Svelte Stands Up:
An Interview With Eugenia Kuzmina

By Mende Smith


Few figures epitomize the iconic Russian Super Model more than Eugenia Kuzmina. Blonde hair, blue eyes, designer wardrobe, and a svelte smile are not the common physique for a funny girl. Not many of us can say that we know how it feels to miss opportunities for the first years of her professional life for being ‘too pretty.’ If Kuzmina had only possessed the girl-next-door sort of beauty common on the American stage, perhaps her funny girl persona would have brought her more success than the Vogue cover opportunity, Armani photo shoot, and Versace gift bags. But for the outlandish beauty, near perfect body, and her admitted longtime love for American films, the svelte stands up. 
Kuzmina, the Moscow-born, model-turned stand-up comedian, has been making a name for herself as a would-be American beauty for more than twenty years. Growing up in a reforming country, the daughter of a homemaker and a developmental scientist, Kuzmina retells the story of standing in lines for hours with her mother to get a bag of sugar or a loaf of bread. Kuzmina’s neighborhood compares to that of an eastern European ghetto - and she says, perhaps that is where her sense of humor came from, and perhaps was her saving grace. Moscow, in the 1980s, was a serious place. Kuzmina was barely thirteen when a leading designer approached her to model for him in Paris. At fifteen, she moved there - then given contracts for Dior, L’Oreal, and Hermes. Travel from Tokyo, London to New York. 
At 26, she is still young, glamorous, feisty and prone to her latest obsession – Instagram. Kuzmina continues to exhibit the kind of sparkly eccentricity that made her a standout in glossy magazines and high-fashion commercials. Reap Mediazine caught up with her about her changing career, and her view of life beyond Russia.
Tell us what it was like growing up in Moscow as a young girl. Was it like a fairy tale, or like living in a Franz Kafka story?
When I was coming up, it was really the end of communism, so waiting in lines and all of that for food was still happening during the reformations. My dad was working and my mom was always home - provisions were few, and we would have just one bag of cereal and one bag of sugar. It’s not because we did not have the money; it was just because there was no food in the stores.
You've lived through so many social and political changes as a child of Russia; in fact, you've been a part of them, growing up in this serious environment, one that is perceived to be the harshest in the world. Has all of this seriousness made your work harder?
I don't think so. Even though I have played so many tough Russian girls in films, people can already see that I have a lighter side, and if they know me they expect that so it is different from when I started. It was really not hard to change the perception of myself as an actor once I took different roles. A lot of life stories I can share, from growing up there and modeling and family, are pretty funny. So, that helps with stand-up material too.
It seems like for any kid from Russia to want to make people laugh for a living would be absurd. When did you decide to take your career from the runway to the microphone?
I had no idea I was going to act in movies. When I was modeling, there were so many travel days and hours of make up and lots of lights. Sometimes, I would wake up in the planes flying from place to place and have no idea where I was. It was the time when I felt like I was a gypsy.
Now you live in LA and make big movies - how do you have time to be a mom too? Do you miss living in Europe, or are you just a California girl now?
I have three children. We have my husband’s son, and we have two smaller children now. It is really great being a mom, and I love it! My baby girl is just now two years old, and she is really moving around a lot. She is busy, so it can be pretty crazy around the house sometimes. I grew up very far away and very different from this place. We like the sunshine in California.
Has your perception of American movie stardom changed since you have acted in so many American films now? What is the best thing about comedy?
I would have to say yes. Living an American life and being a mom has probably done that to me more than anything, and I like my life very much now. My kids are typical American kids, and they are very funny too. 

It's clear from the clips on your blog; you have an obsession with, a bit surprisingly, stand-up comedy. You look like you are really having fun, and it seems like second nature to you. What makes a super model turn funny girl?
Yeah, I love it. You know, I just kind of fell into that. It’s been really a lot of fun to try. I thought of doing sci-fi films and a lot of action films ‘cause my dad is a scientist, and I know how to do roles like that. I was doing Krav Maga and all of that, and then things sort of re-adjusted and I started doing comedy. I got that Woody Allen film, and then the spot on New Girl, and so I started to go a new direction.
Speaking of being a comedian, one of the notable things to how you make your living without a net, just kind of talking in front of an audience and seeing what comes of it. Why do you choose that approach?
It is really exciting and I still get nervous, but I really love stand-up. Just being in a room with total strangers, sharing life at its most unexpected moments, brings a lot of joy to me. I am so excited to see where my life will take me next. I am open to all types of roles now, even if it [is] drama or comedy. But, I would really like to do a strong female film with an actress like Cameron Diaz someday.
Earlier this year, when you did the episode of New Girl and met Zooey Deschanel - she is the popular funny girl who has that girl-next-door look - what was that like?
It was a lot of fun, and I sometimes play the [quintessential] Russian hot girl. It is a fun role and though stereotyped, it is in good fun. I have found a way to work it into my act as well.
In Fading Gigolo, the latest John Turturro film, you played a cameo role. Was it magic working with him and what did you learn about the creative process, and did you find a newfound passion for stand-up comedy there? 
Working with John was amazing. He was so much more professional and practical toward his writing and directing. I learned a lot, and it was fun to watch. I did not get to work too much with Woody Allen on this project, but he was there and was also incredibly funny.
Comedians are often not stunningly beautiful in American films; traditionally, both girls and guys are a little shy or ‘square.’ Do you feel that having natural beauty presents challenges to becoming a stand-up comedian?
I actually have been asked to shy a little bit and sort of ‘dumb down’ my character in some of these roles. When I try to think and act a little nervous, it is really more like myself. I was always very shy, and in some ways I still am. Being a comic is a man’s business. It really is. Every place you go, there are always thirty guys standing there and then me; that is actually pretty funny too, and that too is inspiring.

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LG G3:
The World’s First “Superphone”

By Kia Dargahi


“Well hey, I’ve had plenty of phones in the past and I thought that they were super, what makes this one so special?” Good question reader, I present to you the LG G3’s specs in all of their nerdy glory: (the following was reported directly from LG’s presentation)

• 5.5-inch Quad HD 2560×1440 display

• 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor

• 13-megapixel rear camera with Optical Image Stabilization+, Laser Auto Focus

• 2.1-megapixel front camera

• 16GB/32GB storage

• microSD slot with support for cards up to 128GB in size

• 2GB/3GB of RAM

• 3000mAh removable battery

• Android 4.4.2

• 4G LTE

• NFC  

• Metallic Black, Silk White, Shine Gold, Moon Violet and Burgundy Red color options

• 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9mm

Even at first glance, the numbers ooze of state of the art technology implemented into a phablet sized phone (even though it is still technically a phone and not a phablet). Easily the most remarkable of the G3’s array of specs is the 2560x1440 QHD display. Different from 4K, (I know the resolution terms can get confusing) this 2K display is the sharpest on the global market and outmatches all other global smartphones in terms of pixel density at a whopping 538 ppi. Now, I do specify global market as there have been phones in China for example with 2K displays and similarly impressive specs as well. The G3 marks a milestone as the first phone to be sold on the global market with a 2K display. So, other than to win geeks over with its specs, this begs the question, what can the average user do with this gorgeous display?

Well first off, photos and videos taken at a higher resolution with the industry standard 13MP shooter will look brilliant. Speaking of cameras, you may have noticed “laser autofocus” at the top there; well, other than sounding like a weapon out of a science fiction series, this represents a leap forward in fast image snapping. The laser autofocus works exactly as it sounds, by using a laser in order to focus on the subject at hand in order to acquire quick and excellent results. While there are yet to be sample photos, LG assures us that this technology works marvelously, but we’ll have to wait and see if this works on a practical basis.

“Well I guess the display and camera are sort of impressive, what makes this a true ‘superphone’?” The questions continue to be on point reader. With its aluminum encasing, amazing display, impressive camera, great sized screen, exceptional battery life, and on screen buttons, it truly is everything that the tech community could ask for. Now, while it may sound as if I was paid off by LG (oh what a world that would be), there still is one huge underlying issue, well relatively huge. But before I get to that, some of the more technologically savvy readers will be wondering how it’s possible that a battery feed this display and manage to last the whole day. LG responded to this by showing of the G3’s “Three ‘A’s”: adaptive clocking, adaptive frame rate, and adaptive timing control. Adaptive clocking allows for the processor to use the most efficient frequency to run at for any given operation (see “underclocking” and “overclocking”), adaptive frame rate ensures that only the pixels that need to be active are active, and adaptive timing is a little more complex but essentially makes sure the display driver is working at its best (I know, vague).

But for all the good I have to say about this phone, there is one element that almost makes these specs look like numbers on a chart, and that is that the phone has no character. This phone is almost a demo to the world that we are able to manufacture things as impressive as this but instead of advertising this phone as a “superphone”, they’ve just let the specs talk for themselves. This technique might work for techies (guilty as charged) but LG is looking a much larger public than those who spend their days reading about the latest and greatest in tech. The phone is thus doomed to a relatively small niche despite its excellent characteristics. Its phabletesque (This is now a word) screen size doesn’t make its case either. The 5 inch flagships are still too big for some to handle, I guess that’s why we have Apple right? (Wrong, see things we can expect from the iPhone 6).

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Former Mouseketeer Jennifer McGill
Talks the 25th Anniversary of the ‘Mickey Mouse Club,’ Memories From the Set, Her New EP & More

By Amber Topping


The “most important chapter” of Jennifer McGill’s life began when she was only ten years old when she earned a spot on the all new Mickey Mouse Club (she was one of the only three cast members on all seven seasons), her future legacy forever intact. With over 50 trophies and more than 20 crowns from beauty pageants, she was discovered by a talent agent who was a judge (as fate would have it) at her last pageant. “On a handshake she began to represent me,” Jennifer reflects.


From there, she was soon after considered for the movie Why Because We Like You about the original ‘50s Mouseketeers. While the movie never happened because of a writer’s strike, her “tape was sent to the final audition of the series the new Mickey Mouse Club.” Jennifer says, “So I went to Orlando, Florida, I met some of the original pilot cast of Mouseketeers such as Lindsey Alley and Chase Hampton and Tiffany Hale” and got the job.

The rest is history as they say. This April 24, 2014 the all new Mickey Mouse Club celebrated its 25th anniversary. In a recent phone chat with the singer, she opened up about the anniversary as well as many of her memories from the set. According to Jennifer, the Mickey Mouse Club “was the most important chapter in my life because that set the standard and the dreams and emotion for the rest of my life. So, I will never have a more special time than that time and I’m really happy to still be standing today, entertaining the world as a grownup.”

Jennifer just released her new EP self titled Jennifer McGill and is ready to once again share her musical gifts with the world. Besides being a consummate performer, she’s now also a motivational speaker, a blogger, a vocal coach (which is only through word of mouth) for both recording artists and young kids and more.



When Jennifer was only two years old, her mother (who was a music teacher) recorded her singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” and it “was on pitch.” Of course her mother “thought this was really cool.” But that was just the start. At seven years old she entered her first pageant, sang “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” and won first place.



After the pageants came the Mickey Mouse Club. At only 10 years old Jennifer had become a professional performer. “It was a very exciting and overwhelming moment, but I was very suited for this very professionally young life I was about to start leading,” she says. “I had been in music since I was two. I had been singing my whole little life. I didn't really have a lot of other interests besides like movies or playing outside on the trampoline. I was pretty engrossed in musical performance, vocal performance from the beginning.”



But what’s it like to actually be a mouseketeer? Well, it turns out that question isn’t the easiest to answer. “It’s really hard to explain how most of your childhood was growing up on a set because from my perspective, that was my childhood,” Jennifer explains. “The bulk of my developmental years from 10 years old to 17 years old was when I was there. So, you know, America has footage of me play-by-play going through puberty,” Jennifer recalls with a laugh. “So it's just a lot of what I remember as normal.”

While Jennifer felt there was a lot of pressure in the beginning because “no one knew what to expect,” Jennifer describes her overall experience on the series positively. “I loved the structure of having an itinerary for the day, for the week. You usually arrived in the morning, went to school for three hours and then got it out of the way. And everything went quicker because it was a small group of people and you had a great tutor or tutors, you got your stuff done…you went to dance class, you sang something, you went to the recording studio, you learned some lines, you went to hair and makeup…I mean, all that stuff if that's what you're into—I was in heaven.”

For Jennifer, being one of the only three cast members who was in all seven seasons (the other two Lindsey Alley and Josh Ackerman), she was able to experience both the beginning and the end of the series as a Mouseketeer. “We were there for the final moment, the final thing that we taped, the final time we played the wrap song and said goodbye to everybody with the audience…I love remembering the first moments of taping and then the last moments of taping. She admits to these moments being “pretty special” to her. “Because it is my family, but it was all I knew.”



Jennifer’s favorite place to be was in the recording studio which was in post production on the MGM Studio’s property. She describes the studio as being part of the backstage tour and that it was actually “kind of like a fishbowl” because it had a “big glass wall.” She remembers belting a song out, making “funny faces” only to turn to her left to see an entire audience looking back at her through the glass. “So we were always being watched, there was never a time of privacy unless I guess we were in our dressing rooms which we shared.”

Regardless of the lack of privacy, Jennifer had fun with it. “It was fun sometimes to mess with the audience, either put our backs to the window or like make funny faces or pretend that it was a mirror,” Jennifer laughs remembering. “But most of the time, as far as I was concerned, I loved waving to them. I was a ham.”



Having the opportunity to meet and work with famous musical guests you look up to was a nice bonus of being on the show for Jennifer. From sharing “an Egg McMuffin with Joey Mcintyre,” to having Milli Vanilli there before the fallout from “the whole kind of crazy music machine that they were a part of,” TLC showing up with band-aids all over their outfits instead of the condoms they were known for, or even musical guests she loved including Boyz II Men and Brian McKnight. One memorable experience included a time when Celine Dion encouraged her (after Jennifer revealed her nerves aloud to a fellow Mouseketeer which Dion overheard) by telling Jennifer “You are going to be wonderful.” One of her most surprising encounters, however, happened with Michael Jackson. Jennifer reminisces:

“The fun secret thing that happened was when we were first doing publicity for the beginning, we had some press who came into the audience area on the Mickey Mouse Club set and we sat at the barstools on stage and talked to them and answered questions. And when we left and thanked them for coming, we walked up those side doors and Michael Jackson was standing there to greet us and to say hello! And the press had no idea, they had no idea… But he was just off stage left and we ran right into him; he was waiting for us. And he shook each and every one of our hands and he just said, ‘Hi I'm Michael Jackson.’ You know I just kind of thought ‘Gosh, that's so interesting that he is introducing,’ he's not assuming that we know who he really is, which was really sweet. And he was just very sweet.” Michael took the time to talk to a few of the Mouseketeers further, but Jennifer felt too shy at the time. But in the end she felt it “was really awesome to meet him.”

She also loved the fact that Michael Jackson really believed in the show. “He believed in what the concept of that show was, you know, when you bring all of these multicultural differently gifted kids together to inspire others to follow their dreams…we performed, we made kids laugh, we did game shows. We wanted to inspire and entertain! That was the whole purpose of the show and we all looked different and we all had different talents because the show was designed to connect with our audience…people emulated the show because they felt that they could actually achieve what we were doing…we wanted to be a club that everyone could join. And I know that Michael appreciated that.”

In all, Jennifer feels like “a very lucky girl to be a part of a legacy” where she had the opportunity to have these moments. “I was chosen by Disney to represent them at such a young age when I had no true experience or training past my small town and my sweet vocal coach mother. And these greats got on board and encouraged us and came to our show and singled us out as you know we appreciate you.”


There was never a dull moment on the set of the Mickey Mouse Club. Since it was filmed in a time before cell phones and beepers (or even Twitter and Instagram), according to Jennifer everything “was a lot more loosey goosey.” The Mouseketeers would hide, ride golf carts when they weren’t supposed to, they even had “a fire extinguisher fight.” Jennifer recalls that one of the original cast members “loved to just streak down the hallway in his little red undies.” The cast also had a huge pie fight (where Jennifer safely watched from above on the fire escape). “In a fight, I’m the sniper,” she says.

“For as much as we were demanded upon to be young professionals, we were also given a lot of great opportunities to be kids,” Jennifer explains.

One of the craziest memories and also one of her favorites was the time a Mouseketeer (who was into science at the time) played a very elaborate, albeit frightening prank on her and another Mouseketeer. “He sprayed one of the dressing room walls with hairspray and lit it on fire and walked right back out. And yeah, you know to someone who didn't know how that would turn out it was a pretty scary moment. And I on average do not like practical jokes. I am not that type of person. But it was brilliant now that I know what happened because the hairspray burned up and the fire burns itself out because it runs out of fuel…So it was a really quick practical joke that scared me to death.”

While there were some crazy antics behind the scenes, Jennifer’s actual favorite part of being a Mouseketeer was the production. She enjoyed the “creation moments” more than anything. One of her favorite moments was when she filmed a skit with a boa constrictor. She recalls that even though it was a short scene, it took hours to block ahead of time. “I sat backstage while we were blocking this and I had the trainer there with me. And he would just talk me through it. And so I really had a cool experience hanging out with this boa constrictor for hours. I actually don't like snakes in general especially the small, fast ones. But I made friends with the Boa. I'm okay with the Boa community!”


While Jennifer’s story and experience on the MMC was a positive one, that wasn’t always necessarily the case for everyone else. Being a Mouseketeer meant you had to adhere to high standards. “I will say that not everybody was as content on the show,” Jennifer says. “Because I was so young when I began the show, I was wired to conform to the standards that Disney had for their cast members. But there were certain kids who would come in and try to rebel, like just little things.” Some of the boys would rebel by showing up to work wearing hoop earrings for instance and they would complain when they’d be asked to remove them. “But we're like 14 or 15, you know? So still it's all relative, it was just the worst thing ever in our world if we couldn't have cleavage or if they had to put me in a baggy shirt because I had hips.”

Still, Jennifer saw these maneuvers as unfortunate but necessary to keep them “in a certain Disney standard.” She recollects that when Christina Aguilera joined the cast in season 6 they decided to “put her hair in blond ringlets” when it was always Jennifer previously who had that hairdo. “So then the hairdressers had to figure out a different hairstyle for me,” Jennifer explains. And then there was the issue of what clothes they were allowed to wear. “I'd walk around in my baggy outfits and go, ‘Why does Britney Spears get to wear Daisy Dukes practically...Why does she get to wear the shortest shorts I'd ever seen on the Mickey Mouse Club?’ There answer was simple. It was because Britney was only 12. "Well you should tell everyone looking at her that," Jennifer remembers telling them with a laugh.


Love You More

“You could mention any song and I would tell you a fun memory about it,” Jennifer reveals. When asked about “Love You More,” a fun song she did in season six, she had a lot to say. Jennifer admits that on the show Tony Lucca and Keri Russell were their “very small high school popular kids, popular couple.” And that Tony “was the Ken to Keri Russell’s Barbie.” Everyone looked up to them and everyone wanted to be like them. As a singer, Jennifer had spent most of her years belting songs and “being this loud, high singer.” She remembers that this was the only song she “recorded that was softer” and because of it felt unsure about it. But Tony had a different perspective and approached Jennifer with his thoughts after the performance. He said, “‘I think that's my favorite song that you've ever done.’ And that was like a big deal coming from the coolest kid!”

Jennifer took his comments to heart. “That was the first time I gave more thought to dynamics in a vocal performance which is something that I still teach today to recording artists and amateur students in my vocal coaching classes…That made a big impact on my life and my future life as a recording artist. So thank you Tony Lucca!” She also loved the song because of the presentation of it. The set, the costumes and even her hair was cool. “Now it's one of the most referred to footage as far as Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake and Keri Russell were backing me up in it as well as Matt Morris, the extremely gifted and interesting, never a dull moment, Matt Morris.” Matt and Justin, she reveals as being two of her better friends on the show. “They were like my two favorite boys that I would have genuinely impactful conversations with. For however young little Justin was at the time, they were both younger than me, but Justin was younger than Matt. However younger they were than myself we had really great impactful conversations, so I had a very special place in my heart for those two boys.”

Hanging on For Dear Life

One of Jennifer’s most talked about and popular performance is “Hanging on For Dear Life,” an original song from the show’s self-titled album MMC. Jennifer explains that it “still is the most impactful song I ever sang for the Mickey Mouse Club.” Not only did she go on tour with the song, but she was able to hear firsthand accounts from fans who said the “song got them through a hard time in their life whether it be a loss in the family or a struggle with depression.” It was her mother’s favorite song as well and her mother’s wish she re-record it one day. About 3 years ago, Jennifer did just that when she released a limited edition of a new re-recording of the song. She plans to do it one more time and let it stay forever on itunes.

She says that the song (and the album) “represented so much opportunity for the Mouseketeers to perform in an original capacity.” The song also presented an exciting moment of opportunity for Jennifer when the song was used in the movie My Boyfriend’s Back in the key prom scene. “That was so surreal to go to a movie theater and listen to myself as I'm watching a movie,” she recalls. But it wasn’t a perfect moment for the movie lover. “I love movies so much that that would have just been the most amazing thing to ever happen to me at that time to have my name, actual name, in the credits. But as it was, it was credited to MMC.” But she understood since she was “part of a family called MMC. And MMC is who made that song.”


Jennifer Sings the Blues and I’ll Wait

Jennifer has two personal favorite performances “because of the accomplishment of them.” The first is “Jennifer Sings the Blues” and the other “I’ll Wait.” With the first, “it was one of the only original numbers written for a Mouseketeer to sing on the show” which Jennifer thought was “so cool” that they trusted her to do a live recording. Her other favorite, “I’ll Wait,” was a song she performed in season 7. It was a song that required a lot of reworking and a lot of obstacles in making it right. Because Jennifer “loved to imitate the artists” of whatever song she was singing, she had planned to attack the song like its original singer Taylor Dane. But when she showed up to the studio, they had arranged it to be much faster. After working really hard on it, she felt that it “turned out so great.” She explains that it was also one of her first powerhouse songs of her next chapter. According to Jennifer, “this was like one of those last hurrah songs where I just really felt like through all these years this was the song that really showed my range and my coming of age.”


When the show ended after the seventh season, the reactions among the cast members were mixed. “Everyone had their own perspective. It was not black and white,” Jennifer enlightens. And it wasn’t just the actual cancellation that was hard after season seven, but every year between seasons. “I remember my parents telling me that I would go through about two weeks of quote on quote mourning where it's like you lost a part of your family, you lost all your cousins or you lost your job.” Some Mouseketeers had it easier than others, however. The transition wasn’t as hard on Jennifer because her family had moved to Orlando after season 2, but some of the other Mouseketeers went through hard times as they tried to reintegrate themselves into normal schools, some even dealing with bullying because they “used to be a Mouseketeer.” Jennifer says that “it was not easy for a lot of people. And they carry that with them.”

After season six there were rumors that the show might not come back and Jennifer recalls comforting Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling at the season six wrap party, which has become a well known picture of the three of them online. “In that shot, Justin and Ryan have both been crying. Now Ryan plays it off way better pointing to the camera, you know, ‘Hey!’ versus Justin who was just a little sweetheart and he really wanted to come back. All the new ones from season 6 wanted to have another shot. They had watched the show, they were fans on different levels and they'd just gotten there. And they didn't want the show to close…so they were a little sad.” She remembers reassuring Justin and Ryan telling them that they had a great year and that she was sure they’d be back again. “I was always sure we'd come back again because I'd been doing it for 6 years.”


In the end, the MMC did come back for one more season and by that point Jennifer was ready. “I had really lived this Mouseketeer life to its fullest in my view and I was happy to move on if they were asking us to do that. It made my choices easier knowing I wasn't gonna’ have to put off college. Because who knows if I would've been able to go? I might not have been able to leave that family. So it was very good for me because I should have gone to college at that time and I did.”

When the show actually did end, there was all kind of reactions. “There were kids who were so over that show, they had been over it for 3 years; there were kids who were still, the same ones, the young ones who felt like they had just gotten there.” Jennifer felt “wistful” because the show had been a part of her life for so long, but she “was at peace with it.” Others were like, “Well, you know, it's had a good run. I'm happy to move forward but you know, too bad.” In the end, she describes the varying perspectives as being “very grey areas.”


When asked if she was surprised at all by some of the success of the Mouseketeers, she had much to say. “Well, I was only surprised in the way that it's shocking to see someone that you used to hang out in the computer room with for hours and chat about life become a huge heartthrob. Or you see their face on TV in this context, or see the little girl that you used to say ‘why does she get to wear such short shorts on the show?’ And now she's maybe on a good day wearing short shorts!” Jennifer replies with a laugh.

Jennifer was always happy for their success though. “In the beginning, I used to clip articles or save magazines with them all over the cover because I was so impacted by their faces being all over the place…And every single person who quote on quote made it big were extremely hard workers on the set of the Mickey Mouse Club. Britney has an amazing work ethic and I could see in her production, her early production with all the live dancing…I can see how hard she worked starting out as a solo artist. You know, just right out as a solo artist. So that took a lot of personal work for her to do…she really did reap a lot of success not only through her team but through her own personal work.”

Besides Britney, Jennifer also found it funny that her high school friend and prom date Joey Fatone became a famous member of N’SYNC along with Justin (who she chatted with in the computer room all the time) and JC Chasez. “I looked up to Justin and JC a lot for their talent. JC was very special to me as well. And so I was really happy for everybody.”

As for Christina Aguilera, she always knew she would “get discovered in a big way at some point.” In fact, Jennifer points out that “she always sounded like that.” Jennifer explains that Christina’s “range got higher as she got older, but usually it works the other way around. The cool thing about her beginnings is that vocally she had such control over her riffs and her R&B nature vocally, and she had such dark, luxurious tones at such a young age. That is so special and unique. And then she got to grow in her range as she got older which was cool to see. So she always had that raw uniqueness about her talent.” So Jennifer was never surprised by her success.

And then there was Keri Russell. “Beautiful woman, very good actress,” Jennifer describes. “She just had this really cool balance, just drop dead gorgeousness, but really this interesting, introspective nature about her acting that obviously again, I'm not surprised that she made it big because we all looked up to her as this goddess…For better or for worse for our own self-esteem, that's how a lot of us saw her. So that's not a surprise that she became this famous actress, and known for her gorgeousness and why not?”

The one Jennifer was most surprised by was Ryan Gosling, but “not in the way you would think” Jennifer claims. In fact, he was very good at his job. “He actually took over certain acting roles on the Mickey Mouse Club because he was more on top of the work than someone else had been at the time. He was so good at what he did, and he was such a cutie. But you just don't know. You just don't know until you see it. Because you never know how people are gonna’ grow up.”


Before Ryan grew up into such a movie star and heartthrob, a young Ryan was still quite the little Casanova. Jennifer recalls, “My one cute Ryan Gosling story is that he had a different crush on a different one of us Mouseketeer girls every week. And on my week, I actually had a boyfriend from my high school and he came to me in Math class which wasn't a real class, it was like no one was in there but me. And I was sitting on the floor studying Geometry. And he came to me and knelt down in front of me and he said, ‘I was wondering, can I kiss you?’ And I looked at him—now he's itty bitty, he hasn't had his growth spurt yet…this was season 6 where I was about 16 and he was 13…So he was little and adorable and he knelt right in front of me and said, ‘Can I kiss you?’ And I said, ‘Well…’ I talked to him kind of like a little brother…I wasn't like rude or supportive,” Jennifer laughs.

“But I said ‘Well I have a boyfriend, so I can't kiss you. But you can give me just a little kiss. Maybe that would be okay.’ So he said, ‘Okay.’ So he leaned in and he just gave me like the cutest little peck on the lips, just the cutest little peck. But he meant it. Like he was just such a sweet, sensitive little guy that he was super respectful… so he just gave me a cute little kiss on the mouth, just an itty, bitty little lip kiss and I was like, ‘Thank you.’ And he's like, ‘No, thank you,’” she laughs remembering. “He was just such a little charmer, you know? So to this day I am not surprised that people like Ryan Gosling and Justin Timberlake like older women because we were all around them on the show!” Clarifying, Jennifer continues, “I'm pretty sure I'm not the one that turned him onto older women ‘cause we had Keri there as well. But I'm just saying! There were a lot of older women in their lives.”


Recently this past April Jennifer released her new EP self-titled Jennifer McGill available on itunes“It was a long time coming,” Jennifer reveals. “There's been a lot of time where I have felt I do not want to do anything halfway. Even if it's just one or two songs I want them to be excellent and representing where I am at the time. And there were many years before these songs came out, many, many, like more than a decade where I was still in a place that I was covering other people's songs in cover bands, party atmospheres. I was in a place of doing live performances, but with Top 40 songs very similar to my days on the Mickey Mouse Club. And I had not transitioned into a time of focusing on original material. I was honestly finding my sound as an artist because I had been in so many years of training to sound like other people that I didn't know what that sounded like when it was just coming from myself. So I had to take the time to find that. And in retrospect, I'm very happy to take the time. I know that it was difficult to wait for some fans but I knew that it was the right thing to do as far as all that goes.”


With an infectious beat, moving lyrics and strong vocals, for fans (and new listeners) it is definitely worth the wait. Her producer, Jeff Savage helped her take the necessary time to get it right. There are 3 original songs and the style Pop Gospel. “They are geared toward my life growing up with secular beats and pop music and R&B, which I love so much…but putting into that lyrics and the heartfelt singing geared towards inspiring and encouraging people of all belief systems, yet staying true to my belief system in Christ. So through my belief system I want to encourage and love on and uplift anybody and everybody who listens to that music. But I also wanted it to sound cool,” she points out with a laugh.

“So that was our goal to have that infusion of styles built up from about 25 years of my professional career.” She’s very proud of the final result and is ready to make more. She’ll soon be working again on the re-recording of about “Hanging on For Dear Life” which will be in the next mix of songs. She’s also started performing some of her songs live from the EP. “My current project for music is to make sure everything I do agrees with my belief system, but also isn't about me, it is about inspiring and encouraging others.”


However, Jennifer doesn’t just inspire and encourage through music. This month in Nashville she was the keynote speaker at the Christian Women and Media Conference. She also just transitioned her blog Plus Sized Thought about positive self-labeling into a Jennifer McGill blog which will also soon include an Instagram and foundation called God Goggles.

“The blog and the inspirational posts are generally geared towards inspiring and encouraging those who may be on a similar journey as myself on the road of self-esteem. Because when you grow up comparing yourself face to face with Keri Russell and Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, it is difficult to find that best part of you…” Jennifer laughs. “You know if you are taught that Keri is the most beautiful girl in the whole wide world and if you are taller and broader and blonder and wider and you know less flexible than she is, that can weigh on you…it's a similar feeling to calling someone fat or ugly or stupid. Bullying was bullying. And the effect of comparing yourself with people, regardless of how famous they are, comparing your weakest features to someone else's strongest features is always gonna’ end up bad for you. And that's where I encourage people to change their perspective.”

Recalling the past and how far she’s come, she wishes that she could go back in time to talk to her younger self. “These days I'm mostly always in high heels, I love to dress up,” she explains. “I'm pretty outspoken even in my hairdo,” Jennifer laughs. “I don't mind standing out of the crowd and I am not the skinniest or prettiest or youngest most vivacious person around. Or that I would ever meet or that you would ever meet. But I love who I am now. And that is because I went down the other road and saw what it was like to hate myself. I mean most of the time on the Mickey Mouse Club I did not like what I saw in the mirror and I tried to be quote on quote cool like these cool kids were. And it wasn't my nature. My nature is to be comedic and to laugh out loud and to be quirky and to sing loud and proud and to wear high heels. And anything other than that was me trying to be somebody else.”

In fact, Jennifer reveals that “she got lost in the pursuit of fame” for many years in her twenties. She wasn’t always strong at understanding the difference between her path and the celebrities’ success of “certain Mouseketeers.” But she had a different purpose and path. “There was a time where I didn't want to have that purpose. But he was patient. Now I'm older and wiser and I've taken up the torch.” Her purpose? To lift people up. “But I want to do it through the stuff that I feel I'm strongest in, which is arts and entertainment,” she clarifies.

With God Goggles (which has a Youtube page that will soon have vlogs on it), Jennifer hopes to inspire others to see themselves as God does. “Look at yourself the way that he sees you,” Jennifer remarks. “So the point is to encourage people, mostly women, in the self-esteem department that it doesn't matter how skinny you are or how pretty you are or whatever it is that's hanging you up about your looks, it doesn't matter to God. You're purpose matters.” She wants to “be there for people who feel that they cannot measure up.” Because if she “can grow up with celebrities who sing and dance and act,” three things Jennifer does well and she can overcome the feeling of needing to measure up to the success that they’ve achieved in the world, “then anybody can.”


All these years later the MMC still has many loyal fans which Jennifer appreciates. A simple Happy Birthday from Jennifer can make a fan’s day, or even be “one of the best things that could ever happen” to them which she finds humbling. “I should never have a bad day if there are people out there who think that way about me…If I wish someone happy birthday and it was like the best thing ever I need to appreciate my life, you know? I need to appreciate how far I've come and what I've done for other people and just you know be grateful for those experiences and opportunity.”

(Make sure to read more about MMC's 25th anniversary in the companion article HERE.)

Jennifer closes with her thoughts on the 25th Anniversary: “I love that that people still want to know about the memories, it keeps it alive for me to talk about them. So I'm just appreciative that people care, that people remember and that they care because as much as it was an important time in my life and a formative time in my life, I know that it was so much for so many fans. And I never have to wonder if I've left a legacy.”


Check out and buy Jennifer’s new EP Jennifer McGill on itunes. Available now.

Also head on over to learn more about Jennifer McGill on her newly renovated website and also take a look at Jennifer's new blog

You can follow Jennifer on Twitter, Instagram, FacebookYoutube and God Goggles Twitter.

Jennifer vocally coordinates at her church and leads worship there which you can see at You can sometimes catch her singing there online. You can also catch Jennifer on where she’s a superhero trainer.

To learn more about the author Amber Topping, check out her vintage inspired media blogzine

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From the Streets Of Italy To The Streets of Jersey:
An Interview with Lou Volpe

By Shirley Craig


For Italian-born Lou Volpe, becoming a successful actor has been a life-long dream. He took the first step towards fulfilling that dream at the young age of six when he landed his first role in a school production of Dinner With Friends. Now, Lou can be seen playing Frankie Vali's father in the much anticipated Clint Eastwood movie, Jersey Boys, the film adaptation of the highly successful Broadway musical, that chronicles the 1960's singing phenomenon, The Four Seasons. Jersey Boys opens next week at theaters everywhere. This week, I had the pleasure of talking to Lou, and found out that he is not just a successful actor but an independent filmmaker as well.

You must have been very excited to get cast in Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys, particularly since you are Italian. I understand you were born in Italy.

Yeah, I was born in Italy and then I came here as a kid. I actually moved to Massachusetts first for a few years and then moved here to LA.

How old were you when you first came to America?

I just turned 18.

Oh, you weren’t really a kid. I thought you meant like 7 or 8.

Yeah, in my mind, I was a kid, you know? Hadn’t matured yet. [Laughs]

So you really grew up in Italy—whereabouts in Italy?

In a small town called Caserta. It’s between Naples and Rome. It’s on the west coast of Italy.

Were you acting in Italy, or did you get the acting bug when you got here?

No, I always kind of wanted to and I did some plays when I was a kid in Italy. I belonged to a theatre touring company, and so I did some summer stuff with them. I was the classic class clown when I was a kid. So it was just always in me to act and then after I did some things in Italy, I got the bug, but I held off. I had a family. So I was only able to do little things here and there in Massachusetts and little bit of things in New York, but then I really started working harder at it when I moved here to California.

I read that you basically gave up your acting aspirations in order to support your family.

Yes. I got married at 19, I came here at 18, but on a trip back to Italy I fell in love, got married and we both came back here.

And you put your career on hold to raise a family?

Yeah, yeah.

Then after your kids were grown, you said, “Now it's my time.”

Exactly. I did things here and there wherever I could, nothing that would take me out of work for too long or away from my kids. So I had to just basically do whatever I could once in a while, a TV show here, a play there, that kind of stuff. Eventually, I got divorced and I was raising my kids on my own, so it was even harder to do any kind of acting work. I had to make sure I was home and I had a job constantly. So I couldn’t do anything until my kids basically grew up; then they left home, so now I’m totally back.

So you were, what, in your late 30s, early 40s before you really started concentrating on a career?

Right, exactly, yes.

Was it hard to get an agent and get your career going then?

I mean, it’s as hard as it is for any actor. Obviously as you get older and you haven’t done a whole lot of work from when you were a kid, then it is a little more difficult, but I take it as it comes. If I get a job, I get a job. If I don’t, I don’t. I really love acting and I write and I've made a couple of feature films of my own, so I mean, I love doing it but I don’t stress out when I don’t get a job. I audition and if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

So tell me about Jersey Boys. How did  you get that job? Did you audition for a casting director first?

Yes, I did. Actually, I only auditioned for the casting director, Geoffrey Miclat. There were several other actors auditioning for the same role and then a couple months later, I got a call from my agent telling me that I had the part.

And you didn’t have to do like 22 callbacks?

No, I did not. Usually with a movie, you do less callbacks than a TV show but generally you do at least two or three, but Clint claims he doesn’t do that. He lets the casting directors do their job and then he selects whomever he wants from the videotape recordings.


So your first day on the set is the first time you met Clint Eastwood?


And how was that?

Oh, are you kidding? He’s a legend. He’s an icon but at the same time, he’s such a nice, down-to-earth kind of guy. He basically saw me and said, “Hi Lou,” as if he already knew me and he was nice, just very nice. I felt like I knew him since I used to watch his movies and TV shows when I was kid. Basically that’s the first thing I told him: “You’re the reason I became a cowboy” because I love riding horses, so we kind of laughed and talked about that.

That’s great. Did he give you a lot of direction or is he the kind of director who just says, “Okay, you know your lines. Give me your best shot”?

No, he’s very relaxed. He basically knows your lines, so he kind of wants you to do your thing. Actually the first scene we shot was a courthouse and in that scene, I wasn’t supposed to have any lines. I asked him if he wanted me to do anything, to improvise or whatever and he said, “Yeah, yeah, improvise. Say whatever you want, whatever comes to you, maybe in Italian.” So I basically did some of that and when I saw the film, he'd kept that stuff in. Then for the other scenes he just let us improvise and ad lib. It was great. He was very relaxed. He just says, “Okay, go ahead.” He doesn’t even say “action” most of the times. Whenever I was on the set, he was kidding around and instead of saying “action,” he would say it in Italian “azione,” then he’d crack up and I’d crack up. He’s just a really nice, funny kind of guy, you know?


Did you have to do a lot of takes or was he a one take director?

He let us do a couple takes just for the fun of it, just different angles or he just wanted to have different things but nothing when he actually said, “No, I don’t like what you’re doing there, so let’s do another one differently.” He just told the cameramen to go and we would go.

In the movie you play Frankie’s dad. Were you involved in any of the big musical numbers?

No, I was mostly at home with Frankie, but we did do one big number. I don’t really want to spoil it, but it’s towards the end of the movie and pretty much everybody was involved and it’s dancing in the streets and stuff. It was great. That was really, really fun.

Did the singers just sing to the playback track?

No, they actually sang. In that scene, they sang in the streets basically. They sang as they recorded. They had one room set up for recording all the singing stuff. There’s a lot of stuff they did in the studios, the scenes where they sang in clubs or whatever, but this particular scene, they actually sang in the street as we all danced around them.

Was a lot of the film shot in a studio, or was an equal part done on location?

Yeah, we shot some of the stuff around L.A. and some of the stuff in the studio but even in the studio, part of it was outside. We shot on one of Warner Bros. lots. You know they have those streets all set up to look like the ‘60s and that’s where we shot that scene.


Did you speak Italian in the movie much?

Yes, I did. That was part of the thing, like the court scene, I basically scream and yell in Italian. And some of the other scenes, I spoke Italian and English, mixed it up a bit.

Frankie Valli was born in the States, right?

Yes, he was born in New Jersey.

But his parents were both Italian?

I believe that they were either both born in Italy or one of them, his Mother I think, was born in Italy. They spoke Italian.

So do you have scenes with Frankie Valli where you are speaking Italian with him?

I did, and he responded with a couple of words in Italian in some of the scenes and then some of the scenes he didn’t. He would just speak in English.

The guy that plays Frankie Valli, John Lloyd Young, he got a Tony award for his part in the actual musical. He is great. He’s incredible. I mean, there’s no way I know anybody else that can sing like that. He was really able to recreate Frankie Vali.

The film opens June 20, correct?

Yes, it does. It’s premiering here at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 19th, and then everywhere on June 20th.

Anything else you want to add about your experience in shooting Jersey Boys?

I just had a great time and everybody was really, really nice. All the actors I worked with were great, very nice guys.  And the crew, Clint uses the same people or pretty much the same people as part of his crew on all of his films. They’re all really well-organized and very professional at the same time. And very relaxed, kind of like Clint. They make sure you do your job and it all comes out well, and you have a good time at the same time.

EverySecretThing.jpgRight. So tell me about Every Secret Thing, your independent film.

Every Secret Thing, was initially a play that I wrote many years ago called Tall and Powerful and over the years, people kept asking me, “When are you going to make a movie out of it?” I thought about it, but I couldn’t find a way to make it into a movie. Finally one day it kind of hit me, and I wrote the script and then went from there. It’s a story about a young guy, who’s a paraplegic, and the reason he became a paraplegic was because of a car accident but he doesn't know why. His parents, his mother, had lied about it and didn’t tell him the truth until his father, who had disappeared after the accident, comes back and he finds out the truth and so on. I played Victor, who is the lead’s best buddy.

And Victor was partially deaf, correct?

Yes he was. I talked to a lot of people to make sure that I had a bit of a speech impediment like a partially deaf person. I did my homework before I started writing the script.

You wrote and directed it?

Yep, I wrote, directed and produced it, the whole thing.

And you raised the money yourself?

Oh yeah. [Laugh] Yes, I did.

Can I ask you what the budget was?

The budget, let’s say, was less than $30,000. I did all the work myself basically and only hired what I couldn’t do.

And you shot it in 14 days.  Did you shoot it all digitally?

Yes, on a digital camera. I hired a DP who had her own equipment because obviously besides wanting a good DP, I wanted somebody who had their own equipment, so I didn’t have to rent it. So yeah, it was all digital and then I edited it after we were done  It took me a few months to edit it because I couldn’t concentrate on doing it all the time but at the same time, I wanted it to come out as good as possible.

Did you enter it into the festival circuit or is it available on video? How can our readers get to see Every Secret Thing?

Well, it went film festivals but I actually never got theatrical distribution. There were a couple of deals that people wanted to do with me, but it was just, they weren’t right. So I just chose not to do it. I didn’t want to give it away. I actually ended up putting it up on YouTube.

Did you always want to write and direct, as well as act? 

I started writing many, many years ago. I wrote mostly stage plays at the beginning. Right now, acting is what I really want, but sometimes making a film yourself, it’s probably the best way to get the kind of roles that you want. I don’t get the kind of roles that Robert De Niro or Al Pacino would get because obviously I don’t have the same kind of clout that they have. So for me to do the kind of role that I would want to do; sometimes you have to write it yourself. So that’s why I wanted to make films as well, but I love the process. I had a great time making the films and I would definitely do it again if I could afford it, particularly if somebody else puts up the money for it!

Where did you shoot it?

Around L.A., Hawthorne, Malibu, different places, but all around here in Southern California.

Was this your only film, or have you done others?

I did another film, yeah. Before Every Secret Thing, I did DWM: Divorced White Male. That was sort of semi-autobiographical. After I got divorced I decided to turn my experiences and story into a movie. It was just something that I felt I had to do and, at the time, there weren’t a whole lot of places like It was all done in newspapers, where you put your personal ads and my experiences with that were kind of funny, so I thought it would make a good romantic comedy.

What’s up for you next?

Well, right now there is one possible project. It’s a movie, but I can’t really say anything about it because it’s not final. But I like the role that I went for, so we’re trying to work things out.

Good luck. I hope you get it. So outside of writing, acting and directing, what are your other passions, Lou?

Riding horses. I love doing that.

You own horses; you have a ranch, right?

Yes, I do, but it’s a very small ranch. I wouldn’t even call it a ranch. If you call it a ranch, you expect to see the Ponderosa. [Laughs] Mine is just one acre and a couple of barns and a couple of horses. That’s all. It’s just enough for me and my wife, and that’s it.


It sounds like a really nice life.

It is.

Thanks for taking the time to talk, it was a pleasure to meet you. I look forward to seeing you in The Jersey Boys.

Thanks so much.

Photo credit: Lou with his horse, Ripply, courtesy of Marnie Volpe

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Will the Real Rob Fusari
Please Stand Up?

By Bridget Brady

You may not know his name, but you’ve most definitely heard his music. One of the most successful music producers in history, you might best actually ‘know’ him for his famed partnership with Lady Gaga. You have certainly heard songs he produced for Beyonce, Will Smith and Whitney Houston. What you might not know is that he now goes by “8” or “8-Bit” and has gone through a massive transformation in the last year. We sit down for an in-depth, tell “almost” all about suing Lady Gaga, his new group Cary Nokey, his mother wanting a daughter, and even what this transformation has been like for his long-time girlfriend and family.
You are hugely successful! You've done a lot of really impressive things in the music industry!
You're so sweet, thank you, I appreciate that! Let me just say, it's been a ride. It's been a hell of a journey so far. I've been very fortunate, and I'm very thankful. Every day is ever changing...I've done something right, somewhere along the line; maybe in a past life or something, who knows? It's a lot of luck. It's a lot of key people: a combination of elements that when it comes together, it comes together.
What's interesting is that for all the success you've had, you've stayed mostly behind the scenes.
For years and years, I just wanted to be behind the scenes. I didn't want to be seen, recognized, none of it. I was very complacent and happy being that "behind-the-scenes" producer, who did his job, went home at the end of the night and lived a somewhat normal life within the realm. It's funny because I just got back from LA, and coming back, the attendant behind the counter says, "Oh, you're a friend of Lady Gaga, I believe." I said, "How do you know that?" He said, "I just recognize the name." The point of it is, for whatever reason, that all flipped around about a year ago; almost not by choice, I got up one morning and everything changed. Everything seemed and felt different. From that day on, it was never a question of was I doing the right thing; I just didn't want to produce or write songs for other artists anymore. I want to write songs where I can tell the story. Whether I'm a great singer or not, it doesn't matter; I want to get the message across from author to listener without the interpretation of another artist. It was time to just do this, and do something that gave me some life-blood back into the music. 
It got harder and harder to find anything that really hit me hard. I wasn't feeling music anymore, and for someone who does music for a living, that's a dangerous place to be. A lot of not-good shit starts to creep into your life and your life-style, because you're looking for something to fill that void, and it got worse and worse. The search almost stopped being about the music, and it started being about other things. It was a time where I had to make this transition and do something that was about the music and being true to what was going on in my life. It was all those years of working with so many different artists, giving them, stage presence, how they’re going to talk on stage. It was kind of like living though them, and I was cool with that. I brought a lot of people to a lot of good places, but it was time to really turn the tables. It was time for Rob to start producing Cary Nokey, and 8-Bit is my character in Cary Nokey. All the things I would tell the artists, it all came back around, and I put it on me. If I was gonna' preach it, I had to practice it. I never worked out in my life, I started working out. I never took a vocal lesson in my life, I started taking vocal lessons. Just everything...I got so into fashion, and I was never into fashion before.  
It sounds like your passion now is performing and being your own voice. Have you lost your passion for producing?
That is very much the case. Anything can happen, who knows what the future brings, but I don't understand it now; I don't know how I would do it. When I do it now, these are whole lifetimes and experiences that I'm putting into songs; I can't do that for someone in an hour. Labels used to send me artists; I'd meet them for an hour and they'd need a single or hit. Even with the Gaga stuff, we spent a lot of time together, so by the time we did a song like "Paparazzi," we were thinking for each other. We were able to bounce off of each other, more of that fluid thing.  For me to have that with somebody, it takes time to develop that. That's why I had that kind of success with Gaga; we were spending every day together -every day, sometimes 24 hours a day. It was like that for several months. Then after that, I was trying to find that next big artist. I want to find an unsigned artist and create from the ground up, like I did with her [Lady Gaga]. People would come in, and I tried to write for them, but I didn't get that same feeling like when she walked in the room…this feeling came over me, "What the hell?  Is this really happening?" It was surreal; it was watching history. It was like being in a movie, watching from the outside in.
Well, that was such an amazing partnership; I have to believe that was some kind of Divine appointment.
No question about it. Honestly God himself could come down and say "there was none," and I would say, "I don't believe you, why are you pulling my chain?" (Laughing)
So, you know I've got to ask it...Here's this "Divinely appointed" perfect partnership, something changed, and then you sued her?! For millions of dollars...what happened? How do you go from we spend 24 hours a day together and finish each other’s thoughts, to I'm going to sue you for millions of dollars?
It's so tricky. If this is new for a young artist, there's a swoop to this world of the record business, entertainment and Hollywood. You don't know if you're coming or going. I can't talk about the logistics of the lawsuit, but I can say that…I've gotta' be honest with you, sometimes I don't think I know. I always have to look inside. I think watching this thing, for me, it wasn't that different than it was for her. Where it was different, is I was watching from the outside. Like watching a big glass building being put up, thinking, why can't I...  Honestly, I think I got caught up in it too. "Wait a minute, why is this train leaving without me?" I hate that it was such a whirlwind. I had worked with Beyonce, Will Smith, and Destiny’s Child. But this was different, this was my baby. Like with Cary Nokey now, I'm not doing anything else. When I met Gaga, I was in the middle of four projects; I dropped them all that same week. I didn't want to do anything else; I wanted to put every ounce, every cell of me into this project right now because that's how much I believed in it. I don't blame anyone for what happened, if anything I blame myself. I think that's the more mature way. I'm gonna' look to myself; I did a lot of shit wrong.
All things considered, was Lady Gaga your favorite artist to work with, or who was?
I really think she was. I wasn't able to really sink my teeth into anything to that extent, up to that point. A lot of the other work was one or two songs, or the title track to a movie. Which is great, I'm not complaining about it, don't get me wrong. But there was something about taking this jewel, this stone, this diamond in the rough; and piece-by-piece, day-by-day chipping away at it. Then you're like, "Oh my God, it's a building." And you don't get that a lot because artists like that aren't on every street corner, and I learned that the hard way. I thought I could top it. I created this Gaga thing, I can do it again, and I can do it better. Probably 1,000 artists into this, 2012, 2013, I didn't see it. I've met 1,000 artists and not one artist has that "thing.” Something’s it me?? I had to stop and try again...then I said, "That's it."  People are like, "Why don't you just go write another hit?"  Do you think it's that easy?!?  You have no idea how difficult it is for the stars to align because that's what happens when you have a hit song. The right song, the right lyrics, the right timing, the right this, the right that. I was producing a single for Destiny's Child called "Happy Face" on the "Survivor" album, and they were putting a ton of money behind it. There was a huge marketing campaign; it was probably going to be their biggest record to date. Then a week or two before the release, 9-11 happens. The song is called "Happy Face,” and they just cut it. No one wants to hear a song called "Happy Face" right now. You just never know.
Did you have a least favorite artist that you worked with?
I did. My most challenging artist to date, for a multitude of reasons, was Whitney [Houston]. I wouldn't say my least favorite, just my most challenging. It was at the point when there were a lot of drugs going on. She was "Whitney"...I don't think her and I, from the day we met, connected. Then I was trying to get her to sing a line a certain way, and rightly so, she was looking at me like, "You don't tell Whitney how to sing." There were at least four or five things that happened and at one point she was like, "I'm outta' here." I was thinking, "Oh my God, I'm working with Whitney Houston; this is a pinnacle for me. I'm working with a legend." It was disappointing, but I have to take responsibility for that too. I probably could've done a lot better to make her feel like that super-star. A star likes to be treated like a star. And that doesn't mean get them red M&M's, but if everything is revolving around that star, then it should revolve around them at that moment. It's not that anyone's better, everyone is equal, but for a star to perform, they need to feel like a star. The song still was a huge hit and went to #1. But I probably could've done a lot more. Now though, coming from the perspective of a performer, if I ever do go back to producing records for other people, I'm going to be an AMAZING producer because now I have the whole other element of how to make that person feel outside of the music. Put them in the right frame of mind, in that comfort zone, with that white pillow on that pedestal. It's a whole other thing.
Tell me more about your current passion, Cary Nokey and 8-Bit. Don't you have a single coming out soon?
Yes. The song is called, "BWhoUR.” A lot of Cary Nokey stuff is darker. Not lyrically, but more in the feel, more of a "Cure," Bowie darkness to it. It's deeper. The song, "BWhoUR" is more of a feel good so I tucked it away. Then I played it for one or two people, and people started freaking out. It's really the story of what happened here. I feel like Rob was the alter-ego of 8-Bit, who I am now. I know that sounds crazy, and I know I lived a life as Rob, but my whole family calls me 8 now, cuz' I won't have it. I don't feel like Rob; I'm not Rob. I understand that Rob exists, and did exist, and had this life, but I compare it to being gay. You live all these years of keeping it from everyone, and then you come out like, "how did I do that?" I feel like this single speaks on that, whatever it is, just be who you are. There's no one like you. You want to be unique, different, and something spectacular? Be YOU because no one can be you. What better odds to play than that? 

In a nut-shell, "BWhoUR" is the Cary Nokey story. It involved crazy shit that I wouldn't want people knowing, but there was a ray of light there. I'm a rock-dude, I'm a dance-dude, I'm a soul-dude. I'm very much a chic; I'm very much a guy. I have a song called "My Name is Lisa" and it's about all my alter-egos growing up; when I'd be in my room, and I'd wanna wear lipstick, and try on my mother’s jewelry. My mom was very feminine. She had three sons; she always wanted a daughter. I was the youngest, so I became the daughter. I was the one that she dressed up every Halloween like a girl. And she did a great job; she was a cosmetologist. She did my skin and my hair; it was amazing. When I went to high school, I never wanted to be around the guys. They'd be joking about the stupidest stuff. I didn't belong there; it was so uncomfortable to me, but I couldn't say anything.
Can I ask how old you are?
Really?  You're young!
Wow, I thought you were going to say I'm old.
No!!  I was just wondering where this sudden shift came from...I thought maybe it had to do with a significant Birthday.
Yeah...I really don't know...
Where do you live now?
In New York, in Hell's Kitchen.
Tell me more about your personal life. Are you in a relationship, what do you do with your time, and what are you passionate about outside of the industry?
Wow, nobody's ever asked that before. It's interesting because even through Cary Nokey and 8-Bit, I've started doing things that I never did. Obviously, I'm a clothes and fashion whore. I can't control it, it's so bad. I'm obsessed with designers and garments and I started making my own stuff. I also started doing more drawing, and I've started having head-pieces I've been designing built. It feels Liberace and Freddie Mercury to me; it feels very feminine to me. I'm so obsessed with really being in touch with my feminine side. It's funny because I have a girlfriend and all I can say is, it's tough. The feminine thing was always there, but you know what I'm getting at...there's other things happening. Sometimes it's amazing because you didn't realize these things were in you, but sometimes it's very difficult because people don't get it. It's taken a while for people who are really close to me. My mother just started calling me 8. I said, "Mom, you can call me Rob, I'm just not gonna’ answer." So it's been a really interesting transition.
The things that Rob used to do, I don't find that interesting anymore. Rob would go, at least once a week, to a movie, every day sometimes; it was almost an escape for me. I haven't been to the movies since I can't tell you when. I don't really take's not really a good thing. I should be doing the things that people do when they shut their engines off. I won't hide that fact that I have to take medication for it because it's hard for me to shut the wheels off. I'll go rehearse all day, I'll write a song, I'll come back to the apartment, and I'll get on the laptop to produce a track.  There are too many things that I feel like I can do, and I want to do. The problem with that is you don't stop and smell the roses. You gotta shut it off sometimes, and that's the challenge I'm having. I was always like that. Like I said before with Gaga, we'd work 7 days a week. There were no weekends, no Friday night. There's stuff as an artist...go to the parties, go meet the DJs, but I'm always in that "I can be better" mode. And it's crazy, but it's what it is, until I can tame that beast.
How long have you been with your girlfriend?
We've been on-and-off for ten years.  
Wow, that's a long time! You just came through this massive personal transition, and this massive expansion, how is that for your girlfriend?
I feel like I have to give her the time to decide that "I love this new person too."  It's that serious. She's learning something new every day about this person. It's a year old for her, just like it's a year old for me. It's almost like starting a new relationship for both of us. The great thing about that is the new person [8-Bit] has both sides. You wanna be with a chic tonight, I can do that. You wanna be with a dude tonight, I can do that.  Now you've got the whole thing.
One of the most interesting interviews I've ever done, 8-Bit then proceeded to invite me to an "off-the-record" hang!  8, I can't wait!
If you are in the New York Area this week, you can see 8-Bit live, Friday, June 13 at the Gramercy Theater..for more info...
Follow 8-Bit:,, @CaryNokey on Instagram
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