Kailey Ardales & Baridomale "Didi" Denuate
"I feel like in the society we live in today, the people in it...[deep exhale and eye roll]. I feel the most powerful when people that I'm surrounded by genuinely listen to me and actually care about what I say." - Kailey
When I put out a call for nominations, I got two entries from students at Nicholas Senn High School nominating their favorite teachers. As we all know, Chicago Public School teachers are very busy and, unfortunately, the nominees didn't have time to work on this project. I was, however, impressed by the students who sent in submissions and I wanted to meet them and possibly work with them, realizing that I didn't have any teenagers represented in my project. I attended one of their after school photography classes taught by Kera MacKenzie and Kate Bowen, and met Kailey May Ardales (15, left), Baridomale "Didi" Denuate (16, right), and the rest of the class. They gave me a chance to present my ideas for MOVING and assist them on their class video project. It was fun to watch Kailey and Didi at work and I was pleasantly surprised that they didn't mind going from being nominators to being subjects. But what would we do for their portrait? I liked the idea of them working together in the scene and I found out that Kailey was into photography and that Didi was a writer. One of their teachers mentioned that one day the students realized they needed comforting after an intense discussion about recent incidents regarding violence in Chicago. Didi recommended pizza, a simple, comforting, communal snack. We ran with that idea of busy, creative, intelligent young students effortlessly calling upon some fuel and comfort.
After we did the shoot, which went so smoothly I felt like I was working with (hungry) professionals, we only had a short time for the interview, but I'm still so thankful that I was welcomed into this incredible group of students. I also want to thank the students under and on the table, and the ones who took the behind-the scenes photographs:
Roza Arefayne was under the table holding up Didi's bowl, Jessie Lindsey slid the bowl to Kailey, Stephanie Munoz sprinkled the Oreos, Inara Virani made it rain spicy popcorn, and Ikran Osman and Fartun Abdi were taking pictures. Thank you all!
Lori: You did a really good job. That was fun. Wasn't it fun? Are you full of snacks now?
Kailey: My tummy is happy.
Neither of you are originally from Chicago, right? How long have you been in Chicago?
K: I came here when I was 6 from Hawaii so however many years that is.
Were you born in Hawaii?
K: No. I was born in Chicago then we moved to Hawaii when I was 10 months old.
How about you, Didi? When did you move to Chicago?
D: I was 3.
Do you guys like Chicago?
K: I love Chicago! Especially the city. It's always busy.
D: Especially downtown.
K: The Park.
D and K: Yes.
In this portrait we did of you two, Kailey, you were the photographer, and Didi, you were the writer. Kailey can you talk a little bit about what you like about photography?
K: Just being surrounded by nature and other people. It makes me happy. I also like taking pictures because it captures moments that I can see in the future, because I'm really sentimental. It's just me!
Didi, why do you like to writing?
D: I get to create my own worlds. If I want to do anything, I can. I can just make up a dragon, I can do anything I want.
What are you writing about?
D: Right now, I'm writing, like, six stories. One story is about this girl who has one year left to live so she's trying to live life to the fullest. Most of my stories have girls as main characters. I need to stop doing that.
No. It's good. We need more female characters, strong ones.
Especially, then, if someone adapts your story into a movie. We definitely need more movies with strong female characters.
D: That's how I like to do my stories. I pretend it's like a movie scene. I imagine it in my head.
K: We do watch a lot of movies, so....
What are some of your favorite movies?
D: 10 Things I Hate About You.
K: It's a hard one...
Didi's got her answers like right on her sleeves.
K: I know, I don't. We're opposites.
Who or what are some of your favorite authors or books... both of you?
D: I like Charles Bukowski. Right now I'm reading a collection of short stories.
K: I like the typical John Green-type author but the majority of the books today, for teens, they're romance. I'm not really about romance. It's just too cheesy for me. But, photography... why not?
Do you have any favorite photographers or types of photography?
K: Not really anyone specific, but I like social media. I just follow a lot of...ooh!
...That was a Cheeto hitting the microphone. Correction, a Flamin' Hot Funyun.
K: ...I follow a lot of Chicago photographers.
Do you like city photography and nature photography?
K: Yeah, city photography.
How do you like high school?
[giggles from both] K: The people we're surrounded with, they're so nice and friendly but the other people at the school, it's crazy. The education is really good. I love all my classes. It's really fun.
What grade are you guys in?
K: We're sophomores.
Sophomores... so you've got two more full years to go. You're right in the middle of all this.
K: It's going by fast, though.
D: Only seven more weeks!
Do you guys think you'll go to college after high school?
K: Of course!
Some people don't want to go to college. Do you think you'd stay in Chicago?
K: I like traveling a lot. That's why I like photography. Traveling inspired me to do photography so I would like to go around. Didi and I actually plan to go to England for college.
I did my junior year of college in England. When I was in high school I knew I was going to do it. I really wanted to go to England. It was super cool.
K: Oh my God.
The best thing I ever did. Study abroad is a really good idea.
K: Oh my God. We're doing that.
You should do it. You already know the language.
So, both of you nominated teachers for this project. I know they weren't available to work on this project with us but can you talk a little bit about them and why you nominated them?
K: I picked my teacher, my English teacher, Ms. Riordan, because she's really nice. She has a son going through surgery, but she's able to be happy all the time in front of her students, which shows that she's really strong, and that she has to hide it and everything. That's why I chose her.
D: I also chose my English teacher but my freshman teacher, Ms. Roby. I like the way she teaches classes, because she brings a little fun into it. In the beginning of the school year we wrote a story and I enjoyed it so much. I was like, yes... I like this a lot. Then, the poetry unit was great.
You like what they teach but they also seem to be really good people.
Let's talk a little bit about this shoot that we did, this whole raining snack thing. It's a little silly. What do you think it was all about?
K: I mean, I was hungry...[laughter]. I get it if we're working. When people work they get hungry. I like the idea of just working and then getting food magically. It's pretty cool and it makes sense at the same time.
It's also nice to just see two smart girls working, doing cool things, and making stuff too. You're both being creative so you need the energy. Do you guys have any other hobbies?
D: I like to draw and I write my own music sometimes.
K: I play volleyball. I surf but it's been a long time since I surfed.
Oh, that's a Hawaiian thing, huh? That is definitely not a Chicago thing.
Now, here's a weird question, when do you feel the most powerful or when do you ever feel powerful?
D: Music, absolutely.
When you write music?
D: No, when I'm listening to music. When I'm trying to go to sleep and I have my headphones in. It helps me sleep. But, sometimes when the music starts kicking in I have to write something. So, I just go and I just write.
K: I feel like in the society we live in today, the people in it... [deep exhale and eye roll]. I feel the most powerful when people that I'm surrounded by genuinely listen to me and actually care about what I say. That's when I feel the most powerful.
Like right now?
What makes you feel powerless?
K: I'm sensitive, so people that bring me down.
D: I guess the same thing because I'm a happy person. I don't want negativity, it's too much.
Do you guys ever feel any pressure being girls or do you feel like society is all cool and girls and boys are pretty even?
K: I don't have any problems with being a woman.
D: For now. But, I feel like in the future, we'll have to face that.
K: True, like in college.
D: Yeah, definitely college.
Hopefully by the time you guys are there we'll make some bigger strides. Maybe we'll have a female president. I don't know, maybe.
K: You should be president.
Maybe Didi will be president. Just graduate from high school and become president.
D: I could be vice president.
Well, class is over so we've got to go, do you guys have anything else you want to say?
K: I'm honored to be in this film to be honest. We like this film. It's fun.
D: It was fun, because I got to write, and the food was delicious.