Family Life Stories Life

This is my open letter of apology to my sister

Growing up, I had only a few friends. From the ages of twelve to sixteen, I had a grand total of three people I would talk to and even then, I only felt comfortable messaging one out of these three friends. But, the one consistent person in my life has always been my older sister, someone I owe a big apology to. 

When we were younger, my older sister and I were often called twins – we were so in-sync all the time whether it was sentences, responses, or even emotions. My sister is in fact just under two years older than I am and although she can be a bit up herself for being the older sibling at times, I can’t say I’ve never connected with her even though my sister was always a little more sympathetic to things than I was or even still am; if I shed a tear, she shed a waterfall. 

Exhibit A; I slipped headfirst into the side of the building and got a concussion at school one time in year three and she cried more than I did as she went off to get a teacher who basically told her to calm down because not a single coherent word was coming out of her mouth. Though I had to stay home battling a throbbing headache for the upcoming weeks, my sister would spend her time at school making get well soon cards for me and coming home to just sit with me. 

I remember when she was leaving primary school and on her last day, I was filled with dread because I realized that if I now had a spat with my friends, I couldn’t run off to my sister. She was now going to be somewhere that would require me to climb out of the school gates undetected, crossroads safely and not get kidnapped by the white van that appears to be everywhere. Far too much effort for the kid who barely got off the sofa once she sat down.

I got through that year anyhow and remember my sister giving me a pep talk before my first day of secondary school with the same sentence over and over: “I’m there if you need me.” It got really sour, really fast. 

Although undiagnosed at the time, social anxiety has always been a lifelong struggle of mine and I always took comfort in familiarity in my surroundings. I expressed to my sister how nervous I was about starting school on our walk there and she agreed for both of us to meet during break time in the school canteen. The first day had already been awful for me with the highlight of it realizing that I would be picked on by this one girl for the next five years. Her reason? She thought I was ugly. 

As I sat at a table waiting for my sister, a group of girls from my class walked past me making comments about how ‘ugly’ I was. I became the focal point of their laughter when my sister walked up to me and gave me a hug asking how my first few lessons were. I was suddenly torn between being in my safe space and fitting in – would I have been spared the embarrassment if I didn’t talk to my sister? I didn’t know it wouldn’t matter either way; the class bullies ran with it, teasing me relentlessly for the next five years. 

I got teased for a myriad of things during my time at secondary school, but it was all largely in comparison to me and my sister. She was tall, fairer-skinned (colorism at its finest), pretty, and above all, skinny. It didn’t help that she was also smart so whenever we had the same teachers, I would have to face comparisons by the teachers which would just become more ammunition for the class bullies. One girl in my class spread the rumor that I was adopted because there was no way one sister could be so beautiful and the other one so ugly. Another girl told me that my sister should be embarrassed to have such a fat sibling. The comments only got more demeaning from there.

I took it all out on my sister. I started arguing with her every morning so she would leave for school without me and purposefully get out of class really late so I wouldn’t have to walk home with her. Everything anyone has ever bought me down for, I would blame on her and I made sure she knew it. I bullied my own sister for my insecurities and that is a regret that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I regret my actions especially because my sister is a kind soul who has only ever encouraged me and waited patiently for me to work through any issues I was having.

It wasn’t until I got out of secondary school that I realized how awful I had been to someone who had never been mean to me – we came out of school with an overwrought relationship on my behalf. The road to healing has been long but my sister deserves to know that none of it was her fault and if I could undo it, I would.

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Life Stories Life

The COVID-19 lockdown made me forget how to talk to people

The COVID-19 pandemic and the global lockdown has impacted us all in different, unexpected ways – almost weaving itself into every part of our lives. For me, it affected the way I am able to interact with others. 

Over the years as a socially-anxious introvert, I have taught myself specific techniques to communicate with people to avoid any awkward interactions. I make a mental list of questions or responses that can be eased in conversation. I would put up the persona of an extrovert and hide how awkward and afraid I felt. I would be overly-emotive and smile too much to compensate for the lack of conversation. For the most part, it worked. I was able to function in social situations despite my social anxiety

Then lockdown happened and I found myself in my most comfortable position – being alone in my room undisturbed. I didn’t have to worry about the possibility of talking to someone in person or how I would respond. Nor, did I have to make up excuses to avoid hanging out when I wanted alone time. So often, I was told that I had to be louder, bigger, and more out-going except for now. Now, it was commendable to stay at home. I was given the opportunity to finally fully enjoy my solitude without the expectations to change myself into a more extroverted version for the world.

So I relished in the gift I was given. I fully immersed myself in my solitude. However, I soon learned that too much comfort leaves no space for growth. 

As lockdown regulations start to ease down in my country and people begin to socialize again, I feel anxiety close up my throat. I know I will have to speak to people again, but I wonder if I even know how to do that anymore. 

I had spent months tucked away in my mind and only conversing with myself. Now I am expected to socialize and be happy about it. To be frank, I’m not. I am scared and anxious. I missed my friends and family dearly, and I still long for warm, long hugs and physical affection. But I have forgotten all the techniques that helped me hold a conversation. I struggle to express myself to others and to show the genuine interest I have in their stories. I became so accustomed to the worlds in my mind during lockdown that real conversations and experiences can’t keep my attention. 

To add to this, my speech impairment worsens the anxiety I already have about speaking to people again. I’ve been so out of practice that the act of speaking aloud is difficult and tiresome. So many words are unable to form in my mouth, and I have no urge to try to say them. I am disinterested in engaging with others because social interaction exhausts me. My social battery is depleting sooner than before lockdown. After only two hours with someone, I am drained and crave solitude

I contemplated the reasons for all this. It was simple. I had been thrust out of the cocoon I was in for months. It was safe and comfortable, and now the outside world is cold and disorienting. I’m still finding my feet like many of us are as we discover the new normal. I think many introverts are overwhelmed and struggling to adapt after being pushed out of our most comfortable state. It will take me a bit of time to get used to the fast-paced, extroverted world again. I feel like I am a terrible person for struggling to connect and interact socially. I wish that I could snap my fingers and on command be more engaging and attentive when I speak to the people I love. 

Until that happens, I am giving myself the space to learn how to voice my emotions and thoughts again. I hope all the introverts that are battling with social interaction now more than before, can do the same. Just as importantly, I hope that the people in our lives understand how hard we’re trying.

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Makeup Beauty Lookbook

How social isolation altered my relationship with makeup

I wake up, make a cup of coffee, have a shower, and get ready for my nine to five. It’s a normal working day; except it isn’t. It’s a working day in quarantine. 

Being in quarantine has changed my routine in many interesting ways. One such way is that I no longer wear makeup daily. I’ve stopped spending each morning penciling my eyebrows a little darker, lengthening my lashes with mascara, or carving a cheekbone with my bronzer palette. Without spending my mornings subtly improving my face through makeup, I’ve learned to love my face as it is. 

Coming to rely on makeup:

I’ve struggled with insecurities about my face for at least a decade. Like many teenagers, I had bad acne. But my struggle with acne followed me into my early twenties. While I wasn’t permitted to wear foundation as a high school student, I came to rely on it as a matter of necessity as an adult.

To add to my plethora of adolescent insecurities, I also developed insecurity surrounding my eyes. In high school, a friend told me my eyes were, “a four out of ten.” I proceeded to develop new insecurity: my eyes. So I started wearing mascara daily, with no exceptions. Although I’ve since come to love my eyes, I still seldom leave my home without mascara on my lashes.  

Makeup became my tool for covering up my insecurities. Bronzer slimmed my chubby cheeks. Mascara made my eyes look bigger and brighter. Foundation covered my acne and acne scars. I only really liked my face when it had makeup on it, and on some days, even that didn’t do the trick.

I had become so used to what my face looked like with makeup on it, that I learned to dislike my face as it is, naturally.

The pursuit of enoughness:

Don’t get me wrong: I love makeup. It can empower the people who use it and I enjoy the artistry of it. But, I had become so used to what my face looked like with makeup on it, that I learned to dislike my face as it is, naturally. In quarantine, without wearing makeup daily, I don’t have my made-up face to compare my natural face to. I look in the mirror and I see myself. For the first time in a long time, the beauty of the person looking back at me is enough.

Enoughness is something I’ve been in pursuit of for most of my life. Much of the way that the world is represented to us through media and advertising is geared towards us feeling like we don’t have enough, and that we ourselves are not enoughI often reflect on how major corporations manufacture our insecurities to capitalize on them. Major cosmetic brand Maybelline is famous for its tagline, “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.” Taglines such as this perpetuate the idea that what you are born with is not enough. Forced to absorb this rhetoric, it’s easy to begin to believe these ideas of who is and isn’t “enough”.

Enoughness is something I’ve been in pursuit of for most of my life.

Unlearning beauty ideals, learning self-love:

While I’ve spent a lot of my adult life working to unlearn these ideals, that work takes time and is difficult. The work of unlearning beauty ideals that society has ingrained in us often involves deep introspection and a heck of a lot of reading. Imagine my surprise when quarantine (of all things!) helped me to unlearn some of the beauty ideals I’ve been working to overcome for at least a decade.

It’s a strange feeling for me to wake up, look in my mirror, and like what I see. It feels cheesy to articulate this feeling. Writing about self-acceptance often feels that way, but it shouldn’t. I deserve to feel that I am enough, as is. You deserve to feel enough. We deserve to feel enough.

Editor's Picks Skin Care Love Life Stories Wellness

My skin is brown and it’s still effing lovely

What does it mean to be gori (fair skinned) in your community?

In my country, many young women are accustomed to being made fun of on the basis of their skin tone. They can be called the most hurtful names because they aren’t ‘fair enough’, and are ‘too’ brown. I mean, are you freaking kidding me?

Let’s just start out with this inherent problem: Women who are part of a brown race are being called out for being ‘too’ brown.

Cue the countless face whitening brands and products that have taken over the market. Girls with perfectly lovely complexions rushing to the nearest drugstore to buy a tube of Fair and Lovely, in hopes that it will ‘change their life’.

Society has influenced women to reject their natural skin tones and label themselves as unattractive. It has created this mindset that beauty is only skin-deep. Women have stopped appreciating their natural beauty and have turned to these face whitening products in hopes of achieving the complexion that society’s Aunties market as beautiful.

These taglines and slogans talk about ‘reducing dark spots’ or ‘replacing dead skin cells with new ones.’ If these products are supposed to do these perfectly normal things, why are they being marketed as giving results which will give you ‘fairer skin’. It is true that there are countless women who believe in the notion that white or fair skin is in fact, beautiful

To them, it is a chance to be better viewed by society, a chance at better marriage prospects. Many face whitening creams that are unapproved or counterfeit, contain bleach in them that will literally burn the skin on women’s faces, yet still, they will continue using these products to achieve the skin tone they want.

In the Victorian era, having an extremely pale, fair complexion was important to women. They wanted their skin to be so pale that it was “translucent,” as in you could see the veins in their faces. Arsenic wafers were supposed to remove freckles and tans, making women look younger and more attractive.

Although fully aware that arsenic was poisonous and addictive, they chose to do it anyway for the sake of achieving their ideal of beauty. Sound familiar? You would think that almost two centuries later we would abandon practices of this sort.

As a teenager living in Pakistan, I can tell you that if I spent a little too much time in the sun, a more tanned complexion will never be missed. Growing up, these type of products were so normalized, from advertisements for them shown on TV, all the way to billboards around the city.

There has always been a place for them on supermarket shelves and they are a product that women seem to openly buy and easily talk about.

The reality is that face whitening creams are telling you that you will look beautiful…after using their product. These companies are feeding into society’s toxic standards and using it to target their businesses towards their ‘ideal’ audience.

The message should instead be encouraging women to realize that beauty is more than how light their skin is. It should promote accepting your natural skin tone. We need to tell women that they are enough and that no face whitening cream will ever add value to them the way a brilliant mind will. Encourage girls to be proud of where they are from.

Stop influencing them with messages that cause them to run away from their roots. It is the only way this double standard of beauty will disappear.

Mind Love Life Stories

A love letter to my brain

It’s been over four months since I was in a car accident that left me with a traumatic brain injury. That brain injury has changed me dramatically in the four months since it happened – from reducing how much I’m able to work, to changing how I can approach hobbies and passions. In that time, I’ve been angry, upset, and challenged my own wellness and healing with self-destructive habits.

However, I’ve also learned to thrive in discomfort. While laying in the dark with a migraine, I started trying to stop dreading this affliction, but thanking it. From that pain and solitude, came gratitude. I’m different, and while I’m not better, I’m better.

I penned this love letter to my brain to try and give us a moment to separate ourselves from a life of self-hate, and revel in a rare moment of desperate self-love. I’m honored that I have this rare opportunity to share it with you.

Dear Max,

You’ve existed in the space between my ears for as long as I have, and our time has not always been well.

You have been sick, and together we have battled demons and ourselves, from fatness to thinnness and compulsion to absorb and repel, we have been through it all.

You are 60% fat, but so are my thighs so I cannot judge. Even though I have.

Dear Meg,

You’re Max when I feel strong, and Meg when I feel stronger. You’re bold and scared and I’m proud of you whether you’re one or the other, or both.

Dear Me,

In 28 years of life we’ve fought both more and less than we deserve. Our beginning made us broken, and for a long time, I thought you were unlovable. I thought we were unlovable and because of that I hated you and your neuro-divergence. I hated that because of you, and your synapses that never quite lined up right, that I would hurt forever, be fucked up forever.

But no matter how much I hurt, you helped me create. I’ve written and drawn and knit since we were young, and it was your left-brained and right-brainedness that made that happen. I love the cards we make to send our loved ones, and the socks we make for ourselves. I love your need to make your presence felt, to be heard – so you weave in your divergence creatively. Nothing is perfect, and nothing can be duplicated – and that’s how you make your presence felt.

In the past four months, you have been hurt and I’ve hurt with you. I’ve spent sleepless nights contemplating the stars, and have woken up screaming with the horrors you create. And yet, I still find the strength to be kind when you ache and hurt – despite the ache and hurt you bring me.

I’ve learned a lot about you in these four months, I’ve learned to love the imperfections you bring to our world. I no longer get frustrated with your inability to move my arm to throw a baseball, that is something you simply do not do well.

But you skate, and you lift, and you make delicate things with my fingers that amaze even me. You do so many things so well and I’ve never simply taken the time to thank you for what you do wonderfully. I’m too busy frustrated with how poorly you forecast the future.

But in our time, in the quiet moments where I’m waiting for sleep, I’ve taken time to thank you, and love you for who you are.

Because you make me who I am. Your ability for kindness astounds me and your depth of emotion rivals oceans. I’ve not yet understood how joy and sadness can coexist, but you do, and you try to show me each time I try to forgive.

I don’t know why you’re my brain, or where you came from. Whether you’re a gift from God, or a wonderful gift of a chance from the cosmos, you’re mine and you can only be mine.I have spent too much time hating you for the gift you were instead of adoring you for the chaos that you are.

In these past four months I have learned that our time together is not only delicately maintained, but injuriously short. A time will come where you will return to where you came from, and then it will no longer be you and I, but you….and I.

But until that day comes, I will love you with all that I have, and for all that you are. My brain, my soul, my life.

Happy Valentine’s day, to us.

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.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

I got eaten out while on my period and now I think anything is possible

We’re in bed, the lights are on and I want so much for all of this to be happening with the lights off.

I’m squirming on my back while I grip my boyfriend’s sheets. I’m trying my best to breathe and stay present enough to orgasm, but I can’t get my head around the fact that my boyfriend is in between my leg straight up eating me out while I’m on my period.

I love being gone down on.

I’m even embarrassed to admit that I’ve been with partners with whom I’ve had amazing sex, but who did not reciprocate oral. There have been times when my pleasure has felt like a burden. I could sense their discomfort when we were intimate with each other and often times, despite my very vocal personality, I did not speak up.

I’ll admit I’ve internalized all the things about my body with which men have become uncomfortable — how I smell, the way taste, the size of my lips, the hair on my vagina, or lack thereof at times.

The men I’ve been with have always felt comfortable gently pushing me down and gesturing at what they wanted, but when it has been my turn to do the same, my wants have been dismissed. The feminist in me would scream internally and yell at me, “This is not how it’s supposed to be, sis.”

My boyfriend eating me out while I was on my period made me confront another one of my insecurities.

I have spent so many years hating my period. I got my first period way later than my friends in middle school. I remember one of my friends got her period at 11; I used to be jealous of my friends and their periods until I knew what cramps were. And honestly, I think I hate my cramps more than I do my period itself. In high school, my mom would have to pick me up from school because I would faint from how bad the pain was.

At one point, I switched over to tampons to not deal with the blood.

Later in my twenties, I became a pro at stopping my period from coming altogether by leaving my NuvaRing in for the past three weeks. It’s only now that I’m 25 that I have started making peace with my body.  When we’re on our periods’ people make comments that are condensing and speak to women being emotionally unstable.

This video, Thirteen Things We’re Tired of Hearing About Our Periods, sums up just some of the things we as women need to deal with;  not to mention we also experience negative talk it in the bedrooms when we’re made to feel that out bodily function is disgusting to put up with.  As a yoga instructor, I have become more spiritual and ritualistic. I see my period as a sign of strength now. I bleed every month and do not die – that has got to be some sort of superpower.

I have become comfortable with my period, but I have not done away with all of the shame. My boyfriend is still between my legs, and to my surprise, he is literally having the time of his life. This is all so new to me. We haven’t turned the lights off. I still have VIP front seat tickets to his moans. He spreads my lips apart and tells me, “Damn baby, you taste so good.”

He reaches for my hands, looks up at me, and tells me “Baby, you’re phenomenal.” I have got to be dreaming.

I let go of the tension in my lower back.

I lay there calmly, breathing full uninterrupted breaths while he continues to take in all of me. I’m anxious for the moment to end, but at the same time, I want to be in it as long as possible. I ease into it. Now I want nothing more than for it to go on long enough for the dots in my head to connect and realize that I have always deserved this kind of appreciation. I want to stay in it long enough to feel deserving without feeling grossed out.

This feels like the biggest “fuck you” to self-hate. 

Movies Pop Culture

Nappily Ever After highlighted how I shape my life around my hair – and it’s not healthy

You’ve probably heard all about the Netflix Original film Nappily Ever After by now, but it’s more than a story about grabbing the shears when life gets tough.

In the film, Sanaa Lathan plays Violet, a career woman who is all about image. Thanks to her mother, Violet is taught early on that she needs to be proper at all times – starting with perfecting her hair through hot comb treatments.

I received my first perm at 11 years old and shortly after, the flat iron became my best friend. Like Violet once did, I spent most of my teen years avoiding pools for fear my hair would poof out like a Chia Pet’s. Being out in the heat and breaking a sweat was out of the question too, which is a difficult thing to do living in Texas.

I started to believe my curly hair was too much of a hassle. I never once left for school without having it straightened. Now that I look back, I wouldn’t call it self-hatred, but more of a desperation to conform to feminine and Westernized beauty standards.

For black women, femininity and respectability tend to go hand-in-hand. We’re known to manage our hair textures through chemical treatments like relaxers, or hair additions like extensions and wigs. These neat makeovers can come at a cost. What does “neat” really mean anyway? Apparently, anything that covers up our natural curls and kinks.

One question that’s been raised is why do black women go to extreme lengths for beauty? Like Violet’s love interest asked throughout the film, why not just embrace what makes us natural?

This was explored in Good Hair, a documentary directed by comedian Chris Rock. After his daughter raised a concern about not having “good hair,” Rock trekked through hair salons across America to find out what the term meant.

As a review pointed out, Rock never fully explained the cultural relevance and reasoning. There was a mention of the Westernized racial stigmas, but it seemed more like an insinuation that black women got hair treatments because they wanted to be white.

Three years ago, I decided to bleach my hair. Going blonde was something I hoped would bring some color into my life. I was told it was a daring choice. In Nappily Ever After, Violet also went blonde with a weave and was suddenly perceived as a wild girl by another romantic interest.

I obviously didn’t want to “look white” when I went blonde, and I doubt Violet did either. But there’s a glaring correlation between how widely accepted blonde hair is and how the rest of the world shapes its beauty standards around lightness.

On top of bleaching my hair, I also had it shaved into a pixie cut. I was a little nervous, but I wanted a break from the flat iron and thought short hair would be more manageable. I honestly wasn’t too worried about my peers’ reactions because I felt comfortable in my skin.

Good hair is described as long and silky smooth. Which means that short hair is the antithesis to femininity. As one character in the film said, men like long hair. My old hairstylist once told me she wore a wig at home because her husband hated her natural hair!

Are short lengths doomed to be associated with masculinity forever? Too short of a trim can even raise red flags about sexual orientation as if it’s an insult to be anything other than straight. I also think about some of the girls on America’s Next Top Model who cried because of their short haired makeovers – remember Cassandra?

And I understood their tearful reactions to an extent. Society has taught women that we essentially are our hair. Beauty has been marketed to us for so long that our hair has become our personal security blanket.

Overall, Violet’s story made me sad. However, at least she got her happy ending by wholly embracing change. I still feel hopeful for women who also want to break out of normalized standards. Let’s put more energy into accepting that everyone is different – whether you want extensions down to your back or to rock the bald look – be your own definition of beauty!

I’m happy to say I haven’t picked up the flat iron in almost a year. Although I still sort of damage my hair by dyeing it wild colors (which I’m stopping soon!), I’m always happy to let the curls fly loose. On lazier days, I’ll tie it back into a bun. Whatever hairstyle I choose ultimately doesn’t change the person I am. It’s been said a million times, but we’re more than what’s on the outside.

Now I don’t freak out at the sight of rain clouds. They’re just part of nature – as our hair is too.

Love Life Stories

20 things only people with physical disabilities understand

I was born with a form of dwarfism called Cartilage Hair Hypoplasia. It is a complex name for a medical condition that can be summed up in one sentence: I am 21 years old and I stand at 3ft 7 tall, the same height as a four-year-old child.

My disability does not define who I am, but it is a part of my identity. I am an aspiring journalist and media professional. I like to watch Korean dramas and listen to pop and RnB music.

And I also happen to be disabled.

But it is the first thing people notice when they see me because it is impossible to hide a physical disability and it is definitely not something disabled people can change. I can’t grow another foot or two.

So here’s a teaser of some of the things we will have encountered, experienced and have been asked about as a physically disabled person.

1. Being stared at for being “different”


At the supermarket. At a restaurant. On the train. All eyes will be on us. We can be minding our own business and catch at least one person red-handed.

2. Unwanted attention can become tedious after awhile


Yes, it’s fun at first when people approach you and want to talk to you. Then after a while, you really wish they would stop talking and leave you alone.

3. People will judge you for being disabled…


“You won’t be able to do this.” “That’s too heavy for you.” “Someone help her.”

4. …but you will prove them wrong.


Going to university. Having a job. Traveling. Becoming a bodybuilder. Sailing the seven seas.

Don’t underestimate the things we can do.

5. “God made you the way you are.” “God loves you.”


My parents had sex and conceived me. God had no part to play in that.

Well, I hope he didn’t anyway.

6. “You’re so cute!” “I want to pat you on the head.”


Don’t patronize me. I am an adult. I am not a dog or a child. Please refrain from patting my head or picking me up.

7. When people take pictures of you (when you look good versus when you don’t):



We would prefer it if you didn’t take pictures of us to show your friends, but if you do, catch me on my good side.

8. You’ve used your disability as an excuse more than once…


“I’ve got little legs so I can’t take the recycling bin out.”

9. … and it has worked, except on those who know your true colors.


“You’re just lazy, X.”

10. “So your parents aren’t disabled?”


Yes, they aren’t disabled. And your point is?

11. “How do you manage?” “I wouldn’t be able to do that.”


Disabled people are the most resilient and resourceful because we are able to adapt to the environment.

Unable to reach the biscuit tin? Use a cooking spatula to hook the tin and pull it down towards you.

12. Self-acceptance and confidence are fundamental…


Being loud and proud about your disability is key because it makes you the person who you are.

13. …which confuses A LOT of people when they meet you.


“I didn’t expect you’d be so confident!” “You don’t care, do you?” Of course, I don’t. But it is the result of years of hard work to learn how to accept and adopt an I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude.

14. People are also surprised that you drink and go out clubbing…


Put your eyes back inside of your head. It is no secret that disabled people can have a social life.

15. …and then they call you an “inspiration” for doing so.


We could probably drink you under the table. If that’s what you mean by being an “inspiration”.

16. “Can you have sex?” “Do you have relationships?”


We may be disabled, but we have needs, too. And a perfectly working vagina.

17. “I’ve never met someone like you before.”


Congratulations for now knowing at least one disabled person. You must feel proud for having a diverse group of acquaintances.

18. People you’ve never met will know who you are…


They spot the only disabled person at the party and know exactly who you are. “Oh you must be X, I’ve heard a lot about you!”

19. …but then you’re offended when they don’t remember you.


Like really? How can you forget who I am when I am the ONLY dwarf you know.

20. “You don’t look disabled.” “But you’re not disabled disabled.”


You don’t have to be in a wheelchair or bed bound or even have a carer to be disabled. Disability comes in a range of forms, sizes, and conditions.

Also, we don’t care if we don’t look disabled to you. Period.

The Tempest Radio Mixes Audio + Visual

BE MINE?: The Self-Love Mix for this Galentine’s Day

Whether you’re single or taken this Valentine’s Day, we all know that the obnoxiously pink holiday isn’t the real star of February.  That’s right- I’m talking about Galentine’s Day, or February 13th.

A GIF of Parks & Rec character Leslie Knope talking about her favorite holiday- Galentine's Day.

Hell yeah it is. Galentine’s Day is when women everywhere celebrate women everywhere, a day of self-love, self-celebration, and desserts all around.  It’s when you let your hair down, let loose, and let yourself feel the loooooove– all the love you always knew you deserved. That stiflingly red and pink aisle at Walgreen’s isn’t what Galentine’s Day is about. Roses, candy hearts, big teddy bears? Yeah, you deserve all of the above and more, but not necessarily from someone else. On Galentine’s Day, you get to treat yo’ self.

So run a bath, light some candles, and pour yourself a glass of bubbly.  Bask in self-glory and shimmy, shake, and sashay to this powerful (AND romantic) playlist.

1. Love Myself || Hailee Steinfeld

A picture of the artist Hailee Steinfeld.

This dance-pop song can never fail to make you remember the importance and value of self-love and self-care. It’s hard to forget to love yourself when Hailee Steinfeld is screaming the reminder into your ears over and over again. A beautiful, dizzily upbeat scream. Favorite lyric? “Got me speaking in tongues- The beautiful, it comes without you.”

2. Feeling Myself || Nicki Minaj (ft. Beyoncé)

Sometimes we like to get all dressed up and dolled up. Not for that naive, unappreciative man, but to feel powerful and self-sufficient on our own. Whether or not you feel your best in sweats or a sequined dress, every woman out there deserves to take this Galentine’s Day to really feel yourself. Favorite lyric? “Bitches ain’t got punchlines or flow, I have both and an empire also.”

3. Beautiful || Christina Aguilera

A picture of the artist Christina Aguilera.

You know the other 364 days of the year, the boring days, the days where you might not feel like you’re on top of the world (or on top of your shit for that matter?) Yeah, this amazing tune, with piano coupled with Christina’s classic charm, will make sure that Galentine’s Day reminds you of your self-worth. Favorite lyric? “We’re the song inside the tune (yeah, oh yeah), full of beautiful mistakes.”

4. Milkshake || Kelis

Picture of the artist Kelis.

Sometimes, loving yourself means accepting that sexuality is a strength! Step out of that slut-shaming stereotype, sister, and harness that sexual prowess! Yeah, this song might be an overused cliché, but it’s also an undeniable rhythmic dance beat. Favorite lyric? Of course, “my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.” Can’t beat that one.

5. Fight Song || Rachel Platten

A picture of the artist Rachel Platten.

I know, I know. This song played on the radio a lot, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t amazing! I got to watch her perform this live, and I can confirm she is just as talented, fun, and upbeat as she is in the recorded version! It’s a really strong reminder to all of us that the battles we fight are always within our capabilities to win, if we stick it through. Favorite lyric? “Like how a single word, can make a heart open.”

6. Brave || Sarah Bareilles

A picture of artist Sarah Bareilles.

This is such a cutesy indie pop song, and I love that. You know that feeling when you have something you really want to say but you don’t want to risk getting a bad reception? Yeah, Sarah Bareilles wrote this song for a gay friend of hers, when he was on the closet, and it might even help you get over your fears too! Favorite lyric?  “Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live, maybe one of these days you can let the light in.”

7. Girl On Fire || Alicia Keys

This hip-hop/R&B ballad is slow, sultry, and oh-so-smooth. Let Alicia’s buttery voice and incredible choruses wash over you.  The beat is heavy and pulsating, and Key’s vocals range over an octave of notes! GIRL CRUSH ALERT. Favorite lyric? “Feeling the catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away.”

8. Run The World (Girls) || Beyoncé


Ah, the classic female empowerment song. With the variety of beats in this mix- and the genre ranging from electropop to R&B- this ditty will have your head bopping and your hips shaking. It’s a song full of positive affirmations for women all over the world to unite over. What more could you want, really? Favorite lyric? “How we’re smart enough to make these millions, strong enough to bear the children, then get back to business.”

9. You Don’t Own Me || Lesley Gore

You might be more familiar with the more recent rendition of this song by Grace and G-EAZY, but 17 year old Lesley Gore originally sang this song in 1963. It’s the moment you ghosted that obnoxious SO, the time you stood up to that ex, or just the general badass vibe you give off to our dear patriarchal society. Favorite lyric? “I’m young and I love to be young, I’m free and I love to be free.”

10. Doing It || Charlie XCX and Rita Ora

Related image

When you’re with your girls, you just do your thing. Enough said. No matter how long its been, when we reunite you know that “I got your back for life.”

It’s simple, but its fun and energetic, just like the time you spend with your girlfriends.

11. Young Lady || Kid Cudi  (featuring Father John Misty)

Related image

Hear me out, because you will love this.

Kid Cudi is singing about a girl who is doing her thing, being awesome, and he admires her for it (from afar). Father John Misty is in the back like “Jesus Christ girl!”

“Has anyone told you that you’re fresh as hell? And I dig the way you wear your hair too- it makes you look more mature.”

When you celebrate your girlfriends, you remind them how amazing they are for being who they are. Whether they have a Valentine or not, it is impossible for your girlfriends not to be loved because they’re badass ladies who you’re growing and slaying with.

“I’ll admire from afar, star. Keep doing all the great things you’re doing. You got it goin’ on, young lady.”

12. Everything We Touch and Games for Girls || Say Lou Lou

Image result for say lou lou

If you want something good to blast in the car or while getting ready, Say Lou Lou’s sound will capture the mood and their lyrics will put confidence in your step.

“Everything we touch turns to gold at night” because you and your girlfriends bring the fun wherever you go.

“Games for girls” has got to be pretty self-explanatory, but I will say that if you want to make Valentine’s or Galentine’s Day (or both) a little twisted this year, it’s all the more worth a listen.

13. R-E-S-P-E-C-T || Aretha Franklin

You have to end on Aretha! This classic is a reminder for you to be as loud and full of love as possible. You don’t need to take shit from anybody; they should be respecting you, because of how incredible you are. That climactic break towards the end will soon have you head-banging and shoulder-shimmying, and Aretha’s famous hooks will have you saying those seven letters of the alphabet to everyone in your life who’s slept on you. Favorite lyric? T-O-O  E-A-S-Y.

Hope you enjoyed jamming out with your gal pals.


Because we love you, we compiled all your new favorite songs in one playlist. Enjoy!

[cue id=”47637″]

Love Life Stories

40 Women to Watch: The 2017 Edition

As 2016 comes to an end, let’s recognize the women of color who work tirelessly to make our world a better place. We tried to round up 30 of the most badass, influential millennial women of color, however, due to the overwhelming number we found, we decided to go with forty. Oops.

If we learned anything this year, it’s that the future is not only female – it’s full of women of color. These are the trailblazers inspiring us now.

With that, here’s our inaugural class of #40WomentoWatch.

1. Amanda Nguyen

Photo from Boston Globe
Photo from Boston Globe

Amanda Nguyen (@nguyen_amanda) is the founder of Rise, a national civil rights nonprofit working with multiple state legislatures and the U.S. Congress to implement a Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights. She works tirelessly to give rape survivors the rights they deserve.

In an interview, Nguyen told The New York Times “Women in the World”: “We’ve worked extensively with people from all sides of the aisle to make sure that this bill addresses their critical voices. This includes law enforcement, defense groups, state and federal elected officials from both parties, including DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and former RNC Co-Chair Ann Wagner, who are the lead sponsors of a U.S. House Resolution expressing support for our state bills.”

2. Issa Rae

Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images
Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Issa Rae (@IssaRae) is the star, creator, and writer of HBO’s Insecure. The show focuses on hour long comedy segments that give a different voice to a stereotyped few. It’s honest, hilarious, and heartbreaking, in a wrap. Issa Rae is best known as the creator of the Youtube series, Awkward Black Girl. With her own unique flare and infectious sense of humor, Issa Rae’s content has garnered over 25 million views and close to 200,000 subscribers on YouTube. Rocking the game.

3. Franchesca Ramsey

Image from Twitter
Image from Twitter

Franchesca Ramsey (@chescaleigh) is the writer and star of MTV’s Decoded, which brilliantly breaks down stereotypes about race and racial issues. She was also a contributor to Larry Wilmore’s “The Nightly Show,” and was recently selected to be the newest ambassador for YouTube’s Creators for Change, an initiative that highlights people tackling social issues and promoting awareness.

4. Sara Minkara

Photo from "Empowerment Through Integration" series
Photo from “Empowerment Through Integration” series

Sara Minkara is the founder of Empowerment Through Integration (ETI), an organization dedicated to advocating for blind and visually-impaired youth. At age seven, she lost her vision; however, despite that deeply frightening experience, Sara knew that all of life’s opportunities could still be afforded to her. The U.S. public education system paired with the love and tenacity of her family enabled her to attend Wellesley College and Harvard University. Trips to Lebanon painted a very different reality. Lebanon’s culture often fails to recognize the potential and human rights of the blind. This inspired her to create Camp Rafiqi, which later evolved into ETI.

5. Sadie Hernandez

Photo from The Daily Texan
Photo from The Daily Texan

Sadie Hernandez (@sadieeehdz) is a proud Xicana and reproductive rights activist, famous for her 2015 protest in front of the Texas Governor’s mansion. Her activism sparked People’s Veto and the viral hashtag #IStandWithSadie. To date, she continues to work and organize with Planned Parenthood and Advocates for Youth. As Sadie notes, “I work with Planned Parenthood and Advocates for Youth to organize around reproductive justice issues imperative to the RGV. Along with other students, I work to inform RGV residents about how laws like HB2 impact our border community’s access to affordable healthcare.”

6. Jessica Williams

(Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP)
(Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP)

Jessica Williams (@msjwilly) is a former Senior Daily Show correspondent, slated for her own show on Comedy Central. She credits her ability to be hilarious on her very large funny bone. After practically “killing it” at every single comedic venue in Los Angeles, Jessica decided it was time to conquer New York City.  She also has a amazing podcast, 2 Dope Queens that features her and her BFF Phoebe Robinson @dopequeenpheebs. Her badassery is strengthening.

7. Alicia Garza

Photo from SF Weekly
Photo from SF Weekly

Alicia Garca (@aliciagarza) is one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter. She is the director of Special Projects at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, an organization that organizes and advocates for domestic workers across the country. An activist, Alicia has spoken for a variety of causes. Alicia has taken part in coining the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and starting the worldwide movement.

8. Opal Tometi

From Girls on the Infield
From Girls on the Infield

Opal Tometi (@opalayo) is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. She is a writer, strategist, and political organizer. She is the Executive Director of BAJI (Black Alliance for Just Immigration) and works with communities across the U.S. Opal is the recipient of a variety and awards, having recently received the honor of Glamour Award for Justice Seekers.

9. Patrisse Cullors


Patrisse Cullors (@osope) is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. She is an artist, activist, a Fulbright scholar, and NAACP History Maker. In 2014, Patrisse was honored with the Contribution to Oversight Award by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) recognizing her work to initiate civilian oversight in Los Angeles jails. Always slaying, Patrisse is an advocate for criminal justice reform in Los Angeles.

10. Ilhan Omar

Image from Minnesota Post
Image from Minnesota Post

Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) is the incoming U.S. House Representative for Minnesota’s District 60B. She is currently the Director of Policy and Initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network. Ilhan fell in love with politics at the age of 14 when she acted as her grandfather’s interpreter so he could participate in their local DFL caucus, in the District she how represents. Watching neighbors come together to advocate for change at the grassroots level  inspired her to get involved in the democratic process. Ilhan has proven that inclusion starts within the office.

11. Elaine Welteroth

Photo from Blavity
Photo from Blavity

Elaine Welteroth (@ElaineWelteroth) is the new Editor-In-Chief of Teen Vogue! Prior to Teen Vogue, Welteroth worked as beauty writer and editor for Glamour magazine, and beauty and style editor for Ebony magazine. Have you wondered when/how/why Teen Vogue has all of a sudden become a leader in woke journalism? This woman is the answer. #blackgirlmagic

12. Janelle Monae

Image from Maroon Cafe
Image from Maroon Cafe

Janelle Monae (@JanelleMonae) is a recording artist, actor, and model. Other then being an all-around kick ass, she is also the CEO of Wondaland Records, and has starred in two of our favorite movies of the year, Moonlight and Hidden Figures. She is on fire. 

13. Reshma Saujani

Photo from Makers
Photo from Makers

Reshma Saujani @reshmasaujani is the Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a non-profit dedicated to closing the gender gap in the technology industry. In her groundbreaking book, Women Who Don’t Wait in Line, Saujani advocates for a new model of female leadership focused on embracing risk and failure, promoting mentorship and sponsorship and boldly charting your own course—personally and professionally. Give it up for this lady!

14. Gina Rodriguez

Photo by Elle
Photo by Elle

Gina Rodriguez (@HereIsGina) is an American actress and advocate for immigration reform and diversity in Hollywood. She is the star of CW’s Jane the Virgin as Jane Villanuevela, and a lifelong advocate for saying what you need to say and getting shit done. She turned down a chance to appear on Marc Cherry’s Devious Maids series because she objected to the way it portrayed Latinos. “That’s something I didn’t want to contribute to, the incorrect perception of a culture,” she told The New York Times.  If there’s anyone to look up to, it’s Gina.

15. Cleo Wade

Image from Sakara Life
Image from Sakara Life

Cleo Wade is a poet, artist, and speaker that creates empowering messages, blending simplicity with positivity, femininity and arresting honesty. With the belief that art is for all people, Cleo creates large scale public art pieces that stun the audience. Cleo is a dedicated advocate of female empowerment, and has spoken at NYU’s “Women on the Move” panel, as well as taught courses in self-love and self expression at Austin’s SXSW. Cleo is widely known for her stunning Instagram poetry. Slay, queen, slay.

16. Soraya Bahgat

Image from Oslo Freedom Forum
Image from Oslo Freedom Forum

Soraya Bahgat (@SorayaBahgat) is a Finnish-Egyptian career woman, social entrepreneur and women’s rights advocate active in Egypt. She founded the Tahrir Bodyguard movement, a movement comprised of volunteers to protect women from sexual assaults in Tahrir Square.  At the beginning, she was anonymous and gave an interview to Gawker in December 2012 using a pseudonym.

In February 2013, her name and occupation were revealed in a profile by the Associated Press. During down times where there was no activity in Tahrir Square, the group offered free self-defense classes for women to empower them to own the streets

17. Anniesa Hasibuan

Photo from Spiral Magazine
Photo from Spiral Magazine

Anniesa Hasibuan is an Indonesian fashion designer. Born in Jakarta, Anniesa opened her first boutique in Kemang in early 2015. She made her fashion debut in London in March 2015, and has traveled to Europe and the United States to showcase her work. She was the first Indonesian fashion designer to show at NY Fashion week and the first to showcase women in hijabs. She’s a trailblazer, defying conservative critics in her homeland who say the outfits are not modest enough.

18. Solange Knowles

Photo by Elias Tahan
Photo by Elias Tahan

Solange Knowles (@solangeknowles) is an American singer-songwriter who blessed us with A Seat At The Table in 2016. Take a seat at the table and devour her stunning choreography and entrancing music. Solange started with some temporary stints for Destiny’s Child, and has since built up a massive brand.

19. Lilly Singh

Photo from Entertainment Weekly
Photo from Entertainment Weekly

Lilly Singh (@IISuperwomanII) is a Canadian YouTube personality, vlogger, comedian, actress and rapper. Better known by her YouTube username IISuperwomanII, Lilly is a hilarious mix of satire and comedy.  She has received an MTV Fandom Award, three Streamy Awards, and two Teen Choice Awards. Shemurr.

20. Warsan Shire

Photo by The New Yorker
Photo by The New Yorker

Warsan Shire (@warsan_shire) is a London–based- Somali writer, poet, editor and teacher. She has received the Brunel University’s African Poetry Prize, chosen from a shortlist of six candidates out of a total 655 entries. Shire’s poems connect gender, war, sex, and cultural assumptions; in her work, poetry is a healing agent for the trauma of exile and suffering. Her poetry was featured in Beyonce’s Lemonade, and still continues to astound.

21. Laila Alawa

Laila Alawa is the Founder and CEO of The Tempest,  the fastest-growing media company changing the narrative of diverse millennial women in the world. The Tempest has helped connect millions of people with more than six hundred female thought leaders on every issue, disrupting the global media status quo.  Prior to founding the company, Laila worked at the White House and Congress.

22. Fatima Lodhi

(Max Becherer/AP Images for Rotary International)
(Max Becherer/AP Images for Rotary International)

Fatima Lodhi was teased for her dark skin as a child and decided to start an awareness campaign, “Dark is Divine,” to counter bias against dark-skinned people that exists in varying degrees throughout South Asia. Fatima is the first Pakistani who took a stand against colorism. Lodhi is the youngest rising anti-colorism and diversity advocate from Asia. She conducts awareness and training sessions on the topic of diversity, self-acceptance and positive body image.

23. Muniba Mazari

Photo from DW Blogs
Photo from DW Blogs

Muniba Mazari is a Pakistani artist, writer and motivational speaker. Multifaceted, she has risen to become an influential persona in modern media. Although wheelchair-bound, her spirit and artistry know no bounds. In fact she takes the agony of spinal cord injury as a challenge and is more determined to express her sentiments through her artwork. Muniba is also a writer and motivational speaker. Rock it.

24. Donya Nasser

Property of Donya Nasser.

Donya Nasser (@donyanasser) is the first Iranian-American named Youth Observer for UN. She also sits on Planned Parenthood’s Board of Directors, leading a mounting movement as the youngest appointee to the board. Donya believes in the power of galvanizing younger generations, who embody the potential of our future to secure equality and justice for all. She has been featured on ABC, Al Jazeera, HuffPost Live, and MSNBC.

25. Astrid Silva

Photo from International Business Times
Photo from International Business Times

Astrid Silva (@Astrid_NV) is a political activist and DREAMer. Silva was born in Mexico and came to the United States with her parents at age 4. She spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Astrid is the first undocumented immigrant to be on the DNC and is a leading voice in humanity care.

26. Dena Takruri

Photo by AJ+
Photo by AJ+

Dena Takruri (@Dena) is a Palestinian-American journalist, on-air presenter, and producer with AJ+. Her powerful persona is widely known on Twitter and in the workspace, as she carves a niche into what a strong woman stands for. Dena was one of the first journalists to ever use Facebook Live as a reporting tool while covering the refugee crisis in Europe in September 2015. She has since broadcasted live from various locations including the West Bank, Oregon amid the armed occupation of the Malheur wildlife refuge, Flint, Michigan during the water crisis.

27. Lara Setrakian

Image from 20 to 30

Lara Setrakian (@Lara) is an Armenian-American journalist with a focus on Middle Eastern political economy. She has worked for numerous news outlets including ABC News, Bloomberg Television, and Business Insider. She is the founder of Syria Deeply, a single issue news website covering the civil war in Syria, and is working to redefine how news is delivered. “The linear model of covering news and moving on to the next story meant we were leaving lots of great stories behind,” Setrakian said.

28. Maggie Dunne

Rothschild Fellowship
Image by Rothschild Fellowship

Maggie Dunne (@mhope13) founded Lakota Children’s Enrichment, a nonprofit that empowers youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, when she was still in high school. Today, she continues to run the organization and build partnerships and coalitions.  When asked how she decided to direct her energies towards helping the Lakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation Maggie recently said: “I learned all that I could and felt compelled to take action… I could not understand why I never heard of the problems on Reservations and why I had not studied the history of our first Americans in school… the cause chose me.”

29. Malia Bouattia

Image from The Telegraph
Image from The Telegraph

Malia Bouattia (@MaliaBouattia) is a student politician and the president of the National Union of Students, elected at the National Conference in April 2016. She is the first Muslim head of the NUS, and takes over the world on a daily basis. Before then, Bouattia served two years as Black Students’ Officer of the National Union of Students (NUS). While in this position, she campaigned against the UK government’s Prevent strategy which she describes as “toxic and unworkable.” Bouattia also pushed for greater ethnic diversity amongst NUS candidates and campaigned for the establishment of a permanent officer for transgender students.

No biggie.

30. Maya Cueva

Photo from Latino USA

Maya Cueva (@mayitacuevita) is an award winning documentary filmmaker and multimedia producer. Her film The Provider follows a traveling abortion provider in Texas and the laws that restrict reproductive rights. She is now working on a docuseries that chronicles different abortion clinics in Texas and the communities fighting to keep them open.

31. Katherine Jin

Image from Kinnos

Katherine Jin is the co-founder of Kinnos, an organization dedicated to creating products that help protect healthcare workers and patients. Katherine won Columbia University’s Ebola Design Challenge with a product called Highlight, a colored additive to disinfectant solution that allows healthcare workers to easily spot any areas that were not disinfected.

32. Haben Girma

Photo from Eritrea Chat

Haben Girma (@HabenGirma) is a first-generation Eritrean immigrant and the first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School. She was honored as a White House Champion of Change, which recognizes individuals who are making change in their communities. She is a champion of inclusion and gives accessibility and diversity training to leaders across industries.

33. Rebecca Dharmapalan

Image from Engage Sciences

Rebecca Dharmapalan is a documentary filmmaker known for her film International Boulevard, which exposes the prevalence of domestic sex trafficking in the United States. Her truth hunting and prevalence is heart rendering, making her a top candidate for badass women that need to be acknowledged. Now, Rebecca is embarking on her latest project: a feature film. This feature film will be a sequel to her short documentary, in which she will finally be able to expose the entirety of the industry of sex trafficking through complex, multidimensional characters, hard facts and evidence.

34. Jamia Wilson

Image from Fresh Speakers

Jamia Wilson (@jamiaw) is a storyteller, activist, and feminist. She is the Executive Director of Women, Action, & the Media, and a staff writer for Rookie Mag and has contributed to many news outlets including The Washington Post, The Today Show, and New York Magazine. It may be true that Jamia has spoken alongside feminist greats like Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda, but we think they’re also lucky to have been alongside her. She’s incredible.

35. Serena Williams

Image from The Invisibility Project

Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) has won pretty much every tennis competition and medal possible, and she’s won them over and over and over. She is an outspoken voice about sexism in the sports industry, having recently said that she thinks if she were a man she would have been called the greatest athlete of all time long ago. Well, we see you and we agree.


36. Angelia Trinidad

Image from A Women’s Thing

Angelia Trinidad (@AngeliaTrinidad) is a businesswoman and entrepreneur. She is the creator and CEO of Passion Planner, which sells a planner that aims to help young people find their passion and reach their goals. In her own words: “After a year of going back and forth debating with myself being scared of not being able to create the perfect planner, or please everyone, I realized enough was enough. I needed to stop letting fear paralyze me and I was going to take action.”

37. Ali Barthwell

Image from XO Jane

Ali Barthwell (@wtflanksteak) is a writer, comedian, and pioneer of Black Feminist television commentary. Ali was a recipient of the Puma/LOL Second City Diversity Scholarships in 2010. She also participated in The Bob Curry Fellowship at The Second City. In addition to the touring company, she is a member of Sweet Tease. Her written work can be seen on Second City Network, xoJane, and New York Magazine. Ali is what we call #goals.

38. Kayla Briët

Image from Orange County Register

Kayla Briët (@kaylabriet) is a Native American filmmaker, composer, musician, and artist. She was recognized as a 2016 Sundance Ignite Fellow and is passionate about exploring her roots through film. As a multi-instrumentalist and self-taught composer, Briët scores her own films and creates music in styles ranging from cinematic to alt. pop and electronic.

39. Sumia Hussain

Photo from Google+

Sumia Hussain (@SewMeaSweater) is changing what it means and how startups get grants. She has her eye set on changing startup culture for good, to make it more inclusive and diverse. Sumia is fiercely passionate about helping good people do great things. During her undergraduate experience, she was involved in and founded several student organizations that focus on furthering social impact in the areas of Public Health, Social Entrepreneurship, E-Learning and multiculturalism. You go, girl.

40. Dina Torkia

Mail & Guardian

Dina Torkio (@dinatorkio) is a hijabi blogger. Her focus on fashion and trends renders from time to time, and grows along with her current fan base. She has spoken out numerously about the fear factor behind hijab and pushing her voice out there. Dina’s work has appeared in The Guardian and multiple other publications.

Love Life Stories

When I found that first gray hair down THERE, everything changed

A few weeks before my thirty-sixth birthday, I woke up as usual, at 6:00 am. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, mid June. Sitting on the toilet and contemplating the day ahead, I looked down and there it was, a gray pubic hair. Instinctively, I shouted at my crotch, “Nooooo! This can’t be happening.”

[bctt tweet=”I shouted at my crotch, Nooooo! This can’t be happening.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I enjoy aging, like a good piece of cheese. I grow wiser, more confident, and more comfortable with who I am. Yet I hate the notion of growing old. I always joke that I have an old soul, however, in my heart of hearts I know that I am an eternal six year old, who loves jelly beans and wears her hair in pigtails.

Any sign of old age freaks me out, because I can’t reconcile the physical manifestation of my aging body with how I feel on the inside.

I was in the fifth grade when the idea of elderliness first dawned on me. Meeting my best friends during recess, I kept telling them, “we’re in the FIFTH grade! I can’t believe that we are in the fifth grade. This is so huge.” In the feeble mind of an eleven year old girl, the fifth grade somehow amounted to the threshold of adulthood. It marked a point of no return, where all innocence was lost amidst the hardship of life.

As the years passed, I didn’t put much thought into aging. I didn’t mind the additional burdens that came with each birthday. I became more independent when I went to college. I relished my responsibilities as a professional. But I didn’t take care of my body. I ate whatever food was at hand, mostly takeout. I didn’t have time to exercise as I kept 14-hour workdays and dedicated my weekends to post graduate school. By the time I was 29, I had achieved everything I set out to achieve, and then I hit thirty.

[bctt tweet=”A good day for me, in my early thirties, meant having regular bowel movements.” username=”wearethetempest”]

That was the beginning of the end. All of a sudden, my poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle caught up with me. I went up three dress sizes. I had agonizing back and neck pains that put me out of commission for days at a time. I was blind without my glasses. I couldn’t eat red meat or fried food without getting indigestion. A good day for me, in my early thirties, meant having regular bowel movements. But that wasn’t the worst of it. I became an insomniac. I’d lay in bed all night, staring at the ceiling, as weariness of my limbs penetrated to my mind.

Dog Time
Dog Time

I was at a cross-road in my life, and both ways led to a dead-end. I couldn’t muster up any motivation neither professionally or socially. I decided to resign my job and wander aimlessly. I’d wake up in the morning, as my mother and brother were getting ready for work, all smiles and upbeat.

I couldn’t tell anyone what I was going through because I was ashamed of my melancholy. But when I was alone, I’d sit on the couch and cry until I could cry no more.

[bctt tweet=”I couldn’t tell anyone what I was going through because I was ashamed.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Once I gave myself allowance to be sad without judgment, I started to heal. I acknowledged my negative feelings, I faced them. Then, I focused my attention on my physical and mental wellbeing. I thoroughly examined myself, and learned how to be proud of my strengths and accept my weaknesses. I started a new job and decided to pursue happiness, instead of chasing a career. I was able to carve out a new life from the remnants of my old one.


I’ve just turned forty a couple of months ago. The new decade brings along new ailments. Each wrinkle fills my heart with dread. I feel that my body is conspiring against me.

Now, that I’ve finally learned how to enjoy life, my body is getting in the way. It’s becoming a hindrance. I can no longer read for hours on end without getting glass-burns (red irritation marks on my nose where my glasses rest). I can barely walk up a flight of stairs without taking a moment to catch my breathe. I can’t be outside without sunblock. But it’s okay, because I realize that all of this is part of the growing process.

[bctt tweet=”I allow myself, a perpetual silly old fart, to be the person I am without loathing.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Now, when I find a gray hair, I remind myself to embrace happiness where ever it may be. I allow myself to laugh without the concern of crowfeet. I allow myself, a perpetual silly old fart with a decaying molecular structure, to be the person I am without loathing or judgement.