History Historical Badasses

Gertrude Stein, the queer feminist at the centre of the art movement

I first encountered Gertrude Stein through her avant-garde poetry in Tender Buttons, an evocative series of short poems that forced writing to its breaking point with sentences like: “Dirty is yellow. A sign of more is not mentioned.” I met her blindly, only through her words, yet I already fell for her eccentricity. I knew there was something wonderful behind the mind that put down on paper the bold tongue-in-cheek yet unbelievably serious statement, “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”. I just had to explore her art further. So I began scouring old journals and artist profiles to learn more about her. 

Little did I know that the radical art Stein created could almost be rivaled by the art that she nurtured in the artists around her. I found multiple sources that called her the ‘mother’ of modernism, but after getting to know more about her, I am sure that she would scoff at such a title. After all, she left the United States in 1903 to flee the pressures of gender norms. She was also bored with medical school and seeking an outlet to express her eccentric point of view, she settled down in Paris, where she intended to pursue a life free from heteronormativity. She opened a salon in her home for the world’s creative mind, including some of the world-renowned names such as Picasso, Matisse, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald. She was the voice of this ‘Lost Generation, the group of American expatriates flocking to Paris– and even coined the term.

The way I see it, she brought together these esteemed artists and in many ways, elevated them through her no-nonsense critique of their work. I had always internalized that a woman inspiring other artists (typically male artists) was a muse. That term is loaded, as there were often sexualized or romanticized elements typically tied to a muse. Instead, what I admired about Stein was that she was a mentor to the ‘greats’. I see her as a woman that had an undeniable presence in her time, respected by those around her. 

Nothing about her was conventional and she embraced her own strangeness, something that drew me to her further. Stein deserves the title of a trailblazer of the modernist period and of queer identity at the time. Stein’s essay Miss Furr and Miss Skeene were among the first story to be published about homosexual revelation, containing the first noted use of the word “gay” in published works to refer to same-sex relationships. She also hosted one of the first avant-garde exhibitions in the United States, funding it with the money she collected from her art dealerships. I have no doubt that every piece of art in the period has her fingerprint.

And she didn’t hesitate to acknowledge her accomplishments either. Stein didn’t believe that women must be modest, proudly proclaiming “I have been the creative literary mind of the century.” She never sold herself short, a habit I found myself doing as I presented my own poetry or other writing. I was still working with my own feelings of inferiority, belittling my stories as ‘just’ relevant to female-identifying communities. While she wrote about women and her partner, she didn’t restrict herself to writing women’s stories. I found it so refreshing to see her unabashed pride, as it reminded me to take hold of my own achievements and to be confident. No matter how unconventionally and ‘weirdly’ I experimented with my creativity, I learned that I could (and should) still demand to be taken seriously. 

Regardless of all this, I don’t think she should be idolized. I often like to give powerful women in difficult situations the benefit of the doubt, as do most of the historians and writers that grapple with creating a retrospective of Stein’s life. I witnessed a trend in the way that they wrote about her, that she was ensuring her safety as a Jew in Nazi-occupied France by making these questionable alliances with Nazi figures. As much as I respect her as a feminist and as the backbone of the Lost Generation of artists, I cannot excuse her political affiliations and ironic, confusing pro-Nazi expressions. 

At the end of it all, Stein didn’t strive to be accepted or allow herself to be molded by the society around her. She carved her own place into history and I believe it is important to commemorate it, lest she is lost in the shadows of her male counterparts. As a woman in the art world, looking at Stein as an example liberates me and allows me to embrace subversive expressions of creativity. 

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Life Stories Life

Being creative doesn’t need to be performative or productive

My hesitance with being creative started with a set of simple words on my screen: “Now is the perfect time to write your book!” I encountered variations of these words on Twitter, against the scenic backdrop of a forest in an inspiration post on Instagram. They seemed to follow me everywhere I clicked. These words became a trickling of an inner voice in my head that demanded one thing: write a book. Write the book. 

At the time, we were all in our first few weeks of the world-wide lockdown. There was a wave of posts that encouraged people to look at the bright side of staying home. After all, we had the many privileges that came with being able to have our own spaces during this time. We didn’t have to share a common eating space with colleagues and we could work in our pajamas. It wasn’t all bad, right?

Not to mention, while we self-isolated and stayed inside, our schedules had significantly cleared up. These reminders and gentle pushes served as an incentive for us to sit down and do the things we said we’d do if we had more time. My current circumstance, if I would have let it, could have been inspirational. This was the time I had been waiting for, so why wasn’t I typing away? 

I imagined myself as an artist who was finally in their own element with nothing but time and energy to create. Cocooned away in blankets, frantically typing away at her next screenplay, she uses the time she would have spent commuting to work to instead perfect her craft. Or perhaps I’d relate more to a woman whose hands dance in the warm light streaming through the window. There are paint streaks on her cheeks and the coffee in her mug has gone cold.

Then, there is also the image of a struggling artist who perseveres against all odds. Their hand is shaking, but resolute, as they photograph minute details of their surrounding, working with what they have. This artist scrapes the barrel for their inspiration, regardless of the clamor outside. Fair. But we need to remind ourselves these are heavily romanticized ways of approaching creativity. 

Reading the pandemic was the perfect time to ‘write my book‘ made me feel discouraged. I felt bogged down. I was in mourning for the perfect end to my senior year that now would never be. Trapped in my room, I felt the need to escape. Writing allows me to delve deep into myself – something I could not have been bothered with before the pandemic hit. However, as any writer can tell you, it is an incredible feeling to share your work, but writing can be a terribly lonely and internal process.  

I wasn’t partaking in much leisure creativity in those early days. Even writing my college senior project, a creative fictional piece, felt like a chore. All my energy went into listening to the voices that streamed out of my laptop during the last of my online courses.

All I wanted to do was scoop out my mind and leave it in a warm tub to rest. I watched movies, listened to music, and chatted with my roommates, using up the energy I had left on reserve. I didn’t feel inspired to produce some great masterpiece. But I had all the time in the world to do it. Since I wasn’t going anywhere, why wasn’t I writing my book?

Weren’t the arts meant to be those places where we could escape from capitalist expectations of labor and product?

Over time, I felt myself spiraling. I didn’t have an idea of what I would write. I just felt like I had to make something productive out of my time. I genuinely felt I was going to disappoint myself either way, whether I chose to pick up my pen or not.

This is all sounding gloomy, but actually, there were times when I wanted to be creative. When I felt that sudden urge to set off and start working on a new piece of writing or pick up painting as a hobby. I knew when I started working I would feel good about it, but the benchmark had been set so high that I felt discouraged.

When I was packing up to move back home, I stumbled upon a product of my literary past. I had written up a small outline of a short story sometime in January. Immediately, I wanted to drop everything, move aside the boxes from my desk, and bring the story to life.

I had an epiphany- this mindset of creating perfect art was (and is) toxic. Creativity doesn’t have to be productive. Weren’t the arts meant to be an escape from capitalist expectations of labor and product?

I am not wasting my time even if nothing comes of the writing– I am perfecting a craft.

Art didn’t need to be performative either. It didn’t have to wear the fancy label of a ‘novel’ or perform for an audience. I didn’t need to parade around and place a glossy cover over the pages. Instead, I needed to give myself permission to not even have to finish whatever project was in my drafts. Ultimately, I must accept no creative pursuit is ever wasted. I am not wasting my time if nothing comes of the writing. Rather, I am perfecting a craft. As for talent, there is no wasting that unless I don’t use it. 

The sooner I realized I could follow my creative instincts without oppressive expectations, the sooner I felt creatively liberated. Whether it be through sporadically writing a scene of a story or picking up (and putting down) a paintbrush when I feel inclined, I shouldn’t have felt pressured to fully pursue my creative urges if I didn’t want to. I should be allowed to surrender to that flurry of excitement and passion to simply express myself. Then, when the passion was over, to let it go. Truly, I didn’t even have to show my creative work to anyone or look at it ever again. 

I am teaching myself creativity isn’t meant to always be translated into something productive. The funny thing is I often did return to those pieces and paintings and continued to work on them. But that was only possible when I didn’t feel the heavy benchmark of producing a bestseller or a museum-worthy mural on my shoulders.

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Tech Now + Beyond

Pakistan’s app-banning streak is both a personal and political attack

As a Pakistani woman, I have always viewed social media as a safe haven of sorts where I can share my views and opinions without being sidelined. In a country where women are so often marginalized and subjected to misogynistic trends, social media offers us a form of refuge to express our very constrained freedom. And this is exactly why Pakistan’s latest bans on dating apps and Tik Tok left me appalled. To me, these bans and blocks signify a further limitation of rights for women and the prevalence of sexism and misogyny in the country.

Recently, Tinder, Grindr and other similar dating apps were blocked for disseminating immoral content. This was followed by a ban on Tik Tok as well. According to Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), notices were issued to the five dating apps, and companies failed to respond within the stipulated time. 

The decision was made to prevent the circulation of ‘immoral and obscene content’. Put simply, the ban on certain apps was imposed to appease the conservative factions of the country. 

Pakistan has had a long history of internet/social media bans and blocks. In recent years, the government has banned YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook as well. Content is monitored and often removed if it is deemed immoral by the authorities. 

The recent blocks have sparked a renewed conversation about the government’s attempts to control the flow of ideas on the internet. Restrictions on social media sites are normalizing censorship. Increased regulation is limiting free speech and paving the way for the conservative factions to benefit from it.  The rapidity of ‘moral policing’ is such that it is only realistic to expect a handful of social media sites left to access in the country. The government’s motives are unclear but what it does tell us is that the ban is geared towards suppressing free expression and the endorsement of conservative values in the country.

The ban on Tik Tok felt personal because it is the one platform that gives everyone a chance to express their creativity and showcase their talents. 

In the contemporary world, the internet and social media serve as one of the major avenues to express freedom of speech and expression. It is difficult to imagine progress without it. Blocks and restrictions can be a major setback for the upcoming generations, limited and monitored access to the internet will curb ideas and innovation. Amongst other things, it will sabotage the ability of technology in helping to eliminate the negative connotations attached to Pakistan.

The most recent ban on Tik Tok was yet another measure to suppress entertainment and creativity in the country. Tik Tok is one of the only platforms that made a vast majority of the Pakistani population feel welcomed (quite literally). People from various cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds are not only able to access the platform but also produce content that was viewed and appreciated widely. 

There was no way to control the flow of information or trends on the app; perhaps this is why it was so threatening. Although, the ban was uplifted in the face of politics. But it felt personal because it is the one platform that gives everyone a chance to express their creativity and showcase their talents. 

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There have been numerous calls within the country by human rights campaigners to uplift the bans. As much as I want the ban to be unlifted, I cannot help but think we are headed towards a state with strict controls and censorship on the internet and print media. I find it rather daunting because social media seems like the one avenue where I can truly voice my opinions in a country where women are so often silenced. 

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How absurdism taught me to embrace the chaos in my life

“A little boy in a cowboy suit, writing in a puddle with a stick, a dog approaching. Deaf or dumb, the boy is, like anyone, a little timid, partly stupid, ashamed, afraid, like us, like you. He is there. Picture the boy. See his eyes. Sympathize with his little closes. Now, break his arm. Picture violin section. The violins are on fire. (The following is said almost without anger as if it’s just another request) Now go fuck yourselves.”
Thom Pain (Based on Nothing), Will Eno.

That’s a little absurdism for you there. The next few lines go into the character trying to sound like he’s fine, but he really isn’t. He is spiraling while trying to understand the colloquial term ‘whatever’ because he thinks it will describe how he wants to feel. Did you get that? I hope so. Because underneath the strangeness is a deep vulnerability– and joy in being alive. 

It doesn’t want to have a purpose, it embraces being purposeless.

At its core, absurdism is rooted in social activism and rebellion against the norm. At a time when everyone was taking art very seriously and enforcing standards on artist’s practices, absurdists challenged the system. They said, what if we make an art form that defies expectations by being intentionally bizarre? When everything around us is so devoid of reason, embracing irrationality and strangeness may be the next best thing. 

With the current pandemic, there is little that we can control. At first, I felt so powerless against it all. That’s when I turned to absurdism. It doesn’t want to have a purpose, it embraces being purposeless. The Dadaist slogan of “art for art’s sake” and absurdism’s love of nonsense is exactly the type of energy we need to be bringing into our lifestyles. 

Absurdism taught me to embrace chaos and life not making sense (most of the time). I spent most of my life, as I expect a majority of you did, trying to assign value to myself by the things that I achieved and the decisions I made. Wanting my life to mean something, I quickly grew desperate when things did not turn out as I imagined.

Absurdism taught me to embrace chaos and life not making sense (most of the time).

Take, for instance, applying to jobs or sharing creative work. There is a powerlessness that I feel every single time. I can’t help but think that I am putting myself out there to be judged– which I am, to a certain extent. Recently, after being ghosted by a couple of jobs I had applied to, I was starting to fear that the rest of the year would be the same. All my efforts seemed to be in vain. Keen to maintain a certain image I had of my life, I started reaching out to places that I had no interest in. But I soon became so thankful that things turned out the way they did when a professor reached out to me, excited to have me on board to work on her screenplay– something I deeply enjoyed doing.

Like that last line by Will Eno, I often forgot that life was full of surprises. I learned to be okay with it. More than that, to be happy.

By reading absurdist writers, I embraced the joy of being surprised. I found humor in unexpected things. There was a strength in accepting chaos that I did not find anywhere else. When it seems like the year is going entirely on its own path, I cling to these teachings more than ever. We can’t be stubborn and try to force the year to go in the direction we want it to. We are doing more damage by pulling on the leash and digging our feet into the ground then if we let loose a little and see where the year is headed. 

All in all, when things don’t work out, whether it is with your school, career, or relationship prospects, remind yourself that having ‘nothing’ going on shouldn’t be terrible. Just take Daniil Kharm’s The Red-Haired Man, where at the end he admits that he is writing nonsense and gives up entirely. This poem has gotten me out of all types of ruts, both creative and personal.

We can all take a note from absurdism. If we embrace chaos in this way, we can enhance our own sense of wellbeing.

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Career Education Now + Beyond

Leaving my Ph.D. program was the best decision I ever made

The morning I met with my advisor to tell her I was leaving my Ph.D. program, I was so nervous I couldn’t eat. I’d been dreading this meeting for the past month. A meeting which was the result of my realization that after two years completing my master’s, and three years working toward my doctorate, I no longer wanted to be a Ph.D. student. After five years focused on what I thought was my singular goal, I wanted out.

After five years of singular focus, I wanted out.

The hard truth was I hadn’t always wanted to leave. When I first arrived in my program, I was eager to be an academic. I quickly turned a first semester paper into a book chapter for a Routledge anthology, became the Executive Director to a film organization on campus, and published poetry and film criticism regularly on the side. When someone asked me to speak on a panel, I said yes. When someone asked me to proofread a paper, I said yes. My weeks were packed with screenings, meetings, classes, and endless emails. I thrived off the hustle and bustle.

But I was also fueled those first three years by the nagging suspicion that I wasn’t actually good enough to be in academia. I reassured myself that if I just did more – wrote more, presented more – then I would avoid being found out as someone not smart enough or capable enough to succeed in graduate school. The façade seemed to work as I accrued more accolades, but so did the mounting tandem anxiety that I was that much closer to being discovered as intellectually inadequate.

Three years passed before I was gently but firmly told by my Department that I needed to cut back on my extracurriculars. Moving forward, my sole focus needed to be my dissertation. I wasn’t pleased by this directive at first. I’d built a reputation as someone who juggled myriad responsibilities with relative ease, and I felt I was losing a part of myself in paring down my focus to simply scholarly writing. But I also knew that my dissertation was why I was in the Ph.D. program and so to squander this time and opportunity was unimaginable.

For a while, I was able to lose myself in the solitary environs of research. However, as the months wore on, I found myself disengaged and disinterested in my academic work. What once felt like smooth sailing now felt like a slog. I grew despondent. My worst fears about myself had been realized: namely, that I didn’t have what it takes to be a true academic.

My worst fears about myself had been realized.

Imposter syndrome is a familiar affliction for many both in and outside academia. A recent article on ABC found that “70% of people feel like they are ‘imposters’ at least once in their lives.” And, paradoxically, many find that with mounting professional achievements there is simultaneously an increasing anxiety that the awards are undeserved.

While I knew that imposter syndrome was a common occurrence, it took me months to realize that while I was struggling to research, I was increasingly writing and publishing poetry and personal essays. It’s not that I wasn’t smart enough to write or research – I was – but, ultimately, what increasingly sustained my head and my heart was creative work, not academic writing. It was this realization that led me to re-evaluate the future I saw for myself and the future I knew I wanted.

When I came to terms with the fact that I wanted to leave my Ph.D. and pursue an MFA in poetry, I was certain my decision would be met with a level of derision by friends and family. But as I told each person in my inner circle of my plans, each friend and family member told me how proud they were that I was finally pursuing something meaningful to me. No one doubted my intelligence or ability to finish the Ph.D., nor did anyone want to see me toiling away to finish a degree that didn’t ultimately inspire me. What had initially felt like my biggest failure became an opportunity to see how others saw me. The unconditional love I received in response was overwhelming.

What one can do isn’t always what one should do.

Ironically, it was leaving my program that allowed me to expel the imposter syndrome that had plagued me so relentlessly for the past several years once and for all. I now value my abilities as both a scholar and a person, but what one can do isn’t always what one should do. Saying ‘yes’ to the unknown is a precarious position to be in, but I’m finally living my life on my own terms, and no one else’s.

Fashion Lookbook

MyScene taught me about style, empowerment, and compassion

Here’s a visual: It’s 2005. You’re sitting in front of the desktop computer in your house, which seems to have a box attached to the back of it, and you’re on hour 3 of playing MyScene. That’s right, MyScene. The online gaming site that let you transform into an interior designer, makeup artist, hair stylist, nail technician, spa business owner, and go on seemingly endless glamorous shopping sprees. The MyScene franchise consisted not only of computer games, but also of dolls and movies — Jammin’ In Jamaica is my personal favorite if you want to experience 44 minutes of pure nostalgia.

At the time, there was absolutely no denying that I wanted to be them. I mean, who wouldn’t? They’re all icons with flawless fashion. Each character Barbie, Madison, Chelsea, and Nolee had their own individual brand of sass, flare, and style. Plus, as we watched their characters come to life onscreen, we learned that these ladies were also empowered, intelligent, and compassionate. Barbie was interested in technology and business, Madison was a songwriter and band manager, Chelsea loved fashion design and sold items that she customized at the market, and Nolee was the sporty one of the group with an inclination to mathematics. 

To say the least, the MyScene girls introduced me to a world of girl power and badassery, and I cannot thank them enough for that. I grew up alongside four older brothers, so when I wasn’t trying to keep up with them, I was vigorously trying to find feminine outlets. And this was that for a while. I could be as unapologetically sensitive, bold, and imperfect as I wanted to be, and it was amazing. I felt like I was right there alongside them, navigating the plights of womanhood as a young girl trying to break through the mold. 

I used to spend hours on the computer too; hours that I now look upon fondly. I think that this is where I found my fashion roots, to be honest. For one, there was nowhere else that I could be a true fashionista and transform almost immediately into anything and anyone. My closet wouldn’t suffice for the kinds of possibilities and outfits that I was looking for, and neither were the handful of dolls clothes that I had. But here the options were boundless. I could be a superstar or a diva if I wanted to. And trust me… I was!

With sites like MyScene, we were able to quite literally express ourselves anyway we chose time and time again. I quickly learned to appreciate my creativity and let it run free as I surfed through different styles or aesthetics and matched them with different activities or careers. It was expansive, fresh, and valuable. I grew to adore this part of myself. 

I found out what I liked, what I didn’t like, and — while it may seem like a stretch — I even learned about budgeting (using coins inherited through the game of course), patience, precision, and discipline. I mean, the product that I came up with just had to be perfect if it was going to be successful, which is an ideology that has lasted with me into adulthood. 

I cherish those days spent with MyScene, sifting through skirts, headbands, and purses, because they morphed me into the woman that I am today and will be tomorrow. She is curious, warm, loud, and would much rather wear a dress than a pair of jeans. She has incredible drive, values empathy over anything else, and is willing to go the extra mile to take something from good to great. Oh, and she also still cries every time she watches a romcom.

What’s even better is that those early 2000’s MyScene styles that we all adored as kids have finally returned to mainstream fashion. We get to put all those years of gaming and idolizing to the test as we put on the outfits and the attitudes to match, to decorate our own lives like we did with Barbie, Madison, Chelsea, and Nolee so many years ago. 

The Internet Pop Culture

Tik Tok is how I’m really staying sane during this quarantine

A clock isn’t the only thing that makes a Tik Tok when its bored; humans do too. And in this crisis time, people are making Tik Toks now more than ever.

Self-care is one of the most important things during a crisis time like this and with all of the entertainment options out there, it’s very easy to put on a film or some music and just relax. However, with the rise of Tik Tok, self-care has transformed into a more creative and active process. Laughing to the stupidest short clips on Tik Tok isn’t the only thing that the platform offers. The ability to create is becoming more vital during this time and it has allowed me personally to connect with others as well as cure my boredom during self-quarantine. Balancing work and finding time for myself has always been a problem for me in general with my busy schedule, and when I need to do something quick to help myself relax, I find myself pressing on the Tik Tok app on my phone almost immediately.

Entertainment doesn’t have to come from a four-minute long song, or a two-hour long movie; it can come from five second clips that some random girl halfway across the world made. 

Moreover, it’s not just that it’s funny. Tik Tok is relatable; it’s a community. Sharing Tik Toks with my friends and family has become an everyday activity for me now, and it doesn’t feel like I’m wasting time. Moreso, I’m taking time for myself to enjoy quality, unique entertainment (for the most part). With some balance, Tik Tok had carefully crafted a more creative lifestyle for me, where I didn’t have to constantly worry about deadlines or whether or not I would finish my Netflix show, which, yes, that’s extremely stressful for me. In the short period of time that I was on the app each day, I would stop thinking about everything else crappy going on in my life and just for a second forget about it and solely focus on the stupid jokes people were making.

The platform has now become a lifestyle. In fact, it is estimated that Charli D’Amelio, a famous creator on Tik Tok, has a net worth of over three million dollars. Teens, kids, and their entire families have become invested in the platform and spend hours working on creating the perfect Tik Tok that they hope will go viral. Getting on the ‘For You’ page is a dream for many. Some say Tik Tok has ruined people’s lives for increasing how digital the world is getting, but I say it improved it. We should embrace this new digital lifestyle and find ways to accept, adapt, and integrate new platforms like this. 

Despite the obvious attention-grabbing environment, the content on Tik Tok has only gotten better. The process of making the actual clip has become so exciting for many, including me. When I make a Tik Tok, I don’t make it to get likes, or views (I’m a private account too, so I don’t really care about views), it’s always been about putting content out there and expressing my creativity and feelings, which is the same as many others also view it. Sure, there are the occasional posts only asking for likes and follows, but there are genuine content creators who want to entertain others on the platform. Tik Tok is more real than any other platform I’ve ever used, except maybe Twitter sometimes.

Self care doesn’t have to be putting on a spa mask and some relaxing music and meditating or sleeping.

Self-care comes in many forms, and entertainment is a huge one of them. For me, self-care became Tik Tok. It’s one of those apps that just blew up, because it had just the right combination of humor and community. It was a perfect feel-good app that enticed groups of all ages, and will most likely last years from now. Ultimately, Tik Tok has provided me an emotional release at the start and end of every day. Just getting on the platform oddly brings a smile to my face to see all of those relatable, goofy memes.

Life Hacks Work Startups How To Use The Internet Tech Now + Beyond

A fool-proof guide to looking like a graphic design pro with Canva

Regardless of the field you’re working in, if you’re connected to the internet, you realize the importance of good graphic design. From websites and projects, to emails and social media, almost all aspects of information need some form of graphics to make them more appealing. I’m not a pro at Adobe Photoshop, and because I couldn’t devote enough time to learn it, at a time of dire need, my search for good graphic-design tools led me to, an online website that’s too good for words.

Not all of us are Photoshop experts, and if you’re not too familiar with complex editing tools Canva is the perfect solution. It allows you to create beautiful high-quality graphics with an incredibly simple user interface. I originally started using it to create images, but overtime I’ve come to rely on it for all sorts of documents on it. I swear by this tool because of how much of a lifesaver it’s been for me, on multiple occasions.

Canva recently released their iPhone app, which makes it all the more easier to use. The best part about Canva is that you can create social media posts that are platform-specific. These folks have everything covered, that means Twitter posts, Facebook cover photos, Tumblr graphics, Instagram posts and even Pinterest posts. You can create all sorts of visually appealing documents on Canva. And, by all I literally mean all. Prepare yourself for astounding presentations, magazine covers, and resumes, marketing materials such as flyers, menus, posters, business cards, brochures, and even event invitations and email headers!

I don’t want to to sound like an over-enthusiastic salesperson, but it’s just how great Canva is. Maybe they should consider making me an ambassador. Just sayin’.

I’m going to start with a step-by-step guide on creating your first image through the Canva website. If you’ve never used Canva, don’t worry, this is a literal, step-by-step how-to guide.

1. Go to and sign up for an account. (It’s completely free.)
2. You can use your free account or upgrade to a premium account (which obviously has more features). I’ve been using Canva for about a year now, and I personally haven’t felt the need to upgrade my account.
3. This one’s also optional: Download the app on your phone and login or continue using it on your browser.

Upgrading to premium: yay or nay?
Upgrading to premium: yay or nay?

There are already a bunch of good tutorials on Canva’s Design School. Here are 30 lessons to help you get started on learning how to design.

The amount of time you invest into learning and mastering graphic designing solely depends on you. You can learn some pretty cool stuff on Canva’s Design School tutorials. It’s neatly arranged into subsections with “Getting Started” for absolute beginners that progress on to Fonts, Color, Images, Backgrounds, Shapes and Icons, Layout, Branding, and ultimately Advanced Tips and Skills in Action.

Canva's Design School
Canva’s Design School

Practice does make perfect, but everyone has time constraints and so I’ll get on with the next few steps on creating your bad-ass image. You can start by choosing one of loads of templates for Canva:

Canva's Design Templates
Canva’s Design Templates

Or, alternatively, you can click on “Create a design” when you sign-in to your account.


I’m going to create a Facebook post for this article. You can pick from any of the design templates, and get started. The same rules apply to all of them.

After selecting the document or post type, select a template from the left sidebar. Click on Layouts and select the one you want. Everything on this image will be customizable, so you can change it according to how you want. I’ve picked this simple template for sharing quotes.


Click on the text to modify it. You can change the font type, font size, and color from the small menu-bar that will pop-up when you click on the text.


A general rule of thumb is to opt for a serif and a san-serif font for contrast. As an example, I’m going to take a quote from this Tempest article and replace the text on the image with my selected text. You can type it up or just copy-paste it. [upto to you, but, really who doesn’t want to save that extra 10 seconds by pressing cmd-C and cmd-V]



I’m keeping the fonts as they are, but I’m going to change the colors of the quotation marks and the yellow rectangle. Select the rectangle until a different bar appears on clicking it.


Test out the colors, till you find the one you want. If you want to pick a color that’s different from the default palette, click on the “+” under document colors.


Pick the color you want, or add a hex code for the color. Once you’ve selected the color you want, click anywhere else. Click on the rectangle again and click on the color option, you should be able to see the color/s added to the document colors next to the previous default colors.



To be consistent, change the color of the quotation mark by clicking on it, next select the color option.


Click on the color you want next.



Next, to replace the background image, you’ll have to upload the image first. Click on uploads and select “Upload your own images.”


Go to the folder with the image and select your image for the background.


When the image is uploaded, it should appear under the “Upload your own images” icon on the left side-bar.


Drag the image from the side-bar to the actual image you’re editing.

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The previous background image and overlays are still on the image. So delete them by clicking on the black rectangle and clicking on the trash icon in the small menubar at the bottom Readjust the image you just dragged by clicking and dragging to the left (to the left of the color black icon)


Delete all the other irrelevant images in the background (You can see slight hints to the right).
Click and drag your custom image from the uploads sidebar again if you’re having trouble with the overlay images.

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Change the transparency by clicking on the image, and selecting downwards arrow from the image menu. Vary the transparency from “Transparency” feature.

Enlarge the image by clicking and dragging the circles in the corners on all sides till your image is large enough. Don’t worry if you can’t see your text, we’ll take care of it in the next step.

Click on the option where it says “Back” on the small menubar (to the left of the trash icon).

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You should be able to see one the quotation marks. Keep clicking Back till you can see all the text. The small blue circles in the corner specify the layer it’s on.

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To fix the image and to make the text more noticeable, we can add more elements to the image. Click on “Elements” on the left sidebar. and click on Shapes.

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Drag a shape from the sidebar to the image you’re editing.

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Now change the transparency and color from the mini menubar at the bottom. Since the font- color is white, I’ve changed the square’s color to a black to contrast with the text.

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I changed the transparency to around 52, and after adjusting it keep clicking “Back” till the font is above the shape. That adds more contrast between the white text and the background.


Now readjust the size of the shape by extending the circles on the corner till you’re content with how it looks.

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 3.50.00 AM

If you want to compare a few different variations, click on the copy icon to the right of the image (the rectangles below the number “1”).


This will duplicate the image, and you can try a different variation of the same image to the copy of the image below it.


When you’ve finalized on the image you want, you can delete the unwanted versions of the image by clicking on the trash icon that’s right below the copy icon on that image. Finally, download your image by clicking on Download in the top right corner.


34.png 35.png

And, voila! Your image is ready.

Tech Humor Now + Beyond

17 technological advancements we thought we’d have by 2019

The future is here and it isn’t even technologically close to what we imagined it to be.

Sure, we have smartphones, smartwatches, rockets, and drones, but where is the fully-automated future we were promised as children? Where is the tech Back to the Future, Men in Black, The Jetsons, and so many other fictitious, sci-fi media, alluringly painted for us? The flying cars, the ray guns, and the jet boots?

The wonderful tales of tech spun for us in the past have left us wanting, and wanting bad. Here are 17 pieces of tech we deserve… but perhaps don’t necessarily need right now in case things turn out like Black Mirror.

1. Wireless everything

[Image description: In an animated clip, an over-plugged wall socket begins to spark.] Via Tenor

Yes, there are plenty of wireless devices on the market, but they sport a pretty hefty price tag. I’d also like to not carry a million chargers when I’m out running about, or be confined to a wall socket. Which brings me to…

2. Long-lasting batteries

[Image description: In an animated clip, a fully-charged phone walks into view but its battery begins to deplete as it moves. It then dies on screen.] Via Tenor

When was the last time you went longer than 10 hours without having to charge your mobile? Somewhere out there is a 1991 Nokia GSM mobile with barely a bar down on its charge. I need a marriage between that battery and my iPhone, stat.

3. Multi-function devices 

[Image description: A white cartoon man in a gray-white trenchcoat and bowler hat falls off the side of a building. His hat then springs open propellers, and he flies away.] Via GIPHY

I’m talking a laptop with a built-in printer and scanner. A shower which also dries. Let’s go all The Jetsons – sit in a chair and have the house dress us.

4. Invisibility

[Image description: A trenchcoat, bowler hat, sunglasses, and white gloves ensemble seemingly floats in the air, outlining the shape of an invisible man who shrugs in an IDK gesture.] Via Tenor

Forget the Invisibility Cloak, I’m referring to H.G. Wells’ 19th-century The Invisible Man. The main character, Griffin the scientist, changed his body’s refractive index to that of air so that it neither absorbed nor reflected light – thus, invisible! I’d hate to think of the nasty repercussions but a simpleton like me simply wants to render herself invisible when her Mom comes looking for someone to wash the dishes.

5. Smart clothes

[Image description: A white woman in a blonde ponytail exasperatedly asks “Where are all my good clothes?” She is standing in a bedroom, in front of a full closet.] Via Tenor

If we can low-key computerize our watches, then why not clothes? There are already e-textiles in the making which feature low tech attached to clothing. What we’re waiting for our clothes which alter temperature according to the outside environment, clothes which monitor the inner workings of your body – there’s so much.

6. Jetpacks, jet boots, jet anything

[Image description: An animated clip shows a faceless, white character with blond hair step into view and then take flight with his jetpack.] Via GIPHY

Who among us doesn’t want to throw on some clear visors, strap on a helmet and then fly off to work? Let the streets belong to the pedestrians once more! I want to see headlines ranting about the rising prices of jetpack fuel instead of car fuel.

7. Hypertravel

[Image description: An animation clip shows the first-person point of view of traveling faster than light. The lights show up in streaks of white and red.] Via GIPHY

14-hour flights? Can we do 14 minutes instead?

8. Lightsaber

[Image description: A brown-haired, white man is seated and purses his lips while raising his open, right hand in front of his face. A lightsaber then pops into the air, which he grabs, smiling.] Via GIPHY

Zero need, 100 percent want.

9. Scouters from Dragon Ball Z

[Image description: A cartoon clip shows a close-up of a fair-skinned male character, wearing a red lens piece in front of his left eye. Yellow symbols flash on the lens.] Via Tenor

The world is a scary place sometimes so having the ability to check out a person’s stats can come in pretty handy.

10. Wrist computer

[Image description: A dark-haired boy wearing an eye mask is speaking while searching for something on a holographic screen/keyboard atop his left wrist.] Via Tumblr

An elevated version of a smartwatch, a strapped-in, holographic version of a computer. My right shoulder thanks anything which takes away the weight of carrying around my laptop.

11. Exoskeletons

[Image description: A dark-haired man pulls a sword off his back. He is wearing robotic armor. Lights are flashing behind him.] Via GIFER

Let’s pretend that these won’t immediately be used in warfare and think of how great it will be in terms of emergency services, healthcare, and medical advancements. Preferably a suit which doesn’t need to be drilled in though. I’d rather hang it up on a coat rack at the end of the day.

12. Neuralyzers

[Image description: A dark-haired black man in a black suit and sunglasses holds up a flashing device and says “Hey, don’t even worry about it.”] Via GIPHY

Would I like to forget the time I peed in an elevator? Yes! Would I also use it on the person who, unfortunately, was with me in the elevator at that time? Yes! And perhaps also on every person who just read this bit of personal information about me…

13. Instant learning

[Image description: A dark-haired white man is lying back in a chair. He gasps, staring ahead wide-eyed as pages of information flash before him on a holographic screen.] Via Gfycat

Learning anything in a matter of seconds trumps learning over many arduous years.

14. Rehydratable food packets

[Image description: A dark, curly-haired young girl in a red blazer picks up and places a small packet into a microwave-look-alike Rehydrator machine. She presses a button and a burger appears.] Via GIPHY

I enjoy a slow roast as much as the next person but there’s no denying the allure of instant food. Imagine how much we can accomplish (read: watch more Netflix) by not losing time to cooking?

15. Underwater Atlantis

[Image description: A sea ship travels underwater, passing through a futuristic underwater colony.] Via Tenor

Jules Verne also made big waves in the realm of science fiction in the 19th-century. Explain to me how we’re beginning to travel through space but don’t have a futuristic underwater Atlantis yet?

16. Futurama’s What-if Machine

[Image description: A blond, white man sits on a red massage chair. In his hand is a paper. He gestures in confusion and says “I’ll never know enough to make an informed decision.”] Via GIPHY

Knowing what could potentially happen would really reduce stress levels globally.

17. Travel in time and space

[Image description: A young, dark-haired white man stands among futuristic tech. He is dressed in a red bowtie and a tweed jacket. Looking above him, he says “All of time and space, everything that ever happened or ever will, where do you want to start?”] Via GIPHY

Without breaking the world and/or causing World War III, please. I’d be fine with letting the Doctors of the world handle the itinerary and just enjoy the ride.

So, what are the chances of any of these tech pieces ever coming into existence? I’d say pretty high because the human race is innovative AF and a few of these are already in their beginning stages. The sad part is that they just may be outside of our lifetime’s reach, but a girl can dream.

Mind Love Wellness

How creativity is linked to sleep

If you wanted to pull an all-nighter to finish a project, you may want to rethink that decision. Why? Besides getting enough sleep is likely a good decision health-wise, there’s some evidence that suggests that creativity, at least partially, is linked to sleep.

Humans generally go through five phases of sleep: stage 1, 2, 3, 4 and rapid eye movement (REM). REM sleep is a phase of deep sleep observed in humans and other mammals. According to Tuck Sleep, “our brain waves mimic the activity experienced during your waking state and your eyes move rapidly side to side while remaining closed” during REM sleep. REM sleep is generally thought to boost creativity. Researchers at University of California, San Diego found that participants in one of their studies were found to be 40 percent more creative after REM sleep when completing problem-solving tasks.

If that’s not enough to convince you, here are some examples of people who cite their creativity and accomplishments to sleep. When she was 18 years old, a dream inspired Mary Shelley to write her celebrated classic Frankenstein. The tune to “Yesterday” came to Paul McCartney is a dream.  Last but not least,  Otto Loewi figured out how to prove the role of acetylcholine as an endogenous neurotransmitter (try saying that ten times fast!) in a dream, which led to him winning a Nobel prize. So, if you want to write a celebrated book, a hit song, or win a Nobel prize, you may want to make sure that you are getting enough sleep.

Besides creativity, lack of sleep can also harm other aspects of our ability to do work. Thomas Balkin, PhD, director of behavioral biology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md, explains that lack of sleep can impair our ability “to concentrate for a sustained” amount of time and our memory may be affected, so some of us “may have trouble holding multiple things, like three or four numbers, in your head at once.”

There seems to be a stereotype that “creative geniuses” are insomniacs. This stereotype seems to be incredibly harmful. Us creative types always seem to be balancing a million and a half projects. We’re trying to work through burnout after burnout. But sacrificing our sleep probably won’t be worth it in the end.  Besides evidence that REM sleep, or deep sleep, can help us be more creative, we should take care of ourselves to be able to continue to keep doing what we love.

Getting enough sleep is easier said than done. Between insomnia, health-issues, and having to get many tasks done on a tight deadline, it may feel impossible to get enough sleep. Writer Meghan Lannoo, wrote in The Tempest that she used to be “plagued by insomnia,” but was able to find methods to help her sleep. For her, these were exercising during the day, limiting her caffeine intake, turning off all screens an hour before bed, not forcing herself to sleep, and visualizing herself asleep. While these tricks won’t work for everyone, they’re definitely a start.

Now, next time you embark on your next creative project, make sure that you’re getting enough sleep. Who knows – maybe you’ll get an idea in a dream!

The Internet Pop Culture

Think twice before you tweet: social media influencers are real people too

Just because we dislike someone’s internet representation, doesn’t mean we should ridicule or shame them. Period. But hey, easier said than done. 

I don’t follow Caroline Calloway, American Instagram personality. I did at one point. She was funny, gorgeous, bold, and lived a fairytale life attending Cambridge. What’s not to like? But eventually, I lost interest and unfollowed. End of story. So I thought.  

I‘d occasionally see her in stories or posts by other Instagram “influencers” I still follow. Earlier in January one of these friends, Charles McBryde made a point to remind his followers of their friendship and posted on his story, “@carolinecalloway would never-and HAS never-intentionally scammed people out of their money….the people who are using this opportunity to take out their resentment on her should seriously reconsider the effect that has on a person’s psychology and get a f***ing life.” Scamming money? I had no idea what he referred to, so I researched. 

A female, yes another female writer, Kayleigh Donaldson (who also uses the internet to “influence” by the way) started a Twitter thread shortly after Caroline announced her “Creativity Workshop”. Caroline’s plan was to host events where she would talk, make attendees care packages, and feed them lunch. Basically, an inspirational speaker hosting a huge hangout for her fans. Nothing wrong with that. But due to inexperience and bad planning, Caroline canceled some stops on her tour and had to refund $165 tickets while profusely apologizing. 

Kayleigh updated her followers with screenshots and comments regarding this “scam”, continuing to bring attention to Caroline’s failings, not even calling her by name just “the scammer”. This hate-ridden thread inspired publications to write negative articles prompting hateful comments, nasty messages, and basic cyberbullying. 

There are many things wrong with this picture. Did Caroline get in over her head? Yes. Did she make mistakes? Yes. Did she own them and take responsibility? Yes! In fact, Caroline continued with her tour, embraced the title of “scammer” and compares her bumpy experience with the disastrous Fyre Festival for laughs. Just like everybody’s favorite celebrity to hate on, Taylor Swift, Caroline is taking her own “Reputation” and moving forward, waving goodbye to the haters. But the main problem with this situation? Kayleigh Donaldson and followers.

For a woman in the world of journalism and writing, Kayleigh should know better. It’s bad enough that women have important things to worry about in this modern age (wage gap, healthcare, child brides, to name a few) without every word they say being twisted by somebody on the other side of a screen who doesn’t “like” them. Obviously, we take that risk when we choose to post on social media, but be honest, how would you feel if you woke up and saw multiple articles online about your “failings” for the world to see? 

It’s easy to get caught up in the Twitter-verse. And did I maybe roll my eyes a bit when I saw the whole “Creativity Workshop” thing? Guilty. Caroline Calloway isn’t someone I’d choose to follow, or pay $165 to hang out with, but I know it’s wrong to stand by while a woman is unfairly treated.

It’s sad that girl-on-girl hate is so prominent, and that many of us (me included) choose to engage in it on a daily basis. We may not keep our Twitter followers up to date with the happenings of people we don’t care for, or write articles bashing them, but we listen to the gossip, we “like” the snarky tweets posted by girls about “that hoe who tried hitting on my boyfriend”, and we comment on the choices of people we know and don’t know. Daily.  

I too am guilty of this, and if Caroline’s viral story has taught me anything, it’s this basic truth: just because we dislike someone, doesn’t mean we should tear them down. Remember that little saying your mom used to tell you? “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Girl-on-girl hate—any hate—is detrimental to our culture. Instead of ripping each other to shreds, we should be supporting each other.  

Next time we see something we don’t like, stop. Before we jump on the bandwagon, retweet, or comment below the Instagram post, stop. Let’s first consider all the facts, research, and think about how we would feel in their shoes. Get all sides of the story and give people a chance before we comment.

My hope is that next time, we’ll think twice.

Makeup Hair DIY Fashion Movies Lookbook

31 of the most creative Halloween costumes we’ve seen this year

Halloween is the perfect time to show off how clever you are. We love seeing how people take their one opportunity to change themselves, and see how they use it! From dogs dressed up as memes, to a group of friends becoming emojis, this years Halloween did not disappoint. Here are 31 of our favorite Halloween Costumes!

1. The Notorious RBG

This little girl’s parents covered up her wheelchair with this powerful judge’s stand. This costume is truly notorious!

2. Hocus Pocus

The love for Hocus Pocus has put a spell on us this year, and we’re totally game! We love seeing

3. This woman made her costume exclusively out of Halloween Decorations


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Olivia Mears (@avantgeek) on

This woman holds more creativity in her pinky toe than I do in my entire body of work. Her Spider Queen costume is absolutely stunning!

4. This is the only baby shark I want to hear about


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by S H A Y J A D E (@thesavageadventure) on

“Baby Shark” was a song we sang on the bus in 5th grade, why is it a thing now? This baby shark however, can doo, doo, doo all over my heart.

5. Flash the sloth

Yes, he is a sloth and yes his name is flash. It’s only fitting that he would work at the DMV.

6. When you love your pets a little too much

All of our pets are our children and it’s only right that we emulate them.

7. The Incredibles

Shout out to the family for turning the wheelchair into a superpower!

8. The Joker

The make-up and green hair make for a convincingly pretty yet terrifying Joker.

9. Bring It On!


There is no competition with this team on the floor. Brr it’s cold in here!

10. Nothing like a 90’s throwback


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Nailed it @essencetatiana ?

A post shared by @ blackkbombshells on

Janet Jackson & Tupac are iconic for not only their music, but their iconic roles in Poetic Justice. (every one wanted those poetic justice braids).

11. The legend of the headless child.

I always thought it would be the parents who would finally lose their head.

12. The Cutest Delivery Boy

There is nothing better than seeing a meme come to life. Especially when it involves dogs AND pizza.

13. Bratz Doll

These dolls always had style, class and big heads. The make-up? The hair? 12 year old me is LIVING.

14. Phoni Braxton

Only legends pay homage to other legends!

15. Missy Elliott as…Missy Elliott

Imagine being so talented that you have no other choice but to dress as yourself? Just another example of black women blessings.

16. To All The Lara’s I’ve Loved Before

Everyone needs to scroll through this (very long) thread of the the best Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsy impersonators.  They’re very good and you’ll probably start crying again.

17. This amazing makeup look

There are talented make-up artists of color lurking in the shadows! Find them!

18. This adorable loofah

Check out this adorable baby ready for bath time. She’s going to give you clear skin and lots of giggles.

19. This woman trying to bond with her cat.

Unlike dogs, cats do not appreciate the lengths pet owners will go.

20. The dreaded slack notification

The scariestest thing known in existence. There is no escaping it, once you hear that bell, you know.

21. This hitchhiking ghost family


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Welcome, foolish mortals. We hope your Halloween is happily haunted, but heed this warning: beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts! @nph

A post shared by David Burtka (@dbelicious) on

Nothing better than a family full of ghouls!

22. That hilarious Fresh Prince scene

The Fresh Prince has always had iconic moments, but the You are my Sunshine, will always reign surpreme.

23. The Black Panther family

When we said Wakanda Forever, we meant it.

24. Susie Carmichael


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#HappyHalloween ? whatcha being for Halloween?

A post shared by Kiera Please (@kieraplease) on

Be honest, Susie was THAT girl on Rugrats! There is no comparison. Check out the Kiera’s full instagram to see what other characters she has cosplayed. (hint: they’re our favorite 90’s cartoons).

25. When couple costumes don’t work out as planned…

Et tu tomato? Even though the costume didn’t pan out the way they wanted it to, you can’t say that he isn’t dressing the part.

26. This adorable ghost dog

These pictures are not that scary but they are doing their best. This is the best costume so far, I will not argue with you.

27. Scar


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*scar has entered the chat* ??? #halloweekend

A post shared by aliya? (@aliya.will) on

As a child I hated Scar, as an adult I’ve grown to understand him.

28. Baby Serena Williams


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When your mom helps you channel your inner @SerenaWilliams. Photo credit: @__torey__ #halloweencostumes #becauseofthemwecan

A post shared by Because of Them We Can® (@becauseofthem) on

Babies dressed as legends (including one of the greatest athlete this world has ever seen) is my aesthetic.

29. The best couple from the Office

I know Jim and Pam get a lot of love, but Dwangela deserves recongition!

30. The ultimate emoji costume

Get yourself some real friends who will be an emoji with you.

31. Princess Fiona


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Primeras fotos! #heidiklum #tomkaulitz #heidihalloween #halloweenparty #lavonyc #Halloween

A post shared by BillyLatam (@billylatam) on

Now last, but certaintly not least, the Queen of Halloween herself, Heidi Klum as Princess Fiona. Everyone can go home now, she won.