Winters is Coming

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Los Angeles Lakers Point Guard Lonzo Ball and Serena Winters/ Source: @serena_winters

The morning the Los Angeles Lakers were to return to Staples Center for one of the last preseason games, sports reporter Serena Winters sat in front of her Starbucks attired in gym clothes with a Robeks smoothie at hand.

“I’ll get [to Staples Center] at 4 p.m.,” said Winters. “When I get to the arena usually I’m around the court talking to people, watching what’s going on, seeing D’Angelo Russell shoot… We then do a pregame media availability for [Head Coach] Byron Scott [then] the game starts at 7 p.m.”

Winters, 27, is the lead field reporter for the sports writing blog, LakersNation.com. Her 24/7 schedule revolves around the team of purple and gold as she also contributes to Time Warner Cable’s SportsNet: Access Lakers and radio shows like The Beast 980 AM.

“Once the game ends around 10 something there is then head coach post game availability,” said Winters. “Once we finish that up, it’s past 11 p.m., we go back to the interview room, my camera guy and I, and get a post game story. We post videos around 12:30 a.m. Send video links to [our editor-in-chief]. Maybe we get lucky it’s around 1 a.m. but usually around 2 a.m. is when I get home. Then the next day I wake up and its practice at 11 a.m. so I drive to El Segundo to get more stories from players.”

At 5-foot-5 and 115-pounds, her petite toned frame can be contrasted against the 6-foot-6 athletes weighing well over 215 pounds; but her confidence in the sport equates to theirs. Winters, a Huntington Beach local, grew up in the world of sports where her niches were basketball, golf, and track. She also excelled in academics throughout high school and college, earing a 4.8 GPA at Huntington Beach High School and graduating Magna Cum Laude at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Winters was raised an only child. She was kept very active throughout her youth. Her parents put her in theatre classes when she was younger and her father would have her read to him aloud to discover new words. Alongside being a tri-varsity athlete in high school, Winters was also part of the Model United Nations where she and her club members would take on the role as economic leaders of a specific country and debate against other mock leaders of different clubs.

Chris Evans, Winters’s mother, said one facet in raising her was that she wanted her daughter to act appropriate for her age.

“A lot of things kids do in today’s world, I think that all needs to be very well watched,” said Evans.

Winters’s father passed away when she was 12 but both she and her mother credit him for her involvement in sports.

“When I was kid I think most of my pressure came from myself,” Winters said. “I felt pressure to get straight A’s and be the best athlete but my parents were really supportive. My dad always wanted me to be smart so everything was more to please my parents.”

Her piercing blue eyes and contagious smile broke into a laugh however when she spoke about her competitiveness, but her freckled skin and owl shaped glasses aren’t too threatening.

“The first thing that comes to mind about Serena is that she is always very hardworking,” said Jeff Payetta, 26, her boyfriend of four years and childhood friend. “She was always very good in school, which I can’t say the same for myself.”

Winters created an extensive portfolio during and after her college career. Her list of internships range from working at ESPN with the Jim Rome Is Burning show to working in the social media department on Fuel TV, to reporting color commentary for the men’s basketball team at UCSB, and eventually interning with the Lakers.

While she was commuting from Huntington Beach to Santa Barbara, Winters’s income came from valeting at the Hyatt in Newport Beach.

Always looking for her next move, she applied to Lakers Nation and was again, taken on as an unpaid intern. Her previous connection with the Lakers allowed for one-on-one interviews with the players while she attended practices. Winters eventually earned her spot as a full time reporter for Lakers Nation in October of 2012. She proved her worth over the next year to Lakers Public Relations and was given season credentials. This move gave the sports blogging website a major push into the media industry.

The website currently claims a following of 2.5 million on Facebook and a community of nearly 350,000 followers on Twitter.

However, there is a backlash for new media reporters from old media reporters. Winters says that coming from an online world there is still a divide in people who are stuck on traditional media.

“Even though they are friends of mine, like newspapers [reporters] … I feel like they are talking behind my back,” said Winters. “[I’m] still at the forefront with online media because a lot of people still ask me advice for video or YouTube. Whether or not you like it, media is clearly changing.”

Winters cracks a smile over the negative connotation of online media because it’s something she hears on a daily basis. But she says that despite the criticism, no one works harder than her.

Because of her role as a reporter, she does not consider herself a PR representative for the Lakers. She has yet to write something specifically the team has asked her to do but she chooses to avoid family issues. She reports on facts, gameplay and quotes said by the team to provide context for Lakers Nation.

In one post-game availability conference Winters took heat for asking a decisive question.

“I had a PR pull me aside and threaten to take my credential away … I was told that it wasn’t my place to ask that that question,” said Winters.

The question was when she asked Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant what he thought of his ESPN ranking of 40 out of top 500 players in the NBA last year. The five time NBA champion replied with “they’re a bunch of idiots”

The response generated a heavy news flow for sports media outlets and commentators. Winters held her ground for asking a fair question that produced a good answer. She writes what she knows based on certain things; commenting and critiquing players’ performances rather than coaching decisions.

Winters and her videographer Andrew Martinez, easily work over 40 hours in a five or six day work week to provide nonstop information for one of the country’s largest fan base. The two spend more time with each other than their own friends and family. Martinez has been working with Winters for the past two years and says he learned much from her.

“I’ve never been in sports media,” said Martinez, 28. “Serena is like a mentor to me… She helps me understand the journalism part of it all.”

Winters says being a woman in the sports industry faces its own obstacles in itself.

“As a female I feel like it takes so much more to build respect, especially in a male dominated industry,” said Winters. “A male in this industry can make one mistake and it’ll blow over. As a female you can work five to 10 years, but you make one mistake and your reputation is over.” Winters dresses, speaks, and works in a specific style to make herself professionally presentable.

In her experience in the sports industry she says one of the most difficult parts is managing other personalities. Winters labels herself as a perfectionist and when it comes to getting her job done correctly, it is her utmost priority. If someone else is not reciprocating the effort, characters begin to clash .

“In a male dominated industry it becomes more challenging to ask why does this get done improperly. There are no open conversations, they get defensive,” said Winters. “It’s personal. Men just want power… I’m not sure if that’s what it is, but men want power.”

Her stern belief is that she does not want others to out work her and while some may view this as unappealing, many respect her for it.

“There is this intimidation factor working with her because she knows what she is talking about,” said Martinez. “But once you start talking to her she’s laid back and funny and the intimidation factor goes away.

“What I like best about Serena is that she is very talkative… she makes it a point to make a person feel special,” said Payetta. “She also has an excellent choice in food.”

A medium rare steak filet or yellowtail sushi tops the list of Winters’s favorite food.

When Winters is not practicing Muy Thai or competing against her boyfriend in golf, she likes to relax with her English Bull Terrior, Bruno.


***This story was written in 2015 as a feature profile assignment for a college course. I worked briefly with Serena as a previous intern for LakersNation. She was kind enough to take time out of her schedule to give me a lengthy two-hour interview for my assignment.

Insecure

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Source: @drawninacorner

This is a post I’ve been thinking about writing for a while now and I’ve always wondered how I should go about it. In a turn of no particular events I’ve decided to share with you my greatest weakness, the cardinal vice of insecurity.

To say that I’ve always been insecure, well, I wouldn’t negate it. It was one of the first conscious thoughts of self-awareness I had when I was a little girl in elementary school. It’s a feeling, a deepness inside me that I haven’t been able to shake off in years.

But I would like to state first that I’ve come a long way since then and have accepted myself for who and what I am.

Struggling with insecurity is like failing a test, you try so hard to study every minute detail of a subject only to underperform and let yourself down. You’re so critical on yourself that not even those around you can comfort you; you are your biggest enemy.

When I was a teenager my insecurities ruled my world. I was insecure about how tall I was, how much bigger I was, how poofy my hair was, how I had small eyes and chubby cheeks; it was a living hell for me. Then in my early twenties I decided to work on myself by killing those insecurities superficially. I dyed my hair red, I started wearing brand name makeup, I bought a gym pass and even went under the knife. Now, just a few weeks shy of officially being in my mid-twenties, the pit of my insecurities harbor inside me like a festering sickness at the bottom of my stomach, waiting for the catalyst that will spread it throughout my body.

My adult insecurities stem from a fear of never being good enough. That I’ve reached the pinnacle of my youth and still have yet to feel comfortable in my own body. I still compare myself to others and still see in myself that little teenage girl in the mirror instead of a beautiful grown woman. My weakness is that I don’t value myself as much as I should. It hurts to even write this because seeing my insecurities manifest itself like this on the one thing I’m proud of most… it’s almost offensive.

But I feel the necessity to share this part of me.

Being in a relationship is also the best thing and worst thing to happen to self-confidence. On one end you have your partner showing you unconditional love that shrinks any self doubt but on the other end, you fear that your partner will manipulate you for someone else. Your insecurities take over and you don’t know how to deal with it.

In my previous two relationships I’ve found out that one ex was cheating on me through social media and the other say to my face that he’s dated other girls prettier than me. I’ve been heartbroken and betrayed and sometimes I think I’ll never forget these moments in my life, but I’ve been coping. At times I even feel like damaged goods because of the fear of going through that again, even more so now that I’m not trying not to jump to conclusions to keep a healthy relationship.

But I still think that it’s true, that girlfriends get jealous if their boyfriends like another girl’s picture. Why? Because in that moment their whole world is giving their attention to someone else. I can’t say every girl is like this but I know for me it’s something that I’ve been trying not to let bother me so much because of what happened to me in previous relationships.

I’ve battled and conquered but the wounds are visceral. Being insecure is a part of me as much as I’m a part of it and just like anyone else, I’m always trying to better myself.

 

6 Week Transformation

In my spare time that exists in post grad purgatory, I found a new niche that has been seemingly growing, and that is an unusual love for CrossFit. In February I joined a bootcamp class at the CrossFit gym I workout at now and I’ve steadily transitioned from bootcamper to crossfitter.

After the six week bootcamp I decided to go the next step and begin strength training by doing some of the CrossFit WOD’s (workout of the day). I’m telling you, whatever weightlifting workout you do at 24-Hour Fitness is nothing compared to these CrossFit exercises. I used to think crossfitters were just some weird ass buff people showing off their big shoulders and tree trunk abs. But really, CrossFit is just functional bodybuilding. It’s more than just doing a set amount of reps for a set amount of sets, it’s building muscle memory that targets every functional body movement. Each workout is at most 30 minutes, but the classes are spent stretching, conditioning and strength training.

Granted, having a boyfriend that is a coach at the box allows me to put in extra work but that doesn’t mean it’s also any easier. Much of my free time now is geared towards working out and really turning fitness into a lifestyle. Whether it’s doing a workout pre or post WOD or coming in twice a day, your results are going to be what you make of it. I’m just here to share with you my slight transformation and show that if even my baby muscles can jump from 10 pound dumbbells to 20 pound dumbbells that so can you.

Also, cooking (not meal prepping) has also taken over my life simply because I love fresh produce and feeding my family healthier options. So here are just a few examples of healthier food choices!

The Honeymoon Phase

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It’s been two months since I’ve officially been in a relationship and I’ve been high off my ass on euphoria. My boyfriend and I have been sharing all the experiences that new couples do; staycations in San Diego/Hollywood, buying theme park passes, sharing each other on social media for the first time, experimenting sexually, and even promising long term commitment. We are the new couple on the block that all our friends keep asking about.

The one thing I hate hearing most however, is that we’re in the “honeymoon phase.” I am consistently reminded of that fact every time I share details about my relationship and it annoys me. It bothers me.

But I truly know that this hatred only stems from my own fear of facing what is beyond the honeymoon phase and finding out the answers to questions like: What will our first fight be about? Will my insecurities get in the way of things? Will we get too comfortable with each other? When will the honeymoon phase end?

In the back of my mind I’ve been playing scenarios of each situation and trying to prepare myself for what could happen next. But our young and budding relationship is so refreshing and so passionate I feel like these problems are lightyears away.

If this is indeed the honeymoon phase though, I never want to end.

To describe our first two months of monogamy, our major place setting is in the privacy of four bedroom walls. Our wild attraction to each other is what we share most in common. In our theatric play of love we are two fictional characters that exceed human boundaries and meet in the stars. There in the middle of the stage, our best performance is in the whispers in each others ears and the naked, intimate look into each others eyes. Even a Cirque du Soleil show would be amazed at our spectacle. The affection between us is unparalleled and our performances range from one to three acts daily. This show, is just one of the many driving forces behind our relationship.

For the first time, I feel a love so different than before. Our polarities are so drawn to each other, so magnetic and so sensual that the energy between us has always been palpable. It may be a repetition of what I said before but even sometimes I can’t get over how much our lives changed for each other.

Every time I find myself on the verge of the beginning or end of a relationship I ask my myself, does this individual make me a better person? The question has been the deciding factor leaving a previous toxic relationship but also the guide I needed to finding this relationship now. With my boyfriend, he brings out the simple yet rewarding things about me. Naturally, I am a fly on the wall homebody; a true Taurian lazy oaf. But his Scorpion willpower rubs off and I find myself living a lifestyle that is healthier mentally and physically. I am up and active, helping around the house more and feeling more myself around his friends too. I can even see our two worlds merging without losing my true identity. This might be his competitiveness speaking, but I aim to be better than I was yesterday.

So for now, I won’t worry about the bad things that haven’t happened yet, I’ll only try to delay them as long as possible.

The Plastics: Four Women and their Stories of Cosmetic Surgery

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Source: @huldaguzman

I woke up to a bright white light squeezing into the slits of my eyelids. Strapped down by each carpal and tarsal, I was crucified on a surgical table in downtown Santa Monica. I awoke with an inability to breathe, gasping for air from what felt like two cement bags pushing on my lungs. The nurse asked, “Do you need more morphine?” and with a quick reply of “yes,” I was sedated again.

Continue reading “The Plastics: Four Women and their Stories of Cosmetic Surgery”

Workout Wednesday

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At the beginning of this month I joined a 6-week bootcamp at a CrossFit gym thanks to my trainer boyfriend (eye roll lol). Originally I had no intention of joining whatsoever and was content with my only-workout-to-eat-and-drink-whatever-I-want lifestyle but of course, girlfriend duties mean that I respect his work.

In the corner, weighing in at 145 pounds, standing at 5 foot 7 inches with 27% body fat, Jillian Salas ready to rumble.

Although I’m at a particularly healthy weight for my size, I joined the bootcamp to see if I can push my body to levels I haven’t before. Prior, my workouts included going to the gym lifting for 30-45 minutes then cardio for another 30, with basic knowledge on form and diet. Now, at high intensity training using just body weight and dumbbells programmed specifically for the bootcamp, I am already seeing results in strength as well as endurance.

The bootcamp classes are held every weekday and night with about 5-15 attendees varying from each class. We have two coaches that lead the classes and assist us with proper form as well as introducing new workouts. They push us to reach our goals and to make sure we are staying on track. This is only the third week of bootcamp but I feel like my healthy lifestyle choices are improving overall. My diet is more consistent and now I workout on a daily basis.

 

My personal goal is to lower my body fat percentage to 24% while gaining muscle by the end of the six week program. Part of the bootcamp includes free consultations for meal prepping and showing us what supplements aid in proper muscle recovery. My daily routine looks something like this:

Supplements: Vanilla Whey Protein (to feed protein to muscles after workouts), Multivitamin & Carnitine (fat burner) taken 1-3 times a day, BCAA (amino acids taken while working out to protect muscles), Glutamine (restore glycogen levels), and occasionally pre-workout to get me through bootcamp.

Meal 1: Egg whites with banana and peanut butter wheat toast

Meal 2: Quinoa kale cauliflower with lean steak; stuffed quinoa avocados; black bean patty sandwich with hummus and wheat pita; ground lean turkey with veggies; salmon and baked sweet potatoes

Post Workout: Protein Shake with vanilla protein powder, glutamine, almond milk, peanut butter, banana, cinnamon, ice cubes

Snack: Greek yogurt with blueberries

My body is still adjusting to eating four times a day so often times I feel bloated. Since I work at a restaurant I also have problems with snacking too much before eating my meal. I TRY to save it for the weekend but sometimes I can’t resist 🙂 but alas I’m also working on my discipline. Three weeks and counting but soon enough you’ll see the new and improved me!

Valentine’s Day

 

 

No words can describe the way I feel towards him, but I’ll try my best to do so. Since first saying ‘I love you’ to each other our relationship has only bloomed into a beautiful field of flowers. In our garden, aromatic bursts of passion and scents of excitement intoxicate the surroundings; if love was in the air then you’d be suffocating on it.

Our first Valentine’s Day was perfect. We began the day at 6 a.m. to fit in a CrossFit workout before our complete and utter cheat meal day commenced. By 10 a.m. we were fresh and already on the road to Pasadena. Our champagne brunch was served at Barney’s Beanery in downtown complemented with the American take on Mexican breakfast. We were there to watch the Champions League game Real Madrid vs PSG. There my back to back champions defeated PSG in a 3-1 upset that shocked football fanatics (and my boyfriend) to the core. But me, being the savior of the day, didn’t let him drown in his sorrows because his gift was PSG Nike Windbreaker and a Barcelona Nike training pullover. Although one day, I’ll convince him to wear a Ronaldo jersey.

Hand in hand we walked down Colorado Street on a beautiful mid-February day once the game was over. Cars were driving from light to light and the season casted a temperature just over 75 degrees. Love really was in the air that day and it was radiating just from our connection.

At our hotel we toasted to our relationship with a handmade cocktail. The room was decorated with chocolates and flowers per his request. I was so in love, my heart filled to the brim with his kindness. He could have given me rock with a bow tied around it and I still would have been happy.

With him, it’s something that feels so real. So tangible and alive that it makes life easier. To have the person you love by your side, to share that same feeling with each other, it is the most deadly yet compassionate drug ever. I have his heart, and he has mine.

We later had reservations at Ruth’s Chris and again he swept me off my feet with an amazing dinner. A glass of Duckhorn Merlot and a medium rare filet, my stomach was as happy as my heart. For dessert was him, and a slice of mixed berries cheesecake.

The best thing about this relationship is looking forward to the new experiences we get to share with each other. We promised to take care of each other and in my most intimate inner thoughts, he is there right beside me.