Tagged: Los Angeles

Dame of the Day: Anna May Wong

Anna May Wong

Today’s Dame of the Day is Anna May Wong (January 3, 1905-February 3, 1961). Born in Los Angeles’s Chinatown neighborhood, Wong began acting in silent films when she was 18. In two years time, she became an international sensation. Dissatisfied with Hollywood’s stereotypical casting practices, she spent half her time in Europe starring in major plays and films. In spite of the industry’s narrow typecasting and racist tactics, Wong became the first internationally known Asian-American actress.

Schoolin’ Life: Nilah Magruder

In this week’s installment of Schoolin’ Life, we get to know cartoonist and author Nilah Magruder.

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Give us a quick bio: who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?

I’m a storyboard artist, comic creator and soon-to-be children’s book author living in Los Angeles. I’m very much into creating stories. My job’s pretty great; I draw and watch movies, then go home and do more of the same. On occasion, I go out to hang with friends or my coworkers, but I’m kind of a shut-in who likes to stay home and lie around with my roommate and my roommate’s cats.

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

I was sure I would be an investigative reporter by now. Or maybe a business-savvy agent at a PR firm, wearing sleek business suits, living in a cool apartment with a massive kitchen in DC. Last thing I expected to be is an artist schlepping around Hollywood in jeans and hoodies.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

I figured I’d go to college, get a degree, get a job, and that would be it. Step 1, step 2, step 3, profit. You know, the American dream (I guess?). I’m actually not sure what my endgame was. In school, starting your career seemed like this textbook, step-by-step process, and I believed that when I hit the right milestone that everything would fall into place and start making sense. I never hit that milestone. Eventually everything started making sense, but not in the way I expected.

What was your first job like?

I’ve been working since I was sixteen. My very first job was server at a restaurant, and I only stayed four months, enough time to make a bit of spending money. It was what could be expected: a bunch of kids goofing off too much while serving food to families and retirees for $5.25/hr. Some nights were fun, but I never missed the place. My first career-related job was freelance journalist for a local paper. I started my junior year in college (I’m still in awe that they gave a college kid a steady paying gig). It was a lot of fun; I wrote for the arts and entertainment section and got sent all over the county to speak with artists, writers, singers, dancers, and to cover events. I covered verything from fundraisers, to art exhibitions, to community theatre. I kept that job as long as I could, until I found a full-time position as a marketing writer and I didn’t have time to drive to Frederick anymore.

What was your first apartment like?
My first apartment was the one I lived in while I was attending Art Institute of Washington, in Arlington, VA (just outside of Washington, DC). I shared it with three other girls, and it was fine at first. Drama quickly set in though: lots of dumb roommate meetings and passive aggressiveness, and there was a cranky guy who lived under us that complained any time we so much as breathed or, y’know, existed at all. Writing about it now, it sounds like stereotypical apartment living, haha! It was tough, though, because I wasn’t working, I didn’t have any money and I didn’t like asking my parents for any, so there were times when I had no food and I didn’t know what I was going to eat. And I was lonely, so I took the train home pretty much every weekend. But I loved the city, despite all that.

Did you experience any big life changes?

Going to college was big. Studying in South Korea for a month was big. Starting my career was big. Going to art school. Interning at a large film studio. My aunt died in 2010. Those are the moments that stick out.

In what ways did your friendships change?

The friendships I have now run very deep, and most of them I developed in adulthood. I’ve never been the type that needs a huge social circle. I’ll cut off a relationship quick if I think it’s become toxic, but at the same time I’ve become more accepting of people. A lot of my friends are people I’ve shared important moments with, like the friends I made in Korea, and my art school friends. Others simply share the same goals and we help push each other along. My friends are all over the place. I don’t know how I’d get along without the Internet. I’m sure I’d be a lot lonelier.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

I’ve never had any! Never had a boyfriend, never even been on a date. That level of intimacy has been a curiosity at best, but I’ve never felt a craving for it. My only boyfriend was in first grade, and it lasted until the following day when we found out we were cousins. ;P

How did your relationships with your family change?

At the same time I got closer to my mom, I feel like I’ve grown apart from everyone else. I talk to my mom every day, and everyone else only now and then. It’s weird and sad if I think too much about it.

How do you feel society viewed you?

I’m not sure society noticed me at all.

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

I’ve chilled out, I think. Gotten more confident. I know who I am, I know my strengths and my weaknesses. Being aware of those things has made me more comfortable in my own skin. In my twenties, I was a lot angrier, a lot more prone to flying off the handle or falling into depression. I have those moments now, but for the most part I can manage them. I’m a little more flexible, more ready to accept whatever happens in my life and roll with the punches.

How did you change intellectually?

I feel like I’ve gotten dumber sometimes, haha. Like I knew more when I was younger. But I’m savvier now, less apprehensive of change or new experiences. I think a lot of my book intellect’s been replaced with life experience.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

I’ve always been “the artist.” That hasn’t changed much. I’ve always been a fly on the wall, too – it’s what made me a good journalist!


How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

I’ve become much more aware of oppression and hypocrisy in government policies, of the struggles that people face across populations. Growing up black, female, and lower class has exposed me to a lot of prejudice, but it’s made me more compassionate, too, so I’m glad for that. Funny enough, I was cynical when I was younger, but these days I’m more optimistic.

What was the most embarrassing moment?

I’ve had so many, how can I be expected to choose only one? Once I was riding a bus in Seoul and wasn’t prepared for the hard stops it made. I fell back and stepped squarely on this woman’s foot. She screamed loud enough for the whole bus to hear, of course. The worst is I didn’t know how to say “sorry” in Korean, so I feel like I never fully conveyed my regret.

What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?

I didn’t win some award in art school. Well, that happened a lot in art school, haha. I was so determined to succeed and prove myself, but for the particular accolades I’d set my eyes on, my work was never quite good enough. I was good, but not the “it” person I wanted to be. These days, it feels silly that I was so stressed about it, but I cried a lot of bitter tears over it at the time.


Who was your biggest influence and why?

My mom, I think. I didn’t really have role models… no one I wanted to emulate. My dad’s an alcoholic, and there’s not a lot I care to remember about growing up, but my mom did everything to give me and my brother a somewhat normal upbringing. She was the person I had complete and unshakable faith in.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

9/11, perhaps. There aren’t a lot of moments over the decade that I remember with clarity, but I remember that day. I lived three miles from the Pentagon. I was walking to class that morning and a fire truck sped past me, and I thought, “Whoa, where’s the fire?” Next thing I know, I’m at school and students are scrambling because the city’s about to go on lockdown. It was also the year I turned nineteen, and it’s around that time that I was starting to think about the world around me and my place in it.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

Still wish I’d done a semester abroad in Spain. I was a transfer student, already overloading on credits to make sure I graduated on time, and study abroad would’ve thrown off my schedule. I didn’t want to risk graduating a semester late. I’m glad I got to go to Korea, though – I almost chickened out, so I’m really glad I stuck with it.

Schoolin’ Life: Shawnee´ and Shawnelle Gibbs

In today’s installment of Schoolin’ Life, we get to meet writers, animators, producers, and sisters Shawnee´ and Shawnelle Gibbs. They release many of their projects through their production company, Reel Republic.

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Shawnee´Gibbs and Shawnelle Gibbs (The Gibbs Sisters) are writers and television producers based out of Los Angeles, California, who also work collaboratively on independent comics and animation.

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

Shawnee´: I definitely had awesome expectations for my twenties before I entered them. In my pre-twenties vision, I’d be married with a home and two kids by the time I was twenty-seven. I’d be a journalist for Essence Magazine and would be off traveling the world and experiencing fabulous things. Of course, none of that has happened, so my 18-year old self would probably be quite disappointed in not getting all that checked off by twenty-seven.

I’d just get my teenage self a real estate guide with how much it costs to buy a home in Los Angeles these days and she’d probably cool her jets a bit. Though my life hasn’t been exactly what my early expectations were, I’m pretty happy with where I am at this point in my journey.

Shawnelle: Oh, Shawnee and I would always joke that we would “take the world by storm by 25,” so expectations were pretty high out of the gate, haha. Those expectations involved breaking into Hollywood, walking onto a film set, and becoming a baby Spike Lee weeks after leaving home in Oakland, California, for Los Angeles. Needless to say, those expectations have had to be reassessed over the years. I feel more mature and grounded for it.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

Shawnee´: I think as a kid in the 1990s, with phrases like “nineties kind of girl” being thrown around (thanks, Living Single!), there was almost a sort of expectation from society that we should try and achieve as much as we could. With so much groundwork having been laid by the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the feminist struggle of the 1970s, and the push for women to succeed in the workplace in the 80s and 90s, by the 2000s I think we wanted to have our cake and eat it, too, but it’s definitely a big balancing act that this generation is still trying to figure out how to manage.

Shawnelle: Oh, the ‘90’s taught a lot of young women of our generation and background to be confident, fearless, independent, etc. There was a lot of focus on being “strong,” I believe to the detriment of a lot of young women during that time. Especially towards the end of my 20’s, I’m glad that I got to experience the strength in actually acknowledging my weakness. It gets exhausting trying to knock down walls all the time.

What was your first job like?

Shawnee´: I’ve been working since I was about 12 years old, (which is probably why I feel like I’m almost ready to retire). Shawnelle and I both used to work for a program called Project Y.E.S. (Youth Engaged in Service) in Oakland, California, where we did lots of community outreach and city beautification work. I then went on to employment with the Mayor’s Summer Job program, a great program that placed Oakland teens in jobs around the city during the summer months. I’d done everything from clerical work to removing graffiti around the city of Berkeley, to selling newspapers door to door, to folding and selling denim at Old Navy. Shawnelle and I were our mom’s only two children, and she was a single mother, so learning how to get out and make a living early was an important part of our development. It’s one of the reasons I have a hard time sitting down today.

 

Shawnelle: We both had been working since we were 12 years old, primarily with city-initiated youth jobs, which involved lots of physical labor like community beautification and graffiti abatement. Haha. Which later evolved into summer job gigs with places like the housing Authority and Children’s Hospital.  But my very first official grown up job where I got to dress up (I couldn’t wait!) in A-line skirts and pumps was Bank of America as a teller during college. It was terrifying because I was (for all intents and purposes) a poor girl counting hundreds and thousands of dollars that, at the wage I was earning, would never be mine. So frustrating! I did surprisingly well at it, though. But I knew, without a doubt, that my calling was in the arts.

What was your first apartment like?

Shawnelle: A one bedroom in Berkeley that I moved into during college with my first official boyfriend (now an old ex). The place confirmed all my inklings that I had a superior knack for decorating as everybody marveled about the living room and bathroom space I took charge of putting together. Haha. I spent a lot of time in the apartment alone because the BF worked nights at a hospital. I invested in an easel that took up the space that should’ve been a dining area in the kitchen and experimented with acrylics. The paintings live on in my mother’s home and maybe one or two other places. I learned a lot about solitude there.

Shawnee´: My first apartment was in Winnetka, California, just outside of Los Angeles. It was a place shared by four girls and two cats, Jimmy and Hendrix. It was an affordable space about 20 minutes from my first television production job at Bunim Murray in Van Nuys, and contained a pool I never swam in. Your first apartment feels like the sink or swim moment before you’re thrown into a pool–it’s like your first big test in the adult world. Once I got out on my own, I knew I’d have to make it work because I didn’t want to ever have to go crawling back to my mom’s couch—even though I knew it was always there if I needed it. There’s something about keeping up your own place in the world that finally makes you feel like a real adult person.

Did you experience any big life changes?

Shawnelle: If you call moving a 6- hour drive away to Los Angeles big. It definitely was at the time a little over 10 years ago. Losing my grandmother and aunt definitely changed my perspective on how important it is to have and build a family, which I’m still figuring out how to do myself. Work in progress!

In what ways did your friendships change?

Shawnee´: I think in my twenties and before I sort of ended up with friends. It was always people who I just happened to be around but now I find that I like to seek more meaningful relationships out, and try to surround myself with people who support, inspire and encourage me and share similar goals or life outlooks. It’s still a work in progress, but in my estimation, you end up with a stronger network of friends when you seek out those people who have value for themselves and can in turn add value to your life.

Shawnelle: I definitely learned that to have a good friend, you have to be a good friend. It informs all of my relationships and helps me to reach out to my girls even when I don’t necessarily feel like it. I became a bit isolated focusing on work in my early and mid-20’s and missed out on some very good foundational friendship years. Since then, I’ve actively built and rebuilt some quality friendships with particularly women (something I was missing for a while) and am a better, more well-rounded person for it, I feel.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

Shawnee´: I think I learned how to run for the hills sooner. I also learned to be more open and giving in relationships. In my twenties, the world revolved around me, now in relationships it’s important that it revolve around us.

Shawnelle: Men are people, too, (laughter) and it takes a surprising amount of courage to love someone the way they deserve to be loved.

How do you feel society viewed you?

Shawnee´: Shawnelle and I have always been expressing ourselves creatively, from screenplays and animation to television and comics. Film, comics and animation have been primarily a boys club, so Shawnelle and I have probably always been viewed as a little different by some of our peers but that’s totally fine with me. Being women, and African American, (and short to boot!) in television, I think we have had to prove to people who aren’t familiar with working with young people from diverse backgrounds that we really do rock as television producers, comic book writers, etc. I think we’ve learned to break down the walls of old ideologies without being jaded by it. It’s definitely important not to let other people’s opinions define you.

Shawnelle: Coming where we came from, I feel society viewed people like us as women who would eventually become a burden on the country’s resources. However, we were taught a very strong work ethic from our mom at an early age. This has helped us time and time again both when times are lean and plentiful. Early on in film school, I was very concerned that it would be a difficult journey to survive from my art alone, and several people over the years confirmed that fear. But through faith, hard work and determination, things have continued to come together. Sometimes I still can’t believe I’ve been able to sustain a creative career for over 10 years now. I am extremely thankful for it.

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

Shawnee´: Getting older, I’ve mellowed out a ton. I certainly don’t drive as fast as I used to and I’m not as concerned about what people think of me. I think that’s the best part about transitioning from teens, (where what everybody thinks matter), to your twenties, (where you realize it actually doesn’t) to your thirties (where you’re able to start being a bit more comfortable in your skin and wearing it a bit more proudly). I think with each decade you learn a new life lesson, so I’m really looking forward to finding out more about myself in the next thirty years.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

Shawnelle: There’s something about slowly inching your way up a tax bracket that forces you to appreciate everything you achieve a bit more. In my 20’s I felt at times ashamed of humble beginnings, now it inspires me to do more and be more.

How did you change intellectually?

Shawnee´: In the last 5 years or so, I’ve become extremely interested in science and wish that I’d paid more attention to math as a kid. There’s a pseudo-scientist living in me these days that I try to nurture as much as I can. I find that in my twenties, I used to turn up the latest and greatest music album. Now I’m more apt to turn up an NPR broadcast while driving or learn about a cool subject from a podcast.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

Shawnelle: Getting a couple stamps on the passport has certainly helped. I’m a lot more socially and politically aware than I was in my 20’s. Freelancing, traveling, reading, absorbing, and coming into contact with people from everywhere has certainly helped with that. In one of my jobs as a producer, I get to meet and talk for hours with people from across the world with completely different backgrounds and life experiences. It helps with understanding the complexities of the human condition on a more real level.

What was the most embarrassing moment?

Shawnelle: When I was starting out in television…I made the mistake of trying to impress some pretty important people in a certain circle with an embellished story about my life that I nearly got called out on. I couldn’t sleep for days worrying about the consequences. I learned then it is just easier to be myself and let the chips fall where they may.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

Shawnee´: Say what you will about President Obama, but there was something very decade-defining about him coming into his first presidency in 2008. I think that youth-fueled campaign really helped young people feel like they had a voice in this country and gave hope to people all across the U.S. Obama’s presidency was the first time I actively contributed money to any politician’s campaign and I think it did a lot to help bridge several divides in America. Obama’s 2008 inauguration was also the first inauguration I ventured to Washington, DC to attend. I’m gonna miss the Obama family in the White House. Like the Kennedy’s, there was something indescribably cool about them and I’m happy I was able to witness such a game-changing presidency in my lifetime.

Who was your biggest influence and why?

Shawnelle: The life of my late grandmother was and is something I continue to reference for inspiration. She was full of great quotes that are on repeat in my head to this day. Like, “You don’t believe fat meat is greasy,” which she always used to highlight something you’d have to figure out through trial and error. I certainly did find a few cuts of some of the greasiest slabs in life.

Shawnee´: We definitely had great women in our family to be inspired by. From my mom, who always supported our dreams and was a great inspiration in seeing hers through to become a RN while we were in high school, to my aunt Iris, who would talk to anyone and everyone she came across. In lots of social situations, I ask myself, “What would Auntie Iris do?” and will usually find myself talking to someone when my first instinct was to be a wallflower. My aunt Saida, who is the family’s resident artist and photographer, was also a great inspiration for how to be an artist while holding down a day job. We had so many awesome and different women to look up to growing up who I continue to be inspired by to this day, that thinking about it makes me realize how lucky we were in life.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

Shawnee´: I’ve got no regrets about life. There’s still enough time left to cross things off my bucket list and accomplish things I’ve yet to try. I think with enough good living and experience under my wing, any challenge that seems insurmountable today, might be able to be solved once I devise a plan for it tomorrow.

Shawnelle: I’ve worked very hard on accepting the things I cannot change about myself and the decisions I have made in life. Post-20’s have definitely been about being completely comfortable BEFORE making decisions and asking myself, “Can I live with this?” Or, “Should I say that?”  If the answer is yes, onward and upward!

Dame of the Day: Sally Ride

Sally Ride

Today’s Dame of the Day is Sally Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012). Ride was not only the first woman and first lesbian to travel to space; at age 32, she was also the youngest person to travel to space. After two voyages on the space shuttle Challenger, Ride left NASA  and later taught physics at the University of California at San Diego.