SXSW at The LINE Austin

Much like its Adams Morgan counterpart, the LINE Austin provides a cultural hub with award-winning cuisine, craft coffee and cocktails in addition to being a hotel. The cavernous, grey design feels like an extension of the lake it sits on. It’s brightened by hanging gold air plants throughout and the low ceilings are offset by sweeping high windows and natural light. L.A.-based Alfred brings its famed matcha to Austin (don’t miss the $10 latte with locally made raw almond and cashew milk) and Arlo Grey’s craft cocktails and small plates by Top Chef winner Kristen Kish are a great choice for festivalgoers burnt out on taco trucks. You may even see a special guest or two – we spotted musician Andrew Bird wandering the bar leading up to one of his many SXSW showcase appearances. Photos: M.K. Koszycki 

Photo: Francisco Campos-Lopez

A Q&A With Washington Performing Art’s Jenny Bilfield On The Portals Of Art and More

Jenny Bilfield was once told to work as a receptionist and luckily for the DC area, she ignored this request. Instead, the President and CEO of Washington Performing Arts listened to the impactful women in her life telling her to be ambitious, develop a powerful work ethic and to channel her experiences along the way.

At the helm of the local art organization, Bilfield has steered toward community and education programs, ensuring people receive the same inspiration and motivation as she did in her formative years. We talked to Bilfield about her love for all things art, her trials and tribulations in the professional world and why it’s important for young people.

On Tap: How did you get your start in the arts?
Jenny Bilfield: I started playing the piano by ear when I was three, and composing when I was 10. I was the only person in my family with artistic ability, but my mother loved the arts, especially contemporary art, music, theater and so we attended everything. I’m sure my very early exposure and encouragement conditioned me to be open to a variety of art forms, sounds [and] environments.

OT: Why is art important to you and when did you know you wanted to have a career in the field?
JB: For me, the arts provide portals to history, emotion, experience, human understanding; they enlighten, engage, inspire [and] educate. I have learned so much through the work of great artists. Artists have an arsenal of tools to synthesize and express the complexity and beauty of our world in ways that engage the heart and mind, afresh. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the arts from the time I was pretty young – I decided when I was around 17 or 18, that I preferred making music happen (promoting and programming it) more than I liked the solitary confinement of a practice room. An internship coordinating a Beethoven Festival on Long Island one summer, clinched it for me.

OT: What are some of the biggest challenges you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
JB: I started working in 1985 in New York City – 20 years old, right out of college. I encountered a number of challenges early on: the assumption, from prospective employers (male) that I was going to work only until I met a man and got married. In addition, I was told I needed to choose a path, marketing, fundraising, PR, programming, etc., and that my desire to lead or run an organization was both unrealistic and hasty; organizational leadership wasn’t a track, they insisted. It took me a few years to actually run an organization, but I did have very interesting roles before I got to that point: coordinating special projects and programs for Merkin Concert Hall, working as Philip Glass’s assistant, etc. Several organizations I worked for early on weren’t especially large or stable, but I learned by doing and took some pretty important risks in order to develop my leadership chops and operational capacity across all areas of management and programming. I also developed a strong stomach for the organizational volatility that comes with working for a small institution.

OT: What are you most proud of achieving in your career? How do you set goals, and what are some that you’re working on now?
JB: A great question and opportunity to walk down memory lane! I am proud of the expansive work I’ve done on behalf of living composers – founding the New Music Orchestral Project and bringing 40 new works to life through performances and reading sessions; my leadership role at Boosey & Hawkes during, which I developed composer-focused initiatives and catalog acquisitions, partnerships that measurably grew our composers’ profiles, work and opportunities globally (and our overall catalog) while generating new revenue for the company to currently at Washington Performing Arts, developing programs (connecting mainstage, community-engagement and educational) that have provided artists with transformative platforms for their most special projects and facilitated deeper connections with audiences. I do this alongside a great team and with strong board support, and find it incredibly powerful to curate programs in DC, drawing upon the cultural resources and partnerships in this city. Those partnerships have enabled us to shine a spotlight on key themes and moments in American history – something we are aiming to do more of.

OT: What advice would you give to women pursuing careers in the arts?
JB: Personal advice: as you consider a life partner, be sure that the person you’re with is fully invested in your career and your success [because] this field requires a high level of work, life integration and if you’re on a leadership path there will be many demands placed upon your time. Professional advice: develop quantitative skills and be comfortable with data and numbers, even if you don’t expect to be a CFO or Marketing/Development Director. If invited to join a board, join the finance or governance committee; if you have experience in this area, you will be steps ahead of your peers whether you oversee programming, education or operations.

OT: Did you get any advice from someone when you were first beginning your journey?
JB: From two men – advice to work as a receptionist at an organization for several years and then apply for another entry level job within the organization; I did not take this advice. From several women: be ambitious, prepared, develop a good work ethic and use my experience.  This advice, I did take. I had quite a number of anti-role models, and quite a number of true role models. It’s important to meet and speak with a lot of people to see, hear what resonates.

OT: How is Washington Performing Arts working to empower women in the workplace and on the stage?  
JB: Our leadership team is 50 percent women (we have many on the wider staff, in fact), with a similar proportion on our board and junior board. We have a dynamic women’s committee too – and some of the most well-established, respected women in our field got their early start on the staff of Washington Performing Arts. On stage, we seek to foreground talent across many musical genres and styles and have found ample opportunities to highlight women – as performers, curators, composers, artists in residence.

OT: Why do you think arts education is important in schools?
JB: First and foremost, because I think arts exposure and participation enables us to access what is ambiguous, personal and very human in ourselves. The reason it’s important to have arts education within the schools (versus only as an extracurricular) is that when it’s included during the school day – as part of the curriculum – it becomes an educational priority, on par with other subjects. Whether its value is measured by social and emotional development of our children or by improvement in behavior or math skills, the arts can have a powerful impact.

OT: What excites you most in the DC arts scene right now?
JB: I really like my colleagues who are leading peer institutions and have found an abundance of creative, collaborative opportunities. Many of our institutions are committed to new work, arts education, and to forging meaningful relationships with community-based artists and organizations – social responsibility alongside a commitment to artistic excellence. So, it’s an interesting time to be in Washington as both artist and audience member.

For more information about Bilfield or Washington Performing Arts, visit www.washingtonperformingarts.com.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Photo: Courtesy of Black Girls Rock!

BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Comes to The Kennedy Center

After more than a decade since its inception, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! has become an unstoppable force in the fight to empower black women in the arts and in the world. In its latest venture, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! has partnered with The Kennedy Center’s Hip Hop Culture to launch the inaugural BGR! Fest beginning on International Women’s Day.

“I think it’s going to be pretty awesome,” says Beverly Bond, founder and CEO of BLACK GIRLS ROCK!. “It’s really a great gathering of black women artists. Black women don’t always get those mainstage platforms. The combination of everybody we have on the show, together in this one space during International Women’s weekend, is going to be a powerful statement.”

The three-day event features a free welcome party with celebrity DJs Mc Lyte and Bond herself, a book talk, panels, a concert with headliner Jazmine Sullivan, DC’s own Maimouna Youssef and more.

“The crazy part is that the panel sold out before the concert,” Bond says. “And Michaela Angela Davis, who is actually one of the panelists, had to stop for a minute and say, ‘You know what? I appreciate that the panel sold out before the concert! Black women are here to fix it!’”

Bond worked closely with The Kennedy Center’s Director of Hip Hop Culture Simone Eccleston while producing BGR! Fest. It wasn’t the first time they’d worked together.

“This is the second touch point with BGR,” Eccleston says. “Back in 2014, the center had a multi-week festival celebrating hip-hop culture known as the One Mic Festival. As part of the three weeks of programming, there was a collaboration with BGR to present Rock Like a Girl.”

After connecting at the One Mic Festival, Eccleston and Bond established a professional relationship and a genuine friendship. It was only a matter of time before they found a mutual cause to bring them together again.

“Within the Hip Hop Culture program, one of our specific areas of focus has been celebrating women,” Eccleston says. “We’ve continued with that throughline over the arc of the season, and it would only be fitting that Beverly Bond be back and for us to have BGR!Fest.”

The timely collaboration between BLACK GIRLS ROCK! and The Kennedy Center on International Women’s Day weekend signifies the recognition of black women and their contributions to arts and society.

“The goal of the program is to provide audiences at large with an understanding of the breadth and depth of the culture and its impacts, not only on contemporary society, but its role in

shaping culture,” she continues. “If we’re talking about communities that have shaped culture and sparked innovation, you cannot have that conversation without having black women at the center of it.”

While the BLACK GIRLS ROCK! organization has achieved great success and popularity, the movement has inspired black women and girls to assert themselves with its now famous namesake phrase.

“I want them to know that black girls rock,” Bond said. “If they’re taking away one thing, it’s to support our art, support our artists and to help elevate our voices.”

Join BRG! Fest at The Kennedy Center on March 10 at 8 p.m. Concert tickets are $59-$119 and available at here. Learn more about BGR! Fest here.

The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org

Photo: Moultrie Tisdale

Fray’s Britt Rheault Promotes Inclusivity

Britt Rheault is taking the social sports world by storm one city at a time. The born and bred Boston sports fan turned DMV lady boss has spent nearly five years lending her passion, experience and knowledge to United Fray, where she currently oversees leagues in Phoenix, Jacksonville, New Orleans and the District from the company’s home office in Northeast DC’s Brentwood neighborhood.

When Fray’s director of sports operations first participated in the Sport & Social Industry Association’s annual conference for all social sports companies in the U.S. and Canada, only 10 percent of attendees were women. Last month, she went to the conference for the fifth time and the number of industry females in attendance had risen to 40 percent.

“The sports industry has always been a male-dominated world, but it keeps growing and women’s involvement keeps increasing by the day,” she says.

Rheault credits Fray’s founder and CEO Robert Kinsler with embracing female empowerment, noting that the company has more women in leadership roles than men.

“I feel like we have a pretty solid split on the women-to-men ratio. It keeps increasing. In the sports industry, you don’t always have that, so I’m very appreciative.”

Fray has offered participation in women’s leagues throughout the years, and the numbers have always fluctuated. To try and meet in the middle, Fray offers open divisions so there’s no gender requirements.

“It can be a team of all women or all men, or half women [and] half men. It’s to bridge that gap so we can get that opportunity of all women who want to play together.”

Rheault went to Worcester State University where she played softball and basketball. To stay active, she now plays in several Fray leagues including kickball and Skee-Ball, and occasionally cornhole and softball.

“[The leagues] are definitely just for fun, for the social and the drinking [aspects]. I could care less if we win.”

She’s helped come up with more creative ways of getting female players involved, including river tubing, speed dating and yoga.

“We’re trying to offer as many options as possible to get as many different females and males involved with what we have going on,” she explains. “The goal is to keep increasing those opportunities so we can be as inclusive as possible. Bringing as many people in to join the Fray family is what we want.”

After receiving her master’s in sports management at Northeastern University, Rheault joined DC Fray as a sports coordinator for permitting. Now, she has a total of nine direct reports at the rapidly expanding company.

“I’ve been on such a journey with this company. When I started, it was me and two other guys who were doing everything. We’ve gone from that to now [having] 20 full-time employees with Fray and [expansion to] three other cities.”

She’s seen immense growth among the sports leagues too, with the number of players rising from 25,000 to more than 60,000 among Fray’s four markets. But the expansion hasn’t stopped there.

“Embracing those other avenues in events and media – and growing us to be more than just a sports company [and] offering something to everyone – that’s probably been one of the most incredible things to see.”

Spring registration for team sports is open through March 26 and for bar sports through April 2. Find your league at www.dcfray.com/leagues.

Photos: Courtesy of 10 creatives // Illustration: Trent Johnson

The Artistic, The Inspiring and The Fashionable: 10 Creative Female Forces in the District

With a record number of women running for president in 2020 and the largest number of women in a congressional freshman class yet, 2019 is shaping up to be the Year of the Woman in politics. Much less hyped in DC’s media, however, are the strides made by women in the arts. That’s why for our Women’s Issue, On Tap chose to highlight 10 outstanding women from the areas of performing arts, fine arts, wellness and empowerment, and style. From Strathmore’s CEO to one of Rihanna’s stylists, meet the badass ladies responsible for expanding a culture of inclusivity and women empowerment in the city.

PERFORMING ARTS

Photo: Margot Schulman

Photo: Margot Schulman

Monica Jeffries Hazangeles
President and CEO, Strathmore

Monica Jeffries Hazangles began her artistic journey when she first joined choir in elementary school, but focused her vision after falling in love with arts management as a graduate student during her time with the Friends of Chamber Music in Kansas City, Missouri.

From there, she joined American University’s Arts Management program in DC then Strathmore, where she’s served as president since 2011. In September 2018, she added the title and responsibilities of CEO to her repertoire. While serving as the Strathmore’s president over the years, Hazangles formed her personal worldview on the importance of the arts, believing they are “elemental to who we are as people.”

“[The arts] give us expanded ways to express ourselves,” she says. “They elevate, enrich and transform us. It is our job to make them as accessible as possible to the residents of this region and state. If arts are within reach of everyone who wants to access them, we will ensure that generations grow up believing the arts are essential.”

Her advice for finding authority and voice as a woman in the arts is “to demonstrate that there are many ways to lead and to be creative.”

“Women can be extremely effective in demystifying leadership.”

Strathmore: 5301 Tuckerman Ln. North Bethesda, MD; www.strathmore.org

Photo: DJ Corey Photography

Photo: DJ Corey Photography

Rebecca Ende Lichtenberg
Managing Director, Studio Theatre

Rebecca Ende Lichtenberg left Theatre J last October to join Studio Theatre as its new managing director. Although she is only 37, Lichtenberg has already made a splash in DC’s performing arts scene over the past eight years; moving to Studio Theatre gives her the chance to shine on a bigger stage, so to speak.

Studio Theatre’s Queen of Basel, showing from March 6 to April 7, focuses on empowering women by flipping the script on a play rooted in misogyny. The play is a modern, Latinx-focused retelling of Miss Julie, which tells the story of a woman who kills herself because a man told her that was the only way to escape the burden of their premarital rendezvous. Playwright Hilary Bettis’ version, complete with actual female character development, is sure to be devoid of the outdated, sexist themes of the original.

“Hilary’s take on [the play] is born from how sick the misogyny of his original made her feel, so she actively counters that with a production that is a Miss Julie without unexamined misogyny,” Lichtenberg says. “That’s why we’re proud to present Queen of Basel. It’s a take on Miss Julie that is empowering, told from a prismatic Latinx perspective, and most importantly, is unexpected.”

For dates and tickets to Queen of Basel, visit www.studiotheatre.org.

Studio Theatre: 1501 14th St. NW, DC; www.studiotheatre.org

Photo: Courtesy of Arena Stage

Photo: Courtesy of Arena Stage

Seema Sueko
Deputy Artistic Director, Arena Stage

Seema Sueko says in the grand scheme of things, she does theatre to build successful communities; but there is a deeper, underlying layer of her passion.

“Nothing beats the excitement and electricity of being in a rehearsal room with fellow artists and discovering the truths of a character’s arc or the truth of a piece of text,” she says. “We are discovering what it means to be human. It is powerful and it is humbling.”

Sueko’s current production, The Heiress, runs until March 10 and has some juicy bits of truth in store for the audience. Playwrights Ruth and Augustus Goetz based The Heiress on Henry James’ novella Washington Square, the inspiration for which he found through a piece of gossip. After Sueko finished assembling the design team for the play, she noticed she had unintentionally hired a cast of people who all identified as women, which she thought fit perfectly.

“Once I realized that, I could see how all-female design team allows us to build on the legacy of growing empowerment of this story from gossip to stage.”

The Heiress runs through March 10. For information regarding showtimes and tickets, visit www.arenastage.org.

Arena Stage: 1101 Sixth St. SW, DC; www.arenastage.org

FINE ARTS

Photo: Courtesy of Marcella Stanieri

Photo: Courtesy of Marcella Stanieri

Marcella Stranieri
Illustrator

Marcella Stranieri has always loved to draw. She’s kept a journal of her thoughts, ideas and drawings ever since she was little, and often finds loose scraps of paper covered in doodles and observations in her pockets and bags.

“These two idiosyncrasies, drawing and writing, collided with each other a few years ago when I quit smoking,” the DC-based illustrator says. “My hands were itching for cigarettes all the time. It was driving me nuts, so I started drawing out my ideas instead of writing them to keep my hands busy. I loved it so much, so I decided to start an Instagram for them.”

Now, her Instagram page @marcella.draws has more than 46,000 followers and is still growing. She finds inspiration for her sarcastic pen and paper line drawings in her daily experiences with friends, family and strangers alike. She’s found a lot of support from both men and women on Instagram and has noticed men commenting that they relate with her drawings, even the particularly “girly” ones.

“I like that people are slowly realizing that the default relatable thing does not have to be masculine. Men can relate to women the same way that women have been relating to men for the past few millennia.”

To see the latest artwork from Stranieri, follow her on Instagram @marcella.draws, and visit her website www.marcelladraws.com.

Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Brown

Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Brown

Lauren Melanie Brown
Founder, Fashion Grunge

Freelance photographer Lauren Melanie Brown created Fashion Grunge, an online platform dedicated to art, fashion and music of the 90s grunge era, in 2008 when she was living in New York City.

“The era of blogs was starting, and I was uninspired in my day job and wanted a place to talk about my favorite era of music and fashion,” Brown says. “Now Fashion Grunge has become an international platform for artists to contribute work and music related to the grunge aesthetic as they see fit. It’s great to get so many global perspectives while also tying in nostalgic culture.”

As a woman of color, Brown says she’s always trying to uplift marginalized voices and experiences on her platform.

“I always encourage people of all identities to contribute to the Fashion Grunge platform, whether it’s in traditional images or essays to express inner thoughts. I think visibility is the key for appreciating and educating about minorities. I consciously use my reach online to show not just a singular notion of what you can be and express.”

To read Fashion Grunge, visit www.fashiongrunge.com. For more information about Brown, visit www.laurenmelaniebrown.com.

Photo: Courtesy of Tati Pastukhova

Photo: Courtesy of Tati Pastukhova

Tati Pastukhova
Co-founder + Managing Director, ARTECHOUSE

Nearly a decade ago, Tati Pastukhova and Sandro Kereselidze created Art Soiree, a DC-based organization dedicated to uplifting and curating contemporary artists and their work. As technology advanced, the pair quickly realized the lack of space for artists who work with new wave digital mediums. That’s where ARTECHOUSE comes in. The “art space dedicated to showcasing experiential and technology driven works” also houses the first augmented reality bar in the U.S.

“Technology has expanded our abilities as humans to interact with what we are given and that includes our imagination and expression in arts,” Pastukhova says. “The new forms of art that will emerge through technology will allow viewers to be a part of the storytelling and of the creative processes, enabling them to curate their own experience of art, unique to themselves.”

In early spring, ARTECHOUSE will feature an installment titled “In Peak Bloom,” showcasing works of art based on DC’s famous cherry blossoms from an all-female cast of creators.

“We believe in treating everyone equal and part of that is not creating a differentiation or highlighting one individual or group over the other. It is important to highlight [the fewer number of women in arts and tech] in hopes of inspiring the current and future generation to enter these fields.”

To learn more about Art Soiree, visit www.artsoiree.com, and for more information about ARTECHOUSE, visit www.dc.artechouse.com.

ARTECHOUSE: 1238 Maryland Ave. SW, DC; www.dc.artechouse.com

WELLNESS + EMPOWERMENT

Photo: Wendy K. Yalom

Photo: Wendy K. Yalom

Kimberly Pendleton
Women’s Empowerment Coach

As a women’s empowerment coach and women’s studies professor at the University of Maryland, Kimberly Pendleton helps women realize their full potential through online and in-person courses, workshops and programs. She started her personal business of women’s empowerment coaching when she was finishing her PhD. Now, Pendleton helps over 200 clients from around the globe to strengthen their personal relationships, find out who they are and drop baggage.

“My premium program UNCOVER has helped women recover their relationships, find love and most importantly, feel at home in themselves,” Pendleton says.

UNCOVER, a 10-week program focusing on inner awakenings through embodied practices and coaching exercises, has a $1,237 price tag, but Pendleton says the high cost of service is supportive of the “high level of energy and training” that goes into her work.

“I do believe in paying women for their labor and valuing their knowledge, especially in areas that bring soft skills and social/emotional intelligence to the forefront. I also have seen that when women invest in themselves at an edge that makes them feel a little nervous, they show up for themselves in a different way and experience more rapid transformation.”

Pendleton also offers some complimentary services including #MeToo workshops, an e-newsletter and Roadmap to Romance, a free week of video trainings on self-love, empowerment, and relationships available at www.roadmaptoromance.com.

For more information about Pendleton and the services she provides including UNCOVER, visit www.kimberlypendleton.com.

Photo: Courtesy of Leah Beilhart

Photo: Vanessa Baioni

Leah Beilhart
Founder, Behold.Her

Leah Beilhart wanted to be a professional soccer player, but that all changed after one service trip to the Czech Republic from Germany.

“It was the first time I saw a photograph of myself and cried,” she says. “The amount of sweat, mud and joy across my face was priceless. It changed my life and made me decide that I wanted to give that same pleasure to another human being.”

Over the next several years, Beilhart built her portfolio, reputation and skills as a freelance photographer before landing in DC.

“Portraiture became my main game and eventually the catalyst for Behold.Her when I found myself in DC wanting to create an environment where women could feel carefree and less filtered.”

Behold.Her, now in its third year, began as a portraiture and conversational series, but soon blossomed into a project series captivating a community of women and celebrating its diverse racial, cultural, religious and sexual orientation backgrounds.

“The biggest things we focus on is self-worth. We want women to focus completely on listening and sharing. Self-development takes a lot of energy. Most women leave emotionally depleted, but at the same time re-energized to approach life a little differently or feel less alone.”

Beilhart says Behold.Her is working toward a Self Worth Conference at the end of the year. Each quarter of 2019 will have its own theme: self-worth, sexuality and consent, money and guilt, and finally, community and relationships. All four themes will be combined at the multi-day, self-focused conference for women.

For additional information about Beilhart, visit her website at www.leahbeilhart.com. For details about Behold.Her and its various programs and conferences, visit www.beholdher.co.

STYLE

Photo: Alison Beshai

Photo: Alison Beshai

Frederique Stephanie
Freelance Stylist + Consultant

From Belgium to the Middle East, France to Ireland and England to DC, Frederique Stephanie has trotted the globe as a freelance stylist and public relations consultant. Freddie, as her friends call her, has worked as a stylist for celebrities like Rihanna, Drew Barrymore, Alexa Chung, Lily Allen and Pixie Geldof. But the biggest highlight of Freddie’s career was working on the Adidas Originals campaign featuring David Beckham, Snoop Dogg and Noel Gallagher, among other big names. Style is important to Stephanie, and always has been. And while she is definitely stylish, she says she’s not a fashionista.

“Style is a better word,” she says. “It is a reflection of my unique complexity as a human being.”

Stephanie decided to move across the Atlantic when she saw the growth potential for the DC creative market. She says her success in the nation’s capital comes from her unique background and perspective.

“I’m a black girl with Caribbean roots raised in Paris, but who spent most of her life in London. The DC creative scene needs more variety and different point of views. The city is changing and so will the industry standards as people start pushing boundaries.”

Now working as a PR consultant for Eaton DC, a collective of culture, media, hospitality, wellness and progressive social change, Stephanie says it’s “one of the most significant projects [she’s] ever worked on.”

“[Eaton DC] is the perfect platform because of what it stands for and the impact it already has on the city. They are doing incredible work, which is essential in the current [social and political] climate.”

To see what’s stylish to Frederique Stephanie, follow her on Twitter @frederique_s, and check out her blog, www.thepopuphouse.com.

Photo: Matt Spivack

Photo: Matt Spivack

Jai Lescieur
Stylist + Creative Director

Jai Lescieur recently moved to DC from London where she began her career as a styling manager and creative consultant. She worked on a variety of projects that included assisting on a shoot for Vogue China, working on a documentary about David Beckham, customizing outfits for a British TV show and getting published in British Vogue. Now, Lescieur works closely with Lauren Melanie Brown at Fashion Grunge and continues to freelance as a stylist.

“I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what DC has to offer and I am excited to continue exploring the city,” she says.

Her love for fashion and art stems from a childhood spent in Mexico City, where her mother would dress up even when she wasn’t going out and her father would wear pants tailored from curtains just because he loved the fabric so much. Now that she’s grown, Lescieur finds inspiration from powerful women like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Michelle Obama who are exploring different kinds of fashion while in the public eye.

“I love how they are changing the conversation of how women are viewed by what they wear. Although some people will always unfairly criticize powerful women for what they wear, these women are showing that fashion can also be a symbol of their empowerment.”

For more information about Jai Lescieur, visit her website at www.jailescieur.com or follow her on Instagram @jai_stylefactory.

Photo: Courtesy of Chrystalle Ball

Leading Ladies of DC’s Beer Scene: Deep Roots Gain New Ground

The world of craft beer is dramatically different than it was even a few years ago. Quality beer is more readily available than ever and thanks to social media, it’s easy to keep up with new beers and breweries. Here in DC, women have a prominent place in the beer scene.

Chrystalle Ball is the founder of DC Metro Girls Pint Out, the local chapter of a national craft beer organization for women to enjoy happy hours, tastings and other events that build community around a love of beer. She joined the Arizona chapter originally, but after moving to the DMV, she found there were no chapters here. She got to work, and DMV Girls Pint Out had its first event in 2013.

“There is a stereotype that women don’t drink beer,” Ball says. “People come to our events for the first time and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know there were so many women that drink beer in this area.’ There are, you just have to look.”

Ball says that over the past five-plus years of involvement in the DC beer community, a lot more women are beginning to actually work in beer. She notes Lake Anne Brew House in Reston, Virginia, which is women-owned and has many women brewers, and says that DC also has plenty of women industry veterans like Kristi Mathews Griner of Beltway Brewing Company in Sterling, Virginia.

“Women are popping up all over the area in brewing roles, and it needs to keep happening,” she says, noting that the Pink Boots Society, which helps women advance their careers in the beer industry, is an important resource. “Women are pigeonholed toward wine, but women love beer – and women were the first brewers of beer.”

Sara Bondioli, president of the DC Homebrewers Club, says that the long tradition of women brewers also helped inspire her to try it herself.

“I was reading a book that had a section on the history of brewing, and for most of history, women were the main brewers,” Bondioli says. “It’s only more recently that it’s been seen as a male profession. It hadn’t occurred to me that homebrewing was even an option until then, but I did a lot of baking from scratch and I thought I would try making beer from scratch.”

Fast forward to about seven years later, and she’s now running the club and helping other women get into homebrewing, too. Women club members started the Homebrewing Outreach and Participation Sisterhood (HOPS), which has women-focused brew days, happy hours and speaking events. Bondioli says that through homebrewing, women and men alike have freedom to create funky combinations while enhancing their appreciation of the brewing process.

“I’ve had some really creative beers through the homebrew. Someone made a pickleback beer, but they did it in a very restrained way that worked out really well. Especially with the club, you get to see what other people create and it gives you ides of things to try as well.”

Her signature beer? A strawberry rhubarb saison. This creative spirit is everywhere in the beer world, from the beers themselves to their labels. Chelsea Bailey, who runs the @21stamendmentgirl beer Instagram account and works in DC Brau’s tasting room, says she originally started the account to highlight the beauty of beer design.

“Honestly, I started drinking craft beer because I love the labels,” she says. “I challenged myself to drink a whole bottle of whatever I chose [to feature], I developed a palate and it grew into this whole other world.”

Bailey landed her job at DC Brau thanks in part to her social media presence, and it’s given her “a chance to meet other people who are like-minded and passionate.”

“There are people who have heard about my Instagram account, and I’m excited to go in and talk about beer with them.”

All three women say that there’s a number of things happening in the DC beer world to look forward to this spring. This month, ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar is exclusively pouring ciders, wines, beers and cocktails from female-owned and operated businesses. On the homebrewing front, the DC Homebrewers Club is now accepting entries for its annual homebrewing competition, the Cherry Blossom Challenge. And DMV Girls Pint Out will soon host its fifth annual Girl Scout Cookie and beer pairing event; check website for updates.

“If someone wants to get into beer and has experienced that whole beer snobbery thing, I would love for them to come to our events and just try things,” Ball says.

That’s the main theme that seems to unite area breweries and beer enthusiasts: condescension and pretentiousness are out, and inclusiveness and community are in.

“Overall, the DC beer scene is supportive of having women involved, active and part of the group,” Bondioli says. “Most of the places out here seem to understand that they don’t have to market beer to women differently. They can just make a good beer and women and men will drink it – and everyone out here can appreciate that.” Bailey echoes that sentiment.

“Beer isn’t a man’s drink. It’s everybody’s drink.”

Follow Bailey on Instagram @21stamendmentgirl and learn more about DMV Girls Pint Out at www.girlspintout.org or on Twitter @dmvgirlspintout. Check out the DC Homebrewers Club at www.dchomebrewers.com, the club’s Cherry Blossom Challenge at www.dchbcompetition.com and the Pink Boots Society at www.pinkbootssociety.org. More on the breweries and cideries below.

ANXO Cidery & Pinxtos Bar: 300 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.anxodc.com
Beltway Brewing Company: 22620 Davis Dr. Ste 110, Sterling, VA; www.beltwaybrewco.com
DC Brau: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. Suite B, NE, DC;www.dcbrau.com
Lake Anne Brew House: 4310, 11424 Washington Plaza W.Reston, VA; www.lakeannbrewhouse.com

Photo: Trent Johnson

A Day in the Life with Sense’s Erin Derosa, Hairstyler and Healer

There’s a beautiful, navy-blue row house tucked on the street of DC’s ever-growing Park View neighborhood. It’s home to Sense, a place that started as a salon but has quickly evolved into the multifaceted passion project of hairstylist and healer Erin Derosa. In addition to cut and color services, on any given day you can find local artists displaying their talents, workshops lead by various community members and breathwork sessions held by Derosa herself.

While the initial reaction to this three-part business under one roof might cause mild confusion, it’s all more connected than at first glance. And with Derosa’s holistic approaches to hair, healing and now art, she brings an understanding to the salon chair that will leave more than just your hair transformed. We talked to Derosa about her love of hair, why DC needs a space for creativity and healing, and what’s next for this innovative space and her team.

On Tap: How did you get your start as a hairstylist?
Erin Derosa:
I always wanted to do hair. But my mom told me I had to go to college, which I’m super thankful for. When I moved to DC, I had a job that I hated so much and it was this pivotal moment. I ended up changing my path and going to hair school and finding my passion for hair, and the rest is history. I worked at Immortal Beloved [on 14th Street] for five years before I left to open this spot.

OT: How did that lead to you opening Sense?
ED:
I’ve always had this entrepreneurial thing about me. When I was little, I had this gift-wrapping business called “You Buy, We Wrap,” so I’ve always had this spirit. But it came up naturally. I was really ready for this shift in my life and for things to change a little bit. It all aligned, and here I am.

OT: How does the wellness element of Sense come into play?
ED:
The wellness piece is something that comes from my own passions and hobbies and personal work. I wanted to figure out a way to incorporate this because hair is ultimately a healing experience. Some people come in and want to do something radically different with their hair. You can feel that they are in a shift or that they’re moving away from a certain thing in their life. People evolve with their hair as they do with their life. I started to marry the two and realized there are a lot of connections, and wellness is something I want to see more of in DC.


Can’t Live Without
Coffee
Socks
My boo
Hilarious Internet content
Really close, deep friendships // sisterhood


OT: Why do you find hair to be a healing experience?
ED:
Hair is something you can change right away. You can feel that shift immediately. But I always have clients that come in who are, for example, going through a breakup and want to go blonde, which leads to this very serious conversation of, “Is this a Band-Aid for that? Do you really want to be blonde?” Sometimes we have brides who come in and want to do a totally different thing and I’m like, “Oh, seems like you’re having cold feet. I don’t think you’ll want to be blonde in your wedding photos.” To me, that’s an indication they might be feeling a little freaked out about this other big change happening.

OT: So how do you bring up your healing practices in situations like this?
ED:
We’ve kept them a little bit separate because wellness in DC, I don’t think, is as big as in New York and L.A. where it’s on every street corner and everyone is talking about spirituality and wellness. DC’s a little bit different than that. Most people aren’t as comfortable talking about tarot or saging, so I gradually will bring up or answer questions instead of saying, “You should go to reiki service or you should do breathwork.” I’m not trying to push it in any way. I think it comes up organically and naturally. I have been known to ask questions. A lot of my coworkers have said I’m pretty bold with the things that I ask because I want to get to know people. If someone’s coming in and they have a lot going on, really talking about it is very healing.

OT: What does breathwork entail?
ED:
Breathwork is an active breath pattern where you breathe in through your belly and heart and out through your mouth. By doing this, you over-oxygenate your body and start releasing endorphins. Literally and scientifically, you’re unspooling these fears and tightly bound emotions that are stuck in your body. Releasing and letting go and moving that energy through is almost like a body scrub for your insides.


Work Must-Haves
Our amazing assistant
Trusting, happy clients
Solaris hair-painting powder
My favorite white-painting brush
Oligo blue shampoo and conditioner


OT: What drew you to this practice?
ED:
I was introduced to it through a coach I’d worked with for a long time who started as my hair client. I started working with her and going on retreats with her, and she brought me to the breath. It’s so crazy how just from breathing like that your body starts moving and shifting. There are physical effects, too. You can feel tingly or your temperature can change, or some people feel really hungry. It is a true shift. Right now, I offer private and one-on-one breathwork sessions. But I do see evolving to having group sessions.

OT: You recently started using the upstairs space at Sense as an art gallery. What led to that addition?
ED:
The gallery is sort of this wildcard. The idea came from another client-turned-friend who is a brilliant artist. She helped get the art in the salon squared away. One day, we were talking about what to do with the rest of the space. I had to put something there! It felt like a runaway train. We were like, this is really exciting and becoming bigger and bigger and bigger. We have shows scheduled for the rest of the year that change approximately once a month. It brings a whole new flavor to the space.

OT: What artists have you featured? Have they all been local?
ED:
The next show we’re doing in March is an international, worldwide show curated by a local person. We’re trying to keep things more local. The first show we opened was very DMV-centric. Rose Jaffe [a DC-based muralist whose work is featured in Blagden Alley, among other city locations] was the artist who curated it, and she picked a lot of people in DC who weren’t necessarily getting their work shown in a gallery space and making that more accessible and available. Moving forward, we’ll have more collaborations with Stable [in Eckington], which is another local gallery, to bring some of their artists and [include] shows around photography, too.

OT: What has your biggest challenge been in running such a unique space?
ED:
I still really want to do hair and spend time with my clients. That’s super important to me. If I’m doing that, I can’t be working on anything else. So finding the time and energy to do both was a big learning curve at first. But we’ve grown in a way where we’ve been able to hire more people, and I feel really lucky that everything’s falling into place. I’m feeling less stressed. That’s helping me to grow this other side of the business.


March Events at Sense
3/7: Women’s Circle with Danielle Waldman
3/8: Women’s Day Event: My Body, My Power
3/16: Navigating Touch and Consent 
3/21: Women Uncorked
3/28: Empowerment Circle with Kim Pendleton


OT: Why would you encourage someone unfamiliar with the wellness practices at Sense to give them a try?
ED:
I believe in this so much. I have seen things truly, literally shift and [help people] feel better. I wouldn’t want to push someone in that direction, but I think if someone is curious, that’s a good place to start. Curiosity gets you to the next step of asking more questions and learning what would feel the most comfortable for someone wanting to take the next step. I believe in organically letting things evolve. I think that’s so important with mental and emotional health. Stay curious and let it evolve.

For more on Sense, visit www.sensestudios.co. Follow the studio on Instagram @sense.dc and the gallery @sensegallery.dc.

Sense:
3111 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; 202-290-3113; www.sensestudios.co

Photo: Courtesy of the Junior League of Northern Virginia

The Masquerade’s Forever: Monte Carlo Night Supports Nutrition Education, Physical Activity

Roll the dice on March 29 and try your hand at the game of chance at the Junior League of Northern Virginia (JLNV)’s third annual Monte Carlo Night Masquerade at the Army Navy Country Club. The local women’s organization invites locals to mingle, nosh on fancy apps, try signature cocktails and play everything from Texas hold ’em table to blackjack in their masquerade finest to raise money for the organization’s continued efforts to promote physical activity and nutrition education in low-income areas within NoVA. We caught up with Emily Wyant and the rest of her JLNV leadership team for the inside scoop on this year’s event and why it’s a don’t-miss party.

On Tap: What inspired this year’s masquerade theme?
Emily Wyant & JLNV team:
This is our third annual Monte Carlo Night event and we wanted to spice things up! Guests will also be excited to see some of our returning favorites such as our silent auction items and our raffle.

OT: What kind of attire and masks do you anticipate guests wearing? How dolled up and creative should attendees get?
EW & team:
The event itself is cocktail attire; but as for the masks, anything goes! We will have a few masks to sell at the event for our guests that may not have had time to shop.

OT: How would you describe the ambiance and décor of the event?
EW & team: Monte Carlo Night is held at the award-winning Army Navy Country Club. The atmosphere is very sophisticated and fun, and this year’s décor will feature colorful masquerade masks. Additionally, we have the new High Roller Lounge sponsored by Lilly Pulitzer and featuring a custom candy bar. We are very excited to offer this new benefit to our High Roller guests.

OT: What libations will be available at the bar? Any featured drinks or signature cocktails?
EW & team: Attendees at Monte Carlo Night will have access to an open bar serving wine and beer, and featuring two signature cocktails: an Old Fashioned and a French 75.

OT: What hors d’oeuvres will be available? Is there a theme to the food and/or drink offerings?
EW & team: We will be serving light hors d’oeuvres at the event, including desserts donated by Rx Catering.

OT: What games of chance will be available for attendees?
EW & team: Our games hosted by Always Fun Casinos feature several blackjack tables, a Texas hold ’em table, roulette and craps.

OT: Will there be a live band, or a DJ? What music can attendees expect?
EW & team: At the request of last year’s attendees, we will be welcoming back DJ Ricky Bulles to our event!  We are expanding our space this year and will be adding a dance floor for our guests to dance the night away.

OT: Why should locals that aren’t connected to the League attend? What’s the biggest draw for the 25-45 crowd?
EW & team: This is a fun event, with proceeds going toward the efforts of the Junior League of Northern Virginia. In addition to the games of chance and dancing, our guests can bid on a variety of items in our silent auction, show off their moves on the dance floor, enjoy our open bar and hors d’oeuvres and enter our raffle for a Yeti package worth over $600. Plus, we are welcoming back Kendra Scott for a mystery jewelry pull. With each $50 ticket, guests pull a mystery box of beautiful jewelry worth between $50 and $125!

OT: Where will all the funds raised go?
EW & team: Funds raised enables the Junior League of Northern Virginia to provide quality leadership opportunities and training to the women in this community, supports fundraising events that multiply sponsor dollars, and funds community programs that promote healthy eating and fitness for children in the Northern Virginia area.

OT: Can you walk us through the League’s big 2019 initiatives that the event will directly benefit?
EW & team: Our community programs include Market Explorers, the internationally renowned Kids in the Kitchen program, swim camp, and many others that positively impact children and families in Northern Virginia and increase physical activity and nutrition education. Funds raised also directly impact our members by being used for the Leadership Academy and other leadership events and learning opportunities.

Don’t miss the 2019 Monte Carlo Night Masquerade at the Army Navy Country Club on Friday, March 29 from 8-11 p.m. Tickets start at $115. Click here to learn more about the Junior League of Northern Virginia’s Monte Carlo Night, and here to purchase tickets. 

Army Navy Country Club: 1700 Army Navy Dr. Arlington, VA; www.jlnv.org/montecarlonight

 

MerMagic Con 2019 at Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center

On February 22-24, Morgana Alba and her Circus Siren Pod merteam – pro mermaids, bubble artists and water-based acrobats that make up one arm of Circus Siren Entertainment – descended upon The Freedom Center in Manassas for the three-day MerMagic Con. Mermaid enthusiasts and performers alike joined together to mingle and participate in programming ranging from an open swim for the pros to how to choose the right mermaid tail for you. Photos: Shantel Mitchell Breen

Photo: Courtesy of Circus Siren Pod

Channel Your Inner Mermaid at MerMagic Con

It wasn’t until my chat last weekend with DC’s original mermaid Morgana Alba that I realized my affinity for the mythical creatures wasn’t all that unique. In fact, when I waxed nostalgic about growing up on The Little Mermaid and spending my moody middle school years reading Francesca Lia Block YA novels, Alba told me with some quiet assurance that my story sounded very familiar. And then it struck me that what I always thought was a quirky penchant for aquatic folklore was actually a shared millennial phenomenon, a form of escapism – or a firm embrace of an expansive fantasy world, depending on how you want to frame it – and one that drew Alba and other professional mermaids to a career in water performance.

This weekend, Alba and her Circus Siren Pod merteam – pro mermaids, bubble artists and water-based acrobats that make up one arm of Circus Siren Entertainment – will descend upon The Freedom Center in Manassas for the three-day MerMagic Con. Mermaid enthusiasts and performers alike are invited to mingle and participate in programming that runs the gamut from an open swim for the pros to how to choose the right mermaid tail for you. If you feel like getting fancy, wear your mermaid best to the Mermaid Gala at Wyndham Garden Manassas this Saturday, February 23 (Alba will be easy to spot in custom-made chain mail). Read on for Alba’s insight into why mermaiding is on the rise – so much so that she left her gig as a consultant for Microsoft to go full-time mermaid – and a sneak peek of what this weekend has in store for merheads. And check back here on Monday, February 25 for Shantel Mitchell Breen’s photo gallery of the weekend’s festivities.

On Tap: How did you become such a prominent mermaid in the DC area? 
Morgana Alba: A lot of it has to do with being first, honestly. I started in mermaiding in 2012 and that was before it had really taken off as a performance art. It was kind of the Wild West of a new developing art form, and a lot of people had to forge paths for themselves.

OT: What is mermaiding exactly?
MA: You have to think of it as a genre rather than an art by itself. You have mermaid models, you have performing mermaids that swim, you have people who make the tails – and all of it is art in its own way. But they’re not all the same kind of mermaid.

OT: Pardon the pun, but what do your mermaids’ performances entail? 
MA: We do synchronized swim shows and we have a woman who does bubble contortion – she’s got a bubble that floats on the water, and we’ll put mermaids in that from time to time as well. There’s a lot of flips and tricks.

OT: How did you build your team?
MA: Most of the performers on my team are people I knew through other performance art as aerialists or human statues who I hunted down and trained as mermaids because I knew this was brewing. I had more mermaid gigs than I could physically personally do, so the demand was there. But I come at it from the casino and festival background, so I was looking to really create it as an art form of its own.

OT: Why is the demand for pro mermaids picking up? 
MA: Mermaids have always been around. Every culture on the planet has some sort of legend that’s mermaid-related, so I think it’s something that’s fascinated humans for a very long time. But in the last couple of years, between the invention of less-expensive fabric tail options that are more available and the fact that mermaids who started out as performers back in the early 2000s have gotten more and more traction – just in this past Super Bowl, there were two different mermaid commercials – it’s definitely becoming more popular. In the coming year, they’re doing the live-action remake of Disney’s The Little Mermaid and they’re rebooting Splash. I think it’s only going to continue to grow as more people discover it as a hobby.

OT: What demographic is mermaiding most popular with? 
MA: I’ve done a number of studies on millennials – who are now one of the biggest buying powers in the country – and they’re big into escapism. Look at the way Comic-Cons and cosplay have grown. This is an intersection between cosplay and athleticism.

OT: What can we expect from MerMagic Con?
MA: The convention is really the first of its kind in that it’s more than just people who love mermaids get together. It actually has a lot of education around it. If you are a mermaid who wants to improve your safety skills or learn how to ethically interact with wildlife, there are classes for you to grow as a performer. But if you’ve never put on a tail before and just think mermaids are cool, we’ve got classes that will put you into a tail for the first time and teach you how to swim. So it’s really a way that anybody who’s even a little interested in it – or anyone who has made it their life – can have something new to learn.

OT: What’s in store for the hardcore mermaid fan?
MA: We’ve got a couple cool things for people who have been hardcore mermaid fans their whole lives. One of them is that we have the illustrator who drew Ariel for Disney’s The Little Mermaid. He’ll be giving a lecture on bringing The Little Mermaid to life. There’s also a number of vendors that I’m really excited about: people who make tails, people who make personalized mermaid art. All of these wonderful artisans from around the country are coming in to give people a chance to bring something home that’s their very own.

OT: What about Saturday’s Mermaid Gala?
MA: I would describe the dress code for the gala as Gaga-esque. You can’t possibly overdo it when it comes to your mermaid gala outfit. We have people coming in full-blown wedding gowns and people coming in nothing but body paint. The fashion is going to be mermaid haute couture. I’m supporting two different small businesses: a designer I love and a chain-mail artist. I’m wearing a combination of a beautiful skirt and a lot of chain mail.

OT: Why should mermaid newbies check out MerMagic Con?
MA:
 Mermaids are for everyone. The thing about mermaids – and the fact that they come from so many different mythologies and legends – is that there’s a mermaid archetype out there that you’re going to identify with. If you want to be the dark, dangerous siren of the deep who lures men to their doom a la Pirates of the Caribbean, there’s people that are into that aesthetic and those legends that will be your new mermaid family. If you prefer the Disney version of mermaids where they’re just fun and playful and you just want to put on a tail and splash around, there are people with that aesthetic. This is really something that I think adults of all walks of life gravitate toward because at the end of the day, there’s a mermaid out there for anyone.

Channel your inner mermaid this Friday, February 22 to Sunday, February 24 at Alba’s MerMagic Con at The Freedom Center in Manassas, and don’t miss the Mermaid Gala at the Wyndham Garden Manassas on Saturday, February 23 from 9 p.m. to midnight. Buy tickets here, and learn more about Alba and her Circus Siren Pod here.

MerMagic Con at The Freedom Center: 9100 Freedom Center Blvd. Manassas, VA; [email protected] + [email protected]; www.mer-magiccon.com