Disney Channel, reality TV stars talk what lies ahead for younger generation

A Disney Channel actress. A reality TV star. A fashion designer. An aspiring astronaut. A country singer who has performed on “Good Morning America.”

The celebrities were out in force on Sunday afternoon for the panel “Gen Z: The New Power Brokers” — and all of them were under 20. During the panel, held at the Radisson Hotel and hosted by digital media company Sweety High in partnership with the Girls’ Lounge, these members of the post-Millennial generation (ages 8-18) touched on a number of topics including their values, inspirations, favorite technology and spending habits.

Members of the panel included: Skye Jackson, 14, star of Disney’s “Bunk’d”; Mackenzie Ziegler, 12, “Dance Moms”; Tegan Marie, 13, country singer; Abigail Harrison, 19, aspiring astronaut; and Alexandra Chang, 17, entrepreneur/fashion designer.

Skye Jackson, center, answers a question as part of the Gen Z: The New Power Brokers panel. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

According to Sweety HighGen Z accounts for a quarter of the U.S. population and will be 40 percent of the population by 2020. This group makes up the most massive, wealthy and technologically savvy generation in American history and has $600 billion in buying power.

During the panel, which was moderated by Sweety High co-founder Veronica Zelle, all said they regularly use four to five social media platforms and often use them to communicate with their friends — even when their friends are sitting right next to them.

When Zelle asked what they would choose if they were stranded on an island and could only access one form of social media, their answers were split. Jackson and Ziegler picked Snapchat, Tegan Marie picked Facebook, Chang picked Instagram and Harrison picked ham radio, “because there are million people who might be able to hear me on Instagram or Facebook, but who I really need to hear me in that situation is the Coast Guard.”

Harrison, who is also known as “Astronaut Abby” and aspires to be the first astronaut to land on Mars, said technology and social media have had a significant impact on the way Gen Z learns as well.

“The social media tools we have in this day and age allow us to have connections around the world. I can no longer just speak to classrooms in the area I’m in; I can talk to a classroom in South Africa or China without ever having to leaving my room,” she said. “These young people around the world are able to see role models no matter where they live. It’s also a tool in the classroom. In middle school, high school and college now, professors say pull out your phone and look this up. It’s really made it so our generation has the world at our fingertips, and with that, we can go out and do anything.”

The candy bar in the Girls’ Lounge included pay-gap-based pricing. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

Everyone featured in the panel has some kind of philanthropic aspect to their work, something they said is important to members of Gen Z. They also said that having a close relationship with their families is key.

“My mom really pushed me in positive way to not be afraid to do anything I want to do in life,” Jackson said. “I love to post pictures of my mom or with my mom.” 

Chang, whose mom wrote the book “Legally Blonde,” echoed that sentiment, giving a shoutout to her dad.

My dad is one of my biggest inspirations,” she said. “He’s by far the biggest feminist I know. He’s always encouraged me to follow my dreams and my passion.”

The panelists named some brands they like, such as Joyrich, Supreme and Moschino, and said the best way for companies to market to them is through the social media platforms they’re already using.

“We have so much information right at our disposal,” Chang said. “A brand has to work harder than ever to prove to us why they’re the ones we should want.”

The panel concluded with performances by singer/songwriter Tennille Amor and Tegan Marie, who said girl power is as important now as ever.

Tegan Marie with a fan after the Gen Z: The New Power Brokers panel at the Radisson Hotel on Sunday. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

“I’m all about girl power,” said Tegan Marie. “We have to take over. We’re awesome, so we can’t stop ourselves, and we can’t let the people stop us.”

WATCH: Surfing in the middle of downtown Austin at SXSW

It was gloomy and 40 degrees out Sunday morning, but that didn’t stop people from hitting the surf in Austin.

If you think “surfing” and “Austin” don’t quite go together, well, you’re right, but it’s South by Southwest, which means thinks like geography and weather don’t matter. TNT installed a pop-up beach at Fourth Street and Congress Avenue to promote its show “Animal Kingdom,” which is about a Southern California crime family.

Finn Cole, who plays Joshua ‘J’ Cody on TNT’s “Animal Kingdom,” bodyboards on the FlowRider surf simulator, part of the Animal Kingdom pop-up beach at SXSW on March 12, 2017. Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

READ MORE: Surf’s up and the stars are out at TNT’s ‘Animal Kingdom’ pop-up beach

And before you get all “Don’t California my Austin” or whatever, just peep these GIFs of pro FlowRider surfer Sean Silveira and actor Finn Cole (you may know him from Netflix’s “Peaky Blinders”) hitting the waves.


SXSW 2017: Turns out Fred Armisen loves Mighty Cone just as much as you do

In today’s edition of “Celebrities: They’re just like us!” I present to you Fred Armisen eating Mighty Cone at a surf park in the middle of downtown Austin, which is a sentence I could only type if it was South by Southwest — oh hey, turns out it is.

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 31: Actor Fred Armisen attends The 74th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street on May 31, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Peabody Awards)

Anyway, the “Portlandia” star and “Saturday Night Live” veteran was spotted chatting with folks at the Animal Kingdom installation on Fourth Street and Congress Avenue on Sunday while enjoying fare from one of Austin’s most beloved food trucks, Mighty Cone.

RELATED: Surf’s up and the stars are at out at TNT’s ‘Animal Kingdom’ pop-up beach

Fred Armisen eats Mighty Cone at the Animal Kingdom installation on March 12, 2017. Alyssa Vidales/American-Statesman

It’s hard to tell what he’s eating, but it looks like it could be french fries. Solid choice, but has nobody told Fred how good the hot and crunchy cones are? I mean, you’ve got chicken, you’ve got avocado, you’ve got mango-jalapeno slaw, you’ve got ancho sauce … if anybody sees Fred, advise him to go with the cone next time.

Fred Armisen eats Mighty Cone at the Animal Kingdom installation on March 12, 2017. Alyssa Vidales/American-Statesman


SXSW festivalgoers recreate Beyonce’s iconic pregnancy photo at Mashable House

Have you always wanted to be more like Beyonce? Some South by Southwest attendees got the chance Sunday at the Mashable House, which had a backdrop nearly identical to the one in Queen Bey’s now-iconic pregnancy reveal (yeah, she’s having twins, we still can’t get over it).

Tove Blum and Ebba Sundstedt laugh after taking a photo at a photo booth replicating Beyonce’s Instagram pregnancy announcement at the Mashable House on the second day of SXSW on March 11, 2017. Photo by Tamir Kalifa/American-Statesman

Here are some of the best photos:

Also, there was apparently a stack of tortillas 22 inches tall at the Mashable House Sunday, so you know, that happened.

Surf’s up and the stars are at out at TNT’s ‘Animal Kingdom’ pop-up beach

You might not expect to see surfing in downtown Austin, especially when it’s rainy and 40 degrees. But as we all know, during SXSW, anything can happen.

On Sunday afternoon on the corner of Congress and Fourth Street pro Flowboarder Sean Silveira tackled the waves on a “pop-up beach” and gave some lessons to actors Finn Cole (“Peaky Blinders”) and Ben Robson (“Vikings”) as part of an immersive installation to promote TNT’s show, “Animal Kingdom,” which focuses on a Southern California crime family. 

Sean Silveira, five-time national FlowRider champion, teaches Ben Robson, who plays Craig Cody on TNT’s “Animal Kingdom,” how to surf on the FlowRider surf simulator, part of the Animal Kingdom pop-up beach at SXSW on March 12, 2017. Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Cole and Robson joined fellow “Animal Kingdom” star Shawn Hatosy (“Southland”) in a heated van to talk about the show and their time at SXSW.

Hatosy, who previously spent time in Austin shooting 1998’s “The Faculty,” said it’s been interesting to see the ways that Austin has grown.

“At the time when I shot ‘The Faculty,’ Robert Rodriguez was just starting his little company,” he said. “The cast of that, we were young, and they were shooting ‘Varsity Blues’ at the same time, and ‘Office Space.’ It was just such an amazing time to be here. To see the growth of the city and the festival, it’s very rewarding.”

Cole said the dreary weather reminded him of London, where he’s from.

“I like Austin even more,” Cole said. “This gray weather is making me feel like I’m at home.”

Hatosy added that it’s refreshing to be in Austin because it’s a city that appreciates film and TV as art.

“It’s nice to be in a community where people are interested in art, because that’s what we’re doing, right? Even though we’re on surfboards. Ultimately, it’s a wonderful show.”

Check out the “Animal Kingdom” pop-up beach through Monday during SXSW. And tune in to the second season of “Animal Kingdom,” which returns May 30. TBK SXSW SUN 007-1

SXSW 2017: Bill Nye BookPeople signing draws throngs of bow-tie-clad fans

He might not seem like the most obvious heartthrob, but when Bill Nye enters the building, people shriek. That was the scene Sunday morning at BookPeople, where Nye — aka “Bill Nye the Science Guy” — spent an hour signing bookplates for his new book, “Everything All at Once,” which will be released in July.

Nye was friendly but efficient as he greeted each of the hundreds of fans who stood in a line that looped around the store and down the stairs. A documentary about Nye, called, appropriately, “Bill  Nye: Science Guy,” will show at SXSW tonight.

Robby Cole and his dad, Robert, dressed in matching blue shirts and bow ties for the occasion.

Robby Cole and his dad, Robert Cole, dressed in matching attire for the Bill Nye signing at BookPeople on Sunday morning. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

Robert Cole said meeting Nye seemed like a great opportunity for his science-loving son.

“(Nye) has had such an impact on the world of science, not just by what he knows, but by what he inspires,” Robert Cole said.

Robby Cole agreed, adding, “He’s just so awesome.”

The audience included both children who are currently watching Bill Nye’s science programming at school and adults who said he influenced their career paths.

“He inspired me to study science,” said Nick Nguyen, who is doing just that now at the University of Texas.

Friends Cristina Cano-Calhoun, Nick Nguyen and Jennifer Perales at the Bill Nye signing at BookPeople. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

Nye made a point to spend a little extra time with the children who came to see him, pointing out one little girl’s shirt, which read, “Yay science!” to the entire room.

Ruby Ragsdale, 7, said she’s learned a number of things from watching Nye, including that “your left lung is smaller than your right lung so your heart can fit.” She said she enjoys using her microscope and her science kit at home. Her current plan is to be a baker, but she’ll consider science, too.

Ruby Ragsdale shows off the bookplate that Bill Nye signed for her. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

Her dad, Ian Ragsdale, said he and his wife wanted to bring Ruby to the signing to reinforce the idea that no career is off limits for her.

“We’re really big on making sure Ruby knows she can do anything,” he said.


‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is making SXSW 100 percent more unsettling

One way to promote a TV show at South by Southwest: opening a pop-up chicken restaurant. Another way: terrifying people to death. Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” went for option No. 2 this weekend in Austin.

Photo by Omar Gallaga/American-Statesman

As Statesman Shots co-hosts Omar Gallaga and Tolly Moseley explained in an episode of the podcast Saturday, they came across stoically marching ladies in red on their way to the Los Pollos Hermanos installation promoting AMC’s “Better Call Saul.” They were not the only people startled by the guerilla marketing for the dystopian drama.

Happy nightmares, SXSW. Feel free to wash the chilling image of Margaret Atwood’s story brought to life out of your mind with some more of that delicious fried chicken from Los Pollos Hermanos.


[h/t iO9]

A hater’s guide to SXSW and Austin’s longest week

For every free taco or Lone Star you throw down your gullet in glee, fair fest-goer, remember that there is a very vocal contingent of Austinites that are NOT HERE AT ALL for the annual sprawl of South by Southwest.

Like, at all.


Sound familiar? If you’ve lived in Austin long enough, you’ve heard all the classic lines. “I miss the old Austin.” “Austin used to be way cooler back in the day.” “Austin is turning into California.” “Don’t move here.” “I am terrified of change and the happiness of others when it does not align with my personal interests.”

OH, YOU DON’T HATE SXSW? Find an unofficial party, dude

Like clockwork, SXSW 2017 has brought out haters of all stripes on social media. Some decide to take extreme measures of self-care …

… some feel the anger the most in their wallet …

… some find the political even in a festival …


… some are hurtling headfirst into a storm they never anticipated …

… and some are just jealous, tbh.

Even if you were once all about that #FestLife, you’re not immune to the hater virus.

Let’s not forget that there are indeed legitimate grievances to be had.

Some people manage to suppress their hateration in the dancery just long enough to make some serious coin off of the throngs of visitors.

No matter your personal feelings on SXSW and Austin itself, it’s important to think about what the cloud of negativity looks like to an outsider.


There’s a lot to like about the fest, but to each their own. If you need to escape the chaos, why not stuff your face far, far away?

GIVEAWAY CLOSED: Win two pairs of tickets to Rachael Ray’s Feedback House at SXSW 2017

Update: The giveaway is now closed. Winners have been notified.

It’s the 10th year of Rachael Ray’s beloved Feedback party during South by Southwest — but did you know there’s an even more exclusive Rachael Ray party that spans three days? It’s called the Rachael Ray Feedback House, and it’s an invite-only party. That’s right, it’s super exclusive.

The deets: The Feedback House at 1102 East Cesar Chavez St. runs Thursday, March 16 and Friday, March 17 from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday, March 18 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The lineup includes Modern English, Brent Cobb, Dams of The West, Forth Wanderers, Gold Star, Baskery, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, Muuy Biien, The Aces, Gold Connections, Deep State, Cotillon, Kane Strang, Ben Sollee, Emily Estefan, The Cringe, SMITHRADIO, and January Jane.

RELATED: Weezer, queso on the cob to headline 10th annual Rachael Ray Feedback party

Rachael Ray Feedback House at SXSW 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro/for American-Statesman

We’re giving away two passes to the Feedback House to the first 15 people who can answer this Rachael Ray trivia question:

What year was Rachael Ray named an honorary citizen of Austin? Hint: Mayor Lee Leffingwell bestowed the honor.

The first 15 people to email giveaways@statesman.com with the correct answer to the trivia question will receive two passes to the Feedback House. Reminder: The event is 21 and up only.

Happy SXSW!

You can take a photo with a giant white buffalo at SXSW, if you’re into that sort of thing

If you’re in town for South by Southwest and you’re thinking, “Man, I really wish I had a photo of myself standing next to a 23-foot-tall, 30-foot-long, 6,000-pound white buffalo,” then, well, we’ve got good news for you.

Contributed by Starz

Starz has installed a great white buffalo at the corner of Red River and Cesar Chavez streets as part of its promotion for “American Gods,” the new television show based on Neil Gaiman’s popular novel of the same name. According to Starz, the buffalo installment is homage to the recurring image of a buffalo in the series.

Where’s the party at? Check out our list of the best unofficial events during SXSW 2017

In the Starz activation area, festival attendees can also charge their phones, get some free “American Gods” swag” and check out custom “American Gods” Snapchat stickers.

But hey, that buffalo. Don’t miss it (and how could you miss it, really).