no matter what people tell you. Yes, it’s worth it sometimes to loose sleep for a project, but don’t feel guilty for taking the time to do what your soul loves. Create. Make music. You know you need it.

Don’t forget to bring others in. Always try to find ways to bring others into your crazy life. God knows you need them. If you get a concert job, invite a friend. If you get a cool interview, see who wants to listen in. Make sure when you’re blessed you don’t keep it to yourself, and when you’re stressed you don’t keep it a secret.

Don’t forget that none of this is about you! Yes, you worked hard. But all the opportunities you get are from God. And he’s bigger than any career. He loves you and can’t wait for you to make him proud.

Hanging Out with Bobby Sessions (and Presenting at an Awards Show)

They had my face huge on the screen.

“Once the drag queen comes out of the cake, you’re up.”


I nodded to my editor and a fellow Dallas Observer writer and I walked onstage, envelops in hand.


The Canton Theater was full of local artists and Dallas music enthusiasts. All eyes were on me as I read out the nominees to the Dallas Observer Music Awards and then did the whole “And the winner is…” while opening the envelope.


One of the names I read was “Bobby Sessions.” He was nominated for a few awards throughout the night, and won 3 of the biggest ones.

The next day, my friend Yani who works for the Universal Music Group asked me to photograph her interview with him.

I arrived at a management studio in Deep Ellum. Bobby Session’s manager, Vince, came to the lobby to get me. When we came up the elevator, Yani and Bobby were sitting on a black leather couch. They both got up to greet me.

Bobby Sessions sang the title track for the new movie featuring KJ Appa, Amanda Selberg, and Common, The Hate U Give.


I took some candid shots of Bobby and Yani as he spoke about his career, his life and his personal connection with the issues in the movie.

Once the interview ended, Yani and I just kind of stayed and chilled in the room with him, his manager, and his girlfriend. We just got to chatting. We talked Kanye West, SMU, and other random things.


Here’s where I took advantage of the situation. I asked him about interviews he’s had with people and what has made a good and bad interviewer. He told me a few key tips:

  1. Be genuine, but don’t sound fake.
  2. Be genuine, but don’t sound disinterested.
  3. Ask questions you genuinely want to know, because the interviewee can tell if you do.

That’s it. Then he took us to the roof of the studio where he often hangs out and thinks. It had a breathless view of downtown Dallas.

Bobby Sessions is a deep thinker and an artists through and through, but he’s also just a chill kid. Almost everything he said was profound, and it was cool to get to know him just as his career is taking off.



Red Carpet with Shawn Mendez, Calvin Harris, NF, and more

There’s no guidebook for this job.

As great as it is, it’s solely a process of trial and error. No one walks you through, “here’s what to do and what not to do on a red carpet.”

I was sent to cover the iHeart Radio Jingle Ball 2018 featuring Calvin Harris, Shawn Mendez, Bazzi, Bebe Rexha, Alessia Cara, Sabrina Carpenter, and more. I was just going to do a review of it, but I was also granted photo access to the red carpet and the show.

Click here for the article on the Dallas Observer!!

I don’t think it’s very common to try to write a review and professionally photograph a concert at the same time. Usually a writer would just go to a show just like any other audience member, take notes, and leave to write. He or she would usually just snap a photo on his or her phone to go with the article, or the Observer would hire a photographer to take care of shooting the show. When I worked the NEEDTOBREATHE show, I did both. It was hectic and involved a lot of running because I had to go return my camera and run back to the show in time to review it. I knew I couldn’t get away with that this time around, because the Jingle Ball, besides being one of the biggest concerts of the year, had 9 acts. I would not be able to shoot every act and also sit in the crowd.

I called in reinforcements.

My friend Jojo is probably the only person I know who goes to more concerts than I do. If going to concerts is a talent, it’s hers. I knew she’d be a reliable assistant.

I may or may not have skipped a class to drive to Dallas early with Jojo.

We brought a ladder, two cameras, three lenses, and a notebook to this concert.

It was madness. We were escorted down the stairs to the tunnel that wraps around the American Airlines Center where all the acts and the crew hang out, into a press room.

The press room had a mini red carpet set up and a table with gourmet popcorn and other snacks. It was great. There was just a LOT of waiting involved because apparently if you’re a pop star you can keep photographers waiting for 3 hours and it’s okay I guess.


The red carpet was supposed to start at 5, but it got pushed back so far that we ended up having to do the red carpet during the show. This meant a lot of running.

Jojo took her place in the audience to write down details for me like what songs each person sang, etc.

So the whole night, the other photographers and I were escorted to and fro from the pit up against the stage to photograph the show and the red carpet backstage.



I would take photos of people at the carpet, doing the whole “look here please,” shebang, then quickly change my camera settings when one of the PR girls yelled “NF’s set is starting!” Then I’d stand right in front of the stage, my ears being blown off from being right up against the speakers, switching back and forth between the two cameras hanging from my neck. All the while, I had to pay attention to the acts. Luckily, when I was backstage, I could see the performances from a TV they had set up in the room.

Pulling triple-duty that night was crazy. My body ached afterwards, but it was fun. I had a good time. Here’s my favorite photos and some highlights from each artist of the night!


Alessia Cara

Alessia was the chillest celebrity EVER. She rocked her set, banging out songs like “Scars to Your Beautiful” wearing baggy pants and an oversized tee. Also, I had no idea she played guitar! Super cool.

When she came up to the red carpet she had just finished performing, and was already wearing sweatpants which I was totally behind. Minimal makeup, natural hair, a scrunchy on her wrist. She stepped on the carpet and when they were telling her to smile she said “Oh, my favorite part,” sarcastically, giving awkward grins in between poses. I loved it, she was a normal girl who feels awkward getting her picture taken. Even after she stepped off the carpet she hung around to talk to people by the free popcorn and I didn’t even notice she was chilling behind me for like 5 minutes.



Sabrina Carpenter

Sabrina was a natural-born Disney starlet. She was a professional through and through, one of those people that walks into a room with star power. After a TV interview on the carpet the reporter realized she hadn’t pressed the record button, so Sabrina re-did the interview, saying, “It’s alright, I’m an actress, I can do this.”



Why Don’t We

I had never heard of this boy band before that night, but they seemed cool. They’re pretty young, but have potential. They were everything you’d expect having 5 teenage boys come to take photos. One of them held his free popcorn during pictures at the red carpet until another guy smacked it away. One of the poor PR girls had to pick up the can. The boys were super nice, though, and really goofy.



Bebe Rexha

Bebe Rexha didn’t say a word, now that I come to think of it. She was a good performer, though there was a wardrobe malfunction that you can read about in my article.




Shawn Mendez

Shawn didn’t come in for the red carpet, and we were also told that he didn’t want to be shot from the front middle of the stage. Maybe for vanity’s sake, but who knows. Two groups of photographers were held towards the ends of the stage. I am not the biggest fan of Mendez but I do have to admit, I did get pretty excited when looked my way a couple times and even smiled at my camera.




NF was so. Freaking. Hard. To photograph. His lighting was very brooding and dark. He was fun to watch, though I wish some of my favorite songs of his were played more. Coolest visuals, though!




Bazzi wasn’t my favorite performer, but the photos I took of him were probably my favorite. He was also super chill on the red carpet. We honestly didn’t even see him standing there for a second.



Calvin Harris

I really couldn’t him. They put us in the sound booth to photograph Harris’ set because it was mostly about the light show, but I honestly didn’t even know if Harris was on stage. I saw him backstage before his set meeting fans while I was on my way to the bathroom, but I could barely make him out in his DJ booth when he was performing.


DSM Gala: Kinda Awkward, Yet Kinda Epic

After getting to interview Jane Lynch for the Dallas Observer, Dallas Summer Musicals offered me two tickets to DSM Best of Broadway Gala, which she was hosting.

Knowing the show would also feature Matthew Morrison (Mr. Scheuster on Glee) and Shoshana Bean (the first woman who dared to fill Idina Menzel’s shoes as Elphaba in Wicked, was in the original cast of Hairspray as Shelley, and has played my personal favorite, Fanny Brice in Funny Girl), I invited the person I’ve geeked out with for years over both Wicked and Glee, my sister.

We dressed up and were very excited.







The article with the interview of Jane explains the event and its purpose better, but basically it’s a benefit show. But before the show, donors/sponsors (what word do I even use) got to go to a fancy dinner DSM hosted. To be a sponsor, you could donate anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000. These people were loaded.

The show started out with that big “WOOOAAAAAH” *BOOM* from The Greatest Showman, done by some local high school theater kids. Then, none other than Jane Lynch herself walked out in the red coat and top had and mimicked Hugh Jackman’s opening number, “The Greatest Show.”

Yeah. I saw Jane Lynch perform the opening to The Greatest Showman


Lynch was charming, but added a couple very Sue Sylvester-y quips by yelling at the kids to get off stage, but she was mostly nice.

She introduced Shoshana Bean, who came out in the most dazzling sparkly dress ever. If I were a Broadway diva performing a set, that dress is exactly what I would wear.

She was extraordinary. Her voice had strength and texture and her range was impeccable. She sang a few jazz numbers with the band and was super fun to watch. She maybe sang two pitchy notes but she was close to flawless. I am now a big Shoshana fan. I even gushed to her on Instagram.


View this post on Instagram

16 years…Still my boo ❤️

A post shared by Shoshana Bean (@shobean) on

Then, the queen left the stage.

Here is where the technical difficulties came in.

There were some problems with the mics and a stage hand had to actually come out and unplug mics and chords right in front of Jane Lynch. Lynch, however, being a professional, pointed at him and said, “Showbusiness, everyone.”

Jane introduced Matthew Morrison, her sworn enemy for years on the show, and the two hugged onstage. It was a little weird.


Matt did his thing. He was pretty good, he sang and danced. He was Mr. Scheuster through and through.

My sister rolled her eyes. She’s always hated his character on TV because he’s so freaking dramatic. I thought his performance was okay. He was off tempo every once in a while but no one can doubt he was born to be a performer. But it really just felt like an episode of Glee. Watch literally any scene where Will Scheuster had a fedora and that’s pretty much what we saw.


But my eyes weren’t on Matthew Morrison. They were on the guy at the piano.

I kept poking my sister. “I think that’s Brad.” I whispered.

In Glee, every time someone sings in the choir room, there’s a random guy who always plays the piano. And he never spoke. Just, every episode, he was there. Playing the piano to back up whatever dramatic number one of the characters were performing. I think he spoke once the whole show, and they called him Brad.


And I was right. After insisting and insisting to my sister that it was him, Matthew verified “Some of you might know Brad…” HA.

Matt was in Hairspray, and when he said “I played Link,” I said, “Of course you did.” He did a pretty impressive mashup of all the best songs from the musical, talking us through and summarizing the smash hit within a matter of minutes. It was really good. Then he walked offstage and told us to have a good night. That means he’s done, right?

Then there was a super awkward pause. Did something go wrong? Luckily, Brad kept the band playing, but it seemed like no one knew what was going on.

Then Matthew Morrison awkwardly came back onstage, and performed “Singin’ in the Rain” complete with an umbrella. I don’t know what happened. Maybe he was waiting for us to yell for an encore? Did he forget he still had another song? Super awkward. His last number was good, though.




On all the ads for the event, only Jane, Matthew, and Shoshandra were shown. But they said to expect a surprise guest. Who will it be?

It was Joshua Henry, the guy who played Aaron Burr in Hamilton’s first US tour. I hadn’t heard of him, but to hear one of the first to play a huge role in one of the biggest musicals of all time was a real treat.

Also, for those who follow me on Instagram, (@isagram.98, *shameless plug*) ya’ll would know that I saw Ed Sheeran the week before. Ed did a cover of Michael Bublé’s “Feeling Good,” and it was pretty good. But Henry blew it out of the water.

Joshua Henry’s voice was one of the strongest I’ve heard in my life. His cover of “Feeling Good” was 10x better than what Ed Sheeran did the week before, I’m telling you. And that’s saying a lot, because I love Ed.


We thought that was it, right? Two Broadway stars and a surprise Broadway star. But no.


After a short break, Jane Lynch’s voice called out, “This is the voice of God.”

She then announced that none other than Loren Allred, the voice behind the song “Never Enough” from the greatest Showman…


…yes, that song, was here to perform. And yes, the actress of Jenny Lind didn’t actually sing the song in the movie. I don’t know why they didn’t just get Loren to play her, but will we ever understand the movie industry?

But yes.

The stunning Loren Allred, the voice behind The Greatest Showman’s “Never Enough,” came out to belt the song and it was incredible. Flawless. Better than it was in the movie. I was dying.

*que shaky, kinda illegal video someone took that I found on Insta:

Okay, it was also kind of awkward because right as Allred came out, Jane Lynch’s mic wasn’t muted so we heard her cracking jokes offstage as the singer was about to begin. But we’ll try to forget that happened.

Then, the last song.

Four high schoolers from one of the programs we were benefiting came out and sang the first couple lines to “This is Me” from the Greatest Showman. They were actually pretty impressive. A few other high school students came out to sing and dance and they were less impressive, but I can understand being off tempo and scared when you’re not a seasoned Broadway star.

I didn’t know I needed to hear the voice of Jenny Lind, Aaron Burr from Hamilton, Elphaba from Wicked, Mr. Scheuster, and Sue Sylvester sing “This is Me” until I heard it. There were still a couple technical difficulties, but it was kinda epic.

Straight out of an episode of Glee.

(Shaky *illegal lol* video someone took that I found on Instgram)