Opinion Blog: The Sexualization of Women in Magazines

May 18, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Posted by Meg Jones
mpjones@mail.smu.edu

I live in a sorority house at Southern Methodist University with weekly and monthly subscriptions to Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Us Weekly, and Glamour.

My sorority sisters and I flip through the pages of women’s fashion and gossip magazines, but how many of us are taking a closer look at the message that magazines are sending to their readers?

Magazine content responds to popular demand and is a reflection of American culture, but it also contributes to it.

The pages of women’s fashion and gossip magazines perpetuate a hyper sexualized ideal standard of beauty for women.

Through these messages women are taught to believe that if they work hard enough and spend enough money they can attain this culturally determined, hegemonic vision of beauty.

With a constant influx of images of the sex goddess, fashion and beauty magazines contribute to the sexualization of women by permeating sexualized representations of women and girls, suggesting that being thin and beautiful is the cultural norm.

According to the report by the American Psychological Association task force on the sexualization of girls, sexualization occurs when a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics.This leads to sexual objectification—that is, made into a thing for other’s sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making.

Media images of female beauty not only influence how women feel about themselves, but also how men feel about women. There is a distorted reality in what men see in the media as opposed to the real women in their lives.

The high-dollar and never-ending consumerism needed to pursue the “Barbie body” is a mindset instilled in young girls that remains with them when they become women.

Advertising in magazines sells women products by selling them the idea that they can and should achieve physical perfection to have value in our culture.

More often than not, images in magazines have been altered. Computer retouching has become a primary technique used by advertisers and before photographs are published, they are digitally retouched to make the models appear perfect.

Although magazine content does not directly cause or effect body image problems, someone who is predisposed to the behavior may be pushed toward unhealthy diet and exercise routines by reading fashion and beauty magazines.

SHIFT Magazine: Deep Ellum Outdoor Market: One Small Step for Deep Ellum, One Giant Leap for Dallas

April 28, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

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By Danielle Barrios
dbarrios@smu.edu

What makes Paris, London, Los Angeles, and New York City authentic, thriving cities? They have grand parks with gathering areas. They have cultured art scenes. And with the help of government funding, these urban dreams become a reality.

In Dallas, not a year goes by without yet another multimillion-dollar project. The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge project expected to be finished in October of 2011 will cost roughly $93 million, says the structural engineers. The 5.2-acre deck plaza onto of the Woodall Rodgers highway is a $110 million public and private project with costs split by the city, state, and federal government, according to theparkdallas.org. And lastly, the Trinity River Project which is expected to cost another $93 million dollars to construct.

But with billions of dollars being put into these community improvements, do these structures and the taxpayer dollars they consume make Dallas any more like the lively neighborhoods at the center of these other cities’ pulse? Obviously, throwing money at public projects will rarely produce a genuine urban community.

Brandon Castillo traveled around the world and saw one thing all of these great cities had in common: markets. Nine months ago, Castillo’s wheels started turning about a new kind of market here in Dallas. What was his creation? The Deep Ellum Outdoor Market.

(Photo by Danielle Barrios/SHIFT Magazine)

Castillo based the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market on two of his favorite markets: El Rastro in Madrid and the Brooklyn Flea in New York City. El Rastro has up to 3500 vendors every Sunday with tens of thousands of people who gather to shop for tools, movies, clothes, antiques, pets, comic books and everything in between.

Customers arrive at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market prepared for a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. (Photo by Danielle Barrios/SHIFT Magazine).

Launched in June 2010, the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market is located in the parking lot behind Café Brazil at the corner of Elm Street and Macolm X Boulevard, the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market transforms an ordinary parking space into an extraordinary eclectic collection of items, vendors, food and music.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Deep Ellum, casual pedestrians walk up to the market as Melissa Ashton stands behind a table displaying a collection of handmade, up-cycled, found objects that have been made into jewelry, accessories, headpieces, and home décor. She smiles behind her large lensed sunglasses as curious customers pick through her one of a kind products.

One day Ashton was at Half Priced Books when a woman stopped her and begged to know where she had purchased her feather earrings and necklace. Ashton blushed and admitted her pieces were actually from a collection of found and broken antique objects she created her own pieces out of. “’Well, I’ll take them!’” Ashton recalls the woman saying. Ever since Ashton has been a local vendor at Make Studio & Boutique in the Bishop Arts District, an active team member of the design website Etsy, and a vendor every third Saturday at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market.

“When you first pull up to the market, you hear live music playing,” says Christy Yip, who is creator Brandon Castillo’s assistant and in charge of “vendor relations.” Underneath the covered parking lot, vendors are selling an extensive compilation of items. From vintage books to one-of-a kind jewelry, printed tees, cowboy boots, fine art and used records, the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market is vintage lover’s paradise.

At the market, Castillo says, “every single vendor is an entrepreneur.” The wide range of vendors at the DEOM are all experts, producers, and the salesmen and saleswomen of their own diverse craft. The DEOM has “everything from clothes to books to ray guns,” says Castillo.

And Castillo’s vendors are as enthusiastic and lively as Deep Ellum’s neighborhood. Allison Drake, who is “the shirt girl,” makes every one of her pieces herself. “I sell everything myself, set up my booth myself, run all the websites–everything,” says an enthusiastic Drake, who intended her work as a vendor to be a side job. But now, six months later, she has decided being a vendor was “way more fun.”

Drake sells clothing with screen-printed witty sayings. “I’ve had more than one couple come tell me they can’t wait to have children so their babies can wear my onesies,” says Drake. “I even had one woman turn to her husband and ask him if they could start trying to have a baby after she oohed and ahed over the ‘sweet baby bird’ layettes.”

Yip, Castillo’s assistant, says the only complaint customers have had about the DEOM is the lack of alcohol served at the market. However, on the other side of the street the DEOM houses a food truck with delicious and authentic Texas barbeque for the shopper who needs to take a breather. “We hand out neighborhood maps to everyone who attends the market. Then they know where else they can go in Deep Ellum,” says Yip, who encourages customers to stroll the Deep Ellum streets for small dive bars, music venues, and local businesses.

Christy Yip welcomes new customers to the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market with a smile. (Photo by Danielle Barrios/SHIFT Magazine)

Another vendor, Nancy Friedman, started selling at the DEOM last August when she saw an article about the market. “I loved the aura. It reminded me of the best flea markets in Los Angeles,” says Friedman, who is a 25-year veteran of the flea market business and now a regular vendor at the DEOM. Friedman sells a wide variety of accessories for women.

“I am a one-woman operation,” says Friedman who admits that the economy has influenced her work in the flea-market world. Friedman was one of the original vendors at the Venice Beach Abbot-Kinney Street Fair in Los Angeles, California. “The Dallas Outdoor Market has all the charm and funkiness of Abbot Kinney,” but in Texas, says Friedman.

“My newest items are my ‘boob tubes,’” says Friedman as she picks up the yellow “boob tube” out of an assortment of many different colors. Friedman explains that these are mini camis that can be worn instead of full-body layers of clothes. These bra-tops are a cooler, layering alternative especially for the unbearably hot Dallas summers.
All of Friedman’s products are useful for women and reasonably priced. “I am very sensitive about the economy so I design with reasonable pricing in mind,” says Friedman as she sells yet another one of her “boob tubes” to a prospective customer.

Around the corner from Friedman’s display is yet another vendor. “I make beaded jewelry– bracelets, necklaces, earrings, rosaries, and more,” says Jennifer Julian, the founder of One Star Designs. Each piece Julian makes is unique. “I have a mix of ‘normal’ jewelry and ‘freaky’ stuff as well,” says Julian, who mentions that her husband and “right-hand man,” Justin, always says she has “everything from bones to butterflies.”

The Deep Ellum neighborhood continues to prove itself as the perfect place for an outdoor market. (Photo by Danielle Barrios/SHIFT Magazine)

“One minute a mom and dad are buying a cute little ‘memory wire’ bracelet for their young daughter and the next minute a woman with green hair walks up to buy a necklace with a bat pendant,” says Julian. “It’s a great mix of clientele.” One Star Designs has customers ranging from age 4 to 80 according to Julian. “All of our customers at the market have been awesome.”

Julian is beaming as yet another satisfied customer walks away from her display with a One Star Design at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market. (Photo by Danielle Barrios/SHIFT Magazine)

One customer, Hilary Whiteside, 23, has been a veteran of outdoor markets since she attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. “It’s such a great place to meet cool people doing cool things,” says Whiteside, who adds, “with these kind of markets, it’s just not about the money.” Whiteside says her favorite part of an outdoor market like the DEOM is that every visitor can buy a one-of-a-kind-item. “Looking through Missing Link Records is like going back in time,” says Whiteside. As Whiteside jumbles through the cases of records, she says, “People just don’t own stuff like this anymore.”

As Whiteside continues to browse, DEOM vendor Richard Quintana sits with a pleasant smile by his boxes of vintage and prized LPs in the middle of the covered parking lot. Quintana is the mastermind behind Missing Link Records. Two years ago, Quintana welcomed a much-needed breather from his work as a sub-contractor at Texas Instruments. One day, he came across a record store going out of business in Indiana. “I felt that we didn’t have enough record stores in the area so I made a deal to buy it in hope of opening a store in Richardson,” says Quintana. Now, as owner of Missing Link Records, Quintana travels to look at collections, moves all newly bought merchandise, unloads and stocks the records inside a warehouse, sorts the product when possible, and loads the records to travel to markets like the DEOM.

“Missing Link Records is different because I don’t bring hand-made items to sell,” says Quintana. “These are vinyl records,” he says, pointing to his boxes full of hundreds of vinyls as interested customers flip through. Quintana admits that you can find records nowadays at local record stores. “But we bring clean, budget-priced records to suit every taste,” he says. And that’s why his records are different from the rest found in stores.

Outdoor flea markets like the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market have appeared in the U.S. for several decades. The most prominent of these kinds of markets is the farmers market. Statistics from the Department of Agriculture show that from 1994 to 2000, the number of outdoor markets in the United States grew by 63 percent. And it has continued to grow over the past 10 years.

Ten years ago, the neighborhood of Deep Ellum may have questioned the presence of an outdoor flea-like market. But today, with these growing numbers, Dallas will have to plan for many other vendor-type markets to come.
Caleb Massey, yet another vendor at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market, heard about the market from his aunt and fellow vendor Melanie, and figured he should give the venue a try. When Massey was 19, he started a career designing props for the Dallas Children’s Theater. Now, a few years later, he, his wife Cat, sister Kineta, brother Forrest, and buddy Joel all contribute to ‘Red Ranger Ray Guns.’

Crafted out of toy-store guns and other industrial material, Massey’s ray guns looks space invader left them behind. About a year ago, Massey realized people wanted to buy the ray guns Massey had originally been making as a hobby. Now, at the DEOM, Massey says, “I don’t have many left by the end of the day.”

Massey’s vendor display is unlike any other at the DEOM. “I make sure there are things for the kiddos to do,” says Massey as one eager customer shoots the robot with Nerf ray gun and another destroys the chalk Martians with the water guns at Massey’s display table.

“I take toy guns and make them look like ray guns from the ‘50’s,” says Massey, who uses everything from lamps, clocks, staplers, figurines, or anything else he says “I feel like raygunning.” But Massey’s favorite items are his one-of-a-kind assemblage guns he builds entirely out of found objects.

Massey and his entourage of friends and family who all contribute at the DEOM have been pleasantly surprised by how much people enjoy the product. Massey says his “favorite reaction was when someone walked by and did a double take then said ‘Ooo! Ray Guns!” Massey has seen one kid and repeat customer who started making his own ray guns.

“We offer products you can’t find anywhere else,” says Castillo, “products made by our neighbors.” And Ashton of Indie Thrift can attest to the success of the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market. “I have already had a ton of repeat customers from past Deep Ellum Outdoor Market Saturdays come back and greet me,” says Ashton. “One young lady came up to my booth smiling so big and then she asked, ‘Is this Indie Thrift? I saw you online!”’ Ashton was equally as elated. “She knew my label before she even met me,” says Ashton. “It isn’t often that someone recognizes a handmade artist, so I feel like that was a big accomplishment.” And without the DEOM, Ashton and all of the vendors know much of their success would not have been possible. Revenue and numbers aside, the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market has brought members of the community in direct communication with one another and that’s something that can hardly be said about North Park Center.

Castillo remains hopeful that one day Dallas will become a real city, thanks at least in part to his creation. “Real cities have markets. Cities like Chicago or New York are real cities and we intend to make Dallas a real city.”

SHIFT Magazine: SXSW 25: The Undiscovered Country (Singer)

April 22, 2011 by · Comments Off 

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by Cassie Nelson
conelson@smu.edu

Jane Bryant looks down at her scuffed up cowboy boots as she takes a deep breath before looking out upon a crowd of around 250 eager music lovers. The 19-year-old singer/songwriter instantly transforms from a tiny teenager to a country showstopper the moment she takes the stage at the 25th annual South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.

Bryant’s long dark hair flows behind her as a gust of wind breezes through the warm Austin air.

“Thanks for coming out, y’all,” starts Bryant. “This first song is dedicated to my sister, Rebecca.” Bryant begins strumming her wooden Taylor guitar as she bursts into her original song, “Let You Go.” The chattering crowd gathered outside Austin’s Mel’s Meals is quickly muted by the surprisingly large voice little Bryant emits. With her sister Rebecca standing front row, the opening number unravels the emotional journey of a young girl’s first love and the difficulty of letting the failed relationship go. As the final note is carried away in the wind the crowd begins to cheer.

“There is no better feeling in the world,” Bryant says of hearing an audience applaud.

Bryant, who both writes and performs her own original music, is a sophomore studying commercial music at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. She first started writing her own music as a freshman in high school, but has been singing and performing her whole life.

“Jane was simply born with a natural musical talent,” explains her mother, Judith Bryant. “She began singing and playing piano as a young girl and quickly taught herself to play both the guitar and harmonica.”
Bryant chose to attend the prestigious Belmont University in order to foster her musical talent in hopes of becoming a music sensation. She says her ultimate dream is to “perform at the Grand Ole Opry.”

Bryant seems to be headed in the right direction: She has written over 20 original songs and performs in Nashville honky-tonks almost every weekend. Bryant has sent her demo to several record labels and is still waiting for her big break.

“This is a difficult industry to break into, and I have certainly experienced the harsh reality of rejection,” she says, “but I refuse to give up on my dream.”

Receiving an invitation to perform at a music festival such as South by Southwest is the kind of moment that keeps Bryant optimistic. With a full band, including an electric guitarist, bass player, violinist, and drummer backing her up, Bryant successfully filled the March 19, 3:30 to 5 pm slot on the Mel’s Meals stage.

Bryant performed 18 songs at the South by Southwest music festival including her original “Forbidden Love,” which was written after her mother had a dream that strangely related to Jane’s life.

“Every song I write is based on my own life experiences,” says Bryant. “My goal is to write music that people can directly relate to, find comfort in, and heal from.”
With over 600 Myspace followers, Bryant seems to be successful in that goal.

“To be honest,” says Kaleigh Richter, who attended Jane Bryant’s South by Southwest concert, “I originally came to this set because I knew Mel’s was offering free beer.” Richter continued, “I was really surprised by how much I loved and related to her music. I can’t believe she wrote all those songs by herself…that takes real talent.”

While many new performers who played at South by Southwest had a revolving audience, Bryant’s listeners seemed to only grow throughout her set.

“I feel very blessed that I was given this opportunity to play at such an amazing music festival,” says Bryant.

Bryant closed her show with a song she wrote for the victims of the Haiti earthquake, which she titled “Here We Are.” With the sun shining down on her porcelain face, you could almost feel the emotion in her beautiful voice. While looking around, there was an audience that was obviously captivated and filled with disappointment that Jane Bryant’s debut at South by Southwest was over.

SHIFT Magazine: The Art of the Culinary Cocktail

April 22, 2011 by · Comments Off 

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by Stephanie Collins
spcollins@smu.edu

Quiet and precise, Jason Kosmas outlines the various philosophies and ideologies behind his craft. He uses metaphors and stories, comparing himself to a musician and then an artist. The way a musician interacts with his music, he says, is the way he interacts with his bar.

“It’s just like how a musician gets sick of playing his most popular songs at concerts. I get sick of serving the same drink over and over. Some people want to be surprised, though, which I think is where a new level of trust comes in,” says Kosmas.

Kosmas’ new-age bartending style is based on the oldest techniques in bar history. He makes “culinary cocktails,” using fresh ingredients, not mixes or powders, to create many of his drinks, and he thinks of unique drinks weekly to serve at his current workplace, Bolsa, in Oak Cliff.

He calls his drink-making style “contemporizing classic cocktails” with a culinary twist. The simplest example of this, he says, is his twist on the classic drink the “South Side,” which is a blend of vodka, lemon juice, triple sec, and soda water. After updating the drink by replacing the lemon juice with lemon-flavored vodka, he called it a “West Side.”

Kosmas takes bartending to an intellectual level. He studies all aspects of the profession, from knowing and understanding classic drink recipes, to creating new ones, to interacting with and relating to bar customers.

“Bartenders broker the deal. I know a lot of bartenders who can make a great mix, but they are bad at relating,” said Kosmas. To him, a true bartender is a chameleon, void of an ego. “The customer projects their expectations onto the bartender. Maybe they want you to be humble, maybe they want you to be arrogant. What you’re selling, really, is possibilities.”

A native of New Jersey, Kosmas attended Rutgers’ fine arts program for two and a half years before deciding to drop out and move to New York City in the late 90’s. He got a job working at Pravda, the city’s “hottest bar” at the time. It was one of the first vodka martini bars and was set up by bar master Dale DeGroff, from whom Kosmas learned the craft of bartending.

“He was probably one of the most influential people for me. Working with him, it became clear that what I was doing could become a career,” said Kosmas.

“I think I was successful in instilling a sense of perfection and a pride in craft,” said DeGroff.

During his time at Pravda, Kosmas worked closely with fellow bartender Dushan Zaric, with whom he would go on to open a couple of restaurants and publish two books. According to DeGroff, the chemistry started when the two worked together flavoring vodkas in-house at Pravda. They created well over 100 flavors of vodka using fresh ingredients from the kitchen such as herbs and fruits.

Kosmas and Zaric opened their own restaurant, “Employees Only,” in New York City, employing the “elevated style” of culinary cocktail making they had learned about at Pravda.

“Jay and me were the perfect bartending team, and we could run any bar or any crowd. It was always a fun thing layered with small rivers of booze that we consumed during our shifts,” said Zaric.

According to Zaric, Kosmas always attracted the “All American Jane” category of women, who fell for him due to his being “politically correct and always taking the moral high ground,” while Zaric did the opposite. With their contrasting personalities behind the bar, they ran a balanced and successful business. “It was beautiful because it was always spontaneous, and never contrived,” said Zaric.

The business partners published two books together, “You Didn’t Hear it From Us,” a dating guide for women from the perspective of a bartender, and “Speakeasy,” a culinary-style cocktail recipe book.

The 36-year-old Kosmas, who has dark brown hair and sports a 20s era handlebar mustache, has a cerebral vibe, but is a natural-born people person. Many of his coworkers stop by to enjoy some banter, a laugh, or just say hello.

“It’s hard for me to say whether his success should be attributed to his experience or his natural disposition, but I have come to realize it is no coincidence he always finds his way to the top,” said Kosmas’s current coworker, Eddie Campbell, who found him to be an approachable genius after studying his work.

“I would start complimenting Jason and his style of bartending, and got a quick lesson in how genuine and humble he is,” said Campbell.

Kosmas moved to Dallas in 2009 in search of a more family-friendly city to accommodate his children and to be closer to his wife’s family. Not to mention to partake in the vibrant culinary scene of what he calls “the biggest restaurant city in the country.” He describes his personal bartending philosophy as knowing that “people want something different to happen to them than what happens in their everyday life” when they come to a bar.

“A birthday, for example, is supposed to be something really special. It only happens once a year. But we get about three birthdays a night. For us, a birthday is the most un-special thing that could happen,” said Kosmas, who noted that this is where the situational aspect of bartending comes into play. After bartending for almost 16 years, he knows that people want to feel special, and that’s what he delivers.

But Kosmas delivers something else as well: creativity. Because he grew up around food, due to both his Greek culture and the restaurant that his father and grandfather owned, Kosmas always had a love for the culinary arts. “The process of creating a drink is fun because you see it in your mind first, and then you bring it into the world,” said Kosmas, who is inspired to create new drinks based on seasonal flavors, unexpected taste combinations, new spirits on the market, and sometimes even customers.

In addition to working at Bolsa, Kosmas is a cocktail consultant hired to design cocktail menus for restaurants, and to train the restaurants’ bar staff. He has worked on the cocktail menus of over 15 restaurants, making everything from Asian-inspired cocktails for Thai restaurants to drinks containing pearl dust and silver flakes for the launch of a new vodka.

Kosmas plans to move from Bolsa to the Marquee Club, a new restaurant set to open in Highland Park Village this year, where he will be the executive beverage manager. “Not that there are any other beverage managers,” said Kosmas.

The Kosmas philosophy of bartending emphasizes knowledge and creativity, but to him, the customer is the real deciding factor when it comes to his success. Customer Andrew Shaddock said simply, “I used to just have a beer. Then, I tried one of Jason’s drinks, and it’s impossible to go back.”

SHIFT Magazine: In The Express Lane

April 22, 2011 by · Comments Off 

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by Shelby Foster
slfoster@smu.edu

Frantic moms in mini vans have their claws out in the parking lot, competing for the rare empty spot. Strollers are being pushed across intersections, carting babies that are happily viewing the chaos around them from their strapped-in position of safety. Cell phone-toting teens chatter away, bopping from one store to the next while sharing the latest gossip. A family shuffles out of an ice cream joint, the children excitedly licking away at their long-awaited kiddie cone. It’s a busy Saturday at Firewheel Town Center in Garland, Texas.

An eager sales associate greets customers that are piling into Express, a moderately priced, casual clothing store. One associate folds and prices merchandise in the women’s section. Another two associates carry heaps of clothing to the dressing room in the back for customers looking for the perfect fit. A dark-haired cash register fiend fires through the line of people waiting to finalize their purchases. The associates are efficient, helpful, and diligent at their various positions and departments within the store. The source of this productivity and thoroughness is 25-year-old Kumra Pjetrovic, the general manager of Express at Firewheel. She races from one end of the store to the next, checking in on her employees. It’s apparent that she runs a tight ship. This is her store.

At twelve-years-old, Kumra washes the dishes in the kitchen of a small pizza place in Rowlett, Texas, alongside her older sister. They chatter away in whispers over the racket of pots clanging and forks scraping as they soap up and rinse off plates that once held one of her father’s delicious confections. “Kumra!” Her father’s voice booms from the dining room. “Could you help me with something?”

Zuko’s, her father’s namesake restaurant, opened its doors shortly after he moved his wife and firstborn son from Yugoslavia. His wife, Mahja, gave birth to three more children after the move – two daughters and another son. Zuko supported his growing family with his ethnic and well-prepared food that soon became a hit in the little town of Rowlett, twenty miles north of Dallas. As soon as the kids were old enough, they all pitched in to help out at the restaurant. Great food runs in the family; Kumra’s uncle owns a similar spot in Garland. Both restaurants are family-owned and family-operated, with each dish containing a dash of Pjetrovic flair.

Fast-forward to 2005. Kumra is now 19, and her dad’s traditional Yugoslavian pizzeria just wasn’t cutting it anymore. “I was tired of smelling like pizza,” she says. With the encouragement of a high school friend who recently landed a job at Express, Kumra applied to work there as well. The lure of making new friends and becoming a member of the fashion industry, albeit with a small role, was too tempting to ignore. Zuko and Majha, however, were not so thrilled. “They were a little worried when I started working at Express,” she says. They didn’t want me to be exposed to different things, and they were hesitant to send me out into the world like that. There is definitely a culture barrier for them.” Because of her parents’ concern, Kumra started working only one day every two weeks. But as soon as her little brother was able to put in his time at the restaurant, the Pjetrovics allowed their hard-working daughter to accept more hours at Express.

Two months into her job at the location at nearby Town East Mall, Kumra was promoted from sales associate to fashion expert, a position for the style-conscious that steps in as a personal shopper in the fitting rooms. Two weeks later, she was given the position of keyholder, coordinating the fitting room areas. And in four more weeks’ time, Kumra was the assistant manager. “I climbed the ranks fast at Town East. I got lucky,” she said. But the framed awards and trophies that now sit on her desk in the back room of the Garland location prove that luck had nothing to do with it.

The company recognized her talent and diligence, moving her from Town East to Stonebriar Centre in Frisco, the second highest volume store in the district. She was given the title of head of visuals. “I was in charge of rearranging the store according to the specifications sent to us from corporate,” she explained. “I loved that job. It was a lot of hours, but the creative aspect was so great. That’s what I really love.” Kumra continued with that position for three years at Stonebriar, and took on the same role for a year at NorthPark Center in Dallas, the highest volume store in the district. But, with the excitement of a bigger store comes bigger sacrifice. “I was working 80 hours a week and taking five classes at UNT. It was exhausting,” Kumra recalled. “I wanted something smaller, closer to home, and more enjoyable.” So now she finds herself in a much lower-volume store than Stonebriar and NorthPark, but with the title of general manager and a fashion merchandising degree under her belt, she’s happy.

It’s 4:00 p.m., and shifts are changing at Firewheel. Two fresh-faced sales associates, Sophia and Seth, come gliding through the door to clock in at the register. Twirling her wavy brown hair around her manicured finger, Kumra dashes over to brief them before they head out onto the floor. She immediately turns to Seth, who was looking a little sheepish. “I’m really sorry, I can’t remember all the promos. I’ve been sick lately,” he mumbles. Kumra cuts him off, not to reprimand him but to make sure he has taken medicine and is feeling well enough to work. Her interaction with the associates makes it clear that she commands respect from them, but a tyrant she is not. “My mindset, as well as the mindset of Express, is very team-oriented. I’m all about building my team to be the best they can be,” she says.

After preparing Sophia and Seth for their shifts, Kumra grabs her distressed navy leather bag from her office, alerting everyone that she is going on break. She walks out to her car, headed to her uncle’s pizza place for a quick bite to eat. Fashion may be her career and her passion, but her Yugoslavian heritage is never far from her heart.

SHIFT Magazine: “Dear Mr. Barber, I’d Like To Swim The Channel.”

April 22, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

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by Austin Reed
austinr@smu.edu

PLANO, TEXAS- At the end of a productive and busy day, Debbie Treece has just completed the paperwork to become president of Kiefer’s Swim Shop, a small aquatics supply store in a nondescript strip mall much like many others in North Texas.Treece has just bought this store from a Chicago-based franchise that’s planning to put more effort into online sales rather than franchised stores.

What will the new name of the store be?

She’s leaning back in her chair, wondering what a better name would be for her store. Her attire today is that kind of Western business-casual that’s pretty common nowadays- a dress shirt with lots of cowboy patterns on it like saddles, stirrups, horses. An unassuming gold watch that matches the small gold hoops in her ears. Her hair is copper in color, cut a bit short- it lends a businesslike, aerodynamic appearance to her.

“You know, Swim Zone could be a good name for the store. Something like that,” she says in a British accent– only it’s not fully British; there’s some Texas twang in there as well.

It’s just another night for Debbie Treece, small business owner, wife, mother. After dinner she’ll return to her house in the suburbs of Carrollton, and as she passes the staircase to greet her husband Steve she’ll pass a small framed photo collection on the wall.

It is this collage that gives away something about Treece that you’d never assume from talking to her. Hugging the inside of the frame are black-and-white photos of a young, athletic Debbie, no older than 13, 14 at best. She’s in a one-piece swimsuit and has a white swimming cap on. The smile on her face suggests a mixture of elation and utter weariness.

At the heart of the frame lies an old, weathered patch. A small coat of arms depicting a castle and a lighthouse, surrounded by two mermaids on either side.

The script at the bottom reads “Channel Swimming Assocn.”

* * * * *

At a young age, Debbie Gowan of Chelsea, England became aware of two skills she possessed: swimming and sales.

Born in 1961, Debbie began swimming at the age of three while enrolled in the Reedham Boarding School in Surrey. (The school, founded in 1844, closed down in 1979.) However, multiple ”jailbreak” attempts which included stowaway trips by train to Scotland and back (“It was easy to get away with things like that back then.”) eventually landed young Debbie back at home, attending a local school at the age of 11 while both her sisters were still enrolled at Reedham.
“They said they could put up with my sisters, but not me. I was too much of a wild child to ever be allowed back there,” she says without regret.

While at home, Debbie would often decide her own school schedule, often skipping half a day’s worth of class for up to five-hour swimming sessions at a local pool. Her swim coach and “role model,” Kevin Murphy, and his wife would often swim with her during these sessions.

Debbie was also working at this point to raise money for train fare to swim in the Serpentine River, a recreational lake in Hyde Park, London (and future venue for the 2012 Olympics.) She raised money making beds at hotels, selling leather coats, doing whatever it took to ensure her precocious independence as a part-time student and part-time swimming truant.

“Well, when I was sent [back home], my thoughts as an 11-year-old girl were that I would just find a coach, I’d try out for him, and he’d start training me,” says Debbie.

“I didn’t know about bills at that point, what normal 11-year-old would? Still, I didn’t feel it necessary to go to school at the time when I could be swimming, so I started picking up jobs when I could. It was two things I found that I really loved doing, selling and swimming.”

* * * * *

“Dear Mr. Barber, I’d Like To Swim The Channel.”

This is the title of a documentary produced by the National Film School of Britain. It was directed by film student Ben Lewin, photographed by Brian Huberman, and released in 1974 on Thames Television, a now-defunct channel which once rivaled BBC and BBC2 as a source of broadcast network programming.

Not much information can be found on this film. One solitary (and quite incomplete) entry for it can be found on the website for the British Film Institute. Its subject matter concerns a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl whose ambition ”is to be the youngest person to swim the English Channel.” This young girl writes to a Mr. Lionel Barber, a truck driver with a hobby of training Channel swimmers. No runtime is given, nor copyright date or production times.

This incomplete virtual index card is the sole public record of Debbie Gowan’s greatest achievement.

“People had gotten word of the training I was receiving from Mr. Barber, and then in what seemed like no time at all, I was becoming the focus of a film school documentary,” says Debbie.

(Her recollection of this memory is exuberant, spontaneous– one can tell that this is a story she’s loved telling for many years. However, whether it be the decay of memory over time or the sheer energy of getting caught up in the moment, Debbie combines the director, Ben Lewin, and photographer, Brian Huberman, into one apparently fictional ”Ben Huberman.” Then again, all the public has to rely on is an obscure and incomplete Internet page- indeed, the nationality and birthday of Brian Huberman is not even known.)

This small film crew of five to six students followed Debbie through her training and into the Channel run itself. Because of Mr. Barber’s day job as a truck driver, Debbie would often ride with him to his delivery points all across England, with an improvisational practice schedule in mind.

“I can remember how so many times we’d end up at a dock, and Mr. Barber would just tell me to hop in the water and swim for as long as I could before the next delivery,” she says.

* * * * * *

Debbie, Barber, and the film crew have been living at a campsite near the edge of England, at the waters of the internationally governed Strait of Dover. Her starting point lies on the other coast, in France, 22.5 miles away. (She will travel there by boat.) Debbie will in all likelihood have to swim a much longer length than that, as the ebb and flow of the tides have often historically increased the length and distance of Channel swims.

And after waiting through an especially stormy week for conditions to clear up in a soggy August of 1974, it’s all but a given at this point.
Debbie had already been sleepless for hours when her cold, pitch-black start time of 4:00 a.m. came around. Nerves and a sudden bout of seasickness on the trip to France had robbed her of any rest. Still, as she was covered from head-to-toe in a warming jelly lubricant, 13-year-old Debbie Gowan was not about to turn away from this.
Over the span of 16 hours and 45 minutes (officially), Debbie swam nearly 56 miles from France to England. She followed a small fishing boat, which held Barber and the film crew (her parents stayed behind in England.) Debbie by official rules was not allowed to touch the boat, even for food breaks when she would be tossed a simple snack. Treading water was the only way she could stop to rest, and even then she was in constant motion– not only to keep herself afloat, but to avoid jellyfish stings.

“Besides the huge welts I had on my body afterwards, there were a few other moments where the crew wondered if I was done for,” says Debbie.

“There were a couple of times where I bobbed under the boat, and that was especially scary to the crew in the darker hours. All I could mentally think to myself for hours on end was just, stroke, stroke, stroke.”

The English coast was in sight at the end of her nearly 17 hours of unbroken swimming, but it seemed that fate had other ideas for Debbie. In addition to the storms, which had barely relented enough to make the idea of a Channel run feasible in the first place, an oil tanker had spilled nearly 15 miles away from her destination, and the slick had already traveled to her location.

It was then that a consensus was reached on the fishing boat, unbeknownst to Debbie: For the child’s safety, it was necessary to pull her out of the water before she began swimming in the oil-infested portions of the coast.

“I fought them off as hard as I could when they tried to pull me out, which isn’t saying too much,” Debbie says with a hint of sadness.
“By that point my joints had become so frozen in their swimming movements that I really wasn’t able to put up much of a fight at all. I was tired and I didn’t have the fight for it.”

Here, suddenly, after finishing this anecdote, Debbie’s posture changes. Her face darkens a bit. Her voice sounds more contemplative, pensive.

“They all said that they’d vouch that I had done it, even the captain of the boat. They were willing to claim that I had reached land and completed the swim, especially since the coast was within vision…”
She trails off and pauses.

“I told them no.”

Pause.

“Sometimes I wonder if I would have said that now.”

* * * * * *

Despite the technical incompletion of her Channel run, Debbie Gowan received a patch from the Channel Swimmers Association in 1974. Such patches are normally only given to competitors who touched both coasts.

Debbie was the exception.

* * * * * *

The rest of the story, as Debbie says, plays out by itself.

The documentary premiered on Thames Television and was later re-broadcast on the BBC. A scrapbook of old articles and photos shows that it won awards for amateur documentary of the year in Britain and also placed third at a similar competition in Sydney, Australia.

Debbie would make two more attempts at swimming the Channel. Both were short-lived and unsuccessful. Now more focused on making money through sales (she was ”promoted” to manager for one odd job at the age of 16 after multiple firings left her the only one in authority), Debbie felt that the hounding of the media and multiple sponsors robbed her of any will to compete again.

“At that point I didn’t want to do it because it wasn’t me anymore. It wasn’t me doing this for myself. It was others wanting me to do this for news and ratings and sponsors. I did this because I wanted to do it in the beginning, not for them but for me,” she says.

Her interest in swimming went on the back burner for a long time, but not her ambition in the workplace. Her family moved to America when she was 16 (ironically, right after she had become de facto manager at her current job), she graduated in 1983 from Eastern Michigan University with a major in physical education and health, with the primary focus being (what else?) aquatics.

She got waiting jobs, she was promoted to manager at one of those (the Rusty Pelican in Newport Beach), she met a man named Steve Anderson while working there, got married and had a son, Matthew, in 1988. She quit the Rusty Pelican job for motherhood and got a part-time job with Jenny Craig- which also led to her being promoted to a top manager after excelling in her now-expert salesperson skills.

After a drawn-out move to Houston shortly afterward, Debbie ended up divorcing Anderson and married Steve Treece in the summer of 1995. All three ended up moving to the Dallas area (“We wanted Matthew to still be able to see his father,”), and Debbie became focused more on raising her son.

He, too, loved to swim.

In 2003 when Matthew was entering high school, Debbie ‘rejuvenated her love for swimming by taking the aquatics director position at the Prestonwood Country Club in Carrollton, where she trained Matthew and other children to be competitive swimmers. In addition, she took a part-time job as an employee at Kiefer’s Swim Shop in 2004, where (to nobody’s surprise) she quickly advanced up the ranks up to her purchase of the franchised store to start as an independent business.

Debbie leans back in her chair, tired but still a bit giddy from the storytelling. A look of contentment crosses her face.

“You know, I wouldn’t give up any of it. Some things, maybe, I’ll look back and wonder if it would have ended up different, but in the end, no. All these things that happened, good or bad, they happened for a reason.”

She smiles. It is a weary, yet content smile.

Just like in the photograph.

SHIFT Magazine: One Humble Yogi

April 22, 2011 by · Comments Off 

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by Danielle Barrios
dbarrios@smu.edu

It is late Thursday afternoon. As the sun sets, cars, bikes and casual walkers enter the parking lot of Karmany Yoga. The small studio is conveniently settled on McKinney Avenue only a block away from the Katy Trail on the second floor of a building facing away from Highway 75. Karmany’s studio looks a lot smaller from the outside. Students gather outside and after a swift stride up the outside set of stairs to the studio door, the studio’s neutral wall color adds an inviting ambiance with burst of natural light enters through the front large window.

Karmany Yoga was founded by owner, Deanna Anderson. But Karmany was not a part of her life plan. For college, Deanna attended New York University to study Physics, Philosophy, and Mathematics. Then, in 1994, she discovered something that would change her life for the next 17 years: yoga.

“I was living in New York City and there were yoga classes at my gym on Madison Avenue,” said Anderson as she sipped on her latte outside of Dallas local hot spot The Pearl Cup. Next to Deanna’s small frame and dimpled smile sat her purse, a small clutch entirely made out of recycled bottle caps.

Deanna experienced a humble beginning inside the Yoga world. “I gradually figured out what teachers that I liked and I started fitting it into my schedule. It started out as a backburner kind of thing,” says Deanna. “She’s always so modest. It’s charming,” says longtime student Gillea Allison who enjoys Deanna’s classes several times a week.

Before Yoga, Deanna enjoyed a demanding but exciting career as a fashion editor in New York City. But soon, yoga became more than just a casual class taken at the gym. Then finally, in 2001, Deanna finally received a basic yoga certification and began teaching in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. From then on, Deanna’s passion for her craft became quite clear and it soon was reflected in her teaching style and classroom environment.

Today, over 11 million Americans practice yoga as a form of meditation and physical exercise that has been in existence for over 5,000 years. And Deanna’s classmates constantly benefit from Yoga’s abundant gifts. Class began that Thursday afternoon as Deanna’s eclectic play list set the tone. The Shins played through the studio’s speakers as the laid-back classroom environment and an overall feel-good vibe resonated off the walls.

As one of the first donation-based studios in Texas, Deanna’s studio is unique compared to other Dallas studios. Karmany is “founded on the principle that yoga should be available to anyone, regardless of financial means or skill level.”

Deanna is quick to point out that Karmany’s donation philosophy does not mean free yoga. Donation-based means there are no set fees for regular classes or a lengthy membership registration. Karmany’s website clears up a lot of the gray-areas with a recommended fee structure. One class a week is $15 a class, two classes a week is approximately $12 a week and so on. “We ask only that you contribute what you can. In the yogic sense of karma, as we are giving a gift, it is our hope that you will give back,” says the Karmany mission statement.

“I had no desire to start a studio. I hated the idea of being tied down,” says Deanna, who sees herself more as a performance artist. “The idea of running a studio and being in an administrative position was not my cup of tea at all.”

But now, Karmany has built quite a name for itself in Dallas and was voted Best Yoga in Dallas according to D Magazine.

Deanna admits that Yoga is not for everyone, but it’s certainly not elite which is part of the reason why Karmany is a donation-based studio. “Traditionally, before you embark on a spiritual path, you have to have your basic needs met. You need to have shelter and food and clothing and that you can be a contributing member of society because if you haven’t got that kind of stuff in order, it is very difficult to open up to a path of service.”

Deanna is confident in her craft. “There’s something for everybody. Yoga can be athletically intensive or spiritually.” She explains, “there’s really gentle practices and really vigorous practices- some practices are hard because you have to be really still and some practices are just more athletic.” Even Deanna’s student, Gillea Allison, is in the process of getting her instructor certification. Thanks to Deanna, Yoga is becoming a large part of Gillea’s life as well.

Every yoga style is different. “You can’t make a sweeping generalization and say that one is superior. It’s really just what one person relates to the most and what works best for them.”
Even though Deanna believes there is no such thing as a skilled class, “a skilled teacher should be able to have a lot of things going on in the same class,” says Deanna. “I’ve had students develop really quickly in three to six months where they can start doing arm balances.”

Deanna’s classroom is a colorful combination of all levels. “The tight guys that were really into lifting weights, they have the endurance but they struggle with flexibility and balance,” she says. For student Whitney Bartels, who has been attending Deanna’s classes for little over six months now, she has definitely has experienced physical improvement.

“I can have an experienced or an advanced student doing the crazy Cirque du Soleil stuff in the corner and then have someone who has a herniated disk on the other side of the room doing something therapeutic- it depends on the student and how patient they are,” says Deanna.

About 9 and a half years ago after her teachers encouraged their students to write and share various kinds of philosophy on a regular basis to gain inspiration from various topics, Deanna started dhyanayoga.com. She occasionally adds an article or two each week. This week, she added a risotto recipe with uncooked, raw rice and truffle oil for raw food enthusiasts. Deanna does admit the raw food lifestyle is “time consuming and very preparation intensive. But, I love raw food and definitely still make a lot of raw food.”

Along with her diet, mentality, and overall positive energy, Deanna’s daily regime involves deep meditation inside and outside of the classroom to establish her journey as a Yoga instructor. As class ended that Thursday afternoon, a physically exhausted but refreshed class said “namaste.” in unison.

Deanna eats, lives, and breathes Yoga. “If you can’t embody what you’re talking about, then no one is going to believe you. You really have to walk the walk and talk the talk.” And Deanna definitely does.

SHIFT Magazine: One Family Behind the Farmer’s Market

April 21, 2011 by · Comments Off 

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by Danielle Barrios
dbarrios@smu.edu

It’s 4:30 Friday morning. Javier Diaz, 31, rolls out of bed to meet his wife, Gloria Diaz, 29, preparing a traditional Mexican breakfast in the kitchen. As the sun begins to rise, Javier finishes his eggs, beans and rice. Javier slowly puts on his boots. He knows he has an exhausting day ahead of him.

“I usually check on him every hour to make sure he is drinking enough water,” says a concerned Gloria as she looks out the small window above her kitchen sink in her East Dallas home. Javier and Gloria were born in raised in Dallas. After explaining a typical day, they admit they never imagined they would become farmers one day.

About five years ago, Javier and Gloria Diaz found themselves in an economic crisis. Javier, a landscaper, was finding even less work as the economy began to crumble. Gloria stayed at home everyday with their three daughters. Until one day, Gloria heard of a friend down the street who was growing herbs in her backyard garden and selling them at the Dallas Farmers Market. Gloria mentioned to Javier that maybe they should start growing even more vegetables in their backyard. That way, they could sell them and make a profit.

An hour later, Javier picks and collects all of the produce in the Diaz backyard. Gloria and her three daughters sort, clean and package the produce that isn’t bug infested or bruised. Their backyard produce ranges from garden herbs, Mexican garlic and bell peppers. However, depending on the season, the Diaz family garden varies. The Diaz family also resells Mexican grapefruit. Even though they don’t grow the grapefruit in their backyard, the sweet not sour grapefruit continues to be one of their most profitable items.

“I help out my Mom every Friday morning. Getting ready for the Farmer’s Market takes a really long time,” says Manuela, 11, Javier and Gloria’s oldest daughter.

Early that Saturday morning, Javier, Gloria, and Manuela load up their truck and drive to the Dallas Farmers Market on South Pearl Expressway five miles from their home. As they drive out, it’s 6 a.m. and the sun has barely started to rise.

“The earlier you get here, the better spot you get and the more customers will visit to buy your produce,” says Javier as he stacks dozens of tiny heads of Mexican garlic on his large display board. If the Diaz family arrives early enough, they can get an outside spot. Outside spots are at the front entrances of each section of the Dallas Farmers Market.

A spot at the entrance is prime real estate for sellers. It is the first thing a casual Dallas Farmers Market attendee sees and, therefore, usually the first place they buy. The market’s produce aisles are practically identical: the same vegetables, the same fresh grapefruit and citrus, and the same spice selection at each vendor. The Diaz family sets up their produce display in Shed 1 with the other Dallas dealers who sell packaged produced, products being resold from local grocery stores as well as fresh grown produce.

“Want to try some delicious fresh grapefruit? It’s sweet and not sour,” says Manuela, standing only four feet tall. She smiles and talks to customers in broken English as she hands out small slices of grapefruit to curious customers. “It makes me feel so grown-up,” says the proud 11-year-old.

“Manuela is quite the saleswoman…salesgirl, I mean,” says a proud Gloria smiling as she combs Manuela’s long black hair. Gloria estimates that Manuela’s sales techniques contribute to about half of Javier and Gloria’s overall sales.

For over six decades now, the Dallas Farmers Market has featured hundreds of local farmers like the Diaz family. Over the year, the market has grown into a Dallas phenomenon, becoming one of the largest public markets of its type in the country. The DFM features produce but also homemade pottery, plants, candles, and authentic Mexican cuisine. And Dallas residents come to the DFM not just for fresh produce but also to support local farmers’ hard work.

“I love coming here. The produce is undeniably fresh and the people are great,” says Jane Koppock, 24, an Uptown resident. “The Mexican garlic is my favorite.”

Koppock rides her bike to the market with her fiancé, David, about once a month to stock up on fresh produce. Their first stop: the Diaz family produce section. “I use this garlic in practically everything,” laughs Koppock as her fiancé nods.

Several hours pass by as Javier polishes the produce display while Gloria fills in empty display spots with fresh grapefruit and garlic (the Diaz family’s two most popular items) from a box Manuela brought from the truck.

According to Manuela, Gloria is “The Set-Up Queen.”

Javier smiles flashing a missing tooth on the left side of his mouth as potential customers browse through the produce. Some move on and some stay but Manuela makes a point to smile and say hello.
As noon rolls around, Javier, Gloria, and Manuela’s clothing looks tired. Manuela’s light blue dress is stained with red grapefruit juice. Gloria’s shirt is spotted with dirt.

When business is slow, Javier strolls up and down the market aisles in Shed 1 and Shed 3. He says hi to fellow farmers and dealers. Mostly, though, he’s scoping out the competition. “The Mexican garlic I grow tastes nothing like the other farmers’,” says a confident Javier. “I think that’s why we do so well. Our produce is like nothing else out here.”

Every Saturday, the Diaz family can make anywhere from $500 to $1200. “But that doesn’t include supplies and other expenses,” which Javier admits puts quite the dent into the family’s overall revenue.

But the money the Diaz family makes doesn’t just go to Javier, Gloria, Manuela and her two sisters. They also support much of their extended family. “We help out my sisters and brother, their children, and my parents. The money we make here is very important,” says Javier. “It’s tough, but worth it.”

by Danielle Barrios
dbarrios@smu.edu

It’s 5 p.m. and as the sun begins to set, Gloria starts to pack up the truck. Manuela picks up leftover boxes of bell peppers and oranges as Javier counts the cash before they head home to East Dallas. “It was a good day today,” says a satisfied Javier, “Not the best, but good enough.”

Then, Gloria explains what the rest of the weekend will bring. The Diaz family returns home, unloads, and is bed by 8 p.m. Gloria thinks about tomorrow. What will she cook for her 20-member extended family for Sunday dinner? Manuela lies in bed anxiously waiting to play endless games of tag with her cousins all day in the streets of their neighborhood. And Javier, next to his exhausted wife, dreams of a day where back-breaking labor isn’t the only way to keep his family above water.