Lauren Hannani culture editor
To millions of people around the world, Beverly Hills is the glamorous, chic city filled with luxurious shops and A-list celebrities on Rodeo Drive. But to us, it’s simply our home. This was what came to mind when the Watchtower yearbook staff began brainstorming ideas for the yearbook theme of the year, which was announced last week as “Not What You Thought.”
Before this school year even began, the yearbook staff knew it wanted its theme to be unique, clever, and even a little bit confusing at first. But it wasn’t until they began talking about Beverly Hills stereotypes that an interesting theme came into view.
“A lot of people are kind of stuck with this stereotype of what it means to live in Beverly Hills, and as a person who’s pretty opposite from that, it’s not always the best when going to competitions or traveling to say to [those people], ‘Oh, I’m from Beverly Hills,’ and immediately getting a bad reaction from it,” co-editor-in-chief Priscilla Hopper said. “So that was where we wanted to take this, because we don’t like this stereotype following us around.”
They incorporated this theme throughout the yearbook by outlining people’s faces and bodies on some pages to show that students here are more than what people may see from the outside.
“Because we are outlined by the world as glitzy and glamorous and that’s not really how most of us are, in our theme, we have these literal outlines around our photos that show the surface value,” Hopper said. “And then inside of our story, inside of our photos, there comes the story [of that person].”
For the other editor-in-chief, senior Leila Shamtobi, the theme is personal and important since she first believed the stereotypes about this city before moving to Beverly Hills.
“The theme is personally special to me because I came from a different school, so I think that my old perception of Beverly compared to what it actually is really changed once I came here,” Shamtobi said.
The staff began brainstorming themes in May of last year, and started working on yearbook pages at a workshop over the summer, with class deadlines starting in October.
“I think the hardest part is getting everyone into the groove, newcomers or not,” junior Emilie Gibbons said. “With the newcomers, it’s showing them that although yearbook is a responsibility, it’s something that is super fun and super easy to master. With the returners, it’s getting into the groove of a new theme, along with some new staff and EICs.”
Although yearbook adviser Gaby Herbst does not participate in making or deciding the theme, she did help make sure the staff chose a theme that engaged the student body and “encapsulated a school year that hasn’t happened yet.”
“As someone who is also a yerd [yearbook nerd] at heart, it’s sometimes really hard to just watch, since I can’t get involved or make decisions, but I’m also here as a coach to my students,” Herbst said. “So there were definitely times at our summer yearbook workshop where I had to push them a little bit and help them stay on a track that would give them the best delivery for their theme and do it in a way that would really connect with their audience.”
Although every yearbook has had a theme up to this point, Hopper hopes that this theme is one that many students will be able to relate to after seeing the yearbook.
“People [at this school] do a lot more than just the ‘norm’ of Beverly Hills, which to some people might just be to shop or get their dogs’ fingernails painted. There’s so much to us, we are more than just the Real Housewives or the Shahs of Sunset or the Kardashians,” Hopper said. “There are kids in these classrooms who do extraordinary things…it’s just a matter of telling their stories because they are not what you thought.”