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 https://www.wellandgood.com/good-looks/fashion-sizes/

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.

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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.

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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.”

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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.