Skin Care Lookbook

7 up and coming Black owned skincare brands to keep an eye out for

Lately, the beauty community seems to be shifting its focus to skincare. Skincare tips and information are quickly becoming more popular amongst the public who are searching for beauty related content. There are popular skincare influencers across all major social media platforms from Instagram, YouTube, Tick Tock, and even Twitter. 

Particularly, Black women skincare influencers are a major influence and source of reliability in the skincare community on social media. Notably, many of these Black women who are skincare enthusiasts or estheticians also own skincare lines or companies of their own. 

Here are 7 up and coming Black woman-owned skincare companies to look out for:

1. Rosen Skincare

[Image description: Skin care products from Rosen Skincare.] Via
[Image description: Skincare products from Rosen Skincare.] Via
Jamika Martin, brand owner, and founder created Rosen after her own struggles dealing with acne. Rosen caters to individuals with acne-prone skin and offers people a cleaner way to combat their stubborn skin concerns. Rosen values integrity by committing themselves to be transparent regarding what is in their skincare products, how the products are made, and, ultimately, what makes their products so effective. 

Rosen’s skincare products can be found in Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

2. Black Girl Sunscreen

[Image description: A product photo of Black Girl Sunscreen.] Via
[Image description: A product photo of Black Girl Sunscreen.] Via
Black Girl Sunscreen, created in 2016, is probably one of the most prominent, up and coming sunscreen companies to come out of the last decade. Black Girl Sunscreen caters specifically to people with melanin as the founder, Shontay Lundy, wanted to make a sunscreen that doesn’t leave streaks or white casts on dark skin. However, anybody can benefit from Black Girl Sunscreen’s amazing formula. They do not use parabens or harmful chemicals to craft their sunscreen, which, notably, is also kid-friendly.

You can find Black Girl Sunscreen in Target. Follow them on Instagram and Twitter.

3. Buttermeupgoods Skincare

[Image description: Skin care products from Buttermeupgoods Skincare.] Via buttermeupgoods' Twitter
[Image description: Skincare products from Buttermeupgoods Skincare.] Via buttermeupgoods’ Twitter
Established in 2014, Buttermeupgoods Skincare covers all your skincare and wellness needs in one go. This Black woman-owned luxury skincare company challenges consumers to invest in their skin and seeks to take your skincare routine to the next level. Buttermeupgoods provides natural, hand-crafted products that are formulated with organic, non-GMO ingredients as stated on their website. Their products cater to various skin types and concerns and have no harsh additives, chemicals, or ingredients.

Follow them on Instagram and Twitter.


[Image description: Two hats from GLOWDEGA laying on the grass.] Via
[Image description: Two hats from GLOWDEGA laying on the grass.] Via
“Like a bodega but for skincare.” GLOWDEGA’s online shop was born amidst the pandemic last year to accommodate the company owner’s temporarily closed skincare studio in Oakland, California. This up and coming skincare store is owned and operated by @FairyGlowMuva as listed across her social media accounts or otherwise Hadiyah Daché.

GLOWDEGA provides a range of products and services. Customers can order face products and cleansing tools from some of their favorite brands as well as book online skin consultations.

Follow GLOWDEGA on Instagram and Twitter, and subscribe to Hadiyah’s Youtube channel.

5. Ixora Botanical Beauty

[Image description: Skin care products from Ixora Botanical Beauty.] Via
[Image description: Skin care products from Ixora Botanical Beauty.] Via
Ixora Botanical Beauty’s products are the results of when natural skincare meets science. This small, Black woman-owned company was launched in 2012 from the St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Since then, Ixora Beauty has since sold over $100,00 worth of products and caters to customers across the globe. 

Ixora Beauty’s products specifically cater to dry skin and other skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis in a way that is both natural and affordable. They also offer personalized skincare consultations in addition to their wide range of skin, bath, and body products for both men and women.

Follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

6. Honeydipped Cosmetics

[Image description: Skincare products from Honeydipped Cosmetics.] Via
[Image description: Skincare products from Honeydipped Cosmetics.] Via
Honeydipped Cosmetics was founded in 2017 by company-owner Tamara Thomas. This up and coming skincare line is an all-natural, plant-based, organic skincare line that is additionally cruelty-free. Honeydipped offers its customers a diverse range of products from cleansers, face and beard serums, and moisturizers as well as body care items like body butter and washes.

Their products have been featured in prominent publications like British GQ, Vanity Fair, and Harper’s Bazaar. Additionally, Honeydipped frequently offers valuable skincare advice across their social media accounts, including Instagram and Tik Tok.

Follow them on Instagram and Twitter.

7. Base Butter

[Image description: Skin care products from Base Butter.] Via
[Image description: Skin care products from Base Butter.] Via
Base Butter has been featured in publications such as Essence, Elle, and Cosmopolitan. Co-founded by CEO She’Neil Johnson and VP of product Nicolette Graves, Base Butter seeks to make accommodating skincare for acne-prone and oily combination skin types.

Their products are designed to be understood by their customers in a way that is simple yet effective. Base Butter wants to help people feel protected and comfortable in their skin by crafting nourishing products that are redefining the intersections of beauty and skincare.

Follow them on Twitter

With the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer as well as it being Black History Month, many consumers are looking for Black-owned companies to give their support. There are tons of great up and coming Black woman-owned skincare lines, founded within the last decade, definitely making their mark within the skincare space across social media and beyond. We’re definitely here for it and hope you are too!

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Editor's Picks Movie Reviews Pop Culture

“Malcolm & Marie” romanticizes a toxic relationship

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.

This review contains spoilers. 

Netflix’s newest film Malcolm & Marie starring Zendaya and John David Washington has been described by Zendaya herself as a “quarantine project” created in the spirit of lockdown due to the pandemic. The film explores the relationship between Malcolm (John David Washington) and Marie (Zendaya) upon arriving home and coming down from a high after Malcolm has a successful film premiere to crash thereafter. A revelation highlighted by Marie causes them to then fight… for the entirety of the movie.

Ultimately, Marie feels taken advantage of and undervalued by her filmmaker boyfriend who based the lead character in his new movie off of the hardship Marie has endured mostly on account of her substance abuse. Malcolm disagrees. So the two proceed to verbally spar. Then makeup. Then spar again. And that’s the rollercoaster the audience rides for about an hour and forty-five minutes. 

Notably, the film is visually beautiful as it’s filtered in black and white and in the setting of a gorgeous mid-century modern home in Malibu, gifted to Malcolm by his movie’s film producers. However, Malcolm and Marie are definitely in a toxic relationship and there’s hardly anything romantic about the two of them being together. Many of their disputes could be solved by more mature conversations and better self-awareness.

Although, maybe that’s the point. 

Marie represents a woman silenced in a relationship with another creative (she’s a model and former actress) whose story is taken and exploited by her partner. In one scene, Malcolm says to Marie “Of course I want you to have a life, Marie. You know why? Because I’m terrified that if you don’t, you’re going to hang everything on mine,” which showcases his lack of understanding towards the root of his partner’s frustrations. 

The insults Malcolm follows up to hammer the nail in to really hurt Marie’s feelings are much harsher. Same with the rebuttals Marie uses in retaliation. Their relationship is an intense tennis match of toxicity. Who can hurt who the most? Which insult is going to be the final blow that does in the argument or better yet the relationship?

[Image description: The characters Malcolm and Marie from Netflix's Malcolm & Marie.] Via
[Image description: The characters Malcolm and Marie from Netflix’s Malcolm & Marie.] Via
Malcolm & Marie tries (sometimes too hard) to portray a passionate and imperfect self-described “story of love” illustrated by two equally imperfect individuals. In reality, Malcolm and Marie are just immature and toxic together. That could also be attributed to the age differences as well as the power imbalances between the pair. The two met when Marie was only twenty-years-old after she overdosed while in a market with Malcolm there to “save” her and help Marie towards recovery afterward.

I have to say, Washington and Zendaya give great and convincing performances, sometimes making up for flaws in the script or directorial advice. Since the movie was made during lockdown, the two characters never leave their Malibu home, making the dialogue the focus of the story. Despite the entirety of the film being held in the same location, the shots utilize the setting well, showcasing different areas and angles of the interior and exterior of the house.

Sometimes, though, there’s too much dialogue on things that don’t matter much to the plot; for instance, Malcolm’s critiques surrounding white journalists and film critics. In a review for Bitch Media, Jordan McDonald writes of the young, female muse trope in Malcolm & Marie. She states, “The disparity between Malcolm’s career and Marie’s—one at the precipice of major success in film and the other leaving the same industry after a series of low-paying roles—speaks volumes about the power differential that plagues their relationship and enables its toxicity.”

If the film had kept the focus on the power imbalance based on gender, age, background, and mental health within the relationship between Malcolm and Marie, additionally showcasing some growth for either individual, it could have landed better. But the tangents Malcolm embarks on about film critics feels like it services Sam Levinson, the writer and director of the movie, more than it does the audience.

I also can’t help but compare this film to Euphoria Special Episode Part 1: Rue, for which Levinson is also a creator and writer. That episode has a very similar concept to Malcolm & Marie because it’s mostly dialogue between just two characters shot in one primary location. Rue, Euphoria’s protagonist, also copes with substance abuse and other mental illnesses similar to Marie. And, like the movie, in a little over an hour, the topics of addiction, depression, PTSD, and more are discussed at length. 

However, Euphoria utilizes its time in their special episode to say something greater about where its characters are heading in a way that was captivating almost solely off the dialogue, whereas Malcolm & Marie isn’t successful in recreating that same magic even though it intended to.

[Image description: The characters Malcolm and Marie from Netflix's Malcolm & Marie.] Via
[Image description: The characters Malcolm and Marie from Netflix’s Malcolm & Marie.] Via
The plot of the movie would have been helped along had Malcolm or Marie grown, or learned something relevant, or even decided to end the rollercoaster of a relationship they have. The trailer describes this film as “not a love story but a story of love” and I think the story of love could have been Marie choosing to love herself and the remnants of whatever friendship is at the core of her partnership with Malcolm and finally leave him behind. 

In staying together after almost two hours of relentless arguing, the plot and character arcs remain stagnant the whole way through and the film doesn’t even make any larger commentary about an unhealthy relationship besides ‘you definitely don’t want to be in a relationship like this one.’

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USA Celebrities Race The World Inequality

Monique Coleman’s HSM story reveals a larger pattern of hair discrimination in the workplace

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, life, and work of Black people.

On January 26th, Insider published an interview with Monique Coleman in recognition of the fifteenth anniversary of High School Musical.

In the interview, Coleman revealed that her character in the film, Taylor McKessie, actually wore her signature headbands because the onset crew didn’t know how to style Black hair. Coleman’s heartbreaking disclosure thereafter sparked discourse on social media surrounding the unique hair discrimination and lack of representation Black women in Hollywood, and other non-visible industries, have long endured.

In the article, Coleman stated, “The truth is that they had done my hair, and they had done it very poorly in the front.” As a result, she suggested they “incorporate headbands into her character [to] just make that a part of who [Taylor] is.”

Taylor McKessie was many Black girls’ favorite character within the Highschool Musical franchise, myself included. She is smart, witty, supportive, ambitious, and subverted stereotypical narratives Hollywood tends to place on Black female characters, especially within predominantly white casts. So learning about the hardships Coleman had to bear on account of her hair was disappointing but unfortunately not surprising. The reality that Black women’s hair is all too often not accommodated in the workplace is nothing new. 

In fact, this very same conversation of the lack of necessary accommodation for Black talent on sets has happened before. Vice wrote an article in 2019 discussing discrimination towards Black hair in Hollywood when model Olivia Anakwe took to Instagram to publicize that while she was working a photoshoot, there wasn’t a stylist on set who was familiar with styling her natural hair. Anakwe then had to go through the trouble of finding anyone on set who could, even if they worked in other departments. 

Afterward, a slew of Black female celebrities like Natasha Rothwell and Gabriel Union shared their experiences of also having to manage their own hair on production sets, showing solidarity with Anakwe, and raising further awareness about the issue on social media.

Similarly, to corroborate Coleman’s experience, many people dug up videos or tweets of other high profile Black female actresses like Riverdale’s Vanessa Morgan and Ashleigh Murray, and Hamilton’s Renée Goldsberry who have openly discussed the not-so-secret occurrence of Black women having to do their own hair because stylists on film sets cannot correctly style Black hair.

Adding insult to injury, Hollywood sets often act as if they’re starved of choice when it comes to finding Black hairstylists who can do hair for Black talent. With all the skilled Black hairstylists at the disposal of production studios, it’s a deliberate choice to opt-out of hiring Black hairstylists in lieu of white ones. Ultimately, forcing Black cast members to manage their own hair for filming, while other non-Black cast members don’t, is an act of aggression.

In recognition of the ongoing diversity happening within mainstream American media, Coleman further stated in her interview, “We’ve grown a lot in this industry and we’ve grown a lot in representation and we’ve grown a lot in terms of understanding the needs of an African American actress.” Luckily, we are moving in the right direction regarding Black hair in Hollywood. See: Insecure and This Is Us.

However, Black women are still having to navigate through hair discrimination in Hollywood. Not to mention, Black women in other industries, especially ones that are not in the public eye, often suffer in silence. Aimee Simeon perfectly sums it up in an article for Refinery29 stating, “Not even Coleman’s success as part of such a popular film series exempted her from having to find a solution to make her feel more comfortable with her look, a position that far too many Black women are put in on big-budget TV and film sets.”

Black women elsewhere with not as much fame, money, or status as the women mentioned throughout this article are likely to go unheard regarding whatever accommodations they need to effectively do their job or they may be too afraid to speak up.

Thankfully, Coleman has brought this conversation to the forefront again, so non-Black creators and employers can be made aware of this ongoing problem. So, what many predominantly white industries and companies must learn is having diversity in itself is simply not enough without accommodation. Representation means nothing if Black women are made to feel uncomfortable, othered, or outcasted from the rest of their co-workers. 

Given the long history of Black people being shut out of white-collar or high profile workplaces, employers have to care enough about their Black hires to satisfy whatever circumstances are necessary to accommodate Black folks into the workplace. Understandably, first, that means being made aware of the unique circumstances we may face or white employers may unknowingly perpetuate.

Discussions like the one Coleman and many other Black women have sparked on social media are the first steps towards creating equitable work environments across all industries. But, as Simeon concludes in her article, going forward progress towards equity in Hollywood and other workplaces “shouldn’t always fall solely to the hands and ideas of Black talent.”

For stories of Black history and excellence, check out our Black History Month series.

[Image Description: An illustrated graphic featuring several Black women with the text saying Black History Month in capital letters] Via The Tempest
[Image Description: An illustrated graphic featuring several Black women with the text saying Black History Month in capital letters] Via The Tempest

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Race Life

The “angry Black woman” stereotype makes me hesitate to defend myself

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, life, and work of Black people.

Being a Black woman causes me to severely overthink, especially when contemplating if and when to stand up for myself while being viewed by others as inherently angry. The angry Black woman stereotype: every Black woman has felt the burden of this stereotype at one or many times throughout our lives. Personally, I’ve found myself in many situations or conversations that were both micro-aggressive and aggressive in a racist context. As a result, throughout my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood I’ve been made to feel uncomfortable while at school, at parties, and in work environments. 

Therefore, I’m constantly battling the angry Black girl stereotype, and my personal mission to always stand up for myself. Admittedly, too often, I allow my internalized insecurity to win. The societal stigmas against Black women cause me to be silent. I’ve been called angry, aggressive, or defensive in times I was simply not allowing someone to disrespect me or others. So given my history of being gaslighted, I’ve forgone standing up for myself or firmly setting or maintaining a boundary out of fear of being seen by others as the angry Black girl.

However, I’m slowly learning to overcome my internalized insecurities with the intention that I’ll never second guess putting myself first again.

The angry Black woman stereotype was created as an extension of the sapphire stereotype during the antebellum period, which categorized Black women as inherently masculine, aggressive, and dominant. The angry Black woman stereotype is a reimagined, racially charged trope that often goes undetected as it persists within modern society, pop culture, and politics; mostly because the stereotype is a manipulation technique used to silence Black women. The imagery of the original sapphire trope may look different or be less obvious, but the harmful effects it has on Black women remain.

Within recent years, prominent figures and celebrities such as Janet Hubert, who originally played Aunt Viv in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Serena Williams, Michelle Obama, and Monique have all had to navigate through being stereotyped and/or type-casted as difficult, angry, or masculine women. In particular, Janet and Monique have been blacklisted in Hollywood for years because of the harm being labeled as “difficult” have on Black women’s careers.

Besides, the angry Black woman stereotype is downright hurtful as much as it is harmful. According to a Forbes article written by Janice Gassam Asare, “Black women were found to experience many negative health outcomes including anxiety, at a greater rate than their white counterparts” because of how often we suppress our emotions. This gaslighting technique of accusing someone of greatly overreacting when they aren’t, that people continuously use against Black women, is an intentional tool of oppression.

Essentially, we are taught not to challenge the intersecting marginalizations that continue to severely oppress Black women. Instead, Black women are forced to shrink ourselves into quiet submission or simply be complicit with treatment we aren’t comfortable with so people won’t weaponize our emotions against us. Consequently, the angry Black woman stereotype lumps Black women into a monolith of combativeness and negativity while it strips us of our feelings and humanity.

Notably- if the world can impose this stereotype on the aforementioned women with as much status, money, or influence as they have, imagine what the average Black woman is forced to tolerate at work, in class, in shops or restaurants, and elsewhere.

Since late May of 2020, we should be seeing a supposed societal shift in oppressive race dynamics, as people promised to “listen and learn” about the harmful effects of racism. Luckily, I have some suggestions on how people can better show up for Black women, specifically when we are forced to combat the angry Black woman stereotype.

People need to first reflect on what about Black women causes the world to view us as inherently angry and why Black women are the ones most punished for having feelings perceived as negative. People must confront their internal biases and empathize with Black women’s frustration- and yes, anger- regarding how we are treated in a racist and patriarchal society. Lastly, people should begin the work towards dismantling the stereotype by always standing up for Black women whenever and wherever they can. 

As for Black women, it’s hard, but we must learn not to view ourselves as inherently angry either. Standing up for yourself or exerting your will does not make you angry. In fact, there is nothing wrong with anger as an emotion. It’s natural and sometimes warranted. After all, we have a lot to be angry about anyway. As Delta B. Mckenzie perfectly concludes in an article for Medium, “As a Black woman, I have a right to be angry. I have a right to be loud. I have a right to be anything I want to be. If society wants to put my emotions down to a demeaning stereotype then I say, let it.”

Black women- work towards consistently showing up for yourself despite what others have or continue to tell you. I’m additionally trying to remind myself that my feelings are valid, and I shouldn’t ever have to make myself smaller to coddle anyone. Ultimately, my humanity should matter more than other people’s biased, racist, and inaccurate perception of me anyway.

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[Image Description: An illustrated graphic featuring several Black women with the text saying Black History Month in capital letters] Via The Tempest
[Image Description: An illustrated graphic featuring several Black women with the text saying Black History Month in capital letters] Via The Tempest
Money Now + Beyond

Defunding the police could benefit American taxpayers. Here’s how.

Last year was a year defined by abolition movements. As a result of several killings by police officers that rightly garnered national outrage in 2020, activists have fought hard to now bring police abolition to the forefront of the American psyche. 

In particular, #BlackLivesMatter and abolition activists have been strongly critiquing the inflated police budgets in metropolitan cities within the United States of America that disproportionately outweigh the budgets of other city departments; namely, city departments that could provide citizens with better economic opportunity. Ultimately, major cities in the US receive up to billions of dollars worth of funding at the expense of American taxpayers.

As a result, police abolitionists have been demanding politicians to “defund the police” — a now controversial statement and call to action that is becoming increasingly misunderstood by the American populace. Even months after several police killings made national or global attention, the popularity of defunding police authorities among the American people is low. According to an ABC/Ipsos poll, only 39% of Americans support defunding the police, while 60% do not. 

This is because many Americans still falsely believe defunding the police would result in societal anarchy or the immediate disappearance of police officers. Rather, defunding the police is the first step towards police abolition which seeks to create a new system (over time), free of imperialism and inequity, that is more effective and beneficial for all. 

There was a police abolition campaign created last year, during the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter protests last summer, called “8 to abolition“— a multi-stepped plan to defund police authorities, encourage decarceration, and accessible housing, and decriminalize Black, Brown, and poor communities.

The 8 to abolition plan provides 8 steps to abolish the police, the first being a call to defund the policing system. Defunding the police, among many other things, entails significantly cutting the disproportionate amount of funds police departments receive from cities and reallocating those funds to under-funded aspects of the community; specifically, city departments that aid in maintaining the well-being of community residents like healthcare, education, housing, employment, and arts.

Many Americans still falsely believe defunding the police would result in societal anarchy.

In truth, upon deeper examination, defunding the police makes more economic sense than keeping the current policing system and would actually benefit most taxpayers’ pocketbooks. Notably, police budgets are expensive and take up a large part of city budgets. “Police budgets remain high in 2020, ranging from 20 to 45% of discretionary funding in major metropolitan areas,” Niall McCarthy explains in an article for Statista.

For example, the city I live in, San Antonio, Texas, spent 500 million dollars on policing in 2020. Other cities like Chicago (where the police departments are even more corrupt) spent much more on their police budgets. The Chicago Police Department (CPD) received 2 billion dollars from their city in 2020Similarly, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had a 2020 budget of 1.7 billion, and the New York Police Department (NYPD) had a budget of a whopping 5.6 billion

In addition, states across the US spend millions of taxpayer dollars on police misconduct lawsuits.

A Rolling Stones article details the history of CPD’s history of corruption and violence. Regarding money the city of Chicago spent on police misconduct and brutality suits over the last decade, Paul Solotaroff states that “between 2010 and 2017, [Chicago] issued more than $700 million in police brutality bonds.” Correspondingly, in 2017, the NYPD spent $302 million on police misconduct lawsuits.

Consequently, these aspects of police spending and city corruption tend to fly under the radar due to confidentiality agreements and attorney-client privilege. In turn, taxpayers are essentially paying their cities at least millions of dollars for ineffective, corrupt, or downright abusive policing. So much government money is wasted on police departments across America for no valid reasons except to protect officers from legal accountability as well as to allow officers the resources to militarize against the communities they vow to “protect.”

Defunding the police could more effectively benefit taxpayers by reallocating city budgets into new avenues that could create jobs, could increase pay for government or state workers, and put government money back into the community. Sean Collins affirms this sentiment in his article for Vox stating, “Defunding police departments successfully would create a virtuous cycle, in which communities reap social and political benefits that translate into economic benefits for cities, states, and the communities themselves.” 

Between 2010 and 2017, Chicago issued more than $700 million in ‘police brutality bonds’.

Defunding the police is not only an attainable and reasonable call to action, but it’s necessary. Defunding the police would ultimately put government money where it’s most effective — invested in American citizens; more specifically, invested in the working-class communities who are the foundation of America’s economy. Thankfully, cities like Minneapolis (the city where George Floyd was murdered), Baltimore, and Austin along with Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago have defunded their police departments for the following fiscal year. These cities are instead using the reallocated money to invest in social programs, homelessness, Black and Brown communities, and more.

These are the necessary and logical steps to be taken to utilize taxpayer money to maximize financial benefits for, well, taxpayers. This money would get reinvested back into cities and states over time, creating a virtuous cycle of efficient and effective economics.

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Editor's Picks TV Shows Pop Culture

“Fate: The Winx Saga” lacks charm in all the ways that matter

It’s not uncommon at this point for beloved, family-friendly cartoons to be reworked into a teen or young adult series with darker characters and storylines in order to appeal to a wider audience. Similar to Riverdale and the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Fate: The Winx Saga is Netflix’s latest gritty live-action adaptation. Based on the Italian animated children series Winx Club that aired on Nickelodeon, Fate veers from its source material to adopt more mature elements to the show. However, in doing so, it sacrifices the appeal that initially made audiences fall in love with Winx Club.

Relive your childhood with the Winx Club live-action that is angering the internet

Fate, of course, takes inspiration from the Nickelodeon cartoon, mostly centering around Bloom (Abigail Cowen), a fire fairy that needs guidance in controlling her powers as well as battling the inner, emotional turmoil that threatens to further harm herself and others. To hone in her powers, she is recruited to Alfea, an institution for fairies, by the headmistress Farrah Dowling (Eve Best), based on Faragonda from the original cartoon. There, Bloom meets the rest of what will soon be her crew of magical fairies, all with their own set of unique powers.

Of all the girls, it is implied that Bloom is the most exceptional and powerful fairy, not only amongst the group but in the history of Alfea. With all of their combined strength, the girls must conquer the forces that threaten the safety and future of their school.

The Netflix show premiered to audiences on January 22nd and has quickly received mixed reviews from critics and show watchers. Fate currently has a 34% show rating on Rotten Tomatoes along with a slew of negative or lukewarm reviews from publications such as Paste, Variety, and Polygon. On the other hand, viewers have praised the show on social media, contrasting with the opinion of critics. Fate even has a starkly higher audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 83%. 

So, with all of the conflicting discourse surrounding the show, where do I stand on Fate: The Winx Saga? Personally, as someone who is a long-time fan of gritty fantasy series (Children of Blood and Bone, the later Harry Potter movies, Game of Thrones), Fate just doesn’t do it for me. It would be a decent show if it stood on its own; however, for a show about magic, Fate lacks charm and additionally fails to live up to what made the original animated series great.

For starters, there was better diversity in the original Winx Club series. Most notably, in the original cartoon, Musa is Asian and Flora is Latina. In Fate, Musa (Elisha Applebaum) and Terra (Eliot Salt), who was subbed for Flora, are both played by white actresses. This would not have been so much of a flaw for me if the show did better with the changes they made to Terra’s character.

Terra is often on the receiving end of fatphobia in a way that serves no substantial purpose to the plot or her character arc. Rather, the treatment she endures from others just feels mean. In one scene, Aisha (Precious Mustapha) and Musa negatively discuss weight gain in front of Terra, causing her to feel uncomfortable and perhaps even embarrassed. Afterwards, neither Musa nor Aisha ever acknowledges or apologizes for hurting Terra in this manner, which in turn doesn’t make me, as a viewer, want to even like Musa or Aisha. Nevermind the fact that Aisha is one of two POC cast members in the show and, to add insult to injury, her main role in the overall plot is being a side-kick to Bloom.

[Image description: Bloom looking at the camera and creating fire with magic.] Via
[Image description: Bloom looking at the camera and creating fire with magic.] Via Netflix.

In fact, many points throughout the show feel unnecessarily mean spirited. Firstly, the girls’ relationship with each other starts off bitter, which is off-putting given the emphasis on friendship and sisterhood in the original Winx Club. Another example of the mean spirited nature the show tends to explore is how Dane (Theo Graham), the only gay character within the main cast, is outed later in the series by an Instagram story that shows him being intimate with Riven (Freddie Thorp) and Beatrix (Sadie Soverall). On top of all this, Riven is a homophobic bully whose character is used to perpetuate outdated tropes of needlessly outing people. All of which is a storyline that is redundant and simply reductive for Dane’s character. 

In the same video, the three make fatphobic comments about Terra, which she sees, and then cries, as she also had a crush on Dane. The choice to have Terra played by a plus-sized actress was great because if certain changes from the cartoon should have been made, the first one would undoubtedly be showcasing realistic body sizes. However, the way Fate clumsily handles fatphobia to empower Terra (which comes off weak anyway) makes me wonder if they should have tried to tackle it at all.

Besides, it’s stated at the beginning of the show that there is a difference between humans and fairies. So, I’m not sure why fairies would care so much about upholding oppressive social hierarchies designed by humans anyway.

I also find myself missing the fashion of Winx Club. The choice to give Fate more of an edge than its source material didn’t have to sacrifice the girls’ looks, as things can be girly and gritty at the same time. See: Euphoria’s iconic makeup looks. I know critiquing fashion is arbitrary; however, it would have made more sense for a Winx Club adaptation to have fashion be a distinct aspect of the girl’s characters. The show creator Brian Young also produced The Vampire Diaries, which makes sense in hindsight, but Winx Club becoming a gritty, Riverdale-esque YA fantasy show is ultimately confusing and makes me wonder why it wasn’t just pitched as a stand-alone show.

[Image description: The five Winx standing at the school entrance. From left to right: Musa., Stella, Bloom, Aysha and Terra.] Via Netflix.
[Image description: The five Winx standing at the school entrance. From left to right: Musa., Stella, Bloom, Aysha and Terra.] Via Netflix.
Fate: The Winx Saga is so far from the animated series in the ways that made Winx Club unique from other fantasy stories that it feels as if the show doesn’t know what it wants to be. 

All in all, as Fate: The Winx Saga is likely to add more seasons in the future, I mostly want more for the characters, especially for the traditionally underrepresented identities in the series. Fate had great source material to work with, but certain changes to the show in efforts to make it grittier were simply off-putting, lacked direction, or fell flat altogether. Still, I’m optimistic that the critiques surrounding this show will help to improve the story-telling and character arcs so I can hopefully add another gritty and compelling fantasy series to my roster of favorites.

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Editor's Picks Activism Race The World Inequality

58 years later, Martin Luther King’s words ring true: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

In 1963, Martin Luther King wrote a letter from a Birmingham, Alabama jail cell after being imprisoned there for participating in a peaceful protest against segregationist laws. King’s letter of 7,000 words over 21 pages quickly became some of his most famous written work.

During his time in jail, King reflected on Black people’s continued fight for liberation, why the demonstrations of the fifties and sixties were vital for Black people’s survival, and the need for accountability and allyship from “liberal” white America. King decided to write this letter to address criticism from white religious leaders who felt the civil rights demonstrations King was leading were “unwise and untimely.” A very familiar sentiment white Americans, on both sides of the political spectrum, use to critique Black civil rights movements to this day.

King was released from jail shortly after writing the letter and immediately returned to his activism in Birmingham. Notably, two weeks after his release, on May 5, 1963, over 1,000 children participated in the Children’s Crusade, skipping school to demand integration and equal rights. In response to the protest, Birmingham’s Commissioner of Public Safety ordered dogs and fire hoses to be used against those who participated; as a result, 600 children were jailed and brutalized on that day. The excessive use of police force exerted against child protesters had been broadcasted on television, thus horrifying the rest of America in the process. 

Martin Luther King famously stated in his letter, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and at the moment, injustice in America lives all around us.

However, although America was seemingly disgusted by the horrific images they saw, their horror was short lasted, as there was very little tangible change surrounding racial power structures in America after the shock died down. People instead remained complicit in the ways in which white supremacy continued to viciously brutalize Black Americans.

Given the now-infamous storming of the capitol in the name of fascism enacted by white supremacists and Trump supporters from earlier this month as well as the global uprisings in support of Black Lives Matter from last summer, I found it necessary to reflect on King’s letter today. Like the white liberals King fired back at almost sixty years ago, many people on social media similarly criticized Black Lives Matter protestors and demonstrations; saying there are better ways or more appropriate times to get our demands for equality across. And, in a familiar fashion, critics of Black Lives Matter protests made these critiques without giving any alternatives to what they perceive would have been a better way for Black people to advocate for justice.

What is more eerily similar is how the capitol riots were broadcasted on television in real-time, and Americans again watched white people commit acts of violence in horror, only for calls to “just move on and let go” for the sake of unity to arrive from US senators hours after the “insurrection” occurred. Another stark contrast to how the BLM protests in the summer were treated.

Adding insult to injury, tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter protestors have been arrested since last summer. More specifically, approximately 14,000 BLM protestors have been arrested across 49 of the 50 United States so far according to a Forbes article. All of which further highlights how so little has fundamentally changed about the race and power dynamics in this country over the past six decades.

Black people fighting for equality are still criminalized harsher than white supremacists.

58 years after MLK’s letter from that Birmingham jail, and Black people fighting for equality are still criminalized harsher than white supremacists. In addition, when Black people lead civil rights protests, we’re still being held to higher standards of behavior, decency, and respectability compared to white people who enact domestic terrorism. 58 years and Black people are still putting our bodies on the line in the name of freedom and simply wanting to be a respected part of America’s democracy. So, what do we do about it?

In a couple of days, President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn into office; however, we cannot ignore the existence of Trump’s supporters and white supremacists simply because Trump is out of office. As Martin Luther King famously stated in his letter, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and at the moment, injustice in America lives all around us. Many of the people who committed criminal offenses at the capitol were seemingly “average” and “unsuspecting” racist white people who take up spaces in schools, as medical staff, in office-related work environments, in law enforcement, military, and more that negatively impact Black people’s lives.

For example, Black women are up to 3 times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared to white women due to medical racism. Black students are 4 times more likely to be suspended from school and almost 3 times as likely to be expelled compared to white students. Black people make up 13% of the US population but account for 42% of people on death row and 35% of those executed; similarly, in 2018 Black people accounted for 33% of the prison population in America, nearly triple our general population. Black trans women have high mortality rates, and therefore have a life expectancy of 35-years-old. In workplaces, Black women are paid 38% less than white men and 21% less than white women. Needless to say, Black people are constantly subjected to harmful and life-threatening racism, in every facet of our lives, at the disposition of white supremacy.

Martin Luther King said, “justice delayed is justice denied.”

All of us should now see clearer than ever the oppressive double standards for how Black people are treated in the US compared to whites. To achieve true equality, racism must be addressed and rooted out in both liberal and conservative spaces. Additionally, Americans must hold our elected officials accountable for their participation in white supremacy and force them to earnestly denounce racism as well as create laws that provide equity for Black people. We cannot just keep moving on when white nationalists display themselves because we’re consequently allowing the same racial injustices to be forgotten for the sake of white people’s comfort or for fear of making the country “more divisive.”

However, the focus needs to be less on white comfort and more on vehemently ensuring Black people’s survival. Martin Luther King said, “justice delayed is justice denied.” So, how much longer are we going to continue allowing racism to not only exist but prosper so blatantly before we’ve decided enough is enough?


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Coronavirus Race Science Now + Beyond

How the US government can encourage the Black community to trust the COVID-19 vaccine

It’s now been almost a year since the pandemic hit the US, and it has been well documented that the coronavirus is disproportionately impacting Black Americans. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black people are almost 4 times as likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 complications and almost 3 times more likely to succumb in severe cases. Considering the harm the Black community has endured throughout the course of the pandemic, Black people should ideally be hopeful at the announcement of a vaccine, as it would mark a possible end to the widespread suffering.

In December, a vaccine was approved in the United Kingdom, and the UK government began slowly testing the vaccine on its citizens. Correspondingly, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had also approved Pfizer’s COVID vaccine, shortly after, which planned to enable millions of highly vulnerable Americans to receive emergency vaccinations within a few days. For some, vaccination approvals and distributions in the US, UK, and Canada was good news as it possibly signals some kind of return to normalcy in the future. However, vaccine rollout in America has been rather unsuccessful. The US federal government left decisions up to each state regarding how vaccine distributions would be handled, but many states are not equipped with the resources needed to be effective in medically treating their citizens.

On the other hand, many Black Americans have openly expressed skepticism on social media regarding whether they trust the newly developed COVID vaccine. Notably, these conversations of doubt in the vaccine were sparked after Letitia Wright’s exit from Twitter in December after she shared a conspiracy video attempting to “debunk” the legitimacy of the COVID-19 vaccine as well as Tiffany Haddish spreading misinformation about the vaccine recently on a social media app called Clubhouse.

Many people have rightfully criticized Wright’s and Haddish’s misuse of their large social media platforms in sharing misleading videos or information about the vaccine, as the two are seemingly encouraging their followers to mistrust science. At the same time, others empathized with the two women’s flawed logic, highlighting the need to finally address whatever skepticism Black people have towards the vaccine, why Black people are even skeptical, to begin with, and what can be done to ensure the Black community can eventually trust the efficacy of the coronavirus vaccine.

many Black people’s skepticism in the vaccine is justified given what we’ve endured at the hands of white governments.

As a response to people’s skepticism, public figures like Dr. Fauci and former president Obama pledged to take the vaccine in hopes the American populace could be confident in the government’s efforts toward combatting COVID. However, there must be more specific ways the US government can begin to ease distrust of science and medicine within the Black community, who are already an at-risk demographic, as a result of longtime systematic mistreatment towards our community; starting with an acknowledgment of the inherent and historical anti-Blackness within the American healthcare system.

For example, medical racism has proved to have life-threatening consequences for many of us, especially for Black women. The Black community has historically been used as test subjects without our consent, been experimented on, and experienced exploitation within the medical industry to further progress for vaccinations and other disease control methods. 

I don’t believe Black people are wrong to distrust science or medicine; in fact, I believe many Black people’s skepticism in the vaccine is justified given what we’ve endured at the hands of white governments. However, I also believe spreading misinformation is unethical. There are more effective ways we can have conversations surrounding science, medicine, and the trust-ability of white governments in a way that is not harmful. We can and should acknowledge the abuse our community has suffered, hold our individual beliefs (within good reason), and question the efforts or intentions of historically oppressive governments. But, at the same time, we should use logic when deciding if and when something is potentially harmful or not. 

In the same ways we can question our government’s intentions, we can also conduct research utilizing trusted and fact-checked sources and research the individuals who are confidently and publicly backing the COVID-19 vaccination. 

A vaccine announcement doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.

Furthermore, governments must prioritize restoring trust within the Black community to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine has a chance of effectiveness. The American Medical Association (AMA) suggests that “(1) All elected officials affirm evidence-based science and factual data at every turn. (2) The media, including social media platforms, to consistently convey factual information from credible sources while challenging and rejecting misinformation.”

If there is consistency and solidarity amongst American government officials in expressing the severity of this virus without perpetuating right-wing or religious conspiracy theories, it might encourage the more vulnerable communities to trust government-backed COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, the medical community and prominent figures in science and medicine should specifically acknowledge and validate Black people’s skepticism. There needs to be an earnest acknowledgment that governments have failed the Black community and an expression of commitment towards restoring any lost trust going forward.

Notably, a vaccine announcement doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. Rather, a vaccine is just the first step toward combating the coronavirus. In addition, while waiting for the vaccine to be distributed, whether you plan on taking the vaccine or not, we can do our individual responsibility of wearing a mask, social distancing, and continuing to wash our hands. While it’s true that there have been systemic failures on behalf of many of our governments, we can also do our part while this pandemic persists by staying on top of coronavirus updates as well as spreading awareness and accurate, research-backed information within our own communities.

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Music Life

Here are four female rap projects from 2020 that boosted my confidence

2020 was undoubtedly a stand-out year for female rappers. For example, Megan Thee Stallion has collaborated with the likes of Beyoncé and Cardi B, earning her two number 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Flo Milli made her debut into the music scene this year with her first-ever EP. In response, artists like Rico Nasty, Janelle Monáe, and Missy Elliot expressed their excitement and support for her new project on social media. In addition, CHIKA made XXL’s freshman class of 2020 and has been nominated for Best New Artist by the Grammys. CHIKA has also been featured in publications such as Rolling Stone and The Cut, highlighting talented new artists to pay attention to.

For the past couple of years, female rap has been my go-to music of choice, as it has addicting energy of assertiveness and self-defining luxury. Recently, I’ve been finding comfort in music influencing me to feel like my best self. 

Here are four albums by female rappers that have been boosting my confidence lately:


[Image description: Cover of CHIKA's album titled Industry Games.] via
[Image description: Cover of CHIKA’s album titled Industry Games.] via
INDUSTRY GAMES is CHIKA’s debut album. On this project, CHIKA speaks on her journey throughout her career thus far as well as her mission to continue creating a lane for herself in the music industry. CHIKA also mentions some of her own mental health struggles while dealing with oppressive expectations from others. In the song “Crown,” she offers empathy for listeners who also may be struggling with their mental health saying, “This is for the kids with depression. The one’s whose parental expectations got them stressin.” However, CHIKA continues to grind, which also encourages me to keep persevering when life gets hard. Overall, INDUSTRY GAMES reminds me having humility doesn’t negate reminding myself and everyone else- I’m all that and then some. 

Megan Thee Stallion: Suga

[Image description: Cover of Megan Thee Stallion's EP titled Suga.] via
[Image description: Cover of Megan Thee Stallion’s EP titled Suga.] via
Megan Thee Stallion’s fourth EP titled Suga is the epitome of confidence with just a dash of humility. She opens the EP with “Ain’t Equal” which recognizes all she’s lost while assuring fans of her willingness to still relentlessly grind. At the same time, with songs like “Savage,” “Captain Hook,” and “Rich” Megan reminds us she’s a boss b*tch with enough confidence to conquer the world while looking good doing it. I admire Megan, so anything she puts out, I support. Notably, SUGA prompts me to never forget I’m that B.I.T.C.H. and motivates me to be my best self.

Flo Milli: Ho, why is you here?

[Image description] Cover of Flo Milli's EP titled Ho, why is you here ?.] via
[Image description Cover of Flo Milli’s EP titled Ho, why is you here ?.] via
As previously mentioned, Flo Milli’s EP Ho, why is you here ? is the Alabama rapper’s debut within the mainstream music scene. Despite Flo Milli’s young age of just 21-years-old, she comes hard on this EP with her signature, paradoxical bubble-gum tone, and hyper-confident lyrics and delivery.

Flo Milli has expressed in her music her struggles with family support. However, she perseveres and is still doing well in making a name for herself within the industry. With how young she is, how dedicated she continues to be on her craft, and her confident attitude despite whatever setbacks she’s experienced, I have no choice but to stan. And trust me, after listening to this EP at least 10 times through, I stan Flo Milli harder than ever.

Qveen Herby: EP9

[Image description: Cover of Qveen Herby's EP titled EP9.] via
[Image description: Cover of Qveen Herby’s EP titled EP9.] via
Qveen Herby, formally known as the pop duo Karmin, began making viral covers on Youtube alongside her now-husband Nick Noonan. In 2017, Qveen ditched her label to become an independent artist; in turn, she changed her look and sound to represent her more authentic self. Qveen’s ninth EP embraces the challenges she faced in terms of criticism from others as well as the differences that set her apart from other artists. 

“Farewell,” the fourth song on the EP serves as an ode to her past and provides listeners with points of reflection regarding growth. Speaking directly to listeners she sings, “Never know you’re capable if you do not evolve. Give yourself some credit, self-improvement takes some balls.” Despite not knowing what the future would hold for her as an independent artist, Qveen took a chance on herself that has paid off immensely, providing a great lesson for myself and other fans of Qveen’s music.

Female rap has seen a resurgence in the past few years and rightfully so. Between all these artists, as well as other female rappers, the albums they’ve put out in 2020 emphasize self-discovery, confidence, humility, and success. This new generation of female rap is definitely helping me and other young people find our voice through difficult transitions in our lives. Overall, female rap has undoubtedly shaped my formative young-adult years and is quickly becoming a genre laying a foundation of the confidence necessary for the rest of my adulthood.

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USA 2020 Elections Activism Politics Race The World Inequality

Uplifting Black people is the best way to thank Stacey Abrams

Thanks to the efforts of Black organizers and activists, the state of Georgia has made many historical wins regarding their recent Senate races. Notably, it’s been almost 30 years since Georgia was a blue state. Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won in their respective races, on Tuesday night, to tie the United States senate 50-50 between Demoract and Republican seats. This means when the Senate votes on important political issues, Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will break ties if there is one, becoming the deciding factor on what policies get approved or thrown out.

Additionally, Rev. Warnock will be the first Black senator to represent Georgia, the eleventh Black senator overall to serve in America, and the second Black senator from the south since The Reconstruction Era. In his victory speech, Warnock acknowledged the historical significance of his win stating, “The other day, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator.” In addition, 33-year-old Ossoff will be the youngest person to hold a seat in the senate since Joe Biden won Deleware in 1973 at 30-years-old.

Needless to say, Black women came through for the Democratic party. Again. As has been highlighted many times, Stacey Abrams has been fighting against voter suppression since her governor loss in 2018 and has since registered an estimated 800,000 Georgia citizens to vote. Stacey Abrams’ organization Fair Fight that emphasizes voter empowerment for Black people along with others such as Black Voters Matter, The New Georgia Project, and The People’s Agenda carefully and tirelessly strategized to advocate for Black voters in the south. 

So, these monumental Democratic wins for Biden, Harris, Ossoff, and Warnock are a result of the groundwork Black people did, fighting to take back our democracy since Donald Trump’s unsavory presidential win in 2016. These major wins also further highlight how Black women are indeed the backbone of the Democratic Party as well as the importance of political groundwork, in-person interaction, and community care to progress the political framework of the American government. 

Black organizers have been focused in Georgia for years before the rest of America invested attention in the state after it became a battleground in the 2020 presidential election. However, it’s been noted the way Black female political figures tend to become idealized by white Americans after the rest of the country can reap the benefits of Black women’s work. 

For example, people praised Kamala Harris during her vice presidential debate with Mike Pence last October when she continuously asserted her will by not allowing him to speak over her. And people are now praising, in a hyper-romanticized sort of way, Stacey Abrams, similar to the way they did Kamala, for all of the work she’s done for the Democratic Party. The praise in itself isn’t the problem; however, it is uncloaking a pattern of behavior rooted in misogynoir.

It feels as though white people will only allot praise to Black women when our efforts are beneficial to them. Whereas Black women elsewhere still tend to get talked over, overlooked, and accused of being angry, difficult, or combative when we advocate for or defend ourselves. Abrams herself has denounced this sentiment of being a magical savior for the Democratic Party in a New York Times article stating, “I chafe at this idea that we then objectify one group as both [the] savior and as [the] responsible party.”

Democrats won those senate races in Georgia because Black women organizers and activists fought hard through voter suppression and historical disenfranchisement to ensure Black people’s voices were heard. Political efforts on the ground from Stacey Abrams, Felicia Davis, Helen Butler, Nsé Ufot, and other Black women across Southern states aided in numerous crucial Democratic wins. White liberals were ready to give up on Georgia when Abrams lost in 2018, but she stayed to fight the suppression that cost her the governor seat.

The many successes for Democrats are after years of racism, disenfranchisement, and oppression on the Black community. So, don’t romanticize our work, offer to support us instead. 

Black people are often forced to move mountains with little resources. People must seek to financially support Black grassroots organizations, create or donate to scholarships for Black youth, and/or aid in investing in community care benefitting the Black community. Also, head how the Black women in your lives are treated. Uplift the voices of your Black female colleagues or friends when they need it. It’s likely that as you praise the likes of Abrams and Harris on social media for their strength, the Black women in your lives are being chastised for the same reasons.

Furthermore, Black women continue to do standout work in American politics, but we are also not your political work mules to be praised only when it benefits others. Rather, we are people who are oppressed and in search of freedom however we can get it. The best way to thank Stacey Abrams and other Black female organizers for their efforts is by continuously showing up and being an ally for Black people everywhere and in anyway way you can. As I’ve said before, the work of achieving true equality continues, and the road towards liberation will be made easier if and when we are all engaged in this work together.

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TV Shows Pop Culture

“The Queen’s Gambit” illustrates the burdens of being a child prodigy

“She’s an orphan. A survivor. Losing is not an option for her. Otherwise, what would her life be?” A statement Elizabeth “Beth” Harmon overhears while standing in the back of a packed elevator as her life and career are publicly dissected by foreign men; a concept she has undoubtedly been familiar with since she was a child.

In The Queen’s Gambit, the Netflix original show based on Walter Tevis’ novel of the same title, Beth Harmon is a wunderkind in the game of chess. She began playing in the basement of a Kentucky orphanage named The Methuen Home while being taught by a janitor working in the establishment: Mr. Shaibel. Though a dour man, Mr. Shaibel quickly became her chess mentor. Throughout her childhood, Beth continuously impressed the adults around her and exceeded people’s expectations of her skill in chess on account of her gender as well as her age.

However, the loneliness of being a child prodigy burdened Beth Harmon into adulthood. Beth struggled to form lasting romantic connections with others, as most men she became involved with romanticized their ideals of her, lusting over what Beth represented as a chess prodigy rather than cherishing Beth herself. In addition, Beth battled addiction since she was nine, even utilizing her substance abuse to do what she felt made her such an expert in chess. 

Lastly, Beth grappled to find her sense of purpose or to know who she really was outside of the methodical game of chess. Similar to Beth, child prodigies will entangle feelings of self-worth with success because they confuse the hyper-praise they receive from adults as love. Additionally, child prodigies are often burdened with adult responsibilities and robbed of a proper childhood, resulting in higher rates of anxiety and fear of failure at too young an age.

“With heightened intelligence comes the ability to make sense of adult concepts, which makes child prodigies extremely wary of failure,” Hrashita Dagha explains in her article discussing the reality of being a child prodigy for The Naked Truth. “Children, normal children, I mean, are allowed to make errors as they learn, but for some “obvious” reason, a child prodigy can’t be seen doing the same. Deep down, I was unhappy, so very miserable.”

The Queen’s Gambit illustrates the life-long and burdensome loneliness that accompanies those labeled a child prodigy, reflecting Hrashita’s words and experience. For example, after the death of her adoptive mother, Beth is shown standing alone on the balcony of her hotel room in Mexico City. The camera pans out as she disappears within the wide shot, conveying how small Beth is, how lonely she feels now that her mother is gone or rather how lonely she’s always felt. 

Chess had continuously kept Beth company as people came and went out of her life. As a result, as Beth grew older throughout the season, she became increasingly depressed, turning to substances and alcohol to cope. She eventually hits “rock bottom” after losing to world-renowned Russian chess player, Vasily Borgov.

This loss is especially devastating because of how much self-worth Beth places into being the best at chess, like many child prodigies do. Beth had to learn to heal and find herself outside of chess by, ultimately, making the executive decision to choose herself over people’s oppressive expectations of her and who she should be.

Overall, the show was so enjoyable to watch. Beth’s journey was enriching and inspiring. The cast was amazing all around with especially standout performances from Anya Taylor Joy, Moses Ingram, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster. The cinematography was stellar thanks to the show’s director, Scott Frank.

Although I wasn’t a child prodigy like Beth, I think many people can relate to feeling burnt out upon young adulthood because of the ways we are conditioned to intertwine our own self worth with our accomplishments and, in turn, words of affirmation from adults. Given this aspect of relatability, viewers can connect with the show in a real, meaningful way and hopefully learn to detach themselves from the opinions of others and put themselves first, as Beth learned to do.

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Music Life

“Born This Way” by Lady Gaga taught me to love myself and others

The iconic album Born This Way by Lady Gaga is regarded as one of her best bodies of work by fans and critics alike, nine years after its release. The album still resonates with listeners because it boldly experimented with the confines of pop music and dared listeners to take chances while living unapologetically. The album’s blend of genres illustrates the multifaceted identities of its intended audience, expertly blending pop, glam rock, heavy metal, country, and techno all into one coherent body of art. Born This Way particularly speaks to marginalized people and challenges the constraints placed on those who don’t fit in an oppressive, white supremacist, patriarchal society.  

Born This Way was released at the start of a new decade, in an ever-changing social and political climate. It feels like there is symbolism in the album being released at the beginning of the 2010’s with me having also just begun my teenage years. My body’s changing, my mind is evolving and the world around me is pushing for more equality, representation, and freedom. 

I was 13-years-old when the album came out, starting my awkward teenage years and just finishing seventh grade. Like most people coming into adolescence, I was an extremely insecure, self-conscious, and anxious individual. Learning how to love myself was proving difficult in a world that made it hard for young black girls to do so. There were times I felt becoming truly confident was hopeless. However, the power of art prevailed because in May of 2011, Lady Gaga released her second studio album titled Born This Way. The album is an anthem of self-love and acceptance that I desperately needed at the time. It greatly helped me learn to unapologetically love every facet of myself, even the parts I didn’t yet understand. 

The album takes a note from its own book and experimented with its marketing, song releases, and visuals. Around the time of its release, aspects of Born This Way were misunderstood by music critics, including but not limited to the album cover which displays Lady Gaga as the head of a motorcycle. Critics mocked the imagery, ignoring Gaga’s illustration and commentary of being made into a machine by oppressive industry standards.

Controversy also surrounded the second song on the album and one of the album’s awaited singles titled, “Born This Way” (named after the album). Among other criticisms, the song stirred controversy at the time for its reference of trans individuals on a mainstream song from a mainstream artist. Consequently, critics attempted to project their internalized prejudice onto a body of work that existed freely and challenged others to do the same, contradicting the entire purpose of the album. 

Admittedly, at 13 I wasn’t entirely knowledgeable about gender identity or expression. However, that didn’t stop me from resonating with the message of the song. When I listen to Born This Way, even now, I feel free from marginalization; for 4 minutes and 20 seconds, I simply feel unfiltered, uninterrupted fun. I especially remember the announcement for the song. Lady Gaga stood on the stage at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, dressed in her now legendary meat gown, belting “I’m beautiful in my way ‘cause God makes no mistakes. I’m on the right track, baby I was born this way.” Unbeknownst to 12-year-old me at the time, this moment would change my life forever. 

In a 2016 article for Dazed, Jake Hall analyzed Born This Way’s impact years after its release. Regarding what the album meant for Lady Gaga as an artist while also being a pivotal pop-culture moment he states, “[Born This Way] was the moment that [Gaga] stopped being branded an artificial pop behemoth and started to become the searingly honest, sometimes over-emotional human being that we now know well.” From 2000 to 2009, pop music was very traditional in the sense that female pop artists had to conform to society’s hyper-feminine, heteronormative expectations of women. At the start of the 2010s, Lady Gaga deliberately sought to not just challenge those oppressive norms but obliterate them.

At the 2011 VMAs, Lady Gaga performed another album single from Born This Way titled, “Yoü and I.” During her performance, she played the role of Jo Calderone, acting as the male love interest in her own song, which further defied the expectations of what was expected from women in pop. These subtle normalizations of gender identity and expression as well as uplifting messages of finding perfection in uniqueness and marginalized identity helped me begin to slowly understand the world outside of myself.

At 13, I didn’t have it all figured out right away. I was still struggling with finding my confidence, but Born This Way laid the foundation for me to become the outspoken, open-minded, risk-taker I now am at 22-years-old. There’s a reason this album still resonates with fans almost a decade later. An album that encourages others to confidently become the best, most honest version of themselves without permission will never get old.

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