The Fear Girls

Category: Author: Sophia

Interview with Artist, Vanessa Teodoro

Vanessa Teodoro is an illustrator and street artist living in Lisbon, Portugal. “My art is a reflection of what’s going on in my life and the way I wish things were. Sometimes you can find some headless men (ex-boyfriends) and chubby ladies that kick ass flying about in my work.” Tedodoro’s characters manifest from her own life experiences as well as the thing she loves – graffiti, tattoos, African patterns and even comic books. Many of her pieces feature strong female icons such as wonder woman, but often with a humorous and colorful twist.

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    Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Vanessa moved to Lisbon and worked for 3 years as a art director for advertising agencies. The commercial arena gave her a knack for self-promotion and taught her how to handle selling her artwork.

“I’m quite the feminist myself,” says Vanessa. One of Vanessa’s defining attributes as a street artist is that she is a woman. “It’s not a common thing yet, seeing girls with spray cans that are not afraid of breaking a nail. I’m trying  to show younger woman and other female artists that there’s a whole world out there (on the big empty walls) and that it doesn’t have to be illegal either…. All the work I’ve done so far on the street has been commissioned and legal. So the world needs more female street artists and maybe joining ‘forces’, collaborating and not always having that female competitive vibe going on, we can rule the world (and the walls)”

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    Vanessa has worked with brands such as MTV, Vodafone, TMN, Optimus, Citroen, WESC, Eastpak, Playboy, Compal B and Canon.

You can check out more Vanessa’s work via her facebook & her website,

Interview with Vanessa Teodoro

Sophia/Q: When did you begin making street art and when did you decide you wanted it to be your career?

Vanessa: The street art adventure started as a curiosity, I asked a writer friend of mine if he wanted to do a collaboration. It was to paint a large outdoor area in a city hall organized event. He said yes, and that’s how I started to intervene in a more urban outdoor environment. This was back in 2008, which is not that long ago. At the time I was working in advertising agencies as a junior art director, so if was a breath of fresh air to get my hands dirty again. Now I work professionally as an illustrator that by the way also does street art. I don’t think that I can make a career out of this, but while the “hype” of it all is making people and companies pay for it, keep ’em coming!

Q: How would you describe the street art community in Lisbon? Is it in general collaborative, or is there more emphasis on individualism?

Vanessa: Lisbon is a big-small city and everybody know one another (in a good or bad way), and because of that you would think that collaborations would be more frequent, but they aren’t. People here are more concerned about their own self-exposure / “individualism”. Of course you can find the whole “krew” art scene going on, where the writers work together, but not always. With artists that aren’t writers, things are more of a “do what you can to make it”, so you can imagine that, plus being a chick in a “man’s world”.

Q: Who are some of your favorite artists & where do you draw inspiration?

Vanessa: I don’t have a particular style or artist that I get inspiration from, sometimes it’s more of a random web search or going through books and magazines. But, I do have favorite artists that inspire me to go that extra mile, such as: Yuko Shimiso, Remed, Broken Fingaz, Aryz, Miss Van, Lister and soooo many others. (I’d love to have more female artist in that list) I just discovered this cool magazine that only promotes creative woman: Curvy.

Q: What are your hopes for the street art community in the future?

Vanessa: That it won’t be used as just a way to show your name, but to do something useful for the urban environment.

Q: What has been your favorite project to date?

Vanessa: It was this 70m wall I painted with 3 other artists in Lisbon, for the Pampero art foundation. First because it was huge and I love collaborations, painting alone is so lonely.

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Virgin Mary on the Dash

sophia_bicon By Sophia Rowland
I am not religious. My parents came from Catholic families, but it didn’t stick for them so no religion was ever pushed onto me. Certainly at times I have been interested in religion from scholarly perspectives, but that’s about it. I wouldn’t call myself an all out atheist – I just don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it. Perhaps this is why my friends think my relationship with the Virgin Mary statue on my dashboard is funny…

My car is a 20+ year-old Lexus. It came with a ‘coexist’ bumper sticker and a statue of the Virgin Mary on the dashboard. When I first got the car, I was pretty decided they both had to go. But then when the guys at the car wash asked if I wanted to take off the bumper sticker, I was filled with guilt. The same guilt I encounter when I occasionally ‘almost’ unsubscribe from Obama’s emails. ‘Come on, is coexist such a bad message?’ I found my inner dialogue saying ‘Of course not!’ And so the sticker stayed.

Virgin Mary

Virgin Mary is about 2.5 inches high, earthquake puttied on, and looks like the previous owner burnt a cigarette on her once. It would be so easy to just pull her off and stick her in a box headed for the Goodwill… Yet, there is something about VM that is kind of like the ‘coexist’ bumper sticker. It isn’t the same kind of statement that a statue of Jesus-on-the-cross or some other controversial religious image… it is just Mary. And Mary was pretty chill. Maybe we can even go out on a limb and call her an early feminist. Yeah that’s right, Mary was pretty feminist in a ‘mother-to-all’ kind of way.

Mostly I think the statue has magic bruja (witch) power. Which is hard enough to say out loud but a little harder to admit to the internet. But seriously… First of all, I do NOT get parking tickets. I have not pushed this theory, but there have been several times where I have accidentally parked my car on my street without putting the parking pass in my car – and no ticket. I have also even seen other cars ticked around my car when I should have been ticked too. No one wants to mess with the Virgin Mary/Coexist combo pack. So what’s the explanation to all this? Clearly Parking enforcement must think I’m a peace loving old lady and they take mercy on the car…. Or the statue is looking out for me. You know, either one.

Taco Truck Kitten Rescue

sophia_bicon By Sophia Rowland
There is a taco truck I frequent in Los Angeles. Not too long ago I realized there was a colony of feral kitties living in the alleyway behind it. Not a lot of people realize, but the Humane Society/the city of Los Angeles does not go around taking care of that cat colony problem. There a thousands of cats living on the streets in LA alone. Not only that, but if animal services is called, baby or adult, the first thing that happens in many shelters is the cat is euthanized. If the colony is left alone, the cats breed like bunnies and a situation of 3 cats can easily turn into 30. And if really left alone that 30 can become 300. It is a very tough problem, and with over crowding in shelter it may seem like euthanizing is the only option… but it isn’t and it shouldn’t be. There are cat groups throughout LA that attempt to rescue from kill-shelters and also take cats off the street. If the cat is feral, you trap it, get it fixed and then re-release it. Honestly, it is the best and most humane method – and it works.

Back to my taco truck – the guys working there were risking getting in trouble with the health department because there were so many cats. Not only that, but a previous batch of kittens had been accidentally run over by cars pulling in and out to park for the truck. The guys were desperate. Mama had 4 kittens (about 5 weeks old) – they needed to be captured, rehabilitated, and adopted out. And mama needed to get spayed and released back to the colony as she is very feral. The guys at the taco truck had called shelters but they were getting no responses and no help. After seeing me hand over some taco meat to mama kitty, they asked me if I had any ideas. Fortunately, I had done some rescue/fostering as a teenager. I told them I would make some calls…

I called dozens of rescue groups / no-kill shelters. I asked if they knew anyone who could foster, or at least help me trap them. No one would help me or even call me back. Even groups I had volunteered for in the past! But right as I was feeling hopeless, I got a reply from the group Luxe Paws. With their help we were able to trap two of the kittens and mama. Later today we will hopefully get the other two kittens. We’ve been going every night, and it is amazing the kind of response we get from the guys at the taco truck. It is not in the safest area, but the guys working there have been so helpful. Even the guys on the side selling bootleg dvds are rooting us on. I’m talking big latino dudes, who you would not expect to give 2 cents about tiny kittens asking us what we are doing this and why while getting totally invested as the kittens inch towards the cage. “Did you get the kitten, blanca? Oh the you got that one – he is the prettiest!” I think I think witnessing that gives people hope. The support I personally received from Luxe Paws gave me hope.

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Lenny is a 5wk old male orange tabby and he still needs a home! If you live in the Los Angeles area and know anyone who is interested please email me -> thefeargirls@gmail.com

Trap, fix, release is a great method. Contacting Luxe Paws (if you are in the Silver Lake area) or any cat group and learning how to set traps, foster kittens, etc. is such a wonderful use of your free time. It is also a great thing to do as a teenager – it certainly gave my hormonal, angsty self a sense of purpose back in the day… Maybe you don’t have the time to do trappings or the space to foster (I know I usually do not) – however there are ways to get involved. These organizations are totally non-profit and get hardly any help. The women who rescue and foster often pay all the vet bills themselves (the city does not help to control the feral cat population at all). Simply liking the group on FB and sharing some of their ‘adopt this kitten’ posts makes a huge impact. Your friend of a friend of a friend may see the picture and decide they want an adorable kitty! It is as simple as that. I know how getting involved can seem daunting but keep in mind that a little bit goes a very long way!

Also – please LIKE Luxe Paws on FB and contact them if you are interested in getting involved/ volunteering / adopting!

Girls With Mopeds

By Sophia Rowland

Last week I had the pleasure of being invited to The Egyptian movie theater in Hollywood. I was there to see the screening of “The Gaskettes” a 15-minute documentary about a group of girls who ride mopeds in Los Angeles. The moped culture in Los Angeles has definitely become a notable addition to the hipster scene in Echo Park. As a Los Angeles native, and a documentary connoisseur of sorts, I was very much intrigued.


The documentary itself does not attempt to really explain or historicize moped culture; rather it serves as a sort of time capsule. It preserves a moment in time with a particular group of moped loving ladies. The Gaskettes themselves are women in their early to late twenties who ride and fix bikes. They wear gold jackets with their Gaskettes emblem, reminiscent of the pink ladies in Grease. In the film we see the girls wear red lipstick, or even tutus (almost certainly paired with combat boots) all the while zooming on vintage bikes. The girls maintain a sort of ‘adorable badass vibe’ – and it is awesome! For 15 minutes you are initiated into the cult (or rather, secret club) of moped-sisterhood.

Before watching the documentary, I admittedly knew very little about mopeds, and I’m not sure if I’m that much wiser now that I’ve come out the other side. However, that is almost beside the point as the real charm to the film is the relationships these young women have with their bikes and also, each other.

The media loves to paint the portrait of the modern young women as vain, bitch and always ready for a cat fight; So it is refreshing to watch real girls just flat out enjoying each others company and having a shared interest that is pretty freakin’ cool. Each young woman interviewed comes off as very real and likable while they also maintain the cool, hipster LA vibe… in a non-pretentious way.

I also had an opportunity to interview two of the Gaskettes – Hilary and Devo. Check it out….

Interview with Hilary and Devo:

Sophia/Q: You’ve been riding and fixing mopeds for awhile now. In the film, you mentioned how sometimes you even help your guy-friends work on their bikes. When talking about it, Hilary said it was like ‘the reverse damsel in distress’. So with that in mind, do you feel that riding mopeds has been an empowering experience?

Hilary: I remember for the spring fling ride there was a fairly new rider who came out and his bike wasn’t running the best, so I pulled over to see if I could help him out; I always try to carry whatever tools I think I’ll need on me. Turns out his jetting was off I was able to diagnose the problem, give him the specific jet size he needed for his carb and set up, and help him install it with a few simple tools and kind words. In the end it was nice to realize that in the moped world I was on even ground with my male counterparts; we were with two of his male friends who were unable to help him.
As far as the gender-gap between guys and gals when it comes to mechanical stuff, there really isn’t any physical reason why one is more traditionally drawn to it than the other, just that a lot of young men because it is socially expected learn basic things about tools and mechanics that younger girl aren’t expected to, and so usually don’t. It is empowering; it’s just one of those many little things that makes you realize, yeah all the stuff we’ve been socially taught to think should be this or that way don’t need to be. He wasn’t offended or emasculated that I helped him, we were just two people with a similar interest in mopeds, and I happened to be a girl, which is awesome I think.

Devo: It’s funny I just stopped to help out these guys on a scooter the other day! They had one of those battery powered bikes, but the battery wasn’t making a connection, and didn’t have the tools to get to it. voila! I never leave home without tools. I’m not sure if empowering is quite the term I’d use? But every once in awhile, I’ll see another woman on a bike & in passing and we give each other that nod or one of those ‘air fives’ it kinda gives me a sense of community. I’m also usually going ‘Hell yeah lady rider!’

Sophia/Q: Where were you in your life, pre-moped, and how have you changed since?

Hilary: In a lot of ways my life is very similar to before I got my first moped in early march 2009, I live the same place, have the same job (although with a pay raise or two thankfully) and am still in school, although my major has changed… but what is important is that I have found a great new group of friends and a new way to have fun and explore my surroundings through mopeds. Before I got my moped, although I had lived in LA my whole life I barely knew my way out of my neighborhood. Now by moped I could lead you on all my favorite routes around the city to Glendale, eagle rock, Pasadena, Silverlake and Echo Park, downtown, Westchester and everywhere in between – all without a map.
And my world has expanded much farther beyond LA area as well. The moped community is very tight, likely because many of the bikes are vintage and to learn to repair or find a replacement for a part, you are going to need to turn to somebody who is also into the same thing; moped people are generally like minded.
So there are many events around the country where the local gang or crew plans a weekend of routes and parties; a “Rally”. It may sound weird but many of my favorite experiences in the past few years have been in Portland, Reno, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, Long Beach, Tucson, hanging out and riding with brand new friends right along side my old ones. Since many people attend multiple rallies in different cities each year you tend to form really close friendships with people cities or even states away. In the end this has made me far more extroverted, and confident in all kinds of aspects of my life from talking to a stranger about mechanical things, to navigating my very large city on side streets, to being social and outgoing in new situations or with new people. Which I think is what your 20s are for.

Devo: Pre moped I just got out of high school & was studying acting. Before, I just knew about mopeds through Hilary, and her brother Danny. I had no idea it was such a big community! Now, I’ve been riding for a couple years and have had the chance to go out to rallies and meet other mopeders from across the country. I guess the best sum of it is I’ve gained a lot of ridiculous moped lingo (‘Throw a kit on that shit!’), plenty of life experience points, engine grease under my nails, and a group of amazing people whom I couldn’t imagine life without now. I still am going out on auditions and castings, now I’m just doing it on a moped!

Sophia/Q: Has the group dynamics changed at all since the making of the documentary? It was refreshing to watch a film (albeit, a documentary) about a group of girls interacting together with little to no drama – was that a realistic depiction of how you guys are together? And/or do you agree that groups of girls, in fiction and real life, are often depicted as catty and drama-ridden? Does having a unifying love like mopeds bring together more focused individuals?

Devo: I feel so lucky to have been absorbed into this group of phenomenally badass ladies. Each one of them is talented, unique, and fierce in their own way. Sometimes it’s hard getting us all together in one room (we all have insane schedules!), but when we do get together it never feels like much time has passed at all between us. These girls have really become my family. In the past year or so since I became a Gaskette, we’ve all laughed together, shared sadness together, (not to mention a few shots of whiskey) and made awesome memories. I have always had more guy friends than girls, but I know that if I ever need to borrow a wrench or pour my woes out these girls got my back!

Hilary: The group has changed, we now have Zoey, who I think is in some of the footage but wasn’t a Gaskette at the time, but we also have lost a lot of girls. Kelly moved to Portland, and both Saras are in the Bay Area now. It’s weird to watch a film that was started so long ago, because its like a time capsule of a period in time that is different now.
The film also shows a slightly more glammed up, shiny, girly version of us… but I guess that comes from a bit of vanity and knowing you are going to be filmed.
I like that you mention how we are all getting along, because that is true, I love all those girls, and have depended on them for all kinds of things from a bit of girl chat over a glass of wine to serious cry fests over a breakup. Some of us are closer than others, and we don’t spend as much time together as I would like but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fight or heard bickering or negative words from one of us to or about any others; it’s really refreshing because there is no competition or need to prove ourselves to each other.
My moped friends fast became my family. They are who I spend my birthday with, go camping with, who I have thanksgiving dinner with, who I take silly Christmas card photos with, and who I do all the small things in between those big moments with. We ring in the joys of New Year’s together and sit by the fire and contemplate the losses our family has had together. It’s a sense of family I don’t think I’ve ever had before.


If you are in the San Francisco area be sure to check out the next screening on November 16th / click ‘here’ for details.

Into The Depths Of The Rays

 By Sophia Rowland

When I was a little girl, I was fearless. My parents have always been strong advocates for travel and as a result, took me many places. Whether it was exploring the Ushmal pyramids in the Yucatan, or climbing to the highest rock in Joshua Tree, I showed no hesitation. When we were in the Galapagos, I had no problem jumping into an ocean with hammerhead sharks below… (aside from a deep fear of bugs), I was brave.

At twenty-three I sometimes wonder what in the world happened to that little girl, especially when it comes to water, and more specifically, the ocean. I grew up a fish, I am a rather strong and fast swimmer, and I always have been. I’m not Michael Phelps of course, but jumping into the ocean was never a problem when I was eleven, or eight, or five.

I have been to Hawaii before (the Big Island). There is a bay in Kona that harbors Captain Cook’s Monument. You can only reach this snorkel paradise by either kayak or boat or a very difficult hike. The first time I went, we kayaked across the bay. The reef is beautiful, and the coral and the fish are spectacular. I kicked along surrounded by yellow, blue, and rainbow fishies, entranced by this underwater landscape. Then I turned and saw the drop off. When the reef ends, the crystal clear water, maybe fifty feet deep, is a desolate blank and I am alone. Floating soundlessly, being slowly sucked into the emptiness of the ocean, and I am afraid of that nothingness. And I become at once afraid of the unknown of the ocean.

My kind, kind, kind parents took me with them to Hawaii on February 23rd, 2012. I was pumped. I love warm weather, lying on the sand, and the beautiful water that surrounds the Big Island. This marks my third time to Kona. The first few days were restful, and the little beaches with snorkeling coves hardly tested my nerves…they did test them, though. I lovingly walked into the waves and let them crash against me, swimming under and over and forcing my mind to stop thinking that dark shadow swimming by is a great white shark. Its just your shadow. Calm down.

I can’t totally blame myself for going from the Indian Jones-like kid I was to what I am now. Paranoid. I think it is just a natural transition when life starts to hit you. Life really hit me hard when I turned eighteen and I watched my grandfather die before me. Even in the comfort (if you can call it that) of a hospital bed, I watched a man I love struggle to let go of life and have it taken from his strong hands. Life. It became more precious. My biggest fear (and again, paranoia) of losing my parents in some tragic accident got worse. And even more so the real reality hit – that I will one day lose them, to tragedy, illness or old age. Life. It is very short. And somehow watching my grandfather, who was always so powerful, go from alive to dead took a brave little girl with him.

Or did it?

For whatever reason, on this recent trip to Hawaii, my parents decided to schedule us for some activities. A horseback ride through a valley, a boat trip to Captain Cook’s, and a manta ray snorkel.

The manta experience is this. A boat takes you to the middle of the ocean where the mantas come to feed. Divers go down and shine lights to make the plankton rise, the mantas come out to eat. Simple right? Except it’s at night. Except that mantas can be as big as 16 feet long (wingspan). Except what if the ocean is rough? What if a huge shark comes out of nowhere and eats me? What if a wave comes and knocks off my father’s prescription scuba mask and he can’t see and somehow drowns while simultaneously being choked to death by the draw string of his wet suit?!

My father and mother were also a little tentative. We all had our worries. But Fear Girls’ writer and beloved friend Sasha told us it was “awesome” so my mother said, “Let’s do it,” and somehow, we did.

The boat ride over was fine. We were all a little nervous and I was more than a little seasick. I was the first to throw on my wetsuit. Fins in hand, mask defogged. I sat on the edge of the boat, legs in the water to cool off the nausea.

“You can go in and snorkel a bit if you want,” the captain told me. It was sunset, and the water was calm. I needed to get off the boat to avoid vomiting.
“Thanks, okay!” came the strong voice of a thought-to-be-gone adventurer.

I started to descend, and no sooner did I look down into the clear water did I see three gigantic rays circling below me. I quickly climbed back up the ladder and forgot that the brave, fearless me had just spoken a moment ago.

The swaying of the boat was worse. I hate throwing up. So I went down into the water and let the giant rays circle me. Finally our snorkel guide came in and then the other snorkelers and finally my parents. I kicked and waited for them, not daring to look down. The sun was nearly gone. A light on the floating board we all clung to came on.
“Lay flat on your stomach,” our guide told us. We did.

There are moments in life where you realize you are nothing but a tiny spec in the universe. That all the paranoia, all the fear, and all the bullshit… it doesn’t mean anything because you are a tiny, insignificant, beautiful being amongst a sea of other wonderful little creatures.

I was afraid when the mantas came at us and rolled up, letting our stomachs almost touch. Rays are harmless of course, but their bodies are so ghost-like it makes them less huggable than sea lions and dolphins seem to be. But the rays are marvelous.

When I went snorkeling for the first time in Mexico, I was five. I was out with my mother and I was so excited I kept talking through my snorkel and getting it full of sea water. She finally pulled it out of my mouth and told me to hold my breath instead.

When I went snorkeling with the rays, it was the first time since then that I made so much ‘squealing’ from both fear and delight that I caught a mouthful of sea water. I had to raise my head to clear it out. Looking out around me, I saw other groups holding on to similar floating boards. Boats surrounded us, their lights cutting through the darkness of the sky. And below, the lights from the divers lit up the sea and set the stage for the dance of the rays.

On the boat ride back, I sat up top with the wind blowing through my hair and cooling my bones. I sat there alone, the other passengers below deck. And as I watched the coast go by me, I remembered a little fearless girl climbing the pyramids at Ushmal and being afraid. Of being atop a high rock in Joshua Tree and worrying about falling. Of a pang of concern about hammerheads in the Galapagos… Before this moment it was just the experience I had remembered, not the fear. Perhaps my fears are greater now then they were then. I am certainly more aware of my mortality. But as many writers have said before me, to be brave you must also be a little scared.

Sophia at Ushmal age 6