Monthly Archives: February 2017

This was the hardest letter I ever had to write

I never really liked goodbyes but every experience happens to bring forward something better. Since I’ve lost people very close to me I’ve learned nothing is ever really gone; it stays apart of you forever, if you let it.


Leave a comment

Filed under Success

The Culture Issue

We were going to title this magazine special edition the Diversity Edition. My team was more interested in calling it Culture because it’s not about the different people it’s about showcasing the beautiful cultures in and around our community. I will forever be blown away by the beauty of San Francisco and the journalists who have called it home. This is a big love letter to the team at {X}Press Magazine. Sometimes we call ourselves Xpress, sometimes we call ourselves Xpress Magazine, but we all have the same core beliefs: listening and being able to tell stories is an ethic. It’s in our training to do it right. Some journalists who I know don’t even vote because they take their ethics this strong; I am ethical but I still vote! I’m also not a practicing journalist I’m in finance but once a journalist always a journalist. That former chair challenged me and said “are you?” I will forever not judge anyone for their political or non political views. Cultural differences are beautiful and should never be abused; if you judge or abuse in any way, you lost the ethic that is so beautiful.editors-letter-diversity-issue.jpg

Leave a comment

Filed under Success

The Green Issue Editor’s Letter

It has never been a more suitable time to go back to the green issue. We will upload the full copy of the magazine shortly. For now I just needed to refresh the link to the Editor’s Letter for some interviewing, and frankly, it’s fun showcasing but as you all know my life’s work is helping people. It’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s about how can we move our generation forward and make sure future generations have it better than we had. In this brushstroke this is why the full magazine version will be available shortly. Stay tuned. For now, enjoy!


Leave a comment

Filed under Success

Road to Freedom

In honor of Black History Month, 2017 I want to showcase Jean Fisher’s story. Jean Fisher is the first nonwhite voter in London in South Africa’s monumental elections that shattered the legacy of apartheid.

May we all fight for what we believe in and never give up. & may we all be more like the moon, in arguments, just shine, let the other person freak out – Phaedra Parks, Real Housewives of Atlanta.


writer: Lea Wiviott     photographer: Maria Evanglista


Inside the living room, the sun’s illumination mingles with the lavender aroma filtering through the air. Through her sliding glass double doors, past the rusty patio chair, and to the right of the matching off-white metal table, she sits, drinking her tea and looking onto a grassy field over the peaceful waves of Richardson Bay.

“It is a splendid view, isn’t it?” Her pearly teach expand into a smile, “I feel very lucky to be here.” Luck, however, is only part of the equation that brought her out of legalized segregation and poverty in a colored suburb of Durban, South Africa. Now, she resides in California and consults her Ayurveda patients in her home.

At first Jean Fisher, now fifty-two, has trouble recalling her previous life. Spirituality in the form of meditation and yoga uplifts her 5’2″ frame to continue reaching her potential. “You have to work to believe things will get better,” she explains. “Then, by manifesting those thoughts into realty, you will accomplish your dreams.”

From her radiant nature, one may not grasp the destitute of her life under apartheid, or legalized segregation.

After a while, Fisher’s memories under the institutionalized degrading practices come to her. “Growing up everything was segregated, from the beaches to the schools to our neighborhoods.”

If she wanted to walk home past 9pm even if from work, and no officer would issue a “Dompass,”(to limit nonwhite’s whereabouts and allow for what Fisher calls “a white man’s paradise”) then jail time was a common punishments.

Systemized in 1948, the hierarchy of apartness tarnished black, colored, and Indian families — who were ninety percent of South Africa’s population, through providing no ladder to earn higher statuses.

Despite having little money and being one of four children in a single mother colored household, with no access to proper education, the incurable optimist says she always felt unstoppable because of her twin brother, who was constantly at her side.

“It all started when we turned sixteen,” she says. “We were so excited because that is the age when you apply for your Book of Life (one’s own reference book that defines identities and therefore districts). So we went, identified ourselves as “Colored” because we are half Indian, half Zulu, born February 11, 1957 and all that stuff, and turned it in… waited… and waited.”

Her voice deepening, she recalls the day when the reply arrived from Pretoria, the capital, “We tore it open and could not believe what we saw: ‘Jean Iyannon: Colored’ and ‘Johnny Iyannon: Indian.”

Those three words legally forced her twin brother out of his childhood familiarities and into separate Indian schools that enforced different from their formerly shared (colored) lessons and cultural values.

“I wanted to fight it,” Fisher says. “But my mother wouldn’t let me; she was too afraid to lose us both to the Indian districts.”


Living under apartheid legally outlawed nonwhites from dating whites, but as a twenty-one-year-old jewelry salesperson of Durban’s Hyperama Mall, Fisher suddenly found herself in love.

“He was beautiful,” she says of the British butcher that passed her in the corridor on his way to the cantine. “and he would stop by the shop and ask a bit about the jewelry; that’s how we started to talk.”

As a high school graduate, Fisher understood that apartheid jeopardized her aspirations, but would not let it endanger romance. Instead, the pair was forced into secrecy.

“It was just too dangerous,” Fisher admits. When asked what would have happened if she was caught, her carefree tone hardens: “I really don’t even want to think about that. They would have put me in jail, thrown away the key, and let him go because he’s white. That was common practice, but I never let myself think that way.”

As others around them mysteriously vanished, the couple’s fears peaked. Fisher posed as a maid: in a cap, pinned hair, and cream smock, to keep others from suspecting her interracial relationship, but even that was risky. Escaping became survival.

One year passed before the lovers packed their belongings: clothes and passports. They then embarked on the six – hour drive, through two checkpoints, and across valleys plowed by black farmers until they reached their new home west of the Drakensburg Mountains in Masseru, Lesotho. Fisher worked with USAID there, and says that her life was great because institutionalized segregation did not exist and her relationship could have more autonomy, which led to marriage.


As the sun is setting, there is a pause. Exuding the air between her lips, Fisher slashes the rare tranquility. “There is another thing,” she says, before confessing of her month later travesty.

“I’d wanted to see my family, that’s it,” she says of her attempt at renewing her South African passport.  “But in South Africa the inaccurate generalization was that anyone living in Lesotho was part of the then oppositional party, African National Congress, since their headquarters were in Maseru too. So even though I wasn’t part of ANC, my residence, my skin color, and being South African around ANC activists and raids led the passport processors to hit me.”

Her cool and collective composure shakes as she recalls the moment the pots arrived from South Africa that proved her secret fears were correct. “Nonexistent. There is no record of you as South African. You are not permitted to enter this country.”

“But I am South African,” the newlywed remembers pleading in her appeal, even detailing her family, hometown and schools — unsuccessfully.

“Even though it was an awful and common thing, I never let myself think that stuff is going to happen,” she says, “and so it was a really big blow.”

Fisher turned to spirituality. “I became a  born-again Christian,” she says, recalling the missionaries’ life-changing knock at her door. “My thoughts are still shaped by them.”

Acquiring British citizenship through her British husband was her only option. She admits to having uneasiness about this — she was still attached to hime, and because she could not hold dual citizenships, acquiring British citizenship would mean forfeiting South African citizenship.

“But I had no choice,” the pragmatist says. “I was stuck.”

Six months later, Fisher’s British passport arrived. “Then I could go in person to Bloomfonteine, the South African passport processing headquarters, and straighten out the mess,” she says, her voice gaining excitement. “And I did, and so it worked out for the best because I was able to hold two passports, which is extremely rare as a South African.”


London is not only the city of life, but a place that nonwhite South Africans under apartheid seldom were freed into; for the ambitious thirty-five-year-old, it became her next venture. “It ws a new beginning,” recalls Fisher, who had been divorced over the course of those years. “A friend even arranged my living arrangement in London in exchange for house sitting until I got on my feet.” This was where the opportunist says she gained formerly inaccessible academics and financial security. “Working on Fleet Street where you have all the business men and women in their three-piece suits and fancy hats and briefcases, you really feel like you are on top of the world. And I was part of that world,” she explains.

Only three years into her stay, from the newspapers, television, and her mother, Fisher heard the news that South Africa would hold free elections. Although abroad, she fantasized immensely about destroying apartheid and she always prayed for its demise.

Fisher’s visions came true hours after she awoke one snowy Wednesday morning. She applied a simple amount of makeup to her face, brusher her curly brown hair, and threw on her ‘really posh’ three-piece suit. Saying a little prayer, she grabbed her briefcase and embarked on the fifteen-minute speed walk to the Jubilee station. Although these rituals were characteristic of a typical morning, they were being exercised in the spirit of an epoch.

“That was the day I was representing my country, so I really wanted to look good,” Fisher elucidates. “Healing had finally come about for my people in South Africa. There area a lot of people who have prayed and worked for the struggle, people who never give up hope. And I just felt very proud to be voting for the first time.”

After a twenty-five minute tube ride, she passed the 149-year-old fountain in-between the stone steps of the Trafalgar Square South African Embassy, which up until the day before would have been filled with protesters against apartheid. Excitement filled the air. But as she stared at the backs of the two white men walking out from the polls, it all felt surreal. The flock or reporters rushed up t her and surrounded her. “That’s when I realized I was the first colored voter,” she confesses.

“I feel great and proud to be representing my country,” she recalls saying into the news cameras. “We must unite if the country is to reach its potentials.”

“Even months later, my mom’s phone would not stop ringing.” Fisher chuckles. “I guess they showed those clips of me over and over and people from my village just couldn’t believe it was all really happening.”

She continues: “I was a poor black woman leaving South Africa with only a suitcase in hand and I put myself through University, got a job at a top corporation – enough cash to purchase my own Westhampton apartment, and I was able to gain my country freedom in casting that first black vote. I always believed I could do it, and it has turned out a pretty remarkable story.”

One year later, the free spirit pierced barriers again by throwing herself into California’s uninhibited way of life.


Fister gained individual freedom before that April 27, 1994 legendary vote, but her situation remains rare. Even with improved freedom, black rights, electoral systems, and basics (like sanitation), South Africans are still wrestling oppression. Nearly six million South Africans suffer the world’s largest AIDS epidemic, and twenty million battle poverty. In a recovering economy that is increasingly hurting from the global recession, lack of access to aid, education, and medicine are impeding the progress necessary for South Africans to follow in Fisher’s footsteps.

Reversing the social order constructed around whites, for instance, has over-empowered blacks to the point of marginalizing colored and Indians, experts say, which need re-examining.

According to Fisher, the reason her Zulu mother earned ownership of her childhood home under the new constitution is because the Indian landlord, like many non-blacks, was forced into a rural area.

Even after serving twenty0seven years in prison for “sabatoge,” or organizing against apartheid, unifying and giving voice remains the goal of the “father of South Africa.” Nelson Mandela’s devotion to unifying the ravaged country is exhibited through acts like commending South Africa’s mainly white national rugby team, the Springboks.

Similarly, Fisher takes immense pride in inspiring everyone back home to nurture each other into achieving their dreams from still struggling Wentworth locals to the legendary Mandela family, whom she visited in Soweto, Johannesburg.

In addition to always responding positively to adversity, Fisher says: “The most powerful and important thing is to remember that united we stand and divided we fall; and for our country and world to remain strong, that is what we must do.”


contact:  Lea Wiviott studies magazines and political science. Outside class she loves designing interiors, talking with people, reading and writing features that better society, and watching documentaries after visiting beaches with her boyfriend.


Article originally published in April/May 2009 in [X]Press Magazine, what Society of Professional Journalists has called the best student-run magazine.


Leave a comment

February 19, 2017 · 7:17 am

Battling the Recession


Leave a comment

Filed under Success

Consumption Crazed, originally published in XPress Magazine, Dec 21, ’09

Consumption Crazed

The costly consequences of shopping addiction.

by Lea Wiviott, Editor-in-Chief

DECEMBER 21, 2009 4:41 PM

Marissa Brown went to Macy’s today for a new pair of boots and pantyhose, but came back with four times more merchandise than she had planned to purchase. The tights will eventually find their way into drawers that are already stuffed with many tights and countless pairs of leggings.

Making room for new goods that are not needed has resulted in turning the attic above her bedroom into a makeshift storage unit. The downstairs closet has also turned into a burrow for extra jackets. Brown’s townhouse is immaculate, with the exception that there is clothing everywhere. “You will play tricks on yourself to get it and it becomes the most important thing,” says Brown, who does not want her actual name used due to the stigma of shopping addiction. She slides her mirrored closet door open, and stuffs her new Stuart Weitzman leather boots on top of a mountain of shoes before sliding the door closed.

This wall-length closet is squished with seventy-five jackets, along with around fifty pairs of jeans, in addition to the boots. Yet Brown feels such a sense of euphoria when she acquires anything new that she has trouble controlling her consumption. “When I see somebody with something I want, it doesn’t matter where it’s from or how much [it costs], I have to have it and I’m good, I always find it,” Brown explains.

Many people can relate to Brown. According to Terrence Shulman, founder of Shopaholics Anonymous, “a shopping addict is someone, male or female, who shops excessively in a manner that produces negative consequences yet refuses to or is unable to curtail or stop this behavior.” Shulman says shopping addicts are unable to control themselves despite negative consequences such as financial troubles, loss of time, changes in sleep or appetite, inability to keep relationships, or feelings from guilt to anxiety, along with an overall loss of control and preoccupation with shopping.

According to recent studies, nearly ten percent of Americans fall into the diagnosis of oniomania, the scientific name for shopping addiction, which is up from six percent in 2006. Shulman says this trend is only increasing and he cites the prevalence of bargains in the recession as the culprit.

Angela Wurtzel, another addiction therapist specializing in oniomania, sees a brighter side of the recession in that “more people are open and willing to address their own limitations around money and shopping, and deal with the deeper emotional issues that have to do with deprivation, fear of deprivation, emptiness, and self worth.”

In Brown’s case, deprivation is a common theme throughout her life. “My husband never shows affection,” she says, later adding that while she comes from a wealthy family, as a child money was never spent on items like jewelry or clothes so “it was like we were poor.”

When she moved to San Francisco she therefore felt entitled to her new BMW 325i and all the wonderful offerings that the unique city boutiques had to offer–even if she were purchasing them on credit. “It doesn’t matter if it makes sense financially, you just have to have it,” she explains.

Like nearly half of North Americans, Brown spends more than she earns annually. And while the recession has resulted in her losing a portion of her retirement, it is her overwhelming love for shopping that has plummeted her twenty thousand dollars into debt. (After today’s trip, that number increased by around five hundred dollars.) The result: she has had to take out a second loan from her house as well as take on extra shifts as a flight attendant. “And I haven’t been the best about saving,” she continues.

According to Wurtzel, transferring balances from one credit card to another is also a common practice of shopping addicts, along with “getting a large sum of money as a gift and rather than using the money in a way they ‘know’ they should, like to pay a bill, they ‘feel’ their way through the experience and go shopping and tell themselves they deserve it.”

Wurtzel has even heard of women donating their eggs to pay off bills and then using the rest of the money for more things they do not need but crave to the point of obsession.

While Brown says she would never donate her eggs to fulfill her love of shopping, her problem has led to extreme measures on other fronts. Not only is her house packed to the rafters, but her marriage has suffered from her spending practices; money disputes are one reason her husband and she have fallen into estrangement.

“The problem is, during times of stress, many addictions get worse,” says Shulman. “Many people who can ill afford to continue to shop often do so even more when under stress–it’s like a drug.”

Like drugs, there are many different kinds of shopping addictions. According to Shulman, compulsive shoppers shop to avoid uncomfortable feelings or situations; trophy shoppers need special items to stem an emotional vacuum; collector shoppers, like trophy shoppers, need more and more of a particular item (usually sets) to feel complete; image shoppers buy things they hope will project an image of power or perfection to stanch feelings of inferiority; bulimic shoppers buy and return items; co-dependent shoppers buy more for others than themselves to gain love, approval, acceptance; and, finally, spendaholics, or people who do not necessarily buy things (though they may overspend on a home or a car) go way overboard purchasing vacations, dining out, and other events.

As is the case with most shopping addicts, Brown mainly buys clothes to make herself feel beautiful, but she does so at the expense of her relationships and financial security. Nevertheless, she does not want a formal diagnosis. Still, whenever she travels to a new place–which, as a flight attendant, she does biweekly, she also collects Starbucks mugs bearing that city’s name and she buys souvenirs for her family… even when they have asked her to stop.

According to the experts, people commonly exhibit multiple oniomaniac behaviors, which many attribute to the prevalence in American culture of encouragements to shop. The average American is bombarded with three thousand advertisements daily.

“There may be many different theories on how we got to be such a consumerist society. I think advertising got more clever and pervasive. I think we began to emulate the lifestyles of the rich and famous more. I think the explosion of malls and stores and the Internet and Home Shopping TV all played a part,” Shulman says.

While it was not always called oniomania, this problem has been around forever. President Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, was one of the earliest documented Americans with this disorder. Yet over the past twenty years oniomania has received much more attention. Support groups like Debtors Anonymous and Shopaholics Anonymous have since emerged. Academic movements against the mainstream American dream of making money to acquire new goods have also come into light.

Still, Brown believes a shopping lover is who she is and she is not planning on changing. She has, however, recently been diagnosed with Attention Hyperactivity Disorder. And she, along with experts, believe there may be a link between the anxiety and boredom that sometimes characterizes people with ADHD and the need to shop.

“When people are anxious, they are vulnerable to turning to easy ways to temporarily calm themselves–food, alcohol, drugs, TV, shopping… of course, when the negative consequences and secrets mount so, too, does the anxiety, and then the vicious cycle begins–more shopping to cover up more anxiety… until there is a crisis or a discovery of the problem and then the bubble bursts and real recovery can begin,” Shulman says.

“My hopes for shopping addicts are that they find the way that works for them to develop and understand this destructive problem,” says Wurtzel. “I try to tell people that they will end up having more if they work through this and come to understand themselves, develop emotionally, and create a structure to live a safe and contained life.

“My hopes are that people, especially young people, wise up about the seductive dangers of overshopping and overspending not just in terms of lost dollars but lost time, lost focus, lost relationship, lost direction, says Shulman. “We need to develop a healthy, balanced, and realistic relationship with money, credit, things–just as with food, alcohol, relationships, work, anything.” [X]

» E-mail Lea Wiviott @

Leave a comment

Filed under Success