Jimmy Chin: A Photographer’s Eye View

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Jimmy Chin. Photography provided by REVO. 

WideWorld sent US writer Nicolette Mallow to Washington D.C., to interview 37- year-old National Geographic photographer and explorer Jimmy Chin at The Madison Hotel. Chin is also a sponsored athlete for The North Face. Throughout his career, he has shot climbers thousands of feet up in the air, glued to ice-capped mountains, with storm clouds billowing in the distance, and, as WideWorld discovers. Jimmy Chin’s ability to capture shadows and light, sunrises and sunsets and nature at its most breathtaking is nothing short of incredible. The interview took place prior to a banquet held in his honor at Nat Geo headquarters to showcase Chin’s career, life stories and photography. 

Nicolette Mallow: What was it about your first trips to the mountains that inspired your career?

Jimmy Chin: Well I always loved being outside. We had a ravine behind our house and I was always tromping around in the woods. When I showed up in Glacier National Park it was just like my ravine on steroids! I just knew then that I wanted to live a life in the mountains. Although the trails were very beautiful I didn’t ever want to stay on the trail. I wanted to explore.

NM: How exactly did you turn all this from a hobby into a lifestyle and a career?

JC: You know, there is a lot of pressure when you’re in college from peers and the professors and your parents to get an internship or to have this goal of becoming a lawyer, a businessman, or a doctor; I think it’s hard for anybody to aspire to them when the title sounds great but you don’t really understand what the day-to-day life of an attorney is. And I had no real connection to any of it. It just seemed like all these abstract ideas and it just seemed really boring to me. For some reason I was struck by the idea that you only live once and that you shouldn’t waste your time being something for other people or being something that other people wanted you to be. It didn’t seem fair. I struggled with that a little bit for sure. Education was hugely important for my parents. They were both librarians at a university and they had come from China and they had made a life for themselves here.

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NM: What got you into photography?

JC: I always loved looking at photography, but I think that everyone does. I am a very visually stimulated person. But while I was visually oriented, I never thought of it as a career. I never took photo classes in school.

NM: So you’re self-taught?

JC: Oh yeah. Still teaching myself. Still learning. But, overall, photography felt really natural and probably one of the easiest things for me to learn or pick up. So in that sense I feel like, perhaps it was meant to happen.

NM: In one article you describe dangling above endangered antelope in Tibet, but what did it feel like when you guys found them?

JC: In some ways it was like we were chasing mythical creatures. It’s so funny because it was like being a kid, again, and trying to follow these animals across the Chang Tang plateau and hoping to find this supposed birthing ground. George Shallow, one of the greatest live mammal biologists and conservationists, couldn’t find these animals or their birthing grounds after two to three expeditions. My crew and I knew this was going to be extremely difficult. We’d been traveling for weeks and weeks and there was nothing. We lost them, once, and then we found them, again. When we finally found them and I saw the first baby chiru: it was a mind-bending experience.

NM: Is there any expedition in particular which you are most proud of in terms of your finished images?

JC: I think shooting Everest and skiing Everest. I was always trying to get this photo that no one has ever seen before and there were a couple photos in there that don’t necessarily have the best light or the best compositions ever but they’re just… Well, there is an image of Kit and Robert DesLauriers skiing down a slope over 28,000 feet. Two people on their skis, on the southeast ridge of Everest. And I just love that photo as there is also a storm cloud coming up in the distance.

NM: Throughout all the places you’ve seen, where is some of the most beautiful light to capture?

JC: Sunset when you’re up really, really high above base camp in the Himalayas holds perfect, mesmerizing light. Any mountain range up high where you can see the horizon line is amazing. After the sun has set and it gets that kind of blue mixed with pink –I love those colours; like pastels in the sky.

NM: In 2004 you had a close shave with death when you were on Everest and the avalanche came down and threw you guys back over 30 feet. Have you had any experiences as intense as that one since?

JC: Not as intense. I think as you get older you start to understand and become much more aware of all the different ways to die. I’m a lot more conservative these days, but there’s always the fluke accident. As a climber you have to take a certain stance in how you look at the world. When you do what I do, you must accept, “When you’re time comes, it comes.” I have to think like that otherwise I wouldn’t get out of bed!

To see a selection of Jimmy Chin’s images, see our gallery below. For more, visit: www.jimmychin.com

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Note: This interview was originally published in Wide World Magazine in 2010. Wide World is an adventure travel magazine based in London, United Kingdom. 

Sebastian Evans: Composer of Nickelodeon’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Donatello) and April. Photography used with permission from Nickelodeon.

Composer Sebastian Evans is scoring the music for Nickelodeon Animation Studio’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” TV series. Based in California, Sebastian Evans learned music theory as a kid and began to play piano when he was 10 years old. Evans’ mission to pursue music began after watching “Return of the Jedi” when he was seven. After participating in various musical entities until he reached college: a jazz band, concert orchestra, drum line and musical theater. Over the course of time Sebastian Evans also taught himself how to score music as a working professional.

“Sebastian Evans is one of the only black Composers in the industry, and he’s quickly rising in the competitive world of TV and film music. Evans is a creative type who is rapidly gaining accolades within the industry. Invigorating several hit animated television shows with his unique style, Sebastian has received considerable acclaim from fans and critics alike. Most recently, Sebastian’s distinct sound has helped reinvent the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise starring Seth Green and Sean Astin. From his head-bob inducing main title theme to his seamless blend of Far East and Western musical styles, Sebastian provides a lively score that’s helped reinvent Nickelodeon’s Emmy-winning series for a whole new generation. Sebastian has also created scores for other hugely popular shows including “Cartoon Network’s Ben 10: Omniverse”, starring Yuri Lowenthal and Joe DiMaggio, “Transformers: Animated”, starring David Kaye and Tara Strong as well as “Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go”, starring Greg Cipes and Mark Hamill for Disney. He has also worked on various projects for “Warner Brothers” and “Adult Swim”. Also, in case you were wondering, his favorite Ninja Turtle is Donatello.”

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Earlier this week in June 2016, a phone interview was booked between Sebastian Evans and Writer for Examiner, Nicolette Mallow.

Nicolette Mallow: When was the moment you realized the power of music and that you wanted to make music? How did you know that you were meant to be a composer?

Sebastian Evans: The day I saw “Return of the Jedi” for the first time when I was 7. That was when I really remember feeling something from the music and I wanted to replicate it myself. Specifically it was the moment when Admiral Ackbar says “It’s a trap!”… Right then and there I wanted to learn music. I wanted to know how to make the audience feel a certain way just by hearing the sounds. That scene in “Star Wars” stuck with me and I started taking music lessons soon after. By the time I was 10, I could play the piano and as time went by. I learned all kinds of musical styles. Eventually I moved out to L.A. with my band, but that didn’t work out. So then I got a job after sending demos to various studios. Warner Bros. hired me for “Cartoon Monsoon” which was an animated pilot program online. Later I made some connections standing in the “Star Wars” line at Mann’s Chinese Theater to see “The Phantom Menace”. Then I pitched to Disney. Along the way I met Ciro Nieli (Executive Producer of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” for Nickelodeon) and we began working together on various projects.

NM: Do you have a music ritual or a method of operation for when you create and compose? Or do the projects flow naturally and you write from the heart as it comes along?

SE: I used to write a lot more from the heart when it was personal, like for the band or my own art portfolio. But when it’s a project for a team: my style is based around the desire to reflect the Director’s vision. I want to support the film or the story. I try to stay flexible because you don’t always know exactly what the team wants. My focus for work projects are dictated by the team and how I can bring my own musical style to meet their vision.

NM: I am unfamiliar with writing music and putting audio or soundtracks onto film. What is it like writing for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”?

SE: Ninja Turtles has a lot of underground hip hop influences and a lot of loops. The music is often subtle and grey as to not overpower the story, dialogue or the characters. But the Director is also seeking to get something across that emotes something in a scene that would not be as prevalent without the music accompanying it. Music foreshadows events that are about to happen, or perhaps it uplifts the mood or makes the tone more serious. It all depends on the situation at hand. We have a couple of meetings every episode and we discuss what the scene needs. This helps me create a score that will benefit the character building of the story within each episode.

NM: Did you always intend to write for animation, comics or cartoons? Or did this path sort of unfold naturally?

SE: Yes, it all sort of unfolded naturally. My end goal in the future is to work on movies, but I really love working on animation for television. It’s been a learning experience and very rewarding because I never imagined that I would be where I am now. My roots in music are very scattered and I grew up listening to classical, like Mozart and the greats. Yet I also love metal and alternative. I will play Mos Def, Timbaland and Wu Tang during the same duration as I listen to Bjork or classical. So, yeah, I would like to explore as many characters as possible through TV and film in the future. But I am grateful for where I am right now and enjoy working on animation.

NM: Out of all four ninja turtles (Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo), why is Donatello your favorite?

SE: Donatello seems like the outcast. He’s the brains and the nerd of the group. Donatello is also a romantic yet he’s very shy. And I just like him because he’s cool with being different and I felt a kinship to his character.

NM: Interesting. I relate most to Raphael because he’s the most fiery, hot tempered and yet also the most sensitive. Do you have any favorite hobbies outside of composing music?

SE: I watch a lot of comedy shows and I build LEGO® bricks a lot.

NM: That is awesome. I love LEGO® models. Thank you so much for your time. I enjoyed interviewing you and look forward to watching the TV series with my godson, Micah. He loves “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”.

SE: You’re welcome. I’m glad to hear kids like the show. Thank you for interviewing me today.

To hear a playlist of Sebastian Evans tracks for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” please visit SoundCloud. Also if you would like to watch an engaging video on YouTube posted by Nickelodeon about Season 4 of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and the creators, characters and story line: please refer to the video “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles | Kicking Shell & Taking Names”.

 Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in June 2016.  

Bodybuilder Lisa Traugott stars in military-inspired show ‘American Grit’ on FOX

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Bikini bodybuilder Lisa Traugott. Photography provided by ‘American Grit’ on FOX.

Local Austinite, author and bikini bodybuilder, Lisa Traugott, was cast on FOX’s military-inspired show “American Grit”. The show made its grand debut two weeks ago and the third episode, “Moving Camp”, will air this Thursday on April 28, 2016 at 8 PM CST.

Prior to being cast for “American Grit” on FOX—Lisa Traugott wrote a book titled “She’s Losing it!”—a memoir about how she lost 50 pounds at the age of 38 by entering a bodybuilding competition. Over the course of two to three years, Traugott ascended from coming in dead last to the top three placings at bikini bodybuilding and sports model competitions. Sometimes competing against women half her age. (Traugott’s in her early 40’s.) Just last year Lisa won first place in the bikini contest at Texas State Naturals in 2015. And this weekend she will be competing at The Physique Showdown in Houston, TX on April 30, 2016 hosted by The Naturally Fit Federation.

Last year Lisa Traugott was selected as a cast member for “American Grit” and it was a new experience for most of the crew, a different kind of fitness-inspired TV show with a unique edge. Stated on the show’s official website, “FOX has ordered ‘American Grit’—a 10-episode competition series starring WWE Superstar John Cena. Produced by Leftfield Pictures—sixteen of the country’s toughest men and women are split into four teams as they work together to face a variety of military-grade and survival-themed challenges. Cena and an elite group of mentors from the nation’s most exclusive military units will push these civilians beyond their limits. The mentors, known as “The Cadre,” include Rorke Denver, Noah Galloway, Tawanda “Tee” Hanible and Nick “The Reaper” Irving. These real-life heroes who represent diverse backgrounds and top branches of the U.S. Armed Forces will impart their first-hand knowledge and experience to help the competitors work together as teams to surmount near impossible mental and physical challenges. ‘American Grit’ embodies the military ethos ‘no man left behind’ because only the first team to complete the challenges together is safe from elimination. Each episode will culminate in “The Circus,” a punishing, endurance-based obstacle course designed to break the weakest competitors. With up to a million dollars of prize money at stake, this is the ultimate test of strength, grit, the human spirit and most importantly, teamwork.”

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The day that FOX released “American Grit” onto television—Lisa Traugott spoke with Arts & Entertainment writer for Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, at Mozart’s Coffee Roasters waterfront to Lake Austin. The interview below includes anecdotes about Traugott’s journey to TV and the story that lead her to become a bikini bodybuilder.

Nicolette Mallow: Will you tell me about your background in bodybuilding and how you came to be on the show “American Grit”? What was the screening process to become a cast member was like? I’m curious to know how you discovered this show and what it required to make the cut.

Lisa Traugott: Going back to the start, last year in 2015 was a really tough time for me. My mother had advanced stage lung cancer and it was the same time my book was being released. Good and bad events happening at once; I was so stressed that I started gaining some of the weight back that I’d worked hard to lose. To keep myself grounded, I started with a new coach and entered The Arnold Classic, the second largest bodybuilding competition in the world. You have to be selected just to get in. At the time I was 41 and I was competing against women literally half my age. Plus, back then I had never won a competition, and not only had I never won, but I would always come in dead last. So even though I did not have an award-winning body, because I could write a really good cover letter. I was accepted… It was just such a weird time because my mother was in the hospital with pneumonia. And then the same day that her fever broke: I got a text saying that I was accepted into The Arnold. Right then I started jumping around the hospital room in excitement about the future competition. I recall my mother said to me in happiness, “That’s great! But what’s The Arnold?” It was so funny when she said that… But yeah, all the while she’s going through chemo and I am practicing my poses and lifting weights with my trainer, Robin Johnson Jr.. At the time I went to him and said, “The only thing I don’t want is that I just don’t want to come in dead last. I’ve set the bar really low for you as a trainer.” And Robin said to me, “No. That’s the bar that you’ve set for yourself. I have higher standards for you.”

NM: Wow. How did you feel when he said that?

LT: At that moment I realized that I was just afraid. Without meeting a single person, I had already decided that they were all better than me. So I had to kind of throw that mentality out the window. I ended up coming in 20th out of 38 contestants. Which was huge improvement compared to the rest. Plus, as I said before, this was an international competition against women half my age.

NM: Congratulations! That is huge improvement in regards to placement.

LT: Thank you. It was huge improvement. Five weeks later I did another bikini bodybuilding competition, a local show called the Texas Shredder. My mom said to me one day before the show that she had a dream, and in the dream I came in 3rd place at the competition. And it turned out that I did. I won 3rd place. It was nice because my mom got to see me win the award and hold the sword. Three weeks later she ended up passing away… It was just so intense because she died on May 4th and I gave her eulogy on Mother’s Day (May 10th). And then a week later I ran a Spartan Race with my kids. I used fitness to work through my grief and I kept competing and bodybuilding.

NM: That’s admirable you did something so healthy and empowering to get well and heal when it can be so easy for us to slip off into the deep and the dark during tough times. What happened next?

LT: Well thank you… During these competitions, I was blogging about all this and I started getting more readers. It started as something I did for fun. But then at the next show I placed third—and the show after that I placed second. Finally I had one month left. One month between the show I’d placed second and my last show to compete for the year 2015— I went hardcore and did 730 squats a day. How I was exercising and how hard I was training was a reflection of my focus and that I wanted to win.

NM: That is hardcore. So how did the final competition span out?

LT: It was down to me and one other girl, and I thought she had it. But when they declared my number it was so funny because the announcer said onto the mic, “Well, she might write ‘She’s Losing It!’ but she’s winning it tonight”.

NM: That was very clever of him. It’s also really impressive and inspiring how you won first place after coming in dead last with only a few years of experience.

LT: I was so happy! Soon after I placed first at Texas State Naturals, that’s when somebody from FOX called me.

NM: I see. So FOX sought you out for the show ‘American Grit’ and you didn’t initially apply? Obviously a lot of people were watching that competition.

LT: Yes. They told me they had been reading my blog and thought I was interesting and wanted me to audition for the show. When they told me it entailed military style endeavors I thought, “I’m not really qualified for this” and I wrote them saying I was not sure I was right for the role. But they encouraged me to apply and after speaking to a Producer. I sent in a video of my workout routine and my fitness story. Soon after I was flown out to LA and I realized that while I was there: 6,500 other people had auditioned. It blew my mind! In the end, I was one of sixteen cast members chosen for “American Grit”. From start-to-finish, it was an overwhelming, amazing experience that I will treasure for life.

NM: Which team were you cast for within the show? I read it was divided into four teams with four mentors (all Veterans), and it seems John Cena is sort of the head honcho of the reality show and directs all four teams? By the way, John Cena is a beast and I mean that as a compliment. I’ll bet it was fun to meet him and all the military personnel. I grew up with men in the military and the energy has become quite familiar to me over the decades.

LT: Yes, John Cena is such a wonderful person and I really enjoyed speaking with him. And yes, he is a beast! The teams were divided into four: two men and two women on each team. All teams lead by a military hero. My team leader was Noah Galloway, a retired Sergeant for the United States Army. Noah dropped out of college after 9/11 to join the military. During his second deployment, Sergeant Galloway was hit bit a roadside bomb and part of his left arm and most of his left leg were blown off and removed. Yet he still runs and stays fit and was even on the reality show “Dancing With The Stars”. Noah’s story is so inspiring and he really helped my crew and I throughout the process. He really focused on using fitness to deal with any personal problems. Noah was such a good, strong leader and he reminded us to stay humble. So that was sort of the mantra: stay humble… Noah also kept telling us to not focus on anybody or anything else, to keep our mind clear. He really knew that a lot of the struggle is mental, not physical. Noah helped us be the best we could be. He also told us not to pretend, to just be ourselves, and don’t change ourselves to be what we think someone else might want just cause we’re on TV. That helped me relax more given that I’d never been on a reality show before and didn’t know what to expect.

NM: Yes, being around such strong men and women, especially Veterans, would assist in keeping everyone mentally focused and determined… On a different note, let’s talk about the trailer of the show. When I saw it, I noticed that one moment when a woman collapses. Are you allowed to talk about that yet? Is she all right? What happened? I assume doctors were on the scene?

LT: Yes, she is O.K. and we were actually texting earlier. And yes, medical crew and an ambulance were always on site. Doctors were readily available. In the footage she’s taken to the hospital on the spot. What happened is they were jumping in-and-out of buckets of ice, dousing themselves in icewater during winter in the NW.

NM: Sounds almost as if the ice put her body in a state of shock. I can imagine that might happen due to intense and rapid changes in body temperature. I’m glad to hear all is well… Will you please tell me a bit about “She’s Losing It!” and what inspired you to make the blog and write the book?

LT: Aside from using fitness to heal my own life, part of the reason why I wanted to do this show and write a book and a blog. I kind of want to be like the “Rocky” for moms. I turn on the TV and it feels like nobody is fighting for middle-aged women or mothers. So I just wanted to let women know that I’m fighting for them. And that it’s O.K. to be scared and its O.K. to cry. It’s O.K. to feel like you’re not good enough. But to never give up and just take charge of your body and your life. Keep doing it, keep moving in the right direction and keep working. “She’s Losing It!” is like “Pumping Iron” only if Tina Fey played Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ultimately it’s like a “Rocky” story for moms who find the inherent humor in combining strength training with potty training.

NM: That’s very sweet and I know women have thanked you and will continue to thank you for sharing your empowering story. Any plans for the future? Will you write more books and continue to compete?

LT: Oh yes I have so much going on. I’ve got back-to-back competitions. I’m also going to be doing stand-up comedy. I have a thing where every year for my birthday: I scare myself. For my 38th birthday I entered a bodybuilding competition. For my 39th I jumped out of a plane. For my 40th I did pole dancing. And for my 41st I did a reality TV show. This year at 42 years, I am going to do stand up comedy for my birthday. In the end, it’s all so much fun. Also, after I wrote the book I suddenly had women writing me. The women expressed that they loved the memoir, but they were seeking more insights about diet, training rips, my routine and if I had a package for distribution or for sale. Recently I put all that together and it’s now on my website. I just finished filming it and basically it’s different from other programs because I go through the meal plans, exercise routines, a fitness library of exercies and then I have motivational videos. Talking about some of the things I was dealing with like self-sabotage, feeling vulnerable. Staying on track and what happens when you get off track, also I talk about how to deal with time management and having kids while getting fit. I write about how to deal with ‘mommy guilt’ and so I kind of cover all these different topics.

NM: Thank you for taking the time, today, to share your story. I look forward to learning from you.

For more information regarding bikini bodybuilder Lisa Traugott please visit her website at www.sheslosingit.com.

To watch previous episodes of “American Grit” on FOX, and to preview the cast or crew, please refer to www.fox.com/american-grit.

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in April 2016.  

Celebrity personal trainer Larysa DiDio talks fitness, healing and Kung Fu

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Larysa DiDio. Photography by Jack Plunkett.

Celebrity personal trainer and writer Larysa DiDio was a featured fitness instructor at Prevention Magazine’s third annual R3 Summit. Sporting hot pink Nike shoes, athletic gear and a stylish braid: DiDio taught her groundbreaking workout, Fit in 10, that maximizes results in only 10 minutes a day. Afterward, DiDio consented to an interview in the Press room with local Arts & Entertainment Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, on Jan. 16, 2016 at ACL Live at The Moody Theater in Austin, Texas.

Nicolette Mallow: You’re a remarkable athlete and clearly you posses a strong, resilient body to be such a steadfast, successful and powerful instructor. However, when athletes (male or female) get injured. It can be very difficult, almost emasculating, to feel weak doing something that used to come naturally to our bodies. How do you handle injuries, or what advice to you give clients (athletes) when they are in the recovery process after an injury or surgery? How do you keep the mind focused on the end goal without overworking the body in the process, or feeling as if the body lost its physical power?

Larysa DiDio: Week-to-week progress is how I look at my fitness goals when I am injured. Being kind to ourselves as individuals is also an important factor. Talk to yourself positively—turn the negative into a positive—and the healing process goes a lot smoother. Mind over matter really is a huge part of fitness and staying focused. For instance, I’ve broken my ankles twice. The first time I was really annoyed and frustrated. And that did not help me heal any faster nor did it alleviate the pain. Later on, the second time around when I broke my ankle playing outside with my son. Even though I was not pleased to break a bone: I knew what to expect and I had a positive outlook. I knew that in time my ankle would heal and it wasn’t something that would last forever. The second break was a lot easier and the healing process was far less stressful or straining.

NM: For the beginners just starting out fitness classes with no prior athletic training, it can feel overwhelming and intimidating being around those with athletic skills. What is your advice?

LD: The gym should be a haven for everybody, especially beginners. For beginners, the gym is not a place of competition. It’s completely natural for a beginner to be afraid and there’s no shame in that. I advise those just beginning to enroll in fitness classes and work out in groups. That way everyone is in it together, learning the ropes and finding their strengths and weaknesses… When I started fitness classes as a kid, I watched Jane Fonda videos. I watched her videos so repeatedly the video would skip. Jane Fonda was a great teacher.

NM: Do you believe massage therapy is essential to the fitness lifestyle?

LD: Yes. Massage therapy is absolutely essential. And if people cannot afford massage therapy regularly than they should invest in a foam roller and explore foam rolling exercises. It applies the same kind of pressure and manifests the same results as massage therapy.

NM: Out of all the exercises you have mastered or explored. Do you have a favorite workout?

LD: Yes, I love learning Kung Fu. Martial arts has become my favorite workout! I love learning how to train with weaponry. I love Tai Chi. It’s not only logical so that I can and will defend myself if need be. But it’s very empowering and I love crossing the standard gender roles. It’s a great workout for men and women alike.

“Larysa DiDio is a celebrity personal trainer and fitness author. With over 20 years experience in helping celebrities, Olympians, professional athletes as well as moms, dads, and kids meet their health and fitness goals. Also, an accomplished writer of “Sneaky Fitness: How to Slip Exercise Into Your Kids Everyday”– Larysa has provided exciting articles and content for national and trade publications as well as blogs and websites. She’s currently an expert health and fitness contributor to Prevention Magazine, host of “The Perfect” online videos and host/co-creator of “Strogation” and “Fit in 10” Fitness DVD’s with Prevention Magazine. Larysa has appeared on Good Day NY, Better TV and CBS Morning segments to name a few and has been featured in over 50 national women’s magazine. Larysa spends time at schools, hospitals, wellness seminars, and on television motivating and inspiring others to live a healthy, active lifestyle.”

www.larysadidio.com

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in January 2016.

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