• J. Faith Malicdem

Why PieFace?

By J. Faith Malicdem // Dec. 16, 2019

In sixth grade, I sat behind a Dell computer screen in my Sanrio pajamas all day, wearing a Sony headset so I could communicate with my teacher and classmates digitally. It was my first year of online school—a phase of experimental academia proposed by my parents. Being the first child of three came with many disadvantages, and one of them was being a predetermined guinea pig. But with the discovery of online interaction outside of Club Penguin and Yahoo chatrooms came the emergence of my obsession over social media.

Twitter served as a gateway to my journalistic beat today. It looked a little different then, though.

My Following tab consisted of Disney and Nickelodeon stars Zendaya, Bridgit Medler and Keke Palmer. I was on top of the preteen advertising market, keeping up with news of shows airing on the mouse-dictated television channel. I knew about everyone involved; the actors, the screenwriters, and the producers. My feed was flooded with my own tweets “reporting” on these television shows. I was a glorified fan account.

Sabrina Carpenter responding to me being a fangirl at age 12

Then, it dawned on me: I could start a blog. And I did. It was called the Music Highway.

I took the liberty of direct messaging all of the D-level stars I possibly could, asking to interview them via Twitter DM. Surely enough, some responded. I sent them questions about how they got into acting, what shooting with their co-stars was like, and what they liked to do in their free time. They’d respond in bullet points, ensuring they’d answered every question I bombarded them with. Eleven year old me would then copy and paste their answers onto a Word document, lacing them in-between contextualizing texts regarding their background written by yours truly.

The interviews would go online, and the stars would share the link on their Twitter feeds. The Music Highway gained traction amongst a sea of hundreds of Selena Gomez fanatics aged ten to thirteen, and soon, I was caught in a flurry of demands to interview Alex Russo herself. But being the award-winning journalist I was, I decided to take on my own writing feats, regardless of what the people wanted. And so, I instead wrote about what to put in your very own mini emergency kit, tailored to fit in your locker and back you up in case of any silly-band-ripping occurrences. You know, as one does.

My sister and I with Teala Dunn after interviewing her for Music Highway in the middle of a random bowling alley (circa Fall 2012)

The Music Highway continued to garner a substantial amount of readings throughout the fall of 2012 as I wrote about autumnal outfit how-to’s and rising artists who were really just my online-school friends seeking out more views on their Tumblr accounts. Somewhere down the line, an online school classmate of mine wanted in on the project, and she slowly began to take over the website. I then went back to public school in the seventh grade, and the blog hasn’t been tampered with since.

I still took a liking to writing, though, for it served as a creative outlet. However, I ventured into the realm of songwriting when I hit the emotionally potent age of thirteen, contributing my so-called musical talents to an all-girl ‘80s cover band called Nevaeh. But that’s another origin story for a different time.

One of the lead singers in our cover band held a Halloween party our freshman year of high school, and so naturally, I dressed as a 1920s flapper, inspired by Libba Bray’s historical fiction novel, The Diviners. Slang words such as “hotsy-totsy,” “pieface,” and “dumb Dora,” were thrown around and laced into conversation between one of my good friends (to this day!) Liliana and I as we tried to embody a pair of jazz cats that Halloween night. A chain of photos overtook my friend group’s Instagram feeds with corny captions, but Lili captioned her post of the two of us: “it’s been swell, pieface.”

Keep this in mind for later. Heh.

Lili and I, Halloween 2015

It wasn’t until I received a thick envelope in the mail consisting of an invitation to the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) when journalistic writing, as a major and career, was brought to my attention. NSLC is a summer enrichment program with locations nationwide that offered varying programs, from Law and Advocacy to Acting Intensives. I was wrapping up my first semester finals as a sophomore in high school when I ultimately decided to accept the invitation to attend the Film, Journalism and Media Arts program at UC Berkeley, unknowingly sealing a stamp of approval that would, quite literally, change my life forever.

Through NSLC, I was taught the nut(graf)s and bolts (lol get it?) of putting together a news package, writing a script for a radio broadcast, and interviewing sources for a story. I also built foundational friendships that I would later deem to be integral to my emotional growth (I love you, Jamilah + Cory!), but again, that’s another origin story for a different time.

While I could write a whole other twenty page essay on how NSLC refined who I am today, I’ll do you a favor and instead focus on the two main things I learned from the program and my peers: collaboration and innovation. “My heart is overflowing with hope and excitement as we take on the world, all over the world,” I recounted in a FaceBook post in honor of the program coming to its close. I left with a full heart and a bright idea. I wanted to push the limits of my writing abilities and explore the lengths I’d go to join forces with other creative minds.

We had been asked to jot down our expectations of the program’s outcome on the first day, and I wrote: “I, Faith Malicdem, am committed to shifting the spectrum of what it means to be an exemplary leader…,” and I still am.

I entered my junior year with hopes high and goals set, assuredly enrolling in my high school’s journalism class, when I soon realized that the class simply wasn’t for me. It consisted of students who simply needed to fill a class period, and were thus seemingly disinterested in the subject altogether. It wasn’t an environment I could work in without constantly feeling discouraged.

So, I forced myself to visit the administrator’s office to approach Mrs. Kealing, one of the Main Office staffers and beloved aunt I never had, with an offer: “I’ll write anything for you, as long as you give me the opportunities to write at all.”

With that, I was writing press releases for my school’s creative arts academy before I knew it. But because Mrs. Kealing was pitching my stories to a local paper, I didn’t have much autonomy over my writing style and my voice as a storyteller. I wasn’t receiving any opportunities to write and publish creative written pieces I was truly passionate about. Local publications took a liking to hard news stories, and soft news stories reported like hard news stories, which I simply wasn’t enjoying.

And finally, enter PieFace.

I don’t remember the exact process of how PieFace came to be, but I think that’s because its creation was so nonchalant. I put PieFace on the backburner of my writing endeavors, treating it as a brain dump and public diary of sorts, posting whatever, whenever. I knew I wanted it to be an authentic, transparent, and emotional outlet of mine aside from just being a creative platform. I also envisioned it to be a pool of creative works, open to all those who felt they didn’t quite have a place to publish their work—a struggle I had seemingly dealt with time and time again. On September 3rd, 2017, my very first PieFace piece was posted on The PieFace Column: a brief and massively unprofessional article reviewing the detrimental effects of fast fashion.

A screenshot of Jamilah's promotional post for PieFace when it was first established, circa early September 2017

As for the actual column’s name, I picked “pieface” out of my mere fondness for the word and its dichotomy. Aforementioned, pieface was a slang term that emerged in the 1920s as a compliment meaning an “extraordinarily pretty girl,” but its connotations began to shift in the late ‘90s. It soon grew to imply that someone had a flat, ugly, round, and plain face. I knew the phrase to be a positive and endearing one, and was shocked to see that its meaning shifted when describing Asian people’s facial features in a demeaning and derogatory manner.

Though, something about the name itself felt right.

To keep it short and sweet (like me! Haha bad joke), the duality in pieface’s meaning resonated with me and the toxic relationship I had with my self-image. But aforementioned, but that’s another story for a different time.

All in all, I thought the name suited the platform well, given that the column was created to be an introspective, emotional, and creative pool of work that may not fit the repertoire of other publications. Work that holds worth may not be appraised justly by other outlets, but at pieface, they are treasured.

Me by Lorelei Taybi

The launch of the PieFace website prompted more writers and creators to reach out in hopes of collaborating and publishing their work on the column, and that was in just a short week’s time alone. The PieFace team is growing exponentially as illustrators, filmmakers, poets, and writers of all kinds have showed interest in contributing to this project. I have high hopes for the growth of the inclusion of all creators at PieFace, because in turn, the more perspectives, the more ground covered on the spectrum of creative introspection.

Welcome to PieFace. I can’t wait to see where this journey will take us.

If you'd like to join our team and contribute your work, be sure to contact us.

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