5 Ways You Can Help Your World

What do I expect from myself now? That thought popped into my head in recent months, while reflecting upon what’s been happening politically in our country (and around the world). I have been staying more informed than ever before, and with that has come a desire to do more. To use my knowledge, voice, and time to make a positive impact. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been feeling this way.

In response to my initial question, I decided to put together a list of possible actions I could take—and share them with you. This list is by no means 100% comprehensive, and I would love to hear any additions you have in the comments below. I kept in mind and noted any limitations there may be in regards to age. Another bonus: for some of these, you don’t have to stray far from right where you are: the Internet. With that, let’s jump in!

Stay Informed. First and foremost, it’s important to understand what’s going on. A great starting place is theSkimm, a free daily (Monday through Friday) email newsletter that quickly (and sassily) summarizes the day’s top headlines and provides links for further reading. When you’re starting a new habit, such as regularly reading the news, it makes sense to make it as easy on yourself as possible. Email newsletters—particularly theSkimm—make staying informed really easy, by bringing all of your reading to one place.

Teen Vogue has rightfully been commended for their insightful political and cultural coverage, which is available for free on their website. They also have a—wait for it!—free email newsletter, which includes links to political and social writings as well as fashion inspiration and celebrity updates. A pretty good combo, if you ask me.

Another great resource is The New York Times, particularly if there is a topic you want to explore in depth. The one limitation is that you are only allowed to read 10 articles per month for free on their website. However, if you find you really like their articles and want to read more, they do offer digital subscriptions, including one for students that gives you unlimited access to their web articles for $1/week.

What’s missing from this list is local news. It’s just as important to know what’s going on in your state and city/town. More and more local newspapers are offering online content, and a quick Google search will let you know if they have websites or social media accounts. They might even have an e-newsletter!

Speak Up. Once you’ve begun to make sense of what’s going on, it’s important to make your voice heard. There are a number of ways to do this, from signing an online petition to sharing your thoughts on social media, but perhaps the most important right now is to contact the people who represent you in government. You can do this even if you can’t vote yet! It is especially valuable to do so when those representatives are about to vote on a bill that could become a law. For example, it’s my understanding that one of the reasons the original version of the American Health Care Act was withdrawn was the large number of calls representatives received from people who opposed the bill.

I have always been at least a little shy, so the idea of reaching out to my representatives has always been a little intimidating. For me, planning ahead can help reduce nerves, so I scoured some of my favorite websites for resources and advice. This really helpful article from Teen Vogue“Congresswoman Katherine Clark Explains How You Can Resist the Trump Administration”—introduced me to a cool website called Countable. Countable gives you clear, easy-to-read summaries of bills that our national representatives (members of the Senate and House of Representatives) will vote on. The site also gives you the chance to send your opinion to them, starting with a simple click of “Yea” or “Nay.” If you want to use the site for contacting your representatives, you do need to create an account. You must be 13 or older to do so, and the site does ask for your address (your representatives keep tallies of responses they get from people in their district, and your address confirms that you live in their district). So, it would be best to check in first with a parent/guardian before creating a Countable account, if you are not an adult yet!

If you are feeling so bold, I would recommend giving your reps an actual phone call. From what I’ve read—including the above Teen Vogue article—phone calls are the most effective method. Personally, the whole talking-on-the-phone thing is what really makes me nervous. On that note, this article from Refinery29“Calling Congress is Easier Than You Think—Here’s How to Do It”—is really useful. It includes a sample script that you can change to suit your needs and use when you call. One final tip from a friend of mine for those who are particularly anxious about making a phone call: you can always call after hours (in the evenings or on weekends) and just leave a voicemail.

Countable keeps you updated on national issues and who to contact for those, but doesn’t address local ones. Your best bet is to keep an eye on your local news (see above). If you hear about a state-level issue you want to speak up on, I found that in most cases, typing “[your state] government” in Google will lead to a website with a “find your representatives” tab. A similar approach would likely work for city/town issues, though their websites may be less sophisticated. When in doubt, ask your social studies teacher (or another informed individual)!

Sparkle Heart.jpg

Donate. Another option, if you have money to give and wish to do so, is to donate to an organization that supports a cause you care about. Your best bet, if you know of a local organization that is doing work you admire, be it an animal shelter or a mentoring program, is to donate directly to them. They likely have a website with an easy option for donating, or you can give in person.

If you want to give but don’t yet have an organization in mind, I recommend checking out Charity Navigator. The purpose of the site is to evaluate charities based on how they use their money so people can be informed donors. Browsing the site, I found that smaller, local organizations (including a few in my city that I searched for) were not evaluated because they were simply too small. But if you have no idea where to give, Charity Navigator has Top Ten Lists, including “Charities with Perfect Scores” that are divided up by category, including Animals, Education, and Environment. If there is a cause you want to donate to, you’ll certainly find a worthy organization!

Volunteer. Almost six years ago, I signed up for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I still count it as one of the best decisions I ever made. It is cheesy but oh-so-true that you grow when you give. If you wish to donate your time, there are certainly organizations and causes that could use your skills and compassion.

Doing some research online, I found that, unfortunately, if you are under 18, your options will be more limited. Your best bet, if you know of a local organization you’d like to volunteer for, is to go to their website to see what volunteer opportunities they offer. If they state that they do not offer volunteer opportunities to individuals under 18, I don’t think it would hurt to call and ask about the possibility of volunteering alongside an adult who could accompany you.

While down the Internet rabbit hole, I ended up on DoSomething.org. The site has a variety of “campaigns,” or activities both big and small that support a variety of causes. For example, one on the home page that caught my attention was to create a cute recycling box to remind you to recycle your empty beauty product containers. If you create a DoSomething.org account, complete the campaign, and upload a photo of you doing so, you have the opportunity to win “scholarships and swag.” To create an account, you do need to provide an email address or phone number, and again, to win prizes you do need to upload a photo of yourself, so do check in with a parent/guardian before doing so.

Start Something. This one is entirely open-ended and up to you, but I would feel remiss if I didn’t include it. If you see an issue in your community or world and you have an idea about how you could be part of the solution, with determination, research, and hard work, the sky is the limit as far as what you can accomplish. I believe this with all of my heart and mind, in part because, when I was an Online Contributing Writer for Girls’ Life, I spent a lot of time doing interviews with girls who were being recognized by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards for their outstanding community service projects. There was a 13-year-old who created a program to collect wasted cooking oil to be reconverted and used to heat the homes of those in need. An 18-year-old who had founded a program that helps schools include students with disabilities on their cheerleading squads. And a 16-year-old who had raised over $500,000 to help orphaned children across the world.

Every single step we take forward, whether it’s a phone call or a dollar donated or an hour volunteered, does matter. It does, and I don’t want you to every doubt yourself on that. I also want you to know that if you have a big dream or goal as to what you want to do for your world—our world—you absolutely can make it happen. I have faith in you.

xoxo

Marie

Literally, Darling: “Cheryl Strayed’s Truth Bombs Inspired Me to ‘Write the Thing I Needed to Read’”

Hello, Internet friends!

I’m excited to share that an essay I wrote was published on Literally, Darling, an awesome website designed with millennial women in mind, this week. The essay is titled “Cheryl Strayed’s Truth Bombs Inspired Me to ‘Write the Thing I Needed to Read.’” It’s about the lines in books that resonate like nothing else can, which I like to call “truth bombs,” and the impact my favorite author has had on me. cheryl-strayeds-truth-bombs-home-pageThe inspiration for this piece sprouted from seeing Strayed speak last year at the writing conference AWP (on my half-birthday, no less). But the seed was planted, so to speak, two years ago, when I included Tiny Beautiful Things on this book list for The Huffington Post and first used the term “truth bombs” to describe my experience reading her work.

My essay—which was originally titled “‘Truth Bombs’ an
d the Subjective Magic of Reading,” and then “On Cheryl Strayed, ‘Truth Bombs,’ and the Magic of Reading”—went through a lot of changes to get ready for the web. I ended up cutting what I thought was the final draft almost in half. Doing so was not only helpful in making the piece more succinct, focused, and easy to read, but also a good exercise as a writer. However, there was one part of the original essay that got left on the cutting room floor that I still really wanted to share with you, because I think it shows how powerful books really are—and the whole experience was also just a bit wild.

Sometime during the fall where I was going through a tough time (that I mention in the essay), I had this line pop into my head: “Allow yourself to be gutted.” I didn’t know that I would ever find a place to use it in my writing, but I thought it was good, so I saved it in a note on my phone, just in case. A few months later, I pulled out my copy of Tiny Beautiful Things, and realized that along the right side of the front cover was a line from the book: “Let yourself be gutted.” Oops.tiny-beautiful-things

Then something else happened. I started writing my essay last spring, and I realized I hadn’t read Tiny Beautiful Things since the spring semester of 2013, so I decided to reread it in between working on my draft. One day, I wrote a section where I compared reading a truth bomb to falling in love:

That’s why—and I’m going out on a limb here—I think finding a truth bomb through reading is an experience made out of some of the same stuff as falling in love. Because, just as a person in love can detail all the things they love about their loved one, without the magic glue that holds their reasons together, there’s no way others will be able to observe the same picture.

Later that day, I was reading Tiny Beautiful Things, and in one letter from Sugar/Strayed to three women who are considering leaving their current partners, she compares her second marriage to her first: “My two marriages aren’t so different from each other, though there’s some sort of magic sparkle glue in the second that was missing in the first.” What?! I had written my own “magic glue” reference mere hours before, years after reading that passage for the first time. I was legitimately flabbergasted. I take those two freaky/cool experiences together as proof that the books we care about weave themselves into our minds, perhaps even in ways of which we aren’t aware. Books have changed my life for the better, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

xoxo

Marie

In the Media—Refinery29’s 67% Project

Hello lovelies,

I came across something awesome happening in Girl World this week, and I wanted to share it here in case you hadn’t heard about it yet. Refinery29—an awesome women’s website that features everything from cultural commentary to nail-art ideas—started an initiative called “The 67% Project.” The idea behind it is this: 67% of women in the U.S. identify as “plus-size,” wearing a size 14 or up in clothing. However, those same women are only represented in 1-2% of images in the media. Here’s how Refinery29 is addressing this problem through the initiative, in their own words:

“During the launch week, 67% of the bodies you see on our site, in our newsletter, and on our Instagram and Snapchat channels will be plus-size. To do this, we’ve made significant changes within Refinery29 to fully represent the 67% this week, and beyond. For the last six months, we’ve been shooting stock photography and redesigning illustrations to more accurately reflect the women who make up the majority of our country. And we’re partnering with Getty Images to make this collection available to other outlets that wish to join us in closing the representation gap.”

Refinery29.png

A sample from Refinery29’s homepage today, 10/2/16.

Browsing the site this week, I realized that every time I saw a photo of a plus-size woman, I immediately assumed that the article was about either plus-size fashion or body positivity, because often, that’s the only time plus-size women appear in women’s publications or media. However, that wasn’t the case on Refinery29 this week; images of plus-size women appeared alongside a variety of articles, from “3 Health Benefits Of Being Nice” (pictured above)to “31 Days Of Halloween Beauty Inspiration.” Refinery29 is treating these women not as a niche but as the norm—because that’s what they are.

Though the launch week of The 67% Project ends today, I’m excited to see where Refinery29 goes from here. Beauty in the real world is incredibly diverse, and having media that reflects that diversity is good for all of us. I am thankful that Refinery29 has taken this big step in the right direction.

Read more about The 67% Project here.

xoxo

Marie

GP Reads—Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen

Hello, dear internet friends!

One thing I would love to do in my lifetime is write (and then publish) a book. This certainly isn’t a new dream for me; in fact, I spent a good chunk of the summer before I turned 19 putting together a book proposal. That particular project was never fully realized, but I still consider the time well-spent.

Fast-forward to today. I’m at a place now where I’m taking steps to make that dream a reality. Or perhaps I’m taking steps in preparation for taking steps to make that dream a reality. Either way, I decided a comfortable starting place would be to see what related YA/teen nonfiction books had come out since I last looked, as that’s the genre I imagine my future book project would fall under. After I gathered a list, I decided to start working my way through the titles. And then I realized I’d like to share my finds with you, in case you’d find them of interest. So today, I’m sharing with you my first pick, Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen.

popular-cropped
Please excuse the barcode covering Maya’s name… Shout out to Lincoln City Libraries for lending this to me!

Popular is the true story of Maya’s eighth grade year, but the inspiration behind it came from a book written—and purchased—long before Maya was even born. That book is Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell and published in 1951. Years later, Maya’s dad purchased the interesting, now-vintage book at a thrift store. Years after that, the book made its way out of storage and into the hands of Maya—and so this journey begins.

At first, Maya simply finds the book “quirky,” but then her mom gives a suggestion: Maya could follow the book’s advice on how to become popular throughout her eighth grade year and write about what happens. Like many a middle schooler given advice by their mother, Maya initially rejects this idea. But Maya, by her account, has never had the experience of being popular; in her ranking of her school’s “popularity scale,” she places herself at “the lowest level of people at school who weren’t paid to be here.” She decides to give the experiment ago.

And go all in she does. Each month, Maya tests out a different category of Betty’s advice. She tries everything from wearing Vaseline on her eyelids to sitting at each table in the cafeteria. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Maya gets mixed results and reactions along the way, but by the end, Maya is transformed—and I’d definitely say that the ending is a happy one.

Maya’s story was very relatable to me. In middle school (and high school), I did have good friends, but I definitely didn’t consider myself popular. And for much of that time, I really, really wanted to be. I thought, misguidedly, that being popular was the key to ultimate happiness.

Looking back on that time in my life gives me a kind of achy feeling. I can’t help but think, Man, with everything I know now, I could do that time so much better. Although I never experienced life on the “popular” side, I can say that over time, that label ceases to matter, but good friendships don’t. Also, the things that help me establish real connections with others—being in the moment, listening, sharing my joy—also make me feel happier, and again, have nothing to do with labels. That all may sound kind of cheesy, but it’s so true, it hurts.

This book definitely ignited that ache, but in a good way. Because—without giving too much away—Maya proves my line of thinking right. She puts the conventional notion of popularity to the test, and in the process, learns what that word really means to her, as well as how she wants to live her life going forward. Which is a lot for any one person to do in a year, let alone someone also navigating the halls of middle school. But Maya does it—and, thankfully, she brings us along on the journey.

So, whether you are a preteen or teen, or you know one, or you just want to vicariously ease your own ache about what might have been, I recommend this book. It’s a pretty quick read—and a powerful one.

xoxo

Marie

P.S. If you have any recommendations for my teen nonfiction reading list, let me know in the comments! Or send me an email at xomarielorene@gmail.com!

5 Quotes to Inspire You to Pursue Your Dreams

Hello internet friends,

For me, having dreams I’m actively pursuing is a very important part of my life—when I’m feeling happy. Really, it’s a chicken-and-egg situation. When I’m happy, I have the energy and confidence to work towards my goals. Conversely, seeing my dreams come to life, little by little, makes me happy. Unfortunately, when I’m feeling down, some of the things I most need to do, like setting some goals and making baby steps towards achieving them, feel incredibly difficult.

Unsplash Tulip 1
Photo by Aaron Burden

Take writing, for example. Since I was a teenager, it’s been a dream of mine to build a career and a platform around writing things that are fun and entertainingbut also positive and helpful. A few times since I began pursuing this dream—including last summer—I have gone through a rough patch where writing fell to the wayside. Even though I’ve wanted to get back into it, full-force, actually doing so has been really, really difficult. Because I can come up with a million excuses. I’ll look at writing through the gray haze surrounding everything in life, and think, I don’t even want that dream enough anymore, anyway.  Or I’ll tell myself that other people already are/will be writing similar things, but they’ll probably do them better. Or I’ll think of mistakes I’ve made in the past, and use them as proof that I’m really not the person to be doing this. Or, frankly, what happens more often than not lately is I’m just tired. I get exhausted from feeling down and just getting through the things I feel obligated to do. On top of that, my writing brain feels really out-of-shape, so frankly, the effort it I perceive it would take to get back into a writing routine seems incredibly unappealing.

In spite of all that, I have decided to really, fully begin. Because I’ve finally wedged a teeny, tiny crack in the door of my old self who had dreams she believed in. So I’m busting through. And if you have dreams you’re hesitating to go for, I want you to feel inspired to go all-in as well. But don’t just take my word for it; below, you’ll find 5 fab quotes from 5 ladies to inspire you to pursue your own dreams:

“There is usually one small step we can take in the direction of a dream. When we do, the universe often takes several more.” – Julia Cameron 

“Dreams come a size too big so we can grow into them.” – Josie Bissett

“It’s a good thing to feel like you have something to prove.” – Lauren Conrad

“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping
stone to greatness.” – Oprah

“Don’t ever doubt yourselves or waste a second of your life. It’s too short, and you’re too special.” – Ariana Grande

xoxo

Marie

5 Reasons to Check Out Alessia Cara (if You Haven’t Already)

Hey,

One of my goals, when I started this blog, was to not just share Alessia Caramy thoughts and what I’m up to, but also other parts of girl culture—including girls and young women who are creating and doing awesome stuff. With that, I want to highlight a singer I’ve recently become obsessed with: Alessia Cara. You very likely have heard her debut single “Here”—the oh-my-gosh-I-shouldn’t-have-come-to-this-party anthem—on the radio, but if you haven’t listened to the rest of her debut album Know-It-All yet, I implore you to do so. If you need more convincing on why you should get to know this 19-year-old singer-songwriter, here are 5 reasons to check her out:

1.) Her voice is uh-mazingI could try to sell you on it, or you could just here it for yourself. Press play below:

Before writing and performing her own music, Alessia posted acoustic covers on YouTube. They’re still available on her channel and worth a listen!

2.) Her lyrics are unique yet relatable. Alongside her co-writer Sebastian Kole, Alessia began writing her debut album after school, while she was still in high school, and her unique perspective and personality shows through the entire thing. In this awesome interview with Taylor Swift, she explains that the title of the album comes from a line in her song “Seventeen”: “I’m a know-it-all, I don’t know enough.” She explains that the concept—which for me, definitely describes my experience of life—comes up in one way or another in each song on the album. “Four Pink Walls” is one of my favorites, and it describes her experience of growing up and having big dreams, but never really believing they’d come to life outside her mind and bedroom . . . until, one day, they did. “I’m Yours”—one of my favorite songs, period—is the love song of a transforming cynic: “Oh, how rude of you/To ruin my miserable/And tell me I’m beautiful/Cause I wasn’t looking for love, no.”

My favorite thing about writing, in music or print, is when someone can put into words an experience you’ve had (or want to have) in a way that really rings true. Finding songs or books or essays that do that is a really good feeling, and for me, Alessia’s music is one of those finds. I imagine it has been and will be for others, too.

3.) She is confident in her unique self and wants to show that you can be successful by being yourself. 

I love Alessia’s music, and though I haven’t met her, from everything I know I like her as a human, too. In all her performances, Alessia keeps her style laid-back, especially in comparison to other pop singers. When Cosmo asked her if that was important to her, she had this to say:

“All I’m really good at is making music and singing and doing this. I’m not good at fashion, so I don’t see a point in trying to be good at that. It’s important to show that there’s different ways of doing things. Some people like to be glamorous and that’s perfectly fine and that’s amazing. If I were that style, then I would do that. I’d wear heels every day and I’d strut around in a dress, but that’s not me. I’m not saying that anything other than what I do is wrong; I’m just trying to show people that there’s another side of it. It’s not only a one-sided thing. You don’t have to do that to be a star. You can do anything and be a star. You can dress like however you want, and you can do whatever you want. If you wanna wear meat suits like Lady Gaga, good. She’s freaking amazing! She’s doing that and she’s unbelievable. I can wear T-shirts and still be great too. So that’s just what I’m proving to people.” 

I love that, because the concept extends beyond fashion. There’s not one right way to do things; the only “right” is the one you have to live your life, from the clothes you wear to the dreams you pursue, in a way that is comfortable and genuine to you.

4.) She’s funny. 

She wouldn’t have to be—for me to be a fan, I mean—but she is. When Cuddle Buddy, her stuffed animal, “ran away,” she made a Twitter account to help find him. She’s on tour right now, and every week she posts a vlog, each of which includes awesome behind-the-scenes content but also major silliness. Check out her vlog from Week 3 of the tour below to see what I mean:

5.) Her most recent music video stars her and four of her friends. 

And if that isn’t living the dream, I don’t know what is. Watch below:

xoxo

Marie

HelloGiggles: “I spent a week taking the advice I’d give a friend—here’s what I learned”

Great news!

An essay that I have been working on for a very long time (like, since before Halloween) was published on HelloGiggles today. The article, titled “I spent a wMy Weekeek giving myself the advice I’d give a friend—here’s what I learned” (originally “My week giving myself the advice I’d give a friend”), was based on some very good advice from my dad that popped into my head at just the moment I needed it.

The actual “experiment” may have only taken a week, but the process of turning the idea into a finished, shareable article took much longer—and seemingly, longer than it usually does for me to finish an essay for the web. There were days when I would sit down, write for an hour, and realize I had only finished about a sentence. Not that I wasn’t working, or was “working” but also crafting a playlist and updating  my Snapchat story and staring off into space. Rather, I would write a sentence, cross it out, and write it again—potentially, slightly better. That process was more time-consuming and perfectionistic than I was used to, but, for the most part, I didn’t mind it. Because I realized that the same qualities that at times contribute to me feeling bad—e.g., my ability to think too much—were helping me create something potentially great.

So, check out the article, and please, let me know what you think! If you have other strategies for working through bad days, I would love to hear them as well.

xoxo

Marie

5 Quotes to Help You Through Tough Times

Hey,

I apologize for my radio (internet?) silence during recent months. I’m hoping and planning to start posting regularly again. In the spirit of doing so, I’m including below some of my favorite quotes about overcoming challenges by women I admire.

I’ve been working on an article for one of my favorite sites about a technique for getting through tough moments. Funnily enough, the process of writing the article has been challenging in itself at times. I’m very invested in the piece, but my desire to make it great has occasionally lead to frustration. So today, when I’d passed the verge of tears while trying to edit the introduction, I decided it was time to hit pause on that project and turn my attention to words of wisdom from women (real and fictional) who have channeled their challenges into greatness.

Without further ado:

“When I’m not feeling my best, I ask myself, ‘What are you gonna do about it?’ I use the negativity to fuel the transformation into a better me.” – Beyoncé

Beyonce Superbowl 2016
Instagram: @beyonce

“Since I went to treatment, there have been days when it’s felt really easy, and I’ve felt great about where I am. But then I have moments when it’s not. That’s life. You can’t just take your mind and your body into the shop and get it fixed. It doesn’t come out repaired. It’s not like a car. It takes time—pace yourself. Every day is a new opportunity to change your life and be who you want to be.” – Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato no makeup selfie with Batman
Instagram: @ddlovato

“Just take it ten seconds at a time. Everything will be okay.” – Kimmy Schmidt, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

This one is even better with a little context. On the Netflix original series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Kimmy is a incredibly cheerful and sometimes naive young woman adjusting to life in New York after being trapped in a cult for 15 years.  The show is very funny, but one of my favorite parts is when Kimmy insightfully tells the boy she is nannying that “all you gotta do is take it ten seconds at a time.” She was referring to her time in the bunker, where she took on the responsibility of “turning a heavy crank, the purpose of which is unknown to this day.” She found she could get through the laborious task if she approached it ten seconds at a time. I’ve been able to apply the same principle to less drastic situations. When you’re struggling, the first thing to do—always—is seek help. But sometimes, you’ve gotten help, and you know what to do, but it’s still emotionally difficult. So, what you can do then is break it down, and just focus on the next ten seconds—or ten minutes, or hour—at a time.

You can watch a clip from that episode here, and stream the entire first season on Netflix.

giphy
GIPHY

“You go on by doing the best you can. You go on by being generous. You go on by being true. You go on by offering comfort to others who can’t go on. You go on by allowing the unbearable days to pass and by allowing the pleasure in other days. You go on by finding a channel for your love and another for your rage.” – Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed is an excellent writer, and recently released a book of quotations (cover pictured below). It was hard to choose just one of the quotes to include on this list!

Chery Strayed Brave Enough cover
Instagram: @cherylstrayed

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face . . . You must do what you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt
Time.com

Do you have any favorite quotes that inspire you in tough times? Please share them in the comments below!

xoxo

Marie

Celebrities Who Use Their Fame-Power for Good

Caitlyn Jenner Vanity FairToday is a very big day in Pop Culture Land: the Vanity Fair issue with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover hit newsstands.  The cover made the internet rounds last week, so I’m sure by now you’ve seen it, as well as commentary on it from many a source.  Admittedly, I’m pretty selective as far as what comes up in my various feeds (the internet can bring you down, man!), but the vast majority of what I’ve read regarding Caitlyn’s cover story has been supportive.  Many have been cheering her on for not only making the change she felt she needed, but also for being open about her story in the hopes of helping others.  Watching all this unfold sparked me to reflect on some of my other favorite celebrities who attempt to use their fame-power for good.  Today seemed like a great day to acknowledge them.

Instagram: @ddlovato
Instagram: @ddlovato

One of my absolute favorites is Demi Lovato.  Over the past few years she has become an outspoken advocate for mental health.  In a number of interviews – including this beautiful recent on HuffPost Live – she has opened up about her own struggles with bipolar disorder, addiction, and eating disorders.  She often uses her well-followed social media accounts to speak out on relevant cultural issues.  Above and beyond all that, though, she’s teamed up with a few organizations that support mental health:  she created the Lovato Scholarship with CAST to help those who need mental health treatment access it, and she has also partnered with Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health to educate individuals on how to access mental health care for themselves and advance it within the community.  I admire Demi because she goes all out for what she believes in.

Instagram: @taylorswift
Instagram: @taylorswift

Taylor Swift, my favorite musician of all time, has taken the top spot of DoSomething.org’s “Celebs Gone Good” list for the past three years.  Part of what makers her so “good” is her commitment to donating to charity.  She’s even donated her music, so to speak; all the proceeds of “Welcome to New York” go to the NY public school system, and all the proceeds from “Ronan” are donated to cancer charities.  One of the things I enjoy about Taylor most, however, is how far she goes to connect with her fans.  There were the 1989 secret sessions.  Then there was Swiftmas.  Best of all, though, are the times she reaches out to fans on social media that are going through something, be it a bad breakup or even the death of a parent.  Taylor certainly has a knack for returning the adoration to her most devoted fans.

Instagram: @zendaya [Yes, that is her senior portrait, and I love it.]
Instagram: @zendaya [Yes, that is her senior portrait, and I love it.]
Last, but not at all least, one celebrity who has been on my radar lately is Zendaya.  That girl is so smart, and she’s not afraid (or doesn’t appear to be!) to speak her mind.  Most recently, she took to social media to say a few words about makeup (and the right we each have to wear it or not).  But what really struck me was her eloquent and intelligent response to an offensive joke made by the “Fashion Police.”  She could’ve just snapped back, but instead she used the opportunity to educate – and ultimately, forgive.  She seems to be the type of person who turns “bad” things into opportunities, and I admire that.

Here’s the thing:  it’s entirely reasonable to be skeptical of celebrities, even when they’re doing good.  The celebrity world is a very fun one to observe, but it’s also meticulously crafted, and at times, fake.  So it’s healthy to take it in with a proverbial grain of salt.

But beyond that initial side-glance, I have a few thoughts on the matter.  My first is, I get it.  No, I’m not a celebrity by any stretch of the imagination.  But when I first started writing, I had two driving impulses.  The first one, the initial spark, was that I wanted to write things that would help people the way things I’d read helped me.  The second was, Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if my stuff reached lots and lots of people?  If in the process of helping others, I made a name for myself as well?  And that’s the reality.  I don’t think impulse #2 takes away from the good of what I’m trying to do.  If anything, it’s become a good checkpoint:  am I writing this because it’s a message I believe in, or primarily because I think it’s very social-media-sharable?  And I think, or would like to believe, that for celebrities like the ones I’ve mentioned, the sentiment is fundamentally similar.  In fact, Caitlyn Jenner has already addressed potential skeptics head-on:

“I’m not doing it for the money.  I’m doing it to help my soul and help other people.  If I can make a dollar, I certainly am not stupid.  [I have] house payments and all that kind of stuff.  I will never make an excuse for something like that.  Yeah, this is a business.  You don’t go out and change your gender for a television show.  O.K., it ain’t happening.  I don’t care who you are.”

Perhaps I am overly optimistic.  Even if that’s the case, my next thought is this:  doing good is doing good is doing good.  If someone reads Caitlyn’s story, or watches one of Demi’s interview, and feels more educated or prepared to fight their own battles, great!  If a Disney Channel fan follows Zendaya on Instagram, and feels inspired to speak up for themselves the way she does, awesome!  And I have no doubt that tears and happy dances have been the direct result of Taylor reaching out to her fans.  If celebrities get a publicity boost from their do-good endeavors, that’s fine.  We can always use more good in the world, so whatever motivates someone – celebrity or not – to go out there and provide it, well, I’m all for it.

xoxo

Marie

The Huffington Post: “5 YA Makeover Novels Where Inner Beauty Prevails”

Hello, lovelies!

I’m very excited to share that an article I wrote was published yesterday on The Huffington Post.  It’s titled, you guessed it, “5 YA Makeover Novels Where Inner Beauty Prevails”  (though it has appeared on the main pages as “The Problem with Our Cultural Obsession with Makeovers”).  You can view it here.  They have published a coHuffPost YA makeover articleuple other pieces of my work, and honestly, it never stops being exciting.

The idea for this piece came from my excitement over a few movies that came out this spring: the new live-action Cinderella and the book-to-movie The Duff.  I am notoriously bad at watching movies; I nearly always fall asleep before the end (or maybe the middle).  But I stayed awake for these two movies, and I loved them.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they have something in common (besides being based on stories I already loved):  they both hinge on a makeover.

I can’t resist a good makeover story; I’ve even tried to create a few real-life ones for myself, with the help of John Frieda Precision Foam Colour in a variety of shades.  But, as with almost all things pop culture, I’ve conflicted by the draw of makeovers.  Is it just another example of the high value placed on appearances?

After digging through the YA stacks, I realized that the truth is more complex.  In truth, the best makeover stories are about personal growth.  The characters may start off with the wrong idea (that changing your looks will fix your life), but ultimately, their choice – superficial as it may have seemed – leads them to a truer version of themselves.

For me, that makes sense.  A number of times, I have tried to change something external about myself, thinking that if I fixed my outside, then I’d be happy on the inside.  Unsurprisingly, it never panned out quite like I dreamed up.  But each time, I gained new insights on myself that I’m not sure I would’ve gotten otherwise.  And therein lies the true beauty of mistakes.

Above and beyond all that, though, I just want to reiterate to you, my captive(ish?) audience, how exciting this is for me.  I was thinking about how cool this opportunity is in the car the other day, and it made me tear up (and that’s before Sarah Dessen shared my article, which just sent me over the edge).  I thought about my 17-year-old self, many transformations ago, who had braces and a purple composition notebook and dreamed of writing girly things that would inspire people.  She may not have truly known how much hard work it would take to get here, but she had enough hope to believe it was possible.  And in their wonderfully roundabout way, that’s what these great makeover stories remind us to do:  believe in our ability to craft a beautiful, genuine life.

xoxo

Marie