PPP: Expect Clinton, Trump Wins In NY

In the race for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz have won most of the latest primaries, but the momentum may be about to swing back to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – at least for the rest of this month.

That’s the word from Public Policy Polling, which just released numbers from its latest survey of voters in New York. (The New York presidential primary is Tuesday.)

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders by 11 points, 51-40. PPP director Tom Jensen says the Clinton/Sanders race has actually remained fairly consistent from the beginning: Clinton leads Sanders among African-American voters and registered Democrats; Sanders leads among independents and younger voters. Sanders has won most of the recent primaries primarily because they’ve been open primaries – where independents are able to vote – in states with small African-American populations. The New York primary is closed, though – open only to registered Democrats, that is – which favors Clinton. (Jensen says that’s also the case for most of the remaining primaries this month – so Clinton also stands to make gains next Tuesday, the 26th, when voters head to the polls in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island.)

Get the full results of PPP’s New York survey.

On the GOP side, Donald Trump stands to win big in New York: he’s pulling 51 percent of Republican voters, with John Kasich (25 percent) and Ted Cruz (20 percent) trailing way behind. Jensen says New York is a perfect storm for Trump for several reasons: it’s his home state, for one, and there’s no clear second-place candidate, making it more difficult for anti-Trump voters to consolidate around either Cruz or Kasich. Cruz is at a particular disadvantage too: his base consists of evangelical voters, and there aren’t many of those in New York – on top of which, New York Republicans were turned off by his disparaging remarks about Trump’s “New York values” earlier this year.

PPP director Tom Jensen discussed the New York primary – and the upcoming primaries later in April – with Aaron Keck on WCHL.


More numbers from PPP’s New York survey here.


Is Growing Up Really All It's Cracked Up To Be?

Growing up is an interesting thing. It has its ups and downs, its interesting moments and its boring moments, its happy times and sad times, and so many other feelings. I discussed in my last column one of the sad things that is part of growing up. But there are so many other feelings than that.

One of the most common feelings that I know kids my age have is the want-nothing-to-do-with-their-parent feeling. I think this is because it makes them feel like they’re a lot older, which is a common desire in my grade. At the same time, though, there are some ways in which they don’t want that separation. For instance, I don’t know a single kid who doesn’t like to get a hug from their mom or dad, even if they protest outwardly.

I think that wanting to grow up is somewhat slowed (temporarily) by an experience like the one I had in NY for my grandmother’s funeral. As you sit there, with your mind on it, you start to feel like, in just a few days, what you thought you wanted to be – grown up. It’s hard enough on you just to sit there and support yourself, but when you’re grown up, you’re expected to do it for others, too. After that little taste of what you’ve been dreaming about, it suddenly becomes a lot less shiny.

Another part that pushes kids away: responsibility. When you were a kid, I’m pretty sure you had chores. They might have been shared with a sibling, or done by yourself (like mine). They might have been laundry, watching your little brother/sister, or sweeping. Some of mine include clearing the table, taking out the trash/recycling, and bringing in logs for our fireplace. I know a fair amount of kids, and none of them enjoys doing chores. Not one. But I don’t really think adults like their chores either.

They would rather be sleeping, playing a video game, reading, or doing any number of other things. On the other side, though, every one of them knows that, once you’re an adult, there’s a whole lot more on the chore list.

Now here’s another reason: the examples we see. Any kid could look at any adult, whether lying on a huge bed in the middle of a huge mansion, or walking up and down the street with a cardboard sign, and see a lot on that person’s mind. They can see stress, worry, and sometimes sadness. To a kid, part of being young is about having fun and not having to deal with too many of those things.

When you were a kid, did you want to be grown up? Did any of these reasons give you any doubts? Let me know in the comments below.


What to Watch For in Obama's Second Term

Washington, DC

An estimated 900,000 people showed up to the area surrounding the National Mall, Capitol Building and Pennsylvania Avenue to watch President Barack Obama take his public oath of office on Monday.

Per Constitutional rules requiring the new President to be sworn in on January 20th, Obama took his official oath on Sunday in the Oval Office. Several key Congressional players were also invited to partake in the ceremony. Sources have indicated that Mr. Obama took the opportunity to reset the playing field for his new term by “starting fresh.”

What’s on the docket for Obama’s second term? What should North Carolinians be on the watch for the next four years?

1. Gun Control

Following the tragic events in Aurora, Colorado & Newtown, the calling for greater gun control measures has escalated across the country. Unfortunately, like most things in politics, there is far from a consensus. Following rumors of greater gun control measures, the NRA saw a huge spike in membership, averaging 8,000 new members a day since the Newtown tragedy.

While gun control is a microcosm of the political division in America, there does seem to be a consensus that America’s problems in this regard are bigger than guns and point to a larger cultural issue. Obama’s recent proposals relating to the topic seem to want to address the broader crisis, including studying the role of the media in violence.

North Carolina will continue to be an indicator of the nation’s thought process moving forward. As a traditionally Southern and diverse swing state, the blend of ideology in North Carolina will result in a struggle for control in the debate, and will likely serve as an indicator of the overall sentiment of the nation. It is unlikely that the Republican controlled State legislature will make significant changes like New York enacted last week, and thus, any anti-gun advocates will have to look to Washington for changes in NC.

Lastly, it will be worth eyeing how Obama’s administration navigates the issues it will be sure to face with the Supreme Court in passing any gun legislation as it pertains to the 2nd Amendment. Obama and the nine justices have not seen completely eye-to-eye since Obama was first inaugurated in 2009.

2. Addressing ‘Failure’ From the First Term

Americans have been highly critical of Obama’s first term. Policy Mic released an article on Monday discussing the outlook to address Obama’s failures in his first term. While Obamacare passed under duress, there were more misses than ‘makes’ and the administration has acknowledged its shortcomings. “Change” and “Forward” have been the go-to sayings for Obama and he will look to leave a more significant mark in term number two.

During his second inaugural speech, he noted that addressing climate change would be a priority, acknowledging that “the path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.” And in a historical moment, Obama advocated for equal rights for “our gay brothers and sisters,” which was one of, if not the first time “gay” has been used by a President in a public address. Perhaps just as significant was the stage set for same-sex rights. Obama placed his comments regarding gay marriage directly adjacent to his comments on women’s rights and his equal pay for equal work initiatives. Analysts suggested that it was a calculated move by the Obama camp to put the two on level footing, demonstrating the importance Obama places on gay rights. These two issues look to be two that Obama will add to the leftovers from his first term agenda.

North Carolina will be in the cross-hairs of both topics in addition to many others. RTP’s prowess in the sciences field could see increased government dollars for research and development towards alternative energy. And the passing of Amendment One will stand in stark contrast to Obama’s desire to level the playing field for all genders, races and orientations.

3. The American Debt Ceiling

Last but certainly not least is the looming debt ceiling and exponentially growing national debt. Organizations like The Can Kicks Back are organizing to raise awareness about the consequences of the growing debt issue. The U.S. government spends almost 7 million dollars per minute per CBS news, a number that far surpasses any historical record high.

As leaders in Washington suggest temporarily raising the debt ceiling so as to avoid short-term economic catastrophe, a longer term plan must be developed that is generationally balanced to cut the deficit and, in turn, the debt. In the coming decades, interest payments on the debt will grow to over 50% of the federal budget, with debt exceeding 100% of annual GDP without significant action.

The government has kicked the can down the road for far too long and has shown little regard for controlling spending. With the temporary fiscal cliff ‘fix’ in December of 2012 to raise revenues, it will now be time to slice spending.

Long-term, this is an issue of immense importance and must be dealt with. The success or failure of Obama as a President from a historical perspective could be dependent on how he deals with this issue.

With Inauguration Weekend winding to a close, the 113th Congress will be sworn in and the approaching debt ceiling will come back into focus. Obama will have to hit the ground running to ensure the economic recovery remains on track and address his broad agenda.

Ryan Watts is a Chapel Hill native and recent UNC graduate in Political Science and Business Administration. Now living in Washington DC, he works as a Consultant. You can find him on Twitter @RyanVWatts or at his blog.

image by paul-w via flickr


Caught In A Lie, What Do You Do?

What should a public figure do when caught in a mistake or telling a lie?

Any experienced political advisor will urge, “Stop lying, tell the truth, and get the whole story out in one fell swoop.”

Further lying or delay in telling the whole story makes it worse. Day after day, the news media’s reports reemphasize and compound the negatives, destroying the troubled public figure’s chances for rehabilitation in the public’s mind.

Lance Armstrong and John Edwards compounded their disasters by delaying acknowledgement of errors and continuing to lie to the public.

Duke University history professor William Chafe, author of “Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal,” agrees. “The cover-up is worse than the crime and it is going to come back and get you. When you’ve done something wrong, ‘fess up.”

For every rule there are exceptions. Professor Chafe describes how Bill Clinton saved his presidency by maintaining and adjusting his untruthful story about his relationship with Monica Lewinski, waiting several months before admitting the truth.

“He buys six months” Chafe told me recently, “and that six months saves his presidency.”

During those months the country got used to the idea of having a president who had an affair with an intern and lied about it. Several things helped Clinton. The country’s economy under his leadership was doing well. Ken Starr, the special prosecutor, and the Republican impeachment team came across to the public as political and unnecessarily oppressive. Most importantly, Hillary Clinton stuck by her husband, even though he had cheated on and lied to her.

How can Hillary Clinton’s extraordinary loyalty to her husband be explained? Chafe’s book takes on the task. Chafe “became convinced that the only way anyone could understand either one of them—and the politics of the 80s and 90s—was by examining the chemistry of their relationship. Their intimate life animated and ultimately determined the roles they played politically.”

Chafe examines the Clintons’ lives from their troubled childhoods through the struggles of a marriage rocked by Bill Clinton’s serial womanizing. He describes how each time Bill got in trouble, Hillary rescued him. When the publicity about his affair with Gennifer Flowers blew up during the 1992 primary campaign, Hillary was rehearsed and ready to join him on national television (Sixty Minutes) to persuade Americans that, although there had been trouble in the past, their marriage was strong and durable.

Why would she do this? Chafe explains, “By doing so, she not only rescued Bill’s candidacy, but ensured that her own power in both the personal and political relationship would increase.”

It was Hilary Clinton’s final and most important rescue that made possible the success of Bill Clinton’s six months of deception. Chafe explains, “After the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke in 1998, Bill Clinton thought for a brief period he would be forced to resign in disgrace, just as Richard Nixon did in 1974. But for the last time, Hillary came to his rescue, standing by him even after he admitted his guilt and faced impeachment. Only this time, by saving her husband — and their co-presidency — she also liberated herself to become her own person in politics.”

Saving her husband’s presidency, Chafe argues, gave her the freedom to chart her own political course. While the Senate was voting on the impeachment charges brought against her husband, she was meeting with political advisors to plan her campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from New York.

The Clintons’ experience was a rare exception. I agree with Bill Chafe about the general rule: when you get in trouble, stop lying, tell all, all at once.

Note: My conversation with William Chafe about “Bill and Hillary” aired on radio station WCHL and is available for listening here.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage.

This week’s (January 27, 31) guest is Sheila Turnage, author of “Three Times Lucky.”

A grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council provides crucial support for North Carolina Bookwatch.

What can children and young teens read now that the Harry Potter series has come to an end? Sheila Turnage faces this challenge in “Three Times Lucky” by introducing us to the crime-solving talents of two pre-teens from Tupelo Landing, North Carolina. Mo LoBeau is sassy, charming, and smart. She and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, lead Turnage’s readers through a most entertaining murder investigation.

Bookwatch Classics (programs from earlier years) airs Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. on UNC-MX, a digital cable system channel (Time Warner #172 or #4.4).

This week’s (January 30) guest is Orson Scott Card author of “Shadow Puppets.”


Favorite Chapel Hill Fashionistas – Where Are They Now?

When local fashionista Kristen Bishop opened Lucky Mí in 2007, I thought the name was so apropos.  Chapel Hill hometown girl opens up her own high-end fashion boutique at the tender age of 23.  Talk about living your dream at an early age…how lucky is that?! 

But it was more than luck.

Born and raised in Chapel Hill, Kristen attended Chapel Hill High School and graduated from Peace College in Raleigh with a degree in Graphic Design.  Kristen discovered her creative veins early in life and has channeled that passion into a succession of entrepreneurial endeavors. 

For many fashion-forward shoppers, it was a sad day when the doors at Lucky Mí in Eastgate Shopping Center closed in 2009.  I caught up with Kristen recently to find out how she got started on her creative path, what she’s been up to since her Lucky Mí boutique days, and where she’s headed next.

What were your career aspirations when you entered college and when you graduated?  
I realized at a young age that I was most successful when I was being creative, whether it was with watercolors, pencils or computers.  However, I had no idea what I wanted to be or do when I entered college or when I left.  All I knew was that there were endless opportunities for me, and I was so excited to start checking off my “life’s to-do” right away.

Who and what influenced this career path? 
This will probably sound cliché, but my parents have always been the most influential people in my life.  No matter what crazy idea I had or business venture I wanted to undertake, they were standing right beside me every second.  Growing up, they always encouraged me and my art, whether it was art camp or private art lessons.  It is because of them that I’m where I am today.  Though they have little to no artistic abilities, they have always been my biggest fans!

How scary was it to open a business at such a young age? 
It was very scary when I opened Lucky Mí.  At 23, I had no idea what I was doing but enjoyed every second of it…well not every second; there were a lot of difficult moments, but I kept my head held high every second of the way and learned a lot in the process.

Tell us about how the boutique name Lucky Mí was born.
At 23, I felt very honored and lucky to be in a situation where I could open my own boutique.  I kept thinking “Geez, I am so lucky,” and after doodling on a piece of paper one day, I came up with Lucky Mí.

Kristen at her former boutique Lucky Mí

Were you the primary buyer, and how and where did you seek out labels? 
I carried designers like Corey Lynn Calter, Max & Cleo, Charlotte Ronson and Mynt.  I traveled to New York about four times a year to do my buying.  The buying trips, along with getting to know my customers, were the best parts about owning my store.

The line of jewelry you carried in the store was beautiful.  Tell us who created it and how that business evolved. 
A few months after I opened Lucky Mí, I met a fellow jewelry designer, and we instantly became friends.  After I closed my business, I was able to invest all my time developing the line.  Shortly after starting Sweetie Pie Jewelry, it was featured in magazines like InStyle, Life & Style, Glamour, Real Simple and was even featured on Gossip Girl. I recently sold my share of the business to follow other dreams.

Kristen at a Sweetie Pie Jewelry photo shoot

Do you feel that you created a unique void for Chapel Hill fashionistas when you were in business? 
The one thing I knew was that I wanted a place for girls and women to come where they wouldn’t break the bank but could still find quality pieces.  It is funny looking around now and how the “affordable” boutique has become the norm.

How difficult was it for you to close the doors on Lucky Mí? 
It was very difficult, but I was so excited for the future. There are SO many things I want to do in my life and I have been lucky enough to start checking those things off.

In your opinion, what boutiques in Chapel Hill have filled your shoes? 
Hadley Emerson and Fabrik.  (Both located in Chapel Hill’s East 54.)

Tell Chapelboro readers where you went from Lucky Mí and Sweetie Pie Jewelry and what you are doing now. 
Currently, I am working on my fashion blog (me and belle) and a new project, Me and Belle Couture Silhouettes.  I am so excited about both ventures and even more excited about where they are going to take me.

What advice can you share with aspiring young business owners? 
Do not rush into anything.  Make sure you do your research and know every nook and cranny of your idea or new business.  Do not be afraid to take the leap.  You will learn not only a lot about the business world but about yourself.

Name your dream career…or have you found it?
The million dollar question!  I am still in search of my dream career. I like to think of it as what’s my next “dream career.”  There are so many things I want to do and accomplish in my life.  Who said you just had to pick one?

Kristen in the Big Apple ~ sky’s the limit for this fashion diva!

Amen!  I completely agree and relate to that answer. Variety is the spice of life!  Fellow fashionista Kristen Bishop and I are alike in that we both have lots of things to accomplish on our “Career and Life Bucket Lists.”

Kristen plans to launch Me and Belle Couture Silhouettes in the next few weeks.  And The Fashion Plate plans to report back on this new venture in a future column!

Thanks to Kristen Bishop for sharing her story, advice and photos with Chapelboro readers! 

Look for future columns on favorite local fashionistas and where they are now, and share your stories of favorite former Chapel Hill boutiques and owners below.


Picture This

Picture this: Crisp autumn day. Trees showing off in brilliant hues of crimson, orange, and yellow. Clear, pristine Carolina blue sky. Crunchy leaves and acorns under foot. Clean car, top down, sun and breeze in our faces. Got it? Then you have a mental image of the beautiful composition that made up a recent afternoon in my life. I did my best to soak up every sight, sound, smell, touch and taste of a glorious trip to the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. Certainly didn’t hurt that I was in the company of Rock Star Chef, Jimmy Reale, from Carolina Crossroads Restaurant located in The Carolina Inn.

A little about Chef: Born in NY, raised in Fayetteville, NC in a large Lebanese-Italian family that valued family, friends and food. Culinary education at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, SC. “Strong Mediterranean and Italian influences show through today in Chef’s artful pairing of personal heritage with traditional southern elements. He feels very strongly about the use of local, organic and sustainable products and works very hard to strengthen Carolina Inn’s relationship with local farmers.” *

Our mission: Shop the Carrboro Farmers’ Market for ingredients for his new fall prix fixe menu. Specifically, pumpkin soup. Brinkley Farms’ “Long Island Cheese” Pumpkin Soup. This buff colored fruit is named for its resemblance to a wheel of cheese. Usually, 6 – 10 pounds, flat with deep ribs. It is referred to as a “long keeper” and offers tasty flesh and nutty seeds.

At market: Chef was in his element. Smiling, shaking hands, slapping backs, chatting, carefully selecting produce and protein. Pork from Eliza at Cane Creek. Beauregard sweet potatoes from Rose at Lyon Farm. Pumpkins, peppers, chard and green beans from Michael at Brinkley Farms. Peppers from Howard at McAdams Farm. Check out photos from our visit at chapelboro.com, Scene Around Town.

Chef’s Treat: The recipe, just for you! I made it this weekend and it is sublimely delicious!

Brinkley Farms “Long Island Cheese” Pumpkin Soup
Executive Chef Jimmy Reale
The Carolina Inn
Yields 1 gallon

1 tsp oil
2 cups White Onions, Peel and Rough Chop
1 cup Celery, Remove Leaves and Rough Chop
1 cup Carrot, Peel and Rough Chop
2 cups Sweet Potatoes, Peel and Rough Chop
3cloves Garlic, sliced
½ cup Brown Sugar
6 cups Roasted Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, May Substitute Pie Pumpkin
Veg Stock See Recipe Below
½ cup Heavy Cream
1Tbsp Cider Vinegar
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Cut pumpkin

1. Cut pumpkin in quarters, remove seeds, and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper
2. Roast in a 350 Degree oven for 35 minutes or until soft
3. Scoop out 6 cups of pumpkin from the shell and reserve
4. Heat a large pot, add oil and sauté onions, celery, carrots and sweet potato for 5-7 minutes
5. Add garlic, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt & pepper then mix well until sugar melts
6. Add strained vegetable stock and bring to a slow simmer
7. Cook for 20 minutes, add heavy cream and cook additional 10 minutes
8. Add cider vinegar than remove from heat
9. Carefully Puree hot soup in blender until smooth
10. Taste for proper seasoning
11. Enjoy!!!!!

*I have served this soup in Carolina Crossroads Restaurant with toasted pumpkin seeds and drizzle of fig vincotto vinegar

Soup in bowl

Vegetable Stock
1 tsp oil
1 cup White Onions, Peel and Rough Chop
1 cup Celery, Remove Leaves and Rough Chop
1 cup Carrot, Peel and Rough Chop
2 tsp Whole Cloves
2ea Cinnamon Sticks
2tsp Ground Nutmeg
4ea Dried Bay Leaves
12 cups Water

1. Heat a large pot, add oil and sauté onions, celery, carrots for 5 minutes
2. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a slow simmer
3. Cook for 30 minutes
4. Remove from heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer

* verbiage taken from www.carolinainn.com


One Girl's Fashion Dream

Meet rising fashion designer Leigh LaVange. I’ve wanted to introduce Chapelboro readers to Leigh and showcase her designs ever since I started writing this column.  I have this talent scout intuition that tells me big things are in Leigh’s future. So here’s the story of how she got started.

Leigh is one of our own…born and raised in Chapel Hill and as a huge Tar Heel fan.  She attended Frank Porter Graham Elementary School and Culbreth Middle School before attending Durham Academy for high school.  Freshman year of college she followed in the footsteps of her parents and attended UNC-CH, but then decided to transfer to NC State’s College of Textiles (COT) program at the beginning of her sophomore year. She graduated from NCSU in December 2009 and moved to New York City in February 2010. Local girl follows the stars to the big city.

Life-long focus and determination can take you places. Just ask Leigh’s Dad Ben. “Leigh was very focused as a child and remains so as an adult.  When she decided on something, she went for it. No retreat, no surrender.  She usually gets what she wants, due in no small part to her own hard work.”

Mom Lisa describes Leigh as the LaVange family member who could assemble whatever arrived in a box without ever looking at the instructions. “She has a very intuitive feel for how things are made and work. Whether computers, telephone answering machines (back when we used them!), DVD players, etc., she was our go to person for anything electronic or mechanical.  I bought her a Swedish-made sewing machine at the Cotton Boll at around age 10 or 11 (she still uses it–great machine), because of her affinity for making things, and right away she starting sewing, often without a pattern. “
I asked Leigh’s parents Lisa and Ben LaVange to share any childhood or teenage stories of Leigh’s creative outlets. Dad Ben had this one to share. “One of my favorite stories from high school is Leigh staying up with me to watch the Boston Red Sox (my team) win the 2004 World Series.  Afterward, she had me drive her to Walmart to get supplies to make a championship t-shirt, which she wore to school the next day.  We were both tired, but happy!”
Leigh sites her family as one of her biggest influences. I asked Leigh’s folks which parent claims passing on the creative gene. Mom Lisa says, “Ben and I are both musical, with his drumming and my piano playing, and both girls studied piano and sang in the church choir. Perhaps some musical creativity morphed into design creativity for Leigh.”
As UNC grads and Tar Heel fans, was it painful for you to watch Leigh transfer from Carolina blue to State red? Lisa admits, “We did have a hard time accepting her transfer to NC State. I told her at the time, jokingly, that I was a Carolina alum and faculty member, but my proudest moment was being a Carolina parent, when she was a freshman! I had already planned to participate in graduation as a faculty member four years later when she graduated. But, we knew she was anxious to get started with her career training and did not want to wait until graduate school to study textiles. The NCSU program is top notch. Once we saw the curriculum and met the Dean (who is a statistician like Lisa) and faculty, we were very excited about her studying there.” Ben adds, “As for switching from blue to red, she never did.  We were extremely proud when she was accepted at and chose to attend UNC, but I encouraged her to apply to State when she was a high school senior. She wouldn’t hear of it then, because she was true blue, and she continued to attend Carolina sporting events whenever possible during her years at State.”
That’s dedication to two schools for sure!
Leigh took a break from the bright lights and big city to answer some questions about when she got stung by the fashion bug and how she has pursued and followed the designer’s dream.

When did you realize the fashion world was calling you? I grew up sewing and taking classes, and as most girls I dreamed of becoming a designer, but as I got older and started applying to colleges I didn’t think it was a career option. As much as I loved sewing I wasn’t an artist and did not think an art school was the right choice for me.  About half-way through my freshman year I started feeling like I was missing out on something.  A great friend of my family told me about the College of Textiles at NC State and sent me to the annual Art to Wear show. That is when I realized there was more to fashion than sketching, and I decided that night that I wanted to apply to the COT (College of Textiles) and be in that show by the time I graduated.

What are your most creative childhood memories beyond paper dolls?

When I was about eight years old, my mom signed up my sister and I for sewing classes at the Cotton Boll in Chapel Hill.  My sister didn’t care for sewing, but I couldn’t wait to go back.  I think at my first class I learned to make boxer shorts.  Every summer after that I took more and more classes and made pajama pants, quilts, stuffed animals, dresses, purses and more!  Once I would take a class, then I would take what I learned home and make presents for my friends for birthdays and holidays.  Finally I built my way up to making my own prom dress!
Dad Ben calls Leigh’s prom dress “a labor of love and a thing of beauty to behold!” Mom Lisa adds, “It was gorgeous, made from pale yellow silk georgette. She spent hours creating rolled hems with that delicate fabric. The night before the event, she was doing some trim work, and the zipper broke. I was away on business, so Ben drove all over the Triangle trying to find a store open that sold the right kind of zipper! The dress turned out to be absolutely gorgeous, and the Cotton Boll proprietor urged her to enter the dress into her fashion show that year, but Leigh did not want to compete with her creations. She was crowned Queen of the Prom, which was a nice reward for all the hard work! (see photo above)

Who has inspired you most along the way?

My family of course has always been so supportive of me, and if it weren’t for my mom I may have never learned that I loved sewing and fashion.  A great friend of my mom Kaola Phoenix (local artist in Chapel Hill) was the one who introduced me to COT and encouraged me to pursue fashion. Lastly, while in College I worked at SoHo clothing in Cameron Village and owner Martha Parks and manager Ellen Edwards were a constant inspiration and encouragement for me.  SoHo carries the most amazing and unique designers and being around clothes like that every day was so inspirational.

What was the experience like at NCSU’s COT and how did it prepare you for life in the fashion industry?  And don’t be shy…tell us about your accolades!

I had such a wonderful time at NCSU’s COT.  It was exactly what I was looking for. The classes I took really prepared me for the fashion industry.  It’s not like your typical art/fashion programs.  Each class when we would have the opportunity to design something for a project we had to take it through all of the steps: Designing, Costing, Pattern-making, Grading, Cutting, and Sewing. They taught us that in the industry it is so important to know every step of the process.  I had the opportunity to participate in many different fashion shows, designing and modeling for friends!  My first show at COT was the Cotton Couture show where I designed a convertible dress and showed 4 (of many) different ways you could wear it! (see photo below with Leigh runway center)  My senior year I made it into the Art to Wear show like I had wanted to since before I started at COT.  This was the most fun because I got to be as creative as I wanted. My line was based on the White Witch from the Chronicles of Narnia.  Finally I participated in the Threads Senior show at the COT in December 2009 and designed a line inspired by the French revolution. (see photo below with Leigh in center holding a bouquet of roses and older sister Kate to her left modeling a Leigh LaVange design)

Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?

Everywhere! I like to design things you don’t see every day, so I typically stay away from fashion magazines.  My favorite place to draw inspiration is on the streets on New York.  I love seeing what people are wearing.  I will sometimes even take just the simplest of details in someone’s outfit and expand from there to create something of my own.  I also get inspiration from shopping.  My favorite place of course is SoHo Clothing in Raleigh, NC where I used to work.  Vintage shops are always fun too! My most recent inspirational tool is the coffee table book from the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  If I ever feel stuck I like flipping through that and others.

Tell readers what brought you to the Big Apple and about your current gig.

After graduation I decided my best chance of really getting into the fashion industry would be to move to New York.  I lined up a few interviews for internships with smaller local design firms and after receiving an offer I moved up two weeks later!  It was a very quick and big decision, but I’m so happy I did it.  I worked as an intern for about four months while working part-time at different retail stores in the city.  I was then hired full time as a production assistant (with fashion label Hunter Dixon).  It was great fun and such a learning experience being in the factories everyday and shopping at the local fabric and trim stores.  May of this year I took a job as an assistant technical designer for a bigger company (The Moret Group).  I’m very happy with the move into tech design. My training from COT prepared me well for this job.  It’s been interesting being able to learn about overseas production as well.

What’s your professional dream?

It changes about everyday!  I love doing technical design, but one day I would like to use that skill plus my education in pattern-making (from COT and now FIT – pattern-making certificate program) to branch out in pattern-making as well.  I love making my own patterns for my designs and would like to do that professionally as well. I sell my designs occasionally, so of course I would one day love to make a living out of that!

Where (and when) can fashionistas find your designs?

Usually once to twice a year SoHo clothing hosts a local designers’ event in Cameron Village, and I sell my designs there.  Check the SoHo clothing website www.Sohoclothing.com  or the Cameron Village website for the next event.  You can find my designs at SoHo anytime though.  Hopefully soon I will have a website up and running!!
Leigh is living proof that one girl’s dream can become a reality with the right training, tenacity and drive! I predict she takes the fashion world by storm. And along the way I plan to wear her threads and write about her future successes! 

Thank you to proud parents Lisa and Ben LaVange for sharing their stories and memories of Leigh’s fashion pursuits. Lisa was most recently a professor in the Department of Biostatistics in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC (2005 – 2011). This past September she joined the FDA as Director of Biostatistics in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research in DC. Ben works in Human Resources at UNC Health Care. They reside on South Columbia Street (the Bagby house) and throw a great tailgate party!

This is the second story in a series on fashion designers with a Chapel Hill or Triangle connection. (See The Fashion Plate’s 9/20 interview with Chapel Hill native Donna McMillan of Uncommon Threads.)

That’s my feature on a local fashionista! Share your comments and praise about Leigh and other local designers below.


Meet Me at The Aloft Hotel

I’ve left you waiting long enough.
I recently wrote about parking and then led you on by promising more.
If you have no intention of meeting any time soon, no need to keep reading.
But if you do, I can tell you that you would be in good hands at The Aloft Hotel.  At least, that was my experience when I  was there recently, helping a client facilitate a few meetings and training programs. Lots of extras and attention to detail, to more than just parking signs.  
1.       When I arrived each day, the room was set up perfectly.    Sounds simple, but rare at many meeting sites.
2.       There were extras on the tables like candy and toys. Also rare.
3.       The requested screen  was missing on the first day. Turns out that this was intentional. The event staff first wanted  to see if their big screen television (for which there would be no extra charge), would suit our needs. It didn’t and so the screen (for a fee) was delivered within minutes.
4.       An extra table was needed and was brought in quickly. No fuss. No extra charge.
5.       A meeting participant needed handouts hole punched. Easy. Done fast and free.
6.       Another meeting participant had a blowout on the way in from Charlotte.   AAA  towed  her and her car 70 miles to a nearby  tire dealership. While the rest of us got the meeting started, hotel staff stayed in touch with our frazzled traveler and picked her up in their shuttle van as soon as she and AAA arrived in town.
7.       Last minute breakfast items were requested. And once again – delivered fast and with no fuss. 
8.       Lunch was a simple but varied assortment of wraps. With not just chips and cookies but fruit, nuts and yogurt covered pretzels.  A special trip had been made to The Fresh Market to take care of vegetarian and vegan requests.

9. A gorgeous  fruit platter was delivered in the afternoon.

Plus – there was…
10.   Free wireless.
11.   Fast wireless – helpful for frequent video clips.
12.   An easy speaker plug-in for sound.
13.   Easy set up for Webex so participants from New York could participate.
14.   Volume controls IN THE ROOM so we could have music when we wanted it and not have to chase someone down to get rid of it when we didn’t.
15.   Temperature controls IN THE ROOM, which meant we didn’t freeze!
Mark Sherburne, Stephanie Orlando , Kay Hess, Josh Walters and Caesar Swift  are responsible for  all the good things described above. Here’s their number( (919- 932-7772) in case you’d like to make arrangements to meet at The Aloft Hotel

Do you have a favorite meeting place?



A Baseball School?

About 20 years ago, when Dean Smith had caught his second wind and was again dominating the ACC and college basketball toward the end of his coaching career, he was asked about his sport overshadowing all others at UNC.

“A basketball school?” Smith mused. “We’re a women’s soccer school.”

Smith was giving well-deserved props to one of his indirect protégés, Anson Dorrance, who by then had already won about 10 national championships, and when his women did not bring home the NCAA trophy it was tantamount to John Wooden not winning it all in his prime.

Dorrance, as a UNC soccer player and then young coach, had become a student of the way Smith organized and tutored his team, using many of the measurements and methods that he observed as a privileged character allowed to attend Smith’s private classroom practices.

Dorrance, of course, is still going strong, and Roy Williams, one of Smith’s successors to the Carolina Basketball Empire, has won two of his own national titles and will be a preseason favorite to bring home a third in 2012. But Smith’s legacy, Dorrance and Ol’ Roy all have to step aside this time of the year.

Carolina is a baseball school.

What Mike Fox has done with the once-sleepy version of the national pastime at UNC is no less amazing than what Smith and Dorrance have accomplished in their sports. Remember, in the days Carolina was coached by Walter Rabb and Mike Roberts, the diamond Tar Heels were what most amateur baseball represents in this country — a sweet way to move from spring through summer. The old stadium beside Avery Dorm usually had a few hundred fans in the stands when the Tar Heels played. Sure, an occasional Duke or N.C. State series brought bigger crowds, but those games were for local pride as Clemson generally owned the ACC and contended for the College World Series.

When the ACC expanded for football reasons, it really screwed the pooch in basketball but over 12 years the additions of Florida State and Miami had the most impact on baseball. While the two Sunshine State schools were diamond-dominators, that began to change when UNC hired Fox, who had played on one of the Tar Heels’ two previous College World Series teams in 1978.

It took Fox a few years, but he figured out why it seemed so hard to reach the hallowed aura of Omaha, Nebraska. Since Chad Flack’s dramatic home run in the regional round at Alabama five years ago, Carolina has unlocked the key to the baseball promised land.

Of course, it’s not ALL coaching, and Fox has used the pristine Carolina campus and a $26 million renovation of Boshamer to attract some of the best talent in the country, most up and down the east coast, particularly Rye, New York, in Westchester County, which sent the Moran brothers here 25 years after their uncle B.J. Surhoff starred for the Mike Roberts Tar Heels on the way to becoming a Major League All-Star.

Brian Moran, a lefty reliever for Fox with a 90-8 strikeout-walk ratio, came to UNC as a walk-on and grew into one of the best relief pitchers in the nation before nailing down the last out that sent Carolina to the CWS in 2009. Brian is rising steadily in the Seattle Mariners organization and should be in The Show before too long.

Freshman Colin Moran, Brian’s younger brother, is an even better story. He came to Carolina on a partial scholarship just hoping to make the active roster. He moved to third base from his natural position at shortstop and not only won a starting spot but was the only Tar Heel to make first team All-ACC while also winning conference Freshman of the Year honors. His .342 batting average is still 50 points lower than Uncle B.J.’s career mark but, hey, the kid will play at least two more seasons in Carolina blue.

The Tar Heels, who rose from unranked by Baseball America in the preseason, to currently No. 7 by USA Today, have other great players and stories, such as sophomore shortstop Levi Michael, who graduated early from high school so he could join spring practice and wound up starting as a freshman; and junior Jacob Stallings, an anomaly as a catcher because he is 6-foot-5 (and fourth in the country at gunning down base-stealers) and because his father, Vanderbilt basketball coach Kevin Stallings, lost the “recruiting” battle to Roy Williams over where Jacob would go to school.

So UNC grad Mike Fox, one of six men to both play and coach in the College World Series, has found the magic formula for Carolina baseball. His teams have missed the NCAA Tournament once since he took over in 1999 and he’s going for his fifth trip to the CWS in the last six years over the next week. Whereas UNC was an irregular qualifier for post-season play before he arrived, Fox figured out that recruiting better players and posting strong regular-season records would give Carolina the cache to earn a high seed and home-field advantage in both the NCAA sub- and super regionals.

Playing at home this time of the year makes it a lot easier to survive and advance. And doing so has turned Carolina into a baseball school during these once sleepy days of late spring.

Mike Fox Has The Magic Formula