PHOTOGRAPHY: An Interview with Brique Topaz, Chairwoman of Feed a Smile

“Whatever can be done to make life worth living for others will make your life even more worth living by helping.”
– Brique Topaz

Lavender Fields

Angela: Thank you for joining us for this interview in our October Awareness issue, Brique! I’m so excited to ask you a few questions and help our group and other readers get to know you better! My first question is what inspired you to begin with
Feed a Smile?

Brique: As the RL chairwoman of Live and Learn in Kenya International, I am always looking for ways to raise funds for the cause. Besides providing everything that nearly 500 desolately poor children need to go to school, we also provide meals for them 6 days a week. Feed a Smile is a fun, enjoyable and entertaining way to do this – giving the children a reason to smile as well as the Second Life residents who come to the events – and as I always hear from the performers – a joy to be able to really help poor children in a realistic way by doing what they love to do.

Angela: When did you realize SL would be a good vehicle for fundraising?

Brique: I actually joined SL to become a member of Nonprofit Commons. It proved to be a fabulous and well-known platform for charity organizations. After being a member for some months I got the idea to open my SL home to the public for concerts. That led to being given the use of a sim, which was the beginning of the Lavender Field – nearly 10 years ago. Sadly, the sim owner left SL and we were forced to rent a sim. We cut down to ½ a sim to save money. Most of the monthly tier is being donated by a very generous person. The rest is donated directly at the Lavender Field in a donation box designated for the tier. We are able to provide hundreds of meals through Feed a Smile every month. We also give out our donation boards to shops, stores, private people for their parties and venues. They are attractive boards in 3 sizes and people really like having them. Anyone could contact me about having one.

Angela: How do you maintain hope in the face of the impoverished slums, dangerous gangs and crime in Nakuru?

Brique: Where people are forced to live in poverty, there will always be crime. That is just a fact of life – and one that needs to be politically faced, questioned and solved. There is enough to go around for every man, woman and child on this beautiful planet of ours – if only there wasn’t so much greed. Nearly 20 years ago, when I founded Live and Learn in Kenya Int’l, I decided to leave my mark in this world with the possibility for people to pass it forward from generation to generation. What better way is there than through eduation? Knowledge is power. When you know what it’s like to have lived in poverty you use your knowledge to make sure that – at least – your own children will not have to experience it. Our motto is “Education is the Key to the Future.”

Angela: Lastly, I think we’d all like to know what does it feel like when you go to Nakuru and see these heathy kids, knowing you are helping them have a better life?

Brique: When I am preparing to go to Kenya – I take a large group of up to 30 volunteers with me every year – I am too busy to be very excited about the trip. There is so much to organize. I don’t especially like flying – it’s so uncomfortable and the flight is so long… But when our van pulls up. The the Live and Learn in Kenya Education Center and I see all of “my” children waiting for me – I jump out of the van at the front gate and run to to them while they cry out MAMA BRIQUE, MAMA BRIQUE and nearly knock me down. Then I know why I work an average of 8 hours a day, 365 days a year for them! It is a joy to watch them grow. We have several “children” that I guided up the educational path from kindergarten to a university degree. During an annual visit we had a group of doctors come for check-ups. After all of the children had been checked, I asked the head doctor if there was anything else that we could do – healthwise – for the children. His answer was “Mama Brique, I have never seen such healthy slum children in my entire career as a doctor”. It’s a good feeling.

One thing that I would like to make very clear is that everyone at Live and Learn in Kenya International – except for the Kenyan staff who need to live from their work (teachers, for example) are volunteers and receive no money whatsoever. Myself included. In fact most of the members donate a good amount of funds every year to keep things going and to sponsor children.

If you want to see a nice replica of the school, please visit Lavender Fields. We are now raising funds to build the kindergarten classrooms – in RL. Our website in English is: and in German:

PHOTOGRAPHY: An Interview with Doc Romano

“I ‘m a realist. I am indecisive at times, I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle but I’m genuine and honest to a fault sometimes. I don’t give up easily, when I do then I’m done for good. I am stubborn, sarcastic, outspoken, very, very blunt.” – Doc Romano

Angela: Thank you for joining me for this interview, Doc! Jumping right in, what is the most important thing you’ve learned in SL so far? It can be philosophical or technical. Anything you wish.

Doc: That is quite easy, actually. The most important thing to me is to keep in mind that every avatar has a RL persona attached to it with RL views and talents, and all influenced by each individual’s experience. While SL is a game to some it can be – and is – a RL to others.

Angela: You have been taking photos in SL for many years. What has inspired you in the past and what inspires you now?

Doc: In the past when I first started taking photos, my inspiration came from my own land designing, making it look as real as possible and capturing it through my eyes, so to speak. Now, still much of the same but music and my thoughts at the time play a much bigger roll. Things going on in my RL sometimes or simply a much needed excursion to a destination sim will spark a thought or idea. I don’t have time to do my own landscaping anymore so that inspiration is gone! LOL

Angela: Do you have a routine you follow when you take pics?

Doc: Sometimes a song will prompt an idea but more times than not I will think of a song to join after the picture. And let me tell you, that has led to many photos not being posted. If I cannot match a song or a thought or quote with the feel of the picture, it may come back at a later date but often it is in a lifetime abyss folder! LOL! My favorite windlights are Jay Battlescars but I most always tweak them. As most people probably are, I am very picky in my lighting choices. I do use an editing program called Paint Shop Pro. I dislike Photo Shop.

Angela: If a new photographer were to ask you what is your secret for taking the photos you take, what are the top three things you would advise them to do?

Doc: First thing I would advise is create your own style first and foremost. Your style is what will set you apart from others. Secondly, have patience because without it you won’t have inspiration. And lastly, never be afraid to ask for help! A photographer should always be willing to share tips and tricks. No one can steal your style once you establish one of your own. Always remember where you came from – your beginnings and the ones who helped you along the way. Pay it forward.

Angela: Awww! Great answer!

Doc: One more thing I would advise is to join photo contests. They will improve your skills. Completions sometimes will challenge you but a lot of them are fun and have themes which, in turn, will feed thoughts and breed inspiration.

Angela: Great advice! Back tracking just a bit, what led you to begin taking photos in the first place? You joined SL in 2009 but didn’t open your Flickr until 2015. Did something happen to cause you to start sharing pics with others?

Doc: I just saw others taking pictures and started asking questions. Most things in the beginning were trial and error and youtube videos. I had an old Flickr in the past and an older Facebook too, so I had tinkered with them some before I actually established my permanent Flickr.

Angela: Do you recall any of the youtube videos? Did you have a favorite channel?

Doc: I never really watched one certain channel on youtube. Mainly, I would search for things related to SL photos, and then the editing which, at first, was quite overwelming!

Angela: So, Candlewood is a destination sim you began with your partner, Addy. Can you tell us how it got started and is there significance of the name Candlewood?

Doc: When I first met Addy, I quickly realized she had a talent for designing sims and always would encourage her to do it. In order for that to happen, we purchased a sim and she created a destination sim under a different name. Things changed in RL due to some health issues with my mother and we had to give that up for a while. Once I was able to come back more often, I promised to once again open a destination sim and Candlewood was born.

The name was inspired by a truly funny private joke about Motel 6. I dont recall the exact wording but it all boiled down to the saying “We’ll leave the light on for you.” So I was looking for something like “We’ll leave a candle burning for you.” It was quite funny and you hadda be there, I suppose. But… true story!

Angela: It’s a beautiful name! So the last question I ask everyone… what has the TSFTG group meant to you? Has this group “Too Sexy for This Group” affected you in any way? I know you haven’t really been around much lately to be a part of it but do you have any thoughts?

Doc: While I am not around much to partake in events, etc. I do follow what is going on in the group, participate whenever I can and read the magazine. I am impressed with how much the group has grown to much, much more than it was just a year ago. I’m also impressed with the help it provides for new photographers and experienced alike. For that, I certainly give huge props to you and all your staff that make all these super things possible. And if there is a reader out there who is a new photographer – or even an Oldie like myself – and not part of the group, then what the heck ya waiting for? Go hit that JOIN button!!

Angela: Aww! Thank you so much for your continued support, Doc! It’s been a pleasure to interview you. You are awesome!

Doc Romano

FOCUS Magazine – From the Editor, September 2019 Issue

Editor's Note by Angela Thespian, April 2019 Issue

Letter from the Editor

This issue is one of my favorites so far. There are a lot of fun things going on this month. The month began with my birthday and – while I’m glad I was born – the date is most significant as the start date to my third annual “Happiness Walk.” Sound corny? I suppose it is a bit. But it’s also great fun! For the past three years, I have asked most everyone I know (usually at the last minute!) to gift me a picture of something that makes them happy in their everyday life. The result is truly overwhelming each year. I set out about 50 photos of adorable dogs, lover’s bright
smiles, cheeky coffee cups, shiny motorcycles, funny-shaped trees and fancy cars that cause a smile every day on route to work. It’s hard to browse around the photos and not find a reason to smile – but the trick is that it isn’t just a smile for ourselves, but a smile shared with our friends. Still sound corny? Just trust me! Make a visit to the sim and you’ll get it.

This is also a terrific issue because of our good friends Doc Romano and Jos Loll. They are both fun guys with silly (sometimes naughty) senses of humor, as well being talented artists. My long-time friend, Tyler Cross, also chimes in this issue with a “travel” feature. I know his dry wit well, so his article had me giggling. I’m sure you will enjoy it too.

Lastly, there is a live music section that features our own advice columnist and TSFTG friend Mahogany Soulstar. She made her singing debut recently, so Susan Aloix snatched her up for a quick interview.

Please enjoy.

Angela Thespian