Dinner Lab, Minimal, Design, Los Angeles, Culture

|| DINING WITH T Y R A ||

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

Dinner Lab, Minimal, Design, Los Angeles, Culture

A few weeks ago I attended a Dinner Lab event at the MaRS gallery in DTLA on behalf of Bunch Magazine. Arriving solo, I found I was in the company of a mature crowd. A situation that could have easily been intimidating I strangely found inspiring. I took the humid night in stride, determined to make the most of it all. I found comfort in the smell of fresh paint emitted from the artwork that hung on the walls. Maybe this accepting attitude amidst the uncertainty was the reason I later find myself face to face with a supermodel. I would soon re-define the impossible. Walk with me…

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With my tea-infused Bombay elixir in hand, I make my way around the venue. Bold aromas fill the space as chef Wes Whitehead preps our meal for the evening. The dinner’s theme is a creative celebration of tea and food. The tables are set in a uniformed fashion, which nicely balances against the free-form paintings and adds a touch of needed structure.

As more guests begin to pour in so do the beverages. With great company came greater heat, and I begin to feel beads of sweat emerge on my face. I find a way to remain positive in thought and regard it as a lovely dewiness. My ears perk up as a familiar face walks by, mentioning something about the bow meticulously tied in my hair. For a moment I think I’m hallucinating as the woman who just took note of my appearance looked a lot like Ms. Tyra Banks.

Feeling a little too warm for comfort, I walk in their direction towards the back patio to grab some fresh air…and maybe excite my curiosity. I wasn’t trippin’ that was in fact Tyra Banks. Just as shocked as one of the cooks out back, he says, “Hey, tell Tyra I say hello.” I laugh it off thinking to myself ” Ya, you and me both kid.” Little did either of us realize I would be engaging in more than a simple hello.

The host approaches, gently coaxing me to take my seat as the dinner is about to begin. As I walk around to find a spot, I notice an opening directly across from the supermodel herself. Is this for real right now? The one spot you would think would be filled in a heartbeat was free and calling my name. I hesitate for half a second only to kill it with action. I decide this is no time to be shy. I make my move. As I draw closer to the table, I realize my feet are moving me forward and there’s no turning back now.

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I approach the ladies at the table to ask if the seat’s taken. They instantly welcome me to the table. Tyra breaks the ice and relieves some pressure by saying “We were just admiring your bow.” I melt into my seat and begin to blush. Smiling from ear to ear I thank her, wanting to say more as I sit arms length from the woman who inspired me to model. I wonder how on earth I managed this one and then I begin to get nervous. I pour some water to re-collect myself and I start to reflect on the irony of the phrase, “Never let them see you sweat.” One thing was certain, with this heat, they most certainly did see me sweat. Humor comes to my aid and a lighthearted smile calms my nerves. I realize I’m sweating the small stuff.

           The conversations at the table come naturally. We discuss art, photography, Quixote Studios and random things like going to the movies alone. Tyra’s friend then asks if I came alone and I surprise him with a yes. They both applaud me for being courageous and mention that I appear young but disprove that notion when I speak. Tyra hints that I’m an old soul and that I fit in just fine. (Who knew sitting at the adult’s table would be so fun)

As the night comes to an end, Tyra begins to say her farewells and I feel an itch to show her my work. Not wanting to force the subject I hold back and almost forget tonight is about being bold. I ask. She openly accepts, welcoming me to sit beside her. She lands on my 4th of July shoot and mentions how photogenic I am to her friend. As she tries to recall the name of an a-typical agency I should look into, she hands the phone over to her friend. He takes a closer look and decides to go beyond the image by investigating my entire Instagram. He notes my catch phrase “transforming the mess into the message,” and begins following my account on the spot.

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@Tyrabanks Instagram

As they begin to clear the tables, we find we’re the last of the guests still around. Tyra reaches for her leather jacket and says she hopes to see me at the next DL event. Hoping for the same, I say goodbye as I float on thin air towards the bathroom to go pinch myself.

I close the bathroom door behind me and begin to second-guess this positive encounter. I try to figure out its purpose and begin to fearfully wonder if that was my only chance. Did I make a powerful enough impression? Could I have done anything to make a better connection? Then I stop to breathe, calming the unnecessary tension I created in my mind. Then I realize I made the impressions I was meant to make. Although the circumstances didn’t unfold the way I thought they might, I did make an impression. Tyra Banks noticed me. I received insights on the importance of providing context to your art. I was told I’m very wise and brave, and I earned a new follower.

If I learned anything tonight it’s that anything is possible. I imagined meeting Tyra ten years ago but never in such a casual context. What mattered most was that somehow without any effort, I was blessed with the opportunity to be in the presence of an incredibly influential woman. I got to share a moment with her, and in this light, it was far better than what I originally imagined.

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Clearly you don’t have to have it all figured out, and maybe it’s better if you don’t. Maybe this was a lesson in accepting uncertainty, the space that lies between structure and free flow. This is the place where life naturally unfolds. With patience and faith good things will come in unexpected ways, you just have to allow it. As for Tyra, I have a feeling our paths will cross again. So until then, I will effortlessly continue to re-define the impossible.

THE S U M M I T || 12.29.14

“And she soared high above the trees,
towards the vast escaping light.
From the shallows of her darkness,
she broke free in majestic flight.”
– m.r.

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It was not even two hours after my flight had landed in Los Angeles that I found myself back where I had left off, Elysian Park. Before departing for New York two weeks ago, the crew and I headed up to the same spot after our latest shoot to watch the sunset and revel in our potential, which twinkled in the city lights below.

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Jet lagged and running off of four hours of sleep, it was safe to say I was in need of some Vitamin D, product of California. This I figured would dust off any remaining cobwebs created by the New York Winter I just encountered.
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With my leather backpack slung over my right feather-coated shoulder, I made my way up to my favorite spot to detox, re-center, and grab a dose of fresh air. The sun was warm, the air crisp, as both penetrated my very being in the friendliest manner. Before me lay a scenic playground. I lightly played ambient music, hoping to drone out the plentiful amount of thoughts that raced through my mind, quite similar to the twirling streets that lay ahead of me as I made my way to the top.

// The Summit //
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As I parked at the peak’s overlook, I opened the car door, turned up the volume on my radio, and took a seat on the stone ledge. Something felt mildly ironic as I placed my feet, properly protected by synthetic floral Doc Martens on Mother Nature’s rich soil. Breathing deeply from my diaphragm, I began to welcome in happiness, kindness, peace, and love. In return, what goes up must come down–and on the exhaling breath, out came any traces of sorrow, malice, discomfort, or greed. I continued in this way with a rose quartz in one hand and a cooling green stone in the other. A warming sensation washed over me. This time it wasn’t the sun, but rather the sunshine within me.

// My light //

I began to work my way into a trance. Visualizing a time I was very happy and in a way, transporting myself back into that landscape. I imagined Santa Cruz. I smelled the fresh ocean breeze laced with sea salt and remembered the uplifting presence I once felt. At the time I was in love, madly, adding to the natural high I had experienced and was currently cultivating once again. Time stopped as I freeze framed a once picture perfect moment. I didn’t care about anything. Not a moment that came before, nor anything in that present moment. And definitely nothing that lay ahead of me.

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I can in part owe much of this to you, as at the time I wasn’t fully aware of many concepts, including that of Tao. I only saw that you were totally and utterly awake. Because of you, I saw and experienced the highest feeling we as humans can encounter, the Present Moment. I realize now, you were only the vessel of this message that now lives within me. To my surprise, this was only the beginning of my journey,
a journey of self.

I realized each individual in our life serves a very specific purpose. We are all vessels of light and by knowing this, we are encouraged to touch one another with our unique power. When we touch others, we impart a piece of ourselves on one another, in hopes that they may now carry it within themselves. These people either stay, leave, or come in and out of your life like the ebb and flow of a tide, to serve as a reminder that
 all we seek can be found within.

Mantra:
I know I’m never alone–
because I always carry a piece of you,
within me.
.  .  .

 We give so that we can receive.
And where you end, I begin.

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“The Canvas of My Soul”

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LA Canvas Presents: The Romance Issue x No Vacancy

My suede trench coat was softly draped over my freckled shoulders as we sashayed our way up Hollywood Boulevard. A wide brim hat concealed my red-fox fringed hair, which was leaning more on the unkept side. I guess I was going for that effortlessly cool aura tonight anyway.

If it weren’t for the noise of my heels as they met the concrete, I would almost say I felt incognito as we turned off the boulevard onto a side street that led to a back alleyway. My mind retraces the seconds prior when my shoe introduced its rubber sole to one of the shiny hollywood stars. I smile to myself at this ironic vision. How can we admire these famous legends enough to give them their own space on the boulevard just so we can walk all over them like they’re another brick in the wall? Such a contradiction.

We step to the back of the line behind a dark sultry building with a vintage neon sign which illuminated the namesake of this once hotel turned bar, No Vacancy. I felt like Carmen Sandiego, and Ben resembled an Asian James Bond in his silver sports jacket that caught the light, glistening in the almost-full moon that hung above us. To no surprise we catch the eye of one of the guys working the door not long after we arrive. That jacket was eye grabbing but if you asked Ben he would say it was all me who got us in, I guess we can agree to disagree. We slithered in past the crushed velvet rope. I always wondered if bouncers ever had a bad conscience at the end of the day? They must have been cut while waiting in line back in the elementary school days, waiting to buy fruit rollups and chocolate milk. The words, “No budging!” resonate so vividly.

Whatever. We were in.

We entered a dimly lit bedroom/study where a woman welcomed us as she sat properly upright on a bed. Books layered and filled every inch of the wall. As she spoke, I redirected my attention to the woman to my right and before my eyes, the bed began to pull back revealing a secret staircase. I felt as if I was about to walk into a new world or better yet, travel back in time. No password needed apparently, fly apparel sufficed. We had just walked into hipster paradise, Speakeasy style.

The atmosphere was somewhat an “east-coasty” Ivy-League exclusive college house party meets The Great Gatsby. I walked out to the back patio where lights were strung up above my head from the cobblestone building. Presented before me were large circular lanterns that framed an opulent staircase. Dancing down stair by stair in unison to the music, I had arrived.

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Observing smokers congregated by the outdoor fireplace, I felt someone remove my hat from my head. “Really?”, I thought to myself, “Not even five minutes into the party.” I quickly turned around with an embarrassed fake smile and before I could meet his face, a new hat was placed upon my head. “Nice hat,” says the shorter of two dudes with a smirk. They were dressed in leather jackets and had American Spirits in hand. We only spoke for about 3 minutes before parting ways, with our hats back on the heads of their rightful owners of course.

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A DJ was spinning live music from one of the many rooms where bubbly kids danced over oriental rugs, cocktails in hand. I wonder how many careless spills those carpets felt tonight. With so many interesting and young influential people in one place I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted to know everyone’s story.

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As the night progressed I realized many wanted to know my story just as much, if not more. A familiar face stared back at me from across the bar as I waited for my cocktail. Before I knew it I felt a tap on my shoulder. The familiar face turned out to be a stranger yet we both felt as though we had seen each other before. We shared a few laughs and a similar position of LA apartment hunting.

“I don’t think LA is ready for me,” I said slyly.

His response, “I don’t think so either.”

Although I can’t remember his name, the West Hollywood kid had one of the most genuine smiles.

It’s no secret I’m passionately curious. I think it stems from my innate ability to always be a chameleon and adapt to different environments. I dance my way through every adventure with clarity, a fresh state of mind, an unattached freedom, and a limitless open heart. A blank slate. The Canvas of my Soul.

These relationships built, the self-growth from a conversation with a stranger, the music that fills my ears, these are the components that colour my canvas. They create a portrait filled with meaning and beauty.

You see none of us really know what were doing in this whole “life” thing. We’re all just bull shitting our position and playing along, learning from one another’s triumphs and feats. I guess I’m fine with bullshitting my way through life. Plus, I was recently told bullshitting is the highest form of cognitive thought.

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RAWards 2014: Natural Born Artists

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Photo Cred: @indiehair

“Art is our past as well as our future. We live in a time where barriers are being broken between people everywhere. The landscape of the art world industry is ever changing. There has never been a better time to be an independent artist.” -Heidi Luerra

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RAW’s slogan playfully states “We dig the underground.” The eclectic organization acts as a platform and a bridge for a various set of artists to be seen, heard, and loved. On January 19, 2014 they held the RAWards: The Indie Arts Awards at Exchange LA in DTLA to commemorate the top RAW artists in the nation.

This celebration electrified the room and showcased the driving force inside each and every passionate artist who continues to lead the charge forward in creating a more inspired, abstract, and innovative world.

It takes a tenacity to follow what you’re born to do. The courage to express, create, inspire, provoke, and to make a statement.|To have the guts to never ever give up|.

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Photo cred: @taytomp

I leave you with the wise words of the multi-talented Mr. Rutledge:

"Find out who you are and figure out how to use it. Lets remember life is good. It is as we choose it. It all depends on what we make what we take and what we do with all these little choices." –Chris Rutledge, poet, tap dancer, painter

If you’re all about being ‘in the know,’ be sure to check out their site so you can keep up to date on what’s going on within the underground arts and attend the next show in your area: Raw Artists

Smashbox Photo Assist Show

“It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning –So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
 – The Great Gatsby 
 
 

One day I was searching for contact information on the Smashbox Studios website where I happened to stumbled upon a landing page banner that read:

Twenty Thirteen

The Original SMASHBOX

Photo Assists Show

-Since 1995-

On a whim, I applied with about 4 photos from my Semester at Sea experience, of which were previously exhibited at Chapman University. To my complete surprise, 2 were selected to be featured in Smashbox’s Annual Photo Assist Show. As one of the youngest artists recognized at the show that night, it hadn’t registered in my mind just how significant this was or the magnitude of this acknowledgement until a good friend, Clinton Wallace, put it in perspective.

I had just met Clinton for the first time that night, a night that marked an encounter with a soon to be mentor as well as many new friendships and surprises. He and I took a picture together which is the fourth photo featured below. Clinton, along with another photographer at the event had asked me how it felt to have been chosen out of thousands of submissions? I noticed that in that moment, I became self aware of my tendency to downplay my accomplishments or recognitions. I’m not certain why, but I feel it may be because I refuse to become too attached to those moments as a means to refrain from slowing down my progress. I never wanted to become comfortable as a child, and now it is represented by my continuous inner drive t0 grasp, accomplish and reach my full potential as a storyteller and artist. Just like a shark who needs to constantly swim and roam in order to stay alive, we must similarly remain in motion, for that is where creativity lies.

Never the less, it was truly was one of the most amazing nights within my senior year at college. The night was garnished with artistically clad individuals ranging from laid back street wear styles to mysterious faces shielded by interesting hats. There was a tribute band to the Beastie Boys who performed in halfway throughout the night, changing up the energy of the event, creating some up beat excitement. The Beastie Boys theme was cohesively reflected as well in the photo shoot set, which encouraged the partakers to openly masquerade the bedroom scene. My friends, Ashley, Austin, Christian and I decided to take a domestic stance posing as a future newage family portraiture on a Sunday afternoon. My cousin Jake Ross, spun that night, continuing to supply the event with his funky, electro-disco infused set. Just hours before heading out the door for the event, my Mom called me telling me that Jake works for Smashbox and would be there all night spinning a live set. I probably hadn’t seen him for 8 years. It was a night where I entered with no expectations and left thinking:

Expect the unexpected. 

Random coincidences never were part of my vocabulary

      .  .  .

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Pin-Up Misfit

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

― Apple Inc.

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Chameleon Soul

“I was always an unusual girl.
My mother told me I had a chameleon soul, no moral compass pointing due north, no fixed personality; just an inner indecisiveness that was as wide and as wavering as the ocean..And if I said I didn’t plan for it to turn out this way I’d be lying…Because I was born to be the other woman.I belonged to no one, who belonged to everyone. Who had nothing, who wanted everything, with a fire for every experience and an obsession for freedom that terrified me to the point that I couldn’t even talk about it, and pushed me to a nomadic point of madness that both dazzled and dizzied me.”

-Ride by Lana Del Rey

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The Devil’s In The Details

“I am a part of all that I have met.” 
~Alfred Lord Tennyson

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