Originally Published By: InterviewHer.com on January 20, 2011
“I’ve danced my entire life,” began Lauren Pellettieri, as she described the co-founding of her dance company, Liberated Movement. “In college I was part of a student-run dance group for four years. I performed, rehearsed and taught classes.” After she graduated from Fordham University, she moved to Manhattan – the home to some of the most prestigious dance academies and companies – and discovered that advanced instruction cost at least $18 per class. “I was still dancing, but not nearly as much,” explained Pellettieri in an interview. “ I missed my regular routine.”
Pellettieri found herself attending more yoga classes than dance because a St. Mark’s Place Studio, called Yoga to the People, offered donation-based instruction, which worked better for her budget. Then, as her need to dance grew, and she heard how much her friends struggled to pay for dance classes as well, she had an idea. What if she could create, with the help of her friends and trusted teachers, a dance initiative with donation-based classes that would fund space at a dance studio?
After doing research she discovered that such a company didn’t exist…yet. “This is New York City,”
she said, “it should exist. This is the dance capital of the world!”
Next, Pellettieri brought her idea to her best friend, Elizabeth Fielder who later helped her start Liberated Movement, and asked, “How feasible is this?”
Now, over a year later, Liberated Movement, a dance initiative founded to teach anyone with a desire to have fun, learn new technique and exercise, has classes almost every day for a suggested donation of only $5. With a variety of classes throughout the week in a Battery Park studio in lower Manhattan, seasoned dancers and first-timers alike, gather to move freely together – in more ways than one.
There’s no membership fee, just positive attitudes, passion and a desire to sweat. “Our goal was to make dance more accessible to experience, without the expense,” explained Pellettieri . “Everyone is free to give what they want. An envelope is passed around at the end of class – all donations are anonymous.”
Classes at Liberated Movement include a wide variety like Masala Bhangra (which is taught by Pellettieri), ballet, contemporary, modern, jazz, hip hop, theater dance and West African. Plus, she and her band of dedicated friends are always adding new courses like this month’s Glee themed class or their special Thriller event for Halloween in 2010.
For Lauren Pellettieri, Liberated Movement is not just about getting her dance fix. “Personally, I wanted to break barriers about dance,” she said. “Taking a dance class can be intimidating. We want people to feel welcome and comfortable. Sometimes you want to take class and just bust it out!”
To date the program has had two private donations, but runs solely on donations to pay for using space at the Battery Park Dance Studio, where Pellettieri was once an intern. Each class offers the same quality of instruction from some of the most sought after studios in the city because the instructors volunteer their time. In the future, Ms. Pellettieri hopes to expand Liberated Movement and build upon this notion of empowering women. A private space, more classes and eventually a way to incorporate a clinical practice for therapeutic movement are some of her big picture plans.
“I want to do dance and movement therapy. I would love to have classes that empower positive body image and confidence with moves that promote health.” This combination approach of physical and mental wellness will surely come – especially since Pellettieri is in the process of getting her Master’s in clinical social work. “It wasn’t something I originally saw under the umbrella of Liberated Movement, but then I realized it could encompass the entire thing.”
For anyone looking to embrace their inner dancer, get a little exercise, or simply feel liberated — check out the classes offered each week at LiberatedMovement.com. And, remember feeling good about your body is only a few steps away with a friendly group who simply love to dance.
Written by: Christa Fletcher
Originally Published By: Women’s eNews on December 13, 2010
A book-banning effort against “Speak,” a young-adult novel about date rape, is creating an uproar. A campus group is making a documentary, a Twitter feed is discussing censorship and a library group expects the controversy to attract teen readers.
(WOMENSENEWS)–A Missouri State University professor’s bid to ban a young-adult novel about date rape, among other “filthy books,” from the school district’s English courses is spurring young-adult authors and teachers to speak out against censorship in a country where more than 10,676 books have been challenged in libraries and schools since 1990.
“Teens don’t live in a vacuum,” Andrea Cremer, author of the young-adult novel “Nightshade,” wrote in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal. “They inhabit the same brutal world as adults without the knowledge and tools of adulthood. For those teens whose lives have already been affected by drugs, violence, suicide or any number of traumatic experiences–what children as well as adults struggle with–books can provide comfort, healing or simply the realization that one isn’t alone.”
One in six women will be a victim of sexual assault during her life, according to data published by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, based in Washington, D.C. Young women between 16 and 19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault.
“Speak,” a young-adult novel by Laurie Halse Anderson about a teen who was raped at a party, is on the New York Times bestseller list, was a National Book Award finalist and has received many honors, including the Michael L. Printz and Golden Kite awards.
However, Wesley Scroggins, an associate professor of business management at Missouri State University in Springfield and a fundamentalist Christian, is demanding that “Speak” and two other books be banned from public high school English coursework in Republic, Mo.
Scroggins filed his complaint in June to the Missouri public school board and wrote an opinion piece on Sept. 18, arguing that the two rape scenes in the novel should be classified as “soft pornography.”
Call to Ban Two Other Books
One of the other books Scroggins wants struck from high school reading lists is “Slaughterhouse Five,” the 1969 antiwar novel by Kurt Vonnegut, which Scroggins complains has too much profane language and sex for high school students.
The other is “Twenty Boy Summer,” by Sarah Ockler, published in 2009. Scroggins said the book “glorifies drunken teen parties” and sex on the beach with condoms.
He is opposed by those who argue rape is a violent act of assault–not porn–and that removing the book would infringe on students’ First Amendment rights.
“Teen readers lose their First Amendment rights as well as access to information that may help them grow intellectually or emotionally if a book is unjustly removed from their local school or public library, or if the library unjustly restricts access to it in some way,” Beth Yoke, executive director of the Chicago-based Young Adult Library Services Association, said in an interview with Women’s eNews.
Since 1990, the association has documented the removal of at least 10 books from the schools and public libraries in Missouri. However, the information provided to the group is voluntary, said Bryan Campbell, an administrative assistant for the Chicago-based Office for Intellectual Freedom, in an email interview.
He also said the group is working on a system for larger data collection that may provide a more reliable picture of book banning statistics in the future.
Each year the American Library Association, based in Chicago, recommends a variety of books to libraries, including “contemporary realistic fiction that reflects the diversity of the teen experience.”
Hundreds of books, including some recommended by the organization, are also challenged or banned from schools and libraries each year.
Between 1990 and 2009 the most common reason listed for challenging a book was “sexually explicit,” at 3,046 complaints. Complaints of “violence” numbered 1,258, according to data provided by the American Library Association.
Thousands Say Thanks
“When ‘Speak’ was published, there was some whispering that this was not an appropriate topic for teens,” Halse Anderson said in an interview with the Springfield, Mo., News-Leader four days after Scroggins attacked the book on the newspaper’s opinion page.
She added that thousands of readers had written to thank her for the book: “They said it made them feel less alone and gave them the strength to speak up about being sexually assaulted and other painful secrets.”
The highly popular young-adult author, Judy Blume, a frequent target of book banning herself, has written to the National Council Against Censorship, based in New York City, on behalf of Halse Anderson.
Ockler, author of “Twenty Boy Summer,” one of the three books condemned by Scroggins, blogged on her Web site in September and October about the dangers of censorship. She also emphasized the importance of healthy discussions among parents and their children: “Truly asking for parental involvement would mean encouraging parents to read the books in question, discuss issues and themes with their kids and come to their own decisions about what’s best for their own families.”
“I’m against book banning in schools,” Daisy Whitney, author of “The Mockingbirds,” a young-adult book published on Nov. 2 that also treats the subject of date rape, said in a phone interview. “‘Speak’ is a novel that has helped so many teenagers understand the emotions surrounding someone who has been through a traumatic experience. The reason some people have suggested banning ‘Speak’ also concerns me because in no way should rape ever be equated with sex.”
Teachers, Librarians, Parents Protest
Paul Hankins, an English teacher from Indiana, started a Twitter feed called SpeakLoudly in response to Scroggins’ complaints. A community of teachers, librarians, parents and publishers also founded SpeakLoudly.org with Hankins soon after, in September.
The controversy has also helped publicize the books under attack for censorship.
“Tell a teen that a book is banned or challenged and they will want to read it to find out why,” said Yoke, of the Young Adult Library Services Association. “So, in one way, book banning actually piques many teens’ interest in the controversial titles.”
Vern Minor, superintendant of the Republic school district where Scroggins’ complaint was received by the school board, told the News-Leader in September that “Slaughterhouse Five” was removed from the English course curriculum.
However, in a Dec. 6 e-mail with Women’s eNews, he said: “We have not made any decisions on the books in question. Our discussions are currently focused on board policy, not the three books per se. We are really trying to look at this matter from a much broader perspective than just three books.”
The school board hopes to set standards for book selection. They do not have a set time frame to implement the revised curriculum policies.
Candice Tucker and Brandon Bond, students at Missouri State, have started filming a documentary about the events, censorship and Scroggins’ “radical views.” Bond has also launched an advocacy group on Facebook called “No More Banned Books,” where he hopes to fight against “the enemies of reason and tolerance.”
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Christa Fletcher is an online writer and editor dedicated to promoting awareness about women’s issues. Her work has been featured by Channel One News, InterviewHer.com, Marie Claire and she keeps a blog at ChristaWrites.com.
For more information:
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A Remedy in Writing
Originally Published by InterviewHer.com on November 1, 2010
“Talking about things is what helps us heal and recover from challenging times in life,” explains Daisy Whitney, host of New Media Minute and author of The Mockingbirds. Yet, many women feel silenced about sexual abuse – especially teens who have been date raped. Daisy Whitney just might change that with her new book. She knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles and finding the strength to speak out.
Daisy Whitney is a talented writer and media expert with a thriving personal business and family. She’s also releasing her debut novel, The Mockingbirds, on November 2, 2010, which has already received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Yet, her journey to success and “masterfully” written novel began with a hardship — one that changed her life and inspired her to write about date rape, vigilantism and academic politics.
Daisy Whitney was date raped when she was 19-years-old and she understands firsthand what it means to find her voice and the strength to press charges against her attacker. “I was a freshman in college at the time and am definitely a big believer in the power of speaking up.”
With the support of her friends Whitney pressed charges in her school’s justice system at Brown University. “In the early nineties we were starting to understand date rape,” said Whitney in an interview. “Institutions now have disciplinary systems that recognize sexual assault as a violation of the
Thankfully, her school handled Whitney’s case and she healed from the incident by being able to talk about it and find closure for herself. After receiving her degree, Whitney started her career in journalism as a reporter and later founded her own business as a reporter and media expert.
The Mockingbirds is the first in a series about a secret society in a private high school called Themis Academy. The protagonist,Alex, is sexually assaulted after a night of drinking. She struggles to remember what happened that night as she copes with her fear of the classmate who raped her. Her friends provide guidance when she realizes that she has been violated and abused. In her quest to heal, she encounters the Mockingbirds, a student-run justice system and she decides to press charges against her attacker.
In this exciting and evocative book, Whitney captures the complexity of date rape with her narrative about Alex, an exceptional concert pianist who wants to pursue music at Juilliard. Whitney creates a powerful scenario, filled with realistic characters that show teens the trials of coping and the importance of finding empowerment after assault.
The novel comes at a crucial time. One in six women will become victims of sexual assault during their lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). Many of them are girls, ages 16-19. The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault estimates nearly half of reported cases of sexual assault and attempted rape are teens. “According to a study conducted by The Northern Westchester Shelter, with Pace Women’s Justice Center, about 83% of 10th graders said they would sooner turn to a friend for help with dating abuse than a teacher, counselor, parent or other caring adult,” said Whitney in an email.
For Daisy Whitney, speaking up and increasing awareness are not only key elements of her novel, they are also part of her business plan, turning her tragedy to triumph, while helping teens on the way.
- Thursday’s pick of the day: Meet author Daisy Whitney (timeoutny.com)
- Daisy Whitney: Video: Visible Measures Has New Tool to Measure Impact of Branded Videos (huffingtonpost.com)
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Ever get in one of those moods where you need some really good music, but nothing is quite cutting it? Deluka has the perfect edge and is one of my new favorite bands.
And it’s not just because their name references a tough character in Pretty Woman and their lead singer, Ellie Innocenti, was super cool when I interviewed her for the article below.
Deluka combines upbeat electro-dance music with captivating lyrics and a dash of rock. And, who doesn’t enjoy some British flavor gone Brooklyn? Seriously, they can jam.
A Band to Make Your Heart Beat Like a Drum
Originally Published on Hear It Now at ChannelOne.com
Every now and then a song comes along that you like immediately and play for hours on end. The single “Cascade,” by Deluka, is one such song.
If you catch a show by the indie band from the U.K., you’ll hear that it’s “guitar music you can dance to,” mixing rock elements with electronic beats. When we caught up with frontwoman, Ellie Innocenti, she chatted with us about the band’s 11-track album and the making of their music video for their single, “Cascade.”
Now that the band, consisting of Innocenti (vocals), Kris Kovacs (guitar and synth), Robbie G. (bass) and Stevie J. Palmer (drums), has wrapped production on both projects, you’ll find them playing your soon-to-be favorite songs in New York and Los Angeles.
If there’s one thing we gleaned from the interview, it’s that Innocenti is friendly, introspective and a tad bit shy. She even owned up to her modesty when we asked about what she likes about being on stage. “When you’re lost in a moment, it’s an incredible feeling. I’m quite a shy person, but on stage, I get to be a different version of myself.”
And, based on the hip vibe we’ve seen from her live performance (which you can watch below), the combo of her more shy songwriting self, with the sassy stage star is just the right mix. Versatility seems to be a trait of Deluka’s sound, aesthetic and bandmembers’ roles group. Kovacs not only plays the guitar, he is an electronics expert and helps Innocenti write songs, providing even more variety in their sound.
Speaking of variety, Deluka’s album has it all, from melancholic pop songs, to the guitar blazing dance tracks you’ll have on repeat. So where do these memorable lyrics and head-bobbing beats originate? For Deluka, they start with a rhythm brainstorm often inspired by guitar songs and then everything comes together lyrically.
“Kris and I write all the songs up from the beat,” said Innocenti. “I just try to write about what I know, what I’ve seen and I like to collect the lyrics, then draw upon them when we’re in the studio.”
Tracks like “Come Back to Me,” “Nevada” and other songs from their EP showcase the band’s many talents in songwriting and clever use of intruments to blend genres. Deluka’s music video, directed by Antoine Verglas, is their first and, according to Innocenti, “It’s a perfect video. He made it look awesome.”
- Deluka — Listen Up! (spinner.com)
As the 44th Annual Country Music Awards approach this fall, the nation is searching for the shining star of the upcoming Nashville award show. Last year, Taylor Swift swept the competition, a young talent with heart who likes to hug. Yet, there’s another teen on the country music scene whose dreams are as high as this megastar.
Chatting with Christine Marie was like catching up with a friend. Her kindness and modesty were like a breath of fresh air as she gushed about her music inspirations from the Little Mermaid, to Taylor Swift and Keith Urban. Who knows maybe Christine Marie will someday take the CMAs by storm…discover more about 17-year-old going from “California to Country.”
Where Inspiration Meets the Road
Originally Published By ChannelOne.com, August 2010
If you’ve ever dreamed of singing like the Little Mermaid, 17-year-old country singer Christine Marie can totally relate. We caught up with the San Diego native after a 28-day school trip to Europe. Marie chatted with us about her fun trip abroad, passion for singing, recording in Nashville and starting her senior year of high school. And really, who doesn’t want to know more about a girl who wants to belt it out like Ariel?
Inspired by the “Under the Sea” Disney princess, Marie’s music career began at six, when she joined a local musical-theater company. By the time she was 10, she’d found a new inspiration on land. “I wanted to be Kelly Clarkson,” Marie said in a phone interview. She enjoyed singing pop for a few years, but she didn’t tap into her own creativity until she began playing guitar and turned to country music.
“I felt when I was doing pop, I was trying to be Kelly Clarkson,” she said, “but when I switched to country, I felt like I could be my own person.” Since then Marie has been writing songs and recording music. Her parents have helped every step of the way, especially her mother, who is also her manager. “They are my support,” she said. “It’s a crazy dream to have and their support is really great. I couldn’t do it without them.”
Marie has won several singing competitions, including Hollywood’s Best New Talent competition in 2008. She counts LeAnn Rimes and Carrie Underwood as influences, but she adores the classics. “I was raised on George Strait, Garth Brooks and Keith Urban,” she said. “Keith Urban has been my biggest inspiration.”
Marie is not only on her way to becoming a country star, she’s also a good student. She serves in her school’s student government and is getting ready to apply to colleges. She hopes to attend Belmont University or Vanderbilt University, both in Nashville, so she can pursue music along with her studies.
With brains, talent and a voice that will surely rock the radio, don’t miss this 17-year-old’s video blogs, concert dates and more on her website ChristineMarieSings.com. In fact, the first 25 people to sign up for Marie’s email list will get an autographed copy of her CD! Visit her site today to get the details and see what else Christine Marie is up to this fall.
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Originally Published by Christa Fletcher on Babble.com, July 2010
Being a mom is a tough job — from parenting, to clean up, there isn’t much time for the woman behind the mommy. So how do those gorgeous celebrity parents keep it together? We have advice from your favorite stylish stars on how to avoid the frump.
In an interview on LifetimeMoms.com, Heidi Klum revealed her fashion advice for mothers. “Busy moms have to be organized — you have to narrow down all of your things in order to really make it work. Start with your closet — get rid of all the things that are too ‘mom-sey,’ too slouchy,” she said.
Klum added, “Keep only the things that are working for you so that you eliminate all of that extra time in the mornings — you already know what you put on is going to look good.”
Sarah Jessica Parker, Actress, Producer and Fashionista
Having a sense of style is more than playing Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City and designing perfumes and clothes for Halston Heritage, for fashion icon Sarah Jessica Parker. It’s about sticking with what she knows best. When she’s at home in the West Village, she’s “mom” and her best advice comes from her own beauty routine. Keeping it simple.
“I confess, I am very bad at makeup. I don’t where any in my real life — personal life. There’s no time for it and I’m not good at it,” she explained to Elle Creative Director Joe Zee. “I can cover a zit, I can put on mascara and put some eyeliner inside my eyeball, but that’s it.
Katie Holmes, Actress and Designer
At this week’s film premiere for The Extra Man, OK! Magazine caught up with the starlet on the red carpet in NYC where she can typically be spotted shopping at boutiques and cruising Central Park with her daughter Suri. “Every day my husband inspires me. My family inspires me. My daughter inspires. We’re always sort of creating new things whether it’s a party, or a script or a movie. We try to have a very creative household.”
Turns out, her daughter has inspired her style choices and to create a fashion line, first for kids, and now for women. “We want to create pieces a woman can wear over and over, and people won’t necessarily say, ‘Oh, you wore that last week,” said Holmes about her line. The star’s sophisticated venture has been called “classic with twist” by other celebs like Eva Longoria.
Alright, now that you’ve organized your closets and pared down to the chic essentials, how about some style advice from a four-year-old with her own spin on these fashionable celebrity moms.
Images by TeenyManolo.com & E!
To see my other freelance blog post published on Babble.com about Betty Draper, follow this link.