Extraordinary Women: Xe Jah’Twi

Her voice makes every conversation pause in a venue. Xe Jah’Twi, or Xena, is a lead vocalist with Vibe Riot, an East Coast Indie band with a Bluesy Funk Ragga Rock sound unlike anyone else. She gives her best to every performance, and what results is a remarkable presentation indicative of both her talent and her natural chemistry with the band. Of course, long before Xena took the stage with Vibe Riot, music was her passion.

As a child, Xena watched her father become an integral part of the music world while working in promotions. She fell in love with music in the 1980s, specifically Salt-N-Pepa. Their strong personalities as women, the rapping, the music, the female DJ—to Xena, they had everything.

Dancing began to call to her as well, and ultimately solidified her connection to the art.

“I wanted so badly to be a background dancer,” she recalls. “but I was too shy to bring it up.”

Xena met Jaewar, Vibe Riot’s frontman, while living in New York. At the time, she was a student, working hard to provide for her two children. She received a phone call from a friend asking if she wanted to contribute vocals to a song. Xena did a little research on the band and agreed.

Melody Robbins Photography

“I said, ‘If I do this in the first take, you guys owe me something. I want a treehouse in Haiti and some sushi.’ And I did it. The next time I heard from Jae was when the record was done, and the second time was when I came to Virginia to do the video. When we saw each other, it was like we never dropped the ball. With your best friend, it’s always a comfortable situation.”

Jaewar and Xena started exchanging ideas, and the encouragement helped her overcome any of the remaining hurdles that often accompany shyness.

To see her on stage now, you would never know that this dynamic performer was once too shy to be a background dancer. She fits perfectly into Vibe Riot’s family of compassionate and outgoing band members.

“I’m just me,” she says. “Xena means hospitality. When you have people who are accepting of you, it helps bring that out. That would be the one trait all have that is the same. We are just personable people.”

Prior to performing, she interacts with fans and makes real connections. When she returns to the stage, it is not only with the support of her fellow musicians, but of everyone else in the building. The positive energy creates a relaxing environment so the performers and the audience can truly vibe out to the music.

“We tell stories and talk about the political atmosphere to a certain degree. We show the cohesiveness and people coming from different backgrounds. It’s not the typical hip hop you would hear. The sound is different. It connects to heartbeat of a person,” she explains.

Xena hopes that audiences will relate to the music, and consider the responsibility we all have as citizens to encourage authentic discourse regarding current issues.

“You see a cohesiveness and understand that communication is possible any time a group of people come together on a small scale, like a household; on a medium scale, like a band; and on a large scale, like a government. It is one of the number one factors that contributes to wellness. If you can’t respectively communicate, then how do you expect anything else to be eradicated?” she asks.

As Xena continues her journey with Vibe Riot, she is excited to be included in more of the writing process. A lyricist by nature, she is enjoying her growth as a writer as much as she treasures what they have created on their latest EP, True! Raw Honey.

This is only small taste of Xe Jah’Twi’s phenomenal and inspiring story of tenacity, strength, and talent. It is all the more reason to attend one of Vibe Riot’s upcoming performances. Get there early, and you may have a chance to hear more of her story in person!

Check out Vibe Riot’s tour schedule here for more information. Roanoke fans, get ready! Vibe Riot is scheduled to perform at Martin’s Downtown on Saturday, February 17 at 10pm.


Photography by Melody Robbins Photography.

Help Save the Next Girl

Crimes against women are a serious issue. Instead of facing the facts and trying to do something about it, most people turn the other way and blame the victim herself. One of the major issues is girls and women being kidnapped. No one wants to be that girl or women being pulled into a car by a stranger who saw you standing alone. No one wants to be the parent who has to wake up one morning and find that their child never came home, and not knowing if they will be found. This is where Help Save the Next Girl comes in.

Help Save the Next Girl is a not for profit organization that was founded by Gil and Dan Harrington. They were encouraged to start this organization after the kidnapping and murder of their daughter, Morgan. Through Facebook and Twitter, Help Save the Next Girl shares information as quickly as possible so they can spread information of safety, and try to prevent future crimes. They help to spread the news that someone is missing so more people know. Working with Take Back the Night rallies, they bring awareness to college campuses about the existing women’s issues. They have even spoken for Southwest Virginia’s Girl Scouts of America. Help Save the Next Girl has many chapters both on and off Facebook. They currently have 16 college chapters; 24 high school chapters; five middle school chapters; and five other chapters.

Gil Harrington and Jane Lillian Vance, one of Morgan’s last professors, wrote the book Morgan Harrington Murdered Dead and for Good: A Mother’s Quest to Find a Serial Killer and Healing. With journal-like entries from Gil, a few from Dan, and Morgan’s brother, Alex, the process of dealing with a loved one missing is shown. They talk of their worries and thoughts that they experienced through the horrifying ordeal through everything from Morgan’s purse being found to her body being found. This book goes through the process of looking for Morgan with the police department and the community, when they found her, and the aftermath for the family as well as when they found out about a possible suspect.

Morgan’s last words to her mother were, “241, Mama.” ‘241’ is used often throughout this book as well as seen on their website. 241 stands for unconditional love and, as Gil explains, it’s for “I love you TOO much, FORever, and ONCE beyond forever.”

See their website for more information and to see their list of safety tips.

Written by Samantha Fantozzi

February at the Jefferson Center

On Saturday, February 10, at 7:30pm and Sunday, February 11, at 3:00pm in the Shaftman Performance Hall at the Jefferson Center the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra will be performing. The Orchestra presents Vivaldi The Four Seasons and Appalachian Spring. The Four Seasons is a beautiful violin piece that is sure to be memorable. The event will finish with Copland’s music for the ballet, Appalachian Spring. Led by Akemi Takayama, concertmaster of 14 years at the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, the show is sure to be breathtaking.

Joan Soriano will be taking the stage at the Jefferson Center in the Fostek Rehearsal Hall, on Friday the 16 at 8:00pm. Soriano grew up in the Dominican Republican, he made his first guitar out of a tin can and fishing line. Today he has seven recorded albums and is renowned for his blend of modern and traditional bachata music.

Starting at 9:00pm, immediately after Soriano performance, attend the 15th Annual Latin Dance Party inside Fitzpatrick Hall. If you attended Soriano’s show you get a $3 discount on admission to the party! There will be a 30-minute salsa workshop and then a live performance from West End Mambo. You won’t want to miss this lively event!

“An Evening with Andrew Bird,” will take place on Thursday, February 22 at 7:30pm in the Shaftman Performance Hall. Andrew Bird is a talented singer, song-writer, and multi-instrumentalist. As a kid he began playing violin at 4 and ever since then he was drawn to music of all types. Today Bird has released 13 albums and has even been a featured presenter on Ted Talk. A dollar from each ticket sold will be donated to Everyone for Gun Safety.

For more information about all these events and so many more, or to purchase tickets visit the Jefferson Center’s event page. Pick up the February issue of Bella for more information on Melissa Aldana’s concert later this month!

Written by Lilith Turman

Profile: Melissa Aldana

Tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana will perform at the Jefferson Center on February 17 at 7 pm and again at 9 pm. A rising tenor saxophone star, Aldana recently released her second trio album (and fourth as a leader). “Back Home” unveils a powerful musical creation by Aldana and her illustrious bandmates. Not so much reminiscent of a specific place, “Back Home” evokes something a little deeper for Aldana.

“Back Home is a tribute to Sonny Rollins, who has been a huge influence on me since I was ten years old,” she explains. “It makes a reference to the first time I heard him playing back home in Chile. I completely fell in love with the sound of his tenor. He is organic and funny. Those are some of the most important elements in music. It’s like he’s having a conversation with you, and you can hear how he’s taking risks and trying new things. Those are the elements I want to have in my own playing.”

Aldana describes her relationship with the tenor saxophone as a lifelong commitment. The journey with the instrument has allowed her to mature as an artist, and her dedication to it remains. From New York to Montreal (and around the world), she carries that pivotal moment when she first heard Sonny Rollins play with her in addition to the lessons she has learned from other artistic influences. In this way, she can allow the music she creates to tell the story of her travels, experiences, and personal growth.

On “Back Home” she includes a track called “Time” that is a “meditation on her life since departing Chile.” She has described the nostalgic track as a reflection of the last nine years of her life. As the tenor saxophone carries the listener through the ups and downs of the accumulated time, it is not hard to give over the memories of one’s own adventures. This is exactly the impact Aldana hopes to have with her work.

“I hope [the audience] has fun and goes on a trip with the music. Also, I hope they enjoy it as much as I did when I recorded the album,” she adds.

Joining Aldana for her February 17 show are Sam Harris on the piano, Thomas Crane on the drums, and Pablo Menares on the bass. Together, they project an “uncommonly full orchestral sound, rich in spiritual intensity, all in the absence of a harmony instrument.” The experience is one that Roanoke audiences are unlikely to forget, and Aldana is excited to introduce both new and returning fans to her new music.

To purchase tickets, visit www.jeffcenter.org. For more information on Melissa Aldana and how to purchase her music, go to www.melissaaldana.com.

Bella Reads: Mod New York

Mod New York: Fashion Takes a Trip was written by Phyllis Magidson and Donald Albrecht. Both authors work as curators for the Museum of the City of New York; Magidson for costumes and Albrecht for architecture and design. Fashion Takes a Trip goes through the important moments and times of fashion history. Walking through the years from the 1940s to the mid 1970s, this book will tell you about Jackie Kennedy and how she impacted the fashion world with the clothes she wore; changes made for youthquake (a time when fashion changed to aim more towards youths); and what New Bohemia was. Its language is simple, and easy to understand and the images used help to play into this as well. Instead of the clothing and styles being described within the texts, images are used to show exactly what was being worn. This also makes it easier to compare fashion between sections and time periods. Followed by images, these sections aren’t too long, and they are straight to the point. Mod New York confirms that fashion is in fact changing all the time, and we are shown this between the matching coat and dress combination of Jackie Kennedy all the way to the colorful, flower printed chiffon dresses of the New Bohemia.

Mod New York: Fashion Takes a Trip is a very informative book about the history of fashion and what impacts it has had, and the added images show you the changes between the years. This book is one that would be beneficial for someone who has an interest in either the history of fashion, or just fashion in general. It shows where fashion has been, and it just might inspire ideas on where it could go next.


Written by Samantha Fantozzi 

The Most Popular Print of the Season!

It’s hard to believe that January has already rolled around. Doesn’t it seem to come quicker every year?! It feels like yesterday I was putting my winter clothes away and here we are with winter coats and heavy knitted scarves again. But there are always fun ways to embrace cold weather attire and to still look chic. A new year is the perfect opportunity to try new fashion trends. This year, one of the biggest trends is a pop of print, specifically leopard. You may be asking, “How do I add print without looking overly trendy, especially if I dress for an office atmosphere most days?” “How do I wear leopard without leopard wearing me?”

Great questions! Let me tell you how.

I’ve personally, always has a soft spot for a splash of animal print. Fortunately for me, leopard is one of my favorites. It makes small appearances around my home and is present in many of the accessories I add into my daily attire. This year you’ll find it in all sorts of places and on all sorts of things. Sassy shoes, cozy cardigans, printed pillows, and even bags & beanies. You could easily wear an entire outfit solely made up of animal print if you really wanted… but let’s talk about how to seamlessly incorporate it without it overwhelming your look.

I find it best to add a punch of print to a monochromatic or understated outfit. For example, in my look shown, I’m wearing a simple olive blouson sweater with a crossbody bag to match, paired with a classic skinny jean. I decided to add in my printed pieces with a fun beanie, some leopard loafers (the most popular shoe style of the season), and a tassel keychain. All are small additions to my attire and simply say, “I’m embracing the print of the season in a trendy way” without loudly screaming, “I love leopard!” Although, if you’d like to add more, shout away! You’ll also find that these pieces won’t be covered up with a coat so you’ll still be able to show them off in the cold Virginia weather.

A few other suggestions for adding a feline flair: Try pairing a sleek black dress with black pumps and a leopard cardigan for work. Or add a leopard clutch to your ensemble. You can even wear a leopard ball cap on the weekend with a cute sweatshirt and leggings. Some of my favorite retailers embracing leopard print this season are Nordstrom, J.Crew, and Loft. I usually type “leopard” into the search bar to see what pops up. You’d be surprised how many options you’ll find!

To find out more about this season’s hottest trends and for more outfit and beauty inspiration, head to my blog Pardon Muah (pardonmuah.com) or check out my Instagram @pardonmuahinsta.

xo – Amanda


Written by Amanda Marshall of Pardon Muah
Photos by Cricket Maiden

Local Hiking Trips

The Roanoke Valley and the surrounding area has so much to offer when it comes to spending time outdoors, there are plenty of ways to explore, but the most accessible are the hiking trails. There are so many different trails and scenery in this area, hiking through some is a great way to get to know the area and get daily exercise in a more enjoyable way.

A great place to go if you’re looking for a short scenic trip is Natural Bridge State Park. It’s great for people looking to get an easy start into hiking, families with children, or anyone looking for beautiful view. The hike itself has lot of stops, like the beautiful natural arch that is the Natural Bridge, an old mine, and a waterfall at the very end. It also has a lot to offer educationally like a Monacan Indian Village Exhibit set up along the path, not to mention that the bridge itself was once owned by Thomas Jefferson.

Molly Armistead, experienced hiker and member of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, gives some of her recommendations of local hikes bellow:

Some other beginner hikes include many with a waterfall as the focal point. Cascade Falls, the hike itself is 3.5 miles round trip. The best and most memorable thing about this hike is the beautiful 69-foot waterfall at the end, and in the summer it’s a great swimming spot. The next hike she recommends for beginners is Crabtree Falls. This hike has a beautiful set of waterfalls. Crabtree even is said to have the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi.

If you’re a beginner that’s less interested in waterfalls and wants a stunning overlook, Roanoke has trails for you too! Read Mountain Preserve is a moderate hike that leads to Buzzard Rocks- which gives you a view of the Roanoke Valley from a new perspective.

For a more advanced hike, get out and explore Apple Orchard Falls in Arcadia, VA! The trail can be amended in length depending on where you decides to start/finish. The end is home to a beautiful waterfall–one of the tallest in Virginia. Apple Orchard Farm offers some camping spots if you’re looking to make an adventure out of the hike. Roanoke also has the access to the Appalachian Trail, which is definitely a place for more experienced hikers.

Of course, no list about Roanoke’s hikes would be complete without mentioning McAfee Knob. It’s one the most photographed places on the Appalachian Trail. It has a beautiful rock ledge that is a great photo opportunity.

Armistead emphasizes that the most important thing about hiking is not leaving a trace. She explains, “Go into the woods and make memories, but when you leave make sure no one knows you were there.” She also adds that while hiking alone is something she does often, hiking is a great family activity and is great way to spend time together.

For more information about what hikes Roanoke has to offer check out Roanoke Outside or Roanoke Play.


Written by Lilith Turman

Artists Added to the FloydFest 18 Lineup!

FloydFest has announced new additions to their lineup for FloydFest 18~Wild!

Added to the schedule are the following bands:
Leftover Salmon
Keller Williams
The National Reserve
The Broadcast
Erin & The Wildfire
Mama Said String Band
Fireside Collective
Sol Searchers
Blue Mule
The Floorboards
My Radio
Black Mountain Revival
Morgan Wade & The Stepbrothers
Los Chupacabras

We can’t wait to see these amazing artists perform July 25-29! For more information on FloydFest (and how to purchase tickets!) visit www.floydfest.com. We’ll see you there!

The regional magazine for women