AJ Odneal: the ukulele folk artist on a mission to create more diversity in Phoenix

AJ Odneal is the only voice I wanted to hear after the chaos of graduation (which Raina, Jaye, and myself all endured this month… WHOOO!!).

Instantly Raina and I were relaxed by AJ’s beautiful-neo-folk voice and then blown away by the fact that she pay$$$ her rent through her music and live performances – IN THIS DESERT WE CALL ARIZONA.

Btw—this podcast episode begins with an original song by AJ, “Growing Old.” Watch her video below and then listen to Episode 7 here.

 

 

AJ is a VIP member of that small group of talented people that make their living off of their talent (that’s not really a club don’t @ me) — and she’s only 22. Her weekly shows have given her financial stability, with her first paycheck coming to her during her freshman year of high school.

Plug: You can check out some of her music here, or listen to a sample during Episode 7 of Up in Smoke here.

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Despite her God-sent talent, the creative control that AJ currently has over her music has kept her from signing a label or even wanting anything to do with that side of the music industry. She spoke specifically about the downsides of being attached to a major label during the show.

“They own you– what you look like, what you represent, what you’re allowed to say, what you’re allowed to do, and they can change it all on you,” she said before further going into how she has seen it effect similar people in her position.

“As a woman of color I run the risk of either being forced into a stereotype or being changed in a way of like, straightening my hair. I have a lot of friends who are in businesses where they try to be on film and they tell you, ‘Well, don’t go out in the sun because the darker you are the harder you are to cast,’” she said.

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The anti-stereotype stand that AJ has taken with her music career correlates with her bigger goal: to see more women that look like her in the entertainment and music industry.

“That’s very important to me as someone who didn’t have representation growing up as being like, this little mixed brown girl. I didn’t get to see myself a lot on film, so whenever I’m making videos I’m always trying to become more diverse with each one,” she said.

And her music videos are awesome — so if you have not already watched the one linked to the top of this page then you should reconsider your life choices.

AJ also talked about her pen pal (listen to hear more on that) and spoke about a few specific instances of “well-intentioned” racism that she has faced from some of her Arizona audience members in the Valley this past year.

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And AJ’s advice for similar ukulele playing artists? Know what your end goal is and reach out to older musicians and learn from their mistakes, she said.

(side note :she plays a lot of other instruments besides the ukulele)

LISTEN TO EPISODE 7 HERE.

Raina’s band stories also made their way back to the podcast, as she knew AJ in high school — so keep your ears open for that and then ask Raina to do a band reunion show.

Also, may I suggest that you follow/ stalk/ tweetlisten to AJ Odneal if you want to add some Zen to your day or if you need another reason to get a pen pal.

 

AJ Odneal: the ukulele folk artist on a mission to create more diversity in Phoenix

You can thank Hattie Hayes for creating the only all-women comedy show in Arizona

If you are looking for a professional Mickey Mouse rap song or in need of a little bit of a push to go to an open mic and test out your comedy material then you should DEFINITELY listen to Episode 6 now.

Episode 6 of Up in Smoke features….the wonderful…….female……….comedian + producer + actress……HATTIE JEAN HAYES! She will give you the run-down on her experiences wandering the streets of downtown Phoenix, starting the all-female comedy show Ladykillers, and make you laugh.

—So, go listen to the show then come back to finish reading this por favor)–

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*She also can roller blade*

Hattie has worked all-angles of the creative desert octagon that is Arizona. She is the co-creator of Phoenix Educational Programming, (the LLC behind Pep-rally), the co-producer of The Storrs Objection (the fact-checking comedy show that has been featured in several big festivals including the Big Pine Comedy Festival and Brooklyn’s Cinder Block Comedy Festival) and the creator of the only all-female comedy show in Arizona, Ladykillers.

Hattie was teleported (yes) from Missouri to downtown Phoenix four years ago, not knowing a single Phoenician.

“My freshman year (of college) I did a lot of wandering around by myself,” she said on the show (which you can listen to here).

She credits a lot to her downtown journeys, including her involvement in the local comedy scene, her experience as a slam-poet hostess at Lawn Gnome (R.I.P.), and her most recent acting role at the Space 55 show, Remote Control, to her street-wandering experiences. 

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*A rarely seen photo of the creator (Matt Storrs) and producer of the Storrs Objection*

(Note: I have yet to evolve from wandering around solo so if you need someone to wander with hmu).

Flash forward to today, where Raina and I got to ask Hattie every question that we ever had about the orgins of Ladykillers (which is hands-down the loveliest comedy show in Arizona, this is not a plug but a fact).

After discussing the need for a woman-driven comedy show with other female comics of the Valley, mixed with the overwhelming amount of Arizona comedy shows that will not book women (don’t be that dude we will kill you) and bookers who argued that “there are not enough female comedians to have one on every show” for a monthly show, Hattie decided to create her own, and that’s how Ladykillers was born.

“One of the things that people say that really bothers me is, ‘Oh, I don’t want to specifically ask for women (comedians), that’s pandering,” and I’m like ‘No, it’s not,” Hattie said.

Her diversity-driven show goes above and beyond to find and showcase female comedians of all kinds, including those who identify as trans, queer, or non-binary. The goal of the show remains to create a supportive environment for new comics and further show off the very funny female talent of Arizona.

“More people and friends of mine come to the show to support because they know that it’s not going to be two and a half hours of dick jokes,” Hattie said.

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(#NotAllMen note: we love men comedians who love female comedians and support diversity)

Through the creation of Ladykillers, Hattie has also helped other female comedians to meet each other, further strengthening the female comedy presence of Phoenix. She also is very supportive of any woman looking to dip her toes into the comedy pool (desert).

“If you’ve never done comedy before and you want to try it, just email me and I’ll say yes. I’ll give you three minutes and if you’re phenomenal, which has happened, I’ll give you five,” Hattie said.

Hattie also talked about the power of “going with your gut” with whatever creative project that you want to see happen and not overthinking it.

“If you want to see something creative come to fruition and you don’t do it, it’s never going to get done,” she said.

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*A rarely seen photo of a legend in the making*

You can catch Hattie this summer at the Laugh Riot Girl Festival in LA in June, the Storrs Objection this summer in St. Louis, and stay up to date on the other awesome things she is doing by following her on Facebook here or Instagram here.

Also: I can confirm that Ladykillers is a great place to work your funny-girl thots and the main reason that I got better at comedy so buy her lunch and email her!!

But start here and GO LISTEN TO EPISODE 6 OF UP IN SMOKE!!! It will make you funnier.

-Jamee

 

 

 

 

You can thank Hattie Hayes for creating the only all-women comedy show in Arizona

Michelle Y. Allen on quitting her corporate job to become an Arizona Actress

Woah——- please prepare yourself for the erotic thriller that is Episode 5 of Up in Smoke (I will explain later).

Raina was going on two hours of sleep and I was functioning on a 100% caffeine so you can bet that the beginning of this episode is probably the closest we have gotten to sounding like druggy hosts of a pakalolo podcast.

MORE IMPORTANTLY—- Michelle Y. Allen sat down with us and filled us in on a couple of local films she has been working on, as well as how she went from being an IT help desk specialist to a lead actress in the Arizona film, “Dark Dignity.”

Listen to Ep. 5 of Up in Smoke with Michelle Y Allen here or keep reading below:

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After working at an IT help desk in a corporate insurance office for 11 years, Michelle Y. Allen decided it was time to switch her focus to acting.

Two years earlier, her corporate company had put out a casting call for a training video. Michelle used the audition opportunity simply to get away from her desk. After landing the lead, Michelle started to further explore the possibility of acting in Arizona.

“In 2005 I left my job to pursue an acting career and I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t even know that I wanted to be an actor, I was always very shy in front of lots of people,” Michelle said.

She went on to take local acting classes, act in local college plays, work on movie trailers and seek out new audition opportunities.

“I knew my chances of being successful were, like, zero. But that’s OK because when you have a dream and the means to follow it – why not!?” Michelle said.

After sitting down with her husband and downsizing her income, Michelle was eventually able to devote all of her time and attention to her acting career and leave her job.

Now acting in one of the starring roles of the locally filmed and produced movie, “Dark Dignity,” Michelle hopes to continue honing in on her skills. She also spoke briefly about a lot of the “hobbyists” that make it harder for Arizona to become a sustainable filming environment. (Listen here homies).

“To me, hobbyists are people who have a good time doing it, they still have other jobs, they have things that they have to do (besides acting). They’re not really into learning their craft, or learning more about the layers of the onion,” Michelle said.

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With the goal of building a thriving film community in Arizona, Michelle is now working on another locally produced film, this time an erotic thriller. (Michelle talks about how the film, “Finally You,” is helping her to grow as a producer in the podcast here.)

Her advice to actors and actresses looking to get into Arizona’s film scene? Michelle said to take classes (like the ones at Verve Studios with Amanda Melby), check the internet for ways to get involved, and to get out of your comfort zone.

“Don’t be afraid to say what you want; just go out there and do it and don’t be afraid of what people think because whatever they think doesn’t matter anyway,” Michelle said.

Specific audition websites that she recommends for finding Arizona auditions include:

  • Durantcom.com to look for auditions for crew, acting, behind-the scenes positions in Arizona.
  • Facebook for the Casting Calls Phoenix page and other Arizona acting related pages.

+++++++You can hear even more advice for women looking to get involved in Arizona’s acting scene in Ep. 5 of our podcast.

Note: We were not on drugs.

Note: Yes, the closest comparison for an “erotic thriller” is SAW II + porn.

LISTEN TO IT. 🙂

-Jamee

Michelle Y. Allen on quitting her corporate job to become an Arizona Actress

Arizona’s hidden hero behind “Queer Girls”: Creating a more inclusive desert through photography

On the fourth Episode of Up in Smoke, Marjani Viola Hawkins was on her 47th model out of the 50 total to be shot for her first photography book, “Queer Girls.”

Queer Girls is a film photography book that Marjani has been putting all of her time and energy into in hopes of creating a more inclusive LGBTQ environment in Arizona.

“There needs to be a safe space for queer women and also queer women of color,” Marjani said.

The book focuses on any woman who does not identify as straight and gives the models involved the option to be photographed fully clothed, in their underwear, or semi-nude (Check out some of the photos here).

Marjani sat down with Raina and I and talked to us more about the creation of the book, her own experience as being a queer woman of color, and how to obtain pro-feminist socks.

Listen to Ep. 4 of Up in Smoke featuring Marjani here.

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She also spoke with us about the reactions she has received when bringing up the book in an ultra-conservative Arizona environment (shocking but it’s actually been mostly positive thus far) and some of the current challenges she has faced within Arizona’s LGBTQ ecosystem.

“There’s not really a strong, safe space place for women within the LGBTQ community, it’s very centered on the male experience and the male voice. I wanted to create something that is just for women and centered on women.”

The casting process for the women was completely open and Marjani asked anyone interested to reach out. She has since faced some backlash for the amount of white women featured in the book, but said that that was just a result of making it as inclusive as possible and that the women featured in the book were the only women who reached out to her.

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She also spoke briefly about one of the book’s sponsors, One*n*Ten, (One*n*Ten is a national LGBTQ nonprofit focused on empowering youth in various cities, Phoenix being one of them), and the workshop she will be doing with them over the summer.

(Listen to Episode 4 here)

We also went back in time for 2.7 minutes and Marjani talked about starting out her photographing career in high school (all in Arizona) and using her friends as models. (Fun Fact: Raina was the first girl photographed by Marjani for a webtorial in Circus Magazine and Raina is also in the Queer Girls book so GET HYPED.)

Flash forward to now and we have the hidden hero giving advice to other photographers looking to start a community-centered project in Arizona:

“You have to be extremely focused, nothing that I have ever done has just been by chance,” Marjani said.

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She also spoke about her goal of doing ten things everyday to move her career forward and some other solid creative women career advice…..but you should stop reading all of this advice and instead listen to Episode 4 here.

OR FIND OUT WHERE TO GET FEMINIST SOCKS HERE! (hehehe this is how I am tricking you once again to listen to the podcast).

And be sure to check out the Queers Girls book website here and Marjani’s amazing photography on her Instagram here.

–Jamee

Arizona’s hidden hero behind “Queer Girls”: Creating a more inclusive desert through photography

Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe: Being a female entrepreneur in Arizona.

Marion Houghton sat down with us for the……wait…..wait…….THIRD EPISODE of Up in Smoke !

The show has already proven that there is a Walmart-Supercenter-sized-amount of incredible women doing art and starting their own thing in Arizona, and Marion is no exception. The co-founder of Anidaso – an Arizona company that circulates beautiful, handcrafted purses and accessories from Ghana and resells them in the US –  gave us the scoop on her company and its focus on mindfulness, as well as her life-changing road trip.

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Now pause this reading nonsense and go listen to episode 3 of Up in Smoke here!!!

“So what exactly is this Anidaso company and why is it in Arizona?” you ask. (Although technically I asked because I was the one on the podcast with the mic…but here’s an answer below so plz don’t hate my awkward parenthesis statements. Listen to the question on the podcast here. bye.)

In Twi, a dialect of Ghanaian, “anidaso” translates to hope. The company and it’s official name came to be after a serendipitous meeting between Marion and her co-founder, Kaitlyn Fitzgerald. Kaitlyn sprouted the idea of a for-profit company after she experienced firsthand some of the drawbacks of mission trips. She began selling the bags from the trunk of her car and met Marion shortly after. The two combined to form a company that focuses on the concepts of mindfulness and community building.

“We consider our company currency to be mindfulness. Mindfulness is what moves us, it’s how we operate everything that we do,” Marion said.

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The “Diana” Dora Bag from the Anidaso website.

The young entrepreneur talked about the creation, concept, and mission of Anidaso on the podcast (which you can listen to here) and quickly spoke about the blog she curates, before moving more onto her own background and how she navigates Arizona.

Some of her biggest advice? “Your vibe attracts your tribe.”

Marion went on to explain the rhyme in that she is who she hangs out with and is a big believer in attracting supportive friends and giving a big Beyonce BYE to the rest. She also goes out of her way to attract similarly minded people in Arizona by planning small meetup events around the valley. Currently, she organizes Phoenix “Mindful Meals,” and “Mindful Morning,” sessions, always filling her creative guests with food and thought.

unnamedOne of the best parts of this podcast (other than Marion’s wonderful startup advice) is her story about how she got in her car solo and took a road trip across country.

SO LISTEN. IT’S GOOD. I PROMISE. YOU’LL LEARN THINGS. LAUGH AND FEEL BETTER.

Listen to episode 3 of Up in Smoke here!!!

Then ask me about the roadtrip I’m planning this summer….. ;]

—-Jamee

Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe: Being a female entrepreneur in Arizona.

Female Musicians in Phoenix: Get a Mentor

Local Phoenix and Arizona musicians, heed the advice of Nicole Laurenne, the international rockstar of the all-female band, The Darts. Nicole doubles as a Gilbert judge by day (read the first sentence again if you do not yet feel any sense of amazement) and a musician by night.

Nicole has toured internationally and sold a hell of a lot of music in France with her previous band, The Love Nots — as seen on the cover of France’s Rolling Stone, and you will just die, literally I will bury you rn, DIE— after you listen to her session with us on Episode 2 of Up in Smoke.

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Nicole as featured on the French edition of the Rolling Stone.

 

Listen to Nicole Laurenne on Up in Smoke Ep. 2 here.

Not only does she rock a bang cut like Bettie Page and live a rockstar lifestyle that puts Mill Avenue to shame, but she is also a mother to twins (HOW. WTF).

Nicole talked to Raina and I about playing shows with other law students while attending The University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law as well as the steps of becoming a (then) small-town judge. Her podcast also includes stories about the beginnings of her music career at local mall venues and an interesting last-minute interview in the Red Light District in Paris that skyrocketed her career and landed her on the cover of France’s Rolling Stone.

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Nicole singing below The Dart’s guitarist Michelle B. during a show. Photo CC: Sergio Garcia

The rockstar spoke about using rejection as a tool to go forward in her creative endeavors and attributed the majority of her music marketing luck to showing up to interviews that she didn’t necessarily feel like going to, much like her last minute interview in the Red Light District.

The black-banged goddess also told Raina and I that the key to her success in music and in law school was having a good mentor.

“You gotta find a mentor. I’m telling you, this is the key to everything single thing I’ve ever done that I think I’m even barely succeeding at– it’s because of meeting the right person who could sort of guide (me) into it,” Nicole said.

She pointed out the importance of finding locals who are doing things successfully and asking them how they are doing it in order to take her own creative endeavors to the next level.

You can check out the full conversation in our second podcast episode here.

Be sure to also check out The Dart’s next show, ROCK Like A GRRL, on May 6th at Last Exit Live —– (P.S. Raina and I will be there so if you need a ride you should text Raina because she’s nicer).

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Also shoutout to The Dart’s drummer, Rikki Watson. I have never met you but Raina and I think you are a drumming goddess.

–Jamee

Female Musicians in Phoenix: Get a Mentor

Advice for Arizona Photographers: Up in Smoke presents Natalie Allen

With her charming laugh and almost 80,000 Instagram followers, Natalie Allen helped Raina and I kick off the first official episode of Up in Smoke.

Highlights of the very first Up in Smoke podcast include Natalie’s awesome advice for other Arizona photographers: The Arizona native discusses her growth in photography as well as how much her success has depended on being able to collaborate with other Valley artists, putting her art out there, handling mental break downs like a champ, and learning how to schedule downtime as a freelancer.

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@natalieallenco

Listen to the podcast here or continue to read about Day 1 of Up in Smoke Episode 1 below:

On a rather busy Saturday morning Raina and I scurried to the third floor of ASU’s Walter Cronkite Building. One of the (few) perks of still being a college student is that I can take advantage of the free podcast studio equipment that my college tuition is funding.

As first-time podcasters, we expected to face a few obstacles. For this first episode, the morning began with locked doors and a lost guest…..

Luckily, everyone in our group had enough caffeine and optimism to overlook these WTF-R-WE-DOING moments, so we continued on our mission to make Up in Smoke a reality.

Both of these issues were fixed in about five seconds (more like 20 minutes) and we were able to escort out guest, Natalie, away from the ASU parking lot and towards the ASU Blaze studio (Thank you Blaze & J!), and get the first episode going.

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@natalieallenco

 

The talented photographer had been in Hawaii only 24 hours before our show, and I still have no idea why she agreed to be our first guest (WE ❤ U NATALIE) but I am beyond grateful that we are starting this podcast off right with Natalie Allen.

If Hawaiian jet lag is a thing then I will never know because Natalie was just as excited and goddess-like on the morning of our show as she was in this photo of her on a surfboard in Hawaii.

(Sidebar: Is Hawaiian jet lag a thing and if so can I go to Hawaii and then come back and cancel all of my plans because of said island jet lag or nah?)

As stated above, Natalie was more than willing to share her story about how she got started in photography, as well as advice that she has for those getting started in the business in Arizona.

If her amazing photography (which you can see on her Instagram here or on her blog here) isn’t enough, Natalie’s whole lifestyle revolves around the concept of sustainability. (Read: and she only wears sustainable clothing items).

WHICH IS AWESOME AND EVEN MORE OF A REASON TO FANGIRL HER (but be cool about it… don’t tell her I sent you).

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@natalieallenco

Again, I can’t capture all of what Raina and I found out about Natalie and her crazy behind-the-lens talents in this blog post alone ——so go listen to our first episode and find out why Natalie is one of Arizona’s magical photographing unicorns in a sea of cacti and sand.

P.S. If you want to know what type of food that unicorns eat then you should know that Natalie’s favorite cereal is “multigrain cinnamon honey-something from Trader Joe’s” and once you find that you should ship 1000 boxes to her house.

But don’t take my word for it, listen to the Up in Smoke podcast and find out for yourself!

–Jamee

 

 

Advice for Arizona Photographers: Up in Smoke presents Natalie Allen