Published for The Baylor Lariat on April 9, 2019

Strange things in Waco: Calpurnia performs on Fountain Mall for Dia

After a day’s worth of exciting Dia festivities, Baylor students made their way to Fountain Mall where they were entertained by Calpurnia, a Vancouver-based indie rock band whose leader singer Finn Wolfhard is known for playing Mike on the hit Netflix show “Stranger Things”.

In mid-2018, the group released their first EP, “Scout,” which includes its single “City Boy,” a track that has been streamed over 4 million times on Spotify. The group also includes drummer Malcolm Craig, bass player Jack Anderson and vocalist and guitar player Ayla Tesler-Mabe. Calpurnia played for an hour, showcasing a mix of covers like Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So” and “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Beatles, as well as original tracks like “Greyhound” and “Blame.” They also played their new single “Cell” live for the first time.

Wolfhard played a red guitar and rocked a Baylor slime hat during the performance, and the group congratulated the Baylor women’s basketball team on its recent championship win. They also discussed that Baylor is the first university they have ever played at, and engaged with the crowd on topics ranging from the Baylor campus to hype surrounding the Buccee’s chain.

Baylor Chamber of Commerce and Union Board paid tribute to Wolfhard and his famous TV role by hosting a “Stranger Things” marathon from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Bill Daniel Student Center. The room was also decorated with strung rainbow lights as a reference to the show.

Jordy Dickey, assistant director of the student union, saw the event as a way to both pay tribute to Wolfhard and to get students excited about Calpurnia’s upcoming on-campus concert.

“When the Dia team announced that Calpurnia was coming and that the lead singer is in ‘Stranger Things,’ we asked to partner on a marathon screening and they said absolutely,” Dickey said. “We thought it would be a great way to pay tribute to the lead singer while also creating promo for the concert. Chamber gave us freedom to design what the program would look like—we wanted to make the show come to life by pulling out strings of lightbulbs and making a comfortable feel.”

Along with the all-day marathon, the groups partnered with Common Grounds to create custom coffee and pizza orders (from Slow Rise) to fit the Stranger Things theme. As a reference to the Eggos in the show, the pizza served included fried chicken, buttermilk Eggo waffles and maple barbecue sauce with maple syrup on the side. Common Grounds barista Matthew Owen was excited about the turnout of the event and described the coffee order as a reference to Stranger Things’ “the upside down.”

“It was a strawberry white chocolate mocha where we dyed the milk and espresso—it’s inspired by the upside down in Stranger Things where everything is inverted,” Owen said. “There’s been a lot more people than I thought would be here—we had about 300 drink and pizza vouchers and we got rid of all of them in 15 to 30 minutes. It’s been a solid influx of people.”

Dickey saw the partnership with Common Grounds as a successful way to incorporate the theme and was impressed by the fan base that was present for the marathon and event.

“We love the partnership with Common Grounds. They took the vision and took it to another level—that’s exactly what we want. They took their creativity and helped make the event a home run,” Dickey said. “People are really intrigued by the show—we’re excited there’s been a really good response. There’s a huge fan base for Stranger Things—the season three trailer got over 2.2 million hits, so we knew there would be fans and it has been fun bringing this to life.”

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Published for The Baylor Lariat on April 2, 2019

The decade of Disney- 90s’ animation still proves impactful

When thinking of our favorite Disney movies, we often look to the classics released in the 1950s. “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Peter Pan,” “Lady and the Tramp” and “Alice in Wonderland” are films we all grew up watching. However, be less obvious to note that many other of the best known Disney movies all came from another decade: the 1990’s. Despite some hits like “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” or “The Jungle Book” released from the ’60’s to the ’80’s, this three-decade time period was a slump for Disney animation. However, the ’90’s acted as a renaissance for classic films that audiences grew to know and love, giving us many movies that are being revived and remade today. Here’s a look back at some of the best Disney classics that the ’90’s had to offer.

The Little Mermaid

“The Little Mermaid” was technically released in November 1989, but it was the catalyst film for a decade of Disney achievement. The film brought Disney back to its roots by introducing a new princess in Ariel, a mermaid whose desire to live as a human on land and love for Prince Eric cause her to exchange her voice for legs. The Little Mermaid was an instant classic, winning two Academy Awards for best original score and best song for “Under the Sea.”

Beauty and the Beast

Disney released another instant success with 1991’s “Beauty and the Beast,” the tale of a young woman who becomes prisoner in an enchanted castle after taking her father’s place. She ultimately falls in love with the Beast, cast away as a hideous creature as a result of his past cruel actions, but transformed into a prince by the end of the film. The storyline and characters of this movie have become iconic, and the story has been released as a popular Broadway play and remade as a successful live action film starring Emma Watson. “Beauty and the Beast” was the first animated movie nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards and won best original score and best original song for “Beauty and the Beast.” Laguna Beach, Calif., sophomore Ashley Shelton’s favorite Disney film from the ’90’s is Beauty and the Beast due to its memorable cast of characters and the imaginative world created for the story.

“I think a lot of original Disney movies like “Beauty and the Beast” from this time period are still impactful because they allow children to see and know an imaginary world where anything is possible and dreams can come true,” Shelton said. “The movies allow us to escape reality and teaches us bigger lessons in life.”

Aladdin

1992’s Aladdin has been one of Disney’s most all-time successful movies, with a popular soundtrack and sense of humor brought by Robin Williams’ free-talking Genie. The film is a type of rags-to-riches story, following free-spirited Aladdin as he wishes to become a prince and win the heart of princess Jasmine. Aladdin won best original song at the Academy Awards for “A Whole New World” as well as best original score. The film has been made into a successful Broadway show and a live-action remake starring Will Smith will be released this May.

The Lion King

This 1994 film is often regarded as one of the best Disney films of all time, telling the story of young lion Simba, heir to the throne of his father’s kingdom, until he is forced into exile after being convinced he is to blame for the death of his father. Helpful friendships and life lessons that Simba develops on his journey lead him to defeat his evil uncle Scar and reclaim the throne. The Lion King is known for its strong themes and character development, as well as its iconic soundtrack. Three songs were nominated for best original song at the Academy Awards — “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” won — and the film won best original score. The Lion King is also a popular Broadway show and is becoming a live-action remake being released this July.

Toy Story

1995’s “Toy Story” is the first Disney film released through Pixar Animation Studios, and the first full-length solely computer-animated movie. The story follows a young boy whose toys come to life when humans aren’t around, particularly the rivalry and ultimate friendship that form between Woody, a cowboy doll, and Buzz Lightyear, space ranger toy. The film is one of Pixar’s most successful, leading to two popular sequels and “Toy Story 4,” which will be released this June. “Toy Story” was also nominated for best original screenplay, best original score and best original song — “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” — at the Academy Awards. The film also won a special achievement award. Naples, Fla., junior Lauren Mulford appreciated growing up with the “Toy Story” movies.

“I am really excited for “Toy Story 4” — I remember watching the first one over and over when I was younger,” Mulford said. “Watching the following sequels, it felt like Andy was growing up with me too. I think the Toy Story movies offer an entertaining experience with humor and emotions that both children and adults enjoy.”

Pocahontas, Mulan and Tarzan

These three films released in 1995, 1998 and 1999 respectively were also incredibly popular films in the ’90s and today. Mulan in particular is praised for its strong heroine and memorable soundtrack and is rumored to become a live-action remake within the next few years. Mulford’s favorite ’90s Disney film to grow up with was Mulan because she stood out from other female disney characters.

“My favorite film from this decade is Mulan because of her bravery,” Mulford said. “She joined the army in disguise to protect her father and become a great hero. Her boldness to do what was right for her family and country is inspiring to me.”

Pocahontas and Tarzan both won Academy Awards for best original song (Pocahontas’ “Colors of the Wind” and Tarzan’s “You’ll Be in my Heart”). All three films are examples of classic Disney animation and contain popular storylines, songs and characters.

Honorable Mentions

Other popular animated Disney films were released in the ’90s, including “Hercules,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “A Bug’s Life” and “Toy Story 2.” Several live action films have also stood the test of time, including “Halloweentown,” “Hocus Pocus” and “The Parent Trap.”

Whether it be the catchy soundtracks, relatable characters or attention to detail in animation, ’90s Disney films prove to be some of the company’s most successful and memorable, setting the stage for popular movies to come over the next decade. Mulford remembers these films from childhood as possessing courageous characters and containing lessons about finding your way and growing up.

“These classic Disney films tend to frame around a character who overcomes great challenges with confidence,” Mulford said. “They harness the spirit of adventure and being true to yourself. The life lessons learned in them are still powerful.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Published for The Baylor Lariat on March 28, 2019

Mason Ramsey hosts Waco Hall concert

Baylor students decked out in cowboy hats and boots flooded Waco Hall on Thursday for a concert performed by 12-year-old country artist Mason Ramsey. He became famous after a video of him singing a cover of “Lovesick Blues” in an Illinois Walmart went viral.

The event was hosted by Phi Kappa Chi and Pi Beta Phi, and all ticket sales went towards the two groups’ philanthropies I Love Orphans and Read Lead Achieve. Student Government and Baylor Panhellenic Council were also involved with the event.

Ramsey began the concert with “The Way I See It,” a song off of his recent EP Famous. He wore a large hat and sparkly jacket the whole show, performing some songs on guitar and some engaging with the crowd across the stage. Ramsey sang a mix of covers like “Ring of Fire” and his famous “Lovesick Blues” at the show as well as original songs like his hit song “Famous” as an encore.

Prior to Ramsey’s time on stage, an opening act titled Avenue Beat performed. The group was an all-girl trio, performing several acoustic tracks and covers of popular songs like “Shallow” from A Star is Born and “Breaking Free” from High School Musical.

Bee Cave freshman Anna Tabet appreciated Ramsey’s stage presence during the show and his willingness to interact with audience members and perform.

“Some of my favorite aspects of the concert were the moments when Mason would get flirty and funny with the audience—he’s very charismatic and just plain adorable so he definitely had everyone in the audience in the palm of his hand,” Tabet said. “I think Mason’s age, talent and attitude all separate him from other artists. It’s so crazy to see a little kid like him commanding the stage, and his voice is incredible too.”

Tabet said the environment of the show was full of audience involvement and an exciting, lively vibe amongst attendees.

“The atmosphere of the show was definitely very fun and lively,” Tabet said. “Everyone in the audience was waiting for Mason to do something quirky and fun and he knew it and thrived off of it. It definitely was never boring.”

Ontario, Calif., sophomore Payton Peauroi said she appreciated Ramsey’s stage presence and effort to make the show as entertaining as possible for those involved.

“Every single person around me was on their feet swaying to his voice the entire time,” Peauroi said. “I don’t even think there was a moment of silence in all of Waco Hall because of all the excitement. From the starting band to his final song Famous, I felt totally engaged and drawn to his stage presence. He is so genuine and you could tell he wanted to give us the best experience he possibly could.”

Colleyville senior Trent Bradley, a member of Phi Kappa Chi and the one who originally reached out to Ramsey via email, said he appreciated the event for its contribution to philanthropies using the money for useful causes.

“The coolest part about this event is that every penny we make will be donated to our respective philanthropies,” Bradley said. “Phi Chi’s philanthropy I Love Orphans is currently using our donated funds to support the Bukaleba Project, an architectural plan to build a community hospital, vocational center, children’s dormitories, dining facilities and classrooms in Jinja, Uganda. Pi Phi will also be donating their proceeds to Read Lead Achieve, their philanthropic effort that hopes to inspire a lifelong love of reading and to create a more literate and productive society.”

Bradley didn’t initially expect Ramsey agent to respond to his email but is glad that the concert was organized and that the hard work gone in to planning and executing the event has paid off.

“I wasn’t really trying to plan a concert when I reached out to Mason Ramsey’s agent. I was serving as president at the time and planning a concert wasn’t necessarily in my job description. I knew there would be a huge audience for this type of concert if we could land him—the virality of his original video made him a household name, at least amongst college students. If the yodeling boy comes to campus, you have to go,” Bradley said. “Trying to bring a big name to Baylor’s campus has been a lot of work, but knowing this concert will help thousands of individuals all across the globe has made it so worth it.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Published for The Bundle Magazine on February 22, 2019

Oscars 101: A quick guide to this year’s films

Oscars season is officially underway. The movie industry’s most anticipated night of the year takes place this Sunday, and will feature this year’s top films receiving prestigious awards like Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, and the top prize, Best Picture. There are eight films nominated for Best Picture this year- some of them are slightly obscure smaller films, which is typical of films nominated in this category, but others are some of this year’s top-earning blockbusters. Although it’s always good to see as many movies as possible nominated for Oscar categories, it can realistically be challenging as a college student to find time to watch eight films that oftentimes run over an hour and a half.

Because of this, I’ve composed a quick guide to this year’s top eight films nominated for Best Picture and have included the easiest ways to watch or stream each movie, as well as top information to know about each film.

A Star is Born

This Bradley Cooper-directed film depicts the relationship between Jack, a country star who struggles with addiction, and Ally, a young singer looking to break into the music industry (played by Lady Gaga). Although the film was popular amongst audiences and critics, the Best Picture nominee has seemed to lose momentum over awards season, with Cooper not even receiving a Best Director nomination. However, the film was still nominated in several other important categories, including Best Actor (Cooper), Best Actress (Gaga), Best Supporting Actor (Sam Elliott) and Best Original Song (“Shallow”), which will likely win in its category. Personally, I absolutely loved A Star is Born and believed the movie deserves more recognition this awards season, particularly for Cooper’s directing and underrated acting performance.

Best ways to watch: A Star is Born is still showing in select theaters, and can be rented via iTunes for $5.99.

BlacKkKlansman

Director Spike Lee’s film depicts police officers who go undercover to monitor activity of the Ku Klux Klan chapter in their Colorado small town during the 1970’s. Lee establishes the film as one with topics relevant not only 40 years ago but today in our nation as well, containing references throughout the film to issues that we still currently deal with. For me, the film’s strength lies in its impressive acting and clever dialogue, as well as in its choice to not brush over important topics. The film is favored to win for Best Adapted Screenplay, and has garnered nominations for Best Director and Best Supporting Actor (Adam Driver).

Best ways to watch: The film can be rented for $5.99 on Amazon or YouTube.

Black Panther

Black Panther is the second highest-grossing film worldwide of 2018 and is one of the most well-known films nominated in the Best Picture category. The story follows the fictional nation of Wakanda, which poses as a third world country while in reality housing some of the world’s top technological advancements. The choice to use the nation’s resources to help other countries or to maintain an isolationist stance to preserve culture and discoveries leads to power struggles among competing leaders. I’m typically not a huge fan of superhero movies, but I found Black Panther thoroughly entertaining and enjoyed the creative plot and visual effects. Although not expected to win in its nominated categories, Black Panther still remains an impressive feat as the first superhero movie nominated for Best Picture and for promoting African and African American representation in the film’s storyline and cast.

Best ways to watch: Black Panther is available for streaming on Netflix. The film can also be rented on platforms like YouTube and Amazon.

Bohemian Rhapsody

The popular biopic film following the life of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury is also one of this year’s highest grossing films, ranking 7th in overall international sales. Despite mixed reviews from critics, the film garnered a large fan following and has gained momentum during awards season thus far, even winning Best Motion Picture- Drama at the Golden Globes. Although not likely a contender for the Best Picture prize, Rami Malek is highly favored to win Best Actor for his realistic and larger-than-life portrayal of Mercury. I loved Bohemian Rhapsody for its visual effects and attention to detail, but like most critics, saw Malek’s role as the best and most impactful part of the film.

Best ways to watch: Bohemian Rhapsody is still playing in select theaters, but can also be rented for $5.99 on platforms like iTunes and YouTube.

The Favourite

This period piece takes place in 18th century England, and depicts the desperate and at times extreme lengths that cousins Sarah and Abigail go through to win the favor of reigning Queen Anne. The film includes elements of humor as well as a star-studded cast, several of whom are nominated for awards like Best Actress (Olivia Colman) and Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz). Something that stood out to me about The Favourite was the unique cinematography, editing and set design, all of which also proved impressive to the Academy, with the film receiving 10 overall nominations. I personally saw Olivia Colman’s performance as Oscar-worthy, but the most likely category The Favourite will take on Sunday is Best Original Screenplay.

Best ways to watch: The Favourite can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon or YouTube for $14.99.

Green Book

Green Book depicts a bouncer from an Italian American neighborhood in the Bronx who forms a friendship with a renowned African American pianist while serving as his driver. The film takes place in the 1960’s, and revolves around the bond made between the two characters during the pianist’s concert tour in the South. Unfortunately, Green Book is the only Best Picture-nominated film I have yet to see, but the movie is expected to pick up several awards on Oscars night. Along with being a definite contender for the Best Picture prize, Green Book is nominated in categories like Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor (Viggo Mortensen), and Mahershala Ali is highly favored to win for Best Supporting Actor.

Best ways to watch: Green Book is currently still showing in theaters, and can be bought on platforms like Amazon for $14.99.

Roma

Out of all of the nominated films I have seen, Roma personally stood out to me the most. The film depicts the story of Cleo, a live-in maid for a middle-class family in Mexico City. The film is in Spanish but can easily be watched with English subtitles, and is shot completely in black and white. The film’s symbolism, cinematography and realistic depiction stood out to film critics, and landed the movie 10 Academy Awards nominations. If Roma wins Best Picture (which is likely), it would be the first foreign language film in history to take that category. Along with Best Picture, Alfonso Cuarón is favored to win for Best Director, creating the film as one heavily inspired by his childhood and home growing up.

Best ways to watch: Roma is available to stream on Netflix.

Vice

Vice was another of my favorite films this year due to the unique film editing and creative take on what could have been a standard biopic of former vice president Dick Cheney. The film depicts the life story of Cheney from his days working as a lineman in Wyoming to his time serving in the Bush administration. Although the film received mixed reviews and was deemed by many as inaccurate, I viewed the exaggerated dialogue and mannerisms as an intentional choice on Vice’s part, although the overall portrayal was definitely not a positive one. Christian Bale’s transformative performance as Cheney establishes him as Malek’s biggest competition for Best Actor, and the film also received seven other nominations in categories like Best Director and Best Supporting Actress and Actor (Sam Rockwell and Amy Adams).

Best ways to watch: Vice may still be showing in select theaters, and will become available to watch on platforms like Amazon and iTunes for $14.99 in March.

The Oscars will be airing at 8 p.m. ET, and can be streamed through ABC’s website or the ABC app.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Published for The Baylor Lariat on October 31, 2018

Netflix’s new revival ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ offers suspense and scares

On October 29th, Netflix released “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” a darker take on the popular ‘90s sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and the Archie Comic of the same name.

The first season of the series was ten episodes and is an eerie drama, perfect for the Halloween season — just don’t watch it expecting something similar to “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” Both the sitcom and new show tell the story of Sabrina Spellman, a half-witch, half-mortal who navigates living a double life upon the arrival of her 16th birthday—a crucial coming-of-age of the witch community.

Despite the similar story lines, the two series couldn’t be more different. “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” succeeds as a light-hearted sitcom focused on the struggles and crazy antics that result from her identity as a half-witch. “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” however, is more heavily based on the 2014 Archie Comic series, and has similarities to the comic-based hit show Riverdale. The two shows even have the same creator, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. The new series is also reminiscent of popular movies like “Halloweentown” and “Hocus Pocus,” as well as “American Horror Story: Coven,” which focuses on a group of modern-day witches. Although it may cause a bit of shock for fans of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and its light-hearted playfulness, “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” offers a completely different take on the popular story and succeeds in capturing a darker mood.

“The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is located in the fictional location of Greendale, a quaint East Coast town with a mysterious past. Part of the series actually takes place in October, but the town appears to have a permanent Halloween feel, surrounded by a dark forest and underground mines, and containing an old-fashioned movie theater and bookshop. In this version of the series, Sabrina also lives in a mortuary as opposed to a common house like in the sitcom, offering a spookier atmosphere. This switch in details successfully shifted the mood of the show and established it as a series completely independent of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.”

“The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” also adds some new additions to the sitcom’s storyline. While “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” features Sabrina attending a common, mortal high school, the new series follows Sabrina as she studies at both her normal high school and the Academy of the Unseen Arts, a secret school for witches. Sabrina also has a cousin named Ambrose in the revival, as well as two best friends in Rosalind and Susie. A handful of other characters are also introduced at her school for witches.

One of the most notable changes between the sitcom and revival, lies in the role of Salem, Sabrina’s cat and trusty companion. While “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” features Salem speaking aloud as a human and often making witty and sassy remarks, ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” shows a speechless Salem who acts as a guardian and protector. While this may upset fans of the original, I think it was necessary for Salem’s role to shift with the show’s new darker feel. Several characters like Sabrina’s boyfriend Harvey Kinkle and Aunts Hilda and Zelda exist in both versions, however.

Another drastic difference between the sitcom and revival is how “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” chooses to take on darker, more intense subject matter. “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” often featured Sabrina’s powers leading her to humorous, low-stakes situations and adventures, and Sabrina discovers that she is a witch on her sixteenth birthday. In the revival, Sabrina has always known about her identity and instead prepares for her “dark baptism” where she is expected to fully submit to Satan and his wishes on her 16th birthday. ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” focuses on the witches as devil worshippers committed to a religion of dark magic and contains scenes of graphic violence and demon possession. An episode titled “Feast of Feasts” even features a ritual involving sacrifice and cannibalism. While the subject matter may seem a bit dark, it establishes the perfect Halloween atmosphere and contributes to the show’s more sinister feel.

A definite triumph in “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” lies in Kiernan Shipka, who plays a strong and courageous Sabrina, willing to fight for her loved ones and what she believes to be morally right. While Melissa Joan Hart portrays Sabrina as your every-day girl in the sitcom, Shipka’s Sabrina requires greater strength and resilience considering the show’s darker tone. In the revival, Sabrina fights against practices and traditions in the dark church that she deems cruel and unusually harsh, even if that means going against her religion’s leaders and authority. She and her friends are also strong advocates for ending book censorship and promoting women’s rights, even establishing a women’s club at their high school to protect and encourage each other. Shipka’s Sabrina succeeds as being both relatable and a role model.

Despite the completely different moods offered by the sitcom and revival, both prove to be successful in their own ways. “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is a triumph, offering scares and the perfect mood for Halloween. Make sure to mentally separate the revival as its own independent series, and you’ll be sure to enjoy the show’s spooky storylines and darker approach.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Published for The Baylor Lariat on September 27, 2018

Reese Witherspoon talks southern culture and women empowerment at Magnolia book signing

Hundreds of fans gathered at Magnolia Market on Thursday as actress Reese Witherspoon discussed her new book Whiskey in a Teacup, a book with a combination of recipes and stories from her childhood in Tennessee.

Witherspoon has been promoting Whiskey in a Teacup on a book tour for the past ten days, making stops everywhere from New York to Nashville. The book premiered at No. 1 of the New York Times Best Seller List.

At this stop, Witherspoon was interviewed by journalist and news personality Jenna Bush, who asked her about her biggest female role models to what she admires most about Elle Woods, Witherspoon’s iconic character in the movie “Legally Blonde”.

Witherspoon said that Whiskey in a Teacup is a love letter to her grandparents and a dedication to her childhood growing up surrounded by southern culture.

“Whiskey in a Teacup is an analogy from my grandma,” Witherspoon said. “She believed that southern women are beautiful and ornamental on the outside but fiery on the inside.”

Witherspoon talked about how picking Magnolia Market as a stop on her book tour comes from her love of the hit TV show Fixer Upper. She said that she especially appreciates Magnolia Table’s key phrase “everyone deserves a seat at the table.”

“I absolutely love that as a mantra,” Witherspoon said. “It promotes inclusion – there’s so many good people that are the backbone of this country, and people need to be reminded of that.”

Witherspoon has starred in a variety of movies and television shows, but Bush noted how Witherspoon’s most known role to this day seems to still be Elle Woods.

“Legally Blonde taught me the power of movies. So many young women told me they went to law school because of Elle Woods,” Witherspoon said. “Elle has a message of positivity and feeling empowered – we all need to continue reaching out to be leaders to lead the next generation.”

Another highlight of the interview came from Witherspoon discussing her media brand Hello Sunshine, which helps promote women as the center of their own stories both in film and throughout life. She also discussed her book club, her talk show “Shine on with Reese”, filming “Big Little Lies” with Nicole Kidman, and a new fictional project with Jennifer Aniston based off of talk shows like Good Morning America and the Today Show.

Betsy Carts, a Waco native and attendee of the event, admires Witherspoon’s promotion of female empowerment through the projects she takes on.

“I love that she’s a strong voice for equal pay for women,” Carts said. “In my line of work, I just love that there’s no glass ceiling for women, and I hope more women can experience equality. I love how Reese also promotes that.”

Sarah Evans, who resides in Austin and was another attendee of the event, appreciates Witherspoon for her authenticity and how she’s stayed grounded through her involvement in the entertainment industry.

“I like that she stays centered around her family and is honest to her roots,” Evans said. “She hasn’t been steered away from that – she’s reinvented staying true to her southern culture and has made it cool again.”

Bush concluded her interview by asking rapid-fire fun questions allowing the audience to learn Witherspoon’s favorite holiday is Easter, favorite southern city is Charleston, and favorite movie she’s acted in is Walk the Line. Ultimately, Witherspoon tied everything related to her career and her family back to her southern roots and she sees her upbringing as something that will always play a significant part of her life.

“After all this time I still say y’all – people told me to change my accent or I’d never find work in the industry, but ironically I’ve gotten the most work because of my accent,” Witherspoon said. “Southern traditions never leave you – they’re something formed and passed down through generations.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Published for The Baylor Lariat on September 24, 2018

@Tomatbaylor captures campus memories, moments and more

Tom Barnard isn’t the average Baylor faculty member — when he’s not accomplishing tasks for the Baylor marketing department, he also acts as the owner of the popular Instagram account @tomatbaylor.

Officially, Barnard is the assistant director for student outreach in the Department of Student Learning and Engagement. Occasionally, he writes the What’s New BU emails, runs the Facebook groups for incoming Baylor classes and helps with graphics and photography for student programs and activities.

Along with Barnard’s on-campus duties, he’s known as the face behind @tomatbaylor, his public Instagram account with over 2,700 followers where he captures photographs of all things Baylor related, including the campus, student events and sports games.

“When I started work at Baylor, I began posting so much on my personal account about the school that I had some relatives that were getting tired of it,” Barnard said. “I have a handful of other relatives and close friends that are all Baylor alumni who wanted to see my stuff, so I decided to start another account just dedicated to Baylor.”

Barnard has a passion for photography and used to work at a smaller university as a creative director involved in social media and taking pictures. He sees his Instagram account as an outlet for expressing creativity outside of his campus job.

“I was a creative director and one of three marketing people for the whole university, so all social media and photography was mine — I had a lot more creative outlets than I have here,” Barnard said. “I would much rather be at Baylor though — its more dynamic and fun. I haven’t had a real specific photographic creative outlet here, so my account has turned into a place that allows me to leave my desk and do something more creative and interesting.”

Barnard’s account has generated considerable popularity, with many posts hitting 500 to 600 likes. He’s not surprised by the support; however, he believes the success is a reflection of the Baylor community’s willingness to support each other.

“I haven’t been surprised by the support — it’s one of the things I love about Baylor,” Barnard said. “If nothing else shows through my account, it’s that I have a passion for photography and this university, and the thing I love most about Baylor is the people. You consistently hear from touring prospective students that the people at Baylor are so nice. Kindness is so rare these days, and Baylor has so much of it.”

Barnard doesn’t have to attend any events for his position, but he said he genuinely loves supporting all that the university and student body put on and capturing events in the moment.

“I’m not required to attend any events — everything I’m doing to get the shots is because I want to be there because it’s fun, and the energy is good,” Barnard said. “Unless it’s noted in the comments under a post, everything is iPhone shot. I don’t like the long process of transferring photos to a computer and editing. I like the immediacy of being in the moment — there’s power in social media when it’s not a delayed post.”

Barnard attends many on-campus events, both traditional events and everyday activities.

“My favorite events to attend are football, partly because the stadium is so beautiful. It’s hard to point your camera anywhere and not get a good picture,” Barnard said. “My favorite thing to shoot, however, is architecture. It’s one of my passions in life —I have to force myself out of not just doing Baylor beauty shots.”

When it comes to favorite campus buildings, Barnard loves Pat Neff as a typical favorite and Tidwell as an off-the-wall pick.

“I keep track of what gets the most likes, and it’s consistently spirit-related events or Pat Neff. There are 20 generations of people that know that building and can relate to it — it’s gorgeous,” Barnard said. “I also like Tidwell — it’s so weird. If you go up to the fourth or fifth floor, there’s nothing there except for four faculty offices that are two stories tall with 20-foot ceilings. There are bookshelves all the way around with giant ladders, so it looks like a Harry Potter professor’s office.”

In terms of other events or places he’s interested in shooting, Barnard has several unique spots he hopes to someday gain access to.

“I want to go down into the steam tunnels — any college that’s older than a certain time has them,” Barnard said. “They used boilers to heat buildings and there are tunnels between buildings on campus. There’s a popular movie called Real Genius where a guy lives in steam tunnels — ever since seeing that movie, I’ve wanted to see them. I want to tour the energy complex too — it’s another weird building, but we make all our own power here, and I think it would be interesting inside.”

Naples, Fla., junior Lauren Mulford appreciates how Barnard captures the Baylor community in an authentic way that reflects what Baylor students see every day.

“What’s great about the account is that the photos are from the perspective of a Baylor faculty member,” Mulford said. “I think they accurately illustrate what it’s like to live a day in the life of someone at Baylor, and the opportunities that the school offers.”

She especially enjoys Barnard’s photos of Baylor traditions, and how they capture the school’s enthusiasm for school spirit and pride.

“My favorite pictures are related to traditions like Dia and Christmas on 5th because they show the unique things that the university does to make the student experience the best it can be,” Mulford said. “He captures very candid moments of students having a blast, which makes our school stand out among others.”

Barnard advises Baylor students to attend as many events as possible and capture significant moments as they happen for future memories.

“Attend as much as possible — the time goes by fast, so grab on to as many Baylor-specific memories as you can,” Barnard said. “Make sure to shoot everything, whether that be your friends or your experiences. 10 or 15 fifteen years from now, you will be very nostalgic about your time here. You want your photo album to go with the stories.”