INTRODUCING MALA FOREVER – THE MULTI-PURPOSE PLATFORM OF 2019 0 175

As a platform that as a whole is a hugely impressive creative lab for the radical femme revolution, with original film projects, an editorial digital magazine and commissioned work, Mala Forever, set up by Nina Reyes Rosenberg and Jessie Levandov and launched in November of last year, is leading the way when it comes to new and upfront platforms that champion the art of creativity and expression. With a busy year ahead, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Nina and Jessie to find out more about the creation of Mala Forever, the power and impact of social media on its audience and their two upcoming film releases.

TITL: Please introduce yourselves if you would.

Mala Forever: We are Nina Reyes Rosenberg and Jessie Levandov, the co-founders and directors of Mala Forever – a radical feminist film studio, digital platform, creative agency, and community.

TITL: How do the two of you know each other and how did you come up with the idea for Mala Forever? Why did you feel that now was the right time to launch the platform?

MF: Mala Forever is a concept we have been dreaming up pretty much the whole time we’ve known each other – we met as film students at NYU where we bonded through our love of queer feminist stories, and have been best friends and creative partners ever since. Mala is the culmination of our diverse leadership experience in film and video, community-based social justice, and fine art and design.

We are part of a unique cultural moment, in which sexism, white male supremacy and heteronormativity in media and entertainment are finally being discussed at the level of national discourse. Now is the time for us to band together and build lasting creative infrastructure, not just for ourselves but in community with marginalized creators.

TITL: What would you say the other brings to MF? Do you each put your own ‘stamps’ on the site and its content in some way?

Nina: Jessie is a very earthly being. She keeps me grounded with a lot of warm energy and her genuine love of people. She’s amazing at documentary and verite filmmaking, and super crafty. We each have really distinct personal aesthetics, and it’s been fun crafting a brand that satisfies both of our sensibilities, kind of like a shared, essential feminist language that we both have. It’s always helpful to have each other as thought partners, and I think we both understand that the most brilliant ideas we have tend to be the ones we’re both really excited about.

Jessie: Nina is brilliant and fierce and I feel lucky every-day to have her as my vision partner. She brings fire and conviction to decision making – which is grounding and inspiring for me and something I struggle with. I love her aesthetic and sense of color – and have always been not only her collaborator and bestie but such a big fan and admirer of her work as an artist. We each bring distinct strengths and experiences to the table, and our shared core values, politics, and vision for Mala Forever makes it really exciting to be building this together – the work is better for it and so are we.

TITL: How would you sum up Mala Forever in a few words?

MF: Bold creative fempire.

TITL: What makes Mala Forever different from the many other online platforms/sites that are out there?

MF: We are not just a film studio, a digital content platform, or a creative agency – we are all of the above! It’s important to us to build a creative engine that truly addresses our audience and customers’ needs, puts resources directly into the hands of marginalized filmmakers and creators, and builds community around radical feminist stories and values. There’s a lot of lip service to inclusion and representation, but not enough creative companies are building community equity into their business structure, and are still falling back on the same systems and modes of production that have contributed to our industry’s toxicity all along. As Audre Lorde said, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” We have to do things in a radically new way, and that’s what we’re doing.

TITL: Who/which age range(s) is MF specifically targeted to and how are you ensuring you accommodate to the needs of those individuals?

MF: Our core audience is intersectional, millennial, and engaged in political resistance. There is a real hunger in our community for representation that crosses cultural boundaries and reflects our community as a complex but powerful coalition of people who share a feminist world view and lived experience of cultural otherness.

TITL: How important is and will social media be in order for you to grow your audience? Do you think eventually all physical content platforms might fade into obscurity and EVERYTHING will be online?

MF: Both the physical and digital worlds offer important possibilities for how we can connect with our community. Social media is critical to how we build and grow with our community; that being said, the physical realm is where our sense of home and community is born, and where many of us are threatened simply for being who we are. So it’s equally important to invest in physical spaces where we feel safe, can share stories and create together, as it is to invest in the digital spaces where we can communicate in revolutionary and evolving ways.

TITL: You’ve shot a short film, “Baby”, set for release in June and a feature film, “The Wild Ones” in the works. Is there anything you can tell me about either of these two projects?

MF: Baby​ is a queer coming-of-age love story set in New York City that confronts themes of LGBTQ identity and toxic masculinity. Shot stylistically as narrative cinema verite, Baby introduces us to the world of Ali, a Dominican teenager from the Bronx, on a Saturday afternoon. ​Baby​ will be released to our community during PRIDE month, June 2019.

It was the first film we produced together as Mala Forever, and was very much made possible by the support of our community. Jessie has spent the last ten years working as a youth media educator in New York City public schools – and this work was inspired by her deep love for making media with young people – many of whom starred in the film!

The Wild Ones​ is our first feature-length film, which we are co-directing. It is a coming-of-age road film about two best friends who go on the ride of their lives with a nomadic tribe of lesbian separatists. We co-wrote the screenplay, and are currently shifting into early development, building the project and community around the film from the ground up.

TITL: As two people who create original content, run a digital magazine and complete commissioned work for/with brands and organizations, how do you find time to unwind, and when you do have a minute or a period to yourself, what do you like to do? 

N: Honestly, work has never been more fun! But making time for myself and the people in my life is key to my happiness. I journal a lot. I love to sing and dance. When I’m feeling emotional, I’ll write poetry or paint. Exercise, home cooking, meditation, and getting enough sleep all do wonders for my health. And of course – watching movies!

J: I’m an Aries, and thus historically have had a hard time being still – so stillness and quiet is something I am excited to cultivate more of in 2019. When I’m not working on Mala, I love making things with my hands (I have a secret life as a jewelry and clothing designer), spending quality time with people I love over meals and on dancefloors, seeing art and films that inspire me, and taking long walks in Brooklyn.  

TITL: What’s the long term goal for Mala Forever? As a newly launched site, how worried are you about the competition and market, and how do you plan to overcome any bumps in the road you might face?

MF: We are building the creative studio our community has been waiting for, brick by brick, by any means necessary. The challenges are manifold, but we keep each other strong and grounded in our vision. Our radical, inclusive, feminist, queer audience is much larger than we’ve been led to believe, and is growing rapidly. The whole landscape needs to change, through a communal effort that goes beyond any individual company or artist. So when it comes to fellow filmmakers who are telling authentic stories from our community, we are rooting for them. Our real competition is not each other, but the existing systems of power and oppression that we’re all working to change.

For more information on Mala Forever, visit the website. You can also follow Mala Forever on Twitter and Instagram.

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BAILEY TOMKINSON CHATS “7 MINUTES IN HEAVEN”, TAYLOR SWIFT & SUPPORTING HER FELLOW FEMALE ARTISTS 0 77

Heavily influenced and inspired by Taylor Swift but with music tastes so varied she loves Sam Cooke, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper to name just three, Bailey Tomkinson has an undeniable passion for music. After releasing her EP Hey Ace last year, she’s recently dropped her new single “7 Minutes In Heaven” and with plans to head back in the studio soon to work on new material, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with her to talk favourite songs, upcoming performance plans and proudly supporting other female artists.

TITL: Who exactly is Bailey Tomkinson?

Bailey Tomkinson: Hi there! I’m Bailey, I’m a 19 year old singer/songwriter from sunny St Ives in Cornwall. I like to write country melodies that hopefully even people that don’t normally like Country Music will want to sing along to! I’m signed to German Indie Label FBP Music and when I’m not performing you can usually find me in the surf!

TITL: At what age did you first realise you wanted to make music a career and what did those closest to you think of said realisation?

BT: I’ve always known that I wanted to pursue a career in music, I watched the movie ‘Selena’, based on the life of the singer Selena Quintanilla, when I was about 4 and from then on all I wanted to do was perform.

The first time I played one of my songs in public was in front of about 300 people in an auditorium, it was a school rock concert in Brussels where we were living at the time, I was about 13. You could have heard a pin drop when I started to play and I just got the bug. I’ve never wanted to do anything else.  I think there is a video of it on YouTube somewhere actually! My family have never been anything other than massively supportive.Their attitude is that we all only get so many trips round the sun, why not spend them doing something you love?

TITL: Which artists and bands are you most inspired and influenced by, and what is it about the music they make that you like so much?

BT: I’ve grown up listening to Taylor Swift so she’s a big influence, obviously very relatable to a teenage girl. But I also admire her for willingness to experiment and innovate across genres; that she wanted to expand the ‘box’. I really admire Kacey Musgraves for the same reason. I listen to Sinatra. I love John Denver because he’s my Grandad’s favourite. Also Sam Cooke, Madonna, Abba, Cyndi Lauper, Jewel – honestly, I just love music.

TITL: Is there a story behind your latest single “7 Minutes In Heaven”?

BT: It was a combination of things really. I love movies like ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’ for the sense they have where in one, crazy night anything can happen. I thought it would be interesting to try to capture that feeling in a song. I’m 19 years old, so you know, I love a good party and we have some GREAT parties down here in St Ives, we’ve got the beach, bonfires, surfers and guitars so I thought why not write about some of them!

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing? With that in mind, could you choose what you feel is the greatest song ever written?

BT: That’s such a difficult question and if you asked me that 100 times, I’d probably give you a 100 different answers. Today, I’d go with “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. The song structure is a work of genius; it somehow manages to link multiple songs into one. Freddie Mercury is a GOD!

I think at the end of the day, I wouldn’t say I have a biggest inspiration as I’m quite fickle with the music I listen to, one minute it’s Sam Cooke and the next it’s Guns N’ Roses. However, that said, I’m pretty sure that if you ask people that know me, they’d tell you it’s Taylor Swift. Hell, at school I was nicknamed ‘Baylor’ Swift.

TITL: As a fairly new artist who made their mark on the industry last year, following the release of your EP, do you ever worry about how you compare to so many of your artistic counterparts?

BT: No, success isn’t cake. Just because someone has some doesn’t mean there’s none for me. There’s plenty for everybody. I have nothing but admiration for people who say, I’m going to follow my passion for making music and if they manage to carve out their own niche then more power to them. It’s hard enough for women in music, we’re all seeking to get equal airtime, festival slots etc, without turning on each other. We all experience the same thing…radio stations happy to put our faces on their posters or Facebook pages but then not spinning our records…I make a point of supporting other female country singers out there, we all want the same thing, a bigger industry and an opportunity to thrive within it.  

TITL: Do you have any performances/tour plans in the works?

BT: There’s lots going on. I’m making my London debut at Luna Lounge in April and in August, I’ve been lucky enough to get a slot at Boardmasters Festival which is one of my favourite festivals. I really want to play the length and breadth of the country, so if any one reading this has slots available, hit me up!

TITL: Given that we live in such a technology obsessed/dependent society, what are your thoughts on social media? How have the likes of Facebook and Twitter impacted your ability to reach an audience, and do you believe that artists can become successful without it?

BT: I don’t know that I have any new startling insight on the subject to be honest. It’s a mixed bag. Social media can be horrible, it amplifies hate and lies, it can make people insecure and antisocial I certainly think it’s important to remember that like television, a lot of it isn’t real. But the flip side is that it can connect people across oceans, across continents in ways we’ve never been able to before. 

In terms of the music, so far my experiences on social media have been incredibly positive, I’ve had other artists reach out with encouragement and advice, I’ve had folks contact me saying how much they’ve enjoyed a certain song and share my stuff with their friends etc. everybody has been really welcoming. Can an artist become successful without it? It depends on how you define success…for some it’s filling stadiums, which I don’t think you can do without a strong social media presence; for others it’s being happy, doing something you love on a local stage. If we were all the same, life would be boring wouldn’t it?

TITL: What does the rest of the year have in store for you? Will you be working on some new material at some point?

BT: Yes, I’ve been in the studio recently to record another single. Then after Boardmasters and festival season, I’ll probably do another EP. I’m writing constantly and definitely want to capture those songs properly. Later in the year, I’d like to do a bigger tour.

TITL: Finally then, what advice would you give to anyone looking to make their mark on the music world as you have? Is there anything you’ve learnt in your short time in the business you’d pass on?

BT: I’d say, make the music you want to make and then surround yourself with as many good people as you can. It really does take a village.

Check out “7 Minutes In Heaven” below and for more information on Bailey, visit her website, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

CRYSTAL CLAYTON CHATS NEW MUSIC, SOCIAL MEDIA & ARTISTIC INFLUENCES 0 87

Following the release of her latest single “Is It Me?” and EP 3AM earlier this month and with her hit song “Blinding Lights” having already been streamed more than 50,000 times on Spotify, there’s no doubt that Crystal Clayton is certainly well on the way to making quite a name for herself. As she looks to a bright future, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with her to chat artistic inspirations, the power of social media and what, many years from now, she’d most like to be remembered for.

TITL: Please introduce yourself in a few words.

Crystal Clayton: My name is Crystal Clayton and I am an independent pop music recording artist/ songwriter

TITL: Has music always been the career goal for you or did you have other ambitions before embarking on this journey?

CC: I’ve wanted to be a singer since I was a kid. When I was young, I was constantly dancing and singing around the house. I wanted to have a voice like Celine Dion.  As I grew up, I started taking voice lessons and performing in theaters and shows. I began writing songs when I was a teenager and I was hooked. There has never been a plan B. I’ve always wanted a career in music.

TITL: Which artists and bands are you most inspired and influenced by, and what is it about the music they make that you like so much?

CC: I try to be unique and true to myself, but there are several artists I’m very much influenced by.  Growing up, like I said, I was obsessed with Celine Dion and also Mariah Carey. I just loved powerful voices and I tried to emulate that. Over recent years I have been heavily influenced by Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Beyonce. Right now I’m listening to a lot of SZA and Banks! I think I take bits and pieces of what I listen to and create my own version of the music I love.

TITL: Is there one particular artist you might say you’re in any way similar to?

CC: I had a gentlemen with Music Is My Radar review my new project and he said the most relatable artist he could think of would be Rihanna. But I think this project is definitely more R&B/pop than some of my previous material that has been much more strait forward pop. I really can’t pin-point one specific artist that I’m like.

TITL: If you had to give one reason as to why you stand out among your artistic counterparts, what would you say?

CC: What I love about the music I create is that it is catchy and it is pop music, but I give the lyrics life and authenticity. My lyrics are emotionally driven because I am a very emotional person. I like to infuse my love of R&B with my love of pop music.

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing? With that in mind, could you choose what you feel is the greatest song ever written? 

CC: Growing up my parents had me listening to a lot of classic rock. I loved Boston, Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Eagles… I believe hands down that “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the best song ever written. The range of emotions in intonation, vocally and instrumentally is one of a kind.  There is a lot of current music that I often think to myself “I wish I had written that song”.  Rihanna’s 2016 album, ‘Anti’ is a masterpiece.  I also really love Kehlani’s new album ‘While We Wait’ as well as ‘CTRL’ by SZA. I like to think that my musical taste is well rounded…I just love music. I’m influenced by oldies and also current music. 

I’m also very much influenced by my own life experiences. I can easily look back on situations from my past and draw from those experiences. Even if it’s been a while since the relationship or event took place, my empathy and ability to feed on those emotions helps me write.

TITL: What made you choose “Is It Me?” to be your lead single? Is there a particular story behind the song?

CC: “Is It Me?” was actually a very easy song for me to write. It’s about that excited feeling you get when you believe in what you’re doing and you know that good things are in the future. It’s just a feel good song with feel good vibes. I was able to share that excitement with my producer and team and we just made a happy song. 

I think I chose “Is It Me?” because it resonated well with a lot of friends I shared it with. They liked the energy of the song and it’s also a bit more pop than some of the other songs on this project.

TITL: This is also your first release since moving from Kansas City to LA. Why did you decide that now was the right time to do so and how have you found the transition?

CC: I was actually hoping to put the project out before I left Kansas City, but things were not coming together quickly enough, and I wanted to wait until after the holidays. I just figured, this is a new beginning for me, so why not release a new project that somewhat re-brands what I’ve done so far.

I found myself very stagnant in the Kansas City music scene. I was born in LA and brought to the Midwest when I was very young, and I had always dreamed of moving back out here. I got to the point where it was like, ‘just take that risk! Just follow that dream, what do you have to lose?’ The transition has been an adventure! I still haven’t fully immersed myself into the LA music scene, but it’s coming along. I’m still the new kid trying to get the hang of things around here.

TITL: “Is It Me?” features on your new EP 3AM which came out earlier this month. For those who haven’t heard it yet, how would you sum it up?

CC: 3:AM has many different layers to it. I think it’s an extension of myself, as a young woman, coming into her own. There is a common element in a lot of my music that has this sense of reaching towards aspirations, and big dreams that you can’t seem to let go of. I think that some elements of 3:AM also have that. There’s the confidence of ‘Is It Me?’, the sexiness of “Mine” and “Falter”, the heartbreak of “3:AM”, and then there is “Pieces” that show’s my vulnerability. In that song I’m really just saying, sometimes I’m not okay and really I’m just barely keeping this all together, but I HAVE to keep going. I think that a lot of people can relate to this project and that’s what I strive for. 

TITL: Do you have a favourite track on the collection and if so, which is it and why?

CC: It’s hard for me to pick a favorite because each one is special to me in its own way. Each song captures a different moment and experience. I think, for me, “3:AM” is one that really resonates well. I think that song is my best work lyrically, and that a lot of people can relate to it. We’ve all been in relationships that we know in the back of our minds will not last, but we continue on because we’re in love.

TITL: Will you be/are you touring/performing in support of the EP and if so, where can people come and see you?

CC: I haven’t started planning a tour yet. I have been focusing on promotion of the project and performing around my new city, LA. You can keep updated with performances and music by following me on social media and my website; @criddleclayton and www.crystalclayton.com.

TITL: Given that your hit song “Blinding Lights” has so far been streamed more than 60,000 times and your audience online is growing considerably, how do you feel about social media? Do you think society and the music industry is perhaps too reliant on the likes of Twitter and Facebook, or do you believe such platforms are now vital tools, given the technology-obsessed world we live in?

I’m really proud of how well “Blinding Lights” has done. I think that social media and streaming helped ‘Blinding Lights’ get the attention that it has. I do believe as a society we spend too much time on our phones and on social media. The internet completely lost it when Instagram went down for a day a couple weeks ago. But, it is the way of the future and it’s not going anywhere. I think as a business person – and music is a business – it’s smart to find ways to use these tools to your advantage and engage with people through social media. It’s such a huge market and you can reach people you probably never could have before. It’s vital to a music career in 2019.

TITL: What does the rest of the year have in store for you?

CC: The rest of this year I’m hoping to release some music videos, perform at some awesome shows here in LA, release some more new music later this year, and hopefully do a small tour run! 

TITL: Finally then, as you continue to make your mark on the industry, looking many years down the line, what’s the one thing you’d like people to remember or recall when they think about you and your music? What message or legacy do you want to leave for the current and future generations?

CC: I just hope that people will remember authenticity from me. My music is vulnerable and real. I write music for myself, and what I like; and I hope that people can relate and resonate with it.