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.



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.

Interning at a Fashion Magazine Told Through The Devil Wears Prada Gifs

So besides my two majors and a minor at SMU, I decided to be crazy and have two jobs and two internships as well.


My newest addition to my schedule? An editorial internship with Modern Luxury Dallas Magazine.

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Fancy, right? I honestly don’t know how I got the internship. I’m very excited, but I had no idea what to expect.

I didn’t know what to wear. I didn’t know what to bring. I basically had no idea what this internship was going to look like.

Turns out, it’s amazing. They’re already having me write things for their magazines and I get a lot of independence.

How I sum it up? I’m living the Devil Wears Prada, minus evil Meryl Streep.


Yes, coffee and cheese plate runs are included, but I’m mostly doing actual writing.


So what else do I do but watch the Devil Wears Prada when I get home?

The first movie-life parallel: The magazine industry is like another world.


No, Modern Luxury isn’t Vogue, but it’s the closest thing Texas has.

I walked into a tall fancy office building with a security guard and front desk and revolving doors and everything. The office is in a really nice part of town. I got up the elevator and came across glass doors.

Behind the glass doors was a little welcome area with a big sign that read MODERN LUXURY and current and past issues displayed in the most intimidating way. There was a big fur rug, some orchids, the works.

Also? The conference room was right in front of you as you walked in, so everyone could see me, the confused new intern not knowing what to do with herself.


Luckily, the assistant editor found me and rescued me from my uncomfortable limbo. I was shown the fancy office with those low cubicles that lets you do that thing where everyone can talk about stuff over them, MTV- style.

I was given a very thorough run-down of the magazine- what we write about, our target audience, what all our issues look like, and all the other magazines we write besides Modern Luxury Dallas. 

Then I was given an assignment and left to my own devices.

I spent the day basically contacting designers for information. I felt like a dufus.




I don’t know the difference between a retailer and a designer. I didn’t know if Neiman Marcus is a person or a place at this point. I just like writing stuff. I go to thrift stores for clothes.


I felt very out of place. And underdressed. And I didn’t have Starbucks with me, I had a knock-off hydroflask I got from Walmart, filled with tap water.


But you know what? I don’t care. Yes, I got some heels because apparently everyone at the office wears heels. Peer pressure is painful sometimes. But I’m just happy to be here, and if heels is what it takes, so be it.


But though I feel a little in over my head, I’m passionate about my work and so up for the challenge. After all, isn’t this the dream? To write, to work hard at creating, and love doing it?


I am so excited about this opportunity and can’t wait to see what I’ll learn through it. Hopefully I don’t have to go through the major identity crisis Andy went through in the movie.

But all in all, I’m absolutely stoked to be writing for a real-life magazine. It’s a dream come true and I’m so ready.

Getting Paid to Go to a 5 SOS Concert (an update on my latest writing adventures)

My Dallas Observer editor gave me two free tickets to go see 5 Seconds of Summer at the House of Blues Thursday. Isn’t that crazy? And I’m getting paid for this, too!

After a lot of going back and forth with publicists and managers, my editor was able to score tickets and let me know about 4 hours before the show that I could go. So I texted my sister. She was excited.


So within a couple hours we were lining up at the House of the Blues to see one of her favorite bands. (This conveniently doubled up as an early birthday present for her.)

Some things I learned: When your editor tells you your tickets are at “will call,” that just means you’re supposed to ask the ticket booth for your tickets.

Words I actually got to say multiple times that night: “Hi, I’m with the Dallas Observer…” and “Hi, I’m here covering the concert for the Dallas Observer…” does that sound official or what? Granted, I feel like I look like this random 16 year old pretending to be a reporter, so I felt like I had to say things like that to seem more valid. I got a wrist band for “press” and everything!


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The concert was a pretty cool thing to do for “work” on a Thursday night.


I was probably the only one taking notes at a concert, so that was interesting.

My editor wanted me to get the review to her by 10am the next morning, so I stayed up until 1am to finish it so I could just sleep in until my class the next day. Got her done!



Click here for the 5 SECONDS OF SUMMER STORY

(Unfortunately… maybe it’s because I was tired or I’ve never written a concert review before, it looks like my editor made more changes than normal. So if it doesn’t sound like me at some points, that’s why!)

I also have two other new articles out, one about a local neon artist and one about a contestant on Lifetime’s new reality dating show! I watched one of the episodes and it’s actually really interesting, go check it out!


My Phone Call with Tyra Banks

Yes, THE Tyra Banks.


Know her?


Victoria’s Secret Angel, creator and host of America’s Next Top Model, America’s Got Talent, Eve from Life Size.


My editor from the Dallas Observer had me do what they call a “phoner.” Apparently, that’s journalism talk for a phone interview.

So, I got in contact with her people, and a time was set (4:30 pm C/T she said) for my talk with Tyra Banks.

Beforehand, my mom took me to Bird Bakery, where coincidentally, we saw a recognizable face.

Armie Hammer.

Yes, THE Armie Hammer.


His wife owns Bird Bakery, but we’ve never actually seen him there. I didn’t say anything to him, since I could tell he just wanted to enjoy coffee and pastries with a couple I’d assume were his parents. (Or grandparents? Not sure, I was too busy trying not to stare at Armie, who looks EXACTLY like he does in the movies.)


He was sitting right across from me.


After chit chatting within earshot of Armie for about an hour, I had my mom drive me back to my dorm.

Bye, Armie. I need to go talk to Tyra. Like WHAT EVEN was this day??

We were about five minutes away when it happened.


The phone rang. 15 minutes early than I expected.

Tyra’s assistant asked me if I was ready.

I SO was not. Not ready. Not. Ready.


I explained to her the miscommunication in timing and asked for a couple minutes.

“Yeah, it’s just… I have her here and she’s been going nonstop all day since 4 in the morning…” the assistant explained. “Can I call you back in 3 minutes?”

I agreed, hung up, and my mom and I freaked out.

Luckily, she was able to park. I got out my laptop, started the recording and got out my questions. My mom held up her phone as a backup recording.

I heard the ring.


The assistant asked if I was ready. I wasn’t, but I said yes anyway. I’d never freakin been on the phone with a celebrity before, I had no idea what I was doing.

“Okay hold on, let me go grab her.”

Silence. My mom turned her head away just in case Tyra could hear her breathing.



Tyra Banks knew my name.

“Hi Tyra, how are you?” I said, relieved I said her name right. (You see, all day for some psychotic reason, I had been calling her Tanya. Tanya. WHAT.

“I’m good, how are you?”

“I’m doing good! I’m Isabel from the Dallas Observer.” (Well obviously she knew that already. I was soooo awkward!!!)

We started to chit chat about the Today Show she had to get up at 4 that morning to go to, and we were off. I went into full interview mode.

Hearing the recording played back, I was SO awkward. Lots of nervous laughter, lots of accidentally interrupting her. It was… a learning experience.


Halfway through, Tanya said this:

“Oh what do you want, boo boo?”

I assumed she was talking to her kid. We weren’t at that level yet, you know?

“This is my son,” Tyra explained. “I gave my nanny Easter off so… we just had a babysitter today. Okay boo boo, what do you want? You just want mommy to get off the phone?”

Cutest voice ever: “Yeah…”

“Okay well you go talk to Nana and mommy’s going to be finished soon, okay?”


“Mommy’s going to be finished soon!” She explained that he had come to the Today Show with them. “He had fun! He was running around…”

Our interview lasted about 10 minutes. Tyra was a super nice person, super easy to talk to and very easy to interview! She even spilled some information about Life Size 2 that I didn’t think had been released anywhere yet!

Tyra’s “people” invited me to the event she is hosting in Dallas next week, as well as gave me a copy of her new book, Perfect is Boring!

Click here for the full article!

Learning Journalism: Getting Paid for my Blog Post

There was going to be a story about an antique bookstore posted here the other week, but instead it ended up on the Dallas Observer website.

I’m a Fashion Media student at SMU, and while it sounds like something else, it really is a Journalism major. this is why I sometimes just tell people I’m a Journalism major. I take fashion and media classes, but it’s all centered around journalism and writing, which is why I like it.


Anyway, my favorite class this semester is News Reporting. Not only do I love the hands-on, project-based pace of the class and think my professor is the literal coolest person ever (she’s straight-up Rory Gilmore in my head), but it’s been the coolest thing to actually act like a journalist.


I got to attend an event as a journalist for the first time- the SMU Career Fair. This involved lots of sweaty awkward interviews I didn’t know how to do and then camping out at the dining hall next door to eat nachos and type out the article.


Click here to check out my first published article ever! It’s on the school paper, SMU Daily Campus. 

My next event story was basically to stalk my cool fashion-designing aunt.


It was cool to actually interview my aunt and hear about her company from her words instead of just seeing her work. I know I talk about her company a lot so I won’t re-explain the awesomeness that is Filip+Inna, but you can read my article for more information if you need it!


Click here to read my article about my aunt’s trunk show! Also on SMU Daily Campus!

And then. The big leagues.

This is where that article went.

I mentioned to my News Writing professor about an article I was writing for my blog. I had discovered my favorite local antique bookshop closing in Downtown Mckinney and was writing a story about it. My professor convinced me to send it to her so she could pitch it to the Dallas Observer. Long story short, I’m published!

The DO editor is still accepting some of my stories so this isn’t over!

I can officially say I am now a freelance writer for the Dallas Observer website! It’s honestly so cool and I love it!


Things I’ve learned so far:

  • Side hustles are not in vain. The only reason why I now get paid for stories is because I had some already ready. My professor saw my initiative, writing for my blog, and that’s how I was able to jump to getting published so easily. Sometimes I doubt whether this is a waste of my time or not, but I love it when I’m proved wrong.
  • Connections are everything. Make friends with the professors you want to be!
  • Freelance writing for news publishers isn’t as scary as I thought. I started literally submitting things I was turning in for homework anyway since my professor was friends with the editor and encouraged me to do so.
  • Come up with a good headline so they don’t have to. I forgot to write up a good headline for the Mckinney bookstore one, so they wrote me one. Problem is, I prefer to use words like “dang.” Oh well.

Click here for my Dallas Observer post!