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

HelloGiggles: “In Celebration of Being Uncool”

Hello, friends!

I wanted to share some exciting news:  another one of my essays, entitled “In Celebration of Being Uncool,” was published on HelloGiggles this weekend!  You can view it here.

The idea for this essay (originally called “In Celebration of Weirdness”) came from a few major changes that occurred in my life over the past six months.  Personally, I started dating HG Being Uncoolsomeone whose weirdness matches my weirdness.  Writing-wise, I finished my master’s program and had a few of my essays published on a couple of well-known websites.

Those publications were a big deal to me in more ways than one.  Yes, they seemed like signs that maybe I could really “make it” at this writing thing.  More than that, though, they were kind of like my big reveal.  Suffice to say, I’d been a bit guarded and secretive about my writing for a long time.  I truly believed if I told people the type of stuff I was spending hours working on – an analysis of the effects of  Facebook and Kim Kardashian on identity formation, or musings on the metaphorical and psychological implications of makeovers and hair dye – that they’d think I was weird.  Not a serious, sophisticated, writerly weird.  Just lowbrow, navel-gazing, writer-in-air-quotes weird.

Having my work read and responded to by others, however, made me realize that maybe I’m not that weird after all.  Or perhaps, we’re all a bit weird, and when we share our weirdness, we can relate to each other on a whole new level.

I’ll admit, it’s cloud-nine exciting to not only have your work published, but to see it shared thousands of times on social media (yes, I’m shameless, and I was tracking the shares all weekend).  But the coolest thing to come out of this was that one woman followed the links in my bio to not only read this blog but to personally message me on Instagram, saying she enjoyed and related to my essay – that in fact, one of her school breaks involved a Disney-Channel-star concert with a parent (for her, the Jonas Brothers with her mom).  Being able to hear from and connect with someone I’d never have known otherwise makes all those hours of writing, and all of my so-called “weirdness,” totally worth it.

xoxo

Marie

Facebook Removes “Feeling Fat” as a Status Update Option

You guys may already know this, but about a week ago, Facebook removed “feeling fat” from its status update “feeling” emoticon options.  This was sparked by a Change.org petition written by Catherine Weingarten anFacebook feelingsd the local-global initiative Endangered Bodies.  You can view the full petition (and Facebook’s response) here.

Part of the argument for the change was that such a status update makes fun of people who are overweight or have eating disorders, but the more important part, in my opinion, is that fat is not a feeling.  Because it’s not.  I used to think so, until I read Jess Weiner’s amazing book (which I will reference over and over again on this blog, so get used to it!) Do I Look Fat in This?:  Life Doesn’t Begin Five Pounds from NowThe reality is that “feeling fat” is always a cover-up for another feeling.  Perhaps you’re disappointed in yourself for not working out, so you say “I feel fat.”  Maybe you’re sad that someone you care about or admire rejected you, so you say, “I feel fat.”  The underlying emotions are a bit scarier to reveal, because doing so would make us vulnerable.

I know what it’s like to blame problems or negative emotions on feeling/being fat, uncool, or ugly.  The reality is, however, that when I was blaming my problems on surface-level descriptors, I wasn’t facing the real problem:  I was too insecure to believe I deserved happiness, and therefore, I wasn’t seeking it out.

I’m so glad Facebook removed the “feeling fat” emoticon option, but the more important result of this petition is the conversations it has started.  Fat is not a feeling, nor is it as scary as we make it out to be.  (Believe me, I’ve been all over the spectrum, weight-wise, and there is no direct correlation between thinness and Good Things.)  Personally, I’d love to see Facebook remove “feeling stupid” and “feeling ugly,” because I think they are similarly problematic.  Ultimately, however, I hope we become more comfortable with feelings – and fat – so that we don’t need to rely on superficial, problematic correlations.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your opinions on the Facebook change as well as the larger issue of fat as a feeling (or not).

xoxo

Marie

HelloGiggles: “The Very Real Problem of ‘Fat Talk'”

Hello, dear readers!

Just wanted to share a recent writing success:  one of my essays, entitled “The Very Real Problem of ‘Fat Talk,'” has been published on one of my absolute favorite websites, HelloGiggles!  I feel SO blessed (the site was cofounded by the incomparable Zooey Deschanel, after all).

The crazy thing is, theHG Fat Talk seed of inspiration for this article came years ago, first from one of the books that I read in high school which inspired me to write – Do I Look Fat in This?: Life Doesn’t Begin 5 Pounds from Now by Jessica Weiner – and then by some observations I made as a freshman on campus (and blogged about in the past!).  Persistence pays off!

As much as “fat” may be a throwaway word in our culture – one glance at the tabloid headlines in the checkout line will tell you as much – it truly does have some serious negative consequences.  But the good thing is, the more we become aware of how we talk about our bodies and those of others, the more we can change our language (and then our perceptions) for the better.

So check out the essay here, and let me know what you think!  Agree, disagree, whatever, I’d love to hear your thoughts on “fat talk” and how it is used in our culture (or not).

xoxo

Marie

Welcome to Girl Presence

Hello, friend!  Thank you for being here.  Life is packed and so is the internet, so I truly appreciate you taking the time to check out this blog.

Where does the name “Girl Presence” come from, you may wonder?  Excellent question.  “Presence” can be defined as “the bearing, carriage, or air of a person” or “the fact or condition of being present” (thanks, Merriam-Webster).  So by “girl presence” I am referring to the handprint, footprint, lifeprint a girl (any female in the process of learning or growing) chooses to leave on the world, as well as the simple act ofiPhone 003 being here, being present in this “girl culture” we both influence and are influenced by.

I hope we (and yes, I truly mean we) can use this space, as the tagline says, for “observing, exploring, & celebrating all things girl.”  I love girl-world things that shine and catch my attention, from the more superficial (sparkly Ugg boots, the latest ABC Family teen drama) to the serious (girls who embrace who they are and use their powers to make the world a better place), and I love observing and noticing them with others.  Typically, when I notice things, I wonder about them:  Why do girls talk about their bodies the way they do?  How does the rise of social media and celebrity culture affect the way we form our identity?  These are the types of things I enjoy exploring and discussing with others.  And finally, but no less significantly, I want us to start celebrating.  Being a girl is awesome.  Growing up is terrifying and exhilarating in the best possible ways.  Let’s enjoy every moment, together.

Most importantly, I truly want your feedback.  If there’s a topic or piece of girl culture you think I should cover, tell me.  If you disagree with my point of view, share yours.  The beauty of girl world (and just the world, period) is we shine brightest when we work together.  I look forward to experiencing, exploring, and enjoying Girl Presence with you.

xoxo

Marie