Tag Archives: dance

Belly Dance: It’s Harder Than it Looks, but You Should Do it Anyway

Take enough belly dance classes and you’ll see her: The nervous but glowing newbie, bounding in in her $12 jingly hip scarf and yoga pants, inspired by some video she saw of a belly dancer where she thought “I can do that!”

She comes in and is ready to SHIMMY. Because, of course, she’s going to pick that up in the first class, and in no time she’ll be a brilliant dancer, awing her friends and family with her amazing moves.

But then, in the midst of the class, she realizes how crazy freaking HARD belly dance is. Her hips won’t shimmy, she can’t figure out how to make a belly roll happen, and when she tries the movements she looks nothing like the other dancers. Her enthusiasm turns from joyous to deer-in-headlights.
So after a couple of frustrating classes, she never returns.

This is, of course, a tad of an exaggeration, but similar experiences happen all the time.

I have to admit, I had no idea how hard belly dance was going to be when I took my first class. I grew-up studying ballet, tap, modern, jazz, and swing dancing. I had lots of performance experience. I was going to breeze into class and pick it up in no time, I just knew it. I’d always been a very “hip-oriented” dancer. I had this in the bag.

But then, those first few classes, I became so frustrated.

Belly dance uses muscles I wasn’t used to activating. I could not, for the life of me, activate my glutes separately in order to make my hips lift, belly rolls from down to up just weren’t happening, and walking while doing a vertical figure-8 was the most mind-boggling thing ever.

But, I would not be dissuaded! I took classes once a week, I supplemented with videos so I could practice more at home, and I shimmied while doing everything: The dishes, vacuuming, and even unconsciously in public. Eventually, my muscles activated, and my body got it down. Months went by, and my movement vocabulary started expanding, it felt more and more comfortable in my skin. What bliss! Finally, I could shimmy shake it like I’d always dreamed! But I think it took me, even with my years of dance experience, about a year of hard work to feel like I’d reached a more intermediate level.

I think we do have this perception in our culture that folk dances are less disciplined, less complex, and thus easier to do than the dances we perceive as high art forms: Ballet and Modern. But that’s not really the case.

I don’t want to dissuade any potential belly dancers from taking classes because they’re hard. Quite the opposite. Things that are challenging are SATISFYING. This dance is a complex flower that will slowly bloom for you over time, not some cheap dime store entertainment to be fiddled with and then discarded. You will get an awesome workout, you will get more in-tune with your body,  and you will look badass while doing it.

I feel blessed that my first teacher was Dilek Hoss, who was teaching Suhalia Salimpour technique Level 1 style classes. It was very meticulous and technical, and while it wasn’t as immediately gratifying… I took a 6 week class and didn’t learn much in the way of choreography, only drills… I know it made me a better dancer. A strong foundation is where it’s at. Yes, that means LOTS of “boring” drills.

So there it is. If you want to belly dance, realize it’s going to be challenging, it’s going to be a journey, but if it sings to you in your heart, you should DO IT.

30 Days of Happy Songs

Because why the fuck not.

I’ve been working on my write-up about this year’s Faerieworlds Festival, and just feeling pretty glowing and good after a fun weekend of camping and frolicking.
I want to keep the good vibes going, but also help deflect some outside negative energy I’m being exposed to right now, which can be exhausting. So a happiness challenge seems like a good motivator to keep positive and dance in my kitchen more.

I’m familiar with the 100 Happy Days thing that’s been going around, and that’s lovely. I’d like to tailor the concept to a shorter period of time and make the focus something that inspires, like music.

So for the next 30 days, I will be posting a happy song to my twitter feed every day, and I’ll do song round-ups on here every one or two weeks.

If you’d like to join in a post your favorite up-beat songs, please do! Or, you can just listen and smile (and shake your head at my sometimes odd taste in music).

Find my tweets: #30DaysofHappySongs

And my twitter—> @cypressmatrix

And here is the first song, inspired by a camping trip by the ocean with my mom and boyfriend the other week…

Louise Brooks Memes

I’ve decided the world needs some Louise Brooks quote memes.

Louise Brooks, if you’re not familiar, was a modern dancer, writer, follies girl and silent film actress.
She was a brilliant, but troubled woman who came from Kansas and became a smashing success in Hollywood, her charms seducing many, including Charlie Chaplain and Greta Garbo. Eventually, crossing the wrong people got her black-listed from Hollywood, and her life fell apart, only to be resurrected in later life  when she bloomed as a writer.

I’ve adored Louise ever since the age of 16 when my mom found her biography at a yard sale and brought it home for me to read. Her image was my first tattoo.

That biography is an amazing read, I highly recommend it: Louise Brooks, by Barry Paris 

And, there are a few biography films around, this is one:

And now, some delicious memes for your enjoyment. Feel free to take them a re-post where ever you like.

Louise Brooks Conquer

Louise Brooks bore you2

only Louise Brooks

Frolicking at The Oregon Country Fair

There is a place, in the woods of central Oregon, where thousands of hippies, mystical creatures and weirdos (and some cute suburbanite tourists) converge for three days out of every year. Music, vaudeville, dance, juggling, and performance art of every shape happens on several stages simultaneously, not forgetting the buskers in every nook and cranny. I have attended The Oregon Country Fair for the last 3 years, and it’s now on my must-do list forever more.

Aside from art and performances, part of the fun of the Fair is just the people-watching. It’s hotter than all get-out, but everyone dresses-up just the same. Some people’s costumes are mind-blowingly amazing, or just hilarious. Groups of these costumed people also create random parades along the pathways of the fair. This is one of the most entertaining things there.

Whilst walking to get to another stage, find the bathroom, or buy a glittery unicorn horn headband, you may run into jugglers, drummers, a bunch of  people stumbling in the wilting heat, dressed in brown bananna costumes…

Or really tall clowns…

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Or a pod of orcas…

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Or a roving pool party complete with cocktails…

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Or a ferocious dragon.

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The fair also has booths with every manner of amazing art, costumes, clothing, instruments and the like woven throughout the huge piece of land. This year I b-lined to my favorite feather booth to stock-up on amazing vibrant blue and purple facinator hair clips, and I bought a stunning black and gold parasol at another booth.

Here is my new fabulous parasol, and my sassy Fair outfit:

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Here’s the fantastic hand-painted leather mask my mom picked-up:

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And the food is nothing you’ll find at any other Fair, it’s actually healthy and delicious, with a vast multitude of choices. My favorite meal this year was a heaping plate of Cajun red beans and rice with riblets and watermelon, it fueled me up to frolic for the entire day. And of course in the mid-day heat we HAD to also stop at the Coconut Bliss booth for a coconut ice cream bar. Delish. There are tons of options for a variety of diets, from gluten free, to vegan, to paleo, etc.

But I have to say that, hands down, one of my very favorite places to be at the fair is the Gypsy Caravan Stage. It’s a small stage area on a side path where you sit on pillows in the straw and watch some of the most amazing belly dancers on the planet.
I know most of the people in that audience have no. idea. how famous and amazing these dancers are. It’s like they’re watching Jimmy Hendrix but have never heard of him. I always want to tell them all: “DO YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE!? SERIOUSLY. YOU HAVE NO IDEA…. WHAT, HOW DARE YOU GET UP TO LEAVE DURING ZOE’S SET… SIT THE FUCK DOWN.”

You can watch the likes of Rachel Brice, Colleena Shakti, Zoe Jakes, Sharon Kihara, and many more on a tiny stage. (and ALL of the performances at the fair are free. Just for a $22-$25  per day ticket, or $58 for all three, gets you access to everything.)
My first year I spent HOURS just sitting there, wide-eyed, mouth agape, watching the belly dancers and zagareeting my heart out.
And, at the end of each set, just to make any belly dance fan-dork’s heart leap out of their chest, the dancers walk around in the audience and collect tips in baskets. You then try to act really really normal (don’t act like a fan dork!) while giving them cash and telling them you loved their performance.

This year I had the pleasure of seeing Zoe Jakes (which was awesome because I wasn’t able to get anywhere NEAR the main stage during her band Beats Antique‘s set), Colleena Shakti, Sharon Kihara, and an amazing local dancer named Claudia.

This year’s videos aren’t up yet on youtube, but here is a recording of part of the show from 2013.

There is also camping around the fair grounds, to which I would highly advise:
a) Book early.
b) Be very, very mindful of whether you want a party camp or a family-oriented camp. There are some crazy all-night parties in some of them. Read the camp descriptions carefully.
c) Cell phone reception sucks, so camp near your friends.
d) Bring wet wipes, because your feet will look like this at the end of the day:

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So if you’re ever in Oregon in July and want to have an amazing time, dress like a wood nymph, and get all sweaty dancing with a bunch of weirdos in the woods, come to the Country Fair.

To entice you even more, here is a gallery of some of the photos of the fair that I’ve taken over the past 3 years:

Connection: The Heart of Tribal Belly Dance

I love group dancing, more than any other style. This is why American Tribal Style captured my heart.

When doing Improvisational Style Belly Dance (ATS, ITS, etc.) the class participants bond and interact more than any solo-oriented dance I’ve ever studied. You have to, because the dance form is, like the name implies, improvisational. Each dancer learns the language of movement, then small to medium groups of them perform it, with one person in the front as a lead. The group rotates regularly to share the lead spot.

It is so beautiful and exhilarating to experience the “mind meld” moments we have while dancing. Sometimes you’re in the back of the group, fixed so keenly on the lead dancer’s every gesture, that you just KNOW what she’s about to do even before she does it, and you both glide so seamlessly as a flock.

I grew-up attending modern and ballet classes, and these are so singular feeling. The students shuffle in, stand separately, stare at the teacher, then they shuffle out. In ATS/ITS you stand close together in a pod of dancers, you tune into each others movements, and you make intimate eye contact, and you SMILE at one another. It’s magical.

One of the other reasons I think I was so enamored with ATS right off the bat was that it reminded me of something I saw in a dream (or past life memory?) many years ago. As a teenager, one night I had a vivid dream of dancing with other women. It looked to be somewhere in Western Europe around the middle ages. Myself and the other women were dressed in plain, country style dresses, with little flowers woven in our long hair. We were dancing in a circle in the grass, cloudy sky overhead, and my soul was bursting with joy and contentment. The feeling was so connected and grounding, being one with myself and my sisters.

Fast forward to a few years ago, the first time I was exposed to ITS movement. I was taking Sabrina Fox’s Tribal Fusion class in San Diego (Tribal Fusion is different- it’s a mostly solo dance form). Sabrina  mixed it up a bit that evening and had us do a little ITS style movement. Since I had only taken Cabaret and Tribal Fusion style classes up until this point, the movement was totally new to me. The class was instructed to form the classic “horseshoe” shape particular to Improvisational Tribal Style, then we danced in groups in the center. I felt so lost! But it was fun.

Then we all shifted out of the horseshoe shape and started circling the room doing grapevine shimmies, and I had a flash of that dream where I danced with other women in the grass. I was suddenly filled with that same exact joy I’d felt in the dream, and I almost came to tears right there in class.

So perhaps one of the reasons why I love ATS so much is that is reminds me of dances I’ve done in another life. Regardless of the past life connection, I think it resonates with many people simply because circle dances, and communal dances have been a part of so many cultural histories. We can’t discount our genetic memory. Many of the modern Western dances that focus on mostly the isolation of the individual don’t give us that same human connection that we really need. In our compartmentalized, nuclear family structured, transient capitalist lives, dance like this is nourishment for our starving souls.

And, of course, I couldn’t close this post without a little video of Fat Chance Bellydance, the mamas of ATS…

 

About The Belly: Dance and Body Image

Hello everyone, It’s been a bit since my last post. I organize conferences for a living, and just got back into town from one of them… So now I’ve decompressed and am back in gear for writing.

Discussion about body image and the fucked-up beauty standards our culture holds women to is all over the internet these days. I wanna add my 2 cents, as a dancer and feminist and mature woman. I think the more voices we have talking about these issues, the better. Our collective storytelling holds immense personal and cultural value.

There is quite a bit written and said about belly dance being this amazing magical art form that makes women love their bodies and gives them the courage to parade on stage in a belly baring dance bra no matter what their size.  And it does, in many ways, give women confidence, I’m not going to knock that. But I think there’s a bit more complexity to it.

I think lately I’ve been wishing that belly dance WAS that magical, that it would make all my body insecurities go POOF.

I’ve had body image issues since childhood, like most girls, even though for most of my life I was skinny to average. I now find myself suddenly weighing more than I ever have in my life, even though I am technically still in the “healthy” BMI catagory. It’s been both good, bad, liberating, and disheartening all at once.

I remember when I first started to have anxiety about my looks, I was 11 years old, and my moon cycle had just started. All of the sudden my little girl body sprouted hips, so quickly that I still have stretch marks from it. I felt like my body was morphing out of my control, and I did not like it. I was so embarrassed of my new shape that I wore long t-shirts to school every day.  Classmates made fun of my hairy legs, so I started shaving. My face was pimply, and I felt like Quasimoto. One horrible boy on the playground walked up to me one day and said “God, why are you so UGLY?” and I was too crushed to tell him to fuck off.
I look back at photos of myself now and can’t believe I ever felt ugly. Not to toot my own horn, but I looked like a lovely girl, looking at the camera with a shy insecure smile. It breaks my heart that I ever disliked myself then.

The apex of this middle school body image crisis was one day when some other boy made fun of my “big” nose. After school I went to my best friend’s house and locked myself in the bathroom to cry. In the middle of my cry I realized that I LOVED my nose. It had a bump on the bridge like my grandpa’s nose, and it kind of looked like my mom’s from the front. And I love my grandpa and mom, so why did I feel ashamed?

Then I realized that if I didn’t believe the insults that people hurled at me, that those insults couldn’t hurt me. 

I decided to love my nose, and I haven’t hated it since.

In my late teens/early 20’s I gained some weight, as most women do, and like most of the fabulously pear-shaped women in my family, became a bit bottom-heavy, with a little pot belly. At that time in my life I was mostly surrounded by very body-positive women, so I didn’t stress too much about it. But then I moved away from those women, and went back to Southern California,  the land of anorexic movie stars and beach babes.

Here’s a picture of me then, for reference. (Punk rock selfies, yeah!)

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I’m a radical feminist, I have a freaking Women’s Studies degree from a women’s college in the Bay Area, I should be totally immune to bullshit beauty standards, RIGHT!? Man, I wish. Brainwashing dies hard.

I seemingly had every woman’s dream come true happen in my mid-20’s. I rapidly lost weight, with little effort on my part, I was just exercising more. Then I went vegan, and even more weight melted off… I remember going to the Levis store to shop for jeans, since my clothes were too big, and I realized I was their size 0. Some people would have been excited, but I was a bit terrified. Any smaller and I could no longer fit in women’s jeans. I didn’t feel like I was in control of what was happening to my body. But everyone else thought I looked fabulous! Men would compliment me, other women would look at me with this strange mixture of disgust and jealousy. I took on this hipster persona and went clubbing constantly, DJ’ed, go-go danced in rock clubs, the whole gamut. I totally exploited my scrawny frame in tight ass designer clothes.

But, underneath the fashionable clothes I was wasting away for no apparent reason. My face looked gaunt, my hair was brittle and dry, my skin looked like shit, and I tried so hard to eat “healthy” (by the misguided nutritional information I was given.) I was always hungry, and I purposefully ate more to try to maintain my weight. I managed to put on a few pounds, and got up to a size 2, so I felt a bit better about it. I was societies ideal for women, I was the size you see on TV and in magazines, and it’s because my body was eating itself from the inside.

Here I am at my tiniest. The hilarious thing about this photo is that I actually felt bloated that day. There are no photos of my bad skin, I’ve photo shopped or deleted everything that showed it. My legs were covered in ugly spider veins that popped up randomly when I was 22. You also can’t see my very prominent collar bones and ribs. But, look, I’m a model!

Thin Drea

Years later, after an avalanche of health problems, I realized I had what seemed to be Celiac disease. Wasting away is common with this condition, because your immune system attacks your intestines, damaging them and impairing your ability to absorb your food. That’s why I could eat and eat and not gain weight. It just went right though me (literally.. I know, TMI)
Going on a strictly gluten free Paleo diet helped heal my gut, and my skin and hair were suddenly healthy. I started putting on weight too, partially from being able to absorb things, and partially due to the arthritis and spinal damage that was the consequence of my unintentional malnutrition. I couldn’t exercise or dance very much, even walks around the neighborhood were sometimes interrupted by excruciating muscle cramps in my legs.

Eventually I got healthy enough to exercise more, but the weight stuck on. After years of malnutrition, I felt like my body just wouldn’t have it if I dieted in the least. I practically wanted to inhale tons of nutritious food, my brain, nervous system and whole body were still recovering from the debilitating crap I’d been through. If I felt like I needed a second bowl of stew, I ate it. I listened to my instincts instead of Weight Watchers point system.

Because of this, and my fabulously pear-shaped body, I went up 4 pant sizes in 2 years. The booty blossomed, so to speak!

At this point, I should have been celebrating my new found health, and relishing in my new womanly body. Honestly, and this is hard for me to admit because I am trained to be the super-duper body positive feminist… Instead of celebrating, I was distressed and disgusted, and a part of me was wishing I was still a malnourished waif.

I tried my very best to overcome my programming and give myself positive affirmations, even when my favorite pants would no longer zip up, or my underwear got too tight around the thighs. My girlfriends exclaimed positively about my newly grown booty, but my partner at the time wasn’t so supportive. It came out in therapy that he was less attracted to me now that I’d gained weight, and I still remember the disgusted looks he gave me when I ate things he disapproved of.
Part of me felt like crawling deep, deep inside myself and never coming out again. The other part of me enjoyed snacking on wedges of cheese in front of him as a big “fuck you”.

I tried so hard to counter-balance this negativity with more affirming things. I started a Pintrest page with gorgeous pictures of curvy women:

And I listened to things like this, which soothed my soul:

“Love your body the way your mother loved your baby feet.”

And what’s totally ridiculous about all of this is that I am still, even at my heaviest, technically not overweight for my height. Yeah, I wear size large bottoms, but I am, actually, perfectly healthy.

Sometimes I think about dieting, but I don’t want to. I eat really healthy food, and I hate feeling like I’m starving. So I’ll just have a full serving of dinner and my glass of wine and be happy and chubby.

Rad things about my weight gain:
My skin looks WAY better, and I actually look younger than I did at 27, I think. I still get carded regularly at 34.
HEALTH.
I finally gained enough for my boobs to get bigger! My boyfriend keeps laughing at me cuz I am constantly staring at and/or playing with them.

So, yeah, that’s my body image story. I’m still struggling, but trying hard to accept myself. Now that I am performing with Black Magdalene, it’s an even bigger curve ball, cuz now I see pictures of my belly on stage and I just want to cringe. But I’m trying not to. I’m trying to love it, dimples and all.

There is no one cure-all for the body image bullshit we have to deal with. Belly dance won’t make it magically go away, but, I think it does help. Supportive people help. Loving yourself helps. Being good to your body helps.

Love the belly, it loves you.

xx

 

Black Magdelene

Mentoring Yourself

A few weeks ago, I got a soft knock on my front door. I opened it to find  the 10-year-old daughter of my neighbors, a sweet and bubbly girl who I always hear belting soulful songs through the thin apartment walls. She asked me, in an adorable child-like rambling fashion, if I would be her “mentor” for a school project. She and her classmates were assigned to find some adult in the community who had shared interests and work with that person for 6 hours total, broken into one hour a week. She wants to be a fashion designer (and a singer) so my experience as a costume designer is relatable.

My first thought was “ME, a MENTOR?” And then self doubt and negativity flooded my brain for a moment… I thought: “But, I’m a broke office drone who has had to switch careers due to random circumstances a few times and still hasn’t realized my forever dream of being a fiscally successful artist… How could *I* mentor anyone???” But the neighbor girl’s cute little face was peering up at me and I just couldn’t say no.
Sure, I said, I used to work as a costume designer, I think I can share something.

So I’ve mulled over in my brain what I would tell her, teach her and talk about. And then I realized that maybe I DO have wisdom to impart. All of my hiccups and false starts and moments of brilliance, and the successes and failures of my peers, have imbued me with knowledge.
So this little girl and I are going to meet for six sessions and talk about being a fashion designer, and I’m sure it will be great fun. Maybe I will inspire her, maybe I will put a little seed in her mind so she has the confidence to succeed better than I did. That would be awesome.

This whole thing has also got me thinking about how I could mentor myself, both the present and past me. I’ve never had a mentor, and I think I’d like one. Who better to do the job then someone who knows me as well as I do? I think I have had some amazing experiences and learned so much from them. So what if some bumps in life kept me from getting where I wished I could be now? Our challenges and flaws are part of our beautiful imperfections, or as the Japansese define it, “wabi-sabi”,  the comprehensive aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.

So here are a few things I would advise to my past self. This is also what I try to keep in mind and manifest as much as I can in my present situation:

Be TENACIOUS. Seriously. Once you decide on what you want to do, clamp your jaws down on it like a rabid bulldog and don’t let go. There will be bumps, periods of doubt, critiques from friends and family, but don’t let this dissuade you. Figure out all the steps you need to do what you love. Enact them smartly. And, of course, don’t hold on to a dream that’s not going to work. Know when to let those jaws open and let it go, but give it a damn good try first.

Don’t go into crazy debt if you can help it. Debt hobbles your future mobility, makes you take jobs for money that you generally might not take, and keeps you from being free enough to realize your dreams sometimes. This is a hard one in our society, especially with the pressure to get a college degree and the obscene cost of tuition. The necessity of a college degree depends on your career goal. And getting a degree as a “back-up” to your artistic dream means you’ve already given-up on it. Really. This leads to the next tip…

BE CONFIDENT. (Just like Atreyu) Those big-busted sphinxes with laser beam eyes won’t get me, OH HELL NO.

Don’t give-up your dreams for your partners. (oh, we women do this too much, don’t we?) Yes, collaborate with, and support your partner’s dreams. But, as Janis Joplin said: “Don’t compromise yourself, you’re all you’ve got.” Sadly, there are those you may date or even marry that think of their partners as accessories. This kind of narcissist will feign interest in your dreams, maybe even entertain the idea of supporting you in them, but in the end will push hard to make their dreams #1. They’ll manipulate you maybe by placating you with the promise of a little slice of your dream (which often gets pulled away when it’s not convenient enough for them), or by saying that after their dream is actualized, they’ll support you in what you want to do (hint: it’s unlikely this will happen). So then you wake-up one day to find that you’re duty in life is now to be their support team and you’re expected to sacrifice and slave away to make their dream come true. If you complain about your miserable role, you’ll be labeled selfish. So, get the heck out of these situations before they permanently hobble you. (and if you keep picking partners like this, you probably have  co-dependency issues, as narcissists and co-dependents go together like peanut butter and jam.)

When I was 20 I seriously gave-up the chance to study abroad in the theatre department of Oxford-fucking-University because my partner at the time cunningly convinced me not to go. Yes, I will FOREVER kick myself in the ass for that one.
So yeah, don’t give-up your dreams for your lovers. A loving partner will always wholeheartedly support and give a shit about your dreams too. This goes back to BEING CONFIDENT.

Don’t let perfectionism cripple you. You will kinda suck at first. That’s okay. Keep doing it anyway.

Ira Glass said it best:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

It took me a long time to get up the confidence to perform belly dance. I’d been studying for years, but just didn’t feel “good enough” yet. But, you don’t get better at performing unless you perform. And I’m so glad I finally got up the guts to get up there, it has been so enriching, even if I do still cringe when I’m about to watch a video of myself!

Diversify what you do, be a smart business person. It’s not easy to be an artist in this culture. The work is undervalued and under-supported.  You have to be crafty to be successful.
A great example of this is my old-time friend, Skyler Fell. She started learning how to play accordion when I knew her in the late 90’s. She transformed her love of playing this instrument into a full fledged business. To do this, she didn’t just play the accordion, she learned how to fix them, how to teach others to play, and also opened a retail store. Badass.

And lastly, I know this speech has been up and down the internet and is like, so 2012, but I still love it.
Just make good art:

I am trying now to follow my own advice, to listen to my inner mentor, and follow these tips as best I can and repair the part of my life where I did not listen. And I think that leads into the very last bit of advice for myself, just do your best and don’t be hard on yourself, you’re amazing just by being. “Success” means many different things.

As for how I am going to mentor my little fashion designer friend, I think I’m just going to encourage her in her dreams, tell her never to give up on them, and we’re going to have a really fun time drawing and sewing purses.