No More Excuses

If you haven’t heard of Nadya Okamoto, then allow me to introduce you to a truly inspiring individual. The 18-year-old previously attended private school and currently attends Harvard University, while also running the global operation, Camions of Care. The other important aspect about her is that for a period of her life, she was homeless.

Okamoto and her mother fell on hard times and consequently lived in a women’s shelter while Okamoto was attending private school on scholarship. In a wonderfully surprising turn of events, however, what came out of all of this was a realization of privilege for Okamoto and the start of Camions of Care.

Camions of Care is a global operation which provides menstrual products to women in need, many of whom wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend school or work. The organization aims to manage and celebrate menstrual hygiene in a way that is beneficial to women across the world who are shamed or disadvantaged because of menstruation.

Between Okamoto’s two-hour commute to school and her time spent at the shelter, she spent a lot of time talking to other women in similar and often worse situations. It was through this that she noticed the need for menstrual products and education among homeless women everywhere.

From living with so many other women in worse situations than her own, Okamoto found that she didn’t have it that hard. This brought about her desire to help the other women in any way that she could. Okamoto didn’t have a home, but she still found a way to give to others.

This powerful message is a testament to what any one of us can achieve if we choose to. Okamoto has built a company that is expanding to help women throughout the world. According to globalcitizen.org, “Girls miss an average of 4.9 days of school each month because of lack of access to adequate menstrual hygiene products.” This isn’t everyone’s favorite topic to discuss and I understand that, but Okamoto saw that struggle and the need that it was causing and is changing the way we address it.

By providing products for these women, Okamoto is eliminating the circumstances that keep them from their work or education. By providing education about menstruation to disadvantaged parts of the world, Okamoto is helping young women learn the self-care information that they need to stay healthy. By providing a new, uninhibited way of talking about menstruation, Okamoto is paving the way for future generations of women who aren’t embarrassed or afraid to voice their needs.

Even in a state of homelessness, Okamoto used the privilege she did have to start a company that helps women worldwide. She is making important changes for the education and conversation regarding feminine hygiene, and she is filling a major need. Okamoto hasn’t backed down from doing what she felt called to do, regardless of any misfortunes that she has faced.

There is always a reason to back down from a challenge, and we often succumb to it. However, it is empowering to see women like Okamoto representing the alternate narrative by taken action — no excuses. I hope that more women can learn from the stories of Okamoto and others who have worked to make this world a better, easier place to live. The next time you feel motivated to do something, I hope you can draw inspiration from Okamoto’s story and that you go after it with all that you have.

For more information on Camions of Care, click here!

Mindy Kaling Sets the Record Straight

I’m a dedicated fan of the Hulu series “The Mindy Project” and a more-than-avid fan of Mindy Kaling. I’ve read all of her books, I’ve seen every episode of “The Office” a few times, and I’ve seen “The Mindy Project” twice through. Mindy is a huge inspiration for me as a writer, comedy enthusiast, and as a woman. Her books, which tell the story of her life pre-and post- The Office, have been powerful reflections on her confident attitude toward being a curvy woman in the entertainment industry. They’ve shown her strength and perseverance through the obstacles she’s faced, and have provided many laughs along the way. It only follows, then, that her show “The Mindy Project,” which she produces and stars in, would exhibit that same strength.

I apologize to anyone that hasn’t watched this season of the show yet, although we are rounding up on the fifth episode, so I’m not sure that I’m entirely to blame. However, in a recent episode, Mindy gave her fans a much-needed refresher from the show’s typical storyline. If you haven’t watched it before, “The Mindy Project” is largely about Dr. Mindy Lahiri’s attempt to find true love and happiness while being an imperative part of the operation of the swanky private gynecology office that she works at.

The show is a bit fantasy-driven and pulls largely from the story structures of rom-coms and fairytales, but it works. Despite some criticism, the show is a nice, happy break from the realism that floods television today. However, as Mindy Lahiri began to fall for a disgruntled co-worker for the second time in the show’s five seasons, the damsel in distress theme became a little redundant. Mindy Kaling, being the perfect writer, actress and human being that she is, didn’t let her fans down.

The plot of the episode was that Mindy Lahiri had to choose if she wanted to be with the cranky, rich doctor of her past or the cranky, rich doctor of her present. I’m sure we can all relate to this dilemma. While she took advantage of the obvious jokes that this unrealistic situation warranted, she also took the choice seriously.

In an interesting turn of events, the cranky, rich doctor of her past became unavailable to her. Then, in true Mindy fashion, she ran in her pajamas (in the rain, of course) to the other cranky, rich doctor’s house. While the audience expected her to choose doctor #2 and fall into her gallant hero’s arms, Mindy made an unexpected decision. To end the episode, Mindy Lahiri chose herself. The educated doctor turned down her chance at love for no other reason than that it didn’t feel right for her.

This was a powerful message that I hope everyone can learn from. Throughout the show’s entirety, Kaling has portrayed a strong, independent woman. However, this recent storyline has shown just how inspiring and important a television character can be. It’s a common theme in a girl’s childhood to be told to seek a husband, and especially a well-off one. In all honesty, a doctor is probably the occupation most associated with that theme. While my mother’s age-old joke “it’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is a poor man” has shown relevance in real issues for women today, I commend Mindy Kaling for showing the counterpoint to that idea.

By choosing not to be in a relationship that didn’t feel right to her, Mindy showed the world that it is possible to be a self-sufficient woman. It was the equivalent of her snapping her fingers and saying “I don’t need a man.” The fact that the man she didn’t need was a rich, handsome doctor, well that was just the icing on the cake. Women can take so much away from this underlying theme that has played out on the small screen in front of them. They can feel empowered by it, and maybe they will face a similar situation one day and know that it is enough to simply choose themselves.

I hope that this message gains speed, and that women will begin making decisions knowing that they are strong and confident enough to withstand any outcome. Until then, we thank you Mindy Kaling, for sending the right message.

The Queen Shares Her Throne

Image result for beyonce and solange

You might have thought that Queen Bey independently ruled the female R&B genre, but the release of her sister Solange Knowles’ latest album suggests a diarchy. On October 6th, the singer known as Solange to the music industry, released her album “A Seat at the Table.” The world is loving this 22-track masterpiece so much that it recently topped the Billboard 200 chart.

The best part of this news is that Beyoncé and Solange are the first pair of sisters ever to both have a No. 1 album.

Beyoncé has actually hit the pinnacle of the charts six times in her career and continues to put out inspiring, contagious tracks. She has praised her sister’s album via Instagram. “Congrats to my sister on creating this beautiful work of Art,” Beyoncé wrote. And a work of art it certainly is.

Image result for solange a seat at the table

“A Seat at the Table” gives the listener a look into Solange’s inner-self. The track “Mad”, featuring Lil Wayne, invites the audience into Solange’s rage while also reflecting upon every man, woman and child’s inner rage. Along with that largely relatable track, “Planes in the Sky” tells the story of struggling for acceptance under pressure and “Don’t Touch My Hair” gives an insightful appeal to a woman’s sense of pride when facing adversity.

Image result for solange a seat at the table

The 30-year-old singer has done justice to music and to women everywhere through her honest and unapologetic ballads. The lyrics of this album are just as real and vulnerable as every woman has been at some point in her life, and that is truly powerful. This album is a statement for Solange Knowles, but it is even more of a statement for us all. In a world of pop musicians providing us with our favorite dance jams (which are also important), it is important that we have Solange.

It’s interesting that Beyoncé and Solange are the first pair to accomplish this feat of both producing a chart-topping album, especially considering how wonderfully similar the sisters are. Solange has put out an album filled with frankness surrounding the issues she faces in her life, which is noticeably consistent with Beyoncé’s latest album, “Lemonade.”

The sisters hold nothing back in their music, even when discussing the most painful pieces of their lives. This selfless ability has brought a sense of camaraderie and safety to anyone that shares similar pieces, allowing the listener to face their demons just by listening and feeling the music.

The importance of not only Beyoncé’s, but now also Solange’s authenticity is evident in the influence it has already had on our culture. Listeners, male and female, have identified with the depths and insights of the tracks produced by these sisters. The unavoidable sense of strength that we hear coming through Beyoncé’s pain-driven tracks in “Lemonade” are matched in Solange’s “A Seat at the Table.”

That fact goes to show the service that these sisters’ work is to our culture and to our music.

Beyoncé may have to make room in her kingdom for a second queen, but her kingdom is certainly better off for it. Some might say that is the mark of a true queen.

I Wish These Memes Were 'On a Break'

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We all know how important the split of Brangelina is to our country. Whether you were Team Jen or not, we all watched as Brad and Angelina took on 10 years by each others sides’, and we all grew accustomed to the couple. It is no surprise that the world was stunned when the Angelina part of Brangelina filed for divorce. What I didn’t expect however, was the landslide of humor that emerged surrounding Brad’s ex-wife Jennifer Aniston.

It has also been 10 years since Jennifer filed for divorce from Brad. If you remember, around the same time he and Angelina appeared as a family in W magazine, a media frenzy began that bifurcated the nation’s loyalty to each counterpart of the once beloved couple. This was also a big deal for America, as citizens gulped up the drama that flowed from the horrific breakup and became emotionally involved in the divorce of total strangers. I’ll admit, I was also enriched by the scandalous events that transpired in the media that year (Team Jen.)

Last week it became apparent that part of the nation is yet to put 2005’s most enticing drama behind them. Just as the news of Brad and Angelina’s breakup dropped, social media platforms unleashed a stream of vengeful, yet I will admit, hilarious memes surrounding Jennifer Aniston. The accomplished actress, who has been notably amicable toward Brad and Angelina in the past, has had a love story of her own with now-husband Justin Theroux. Clearly she just still isn’t over it, right?

Sarcasm aside, I do realize that these memes are just jokes, and I do have an appreciation for them. However, it feeds a larger issue– one that has surrounded Jen for quite some time. As humorous as they may be, these jokes reflect this idea of a scornful ex-wife who cannot get over the husband that got over her too quickly. This is the case for men and women sometimes, especially just after a divorce, but I think given the basic breakup limitations, there is no way that this idea still applies.

Divorce can be one of the most devastating times in a person’s life, and it could take a while for people to move on from their partner and to start a new life. I’m sure Brad and Angelina will have some of the best divorce lawyers, like Peters and May, (information on pricing is available here) fighting their corner to help them establish a reasonable outcome which is in the best interest of their children. What do you think Jennifer makes of this divorce?

Jen has been swarmed by media since the emergence of Rachel Green. She has been harassed by the media for being single, childless and even for bloating after a big meal. She has dealt with society’s pressures to conform in the shrillest ways possible, and now we are dragging her into another fiasco.

By making these “jokes” we are painting Jennifer Aniston as a pathetic, co-dependent woman that she is not.

The sentiment of these memes takes me back to a 1950s era, placing Jen in Sandy Olsson’s role of being “hopelessly devoted” to a man… for over 10 years. That is a role that Jen has never appeared to fill, and one that destructs all of the powerfully independent ways that she has lead our generation of women.

The memes made me chuckle, I won’t hide that simple fact. That being said, Jennifer Aniston is an accomplished actress, an admirable activist, and a fantastic role model for independent women worldwide.

I would rather see a meme that says that.

 

I Wish These Memes Were ‘On a Break’

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-5_52_42-pm

We all know how important the split of Brangelina is to our country. Whether you were Team Jen or not, we all watched as Brad and Angelina took on 10 years by each others sides’, and we all grew accustomed to the couple. It is no surprise that the world was stunned when the Angelina part of Brangelina filed for divorce. What I didn’t expect however, was the landslide of humor that emerged surrounding Brad’s ex-wife Jennifer Aniston.

It has also been 10 years since Jennifer filed for divorce from Brad. If you remember, around the same time he and Angelina appeared as a family in W magazine, a media frenzy began that bifurcated the nation’s loyalty to each counterpart of the once beloved couple. This was also a big deal for America, as citizens gulped up the drama that flowed from the horrific breakup and became emotionally involved in the divorce of total strangers. I’ll admit, I was also enriched by the scandalous events that transpired in the media that year (Team Jen.)

Last week it became apparent that part of the nation is yet to put 2005’s most enticing drama behind them. Just as the news of Brad and Angelina’s breakup dropped, social media platforms unleashed a stream of vengeful, yet I will admit, hilarious memes surrounding Jennifer Aniston. The accomplished actress, who has been notably amicable toward Brad and Angelina in the past, has had a love story of her own with now-husband Justin Theroux. Clearly she just still isn’t over it, right?

Sarcasm aside, I do realize that these memes are just jokes, and I do have an appreciation for them. However, it feeds a larger issue– one that has surrounded Jen for quite some time. As humorous as they may be, these jokes reflect this idea of a scornful ex-wife who cannot get over the husband that got over her too quickly. This is the case for men and women sometimes, especially just after a divorce, but I think given the basic breakup limitations, there is no way that this idea still applies.

Jen has been swarmed by media since the emergence of Rachel Green. She has been harassed by the media for being single, childless and even for bloating after a big meal. She has dealt with society’s pressures to conform in the shrillest ways possible, and now we are dragging her into another fiasco.

By making these “jokes” we are painting Jennifer Aniston as a pathetic, co-dependent woman that she is not.

The sentiment of these memes takes me back to a 1950s era, placing Jen in Sandy Olsson’s role of being “hopelessly devoted” to a man… for over 10 years. That is a role that Jen has never appeared to fill, and one that destructs all of the powerfully independent ways that she has lead our generation of women.

The memes made me chuckle, I won’t hide that simple fact. That being said, Jennifer Aniston is an accomplished actress, an admirable activist, and a fantastic role model for independent women worldwide.

I would rather see a meme that says that.

 

Why I Love H&M’s Latest Ad

The latest advertisement for H&M’s Autumn 2016 collection has been released, and it reinvents the term ‘relatable’. The video, which rolls to Lion Babe’s remixed tune of “She’s a Lady” by Tom Jones,  captures an idea and makes a statement. The idea is that women are no longer described by archaic beliefs of how a lady should act.

Starring actress Lauren Hutton, model Adwoa Aboah and Lion Babe’s Jillian Hervey among others, the video propagates for the boundless, free expression of women. In so many words, this ad exclaims that being a lady is simply done however a woman chooses to do it.

While one women picks at her teeth in a restaurant using her knife as a mirror, another leads a business meeting. Following that is a woman who unzips her jeans to allow more room for French fry induced bloating, and another sits freely on a bus with her knees widespread.

This ad is so powerful because of the way that each of the women are doing what they choose to do, not what society wants them to. It tackles social concepts of beauty and womanhood by making subtle remarks to things like armpit hair and buzzcuts for women. It shows an organic expression of women that pay no attention to the outdated rules for behaving ‘properly‘ and instead choose to play by their own rules.

Image result for H&M she's a lady
Photo: Google

This ad sifts through various representations of being a lady today, leaving its audience with at least one depiction that they can relate to. That is exactly what makes this advertisement so brilliant.

Image result for H&M she's a lady
Photo: Google

By creating this ad, H&M is issuing a public stance regarding their customers and women everywhere. The modern clothing brand isn’t just showing a variety of behaviors, it is essentially calling out the social boundaries that women face. There’s no room for rules or regulations, there’s only room for freedom of expression. That is what this ad says to me.

Image result for H&M she's a lady
Photo: Google

This ad is one that any woman can find comfort in watching. By representing the limitless concept that is, being a lady, the brand is showing itself as one that emboldens women to shine through whatever means are necessary to them. That concept is what women are seeking in 2016, and H&M has taken a celebratory torch for it by creating this advertisement.

Image result for H&M she's a lady
Photo: Google

The women featured in this video are no different from you and I, except that they can expose exactly who they are in a space that is free from judgement or ridicule. That space is what I think H&M is advocating for and what they intend to support with their customers.

That is a message that I can identify with, and a brand that I can get behind.

Photos: Google

Why I Love H&M’s Latest Ad

The latest advertisement for H&M’s Autumn 2016 collection has been released, and it reinvents the term ‘relatable’. The video, which rolls to Lion Babe’s remixed tune of “She’s a Lady” by Tom Jones,  captures an idea and makes a statement. The idea is that women are no longer described by archaic beliefs of how a lady should act.

Starring actress Lauren Hutton, model Adwoa Aboah and Lion Babe’s Jillian Hervey among others, the video propagates for the boundless, free expression of women. In so many words, this ad exclaims that being a lady is simply done however a woman chooses to do it.

While one women picks at her teeth in a restaurant using her knife as a mirror, another leads a business meeting. Following that is a woman who unzips her jeans to allow more room for French fry induced bloating, and another sits freely on a bus with her knees widespread.

This ad is so powerful because of the way that each of the women are doing what they choose to do, not what society wants them to. It tackles social concepts of beauty and womanhood by making subtle remarks to things like armpit hair and buzzcuts for women. It shows an organic expression of women that pay no attention to the outdated rules for behaving ‘properly‘ and instead choose to play by their own rules.

Image result for H&M she's a lady
Photo: Google

 

This ad sifts through various representations of being a lady today, leaving its audience with at least one depiction that they can relate to. That is exactly what makes this advertisement so brilliant.

Image result for H&M she's a lady
Photo: Google

By creating this ad, H&M is issuing a public stance regarding their customers and women everywhere. The modern clothing brand isn’t just showing a variety of behaviors, it is essentially calling out the social boundaries that women face. There’s no room for rules or regulations, there’s only room for freedom of expression. That is what this ad says to me.

Image result for H&M she's a lady
Photo: Google

This ad is one that any woman can find comfort in watching. By representing the limitless concept that is, being a lady, the brand is showing itself as one that emboldens women to shine through whatever means are necessary to them. That concept is what women are seeking in 2016, and H&M has taken a celebratory torch for it by creating this advertisement.

Image result for H&M she's a lady
Photo: Google

The women featured in this video are no different from you and I, except that they can expose exactly who they are in a space that is free from judgement or ridicule. That space is what I think H&M is advocating for and what they intend to support with their customers.

That is a message that I can identify with, and a brand that I can get behind.

Photos: Google

The Ultimate Role Model

Ashley Graham, 28-year-old American model, has cannonballed into the media over the course of the last year, and for so many women it is a victory. Graham is known for her appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue. This was more than just a magazine cover, it was a movement toward female empowerment.

After the Sports Illustrated issue released, Graham continued to build her career, starring in the music video for DNCE’s Toothbrush, alongside heartthrob Joe Jonas. She was also a part of NYDJ’s Fit to Be campaign.

The world is obsessed with the amazing role model that Graham is, and she has started to gain a large following of both men and women that adore her powerful persona. But, as one becomes a recognized public figure, internet trolls find a way of burrowing themselves into the media.

When Graham posted this selfie on Instagram, looking absolutely incredible in a white skirt and crop top, she became the target of immature internet trolls.

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Graham’s response to the haters? “At the end of the day, I’m good enough for me.

Your body is yours to accept and to love. Graham exemplified this through her strong opposition to those that commented on the above Instagram. She made it clear that it was her body and no one else’s.

Bodies come in all different shapes and sizes, and they are all beautiful and strong. As women, we should be building each other up every single day. Learning to accept other people’s bodies is just as important as accepting your own.

Thank you, Ashley Graham, for being the ultimate role model.

 

Speaking for Change: A Thank You to Alicia Keys

I’m still coming off of an emotional high from Sunday night’s VMAs. We’ll never forget the epic fashion that glided along the red carpet, or the always incredible Beyoncé taking the stage. SO MANY THINGS happened last night between the hours of 8 p.m. and 12 p.m., and while I watched countless great performances on the stage, one in particular stood out to me. I couldn’t tell you if it’s because of her talent or her soul, but Alicia Keys gets even more amazing with age. Keys, who was not scheduled to perform, blessed us with a performance nonetheless.

That performance is one worth gushing over.

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The 35-year-old musician presented the award for Best Male Video, but along with the presentation came a powerful message. It was the 35th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, and Keys adhered to Reverend King’s agenda. She delivered a powerful poem to her audience that suggested a world where sexuality and skin are not a barrier for mankind. The beautiful poem, which transformed into song with the help of Keys’ transcendent vocals, reveled in the issues we are currently facing in our country today.

I still believe in that dream, that one day our nation is going to rise up and finally, finally, be completely about the true meaning of this creed: that all women and men are created equal,” Keys said.

Alicia Keys is a brilliant musician with a powerful and genuine voice for change. She has been an inspiration to women and men alike in many ways, one of which being her decision to present the award without a stitch of makeup on. While media outlets have focused in on this aspect of her performance, her verbal message was what truly struck me.

Keys’ performance was short and to the point, but it is one that needs to be talked about.

Her message was perfectly timed and vital to the problems of our nation. Thanks to her courage and her choice to take advantage of the literal platform that she was given, we are one step closer to equality. It may have been just a song to some people, but with enough voices singing it, we just might find change.

Thank you, Alicia Keys, for saying exactly what needed to be said.