Style-Conscious Minneapolis Couple #2: Alissa and Manuel

The weather may have taken a turn for the chilly this month, but the local creative scene is truly warmer than ever. I sat down with Alissa and Manuel before the Mos Def show at the Guthrie last Monday to talk style and to learn more about each of their creative projects.

Lauren: I’m featuring couples for my ArielSimone blog posts – have you noticed any way that your partner has influenced your style?

Alissa: I’ve noticed ways I’ve influenced his style. He already had some cool things to work with, but I think there were some things that he was wearing less so I just encouraged him to, you know, rock that shirt on a special occasion. But he has a lot of style on his own.

When asked about his style, Manuel had a clear sense of what he represents through clothing and his particular swagger.

Manuel: Southside. 90s. Casual. I don’t know, I honestly don’t think about it much, I just throw on whatever’s around.

Lauren: Were you born and raised on the Southside?

Manuel: Yep.

Lauren: So you rep that neighborhood – awesome … What’s a compliment that you’ve gotten either individually or as a couple from friends or strangers about your style or about you two in general?

Alissa: Friends tell me that he’s pretty (both laugh). One of my good friends said, “yeah he’s pretty.” … Our families like us together. We’ve gotten Facebook comments on pictures from family members that I’ve yet to meet. Makes me feel special when they notice.

And what about you, Alissa, with your style … because it is more eclectic?

Alissa: Um, “are you from New York?” That’s like, that’s happened so many times in my life and it’s pretty funny. Yeah, “are you from somewhere else?” or “where are you from?” is usually how it starts. People comment on my hair a lot. They comment and touch my hair a lot. And, yeah, just“wow! Wow!” Or sometimes people just stop and stare and point.

Lauren: And how would you describe your style?

A: New Jack Swing. Fly Girl. Late 80’s early 90’s. Southside, definitely, Minneapolis. I grew up here. So everything that I took from the other places I lived as a child worked here. It was a free space where I could experiment with my style. There was no established Midwest look.

Lauren: We’re here at the Guthrie for the Mos Def show. What are the kinds of things that you like to do together. Is this typical? What other things do you like to do?

Alissa: We go to shows. We go to a lot of hip-hop shows. Obviously because he is a rap artist. Manny Phesto. And we have a lot of mutual friends …

Lauren: Oh! That’s you!? I didn’t realize….

Manuel: (sings) I can see clearly now the rain is gone…

Lauren: (Laughs)

Alissa: … We’re working on going out and seeing our people more because that’s important to us.

Lauren: Manny Phesto, what’s your music like? What do you want to do with it?

Manuel: I don’t even know how to describe my music. It’s just…it’ s my music. You’ll have to listen to it. I just dropped an underground EP called Social Capital produced by the homie Julian Fairbanks from Audio Perm and other than that I’m just trying to do a lot more collaboration and work on a full-length, eventually.

Lauren: Readers, check our his EP here:

Alissa: I think he’s kind of his career turn into more networking lately, than, um, doing shows…

Manuel: Well, I was working on that Harambee for months and months so I put music to the backburner.

In case you missed it, here’s information on the Harambee. You should put it on your radar for next year!

Alissa: But it was awesome because he was also working on the album a little bit in the background, but he was putting this event together and he brought all of his friends into it, people were super supportive.

Manuel: It was the perfect example of social capital.

Lauren and Alissa: Yeah!

Good, and what about you, missy?

Alissa: I am a…(both Alissa and Manuel chuckle) I am…Well, I think the Fly Girl kind of encompasses all of the things that I do, but obviously that’s not a common word  –

Manuel: Title…

Alissa: Yeah…. I’m a dancer, I’m an actress, I’m a singer, I’m a writer, I’m a stylist and first and foremost I’m a youth worker, I work with kids. It’s been like seven years now that I’ve been in the Minneapolis community doing after school stuff and trying to pull all of those things into it any skill sets that I have that would help what we were doing in the classroom so It’s been fun ….it’s fun that I’ve been able to bridge my worlds in that way.

Great, awesome. Want to say anything about your outfit today?

A: I’m a thrifter. My Grandmother, actually, my grandma Caroline from Atlanta, she lives in Atlanta I should say. She captured this small video of me thrifting in the Dominican Republic on our vacation together. It’s really funny….our relationship has grown recently, but she noticed immediately how much style meant to me. And it was something that we were able to indulge in and share. And I’ve got her thrifting now. She’s tatted up now. My grandpa’s tatted up now…

M: Chuckles

A: …After spending four months in Atlanta. We’re all like sharing this style this other thing that’s going on. But a lot of my style is, um…

Oooh and I just noticed (your Fly girl Tattoo) this Fly Girl (concept) keeps coming up and you got this tattoo!

A: A good friend of mine, a fly girl from Atlanta, did this tattoo. And, Rosie Perez is over here, I have her tattooed, she’s an activist, actress, Puerto Rican, comedian, dancer, she choreographed for the Fly Girls inIn Living Color. So, she’s one of my idols in the world for a lot of reasons … I’d say a lot of my friends come into my style. If I’m not thrifting for it and getting it as a gift from someone else who just gave it away … I’m getting it directly from someone. So a good friend Anna Lee Thomsicek she knotted this heart that I’m wearing. My Grandmother gave this to me, this Twin Cities sterling silver pendent. It’s supposed to be a couples pendent, you know – “Manny and Alissa”, but it’s Twin Cities.

M: Okay, okay (laughs)

A: (laughs)

Lauren: And you described South Side being an influencer for you…I like to get a glimpse into how your identity, meaning race or ethnicity or neighborhood, how that comes into play, as well.

Alissa: We’re both mixed kids and we both pretty much…well, I’ll say for myself we transcend…we work in a lot of different communities. I went to North High School, I stayed there all four years and I have a lot of love and roots in the Northside, as well…Northeast, the scoundrel nation kind of started there. I call him a South Side Scoundrel Prince. There’s a couple things playing into that, but I mean, we jump around, it’s Twin Cities for the most part, but Southside my roots. The west bank, that’s where I grew up and I think my style has a lot to do with that.

The Guthrie, a hub for creative expression for artists of all kinds, offered a beautiful backdrop for our interview and photos. Both Alissa and Manuel’s spirits seem to parallel the river running alongside Mill District – at the same time that the river may look calm and soothing in certain places, the dam visualizes the power of water. Underneath the immediate surface there’s a lot going on – so much energy, force, and potential. Alissa and Manuel are the epitome of a power couple and I can’t wait to see how they continue to channel their energies in this beautiful city.

 Woven bracelet (Annalee Tomsicek):

Until Soon,

Lauren Miller


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