Inside James Charles' Trailblazing Rise to YouTube Superstardom and the Endless Controversies That Just May Be His Downfall

Inside James Charles’ Trailblazing Rise to YouTube Superstardom and the Endless Controversies That Just May Be His Downfall

Venezuela Press Enter to Search Inside James Charles’ Trailblazing Rise to YouTube Superstardom and the Endless Controversies That Just May Be His Downfall By by Billy Nilles | Tue., May. 14, 2019 3:00 AM Share James Charles & Tati Westbrook’s Wild Beauty Feud
It’s been a rough few days for James Charles .
One of the biggest names in the YouTube beauty industry—which, yes, is a big deal; ask any Gen Z-er in your life—the 19-year-old vlogger’s subscriber count once topped out at over 16 million. But ever since his former friend and mentor (not to mention fellow YouTuber) Tati Westbrook called him out in a scathing 43-minute video entitled “BYE SISTER,” accusing him of being unsupportive of her and her business endeavors and spreading lies about her, as well as having a habit of sexually harassing straight men—it’s a real mess, y’all—he’s had to watch as his follower count has, if not gone into total free fall, then taken a serious tumble.
Meanwhile, those watching from the sidelines are left to wonder if the once-rising star’s young career is strong enough to ride out this storm or if it, the latest in a surprisingly long list for such a brief career, might derail him for good. Watch
Jeffree Star Calls James Charles a Danger to Society
“I get really negative comments all the time, but the comments that really bother me are the ones that question my character,” James told Allure in January 2017. “I try so hard to stay a positive role model. It’s sad to say, but you get used to it after a while, and I have a very thick skin, so I can take it.”
At that point in his career, James was only 17 years old. He’d yet to graduate from high school. His YouTube channel was barely a year old. And he’d yet to even face down his first scandal.
No, that first year for James contained such good news and such a rapid ascension that it would’ve made anyone’s head spin. After launching his channel on December 1, 2015, the aspiring and entirely self-taught make-up artist—”YouTube videos and practice have taught me all I know,” he told Cosmopolitan in October 2016. “I’ve been watching tutorials for years now, so when I started makeup I did have a semi-idea of how to do things.”—saw a tweet with his high school graduation photos go viral in September (thanks, in part, to a retweet from Zendaya ), landed a truly historical gig as the first male brand ambassador for CoverGirl in October (propelling his 427,000 followers truly skyward), and appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in November.
To say his life changed practically overnight would be an understatement. COVERGIRL
“When the announcement was made I woke up the next morning with over 700 text messages,” he told Seventeen of the CoverGirl gig that November. “Literally everybody that I had ever spoken or even looked at texted me with just like the most nice, kind, supportive messages. I was so overwhelmed with positivity.”
Soon, he was juggling finishing out his senior year with photo shoots alongside the likes of Katy Perry . “The deans and teachers at my school have also been extremely supportive and obviously now I am missing a lot of school for different business stuff,” he told the outlet. “It’s not the easiest thing in the world. A few nights ago, I had a shoot all day long, then I went home and wrote a paper for my government class until three in the morning, then woke up and did a shoot the next morning.” Photos
YouTube’s Biggest Scandals
As a part of the So Lashy Mascara campaign for “Lash Equality,” James was not only the first male to represent the make-up company, he also became the first person to handle their full face for his appearances. “I’m the first person ever to do their own makeup for all the shoots, which is really cool,” he told Seventeen . “I know some people have done [some makeup] elements in the past, but I’m the first person to go from nothing to full-on glam for the shoots.”
For James, the hope was that his presence in the campaign would inspire other kids to express themselves more freely and comfortably. “Hopefully other people will see this, and when they think, ‘Oh, this random 17-year-old kid just started doing makeup recently and is now the face of CoverGirl,’ I hope that inspires them to really be themselves and feel comfortable and wear makeup and express themselves in a manner they haven’t been comfortable doing before,” he told The New York Times in October 2016. Instagram
But shortly after speaking with Allure about his banner 2016, the first sign that the wheels might fall off this entire endeavor was made clear in the form of an ill-advised tweet about, of all things, the Ebola virus.
On February 16, 2017, James tweeted, “‘I can’t believe we’re going to Africa today omg what if we get Ebola?’ ‘James we’re fine we could’ve gotten it at chipotle last year’…”
After being swiftly called out by fans and critics alike for the comment, he deleted the offending tweet and issued a short apology on the platform. “I am extremely sorry,” he wrote. “Regardless of my intentions, words have consequences. I take full responsibility and will learn and do better.”
In an interview with Affinity the following day, he attempted to explain himself a bit better. “My friend confused E. Coli and Ebola for each other. I thought the mistake was funny, so I tweeted the conversation, but I posted it without realizing what the tweet as a whole was implying,” he said, explaining that he tweeted as he was about to take off for South Africa, a country that he knew had no cases of the disease. Read
Breaking Down the Wild Feud Between YouTube Stars James Charles and Tati Westbrook
“I’m a 17 year old kid. I like to think of myself as mature, but I’ve definitely said many things in the past that I regret and that are problematic. My age is not an excuse to be a brat, but that being said, I’ve had much less life experience and time to educate myself on these type of issues,” he continued. “Many people have not taken my apology well, and I understand why it may seem false, especially because my dumbass called Africa a country rather than a continent. I meant it when I apologized. The only thing I can do right now is learn from my mistake.”
Weeks later, however, his authenticity would be called into question as well. At the end of February, Thomas Halbert , a former friend of James’ tweeted out screenshots of text messages allegedly sent by James that seemed to confirm that the senior photos that helped make him a star had been something of a fabrication.
When James tweeted out the photos in September, he claimed that he’d retaken the portraits after bringing his own ring light to the studio with him to ensure that his “highlight would be poppin.”
“I love being extra,” the tweet concluded. Instagram
While speaking with Ellen DeGeneres in November, he told the talk show host that the tweet going viral helped him get CoverGirl’s attention, ultimately leading to his historical gig. So, in a way, these photos were the linchpin to his growing fame. And that made Thomas’ tweets all the more upsetting.
“do you want met to post the convo about u editing ur yearbook pic & how the ringlight tweet is fake? since u wanna switch it up?” Thomas tweeted at James in a series of since-deleted tweets on February 28, 2017. “recall when u emailed the yrbook company askin if u could edit ur photos? ur come up is a scam sis! i rebuke ur tom foolery!”
Thomas followed that up with the screenshot of a text conversation in which Thomas writes, “The fact you scammed social media into thinking you retook your senior photos” and James allegedly replies, “If you expose me I’ll kill you. But I know. Call me Joanne.”
James later tweeted , “Trust no one.” Read
Tati Westbrook Says Her Heart Is “Heavy” Amid Feud With James Charles
What the successive scandals didn’t do, however, was derail the legally blind—”It really doesn’t affect the process that much,” he told Seventeen . “My contacts are the same prescription as my regular glasses”—budding icon’s nascent career. Though his contract with CoverGirl ended a year after it began, 2018 saw James win a Streamy Award for the Beauty category, take home the title of Beauty Influence of 2018 at E!’s People’s Choice Awards, film a Halloween tutorial with none other than Kylie Jenner , launch a merch line of hoodies, sweat pants, T-shirts and accessories called Sisters Apparel, and launch his own eye shadow palette and makeup brush collection via a collaboration with Morphe Cosmetics. The eye shadow palette sold out multiple times, once in less than 10 minutes. All told, his net worth has been estimated at around $12 million. Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
Heading into 2019, things only began to get bigger for James. In April, he announced his first-ever tour, where fans could spend anywhere from $52.50 to $500 to see him do his thing live and in person. We’re gonna have, of course, makeup live on stage with maybe a few sisters from the audience, we’ll be playing games, you guys will be coming up, we’ll be doing Q&As, of course there’ll be music as well, and duh – a whole lot of Instagram selfies,” he said of the Sisters Tour in a YouTube video. The tour is still expected to kick off on June 26.
And just this month, he was invited to walk the red carpet at the ultra-exclusive Met Gala, dressed by Alexander Wang as a guest of YouTube. “being invited to such an important event like the ball is such an honor and a step forward in the right direction for influencer representation in the media and I am so excited to be a catalyst,” he wrote on Instagram. Read
James Charles Loses 1 Million Subscribers Amid Tati Westbrook Feud
Unfortunately, as he began to reach these massive heights, scandal soon followed. There was the April video in which he insinuated trans men aren’t real men by claiming that he wasn’t “full gay” because “there’s also been like trans guys in the past that I was like really, really into for a moment.” (He later issued multiple apologies, saying in one, “That stereotype and implication is really, really dangerous and I am very, very sorry. If you are a trans man, you are man, if you’re a trans girl, you are a woman…You are valid in your identity.”) Then there were those who took issue with his comments on his Met Gala appearance , namely that he would deign to conflate “influencer representation in the media” with minority groups who genuinely struggle for representation.
And then, of course, there’s the whole Tati Westbrook mess. Following the myriad claims from his former mentor, claims that started when James endorsed a supplement line in direct competition with her own and came to cover all manner of shady behavior, James has finally taken the hit that no other controversies have been able to land thus far. He’s apparently lost celebrity followers like Jenner, Perry, Miley Cyrus , Demi Lovato and Shawn Mendes . As of press time, he’s lost around three million subscribers on YouTube, the first million in just 24 hours—apparently a record.
Before going into apparent hiding, James did post an 8-minute video of his own , sans his usual made-up face, in which he acknowledged how he’d disappointed just about everyone.
“What sucks the most is that I know there’s nothing I can say or do to ever earn that friendship or trust back but I don’t blame them for it,” he said. “A lot of the time when I’ve had to address things in the past, I’ve acted out of impulse and I’ve gone off and tried to pull receipts or facts or screenshots and play the victim and I’m not doing that today, I’m not. That is all I have to say, I’m sorry.”
What remains to be seen is whether or not that’ll be enough. Share

There’s No One Way To Look Jewish

There’s No One Way To Look Jewish Because we’re tired of hearing, “Funny, you don’t look Jewish.” Lauren Le Vine Why is May 2019 different from all other months? It’s Jewish American Heritage Month for one, a period that feels especially important to mark given the rising insecurity coursing through Jewish American life. Because visibility is more important than ever before, Refinery29 brings you our celebration of Jewish American culture. L’chaim! There is no template for a Jewish woman. Again: There is no template . We don’t all have frizzy hair and big noses that will, according to the trope of the Jewish American Princess, be “fixed” as a high school graduation gift. A Fran Fine-esque nasally voice does not emerge from all of our mouths. We are not all white. Our ancestors did not all speak Yiddish . Some Jews keep kosher (observing dietary rules set out in the Torah ); some do not. Orthodox women maintain certain modesty rules regarding their clothing and wear sheitls (wigs) to cover their hair when in public. Ethiopian Jews celebrate sukkot — the festival of booths that marks the end of the harvest — differently than descendants of European and Spanish Jews. Advertisement What American Jews all share; however, is that we are part of the diaspora, or Jews who live outside of Israel. Our ancestors came here from Spain, from Russia, from Ethiopia, from Syria, and more. They are Sephardic, Ashkenazi, Mizrahi, Converso, and Beta Israel. We may have different traditions and cuisine, but we all observe the same holidays every year: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shavuot, Passover, and more. They are times to gather together with members of our community to celebrate, atone, eat, and sometimes not eat. Jewish women have been in America since the mid-17th century. The poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty, “The New Colossus,” which contains the iconic lines “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — repeated by millions of immigrants as a welcome to the land of opportunity — was written by Emma Lazarus, a Jewish writer, political activist, and translator. She’s just one of many influential Jewish women in U.S. history. Jewish women in America have forged their own way and crafted their own destinies. The eight pictured here were photographed by Yael Malka (herself one of the subjects) for Refinery29 for Jewish American Heritage Month . Here, they showcase their individual style and personalities, and discuss their unique life experiences. You’ll see very quickly that no two people have the exact same story, but they all share a fierce sense of independence, love for Jewish culture and their specific ancestry, and desire to share their world with others. Their differences are myriad, but a strong sense of Jewish identity courses through their veins. Advertisement Aviva Bogart , 29, artist “I grew up ultra-orthodox; Hasidic. My Hasidic high school closed down when I was entering tenth grade. I could’ve continued on to a non-Hasidic school (my parents were open to that), but I was very devout when I was younger and wanted to continue with Hasidic schooling. Looking back I think the Big Apple was calling. I moved to Brooklyn in high school. Now, I’m devout about other things; different things. I’ve invented my own spiritual practice, which is non-linear. It involves a lot of checking in and the question of what will bring me closer to myself, to my divine self, and to the cosmic self. I’m 100% Eastern European Ashkenazi. That took a long time to embrace because they have a very specific history [with] the Holocaust. Intergenerational trauma is not talked about as much as it should be. It’s really important because I grew up feeling a lot of things in my body, not even in my mind, that I didn’t understand. There’s been a fear there since I could remember.. All of us — even non-Jews — have these stories of our ancestors embedded in our DNA. A lot of anti-Semitism is about not having exposure to Jewish people in the same way that any form of hate has to do with that. I think humanizing Jews and showing that they’re real people can be really powerful. Instead of having them be this separate group, showing that Jewish people are just people. Advertisement The most important thing right now for Jewish people to focus on is this really old Jewish idea of tikkun olam , which means healing or fixing the world. The world right now is in such a precarious state on so many levels — political and environmental. It’s really insane if you try to think about it too much. For Jewish people, the question should be what is my response and role in the state of the world as a Jew? How can I make the world a better place? What are the Jewish values that will help me to clarify what I need to do and how to do it? Being an advocate; being an ally, those things are really important right now. It’s very interesting to think about how to be politically active; environmentally active, and generally how to be present with what’s going on in the world and making the world a better place. I find that it’s actually not about huge things, but the smallest little details. It’s about the smallest exchanges and — it sounds a little corny — being the light for people. We have no clue what other people are going through. We might be that one moment in the day when they have a smile… I will be so happy when I am a full mentsch . It’s in the process, always. The little details. Deep listening to others. We don’t know anyone’s story, but if we really quiet ourselves, then we can hear it. We might not be able to do anything, but just hearing it is actually doing something.” Advertisement Sarah Kaidanow , 26, actor “Both of my paternal grandparents are Holocaust survivors, and they came from Poland. My Papa was in the woods in Poland — if you’ve ever seen the movie Defiance , he helped them fact-check that because it was basically his life. He was too young [to be in the resistance]; his older brother claims he was a part of it. They were in the same woods that the partisans were fighting. My Papa has been honored at partisan dinners. My grandma was hidden by her nanny. Her family was taken to the Dubno Ghetto, and she was saved by her nanny in the chaos. I was shocked to see the scene in Schindler’s List of what happened to my family. My grandmother’s aunt’s house was in the ghetto, so she had a hiding spot. So the scene where all the kids are hiding, and they come out at night and the Germans get them; that’s what happened to her family. They hid during the liquidation and came out at night when they thought it was safe, and that’s how they got killed. It was very jarring to watch that. The biggest thing that sometimes frustrates me is having to defend my Judaism. It’s weird when people look at me and say, ‘You don’t look Jewish. You have blue eyes and blonde hair.’ I’m like yeah, my [Jewish] grandma and papa have blue eyes as well. But I’m a clone of my mom, who’s Catholic. Whenever I say my mom was raised Catholic, people say, ‘Oh, so you’re not Jewish.’ I’m like I am Jewish . I was dipped in a mikveh [a ritual Jewish bath] when I was a baby. I was raised on the stories of my Jewish grandparents; they lived 10 minutes from me. I was very much so raised in a Jewish household. I went to Hebrew school. Advertisement I really love how I was taught how to be Jewish. You question everything. You’re raised on stories. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I wanted to become an actor to tell stories. I like a lot of things about Judaism. I’m gay, so I go to the gay synagogue up in Chelsea. They have a siddur [prayer book] that they basically wrote themselves, and it’s all about connecting to nature and seeing God in nature. It doesn’t have to be the almighty guy in the sky kind of deal. That’s kind of how I see it. So it’s weird when people say, ‘You’re not really Jewish.’ I’m like, well, I am Jewish, but it’s the Judaism that a lot of young people are drawn to. Jewish people have been really good at helping others because of what we’ve gone through, and not alienating ourselves to the problems of the world, whether it be immigration or refugee crises or anything like that. I’m involved with the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center of Westchester , which helps high schoolers tackle topics that seem unrelated to the Holocaust — like the Flint water crisis, gay rights in Russia, hunger in Uganda — and connect them with one another. I think I come from a place that sometimes people don’t expect, of I’m Jewish, and my grandparents are Holocaust survivors. I know what trauma looks like 60 years later from events that we’re causing around the world or that are happening around the world . I want to prevent that from happening. I’m glad that I feel empathy in the way that I do because of my grandparents, my Judaism, and how I was taught. Advertisement Jewish women in America are a unique bunch. I hope I can say that most of us are empathetic and strong-willed and come from strong women. I hope that we continue to be leaders of change.” PHOTOGRAPHED BY YAEL MALKA. Talya Bendel , 30, stylist and writer “I’m born and raised in Brooklyn. I grew up in a little town called Seagate; it’s the only beach town in Flatbush. It’s really small and not very accessible to the outside world. I grew up like that in a fairly orthodox home. We keep Sabbath, kosher, and things according to those lines. I went to Hebrew school and all-girls school. I went to all-girl camps. I wasn’t really exposed to the non-Orthodox world until I got to college. Throughout high school and stuff like that, I obviously went out. I went to concerts. I went to shows and plays and had a great time. But I didn’t really feel that being Jewish was so different until I was part of the real world. When I got to college, I realized, I try to say blessings before I eat food, and then I have to be conscious of like, do people think I’m talking to myself? . I don’t care about that anymore. It’s just these little differences you realize that you didn’t know were so different growing up. There have been people I’ve met throughout the years in college and through my jobs, where I’m the first Jew that they’ve ever met. So initially that was so surprising to me. But then again, now, it’s so niche. Everyone comes from somewhere. We’re all part of something. We all have a history, so this is just mine. The thing that I hold onto that I feel sticks out the most to me is that Jewish people are part of an ancient culture, but we’re living in a modern time. I’m married now; I just recently had a son. I feel tethered to the past in that I want to respect it, and I want to be able to pass it onto my child. Whether or not he decides to do all the things that we do now is up to him. Advertisement I just started wearing a wig after I got married. I used to dye my hair when I was a teenager, but I only did really neutral colors because I went to an orthodox school. They wouldn’t really allow green. Even if I wasn’t covering my hair — though I do it for orthodox reasons now— even if I wasn’t doing it for that purpose, I would still wear wigs because it’s so much fun… Sometimes I’ll wear three different wigs in a day because I’m matching it to the look that I’m doing. So the inspiration for the style would be sometimes I match the look to the wig, and sometimes I match the wig to the look. It depends on what I put on first. There are a couple of reasons why women cover their hair after they get married. Some people may not agree with my definition of it, but this is for me. Originally, there’s a certain idea that when you get married, the sexuality of a man and a woman belong to the other person. No one owns anybody, but your sexuality should be for your spouse, whatever it may be. You know the term ‘sex hair?’ There’s something real about it. A woman’s natural hair, natural look, there’s just something about it. It doesn’t always have to be sexual, but there’s something to the idea of it that when you uncover it, it’s just for your husband or your wife or whoever it is. For my purposes, there’s so many things that I struggle with that are hard for me to do. This is not hard for me to do. This is something I enjoy doing. Advertisement I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a ‘modest dresser.’ There are certain things I would wear and certain things I wouldn’t. In that definition of modest, I’ll use that term. I would say the general terms would be — or they used to be — your collarbone, your elbows, and your knees [had to be covered]. I would say that the lines have become blurred in terms of people that consider themselves orthodox and modest dressers may not adhere to those specific lines anymore. I think it got a little bit blurred in that sense. Still, modesty doesn’t inhibit style. So you can still get whatever you’re trying to go for, even if you’re not completely covered from head to toe. Being a Jewish woman in America is just like being a woman anywhere. Yes, there are definitely opportunities in America you don’t get in other places, but i I don’t feel like I am different. I feel like everybody put 20 people in a room, regardless of what culture they’re from, you’re all chasing your own dreams and goals. I have friends who have a more restricted diet than I do [keeping kosher] because they’re gluten free. Everyone has their own practices. People should have more of an open mind; something you don’t know so much about doesn’t mean that it’s closed off. There’s always more to it. We’re all people. We’re just people. It’s something that I would definitely love to push. You can tell from Instagram now and social media, on my page I specifically want to show people that you don’t have to be restricted by your culture, regardless of which one you come from, or by your practices or traditions. You can still live your best life, and you don’t have to compare it to anybody else’s. I don’t feel like I’m restricted in my goals or dreams because of my Judaism. If anything, I feel like it gives me a push and a drive to try harder and do more.” Advertisement PHOTOGRAPHED BY YAEL MALKA. Haftam Yizhak-Heathwood, 32, community organizer “I was born in Ethiopia. We fled in 1990 before the second big aliyah (immigration of Jews in the diaspora to Israel) in 1991. I was 3 years old. From Ethiopia, we moved to Beit She’an, an orthodox community in the north next to the Dead Sea. For years, I was not familiar with other Jewish people outside of Israel. An agency came to our town when I was 15. They were collecting teenagers to bring them to other places in the world. I passed the test and went to Cleveland, OH. I fell in love with the culture; how people are so welcoming and very different and more relaxing than the Israeli people I was used to. From that moment, I decided this was going to be my home. I did everything in my power so that after I served two years in the Israeli army, I came to New York for one year just to see where I should live. I had the greatest experience. I went back to Israel for two years to work out things with my family and close out my life there, and I came to the U.S. permanently in 2011. Coming to New York was eye-opening for me. I came here as an au pair, and I worked for Jewish families. When I started to be a part of the Jewish community here — the white Jewish community — I saw how much everybody is involved with each other’s lives; how much they know, like the services you need to apply for. Advertisement For many years, I stayed away from my Ethiopian Jewish community. The racism the Ethiopian Jewish community was going through in Israel made people very isolated and very resentful and very angry. They’re in the form of surviving, but a different type of surviving. They don’t let themselves open up. For me, this was depressing. There are other, better ways to be out there and actually live. Why do you want to transfer this same thought to your own children? You sacrifice your life for them; to be free and to live. I didn’t know how to change their opinions, especially when they don’t want to change. They don’t trust others, and they don’t trust each other, so it’s very complicated. There’s another Ethiopian woman who runs an organization here. She told me there are around 800 Ethiopian-Israeli Jews in the New York area. I thought how is it possible that we don’t know who they are, where they are, and what their situation is? Kids are here with no connection; growing up distant from their Jewish culture. They don’t speak Hebrew, they don’t know anything about Judaism. This is what my people have sacrificed for? They died in the desert to bring those kids to have a safe life here and continue with Judaism and their culture. And they just don’t do it because the parents have no methods to apply that. They’re working hard just to pay for their children to go to school, to have meals at home. They don’t see their identity getting lost completely. This is the thing that hurt me the most. Advertisement I decided I wanted to change the situation. I needed to find a way for my community to heal. They need to overcome the struggles of depression and anger and get out and live. That’s how I came to create my own way to build up the community from scratch. I made it my mission to hopefully build an Ethiopian Jewish center here in New York. To be honest, it’s very stressful to work with the Ethiopian Jewish community. In the past, they’ve been failed and disappointed. We’re very separated; no community accepts us or is involved with us. Jews of color…or Jews of non-color — none of those people are being welcoming and opening the door to us. I don’t know what the reason for that is, but I want to build that bridge and bring my Ethiopian community to that and finally to be part of it and live, not just survive. I’m going to give them a physical place to call their own. They will feel at home in a safe environment there. If any trouble happens, they can come there. Something like that has never existed — not in Israel, not here, not anywhere in the world. To be Jewish today is very hard. To be a Jewish Black woman, it’s very hard. But I’m very proud and feel so happy. I will never change who I am, what I went through, to be who I am right now. I’m very proud to be a Jewish American woman.” Advertisement PHOTOGRAPHED BY YAEL MALKA. Yael Malka, 28, photographer “I’m originally from the Bronx, where my mom grew up and is a fourth-generation New Yorker on her paternal side. I lived in the Bronx until I was 6 years old, and then I moved to Israel, where my dad is from. His parents emigrated to Israel from Morocco. They moved to a kibbutz , which is a socialist movement that basically was the foundation of Israel. My dad was one of the only Mizrahi, or Middle Eastern, Jews on the kibbutz, and his family were the only Moroccans there. A lot of Sephardic and Mizrahi — Spanish and Arab Jewish descendants — were looked down upon in Israel and seen as, This country wasn’t meant for you; this was for us. This was our savior from the Holocaust; it’s like our sacred space. Also, just being darker-skinned and coming from a culture that a lot of Ashkenazi saw as primitive or barbaric. My dad dealt with a lot of racism growing up. I lived in Israel from ages 6 to 8. My dad tried to rock the boat at the kibbutz; tried to change things to create a place that is more inclusive and more accepting. The thing about socialism is while there are so many positive aspects to it, it really doesn’t value autonomy or individuality. I think my dad was trying to figure out a way to negotiate that to create a more harmonious place to be yourself while also respecting boundaries of this community. It didn’t work out in the end, us living there. So we decided to come back to New York. Advertisement Judaism in our life is very much a cultural thing. My mom wasn’t raised religious. The kibbutz my father is from is very secular. They didn’t even get a synagogue there until 2018. They had religion class in school, and they did shabbos and celebrated Yom Kippur and all the High Holidays, but it was never really part of either of my family’s lives. My mother grew up in New York very New York culturally Jewish, but they were a Jewish family that celebrated Christmas also. They had a Christmas tree, which is a very common thing I’ve found for New York Jews. I wouldn’t even call us reform; I don’t even think you can really categorize us. But growing up in New York as a Jewish person and being Israeli, I always felt that being Jewish was a huge part of my identity. I’ve gotten both the Ashkenazi from my mom and the Mizrahi from my dad, which have very different traditions, so I feel very fortunate to have an understanding of both. In middle school, it was a dirty thing to be called a Jew. I was definitely called racist slurs, but that’s not the case anymore. This time in history is incredible because of all the things that people are learning, and how language is being reshaped. It does seem like there’s kind of rampant micro-aggression anti-Semitism happening, and I hear that stuff all the time. I feel very awkward as a person who is an Israeli to defend it, because there are so many things I agree with, but I’m not going to let you erase my history or my culture. On the other hand, I feel really proud to be from a Mizrahi family, seeing how they are women of color being represented more and more. I’m an Arab Jew. Seeing more Arab women in politics and seeing that there’s more visibility feels so incredible.” Advertisement PHOTOGRAPHED BY YAEL MALKA. Alba Hochman, 41, marketing coordinator and “home chief of operations” “I was born in Queens, and my family is Colombian. My father is an evangelical preacher and bilingual. As a kid, preacher’s kid, you read the Bible for ‘fun.’ So I’m reading it in Spanish, and I see our last name, Garzon. I’m like our last name’s in the Bible ? So I grab an English Bible, and I’m like, our last name is Gershon . I asked my father if he knew our name is in the Bible, and he said, ‘Yeah, we’re Jewish.’ It turns out that my family is descended from Converso, or crypto-Jews . This was a secret within the family that it wasn’t until you reached adulthood that the secret was passed on. Still, to this day for generations, they kept the secret that there was Judaism in the family. That was my discovery of my Jewish roots. Growing up, even before I came out as queer. I had issues with Catholicism. I had issues with the strict hierarchy. I guess that’s the Jewish part of me — constant questioning. Technically, people would say I’m a Jew by choice. But the way I see it is that any Jew who practices Judaism is a Jew by choice. Now, this choice was forcibly taken away from my ancestors. I am in essence reclaiming that choice, but saying that I re-converted. Taking that back. I remember the first time I went to a synagogue for my spouse’s relative, going to her bat mitzvah. It was the first time I’d actually sat through a whole service and heard the Torah reading and the psalms; everything in Hebrew. It was a really powerful moment for me, because it was like I was hearing my ancestors. It was something that was very powerful. The first time I stood at the Torah, it was extremely powerful again. It was feeling the weight of generations behind me. Advertisement What I want people to know is that Latinx Jews, we exist. That means Hanukkah is latkes and fried plantains and other fun stuff. People don’t always believe that. Dropping my kids off at a Jewish preschool, people ask if I’m the nanny because I speak to them in Spanish. I’m like no, these are my kids. We’re Jewish. And always the, ‘Where are you from?’ New York City. Queens. 57th Street. My congregation is very activist. They do a lot of social justice activities and projects. My rabbi’s been arrested for protesting. We’ve done services at the immigration and detention center. That for me is a big drive. I want my children to see that, because I am also an optimist. My parents were immigrants; I’m first generation. I grew up on welfare. There’s a lot of these issues that are very dear to my heart. I want my kids to see the intersection of activism and Judaism. It’s about repairing the world.” PHOTOGRAPHED BY YAEL MALKA. Yael Buechler, 33, rabbi “I’ve known since I was very young that I wanted to be a rabbi. My father is a rabbi. Being a rabbi is everything I love in one thing. For me, it’s all about Jewish values and continuing them from generation to generation. There’s so much richness to the Jewish tradition. I love Torah, and I’m trying to share my love of Torah in any way possible with all the families of the school that I work with. The fact that I’m a woman and a rabbi is all the more exciting because we have a tradition full of history and rabbinic writings of hundreds of years with male voices. And this is an opportunity for us to add female voices to the mix. My youngest son recently turned 1, and I finished pumping at work a few weeks ago. I had a special ceremony to mark the end of pumping at work, which is something that would not have been described in the Talmud. It was really amazing for me to take a moment and be grateful that I had the opportunity to pump and to produce milk for my baby and to thank God for that. The year I was born, 1985, was the first year a woman became a rabbi in the Conservative movement, and I was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary. I feel so lucky to have benefited from all the work that went into making that happen. There’s still much work to be done, because when we think of a leader, when we think of a rabbi, it’s not typically someone who has their fingernails done. But I think this is such an opportunity because I have the chance to be a mentor to literally thousands of people across the globe. There’s so much room for creative Jewish expression, which is why I founded Midrash Manicures . It started with me from a very young age doing my nails each week for the Torah portion or a Jewish holiday. I started a blog when blogs were still in, and before I knew it, people were saying, ‘Where can I buy those?’… I studied to become a Jewish entrepreneur, and I learned things I never learned when I was learning to be a rabbi. I figured out how to produce nail decals. Since then I’ve expanded the company to include Hanukkah scrunchies, which I’m wearing. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has one. I mailed it to her, and she wrote back saying she would wear it year-round even though it’s just for Hanukkah, so that was exciting. We have Hanukkah leggings, Hanukkah headbands, matzah leggings. I made a cold-shoulder shirt for Hanukkah with a dreidel on it. I try and think about what’s current fashion and find a way to make it Jewish. Each of us has the opportunity to make a difference in this world through figuring out how the Torah applies to our lives and applying those values to everything we do. To me, that’s what Judaism is all about: How do we preserve the beauty of the richness of the tradition and expand upon it in our own lives today?” PHOTOGRAPHED BY YAEL MALKA. Maegan Gindi , 31, photographer “I was born and raised in Brooklyn. My father is Syrian — both his parents came here from Syria — and my mother is Ashkenazi. The Syrian world is very insular, it’s very protected in a way. People just really don’t get it … if you’re not a part of it, you’re never going to really see it, because you’re just not accepted. It’s hard. I mean, even with me, I don’t feel accepted because I’m not fully Syrian, and I’ve been told that before. Also, I identify as queer, and it’s tricky navigating those spaces because being Middle Eastern and being Jewish you have compound homophobia from both places. Being Sephardic [is also] very different from being Ashkenazi Jewish. Most people know Jews as being Ashkenazi. Sephardic Jews have different foods and pronounce things differently, like Shabbos versus Shabbat. We eat rice on Passover. Kibbeh , lahambajin , sambusak , and spanekh jibn were staples of my upbringing. My grandma always called this string cheese with nigella seeds ‘Syrian cheese,’ even though Amazon says it’s Armenian. People are surprised when I tell them that I’m Middle Eastern. I still have a hard time necessarily referring to myself as a woman of color even though I am. I remember having a debate with somebody once, and they were telling me that I couldn’t claim that because it’s not how the world responds to me; if the world responds to you as being white, then you’re white. I said, ‘I guess so, but how are you going to define somebody else for them?’ So it’s tricky. I think if I walk around saying that I’m a woman of color a lot of other people will be pissed off, but it’s hard given the situation that I’m in, also being queer. I go to these queer Sephardic Shabbat dinners once a month. They’re amazing, and I feel so welcomed being there. But also because I’m not fully gay I wonder, what does that even mean? I’s just tricky navigating all these cross sections of where you fit in. There is somebody who comes to the dinners who’s from Jamaica. It’s really cool to learn about the cultures. There’s an organization called JIMENA — Jews Indigenous to Middle East and North Africa, that — that spreads stories of Jews many Americans don’t know about, but should. “ Interviews have been edited and condensed for length and clarity. Advertisement

Pittsburgh’s Rap Scene Is Wounded But Optimistic

May 14 2019, 1:14pm Pittsburgh’s Rap Scene Is Wounded But Optimistic Following the deaths of two of the city’s most prominent exports, Mac Miller and Jimmy Wopo, rappers like Benji. and My Favorite Color are doing their best to pick up the pieces. TWEET Pittsburgh is less a city than it is a collection of small communities divided along arbitrary lines. Drive a few miles on Penn Avenue from Downtown to the outer edges of the East End, and you’ll pass through at least five of them, likely without realizing it.
In the East End of Pittsburgh, inside an eruv, a ritual enclosure installed by some Orthodox Jewish communities to allow for freer movement during the Sabbath, is a neighborhood of roving green lawns and 19th century architecture. Squirrel Hill is one of the more beautiful areas of the city, its quiet streets lined with beech trees and spacious family homes built long before its current residents were born. It’s an affluent neighborhood, with median home prices hovering around $600,000 —considerable for Pittsburgh. The tight-knit community was once even home to Fred Rogers, the greatest neighbor who has ever lived.
Despite its serene atmosphere, Squirrel Hill gave birth to some of the most groundbreaking rap music that came out of the city in the aughts. Along with its adjacent offshoot of Point Breeze, it was the childhood neighborhood of Malcolm McCormick, better known as Mac Miller. Miller attended the neighborhood’s high school, Taylor Allderdice. Before Mac, the high school also set the stage for Wiz Khalifa and the beginnings of Taylor Gang, his record label and entertainment business.
“Wiz opened the door for everyone,” Quentin Chandler Cuff said. “All of Taylor Gang.” Quentin, who goes by Q, is a friend and former business partner of the late Miller. He now tour-manages EarthGang, a hip-hop duo from Atlanta. “Looking up to those guys I think inspired a lot of not only artists but managers, producers, engineers, etc.”
Three miles from Squirrel Hill, also in the East End, is a neighborhood called The Hill District, which was dominated by Black-owned businesses until the 1950s, when local governments decided that it was in dire need of economic redevelopment. Buildings were razed , 8,000 residents (the majority of whom were Black) were displaced, and the Civic Arena, home to the Pittsburgh Penguins for 43 years, was built in their place. The neighborhood never recovered, losing over 70 percent of its residents during the subsequent decades. Today, abandoned houses and storefronts sit between overgrown patches of land. Nearly half the remaining residents live below the poverty line, according to US Census Data.
This was the childhood neighborhood of Travon Smart, better known as Jimmy Wopo, a rising trap music star whose hit song “Elm Street” has been streamed over 8 million times on Spotify.
Mac left Pittsburgh when his music career took off, opting for the sunnier weather of Los Angeles over the dreary Pittsburgh skies (the city sees only about 160 sunny days per year, though, as a resident, this number feels shockingly high). Smart opted to stay in Pittsburgh as his music began to explode, enjoying the fame that came with being a local legend.
In 2018, within three months of one other, both were dead. Smart—who wanted to use his rap career to leave gang life behind —was shot to death in a drive-by shooting In the Hill District. Mac—who had fled Los Angeles for New York partly to get away from the culture that had aided his slide into substance abuse —passed from an overdose shortly after returning to LA.
At the start of the year, Pittsburgh had claim to one of the most revered and respected artists in the world of hip-hop, as well as one of its brightest rising stars. Before the leaves had turned, the city had lost Mac and Wopo. Pittsburgh’s budding hip-hop community was left wounded and wondering how, if at all, it could recover.
“If last year hadn’t happened, we’d probably be having a whole different conversation,’ said Ian Benjamin Welch, who raps under the name Benji. Like many of the young hip-hop artists Noisey spoke to for this story, he feels as though Pittsburgh’s momentum as a rap incubator has stalled, that the spirit of solidarity that once defined it has all but disappeared. “If we hadn’t lost Mac and Wopo, you might be talking to like 20 of us all together right now.” Benji.
Welch isn’t especially tall, but he stands out, with a squat, athletic build from his days as a long jumper and triple jumper at Duquesne University and flowing dreadlocks that frame a round jaw and radiant smile. He has a show tonight at Cattivo, a Lawrenceville staple that has been home to artists from marginalized communities for over 20 years, including hosting some of the best drag shows in the city.
Ian started rapping a couple of years ago, under the name Sir Courtesy, then switched up his style and became Benji. in 2018. Smile, You’re Alive! , his record from last year, helped Benji. distinguish himself within a crowded field of rappers in the city. In addition to write-ups in local media like City Paper and WYEP , he’s one of the few rappers here who can command a crowd on his own, without having to be part of a larger billing.
Before the tragic loss of Wopo and Mac, Benji. said, the scene was unified and coming into its own. Artists were collaborating and supporting each other, no longer burdened by the pressure of being “next up,” since there were already titans putting on for Pittsburgh. The last year has changed things.
Once the hierarchy of the scene was disrupted, Benji. said—Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa at the top, with Wopo clearly the next to break big—the direction for the city was lost. It’s a fairly simple matter of marketing: With more Pittsburgh rappers making names, the scene would attract more attention, along with that attention came increased opportunities for local artists, including introductions within the industry, opening slots on tour, and features on songs. Benji. himself had been invited to open for Mac Miller on the Pittsburgh stop of his tour, an opportunity that did not come to fruition due to Miller’s untimely death.
As a result, Benji. said, multiple rappers are vying to be the next torchbearer for the city, operating under the belief that there are a limited number of spots.
“It’s competitive now,” he said. “Everyone’s been watching this whole time. And, like, everyone knew that but didn’t really speak on it.” In Benji’s eyes, Mac’s continual stardom and Wopo’s breakthrough represented a new chapter for the city, where the talent would finally be recognized as Pittsburgh became a more prominent hub for exciting rap music. Now, he said, the talent is still here, but it’s aimless.
Benji. hails from Homewood originally, a neighborhood that, despite being on the opposite side of town, has a close and historical kinship with Wopo’s Hill District. When the city razed housing in the Hill for the Civic Arena, many of the predominantly Black families that were displaced moved to Homewood , a shift that, along with increased white flight from the neighborhood, caused an increase in the Black population from 22 percent in 1950 to over 60 percent by 1960. In the aftermath of the 1968 Pittsburgh riots , the housing and businesses in the neighborhood were ravaged. Now, roughly 25 percent of residents in the neighborhood live below the poverty line, and Homewood South has the highest homicide rate in Allegheny County.
Benji., for his part, said he largely avoided gang life by staying active in athletics and his church. “We had our little secluded area,” he said about the block he grew up on. “Me and my brother, we weren’t really out in the neighborhood.”
Benji.’s rap is freewheeling and sunny, even while tackling heavy subject matter. But Smile, You’re Alive! captures Benji. at his lowest point. Three days before his best friend committed suicide, a paternity test revealed that the child he was expecting with his girlfriend wasn’t his. A mission statement of sorts for the album, opener “Rain Down” sees him processing his heartbreak, devastation, and continued search for the beauty of existence through upbeat, poppy instrumentals and a voice that at times oscillates between pitches within the same syllable. “It’s okay to be nervous,” he raps. “It’s ok to feel worthless / cause then there’s people like us around who remind you you’re worth it.”
This mentality is rare in Pittsburgh rap, where most of the music is bleak—albeit presented with the signature gallows humor of a depleted Rust Belt city. Wopo provided myriad examples of this in his work, like when he subverted childhood cartoon characters in rhymes about murder on his signature hit, “Elm Street”: “On my Pokemon shit / I let it peak-at-you . ” PK Delay, a younger rapper hoping to carry a torch for the local trap scene that Wopo helped put on the map, contrasts a flow that is dreamy and distant with the staccato of 808s and gritty lyrics. On “Cold Heart,” a track from 2018’s Pretty the Pico, he raps “You might be my son, I ain’t doubting you / You might be my son, I ain’t proud of you.”
Even outside of the trap scene, poppier artists like Mars Jackson are no stranger to this feeling of anxiety. His 2018 Misra Records release, Good Days Never Last Forever, Mars displays a coolness and confidence, but the title, opener, and outro convey a clear sense of dread: ambient synth opens the album, and Mars bitterly quips 4 times in a row that “I know this shit don’t last forever / but I want this shit forever.” It was released months before the deaths of Wopo and Mac, yet the despair feels prescient.
Benji.’s optimism is a byproduct of his life experience: He’s still here. When he’d reached bottom in his personal life after the paternity news and his friend’s death, he said he found himself on the 10th Street Bridge in Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood, contemplating an end to his pain.
“I could be dead,” he said. “I could’ve jumped off that fucking bridge; we wouldn’t be having this conversation today. Knowing that didn’t happen, it’s like, Yo, I went up against myself and I won.”
Now, he gets to thrive and pass his energy on to others. More importantly, he said, he gets to do it with his best friends, including Jourdn Martin, AKA SlimthaDJ, his roommate and primary producer. He’s set to release a new album, WATERCUP , in September via Misra Records.
“We saw the worst of it here,” he said. “You see what happened to Wopo. You lose friends here, especially being Black.” Benji.
Despite its blue collar reputation, Pittsburgh has always been a classist city—a fact evident in the layout of its neighborhoods. In Lawrenceville during the steel heyday of the early 20th century, the houses that sit up on the hills between Butler Street and Penn Avenue were for management at the mills, while the working class families were stuck in the flat portions at the bottom of the hill, where, according to local lore, the muck and shit would flow during rainstorms. Ironically, these larger multi-family units at the bottom of the hill, with their complicated floor plans and layouts, are considerably more expensive in the modern real estate market, as they’re renovated into massive open concept houses for Pittsburgh’s tech worker nouveau riche.
But that stratified mindset still exists today, with Black families primarily residing in the small handful of neighborhoods where they feel welcome. Pittsburgh rappers continue to grapple with the city’s legacy of regressive racial politics and segregated neighborhoods. The city’s police force is primarily white even in predominantly Black neighborhoods, and has recently committed several high profile shootings against Black citizens of the city, including 17-year-old Antwon Rose this past summer—a shooting that the city failed to properly prosecute.
“Wopo and [Pittsburgh rapper and frequent Wopo collaborator] Hardo had a show [opening for Mac Miller] that had to get relocated at the last minute because the venue and Pittsburgh Police were afraid of violence,” Benji. said. “Just based off of lyrics. They didn’t understand that it’s just music. It’s what they’re seeing on a daily basis; it doesn’t mean they’re doing it.”
“That was supposed to be a moment,” Quentin said about the potential Wopo and Mac show that Benji. described. “If the venues block artists from creating moments, how do you build a scene?”
Both artists describe a frustrating arts environment for Black performers, one where they have to convince a predominantly white music industry—the people and institutions that fund grants and control access to venues in the city—that what they are doing is art, and therefore has merit, before they are even allowed to share that art with their community.
Much of this difficulty can be tied back to one critical event in Pittsburgh rap: the closing of Shadow Lounge. Shadow Lounge was a Pittsburgh rap institution for more than 10 years in the East Liberty neighborhood, where like-minded artists and fans could gather to see Wiz, Mac, and the best of what Pittsburgh rap had to offer. It closed in 2013, after ownership got tired of dealing with the headaches of liquor license ownership and the development and gentrification of its surrounding neighborhood.
“That’s what Pittsburgh needs again,” said Jeremy Kulousek, aka Big Jerm, a producer who is largely responsible for shaping the sound of Pittsburgh rap, including the bulk of Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller’s early recordings. “That was one thing that [Mac] had talked about. I don’t know how realistic it was, but he had talked to Justin, who ran Shadow Lounge, about starting something else up or buying that space back.” My Favorite Color
“It’s hella fucked up,” Anthony Willis said. Willis, who raps under the name My Favorite Color, hails from Penn Hills, a few miles northeast of Homewood and the second largest township in Allegheny County next to the City of Pittsburgh. “Being an artist, you just notice that you have to deal with a lot of fucked-up ass shit just to get your message out. I compare it to a line by Isaiah Rashad, where he said, ‘How you tell the truth to a crowd of white people?’ But like, that guy made it into that building to tell the truth to a crowd of white people. There was a time at that venue where Black people probably weren’t even allowed to come. So you just gotta make your way in there and tell your truth.”
Penn Hills is known as a football powerhouse, the childhood neighborhood of NFL players like Aaron Donald and Barry Church. Despite the fact that Penn Hills is 34 percent Black, the suburb is often an afterthought for those in the city, particularly Black residents in the scene. They have yards in Penn Hills, whereas Homewood, Hill District, and East Liberty residents predominantly see cracked pavement and vacant lots.
“I never felt overlooked per se, because I was and still am cooler than a lot of those [people],” Willis said. “But there were definitely times where I’d be hanging with city kids, and they’d joke around when I did certain things, like, ‘That’s some Penn Hills shit’—or if I did something cool, they’d be like, ‘You sure he’s from Penn Hills?'”
Willis—he refuses to go by Anthony and bristles if he hears his given first name—has a unique aesthetic. Dreadlocked, with wiry glasses that slip down his nose, he can usually be seen in an assortment of baggy vintage Polo denim or NASCAR shirts from his trips to thrift shops around the city. His inexpensive apparel is usually highlighted by Raf Simons x Adidas sneakers or coveted Jordan 1 colorways, signaling that this is a curated fashion statement and not the happenstance of someone dressing like a slouch.
His music is powerful. Each bar drips with the confusion and existential dread of a man who feels out of place in his world. “I jump the broom / married to flowers that bloom / Cancun honeymoon / suicide in the room / Home sweet home in the hotel like oh well / got me asking questions to a magic conch seashell / Check the mailbox and all I ever get’s blackmail” he raps on “Still,” an unreleased track from his latest project, Velma .
Some of this feeling of displacement is a result of being a transplant: Willis moved to Pittsburgh in his teenage years after spending the bulk of his life in the Inglewood area of Los Angeles. “It’s mostly the weather,” he said. “Seasonal depression is real. Like, out here, [people] be getting sad during the winter. Out in LA, it’s nice every day, so if you’re depressed, you’re just depressed for real.”
Willis sees the competition in the city’s rap scene, and he’s resentful of it.
“I just wish more artists would work together,” he said. “We see each other and talk to each other, but nobody is reaching out to work on tracks together or support each other’s music, really.”
His next project is due out in the coming months. It’s a truly cohesive piece of art, tracking Willis’ anxieties about making it and the compromises he fears he will have to make if he wants to get the recognition and money he feels he deserves. On “Funeral,” the album’s closing track, Willis imagines the reaction to his death and the attendees viewing him in his casket.
Home to over 600,000 people at its peak, Pittsburgh lost nearly 50 percent of its population between 1970 and 1990 . The city’s economy has largely bounced back , partly thanks to the growth of America’s technology, education, and healthcare industries. However, for musicians and artists in the rap scene, the opportunities for growth are still outside of the city limits.
Benji. is unsure when he’ll leave, but said it’s a question of when and not if. “There still isn’t enough infrastructure here for it to be a sustainable thing,” he said. “But I think you’ll see a large return for those that do go.” Still, he said “I wouldn’t mind this being my base here”—once he’s found success, that is.
Even for a small market, Pittsburgh rappers have significantly fewer opportunities than in comparably sized cities. Detroit and, in particular, Atlanta, are similarly-sized cities that have held onto their hip-hop artists as they branch out onto a national stage—likely because local artists are able to take advantage of local labels and venues, as well as a larger audience of rap fans.
In a 2018 interview with GQ , Wiz Khalifa described how “This Plane,” a song from his album Deal or No Deal , was inspired in part by the relatively lukewarm reception to his music back home, just as it was gaining steam outside the city. “I was doing a lot of things at that time that weren’t in Pittsburgh,” Khalifa said. “It was weird, because I was getting a lot more love outside of Pittsburgh than I was in Pittsburgh,” he said. “[That song] was kinda like, ‘Y’all better fuck with me now because y’all gonna miss me when I’m gone, because I knew I was up outta here.'”
Willis, for his part, already has his plans lined up: he’s headed to Los Angeles this August.
The move is a homecoming of sorts, given Willis’ childhood in Inglewood. The opportunities are vast, as long as he can avoid the trappings of gang life that his move to Pittsburgh helped mitigate. Much of his extended family is affiliated, and he describes a run-in he had in Compton when he was visiting with his girlfriend, model Tamia Blue.
“They came up and hassled me,” he said. “I just told them who my brother was, and once they figured out I wasn’t lying, they let me be…I’m not super worried about it. I know how to move down there, how to sense bad situations, or if there’s someone who is wildin’ that I shouldn’t stay around. I’ll be okay.”
Both Benji. and Willis said they can envision a day when leaving the city to find a wider audience will no longer be necessary. Part of that will come when another venue fills the void left by Shadow Lounge, while the other will come down to changing attitudes in the industry over time, as gatekeepers become more diverse and accepting of rap. Willis thinks it’s at least five years out, while Benji. thinks that it could happen in the next year or two, if the right artist props the scene up.
The bridge where Benji. almost ended his life overlooks the Monongahela River. At night, the formerly desolate downtown area of Pittsburgh is lit in the dull orange of street lights and corporate logos, as well as the luxury condo complexes and upscale dining establishments that have become synonymous with the rejuvenation of the city’s Cultural district—but only for those who can afford it.
As the city moves further away from its industrial past, the river’s water gets less polluted each year, signaled by the increase in mayflies that swarm joggers on the riverside trails. Despite the improvement, locals still know not to eat the fish that can be caught from the rivers’ shores. Deep beneath its murky green water, there are hundreds of thousands of pieces of scrap steel, discarded from the mills and plants that dotted the shores a century prior, when the city’s economy, though far from perfect, still had the infrastructure to provide a viable home for its residents. The jagged edges along the sides that were hand-cut look like crude pieces to a puzzle, its solution forgotten with the generations that have died.
Casey Taylor is a writer based in Pittsburgh. You can follow him on Twitter .
Tyler Calpin is a photographer based in Pittsburgh. You can find more of his work on Instagram .

Bb. Pilipinas 2019 Candidates Turn ‘Pet Pals’ for a day

Home » Beauty » Bb. Pilipinas 2019 Candidates Turn ‘Pet Pals’ for a day Bb. Pilipinas 2019 Candidates Turn ‘Pet Pals’ for a day
Strengthening the battle “Beyond Beauty,” the Binibining Pilipinas 2019 contestants went to another philanthropy movement last April 26, 2019 . In the wake of holding with students with chemical imbalance amid the World Autism Awareness Day last April 2 , the candidates invested energy with pets experiencing restoration at the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Quezon City. The movement was started by Araneta Center’s Pet Pals program in association with Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc . The Pet Pals activity, which began a year ago, invites pet proprietors and their pets to the head live-work-play goal in the metro.
For more data, visit the Pet Pals page on the Araneta Center site (
The applicants gave 140 kilos of feline sustenance to PAWS and reinforced with the dogs and cats under the establishment’s consideration. They likewise discussed approaches to deal with pets particularly amid summer. While the competitors are caught up with planning for the stylish and spectacular occasions of Binibining Pilipinas , including the Grand Parade of Beauties on May 25 , the Fashion Show on May 29 , and the Grand Coronation Night on June 9 , they have additionally been effectively exemplifying the Beyond Beauty motto by going to endowment occasions and workshops. Besides their interest in Big Dome Lights Blue for World Autism Awareness Day and their visit at PAWS, the contenders are additionally planned to go to an action that advances dealing with the earth and a craftsmanship thankfulness workshop.
“We need the aspirants to exemplify magnificence that is something other than physical. We need them to experience the substance of a lady that is enabled, certain about herself, intrepid, gallant and in the meantime, adoring and minding,” psycho-nervous system specialist Dr. Lia Bernardo , who encouraged their “Strengthening is Authenticity” workshop last April 11. This was the first occasion when that each of the 40 competitors took part in the workshop, which in earlier years was offered just to the victors of the expo. This is only one of the adjustments in the current year’s Binibining Pilipinas event under the course of its seat Mrs. Stella Marquez Araneta.
To pursue the competitors’ adventure, visit and pursue our web-based life pages: @RealBbPilipinas on Facebook and Twitter and @BbPilipinasOfficial on Instagram.

Have a Pleasant Stay at Munnar, KERALA Call Now and Enjoy This Beautiful Season. – Coimbatore, India

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