True Americans, and Other News

‘The Water Garden’ (1909) by Childe Hassam (1859–1935 ), The Metropolitan Museum.

A Class By Herself: A Conversation with Actor, Writer, and Producer Kelly McCormack

Kelly McCormack is not an overnight sensation.

Such a thing doesn’t even exist, not really. Not even in this age of instant fame via Instagram. For people like Kelly, it’s about a lifetime of work that gets them to a point where success is suddenly found. The actor, writer, and producer who stars in the third season of the hit sci-fi show Killjoys, is filming a feature film she penned for next year and recently travelled to Taiwan for an opera. A quick internet search has Kelly showing up everywhere, but as she told me over the September long weekend, her wild amount of on-the-go projects lends itself to years of diligent work.

If you were looking for a Cinderella story, this both is and is not it.

Natasha Grodzinski: 2017 has been and continues to be a big year for you. What do you have on the go right now?

Kelly McCormack: From my perspective, I’ve been so busy for so long working on a lots of different projects. You put irons in the fire and it just so happens that 2017 was the year they all exhibited. It’s been a bit hilarious because my acting career, my writing career and my producing career have all coalesced for this one year of bananas. I’m on the show Killjoys which is a huge deal. I went to the audition — it was the first audition of the year, I booked it, and that kind of changed my year, because I was shooting the series from January to May. The TV show I produced for the CBC, The Neddeaus of Duqesne Island came out. We found out we got to moved forward with my feature film Sugar Daddy and I went to Taiwan for this opera. It’s been a little bit absurd, but amazing. I’m a total workaholic — I get stressed out when I have time off to relax. So, it’s been a lot of fun.

NG: Being idle isn’t something you do well?

KM: Oh my god, no. Laughs. I say that so honestly. When I was seven years old, they asked me to do a project on a superpower I wanted. There were lots of powers I wanted, but when I was seven I wrote I didn’t want to have to sleep because I wanted to get more work done. When I was younger one of my uncles told me you sleep for half your life. I was so devastated by that. I don’t do holidays well. The best kind of holiday is how I went to Taiwan for this opera, where I have to perform a bunch but can explore in between. I can deal with moments of high pressure and I feel like that’s when I’m the most myself and the least stressed. You know, I was the girl who rearranged her room every month and had all these decisions about what she was going to do. All of my bucket lists were books. That’s it.

NG: I would say that’s working out well for you now.

KM: Yes, I suppose. I’ve always wanted to be an actor. I started my academic life of writing in university. Producing I just love. I love putting pieces together and making stuff happen. But those were all done in the service of telling more stories and getting busier. In my film Sugar Daddy I play a musician as I also came up through music. I didn’t mean for it to boil over like this but it’s great. Like I said, I don’t do holidays well. I like being able to turn off my phone for  a day, but then I think, “Oh god, there’s all these things I should’ve been doing.”

NG: You touched on one of those aspects of storytelling I wanted to talk about, which is starting your own production company.

KM: Well, it kind of came out of nowhere. About three years ago I was supposed to be in this play, but it fell through. I did have this sweet part-time job at Seneca College. You know I always say artists live or die by their part-time jobs. People are always trading advice and secrets.This one was sweet, it was the holy grail of part-time jobs, but I got laid off there and a bunch of things just fell though. I had a super busy summer, then my slate was wiped completely clean. I was so stressed because it wasn’t where I saw things going. Then Ingrid Veninger, a very well-known DIY filmmaker in Canada, was doing this challenge for filmmakers to make a movie for only $1000. I was hanging with my friend Kristian Bruun, we were just talking about it and I thought, okay, screw it, I’ll write a feature film, the two of us will produce it and we’l put our friends in it. It was this really sweaty, insane summer exercise. I wrote it in two weeks, we shot it in two weeks and we produced the whole thing for $1000.

NG: Holy god.

KM: Yeah, it was crazy. The way that we cast it, with a budget like that, the more creatively involved you have to keep people. Everyone thinks you have to call in all these favours — don’t get favours, get people who are so hungry to make something happen. The way we assembled this cast and crew was like this: I asked Kristian, “Who would you not make a movie without?” He said, this person. Then we asked that person the same question and so on. We assembled this ride or die clan of people. Kristian and I didn’t sleep for two weeks, I sublet my apartment to pay the $1000, because even with a low budget like that it’s a lot of money. We produced this film called Play the Film. It’s a comedy, it’s really weird. It’s about these actors who aren’t booking work so they put on this play. Very meta about our lives, you know. It goes horribly wrong and they end up improvisation stage and making the most offensive play every to be put before an audience. It ended up doing really well and went to festivals around the world. It happened that I needed to put a company name on this film. I have this super righteous dog named Floyd and for some reason we call him Floyder. I wanted to immortalize him so I called the company Floyder Films.

Of course as the acting, writing and producing are going well, I’m thinking, what else can I do? I’ve started thinking about how I can grow the company and about better ways to monetize my ability to bring people together who love to tell stories and hopefully bring in some business-minded people, and hopefully, you know, just be a really powerful CEO one day. Laughs.

NG: One step closer to world domination.

KM: Yeah! I can say these things in interviews, like over the phone you know I’m not saying it in a different way, but I’ll see myself on paper saying, “I want to change the world!” I think, “Yeah, I sound really full of myself.” I’m sure lots of men say stuff like that and don’t worry about it.

At the same time, I am an outspoken feminist. I care about the representation issue in the industry. I care about telling stories that represent women and casting and hiring people of colour. The impetus from wanting to be successful with my production company is because I want to invigorate and hire people who may not normally get that opportunity, I want be a change in the industry. I’ve started trying to option books, which is a really fun thing. You get to read your favourite books and stalk the author and publishing company to try and convince them to give you the rights. Doing that is fun. I’m a big sci-fi reader and am always thinking of how I can make this story into a movie.

NG: Science fiction is a really fantastic space for progression.

KM: For sure! And you have all these people watching Star Trek or Star Wars where there are futures where race and gender don’t mean a thing. Mothers are realized to be at the centre of societies. I was finishing Dune over the weekend and mothers who reproduce and populate civilization are gods. There’s this future that we could be heading towards but it’s like, come on people! Sci-fi’s already there! That’s what great bout being on a show like Killjoys. I get scripts for my character and you don’t get the same ick factor as you do reading other scripts, when you’re thinking, “Ugh this is so gendered and so mildly racist.” It’s a wonderful space.

NG: Is that a direction you want your company to go in?

KM: I do talk about this a lot, about making movies without gender pain, without the ideas of the expectations we put on masculinity and femininity. I have a documentary I’m working on, and another series, and they centre around that topic.

NG: In your own writing, you have the film Sugar Daddy, which had a very familiar concept to me, having heard about it at school, but I wanted to talk about writing the stories you want to see.

KM: Well, Sugar Daddy is, first and foremost, about this up-and-coming musician. And she’s trying to make it. She’s broke and has yet to cross that threshold where she’s making money or getting noticed. Even without the sugar daddy, that’s not a story we see often. There are so many movies about artists trying to make it, and they’re all men! There’s this obsession with the male artist and the tortured, struggling musician. We’ve seen so many movies like that.

[Sugar daddies, at the basest definition, are rich men, usually older, who pay younger women to date them.]

She learns to package herself for all these other men in different ways. Then she learns how to package herself for the already sexualized music industry. It’s about the commodity of art and self-worth. It’s about sex as a commodity and generally the sexual politics that every single woman has to negotiate on a daily basis. You know, “Oh, this guy bought me a drink, do I need to talk to him now,” or, “This guy bought me dinner on a date, do I have the sleep with him now?” The things that half the population has to think about on an hourly basis is really what the film is about. It’s told through the eyes of this artist who is then regurgitating it into her music.

When I was in New York and had a million part-time jobs and all my friends were trying to make it on Broadway, a bunch of my friends did this. This was years ago, before it became the cultural phenomenon. My first reaction was disgust, but it took five or six years of being a producer in the industry and going to these parties to see how you don’t really have a choice in being commodified.You have to go through that stuff anyway.

NG: When you’re looking at roles you haven’t written, what are you looking for?

KM: In general, the type of roles that inspire me, whether I get offered them or not, are depictions of women we don’t see a lot. I like playing characters that have endgames, motivations and locations that are not not involved with them falling in love with a man, though I’m not saying I wouldn’t do a romantic comedy. Laughs. Like Zeph, for example, the character I play on Killjoys, she’s a science nerd. That’s her passion, her focus, her drive. In Sugary Daddy, she’s an artist, that’s her drive.

In terms of types of characters, I want to play the most opposite of the one I just played. I would love to have a career where someone calls me a character actor. I don’t really have an interest in defining this “Kelly brand” and delivering this ongoing character of myself. I became an actor because I love pretending to be other people. I’ve had some opportunities to play bizarre characters and I hope when I get to put them together, people don’t recognize me part to part.

NG: One of the weird characters I had to ask you about, and I watched the whole thing last week, is on The Neddeus of Duqesne Island.

KM: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. That show is probably one of the most proud things I’ve been a part of in my life. I produced that series and it’s written by Aaron Schroeder who came to me a couple of years ago with this crazy idea of making a faux NFB documentary. We shot it in the fall, and I also had the opportunity to be in the series as Eloida, the demonic twin. It was so much fun to be in. The whole point of the series was to mimic that ultra-naturalism from the documentaries, so it’s not about what you’re saying, it’s about the action and what you’re doing with your hands in the moment. The director Sam [Zvibleman] was really good at making sure the actors were not performing. I had this badass 70s costume that made the twins looks like the twins from The Shining. We went up into the woods in the fall and made this weird-ass show. The director would have us do the scene over and over again and improvise and by the end of the day, it didn’t feel like we were performing.

But yes, she was weird character. The dialect was weird and the way she stood was weird. She’s another interesting character where her motivation is actually world domination. That is Pinky and the Brain right there. Her interests are simple: she wants to rule the island and kill her brother. And going back to the roles I want to play, I don’t want to recognizable. I don’t want them to say, “Oh that’s Kelly McCormack.” I want them to say, “Who’s that weirdo? Oh, it’s Kelly!” Laughs. “Who’s that weirdo?” Those are the roles I want to play.

NG: If there were to be a brand, that would be it.

KM: Yeah!

NG: So with all the excitement this year, and with everything happening, where do you see these projects going?

KM: Oh my gosh good question. You know, as busy as it is, I have a constant fear that it will just end. As great as all this is, the upkeep is something that will require all of my energy. Killjoys got picked up for two more seasons, which is incredible. I don’t know what the means for me, but I didn’t die at the end of season three, so…

NG: That’s always a good thing in sci-fi. I didn’t die!

KM: Exactly, so who knows? Sugar Daddy is in the works and I have a couple of other TV shows I’m writing and pitching. I’m always upping the bar for myself. My standard and bucket list is growing. In terms of what’s next… I really want to focus on my production company and the types of films I’m developing. Because for me, I always say, I wanted to be an actor when I was seven and having this life of art was a dream. Then it became my life. It suddenly happens where you work hard and don’t have to do any more part-time jobs, you’re just supporting yourself off of your art. To me, that’s making it. That’s it.

Interview has been condensed for print. You can follow Kelly on Twitter here and Instagram hereContinue following our fashion and lifestyle coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Met Gala 2018: Fashion & Religion

The Met Gala is essentially fashion’s most important red carpet event of the year. Fashion’s most important editors, models, muses, and designers come together to celebrate fashion in all of its excess and glory. Headed by Vogue USA’s iconic editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala has hosted various themes over the years. Some of which include Alexander McQueen, Punk, The Ballet Russe, Christian Dior, and Royal Indian Costume. What sets the Met Gala apart from every other fashion event during the year is the boundless imagination one can use in either having an outfit created for the night or wearing a designer outfit that not only fits the theme but goes above and beyond it.

The Met has recently released their theme for 2018 and the final verdict is Fashion and Religion. The announcement has been met with some opposition and controversy, with many thinking that it would be highly inappropriate to present religion alongside something as trivial and superficial as fashion. However, countless designers have taken direct inspiration from religion as well as weaving religious iconography and imagery directly into their designs. Just like religious art, religious fashion is an art form that aims at showing the world exactly how different societies and classes view religion and, more importantly, religious institutions and their traditions.

As an avid fan and down right lover of the Met Gala, the announcement of each year’s theme is something that fills me with utter wonder and excitement, knowing that the Costume Institute’s curator-in-charge, Andrew Bolton (husband of famed Amercian designer Thom Browne) will create yet another outstanding exhibit that accurately and respectfully showcases fashion and its accompanying theme. In anticipation for the Gala, I started to brainstorm the theme, wrapping my head around what designers or collections would be the perfect fit for next year’s theme. A few designers came to mind and even more collections came to mind after that. So what better way is there to celebrate the newly announced theme than to create a list of perfect pieces for the upcoming Gala this spring.

Alexander McQueen — Dante / Angels & Daemons

A legend in life and in death, Lee Alexander McQueen was truly a 21st-century pioneer when it came to groundbreaking and boundary pushing design. Andrew Bolton’s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met already showcased McQueen’s work. However, this time around, Bolton can take full liberty with exhibiting two of McQueen’s greatest collections. Dante and Angels & Daemons both showcase McQueen’s precision and unmatched expertise in design. On one hand, Dante depicts the darker, more indulgent side, wherein the pious hide behind masks of faith to justify their deeds, while Angels & Daemons paints a more realistic, yet completely closed off world where angels and their demonic counterparts reside.

Christian Lacroix — The Virgin Bride

Now, many years have passed since the heyday of Lacroix couture. But no matter the years, no one will ever be able to create a virgin bride the way Monsieur Lacroix did. The ornate mariée’s Christian created were always a staple of his couture collection. They usually strayed from the theme or the tone of the collection to present the image of a pristine woman, untouched by the evils and sins of the world. Apart from their sheer detail and grandeur, what makes Lacroix’s brides standout is the subtle nod to Eastern Orthodox brides, particularly the ornate and regal brides of Georgia.

Christian Dior — Ancient Egypt

The days of Galliano at Dior may be long gone, but the impact he had on the house and the fashion world, in general, can still be seen and felt to this day. There are very little designers in this day and age that have the gall to translate the many visual delights this planet has to offer, and none did it as successfully as Galliano did. Having covered almost every corner of the globe with his designs, it seemed as if Galliano would eventually run out of inspiration to base his collections on until he revealed this masterpiece after a trip to Egypt. Taking outrageous couture to the next level, Galliano unveiled a collection rooted deeply in the myths and legends of ancient Egpyt. Pharaohs and Gods walked the catwalk in gowns made of gold and jewels, perfectly conveying the dominance and extravagance of the ancient Egyptian empire. The most striking visuals in this collection came in the form of jackal heads that resembled Anubis, god of mummification and the afterlife.

Guo Pei — Il Vaticano

Guo Pei is the queen of extravagance and there is nowhere else in the world that is more extravagant than the all-powerful Vatican. It’s its own city, state, and country, and to top it all off, the Vatican even has its own law enforcement and bank. Representing the large population of Roman Catholics, the Vatican heads the largest group of Christians in the world. Some even suggest that the Vatican is the most powerful institution in the world, beating out the world’s most powerful governments. So it comes as no surprise that Guo Pei chose a powerhouse institute to pull inspiration from for her powerhouse brand.

Jean Paul Gaultier — Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows

Jean Paul Gaultier is a master couturier known for many things; cone bras, corsets, and nautical stripes all found their fame at the hand of Gaultier. However, one of his most underrated and outstanding collections has to be his spring 2007 couture show, where the shining hallowed glory of a sorrowful Virgin Mary was presented before the eyes of fashion’s finest. The gentle tears painted on the models’ faces created a visually stunning, yet spiritually familiar feeling, mirroring the crying statues of the Virgin Mary found in many Catholic churches around the world. But what really makes this collection breathtaking is the different incarnations of the Lady of Sorrows. There are hints of Latin American Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, and European Christianity, showcasing the different views of within the various branches of Christianity.

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An Insider’s Guide to NYC Mixology Scene

Text: Peter Minkoff

The mixology scene has seen a real boom in recent years. Gone are the days of bartenders pouring beer and using a cocktail chart on those rare occasions when a guest dares to order a funny sounding drink. Mixologists are taking over. People with a passion for mixing drinks and making the perfect cocktail for every person they serve have changed the game for everyone. Using classic recipes, high-quality ingredients, fresh juices, and having a knack for experimenting is what makes a good mixologist. The NYC mixology scene is one of the finest out there and here is a list of its best renditions.

Bar Moga

Bar Moga is a little place in NYC that celebrates women and does so in great style with amazing cocktails. The name of the bar comes from the Japanese word moga. Mogas were modern Japanese girls from the 1920s characterized by their modern and independent spirit. Pictures of them hang on the walls of the bar and their style resonates in every part of this business. Drinks are devised by experienced female mixologist Becky McFalls-Schwartz, and the bar also serves female-produced wine. Their signature cocktail “the Moga” is a damn strong drink, just like the gals are, and a percentage of the money earned by selling this cocktail is donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the A.C.L.U..

Alchemiq

Alchemiq Catering

Alchemiq is a catering service known for the stellar mixology experience they offer. The founder, Igor Zukowiec is a master of flavor pairing and he envisioned Alchemiq catering as an exclusive and artistic expression of his passion. They have true artists creating magic behind the bar and in the kitchen. Classic cocktails, bespoke cocktails, and amazing dishes are all served in unique ways at every party they cater. They have new menus every season, the cocktails are mixed with the best quality drinks, and the dishes are prepared with fresh and locally grown ingredients. The mixologists and artists from Alchemiq, with dedication for their craft and an eye for detail, make every party they cater a magical event.

Apothéke

This is a place that offers more than cocktails; it offers cures for every ailment you have. Apothéke is inspired by European apothecaries of the 19th century and their mixologists take their duties as seriously as an apothecary takes its. You can find cocktails that can help with health and beauty, that have aphrodisiac properties, that help with pain, and so much more. Here you will find what you need and the best part is that you can also learn the old craft of mixing. At Apothéke Academy, you can learn all about mixing cocktails and the history of this great trade, so you can fix yourself a cocktail when you need a fix for your daily woes.

Death and Company

Death & Company

This bar opened in 2006 and for more than ten years it has been serving excellent cocktails and inspiring the mixology scene. It had an important role in growing the public interest in cocktails during the early days of the mixology revival movement. The mixologists at Death & Co. have a knack for recreating classic cocktails and mixing exciting new ones. Their skillfully mixed creations have been stirring the imaginations of other mixologists and satisfying the thirst of customers from day one. The unique thing about Death & Co. is that it gives control over the drinks to the bartenders, turning them into real mixologists. Employing talented and passionate people and giving them the opportunity to develop their skills, while elevating the cocktail experience at the bar is what continues to bring customers and fresh talent to this place.

Fort Defiance

Located in the heart of Brooklyn, Fort Defiance was founded by a mixologist St. John Frizell, whose love for cocktails is on full view on the menu. This restaurant has an array of American dishes on the menu, which you can pair with the best cocktails you can hope for. They buy the best quality locally grown meat, dairy, fruit, and vegetables, but the cocktails are what you should go there for. Also, the Irish coffee they serve is the best in the city and you can’t miss it.

Correction: An earlier version of the article stated that Natasha Torres is part of Bar Moga. She is no longer involved with Bar Moga. 

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5 Lessons to Learn from New York Street Style

There’s no question about it, New York is the epicentre of fashion in the United States. But unlike other fashion capitals around the world, New York doesn’t get its fashion inspirations from the select few at the very top of the fashion industry. Instead, the very lifeblood of the City’s fashion comes from the people, from the everyday fashion lovers that walk the streets of the bustling city. Which is exactly why the fashion community should look towards not only the City itself but the people within it to mould and create their own personal styles. Because when it comes to style, New York’s got it going on!

A little bit of Rock & Roll

New York has always been a rebel city at heart. And the same goes for its citizens. Here, fashion blogger Sirin adds the perfect amount of punk rock to an everyday look by adding a simple black motorcycle jacket and a pair of black ankle boots to a pinstripe blue dress. It’s a look that balances rock glam and everyday wearability into one easy to digest package.

Be As Eccentric As You’d Like

The beauty of New York is that you can be whoever you want to be and no one will love you any less for it. Unlike other places in the United States, New York is a dizzying melting pot of sights, sounds, lights, and people. Where everyone can come together and share a little bit about themselves without fear of prejudice. And Farfetch style and creative VP Yasmin Sewell understands just that. Pair prints, colours, and wild accessories together to create a cacophonic fashion moment. You just might inspire someone else to come out of their fashion shell!

Hip Hop Never Dies

To say that New York lives and breathes Hip Hop would be an understatement. Hip Hop has been part of the cultural fibre that makes up New York City since rhymes were first spit back in the early days of the genre. So it comes as no surprise to see that same influence walking the streets of the Big Apple during fashion week. Now Hip Hop based fashion has evolved from the days of wearing Karl Kani jeans and Baby Phat hoodies, and Rapper Dej Loaf is showcasing just that by adding elements of old school Hip Hop and R & B (the elastic waistband sweats and subtle nod to Queen Mary J. Blige) and pairing them with modern fashion staples like the metallic puffer and sneaker boot.

The Wolf of 5th Avenue

If there’s one thing New York has taught business world well (apart from good business itself) is how to pick and wear the perfect suit. It comes as no surprise that those who live in the arguably the largest business trading centre in the world are going to pick up a little something here and there about dressing in dapper duds. Here, author Aimee Song takes the regular everyday suit and injects a whole lot of New York attitude in it by opting for a velvet jewel tone blazer and high waisted short — making the suit look less like Goldman Sachs and more like a Vogue after party ensemble.

Upper East Side Classic

Model Irene Kim perfectly encompasses what it’s like to dress like New York’s most affluent half in this all-black private school number. However, preppy Upper East Side dressing can sometimes be tricky, and teetering into the realm of comical school girl costume may be something that most people fall into. But Kim pulls it off beautifully. When aiming for a preppier look, try to think less “Lunch on the steps of the Met” à la Gossip Girl and more squeaky clean and pristine debutant with an edge.

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