Lady Gaga Talks ‘Joanne’ Album, Dive Bar Tour: ‘I Wanted to Do the Things That Made Me Fall in Love With Music in the First Place’

Lady Gaga’s voice pipes in over the phone, instantly familiar — but this isn’t booming madwoman cackle of “Bad Romance,” or the fembotic rap of “Lovegame,” or even the sexy vampire drawl of her recent American Horror Story character, the Countess. Lady Gaga sounds… normal. Chipper, unguarded, girly, even a bit giggly. She sounds happy. “I know this is silly, but how do I address you?” I ask her, feeling foolish the moment the question leaves my mouth. “Do I call you Gaga? Stefani?”

She just chuckles gently for a moment, pauses, and then answers, a little quietly: “Call me Joanne.”

Joanne, of course, is the title of Gaga’s much-anticipated fifth album, out Oct. 21. Joanne is also Gaga’s middle name, and the name of her parents’ Italian restaurant in New York. But most importantly, Joanne was Gaga’s paternal aunt, who died of lupus at age 19. Lady Gaga, aka Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, wasn’t born until 12 years after her aunt’s passing on Dec. 18, 1974, a date that Gaga has tattooed on her arm. “What I know of Joanne is what she left behind, which was a lot of loss and a lot of tragedy in my family,” she says. (Earlier this year, during an emotional speech at the Producers Guild Awards, where she performed her Oscar-nominated rape survivors’ anthem “‘Til It Happens to You,” Gaga revealed that a college campus sexual assault “tormented [Joanne] so emotionally that it caused the lupus that she had to get so bad that she died.”) However, despite never knowing Joanne personally, Gaga was greatly affected by her aunt’s legacy, and when Gaga reached her own 19th birthday, “That’s when I really decided I was going to hit the ground hard — hit the [New York] dive bar scene and the club scene hard with my music and playing out as a songwriter. It was really Joanne, and that story of our family, and the toughness that made us who we are, that gave me the strength to go, ‘You know, I’m going to live the rest of my life in a way that she couldn’t.’”

Gaga says Joanne is “a return to my roots in a very strong way,” and not just because it’s a tribute to a beloved, much-missed family member. It also back to her above-mentioned early NYC days, when she was playing Open Mic nights and opening for the likes of glam/garage band Semi Precious Weapons on the Lower East Side. (“Which was silly fun, and probably some of the best memories I have in my life.”) This is evident in the propulsive stadium-rock riffage of Joanne’s lead single, “Perfect Illusion”– or in that song’s uncharacteristically simple music video, during which a free-spirited, head-banging, fist-pumping Gaga rocks out at a desert rave with hipster producer Mark Ronson and Kevin Parker of Aussie psych-rockers Tame Impala, wearing just denim cutoffs, combat boots, a messy high ponytail, and a ragged, underboob-flashing T-shirt. One especially astute YouTube commenter actually said of the video: “This isn’t Gaga. This is Stefani.”

Gaga (or Stefani, or Joanne) is even planning a “Bud Light + Lady Gaga Dive Bar Tour,” kicking off Oct. 5, for which she’ll eschew her usual massive arena productions for the sort of grubby, hole-in-the-wall venues where she got her start. “It’s not so much about taking it all off for the sake of it, like, ‘Here I am, I had all these costumes before and now I don’t!’” says Gaga, who assures that there will be “more costumes and lights and big shows” in her future. (One can assume that her just-announced halftime show performance at next year’s Super Bowl will be a very un-dive-bar-like spectacle.) “But to begin all of this, we’re going to wind back the clock — to the day I decided when I was 19 that I was going to go live the rest of the life that Joanne didn’t get to live.”

Clearly, this is not the over-the-top Gaga of ARTPOP — and  for now, at least, that’s probably a good thing. While that 2013 album ultimately sold 2.5 million copies worldwide, it received mixed reviews, and while Gaga’s diehard fans, or “Little Monsters,” were supportive, many journalists were incredibly unkind — almost willing her to fail, dubbing the album ARTFLOP, and downright gleefully reporting on even the most minor setback in her personal or professional life at the time.

Gaga admits that this backlash was “hurtful at times… it doesn’t feel good when you put that much time and work and effort into things, and people make fun of them, or shame you for things you’ve created.” However, she adds: “The thing is, you’re not always going to make something that everybody likes. You can’t be in this for the business of people liking you. That would just not be even the right thing to do! To have such a big voice in the world and to only care about people liking you — what’s the point, really? When I’m making records, I’m never thinking, ‘How can I make this something that’s accepted?’”

ARTPOP’s promotional cycle also included a series of preposterous and misunderstood stunts, like a South By Southwest showcase that featured Gaga getting covered in rainbow barf by “vomit artist” Millie Brown, or an equally controversial Oval Office-themed American Music Awards performance in which Gaga played a Monica Lewinsky-like role alongside a presidential R. Kelly. Back then, some naysayers believed Gaga had at long last jumped the proverbial shark.

“You know, I do have to take responsibility that there’s an element of absurdity to a lot of what I’ve done in the past,” Gaga concedes. “The meat [dress] thing, and confusing people, that has been part of my thing. And I wouldn’t even say necessarily that now that’s entirely different. I think that people seeing me take everything off, it’s making them ask questions as well — but what I’m hoping for is for people to stop asking so many questions about ‘why?’ and just listen to the music.”

Following a career reboot via standout performances at the 2015 and 2016 Oscars (of The Sound of Music and “’Til It Happens to You,” respectively), a Grammy-winning duets album with Tony Bennett, and a stupendous “Star-Spangled Banner” tour de force at this year’s Super Bowl, Gaga now is more about the music than ever. Joanne in fact seems like the work of a indie-rock supergroup, featuring collaborations with Florence Welch (“Hey Girl”), Beck (“Dancing in Circles”), Father John Misty (“Sinner’s Prayer”), Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Grimes producer BloodPop, Parker, and Ronson. Gaga is even playing some guitar on this album, with Ronson’s encouragement.

Lady Gaga’s ‘most exposed’ album

Music producer Mark Ronson talks about working with Lady Gaga on her new album and why he still geeks out over Abbey Road Studios. (Sept. 29)

“It was really about working with people that have tremendous poetry and depth through their work. I can say that with such love, that I adore and cherish the people that worked on this album,” Gaga gushes. “And I mean, we didn’t collaborate over the phone, you know? This is like days, hours, nights in the studio… It was just a brilliant experience. Genuine passion and love. People that really cared about wanting me to be able to soar, and making a pop record that has gravity to it. That’s a challenge. We wanted to make something that sounds brand-new, and we wanted to make something that’s also pop, but we wanted it also to be authentic and change things up a bit. We love making music, and we’re trying to change the landscape of how music is now.”

Gaga’s giggliness becomes noticeably more audible over the phone line the more she talks about Joanne’s special guests. She says of her Beck collaboration: “It’s a really fun dance song. It’s a great record. We started in Malibu. We were just hanging out for the afternoon and I asked him if he wanted to go into the live room, which is where all the instruments are for recording. And we just went in and I sat at the piano. I believe he was playing a Hummingbird guitar that Mark gave me, and we just sat down and started to jam and we wrote the song. It’s a killer, killer record.” Of Parker, she raves, “I couldn’t wait to work with him. That was love at first sight when we all got together.” Of Homme, she says, “He spent so much time with us on the guitars and working on so many of these records… He’s amazing. I was up for days with him, working. We had the best time. I could listen to him play guitar for hours and hours and hours. He’s just tremendous.” And she calls Ronson “a tremendously brilliant talent. My favorite thing about the work that we did together on the album is just the way that he inspired me when I was singing. The vocals on the record are very honest. I love the way that he hears my voice.”

At this point in the conversation, Gaga gets so excited, she even starts reciting a few lines from her “Sinner’s Prayer” track with “fantastic poet” Father John Misty: “I’ve got a baby sister who looks just like me/And she wants nothing more than a man to please/Maybe she’s in too deep/Her love for him ain’t cheap/But it breaks just like a knockoff piece.”

“Sinner’s Prayer” definitely sounds like a song for the ladies — for the young Joannes of the world, if you will — and Gaga says she “wanted to speak to a female audience… I’m excited that when I walk down the street now and people see me, that they don’t just see the outfit and can’t wait to take a picture. I can’t wait to lock eyes with that woman that says, ‘Thank you for writing Joanne.’ That’s my goal. I want to know that she heard me in a deeper place.”

But Joanne, she stresses, is for everyone. “I really just want all those girls that have never really understood me before, or those boys that have never understood me before, to hear what I have to say about being me during this time in the world… I can try to speak to women, but I’m not trying to speak to these women in a way that they get all riled up and then they’re mad at their man. Or they’re mad at their girlfriend. Or they’re mad at their dad. You know? It’s the opposite. I want to speak to these women and I want the men sitting next to them to hear the songs and go, ‘Oh, I get it. I understand you now better, baby. I get you now, baby.’ Mark and I talked a lot about it: When speaking to women, when speaking to men, how could we make statements to women that men would understand and be a part of, and bring men and women closer, bring women closer?”

One Joanne track — with a seemingly unlikely collaborator, country songwriter Hillary Lindsey (Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel,” Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush”) — is an especially poignant “girls’ song” with universal appeal, and one tied to the overall, underlying theme of loss inspired by the album’s namesake. “’Grigio Girl’ is about me and my girlfriend getting together to drink Pinot grigio and cry without our friend Sonja[Dunham, Haus of Gaga’s managing director], because Sonja had cancer and we needed the time without her to cry about it, because we didn’t want to cry in front of her — because she was so strong, and she was keeping us so strong,” Gaga reveals, getting serious again. “It kind of started there, and then it turned into a song really about how girls get together to let it all go and pour our souls out. Then we started to play the song for guy friends — both gay and straight guys — and we just saw the look on their faces, like, ‘Oh, man, that’s so true. Now I get why my girl is like that.’ And then they were like, ‘Hey, why can’t I be a grigio girl, too?’ They want to be at the party, because the party is so inclusive. It’s a place where you can let it all out.”

So now Lady Gaga is letting it all out — at dive bar shows, in her music videos, and on her most personal album to date. “When I started writing [Joanne], I thought to myself, ‘How can I connect to other people now at this point in my career? Through my music? How can I go deeper?’ And the truth is, I wanted to do the things that made me fall in love with music in the first place,” she says. “Just sitting at the piano and writing a song, and being about me and the music and a story I wanted to tell — something more autobiographical, something more personal. This transition in my career is me embarking on a new journey with Joanne in my heart, and I’m hoping I can connect with the world on a deeper level.

“The thing is, once I was able to return to that, I was able to remember what’s important in life is family and friendship and connection and taking care of one another, especially in a time when people are so isolated and lost and afraid. It just feels really good to write a song that lays it all bare, and sing it and look my fans dead in the eye. That’s really the point of what I’m trying to do. And Joanne is giving me the strength to do that.”

Source: Lady Gaga Talks ‘Joanne’ Album, Dive Bar Tour: ‘I Wanted to Do the Things That Made Me Fall in Love With Music in the First Place’

Lohan’s finger severed in boating accident 

Lindsay Lohan Almost Loses Finger in Boating Accident: ‘It Hurts So Bad’

Source: Lohan’s finger severed in boating accident Lindsay Lohan says she was trying to anchor a boat when things took an unexpected turn for the worse.’I just had surgery’ »

Is this more precious than gold? – 

By Georgia McCafferty

To the untrained eye it’s a simple piece of jewelry — but don’t let its modesty fool you.

This vivid, emerald green jadeite bangle is expected to sell for HK$50 million to HK$70 million ($6.5 to $9 million) when it goes under the hammer at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong in October.
This simple jadeite bangle is expected to fetch between HK$50 to $70 million ($6.5 to $9 million) when it goes under the hammer.

Jade is revered in China, with a cultural significance that dates back thousands of years and a value that was cemented by China’s Qing dynasty emperors, who prized it for its purity.
But as China’s rising wealth sees demand for jade jewelry grow, and supply out of Myanmar dwindles, prices for jade have risen exponentially, sparking a change in the styles preferred by Chinese buyers, and attracting a new group of Western admirers.
“With China opening up in the past decade, we have seen a new wave of collectors to the market. The auction market for jadeite has grown tremendously in the past 10 years,” explains Chin Yeow Quek, the chairman of international jewelery at Sotheby’s in Asia.

Fifty shades of jade

There’s no denying the rising price of jade. Aside from million-dollar bangles, jade jewelry of the the right color and quality, from necklaces to earrings and pendants, has all been attracting serious money.
The most expensive piece of jade jewelry — a necklace with a ruby and diamond clasp by Cartier that once belonged to the American heiress Barbara Hutton — sold at a Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction in April 2014 for $27.44 million, well above its $12.8 million estimate.
“It can be very crazy prices,” says Chiang Shiu-Fung, an associate vice president and jewelry specialist with Christie’s Asia, who quoted an old Chinese saying “gold has a value; jade is invaluable.”
However, not all jade is equal, and being able to differentiate between types and qualities — and being able to spot a fake — is critical, if not always easy.
Jadeite, the purest, most translucent substance that comes in a multitude of colors, from deep greens to lavender, white, and black, is the hardest and most valuable form of the stone, and most often turned into jewelry.
Lesser quality nephrite, a softer, cloudier stone that comes in an even greater array of colors, is also classed as jade, but is more commonly used for carvings.
Low quality industrial jade, and products made from cheaper-quality stone can also be treated by adding color or polymer to enhance the visual appeal of the stone to make it look like the real thing.
Every piece of jade is different and the most valuable form of the stone -- Jadeite -- lacks an international standard for grading, unlike diamonds and gemstones.

Although most experts can tell the difference between these products with a visual assessment, it’s not always reliable, and without any established international standard for guidance, even specialist jade experts can only be 80 to 90 percent sure whether a stone is pure jadeite using that method, according to Chiang.
“If you really want to be 100 percent sure that a piece is jadeite or some other kind of material, you have to send it to the laboratory,” he says.
Even if a product is found to be pure jade, any kind of adulteration or treatment significantly reduces the value of the stone, and Chiang says that only “totally untreated, natural jadeite” can be classified as an “A-grade” stone.
“In terms of the jewelry market, whatever gemstone it is, the natural one is the most desirable because it comes with natural beauty. Whatever humans can do artificially to improve the color, this kind of treatment lowers the value greatly.”

Supply-driven style

When it comes to high-quality jadeite, growing demand among China’s increasingly wealthy and middle classes have had a significant influence on rising prices.
Dwindling raw jade stocks in Myanmar, which supplies the vast majority of the world’s jade and is the only source of high-quality stone, has also compounded the issue.
Auction houses in Asia, where the vast majority of jade is sold, say this has led to a change in the styles of jade being sought among collectors, with a growing emphasis on quality factors like color and translucency.
“While we saw consecutive records set in 2013 and 2014, Chinese collectors these days are becoming more selective and are after pieces that are truly special and rare,” says Sotheby’s Chin.
“Nowadays people are looking for simple items in terms of the style,” adds Chiang. “People, especially jadeite collectors, are looking for the material, the quality of the stone.”
On the retail end, the increased price and awareness of the stone has expanded the markets among Western buyers — Nicole Kidman and Jessica Chastain among them — and further segmented the market.
Actress Jessica Chastain shows off her jade earrings at the 2014 premiere of "Interstellar" in Hollywood, California.

From a high-end retail perspective, personalization and uniqueness are the most important elements for customers according to Eddy Hui, the artistic director of Edward Chiu Jewellery Art in Hong Kong, who says that tastes differ between more traditional Asian customers and his growing Western clientele.
“Purchasing jadeite jewelry often comes with sentimental reason for general Chinese, and they pay attention to color and translucency. More Western clients are into fine workmanship, carving details, and they are crazy about originality,” he says.

Choosing wisely

Whatever the preference or budget, jade’s broad classification means it’s important to choose a piece wisely, and Chiang says there are a few key things laypeople can look out for when purchasing.
Firstly, the texture of the stone should be fine, as this enhances the stone’s natural translucency, which is itself is another critical factor — the more light that can be seen through a stone, the more lustrous and valuable it is.
The color, tone and translucency of jade are all critical factors in its valuation.

The color of the stone also significantly influences jadeite’s value, and whether it’s green, lavender or white, the color should be as pure as possible, with a strong saturation and a bright tone.
“Let’s use green as an example: you have to go for straight green, purely green. When the green is a little bit bluish, forget about it,” explains Chiang.
Finally, bigger isn’t necessarily best.
“If you have to choose between a large, commercial-quality stone and a small, better quality stone, go for the small one. We are buying a gemstone, we are not buying a brick. Large doesn’t mean anything,” says Chiang.
But technicalities aside, jewelry designer Hui says it’s all a matter of choosing a reliable seller, and following your heart.
“Jade stones are like us: always unique,” he says. “Love at first sight is actually the best way to connect to your own piece. Like seeing Mr. Right, you know it when you feel it.”

Source: Is this more precious than gold? 

How Domestic Violence Gets Passed On from generation to generation.

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COULD A SUMMER CAMP STOP KIDS FROM REPEATING THE VIOLENCE THEY SAW GROWING UP?

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STORY BY MELISSA JELTSEN

ART BY SMILEY STEVENS

KLAMATH NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. — The night before his 17th birthday, Ryan slept under the stars. No tent, just the wide-open sky.

He nestled into his sleeping bag, the ground bumpy and hard at Curly Jack Campground, as the Klamath River, just steps away, flowed by. Dozens of boys sprawled out next to him, and a group of girls began to stir and murmur across the campground. It was dawn, a rooster crowed.

Sleeping under the stars at summer camp is a familiar experience for many, but not for Ryan. The lanky teen was still adjusting to life at Camp HOPE America, the first summer camp established specifically for children exposed to domestic violence.

On this particular day in late July, he was one of 60 campers who ranged in age from 11 to 17. Although each child had his or her own unique history, the themes of their short lives overlapped: stress, fear, trauma, pain.

They grew up in homes where they watched men beat their mothers, and homes where they were beaten for trying to intervene. As children, they learned to navigate a type of violence that’s unpredictable and ever-present, compounded by mental health issues, neglect, drugs and poverty.

But for now they were away from all that, at a sleepaway camp here in northern California in a forest of almost 2 million acres, with a bunch of strangers who were just like them – survivors. Half of them were Camp HOPE America veterans, having attended two or three times before. The rest were first-timers like Ryan.

Ryan, whose name has been changed because he is a child, wasn’t sure what to expect from camp. A foster kid from Imperial County, an agricultural area in southeastern California with the state’s highest rates of unemployment and child hunger, he was also painfully aware of how close he had come to not making it at all.

On the 16-hour, 784-mile bus ride from San Diego, he and a few of the older boys were caught smoking marijuana at a rest stop. The founder of Camp HOPE America, Casey Gwinn, had to decide what to do.

Gwinn, a 56-year-old former city attorney of San Diego, wasn’t concerned about a little pot. But the kids had become aggressive, swearing and raising their voices, when confronted about their behavior.

The camp’s rules aren’t numerous, but they are strictly enforced: no cursing, no sarcasm and no putting down other kids. And no play-fighting, no matter how jovial, because every kid attending the camp has been profoundly affected by violence. One of the key features of the camp is that it models a safe, loving environment, essentially creating a new set of social norms.

Gwinn told the boys they were welcome to attend camp, as long as they agreed to follow directions and be respectful of others. Two of them refused, so they left.

But Ryan wanted to stay. He promised Gwinn he would do what was asked of him, and even solemnly shook the founder’s hand to cement his word. He didn’t want to lose the opportunity before it had even begun.

It was a fitting beginning to the week, which would essentially be all about Ryan making tough choices. Would he hold onto the past or let it go? Could he find a pathway to achieve his goals? What would his legacy be?

“I tell kids, you have a right to feel rage,” Gwinn said. “It’s natural to be angry about what happened to you. The question is, now what are you going to do with it?”

MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO

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Witnessing violence can be intensely traumatic for kids, especially for those who see it happen over and over. It can affect a child’s development to have his or her brain in a constant state of heightened stress, explained Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. They inevitably have trouble learning, are subject to chronic disease and don’t live as long.

These same children also carry a heavy burden of guilt and shame, according to Liz Roberts, deputy CEO at Safe Horizon, a nonprofit that works with domestic violence victims in New York City. They may believe that they caused the violence, or that they should have been able to stop it.

Some kids may even start to mimic the abusive parent’s behavior as they get older, becomingaggressive and bullying their peers. Boys are more likely to be violent with their partners when they start to date, Roberts said, and girls are at an increased risk of becoming victims of that abuse.

So the cycle continues, ad infinitum. Domestic violence is passed from generation to generation. Approximately 3.3 million to 10 million children in the U.S. are exposed to domestic violence every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 4 women will be a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime, making it a grave public health issue.

That’s where Camp HOPE America comes in.

While countless programs across the U.S. try to prevent domestic violence by working with abusers or helping victims escape dangerous situations, Camp HOPE America starts much earlier. The goal is to break the generational cycle of domestic violence by intervening before the kids become abusers themselves or enter into abusive relationships, Gwinn said.

Camp activities are specifically designed to help kids build resilience — the ability to overcome adversity and trauma — and to increase hopefulness about the future, Gwinn said. While “hope” sounds like a simple, feel-good emotion, it actually works as a powerful motivational system that can help individuals achieve goals. And, it can be measured.

Chan Hellman, a researcher in hope theory at the University of Oklahoma, explained a person with “hope” has the ability to create a mental roadmap to reach a goal, as well as the willpower needed to overcome obstacles as they arise.

“Hope is the foundation of resiliency,” he said. “If you think about resilience as a capacity to survive difficult situations, hope is a belief in a positive future.”

TAKING A LEAP OF FAITH

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Ryan didn’t have water shoes, so on the second full day of camp, he attached his sandals to his feet using duct tape. He and his cabin group, the Dragonflies, were preparing to raft down a Class IV rapid. As the sun beat down on the top of their heads, they smeared charcoal on their faces to create “war paint.”

Ryan sat at the front of the raft, taking in the bright green of the trees and the shimmering water. He’d seen a bald eagle the day before, but it was nowhere in sight.

They docked the raft after a few hours so they could take on the first big challenge of the day: cliff-jumping.

Ryan plopped down on a rock, feet in the water, and watched other boys and girls take the plunge. At the last minute, he scrambled up the side of the cliff and raced to the top. He wanted to jump, too. He stood still for a moment, scanning the wide open sky. Then he jumped clear out into the water, a perfect leap.

During a break on the river bank, while other kids ate sticky Nutella sandwiches, Ryan fiddled with his red bandana and reflected on life in a quiet, measured voice.

As a young boy, he said, he witnessed his step-father beating his mother. He didn’t actually see the abuse taking place most of the time, but he heard it.

“He’d say he was taking her to the room to talk to her, and she’d come back beat,” he said.

His mother struggled with drug addiction, and his step-father would turn his violence on Ryan whenever she passed out, he said, whipping him with a belt buckle. That’s common: Studies indicate that between 45 and 70 percent of children exposed to domestic violence are also victims of physical abuse.

Ryan’s mother died of an overdose when he was 5. He lived with his grandmother, he said, until she could no longer look after him. He landed in California’s foster care system, the largest in the nation, when he was 13.

He said he was constantly angry after his mom died. As he got older, he channeled his rage into fist fights and dabbled in drugs. He wound up in juvenile hall at least once. He’d never learned how to resolve conflicts without violence.

“That’s how I thought adults dealt with their problems,” he said. “I blame my past for everything.”

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THE POWER OF HOPE

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Long before Gwinn founded Camp HOPE America, he was a prosecutor in San Diego who specialized in domestic violence cases. Week after week, he put men in prison for beating their families, and witnessed firsthand the devastating effect of domestic violence on the children who grew up around it.

He was haunted by how little the criminal justice system had to offer kids in that situation.

“The best we seemed to have was — your dad is going to jail, you get to move to a shelter with your mom, and you get a therapist,” Gwinn said.

For Gwinn, the topic is deeply personal. He grew up being physically abused by his father, who, in turn, had been abused by his father. Kids like Ryan remind him of himself, he said. As a child, he was furious all the time, and struggled with loneliness and depression.

In 2003, he launched the first iteration of Camp HOPE America, just for kids in San Diego. The program has since spread to multiple sites in California, as well as to locations in Oregon, Texas and Oklahoma. Around 5,000 kids have attended camp.

Gwinn anticipates launching in 15 additional states next year, which would give an estimated 1,600 children and teens the opportunity to attend camp. The philanthropic arm of Verizon — the parent company of AOL, which owns The Huffington Post — is funding Camp HOPE America’s expansion.

While Gwinn is a true believer in the power of the camp, he willingly admits it’s not a panacea. “It’s called Camp HOPE, not Camp Magic,” he said. Still, Gwinn believes that intervening in childhood is the single most effective way to stop violent crime.

“If this country ever fully embraced the vision of Camp HOPE America, we would empty our prisons and mental health facilities in 20 years,” he said.

It’s a bold declaration — and although Gwinn has little evidence that the program directly reduces violent crime, there is persuasive scientific proof that it has a powerful, positive effect on the campers.

Hellman, the professor at the University of Oklahoma, has been publishing preliminary results from an annual study of the camp’s intervention model every year since 2013. Findings from the 2015 study have recently been published in the Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal.

According to Hellman’s research, self-assessments and counselor observations indicate that kids who attended the camp last year experienced a statistically significant increase in hope and resiliency.

Camp actually changed how they viewed themselves and their futures.

The results “support a compelling argument for the power of Camp HOPE to change the lives of children exposed to domestic violence,” the report concludes.

THIS IS HOW YOU GIVE A KID HOPE

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Sitting on the river bank, flushed after having jumped off the cliff, Ryan said his birthday wish was to enjoy being 17 without getting into trouble. He has a goal for his future, and it would require him to finish high school. He wants to be a nurse.

“I’m way better than drugs, gangs and all that other stuff,” he said.

Ryan was the one who discovered his mother’s body, he said. He can remember helplessly watching as his step-dad tried to resuscitate her. He has wanted to pursue a medical career ever since, so that he can help others.

“I don’t consider myself a bad kid,” he said. “I’ve just had struggles.”

Back in the raft after lunch, the boys were getting nervous. They were about to hit the most difficult rapid of the day, ominously called Dragon’s Tooth. One of the boys couldn’t swim, and the idea of flipping into the churning water, even with a flotation device, was nerve-wracking.

Their counselor and river guide, a college student named Mattias Anderson, explained that they would need to work together if they didn’t want to smash into the massive rock and capsize. He called out directions as they sliced through the shimmery water.

“Forward two,” he yelled.

James, an athletic 14-year-old who sat perched in the rear of the raft, repeated it back to the crew without missing a beat. “FORWARD TWO, GUYS!” he yelled. “All together! We can do it!”

Ryan paddled in time with the commands, thrusting directly into the turbulent water.

The rapid came up quick, and the team lunged forward. There was an explosion of froth, the whoosh of an orange raft bobbing down and then rocketing straight up into the air. For a moment, it was unclear if it would flip. Then, the raft shot forward, sailing into the calm water downstream.

The boys exploded with ecstatic laughter. They had made it through unscathed.

Anyone who has ever attended sleepaway camp instinctively understands why it can be a transformative experience. If you take a child far away from home and expose them to strangers and activities they’ve never done before, it’s likely they will grow as a person.

That conventional wisdom is also backed up by almost a century of research.

“Camp as a tool for positive development is very, very well-documented,” said Deb Bialeschki, director of research at the American Camp Association and professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

It’s all about the relationships, she explained — between kids and kids, between kids and adults — and the setting, which is typically both physically and emotionally safe.

Kids learning how to do new things, such as white-water rafting or archery, can have a huge impact on children’s confidence levels, Bialeschki added.

“Mastering physical skills contribute to that kid now feeling competent, feeling able to solve a problem without an adult stepping in and helping them out,” she said. “Just being able to make your own decisions is an important skill.”

At Camp HOPE America, there are no therapy groups or one-on-one counseling sessions. Instead, therapeutic work is done through physical activities. Each day, campers are encouraged to set goals that push them outside of their comfort zone: perhaps jump off a cliff or paddle through rapids, like Ryan did, or ride a horse for the first time.

Children are celebrated with positive affirmations from their peers and counselors, regardless of whether they achieve their goals. Counselors hand out “character trait awards” at nightly campfires, honoring kids for the positive behaviors they displayed that day.

Some kids found the praise difficult to take. A few refused to stand up when their names were called, ducking their heads in embarrassment. But others beamed, reveling in the attention. In the first year of camp, one child confided in Gwinn that no one had ever cheered for her before that moment.

One night, Ryan’s name was called. He sprinted to the front of the campfire and stuck out his tongue as Gwinn snapped his photo. His award was for leadership. Being held up as a leader was new to him; he had never thought of himself as someone for others to look to as an example. His hard work paddling on the river had paid off.

“I was shy,” he said of receiving the award. “But I felt very good being a leader and knowing that I have kids looking up to me.”

‘MOSTLY HOPEFUL’

mostly

It was the last night of camp, and feelings were running high.

At the campfire, Ryan sat on a bench pressed together with his group, both physically and emotionally closer than they had been a week earlier. They were friends now, and soon to part. Some of them were going back to homes where they felt unsafe or unhappy, and that reality was slowly sinking in.

As the sun set and the growing darkness provided some privacy, more and more of the kids began to cry. Gwinn took that moment to open up about his own history of abuse, telling the kids about the violence he endured from his father.

“When someone hurts us, when someone abuses us, when we watch someone abuse others, how do we feel?” he asked, looking around the circle of children.

“Nothingness,” said one kid quietly. Other voices chimed in.

“Anger.”

“Frustration.”

Gwinn choked back tears as he repeated their words back to them.

“You’re here because we love you,” he said. “We want to see you filled with joy.”

Ryan was out there in the dark, alone with his feelings. As the fire died down, he made his way to the dining room for an ice cream sundae, and then started the short walk to bed. It had been a long day.

Soon, he’d be back in school for senior year. He knew what he needed to do: Stay focused. Get good grades. Don’t get in trouble. If he wanted to be a nurse, he had to knuckle down now.

“I’m strong,” he said. “I’ll stick to what I have planned.”

But the obstacles that lay ahead are gigantic, perhaps more than he knows: Nationally, only half of foster kids graduate from high school, and only a fraction finish college. And because of his traumatic childhood, statistically he’s more likely to suffer from depression, make a low wage, and potentially abuse drugs.

These are the daunting odds he still has to overcome.

Yet, he was “hopeful,” he said. “Mostly hopeful.”

Source: The Children Who Saw Too Much –

Why I fight: The power of women’s MMA

By Malinda Diffee

I came into this world a fighter.

I was born premature, two months ahead of schedule in February 1975, missing my hair and my nails and weighing a mere 4 pounds, 11 ounces. I was so tiny and fragile that my father could hold me in the palm of his hand.
Right from the start, grit was in my blood. But it took decades of trying life experiences and an introduction to the sport of mixed martial arts for me to realize that.
Today, I’m 41 and a single mom of two amazing kids. By day, I’m an owner and operator of a preschool and daycare center in upstate New York.
By night, I train in a sport that’s often wrongly seen as just a bloody, knockout fight. For me, MMA has been the connection to who I truly am: a fighter. At 5’1″ and 100 pounds, I’m still very small, but now I know I’m mighty in strength and spirit.

Malinda Diffee, MMA fighter, strikes a pose in the cage.

Like most people, I’ve faced many different struggles and challenges in my life. I grew up as one of eight siblings, and while my family didn’t have much monetarily, we had an abundance of love. I was blessed to be raised in a loving home.
But by the time I reached my 30s, I found myself in an abusive relationship. It was the most difficult time of my life. Sadly, it continued and only grew worse.
Several years into this period, I came across an open house at a local gym where they were offering kickboxing and self-defense classes. I stopped in, started class that night and was hooked.

Kickboxing soon became my stress relief, my sanity and my therapy. Those workouts were the two days a week I could fight back. I didn’t have to be that fragile, quiet girl; I could be strong, tough and defend myself.
I started seeing and feeling the change in myself, both inside and out. I found the courage to put my foot down and stand up for myself. I was able to put an end to an unhealthy relationship and pursue a happy, healthy life without fear, for myself and my kids. They are my whole world and a huge part of my daily motivation.

Inside the world of female MMA fighters

Inside the world of female MMA fighters01:29
That kickboxing class also opened the door to MMA, in which fighters use a mix of different disciplines, from jiu-jitsu and judo to wrestling and boxing. In 2012, I was training in a new gym, and coaches there approached me and told me, “You’ve got fire in you; you are a fighter. You should be training to be in that cage.”
So that’s what I did. I started taking boxing lessons and sparring several nights a week, going round for round with the guys. I would spar with anyone, any size.

Malinda Diffee competes in the cage.

I was the only female at our gym who was actually training to compete in MMA and fight in the cage—the octagon-shaped ring where MMA matches take place.
I feel the biggest misconception about this sport is that it’s all about brutality. I wish people could see what we fighters see: the honor and respect that is a part of what we do. When I train, I’m not training to hurt someone. I’m training to be the strongest I can be. How much can my body take? How much willpower do I have?

It would empower me even more knowing I could take a kick or a punch and then get back up and give it right back! My goal was to never quit, never back down, and to make myself stronger each day. I reached that goal and surpassed it, thanks to my MMA coaches and teammates over the years who made me into the fighter I am today.
In MMA, the people you train with are like family. We have each other’s backs and push each other to our greatest potential and possibilities. The bond we make and the honor we have is like no other sport I have been involved with.
Do I want to win when I meet my opponent in the cage? Absolutely! Does that mean my opponent and I will get injured along the way? Yes, most likely. But with most sports there is always a risk of injuries. Win or lose, you should do it humbly, honoring yourself, your opponent, your team and your family.
To be an MMA fighter is something I’m very proud of. As a woman, I’ve been shunned, criticized and judged by some people. Like it’s OK for a man to be a fighter, but not OK for me as a woman. When I continue to fight in spite of that, it’s to show other women and young girls, including my 18-year-old daughter, that it’s OK to be a woman and be strong. It’s OK to stand up for yourself.

To the men and young boys, including my 21-year-old son, I hope seeing women in MMA encourages them to respect all women. To see them as equals in strength and as athletes. Not something you can control, mistreat or abuse, threaten or try to intimidate through bullying or fear.
I know I don’t have to tell my son this. He is a respectable young man and treats all women with honor. He thinks of his mom as a badass—and I’m pretty proud of that.

Source: Why I fight: The power of women’s MMA 

8 Women On Why They Are Reclaiming The Word ‘Fat’

INSTAGRAM/MIC

 

In a recent interview with Cosmopolitan, Kourtney Kardashian explained why she avoids using the word “fat” in front of her 4-year-old daughter Penelope.

“There are so many conversations that we have without thinking the kids are listening,” she said. “I just don’t want to start getting anybody self-conscious. They say if a mother is confident about her body that the daughters are way more likely to not have eating disorders.”

But, as Mic wrote when the interview was released, the issue isn’t necessarily with the word fat — it’s with the negative connotation associated with it. Despite simply being another label, many are insulted when they are called fat or fear the word as it’s so often equated to “unattractive.”

There is a community of body-positive activists within Instagram and Tumblr working to alter the definition of what society has deemed beautiful all whilst spreading messages of self-love and calling themselves fat.

So, with this in mind, we decided to eight of these bloggers why they originally reclaimed the word and how it has since changed their views of their bodies.

Melissa Gibson,@yourstruelymelly

MIC/INSTAGRAM
Melissa Gibson

“I started my own body positive journey just two years ago. I had come across a few body positive accounts and they really inspired and empowered me to rethink the feelings and ideas I had surrounding my body and being fat. ‘Fat’ is correlated to undesirability, laziness, imperfection, ugliness, and so many other negative traits in our society currently… These aren’t necessarily words that anybody wants to associate with themselves…Fat people and especially fat women exist in a world where we are constantly judged according to our very visible bodies, we are ridiculed, discriminated against, degraded, used, compared to.With all this in mind, our society is also very sensitive about calling people fat unless in an intentionally negative way… I’m fat. I now say it and own it… Fat to me is just a descriptive word… I’m no longer afraid of the word because I know it no longer defines me, but I get to define my own self in my fat body.”  

MIC/INSTAGRAM
Gia

“I am atransgenderwomanof color and I have been transitioning for the past two years. I think that this very raw and emotional aspect of transitioning, where you really need to dig deep into your soul and mind to figure out who you really are, led me to the body positive community…  I started using the word fat earlier this year. While I was transitioning, many things changed not just physically but socially… My transition propelled some of these issues to the front, and one of the biggest ones was body image. Something that I never really gave much thought to, was now something I had to worry about… I started using the word fat after I noticed one of my friends describe herself as a fat girl with all of the confidence in the world. I thought to myself, ‘Gia, you’re a fat trans girl and there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s no need for you to be ashamed of it, your body is valid.’ SoI began using the word fat daily, to describe myself and to show appreciation to my body and all of its curves. I do this because I think that by giving visibility to the word, just like giving visibility to trans women, we can normalize these things that society has deemed to bad or different and this will further bring acceptance and understanding… Being fat to me means that I have self love, self acceptance, that I have a positive outlook for my curvaceous, large framed body that carries my mind and soul. Being fat to me means that I am confident in myself, it means that I’ve shed the ideals of what society tells me I need to look like as a woman.” 

Megan Crabbe,@Bodyposipanda

MIC/INSTAGRAM
Megan Crabbe

“The word fat used to have the power to knock me out cold. I’ve spent my entire life living in fear of that word and doing everything I could to run away from it. I first thought that I was too fat when I was five-years-old, at 10 I thought I was fat enough to start a diet, at 14 I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and nearly died while running away from fat. After recovery when I actually became a little bit fat I spent years being disgusted with my reflection and I kept running, cycling through crash diets, binge eating and exercise addiction. When I found body positivity at 21 my eyes were opened to a whole new way of seeing fat…We live in a culture that propagates the fear of fat everywhere we turn… That fear hurts us all, no matter what size we are… Fat isn’t synonymous with lazy, unattractive or any other negative connotation our culture has given it. It’s just another word, a neutral descriptor, a harmless adjective describing body size… When we reclaim the words that have been used to bring us down we take their power away.  Some people are fat, some people are thin, some people are chubby, some people are muscular, and all people are worthy of self love and respect, no matter how their outer shells look.”

MIC/INSTAGRAM
Danielle

“I stumbledinto body positivity through my eating disorder recovery journey… and it changed my absolute life, before this I didn’t know you could ever actually be happy with your body… This word fat plagued me for years. I almost spent a whole decade being bullied, being shackled by and fearing the word Fat.This word held more power over me than any insult, cuss word, opinion or thought. It was truly the worst thing someone could say to me… Fat became a word that empowers me because I shifted my relationship with it. It shifted because I realized that my thoughts and ideas around that word could change.Even though others have associated stigmas about the word fat, I had the power to create my own definition to understand that fat is simply a word — a word that describes my body. I love my body. I love myself. Therefore I am cool with the word Fat. Your size and fatness says nothing about you as a person. Literally nothing. It doesn’t describe your eating habits, exercise habits, personality, motivations, self-love, body positivity, health or happiness.”

MIC/INSTAGRAM
Cailey

“I wasalways fat growing up and I started seeing some plus size fashion bloggers pop up online. I saw happy, successful, beautiful women who also happened to be fat and it taught me I could be all of those things, too… I saw a group of women living their lives right now, as fat women, instead of waiting to live until they reached an impossible beauty standard. I knew I wanted to be part of that… It takes a lot of time and learning and retraining to finally get that fat is just a descriptive word and I should take no more offense to it than a thin person should take offense to the word ‘thin.’When I don’t see the word as negative, it takes the power away from people trying to use it as an insult… There are so many horrible things a person can be and fat isn’t anywhere on that list.”

Ragini Nag Rao,@kittehinfurs

MIC/INSTAGRAM
Ragini Nag Rao

“If you’re fat, you’ve almost certainly been called fat as an insult at some point in your life. It’s a difficult word to reclaim, especially in a fatphobic culture where being fat is pretty much the worst thing anyone can be. That’s why we have so many euphemisms for fat. This is what’s great, though: once you start calling yourself fat, once you start using the worst name you’ve ever been called to describe yourself in a totally mundane and everyday context, it loses all its power to hurt you… It’s just a word. And it doesn’t actually mean anything other than the dictionary definition.Fat doesn’t mean unattractive or lazy or any of the million other stereotypes that people automatically latch on to. And even if you’re one of the stereotypes — I’m mostly unemployed and have chronic illness, for instance — fuck what people think anyway!You have the right to live your life the way you want to just as much as a thin person does.”

Rachele Cateyes,@radfatvegan

MIC/INSTAGRAM
Rachele Cateyes

“I am fat and I love the word fat.With a million reminders a day that fat is the worst thing that can happen to you, it is pretty bad ass to celebrate the word fat as a term of empowerment.Fat is an insult if you believe being fat is bad. It isn’t some terrible thing that happened to me. It describes my body, community and activism… The earliest I can remember seeing the word fat being thrown around in a positive way was in the old LiveJournal communities. We talked about fat acceptance books and had a Fatshion group. Artists like Natalie Perkins sell the word fat in bold sparkly cursive and authors like Marilyn Wann gave us Fat!So? Let’s also mention the history of queer women of color paving the way for radical activism and body diversity. We can all become better humans if we start using the word fat unapologetically and let go of the fatphobia attached to it. Representation of fat bodies and superfat bodies doesn’t hurt either. Seeing other bodies like your own is so important when it comes to feeling like your body type exists and you are allowed to live in it and wear what you want.” 

MIC/INSTAGRAM
Natalie

“Getting into fashion is what made me realize that the world very blatantly didn’t treat people my size the same way they treated everyone else… I had only shopped at Lane Bryant for most of my life because it was the ONLY brick and mortar store that was dedicated to people my size. Every other store that MAYBE had some plus sizes had us shoved in the back of the store or hung the five total plus size garments on one rack… A close friend started encouraging me to join Tumblr because she said that she thought i’d love seeing other plus size peoples’ posts and that I should really start posting my outfits to show other people where i got clothing from… I would post outfits always referring to myself as ‘curvy’ or ‘plus sized’ but never ‘fat’. I quickly learned the hard lesson that putting your plus size body on the internet for all to see was, to some awful people, an open invite to criticize, bully, and tear you apart. I would get comments like ‘ugh you’re FAT!! SO FAT.’It would really, really get to me. then, after a long while, I realized — why does that hurt me? I AM fat. But, I’m so much more. I’m a great friend and I’m fat. I’m a good singer and I’m fat. I’m someone who loves fashion and I’m fat. …that shouldn’t bother me…I started using it because the more we normalize these words that were used against us, the less hurtful power they have… Fat is most definitely not the worst thing you can be. you can be anything in the world… and be fat.”

Source: 8 Women On Why They Are Reclaiming The Word ‘Fat’