Book Reviews Pop Culture

“Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry” showcases a different side to Black girlhood

My introduction to reading began when I was 15-years-old, reading (mostly One Direction) fanfiction on Wattpad. And in an attempt to keep fueling my addiction to romantic narratives, I then shifted my focus from fanfiction to Young adult and romantic comedy novels. Notably, however, one thing that was apparent in the stories I read (whether fanfiction or otherwise)— the heroines were always white. 

This could have been due to my own lack of knowledge surrounding whatever diversity existed in the rom-com/YA genre, or there just weren’t many protagonists that looked like me or stories that mirrored my own sitting on bookshelves when I was a teenager.

That’s why Joya Goffney’s debut novel titled Excuse me while I ugly cry was a refreshing read for me that fulfilled my long-time affection for love stories (both self and romantic) while also providing me with narratives and characters I could deeply relate to.

Namely, the novel illustrates a compelling coming-of-age story that showcases the hardships Black girls in predominantly white communities often experience. The book does this using Quinn, the story’s protagonist, a high school senior who lives her life perpetually writing lists in her private but not-so-secure journal. 

Due to this last point, an anonymous person(s) steals said journal and threatens to expose the secrets Quinn has housed there. Secrets such as “Things I would never admit out loud” and “Things to do before I graduate.” Consequently, the anonymous blackmailer now has complete ammo to expose Quinn to all who know her in more ways than one.

So on a journey to get her journal back, Quinn must team up with some unlikely allies to discover who in her school has a big enough vendetta against her to sabotage her this way. This quest of sorts takes Quinn on a much-needed journey towards finding her confidence, finding genuine and reliable companionships, learning the importance of advocating for herself, and having the vulnerability to explore life outside of her comfort zone.

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry showcases storylines and characters that examine a side to Black girlhood many people don’t often see. This book transported me back to what it was like to be a young Black girl trying to simultaneously navigate life, dating, and friendships as best she could while living in a predominantly non-Black community.

Like me, Quinn was tasked to do the same. There’s a unique experience that accompanies Black girlhood when you’re one of few Black students in your school, and Joya nails the feelings of isolation, loneliness, of being misunderstood, or even misunderstanding others who also look like you. And Quinn was the perfect, imperfect protagonist to portray those challenges.

Quinn’s financial privilege and tokenism from her white friends mean she must unlearn the internalized racism she’s held throughout her childhood. Quinn must open herself to friendships that are mutual and supportive rather than settling for friends who constantly ‘other’ her due to her Blackness. And Quinn must let go of a fruitless childhood crush and instead allow herself to be loved by someone capable of truly loving her back. 

I appreciate Joya’s decision to have Quinn be romantically involved with a Black partner, one who she doesn’t have to conform parts of herself to be with. It was significant for Quinn’s character arc to disregard whatever preconceived notions she held for Carter and let her guard come down for him. As he understands her plight perhaps more than she even realizes.

In an exclusive interview with The Tempest, Joya Goffney stated how as she got older, she began to read books more critically compared to when she was growing up. Like me, Joya grew to be disappointed in the lack of diversity within the stories she read, so she sought to contribute what was a much-needed change within the YA genre as a writer herself.

In response to Quinn and Carter’s budding romance in the novel, especially given the two of them being some of the few Black kids at their high school, Joya stated during our interview, “At the start of writing this story, I wanted a love story between a Black boy and a Back girl. I hadn’t really seen a lot of [those kinds of love stories in the past]. [And since] so much of the story deals with [Quinn’s] race and the microaggressions that she experiences, it was important that [Carter] was Black so he could relate to [Quinn’s] experiences [attending a predominantly white school].”

Not only do I welcome the diversity within the novel, I deeply appreciate Joya’s examinations of other themes like internalized racism and racial microaggressions that so many young Black kids have to unlearn or learn to fight against.

As a result, many Black girls picking up this book who are familiar with being one of few Black girls in an environment that not only doesn’t look like you but actively reminds you of your otherness will feel seen given many of the themes discussed in the novel. Hopefully, given the love that Quinn finds in herself, her new friendships, and her new significant other, Black girls can know it’s possible to find such loves without compromising themselves or settling for people who don’t put in the work to understand them.

All in all, Porshèa Patterson-Hurst accurately sums up the greatness of Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry for Black Girl’s Create stating, “Joya Goffney has crafted a novel that examines the ways that we learn to protect ourselves as teenagers, the ways we hide all the vulnerabilities we would hate having used against us, by showing the ramifications of this exact event in Quinn’s life.”

In recent years, the YA genre has seen an influx of diverse narratives, and thankfully Excuse me while I ugly cry perfectly adds to the diversity that currently exists in the genre, while also providing readers with an added perspective to marginalized characters readers don’t normally see. For that, I’m so grateful for this novel. 

In our interview together, Joya teased that she has even more stories in the works. In turn, we will all be on the edge of our seats, waiting for whatever new project Joya decides to drop next!

Buy the book from Amazon or The Tempest’s Bookshop supporting local bookstores.

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TV Shows Pop Culture

“Falcon and the Winter Soldier” continues Marvel’s exploration of complex themes in Phase 4

In the highly anticipated finale of Marvel’s newest show, Falcon and the Winter Soldier (FATWS), which aired on Friday and is currently available to stream on Disney plus, audiences watched as Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) became a fully realized Captain America; making him the first Black character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to take on the role. 

Marvel’s new hit mini-series succeeds WandaVision, continuing to portray the aftermath of Thanos’ snap as shown in Infinity War and rectified in End Game. When the show starts, Sam and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) are trying, albeit clumsily, to find their way around a world that’s both different than – and the same – as the one that existed before Thanos. 

Many people who had to survive in the five years after the blip is now displaced and considered refugees, to be extracted from their homes, by big governments. Countries are left to wonder how to effectively accommodate those who were blipped. However, the government’s solutions come at the expense of those who were left behind and subsequently births an antagonistic group called ‘The Flag Smashers’: a group of super-soldiers whose goal was to maintain the version of earth that contained only half of the population.

On the other hand, the same oppressive systems that have long existed before Thanos, such as class inequality, racism, and xenophobia, are back to business as usual now that everyone has returned. So, whereas WandaVision grapples with the effects of grief post-Thanos, Falcon and the Winter Soldier tackles PTSD and anti-Black racism and mainly seeks to answer the question: Is America ready for a Black Captain America?

The show’s exploration of such a complex topic is simultaneously riding news waves like Derek Chauvin’s murder trial and subsequent conviction as well as the recent murder of 20-year-old Daunte Wright and 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant. All of which leaves Marvel with an immense amount of responsibility; not only because they’ve never truly shown a racial reckoning through their characters or storylines, but also because many of us, especially BIPOC communities, are navigating a similar reckoning in our own lives.

Show writer Malcolm Spellman discussed with Black Girl Nerds what it meant for a Black man and superhero to navigate an anti-Black America in the MCU. He says, “That’s why I fought to get the project, to get involved because it just felt like a massive opportunity to have that conversation [about racism] through a narrative that’s big… The second you talk about making a Black man Captain America, there’s no way to hide from it. Marvel never hid from it when it was in the books and there was no way to hide from it on the screen.”

In the six episodes of the series, Marvel sought to illustrate a multi-faceted experience of racial oppression using Sam as a vessel. For example, Sam had to endure micro-aggressions from John Walker (Wyatt Russell), America’s attempt at a replacement Captain America, as well as learn the history of America’s treatment of Black “super soldiers” through the lens of Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly). John Walker’s white arrogance, to put it plainly, thinks of Sam as his lesser or side-kick; despite Sam being the one Steve Rogers left the shield to.

However, Sam is not sure America is ready to see him replace the picturesque blonde hair, blue-eyed Steve, which he’s right to question. His fears are only amplified when he meets Bradley, courtesy of Bucky, who describes the torture and imprisonment he experienced at the hands of the American government for being a Black man with immense power.

And although some of Marvel’s discussions of race or what a post-racial America could look like, were flawed (the show is streaming through Disney after all), I appreciate the show’s writers trying to lead a conversation surrounding race onscreen and at least doing so more effectively than other shows on varying streaming platforms. See— Amazon Prime’s Them and Netflix’s Two Distant Strangers.

[Image description: Snapshot of Sam Wilson from Falcon and the Winter Soldier.] Via USA Today
[Image description: Snapshot of Sam Wilson from Falcon and the Winter Soldier.] Via USA Today
Ultimately, Sam decides to not let the opinions of others keep him from doing what he feels is right and finally assumes the role of Captain America. In the final episode titled, “One world, one people” Sam states “every time I pick [up this shield] I know there are millions of people who are going to hate me for it. Even now… I feel it: the stares, the judgment. And there’s nothing I can do to change it, yet I’m still here.” Which I will say, is a pretty powerful declaration.

Sam even immortalizes Bradley in the same museum that memorializes Steve Rogers, with the hopes that America will never forget what Bradley sacrificed for the first Black Captain America to exist. Luckily, I felt Sam’s character arc in Falcon and the Winter Soldier had a better direction and was handled with more care than Monica Rambeau’s in WandaVision.  

So, with Marvel’s next phases containing more diversity (notably they also announced the development of Captain America 4 after the FATWS finale and Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which contains Marvel’s first Asian-American lead) there is more nuance that must go into their characters, plots, and overall conflicts.

I am optimistic, as it seems Marvel is steadily improving on handling the marginalized characters they add into their Universe, especially the Black characters included amongst predominantly white casts. Additionally, as Marvel continues their exploration of complex themes into phase 4 and beyond, I also hope life will imitate art, and necessary change to accommodate oppressed people will be made a priority for our own communities in a time when we desperately need it.

However, that change cannot come without partial work from seemingly “average” citizens. “The only power I have is to believe we can do better,” Sam states in his final speech to an onlooking crowd of reporters, bystanders, and senators. In his review of FATWS for NPR, Eric Deggans describes Sam’s comment as a “rallying cry” in the midst of many Americans, Black Americans, “putting so much on the line for the belief that America can be made better by the hard work of earnest people.”

It seems fictional America was ready to tackle race and embrace change. Now the question is, is our America ready and willing to do the same? Ultimately, only time will tell, but one thing we do know is tangible change, which could create safer worlds for currently oppressed people, will take more than a Black man in a fancy new suit to really get the job done.

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Hair Lookbook

I chose to go natural after 11 years of relaxing my hair – here’s how it went

For Black women, hair is a huge part of our identity, esteem, and culture. Unfortunately, many of us have grown up relaxing or perming (straightening our hair using chemicals) our hair to hide our natural curl pattern. Relaxers were so common among us because kinky hair has been historically viewed as unkempt, unprofessional, and undesirable. Personally, I began relaxing my hair when I was 8-years-old. After that, I spent the next 11 years chemically straightening my hair, and in turn damaging it repeatedly. When I turned 19, I finally decided to do what Black women call “the big chop” (cutting all the chemically damaged parts of your hair off) and fully go natural. 

The emotional process while chopping off your hair can be tough. Like I said, for Black women, our hair is a tremendous aspect of our self-esteem. Undergoing the big chop feels as though you’re shedding dead weight in an attempt to release the insecurities that led you to continuously straighten your hair to the point of damage.

However, my natural hair journey has not been linear. As perfectly encapsulated by Giselle La Pompe-Moore in her i-D Vice article, “Natural hair journeys are as diverse as the spectrum of afro hair textures experiencing them.” Like many other Black girls, I initially struggled with my confidence while being natural as I had always been insecure about my kinky curls. It was particularly hard to see my hair so short after I spent my whole life having an unhealthy obsession with length. For a while, I would even use protective styles like braids or wigs to hide how short my hair was. And in between styles, I would wear scarves to avoid having to embrace my short length. It took baby steps to gain the confidence I sought in my natural hair.

First, I had to learn how to upkeep my 4c hair texture. 4c hair is very particular in how it grows, how it’s styled, and how it must be managed. So, I had to trial and error (emphasis on the error) my way through finding products that worked best for my hair. Then there’s the detangling process. Honestly, it took me years to learn how to effectively detangle my hair. All of which came with years worth of tears and frustration as well as me trying to refrain from hating my hair all over again; this time, for its difficulty to manage.

Though, once I figured out how to manage my hair, I had to learn to style it. Unsurprisingly, this took another long while before I perfected my signature slicked updo with laid edges. Admittedly, it was the easiest style I could manage learning, so now it’s my signature look when I’m not wearing a protective style. After I found a way to make my hair presentable enough, I would periodically tease showing my natural hair outside of my house. For example, if I was going somewhere I was sure no one I knew would see me, I would test my confidence while wearing my natural hair out of a protective style or scarf.

However, three years since embarking on this hair journey, I’m in love with my 4c hair texture and kinky edges more every day. Going natural taught me how to be truly confident, for being natural allowed me to work towards loving myself in ways I never could before. It forced me to get to know a version of myself I hadn’t even seen since I was a child. Regardless of difficulties along the way, I began to find comfort in my nonlinear road to self-acceptance and love because I thoroughly liked the person I was getting to know. 

In addition, many Black women seem to be undergoing the same journey of acceptance. Thanks to social media and Black female influencers who started the hair love movement, Black women everywhere are embracing their natural hair texture. In fact, a short film titled, “Hair Love” won an Oscar last year due to social media’s strong support of the project, which has been further impactful to the movement.

To any Black girl reading who is thinking of going natural, despite how it may seem on social media, the process is not easy, but it is worth it. It’s likely you won’t immediately fall in love with your kinks, and it’s likely you may even feel self-conscious for a while. However, there’s so much power in our natural hair as well as the way our hair connects us to our identity and lineage. We should’ve never been made to feel insecure about the hair that grows naturally from our scalp in the first place. Simply being natural feels like you’re a living act of resistance. A resistance that firmly rejects Euro-centric beauty standards pushed onto Black women and allows us to reclaim our confidence on our own terms.

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Book Reviews Pop Culture

“Act your age, Eve Brown” by Talia Hibbert charmingly concludes the Brown Sister Book Series

Act your age, Eve Brown is Talia Hibbert’s latest novel and final installment of her Brown Sister Book Trilogy that satisfyingly concludes Eve’s, the youngest Brown sister, self-fulfillment arc. 

Talia Hibbert is a Black woman author from the United Kingdom who writes romance novels involving marginalized identities. Specifically, Hibbert’s critically acclaimed, Brown Sister Book Series follows three sisters—Chloe, Danika, and Eve Brown as they find love in unconventional places.

Following in the footsteps of her older sisters, it’s 26-year-old Eve Brown’s turn at finding romance. However, Eve is a described hot mess. She’s perceived by others, namely her parents, to be flaky, inconsistent, unmotivated, and all too juvenile for a woman her age. What’s worse, Eve is abruptly kicked out and financially cut off by her parents with the hopes that Eve’s newfound independence can gain her some maturity. 

In turn, Eve becomes determined to counter her parent’s underestimation of her.

Luckily, Eve stumbles upon a quaint bed-and-breakfast, looking to hire a new chef. Eve believes she has enough wit to charm her way into the position despite her lacking resume. However, Jacob Wayne, perpetual grouch, perfectionist, and owner of said quaint B&B is alternatively convinced Eve doesn’t meet the standards of Castell Cottage by a long shot.

Until Eve “accidentally” hits him with her car. 

To rectify her parent’s disappointment, her own self-doubt, and the fact that she’s left Jacob with many injuries, Eve takes over as Castell’s newest chef and finds helping people might just be her calling. Over time, Jacob’s cold exterior comes down, due in part to Eve’s natural charisma and impressive hospitality skills. The two then become complementary work and life partners who value each other’s quirks and lovingly reassure each other’s cynicism. 

Readers of Act your age, Eve Brown who are familiar with Chloe and Dani’s story will find the heart-warming storylines, comical banter, steamy romance scenes, and utterly lovable heroine and hero in this book akin to the first two Brown Sister novels. 

New readers, on the other hand, will be struck with a satisfying warmth after finishing the book, desperately searching for more content from Hibbert. So this is your sign to go purchase the entire book series if you haven’t already. However, Act your age works perfectly fine as a standalone novel as well, for this book contains similar enough themes to books one and two. So, purchasing all the books is not entirely necessary unless preferred.

Act your age, Eve Brown also provides beloved classic romantic-comedy tropes such as ‘enemies-to-lovers,’ while also bringing some (always) welcomed additions to the genre such as representation for marginalized communities. Eve is a plus-sized Black woman who also later finds she exists somewhere on the autistic spectrum like Jacob. Hibbert is an expert at balancing the reality of her character’s intersecting identities guiding their personal perspectives while also not having those identities dominate the plot.

Notably, Hibbert also doesn’t reduce Eve’s identities to the struggle narrative that often accompanies Black female characters in the romance genre. Rather, like many of Hibbert’s Black female heroines, Eve’s relationship with Jacob is an addition to her character arc involving discoveries toward independence and confidence.

As for Jacob, his autism, similarly, does not force him to settle for less-than-deserving romantic prospects as is sometimes the false perception for disabled people interested in dating. Together, he and Eve are able to explore healthy boundaries and communication and become self-actualized individuals perfectly fit for each other (even if they began as enemies).

Overall, to no surprise, Act your age, Eve Brown met the expectations I’ve grown to expect from Hibbert and the Brown Sister Book Series. Act your age has passion, heart, humor, and entertaining inner monologues that can keep pace with the addictive banter-filled dialogue between characters.

Hibbert has quickly grown to be one of my favorite authors. I began reading the Brown sister’s stories last year, starting with Chloe Brown. Afterward, I became addicted to Hibbert’s writing style and was elated to discover Dani and Eve’s stories would soon follow. What I believe sets the Brown Sister Series apart from other rom-coms is they are genuinely funny while also capable of exploring sensitive themes with the care they deserve.

The identities or marginalizations of the characters in Hibbert’s novels are never treated as a punchline. At the same time, Hibbert doesn’t shy away from portraying themes like abusive partner relationships, relationship PTSD, and domestic violence through her characters with nuance. The ‘Brown Sister Universe’ isn’t entirely made up of perfect individuals. Rather, the Brown sisters as well as their partners and their families are real and come with “baggage,” fears, and insecurities as we all do.

In her stories, Hibbert illustrates how “imperfect” people, deemed unworthy in a racist, patriarchal, classist, and ableist society, are still deserving of love. In doing so, this has made her novels such a valuable addition to the publishing world.

For me, throughout this amazing book series, I’ve gotten to reimagine realities in which Black women can be loved unconditionally. An aspect of reading these novels that will always remain special to me. Likewise, through the Brown sisters, their respective partners, and other surrounding characters, readers can look into the lives of diverse people and see aspects of themselves properly represented in romance

Buy the book on Amazon, or from The Tempest’s Bookshop supporting local bookstores.

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Family Life

Black parents too often disguise abuse as discipline

Every so often on social media, conversations arise comparing Black parenting styles to white ones, and I’ve noticed an unsettling pattern. It seems what Black people tend to associate with Black parenting styles is negative or downright abusive characteristics: disregarding their children’s boundaries, corporal punishment, and humiliation. Conversely, Black people often associate white parenting styles with kind forms of nurturing: effectively listening to their children, being understanding, offering empathy, and respecting their children’s boundaries. 

However, as accurately stated in an article for BBC, “Many black parents identify the refusal to spank as “white,” viewing white parents as too permissive and not in proper control of their children, especially in public spaces.” Notably, a few years back, it was even a common occurrence to see Black parents publicly humiliating their children as a form of discipline for all of social media to see.

In fact, statistics prove Black parents do tend to be considerably harsher with punishing their children, and there is some historical context to be explored as to why. Black parenting methods are a reflection of the harm and abuse we experienced during slavery. In turn, Black parents often discipline their kids in similar ways plantation owners abused enslaved people.

The use of corporal punishment on children is not reflective of pre-colonial West African practices; rather, it is a demonstration of religious European beliefs that people are born innately sinful. So, parents felt they had to beat the sin out of children

Now, however, Black parents strongly believe beating children into behavioral correction can save them from the dangers Black kids are likely to face outside of their homes. Even though, the idea that you can beat a human being into submission or into performing good behavior directly correlates with the institutional practices of slavery.

Correspondingly, America’s refusal to directly address the harm slavery has had on the Black community causes Black people to continue internalizing trauma without any healthy outlet to properly heal. This cycle of unchecked trauma, which is now arguably an inherent aspect of Blackness stemming from slavery, ultimately comes at the expense of Black children. 

The idea that spanking can effectively correct children’s behavior is not supported by facts or statistical evidence. Consequently, the practice of spanking in the Black community is continued for two reasons: firstly, I suspect the use of corporal punishment on Black kids provides Black parents a feeling of superiority or control they don’t have outside of their household.

Secondly, Black parents are trying and failing to save or prepare their kids from the repercussions of living in a racist society. This notion is seemingly well-intentioned. However, it normalizes abuse as a form of love, furthering the cycle of trauma in a manner more subdue. 

Racism partly thrives off convincing Black parents to forcefully get Black kids to conform to white supremacy. This is supported in a newsletter article for the American Psychological Association (APA). Dr. Stacey Patton examines how racial trauma has influenced Black parent’s use of corporal punishment. The article explains how the American slave trade purposefully targeted African youth.

As a result, kids that grew up in enslavement became adults and “were under tremendous pressure to shape their [own] children into docile field workers and to teach them proper deference and demeanor in front of whites,” Patton states. So are born familiar phrases like “this hurts me more than it hurts you:” a phrase commonly used by Black parents to justify their perpetuation (whether intentional or not) of abuse. 

Dr. Patton also wrote a compelling article for the New York Times detailing her own experience with the negative effects of corporal punishment. Because of the abuse she endured, Dr. Patton ran away at 12-years-old, ending up in foster care. As an adult, she came to realize the direct harm beatings had on her as a child and had to spend part of her adulthood unpacking her trauma in therapy.

Henceforth, the current generation of Black youth must break cyclical family trauma for the sake of our own kids and our kid’s kids. With modern studies coupled with the ability to have nuanced, cultural conversations on social media, we can now understand that spankings and humiliation tactics have been historically harmful to Black children.

Black trauma is cyclical. Therefore, going forward, the way we as a community can remedy those toxic perceptions of Black parenting is by recognizing the trauma of our past and present, regarding both our lineage and personal childhood experience.

We must be the generation of parents that recognize beating Black kids into good behavior benefits no one. It’s on us to change the narrative surrounding Black parenting to be something universally positive and leave this cycle of trauma in the past. To ensure future generations of Black kids can have a healthy and nurturing development as all children deserve.

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Why beauty influencers are creating empires beyond the makeup industry

It’s no secret beauty influencers on Youtube, Instagram and now Tik Tok has changed the landscape of beauty culture entirely. Countless influencers have garnered millions of followers and subscribers on social media platforms throughout the years, forcing beauty brands to pay attention to the ever-changing dynamic and profitable market these influencers provide. Due to their platform sizes across social media, many influencers have collaborated with beauty brands or participated in highly anticipated beauty campaigns. Some beauty gurus have even created their own successful makeup companies.

However, in recent years, beauty influencers seem to be slowly moving beyond makeup to create business empires of their own. To name a few, Jackie Aina has started a luxury candle company named Forvr Mood that also sells other wellness-related items like silk pillowcases and headbands; Molly Mae has created a company called Filter by Molly-Mae, selling tanning related products; Dezi Perkins launched her own sunglasses company called DEZI, after her many successful launches with Quay. 

Beauty influencers are smart to break into other markets. I believe they are paying close attention to the shift in popularity from the public regarding makeup-related content. With YouTube and Instagram algorithms that are constantly changing as well as some drama within the beauty community in recent years, makeup content is becoming harder to gain visibility. Instead, beauty gurus are finding other markets outside of makeup that makes just as much sense for their personal brand. 

Previously, there has been a misconception surrounding the rise of beauty influencers, and in turn, the rise of influencer brands, that influencers are “wannabe entrepreneurs.” In reality, influencer culture and their brands have been the backbone of social media marketing for years. Brands like Morphe, Sigma, and Makeup Geek were either started by influencers or worked with influencers from the beginning of social media’s growth. Beauty influencers have always had a strong grasp on the beauty market, and they have long known the success of entrepreneurship perhaps better than anyone. 

In a 2019 Forbes article discussing how influencers are changing the beauty market, Dina Gerdeman writes, “This shift is challenging for many longtime players in the beauty market, prompting some legacy companies to trade vamping models for online tutorials featuring more “regular people” as they struggle to play catchup with cutting-edge brands that partnered with influencers much earlier in the game.”

The sentiment that social media influencers aren’t effective entrepreneurs is false. In fact, I suspect that idea may be attributed to beauty influencers mostly not being cis-straight white men. “OG influencers,” who were all women, had a keen understanding of social media marketing. In turn, established beauty brands, that have been around for decades, had to learn to compete with the rise of influencers and adapt to a new market or risk getting left behind.

Now, beauty influencers are beginning to look onward towards other lucrative markets that could give them even longer-lasting success. Products like luxury candles, tanning products, high-end sunglasses at an affordable price, and even Emma Chamberlain’s coffee company are golden ideas. All of these women built brands around their respective personas and interests, so their audience will undoubtedly support their business endeavors. In addition, because the aforementioned products are used universally (compared to makeup which is more niche), they have also expanded their consumer base beyond their social media followers.

It’s time we give beauty influencers much deserved credit for their business savvy. Influencer culture allowed more non-traditional faces to have a real shot at entrepreneurial success. And it’s about time. The landscape of beauty guru’s impact continues to grow beyond what anyone could have expected over a decade ago. Not only have they become a force to be reckoned with regarding the makeup industry, now they’re setting their sites on dominating all the industries they can.

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Editor's Picks Celebrities Europe Race The World

Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah reminds us not to romanticize the British Monarch

Since the beginning of their marriage in May of 2018, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have grown familiar with the grief accompanying their involvement with the British Monarch. They have been on the receiving end of racist media coverage and a part of an ever-growing conflict with the Crown.  

Now, almost three years later, Meghan and Harry’s discord with the Institution has come to a head. On Sunday night, the pair took control over their narrative in a private, sit-down interview with Oprah. In the emotional interview, Meghan Markle candidly illustrated the maltreatment she endured as a working royal within the monarchy, setting social media into a frenzy. 

[Image description: photo captured from Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.] Via
[Image description: photo captured from Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.] Via
Firstly, Meghan shared her struggles with getting help for suicide ideation from the Royal institution stating, “I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help… and I was told that I couldn’t [because] it wouldn’t be good for the institution.”

Meghan disclosing her mental health issues to an institution that was supposed to protect her but was prevented from doing so serves as a reminder: all-too-often Black women are expected to be strong or endure abuse for the comfort or protection of others. Social media quickly noted the hindsight surrounding the Crown’s unwillingness to offer protection to a Black woman they deemed unworthy of assimilation into the monarch, solely based on her personhood.

Additionally, Meghan and Oprah discussed a popular tabloid story published by the Daily Mail that circulated six months after Meghan and Harry’s wedding. The story covered a scandal claiming Meghan made Kate Middleton cry days leading up to the wedding due to a disagreement over flower girl dresses. 

Meghan revealed in the interview, however, it was Kate who made her cry.

Following the incident, Meghan said Kate apologized and brought flowers and a note to heal the rift. However, this story would then expose Meghan to the inner workings of the racist tabloid press and the extent UK media would go to publicly villainize a Black woman.

[Image description: photo captured from Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan Markle.] Via
[Image description: photo captured from Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Meghan Markle.] Via
In fact, the British tabloids are infamous for racism, bigotry, and bullying; something which they vehemently deny. In recent years, UK tabloids have written offensive and discriminatory stories covering Brexit, the refugee crisis, and immigration. Meghan Markle has only been the latest target within a media storm as the British press profit from writing racist stories on the former Duchess. 

Notably, one of the more major disclosures made by Meghan in the interview, and later affirmed by Harry, is how an unnamed member of the Royal Family raised concerns about how dark the complexion of their son Archie’s skin might be while Meghan was pregnant. 

Oprah’s shocked reaction after hearing this revelation mirrored many viewers’ own disturbance upon learning the extent of the Crown’s racism. The comments made toward Meghan’s son were abhorrently racist and highlight the long existed presence of anti-Black racism the British Monarch often perpetuates. 

All of this considered, Megan’s experience of enduring racism and misogynoir within the ranks of the establishment and the press should serve as a reminder of Britain’s violent racism and oppressive colonialism. More specifically, the crown’s history is quite literally intertwined with slavery and the colonization of African and Caribbean nations.

Slave-trading initiatives were endorsed by the British monarchy starting in the 1500s. Throughout the following centuries, Britain profited from slave-trading out of West Africa, at times even supplying enslaved individuals for the United States, with the Crown’s financial and political support. At one point, Britain even ruled almost 30 percent of Africa. African countries like Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda were under British rule as early as the start of the twentieth century. And many of the aforementioned nations are still navigating the negative impact of colonization

In recent years, there has been a slew of television series depicting royal life on screen from Netflix’s hit shows Bridgerton and The Crown to Hulu’s The Great. Shows like Bridgerton have been accused by critics of romanticizing the British Monarch, perpetuating colorism, and erasing the legacy of slavery in the process. 

There have been similarities drawn between Meghan’s mistreatment by the Crown to Harry’s mother, Princess Diana. The eerie parallels, if nothing else, prove The Royal Family has not learned from history, nor will they change. Rather, the Crown continues to bully those with less power. So, we must remember not to romanticize the seeming and intentional glamour of royal society. 

As Kathleen Newman-Bremang accurately states in an article for Refinery29, “An institution built on colonialism and racism that publicly prides itself on decency and decorum not only thrives on their bigotry being wielded in secret —  it depends on it.” Instead, we must engage with the British monarch as they are: an imperialist institution with a detailed history of anti-Black violence.

On the other hand, many on social media have critiqued Meghan for her willingness to marry into such a corrupt institution. Therefore, online critics claim she is liable for the suffering she endured at the hands of the Crown.  

However, we can acknowledge Meghan’s consent to marry into a colonialist institution complicit in the oppression of marginalized people. We can additionally acknowledge the colorism, featurism, and texturism which allowed Meghan such proximity to the monarch, while it was racism that sought to root her out. All while also empathizing with the anti-Blackness she endured from the institution and support her and Harry’s willingness to learn the ways they can improve going forward. 

Meghan and Harry’s interview with Oprah was a necessary one in revealing how far the Palace will go to protect white members of the royal family. Subsequently, allowing Meghan, a Black woman, to be appallingly villainized in the process. 

Harry confessed he feared history would be repeating itself if he didn’t take action to protect his family. As the public, we must continue our efforts to protect and advocate for Black people and the most oppressed among us. 

The empire the royal family benefits from at the expense of Black lives must continuously be held liable for the ongoing destruction it has caused— even long after Meghan and Harry’s exit.


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TV Shows Pop Culture

What “WandaVision” gets right about navigating grief

Warning: spoilers ahead!

Disney Plus’ newest Marvel series WandaVision, which continues the storyline of phase: 4 within the MCU, has been unanimously praised by critics and fans alike. The show aired on January 15 with two episodes initially available for viewing, then releasing a new episode every Friday thereafter. 

The show’s departure from traditional formats of streaming, wherein streaming platforms drop an entire show’s season for viewing, has erupted a frenzy of discourse week after week of fan theories, memes, and reactions. 

One particular and rather important aspect of the show, that has continued to leave viewers in awe, is how accurately and carefully the show handles their heroine, Wanda Maximoff’s (Elizabeth Olsen), grief

Upon witnessing Wanda’s new reality after combatting Thanos alongside The Avengers in Infinity War and Endgame and subsequently losing her lover, The Vision (Paul Bettany), viewers are surprised to see Vision quite alive, living with Wanda in a 1950’s setting, filtered in black and white. The show is contexted as beloved American sitcoms such as I Love Lucy and Modern Family, changing to a new popular sitcom within a future decade after each new episode.

Eventually, fans uncover the mystery behind the peculiar environment of Wanda’s new reality: it’s self-induced. In a fit of grief, Wanda accidentally created WandaVision, a fake show that portrays Wanda’s make-believe and ideal life with Vision inside of an energy shield located in a town called West View. WandaVision illustrates a life that is quaint, quirky, and peaceful despite the episodic antics Wanda must navigate. A life where she and Vision can live together, get married, and have children. 

However, in creating this hex, Wanda is also subsequently holding the very real town of West View, which contains around 3,000 residents, hostage.

For Wanda, sitcoms represent time with her family, happiness, and youth. So, in a way to grieve all that she’s lost (a sense of normalcy after Thano’s snap, Vision, her brother Pietro, and her parents), Wanda designed a world in which no one can ever get seriously hurt nor hurt her. Interestingly, creating fantasies/daydreaming is a common coping mechanism for many people suffering from grief, depression, or other mental illnesses. 

“Daydreaming can be an indication that someone is suffering from concentration difficulty, which is seen in many mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,” Lauren Cook, a therapist, and author based in San Diego told Healthline.

Correspondingly, Laura Donney, a writer for WandaVision, wrote in a tweet regarding Wanda’s grieving process in the show saying, “It was paramount to the writers of #WandaVison to not just look at where Wanda has been but to spend time with her there. To give space and voice to her grief, to her loss.”

[Image description: Photo of Wanda and Vision from the show "WandaVision."] Via
[Image description: Photo of Wanda and Vision from the show “WandaVision.”] Via
There is so much the writers of WandaVision get right about navigating grief. Firstly, the series showcases Wanda’s grief process in stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance; coupled with a few instances of PTSD. For example, Wanda tends to initially feel anger whenever her brother or Vision’s death is mentioned by another character without her consent. 

As a result, Wanda tends to deny the reality of her loved one’s death by lashing out or literally shutting people out of her fantasy sequence. In addition, to convey the scope of her depression in episode seven titled, “Breaking the Fourth Wall,” Wanda is not presented in her usually stylish hair, makeup, and wardrobe how viewers grew accustomed to seeing her. 

Instead, Wanda struggles to get out of bed. Her appearance is messy. She’s ambivalent about Vision’s absence. She even expresses to her two kids, “I’m starting to believe that everything is meaningless.”

WandaVision also explores the non-linear aspect of healing. Years after the death of her parents and brother, the weight of their absence still leaves Wanda feeling alone. In the eighth episode titled, “Previously On,” viewers look into a flashback of Wanda sitting in her bedroom in the Avenger’s compound, explaining this “wave [of depression] washing over [her] again and again” to an inquisitive Vision as he wonders how well she is coping after the loss of her brother.

What I’m most fond of surrounding how Wanda is allowed to grieve, is that her grief manifests in a way that’s complicated and messy; notably, without her grief becoming a punchline like Thor’s weight gain in Endgame. Wanda is very clearly coping through her grief in ways that disrupt the lives of others, an aspect of grief that can unintentionally happen. 

[Image description: Photo of Wanda and Vision from the show "WandaVision."] Via
[Image description: Photo of Wanda and Vision from the show “WandaVision.”] Via
However, the show notes that even though people who are grieving may not handle their pain perfectly, they are still deserving of empathy. For example, Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), a new character introduced within the MCU, is shown to have permanently lost her mother, Maria “Photon” Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) to cancer during “the snap.” 

Because of this, Monica is able to empathize with Wanda’s grief. Monica doesn’t get deterred by Wanda’s attempts to push her away; rather, she understands that sometimes people who are suffering will reject valuable help as a form of self-sabotage. In turn, Monica continues to offer Wanda the aid she needs to heal, which is simply – a friend who cares.

I also enjoy the show’s choice to release episodes every week. Not letting fans binge the storyline all at once has also allowed for watchers to digest Wanda’s grief in increments. This format additionally allows fans to discuss WandaVision on social media, forming a digital community as they assess the show week after week. 

Apart from being a Marvel fan, WandaVision is one of my favorite shows at the moment and quite possibly of all time. Much of the show’s charm lies in its creative storytelling, which differs from Marvel’s usual long movie format. Olsen’s range as an actress is also well utilized to encapsulate the range of Wanda’s grief.

Overall, WandaVision accurately portrays grief as a messy, complicated, and non-linear range of emotions; humanizing even the most powerful sorceress. Notably, many people are feeling the continuous weight of grief, fatigue, and loss of their own because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Therefore, viewers can watch WandaVision not only for its continuation of Marvel’s larger plotline but for the way the show accurately mirrors the complexity of grief during a time when many of us have lost so much. Thus, audiences can connect with the storyline in a meaningful way and hopefully take away some constructive lessons of healing for themselves.

For as Vision perfectly deduces, “What is grief if not love persevering?” A new – even if new for some – sentiment and perspective on grief I hope people hold onto, long after the end of this amazing show.

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Movie Reviews Pop Culture

“Judas and the Black Messiah” made me want to learn about Fred Hampton’s ideology

For stories of Black history and excellence, check out our Black History Month series. Celebrate with us by sharing your favorite articles on social media and uplifting the stories, lives, and work of Black people.

In preparation for this review, I watched a series of interviews and videos on Youtube, read a few articles, and watched a documentary on Fred Hampton titled The Murder of Fred Hampton to get a sense of the man and partial subject behind Judas and the Black Messiah, directed by Shaka King.

For those not familiar with the story of Fred Hampton, he came to prominence in Chicago as chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP), and deputy chairman of the national BPP. Hampton dedicated his efforts towards activism within his community and preachings surrounding anti-capitalist ideals, socialism, and Marxism.

However, the movie mostly centers on the efforts of the FBI informant William (Bill) O’Neal, played by LaKeith Stanfield, as he recounts his time with Hampton in an interview, mirroring a real interview O’Neal participated in for a 1990 docuseries titled Eyes on the Prize II.

In the sixties, prior to his time with Fred Hampton, William O’Neal had a history of criminal activity, involving car thefts, home invasions, kidnapping, and torture. At just 17-years-old, O’Neal was approached by Roy Martin Mitchell, an FBI agent, who made a deal with O’Neal to infiltrate into the BPP in exchange for having a felony charge related to a car theft dropped.

As the film depicts events, O’Neal is a carjacker whose process of stealing consisted of pretending to be an FBI agent to scare victims into handing over their vehicles to “law enforcement.” When O’Neal is eventually caught, arrested, and interrogated by Chicago officer Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons), he is confronted with a potential 5-7 years in prison for impersonating a police officer and attempted theft. 

However, officer Mitchell offers O’Neal a deal. To avoid jail time, O’Neal must collaborate with the FBI and Chicago Police Department by infiltrating the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party to spy on Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) within close proximity.

The film details how O’Neal grew close to Hampton and climbed through the ranks of his security as Hampton united organizations across Chicago to form the Rainbow Coalition. A real effort and movement Hampton set to accomplish in 1969, uniting the Panthers, the Young Lords, and the Young Patriots. Eventually, as most people know, O’Neal’s efforts then lead to the murder of Fred Hampton at the hands of law enforcement on December 4, 1969, at the young age of 21-years-old.

Daniel Kaluuya’s performance in Judas was outstanding. So much so, that for an A-list actor, I forgot I was watching Kaluuya many times throughout the movie because of how effectively he embodied Hampton’s speech and overall charisma. I even found myself wanting to see more of Kaluuya onscreen as well as more intimate moments of Hampton’s personal life like his budding romance with Deborah Johnson, played by Dominque Fishback.

Lakeith Stanfield also gives an Oscar-worthy performance as O’Neal. However, Judas portrayed O’Neal through a sympathetic lens, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that. In the actual and only interview that O’Neal gave he stated, “I felt like I was working undercover for the FBI doing something good for the finest police organization in America. And so I was pretty proud.” 

[Image description: photo of characters from the movie "Judas and the Black Messiah."] Via btlwnews,com
[Image description: photo of characters from the movie “Judas and the Black Messiah.”] Via
Although, as Nick Pope explains in an article for Esquire, “It’s hard to know what O’Neal truly thought about the party’s ambitions and actions, and many have suggested that he was ultimately overcome by guilt.” This is fair enough since none of us will ever know if William O’Neal ever truly regretted his involvement in Hampton’s murder; making him at least a little worthy of sympathy from history’s perspective of the events that transpired.

I’m not sure how much of the film is historically accurate, either. Was O’Neal as regretful as the film suggests? Was Hampton as trusting of O’Neal as the film suggests? Did O’Neal respect the Black Panthers and individuals he simultaneously was spying on as much as the film suggests? I know the answers to some of these questions, but after watching Judas there is so much more about Fred Hampton’s legacy that I want to know.

[Image description: Photo of characters from the movie "Judas and the Black Messiah."] Via
[Image description: Photo of characters from the movie “Judas and the Black Messiah.”] Via
In turn, I realized after watching the film, the minor research I conducted for the sake of this review wasn’t enough to truly capture the legacy of Fred Hampton, nor the tragedy of both Hampton’s murder and O’Neal’s cooperation with law enforcement that led to Hampton’s murder. Notably, in the evening right after the documentary Eyes on the Prize II released, O’Neal committed suicide by walking into oncoming traffic on a Chicago highway.

In her review of Judas and the Black Messiah for Vulture, Angelica Jade Bastién writes, “In the years since Hampton’s death, pop culture has mined the Black Panthers for their posture and aesthetic”, rather than the progressive, socialist politics the organization truly stood for. All of which, is true.

It’s important to remember while engaging in pop culture’s portrayals of radical Black movements, to go beyond Hollywood’s depiction of said movements if you want to learn more. That’s how you honor the legacy of those who dedicated their lives to stand up for something greater than themselves.

There’s so much more to Black history, Black legacies, and even Black people than Hollywood’s portrayal of us. For the sake of capturing history in around two hours, so many important details get left out of a story. Details that may not be relevant to the plot of a movie, but rather humanize actual individuals who had a life outside being a “revolutionary.”

Overall, the film is wonderfully made. Wonderfully directed, produced, written, acted. Wonderful musical score and editing. At the same time, in the words of Fred Hampton, “Racism is a by-product of capitalism.” Movies like Judas and the Black Messiah are by nature capitalistic portrayals of revolutionary politics that should, if nothing else, encourage viewers to engage with the teachings of their movie subjects beyond simply watching a film.

Fred Hampton understood the importance of education before engaging in nuanced politics, political theory, and individuals. Ultimately, Judas and the Black Messiah prompted me to learn more about Fred Hampton’s legacy, ideology, and politics within the Black Panther Party, Chicago, and beyond.

Donate and share Fred Hampton Jr.’s (Fred Hampton’s son) Gofundme to preserve the Hampton house:

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Gender & Identity Life

Intersectional feminism provided me a sense of community

Intersectional feminism has been a consistent and reliable source of community for me throughout my young-adulthood. Notably, it’s a community I’m eternally grateful to have found. This space has taught me so many important lessons about myself when I was struggling with my identity and mental health. The inherent community within intersectional feminism helped me learn to support myself as much as I should support others.

In the Fall of 2017, during my sophomore year of undergrad, I began struggling with undiagnosed depression and anxiety. At the time, I was going to school three hours away from home. Despite being at my university for three semesters, the campus and town still felt unfamiliar to me, which constantly clouded me in anxiety and discomfort. As my mental health worsened throughout the semester, it became hard for me to focus on any school or work responsibilities.

In fact, I often skipped class or called into work because it became increasingly hard to get out of bed most days. Ultimately, I had to make a critical choice that could save me from irreversible harm. So, I decided to move back home, transfer universities, and change my major.

The inherent community within intersectional feminism helped me learn to support myself as much as I should support others.

By Spring 2018, I essentially felt as though I was starting over. This felt like my second chance to “do college.” At the time, I was 20-years-old. I had a better understanding of my mental health; I knew where my passions lied; I had gained some of my dedication back. However, I knew I had some internal work to do in order to get where I needed to be regarding better health. 

Luckily, later that year I took my first women’s studies class in the Fall of 2018. I’m the kind of person who used my elective classes to explore new things as a way to satisfy my natural curiosity. The class was called “Feminist research methodologies” which explored a feminist approach to conducting research, compared to other traditional, sometimes exploitative forms of research. The class consisted of only women (which I initially thought was a shame but turned out to be a blessing) of all different ages, backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. 

Despite our differences in identity, during class discussions, everyone listened and empathized with one another. Every woman there, including my professor, was respectful of each other and offered outstanding support when other women in the class needed it. In turn, the professor as well as my classmates created such a warm, welcoming environment for me to feel comfortable; something I, and probably many other people with anxiety, never felt while being in a large classroom. 

Our feminist class was in itself an illustration of intersectional feminism, for our differences were how we connected with and listened to each other.

Our feminist class was in itself an illustration of intersectional feminism, for our differences were how we connected with and listened to each other. Intersectional feminism emphasizes the importance of acknowledging the way our marginalized identities intersect. The women in my class displayed so much solidarity and unrelenting support for every other woman there. We shared our daily struggles, societal struggles, what we were grateful for, and how we can begin implementing necessary change to create safer spaces for other communities. They taught me what being a feminist was truly about: unabashedly showing up for others. 

Interestingly, many of the girls from that class still show me support in my endeavors. I was ultimately inspired to pursue writing to spread many of the positive ideas I learned from the women in my class. Since taking this class, I’ve been a feminist who strives to uplift and advocates for myself and others the way my former classmates did, and still does, for me.

Intersectional feminism taught me how to be a necessary ally for myself as well as for others outside of my immediate community. This community has provided me a safe space to grow into an adult that is more confident, more self-aware, and more educated about the world outside of myself. So, in turn, I can provide a meaningful sense of community to those who need it too.

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Feel-Good Love + Sex Love

Valentine’s, Galentine’s or Palentine’s? Our editorial team spills it!

Valentine’s Day is coming up – lovebirds and palentines – follow along with our Vday series right here

You can always feel the air around you changing as the world dresses itself up in red and the internet is dolled up in hearts, affirmations and words of love and promise. It’s that time of the year again: Valentine’s Day.

There’s something about Vday season that makes you want to share and revel in all the love around you. It may be a simple gesture of sending a box of chocolates to your best friend, treating yourself to a much needed day of self-care, or cuddling up with your boo, but the holiday is here in all its shining red glory.

Heart shaped chocolates and balloons, flowers galore, cheesy cards and sappy rom coms are the mood of this season.

We hope you’re shining, no matter what your plans may be!

So to share our celebrations with you, our editorial team has given you a glimpse into their Valentine’s Day plans:

It has become sort of a tradition for me and my boyfriend to spend Valentine’s Day apart, as it usually fell during our university’s Reading Week, and therefore one of the few times where both of us could go home and spend time with our families. There is no university holidays keeping us apart this year, but he’s still over 3,000 miles away and the UK is on lockdown anyway. My plans include Zoom Scrabble, long hours in front of the computer, chocolates and rewatching Valentine’s Day for the 10000th time. And who knows, maybe I’ll receive a hand-made present by mail.

Bea, Senior Editor of Pop Culture

2021 is the first year in two years that I will be single for Valentines Day, though I am kind of glad about it! I always spent the holiday longingly watching my friends from a distance celebrate together in perfect “galentines” fashion via champagne, chocolate, bundles of flowers, and our favorite movies – while my ex and I acted as if it was any other day: Fast food and video games. I am a hopeless romantic, so this reality definitely gutted me. This year I plan on spending the day with my roommates laughing, singing, dancing, and loving!

Vanessa, Senior Editor of The World

This is the very first Valentine’s Day I’ll be celebrating with my husband. Although we won’t be able to do the typical romantic things we had envisaged – a weekend getaway, candlelight dinner, going to the movies – due to national lockdown here in the UK, we’re grateful that we can celebrate this day together after months of being apart. We’ll go for a walk in the morning around our nearby park, order a Domino’s pizza and watch our favorite sitcoms. I’m pretty sure we’ll rewatch Friday Night Dinner, Friends, and Brooklyn 99 throughout the day!

Rebecca, Junior Editor of Lookbook and Weddings

This will actually be my first Valentine’s, since I was a teenager, that I’ll be spending at home (courtesy of the pandemic). So that leaves me celebrating a mini Gal-entines with my mom. While other people might find that a bore, my mother is the person who taught me—in the wise words of Parks and Recreation—to treat yo’ self. For us, that means we’re picking up some pink balloons for house decoration. Then we’re going to go to our local patisserie and get either a cake or some pastries. And, let’s be real, we’ll probably end up watching Pride and Prejudice or Notting Hill. After all, who needs love when you have cake, balloons, Mr. Darcy and Hugh Grant?

Helena, Junior Editor of Now + Beyond

My boyfriend and I have been together for about four and a half years now, but his birthday falls on the 13th! So we’ve had to find creative ways for him to have a special birthday, then turn around and do something romantic for both of us the next day. Living together during the pandemic has made that extra challenging, since we can’t go out anywhere and it’s nearly impossible to buy a gift or plan a surprise without the other one finding out. Last year we went to a pinball arcade and had an amazing dinner at our favorite restaurant, but this year we’ll probably get curbside pickup (from the same place we went to last year) and create a romantic night in!

Megan, Senior Editor of History

I am pretty sure that I have been single for as long as I can remember… Nonetheless, I still think that Valentine’s Day is a super cute holiday! I like the idea of a day that focuses on spreading love, giving love, and receiving love. It also serves as the perfect opportunity to watch a rom-com, drink some wine if I am in the mood, and eat desserts. Last year around Valentine’s Day, I watched To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You with my friend while drinking rosé and eating cookies. With the pandemic, I won’t be seeing my friends, unfortunately. However, unless I magically find myself in a relationship before Valentine’s Day, I am still planning to watch a movie, drink champagne, and eat dessert like I normally do with my friends! I think this year’s film will be Bride Wars starring Anne Hathaway and Kate HudsonIt is one of my favorite rom-com’s!

Tatayana, Junior Editor of Love and Health

This is the first Valentine’s Day that I’m going to be spending at home after a long time, so I ordered some clothes online and if they deliver on February 14th, I’m going to spend Valentine’s Day getting dressed up at home, feeling myself, and then spending the rest of the day calling my college friends. This time last year, I was living with them so it is going to be a little disappointing, but I can’t wait to drown myself in chocolate and cute t-shirts that I found on an online sale. I’m actually looking forward to being able to dress up, even if its to just click pictures at home.

Natalia, Junior Editor of Pop Culture

This Valentine’s Day, I’ll be spending time at home with my immediate family because of the pandemic. I’ve never been in a proper relationship before, so that’s how I’ve spent most Valentine’s Days anyway. But my mom, in particular, has always made up for my non-existent love life by going out of her way to make the day special nonetheless with gifts, snacks, and cute cards. I’ve also been reading romance novels this month; namely, “The Princess Trap” by Talia Hibbert and “Written in the Stars” by Alexandria Bellefleur (highly recommend both). And to keep feeding my hopeless romantic heart, on Valentine’s day I’ll also watch some of my favorite romantic comedies. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, 10 Things I Hate About You, and The Love Birds are definitely on my docket for Valentine’s day paired with a glass of wine and chocolate-covered strawberries to top it all off.

Ebony, Junior Editor of Life

Self-love is the first and most important form of love. And I know while I haven’t been looking after myself constantly, this Valentine’s Day gives me a chance to reflect on that. Every year, my friends and I do a cute galentine’s day celebration. Last year, we watched To All The Boys 2: P.S I Still Love You, and so this year, it seemed fitting to watch part three. Let’s see if we actually end up watching the movie though, since the second one was a bit of a let down. But who doesn’t love a good Noah Centineo pick-me-upper? Along with the movie, we’re doing a bring-your-own pasta night, where each of us make our own pasta, revel in the beauty of the rom-com genre and just enjoy ourselves.

Maheen, Senior Editor of Love and Health

I’ve been single for 21 Valentine’s Days and we are continuing the tradition for the 22nd year! 😀 I am actually home for a Valentine’s Day for the first time in two years, so I’ll probably just bake some cookies with my mom, and curl up with a romance book and some hot chocolate. I’ve been reading so much of historical romance books, so I’ll continue to spend some time with a duke or some regency era scandal. Right now I am bingeing through Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove series, and I hoping to reread some Lisa Kleypas classics when the weekend comes around.

Mishma, Senior Editor of The World

The worst Valentine’s Day I’ve had was when my ex didn’t wish me the entire day, got us discount burgers (that I ended up paying for), then he left me alone in his house while he went out drinking with his friends…so basically the bar is set low on what would make any future Valentine’s Day a good one! This year I plan to do nothing. I wish I had a tale of how I was going to buy myself flowers and watch cheesy rom-coms while binging on chocolate but, in all honesty, I will be spending 14 February 2021 like any other average day (with the added feature of trying to not obsess over why my crush isn’t texting me back). And it’s going to be amazing.

Kajal, Senior Editor of Now + Beyond 

This is the first Valentine’s day I’m away from home, and not spending it with family and friends, so I’ll really be focusing on self-love. I plan to take a walk through chilly London, grab some delicious takeout on the way back, and pop in for a game night with a few of my flat-mates. After that, I’ll get in bed with some chocolate, watch some Modern Family (my current obsession), some fanfiction, and an Agatha Christie Novel. Really, a perfect night for me.

Sahar, Senior Editor of Lookbook + Weddings

I’ve been single for every Valentine’s day and this year is no different! Luckily for me, my friends are in the same boat. Since I live in New Orleans, Valentine’s Day tends to overlap with Mardi Gras festivities. Last year, we were able to pass the day by watching the parades, but unfortunately due to the pandemic, that’s not an option this year. Our plan at the moment is to buy a large king cake, order a bunch of food, and watch as many cheesy romances as our hearts desire. 

Apoorva, Senior Editor of Life

Regardless of how you’re spending the day, we hope there’s time for a lil extra love somewhere in there!

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Movie Reviews Movies Pop Culture

“To All the Boys: Always and Forever” marks a perfect end to the best rom-com era

Valentine’s Day is here – lovebirds and palentines – follow along with our Vday series right here.

The final installment of the To All the Boys trilogy aired to audiences Friday on Netflix, marking the end of an era for fans just in time for Valentine’s Day. The film series began in 2018 adapting the book series of the same name by Jenny Han. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before sparked a resurgence to the beloved romantic-comedy movie genre as well as began a modern era of rom-coms that Netflix would provide soon after.

There were so many things to love about To All the Boys which made the films so popular: fake relationships turned real, constant love triangles, and most importantly, unprecedented representation for identities typically underrepresented within the romance genre.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Lana Condor, who plays Lara Jean Covey in the films, reflected on what it meant to be one of the few Asian-American actresses to headline a romantic comedy. She states,I read the book immediately before the audition, and that’s when I was like, OK, this I have to have. Because this is an Asian-American girl falling in love and this is something we need to see.”

And we’re so glad we got to see it.

To All the Boys: Always and Forever, directed by Michael Fimognari, chronicles the final chapter of Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky’s (Noah Centineo) highschool romance. The pair are in the final semester of their senior year of high school, preparing for their freshman year of college. Peter and Lara Jean are hoping they can attend Stanford University together to effectively continue their relationship together. 

However, things don’t go to plan when Lara Jean receives a rejection letter from Stanford, which meant that she didn’t get in alongside Peter. This threatens to put a wrench in their potential future together, but the surprises don’t stop there.

The kids take a senior trip to New York City wherein Lara Jean proceeds to fall in love with the city and NYU campus. After Lara Jean receives an acceptance letter from NYU upon returning home, she grapples between the choices of satisfying her own happiness or Peter’s. She ultimately (and rightfully) chooses to attend NYU in the fall to Peter’s dismay, causing the two to break up on Prom night. 

The final arcs for both their characters consist of Peter learning to heal from his trauma surrounding abandonment and be okay with Lara Jean making decisions that don’t directly involve him. Lara Jean must also learn to be comfortable to make her own decisions without guilt. 

Together, they decide to continue their relationship despite the distance that will be between them. As Peter stated to Lara Jean in their post-breakup reunion, “I never want to be the guy holding you back. [Instead] I want to be the one by your side.” That’s what we call growth.

All in all, To All the Boys: Always and Forever provided a satisfying end to one of the best modern romantic-comedy films. It contained all of the charm and aesthetics from the first two movies, gave the characters great concluding arcs (including a redemption arc for Gen (Emilija Baranac) that I was surprisingly here for, and ended with our favs, Lara Jean and Peter, staying together.

Although, Peter’s arc involving his father, played by Henry Thomas, could have had a more satisfying conclusion. For context, Peter discussed with Lara Jean in the first film that his dad left him, his mom, and his younger brother, eventually re-marrying and having two more sons with a new wife. 

His dad never spoke to Peter nor his brother and left Peter’s mom to finish raising their two sons by herself. This fostered a deep and complicated resentment for Peter towards his father and he has had trouble coping with the abandonment ever since.

When Peter finally agrees to meet his dad for lunch in the third film, this showcases a significant point of growth for him. However, his dad never gives a legitimate reason for fathering another family and abandoning his son while still living in the same city as Peter. Nevertheless, I’m glad Peter was able to move towards forgiveness and potentially having a relationship with his father for the sake of his own peace as well as his relationship with Lara Jean.

[Image description: Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky dancing in the film To All the Boys: Always and Forever.] via
[Image description: Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky dancing in the film To All the Boys: Always and Forever.] via
Correspondingly, Lara Jean’s growth was especially refreshing to witness over the course of the three movies. Lara Jean evolves from a naive hopeless romantic who clumsily stumbles into relationships, conflicts, and/or love triangles with boys. Now, she’s shown how much she has matured since audiences first met her. Lara Jean is now a woman who knows what she wants and knows to always pick herself first.

In the three years since the first film landed, we’ve seen Lara Jean cross many milestones: her first boyfriend, prom, graduation, her first time having sex with said boyfriend, etc. in a slow-paced, gradual arc that felt real. She’s dealt with expressing grief, finding her confidence, and also allowing her loved ones to guide her when it’s necessary; all of which allows Lara Jean to be relatable for so many people. 

At the same time, Lara Jean being one of the few Asian-American leads in a romantic comedy without being sexualized or exoticized, having her Korean culture be a part of each film in an authentic manner, and being able to openly discuss tribulations that come with her Americanized Asian identity with her white boyfriend, allowed for other Asian-American girls and non-binary femmes to feel seen in ways they may not have before.

Hopefully, To All the Boys won’t be the last great romantic-comedy we see on Netflix that provides good representation, evokes the right nostalgia, and fulfills some of the best rom-com tropes in a way that is familiar yet refreshing and not problematic. Although I’m sad these films are coming to an end, I’m glad we all got to experience what will be one of the greatest rom-coms of the 2010s.

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