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.