Former SMU football player launches clothing line to promote own music

Photo via Mana Yana Facebook page.

Designer and musician Ajee Montes. Photo via Mana Yana Facebook page.

Since he was 7 years old, Ajee Montes was determined to play in the NFL. However, when the doctor told him he had experienced too many concussions while playing football for SMU, he was left wondering what he was going to do next.

“The doctor told me I couldn’t play football any longer because I had so many concussions. Ever since then I’ve been grinding to start my new career path,” said Montes. Since the end of his football career, Montes, a recent SMU graduate, has begun pursuing his dreams in the music industry.

Three months following the doctor’s appointment, Montes went to Las Vegas where he ended up face-to-face with a microphone doing his first show, singing rap and alternative hip-hop. It was then that he realized his life had taken a turn for the better.

“Things don’t always happen the way you want them to but you have to believe that everything happens for a reason,” said Montes. “And when you feel like giving up, just believe God has a plan for you. Look to God.”

In April of 2016, Montes launched his brand, Mana Yana, which serves as both his music and merchandise label as well as his motto.

Montes and his branded clothing line. Photo by Chloe Dinsdale.

Montes and his branded clothing line. Photo via Mana Yana Facebook.

Montes has been using merchandise as a means to market himself and his brand. His merchandise is a way to support his future music endeavors.

The Mana Yana brand is printed on merchandise like T-shirts, crew neck sweaters and hats. Montes designs all of his own apparel for his music followers. His products are made in Addison and he stores them in his Dallas apartment.

Kit Dickman is a classmate of Montes and supporter of Mana Yana. “Ajee is a strong believer that God has a path for each of us to take that can lead us to our dreams,” said Dickman.. “His passion for his music and career leaves a positive inspiration for all to follow in different paths of life.”

What Montes wants is for listeners of his music and customers who buy his merchandise to be inspired to set out on a powerful journey to spread positivity.

Montes explained that his philosophy for those who live the “Mana Yana” life is to  pursue wealth and fame, but simultaneously strive to balance that pursuit with being true to themselves and, most importantly, to give back to others in the hope of making the world a better place.

His plan for the brand is to be prominent in the music industry, starting with his opening act for JMBLYA this summer in both Dallas and Austin, then advancing to a record label in the future.  He also plans to continue to come out with new merchandise, apps, music and entertainment.

But Texas is only the beginning of his dreams.

“The brand IS Ajee, so wherever Ajee goes, the brand will follow,” said Tala Duwaji, Montes’ assistant.

Montes promotes his music and merchandise via Snapchat, Instagram and word-of-mouth on SMU’s campus. He hopes to one day have a presence as significant as DJ Khaled who has a strong following in the music and apparel industry.

“Ajee is very well connected so I think it’s helped him a lot in reaching a wide audience,” said Duwaji.


“SMU prepared me to be successful,” said Montes. “My time as a student and as an athlete has taught me the value of education and making connections.”

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Spray Tans – The Best Accessory

By Emily Faerber


Spray Tans – The Best Accessory

Forget the lace-up wedges and satchels covered in fringe, the contoured cheekbones and magenta-lined lips. The best accessory one can own this spring is an all over glow. And for good reason: Just about everyone looks better when their cheeks are flushed and their shoulders bronzed.

Photo courtesy of

But gone are the days when women lathered up in Crisco and set their skin a blazin’. Instead, color-seekers have recently turned to spray tanning to safely get that beautiful sun-kissed glow. But what exactly is spray tanning? How does it work? And where can one get it done?

Whitney Kelly, owner of Gloww Custom Spray Tanning and am SMU alum, recently sat down with me to discuss the ins-and-outs of her successful spray tanning business. Kelly received her degree from the Cox School of Business. She said that it was there where she learned the entrepreneurial skills needed to succeed in her industry.

Photo courtesy of

“I did a lot of research on the industry and what products were popular,” Kelly said. “I looked into all the different types of spray tan solutions and wanted to find one that was all natural and did not contain any chemicals.”

Although DHA, the chemical used in most tanning solutions, is typically harmful, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends minimizing inhalation in order to keep the solution out of the mucous membranes in your eyes, mouth and nose. This is why it’s better for technicians and their clients to use natural solutions.

When administered correctly, spray tanning is considered the least harmful way to achieve a natural-looking glow. According to Dr. Kristel Polder, a dermatologist at the Dallas Center of Dermatology and Aesthetics, it’s important to remember the health risks when deciding to tan outside or in a tanning bed.

“Tanning beds have been associated with squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, which are skin cancers,” said Polder. Tanning can also cause premature aging. The UV rays, the rays that cause the skin to tan, cause a loss of elasticity in the skin, which leads to wrinkling.

Rachel Tagle, a sophomore at SMU, used to hit up the tanning beds on a weekly basis before she learned about the safer alternative.

“I would go tanning at least three times a week,” Tagle said, adding, “I just loved how I felt when I looked tan, it was an instant confidence booster.”

Although she was aware of the tanning beds harmful effects, Tagle wasn’t willing to give up the way she felt after a tan. Then she discovered Gloww Tan, Kelly’s custom spray tanning business that has become increasingly popular among SMU students.

Kelly says the secret to her business’ success lies in their advanced, all natural formula, which combines highly purified water and natural bronzers. “We realize that Mother Nature has already provided the perfect ingredients,” she said. “We have simply put them together to create the highest quality all natural tanning solutions in the world.”

These natural solutions “spray” over your entire body, including your face, with a fine mist. Although there are other forms of self-tanning, like lotions, creams, gels and mousses, spray tans tend to dry quicker and require less application time. This means the tan is less likely to get all over your clothes, your bed or anything else you tend to rub up against, so your pets and significant others remain streak free.

Photo courtesy by

To optimize your tan, Kelly recommends exfoliating your entire body and shaving at least 24 hours beforehand. She also recommends that you avoid using deodorants, moisturizers, perfume and makeup before your tan because these products can lessen the effectiveness of the solution. You may be a little smelly, but at least your tan will look good

As Kelly’s business continues to flourish, she took the time to look back and reflect, sharing with me the most rewarding parts of her job.

“I think what I love most about my job, besides working for myself,” Kelly said, laughing, “is the fact that I get to meet new people every day. I especially love making my clients happy and providing them with an opportunity to feel great about themselves… It’s so rewarding when my clients text me to tell me how much they loved their tans and how it helped them feel more confident.”

Chrissy Porter, a senior at SMU graduating this spring, had only the best things to say about Kelly and her business, calling her tans “magical.”

“Whenever I get a tan from Whitney, I feel as if I can take on the world,” said Porter, and she did exactly that. Before a big job interview, Porter went to Kelly for a quick confidence booster, had her interview, and a few days later found out she landed the sought-after job.

“I know it seems silly,” Porter said about the spray tan, “but the way I felt afterwards made me feel more confident than any pair of designer heels or expensive handbag could.”

Porter, along with a handful of other SMU seniors, plan on getting spray tans before the upcoming graduation ceremony in May. “I can’t wait to walk across that stage and receive my diploma as a successful college graduate,” says Porter, “with a killer tan.”

Maybe a tan really is the best accessory.


Whitney’s Tips for Spray Tanning

Before you tan:

  • Exfoliate your entire body and shave at least 24 hours beforehand
  • Avoid using deodorants, moisturizers, perfume and makeup
  • Wear as little clothing as you prefer, or you may wear a swimsuit
  • Avoid wearing jewelry, watches or anything that may cause unwanted tan lines

After you tan:

  • Wear loose fitting clothing to avoid the solution from rubbing off
  • Refrain from showering, swimming or physical activity for at least 5 hours
  • Your tan will increase color within 5-12 hours
  • To extend the life of your tan, use moisturizer daily, avoid long baths, extended swimming and any products containing an exfoliate
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Vogue on the Beach

Emily Hooper


Swimsuit: check. Sunglasses: check. Airplane ticket: check. Beach towel?

Summer vacation is upon us! As you’re going through your packing checklist, don’t forget that a cute beach towel makes an awesome fashion statement. Vogue’s 1926 “flapper in a red cloche” cover has been stylishly reproduced on a limited-edition beach towel. Out this month, the towel is the result of a collaboration between the magazine and the luxury linen purveyor D. Porthault and commemorates 120 years of Vogue’s publication.

Vogue Towel

Vogue Beach Towel, $450. Courtesy of Condé Nast.

I think it’s safe to say – beach towel: check!

P.S. You better start saving. This posh towel goes for $450.


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Fashionable Four Eyes

By Katie Miller and Alison Glander |


Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 12.10.17 PM

Courtesy of Katie Miller and Alison Glander.

Is it just us or are SMU students looking slightly smarter recently? Final exams have got everyone whipping out their trusty glasses to study in a relaxed “I woke up like this” way. Students are showing us just how trendy the eyewear market can be, from clear framed Warby Parker to wood detailed Burberry. We see straight A’s in their future!

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 12.20.46 PM

Courtesy of Katie Miller and Alison Glander.


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Empowering Women, One Accessory at a Time

By Emily Faerber


Every day, thousands of people are forced to leave their homes because of wars, maltreatment and natural disasters. According to the International Rescue Committee, close to 70,000 of these refugees are welcomed into the U.S. each year, where they hope to rebuild their lives in peace. However, refugees continue to deal with countless challenges as they adjust to new environments and cultures.


Refugee women working at GAIA on April 20, 2016. Courtesy of Emily Faerber.

GAIA, which means “Goddess of the Earth,” is a Dallas based business with the mission to “empower marginalized women through employment, encouragement and dedication to their long-term success in local communities.” Currently, GAIA employs six inspiring women, all refugees from Burma, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Together, these resettled women hand-make creations using vintage, artisan-made and sustainable materials.


Handmade GAIA accessories – including clutches, earrings and necklaces. Courtesy of Emily Faerber.

GAIA’s product line ranges from home textiles to personal accessories, like bracelets and clutches. Each piece is completely one-of-a-kind and comes with a tag personalized by the refugee woman who made it, so she can share a bit of her story.


GAIA women pose at the office on April 20, 2016. Courtesy of Emily Faerber.

GAIA’s goal is to help these women utilize their gifts in order to rebuild their lives in the U.S. Through each GAIA purchase, you are helping achieve this goal.

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Dino Designs

By Chloe Dinsdale


Desks are somewhat of a haven and where a lot of people spend a majority of their time during the week. They should foster an environment conducive to work, give a calm and cool atmosphere and say a little something about oneself all at the same time.

Succulents and terrariums are new and interesting ways to liven up your desk, especially when planted in neon prehistoric animals.


Andy and Frank Planted – the Original Toy Planters, $35. Courtesy of the Plaid Pigeon.

Austin, TX based designers Megan Briggs and Ian Mailhot caught my eye unexpectedly with their colorful dinosaur planters while I was wandering the streets of Austin. Originally on the hunt for famous artsy murals, I instead found myself face-to-face with a hot pink Tyrannosaurus rex with a curious plant inside.

I came to find out that the fuchsia dinosaur was one of many planters from this dynamic duo. Briggs and Mailhot sell their creatures exclusively in the Austin area and also run an Etsy shop called the Plaid Pigeon. They create these up-cycled objects with a focus on succulents, terrariums and other various plants. Their color palette is bright, using all neon shades to give the dinosaurs even more character. The creatures stand about six inches tall and don’t take up any more room than half a sheet of paper.


Sophie the Planted Apatosaurus – the Original Toy Planter, $20. Courtesy of the Plaid Pigeon.

The dinosaur planter’s presence begs the question, “Where did you get that?” It is sure to strike up a bit of conversation (and envy) while perched upon your desk. Plus, it contributes to a good attitude throughout the day and a cooler work atmosphere. With its size and aesthetic qualities, a neon dino is the perfect accessory.

These prehistoric planters are sold on the Plaid Pigeon’s Etsy shop, as well as on sites like The Daily and Apartment Therapy for between $16 to $35.

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By Emily Hooper


SMU fashion media students don’t stop following their love of fashion and journalism at graduation. In a highly competitive industry, graduates of the program have found successful careers in the fashion media world.

Fashion, for all of its glamour and media presence, has a veil of mystery about how people break in and work their way up. Some, like Tory Burch, are practically born with an Hermes bracelet on their wrist, while others like Christian Siriano, winner of Project Runway season four, has found fame in through the social media, reality TV craze.

Traditionally, becoming a part of the fashion industry has not been like becoming a doctor or a lawyer – attending a specific school and emerging ready to be employed. However, as the fashion industry becomes more diverse and technical, having a degree in fashion media is giving students a leg-up on the competition.

Graduates and students of the fashion media program at SMU are finding jobs and internships at major fashion, retail and journalism companies such as Neiman Marcus, Marie Claire, Vogue and The New York Times.

“The majority of our graduates are receiving jobs immediately after graduation – some specifically in social media,” said Camille Kraeplin, associate professor of fashion journalism at SMU and creator of the fashion media program. “While the path to success involves a combination of hard work, passion and determination, the fashion media program teaches students the technical and conceptual skills that have become increasingly important in all industries, but especially in the fashion media world.”

The fashion world has embraced social media, creating jobs for young media students with this skill set, while the rapid growth of fashion blogging has added another dimension to traditional fashion media formats, Kraeplin says.

As social media becomes second nature, every fashion-student hopeful knows that in the age of reality TV and Instagram, a successful fashion career is actually within reach for a handful of lucky, hardworking students. Since the premier of Project Runway in 2004, fashion majors are up 45 percent nationwide. This May, just five years since its creation, the fashion media program at SMU will graduate 17 majors and 16 minors. There will be 61 majors and 24 minors enrolled in the program after graduation.

The fashion media program at SMU was created as a response to students’ interest in fashion. The program was designed to fit the students, not for students to fit the program; and Dallas’ profile as a fashion center offers a rich laboratory for fashion media students to sharpen their skills through internships.

SMU’s fashion media program offers classes in journalism and photography, plus options from art, anthropology, theater and public relations. The program equips graduates for careers as writers and public relations practitioners at some of the most competitive companies in the industry. Some graduates have even created their own companies – becoming entrepreneurs in fashion design, technology and media.

Amber Venz, who graduated from SMU in 2008, is an alumna who pioneered her own way in the fashion media world. After starting her own blog, VENZEDITS, in 2010, Venz created rewardStyle, a global monetization solution that is built for digital style publishers. In 2015, rewardStyle publishers drove approximately $500 million in retail sales. Venz has created a company that has redirected the style publishing industry and contributed to the professionalization and financial independence of thousands of publishers worldwide, enabling them to earn meaningful revenue on their digital content, ultimately empowering them to create and grow small businesses into international brands.

(Read more on Amber Venz in Forbes, Success and Women’s Wear Daily)

Elif Kavakci, a graduate of SMU’s master of liberal studies program and a designer by profession, is the founder of Kavakci Couture, a design label of modest couture clothing.

Through her designs, Kavakci has become a pioneer for hijab fashion and an inspiration to Muslim women around the world. Her designs have been worn by the first lady of Turkey, women in parliament and women in the public eye.

“After moving to the United States when I was 12, I appreciated the religious freedoms the country offered, but realized that finding clothes that were conservative yet fashionable was nearly impossible,” said Kavakci. “I wanted to create clothing that looked chic, but still abided by religious dress codes.”

This fall, Elif Kavacki will return to SMU, adding “SMU fashion media adjunct professor” to her long list of fashion achievements.

“I think many people look at fashion only on the surface,” said Kavakci. “The fashion media program helps students realize the depth and theoretical background of fashion – fashion is about so much more than trends.”

Fashion media students leave the program passionate and determined to start their own businesses, write for magazines, manage social media and even develop clothing lines. Their experiences at SMU give them the edge to do this, said Kraeplin.

(Read more on Elif Kavakci at SMU Fashion Media)

Grace Davis Damrill, a 2012 fashion media graduate, has been active in the fashion industry since her freshman year at SMU. Damrill was an intern at Stanley Korshak, Lucky Magazine and FD LUXE, and was the founder and executive director of SMU fashion week. Today, Damrill works as the assistant sales manager of fine apparel for Neiman Marcus.

Shelby Foster, a 2013 fashion media graduate, has worked as both the public relations coordinator and currently as the assistant public relations manager for NorthPark Center – one of the largest shopping centers in the nation.

Students don’t wait until after graduation to begin making their mark on the fashion industry. The program encourages current students to utilize the fertile fashion landscape of Dallas to build their resumes and gain valuable experience through internships and on-campus involvement.

Emily Ward, who will graduate in May 2016 with a double major in journalism and fashion media (and as the department’s  “outstanding fashion media student”), interned at D Magazine while pursuing her degree.

“The fashion media major has been the perfect fit for me,” said Ward. “It has given me the technical skills, such as audio and video editing, as well as social media skills, to be successful, while also providing me with a creative outlet.”

Ward is currently the editor of the student run site and is the fashion editor at the SMU Daily Campus newspaper.

India Pougher, a junior fashion media major student, will intern with Marie Claire in New York this summer as a beauty intern.

“Everyone in the fashion media program was incredibly supportive during the process of looking for an internship,” Pougher said. “The fashion media program has helped me hone my skills and the professors have encouraged me to follow my passions.”

Pougher has also interned at PaperCity Magazine and Dallas Market Center. She is currently the Fashion Week fashion show producer for SMU retail club and contributing writer for the SMU Daily Campus newspaper.

“The fashion media program at SMU is perfectly tailored to those who want a career in fashion journalism,” said Kristie Ramirez, editor-in-chief at Modern Luxury Dallas & Dallas Brides. “Through research and reporting techniques, and guidance on how to write for your audience, Professor Kraeplin prepares her students for a real-world work environment.”

 (All photos courtesy of Emily Hooper)

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Tips To Boost Your Insta-game

By Page Walker

So you wanna be Insta-famous? The good news is there’s no better time than now. Kendall Jenner was just featured on the cover of Vogue with the headline “The Kendall Effect — 64 Million Followers and Counting.” That’s right.  The biggest headline this month was about social media.

It’s 2016 and having social media skills is  more valuable than ever. You may not have follower #goals as high as Jenner’s, but it wouldn’t hurt to give your Instagram a boost. At  the very least,  your feed should look polished just in case someone important comes across it. This might mean it’s time to quit posting those dark, blurry bar pictures.

I decided to get advice from some experts around SMU campus on how to improve my Instagram feed. Here are a few tips and tricks that I found will boost your Insta game, whether you want to gain thousands of followers or simply give your personal account an upgrade.

Take Quality Pictures

After all, Instagram is a photo sharing app so it doesn’t hurt to know a few photography basics.

Kate Barnes, SMU student photographer, says the key to capturing a clear, quality image is composition. She believes learning the “rule of thirds” is a must for any avid Instagramer.

“Imagine you were to draw a grid over your image with two horizontal lines and two vertical lines, evenly spaced,” Barnes says.  “When taking pictures with your phone, take a second to set your scene, placing the key points of interest in the intersections of those lines.”

Lighting is another element to pay attention to when capturing an Insta-worthy moment. Molly O’Connor, an SMU student whose lifestyle Instagram has over 2,000 followers, says  to always use natural lighting when you can. “Humans are naturally drawn to warmer tones in pictures. Natural lighting is always best. I try to never post pictures that were taken at night or in a dimly lit restaurant.”

courtesy of

courtesy of

Keep It Consistent 

The most followed Instagram accounts all have one thing in common — they brand themselves with a style. Scroll through the feed of your favorite fashion bloggers and you will notice that all their pics have a similar vibe. They are usually edited with the same filters and have a complementary color scheme. When you scroll through, notice how the photos flow together and create a styled look.

“I think the best thing is consistency,” says Chandler Helms, co-creator of the fashion and lifestyle blog Ramen & Rosé.  “Find your groove and stick to it, and people will begin to expect it or associate it with your brand. You can be consistent with content, posting time and subjects.”

O’Connor has definitely created her own Insta-vibe as well. “I’ve found having a cohesive feed really helps, so using the same filter for all your photos is a big one,” she says.


Instagram Feed courtesy of Bespoke Bride

Instagram Feed courtesy of Bespoke Bride

Find a Great Editing App

“You most definitely need to have a great photo editing app.We love VSCO,” says senior Jessica Jan, co-creator of Ramen & Rosé.

There are many apps on the market that can transform a picture into a work of art. VSCO happens to be my favorite, too. Other great apps are Fotor and Afterlight. Recently, I discovered ColorStory, which is awesome for making colors pop.

Craft a Clever Caption 

A fun, witty caption can make all the difference for an Instagram post. The best advice for creating a clever caption is don’t overthink it. You don’t want your followers feeling like they have to decode a complicated riddle to understand your caption. Short and sweet is the best motto.  Funny is always good — but avoid using inside jokes because not everyone will get it.

If you need a starting point, take Lauren Conrad’s advice. She’s only one of the most-followed Instagramers on the planet. “I am a fan of using a pun or a play on words when thinking up a caption,” Conrad says on her blog, “If you can’t think of something to say about your photo, you can always turn to using fun emojis.”

Take Advantage of Hashtags 

Hashtags are a tricky subject. They tend to get a bad rep because they can definitely be overdone. Instagramers who overuse hashtags can be seen as desperate, but if you use them wisely, hashtags can boost your likes on a cool photo.

O’Connor’s tip: “If you research the most popular hashtags for your picture (food, travel, fitness, etc.) you can find lists with the best ones.”

#blessed courtsey of The Odyssey Online

#blessed courtsey of The Odyssey Online

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Cuckoo for Coconut Oil

By Page Walker


Ever since I discovered the many uses of virgin coconut oil, my life has changed. Adding this one product to my beauty shelf is without a doubt one of the best decisions I have ever made. You might think I am being a bit dramatic when it comes to this natural product but, trust me, it does wonders. I have used it as deep conditioner for my hair and as a facial moisturizer. I even bring it in the shower with me to rub on and rinse off. My skin has never been smoother. There are endless other ways you can use virgin coconut oil to improve your beauty routine, but here are a few:

  • Under eye cream


    Adding virgin coconut oil to your makeup supply will do wonders for your daily beauty routine. Courtesy of

  • Natural moisturizer
  • Soothing balm
  • Shaving cream
  • Makeup remover
  • Mouthwash
  • Natural sunscreen
  • Sunburn soother
  • Cuticle oil
  • Lip balm
  • Makeup brush cleaner
Leave a comment | Posted in Top Picks

Fashionable Anniversary Coverage

By Emily Faerber


This year marked the 15th anniversary of SMU’s Retail Club being on campus, and what better way to celebrate than putting on a show?

SMU junior and Retail Club executive member India Pougher was the coordinator in charge of this year’s Retail Club Fashion Show. In this audio slideshow, Pougher describes her feelings about being in charge of such an important event, and what she hopes attendees got out of it.


Students walked the Retail Club runway during SMU Fashion Week. Courtesy of Emily Faerber.

The show, which featured looks from Stanley Korshak and Luxury Garage Sale, marked another major milestone for the SMU Fashion Media program, closing the fifth annual SMU Fashion Week.

First produced in 2012 by students interested in careers within the trillion-dollar international fashion industry, SMU Fashion Week has grown alongside the Fashion Media program, part of the Division of Journalism at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts.

Leave a comment | Posted in Blog