Editor’s note: People of Madison is a weekly series produced by Digital Features Associate Dylan Wijas. The series — published online and on our social media accounts — aims to highlight a student at UW-Madison making an impact on the campus community. These Q&As are lightly edited for clarity and style.
Why did you decide to major in the studies that you chose?
I came to UW intending to major in international studies — I wanted to work for the UN. Around the time that I started school, I had this small inkling that I should maybe look into journalism school. I didn’t know much about it and hadn’t ever been interested in the subject matter previously. With more exposure to the classes, the more I learned I loved being creative. I love being in an environment with tangible effects on the well-being of society, and I loved the idea of endless opportunities within the field.
Sometimes it feels like a force of nature moved me here, and I just oddly ended up in a space where I can be the best parts of myself — innovative, personal, logical, strategic and outspoken. I may never know what piqued the interest in me but finding the School of Journalism and Mass Communication is one of the best things that could’ve happened to me.
How do you wish to have an impact on your surrounding community in pursuing this major? How do you wish to have an impact on the world?
When choosing my passions, hobbies and goals, the impact is everything to me. I have an umbrella of interests including advertising, magazine publication, sports communication, PR and entrepreneurship. Within each of these interests, I envision having an impact on the daily lives and emotions of others. In a fast-consuming world, the ads we see and things we are presented with, from news articles to sports games, have a deep impact on us that often goes unnoticed. There is so much research proving that factors like inclusive advertisements and strong sports teams can improve personal and societal well-being. I hope to use to abilities to promote societal well-being and flourishing in any way I possibly can.
I think sometimes it’s fun to fantasize about changing the world and doing big things as I am sure we all will, but there’s something to be said about the small impacts we can have before we set the world on fire. If I can be a good friend and person and do things with love and good intentions, I think the magnitude of the impact follows.
What is Moda? How did you first get involved?
Moda is the premiere life and style publication at the University of Wisconsin. We cover culture, lifestyle, fashion and arts through monthly digital issues, biannual print issues and an online blog. Moda is an intersectional feminist brand passionate about providing professional development experiences for creatives on campus and providing amazing content for the campus community and beyond.
I got involved with Moda my sophomore year in the Culture section. I regret not joining earlier. The funny story is that my best friend pointed out Moda to me at the Org Fair our freshman year and was passionate about it being a space for me. I was too intimidated to join at the time and didn’t join for another year. Since then, I have been a Moda contributing writer, a culture staff writer, the culture editor and now the Editor in Chief. In my several Moda hats over the years, I have become so incredibly thankful for the role it has played in my life. Going from extreme self-consciousness about my creative capabilities to confidence in my leadership skills and ability to grow the team has been an introspective, healing experience.
I’ve worked really hard and dedicated a lot of time to Moda, but I also think sometimes it just feels innate and natural, like it was always meant to be in my life — something I hope I am lucky enough to keep feeling about life and my passions.
In what ways has taken on more leadership within Moda altered your perception of the
The commonly used expression “it takes a village” about raising a child is how I feel about Moda production. Without writers we wouldn’t have an issue, without models we wouldn’t have a cover and without creatives, we wouldn’t have the visual identity. Sometimes, I look at Moda’s work in awe, feeling like I am still such a small part of it, but I sit back and realize how much collective work we do to liven each other’s work!
Selfishly, I have been on the writing side for so long that having my toe on the creative side has had me feeling like a kid in a candy store. It is so fun to think of creative visual ideas that test the waters and create a hub of fashion at a Big Ten school! We’re in the middle of the Midwest, but our team packs a punch when it comes to being a life and style brand!
The way I look at it is that this is the only time, I am working with this many genius creatives who are actively volunteering their time. It shocks me how many people come to do work for Moda when it is work and the only real pay is the satisfaction in our end product and the beautiful relationships that result from experiencing challenges and finding creative solutions. Though we’re only at the beginning of our careers, to me, Moda is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with passionate people — so passionate that most of them come to me asking for more work and responsibilities. The Moda team makes me feel like one lucky leader.
What is your best fashion advice?
Start complimenting people. Start with like one compliment a week about someone’s look, hair, accessories or outfit and then slowly start adding more. It’s best to do this to people you don’t know, so it can be difficult at times. The more open love you show to others, the more you’ll start showing love to yourself. I also think it takes confidence to compliment someone you don’t know, and the more confidence you have the better you look, baby!
I also love unpractical pieces and prints. They’re so much more practical than you think, especially when you stop taking yourself so seriously. My favorite items I own are a pair of crocodile platform boots and a plaid-printed trench coat. They make me feel like myself.
Do you have any wholesome fashion stories from when you were younger?
Growing up, I would occasionally dress myself. I would get a vision. I remember once wearing a pink wig to school. I also remember taking all my bedding off of my bed and wrapping myself in it and walking around the house pretending I was wearing a taffeta gown on a red carpet. I also remember my mom letting me dress myself and saying, “You can wear that, but you can’t wear it again.” My best fashion advice is to embody that energy. To wear something so bold, original and good that even your mom’s disapproval can’t get you down.
I do have to say my mom is quite good at fashion, and though she didn’t approve of all of my looks, she did value my fashion advice. When I was around five, she got a new job and we went shopping for new work outfits. I remember helping pick out a hot pink blazer and a mini skirt with blue, pink and yellow polka dots to match. I also remember helping pick out a zebra blazer. They were quite chic and tasteful, but she got rid of them and I am sad about it to this day because I would wear them now. Today, I am really proud of my mom for wearing these items. She is quite cool, and I hope to follow in her footsteps and wear hot pink and zebra blazers to work one day.
Who inspires you or is your role model (personal/famous/historical)? Why?
Every time I used to get this question I never knew how to answer it because I never really knew. Recently, I realized it’s my mom. I think she’s quite good at life, and life is pretty hard. She is very kind. She cries at commercials, and she also feels a little sympathy pain in her knees when she sees people fall or get hurt in public. She’s a good person. One of my favorite things about her is her ability to grow. She has seen me get older, but I have also seen her get older. I’ve noticed that as she’s gotten older, she cares less about what people think of her, cares more about valuing herself and her needs, speaks up for herself more and listens to herself more. She’s always been a great, giving and kind person, but her ability to grow and change without even realizing it at times is why I look up to her.
What do you wish you knew your freshman year/advice to your freshman-year self?
Calm down, but also don’t. Growing pains are tough, but the only way out is through. I think, yes, sometimes things seem really big, and they weren’t that big, and I wish I would have relaxed and flowed through it. But I wouldn’t know that now if I hadn’t sat in control and worried.
To any freshman who is worried now, just do your thing. Wake up, do things that make you happy, feel passion, move through the things you don’t like and learn what kind of people you don’t like. Move through it, and you’ll end up where you need to be. I know it’s cheesy, and it doesn’t account for some of the real, bad shit that does happen. Also just practice some self-awareness and you’ll be fine.
If you really don’t know where to go, come to Moda, and I will welcome you with open arms.
How do you think that COVID-19 has altered individual fashion expression?
I think COVID-19 either made people chill out and relax in their clothes or made people treat each outing as a runway show. I think there’s also a middle ground. I think both of these outcomes are really wonderful and show people coming back to themselves.
Finding your space in the world and the clothes you like wearing while in that space is really about coming back to yourself. It is my hope that through everything we have learned to come back to ourselves.