LUNAR NEW YEAR

Photography: Dennis Tejero (@dennistejero) | Model: Ting Yan at Silent Models (@xitingyan2387) | Styling: Marti Arcucci (@martiarcucci) | Hair: Takashi Yusa (@takashiyusa) | Makeup: Michael Chua (@michaelchuabeauty) | Casting: Eric Cano (@cano_castings) | Set Producer: Jess Zuluaga (@jesszuluagaO) | Photo Assistants: Nathan Sweet and Bryant Lopez

Dress by Alena Akhmadullina, Earrings by Laruicci, Vintage Ring

Dress by Alena Akhmadullina, Vintage Pants,  Earrings by Laruicci, Vintage Ring, Boots by Lena Erziak

Dress by Georgine, Coat by Victoria Hayes, Boots by Lena Erziak

Vintage Sequin Top, Vintage Levi’s Jeans, Shoes by Lena Erziak

Suit by CHAE, Turtleneck by Victoria Hayes, Vintage Shoes by Manolo Blahnik

Vintage Top, Earrings by Laruicci

Dress by Kalmanovich, Stockings by Spanx

Blouse by Georgine, Pants by Victoria Hayes, Vintage Shoes by Manolo Blahnik

Dress by Victoria Hayes, Vintage Sheer Shirt, Vintage Levi’s Jeans, Vintage Shoes by Manolo Blahnik, Rings by Ralph Masri

Dress by DELACRUZ, Shoes by Lena Erziak, Stockings by Spanx

WHO WILL STOP THE RAIN

Full look by JUUN.J, Shoes by Ellery

Photography: Dennis Tejero (@dennistejero) | Model: Brynn Bonner at Red Models (@theloneblackrose) | Styling: Cornelius Lafayette (@corneliuslafayette) | Makeup: Michael Chua (@michaelchuabeauty) | Hair: Jenni Wimmerstedt (@ivainsane) | Casting: Eric Cano (@cano_castings)| Photo Assistants: Tim Tamayo (@jalatimyo) and Bryant Lopez (@bryantglopez) | Retouching by Lara Ostertag

Full Look by Ellery

Full Look by Ellery

Jacket by N. Hoolywood, Coat by Christopher Kane, Pants by MISBHV, Bag by Thom Browne

Shirt by N. Hoolywood, Vest by MISBHV

Blazer by Thom Browne, Vest and Skirt by Alexander Wang, Shoes by N. Hoolywood

Blazer by Moon Choi, Pants by N. Hoolywood x Dickies

Full Look by Camilla & Marc, Shoes by N. Hoolywood

Full Look by JUUN.J, Shoes by Ellery

Full Look by JUUN.J, Shoes by Ellery

EMMIE

Dress by Zaid Affas, Earring by Vanessa Mooney

Photography by Raul Romo (@raulromo) | Styling by Katie Qian (@katieqian) | Hair and Makeup by Francie Tomalonis (@francieluxe) | Model is Emmie Nielsen @ IMG (@emmienielsen @imgmodels)

Dress by Zaid Affas, Earring by Vanessa Mooney

Dress by Zaid Affas

Jacket by Malan Breton, Earrings by Ettika

Dress and Jacket by Zaid Affas

Dress by Maison the Faux

Dress by Maison the Faux

Dress by Maison the Faux

Dress by Maison the Faux

Dress by Maison the Faux, Shoes by Nike

Dress by Maison the Faux, Shoes by Nike

Jacket by Malan Breton, Earrings by Ettika

Jacket by Malan Breton, Earrings by Ettika

Dress by Pam Hogg, Earrings by Ettika

Earrings by Ettika

WEB EXCLUSIVE: SPEED RACER

Top by Linder, Pants stylist own, Necklace by Laruicci, Shoes by Yuulyie

Photography by  Allegra Messina, Model Jieun Hyeon at Supreme, Fashion Styling by Kimberly Nguyen, Prop Styling by Bradley Armstrong, Hair by Jenni Iva Wimmerstedt, Makeup by Michael Chua using MAC Cosmetics

Sweater by Rag and Bone, Skirt by Livné, Gloves by Wing & Weft, Fishnet stockings by We Love Colors

Jacket by Adam Selman, Earrings by Laruicci, Gloves by Wing & Weft

Button-Down Top by Marcelo Burlon

Leather jacket by REDValentino, Top by Tommy Hilfiger, Skirt by Tommy Hilfiger, Boots by REDValentino, Bag by Yuulyie

Top by Maje, Earrings by Laruicci, Skirt by Linder

Top by Versus Versace, Jacket by Versus Versace, Pants by DROMe, Boots by Adam Selman

Jacket by Belstaff, Trouser by Maje

Top by Versus Versace, Jacket by Versus Versace, Gloves by Wing & Weft

T-shirt and Top by Kenzo, Skirt by Kenzo, Gloves by Wing & Weft, Earrings by Lauricci

CONGO TALES BY PIETER HENKET

The World’s Attention is Brought to the Earth’s Other Amazon Rainforest – Africa’s Congo Basin – in Congo Tales (Random House / Prestel, November 15, 2018)

Adapted for Congo Tales by Congolese philosopher S.R. Kovo N’Sondé and award winning author Wilfried N’Sondé, and put in print (in English, French and Lingala) for the first time in Congo Tales.

In the deep heart of Africa lies a tropical rainforest second only in size to the Amazon – the Congo Basin. It measures 500 million acres, spans 6 nations, and is home to some of the largest swaths of intact tropical rainforest in the world, with the pristine Odzala Kokoua National Park as crown jewel.

Known to ecologists as the world’s second lung, the Congo Basin is the Earth’s other Amazon – as vital to preventing runaway Climate Change as the Brazilian rainforest and as vulnerable to deforestation and abuse. Yet the Congo Basin falls far short of the Amazon when it comes to the world’s awareness of it as a major player in the global environment, a cathedral of nature’s treasures, and a stopgap against looming ecological catastrophe.

Congo Tales (Prestel, November 15th, 2018) is intended to help solve this lack of awareness, and help create a conservation infrastructure for this critical pillar of the world’s fragile ecological balance.

Upturning the traditional conventions of fear-based environmental messaging and the portrayal of Africa solely as a place of plague and war, Congo Tales takes a completely different approach to communicating the urgency of conservation efforts in this region.

In this groundbreaking photo series that was 5 years in the making, national Congolese who live in the Mbomo district of the Congo Basin staged their never-before recorded mythology for fine art portrait photographer Pieter Henket (Lady Gaga, Eddie Redmayne, Mary J. Blige). Henket’s portraits – of dozens of children forming the shape of an Mbomo (or Boa Constrictor); of over a hundred Congolese women assembled at the border of the forest; of Congolese men on the hunt for a mythical bird – make the Congolese, their myths, and the rainforest the stars of Congo Tales, and communicate the magic and mystery of this little understood place, and its incalculable value to the planet.

In the book, editors Eva Vonk (who spent 3 years working closely with people in the Mbomo district to record their mythologies) and Stefanie Plattner (who produced the project) delve into and reveal the wealth of the Congo Basin and its people, illustrating both with Henket’s cinematic and surreal portraiture of the Congolese depicting their legends, tales and lore under the canopy of ancient rainforest from which they sprang.

Channeling the primal heartbeat of one of the world’s most powerful ecosystems and the people who call it home, the mythological tales of the Congolese – of supernatural forces in control of life and death, of ritualistic initiations into adulthood, of the laws of nature that lie outside the laws of people – are revealed as a treasure trove of universal wisdom that is both existential and pragmatic, with the unspoiled Odzala Kokoua National Park as stage and actor.

A groundbreaking book of scholarly anthropology that calls on the work of Joseph Campbell and the Brothers Grimm, and a captivating work of art and photography, Congo Tales is a feat of innovative environmental messaging and cross-cultural and cross-continental collaboration intended to both prevent the loss of this all-important bastion of nature, and reveal its priceless value to the world and our communal future in it.

Henket’s signature style takes inspiration from the use of light in 17th Century Dutch Golden Age painting, known best by Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. Henket, who grew up in The Netherlands, used powerful battery- powered strobe lighting in the rainforest to evoke a similar effect, thus rendering a surreal finish appropriate to the mythology of the Congolese. Proceeds from the sale of Henket’s Congo Tales photographs at Christie’s in January, 2019 go back to supporting the recording of Congolese legends and lore, and to similar story-telling projects in other unsung parts of the world through Tales of Us.

LORENZO “TOTO” FERRO – THE STAR OF LUIS ORTEGA’S “EL ANGEL”

Buenos Aires, 1971. Carlitos was a seventeen-year-old with movie star swagger, blond curls and a baby face. Together with his friend Ramon, the two embark on a journey of discovery, love and crime in Director Luis Ortega’s breathtaking film “El Angel,” produced by the legendary Pedro Almodovar, a twisted “coming of age” tale based on the true crimes of the “Baby Faced Monster” Carlos Robledo Puch.

Lorenzo “Toto” Ferro plays the titular character of Carlitos in a very memorable and haunting acting debut. Luis Ortega, Lorenzo Ferro, and the talented cast behind the film take us on a beautiful journey into the half-real half-imagined life of one of Argentina’s most famous killers. We had the chance to speak with the young actor about his newfound fame, growing up around the movie-making business, and his future as an actor/rapper.

Interview by Rene Garza
Transcribed by Daniel Gomez

“El Angel” is your first leading role as an actor, as well as your first feature film, how did you find yourself in an audition for this role and were you surprised when you got it?

My father actually told me about the film. He said they were looking for someone to portray “The Angel,” but I really didn’t know his story or who he was. But I did a lot of research and went to a casting the following week. The week after, I got a call that the director wanted to meet with me. I ended up doing seven call-backs until they said “you’ve got the movie,” and that all took about six months.

Were you surprised when you landed the role? Or having gone through seven castings, did you feel that you were going to get it?

Well, I was going to be very sad if they said no. (laughs) Obviously I was surprised, I had dropped everything to be in the movie, without knowing if it would ever happen. It was blind faith.

Good, you have to give it your all.

Yes, you always have to give it your all.

Did you always want to be an actor? Did you have interest in movies or theater growing up?

Acting interested me because my father is an actor. I remember as a kid I went on to movie sets where he was filming. He always showed me movies or took me to the movies. So unconsciously I started to be interested in that world…and obviously the theater too, but more movies. As a kid I would ask my dad to watch three movies a day. I remember that when I was 6 years old I got to see “Kill Bill”, and we went to the cinema to see it. Later, when all this (El Angel) happened, I thought maybe it’s in my blood or something… or, let’s say, it was ingrained in me.

How did you get into the character of Carlitos? Even though in real life he was a notorious criminal, did you relate with Carlitos on some level?

Well…after the initial six months of casting, I worked for another seven months with the director Luis and an acting coach. The three of us met almost every day to read the script, to dance, to shout, to do everything. Luis would put a camera in front of me and say “go and try to break into this house” and we filmed it, we documented it. Then, little by little, the three of us got into the skin of the characters… He is so simple yet so complex, at least that’s how I see him… And it helped listening to Luis talk all the time, all the information he threw at me, and his thoughts on how he saw the character. What I really had to do to get into the character was to get rid of the pressures I put on myself and laugh my ass off, as if there were no problems in life. I was looking at life through rose-colored glasses, more or less how I think Carlitos is.

Are you personally interested in crime? Did you find the material fascinating?

Yes. I mean, I’m interested, but not so much that I’d be a criminologist. Those stories attract because they happened in real life and could have happened to you. And that really draws you in and gives you goosebumps, and it’s very rich material to make movies with. Crime is much better to do on film; unless you want to go to prison. (laughing)

How was your experience working with director Luis Ortega?

The truth is that it was great because of his process. We became friends, we became like brothers, and when we started shooting the film we were like siamese twins. If he was scratching, I was scratching. (laughs) With just a look we already understood what one or the other wanted. Then a bond of friendship formed through the work, it was like getting on a boat in which we only reached land when we wrapped filming, receiving the love from all the people. But the experience was the best, and I think that that is what I take away most of all. Maybe it will never happen again, but for now it’s the only movie I have done, so that’s my idea of what it’s like to make movies.

The main character is a beautiful and famous killer/thief, did the material intimidate you?

Ah no! To tell you the truth, you have to open your wings and let yourself fly like…a proper angel… It did not scare me; it intrigued me more than anything because one tries to understand these kind of people, but one only has assumptions. We will never know how it is, and the good thing is our movie is pure assumption. We did not want to get to the real case; Luis based the story on that picture of Carlitos coming out of the patrol car, the one that looks like a criminal shampoo ad. (laughs) The truth is that it did intrigue, it did not scare me, it made me curious.

Carlitos sees himself as a spy for God, how did you feel about his views of human nature vs Christianity? Did you find it difficult to separate the two?

Yes and no. You see, if you judge the character then things will go wrong. It is better to put on their skin and their shoes, because if there is distance between you and the character then that will be seen in the film. You have to stop judging because otherwise it will be seen in the camera, regardless of whether it is moral or not, you need to understand it. Even though acting is a job, it’s also a game, and if you do not let yourself play…then you have to rethink why you are doing it.

Do you have a role of your dreams?

I’m not sure “of my dreams,” but I would like to do Joker’s childhood for example, eh…and also maybe a gymnastics teacher addicted to heroin.

Do you have a director that you would like to work with?

Here in Argentina, I would like to work with Luis again, maybe with Lucrecia Martel, I’m interested in her films, she has a lot of personality. If we’re speaking in the United States, I do not know; I have a huge list of directors. I saw a new director, who was an actor, called Paul Dano. He made a cool movie called Wildlife, so if I go to the United States I would like to work with Paul Dano.

Many of the actors you worked with in the film are veteran actors. Did some of them take you under their wing and teach you some things? And what was the best advice you received from them?

No, it was not exactly like that, but they gave me all the experience they had through a glance. They did not need to say anything, just watching them I already understood what the situation was like, and  at the same time, I helped them too because I had the fresh perspective of a child who had never made movies. It became something reciprocal, we fed off one another, some with the freshness and others with experience.

Did your dad give you advice on acting?

Yes, but not on acting. As every parent gives advice, he did not give me advice on acting or working, but about life. If I try to explain now, it would take three hours or more on the phone.

Pedro Almodovar and his company were the executive producers for “EL ANGEL;” was he on the set?

Not on the set, but he was present in France and in Spain when we screened the film. I had the opportunity to meet him, not in the manner I would have liked, but what little I learned about him is astonishing; you see that magic that he has from afar.

Were you a fan?

Um no, to tell you the truth, no. I don’t know even know if I  am now, but I do not have to be a fan of his films. I’m a fan of his career, maybe of his imprint. But I have not seen all of his movies, I saw some, and the ones I saw I like. I would have to see them all to be able to say it, but they have a lot of personality.

In what movies or television programs can we expect to see in the future? Or what upcoming projects can you tell us about?

The truth is that I have enough circling, but I still do not know which ones to say yes. So I better not tell you anything, so I do not lie to you. What I can tell you is that I am currently making rap music with my friends, and between November and December we are going to drop a mixtape. I am the rapper and my friends are producing.

How do you feel about all the attention the movie is getting in Latin America?

It is very difficult, because I became famous over night, and I don’t know if that’s what I want… But hey, it’s also great because people received the movie with a lot of love. On that note I’m very happy, but on the other hand I’m a bit paranoid.

But there have been many actors who also make music, do you think that makes it easier?

I did rap before I made the movie, but after the movie I forgot about it a bit, and once I finished and was able to get the weight of the movie off my shoulders, I started doing music again. I knew I wanted to make music, even before being an actor.

Will you concentrate on one or the other? Or see what comes your way?

I don’t know if something is more important than the other, but the importance that one assigns to something gives it importance. I think both are like therapy.

There’s a phrase in the movie that says “I am a thief by birth” do you think that life is predestined from birth?

Ehh… no. I do not think so…uhh, maybe in my case, yes, but no, no. Like I was saying before, it’s just an assumption, but I don’t think it is destined from birth. I know that everything we do is a gift. There are people who would die to find it and live being a slave of the system.

Carlitos based his life on destiny, what is Toto’s destiny?

The destiny of Toto is: to continue working, to continue being happy, to get together with his friends, and to make more music.

“El Angel” is released in US theaters November 9.

WEB EXCLUSIVE: WICKED LITTLE TOWN

PHOTOGRAPHER: Erika Astrid | STYLIST: Jahulie Elizalde | MODEL: Indiah @ Women360
HAIR: Evanie Frausto | MAKEUP: Leilani Sunglao | RETOUCHER: Oleg Palchyk

Dress by Ellery, Earrings by Victoria Hayes

Dress by Livne, Earrings by Shiny Squirrel

Dress by Roberto Cavalli, Shoes by Gucci

Dress by Roberto Cavalli, Shoes by Gucci

Dress by Ulla Johnson, Earrings and Brooch by Shiny Squirrel, Shoes by Michael Kors

Dress by Cheng

Dress by Bibhu Mohapatra, Earrings by Laruicci

Dress by Cheng

Dress and Shoes by Gucci, Earrings by Laruicci

Dress by Michael Kors

Bodysuit by Livne, Earrings by Laruicci

Bodysuit by Livne, Earrings by Laruicci

LOS ANGELES FEMALE FILMMAKERS FESTIVAL

This weekend Passerbuys and Women & Film will present the first annual Female Filmmakers Festival (FFFEST), a 3-day screening and talk series dedicated to celebrating accomplished female filmmakers and empowering women who want to break into the industry.

FFFEST will take place from October 12th through October 14th at the Downtown Independent theater in Los Angeles, California and will foster a community for female filmmakers to share resources, guidance and inspiration.

FFFEST’s diverse program includes feature-length such as the critically-acclaimed SKATE KITCHEN directed by Crystal Moselle, the award-winning MOSSANE directed by the first Sub-Saharan African woman director, Safi Faye  and short films such as the premiere of MAVERICK by Cara Stricker. Between screenings, FFFEST will host exclusive talks featuring some of the top women working in the contemporary film industry such as Sarah Finn (Casting Director, Black Panther), Lake Bell (Director, In A World), Jameela Jamil (Actress, The Good Place) and Natalie Farrey (Head of Vice Film) as they provide answers to the most pertinent questions facing women working in film today.

The primary mission of the Female Filmmakers Festival is to inspire more women to make films by celebrating the women leading the way, and by creating a space where women can share information amongst each other.

FFFEST has also teamed up with women-owned and women-led fashion brand VEDA to create custom merch for the festival where a portion of proceeds from every sale will go to Camp Reel Stories.

“I founded Passerbuys out of a desire to have women share resources and information amongst one another. As a lifelong fan of cinema, it felt natural to transfer such ethos to a film festival. There are a number of great organizations supporting women in film, and I see FFFEST’s role as a space to bring them together and hopefully become a tradition to celebrate and support female filmmakers.” – Clémence Polès, Founder of Passerbuys and Co-Founder of FFFEST “Women & Film was created to celebrate the women directors that have paved the way as well as the trailblazers and contemporary women of cinema. Our goal is to act as both a learning tool and source of inspiration among filmmakers, both accomplished and budding. We want FFFEST to create a sense of community for women in film in the hopes that more stories by and about women get made.” – Natalie Fält, Founder of Women & Film and Co-Founder of FFFEST

“Women are responsible for creating some of the greatest works of film in the history of cinema, yet the mass media has rarely depicted or celebrated women behind the camera. In response to that, we saw FFFEST as an opportunity for our audience to celebrate the women who’ve made strides in film and continue to today, and to inspire budding women filmmakers to join the industry and share their stories.” – Mimi Packer, Co-Founder of FFFEST

“We have stories to tell and we have a different perspective. Women in general tend to be more emotionally connected and in-tune with their surroundings but the demands of life can cause creative complacency. fffest was created to reawaken these hidden narratives and provide a platform to inspire more women to bring their stories to life.” – Dasha Faires, Co-Founder of FFFEST

For more information, please visit https://fffest.org/

HARI NEF X HILTON DRESDEN EXCLUSIVE

Actress, model, and bona-fide trendsetter Hari Nef has made her feature film debut this week, in the electrifying social media horror movie ‘Assassination Nation.’ She stars as Becks, one of four high school girls caught up in a violent frenzy of small-town hysteria after a mass leak of private cell phone data. Hilton Dresden sat down with her to chat about the nuanced role, her dream collaborators, and how she’s carving her own path in Hollywood.

Interview by Hilton Dresden

THE MANY FACES OF DOMINIQUE FISHBACK

Jacket by Carolina Sarria

Photography by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Julia Morris @theindustrymgmt| Interview by Benjamin Price | Hair by Monae Everett | Makeup by Daniel Avilan using MAC Cosmetics @theindustrymgmt

Talent: Dominique Fishback

Dominique is a theatrical chameleon. Whether playing a prostitute in 1970’s New York on HBO’s The Deuce, or a high school girl in a violent and disenfranchised neighborhood in the upcoming The Hate U Give, or playing in a series of sketch comedies in HBO’s midnight show Random Acts of Flyness–Fishback effortlessly glides between personas. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Fishback started her artistic path in her local elementary school. Dominique has propelled herself both onto the silver screen and onto one of the most globally recognized cable networks as an inspirational young voice.

The Hate U Give, Random Acts of Flyness, Night Comes On, and much of Dominique’s personal writing and performances celebrate diversity and critique the constructed barriers between us. The writer, actress, and artist clearly has a wide breadth of talents, but what is truly spectacular is her ability to apply these to helping shed light on systemic problems in our society. Watching Dominique perform is a true joy, as you are immersed into the world of the characters she embodies and witness a complex array of emotion enfold on screen. Here, with Iris Covet Book, Dominique dives deep into the many layers of social discourse in her work, her roots as a child drama queen, and her plans to change Hollywood.

 

Jacket and Skirt by Victoria Hayes

We recently attended a screening of The Hate U Give and your performance felt so natural that it made me wonder how you first got into acting. Were you always a natural?

When I was 10 years old my mom said I was so dramatic and should give acting a try! She really believed that I could do it which was awesome! I had been writing little poems and I wanted to perform anyway. My mom tells stories of when I was 5 years old and pretending that I was the Wicked Witch of the West saying, “I’m melting! I’m melting!” When I was 10 I auditioned to be part of a children’s theater organization called Ta-Da! I auditioned three times but never got accepted…but 10 year-old Dom didn’t let it stop her, she just kept going! We got pulled into one or two scams after that, but when I was 15, I got into a company that requires you to write and perform your own material which I think helped make me into the artist that I am today.

But you know there is so much rejection and hate out there with actors, especially on social media. Everyone has an opinion or something to say about your performance, your look, or a mistake you make. It’s hard; you need a tough skin.

Speaking of exposure, social media, and having a tough skin–do you think your exposure in The Deuce and The Hate U Give has changed  your day to day life or are you still that girl from Brooklyn?

I’m definitely still that girl from Brooklyn!  Sometimes I bump into people from my childhood who say I still look the same and are surprised to see I’m still down-to-earth, but I think I am really a chameleon personally and professionally. But because of The Deuce I have had some people come up to me on the street, as well as my episode on (HBO’s) Random Acts of Flyness. I have been receiving such a great reception.

It seems like you are cast in roles that exist in chaotic and disadvantaged environments – playing a sex worker in The Deuce in 1970’s New York, convicted felon in Night Comes On, and a young girl in a rough, drug-filled neighborhood in The Hate U Give. What attracts you to these roles and what would you say is the common thread with the characters you like to play?

The characters really find me, and they refuse to let me go! For Night Comes On I was introduced to the character and the story after playing Darlene on The Deuce and I didn’t want to be typecast into tough characters all of the time because I am fun and silly…but I took the weekend and read the script considering what my agent was saying, and I just really felt like I had the experiences and authenticity to really go after this character! But I love to play dress up and dance and perform too, which I think really shows another side of me, like the photoshoot we did for this. When I was a kid I would watch I Love Lucy, and Lucille Ball was a big inspiration for me and I would stay up and watch her until 1:00 am every day! I would love to do a show like that, whether I write it myself or not.

Dress by Kelsey Randall, Gloves by Livne NYC, Earrings by Laruicci

Bralette, Pants, and Clear Jacket all by Livne NYC

It sounds like you really are a chameleon and are interested in so many genres! So back to The Hate U Give and the messages and layers that it has within it such as racism, police brutality, Black Lives Matter, etc. — how did that layer of commentary affect your performance?

Well, actually, I have a one-woman show that I wrote and have performed for the past 5 years called Subverted where I play 22 different characters, and it’s about the destruction of black identity in America. The show has a slavery-era side and a modern-day-era side, and both comment on issues like police brutality, education deficits, lack of healthy food in areas like East New York, Brooklyn where I grew up. So I was already very aware of these issues and the injustices that African Americans experience, and that I experienced, in my neighborhood or when I was working at the local movie theater just praying and hoping to be on the screen. When I was at Pace University I was often the only African American person in my classes. I remember in one of my classes this caucasian boy said that African American males in low-income communities would not be stopped by the police at random if they “dressed normally.” I was infuriated, choking on my words, debating with him, and I realized that no one around me could understand my point of view, so instead of getting mad and yelling and cursing I decided to use this as an opportunity to start my one-woman show, educate people, and have them watch and relate to a character who they normally wouldn’t. Just like the few scenes of Khalil in The Hate U Give change the way you see the representation of him later on through the movie. I graduated from my high school as valedictorian in Brownsville, BK, but when I got to Pace I was admitted as below average in a curriculum for students who needed more academic attention. Then I looked around and realized that these schools only prepare you for colleges at the same level…but we need to overcome this adversity and talk about this issue on a bigger scale.

I think The Hate U Give really achieved that and personally it took me from laughing to crying to anger…What are the main points that you want people to take away from the movie?

I would want them to take away the moments where they felt sad for Kahlil, where they laughed with him and saw his eyes twinkle at the beginning of the film, and when another (police brutality) event like this happens in America they can care about that victim in the same way. I really believe that art changes people’s minds and hearts the most and gives power to our feelings. Being able to see it, not just hear a name or see a mugshot, is so powerful.

Jacket and Pants by LEHHO, Gloves by Livne NYC

Jacket and Skirt by Victoria Hayes

As a woman of color, how do you feel about the changing castings and views of POC and women in Hollywood?

I definitely believe that it has changed over the years, and as a younger person I can sometimes only see the injustice because that’s all I know, but when you ask people who came before and hear their stories then you can really see how far we’ve come. I have been honored to have my first feature film on demand and online called Night Comes On, starring myself and this 10 year old African American girl named Tatum Marilyn Hall, and it is great to be able to watch African American girls not have to be super funny or sexy in a film, but that wasn’t possible a few years ago. It was still hard, and the director would tell us about how difficult it was to get funding with the subject matter, and as a female director, but we are fighting the fight and are very hopeful.

I am very excited to see Night Comes On, and hopefully it just means we will see even more diverse story-telling in the future. What would you want to change or add to the world of film and television if you owned a studio?

I would want to tell more stories about African Americans and people of color and celebrate diversity from the casting to the writers’ room. I don’t want to have the question of “What was it like working with a female director?” Like why does that matter if you are a woman or a person of color? I really don’t know though, and I am just researching, writing, and taking it day-by-day. I just finished writing my feature film that takes place in 1968 which is about a male Black Panther who falls in love with a girl who isn’t a part of that culture and over the course of the film they learn more about each other, and I think that is an important story to tell.

I hope we can see that soon! What can you tell us about upcoming roles or screenplays that you are working on?

The Deuce is coming back September 9, and then The Hate U Give comes out so of course I am very excited for both of those opportunities! I am very excited about my role in Random Acts of Flyness on HBO, and it’s just a really fun way to show different sides of myself as an actress. I am excited about the projects I am writing and being seen as a writer for theater, films, and graphic novels. I am excited to start my own production company one day and have longevity in the industry as a CEO.

Jacket by Victoria Hayes