The Zeitgeist


This Gen X’er And Her Two Young Daughters Are Trying To Revolutionize Millennial Menswear

Who says that you have to be a millennial in order to know what they want?

After spending five years as a housewife, Mary Di Fede-Garcia, age 47 and a resident of South Florida, decided that it was time for a change.

She focused on the men’s online clothing market for young people, sensing that it was a soft market.

Then Di Fede-Garcia launched Solsburry last December.

Solsburry is a website where men, mostly millennials, can find affordable clothing.

According to Di Fede-Garcia, Solsburry was chosen as the name of the brand because of a story told by former Genesis front-man Peter Gabriele.

“Peter was not getting along with his band member, Phil Collins, and he got to a turning point in which he needed to decide between going solo or take the back seat at the band while Collins was the lead,” Di Fede-Garcia said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “Peter went to a place in England, called Solsburry Hill, where a sense of change came to him, decided to go on his own, and became very successful.”

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Mary Di Fede-Garcia, second from left, with her husband Alex and two daughters at a party in 2014.

Change has come to Di Fede-Garcia’s life as well, but the creation of Solsburry, the brand, was not an easy feat for her.

She had to face two of her greatest challenges: the Internet and social media.

“While I was building the brand in my head, I said to myself: ‘Let me face my biggest fears right on’,” Di Fede-Garcia said. “’If I am technologically challenged and I manage to do well on the web and social media, then I would know that there is nothing I can’t conquer.’”

To overcome her fear and after working for some months with a web developer, Di Fede-Garcia established Solsburry on the web, and it is spreading its name in social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

Di Fede-Garcia has had support from her family in figuring out how to efficiently use social media as a branding and sales tool.

“Seeing her struggle since the beginning in not knowing how to do certain things on the web led me to help her,” Mary’s 18 year old daughter Lauren del Pino said.

Lauren is helping with the social media marketing efforts for the brand while her 22 year old sister, Danielle del Pino, is leading the web styling and selection of clothing for the brand.

“My sister helps out with the social media section because that is natural for her,” Danielle said. “I love helping out putting together the styling and the organization for the brand, and, of course, the photoshoots.”

The two daughters not only help their mom build and maintain the brand but also, along with their friends have provided significant inspiration since day one according to Di Fede-Garcia.

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A view of a Solsburry photo shoot.

“My daughters have male friends who visit the house, and they are always commenting about how the women’s clothing market is over saturated while the men’s one is missing attention,” Di Fede-Garcia said. “I decided that I wanted to provide quality clothing that is durable, easy to wash and wear.”

Solsburry, is aiming at providing clothing for young men from high school to young adults who are starting their careers- men who want clothes that make them to look good but are also affordable.

Di Fede-Garcia said that she understands that young men at those stages have other priorities that are more important than looking good.

She also contributes a portion of the proceeds from each piece sold to some charities each month.

More Info On Solsburry:

[email protected]

Phone: +1 (305) 275-1829

Toll Free: 1 (844) 834-1829

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Photo Credit: Solsburry/ Submitted.

Here’s How Elon Musk Is Going To Save The World

By Matthew Alvarez

A lot of people wonder when the future’s coming, while others make it.

That’s what Tesla is currently doing, and most everyday folks either don’t know or don’t care about it unfortunately.

A revolution of how we use energy to power our homes and transport ourselves is on the horizon, and the future is very bright.

For over a hundred years, the oil and car manufacturing industries have had smooth sailing, not just dominating their respective fields but also literally controlling how we as a species power the world.

That incredibly strong foundation is however, starting to show small cracks with concepts like climate change earning widespread recognition and evidence that we might be running out of fossil fuels sooner than later. Whether we want it to or not, the methods we use today to extract and use energy has to change, and Tesla is leading the way in widening those cracks.

Let’s start with a bit of context as to why Tesla is more than just your average high end car dealer. The company was founded by Elon Musk (a dude who not only created PayPal, but is currently running SpaceX, SolarCity and Tesla).

Realizing that electric cars could not only be practical, but also eventually affordable, Musk set out to create just that vision.

Tesla’s plan from the beginning was to make the Model 3 (which we’ll get to soon), but they needed capital and trust from the automobile market before, so they made the Roadster, a high end 100% supercar that goes 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds.

Then came the Model S, a 4 door electric luxury sedan that goes 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds and has the highest safety rating of any vehicle ever, followed by the Model X, an electric luxury SUV. The sales, high praise and recognition from these three EV’s (Electric Vehicles) paved the way for the flagship product that has every tech geek and automobile enthusiast either panicking or cheering for, the Model 3.

The Tesla Model S. Photo Credit: Christopher Dorobek/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The Tesla Model S. Photo Credit: Christopher Dorobek/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

There’s a reason The Model 3 made over 325,000 preorders with a $1000 deposit within days of its announcement.

Without any significant advertising the company has captured the world’s attention with its grassroots origins and completely unique business operation.

Tesla built their cars from scratch, reworking the idea of what makes a car, all with the goal of making the Model 3.

It starts at $35,000, goes from 0 to 60 in under 6 seconds, has a 5 star safety rating in all categories, can drive up to 215 miles on a single charge, and has autopilot. Oh and that’s just the basic version of it, Tesla is known to continuously update their vehicles, beefing up both software and hardware.

Alright cool, all that has somehow failed to impress you, so why should you care?

Because that package comes in the same price range as a Cadillac ATS, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes CLA, and Lexus IS (without Tax incentives). The Model 3 won’t just be competing with high end luxury vehicles like its predecessors, but will now enter the market of middle class affordable vehicles, which is the most important market to tap if they want to reach their goal of selling 500,000 Model 3’s.

The Model 3 is offering quality on par with luxury brands while staying just above current competitor EV prices. Tesla already proved you don’t need to sacrifice the commodities of a gas powered sports car for an electric engine, so if they keep up their end of the deal with the Model 3 they’ll prove that you can get more out of an electric powered car than whatever you’re driving right now.

To accomplish this very, very ambitious goal, Tesla started building their own battery production plant, a lithium ion battery Gigafactory, which will also happen to be the second largest building in the world volume wise.


The Tesla headquarters in Palo Alto, CA. Photo Credit: Windell Oskay/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Other than needing their own supply of mass produced car batteries, Tesla built this plant with another end goal in mind: Driving up the global supply of lithium ion batteries while cutting down production costs by getting rid of the middlemen, which in turn lowers prices of the battery by a projected 30%.

This is crucial for Tesla if they want to produce the Model 3s both in time and for a profit. Once production begins sometime in 2017, the Gigafactory will aim to double the world’s production of these batteries by 2020 when it becomes fully operational. To account for the lack of infrastructure to supplement long range travels with an EV, Tesla is building hundreds of charging stations worldwide along highways and major cities, called Superchargers, giving incentives for people who like to take long distance trips.

Of course all these magical accomplishments haven’t come without massive struggles. Tesla’s stocks have zig-zagged since its inception, and they almost went completely bankrupt in 2008.

They have pushed back every deadline they have ever set, and every new venture they take still has incredible risk to fail. Even with their impressive growth, their projected and current numbers only make a small dent in the auto industry compared to other EV’s (even if those other cars are of inferior quality).

There are endless reports on the obstacles Tesla has ahead of itself, which include likely deadlines pushes, lack of resources, long term failure to lower costs, and ultimately the demand for their vehicles outside of tech-savvy wealthy liberals (frankly). It’s important to understand all these upcoming challenges are valid and apparent, even if Tesla is currently addressing them.

What has seemed to be ignored by a lot of reports are the possibilities and implications the Model 3 would give not just Western society, but the future.

The optimistic future pans out if the Model 3 continues to run its hype train reaching 500,000 sales, and have the Gigafactory reach full manufacturing capacity by 2020 with only minimal deadline setbacks. At that point Tesla would cement itself as a serious threat to anything powered by gasoline. And of course there is the future beyond Model 3. Musk has always said that Tesla’s main focus would go to low cost, widely available products, so it only makes sense that we could possibly see cheaper versions of the Model S and Model X along with new models.

On top of its own growth, the influence Tesla has given to the rest of the industry to start experimenting with electrically powered vehicles has started seeing significant results. Cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt have gained traction, and more companies are pushing towards creating hybrids and EV’s every year.

With everything thrown at it, and every odd against it, Tesla has gotten this far and that’s an accomplishment in itself. They have passed their proving grounds, now Tesla is standing up to the test of time. It won’t be easy for them to reach the finish line that they are quite literally still building, but the change has started.

Electric cars are just a small step that the world will have to embrace and take if we want optimize our long term energy habits for generations to come. A world where you charge your car every night like you do your phone is closer than you think, and will need to be.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us

Miami’s Shame: Little Farm Trailer Park Sinks Into Slum As Chinese Land Owners Ignore Resident’s Plight

The closest that most of the world has come to the Little Farm was during the pilot episode of HBO’s original series Ballers.

In the show, retired NFL player Charles Greane works as a salesman at the very real Tropical Chevrolet car dealership (8800 Biscayne Blvd) before Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson swoops in to convince him to get back on the field.

But three blocks away at the Little Farm trailer park in El Portal (8500 Biscayne Blvd), the HBO cameras wouldn’t dream of going. No luxury to be found there. Just unspeakable despair.

There, one of Miami’s former great working class neighborhoods has been turned into a slum by years of bad landlords and poor governmental oversight.


Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

The Little Farm is not talked about much- mostly because few people seem to know about it and even fewer care.

There’s lots of poor people in Miami and the area’s middle class is somewhat used to the idea that poverty is close to home.

Homeless men and women are a ubiquitous site at most I-95 off ramps in the area, meaning that it is near impossible to avoid the thought of abject poverty on your daily commute.

And yet, we ignore it and go home to our comfortable lives filled with Netflix and minor inconveniences.

But the Little Farm is different.


Empty trailer at the Little Farm in El Portal. Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

I’ve lived six minutes away my entire life and didn’t know about it until a few months ago when one of our reporters wrote about it.

And even then, I didn’t fully comprehend what was happening there until I got off my ass and drove into the development last week.

“They Didn’t Tell Us Nothing”

Clairmise Blanc is fed up.

A youthful looking Haitian woman in her early 70’s, Blanc is the defacto point person for outsiders to the Little Farm. She also lives right next to a burnt out trailer that stinks to high heavens.

“My husband died on April 22, 2011 and left me here alone,” Blanc said to me, causing me to pause and offer my condolences. “I’d like to live here. But there’s no future in this. Everything is down, especially at the nighttime. Too many people are drug addicts here. I don’t like it no more. I’ve tried to find other places to go.”

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Clairmise Blanc. Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

Born in Haiti, she moved to the United States in 1981 and has lived at the Little Farm for eight years. She owns her own trailer, but it is poor shape, with holes in the windows and a sagging look to it. She also pays $450 a month for the trailer to sit on her small plot.

At one time, hundreds of trailers dotted the 17 acre property, but after a Chinese company bought the property last year, people started getting evicted. Then came the buy out offers– $2,000 to up and leave.

If you didn’t take the deal, it wouldn’t matter much because you had to leave under the terms of a deal the Village of El Portal signed with the Chinese company- Wealthy Delight.

From a Miami New Times report on Little Farm a few months ago:

“One day last February, everything changed. Little Farm was sold for $14.25 million, and Wealthy Delight, a company based in Coral Gables but whose owners are difficult to trace, took over. Soon it became clear the Village of El Portal had agreed to forgive more than $8 million in liens on the site if the new owners paid $575,000 and razed the mobile home park.”

Many people took the buy outs and soon their trailers were razed.

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A lot where a trailer once stood. Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

Legal action has delayed the complete eviction of the remaining residents at Little Farm, but only around 40 people remain according to Blanc. And they will all certainty will be pushed out in the coming months.

“They didn’t tell us nothing,” Blanc said. “They’ve tried to push us away. It’s not fair.”

The Fire

According to multiple witnesses, a fire broke out in a Little Farm trailer on the evening of February 19th.

“It was a mother, son and a daughter was living in there,” Blanc said.

While no one was hurt, the fire was intense and devastating.

The family living there had to move- one less eviction for Wealthy Delight to conduct.

Blanc’s trailer sits less than 15 feet away from the burnt out trailer. Nearly two months after the blaze, little has been cleaned up and the smell is starting to become unbearable for the remaining residents in the area.


Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.


Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

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Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

“I’m tired of that smell, it just stinks,” Blanc said. “I want them to clean this thing. It is a mess. People can’t live like this.”

I start to cough after the breeze picks up and I notice how disgusting the burnt out remnants really are.

“That’s the office right there,” Blanc said while pointing towards the land lord management building across the road.


The view of the burnt out trailer from Blanc’s trailer. Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.


The view of the burnt out trailer (behind the trees) from the porch of the land lord management building. Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

The burnt out unit is directly in front of the office, which means that the land lord would have to see it everyday as they arrive for work.

“They don’t care,” Blanc said of Wealthy Delight. “You think if they cared, they would have cleaned it a long time ago. But it’s been two months now. If they cared, they would have cleaned it because people are living here.

I ask her if she thinks the trailer hasn’t been cleaned up as a way to get her to move.

She demurs and says that in order for her to leave they are going to have to fork out more money.

El Portal Village Manager Jason Walker told RISE NEWS that he had not been aware of the fire but that it was the landlord’s responsibility to clean it up.

A representative for Wealthy Delight refused to answer questions on the phone and asked for questions via email, which they have also not answered.

Have a tip? Email us at [email protected]

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us

All Photo Credits: Rich Robinson/RISE NEWS.

Alabama Tennis Team Choreographs Justin Bieber’s “Baby” On Long Trip, Wins Our Hearts

If you’ve ever been close to the day in and day out of college sports, then you know how boring and monotonous off the field activities can be.

And for the Alabama Crimson Tide Men’s Tennis team, one recent road trip proved just too much.

So instead of testing out new sounds for when they make contact with the ball (seriously, why do tennis players do that?), the boys decided to do something a little more sensible.

They choreographed the whole of Justin Bieber’s “Baby”- all three and a half minutes of it.

You have to admit that it is pretty good actually.


So next time you run into a tennis player on campus, you may want to ask him for a dance lesson. Who knew?

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us

Cover Photo Credit: Youtube/ Screengrab

41 Percent Of South Florida Millennials Still Live At Home, And That’s Ok

This story was originally published on on May 28, 2015.

By Damian Gordon

Every year that passes, there seems to be less people who are saying “hold up, let me clean my place” and instead say “hold up, let me tell my parents first”.

The sign of being well off as a young person is no longer having one’s own place; instead it’s just having a place at all.

It’s no secret that living is South Florida is more expensive than anywhere else in the state.

But here’s the thing. There’s no shame in living at home in a city that doesn’t support people of our generation.

Millennials include people born from roughly 1980 to the early 2000’s, basically meaning the age group from 15-35.

Living at home allows young adults to prepare themselves financially for later in life and lets them avoid living in debt.

However, Census Bureau data shows that millennials have acquired more student loans compared to previous generations, despite being better educated. Education costs much more than it once did.

If a boyfriend or girlfriend complains about their “roommates”, the logical question in South Florida would be to ask if that roommate also gave birth to them.

At least when living at home, you’re surrounded by longtime roommates, instead of some sketchy person met on Craigslist or a dorm assignment. There is also less to be paid for, leaving someone additional time to further their career as well as lessen any financial strain.

According to the Census Bureau, a historic 30% of today’s U.S millennials live at home with the number in South Florida being 41%.

If a boyfriend or girlfriend complains about their “roommates”, the logical question in South Florida would be to ask if that roommate also gave birth to them.

Another reason today’s younger generation is living at home is because the average earnings for the age group is lower than it’s ever been in the last 30 years, coming in at just $34,000. Payscale, reports the cost of housing in Miami is 24% higher than the national average, while the average earnings by Floridians in the age group are lower compared to the rest of nation.

During the “Great Recession” when the economy collapsed on itself, many were forced to move back in with their parents after losing their household or job. For many people coming out of college in that period, there were no jobs open to them as companies looked to cut costs.

Recently, Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University commented on the subject in a poignant interview.

“Recessions are always rough on younger people, but this one has been particularly rough. The recovery has been so slow, and it’s also been kind of slow on the labor market side of things,”Rugy said.

While the country is considered to be out of an official recession, the effects from it are still felt today. It’s ok for the younger generation to live at home because the alternative could be a constant struggle that could limit future growth and opportunities. A friend might joke about it while eating ramen noodles the other is chowing down a nice home cooked meal.

If you’re a millennial, don’t pull this article out in another 20 years to point out why you’re still living at home. Instead, be proud that countless others are going through the same thing and plan for a better tomorrow.

Cover Photo Credit: elvissa/Flickr

Miami Fashion Blogs Rise In Importance As Local Scene Grows

This story was originally published on on June 22, 2015.

By Damian Gordon

Fashion is forever and forever changing.

That reality can make keeping up with the latest a challenge without some serious help.

There are few places in the world where fashion is as prominent as in South Florida, making local fashion blogs a must to visit  since style changes more than our bipolar weather.

Fashion bloggers have made a major impact on the industry and public. Even designers and brands have embraced them in recent years, after realizing their importance. One of them is Maria Tettamanti of Tettamanti’s been on the scene for many years now and is a well seasoned vet in Miami’s growing fashion world.

“Bloggers have an undeniably huge social media presence and they can help spread the word on everything from under-the-radar designers to huge fashion houses,” Tettamanti said. “I know first hand that one blog post/Instagram/tweet can help open doors for a brand and that’s really powerful stuff.”

Of course for many young people in South Florida, the blogs can also be used as a way to learn some tricks about to stretch a dollar and still look good.

Many fashion bloggers have recommended for those on a budget places like H&M or Forever 21, attributing these stores because of their trendy clothes and accessible prices.

Photo Credit: Pancho Gómez/Flickr

Photo Credit: Pancho Gómez/Flickr

Tettamanti said that feminine midi skirts and dresses, off-the-shoulder blouses, floor-skimming maxi dresses, and matchy-matchy tops and bottoms are what’s in right now in South Florida during the summer.

With such a diverse display of cultures in South Florida, it can be a challenge to decide what to wear.

“In Wynwood, you’re going to find a more hipster vibe. Bal Harbour is going to be much more upscale, designer sheek. Miami is super sexy, less is more,” Kelly Saks, fashion stylist and creator of said. “Coral Gables is more preppy and more professional, since it’s in the business district.”

Miami continues to grow closer to becoming more entwined in fashion, as more events seem to take over the city such as Art Basel and Swim Week. With that increased democratization of fashion taking place, many people have turned to knock off goods to keep up.

“Everyone’s Instagram, Facebook or Twitter trying to floss what they have, trying to keep up with the Joneses,” Saks said. “The fashion industry right now has so much to offer at all price points, you don’t need to be buying crappy fake goods.”

“It’s not about the price, it’s all about how you style the look and really how you wear it,” Saks said. “It doesn’t have to cost a thousand dollars to make you look or feel good.”

Cover Photo Credit: acevvvedo/Flickr

Could Miami’s Next Fashion Icon Be This Home Grown FIU Student?

This story was originally published on on June 24, 2015.

By Jose Vicenty

Miami is known for many things – beautiful beaches, tourist attraction, nightclubs and great fashion.

With the Miami Design District and Miami Fashion week, Miami serves as a city that sets trends and grooms innovators in becoming part of the illustrious fashion industry.

Add Miami-bred Valentina Quiroga to the list of local trendsetters.

Valentina’s fascination with fashion began at the age of five. She started with a love for Abercrombie and Fitch.

Read Another Great Story: Miami Fashion Blogs Rise In Importance As Local Scene Grows

“I remember when I was like five I would see Abercrombie and Fitch, not being able to fit, and want to wear it because I knew that was what was in style,” Quiroga said.

As she grew older so did her love for the fashion industry and with the help and support of her parents, she was able to begin selling her own merchandise on eBay while still in high school.

“One of the most memorable moments as a business owner has to be when I sold out of my first item 9 hours after posting it on my eBay store,” Quiroga said. “That moment will never be forgotten”.

However, as amazing as it was to be a young owner, it was equally difficult.

“I think one of the hardest things I had to learn to overcome was when I had an eBay and eBay store and other sellers would say that my items were offensive or went against the selling rules of the sites,” Quiroga said. “The site would take the item down for seven days at a time and this would happen to like two or three of my items at once”.

Although she experienced a rough beginning, Quiroga saw the silver lining and decided to open her own website where she is able to sell directly to the costumer. That’s how Valdesigns was born.

Photo Credit: Valdesigns/Facebook

Young CEO Valentina Quiroga. Photo Credit: Valdesigns/Facebook

Valdesigns is a clothing site that sells everyday wear with fashionable phrases for men and women, as well as pets.

Moreover, she’s doing it with the help of social media but she owes most of her success to her parents.

“My parents have basically been the backbone for the business,” Quiroga said. “They are my investors to start new projects, they help with the design, and they make sure I do not lose motivation. If it was not for them Valdesigns would not exist, no exaggeration”.

As far as being a young owner- she is still a college student at Florida International University, Quiroga said that she has enjoyed the process of starting a business.

“Being a young owner is great. I do get a lot of praise because Valdesigns is not something I tell people right off the bat, I let them figure it out through my social media so it’s shocking for them when they find out,” Quiroga said.

What’s next for Quiroga and Valdesigns?

“I am definitely planning on expanding the business, getting custom materials to make shirts, maybe some bathing suit,” Quiroga said. “We’ll see but Valdesigns is not only going to stay in the fun phrase t-shirt sector, it will grow hopefully with support of customers and friends”.

In addition, she said that the company is looking into releasing a workout line next.

To learn more about Quiroga and her clothing line, you can visit You can also check out her pictures on Instagram using the hashtag #Valdesigns.

Kokoa Swim: A Young Miami Swim Line Grows Up Online

This piece was originally published on on July 23, 2015.

By Marcus Frias

It’s summertime and we all know what that means. It’s that time when the hottest bods strut down South Beach wearing the sexiest and spiciest swimwear pieces of the year.

For a while, all the rave has been about Wildfox, Mikoh, and San Lorenzo Bikinis, but now there’s a new girl on the block with a swimwear line that’s bold, innovative, and exciting.

Isabella Soto and her killer line—Kokoa Swim.

Soto says that she’s always had an interest in fashion although it wasn’t always something that she expressed through her clothing.

“It was something I was around constantly,” Soto said. “My mother graduated AI with a degree in fashion design and I’d constantly watch her create amazing projects.”

Read More: Swim Week Takes Miami Beach By Storm, Millennial Designers Show Out

But that all changed during her sophomore year at Miami Sunset Senior High School when she decided to stop watching and start doing.

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Isabella Soto, the owner of Kokoa Swim. Photo Credit: Kokoa Swim.

“As a sophomore in high school I would sew hair bows by hand and sell them to friends for $3,” Soto said. “My senior year I launched a fashion blog and another small business. I’d purchase thrifted jeans and distress them, dye them all sorts of colors, and stud them. I would also sell these to classmates.”

With Kokoa Swim still far in the future, Soto became the fashion editor of the school’s yearbook. Fashion became more than an interest—Soto’s hard work to make a name for herself while she was still so young was both admirable and astonishing.

One of Soto’s high school teachers, Natalie Gutierrez says that Soto’s success doesn’t surprise her at all.

“Ever since I’ve known her she’s had high expectations of what she wanted to be and what she wanted to do with her life,” Gutierrez told Rise Miami News. “She’s a go-getter with a lot of passion and dedication. It is that attitude that has helped her achieve this dream of hers at such a young age.”

Still, her hardworking and ambitious attitude remains.

“This has all been such a huge learning process,” Soto said. “I started this business entirely from scratch and have made so many mistakes along the way.”

Those mistakes, though, simply motivate the youthful 20 year old to work harder.

Soto dedicates an average of 30 hours a week to the growing line—but says she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I wake up and do this until I have to head out to work. Sometimes I’ll come home from work and continue,” Soto said. “It’s not a burden. I love doing this.”

Photo Credit: Kokoa Swim

Photo Credit: Kokoa Swim

In those 30 hours Soto designs new collections, shops for fabric, handles social media accounts for Kokoa Swim, and networks for opportunities to showcase her work.

Despite participating in big events like Swim Miami Fashion Week Kokoa Swim’s success is mostly due to its internet presence.

“I am eternally thankful for social media. It’s been a huge contributor to Kokoa’s growth. Instagram, especially, has helped me network and build a following of amazing people,” Soto said. “Through social media, I was given the opportunity of participating in my first Swim Week event at the Broken Shaker. I met other local brands that are doing the same. It was amazing to see brands I’ve been following online, in action. “

Read More: An Inside Look Into One Of South Florida’s Most Important Fashion Houses

Kokoa Swim has over 8,000 Instagram followers and that number grows everyday. Models like Harley Gusman and Mahila Snyder have all hopped on the Kokoa wagon and have stepped in front of the camera to model for the swimwear line.

Soto loves the partnership with these up and coming models.

“Like myself, these girls are working hard to build a name in the industry and it’s fascinating that our work benefits each other,” Soto said.

Photo Credit: Kokoa Swim

Photo Credit: Kokoa Swim

Indeed, a name is being built.

Kokoa Swim, a line that was built on impulse—surely has consumers buying on impulse, too.

A sketchbook dream that has turned into an incredible reality, but Isabella Soto won’t stop here. She hopes to have her line available for purchase at local stores within the next year.

With all of this success tucked under her belt at the young age of 20, it is safe to say that Isabella Soto was not fashionably late, but instead fashionably focused and early to the scene.

Meet Nashville’s Very Own Vegas Showgirl And Potential Breakout Star: Sierra Black

By Vincent M. D’Agostino

Sierra Black has been gambling since she was 6 years old.

Now she’s gambling on a future as a country music recording star, which looks bright after  recording her debut album in Nashville.

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Black is now on the road promoting her debut single, “Heart On Ice”, to radio stations.

“I immediately fell in love with it when I heard the first verse,” Black said of “Heart On Ice”, a song written back in 2002.

On the up-tempo country song, she sings: “Flying 90 miles an hour down a dusty road, pushing this thing to just see how fast this thing will go; engine hot enough to burn up the fuzzy dice; I better put my Heart On Ice.

Black finds herself on her debut single preaching to the choir about “having to step back and cool off” when hot in love.

Read More: Up And Coming Country Star Mitchell Tenpenny Is Proving Nashville’s Relevancy

Black, who is 22, fondly remembers how her father sparked her love of country music at age 6 when he used to play guitar and sing Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash songs to her.

Sierra’s love of music didn’t just originate with her father though. Her grandmother was Babette DeCastro, one of the members in the trio, DeCastro Sisters, who were famous for their 1954 top Billboard hit “Teach me Tonight.”

Unfortunately, her grandmother never got the chance to hear Sierra sing because she passed away before Sierra was born in 1992.

WATCH: Sierra Black’s “Heart On Ice”

Sierra proudly wears her grandma’s necklace to keep her close to her.  Interestingly enough, her grandmother provided the voices to the animals, including the butterflies, in Disney’s animated film Song of the South.

Sierra has been playing around with music ever since she can remember.

As a young girl, she would put on her own stage shows, alone, in her bedroom.

Fluent in Spanish, she could sing “El Paso” by heart by age 7.

She wrote her first song at the age of 12.

Her first break came when Keith Urban handpicked her out of 14,000 contestants to sing alongside him at a music festival.

“I wasn’t nervous meeting him or singing with him but the experience was surreal,” Black said of singing with Urban.


Sierra Black (R) singing with Keith Urban. Photo Credit: Sierra Black/ Facebook.

Chalking up her lack of nerves and comfort singing on stage to being an “old soul”, Black is determined to take the country scene like a dust storm.

And unlike many other young stars, Black actually has some chops in writing songs as well.

“I start with the title first and then the lyrics come to me,” Black said of her songwriting process that eventually leads to a melody.

With a bit of luck, Black eventually found herself in Nashville working with Grammy award winning producers Michael Omartian (who has worked with Donna Summer and Trisha Yearwood) and Tom Hemby (who has worked with Faith Hill and Bebe & Cece Winans).

Read More: New Jersey Girl Lacey Caroline Tries To Break Into Country Music Scene

She was recruited from Vegas after someone at one of her live shows caught wind of her voice. One thing led to another, and she was flown out to Nashville for back-to-back meetings with the producers.

“It’s been a bit of talent and luck and being in the right place at the right time,” Black said of the events that’s led to her rise.

Black after a radio interview. Photo Credit: Sierra Black/ Facebook.

Black after a radio interview. Photo Credit: Sierra Black/ Facebook.

Black’s promotional single, “Casino”, was her first release to iTunes and will also be featured on her debut album.

Lyrically, the song is a metaphor for love where Black says, “Sometimes you win in the game of love and sometimes you lose.”  

On this ballad, she sings: “Like a coin I was tossed into a wishing fountain. I was only one of a 1,000 looking for a little fortune,” and further laments that her heart is like money a lover blows with “I was a card you were using and a trick that you were good at playing. Luck didn’t build up the Monte Carlo just like love never promised tomorrow.

WATCH: Sierra Black sings “Casino”

Black describes her sound as “twang with a slap of gospel.“ Like a true Vegas Show Queen, she laughs, “you can never have enough rhinestones.”   Hoping to have a show like Shania Twain in distant future, she is now hoping for a duet with Jason Aldean in the near future. She has already opened up for Joe Nichols and Uncle Kracker to name a few.

She is not hoping to hit the jackpot with slot machines but instead with her music. What is truly special about both of her songs, “Heart on Ice” and “Casino”, is that they do something that most songs in the music business fail to do. Both songs brilliantly forfeit a clunky bridge and offer a seamless melody to sing along to.

The music is already there. As long as she doesn’t forget her bedazzler at home, Sierra Black will surely be able to forge her own luck and have a long career in the business.

Sierra Black is on a radio tour promoting “Heart On Ice”. You can find it along with her promotional single, “Casino”, on iTunes. Look out for her self-titled debut album in the Spring. And don’t forget to request “Heart On Ice” on your local radio stations.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Cover Photo Credit: Submitted

Nah, Tinder Doesn’t Have A Fake Profile Problem At All

Tinder, the very popular online dating app is known for its spam problem.

While (probably) millions of people use the app to get dates or meet people in their geographic area, a healthy percentage of Tinder accounts are not that human.

Prostitution rings, cam girls and porn websites have been known to pay top dollar to trick Tinder users into clicking on links and buying products.

“Some of the sites pay $6.00 per lead for a successful sign-up and up to $60 if a lead becomes a premium member,” security response manager Satnam Narang told the Guardian about the scams.

But for those who still refuse to believe that they could be cat-fished on Tinder, just keep scrolling.

Here at RISE NEWS, we did a little test and started swiping right in the name of journalism (and love or whatever).

We’re based in Miami and over the course of one day, we came across over 40 separate profiles that were almost identical.

It got a bit depressing. Like really depressing.

All of the fake profiles purport to be either 23 or 25 (because being 24 really sucks apparently). Most of them claimed to work in “communications” at vague sounding firms or at an area college (that was incorrectly identified as Miami University, which is in Ohio).

Each of the bios were nearly identical with the same message: “I love playing [sport name], [hobby], [hobby] and [some sort of activity] before sleeping.”

Here’s a very sad taste of what we found:


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Let us know if you know someone in these pictures: [email protected].

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Why are still looking at these?

But seriously, if you have any sort of tip about spammers or scammers on Tinder send us a email to [email protected].

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RISE NEWS  is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!


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