Speakers: Nichole Pitts (Host), Jessie Kate Bui (Guest – Storytelling Coach)

 

Nichole Pitts

Welcome to The Ethintegrity Podcast, Jessie Kate!

Jessie Kate Bui

Nice to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Nichole Pitts 

I’m so excited, to have this conversation with you about storytelling and design. I think we’re gonna have such a great discussion. How did you get into design and storytelling?

Jessie Kate Bui

My father is a master woodworker, so like I definitely had a very early inspiration. I was always around creativity and creative problem solving. So that was a big influence. As a kid, we were in the middle of building a house. So I saw all the behind the scenes of like, what’s the magic that goes behind designing something. So I would draw and write stories as a kid. It was always something I was doing. Then just as grew up, I explored different ways to use it.

I majored in visual arts while I was still trying to discover how I wanted to use it. And then I stumbled onto the entertainment, art side of things, the movie making, the movie magic, the storytelling behind that and all the creativity that’s there when you create a world from zero, it was just like creating a house from nothing.

It was something so resonant with me. So I just started doing freelance design and things like that at first. And then along the way, as I was trying to get more confident as a designer, I just ran into a lot of imposter syndrome, honestly. Like I really just kept thinking how am I ever going to know if this is enough?

How am I ever gonna know if this design is going to be acceptable? Can I translate the skills I have now into a studio? I wanna feel like I’m prepared for that kind of situation. So I started learning a little bit more and found that it was about storytelling. It was understanding that when you have a really clear story, you’re translating it into design and art. And that really boosted my confidence in that and took me down a rabbit hole of a career in design and story.

Nichole Pitts

So how did you manage that imposter syndrome that you just mentioned?

Jessie Kate Bui

Oh I think probably poorly. I have like a self competitiveness.

And so part of it was like, maybe if I can just beat my last drawing, then that will take that imposter syndrome away and then I’ll feel better, but it just kept happening over and over. Cause I could never beat it. A lot of the ways that I was doing it, it felt more like coping.

I would just draw something a hundred times. Like maybe this will help but it wasn’t understanding what I was supposed to get out of drawing something a hundred times. I just felt like if I just kept doing it a lot of times I will solve this problem. Later as I discovered it with story, I mean, it was a quick fix.

Honestly, it transformed it very quickly. As soon as I understood that when a drawing was actually expressing something meaningful, a message a point of view, a question, it just went away. Like I could look at a piece of art and go, that’s what it meant. That’s what it was doing. That was its purpose.

And so I don’t need to feel like an imposter. I communicated that idea. If a director or a client had a different opinion, they wanted it to be something else, now I know that I’m solving a different problem. And then I solved that problem. But everything became stepping stones. So it honestly just diminished as soon as I understood that narrative drove design.

Nichole Pitts

That’s really interesting. So building on that, what was your biggest challenge in understanding and becoming more dynamic with your storytelling and the design of that storytelling?

Jessie Kate Bui

I think with my storytelling and design, I tend to have a lot of interest in identity narrative stories about a specific character growing, transforming.

And so when I would try to get feedback, I think one of the biggest challenges I had on the design side, so I would have like a story I was working from. I’d be interpreting that into design and then looking for feedback and trying to find feedback with costume specifically, because costume to me was like the design piece that best expressed the characters space in the world.

Like their position in the story, as well as an expression of their personality. So it was like, well, this is the perfect testing ground to explain the narrative. And I couldn’t get feedback on it. People weren’t able to dissect it or say, oh, are you trying these? Or how did you solve this with costume?

Or have you looked at this historical event maybe that can inform your design, those things were missing. And so it was so frustrating, like to me, that made no sense. I could go to an artist who was an environment designer or someone who was a character designer. They could give me rich feedback.

Have you considered how this architecture informs narrative and aligns with themes and ideas? Have you considered how this body type and this expression expresses the emotion of the character? And then I would just flatline with costume feedback and it just that was so illogical. So that took me on a rabbit hole of going, why is that the case? I need to resolve this. This doesn’t make sense. Specifically, this was in an animation, games environment. Live action has a lot of resources on this topic, but in animation and games, it just was lacking. So I started researching that and kind of diving into that.

Nichole Pitts

I met Jessie Kate virtually in January of 2022. And then we met in person in April of 2022 at this brand strategy mastermind. During that time we were just having conversations and she was talking to me about her book, “Talking Threads”. Not only is this book just visually stunning, but as we’re talking through a lot of what you were talking about Jessie Kate, as far as designing this storytelling, I noticed a lot of these “threads” (pun intended) to ethics and also diversity, equity, and inclusion. And I wanted to understand, was that intentional? Did you think about the ethics and the DEI part when you were writing it or was it just kind of a happy coincidence?

Jessie Kate Bui

I think it was maybe somewhere in between. I wasn’t familiar with DEI in a traditional sense. But, I definitely have a conviction.

And so did all of the co-authors that I brought in for the book about integrity of story and when you’re telling a story about a character, really making sure you’re honoring and respecting that character’s background narrative, representing a diverse set of points of view, because storytelling helps us change our minds and grow as people.

And so creating diversity is a natural way to enhance the actual tool of narrative and story. I think it was just like this happy medium actually between them where we have that intention, but I didn’t actually know a lot of the practical and traditional approaches to DEI that might have actually been really helpful, but I think we just had an alignment from the beginning.

Nichole Pitts

Well, I always feel like ethics and DEI are embedded into everything that we do. Into all parts of our lives. So I like the fact that it wasn’t specifically called out, but there was so much that I learned in the book that I wasn’t aware of. And it really makes me look at movies and TV and even video games a little bit differently. Understanding kind of the basis of how the characters are developed, even down to what they’re wearing and how they’re presented visually. So how did the book, “Talking Threads” come about?

Jessie Kate Bui

So I had been going to a lot of our networking expos that we have for people who are working in the industry, whether they’re students or professionals and I was bringing my portfolio around and I happened to have a lot of costume work in my portfolio because I like character.

I like story behind motivations and intentions and things like that. And I couldn’t get any feedback on costume designs, like how to improve or elevate them. And I kind of fixated on that. I’m a very curious person. So I just kind of went down this rabbit hole of deciding, like, I’m gonna figure out what it is like, how do we do this? Where are these missing pieces for animation and game artists? Why are we not talking about this? Why don’t we have these tools? So I started talking to different studios, asking them questions, how do you use costume designers or just asking specific people who had played that role in some sense to get sort of insight on that.

And then I had a class I was taking and the teacher requested that I make a book about it. He’s like, “You have all these tips you’ve gathered, all this random data. You should just put that together and share it.” It was a bit of an intimidating project, honestly, especially when you’re thinking, I’m just curious. I just have questions. I have some insight into it, but I’m not an expert in this thing. And so then that led to, well then why don’t I bring in some experts? Right? We’ll all work together to cover the territory. That way I’m not speaking beyond my experience, but we’re still serving those points of view.

I had brought in four other authors who all had specialties and we put that together. I feel really proud of the fact that we were able to introduce so many ideas to creatives and be able to facilitate them with tools that not only just allow them to do their jobs more practically and feel more prepared, but actually allow them to create stories with more integrity. Like that’s been a big deal.

Nichole Pitts

In the book you talk about two types of stories: moral compass and the foggy mirror. What are they and how do they differ from each other?

Jessie Kate Bui

These are some concepts that our co-author, Gwen Conaway, brought in that were just so fascinating. I’ll try to honor her in doing a good job at explaining this, but the foggy mirror and the moral compass are sort of two different ways that we can perceive the spectrum of a story.

So a black and white story, this good and evil, a group oriented mentality so that we can navigate maybe larger scale problems in societies that we’re talking about in the stories that would be more of the moral compass. Like where is our direction?

How do we redirect ourselves to be more moral. There are some examples for moral compass. This might be something like Star Wars where you have good and evil, the Sith Lords and the Jedi, the colors of their light sabers are even predetermined.

This is how we know they’re good. This is how we know they’re bad. We have visual cues, we have character cues and it helps us navigate these expansive distances and big worlds and big challenges by simplifying an element. And in this case, it’s like the group identities. This is the good group. This is the bad group.

The Hobbit’s another example. So we have things like the elves. They’re the good, they’re the elite. We have the dwarfs. We have these groups that all kind of have a predetermined sort of personality range and class range that they fit into. And it helps us navigate this big complex idea of this story. These expansive complicated cultures. Well, if we can just group them into simple ideas, it lets us navigate that big challenging event we’re talking about.

Nichole Pitts

Basically morality is pretty much black and white and you’re looking at more patriotism over globalism.

Jessie Kate Bui

Yes.

Nichole Pitts

There was a quote from the book that I loved.Throughout most of human history storytelling has been used to keep our morality in check and legends, religious mythologies and folklore are perfect examples of moral compass tales. These stories are appealing to most people because the protagonists can be anyone. Likewise, the antagonist can be any challenge that we face.” And if we think about a lot of times with ethics and compliance, we talk about that moral compass. My logo actually is a compass and ethics is so different than compliance because ethics really is our moral code, which is very personalized and individual based upon where we grew up, our culture, our family dynamics, the generational trauma that we may have inherited.

What was interesting is the example of Star Wars, which is my favorite movie. I love me from Star Wars. Seriously, I will run around the house with the light saber, if I had one. I don’t. But if I did, trust and believe. Ha!

I think that there is the moral compass there, but there’s a little bit of foggy mirror with some of the characters like Han Solo, who is really a bad guy that kind of turns good, but he’s the bad boy in the series. Think about Darth Vader and his journey from Anakin to Darth Vader back to Anakin. And you think about the Empire versus the Rebellion. There’s so much there that really can be black and white, but there’s still some of that gray area.

Jessie Kate Bui

So this is a really good point. I mean, there is definitely with any of these things where we’re even talking about a dichotomy of like, there’s this and this version of story there’s also the in between, the mixes of these in storytelling to create interesting conflict and tension and ideas like you were just pointing out with Han Solo. One way to bucket Star Wars into that moral compass even more clearly is like you said, we each have our individual moral compass that directs us one way or the other. Now in a predominantly moral compass tale, there is an agreed upon conclusion. If Han Solo goes with the Rebellion, then he’s good. If someone goes with this side, then they’re bad. And so it’s sort of like a scaled up version of one individual’s moral compass being applied to everyone to determine if they’re good or bad. The foggy mirror narratives allow for each individual’s individual moral compass to all be happening at the same time and have completely different opinions about what that morality is. And so these oftentimes compliment even longer form formats like TV series, Game of Thrones is a good example of this because we need time to actually understand how these things are happening to really see both sides of these characters.

There’s a really great scene in Game of Thrones with Jamie Lannister and Ned Stark talking to each other. And you look at the scene and Jamie Lannister looks like a knight in shining armor even the decor on his armor is beautiful and fine and thin and delicate, almost like an elfin part of script. And then you have Ned Stark and he’s gruff and rough and he’s earthy and you, oh, well he’s the bad guy and Jamie Lannister is the knight in shining armor. But in the conversation we’re exposing that the opposite is true in the way that they’re navigating the world. Jamie Lannister is taking advantage and Ned Stark is trying to protect his family.

And then over the course of the story, it’s constantly everybody shifting their moral compass while having different opinions about what that means. So a foggy mirror is maybe a little bit more reflective of real life in the way that we have to navigate it sometimes. But like you said, with patriotism, like the moral compass sometimes aligns with how we maybe have a group that we advocate for, or we have a political party and things like that.

Nichole Pitts

It seems to me, between the two, foggy mirror is pretty much more of how we live day to day.

Jessie Kate Bui

Yeah.

Nichole Pitts

It’s so nuanced that there’s good people and evil people on both sides of it.

Jessie Kate Bui

Yeah. Yeah.

Nichole Pitts

And even thinking about Game of Thrones, which I love. And after the Red Wedding, I was like, listen, I’m gonna have to take a little break. Are you serious with this George? And the people that read the books were like, “I don’t know how you didn’t know this was coming?, I read the book. Spoiler alert.” You know what?

Jessie Kate Bui

This is where you go to your therapist and they just say stop watching the show.

Nichole Pitts

Right? Well, fun fact, when I lived in London, Kit Harrington and his wife lived across the street from me and the last season of Game of Thrones was on and it took everything I had not to go over there with a jar sugar to be like, “Hey, John, where’s Ghost, number one. And number two, what the hell has happened with this last season?”

But you really make a great juxtaposition between Game of Thrones and The Hobbit that you talked about with the morale compass, because in the book, it states “With the Game of Thrones, each character is driven by his or her own individual path rather than the overall narrative and personal goals can conflict with the societal goals”.

And we see this all the time with our kind of push/pull, but you were talking about “Group identities, such as the Stark family are quickly fractured.” And that was something that we saw from episode one. I loved Arya. But her sister? I was like “this what you’re doing? I mean, do you wanna be princess that bad?” And then I had to ask myself, “Maybe I would be the same way?” I don’t know.

Jessie Kate Bui

This is exactly what’s great about, I mean, both of them definitely invite questions. What would you do in this big scale event, for example, with the moral compass, where would you align? And that can be a big, teaching moment in one way. And then Snape is another example with Harry Potter. Is he good? Is he bad? It’s like, well, what if he’s both? What if he’s a bully and saving the Wizarding world in these grand ways.

And so it’s very much allowing you to say, okay, maybe I am all of these things and what do I feel about that? And what do I feel about the fact that I might be flawed and how do I approach that? And what does that mean? And so those are the things where I feel like so much of what you talk about and what you teach helps us navigate when we hit those moments.

When we go, oh wait, hold on, what if despite my thinking that I’m doing all these things kindly, that I might be propagating racism without realizing it and not understanding how to rewrite the way that I’m acting like it really brings up those questions and they’re difficult to handle, but those are valuable as a human society to go through. This is why storytelling is so helpful to help us kind of encounter these questions.

Nichole Pitts

Well, I think that’s why it’s so interesting with these three dimensional characters, like you mentioned with Harry PotterSnape and Dumbledore. They’re both such flawed characters as well. And it’s really when you get to the end of the series, especially with Deathly Hallows that you understand, oh my goodness this is what the impetus was even for Snape.

And I don’t feel like Snape wasn’t acting in Harry’s best interest for the greater good it’s because he had a crush on Harry’s mama.

Jessie Kate Bui

Those are the things where you both encounter what would I do in that situation, but also, you know what, sometimes we might do something that happens to be for the good of others, but it’s okay that it was just something personal. He just loved his mom, it was a relationship he cared for her. He felt cared for by her. So that’s what mattered to him. That was what was in his world. And so I think those are those things where we might even then have a prejudice towards that action. Well, then that’s not a good enough reason. It’s like, but that was his reason. That’s all that that means.

Nichole Pitts

Exactly. Or even if we think about Ron Weasley and I thought that he was fleshed out pretty well because he’s the best friend, the sidekick, but he gets overlooked because Harry’s always the star and something’s always happening to Harry.

Right. And then he’s the last out of his brothers, always overlooked. And it’s that whole, him having imposter syndrome sometimes as well and overcoming that. And even in Deathly Hallows, leaving in a snit of anger. And how many times have we left things in a snit of anger? I am known for that. Because my number one go-to is, “I’m not doing this.” And I move, I’ll just go for a little bit, I might circle back. But you know, like Ron did, he came back, but we all do that. Because we sometimes lead with emotion and that was one of the things that I really enjoyed between the moral compass and the foggy mirror.

When the distinction was made that in The Hobbit, “the world order is easier to digest because we’re able to divide visual language by archetype with”, as you said, “the elegant elves, the rough dwarves, the wise wizards, rather than based on the individuals.” So we’re really doing group identities at this point.

And the book says “Readers and viewers don’t have to exert much effort to understand the political climate of the world and can be casual consumers of the story versus with the foggy mirror. The readers are required to be entrenched in the lore of the world to truly understand their motivations that can come from deeply traumatized or flawed characters.”

And we talked about this before, where I said, after reading this, I was thinking there are so many chat rooms and videos, and all of these threads that break down the history of beloved characters from TV sitcoms, movies, drama series and we spend a lot of time trying to understand their history and not all the times are we giving that same grace and holding space for maybe our co-workers or our neighbor. We don’t care, Betty, that you had a hard childhood. What I need to know is where’s Ghost? I haven’t seen Ghost, is he dead? That’s what we do.

Jessie Kate Bui

It’s so true that if you think about the energy you put into like, learning about like, oh, well there’s this subgroup of the culture of the elves or this character switches to this motivation and, oh, it’s probably because this, but yet we don’t give that same grace or energy towards somebody who’s struggling, we go“We’re having conflict. It’s just cuz they’re crazy.”

Nichole Pitts

Yeah. We love to throw that out.

Jessie Kate Bui

So you’re not satisfied with saying they’re just crazy on the fictional show, but somehow you’ll do that.

Nichole Pitts

And then it’s the whole thing of using “crazy” as a descriptor when it actually can be very offensive. It’s like, well, are you trying to say that they’re less than because of a mental illness or what is it?

And sometimes bucket it into these arbitrary categories so that we don’t have to get uncomfortable and maybe deal with something that we need to, maybe there’s a bias that we need to get into. And that’s one of the things that I found interesting when you were talking about how our viewpoint, our own bias really impacts design, and you talk about experiential versus voyeuristic. What is experiential and what is voyeuristic?

Jessie Kate Bui

Yeah, so like we’re talking in this example, we’re kind of using the idea of like, how is the camera framing the story? So in the viewpoint of it, we can use that in our daily life to think of like, what is our view on the situation in this case, it’s very literally like, what is the view?

How are we looking at it in a practical sense? And so experiential would be the intention ofthe director or the creator is to help the audience feel as if they were there as if they were experiencing this immersing themselves in the situation. The Great Gatsby, as an example of the film with Tobey McGuire going into this party and just being this cacophony of noiseand loud and music and dancing. Now, if we were to portray that in a literal sense, like how it historically would have looked. We would see people wearing modest, according to our current standards, modest clothing, dancing to old fashioned music.

We would not feel a sense of rebelliousness and youthfulness and excitement and loudness. So the director, in order to create that viewpoint, uses a lot of very rapid moving camera movements so that we could never really sit with anything long enough. It’s like you’re being tossed through a crowd.

You just like, can’t really focus and register a lot of the information. He also modernized the music. So it would feel more youthful, feel more rebellious. He modernized quite a bit of the fashion. He pulled from modern fashion designers. So it would feel current. It would feel edgy. It would feel forward thinking.

And so all of those things, intimate, moving shots, never really spending time, too much registering any one piece of information and being thrust into the emotional, immersive feeling of something that captures the heart of that scene or rebellious, youthful forward thinking group, having a blast. So we needed to make it more contemporary if you wanted a experiential idea viewpoint.

It really crosses that time. You know, it’s like it’s time travel, right? We’re able to kind of bridge something in the middle so that we can relate to the feelings of that time. Maybe learn a lesson that that time was able to learn, but apply it to our current life a little bit more directly.

In contrast, the voyeuristic view is the opposite. It’s like, we’re sort of stepping back. We’re taking time. We’re taking in the image. We’re saying like, for example, with Downton Abbey we have all these stiff traditions and propriety and rules of this polite society.

And we’re needing to learn those and take those in and believe them so that we can fall into the gossip. We need to contextualize and believe this world to make the gossip feel punchy. We’re kind of poking, we’re sneaking in. And so we want it to be realistic.

We use a lot more still shots, a lot more pulled back shots to kind of establish things. We wanna maybe see more of the full costume so that we can say, oh, this is from this era. This is from the 1910s, twenties, thirties, whatever. We’re really wanting to notice that information. If something is awry, it’s going to feel jarring in a voyeuristic viewpoint.

We don’t wanna feel like we’re suddenly some contemporary things slipped in. It’s gonna take us out. But because of that establishment, there’s a scene where they’re all around the table. I think it’s in the first or second episode. And the matriarch of the family says something like what’s a weekend because it’s so beyond her, like, she doesn’t even perceive of this because she doesn’t live in a world where she works nine to five.

And so in order to get the payoff of oh, she doesn’t know what a weekend is? And we wanna like gossip about it? We had to believe that that made sense. If we were to put that in experiential story, it might just fly past us. It’s so subtle. It’s so quiet. You’re listening to every word, every little flick of an eyebrow, it’s like, oh, oh, oh, what did they say? Oh, they said this? And so we need all that information.

Nichole Pitts

I love that. Well, even with Downton Abbey, that was when I first was like, “I need to be a Duchess because I don’t wanna know what weekends are either.”

Jessie Kate Bui

I don’t wanna know what that is ever.

Nichole Pitts

And every day I immediately was like, I need to be Mary, I don’t wanna be Carson who is working all the time and have sift the wine into the decanter and all of this. I was like, that’s a lot of work. It was one of those things where you couldn’t relate, but they brought you in because they were petty.

And as you said, it was the gossip, but you were like, well, what is going on now? And the little cutting lines where you’d say, “I can’t wait until grandma gets back here because she’s gonna have something to say.” And then even the class dynamics, when you think about the new heir that had to come, who was a lawyer.

And how that shook up the socioeconomic and class status in the dynamics between them, because they were like, “What’s this work stuff. Why are you soiling your hands?”

Jessie Kate Bui

Exactly. And those are the kinds of things where you’ll have scenes on those shots where they’re sort of having dinner for the first time, when he’s coming into town, you see a lot of comparison.

We’re getting information. This is what they look like. This is what they look like this, they said this, but they said that, see how they’re different? We need to like, see all that information. So that those little moments like, well, you know, I have to work and it’s like, what is that? And I have a weekend.

Well, what, like, what is that? All those things are funny because we’ve been given all that information how they’re different.

Nichole Pitts

Exactly. In the book you talk about really four power elements: the established power, rising power, the foreign power and the people. Let’s start out with the established power. What’s that?

Jessie Kate Bui

So it’s somebody who’s been sort of in charge for a long period of time. You can think of things like Queen Victoria, how long was she in charge? How much influence did she have in establishing the way things looked, buildings, society, rules, etiquette, all these things she had a lot of time to create those standards to set standards. And then you have the rising power. This is the power. That’s like the child of the established power. This is the kid who doesn’t wanna do it the way that mom and dad did it because, you know, I gotta find my own thing. I gotta find my own way. And so they’ll oftentimes contrast that with maybe more escapist, adventurous types of attitudes. It’s the teenager kind of vibe. They’re trying to find their own and so they’re doing things in the opposite way.

Nichole Pitts

Almost like a Prince Harry.

Jessie Kate Bui

Yeah exactly. Right. It’s a really good example. It’s sort of like, what if the way that they did it, isn’t the best way. And what if I can find a better way and, improve on it or change itto shake things up.

And then you have the foreign power. These would be like people who are invading maybe it’s imperialistic, maybe it’s evangelism. You see people coming in to teach their beliefs to other cultures, but either way, they’re coming from some place that is different than the location and in that way can impose their power on the native culture. They might strip thenative culture’s identity by saying, well, you need to live the way that we live. This is our opinion. This is the best way to be. It’s oftentimes in those power dynamics of someone kind of invading another culture, however altruistically in their mind, that sort of strips the other of the identity. And then the people is the people, right? It’s when the powers get too imposing. Maybe we run out of food, we run outta water, we have too many problems happening because who is in charge is sort of creating havoc, then the people rise up and demand change. So this might be French Revolution or things to that measure. There’s all sorts of examples. One thing I think is really important to kind of pin in this one is that this power dynamic, we often think of it in the large scale of like societies and countries, but this can happen in a family.

This can be, this is the number of the family who’s established, follows the rules. This might be mom and dad or something like that. And then here’s a rebellious teenager. And then here’s the one that’s like coming from a new point of view, or maybe it’s an in-law like it’s married in and shakes up the dynamic from a foreign point of view.

Nichole Pitts

That’s a really good point. With the established power, you mentioned Queen Victoria and one thing I did not put together was that Queen Victoria really birthed the monarchy of so many countries between Russia, Spain, Denmark, all these places and the power of that reach. But even if we go to Elizabeth the First, before Queen Victoria and how that standard of beauty was really set because she used lead paint and white powder on her face that was to cover up the scars from smallpox.

It became a beauty thing. So that was like, yeah, we have to really have this lighter skin. You’re really trying to be as pale as possible. And as England was colonizing these other countries, you think like India and the colorism of that’s just one of the countries that have an issue with colorism. So you had a lot of these skin lightning products that were sold in so many countries in order to achieve that standard of beauty. And it’s just interesting to me on how an established power, something that they may do for their own personal vanity becomes a cultural phenomenon.

Jessie Kate Bui

I mean, this is a big reason why I felt so passionate about this book was it’s like let’s unveil the man behind the curtain so that we can then decide how much of these things we want to actively participate in. Or how much of this is subconsciously out of our understanding, we are participating in without making a active choice. I think like Devil Wears Prada is a good example where they talk about the color that the lead character Anne Hathaway is wearing. And she’s saying oh, that sounds like so silly what you’re doing with fashion without realizing that she is wearing a piece that was influenced by the runway. Whether or not you’re actively participating, you’re participating like it’s happening because it happens at such a large scale. And so just understanding that allows you to have more power over your own life and how the ripple effects that you create are where you’re sending them.

Nichole Pitts

Yeah. That’s a great point looking at really where you’re influenced by society and you don’t really connect that to understand, oh, I might be saying I’m standing up to something, but what you’re wearing is influenced by that very thing that you’re trying to reject. Yeah. When you talk about foreign power I was also thinking about the war in Ukraine with Russia and looking at how that was even covered and how the Africans were treated that were living in the Ukraine trying to get out.

And with the people, I was thinking about the #metoo movement and George Floyd, cuz that was another one of, okay, we’ll rise up sometimes I feel like it’s a trend and there’s some performative action there, but you used a great example of The Beatles in the book and I wanted to know if you could expound a little bit more on that.

Jessie Kate Bui

So yeah, we have this idea that in 1966, they had set aside their mod style to make their own opinion about what they wanted to say, what kind of statements they wanted to make but we had them be like, these are the guys who like fit the bill. They fit this style that everybody liked and then shifted it. Used their power that they were gaining as the people to make a statement, make a movement that contrasted what they set out to do at the beginning. I think another example I want to bring up because I feel like this might be a little bit more exciting.

So we have things like kicks essentially really nice, well designed expensive sneakers and these are a symbol of the people. And why would fancy sneakers, super cool, decked out sneakers, be a symbol of power? They’re sneakers. These are working shoes. Yes. Right. These are examples of someone who has been able to transcend their working class, gained power as the people. And then instead of modeling after the established power, they actually elevated the meaning behind the sneakers and said, “Hey, the working class is great, is worth all of this attention is worth the extra design, the expense, because this is our power that we gained, not a power that was given to us. not one that we inherited or had to change ourselves or our identities to fit their agreements.” So similar with The Beatles, they were able to shake things up once they had power and then that creates a new movement. So these are the kinds of things that I love about this people narrative.

Nichole Pitts

What’s interesting though, with using the kicks as example correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like a lot of these sneakers are still owned by big companies like Nike. So there’s still a financial benefit to their traditional established power. So my question is, where can we empower ourselves to where that money is not going towards this more established power that may look at this as a commodity rather than uplifting and putting a spotlight on this particular culture or group?

Jessie Kate Bui

This actually starts to overlap into this idea of appropriation and I know that was something that you wanted to talk about because this happens in both fashion, the music world like mainstream hip hop, underground hip hop, things like that, where, as soon as the established power sees an advantage, they’re going to say, “Hey, let’s