Uncloaking the Coven: Wiccans and Spiritualists

Spiritualists and WiccansWitch, Wiccan, witchcraft: three words that resonate strongly with anyone who hasn’t lived under a rock for the last 50 years. From “Bewitched” to “American Horror Story: Coven,” most of us can generate a pretty clear picture of what a “witch” looks like. Thanks to Hollywood’s longstanding love affair with the supernatural, today’s culture is quite possibly more enchanted by, well, enchantment.

However, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Modern culture’s obsession with the supernatural has simultaneously left us a bit more skeptical of the otherworldly. Maybe it’s because so much of what we see is exaggerated, but, to many, the idea of a real life “witch” is something to scoff at.

Yet witchcraft is alive and well in America. Now, before you get all Salem Witch Trial, trust that those who practice look less like the ‘90s goth witch a la Fairuza Balk, or Alyssa Milano’s “Charmed” premonitions. In reality, modern day wizardry looks a bit more like spirituality.

“It’s about trusting in the universe, and trusting that everything happens for a reason,” says Alexandra Warren. At 19 and a sophomore in college, Warren has considered herself a Spiritualist since she was a senior in high school. “We believe that the energies we have are deeper than our surfaces, and that we don’t just go away after we die. Instead, that energy just shifts.”

A daughter of a Jamaican father and a French mother, Warren credits her parents for establishing the root system of her beliefs. Before becoming a lawyer, her mother spent years practicing to become a medium—someone who can tune into people’s energy in order to offer insight into their state of being.

Though she never felt Spiritualism was forced upon her, Warren acknowledges that she’s been involved with it her entire life. “As my sister and I got older, we got more and more curious and more and more into it. It’s almost like a hippy’s take on Christianity.”

Conveniently, very near to Warren’s hometown is Lily Dale. Located in upstate New York, this seemingly magical township houses a spattering of registered mediums, and a general safe space for Spiritualists to practice, take solace, and further their knowledge with daily lectures and demonstrations.

However, meeting with mediums—like a modern day confessional—is just part of how Warren practices. “I believe in the Boomerang Affect,” she says. “Meaning, what you put out, you get back. In my practice, I try to give what I want to receive.” As a physical reminder, Warren keeps a personal altar. On it, she places only things with personal significance and meaning, including candles and her favorite flowers, orchids, which have a calming effect on the college student.

Despite her belief in both mediums and pantheism, Warren points out that she does not self-identify as a Wiccan. More to do with spells and magic, the practice of Wiccanism goes one step further than Spirituality. Or, as Warren explains, “A Wiccan is to an Orthodox Catholic what Spirituality is to a modern Methodist.”

Like most things having to do with the soul, witchcraft offers no clear and precise definition. Unlike Christianity, there is no single catchall term to define those who practice. However, the belief and extent of magic used does seem to generate a clear divide amongst believers.

Unlike Warren, Lee (who asked to only be referred to by first name) unquestionably, considers himself a witch. With family origins stemming back to Haiti, his father in New Orleans, and growing up in Paris with his mother, sorcery seems to run in his blood. And though he knows his ancestors were devoted to the practice of voodoo, Lee has taken on a self-taught approach to witchcraft.

“Our family’s magic doesn’t come from a light place,” Lee’s father explained to him, after Lee came out as a witch. With that knowledge, and subsequent fear of releasing negative energy into the world, Lee has focused his craft on white magic. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be selfless, but it is a give and take. Whatever you ask for, you have to give something in return. Being able to harness these energies for good or evil is what makes you a witch.”

But Lee’s magic isn’t about super powers—“that’s Hollywood,” he says. Instead, he describes his practice as “simplistic.” Like Warren, he too has an altar, adorned with candles and crystals, which he believes houses his energy. Rather than casting spells, he offers “prayers” by lighting candles and releasing good energy—“things I want for me and others”—into the world.

Lee’s foray into the world of the supernatural began with a deck of Tarot cards, gifted to him by his aunt. A self-described “forgetful” person, Lee mastered the deck in record time—memorizing the cards’ multitude of meanings in less than a month’s time. Several years later, friends often say his readings are eerily precise.

“I can’t predict the future—I’m not that gifted—but I have this connection to the universe that lets me see the path the people are on, and let them know. Once people are aware of their path, they can move appropriately.” Aside from Tarot, Lee is more likely to read about witchcraft from a historical perspective rather than casting spells. But the possibility of danger only enters when those spells are centered on selfish desires. “Dark magic is used for your direct benefit. It’s not helping anyone else, and you’re not willing to give anything in return,” explains Lee. “But something is drawing from that energy, and it’s really detrimental to your soul.”

Sage And Crystals

Whether it’s witchcraft or karma, it’s hard to argue with the idea that putting out negative energy only produces more negative energy. Isn’t that why even something as small as sitting in traffic can have an adverse effect on an entire day? “You can call it witchcraft, a knack for predicting humans, or a mechanism, but it’s something that I believe is very real,” Lee sums up, referencing the “subtle” changes he’s been privy to witnessing.

“Recently, I asked this Higher Power for professional success,” says Lee, offering an example. “I did a ritual where I sacrificed my vanity. I stopped myself from letting my vanity control me, and two weeks later I got an amazing job opportunity.”

While both Lee and Warren are somewhat private about their beliefs and their practice, they acknowledge the existence of real life covens. Similar to a church congregation, in neo-pagan culture, a coven is simply a community of witches. Such groups intrigue Lee, who says he’d love to be part of a coven. “It’s a bunch of people who share the same mindset. I feel like—if I had a group of likeminded people—I’d be able to do more and explore more of witchcraft.”

Even if a coven would allow Lee, and all solo practicing witches, a chance to dig deeper into their gifts, it wouldn’t look like the movies. “Shows like “American Horror Story” and “Charmed” have given [paganism] a Hollywood approach. No one wants to make a movie about how I practice witchcraft,” jokes Lee.

With a skeptical lens on Hollywood, Warren blames horror movies for making people afraid of non-traditional belief structures. “Spirituality doesn’t believe in negative energy, at least not the way it’s represented in movies like “The Conjuring”. It can’t be transferred like that,” she explains, noting that some of her friends are scared to get readings from her mother. “The media has turned Wiccanism into something to be feared.”

Like any other religion—organized or not—witchcraft, paganism, and spiritualty look different on everyone. And how far one goes is up to the individual. “I don’t draw stars or make sacrifices,” says Lee. “It’s like how some people go to church and pray; I’m getting in touch with something that’s intangible and it’s a really spiritual experience for me. Life can be so harsh sometimes, that—even if it is total bullshit—it helps make sense of it all.”

“I don’t want to live in a world where we cope through our iPhones and don’t search ourselves for how we’re feeling,” Lee continues. For him, witchcraft is not only a way of healing and hoping for good things; it’s also a means for self-exploration. The practice pushes him to look deeper into himself to discover new personal depths.

Spirituality provides Warren that same comfort. Like therapists or pastors, mediums offer reassurance about life’s hardships. “There’s lots of similarities [between Spirituality] and any and all religions,” says Warren. “Everyone finds themselves in different ways. Mainstream culture needs to start accepting that.”

While witchcraft may be a bit more mundane than pop culture would have us believe, it’s anything but boring. Traces of magic and unexplainably meaningful connections can be found all around us. Just remember, “Magic is only as powerful as you let it be.”

Ending the War on Mary Jane - The Holidazed Issue

Legalization is the
Talk of the Town

From D.C. to Colorado to California, cannabis – or “pot” to our parents’ generation and “weed” for ours – has been making headlines across the country. This past November, recreational usage was approved by voters in both Oregon and Alaska, allowing them to join Colorado and Washington – who voted it legal in the 2012 elections – in legal marijuana use.

Washington D.C. poll-goers also voted in favor of recreational use just last month (medical marijuana is already legal in the capital, as well as in 23 states). However, due to taxation issues, D.C.’s legalization gets murky. According to “tokesperson” activist, film producer and comic Elizabeth Croydon, this is the third time the nation’s capital has voted to legalize the drug.

“D.C. was actually the first city to ever vote it legal, but, ­because it’s not a state, congress said ‘in your dreams,’” explains Croydon. She refuses to call it cannabis; to her, it is simply weed. “I work for legalization everywhere. As a comic, I have a certain freedom about being able to say and do whatever I want, and I think the current weed laws are ridiculous. It’s important to make it commercially legal. Weed could and should be treated like alcohol.”

“Tokesperson” activist, film producer and comic Elizabeth Croydon. Photo: Sergio Teran

The controversy surrounding the drug has existed for decades. It has been labeled a “gateway drug” and has often been blamed as the first step in a heavy drug user’s addiction. Yet, this natural drug has proven to be no less healthy than alcohol and cigarettes – and it is a useful medical and pain-relieving tool. With medical marijuana slowly winning over non-believers, activists’ voices have only gotten louder. These supporters believe it’s only a matter of time before federal legalization.

“I could go into countless reasons why our movement and advocacy work is so important –medical ethics, health freedom, overcrowded prisons, the cost to the tax payer, the dangerous drug cartels and underground criminal systems that are empowered by prohibition. There’s also environmental issues, and many costly failures of this prohibitionist system,” says activist Mary Patton. “Suffice it to say, one does not need to have a personal interest in consuming cannabis in order to see that the laws are unjust, irrational and downright harmful to society.”

Though Patton no longer partakes in the drug, she’s seen first-hand the benefits of medical marijuana as well as the abuse of the drug’s illegal status. As a teenager, when she occasionally smoked, Patton was subject to a random search and seizure that led to a false arrest. The incident led her to activism, which was fueled further by the activism of her uncle – a “self-proclaimed medical marijuana patient.” Today, Patton sits on the Executive Committee for the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform. She also works as a consultant for business development, marketing and PR within the cannabis industry. Her client list includes Tommy Chong, Melissa Etheridge and Montel Williams.

In regards to the medical use of marijuana, Patton shares a piece of Tommy Chong’s personal story. The author and iconic actor – known as one half of Cheech and Chong, and Leo on That Seventies Show –has long been a face for marijuana use.

Not surprisingly when Chong was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012, he turned to medical cannabis to help fight the disease. His drug of choice: cannabis oil. Months later, after using a high potency cannabis concentrate to treat his tumor (currently a very controversial cure) Chong announced that he was cancer-free.

“It’s amazing what medical cannabis is doing,” explains Croydon, who notes that cannabis oil injections have been found to significantly decrease tumors in many cancer patients. A wearer of many hats, Croydon says that her primary activism goal is now centered around making sure that “patients get access to weed without the cost.”

A supporter of recreational use as well, she personally uses marijuana as a stress reliever. “I’ve never found alcohol to help,” she explains. As a “constant intellectual,” she says the drug helps her relax without impairing her senses or her speech.

In the name of stress-relief, Croydon, who is currently living in the D.C./Maryland area, also advocates for the right of off-duty police officers to toke. She references an officer she practiced aikido with, who showed signs of alcoholism due to his high-risk job. “I started talking to him about weed, and when he eventually started treating himself with it he stopped shaking.”

Recently, Croydon worked with television producers Wendy Robbins and Karen Paul on their new web series, The Marijuana Show.

Television Producers Wendy Robbins and Karen Paull with the “The Marijuana Show” cast and crew. Courtesy Photo.

Filmed in Denver, Colorado, wives Robbins and Paul created the series that has been described as "Shark Tank meets The Apprentice for budding ganjapreneurs,” in hopes of finding the next marijuana millionaire.

Out of 200 people who auditioned for the show – which is currently airing in 12 –minute episodes on the website – ten hopeful entrepreneurs were chosen.

Robbins and Paul then sent the finalists to a three-day intensive workshop to meet with lawyers, accountants, PR heads and so on in order to perfect their business creations – all of which incorporate cannabis (or hemp) in some way.

The couple expects the series to help change how non-smokers perceive cannabis. “We’re working to create a community where collectively, we educate, activate and legalize cannabis. We want to work with big pharmaceutical companies, politicians and thought leaders to start a conversation,” says Robbins, a two-time Emmy winning producer and director. “Though the business is a baby now, the more we can help ganjapreneurs become savvy business people, the better.”

On the business side of legalization, Colorado is already showing big numbers in tax revenues. According to Paul, a longtime media executive and professor, the state has already made $20 million in taxes on marijuana. By the end of the first fiscal year, state officials expect the total tax revenue to be between $60 and $70 million. “We’re changing the economies of every state with cannabis. We aren’t doing a show about stoners; it's a business show, where we want to infuse this new industry with a sense of partnership, respect and collaboration,” Paul sums up.

“There’s so much misunderstanding about cannabis,” explains Robbins. “Knowing that if we make a mistake, we could end up in jail, so we’re careful and stay up on the laws – the challenge is that they change daily. We believe in safety regulations. Clearly stating how many milligrams of cannabis is in an edible for instance, making sure it's child proof ­– though alcohol and tobacco is not child proof. Still, this is a new industry and we can do things differently and better.”

The Third Party’s Argument

But not everyone is jumping on the legalization bandwagon. Before Alaska voted it legal, the Alaskan Association of Chiefs of Police put together a list of reasons why they stood against legalization. Among these reasons, an increase in the number of impaired drivers, higher potency strains, and the possibility of drug commercialization increasing the opportunities for youth to use the drug stood out as the biggest objections.

But instead of taking an either/or stance, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is a bipartisan organization that wants to neither criminalize nor legalize cannabis. “Historically, this issue has been presented much too black and white,” says Kevin Sabet, the co-founder and current president of SAM. “We want to talk science, not scare tactics; it’s why we have medical professionals on our board.”

Opting for a health-based argument, science is the tool with which SAM has chosen to fight the legalization battle. Sabet notes a mid-eighties Swedish study that found a link between schizophrenia and marijuana usage. The study suggests the two are connected by a dose-response relationship. “Basically, the more you use, the more risk there is,” explains Sabet.

In recent years, scientists have learned that the weed smoked today is not the same weed  from the days of Woodstock. In fact, today’s drug has proven to be ten times stronger than it was in previous decades. “We don’t want to exaggerate true health harms, but we’re better at agriculture today, and we’re also better at genetic modification,” says Sabet. He adds that, with legalization in states like Colorado, warning signs are already appearing. “We've already seen an increase in poisoning and impaired driving.”

To be clear, THC poisoning is most likely to happen when someone eats a whole edible that’s intended to be multiple servings. “It’s essentially an overdose. It’s not like heroin, it’s not certain death, but it is something to be concerned about.”

However, SAM’s number one fear is creating Big Tobacco 2.0.

Like the Joe Camel of days gone by, Sabet believes that the cannabis industry is already coyly marketing to kids, noting edible products such as candy and lollipops. “Both the alcohol and tobacco industry make their money off the backs of heavy users,” and these users are frequently hooked at young age. “The two existing industries are the last things you want to use as examples. But we also don’t’ want people in prison for low-level amounts – that’s not criminal.”

SAM is also wary of the money now backing legalization. “This is not Cheech and Chong, it’s [the] MBA graduates who are raising money for this industry. The flower children values are being replaced by the values of Wall Street.”

One Thing We Can All Agree On

Today, hemp – a crop that has been outlawed in the U.S. since 1937 – is slowly making a comeback, and this one has nothing to do with getting high.

Courtesy photo: votehemp.org

With roots stretching all the way back to the B.C. era, hemp was one of the very first crops to be cultivated. America’s Founding Fathers used hemp daily, and both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew fields of it. Once upon a time, it even grew on the Pentagon’s research farm. During the “reefer madness” war in the thirties, hemp got lumped into the mix, and has basically been prohibited ever since.

Yet, according to Eric Steenstra, the executive director of the Hemp Industries Association and president of VoteHemp.org, one of the only things hemp can’t do is get someone high.

It can, however, be used in clothing, in cars (hemp fiber deposits have replaced fiber glass in BMWs and Mercedes), in houses (hempcrete produces less allergens), and the seeds are trending in both food and body care products.

“Hemp was written out of the history books,” says Steenstra. The Virginia native has spent 14 years working to allow American farmers to grow hemp once again. “But it’s a great sustainable crop, unlike cotton, which is not environmentally friendly.” In fact, cotton requires more water, more herbicides, and depletes soil of minerals. Additionally, hemp can be grown throughout the country, while cotton can only be grown in the south.

Last February, an amendment to the 2014 farm bill was passed that allowed pilot programs and hemp research crops to be grown in the U.S. Within these pilot programs, there are currently 19 states where hemp can be legally grown.

Though it’s still illegal to grow in most states – and complicated in those where it is legal – hemp is still affecting American pockets.

Importing hemp products has become a $500 million industry. “This is a driven market, but it’ll take time to get off the ground,” says Steenstra, comparing hemp to soy in the seventies – when it was an insignificant crop. Today, soy is one of the country’s largest crops. “Canada legalized it 15 years ago and it’s still small crop relative to others out there. But the potential is there.”

Like marijuana, federal legalization seems to be just a matter of time. “Once you truly evaluate the cost/benefits of this ridiculous war on cannabis, it's very easy to come to the conclusion that the laws are more dangerous than the substance itself,” Mary Patton sums up.

“Some people should never smoke weed,” says Croydon, keeping things in perspective. “But then, some people should never drink whiskey either.”

The Holy Musical Matrimony Between Uber & Spotify

Get ready for a duo greater than Ben and Jerry, Laverne and Shirley, even Dolce and Gabbana. As of next Monday (November 21), Uber and Spotify will join forces to make all your rides even more personal.

The two in vogue companies made the official announcement Monday. “We’ve teamed up with our friends at Uber to let you choose the soundtrack for your ride,” Spotify declared on their website. “When you request a car, you’ll be able to choose the music you want to hear on the journey. When your ride arrives, it’ll be your tunes on the car’s speakers.”

This new union – which requires having Uber and Spotify apps on your phone – will be tested in ten cities worldwide: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, Mexico City, London, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney, and Toronto. But Uber promises that it will soon spread to additional cities “in the coming weeks.”

What’s more, trial city riders could find themselves sharing a car with anyone from The Sam Willows, to Andrew W.K., to Matt and Kim.

Seriously they’ve got ten artists lined up for artist ride-alongs and exclusive live sessions.

Music lovers may now rejoice.

Fashion Goes Green with Fashion Positive Program

On Thursday, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute launched Fashion Positive, a program to make the fashion industry a much greener space – and we’re not talking jeweled tones.

With iconic launch partners, Stella McCartney, G-Star RAW, Loomstate, Bionic Yarn, and the manufacturer Saitex, the Project will allow fashion businesses a look at the  five categories of sustainability: material health, material reuse, renewable energy, water stewardship, and social fairness.

"Together, we’re creating a vision within the industry that is about abundance rather than resource constraints. We want beautiful, must-have clothes made in such a way that everything and everyone along the supply chain helps create this better future,” said Lewis Perkins, senior vice president of Cradle to Cradle Products. Amber Valletta, Julie Gilhart, Wendy and Eric Schmidt, and Scott Mackinlay Hahn have also offered their support.

Currently, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, each year, three billion tons of soot is released into the air due to textile production in China alone. The more fashion-lovers learn, the higher the demand has grown for sustainable products. Together, the committed designers will work to find and invest in sustainable suppliers who will then create “new materials for use by the entire fashion industry,” states the press release.

Once sustainable materials are identified, they will be placed in the program’s Materials Library. By 2016,  Cradle to Cradle Certified™ GOLD-level standard will be implemented, in part due to the work provided by McCartney and G-Star.

Exhibit Puts Spotlight on Fashion of Women in Power

Fashion. So often it’s put in the synonymous categories of fad, trend, hashtag, in. But in reality, fashion is – and has always been – so much more than just #trending.

Which is exactly what the exhibit, “Women Fashion Power," currently on display in London’s Design Museum, has set out to explore.[column size="2/3"]


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Spanning the last 150 years, the exhibit presents an up-close-and-personal-look at the fashion behind some of the 19th and 20th centuries’ most powerful and well-respected women. Even the exhibit itself – which was designed by Dame Zaha Hadid, founder and director of Zaha Hadid Architects – pays homage to both personal style and female empowerment.

Co-curated by Colin McDowell and Donna Loveday, “Women Fashion Power” features 26 women from all over the professional map. We’re talking designers – including, Dame Vivienne Westwood – to journalists, CEOs and real life princesses.

But this exhibit isn’t solely about fashion; it’s about manipulating fashion for power, success, and “intimidation,” explains McDowell. “It isn’t, in fact, entirely about all the great movements of fashion. It’s about how all intelligent women take what they need from fashion at any one particular moment — and get their look.”

The exhibit is open to the public now through April 26, 2015.

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Miley Smiles for MAC's Viva Glam

Viva Glam can’t be stopped, which is why the newest face of MAC’s AIDS Fund campaign is the unstoppable Miley Cyrus. Like her audacious personality, Cyrus’ Viva Glam lip color is hot pink with a sparkling pearl shimmer Liplass version to match.

A lipstick with a purpose, each year the performative makeup company creates a new color and finds a new face to model it.

Rhianna’s mauve and frosty blue red were Viva Glam’s last color raves. Since the campaign began in 1994 with RuPaul’s notorious pout, outspoken celebrities from k.d. Lang to Nicki Minaj to Boy George have modeled the famous lipstick.

Since then, Viva Glam has raised more than $250 million to help men, women and children living with AIDS/HIV. That helps looks like meals, nutrition counseling, medical supplies, school supplies, makeovers, and more.

Having donated $500,000 to the American Foundation for AIDS Research last Wednesday,  the controversial Cyrus is becoming an unofficial supporter of the fight against AIDS.

Lea T.

Redken Names Transgender Model, Lea T., As Its Newest Muse

Redken has a new face. Brazilian model – adorned with luscious locks – Lea T. is the high-end company’s newest muse for their Chromatics hair color line.

In the four years since Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci discovered the model and transgender equality activist, Lea T. has graced high fashion with her presence.

Appearing in the pages of Vogue Paris, Vanity Fair, Vogue Brazil, and W, and on Fashion Week runways, she’s become a formidable figure in the fashion world.

Courtesy Photo

"Lea T. is a true pioneer for beauty," Redken US’ General Manager, Leslie Marino said in the press release. “She shares Redken's vision of global beauty, and has a unique sense of self and a beauty that is undeniably her own.”

The super-model will join the rest of Redken’s muses, including Sky Ferreira, fashion blogger, Chiara Ferragni, and celebrity colorist, Tracey Cunningham.

The Redken ads will hit print stands and online campaigns in January 2015.

An Ode to Mourning at The Met

Though many might be expecting homage to the 1992 cult classic, "Death Becomes Her," the Costume Institute’s exhibit has little to do with the Meryl Streep film, and more to do with 19th century mourning attire.

Offering a timeline look at mourning fashion from 1815 to 1915, the exhibit’s melancholic subject matter is perfectly timed for Halloween.

The show – featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Anna Wintour Costume Center – offers three-dozen outfits, including men and children’s as well.

Like the "Sex and the City" episode, “Four Women and a Funeral,” "Death Becomes Her" offers an interesting glimpse at how high fashion impacted both death and grieving.

Anna Wintour Costume Center, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Anna Wintour Costume Center, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

According to WWD, textiles also played an important part in mourning clothing. Crepe and matte textures were acceptable during the first stages and eventually, mourners transitioned to “half-mourning ensembles” which included shades of white, gray, and mauve. On display is a Civil War-era wedding dress in honor of the men who lost their lives to war, as well as the mourning gowns of both Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra.

Marking the Costume Institute’s first fall exhibit in nearly a decade, Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire runs now through February 1, 2015.

Tilda Swinton is the New Face Of Nars

There are two kinds of fashion in the world: high and popular. Of the former mindset, it’s no wonder Nars just named the illustrious Tilda Swinton as their latest face.

A “living legend,” as François Nars, the luxury makeup company’s founder and artistic director, referred to the actress, Swinton will appear in four ads between January and April of next year.

At 53, the British actress might not be the most conventional face, but that’s just how Nars prefers it. Both Charlotte Rampling, 68, and Daphne Guinness, 46, gave good face for the brand in previous campaigns.

Nars, who personally shot Swinton’s ads, was eager to work with the ethereal beauty, of which he is a big fan. “As an actress, she brings such strong personality to the camera,” he told WWD. “And as a woman, she lives the experience of transformation and expression.” Basically, the two pillars of makeup wisdom.

With last Thursday’s announcement, Swinton will join the ranks of over-40 faces for top makeup brands, alongside bewitching "American Horror Story" actress Jessica Lange for Marc Jacobs Beauty, Diane Keaton for L’Oreal, and Ellen DeGeneres for CoverGirl.

12-Year-Old Girl's Wedding Brings Attention to Children Who Are Forced to Marry

What would you do if your 12-year-old neighbor was engaged? Would you be outraged? Would you try to stop it?

Hoping to find an answer, Plan International created a fictional blog written by Thea, a fictional 12-year-old girl, who was planning her wedding to her fiancé, 25 years her senior. Set in Norway, the goal was to raise awareness about the grisly truth surrounding child brides.

Theas Blog
Courtesy Photo. Model Maja Bergström, who is posing as "Thea" and her fictional fiance.

Worldwide, according to Plan International, 39,000 children are “forced into marriage” daily. Along with Thea’s blog, a petition to put an end to these unions has been started.

Hopefully, the combination will draw out “girl sponsors” to help girls like Thea “escape their brutal fate.”

Maja Bergström, who is 12, played the role of Thea, and on UN’s International Day of the Girl, she attended her fictional wedding.

Protestors gathered, #stoppbryllupet and #StopTheWedding took over social media throughout the world, and celebrities – such as Ashton Kutcher – jumped on board to support the campaign.

If nothing changes, 142 million girls will celebrate their wedding before they celebrate their 18th birthday.

Kim Gordon Breaks The Silence with New Memoir

Sonic Youth lovers, mark those calendars for February 25.

Girl In A Band Kim Gordon CoverKim Gordon’s long awaited memoir has finally been granted a release date that will surely shake off February’s winter blues.

While "Girl in a Band: A Memoir" promises to look at all aspects of Gordon’s life – from childhood to her latest music project, Body/Head – the book will also explore the idea of partnership: what it means, and more so, “what happens when it dissolves,” says the press release. Presumably, alluding to the end of Gordon’s 27- year marriage with former Sonic Youth bandmate, Thurston Moore.

But Gordon was never just Moore’s wife.

Aside from being musician, songwriter, and singer, she mentored Kurt Cobain, co-produced Hole’s first album, and became an icon for women in music.

Her memoir promises a window into the New York of the ‘80s and ‘90s and a look at how Sonic Youth helped shape what we know today as ‘90s rock.

Sexuality and Disability Through Olivier Fermariello's Lens

Photos: © Olivier Fermariello

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Photographer Olivier Fermariello decided to tackle a taboo topic with his recent project “Je t'aime, moi aussi” or “I love you, me too.” In it,  Fermariello focused his camera lens on the private lives of those living with disabilities.

Inspired by the small-minded view of sexuality and sexual beings, the Rome-based photographer put out a call for models and received a flood of interested subjects. According to FeatureShoot, Fermariello took his time getting to know his would-be models, building rapport and trust. The time spent is evident in his work. From bathtubs, to sports cars, to lying in bed with a lover, each photograph offers a beautiful glimpse into the lives and desires of people so often ignored and desexualized by mainstream media.

'People with disability in most cases feel the discrimination of not being considered entirely as a man or a woman,” Fermariello is quoted in the Daily Mail. “These images portray people, who are suffering from this kind of discrimination, but are not willing to give up their fight choosing a direct way to express themselves revealing their intimacy.”

American Able Project: © Holly Norris
American Able Project: © Holly Norris

Similar in theme to Jes Sachse and Holly Norris’ American Able project – when the pair remade American Apparel adds featuring Sachse who has the rare genetic condition Freeman-Sheldon syndrome – “Je t'aime, moi aussi” demands that viewers question our rigid definitions of beauty and sexuality.

The Personal Purse by Miranda July

Designer purses don’t often bring to mind Mary Poppins’ magical keep-all or Hermione’s well-stocked clutch. But with Welcome Companions’ latest bag, all of that is about to change.

Designed by Miranda July – a known shopper of Welcome Companions – “The Miranda” returns the personal to the purse. With that same warm touch she brings to her art, July’s Starburst red and pink bag comes fully loaded with her necessary life supplies, including an almond (in case of blood sugar crash), and Get Out of Awkward Situations notecards (“Let's be honest, the conversation we are having right now is not that interesting for either of us. I suggest we shake hands and go find other people to talk to.").

Of the design, Welcome Companions’ creator, Laurel Consuelo Broughton told T Magazine that it’s “interesting to have the interior be a public part of identity.”

Released Thursday, the limited edition frame bag carries a $1,725 price tag. Found both in Opening Ceremony’s in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, as well as online, shipping may take up to six weeks depending on demand.

Galliano Poised to Make Comeback

High-fashion designer, John Galliano was all but excommunicated from the fashion world nearly five years ago. Now, after a few cameos, rumors are flying that Galliano will make a triumphant comeback in the Haute Couture section of Maison Martin Margiela.

Though nothing has yet been confirmed, an unnamed source leaked the fashion gossip to Page Six, saying – among other things – that Galliano has already hired several staff members for his Paris workshop.

The designer, known for his outlandish fashion creations, spent 15 years creating for Dior. But in 2011, his career came to an abrupt halt after a video surfaced of an intoxicated Galliano making an anti-Semitic tirade in a Paris café.

If the rumors are true, and Galliano – who, reportedly, is sober now, and filled with regret about his public hate speech –joins Margiela, he will be the brand’s first star designer since the company’s namesake bowed out in 2002.

Although there's been no confirmation from Maison Martin Margiela, Galliano’s spokesperson stated, “he’s having active and ongoing conversations with a few companies."

Girls Can, Too: 5 Amazing Women Who Are Breaking Stereotypes

Politicians are fighting a war on women. Pop culture bombards us with scantily-clad women attacking one another and acting like catty second graders. And with the Sarah Palins, Snookis, and Kim Kardashians, it’s sometimes hard to remember how far we’ve come.
We’re lawyers, doctors, fire fighters, mothers and CEOs. But we’re more than just (young) professionals fighting against a glass ceiling; we’re athletes, artists, DJs, musicians, X-Game contenders, and it’s about time we got our recognition.

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Lady Aiko Courtesy Photo

Lady AIKO, the Graffiti/Street Artist

The Manhattan-based artist—who originally hails from Tokyo—began her love affair with graffiti in the late 90s.

While she was working on her MFA from New School in New York, she joined forces with two other students. The three of them eventually became known as the street art collective, “FAILE.”

“FAILE was like a school for me,” AIKO told Obsessed. “I lived with them for five years, examining techniques of printing, painting, collaging, stenciling and wheat pasting in the classroom, at home and in the street.”

Unstoppable Memories By Lay AikoDuring that time, FAILE traveled the world with their art. “It was such beautiful team work,” AIKO sums up, but eventually she left the group to pursue her art independently as Lady AIKO.

Since then, her work has been commissioned for both coasts and exhibited throughout the world, including Rome’s Marco, Shanghai’s MOCA and the Brooklyn Museum.

Though she is a recognized artist throughout the contemporary art and street scene she notes, “As an Asian female artist in this world-wide scene, I am one of very few successful cases. And I've had bitter experiences, too, because the street art and graffiti field is a male-dominated world.”

Yet, the mixed media artist—whose work is a blend of graffiti, street and pop art styles combined with traditional Japanese aesthetic—has no regrets about her chosen field.

“I enjoy working in this environment very much. My past helps me create a deeper message, which no one else can make. I love challenges.”

At the end of the day, AIKO stated, “Street art is for everyone. It doesn’t matter who we are; nationality, age, gender, rich or poor.”

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Laura Petracca

Laura Petracca, the Drummer

Laura Petracca, one of the two original members of the all-girl band, Hunter Valentine, says that as a group, they've definitely come up against sexism.

“A lot of times men don’t expect you to be good musicians,” Petracca told Obsessed about playing live shows—which is what the band is known for. “So it’s funny seeing how they respond to us after they've heard us play. There’s a lot of ‘WOW! You’re actually good.’”

For Hunter Valentine, the first four years—out of the eight they’ve been together—were the most difficult, but Petracca says it’s gotten infinitely better.

“Today, it’s a lot more subtle. Mostly guys in other bands will offer to help us set up our equipment before shows, but you never see them doing that for other guys. I find it condescending, and really, I’m just like, ‘Go get me a whiskey, how ‘bout that?’”

Coincidentally, all four members of the band are queer, and while they've dealt with their fair share of sexism, rarely have they received anti-gay feedback. Petracca can only recall one or two times when they actually had to deal with homophobia. “Sexuality and music kind of go hand in hand, but being queer doesn't have a lot to do with it,” explained the drummer.

“We try not to identify ourselves as a Lesbian-Rock Band...We’re a band and we happen to be gay,” explains Petracca. “But I've found that being a lesbian in the music industry has made it easier for me because sometimes guys look at us like we’re on the same level.”

Petracca, who’s 31, has been playing the drums for as long as she can remember. “My mom says I was a big kicker in the womb,” Petracca joked. “But I didn't really get into it until my teens.” Like many artists, she’s experienced moments—sometimes even years—of wanting to walk away from it all, but she just can’t seem to let them go.

“I have a love affair with drums- every time I try to quit, they find me again.” In fact, she’d been on a drumming hiatus for two years when she met Kiyomi McCloskey, the guitarist and singer of Hunter Valentine. “I tried to leave drumming three times, and I’m still playing. Music will be part of my life forever.”

Similar to music and cooking—Petracca’s other love in life —is another profession dominated by men. She doesn’t let it faze her though. “Kiyomi and I, we’re tough girls. I know I work twice as hard because there are so many men, and as a girl you have to prove yourself even more. But that’s what makes it so much more worth it. As a group, I think we’ve definitely helped pave the way for up-coming girl bands.”

The ladies of Hunter Valentine—Petracca, McCloskey, Vero Sanchez, and Somer Bingham—spent the summer touring the country in preparation for their release of “Collide and Conquer,” their second full-length album. Additionally, the girls can be found on the current third season of "The Real L Word."

Petracca concludes, “Over the past eight years we've had a lot of good and bad experiences, but being in a male-dominated field excites me. It makes it more challenging. My closing statement: girls can do it and I think we can do it better because we have to work so hard for it. Because our pathway is harder, we end up better at it.”

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Ebony Dumas

Ebony Dumas, aka Natty Boom, the DJ

Tulsa, OK, native Ebony Dumas came to D.C. in 2005 after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh. She began deejaying two years later after she joined forces with a group of women to start the organization known today as Girls Rock! DC.

“I kept noticing that all the DJs I saw on the scene were white, cisgender, straight men, and the spaces they were creating didn't feel safe for queers or black people,” Dumas explained to Obsessed. “At Girls! Rock I met a woman who wanted to teach me how to DJ, and I decided that I wanted to learn how to do it and do it better.”

In Dumas’ experience, men reign over the field of  deejaying. For example, common “Top 100 DJs” lists will only mention two or maybe three women. Or nightclubs tend to advertise the rare female performer with her tits out. “I’m fortunate to be around a good group of people from different backgrounds, color, and sex so sometimes I don’t see it that much until I go out in it.”

One of the more difficult things about being a black, queer female DJ is that many of the people in power (such as club owners) tend to be men, so they don’t usually understand the importance for reaching out to different DJs and creating safe spaces. Dumas once attempted to hold a Female DJ Workshop in one club owner’s space and the owner “just didn't get it. He was like ‘what’s the big deal?’” says Dumas. “People in power don’t have to think outside their existence, so a lot of times, they don’t.”

Today, Dumas is part of Anthology of Booty, a five person, queer, women-of-color DJ collective. “Together with Booty, I try to make cool shit happen with the added goal of creating a safe space,” says Dumas. When Booty throws a party they put in a lot of effort to make the space comfortable and accessible to everyone. The collective talks to the owners and the bartenders and also makes all bathrooms gender neutral. “This is another thing a lot of promoters don’t get; it’s like they have blinders on and think that no one actually gets harassed in bathrooms.”

In addition to her work with Anthology of Booty and as the singular Natty Boom, Dumas also works part-time at Transformer Art Gallery, does the occasional drag king performance, and was the host of this year’s Capital Fringe Film Festival Review. Her advice to her younger self and to upcoming girl DJs? “Be open to anything, be ready for anything; but also listen to your gut and your values.”

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Amy Caron By Lisa Whitaker
Amy Caron By Lisa Whitaker

The Skaters of Lisa Whitaker’s MEOW Skateboards

Lisa Whitaker has been skating for nearly a quarter of a decade, but in the early 2000s Whitaker stopped skating in contests and started filming them.

She specifically focused her camera on the up-and-coming girl skateboarders, such as Amy Caron and Vanessa Torres. By 2003 she’d created GirlsSkateNetwork.com –formerly thesideproject.com—in order to fill the void in female skateboarding coverage. After nine years of running the site, filming skaters and co-producing Villa Villa Cola’s “Getting Nowhere Faster” (the biggest female skate videos to date), Whitaker found the spare time to create MEOW Skateboards.

“With the economy getting tighter it seemed like more and more of the girls were losing sponsors, contests, exposure and opportunities,” Whitaker explained to Obsessed on why she started MEOW with an all-female team. “I felt there was a piece of the market that wasn't being represented and I wanted to make something that the girls could feel a part of.”

Kristin Ebeling
Kristin Ebeling

The girls of Meow consist of 16-year-old Jennifer Soto, 27-year-old Amy Caron, 23-year-old Kristin Ebeling and 26-year-old Vanessa Torres. They are four of the top female skateboarders in the country, and all of them agree that Whitaker is doing something groundbreaking for girl skateboarders.

“Growing up, what kept me skateboarding was her website,” Ebeling, who’s been skating for ten years, admitted to Meets Obsession.

“I really respect her.” During the summer, Ebeling works full time teaching kids to skate at the YMCA in Seattle because she thinks it’s important for the next generation of skaters to see that girls and boys of every race can be a skater—it’s not just a white male sport.

“As a kid I was drawn to everything edgy, but I got excluded a lot for being a girl,” says Ebeling, who was called “JLo” at the parks and originally wasn’t sponsored because she “wasn’t pretty enough.”

It wasn’t until she attended Skate Like a Girl – an all-girl skate contest – when she was 18 that she finally felt at peace about being a girl skater. “Girls almost automatically get an ‘Awe’ factor when you nail something. It used to piss me off, but now I try to use it to my advantage. Skating can be exclusive, and it’s even harder when you’re a minority. So if something makes you stand out then people will gravitate to you, and you can use that to create change.”

Today, Ebeling is the key person behind the national non-profit Skate Like a Girl in Seattle, and she’s also started a Wheels of Fortune girl’s skate contest, and was on MTV’s  “True Life: I’m going to Skatopia.”

Caron, of Long Beach, CA, notes that in the twelve years she’s been skating she’s definitely seen an increase of girls at skate parks. “When I started out there weren't too many girls at the park, and if you saw a girl you reached out,” Caron told Obsessed. “Now there are tons of girls at skate parks. In the last five years or so it’s become more like just skateboarding.”

Jennifer Soto of Meow Skateboards
Jennifer Soto of Meow Skateboards

Soto agrees that being a girl on a board can be intimidating, but she ignores the negative comments.

“I just want to skate. A skater is a skater,” she told Obsessed. “It doesn't matter who you are.” But she also added that girls shouldn't limit themselves just because they’re girls. “If you’re a girl and you’re scared you should push yourself more, that’s what motivates me. I’ll throw myself down anything, especially if I’m scared of it.”