How To Give A Gift: Everyone Will Love

Simple Gifts for the Hard-To-Buy-Fors

To start off, here are a few of my favorite odds-and-ends that are simple, festive, & bright.

A cozy throw, a comical plate, a beautiful magazine, lovely glow-worthy skincare + nailart, etc., are simple and definitely no-brainers that many times are a hit among holiday gift-giving (girl-edition, at least.)  However, sometimes it’s definitely not so easy.  Especially when perhaps you don’t know someone that well, or maybe you don’t know their interests.  So I’ve organized some rules that I’ve come up over the years that are really helpful in giving a great gift, to everyone:

Rule 1 Okay, so maybe not everyone, but I’m talking in reference to things not many people don’t like.  Take a topic that is always a ‘win’, enter: food, health, useful home decor/tools (I’m staring at you never-been-used-bread-makers), your own favorite skincare products (Om Aroma & Co.), good spirits, etc.  It’s a simple rule when buying gifts; be thoughtful & unique, and always think to yourself would like the gift if you were the one being gifted.  When you start thinking about gifts that you would like yourself, you’re more likely to be on-point of what others might enjoy, too.  For instance: think of some of the go-to restaurants in your general area that you really love, like a bakery.  Do they ship their speciality items?  Same for local wines, a local brewery, etc.  I mean, how many people don’t like great food and good alcohol.  I can’t think of anyone I know…

Rule 2 Words that work magic together during the holidays: ‘One of a Kind.’   There is something so magical about giving something no one else has.  Yea, it sounds a bit conceited, but it’s really not.  Truthfully…it’s just plain awesome and, well, one-of-a-kind. It’s a no-fail. (p.s…have you ever heard of ‘Of-A-Kind‘? It’s pretty much equivalent to a hidden-rare-jeweled-crusted website of treasure.)

Rule 3 Get your hands dirty with creativity so you don’t overspend. Cheesiest remark ever? Yes, indeed.  However, good gifts aren’t always expensive gifts.  Why is it that so many feel this way?  To be honest, some of my most treasured gifts are well under 30 bucks. For instance, my Dad once bought me a gorgeous ceramic pitcher that has this adorable little lid you can place your teabags around as they steep.  And yes, I’ll probably be the old lady who hands down a tea pitcher as if it were a rare piece of jewelry. My point with this story, yet again: don’t overspend.

Rule 4 Go ‘local.’  I’ll never tire of this statement.  Rev-up your local economy + get an awesome gift for someone?  Pretty sweet gig if you ask moi.  Plus, it pretty much entangles everything we’ve gone over above.  Unique, one-of-a-kind, thoughtful, interesting, etc. There are so many talented people in your own community who spend their days creating something awesome, why not find em’ and know about em’? Oh, and obviously the best part: share them.  (p.s…here is one of my local favorites: My A La Mode)

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Rule 5  Think of ‘places’ they seem to be a lot, then go from there.  You want to get them something they will use everyday, or at least a lot. Are they in their office space (insert: a calming & inspirational print for their wall,  some low-matenience greenery- I think these guys are too fun, etc.), kitchen, living room space, outdoors.  When you think of the places they spend most of their time, chances are your gift will reflect a certain thoughtfulness a lot of people, often times, miss when gifting.  How many times did you get a gift that was totally not…you.  It’s these simple references that’ll help you get a little closer to the ‘them.’

So lovelies, hope this helps! If you like what you see, I may start a series leading up to Christmas of quick tips and tricks to give a great gift that comes from your heart, not your wallet. So feel free to leave comments and questions! xo, loves!

 

Continue reading “How To Give A Gift: Everyone Will Love”

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In My Cup: And Where Have You Been, Darling?

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To answer the question posed, I could probably say, “I’ve been being 24.”  Sliding from sunny, yellow, days…into shady, gray, moments that seem a little surreal.  Perhaps, I could even say it was the fact that the shrimp and oyster festival (read above post and you’ll understand the reference) got rained out and ruined my mood for three whole months. But then again- that would just be sad- oh, and a little pathetic. Continue reading “In My Cup: And Where Have You Been, Darling?”

In My Cup: Life Lately, In Pictures

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Happy Tuesday, loves. Hope yours was all lovely. This week has been about adjusting and embracing, so far.  So, I figured today’s post I would share what has been balancing the notorious moods of being 20something. You know, those marvelous moments of bucket-list achievement-highs with a wonderful side of, ‘Oh, my god, what is my life?!‘  Makes me laugh, but it’s so true. Don’t you love it?  Anyhow, last week marked my first article/DIY with Zooey Magazine (which I’m kind of thrilled about, it was too fun!), definitely my ’embracing’ side of the week. It was complete with lots of pineapples, as you will see. (ha)

As far as the ‘adjusting’ side I’m talking about, I suppose it’s mostly my constant ‘control freak spazz’ moments that often times equals the emotion of ‘overwhelming.’  So, how to battle that feeling? Well, in-between Zooey’s little project I was at my best friend’s home for the weekend and got to catch up with her.  That was nice, and definitely a sort of balance I was looking for. We drank pre-fall pumpkin beers (which made us way too excited) happily while cooking and listening to Frank Sinatra, talked like teenage girls, and laughed a lot. Complete with this adorable movie called, ready? ‘Cheesecake Casserole’ that we stumbled upon on Netflix, that we have no shame in recommending, we’ll say. Also, I was visiting my parent’s home (which is in the foothills of NC) and found myself finding really beautiful moments in nature. It’s so calming to find places that used to make you comfortable as a child, don’t you think? Also, this week was apparently ‘national dog day’, who knew? I got a hilarious picture of Ciel looking like she was praying- am I crazy? Yes, and sadly I was all about it, ‘Aw, look! Ciel was definitely Indian in her past life!”  No big deal or anything (lol.) Anyhow, figured I would share some of my ‘life lately’ moments with you guys, xo.

Tell me, what are little things you guys do to find a little ‘peace’ in this sometimes hectic world? I would love to hear!

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{one of my favorite places to swing, sing, and think about life, as a child xo}

Spreading The Love: Advice On Finding A Meaningful Career

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{The following is an interview I did with the help of the lovely team over at Vitamin Angels via 20Something that I wanted to share with you guys xo- please feel free to find my writing over there and share in 20Something’s journey!}

A couple weeks ago I was thinking about what a ‘career’ truly means.  We’re prompted pretty much from the time we can take our first steps to then begin our search for ‘what we want to be.’  I suppose I have probably sounded off close to twenty-three absurdly different paths of what I want to make of my life since I was seven years old.  And then, when you finally get to your 20s- some, big, overwhelming truth hits you for the first time.  It’s like that one day everything becomes somewhat silent and a little…dim.  I think it’s the Universe who decides at some random given moment, “Hey, today I’m going to let that kid know the truth about what it means to truly have that career they’ve been going on about”, a somewhat evil laughter brimming, “And they’ll never be the same.”

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You know what I’m talking about, the sudden day you realize that amazing ‘career path’ you have chosen– has simply become a rut, with no real destination- or journey for that matter.  So, what’s next?  I think for a while we run from it, getting odd jobs here and there, maybe even recklessly touring the country in a mini van and surviving off of food trucks planted about.  After the initial shock that hits, many of us realize the only way to truly get ahead is realizing it’s okay to say everything isn’t absolutely perfect.  Perfection isn’t what life is about.  You then begin looking for answers, and advice, and both eventually finds us along our way.  I suppose that’s exactly what I was looking for when I decided to get in touch with Vitamin Angels.  I wanted an answer.  An answer that could apparently only come from an amazing Non-Governmental Organization, that helps women and children around the world, and the very definition of being ameaningful career. Our generation is looking ahead to a lot of pressing issues- which got me to thinking- isn’t our real job to begin helping out through our careers?

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Recent Vitamin Angels trip to Haiti, 1 in 4 Haitian children under 5 are Vitamin A deficient 

 That’s when I was put in touch with Megan MacKay (i.e. the defining women of what is stated above), the Event Manager of the NGO, Vitamin Angels.  In a nutshell Megan is a beautiful, strong-willed, 30something, women, rockin’ out a seriously wonderful career- and having a great time balancing it all with her husband, five horses, two dogs, and her beloved cat.  I was told she was one of the most inspirational people found within their offices, and was hopelessly in love with her job.  All I could think was, can this please be me one day?  It was pretty evident when I began speaking with her that her co-workers were, indeed, very right.  She adored her job and knew she had found a career that held meaning- and a purpose.  When I first contacted her, she asked if she could get in touch with me after her (life-changing) trip to Malawi.  Do I even need to add you could also tell she had fulfilled the, ‘What I Want To Be When I Grow Up Award’– by far.  And who can blame her?  Vitamin Angels is one of the biggest NGOs helping the child mortality rate go down worldwide through providing simple vitamins and nutrients that saves lives- everyday.  I asked her a few questions about our generation according to her, what she thinks our generation is doing better, how she found her dream job, and what it’s like knowing you’re helping create a brighter future through your career:

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Megan MacKay on her recent trip to Malawi with Vitamin Angels

Q:  What do you honestly think of the future of Generation Y? Joel Stein of Time magazine just did a pretty nasty article on us this year, “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation”, where we were called things like ‘lazy’, ‘narcissistic’, and ‘money hungry’. Nice, right?  For me, I’ve always wanted to think we were hard-working, knew our self-worth, and more worried about the greater good than some extra cash. What do you think?

A: I think it really depends on the individual. I know a lot of people in my generation that act like the “Me, Me, Me” type, but I also know plenty that really do care and even if they don’t have the funds to contribute to charities they recycle, compost, conserve, and more to try and make a difference (donating time, etc). I do feel that more people from my generation care about the environment, social issues, and trying to find ways to make a bigger impact on the world. I also believe that our generation has a stronger outcry for more organic and sustainable items than that of older generations.

Q: Okay, so for a little inspiration; What’s something that has changed your life, so far, with working at Vitamin Angels– and what is something that keeps ‘positive vibes’ flowing throughout your day?

A: I just got back from a life-altering trip to Malawi with our team that you’ll hear about, which was an incredible experience. That’s definitely changed my life greatly.  And I like to think of balance;  I strive to try and be the best person that I think I can be in life, love, and work. I have so many dreams it could only take a book to write them all down, but I am hopeful that I will be remembered for trying to make a difference and leading by example.

Q:  I think the book idea sounds brilliant. We’re all for it!  So, let’s be honest, in our 20s there is a lot of freaking out involved when it comes to our career choices.  I have to ask you this; Before you began working for VAs, did you ever feel “trapped” in a job that felt like it wasn’t going in the direction you thought it would? Even if you were making good money? If so, what gave?

A: I think just about everyone starting out in their 20’s after college has that feeling of being trapped in a completely meaningless job. As you attempt to work your way up the ladder, you think to yourself, it might get better. I certainly had that feeling of wanting something bigger, better, and doing something that actually had meaning behind it. I think my breaking point was just last year; I was making great money, working my tail off, but not really happy with myself- or who I was becoming.  I knew I had to make a change in my life so I started looking for something different.

Q: So, in that case, how did you find that change? Did you find Vitamin Angels– or did they find you?

A: I actually found the Vitamin Angel’s opening on Craigslist, when I read the ad I honestly thought, “Is this for real? Because if it is, I am the perfect fit!” Ironic how it all works out.

Q: So obviously you were right- it was the perfect fit. Was it always a dream of your’s to work for an NGO, or was it the ‘light of Craigslist’ that sparked that, “Aha!”, lightbulb? I think being in our 20s we feel this pressure to ‘have it all figured out’, so it’s nice to hear feedback from someone who has been there…

A: I have worked for some very large Fortune 500 corporations in my earlier career stages, which have provided so much to me in earnings, learning, and having some pretty amazing mentors. After graduating college, I have to be honest, my dream was to be an extremely successful Marketing Director (or something to that level), and I certainly wasn’t thinking about working for an NGO at that point of my life. After 10 years in the corporate world my ‘aha’ moment was actually at an Event Planner conference where an NGO called “Clean the World” did a presentation. There was a moment in a video from Haiti where they were giving the children soap, and the tears just started welling up in my eyes– all that crossed my mind was, “I wish I could do MORE, I wish I was doing something that made a difference.” A couple of months later I saw the Vitamin Angels ad in Craigslist for the Event Manager position and I just knew that it was the perfect fit for me. I could do something I love, and do it for an organization I truly believe in.

Q: Ah, I love it! I’m such a sap for ‘full-circle’ life happenings.  Tells us more about being Vitamin Angel’s Event Manager– I feel like it’s one of those jobs ‘that keeps rolling’, so to say. You get to have a great time, making sure everyone has a great time, having a great time creating the difference you guys make around the world.  Whew, that’s a pretty awesome job description if you ask me.  What’s a typical day in your shoes?

A: Vitamin Angels has several large events throughout the year. Mainly for fundraising, donor recognition, and to increase awareness– a day in the life with me is all about multitasking. I manage extensive budgets, track expenses, work closely with management on all levels, both at VA, with our board members, and with our partners to make sure the event is a success. I am constantly thinking about event design and marketing to make the events memorable and unique. I develop strategies to make sure our goals are being met, reach out to partners to help secure registrations and sponsorships, answer attendee and sponsor questions/concerns, develop reports to track progress, site research and then work with the vendors regarding the event logistics (food, promotional items, activities, etc.)

The best part of my day, though, is definitely the amazing friendships made and the camaraderie in the office. From the awesome VA rap that was done at our Christmas party this year (kudos to my creative co-workers!), to the amazing birthday celebrations (and as the office staff grows, so do the parties, wink wink), and our fun brainstorming atmosphere (we have had some pretty wild ideas) each day- there is just this joyful aura around here- and it’s such an honor to be a part of such a cohesive team of individuals.

Q: Seems like a pretty wonderful place to create, inspire, and have an open space of exchange. That’s lovely. I must ask this because of the area of work you guys deal with everyday; We walk around places all the time and see loads of vitamins swarming the aisles and don’t actively think much of it- from grocery stores, health stores, pharmacies, etc.  What is it like now, seeing this, when you know so many women and children die everyday from such a simple deficiencies? Has it changed you at all?

A: I am so proud of everything that we are doing with Vitamin Angels– and have seen firsthand the affect that it is having globally– that I honestly haven’t focused on the negativity (death) that much. I suppose I find myself more engaged and thoughtful on how can we reach more people- ‘How do we get the word out so that everyone has heard of Vitamin Angels?’- those sort of thoughts cross my mind a lot nowadays. It is also amazing to me that .25 cents can save one child’s life. Vitamin Angels has changed me by actually being proud of what I do and who I work for. I know that at the end of the day creating memorable events, equals out to creating mass awareness about our cause.

Q: Obviously we’re on the same page; Creating a meaningful and positive impact on others in our lives is one of the only true ways to live life to the fullest. You certainly do this in your line of work– do you feel like your job is a sort of ‘complete success’ in a way? Especially when so many of us know we get caught up in merely working to support a lifestyle we want?

A: I absolutely feel that my job is a gift. I am so grateful for being able to work with such great people that truly believe in what we are doing, in an industry that is truly proud to work with us, and is so supportive. If you feel you want a job that is more meaningful, simple and actively seek it out– eventually you will find your calling. It may not fall out of the sky immediately, but you’ll get there.

Q: So how has your life changed knowing you are working for a greater good? 

A: My life has certainly changed for the better. What has truly inspired me while working at VA are the certainly the incredibly dedicated and intelligent people I work with, but also having the opportunity to see the Vitamin A distribution in Malawi, Africa. The impact was profound and is currently driving me to find ways to bring the feeling from the trip to those that might not be able to go to a remote distribution, but will find a way to come to our events and make a difference.

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Photograph of Malawi mother and son, as she builds her own home, brick-by-brick

 Q: Was there one particular moment while distributing Vitamin A, in Malawi, that touched you/inspired you– being a women and playing such a key-role in a huge NGO?

A: While in Malawi, the last village we visited, there was a young mother, 23 years old with two children and she was building her own home…brick by brick (literally – she was making the bricks one by one in the mud). Her love for her children and her need to provide for them, although she has nothing, was so overwhelming. Standing in a pile of mud (that she was using to create each brick) she takes her son, rinses off his legs and hands, gives him a big hug and sends him over to play with the other children. A mother’s love for her child reaches across the globe and all that crossed my mind after seeing this was how can I help VA more? What can I do to bring these stories to life for those that aren’t able to be in Malawi with me? It has inspired me to push myself even harder with life and work but it also reminded me to take time to enjoy being with those that I love.

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Q: So, my last question is pretty loaded; If you could say something to generations before you on behalf of Generation Y, what do you think you would say about us?

A: It’s as simple as, watch and learn…

If you would like to learn more, get involved, or donate to Vitamin Angels, please visit their website, donations may be taken here!

A special thanks from 20Something to Vitamin Angels and Megan MacKay for our interview! You guys Rock!

{all images in the interview are courtesy of Vitamin Angel’s}

Monday Morning Madness: Would You Keep A Body Photography Diary?

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…As a portrait of yourself as a young, 20something, woman? To remember who she was all those years later?…

Yesterday evening I got on this whole feminist kick, which I tend to do a lot. I’m a woman, I FUCKING rock, kind of ordeal.  I was watching videos on modern feminism (which I love, makes ya’ think), looking at this new book that seems very interesting on where our generation is heading, and basically just thinking about how I am a woman in my 20s at this very moment. Of course, these thoughts kind of dwelled into my restlessness last night and I started to think how this part of my life will probably one day feel as if it was lived in a complete flash. I mean, keep aside that every single day I ask myself, “What the hell are you doing with your life, Laura White?”, but then I always end up thinking- well that’s how I know I’m in my 20s. It was actually quite funny because I then had this non-existent nostalgia for something that wasn’t really even gone quite yet. That weird feeling like I can already feel myself missing, well, myself. To be…free, and lost, and completely crazy at times. To be…in the most miserable of miserable, and mind-blowingly happy, places of my life- all at fucking once.  It’s something I think I’ll always cherish and want to remember. My next question seemed to just kind of float around as I was laying there, ‘how can I remember myself…at this very, fragile, stage?’

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Then it came to me, why not a yearly-photograph in the form of a body diary? No, I’m not talking about recording the things you hate about yourself, the insecurities, the food you ate that day, slowly morphing into something you hope resembles page 6 in Victoria’s Secret. None of that. Why not take one photograph every year that made you remember the strong, independent, beautiful, and lovely women you are slowly, but surely, becoming? Or, hell, already are. I think it would be nice to keep something like that around, as women, in a raw state, to remember ourselves by in such impressionable times. The things we were doing each year, whether we were off-the-wall lost or completely and pristinely together in all forms. To have something you could take with you to capture the interesting moments of being a woman, right now. I think it would be a very freeing ‘self-adventure.’

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Of course the idea of keeping this ‘Body Diary’ would be completely up to us. Whether we bare-it-all, or take a picture of our eyes, it would definitely have a frame of its’ own judgement. It would be cool to have a seriously talented photographer friend somewhere around your life, but the point is just keep the moment here. Maybe the apartment you dwelled in that felt like your first true ‘home’ by yourself…the breakfast you usually ate, every morning before the silly job you had. I think it would be nice to go to a place that was particularly important to us that year and get a photo- or a certain book that felt life-changing at the time. It would all be within a realm of growing and being able to look back on each of these years when we are older. Even as a ‘one-day’ mom, I think it would be super cool to be able to show your daughter a look back on your life so they can see how fearless you were, and they will be too. Because we’re woman, and we’re amazing.

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Skin Trip: Somewhere Over The Rainbow; That’s Where I’ll Be.

Let’s talk wings in the fire.

This weekend is my (beautiful) niece’s birthday, she’ll be four.  So, on a lovely Friday afternoon, I decided to tote myself to the mall to find a present for her. Most people think this is a normal task, however, shopping visits are extreme, that is, to me. Take anything you want, but shopping is not ‘just shopping’ for this girl. It’s not all about the buying or ‘giving in’ to marketing schemes (that I for one, know exist in extremes). It’s an experience as any other activity should be. It’s being a judge in a world full of dreamy stores, lined with vibrant colors and wishful thinking. Perhaps if you truly think about it, it’s a world where everything is possible. There was a comment by a woman in ‘The September Issue’ documentary, who said Anna Wintour was the most powerful woman in America. It might not be so far-fetched.

You can be an idealist, realist, socialist, dictator, communist, naturalist, narcissist, healer, dreamer, protagonist, antagonist-there is room for it all- but only a tiny box that can fit everyone. The beauty and fashion industry is the most diplomatically, un-diplomatic, place there is. Sometimes I wonder if secretly they, indeed, do hold all the worldly power. It’s actually quite an interesting subject if you reach beyond what it seems to most people.

 Here is where today’s Skin Trip comes about. If you’re one to say fashion and beauty have no power, perhaps you’ve overlooked MAC’s new line. As I was walking past Nordstrom’s neatly lined pathway of make-up artists, all painting gorgeous hues of candy-coated madness on their subjects, I thought their Fall 2012 Campaign was very…Feministic? Or was it? I applauded such an action, or, un-action. It’s called ‘Office Hours’ with some of the prettiest pinks I have ever seen in a make-up line. There is a vivid 50’s to 60’s inspired photograph of a woman trying to aid her nail polish in drying, while handling an office phone call. I can’t decide if it was her office, or just a office. Her makeup is, of course, done to perfection and looks so neat and blissful, cool and calm, I almost wanted to be her.

The presentation-statement of the line goes like this; “She’s a glamorous go-getter with nothing temp about her! Full-time, overtime-her makeup, like her day, goes on and on.”

So what does that mean for me? Do I want to look effortless, perfect, and pink? Do I want to be so cool and calm and collected, that I can handle my big-name job, while still applying a coat of nail polish? While wearing fish nets? Because we’re women, and we’re sexy, and we can do it all, no-fuss. We can be all these things and not be analyzed by your stereotypical mess, you judgmental society. I think looking glamorous is completely acceptable wherever, whenever, and I would fall in love with the idea of this campaign, if that is what they are trying to say here. However, I can’t help not play devil’s advocate; Or, does she just not have a lot going on. Does she have a secretary job? Which would make all the sense in the world, given the era-look they are going for. Are we neat and effortless and blase- because that’s what women are supposed to look like, and act like, everyday at work? Is that what ‘women-at-work’…look like? I mean, aren’t we trying to steer clear of what women were going through during this time, don’t we want better jobs and equal pay?

Perhaps we can say it’s just a makeup line campaign, with no real significance behind it at all. Perhaps I beg to differ, perhaps I don’t. I do know, on the other hand, that a company so geared towards, us, women…should want to have our best interests at heart. In all the senses of that statement, including how we are represented in society with such a mass, looked-over and up to, makeup line.

Yet, that’s also where I become a dictator in the sense that MAC makeup is very (veryyy) synthetic, and I don’t recommend ever using any of their products on a daily basis. I will never tell a woman it’s a good skin care decision to put such heavy, toxic, ingredients on their faces, even if there is that flawless illusion that MAC pulls off themselves, so very effortlessly.

I’m still in-limbo as to what MAC was trying to say. To speak for myself, I’m mostly a dreamer, an equal-ist,  and idealist to extremes. I love nothing more than the idea of beauty and fashion at its’ rawest, and in that matter, I suppose the Libra in me will constantly go back and forth on my scales of weighing.

So my dears, a lot of my original purpose of this post was to create the understanding of how the modern beauty industry is very hard to say “no” to. As I was walking by yesterday, it’s not like any of MAC’s makeup artists were some slasher-film-like villains, unable to spare any victims. They were actually very eccentric, eye-drawing, and appealing- the beauty of the beauty industry (no pun-intended.) It’s just not many people are aware of the dangers of modern cosmetics and the real consequences using products such as these can have on their well-being. There is a certain ‘Gandhi-approach’ that still has to be ever present to express these concerns. I like to think of myself as playing the part of the journalist, a watchdog presence, over the attention we give to such company’s everyday. I think my own approach in trying to make people aware of today’s beauty industry, is the realization sometimes you have to let your guard down a little. I have my wing in the fire a lot of time- I love beauty and fashion too much not to embrace a lot of the chaos and corruption that goes on behind closed doors. It’s more about knowing what doors that should stay closed.

I’ll leave you, my loves, with this; What do you think? Does any of this have any significance? Has a younger generation lost touch with feminism? Are we the new kind of ‘feminist’? Is the fashion and beauty industry a underground, world-power?

xoxo til’ again.