Get To Know Oscar Nominated/Grammy Winning Composer Stephan Moccio

By Allison Kugel

Sitting down with famed Oscar and Grammy-nominated music composer, writer and producer, Stephan Moccio, I join his gaze on his piano, which has given life to some of the most iconic songs in popular music. He is kind enough to show me his home’s expansive canyon view, which takes my breathe away. We talk about life, laughter, love, and the behind-the-scenes stories for some of my favorite hit songs.

The collective vibration is buzzing with positive energy as we discuss his role as co-writer and composer on chart-topping hits from The Weeknd’s seven-times-platinum single Earned It from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack for which Moccio earned three Grammy nominations and an Oscar nod; to the Miley Cyrus multiplatinum single, Wrecking Ball, and countless Celine Dion hits, including her record-breaking single,  A New Day Has Come.

The stories behind the songs are surprising, revelatory, and poignant, as is Moccio’s propensity to swivel his torso towards his piano keys and start playing the melodies of some of his famous hits. This thrills and delights me; it’s an unexpected front-row seat into his artistry.

The conversation then turned to Moccio’s latest solo effort, the instrumental album, Lionheart, an exquisitely composed and arranged album that demonstrates the tremendous scope of his musicality, drawing upon his eclectic background. Stephan Moccio’s piano-based solo recordings, including his 2020 album, Tales of Solace, has enjoyed a jaw-dropping four hundred million streams across music platforms.

Allison Kugel: You co-wrote and composed the Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated song Earned It with The Weeknd, for the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack. Though you’re both from the Toronto area, that is actually not where the two of you met and began working together.

Stephan Moccio: Maybe it helped us eventually get together, but we never met each other in Toronto. When I was living in downtown Toronto, our respective studios were seven blocks away from each other. When Abel (The Weeknd’s birth name is Abel Tesfaye) was doing his mixtapes and he was becoming underground famous, prior to his explosion to the world, I had a bunch of assistant engineers at the time that kept saying, “You have to get with this guy called The Weeknd. He has a really cool voice, kind of like Michael Jackson, and everyone is loving what he’s doing.” He was on my radar and we just never made it happen until I moved to LA.  Our managers got together for lunch in Toronto and said, “Listen, we have to get Stephan and Abel together and make some music.” The rest was history.

Allison Kugel: Tell me about how you and Abel collaborated to create the song Earned It

Stephan Moccio: Again, great story, because he was already asked to do something for the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, as was I. Before Earned It was written, I had the end credit song called I Know You, that I wrote with [singer/songwriter] Skylar Grey. When Abel and I got together with [music producer] DaHeala, his other co-producer, and another writing partner, Belly, the four of us wrote Earned It, and of course, that obliterated my other song (laugh).

Allison Kugel: As a solo recording artist, your music is primarily piano and instrumental. When you work with a vocalist as the composer and co-writer, are you writing lyrics as well? 

Stephan Moccio: I do, but I don’t write as many lyrics. They don’t come as fast. Music just comes out of my fingers. It just bleeds. I have so much music in me, and that’s the easy thing for me, so I have the privilege of getting together with some of the greatest singers in the world; Celine Dion, Miley Cyrus, The Weeknd. Oftentimes, especially with Abel, he does write his own music and he collaborates with producers like me. It’s like a waltz, that song (Moccio begins playing the melody to ‘Earned It’ on his home piano).  What people don’t realize is that lyrics will shape melody as well.  A word can shape the melody, so we don’t even divide it that way anymore.

Allison Kugel: Is Abel singing his lyrics while you’re playing the melody, and then you’re like, “Okay great, let’s do that.”? Am I getting the process right?

Stephan Moccio: It pretty well is, yes. He had an idea, and I sort of expanded on it. He and one of his producers came into my studio, but that whole string element that you hear at the beginning was something I just do in my sleep. I was kind of mocking it up on my piano and he and DaHeala said, “Oh my God, that is amazing! Record that.” And it became the foundation of the track. In order to qualify for the Academy Awards, you have to see the movie and then write the song according to what you saw. Once we saw the movie, we completed the song, lyrics, and arrangements.

Allison Kugel: And the song was nominated for an Oscar.

Stephan Moccio: Yes, it was, and we performed it at the Oscars, which was exciting.  It was such an incredible experience. Not just the nomination, but the whole week and a half leading up to the Oscars… the luncheon, and performing at the Oscars.

Allison Kugel: Well, the luncheon.. you can’t miss the luncheon (laughs).

Stephan Moccio: No, the luncheon, people don’t realize, can be more powerful and exciting than the actual Oscars (laugh).

Allison Kugel: I know, I’m teasing. Let’s talk about another song you collaborated on, one of my favorites, the Miley Cyrus song, Wrecking Ball. Tell me how that collaboration came together with Miley Cyrus.  

Stephan Moccio: I got in a room with two other incredible songwriters.  It was me, songwriter Maureen McDonald who goes by the professional name “Mozella,” and Sacha Skarbek. Mozella was supposed to get married that week and she decided it just didn’t feel right, and so she came to the session fragile, down, and broken.  With a lot of courage and bravery, she showed up to the session. Oftentimes, in a situation like that you want to wallow or just kind of sit in that misery and lay in bed. Somehow, I felt that she kind of needed to change things up, write some songs, and not think about how hurt and upset she was. She came into our songwriting session in such a state, that the song and the lyrics for Wrecking Ball, that is her real story. And we, of course, all wrote the song and the melody. I’m at the piano with Mozella singing it, and she said, “I’m going to be seeing Miley [Cyrus] in a couple of weeks. Do you mind if I pass this song along to her?”

Allison Kugel: That’s so interesting, because most people including myself, assumed Miley Cyrus wrote the lyrics to Wrecking Ball about her relationship with Liam Hemsworth.

Stephan Moccio: Yes, of course. That was a one in a million [coincidence]. It rarely happens like that. Miley is a phenomenal writer, herself, but that song was really and truly written by the three of us. It really resonated with Miley. A lot of artists would say, “I don’t want to do it because I didn’t write the song,” but there was so much truth to what Mozella was going through, and that’s how universal that theme is in Wrecking Ball.  Dr. Luke produced the song, for which Miley then did a provocative music video, which was a big part of it.  Miley was going through a lot of personal growth at that time, and she was wanting to sort of break up with her Disney days and become the artist that she is now. Miley was, of course, going through her breakup [from Liam Hemsworth] at the time and she said, “I’ve got to record this song.” She recorded the song, and they ended up using my piano melody for it.

Allison Kugel: You just brought up an explosive name, Dr. Luke. You said it in passing, like a drive-by. What is the current consensus about him in the music industry?

Stephan Moccio: I’ve learned that as a producer he is certainly highly respected in regards to his skills, to be very clear. With what went down, it would be unjust of me to comment on something that I’m really uneducated about. The irony, though, is that the music industry is full of so many pitfalls and I’ve just seen that so much is manipulated to create something that is not always truthful. As artists, we create a painting that is not truly us. Instagram is not truly us. It is our highlight reel and it’s the best part of our lives.  Are we showing when our kids are in pain and they need us the most when they are crying and you’re exhausted and just want to punch a wall sometimes? All I can say is, he truly is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to music, but the rest, who knows.

Allison Kugel: Do you think young female artists, generally speaking, get the respect they deserve when they are working intimately with male writers, producers, and composers? Is there professional respect and professional boundaries, for the most part?

Stephan Moccio: Generally speaking, no, there isn’t. I still think women are at a disadvantage. I have a lot of respect for female writers and female artists. Some of my greatest successes have come from working with songwriters like Mozella and Skylar Grey, two incredible talents who happen to be female. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a female artist getting into a room with certain genres of music, which sometimes can be a little more male dominant. Things are certainly better. If you think about some of the great albums of our time like Tapestry by Carole King, Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette, 21 by Adele. Some of those are the greatest albums of all time, and they are by scorned women who got through breakups. There have been science to prove that part of the success is that woman respond to female art in that way. I find that fascinating, but I also was raised primarily by a mom.  My parents got divorced when I was thirteen years old. My dad is a great man and is still alive and still a huge part of my life. But as I see mothers, and single mothers, I have tremendous respect for them.

Allison Kugel: Right here (I raise my hand).

Stephan Moccio: You’re one of them, and that is why I have such admiration. My mom raised my brother and me, two boys, and she was a French-speaking woman in an English-speaking part of Canada, so she had her own challenges. The female aspect in the music industry is certainly something we are making positive strides to change, but I still believe there is a lot of progress that is needed.

Allison Kugel: Speaking of French-Canadian, you have also collaborated with Celine Dion.

Stephan Moccio: Celine is a treasure in Canada. I’m French Canadian as well, and we go back twenty-plus years. I’ve written and produced a handful of songs for Celine, and my first international hit with Celine was her song, A New Day Has Come. It was a song that changed my life as a songwriter. I was in my twenties when I wrote that, and it was her first comeback song after she took a sabbatical for a couple of years to give birth to her first child. That song became the title to her Las Vegas residency. A decade earlier I met her and said to her, “One day I’m going to write you a hit song.” She was so gracious and she said, “Okay, bye for now.” Then I had the opportunity to write A New Day Has Come almost a decade later and sent it to Celine and her manager. They called us back and Celine said, “This song is unbelievable.” Sometimes you can visualize your dreams and really go for it.

Allison Kugel: And this collaboration with Celine Dion has been ongoing…

Stephan Moccio: Yes. Then, of course, I went on to write the Olympics theme song for Canada and a plethora of other things for her. I moved to LA in 2013 and I had a huge string of successes with Miley and The Weeknd, and then I got another call from Celine when she was ready to do an English-speaking album, just a few years ago. She asked me to produce and write a good part of that album. We have now been working together for twenty years.  I’m forty-eight now! Celine Dion is one of the hardest working artists I’ve worked with at that level, with no disrespect to anybody else, but she still wants it more than anybody.

Allison Kugel: That hunger is still there? 

Stephan Moccio: The hunger is still there, and it is there with Abel (The Weeknd) as well. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t know Miley that well, and I can tell Miley is definitely a student of pop culture, but Celine’s work ethic is where she will get into the studio at 6 pm and she won’t get off that microphone until it’s done, at like, 5 am or 6 am. Sometimes she is in there for twelve hours. And she doesn’t need to be. She’s one of the greatest singers in the world, but she’s certainly driven to make sure her emotion is communicated on record.

Allison Kugel: Your own instrumental album, Tales of Solace, which came out in early 2020, it did extraordinarily well. Do you think it was because the tranquility and meditative quality of your piano melodies were exactly what people needed?  

Stephan Moccio: That is exactly it, Allison. I wrote that album, pre-pandemic, but I was writing it because I was needing to come back to the basics. Before the world shut down last year, I felt like my life was very complicated. It was very big, living in Los Angeles, I was going through a lot of personal changes, and so I wrote Tales of Solace. When it was released, shortly after the world shut down, people thought it was the pandemic album (laughs).

Allison Kugel: The quiet in the storm (laugh).

Stephan Moccio: Exactly. The friend that you needed. I just happened to be ready and prepared with that album. It came from a genuine place. I was doing it just to serve my own emotional needs. I needed a break from the madness of always chasing the charts. That stuff is exciting, but I just felt it was time to make a hard right turn and go back to my roots, which was my piano. That is also why I think it did well because there are no lyrics to it. These [solo] albums I do are meant to be meditative, peaceful, and just bring you introspection and allow reflection. By virtue of not having lyrics, the music crosses and transcends cultures.

Allison Kugel: And your new instrumental album, Lionheart, that album title resonates with me because I’ve always said, although I’m 5’3” and have a certain visage, I have the heart of a lion. Why did you choose to title the album, Lionheart, and how is the music different from Tales of Solace?

Stephan Moccio: I proudly state my age, because I think in age there is wisdom (Moccio is 48).  I’ve been going through a lot of personal growth over the past five years. I was always someone who tried to please others and that doesn’t get you everywhere all the time. If you try to bend to make other people happy, you sort of forgo our own moral compass at times, if that makes any sense. With the album, Lionheart, I was looking for an album title and I came across Joan of Arc. I love Joan of Arc because of my grandmother, her name is Joan of Arc in French. And her name means “lionhearted.” I thought it was interesting. It means bravery and determination.  It really summed up exactly where I am in life. Opinions of other people don’t bother me anymore. They don’t affect what I know to be the truth, or what I know to be what I need to do.  If you love piano music, if you love instrumental music, I’ve put so much love into these albums.  Hundreds and hundreds of millions of streams later, it’s hugely impressive for a piano album. Lionheart is a word right now, at this point in my life, that encapsulates everything I am.

Allison Kugel: I am forty-seven, and I’ve been listening to a lot of spiritual leaders who have said that as humans we don’t often look at age in the right way. There are so many wise people who have said that you really don’t reach the stage of adulthood until around forty. Before that, you are still in some ways very much a child. Then, when you reach the age of 49/50, you really kind of come into your own, because that is the stage of life where, energetically, you shift from being concerned with how other people see you to letting go of a lot of that so that you can create a life in a more authentic way.

Stephan Moccio: That is exactly what happened to me. Throughout my forties, especially in the last few years as I get towards fifty, which is crazy to think about, there is a metamorphosis that I literally see change in my life. People will sometimes, on a surface level, mistake that for ego or selfishness.  It’s actually the opposite.  It’s benevolence. It’s when you do know exactly who you are, that you can offer your true gifts to this world.  You able to give more to people. It sounds cliché, but as soon as you are able to accept that, you learn the ability to say, “No,” or “No thank you, not right now.” Otherwise, it just infringes on your ability to give back your true powers to the world your true energy.  Again, I’ve seen it with all the great artists that I’ve worked with, whether it’s with Abel or Celine.  Celine is truly who she is.  Sometimes people will get irritated by happy people because they are irritated by the fact that people have found their calling. I hope I’m becoming one of those people, through my piano music, who can transform or shape lives differently through something great, through my fingers or through my art with my piano.

Allison Kugel: What is the emotional arc of the music in Lionheart?

Stephan Moccio: Lionheart was truly written and composed during the pandemic, so there was this kind of feeling last year when we were all sitting there and the world was shut down, none of us had gone through that before. I was locked in my studio in Santa Monica for seven weeks, just kind of recording all these beautiful melodies for this album. It was in a sense, a rebirth, like a renaissance, a new world. When we look back in the history books this will be another renaissance, for better or for worse. The pandemic has reshaped our values, reshaped us as humans, reshaped our political system. It’s reshaped so much in life, and so it reshaped my music.

Allison Kugel: Where do you believe this musical ability comes from? Do you think it comes from God? From your mind? Your heart?

Stephan Moccio: That’s a great question. I came from a very open household. Both of my parents are phenomenal and great speakers. My mom, in particular, and I, come from a family of pianists. I had to learn my craft my entire life and I’ve been at it for forty plus years now, where I know how to communicate on an instrument.  So when I have a feeling, I can get that feeling from my head, to my heart, out through my fingers, and play exactly what I want to play, chord-wise or melody-wise.

Listen to the full, extended interview with Stephan Moccio on the Allison Interviews Podcast at Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Follow Allison Kugel on Instagram @theallisonkugel and at allisoninterviews.com.

Stephan Moccio’s latest instrumental album, Lionheart, is out now, on all streaming services and at stephanmoccio.com. Follow on Instragram @stephanmoccio.  

15 Of Instagram’s Highest Earning Celeb Couples Ranked

From Selena and Chris to Kim K and Pete –  the rumors are rife with potential new couples blossoming every day. But which of our favourite A-list couples stand to earn the most per combined Instagram post? By utilizing tools such as the Influencer Marketing HubTop10Casinos.com can now reveal all.

THE RESULTS:

Name

Potential earnings per post $

Combined potential earnings per post $

Potential earnings per post $

Partner

Kylie Jenner

$921,751

$1,066,150

$144,399

Travis Scott

Selena Gomez

$894,163

$937,452

$43,289

Chris Evans

Ariana Grande

$904,409

$904,409

$0

Dalton Gomez

Kim Kardashian

$864,988

$865,636

$648

Pete Davidson

Justin Bieber

$667,533

$794,846

$127,313

Hailey Bieber

Beyoncé

$715,103

$715,103

$0

Jay Z

Kendall Jenner

$652,144

$652,484

$340

Devin Booker

Taylor Swift

$606,084

$609,606

$3,522

Joe Alwyn

Zendaya

$364,834

$527,004

$162,170

Tom Holland

Kourtney Kardashian

$491,163

$510,837

$19,674

Travis Barker

Katy Perry

$462,258

$480,263

$18,005

Orlando Bloom

Cardi B

$375,476

$439,786

$64,310

Offset

Kevin Hart

$421,185

$432,557

$11,372

Eniko Hart

A$AP Rocky

$45,530

$411,836

$366,306

Rihanna

Camila Cabello

$192,315

$405,761

$213,446

Shawn Mendes

Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott are the celebrity couple with the highest combined potential Instagram earnings, with an estimated $1,066,150 per post! When broken down into individual figures, Kylie not only has the largest number of followers (278 million) of all the celebrities analyzed, but she also could rake in the most with an estimated individual earning of $921,751 per post – a whopping 538% more than her baby daddy Travis Scott ($144,399 per post), and 41% more than her big sis Kendall Jenner ($652,144 per post).

If the rumors are true, Selena Gomez and Marvel man Chris Evans could take second place, with combined earnings of $937,452. Despite Selena potentially earning 1.3% less than her fellow pop star Ariana Grande, it is Captain America himself that comes to the rescue to place them in second with estimated $43,289 per post.

Ariana Grande and Dalton Gomez take third – with Ariana potentially carrying both her and her newlywed husband Dalton Gomez with Instagram earrings of $904,409, as the real-estate broker chose to keep his life and Instagram private.  This makes the popstar the second-highest-paid A-lister of the celebrities analyzed, just 1.8% behind Kylie Jenner who takes the top spot.

Another rumoured romance is that of Kim Kardashian and comedian Pete Davidson, as they were recently spotted holding hands on a Halloween ride. If they were to couple up, they could be the fourth highest-earning couple on Instagram with estimated potential earnings of £632,810. However, this is a 3% decrease from the earnings Kim K could have made with her baby daddy Kanye – as the couple had estimated earnings of £654,184 per post before their split.

Beyoncé earns more than 90% of celebrity couples collectively

Queen B places in sixth despite the lack of her husband’s, Jay Z, Instagram account with a whopping estimated earning of $715,103 – single-handedly earning more than 90% of the celebrity couples analyzed!

Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes make the top 15

In 15th place are sweethearts and ‘Senorita’ singers Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes, with combined potential earnings of $405,761 – 361% more than Cabello’s collaboration partner Machine Gun Kelly and his girlfriend Megan Fox, who could earn together $87,870 per post.

Although they have recently split – Victoria Secret model Gigi Hadid and her ex-boo, Zayn Malik would place in 16th. With Gigi ($233,464) potentially earning 65% more than her ex-popstar boyfriend Zayn ($141,213), the pair still pull in 2% more than Ellen DeGeneres and her wife Portia de Rossi ($367,069 combined potential earnings) who place 17th.

Methodology:

  1. Top10Casinos.com sought to discover the most popular celebrity couple with the highest collective potential earnings on Instagram.
  2. The obtained list of celebrity couples was sourced from multiple articles relating to the most well-known celebrity couples using in-house metrics. Sources can be found here.
  3. Following the establishment of a seed list, each celebrity’s Instagram username was obtained – if neither member of the couple had Instagram or had private accounts they were omitted from the study.
  4. Influencer Marketing Hub was utilized to collect each celebrity’s potential earnings per Instagram post, by inputting their Instagram username into the tool.
  5. The combined earnings of the couples were totaled and ranked in descending order, to thus determine the celebrity couple with the highest potential earnings on Instagram.
  6. The currency was originally collected in USD ($) and rounded up to the nearest dollar.
  7. Data was collected on 28.10.21 and is subject to change.

Editorial credit: Sky Cinema / Shutterstock.com

This article was sourced from a media release sent by Bethany Surridge of Journalistic.org

Iyuno-SDI Makes Strategic Investment in Ortana Media Group

Iyuno-SDI Group, a global localization and media services partner to the world’s leading content producers and distributors, announced today its investment in UK-based technology provider, Ortana Media Group. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Iyuno-SDI’s localization supply chain is taking a significant step forward with the highly scalable workflow orchestration and asset management solutions of Ortana. Founded in 2012 by CEO James Gibson, Ortana quickly established a market presence in AustraliaEuropeNew ZealandSouth AsiaNorth America and South America with its platforms Cubix, Kiosk Cloud, and Spot & Spin. Ortana is helping its clients better manage their media assets, automate processes, reduce operational costs, and scale workflows.

“By leveraging Ortana’s technology across Iyuno-SDI’s global infrastructure, we will continue to meet and exceed the demands of our customers with a highly scalable end-to-end localization supply chain,” said David Lee, CEO of Iyuno-SDI Group. “Global Media and Entertainment Distribution is experiencing an unprecedented period of growth as consumers’ appetite for content is at an all-time high, and the need for a single supply chain provider is critical to global content producers’ distribution strategies.”

“We are thrilled to join the Iyuno-SDI Group,” said James Gibson, Founder CEO of Ortana Media Group. “David Lee’s vision for a truly global, scalable localization media supply chain is perfectly aligned with ours. We see this as an immense opportunity to expand these offerings to customers worldwide.”

Iyuno-SDI delivers the world’s leading content creators and distributors a portfolio of localization and media services including dubbing, subtitling, mastering, packaging and distribution, encoding and transcoding, and quality control.

The Ortana platforms, integrated with Iyuno-SDI’s global network of studios and media services facilities, will form the industry’s most cutting-edge end-to-end supply chain service provider in the business.

ABOUT IYUNO-SDI GROUP

Iyuno-SDI Group (www.iyuno-sdi.com) is the media and entertainment industry’s leading localization service provider. As a trusted global partner to the world’s most recognized entertainment studios, streaming platforms and creators, it offers end-to-end localization services – from dubbing, subtitling and access services to media management, transformation and distribution services – in over 100 languages for every type of content distribution platform. With deep roots in the industry dating back to 1974, the company is unmatched in operational expertise, scale, capacity and breadth of services.

Iyuno-SDI Group was formed in 2021 following the acquisition of SDI Media by Iyuno Media Group. Leveraging the best in breed creative and technical talent, state of the art facilities and next generation technologies, the company now boasts the largest global footprint with 67 offices in 34 countries. The company’s scale and customer-centric approach is focused on its mission of connecting content, connecting people.

ABOUT ORTANA MEDIA GROUP

Ortana Media Group (www.ortana.tv) was founded in 2012 with the vision to improve the way media workflows are managed. An intuitive, faster and more cost-effective way for clients to leverage their content and grow their businesses.

Today, Ortana is a leading specialist in the development of products and solutions that meet the practical requirements of a wide variety of sectors, including content owners, post-production houses, distributors and broadcasters. The company has a worldwide re-seller network across North AmericaEuropeSouth AmericaSouth AsiaAustralia and New Zealand.

The Ortana team has developed a portfolio of highly flexible, multi-tenanted, end-to-end solutions that are easily adaptable and reconfigurable to meet the needs of current media enterprises and future workflows. From automating and orchestrating media management at every point of the file cycle, to deploying and moving systems to the cloud, tape digitization, LTO migration, and more.

Source : Iyuno-SDI Group

This article was sourced from a media release sent by PR Newswire

Introducing Oliver Zak & Selom Agbitor, The CEO’s & Founders Of The Very Successful Mad Rabbit

Oliver Zak and Selom Agbitor are the CEO’s and founders of the very successful Mad Rabbit. The East Coast EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalists, Oliver and Selom, appeared on “Shark Tank” in March where they met Mark Cuban and accepted a $500,000 offer for 12% of their company. Cuban also recently took part in their closing of $2M Seed Funding Round Led by Acronym Venture Capital, along with NFL star Stefan Diggs.

Oliver and Selom, who earned finance degrees at Miami University, started the company Mad Rabbit, which produces natural solutions that help keep tattoos looking vibrant, as a side hustle in college, mixing batches of their first balm in Oliver Zak’s apartment.

Mad Rabbit reported more than $2.8 million in revenue in 2020 and is on track to hit eight figures this year. “We look forward to reaching a larger, more inclusive community of tattooed consumers with our products,” stated Oliver Zak. “Our vision for the brand is that it will someday extend far beyond skincare.”

Global Elite Media Group recently had a one on one interview with the 2 CEO’s and here’s what they had to say:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business? 

Selom: After moving from Ghana to the U.S., I was always driven by the sacrifices my parents made for me and my family. Seeing their strong work ethic motivated me to work hard and create my own story.

Oliver: I grew up watching my father transition from a surgeon to an entrepreneur after an unfortunate life-altering event. I was inspired early on by his drive to succeed no matter what the odds are and found myself pitching in entrepreneurship competitions in high school.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

We’re working on new products and new packaging, to tell our story that we think our customers will really love.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years? Influencer marketing.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness? Instagram.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

We appeared on Shark Tank in March and were lucky enough to receive two offers from two sharks. One of the toughest decisions was choosing between Kevin O’Leary and Mark Cuban. We chose Mark Cuban in the end who invested $500,000 for 12% equity.

How has your business been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

When Covid hit, many companies decided to stop or reduce ad spending, but we decided to at least double our ad spend, which was a big risk but ended up paying off because it catapulted us into being the top brand in the tattoo aftercare space

How have you adapted your business operations in response to COVID-19 and its associated impacts?

We have increased our influencer marketing and social media operations to have a direct channel to consumers and hear their voices.

What have been some of the most important lessons you have learned because of this pandemic?

With a startup, roles are fluid, walls can be non-existent, and cross-functionality is expected. The downside is that nobody is good at everything, and it is our job to place our people in the best positions to succeed. Creating jobs and growing our Mad Rabbit Tattoo family is one of the most exciting parts of our jobs as co-founders. The fact that we’ve been able to increase hires during the pandemic is an exciting accomplishment for us.

What do you hope to see happen in the near future for small businesses all over the world?

Inspire people to innovate and provide a solution to an underserved market. Conditions are always changing, and this can be good or bad for a business. When Covid hit, many companies decided to stop or reduce ad spending, but we decided to at least double our ad spend, which was a big risk but ended up paying off because it catapulted us into being the top brand in the tattoo aftercare space.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up a new business in this pandemic?

Don’t try to do it alone. Starting a business solo drastically increases your chances of failure in the early days of launching a startup. Not only is it important to hire quality employees, but it might be more important than those employees are in the right roles. With a startup, roles are fluid, walls can be non-existent, and cross-functionality is expected. The downside is that nobody is good at everything, and it is our job to place our people in the best positions to succeed.

5 Simple Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

10-year old Nyeeam Hudson wasn’t wearing the ‘right’ shoes at the park one day. He was wearing Fila’s and as result, he got bullied for it. But the New Jersey boy wasn’t going to let his tormentors off the hook that easily. His response to them saw his Facebook video go viral with millions of views. Nyeeam tells of his encounter: “I just wear FILAs because I like the color and I think they are cool. They might not be what’s popular today, but that’s what I like. So I told the kid, it’s not about what I have on my feet, it’s about what I have inside my head. No matter what I’m wearing, no matter what I have on, it’s about my information, the knowledgeable things in life. These sneakers are not even going to fit you in 20 years from now. So it’s about what you have in your mind. Your wisdom. Your knowledge. The power to inspire others. And parents, please don’t raise your children like the materialistic type…they are going to feel like they need the gold or the Jordans or the cool stuff, the popular stuff, to make them feel important.”

Nyeeam’s video highlights a link that psychologists have long known about. That is, between self-image and materialism. While the intensity of the link peaks in teenagers, it is not confined to it. It becomes a vicious cycle where when self-esteem lowers, materialism increases. But as materialism increases, it creates low self-esteem. But there is hope, increasing self-esteem will break that cycle and not only will your wallet (or your parents’ wallet!) thank you for it, so will your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

1. THINGS DON’T LAST FOREVER

As Nyeeam says in his video, he won’t be able to fit in his shoes in 20 years and the same is true for whatever it is you buy to fit in. Trends change and things wear out. But who you are – mind, body, soul – and the legacy you leave behind will never go out of style.

2. REMEMBER: SOME PEOPLE HAVE IT WORSE THAN YOU

I grew up in the Philippines and I had daily visual reminders that I was a lot luckier than most children. I would see children begging in the streets with barely any clothes on and wearing flip-flops, if any at all. Children in first-world countries don’t have that daily reminder. Sure, you see the commercials on TV but it’s much easier to dismiss than being confronted with a child with his hand out asking for help. Keep in mind, the next time you ask for a new pair of sneakers (and you already have 3 or 4 barely used in your wardrobe), a parent in another country probably made those shoes just so their child can eat. They can only dream of bringing home those shoes they’re making.

3. CHOOSE THE RIGHT CROWD

Establishing your self-esteem with your own negative self-talk hammering at you is hard enough, but then you surround yourself with a crowd who seem to be unable to say anything good about you is a recipe for mental and emotional disaster. My high school inner circle comprised of a group of strong, independent young women who didn’t give a hoot what anyone said about them. They, we, weren’t the ‘cool’ group but we were respected – not just by our peers, but by the teachers as well. And that, I tell you, is a far more important thing to possess than any latest accessory.

4. WHAT YOU SEE ISN’T ALWAYS WHAT YOU GET

What better illustration of this statement is there than any one of those makeup video tutorials on YouTube?? You see the ‘before’ and ‘after’! If your self-esteem is rooted on the ‘YOU’ before the makeup goes on, then you’re good. But if it hinges on the ‘AFTER’ look, then you’re in big trouble. Same as if you compare your life with what you see people share on social media. Unless your phone instantly uploads and shares any photo you take, the social media projection of your life is heavily edited. You, yourself, would choose only the best pictures to put on Facebook, right? Then what makes you think other people don’t do that?? So, if you’re envious of the travel they’re doing, the experiences they’re having – use it as inspiration instead and go and do them yourself.

5. STOP MAKING COMPARISONS

Consider this (and every time I do my mind gets blown away): the current world population is just under 7.5 billion and in that 7.5 billion, there is only one YOU. Only one individual has your set specific set of DNA. Only one individual has your specific set of experiences and circumstances that made you and your life the way it is. Only one individual’s journey saw you take the step after step after step that finally led you to reading these words right now. How unique and special are you then! So stop comparing yourself to others! Figure out how to be the best version of yourself. Sure, you’ll get it wrong sometimes, but learn from those lessons and use them to grow even more. Grow, learn, live until you can look at yourself in the mirror and can truthfully say: “I like everything about me, flaws and all.”

Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels

Meet The Superstar Behind The Cover Of The September 2021 Issue Of Global Elite Entrepreneur: Gwen Stefani

Download Now

By Allison Kugel
 
Gwen Stefani spent her childhood and adolescence in Anaheim, California, a suburban girl living just a stone’s throw from Disneyland. It was her older brother, Eric, who founded No Doubt, the hybrid ska/punk/rock band that would help Stefani make her way into the musical limelight with their 1995 breakout album, Tragic Kingdom. The band’s unique sound coupled with Stefani’s platinum blonde hair, red lips, and punk rock fashion sensibility, brought the singer to Rockstar status in the 1990s.

With lyrics torn from the pages of Gwen’s personal diary about falling in love, breakups, makeups, and mending a broken heart, her music has always drawn in listeners with its raw vulnerability. Her down-to-earth nature and self-deprecating sense of humor helped to seal the deal with fans, making her one of the most successful female recording artists of the past twenty-three years.

Her first solo album, 2004’s Love. Angel. Music. Baby. and L.A.M.B. fashion label catapulted her into the music and style icon stratosphere in the early 2000s. Follow-up albums like 2006’s The Sweet Escape and No Doubt’s 2012 reunion album, Push and Shove capped off two decades of non-stop recording and touring for the Grammy-winning artist, as she focused on raising her three sons with then-husband, Bush lead singer, Gavin Rossdale.

In the summer of 2015, the California girl experienced a seismic 8.5 earthquake in her personal life when her marriage to Rossdale imploded amidst a cheating scandal. An unexpected romance came in the form of country crooner, and Gwen’s The Voice costar, Blake Shelton, whom the Hollaback girl began dating later that same year. Gwen then did what she does best, pouring her emotions into her most personal music to date, with 2016’s This Is What the Truth Feels Like album and a subsequent tour.

From October 22 – November 6, the hitmaking mom of Kingston, 11, Zuma, 9, and Apollo, 4, is preparing to embark on her Las Vegas Residency at Zappos Theatre at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. It’s called, what else? Gwen Stefani: Just A Girl – an homage to her first single to make the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and her own personal anthem that she says still holds true today. I sat down with Gwen to discuss this new chapter in her life and career.
 
Allison Kugel: Was this Las Vegas Residency a family decision? Did you sit down with your three boys and say, “Mom’s going to perform in Las Vegas instead of touring. What do you think about that?”
 
Gwen Stefani: Honestly, my kids don’t really have too much of a say on what the schedule’s going to be. But as a mom, if you look at my touring for the last ten years, I haven’t really toured. In the past, I did tours for seven years. It’s hard with the kids, because they’re in school and I’m not homeschooling, and you can’t pull them out. It’s not fair on them. I did my last tour because I had this unexpected life crisis and then the music came pouring out of me from that. I didn’t even plan on making any music. It was such a lifesaver and a beautiful moment for me to be able to write again. I put that tour on at the last minute (referring to her “This Is What The Truth Feels Like” tour) and went on a summer tour with the kids. It was so much fun for them. They love touring, but it isn’t realistic. So, I’ve been thinking about doing the Vegas show for a while now. The Las Vegas Residency will really work for me as a mom, because it’s these little chunks of time where you can fly in and out, and it’s workable.
 
Allison Kugel: It’s a shifting of priorities.
 
Gwen Stefani: Yes. After that last tour, I felt like, “God I’ve toured a lot in my life!” I love it, but it takes so much out of me as far as being able to focus on the rest of my life with the kids. I have three kids and it’s a big deal! Any parent would probably go, “How does she do it?” It’s almost impossible to do and it’s a lot of balancing. The Las Vegas Residency is just perfect for where I’m at right now.
 
Allison Kugel: What does performing live give you, personally and energetically?
 
Gwen Stefani: Being on stage for me, I always forget how much it’s a part of who I am. I’ve done it for my whole life, pretty much. I always think I don’t want to do it. I always think it’s fine if I never do it again. Then when I get on stage, even when I’m sound checking, I’m like, “Oh My God, I love this!” I love my music, I love being up there, I love the attention and I love being able to share that love with people and get that exchange. I don’t understand why I like it so much.
 
Allison Kugel: It feeds your soul. You’re connecting with the source and you’re in a zone.
 
Gwen Stefani: It’s my gift. It’s what I’m here for. I’m obviously at the end of my journey of being a musician…
 
Allison Kugel: Why would you say that?
 
Gwen Stefani: Well because of my age, and I’ve been doing it for thirty-something years. It’s perfect for me to be able to do a Las Vegas show, because not only does it work for me as a mom, but it also works creatively. It’s a new challenge. It’s going to be a way to express myself and do my whole catalog of music that defines every single period in my life; all the crises and all the joys. Creatively, I couldn’t have done it any sooner. I had to have all these songs. It just feels like the perfect next chapter for me.

Gwen Stefani, April 12 2018, Photos By Denise Truscello

Allison Kugel: You’re taking the audience on a journey of your life, and to do that you have to have lived.

 
Gwen Stefani: Exactly! And I also think people who are going out for that weekend in Las Vegas, it’s so different from, for example, if I’m performing in Philly and it’s about Philly culture, and the audience is just coming out for that one night and getting a babysitter. You know what I mean? This Vegas show is a bigger commitment for people. They’re going for the weekend and they’re making a memory. You’re competing with the Las Vegas nightlife, you’re competing with the gambling, the partying, and with the hotels and all the expenses. It’s a big commitment for people, and they’re coming to me from all over the world.
 
Allison Kugel: And they’re going to get a more intimate experience with you than they would in a stadium setting.
 
Gwen Stefani: It is a much smaller audience than I’m used to, under five thousand people. It’s going to be so different and that’s something I need. When you’ve toured for however many years I have, it’s super awesome, but let’s do something new! That’s why even doing The Voice for the last couple of years was so inspiring for me. I think everybody wants something challenging and new to look forward to.
 
Allison Kugel: You went to see Jennifer Lopez’s Las Vegas show, All I Have. I’m assuming the two of you discussed her Las Vegas Residency. Did she give you any advice?
 
Gwen Stefani: Me and Jennifer, I’ve always looked up to her in the sense that we’re exactly the same age, and I remember when No Doubt was coming out and she hadn’t done Jenny from The Block yet, but she had that song out, Waiting for Tonight. At the time I was working with Prince and he started comparing me and Jennifer, and at that time I didn’t even see how I was in the same category as her. She was Jennifer Lopez and I was in a band called No Doubt (laughs). But nowhere we both are doing these residencies all these years later, and we’ve known each other through the years. She’s always invited me to her kids’ birthday parties and things like that. She is a crazy worker. I cannot believe how much she works! I know I do, but I look at her and I’m like, “Wow!”
 
Allison Kugel: It doesn’t seem human, right? Multiple television shows, Las Vegas Residency, albums…
 
Gwen Stefani: I know. I don’t understand it. Going to see her, and I’d never seen her do a performance live, I was studying the production of her show. The show was incredible, and she works so hard on stage. I admire her a lot and it was so inspiring to see… and scary! When I came backstage to talk to her afterward, she comes out of the dressing room looking like a Barbie Doll. She was breathtaking on stage, but when you see her up close, it’s like, “What?! It’s not possible. You are so gorgeous!” She was just so glamorous. We talked for a while and she was like, “Yeah, I’ve just done 100 shows…” And I’m like, “Whoa, that’s a lot of shows!” (Laughs) And she still has forty more to go. She’s really enjoyed it, but she said it is challenging.
 
Allison Kugel: I think you’ll find it challenging, but one of the best experiences of your life.
 
Gwen Stefani: It is challenging, and as performers, we have a completely different perspective on doing a concert than the audience. The challenge isn’t about us. We’re going to be us every time we get up there. We may have that one night where we’re off because of whatever might be going on. A lot of times, you just never know what you’re going to be like on stage. But at the same time, we’re pretty much consistent. It’s really about the audience. What are they going to be like and are they into it or not?
Allison Kugel: What are you presenting to the audience, artistically, with your Just A Girl Las Vegas Residency? You’re also a fashion designer and you have a strong aesthetic vision. Between the sets and the costumes, how will everything tie together on stage?
 
Gwen Stefani: I’ve really tried to put together a show that has a nostalgic feel. The show is full of hit songs that are recognizable and take you back to that time period in your life. And of course, the real reason for doing Vegas is the costumes. I’m working with Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn who I’ve been working with now for, I don’t know how many years. They are just incredible. They did Jennifer [Lopez’s] show, and they’ve also worked with Jennifer for years. They really get me. I think there’s going to be about five costume changes, which is a lot for me considering that with No Doubt I never did any.
Gwen Stefani, April 12 2018, Photos By Denise Truscello

Allison Kugel: I remember. With No Doubt, it was just you out there with your cut-off t-shirts (laughs).
 
Gwen Stefani: (Laughs) Yeah. But now I’m working with designers to see what they come up with. There are different chapters as far as what I want to look like, and I basically have it all worked out. Now it’s just putting it all together.
 
Allison Kugel: The title of your Las Vegas show, Just A Girl, is the title of one of your biggest hits, but it has a double meaning for you. You’re always saying, “I’m just a girl from Orange County…” Is that your way of keeping yourself grounded?
 
Gwen Stefani: Honestly, I think if you really knew me or saw my family and how I grew up, I am 100% the same person I have always been. When I wrote that song, Just A Girl, I was twenty-five years old, going to college, still living at my parent’s house, and I was very naïve. I had a boyfriend at the time that lived at his parent’s house. I was driving one day and I’m thinking, “Wow! I really have a different position in this world, being that I’m a female.”
 
Allison Kugel: Did something happen that made you stop and think, “I’m going to be treated a certain way because I’m a girl.”?
 
Gwen Stefani: It was just more of a realization that I had. I think we all do as females. I’m walking down the street and some guy just whistled at me? What does that even mean? Suddenly, you’re aware of your sexuality and that you’re ascribed a certain value because of it. It was when that hit me, that I wrote the song, Just A Girl. Nobody was paying attention at the time. Nobody was ever going to hear the song. I didn’t even know how to write a song. It was just so naïve. I guess I wanted to figure out a way to say, “This is my DNA.” And really, my DNA is I am just a girl from Anaheim [California]. I’m just me, and I’ve never been anything else. I know that’s what got me to this point, by being honest, real, and sharing my story with people. That’s all we can do in this life, and I’m nothing more than that. But at the same time, by using my gift, being aware of it, trying to respect it, and being confident in it, I’ve gotten this far. Music is so powerful, and for a song like that to still be relevant twenty years later? In a way, it’s even more relevant now. We have so much going on with female empowerment and what’s our place? When I read the lyrics of that song I think, “My gosh, that must have been a Godsend,” because I know I didn’t think that up on my own. I always thought it would go out of fashion, or I’d be too old to say “just a girl” but it still works.
 
Allison Kugel: Has Blake had any creative input with this Las Vegas show?
 
Gwen Stefani: Obviously he’s my best friend, so I’m bouncing stuff off him all the time. He’s one of those people in my life that’s super supportive and gets me motivated. There’s a whole bunch of songs about him in the show, so that’s fun. Like anybody with their best friend, we share everything together. I’ll tell him, “I picked my dancers. There were 500 girls that tried out!” And I’ll send him videos. Just things like that.

Allison Kugel: Did you choose Planet Hollywood as the venue?
 
Gwen Stefani: I feel like they chose me, and what’s really cool about it is that Planet Hollywood is also the Zappos Theatre now, and the Zappos team is just incredible. They’re taking over the theatre with their creativity and it has a very futuristic feel. I also give $1 of every single ticket sold to the children’s charity, Cure 4 The Kids Foundation. It’s going to add up to be a crapload of money! It’s something I’m going to be really proud of. You get very motivated about giving and helping, and making a difference, but you really don’t think as one person you’re ever going to in your life. I feel that to be able to get up there and share my story, and then make that kind of money to give away is amazing. I feel so proud of that.
 
Allison Kugel: What’s your routine before you step out on stage? Do you pray? Do you meditate? How do you gear up to give your best performance?
 
Gwen Stefani: I don’t meditate. I’m a prayer. I pray, but first I do my makeup (laughs). My makeup is huge for me. I have this song called War Paint. Putting on my makeup and getting ready, there is a kind of meditation in the preparation. Makeup is art, and it’s like getting into character when I put it on. I’ve always done my own makeup for shows. And praying for me is really important. We do a group prayer circle. In the last few years, and when I toured for the last show, the payer is not just before, but also during [the show]. When I think about how ordinary I’ve always been, and to think that I’ve created all these songs, I don’t know where they come from. I always think that it’s got to be a channeling and it just comes through me. It’s a spiritual thing that has been given to me to share. When I’m in the music, the music takes me right back to those moments in my life. And some of those moments are sickening, you know what I mean? Certain memories are upsetting. That’s why I say this is not just a show for me, it’s my life. It’s real for me and I think that’s why I’m very anxious about it.
 
Allison Kugel: It’s going to be a tremendous spiritual, emotional and physical undertaking.
 
Gwen Stefani: And I’m very lazy (laughs). I like to not have to work out and not have to be committed to something. And I love to be with my children, of course. But it is such an amazing opportunity and they don’t just hand them out to everybody. I feel really honored to be able to do it. I’m thrilled to see who’s going to show up and it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to look back on this and say, “I can’t believe I did that!”
 
Allison Kugel is a syndicated entertainment and pop culture journalist, and author of the book, Journaling Fame: A memoir of a life unhinged and on the record. Follow her on Instagram @theallisonkugel.
 
Photo Credits: Yu Tsai, Denise Truscello

Meet The Woman Behind The Cover Of The September 2021 Issue Of GEQ Magazine: Michelle Walker

Download Now

Michelle Walker – Katz is a beauty queen who hails from Sydney, Australia. She originally grew up in Bondi and spent most of her youth at Australia’s most famous Bondi Beach. Her parents are from the entertainment capital of Ukraine called Odessa, but they speak Russian at home. She grew up watching Russian concerts and all sorts of Russian programs due to her mother’s love for them. When her parents migrated to Australia, they moved to Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, where a Russian community had formed. Similar to New Yorks’ Little Odessa in Brooklyn. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Public Communications from the University of Western Sydney as well as a Masters In Media from Sydney University. Nowadays, she’s based in Sydney’s Hills District (North West of Sydney) with her family, two beautiful daughters, and husband and they’re working on hopefully completing the family soon. She’s also an entrepreneur – three years ago she started her boutique recruitment agency called Katz Recruitment. She’s a career recruiter who has worked in the industry for the past 17 years and she felt that it was finally time to make her dreams come true and become a full-time entrepreneur. At the Curves & Curls International Pageant, she was lucky enough to be awarded two titles; Brand Ambassador 2021 and Best Interview 2021.

Michelle’s favourite activities consist of going to a disco, watching a movie, and game nights with her family. Although Covid lockdown has dampened a little of her social butterfly efforts, she still meets with business friends and acquaintances regularly online to stay connected. GEQ Magazine recently caught up with Michelle to discuss her journey in the pageant world and here’s what went down:

How did you get into the pageant industry?

Earlier this year, I noticed a friend of mine posted about The Curves & Curls International Pageant. I have come to a stage in my life where I’m very comfortable with my curves and felt it was time to share them with the world. My friend had introduced me to the wonderful founder Maxine Simmons, and the rest is history. Maxine is the founder of Curves and Curls International Pageant and she has been very inspiring and supportive of my journey and I really appreciate that.

Photographed by: Sarah Keen/Truthfully

How were you actually ‘discovered’?

My discovery was destiny, I believe. When I came across the post about The Curves & Curls International 2021 pageant, I was just drawn to reach out and get introduced to the person who made all the magic happen. I had reached out late at night on Facebook, and at 5 am in the morning, I had a loud ping on my phone. Maxine, the founder, messaged me to let me know that I was in and had three weeks to get ready for I was a late entrant. I believe that sometimes the universe makes things happen. For me, this was the opportunity I had been waiting for.

What do you like most about being a beauty queen?

I love being a beauty queen because it allows me to express my gratitude for myself and how far I have come with loving myself and my body image. Being a curvy beauty queen provides me with a platform to inspire and encourage other curvy girls to love and embrace themselves. Growing up as a curvy redhead, I always felt invisible, but who would have thought that these days as a grown woman, makes me different and stand out from the crowd. I never imagined that I would be in the beauty industry, but why not. We’re all different and must make the most of what we have. In some ways, I feel like I’m part of a beauty revolution, something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, where plus-size women were encouraged to join a beauty pageant. When I had won a few titles, I seriously had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I’m hoping that my gorgeous daughters, who are 6 and 7, won’t experience feeling less of a person because of their physical attributes. I want to do my part in keeping the changes coming so that my daughters and other women can go out into the world, aim high and do what their hearts desire.

Downside to being a beauty queen?

I don’t believe that there are any downsides to being a beauty queen. I honestly believe that we should have beauty schools that all can attend. Being a beauty queen teaches one to be confident in how you walk, talk and present. It also teaches you discipline, organisation, and how to smile on stage. These are skills and attributes that are important in all areas of life. In my business life, I run a recruitment agency. These elements are so important throughout one’s career life and even within one’s personal life. My dad always said to me that when people first meet someone, they judge them by their appearance and then take the time to get to know the person’s brain. This doesn’t mean that one needs to dress in the most expensive brands (it would be nice, of course). It’s more about being neat, tidy, and making the best of what you’ve got.

What has been the most memorable experience of being in the pageant industry so far?

Earlier this year, at my first pageant, my 6-year-old daughter Valentina had surprised me and had run out on stage to me while I was strutting my formal wear. She was being very cheeky and wouldn’t go back down to join the rest of the family. I told her that if she doesn’t go back down, she’ll have to walk with me and listen to my instructions. Valentina was fantastic. She listened to everything I told her to do and did a fabulous job. The crowd and judges were impressed by her natural ability. I’m sure she helped me score a few extra points because I kept the catwalk rolling and embraced the beautiful hiccup. I’m sure we’ll have some more pageant queens in our family in the future – both my daughters Rochelle and Valentina are excited to get involved in pageants in the future.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

To be honest, the women in the pageant industry that I have met so far have all been extremely inspiring and empowering. Always so patient with newbies to the industry, sharing their skills and knowledge with us – it has been a beautifully heart-warming experience.

What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while in the pageant industry. This can be about the industry or yourself.

One of the most important lessons pageants teaches us, just like the entertainment industry in general; is that no matter how nervous you are or whatever is going on in your life or your head – You need to collect yourself, smile, and keep moving forward. This applies to all areas of life. Sometimes you need to take that first step and keep going. Small steps become leaps and bounds. The pageant industry has also reminded me to be proud of my femininity and not be afraid to share it with the world.

Photographed by: El Earl Photography

Working in an industry whose only emphasis is on the outside characteristics of a person, how have you stayed grounded?

I’m very new to working in the beauty industry. Growing up with curves and red hair, I know that focusing on just beauty can be very superficial. I must admit I love getting dressed up and getting my hair and makeup done too. Whenever I walk down the runway, I feel like a million bucks. In my real life, I run my own business. Most recently, due to lockdown in Sydney, I wear activewear every day (at least from the waist down) with my children fighting over my mobile phone under my desk. I’m lucky to be able to have my beautiful children, my own business, and my beauty queen opportunities – the juggle is real, and it’s not always easy. But just like when it’s your turn to work down the catwalk, I smile and keep moving forward.

Is your family supportive of you being in the pageant industry?

My family is extremely supportive of everything I do, especially my handsome husband; my absolute rock, as well as my mother, sister, and niece. My mother is a beauty queen in her own right. Now in her early 70’s, she still presents immaculately and always made an effort to look her best, especially during her social butterfly days on my fathers’ arm. Unfortunately, in 2006 my beautiful father, Roman Katz had passed away from cancer. My father had originally founded and opened Ruski’s Deli in Bondi and would have customers come from far and wide. I’m sure I have my entrepreneurial flair from him. I’m also sure he’s with me every day, supporting me on my journey and proud of all my achievements.

What are your future plans? Inside pageantry or out of it.

I want to continue my journey in the pageant industry and with my boutique recruitment agency based here in Sydney. I feel that both worlds complement each other, and I enjoy and love both. It would be nice to see my daughters join the pageant industry so that I can share these special memories with them too.

The ‘LIGHTNING FAST’ Round:

1. Last good movie I’ve seen: We recently watched ‘Isn’t It Romantic, starring Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth with our daughters. We all enjoyed it – it was fun and light-hearted.

2. What do you consider beautiful and why? I consider our children beautiful. It’s so magical that my husband and I were able to create something so perfect. Our beautiful family.

3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could? Something I wish I could do is travel more. I would love to see more of Europe. Unfortunately, due to Covid and the lockdown, it’s impossible. Still, I’m happy to wait until my children grow up some more so that we can experience it together. Hopefully, the world will be in a better place then.

4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d…” walk down the catwalk in a bikini (laughs). As much as I love my body, I don’t feel ready for that yet.

5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself? To be honest, I’m filled with flaws, but I wouldn’t change any of them. They all add up to make me, and I’m proud of the woman I have become.

Meet The Rising Star Behind The Cover Of The September 2021 Issue Of GEK Magazine: Sam Pio

Download Now

At such a young age, Sam Pio is multitalented and living out her dreams as a singer, actress, and model. She is set to release a cover album of faith-based Christian Gospel songs such as Amazing Grace and O’Lord, as well as a solo album with originally written Christian songs later this year. The goal of her music is to bring an angelic, spirit-filled message of hope, love, and light after the tumultuous time the world experienced.

Sam booked her first baby modeling job at the age of 1 with OshKosh B’gosh and later with Vertibaudet Fashion Kids which inspired her to become a rising star and pursue additional passions. By age two she was singing, making up her own songs, and if there was a stage in sight, she wasn’t shy and made her way to perform. Sam has appeared in commercials, theater production, television series, independent films, and has graced main stage events across the country. The independent film she stars in, “Little May,” is out at award-winning film festivals, and her 26-television episode “Love at Work” series is scheduled to premiere on the Hope Channel (date TBD). In this production, Sam is the youngest of 15 singers in this musical, based on the ten commandments of the bible, alongside Whitney Phipps, Yolanda Innocent Palmer, Neville Peter, and nine others.

In December 2020, Sam performed alongside Goo Goo Dolls’ John Rzeznik for Amazon Prime’s first augmented reality movie musical called “It’s Christmas All Over with the Goo Goo Dolls.” A true philanthropist at heart, Sam has used her talent and performed to help raise money for the Los Angeles Food Bank and the families in need.

Sam studies with some of the leading coaches and trainers in the industry and although she works hard at developing her craft she still finds time for her favorite activities – play dates, baking, swimming, board games, and reading the Bible.

Global Elite Kids Magazine recently caught up with Sam and here’s what went down:

Can you tell us about BE BLESSED and your upcoming album featuring originally written Christian songs?

BE BLESSED is a Christian cover album of contemporary, classic hymns, and worship songs like Lauren Daigle’s “Oh Lord,” Toby Mac’s “Everything,” Sinach’s “Way Maker,” and John Newton’s “Amazing Grace”.

My next album is all original music where I get to tell everyone how much God loves them. I am excited to share the visions he has given me. I just can’t wait! We have already started recording and we hope to have the album out by the end of the year. We are working hard to do so but you can’t rush the process. I am in the studio most Friday’s either laying down tracks with my engineer or recording with my vocal producer.

What sort of person is going to love this album?

Anyone who loves uplifting music.

What inspires you to be creative?

God always inspires my work. He gives me a vision; I write it down and turn it into a song. My team is also a huge help with turning my vision into an album.

Is there anything special that you do to get into a creative mindset?

I pray and God answers by giving me a vision.

What message, if any, do you try to put into your work?

My message is about faith and love. How much God loves everyone.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

My baptism, because Jesus is such a huge part of why I do what I do. He gave me my gifts and without Him, I would not even have a career.

Do you ever find yourself unable to express your creativity to the fullest? What kinds of things inhibit you?

When I need to write a song right away but God hasn’t given me the vision yet.

Who is your greatest influence?

Everything I do is influenced by my faith and relationship with God.

Do you feel that you chose your “passion,” or did it choose you?

Both because God asked and I said yes.

If you hadn’t chosen to be a singer, actress, and model, what would your career path be?

My singing, acting, and modeling are second to my relation to God and my ministry. I plan on touring around the world as a missionary giving back to God all that he has given. I just established my own company called Live For Jesus Ministry.

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

I dream of touring around the world and being a missionary, singing praises to God, and helping others get to know the wonderful life they can have through a relationship with God.

Photo credit: Bobby Quillard

5 Interesting Facts That Might Surprise You About Self-Motivation

The link between self-motivation and success is undeniable. Both go hand in hand just like bread and butter. The reality is that with positivity, focused attitude and courage – you are bound to achieve great milestones in life. There is a lot that is said about self-motivation so we have put together an endless list of some interesting facts that might amuse you about self-motivation.

1: It is harder to believe in yourself than you think

It is really easy to read a few motivational quotes and vow to believe in yourself. Acting so is an entirely different story. Self-motivation is highly dependent on how much you believe in your own self; your potentials, skills and abilities. But it is not easy to have the unmoving, undying faith in you. It takes time but it will eventually happen.

2: With continuous efforts, you are bound to get better

Self-motivation makes you believe in the power of continuous efforts. Fact is that with continuous efforts, you are bound to get better and emerge as an unstoppable force. Another fact is that when you make the conscious efforts to improve yourself – everything around you automatically uplifts too. So self-motivation not only helps you to develop personally but helps to improve everything around you too.

3: It is hard to discourage a self-motivated individual

Another fact is that it is almost near to impossible to disappoint or discourage a self-motivated individual in life. It takes a lot for a motivated person to become disheartened. A person who is continually striving to achieve the greater and pursue the better in life is hard to bring down. Even the biggest sorrows and hardships cannot deflate the spirit of a motivated individual. This is indeed the true spirit of self-motivational driving force.

4: A self-motivated person is the most humble

Self-motivation gives you a great sense of confidence but that does not mean it would give you any false pride. In fact, a self-motivated person is the humblest person alive. He is never driven over the roof because of his confidence but is sane and self-assured enough to hold his head high against all odds. So even though self-motivation brings unparalleled success – it never drives to the head of the person and neither does failure. Self-motivation introduces great balance to the life of any individual who manages to achieve it.

5: Setting up Goals is Crucial

A lot of people think that setting up goals is a cliché but the fact of the matter is that without goals there is no point in getting yourself motivated. Once you have a goal in mind, everything would fall into place, and you will be able on the right track of life.

How to Use Social Media for Small Business: 4 Surefire Tips

Social media marketing has exploded into the online marketing industry within the last few years and has completely redefined it. With well over 3 billion active users, the figures are set only to rise, and many companies have already begun to capitalize on its valuable assets, influence, and connectivity.

We have outlined 4 secrets below to growing your business with social media and ultimately improving your revenue and audience.

 1. Promote your e-commerce store

This point may sound obvious at first, but it is critical that this is executed correctly. Ensure users can easily find your store by linking to it in your profile descriptions, posts, stories, and tweets; However, you must keep in mind that consumers do not want to be ‘sold’ to. Some businesses swear by certain ‘content to hard sell’ ratios, for example, 5 posts of purely unique content and inspiration that your followers will value, then 1 post with a hard sell and direct link to your online shop or service.

 2. Content is King

Little and often, an age-old saying, but one that reigns true in the world of social media. Your customers and followers do not want to be bombarded every hour, they can quickly grow tired of your content, no matter how unique or engaging it is. You have to leave them wanting more.

In terms of what your social media posts should contain. Content really is king. The videos, photos or text that you post cannot be repetitive or flat. Some of the most popular types of posts that have gone viral include humor and creativity. Ensure though that you keep your target audience in mind when creating content and keep it relevant.

3. Influencers and Bloggers

Once a very misunderstood industry. Businesses are now understanding the vast potential influencer marketing has for their business. Influencers are everyday people from all walks of life, who particularly inspire a group of individuals who idolize or respect their values and opinions. By expertly selecting influencers who match your product or service values you have the ability to reach a very niche but widespread target audience.

4. Communication

Social media is a means of communication after all. It is important to engage in conversation with not only your followers but other businesses and brands too. Being polite, witty and friendly when interacting with others on social media is key.

However, you must ensure that any awkward or abusive comments and interactions from users are dealt with professionally and calmly. If you have an employee who controls your business account, it is of paramount importance that they understand this too. The world is watching, and social media has the power to spread rude or abusive reactions from a business very quickly. In the past it has even helped to completely destroy the reputation of brands, so count to 10 and reply with consideration and respect.

 In conclusion, social media incorporates a huge number of target markets, although different platforms appeal to different types of users (for example Snapchat appeals to ages 18-25, and Facebook pre-dominantly ages 18-45), social media as a whole is used by almost every culture, age, and nationality on Earth. As long as you are providing enriching content and utilizing appropriate marketing techniques like influencers or adverts, you will begin to see positive growth in followers and engagement on your social accounts, which should transcend to sales and profit for your business.