A Shara Smallwood Update!

Professional dancer and choreographer, Shara Smallwood is the NEW up and coming artist to watch!  She is also a friend and fan of ArielSimone and we wanted to follow up with our feature of this dazzling LA star.

When we last spoke to Shara, back in November, she had just finished working on a project for Glee, where she was as a dancer as well as choreographer. She had also just begun choreographing a new dance project focusing on African American music. If you are in LA, you can catch Shara’s latestwork in the upcoming 2012 African American Film and Arts Festival in Los Angeles, California, where her original piece, “The life and struggle of James Brown”, will debut. We will make sure to post a video of the final work when it becomes available!

While pursuing a professional dance career in LA, she has begun to put her mark in the entertainment industry as a dancer, choreographer, and private coach. After performing for clients such as; Beyonce, Glee, and Lula Washington Dance Theater, she has now mixed her dance experience with fitness and artist development, creating a line of classes known as Shara Smallwood Master Classes.

Shara Smallwood Master Classes includes dance and fitness based classes, as well as private coaching services for ages 18 and up.  Her cliental includes professional artist and athletes to intermediate artists and training athletes. Master classes include; power hip-hop aerobics, artist performance development, audition preparation, zumba fitness and more.  Private coaching is for the serious performer, who wants to accelerate their development. Whether you want to burn a few extra calories, stand-out for your next stage performance, or fine tune your dance skills, Shara Smallwood master classes are for you.

Currently, Shara is holding master classes in Los Angeles, San Diego, Minneapolis, and Madison, Wisconsin. Bring out the artist in you and book Shara today! To register for master classes and for more information, visit her site.


Spotlight: LA-based Choreographer & Dancer

We honestly can’t say that we’ve met too many people who have  danced for Rihanna, been in a Beyonce video or appeared on the hit television show Glee. But we do want to introduce you to a woman who has! Equally beautiful as she is talented, we have a spot light feature on LA based Choreographer and dancer: Shara Smallwood.
AS: Tell us about yourself….

SS: My name is Shara Smallwood… born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota and now calling Los Angeles my home away from home. I moved here to pursue a professional dance career in choreography, performance, and creative directing.  I have been dancing and entertaining every sense I could walk!

AS: Did you study dance?

SS: Yes. I have trained formally at the Summit Dance Shoppe of Plymouth Minnesota, Zenon Dance Company of Minneapolis, and the University of Minnesota collegiate dance program. Now, my training is professional dance companies such as Lula Washington Dance Theater, the Edge Performing Arts, and Debbie Reynolds.

AS: What do you do when you are not dancing?

SS: When I’m not performing or choreographing, I love to spend time with my family and friends. They keep me grounded. I also love to relax at the beach, take yoga regularly, travel, and hit the red box. I am known to be a movie hoarder.

AS: How do you know Adrienne?

SS: I met Adrienne in highschool!

AS: What are some of the things you are currently working on?

SS: I have currently just finished working on Glee, as a dancer as well as choreographing the “Just dance” Hip-Hop production in West Hollywood. I am currently working on choreographing the show “The Groove of James Brown,”a new dance project focusing on African American music. I have recently landed a spot at “In-Shape Personal Fitness”, a personal training facility, as a dance fitness trainer. Classes include hip-hop aerobics and salsa training.

AS: What keeps you motivated?

SS: I stay motivated by prayer, my family, and friends. And of course… from myself!

AS: Any wise words of wisdom for aspiring artists out there?

SS: To all of the inspiring artists out there– it sounds cliché, but do not give up on your goals and aspirations. Good things come to those who play hard, pray, and have the passion. Continue to keep yourself self-motivated while working on your craft, and never be afraid to work towards the life of your dreams.

If you are in LA or just want to check out Shara’s classes and updates, she’s on Facebook. She also has some incredible footage of past performances and current projects on her Vimeo.

ArielSimone Spotlight Series 5: Wayetu Moore, Author

PLEASE TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF. I’m an artist/entrepreneur who recently began a publishing company that produces books for children of countries with low literacy rates. My company is called One Moore Book.  I also recently finished a magical realism epic based in colonial era Liberia. The novel follows the love story of an indigenous Vai witch and king during the small West-African country’s influx of African-American settlers and Caribbeans in the mid-nineteenth century. I grew up admiring fantasy and magical realism writers and it has always been a dream of mine to give ‘impossible’ a brown face.

DID YOU STUDY YOUR PARTICULAR FIELD FORMALLY? WHERE? I studied creative writing in grad school.  I attended the University of Southern California.

HOW DID YOU AND ADRIENNE FIRST MEET?  I met Adrienne at Howard University, where I finished my undergraduate degree.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN 5 WORDS. What artist really knows herself?

HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED? This world has so far to go to reach its potential.  I consider how much needs to be done to provide equal education and access to art to all children and that keeps me motivated.



WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING? Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT YOUR WORK? I find myself wishing I had more time to commit to various projects that I am still meditating on and waiting to execute.  I am an idea person so having to wait to launch a project when it excites me can be difficult.  I wish I had more time.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR WORK? I love feeling like I’m making a difference to the lives of children.  Seeing pictures of children reading our books across the world makes me cry on the spot.

LASTLY, DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR ASPIRING ARTISTS? Follow your instincts. They are the breath of your art.


{Photo credit: One More Book}

ArielSimone Spotlight Series 4: Jamie Arlin, Invitations & Web Designer

PLEASE TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF. I currently live in Chicago, and have enjoyed taking advantage of what the city has to offer. I have been involved in art in some capacity all of my life. I enjoy creating everything from art, to design, to even baking.

DID YOU STUDY YOUR PARTICULAR FIELD FORMALLY? WHERE? I studied everything from fine art to graphic design. I went to school at The Art Institute in Chicago for fine art training, and graduated from Bradley University with a degree in Graphic Design.

HOW DID YOU AND ADRIENNE MEET? I met Adrienne on a family vacation; she is a friend of my husband’s cousins. The minute she said she was a designer we hit it off as it is rare to find someone else who loves creating as much as I do!

HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED? I stay motivated by connecting with others. Having my own business means that I work mostly from home, so it is important that I am reaching out to not only network but also to stay motivated. I started a networking group, Mixins Chicago, to create a community for like-minded businesswomen in Chicago. This has been a great way to stay connected on many levels and check out new places in the city.

WHAT ARE YOU READING CURRENTLY? I just read A Sweet Life In Paris, and it was fabulous. I also love learning about different cultures, specifically cuisines of other countries.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN TEN YEARS? Right now I am concentrating on getting more involved in corporate projects such as website design and marketing materials. In the next few years I will be growing that side of my business, while still keeping wedding invitations as section of Jamie Lynn Designs.

LASTLY, ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR ASPIRING DESIGNERS/ARTISTS? My advice is to keep true to what makes you happy and to enjoy the process. There are lots of hurdles to jump over, but keeping your vision of what your goals are will get you to where you are meant to be.

{Jamie Lynn Designs}

ArielSimone Spotlight 3: Christopher Straub, Designer

PLEASE TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF. I am a self-taught fashion designer who was on Season 6 of Project Runway.  I grew up in the Twin Cities and have stayed local and tried to find success her at home.

DID YOU STUDY YOUR PARTICULAR FIELD FORMALLY? WHERE? I never went to school.  I just started creating and taught myself how to sew, make patterns, sketch, and how to put in zippers.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON? I am designing a collection to be sold exclusively at Maurices stores all over the country.

HOW DID YOU AND ADRIENNE MEET? Adrienne and I have been in the same fashion circles and met about a year ago at a fashion show.

APART FROM THIS, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO? I like to travel, go to amusement parks, play video games, and go to buffets.

WHAT ARE YOU READING CURRENTLY? I WISH I had more time to read!  I have lots of biographies ready to be cracked open.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN 5 WORDS. Nature-Inspired-Risk-Taking-Artist.

LASTLY, ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR ASPIRING DESIGNERS/ARTISTS? My biggest piece of advice is to take risks and make sure your point-of-view shows through in each and every thing you design.


ArielSimone Spotlight 2: Elle Lemler, Model/Yoga Instructor/Designer

PLEASE TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF. I am a passionate student of life, a free spirit and an artist at heart…an anomaly, transcending the idea of definition. Currently I spend my days modeling, practicing and sharing yoga, developing my design skills through a variety of mediums, preparing and sharing delicious, healthy food and drinks (and great conversation), and  generally just  absorbing and responding with positivity to the present moment as it flows seamlessly into the next.

HOW DID YOU AND ADRIENNE MEET? Adrienne and I met through the MN fashion scene, I’ve had the privilege of modeling her gorgeous designs, and absolutely love working with her!

WHERE DID YOU FORMALLY STUDY YOUR PARTICULAR FIELD? Life is my teacher, and I absorb many lessons along this journey….I come from a very artistic family and was lucky enough to be immersed in the art world (as well as the natural environment) from the time I was a little baby, and this shaped my perception of seeing life as an opportunity for expression.  I’m a master multi-tasker and currently I am modeling, teaching yoga, working at Intelligent Nutrients, and also in the process of getting a BA in Interior Design from the Art Institute (on hiatus due to my crazy schedule at the moment). I have also completed 200 hr RYT yoga training, and will continue to deepen my knowledge as I explore the world and the opportunities that lie ahead. I’m a humble student of experience and enjoy the unexpected…your reality is what you make it!

HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED? In times of intensity, I come back to my breath and let the rhythm guide me to find stillness, and move forward with a clear, open mind to embrace limitless possibility.


WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING? I’m a big reader, and always in the middle of a few different books and articles…a few of my recent favorites: “Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic” by Darran Main, “The Poetics of Space” by Gaston Bachelard, and a great, visually stimulating book I encourage everyone to read, “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman. Also, I have a small addiction to art, design, and yoga magazines and I’m pretty sure I single-handedly keep the print industry in business.

WHO HAS BEEN THE MOST INFLUENTIAL IN YOUR WORK? I find inspiration and influence all around me, from the artists, designers, gurus and teachers of the past who have shaped the world we live in, to the humbling complexity of the environment, which we are all an integral part of and need to honor and respect through our work rather than destroy. We are all one or none!

WHAT IT IS THAT YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR WORK? That I get to connect and share energy & knowledge with such a huge variety of people and through so many different forms of communication, from yoga to design to modeling and everything in between. I love never knowing what the next day will bring…the potential for growth is unlimited!

IF YOU WEREN’T CREATING AND DESIGNING, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING? If I was not creating and designing, I would not be alive…creation and design is evolution, and when we stop evolving, we cease to exist. Think about it.

LASTLY, ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR ASPIRING DESIGNERS/ARTISTS? Let go of the ego, and attachment to definition& judgment…why so serious? Take yourself lightly! Embrace the unknown, and find comfort in the truth that change is the only constant in life.

“transformation is an endless process to be lived, that cannot be captured or possessed, you can only participate in it.” -Joel Kramer

ArielSimone Spotlight 1: Tari Johnson, One-Offs Yippee

PLEASE GIVE US A BRIEF BIO AND HOW YOU STARTED CREATING. I have always been an art and fashion appreciator as well as artist. I started painting when I was very young. (much to the dismay of my Mom when I left paint all over my bedroom floor) I have been an Art Director for about 12 years now with a strong focus on photo direction working mainly in New York, Miami and locally for small fashion boutiques as well as large companies such as Macy’s where I was a Senior Art Director. I have also been an Art Director for Mpls.St. Paul Magazine & at a local ad agency before going freelance full time.

DID YOU STUDY YOUR PARTICULAR FIELD FORMALLY? I did get a degree in Visual Communications from Brown College where I now occasionally guest speak as well as judge their portfolio shows.

APART FROM THIS, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO? I love to hate running! I usually go about 10 miles at a time and feel miserable the entire time until I’m done. Yet, I go as often as I can. I also have two creative children that I love to spend time with. My daughter is a serious ballet dancer which is amazing for me to watch and my 7 year old son has been fixated on being a fashion designer since he was 4. He drapes his dress form, draws clothing constantly and just started to learn to use a sewing machine this year. I love watching them create!

HOW DID YOU AND ADRIENNE MEET? I contacted Adrienne cold after viewing some of her work and being impressed with the color combinations, patterns and unique pieces I was seeing. I am delighted to now have her on my site as she is exactly the type of artist I built One-Offs Yippee! for—innovation, individualistic, quality product & bold.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON? I am currently building my brand presence, adding new artists, working on some upcoming events and maintaining the site.

HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED? I have such a huge love for art and design that it keeps me motivated naturally. The greatest part about it is that as I talk with each artist, you can see their passion for what they do and their creativity. The more they tell me about themselves, the more excited they become and you can just feel it. They each have a story, which makes the pieces so much more valuable, in my mind.

WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU ALWAYS CARRY WITH YOU? I always carry lipstick and gum.

WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT YOUR WORK? The hardest part about my work is conveying how amazing everything is in photos alone. I’m working on some more events where people can actually see the pieces in person. That seems to work well for us because when people see them in person, they are always blown away.


IF YOU WEREN’T CREATING AND DESIGNING, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING? I always wanted to be a clothing designer myself but in High School the career counselor told me that a lot of math was involved and I got scared off!  How bad is that? If I wasn’t doing what I do, I would go back and learn to design clothing myself.

 WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS LIKE? My creative process is all over the place. A lot of time when I design, I pull out anything that inspires me—magazine clippings, fabric and start on the computer. On occasion, if I get really stuck, I start painting colors around and that usually gets me going again. I keep my easel next to my computer.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THEN YEARS? I hope in 10 years that One-Offs will have grown enough that it will become a household name, further bringing attention to talented artists and designers.  I hope to l have a staff of talented people that will be working with me bringing fresh ideas to keep evolving.

WHO HAS BEEN THE MOST INFLUENTIAL IN YOUR CRAFT? I think the most influential person in my craft was honestly my High School painting teacher. He encouraged me to explore all of my ideas, even if they didn’t make sense. He allowed me to build a full-sized couch in the hallway made entirely of paintings with a stuffed, painted, canvas cushion. He also insisted that I go into Graphic Design so I guess he set my entire career in motion. There have been many influences along the way, but he was the first.

SHARE WITH US SOMETHING FUNNY THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU RECENTLY. Probably falling. I always wear huge heals and I’m clumsy so I tend to fall a lot—very graceful.

WHAT ARE YOU READING CURRENTLY? I am currently reading one of the True Blood books. They’re perfect, fluffy reading for summer.

 WHAT IT IS THAT YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR WORK? I love working with people, creativity, color, shapes and energy so what I do is perfect!

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN 5 WORDS. Busy. Quirky. Competitive. Loyal. Honest. (I’m the worst liar. I can’t even begin to do it.)

LASTLY, ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR ASPIRING ARTISTS? My advice would be to be patient and seek out any opportunity you can. You never know when something small will lead to something bigger. No task is too small to get to your goal.

{Photography Credit: Mike Rupert}