Interview with Alex Creece, July Featured Author

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Starting this month, Rosewater will be having a “featured author” each month. The editors choose a contributing author, ask them a few questions, and focus that month on publishing many of their pieces. This month, we have chosen Alex Creece, a dedicated Rosewater contributor. Alex’s pieces have historically crossed genres, focusing on personal narratives, virtual reality and occasionally the overlap between the two.

Where did you grow up? How did it shape your writing?
 
I grew up in Australia and Dubai (UAE). I’ve always been extremely shy, but I think this trait has helped me become perceptive and find my voice through written words, rather than pressuring myself to talk for the sake of merely filling the silence. I’ve also met lots of vastly different people in my life so far and I try to strike up a good balance between upholding my ethics, but still being open to new information and making sure I am respectful of diverse opinions, not just ones I already agree with. I am passionate about my principles, but I like to make sure I am never too proud or righteous to be wrong or learn something new.

Which authors have most shaped your writing style?
 
Octavia E. Butler, H.P. Lovecraft, Margaret Atwood, Franz Kafka and Maya Angelou. I love oddities and honesty in literature.
 
What is your favorite Rosewater piece that you’ve written?
 
Witchcraft in the Modern Workplace. It has a lot of heart. And witches.
 
Describe your writing style in six words.
 
Whimsical, unashamed, vulnerable, introspective, sincere and…playful.
 
What advice do you have for young writers?
 
Share your work. I used to be terribly secretive about my words, even with my friends. At some point, I think I just became more interested in getting the feedback than I was afraid of it anymore. I’m so glad for that. Keeping my writing to myself didn’t give me enough opportunities to improve and expand on my ideas. It kept me in a bubble of self-preservation. Vulnerability is one of the most refreshing aspects of literature, and it’s even more wonderfully vulnerable if others can engage with your words too. No piece of writing will ever be universally appreciated, but if it matters to you, it will probably resonate with at least one other person. Your words cannot hold as much freedom if you clutch them too close to your chest.
 
Some of your pieces have dealt with difficult topics, like cat calling, mental health, and body image. Is writing your self-care? Do you have other ways to take care of yourself?
 
Writing is an important aspect to my self-care but I try to make sure I do lots of little things to help myself, just as I like to do for others. I was talking recently to my beautiful friend Tyran about stress management and he told me that I needed to make sure I was setting aside some time every day, even just fifteen minutes or half an hour, to dedicate to writing or any other kind of thoughtful catharsis. This has been helping me a lot, as I am trying to frame my own needs and well-being not as a pipe dream, but as a daily priority. Even in small bursts, dedicating regular time purely to my own interests makes me feel less suffocated, and as if I am switching off the other channels so I can listen to myself and properly tune in.
 
Where else can we find your writing?
 
Ramona Magazine, Antipodean Sci Fi, Literary Orphans…I actually have a list on my website, but it is in need of an update: http://www.creecedpaper.com/works/
 
What is next for you, writing-wise or in general?
 
I’d like to write some more short stories when I get a chance. I’d also like to get out of my comfort zone and try a new style or genre, or attend a workshop, or even read some words out loud where other people might hear them. As for what’s next in general, I’d like to continue finding ways to use my powers for good while still dressing like a villain. I hope that takes me somewhere interesting and helps a lot of people along the way.

On Becoming My Own Boss

I’ve never worked a real job in my life. At least that’s what I tell myself.

The minute I graduated college, I started applying for jobs with furor. Writing gigs, editing, blogging – anything and everything creative I could find. Looking back now, I realize that I had no idea what I was doing. I was given little career advice from my college, other than a few meetings at the career development office where a friendly well-dressed woman named Meredith gave me a few pointers. I would spend hours crafting “the perfect cover letter” then would ask more experienced friends and family to edit them for me before sending them off and crossing my fingers. In return for my hard work, I was rejected – constantly. Applying for jobs is emotionally and mentally exhausting. Half of the time I just wanted to write:

I’m applying to this because I need the money and I’m currently using my degree to write blog posts on topics such as, “20 of the Weirdest Etsy Items.” So please hire me NOW.  

Weird Etsy
20 Weirdest Things on Etsy

I hated every minute of it – the struggle to find the rights words to encapsulate why you were the perfect person for this job and how you just knew you would love working there. Then emailing your letter off into the internet abyss and waiting. Waiting was the worst. It could be a few weeks, it could be months. I tried to follow up by email or even phone calls if I was desperate. Most of the time, I felt like I was shouting into a cave, my voice echoing back at me in the face of this invisible company that was aloof and stony-faced.

Meanwhile, I was bouncing from internship to internship, while also working part-time jobs on the side. Despite feeling like I was wasting my college degree, I felt lucky to work in a beautiful tiny tea shop, with earthy wooden counters, surrounded by iron teapots and huge canisters of pungent tea. The shop’s mission was to focus on the art of tea, with food that was made with care and organic ingredients. Most of the customers were wonderful and intriguing. I also discovered my love of event planning and rediscovered my love of poetry there. My second job was in retail, which I mostly hated because, despite the quirky, beautiful atmosphere, the company culture was catty and all the managers played favorites. But it did help me make friends in my austere isolated suburban town. I also now have plenty of fuel for writing if I ever need to write about rich white women and their attitudes towards sales people.

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Sip Tea Lounge

Long story short, one and a half years go by and I’m pretty much in the same place. I don’t know what I want, but I find jobs I want. So I apply, but I just don’t quite have the ‘thing’ they’re looking for. Part of it is that I’m terrible in interviews. I hate being put on the spot and talking myself up. I turn into a nervous stammering wreck, who loses track of what I’m saying and then ends up trailing off.

At the time, I was in a long-distance relationship. Every time I visited my boyfriend, I felt so sad to leave him in a city that was actually affordable, where there were a million things going on and the possibilities seemed endless. Part of this was because we were still in the honeymoon phase of our relationship. But part of it was also the fact that I was returning to a place where I spent most of my time at work or home, where I was working so hard to pay my student loans and save money but I still just seemed to be treading water. I found myself sinking lower and lower into a funk. I started applying to jobs in Baltimore, hoping for a change. I went on a few interviews and continued to be my messy self. It was like stepping into the room turned the interviewers into demons and my inner self-doubt emerged to dance around the room, taunting me.

I didn’t have a job waiting for me, but I had a loving, supportive boyfriend, so I took a leap and transferred stores to a Maryland location of the store where I was already working. I quickly discovered that being in Baltimore was different and exciting. I suddenly had a big group of friends. There were things to do. Cheap things – sometimes free things. It helped lift my funk.

But moving locations doesn’t necessarily mean anything changes. You can’t escape your problems. Two years went by and I still didn’t have the full-time job I longed for. I felt incredibly guilty for moving from one support system (my parents) to another (my boyfriend). I felt like I had tried to make a change but I had reverted to my old patterns.

When I was let go from a contracted job after just three months, I decided I was done. Frustrated and fed up. I decided that it was time to take my career into my own hands. I would try freelancing. I was already managing a family friend’s Twitter account, so I listed this on my resume. I started applying for freelance gigs. Through a connection (funnily enough through the job I was let go from), I managed to get a marketing and social media part-time position at an organization that focused on women business owners. I attended a happy hour hosted by the organization and met tons of interesting women. Through that, I got another gig. It didn’t pan out. But still, I’m getting work and I’m doing work that is relevant to my skills.Through a list serve, I got another gig. I feel confident and capable. I thought it was going to be an uphill battle, just like applying for jobs, but for the first time, I feel like I’ve taken my life into my hands and created something, instead of ending up in tears over rejection.

Freelancing is a whole different game. Being my own boss is incredibly hard and sometimes lonely. There’s no office chit chat, no one to explain things to me when I’m confused and no one to complain to when another coworker (or in my case, client) is being a pain in the butt. If I don’t know how to do something, I have to either commit to researching how to do it or reach out to ask for help from someone else who might know. As a woman, I find my skills second-guessed and questioned constantly by male clients who are more experienced (or at least think they are), consistently interrupt me and have a certain idea of how things should look.

Freelancing becomes a lesson in standing up for myself. I have to learn what to charge people and how to value my worth. As a writer, a woman and someone who has low self-confidence, this is a huge deal. But, I’ve learned how to look objectively at what I know I’m good at and what I think I could do better at. Sometimes, I have to explain when I’m out of my depth and know that this is ok. It doesn’t make me weak or inferior. It just means that it’s a chance to learn something new. This is something that most people learn in their office and then are taught by someone who has done it before. I don’t have that, so I am figuring it out on my own. Sometimes, I have no choice and I have to figure out how to complete a task, even if I’ve never tried it before. It’s hard – really hard – and it’s terrifying but it also makes me feel so proud of myself when I can manage to untangle a problem.

I have to learn how to advocate for myself and not be afraid to insert my opinion. I’m slowly learning how to convince myself that I have a lot of experience and I DO know what I’m talking about! At least once a day, my inner voice tells me that I’m a fake and I will never succeed. I am a constant victim of imposter syndrome. In an office, there’s someone to give you feedback, which is at least some assurance that you are on the right track whereas here, I’m my own worst critic and it’s like I have my very own Miranda Priestly living in my head. It gets so bad that sometimes I almost want to cry. My imposter demon will sneak up behind me and whisper, “You are a f**king joke. What do you think you’re doing?” If I’m struggling with a problem, it will smirk and say, “Why are you even trying?” I’ve started writing down these thoughts in the hopes that I will look back on them in a few months, realize how horrible they are and understand that it’s all in my head, that I’m doing the best I can.

Becoming my own boss has its pros and cons. It’s a many-headed beast that I sometimes tame and sometimes it tries to devour me. But in many ways, it’s freeing. If I don’t like the work I’m doing, I can always walk away and find something else. I can make my own schedule, work where I want and travel where I want, as long as I get it done. Whenever I tell people that I work for myself the usual response is how lucky I am. I think that they imagine me as a character from Girls, spending my days watching tv, baking cupcakes, working on art projects and meeting people for coffee in the middle of the day, while occasionally working. It’s not like that. That is a glamorized Martha Stewart version of what I do. My job is hard in many ways that are different from a 9 to 5 office job. If I don’t get work done, if I can’t complete a project, it’s on me. I have to learn to get along with clients because even if we don’t work together in the future, they can be the key to my next job. I have to know my worth and be completely unafraid to tell people that I have to work for a certain amount and no I can’t go any lower. I need to make a living and my work is valuable. This is my career. It’s empowering, it’s terrifying and it’s mine.

Contour Queen: The Power Of Makeup Revisited

A few years ago, I wrote a piece called “Send In The Clowns”. As a photography student who was enthralled by feminism and bodily autonomy, I captured my thoughts on makeup through a series of pictures that expressed my confusion- whether weaing makeup was feminist or not. Two years on, I would’ve never thought that my makeup journey would have progressed this much, and my thoughts around feminism related to makeup have finally become clear.

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I’ve had to defend my choice to wear makeup amongst feminist circles countless times, which was disheartening, to say the least, when I started out experimenting with makeup. I’ve always seen makeup as a form of self-care, so to be met with negativity (especially from people I looked up to) made me question whether I was damaging my feminist integrity.

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I can’t say when the turning point was. I just stopped caring. I slowly began to realise that I loved what makeup could do for me, and starting owning it. Being a perfectionist, I would spend hours upon hours replicating beautiful looks I’d seen, getting frustrated when I couldn’t get it 100% right. However, slowly but surely, I started getting it “right”. I didn’t have to meticulously plan out every look I was doing the night before, making sure I had all the right palettes ready for me to start first thing in the morning. It was so empowering.

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I still had thoughts that were harmful to myself and others around me; maybe I was better without makeup on, more natural, maybe I would be seen as intimidating to others by having strong brows and bold lips. Was I supporting an industry that makes it’s money by tearing women’s self-confidence down, telling them that a blemish is the end of the world, and that no one will love them if they have chubby cheeks? After some tough talks with myself, I came to realise that it was the intention behind my cosmetic obsession that what was really mattered in my personal journey. I wore makeup as an extension of my personality, as a creative outlet, and as part of a self-care routine; and identifying this felt profoundly feminist. 18579307_1898696840350555_2027954573_n

From this long and exhausting journey, I started to love my own skin. I became aware of why my skin would break out, and learnt to forgive myself for mistakes. I became more conscious on what would give me the best value for money in regards to what products I was buying, and hugely boosted my creativity. I stepped out of my comfort zone, and reaped the benefits of it. As I realised that I was good at what I do, I was being told that I looked confident, and I felt it.

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I have become aware of the flaws in the beauty industry. I try not to ignorant. I give advice where I can, and I learn as much as possible. I dedicated my Instagram to purely makeup (give it look here), and I practiced, practiced, practiced. I write makeup pieces for Rosewater. But most importantly, I feel confident, inside and out. This weird and wonderful art of makeup has allowed me to embody the sharpness of my eyeliner wings, the glow of my highlight, and the holographic wonder of my glitter. And even after a long, hard, exhausting day, if my cheekbones are contoured sharp enough to kill a man, it’s all worth it.

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Interview with Art: Pippin Lee Truman

We sat down with animator and illustrative artist Pippin Lee Truman to chat about their artwork, intersectionality, and their advice for fellow artists! Check out the interview below!

V: What inspires your artwork?

P: I would say that my inspiration mainly comes from the media around me, especially things like comics, because they’re such an interesting way of telling a story. At the same time, I’m really inspired by illustrations that incorporate different types of media, that maybe are part digital and part traditional. I often make comics out of everyday things that happen around me, like dreams that I’ve had- it helps me communicate abstract thought through art. It’s really a combination of lots of different things, but definitely other artists, especially ones that I grew up admiring. I love James Baxter, and classic Disney artists too.

hands practice

 V: Do you think the mundane, everyday experience is more inspirational than huge, impossible things? 

P: I’m a huge fan of absurdist humor, and that style that’s really popular on Tumblr. So making comics about dreams is a really fun way to explore communication, especially with those weird transitions that we all get in dreams. It’s a really fun way to explore as a storytelling device. I also make comics of my day-to-day life, conversations I have and little interactions I have, in order to capture those moments. Especially since I suffer from chronic depression, those mundane moments can be the nicest. Obviously, the everyday can be really tough when your feeling rough, but the mundane can be a really nice escape from it all. The little moments are really sweet to look back on, especially through my sketchbooks. 

V: So, you’re in university at the moment. What would you say are the main things you’ve learnt through studying art, and looking at it as a career?

P: The main thing I’ve found is that there is a huge separation between your working art and your doodling art. The difference between work and home has really helped me, especially when working in an industry environment, as my course is quite strict about that. I find myself much more productive when I’m in a stricter environment, working on tight deadlines, rather than at home relaxed. I set myself such strict goals, and then let myself relax when I was at home, so I can draw what I want. On such a tight schedule you don’t have the luxury of only working when you’re inspired- when you’re working on a project that is much bigger than yourself, you need to put that before your own inspiration. 

portrait2

V: What would be your advice to new artists to stop getting burnt out when working to a deadline? How to you keep the creativity flowing?

P: When I first started out, I would usually just doodle, and that’s where I did a lot of my growing. What worked for me, was studying other artists I really liked the work of. Years and years ago I came across some fan art for one of my favourite shows, and just started copying their style, because I loved their art. I gradually got better and better, because I was studying, but it was something I enjoyed studying. Obviously this only went so far- I found myself thinking that I didn’t need to study anatomy, because I had already got it. I now realize that made me look like a fool, because you need to study something in the 3D to properly translate it to the 2D. I started taking life drawing lessons, and still to this day take them too. Always try to be improving yourself, once you’ve learnt something, you can then break the rules too, which is such a lovely milestone to come to.  When you start to see your past mistakes, that’s when you know you’ve become a better artist.

V: Your work features a lot of people other than cis, able-bodied, white people, and it’s so great to see such intersectional artwork. What are your inspirations for creating such diversity in your characters?

P: I’m a massive believer that if your feminism isn’t intersectional, it isn’t feminism. If you’re not including all kinds of women, disabled people, or trans people, it’s not feminism. I’m transgender, I’m non-binary and I use they/them pronouns, and I’ve always been very outspoken about that in order to demand respect. I have a character called Jules, who when I was younger was very much a mirror of myself and who I wanted to be, and he’s really androgynous. He’s actually his own character now, and I draw him every so often. He was born out of my own gender and sexuality questioning, so I like to draw characters that aren’t similar to myself, because other wise I wouldn’t be challenging myself as an artist. I live in Birmingham in the UK, so it wouldn’t occur to me to not draw people of diversity, because I grew up surrounded by so many different people. In school I grew up around people of different races and religions, so if you’re not drawing the people around you, you’re not representing them. I obviously still have some learning to do about racism, and ableism, and we have to find out our own information on topics like that. I constantly have to educate people on what non-binary is, or what transgender is. It comes along in leaps and strides, and sometimes it doesn’t. I see people saying that, for example, they can’t draw fat people, because it’s too hard- but it’s really not, it’s exactly the same as learning to draw anyone else. Everyone needs to be engaging with intersectionality, because we are all linked with it. ahahahahahaha

V: How has drawing people other than cis, able-bodied and white been received by your colleagues and lecturers? 

P: I’ve had a couple of occasions where teachers or fellow students don’t seem to connect with my work. A lot of the time, my main experience is with being trans. I’m completely out at university, and have been for a while. In the first few weeks of university they had my legal name on the registers, even though my preferred name is different. I wouldn’t respond to my legal name being called out, and would be marked absent, which was a huge problem academically. Another time, we had to choose a clip to animate a lip-synch to. The clip that I chose was with two voices, one being a higher pitch and one being a lower pitch, and I decided to do it with two girlfriends, with one being a trans woman. In my head, she suited the lower voice, so I put her to lip-synch with that voice, and everyone misgendered my character! Obviously in that situation no one was getting hurt, but it was very odd to have to deal with that. 15

V: What would be your advice to those who find themselves in similar situations? 

P:If anyone ever finds themselves in that situation where someone demands information, or just doesn’t understand, you are never obliged to educate anyone. If you want to give them a whole detailed run down of your subject, or who you are- go right ahead! However, you do not have to do that if you don’t want to. Hopefully in the near future, people will be educated on a base level on subjects like that, so we won’t be put into that sort of situation. If I’m not in the mood to go into details, I tell people to Google it! We have a wealth of information in our pockets all the time, and you never asked to be put in the role of a teacher. Obviously I’m speaking from a place of privilege, I’m a white person and a trans person that is generally at lower risk in the community, unlike my trans sisters or some of my other trans friends, and that’s always important to keep in mind. But keep in mind that you don’t represent everyone, and everyone’s experiences are totally different. 

V: Do you think everyone can use art as a therapeutic activity? 

P: When you’re frustrated or annoyed or sad, I always feel  a little better when I’m doing some art, even if it’s really shit! Communicating your feelings in a way other than just to yourself is a really healthy way to process your feelings. 

V: If someone booked you as an artist, and would give you unlimited money, and allowed you to do any project you wanted, what would it be?

P: I have a lot of projects living in the back of my head that I would love to make a reality! I have an idea for a video game where the protagonist is deaf, and you have to navigate the world using vibrations and very small amounts of clues- but I have lots of little ideas, that I’m constantly adding to. My character I mentioned previously, Jules, has an entire expanded universe and world that links with him and his best friend Adam. That story has been with me ever since my teens, and it’s been developing and growing ever since I’ve been developing and growing. I would love to make that a reality, but I would never trust anyone else with it, because they wouldn’t understand and connect with the characters the same way that I do! I would love to make a fun, experimental animated series for young adults involving all these characters that I’ve been developing for years. I’ve been trying to write a novel for years, but I never have time. So, if anyone wants to give me lots of money and time, I have about ten years of plot living in my brain- hit me up! 3

V: Can everyone be an artist?

P: I think everyone is an artist in their own little way. It might not be drawing a beautiful portrait, but it could be a beautiful singing voice or being great at drumming. There are a lot of ways to create art. Talent doesn’t get you that far- talent will get you a failed audition and a coffee cup full of tears! The idea isn’t to have talent and just see how it goes, it’s about working hard and putting heart into everything you do! Even if it a tiny thing, that’s more than you would’ve made if you just sat there and been sad (not that you can’t just have a self-pity day), but after that’s done, I pick myself up, take a deep breath and pick up the pencil again! 

box-of-jules

Check out Pippin Lee Truman’s portfolio here!

Please contact leeleetruman@gmail.com for information on artwork or commission enquiries.

Black Owned Beauty Brands: Beauty At It’s Finest

In a desperate bid to swim through the capitalist world of makeup that is plagued by large corporations clawing at our cash, it is refreshing to find some black owned beauty brands that actually work for a racially-conscious market. One way that you can integrate intersectionality into your everyday life (especially if you are white), is to support these brands, and make sure that people of colour get the recognition they deserve. Not only are the brands below owned by people of colour, but they usually cater to people other than white people. Check out the awesome brands below!

Black Up Cosmetics (www.blackupcosmetics.com)

With everything ranging from false eyelashes, to bold matte liquid lipsticks to foundations, Black Up Cosmetics’ tag line is “The makeup expert for women of colour”- so you know you’re in good hands. With an interactive feature to find your perfect foundation shade, picking your foundation has never been easier! On an menu, you can choose your skin colour, undertone, preferred finish, and preferred formula, so you can walk away with the perfect foundation for you! Be sure to check out their other fantastic products.

Beauty Bakerie (www.beautybakerie.com)

This brand has taken the internet by storm with their confectionary themed cosmetics- including Lip Whips (a liquid lipstick, available in metallic and matte colours), So Icy Illuminators (powdered highlighters in ice cream tubs), and their Sprinkles glitter. Shades can range from nudes, to pastel pinks, to metallic bubblegum, to royal blue, and so much more! This brand will have you coming back for seconds. 

Pink Stiletto Cosmetics (pinkstilettocosmetics.com)

A brand that tries it’s hand at everything, Pink Stiletto could be your one stop shop for all your beauty needs. Foundations, highlighters, lip palettes, brow pomades, you know name- they’ve got it. You can even order foundation samples if you are unsure on what colour is for you. They ship internationally (except for Italy, due to customs), so you can grab your fix from anywhere!

Coloured Raine (www.colouredraine.com)

Coloured Raine’s matte lip paint has shot to fame after being compared to Jeffree Star’s liquid lipstick (y’know, minus the racism- read about that shenanigan here), with subtle nudes that will last all day, to bold colours that will make the best beauty aficionados turn green with envy. They also stock single eyeshadows, as well as their own magnetic palettes, so you have total freedom to pick your own shades from their extensive list. 

Fashion Fair (www.fashionfair.com)

A veteran within the beauty industry, Fashion fair was founded in the late 50’s when the owner, Eunice Johnson found a distinct lack of makeup for people of colour. This then led to to develop her own range, which rose to fame in the 80’s as it became the front runner for makeup for people of colour. After a rebrand in 2008, they have come back in full force, supplying foundations, lipsticks and concealers especially for people of colour. Foundations come in a variety of undertones and formulas, so you can find one that is just right for you. 

The House of Flawless (thehouseofflawless.com)

Initially an online store until February 2017, where they set up shop in Simpsonville, South Carolina, The House of Flawless has their own brand of liquid lipsticks and foundations (currently only available in store). You can book in for one of their glam sessions, where they will apply your makeup for you, ready for you to face the world feeling and looking glamorous, with their own brow specialist, eyelash technicians and much more! They also stock haircare, skincare, and even beauty accessories such as LED mirrors and ring lights! What more could you want in a shop?

Juvia’s Place (www.juviasplace.com)

With their African themed eyeshadow palettes featuring beautiful pigments in a variety of shades, its not difficult to see why Juvia’s Place has become a huge hit with beauty bloggers and YouTubers alike. Don’t fancy investing in a palette? No problem- you can also stock up on single eyeshadow shades. Surprisingly affordable for an indie brand gone viral, this brand won’t leave you out of pocket, but will leave you with a stunning eyeshadow palette in your makeup kit. 

Shea Moisture (www.sheamoisture.com)

Praised for their use of natural ingredients that help to nourish skin and hair, Shea Moisture have expanded their range to include makeup and skincare, as well as their famous haircare products. Specialising in uber moisturising products for black hair, this brand was started in 1912 by Sofi Tucker, after she would sell shea nuts at the village market, and slowly started formulating products including shea in them. Her legacy is continued by her grandchildren, who have adapted the brand for the modern day, featuring foundations, eyeshadows and much more in their cosmetics range. 

Black Opal Beauty (www.blackopalbeauty.com)

Launched in 1994, Black Opal Beauty was created in response to a lack of products that dealt with issues such as hyper pigmentation and oil control. They have recently undergone rebranding, creating sleek and modern packaging to house their innovative products. A huge range of foundations (many including SPF protection) in many different formulas, lipsticks, lip glosses, skincare and much more are included on their website, at a fraction of the price of your usual beauty brand. 

Featured photo: Credit to Black Up Cosmetics

Horoscopes & Love Notes

Aries:
you’ve been fighting for so long
whatever comes next
walk into it with your eyes open

Taurus:
fill your lungs today
and remember that
this too is a gift

Gemini:
your body was never broken
there is no splintered split in you
say whole
now again
now again

Cancer:
you can’t carry the past
as one endless apology
forgive yourself first

Leo:
you were born with fire in your belly
another child of the sun
you’ve got the kind of glow that lasts

Virgo:
your mantra for today is “open”
repeat it until it’s more feeling than phrase

Libra:
it’s the season of the honey-hearted
curl and uncurl a fist until
you remember how to go soft

Scorpio:
today your aura is the same color
as sea glass and river water and
things that move in waves

Sagittarius:
there is no wrong way to grieve

Capricorn:
there are quiet expansions
happening all around you
so why should you be afraid
to grow?

Aquarius:
spin backwards through space
throw the universe behind you
relive your favorite moments

Pisces:
say please and
thank you and
I love you and
all the others you
meant to say

Hairy, Angry Feminist: Why I Put Down My Razor

As of October last year, I stopped shaving my armpits. Of course, I’d heard of other feminists doing it, and thought it was pretty damn awesome. Yet, I never mustered up the strength to throw out my disposable razors and go “au naturale.”

Oddly enough, I hadn’t shaved my legs consistently for about a year before I stopped shaving my pits. I didn’t really show my legs off, so didn’t see the need. However, every time I jumped into the shower, I always made sure my underarms were smooth as a baby’s bottom. That was, until the next day, where a furiously itchy, red, bumpy rash made my armpits feel like they were on fire. It was one particularly bad occasion that made me impulsively throw out my razors, and I have never returned to them.

I have always felt that body hair is a personal choice, so it never seemed like a big deal to stop shaving. I would love to tell people  I stopped shaving to fight the patriarchy and to combat society’s beauty standards, because that sounds much more impressive than “because I got a rash.” And whilst, I suppose, my passion for feminism has given me the carefree attitude to dump the razors, it was more for comfort than a political outcry.

However, it seems that regardless of my explanation, people always associate my hairy armpits with me being a bra-burning, hairy, angry feminist. Even when at my liberal and loving workplace, I have to cover up my underarms due to a few awkward conversations with customers regarding my body hair choices. I feel uncomfortable wearing tops with no sleeves, just because I do not want to have to explain myself everywhere I go. The stereotypes have already been set in place, and I fit all the criteria.

I am hoping that when I move to art university in a few weeks, that I will be among open-minded people who will not care about whether I’m shaven or not, but I know this is a pipe dream. I am always going to come across people who do not agree with me, and are not interested in my reasons for growing out my armpit hair, but I’m okay that. And I’m okay with being an angry, hairy feminist. I just wish everyone else was.

Interview with Olaronke Akinmowo

Artist, yogi, self-proclaimed bibliophile, and avid biker, Olaronke Akinmowo plans to bring black women literature to the forefront this summer in New York City.

The born and bred Brooklynite, Akinmowo is promoting a mobile library in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn called The Free Black Woman’s Library. The purpose of the library is to promote black women writers. Ola was inspired to shed a light on a lack of racial and gender diversity in the literature world, especially when it comes to black women writers.

Artist Olaronke Akinmowo at her The Free Black Woman's Library  Photo Credit: Bianca Clendenin
Artist Olaronke Akinmowo at her The Free Black Woman’s Library
Photo Credit: Bianca Clendenin

“Our stories need attention…I’m interested in showing we’re not a monolithic…Whether it’s working 9-5 or being a stay at home mom or having a perm or being bald, or being light or being dark. Whatever. We all just have that spark that connects us. I’m interested in exploring that idea. Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a way to give exposure to our stories?”

In a climate where hashtags such as #sayhername and #blackwomenslivesmatter are trending on social media to bring a focus on black women’s voices, Akinmowo’s mobile library is a breath of fresh air. According to the Facebook page, her library’s mission is “celebrating and honoring the brilliance, beauty, creativity, resilience and imagination of Black women, using the written word as my foundation.”

The concept of the library is based on an exchanged system. To receive a book you must exchange another. Your currency is a book written by a black women writer, the only rule for the library.

“We’ve received all kinds of books. Mainly fiction. Mainly adult. But I have received some young adult and I have received some children’s.” says Akinmowo. “I did receive a couple of political books, there are some duplicates. There’s also books I’ve never heard of…I’m being exposed to books I’ve never heard of!”

There were plenty of the heavy hitters in the library: Octavia E. Butler, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Audre Lorde to name a few. While also carrying more current writers such as Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Currently she has had 100 books donated to the mobile library.

 

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Photo Credit: Bianca Clendenin
Photo Credit: Bianca Clendenin

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Starting at the end of June, Akinmowo will be traveling throughout Bed-Stuy for the rest of the summer with her mobile library. She plans on moving the library throughout the neighborhood in a trailer using her bike and stationing the collection in public spaces. Currently she’s only focusing on Bed-Stuy specifically, but hopes to expand the project in the near future.

Her first stop was at STooPS, a community based event in Bed-Stuy that “uses the arts to bring people outside and promotes social interaction among artists, homeowners, residents, and businesses.” It was also a response to the growing issues concerning gentrification in the area, to bridge the gap between old residents and new.

Homeowners collaborate with local artists to host performances, showcase art work, and other creative ventures. STooPS is in its 3rd year.

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Had the chance to check out the opening of the library. Besides books, her library will also promote local black women artists inspired by the same literature that’s available. At the opening, Akinmowo performed a dance in conjunction to celebrate the debut on the library. Poet, Emerald Carter, performed a piece inspired by Zora Neale Hurston, “Their Eyes Were Watching God”.

Throughout the summer The Free Black Woman’s Library will also host all kinds of literary events, including “readings, an examination of Southern folklore and mythology, women in Afro-futuristic science fiction and black women in poetry“.

The weather didn’t dampened the event. Raining earlier that morning, the library ended up having a variety of visitors throughout the day. It even had its first exchange. One of the Black Women’s Library youngest fans, exchanged one of her books for another book in the library. The girl, who couldn’t be any older than 8 or 9 was the first library patron.

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Photo Credit: Bianca Clendenin

Akinmowo also hopes to expand the library to carry more children and books that cater to young adults. As a mother a daughter who is also an avid reader, she knows the difficulties of finding books for young black girls.

“Representation is so important for young people. If you’re a weirdo or alone. I see a lot of children’s books that lack characters with people of color, but they’re written by white authors. Which is fine, but we need more black writers.”

What Akinmowo has discovered in this whole process was how many adults haven’t been exposed to many black women writers. Her main object with this library was to bring an undervalued voice to

“There’s even adults who didn’t realize there’s a huge canon of black women’s lit to the point you can get a PhD in black women’s lit, they weren’t even expose to that concept until college.”

Olaronke Akinmowo has dedicated her life to investing in the lives of black people, and black women specifically. To have more creative platforms in urban communities. She anticipates that the library will eventually inspire others to branch out and create their own libraries for undervalued communities such as Latino writers, LGBT writers, and etc.

The library is still taking donations. You can donate by sending new or used books to 1072 Bedford Avenue, #39, Brooklyn, NY 11216.

For more information, visit the Free Black Woman’s Library Facebook page.

There’s also a Tumblr page.

 

 

 

 

Rabha Ashry: The Different Ways I See Myself

10846132_10152861039939407_295739585868551648_nrabha ashry is an arab poet who is terrified that graduating university means that she will be sentenced to a life of housewife-misery just like her mother. she writes poetry to stay sane and remind herself how to breathe.

rabha ashry is mother to ganoush the cat. she lets him sleep in her bed every night although she wakes up with scratches on her feet every morning. she is scared of what that says about her deep need for affection and the destructive nature of the love she has in her life.

rabha ashry is the eldest of five and half-sibling to many. she is resentful towards her conservative parents, who make her feel trapped and small. she misses her chosen family, who don’t seem to miss her.

rabha ashry has been writing poems since she was nine. her first poem was about her family written in thinly veiled metaphors about star clusters. she has since abandoned metaphors for honesty because she hates censorship.

rabha ashry has spent the first 18 years of her life trying to catch up on American pop culture, realized in her 19th year that nothing other than being American can make her American, and wrote essays in her 21st year trying to explain how colonialism and assimilation politics and her very specific circumstances fashioned that desire in the first place.

rabha ashry is a newly-minted freelance writer with no idea about how life in the real world works. she wishes she could go back in time and do college right. she misses cuddling on the couch with her best friends and watching cult classics.

rabha ashry spends most of her time either reading or watching reruns of cancelled tv shows. when she was a kid she thought she was going to change the world, now she realizes the world will change her.

rabha ashry is mother to a team of misfit artists who have all moved away to pursue more successful careers than she could hope to have. she finally understands how much her mother struggles with empty nest syndrome.

rabha ashry spent the first six years of her life confused about her last name because her father abandoned her and her stepdad raised her. now her father is dead and her stepdad won’t talk to her. she’s not sure where she went wrong exactly.

rabha ashry is a lapsed muslim living in conservative sharjah. she worries that sleeveless shirts and smoking cigarettes outside during daytime in ramadan will get her arrested. she hasn’t prayed in three years and secretly hopes that god won’t mind so much.

rabha ashry is a writer. she hopes to make a career out of her experimental poetry and her no sugar coating allowed feminism. she can’t conceive of a life in which she is not a writer.

Racism is Not a Mental Illness

On the evening of Wednesday the 17th of June, Dylann Roof, a 21 year old white male, walks into the doors of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and sits quietly for an hour, disguised amongst other members of the congregation. An hour later, 9 are dead and 3 severely traumatised by the event. Roof was captured by police the following day in Shelby, North Carolina, still armed, after being tipped by a local citizen of his whereabouts. Although the facts of the story remain the same, the classification of his act differs depending on what news publication you’re reading. Many are questioning the nature of this “hate” crime, or even so, reducing the nature of the crime to the simple expression of one “introverted and adrift” individual.

The church had been home to many significant black civil rights leaders within American history, including one of the founding members, Denmark Vesey. Vesey led over 9,000 black slaves in protest against the inhumane treatment of slaves in the year 1822. Although the uprising failed, Vessey was later captured, tried and hanged. His importance lingers within the church and the incident is noted as one of the nation’s most famous slave uprisings. The church, in itself, is a representation of the strength of black history; a microcosm of the racial struggle that happened over 100 years ago within America and seems to be still happening today.

Witnesses from the crime told investigators that Roof stood up and told the congregation he was there “to shoot black people.” Yet, many are reaching out and classifying his actions as being an expression of a mental illness. Those that deem the incident as racially motivated are shunned and told to stop playing the victim. If you call it a race issue, you’re dismissed, you’re accused of attention seeking, because “not everything’s a race issue” This may be true, but when the perpetrator himself deems it a race issue, why are several different news stations around America trying to find an alternative explanation?

Fox news, of course, reduced the crime as a “war on Christians” Fox’s Steve Docy said “They haven’t explained it to us. Extraordinarily, they’re calling it a hate crime.” Extraordinarily? The only thing extraordinary here is Fox’s blatant disregard to actually weigh up the facts of the incident.  E.W. Jackson, Fox’s guest, agreed with Docy saying:

“Most people jump to conclusions about race. I long for the day when we stop doing that in our country. But we don’t know why he went into a church, but he didn’t choose a bar, he didn’t choose a basketball court, he chose a church.”

No, Jackson, he did not choose a bar, or a basketball court, but he did choose a church that was prominent during the civil rights struggle within America. He did chose a church full of black citizens. He did choose a church and say he was there “to shoot black people”. Reducing the crime and diminishing the facts does nothing but reduce the lives of the actual victims, and support the deep internalized racism that continues to grow within America. It’s impossible for white people to understand how deep racism is ingrained within American society, until they accept and acknowledge white privilege within America. Ask yourself, why is a black shooter deemed a “terrorist” or a “thug” yet a white shooter is classified as “mentally ill”? Why is  a black, unarmed, man killed within a choke-hold by the police on suspicion of selling cigarettes? Yet a white man that kills 9 individuals boards a plane before facing any murder charge?

Although this is a singular act, the act in itself represents a lot more than that. It is a clear reflection of the deeply ingrained racial hatred and white supremacy which continues to cripple America. By ignoring this, you open the door for crimes like this continue. By ignoring this, you reduce the victims who were murdered as a result of this act.

Cynthia Hurd, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Rev. DePayne Middleton – Doctor, Clementa Pickney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Singleton and Myra Thompson

We remember you.

Dylaan Roof  needs to be acknowledged for what he is: a terrorist.