The Observatory

I’m an early riser. I love to get up and savor the day before anything has even happened yet- the freshness of a new start, a day scrubbed clean from the events of yesterday, rife with opportunity to be filled with good memories. The morning is my time. And this is one of my favorite mornings in Los Angeles to date.

Lucky for me, going to school at UCLA has let me meet some fabulous people. Natalie (@nataliesypkens) is an amazing photographer- and model, may I mention- and Nicole (@nicolepovey) is a gifted makeup artist-to-be. The three of us got up early, hopped in a Lyft, and drove to Griffith Observatory, camera, makeup, and outfits in hand.

That morning epitomized my mental image of a clean slate; for once, Los Angeles wasn’t bright and sunny. The sky was foggy white, obscuring some parts of the observatory when we first arrived there and whitewashing the world. It made for the perfect canvas for the three of us to work some magic on and brought an extra dimension of light to each photo.

While we only brought two looks (we had to make it back to campus on time for class- we’re students, after all), they were able to capture everything I was seeking. A contrast between fashion and landscapes, style and simplicity, color and lack thereof. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I do.

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Aliana

 

Photography: Natalie Sypkens (@nataliesypkens)

Makeup: Nicole Povey (@nicolepovey)

 

Abbot Kin(sl)ey

Cute shops, small side streets, and quirky and bright murals? Sounds like my cup of tea…or Abbot Kinney!

The lovely Hannah (check her out at practically-imperfect.com) and I had the chance to run around Abbot Kinney and soak up its charm with Tia, an amazing photographer, in outfits from Kinsley. Kinsley is a boutique that seemingly has it all- choosing out what I wanted to wear from their store was a daunting task, but I knew that this green dress was for me the moment I laid eyes on it. The lace-up is super trendy, not to mention the suede fabric and color.

Check out some of the photos we took while doing a little exploring- needless to say, Abbot Kinney is now one of my favorite places, period.

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Love,

Aliana

Welcome to the ‘bu

So, I’m pretty sure that nobody calls Malibu “the ‘bu,” but being from Virginia and all I figure that I’m still enough of a tourist to be able to cheesily call it that. Regardless of what you personally choose to call it, I went there for the first time this past weekend- and, I’m happy to report, I completely understand the hype.

It was quieter, full of surfers and clumps of people doing their own thing, and had a lovely sense of charm. I had been at the Santa Monica beach only an hour before venturing up to Topanga beach, and the two are night and day; I essentially took a one way ticket from tourist town to the homie hangout. Yes, I know my alliteration wasn’t the best, but I had to give it a shot.

Why was I there, do you ask? A friend of mine was looking for some long exposure shots for her photography project, which you’ll find at the end of the post. While we waited for the sun to set, we messed around and took some photos for fun. These are amazing and some of my favorites that I have. It was also my first time shooting at the beach, so I think that adds some sentimental value, don’t you think?

Regardless, check out some of the photos! Big shoutout to Natalie Welch for kicking butt with a camera in hand, as per usual.

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L,

Aliana

Oh, How Darling!

Getting back to school has been crazy- classes are in full swing, and between that, working, and trying to shoot, I feel like it’s time to get back to the basics and make a post.

I’m so stoked to share a little bit about one of my jobs with you guys; I’m one of the interns (along with the lovely Lana) for Valorie Darling. If you don’t know her, you’ll want to, and that’s not just because I’m biased. She’s one of the loveliest people, inside and out, and tells beautiful stories through her photography. I was lucky enough to get connected with her, and it’s been a blessing. I’ve learned so much from her not only about photography, running a business and blog, but also about friendship and how to live life to the fullest. Don’t believe me? Check her out for yourself- and tell me that I’m not right. Seriously, I dare you.

But, working for a kick-ass photog comes with its perks- like an impromptu shoot with me and Lana. Here are some of the shots we took (literally in a 5 minute timespan, tops- Val is that good), so give ’em a peek!

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Give Val some love! You can find her @valoriedarling on IG, at http://www.valoriedarlingphotography.com, http://www.sfgdiary.com as one of that lovely trio, and at http://www.socalhearts.org (her charity!).

 

I have a fun shoot to post coming up soon- stay tuned!

 

-Aliana

Vul•ner•a•ble (adj.)

I have been hurt.

I know what it feels like to scream. Not crying, sobbing, or that cry-yell thing we all do; pure screams, coming out of a black hole in the middle of my chest vibrating with anger, hurt, and confusion. I know what it feels like when there is a gaping hole in my chest, raw at the edges, where the scabs that form can, and are, easily broken open by even the gentlest of winds carrying a reminder of the past.

I know I’m not alone. People can suck; they lie, they work to their own benefit, tossing aside the emotions of others, they manipulate, they twist words, and they can do things to hurt us. Sometimes it’s a friend that’s committed some act of betrayal, a family member that has torn you down, or a significant other that has been unfaithful. I’ve experienced each one of these things, and it doesn’t feel any less painful every time that hole in my chest is punched anew. The only thing that has changed is my belief in myself and my strength as a person.

I used to feel very responsible for these things. My “friends” have stopped talking to me? I’ve obviously done something wrong, I was too weird somehow, not interesting enough, not attractive enough, simply not enough in some manner. My parents are upset at me? I have a character flaw, I’m an awful person, maybe my grades didn’t hit that straight-A standard. And, that last thing, the one that hurts worst of all? Being cheated on.

If it’s not a feeling you know, I both envy you and don’t. I envy you because when it happens, it sinks into every pore and cell of my body. Yes, I said happens, because this has been something I’ve experienced more than once and hope to never do so again. I internalized it; maybe that’s not something that everyone does, but it became my fault. Not pretty enough, cool enough, funny enough, smart enough, not as interesting or beautiful or wonderful as whoever I have been abandoned in favor of. I recognize that not everyone does this or feels this way, but it was my experience—and it led me right to that screaming I opened with, lying on my bed with my arms outstretched wondering how and why this had happened to me.

But, that is a risk you sign up for when you make yourself vulnerable, right? By signing your waiver to experience the highest of highs, the fine print warns of the lows that you prettily ignore in the hopes of never having to face them. For the luckier lot of you, that fine print will never come to fruition or mean anything in your life. For those of us that have been cheated on—not even necessarily this one evil, but being hurt by someone you care about, or being violated by a stranger—the fine print suddenly grows from 8-point font to a looming phrase that screams: you are defective.

Now, is this really true? No; the person who betrayed you is the one who is lacking. But it is hard to remember when the black hole is wreaking havoc on your psyche.

Remember how I said that I envy you…but I don’t? I don’t because it would not have given me the strength that I have now, the space inside of me that I have filled with none other than myself and have, in this way, finally healed the gaping wound. I have realized that I am no less wonderful because of someone else’s idiot mistake, to put it bluntly. I am not responsible for their actions. It is not my fault. That realization is so very freeing. It may seem like an obvious thing to an outsider, but it feels like the anchor and shackles weighing me down and keeping me closed have been broken.

To be vulnerable is to be capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon. Thank you, dictionary.com. That weapon comes in many forms, and I have already recounted to you some of which I believe to be the most painful. Because of those pasts, I am both stronger now and less vulnerable. The loss here lies in that many of life’s sweetest moments require a sensitivity, a vulnerability, that make them so enviable. What I have experienced has left me a little rougher around the edges, a little lacking in that softness that allows for the tenderness of a moment. I still have it somewhere, I know I do, but now I need to home in on the perfect harmony of strong and vulnerable.

One day, I’ll find it. I hope that you do too.

 

Aliana

Into the Ivy

Today’s high was 63.

“It was hot today!” they exclaimed.

“This is the warmest it’s been in a while,” they chattered.

Oh, has my life changed.

I used to be able to deal with the cold (well, not entirely—I always complained about how much I hated the chill), but LA has lowered my tolerance to the point that sub-70 has become “chilly” to me. Nonetheless, I ever-so-bravely battled the New England weather to visit Yale and two of the best people I know, Daphne and Julie.

Daphne and I have been friends since Kindergarten; we used to do the stupidest things during our playdates, all of which ended in the two of us hiding from our parents in an awful attempt to try and extend our rambunctious games. 13 years later and we’ve taken our “brilliant” ideas to high school, a weekend in Athens, and now college.

I was seriously lucky to become friends with Julie. We clicked the summer before college, and I am grateful we did—if we hadn’t, I’m afraid we would’ve missed our chance and wouldn’t be as close as we are today. Here’s my chance to brag (sorry, Julie), but she’s a kick-ass golfer and plays for the Yale team. She’s a million times more modest than she should be, but that’s what I’m here for. I’m pretty good at playing the role of “embarrassing friend.”

Anyways, they hosted me for a weekend on this “warm” weekend—which, I’ll admit, really wasn’t so bad—and showed me the ins and outs of Yale. What would I be doing though, really, if I didn’t bring along my camera?

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UCLA is absolutely gorgeous in its own right—the Spanish architecture and palm trees are a bit different, however, from the castle-like serenity of Yale’s campus. Each residential college is its own little thriving community, and Commons—well, Common is a beast all its own. I had the chance to attend the freshman holiday dinner, and Commons was completely decked out like Hogwarts at Christmas. The dinner wouldn’t be complete, however, without a procession of an insane amount of food, sweets, and breads that the students then ambushed, turkey legs flying through the air (literally) and cakes being grabbed by whoever could get their hands on it first. It was a sight to see, let me tell you, and I was slightly dumbfounded by the grandeur of it all. Just Yale things, I guess?

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But, this was the best weekend. The change of scenery, its beauty, the warmer (I still digress) weather, and best of all, being with two beauties I haven’t seen since we parted ways to be college students. I’m so excited to turn the tables and show them my beautiful campus and everything UCLA has to offer. Maybe one day soon…

Happy holidays!
Aliana

C’Est La Vegan

I get a lot of grass jokes. Don’t get me wrong—I think they’re funny, and I am almost always the first to poke fun at myself. But, folks, I eat more than leaves. Vegan food can actually be yummy…yes, how shocking.

Another thing I get a lot of is this: when did you become vegan, and why? So, let me explain. I have been vegan for approximately 18 months, and I am vegan because I seek compassion.

The summer before senior year, and eating almost an entirely plant-based diet, I decided to say what the hell, why not, and go full-on vegan. One week became two, then three, and I kept with it. I read a lot online, learning about people’s vegan stories, how veganism affects the environment, its health benefits, and all of the ethics and morals that go along with it. Ultimately, what it boils down to is this: compassion.

To me, veganism brings an element of compassion to the animals whose lives are at stake, the environment, and to myself. Veganism, in my eyes, is all about intent and the want to be better. The industry surrounding livestock production is vile and not something I am willing to support by purchasing its products. Not only this, but animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation and a huge factor in climate change. Finally, it lets me take the compassion I am offering to these animals and the environment and reflect it inward.

Every time I make a choice to be vegan, picking up the vegan option at the dining hall, staying away from animal products in favor of plant-based ones, it serves as a reminder to internalize the compassion I am offering in making these choices. I am someone that has insecurities, and I can tear myself apart and be my own worst enemy. But being vegan encourages me to be gentle with myself as well. It may not make a whole lot of sense, but to me it is another opportunity for me to show myself some compassion. If I can stand up for a cause, then I can stand up for myself too.

So, keep the jokes coming, tease me about eating meat and cheese, and I’ll laugh right along with you. Everyone’s choices are unique, and mine is something I couldn’t be more proud of.

Cheers,

Aliana