Entries in BUST Magazine (4)


BUST: Majora Carter

April/May 2006



For Majora Carter it's not easy being green

When Majora Carter got the call telling her she'd received the prestigious 2005 MacArthur Foundation Prize, she couldn't believe it--literally. "I thought I recognized the phone number as a friend of mine," she says, laughing, "so I gave him some attitude." Carter's attitude, however, is exactly what earned her the so-called "genius grant" in the first place. Relentlessly committed to initiating to environmental improvements in her native South Bronx, Carter has been slowly realizing her vision to "green the ghetto," an endeavor she hopes will one day transform her smokestack surroundings into an Emerald City of parks.

The 38-year-old's path to activism was a rocky one. In the '70s, Carter watched her tight-knit urban neighborhood deteriorate into a smoldering wasteland. "The whole block smelled like burning," she recalls. Industrial plants moved in, people moved out, and when she graduated from high school, Carter jumped at the chance to jet. After studying film at Wesleyan, however, she moved back home in the late '90s and soon heard about the city's proposal to build a major waste-transfer station in the South Bronx, an area already handling 40 percent of NYC's trash. It was then that she and her friends decided enough was enough, so they fought the plan—and won. "Suddenly, it was attitude city," she says of her political emergence. "No one ever asked residents what they didn't want, but no one asked them what they did want, either."

To address these issues, Carter founded Sustainable South Bronx in 2001. Through this community organization, she has planned a "greenway" where residents can work out and helped to open the neighborhood's first waterfront park in 60 years—a project that began after her dog, Xena, led her to the hidden Bronx shoreline through an illegal junkyard. Giving pointers for young activists, Carter advises, "Use the energy that you have, and recognize that you get a lot of crap for being younger. No matter how small you are, you have to act like you're enormous."


BUST Magazine: Emily Lazar

February/March 2006


GIGS: Mastering Engineer

Emily Lazar plays with some expensive techno-toys as a mastering engineer, but her most valuable tools are priceless. "I mostly rely on my ears and aesthetic sense," she explains. Lazar knows what she's talking about-- from Bowie to Beyoncé, hundreds of recording artists have sought her finesse for their albums. "I get to work side by side with some of the most talented creative minds around," she says.

Emily LazarUsing a mix of analog tools and software programs like Sonic Solutions, a mastering engineer polishes raw mixed tracks from the recording studio and enhances their flavor. "In a nutshell, mastering engineers make albums sound better," she explains. Lazar, who grew up in a musical household, first got hooked on engineering while playing in her own band after college. In 1997, after getting her master's degree at NYU, Lazar founded The Lodge, a state-of-the-art mastering house in New York City. Her current projects include Garbage's “Bleed Like Me” and Mates of State's “Like U Crazy.”

When she wakes up in the morning, she never knows where her workday will take her. "I work on hundreds of albums every year--rock one day and hip-hop the next." The hours are intense and unpredictable: "When I’m in the middle of making an album, I pretty much leave the studio only to sleep." Lazar not only balances audio tracks, but artists themselves. Working on a new album can be an emotional process, says Lazar. "I often joke that a degree in psychology would have been even more useful than a degree in music technology!"

Lazar recommends three steps for breaking into the biz. First, "expand your musical mind" by listening to everything you can get your hands on. Second, learn everything about equalization, conversion, and compression processes. Last, find a mentor to help you synthesize your technical and aesthetic skills. "What you learn in academia is the technical theory, but how it's applied in practice is truly an art form," she says. Like other art forms, salaries are strongly based on your experience and talents--the more passion you prove, the more money you can make.

"Making music takes an unusual amount of dedication, intensity, focus, and passion," she says. But at the end of the day, Lazar loves the challenge. "Making a record is an amazing personal journey for recording artists. It’s such an incredible honor to play a creative role in shaping their body of work."

Theo Wargo, Photographer


BUST Magazine: Nathan's Famous

BUST Magazine CoverOctober/November 2005


Discovering the wicked wit of Vijai Nathan

"My comedy is the equivalent of showing my balls," says Vijai Nathan. To illustrate her point, the comedienne recalls a comedy festival performance she gave in South Africa. "There was the 'Mainstage' and then there was 'The Danger Zone' where all of the performers were men, and two of them got naked," says Vijai. "After one Mainstage performance where I talked about sex as an Indian-American woman, however, they switched me to The Danger Zone." This last bit makes her smile wickedly. Apparently the festival organizers weren't hep to the fact that Vijai's standup covers it all, from her father's Playboy collection to her dating habits: "For a plate of curly fries, I'll blow you."

Vijai NathanNegotiating tricky race relations is also a hallmark of the 33-year-old's work, since she credits racism for bringing her to comedy. "I use humor to get back at the racists I encountered growing up," she says. Vijai was raised in a predominantly white Maryland suburb, where she faced various challenges because of the way people saw her. "I was the only 'black' person in my elementary school, so I once played the role of Martin Luther King, Jr." She pauses. "I also played Tooth Decay." After college, Vijai saw an ad for a comedy workshop, took two sessions, and was hooked. "Comedy freed me. Onstage, no one could tell me that I couldn't be who I wanted to be." After a few years doing "really bad Clinton impressions," Vijai started talking about her family, and she hit pay dirt. "I connected with audiences by telling my truth." For Vijai, that truth includes hilarious anecdotes performed lovingly in her parents' India-inflected accents, like the one about the day her mother overheard her singing along with Madonna, and put a stop to it by insisting, "Vijai, you are not like a virgin, you are a virgin!"

Last year Vijai was named one of the "Top Ten Standup Comics of Color" by NBC. She recently adapted her one-woman show, Good Girls Don't, But Indian Girls Do, into a screenplay and is "dying to write a musical called Bollywood Bitches." But despite the strong ties to her heritage that she retains throughout her many projects, some audience members still just don't get it. "At one show in the South," Vijai recalls, "a drunk guy in the audience hollered, 'Woo! Keep it going for the Cherokee!'"


BUST Magazine: Saving Face

BUST Magazine CoverAugust/September 2005

Saving Face

California teens expose the ugly side of the beauty biz

Teenagers hate being lied to. So when some teen girls in Marin, California, learned they weren’t getting the whole story from the cosmetics industry, they made up their minds—instead of their faces—to form Safe Cosmetics Campaign: Marin, the first teen-led branch of the national organization. The Marin activist coalition, which now boasts over 50 girls, launched in January to educate consumers about harmful chemical cosmetic ingredients linked to cancer and birth defects while advocating for healthier alternatives that will keep their insides as beautiful as their outsides.

Sasha Hoffman, an 18-year-old who has worn her share of makeup, says, "I assumed that the FDA regulated and tested cosmetics.” She was surprised to learn, however, that they do not. "One company was caught saying that their products are ‘crap in a jar,’” says 15-year-old Jessica Assaf. “How do they sleep at night?”

Saving FaceSince January, the teens have spearheaded five major actions, including Operation Beauty Drop, a program that asked women to drop used cosmetic containers into bins around Marin. With those items, they created Safe Face, a five-foot-tall collage of a female face, with mascara tubes for eyelashes and shampoo bottles for hair. The collage travels locally to teach consumers about products to trust and to avoid. Members also lobbied for – and helped to pass – the California Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005, which now requires cosmetic manufacturers to inform the State Department of Health Services of any ingredients in their products known or suspected of causing cancer or birth defects. “The kids who went to [lobby in] Sacramento came back feeling 10 feet tall,” says Safe Cosmetics Campaign director Judi Shils, who notes that the teens are already bursting with other ideas for future events. “We can travel with makeup artists and teach teens how to go organic,” imagines Hoffman. “Changing things overnight isn’t easy, but it’s possible.” To learn more about the campaign, and to see a list of conscientious companies who have signed the Compact With America Safe Cosmetics Pledge, check out http://www.safecosmetics.org/