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One recent misty Saturday night at the Main Street shopping center in Miami Lakes, a few doors away from Victoria's Secret and down the street from Ruby Tuesday, two young celebrities mingled with their adoring fans. It happened inside Johnny Rockets, a retro-looking diner decked out in red leather booths, black-and-white tile floors, and chrome-accented jukeboxes. About 50 kids armed with tiny pink phones and slim silver cameras encircled the two starlets, who at age seventeen were a few years older than the majority of the clientele. Girls with blue nail polish and capri pants, and boys in striped polos and baggy jean shorts, giggled as they greeted the pair. Everyone seemed to have braces on their teeth.

The taller of the divas, Mimi Davila, was wearing tight jeans, a gray cotton half-shirt that read "HIP HOP RnB" in sparkly letters, and red mesh Chinese slippers. The shorter girl, Laura Di Lorenzo, was in black Reeboks, tight black capris, and a black tank top. Both had their hair pulled into high and severe ponytails, and both had lined their eyes in what appeared to be black crayon. Their lips, too, were lined with a dark brown, almost black, pencil and filled in with deep red gloss. The pair was also adorned in giant gold hoop earrings and dozens of bracelets that made tinkly noises when they moved. Which was a lot.

"Umm," said a boy with gelled black hair. "You're the Chongalicious' girls, right? I saw you on YouTube."



The duo batted their eyelashes. "Jessss," they said in exaggerated Spanish accents.

"Can I get a photo?"

"Jessss," replied the pair, almost simultaneously. Then they snapped into position, with Laura turning sideways and grimacing into the camera while Mimi held up two fingers in a ganglike salute and looked sultry. A girl dressed in a tight polo and jeans emerged from the cluster of teens and asked if they would pose for a photo with her.

"Okay, booty shot!" Mimi said. The pair stood on either side of the girl. "Booty shot!" Laura echoed. The girls stuck out their butts.

Camera phones clicked furiously.

"That's for MySpace," said the triumphant girl, shaking her long, straight brown hair.

"Thank jooooooo," Laura cooed.

After several more minutes of photos, the girls found a booth at the front of the room, near the counter, which was adorned with an arch of red and white balloons.

They squeezed into one seat, and Laura ordered onion rings, a grilled cheese sandwich, and an Oreo milkshake. I sat across from them in the booth. A twentysomething waitress with a nametag that read "Naty" requested an autograph, which Mimi and Laura graciously scribbled on the back of an order pad. I asked how being famous has changed their lives.

"It's more fun," said Mimi.

"We're a lot more popular at school," added Laura.

Just then the lights in the restaurant dimmed. The first few bouncy strains of "Stayin' Alive," the Saturday Night Fever theme song, blasted through several speakers. The diner's dozen or so white-uniform-clad servers lined the aisles for a dance; this is one of the ways the place keeps kids entertained on busy nights.

"Oh my Gaaaaad!" Mimi screamed. She pulled Laura from her seat, and they ran to a spot where everyone could see them. They writhed to the beat as the kids sitting at tables hooted and snapped more photos. It was like a music video come to life. The diner, which until an hour or so beforehand was just another dull, suburban outpost in another dull, suburban town, suddenly sparkled with the thrill of spontaneity.

When the song was over, the girls sat back down, flush with excitement. What, I asked, was the best moment in the past few months, since they had become famous?

"Maybe this one," said Laura, a little breathless.

Mimi nodded. "Yeah, right now." Chongalicious" -- a remake of the 2006 hit song "Fergalicious," by pop star Fergie -- actually began as a video that the girls made with a tiny handheld camera in late March at Mimi's house. By last week, the video had received nearly one million hits on YouTube. Kids post clips of it on their MySpace pages, chant it in the malls, and download it as a ringtone. It has spawned imitators (at last count, nine), who have sung the girls' version of the song into a camera and then posted their performances on YouTube. On May 30, two months after Mimi and Laura videotaped the song in Mimi's living room, it was the second most requested song on the Top Six at Nine, a five-night-per-week call-in request show on local radio station Power 96. That was down from several weeks in the number one slot. The song even has its own entry on Wikipedia.

The Chongalicious Video

Mimi and Laura have been featured on page one of the Miami Herald and on the national Univision newscast. And two weeks ago, the pair danced with Michael Krop Senior High principal Matthew Welker in front of their school's entire student body. Kids from all over South Florida have tracked Mimi and Laura down on MySpace; they usually post comments like this recent one from a fifteen-year-old Palm Beach girl named Lauren: "you're amazing. i was singing chongalicious all day today. and my school is like obsessed with you and mimi."

The girls have not enlisted any marketing agency nor made any money. What they have done, however, is bring worldwide attention to the chonga -- an exclusively Miami term for a particular kind of Miami girl. There are no chongas, say, in Los Angeles or New York. There might be girls who look like chongas elsewhere on the planet, but the word is used only right here.

There are no examples of chongas in popular culture, really. In the late Nineties, two characters on the Fox comedy skit show Mad TV (Lydia and Melina) dressed and acted kind of like chongas. Bratz dolls -- the sexy-eyed, thick-lipped toys that have names like strippers (Jade, Roxxy, and Valentina) -- are chongalike in appearance. The closest thing to a chonga in a movie is probably Rosie Perez's character in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. But that was released in 1989, a year before Mimi and Laura, and most present-day chongas, were even born.

Locally there are known chonga hot spots: the Westland Mall in Hialeah, the Dolphin Mall, and the Mall of the Americas. The last, located in West Miami-Dade off the Palmetto Expressway, is affectionately known as "Mall of No Americans" because of its lack of English speakers, its Latin American dining choices in the food court, and the shortage of nationally known retail stores.

It's not difficult to find chonga-looking girls there; all you have to do is walk in the door. On a recent weekend, I found Yunaisy Gonzalez and her friend Yeney Yero sitting at a table eating chicken, plantains, beans, and rice. Between sips of Materva, they tried to explain the chonga phenomenon.

"Everybody when they were in, like, sixth grade, was a chonga," said eighteen-year-old Yunaisy. Both girls were dressed in tiny shorts and even tinier tube tops. They wore big earrings and bangle bracelets, and spoke English with distinctly Cuban-Spanish accents.

The two said that no, they weren't chongas, but they used to be. They also tried to give their definition; it's largely a style thing, but there's a bit of attitude involved. "They think they can fight other people," Yunaisy commented. "You know, when you're little, you think you're the shit."

They stopped dressing like chongas in high school, because, as Yunaisy put it, "You change and you realize it's stupid."

The phenomenon, it's generally agreed, was first spotted in Miami in the late Eighties or early Nineties after Miami Vice and during the rise of Luther Campbell and his Miami bass music. Nationally Kurt Cobain and his legions of unwashed, flannel-shirt-wearing fans were popular, but these girls in Miami took their style cues from black urban culture and that of cholas, Mexican-American gangster girls who live in East Los Angeles.

Chongas were almost always teenagers, and usually Cuban, the children of recent immigrants. Many lived in Hialeah. In the early days, this new fashion trend meant wearing tight white bike shorts with a color thong panty underneath, oversize basketball jerseys, and, of course, lots of flimsy (usually fake) gold jewelry. Eyebrows were plucked to extreme, ridiculous half-circles. Hair was pulled tightly into ponytails, except for two strands at the front, which were either slicked down with gel or made to curl in bouncy ringlets to frame the face.

Over the years, the chongas' style evolved into wearing so-called Brazilian jeans (tight, stretchy, pocketless pants that allow for freedom of movement while dancing and, above all else, accentuate the rear end) and tiny tops. Parents were pressed into buying $150 necklaces or earrings with their daughters' names scrawled in eighteen-karat gold; poor girls had to settle for fake gold and generic terms such as "Baby Girl" and "Sexy." It spread to the suburbs of Westchester and Sweetwater, and eventually into the upper-class areas of Aventura and Coral Gables.

Lately some young ladies have given the style a preppy twist by wearing Abercrombie & Fitch polo shirts with their Brazilian jeans, but the polos are tight and teeny, not loose and casual; the girls who prefer this look are called "prepongas," a combination of prep and chonga.

"It all seems to have started when I was in middle school," observed Yamil Piedra, a 29-year-old comedian who grew up in Hialeah. "I don't remember them being called chongas back then, though."

Piedra has made the rounds at local comedy clubs and included the chonga style in his routine. He's noticed that the chonga style has evolved slightly, although it's still somewhat of a rite of passage for the eleven- to sixteen-year-old girls in the area. "It's just a phase," he said. "It has to be a phase. There's no way girls can go into a working environment like that. Can you imagine a chonga as a 25-year-old teacher?"

Piedra, who was featured on the TV show Last Comic Standing, recently posted a one-minute thirty-eight-second chonga skit on his MySpace page. It's called Chonga Chat. In it he dresses up like one of the girls from his middle school memories and pretends to be on a late-night dating chatline TV commercial.

"I's lives in Hialeah," he says into a cordless phone in a tough voice. Piedra, who is normally a beefy, muscular guy, sports a high ponytail, red lips, and a white tank top, with chest hair peeking out the top. "What do you mean waz Hialeah? Iz the most beautiful citeez in Miami. Peek up the phone right now and talk to hot chongas."

Piedra has seen "Chongalicious" and predicts that Mimi and Laura are poised to introduce the trend nationwide. "Chongas have been around for so long; no one has paid attention to them until now," he said. "I think 2007 will be the year of the chonga." This season, maybe because it's summer, las chongas de Miami are wearing capris -- nothing along the lines of Audrey Hepburn, though. These are more like the Brazilian jeans, only shorter at the cuff. Inside the Mall of the Americas, these capris sell for $14.99. Different colors and styles -- blue denim, white stretch, green camouflage -- line the racks at U.S. Tops, which is a chonga's preferred place to shop. Everything in the store is boldly colored, tiny, and cheap. One pair of capris I spotted was light blue with whisker-wash accents on the thighs. The garment was so small that most American five-year-olds would have a difficult time squeezing into it. Chonga fashion is not for the middle-aged, or the flabby -- although many girls with a few extra pounds seem to wear clothes that are tighter than they should be. But chonga style is all about sex appeal, not propriety. They prefer the provocative -- whatever a dancer in a reggaeton video might wear when she's prancing around Pitbull's ride.

I was a teenager in the Eighties, at a time when punk rock fashion wasn't sold at Target and the most daring thing anyone ever wore was during prom, when girls changed out of their pastel polo shirts and pressed tan chinos and into poofy-sleeved, sweetheart-necked gowns that resembled something in King Arthur's Court -- if the lasses in the court wore pastel pink satin getups and feathered, permed hair.

Being sexy, or different, even just a little bit, was the kiss of death for a reputation in those days. One morning my freshman year in high school, I remember pulling on a Sex Pistols T-shirt, a black pleather miniskirt (at a modest two inches above the knee), fishnet stockings, and pointy-toe black flats. I wore the ensemble to school and was promptly given detention. Shortly thereafter, my name was written on a girls' bathroom wall with the word slut scrawled next to it.

Maybe because of this, or in spite of it, I am in awe of the chongas. They seem to have embraced their sexuality in a brash and in-your-face way. Chongas want to be sexy, and damn the consequences.

Mimi and Laura's song, many girls say, just affirms this sexy style. That's why so many of them like it, one seventeen-year-old on MySpace told me. The girl, whose name is Gloria, goes by the handle "La Chonga de Hialeah" on MySpace and has posted dozens of photos of herself in various sexy and tough poses, including a few that show off her curvy butt with a thong peeking out over her jeans. Her photos have captions such as "I KNO I'M THE SEXYEST GANGSTA BITCH OUT THERE, U DON'T HAVE 2 TELL ME."

Gloria said she was sick the day she was supposed to meet me at the mall, but sent a message to explain why she likes the "Chongalicious" song:


Mimi and Laura met almost three years ago in ninth grade drama class at Krop High in Aventura, a performing arts magnet school. They didn't like each other. "I thought she was a little show-off," Laura says of Mimi. One year later, a teacher gave them a shared assignment: They were to perform parts of The Rivals by Richard Sheridan. The play is standard high school fare, satirizing the manners and affectations of a social class. It's set in eighteenth-century Bath, England, a place known for conspicuous consumption and fashion -- the Miami of its day.

Laura went to Mimi's house to practice the scenes. They had more in common than they thought: Both craved applause; both were half Latina, half European (Mimi is Cuban-Bulgarian, Laura is Venezuelan-Italian); and both lived in apartments with their moms and stepdads. They were also both extremely sarcastic and had the same eccentric sense of humor, kind of like the Mad TV skits they always watched on cable. They also shared a love of Lucille Ball.

The two kept on getting parts in the same plays and musicals: Seussical, performed late last year, was one of their favorites. Laura played Gertrude McFuzz, the bird with one tail feather, and Mimi was Mayzie La Bird, a character with dazzling plumage.

The friendship grew, and they eventually bonded in a way that only seventeen-year-old girls can: fiercely, with a dash of competition, a lot of love, and endless amounts of loyalty. Weekends were spent sleeping at one another's house, going to Bayside, and playing games at Boomers. Both girls' moms are rather strict -- they are not the kind that drop the kids off at the mall and then leave -- so Laura and Mimi were forced to spend hours inside. Neither had a driver's license nor a boyfriend, so their parents (or if their parents weren't available, Mimi's grandma) chauffeured them everywhere. If they were forced to stay at home, they passed the time by acting out scenes from plays and filming each other singing.

"We make videos when we're bored," Laura says.

In early March, they were really bored. One of Mimi and Laura's funniest efforts involved the gauze curtains in Mimi's condo, which is located in the maze of buildings behind Aventura Mall. The girls pretended to be Parisian torch singers, belting out sultry tunes such as "At Last" and "Crazy." For that video they balanced their tiny camera atop a tall lamp and pressed record. As they sang the first breathy bars, the girls emerged from behind the living room curtains.

Around that time, one day at school, the two were sitting in the cafeteria at lunchtime, joking about the girls who wore the tight pants, big earrings, and lip liner. Some were their friends, but for Mimi and Laura -- who often dress in plain T-shirts and jeans -- the style was humorous. "We were kind of making fun of them," admits Mimi.

So on the night of Saturday, March 31, 2007, Mimi and Laura got to work. Mimi's mom wasn't home, and Laura's mother was working. They should have been studying -- it was in the middle of exams -- but instead they sat on Mimi's bed, directly under the spot where Mimi spray-painted the word dream in big gold letters on the wall. It was there that they transformed "Fergalicious" into "Chongalicious":

Chongalicious definition arch my eyebrows high.

They always starin' at my booty and my panty line.

You could see me, you could read me, 'cause my name is on my earrings.

Girls got reasons why dey hate me 'cause dey boyfriends wanna date me.


But I ain't promiscuous and if you talkin' trash, I'll beat you after class.

I blow besos, muuah.

I use my Sharpie lip line.

And ain't no other chonga glue her hair like mine.


When they were finished, the girls rifled through Mimi's closet. (Mimi reluctantly admits she owns "some chonga clothes," because during a few months of middle school, she was "a little bit chonga.") Laura poured herself into a tight, white Ecko basketball shirt that did double time as a dress, and Mimi slipped into some short shorts and a black top. They put on more makeup than they ever had in their lives, and pulled their hair up high. Laura's six-year-old brother Adrian got into the act too; they slapped a hat and an oversize Colorado Rockies jersey on him. A friend from school, a tall, quiet kid named Julien, came over. He videotaped them singing, prancing around the condo, and clowning around a Mercedes in the parking lot.

Papi papi papi, if you really want me.

Honey, get some game, I could be your wifey.

You could be my chulo.

Complement my culo.

You could smoke it all night.

And I'll say it's all right.

G to the H to the E T T O.

Girl, you ghetto G to the H to the E T T O.

A half-hour after they finished, they uploaded the video to YouTube. They cracked up as they sent it, figuring that no one would ever click on it.

But click they did.

About three weeks later, someone sent it to Power 96. (Mimi and Laura contend they didn't do it.) The station, especially morning jock DJ Laz (a.k.a. "the Power Pimp") loved the song. He started playing it. Every day. One morning Laura called the station. "I'm Laura, and I'm the girl from the Chongalicious' video," she said.

That was at the end of April. Since then, life has been a whirlwind of interviews, events, appearances, and excitement. Power 96 invited them to Passion nightclub at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, where the girls were giddily overwhelmed. It was a real, live 21-plus club. They didn't even mind that their moms came with them. ear the parking lot of the mazelike Opa-locka/Hialeah Flea Market, in a kiosk crammed with gleaming, fake gold earrings so big you could slip a hand through them, fifteen-year-old Arianny Fernandez stands behind the counter. She wears a white top and tight jeans. A tiny blond Hialeah High student with blue eyes rimmed with heavy liquid liner, she works at the flea market on weekends and admits to dressing like a chonga -- "not at work, though. I can't show my belly." She likes big hoop earrings and tight clothes, and says she occasionally uses the eyeliner on her lips as well. Most of her friends also dress in that style, she says. But she would never call anyone a chonga to her face. "It's kind of like being called a whore," she says. "It's definitely something you could get in a fight over."

Arianny thinks there are three definitions of chonga: whore, ghetto, and, when used among friends, a generic greeting or exclamation, similar to the all-purpose girlfriend. She's not sure what to make of the "Chongalicious" song, mostly because she suspects Mimi and Laura are just making fun of chongas. However, she adds, she likes the way the girls dress in the video.

In the bowels of the flea market, in a cramped indoor nail salon, three women buff, paint, and sand the nails of three others. It's thick with the smell of acrylic nails, and reggaeton blares at ear-splitting levels.

One of the clients is Genesis Arana, a seventeen-year-old of Puerto Rican descent from Fort Lauderdale. She rolls her eyes when asked about "Chongalicious." "I don't like it," she says. "I just think it's a stereotype of Latinas. The word chonga in Spanish is not a good thing. A chonga woman is stupid."

The woman doing her nails -- a gorgeous eighteen-year-old named Denia Ramirez, who's wearing big hoop earrings and has long, straight hair -- arrived in Miami from Cuba just a year ago. She had never heard the word chonga on the island, but she guesses it's something like a chusma, or "person of low class."

Both Genesis and the young Cuban woman are dressed exactly like prototypical chongas -- tight jeans, tiny tops, big earrings, lots and lots of makeup -- yet they refuse to call themselves by that name. "I know a few girls that remind me of the song," Genesis says. "But I don't know anyone who thinks it's cool." The day before this past Mother's Day -- a sunny Saturday in May -- Power 96 hosted its first MILF Olympics at Tu Can Tango, a nearly empty bar on the ocean in Hollywood. The contest -- with games such as throwing wet diapers into a garbage can and washing a floor while holding a baby doll -- would determine who was the hottest and most domestically capable mother. Prizes ranged from tickets to Universal Studios to day spa gift certificates to $500 cash. A dozen contestants began streaming into the bar shortly before noon, and within seconds, were knocking back pints of Bud Light, ice-cold bloody marys, and, in some cases, Jack-and-Cokes. The women, all over eighteen years old, were accompanied by toddlers, babies, or boyfriends, sometimes all three. As they set down diaper bags on barstools, the women shimmied to the deep bass of the Daddy Yankee song "Gasolina." One even showed her five-year-old how to dance by thrusting her chest in a pumping motion in time with the music.

The women wore tiny shorts, half-shirts, and, in most cases, four-inch heels. The boldest among them had donned T-shirts with provocative sayings. Among them: "Who needs tits when I've got an ass like this?" One, who appeared to be about 35 years old, was decked out in a black "Hustler" tank top, a rhinestone belt that also said "Hustler," and a pair of jean shorts. Nothing says Mother's Day quite like a gal in "Hustler" apparel.

The competition began with the women dunking their heads in tin buckets filled with water. They tried to grab floating pickles with their teeth. The D4 song "Shake That Laffy Taffy" played in the background.

During all of this chaos -- it was about 2:00 in the afternoon -- Laura, Mimi, and their entourage walked into the bar. The girls had been invited by Power 96 to perform their song; their entourage consisted of their moms, Laura's little brother Adrian, Mimi's grandma, and a half-dozen friends from school.

The girls' moms -- beautiful, dignified middle-age women with short hair and sensible shoes -- seemed a little stunned by the scene. The moms had previously, and privately, expressed concern about their daughters dressing too sexy in their chonga roles. Today they seemed overwhelmed at how everyone fawned over their children.

"It's really hard to believe how all this happened," said Judith Quintero, Laura's mother. She shook her head as she watched her daughter pose with a young man and his baby boy.

The "Chongalicious" girls flitted about the room, signing autographs, apparently oblivious to the madness around them. Mimi wore a sleeveless denim jumpsuit, and Laura had on low-rise jeans and a tight black T-shirt with a motorcyle and the words "Baby Rider." Laura also sported the biggest gold earrings I'd ever seen; if they were real solid gold, they would surely be too heavy to wear. Every ten minutes, the girls whipped out lip liner pencils and enlisted each other to reapply the color. The moms repeated that they didn't want their daughters to look provocative, which prompted Mimi, who was walking by, to whisper, "Our parents, they don't really get it."

DJ Laz, the one who first started playing "Chongalicious," introduced the girls to the crowd during a break in the MILF action. "These two have basically created chaos all over the damn city," he said. "These girls are probably the most creative young girls I've ever seen." The proud moms looked like they were going to cry.

Everyone crowded around the girls and cheered. That's when I realized Mimi and Laura's brilliance: They were acting like chongas in a room filled with the real thing. The song began, and the pair shook their butts, just like they did in the video. One of Laura's big earrings flew off, and Mimi's fake nails came unglued while the girls wriggled around the dance floor, but they kept on going without missing a beat. Back on Main Street in Miami Lakes, Mimi and Laura were cornered everywhere they went -- in Johnny Rockets, at the movie theater, walking to Mimi's mom's sedan. They posed for photos with babies, dogs, older men, and, of course, teenage girls. Being around Mimi and Laura is kind of like tagging along with actor Sacha Baron Cohen on a Borat film shoot. It's difficult to know what will happen next, or how other kids will perceive them. When the girls go out in their chonga clothes, they might as well be from Hialeah, not drama students living in the tony suburb of Aventura. In character, they are brash, sexy, bold creatures. They seem self-assured rather than the moody, curious girls they really are. They flirt and squeal and act dumb. It is perhaps better in person than in the video.

As Mimi and Laura stride through the shopping center, they briefly slip out of character as they discuss their summer plans. They are going to Scotland in two months with their drama class for a festival, where they will be in a production of Godspell. The seventeen-year-old guy who plays Jesus just broke his arm, Mimi explains, and they're unsure about who will replace him.

Then there are the SATs -- Mimi scored above 1300, but Laura needs to repeat the test to improve her number. She's worried about this. Lately Laura has also been thinking about a young man who e-mailed her, a kid from Kendall who liked the song. Maybe, she thinks, she will have a boyfriend soon.

They have noticed that guys like them better as chongas, a fact that makes them more than a little depressed. Both girls get plenty of looks from guys as they walk down the street in their chonga wear -- but not, for example, when they are sitting in their AP English class, wearing sweatshirts, jeans, and glasses. "I think we would have boyfriends if we were real chongas," Laura says.

Then there's the new video. They have been offered free studio space to shoot it, rewritten the music and lyrics to avoid copyright problems, and met with a lawyer about making money off the next song. They've promised everyone -- fans, Power 96, the world -- that they will make a sequel to "Chongalicious." They wrote a spoof of T-Pain's song "(I'm in Love) With a Stripper," but have had to wait to shoot the video; the two guys, Lucien and Meikoh, who were supposed to sing the male parts, were grounded for staying out till 11:00 p.m.

"Lucien was supposed to clean the whole house as punishment," Laura says. "I think he's finished, so we should be good to go."

Just then they are approached by another giggling teen, a chubby thirteen-year-old girl from Miami Lakes. Mimi and Laura switch into chonga mode to pose for more photos. The Spanish accent comes out, Mimi bats her heavily made-up eyelashes, and Laura gives the girl a big hug.

The fan, Juliette Robles, doesn't seem to understand that it's an act. Between giggles she tries to explain why she loves them so much. "They showed the world, like, what a true chonga is," explains Juliette. "They are straight-up chongas." They think they can fight other people, Yunaisy commented.

You know, when you're little, you think you're the shit.

If they were forced to stay at home, they passed the time by acting out scenes from plays and filming each other singing.

She had never heard the word chonga on the island, but she guesses it's something like a chusma, or person of low class. Laura Di Lorenzo (left) and Mimi Davila have taken Miami by storm with their song Chongalicious Yunaisy Gonzalez and Yeney Yero at the Mall of the Americas (top); chonga nameplate earrings at the Opa-locka/Hialeah Flea Market (bottom left); Yasmine, a chongalike Bratz doll Laura and Mimi sang Chongalicious at the Power 96 MILF Olympics in Hollywood this past May 12

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