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Archive for the ‘Personal Empowerment’ Category

Fitness and workout trends to watch out for in 2020 – The Standard

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When youre healthy, it means that you not only look good, you actually feel good(Shutterstock)

A healthy lifestyle can be described in so many ways depending on how you choose to look at it. In a few words, it is a balance between your mental, physical and spiritual being functioning in harmony inside your body. When youre healthy, it means that you not only look good, you actually feel good.

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Driven by health reasons or a desire to look a certain way, many have jumped onto the fitness ship. The result? A rise in fitness and workout solutions that promise heaven and earth and this year is no different.

Many fitness trends continue to evolve. People are more willing to try new things and explore new ways to get fit. As the fitness clout continues to expand, here are some of the most popular trends to watch out for in 2020.

Almost everything is accessible online these days and fitness is no exception. The world is at a point where customers want to get the most out of fitness companies and brands without all the hustle.

This has sparked a trend where you dont really need to meet up with a trainer to get the body you want. All you need to do is get in touch with an online trainer who will send you a personalized workout plan and thats it! Follow it and youre on your way to meeting your goals.

This year, people are also taking fitness into their own hands. A lot of people are looking for what works for them and, in a real sense, this is a form of empowerment. Home workouts and personal plans are helping people listen to their body and do what works for them while saving money too.

The motivation comes from being active and enjoying it without other pressures. People are embracing home Zumba sessions after work, stocking up on simple workout equipment or even creating personal routines with the help of videos on YouTube. Theres something about a gym environment thats empowering and motivating?(Shutterstock)

Mental health is also a vital part of fitness. For a long time, the focus was on body goals and mental health took a back seat. A number of people struggle with depression and anxiety so yoga has become a source of comfort.

ALSO READ: How to eat beans without gas or bloating

It combines stretching and meditation to boost your mood which then helps you to feel great while you work out. For many, working out when in a vulnerable state of mind is quite difficult.

Having a good diet is at the forefront of fitness. You cant eat unhealthy food and still expect to get your desired results. There is still a lot of focus on meal plans and diet teas which are still slightly controversial. Nonetheless, more people are realizing that options like surgery shortcuts arent for everyone. The traditional route of working hard for what you want and appreciating the journey is all worth it in the end. Having a good diet is at the forefront of fitness(Shutterstock)

This is one of the biggest trends that is still popular in 2020. Industry players and mainstream media are upping their game in encouraging people to be comfortable in their own skin and not let society dictate how they should look. We all have different body types so we dont have to be skinny to be fit. Some things are beyond our control so the definition of fitness is really changing. A number of people struggle with depression and anxiety so yoga has become a source of comfort(Shutterstock)

Lets be honest, the gym will always be trendy. Theres something about a gym environment thats empowering and motivating. Home workouts are great but, sometimes, it could backfire when theres no one else there to push you.

The gym is great for strength training and muscle building, which many of us still desire. Being in the gym is also therapeutic because its a place where you can be away from work pressures and other draining distractions.

With work, school and home schedules, were busier than ever. Too many things are going on all the time so it can be hard to keep up with a workout schedule. Thanks to technology, we have on-the-go fitness trackers that help us reach our goals and stay fit. Something as simple as a phone or a smartwatch is able to help you reach your goals by tracking your daily movements.

ALSO READ: Six ways to changing your narcissistic personality

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Fitness and workout trends to watch out for in 2020 - The Standard

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February 9th, 2020 at 6:50 pm

A celebration of success and empowerment – Dal News – Dal News

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Dalhousies Black Student Advising Centre (BSAC) celebrated its 30th anniversary Monday by kicking off African Heritage Month with music, food, and inspiring messages from members of the African Nova Scotian community.

Bookended by music from the Halifax-based group, The Colors of Africa, the evening also featured performances by Dalhousie students Lyris Daye and Erianna Willis-Smith, a History of BSAC video presentation by assitant professor Barb Hamilton-Hinch, and a keynote speech by NASA engineer K. Renee Horton.

Oluronke Taiwo, BSACs black student advisor, attributed the success of this years event to months of hard work and planning, as well as the collaborative efforts of many members of the BSAC community and donors.

Seeing the reaction of the students and hearing wonderful feedback by the attendees made me want to cry. The speaker was very empowering, and the performances were powerful and entertaining, says Taiwo. I am very grateful that all the work that was put into the event by so many people was worth it.

For the past 30 years, BSAC has provided educational and personal support for African Nova Scotian students from the diaspora at Dalhousie and the University of Kings College. The Centre was born out of a 1989 report entitled Breaking Barriers: Report of the Task Force on Access for Black and Native People, which served to address and redress the systemic barriers faced by Indigenous Black and Native learners in accessing academia as a result of years of intergenerational social, economic, racial, and political marginalization.

For this occasion, Taiwo wanted to highlight a person who serves as an example of success and empowerment for African Nova Scotian students, so she asked Dr. Horton, who is space launch system quality engineer at NASAs Michoud Assembly Facility, to present.

For me, it was important for Dr. Horton to talk at the 30th anniversary because the purpose of celebrating the event is to demonstrate how far we have gone in trying to break the barriers that set us apart from the white privilege, which in most cases have made many black students want to give up, says Taiwo.

Oluronke Taiwo

In addition to her work in mechanical engineering, Dr. Horton is a mother of three, the founder of the non-profit mentorship organization Unapologetically Being Inc., the president of the National Society of Black Physicists, and author of the Dr. H Explores the Universe childrens books.

However, the road to success was difficult for Dr. Horton, who faced numerous obstacles in her career that included racism, homelessness, and a hearing impairment. It was hard work, perseverance, and a steadfast belief in her abilities that helped Dr. Horton overcome these barriers to become the person she is today.

I woke up one morning and I said that I was no longer apologizing for being who I am. That I was black, I was gifted, and I was amazing, said Horton. And it was no longer my business that you had a problem with it.

The evening culminated in an impassioned presentation from Dr. Horton, who called for self-belief and empowerment that expands beyond the scope of African Heritage Month.

Your black excellence does not leave just because there are 28 or 29 days in the month, said Horton. The power that black history will bring you today will forever be with you. You too can be black history.

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A celebration of success and empowerment - Dal News - Dal News

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February 9th, 2020 at 6:50 pm

Tim Hortons Volunteer of the Month – Alberta Daily Herald Tribune

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Grande Prairie Volunteer Services Bureau logo.

Nominate an outstanding youth volunteer, between the ages of 13-18, living in our community for the Leaders of Tomorrow Awards. For nomination forms and criteria, visit Nomination deadline is March 13. The Awards will be presented during National Volunteer Week April 19-25.

Congratulations to the winner of Januarys Volunteer of the Month Draw Bandaged Paws Animal Rescue Volunteer Natasha Arsenault! Read Natashas nomination at Volunteer of the Month winners are awarded a $100 Gift Card from Tim Hortons! The GPVSB would like to thank Tim Hortons for helping us fuel the volunteers of Grande Prairie and surrounding area.

Elizabeth Girvan Hearth Social Profit Company nominates Elizabeth Girvan. They wrote, Liz is the person who will always ask if you need help. In the last three years Liz has been volunteering for every activity we have had. She is a phenomenal woman.

Ashley Parlee Pamela Foley nominates Ashley Parlee. They wrote, Ashley volunteers at St. Mary Catholic School in Sexsmith. She organizes volunteers for the bi-weekly hot dog days. Most often she is there working them too and does the bank deposit on her way home. Our school is lucky to have her dedication.

Crystal H. St. John Ambulance nominates Crystal H. They wrote, Crystal has been instructing with St. John Ambulance since 2014. In 2016 Crystal joined the MFR (Medical First Responder) group and has been providing First Aid at local events. Crystal continues to be a valuable addition to our volunteer group. Recently she stepped up as our Training Liaison and has been assisting our volunteers with continued training in our monthly meetings. Thank you again for everything you do for us!

Darren Daw GP Technical Search and Rescue nominates Darren Daw! They wrote, Darren is always willing to step up and take on new tasks. He keeps our organization full of dedicated volunteers and all our equipment in tip top shape. His modesty and drive do not go unrecognized. Thank you, Darren, for all you do!

Kirsten and her dog Bruin St. John Ambulance nominates Kirsten and her dog Bruin. They wrote, Kirsten and Bruin joined our Therapy Dog Program in 2019. They have been doing visitations every second Tuesday evening at the Northern Additions Centre and recently started visiting at the QEII. Kirsten is very kind and personable, and Bruin is a sweet and lovable Shih Tzu X. Thanks again Kirsten and Bruin.

Find volunteer opportunities in Grande Prairie and area at

FREE courses for individuals 18+ to develop skills and look for employment.

2/10 Interpersonal Skills 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

2/11 Personal Development 9 a.m.-Noon Introduction to Microsoft 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Writing Effective Resumes and Cover Letters 1 p.m.-4 p.m.

2/13 Personal Empowerment 9 a.m.-Noon Get a Job Using Social Media 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Job Search Techniques 1 p.m.-4 p.m.

For more information and to register, visit or call 780-538-2727.

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Tim Hortons Volunteer of the Month - Alberta Daily Herald Tribune

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February 9th, 2020 at 6:50 pm

How Birds of Prey Nails Female Empowerment Without the Cringe Aspect – The Mary Sue

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(image: Claudette Barius/Warner Bros.)

There have been times in movies when a girl power moment comes along that I feel my entire body shakemainly because I find moments when a woman just befriends other women for the sake of checking off a box to be tiresome, which is why I dont like the girl power moment of Avengers: Endgame (and Im not alone).

So why do I love the fight sequences ofBirds of Preyand the shes not alone moment of Avengers: Infinity Warso much? Because they manage to bring together the idea of strong women without making their characters stand up and say, We can do this because were WOMEN.

What I love aboutBirds of Preyis that it takes theInfinity Wargirl power route and, instead of basically saying those words out loud, it displays the power of its characters in a way that shows that all of these women are there extremely capable heroes/anti-heroes in their own rights.

Their fights arent about wow look at me, Im a girl taking charge of this situation, please give our corporate sponsors credit for this, but rather, just women fighting to survive. In Birds of Prey, the scene that really drives this home for me is when Huntress, Renee Montoya, Harley Quinn, and Black Canary are all fighting to protect Cassandra Cain from Black Masks hitmen.

There are little moments that show the strength of these women (and it is the iconic hair-tie moment that broke the internet recently) but what really gets me is that these women are not just powerful, but they also care. Huntress, when Cassandra is worried and freaking out in the middle of everything, pulls her off to the side and hands her a toy car that she used as a comfort when her family was being killed. Helena hands it to her and tells her to close her eyes and just focus on it, and instantly goes back into protection mode.

That moment alone with shes not alone shows that female empowerment doesnt have to come from a were women yaya! moment, but rather, just understanding how a woman would fight. If Im protecting someone, Id make sure theyre okay, and sure, its badass watching a woman use the heel of her shoe to take a man out, but I think both of these moments give us a real sense of understanding just how powerful and amazing female characters are (and should be depicted).

Female empowerment doesnt have to be an in-your-face moment but rather is in the subtlety of female strength. While we may not be these physically opposing beings from time to time, there is a different kind of strength to women and seeing moments like that of Infinity WarandBirds of Preyreminds us that women use their strengths in different ways, and it is beautiful.

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How Birds of Prey Nails Female Empowerment Without the Cringe Aspect - The Mary Sue

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February 9th, 2020 at 6:50 pm

Some observations from the impeachment trial – Opinion – ThisWeek Community News

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February 2020. The Super Bowl, once again held without the Cleveland Browns, the BuffaloBills or the Ohio State Marching Band. The Iowa caucuses, plagued by app glitches andconspiracy theories. The State of the Union address, with women in white, a grieving father inhandcuffs and grand dramatic moments (Russ Limbaugh and Nancy Pelosi come to mind). All inthe midst of an impeachment trial.

While the Nixon impeachment proceedings heated up in the summer of 1974, I was a counselorat summer camp, with a cabin full of fifth- and sixth-grade girls. Swamp cake on the dessertmenu seemingly had as much impact in that cloistered setting as did Nixons resignation onAug. 9.

When Bill Clinton was impeached by the House on Dec. 19, 1998, it was five days fromthe end of the Salvation Armys Christmas effort, and I doubt I even turned on the television. Ihave no recollection of watching the January trial in the Senate, nor do I remember much in theway of personal outrage in those pre-"me too" days. Impeachment took a back seat to achallenging ministry, three energetic boys and grad school.

In 2020, Ive been more engaged with the impeachment drama or lack thereof. A couple ofsnarky questions first. Is it OK to notice an obvious toupee, or wonder if a constitutional expertwho previously defended Epstein wears boxers or briefs? Does Adam Schiff really have a pencilneck? Do fidget spinners help fidgety senators?

Two observations. First, Chief Justice Roberts refused to ask a question submitted by Sen.Rand Paul, purportedly an attempt to reveal the identity of the original whistleblower. WhileRoberts was circumspect about it, I could hear the echo of my friend Shirleys famous saying:"Well have none of that!"

Rumors of this persons identity have been quietly circulating in the great abyss of the internetfor a while, but now, just days after Pauls attempt to "out" him or her, posts started showingup in my social media feed with a full name and conspicuously photo-shopped images of thewhistleblower next to prominent Democrats. What does it say about us when we take delight inpotentially putting another human being in danger, when the law promises protection? Who intheir right mind would report alleged wrong-doing if they fear their name will be vindictivelyspread across the internet?

My second observation is "inappropriate," defined as "not suitable or proper in thecircumstances." Picking your nose in public is inappropriate. After the Super Bowl halftimeshow, the battle of appropriateness had a field day on social media. In the late 1990s, Bill Clintonsuggested his relationship with an intern was "inappropriate."

Now, in 2020, "inappropriate" wins the word of the week. Sen. Lamar Alexander: "TheConstitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and banhim from this years ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate." Or, as Ohios own Sen.Rob Portman concluded, "I believe that some of the presidents actions in this case includingasking a foreign country to investigate a potential political opponent and the delay of aid toUkraine were wrong and inappropriate." Theres that word again.

Im not sure when he said it, but Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh gave us an alternativeto inappropriate. "If the president does something dastardly, the impeachment process isavailable." Dastardly, as in wicked and cruel, is a great-sounding word. If inappropriate isntenough for impeachment today, could dastardly be tomorrow?

Heres the challenge: what are appropriate consequences for inappropriate or even dastardlyactions? On the playground, some stop the behavior when confronted. Others admit no guilt,and even defiantly say, "What are you going to do to me?" Does the system, as its currently setup, have an answer to that question?

A final observation. Remember when the internet world was abuzz about "the dress"? Was itblue and black, or were its stripes gold and white? The opening challenges of 2020 go muchdeeper. Amazing dancing, female empowerment or soft porn? Innocent, guilty, perfect,inappropriate, criminal or dastardly? If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is truth as well?

JoAnn Shade, author of "Only in Ashland: Reflections of a Smitten Immigrant," can be reached at

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February 9th, 2020 at 6:50 pm

John Bullis: Congress approved old tax provisions – Nevada Appeal

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Our hard working, diligent Congress recently reinstated some tax law provisions that had been deleted. Originally the provisions were changed or cancelled, but now are retroactively approved as the tax law you know and love.

Five major items approved retroactively to Jan. 1, 2018 and dont expire until Dec. 31, 2020:

Cancellation of acquisition debt on your personal resident is not taxable up to $2 million.

Mortgage Insurance Premiums are allowed as a deduction as additional mortgage interest.

Medical expenses greater than 7.5% of Adjusted Gross Income allowed, instead of 10%.

Tuition and fees deduction is allowed as an above the line deduction

Non-business energy property tax credit for improvements to your home (water heater, furnace, central air conditioning, some fans, etc.) but still subject to lifetime $500 maximum credit

Those items are OK now for your 2018 return. If you benefit enough, you can file an Amended return, form 1040X and get a refund.

Those above items are allowed now for your 2019 and 2020 returns.

Oh, by the way a few other less known items were also retroactively approved to Jan. 1, 2018 and these dont expire until Dec. 31, 2020 (unless noted otherwise).

Black lung disability trust fund tax; Indian employment credit; Railroad track maintenance credit; Mine rescue team training credit; certain racehorses are three-year depreciable property; Seven year recovery period for depreciation for motorsports entertainment complexes; faster depreciation expense for business property on Indian reservations; better expensing rules for certain film, television and theater productions; tax incentives for empowerment zones; American Somoa economic development credit; Biodiesel and renewable diesel credit (through 12-31-22); Second-generation biofuel producer credit; Qualified fuel-cell motor vehicles tax credit; Alternative fuel-refueling property tax credit; two-wheeled plug-in electric vehicle credit (through 12-31-21); Credit for electricity produced from specific renewable resources; Production credit for Indian coal facilities; Energy-efficient homes construction credit; special depreciation allowance for second-generation biofuel plant property and energy-efficient commercial buildings special deduction.

I dont know how Congress had time to study all those items. Maybe some lobbyists helped.

Did you hear When your cat has kittens, you really find out who your friends are.

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John Bullis: Congress approved old tax provisions - Nevada Appeal

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February 9th, 2020 at 6:50 pm

A new venture under the big top | The Source – Washington University in St. Louis Newsroom

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By Steve Givens February 8, 2020February 8, 2020

Gregg Walker, AB 94, did not run away to join the circus. He took the less traditional route of Ervin Scholar studying economics at WashU, then Yale Law and a long and fruitful investment and deal-making career that led him to Goldman Sachs, Viacom and Sony.

Walker now finds himself CEO of Big Apple Circus in New York City and president and chief operating officer of Remarkable Entertainment, an immersive live entertainment company whose productions include dinner theatre and two shows created for Virgins new cruise line.

WHO Gregg Walker, AB 94

STUDIED Economics

LOCATION New York City

CURRENTLY CEO of Big Apple Circus President and COO of Remarkable Entertainment


Big Apple Circus is a one-ring circus that performs October through February in a tent in Damrosch Park in Lincoln Center. Known for its intimacy, none of its 1,600 seats is farther than 50 feet from the action. Today, its a popular destination for both tourists and New Yorkers. But it was not always so.

In 2016, the then-nonprofit emerged from bankruptcy with a new lease on life as a for profit venture for its 201718 run. At the end of that season, Remarkable Entertainment began consulting and ultimately became owner-operator for 201819. In Walkers first six months as CEO, revenues increased by nearly 75 percent.

I attended circuses growing up, but I attended three-ring circuses, which have a very different feel large, enormous and loud, Walker says. I much prefer the show that we create. I think what we provide is more equivalent to a Broadway show.

Its the fun and excitement and the thrill and the danger, but its all very intimate, up close and personal.

Walkers biggest surprise during his time with the circus has been how much hard work and effective teamwork it takes to pull the whole thing off, and especially the work of the circus performers.

Ive been amazed by the sheer level of unselfish commitment you see from people who work around the circus community, he says. On a typical weekend, well do five shows. During the holiday season, well do two shows every day for a week.

Walker says he first learned about that kind of teamwork during his two terms as president of WashUs Student Union, juggling a $1 million budget and walking the tightrope of student politics.

I learned quickly in my student government days that to accomplish anything, you need a good group of people, Walker says. There is no such thing as the best person. Theres only putting the right people together and giving them the empowerment and the resources to succeed.

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A new venture under the big top | The Source - Washington University in St. Louis Newsroom

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February 9th, 2020 at 6:50 pm

Interview: Director Maggie Levin Talks INTO THE DARK: MY VALENTINE, Empowering Victims of Abuse, and Social Media – Dread Central

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Interview: Director Maggie Levin Talks INTO THE DARK: MY VALENTINE, Empowering Victims of Abuse, and Social Media

Love sucks in Blumhouses Into the Dark Valentines Day themed installment, My Valentine, which addresses important issues like empowerment of victims of abuse and the effects of social media. This incredibly relevant film features a remarkable performance from Glows Britt Baron as Valentine Fawkes, a singer/songwriter who is confronted by her former abusive boyfriend and manager, Royal, played sinisterly by Benedict Samuel. Royal has stolen Valentines music and created a new artist named Trezzure (Anna Lore), who looks exactly like Valentine. Valentine is forced to deal with her abuser and fight for her life, while rediscovering herself in the process.

My Valentine is the debut feature film from amazing writer/director Maggie Levin and was executive produced by Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, who wrote and directed Sinister. Levin also wrote and directed the short film Diva, which is also about a pop star struggling with stardom, as well as the Sci-Fi/Comedy TV series Miss 2059. Levin has a background in directing music videos, which is showcased in neon lit, pop music video segments in My Valentine. The film has a darkly fun vibe and catchy songs, reveals Royals true bloody intentions, and presents difficult issues like rediscovering yourself after being a victim of abuse and the toxic effects of social media. Theres even a cameo by Pooka. My Valentine is captivating, emotionally charged, and painfully personal, and I think its one of the best installments of Into the Dark yet. Levin is an astonishingly talented, rockstar writer and director to watch and you can check out more about her at her website

Dread Central had the absolute pleasure of speaking with director Maggie Levin about the creative process of writing My Valentine, the insanely talented cast, the dangerous effects of social media, and a lot more. Read on to find out what we talked about!

Into the Dark: My Valentine premieres on Hulu Friday, February 7th.

Dread Central: Thank you so much for taking time to talk with me today, Maggie! I absolutely love My Valentine and I think its one of the best installments of Into the Dark yet.

Maggie Levin: Thank you so much! Its so exciting. You are one of the very first people who isnt one of my dear friends or isnt working on the movie, who has seen it, and that Ive heard a reaction from. So, thats thrilling to me to hear that you enjoyed it.

DC: Valentine Fawkes is such a clever name for Britt Barons character and the title My Valentine is so fitting, once you realize what the story is about. Why did you choose Valentines Day and how did your story get selected by Blumhouse for Into the Dark?

ML: Through my producers, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, I was introduced to the Blumhouse television team, to actually talk about an entirely different script, which was a time travel, time-looping, science fiction, romance, post-apocalyptic movie. So, we were talking about that project and it was looking like it could be a good fit for their February Into the Dark slot, and it would have been for Groundhog Day [laughs].

Whats actually cool about the Into the Dark project for Blumhouse is theyre pulling filmmakers and projects from all over and its very filmmaker driven, and it all comes together under this umbrella, which I think is just really cool. So, we were talking about this other project and they sent me a number of the episodes to watch. I watched Culture Shock and Down, and Im Just Fucking With You, which was for April Fools in 2019. When I saw Im Just Fucking With You, my whole self lit up, because this is exactly the kind of thing that kind of calls on the filmmaking skills Ive been acquiring over the course of my career so far. It had this kind of aggressive, run and gun, almost music video feel and theres touches of that in Im Just Fucking With You when I first saw the potential in that. I had a couple of topics that I already wanted to explore, so kind of the confluence of knowing that there was this February opening, having these romantic themes that I already wanted to talk about, and then seeing what was possible in the format all kind of came together into this one idea that I went back to them with.

I said, Hey, maybe instead of doing this Sci-Fi movie that I already have a script for [laughs], which will have to be rebroken and converted into the format, what about this other idea that would be suitable for the same month, but a different holiday, and I think it could be something that would really sing in this format? Pun absolutely intended [laughs]. Im really fortunate that, not only were they open to it, but sort of from the get-go, very excited about it and we all dug in together to figure out how it would work.

DC: You mentioned your executive producers, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. Im a huge fan of their work. How did they end up coming onboard?

ML: Scott and Cargill are obviously longtime collaborators, who are working on a number of projects, both as individual creatives and then as producers. I was introduced to Scott through an actress friend and then he had read some of my work and took a particular interest in this one script, which he then brought to Cargill, and we started developing that together. And thats sort of the path that led us all the way to here, through that development relationship. Theyre still attached to that project if it ever lands somewhere else, which I think it may.

The two of them are just incredible, not just collaborators, but champions of other filmmakers. The projects that I know they are developing as producers are all in the horror genre space, but they are from such a diverse swath of creators and different perspectives. In a time when we need powerful people to champion filmmakers, people of color and female filmmakers, I have found the two of them to be just incredible, put their money where their mouth is kind of people.

DC: I know Britt Baron from Glow, and she is absolutely incredible in My Valentine. I also thought Benedict Samuel was fantastic and terrifyingly unhinged. His performance kind of gave me Skeet Ulrich vibes from Scream.

ML: Yes! Oh My God. Ive never thought about that, but youre so correct [laughs]! That was one shot where Ive always called it his Christian Slater moment, but I actually am now rethinking it and Im like, I dont think its Christian Slater. I think its Skeet Ulrich. Its that looking up from underneath his eyebrows at you. That sinister kind of chaotic feel that he has.

DC: Did you have any specific actors in mind when you wrote the script, or did you go through the regular casting process?

ML: I think with any film project, if it turns out well, it is because the whole team had the same movie in mind and also a series of miracles occurred [laughs]. You just need a little bit of that flash of magic or outside spirit to make everything come together the way its supposed to, I believe. I really felt that in terms of this cast. The whole process was very quick, so when I talk early stages, its the months that we were talking about the idea. Because the months it was getting written were right after that and then we were shooting.

So, when I started writing, I had seen Glow and I also was familiar with Britts work, and then I was personally familiar with the work of this other actress, Anna Lore. When I was looking at a script that was centered around two characters who looked uncannily similar, I didnt write it to their voices specifically, but I definitely wrote it with the hope that both girls would be interested in the project and available, particularly Britt. In the first season, what she does with her character on Glow, I felt was just so sublime. Then when I sat down with her and talked to her about this project, shes just such a wonderful person. She brought so much strength and power to this character, who for a good portion of the movie is barely speaking. Shes just responding to this re-traumatizing, re-triggering experience of having to encounter her abuser again.

Really, its remarkable what she did. Those were the first couple of days that we were shooting and she was mostly just reacting, and I knew from the get-go when we were starting to get into it, I was just like, This is going to be a really incredible thing to witness. Truly every performance in the movie, all of the people brought their A game, and then some. I think youre supposed to get tired of watching your own movie [laughs], but I never grow tired of watching their performances, because I think all of them, Anna Akana, Sachin Bhatt, everybody brought something beautiful and really grounded to the movie, which exists in this very fantastical, music video space. If it didnt have those really human performances in it, I think it would get a little like, Oh, were just doing crazy for crazy sake. But those performers really keep it personal and they keep it beautifully emotional the whole time.

DC: You address some really important issues in My Valentine in a way that feels personal and authentic and I think its extremely well-written. Why did you want to explore survivors of abuse and the journey of finding yourself with this story?

ML: Thank you. It is personal. Its something that Ive been really close to myself. This particular cycle of abuse and being locked in a toxic dynamic with somebody is something that Ive witnessed in the lives of the women who are closest to me. I think that we are in this cultural moment where we are unearthing these sort of dark patterns that we have let go on for years and years, because we havent been able to recognize them. When you are in that dynamic personally or when you are very close to it, it becomes so difficult to see reality.

To step outside of it and to have the strength to remove yourself from the situation; and I really wanted to talk about and demonstrate what it is like to fall into the maelstrom of a person who is so charming, so dynamic, and so kind of all over the place, that they manage to keep you in their vortex. And even if you are really smart and really powerful, it becomes almost impossible to break away, and that process of breaking away is really painful. The reason why I wanted to do the therapy podcast and discuss all that stuff is because the process of recovery, in it and out of it, is so intense and I think just a vital thing to be talking about right now.

DC: I think its important that you show that it is possible to remove yourself from a toxic relationship, and thats the part that really got to me when Britts character finally found herself. Im sure there are women out there who think it isnt possible, but it is, and you emphasize that with this movie.

ML: Thank you. That is really meaningful to me. Thats where Im hoping it will hit people. Yes, it is a fun and occasionally over the top movie, but it really is still fundamentally a story about a persons journey towards empowerment and reclaiming themselves. Its about learning to reconnect with your strength after youve had it deliberately shattered by somebody else.

DC: Youve directed music videos, which explains why the music video segments work so well. The vocals are amazing and Im kind of in love with the song The Knife. How did you decide you wanted to use music and vocals by Dresage?

ML: Thank you. Her artist name is Dresage, but her name is Keeley Bumford. Who is the MVP of this movie? I think I have to give it to Keeley aka Dresage. When I stepped into this process, I had no idea I was going to wind up working with her on it. It all happened really quickly. I knew her socially and she was the vocal director of a stage production of Rocky Horror that I had done. She has this incredible voice and I knew her to be a really great songwriter, and she had done some things in film and television. When I really got into the process of working on this, I felt that it was really important that the songs be composed and produced by a woman artist. Im really blessed, not only that Keeley said yes, but that much like the actors in this movie, she gave it completely her all.

We would talk about the emotional structure of what the songs needed to cover. For instance, The Knife is about starting a relationship when youre scared to dive all the way in, but you can feel yourself falling headfirst. She took that basic concept, and a couple of basic artist references I gave her of what I kind of thought it should sound like, and crafted that into something that is not only completely, cleverly referential to the film, it includes the thematic element of the murder weapon [laughs], and all these other fun little things, but she also made this song that feels like a radio hit. It feels like the song that they would be fighting over, which is a feat, to have been able to pull that off so well [laughs]. The premise of the movie really hangs on your ability to buy into this idea of Valentine being this remarkable artist, who has been robbed of her talents. I think Keeleys work, especially with the opening song, which is called Parts of Me, really helps you buy into that. Britts performance combined with that sound is like, Oh yeah, this woman is an unbelievable performer and what a songwriter.

DC: My Valentine is very modern and relevant, and I love the snapchat-y shots with emojis, hearts, and stars. It also adds some dark humor to the story which breaks the tension of the seriousness of the subject matter. I think you do such a great job showing the good and the bad that comes from social media. What do you hope the audience takes away from the film?

ML: Thats a really great question. If there is a lesson to be learned from this movie, or from any online community encounter, it is the importance of remembering that theres a human on the other end of the keyboard. Theres a person with a lived experience, but you might not completely understand. So, developing a purely reactive opinion based on the little piece of the story that youre seeing on Twitter or on Youtube, is probably not necessary, not the best idea [laughs]. I also think that we live in an age where that disconnect allows us to go with our first reaction, which is not always our best reaction. Ive done it, too. Ive seen a headline and gone, This person is cancelled.

Its a dangerous habit that I think we all have gotten into of basing our opinions of people off one tiny, little blip that goes through our feed. I think that the tendency of people to get together and dogpile before going into a deeper understanding of the person or the story theyre dogpiling on is dangerous. Its got a dark side and a light side, right? The light side is that a lot of people who have been taking advantage of other people or doing horrible things unchecked; the internet police have gotten a lot of those people and taken them down in a way that I think is really positive. But the flip side is that we have a little bit of a mob mentality towards everything nowadays. It can really feel like the internet is the whole world [laughs]. You stare into the Eye of Sauron that is your phone, and you think, This is very meaningful. But if you put it down for four or five hours, you go, Oh, its really not [laughs]. The actual human connection with the people around me and in front of me is way more important and valuable than that.

DC: I know My Valentine is your debut feature, but would you like to make more horror movies, and can you tell me what youre working on next?

ML: Yes. I love genre film in general, so Im really looking forward to doing more work in the horror and Sci-Fi genre space. I think I also want to continue to tell stories that are about women. Thats important to me and I want to do everything. I also want to continue my relationship with music and musicals and Rock and Roll, so Im hoping to continue in all directions. Whether that means Ill be busting out horror musical after horror musical, I dont know [laughs]. I think on the horizon is a little bit of everything, because all of those areas are meaningful to me.

A lot of things I cant talk about yet, because theyre not done deals [laughs]. But coming up in the future, I am doing a few more music videos that are also horror-based music videos. And I have that feature that I originally talked about, which is in development, that Sci-Fi, apocalyptic thing that led me to My Valentine in the first place. Then I have another horror feature about three generations of women who are haunted by the same imaginary friend when theyre little girls. So those are the three things that Im working on right now.

DC: I really appreciate you taking time to talk with me today!

ML: Likewise, and Im beyond touched that you said the things you said about the film. It fills my heart up that it is hitting all of those places for you, because that is what I tried to do. You never know until you let it out into the world if its going to do what you intended.

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Interview: Director Maggie Levin Talks INTO THE DARK: MY VALENTINE, Empowering Victims of Abuse, and Social Media - Dread Central

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February 9th, 2020 at 6:50 pm

Birds of Prey Is a Surprising Celebration of Sisterhood Here’s What It Gets Right – POPSUGAR

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Birds of Prey has been marketed very much as Deadpool-level violence, but make it girl power. In reality, it's actually a surprisingly relatable depiction of one of the most powerful experiences of being a woman: the sisterhood that forms between near-strangers when in need. Instead of paying lip service to female empowerment or trying to spin complicated emotional bonds in a short time, the movie leans heavily on this common experience to create a movie that's as much about the lived experience of ordinary women as it is about a group of messed-up antiheroes.

In many ways, Birds of Prey is largely a metaphor for the instinctive way that so many women, even total strangers, will often close ranks and lend a hand to a sister in need. Unlike many other superhero "team-up" movies, Birds of Prey keeps its characters separate for much of the movie: their paths intersect here and there so that it makes sense why they'd all end up in the same place by the end, but they're all after their own goals and even are in direct opposition to each other at times. And yet, in the end, when they're all faced with the option of teaming up or trying to run and save their own individual skins, there's no question that they'll work together to get out alive and protect the tweenage pickpocket Cassandra Cain. The movie doesn't need to spend ages on narrative twists to justify this; it's simply understood.

The acts of sisterhood aren't just big superhero antics, though, but moments that will look familiar to ordinary women in the audience. In one scene, a drunk Harley is cornered and nearly kidnapped by a creep at a bar, and Dinah Lance who just listened to Harley vent about her breakup first tries to walk away from the scene, then steps in to deliver a cathartic beatdown of the would-be kidnappers. Later, during the final battle, Harley sees Dinah struggling when her long hair keeps falling in her face, and she offers Dinah a hair tie in one of the most ordinary and most recognizable acts of solidarity and woman-to-woman understanding.

It's the kind of moment that would be unlikely to appear in a story told by and for men, not for any nefarious reason, but because that's such an inherently female experience: spotting another woman in need of a small assist, correctly evaluating the problem, and lending a hand. If you've ever pretended to know a stranger at a bar to help her escape a creep, given the woman at the sink next to you a compliment, or offered a nail file or hair tie to an officemate, you'll relate, and that's the point: these women may be superheroes, but the way they relate to each other is completely familiar.

In contrast, the men in the movie are, without fail, depicted as mercenary at best and downright evil at worst. On the "not great but not evil" side, we've got the men at Renee's precinct, including her former partner who has risen through the ranks by taking credit for Renee's work but who doesn't appear to be a bad or unreasonable man. There's also "Doc," the kindly old man who lets Harley hide out in his building until he gets offered enough money to betray her and justifies it as "just business." Of course, we've also got the downright evil men, too: petty, insecure crime boss Roman Sionis who is obsessed with owning everything (or destroying what he can't own), and his gleefully sadistic right-hand man Victor Zsasz. In the world of Birds of Prey, relying on other women is the safest bet in a world that has no truly safe bets.

It's not just a "women are good/men are bad" depiction, though. Ali Wong's character assistant district attorney Ellen Yee chooses to betray Renee's trust and decides to work "inside" the patriarchal, institutional structures rather than accept that they might be corrupt or unfair. When she reports Renee's off-the-books investigation of Sionis to Renee's boss, she not only betrays a personal trust (a bit of narration reveals she's Renee's ex-girlfriend), but sides with a male-led structure that she knows is unfair because she still believes it is more trustworthy than Renee's theories. Ellen is not villainized for doing so, even though it costs Renee her job, but it adds a layer that reminds us that forged sisterhood is not universal and that how we decide to interact with power structures still matters.

The male-dominated world of superhero movies is getting more and more women in charge, both in Marvel and DC's universe. Still, Birds of Prey stands alone for its unique take on sisterhood. It doesn't pretend that its characters are flawless paragons of virtue: they're messy, messed up, morally questionable, and have as many bad qualities as good ones. But they've got each other's backs in a practical, relatable way, and that's what makes all the difference.

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Birds of Prey Is a Surprising Celebration of Sisterhood Here's What It Gets Right - POPSUGAR

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February 9th, 2020 at 6:50 pm

Georgia Ku Drops A Heart-Toiling New Single, "Ever Really Know" –

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The 26-year-old songstress is boldly vulnerable on this latest track.

The 26-year-old songstress is boldly vulnerable on this latest track.

Georgia Ku may have written hits for Dua Lipa, Rita Ora, and Fifth Harmony behind the scenes, but in her latest single, Ever Really Know, shes ready to be seen for who she is. The heartfelt song is accompanied by a stylishly ambiguous video.

At the core of the track is the disenchantment one feels as their romance deteriorates. This concept stems from Kus own personal experience in a recent relationship. I felt like the person who I fell in love with was changing and becoming someone different and not who I fell in love with. The sentiment of the song is reminiscing about old times and essentially being pulled back in by this person, but wondering if this is really the person [that I loved] said Ku. The lyrics are touching and raw, oscillating between crafting the imagery of a charming relationship and questioning how said relationship has devolved. The change of beat for the chorus complements the narrative of push-pull love.

But its definitely not about weakness. In a way it shows a strong woman who isnt afraid to admit that shes vulnerable, but its also saying this isnt going to happen again. I think theres a little bit of empowerment there.

The music video, directed by Mariah Winter, is less straightforward. Featuring Ku inside of a car that is covered with a plastic tarp with hands pressed against it, its metaphorical value is largely determined by the viewer. I like that [the video] left [its message] up to the audience. The way I interpreted it, with the hands on the car, is like the car is my brain and the hands were all of these emotions I felt trying to sway me, and me giving into it but questioning it at the same time, said Ku.

This will be the first time fans are offered a glimpse into Kus personal life since her single What Do I Do? was released last summer. This video is a lot more intimate than what I normally do. The song comes from a real place. This idea of vulnerability extends to the clothing she wears in the video. She especially loves the Marine Serre moon top. I wanted to make sure you could see my figure, because I normally hide myself in baggy clothes. So I wanted to make sure that the simplicity of the clothing and how tight it was on me showed the pureness of the song, she said.

Ultimately, Ku couldnt be happier to explore her voice as a solo artist further and share a new side of herself with her followers. I want people to be able to connect with it and get to know me, she said

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Georgia Ku Drops A Heart-Toiling New Single, "Ever Really Know" -

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