Animated love. Yehuda Devir.

(…) Everyone defines their own happiness bar. I consider myself a very happy person. I have a roof over my head, food, water to drink, an amazing wife that supports me, a loving family, the freedom to do whatever I want and the strength to do so, what else does a person need?


Yehuda Devir is an Israeli illustrator and graphic designer, who took over the Internet with a series of heart-melting comix of everyday situations with his wife Maya (also an illustrator). And if you think heart-melting is an exaggeration just take a look at the slideshow below. Overnight their animated life got millions of fans and followers from around the globe.Apart from the illustrations that brought him fame, Devir creates other visual art too.  To mention a few: “Wonder women can take a hit, it doesn’t mean you have to”, “I could be me” and “Peeping generation” are just of few of the slogans that stay under illustrations with a strong social message that you simply must see on his website (as I couldn’t steal and post them here ;)).

 

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Hi, Yehuda! We were initially supposed to meet in Bulgaria – you were here for a Comix festival. This didn’t happen, so now here we are – typing. Let’s take it from here – how did you like Sofia? You were here for a short while but surely you managed to grasp some of the local culture.
Maya and I were mainly at the Comic Con and it was amazing! So much love and excitement were around our visit and we certainly want to come back again. Everyone was so nice, and we felt the support and love of the public. Unfortunately, we had very short time to hang out in Sofia and we hope that next time we will have more time to travel a little.

How long has it been since you got viral and did you collect any insights regarding couples lives over that time – your personal experience and that of others based on the reactions towards your blog? 
I began to do the illustrations for my own fun. The first illustration was when we moved to Tel Aviv and Maya suggested we make an illustration of the two of us asking for help from friends to find an apartment at a reasonable price. It worked… We got a lot of likes and shares and eventually, we find our apartment. We never imagined that so many people would identify with our personal moments as a couple. Our first viral wave was a few months ago and since then we have devoted most of our time to creating our comics – “One of those days”. There is nothing better than getting up in the morning and doing what you love, and the best thing about my job is that my work makes people laugh and happy.

Apart from your blog being very heart-warming and expressing common couples’ traits, do you think that there is an overall need of positive couples’ role model that generated parts of your popularity? (it seems that individualism combined with the rise of divorce rates are currently trending in the western societies, however, do you think people actually crave for the opposite?)
I think being real with your self is the most important thing. All of our illustrations it’s about real moments that happened to us. We don’t illustrate moments that didn’t really happen… and with the use of our cartoons we exaggerate them a bit to emphasize the drama. Our illustrations also capture less pleasant moments, such as the illustration we made about the fight we had… No couple is perfect and there are good moments and bad moments, and that’s what makes our relationship unique to us. “Humor” is our keyword.

Some of your works have strong social messages – against women abuse, pro body-positivity. They are very self-explanatory, but I would still ask you to say a couple of words on your personal stand on the issues. What in your surrounding provokes you to create these images?
When a social issue arises that I feel I have something to say about the matter – I say it. To make a change you have to know the problems, even if they are painful, and talk about solutions.

What is your definition of happiness, as a person of art and entertainment, as a man of the 21st century, as an Israeli?
Happiness is an individual definition. I think that when a person is satisfied with what he has, he is a happy person. Everyone defines his happiness bar. I consider myself a very happy person. I have a roof over my head, food, water to drink, an amazing wife that supports me, a loving family, the freedom to do whatever I want and the strength to do so, what else does a person need?

I was meant to be a creator and creator of life. Melanie Gaydos.

 

Melanie Gaydos was born with a condition that wouldn’t necessarily predict her career as a model with worldwide fame. Half-blind, toothless and bald, Melanie stormed the fashion world a couple of years ago and has been changing the game ever since.  She can also be seen in the movies “Un Ciel Bleu Presque” (2016), “The Third Sister” (2013) and “Saint Frankenstein” (2015) and Rammstein praised her unique appearance featuring her in the official video of “Mein Herz Brennt”. Melanie’s career deconstructs the fashion stereotypes and beauty standards and brings a tremendous social shift. 

On the trivia side, Melanie was born with ectodermal dysplasia, which is a condition that makes her pores, teeth, nails and small bones form abnormally. She also has alopecia and is partially blind due to eyelash growth that scratched her eyes as a child. She is an art graduate who was earning extra cash modelling through Craig’s list. Today well recognised throughout the world, you can follow Melanie on any of the following:  

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Hello, Melanie! First off, I’d like to thank you for agreeing to talking to me. Where is this list of questions finding you and what is going on in your life currently?

Thank you very much as well, I am currently enjoying life on the West Coast! Needed a change from NYC, and preparing for a European adventure this summer. I will be visiting Berlin for fashion week and working throughout Germany and France, maybe some other countries too.

How long have you been modelling for and what circumstances in your life brought you to fashion? What was your first experience? What kept you going? Were you prepared for that huge success?

I have been modelling for six years now! I started freelance modelling when I was studying Drawing at an art school in NYC. I had met a few photographers in the club and nightlife scene in NYC, and eventually one of them had asked me to pose for him. My first photo shoot was with a fine art and commercial photographer Adrian Buckmaster, who was inspired by my own self-portrait drawings and photographs. I was really nervous about posing for him but knew that a new experience and facing my fears would be worthwhile. The shoot itself was very relaxed and natural. Adrian let me find my own space to express myself and I had found it to be a very cathartic experience. The therapeutic, psychological aspect of it encouraged me to find more shoots because I absolutely loved the creative process. I knew that I would be able to make a career from it due to my own artistic vision and the fact that there was only one me out there in the world. So yes, in a way I was prepared for it – but it was not an easy process to go through and in many  and the fact that there was

only one me out there in the world.

So yes, in a way I was prepared for it – but it was not an easy process to go through and in many ways, it still is a journey.

Your work is a great inspiration for many and of a great importance for the deconstruction of stereotypes and rigid, unproductive worldviews. Have you encountered firsthand the impact that you have on the industry, on culture, on common people? How do you experience the difference that you are bringing to the table?

Yes. A few years ago I had participated in a youtube project by Style Like U, called “What’s Underneath.” That interview was basically about part of my life story and society’s perceptions of me versus my own ideal of beauty. I didn’t know my own personal life story aside from modelling would have an effect on anyone, as I had always shied away from speaking about my medical condition or childhood in previous interviews.

I learned from sharing my own vulnerabilities, that I was able to help other people face their own and embrace life.

Breaking into the industry is not really what other people think it is, and it’s much more difficult than people may realise or begin to understand. I’m still only beginning to see my impact on the industry but really have only achieved by staying true to my own self and embracing opportunities with various artists to create together. I don’t like to think about the industry too much because to me it is work. One that I enjoy but I think it needs more creative thinkers and open minds. I think the difference is really exciting, new and fresh. I am more than happy to promote social change.

Photo: Victoria Zeoli

Photo: Victoria Zeoli

What spectrum of reactions to your modelling career have you encountered around the world?

At first, people were in awe or shocked. I receive a lot of emails praising me for my boldness. That was something I actually thought deeper about recently because I am just being myself – I don’t really care about what other people think of me. Some articles when I had first started modelling, referred to me as the “Ugliest Model in the World.” Something I have a laugh about, but it has evolved and nowadays more unique faces, personalities and styles are embraced due to other people out there in the world who are staying true to themselves and just living their lives boldly.

What has changed that you needed to see changed, and what do you still hope to see changed in the world of fashion?

I think there needs to be a stronger sense of individualism and respect toward people in general. I think much of America and the fashion industry are so obsessed with money, image and material things. I’d like to see more leaders and original minds.

What is your definition of beauty and how do you think it is affecting the social placement of women (and man for that matter)?

As I’ve stated in my Style Like U interview, beauty is a state of being. I would hope that people can relate to it on a more universal and soul level rather than the shallow or superficial notions of beauty today. It would be amazing if people are feeling more comfortable within their own skin and really taking control over their minds, bodies and souls. This is the only life we have, we need to learn how to enjoy it more.

How has the relationship with your body changed over the years? What was the evolution of your self-esteem like?

I’ve changed a lot regarding how I view my body and physical appearance. I used to be really shy in general and embarrassed about my size or being naturally thin. I was always smaller than everyone else! When I was younger I used to wear about forty different wigs of all different sizes and styles. The students I went to school with knew that I had worn a wig, so there wasn’t any hiding around that. I get bored easily and like to change my look. I could never go out of the house without a wig or hat on though because I felt too exposed or vulnerable. I stopped wearing wigs publically when I moved to NYC and started modelling because it felt more comfortable and natural to me.

Nowadays it is hard for me to think of the fact that I used to wear a wig all of the time like when I was younger. I didn’t realise how wearing a wig had created a kind of safety net for me to hide behind. I was never super affected by the way my face looked because it was how I was born and I couldn’t do anything about that or really wanted to. The only times I had difficulty with my appearance were when I was socialising or with my peers in school. People sometimes are intimidated by me or don’t know what to think of me when they first meet. I had never really cared about that except I was bothered by the fact that people can be so rude to project their own fears or insecurities onto me. It doesn’t make for a very comfortable experience. Nowadays I have a deeper understanding of where other people are coming from, and I don’t let it bother me. I just stay true to myself and try to be as positive as possible. I’m still learning, not an easy thing to do but practice makes perfect. When I was younger I was shy and reserved. Nowadays, I’m much more outgoing and flirty with life.

When did you notice for the first time that you are a woman and have a female body? What did that mean to you back then and how do you feel about it now?

The first time I noticed that I had a female body was when I was about 7 or 8 years old and I had started taking dance lessons (ballet and jazz). I loved moving around and especially loved my dance uniforms and ballet shoes. I had also gotten a new human hair wig and started to learn more about fashion and personal style. I became a woman when I had first started menstruating in my teens.

It was a sign to me that I was meant to be a creator and creator of life. I still feel the same today.

What was your childhood like? Did you back then thought that your life and career will develop the way they have?

I didn’t have the best childhood experience, from a stressful relationship with my family to always being at doctor appointments. Though I was in the girl scouts and various church groups, I mostly kept to myself and enjoyed reading, drawing, and being outdoors. I had a fascination with billboards and loved the movie theatre. I started to perform in school and church plays outside of dance classes and had an affinity to be larger than life. I don’t think I ever would have thought that I would be living the life I am today.

What does it mean to you to be a successful woman?

Being a successful woman means living life to its fullest potential.

Credits to Zoe Rae

Credits to Zoe Rae

What is your fav recreational thing/activity? How do you recharge?

I love being outdoors or watching movies. Doing these things as well as reading, working out, or doing yoga helps me recharge. Shopping is also really fun. If I am on a busy work trip, listening to music and taking a nice bath are a few of the simplest things I can do to relax.

Is there an intimate partner in your life now, and (if positive) what brought you together?

No, I am currently single.

What would have you be doing if fashion had not embraced you?

If fashion had not embraced me (though really I embraced fashion), I would definitely be working in the film industry somehow with production or design.

 

 

Photo credits to:

http://www.amberasaly.com/

http://www.christian-martin-weiss.com/

http://www.d-yee.com/

http://www.graphicsmetropolis.com/

http://www.jasonalvino.com/

http://www.karenjerzykphoto.com/

http://www.lisaklappe.com/

http://www.sylwiamakris.com/

http://www.victoriazeoli.com/

https://www.ekaterinabelinskaya.com/

https://www.timwalkerphotography.com/

 

 

Depression made it to the top. Dr Shekhar Saxena (WHO)

Dr Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO. 

Dr Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO.

A 2012 report of the World heath organisation claimed that “unipolar depressive disorders, ranked as the third leading cause of the global burden of disease in 2004, will move into the first place by 2030”. As of 30 March 2017, 13 years earlier than predicted, depression is officially the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide.

What are the reasons behind the epidemic boom of depression, why is it coming 13 years earlier than predicted and what should be done on a personal, local and governmental level –  I have reached out to Dr Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Here is some more trivia:

  • Depression and another common mental disorder, anxiety, result in a global economic loss of a trillion US dollars every year;
  • According to the latest estimates from WHO, more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015;
  • On average, just 3% of government health budgets is invested in mental health, varying from less than 1% in low-income countries to 5% in high-income countries;
  • Even in high-income countries, nearly 50% of people with depression do not get treatment.

Dr Saxena, depression is already the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide. What does it mean for a psychological condition to be disabling on a global scale?

All health conditions cause some kind of disabilities, and many of them also cause death. We have a way to calculate the amount of disability that every health condition causes based on how severe the disability is and how long does it last. Using this calculation we have found out that depression overall is the most significant cause of disability all over the world. It is responsible for about 7.5% of all disabilities caused by a health condition. That is a huge amount.

Some time ago the predictions were that Depression will be the #1 disabling disease by 2030.   However, here we are – 2017, and depression already is on top of the charts. Having the current figures of depression, what are the predictions now for 2030?

Depression is likely to remain at the top. It is not only prevalent but it is also increasing and has been increasing over the past 15 years. The world is ageing and depressing is more common amongst people who are older. It is quite likely that depression will keep increasing.

I must add that depression doesn’t only cause a great amount of disability, it also causes deaths. And the deaths are because of suicide. Not all suicides are because of depression but a significant proportion is and that is another reason why depression is such a large cause for public concern.

What brought this rapid development?

Depression has various causes. It is not caused by a single factor. There are a few genetic causes, also biological causes – something goes wrong in the brain, which leads to depression. The most important cause for depression, however, are various sorts of stresses and factors in the social-economic environment that we live in. For example, people who are under severe stress, either because of severe poverty, or are faced with difficulties within the family or with their job, or displacement – being a migrant, a refugee, being unemployed – these are all possible causes of depression. We should also remember that other physical illnesses, like chronic disabling illnesses or life-threatening illnesses, are also a huge factor for depression. And lastly, excessive use of alcohol and drugs is also an important cause of depression.

In a particular person, it has to be assessed as to what the exact causes are, but for a population, these are the most significant causes.

Which countries are most affected by mental health issues and depression in particular, and is there a certain predisposition that would explain that?

We published a couple of months back a booklet on depression (WHO-MSD-MER-2017.2-eng) and other common mental disorders that gives the latest figures on the prevalence of depression. Overall, it is between 4 to 6% of a countries population that suffers from depression. I would say that every country, whether it is small or large, whether it’s poor or rich, whether it’s an island or a continental country – they all have depression. Depression is common in both genders and in all ages, except very young kids. It is something that is universal and there is no predisposition in any nation or culture. The only exception are countries that are going through severe conflicts, wars and migration and also countries that suffer from natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis.  These countries have a higher prevalence of depression.

What should be done on a personal, local and governmental level to take control over the epidemic spread of depression worldwide? 

There are several things that need to be done. One of WHO’s main messages is “Depression – let’s talk”, because talking is the beginning of seeking help and receiving help. Talking can be with a family member, could be with a friend, a colleague and also talking to a healthcare provider, be is a doctor or a nurse or a specialist. People should be able to talk about their depression. That often is the beginning of the help that should be received.

At a personal level, we need to recognise the signs of depression within ourselves. The depression that I am talking about is the illness of depression and not the day-to-day sadness, which all of us can have. Depression as an illness is characterised by at least two weeks of sustained sadness and lack of interest in activities. The is what need to watch out for in ourselves, but also amongst out family members, friends and colleagues so that we can start talking and either solve the problem or seek further help.

At a governmental level, the services for mental health in general and more specifically for depression, need to be increased massively. Even in high-income countries, more than 50% of people with depression are not receiving help, and in low-income countries that percentage is much higher. Governments need to provide treatment for depression and this can be provided with the help of specialists, but also we strongly recommend that general doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers need to be trained in identifying and treating depression at an early stage. Also, the stigma against depression should be reduced. People are hesitant to go to a psychiatrist or a psychologist, they often go to a general practitioner, who should be able to identify the issue.

A new life. A new love. A new chapter. Isabel Allende

What I have learned is, that there is no age for passion or for love.

http://isabelallende.com/en/press_photos

Photo: isabelallende.com/en/press_photos

 Isabel Allende

The Chilean author has written over 20 books, that have been translated into more than 35 languages and sold nearly 70 million copies. Her best-known works include the novels The House of the Spirits, Eva Luna, Daughter of Fortune, Portrait in Sepia, Paula, Maya’s notebook. Her work is often based on her personal experience and historical events and pay homage to the lives of women, while weaving together elements of myth and realism.

Several of her books were made into movies, including the eternal “The House of the Spirits”, starring Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Antonio Banderas, Glenn Close and Winona Ryder. There are three movies based on her novels currently in production — Aphrodite, Eva Luna and Gift for a Sweetheart.

Over the years, Allende has received numerous awards for her work and in 2014, President Barack Obama presented Allende with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

On December 9, 1996, Allende started the Isabel Allende Foundation in honour of her daughter, Paula Frías Allende, who fell into a coma after complications of the disease porphyria led to her hospitalisation. Paula was 28 years old when she died in 1992. The foundation is “dedicated to supporting programs that promote and preserve the fundamental rights of women and children to be empowered and protected.”

In 2015, after 27 years of marriage, Isabel Allende separated from her second husband, the attorney and writer Willie Gordon and moved into a small house with her dog. In October 2016, she met a New York-based lawyer, with whom she fell in love and the two of them are making plans to move in together soon.

I got into contact with your assistant at the beginning of this year. She told me that you are on a writing retreat, which of course coincides with 8th of January – the date you start your new books. Would you share what came to life on this 8th of January?

Well, I was finishing another book. I thought it would be finished in December but it wasn’t. I had to rewrite the whole thing. So I just finished that. It’s called “Invincible summer”. It’s a novel set in the United States in 2016 in Brooklyn. It is going to be published in Spanish in June and in English – by the end of the year.  My Bulgarian publisher is really wonderful. They have published most of my work, so I am sure that at some point it will be published in Bulgarian as well, but I can’t tell you when.

Isabel and her second husband Willie, with whom she separated in 2015.

Isabel and her second husband Willie, with whom she separated in 2015. Photo: 

You separated from your second husband Willie with whom you have been married for quite some time, in 2015. In an interview you said that this time of separation was a time for you to explore love: can it endure, why does it end, can you have love at any point of life. What did you learn about love?

Well, the first thing I learned is, that nothing is for sure, everything changes in time. When I met Willie many years ago I fell madly in love with him immediately and I think that I remained in love with him for many many years. During that time my daughter died, two of his children died, he got sick. So a lot of tragedy happened to us, he got very depressed and eventually, the relationship changed.

What I also learned is that you have to work on the relationship all the time and both people have to work together. If only one person is interested in maintaining the relationship, it’ll not work. And we, I think, tried for a while and then he stopped trying and so eventually we separated.

I thought I would be very happy alone and for a while, I could. I moved to a very small house, very contained space, with my dog and started a new life – new friends, new neighbourhood. The only thing that stayed the same was my family and my office, the people in my office. But the rest – everything changed. And I think that I did pretty well and that I will never fall in love again. However, last year, a man in New York heard me talking on the radio. He was driving to Boston and he pulled over to hear the program. He was so impressed that he emailed my office.

I get hundreds of emails but I don’t know why, I responded to this person.

And we started emailing every single day for five or six months. We finally met in October and we fell in love and we have a very profound relationship. Of course, he is in New York and I am in California, but the plan is to get together and I never thought that this could happen to me again. But you see, even at 74 you can find love. What I have found out, what I have learned is, that there is no age for passion or for love. You can be a teenager, you can be fifty years old or you can be eighty. It doesn’t matter.

That is fantastic news, very reassuring.

(laughs) Why, Irina, why reassuring? There is hope always. And I realised that I am much happier when I am in love. I thought I could be really happy alone and I can. But this is much better – to share my life with someone.

You have mentioned the loss of your daughter and your ex-husband’s children, that this must have been the hardest period in your life. What is your perspective on loss in life and on letting go?

I learned that the hard way. In 1992, when I turned 50 years old, my daughter Paula fell into a coma and eventually a year later she died. And during that long year, I took care of her, and day by day I had to let go of everything. I thought I could control the situation, I thought I could make her better, I thought I could make her comfortable. But there was very little that I could do. I had to let go all forms of control and surrender to the fact that she was going to die. And when she died I had to let go of the last things about her and just keep the spirit and the memories. That was the hardest lesson in my life but it was something that I have been able to use over and over. When I separated from Willie, it was so easy for me to let go of the big house, of all the furniture, of the paintings, of Willie, of the old friends, so for me now – I feel very free.

I feel that I am not attached to anything material and to very few people.

In your TEDx talk, you say that you intend to live passionately. How do you keep the passion alive and is there a fine line between passions and addiction?

I don’t think passion and addiction are the same thing. Passion is energy. Energy of the imagination and the activity that you put into life and that can be applied to anything in life – passion to your work, passion to your country, passion for the causes that I support, like feminism, like women’s issues, like justice; all those things are something very important in my life and I tackle them passionately. And the same I do with love and with relationships. I am not interested in acquaintances – I want friends, I am not interested in relatives – I want people who are really close to me, whom I can trust blindly, for whom I would sacrifice anything to help them. Those are the relationships I am interested in. The rest – I don’t have time for.

In my work, I am passionate about every book I write. And once the book is finished and is gone, it doesn’t belong to me anymore and I tackle another book passionately – another theme, another chapter, another research.

That is the way I think about life. And very fortunately for me, age is not a factor to have enthusiasm for life. So, when I did the TED talk and I talked about living passionately, it was not only about love, it was about everything else I do. And I think that the fact that I could fall in love again means that I have an open heart and that I have passion for everyday life.

Olga Murray, founder of the Nepal Youth Opportunity Foundation

Olga Murray, founder of the Nepal Youth Opportunity Foundation

Do you have any small practical tips for keeping the passion alive in the everyday life?

I would say that the first thing is to be healthy. It is very hard to have passion or energy when you are sick when you don’t have good health, when you are tired. It is possible but it is hard. So, if you have a good health, my only tip is – get out there! Get out of yourself. Stop looking at yourself, looking at your own little world, and participate in the world outside. Be out there, be of service, work in the community, be engaged with life, with news, with what happens with your neighbours, with your friends, with your family. I think people get lazy and they settle in their comfort zone and they don’t participate in life.  And that is how they get depressed, and how they become anxious and get old.

I know a woman, Olga Murray. She is 92 years old. She is the most passionate person I know. She has a foundation that works with orphan children in Nepal, she travels every year – 6 months every year to Nepal, she runs the foundation. She has helped thousands of kids. And that is to live passionately at 92. There is no age for this.

You say you have been a feminist even before the word was invented and you have become one after having to witness how unhappy oppressed women are. Women today have the word feminism. Do you think they are happier?

I think we have achieved a lot. I was born in the 40s in Chile, in a very socially conservative and catholic society. The state of women then was very different from the state of women now. Now we have a woman president. So things have changed and they have changed for the better in most countries. However, still, women are oppressed. Women are still raped, exploited, abused in many ways in many countries. And there are places where they are considered almost as cattle, they have absolutely no standing in the society. So, still, we have a lot of work to do. But already something has been achieved and that is due to feminism. I think that women have to fight for their own rights, no one is going to give them anything, you have to get it.

The young women today who think that they don’t have to work for themselves and that the struggle is over – they are wrong.

Now we have in the United States the president Trump, who is a woman hater. He is a terrible man. And there are huge women’s demonstrations in every city and it is very important to get engaged.

Asked what is your message to the young people today who suffer from the political situation in Venezuela, you say that governments pass, people stay. How much of an influence do you think governments have over nations’ happiness and wellbeing?

It has a lot to do with it.

Governments go, governments change, but people stay.

I experienced that in Chile. We had a dictatorship for 17 years, and it changed, and now we have a democracy. But I think that governments give the tone of life. We had a dictatorship in which there is no choice, no free press, no information, no progress, no freedom in which you can be arrested and you can be killed and nobody cares. So that establishes a mood of terror which of course doesn’t allow any happiness. Some private happiness maybe, but not the happiness in the country.

We are living in the United States in a situation in which half the country- at least half the country – if not more, are afraid. They are afraid of where this is going to lead, with this man who is now the president, who seems to be crazy.  I am horrified by what happened in the US and I do hope that the institutions in the country are so strong, that they will be able to withstand the craziness of the government, that the institutions will withstand to Trump. But if that doesn’t happen, things will change dramatically for the worse in this country. So, of course, the political situation affects the country. Look at Syria. You have millions of refugees, millions of people who for more than six years have been struggling for life.

Over the past year and a half, I have been interviewing people about happiness. I have mostly talked to scientists who work in the field. It seems to me that science, however, is failing to grasp and measure something about happiness. What meaning do you imply in the word happiness and is happiness closer to art than science?

I don’t think that you can define happiness with science. Happiness is being. And I don’t think happiness is permanent state – it is a momentary state. You can be happy in a certain moment and unhappy in the next moment. The idea that we can be happy forever without any inconvenience, that is crazy and it doesn’t happen that way. Happiness to me is to be content with what you have. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to have dreams anymore and imagine things that you want, but basically you have to be content with who you are and with your circumstances.  Don’t want too much, because no matter how much you want, there will always be something more that you want after that, and it’s a never ending battle. You will never have everything you want, to be happy.

Happiness is something that happens inside your heart, inside your soul and it has nothing to do with what you have in the world.

It is who you are. I don’t think that science can tackle that.

Sometimes, it’s a matter of hormones or the kind of person that you are. There are people with terrible lives, with horrible tragedies, and they are capable of happiness. And other people have, that have everything – they have money, they have beauty, they have youth, they have anything they want, and they are depressed and unhappy. It is all very personal.

This leads me to the question of when are you more productive – when you are sad or when you are happy?

It has nothing to do with it. My work is my work. Writing is my job. If you work in an office, you go every day, even when you are not happy about it. I get up every day at 6 o’clock in the morning. First thing, I answer all my emails and then I start to work, and my work is writing. It doesn’t matter if I feel happy or not this day, if I have a headache or not – this is what I need to do, this is the book I need to write, and I do it. It has nothing to do with my stage of happiness.

‘Magic realism’ is a definition that goes hand in hand with your books. How do you feel about that label and is there still space left in our lives for magic or realism today?

Depends on the definition of magic realism today.

For me there is always a mysterious dimension of reality, things that you cannot explain, things that you cannot fight or control.

That dimension of the mysterious, of the spirit world, and I don’t mean ghosts or anything like that, but I think the people that I love, that are dead or not, that are far away, they all live with me. I think that my characters become people when I am writing about them. I allow all that in my life. And I allow the mystery, the coincidences, the dreams, they can be prophetic dreams – all that is part of my life, very strongly. And I allow that in my books as well. That would be magic realism for me. And I think there is space for it in everybody’s lives.

Photo credits to: 
https://hbr.org
https://www.isabelallende.com/

Reality is that you have to create your own opportunity. Daphne Rubin-Vega.

It’s important to face the facts of our organised oppression so we can deal with them.

 %d0%b8%d0%b7%d1%82%d0%b5%d0%b3%d0%bb%d0%b5%d0%bd-%d1%84%d0%b0%d0%b9%d0%bbDaphne Rubin-Vega is a Broadway star with the voice of a rock goddess, the clothes of a rave princess, and the moves of a Fly Girl, as finely summed up by the US Elle.  Starring as the original Mimi Marquez in the Broadway super hit ”Rent”, and as Fantine in the “Le Miserable”, the Panama native singer and actress has a long list of awards wins and nominations, including two Tony nominations. You might also recognise her enchanting features from movies like Wild thingsSex and the city and Flawless.

The actress had battled heroin addiction followed by a struggle with a food disorder. In the body-positivity series StyleLikeU she says that once she vowed to end her bulimia, she started singing in the girl group, Pajama Party, explaining that she believes the universe ‘really responded’ to her taking her attention away from her eating disorder.

Musical theatre has been rough on Daphne Rubin-Vega, notes The New York Times. She has played a drug addict in “Rent” and an orphan-turned-prostitute in “Les Miserables”. Now, in the new musical “Miss You Like Hell”, she portrays another desperate woman on the verge, threatened with deportation from the United States and losing a relationship with her estranged daughter – an immigration musical for the new Trump era.

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Daphne in a scene from Sex and the City.

Daphne, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. You play on Broadway and we have seen your face in a number of world hits, ‘Sex and the city’ being one of them. Let’s take it from here: what were your fantasies of being an actress of this calibre before you became one, and what the reality turned out to be?
If I had a fantasy about being an actress, it would be that hard work generates opportunity. I’ve been very lucky to see that become true. Reality, however, is that you have to create your own opportunity. That has been my experience.

There is a charming story with David Bowie and Chaka Khan behind the kick-start of your career. Would you tell me more about that?
I was invited to a recording session of David Bowie’s singing a song for the film “Labyrinth”, in which he starred. Chaka Khan was a guest vocalist, as were Cissy Houston (Whitney’s mum), Luther Vandross and a pageant of a major talent. Chaka’s brother, Mark, had invited me. I was still in school. All of these Fabulous people in one room made my head explode with the desire to sing with them. Basically, I asked the producer if I could sing and he said yes and it made my life because I put everyone in the room’s name on my resume! The producer turned out to be Arif Mardin, who produced the RENT album years later. Thank you, Arif!

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Daphne on Sesame street.

You need to be “fuckable looking” to be successful in the acting business, you say in an interview. What price are you paying to look fuckable and how has your perception of your own body changed over the years?
Wow, I said that?! I sometimes assume harsh vulgarity gets the point across… I think women (men too, but often significantly less so), fall into stereotypes easily if they’re not attractive in some way but there are many ways to be attractive! My perception has changed over the years in that a confident, composed dignity is what I now strive for to keep finding the places where I can be of most service.

You have struggled with heroin addiction and an eating disorder. Three question I have about that – what got you to the addiction and eating disorder, what made you seek recovery and how did you make it through both?
Those are HUGE questions.. I don’t know what got me to my addiction other than LIFE. Some say it’s genetic. Eating disorder is a social control device I had no idea I was expressing. I sought recovery when I was in enough Pain. “Pain is a motivator!” What gets me through is remembering I’m in a world where despite what I’m going through, the sun will continue to rise; and there’s somebody who can help. If you really want to change, there’s help.

Let’s talk about self-expression and body image. Where do you draw the line between healthy self-expression and improvement, and bad taste and a health hazard?
If it’s good for you, do it. If it’s not good for you, don’t do it. If it’s not good for you and you like it, enter at your own risk!

I can’t help but ask you – how do you feel about the recent political situation in the US?drv_news_2014

I call it National PTSD.

I became a citizen after 9/11 because I feared the distant threat that many now face. It’s disgusting. But it has lit a fire of consciousness that has been necessary. Freedom ain’t Free. There is no Privilege without Cost. I think it’s important to face the facts of our organised oppression so we can deal with them. Dissent is Very Patriotic these days.

What is happiness to you? How do you define it?
Happiness is Gratitude. The feeling that the Universe Loves me and listens to me is how I’d define it right now but that changes. All forms of gratitude make me happy.

Some Bulgarians might have the chance to come and watch you. Where are you playing now and could you, please, say a couple of words about the play?
Miss You Like Hell Fall 2018 that’s all I can say about that for now.

Xo daphne

Photo Credits: 
http://www.theatermania.com/new-york-city-theater/news/06-2014/los-monologos-de-la-vagina-ends-run_68906.html
http://www.heathersphotography.com/headshots/
http://daphnerubin-vega.com/