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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

 

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.

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(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!

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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.

Beautiful.

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.

I Asked Hillsong UNITED for Worship Advice

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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.

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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!

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.

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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

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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.

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16 years…Still my boo ❤️

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

Anyway.

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

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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…

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…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)

Josh Groban Laughed at Me

Okay, fine. I made him laugh.

On my quest to conduct interesting and unique interviews, I’ve added a couple “experimental” questions. I’m trying out a couple different questions outside of the typical “how would you describe your musical evolution,” or “what’s your tour going to look like?”

I asked Josh to describe himself, which I know is a weird question to ask somebody who has been famous as long as I’ve been alive.

He laughed.

“Just in general? Well, I’m a pisces…”

The rest of his answer is in the interview article on the Observer.

 

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Doing Press on LGBTQ Icons

I was asked to interview Kim Petras a couple weeks ago. Kim is a transgender woman who was one of the youngest people to undergo the “gender confirmation process.” I was also asked to review a concert last Friday in which she opened for Troye Sivan, a Youtube star turned gay icon.

But here’s the sitch. I am a Christian and a devoted to studying and living out the Bible in the best way I can. So how does a Christian journalist handle something like this?

The same way I will handle the Christian concert I’m reviewing this Friday.

Without my biases.

I would say “without my opinion,” but heck, I’m writing concert reviews.

When I review NEEDTOBREATHE this Friday, I’m going to focus on their performance as artists. I’m going to focus on the music. They don’t get special treatment just because we both go to church on Sundays. Yes, I will say that I support them on my blog because this is my personal platform and I’m all for their message, but as a journalist submitting articles to a professional publication, I have to be a journalist and do what journalists are supposed to do.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to compromise on my convictions. One little example of that is that I still bleep out profanity in the interviews I conduct. That doesn’t stop my editor from adding in a cuss word or two when she writes my headlines, but I have no control over that. That’s the editor’s job. (I could expand on that, but that’ll be for another time.)

When I’m reviewing shows, I’m reviewing the performance, not the artists’ relationships with God.

As a journalist, I’ve learned that I have to be able to observe what’s happening from different perspectives and view the world from the perspectives of the people I’m writing about. If I limit myself to my point of view, I will never be able to write objectively or separate my emotions from the facts I’m writing on paper.

For Kim Petra’s interview, I sat in my room after class and got a call from her agency. A nice British man named Peter connected me to the singer, who turned out to be one of the nicest and most welcoming people I’ve ever interviewed.

Kim was lovely. She was clearly passionate about her music and excited to be on tour for the first time. She didn’t even bring up anything about gender or sexuality.

But I did.

I wanted to see things through her eyes.

Whatever my convictions are on gender and sexuality, if I were Kim Petras, what would I feel? How would I think?

She went through surgery when she was 16. She was under heavy media coverage as a young teen, and few young people had gone before her in this crazy life change. Now it’s about 10 years later and she’s chasing a dream of being a pop star.

Kim briefly mentioned doing pride shows with Troye Sivan. Here was my window.

“So, even just the fact that you two are very big pride icons, what- do you feel like you- kind of- want to have that as part of your identity?” I was tripping on my words. There are so many things I could say right now that could be wrong, and I wasn’t sure how to phrase my question. “How much do you want it to define you? Are you- I guess I’m just curious because you guys are both such big icons… are you both like, ‘yeah this is who we are!’ Or is it more like, ‘oh it’s the music first’?”

I’m here to interview Kim Petras the musician, not Kim Petras the transgender icon. So I wondered if that’s how she viewed it as well. I’m more interested in her music since that’s what she’s promoting, but I wondered if she had trouble convincing people to think that same way. To see the music before the sexuality.

“What are your thoughts on that?” I asked.

“Um, I think that sexuality and gender identity say absolutely nothing about a person,” she replied. “I think if somebody’s smart or if somebody’s kind… those are the things that matter to me.”

(For the actual article on our interview, click here!)

We ended our interview with me telling her I was going to come to her first show to cover it.

“I can’t wait to see you there! Thank you so much, have a great day! Cool! Bye!” said Kim before we hung up.

When I went to the Troye Sivan show, it was clear that Petras and Sivan had attracted many people in the LGBTQ community. It was interesting to even watch the crowd and what kind of people came to the show. The people were honestly just as interesting to watch as the show was. When his song “Heaven” came on, the crowd went wild as the back of the stage lit up in a big rainbow. As a Christian, the symbolism and lyrics of the song combined raised some interesting thoughts. But that’s a whole other conversation.

(For the article on the show, click here!)

So I don’t know. I’m still learning about these things and trying to figure out how to objectively report in a world so full of many things I do not understand. Even after I wrote the article on Kim, someone commented on it correcting my use of words when talking about her transition. I don’t know what I’m doing!

But what I love about journalism is how it pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to see the world from so many different sets of eyes. I believe this is what Jesus did when he was on earth. He didn’t stay safe, merely mingling with those who thought and acted like him, but he spent time with so many different people- saints, sinners, outcasts, officials. He treated everyone like a person and met them where they were at. I can only hope to have the same kind of wisdom and love that he did as he navigated this world.

Interviews with Kevin from Pentatonix and Kristian from Sugarland

So, quick life update for context:

I’m working an internship at a summer camp is Philadelphia. Basically I’m helping to lead a leadership training program.

But while living at a camp and working full time, for some reason I thought, sure. I can keep working Observer articles. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

I recently submitted an article on my experience being backstage during a Lion King production (which will either get published soon or I will put it up on here), and then I landed two interviews. 

One Tuesday morning at camp, I took a break from my internship duties to go back to my cabin and have a phone call with both Kristian from Sugarland (the duo that just did that song “Babe” with Taylor Swift), and Kevin from Pentatonix (aka my favorite member).

Kristian was very professional and pleasant to talk to. He gave me the scoop on his partnership with Taylor Swift and everything. 

Link here for the Sugarland article!!

Kevin was calling from Cali so he had just woken up it seemed, so it was a very chill conversation. He was super nice, even trying to work with a couple technical hiccups I had. I gushed about how much I loved their show last year, and he was so excited about coming back to Dallas for Whataburger. 

Link for the Pentatonix article!!