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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LGBTQIA+ Race Music Inequality Interviews

Color of Music Collective is championing representation in the music industry

Pride month has come to a close and discussions about Black Lives Matter seem to be dwindling in some circles on social media, but music industry activists like Mia Van Allen, Carla Hendershot, and Emily Yankana of the newly created Color of Music Collective will not let these issues to be forgotten or silenced.

Spanning across time zones and currently operating fully online, this collective emerged as a way to put the spotlight on the lack of representation of people of color and LGBTQ+ folks in the music industry. The group specifically works to amplify the voices of people who don’t often have a seat at the table. They host weekly Zoom panels featuring LGBTQ+ and POC in the music industry with the goal of inspiring and empowering a younger generation of music industry hopefuls.

Co-founder, Carla Hendershot explained the collective’s inception saying, “Mia approached me with the idea basically.” Hendershot continued, “We both have always gotten along pretty well because I am part of the LGBT community and Mia is a person of color, and we both have noticed that while there are people working in the industry who look like us or identify like us, they don’t always necessarily have a spotlight on them, so it’s kind of hard to meet people like that.”

Who are they?

The collective’s founder, Mia Van Allen, is a 21-year-old recent American University graduate with a degree in Public Relations and Strategic Communication. She has a goal to become an agent. Co-founder and panelist, Carla Hendershot, has a degree in Business with a music industry concentration and currently serves as an Account Assistant at FBMM in Nashville, Tennessee. Emily Yankana, the digital analytics manager of the trifecta, also graduated from American University with a Bachelors in Communications and works as a senior social media coordinator for a company called Carahsoft in Virginia. As a trio, they share a common drive for advocacy and a goal of diversifying the music business at all levels, by pushing for representation of all sexualities and races. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic relegating many people to working from home or seeking employment, Carla stated, “We figured this would be a good time to try and start something like this, where we can help amplify the voices of people working in the industry… We know that a lot of our audience are in college or even high school, and we personally feel like if we had seen more people like us in the industry, we would have felt more like we can do that.” 

What are their goals?

What sets them apart from other collectives pursuing similar goals? The answer boils down to specificity, and a focus on representation in all levels of the music industry. According to Mia, “We focus on a specific issue whereas most other collectives don’t. They choose issues like ‘woman in management,’ and Carla and I thought that was so broad. We wanted to focus on this very specific issue that was important to us.” Mia elaborated saying, “We wanted to amplify the voices of not only LGBTQ+ artists and artists of color, but also more people behind the scenes. So we want to hear from the photographer, the stylist, the booking agent, the manager, just basically everyone that makes the artist who they are. So yeah that’s something that’s a little more unique to us.”

According to Mia, a big issue they are interested in tackling is the use of the term “urban” to refer to categories of music like R&B, hip hop and jazz. She stated that “so far only Republic Records has switched the department urban music to hip hop and r&b. They’re trying to figure out a different name for it. But I guess they finally realized after over 40 years that it is offensive.”

Mia described how her own personal networking and applying experience in Fall 2020 influenced her perception. She explained, “I wouldn’t call it hiring discrimination, it’s just like they assumed things because of the color of my skin that I would be best suited for the urban department. I hate that word urban … I was actually really interested in rock.”

Why now?

Due to current events surrounding the murder of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and countless other Black people at the hands of police, there has been a renewed interest in the Black Lives Matter Movement. People are also calling for more representation of people of color in brands, companies, and whole industries. Change is on the horizon, although the process and progress is slow. 

Mia well described the shift she has noticed in the music industry. She stated, “You have competitors coming together and agreeing we need to see more people of color in the high level executive positions. So over the past two weeks, I’ve seen in the news that over 70 people in Universal who are people of color have been promoted. We have diversity and inclusion committees that we are now joining for different agencies. It’s a slow change, but I can probably see within the next 6 to 8 months a significant difference, especially with the hiring process.” 

So, what next?

Color of Music Collective is currently looking to grow their staff a little more. Recently, the team has added Hannah Damico as their graphic design team leader. They are seeking more volunteers who are people of color or in the LGBTQ+ community for representation reasons. However, they are also open to guest panelists who are POC or LGBTQ+ with experience working in the music industry.

Volunteers make up different departments from outreach to social to digital analytics and production. That way the collective puts their interests and skills to good use. The collective hopes to be able to host live events once the pandemic ends. To contact the Color of Music Collective for more information, email them at: or visit their website: 

*Disclaimer: Some quotes have been edited for length and clarity.

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Celebrities Gender Race Inequality

Lana Del Rey has always been problematic, we just never talked about it

Late last week, Lana del Rey gave us another installment of Racist Dogwhistling by White Women Who Should Probably Know Better, a semi-monthly social media conversation that usually ends with iOs apologies and discussions about “real racism.” 

The singer posted an essay on her Instagram account that began thusly, “Question for the culture: Now that Doja Cat, Ariana, Camila, Cardi B, Kehlani and Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé have had number ones with songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes, f**king, cheating etc – can I please go back to singing about being embodied, feeling beautiful by being in love even if the relationship is not perfect, or dancing for money – or whatever I want – without being crucified or saying that I’m glamorizing abuse??????” 

She went on to describe herself as “just a glamourous person singing about the realities of what we are all now seeing are [sic] very prevalent emotionally abusive relationships all over the world” and said that she finds it “pathetic” that her “minor lyrical exploration detailing [her] sometimes submissive or passive roles in [her] relationships has often made people say [she’s] set women back hundreds of years.”

Apparently, she is “not not a feminist” but feels that there should be “a place in feminism for women who look and act like [her] – the kind of woman who says no but men hear yes – the kind of women who are slated mercilessly for being their authentic, delicate selves…”

Let’s unpack this. While I do not care to follow anything regarding Camila Cabello’s career because she has her own history of anti-Blackness, the rest of the women that del Rey name-checked have been criticized often throughout the course of their careers, for being “too sexy,” being “too political,” breaking up with their partners, their tattoos, their partners’ infidelities, the ways that they speak or dress. On one hand, del Rey was being ridiculously self-absorbed and obtuse. On the other, save for Ariana Grande, every woman on that list is a woman of color. 

Perhaps Lana del Rey could benefit from a brief chat with a capital F feminist, because then she may learn a little about the ways that Black and Latinx women have been stereotyped and hypersexualized by racists for centuries. And that by propping herself up like this “authentic, delicate” victim of undue criticism, she is operating right out of the Racist White Women of Yore Playbook, by invoking ideas straight from the Cult of Domesticity, or the Cult of True Womanhood. 

In response to the backlash she swiftly received, the singer wrote that when she mentioned women who look like her, she was referring to “people who don’t look strong or necessarily smart, or like they are in control etc. it’s about advocating for a more delicate personality, not for white woman [sic].” Which, as several Twitter users pointed out, still does an efficient job of masculinizing Black women – another old, racist standby. 

Full disclosure: I do not hate Lana del Rey’s music, despite some of its problematic themes. I enjoy a good, hauntingly depressing track every now and again. It was good music to write to when I tired of my other standbys, but I would often get put off by some of her lyrical choices, and I’m not at all heartbroken that I have to give it up. 

For example, in her song “Off to the Races” from 2012’s Born to Die, she repeatedly references Lolita, with the lyrics “Light of my life, fire of my loins,” a couplet that author Vladimir Nabokov actually pulled that quote from the real-life child abduction and molestation case that inspired his novel. 

If possible, she managed to make this even more troubling by heaping a bit of cultural appropriation on top, by describing herself (or perhaps more accurately, the character she plays) as “Lolita gets lost in the hood” during a 2011 interview with The Guardian. That she’d donned this “hood” persona but then turned around to throw Black and Latinx women – for whom being considered/stereotyped as “hood” can result in being devalued or disrespected – under the bus in 2020 is…not surprising, but it does rankle the nerves. 

Then, there’s her notorious sample of the troubling 1962 song by The Crystals, “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss” in the title track of her 2014 album, “Ultraviolence.” Are the accusations of glamorizing abuse really that far off? 

Lana del Rey has relied heavily on shock value in the past. For example, “Cola” from her 2012 album, Paradise literally begins with the lyrics, “My p***y tastes like Pepsi Cola/My eyes are wide like cherry pies.” Which she immediately follows up with “I got sweet taste for men who are older/It’s always been so it’s no surprise.” Is that a reflective take on power imbalances in her previous relationships? Or is it her leaning into her problematic “Lolita” persona? 

In her “final” note about her earlier post – which, spoiler alert, would NOT be her final words on the subject – she stood firm in her stance that she was merely “writing about the self advocacy [sic] for the more delicate and often dismissed, softer female personality. She went on to predict that the “new wave/3rd wave of feminism” would be helmed by the kind of women for whom she is speaking. 

Not even touching the fact that Lana del Rey does not know that third-wave feminism is already a thing, let’s dissect her comments about the aforementioned artists not being “soft” or “delicate.” 

Nicki Minaj was the first female rapper with major buzz in years, and she literally sang love songs, calls her fans Barbies and made the color pink a huge part of her brand. Beyoncé has songs about insecurities, feeling silenced in a relationship – the woman literally put out “Lemonade,” which repeatedly made references to her real-life husband’s infidelities. Cardi B breastfed her baby in a music video. Kehlani’s “Nights Like This,” one of the most-streamed songs of her career, thus far, is all about feeling powerless in a relationship that does not serve you. [Note: I’m skipping over Doja Cat because then, I’d have to write about her most recent scandal, and honestly, we’d be here all night.]

The fact that this all comes on the heels of food writer Alison Roman accusing decluttering genius Marie Kondo and cookbook author/famed Twitter user Chrissy Teigen of “selling out” for having become successful – it’s just too much. Roman was interviewed about her career’s trajectory and was discussing her future, and instead, squandered the opportunity to further her own wins by hating on two Asian women – one of whom (Teigen) was prepared to actually work with Roman. 

Apparently, if Asian women build successful careers by leveraging ideas and recipes inspired by their own cultures, that’s selling out. However, when a white woman does it, it is innovative and creative, and cool. When Latinx and Black women make music about sexuality, they can never be “delicate” or “soft.” Instead, they are “strong” and “in control,” which is code for “unfeminine.”

Given Lana del Rey’s response to the backlash she’s received, I’m fairly certain that she is shocked at her comments are racist. But here is the tricky thing about racism, especially in a country with a history like that of the U.S.: it’s been so heavily ingrained in American culture that many white people who traffic in casual, underhanded, or coded racism shut down the moment they are called out for their behavior. They believe that only violent, taboo racism is “real racism,” and that anyone who disagrees with them is reading too much into things, being overly sensitive, or misunderstanding their message. They don’t even recognize their own dog whistles and will argue you down that you are wrong because they didn’t mean it that way.

That is why the unlearning process is such a big part of becoming a say-it-with-your-full-chest feminist: this society was built on a racist, patriarchal system, and those who refuse to listen to women of color when they are called out for this kind of behavior are doomed to repeat it.

Music Pop Culture Interviews

“Your Gold” by Birch is a testimony to following your dreams

Michelle Birsky is a Brooklyn-based indie musician that goes by the moniker Birch (yes, after the thin hardwood tree). If you’ve been with us for a while, you probably remember we interviewed her when her album came out. Birch’s new release “Your Gold” chronicles her journey about forging her own path as an artist.

The song glides into Birch’s ascension as she defines herself in the music industry. The indie artist uses her creativity to compose a song that gives a realistic account of the struggle of attaining a dream and fighting for it. It’s a catchy, feel-good tune meant to inspire people to follow their aspirations. 

The Tempest caught up with Birch again about her new single. She confessed she wrote “Your Gold” after she felt beaten down by the music industry: “I wrote this song to remind myself that my path is my own and to sort of recommit myself to my art.” Yes, girl, we’re very inspired!

She explained about the allegory behind the title and meaning of the song: “Your Gold is a song about the grit of chasing a dream. During the Gold Rush, thousands of people flooded towards the same goal: to build themselves a prosperous future. In this saturated digital age, this is a song about questioning my ability to reach my own goals and ultimately making the decision to follow my own path, rather than follow the herd.”

The title of the song is meant to be sarcastic. Birch reflects “it refers to the way we view other people’s success and crave it for ourselves. Lusting after someone else’s ‘gold’ is a waste of time, yet many of us get caught up in it.” Birch does not have any intention in comparing herself with others.

Birch seeks to define and establish herself, as she is not the same artist after the release of her first album. “Your Gold” is a different sound from “” As a result, she wants to inspire her listeners to be themselves and build their own futures. The artist reflects that the “industry is more based on numbers, streams, etc. than it is based on art itself.” Birch is more focused on her music now than ever before.

The artist was inspired by her boyfriend, Kevin Henthorn, of the band Cape Francis to write the song. He remains a steadfast support system in her artistic development. He is the “you” that she sings to in “Your Gold.”  Birch chants before she transitions into the refrain of the song, “I love the way that you’re loving me / I close my eyes and I see your dreams.”

Birch told us that Kevin “has inspired me to stay in the game and keep making music.”


It’s clear that “Your Gold” represents a new era for Birch. She wants to keep on writing music that moves her and pushes her to be more creative. Her greatest joy comes from her art.

“Your Gold” is reflective of her passion and is very relevant and tasteful to the ear. It’s is a beautifully composed song that has melodic electronic sounds accompanying her diaphanous voice. The lyrics throughout the song are moving and inspiring to the listener. The song is joyful to listen to when you put on your headphones. I enjoyed listening to this new single, as I found it inspiring and moving.

Birch is passionate about her art. At times, you might find yourself dancing, swaying your head, side to side, as you listen to her voice. As a result, maybe even singing along with her during the chorus of the song. It’s that good. We highly recommend you listen.

Editor's Picks Music Pop Culture

Here’s the real tea on Taylor Swift

If you’ve visited the internet over the past few days, you’re aware that Taylor Swift is in the midst of yet another feud.

On the face of it, it’s against her old record label Big Machine and its new owner Scooter Braun.

After a lengthy Tumblr post where Swift explained how she has no control over her past work and why Braun owning it is her worst case scenario, the conversation has taken quite a turn.

Angela Weiss / AFP / Getty Images,
Angela Weiss / AFP / Getty Images,

All anyone can talk about now is whose side they are on, whether Braun really is a bully (as Swift alleges), and most importantly, who Ariana Grande will support.

This noise is all we’ve been hearing on a toxic sphere of the Interweb. None of this takes a look at the real problem everyone is aware of and yet continues to ignore – the music industry’s exploitation of its artists.

The music industry is definitely not known for being a good or healthy working environment. A terrible cycle of abuse and misogyny is often (poorly) hidden under the shining appeal of the Billboard Hot 100 (Chris Brown, anyone?).

Worse off are young artists who sign on to big labels in hopes of success, inevitably landing onto airtight contracts through which they sign away their freedom and ownership of their music. Labels then control not only the artist’s work itself, but also their image and how much money they make off their own music. Prince once compared these contracts to slavery, and he wasn’t off the mark.

In this particular case, the cold hard facts are that Braun will own the masters (original recordings) to all of Swift’s previous work, excluding the two singles from her forthcoming album which is under a different label. Big Machine and Braun, as its owner, will continue to profit off her music in perpetuity. Not only will someone else have full ownership over Swift’s music thus far, but it is also someone she claims tried to dismantle her musical legacy (Braun used to be Kanye West’s manager).

Regardless of what side you pick in this drama, it’s hard to deny that it is unfair to an artist to have to see their work in someone else’s hands. At the end of the day, this is Swift’s life work, and yet she has no rights over it.

Seeing an artist lose her work this way reminds me of the time celebrities were being sued for using paparazzi photos of themselves. That felt ridiculous. This is worse. When Swift did try to buy her music back from Big Machine, she claims she was presented an unacceptable deal. She would have to release a new album through the label to earn just one of her previous albums back and keep producing new albums until they were all hers.

If one of the world’s biggest pop stars has no control over her life’s work, what rights do less privileged artists have? How badly are they being exploited?

It is also important to acknowledge that Swift has accused Braun of bullying her for years. Yet none of this will have any impact on his ownership of her brainchild. All this case does is make it clear how women in the music industry – even powerful women – are forced to stay connected to men they have openly tried to sever contact with.

One is immediately reminded of Kesha’s legal battle against Sony and Dr. Luke, where she was legally obligated to remain with the label despite accusing her producer of raping her and claiming her label knew about the abuse. Sony continues to have control over Kesha, so much so that her career might as well be over due to her contract with the label.

There’s a long history of record labels mistreating and exploiting artists; of keeping a tight leash over their creative license and not letting them own or profit off of their art. Many artists have tried to break free; Jay Z by creating his own streaming service in Tidal and Chance the Rapper by sticking to platforms like SoundCloud.

For Swift, there is hope in the US Copyright Act of 1976, through which she could gain back rights to her music 35 years after the copyright deal was first signed. Paul McCartney has used the same to attempt to get back rights to songs written by him and John Lennon, almost six decades after he lost them.

It’s easy to look at rich and wildly successful celebrities and feel no empathy towards them as they object to not having liberty or ownership over their work. But only an artist can understand the meaning and value of the art they produce, and what is art without freedom?

What is the future of music if left in the tightly controlled hands of executives who only care about the money they feed the capitalist system, and not the art form being produced or the mental health of the artist trying to produce it?

Ending this exploitation is what we should be getting from Swift speaking up. Instead, all we have seen are days of support hashtags and (ironically) bullying from toxic fans on all sides. Going after Sia or sharing fake images of Grande supporting Swift will help neither artists nor their art.

Swift has used her influential platform to start an important conversation, then why are we refusing to have it?

She deserves better, and so do all other artists who have no choice but to put up with their labels because they know fans care about drama, but not justice.

The Tempest Radio Music Pop Culture

5 pop artists from Europe that are changing the game

Pop music is infectious. Don’t get bogged down by anyone who says it’s too generic for their taste. The sounds are constantly evolving, though most pop songs these days still manage to have those catchy choruses you seem to hum at random moments (looking at you, K-Pop!) Right now, I’m enjoying the added twists that European artists are adding to the mainstream. If you’re feeling bored with the American pop scene or just need some fresh sounds to your playlist, here’s five artists from across the pond you absolutely need to know better.

1. Charli XCX

Charlie XCX
[Image description: a gif of Charlie XCX wearing a pink jumper]
Charli is sort of a big name already – remember that big hit a few years ago with Icona Pop called “I Love It” or her feature on Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy?” Or how she recruited pieces of Hollywood’s eye candies for her “Boys” music video last summer? Charli has established herself as a major songwriter and collaborator since her early hazy electropop days, and now she seems to drop the best pop bangers whenever she feels like it. She’s all about starting the party and having a good time.

Check out: Focus, Roll With Me, Femmebot (ft. Dorian Electra and Mykki Blanco)


It’s pronounced exactly how you see it and is a play on his surname, Emenike. Along with his chart-topping duet with Zara Larsson, “Never Forget You,” MNEK has written for some of the most buzzed about names in pop including Dua Lipa, Kylie Minogue and the queen herself, Beyoncé! His debut solo album just dropped full of infectious dancehall R&B that includes his own writing and production credits. Try not to pull a muscle dancing from song after song!

Check out: Colour (ft. Hailee Steinfeld), Tongue, Paradise

3. Christine and the Queens

Christine and the Queens
[Image description: a gif of Christine and the Queens] Via Apple Music.
French performer Héloïse Letissier sings and dances under the name Christine and the Queens. Along with her personal dance crew, you’ll find Letissier grooving to the style of theatrical inspired visuals in their performances. In 2016, she had the biggest selling debut album in the United Kingdom. With her recent release, Chris, she embraces an edgy alter ego under the same name. Her catalog of music holds a range of funky pop songs about gender roles and embracing sexuality.

Check out: Girlfriend (ft. Dâm-Funk), iT, Half Ladies


Scotland-born but Los Angeles-based producer Sophie has crafted experimental pop collaborations with Charli XCX, Vince Staples and Madonna. Her small presence on social media and rare interviews may seem mysterious, but she doesn’t consider herself to be anonymous. In an interview with Teen Vogue, she stated she’s always been honest in the work she puts out. That honesty shone through last October in her video for “It’s Okay To Cry” when for the first time, she performed her own vocals and showed her face on-camera. For many viewers, it also helped us realize Sophie’s identity as a transgender pop star.

Check out: Ponyboy, LEMONADE, VYZEE

5. Raye

If you’re a fan of the hot house-pop and Afrobeats sound today, you’ll love Raye. Atop these sizzling beats lie her air light vocals crooning lyrics that have been described as confident yet vulnerable. Raye’s success has shown through in reaching No. 3 in the U.K. charts last year and features on two Top 20 charting songs in 2016. Plus, she’s collaborated with Charli XCX twice, so that should give you an idea of how fun her music is!

Check out: Decline (ft. Mr. Eazi), Friends, Crew (ft. Kojo Funds and RAY BLK)

Press Pop Culture

Best of The Tempest 2018: 9 Stories from Pop Culture

It’s been a peculiar year in the realm of entertainment. We’ve had such big, progressive victories and such big setbacks and anachronisms in terms of representation, transparency, and inclusivity. Many LGBTQ+ artists thrived, and 2018 was dubbed 20GAYTEEN by singer Hayley Kiyoko. It was the year of Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, and yet big name studios are still out there producing films that are imbued with racism, sexism, homophobia, and fatphobia as well as often promoting rape and hate.

We’re still light years away from consuming the egalitarian entertainment we deserve. I knew that very well when I became Pop Culture Editor at The Tempest. I understood that I would have to look closely at many media products that would make me mad, which I would rather ignore and avoid at all costs, but I gladly accepted the challenge. I believe our mission is to shed light on everything that is going on, and that includes denouncing the many injustices that occur in the entertainment industry. We can’t possibly stay silent about the things we deem wrong, because silence is complicity.

But we also don’t like to only see the glass half empty, and we love to admit that there are many things to praise and to celebrate. Without further ado, I present to you 9 of my favorite Pop Culture stories we published in 2018, a mix of the good and the bad.

1. Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Despite the good representation that television and the music industry gifted us with this year, blockbusters are still actively promoting the erasure of female queerness as well as employing queer bait. This is a trend that needs to stay in 2018.

2. What time is it, Hollywood?

What time is it, Hollywood?

What about what happens behind the camera? This article explores some trends of the entertainment industry from the inside out, because actresses are not the only people we need to protect. Let’s say #TimesUp to all kinds of discrimination.

3. Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

There is a big misconception in fiction and in critique: that a female character who dares be different and dislikable is automatically a great feminist heroine. She’s not, and that’s okay.

4. Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

We are tired of people giving J.K. Rowling a free pass for everything just because she wrote a beautiful book series 20 years ago. For a while now, she has been twisting things to appear “woke” instead of honestly admitting that as the times progressed, she also wants to be more inclusive. There is no need to say that she was planning plot twists all along when in reality the implications of that make her way more problematic. Read why in this piece!

5. Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

If you don’t know what an item number is, you need to read this piece. If you do know, you need to read this piece. It’s eye-opening and I will never look at a Bollywood film the same way again.

6. This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

Contrary to what some haters will have you believe about feminists, we do celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of men, when they deserve it. This article is a clap on the back of an Oscar-winning director for an amazing film that contributed to making 2018 better.

7. Yes, The Bold Type is unrealistic… just not for the reasons you think

Yes, The Bold Type is unrealistic… just not for the reasons you think 

You may or may not know this show, which was a true revelation for its honest representation of working (and woke!) millennial women. However, the show has been accused of portraying a utopistic world of equality (but it really doesn’t, the protagonists deal with misogyny, racism and homophobia every day). This article cleverly responds to that claim, contextualizing it particularly within the journalism world (where the main characters spend most of their time) that we know too well.

8. Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Abusers deserve to be held accountable for their actions. After the tidal wave that was the #MeToo movement, it’s good to see that celebrities are still being taken down after abusive behavior.

9. My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

A constant struggle in the transition to adulthood is that we are burdened with too many responsibilities and we have too little time to do the things we actually want to do out of sheer pleasure, like reading. It does not help that books have gained a very strong competitor for our time and attention, the “monster” that are streaming services.

We’re ready to kiss 2018 goodbye. In the hope that 2019 will be a more satisfying year for women, people of color, and all oppressed minorities, happy new year from the staff of The Tempest!

Music Pop Culture

What we all really need to learn from Ariana’s “thank u, next” music video

“I met someone else… her name is Ari”

These are the lyrics that 25-year-old pop star Ariana Grande broke the internet with in her music video for “thank u, next” that premiered Friday evening. For anyone who has been living under a rock, Ari’s new hit single is about thanking her ex-boyfriends for all they have offered her, but now moving on from these relationships as a proud single woman.

The five-minute video managed to break records as the most viewed Youtube Premiere video of all time. People across the globe were even throwing premiere parties with all their closest friends in order to sit at the edge of their seats and watch with beaming faces as their favorite singer graced the screen.

Fans of Ariana were ecstatic to see the pop artist replicating iconic movie characters from all of the quotable films of their youth and inserting pop culture references that shine a whole new light on the brand classically known by the world as the “chick flick”. It is commonly expressed by society to label a chick flick as less than, a cheap film by patriarchal standards that is, simply and derogatorily, “girly”. In “thank u, next”, Grande takes the derogatory term and flips it on its head. Paying homage to movies that our generation has grown up with, these empowering films include (but are not limited to) Mean Girls, Bring It On, Legally Blonde, and 13 Going On 30.

It is a video filled with community, excitement, hope, and celebration. Yet as charming as the movie references and celebrity cameos in Ariana’s video are (and they are very charming indeed), the best part about her smash hit video is watching as Ari embarks on her authentic journey to self-love in the face of pain.

Ari recreating the scene from "13 Going on 30
[Image description: Ariana Grande with her head resting on a doll house, recreating the scene from “13 Going on 30”] via Vevo

We all have to face heartbreak at some point, whether it be a breakup with a romantic partner or a falling out with a close friend. As most of us know, it’s a terrible feeling to lose someone who was once a significant part of your life. In a way, it can almost feel like you are losing a big part of yourself in the process. This can easily cause us to feel lost, and in a desperate effort to feel “found” we sometimes will search for external sources in order to make us feel complete again. If a partner breaks up with us, we immediately look for another one. “thank u, next” teaches us to find that kind of love within ourselves before scouting for validation from another person.

I remember that feeling of significant loss hovering over me after going through a terrible breakup with my first love. I would just find myself trudging through life like some kind of zombie, emotionless, feeling like I was only half of the person I used to be when I was still with that partner. Who was I without my other half? What kind of person was I to become? My whole world felt as though it had come crashing down, with my expectations of security and comfort evaporating all at once.

Yet as terrible and incomplete as I felt at first, there was still a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. I knew that because I was no longer tied down to anything, I now had the entire universe at my fingertips. I could finally take whichever path I liked, wander down whichever road, and knowing that alone was the most liberating feeling. Was I terrified to suddenly have all of this freedom? Of course. But it was a brilliant kind of terrifying, the kind that only creeps up when you’re in the process of pure growth.

In that process of growth, I was finally able to take all that love I had for my ex and manifest it into myself. The journey to self-love is a difficult one, but once you embark on it, you will feel more empowered and dignified than ever before.

In a lot of ways, I wish Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” would’ve come out sooner. Its classy message of learning to be thankful for what you’ve lost, regardless of how much of hurt you, is an important one. It teaches us to look back on our past relationships with gratitude and poise, rather than spite. It teaches us to put all of that energy we could be wasting on anger and hate into self-love and appreciation.

Ariana singing the words "I turned out amazing"
[Image description: Ariana Grande singing the words “I turned out amazing” sitting in a garden recreating the scene from Mean Girls]

If we can learn to love and appreciate what we have to offer the way Ari teaches us to, we will turn out amazing! So go ahead, embark on that journey of self-love and gratitude. As soon as you do, you’ll have the universe at your fingertips.

The Internet LGBTQIA+ Movies Music Books Pop Culture

The most iconic moments of 20gayteen – and why entertainment matters in normalizing minorities

Didn’t you hear? Word on the net is that 2018 has been canceled, replaced by 20gayteen, which sounds much cooler and much more diverse. Jokes aside, this year counts many amazing contributions in the entertainment industry by queer artists and about LGBTQ+ narratives. They were much needed and will continue to be if we are to win the fight towards de facto equality. Yes, the road to equal rights is still long, and entertainment is by far less important than laws and policies, but it’s a step in the right direction.

How does a marginalized group come to be tolerated, accepted and finally beloved in society? A phobia always originates from ignorance. We fear what is different, what is unknown. As long as something is conceptualized as Other, there will always be a certain fear that translates into hatred. The necessary normalization should take place in common spaces that are constant sources of information for society: the easiest way to change people’s minds is to do it through entertainment.

Films and television have an almost omnipotent power that is expressed in a vicious circle: they are reflection of our society, yes, but our society also mirrors what it sees in the media. Therefore, without further ado, here’s a list of relevant media events that might not be perfect, but that are definitely helping changing people’s minds little by little.

1. Janelle Monae and her Dirty Computer

Janelle Monae
[Image decription: Janelle Monae wearing a rainbow gown at an event]
Janelle has always been an outspoken activist. This year, she’s gone above and beyond to express herself in the most creative and artistic way, not only through her music, but visually as well, through videos and fashion choices. Her music video for Pynk is, quite literally, an ode to vaginas. It also teases a not-so-hidden jab at Donald Trump, with “pynk grabs back” written on panties. Iconic. Dirty Computer, her 46-minute dystopian sci-fi “emotion picture” companion to her album of the same title, is a metaphor for being Other in a white patriarchal heteronormative society that represses anything that is different. Janelle’s multiple identities conflict with the repressive societal standards: she is Black, wild, free, and in a queer polyamorous relationship with the character played by Tessa Thompson and a man. The futuristic visual vibes of her creations are always evocative and tell a story as beautiful as the lyrics.

2. Love, Simon

[Image description: two boys are about to kiss]

The film Love, Simon directed by Greg Berlanti, based on the book Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli was a real pioneer, as the first mainstream teen comedy about gay love. A globally acclaimed hit, it grossed $60+millions at the box office. The takeaway message from the film is that being gay really shouldn’t be a big deal in 2018, it should be normalized. See the hysterical sequence of Simon’s friends coming out to their families for being straight. In fact, the film was marketed not as a niche product for a specific audience of LGBTQ+ and allies, but as a story about love, the way all stories should be presented.

3. Hayley Kiyoko and her Expectations

[Image description: a woman sitting in a chair looks at a naked woman on the floor, who in turns look back at her]
Everything our Lesbian Jesus does, every interview, every social media post is a blessing for the LGBTQ+ community. Expectations is Hayley’s first album and it is impossible to pick a favorite song or music video that she released this year. From the Pride anthem Curious to What I Need ft. Kehlani, and the less known tracks like He’ll Never Love You. Sadly, until recently, Hayley’s audience was limited to queer communities online. Now she’s finally being recognized by the media and even won the Push Artist of the Year Award at the VMAs in September. It’s only fair she’s finally made it into stardom. After all, she’s the one who came up with the hashtag 20GAYTEEN.

4. Bloom by Troye Sivan

Troye Sivan
[Image description: Troye sitting sideways in an armchair wearing an unbuttoned saffron shirt and turquoise feathers on his head]

Troye’s second album is full of beats, but nothing will be as aesthetically pleasing as the Bloom music video. Glamorously vintage, steamy, visually daring and stunning, Bloom also challenges gender norms, with Troye proudly wearing make-up and clothes that are considered feminine by heteronormative patriarchal society. As usual, he’s having none of that. He dances in bright red lipstick, skirts, dresses and sings in front of elaborate flower arrangements, because boys should be allowed to wear whatever they feel like.

 5. Call Me By Your Name

[Image description: two boys are sitting at a table on a sunny day]
The film by Luca Guadagnino based on the novel by André Aciman got four nominations at this year’s Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and brought home the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Before you say that the age gap between Elio and Oliver is illegal, I’ll tell you that it’s completely legal in Italy, where CMBYN is set. This story had a powerful impact on thousands of people because it is a common tale about finding oneself in and through others. It’s about human connection and self-discovery, self-acceptance and – only at the end – romantic love, that just happens to be between two Jewish males. The film’s cinematography is one of the most beautiful of this decade, and it will make you feel nostalgic of places you’ve never been in a time you weren’t born yet.

According to you, what are the media events, films, videos, songs, television episodes, personalities, etc. that made 20GAYTEEN?Let us know by tweeting me at @ladymultifandom, and you could be featured in a future The Tempest article!

The queers thrived in the media in 2018. Let’s keep it up next year, shall we? Twenty-nineteen also rhymes with 20gayteen. Or maybe it’ll be twenty-bi-teen? And then, what, you ask? Twenty-gaynty anyone?

Politics The World

Why are we blaming Kim for everything that Kanye West says?

When I was a little girl, I was implicitly taught that my actions weren’t the only actions I was responsible for.

In preschool, I said something mean to a boy in my class. He started throwing chairs around the room, and we were both sent to time-out because I, allegedly, caused it. If I upset my male classmates or even family members, I was held (at least, partially) responsible for their response, even if it was an overreaction.

As I grew up and became acquainted with feminism, I noticed that I wasn’t alone. Many of my friends who aren’t cis men have experienced similar situations: we were taught that we’re responsible for men’s actions. Unfortunately, this attitude means society tends towards blaming women for men’s actions. 

Recently, Kanye West caused waves when he showed support for Donald Trump.

He tweeted a picture of himself in a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap and made some shocking statements about slavery, saying 400 years of slavery ‘sounds like a choice’. Kanye’s support for the Trump, despite Trump’s bigoted and oppressive views, has understandably angered many of his fans – especially since it’s not the first time he’s said something harmful.

While many people are calling him out indirectly, some people have said that Kanye’s wife, Kim Kardashian, influenced his actions.

In unrelated recent news, the Golden State Killer – a notorious serial killer who was active in the 70s and 80s – might have been captured. Joseph DeAngelo, a former police officer, is now the prime suspect. While the case is being investigated, many are looking for the reason for his actions. Some believe that when his former girlfriend left him, she broke his heart, thus causing him to go on a killing spree.

Although these two situations are vastly different, they have one thing in common: men are committing transgressions of varying degrees, and we’re blaming women for it.  

Kanye West is responsible for saying what he said. The Golden State Killer is responsible for doing what he did.

We don’t have any reason to believe either of those men was manipulated or tricked into doing what they did, yet we still blame women for their behavior. 

These two cases aren’t isolated: the same dynamic plays out in a number of different ways throughout society. We see the same dynamic when incels blame their misogyny on women for choosing not to sleep with them. We see the same dynamic when schoolchildren are told to befriend potentially volatile male classmates to prevent school shootings. We see the same dynamic where women are blamed for being assaulted by men.

When we blame women for men’s actions, we aren’t only letting men escape accountability for their actions: we’re also putting an unfair burden on women. Women are taught not only to be responsible for themselves, but also for the actions of those around them. It’s exhausting knowing that we can trigger any action from a man and be blamed for it. It’s even more exhausting when women and non-binary people are brushed off as over-emotional and irrational when men are allegedly aren’t even capable of regulating their own actions.  

To varying degrees, women and non-binary people are taught to tiptoe around men to avoid violent outbursts. We’re taught that our biggest accomplishment is marrying a man and pouring emotional labor into him. Even in platonic friendships with men, we’re taught not to ‘friendzone’ men, lest we cause them to become angry and violent.

Flippantly blaming Kim Kardashian for Kanye West’s tweets, or speculating about the Golden State Killer’s ex-girlfriend, might not seem harmful.

When you look at the bigger picture, though, it’s easy to see how this common thread runs through society. If we want to create a society free from misogyny and oppression, it’s important that we stop blaming women for men’s actions and hold men accountable for once.

Music BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

Hey fellow white people, let’s stop praising Eminem and start actually listening to Black people

At the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards, Eminem came out with a freestyle that targeted President Trump, and white people everywhere are praising the diss and even reposting the problematic “Not totally sure how rap battles work, but I believe Eminem is now the President of the United States of America,” meme.

No, no he isn’t, and the last thing we need is another white male celebrity in the White House.

Eminem takes shots at Trump’s racism, association with “Klansmen,” praises Colin Kaepernick, threatens to bash Trump against the wall he intends to build, and tells his fans in no uncertain terms they cannot simultaneously be Trump supporters and enjoy Eminem’s music.

The problem here is not that what Eminem is saying is untrue. On the contrary, he voices a lot of concerns – that people of color have already expressed.

Eminem essentially took what Tupac, Jay-Z, J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, NWA, and countless other artists have been saying for years, and made it palatable enough for white people to support. White Americans have been shitting on the black and brown experience in America since the country’s inception.  They continue to disregard people of color in the music industry who address black power, racism, Donald Trump, police brutality, and inequality in America. Rappers and hip hop artists have been incorporating some of these themes into their work for generations. White people are losing their minds over Eminem’s diss because white people will only believe and get behind a movement if it’s coming out of a white mouth.

Where were y’all when Jay-Z’s 99 Problems was released and he asked of the world, “[Is it] ’cause I’m young and I’m black and my hat’s real low?” Were you still calling him a drug dealer then?

What did you say when NWA came out with Fuck Tha Police and straight up told America that “A young n**** got it bad ’cause I’m brown/And not the other color, so police think/They have the authority to kill a minority?” Did you say, “Fuck NWA and their race-baiting, cop-hating, gang-promoting, thug-glorifying street music?”

Is Kendrick’s DNA too much for you because he celebrates his ancestry, asserting it can’t be imitated?

Did J Cole’s Neighbors strike a chord with you because you secretly (or maybe not so secretly) harbor suspicions about your African-American neighbors and have anxieties about their supposed drug usage?

Did you listen to a single song on Joey Bada$$’s album All Amerikkkan Bada$$? Because if you did, you’d know that he trashes the Trump administration, calling Trump “unfit” to run the country, calls out Donald with Schoolboy Q with a “If you got the guts, scream fuck Donald Trump,” and says of white Americans, “They still won’t let the black man live.”

Is Future’s March Madness and examination of police brutality irrelevant because he also raps about drinking lean and using Xanax and Percocet recreationally?

What did you have to say when The Game talked about unloading on Donald Trump and splattering his brains “all on the sidewalk” on the track El Chapo?

This is my question to white America: why do you continually look the other way or make excuses when black and brown people tell you about the inequality, brutality, oppression, and violence they experience but laud a white male who hijacked a culture to cultivate his own image and profit?

I’m waiting.

And why do you feel the need to celebrate his diss when he dropped it at the BET Hip Hop Awards, a space meant for black artists, black achievements, and black excellence? Do you not see the grotesque irony in ripping off a community’s culture for years and then using it to promote yourself and receive white approval in that community’s very space?


It shouldn’t take a white man regurgitating what people of color have been trying to bring attention to for America to wake up. We should have already been listening to the narratives of historically oppressed groups and working to dismantle white supremacy, not discrediting them because white people are sick of black people “pulling the race card.”

Eminem did nothing revolutionary. Once again, he stole from a culture and is now receiving positive attention for it because it would be mind boggling to white people to sit down, shut up, and actually listen to what people of color have to say.

Music Pop Culture

Black female artists have to raise everyone’s kids

For Black female artists have been historically punished for daring to see themselves and their art outside of the capitalistic patriarchal white male gaze.

As I watched Beyoncé perform this past Sunday on the VMAS, I wondered how she got there. No, I don’t mean her angelic arrival with her daughter and a slew of beautiful Black girls and women. I mean getting on stage, affirming her feminism and support for Black Lives Matter and then shaking her ass in the same night.

For Black women, we have four (acceptable) ways to express ourselves: the desexualized Mammy, the oversexualized Jezebel, the bitchy Sapphire or a mix of two or more to the comfort of everyone else.

They receive criticism for challenging norms that is always steeped in misogynoir. When Nicki Minaj released her ‘Anaconda’ single cover and video, she received backlash. Suddenly, she wasn’t being feminist enough, acceptable enough and smart enough to understand how the male gaze works (despite subverting it in the video by destroying a banana she was previously teasing with).

The unspoken idea is that Black women can be sexual as long as they don’t own it. Oftentimes, misogynoir-practicing consumers say “Give it to patriarchal male fantasies,”more or less. Projections laced with voyeurism make up the appeal of Black female artists: Janet Jackson is relatable only as a sex symbol. Nicki Minaj is asked about how many men she’s slept with in the industry.

Male artists are not held responsible for their image or music like Black female artists are. Beyoncé is blamed for false statistics regarding teen pregnancy rates. But no male artists have their work – often full of fuckboy anthems and awful relationship bops – held to that standard of responsibility. For them, the “young impressionable girls” audience doesn’t exist to discredit their artistic growth, but rather to amplify it.

Even non Black female artists are held to this standard. M.I.A. dropped out of AfroPunk in London (h/t Cecile Emeke,) but she isn’t a ‘bad role model’ for taking up space she shouldn’t have. She just made a mistake. Miley Cyrus received praise for her high level cultural appropriation and feminist sound bites. She’s just growing up. In each case, their right to grow and try new things was recognized as worth defending. Black female artists are not afforded that luxury. 

While there exists a spectrum of representation of white women who are multi-faceted, sexual beings, very little exists for Black women. The Mammy stereotype, particularly the element of unconditional care, takes up that space. Recognizing the impact of the lack of space is how I think Beyoncé came to be at the VMAs.

When she changed the game with that digital drop in 2013, Beyoncé risked a 15+ year old cut-to-perfection image. With the success of both her self-titled album and this year’s Lemonade, it’s safe to say she won the battle between herself and her audience. Beyonce has since been twirling on her haters, affirming her blackness and flipping a boycott of her stadium tour dates into a business.

Like many young Black female artists, Beyoncé has reclaimed her narrative through a complete disregard for proving her worth. Instead of doing interviews, she posts images and videos of her life, leaving it to her audience to decide how they want to engage with her. Whatever they decide about her is not her problem. But Beyoncé does care about her generation-spanning audience by presenting herself as, in the words of artist Yumi Thomas, “layers and not fractions.”

There is a power in Black women being examples for each other.

When we take up space, we are saying to each other that making noise is necessary for realizing the confines around us.

Beyoncé is still ridiculed on a regular basis for existing as a multifaceted Black woman. Yet she continues to push through with an inspiring unfuckwittable attitude. While Black female artists should not be absolved of responsibility, they should be able to define it by taking ownership over their creative expression without the oppressive backlash.