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Flamenco Roots Discovered on Andalusia’s Trail

This past Tuesday, my friend and I had the pleasure to attend the The Andalusian Trail: The Roots of Flamenco. The 15th Annual Chicago Flamenco Festival Kickoff concert at City Winery – another beautiful addition to Chicago’s historical Fulton Market neighborhood. The concert gave attendees a pre-glimpse into the Chicago Flamenco Festival 2017 launching tonight until March 25th. I highly recommend catching some of the performances.

As we entered the main entrance of the venue, we walked onto rustic hardwood floors surrounded by exposed bricks that span across the walls, wooden wine barrels stacked in wine cellars quietly aging some of the finest wines served at City Winery, all leading up into the main venue in time for the concert. The darkness of the room was illuminated by dim lights and candles mounted on every single dining table, adding a cozy but sultry ambiance. A perfect pairing for the sultriness of the Flamenco style dancing we were anxious to behold. While we were lead to our seats, we were offered a sample of City Winery’s newest edition to their list of delicious wines, The 3 Amigos. Being an avid lover of wine, reds in particular, this was an offer I couldn’t resist. At that moment in time, I knew it would be the start to an amazing night.

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Presented by Instituto Cervantes of Chicago (a non-profit institution founded by Spain in 1991 to teach and promote the language and culture of Spain and other hispanic speaking countries), with Las Guitarras de España and Intercultural Music Production featured an international fusion of influences from ensemble Surabhi tracing Flamenco’s Andalusia (South of Spain) roots and heavy Indian, Arabic and African traditions. The performance consisted of original and traditional renditions featuring the Spanish guitar, Arabo-Andalusian poetry, music by Ronnie Malley on oud accompanied by gorgeous harmonies, Rajasthani folk dance by Kinnari Vora, Flamenco and Middle Eastern dance performed by Marisela Tapia.

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The entire musical production including additional performers Saraswathi Ranganathan (Surabhi founder/veena), Carlo Basile (Las Guitarras de España founder/guitar), Dhananjay Kunte (tabla), Diego Alonso (guitar), Greg Nergaard (bass) and Bob Garrett (percussion) brought the stage to life and instantly transported me and the rest of the audience across Spain, Africa, the Middle East, India and other countries that had a strong influence on Flamenco style dancing. Each performance told its own individual stories of its rich history deeply rooted within their culture. I was no longer in Chicago, but on the opposite end of the earth embodying a new culture and a deeper appreciation for Flamenco.

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Tai Beauchamp: Entrepreneur, Media Personality, Style Influencer, Lover of Life

 

“I think it’s important to acknowledge your gift at that moment in time, but then move forward to the next hilltop to climb.” – Tai Beauchamp

Who is Tai Beauchamp?

An entrepreneur, celebrant of women, lover of life and champion of others.  

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What makes you jump out of bed every morning?

Knowing that there are new possibilities to do something great, to impact the world and others.

How do you define inspiration?

Inspiration is a word that is so overused. So many people say, I feel “inspired” by this or that. But real inspiration is not just hearing something that resonates with you, it’s both hearing and learning something that makes you want to change. Inspiration moves you to be better, be more and do better.

If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be and why?

Don’t be so hard on yourself when you experience failure. Learn from that experience and keep it moving. Don’t linger on it. 10 to 15 years from now that small failure that you’ve encountered won’t matter as much as you thought it would.

Who is your role model and how do they inspire you?

I have a lot of role models. I look to different people for different things. Some of them are people that are far reaching like Oprah, and others are sister friends of mine who I look to and learn from. Those are people like Tiffany Warren of ADCOLOR, (she’s a quiet storm), Bozoma Saint John of Apple, Latham Thomas of Mama Glow, Lesley Goldwasser, my mentor Ray Chambers, my grandmother, my mother, the list goes on. I look to different people for different reasons. For some it’s because of their profound business acumen, for others it’s because of the ability to balance family and life, for others it’s because of their unwavering faith. My god children are also role models of mine. I learn a lot from them. I think it’s important that everyone have role models who they can reach out and touch. Those are the people who will not only champion you but also hold you accountable.

What is an accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

I’m proud that I’m still here! Being an entrepreneur for 11 years is not a small accomplishment, but I’m also the type of person that doesn’t rest on my laurels. After an accomplishment, I celebrate and give thanks for a moment, then I’m on to focusing on the next thing. Over the years, I’ve felt pride at various moments but pride can also be crippling. I think it’s important to acknowledge your gift at that moment in time, but then move forward to the next hilltop to climb. I think that’s the Capricorn in me.

If you could share with the world something interesting about yourself, what would it be?

People don’t believe me when I say this, but I can be rather introverted. I don’t mind staying at home, cooking, watching movies and being by myself. Growing up as an only child (I have siblings from my Dad and a step brother) could have also helped me be this way I’m sure. I enjoy people but I also enjoy being alone and going inward.

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How do you overcome fear?

I look at fear as my friend. Being an entrepreneur, it’s not always pretty. You’re worried about paying your employees, opportunities for new business, being innovative to make sure the business continues to strive and so much more that comes with the day to day stress of being an entrepreneur. But that’s just career. Fear can encounter your personal life as well. While treating fear as my friend and taking it head on, physically I pray and meditate to help me overcome it.

In what ways has travel positively impacted your life?

Travel is truly such an inspiration to me. I’ve been fortunate to travel extensively across Europe, Africa and the US. But there is still so much I want to see. Any time I think of travel in particular, I think of my first trip to Africa. I traveled through four countries in a 13 day span. It was life changing. While I was traveling to impoverished places and it was very hard to see, it wasn’t the poverty that struck me the most.  It was the spirit of the people. It was the joy and the zeal for life. It was their exuberance and appreciation of community. It was their pride that stood out. So many of us are told and taught (directly and indirectly) that “things” are necessary. The people I met showed and proved the exact opposite. I was and will always be forever changed as a result of this learning. It has impacted not only how I travel now (I make it a point to spend time with locals), but it has also seeded how I aim to connect with people every day be it through my work or on the subway.

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What does the phrase “Keep Shining” mean to you?

Remaining bold and steadfast in your purpose and power.

I am unapologetically authentic because…?

 I am comfortable with being who I am.

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Photo credit: MrBraxton

ABOUT TAI BEAUCHAMP:

An internationally recognized media personality, public speaker, style authority and creative director, Tai Beauchamp inspires women around the world to celebrate their inner and outer beauty. A publishing industry veteran, Tai has expertise in media, fashion, and beauty that has been solidified through her experience as an editor at top publications, including Harper’s Bazaar and Good Housekeeping. She was also a founding fashion and beauty editor at O, The Oprah Magazine and later became an executive level editor at Seventeen—where she made history as the magazine’s youngest and first African-American beauty and fitness director. Tai frequently presents on topics ranging from entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment, culture, lifestyle and philanthropy for universities and organizations including Harvard Business School, Dress for Success and The Clinton Foundation. In 2006, she launched her media company, Tai Life Media, LLC to holistically connect style and empowerment and has since worked with Fortune 100 and 500 consumer brands including P&G, Walmart, Estée Lauder, Christian Dior Cosmetics, and Time Inc. Currently, Tai is a judge on GSN’s latest retail competition show Window Warriors.

Kevin Lee: Marketing Manager, Mr. ADCOLOR, Visual Arts Enthusiast

“Don’t be afraid to bring your whole self.”  – Kevin Lee

Who is Kevin Lee? 

I’m a Marketing Manager at Digiday in New York where I lead strategy and execution of the Digiday Careers brand. I’m also an active leader and board member of multiple non-profit organizations including The Chinese Youth Club of Washington D.C. and advisory board for ADCOLOR.

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What makes you jump out of bed every morning?

I look at each day as an opportunity to create and learn. Whether it’s just coming up with a simple idea or reading about the latest tech gadget, I’m always intrigued and excited about what the day can bring to me, especially while living in a city like New York. There’s a unique creative energy here that surrounds the people, almost to the point that they want you to join them – and sometimes I do! It’s the moments that happen when I least expect it that have an impact on my day and to live in that sort of environment is definitely worth waking up for in the morning.

How do you define inspiration?

For me, inspiration is my number one tool and that’s what keeps me motivated to continue doing great work and striving to do more. What I love about inspiration is that it can come in many different forms and no matter how big or small, it can be pulled, created, thought of or spoken from just about anything. There are countless times I’ve relied on my inspiration to push me forward or pick me up.

If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be and why?

Don’t be afraid to bring your whole self. What’s funny is that I don’t think I truly understood what this meant until recently, but nevertheless, it’s something that has resonated with my core beliefs. The idea emphasizes the mantra that you should be confident in sharing who you really are because if you don’t believe in yourself and your abilities, how will anyone else?

Who is your role model and how do they inspire you?

I have many different people in my life who I consider to be role models, but if I were to choose one, it would be probably be Mr. “P” aka Michael Piechocinski. Mr. P, was my visual arts teacher back in high school and he is probably the single greatest artistic influence I have. Everything I have learned to love about visual arts and creativity came from him.  His vision and skill inspired me to pursue a creative career path and to never lose sight of the lessons I learned in his class.

What is an accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

I would have to say that being selected to join the ADCOLOR Advisory Board and then to be named Mr. ADCOLOR were certainly two of my top moments. Thinking about my path into the organization and my involvement now, that experience has contributed greatly to my personal and professional life and I am truly grateful for ADCOLOR for introducing me to the movement.

If you could share with the world something interesting about yourself, what would it be?

In addition to my work life, I’m also a visual artist and love working with acrylic/oil paints and pencil. I try to keep up with my skills when I get the chance and sometimes I’ll take the day to visit a museum to refresh my mind. I usually look for exhibitions from the French impressionist era, because those were the masters that I studied. My favorite artist is Paul Cezanne.

How do you overcome fear?

I overcome fear by trying to get ahead of it. I believe that if you already have an understanding about what it is that’s holding you back then you should also know what it will take to turn that fear around. It’s like learning to master dribbling a basketball with your weak hand (my left). You know it’s a weakness, so you practice and drill yourself until it becomes natural and you don’t have to think about it. By acknowledging that weakness, you’re already taking the first step to overcoming it.

In what ways has travel positively impacted your life?

Having the opportunity to travel has definitely enriched my life in many ways. While I believe any sort of travel is good travel, I also think being in a new place and experiencing the world outside of your bubble teaches you not only about what’s unfamiliar, but also a lot about yourself. I believe that travel has the power to transform and shape your views of the world. The more and more you get a chance to see other parts of the world or even just another part of town, you learn that in some ways, we have more in common then we think.

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What does the phrase “Keep Shining” mean to you?

“Keep shining” is the positivity that my industry needs. To me, it means to keep going, to keep producing, to keep being creative and most importantly, to keep being me. Never stop!

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I am unapologetically authentic because…?

I believe in the power of my ideas and my beliefs.

ABOUT KEVIN LEE:

Kevin Lee is currently a Marketing Manager at Digiday where he leads the strategy and execution of the Digiday Careers brand. Prior to joining Digiday, Kevin worked at Nielsen and earned a BS in Marketing from the University of Maryland, College Park. In addition to his day job, Kevin is an active leader and member of multiple non-profit organizations, which include serving as a board member for The Chinese Youth Club of Washington D.C and on the advisory board for ADCOLOR, where he was most recently recognized as 2016 Mr. ADCOLOR. He also contributes his time as a writer and producer for Asian Cinevision and The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), where he helps to tell the Asian-American narrative through film and video.

From Sea to Shore: La Mona Restaurant at Cap Cana

There’s a first time for everything. I was able to ring in the new year overseas in Punta Cana. I usually celebrate NYE in my hometown of Chicago, but as an avid travel enthusiast, it only seemed right to celebrate the arrival of 2017 in a native land where palm trees replaced skyscrapers and gorgeous saltwater beaches replaced concrete sidewalks.

Punta Cana, the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic where the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet. The island is known for its beautiful beaches, clear waters, popular tourist excursions and an array of lavish all inclusive resorts like Alsol Luxury Village (the resort my fiancé and I stayed in) that stretch along the water. The island’s rich culture and history screams beauty within the natives themselves – a rainbow of melanin, speaking in Spanish tongues. With one full day left before returning to the states, my fiancé Nieman and I couldn’t leave this beautiful country without trying La Mona Restaurant at Cap Cana – a local hot spot known for it’s nouvelle cuisine, beach style cocktails and out of this world views of the Caribbean Sea.

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We were seated and our stomachs were growling with anticipation. Before ordering anything on the menu, we took a few minutes to appreciate the view. We were literally staring out into the Caribbean Sea. The waters were shades of deep blues and crystal clear. The view added an even greater experience to the already stunning outdoor ambience of dining on Juanillo Beach, where La Mona Restaurant resides.

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After basking in the view, it was time for the good stuff. The food.

Tuna Tartar: Ordered straight from the “Raw” section of the menu, we were served Yellowtail tuna marinated in citrus, spicy mayo, avocado and tomatoes accompanied with a side of crispy sweet potato chips. I’m not much of a tartar fan, but the succulence of the tuna, tang from the citrus and a small kick from the spicy mayo did this dish much justice. I recommend putting a small dab of tuna tartar on a crispy sweet potato chip to add a bit of crunch to contrast the soft texture.

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Thinly sliced Kobe Tiradito: Kobe beef is considered one of the top three brands of beef from the Japanese raised Wagyu cattle and a known delicacy. I now understand why Nieman insisted on trying this dish. Each thinly sliced beef was filled with flavor, tenderness and the perfect amount of fatty texture every meat lover would appreciate. A must try as a starter.

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Chicano Ceviche: We shifted from the Kobe Tiradito to a heavily Mexican influenced dish off the “Mexican Summer” section of the menu. Out of all choices, the Chicano Ceviche won our hearts. The dish consisted of shrimps marinated in a coriander pesto, rocoto, fresh guacamole and crispy tortilla chips all garnished with jalapeños, onions, and delicious Peruvian roasted corn. If you’re looking for a light, refreshing dish that’s not too heavy, then this my friend is for you.

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Grilled Lobster: The finale to our feast was a 5 pound grilled lobster garnished with lime and a side of garlic butter. By far one of the freshest lobsters I’ve tasted in my lifetime. So fresh to the point where you can still taste traces of the natural salt water caught from the Caribbean Sea. I recommend squeezing some juice from the limes on the lobster meat which pairs well when dipping it into the simple but flavorful garlic butter. Believe me when I say this, when it comes to seasoning, you need nothing more.

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After rounds of delicious starters and entrees, it was time to wash it all down with some beach themed cocktails to cool us down. The Mai Tai was Nieman’s drink of choice. I chose the Banana Colada because anything with “colada” at the end of it has to be good.

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Our stomachs wanted to forfeit even though our taste buds kept wanting more. We decided to keep dessert sweet and simple with the Vanilla Bean ice cream. The dessert came out in a cute waffle cone shaped cup and surprisingly enough for a party of two. The richness of the vanilla bean in every scoop is what made this simple dessert unique.

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A big thanks to La Mona Restaurant’s General Manager Alix Puntiel who greeted us with his warm smile and hospitality. A month before coming to Punta Cana, I reached out to the restaurant to cover for the blog with a goal to highlight at least one local hot spot during my time there to share with my readers and travel enthusiasts alike. With only one full day left before leaving to head back to Chicago, I was worried I wouldn’t make it to the restaurant in time. But fate brought me here and Alix Putiel made it happen.

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If you’re ever in Punta Cana or it’s on your bucket list of destinations to visit, this beach dining oasis should not go unnoticed. I highly recommend it. We can’t wait to come back. You have a couple new fans.

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*LA MONA RESTAURANT AT CAP CANA PROVIDED ALL FOOD COMPLIMENTARY. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN.

The Joffrey Ballet Presents: Christopher Wheeldon’s The Nutcracker

The holidays are not the holidays without experiencing a nostalgic moment. This year, I was invited to see the Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker led by Artistic Director Ashley Wheater, Executive Director Craig Cameron and 2015 Tony Award winner Christopher Wheeldon – the genius behind the choreography. On December 10th – also opening night, my friend Tara and I walked into Chicago’s historic grand auditorium of the Roosevelt Theatre. As soon as we were seated, I was instantly transformed into 10 year old Kamerin from the past when I saw the Nutcracker for the first time with my parents. I could remember ballerinas dancing like feathers and a large wooden Nutcracker all whimsically exploring the 1893 World’s Fair. Fast forwarding to the present, now I’m the 26 year old version of that 10 year old child anxiously ready to see the show a second time around.

Chicago is known for so many great things, especially its rich history. The World’s Columbian Exposition had such an impact on Chicago’s history, deeming it a great American stature. After settling the frontier, America welcomed it’s place in the universe with open arms. Thanks to the beauty of creativity, Christopher Wheeldon and his team helped the audience visually reimagine visiting the World’s fair. Think of a massive fair including an abundance of architecture and exotic foreign pavilions. For any type of visitor, one can imagine experiencing the fair nothing short of magical. Wow, If I could only transport myself back in time. The production savored the spirit of the history behind the Nutcracker, but gave us a fresh dose of their perception of the story from a new lens. The curtains on stage started to rise and the show began. 

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The ballet is split between two acts. Act I, the stage opens on Christmas Eve, 1892 as workers from across the globe get into formation to construct the Chicago Columbian World’s Exposition – set to open five months later.

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Main character Marie and her younger brother Franz arrive at home, in a cozy little shack where their mother, a sculptress begins creating an amazing addition that will be shown over the fair. Workers from the fair arrive to the little shack joining the buoyant family in song and dance, sharing holiday tradition and Christmas festivities. I felt a sense of warmth from watching the night filled backdrop of a cozy shack symbolizing a loving home in a new found land.

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Impresario – the mastermind and creator of the World fair had a mysteriousness to himself. It made me more and more intrigued by his character throughout the production. Him and his apprentice Peter both arrived to the shack to entertain the workers with a vision of how he foresees his fair and distributed gifts to all, including a nutcracker for Marie. After the party subsided, Marie and Franz headed to bed. What Marie didn’t realize is that same evening, she would awake from her sleep to an epic battle between toy soldiers and mice led by The Mouse King and her Nutcracker, now life-size. Marie claimed her victory and the Mouse King claimed his defeat.

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The Nutcracker (now transformed into a charming prince) shared an enchanting dance to claim their victory against the Mouse King.

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Soon after, The Impresario, the young Prince and Marie began to set sail into the starry night. Act I faded into the backdrop and the audience devoured the space with a roaring round of applause.

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The first intermission ends and ACT II began. As as the Impresario, the prince and Marie arrive on shore, they are greeted by the Queen of the Fair and granted a visit to the World’s Fair in a dream-like fashion. You couldn’t help but notice the Queen as she performed a solo dance that screamed beauty, strength and queendom.

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Some countries from all parts of the world were represented as they traveled from pavilion to pavilion. As the dream-like journey through the World Fair came to an end, Marie suddenly woke up on Christmas Day.

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My friend and I joined in on the standing ovation for the entire production team who has now joined the stage. Not only was I visually transported back in time to my childhood, but my ears exploded with euphoria thanks to the accompaniment of the classic Tchaikovsky score for every performance led by the Chicago Philharmonic and Joffrey Music Director Scott Speck

Christmas may be over, but the holidays still live on. If you’re like me and you’re guilty of doing anything last minute for the holidays this year, it’s definitely not too late. Snag some tickets of The Nutcracker and start a new holiday tradition by seeing the show with your friends, loved ones or significant other.  The show runs until Dec 30th, so there’s still time.

I’m ready to see the Nutcracker a third time at some point in my life. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’m hoping at some point of your life you experience this production as well. When that time comes, there’s no doubt in my mind our inner child will be as pleased as I was this time around. Until next time..

Kori Coleman: Creative Strategist, Part-Time Socialite, Creator of Experiences

“That’s the beauty of authenticity. You have to ferociously seize the day using the talents and gifts you were given.” – Kori Coleman

Who is Kori Coleman?

I’m a woman who wears many hats.  For my day job I’m an Associate Creative Strategist at a brand agency – agencyEA. I help brands develop the most engaging experience for their events. I let my creative juices flow by thinking through various elements of an event such as décor to activities to provide clients with the best results.  I’m also the founder of a luxury lifestyle website TheChicagolite.com. You can find me around Chicago at practically every event whether it be food or fashion. I also create experiences for creatives and influencers. I currently have something up my sleeve as we speak, so stay tuned for the launch of my newest endeavor.

What makes you jump out of bed every morning?

I believe every day should have something different and unique about it. Just the prospect of looking forward to something I’ve never done before is exciting to me. I try to break out of routine so I’ll try to implement something in my day that I didn’t do the day before. It could be something as simple as reading an article about something new or trying something different for lunch. This is also why I believe in having a robust social life so I definitely include some parties/events in the mix.  You never know what can happen in a day and a lot can happen within 24-hours so the unknown of what the day will bring gets me out of the bed. I’m always excited about what’s ahead.  

How do you define inspiration?

Inspiration to me is being able to use the world as your oyster. You can find inspiration anywhere from looking at your surroundings, reflecting on your experiences and see what you can create from that.

If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be and why?

The advice that I would give my younger self is the same advice that I would give myself today. I have a serious case of impostor syndrome so I’m still learning how to accept my successes and not doubt myself so much. The best advice I can give is don’t doubt yourself and be more confident in your abilities. You are still learning, you aren’t meant to be perfect. It’s ok to be a work in progress.

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Who is your role model and how do they inspire you?

Anyone that goes against the grain and doesn’t abide by the status quo is an inspiration to me. I admire people who didn’t follow traditional paths and achieved success their own way on their own terms. I can probably name someone from every industry that inspires me. If I had to pick one person it would have to be Genevieve Jones. Her trajectory is one of the reasons I have a blog. I thought it was so cool that this non-wealthy girl was able to sashay her way into the New York socialite scene. Now she’s just relaxing and enjoying the high life with a gorgeous jewelry line to show for it. I feel like we are somewhat similar except I’m not besties with Marc Jacobs *smirks*

What is an accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

There’s a lot I’m proud of honestly. Major one being that I focused on being a blogger for a year in hopes that it would lead to a career. I was unemployed, didn’t like any jobs listed on career search sites at that time, and thought to myself, “There just has to be something that fits my skill set and is interesting.” Fast forward to now, my blog is the reason I’m an Associate Creative Strategist at agencyEA and there’s not a day that goes by where I’m not grateful for that opportunity. I created my blog from scratch not knowing where it would lead. I honestly just wanted to go to events, network with lots of people, and live a very glamorous life on a budget. I just had a lot of faith that everything would work out and thank God it did. 

If you could share with the world something interesting about yourself, what would it be?

I realized I can’t name just one thing that is interesting about me. Throughout my life I’ve always possessed a strong curiosity towards the world around me. I like art, I like music, I like food, I like fitness, there’s so many things of interest to me. I believe in trying EVERYTHING at least once. I’ve risked my life on more than one occasion just so I can say I’ve tried something new.  For 2017, I hope to become an amazing burlesque and aerial silk performer. I can’t tell you my stage name though *winks*.  I also want to up my DIY and cooking skills so I can become the next Martha Stewart.

How do you overcome fear?

I always tell myself that you only get one shot.  That’s the pep talk I give myself if I’m ever feeling fearful. You never know when opportunity will strike so you have to take advantage of every interaction and every opportunity you are given. You can’t count on having that opportunity again so I act as if I only have one shot.

What does the phrase “Keep Shining” mean to you?

To unapologetically be yourself. Regardless of how that looks or regardless of what people think, don’t ever be afraid to be you.

I am unapologetically authentic because…?

I’m Kori Coleman. There is only one Kori Coleman and there will never be another Kori Coleman. All I can be is myself. I know we can all become victims of the comparison game, but I try to see myself as no less than Oprah or Beyonce. What makes Oprah special is unique to Oprah and what makes Beyonce special is unique to Beyonce. We all just bring something different to the table. I think realizing that is what makes someone unapologetically authentic. No one has walked in my shoes, we don’t all share the same perspective, our experiences vary, and that’s great. That’s the beauty of authenticity. You have to ferociously seize the day using the talents and gifts you were given. That’s something I try to abide by each day.  

BIO:

Kori Coleman is an Associate Creative Strategist at agencyEA. She helps brands develop unique concepts for their events from beginning to the end. In addition to her role as a strategist, she is also the founder of a luxury lifestyle website called TheChicagolite.com. Throughout Kori’s notable career she has attended numerous high profile events where’s she had the opportunity to interview some of the nation’s top movers and shakers. Kori is expanding her endeavors to include creating unique experiences for young professionals with her business The Chicagolite Presents.

A Taste of Sichuan In Chicago

My friend Karina and I had the pleasure to attend the pre-opening on November 29th for media/influencers at Won Fun Chinese and 2Fun Chinese (905 W. Randolph St). Only a day before the main opening to the public. Many thanks to owner Austin Baker for inviting me to be apart of his newest accomplishment, a bi-level Chinese restaurant, bar and lounge opening right in the heart of Chicago’s Fulton Market area. What’s also cool about this new addition is that it’s neighbors to J.P. Graziano – a fourth-generation family-owned Italian grocery and deli that’s been around since the 1930’s. Judging from my amazing experience covering Austin’s first restaurant Bar Marta back in September, my expectations for his second restaurant was on an all time high.

Before Karina and I walked into Won Fun Chinese (lower level), we didn’t know what to expect. But in my mind I was preparing my eyes and tastebuds for yet another unforgettable experience. As we walked into the restaurant, the feeling of being in Chicago was left at the front door. We immediately transported into a sexy, red illuminated restaurant, feeling as if we were in the heart of China due to the restaurant’s Asian inspired decor. I’ve personally never been to China before, but that night I definitely embodied a piece of it’s culture. As we were escorted to our seats, we walked down a long aisle passing 60-seats filled with anxious diners just as excited as we were to try some authentic Sichuan dishes served family style. One other thing that won’t go unnoticed, the cute miniature red lanterns hanging from the ceiling. A perfect extension of the decor coupled perfectly with the exposed bricks, giving you that industrial feel the Fulton Market area is known to exude. Karina and I were seated across the open kitchen where we caught the chefs in action.  

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Now let’s get down to the good stuff, what’s on the menu.

BBQ Bao & Chongqing Fried Chicken Karina and I were hungry, but not too hungry to the point where we needed our own dishes. So shared plates was the route to go. We tried small plates of BBQ Bao (Smoked Pork, Chinese BBQ) and the Chongqing Fried Chicken (Double Fried, Double Spicy) – one of Won Fun Chinese’ Sichuan Classics. If you’re looking for the right amount of sweet and salty with a hint of spice to top it off, both dishes are a perfect match. The Chongqing Fried Chicken was extra crispy like I like it. The chicken was perfectly seasoned and the spices were rolling off our tongues. You know your food is good if no additional seasoning is necessary.  I will forewarn you, the Chongqing Fried Chicken is a whole chicken cut into pieces. So the portion size is pretty large for two. But if you’re anything like me, that doesn’t stop you. Ask for a to go box and savor the moment. Both dishes I highly recommend.

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Then there were drinks. Another thing I couldn’t wait to try. Especially after hearing that the restaurant had Kombucha on draft. I’m sold. Here’s what we ordered.

Pina Colada & Strawberry Daiquiri – My drink of choice was the Pina Colada (Three Rums, Pineapple, Coconut). To top off the drink, I requested the Cruzan Rum Float – a shot of Cruzan Rum that’s poured on top of the Pina Colada. My drink had a delicious frozen creaminess and you can taste the pineapple in every sip. Karina ordered the Strawberry Daiquiri (Rum, Pisco, Pineapple, Coconut) and also requested the Cruzan Rum Float to be poured on top. Both drinks lived up to its hype and we were slightly in a Caribbean state of mind.

You don’t have to order the Cruzan Rum Float for either drink, but I highly recommend it. Why? Because c’mon, it’s rum. You can never go wrong.

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As we finished our food, we made our way up to 2Fun Chinese – the second level bar and lounge. Steep black stairs led us upstairs where we were greeted by a huge red dragon that hung above the bar and red lights that continued to illuminate every corner of the space. Here is where all of the boozy cocktail action happens. The bar offers drink options including the Oolong Island iced tea with four oolong-infused liquors and popping boba, the Chengdu mule (Vodka, Baijiu, lime, ginger beer) and an array of local and Chinese beer on tap to name a few. 2Fun Chinese also offers karaoke and has a small section serving up hot dim sum for your foodie needs.

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Overall, Won Fun Chinese and 2Fun Chinese is a two for one special, covering all of your food, drink and entertainment needs. A perfect place for happy hour, a late night dinner, catching up with friends, or even a date. Well done Austin.

I found a new hangout and I’m looking forward to happy hour with my friend this Saturday for some amazing authentic Sichuan food, great drinks and a little R&R time.

If you’re in the area, swing by and come say hi!

*WON FUN CHINESE PROVIDED ALL FOOD COMPLIMENTARY. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN.