Summer Empowerment: Lizzo, Megan Thee Stallion, and Normani

As summer 2019 is ending all too quickly, it’s hard not to notice the amazing music that many artists have released recently. It wouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve heard a Lizzo song at a pool party or summer barbecue over the past few months. Many black female artists have been dominating the charts, with both confidence and empowerment for listeners.

First, let’s talk Lizzo. Although she emerged into popularity in 2019, Lizzo’s hit single ‘Truth Hurts,’ initially released back in 2017. Lizzo’s music reflects themes of self-acceptance and empowerment. It’s no doubt the single that earned her an initial spot on the top of the charts is ridden with lyrics of enthusiastic self-love and positivity, beginning with the now-famous words: “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% THAT bitch”

Her sole album, entitled ‘Cuz I Love You,’ features other popular hits like, ‘Tempo’ featuring Missy Elliot, and ‘Juice.’ Reactions to her music has been positive, hyping up her message of self-love and confidence.

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Ironically enough, I was talking about Lizzo with my friend the other day. She said, “I was about to not workout because I was sad, then I watched Lizzo’s tiny’s desk concert, and her motivation got me to get up and go workout.” 

Lizzo’s message of self-love has got my friends hyped up and moving, working and focusing on themselves. 

“If you can love me, you can love yourself,” she announces from the tiny desk. 

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Moving onto Megan Thee Stallion, a newer artist, has erupted with popular hits like ‘Cash Shit’ and ‘Hot Girl Summer.’ These two released, deemed ‘Power Anthems,’ have sparked a new trend for 2019. Many people have tweeted about enjoying a ‘hot girl summer.’ Less about actual looks, the idea of ‘a hot girl summer,’ focuses more on women accepting and owning their bodies.  

She told The Root in an interview further about the definition of a ‘Hot Girl Summer:’ “It’s about women and men being unapologetically them, just having a good-ass time, hyping up their friends, doing you.” 

Megan Thee Stallion is a full-time student at Texas Southern University, all the while topping the charts with unforgettable bangers. 

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Megan Thee Stallion, August 2019 (Noam Galai/Getty Images for MTV)

While most of the Fifth Harmony spotlight has been shining on Camilla Cabelo, a new break-out artist from the group has dropped music that’s been growing in popularity: Normani. Her song ‘Motivation,’ co-written by Ariana Grande debuts in the top 40 of the Hot 100. 

Released on August 16th,  Normani performed Motivation’s first solo performance at the VMA awards, August 26th. She became the first artist to win “Best R&B” at the VMAs since Beyonce’s 2006, “Check On It.” Her confidence, style and talent exude effortlessly in her music, as well as her ‘Motivation’ music video. It’s clear that her solo career is just beginning. 

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SO LISTEN UP HOT GIRLS:  if you haven’t heard any of these artists’ releases, I could not recommend them more. They’re full of empowerment, confidence, lyrics of self-love, and are absolute bops! On top of that, they bring representation to empowering, black female artists. Now, what’s not to love about that?

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Where Did Disney’s Magic Go?

From my perspective, the magic of Disney is that whenever I hear a certain song, or re-watch an old movie, it instantly takes me back. I’m reminded of the days when I would pop the chubby VHS tape in the VCR, decorated in some Cinderella costume my mom sewed, ornamented with orange juice stains and loose threads. Time stood still when I heard lovely tune of A Whole New World with Princess Jasmine’s grainy, enchanting presence on a TV screen that was once brand new in 1995. 

Whew! Nostalgia, how bout it!

Disney’s animation was a unique, vibrant, breathtaking experience that I remember being inspired by as a child. The colors popped, the quick tricks were fascinating, the scenery was detailed, and everything was just so interesting. 

Which is why I can’t help but share my disappointment in many of the new live-action Disney films, attempting to unnecessarily replicate these beautiful, original masterpieces. Why fix something that isn’t broken?

I’ve seen a handful of these new movies so far: Aladdin, Lion King, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book. (Wow, actually typing these out I saw way more than I should’ve, damn.) Either way, I wasn’t impressed by them. Here’s why:

My big girl answer: The creators of these films banked on nostalgia, altered soundtracks, and big Hollywood names to recreate the tales. And, in a way, it worked. These movies racked in a massive fortune for Disney, and launched several careers for the ‘live-action’ actors. However, it failed in a more important way. Although the CGI that they love to use for everything is impeccable, the color palettes of (many) of the films are ridden with depressing, dull greys, browns, and blacks. The celebrity cameos are distracting and misplaced. The focus for these films is more on being ‘epic’ and gritty, showing off the calibrated CGI. Observing the overall look of the film from an art direction perspective, it’s underwhelming, especially seeing such phenomenal films like Coco being released in the same year. The difference is night and day. 

My biased, toddler answer:  It took stories that were so vibrant, so beautiful, and so well-fitting for the animation they were currently told as, and made it a weird, stupid-looking human version! Are you kidding me? Part of the magic of Disney’s animation is that the characters are, in fact, animated, more vibrant than real people and real animals. You can twist and stretch the intensity of their looks and actions. It creates the larger-than-life, mind-boggling excitement that you can’t recreate yourself. The Lion King looked like a NATURE DOCUMENTARY. Their mouths barely moved, the colors were pathetic. You broke it! How’d you break the Lion King!? (Sidenote on Aladdin: I know Will Smith has a bajillion dollars but… I still don’t think the man got paid enough for being the genie Jesus fucking Christ) 

Here’s a comparison between the Lion King animation (left) and live-action (right).

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Here’s another, except vice versa:

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This final comparison is from the Live Action Aladdin (2019)

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I understand the default answer: money. That little mouse will smile and wave and then slash each remaining industry dead as the serial entertainment monopolist. However, there are also less ‘capitalist’ reasons. Many people argued that these live-action films bring the same magic of the original stories to the new generation of children to enjoy. But to that I ask, is it the same magic?

Disney’s blatant disinterest in its own magic is, what can be best described as a plague affecting movie theaters everywhere. It’s almost aggravating, especially from where I’m standing. As a student who is interested in writing screenplays, it’s frustrating to watch Hollywood’s spotlight only shine on the same stories from roughly 15 years ago. I love seeing new creators, directors, and screenwriters explode. Watching quality, original work given the attention it deserves not only gives me something new to watch and enjoy, but also a gleam of hope for the future of content on the silver screen. 

I’m not a fan of ‘10 reasons you shouldn’t support xyz’ or ‘why (insert movie or show) sucks!’ type of journalism. It isn’t very productive. However, I think it’s genuinely important to criticize a massive company that a wickedly tight grip on the entertainment industry’s balls. Disney has a large say over what we choose to accept as the standard for entertainment that we once held sacredly to our childhood hearts. I hope this phase of live-action movies is a weird fluke that we can all just kick under the magic carpet. 

 

‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ and the Portrayal of Mental Illness

In light of the vibrant, musical TV show ‘Crazy Ex Girlfriend’ coming to an end, I thought about its positive impact associated with the portrayal of mental illness. The story of the show follows Rebecca Bunch, of whom we as an audience are supposed to identify ourselves with. She’s funny, messy, boisterous, sharp, and one of the most interesting people you would ever find. However, she is quite flawed. In many episodes, she becomes obsessed with the love interest of whom she broke up with in her teenage years, and later moved to a city in California to pursue. 

As the show flies through each season, we watch Rebecca face more issues. She’s not just overly reliant on others, but also anxious, severely emotional, and has a history ridden with abandonment, leaving her with trauma and insecurity. But what I really like about the way the show is written, is that it’s not seen as this scary, irreversible, end-all-be-all problem. Instead, her issues are portrayed as musical numbers. She regularly sees a therapist, and reflects the ups and downs of dealing with a mental disorder, which we eventually discover to be BPD (Borderline personality disorder)

It shows that those living with mental disorders aren’t too different than those that aren’t; they’re in plain sight. Many TV shows will over-simplify the effects of disorders, making the character suffering from it appear malicious, crazy, or simply just project them in a poor light. This is also part of the irony of the show’s name. We find that Rebecca isn’t really such a “crazy” ex girlfriend after all. She’s just Rebecca; she’s genuine, honest about her feelings, high-spirited, and loyal to those she loves. 

Mental Illness is commonly misrepresented in hollywood. Suicide is glamorized, illnesses are seen as an inescapable black hole, therapists are for ‘crazy people,’ the characters are overly dramatized and usually made out to be the villain. This is unfair to people who actually suffer from mental illness, and see it from a completely different perspective.

I understand the counterargument; characters dealing with mental illness in healthy ways doesn’t make for good television. Well, to that I say: watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the perfect example to oppose that stance. 

It’s 2019. People living with mental illness do not deserve to be stigmatized in TV and film. It just makes it less likely that people will reach out and get help. So, here’s to supporting quality television that positively impacts mental illness; let’s hope the future of hollywood holds more of it. 

The Ridiculous Genius of Co-star

Astrology has tip-toed its way into online, youth culture. It’s seen in social media trends, twitter feeds, and entire instagram accounts devoted to making memes and commentary on “how crazy geminis are!” or “what kind of hobbies libras enjoy in their free time.” There’s no doubt that it’s become more mainstream. 

Well, I’m not big into astrology. It’s fun to discuss the stereotypes of certain signs and see where they prove to be true, but honestly, I don’t think astrology has any correlation to who I am as a person. The fact that I’m a ‘taurus’ doesn’t mean much to me, other than signifying I was born in early May. 

However, even though I doubt its legitimacy, my friends roped me into downloading the app ‘co-star.’ You may have heard of it–being a social media zodiac center that people can download and view personalized, daily updates. I just laughed at it when I first downloaded it, followed a few friends, and barely looked into it any further. Most people see it as a meme, especially with how blatant some of the push notifications are. Even some of them I’ve received so far have been… laughable. 

“Nobody cares how many books you’ve read.”

“Enough alone time. Get out of the house.”

“Silence your ego today.”

Day after day, for a while now, I’ve received a new notification, attempting to find exactly what my spirit needs for the moment. (And yes, some of the notifications sound a lot like my mom.)  I’ve realized that although some of them are silly and unrelated to anything I’m experiencing, none of them are… bad. 

Although astrology doesn’t mean much to me, the words of advice, encouragement, and honesty from this dumb little app have made me feel more self-aware and positive. One morning I woke up to it telling me, “Phone a friend today.” I stared at it and thought, “Nah, I have an exciting day, I don’t think I’ll need that.” Well, whoop dee doo, I wound up crying in a Target parking lot that night, finding myself very much in need of a phone call with a friend. Co-star, you sly bastard. 

So, even if I’m an astrology atheist, a little more positivity, pushiness, and honesty from a computerized, trendy app can still be a very good thing for me, and for a lot of others as well. Who’s to say how long this trendy zodiac app will last? I couldn’t tell you, but I’ll enjoy it (and sometimes laugh at it) while it’s here. 

On Grief.

It’s true that the more we can connect and empathize with another person, the closer we can understand them. Rough times are part of what helps us to bond with others that have felt the same way. We can either use the pain that we feel in this life to help us heal and love one another, or we can use the pain as a shielding weapon to block the world away from us. 

It was an earlier shift at the restaurant I worked at. A family with kids already grown walked in, and I took their table. This particular family was unhappy, there was no doubt about it. The mother and father seemed to be on the verge of divorce, and their daughters and son were all too exhausted by it. They collectively decided to take their anger out on their waitress. Demanding, complaining, sending plates back, and using that passive aggressive tone people talk in when they’re pissed off, was thrown my way every time I walked over to that table. I was equally terrified as I was annoyed. These people completely ruined my day, and I definitely thought about it way too much afterwards. This miserable family made me miserable. How miserable, right? 

This happened a while ago, but I was reminded of it from the man that came in last night. 

It was late, the restaurant was empty. A man in a black suit walked in by himself, looking dismal. I served him a couple drinks, and he chatted with me a bit, about school, the city, the restaurant and the area, normal topics. He was one of the nicest customers I had, many people just want their food and drinks, and not the conversation, so it was refreshing to hear. He later mentioned that he had arrived from his brother’s funeral, and spiraled into a wholesome, but brief conversation about grief, life, and death. The check was on the table, and by the time I came back, he was gone. He left me a 70% tip, with a little ‘thank you, emily’ on the receipt. 

It’s clear to me that life will throw terrible, nightmare situations at you without warning. You can either wrap the misery around yourself and hide in it, or be sincere and approach it head on, reaching your hand out for help. If there’s one thing I want to do in this world, it’s to be good to others, and to give. As best as I can, with mistakes and bumps, it’s still possible. I want to give that consoling, heartening feeling to others that the man who came from the funeral gave to me. We only have each other in this life. Be good to one another. 

One Second Each Day

I came across this really interesting idea a few years ago–taking a short, one-second long video of each day for a year, and compiling them up and seeing how your year turned out. I tried doing this for 2018, but I unfortunately ran short of storage on my phone.

But this year, I gave into the society-consuming monopoly that is Apple, and bought more storage. I began filming everyday starting January first, and have been consistent everyday since.

And so far, I must say, 2019 has given me many bad days. Many things I don’t want to film. Many breakdowns, stressful nights, and issue upon issue. So, I found that the days I go out with my friends or party much easier to find the perfect second to film, but the days I feel empty are so much harder.

But, some good came out of these empty days. Because yes, things have been hard. Specific days have been huge struggles. But, this little video project essentially forces me to find one good thing about that day. So, I got a scholarship rejection letter. I cried, and then I found a really pretty sunset to look at. I stayed up for hours working on a midterm essay, and I filmed a really cute baby pitbull hanging out the window of someone’s car. Searching for the right ‘second a day’ has given me a reason to look for the good, the magic, the life in everyday.

I also had a tendency to search for ‘perfect’ things to film. My makeup had to be flawless, or it had to be a cool video of all of my friends, or a new, exciting thing that I’m doing everyday. But that’s not EVERYDAY. Everyday is normal things. Colorful pens I organized on my desk, coffee in my car cup holder that I made while I was running late for class, or just normal everyday things that don’t have to be perfect.

So, even if it’s hard to, take a second to find the good part of your day. I promise, it’s worth it.

 

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We Are All Foreigners

We are all foreigners. In some way, to some person, we are unbeknownst. The term ‘foreign’ can be described as something strange and unknown to one. People different than us have a strange way of striking confusion and fear within ourselves. But that’s only one dimensional. And as we all know, a single story is dangerous, as we can’t infer any deeper understanding.

So what does this poetic garbage mean?

It’s important that we sometimes see ourselves as foreigners; we’re the ones with unknown traits. This topic has been lingering on my mind for some time now. I’m in a college production of The Foreigner by Larry Shue–a farce comedy set in 1980’s rural Georgia (so probably not the best place to be one.) We meet an Englishman staying with this Southern family for some time, Charlie Baker, a gentleman so paralyzed with anxiety and fear, and as a result of this fear of talking, he is introduced to them as a foreign man who speaks no English.

Through this setup, he overhears the complexities and secrets within this Georgian family, but also helps them grow, and defeat the evil of ignorance.

It gave me a deeper understanding of the mystery, hatred and ignorance so wrongly placed on the word ‘foreigner’ and how we are all foreign in some way, making us not so different from one another after all.

An example of this: When an American visits some European country, and gleefully proclaims their love of the accents. The local then slyly asserts that it’s the visiting tourist with the accent, not them. Two perspectives, two stories, two foreigners.

We are all foreigners, and it’s a very good thing.

 

5 Unparalleled Romance Movies Worth Watching

Although Valentine’s Day is far past us, good quality romance films will always be in season. Here’s a list of 5 romances that don’t belong in the cliche bin.

Amelie (2001)

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Words and actions don’t always align. Amelie is painfully shy, yet continually sets up intricate mysteries for strangers passing through her life. Although this movie is a foreign film, it’s definitely worth the watch in its lighthearted, upbeat and romantic nature. Not to mention, the cinematography in this film is one of a kind.

2) The Big Sick (2017)

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A narrative written so personally, The Big Sick is a love-story so close to reality. It doesn’t follow the same structure of every rom-com you’ve watched. It follows a journey that focuses on family, religious expectations, illness, and the lengths people will go for those that they love.

3)  500 Days of Summer (2009)

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I love this movie because it looks like such a cliche, cheesy romance film, but it’s actually super duper not. It focuses on our projections of what we think love is, versus what reality turns out for us. Sometimes we see love through rose-tinted lenses, and our expectations aren’t always fair. 500 Days of Summer is endearing, heartbreaking, and worth a watch.

4) Juno (2007)

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This movie isn’t simply boy meets girl, or girl meets boy, or the well-known stereotypical love scene in most romance films. It deals with teen pregnancy, boundaries, not fitting in, and all the complications that come with a new life. It’s also an exemplary artifact of the off-beat 90’s teen culture.

5) While You Were Sleeping (1995)

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This is a classic film that twists through a series of lies, altercations with family, and finding unexpected love. Also– Sandra Bullock. Is she not the greatest?

 

A Wave of Empowerment: Let’s Talk About Strong Women

It’s March: Women’s history month. And as I’ve been busy with school and work, I’ve still been trying my best to dedicate time towards fueling empowerment for girls around the world, as well trying to motivate myself to stay inspired.

Something I’ve learned about strong, empowered women is understanding the utter importance of helping fellow women–and especially not putting others down. We have to do away with the cat fights, the name-calling, and any form of the hideous girl hate that seems so many people just give into. We have to help, we have to love, and we have to be strong. Hating on other girls does neither party a favor. And the wise words of Tina Fey’s character in Mean Girls, Ms. Norbury, once said–

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Which conveniently leads me to bringing up the recent #metoo movement. This is such a huge step. While it’s painful to hear such horrific, sad stories brave women everywhere share, there is also a comfort that comes with it, a sigh of relief. We’re no longer kicking these stories under the rug–we’re bringing them to the light and beginning the conversation that should’ve been started a long time ago. Because when we show love and support, we empower other women. And that brings us a little bit closer to gender equality in the world.

In honor of this revelation, and realizing the importance of empowerment, my friend and I began working on starting a new club at my college, ‘Girl Up.’ This is an organization that promotes the empowerment of young girls all over the world. Our goal is to full of fundraisers, events, projects, and learning activities that will benefit girls in need, by empowering them in both our own communities and adolescents in developing countries.

So, no satire piece today, folks. Just some good old food for thought. Hopefully some of you reading find creative ways to empower those around you, and make a positive impact.

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