The Melody of LA

Melody Nazarian

The Armenian Weekly: Echoes of Survival

Melody Nazarian

The narrative of the Armenian Genocide has been on repeat—both in media and in the minds of Armenians all over the world—for over 100 years now. There are countless chilling facts about the atrocities carried out by the Ottoman Empire of 1915, but one in particular has stuck with Los Angeles-born filmmaker Avo John Kambourian since youth.

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On eve of April 24, 1915, hundreds of notable Armenian artists and intellectuals living in Istanbul were taken by force from their homes in the middle of the night, placed under arrest, and eventually executed. That image has been playing like a movie reel in Kambourian’s head since the day he heard it. “I was always aware that art can be a very dangerous thing, but also a beautiful thing that many see as a threat to their political agenda,” the 27-year-old says, reflecting on the poignant killings of intellectual leading up to the systematic massacre of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1918.

Even decades later—and in an attempt to portray how the culture has survived through the work of Armenian artists—Kambourian was inspired to a create a film, a proverbial mixed tape of Armenian artists that aren’t conventionally known in Armenian communities around the world.

“Echoes of Survival,” which debuted during the centennial of the genocide in 2015, follows a group of creative Armenians as they share their unique story of being Armenians raised in the diaspora, specifically the United States.

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Op-ed: What Does It Mean to Be a Good Armenian Today?

Melody NazarianComment

As Diaspora Armenians, there is one thought that is always looming in the back of our minds: “Am I being a good Armenian?” Sometimes it’s a whisper and other times, especially around April 24th, it’s a louder thudding wrapped in great guilt. It’s been hammered in our brains since youth: speak Armenian, make Armenian friends, go to Armenian events, marry an Armenian, raise Armenian children, etc. But I realized something when I went to Armenia for the ninth time this year: this same guilt is not shared by Armenians born and raised there. It makes sense; seeing as they hail from the Motherland, they don’t feel as though they have to prove their Armenian-ness. In other parts of the world, we feel bad that we haven’t “done anything” — but be born in an “odar” land — in contrast to the Genocide survivors and martyrs. But we can’t help where we were born. Being surrounded by this sense of ease and security in their identity and culture made me a little envious. And it made me question: what does it mean to be a good Armenian today?

Read the rest at Asbarez.com

Behind the Seams: Designer GG Page

Melody Nazarian

I met GG Page at Align Gallery in Highland Park and instantly fell in love with the "LOVE" choker she was rocking. I was drawn to the juxtaposition between the tender word and edgy black + white design. It turns out, GG designed it, along with other amazing pieces on display at the boutique. Even cooler, I found out that she's originally from Oakland, California AND she's 1/4 Armenian — her great grandmother's name was Vartuhi Vahradian.

A little background on the LA-based fashion designer: She learned to sew and design jewelry at age 7, while the rest of us were watching cartoons. At 17, she independently established her first design firm. By the time she was 22, she had opened a pop-up gallery and boutique in downtown Oakland. Besides her badass designs, I'm also drawn to GG's philosophy in life. She finds strength through art by transforming her pain into creativity and beauty. She wants her work to inspire healing through positive self-image and self-love. I'm into it. Follow GG on Intagram and Facebook, and shop her pieces at Align Gallery

If you had to give a quick elevator pitch about yourself as a designer, what would it be?

I am an artist. My emotions speak through my designs, my pain, my sadness, my happiness, my joy. I am a dreamer, I have a unique perspective and am unafraid to take risks.

What inspired you to go into designing clothing?

I love to create beauty and make woman feel beautiful, fearless, and strong in a world where we are constantly disrespected, devalued, and demeaned. For me fashion is therapy, a outlet for expression, healing, and empowerment. My mother is seamstress, she taught me how to sew at a young age. Designing has been a part of me as long as I can remember.

How would you describe your design aesthetic?

A play off light and dark, poetic and edgy, strong and graceful, romantic. I love adding elements of the past, present, and future. I am very influenced by streetwear and high fashion. My goal when designing is to create timeless pieces that invoke emotion, inspiration, and wonder.

What (or who) inspires your pieces?

I draw inspiration from everywhere: in the streets, in nature, in music, different eras in time, traveling, other artists and designers, editorial photography, bright colors, art, textiles, and different mixed media.

What's the most rewarding thing about designing?

Simply, it gives me life.

What's the best fashion/style advice you've ever gotten?

Express yourself and be original.

What's the one fun piece every girl should have in her closet?

A fringe mini dress. 

Snap judgement:

Trendy or classic? Classic. 

More is more or less is more? Less is more. 

Sexy or romantic? Romantic. 

Heels or flats? Heels. 

Black or colorful? Colorful. 

Behind the Sweets: ProFroster's Arlette Novelli

Melody NazarianComment

I'm endlessly inspired by those — especially women — that follow their heart. I feel fortunate to be surrounded by many women who aren't afraid to forge their own path and pursue their passions, one of them being Arlette Novelli. Our parents have been close friends for decades and I practically grew up at their house (partly since her youngest sister is one of my best friends, but also because they always had chips and salsa in rotation, while my house didn't!).

Arlette, who was once at the same company for 18 years, proves that it's never too late to make your dreams come true. After getting married and having three adorable girls — the inspirations behind her cake business, Three Little Cakes — she decided to pursue baking full time and has recently invented a genius cake frosting tool, The ProFroster, that has changed the way people decorate cakes forever. While many well-known publications have already covered her product, I want the world to get to know the talented, inspiring woman behind the sweets. 

Arlette with the cake she created for Ayesha Curry's birthday bash in San Francisco in 2016. 

Arlette with the cake she created for Ayesha Curry's birthday bash in San Francisco in 2016. 

How did the idea for The ProFroster come to you and do you recall where you were exactly when the idea sparked?

Making cakes look professional is not as easy as it looks; it takes a lot of practice and love for what you do. I had a really hard time making my edges straight, corners sharp, and cakes level. I used a bench scraper like everyone else and fiddled for what seemed like forever to get the desired look and even then I wasn't satisfied. About two and half years ago, I took two bench scrapers and held them in my hand in a perpendicular angle and swiped at the frosting . . . voila! It worked! So my wheels started turning as to how I can make this scraper into a tangible product. 

Once you had the idea, what did it take to go from making the dream a reality?

Once I had figured out what I wanted to create, I downloaded a CAD program on my computer and designed my first prototype, which I sent out for a 3D print. Eventually I had so many revisions that I bought my own 3D printer and went to work. I applied for a US Patent, which was granted this month! WHOOP WHOOP! I decided it was important to make this in the USA, so I chose my manufacturers both for the ProFroster, as well as my packaging right here in California. And the rest is history! 

What is it about baking cakes that speaks to your heart?

Baking cakes and frosting them isn't really what I love to do. What I love is to stare at the blank canvas and see what I can create. There really is so much inspiration out there from architecture to fashion and I like to pull from that and make my own interpretation of it. It excites me to be creative. 

What inspired you to finally take on baking full time?

I always baked for friends and family for years. I was a Director of Operations for a company that I worked for for almost 18 years. But something was missing. Nothing really changed until I had my twins. I had a choice to either stay at home and be a full-time mom, or hand my entire paycheck over to daycare for watching all three of my kids, who are only a year-and-a-half apart. And really, they were so young I couldn't leave a toddler and newborns with anyone else. I had to stay home and be a part of watching them grow up. Once they were about a year old I started baking again, people started ordering cakes, and I was able to be a mom during the day and cake designer at night. 

What is your favorite cake flavor to eat and what is your favorite to bake?

I love chocolate anything so chocolate cake is my favorite to make and to eat. It is the one cake that is ALWAYS moist, you really can't get it wrong. I add drizzles of bourbon caramel and bits of toffee and it becomes a decadent dessert.

Complete this sentence: Cakes makes me happy because ...

It brightens everyone's day. Honestly, I've never seen people be sad when there is a cake around, its always a celebration with cake. Cake helps celebrate milestones, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, showers, it's endless and it's always a happy occasion. 

Can you share a secret or tip to cake making that many people may not know about? 

YES! Adding coffee to chocolate cake makes the "chocolate-y" flavor more robust.