Breakfast In Bed: Abe & Isaac Lopez-Bowen

Conversations on partnership, love, and power.

I sat down with Abe and Isaac and we had an intimate conversation surrounding the topic of communication, vulnerability, love, and pain. Meeting them for the first time, there was this special aura around them. The way they embrace you is like running into an old friend. It’s pleasant and pure. They have such different personalities but their intent is true and ability to be present is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Our conversation started with The 5 Love Languages, coined by Gary Chapman. I wanted to know what they felt like theirs were. Abe shared first: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time, and Physical Touch, but only with Isaac. He explained that growing up, he was very touchy with his closest girlfriends, always wanting to play in their hair and hug them, but something changed when he met Isaac. For Isaac: Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation. He explained that he loves to give all five (Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Physical Touch and Receiving Gifts) but only the ones his partner receives best. Abe mentioned he enjoys giving Words of Affirmation. He then expressed the importance of showing up for your partner. “When your partner wins, you win.” I asked Isaac and Abe how they both showed up for themselves individually. Isaac shared that he has three reminders on his phone to help him: First, focus. Second, remember that we are one team creating our experience together, and we can always choose the thing we need. Lastly, have fun and level up, How will you spend the rest of your twenties? Abe said his methods are more of an internal conversation with himself. He admits that growing up he always remained true to his wants and desires, but he looked to others for approval and wanted what others had for himself. Meeting Isaac had made him more self-aware about his wants and desires and care less about others’ “checklists” for him. “What’s making me joyful? What’s making me feel powerful?” are a few questions that Abe asks himself to make sure he is constantly aware and on the same page for his wants and desires.

Watching Abe and Isaac interact and share intimate details about themselves was a beautiful, immersive experience. It felt as though they were learning new things about the other throughout the process. One would respond and the other would glance at the other and absorb the information intently.

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A Casual Conversation with Behzad Dabu

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When thinking of the (re)introduction to KIZER Journal and the introduction of KIZER Quarterly, I wanted our main feature to be someone approachable. I wanted someone I could have a casual conversation with and talk to about their lives, desires, and dreams.

While strolling through Instagram, as the millennial I am, I came across Behzad Dabu’s Instagram account. He looked very familiar, but I couldn’t point out why. So, I did what any reasonable person would: I lurked on his Instagram. I knew from the beginning he was in theater. His profile photo was his headshot. It wasn’t anything artistic or “thirst trapping,” but a typical actor’s headshot. As I kept scrolling my initial response was validated. It was a photo of Behzad jumping onto a table and the caption read, “I really miss being on #stage #chicago #theatre #liveperformance #actor”. After more lurking, I saw a photo of Dabu and Liza Weil with a #TGIT sign and it all made sense. I didn’t personally know him, but I knew his character Simon Drake, from How To Get Away With Murder. 

Like every TGIT (Thank God It’s Thursday) participant, I found myself in front of my device captivated by the storylines and performances of Grey’s Anatomy’s and Scandal’s actors. So, when How To Get Away With Murder premiered I was hooked instantly. I’m not sure if it was the attention Viola Davis commanded as she enters the room or the captivating cinematography. Either way, Thursday’s were officially “me time”. Right from the beginning, I fell in love with the cast. Well, except for one character, Simon Drake. Simon would soon be a reoccurring character who I grew to respect and love. I felt his character to be bratty and a know-it-all. But he worked hard, and a hard worker is someone who I could respect. 

As the season went on and the storyline progressed, Simon became a familiar face and his character developed more. I started to realize he was the only innocent one. He was the only true white hat, but he appeared to be the meanest. By the end of season three, my attitude for Simon shifted completely. He wasn’t just a dickhead classmate, he was a hardworking immigrant student trying to find his way to a better life. He was the show’s unsuspected hero. 

Our conversation started rather light, we had just finished a two-hour portrait session. I wanted to know his perfect idea of happiness. He responded with, “Contentment and ease…peace of mind. I have a lot of anxiety about things that are out of my control, other people’s thoughts. So, for me to be so content, centered, at peace and at ease, is happy. It’s not that I need the presence of joy but the lack of crap.”

Read More…

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It’s not that I need the presence of joy but the lack of crap.

 
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Styled by, Kyle Kniffin in Billy Reid // Grooming by, Liz Monroe // Story by. KIZER.

At Home: Josh Eby

Intimate Conversations with Creatives At Home

I met Josh two years ago when I joined Smilebooth’s team. We were both working as lead techs at the time. He was one of the first people who I met when I started. He was energetic, kindhearted and genuinely cared about people. Frankly speaking, he is amazing. He’s amazing simply because of how he makes people feel. He makes you feel seen. And when he asks “How are you doing?” you can tell he truly wants to know. I’m not sure if it’s because of the gentleness of his voice or the way he makes eye contact with you. Whatever it is, Josh has it. 

Since then, he is now the production manager for Smilebooth and still freelancing, but less with fashion photography and more with production. During our first interview, I remember him expressing interest in doing more freelance production work, so I followed up on this transition. I asked him about work, how he’s navigating working at Smilebooth, his freelance projects, and if he was happy. He assured me that happiness was a choice and that he was indeed happy. 

Josh lives in Bridgeport, a neighborhood on Chicago’s south side of town. During our recent follow-up, I asked “Why Bridgeport?” and he responded, “It’s a neighborhood, it feels like a community. A lot of places in Chicago feel like a big college dorm.” When Josh and I were shooting his portraits for this feature in Bridgeport, I was able to witness the community vibe first-hand. I had Josh wave for a shot and the entire family across the way started waving back. A small gesture, but a friendly gesture indeed. In some parts of the city, you can barely get a “Good morning,” back. He describes his apartment as a “home” and “very functional.” He shares his home with his girlfriend, Laura. It was very interesting seeing how they were able to blend their separate uniqueness into one home. It’s well curated and feels very cozy. 

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Sheila Rashid

Precise, confident, focused, and seamless.

Precise, confident, focused, and seamless. When thinking of Sheila Rashid, these four things always come to mind. Sheila is a bespoke designer with a love for denim. I often joke and call her the Denim Surgeon. Her seamless designs and impeccable attention to details are unmatched. My first introduction to her was a few years ago when she released her Botanical Blu Overalls back in 2017. Immediately, I was intrigued by the quality of the denim and Sheila herself. She’s easily one of Chicago’s favorite designers but also one of Chicago’s most introverted designers. Her garments have been worn by the likes of Lena Waithe, Bella Hadid and, Chicago’s favorite, Chance The Rapper. Even with this notoriety, she remains very humble and to herself. 

 A lot of the Chicago fashion scene is filled with big personality designers. But, Sheila’s the opposite. She’s calm, relaxed, and very subtle in the way she navigates the Chicago fashion scene. When chatting with her I asked her about her personality and if she’s ever felt pressured to perform. Her response was, “I never felt pressured because I’m just a lowkey person. I like my work to speak for itself. I’m a quiet person and I’m not really pressed to be seen.”

We started talking about inspiration, and I felt a lot of similarities between the two of us. She said that she doesn’t have one source for her inspiration; she gets it from any and all things. When she was expressing that process, I found a bit of myself in her words. Eager to know more about her and her process, I directly asked her, “Why fashion?” and she laughed and said, “It’s my way of expressing me. It’s how I express my feeling, my art, my creativity. I work with my hands and it just so happens to be my outlet.” She further explained that she can’t sleep past 7:30 a.m., and every morning she’s ready to sew. When she said that, I felt nothing but joy and sincerity. Her commitment to her craft is nothing short of pure, and her personality only adds to her greatness. 

Her work is phenomenal and that’s not up for debate. She’s precise, conscious, and works with her clients from start to finish. The bespoke designer carries herself in the most pleasant ways. She is Sheila Rashid. 

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At Home: Evan Sheehan

Intimate Conversations with Creatives At Home

Anyone who has a pulse in the Chicago creative scene has likely seen Evan Sheehan’s work. 

It’s all over social media and even on a few public buildings and billboards. We’ve known each other distantly for about a year. I knew he was a photographer, but we never talked much about our work together. Typically, we would always run into each other at social functions when our goals were to dance the night away and enjoy good company. It wasn’t until recently when I realized that we’ve even been following each other on social media. I was scrolling through Instagram stories, and I caught a glimpse of Evan eating his breakfast in bed when I connected the dots. The Evan whose work I’ve admired from afar was the same Evan I’ve met in person several times before. 

Evan’s work is fun, colorful and off-kilter. I’d describe it as a well-curated Willy Wonka Factory. It’s mesmerizing. It’s unpredictable. But most of all, it’s pure. Hearing Evan talk about his work is truly a joy to witness. His face lights up with shy excitement. A few things to know about Evan: One, he’s from Northern Ohio; Two, he moved to Chicago for college; Three, he dropped out after three semesters; Four, he loves a groutfit. 

When we reached out to Evan about a feature, he was more than down. I’ve only seen a glimpse of his home from social shares of intimate dinner parties or food porn provided by his boyfriend, Alex Wallbaum. I was a little skeptical because I’ve actually never seen his home. I wanted to ask for photos to scope it out first, but I figured that’d be slightly rude and intrusive. I decided to trust his eye for design and have faith that his place would be well curated, open, and well lit. Not knowing what to expect, it all made sense when I arrived. The perfectly exposed brick combined with the modern decor and the illuminating kitchen satisfied all of my interior desires.

Evan shares his one-bedroom apartment with Alex. Their apartment is located in a quaint spot tucked away in the middle of Chicago’s historic neighborhood, Pilsen. Pilsen was recently named one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world by Forbes Magazine. I often see Instagram vignettes of daily culinary masterpieces prepared by Alex, or intimate gatherings with their closest friends and loved ones. Their social media moments will instill a slight degree of fomo into anyone who’s never been over. The exposed brick, the warm smiles, and the wine. A home gathering is not really a gathering in my book without a bottle or three of wine. 

I am really interested in couples who live together. Since living on my own for two years, the idea of having another roommate is not the most appealing. I expressed my concerns with Evan and he informed me of the difference. He talked about the beauty in blending his and Alex’s belongings to curate a collective personality but a cohesive look. He also expressed a few other perks: sharing everything, hosting intimate gatherings, using the restroom together, and his favorite place in their home, the bed. He admitted he spends a lot of his time in bed playing Mario Kart.

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Ignacio Ceja

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Ignacio Ceja, who is more commonly known as DJ Iggy, makes people dance. And if you don’t believe us- come to one of his shows. Iggy is able to make people dance because of his deeply-rooted love for music and his ability to connect and understand people. He doesn’t just “play music” or “spin records”, he is curating an experience. He creates an open dialogue with his crowd by spinning records. 

Iggy has been spinning professionally for nine years now. I made his acquaintance this past spring at a fundraising event that I hosted with King Marie, a dear friend of Iggy and ½ of the DJ group: boigrl. While I sifted through the event, I noticed him off to the side, not doing much besides being present and existing in the space. Our interaction was brief, a simple but pleasant head nod. His presence exuded a mixture of calmness and intentionality. Later that evening, King Marie formally introduced us as the event came to a close. He was soft-spoken, engaging, and possessed a calmness that made me focus on his every word. 

Every time I meet someone new, I look them up via social media. I’m always curious to see how people to represent themselves online. You’ll find that some people use social media to carefully craft a “perfect” versions of themselves, and others use it as an outlet for unfiltered expression. I did just that for Iggy and discovered he was also a DJ and the other half of boigrl. It was all making sense to me. His presence at the event, his support for King Marie, and calmness. So, his ease and comfort that night were justified; he was surrounded by friends. Scrolling through his Instagram and Twitter, I got a glimpse into his world. His witty, sometimes quirky tweets, and his visual montage of doing what he loves via Instagram. His Instagram offers a behind the scenes look into his work. His Twitter is raw, honest, and unrestricted. I began to understand not just more about his day-to-day, but about his character, too, through Twitter and Instagram.  

Iggy’s social media bio is “i make ppl dance. :)”. While that is true, he does so much more. He is guiding us on a journey but he’s listening to us at the same time. He’s hyper-aware of the crowd but with ease. Witnessing that for the first time was magical. I typically have a difficult time connecting with DJs, which is why I tend to stay home and curate my own playlist. With Iggy, I felt present in the dialogue but I wasn’t alone. Everyone around me was present not just physically, but spiritually. When chatting with Iggy, I asked, “What do you do and why?” He then informed me that he’s been a DJ for nine years. When it came to the “Why?” he responded effortlessly, “I love it. I have a passion for it. I love to see people smile, dance, and have a great time.” He continued on to express that when he’s on stage, he’s in a zone that he can’t describe. In those very moments, I immediately went back to the first time I witnessed his gift. He later went on to explain how he loves witnessing the enjoyment of the crowd and watching them transform into someone else. I’ve known the power of music from being in choirs all my life but hearing him reminisce made me fall in love with music all over again. I love the power that music takes over a person but more importantly the passion that I once had for it resurfaced while talking with Iggy. There was nothing but pure bliss on his face throughout our entire time together. 

Read More…

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“anyone could DJ,
but not everyone
could read a room.”

 
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Styled by, Kyle Kniffin in Lee Denim, Alex Mullins and PerryCo Shoes.

DENNIS

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Dennis Elliott is often described as a “content creator”. On a matter of fact level, it’s true. He does create content, and it’s visually mesmerizing content at that. Dennis is a photographer, graphic designer, creative director, video director, and anything else he sets his mind to. Sitting down with Dennis finally, I learned that he is even more than just those career titles. He was kind, spoke with ease and exuded passion, and so easy to talk to. We immediately started talking when we sat down.  I didn’t even record the first 15 minutes of our conversation because I wanted to remain present. Honestly, I was caught off-guard by Dennis. I was surprised by how casual he was. I felt no reservations, no hesitations of any sort. He was just present and “chill.” His mannerisms and his attitude toward life were refreshing. 

Typically, I never ask anyone if they love themselves because I’m afraid of the response I’ll get, but something propelled me to ask. He responded without hesitation and simply said, “Oh, yeah.” Even more curious about his response, I asked “How do you know?’” Dennis then expressed, “That’s been a whole journey itself.” He spoke about how he was bullied as a child and how difficult it is to unlearn trauma and self-doubt. Eventually, he started to embrace his looks, his softness and started living for himself. 

I believe this journey he’s on has been able to help him exist as the Dennis I met last year on the dancefloor of Low Res Studio holiday party. I didn’t know who he was, but I was envious of how unconstrained he was on the dancefloor. There he was, this tall slim black guy with glasses dancing the night away. I admired him then and I continue to admire him to this day. He recently left Havas, which is a global advertising agency based here in Chicago. He started as an intern and later became a full-time content creator for the company. In an age when ‘trades’ and ‘exposure’ are offered as proper compensation for an artist’s time, Dennis reminds himself of his father’s wisdom. “My time is the most valued thing I could ever give anyone/anything.” Havas showed him that they valued his mind, work, and time. He’s worked on global brands, such as Nike, Adidas, and Sprite, just to name a few. Havas allowed him to travel, explore his craft and allowed him access to another side of the industry but ultimately brought him closer to himself and creating without compromise. He was with the company for just over a year until he made his departure back in April. He told me that before his internship, he made himself present at any and every Havas event he could. The level of determination was a little bit of a call for me. I found myself questioning if I’ve ever truly been that determined about something before, or if I ’d worked hard enough to accomplish something. His casualness promotes envy, but his work ethic, love for others, and his love for creating fall nothing short of inspiring.

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“My time
is the most
valued thing
I could ever
give anyone/
anything.”

 
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Styled by, Kyle Kniffin in Lee Denim, Alex Mullins and PerryCo Shoes.