the audacity

Every year, March and the coming of spring presents an opportunity to awaken. The days are longer, the chill and lethargy of winter starts to fade, and there’s a feeling of optimism in the air. To the collective blue team, March is particularly impactful as it’s Women’s History Month. Women, our sisterhood, and our visions for the future are a huge part of the foundation of our team and of our work. To celebrate this month’s theme of women, we’re featuring three women from The Audacity, “an editorial publication focused on addressing social political issues in a way that forefronts aesthetics.”

Erin Kuykendall (Editor in Chief), Melina Perez (Creative Director), and Maiya Evans’ (Head of Social Media) work and friendship serve as a bright example of what women can accomplish and become together.

nina ho//collective blue

nina ho//collective blue

The idea for The Audacity originally stemmed from Erin and Melina’s background in fashion and publishing. They worked together for a fashion magazine, and, though they loved the opportunity to create beautiful work, they wanted to produce something with a deeper meaning outside of just “new spring necklaces” and the latest “denim on denim” trends.

nina ho//collective blue

nina ho//collective blue

“It started to feel more and more unethical to not be talking about what's happening [politically],” shares Erin. “I love doing photo shoots. I like the visual aesthetics of fashion. And I like the act of putting together a publication. But there's a way that we can create that doesn't blatantly ignore what's happening around us.”

Understanding that opportunity doesn’t always just present itself, Erin and Melina set out to create that space for themselves with The Audacity.

“The magazine really solidified the fashion and activism aspects and made it one thing I could work on,” reflects Melina.

Maiya joined the team later on, with similar motivations to express herself meaningfully.

“I met Melina in class,” Maiya recalls with a playfully annoyed look. “She sat next to me in a room full of empty seats.”

After breaking the non-verbal rule of college classrooms, Melina invited Maiya to a party where she introduced Maiya and Erin to each other.

“I stayed after the party and helped them clean and we were singing ‘Higher’ by Rihanna while cleaning up balloons.”

The first issue of the magazine came out and [my mother] was like, ‘Oh, I can see this isn’t for good Christians.’ To which Erin responded empathically, “You’re damn tootin’!
— Erin

Founded on their shared motivations for progress and admiration for Riri, the baddest girl in fashion, The Audacity launched their first issue in Spring 2016. As the eldest daughter in a conservative family, Erin received some pushback from people back home. Regarding the magazine’s first issue, Erin remarks, “The first issue of the magazine came out and [my mother] was like, ‘Oh, I can see this isn't for good Christians.’”

To which Erin responded empathically, "You're damn tootin'!"

nina ho//collective blue

nina ho//collective blue

As a white woman in the space between creativity and activism, Erin recognizes not only her privilege but also her obligation to be a bridge between where she comes from and where she wants to go. Citing her younger female cousins as her motivation, she wants her work with The Audacity to present an alternative to gender norms and other harmful beliefs for future generations in her family.

“The reason [the work] is important is that it's visible. Other people see that someone is here fighting for you.”

Both Melina and Maiya also derive their motivation from their lived experiences. Melina grew up in Washington Heights, a neighborhood in Manhattan that’s almost 50% Hispanic. Surrounded by a community that looked like her, Melina never had to question her place in the world as a young girl of color. When her family moved upstate, however, her new and unfamiliar environment caused her to question her own confidence and beauty.

“It was weird because I was so comfortable with myself, but then I would see white girls and I'd be like, ‘Well this is what pretty is.’ I found myself wanting to look like them, wanting to be skinny and wanting to assimilate,” reveals Melina. “It really affected me. I think it's really important that we're providing an outlet and visual representation for women of color.”

I think it’s really important that we’re providing an outlet and visual representation for women of color.
— Melina
nina ho//collective blue

nina ho//collective blue

Microaggressions were rampant all throughout my life. And so now I’m like, ‘No, YOU need to shut up.’
— Maiya

As a Black woman, Maiya is all too familiar with the intersections between racism and sexism. Growing up without an outlet to properly express the unfairness she constantly dealt with, Maiya sees The Audacity as a megaphone for all the anger and frustration she previously had to leave unsaid.

“Microaggressions were rampant all throughout my life. And so now I'm like, ‘No, YOU need to shut up.’”

In particular, regressive beliefs about what women “should” do with their lives inspired “The New Stepford,” a photo shoot featured in the magazine’s 6th issue.

“You can't force everyone to be this 50s housewife,” Maiya asserts. “You can't tell them that they have to have a family or what their family has to look like. Or, that they’re already 30 and can’t do anything else later.”

In today’s dense, 24-hour news cycle world, sometimes it can feel helpless to enact progress. It can be difficult to find the balance between patiently understanding that change happens slowly and staying committed to doing the emotionally draining work that needs to be done in order to bring about change. For the Audacity team, the magazine represents a way for them to find that balance and do work that they enjoy while still enacting change as individuals. And when they inevitably get tired and need to turn off for a bit, they have each other and their sisterhood to lean on.

You can support The Audacity through their new online shop! They have merch as well as physical copies of their zine issues on sale. Issue 7 is currently in the works, and the team is planning a release party in May.

Follow The Audacity on Instagram and Facebook to stay in the loop!

kristina gonzalez sander

If the end of the year is a time for reflecting, the beginning of the year is a time for doing. The days between the holidays and New Year’s exists in a surreal passage of time where it’s difficult to even remember what day it is... but at soon as the new year starts, it feels like the traffic light just turned green.

And with a festival on the horizon (February 10), our team is hitting 2019 with our foot on the gas pedal. For those who may not yet have heard, thanks to a grant from the city of Austin’s Cultural Arts Division, collective blue is producing a festival called missfits fest – a one-day festival celebrating Asian-American women in entrepreneurship and the arts. From speaker panels on mental health, sexuality, media representation, and pursuing a creative career, comedy, live music performances, a Bollywood dance workshop, craft vendors, DJ sets, to a night food market, we have a lot of exciting work on our plate.

But while we’re elbows deep in “doing,” our reflections from last year still guide our work and shapes January’s theme.  

We started missfits fest to celebrate the shared experiences of Asian-American women while  also bringing to the forefront the qualities that make us unique, affirming us as writers of our own narratives.

To exemplify this month’s theme of “individuality,” we’re featuring our fellow missfits fest collaborator, Kristina Gonzalez Sander. A multidisciplinary creative and logistical badass, Kristina is the Project Manager for Party at the Moontower (a minority and woman-owned event furniture rental company), and recently founded in bold company, an online journal exploring the raw stories of women of color.

kristina-14.jpg

The daughter of Filipino immigrants, Kristina grew up in the suburbs outside of Chicago. The community she lived in severely lacked in diversity, and a distinct disconnect from her parents’ culture and people marked her early years.

“As I got older and I got more secure with how I felt about my cultural identity, I started looking for more of that in my life.”

Eager to reconnect with her Filipino heritage, Kristina not only started seeking out minority communities but also worked to create opportunities for people to share their own experiences with their cultural identities. Though Kristina was accustomed to thriving in environments where she was often singled out as one of the few, she has an intrinsic understanding of the importance of community.

“[Your own people] just understand you in a different way,” explains Kristina. She believes that when you’re around other people with similar backgrounds as you, you gain a strong built-in support system that backs you up without you having to explain yourself. As a woman of color, Kristina actively seeks and creates that support from and for others.

After collaborating on numerous projects centered around storytelling, identity, and self-expression, Kristina gained the insight, skills, the inspiration to start her own project, in bold company. The online journal serves as a space for women of color to explore their multidimensional selves and to spark genuine, vulnerable conversations about identity.

“[We] are a lot more than just our cultural identity, but that is also part of who we are and there are so many different facets of that to navigate. I'm really excited to continue exploring that with people.”

Kristina knows that there is no one uniform experience when it comes to identity. Her environment as a child and the lessons she learned as an adult shape an experience and perspective that is uniquely hers. Though it can seem like a paradox at times, individual identities is what ties her communities together.

nina ho//collective blue

nina ho//collective blue

Through in bold company, Kristina hopes to portray women of color as individuals – highlighting personal stories as counter narratives to societal stereotypes.

“Everyone feels differently about [identity] but what everyone has in common is that we feel something.”

Kristina’s desire to highlight women of color and their stories also drives her work with missfits fest. Kristina joined our missfits organizing team last August with the shared goal of increasing visibility and opportunities for Asian-American women – starting first in Austin.

“We’re going to be creating a space for people that don't normally get to talk to other people like them in a big open forum,” shares Kristina. “It's the first kind of programming here. We get to pull together people that are leaders in the community and are doing something awesome in Austin.”

in bold company launched their first storyteller campaign earlier this month on Instagram! Be sure to follow the account and check out the campaign.

We’re beyond excited to work on missfits fest with Kristina, and this festival is collective blue’s most ambitious and impactful project yet. We’re grateful for the overwhelming support from the community, and we can’t say thank you enough.

You can grab your early bird tickets ($15) for missfits fest here, and see y’all February 10!