Mistrust of the media in Black communities

Story and photo by CATIE QUIGLEY

The media are going through a period of reexamination and the issues of representation and diversity have come to the forefront. African Americans often feel misrepresented or simply ignored by the press, and Utah’s almost homogenous white population only exacerbates this problem.

Historically, the press in the United States portrays Black people differently than white people. Mass media companies are generally owned and led by white people, with only 17% of newsroom staff in the U.S. made up of people of color as of 2018.

Because of the lack of diversity within newsrooms, stories that are written about the Black community are often tainted by bias, as white reporters are reluctant to enter Black spaces in order to find all sides of the truth.

Therefore, we often see stories that feature Black people when a Black person, especially a Black male, commits a crime. They are often portrayed differently than white people who commit a similar crime and are characterized as being violent, often photographed in handcuffs or portrayed in a mugshot, while being characterized as combative and negative.

One of the most pervasive issues, said Shawn Newell, vice president of the Salt Lake City branch of the NAACP, is that Black people are seen as a uniform group by the media. “Black people are lumped together as being the same and it’s not based on an individual basis, whereas a lot of times when there is a white assailant or person that is doing wrong, it is focused on that one individual only, and they don’t pull in the entire culture or ethnicity as being the issue when that occurs.”

Peaceful protestors demand justice for George Floyd’s murder at a Salt Lake City protest on May 30, 2020.

Protests, especially ones that are seen as radical or revolutionary, like those that happened over the summer in Salt Lake City and across the United States to protest the murder of George Floyd, bring a whole new set of issues in media coverage. Research supports a protest paradigm, “which suggests that protests are generally marginalized, they’re made to seem more extreme than they might actually be; often the people who are quoted in that coverage are not the best representatives of that movement,” said Kevin Coe, a professor at the University of Utah who specializes in political communication.

This protest paradigm serves to further skew the representation of Black people in the media, especially exemplified by the Black Lives Matter protests of the summer of 2020. Acknowledging that several protests did turn into true riots, there were many other ones that were quickly characterized as riots by the media in spite of almost 95% of participants practicing peacefulness.

These differences in language between representation of Black and white populations is not limited to protest. Subtle, yet important distinguishing characteristics in language also reflect how African American communities are represented.

“When you start to use language that is all encompassing when it shouldn’t be —that’s destructive,” Newell said in a Zoom interview. Therefore, when words like “they,” or “them,” or “that community,” are associated with a Black criminal, there is a heavier impact on the perception of the entire community that had nothing to do with that particular incident.

The “violent Black man” is a common trope in media, often reflected in headlines that are featured with a mug shot, while stories about white offenders who commit similar crimes often feature details about their past community work or academic achievement. When consumed consistently by the public, the subconscious microaggressions begin to become reflected in society, which is detrimental to the Black community as a whole. “The way we talk about groups of people, the way we characterize certain phenomena, all of those things shape our perception,” Coe said in a Zoom interview.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter Movement and the summer’s protests, companies and newsrooms across the country are beginning to recognize the lack of diversity of reporters and the stories that were being published. However, Utah, with a 90% white population, poses a unique set of challenges to gaining and maintaining diversity in the media.

Nadia Crow was the first Black anchorwoman hired at a major network in Utah. In 2013, Channel 4 recruited her from out of state. By 2016, she had decided to leave for Seattle.

Newell reasons that “the culture needs to be built before you start to try to pull people into those environments” as a way to prevent any sort of discrimination against Black people when they try to join the media.

This is especially important in Utah, where the majority of consumers are white, and a Black face might be surprising and less welcome to some viewers, whether consciously or not, Newell said.

As a way to combat these sort of racial biases, Black-owned publications are a way for Black people to create their own space in the media. Impact Magazine, founded by Tunisha Brown, states that the mission is to “empower, encourage, and educate readers about Black Excellence.”

Brown started Impact Magazine “because I wanted to see a representation of the people that I know exist in my community,” she said in a Zoom interview. Being from Trenton, New Jersey, she saw that the local media only wrote about her community when there was a way to frame them as “always robbing, doing drugs, or just anything in a negative light.” But she saw the positive actions of her peers as well.

Fourteen years later, Impact Magazine is a successful publication that has featured prominent Black men and women such as Malik Yoba and Aisha Hinds. Brown spotlights the importance of having Black media sources because it offers a space that allows Black people to be safe, a space to escape the discriminatory language of mass media. “I think having our own voice is very powerful, because we are telling stories from our perspective,” Brown said.

Though the media still have a long way to go, awareness is growing about the discriminatory language and lack of representation for Black people in media, especially in the last year. Many publications are taking steps in the right direction, including local stations in Utah.

KSL radio stations are taking steps in this direction. Tanya Vea, vice president of Bonneville Salt Lake, discussed the problems that her station faced, and the possible solutions that are being enacted.

While stating that inclusivity has always been important to Bonneville Salt Lake, she acknowledges that the station “can be better at seeking stories out in those [minority] communities instead of waiting for them to come to us, and that’s where we need to improve,” she said in a Zoom interview.

To improve this issue, the company recently implemented a community board, which takes people from underrepresented communities and gives them a direct channel to share their community’s stories with the station.

While racial diversity in Utah’s media is far from perfect, last summer’s movements toward racial diversity have brought about positive change.

“The reality of it is that we are not going anywhere,” Newell said. “We’re all in this together, we’re all sharing the same spaces, we’re all breathing the same air, and we have to find a way to get along, we have to find a way to not have these barriers inside of our head.”

How Black Lives Matter Utah is tackling police reform

Story and infographics by TAESHA GOODE

Lex Scott is no stranger to a challenge.

“The movement is about hard, backbreaking work, and pain, and trauma, and death, and injustice every day of your life. That’s what the movement is about, and now the crowds have dispersed, but the work is still here,” said Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter Utah, in a Zoom interview.

As she was talking, she was driving through downtown Salt Lake City in a caravan demanding justice for the murder of George Floyd.

For activists like Scott, Black Lives Matter didn’t end after last year’s nationwide protests. In fact, it began long before. As always, she’s facing the fight head on.

The death of George Floyd in May 2020 spurred a sudden national wave of support for Black victims of police brutality. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, injustice against African Americans took center stage, as people of every race, religion and gender gathered to speak the names of victims like Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and Elijah McClain.

Hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and #ACAB (All Cops Are Bad) gripped social media, dashcam videos of racial profiling and violence flooded the internet and protests rocked the streets of both conservative and liberal states. It seemed a turning point for activists who had been fighting for this sort of publicity for so long. Scott was thankful for the awareness it brought, but she knew the momentum would be short-lived.

“The thing about the movement is people come and go. When there’s a high-profile officer shooting, you get a big crowd of people and then that crowd goes away, and then when there’s another shooting, they come back, and then go away,” Scott said. “Last year, thousands upon thousands of people came out, and I didn’t get excited ‘cause I’ve been here for seven years. I was like, I don’t care about you!” she said, laughing, “I care about police reform.”

For Black Lives Matter Utah, the most important initiative right now is changing the way police operate on a systemic level. Since the chapter’s founding in 2017, independent of the national Black Lives Matter movement, volunteers have been speaking out against police violence in Utah and around the country. Their current plan to tackle police brutality: take it to the capitol.

“We picked up two senate seats, we have several police reform bills passed in Utah, and the Justice in Policing Act passed the house,” Scott said.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 is a national police reform bill directed to increase accountability and transparency in law enforcement, as well as implement specialized sensitivity training.

“The Justice in Policing Act gives us independent oversight of police, it gives us data collection, [a] police misconduct database, it gives us qualified immunity reform, it regulates dash cams in police cars,” Scott said. “[It] is the most important thing I’ve ever seen. It is on the same level as the civil rights act [and] it is just as powerful.”

To Rae Duckworth, vice president of Black Lives Matter Utah, that power does not go unnoticed. “I want the change more than anybody.”

According to Mapping Police Violence, in 2020, U.S. police killed 1,127 people.

Bobby Duckworth became one of those victims in 2019.

The loss of her cousin in an officer-involved shooting in Wellington, Utah, spurred Rae Duckworth’s involvement with Black Lives Matter Utah. “The pain of losing someone from a police officer — it’s a different type of pain,” she said in a Zoom interview. “Ever since then, I just dived into actively trying to make changes.”

In 2020, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, Utah Police fired at 30 people — 17 of those incidents being fatal.

The disproportionate policing of People of Color in Utah reaches much deeper, as highlighted by Amber McFee, a lawyer volunteering with the chapter. Although McFee got involved with Black Lives Matter Utah shortly after the nationwide protests in 2020, the discrepancies in charges shocked her.

“It depends on if you’re Black or white. If you’re white, you’re getting disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct,” McFee said in a Zoom interview. “If you’re Black, you’re getting inciting a riot, you’re getting charged with felonies.”

The Justice in Policing Act targets all this and more. And although the national movement has lost momentum since Summer of 2020, Black Lives Matter Utah makes it a point to showcase the power that comes from speaking up in your local government.

“The movement is losing its trendiness,” Duckworth said. “People can stay active by participating in their local committees and their local agendas with their representatives. Because speaking on behalf of your community members, those are protests in themselves, and people need to realize that.”

Although Black Lives Matter Utah knows the power in local government, creating a nationwide change is Scott’s biggest priority. “People don’t get it, we are this close,” she said. “You want to come out and protest all day, well how about you pick up the phone and call a senator.”

The end of the legislative session in Utah, however, means that, for now, the chapter can focus on other issues. Alongside gathering signatures for upcoming ballot initiatives, the chapter recently launched Utah’s first Black history museum.

Black Lives Matter Utah has also continued its work with the Salt Lake City Police Department’s Community Advocates Group (CAG), which holds biweekly public meetings on police transparency practices.

In addition, Duckworth said the chapter has become a great resource for stopping police abatements of unsheltered encampments during COVID-19.

“There are a lot of systemic issues that we can approach,” she said. “There is always growth or change to be implemented. I just think that, if people know what they want to change in their community, if they figure that out and they just go for it — that in itself is a protest.”

McFee, the lawyer volunteering with Black Lives Matter Utah, knows that dealing with systemic racism means first facing the facts. “You need to read and research things that you aren’t comfortable with,” McFee said. “Teach the truth, you’re not going to learn it in school so teach your kids the truth. I think that’s where we have to start to get to the big finish.”

For Lex Scott, who’s been active in the community for the past seven years, it’s about holding on and holding tight. At the start of this journey, “I didn’t know what I was doing,” she said.

But it wouldn’t be a challenge if it was easy. By pushing forward, she found a solid community of people who want to make real change.

She reminds us to stick to our values. “Be intersectional in your activism — make sure it includes all marginalized groups.  … Don’t expect the world to change overnight. You just gotta stick to your activism and change the world.”

Breaking down a “foundation of racism” through film

Story by ZOE GOTTLIEB

In Oconee, Georgia, an old family farm is suspended in time. A ground mist blankets the fertile land. There is a graveyard here — a place where the commands of Confederate ghost soldiers are said to be volleyed across the green plain, beyond broken fence posts and aging headstones.

In Loki Mulholland’s approximations, a woman was supposed to be buried here. Her name was Aunt Mary, a name with placeholder-like quality: on the plantation, she was simply “Aunty,” on a deed, she was just a blotch of ink.

Aunt Mary, according to his family’s oral history, was one of a hundred slaves who once walked the plantation grounds.

But the number wasn’t close to 100. In fact, it was only six, and after the Civil War ended, five of them departed the plantation for good. All left, all but Aunt Mary.

Mulholland, gripped by his trepidation, returned to the grounds once owned by his fourth grandfather, Dudley Jones Chandler, hoping to find a trace of Aunt Mary.

“I knew in my heart that we weren’t going to find her,” Mulholland said in a phone interview. Scouring his family’s burial site, he turned up nothing. Her memory in death, much like her autonomy in life, had been cast into the void — that is, until Mulholland made it his mission to revive it.

“The Uncomfortable Truth,” a documentary film directed by Mulholland, remains relevant since its production in 2017 and is especially poignant now, given the widespread protests over the death of George Floyd which shaped our national discourse in Summer 2020. In his film, which has since received numerous accolades, Mulholland takes ownership of his distant relatives’ checkered pasts, reconciles them with that of his civil rights-activist mother, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, and seeks to root out a “foundation of racism” through cinematic storytelling.

“The Uncomfortable Truth” was released four years after Mulholland’s debut film, titled “An Ordinary Hero: The True Story of Joan Trumpauer Mulholland,” which highlights the accomplishments of his mother, a white woman who wielded her privilege to champion the rights of Black Americans.

Perhaps the biggest kicker of all, Mulholland said, was that after the film’s screening at the University of Mississippi, “college kids came up to us and said, ‘We haven’t learned any of this.’”

Sensing a gap in desperate need of filling, Mulholland went on to create the Joan Trumpauer Foundation, an organization dedicated to teaching students about the blemishes of our past, as well as triumphs through civil rights-activism.

“I don’t have to sit at the lunch counters ‘cause my mom already did — right? But I have to do what I can do … because doing nothing is not an option,” Mulholland said.

Now the recipient of an Emmy, Mulholland continues to educate young people through speaking tours about the Civil Rights Movement, our nation’s foundation of racism, and the importance of using privilege for good. Mulholland’s latest film projects are available to view on his website.

As more Black voices emerge in film, our “foundation of racism” appears to be breaking down. In 2021, Sundance reported that 57% of its directors were either Black, indigenous, or people of color.

The Black Association of Documentary Filmmakers West, a Los Angeles-based Black documentary film group, strives to continue this mission of increasing Black participation in the industry.

BADWest, through its film sharing and free screenings, allows people of color to distribute their work and receive feedback, with a mission of “advocat[ing] the recognition and advancement of Black documentary filmmakers.”

“The last four years have been an eye-opener to see where we are in this country,” Joyce Guy, a member and acting treasurer of BADWest, said in a phone interview.

Calling cinema the “foundation of this country going back to ‘Birth of a Nation,’” Guy said she believes that film has the potential to break down sociopolitical barriers and allow Black filmmakers to “chip away [at] untruths about who we are.”

Some of Guy’s work includes “Dancing Like Home,” a documentary she directed on the subject of tribal dance rituals in Casamance, Senegal, and appearances in many popular TV series such as “West Wing,” “Criminal Minds,” “Brooklyn 99,” “Bones,” and the critically acclaimed film “Moneyball.”

Despite her level of professional achievements, Guy said that Black actors, directors, and producers continue to face hurdles in the industry. “We’re still breaking ground to be just called a filmmaker — we haven’t passed that threshold yet.”

The organization will hold its 11th annual Day of Black Docs in May 2021. The event, held virtually this year, celebrates some of the year’s best Black documentary films.

Salt Lake City also has its share of Black production companies, including Inglewood Films founded by director and producer JD Allen.

Damarr Jones is an actor featured in several of JD Allen’s films, including “The Shoebox” and “Fear Level.” Photo Courtesy of Damarr Jones.

Damarr Jones is a friend of Allen’s and an actor affiliated with Inglewood Films. Jones, a self-described “military man,” hailing from Riverside, California, was in the midst of a search for professional gigs when he first became acquainted with Allen.

The men, having grown up in different parts of California, bonded right away, and Jones went on to participate in many of Allen’s films, including “Fear Level” and “The Shoebox.”

“Fear Level” follows the lives of six as they descend into their darkest depths, or “levels” of terror. “The Shoebox,” a film based on the real-life events of veteran Micah Reel, centers on four soldiers faced with the reality of PTSD before war.

Film has always been an important part of Jones’ life, but the death of George Floyd in 2020 changed his outlook on the industry.

“As tragic as George Floyd’s [death] was, one thing it did was open a lot of people’s eyes,” Jones said in a Zoom interview.

After Floyd’s death, Jones discovered a trend which he hopes will stick: more people, especially those of the younger generation, taking to video-sharing sites like TikTok, giving Black voices an unprecedented level of influence.

“I just hope the momentum can stay going, because when you got stuff that’s kinda trendy, it tends to fade out,” Jones said.

Jones, Guy, and Mulholland are all storytellers whose lives have been irrevocably shaped by their perception of racism in this country. They are storytellers who strive each day to use their narratives for good, to break down those racial barriers which will help America grapple with its racist past.

Back in Oconee, Georgia, Mulholland found himself wanting to retrace the paths walked by his activist mother. He might not have realized it at the time, but the act itself — an act of total, willful remembrance — encapsulates the meaning of “The Uncomfortable Truth.”

“I’m walking,” he said, “trying to figure out where this path was, and it turned out that I had been walking on it the entire time.”


Caribbean Nightingale: Utah’s first poetry salon connecting the community through the arts

Story by KENZIE WALDON

Poetry is a language that speaks to all different kinds of souls, connecting those who are in tune with the rhythm. A space to express this creative outlet can expand one’s own view to the variety of cultures that surround them in a community. 

Caribbean Nightingale is one such place. This Provo-based poetry café and boutique creates a space for artistic diversity in Utah. Michaëlle Martial, a Haitian-born poet and the creative force behind Caribbean Nightingale, is breaking barriers by spotlighting the mixture of talent that Utah has to offer. 

“Nightingale is a bird I always liked to read about as a teen, you know, from poetry,” Martial said during a Zoom interview. “Then I found out several years ago that the Nightingale was the only bird that sang both day and night.” 

The nightingale’s significance resonates deeply with Martial, both as a working mother and as a survivor of trauma and domestic violence. She decided to name her new business Caribbean Nightingale, the same moniker Martial uses for performing. “When it was time to register the business, I just thought it was a great idea to keep my stage name as the name of the business just because it has a lot of meaning,” Martial said. 

Michaëlle Marital performing her poetry as Caribbean Nightingale during a Relaxation Through Verse event. Courtesy of the Caribbean Nightingale website. Photographed by Tania Luiza Linson.

The business of Caribbean Nightingale began in 2018 with Relaxation Through Verse. This is the poetry salon’s main event that is held in various locations around Utah offering a safe space for multicultural artists to express themselves freely. “The poetry salon is there to uplift the community as a whole but also to help promote local and emerging artists,” Martial said. “We wanted to have an uplifting experience between the community and the artists.”

These intimate events have been stationed in art galleries to coffee shops and attract developing artists from all kinds of backgrounds. Gianfranco Fernandez-Ruiz, a Dominican Republic-born artist, is one of many to connect with Martial at one of the Relaxation Through Verse poetry readings. 

Gianfranco Fernandez-Ruiz performing his boom bap-inspired poetry at a Relaxation Through Verse event. Courtesy of the Caribbean Nightingale website. Photographed by Nicole Tyana Photography.

“Ever since, we’ve been homies,” Fernandez-Ruiz said in a Zoom interview. “I’m just on the other side of that island, she’s from Haiti and I’m from the Dominican Republic. So that Caribbean business, it goes a long way.”

Fernandez-Ruiz is both a poet and a multi-disciplined creative. “I mean, I graduated in English,” he said. “So, I’m all things in the arts, I do nonfiction, I do fiction. I’m a filmmaker. I’m a screenwriter, director, and I do poetry.” With the help of an ongoing Kickstarter, he is currently in the process of creating a tongue-and-cheek horror comedy movie called, “Saborrrr!”

Another performer at the Relaxation Through Verse is local musician Mel Soul. Soul attended one of Caribbean Nightingale’s events and was so touched by Martial’s poetry that she felt inspired to share her own writing and music.

“Michaëlle has kindly had myself and my drummer band mate Everett Spencer connect through her business as one of her featured musician artists for her live stream events,” Soul said in an email interview.

“Caribbean Nightingale offers poets, artists and businesswomen a safe haven for anyone (especially any person of color) to feel safe and connected through the expression of art in all forms,” Soul said.

Mel Soul (left) and Everett Spencer performing as Mel Soul & The Messenger at a Relaxation Through Verse event. Courtesy of the Caribbean Nightingale website. Photographed by Tania Luiza Linson.

Another addition to Caribbean Nightingale’s poetry salon is the TiGla Boutique, a shop and alternative outlet of highlighting the diverse talents that reside in Utah. It’s also a way to honor Martial’s mother, who was a fashion designer and seamstress. “That’s my way of amplifying Black voices, as I was trying to create some sort of legacy for my mother’s memory who passed less than a year and a half ago,” Martial said.

TiGla Boutique retails merchandise from the artists who perform at Relaxation Through Verse along with Martial’s own poetry books and other authors of African descent. Whether it be fashion, music or literature, TiGla Boutique markets the products created by these local artists, a concept Martial absorbed from her mother who was always trying to help women in her own community. 

“I thought I would do something similar to help me not only feel closer to her, but to also help other artists in my community and in the Black community, specifically,” Martial said. 

The most recent addition to Caribbean Nightingale’s business is the blog titled, “Black Joy Is…” This blog enlightens readers on Martial’s individual perceptions throughout her life. “It’s my personal insight as a woman, a Black woman, immigrant woman, and a poet,” Martial said. “And how travel and healing are intersected when it comes to self-care and self-love.”

While Caribbean Nightingale is connecting Utah’s diversity through art, being a one-of-a-kind business in this state still has its challenges. “Well, it’s been a journey,” Martial said, chuckling.

“There are a lot of obstacles that Black artists get into, you know, that is preventing them from succeeding within a business such as Caribbean Nightingale,” Martial said. “And sometimes Black artists don’t know that there’s so many opportunities available.”

But Caribbean Nightingale’s recent spark of exposure came in 2020 when Martial, along with five other Black-owned businesses in Utah, were selected to receive the Comcast RISE Prize. Caribbean Nightingale is the first of its kind to receive this award from Comcast, which generally supplies a business with the materials and technology it needs in order to succeed. 

Since Caribbean Nightingale is a business operated from home and restructured to hosting events virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions, Comcast needed to think outside of the box for how this award would be beneficial. The prize ultimately paid for a professionally produced commercial that will air from March to June on various Utah networks and be available on the Caribbean Nightingale website.

Martial is currently in the process of releasing a downloadable poetry album as well as organizing Relaxation Through Verse events through spring and summer 2021, both virtual and in person. Martial said donations collected at these events will be distributed among the performers and be given to local shelters for individuals experiencing homelessness. 

Martial’s dream of Caribbean Nightingale is almost 10 years in the making and has cracked open the artistic diversity that bubbles under Utah’s surface. Her advice to any aspirating entrepreneur who is wanting to invest in their passion is to always be mindful of the process. Or in Martial’s words, “You know, life is short, like our slogan with the coffee station, diverse life is short. Take it one sip, one rhyme and one note at a time.”

HoneyComb Café: A taste of a rising small business that’s using one of Utah’s natural ingredients

Story by KENZIE WALDON

New Year’s resolutions always open the possibility for new opportunities. That’s how Bailey Johnson and her sister BreAnna King felt at the beginning of 2020 when they made their goal of opening a bakery/coffee shop. This was the year they were finally ready to conjure this lifelong dream into a reality.

Then the pandemic struck. COVID-19’s chaotic attack on daily life led to postponement and reconfiguration of beginning the business they always envisioned.

“We felt super bummed out,” Johnson said in an email interview, “but then ultimately decided that Utah needed another Black owned business this year.” 

By October 2020, Johnson independently opened the virtual doors to the HoneyComb Café, a “Black and women owned bake shop,” serving dairy and vegan pastries with honey harvested from local hives by the team.

The HoneyComb Café’s logo, courtesy of its Instagram profile. Designed by Victor J. Herrera.

Johnson initiated this online bakery offering local delivery or pick-up from their new Cottonwood Heights-based industrial kitchen at 1164 E. Hemmingway Drive. Since its opening, the HoneyComb Café has quickly grown in popularity with the use of social media platforms, such as Instagram, and through involvement in the local community.

“We started with a pop-up shop with two other vendors to get our names out there and get our feet off the ground,” Johnson said. She credits their fast growth to “an amazing community of fellow bakers, [but] word of mouth has been what we’re striving for at the moment,” she said.

Menu favorites at the HoneyComb Café include the “danishes and beignets,” Johnson said. These multi-layered and fritter-type pastries can be custom made with dairy or vegan ingredients. 

The HoneyComb Café’s stand-out quality is that it will substitute sugar for honey from honeybee hives that they harvest and maintain. “All of our honey in our products came from our beautiful hives that we’ve [taken care of] for [the last] three years,” Johnson said. 

Unfortunately, due to severe winter exposure, three out of four hives unexpectedly died this season. But Johnson plans to rebuild more honeybee hives this spring that will have more resilience to the ever-evolving Utah climate. “Our hives were so special and cherished,” Johnson said. “We are excited to start a few more this year and work harder to make sure they’re safe for the off season.” 

The HoneyComb Café team harvesting honey from the honeybee hives. Courtesy of the HoneyComb Café website. Photograph by Joe Johnson.

The HoneyComb Café’s delectable goodies have garnered consistent loyalty from its clientele since the beginning. From highlighting chocolate pudding pie to matcha bread on the website, the HoneyComb Café offers a dessert experience that is uniquely their own. “When every customer enjoys my pastries, I hope they are so happy and realize that 3 colonies of Honeybees, which is over 240,000 working bees, are the reason we are living, breathing, and enjoying HoneyComb Cafe’s pastry,” Johnson said.

Johnson reciprocates this loyalty back into her business by consistently considering her mantra: “Always put people over profit.” She hopes to expand enough in the upcoming years to transition HoneyComb Café into a storefront where customers are welcome to stay, relax and enjoy its high-quality pastries and coffee. 

Johnson’s entrepreneurial spirit is driven by the people she loves and supports her — including her HoneyComb Café team. 

“I am dedicated to making sure this business takes off,” said Valerie Evans in an email interview, a baker at the HoneyComb Café and Johnson’s mother. “I’m dedicated to providing goods to our customers, and I’m dedicated to learning everything about vegan eating,” she said.

Evans has been helping Johnson with HoneyComb Café since it opened in October. “It was honestly a dream come true for her to ask me to not only help bake, but to also formulate the menus and try out new recipes,” Evans said. 

The HoneyComb Café’s displayed goodies during a pop-up shop in October 2020. Courtesy of the HoneyComb Café’s Instagram. Photographed by Bailey Johnson.

With this being the first time she’s worked at a locally owned business, she noted the contrast from previous jobs. “It’s so different because I feel like I’m helping achieve a dream while also building customer connections with different kinds of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” Evans said.

Tyce Hawkins, the marketing director and customer relations associate at HoneyComb Café, has also been with the business since Day One. 

Similar to Evans, this is Hawkins first time working at a locally owned business — seeing it as an opportunity he didn’t want to pass up. Hawkins said he enjoys feeling viable and not like a “cog in a system.”

“Every week we improve in a new way and the work that we do helps the café grow and connects us to the community in a more meaningful way,” Hawkins said. 

This support pushes Johnson’s drive to further represent the Black-owned business community in Utah, striving to benefit the Salt Lake City area for the better.

If there’s one thing that Johnson wants her customers to take away from supporting the HoneyComb Café, rather than just an experience filled with tasty treats and a new appreciation for the Beehive State’s resources, is “how amazing Black owned businesses are, and how amazing and life-changing honeybees can be.” 

Message of hate empowers Black students to demand more from Salt Lake Community College administration

Story by HARRISON FAUTH

A thief hidden behind a computer screen disrupted an event meant to celebrate Black poetry. Few students saw the white supremacy message, but many felt the ripple of hatred within Salt Lake Community College and Utah. The aftermath left a Black student community determined and resilient to not let hate win.

After a Black Student Union Zoom event in February 2021 was hijacked with messages of hate intended to quiet the voice of Black students, the opposite occurred. It created action and a resolve to ask for more from their community and college administrators. The event continued live and provided inspiration for those in attendance. 

After the attack, SLCC’s president sent an email to each student and staff member expressing regret and disappointment about the Zoom “bombing.” No mention of concrete action steps from school administration was mentioned in the email. 

Joy Tlou, director of public relations at SLCC, said in a phone interview, “Diversity, equity and inclusion is something that SLCC is committed to. The administration shares the concerns of the Black students and they are fully aware of the trauma that was felt by those at the event and on Zoom.”  

To bring understanding to the school’s response, it is important to examine the student population. According to the website College Factual, college campuses in Utah share a similar degree of diversity. SLCC, University of Utah and Weber State all report a white student population of 69% and Black population of 2%. The largest diversity comes from the 17% Hispanic population that is enrolled at SLCC. This may matter when it comes to the school’s policies and priorities. 

SLCC responded quickly to the incident, but many students felt it was reactive and not proactive. In an email interview, BSU President Jaycee Glavin said that prior to the event most Black students felt a lack of support. But after the event, Black students felt an outpouring of support. Some of it was genuine, such as questions about “how can we do better?” While others were more halfhearted as a way to fulfill an obligation. Glavin said, it remains to be seen if support will continue.

In email interviews members of  BSU leadership expressed feeling worried, anxious, and fear, but the overwhelming feeling was anger. Anger that they were attacked. Angry, but resilient. Glavin said, “Haters did not stop us, but they did affect us.” He also expressed concern that the person who did the Zoom bombing is still unknown. This fact has created a heightened awareness of safety on the SLCC main campus.

Black students have requested that the SLCC administration show more interest in activities on campus that support diversity. One member of the BSU leadership who did not want their name publicized said in an email interview, “Come to our events and show you care. You attend birthday parties and retirement parties. Why not make some time to attend a Black sponsored event.” 

This was also discussed in relation to police presence on campus. BSU leadership wants law enforcement to normalize their presence at events so students feel less fear and more cooperation. Glavin said, “I just met the highway patrol force over SLCC, and I think we are working towards making a relationship without awkward encounters.”

For years Black students have asked the school administration for an updated Black history curriculum taught by Black professors. “I want to have Black history taught by someone who shares the experience of being Black,” one BSU member said in an email. 

Glavin said he felt the curriculum on campus was “whitewashed” like most school experiences in Utah. 

SLCC Globe reporter Heather Graham said in an email interview that she feels the “intent on campus is to be inclusive, but this is not often met.” Many Black students are the only person of color in their classroom and often do not see professors who are Black teaching at the school.

BSU members have asked the administration to actively recruit Black professors. Joy Tlou, the PR director, said, “SLCC is widening their search for professors outside of Utah to increase teacher diversity.”

Another request is to provide Black counselors to better address the needs of Black students. BSU leadership feels this need is invisible until something bad happens. Then it becomes part of the discussion.

Black students want Black counselors who understand their reality. Black students have different cultural experiences and want to speak to someone who shares their same experience. As one BSU member who did not want their name mentioned said, “We are missing strong allies on campus.”

BSU leadership also wants white students as allies, but this is often misunderstood. To be an ally means to “listen when you are in a Black space and not speak up to share an experience.” The same BSU member added in an email interview, “Until you walk in a Black person’s shoes you can never understand what we felt.”

BSU plans to reschedule the poetry slam that was hijacked. SLCC information technology security and law enforcement have begun the work to make future events more secure. They are also hoping to have more school administration in attendance at the event.

The SLCC administration, like society, has a serious challenge to address. As Joy Tlou said, “Campus needs to be safe, healthy and supportive; it is not a destination, it is a journey, and everyone needs to come along.”

KRCL uses music exploration to connect communities

Story and photos by LIAM ELKINGTON

When tuning in to 90.9 FM, it’s usually hard to determine exactly what you’re going to hear. Depending on the time of day, you might hear lively conversations with activists, updates on local events or a varied, eclectic selection of carefully curated music. KRCL aims to provide a place where Salt Lake City residents can get connected with their community through programming that promotes exploration of culture, music and politics.

Located at 1971 W. North Temple, KRCL was founded in 1979 with the goal of providing Utahns with a community platform for discussing ideas that were important to them. With over four decades on the air, KRCL is still community owned.

KRCL has been broadcasting since 1979.

Part of being a community-owned platform is representing those community members. “Salt Lake City is growing and culturally diversifying, and as a community radio station, we seek to be a reflection of the people who call this place home,” said Tristin Tabish, general manager of KRCL, in an email interview.

Diversity is represented on KRCL through its programming, especially the music that gets played over the air. A far cry from typical Top-40 hits, KRCL’s music ranges from classic to obscure with genre-specific shows that focus on exploring the depth of styles that don’t often get heard on public radio. “Smile Jamaica” highlights reggae artists both old and new, and the “Fret ’n’ Fiddle” program celebrates the authentic American sounds of bluegrass.

Deciding what gets aired usually starts from a place of passion for a specific style of music. “Oftentimes a new show starts with a deep love and knowledge of music. Someone who has been collecting vintage surf rock records for decades might pitch a show that features music from their collection,” Tabish said.

Shows can feature genres like psychedelic, bluegrass, heavy metal, world music or even just a mix of music that the KRCL staff find to be compelling. This dedication to providing a platform for unique music has garnered KRCL a reputation among listeners for being the place to go when they want to experience new music. “It’s important that hosts are able to connect with listeners through their love of music,” Tabish said.

Aside from being interesting or entertaining, the music played on KRCL aids its mission of representing the voices present in Utah communities. Tabish discussed how it is important to have a radio station that can represent the growing diversity of Salt Lake City. “The voices you hear on the station are everyday folks who are passionate about sharing their love of music and they’re invested in helping to build a more vibrant and inclusive community. That means you’ll hear music from bands living here in Utah alongside emerging artists from Mexico City and beyond,” she said.

KRCL recognizes that there are more ways to connect a community than simply through a shared love of music. The station features several programs designed to bring to light issues facing the people of Utah, and spotlights those who are invested in addressing them. One of these programs is “RadioACTive,” a show that airs daily and strives to encourage civic involvement through hosting conversations that deal with topics important to local listeners. “The conversation ranges from urban farming and food security to poverty and human rights,” Tabish said.

KRCL uses music to connect with the community.

With it being an election year, “RadioACTive” plans to increase the number of shows that focus on things like voting as well as participating in the 2020 census. “RadioACTive” airs every day at 6 p.m.

After all of this, merely playing diverse music and talking about community issues isn’t enough for KRCL. It is constantly using the platform to promote local nonprofit organizations, events and businesses. The “KRCL Presents” series is used to promote up-and-coming artists through concerts, as well as on-air events. Tabish recalled a specific instance of KRCL’s community involvement. “A few years ago, we held a rally at the Utah State Capitol to commemorate International Women’s Day,” she said. “That gathering was incredibly meaningful to women and their supporters who have ever felt silenced or inferior.”

Being a community-owned and -operated radio station doesn’t come without its challenges. With a lack of traditional funding, KRCL relies almost entirely on donations from organizations as well as individual listeners in order to keep things running. “As an independent radio station, funding is always a challenge — almost 80% of the station’s yearly operating budget comes from our listening community,” Tabish said. 

KRCL annually hosts a “Radiothon” with the goal of raising funding to support the station. This event among many others that support KRCL rely heavily on volunteer support. Those with an interest in contributing time to the station are encouraged to contact volunteer coordinator Eric Nelson (ericn@krcl.org) to learn more about how they can help out.

KRCL is more than a place to discover new music and listen to talk shows. As an independent, nonprofit and community-owned station it aims to represent all aspects of Utah life. The programs are designed to explore ideas and bring attention to issues that are facing the places where we live. KRCL occupies a unique space in Salt Lake City’s media landscape that isn’t filled by any other radio station.

Styles upon styles

The Hip-Hop scene is bubbling with new faces experimenting with new sounds and concepts. 

Story by ROBERTO ELGUERA 

The underground Hip-Hop scene in Salt Lake City is in an exciting place right now. The hard work musical artists have been putting in for years now is finally paying off. Rappers with respected styles of their own, we get a glimpse of each one’s upbringing and influences through their music. 

A workhorse who is always representing the city is Zac Ivie. Born and raised in Utah, Ivie’s presence is undeniable in the scene. He is always working in the studio or performing. He has rubbed shoulders alongside well-known rappers like Ghostface Killa, Talib Kweli, Blueface, to name a few. He’s also a big believer in investing in yourself.  

“There is a lot that goes into this rap game, marketing, promoting, network, brand building. You gotta be your own PR, your own graphic designer, your own director in music videos, in this day and age you gotta be a jack of all trades,” Ivie says. Staying true to his words, Ivie started his own record label, Get It Write Records. The label’s purpose is to create an open environment for aspiring artists to hone their skills and continue to build creativity in Utah. 

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Zac Ivie. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Coming off of his new 2020 album WISHKID, Ivie continues to push himself musically. 

On the track “Pressure,” Ivie flows lightly on top of bright keys addressing his self-doubts and motivations for rapping. The standout R&B track, “Temptation,” featuring SayD and Breanna Marin, shows a different side of Ivie. Marin’s vocals sound amazing and SayD and Ivie have great chemistry as they share their views on love. If you’re a fan of Ivie’s Noteytapes, you’ll appreciate songs like “Red Handed,” “Joycee,” and “Luv.” Whether you’re a long-time listener or a newcomer, there is something for everyone on this album.

Another prominent character on the scene is Vinnie Cassius. Also known as Ferrari $moke, Cassius has been making noise on the scene for a while now. His shows aren’t meant for the shy listener. It’s for mosh-pits. A great entertainer, Cassius showed why he’s a veteran in the game at the Outset/Lord Sinek show on Feb. 24, 2020, show at Kilby Court. Cassius easily got the crowd jumping with him during his whole set. He even managed to get the crowd singing along to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl.” 

His crowd control comes from experience. After performing a sold-out show at the 801 Event Center, Cassius decided that he would give it his all every show no matter the stage. “It was my first time being in front of a stage like that and I was like, alright, every show got to be like this,” Cassius says.

What’s distinct about Cassius is his dark and cavernous sound. This sound made its first appearance on full display on Revenge Until Death. This tight-knit six-song EP doesn’t pull any punches. Right from the beginning with the song “NWO,” it throws the listener into a dark abyss as Cassius doesn’t let up even for a breath.

Cassius’ flow and the hard-hitting production match perfectly. He displays his own production ability on “Fiff (5th).” The standout track, “500 Degrees,” feels like a second-hand high, with the intoxicating chorus, “Treat my city like it’s Gotham how I’m riding in the night. They ain’t ever gonna stop me.” He’s got a lot of unreleased music in the vault, like the song, “Platinum Chanel,” that will be released in the near future. It will be exciting to see a new project from him as he continues to push his craft to a new level.  

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Vinnie Cassius performing at The Loading Dock. Photo by Roberto Elguera.

At the time of this article being written, Cassius has been invited to perform at The Hive Select Sound show on June 20, 2020, at the Utah State Fairpark. Cassius will be performing alongside big names in the current rap game with the likes of Ski Mask, The Slump God, Flatbush Zombies, Denzel Curry, and more that will be revealed soon. This will be a great opportunity for Cassius to show his talents on a bigger scale. 

Moving over to the west side of Salt Lake City, we have Rose Park’s own Bobby B Mac. What’s interesting about B Mac is his versatility and delivery. It’s a sound that is rough and gritty; reminiscent of the 1990s with a modern twist. On “Heaven or Hell,” B Mac smoothly glides on a dreamy laid back beat while he shares his introspections and sorrows. He raps about his frustration over his brother getting 15 years in prison and class inequality. Even though he is faced with these challenges, B Mac remains grounded. He continues by rapping about being mindful of his money and staying independent as an artist. 

In his music video for “95 Baby,” B Mac shows his hometown alongside his collective the Ghost Family. In this song, he addresses the school-to-prison pipeline. Even when faced with these issues B Mac remains hopeful with lines of motivation for his community. 

B Mac has always had an interest in music. Coming from a musical background, his father, Bryant Masina (also known as B. Side), was a prominent figure in the rap community. And B Mac’s uncle was a member of the Polynesian-American group, The Jets. 

“It’s always been around me. With everything growing up, I took bits and pieces of different genres. I was like damn I’m gonna make some rap music,” B Mac says. 

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Bobby B Mac. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“As far as my style, I try to keep a West Coast feel and energy, but at the same time, East Coast, as far as my delivery and bars,” B Mac says. But it’s not just about music. He has become a voice for his community. 

“I would say we just got to be more active with the kids. We got to break that barrier. So that way the kids know that they’re not alone. They may be pressured by social media to have these certain types of things, have these certain types of lifestyles, but I mean, if we’re able to just teach them that, well, whatever you got, you’re blessed,” B Mac says. 

Seeing these artists hustling for their passion is inspiring. At times they have to be their own director, promoter, and producer to keep their art alive. If you’re a real fan of Hip-Hop music, take some time to check out your local artists.

 

Why we need more Latinx journalists

Story and photos by BRITT BROOKS

When America sits down for breakfast what’s in front of them? The entire internet is literally at our fingertips, so reading the news is less impacted by time and place and more a matter of preference. Especially now when anyone can share their voice, journalists have the unique and exigent responsibility to create reliable, accurate and interesting publications.

Journalism is necessary to keep our communities connected, as well as educate readers with current perspectives. New voices are becoming increasingly popular in publications across the country as various marginalized groups gain platforms.

Utah’s Latinx population is at nearly half a million people, and in a perfect world that large community would be covered and represented accurately in the media. However, as reported by ReMezcla, white male voices tell the vast majority of stories in American media. In fact, throughout all the top newsrooms in the country, only 25 percent had at least one non-white editor. And minorities made up less than 17 percent of all newsroom employees combined.

Rebecca Chavez-Houck is a woman who understands why minority representation is important in all fields. Her experience as a Latina woman, and her career endeavors in journalism, public relations and politics, have given her insight as to what can be better in the world of media creators.

Starting her professional journey at the University of Utah, Chavez-Houck earned a B.A. in journalism and mass communication as well as a Master of Public Administration. After working in public relations, she said she realized she had a knack for “sleuthing” and wanted to try her hand at researching potential bills. Her career totally changed when running for public office morphed from an idea to a reality in 2008.

Chavez-Houck said she used her communication skills to ensure all possible effects of a bill were thoroughly considered and weighed, not glossed over during a long session on Capitol Hill. “You don’t say ‘no comment,’ you find a way to answer the question,” she said during a press pool interview.

Chavez-Houck explained that she decided to run for public office because she didn’t see anyone representing her community who actually reflected it.

The work Chavez-Houck accomplished during her time in the Utah State House of Representatives includes successfully passing a bill ensuring permanent Election Day voter registration as well as medical interpreter amendments that help non-English speakers of all dialects get the care they need in American medical offices.

As a Latina woman in a predominantly white, male career she’s had to navigate different ways to get her voice heard not only by constituents but her colleagues as well. Something she wants to improve is the Latinx image in the media, and that their stories are heard and respected. She’s frustrated with journalists who don’t search for new perspectives and said, “Find us, find us, find us. We’re there!”

Chavez-Houck wants more coverage that actually reflects the various personalities and ways of being for Latinx people. “We are as diverse as the greater community,” she said.

One way to ensure different demographics are covered well in a publication is to hire writers who accurately represent the community. Kiana Opre, 22, is a senior at the University of Utah studying gender studies and English. She’s also the editor-in-chief of Her Campus Utah, a branch of the international online magazine Her Campus written primarily for and by collegiate women.

Opre has worked to expand the topics covered by HCU, like trans rights and gender equality. She’s constantly reminding writers to use photos in their articles that have racial, cultural and gender variation so that the literal image of the magazine shows inclusivity. And she’s proud to say Her Campus at the U is ranked No. 1 out of more than 300 branches due to variables like the number of articles published, social media posts and chapter events.

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Kiana Opre

Opre and her fellow HCU council members try to recruit writers from all different majors, backgrounds, races, and genders. According to information published by College Factual, the U has fairly average numbers for diversity regarding race, gender, and age. But the U is more mixed than the national average, and ranks 314 for “Overall Diversity” when compared to nearly 2,500 other colleges nationwide.  

Opre said she advocates for a wide range of writers in all published content and aims to have all types of voices represented. However, she wants to be clear that HCU isn’t seeking out minority writers for no reason. Their voices actually need to be recognized and validated, not tokenized.

In an email interview Opre said, “Businesses, clubs and corporations are constantly seeking out ‘diversity’ but it never seems to be for the benefit for real lives or real people of color, but to fulfill a quota, to keep up with an image of what’s ideologically popular.”

But similar to other Utah-based publications, HCU was having a major gap between the representation the council wanted and the writers the branch actually had.

Stephany Cortez happened to be the first Latina member of HCU, but she said the decision to join was daunting, as going into a group of about 20 white women isn’t the easiest thing to do as a minority.

Cortez is a 23-year-old political science and criminology major at the U. Her roots are Mexican and though she said she loves the culture, community, and family that surround her, she doesn’t want to be defined by any one thing. She’s been part of the U’s Student Government (ASUU) and the Beacon Scholars program for first-generation students.

When Cortez joined the magazine, HCU’s editorial team was totally female, and totally white. On its surface the chapter reflected the stereotype of a sorority, and at one point Cortez said she didn’t know if she was at the right meeting. At the open house for the chapter, Cortez remembered seeing different genders and ethnicities, but soon found out she was the first Latina to join the magazine’s staff. “A lot of people of color don’t know about Her Campus, that it’s a community you can participate in,” she said.

While Cortez said she first felt a bit like “a fish out of water,” she also knew that sticking with Her Campus would improve her writing and possibly open the doors for more Latinx students to join. The people we see in certain positions plant the idea of what’s attainable and what isn’t depending on what you look or sound like. In other words, who we see in different industries and careers is who we believe belong there.

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Stephany Cortez

Cortez mentioned that Latinx families tend to stay within their smaller communities for various reasons, the most notable being fear. In a time where ICE is detaining and deporting Hispanic people every day and America’s president actively speaks against Latinxs it isn’t surprising that parents are concerned for their children on a daily basis.

Being repressed is one of the most frustrating feelings one can experience. But if something as common as getting a speeding ticket can end in deportation, fighting and speaking up can seem impossible or at the very least unsafe.

However, new territory is on the horizon for Cortez and other Latinx young adults. They find inspiration in the sacrifices that previous generations made, and use that to add to the culture and future of Latinx people in America.

Cortez is proud of her roots, but she’s also proud of herself for working hard and joining different communities and clubs no matter the preconceived notions. She said, “We need to break that mold.”

How a local Latinx makeup artist is transforming music into makeup

Story and gallery by KILEE THOMAS

Just like her bio says on her Twitter profile, Madeline Maldonado is a “local Starbucks barista with bold eye looks.” Maldonado is a Latinx makeup artist and beauty guru from West Jordan, Utah, who is gaining tremendous notoriety and recognition in the online beauty community. Her popularity comes from her creative, bold and artistic makeup looks that are often inspired by her favorite bands, their album covers and merchandise.

“I get inspiration from a bunch of different things, but I think the main thing is music. Just like drawing, you can listen to a song and draw what you’re feeling. It’s the same thing with makeup,” Maldonado said.

Maldonado said music launched her makeup career in September 2018 when she posted a makeup look on Twitter that was inspired by one of the Meet You There Tour posters from Australian band, 5 Seconds of Summer. The band’s lead guitarist, Michael Clifford, retweeted her look and provided Maldonado with a platform and the numbers to gain some major online recognition. As of today, this post has over 18,000 likes.

She approaches her looks like a painter approaches a canvas. Maldonado said the looks can take up to four hours, depending on the amount of detail and how much surface area on her face she is planning to cover with makeup.

Her looks are no small endeavor and makeup rookies should be forewarned. One look can be completed with the use of only one eye shadow palette, while other looks require four or five palettes, she said.

As a member of the Hispanic community, Maldonado said she believes her ethnicity will give her a leg up in the beauty industry. “My culture gives me an advantage. I feel that being a Latina helps inspire a wide range of culturally diverse individuals. It helps me connect with creators from all around the world and as I create a platform for myself, I aspire to spread cultural awareness through my message and my art,” she said.

She said she believes the makeup industry is growing in terms of diversity, but there’s still a lot of room to go. “All different types of people do makeup now, but the first makeup artist I started watching was Jaclyn Hill (one of the leading makeup personalities on YouTube). Because she had blue eyes, so many colors complemented them and it made me hate my dark brown eyes because the makeup didn’t make my eyes pop like hers did,” Maldonado said.

“My plan is to begin a YouTube channel where I am able to explicitly teach and inspire others. My hope is to create a diverse community where people can express their feelings, creativity and spread positivity,” Maldonado said.

According to Forbes, “It’s never been a better time to be a beauty entrepreneur.” And for good reason. The beauty industry is one of the largest markets in the sales industry, which is why it’s the perfect place for “women to self-start their way to big-time success,” according to Forbes.

Statista reports that in 2016, the cosmetics industry in the United States generated more than $62.46 billion and that videos on YouTube containing beauty-related content were viewed more than 169 billion times in 2018.

Maldonado said she believes YouTube and social media are the future of makeup. “You definitely need to have a large social following to get started. I think I could do makeup for a long time and not get a big response or recognition until someone with millions of followers notices me. That’s what sucks about the way the beauty industry is going. It’s not just about talent,” she said.

Anyone who takes a quick glance at her Instagram feed, which is jam packed with colorful makeup looks that resemble art more than they do makeup, could tell you that she has a gift. But, it wasn’t always this way, Maldonado said.

Maldonado said she has always been artistic. She danced her whole life, loved her painting and drawing classes in high school, but she didn’t have any idea that makeup would end up being her creative outlet.

She credits her older sister, Marisa Barber, for being the source of inspiration to get her started in makeup. “I had zero clue what I wanted to do after high school. I was a little lost until one day I was going through my sister’s makeup and took interest,” Maldonado said.

Barber is proud of her little sister’s accomplishments and said she believes she has the skill to be a successful social media influencer. “There is a huge platform set for these aspiring makeup artists and I feel that all Maddie needs to do to make it big is the right equipment. She definitely has the talent and personality to be entertaining,” Barber said in a text.

Until Maldonado creates her YouTube channel, she does recreational and experimental makeup looks for her close friends and family. Whether it be for senior pictures, portraits or her personal favorite, Halloween, she “creates a story with meaning behind it. The masterpieces she paints on faces are beautiful,” Barber said in a text.

Maldonado’s older sister is one of the people she feels comfortable experimenting her beauty looks on. Barber said she feels that her sister is always professional when she is sitting in her makeup chair. “She always makes sure that I am happy with my look by constantly checking throughout the process how I am feeling and self-assessing her work,” she said.

Barber appreciates how open Maldonado is to new ideas and collaboration when it comes to her clients, but thinks letting Maldonado work her magic without outside input generates the best results. “For me, I like having her work freely on my face. She gets in a zen type of state and the work she produces is magical,” Barber said.

Leigh Ventura, a previous makeup client of Maldonado’s, said she is in awe of how Maldonado takes a piece of art to new levels. “Most people, like myself, would just see the album cover and try to use the shades of the colors to create a look, but she does more than that. She thinks outside of the box and I think she actually goes into character. I’m a big fan of her work, huge,” Ventura said in a text.

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Maldonado was inspired to create this look after watching 5 Seconds of Summer’s Valentine music video. Photo courtesy of Madeline Maldonado.

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Maldonado created this makeup look based on the band BTS’ “Love Yourself: Answer” album cover. Photo courtesy of Madeline Maldonado.

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 Maldonado spent five hours creating this floral makeup look based on Shawn Mendes’ self-titled album. Photo courtesy of Madeline Maldonado.

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Maldonado spent four hours creating this look. The look was inspired by 5 Seconds of Summer’s Meet You There Tour Live album cover. Photo courtesy of Madeline Maldonado. 

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 Maldonado created this makeup look based on the Meet You There Tour Poster. Photo courtesy of Madeline Maldonado. 

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The products used to create Maldonado’s Shawn Mendes self-titled album makeup look, sprawled out across her vanity.

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Maldonado created this stormy eye look after listening to Forever Rain, written by RM of BTS. Photo courtesy of Madeline Maldonado. 

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