‘Ganza ’12: Meet the Producers
I got a chance to catch up with Alec Yeh, Michelle Nguyen, and Schuyler Polk, the producers of Eleganza 2012, in busy Peet’s Coffee. Check out the dish on April’s show, their personal style, and what other surprises ‘Ganza ’12 has up its sleeve.
EBS: Let’s start with everyone’s name, hometown, class, and house.
AY: I’m Alec and I live in Kirkland; I’m a sophomore. I’m originally from Lexington, MA which is about twenty minutes outside of Boston.
MN: I’m Michelle; I’m from Hanoi, Vietnam. I’m a junior English concentrator in Dunster.
SP: Schuyler, 2014, Hist and Lit concentrator, America field. Hometown is Miami … I like to say New York but it’s really Miami since I’ve lived there for the past ten years and … is that everything? I live in Mather.
EBS: Michelle, how would you describe your personal style?
MN: Umm, I don’t know, casual chic? Sometimes I go a little crazy, like this fake fur coat, you know? Laughs. I just love high street fashion – Zara, BCBG, that sort of thing.
EBS: So, what’s your splurge? What will you splurge on? Chanel bags? Laughs.
MN: I mean … Yeah, definitely bags. Sometimes jackets.
EBS: Laughs. Cool. How would you describe your personal style, Alec?
AY: Um, it’s very … it’s all over the place I guess. Some days I want to wear colorful clothes and other times I wear simple jeans and a T shirt, other times I’ll wear a cool pullover or sweatshirt … yeah, it’s actually pretty casual. And I know how to dress up. I can dress up a lot sometimes; it’s nice, I like dressing up. I splurge on jeans a lot … A nice pair of tailored jeans are the most important thing you can have in your closet.
EBS: Schuyler, how would you describe your personal style?
SP: I was T-shirt and jeans for all of high school, so I think it developed once I got to college. But I like really simple things. I don’t like crazy colors; my closet is uniformly navy, beige, black and white. Laughs.
EBS: Alec and Schuyler, describe Michelle’s style in three words.
SP: I think it’s … bright. Chunky shoes, chunky heels.
AY: It’s like … business … casual…? So it’s like both at the same time? Quirky?
SP: Yeah, quirky.
EBS: Okay. Now describe Alec, the two of you.
SP: Um … like he said, tailored. Neon. Color-blocked.
MN: Alec’s very fun.
AY: Ooh. I can do that.
EBS: Schuyler’s turn…
AY: Very chic. Very put together, very elegant. Always simple, but still really interesting … um … and daring. I think she wears things that would look bad on anyone else but her.
EBS: So when did the three of you meet?
AY: So, I met Schuyler through Eleganza when we were on the fashion team together.
SP: And the three of us all worked on Eleganza last year.
EBS: So [Alec and Schuyler], you all were on fashion last year. And then Michelle –
SP: Michelle was on Pub.
MN: I remember Schuyler was one of the first people outside of Pub that talked to me. She just came up and started talking in a really friendly, very Schuyler kind of way. And that was nice. And she’s very tall, so it was kind of scary. Laughs. But nice.
EBS: When did you all decide to pursue producing Eleganza? After the show? While you were working on last year’s show?
SP: I think for me it was while I was working; it just seemed organic. I always had ideas about different aspects of the show and I think that’s what drew me to this role.
AY: Hmm, I think, definitely after the show. I think after seeing the show on stage, that really made me want to be a part of it again but also put my own personality into it. So I interviewed.
MN: I’ve always wanted to do a big event and last year was the first time I saw Eleganza, and it was beautiful … I was standing on the side and I couldn’t see anything and I had to stand on a chair but it was such a moment. It was so majestic and I really, really wanted to become a producer when I was watching the show.
EBS: So, could the three of you talk a little bit about your vision for this year’s show?
SP: Well, um, just background: Eleganza was founded eighteen years ago as a celebration of African-American women at Harvard. And the purpose of the show was to portray women in an elegant and classy way, and it’s since become so much larger than that, so much more diverse and inclusive than that, but we still definitely wanted to maintain its original roots. I think in the beginning of the year, the entire board had a conversation about what direction we wanted to take Eleganza in this year and I think everyone agreed that we should reference those roots, that we should definitely make sure we portray young women in a way that’s elegant and classy. And of course Eleganza is a fun, sexy, exciting show, but I think all of us agreed that we wanted it to be sexy in a different way, and we wanted to express beauty and sexuality and elegance in a way that was much more refined than we’ve seen it in past years.
AY: Yeah, I definitely agree. Eleganza, while it is a fashion show, it’s really not a fashion show, it’s a fashion production. It’s just a school-wide production. We have, what, four pillars: diversity, charity, fashion, and culture. So we really like to celebrate those things. And for me, the best part of it is really the community service aspect. I love our organization, which is Teen Empowerment. It’s a really great organization and they’ve made a lot of headway over the past eighteen or twenty years. [Eleganza is] just a big show with a lot of networks throughout Harvard and it’s really cool to see that come together.
MN: Yeah, I think we had this conversation over the summer, and we all agreed that we kind of wanted to bring Eleganza back to its original missions of diversity and the central female figure of empowerment, and I think that this year we’ve been working on putting forward a more stripped down and straightforward show than it’s been in past years. Also, we wanted to make Eleganza’s presence felt throughout the year and establish this continual dialogue on diversity and beauty so we’ve had more events throughout the year leading up to the show in April.
EBS: You mentioned having more events this year … what specifically can people look for this semester from Eleganza other than just the show?
MN: We’re gonna have an Eleganza Board and model mixer with food at UNO and invite everyone at Harvard to come and hang out with us – March 7! – a day for Eleganza to just chill with everyone.
SP: It was also really important for the three of us to think of Harvard and the fashion community at Harvard as a greater whole, so we’re working with the Identities Fashion Show and Vestis in coming up with a week of really fun fashion-related activities; we’re calling it Harvard Fashion Week. So it’s gonna be the week after Spring Break, March 19-23, and Eleganza is going to be having a Rent the Runway trunk show on the 24th where girls can come out, try on dresses, get to know Rent the Runway.
EBS: What do you all hope will be your legacy will be as producers, in terms of Eleganza and future boards looking back and in terms of Harvard remembering Eleganza 2012?
AY: For me, what I hope Eleganza in the future will do is continue the relationship with Teen empowerment but make it even stronger, essentially, and make sure that Eleganza really gets involved with Teen Empowerment and isn’t just an organization that gives them a check. And another thing is making sure that people are aware of Eleganza not just as a production but also as a charity production; a lot of people forget that aspect. A lot of people don’t even know what charity we give our money to and what they even do, and that, to me, is really sad.
SP: I hope that my legacy would be really solidifying our board. One thing that I’ve been trying to do is think long-term about establishing a board of advisors, and bringing a lot of people together who can definitely help Eleganza move through the future and make sure that we’ll be around for another eighteen years; when our kids come to prefrosh they can come see Eleganza and be just as moved as I was, and just as inspired … Eleganza is the reason why I came here, and I hope that it can continue to drive people to come to Harvard.
MN: One of the things that I really believe in is trying to establish a team that really works together as friends and not just as people with different tasks. So what I’m really trying to do this year is create a sense of coherence among all the team members in Eleganza. I think a team that works best is one in which the members actually really like each other and I want to create that kind of friendship within Eleganza.
EBS: Any teasers for this year’s theme?
MN: I think it’s very sexy. It’s a nice mix of innocence and darkness.
AY: It’s very elegant. It’s fun.
SP: It’s something that’s definitely been done before, in a creative sense, but the way that we’re putting this theme on stage is gonna be cool and modern. Our scene directors are absolutely incredibly creative, dynamic, and thoughtful people, and have definitely thought of taking something that’s very standard and Western and making it very global, modern and cool. I wish I could scream the theme from the roof but you’ll have to come to show on April 21st to see what it is.
– Erica Byas-Smith, ’15