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Geleé (French for Jelly) [noun]. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, Geleé refers to “a transparent, smooth food, usually fruit-flavoured.” For UF juniors Emily Swenson and Tram Cu, and the near hundred others on their team, the word holds much more meaning than that.

Geleé Magazine is an independent fashion magazine based in Gainesville. Swenson, a graphic design major, and Cu, an advertising major, developed the publication in a Coronavirus May 2020. Celebrating their launch of Issue 1: Mind, Body, Soul over Slack, they are now excitedly prepping for an Issue 2 launch party on Oct. 23 at The How Bazar.

“We moved really fast last year because we were brand new to this,” Swenson explained. “We saw a need for people to be together and we just wanted to cater towards a good group within Gainesville that we felt was underrepresented.”

The student-run magazine is nothing if not avant-garde. From the Justin Bieber mouse on their website to the Issue 2 party theme, opulence, to the actual photoshoots themselves, the founders clarified that they do not shy away from the unordinary.

“The weirder, the better. That’s our motto,” Cu shared.

Issue 2 centers around connections, which, as staff writer and director of productions Jasmine Perez puts it, is what Geleé is all about. Perez is the founder of the Geleé blog, “The Dreaming,” and continuously publishes a section she calls “Letters from My Garden.”

“I focus on body image, relationship tips, stress, things like that,” Perez shared. “Sometimes in life, especially with people going through a mental illness, [you] feel like whatever [you’re] going through right now…no one else can relate to. I want to give people what I’ve been able to find peace in writing: knowing that it is okay to feel that way.”

For Swenson and Cu, fashion was always prevalent in their lives. Swenson voiced that one of her biggest inspirations growing up was reading Rookie Magazine, as she went through most of elementary school rocking pink, monochromatic looks. For Cu, fashion meant conforming to what everyone else wore in her hometown, Deltona, Florida, out of fear of being different. When the pair made it to Gainesville, they knew they wanted to create Geleé.

“Tram and I had already chatted about starting a magazine,” Swenson said. “We had both been inspired by other zines we’d found online and we talked about it a little freshman year. When Coronavirus happened, we were like ‘why not just start it now?’”

“Everything just came together,” Cu added. “When we first announced Geleé, a lot of people were really interested with the idea. We had so many talented people apply to be on our staff that we just had such an amazing team to start the first issue with.”

Both the founders recognized that they are one of many fashion magazines here in Gainesville. Among others like Rowdy and Strike, it can be difficult to stand out.

“When we came here, we were not expecting the level of interest in art and fashion and culture,” Swenson explained. “The stereotype is that Gainesville is boring and it’s a tiny town in Florida. It’s not Orlando and it’s not Miami, but I think that Gainesville is a golden gem.”

As time went on, Geleé found its voice. In the process, it even lent that voice to others, too.

“We saw other fashion magazines cater toward maybe similar things, but they didn’t promote the community itself, and so we saw the ample opportunity to combine our power and our ideas with a community,” Swenson shared.

“What sets Geleé apart from other magazines is we try to do something that’s really authentic and tries to tell a story rather than for aesthetics,” Cu said.

After Issue 1 was released in February, Geleé also saw changes as a team and within their impact on inclusivity. As Issue 2 was in production, more people were returning to campus, allowing the magazine staffers to become united. Simultaneously, Swenson identified ways in which they promoted equality among their models.

“If we don’t get the right amount of people applying, we’re now starting to reach out to people. We want it to be a wide representation of the underrepresented people within Gainesville, that’s what keeps us strong.”

This sentiment comes at no better a time, as model representation in the fashion industry continues to be an issue with big-name publications. According to The New York Times, some magazines that had shown wider racial representation in March “used less Black talent for their covers…when compared to the previous six-month period that came on the heels of the summer of Black Lives Matter protests.”

“It seems like they like to get a variety of different kinds of people to model for the shoots,” Bradley Blanton, a model and graphic designer for Geleé shared. “The whole process feels very collaborative and uplifting.”

The preparations for the Issue 2 launch party are being finalized, and Swenson and Cu managed to collaborate with a number of individuals and organizations, like the El Punto Food Truck and Swamp Treatz. The marketing team is truly going all out for the first public Geleé event while ensuring that the opulence theme is the focus.

“[Opulence] preserves everyone’s individuality. I’m showing up in shoes that make me 6 feet tall, so I’m really excited for that, a lot of lace, think white,” Swenson confided.

“Opulence was the perfect medium between camp and what you have in your closet. I’m wearing a satin, cute dress and platform boots that make me tall, but not as tall as Emily,” Cu expressed.
Growing up, neither of the founders ever expected they would be here in this moment.

Nevertheless, they could not be more ecstatic for how far both they and Geleé have come. To all those who dressed in a monochromatic pink, to all those who were too scared to dress differently than everyone else, the Geleé world is the world for you.

Lauren Brensel is a freshman journalism major at the University of Florida. She enjoys writing feature, entertainment and opinion pieces. Outside of journalism, she is a frequent at thrift markets and on Spotify. You can find other stories by Brensel here: https://laurenbrensel.carrd.co/
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