Tracey Olkus: The Latest Vixen

 

Text by Tracey Olkus, Copyright 2024

Photography and Set Design: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

Styling and Creative Direction: KVaughn

Lighting Assistant: Anthony Colagreco

.

THE LATEST VIXEN

.

I have had the honor of working with Tony Ward only a few times over the last couple decades-most recently with Ellen Tiberino for The Vixen Series. So when Tony asked if I would be a part of this project, I thought he meant behind the scenes doing hair and makeup.  I was shocked when I realized that he wanted to photograph ME.  I’m never in front of the camera. I don’t even take selfies.
 
I love creating Vixens and encouraging Vixens,  but I had never thought of myself as a Vixen. I think of a Vixen as a woman who breaks from tradition, supersedes expectations and takes control of her destiny. She exudes confidence and sexuality.  She IS fire!  Well, part of that is definitely me.  I have been an entrepreneur most of my life. I have never had the patience to wait around for things to happen.  I have been told that I’m outspoken. And I only know how to do things in my own weird ways. I’m a sexual being through and through but I have never considered myself to be sexy.  When I told Tony this, he assured me that I was in good hands. And THAT I believed. I stepped out of my comfort zone and let him take the lead.  And it was a wild ride!
.
Portrait of hair stylist Tracey Olkus wearing black sheer dress on night out in Paris
Tracey Olkus. The Vixens Series. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

For almost two decades, Tracey Olkus  has been transforming faces and elevating styles from her private studio in Philadelphia. Specializing in everything from everyday glam to commercial shoots to TV and film. 

 
Tracey’s artistic interests extend beyond the chair. With a passion for costuming, she crafts bespoke headdress designs available through commissioned works.  
 
As the curator of The Performance Salon, Tracey provides a platform for emerging and established artists to showcase their talents in an intimate setting. From musicians, to thespians, writers to chefs, The Performance Salon has become a hub for artistic expression with performances that leave audiences mesmerized.
 
But Tracey’s interests go beyond her professional pursuits . A dedicated patron of the arts and the finer things in life, she enjoys hosting extravagant dinner parties and whimsical camping trips…often simultaneously.
 
When it is time to escape, Tracey can be found exploring the world, talking to strangers, and collecting stories from every corner of the globe. And along the way, she is most happy to have has amassed an eclectic collection of friends that share her passion for the extraordinary.

Nefertari Williams: Facts Are Facts

DALL·E-2024-04-01-11.50.05-Imagine-a-painting-capturing-the-essence-of-a-FACT-from-a-realist-painters-perspective.-This-artwork-shows-an-ancient-weathered-stone-tablet
Artwork Generated by DALL.E 2024

Unlike with my National Geographic magazines that I loved as a kid or my set of weird smelling encyclopedias that I enjoyed leafing through from beginning to end, If you don’t search a certain flow of topics you won’t get particular groups of information. 

 
Most people don’t have access to an abundance of information. This access is becoming even more limited as some books are being banned. This access excited me as a kid as I learned useless facts (well not so useless I was my high school jeopardy champ).  I craved information so I would ask questions. I became disgruntled when an older person would say to me “now you are asking the right questions” instead of just answering me. I always thought they had the answers but they wanted me to do the work to get the answers myself. I later realized that perspective isn’t always black and white and for a child at that age I asked particularly unique questions and they really may not have known the answers. 
 
With the invention of the internet I became enamored by search engines. I am also thankful that my teachers and mentors taught me the valuable gift of asking the right questions. I believe this will be what divides or unites us as people ( as opposed to skin color). With so much information available at a simple touch it will be hard to narrow down a topic without the art of knowing what questions to ask. 
 
Information and facts are also not as black and white as they were in simpler days like before the internet. Facts were confirmed through third party perspective and most of us would accept that as truth. Easy right?!
 
Today, you can be challenged for saying something as simple as the dog barks. Someone might ask something like – does it or is that what they want you to think? What?? These are facts that we know. A dog makes a sound and we have called that sound a bark. So a dog barks. That is now a fact. Right? Well what if I want to call the sound that a dog makes, a meow. And what if I can get half of the country to say that the sound a dog makes is a meow. Now your fact is no longer a fact because you no longer have third party perspective. 
 
Or another example may be the statement black is a color and white is a color. Someone may say – no black is my race I am black. Then someone else may argue – but your skin is not the color black so how do you identify that way? The response may be I don’t know my country says if I have one drop of black blood I am black. How do you have black blood? Well my mom says my dad is African American and white. So he’s white- no but people from South Africa and Northeastern Africa are considered white. I know my skin is white but I am black. Ok ok I’m confused. We are All confused. 
 
Did I confuse you … good. That was my point.
 
But why would anyone want a nation to be confused?  
 
Is that how it works in life? Search engines are just awesome. I sometimes wish they would list popular or relevant searches for every moment of each day  but nope if it’s not already on your radar it will not appear in your news feed, your social media nor your search engines. You have to already know to know what to ask and we are so busy living life most of us don’t have time to sit and day dream or become critical thinkers of theories or disputed facts. Facts are facts period.
.
About The Author:  Nefertari Williams is a jewelry maker, activist for women with heart disease and the mother of five beautiful children.  She lives in Willingboro, New Jersey.  To access additional articles by Nefertari Williams link here: https://tonyward.com/nefertari-williams-two-steps-smarter/
 
 

Lileet_Miriam: The Latest Vixen

Tara Mordin the latest Vixen in a series by Tony Ward Studio copyright 2024
Tara Mordin. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

Text by Lileet_Miriam, Copyright 2024

Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

Styling and Creative Direction by KVaughn 

.

When I was contacted by Tony Ward Studio to partake in this project, “The Vixen Series,” I was genuinely honored, very excited, and quite honestly, humbled. I viewed this invitation to be in a league of its own – an elite circle of amazing women from all walks of life who were having their beauty, thoughts, strengths, and tribulations highlighted in a way that exuded power and commanded respect. As I began to ponder more on the concept of what it means to be deemed a “vixen,” I realized that the whole is greater than the sums of its parts. To be considered and included with these other “vixens,” meant that I brought something to the table that is equally powerful, enticing, and worthwhile that goes well beyond having a physical presence. 

Many of us have had moments in life where we are our toughest critics – questioning our worth, doubting our abilities, obsessing over how others perceive us. I think being considered a vixen allows one to fully embrace their true, authentic self and showcases how their individual uniqueness has its place in this vast world. We each have physical and interpersonal traits that make us different from the next. When we acknowledge and accept such attributes and celebrate what they truly offer, it opens a window of opportunity that is filled with confidence, empowerment, even pride. The more positivity and ownership of our value that we portray to others, the more impact and inspiration it tends to have. 

Over time, I feel that I have reached my own prime. I am unapologetically, me. I have grown a tremendous amount as a person, both inside and out. I have come to learn that my qualities do carry inherent value and that my input, time, energy, and overall presence, matter. Being a part of this series has reinforced that for me. It continuously sheds light that there truly is more to a person than what we first may see and that each of us should honor, praise, and recognize our own inner vixen, in all its amazing forms.   

Sightseeing in Paris at night beautiful woman wearing lingerie exposing her beautiful legs as she looks onto the Eiffel Tower.
Sightseeing. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

.

To access additional photographs from The Vixen’s Series portfolio, click herehttps://tonyward.com/the-vixens-series/

James Domingo: Erasing The Myth of Superiority

Photograph of beautiful and stylish African American woman
Celebrating Antoinette. AKA: Scorpiana. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

Text by James Domingo, Copyright 2024

.

Erasing The Myth of Superiority

.

The 2024 election cycle may prove to be one of the most important in our country’s centuries old experiment with Democracy. 

As we wind down this Black History Month, there is always reason to celebrate the rich culture and contributions that Black Americans have woven into the fabric of America. 

Unfortunately, aside from the vast contributions of incredible music, art, literature and amazing cuisine, many other accomplishments have been purposely diminished and whitewashed from the history books by those who would prefer not to acknowledge these overwhelming contributions achieved in the face of rabid adversity. 

America, with its many successful advancements of civil rights and equality, is finding itself with a segment of our society actively working to dial our country backwards to its darkest times by resurrecting the ignorant rhetoric of the Jim Crow Era.

It’s important to remember that there are those that like to pretend that Black Americans did not contribute to the Industrial Revolution. However, in the north, we invented and received 50,000 patents which was on par with every other group of immigrants with the exception of German and English immigrants who didn’t face the adversity that Black Americans were subjected to, especially in the south where institutions and policies were extremely racist and oppressive.

Fast forward to the 2024 Election cycle and here we are again being subjected to the same ignorant rhetoric and attacks on Black History. 

For decades the GOP extremists have used their thinly veiled dog-whistles and red meat rhetoric to foment anger and resentment towards the Black American community as well as every other non-white citizen in our country including the LGBTQ  community as well.

American citizens need to stand strong against the likes of Ron DeSantis who for some strange reason thinks his misguided anger gets to dictate how and where Black history will be taught and shared. We need to stand firmly against extremists and wannabe fascist, bigoted dictators like Trump who peddles his bigoted bullshit by suggesting that Black Americans now align with him because he’s been convicted of sexual assault,  fraud and a host of other crimes. He also insisted that Black Americans will embrace him because they “loved his mugshot.” In his declining MAGAt mind he thinks Black Americans have some sort of affinity toward criminal behavior and see him as some sort of an ally or hero. He will continue to pander to Black Americans while mumbling the “N” word in private until he no longer needs them as he does with everyone in his polluted orbit.

Others in the MAGAt camp have also suggested that “the Blacks” will flock to Trump because he came out with a hideous line of sneakers that he’s yet to deliver on and wreaks of desperation.

 I suppose by their ignorant mindset, they’d also believe that he could boost sales by including a slice of watermelon and a piece of fried chicken with each purchase of his “DespAir Jordan” clown shoes.

So again, elections have consequences. The 2024 Election is one that could put some of the worst that our society has to offer back in power and diminish our standing in the world. 

We can and should avert another pandemic of racism.

So, Americans need to decide if they want our country to be run by archaic, knuckle-dragging AmeriKKKans or they can show up at the polls and vote for American leadership that will represent all of our citizens equally in the way any evolved society should. 

We’ve had 247 years to get this Democracy thing right. 

Let’s grow up and act like it.

.

Portrait of James Domingo, photographer, activist
James Domingo

About The Author: James Domingo is a veteran professional photographer and political activist based in Philadelphia. He specializes in photographing people on location or in the studio and often promotes his activism on his Facebook profile. This is James Domingo’s first contribution to this zine. 

Nefertari Williams: Two Steps Smarter

An artist illustration of Taylor Swift by Thomcat23
Taylor Swift. Artwork by Thomcat23, Copyright 2024

Text by Nefertari Williams, Copyright 2024

.

Two Steps Smarter

.

I think Beyonce and Taylor Swift may have just two stepped all over our minds. 
 
Follow me through my pathway of parallel thinking..  And forgive me but “I was dreaming when I wrote this – forgive me if I go astray”. 
 
Well that’s where I’m going to start. This is a quote from the late great genius, artist and superstar, Prince. He wrote Purple Rain and America went wild. We didn’t care what genre it fell under – it was just amazing music… and we love it still to this day. 
 
Prince initially wrote this as a country song to sing with Fleetwood Mac specifically for Stevie Nicks but she admitted that she got a “fearful end of the world” vibe from the lyrics so she didn’t want to record it. She was right to get that vibe. The sing Purple rain is an actual spiritual reference that speaks about getting through tough times and your faith in a higher power during the end of time. Many pondered on the songs meaning for years. 
 
Prince used the color purple reference often, almost like he knew his end was coming sooner than later. 
 
I open with a Prince reference to show how we have had artistic geniuses  use their lyrics to shape our thinking throughout time. The art of story telling can change the mindset of generations- and it has. I believe it may be happening now. 
 
We lost this great artist in April 21, 2016 and his songs are still referenced and considered some of the most clever pieces of music ever made. 
 
Fast forward to present day. 
 
The world is on fire (as I write this Texas is literally experiencing its largest wild fire ever recorded 2/27/24) . There are three active wars, constant cyber attacks, women have lost their right to not have babies in some states and to get pregnant in other states. To top it all off, we have a man who is saying the quiet part out loud while running to be President. He wants to be a dictator (the very opposite of what the framers wanted America to be) He feels he has total immunity as a former President. 
 
This former President has tried to over turn the 2020 election, has incited an insurrection (but I think we have to call it a riot) and he might actually win his party’s nomination for reelection into the White House. 
 
Some Americans are ok with this because they feel as though they have been over looked and unseen. They are angry. Some may say rightly so. Some can’t even afford to buy groceries and they have been struggling financially for years. 
 
The problem is – the one man that they feel will be their “retribution” is part of the system that is keeping them poor but that’s another topic for another article. 
 
Ok, so here we are in an election year. We have a candidate who is running that most of the country doesn’t want to win. He is running against the current President who some believe is too old to do the job with the vigor that is needed. That is the epitome of being stuck between a rock and a hard place according to many voters. 
 
The former President is known for not having a close relationship with the truth. He feels the last election was stolen from him and now he uses strange conspiracy theories to get his “followers” to believe that if he loses again it is because he was cheated. 
 
This brings us to my reasoning for opening with the lyrics of the late great artist, Prince and his influence on the world. There have been stories surrounding a young beautiful pop star which are implying that she is using her popularity to influence the election. If she is that’s not against the rules and other artists have made songs that seemed to be aimed at influencing the election for the former President.
 
Like the late great artist, Prince – She too used to be a country song writer. To top it all off she starts dating a very popular Football star who happened to make it to Super Bowl 2023. That’s when more conspiracies started stating that they are just dating to gain more popularity which will mean a stronger audience and possibly more votes for the incumbent candidate. 
 
Ok fast forward; we have a popular award ceremony and Taylor Swift, the famous pop star (former country star) wins album of the year. Now this is a big deal because in comes another player. Beyonce, also a mega star has the most awards that this academy has ever given but has yet to win the one big award- album of the year. Taylor Swift  wins this title nearly every year.
 
Ironically (or maybe not) Beyonce’s  husband Jay-Z is honored at the 2023 Grammy award ceremonies and was allotted time to give a speech. He used that time to tell the world that it is wrong that his wife has never won album of the year although her songs have won the most awards ever (again – except for the highest honor that they offer which is album of the year). 
 
Now we are all confused. Why would he do that? 
 
During the big award show the pop star Taylor announces that her new album would release soon which brings the audience to a roar. With this announcement the pop star and Travis Kelce her famous football playing boyfriend are the most talked about couple all the way up to the big football game of the year. The Superbowl. 
 
The pop star has been making appearances at football games to see her famous boyfriend and this has been great for ratings. It has also pulled in a demographic of Americans who don’t normally watch football. 
 
Everyone is excited because there are rumors that the boyfriend is going to ask the pop star to marry him if he wins the big game (Travis  did win but didn’t propose).
 
So everyone is watching the big game. Then there is another twist. The mega star (Beyonce)does commercials during the superbowl  and announces that she’s dropping a country album ( she never won album of the year as a pop star and now she’s switching to singing country music). She then releases two country songs. Everyone is shocked. Everyone also thinks that this may be a competition between the pop Star who was a former country singer and the mega Star. 
 
That would be an interesting theory except when you turn on social media all you see are people doing the two step to the Mega stars new country song and the people who are dancing to it are the same demographic of the Ex President who is trying to get re elected. 
 
Coincidence – I think not. In fact I think the plot thickens. I don’t think the pop star and the mega star are competing at all – I feel that it’s all a brilliant plan to unify the country which has been deeply divided due to the two Presidents running on opposing issues. 
 
I also think, like the late great Prince has done so brilliantly ( for example when his record label would not give him a fair contract, to gain back control he referred to himself as a symbol that could not be spoken out loud ) one of the two singers is the master mind behind this effort to use music to unite Americans. 
 
In the mean time I’ll be two stepping right along with the rest of America as the Beyonce, mega star becomes the first black woman to have a song reach number one on the country charts, the catchy country ditty seems to be leaving us a little less divided. 
 
I think Taylor Swift, our blonde pop star, with her oh so mischievous grin, is sitting back, cowdboy hat cocked, thinking….the plan is working.
.
 
About The Author:  Nefertari Williams is a jewelry maker, activist for women with heart disease and the mother of five beautiful children.  She lives in Willingboro, New Jersey.  To access additional articles by Nefertari Williams link herehttps://tonyward.com/nefertari-williams-the-vicious-cycle-of-war/