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People 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

People 2014

Beatrice Valenzuela: The Trendsetting Shoe Designer

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Wed, May 14, 2014 at 4:00 AM
Beatrice Valenzuela - PHOTO BY RYAN ORANGE
  • Photo by Ryan Orange
  • Beatrice Valenzuela

One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.

Seven years ago, when Beatrice Valenzuela was shopping at an open-air market in Mexico, she met an old guy who makes shoes. Valenzuela, who is a stylist and therefore a fashionable sort of girl, fell in love with the shoes. They were leather moccasins, charmingly hand-sewn, in a traditional indigenous style. "Let me import your shoes to America," Valenzuela begged the zapatero.

"Why don't you design your own?" the shoemaker, Ricardo Medina, replied. "And I'll make them." An international collaboration was born. To the partnership, Medina brought a lifetime's worth of shoemaking skills. Valenzuela brought her earthy, bohemian, casual-luxury aesthetic.

"If I want to wear them," she figured, "I'm sure there's gonna be a lot of other girls who'd want to."It has always been this way, ever since Valenzuela was a child. She'd buy a backpack and weeks later see five other girls carrying the same one. At first she was irritated. But a wise aunt advised her to be flattered instead. "From then on, my mindset changed," Valenzuela explains, "to 'we can all have it.' "

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James Deen - PHOTO BY RYAN ORANGE
  • Photo by Ryan Orange
  • James Deen
One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.

Leaning back in a brown leather booth in a kitschy roadside diner on Ventura Boulevard, James Deen is pushing a pile of bacon around on his plate. "They gave me, like, an entire pig," he says.

Deen eyeballs the heaping load of pork, then takes a break from eating to explain his origin story. "Adult film is something I wanted to do my entire life," he says. "When I was in third grade and I was asked what I wanted to do for a living, I got in trouble because I said, 'I want to be a porn star.' "

Porn is one of the few industries in which women routinely make more money than men. Guys, historically, have been little more than beefy, spray-tanned props. With the exception of cult heroes such as Ron Jeremy, most men in adult films never achieve fame.

Most men. But Deen has charted his own course.

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Jennette McCurdy - PHOTO BY RYAN ORANGE
  • Photo by Ryan Orange
  • Jennette McCurdy

One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.

On a recent afternoon, between read-throughs at a Nickelodeon studio in Hollywood, Jennette McCurdy balances two worlds. The first: Her role on the kiddie sitcom Sam and Cat - she plays Sam Puckett, formerly of the network's hit iCarly, to which the 21-year-old actress owes seven years of steady work, the adoration of tweens everywhere and awkward brushes with aggressive parents ("They scream at you").

The second: Comedy writing. McCurdy's informal joke portfolio, updated daily, is social media catnip (she has 5 million Twitter followers and 9.5 million "likes" on Facebook). 

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John Ridley - PHOTO BY RYAN ORANGE
  • Photo by Ryan Orange
  • John Ridley

One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.

John Ridley is on his cellphone, talking to his sister for the first time since he won an Oscar for writing 12 Years a Slave.

"It's like Excalibur. I should give it to the Lady of the Lake," he says, dismissively: The statuette has ended up in a drawer. When it was in the kitchen, "We had to dust around it."

It's not that he's ashamed of the honor. But he wants to force himself to focus on the future.

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Jordan Peele, left, and Keegan-Michael Key - PHOTO BY RYAN ORANGE
  • Photo by Ryan Orange
  • Jordan Peele, left, and Keegan-Michael Key
Two of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.

"If our show is to have any kind of legacy, it should be that it didn't go on too long."

That's from Jordan Peele, one half - alongside Keegan-Michael Key - of the sketch comedy duo Key & Peele, whose self-titled Comedy Central show is entering its fourth season with a fresh slate of returning characters and one-off satirical sketches. The latter is their specialty: Barbed, often racially focused comedy has gotten the pair this far, whether they're spoofing gang culture or fish-out-of-water inner-city schoolteachers forced to take their tough attitudes to the suburbs.

But it's the recurring roles, such as the instantly lovable valets who excitedly mispronounce the work (and names) of their favorite action film stars, that make for unstoppable YouTube clips, which garner millions of views, bringing in new fans all the time.

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Michelle Huneven - PHOTO BY RYAN ORANGE
  • Photo by Ryan Orange
  • Michelle Huneven

One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.

Even before she set off for college, Michelle Huneven knew she wanted to be a novelist. But she found no fast track to literary success. A less dogged writer surely would have given up.

There was, for example, the instructor at Scripps College, who wrote, "Although Ms. Huneven's writing improved over the course of the semester, she has no talent and should not be encouraged." And while Huneven, undeterred, was certain she had a great idea for a novel, it refused to come together. She worked on it for more than a decade - at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and while working as a journalist (including a stint as this newspaper's restaurant critic) - only to finally give up, heading to seminary to become a Unitarian/Universalist minister.

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PHOTO BY RYAN ORANGE
  • Photo by Ryan Orange

One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.

Allison Torneros prefers to go by her art moniker, Hueman. Like a lot of street artists', her nom de spray is afraid of a good pun (hue as in color) nor gender-specific - but the fact that she's a female muralist remains a point of interest, especially to her many fans.

"It's valid sociologically but not artistically," Hueman explains. "For me, the murals are about scale, visibility, independence and ambition, just like everyone else." Still, a petite and polite woman putting on her game face and killing the side of a building is especially badass.

Hueman, 28 and a resident of downtown L.A., was born in the Bay Area town of Daly City in 1985. She grew up seeing graffiti on the freeway and an explosion of street art in Oakland and, especially, San Francisco. "It was thrilling and intimidating and generally male," she says. "I came to L.A. to get my B.A. from UCLA [in 2008] and it was everywhere - and with more and more women."

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Nell Scovell - PHOTO BY RYAN ORANGE
  • Photo by Ryan Orange
  • Nell Scovell

One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.

Since Lean In was published in March 2013, it has become both a best-selling book and a movement 385,000 Facebook fans strong. Author Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, is now a household name. But another name behind Lean In is not as ubiquitous: Nell Scovell.

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Cesar Garcia - PHOTO BY RYAN ORANGE
  • Photo by Ryan Orange
  • Cesar Garcia
One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.

Cesar Garcia is a product of his environments - all of them. They've influenced his epic new undertaking: the latest star in the expanding downtown art gallery firmament, the Mistake Room, where he is director and chief curator.

Born in Mexico City, Garcia was raised in L.A. from age 6 in a part of town close to the gallery's industrial-fringe location. As an art professional, he has always sought out places and experiences that express the transitional, cross-pollinated nature of L.A.'s urban palimpsest - especially ideas about the movements of goods, immigrant populations, manufacturing and labor forces, and how those might be expressed in art and architecture.

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Ron Funches - PHOTO BY RYAN ORANGE
  • Photo by Ryan Orange
  • Ron Funches

One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.

The lovable, stoned teddy bear persona that comedian Ron Funches projects onstage is an extension of who he is in regular conversation over lunch at the Mess Hall in Los Feliz. His low-key delivery and absurdist observations on everyday life are refreshingly free of the cynicism that permeates much of today's comedy scene. One recent performance was highlighted by speculation about the wonderfully hilarious connotations of a neck tattoo that says "Screw Linda." ("Either way, Linda could do better.")

It's hard to believe that he experimented with being an excited, in-your-face comedian during his early days a decade ago in Portland, Ore., where he spent his teens and early '20s after growing up in Chicago.

"When I was hosting comedy nights up there, I would try to be the 'Who's drinking tonight!' guy," Funches says. "But it was so fake. ... I watched Tig Notaro perform up in Seattle, and to see her control this rowdy Bumbershoot crowd [at the Seattle festival] without raising her voice inspired me. I just needed to take some time to figure out how to do it myself."

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