Tess. Lotta Photography

“You find peace . . . by realizing who you are at the deepest level” – Eckhart Tolle

Posts tagged ‘Photos by Tess. Lotta’

#RadWomenUnite: Rebecca Amado-Sprigg

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One of Rebecca Amado-Sprigg’s many attractive qualities is best defined as composed optimism. More a calm assurance, her brand of positivity is shaped by a natural intelligence and emotional maturity tempered by a streak of mischievous teasing. She wears this lovely strength honestly, and it is never more awesomely branded than when she gifts you with what I affectionately refer to as her “Bitch Eye.”

This isn’t a disapproving scowl. Not even close. It is more an assessment, a sizing up of one’s mettle, a convince-me smirk that holds the promise of a full on grin. I’ve witnessed folks that are weak of character digging deep to grow a quick-ass spine when on the receiving end of her impressive grace. If you square up with Rebecca with your own brand of honest backbone and self-reflective humor, you are so in, baby! You best be prepared to become a co-conspirator in her generosity of spirit, easy laughter, knowing accountability, and open heart.

Originally from the small border town of Nogales, Arizona, Rebecca’s career tenure in social work is rooted in California, her adopted home with her husband, Enzo. From her work with homeless families to her current position working with survivors of trafficking, Rebecca squares off daily with monoliths like institutionalized poverty and racism, exploitation, malignant misogyny, slavery, and untreated mental illness. Every day, Rebecca walks into the reality of an estimated 24.9 million trafficked victims worldwide (1.3 of every 1000 people in the Americas are enslaved), as well as over 610,000 homeless folks in the US alone, including one-fifth that are suffering from a severe mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression.

Bitch Eye, indeed. Read on and discover one stunning Rebel Beauty.

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After 22 years of marriage to your high school sweetheart, what advice would you give for making a successful marriage?

You have to like each other in order to love each other. I think it is really important that you also grow individually as well as a couple. You can’t stunt that growth because, ultimately, you will grow apart.

How did you become involved in a career in social work?

I am a high school graduate and do not have a higher degree. When my husband and I moved to California, I started out as a support staff for an organization called Career Closet. It is an organization that provides low income women with interview clothing and job coaching. Soon, I moved up to Director of Volunteer Services.

I found I had a love of working with clients and supporting them. I wanted to move into a position where I would be able to work with them for a much longer period. So, I applied for a position as a Case Manager at a homeless shelter for families called Shelter Network. I loved working with the clients and helping them transition into permanent housing.

Because I didn’t have a formal education, I felt I needed to make sure that my supervisor knew that I wanted to move up within the organization. When a position for Program Director became available, I applied for it. I didn’t think I would get the position because I had only been at the agency for about 6-7 months. BUT I got it! I worked at Shelter Network for over 8 years until I moved to Los Angeles. Since being in LA, I have worked at St. Joseph Center, Imagine Los Angeles, Upward Bound House, and, currently, at CAST.

What keeps you passionate about this work – what makes it rewarding?

I really found my passion working with the homeless population. I really believe that the career found me. Growing up in a very small town (back in the day) the community was the social workers and food banks. So, I didn’t really know that a career in this field was an option.

When I applied at Career Closet, I was attracted to the mission. Before then, I was forging a career in retail, which I hated. But it was all I knew.

About 4 years ago, I felt I needed to broaden the population that I work with, so I applied for my current position at CAST. I missed working in a shelter setting developing programs.

Tell me a bit more about program development – why did you miss this and what about it makes it satisfying to be back in shelter program development?

Program Development allows you to really take a hard look at the program to see what improvements can be made to help the population you are serving to thrive. It also is exciting to ask for client input to understand what part of the program needs tweaking and what is working for them and what isn’t. It’s what makes the program better and keeps it from becoming stale and so formulaic that, in the end, you are not helping the client at your most optimum level.

What one aspect of social work do you feel has changed you, made you grow as a person? 

Hearing the horrific experiences that people have had to live through and, somehow, really pick themselves up, learn to trust again, and become empowered—this has forever changed my perspective.

I admire that they have found their strength and their voice to be the person that they have always known they could be. It’s so inspiring! It really makes you take a hard look at yourself, especially when you haven’t had to go through anything remotely close to what they have.

I am so lucky that I have a supportive loving family and the most amazing husband. I have never been without shelter or food and I have never been abused in any way. So, I have to really hear myself when I complain because it is so minuscule.

You have managed and trained volunteers for mentoring programs that provide direct support to homeless families. In what ways are these programs successful for participants and volunteers – what makes a success story for both?  

For the clients, it shows that there are good people in this world that care about them. It is important for them to know that there is still humanity in a world that has abused them and made them feel they were neither cared for nor had a voice.

For volunteers, it helps break the stereotype. So many people have such a negative opinion and judgment. They don’t realize one stroke of bad luck (death, job loss, and mental health) can contribute to homelessness. Many are hardworking people that just can’t seem to get ahead no matter how hard they try. They just need someone to believe in them and support them.

What do you feel the everyday person can do to change their own negative perception of homeless folks to one of shared humanity? Is it just a matter of getting involved?

Talk to them. Ask them their story! VOLUNTEER!!!!!!! Even if you can only do it twice a year. And, I am not talking about just donations. Actually go to an organization and have a conversation. It will change your life for the better, I promise!

 What are you hoping Santa brings you for Christmas this year?

A new President and peace to those that are suffering. Other than that, I can honestly say I have everything I need. Love, family, and health.

What is one aspiration you have the New Year and why?

To continue work toward becoming a more evolved and better person. I don’t ever want to stop growing. I also hope that through my work I can help more people become empowered and safe.

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Dial In:

CASTLA

Volunteer Resource

Food on Foot

Kitchen Witch: LA Club Night Everything Rub

 

Kitchen Witch: LA Club Night Everything Rub

Prep time: 30 minutes

I named this audacious rub thusly as an homage to my friend Julio. In the late 1980s, the gorgeous Julio was the first person to show me how to respectfully season Elote, the bomb corn-on-the-cob served up by Los Angeles street chefs vending their delicious concoctions from steaming carts.

As any Angelino worth their salt can attest, a zealous bite into this juicy, tangy, spicy corn is deeply satisfying. But, it is especially magic at 3am when the dance club closes and the munchies set in. It was in this particular circumstance that Julio schooled me on the art of dusting the buttery mayo slathered sweet ears o’ corn goodness in smokey chile powder, lime juice, crumbly Cotija cheese, and red pepper flakes. Gah! So damn good.

A few years later, I was working as a prep cook in Seattle, where my love of food blossomed into a love of cooking. As a vegetarian home chef, I created my first version of this rub in my own kitchen, experimenting with flavor combinations that would elevate my veggies in the way those toppings served to adorn that corn. After a few revisions, LA Club Night Everything Rub was officially born.

A wet rub—rather than a marinade—I coat just about everything in this stuff. It offers a deep smokey heat with just enough citrus tang to bring out the agave sweetness. It is the bright star of my iron skillet mushroom, red bell, & squash fajitas, one of my hubby’s favorites.

 

Iron skillet veggie fajitas bathed in LA Club Night Everything Rub – can’t touch this!

 

Cheers to beautiful Julio, Elote vendors, and dance club nights with friends on balmy Los Angeles summer nights!

 

Ingredients:

3 cloves garlic finely chopped

1/4 cup diced chilis in adobo (increase to edge up smoke and heat)

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (more as needed)

Dash of agave nectar – about a 1/4 teaspoon (find it in sweeteners aisle)

Salt & pepper to taste (1/4-1/2 teaspoon pinch of each)

 

Make:

Combine ingredients in a glass prep bowl and stir with a fork into a paste, mashing the chilis in adobe. Add more olive oil, if desired. Scoop over your heart’s desire until well coated.

Allow to marinate at least 1 hour or, better yet, overnight!

 

Content, recipe, & photos by Tess. Lotta (© 2017 Tess. Lotta)

 

 

#RadWomenUnite: Amanda McRaven

 

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© Tess. Lotta

Courageous, community-minded, gorgeous, and smart as hell, Amanda McRaven is a powerhouse. She embodies the bust-through-your-fears guts and enterprise that define the folks featured in my Rebel Beauty Project.

A holder of an MA in Community-based theater, an MFA in Directing, as well as a BA in English and Drama, Amanda brings her social justice sensibilities to her work as a director, educator, writer, and collaborative theater creator. A Fulbright Award recipient, her dedication to collaborative and socially-conscious performance is apparent in all the work she does, including teaching Performance Studies at California State University, Northridge, creating works with her theater company, Fugitive Kind, and serving passionately as the founding member and Executive Producer of the LA Lady Arm Wrestlers (LA LAW).

I met Amanda in 2015 though Facebook (yes, good things can happen on FB)! I was researching local feminist-based groups in LA for which to offer my photography services as a give back, and I landed on an event for an LA LAW bout at Brokechella. As a feminist artist and activist, the trifecta of LA LAW’s fundraising, feminist, and social-justice mission instantly aligned, and I happily discovered that the Brokechella shoot served as my initiation into the larger LA LAW family.

Framed as volunteer-based, synergetic performance ensemble, LA LAW reads as a democratic collective steeped in post-structuralist feminisms: think a wild, unapologetic, egalitarian, inclusive mashup of Intersectional Feminism, Queer Theory, and ensemble theater modalities in the service of fundraising for local nonprofits and providing audiences with top shelf comedic, physical performance theater. It is brilliant. It is super positive. It mirrors the personal philosophy Amanda draws on for all her endeavors.

Read on to discover what fuels this Rebel Beauty.

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Tell me a little about LA LAW—what drew you to founding the Los Angeles Lady Arm Wrestlers?

LA LAW was a love note to my hometown of Charlottesville (Virginia), where the movement started. When I moved to LA, I wanted to bring that piece of home with me. And I had known Jess at Bootleg for many years and knew it would be the perfect home for it. So I pitched it, and here we are 5 years later, having raised over $30,000 for our community.

Considering the incredible amount of work that goes into LA LAW, what keeps you coming back—what makes it all worth it for you?

Oh wow. Every single event I have a moment where I am looking out over the crowd, and I am seeing everyone buzzing and exuberant and absolutely alive and astonished and it overwhelms me. I stand there for a few moments in bliss, just letting all that joy in and marveling what it is. I still don’t know. I think it’s a combination of so many different kinds of liveness that people are hungry for. And the community. I spend my life creating community through art. That will always always keep me coming back.

What drew you to the performing arts? What is one major element that keeps you excited about creating?

I have been performing since I was 12, when I signed up for Musical Drama Class on a whim and got cast as Annie in Annie Get Your Gun. I haven’t stopped since then. Performance is the one kind of creativity that is a live exchange between strangers: creators and witnesses. That liveness is my lifeblood.

As a founding member of Fugitive Kind, what are some of the inspiring and also challenging aspects of creating and developing a theater company?

As an Artistic Director of a tight ensemble, you are the head of a family. The inspiring aspects are also the challenging ones: understanding where all the hearts are in the room on a given day and leading them to create powerfully together by first being human together. It’s a lot of work to keep us all together in a healthy and rich way, but it’s so important. I have worked with many of them for over ten years now and it is a magnificent journey to know each other so well. The challenge, too, is to not get myopic. To always consider, “can this story intrigue an audience of people we don’t know or are we just making ourselves happy”?

I imagine that sustainability is a challenge. What do you want people to know about the importance of theater, in general, and especially in a town like Los Angeles?

That it’s a fantastic place to make theater—lots of heart and love. Actors are hungry for physical, live, ensemble work. They spend much of their lives doing commercial work, so we have this vast landscape of theatrical talent that is quite remarkable when you tap into it.

You mentioned that yoga, meditation, and mindfulness inform your teaching and directing modalities. Tell me what you draw from these practices? 

Mindfulness is EVERYTHING. I have heard it described as the pause before acting. In that pause are vast stories and the opportunity to speak kindly and honestly. Being an educator and a director is about getting the very best out of your team. It’s also about being fully and authentically present in the room. So directing is absolutely a mindful practice.

Share a little about the specific work you do with refugees, veterans, and formerly incarcerated women. What is important to you about this work—why these voices? 

Live performance has the great gift of literally being able to give voice to the voiceless. When you are raised up in the theater and you have a sense of social justice, community-based work becomes necessary. It’s how artists build houses and save lives. My work with communities to tell their own stories to heal, to celebrate, to protest, to learn to speak has been the most formative work of my life. I have a t-shirt that says We Will Save The World With The Stories We Tell. And we will. The only thing that will save us now is listening and hearing each other. We save the world at the community level, not with who we vote for for president. We save the world one act at a time. Community-based theater is my way of acting.

As a professor of Performance Studies, part of your focus is on the application of performance theory to social change. In what ways do you feel performance art/theater can participate in larger social justice narratives and movements? Is it just about staging resistance narratives?

Staging resistance narratives is a huge aspect of it. We see it happening now, in our current political climate, nearly every day. People showing up in pink pussy hats or standing in solidarity with Charlottesville. Performance has the power of VISIBILITY. Humans are compelled by image. Performance allows us to change the image. Taking a knee on a football Sunday will never be forgotten. We stage resistance for a long time, and one person is brave enough to do it on a national stage where we can’t look away and then the NFL does it. And then change happens. But it starts with one strong performance of belief, with changing the story so powerfully that it sticks.

When working on my MA in English, I wrote papers on feminist characters in Shakespeare. Considering your extensive experience working with Shakespeare as an actor and director and your passion for creating feminist, socially conscious theater, tell me how you feel the works of Shakespeare you have presented with Fugitive Kind align with this passion.

Feminist and queer approaches to Shakespeare are absolutely vital. We have a history of holding plays like Hamlet up as masterworks of human nature, but if you look at it, it’s not that—it’s the story of a man lost as to how to fulfill masculine social constructs.

Many of Shakespeare’s plays are in that world. But even so, he was someone who wrote females characters with such love and sometimes astonishing clarity. Like Tennessee Williams, he was pushing against the structures of his time as far as he could. I believe in confronting those structures head on and exploding them. What are we saying if we leave endings like Twelfth Night (or any of the comedies really) intact? Every single one reinforces a heteronormative dynamic that, frankly, I am tired of. What if these stories were told by women or gender non-conforming folks? Not women playing men, but women being women? I don’t at all think that every production has to do that, but it is something that I, as an artist at this stage in her career, must do.

I am no longer ashamed to make feminist theater and to call it that. I was a fierce fighting angry little feminist in undergrad, then mellowed because I was told to, and I learned to make theater and to break all the rules and make big luscious physical bold plays, but I wasn’t brave with what I did with gender. I was participating in telling the same stories, just in a cool form. Now, I fight to tell love stories between all kinds of people because love stories happen between all kinds of people. I fight to foreground women’s experiences.

Any final thoughts you would like to share with readers?

I am so honored to be part of the Rebel Beauty Project. When you are a woman who walks through the world in this body, the times are astonishingly rare that you are told that you are objectively beautiful and worthy of being in a camera lens. This is a powerful project. On the outside I am soft and fleshy, on the inside strong lines and edges. When I saw the photos we did together, I saw the me that I always am on the inside, but never get to see. It is a remarkable thing. Thank you.

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Dial In:

Amanda’s website

Fugitive Kind

Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers

 

The Witch Way: Lughnasadh/Lammas & Path of Totality

I came across the astronomical term path of totality just before Lughnasadh when preparing for my ritual work, and the revelations have stuck with me throughout Lammas celebrations, meditations, and divination work. For this Sabbat, my spiritual work has been focused on exploring the shadow I may be casting because of the shadow I may be denying.

The path of totality refers to the area of land darkened during a total solar eclipse. During the eclipse, the moon will cover the sun, effectively casting a shadow. Those of us in the Los Angeles area will be able to see it as a partial eclipse (about 61.38%), starting at 9:05 am to the maximum eclipse at 10:21 am.

At that moment, the sun’s atmosphere is visible, including its corona. And, at that moment, the moon confiscates the sun’s light, hiding it from us and encouraging us to stand within the shadow.

If we were honest with ourselves, most of us would admit to being uncomfortable with our shadow selves, as C.G. Jung refers to the repository part of the human psyche and personality in which we relegate what we label as negative psychological elements. In essence, Jung articulates this as the aggregate of the things we define as inferior or unacceptable within ourselves and each other—what he refers to as the “personal shadow.”

This is where all of our denied expressions of emotions and unexplored pain go, for example. Regardless of what we’d like to believe, denying and avoiding healthy expressions of anger, disappointment, sadness, loss, etc. does not mean it goes away. Often, that unexplored fear, for example, festers and manifests as unconscious habits and behaviors that rip ourselves and each other apart. These bits of nasty baggage sabotage our relationships and keep us feeling isolated and unhappy.

At its most horrific form, our collective unexplored shadow—our cultural, religious, political, and social shadows—surface as what Jung might categorize as en masse manifestations of the archetypal shadow, such as the historic epidemic of rape and violence against women, hatred toward certain groups, and the ferocious devastations caused by greed.

Full on heavy shit to think about….Blessed Be!

When the eclipse is cast on August 21, what will your shadow reveal?

#RadWomenUnite: Marian Gonzalez

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© Tess. Lotta

Marian Gonzalez is an icon of Rebel Beauty. Not only does she hold a huge and kind heart, she possesses that addictive quality of effortless beauty—the kind of glow that grows from investing courageously in community, family, and one’s own freedom of spirit.

I met Marian in 2015, while shooting a bout for the Los Angeles Lady Arm Wrestlers. Known to her LA LAW compatriots and fans as the gothy Martian aristocrat Princess Zarkoja, Marian’s seemingly ominous wrestling persona is underscored by the comedic chops of a theater actor.

LA LAW wrestlers commit not only 100% to their character, but also, alongside equally dedicated volunteers, to the entire endeavor of their seasonal bouts, events that raise funds for local nonprofits. A member of three theater companies (Sacred Fools, Broads’ Word Ensemble, and LOFT Ensemble), this type of dedication is not new to Marian, and as readers will discover in this interview, it is just one spark that fuels her lovely and captivating fire.

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When and how did you become involved with Los Angeles Lady Arm Wrestlers (LA LAW)? 

In 2012, I participated in the first two LA LAW events as part of my friend Alyson’s entourage. Her character was THE TECHNICIAN. Her entourage was composed of adoring actors. I went in drag as Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart. We were both pro-wrestling fans, so she loved that. The next year, I asked if I could wrestle.

From what I witnessed, you are one of the fan favorites! How does it feel to experience that? Importantly, why do you continue to participate in LA LAW? Is it all about the match win? 

Zowie. You can’t see it, but I’m blushing. It is humbling to hear this. Occasionally, I’ve run into people who recognize me—while working as an extra, attending trans activism events, or riding the train. It is amazing anytime I hear someone tell me they like me. But, it makes me so happy that they come to our events and enjoy themselves. Every ticket sold helps people, and I like running into people who have helped.

I do have to say it makes me feel fifty feet tall when someone tells me they’re a fan. This is the closest I’m ever going to get to the inside of a wrestling ring for the WWE, and it makes my heart soar to not only do this, but that people enjoy it.

As fun as it is, a lot of hard work goes into it. I train year round for something that happens two days a year. It feels good to win. I guess I shouldn’t pretend to act like I don’t care, but the wins aren’t the reason I do this.

LA LAW is a big, nuts happening, but its purpose is also to help the community. And, we are a performance event. What matters to me is raising money for the groups we help, putting on a good show, and empowering women. On the night of the event, the show is what matters.

The ladies of LA LAW are all tough as hell. Arm-wrestling any of them is tougher than against any dude. If I lose, I lose. Maybe Zarkoja’s story that night turns to plotting revenge. I just want folks to have fun.

 You shared in regard to wrestling that, “Feeling like I have some control over my body has helped me deal with my dysphoria like almost nothing else.” It would be awesome to hear more of your voice on such an important point you raise. 

Every transgender person is very different. Our stories are greatly varied. One of the things so many of us do have in common is the horror that comes with our bodies changing in ways that we don’t want. Our vessels change in ways that are in defiance of who we are. Sometimes we figure it out early, and we know why puberty is so upsetting, even if there’s nothing we can do about it. Puberty hit and I had no idea why changes that delighted the boys my age made me so sad. It hurt all the more as I got older.

I didn’t understand that I was a woman, but I felt a definite and clear idea that I wanted people to think I was. I just knew that it would be unlikely that anyone would ever believe me. I had no idea what any of this meant. But, the world told me there were so few ways of what women should look like. I certainly didn’t look like that.

At most, I saw the drag queens on Sally Jessie Raphael were what I should have looked like. The guests revealed to be male on “Guess If This Is Really a Woman or Man” episodes on Jennie Jones were  what I should have I looked like. Yet, I certainly was not shaped like either of those! There was no hope. I didn’t feel suicidal, just sad. My vessel betrayed me. I think I may have been depressed.

Being me, it felt like everyone else had control over their bodies, like they had agency, like they weren’t just borrowing their bodies. They looked like they actually lived in them. I wondered what that must have felt like.

Being trans, any control you have over your body is sweet and joyous. Whether it’s stumbling across the right kind of shape wear that helps me stop panicking, or the doctor telling me that my prescription for hormones will be waiting downstairs, to suddenly feel like you have agency over your body feels like moving a mountain.

Tell me about the ways in which wrestling has helped you deal with dysphoria? What do you see as key empowering moments in your journey and why were they empowering? Does your LA LAW persona, Princess Zarkoja, tie in with your journey—how and in what ways? 

I’ve been severely overweight most of my life. I dropped a lot of it. It felt good, but the shape of my body still felt weird.

Around the same time I came out and started presenting as female, I rediscovered pro-wrestling. Women’s wrestling was swinging back towards less of a novelty. They got to develop characters and storylines. They got to actually wrestle, and as hard as the men! Being the kind of lady I am, that on its own felt very Girl Power. The more I watched and cheered the more I noticed something about them.

Every one of those women were unmistakably female. They had broad shoulders and thick arms. They looked like me. It is one thing to believe to your core that what a woman is shaped like is what a woman should be shaped like, to believe that the horrible standards placed on women’s bodies is a deeply structured system that is good and pure to fight against. It is another thing altogether, a very difficult one at that, to feel so positive about one’s self.

Being strong, like capital “S” Strong, wasn’t just a male quality. It was a female quality as well, but it was still seen as a MAN THING. So, when I watched Bayley, and Charlotte, and Chyna, I felt at home. I’m strong, and I feel good about it.

I train six days a week for two nights with LA LAW. Someday, my life might need to take me in a different direction, or I won’t be physically able to do this anymore. But now, my body doesn’t feel like a thing I am borrowing. It feels like it belongs like me. And I know that I’m going to always feel that way forever! And, it is so nourishing.

I gave myself permission to be the woman I am. I want that for every woman. I want every woman to revel in giving themselves permission to be the woman they are. And if Pamela Martinez and Joanie Laurer could be superheroes and women, then I could be a super villain. So, the Most Exalted Princess Zarkoja, True Princess of Mars, is, like her name suggests, vain and bitchy. I love that asshole.

At our photoshoot together, you shared an experience of being misgendered Reflecting on this, in what ways has taking custody over your own body helped you with the ongoing effort of living safely and with dignity in the world?

Not all trans women pass as cis. Not all of us want to. But, if we want to be treated like humans, we sometimes still need to.

I don’t feel great talking about passing or passive privilege. I feel nervous about acknowledging my privilege. It’s not just that talking about it or acknowledging makes me feel like it will go away. But, it makes me feel gross to want it and have it. It feels kind of shitty to acknowledge as someone who passes that I don’t too much care if I pass, so long as people acknowledge that I am a woman. For the most part, that is true.

I just assume that about the world around me. I just assume that people are willing to treat me as who I am. But then, cis women often start talking to me about their cycles. I hear about how it makes them feel and how it’s a part of them (also, it turns out, I have a cycle, too. No one warned me this would happen, but it does, and it’s wonderful and awful and I love it). And, through all this, it is easy to say that I don’t care about passing.

But I do care. People treat you one way if you’re trans, but they treat you like anyone else if they think you’re cis. And, it can mean my safety.

Getting misgendered is a sharp stab that comes into my heart. It feels like an attempt to invalidate my identity to the world around me. Whether it’s subconscious or not, it says to me that even though the person they are seeing is wearing a skirt or makeup and has visible boobs, they don’t care and want to let you know that you are who they say they are. When it happens within earshot of others, my blood turns to ice.

It is one thing to own my identity and feel rooted firmly in my real gender. But, often it feels like it is a courtesy given to me by cisgender people. And, sometimes, it feels like they’ll take it away.

In the spring, I’d decided to change my hair. I had the same haircut since before I’d transitioned. I guess I’d been nervous about changing something that was seen as a signifier of female. So, I got brave and bold and got bangs.

After about a week, I noticed that I hadn’t been misgendered. I’ve made the joke that it feels like my face finally makes sense. If you’re trans, that joke is hilarious.

I still do get misgendered. It’s just far less now. Maybe bangs helped me reach a new level of I Don’t Care. Ugh. Privilege is gross.

I used to be afraid of showing that I was strong. I’d pretend that it was really difficult to carry the laundry or to lift my own suitcase. I’d be afraid that I’d be seen doing something like carrying the groceries and someone would scream that they just saw a man wearing makeup.

After my first time with LA LAW, I didn’t care anymore. I’d lift my own suitcase. And everyone else’s while I was at it! I was Big Barda! I was Bull Nakano and Becky Lynch! Finally, I get to be Pippi Longstocking, like I’d always wanted to be.

You are an actor and member of small performance art theater. When and how did you get into acting/performing?

I was a theater kid in high school. I got very lucky in my junior year when I found the one elective that had a space open. It turned out that I loved acting. It felt like a piece that had been missing.

Not a whole lot came from it afterwards. I didn’t consider studying acting at all. Then, a friend asked me to help be the run crew for a show at Sacred Fools. That was fourteen years ago. I didn’t really start getting serious about pursuing this career until after I came out. I don’t know how to want to do anything else.

Tell me about a few of the personally rewarding aspects of participating in a theater group/company.  

My wife and I met in the theater. Certainly, that’s one of the most rewarding aspects.

Getting on stage and becoming someone else and collaborating with other people to make a thing that makes people smile or feel—these aspects have a spot in my heart, especially with the laughter. Laughter is one of the most honest things a person can feel, and it makes people feel really good when they laugh. The sound of laughter coming at me from something I’ve done makes me feel like I’m doing something right on this planet for other people.

You can choose your friends, and you can choose your family, too, sometimes, even if you don’t intend to. If you’re queer, sometimes you definitely end up needing to choose your family. I’ve found friends that I’m very close to and people who are family. We’re there for each other always. They’re theater nerds like we are.

Do you feel small theater is important to or has an impact on the larger Hollywood industry? Is it more about the craft of acting that is important?

Certainly, it sometimes seems that the prejudices in casting and representation so prevalent in Hollywood influence the theater community. After being told I did good work in a callback, I’ve had producers tell me I’m not being cast because the show isn’t about “topics like that.”

Obviously, so many of us want to be able to work in film and television. However, there are so many actors and so few opportunities. Theater is fantastic in that you get to actually perform and collaborate with other artists to design and produce something that will affect someone in any way. You grow as an artist from so many people putting so much of their souls together to make one thing.

What are a couple things  you find challenging about theater acting and how do you handle these challenges? 

Yeah, it’s hard to be trans, a lady, and brown if you’re an actor. People are often only willing to see you in certain roles. And then are often reluctant to produce works that call for people who aren’t specifically stated as being white, straight, and cisgender. It can be hard to even get an audition sometimes. People still even list breakdowns of characters as Male, Female, and Transgender.

I don’t know how well I handle it. It is pretty easy to feel dragged down. The best way I know is to keep charging forward the best I can. I’ve created my own work in the way of a performance artist routine that’s kind of like a vaudeville routine. And, also, through the opportunities I’ve had with LA LAW. I keep looking for places where I can fit. This helps sometimes.

You and your wife have been married for twelve years, an impressive amount of anniversaries compared to many relationships. How do you feel marriage—working at a long term, committed relationship—has changed you for the better? In what ways has marriage to your wife challenged you to grow? 

I couldn’t have figured out who I am without her help. Certainly, I wouldn’t have felt confident enough to explore my identity without her support. Coming out is scary.

I’m terrible at communication, sharing what I feel and think. This isn’t helpful in a marriage. Working on it has been a difficult process. Growing emotionally has helped me engage with her and the world in a healthy way.

Learning patience and a willingness to listen to the needs of someone who is not me has come hard. I really wouldn’t have been able to come out without her. Learning to be honest and open with her means I learn to be open and honest with myself.

Any final thoughts to share? 

For all that I’m feeling empowered and confident and joyous, I’m scared a lot these days. More than usual. Every year more and more trans women of color are killed. I’m past the average life expectancy for someone like me. Every day I’m alive feels like a statistical anomaly, and it makes me mad. It makes me impatient with creeps, too.

As much as my mortality is the constant background noise, it occupies so little of my mind. I just try to be careful. Most of my headspace is about monsters from history, and trying to figure out which bits of local lore I tell people is real or imagined.

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Dial In:

Marian was recently cast in her first film role in the upcoming Just a Little Bit Longer. On August 19th, she’ll be performing in Fast n’ Loose at Sacred Fools.

Find out more, including her podcast, click here to find Marian’s website!

#RadWomenUnite: Fred Los Angeles

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I am psyched to feature Freddie McCullough for the next installment of my Rebel Beauty Project. Fred Los Angeles, as many know her, is a veteran of the LA and Northwest rock, punk, and queercore scenes. She has a knack for finding ground on the best side of all upsides. This magic owes its success to an easygoing, sociable charm and honest graciousness, qualities that underscore the work ethic of a serious musician dedicated to her craft.

At just 13 years old, Freddie began drumming in local swing and country music bands, a determination that later landed her at the Musicians Institute in LA and under the instruction of pro drummers like Joe Porcaro. After honing her chops in Los Angeles, Freddie made her way to Seattle in 1993, where she served as a founding member of the groundbreaking all-female punk band Rubber, as well as played in various bands, including the originative all-female Pink Chihuahua.

I met Freddie while also playing in the Northwest music scene, and, to my glee, she accepted my invite to play drums for Bobbitt (as in Lorena), a feminist metal band that I was forming with local Seattle vocalist Tonja Renee Hall.

Freddie headed back to LA in 2007 and jumped right back in with bands Kim D and The Killer Bees, Charlie Don’t Surf, and Kittenhead, and she has never stopped. Endorsed by District Drum Company, Freddie currently plays drums for Sapphic Musk and The Derolinas, as well as teaches private drum instruction, volunteers for Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls, and does session and recording work.

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What is your history with the drums? Why this instrument?

I tried piano, guitar, and accordion, but I didn’t have the patience to get past the rudimentary stuff. One day, I came home from school and my dad’s band was rehearsing in our living room. I had never really seen a band live before and had probably only seen a drummer on TV once or twice. I was blown away and immediately zoned in on the drummer.

So with a little bit of begging and pleading, I had about a year’s worth of lessons, and I just gained what I could listening and jamming to my mom’s records. I really loved Lou Reed, The Boys, Elvis Costello,The Talking heads, and the Ramones.

I’ve spent a lot of time playing punk rock, and I really, really love that genre—fast and interesting stuff. But, I grew up with a lot of R&B and pop. As a drummer, pocket and feel are important and exciting to me.

Do you think it is important for drummers to seek formal music education?

Oh yes, but I also think it’s an individual choice. For me, there wasn’t any question in my mind that I wanted to develop further than I could take it on my own, and the timing was right to take advantage of a great program. But, again, it really depends on the individual.

I’ve also known very successful killer drummers that are self-taught. It’s great to have mentors and inspiration. Music isn’t really something that you do alone, especially when you’re developing.

What are some of the challenges you have faced as a drummer and how have you personally overcome some of these challenges?

One of the hardest things I found was having a place to practice on the kit without disturbing others. You need a dedicated space. There are times I find myself without that.

Also, keeping it fresh and interesting has been another challenge. That means getting out of your space and watching and learning from others and listening to new or old great music….and playing gig’s….rock on!

Back when we were playing together in the Seattle 90s and early 00s, rock music was saturated with misogynistic and sexist attitudes toward women musicians. Have things changed? Is it just within certain communities, or are there some positives you’ve noticed about how female musicians are embraced in the larger rock music scene? 

Your are not always going to be accepted, but you could say the same goes for anyone. Still, while sometimes it was just hard to fit in with the guys, I have met and worked with many awesome dudes who totally support and are great friends and musicians.

Best thing, really, is practice and play as well as you can and hang and play with people you like that stretch your abilities and have fun.

But, yes, things have changed in a positive way. I think we are more accepted, and there are more of us, especially within certain communities. In the larger rock music scene, we are being embraced, and things are definitely getting better. Women musicians are way more present, available, and involved. It’s not 50/50, but we are showing up with skills, and that is the bottom line ultimately.

What do you think has brought about some of the positive changes? Would you agree that our generation of punk feminist musicians are part of the changes you see today?

Most definitely. I think the Riot Grrrl scene and female musicians who were shaking things up spawned activism and workshops. There was also a coinciding feminist presence in the spoken word scene with people like Tara Hardy, Annie La Ganga, and Michelle Tea bringing in even more activism and workshops.

Right around that time or shortly after, Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls came into being, and it’s become such a natural phenomenon. I don’t think we’ve ever had as many resources and safe cool places for women and girls to try out their creativity and build community.

Is that what inspired you to get involved with Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls?

Yes! The camp is so amazing, and the people that bring it together and the community that they serve….just rock!  It is a heartwarming and positive experience all around. It is a unique opportunity for the girls. I am thoroughly honored to be involved anytime it is possible. I am always amazed at what happens.

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Click here for my artist statement on The Rebel Beauty Project. Like the Tess. Lotta Photography Facebook page for a heads up on the next Rebel Beauty post, as well as my photo projects. Thanks for supporting indie artists!

Dial In:

Freddie’s website & Reverb Nation page

Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls

 

 

 

The Witch Way: Litha/Summer Solstice/Midsummer – Align and Catch Fire

Fire & Stars in the Sequoias

Litha/Summer Solstice marks the astrological event when the Earth’s axis is aligned with the sun. As a result, we are provided the opportunity to revel not only in the longest daylight of the year, but also a powerful astrological configuration. And, thanks to the full moon on June 9, we are privileged with the opportunity for powerful complementary magic. A full moon ushering in a solstice equals an influential dyadic spark just waiting for us to tap in and ignite.

As an eclectic witch, my spiritual practices often veer from the strict adherence to traditional Wicca. While I embrace many of the correspondences related to Litha, including adding elements to my altars and ritual work that regard the associations that speak to me, I stray from idealizing the virility of a Sun god as the focus of ritual work and celebration of this Sabbat. Instead, my Litha is more about inviting the sun–its heat, illumination, radiance, and transformative power–to do its magic and teach its lessons.

This year, I have the great fortune of a long weekend trip to the Sequoias with a group of female artist friends. One of the things I love about these annual expeditions is the spontaneous magic that happens when chilling around the campfire with a pack of rad, strong women armed with wine, humor, stories, truths, creative insight, and self-reflection. Within that intention, our nightly campfire becomes a ritual space.

Protected by giant Sequoia Devas and surrounded by my sisters, this is my Litha—a time to recalibrate and set alight a freshly realigned inner compass. As the earth rotates away from the sun, the June 21 Solstice will wane, and the dark blue hues of night will begin to pierce the fiery oranges of summer light.

How will you catch the fire?

The Witch Way: Beltane – They are Us

Dandelion in the Sequoias

Here’s to wishing….remembering that we are human. We suffer, love, lose, win, hurt, heal, push, acquiesce. We get crushed by sadness and are transformed by joy. We live. We die. Together. Inevitably.

Though our experiences are vastly different, we are each one of a species. Yet, as we use our differences to create lines between an us and a them, we forge an egoic position, as Eckhart Tolle would say, that weakens the bond of our common humanity. In that moment, we sacrifice our Higher Selves to strive for an identity that casts us as superior, more important, right.

Beltane, a fire Sabbat, reminds us to celebrate life with each other and ignite within ourselves our instinctual need to create and nurture love and friendship—community.  It seems an act of the Universe my weekend has shaped up to include a Beltane ritual tonight and parties with friends on Saturday and Sunday. Hells yeah!

I feel grateful and excited to celebrate my humanness with other humans under the fire of sun, stars, and moon. No lines drawn. No us or them. Just a circle cast in which all are welcome. Here’s to wishes come true.

Happy Beltane!

 

Kitchen Witch: Bullet Pesto

© Tess. Lotta

Bullet Pesto

Prep: 30 minutes

I grow monster amounts of basil on our back porch garden, and this rad little recipe is my killer pasta sauce version! Super easy, freaking crazy delicious, and nutritious with whole wheat or a quinoa-rice pasta.

I love my food processor, but, some days, I just don’t have it in me for the clean up. Also, though I have worshipped a Vitamix from afar, I keep opting for photo gear for the money (but, my dream will come true, someday).

So, for crazy busy days when I need an easy clean-up sauce, marinade, or dressing, I opt for my juicing blender—mine happens to be a NutriBullet. I have dedicated the larger container that came with it for marinades, soups, and sauces. I love to mark up anything with a Sharpie!

As my father, Joe “Cap” Lotta, would say, “Mangia tutti” – let’s eat!

When blending in a cylindrical juice blender, you may need to add moisture to some ingredients, like nuts, to get them moving.

Ingredients:

Big ol’ bunch of fresh basil (2-3 cups or large size container at the grocery store)

Extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano (fresh or the classic off-the-shelf mix)

Juice of 1 large lemon

1 cup raw almonds (1/4 cup if not saving-see below)

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup if not saving-see below)

Coarse salt

Black pepper

Room temperature water

2 cloves garlic roughly chopped (less or more, to your taste)

Dry pasta—I prefer rotini to grab the sauce in the ridges

Make:

Roast the almonds and pumpkin seeds together in a toaster oven or stove top in a skillet, stirring frequently until the aromas are released and the nuts turn a richer, slightly darker color. Don’t go too far, as they get bitter. Set aside to cool. Divide out about 1/4 cup of the mixture for pesto and save the rest to add to salads, etc.

Wash and pull basil leaves off stem. I am not a purist on this; if there is some stem, no big deal.

Pre-blend roasted seed/nut combo into small pieces—add a bit of water, if needed, to get it moving thru the blender. We don’t want nut butter—just chunks.

Add all remaining ingredients, starting with a 1/4 cup olive oil and 2-3 tablespoons water. Blend until you have the consistency you like. You can add more olive oil and/or water, S&P, or cheese to your liking.

Refrigerate for about an hour to let flavors develop.

Cook up pasta and ladle out 2 cups of cooking liquid into bowl or measuring cup just before draining the pasta. Drain pasta and return about half of it to the now dry pot. Add back in about a 1/2 cup of reserved liquid. Stir in pesto to coast pasta, adding more pasta as you stir. I like my pasta thick with sauce. If I have any left, I freeze for another recipe.

Recipe & photography by Tess. Lotta

Rebel Beauty Project

Welcome to the Rebel Beauty Project!
Putting to work my research training and freelance journalism background with my photography practice, my Rebel Beauty Project is a visual qualitative research study: I’m speculating that Rebel Beauty translates to a personal bravery to Be in a way that resonates with the truth of who you are, the authenticity of your core self, out loud and with your soul, heart, and passion.

Fred Los Angeles – rock drummer, urban cyclist, bad-ass!

I want to know and share what drives Rebel Beauties to push through the blocks, emotional pitfalls, victories, and losses.
Whether we are parents, philosophers, plumbers, or artists, I believe there is Rebel Beauty in all of us. I’m excited to see where my research takes me!
I’m starting the project with photo-profiles of the incredible women I’ve collaborated with in my photography work.
Look for the first post this week!