Posts filed under Spotlight: Artists

Marmoset Presents a Mini Concert with Mree

Marmoset presents music miniature concerts — a new series where we invite talented, touring and local artists into our space to capture a stripped down performance of their music.

Our first video features Mree, her transcending vocals chillingly beautiful against a single acoustic guitar. Watch her performance of “Atmosphere” in the video above.

Stepping into Marmoset, Mree exudes tranquility even in the way she greets us — it melds and mirrors within her four minute performance. Masterful in drawing listeners through haunting and misty vocals, she has captured the attention of Grammy Award Winning Artist Bon Iver (Justin Vernon) and draws from her influences like Sigur Ros and Sufjan Stevens.

We asked her some questions to learn more about her journey as a musician and what new music she’s got in the works.


Marmoset: There are so many different ways someone can get into creating music, we’d love to know how you got started. What did those first chapters look like for you?

Mree: My parents have always been really supportive of me and my sibling’s creative endeavors, I’m so grateful for that. They saw my interest in piano at a pretty young age, around five years old, when I would create my own little tunes. It turns out I didn’t have much patience for theory but my parents found me a wonderful teacher, Todd Lanka, who taught me how to play by ear! He really encouraged me to keep composing. 

When I was about 11, I saw the movie Glitter starring Mariah Carey and I was transfixed by her voice. I bought all of her CDs and practiced her runs over and over again, which is when I think I kind of discovered this interesting part of my voice I never knew I could “train” or tap into. With this new ability I feel a strong pull to share it with people, which was very weird for me as an extremely shy and anxious person at the time.

I signed up for my middle school talent show and ended up winning with my rendition of “Everytime We Touch” by Cascada. It was really validating that I could share this part of myself, and that people might just see me as something other than the quiet girl. I just kept chasing that feeling and started posting covers on Youtube. Eventually I picked up the guitar and started writing my own lyrics. I started getting into production pretty soon afterwards. It was just all really fun to experiment with effects, vocal layers, and stuff like that. 

I guess I’ve just been doing that ever since! It feels really wonderful to self-produce and find success independently, especially since there’s currently an imbalance of women in the music production field. I feel like I can send a supportive message to other females who are interested in the industry but may be intimidated by taking part in a male-dominated scene. Imogen Heap was that person for me, and I am so grateful for her music and presence. 

Marmoset: What are some projects that you look back on and feel a sense of pride for accomplishing?

Mree: When I look back, I remember making my second album Winterwell with a lot of warmth and freeness.

It came out in 2013 and I was 19 at the time; I was really interested in exploring production and creating really grand moments with cool textures and instruments. This was all before college and before I exposed myself to too much popular music, “proper” writing techniques, “creativity guidelines,” and I guess before I got a bit disheartened by the industry.

The feeling was so pure and when I make music now, I want to get back to that genuine feeling. I want to do it because I love creating it and not because I think it’s what other people want me to create. 

Marmoset: With this new miniature concert series, we’re excited to showcase artists like yourself in this sort of casual atmosphere. You being on the other side, how do performances like this resonate with you especially when compared to the bigger shows you do?

Mree: I love performances like these. This is how I always used to perform — just me and my guitar or piano. I find it really freeing for a lot of reasons. When I’m by myself I can control everything about the performance. I can slow down if I feel that the moment needs it or play louder or quieter in sections when it feels just right.

In turn, I think I can let myself feel more present, reacting to things in the moment. But don’t get me wrong, playing with other people and getting a bigger sound is wonderful! I love that too. Especially since some of my songs call for a larger sound. I really enjoy both ways so it’s nice that I can mix it up in my live set. 


Catch Mree’s latest EP release, The Middle out now and get a behind the scenes look into Mree’s music making process here.

The Whimsically Inventive World of Lullatone's Music

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Lullatone is Shawn James Seymour and Yoshimi Tomida, two musical experimentalists who don’t just think outside the box — they’re using everything from boxes and other household items to create melodic ingenuity.

The creative collaborative lives in Nagoya, Japan, an environment that’s equally their compass for inspiration as it is their home. To capture their musical creations at work Marmoset flew all the way around the world to capture Lullatone’s story on film. There, they warmly invited us into their home and creative haven/ music production studio to walk us through their creative process, their approach to music licensing and who they’d love to work with on the next big project.


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Marmoset: How would you describe your music to someone who's never heard of Lullatone? 

Lullatone: Miniature melodies for everyday adventures.

M: We admire how your studio is essentially part of your home, it sort of just accentuates the warm & fuzzy creative energy that permeates throughout your music. Curious what your dream creative environment might look like?

Lullatone: We always like to joke that we make Home Music, as opposed to House Music.

For a long time we created everything in our real home. But, now that we have two kids, it became pretty difficult space-wise — and noise-wise! At the moment I’m renting an apartment down the street from our house to use as a studio. I like it because it still has the domestic vibes (everyone else in the building really lives there, only we are using it for work) which we need to make something feel home-made.

And most importantly it is really close to our house. I can hear the bells from our kids school to know when it is lunch time, there is a park next door and the view from the window is always full of old people tending to their small community gardens. For me, it is perfect.

Sometimes I wish it was more soundproof though for when a soccer coach blows his whistle in the park a million times and I’m trying to record a quiet instrument… but I guess that is just a sign to hold up for an hour and go outside while it is sunny and re-record in the nighttime.

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M: How would you describe the direction you took with your new album? Is there something you've always wanted to try musically but haven't had a chance to dabble in yet? 

Lullatone: Our new album was a really exciting experiment. I wanted to revisit songs from our old albums — we’ve been around for almost 20 years, so there are a ton to choose from — and turn them into piano track. We did one a week for a year so the album is a big 52 track double CD massive collection.

We like trying out lots of experiments with music and that is one of the things I love about working with Marmoset. Actually most of our songs with Marmoset are unreleased things that aren’t from our albums. If we have an idea for a beat, or a super ambient track, or something over the top poppy we can try it out and not have to worry about creating a whole album for it to live  in.

We can make the one song and it has a home there in your catalog — and then hopefully out in the world as a supporting actor in some video.

M: We’d love to know what artists you’re listening to at the moment!

Lullatone: We listen to Jonathan Richman pretty much all of the time. He is my favorite musician ever. I like to listen a lot of Japanese ambient music while I’m cleaning up and stuff in the studio. Hiroshi Yoshimura and Meitei and super nice.

There is a show on Beats1 radio called Time Crisis which might be our number one favorite thing to listen to though. It soundtracks so many of our road trips and long runs.

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M: Do you think living in such a special place like Nagoya influences your work?

Lullatone: Nagoya was recently voted the most boring city in Japan and I think that rules. It is a huge city, but it seems like not as much is going on here compared to other towns… until you live here. It is just that the pace is different. Things are slower here. Stuff isn’t famous. People don’t seem to care. I love that. 

Our neighborhood is on the edge of the city, so it is even slower. But there our elderly people in the park in front of the studio every morning playing gate ball (a game like croquet) and people eating ramen and just living a normal life. I’m all in!

M: What would a dream project of yours be? Who’s a filmmaker you’d love to score or create a soundtrack for?

Lullatone: I think everyone around my age might say the same thing… but it has to be Wes Anderson. The attention to detail in every project he does is incredible.

Working with museums or libraries to make sound installations sounds really interesting too. To be honest there are so many people making amazing things now — and it is easier to see them too — that I just want to meet and talk about art and stuff with everyone.


Follow us here and on social for the official release of our new, short film all about Lullatone — coming out Thursday, March 28th!

Also stay tuned for the release of a brand new Lullatone song, available for music licensing on Marmoset’s catalog this Thursday.

The countdown begins.

Womxn of Music: Sulene van der Walt

Photography: Ivan Clow

Photography: Ivan Clow

In closing our Womxn of Music series, it’s like that popular saying — it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later. For our final chapter, we speak with Sulene van der Walt, the South African 26 year old musician and film composer living in New York.

As a freelancing artist, Sulene is the Swiss Army Knife of the music industry. From touring, shredding as the lead guitarist for Nate Ruess (of fun.), composing film & TV scores to writing her own music, she’s continually putting in the work to bring her ideas to life. This year she’s busy finishing up her next album — and of course, she’s producing all of the art, video content and photography to go with it.

We chatted with her to learn more about her journey in music, where her inspiration comes from and the different challenges she’s faces working in music.


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Marmoset: What was music’s role in your life as you were growing up?

Sulene: Since the early days of singing into my hairbrush, I diligently started studying music. I have a musical family and grew up going to music lessons and I went to Berklee College of Music to study composition and film scoring.

During that time I really went inward and developed my skills. My music became more complex and I experimented a lot — I mostly composed for film and television and wrote instrumental pieces. As I finished college I realized I missed songwriting so I dove into that again and back into the pop world.

M: How do you view your music evolving and where are you headed?

Sulene: In the last three years my music has become simpler in some ways. Much clearer, refined… it’s totally pop music! Instead of showcasing my musicality at every opportunity, the challenge now is how to convey a clear message in a pop song, which is actually surprisingly difficult to do! A lot of people think pop music is easy to make because it sounds effortless, but it takes a ton of effort and clear communication lyrically.

My music has evolved from an emo place into a more dance-oriented sound. I learned how to produce which meant a whole world opened up to me  as far as vibe and movement and tempo and how something makes me body move on stage. I also started DJing, so I naturally become inspired by dance music. I even shed the guitar on stage sometimes now and just sing and dance, and it feels right.

M: When growing up, who were some artists you looked to for inspiration?

Sulene: Well, I grew up listening to The Spice Girls and Britney Spears. I used to dance around my room singing into my hairbrush and copying their dance moves. I even had a DVD by Britney Spears' choreographer that broke down her dance sequences in her music videos. I guess that’s not entirely different from what I do on stage now.

These days I’m massively inspired by Madonna and Lady Gaga — two women who continuously reinvent themselves, who are insanely musically talented and who are total badasses. They've pushed the boundaries of art and stigmas and forced people to face thought-provoking material.

My latest inspiration was Lady Gaga’s acceptance speech at The Oscars; she talked about hard work and it really resonated and put a fire under me.

M: What’s something you’re proud to have accomplished as an artist?

Sulene: I’m proud that I wrote some songs that people connect with, I kinda did it without even realizing — when I wrote the Strange EP it was more of a cathartic admission of certain facts in my life; like I miss my band in college, being sad that I had lost my best friends, that I was growing up (“What We Had”), or that I broke up with a lover but still deeply missed them and would fantasize they still wanted me (“Haunting”).

In a way, I’m proud that I have the guts to say these things on stage. I even say little intros now, sort of like a monologue, about the songs. I hear the audience sing the lyrics with me or sing back the gang vocal parts on “Haunting” and I understand in that moment that the song has now taken on a life of it’s own. It’s not just mine now — it belongs to a bunch of people. It’s a very fulfilling and deeply moving feeling.

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M: What do you think it takes for women working in the music industry to “make it?”

Sulene: Being a woman in the music industry is such a complex thing. It comes with both its merits and its disadvantages.

It’s tough to know when to use your feminine characteristics — the things that make you who you are, think the way you think, look the way you look — and when to hide them. It’s an ongoing battle for me. My advice is to chose your battles. There will be sexism, you will probably be pursued at some point, you will probably feel like you need to prove yourself as a musician. You might even find yourself doing things to be “just one of the guys” in the music biz, that’s what happens when you’re somewhat of a rarity within a scene.

Be aware of it all — be aware of how much time you spend with the guys, if you’re in close quarters alone too often, how much you drink, what you wear, how people talk to you, how they might be overly touchy with you or hug you a lot or comment on the way you look. All these things… I used to sweep them under a rug and think “that’s just the way it is.” Now I realize that the power inside, as a woman, or really just as a person, is to say wait a minute, that’s actually not how it has to be. 

I’m not afraid to call someone out if they make me uncomfortable and I don’t answer after-hours phone calls from people I work with. Know yourself, know who you are, what you’re okay with and what you’re not. It’s a lot more fun working as a performer once you have those honest conversations with yourself. That’ll also be an ongoing journey as you navigate this nuanced career as a musician and performer.

It’s a real grey-area type of job because so much of your work involves hanging out and being at venues and bars, being social, networking, being in the right place at the right time. And a lot of the time, there are no clear rules and boundaries in this gig. So you have to set those for yourself so that you can focus on your art and goals.

Most importantly, I would tell a woman starting out in the music industry to have convictions in her ideas. Always have an open mind and heart and listen to others, but deep down stay true to who you are and what you have to offer. Don’t be afraid to show your unique perspective in your art even if people don’t flock to it right away or tell you how amazing it is. Sometimes something ground-breaking or new is just a little bit outside of the norm.


Womxn of Music: Olivia Thai

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In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re continuing our Womxn of Music series by highlighting the amazingly talented Olivia Thai. We’re honored to present the release of her new single, out today and available for music licensing — read on to learn more about the talented American Idol contestant, then head over to our catalog to listen to Circles!”


Marmoset: Which women artists were you inspired by growing up or are you continued to be inspired by today?

Thai: Female artists are my faves. I only spoke and sang in Chinese until I was six years old, so I listened to a lot of Teresa Teng, Faye Wong, Sammi Cheng and Cass Phang in the early ‘90s.

After I started speaking English, I mostly listened to power vocalists — Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera and Celine Dion. I wanted to learn how to sing just like them growing up… still can't, but hey, I found my own sound, and that's pretty cool!

I am continually inspired by Amy Winehouse, Sia, Jessie J, Joss Stone, India.Arie, Kelly Clarkson — love and respect them so much.

M: What did your journey into music first look like?

Thai: I never knew that music could even be a career when I first started playing music. I started college when I was 13 years old believing that school was the only way to become successful in life.

My community probably still believes that music is only supposed to be a hobby, which is just sad. I would tell my younger self that there are so many career options in the future. Everyone's potential is limitless.

M: How would you describe the music you like to make? Where would you like to take it in as you grow as an artist?

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Thai: My music has always been on the darker side lyrically and I would like to explore lighter and more inspirational writing in the next few years.

Those dark days are over and I want my music to genuinely reflect how I am feeling at the moment.

I am proud to have been able to connect with my fans on another level through my music. Many of the supporters from the last decade know me through comedy and covers on YouTube, so it's amazing to develop a new connection through my original songs.

M: The music industry is known to be particularly challenging, but even more so for women artists. What do you think it takes for women to “make it?”

Thai: I think everything comes down to being genuine and being unapologetically you. I have struggled with this throughout my life and still do sometimes as an adult.

As an artist in 2019, it's not just about the music anymore. It's about connecting with people.

M: How do you reset after a challenging day in the studio (or just in general)?

Thai: I think hard days are all about perspective. Hard days are just life lessons for me — it happens, I learn something important and life goes on. Knowing my purpose is enough to keep me going. My driving motivators are my family, my friends and my fans.

M: What are you excited about in 2019?

Thai: I’ve been working on my album and I am most excited about the two new singles that will be released this year.

The next release is titled, "Circles" produced by Graham Barton at Marmoset, which is super exciting! The one after that is titled, "Temporary High" produced by Christian Mochizuki. I can't wait for everyone to hear the new jams!

Womxn of Music: Michele Wylen

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Our Womxn of Music series continues as we spotlight risk-taker Michele Wylen. With her past work featured in empowering content like 2018’s Be That Girl Sportsgirl campaign, Wylen’s music is the upbeat anthem that makes us feel like anything is possible.

With a list of creative projects lined up, Wylen is also hard at work in the community extending her support, time and attention to address climate crisis. Naturally, we wanted to sit down to catch up with Wylen to learn more.


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Marmoset: You have such a passion for being active in the community, what have you been up to most recently?

Wylen: I’ve been very engaged in my city’s effort to lower its greenhouse gas emissions. I work with Citizens Climate Lobby and People for Climate Action, as well as other community groups, and I engage with my city councilmembers.

I see a departure from fossil fuel dependence as non-negotiable if the world is to move forward to a prosperous future. Currently I’m working on facilitating a community project that implements clean technology, though at the moment I’m still in the brainstorming process so there’s not much to report. Check back with me later in the year, hopefully I’ll have some exciting new updates   

Though I live and breathe music, one thing my art could not fulfill for me, was my passion to get my hands dirty and do some practical work to help the world. I was born to sing but I was also born to solve problems. Our climate crisis is a definite problem, and it is deeply fulfilling for me to be a part of the solution.

M: Who were some of your earliest sources for inspiration in music?

Wylen: The first female artist I grew up listening to was my mom. She was a singer and songwriter, and she’d always be in the studio recording while she took care of me. When I was in the Philippines in elementary school, my mom sang the theme song for a popular soap opera and it became a hit on the radio. She also wrote songs for other Filipina artists. Several times she brought me with her to the studio in Manila to watch them record. Being exposed to this at a young age inspired me to pursue this kind of work for myself. 

My first CD was Spice Girls Spiceworld. Missy Elliott also got a lot of play in my CD player. It was the sassy, empowered female artists who attracted me- I rarely listened to forlorn songs about broken hearts. I definitely went through a Britney Spears obsession, and I sang a lot of Destiny’s Child.

In high school I became mesmerized by Alison Goldfrapp and I’ll never forget seeing her perform at the Crystal Ballroom. Witnessing her magical presence on stage filled me with an insatiable desire to perform on stage myself. Then in my early twenties I got super into Peaches. I loved how abrasive she was, how she went against the grain — her songs resonated with the rebel inside me. Watching her perform at the Wonder Ballroom really inspired me to think outside the box in terms of my own performance art. Her background dancers were over the top, wearing costumes of giant pom poms with legs in high heels sticking out. It was ridiculous and amazing. 

M: As a professional artist now, who inspires you today?

Wylen: If I had to choose one female artist who I’m continually inspired by, it’s Rihanna. A queen of style and music, now with empires in makeup and lingerie, she doesn’t let her entertainment business get in the way of the great work she does with the Clara Lionel Foundation. I lust for her slay but her community work is what makes me love her. 

Female artists currently on my playlist: Asian Doll, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Sia, Killumantii, Missy Ellliott, Rihanna. 

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M: Self empowerment and confidence is so important for young women, especially in the music industry. What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way?

Wylen: I’d say the most important thing is to know who you are and know what you want. If you’re not sure then you’d better take the time to figure it out. When you’re a budding talent, other people will want to impose their vision on you; so if you’re not sure of yourself, you may find yourself one day living out someone else’s dream and wondering what happened to yours. 

Another key piece of advice was given to me by Che Pope: “When you’re starting out, make sure you have income outside of music to cover your bills.”

What happens when you rely entirely on music for your income is you give up the control you have over what projects you work on. You’re basically forced to accept any paying project that comes your way, even if you don’t feel it in your heart.

I used to have this obsession of being able to say I made all of my income from music. But it was so stupid because as a result I wasted years of my life not exploring my art and instead was chasing money. I don’t regret it — the experience did refine my skills and I learned a lot about collaborating in a professional environment. But I’ll never let money control how I use my artistic talent ever again.

M: Knowing what you know now, what would you pass along to your younger aspiring artist-self?

Wylen: If I could speak to my younger self I would say… relax, be patient and keep your life in balance. Yes, we have to grind and hustle and spend a lot of time in the studio to develop our skills. However, we must still balance that with our personal health.

When we are sound in our mental and physical health then we can come to our music from a place of clarity and control.

I should have spent more time with my friends and family and working out personal issues. Thankfully, I’ve learned my lesson and my life is in much better balance now. 

M: Can you give us a sneak peek about what music you have in store for us in 2019?

Wylen: Well, I don’t want to reveal too much I have a new single with Niko Javan coming soon that I’m excited for. Also excited about a collaboration with Graham Barton. Other than that, I’m just in exploration mode right now. What I’m most excited about in 2019 is empowering myself to say “no” to incoming commercial work so that I can have the freedom to explore my creativity. Also, I’ll be filming a music video this year and I haven’t made a video since 2012 so needless to say I’m really excited for that. It’s long overdue.

Womxn of Music: Fritzwa

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To the womxn of music, thank you.

Not just for paving the way for others to follow in your footsteps but for speaking your truth when the noise tried to drown you out, the times you kept showing up even when it was exhausting or felt thankless. Thank you for always relenting, speaking up, inventing and overcoming — for sharing your stories and not backing down. It matters and whether it felt like it in the moment, it was noticed.

March 8th is International Women’s Day and for the Marmoset community, it’s not just a day of recognizing and honoring the achievements and history made by women — we strive to do that the other 364 days out of the year.

Instead, it’s about reflecting on each other’s journeys, lifting one another up while looking ahead; because staying sharp and strategic is the only way to stay ahead of the game. And while an internationally celebrated day of recognization is nice… we decided to share the microphone with five amazing artists we work alongside and whose music we feature on our roster. Because we’re not just fans of their music, we’re admirers of their mentalities, their spirited hustle and won’t back down attitudes.


Still from “Sitting Pretty” music video featuring Fritzwa — directed by Fritzwa & Ikaika Cofer

Still from “Sitting Pretty” music video featuring Fritzwa — directed by Fritzwa & Ikaika Cofer

New York City native, Fritzwa gave us the lowdown on her new music and the momentum that gets her up in the morning.

After changing up her creative environment by leaving New York for Portland, Oregon, Fritzwa now hustles back and forth between lush Pacific Northwest and bustling Los Angeles, California. This year she’s taking the west coast by storm, taking on musical collaborations between cities. And there’s no question of the determined spirit that fuels the artist, she’s continually setting out to conquer, pushing back in the face of opposition.

“I just have this relentless attitude about everything,” says Fritzwa. “Just in terms of being marginalized, you have to have that kind off mentality that you’re not going to take no for an answer. I don’t allow anybody to tell me no, if there’s something I want to make or if someone’s preventing me from getting to someone else, it’s just fuel for me to accomplish those things even more.”

And with being in the position of trading a high-level marketing job with Nike to produce music full-time, Fritzwa uses this chapter in her life as a motivator for growth. Creating music is a livelihood for her — she’s a businesswoman just as much as she is a musician.

Physical backdrops aside, Fritzwa is an artist who embodies constant evolution and change, her work ethic an example that even those outside the music industry can draw motivation from: here’s a woman on the move, eager to learn, grow and challenge herself even if it pushes her to the limits.

And in the common scenario of women (especially those of color) being singled out or underrepresented in positions of authority, it can be easy to succumb to a certain of complacency — to simple accept rather exert more energy in pushing back. But for Fritzwa, it’s about putting in the work and time now and going the distance.

“Just because things aren’t happening for you on your timeline doesn’t mean they’re not supposed to happen,” says Fritzwa. “It just means that maybe you’re not ready for what you want. I’ve been frustrated about a lot of things when it comes to music and looking back, if what I wanted had happened to me, then it would have been very short lived.”

Currently producing new work in Los Angeles, Fritzwa is exploring Afrobeats with her newly released music — her past two songs a fusion of West African stylings and pulsing electronic elements. “Shake Waist” is a sample of the latest direction she’s been heading musically.

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And while just a sample of her recent projects, Fritzwa is gearing up to dish out a variety of singles this year; the work will encapsulate her initiative toward exploration, a meld of collaboration with different producers and crossover of genres. It’s a year of beginnings and active diligence — most importantly, it’s crucial to note they’re products of her skilled talent and determined spirit. She’s making it happen.

“You have to set your sights beyond anything you could ever achieve,” says Fritzwa. “Because if you do that, then you know you’re always going to grow toward that, you’re always going to learn and going to be humble. And I think that the music gods will look favorably upon you because you’re looking at it as a craft as opposed to a means to an end.”


* We recognize women of all origins, backgrounds and identities.