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The Aces Are Something To Crush On

Music
Courtesy Photo

Honestly

The Aces don't like being honest. Well, at least that's what their debut EP leads you to believe. Truthfully, the Utah foursome is as playful as they are sincere. As The Aces, sisters Cristal and Alisa Ramirez are joined by junior high pals McKenna Petty and Katie Henderson. They make the kind of music that's fearlessly honest, flirtatious as times, and deliciously pop rock. There is not one song off of their I Don't Like Being Honest EP you cannot bop to. Hell, it's the soundtrack a character in a John Hughes movie would lip-synch to with a pink hairbrush in their bedroom mirror. The Aces are onto something special—something that, for lack of a better word, is straight-up cool. Slip into your favorite '90s-inspired silk dress, throw on a black leather jacket, and press play. The Aces are just that: ace. 

What are you most proud of so far in terms of your career?
That we were able to write music that we genuinely love and are proud of, and that we were able to get to a point where we could make our art our career.

What famous person dead or living do most wish you could have as a roommate?
Blake Lively. [Laugh]

What is your favorite driving music?

We all jam out HARD to The Drums and Rihanna when we’re driving.

Whose career would you most like to emulate?
The Beatles. Currently, Drake or Taylor Swift.

What’s your favorite place to write music?
Depends on the mood. We typically write a lot of music in L.A. and NYC. Both bring totally different vibes.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.
Individual, sisterhood, classic.

If you had to wear one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?
A loose T-shirt and black skinny jeans with some classic boots or Converse; top it off with some cool oversized denim or classic biker jacket.

Do you have any pre-show superstitions?
We always have a group huddle, meditation, and prayer.

If you had to live in a past time, what do you think would be the most fun era and why?
Probably the '80s. The music was rad and fashion was poppin'!

What activities do most enjoy doing alone?
Meditating, yoga, and running.

When are you most relaxed?
Out in nature, hiking in our hometown.

What was the last great thing you read?
Cristal Ramirez: Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before by Karelia Stetz-Waters.
Alisa Ramirez: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele.
McKenna Petty: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
Katie Henderson: Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon.

What kind of person were you in high school?
CR: I was just really low-key. I was really into my music from a young age, so I skipped school a lot. I also got named “sleepy head” in my high school yearbook.
AR: My mindset was "[get] in and out as fast as possible." The only classes I really showed up for were Film as Literature and English. I was great at school before I decided I rather be in a band forever though! I was 4.0 to barely passing in one night. [Laughs]
KP: I was a bookworm and very serious about my grades. I would spend lunches studying for my AP classes. I also ran cross country and was on student council for a couple years. I always did music, too.
KH: I was a jock. I played soccer and basketball and took state championships in both. School, for me, was all about sports.

Can you tell me a quality about yourself that you are genuinely proud of?
CR: I feel really proud of my drive and work ethic. If I really want something, I work until I get it.
AR: I feel like I'm very balanced. The type who, during the weekdays, gets up and goes to bed early and doesn't put things off. When the weekend hits, though, sayonara! I'm going out, and going hard! Talk to ya Monday. I vacation very well.
KP: I feel that people feel comfortable confiding in me and that I can relate easily to others.
KH: I feel I can stay level-headed and deal with adversity well, enjoying every situation.

Do you have any phobias?
We all hate spiders and snakes—yuck! And heights!

What’s a side of you that people are unlikely to know about? 
CR: I really love to box. Most people are surprised when I tell them that!
AR: I wish I were a bomb hip-hop dancer. I watch dance videos all the time. Is that embarrassing?
KP: I love school and learning! I went to college for a bit and an advanced education is one of my long-term goals.
KH: I love sports! I'm constantly watching NBA or NFL games until the girls get sick of me. [Laughs]

What are some new hobbies you would like to take on?
CR: I would love to learn how to record and produce music. I'm mostly a songwriter, but I really want to learn the other side of it, too.
AR: I really want to get into yoga. I’ve always dabbled, but I wanna go DEEP. Like, be one of those crazy-flexible, super “in tune” with their bodies type of yogi.
KP: I've been getting really into botany lately. After I got poison oak real bad on a hike, I want to know how to recognize every plant and live in the wild.
KH: DJing. I've started learning and getting better along with producing music.

What’s your next project?

Right now we are really focused on The Aces and releasing our debut album.

Where do you hope to be professionally in five years?
The sky is really the limit for us. We really just hope we always continue to release music that resonates with people. We want to innovate and do things that haven’t been done before.

If there was one phrase that best sums up your approach to life, what might it be?
I think we all really try to just go with the flow and realize that energy spent on things that you can’t control is energy wasted. We think that is one of the most important things to realize in life.

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Credits:
Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds

True

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Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.