Flipping the Script on Audio Description: Fashion Able

An image of a Yellow and Purple Gradient Daisy Petal.  The text: Fashion "Able" appears in the top petal with "Natalie Trevonne" on the second line. Pictured in the center of the daisy is an image of Natalie, a brown skin African American woman  with an oval face and long black hair sitting stylishly on the floor against a pale-yellow background.  She's wearing a yellow jacket, white camisole, and a jean skirt with a lengthy split which shows her long, lean legs and pale-yellow heels.

As we proceed!

Have you ever considered how much is gleaned by the outfit a person wears and when? The subtle implications of a person’s accessories?

[Natalie Trevonne](https://twitter.com › NatalieTrevonne › status) has and even wrote about it.

In today’s episode we speak with one of the host of the Fashionably Tardy podcast about the lack of fashion descriptions in films and television. Of course, you already know, it’s about more than entertainment. Plus we hear how Natalie’s pursuit of her interest helped her find her way into acting.

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Transcript

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Sample:
As we proceed…

[HipHop beat comes in]

TR:
With this latest season of flipping the script on audio description, we’re adding to the list of responses to the question: “how can we improve AD ?”
Hopefully, those who are in the position of creating AD or AD policy here and accept these critiques as they’re meant to be received. AD is really getting more attention and thought.

I’m seeing signs that perhaps we’re in the early part of moving past the stage where we need to convince broadcasters and other content providers that we’re deserving audience who should be valued.

Well, hopefully moving into more conversations where AD consumers and providers themselves are looking at the quality of the end product. I’m not saying this for us to get comfortable. We have a long way to go. It’s like we were in surgery. And now we’re being moved to the ICU. We still need to be monitored pretty closely. But at least we can start making some plans for the future.

My name is Thomas Reid, and I am not a doctor. I never even play one on TV. In fact, I don’t even know where the stethoscope goes. I am, however, the host and producer of this HERE podcast which by the way, technically means I make house calls. Welcome to Reid My Mind Radio yall. Lets get it.

Natalie01:35
Hi, my name is Natalie Trevonne, and my pronouns are she and her. I am a African American woman with brown skin, short black shoulder length hair with blue gray eyes, and I have on a white sports bra and orange FUBU joggers, bringing it back to the 90s because I’m on my way to rehearsals, dance rehearsals later, I am an actress, a model, a dancer with infinite flow Dance Company, a fashion and beauty accessibility consultant, and co host of the podcast fashionably tardy, and I am the marketing and PR lead for blind Institute of Technology.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 02:19
Tell me a little bit about how you became blind. And again, I’m not looking for your whole medical history?

Natalie02:25
No, you’re good. I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when I was one. My doctors had said, the inflammation that causes this disease could affect your, your other organs, like your kidneys, your eyes are part of your organs, right. So it was something that we knew could possibly happen. But we just didn’t know when, at 11 years old, I started to develop cataracts and started to see like these thick clouds kind of attaching themselves to my lenses. It was hard for me to read, I ended up getting glasses, got a couple of surgeries, things were good, I could see pretty well.

TR: 03:01
Through her high school years. This was a continuous process: surgery, some vision restored, then more loss.

Natalie: 03:07
I think I just got tired. I could keep going in and out of the hospital. Or I can learn to live with this disability and find some type of joy in the midst of what’s going on. And at least half peace. KI think I’m super blessed because although like my vision is bad, my arthritis isn’t bad. There are days when my bones ache, but for the most part, I’m able to be pretty active without it being an issue

TR: 03:34
With no access to peers or anyone else for that matter experiencing blindness. Natalie focused more on just pushing through, figuring out how to “be blind.” She learned how to use her white cane. She learned her technology and other rehab skills. But it was an opportunity to work at BISM that really made her see blindness differently.

Natalie03:54
BISM, which is Blind industry services in Maryland in Baltimore, Maryland. It just kind of blew my mind, like the amount of independence that we actually could have. Because I didn’t experience that here in California. These students were so advanced compared to what I was taught. Just their level of travel, they were being dropped at random places and finding their way back home. That was part of the training. They gave them like stipends to take trips on their own. And these people were really being independent and they had their own apartment. They live downtown and they would travel to the training program.

TR: 04:32
Maybe this experience let Natalie know she could pursue all of her interests. Among the many she mentioned in her intro. She’s also a writer.

Natalie04:39
I started writing for PopSugar. Late last year. My original article that I pitched to them was about the lack of image descriptions. There was unlabeled links and buttons on websites when it came to retail. Not being able to independently shop on these websites because they weren’t accessible right the fashion side but I’m writing about disability right and the issues that we deal with in relation to fashion that kind of came out of my work with Fashionably Tardy we’re two blind chicks bridging the gap between fashion and disability. I wanted to kind of widen that reach of like who we are talking to and who we’re trying to get to see the bigger picture. I told Melissa like, hey, like, I’m going to start pitching some stories to some fashion magazines or some online media that deals with fashion. And I pitched her quite a few people but Pop Sugar was one of the people that really got it right away.

TR: 05:37
While watching one of her favorite shows Emily in Paris. Emily, the main character who thinks she knows everything about fashion actually sort of sticks out in Paris, wearing really bright or loud colors.

Natalie: 05:48
I would even say shows like Bridgerton, the fashion is part of the show. The season where they try to find the diamond of the season is all about the look. The best dress, the best hair, the shoes and gowns, and there’s these intricate, beautiful colors and garments and big wigs. I don’t remember them really describing wigs. The way I know a lot about Bridgerton is really because of Cat Quinn, the Creative Director for MAC cosmetics and she does a lot of breakdowns of shows. As far as beauty and fashion goes on her Tik Tok and Instagram.

TR: 06:24
No surprise to the true AD heads out here. Having access to this information has implications that go beyond entertainment.

Natalie06:31
If you look at the show Euphoria, clothes sell out, immediately after each episode, people want to dress like what they see on television, if you don’t have any good fashion sense, and you watch television, you’re gonna know what’s in. I think it’s super helpful for somebody who’s blind and low vision because we definitely don’t know what’s hot, especially because there’s not accurate alt text, or no alt text. If we were to have better detail, fashion descriptions with for television and film, I think we would have a better idea of what goes together, what we could buy in the store and what really looks good, or what some of the brands that we could buy from, we need to get better about adding descriptions, especially when fashion is part of the show.

TR: 07:18
Fashion is part of the show doesn’t necessarily mean it’s part of the plot.

Natalie07:21
When I was writing this article, I asked on Facebook, like hey, are there any shows that are doing a good job about this, and people said, selling Tampa?

TR: 07:30
Seriously, this was a coincidence. But shout out to the crew at IDC.

Natalie: 07:34
I watched the whole season. And I would agree that time was taken to actually describe what the women were wearing on the show. And I found it to be extremely helpful. Brittany Koch, who’s mentioned in the article actually said she went back and watched the first matrix, and they did a very great job of talking about what people were wearing. And she said she even researched the fashion in the movie, it was a match. They actually did their homework, the clothes were being accurately described.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 08:06
What sort of feedback have you been receiving about this whole idea of describing more fashion?

Natalie: 08:12
I think some people working in AD like the comments kind of came from them, they were a little offended. They were like oh we’re doing the best. And there’s not always enough time. And it wasn’t an attack on AD really, it was just to say like, Hey, we do care about this, it was more of a invitation to work together. Let’s see what we all can do to make this better. With anything. You always want to know how you can grow and improve, because you never want to just stay the same. There’s always room to do better. And there’s always room to advance.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 08:45
Yeah, at least those who are really committed to quality. Those are the folks who want to learn, and are interested in saying, Oh, wait, tell me more about that. The folks who are not, they usually out themselves by just kind of pushing back and not even taking the time to listen. Forget them. And that was me putting in nicely.

Do you ever get any sort of opposite feedback from the community? Like are there people who are saying, “ Eh, I don’t want that?”

Natalie09:13
I haven’t seen anybody flat out say like, “Oh, I’m not interested in this.” I did see a few guys be like, “Oh, I never thought about this. That’s interesting.” One guy was like, “Well, I’m going to actually pay attention to that when I watch my next show with audio description.” So I think for guys, it was kind of like, you know, like, I didn’t think about it, but maybe now I’ll pay attention.

TR: 09:35
Fellas. Nice job. We should think about it.

Natalie: 09:39
Say a woman is going out on a date in a movie or TV show. If she’s putting on some red lipstick and have tight fitted dress. She’s either going on a date or going out or somewhere where she’s trying to make a statement. I think, yes, depending on the storyline that’s important that lipstick color is important because if I’m just maybe going out with friends and I might do more of a nude color. Even with makeup like I might do a smoky eye if I’m trying to be sexy, right? Or if I’m just like, just trying to go out for a nice day at the bare, I just might do eyebrows.

TR: 10:13
Natalie’s interest in audio description extends beyond fashion, as in her critique of a show called Abbott Elementary.

Natalie10:19
It’s about black teachers, mostly black cast in Philadelphia. It’s just such a great show. But because the audio describer is not a person of color, I feel like they kind of miss because there’s a lot of like, cultural things that we do and say, they really should try to match the audio describer with the tone of the show.

Sample from “Boomerang” Eddie Murphy & John Whitherspoon “Coordinate!”: 10:44
Well, the secret is you got to coordinate. Most people don’t coordinate, so you got to coordinate. That’s what you did.

TR: 10:51
I just assumed Natalie was always interested in fashion, or coordinating. She admitted she grew up as a tomboy. And it wasn’t until she became blind that she became more interested in fashion. That’s just one of the incorrect assumptions I had before our conversation. I also assumed she has been watching movies with audio description. Since her introduction to blindness.

Natalie11:12
I like got on the audio description bandwagon way later than I should, because I wasn’t around a lot of people who are blind. And so I didn’t really know that that was a resource, and people would tell me about it. But I was like, okay, like, I’ll try it out. I’ll try it out. One day, I really sat there and tried it out. And it was a beautiful thing. Because now I was able to really keep up with the movie, especially if there’s a lot of action.

TR: 11:35
no matter how long we as blind people have been consuming. Add this value in all of our experiences, especially when we’re solution based.

Natalie: 11:44
I think that it would be super helpful if we could work with AD teams on how to better include fashion detail. And I know they don’t always have a lot of time. But I’ve seen examples of where there’s some dead time that outfits could be described a little better. I’m not saying that it’s going to be like oh, she had on a shirt with a criss cross dip way loads are back and it was fitted like Nobody’s expecting that. At least like the color, the texture, was it short or long. Even if you said she had on a blue, strapless jumpsuit with the backout that’s still giving me a lot. At least color texture fit could be great.

TR: 12:28
Critically thinking about our access to vision related information will have real world implications. Even if you’re not interested in design. Natalie was invited to co design with a digital artist. Considering how little she sees representation of blind people in the bridal space. She decided to design a wedding dress.

Natalie: 12:47
I wanted to create this dress to kind of raise awareness about the fact that we are not represented in this way because people don’t expect us to fall in love or have families. They don’t expect us to be part of the real world. I was featured at meta Fashion Week. And next to some really cool brands like Dolce and Gabbana, Levi Tommy Hilfiger, Cavalli essence picked up the story, and they featured me and they talked about me being the first blind designer in the metaverse.

TR: 13:14
New to the idea of the metaverse? In all actuality, it doesn’t exist in full just yet. It’s a virtual world where people will work and play fully online, sort of like the games where you have an avatar that represents you. You interact with other avatars and participate in transactions, except these transactions aren’t for your virtual form, but rather a real world buying and selling of both digital and physical goods.

TR in Conversation with Natalie:
Describe the dress!

Natalie: 13:43
it was super important to me, even though that this is a digital asset that we played with textures, and that you could kind of see the different textures on the dress. It’s a very, it’s a very sexy wedding dress, actually. It’s a lacy, backless dress, and it’s strapless but it kind of has like these gold chains on the shoulder and then there’s one that comes across the back. Kind of a mermaid fit. With a see through middle. You can see my stomach and then it poops out into like a long train at the bottom. There’s some gold detail kind of going through the lace towards the bottom.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 14:25
Okay. Is it one channel as a crossing in the bag? Is it an X?

Natalie14:30
No, it’s just one chain that comes across.

TR in Conversation with Natalie:
Oh that’s fly. And what color?

Natalie:
It’s traditional white.

TR in Conversation with Natalie:
Oh duh! [laughs]

Natalie:
Well no it didn’t have to be. Its not a traditional dress, because it’s a little sexy, but we did want to keep the white the classic white of it.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 14:47
And what about the shoes? My wife’s a shoe lady. So I gotta ask about the shoes or their shoes in this picture.

TR:
If you’re interested in the shoes, a gold with thick high heels, but they’re hidden by the train of, the dress. Sort of how the lack of audio description hides visual information from us. Hmm.

Natalie: 15:04
Something that really hit me was that “well, how does my community enjoy this?” Right? I mean, they can read about it. And I can give an image description of the dress, but our able bodied counterparts are able to go click on this dress and get a 3d image of it front to back, view me spinning in it, the front view and the back for you, you can really get the full vision of this dress. And if you’re blind, you don’t get that. Obviously, you can’t add alt text to a moving image.

TR: 15:32
Maybe you don’t care about buying outfits online. What if everything becomes a moving digital rendering of a product?

Natalie: 15:38
I as a blind person should be able to hear that description of what is going on? What’s the future for NFT when it comes to the blindness community? I really do feel like it’s audio description.

TR: 15:52
podcaster, writer designer for the metaverse, Natalie actually had other plans.

Natalie: 15:58
When I graduated from college, I was pretty discouraged because I wanted to be a publicist, there were no blind publicists. And I just couldn’t find that one. And people looked at me weird when I would come in my cane to these big public relations agencies. I had to write internships. I went to school, I had good grades, I had the ability to do the work.

I just didn’t see a lot of people with disabilities in general, working behind the scenes in entertainment at all. By 2016. It had been two years and like, I wasn’t really breaking into entertainment, PR I was kind of working freelance. And then I met this lady named Whitney Davis, who was at the time the diversity manager at CBS. And she kind of took me under her wings. And it was like introducing me to a bunch of people hiring me to do jobs for her. She was so helpful. She’s like, “you know, I’ll back you up 100% with what you want to do,” but she’s like, “I really think that you should jump into advocacy because I don’t see any people with disabilities working in my department. And this is diversity, equity inclusion.”

TR: 17:01
At the time, Natalie wasn’t really in tune with the blind community. She knew if she was going to advocate, she should be more aware of what the community actually wants. She came across an ad seeking a blind actress who could sing. She’s been singing in the church for years. So she decided to pursue that opportunity without the acting experience.

[clip of a woman singing]

She got involved with a class of blind actors and realized:

Natalie17:23
“Oh well this is a way for me to be more blind people right?” And have fun doing it. I joined that group. Ended up falling in love with acting and being pretty good at it got scouted getting an agent. And the rest is kind of history.

TR: 17:37
Today, she has been in several commercials, including one from spectrum access, the audio description app.

Natalie17:41
I recently did some California connect commercials where I play art teacher even though it was about assistive technology. The focus wasn’t on me being blind. I was actually being an art teacher, and like painting stuff and teaching and it was a really cool experience for me. The one television show I was in was speechless on ABC. I played a film student one episode

TR: 18:05
She starred in three short films for the Easterseals film challenge.

Natalie18:09
The first one was Natalie’s point of view. And it was a documentary. That was the thing that year in 2020. And we made it to the top 12. We were one of the finalists.

Then in 2021 the thing was mockumentary we decided to do like a behind the scenes of this like made up Hip Hop icon they named Nay Nay Too Bomb. She was just like this very wild like hip hop to raise awareness for body positivity.

[Clip of woman rapping plays]

Clip from the mockumentary:
Growing up as a woman of color, you know, especially in the black and Latino community, we tend to be a little bit curvier you know so my little cousins and best friends was waking up like “suprise shawty!” and they had like a little extra in the back

Natalie:
We really went into that one just wanting to have fun. Didn’t really know where it will take us.

TR: 19:02
This brought them three nominations in total. Best film, Best Director, and Best Actor.

Natalie: 19:08
I took home the Best Actor award last year. This year we did a spin off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which is one of my favorite movies. And I played a slayer that just so happens to be blind.

Sample from “Seven”:
Male sounding character: 19:22
Seven, do you know what a slayer is?

Natalie:19:23
Yeah, you mean Rihanna?

Male sounding character:
I’m being serious.

Natalie:
Me too.

Natalie19:29
You only know that I’m blind in the beginning because I kind of walk into frame with my cane. But other than that, it’s just about a girl who is kind of dealing with the fact that she has to give up her normal life to become a slayer. I’m actually like boxing and like jumping rope and like kicking and doing burpees and like a lot of action stuff.

TR: 19:50
Did I just hear a metaphor for adjusting to disability?

Sample from “Seven”:

Natalie: 19:53
What exactly are we doing? I’m kind of in the dark.
Male sounding character:

Do you know who you are?

Natalie:
I think so.

Male sounding character:
You were born to be champion.

TR: 20:05
Once again, the film was nominated for Best Film and Best Actor

Natalie: 20:10
Clip from Easterseals Film Challenge Award Ceremony:

And the winner is Natalie Trevonne “Seven”.

Natalie:
And I was super surprised, but I’m super grateful.

TR:
Big shout out to her team.

The first year Natalie’s point of view I recruited my best friend name for Nay Nay Too Bomb and seven I worked with Marie Elise Rodriguez. And then Regina joined us again, for seven.

TR: 20:30
I used to see these sorts of stories of falling into something you really enjoy as luck. Today, I think I know better. For me, theyre the results of pursuing your interests. I know you’re wondering, Natalie says she’s currently looking into getting someone to have the film audio described. Easterseals Film Festival, with all love and respect, at least for the award winning films, audio description, captions. That’s an editorial from me with love and respect. For more on fashion and disability, you have to check out the podcast fashionably tardy.

From Fashionably Tardy:
We’re just two blind chicks bridging the gap between the disability community and the fashion industry by telling some amazing stories from some dope fashion creatives killing it in the game today.

Natalie:
We’re on hiatus. We are hoping to drop some surprise episodes in the near future. So just stay tuned. We’re @FTontheScene on all social media platforms. F t o n t h e s c e n e

TR: 21:35
To find Natalie,

Natalie21:36
I’m @NatalieTreveonne, everywhere TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, that’s @NatalieTrevonne, pretty much post all my articles and links. So whatever I’m doing on my social media platforms, so you can easily find my work on any of those.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 22:00
Well, Natalie, when folks come on the podcast, and they share the information, they share their point of view, I like to let you know that I appreciate that in the whole Reid My Mind Radio family appreciates that. And by you doing that, that actually makes you an official

[air horn]

Member of the Reid My Mind Family. I need for you to know that and let you know that we appreciate you.

Natalie: 22:25
Thank you so much. I really enjoyed speaking with you. And I’m all about our community. So any opportunity that I get to link up with other blind collaborators and creatives, I’m always for it because we are the future.

TR: 22:39
Being optimistic about the future is increasingly more challenging every day. The attacks on our rights from those in power may make some feel that conversations about audio description are frivolous. But I don’t think things are separate as some may think we are always at risk of losing our access as people with disabilities. For blind people specifically, digital access can truly be our lifeline. With every new emerging technology, we have to consider our place.

Natalie recognizing this issue of NFT access through audio description is just another example of how important it is to really speak from our own interest. I have to admit, as a former tech dude, I really don’t get NFT’s, Bitcoin, blockchain.
In support myself, I’ve been out of the game for a minute focusing on other things. What I do realize is that yeah, there’s lots of hype, but pay attention to the technology. There’s always going to be something new, and the earlier we assure our access and our involvement, the better. What’s your interest or area of expertise, or the opportunities or challenges that we should be considering? I’m always interested you want to share hit me up at reidmymindradio@gmail.com. You don’t have to wait for the future to subscribe or follow the podcast which is available on your favorite podcast app smart device or even in print as in transcripts which are available at reidmymind.com

That’s R to the E I D.
Sample Slick Rick:
“D! And that’s me in the place to be!”

TR:
like my last name.

Nay Nay Too Bomb:
Surprise Shortay!”

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

TR:

peace

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