Kikishipka   May 1, 2019

BY KRISTIN IVERSEN

PHOTOS BY LINDSEY BYRNES

MAY 1, 2019

My eyeliner matches my aura,” Kiernan Shipka said, looking down, through eyes lined in perfectly symmetrical, precise slashes of fuchsia and heliotrope, at the photo in her hand. “I can’t believe I just said that,” she laughed, repeating: “My eyeliner matches my aura.”

Harder to believe than Shipka saying exactly the kind of thing you’d anticipate a 19-year-old might say, was the fact that not only did Shipka’s eyeliner perfectly match her captured aura—also symmetrical, a nebulous halo of shocking pink and purple—but, the accompanying aura-reading she’d receive was eerie in its accuracy, capable of making a believer out of any skeptic.

This isn’t to say Shipka is a skeptic. As could be expected from someone who has spent many months being immersed in a world of spellcraft and demons, thanks to her starring role in Netflix’sChilling Adventures of Sabrina, Shipka embraces all things witchy and mystical. She’ll casually drop astrological tidbits into conversation, explaining how she leads “a very Scorpio-themed existence in a lot of ways,” which means, she said, that she has “an intensity and a really all-or-nothing mentality—a lot of determination.” She’s had her tarot cards read and her birth chart done, and while she doesn’t necessarily think it means something that she and her CAOS character Sabrina Spellman are both Scorpios, she doesn’t think it doesn’t mean something.

“I’m a big mind-over-matter kind of person. Like, the body achieves what the mind believes.”

And yet, she wasn’t expecting to learn much about her life from a five-minute aura reading in a closet-sized store called Magic Jewelry in the middle of a bustling street in New York City.

But first: If you’ve never gotten an aura reading, because maybe you are neither a celebrity nor someone who needs to find a fun activity to use as a launching pad for a celebrity profile? Well, it consists of sitting in a chair, placing your hands on sensors, and having your picture taken by a special aura-reading camera. The resulting photograph looks like a Polaroid, with you in the center and colorful flares surrounding your face and upper body. This variably tinted haze comprises your unseen cosmic energy, and the colors and their placement around you are then interpreted, so as to better understand your relationship to the things that have been happening to you in the last two weeks, as well as those that will happen in the two weeks to come. It’s presumptive and prophetic, and at the end of it all, you get a very cool-looking photo to carry around with you and show your friends, who will admire it and say, “That doesn’t really look like you, but it does look really cool.”

Shipka’s aura photo was particularly cool, we learned, as the woman at Magic Jewelry offered up its meaning, commenting on how Shipka was experiencing a lot of happiness and joy and creative fulfillment. (In case you’re wondering if all aura readings are so resolutely positive, mine consisted of: “You feel really insecure about something professionally, like you’re not getting what you want from your career. That will change, but it will lead to problems in your personal life.” Which wasn’t wrong. So.) But where the experience verged into the uncanny was when the aura reader made clear that what Shipka’s life had been like for the last two weeks would be identically replicated in the next two weeks; today was an anomaly, she made clear, today was different, but otherwise, she insisted, everything would be exactly the same.

Shipka slowly nodded her head in agreement; she had just spent the last two weeks filming a movie in Toronto (a Netflix film called Let It Snow; it will be, she said, “snowy, romantic, funny… kind of all the things”), had flown into New York the night before we met, and would be flying back the next day—to spend two more weeks in Toronto, where she would finish up her work on-set.

The neat bisection of her month was reflected precisely in her aura, as was her experience of that time, making hers (and mine) the kind of reading that could be fairly said to be unsettling in its accuracy. Only Shipka isn’t the kind of person who gets unsettled. Instead, she notes her experience of magical happenings in the world, and takes them as they come; for her, the extraordinary is ordinary to such an extent that she jokes about the magic of things (she called the quickness with which she was cast as Sabrina “cosmic”), and she has confidence in her ability to manifest her reality, telling me, “I’m a big mind-over-matter kind of person. Like, the body achieves what the mind believes.” And she has achieved a lot.

Shipka has been acting since she was five months old, when she appeared on the television show ER. It’s probably wrong to call it “acting” at that point; Shipka was just being herself, an innate performer from the beginning. And, like any innate performer, she must have radiated—and radiates, still—a sense of preternatural self-possession, of being unperturbed, always at ease. And her ease with herself, with the world and all its wonders, serve to put the people around her at ease as well, so they can be more themselves in turn.

It’s this disarming quality that Shipka brought to the role that made her famous, Mad Men‘s Sally Draper, the all-seeing daughter of hard-drinking, hard-living, casually cruel, if often well-intentioned parents. As Sally, Shipka grew up on-screen, going from a wide-eyed, wise-beyond-her-years six-year-old to a world-weary teenager who shared cigarettes with her mother, blowing smoke expertly out the passenger-side window of the family station wagon, thus laying claim to the questionable legacy bestowed upon her by her complicated parents.

On the surface, there aren’t many similarities between Sally Draper and Shipka’s newest iconic role, Sabrina Spellman. Whereas the former had a privileged suburban childhood, complete with navigating the difficulties of being a child of divorce and having annoying younger brothers, the latter has a wildly atypical story. Sabrina is half-witch and half-mortal; her parents died under mysterious circumstances when she was an infant, and she’s been raised by her devil-worshipping aunts. Sabrina not only has to navigate the difficulties inherent to high school but also learn how to wield her not inconsiderate powers, bestowed upon her by her true father: the Dark Lord himself, Satan.

However, Sally and Sabrina do share some connections: They’re both young women coming into their own powers, and rebelling against the oppressive systems into which they were born. They’re both archetypes, representing everything from innocence lost to a manifestation of the Electra complex. They both realize that the only path out of the damaging patriarchal paradigm in which they find themselves is by going through it, the only way to gain control is via appropriating the aspects of it that can serve them, and dismantling those that don’t. But, since they both do manage to benefit from those systems, forging ahead on their own is proving more difficult than they’d have imagined it would be, and also less appealing. This is particularly true of Sabrina, who enjoys the otherworldly powers bestowed upon her by the devil, and so really, you know, leans into being the actual Antichrist.

So what does any of this have to do with Shipka? These are just characters she plays; they’re not her. And there is little about Shipka that speaks of unrest or turmoil. She’s one of the least angsty teens I’ve ever met, wholly unflappable, the consummate performer. She seems to move through the entire world with the same ease as she walked—in five-inch Miu Miu platform sandals, no less—down a bustling Manhattan street after we’d had our auras read and wandered over to our next stop, for coffee (she takes her latte with oat milk).

But appearances can be deceiving, and these aren’t just characters Shipka plays, they are people she embodies. There must be some connection between these iconoclastic television antiheroines and the young woman in front of me wearing a highly covetable kelly green sweater (also Miu Miu) emblazoned with Snowball II, the family cat from The Simpsons, on it, right?

“All the experiences that Sabrina is going through are so analogous of a traditional teenage experience—just with some witch stuff.”

“I always try to find something that rings true to me that I can connect myself with,” Shipka told me. “And all the experiences that Sabrina is going through are so analogous of a traditional teenage experience—just with some witch stuff. Just with some demon-y things.”

And, Shipka said that her connection with Sabrina extended beyond the obvious teenage girl stuff and beyond their star signs—although, she pointed out, she sees in them both “a real feistiness and fierceness that can show up in different ways. It doesn’t have to look too feisty and intense and fiery, but it can feel that way.”

“It’s so funny,” Shipka continued, talking about her connection with Sabrina, “sometimes with characters you feel like you have to really work and fine-tune to find their voice, to find them, to figure them out to make sense of this person. For some reason, I just felt like I was Sabrina. I just felt like we were made for each other in a lot of ways.”

And maybe they were. Not unlike Sabrina, Shipka’s life was determined for her at a very young age; a guest spot on ER isn’t exactly the equivalent of an unholy baptism, but Hollywood can work its own kind of dark magic on its youngest aspirants. It’s easy to imagine the insidious allure of a certain kind of lifestyle presented to Shipka from childhood; what’s so impressive is how little of an effect it had on her, how normal her life has been considering her level of fame. Because while Shipka was still in elementary school when she achieved fame thanks to her role on an acclaimed television show, she still attended a regular school, and her peers were only vaguely aware of what she did—it was their parents who were more likely to be impressed with her Mad Men cred.

Shipka told me, “I wasn’t working all the time. I worked maybe three days a week while we were filming [Mad Men], and obviously, I was limited hour-wise because I was still a kid. Besides that, I took the rest of the time to hang out with friends and do musical theater and improv and tennis and all those kinds of things. It just felt like the perfect kind of thing, to have that balance. I had so much time to just be a kid—like so much time.” And yet the fact remains that Hollywood can have a corrosive effect on anyone’s sense of self—particularly that of a young woman.

But that has not been Shipka’s experience, not least because, as she said, “I grew up with strong women all around me. I feel really lucky to have grown up in an environment that was inherently feminist. I grew up much like Sabrina, being told that I’m capable of whatever I want to be capable of, that I can do anything.” What this afforded her was the opportunity to develop her sense of self, to have confidence about who she is, and an understanding that those people who would try to take her, or anyone like her, down are just another example of “men being afraid of powerful women.” Shipka said to me, “I grew up being told that I’m capable of whatever I want to be capable of, that I can do anything. There were no doubts thrown at me.”

Shipka knows, though, that this is not a universal experience; that for every young woman who feels that she’s equipped to destroy the injustice around her, there are many others who were never offered the same tools. She said that because she knows her experience has not been “the case for a lot of young women, a lot of young people, I feel almost a responsibility to play characters that are strong and multidimensional. They don’t have to be perfect, that’s not the point. The point is that we’re human.”

And what so many young women and young people—so many humans—are going through right now is a similar struggle against authority and accepted wisdom to the one Sabrina is experiencing, one in which their eyes have been opened not only to the fact that the people in power are fallible, but that those same people are actively working to ensure the destruction of a just future for younger generations, and are actively working to silence the voices of those who are speaking out. This generation that is only now just entering adulthood is having to grapple with the reality that the institutions they were raised to believe in are not a sanctuary at all, but rather are places designed to bring about catastrophe.

Shipka’s generation, though, can feel like a beacon of hope against all that gloom. That is, perhaps, putting a lot on them, but the point isn’t that they have to save the universe in one climactic season finale. It is more about what they, what Shipka, represent: evidence that it is possible to be raised in a world full of ghouls and specters, and come out of it still yourself. They are a reminder that it is possible to be close to darkness, to have it be a part of you and your lived experience, and to still find the light, to still be surrounded by a pink-and-purple glow, one that might not be visible to the naked eye, but that is there, ready to be found, ready to be understood.

Shipka is ready for all that. She seems ready for anything, for wherever the future takes her. She said, “It is a powerful time in a lot of ways. The female roles are feeling stronger than ever; feeling powerful. The world feels like it’s listening in a lot of ways that feel new, and like a new era.”

And that new era is being ushered into existence by a generation who delights as much in astrology as they do in the affairs of the world, who balances their love for scrolling through Raya with a love for literature. (Shipka, by the way, was reading Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen when we met; it’s a challenging, dark novel about a woman who, among other things, defies other people’s perceptions of her.) It’s a generation whose sympathy for the devil won’t stop them from vanquishing it. It’s a generation that has received skepticism from older, more cynical populations, and yet refuses to dull its enthusiasm for change. It’s a generation that can very much relate to Shipka and her passion for evolution and growth, to her delight in all things mystical and all things physical.

Just before she left to meet friends for the night and see the critically acclaimed play Daddy, Shipka said to me, speaking of her hope for the future, “To see this movement and so much feminism and female empowerment happening right at this moment, and to be a part of it with this show, it gives me chills. The fact that Sabrina is a really positive, smart character who’s strong-willed and calls out what she thinks doesn’t make sense—and wants to do what’s right? It’s amazing.” She flashed one last smile, “That’s what I’m all about.” ◊

Kikishipka   April 22, 2019

Kikishipka   April 1, 2019

 

Witchcraft, ricotta brioche and complex female characters… Stylist discovers what makes Kiernan Shipka tick as she showcases the best of the high street.

Kiernan Shipka is having a blast. Jolene by Dolly Parton is booming through the photo studio speakers and Shipka is singing along at the top of her voice, living every word.

When the music changes, Robyn’s Dancing On My Own comes on and she’s lost in the moment, fizzing with energy. If you ever needed a reminder of the sheer optimism and lust for life you had at 19 (and really, who doesn’t need that right now?) it’s right here dancing in this studio in New York.

Since starring as Sally Draper in Mad Men, Shipka has frequently been described as preternaturally mature or old beyond her years. And in a way that’s true. She speaks eloquently about her love of literature and makes a point of shaking everyone’s hand after the shoot has finished, which is quite rare for any celebrity let alone one who is 19. But she is also wide-eyed about the world.

Wearing a red Moncler jumper she bought herself as a Valentine’s present the previous day, she finishes an answer with “obvi” or exclaims, “Oh my god, I died,” about Dolly Parton’s recent collaboration with Miley Cyrus at the Grammys, and suddenly there’s no question of her youth.

Born in Chicago and raised in Los Angeles, Shipka made her television debut at five months old in ERbefore landing her role in Mad Men aged six. Sally, a strong-willed proto-feminist who rebelled against her parents, grew up on screen for nearly 10 years, as did Shipka.

She has, it seems, remained unscathed in the notoriously difficult world of child actors. Her mum accompanies her on set (and to Stylist’s photo shoot), and she still lives at home in LA with “the fam”, although change is afoot. “I’m making the big move to the guest house,” she laughs. “They’re kicking me into the garage.”

While Mad Men was winding up, Shipka appeared in Flowers In The Attic (2014) and The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015). Then in 2018, she was cast in her first TV leading role as half-mortal, half-witch Sabrina Spellman in Netflix’s Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina.

When the series – a more macabre reboot of Nineties show Sabrina The Teenage Witch – premiered in October, it became an instant hit. Netflix has already confirmed it will run for at least four series. And its timing couldn’t be better: with storylines focused on intersectional feminism, gender identity and exploring sexuality, the show covers topics that are pertinent to right here, right now.

It’s the perfect vehicle for the breadth of Shipka’s talent as she balances portraying an innocent, curious version of Sabrina with one who seeks revenge on the patriarchy. Season two is just around the corner, and for Shipka, it’s a chance to play a darker version of Sabrina who’s tapping into her witchy powers and growing into womanhood.

She is also seizing the chance to play with different roles. Upcoming projects include a Christmas film, Let It Snow – “It’s like if [author] John Green did Love Actually” – and The Silence, a horror film with Stanley Tucci and her Sabrina co-star Miranda Otto. “I love doing TV, I love knowing that I have a character to develop. But movies are really exciting. You pour your heart and soul into them, you go full force, sprint, and then it’s over. Then you have time to sleep, which is also nice.”

Sleep is one of our favourite subjects. Are you obsessed too?

I’m a grandma. I love a nice early dinner and a 9pm bedtime like no other.

It seems as if you’re having the time of your life right now. What’s the best thing about being 19?

At this point I’m excited about just living. Everyone goes through their fair share of things, and I feel I’ve got to the point now where I’m so happy to experience life and own my emotions. I think that’s always a bit of a learning curve – being OK with not being happy 24/7, and figuring everything out. I feel like living and seeing friends, having fun, being silly, also learning a lot and taking in a lot [has helped me]. It feels like a really fun time. I’m really happy with where my life is right now.

You were really feeling the music at the photo shoot. What are your favourite songs to dance to?

Nobody by Mitski. Anything by Blood Orange is really groovy. Frank Ocean. I’m into ‘the party’s dying down’ music. I don’t know how I did physical activity before A Star Is Born’s soundtrack came out. Needless to say, now it’s all Shallow, me and the elliptical. I mean, people are probably looking at me [in the gym] like, “What the hell is her problem?” But I’m obsessed.

Witchcraft has become very on-trend recently. Had you dabbled in it before starting the show?

Growing up in LA I was a bit woo-woo, but being in Sabrina has definitely inspired that further. I’ve always been curious about spiritual things, healing powers, crystals. It always sparks my interest. We have a few practising witches on our show, a few writers are [witches], which is awesome. I also went to see a medium, and watched a lot of movies that surround that kind of thing.

Why do you think Sabrina is important as a young woman on TV in 2019?

I remember when I was 13 or 14, how the TV I watched or whatever I read could influence me so much. To have a character like Sabrina makes me very happy and excited that some young girls are watching and looking up to a strong girl who is doing what’s right and calling out what’s wrong. We see Sabrina fail a lot, but instead of letting it get her down, she gets right the hell back up. I think showing more complex multi-dimensional female characters on television is extremely important. It’s important for people to see themselves in characters.

Who are the characters you looked up to as a teenager?

Blair Waldorf [from Gossip Girl] obviously was my goal and my dream! I’m never going to own that many headbands, but I certainly tried when I was 13. But The Wizard Of Oz was probably the most influential movie for me because it was the first one that ever made me want to actually be in film.

Sabrina Spellman loves a headband too. How about you?

I love a good headband but I don’t really rock one. I do rock a bandana that you tie in this sort of situation [her hands disappear in a blur of hair and bandana]. I don’t know what you call that… I love that.

For our shoot you’re wearing the best of the new-season high street – how do you experiment with your style generally?

For me, it’s about not taking it too seriously – whatever catches my eye. I like things that are basic and chic and adding in fun pieces here and there. I also love dressing up. If I’m going out – which I don’t do a lot – and I get to dress up, I’m going to put on my heels.

Who are your go-to designers?

Madewell kills the casual game. I really like AG for jeans and whatnot, and then as far as more splurge-y brands are concerned, I really like Markus Lupfer. I love La Vie Rebecca Taylor, the line she does for Nordstrom. I love a vintage moment.

With the benefit of hindsight, how did playing Sally Draper affect your coming of age?

In every way possible. It’s one of those things where you can’t imagine what your life would possibly be without it. Physically, I would not be here; I don’t think I would be anywhere near here. I truly have no idea what kind of person I would be without it because it was so formative. It’s where I learned that I really, really loved acting, and watching everyone work was amazing.

Starting so young, have you ever felt like you needed to take a break from acting?

No, honestly I haven’t. After Mad Men I did a few projects here and there, but to be quite honest, acting for the most part has plenty of breaks. It’s always good to take a break from anything that you love doing, just for a second, to get perspective on stuff. Even a month off from Sabrina, I was like, “Oh my god, I see things so much clearer now.” But no, never long-term. That doesn’t sound appealing right now. I love it too much.

Have you considered going to college?

I have done my fair share of college parties, so I feel like I’ve got that experience. And at this moment in time, no, I don’t think so. As long as I can continually educate myself on a daily basis. I never want to stop learning, that’s the thing. If I can continually read stuff and take classes and do things that are interesting to me, that’s perfect. That’s what I want and what I need.

Have you ever thought about what you’d do if you weren’t acting?

I like writing, so I could see myself doing something in that realm, even if it was journalism. I also like making lists [and] organising things. If Goop was hiring, I feel like I’d be their girl. I would go to all the cities, find the restaurants, write the lists. That’s kind of my side job anyway for my friends.

Where are some of your favourite places to eat?

In LA I like Sqirl – their brioche with the ricotta is like clouds of heaven. Oh my god. Have you been to Bestia? It’s a really great Italian restaurant in LA. And then there’s Guisados. The quesadilla there is literally a grilled block of cheese. I need nothing more in my life.

What do you love to cook?

I make basic stuff. I don’t really follow recipes. I enjoy the eating aspect, I enjoy the fact that I can cook something for myself, but as far as getting into major recipes, I’m not going down that road. The only recipe that I can do is a really good chocolate chip cookie. I made these tahini-based chocolate chip cookies with almond flour, chocolate chips and maple syrup, and they were so good.

But generally speaking, I love a roasted vegetable. I make a really pretty salad. I love making toast. There’s something very methodical about toasting a really thick piece of sourdough bread, smashing avocado on it and frying an egg. It’s so simple, so basic, but it makes me feel bougie as hell. I love it.

You mentioned earlier that it’s important for you to continually educate yourself. What are you reading at the moment?

Eileen [a book by Ottessa Moshfegh]. It’s modern lit about this girl who lives in this East Coast town. She’s very sad [and] has a mundane, depressing kind of life. And then she escapes. But she’s telling it from the perspective of many years later. The writing is beautiful, it’s all very romantic, and sort of messy and good.

We hear you’re a Queer Eye fan. Who’s your favourite cast member?

Oh my god, I can’t pick. I can’t really pick. I think maybe Tan [France]. He is just a bright light of joy. I love him. I love the French tuck [his signature styling trick]. I’m all about the French tuck.

How do you feel about modern dating? Is that something you’re able to do much of?

Not a lot, because I’m so busy. I think that the show made me exponentially busier, and all I want to do is sleep on the weekends. Meeting people has always been kind of a funny situation for me, growing up not going to school, but knowing everyone who went to the schools in LA. It’s good, I’ve found ways.

Have you tried the online dating world?

Of course. Raya [an exclusive members-only dating app] for life. Love it. God bless Raya.

Finally, what’s something people don’t know about you?

I’m very good at Words With Friends; I’m very competitive with Lucy Davis [Hilda on Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina].

Kikishipka   April 1, 2019

Kikishipka   April 1, 2019

Raised in Hollywood, Kiernan Shipka escaped the curse of the child star through judicious choices and beautiful scenarios. An intellectual and sexy balance that allows her, at 19 years old, to be as comfortable on a photo shoot for Fendi as a star witch of the teen phenomenon Netflix, “The New Adventures of Sabrina”.

04.01.2019 

by Boba Stanic

Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men, recently considered following up on his masterpiece by saying, “The only reason is to see what happened to Sally Draper. That I owe to Kiernan, she is the heart of this series.” By playing Sally, the impertinent daughter of advertising executive Don Draper, Kiernan Shipka, from 2007 to 2015, she was indeed made unforgettable. Her secret: to play this privileged little girl like a rebel, while showing that she remains a pure product of her conservative environment. Mad Men was also an opportunity for the actress to assert her style.

Thanks to Sally Draper’s wardrobe, her performer, of Irish-Slovak origin, born in Chicago to parents totally foreign to the world of cinema and fashion, made the girls in Hollywood jealous, without having time to take the big head. Matt Weiner extended the scenes in which she appeared, and Kiernan built a golden reputation that allowed him to last in Hollywood, and to be today the star of Sabrina’s New Adventures. Second TV adaptation, this time quite dark, sometimes horrific, of an ultra-popular comic book, after the very kitsch one of the 1990s, this Netflix version is a modern rereading of Sabrina’s character, who must choose between two incompatible worlds: that of mortals and that of witches. Magic tricks, witty words about intersectional feminism, even Satan’s patriarchal authoritarianism… Kiernan dazzles Sabrina’s fans. “Sometimes you need an icon to play another icon,” says Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the showrunner of the series.

You play Sabrina, half witch, half human. Is it easy?

Kiernan Shipka: The real challenge is fourteen hours of shooting every day: laughing at one take, fighting a demon in the next, then sprinting, bursting into tears and solving a mystery by reciting two pages of Latin. Not to mention giving the answer to Salem, the black cat to whom I am allergic. In those moments, I could really use Sabrina’s superpowers.

Do you feel vulnerable?

I have been living in the film business for a long time. As I grew up, I fortunately managed to consider it as a profession. This hindsight allowed me to ask myself, “Do I want to make this my life?” It reveals the need to organize my existence. Besides, I love making project lists!

What was the best advice you received?

Finding the balance between fun and professionalism!

Sally Draper’s personality has it rubbed off on you?

The time of the show, yes, I was fashion addict like her. Then I had a period of withdrawal where I managed to cultivate my fascination for fashion while finding my own style of clothing.

And Sabrina, doesn’t she also take up a lot of space in your life?

His fan club is such that I have become the object of immense attention. But I keep in mind that Sabrina is a great source of inspiration for kids: shared between two worlds, she finally sets her own path, and I hope she will encourage her fans to be themselves.

So spending your life in the public eye has an advantage?

For a long time I was the only child on the set, but I never felt in danger. It’s invaluable, especially since at my age, the experiences are always new. But those around me make sure that I keep my head on my shoulders.

Is your collaboration with Fendi one of them?

The wide variety of their clothes touches me: with Fendi, I can be seductive, fun, fashionable or edgy. As for the glasses, I can’t do without them anymore.

You are active on social networks, yet your media rise has protected you from smear campaigns.

How can this miracle be explained?

If you dig in the depths of the internet, you will find pictures of me at 7 and 19 years old, so I never google myself. I only manage my Instagram account and I touch wood to protect it from trolls. I would prefer Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola to notice it, because I dream of touring with them.

Kikishipka   March 13, 2019

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