I was recently featured on the Loyola University website. It was an amazing experience and my interviewer Carlyn Worthy was a pleasure. The full article is below:

By Carlyn Worthy ’12

Three years ago an innovative digital magazine was born in the Big Easy. Fashion, art, and music were readily accessible at a few clicks of a mouse. Street style photos swept the Internet and the musings of young fashionistas were published. Culture raged through the young adult community in ways that we’ve never seen. New Orleans simply hasn’t been the same since.

In 2009, visual arts alumnus Justin Shiels ’07 fused his passions with industry experience to launch InvadeNOLA. The magazine began as a small blog between friends, but quickly picked up the pace as word spread of the new publication dedicated to New Orleanians.

“Right before 2009 I said to myself, ‘I want to do a New Orleans-specific magazine.’ Focusing on the same things—art, fashion, music, and culture. That’s what I’m passionate about. I just did it,” Justin says.

Justin and the InvadeNOLA team have spread the word about InvadeNOLA with events around the city. Some include a dance party called Son of Rambo, which featured the musical stylings of local artists and a book signing. Their latest event was a street style brunch in the Central Business District co-sponsored by the NOLA Fashion Council. Readers were able to meet and engage with theInvadeNOLA staff as well as innovative designers that headlined NOLA Fashion Week.

The daily blog and online magazine covers an array of topics that range from festivals to gallery openings, television, food, and more. Young professionals are the target audience, but anyone can identify with this magazine. The InvadeNOLA team spreads positive vibes to all New Orleanians who are vehement about their city.

“When you look at the normal news today it’s super depressing. Who got murdered today? What crimes happened on what streets? I think that’s actually super valuable information, but I also feel, in the general sense, that we’re inundated with that; all of the messaging that we receive about New Orleans culture when, actually, New Orleans is this great, positive, beautiful place where lots of great things happen too,” he says.

Justin attributes the success of the magazine to his advertising background, his undergraduate degree in graphic design, and the professional aesthetic of the InvadeNOLA staff. However, he also believes a lack of experience in certain fields may have been exactly what he needed.

“I would definitely say not having much journalism experience worked to my benefit because I didn’t know how hard it was, so I kind of foolishly leapt in to this world that I know very little about,” he says. “We made lots of mistakes along the way. We’ve done silly things. But I feel like because I didn’t come from journalism, I didn’t have that same fear of failing that someone else would have. I’m passionate about New Orleans, and I’m passionate about this culture. That’s really all that matters and that’s what has driven me.”

Justin, who recently celebrated his 27th birthday, is pursing a master’s degree in arts administration at the University of New Orleans. When he’s not in school, he balances his time betweenInvadeNOLA and working at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. His hard work and dedication have not gone unnoticed. He was recently nominated for Loyola University’s Young Alumni Award.

He credits his passion for art and the education his experience in the master’s program for expanding the magazine and his perspective.

InvadeNOLA has been running for a little over two years and I’ve been in the master’s program for a little under two years. I feel that is a direct reflection of personal growth through those areas and a general appreciation of the arts,” he says.

Visual art culture has always been a major influence in his life. He began drawing at age five and was the recipient of the Scholastic Gold Key. Justin arrived to Loyola in pursuit of a degree in visual arts, eventually switching to graphic design.

Justin hopes to see InvadeNOLA expand in the future. The possibility of a print magazine is looming, but he said he wouldn’t make any promises.

“My grand vision for InvadeNOLA, my genuine goal, is to build an online, sustainable magazine that specifically resonates with college students, professionals, and the New Orleans community based on art, fashion, music, and culture. I feel that we’ve achieved that goal to a certain extent, but I think there are leaps and bounds that we can go from here,” he says. “To me, navigating this new landscape is more fun because people have figured out how to make a great hit magazine. With this new landscape, I feel like I can etch my name in to something that’s still developing.”

When asked why he named the magazine InvadeNOLA, Justin recalled his experience of Hurricane Katrina, citing the negative connotation that “invaders” received upon arriving to the city to aid in rebuilding efforts.

“I felt that it was taking this word that had a negative intention and owning it. It’s like saying, ‘Yes, I’m an invader!’ I don’t see anything wrong with it. I don’t have any guilt about not being from here because I love this city just as much as you, and I went through Katrina, too. That’s why I use that. I’m a self-proclaimed New Orleanian.”

To view the latest edition of InvadeNOLA, visit InvadeNOLA.com

Carlyn Worthy ’12 (communication) worked as the publications intern for the Office of Marketing and Communications during the spring 2012 semester.