Kitchie Ohh: Memories

Pinup model Kitchie Ohh pinup xmas photo
Portrait of Kitchie Ohh by ClickSave Photography, Copyright 2022

Text by Kitchie Ohh, Copyright 2022

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Memories

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We all know that sight, smell, and sound can trigger memory. Neuroscience has proven this to be true, finding that the same part of our the brain that processes our senses is also partly responsible for storing emotional memories. As someone who has on multiple occasions said “this smell reminds me of…” or immediately thinks of someone with just a few notes of a song, I am not at all surprised. I am shocked that it took actual scientific study, though, as it seems a clear and logical connection. 

This sensory-emotional connection is very likely the reason the holidays are so overwhelming for many of us. We decorate, we prepare special foods that emit delicious smells, and listen to songs written and performed specifically for this season. These things are tradition, they’ve been done for centuries, passed through generations. It seems nearly impossible to not be triggered into remembering people and holidays past during the extended period of exposure.  

While our senses can, and do, link happy memories to all of these things, if you’re anything like me, you sit with the opposite type for a little longer, and compare what is to what was. Who was there to who is gone now, or who wasn’t always but now is. Memory and feeling get all jumbled.

When I pull out the decorations, the ones I hand-selected to match my style and home, I can’t help but think of all the pieces I used to excitedly pull out of their storage boxes to help decorate my childhood home and our tree. There were definitely some ornaments that I tried to avoid using only to find that mom had pulled them out to display after I had finished. Those styrofoam, glittery apples were in a word: hideous. But the year we found the squirrels had gotten into the decorations and destroyed them was sad, and something I always think of when trimming the tree. Those apples were from my parents’ first Christmas tree after they were married. I get it now. Sorry, Mom, but they were still ugly. 

When I bake my dozens and dozens of cookies, alone in my kitchen, in the organized, step-by-step, everything-must-be-uniform process I rely on, I remember the way we used to make them growing up. It was an explosion of sugar, flour, and so many sprinkles. It was chaos. The sweetest, happiest chaos of at least half a dozen people in the kitchen and dining room- mixing, rolling, filling, and decorating. Every surface in those two rooms got absolutely covered. We made such a mess. Again, sorry, Mom! But also, thanks. I also recall the batches of cookies that only Grammy made. I loved to see them, didn’t like to eat them – the anisette and almond extracts she loved were not my favorite, still aren’t. I would give up all of the baked goods in the world to have her at the kitchen table with those heavily flavored, secret recipe cookies of hers this Christmas. 

I’m not at all religious these days, but a dozen years at Catholic school sure drilled an appreciation for those Christmas hymns into my head. I can even still sing a few of them in Latin. Though, I do prefer the non-religious carols and above all, enjoy the jazzy, swingy versions like those performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. No matter what style they might be sung in, I cannot hear “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” or “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” without giggling at my Poppy’s versions. In case you were wondering, he insisted they were “Mark and Harold Angels Sing” and “God Rest Ye Gerry Mendelson.” Newer versions of misheard lyrics have weaved their way into the holiday memories thanks to my nieces and nephews. I think Poppy would have loved them and sang along. 

Laughing while crying, smiling but sad, enjoying the presence of others while unable to ignore the void left by those absent. The holidays as an adult have taken a more reflective turn for me. I appreciate that I am able to see Santa and remember that time Aunt Betty decorated her entire bedroom to be Christmas year round. Or that year I learned the truth about how presents magically appeared under the tree after I heard one go thumping down the steps with Grammy chasing behind it cursing in Italian like we didn’t know what she was saying. And the time our extended family pollyanna was too much for the restaurant and Nanny was asked to never book there again. (For the record, I do not blame the management of that establishment at all! We were a lot then, and even more now!) All the visits from distant family friends and relatives, the local ones too, that slowed, stopped and have since faded to memory. All of it that comes rushing back with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, brings with it a twinge of sadness, sure, but most importantly, overwhelming gratitude that in all my years on this planet, I have been completely surrounded by love. No matter what else may change, that never will. 

There are at least 14 holidays that occur in December. Each, I am sure, comes with specific sensory-emotion-memory triggers. So whichever one is yours, I wish you the happiest, merriest, best one ever.

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Pinup model Kitchie Ohh in xmas theme lingerie
Portrait of Kitchie Ohh by ClickSave Photography, Copyright 2022.

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About The Author:

Kitchie Ohh is a full-time professional fundraiser who has worked with a number of health and human services nonprofits for over the last 20 years, currently with a food-related Philadelphia nonprofit. She found her passion for modeling after a pinup-style photoshoot in 2013. Since then shes worked with many talented photographers, stylists, hair and makeup artists in a variety of styles.  She has been featured in -and on the covers of- multiple print and digital publications. Over the years she has branched out from pinup studio modeling to serve as a figure model for live sketching, walked a runway, and was part of two campaigns for local Philadelphia designer K. Vaughn. 

In addition to her food insecurity-related work, she has also volunteered with art, historical, and community organizations, and even on the events team of a local brewery, pre-pandemic.  

Youre just as likely to find her whipping up something deliciously plant-based in her kitchen or knitting a sweater as you are to find her on a photography set. Her motto is be both.” The model and the homemaker,  sultry and sweet, serious and silly. All the things, all at once.  

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To access additional articles by Kitchie Ohh, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/kitchie-ohh-beyond-the-playground/

 

Kitchie Ohh: Beyond The Playground

 

Text by Kitchie Ohh, Copyright 2022

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Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2022

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Creative Direction: KVaughn

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Hair & Makeup: Michael Connor

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Photography Assistant: Anthony Colagreco

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BEYOND THE PLAYGROUND

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Most often, when we think of a bully, we think about the bigger kid on the playground picking on the smaller ones; pushing them around or beating them up for their lunch money.  The problem is so much more complex and, I can assure you from experience, it goes well beyond the schoolyard; running rampant in office settings, social groups, and in families around the world. 

I have already shared at a very surface level that I suffered years of verbal abuse from my peers growing up. The daily reminders of everything that was wrong with me lead me to believe that they must be right. I just wasn’t good enough, and it hurt like hell. I did my best to avoid anything that made me a target. I faded into the background, withdrew into myself, and watched with a mixture of relief and extreme Catholic guilt as the bullseyes were drawn on other kids’ backs. I coasted, invisible, right on through high school graduation. Paralyzed with fear that I would encounter a new crop of bullies with new things to hate about me, I opted out of college. I did explore my independence by moving out of my parents home.  

Entering the workforce, full-time as a teenager, I was kind of a novelty in the office. I was, and still am, incredibly responsible, dedicated and hard-working. Only now, I’m nowhere near as naive. I often found myself responsible for my workload, plus the things that coworkers didn’t want to do. Experience told me that speaking up would make me a target, so I just did the work and kept my mouth shut. Soon, I was doing the work and taking the blame for nearly everything that went wrong or didn’t get finished, even if I had nothing to do with it. I had countless meetings about performance-related problems that weren’t actually mine. Someone needed to be reprimanded, might as well be me. They knew I wouldn’t fight back. Next, I was pushed into covering extra hours, holidays, all the shifts no one else wanted. “You’re not dating anyone, you don’t have kids, no reason you can’t do this. You don’t have anything to do.” Ouch. If I ever was lucky enough to have a day off, the very next time in the office I was berated with how inconvenient my absence was for everyone.  I did eventually reach my limit and left.

Having learned a little bit about office dynamics and politics, the next job was a vast improvement.  Not perfect, but I gained some respect – and learned how to set some professional boundaries. This angered the office bully. They came for me, personally. I declined a happy hour invitation. They told everyone I wasn’t coming because I thought I was “too good” for them. I ate salad for lunch and it was clearly and directly a statement about the unhealthy choices they made for their midday meal. Leaving the office for the gym every evening was an equally heinous rebellion against them. A prominent member of the community left one of our events saying “see you later, hon.” The minute we were back at the office, I was accused of having an affair with this married man. Everything I did was wrong, but I wasn’t doing anything!

Things that happened at that job were the final straw. I was working in that position at the time I had my revelation that not one of the names I was called, not a single thing I was accused of, or made to do, had a damn thing to do with me. That realization gave me back all of my power and my voice. I didn’t – and don’t – need to shrink myself down, make myself invisible or watered down for the benefit of another. I can say no, I can refuse to take on more than I’m able, I can defend myself against insults and allegations. Professionally, personally, socially, in relationships. I am worthy of respect and should not accept less.

It’s an ongoing process of undoing all of the damage; I don’t think it will ever be finished. There will always be people who just can’t hold their tongues. Their obligation to point out flaws, try to exploit them, and put others down is a force they just cannot resist. I could write a whole book of very scathing stories, with damning details from various people who have entered and thankfully exited my life over the years. But like I said, their behavior has got nothing at all to do with me. Neither forgiven or forgotten, I’ve accepted, let go and moved on. And I am so much better for it. 

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About The Author:

Kitchie Ohh is a full-time professional fundraiser who has worked with a number of health and human services nonprofits for over the last 20 years, currently with a food-related Philadelphia nonprofit. She found her passion for modeling after a pinup-style photoshoot in 2013. Since then shes worked with many talented photographers, stylists, hair and makeup artists in a variety of styles.  She has been featured in -and on the covers of- multiple print and digital publications. Over the years she has branched out from pinup studio modeling to serve as a figure model for live sketching, walked a runway, and was part of two campaigns for local Philadelphia designer K. Vaughn. 

In addition to her food insecurity-related work, she has also volunteered with art, historical, and community organizations, and even on the events team of a local brewery, pre-pandemic.  

Youre just as likely to find her whipping up something deliciously plant-based in her kitchen or knitting a sweater as you are to find her on a photography set. Her motto is be both.” The model and the homemaker,  sultry and sweet, serious and silly. All the things, all at once.  

 

Shanell Verandez: A Musical Journey


Text by Shanell Verandez, Copyright 2022

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Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2022

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Assistant to Photographer: Anthony Colagreco

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Creative Director: KVaughn

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A Musical Journey

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Hola, My name is Shanell  and I am a “Jane of All Trades and Master of None”. I have dabbled in almost every Artistic, Academic, Athletic and Spiritual endeavors one can possibly expose themselves to. I feel blessed to have an open mind and heart to be able to comprehend what I am absorbing from different kinds of people, places and things.
 
Most of all, Music has been one my favorite artistic endeavors, it runs through my family’s bloodline literally….I started when I was 6yrs old in Elementary school with a Music Aptitude test that I passed with flying colors which enabled me to receive an instrument of choice. My music teacher guided me to a room filled with instruments. It looked like a treasure chest! I wanted the Cello, they didn’t have one, so my teacher suggested the violin, but my arm length was too long.  So ,she finally introduced me to the Viola and the start of my ongoing relationship with that instrument began.
 
Then in Junior high school came another desire to play another instrument, the Oboe.  Once again, another unavailable instrument, but the teacher brought out an elegant beauty, the French horn. I was baffled because I had never seen this instrument before, so the teacher instructed that I had a week to blow one note in that instrument or move on. This instrument was meant to be mine, because by the end of that week, I got the note( a high C) and another musical relationship began.
 
I have another relationship with an instrument we all take for granted, the vocal cords. My singing journey began in a Baptist church set in a row house in the Historic “Black Bottom” section of Philadelphia. Most of my family was either in the choir, playing the drums or organ as well being a member on the church board. I had the chance to sing solos that were taught to me by my Aunt. Later on in life at High school I was singing in the bathroom stalls with my friend and we didn’t realize that there was another person present until she knocked on my bathroom stall and asked me to come out. She was a vocal teacher and an active Opera singer that had an interest in me becoming her student. I started studying with her and it turned out to be a very powerful  relationship out of my musical “ménage a trois”. She guided my vocal career throughout the years( high school and college, beyond).
 
So one would wonder… What is holding me back? I would point the finger at those who didn’t believe in me and tried everything in they could to block me, but no, I need to get past that pain and realize it is me holding myself back. Why? It is because I have really terrible stage fright and I have to believe in myself more and become more centered. The very thought of becoming more focused and centered within myself has inspired me to take another step and start writing songs, here is one I would like to share with all of you, the song is Titled …
                    
                   ” Soul Centered “
                    
                     Sittin’ on a Whim
                    Just Wastin’ Time
                     Feel like I’ve Lost
                           An Oasis 
                    Traveling thru Time
                    A Rush of Feelings 
               To Get Up and Get Mine
          
                        Soul Centered 
                    Is where I want to be
                         Soul Centered 
                    Is where I want to free
 
                    Different but Familiar
                             From Afar 
                  Sometimes it makes me
                     Wonder why you are
 
                     A Touch of Brilliance 
                     Growin’ From Within 
                  I’ve Trekked on Somethin’
                   Different why it’s a Sin
 
                          Soul Centered 
                     Is Where I Want to Be
                          Soul Centered 
                     Is Where I Want to Free
  
One Day I will be able to perform this Song during my Music Journey… Peace❤️
 
Editor’s Note: This is Shanell Verandez first sitting with Tony Ward for the Vixen’s series. To see all of the work to date from the new series, click herehttps://tonyward.com/new-work-the-vixens-series/
 

Pat Cleveland: Legend of Fashion Modeling

Fashion model icon Pat Cleveland with star photographer Tony Ward
Fashion icon Pat Cleveland with Tony Ward. Photo: Paul  van Ravenstein  Copyright 2022

Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2022

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Pat Cleveland: Legend of Fashion Modeling

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I first came to know about Pat Cleveland in the mid 1970’s when I was a graduate student at the Rochester Institute of Technology.  I saw some of her earliest published photos in fashion magazines and noticed right away something unusual about her pictures.  Pat was one of the earliest models of color to be published prominently in a major fashion magazine.  Pat, Grace Jones and Beverly Johnson broke the glass ceiling for being the first women of color  to be recognized for their natural beauty.  Needless to say, Pat was more curvaceous than the standard white female model because of her exotic mix of both Irish and African American blood.  She opened the door for lots of other women to explore the world of fashion and runway modeling. Iman and Naomi Campbell owe a debt of gratitude to the legend of Pat Cleveland.

I could relate to her upbringing when I read her memoir Waling With the Muses. I am also of mixed heritage, my mother was Italian and my father was African American.  Pat and I had other similarities as well in that both of  our parents, were artists. Pat’s mother was a painter as well as my dad. There was also the connection to Harlem, Pat was born there, my parents lived there when they got married and stayed for a time until my parent’s moved to Philadelphia in the 1940’s. Pat and I first met at a mutual friends home in Elkins Park, just a few minutes drive to where I was born and raised.  In this picture we were reunited again by our friend Sandra Blumberg, an artist and humanitarian who recently had a reception of her most recent works of art at Beaumont in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.  

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To access additional articles by Tony Ward, link herehttps://tonyward.com/tony-ward-diary-happy-hour/

Milan Burnett: A Gift From The Universe


Text by Milan Burnett, Copyright 2022

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Photographs by Tony Ward.  All Rights Reserved.

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A Gift From The Universe

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As a spiritualist, I am not someone who necessarily believes in coincidences. Every person we interact with, major event, or circumstance finds its way into our lives for a reason, whether we understand that reasoning at the time, or not. Throughout my childhood, my mother struggled to keep a roof over our heads, causing us to relocate often, sometimes multiple times in a year. At the time, I deemed the instability and hardship as a misfortune, but I always had a knack for making friends and adapting to new environments with ease. Being exposed to all cultures and walks of life made it easy for me to understand others. I could relate to anybody in a room full of strangers. People have always naturally gravitated towards me, which I assumed to be simply because I was a nice person. Little did I know, the universe was only setting the stage for a greater purpose much larger than my circumstances, destined to be fulfilled.

It wasn’t until within the last couple of years that I realized why the Universe has put me on the journey I’ve experienced so far. My humanitarian nature of giving back and helping others has gradually intertwined itself with my spiritual practices, and my love for the psychology of humans. This, along with being easily relatable, has allowed me to explore and expand on my purpose of healing others around me. Whether it be through my tarot reading, spiritual guidance, or simple positive reinforcement, inner healing and balance is extremely important in the midst of this chaotic 3D reality. No amount of value could ever be placed on the genuine satisfaction it gives me to be able to guide others in their healing to become a better version of themselves. Past experiences I once saw as a burden, I now consider a blessing in disguise. A gift from the universe, if you will. A gift that has molded me into someone who is compassionate, empathetic, logical and raw, wrapped in high frequency vibrations meant to enlighten those I encounter.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR : Milan is originally from New York, now residing in Philadelphia. Aspiring model and real estate broker. Free thinker. Humanitarian by nature. Spiritual revolutionary in the making. To access previous articles by Milan Burnett, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/i-am_that_i_am/