Cole Sprouse: Digging Up a Bright Future

As we turn our heads to view the history of Disney Channel stars, we typically see a timeline that follows a particular pattern. Child star on the rise, capturing the hearts of millions of youth worldwide and as they reach their late teenage years, they find the common need to individualize themselves, to capture a new character in their maturing lives. Soon, we see the use of illegal paraphernalia, risque actions follow suit, and unfortunately, a child star shining bright in the limelight becomes a burnout image of what we used to idolize. Almost inevitable, it is in a rare case that a few fortunate Disney alum find a way to escape this engulfing fate, the Sprouse Twins being one of them.

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Both are commonly recognized for their appearances as Julian in Big Daddy, Ben on F.R.I.E.N.D.S., and Zack and Cody on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody/The Suite Life on Deck. On their hit Disney Channel shows, The Suite Life, Dylan and Cole Sprouse captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of kids. With such a strong acting future ahead of them, the Sprouse twins surprised many by taking a hiatus from the entertainment industry and enrolling into a university, New York University, that is. Slowly fading out of the industry, the twins have discovered passions that lie outside of the entertainment business, broadening their horizons and skills. As seniors this year, the Sprouse twins have found their niche outside of acting, but it isn’t to say that they aren’t recognized anymore. Daily encounters with the Sprouse Twins are just as exciting as any other meeting with a celebrity, which you can view from any fan photo on the streets. Luckily enough, I was able to meet with Cole Sprouse at a quiet cafe to discuss his new passions, life beyond New York, and his possible resurgence in an acting career.

Cole has been noted to have a very eclectic array of majors, ranging from Archaeology to Journalism to Photography and even Anthropology. With all those skills at hand, where does his main interest fall? “Well, my main focus I suppose is archaeology. One of the strengths of Gallatin is that you are able to supplement what you may feel is lacking. I chose something like Journalism because I felt as though my writing really needed a boost. In my first semester, I took a photography class. It was digital photography. I had only taken it so I could learn how to use my camera. I got a camera, because I knew I was going to be going on geological expeditions and I wanted to document them and take pictures of artifacts. I ended up carrying my camera everywhere with me and after that I just started taking pictures. I then started doing things on Instagram that made people happy, but the main purpose of what I study and even my photography is still archaeology. It just so happens that it’s all able to apply to one thing.”

While archaeology and acting are on two different spectrums, Cole has managed to take on both trades in his lifetime. Even though archaeology is the focus now, is there any chance that we may see him return to our television screen? “Ya know, my brother and I get that a lot. Right now, an Italian director that we worked with when we were younger has asked us to do something right out of the gate. But it is quite heavy, and my brother and I, well, we came up in a family that didn’t have much and when you come up in a family that didn’t have much, rarely do you go into something like the entertainment industry and say, “well no, I’m going to stick to the artistic side of it, yes?” So now, I think my brother and I are in a privileged position when it comes to acting. Do I really think we could go back and pick and choose what we do and all that? Ya know, it’s strange, we both came to NYU expecting to fade out, we wanted to fade out, and when you’re on a show, like the Suite Life, you’re very recognizable, but when you’re a twin, it’s extremely hard to get away without being recognized. I get recognized by myself, but when I’m with my brother, since we’re a pair, it’s nonstop. And for the longest time, my brother and I, we wanted that to stop, to cease. And we went to NYU to cut that out, and it still hasn’t. It’s both a blessing and a curse. What it has shown us is that a lot of people want us to get back into the industry and so, as of now, it is a great way to make money, a great way to express yourself. You get to meet a lot of cool people. Do I know for certain that we are going to go back yet, not really, but even if we do go back, we probably won’t do the whole “twin” routine. In fact, a lot of interest has been expressed in us playing separate roles or even the same part, which is interesting. But, nothing is really set in stone.”

And as we have seen for his entire acting career, Dylan and Cole have been a packaged deal. Is there any interest in working with his twin again? “Well, when he is your brother, every day is working, you know what I mean? No, no, yeah of course. Honestly, my brother and I are both very critical, which in the industry, can be quite rare, because people see success and they look at you and ask how can they critique someone who is successful, when in actuality, anyone who is successful or not, needs critiquing. Absolutely. And so, the good thing about having a twin is that I can honestly tell him truly, that something sucks. And he’ll listen and vice verse.”

Even though archaeology is his major, Cole has been known to dabble in the art of photography, from multiple, famous Instragram accounts to beautiful shots he’s taken professionally. From the range of photos he has taken, what seems to be his favorite type of photography? “I think my favorite type, and I think it’s good that you noticed that there are multiple types, but my favorite type is probably fortune photography, and what I mean by that is, you have a camera and something pops up, it’s something unique, and the pieces fit together well enough that a photo can create something amazing. Like, I use HONY as an example. You have this character that just appears and he’s/she’s/it’s unique enough to have it’s picture taken. And it’s only fortune/fate that brought the subject and the photographer together. It was just fortune falling upon the incident and it was someone who said, ok, this deserves to be photographed. So, I like that kind of photography. I used to hate portraits. I think that’s because my brother and I used to be in the industry and we were told to pose, smile, take a stance. I took a real aversion to that. And there are a couple forms of photography that I really hate and it’s that type of posed photography, and I wouldn’t even call it photography, I would call it picture taking, where, it’s like, ok everyone, we’re all here in this moment, let’s take some photos. I think my bias is that my brother and I grew up doing that professionally. I love when something is candid and someone does a funny face. I think that a lot of the network that surrounds me nervously asks if I have any bad photos of them because I’ll post them. I think now, more than ever, with our virtual personalities and how we interact with each other socially, being so predetermined and sought out, or posting this photo or that photo, is giving us a very biased understanding of one another. And when you get a photo that is just atrocious or ugly or unflattering or just honest, whether it’s angry or happy, that’s the best. My first semester when I did a photography class,I ended up getting in a lot of trouble. For one of my projects, I dressed up so you couldn’t tell who I was, and I waited at intersections for taxis. I would just open the door and take photos of the reactions of the people inside the cab. I think everyone plans what’s going to happen, and, well, it’s only in those moments of pure surprise that you get those moments of honesty, that true surprise, really any sort of response. I would rip open the door and take pictures. At first, I thought I would only get fear and I thought, ok, even if it is only fear, that will be fine, because at least it’s honest. But, I got a range of emotions. It was really honest. I even had a lady, she was my favorite, when I did it, she had a child sitting next to her in the seat, and rather than going into mama bear mode, she just looked at me and posed. When I opened the door, she just looked at me and posed.”

With so many talents that Cole has acquired, there is the case of remembrance, how will he be remembered by? Many people will remember him by Disney Channel, it’s inevitable, but is this necessarily a bad thing? What does Cole Sprouse want to be remembered for? “You know it’s funny, I’ve received that question before. A lot of Disney Channel actors and actresses, when they stop working for Disney Channel, they have a real aversion for not wanting to be remembered by Disney Channel. They try and redefine themselves through some type of “Wrecking Ball” performance or drug use, or showing their total wild side, which I think is totally foolish. For one, as a human, you’re lucky enough to be remembered for anything. The very human condition is that most of the time you’re forgotten. So, I don’t mind being remembered by Disney, especially because Disney Channel has brought a lot of joy to a lot of young children, which without a doubt are the people who deserve the joy the most. So, I don’t mind being remembered for that, which usually surprises people. At the end of the day, if you’re remembered for anything, you’re doing something right. Since I was young, I was called Julian from Big Daddy, Ben from Friends, Cody for the Suite Life, and Cole by the people who really know me. You just learn to respond to a bunch of names and different ideas. If I could be remembered for anything though, I would want to be remembered by something that pushes human knowledge or questioning forward. My one thing with acting is that it’s a very superficial thing, it’s a very temporary thing. You make people laugh, cry, etc. and that’s it. Most of the time it stays in just a lifetime, 50 plus years, but after that it dies down. People forget about the actors. One of the reasons I love archaeology is because it gets people asking questions. It’s a huge mystery. And once you get answers, it’s so important enough that people take notice and it moves human knowledge forward, they think a new way about something. You can say you have honestly left a mark, you really did something for an entire understanding for the world. That’s what I want to be remembered for, but, Disney Channel has done me a huge service. People know my name, my face. My social media is definitely lacking, but we’re still being recognized, and it has done me a huge service. So, I don’t mind being remembered for that, but I would still like to be remembered for pushing humanity forward. That’s what I strive to do.”

And living in New York must have helped tremendously with him escaping his Disney Channel fate. “Oh yeah, definitely. And I still think the idea that you are able to study whatever you want is the most helpful thing. My brother and I are still some of the only people on Disney Channel to go to a university. That’s because when you’re in the acting industry and you’re making money and you’re determined as being successful, you have the idea that you don’t need to do anything else, that you don’t need to try anything else, you don’t need to study anything else or take an interest in anything else, because if you continue on doing the same thing, that the fame will keep on rolling in, the money will keep on rolling in and bada bing, you don’t have to do anything else. But, coming to New York was amazing because one, it taught me what a brat I was and how spoiled I was, which was absolutely necessary and being able to study something else showed me what actual fulfillment feels like. Like, the acting industry is great and I’ve been doing it since I was a kid and you make a lot of people really happy, but it doesn’t fulfill you as working really hard and studying really hard and getting that good grade off your own back does, all without the assistance of a whole team of cast and crew. Coming to New York has been a fantastic thing. And everyone here doesn’t give a shit. No one cares who you are. If you are a good person, you’re a good person. If you’re an honest person, you’re an honest person. But you can’t get away with showing up and taking off your sunglasses and announcing you’re here to get free shit. And that’s good. No one deserves that. It teaches you nothing. And so the good thing about New York is that no one has that and it makes you strive even harder to have that.”

Now, with all that in mind, with all his majors, his talents, his skills, where does Cole Sprouse want to be in 5, 10, even 20 years from now? “Oh…I think, if I could be in any place in 5, 10, 20 years, I’d wanna be in a place where I’m running something, like a dig, or in a different part of the world and I’m still learning. I think I just want to be uncomfortable. When you are so comfortable, you don’t learn too much anymore. With archaeology, you travel all the time, and when you travel all the time, you’re always uncomfortable, not like nervous, but you’re not in your zone of comfort and so you are so aware of everything. I’d like that. I’d like to be outside of my comfy zone. That would be nice.”

With all of this in place, the world can now see that there is a possibility for a better ending than what we have seen. The Sprouse Twins have found a way for their lives to carry on out of the spotlight, while still maintaining a dignified image of who they are. Congratulations to these tremendous young men and do carry on with all your endeavors.

 

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Marvin Funes: Life of Luxury

High fashion, luxurious expenses, aggrandized lifestyles, really, the idea of a life as such collectively tickles the inner mechanisms of all our minds. And as we spend a great deal of time fantasizing about this extravagant life, plotting our way to attain such glory, Mr. Marvin Funes is capturing the scene, bringing our fantasies to view.

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How generous of him, right? Yes, the 18 year old photographer has spent years capturing our wildest fantasies, creating incredible photos that grasp truly what luxury, fashion, and royalty encompasses. Studying photography at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), Mr. Funes will hone in on his skills, perfecting his impeccable craft in order to capture the minds and attention of everyone who comes in contact with his creations. So, without further adieu, I am honored to present a fascinating, talented man.

With such a strong, perfectly worded introduction (I take full responsibility for such *wink*), Mr. Funes must have skills that have been expertly crafted for years, maybe even since childhood. He must enlighten us on his life-long passion. “I first started photography in 8th grade, so in 2009; I was 13 years old. The way I started is actually pretty funny. There was this girl I knew through a mutual friend and we didn’t like each other at all. Before I started photography, I was more inclined to drawing and painting, and digital art every now and then- there was always tension between us since she liked doing those things as well and always tried to outshine me. One day she took up photography and started posting pictures on Facebook; I didn’t like them- I thought I could do way better. So, I ended up buying a cheap point-and-shoot camera and started experimenting with different genres of photography; I eventually fell in love with the medium.

A year after that I started specializing in fashion photography. I got myself a DSLR, that I suppose was considered nice at the time. I still use that same camera, the Canon Rebel T1i. It’s pretty outdated and I still only use its 18mm-55mm kit lens, but it gets the job done.”

So, maybe not lifelong passion, but definitely a passion. This passion is exemplified through his vibrant work. With such incredible pieces, he must be noticed by notable companies, I’m sure. “I can’t really say that I’ve worked with anyone “notable.” I’ve only ever worked with clients/talent who are brand new; up-and-coming. The market in the DMV area for fashion isn’t very desirable, in my opinion- it’s in no way comparable to NYC, obviously, so I never really bothered trying to get a lot of work while I was there. But ever since I made the big move from NOVA to NYC on August 1st, I’ve been trying to get my name out there. So far, some notable people I’ve met with are agents with MSA Models and ADAM. I’ve also reached out to the owner of V-Productions- who’s also a photographer and producer with amazing connections; he helped produce the “X Mark Your Spot” campaign for Calvin Klein. I’m currently in the process of trying to become his second shooter, and sending out my work to more modeling agencies to test with them.”

Soon enough, it will come along, that I feel with no uncertainty. Now, as I have said before, Mr. Funes holds a predilection for the extravagant features of life. Is this what captures his inspiration? “I’m mainly inspired by extravagance; I love rich, romantic aesthetics. I like looking at major fashion campaigns, particularly ones for brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, and Versace, and trying to create work that look similar to those but in my own voice. There’s so much attention to detail in those campaigns to make everything look expensive; the composition, the styling, the story, the mood, etc- it’s all perfected. The way the pictures are shot give a lot of depth and movement to them as well, which is something I like doing a lot. I like having a wider angle in my pictures and seeing the model without losing the background- it feels more real and engaging to me.”

Well, with this love of luxury, where does his love fall in his favorite genre of photography? “My favorite type of photography is definitely fashion. I love the fantasy; the luxury. The creative environment and commercial opportunity is something that I’m really drawn to.”

And as well all know, fashion is a world more luxurious and aggrandized as any, which sure makes for some incredible shoots. What has been his favorite shoot he has done so far? “My favorite shoot that I’ve done has got to be the one I did for my friend, Shannon Tate. It was for her senior collection; she needed shots done to create a lookbook and sell at the runway show. We did the shoot in a gorgeous museum called the Anderson House; it was in DC. Every room was so intricate and luxurious. I had studio lights, assistants, a hair and makeup person; I had to coordinate a time with the person that ran the museum for the private shoot- it was probably the most elaborate shoot I’ve done so far since I usually just work with one other person.”

While it may have been elaborate, I’m sure it was an experience that would never be exchanged. I’m sure, though, that his dream shoot hasn’t been accomplished as of yet though, so what exactly would his dream shoot entail? “My dream would be to shoot a big fashion campaign at the Palace of Versailles with a high profile model like Kate Moss, Natasha Poly, or Magdalena Frackowiak, with couture gowns. It’s been done, sure, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. There are a lot of things keeping me from it, like lack of experience, connections, budget, etc., but hopefully one day I’ll get to experience a shoot like that.”

Well with the talent he possesses, I’m sure the dream shoot will be reality in the nearest future. With one ambition revealed, what other fantasies wonder in Mr. Funes’ mind? “I’d love to become a very well established, notable photographer- just like any other photographer would want, I’m sure. I’d love to see my work in Vogue and on billboards throughout major cities. Branching out from photography and getting into modeling would be really nice, too. I always viewed modeling as another form of performance art- I’d absolutely love to walk for fashion houses like Givenchy or Alexander McQueen. Collaborating with designers and creating a fashion line is something I’ve been interested in doing as well. I’ve done a lot of menswear sketches, but I’ve never bothered to do anything with them since I don’t know how to sew.”

Incredible enough that those accomplishments have not been met, yet. But in close time, I’m sure all his aspirations will fall perfectly in place, as I have only met a few with talent that Mr. Funes possesses. So whether you dream of being royalty or already lucky enough to be granted with a life, Mr. Funes will always be there to capture the fantasy that is such.

Lauren Alef: The Dior Diva

It’s time to tell the age-old tale of the California girl meeting southern hospitality on her way to fame. Never heard of it before? Then you are in for quite a treat.

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Once upon a time, 20 years ago to be exact, there was a stunning girl, born all the way across the land in Santa Barbara, California. Not only were her looks charming, her knowledge far surpassed the rest, allowing her to receive admission to Duke University. And, traveling across the land, the English Major met many feats, taking on Dior, Teen Vogue, Saint Laurent, and even Harper’s BAZAAR. And while it may seem as though it is a fairy tale, Lauren Sachiko Alef is a real, living talent that I had the incredible opportunity of featuring.

Ah, Dior, Teen Vogue, Runway, such amazing feats, she must have fantasized about those accomplishments since she was a little girl, right? “Modeling was never something I even remotely considered growing up. Besides being short (think: 5’3” on a good day), I have an athletic build and was actually a bit of a tomboy. Ever since I was really young, I’ve been a competitive athlete (I was a very competitive swimmer and volleyball player, a scholastic All-American and black belt in judo, and now I’m on the Duke rowing team).

But at the same time, I always had a pretty creative mind. I was fascinated by art – observing it and making it – and towards the end of junior high, that sort of creativity began to translate to my wardrobe. I started experimenting with trying to express myself through my clothes, and became hooked as I began learning about different designers, trends, and styles.

At around the same time this transition was happening, I got my first modeling job. I was fourteen-years-old – a freshman in high school.”

Sad to say, that’s considered somewhat of a late start nowadays. So, what was the first job she was able to covet? “My freshman year of high school, my best friend and I accompanied our older brothers on a college road trip on the east coast. We saw a model casting in a Teen Vogue we were reading on the plane there, and realized we would be in the New York area around the time it was happening. We figured we would go just for the experience, and I truly had zero expectations of being chosen. The casting consisted of them taking polaroid shots and asking us a few short questions (like our favorite designers or to describe our personal style). Towards the end of the day, we came back and they announced 5 winners. I was actually the very last person they announced, and I didn’t believe it when they said my name.

The five of us were to walk in a prom runway show the next week at one of the Teen Vogue Haute Spots that was covered in an in-book listing in the magazine.”

Oh, so fancy. I would say what an incredible stroke of luck, yet, who would be that shocked with a face like her’s? But, I do want to hear more of this incredible endeavor. “The prom runway show I walked in for Teen Vogue was a pretty surreal experience. We came in for a fitting, and I got to try on a ton of amazing designer gowns and accessories. Ultimately, they chose 3 very different outfits for me to walk in (one bright, one edgy, and one romantic). On the day of the show, we had to get there a few hours early for hair and MUA. I loved the whole production of it – the styling and creativity behind it all. But in terms of the actual show, I was kind of a nervous wreck. As weird as it sounds, whenever I had been in the spotlight before that, I was never really aware that people were looking at me. For example, if I was playing a volleyball game, I was so engaged in the actual game that I would tune out the crowd. In this case, I had to be a lot more self-aware, and I definitely felt like I had to fake a confidence that didn’t come naturally to me. It was definitely challenging, but at the end of the day, it was really fun, and I got to meet some amazing people (like Amy Astley, editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue).

After that experience, I was totally hooked on fashion. When I had met Amy, I asked her for some advice on how to be successful in the industry, and she told me to get as much experience as possible. So that’s what I tried to do. I started designing formal dresses, taking photography classes, working as a stylist at a local boutique, and interning in the editorial department at a local magazine. As this was all happening, Teen Vogue gave me the opportunity to enter the “Dior Diva” competition. For this, people voted on social media for the winner, who was to be flown out to NYC for a photo shoot to appear in the magazine. My friends were incredibly supportive, and I really think it was because of them that I won the competition.

But again I got flown out to NYC and set up in a hotel in Times Square for a few days. I got to tour the Teen Vogue HQ. On the day of the photo shoot, a car took me to Industria Superstudios, and I went through hours of hair, makeup, and wardrobe styling. The shoot was for Dior makeup, so the focus was portrait images. This was my first photoshoot, and I expected it to be different from my runway experience in that I wouldn’t have a ton of people looking at me. But I was definitely wrong. I didn’t realize that it takes a village to make a photo shoot happen. There were a ton of people on set, and it took me a little bit of time to get comfortable in front of the camera. But it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life, and it solidified my interest to work in fashion.”

Well, maybe this is a fairy tale then, as all of it sounds incredibly surreal. Yet, this is not the only talent Ms. Alef possesses in the fashion industry. While she was found behind the camera, she also can be found behind the company. “As much as I enjoyed my modeling experiences, I never saw it as a viable career option. I think Teen Vogue was a special avenue for me because they were so accommodating to different looks and builds. But at the same time, I wasn’t particularly passionate about modeling. I was passionate about fashion and the production, creativity, and community behind it.

So, once I got to college, I began to experiment in different parts of the fashion industry with summer internships. My first summer, I worked in the PR department at Saint Laurent in New York City. There I handled a lot of the sample trafficking, and saw VIP and editorial requests through start to finish (from the initial requests to pulling looks, to accumulating coverage of the product). It was a really hands-on experience, and I got some cool opportunities (like helping dress Scarlett Johansson for the Tony Awards) and got to work with some of the most hard-working, fun people I’ve ever met. After working there, I wasn’t completely set on a direct career goal, but I did realize that I want to work in a creative capacity in the industry, and I want to work with people.

The next summer, I decided to switch things up a little bit and work in the Marketing department at Harper’s BAZAAR in NYC. The entire department was filled with such nice people who were so invested in making sure I was getting the most out of my experience there, and because of that, I got some really cool opportunities. One of the most memorable ones was getting to assist at a photoshoot for The Coveteur (one of my favorite websites of all time). Having just finished my experience there, I’m still not entirely set on a particular department, but I know I like working at photoshoots and at events. Because, like I said before, I like to express myself creatively in a collaborative environment.”

With such incredible experiences in the fashion industry, an industry that finds home in New York, why Duke University? “I have the biggest heart for Southern California, but I figured I should have an out-of-state experience for college, just so I could experience living in another part of the country for a part of my life. Duke had everything I wanted in a school. Strong academics, amazing athletics, school spirit, a social scene, and not too severe winters. And it’s totally provided.

I’ve had a great two years at Duke so far. I’ve gotten involved in a lot of different things there – some new and some old. I walked onto the Varsity rowing team. I was an RA for freshman (this year I’ll be one for upperclassman). I’m in a sorority (Kappa Kappa Gamma). I’m a leader for Campus Outreach, an on-campus ministry that’s provided me with really solid, loving community. And in terms of fashion, I got to intern for Rent the Runway during the school year, and I work as a Fashion Editor for FORM, Duke’s fashion magazine.”

So, with such a full plate, full of numerous talents and opportunities, what aspirations and goals lie ahead for Ms.Alef? “There are a couple things I’m passionate about. First – people. I love meeting and working with people. And not on a superficial level; I like really getting to know and connecting with people at a heart level. So I know whatever job I (hopefully) get, I will be working with people. I’ve been so fortunate to work with really friendly, kind people in the fashion industry, but for me it’s so important to reflect that wherever I work. I know sometimes the industry can get a bad rap for being harsh or superficial. In regards to that, I do have sort of lofty aspirations for the industry. I’ve found that a lot of the time, people are searching for something to make themselves feel complete. For me, I don’t want fashion, beauty, or self-image to be the thing that completes people. I want to help people to feel fully complete on their own, and have fashion as an enhancer – as an avenue of self-expression. Because at the end of the day, fashion really is fun. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing when I graduate, but hopefully you’ll see me working hard in the fashion industry, working with people and getting to express myself creatively and influencing people in and out of the industry.”

And so the tale is told to here, but fret not, for this fair maiden has much farther to travel, many more feats to accomplish, and with the talents she possesses, in no time, I’m sure she will be ruling the land.