Tips for Having a Low-Waste Wedding

Even though I am very single and nowhere near close to planning my future wedding, it’s still something I enjoy daydreaming about and reflecting upon. Especially since I became more interested in the low-waste movement and the vegetarian community, I’ve wanted to compile a list of ideas I’ve crafted for my own personal ceremony and reception. I hope you find this article helpful, and possibly even gather a bit of inspiration for your own wedding!

By the way, I like to use the phrase “low waste” instead of “zero waste” because I think it’s impossible to be completely, 100% zero waste in all aspects of your life. “Low waste” is a much more appropriate term to me, because it acknowledges that slow-living and low-waste lifestyles are never going to be completely perfect. Nonetheless, any effort towards sustaining the environment, small or large, is a feat that should be celebrated.  


BUY A SECONDHAND DRESS

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This is actually something I wanted to do before I even got interested in low-waste because I think vintage wedding dresses are absolutely gorgeous. Considering that fashion is one of the most wasteful (and environmentally harmful) industries in the world, it was a no-brainer for me to decide I want to buy my wedding dress second hand. Not only is that more cost-effective, it also means less waste is being thrown into the environment. One of my favorite places to browse vintage wedding dresses is Etsy, but there are also physical vintage shops where you can find wedding dresses as well. In fact, I live fairly close to a warehouse full of vintage clothes, and I know from personal experience that there are TONS of gorgeous 1950s-1960s wedding dresses there. 

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USE DIGITAL/RECYCLED PAPER INVITATIONS

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Sending out invitations is one of the most crucial parts of putting together your wedding, but it doesn’t have to be wasteful. One way to go paper-free is to simply send your invitations digitally, using either a graphic designer or designing them yourself using a program (such as Canva, which is free!). Alternatively, if you’re not a graphic designer and you don’t feel comfortable sending out a digital invitation, consider the possibility of sending your invitations on recycled paper. Not only does doing so benefit the environment and reduce waste, it is also very cost-effective for your wallet to opt for recycled paper instead!


ASK YOUR FLORIST ABOUT ZERO-WASTE OPTIONS

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You don’t need to spend an exorbitant amount of money to have a beautiful flower arrangement for your wedding. Depending on your personal resources, you may want to consider making your own arrangements instead of going to a florist. Or, if you’d rather go to a professional for your flowers, ask if there is any way you can approach the task in a more low-waste way. For example, since many professional arrangements come with foam in them, perhaps you can ask your florist to skip the foam and plastic to cut back on waste. It would also be ideal to order flowers from a local shop, as this will boost your local economy and result in less gas emissions.


UTILIZE LOW-WASTE FAVORS

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This tip is one of my personal favorites on the list, and it’s also possibly the easiest. When you are planning favors guests, bridesmaids, etc., consider giving gifts that promote a low-waste lifestyle. Reusable straws, cups, and bags are all thoughtful, affordable ways to show your appreciation while still sustaining the environment. Even more, these are gifts that will last years (or even a lifetime), if they are taken care of accordingly. If you’re looking for a place to get started, Etsy has tons of customizable options for cups, water bottles, bags, etc. Additionally, little plants or succulents can be a wonderful and adorable gift to give away as a wedding favor! I’ll leave links to some of my favorite shops below.


INCORPORARE MINIMAL(IST) DECOR

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For the ultimate low-waste, minimalist wedding, make sure you pay close attention to your theme and decorations, and how you can theoretically cut back on unneeded clutter and waste. For example, why not make your own simple, minimalist flower arrangements for the table and use things you already have your house instead of going out of your way to buy more stuff? After all, you’re probably going to discard all of those decorations anyway after your big day. Another idea would be to have your guests take the flowers/vases home with them, as a memory of the wedding (and that leaves you with less cleanup, too). Not only is this going to be better for the planet, but it will also save you money on your wedding in general.


HAVE A VEGETARIAN MENU

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Because I am already a vegetarian, this tip was already a no-brainer for me. However, even if you’re normally a carnivore, you may still want to explore the benefits of having a vegetarian menu for your guests. The meat industry is shockingly wasteful and contributes to issues such as water degradation, acid rain, coral reef degeneration, and 18% of ALL human greenhouse gas emissions. Yikes! Even if it’s just a small step, like only serving plant-based dishes at your wedding, you are still taking a positive step in the direction of protecting the earth and her animals. I’ll leave some links to my favorite vegetarian dishes below that I believe would be perfect for a wedding.


DONATE YOUR LEFTOVER FOOD

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Depending on how many guests you invite, it’s entirely possible that you will have a ton of leftover food. See how much of it you can divvy up to your guests so you don’t have to toss it out; or, if you’re feeling really fancy, find out if there’s a local business, homeless shelter or organization that you can donate your leftover food to. Not only does it cut back on waste for you, but it also has the potential to brighten up somebody else’s day with some free food!


FINALLY, SUPPORT SUSTAINABLE BRANDS

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If you’re getting married, it’s probably very likely that you’re going to sign up for a gift registry. My advice would be to put as much research into the gifts/products you want as possible, to ensure that you are supporting brands with the most ethical, earth-friendly missions. For example, if you’re looking for new bedding, plates, or towels, see if your store offers an organic/fair-trade brand for that item. Of course, it’s not possible to find a low-waste option for everything, but it’s at least worth a try.


That’s going to be it for today! I hope you found this list helpful and informative. Regardless of how you choose to execute your wedding, the most important thing is that you’re marrying the love of your life. Everything else will follow in suit.

My favorite Etsy shops for wedding ideas:

Vintage Wedding Dresses

Customizable Water Bottles

Reusable Metal Straws

Monogram Bridesmaid Bags


Vegetarian Recipes for Weddings:

Vegan Stuffed Shells

Vegan Italian Wedding Soup

Grilled Ratatouille Kebabs

Butternut Squash Risotto 

Blackberry Wine Hand Pies

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Everything Turns Gold: An Interview with Joshua Sweet

“For American people, I’m not American enough because I’m brown, even though we could have been born in the same hospital. I’m automatically seen as not American enough, because I’m not the same as them.”

Joshua Sweet is hard to miss. Before I even knew him personally, I was able to recognize him as someone who turns heads instantly, someone who raises questions and charms his peers, and ultimately, someone with a compelling story to tell. With that being said, I was very appreciative when Joshua agreed to be interviewed by me about his music career for Analog. He had a lot to say about his artistry, his upbringing, and ultimately, his goals and aspirations for a bright future in music.

I’m curious how the stage name Joshua Sweet came to be. Unsurprisingly, there is a precise story behind it. “People used to tell me I was too sweet, and that I’m too nice to people,” Joshua says. “I always took that in a very bad way. It always made me feel horrible, like I have to be mean or something. But then I decided to myself, ‘I’m not going to change for anybody. I’ll show the world who’s too sweet.’” 

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Photo: Terrence Michael Studio

Although he had previously released a record under the name Joshua Johnson, he’s happy he made the switch to a new direction. “I was like, ‘I have to do it.’ Then I came out with my song, ‘Thanks Anyway’ as Joshua Sweet, and then it just took off from there. Joshua Sweet is me.”

As he explained to me, Joshua’s early life was full of turbulence, constant moving, and strict rules put in place by his parents. Growing up in an extremely Christian household with two successful Indian parents, Joshua recalls feeling confused about his identity. “I was never really accepted by the Indian community. They never really liked me, because I was born in America, my name is Joshua, I grew up Christian, my dad’s from England and my mom’s from Malaysia,” Joshua says about his family. “I never really had a community to fall back on, so I really had to find myself and build a sense of belonging.” For a channel of creativity and expression, Joshua remembers the close relationship he maintained with his brothers throughout his childhood. “We didn’t learn from our parents, we learned from each other. Without a doubt.”

Coming from a postdoc father and a business-oriented mother, Joshua also recalls the strict expectations put in place by his parents, and how that slowly faded over the years. “When you’re moving around so much, it’s hard to keep track of your kids. Eventually they just started loosening up. For example, I was never allowed to have earrings growing up, so [one day] I just kinda did it. But because it was so much later in my life, they were kinda like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’”

This dynamic relationship between masculinity and femininity has always played a substantial role in Joshua’s physical image- one which is reminiscent of the androgynous energy put forth by Prince and Michael Jackson. Unsurprisingly, Joshua often finds himself being compared to many of his favorite artists. He cites Michael Jackson and Prince as some of his most substantial influences, but also includes more modern icons such as Bruno Mars, Shawn Mendes, Justin Bieber, and Harry Styles. Joshua recounts Harry Styles in particular as one of his most favored idols, especially in regards to his femininity. “I started wearing women’s clothes in middle school, and people weren’t ready for that. I was definitely ahead of my time. When Harry Styles started doing that, I felt a sense of belonging and acceptance. One day, I want to tell him how much I appreciate that.”

In late August of 2019, Joshua Sweet released his newest song and music video, “Strangers.” With college starting just a week away, Joshua recalls his reservations about starting that new epoch of his life. In fact, he admits, that period of his life was one of his hardest moments in 2019. “I was about to release my video, ‘Strangers.’ I was just thinking to myself, “I have to get out of here, I can’t go to school. It’s not for me. Part of me still believes that. I was having all these internal conversations with myself, like, ‘I need to release strangers before I go to school and hopefully someone will find it.’’ According to Josh, his other dark moment of 2019 came in December, when popular rap artist Juice Wrld died after a drug-induced seizure. Even though Joshua states he was never a huge fan of the artist, being informed of the death still hit him hard. “It hurt knowing that someone that age could lose it all,” Joshua says in regards to the loss of Juice Wrld. His life basically just started. He was 21, and the life that he was going to be known for and cherished for had just started. He lost it within two years of being a big artist. Two years goes like that; I’ve been making music for longer than two years. That definitely got in my head a little bit. When I see celebrities die, it makes me feel weird, even if I don’t know them. They had this whole life that they probably wanted so badly, and now they can’t have it anymore.”

It’s clear to me, and many of the people around Joshua, that his appreciation and zest for life is enormous. He is someone who approaches every day with a positive attitude, and a general goal to make the best out of all of his experiences, both good and bad.

However, despite these privations, 2019 certainly treated Joshua Sweet well. In fact, he recounts it as an altogether fantastic year for his growth as an artist. He was granted his first interview as an artist in January of 2019- an experience that marked his prominence as “the real deal.” He also discovered a fan cover of one of his songs on YouTube, and then, out of nowhere, discovered he had a fan page on Instagram. When I ask him how it feels to have a designated fan page, he laughs and says, “It definitely felt weird at first, because I didn’t know what was going on, because I’ve never had a fan page going on. So I was a little scared at first, actually. But then when I talked to them, I saw that it was real. I couldn’t believe it. It feels like you just had a child or something. You’re just in shock and you start reflecting on your whole life. I knew it was going to come, but I didn’t know how soon. I try to use my platform for good, because I know people are watching me.”

While many of Joshua’s themes and lyrics are centric around a typical pop, love/breakup dynamic, he also enjoys branching out into other subjects, such as social justice issues. Joshua says he is a firm believer that our generation will change the world for the better, and ultimately, undo the harm caused by prior generations. Joshua says, “I know we’re going to change everything, and the way society was built by prior generations. They have a lot of wrong beliefs, in racism, sexism, and the people “below them.” This year, Joshua hopes to release his song and music video for “Fear the Youth,” which covers this exact topic. 

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Passion for helping others and even exploring philanthropy is one of Joshua’s biggest goals once he becomes a prominent artist. As of right now, Joshua is growing out his hair for the sole purpose of donating it (and yes, although I’m sad by the prospect that he’s going to cut it, I understand his mission). He says that while he certainly wants to live well, money and cars aren’t as important to him as pure, wholesome happiness. At the root of everything, Joshua Sweet just wants to spread his sweetness. “I strongly believe that we should be kind to one another, regardless of our differences,” Joshua says about his values. “That’s definitely a huge value of mine, to treat people equally and respectfully regardless of if you’re gay, straight, trans, black, white- we’re all human. I feel like we lose sight of that sometimes.”

Along his journey of pursuing music professionally, Joshua says he has certainly learned a lot about success, connections, and community. Additionally, even though he was originally apprehensive about entering college, Joshua appreciates the lessons he has learned along the way and the friends he has gained. On campus alone, Joshua is aware of his success and knows that people will approach him solely because he is an artist. However, he has no reservations about the somewhat surface-level attention he receives. “I guess I kind of knew that would happen, so that’s why I don’t even hate it. I was signing up for this life and what comes with it. And I am fully ready for it.”

Beyond adoring college acquaintances, Joshua is also grateful for the support and interest his friends have shown in his lifestyle. He says that his friends accompany him almost anywhere- from the studio to record new music to photo shoots, they’re always close by to offer their loyalty. Having a large network has also initiated Joshua to extend his recognition. “People who I don’t know will come up to me and tell me that they like my music, and it’s the greatest feeling in the world. When you show your music to one person, they’ll show it to another, and another, and another. That’s how a lot of people find me. People will show their parents my music, and then their parents will be impressed with me. It’s just the greatest feeling ever.”

Although Joshua does record all of his music at a studio, he prefers to write whenever and wherever inspiration hits. “I don’t write in the studio because that’s actually very financially irresponsible, because you’re paying for that time,” he says about the expensive nature of studio time. “I write wherever inspiration hits me, really. It could be in my dorm room, in my room at home, or even in class, it will hit me sometimes. I have this song called ‘Broken Girl’ that nobody’s ever heard before, but it hit me in the middle of class. The lyrics just randomly came into my head, and I just started writing in the middle of the lecture.”

As of right now, Joshua says he has put writing on hold so he can focus solely on recording. “I want to release my song ‘Lucy’s Jewelry’ and release my video for ‘Fear the Youth,’” he says in regards to his plans for 2020. Additionally, in an ideal world, Joshua hopes that 2020 may be the year his music career takes off drastically. “My aspiration for 2020 would be to randomly become one of the biggest artists ever. In the real world, though, my goal is just to work my hardest and be happy. I know that hard work is what’s going to get me there. I’m optimistic in the sense that I know I’ll get there.”

Even if Joshua ever changes his mind about pursuing music (which is, from what I can tell, extremely unlikely), he has a backup plan for his career. “I would be an actor,” he says about himself if he had to pick a different career. “I am an actor already, but definitely not as serious as music. I’m aiming for music, and then I can branch off into acting. I feel like acting and music go hand in hand. When I think about having a career, I can’t imagine myself at a 9-5 desk job.” (Neither can we, frankly.)

Before we end the interview, I still have a couple more questions for Joshua. I ask him what he wishes more people knew about him, and he says, “No matter who someone is or what they’re going through, or how you perceive themselves, they’re always welcome to talk to me, and I will always accept them no matter what they feel they’re different for. They don’t need to feel uncomfortable or anything. When they’re with me, they’re cared about a lot.”

Speaking to Joshua face-to-face for this story, I am able to experience firsthand his warm, kind-hearted nature towards himself and others. While he certainly funnels a lot of thought and attention into himself, a large part of his identity is still essential around how he can leave a positive mark on others. 

Lastly, before we close, Joshua has a final piece of advice for other budding young artists hoping to achieve success. “Just because someone tells you that your idea is bad, doesn’t mean it actually is bad. They’ve never seen the outcome, and they don’t know what’s what. If your peers had all the answers in life, they would be further than they are now. No matter what, your ideas are just as good or even better than what their’s ever could be.” ★ 

Joshua, we wish you success and luck with everything!

A Warrior with Words: Tiana Ferrell

“Being different isn’t a personal attack, it has no reflection on you. Different is just different: the way we look, the way we love, where we come from. That was Dr. King’s dream, to have us accept our differences as well as our commonalities.”

Perhaps as one of the most influential civil rights activists and journalists of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, Ida B. Wells is undeniably underrated. Being born into slavery and losing her family to the yellow fever epidemic in 1878, Ida certainly had several personal battles waged against her. However, this powerful woman went on to co-own the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight newspaper, document cases of lynching throughout the country, and even become a founding member of the NAACP. Later in her turbulent life, she married and had a family, while still continuing her journalistic work and her fight for freedom. 

For this feature, I had the honor and privilege of speaking to Tiana Ferell, the great-great granddaughter of Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Ferell, a prosperous writer and producer based in the Atlanta area, had plenty to say about her craft, her passions, and of course, her incredible ancestor.

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Analog Magazine: Tell us a little bit about your titles and roles, and what your day-to-day life entails.

Tiana Ferrell: I have so many! I run Tiana Ferrell productions, so we produce stage plays, we write content, and we do a lot of project management. That’s the bread and butter. On a day-to-day basis, I am writing, interviewing, and bringing projects to execution, if it’s a stage play or a screenplay. I also, of course, continue the family legacy of Miss Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Sometimes that includes partnerships with our Ida B. Wells Memorial Foundation, or The Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum in Mississippi. There’s always different projects going on. With continuing the legacy through my production company, I wrote and produced a stage play on the life of Ida B. Wells. It’s not her entire life, but the beginning stages. She was such a well-rounded person, and I wanted to share an unsung story because Ida is still new to history. We didn’t know about her until the 1970s when her daughter, Alfreda, published her autobiography. There’s still a lot of things we don’t know about Ida B. Wells. I wanted to share what ignited that fire in her, and the Ohio Railroad in Memphis through the ladies’ car incident. A lot of people don’t know about that story, and it’s one of those things that was swept under the rug, because we didn’t want to accept (we as in America), that African-Americans have rights. She won her case in court in Memphis, and we wanted everybody to know that. That was something kept secret that I wanted to bring to the forefront. 

AM: Where were you born and raised, and how did your upbringing affect your future goals?

TF: I was actually born in California. I moved to Atlanta when I was around six, and I moved around a couple places, like Memphis and Holly Springs, Mississippi at one point. However, I always came back to Atlanta and Atlanta is my home. My upbringing prepared me for the challenges that I would face. It made me stronger, knowing that I looked differently than some of my neighbors, and that once I got a certain age, I would be perceived as such. I was so naive growing up; I was the only black child in the school. But I thought that I was like everybody else, and when my family explained to me who Ida B. Wells was, I wasn’t impressed as a child. I just thought she was a dead relative, right? One day, when I became a teenager, I was in the store with my friends and someone looked at me like I was stealing, and I thought, “Wow, I am different. This is what they were trying to prepare me for.” I read Ida’s biography when I was a teenager, and at that moment, it kind of clicked. Like, “Wow, this is who we’ve been talking about at the dinner table!” Every time I complained about something minuscule, like “It’s cold outside,” I would think, “Do you think Ida B. Wells would be complaining that it’s cold outside?” So everything just came full-circle and made sense. I was very shy (I still am incredibly shy), and I think my upbringing definitely prepared me for things, because I always, even today, have to say, “Okay, what would Ida do? Why are you shy? Why are you nervous? Why are you uncomfortable?” I’m sure Ida B. Wells’ entire life was uncomfortable, and she made it through the discomfort, and you’re complaining about being shy- how trivial. Although the world still needs some work, I definitely have it easier because of Ida B. Wells.  

AM: What were your parents like?

TF: I am related to Ida B. Wells through my father’s side, and my father’s mother is Ida B. Wells’ granddaughter. My father always reminded me where I came from and why it’s important to give back. He encouraged me to go to Ida’s alma mater, Rust College, because I had no interest in doing that. I wanted to go to all of the well-known schools that everybody else is attracted to. They convinced me to channel Ida, and although I did not graduate from there because they didn’t have the curriculum I was looking for, I felt a connection to her when I was walking the streets and able to visit her parents’ resting place. I was able to feel the souls of my ancestors. I’ve always been reminded by my parents, especially my father, how important it is to continue the legacy. They always reminded me that it’s important because Ida B. Wells wasn’t known until her daughter published her biography. It was up to our family to ensure that the world knows how special she was.

AM: When did you start getting into activism/advocacy/writing?

TF: I would say my early twenties. Like I said, I struggle with my shyness, so it was definitely something I wanted to do when I was a teenager, but I just wasn’t ready to have the spotlight on me. It was definitely my early twenties- when the cause outweighed the shyness. Something needs to be done, something needs to be said, and I can’t keep waiting on someone else to say it. That was the tipping point for me; again, “What would Ida B. Wells do? She wouldn’t wait on the perfect scenario. She wouldn’t wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow’s not promised- we have to do it today. My grandmother encouraged me to do some things as well. She said, “I’m not gonna live forever, it’s time for you to take the torch. You have to be more involved.”

AM: At what age did you realize your great-grandmother, Ida B. Wells, was a critical member of the civil rights movement?

TF: I would say my early teens. To see not only what she did, but to know that she was shut out because she was a woman. Even some of her friends, who respected her, left her out of their autobiographies. It’s just like, “Wow, she’s so ahead of her time.” It’s very impressive. 

AM: How would your family and friends describe you?

TF: Like I said, I am incredibly shy, but if I set my mind to do something, I’m going to see it through and I’m going to do it very well. There’s no half-stepping. They would also describe me as strong-headed and determined. I care about my community, probably more so than I do myself. I definitely want to make the world a better place for those who come after me. I’m also very organized- I am a Type A personality. My closet is color-coded! Lastly, I hope that they would say that I am nice. That’s what I want to be remembered for- just being kind. 

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AM: Have you ever experienced prejudice or sexism in your own life while striving for your professional goals?

TF: Definitely. Especially in civil rights organizations, a lot of men over-talk you or don’t take you seriously. When I pitched my play, I wasn’t able to get a lot of people on the line because I was a woman. I remember speaking to some of my partners who said, “We have to get a man on our team, because this is just the way it is sometimes.” Sexism is a big one, and racism. I remember I was at an event and I was called a racial slur. I walked past somebody and I heard it, but I just kept going. They didn’t realize that I was coming up to speak. After, that same person wanted to shake my hand and take a picture with me! Because, you know, now I’m different. I’m the token one, right? However, I never even said anything to that person; I just went on about my day. Sometimes I’m baffled and dumbfounded that it’s still going on. I think to myself, “Did that make you feel any better, saying that to me or somebody else? I’m still here, we’re still going on with our day.” 

AM: What type of journalism and digital media are you interested in, and how do you feel that has bettered you as a person?

TF: I kind of transitioned from journalism into storytelling. My goal now is to educate through the arts, because now, in a world where everything is at your fingertips, and our attention spans are so small, a lot of people don’t read anymore. How do I reach them? How I do I educate them? I do it through entertaining them; that’s my goal now, and that’s what I’m working towards. The arts are so important. Before a child can talk, they sing. Before they can write, they draw.

AM: What topics do you enjoy pursuing in your writing?

TF: Definitely activism, and I like to explore historical topics. I also just like to tell true stories, because there are so many things that happen in our lives that we can piece together. Not only is there a story, there’s always a teaching element to it

AM: Can you tell us, in turn, what Ida B Wells’ journalism career meant to you in regards to carrying on her legacy?

TF: I think now I’ve accepted that it’s in my DNA and it is my destiny. For years, I was told that I was a good writer, but I didn’t enjoy it so I sort of ran from it. When I was in high school, my teachers told me that my writing was awesome. When I got to Rust College, where Ida attended, my English professor told us on the first day of class that she doesn’t give out 100s because there’s no such thing as a perfect paper. You miss a comma, you miss a period, or something like that. We had this big paper due, and she gave us a few weeks to do it, but of course I procrastinated and did it the night before. I received a 100 on it, and she said it was impeccable. At that time, I didn’t know what “impeccable” meant, so I went to go look it up and said, “Wow, it means flawless.” And at first, being a teenager, I thought, “Ha ha, I thought you didn’t give 100s!” She pulled me to the side and said, “Tiana, you are phenomenal. I have never given out a 100. There was not one error in your paper.” But again, I kind of blew it off. I can’t remember the day I accepted that I had a gift as a writer. That wasn’t me trying to chase Ida, but I learned that you can’t outrun destiny. I should have been writing since college, but I took a detour. 

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AM: What modern pressings issues do you see in American society that deserve more attention and activism?

TF: Definitely equal rights for women. That’s something we hear brought up frequently because it’s still going on. You’d think that we wouldn’t be talking about this anymore, but when it comes to fair wage and feeling safe, not getting catcalled or sexually harassed, and things of that nature, we still have work to do. I also think that LGBTQ rights definitely needs more attention. I think we definitely need more education on love; it just goes back to that old saying that we’re afraid of what we don’t know and what we don’t understand. It makes us act foolish at times because we think being different is “bad.” Being different isn’t a personal attack, it has no reflection on you. Different is just different: the way we look, the way we love, where we come from. That was Dr. King’s dream, to have us accept our differences as well as our commonalities. I think that’s something that needs to be reminded to us- that all of our issues may not seem that big. I moved to Holly Springs a few years ago to try to go back to work and help my community. I wasn’t embraced by everybody there- just because I’m from a big city, I’m different. A lot of people weren’t okay with that. 

AM: What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned so far in life?

TF: It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice. And storms don’t last forever. 

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AM: What are your aspirations for the future?
TF: I am working on a couple of movie scripts right now, so hopefully I can have those done by the end of the year. And again, I just want to share with the world about Ida, whether that’s through the stage play or another medium. 

AM: What advice do you have for other young writers, PR professionals, and college students interested in going down a similar path?

TF: Get as much exposure as you can, whether it’s an internship or from your professor. I was the girl who sat after class for as long as my professor would allow me to. I fell in love with PR during an internship for my masters program, because again, I was a good writer. Just because I did that internship, I realized PR was something I was good at. If you’re doing a press release, make sure you get to the point as quickly as possible. When you’re emailing it out, you have to make sure you come up with a good subject line as well. When it comes to gaining exposure for your clients, you have to make connections. A lot of people call themselves PR professionals, but they don’t have a contact at the local radio station. You have to have those connections so you can call someone and say “Hey, Tiana, I really need you to cover this,” because your clients expect you to have some sort of coverage. When it comes to other areas, rather than just saying “network,” I would say use your network. That was something I had to discover. I was like, “Wow, I know a lot of people, but I’m afraid to ask for certain things. Use your network and say ‘Hey, do you have a couple of minutes?’ Or, ‘Do you happen to have the phone number of this person?’. Use your network! When it comes to writing, or whatever your craft is, just hone in on it. There’s no getting around it; you have to practice and you have to educate yourself. Now, I’m constantly taking different writing classes. When I decided that I wanted to write a play, I took a playwriting class at MIT. You always have to continue your education; that’s very important. Any professional organization, such as attorneys, need their education credits every year. It’s no different for writers or anybody else. Continue your education so you can stay on the forefront. What you put into it, you’re going to get out of it. If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to be patient. We want everything to happen yesterday. Now, I see that everything that did happen was moving me in the direction that I was supposed to go. We sometimes get down on ourselves, but the universe is moving us in the direction that we are supposed to take. ★

Cheers Queers: Chit-chatting with Mercedes Benzover

“The best thing about being a drag performer is being able to show the world a side of you that you’re not usually able to show.”

Not everyone can say they went to college with a fabulous drag queen, but I am lucky enough to say I have that experience. I met Dylan, also known by his drag persona, Mercedes Benzover, at my university’s pride club this past year. Not only is he extremely funny and animated, but he also has a kind heart and a loving personality that I immediately admired. I knew I wanted to interview him when I saw him perform live at a campus event, which absolutely blew me away. Some people are just born with strong stage energy and charisma, and trust me when I say Dylan has it. He describes himself the same way many other people describe him: outgoing, fun, and independent. “And crazy,” he adds.

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Like many young people, Dylan started getting into the art of drag after watching RuPaul’s Drag Race in high school. From there, he began getting into makeup and the intricate craft of drag culture, which ultimately led him to create his drag persona, Mercedes Benzover. “I came up with this name by putting two of my favorite cars together, Mercedes Benz and Range Rover,” Dylan says in regards to how he crafted the name. And, of course, it offers quite the laugh when spoken aloud.

The turning point for Dylan came during his senior year of high school, during which he decided to show up to the Thanksgiving Rally in drag attire. “I decided to not care about what people were going to think about me, and I put on a pair of heels from Savers and a grey wig,” Dylan says about that day, “I walked into the gym and felt so powerful. People ended up coming up to me and letting me know how proud they were of me.”

From there, Dylan’s confidence in his abilities as a drag queen only flourished. This past September, he performed in his very first drag show and sang “Sorry Not Sorry” as his first number. He recalls how beautiful it felt to perform in front of many people, even despite a potential mishap. “I remember my wig almost falling off when I tried whipping it around,” he says with a laugh.

However, things haven’t always been easy for Dylan, especially in the face of unsupportive parents. Dylan hid his interest in drag for the first two years of practicing it and resorted to watching RuPaul’s Drag Race in his basement. When his parents finally discovered his passion, he says that they treated it with disgust.

“They didn’t find out I was doing drag until about 2-3 years ago through a photo on my social media,” Dylan says, “My mom is kinda on the fence that she doesn’t care, but she does. The big thing is that she wants me to have a ‘real job’.”

Sadly, Dylan’s story of rejection from his parents isn’t uncommon for LGBT+ youth. Gay, bisexual, and transgender children have been shown to have significantly higher rates of mental illness and depression, usually as a result of disapproval and shame from their families (NCBI). However, Dylan tries his best to stay positive in the face of prejudice and hate and instead focuses on all the wonderful aspects of his craft. “The best thing about being a drag performer is being able to show the world/your audience a side of you that you’re not usually able to show,” Dylan says in regards to the best aspects of drag. If he had to pick the worst aspect, he says it would be the lack of acceptance around the art.

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Over the past few years, Dylan has built up a unique and stunning drag image for himself. He cites bougie girls, Sasha Velour, Chanel, and really “anything rich” as his inspiration for his hair, makeup, and fashion. Beyond that, however, Dylan says he can draw inspiration from almost anything. Besides performing drag arts, his other hobbies include watching YouTube videos, hanging out with his friends, and playing around with makeup and fashion. As a fashion design major, a large majority of Dylan’s time is spent in the sewing room designing new, exciting looks. “I believe college has opened my mind to so many things- personally and professionally,” Dylan says about his college experience thus far, “Ever since starting college, I’ve felt more open about many things and have become more independent. I truly think I’m living a meaningful life.”

In the future, Dylan aspires to continue his drag career and hopefully build a bigger name for himself. He wants to start his own fashion company, for which he would craft both special occasion dresses and custom drag pieces. Ultimately, Dylan wants to be happy, content, and continue to live his life to the fullest. Before we end the interview, Dylan has a piece of advice for other LGBT+ youth trying to make a name for themselves in the world: “There will be hard times and people might not respect you, but don’t care what other people think about you, and live life the way YOU want to live it. It’s your life, nobody else’s. I’ve learned that sometimes in your life there will be hard obstacles, but you’ll get through it, do better things, and help others.”

It’s always such an honor to sit down and interview artists for Analog, but Dylan is especially such a treat. His energy and his humor is so vibrant and inviting, it’s hard not to be immediately drawn to him. If you’d like to learn more about Dylan “Mercedes Benzover,” you can find him on Instagram @dylan_alves123. All the best in the future, Dylan!

Statistic source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5127283/

Pretty Wings: A Word with GB2UNO

“They probably think I’m just a black dude, until they see deep into my soul and listen to my music. They see my energy, and they give credit where credit is due.”

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Photo from Instagram

In 2020, more independent artists than ever are popping up on streaming sites such as Apple Music, Spotify, and SoundCloud. On Spotify alone, Billboard estimates that there are more than 1.2 million artists currently listed on the platform. Each one, of course, brings a distinctly unique flavor to the realm of music and artistry. So what sets rapper GB2UNO, based in the Boston area, apart from the rest?

“I’m kind of all over the place,” GB2UNO, who goes by GB, says in regards to his themes. “So really whatever fits my mood at that exact moment of making a song, or just something I thought of incorporating into it.”

I was curious about the stage name, which admittedly took me a few takes to memorize. “I was inspired by basketball star Kevin Durant, because he was my favorite player,” he tells me. “At one point in my life his twitter name was @KDTreyCinco, and it inspired me to use that because my basketball number was #21. And then I made a rap song and the whole school was calling me ‘GB2UNO.’ So I ran with it.”

GB, whose real name is Gregory, has been making music for his entire life. It’s easy to see his passion and drive for the art, as his eyes light up when he speaks about his shows, his networks, and of course, his music. However, life isn’t always perfect for this turbulent musician. GB was born and raised in Urbana, Illinois, just outside of the Chicago metropolitan area. “I wouldn’t say I had a rough upbringing, but I did have flaws, like every kid finding a purpose,” says GB. “My family was an average family, except for my parents splitting up constantly throughout my life and me having to be the big brother and the man of the house at times. Just having to grow up at an early age built me into the person I am today. I love my family though, through all the bumps and bruises.”

After spending his childhood and adolescence in Urbana, GB moved to the Boston area after one of his college friends did the same. He explains with enthusiasm the culture-shock he experienced here, from the people and the parties to even the weather. Nonetheless, GB fell in love with the Boston scene, and from there he started to meet other inspiring dream-chasers. In March of 2018, he began to take his budding music career seriously, releasing singles such as “Brotherz” and “Mrs. GB2UNO.” GB is clearly hardworking and driven in his career, and owns a lot of his inspiration to artists such as Swooli and Jake Lewis. “I met Swooli, and Jake Lewis once, and a couple older individuals who had a passion for music, who wanted to see others succeed as bad as they wanted too- no matter what field of interests,” GB says. He also cites EDM music, pop, trap, and “the songs they play in Forever 21” as being inspirations for his own artistry. “I don’t limit myself to one sound,” he continues.

Listening to his music, it’s clear that GB’s inspiration does indeed come from a wide variety of sources and backgrounds. His music is not only enjoyable for fans of trap and hip-hop, but also listeners who love intricate beats, high-energy and melodies, and thoughtful lyrics. As someone who usually sticks with John Denver and the Eagles, even I enjoyed this young musician’s electric and fast-paced records. 

Throughout his turbulent music career, GB has endured his own ups and downs since he’s settled down in the Boston area. He cites performing in shows and growing his network as the highlights of his year, along with cutting the toxic people out of his life. He also notes that it’s difficult “having to deal with other people who aren’t officially self-aware or in dreamland like us,” when I ask him to elaborate on his negative experiences. 

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Photo from Instagram

Beyond his music, it doesn’t take long to respect GB’s kind, easygoing personality as I continue with our interview. He’s also extremely insightful, and wishes that more people recognized him as a “living person.” When I ask him what he thinks peoples’ first impressions of him are, he says with a laugh, “They probably think I’m just a black dude, until they see deep into my soul and listen to my music. They see my energy, and they give credit where credit is due.” Although it’s a seemingly simple answer, GB’s response sparked insight and reflection for me as an observer of humanity. It’s true, we tend to stereotype artists based on what we see, and GB is a stunning example of breaking down those barriers.

One particular motif fans and listeners will notice in GB’s image is the use of the butterfly emoji in most of his posts and titles. He explains that the butterfly has significance to him because it symbolizes freedom and being comfortable in your own bubble. He says that he’s definitely more of an introvert, so he only tends to “pop out when necessary.” GB also describes that the butterfly symbolizes good energy and positivity- two virtues that I’ve noticed seem to radiate off of him.

Before we close our interview, I still have a couple of burning questions for GB2UNO. I ask him if he feels like he’s living a meaningful life, to which he replies, “Being on my own and so far from home can be devastating sometimes, but it’s the life I signed up for. You can’t really worry about having a lot on your plate when the goal was to eat, to begin with. I believe every day should be meaningful because when we will never get that time back once we are gone. So live every day to the fullest.”

Lastly, GB offers up some valuable advice for other budding musicians. He wants other artists to know that they should never give up, no matter how hard it gets. “I love leading by example,” he says, “I love showing younger artists that you don’t have to be afraid to be yourself. I want to be that good soul that bleeds positivity on every person. My passion is music and I’m set on that. My passion is love and beliefs.” 


You can listen to GB’s music on all of the following streaming platforms:

YouTube

Spotify

Google Play

Deezer

iHeart Radio

What We’re Listening to Right Now

New Year, New Beats. From the Analog team to you, this what we’re bopping to so far in 2020:


Fear Not Ourselves Alone

Punk/Alternative

Top tracks: “Void”, “Token”, “Transreal”

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“FNOA is the self-proclaimed ‘last punk band from Queens, NY.’ I found them through a Spotify autoplay fluke and fell in love with their sound. They very blatantly discuss topics such as being trans and how living in a body is hard, mental health, immigration/culture, etc. The personal subject matter is addressed head-on through the lyrics, and complemented by the sound and aesthetic. They perform live as either a group or in solo sets of just their lead vocalist/lyricist, Jorge Velez (both of which are a magical experience). They have two LPs; a self-titled album and ‘Gay Shame White Feelings,’ and just released a spoken poetry EP called ‘They Don’t Tell You To Think,’ which EVERYONE needs to go listen to.”  -MJ, Head Design Consultant & Staff Writer


Mumford and Sons

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Photo: New York Post

Folk Rock

Top tracks: “Little Lion Man”, “Guiding Light”, “I Will Wait”

“When I write or edit, I always listen to Mumford & Sons. They’re my favorite to listen to because of the slow beginnings of the songs, which usually reflect my motivation to write my own pieces. Then, as the songs go, the beat gets quicker and it reflects how my motivation rises as I work.” -Colleen, Head Editor


Kim Petras

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Photo: Dummy Mag

Dance-pop 

Top tracks: “Do Me” “I Don’t Want It At All”, “Icy”

“Oh my god, Lily has gotten me so into Kim Petras this season. I love that she’s so unapologetically herself and that she combines elements of sexuality and female power in her music. On top of that, her melodies are incredibly catchy. I’ve definitely been belting her songs in the shower these past few weeks. I have no shame.” -Sarah, Editor-in-Chief


Young M.A

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Photo: Billboard

Hip-hop

Top tracks: “Bleed”, “BIG”, “OOOUUU”

“Three years following her biggest hit “OOOUUU”, M.A has finally released her debut album. Twenty-one tracks reveal her experiences growing up in Brooklyn, relationships, acquiring wealth, and sexuality. Her identity and values are at the forefront of her lyricism. From the album name to the final track “PettyWap 2”, her wordplay is sharp and her beats are reminiscent of hip hop classics.” -Lily, Assistant Manager & Digital Content Manager


Tame Impala

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Photo: NME

Psychedelic Rock 

Top tracks: “Let it Happen”, “It Might Be Time”, “Borderline”

“I am really looking forward to Tame Impala’s new album ‘The Slow Rush’ dropping February 2020, so until then I’ve been listening to the pre-released singles that are only making me more excited for the big reveal. Tame Impala has always been a go-to for me; I am never not in the mood to listen to the unique psychedelic pop grooves. The singles “Borderline” and “It Might Be Time” have been on replay for me at the moment, as they’re somehow upbeat and mood-boosting yet relaxing at the same time. In my personal opinion, Tame Impala’s music is fantastic for me in times of anxiety for that reason. It’s calming without having a sad vibe.” -Alanis, staff writer


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Photo: The Irish Times

“At the moment I’ve been going through artists that I love but haven’t gotten the chance to listen to thoroughly. Lately, I’ve been going through Radiohead, Orville Peck, and The Car Seat Headrest from their oldest albums to newest. I love their content because each album is so unique and special to each artist in their own poetic way. They also produce amazing music videos, which I always appreciate.” -Abi, staff writer

Black Histories, Black Futures: What’s New at the MFA?

 

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From January 20, 2020, to June 20, 2021, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA will be showcasing its “Black Histories, Black Futures” exhibit to the public. In the past, the MFA has displayed other historical art exhibitions, such as “The “Rococo World of Francois Boucher” in 2017, and the “Takashi Murakami: Lineage of Eccentrics” presentation, from late 2017 to mid-2018. However, the “Black Histories, Black Futures” display is different from the other intricate exhibitions of the past. For one thing, while past displays were usually showcased in the Ann and William Elfers Gallery, this upcoming exhibition will be displayed in several galleries throughout the entire museum. Additionally, this exhibit is curated by teenagers as a part of the MFA’s new partnership with local youth empowerment organizations. These curators, who are members of the youth empowerment group Becoming a Man (BAM), have worked seasonably to put together all elements of this exhibit. From conception to execution, Boston’s youth played a substantial role in the making of this project, and it’s an achievement to be celebrated. 

“Black Histories, Black Futures,” which celebrates Black histories and experiences, proudly spotlights the works of several 20th-century artists of color. While many of these artists are well-known in art culture, such as Archibald Motley and Norman Lewis, there are also several fresh faces being brought to prominence in this exhibit. Visitors and guests will be delighted by the works of Loïs Mailou Jones, an SMFA graduate; and Allan Rohan Crite, a longtime Boston resident.

According to the MFA website, this upcoming exhibit will be divided into four sections, with each section representing a different theme. The first theme, “Ubuntu: I am Because You Are”, focuses on images of leisure activities and daily community life. “Welcome to the City” takes a more intimate approach to urban scenes through both paintings and photographs, capturing the gritty beauty of the city. “Normality Facing Adversity” and “Smile in the Dark” explore the concept of being oneself, and more importantly, what that means on an intrapersonal scale. 

With a wide variety of styles, textures, artists, and mediums, “Black Histories, Black Futures” promises to bring a fresh air of electricity to the Museum of Fine Arts. The inclusion of teen curators is an additional innovative element to the exhibit, and more importantly, sheds light on the representation of youth in the arts.

Further reading: https://www.mfa.org/exhibition/black-histories-black-futures?utm_source=press&utm_medium=press-materials&utm_campaign=ex-black-histories

(Photos courtesy of Mike Tom, Public Relations Associate for the MFA)

On the Rise: New England’s Indie Scene with Antonio Gonzalez

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By Sarah Desroche

A Massachusetts native, Antonio Gonzalez, has been spending the last six years of his life developing a professional music career. This Spotify-verified artist prides himself on incorporating folk, indie, and alternative rock into his songs, in which he pens himself as a singer-songwriter. Now, he’s studying music at Monmouth University in New Jersey, with ambitions to further his prosperous career as a musical artist.

Q: How would you classify your specific musical genre?

A: “I’d probably say it’s a mix of a lot of different genres, honestly. It’s hard to pin down because I take inspiration from many musicians whose music spans a wide variety of styles.” 

Q: Tell us a little bit about your personal background, where you come from, what drives your inspiration, etc.

A: “I’m from northern Massachusetts, last town before New Hampshire. I spent a lot of time traveling through New England as a kid and taking in what the states had to offer. I think what drives me is a kind of pseudo expectation of myself. Sort of like, “This is what I can do today but I should be able to do better tomorrow.” it keeps me in check, almost. It’s about doing, not  saying.”

Q: Who were your favorite musicians growing up?

A: “I spent many days driving with my mom when I was young and she made mixtapes for these trips. Notably, I really loved Maroon 5, Pink, The Beatles, Sarah McLoughlin, and a bunch of others. My dad loved jazz and classical music, so I really got an eclectic mix of music to grow up with.”

Q: Did growing up in a small town have any substantial influence on your artistry?

A: “I don’t think so. I was always determined to do what I wanted and I’ve never really been a fan of outside influence when it comes to creative work. I love collaborative work, but when it comes to the initial creation of music, I think that’s an extremely personal thing. Even if someone’s music isn’t “successful”, I’d prefer that over some less personal offerings.”

Q: When was the turning point in your life that you decided to pursue music? Was it a sudden epiphany, or a growing ambition that developed over time?

A: “After my first concert, I really wanted to do something could unite people across different backgrounds, but I didn’t think music was what I wanted to do until much later. I don’t think it was an epiphany or a slow burn decision, either. When I started playing music and writing songs I kind of said, “Well I can do this pretty well, and it satisfies the need to bring people together,” so I started taking it more seriously.”

Q: Was there ever a moment that you doubted yourself and your dreams? If so, how did you deal with that adversity?

A: “Pretty much every day. I spend a lot of time listening to music and being surrounded by really high-quality musicians and inevitably I compare myself to them. I just have to remind myself that as artists: we all specialize in something different, so what one person excels at might not be my strong suit, while what I’m good at is where somebody else struggles.”

Q: What obstacles have you overcome along the way, personally and musically?

A: “It’s hard to balance life and education with the pursuit of a career in music. I typically have so much to do in a day that it becomes hard to schedule a little time every day to practice or write. I struggle with mental health issues, so there are days where I’m totally motivated like, “Yeah, let’s kick some ass today!” and then there are others like, “I’m getting my ass kicked today.” It’s tough to find time to take care of myself and everything else.” 

Q: What drives the inspiration behind your lyrics, your melodies, and your artistry?

A: “In terms of imagery, I write about what I see or feel. Sometimes I’ll write about how nice everything is, and other times I’ll write more about the chaos of the world. My goal is to write music that has “defined lyrical meaning”, yet anyone can listen to it and have an idea about what it means. I want to create something universal, not so much something with a single meaning.”

Q: Where do you do most of your creating? (In a studio, your bedroom, etc)

A: “When it comes to the actual music, most of that comes from sitting at home and playing around on the guitar. Sometimes when I have an idea and I’m not home with an instrument, I open up voice memos and record a little melody to work on later. Most of my lyrics come from just observing what’s going on around me. Sometimes I’ll be watching the news and think of a lyric, or on a walk, or listening to a speech, or reading. I try to find inspiration everywhere I am to diversify the music I write.”

Q: Do you believe that New England’s folk/indie scene is unique compared to the rest of the world? Why or why not?

A: “I think the unique part of these genres is that they’re relatively niche. So if you fall into listening to a lot of them, your musical community isn’t restricted to your physical location. You can go from small-town Massachusetts to big-city California and still find people who like what you like and connect with music in the same vein.”

Q: What are your current projects, and what are your ambitions for the future?

A: “Recently I released an EP called ‘You’ll Be Fine’, which is available on all streaming services. It was a long time in the making and I’m so appreciative of everyone who came and helped turn an idea into a result. I’m also planning on recording two singles before the spring and releasing them everywhere as well. My hope is that I can really build a community of listeners and connect with them with more and more music.”

Q: Lastly, what advice would you give to other budding musicians?

A: “Definitely just don’t stop. Whatever your instrument, style, lyricism may be, don’t stop working. You will get discouraged, you will find it hard to get better, you will lose motivation, but in the face of all that, just keep making music. Even if it’s only for ten minutes a day, do it. Because eventually you’ll find your motivation again and you’ll take everything you’ve done and make it even better.”

You can stream Antonio Gonzalez’ newest EP release, “You’ll Be Fine”, on Spotify, or follow him on Instagram at @santiago_keyes.