He SAID: The Birth of a Classic

Scott F. Evans

The following is a review of Nate Parker’s film, The Birth of a Nation. It is not another rehash of his past allegations, nor is it an unfair projection of those charges onto this work. I have no interest in retrying him in the court of public opinion. I will not be address  topics of “toxic masculinity”, rape culture, the meaning of consent, personal responsibility, or the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption. If you’re looking for a commentary on those things as they relate (or not) to The Birth of a Nation, there are literally dozens of pieces all over the web devoted to that pursuit. It is this writer’s opinion that Parker’s past is irrelevant to this film.

Now that we’ve gotten that shit out of the way…

birth-6Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation is nearly a masterpiece. It’s a little pretentious and some scenes suffer under the limited budget. But beyond that, this film works on just about every level. While its main strengths are in the performances, Parker and cinematographer Elliot Davis turn in a very attractive looking piece. I don’t think the cinematography will win any awards, but visually it is an elegant motion picture. This is Parker’s first feature film and he already has a strong sense of pacing and control. The film moves along at a good clip and he brings the run time in at a manageable two hours. That may sound short for a historical bio, but Nat Turner’s story doesn’t feel shortchanged. The common practice in modern cinema seems to be padding these stories out to two and a half or three hours. Parker keeps it tight, hitting us with just enough to craft a more than satisfying character study.

Which is what The Birth of a Nation actually is. The film’s name and advertising are a little misleading. This is not the sprawling epic the title suggests. Instead it’s an examination of how Nat Turner goes from being an unwitting tool of oppression to an instrument of liberation. Make no mistake, this movie is about Nat Turner. The other characters, his wife, fellow slaves, slave-owners and catchers all service Turner’s arc. Parker focuses solely on what makes Turner tick. He explores the environment, and the circumstances that cause a man, raised as property and taught to teach tolerance and peace to his brothers and sisters, to rise up to fight for their freedom. Other characters have minor arcs as well. Nat’s owner, Samuel Turner played by Armie Hammer, goes from being a fairly benign presence in Nat’s life to an outright adversary. Aja Naomi King gives Nat’s wife Cherry some nice levels, taking the character from near feral to quietly dignified to supportive radical. Aunjanue Ellis, Coleman Domingo, and Jackie Earle Haley also give solid and memorable performances.

But The Birth of a Nation is about Nat Turner, and Parker dives into this role… giving us an acting class on nuance, stillness and power… both internal and expressive. Turner is a slave, so he’s forbidden to speak out against the horrors he sees. But Parker shows us through subtle facial expressions and changes in his eyes, exactly how Turner feels about these events. We see him fight to maintain control as his manhood is stripped away from him day after day. He struggles to contain himself as he sees how his sermons are used to control other slaves. Even when he finally explodes, it’s a contained fury. Many actors would go big at these moments. But Parker stays within the character he created. He plays Turner with a consistent level of strength. Even in emotional moments, you can see Turner is always in control of himself. Parker plays Turner with a kind of power rarely seen in modern black male leading roles.

“Oh no, not another slave movie…”

Yes, another slave movie, but here’s the difference. The Birth of a Nation is a tough, uncompromising film. But it’s also an empowering one. The slave characters have agency and are active participants in achieving their goals. There’s no sitting around waiting for white saviors. And while the ending may seem tragic, that’s only the surface level. Even as the rebellion is put down, the characters are even triumphant in defeat. They stood up and died free.

See The Birth of a Nation in theaters.



She SAID: Ready, Set, MAKEUP!

Shahada Karim

Thousands of professional and aspiring makeup artists will take over Downtown Los Angeles this weekend for The Makeup Show LA. The annual trade show, which has grown frothe makeup show 2m a few obscure vendors to top-tier industry influencers, is in its 10th year. Celebrations kick off Friday with a Gala at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel, as artists pay homage to the iconic image of the  Femme Fatale. President of the Makeup Artists/Hair Stylists Guild Susan Cabral-Ebert is the guest of honor.

The trade show gets underway early Saturday morning, and the early bird gets first crack at the latest makeup and skin care offerings from some of the biggest names and fastest rising stars in the industry. Over the last decade, the Makeup Show has steadily grown in influence. An increasing number of professional artists have abandoned the the makeup showbehemoth trade show IMATS (which has become to professional makeup what Comic-Con is to comic books) and opted instead for this pro-only event.  Where IMATS can be mostly spectacle and sensation, The Makeup Show focuses on pro-specific offerings and practical guidelines to thrive in an ever expanding industry.

This year, The Makeup Show LA highlights tattoo-artist-turned-makeup -influencer Kat Von D, whose social media platforms go beyond makeup talk, to emphasize the importance of celebrating individuality and promoting tolerance.

Doors open to guests Saturday March 19th and Sunday March 20th at 9am. Official hashtags for The Makeup Show LA are #TMSLA #INSPIRE and #themakeupshow

We SAID: Making (Scary) Faces

Staff Writer

Halloween is just days away, and many people are scrambling to find the perfect ‘look’ for any given party (or stroll down the street to scare the crap out of little trick or treaters). If you’re looking for a little inspiration, these artists might be able to help you find just what you need to get the job done.



Goldiestarling (Angie) is a humble makeup artist with a huge amount of talent. Her work has been featured in Makeup Artist Magazine, the New York Times, ABC News, Yahoo Shine, and Daily Mail. This refreshing artists speaks to (not at) her viewers, and shows you the simplest way to create complicated looks.



Klaire (with a K) possesses the artist’s penchant for thinking visually. It is often easier for her to show you, than to tell you. Her creations use some of the simplest colors and formulas (you won’t find any ridiculously high priced makeup here). She is a testament to the notion that true art knows no boundaries (or price tags). Be warned: her looks are not exactly suited to a trip to the grocery store. But if you’re headed for a masquerade or costume party, you needn’t look any further than Klaire.



Pixiwoo (Nicola and Samantha Chapman) make their living by applying makeup and selling a collection of affordable Makeup Brushes to help fans imitate their creative looks. Halloween is when the sisters really shine. This rendition of ‘Chucky’ is a perfect example of how (and why) Pixiwoo has been able to parlay their talents into a successful career.

She SAID: In Living Color

Shahada Karim

Once upon a time, I was a girl who lived and breathed in basic black. Black is easy, forgiving, versatile and opens up a world of possibilities for accessorizing… dressing up/dressing down… ect.

And then I decided to become a yoga teacher, and I started dreaming in color. Suddenly I wanted to cultureculture7marry all manner of blues, greens, pinks, yellows… with black of course. 😉 I found a happy marriage of my stoic outsides and colorful insides in Daughters Of Culture. The appeal of this brand goes beyond some of the most amazing color combinations you’ve ever seen, and the most comfortable fit. It is, in truth, so much more.

Founded by Peggy Khoucasian, the brand takes inspiration from the farthest corners of the globe. The prints range from tribal, to fun, to downright psychedilic. The patterns are designed to celebrate culture and art in all forms, including music and performance. Khoucasian says she started the company to bring awareness, and unite women from every walk of life. Her goal is to inspire women to share compassion and speak their truth.

That message may be evidenced in the distinct lack of ‘separation’ in the legging choices. The leggings come in one size, and fit anyone from a 0/2-14 (yes, we tested this theory thoroughly on several body shapes and sizes). There is no reason to consider or feel any kind of way about size selection. One size truly fits most. And then there’s the fabric. It is exquisite. Despite its massive capacity to stretch, it never sheers out. And it feels like… really soft skin. You can sleep in these tights. No… seriously.

culture5 culture3 culture4OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The idea is to make your experience with both purchase and practical application as effortless as possible. The company also offers a line of tops, shorts and coverups. With time, I’ll branch out and explore more. But at the moment it’s all about the leggings. Right now, I’m just trying to figure out how many colors I can fit on my body at one time.

She SAID: Art Is…

Shahada Karim

beka1Millions of people who reside, work or play in any given city know that advertisements and graffiti are a regular part of the scenery. Many see such public displays of attention-grabbing expression as a nuisance (how many of you have complained about those digital billboards?). But Beka K. Pica is inclined to disagree. The creative mind behind Fontella Swiss (a play on words to describe her favorite font) believes it’s possible to find art in the most unlikely of places.

SM: When did you first realize that you were an artist?  beka
BP:I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon. It wasn’t something I thought about like: “I’m going to be an artist”. It was just something I craved.  Being creative is just a part of my DNA. It’s who I am. I love every kind of creativity. You name it, I’ve tried it.

SM: What best describes your art?
BP: There are so many labels these days for art and music. I honestly don’t know what label my art falls under. Modern pinup? Who knows. 
I’d describe my art as Vibrant. I love to use lots of vibrant colors. I get excited when I see unusual color combinations, and I obsess over the intensity of saturated color. I think that’s why I’ve never been interested in painting landscapes. Using muted or neutral colors never appealed to me. Looking back over the decades, I have consistently drawn/painted images of women. The feminine mystic presents the perfect subject matter to express my color obsession.

beka2SM: How do you feel about painting on canvas, versus digital art?
BP: From pixels to paint, I love both. I regularly use both mediums. I feel that I became a better fine artist from endless hours using a digital stylist pen at work. I would leave work after a day of broadcast design and head home to  paint late into the night. Digital art is so forgiving. When you lay your paint down you must be committed to that curvature in that stroke. “Ctrl Z” does not exist in the real world. You can create beautiful work in digital. But I find that creating something physically is rewarding for me. There’s something very primal and cleansing about creating art with your hands. You can get lost in the moment. Its my zen time.

SM: Do you believe that the ‘purity’ of expression is tainted with the assistance of technology?beka3
BP: People have been expressing themselves since the beginning of time. Using technology is just a newer platform for expression.

SM: How do you feel about street art?
BP: I enjoy street art, especially when its clever or thought provoking. When you live in an urban environment, discovering these little clever gems in your concrete jungle is refreshing. It puts a smile on my face. Knowing you just viewed temporary art that might not be around tomorrow leaves a mark on you. Living in a bustling city you’re always in a hurry. Rush, rush, rush. So when you see something humorous it changes your mental gears… and allows you to laugh and be human again.

beka4SM: How do you feel about graffiti?
BP: I used to live in an artist’s loft, and our neighborhood had lots of mural graffiti. It breathed life into an otherwise cold and gritty industrial area. I loved seeing it. The juxtaposition of brick, metal and broken glass next to a bright pink ‘larger than life’ cartoon was intriguing.

SM: When does street art become vandalism? Or is art beyond the reach of vandalism?
BP: That’s a really good question. I guess it depends on who you ask. Street art runs the gamut, from sidewalk chalk art to sculptures to graffiti. The owner of the property will most likely see it as vandalism, if the ‘artist’ didn’t have permission. Graffiti isn’t always art either. I consider tagging or defacing property a form of vandalism because it’s not in the name of art. There is nothing beautiful, skillful, clever or inspiring about tagging chicken scratch on a wall.

‘Swimming Succulent’ (Beka K. Pica)