Makeup Skin Care The Internet Fashion Beauty Lookbook Pop Culture

Here’s why Haus Laboratories by Lady Gaga isn’t just another makeup line

These days, celebrity-owned beauty and skincare brands seem to be a dime a dozen. With options like KKW BEAUTY, Kylie Cosmetics, Fenty Beauty, and IMAN Cosmetics, just to name a few, it seems like the last thing we need is a new beauty line. In fact, some would say that the cosmetic market is oversaturated with celebrities showcasing their own take on makeup and skincare, but Lady Gaga isn’t letting that stop her from putting her own unique flare into a beauty line – Haus Laboratories. 

Attribution: [Chavi, a black female model, is wearing green eye shadow and crimson lip gloss. She is looking solemnly at the camera.] Via Haus Labs.
Attribute: [Chavi, a black female model, is wearing green eye shadow and crimson lip gloss. She is looking solemnly at the camera.] Via Haus Labs.
A major distinguishing factor of Gaga’s beauty line is its accessibility. It will not only be available on but also on Amazon. This marks the first time a major beauty brand has launched on the goliath-sized e-commerce platform. So, buyers will have the option to order via Amazon Prime and have the Haus products in their hands within one to two business days. Additionally, all orders from have free international shipping! According to Gaga, “Just like with my music, I wanted everyone to have access to it.” This is a big win for the beauty industry, as even some of the best makeup brands are often confined to be sold within department stores like Sephora or Ulta, which are not necessarily available to everyone internationally without heavy shipping and handling fees.

Attribution: [Kitty, an Asian model, is wearing a silver and black eye shadow with pink eye shadow under her eyes and golden tear drops. She is wearing black shimmer on her lips and her orange hair is in pig tails. She is looking solemnly into the camera.] Via Haus Labs.
Attribute: [Kitty, an Asian model, is wearing a silver and black eye shadow with pink eye shadow under her eyes and golden teardrops. She is wearing black shimmer on her lips and her orange hair is in pigtails. She is looking solemnly into the camera.] Via Haus Labs.
Above all, Haus Laboratories aims to inspire creativity, self-love, and individuality. It’s so easy to get caught up in the Instagram-worthy makeup looks—the perfectly shaped eyebrows and winged eyeliner, the precise contour and airbrushed photo finish. Makeup is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and that is totally okay! The ill-faded Instagram “perfection” is intimidating for me as a makeup artist, let alone someone who just wants to start experimenting with makeup. What if my contour isn’t perfect or my lips aren’t perfectly and symmetrically lined? Should that disqualify me from using makeup to express myself? This often unattainable perfection is what Gaga is rebelling against, “I’m sure as hell not going to put out a beauty brand that is going to drive insecurity and fear into people. This is about liberation.”

Attribution: [Nyajock, a black female model, is wearing a deep red lip gloss with a hing of gold. She is wearing gold, purple, and green eye shadow inside winged graphic eyeliner. She is looking into the distance.] Via Haus Labs.
Attribute: [Nyajock, a black female model, is wearing a deep red lip gloss with a hint of gold. She is wearing gold, purple, and green eye shadow inside winged graphic eyeliner. She is looking into the distance.] Via Haus Labs.
The passion to rebel against society’s idea of perfection and to promote self-love through makeup stems from Gaga’s own story. In her own words, makeup changed the pop star’s life at a young age. Dealing with poor body image in addition to insecurities resulting from constant bullying, Gaga found her inner strength and beauty when she started experimenting with makeup. She even attributes the power of makeup to the development of her persona as Lady Gaga altogether; “It means so much to me…the power of makeup to change how you feel when you’re at your lowest.”

Attribution: [Fish, a black male model is wearing dramatic winged eyeliner on both eyes and half of his face is covered in gold eye shadow. He is looking solemnly at the camera.] Via Haus Labs.
Attribute: [Fish, a black male model is wearing dramatic winged eyeliner on both eyes and half of his face is covered in gold eye shadow. He is looking solemnly at the camera.] Via Haus Labs.
Because Gaga wants her makeup line to be accessible to everyone, her initial release will include products that are incredibly versatile by design. Each product will be available in duos or in sets of three different products – RIP lip liner, Le Riot lip gloss, and Glam Attack liquid-to-powder eyeshadow. Gaga confirms the versatile aspect of these items, stating that she loves using the RIP lip liner as an all-over lipstick and that the Glam Attack shimmer shadows, with their multi-purpose applicators, can also be used as a lip pigment and a highlighter. Additionally, the Le Riot lip glosses are ultra-pigmented and hydrating, and beyond their easy lip application, you can use a touch of gloss on your eyelids to add some shimmer and dimension to your overall look. Even better, each collection is also designed to flawlessly mix and match with the other collections, creating endless possibilities to express yourself through makeup. To top it off, Haus Laboratories is totally vegan and cruelty-free!

Attribution: [Lady Gaga is posing in an all black leather eccentric outfit wearing theatrical makeup. She is surrounded by several models of various ethnicity, also wearing eccentric clothing and makeup.] Via Haus Labs.
Attribute: [Lady Gaga is posing in an all-black leather eccentric outfit wearing theatrical makeup. She is surrounded by several models of various ethnicity, also wearing eccentric clothing and makeup.] Via Haus Labs.
Though we won’t be able to get our hands on these incredible products until September 17, 2019, Haus Laboratories has officially arrived for preorder on Amazon and

Health Care The Vulvasation Love + Sex Love

Things that everyone with a vag should definitely know

Vulvasations is a Tempest Love exclusive series dedicated to spreading awareness about the female reproductive system, debunking myths about periods and dissecting everything vajayjay related. Let’s talk about vaginas!

I recently came across a series of paintings done by a brilliant artist named Jacqueline Secor. The pictures made me do a double take because what looked like floral textures at first, were in fact, vaginas. It was a series of work depicting floral renderings of female genitalia.

What was intriguing about these pictures wasn’t that they were female genitals painted in flowery patterns, but how different they looked from each other. It didn’t look like the same thing done in different styles. There was a noticeable difference between them.

image description: A series of nine artworks in a grid showing floral depictions of vulvas
[Image description: A series of nine artworks in a grid showing floral depictions of vulvas] via Jacquelinesecorart on Instagram
I previously believed that vaginas looked all the same. In hindsight, I’m surprised at my naivete.

Now, we already know women should explore themselves more, and I truly believe that. The statement that the vagina is the most talked about and least understood part of the body, doesn’t just apply to men.

In theory, you know what a vulva is, but would you be able to pick yours out of a line-up? If you can’t, then maybe you should work on that. Why don’t you grab a mirror and take a good look?

I’m not saying you should start researching vagina pictures (unless that helps you).

However, a first good step would be to remove the preconceived notion of what a vagina should look like, and instead, recognize how different each one can be.

Why is it important to appreciate and understand the variety in vaginas? Because the more you appreciate the beauty of your body, the less likely you are of looking for that validation from someone else. Self-love and acceptance are incredibly empowering.

The failure to recognize, embrace and love yourself the right way, can have greater consequences than just misrepresentation and unawareness. It can lead to psychological distress and at times, even a severe condition known as body dysmorphia or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

Body dysmorphia is a mental disorder which causes individuals to obsess over an aspect of their appearance relentlessly, even if the perceived flaw is non-existent or insignificant. Falling for a media-based view of the perfect vulva can cause people to feel genital dysmorphia. They could find themselves making the desperate leap to cosmetic surgery, an industry which is more than happy to sell you the idea of perfection by going under the knife.

Plastic surgeons currently perform two kinds of corrective surgeries on genitals:

1. Vaginoplasty: A procedure to make your vagina tighter. It may also include the removal of some external skin for a more aesthetic appearance.

2. Labiaplasty: The surgical modification of the labia. The clitoral hood, the lips at the entrance of the vagina, and pubic lifts or reductions.

These surgeries can have serious side effects and might not treat the actual source of the problem: that there was nothing wrong with the appearance of your vagina in the first place, it was deeper rooted than that.

Plastic surgeons claim they’re going to make a patient’s genitalia “more appealing.” But to who? Are they trying to meet other people’s expectations, or is the media feeding you the idea of what a vagina should look like – without you even knowing?

If you need some realistic insight into this, please understand the porn industry is definitely NOT going to help you. Neither are pictures of genitals represented as neat little fruits and flowers.

image description: sliced fruit on purple silk
[Image description: sliced fruit on purple silk] via Charles on Unsplash
There are some amazing artists who have done alluring pieces of work similar to this that are worth looking up. There is also a captivating and thought-provoking documentary called 100 Vaginas.

The film is a very up close and personal look at vulvas and people with vulvas openly talking about them and their experiences. If you get a chance to watch this, do it, and understand that it will change you in some significant way by the end.

At least to a point where you won’t feel like you want to run and hide every time there’s a full-blown vulva on your screen.

image description: a woman is smiling while holding a camera between an open pair of legs
[image description: a woman is smiling while holding a camera between an open pair of legs] via IMDB
In the documentary, one woman said “It’s [the vulva’s] physical appearance and makeup is rarely discussed. And while we are taught endlessly about the blood, birth, and pain it will bring to us, its potential for pleasure is only ever really noted in relation to others. We live in a society that treats women entirely like a cock pocket.”

There are many diverse types of vulvas, and all of them are beautiful.

And if your V doesn’t look the way you thought she should, trust me, she’s still lovely, and you’re still a goddess.

If this is an explorative journey you have yet to take, I highly encourage you to try. It’s empowering, and you can never have too much of that.

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Mind Love Life Stories Advice

I wrote a letter to the one that hurt me and this is how I healed

There comes a point in life when you reach a place of self-love and healing. The healing is gradual, it is a constantly fluctuating line that slowly staggers upwards, but this place of self-love is one that takes a long time to reach.  

People deal with the realization that they are no longer affected by the person who broke them in different ways. Some go out and enjoys themselves, maybe even at a party, some decide that it’s finally time to meet a new person, some stay at home and write in their journal about their feelings and some, like me, write a letter to the one who broke their heart.

I’d come to terms with the experience and I’d soaked up all the lessons like a sponge, squeezing out only the bad feelings and the negative emotions that came with them. I was happy, content, and getting on well with my life. But one day, I sat down and absorbed everything—the lessons, the hurt, the love and what it all taught me—and I decided to write to him.

I’ve accepted that healing is not a destination, it is a process and it is a long one at that. And sometimes, while you’re journeying in your path from a jungle of confused feelings to self-realization and soft happiness, you might want to take a breather and reach out to the one who caused this much growth in you without reaching out to them. And that’s what I did. I got a pen and a paper and started writing the traditional ‘Dear…’ letter to the person who broke my heart.

Later, I turned this letter into a poem which I shared on Instagram, and I realized that maybe he would have read it by now, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that I was finally in a comfortable place to reflect on the experience that I had not many years ago, enough to write about it. The letter was called ‘indifference’ but I can reassure you, it didn’t come from a place of spitefulness or regret. Instead, it was an accumulation of everything that had happened and how it made me feel at that present moment—indifferent.

I felt indifferent because I was no longer affected by him. I felt indifferent because the heartbreak I experienced didn’t hurt me anymore. I felt indifferent because I knew then that no matter what happened, I was never going to turn back into his arms again. I felt indifferent because my heart didn’t know how else to feel about him.

It was like, the hole that he left inside my chest was filled with love and happiness and countless experiences since him so there was no room for pain. There was no room to think about the hurt he caused or the tears or the love. And because there was no room, there were no emotions for him either and instead all that I was left with was indifference.

It felt good. I liked writing this letter because as the words appeared on the paper, I felt stronger and more in control. The letter made me feel like I was the one in power this time, and I was. If you think about it–I was the one asserting, I was the one who was ‘telling him how it is’ and I was the one who had the final say because the last word was mine. 

I spoke about my feelings or the lack thereof and I even cared to add a little sass because that’s just me, and by the end as I put that letter in an envelope that wasn’t going to get posted anywhere at all, I was much lighter than before. I was already happy, but after writing to him, I felt happier. I felt like we’d had a conversation which went my way, and most of you will know that is never the case when you’re speaking to the person who hurt you, and now things were ending in the way that I wanted them to.

After writing it all down, I not only came to terms with the true depth of what I was going through, but I was also able to appreciate my journey and how far I’d come. This was the most fulfilling thing about writing that letter. I’ve learned now that often to close old chapters you just need a little ‘chapter summary’ of what happened so you can read over it and make sense of everything. This summary doesn’t need to be for anyone but you, and sometimes you don’t even need to write it out. Just think about it if you must but do take the time to reflect and absorb everything that has happened.

Eventually, when you start a new chapter you have that little bit of information about the previous one so you know how to prepare your heart and soul for what’s to come.

Love Life Stories Advice

A letter to my future self

Dear Future Self,

Remember when you used to draw a line on the wall as a kid to check how tall you were?

Yes, the good old days. The days when you’d be ecstatic to see that you grew by even just a centimeter. Even then, you realized that small progress was still progress.

Height’s easy to measure, though. I realized that’s harder to measure personal growth. And because of this realization, I took it upon myself to give you something to remind you of your growth and constant improvement.

You, more than anyone, would know that looking back on the past has always brought me more harm than good. As much as dwelling on the past has hurt me (or should I say us?) before, I promise you that this letter is the exception.

I don’t know if you remember that early morning you spent writing this on your iPhone, but if you don’t, I hope you’re still as open-minded as I am right now to take in the list of your past failures

Now before you think about traveling back in time just to personally throw a brick at me for doing this, hear me out: I’m not trying to bring you down. More than anything, I want you to realize how many struggles you have not only faced, but conquered. Sure, getting through them was tough, and you may have been ashamed of them in the past. But now that you can analyze them again in the future, I am confident that you’ll see that being faced with adversity made you stronger in every aspect of life: physically, emotionally, mentally, maybe even spiritually.

That’s something to be extremely grateful for.

And okay, I get that people usually write letters to their younger selves, but I decided to write to you. What would be the point of writing my past self a letter she would never get?

Besides, you know that I’ve always been the type to do something more unique anyway. I don’t know how far into the future you’re reading this, but I hope that at least that much hasn’t changed. So without further ado, here’s a list of failures and shortcomings at this point in my life so far:

  • I didn’t get into a certain organization project because I was“too laid-back – the project head simply didn’t think I had the passion.
  • I let jealousy get the best of me in junior high, and this caused me to lose one of the most important people I had at the time.
  • I started rebelling against my parents just for the thrill of it. When I got caught, they lost all their trust in me, trust that I’m still trying to rebuild to this day.
  • I lost so much confidence in myself because I allowed the opinions of others to get the best of me; I lost motivation in pretty much every aspect of life.
  • I refused to let go of someone who ultimately brought me more harm than good. I wanted so badly to “keep the friendship” that I didn’t see how much of an emotional toll it was taking on me.

You’re probably facing a whole new set of problems right now, and I’m grateful for that. Why? Because this constant process of failure, improvement, and learning valuable lessons is the key to living a life that you’re genuinely proud of.

So whenever you feel like you’re not good enough, look back on these past failures. Look back on all you have gotten wrong, and realize how much you have gotten right because of them. Our failures do define us. Not in the sense that we should think less of ourselves because of them, but that they are what ultimately help us progress as a person.

We may not be physically able to mark our achievements and success as lines on a wall, but rest assured, we continue to grow each and every single day.

I don’t need time travel to know that you have developed into someone I’d be extremely proud to become.

With love,

Your Past Self.

Movies Pop Culture

Netflix’s Sierra Burgess is a Loser is bringing plus-size visibility to the romance genre

Romantic comedies get a bad rep. They’re seen as cheesy, stereotypical, and safe; and rightfully so. This year, Netflix decided that 2018 would be the revival of the romantic comedy and I’m here for it.

After the success of “Set It Up” and “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before”, Netflix premiered “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” on Netflix on September 7th.

This teen romance is a little different than what we’re used to. Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser) is a typical dorky straight-A student who wants to get into Stanford. Sierra is not stick skinny. She looks like the average American teenager. She has short red hair, freckles and is well-versed in literature. In the opening scene after she gets out of the shower, she looks at herself in the mirror. Most viewers would expect her to be unhappy with herself, but she proudly proclaims, “You’re a magnificent beast!”

Sierra’s secure self-esteem and nonchalance towards bullying is due to her parents. Her dad (Alan Ruck) is a writer and her mom (Lea Thompson ) is a motivational speaker. When the resident mean girl in school Veronica (Kristine Froseth) insults her, she corrects her taunts: “You’re thinking of Quasimodo, not Frodo.”

After Veronica purposely gives out Sierra’s number, she receives a text from the jock with the heart of gold, Jamey (Noah Centineo). An unintentional act of catfishing ensues as Sierra pretends to be Veronica, for fear of her own insecurity: Jamey being disgusted by the sight of her. In this day and age, it doesn’t seem to hard to catfish others with our dependence on technology in relationships: “I was just kind of relying on our generations total disregard for human interaction.” She enlists Veronica’s help to keep up with the ruse in exchange for helping her win back her college-aged boyfriend.

The best parts of this film are seeing Veronica and how she interacts with her family and the circumstances that ultimately structure her life and viewpoints. It’s 2018 and we’ve moved past the stock mean girl character. Veronica has so much depth to her character, that towards the end you feel much more sympathetic for her.

As mentioned before, Sierra does not look like your typical onscreen love interest, and it’s refreshing. After the debacle with Insatiable, it is imperative that we do not view slimness as a means to be attained and fatness as a liability. Yes, Sierra has insecurities (as does every teenager) but her lack of social standing in high school does not paint her as a tragic character who needs salvation. The only person who can save her is herself.

Now onto Jamey, played by the same actor who also stole our hearts as Peter Kavinsky. Jamey is charming, funny and has a vulnerability that speaks to me. Even though he is the quarterback of his football team, he still gets nervous and anxious about his crush. It’s a shame we don’t get more scenes with him in the movie. Also, the scene with him using ASL to speak to his deaf brother was a highlight.

While there were many bright spots in the “Sierra Burgess”, there were slight issues. I felt that the constant insults towards Sierra calling her a man and a lesbian were unnecessary. I mean, it’s 2018. Are we still calling straight people gay as an insult? I just wish the writers had come up with something that wasn’t so cliched and offensive.

I also felt that Sierra’s best friend Dan (RJ Cyler) was reduced to a sassy black friend trope. Dan had great lines: “Are you a catfish or a can’t fish?” But there were times where I was wondering if his purpose was nothing more than just delivering one-liners and providing comic relief.

Despite the issues, Shannon Purser proved that she is more than just Barb, and Noah Centineo is doing everything he can to make audiences fall in love with him. “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” checked all the boxes of a sweet, charming rom-com. It’s not overly progressive despite having a plus-sized protagonist, but it’s a start. I want to see more characters like Sierra, women who don’t view themselves as disgusting creatures, but magnificent beasts. The world is kind of crazy right now, let Netflix fill you with love.

Gender & Identity Life

I blame my parents’ divorce for making me a feminist

I don’t ever remember a time where my parents were happy together. I’ve always known them separated and divorced. Even at the age of five, while my parents were living together, it was constant arguments and silent treatments.

It was worse when my mom took my brother and me and moved us to another county. As the oldest child, I became the mediator between the two. Most phone calls ended with, “and tell your mother this,” while conversations with my mother ended with, “and tell your father…”

There were some moments when they were able to be civil and have conversations with each other regarding my brother and I. But those periods of peace wouldn’t last very long and I would once again be thrust into the middle.

Divorce is not a word kids want to hear from their parents. It can cause sadness, loneliness, and anxiety among children as well as the parents.

When my parents separated I was devastated. It took me forever to move on and realize that in the end my parents were just not meant for each other, no matter how much I wanted them to be. Even though they were not together, they have always loved and supported me in whatever I do.

One of the most important things I’ve always learned from my parents’ divorce is the value of self-sufficiency. Both my parents stressed on being able to provide for myself and to be independent, especially as a woman.

I don’t think my parents would say that they were feminists, but they were definitely raising one. I was already independent as a child, but my parents’ life lessons, most likely coupled with their own bitterness, continued to fuel the feminist fire in me.

It was my parents who made me aware of the world and what was going on around me. They were the ones who told me that as a woman of color, I would have to work three times as hard as my white female and male counterparts in order to succeed.

Racism was not a foreign concept to me, but it was at that time I realized what it meant to be a black woman in America. That gender, along with my race, automatically placed me behind everyone else. My qualifications didn’t matter, because racial and gender bias always won. It was a concept I never truly understood until I got older.

But there were plenty of things I didn’t understand as a child, like why my dad told me to never rely on a man, but on myself.

Or why my mom told me that sometimes you have to put yourself first.

I used to think it was bitterness. That it was anger and hatred embedded in their life lessons.

As a child, I resented them for it, because the only thing that mattered to me was having my parents together under one roof, but over the years I’ve come to realize that they were preparing me for my future. They wanted to pass on what they learned on to me. They knew how easy it was for a woman to be stuck in one place due to financial or relationship struggles and they don’t want me to experience the same thing that they did.

I couldn’t have asked for better parents, who have molded me into the woman that I am.

Sometimes they’re shocked by my feminist stance and my issues with gender equality within marriage, but it’s their own fault.

They made me this way.

Love Wellness

17 things you know if you actually love the gym

If you’re anything like me, you love working out. So much so that some people would call you a gym rat. You love living a healthy lifestyle and staying fit. You’re down for every type of workout and genuinely look forward to your time at the gym. And…

1. You stress about missing your workout or fitness class

[Image description: gif of woman doing jumping jacks.]

You know that a missed workout is not the end of the world and you will make it up. But days just aren’t as good without your workout.

2. Gym clothes make up more than half your wardrobe

[Image description: gif of woman in a towel saying “Okay, so I have nothing to wear.”]

You love your gym clothes and looking good while sweating it out. And you can’t have too many neon sports bras, right?

3. But at the same time, you never seem to have enough gym clothes

[Image description: Stitch from Lilo & Stitch putting on clothes from a laundry bin.]

Yoga is low impact so I can wear this tank top again, right?

4. You schedule your life around your workouts

[Image description: girl raising her arms saying “I am pumped!”]

I am working out at 6pm so we could maybe meet up at like 9 or 9:30?

5. You’re a regular at your gym and other gym rats know you

[Image description: four women in athletic clothes running in place.]

You’ve made friends at your regular spinning and yoga classes. And the people who work at your gym know you well.

6. Finding a new workout that works for you it feels like a romantic crush

[Image description: woman walking backwards mouthing “I love you.”]

When you first discovered spinning or pilates you felt all the feels second only to first love or your middle school crush.

7. You are confused by people who never workout

[Image description: gif of woman looking confused and scratching her head.]

What do you do all day?

8. You are proud of yourself when you workout especially hard

[Image description: black and white gif of woman looking tough boxing.]

It’s called working out because you’re there to work. The sweater, the better.

9. The soreness after a targeted workout is the best feeling

[Image description: gif of woman happily walking and smiling on a pink backdrop.]

You feel super proud that you killed your ab workout so hard that laughing now hurts (but in a good way).

10. You have *mixed* feelings about working out with other people

[Image description: gif of women exercising together while chatting.]

Working out with other people is awesome if you guys are all actually working really hard – I mean workout buddies for life. But more often than not it ends up being a fun social time and you don’t get your sweat in.

11. Working out is therapeutic for you

[Image description: gif of woman in sports bra and shorts, running up stadium steps.]

When you have a bad day, nothing feels better than getting in a hard workout. Those endorphins can really turn a bad day around for you.

 12. TFW you forget your headphones

[Image description: gif of woman sighing.]

Do you go home and get your headphones or do you maximize your workout on your own? Working out is SO MUCH HARDER without your pump up playlist!

13. Your friends make fun of you for living at the gym

[Image description: gif of woman doing fitness pose.]

I promise I only go for a couple hours everyday guys. As much as I love the gym, I love my bed too.

14. Fitness isn’t just going to the gym, it’s a lifestyle

[Image description: gif of woman doing yoga on a purple background.]

Fitness is healthy eating, consistent hydration, protein intake, stretching, going to the gym and so much more. Your healthy, fit lifestyle is just how you roll.

15. Working out in a rush is THE WORST

[Image description: gif of woman sighing.]

Getting your workout in every day is your lifestyle but having to squeeze your workout in between life events means you can’t get as long or thorough of a workout. And sometimes you feel a little guilty about not doing those extra reps.

16. You have a love-hate relationship with your foam roller

[Image description: gif of girl looking uneasy.]

On the one hand your foam roller helps you stretch and loosen up your muscles. On the other hand, it hurts so freaking much!

17. Going to the gym is how you love yourself

[Image description: gif of woman dancing in the street.]

Working out makes you feel strong and superb. For you, self-love is getting to the gym often and keeping a healthy lifestyle.

Love Advice

I used to hate myself. Then a supermodel saved me.

I am a woman with many obsessions.

Of these obsessions, my love for fashion is the most prominent. The designers, the influencers, the Anna Wintour’s; even the models who, in the past, have looked nothing like me. When my love affair with fashion began when I was a preteen.

I ogled over the textures, colors, silhouettes and the fair-skinned bodies of that they adorned.

I am a black woman who, until recent years, endlessly compared herself to these bodies that graced the covers and pages of fashion magazines. I wanted to be one of those fair-skinned bodies. To have piercing, yet doe-like, light eyes. Silky, voluminous hair.  A slender physique.

I wanted to be beautiful.

In my parent’s house, the most unflattering middle school photo you can imagine used to hang in the hallway. It was me with flat, frizzy hair; braces and a sad smile topped off with a purple argyle top I must have thought was cute at the time but, in hindsight, was a horrible sartorial decision.

After hanging and mocking me there for ten years, despite my relentless begging for it to be taken down, it finally was. It wasn’t just the fact that it was a bad picture, it was what it represented: I felt like it was me in my most unattractive form.

Like many other girls my age, when the 2012 Olympics rolled around I tuned in to the closing ceremony to see One Direction perform. However, I was in for a treat because part of the closing ceremony would end up catering specifically to my fashion obsession. One segment of the ceremony featured a group of models wearing exclusively British designers as they strutted across the stage.

Of course, they had Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, even Georgia May Jagger; but they also had Jourdan Dunn.

It wasn’t like I had never seen a black model before, but watching Jourdan made me feel something: familiarity.

There she was, resembling an actual goddess on television in her gold and white gown and gold headdress, and I felt like I knew her.

I did my research, followed her on everything I could, and even found her cooking series on Jay-Z’s Life and Times YouTube channel. She was smart, ambitious, funny, charismatic and I could see myself in her; this beautiful figure existing in a world that I could only peer into.

She dealt with panic attacks growing up and went through the same insecurities with her body and appearance like I do. I thought, “If she can get through all that and become one of the world’s top models, I can get through my struggles and be great at what I want to do.”

The first step was to figure out what I liked about myself and accept my flaws.

I liked my height and my frame, I started noticing, was a nice mixture of slender with curves. Sometimes I talk too fast, but that’s when you know I’m excited or passionate about something. Though introverted, once you get to know me, I come out of my shell and can be a pretty animated person. My eyes that I once thought were squinty and dark, actually have a nice almost almond-like shape and hazelnut coloring.

The second step was to hone my talents to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

Ever since I was a kid, I‘ve favored writing over most other art forms and consider myself to be a strong writer, especially when the topic is one of my obsessions.

But then I started thinking that I could do so much more with writing. I could make a difference in people’s lives. Make them think, change their perspectives. So, I chose to be a journalist because I want to be a voice the public can depend on and trust.

The third and last step was to become my own role model.

Finding a kindred spirit in someone you think is so out of reach is a great start, but the real emotional and mental strengthening comes from being there for yourself.

No one knows yourself better than you. No one knows your potential better than you.

When you are your own role model, you aren’t comparing yourself to anyone else. Why would you need to? You’re already who you want to be.

Once I made that change in my life, everything else fell into place. I got into my dream school and dove headfirst into my journalism major. I found my people in an amazingly supportive and loving group of friends. It felt like I was buzzing and radiating energy.

Finally, I was able to look toward the future with excitement instead of hesitation. Finally, I started living my best life.

Look in the mirror, what do you see? Now look within yourself; who do you see? The process of learning to love yourself is interesting because to do so, you have to learn different things about yourself. Each new observation and discovery is a surprise, and soon you begin to think “Hey, I’m pretty great.” 

The best part is when you start to believe it. 

From there the world is yours and there is no such thing as an obstacle

Picking up on all the different aspects of myself was like turning the page of a book that you can’t put down.

Learning to like yourself is an interesting experience, but learning to love yourself is an amazing experience.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

After the breakup, I forced myself to be single – for one major reason

When I’m in a relationship with someone, I utterly and completely unfold for them. I give it everything I’ve got and there’s no half measures or middle ground. Instead, there’s an all-encompassing effort in an attempt to be the best girlfriend, the sexiest woman and the most supportive partner.

While being an overachiever can be a good thing, when I’m in a relationship it means I rarely leave anything for myself. By the time I’m done loving my man, I’ve barely got any crumbs left for myself. So as another relationship ended in which I realized I had once again given far more than I had ever got, I committed myself to the single life.

Despite the stigma, the sympathetic looks (of which there are many) and the crushing spinster stereotype, I realized that if I was unable to master the fundamental tenets of self-care, I had no business being with anyone at all.

Most people are afraid of being alone. I, however, was terrified I would give myself away again to the next man that came along. Giving yourself away once is painful enough, but doing it twice over the last five years has split me in ways that I’m not always sure I can recover from. Sometimes, things that are broken can’t be put back together in the same way. The pieces don’t always fit like they once did.

Deciding to remain single, despite the possibilities that arose over the past year, has given me an enormous amount of time and space. The time to understand the things I want and the space to fall for myself. It’s remarkable the shifts that happen when there’s no one in the picture and by no one, I mean there’s no romantic involvement, boyfriend, someone you like or a situationship going on.

In short, you’re not waiting for anyone to message you, which in itself is a liberating feeling. No matter how strong we are, we’ve all felt the agony of staring at our message screen waiting for those grey ticks to turn blue and the ‘typing…’ sign to appear.

I’ve found that being single is a lot like standing alone in a vast marble hall and every time you call out, your echo returns to you. Which is to say, you are utterly alone with only yourself to come back to and within that hall is infinite possibilities. I’ve been standing in that hall for over a year now, and instead of loneliness, I’ve felt all the love that normally flows out of me into another person, flow straight back into me.

Being single gives me the energy to selfishly chase every dream I’ve ever harbored. I can pick up and travel to Australia for two months, because I’m not worrying about when I’ll see my man. Even if I wasn’t worrying about it, I know that if I was madly in love with someone, I wouldn’t want to travel around Australia for two months because I would miss them and feel the pull of their arms calling me home from oceans away.

I can stay up late or hole myself away for weekends at a time writing as many novels as I like, never worrying about someone else’s schedule. Leaving those worries and the expectations you place on yourselves to always ‘be there’ for your lover is liberating as hell. It’s like breathing the freshest air you’ve ever tasted.

I’ve also learned that single seems to be a synonym for time. When I’m in love, in that gut wrenching, tremble every time you see their name kind of way, I spend time writing messages, rephrasing messages, having long FaceTime conversations, watching what they’re up to on social media, worrying about outfits and buying new lingerie every time they come around. I know I don’t have to do any of these things, I know the men I’m with don’t expect it, but I know that the person I am does it anyway. It makes me feel good and sexy and I love talking to the person I’m with.

So believe me when I say that my single life has given me so much free time, and I’ve put it to better use than I would have done having a four-hour conversation with some guy who gives you FaceTime because he can’t give you much else.

But time is a small thing in the grand scheme, and the lessons single life gives you are golden. Being alone means you’re confronted with yourself when normally you can hide in another person. It means you have to figure out how to make yourself happy when you’re sad. There is no one else to take you out and cheer you up. You have to understand your triggers, and learn how to talk yourself off the ledge when you’re in bad spaces.

Above all things, you must learn how to be so complete alone, that no matter who might come along, they could never take parts of you away. That’s the golden lesson, the best thing I’ve ever learnt and the reason I’m trying to persuade anyone who will listen to stay as single as they possibly can.

We’ve learned from childhood that we need a partner to save us, and I’ve spent years learning how to save myself and that’s something I’ll need forever, even if the love of my life turns up tomorrow.

He still can’t save me and it’s good to know that I’ve got my own back.

Love Life Stories

If you’re going to pressure me to eat all those samosas, then don’t shame me for my weight

I’m not skinny, I’ve never been skinny.

That’s just not my body type. It’s important to me to be healthy, but I’ve never been obsessed with being size zero.

Growing up in the UK, I’ve noticed that most people are generally polite about body size. If I put on 10 pounds, no-one would say anything out loud. I’m sure they would think it, but it wouldn’t be addressed. Because that’s rude, right? I wish someone could tell my extended family this. Indians have no filter, and it’s getting pretty annoying.

At a family gathering a few months ago, my dear Aunt felt it was appropriate to point out that I’d put on a lot of weight since she’d last seen me. Mortifying, right?

Well, she continued to mention it, like 4 or 5 times in one conversation. I counted.

I was both embarrassed and extremely annoyed, but I kept my mouth shut. Respecting your elders is a huge thing in my community, but damn do they make it hard.

Fast forward a few weeks. My mum is face-timing relatives in India. The last and only time I’d visited India and met these people was as a baby. I haven’t really face-timed before, so I went over and said my hellos, to my mum’s delight.

My Uncle looked at me and said: “Well haven’t you put on weight!”

Erm, since birth? I’d really hope so.

My mother promptly took back her phone and left the room after seeing the horror on my face.

I’m not easily offended or over-dramatic, but these aren’t isolated incidents. At every family function, without a doubt, at least one relative will make some sort of comment about my weight or appearance. They won’t even start with a “Hello” or “How are you.” They just go straight into, “Wow, you’ve gone chubby haven’t you?” It isn’t just fat-shaming either. I’ve seen it happen to my friends who are naturally skinnier; they get told to eat more.

You just can’t win with the Aunties.

These are the same people who take full offense when you don’t finish your food at the dinner table and urge you to eat more. I mean if I eat all those samosas – I’m not really going to be tiny am I?

I suffer from PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), so maybe I am a little more sensitive about my weight than others. A side effect of PCOS is insulin resistance which leads to weight gain. I literally can’t help it. Even if I could, it should not be anyone else’s business. No-one ever appreciates negative comments about their weight.

In this day and age, loving yourself is already difficult. This ideology that no-one will marry you unless you are a perfect size doesn’t help. It is not so much the realization that people think I’ve put on weight that gets me. What I’m getting tired of is the fact that people think it is okay to point this out in public casually.

So I’m learning to call out everyone who thinks that they are entitled to comment on my appearance. The aim is to make them uncomfortable by explaining my medical issues in depth.

I want to be the super annoying relative that no-one wants to discuss weight with.

Gilmore Girls gilmore girls alexis bledel rory gilmore ill drink to that GIF

I love every inch of my chubby self, I just really wish everyone else would too.

Gender & Identity Life

I grew up learning to hate my identity, but how do I heal myself?

There wasn’t just one standout event that taught me how difficult my life would be as a minority.

Looking back at my life, I know a series of moments shaped my perception of myself and the way I choose to interact with the world. Those moments usually entailed being confronted with labels throughout my entire childhood and adulthood. These often reductive classifications forced me to explain, reexamine, and doubt myself countless times.

I know many other minorities, especially women, who feel this struggle. And although grappling with my self-identification could put me in a pretty dark place sometimes, I’ve also experienced many life-changing epiphanies along the way.

1. You will be born in the shadow of fear and hate, both of which you will see in others and yourself.

2. Hold your hands up to shield your face, as you navigate a clear that is still not quite clear of the smoke and rubble left by the Twin Towers.

3. Avoid television at all costs. The news will lay out blueprints of your faith and mind to guide the construction of another angry woman of color, a victim of oppression, a religious fundamentalist.

4. Be wary of the looming threat of surveillance, both by the government and your own peers. Brown bodies in the tri-state area will vaporize, their own families uncertain of their fates. The shadows they leave behind will appear in your night visions as you lie awake.

5. With the media panic surrounding the Middle East, you will discover how easily activated your own panic switch has become.

6. You will grow to be articulate for your age, to show how assimilated you have become to the American way – despite being born in America yourself. Take it as a compliment when strangers tell you, “you sound white.”

7. The gaze of others will propel you forward. Close your eyes and forget how dense your eyebrows are. Look to the NSYNC videos for models of perfection, girls with belly-button rings and colored streaks in their hair who chase boys.

8. Despite the performances you put on to assert your national loyalty, to self-define your religious fundamentals as something perfect and beautiful, you will still be always be diminished to a veil and beard.

9. Pack up and head west, just before your eighteenth birthday. Forget who you are, who you used to be, and the person you thought you wanted to be.

10. Now that you’re far away from that person, imagine a new version of yourself that escapes all religious ethnic labels. In the mirror you will see urban brown stretching towards a California chic that can only decorate pale skin.

11. Go to college. Learn about rhythm and poetry and Mahmoud Darwish. Take up poetry writing. Think about a victim of systematic racism, marked by years of historic oppression, submerged in a art form invented by people who are also stained bottom-up by bloody water.

12. Relish in the anonymity you find in your new city. Slip in and out of shadows, grateful that no one here cares where you go or what you look like. 

13. Muslims will be surprised to learn that you can memorize rhymes in the bleached language of the colonizers but the history and complexity of your Arabic has been wrung dry by the dread of a transcontinental banishment. You are only completely fluent in apologetics.

14. Become a useless student activist.  Hold a stack of quarter-sheet flyers on the campus plaza and stare vacantly into nothingness. You will get tired, not from lack of sleep, but from the fake smiles you force and the sideways glances that scan you. Go sit on a bench by yourself and watch the sea of slumped shoulders and book bags blur by.

15. Look around at the sea of student bodies you wish you had. You are years past middle school and still, wish you looked like one of the pretty girls. “Love yourself first,” the feminists will cry. Your attempts at identity transformation are never complete or whole.


16. Cry in the shower about your shitty grades. Smash a dish in your apartment kitchen because your roommates’ friends are over and you can’t breathe.

17. Take a train across the Bay because you are so sick of this goddamn city where no one cares about you or where you go.

18. Call your mother and tell her that she is the reason why you moved across the country. 

19. Get off the train and realize you still have nowhere to go. Try not to cry.

20. You are a hastily assembled structure that constantly needs the approval of others to stay composed and intact. You, who cannot breathe when you speak in front of strangers. You, who cuts herself to see the blood of the Intifada from which her parents fled. You, who reads and reads and inhales and soaks up every word, movement, and face but still cannot project half of what you take in.

21. You’ll wonder if your parents ever felt as displaced in America as you have in your own body.

22. Emerge from the shadows. Remember this is a story about how you swerved off the common path so you can change the world. Remember that by the end of this story, you are supposed to grow the hell up.

23. A quarter of a century passes and you still haven’t changed the world, but you’ve escaped the notion that our identities are bounded by barbed wire.

24. A quarter of a century passes and you still are dreaming of Glocks in Gaza, airstrikes over Ferguson.

25. A quarter of a century passes and you are still looking centuries ahead for change to come.
Beauty Lookbook

Dear fifteen-year-old me, stop being so damn judgmental of other women

Later on today, I am taking part in a photo shoot for the Interfaith Youth Core’s Better Together Coach program – which is super exciting! And along with the outfit I’m packing for it, I’m packing makeup to put on later. Seeing the way I view makeup now, verses how angsty fifteen-year-old highschool me viewed makeup, it’s funny to see my current actions. Fifteen-year-old me would biting current me’s head off.

But if I could talk to fifteen-year-old me, I would try to make her to better understand my current decisions.

I would explain to fifteen-year-old me that I’m packing makeup not because I’m uncomfortable with my face, but I’m packing it because I’m very comfortable with my face. It’ll stand out in the photos more, and I’ll also touch my face less (which we all know is how we spread germs to ourselves). I’m no makeup guru like the fabulous Fatima Ali, but I do appreciate and trust makeup more than I used to.

[bctt tweet=”I’m packing it because I’m very comfortable with my face.” username=”wearethetempest”]

In middle school, I struggled with low self-esteem and anxiety. This caused me to douse myself in makeup and damage my hair with greasy products and use flat irons too much and too poorly. Towards the end of eighth grade, I was able to learn to love myself and my appearance better while also forcing myself to take care of myself better.

Come high school, I cut my hair a lot shorter for it to become healthy again, learned better hair care routines, and decided to stop wearing makeup. I wouldn’t wear makeup unless I was told to for a family function or something along the lines of that.

This was all because I began to view makeup as a sign of weakness and an indicator of low self-esteem, because I knew that’s what I used it for in the past. I believed that makeup was only marketed to women so that women could please men – which could explain why we had a tendency to be more sensitized about the way we look to others. I would always be the one to say to my sisters or other women, “You look so much prettier without it, why try to please others?”

I didn’t trust makeup anymore.

[bctt tweet=”I began to view makeup as a sign of weakness and an indicator of low self-esteem” username=”wearethetempest”]

I thought I was empowering women when I said the statement mentioned earlier, and it actually did encourage a few. However, what I was saying for most women was not empowering, it was judgmental in the guise of female empowerment. And I should have known better; as someone who has struggled with body image at a young age, why perpetuate that to others?

After my freshman year of college, my sisters, cousin, aunt, and mother were all comparing and contrasting eye shadows and lipsticks while talking about their favorite products. Even with the few amount of makeup tools I had, they invited me into the conversation. And it was… fun. It wasn’t a circle of talking about how to please others, it was a conversation that allowed building one another up with the many ways we can look pretty. This was also around the same time I discovered Mary Kay products and became a beauty consultant for a little while, because I liked how comfortable the products were on the face.

[bctt tweet=”It was building one another up with the many ways we can look pretty.” username=”wearethetempest”]

It would still be nice to live in a society where men and women can make better distinctions of when women are wearing makeup and when they’re not – especially without referring to makeup wearers as “tired” when they’re not. I still believe that myself and other women look better without makeup, but I don’t believe that all women wear makeup to please others or wear it because of a lack of confidence. Seeing my sister wear makeup a lot, taking so much time with contour and sticking one too many things in her eyes, why would she dedicate that time to anyone but herself?

I still don’t wear makeup often, but when I do, it’s to feel good and look good. And if fifteen-year-old me were to have a conversation with the me now, I would hope she would be happy with how far I’ve come.