Wednesday, February 25, 2015

And Where Do You “Where To?”: Candace Allen Nafissi, Redondo Beach City Council District 3 Candidate

I first met Candace Allen Nafissi when we worked together several years ago. We sat across from each other, and shared countless conversations and way too many inside jokes.

And while we had a ton of fun together as colleagues, one thing that always impressed me about her was that when it was time to get down to business, Nafissi was definitely on top of her game. As serious as she was passionate, she was fiery, hard-working, highly driven and goal-oriented. She always seemed to have a clear path set before her, confident and clear about she wanted to accomplish—personally, professionally and politically. And just as importantly, she had this way of eloquently explaining her vision, to the point where it made you want to just quit your job and join her right then and there.

So when I learned that she was running for Redondo Beach City Council District 3, while I wasn’t surprised, I was immediately intrigued to find out more about her decision to run, especially now, with a newborn, a toddler, a full-time job and a brand new house. Sure, I always knew she had a lot of balls to juggle in the air and she always did it with such style and grace, but how in the world was she going to pull off a campaign, with everything going on? And, what exactly did it take to run a successful city council campaign, anyway?

I stopped by her fundraising event last month and also chatted with her on the phone last week to get answers to my questions and also further insight into what it was like running as one of the youngest candidates ever, who if elected, would also be the first woman to sit on the Redondo Beach City Council.

She shared with me why she decided to run now, what a typical campaign day for her was like and of course, her favorite “where to” destination in Redondo Beach.

Read my interview with her below, and don’t forget to vote Tuesday, March 3, no matter what city, council or district you’re in!

WilsonsGuide: Why run for council now?
Candace: Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to be something “great,” but the question was, what could I get engaged in that kept my interest, kept my attention span, that I really liked and that I could feel like I could own it?

I thought about different careers I could go into, really thinking about my personality, my commitment to school and what I was really willing to do. Being a judge was number one, but I realized I had to be a lawyer, and I wasn’t going to law school. Going to school wasn’t my thing. And so I thought about which careers I could engage in and that really accented my personality and, I realized it had to be something like public relations or some type of job where I get to talk with people, engage with people and have direct contact with people. All of my careers thus far have been something of that nature, connecting with people or certain groups of folks. That’s just where my heart is.

So basically, there was a measure on the ballot for term limits. And so I said to myself and to my husband, “if this doesn’t pass, I want to run for council.” And he sort of laughed and was like, “uh, OK, whatever, you know, Candace—this is one of your things.” And then it didn’t pass—my current council member was being termed out—and so I came to him and I said “hey, I want to run for council.”

My next step was to meet with family and friends, and talk about how they could support me, because I obviously am going to need a tremendous amount of support. I’m a new mom—there’s a lot going on in my life, so I needed a lot of the help. Everybody said OK, and then that kind of brings me to today.

WilsonsGuide: What would you say are some of the challenges with running for an office?

Candace: Especially as young as I am—no one in our city has ever run at this age—my biggest challenge was, how am I going to fund raise? All of my friends are either my age or in college. All of my friends are mid-career, starting their lives, having families. They don’t have a ton of money to donate. The maximum they’re going to donate is like $75. How am I going to finance this campaign?

And the other challenge was, how am I going to get a community to trust me to run for council, considering my age and my limited experience? I’m young, I’ve only had about seven years in the workforce. How do I get them to trust me?

So I knew that one of the challenges was going to be my age, second challenge was going to be money, and third challenge was going to be trust, because I don’t have a huge, established career that people can look back on…In the grand scheme of things, I might look seriously inexperienced, and that’s a big a challenge I have to fight every day when I’m going door-to-door.

WilsonsGuide: How do you overcome those challenges?
Candace: I was incredibly self-conscious about it at first—I mean really self-conscious of my age. At first I was like, “no one tell a soul I’m 33,” because I knew that people would be like “oh she’s too young. She’s too young. It’s not her time.” I’ve totally heard that before. But I’ve overcome it by connecting with people. Because the second that you can open the door and connect with a person—you’re able to reiterate what’s going on and answer every single question thoroughly and write your phone number, and really have that connection with people—then people think a lot less about your age and a lot less about your career, but your ability to connect with them and establish a relationship.

WilsonsGuide: How have the experiences that you’ve had—you’ve worked with the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce and you’ve been the Historical Commissioner for the City of Redondo Beach for the past two years—shaped your background?
Candace: I think that everything I’ve done thus far has helped position me to run for council. Every single opportunity. I’ve been very smart and strategic about opportunities I engage in, not because I felt like, “oh this was the angle,” but because I always wanted to be doing something that was really productive and like I said, had a big impact on people. So people understand that I have a limited record because I’m younger—I’m only 33—but everything I’ve been engaging in has been very intentional and meaningful.

I think that my background has absolutely helped me. I’ve worked on council campaigns. I’ve interned for Council Member Jerome Horton, I’ve interned for [former California] Congresswoman Jane Herman, [former California State] Assembly Member Mike Gordon, I worked for [former California State] Assembly Member Ted Lieu and even though I was an intern, I was kind of like a pea in the pod, and got first-hand experience working on campaigns, and that information has really allowed me to be successful and valuable right now.

WilsonsGuide: As you mentioned, you are a new mother, you also work full-time and you’re managing a campaign. Literally, how do you do it all? That’s a lot on your plate!

Candace: There are 24 hours in a day and I only work seven of them, so there’s still a lot of time to do other stuff. I think part of my success is creating clear delineations of time. You have to carve out time for work, you have to carve out time for family, you have to carve out time for the campaign. And right now, I’m taking a break on my friends. And they understand that [laughs].

Tuesday is my campaign day, so on campaign day, I don’t check work emails. When I’m at work, I’m at work, and when I do campaign stuff, I’m doing campaign stuff. And when I’m with family, I’m with family. It’s important to me. Everybody needs some time from me right now, and I’m happy to give it, it just has to be at the right time.

WilsonsGuide: Is there a typical campaign day?
Candace: My Tuesdays are usually filled with half-days of meetings and then it’s going door-to-door. I organize a set of volunteers on Saturdays and Sundays to come to my home and then they also go door-to-door for me, too...and then after the day, after everyone comes back, we generally eat together and just kind of debrief about what they heard out there. Then I generally call all the people that [sic] weren’t home, when we went door-to-door. So it’s a lot of phone-banking and follow up.

WilsonsGuide: What advice would you have for anyone—especially who might be young or a woman—running for council for the first time?
Candace: I’d say my advice would be: it takes courage to do it, but you’d be surprised how many people will support you once you do it. And so, take a jump. It’s really scary. It’s like the scariest thing I’ve ever done. To put yourself out there publicly, you have no idea how people are going to react. I was so scared. You have no idea what’s going to come out of the wood works, what people will say about you, about your past or anything. But if you’re a good person, you just take a chance and people will see through that you want to do this and that you’re good at this. And people will stand behind you.

WilsonsGuide: People can learn more about your platform at your website, but can you talk a little bit about what would be the first thing if elected, that you would do in office?

Candace: One is, I want to thank every single person that helped me, and that’s going to take some time. That helped me, that trusted me, that took a chance on me, because that really means a lot.

And the second thing I’d probably do is continue to collaborate with residents to ensure that we are doing exactly what they want. I think that there’s been a little bit of history in this city where people [council members] kind of act on what they think is popular—what they themselves think is popular—without going to the residents to actually see what they want. So the huge benefit of going door-to-door, and knocking on doors, talking to people every day, is you understand exactly what they want. So I think that we have to get better collaboration with future projects, with residents and proposals. So my first goal would be to have greater collaborations between residents and projects. And get their input, make sure that they feel part of the process.

WilsonsGuide: My blog is about where to eat, drink and be merry in Los Angeles, so I’m just curious if you have a favorite restaurant, lounge, bar or social destination in Redondo Beach?

Candace: Yes. I want to say R/10 Social House. It’s where we had the fundraiser. Really great spot, really great food, really great people who own it. Everything about it is great. I like R/10 Social House.

For more information: 

* Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for reading ease.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Where to be Merry: GRAMMY Week

This past Sunday was the 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards.

Ever since I can remember, it's been on my bucket list to attend the GRAMMY Awards, but since my invite clearly keeps getting lost in the mail, in the meantime, I just have to resort to attending all the unofficial and official events leading up to the GRAMMY ceremony, in what's informally known as "GRAMMY week."

This year I went all out, attending six events in five nights. It was tough to do--to have to post up at open bars, hear tons of amazing music and watch so many intimate performances--but somebody had to do it, so it might as well have been me!

From gifting suites to tour announcements and mini-concerts, here's a look at the events I attended for GRAMMY week:


The Next2Shine Champagne Room

The Next 2 Shine took over Hollywood's Sadie Kitchen and Lounge, turning it into the #ChampagneRoom, for an intimate evening of networking and performances from up-and-coming recording artists.

The night commenced with guests mingling by the bar and taking advantage of the fabulous all-night-long $6 happy hour. Favorites included Moscow Mules, Whiskey Sours, French Fries with a house-made ketchup and Brussels Sprouts with bacon.

Mostly everyone eventually made their way to the covered outdoor patio for the main attraction of the night--the performances--which included one by Tess Henley, who played a mean version of Alicia Keys' “Fallin'.” DJ Lady Fox spun hits in between acts.

The three singers I saw had a jazzy flair and the crowd was really into the performances. Audience members swayed side to side emotionally, nodded their heads emphatically, and appeared to be engrossed in the music. Glad to see that the support is out for the next generation of the artists!


Imagine Dragons Tour Announcement

Imagine Dragons invited 200 guests to The Mayan in downtown L.A. for a very special announcement: their Smoke + Mirrors summer tour with Metric and Halsey.

Metric played a few songs before Billboard's Andrew Levy and Imagine Dragons came onstage for a brief Q&A session. Then, the band played five songs, including a new song before ending with the ever so famous hit, “Radioactive.”

The tour will stop in Los Angeles on Friday, July 24 at The Forum. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, Feb. 17.

ESSENCE Black Women in Music 

Essence magazine held its 6th annual ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood event at Avalon Hollywood, honoring GRAMMY Award-winning singer/actress Jill Scott, with performances by Brandi (pictured above), Chaka Khan and Lianne Las Havas.

For the first year ever, the publication opened up the traditionally invite-only affair to "fans," to be part of the Fan Experience, which is how I went. Hundreds of fans arrived about two hours prior to the start of the event to hang out in a lounge area, with an interesting selection of "mocktails" and pretzels with honey mustard dip. Lincoln and Colgate set up interactive booths and a DJ spun music.

While this was going on, I also made my way outside in the "Fan Zone," where a group of about 20 fans watched the red carpet arrivals. Some guests in arrival included: some of the cast of The Real (Tamera Mowry-Housley, Adrienne Bailon, Jeannie Mai and Loni Love), Jordin Sparks (pictured below), Chaka Khan, Elise Neal, Zendaya, Tasha Smith, Goapele, Chrisette Michelle, Taj Mowry, Flex Alexander, and of course, the woman of the hour, Jill Scott.

Once the event started, we fans were ushered onto the balcony, overlooking the club’s floor, which had been transformed into an intimate lounge, where guests schmoozed throughout the night and performers graced the stage.

We caught the first performance of the night—Brandi belting out throwback hits like "Sittin’ Up In My Room" and "Almost Doesn't Count." MC Lyte came out to join her for the "Baby" remix.

But, then I had to leave, because I had to head to the....

OK! 2015 Pre-Grammys Party 

The OK! magazine’s annual function was at Lure Nightclub, packed to the brim with industry types and lots of fun booths with complimentary services and giveaways.

Immediately upon entrance, Vevo provided samples of their updated product—which is now 70% alcohol proof (and yes, you can taste and feel the difference). And, an open bar with select libations kept the liquor flowing all night long.

There were tons of free goodies stationed throughout, including mini-manicures by Sally's, a giant candy station with literally all the candy you could ever imagine, and Chapstick and Zico coconut water giveaways.

But hands down, the highlight of the night was a powerful, commanding performance by Nico & Vinz, who have the hit single “Am I Wrong.”

Afterwards, guests tore it up on the dance floor to a mix of EDM, Top 40 and hip-hop/rap, before the event eventually ended.


Went to a party so terrible I left five minutes after being there and it's not even worth mentioning.


The Official GRAMMY Gift Lounge presented by MTG

I got a chance to head into the official GRAMMY Gift Lounge presented by MTG, where GRAMMY performers and presenters were able to pick up official talent gift bags (filled with $25,000 worth of goodies!) and also peruse through the backstage gift lounge, which included more than 10 stations providing amazing complimentary items to take home.

I saw some great swag, like the original Sean John velour track suit, with a slight upgrade: a thin strip of vegan leather down the middle. Sean John also gave away a candle with the latest Sean John scent, which will be released in a couple of months (its name hasn’t even been revealed yet; I tried to get at least a hint, but was sadly denied). More giveaways included a branded duffel bag and a “Dream Big” t-shirt, which is part of a campaign including participants like Troy Ave, Terrence J and John Wall, to inspire young men to dream big.

Another cool station that had a great giveaway was Gibson, providing 100th anniversary Les Paul guitars, featuring his signature and a hologram of his face on it. Those who stopped by to pick up this gift could also sign a guitar that will be auctioned off for charity, with proceeds going to the MusiCares Foundation.

Other lounge participants included MTG, New Era, the luxury train line Rocky Mountaineer, SIS by Simone I. Smith, Devicewear, Rouse, WowWee, the national tobacco prevention campaign truth, Tisanoreica and a new app called Rouse Social.

Celebrities who went to the Gift Lounge included in MC Lyte, Bow Wow, Jermaine Dupri, Herbie Hancock, Deborah Cox, TLC’s Chili, Ashanti, members of AC/DC and Chaka Khan, to name a few. It was open Thursday, Friday and Saturday.


Keurig 2.0 GRAMMY After-Party

Keurig definitely came through for the Grammy after party on Sunday night. The coffee brewer brand transformed The Continental Club in downtown L.A. into a beautiful setting, with fragrant candles and big floral arrangements.

An open bar kept guests—or at least, me—happy all night, with premium liquors on stock and also Continental’s killer, signature cocktails. Passed savory hors d’oeuvres and stationed sweets were also available to munch on.

The Norwegian multi-instrumentalist/singer Bernhoft came onstage about halfway through the affair to play a mean set, filled with funky Blues tunes. He had pretty much everyone captivated and grooving to his songs, which often featured him playing different instruments over pre-recorded tracks. A DJ kept the crowd dancing with a good mix of hip-hop, R&B and rap the rest of the time.

Some guests left with a voucher for an actual Keurig coffee machine and all guests left with a commemorative Keurig GRAMMY After-Party coffee mug.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Where to Eat: Taste Saturdays @ In The Mix LA


The Eats + Merriment: A prix fixe, midday brunch, with endless libations, a celebrity chef and a DJ on the 1s and 2s 

The Location: Beverly Hills

The Vibes: Upscale, renaissance, East Coast-meets-Hollywood

Good for:
A lively yet leisurely weekend brunch, with either small or large groups

When-To-Go: Select Saturdays; time varies

The $ Factor: $50 - $75 depending on how far in advance you purchase a ticket

The Names behind the scenes: For this inaugural brunch: Chef JR, DJ Karma Camille, In The Mix LA, Kitchen Cray

The 4-1-1: The “Taste Saturdays” brunch series hails from the same producers who host Sangria Sundays at the Sofitel and The Sound Edition at Ebanos Crossing

I’ll Be Back…: To have a completely different brunching experience, since the DJs, Chefs and restaurants change each time!

For its inaugural "Taste Saturdays" brunch series, In The Mix LA teamed up with Kitchen Cray to take over Philippe Chow in Beverly Hills, the last Saturday in January, from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., bringing approximately 180 guests a four-course prix fixe brunch with endless mimosas and Bellinis.

DJ Karma Camille kept the dapperly dressed crowd in a lighthearted mood, smoothly mixing R&B hits from the ‘70s, '80s and ‘90s (think The Emotions, Chaka Khan and a good dose of Michael Jackson) with today’s R&B and hip-hop singles (i.e., Usher’s “I Don’t Mind,” Nicki Minaj’s “Only” and Beyonce’s “7/11”).

Bartenders kept the Bellinis and mimosas flowing in the lounge, where guests mingled and socialized before and after sitting down for their brunch reservations… 

And Chef JR—who you may recognize from Season 13 of the Fox reality TV cooking competition Hell’s Kitchen—kept guests full and satisfied, with his five star, four-course, Southern brunch. 

On this Saturday in particular, three seatings were available—11:30 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. While the invite mentioned that each seating was an hour-and-a-half hour long, I was told guests actually could dine as long as they pleased—they weren't asked to leave. And, many guests stayed, clearly enjoying the food and the ambiance. This meant that some guests for the later seatings had to wait to be seated, but no one seemed to mind too much, especially with the free flowing cocktails and upbeat music.

I was invited to stop by for the last seating. I ran into a few familiar faces (shout out to Tyrin Ford of Ethno Multimedia Group) and also met new friends as well. I enjoyed the cocktails and liked the scene, but most importantly, I fell in love with Chef JR’s food. When I say that man can cook, he can cook. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like cooking for 150+ starving patrons in a limited amount of time, but each course came out as if it had been the only order in the kitchen: aesthetically eye-catching and definitely delicious.

Here’s a look at what was on the menu at the inaugural “Taste Saturdays”: 

First Course—BBQ Crispy Chicken Devils: 

Two smooth, refreshingly cool hard-boiled eggs were stuffed with a creamy, buttery yellow egg yolk mixture that had the slightest hint of BBQ. Thin, shreds of BBQ chicken topped everything off.

Second Course—Red Velvet Waffles with Bacon Fried Chicken: 

The first detail that caught my was how crispy the golden chicken skin was—even with syrup drizzled on it—and when pulled back, how tender the chicken was. How the skin managed to stay so golden and crispy is beyond me, but it was the epitome of what fried chicken should be. A large red velvet waffle, strawberry slices and smoky bacon were also included. The portions were generous, especially considering that another main course was on its way. 

Third Course—Shrimp and Fried Cheesy Grits with a Cream Sauce: 

By the time this third course came out, I can’t lie—I was pretty full. There had been just been so much food! However, I wasn’t going to let that stop me, especially when there were shrimps and cheesy grits involved. The grits weren’t your typical grits. Instead, they were shaped into a circular patty, lightly fried, firm and subtly crispy on the outside. Four large shrimps were beautifully balanced on top of the grits and a cheesy cream sauce covered it all.

The Steak and Eggs with Red Skin Hash was also offered for the Third Course. Where I sat, mostly everyone had the Shrimp and Grits, but I did talk with two ladies nearby who got the steak and said it was good, especially the accompanying hash.

Dessert—Banana Fritters with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream: 

A scoop of chilled vanilla ice cream accompanied a warm, oval shaped banana fritter that was crunchy and sugary on the outside, and moist and light on the inside. I could have eaten four more of these!

“Taste Sundays” is yet another classy affair under the In The Mix LA brand, which launched last Summer 2014, focusing on producing quality events centered around the arts, music or food, and sometimes all three, simultaneously. The brunches will be held monthly, and possibly even twice a month, featuring different DJs, chefs and locations.

Check back on the In The Mix LA website for future updates, and see you at a brunch soon!

For more information: