Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Shannon Deep

When Shannon Deep asks me to go to the theatre, I always say yes. Not just because she is a beloved friend of nearly 12 years, but because she is a theatre person--one who is passionate and knowledgeable and practiced in work that appears on the stage.

For several years, Shannon worked as a freelance dramaturg, and in that time also became a Script Reader for the Roundabout Theatre Company, responsible for evaluating scripts for potential development and production. But she also morphed those interests into a new career in communication strategy, brand strategy, and copywriting that she also loves. Currently, she is the Senior Copywriter and Communication Strategist at Dashlane, a startup dedicated to protecting digital passwords and finances.

In her spare time, Shannon is also the co-host of the podcast Song Salad with our friend Scott. Song Salad is a delightful “edutainment” podcast where she and Scott write and perform a song every week based on random genres of music and topics generated by their “salad spinner of fate.” One of the many fabulous things about Shannon is that she has kept her interests alive and well since I’ve known her, constantly forming them into new spheres of experience for herself and those around her.

Tonight, that experience is seeing Tom Stoppard’s “Travesties” at the American Airlines Theatre in Times Square. Shannon has been given tickets by Roundabout and been kind enough to invite me along. I have been delighted to accompany her to several Roundabout shows over the years, each one a positive experience. But while I have read Stoppard’s plays before, I have never seen a show of his onstage--it will be a workout, Shannon tells me, but I look forward to exercising my brain. We meet at the theatre early and instantly decide to leave because it’s in the middle of 42nd Street in Times Square, a rapacious capitalist hellhole if there ever was one, plus it’s seething with tourists. Instead, we toddle up the street (rather, I toddle because I am in heels) to a bar and Shannon orders a piña colada. She is wearing what she calls her “art director outfit,” chic black culottes with a minimalist white shirt of clean lines and yellow flats. We gossip, she brushes her hair, I take pictures--“This is good because I really do brush my hair in bars,” she laughs.

Soon we will head back over to “Travesties,” and I will not-so-covertly take more pictures in the theatre even though I’m definitely not allowed to do that. Shannon tells me about another podcast she contributed to recently, for which she wrote a 25-page script about Mark Twain. It’s not something she’d do again, she says, but it’s cool how she continues to branch out. The play begins and at first it’s slow but soon we are both laughing like crazy. In intermission I try to take more pictures by crouching in the aisle. “You’re insane,” Shannon says, laughing. But really, she’s known that all along.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Jasmin Hernandez

When Jasmin Hernandez arrives at BRIC House, an arts space in Brooklyn, she is a vision in coral, her top, lips, and nails all a vibrant reddish orange, wrists and ears draped in elegant gold jewelry. The founder and editor-in-chief of the successful art blog Gallery Gurls, she is at BRIC today to see the exhibition “Bordering the Imaginary: Art from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and their Diasporas.” Jasmin is Dominican herself, and was born and raised in New York.

A self-identified art nerd, Jasmin created Gallery Gurls in 2012 in order to highlight the work of women, people of color, and queer people of color in the art world. While in her day-to-day life she is a Photo Researcher at the New York Post, she is also a freelance writer and blogger in her spare time. Thus far, her work has appeared in Elle, Lenny Letter, Remezcla, Cultured, and more, with blog features in Vogue, Visual AIDS, and the New York Post, among many others.

Growing up in New York, Jasmin saw all of her favorite aspects of culture converging at once, from being a student at Parsons, to the downtown arts scene (she was an intern at Patricia Field in the Sex and the City days), to the vogue/ballroom scene (affiliated with the House of Field), to the world of fashion and magazines in the time of 2000s excess (she was a fashion assistant at Vanity Fair). She transitioned later into photo editing, and spent time at New York Magazine and The New York Times.

Today Jasmin has curated a whole day for us, she says, and I’m excited to see what a day looks like from a real curator! After BRIC, we jump into a Lyft and head to the Brooklyn Museum for their exhibition “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985.” The show will feature the work of artists like Ana Mendieta, Marta Moreno Vega, Lygia Pape, and more. Jasmin has also been invited to contribute to the Brooklyn Museum’s social media campaign, for which museum team members will film her talking about what makes a radical woman. We head into a sunny stairwell where her insightful comments about women in the art world are recorded on an iPad. Afterward, she’s gifted a shirt that says ‘Mujer Radical’ with a big red heart that matches her lipstick.

We look around the exhibition after that, and Jasmin records things she loves on her phone, like photos by Paz Errázuriz and sculpture by Sylvia Palacios Whitman. She’s constantly running into people she knows, either from Instagram or the art world or both, and it’s wonderful to see her success manifested in such an interactive way. Soon Jasmin’s friend Marquita Harris, an editor at Essence, joins us and we head to Cafe Con Libros, a feminist bookstore and coffee shop in Crown Heights. The three of us talk about writing and publishing, the career hustle, and the new Cardi B while sipping coffee, surrounded by the work of women.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Fran Tirado

Fran Tirado is making his way through a dusty-rose colored cocktail when I meet him at Esme, a cafe in Greenpoint. Dressed in all black save for navy and hot pink sneakers and two small gold chains on his neck, he greets me with a warm hug.

When Fran moved to the city five years ago, he was intent on changing the face of gay media, hoping to make it more accessible, more multifaceted than he felt it was. Now, five years later, he is the Executive Editor at queer lifestyle magazine Hello Mr. and the co-creator of Communion, a queer dinner series and artist collective. His writing has also appeared in Vice, Teen Vogue, BuzzFeed, and Broadly, among countless others. He was honored for his accomplishments this year as one of Brooklyn Magazine’s 30 Under 30. And if that wasn’t enough, he is also working on two books, one a non-fiction book of essays, the other a novel. I’ve enjoyed Fran’s writing for a long time and I love how he’s essentially built a media landscape for himself and others to participate in that is exactly what he felt was missing.

Fran is also one of four co-hosts of Food 4 Thot, a podcast about sex, identity, race, politics, and “what we like to read and who we like to read (their Instagram handle, deliciously, is @GaySlutsWhoRead).” To give you an idea of this podcast, for their upcoming Season 2, they promise undoubtedly hilarious yet intellectual auditory experiences like “Blaming personal downfalls on astrology; Campaigning for a 5th host, Tracee Ellis Ross; Joan Didion-themed foreplay; Staunch defense of the oxford comma.” Of the four, Fran is defined as the “writer, editor, 3rd-tier Gay Mafia card-carrying member.”

Fran and I sip wine and eat mussels with French fries and we talk about the assignments we’re working on. Coming up, he’ll travel Los Angeles for a few weeks in a self-imposed residency, where he’ll be taking time to work on his books. He has already been approached by a few literary agents, so fingers crossed.

Soon we’re heading to Spaceman Sound, where Food 4 Thot records its podcasts. Fran walks his bike over--this is very him, he says, walking his bike while on his phone, wearing what he calls his “Cookie Monster sweater” and an ensemble we decide is called “Park Slope Mommy Drinks.”

We arrive at the studio, but before recording begins Fran has his photo taken by Gabriela Herman, a Brooklyn-based photographer working on a series of portraits of podcasters. She gets to work, in and out in just a few minutes. Soon, the other “thots,” as Fran says, begin to arrive. There’s gossip and how-was-your-day chatter, followed by several bottles of rose. The show sounds impromptu sometimes, but it’s not entirely off-the-cuff--in fact, the “thots” all put in several hours of work on the show structure before each session. They start recording, almost instantly shading each other the way only people who know and love each other can.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Charlie Galina

For a few days, my cousin Charlie Galina is visiting New York, a rare occurrence because he is finishing up his degree at Mexico City’s ITAM, El Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México. He is originally from Puebla, three hours from the university, where part of our family, the Pérez Safady clan, lives. A short story: my grandmother’s sister Irene (Safady) moved to Mexico, married a man named José (Perez), and they had three daughters: Triana, Julieta, and Vivianne, who is Charlie’s mother. So, fun fact, there is an enclave of Mexican Jews in Puebla, and overall Jews are about .0384% of Mexico’s population.

Charlie is in the States visiting universities in Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C., deciding which he will attend for his Master’s Degree in the fall. You see, Charlie won a Fulbright Scholarship, which in Mexico means either his Master’s or Ph.D. will be paid in full. He wants to study the American Conservative Party--while Charlie himself identifies as “U.S. Moderate/Mexican Liberal,” he hopes to study the right in order to inform the Mexican government and its citizens about the changes happening here in the States, how those changes affect them, and what they can do about it.

Charlie tells me in Mexico it’s often difficult to get some people motivated to understand what’s going on in American politics because there’s so much corruption in Mexican politics that people sometimes can’t be bothered. Young people like Charlie are starting to try to change this, however, especially since so much of U.S. politics is directly affecting Mexico. When back in Mexico after his Master’s, Charlie hopes to be a news analyst or expert who can unravel the American political system for Mexicans and get them to care so they can make change in their own government if need be.

Charlie gets to relax for a few days in the city before he goes home and defends his (250 page!) thesis on the American Tea Party. Today, though, he is hanging out with me and I am trying to earn all the Cousin Points so I can be his favorite. (Read: Cousin Points are not actually a thing). Except my Cousin Point-gathering activities are failing miserably because, apparently, of Easter tourists, who are clogging the iconic spots I wanted to take him. We do find some other cool ones, however--when Charlie got up that morning he messaged me that he wanted a hamburger, so I ultimately decided to take him to the legendary P.J. Clarke’s on 3rd Avenue. We then get Alice’s Tea Cup to go, but when we sit on a stoop to drink our tea and eat our scone it starts to rain, so we hang out in a Pier 1, of all things, waiting for it to let up. I worry this has affected my overall Cousin Points score, but we’re laughing a lot, especially about the use of plastic lemons and plates with drawings of sad cats on them.

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