#MiniReview: Thayers Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel Toner

The name “Thayers” is practically a household name if you regularly browse sites like Byrdie, The File, & Into The Gloss. I’ve known about Thayers’ toners for at least a year – but I kind of just sat back & listened to everyone talk. “It’s so cheap! It’s so good! It lasts so long! So much product! Product cap perfectly dispenses actual product!”

Me, from a few feet away: “Oh, sounds nice!” I said absently, spraying myself with another shower of Mario Badescu Facial Spray With Aloe, Herbs, & Rosewater (okay, that never happened, but essentially that’s how my “ignoring” process went).

Why did I just never get around to buying this very cheap toner that has had a lot of buzz – especially lately?

First of all, the concept of toning with a liquid-soaked cotton pad was not how I had initially interpreted toning. To me, it was only toning if it came in a spritzer bottle (which isn’t at all true, of course). The concept of rubbing cotton pads on my face sounded irritating – much more so than a healthy douse of floral mist.

Secondly – this product is easiest to find at Target – & I am one of the few people in America who doesn’t love going to Target. I know…I’m sorry! Big spaces make me anxious, it’s cold inside, & I never know where anything is despite all the signs.

About a month ago, however, I was driving home from somewhere & remembered I ran out of Tylenol; I was just happening to pass a Target & figured that this would be as good a time as any other. Coincidentally, I’d been asking a friend about Thayers earlier – she’d mentioned something about a lavender version, & my ears perked. If you know me, you know that I adore the scent of lavender. Suddenly, Thayers seemed a lot more appealing. I ran in to grab a bottle of Tylenol (success) & walked out with my medication…& a 12 fluid oz. bottle of Thayers Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel Toner.

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“Retro” packaging 

That’s right – 12 fluid ounces of product. For $10.95. I had never really looked up the price tag on this, but when I got to the aisle at Target, I’m 99% sure I audibly gasped. The bottle was so big; there was so much product, & it was so cheap. Lucky for me, Lavender was the only option left – all of the other choices were gone. I was happy as a clam.

That evening, I skipped my usual Mario Badescu spray & put a few drops of the Thayers Lavender toner onto a cotton square – probably 4-5 drops in total. No need to worry about spilling product; this bottle has some kind of a squeeze cap that ensures that if your bottle does happen to tip over while the cap is open…not much product will be wasted. It’s like a little babyproof gate, except for a toner bottle. This was much appreciated by me; I’m always worried about forget to close a lid on a product & spilling it later if I bump into it by accident (I’m getting better). The product was easy to dispense, had that soothing smell of lavender that I love so dearly. Now: time to talk about what it’s supposed to do, what it did for me, & how I feel about it after about a month’s use.

There are quite a few different versions of Thayers toner: Rose Petal, Lavender, Aloe, Lemon, Mint…& a few more, too. While these versions may differ slightly from one another, they’re all built on the witch hazel base formula, as the name might suggest.

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The witch hazel used in this toner is extracted from the bark of the witch hazel plant. This extract contains natural tannins, which help remove excess oil from the face without stripping it of all its healthy moisture. They reduce inflammation & irritation, which calms breakouts & prevents future ones. They balance the natural pH levels of the skin – again, resulting in calmer, more balanced skin in general. It’s also an antioxidant; it also brightens & tightens the skin because of this.

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The signature red cap

The Thayers witch hazel formula is not distilled. That means that it contains 195% more tannins, according to Thayers’ own website. This, in turn, means that the product works more effectively & does a better job overall. Witch hazel works for oily skin because it removes extra dirt/other impurities; it’s good for combo skin because it keeps the dry patches balanced while (again) removing extra impurities from other areas. As a sensitive/dry skin type, I can assure you it works well for both dry & sensitive skin types, too – even both at once (like me)!

Okay – so what do I think?

Well – I think that it’s incredible. I feel stupid for not having bought this sooner – especially since it is almost infuriatingly good & cheap to beat. My skin looks brighter & clearer, but it’s not any drier than it was when I was using mist toners. The lavender version is incredibly soothing, & I love the scent. It fades within a few moments, but it gives you that calm, essential-oils vibe while gently swiping it all over the face.

Like I said, I use 4-5 drops on a cotton square. That’s right, a square, not a round or a pad. That might sound high-&-mighty – but for me at least, cotton squares are fluffier & lighter in texture than that of a round or a pad. They’re more soothing, they feel more luxurious & they are just as cheap (sometimes chaper) than rounds or pads. I buy mine from the drugstore for about $3 (for 100 or so, I believe) – but if you want to feel super fancy, Shiseido’s cotton is famously good & not ridiculously expensive. It’s a nice little “treat yourself” kind of thing you can pick up in Sephora’s checkout line.

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Clear & concise directions on the back – big plus

All-in-all? An incredible experience. I’m mad I didn’t try this sooner; I’m glad I started using it. I don’t feel the need to return to more expensive products when this big, cheap, effective bottle is right there in my top shelf. No guilt needed, especially when the product is good, is packaged prettily (come on, you know it too!) & smells like lavender (if you’re like me & like lavender).

I’m interested in trying out some of the others – particularly Lemon & Rose Petal – but I don’t think I’ll need to worry about replacing my current Thayers toner any time soon. The 12 ounces of product doesn’t sound that big of a deal – until you pick it up, realize how heavy it is, & realize that using 4-5 drops twice a day will last you essentially an eternity.

I’m not complaining, though. The Lavender toner is just right for me – it’s one of my favorite scents, it exfoliates, brightens, hydrates, balances, & tightens. All for $10.95. 10/10. I’m sorry I didn’t commit sooner, Thayers. Hope you can forgive me.

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My cheap & effective toner snuggling with my cheap & effective extra soft cotton squares

Thayer’s has announced that a spritzer toner (same formula) will be available soon – that’s good news for all of you who prefer to spray to tone as opposed to using a cotton pad. It’ll be out soon – not sure if I’ll try it, because this is doing the job very well. We’ll see!

Are there any others out there who haven’t tried the Thayers line yet? If so, I won’t shame you – but I will encourage you to try it. If you have tried it, I’d love to hear your favorite version if you’ve tried several – especially if you have dry/sensitive skin like me.

Long live the simultaneously incredible & incredibly cheap products like this one!

Love,

Sof ❤

It Smells Like…You: Let’s Look At Glossier You: A (Relatively) Affordable, Brand-New Fragrance

Glossier’s been making big steps in 2017 – let’s call them strides, actually. Because here we are: another month, another Glossier product. This one is a brand-new thing to Glossier – it’s kind of like Body Hero, in that way. Glossier hadn’t ever released body products before their Body Hero Duo; Glossier You is the company’s first fragrance. & people are getting excited.

Anyways. Glossier hasn’t really been talking much about the fragrance that was up-&-coming for a while; they’ve only recently started seriously introducing the fragrance on their Instagram page, as well as Into the Gloss. But – if you’re a Vogue subscriber (or you just read their online articles) you may have seen this article, which is an interview with Emily Weiss (Glossier CEO). It included a little photo of a pink vial, captioned: “The new perfume, Glossier You—a subtle take on musk and iris that launches at the end of next month—stays true to the brand’s ethos of individualism.”

The photo & description come from a whole article on Vogue.com, titled “Emily Weiss on What a Glossier Girl Smells Like and Building a Cool Girl Empire

The article is just as mysterious as the subtle hints Glossier’s been dropping; enough context for me to form some kind of idea of what the fragrance might smell of…but not enough that the game was up. Well played, I suppose?

In Vogue’s article, writer Kate Branch tells: “Weiss is also about to reveal her first-ever fragrance, a subtle scent with equal parts powder and musk and the zing of fresh-cut iris.”

Not going to lie – that was pretty exciting. It sounds odd, but I like musky fragrances. To me, they add a bit of ambiguity that I like in fragrance. Add some flowers – but not your run-of-the-mill rose or lily – & boom, I’ll probably like it. I don’t mind a bit of powder, either – I was a bit worried about that, though. Like super sweet or super floral fragrances, I sneeze almost immediately if a fragrance is too powdery. My favorite fragrances tend to be quite “gender-neutral” & light. YSL Black Opium perfume is my one exception – it’s amazing, but most certainly  a night fragrance. It feels a bit weird wearing it in daylight. I love it to death, but it’s most definitely a night-time fragrance; it can get quite heavy. I don’t like overly sweet or fruity scents; they make my nose tickle. To sum it up: I like fresh, soft, neutral fragrances that will adjust to the heat of my skin & be unique enough for me to call it my “signature” scent.

Weiss said in the same interview that Glossier You was supposed to smell like “your boyfriend’s neck after he has been wearing cologne for eight hours.”

That was….a bit of a turn-off for me. I don’t like the smell of cologne; not on men, not on anyone, in fact. I find them too heavy. I didn’t really want to smell like a man’s neck – I wish it had been described in a more appealing way, because it definitely is more appealing, & most certainly doesn’t smell like a man’s neck after a work day, which – let’s be honest – doesn’t sound that great. I decided to keep my hopes up, & ordered a refill of my Priming Moisturizer Rich, clicking “add sample” at checkout to get my mini perfume.

We didn’t really get much more information about the fragrance’s “notes” “undertones” etc. until release day, when Glossier finally posted this info on the Glossier You page:

The ultimate personal fragrance.

You’ll find that You makes a good first impression, and lives up to it as time goes on. Each note was chosen and balanced to allow the juice to be both long-lasting and true to how it smells at the beginning, without changing as it dries down. In other words, it’s heavy on the base notes. Mostly it smells like you: that familiar human-y note that makes up the body of what you’re smelling. Creamy, sparkling, clean, warm. That’s You.

*please be advised that the formula comes incomplete; You are the first ingredient*

(listed in order of emphasis)
The three base notes melt in with your skin
_ambrette: comfy, warm
_ambrox: smooth, salty, animalistic
_musk: long-lasting, addictive

And a mix of top notes say “nice to meet you!” without overpowering the base…
_iris root: earthy, green, woody
_pink pepper: spice, sparkling

 

Okay – so launch day hit, we got the “notes” – but all of my own first impressions & attempts to describe the fragrance were based off of my own (very limited) knowlege of fragrances. Read on for beautiful photos & my final opinion on the fragrance!

Full disclosure – Glossier sent me the full-size vial, but I did not recieve it until after I recieved the sample. So no – I didn’t buy it, but I did happen to receive the trial first, & had it for about a week before the actual one was sent my way. My first impressions were based off the sample; I liked it more as the full-size. You’ll see why!

The packaging has a color scheme that’s identical – if not, than almost – to the Body Hero Duo packaging: the signature Glossier pink, with a pop of red. I like the pink & red – I hope this trend continues. It’s eye-catching & unique. I like it!

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The sample vial is teeny-tiny: .05 fl. oz. It’s free, so I’m not complaining.

When my full-size vial arrived & I tried it on, I immediately felt as though it smelled better. I’m guessing it has something to do with the head of the spray bottle. I’ll call this a good thing; I already liked the fragrance in its sample form; I like it even more in its full-size vial.

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Sample babies resting beside the parent fragrance

The full-size bottle is nestled in its protective bright red foam case; when it’s out of that, it’s a little glass bottle that’s almost transluscent…just a little hint of that Glossier pink. It has a little dent on the front of the bottle, which makes it fit perfectly in your hand. The bottle is glass. If you’re clumsy & drop things easily, but still want a nice fragrance…this is for you!

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The full-size vial of Glossier You retails for $60. You get 1.7 fl. oz. of product. A 1.6 fl. oz. is $91. That’s a big price difference.

he full-size vial, in addition to its protective red case, comes nestled inside a big pink bubble wrap pouch; the one that’s the same size as the one the Body Hero Duo comes in.

Best of all: it includes a scratch-&-sniff sticker…which smells like…you guessed it! Glossier You. It looks like this is their winter/holiday sticker, too. You can see “Winter ’16-’17” in the corner of the sticker. The fun bubble letters give a very seasonal effect, & I’ll be carrying this sticker in my bags. They’re almost like little car fresheners, except for my purse/backpack.

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Now for the tricky part. This is where I have to describe what the fragrance smells like on me. I’m not good at that, but I’ll do my best, okay?

The first thing I wondered was: “will it really be gender-neutral?” That depends on what you think constitutes a gender-neutral fragrance; I don’t think it smells particularly femenine or masculine – so I’d go with: yes, it’s gender-neural.

I spritzed a bit on my wrists & waited a few moments before actually taking a whiff. The best way I can describe this (if we’re talking about other fragrances) is that it very much reminds me of the Margiela Replica fragrance line – they got a lot of hype this past summer for their Beach Walk fragrance; my personal favorite from that line is Lazy Sunday Morning, which also happens to be a bit powdery.

If I were to compare Glossier You to another fragrance, I’d say it’s very similar to Lazy Sunday Morning by Margiela, & Not A Perfume by Juliette Has A Gun. It just has an extra little zing to it. I’m guessing that’s from the combination of iris & musk. I like the “zing” – it’s something that I’d be comfortable wearing during the day or for going out at night.

Not A Perfume is made up of only one ingredient, which adjusts to your skin’s temperature, making it smell different on everyone. I tested it out on my willing family members & found that to be true. In that sense, I’d say that the effect you get with Not A Perfume is carried out in a similar manner with Glossier You, except Glossier You is half as cheap, & smells a bit different.

The other fragrance is a rollerball of Margiela Replica Lazy Sunday Morning Fragrance. I really like the scent of Lazy Sunday Morning & find it somewhat similar to GLosiser you, but I find that it fades quicker than Glossier You. That’s fine; not everyone likes their fragrances to be very noticeable…but if you’re looking for something a bit longer-lasting & not too different from fresher fragrances such as the Margielas, this is a great option.

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Three pretty, go-to fragrances – but when Not A Perfume runs out, I’ll be holding on to Glossier You & Black Opium & gently let my friend Juliette go

It lasts a good many hours, & the scent changes as the fragrance continues to wear, which I really like. It doesn’t ever tickle my nose…it just gives me a slight whiff of that zingy, fresh scent if I move my wrist suddenly. It’s something that follows you around, but not in an annoying, overwhelming way. It’s also a fragrance that adjusts & changes as the day progresses – which I really like.

Will I purchase this myself?

Yes – & here’s why:

  • It’s about half as cheap as a Margiela fragrance, & it has a very similar vibe to the Replica fragrances in general. I’ve never been able to afford a full-size Margiela Replica, & had no wish to (rollerballs are fine!) but it’s nice that I can get a different fragrance by a different brand that smells similar enough to fall under that category of fragrance I love so much – for so much less money. That’s amazing. No – $60 is not “cheap,” by any means. It does, however, set a nice bar for “middle-end” fragrances. Fragrances don’t need to be replaced too often, but even when I do run out of this one, I know I won’t be wincing when I click “confirm order.”
  • I’m always looking for fresh, unique scents. This one is both of those things.
  • It doesn’t, in fact, smell like any boyfriend’s cologne-y neck. I think that is a good thing (sorry, Emily).

Seriously, though – let’s wrap this up & make it very simple:

If you’re looking for an elegantly packaged fragrance, one that has a personal, unique scent, & one that won’t break the bank, you’ve found it here. It’s called Glossier You. & I’ll be phasing out my other fragrances (except for YSL Black Opium; she has my heart) & keep on going with this one.

I smell fancy without paying a ridiculous amount of money. How cool is that, right? Truly a perfume for our generation: gender-neutral, unique, & affordable, so it won’t keep you from paying off your student debt.

If you’re unsure about this still – by all means, get a sample before you commit! You can do that right here.

Glossier You samples have been offered for a minute now – have any of you recieved one in your latest Glossier order? If so, what are your thoughts? Will you/have you bought full-size, or will you just use this little sample until it’s gone? Either way, I’m curious to hear your opinions!

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No matter your decision – here’s to smelling good.

Love,

Sof ❤

“Pubic Hair Oil – Excuse Me Now?” Just Hear Me Through!

Shhh.

Just – shhh. I know what you might be thinking. Hear me out before you start talking again.

Pubic hair oil? Sounds gross? Well…it shouldn’t! Not if you take proper care of yours, that is (however little or much you may have).

Sounds familiar? It should! Fur Oil has a lot of hype on social media & has been featured in various magazines, interviews, & even videos like Buzzfeed’s famous “Ladylike” (watch them test out Fur for a week here)

Alright, now that we’ve stopped laughing about pubic hair, let’s talk a little bit about Fur Oil & what it actually does.

First off, this product is 100% organic – which is good. Organic is good as a general rule but is even better when it’s going near your sensitive nether regions.

The key ingredients in Fur Oil are grape seed & jojoba oils (dry oils that contain Vitamin A & E to soften/condition hair); tea tree oil (clarifying: it helps clear pores which minimizes ingrown hairs); & clary sage seed oil (healing properties that will soothe & reduce inflammation for healthier skin over time).

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According to Fur’s website, “Fur Oil’s unique blend of lightweight oils softens pubic hair and clears pores for fewer ingrowns and healthier skin. The 100% natural formula can be used as frequently as desired to enhance pubic hair and skin, and is also suitable for use on the face and body.” It is suggested you use it once daily as part of your regimen (ideally after showering).

Did you notice “suitable for use on the face & body?” Yup! Fur Oil is 100% organic, contains no dyes, artificial fragrances, parabens, silicone, & is not tested on animals – I think it’s safe to say that this can absolutely be used on other areas of the body as well. Fur says “also great for legs, underarms, chest, beard, and anywhere hair meets skin.”

Does using Fur Oil mean that you have to go happy hippy & shave absolutely nothing? Ever again? No, of course not. Let me explain my primary reason for being so interested in Fur Oil: ingrown hairs.

Ingrown hairs can be a mild inconvienience. They can also be a big pain in the ass – or a big painful infection, depending on how healthy (or unhealthy) you are. As an immunosuppressed person, I have to take extra care to use clean, new razors, disinfect things like tweezers & nail clippers, &, yes, watch out for ingrown hairs – whether they’re under my brows, on my legs, or under my arms. Or elsewhere.

You get my point, though! Sure, you can use Fur Oil as a conditioner/moisturizer for your body hair. You can also use it after shaving – to prevent ingrown hairs & inflammation. Like Fur claims, this truly is a multi-purpose oil.

$44 for 2.5 fl. oz. Cheap? No. But the product will last you 6 months, according to the site. It’s cruelty-free, approved by dermatologists & gynecologists. So far, so good. I’ve been doing what Emma Watson recommends [in her interview with Into the Gloss]: “I’ll use that anywhere from the ends of my hair to my eyebrows to my pubic hair. It’s an amazing all-purpose product.”

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So – oil for your pubic hair? Sure! You’ll be softer, shinier, less irritated.

Oil for your eyebrows? Yup! Again – softer, shinier, less irritated.

Or, try using it under your arms after shaving (before deodorant). Your ingrown hairs will be gone, & your tired, tired skin will thank you. Trust me.

Plus – yeah, I’ll say it – the bottle looks amazing on my windowsill. & yes…it is very Instagrammable. You can’t say that for a lot of pubic hair products out there on the market, can you?

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2017 – the year of putting your personal grooming products right next to your candles & decorative soaps

Have you used Fur Oil before/have you been thinking of giving it a go? Feel free to leave your experiences in the comments below!

Love,

Sof ❤

#I’mWearing: How I Did This Look

It all started with an Instagram live. I’d just gotten some new makeup & was fooling around with old things, so I decided to go on live & do a look that people wanted to see.

This ended in my friends encouraging (aka: yelling in caps) & teaching me how to actually contour – & giving suggestions that turned out to be one of the most fun looks I’ve done in forever.

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The completed #look

Let’s be clear; we all know my makeup style. That’s extremely light-handed face makeup (cc cream etc), some good highlight, & a pretty lip or eye. I don’t really go all out; I’ve never been into cut creases (they look odd on me) & the whole Instagram-style makeup doesn’t appeal to me – which means that I don’t enjoy contouring my cheekbones & highlighting/setting my undereyes with concealer then powder.

Basically – I don’t like a full face of makeup, & I usually only wear a complete one when I have an important event. Other times, I just feel like it. This was one of those times.

I started my look pretty simple, but once I pulled out the Fenty Beauty Killawatt Highlighter in Trophy Wife, everyone got a little bit excited – including me. This ended up in a glitter moustache on my cupid’s bow, super defined cheekbones, delicate, glossy lips, & a simple eye look that just boosted the green – my actual eye color. 

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Is this over the top? Absolutely. It’d look beautifully hilarious in the day time. But – in that moment, I felt like I was about to step on a runway for fashion week. I definitely would wear it for a fancy night out. Or…who knows! Maybe one day I’ll change my mind & wear it in the day time. Who cares what people think, right?

After I posted a few photos of my completed look, I got some people asking what I used on my face. So – with no further ado, here are the products I used to get the finished look. Mini reviews & photos included, of course. Side note: I usually love “photographing” (I use my iPhone) in direct sunlight. Golden hour is my favorite time of the day. Still – I decided to go a bit different this time. This is a very “lux” look, & everything looks shinier & more lux with some flash, surrounded by fluffy fleece. Okay. Let’s do this!

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The full line-up (with some pretty decorations)

Okay, this looks like a lot – but once I start breaking it down, I think you’ll find it quite simple. This doesn’t require a steady hand & it most certainly doesn’t require perfection. My brows are messy in the close-up of my eye. Who cares? It still is a beautiful look. Plus – I secretly love undone brows, anyway.

Primer

I actually didn’t use a primer that day. I was wearing my moisturizer that I’d applied in the morning. That was the Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre ; if you want more information on that product, it’s right here in my September Favorites post. If you don’t have the time or desire, though, here’s a bit of a rundown: it’s very similar to the Glossier Priming Moisturizer (original) but the packaging claims that it’s a leave-on mask, a makeup primer, & a moisturizer. I figured I’d be just fine using this base. I was right!

Face Makeup

I still wanted to keep my face looking natural. My skin was quite clear that day, so I didn’t even really feel like using a CC cream for coverage; that’s when I turned to the CLĒ Cosmetics Essence Air Cushion.

This is one of my favorite face makeup products of all time!!! 1) it has an amazing amount of sun protection 2) it is sheer but buildable; it makes it easy to simultaneously look natural yet have some coverage 3) it is incredibly dewy – not in a sweaty, greasy way; just a from-within glow that looks beautiful. I use it in the shade Light, which is the lightest shade. It looks a lot darker in the “pan” (cushion) than it does on the face; that’s because the pigment of the cushion is fully saturated when in its case.

It comes with a tiny applicator sponge-like contraption, which is cute, fits inside the compact, & relatively easy to use – but I wasn’t getting the exact finish I wanted when I initially used it, so I decided to try my well-trusted foundation brush on the product: that’s the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush. It was the first foundation brush I owned, & it is still doing its fair share of work. I make sure to clean it often (obviously) but this is truly one of the sturdiest brushes I’ve ever owned. It’s less than $10, you can find it at any ULTA Beauty (& lots of drugstores, too) & I promise you that it’ll last you for a long time & a good time.

How do I use this brush while applying the Essence Air Cushion? I just open the compact, remove the applicator from the compact, & gently press my brush into the sponge. I buff some into my skin, then repeat until I get the coverage/finish I’m looking for that day. Easy as pie!

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A trusty pair of friends
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Though it looks much darker in the pan, this is closer to what the Essence Air Cushion looks like on the face

Contour

never contour. Ever. I don’t think I’m good at it, & I don’t think it looks good on me. This one time, however, I was convinced. I had one bronzer lying around; it was the Milk Makeup Matte Bronzer in Baked. I decided to go for it, & (with guidance) lightly drew that famous “3 shape” on the sides of my face & on my jawline.

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The highlight is a cream stick, so it melts very nicely into the skin. Milk claims that their “Milk Makeup Milk Melt Technology” is what makes the contour stick so creamy & blendable – but not greasy. That’s their “secret” ingredient; some other main ingredients are mango, peach, & avocado extracts – these are all hydrating & nourishing fruits, so I can see why they were used in a product like this.

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I used my Real Techniques brush – the same one I used for my Essence Air Cushion – to blend everything out. The result? Surprisingly amazing. It amped up the glam just a little – I didn’t even use that much – & made my cheekbones pop, which is perfect for a situation in which you’re trying to make your highlight stand out as much as possible.

Milk Makeup also has a darker Matte Broner shade, called Blaze – described as “a deep bronze.” Although I’m very fair, this contour is definitely buildable. I can see this being used for fair to medium skintones. I’m glad Milk Makeup came out with a second option for deeper skin. The shade Baked will not be an option for everyone, due to the pure nature of contouring , but I can’t say anything about it – I haven’t spotted it in store at Sephora, so I haven’t gotten the chance to even swatch it. I can’t say for sure.

I still won’t contour on the regular, but if I ever feel like doing it for a special occasion, now I know how – & the product I happened to have worked perfectly.

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I did a bit of spot-concealing with the Tarte Shape Tape Concealer in Light; that was really about it. On to the more exciting parts.

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I’m happy – I promise 

Eyes

I primed my eyelids with Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer Potion – just the original one. I didn’t feel compelled to photograph that because…well, everyone’s seen it, & it doesn’t look particularly interesting. It’s a good primer; the only eye one I’ve been able to use without my eyelids feeling dry/getting patchy eye makeup by the end I finish my look.

After I primed, I went into the palette I knew I would be using – the Tarte Tartelette In Bloom Clay Eyeshadow Palette. This is a really nice palette for everyone to have, in my opinion. There are 12 shadows; 10 are matte, two are shimmer. It’s a great palette to use when you want something simple but multi-demensional. All of the mattes work amazingly well by themselves; they also work with each other very well. The shimmer ones are lovely, but the mattes are what makes this palette so good.

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I started off by lightly dusting some of the lightest shadow, called Charmer, all around my eye area. This set the primer I’d applied & was a precaution to make sure everything would stay smooth & even.

After evening out my eye area, I softly buffed Sweetheart & Rebel onto my lid & blended it up into my crease. I added a bit of dimension by lightly tapping the shimmery shade Firecracker (described as “a bronze copper”) on the lid area, too. I went on my lower lashline with Sweetheart & Rebel as well. Finally, I deepened the look a tiny bit more by blending the dark shades Smoke Show & Activist together, then gently buffing it into the outer corner of my eyelid, dragging it down to give an eyeliner effect on my lower lash line. This was the perfect amount of smoky for me – I already knew that my highlight would be very over-the-top, but I tried my best to make a simple yet smoldering look that would compliment my highlight – not out-shine it.

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Finally, I used one of my newest products: Fenty Beauty Match Stix Shimmer Skinstick in Blonde, described as a “glimmering gold.” If you want some more details on the consistency of the product, check out my Fenty Beauty review here – otherwise, let’s talk about how I used it for this particular look.

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I rubbed some of the stick onto the back of my hand, then gently but firmly pressed it into the top of my eyelids & in the inner corners of my eyes (there was something else under that, but I’ll get to it in a minute). The result? Glimmering, extremely intense eyes that weren’t over the top on the smokinesss – but perfect with the amount of glitter. The Blonde Skinstick was then set aside, & Trophy Wife herself came out to play – also on the eyelids & the inner corners. Best of all: I used it as an under-eye eyeliner. I’ve seen some people using it as a pigment – blending a little of the powder with some face gloss & using it as an eyeliner – but I’m not that talented, so I just ran it under my lower lash line with a tiny, tiny pencil brush.

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Staring at myself (& my beautiful highlight compact)

I finished off with the L’Oreal Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara – it’s one I heard a lot of hype for. Some told me it was a dupe for Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara; others swore that it was a dupe for Dior Diorshow Mascara. I was curious when I heard the Diorshow Mascara being mentioned; it’s my holy grail mascara & I wanted to know – would L’Oreal deliver?

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It definitely looks like the Better Than Sex packaging

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My full thoughts you can read here in my September favorites – but my quick review is that it’s good, but not amazing. I still think Diorshow sits way higher – which is good, because it’s a lot more expensive! I’d call this a combination of Diorshow & Lancôme Monsieur Big Mascara (which I love). I don’t love this – but I don’t hate it. It looks good, it’s available practically everywhere, & it’s cheap.

I curled my lashes with my Kevyn Aucoin The Eyelash Curler; if I do wear mascara, I’ll always curl my lashes. This one is gentle, doesn’t tug on my lashes, & I don’t worry my lashes will be cut off every time I use it. Obviously, the wand of the curler can be used as any normal one; it can also be used upside down to curl your bottom lashes, which is unique – never used it like that, but again, never say never.

The result? Over-the-top perfection.

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Just checking on the state of my eyes

Finally, I used Glossier Boy Brow in Clear; as you can see, my brows are thick & messy right now. I’m okay with that – don’t get me wrong! But if I were to put Boy Brow in Brown on my brows right now, it would probably look too much; they’re already dark enough. The clear boy brow gives that same fluffy feel that keeps everything in place (yet doesn’t feel crunchy or stiff) & the consistency while applying is the same, too. Can’t recommend this enough for people with thick, dark brows who want just a bit of help with keeping brows in place!

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A better look at the satiny look of the product. It’s true, the bronzer is matte – there’s no glitter or shimmer to be seen – but it’s so creamy that it’s hard to call it matte. It doesn’t slide around, though. Don’t worry

Highlight

The true fun part of this look; the part I enjoyed most!

My highlighting hack is: if you truly want to have a blinding highlight that doesn’t fade, feels creamy yet stays on firmly, you need to first apply a liquid/cream, then a powder highlight. & that is exactly what I did for this look.

I started off with CLĒ Cosmetics Essence Moonlighter Cushion in the shade Gleaming Buff; it’s a gorgeous gold-toned shade that isn’t too dark – but is not too light, either (check out the swatches in my review here). Although it comes in a cushion, it definitely behaves as a liquid or cream highlighter would. This is beautiful by itself; it’s even more beautiful when I want an intense strobing effect. My “secret” (I am 99% sure it’s not a secret) is to first apply a cream or liquid highlight, then layer a powder over. That’s what I did for this look – but we’ll get to the powder in a minute.

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The Essence Moonlighter Cushion looks just like the Essence Air Cushion; it’s just a bit lighter & less chunky in your hand
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I know – it looks like a bronzer in the pan. Don’t worry. Like I mentioned, this is just a super concenterated sponge & the product is sheer! (Swatches)

The Essence Air cushion comes with an applicator just like this one – only bigger – & I don’t use that applicator for that product. Like I showed you above, I dip my brush into the cushion. I have found that these are best applied using the cushion CLĒ includes in the compact. It’s smaller, so you can easily move in a C-shape, from cheekbones to upper temple. You won’t miss any spots, but you won’t mess anything up, either – the applicator just works very well for this!

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This highlight has enough gold in it to flatter the golden look I was going for; that also means that it’ll work very nicely on warmer undertoned complexions. Since the product is so sheer, I think that these could be used on all skin tones. Sheer but buildable, golden but not too golden, hydrating, & elegant.

HERE SHE IS! The famous: Fenty Beauty Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Trophy Wife.

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I know it’s with the flash on, but trust me: this is just as beautiful in person as it is on camera. Yes – I was worried it would look dirty on me; in my review here you’ll see that’s not the case, & it fits very well with the Moonlighter Cushion; it built upon the highlight “base” that the CLĒ product provided, then finished me off with a glamorous, glittery (yes, it is glittery) highlight. It felt (& looked) amazing. Of course, I also applied this on my inner corners of my eyes, tip of my nose, chin, etc. I used the Glossier Wowder Brush – I really like this brush…even more than the powder! It’s fluffy, it’s sturdy, & no bristles have fallen out since I started using it. I’ve used it for the Glossier Wowder itself (of course) but it works beautifully as a highlight brush – especially for a look like this, where I really spread my highlight up my temple. Perfect.

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Glitter in my hair, too – honestly…good!

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Now – obviously, this isn’t an every day look. I wouldn’t put this much work into a quick outing to the grocery story – I was just having fun & seeing what I could do with Trophy Wife (as well as the other Fenty Beauty products I have). Trust me: it does a lot. I’m not even finished yet!

Lips 

For my lips, I used just a touch of MAC Spice Lip Pencil in Spice, which I’ve had for over a year now. It’s still not run out! That’s why it won’t be pictured – it’s too ugly (& well-loved) to photograph gracefully.

Then, I finished off with the Fenty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer – of course! How could I not?

“Universal lip luminizer” is code for lip gloss – & I’ve been wearing this gloss a lot. I think it’s incredible. It manages to look not only amazing, both in the tube & on the lips – but amazingly different on every single person I’ve seen wearing it.

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In the tube, it fits the description very well: “a shimmering rose nude.” The doe-foot applicator is nicely shaped & holds a lot of product; I only need to swipe once or twice – never needed to dip my wand back in for more. It smells amazing – very fruity, but in a nice way; it’s not “chemical-smelling” & it fades gracefully, too. For those worried about it being scented: don’t be! It fades quickly, I haven’t seen anyone say it’s unpleasant (although if you’re allergic to scents, that’s another story) & the effect you get is well worth whatever you may perceieve the scent to be – I’m lucky, & I like the scent as well as the gloss! Win win.

It’s extremely hydrating, not too glittery – you get enough of sparkle to make your lips pop but not enough to make individual pieces of glitter stand out. It does not claim to have a plumping effect, but I don’t ever overline my lips, & this gloss looked like it was plumping my lips. No sting or burn like a Buxom Lip Cream (for a comparison) – just a pretty enhancement to my natural lips.

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Then, just for fun – because why not! – I went ham on my cupid’s bow; I used my very thin pencil brush to outline the dip of my cupid’s bow, then slightly extended the line down my lip line. The result was a powerful cupid’s bow highlight (obviously) & lended a sort of “editorial” or “high fashion” vibe to the look. I loved it. It felt super fancy! Even though I wasn’t going somewhere, it was a fun thing to do & a good idea to try; I might very well go out like this some time soon.

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The finished look!

&…that’s all, folks! Although it looks very fancy, I didn’t need much to make it happen – I had a dramatic highlight, decided to make that the focal point of my “look” – & yes, I contoured, & I didn’t die. I actually looked kind of okay!

  • Top – Urban Outfitters
  • Earrings – Maria Black Jewelry 
  • Necklace(s) – Ventrone Chronicles 

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Would you like to see me do some other looks? Feel free to pop in your requests – I like going out of my comfort zone from time to time. In the meantime, here’s a gif of me looking like an alien, thanks to Kirakira+

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Shout what you’d like to see next below!

Love,

Sof ❤

Have Highlighters Leveled Up? A Look At “Cushion Highlights”

Cushion….highlight?

We’ve heard all the hype (& seen all the YouTube ads) about cushion foundations; more specifically: L’Oréal’s LumiCushion Foundation. Big beauty sights like Into the Gloss & Byrdie, as well as publications like Allure – famous for their “Best Of Beauty” – raved about the product. Cushion foundations were in, it seemed.

When I first heard about cushion foundations, I was confused – & a bit disgusted. It seemed as though it would be dirty. It’s not – not any more than applying with a brush or fingers – but that was my first impression. I never really got around to trying one, since I wasn’t on board with the whole idea. I didn’t use any kind of cushion product until I tried CLĒ Cosmetic’s Essence Air Cushion (which I love). That definitely converted me! I do believe it has something to do with the dewy, sheer-to-buildable coverage it gives (love some dew). Not every cushion foundation is like this. Plus – the CLĒ one isn’t really a foundation; it’s more like a CC cream (hello SPF!) made into a cushion formula.

CLĒ Cosmetics certainly didn’t come up with the idea of cushion foundations/face makeup products. However – once they started teasing their Fall 2017 collection on Instagram, I started to wonder if they had concocted something never seen before. What was that?

Essence Moonlighter Cushions – $30 

It was clear from swatches on Instagram stories that this product was a highlight; the product’s name makes it quite clear, too. I was extremely intrigued – CLĒ is one of my favorite brands when we’re talking face products, since all their products have a dewy finish + plenty of SPF – both very welcome on my face!

So – since I liked the Essence Air Cushion so much…would I like the Moonlighter Cushion just as much? I waited in excitement for the collection to drop – & was won over by a lip powder in Plum Medium. Then, CLĒ was kind (WONDERFUL!) enough to send me two shades they thought would be friendly for my skin tone.

Here I am today, with some results – & photos – for you! Let’s get to it.

When I realized that the Moonlighter Cushion would be in a…cushion form, I immediately Googled “highlighter cushion.” I only came up with one (aside from various random Amazon ones that are mostly sold out) & that was Wet & Wild’s MegaCushion Highlight – which looks amazing, but is marked “LIMITED EDITION!” It won’t be here for a long time.

So! These Moonlighter Cushions are a kind of niche product; something different that really hasn’t been talked about much – ever. Is CLĒ a few steps ahead of the game? It’s very possible – after swatching (& wearing) the cushions, I’m a fan.

What exactly is a Moonlighter Cushion? In CLĒ’s words, it “provides a lustrous shine equivalent to that of moonlight glistening on water. Infused with soothing and nourishing ingredients such as calamine, pearl extract, and moisturizing essence, our Moonlighter Cushion highlights desired areas with a silky smooth and illuminating finish.”

Let me just start off by saying that if any product has a gem extract in it, I immediately must have it (prime example: Glossier’s precious-stone highlights: Haloscope). CLĒ’s product description brings the expectations to a whole new level. “Moonlight glistening on water” is pretty specific, after all.

To me, this sounded a bit like Glossier Haloscope – just in a cushion formula. Both have gemstone extracts; both are hydrating & meant to improve skin during its wear time; both have that natural-except-a-little-more-please sheen to them. If we’re talking formulas – absolutely 100% difference, of course. But the sheen that the Moonlighter Cushions gave on swatches (& on my cheeks) was very similar to that of Glossier’s Haloscope.

I like this kind of highlight, because it’s multi-purpose. First of all, it can be used by itself for a quick way to amp up a 5-minute face. Due to its creamy texture, it can be set with a powder highlight – that’s what I do when I want my cheekbones to truly blind people.

How to apply this Moonlighter Cushion, though? Glossier’s is in a stick, so it’s pretty obvious how to put that on – just swipe! Surprisingly, CLĒ’s instructions aren’t that different. There’s a little applicator that comes in the cushion: “Use the applicator puff provided, fingertips, or makeup brush and apply the cushion highlighter to the high points of the face— cheekbones, above the brow area, tip of the nose, forehead, and chin, or use on eyelids or lips for added glow. Blend gently for a smooth, luminous finish.”

Essentially – we’re given free reign! I would say this goes along with the other CLĒ products I’ve tried. Their lip powders can be used on the eyelids as a dramatic shadow – as well as on the cheeks for a blush stain. Their CCC Cream can be worn alone – or combined with several products. I personally like to use the Essence Air Cushion using a foundation brush instead of the applicator. The finish is still flawless – the product is great, no matter how you apply it. I’m always pleased to see brands giving their customers more free reign with the product. Sometimes, someone can’t afford the special brush that the product simply will not work without! That’s not CLĒ’s style. All of the CLĒ products I’ve used have been used in a multi-purpose way; I figured it’d be the same with these.

I recieved two shades: Glinting Buff & Apricot Tinge. They both looked quite dark in the cushion – way darker than a foundation for me, let alone a highlight! I didn’t panic, though – the Essence Air Cushion behaves in a similar way. I assume this is because all of the product is saturated in that one small sponge.

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Right away, I noticed that the compacts were very sturdy; they’re just a tiny bit smaller/shorter than the Essence Air Cushion compacts. They also have a built-in mirror – as well as the applicator sponge!

FullSizeRender.jpg-40IMG_4276.JPGTo call these highlighters “travel-friendly” is an understatement. For those who prefer cream highlights to powders, but don’t like flying with liquids: this is a great option. & for all of those at home: this is a great option. It’s just a good product, period. But we’ll get to that in a moment. First: shades.

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Glinting Buff & Apricot Tinge 

Glinting Buff

I’d describe Glinting Buff as a soft gold with a pearly shift. I think it’ll be pretty universal – it’s quite gold, which is almost always a great go-to for medium-deep skin tones. The pearly, neutral-cool undertone makes it friendly for fairer skin, too. I’ll be wearing this one by itself – &, when I want to amp things up, I’ll dust a little of Fenty Beauty’s Trophy Wife Killawatt on top. Just because!

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Extremely dark in the sponge, as you can see – just a glowy pale gold when swatched or patted on to the cheekbones

This isn’t usually my go-to highlight shade, because most gold-based highlights are too dark for my skin. This one, however, is sheer to buildable. I can have a slight hint of golden glow with a light hand; a glittery gold cheekbone with a heavy one.

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Tiiiiinnyyy sparkles – that’s what makes this so friendly for your work day as well as your night-time fun. It’s glowy enough with a sheer layer; it can really catch some eyes when built up

This one I won’t be wearing quite as often as Apricot Tinge (you’ll see why in a minute) but if you have cool undertones & struggle to find a golden highlight that doesn’t look odd (no matter what skin tone you are) this is a great option. It’s neutral yet theatrical; you get to choose how much to put on; you get to choose how much to build. It’s for the timid & the bold! Seriously, though – it’s very versatile. Golden enough for people with warmer undertones to feel comfortable wearing it; pearly enough for people with cooler undertones to feel comfortable wearing it. No matter how you wear it, you’ll have fun with it.

Apricot Tinge 

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Concentrated pigment – again! Notice the pink sheen & a few white reflects

I’d describe Apricot Tinge as a pearly-pink champagne. It has pink undertones for sure! It’s the kind of highlight I automatically reach for. My fair skin likes pink or cool-toned highlights the best – okay, Fenty Trophy Wife is an exception. Still – I reach more often for the pink/cool highlights as a general rule, just because I am 99% sure I will prefer that one to another shade option.

Back to the actual point of this post! Apricot Tinge is basically a very nice, dewy, pearly highlight that can gently be built up to a stronger one.

On days when I feel like doing a dramatic makeup “thing,” I’ll layer a cream highlight with a powder highlight on top – to catch every ray of light bouncing off my cheekbones BAM! An android-like glow that somehow is appropriate for a daily look. I feel like Apricot Tinge would be amazing for that kind of look; it would serve as a cream-like product, yet set differently. It also looks beautiful by itself. I’m a fan – but I already knew that going in, because 1) CLĒ Cosmetics hasn’t let me down yet 2) it’s just a very “me” shade, you know? Yeah! Here’s some side by side swatches:

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Glinting Buff on the left; Apricot Tinge on the right. Each swatch was one swipe!
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A different angle – feels like cream; sets down beautifully into a product that could be (from this swatch, at least) either a stick highlight or a powder

Sensation of applying the product? I’d compare it to applying a cushion foundation product. It felt similar to CLĒ’s Essence Air Cushions: cool on the skin when first applied with a hydrating consistency that lasts. I’d even say it stayed on longer than Glossier’s Haloscope. The cream-liquid product is hydrating, but the way it sets into your skin is much more…user-friendly, if you will. It doesn’t feel drying, but it stays put once it’s been patted into place. It does fade, of course, but it fades gracefully. I couldn’t see any patchiness, even after a day of wear.

Don’t feel afraid to experiment with these – they’re very fun to play with! Dip a brush into one! Use your included applicator! Use your fingertips! However you use it, it’ll end up looking good – & glowy.

I don’t know anyone with oily skin who’s tried this product yet (these didn’t launch that long ago), but as someone with dry skin, I can certainly say it’s hydrating enough. At the same time, the Moonlighter Cushions set very well onto my skin. The glow moves with my skin, but it stays where it’s supposed to. That – to me – is a sign that it wouldn’t slide off oily skin. Also remember: CLĒ has some great “Lip Powders” – pigmented powder inside a little tube that melts when in contact of body heat, & leaves a long-lasting color. Their experience with this kind of powder product is further proof that this is friendly for all skin types!

I can say with no hesitation that Moonlight Cushion will become a product used very often. It feels good on my skin, it lasts all day, it illuminates my face but doesn’t emphasize texture. It can be used on the eyelids or brow bones, the nose, the cupid’s bow…basically, it’s an amazing cream highlight that isn’t quite a cream. Neither is it a powder. Do we need a name? Call it what you like! I’m calling it “amazing” because that’s what I said after I first swatched then wore the two shades I was sent.

CLĒ’s Moonlighter Cushion comes in one more shade: Copper Rose. If you go on CLĒ’s Instagram, you’ll see swatches; it’s a beautiful sheer, pink highlight. It’s quite pink – I like that, because it can provide a nice, warm highlight for deeper skin tones, & a shimmery blush or dramatic highlight for fairer ones. Again – very versatile. I’m tempted to get that one myself…& I probably will. They really are good.

So: no, CLĒ Cosmetics didn’t invent the concept of a cushion highlighter – but they’re the first brand I’ve seen (besides that one Wet & Wild product) that has one. Scratch that – they have three! I’m curious to see how other brands may catch on. Maybe cushion highlights are the new black. I’m cool with that, as long as they look as good as CLĒ’s Moonlighter Cushions.

Have any of you tried the Moonlighter Cushions? Are any of you planning on getting one? Let! Me! Know! I want to hear your thoughts, too.

Until next time!

Love,

Sof ❤

NEVER HIT SKIP: The Albums That Are Too Good To Skip Through…Yes, Even That One Song.

It’s diary time! I wasn’t sure what to write about for a while; I have, however, recently made a playlist of some of my favorite albums: albums that I cannot bear to hit “skip” on. Do I not like singles? Or just one song? No, of course I do! But – liking a whole album in its entirety is a special thing, I think. I’m a big fan of albums that I can listen to from bottom to top, backwards & forwards, through & through & through. To me, it’s the ultimate sign that I will never stop listening to ___ album; that I’ll associate it with important events or people. These albums, in their entirety, provide a rush of emotion & color.

Some other contributing factors? Well, I have synesthesia, though it’s not crazy powerful. I can’t see colors in front of my eyes when I hear a single note, but I associate colors & textures with certain songs, pieces, or albums. If I hear a song, piece, or album & immediately start strongly associating it with various colors, moods, textures, color scales, etc., I know that I’ve found an album that speaks very strongly to me. Same goes with crying, believe it or not – oftentimes, I think one of the best signs that an album is a good one is that it prompts emotion. I’m all about music being an emotional outlet, & I listen to all types. They all provide me with relief, joy, happiness, melancholy…anything that I am feeling, I can find some music that helps me put a soundtrack to my life, no matter how happy or sad it is in that moment.

I listen to all types of music – a lot of classical, really. Makes sense, given my music background, but if I shared a top ten list of classical albums that I like & told you why, you’d be still reading, 12 hours later. It would take forever, & that’s what I use my musicology classes for. However – if you’re interested in getting some classical recs, don’t be afraid to hit me up on my socials! (Instagram, Twitter

Here I present: The Top Ten Albums I Can’t Hit Skip On (& Why) ***in no particular order. Also: here’s my Spotify. Feel free to follow me, check out my playlists, or do both! Or…do none. ALSO: I’ll be putting a few personal photos after each mini review of each album. Some will be photos of me listening to ____ album while doing something; some will be photos of things I associate with ___ album. Enjoy!!!!!!!

Some Nights – fun. 

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I was quite young when this album came out. I remember being at Interlochen Arts Academy Summer Music Camp as a violin student & going to “mixers” (you know the deal) & hearing the song “We Are Young (ft. Janelle Monae.” That’s when I first started associating it with positive events in my life. I continued on to hear the whole album. When I left Interlochen, heartbroken, (as one is after summer camp) the sadder songs served as emotional outlets. The fast-paced ones let me go on long bike rides. It was one of the first pop albums I listened to through & through – & I cried more than once. Okay, maybe I still do…but remember: tears while listening to or playing music are okay!

My favorites? Well…”We Are Young” of course. I adore the “Some Nights – Intro,” & how it seamlessly melds into Some Nights, the song itself. There’s an incredible amount of emotion bottled up in both those songs – both extraordinary opposites when it comes to style, but lyrically, almost identical. “Out On The Town – Bonus Track” is another favorite. One of those melancholy breakup songs you can cry to.

As a whole, this album incorporates a lot of different instruments & sounds, as well as featuring other artists. It works as an album, & all the songs work by themselves, too. It’s emotional, exposed, & I fondly think back to my 15 year old self when I turn it up loud once & a while.

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15-year-old Sofia was a strange bird.

808s & Heartbreak – Kanye West 

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Obsessed with everything surrounding 808s & Heartbreak – did you know that the cover art was designed by Virgil Abloh (designer, DJ, & founder of fashion label Off-White), Willo Perron (a disciplinary director & designer)  & drawn by pop artist Kaws? The album also heavily features the Roland-TR 808 drum machine – hence the inclusion of “808s.” What Kanye didn’t know until he’d already figured out the album’s name, however, was that Hawaii’s area code is 808 – & the Avex Recording Studio in Honolulu, Hawaii is where Kanye recorded the majority of this album.

Everyone fights me on this – but I truly do think that 808s is Kanye’s best album. Again – lots of raw, pent-up emotion. Kanye, for the first time, actually sang…but used auto-tune. This provides a somewhat distant, robotic effect while contrasting with the emotional lyrics & melancholy background music. It’s eerie in the best way possible. My favorites are…all of them, really. “Say You Will” & “Paranoid” are almost complete opposites, but I love the lyrics & drive behind both of them. My favorite, of course, is “RoboCop” – I don’t know what it is about this song, but it speaks to me. It’s very colorful – lots of neon lights, blue lights, disco balls…that kind of a mood. “Pinocchio Story (Freestyle Live)” is also a great one: it truly is a live performance; there are cracks & dips in Kanye’s voice, & screaming fans sometimes make the lyrics hard to hear. Some are annoyed by it. I, however, love it. It reminds me of the sensation of performing; what it’s like to perform at your most raw in front of huge crowds. It’s an adrenaline rush, & it’s bitter-sweet.

I hadn’t heard this album until around November of last year (2016). I was going through a rough emotional time & there were a lot of lonesome listening sessions with this album in my ears. It brings back a lot of bitter memories, with a tang of sweetness. It’s funny how sometimes, frightening & overwhelming things can happen to you…but they turn into an elaborate memory, reflecting feelings, smells, foods, & so many more things that you thought of or consumed or felt at that time. So: I’ll say it once, & I will say it twice – I’ll say it 100 times if I must. 808s & Heartbreak is Kanye West’s greatest album.

Pure Heroine – Lorde 

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Okay. My obession with Lorde started when I heard her first song on the radio, late sophomore year of high school. That song, of course, was “Royals” – I looked up the music vidoe & was struck by this tiny, intense, curly-haired girl with a stare that could kill. The super minimalistic visuals of the video intrigued me, too. Lorde was mysterious, & so was her album – Pure Heroine is a teenager’s album, filled with an assurance, a sense of command, confidence, & times of freedom – & frustration. Her lyrics are rich. There is so much to dive in when looking at Pure Heroine. I dove in, alright. People started telling me I looked like Lorde: greeny-blue eyes, fair skiny, bushy, long hair…I embraced it & started putting on purple lipstick (the cheapest one I could find; a dark violet Revlon lipstick from my grocery shop’s cosmetic aisle), fluffing up my hair by letting it air-dry, wearing black, & developing a resting bitch face. I owe it to Lorde for people telling me I seem scary – I also owe her for helping me win my music school auditions. Songs like “Bravado,” “Tennis Court,” & “Swingin Party” helped me remember that I was worth something – they also allowed me to let my stress & emotions wash through me, rather than consume me. It was the soundtrack on airplanes, car rides – everywhere I went. I had finally found someone who was a “pop star” that I could identify with. She was human, she was odd, she danced weird. She didn’t care – & people loved her for that. Lorde was one of the best musical discoveries of my teenage years – no two ways about it.

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Yup – I dressed as Lorde for Halloween when I was 16. My proudest high school accomplishment? Winning “best celebrity lookalike” & being compared to Lorde. An exciting Moment In History.

Harry Styles – Harry Styles

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Need I say more? I am what they’d call “a Harrie” – meaning, Harry Styles was my favorite One Direction member. I followed 1D’s every move when they were touring & recording – when I got sick, I asked to meet them through Make A Wish…& when I (most luckily) got the chance to do so, I ran straight to Harry. I have a tattoo on me that he drew for me. His fashion is something that truly inspires & encourages me to develop my own style. His kindness & love for the LGBT community is something I hold close to my heart, too.

As you might be able to tell: I’m a big fan, yes. Yes – of course I went to see Dunkirk! (It was good just as a film, too. Don’t worry) Of course I bought his album. Of course I’ll be seeing him on tour next year! 

But, seriously. I was extraordinarily excited for Harry’s solo album. I wanted to hear more of his individual vocals & lyricism – & oh boy, did I get both! Some of the album sounds like classic British pop or rock. Others, like “Carolina” (which is about me, by the way…I’m Townes), are a bit of a tongue-in-cheek country song; “Woman” is an odd yet satisfying experience. Nothing can beat that quack noise in the background (but really, it’s a lovely song). I especially feel close to “From The Dining Table.” The lyrics are simple, but it feels like Harry is very up close to the mic – I almost get ASMR tingles when I listen to the song with the volume up. The subtle harmonies that actually do reach a climax contribute both to the delicacy & the power the song has. As for “Kiwi,” well…need I say it? HAVING YOUR BABY!!! NONE OF YOUR BUSINES-

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Taken while listening to “Two Ghosts.”
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Taken while playing “Woman” – look! I have hair!
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On my IG: taken while listening to “From The Dining Table”

Depression Cherry – Beach House 

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Now…who doesn’t love some Beach House? Yes, some of their songs kind of do sound the same after a while (with some excellent exceptions), but the focus on background music playing just as large (if not larger) a role as the vocalists is extremely striking. Definitely a great album to listen to when crying. The lyrics can be hard to hear at times; the music can really get that loud & sometimes words are slurred for effect. If you really want the real deal, look up the lyrics before bed, then turn off your lights & have some melancholy me time.

This sounds like I’m bashing the album – I swear I’m not! Each of these songs is special to me. Another great album I was listening to through my tough time in November. “Space Song” is on every aesthetic Instgram video ever, but that doesn’t make it not good – I’m still not annoyed! I would say that my two favorites are “Levitation” & “10:37.” In “Levitation,” strings give texture & urgency to the line, while the gentle vocals allow the listener to lay back. The lyrcis are beautiful, but can be hard to hear, like I said. In “10:37,” the gentle but steady drum beat(s) provide comfort & safety; the vocals contribute to it. It’s a warm, gentle song – a beautiful experience.

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Back at home for Christmas break was my prime time for Depression Cherry… 
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….& even before I left, the dark days & oddly glowing sunsets of winter, coupled with my blue mood…made Depression Cherry a soundtrack of my life at that moment in time.

Blonde – Frank Ocean

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The album that made me want to die my hair this color (I’m only kidding a tiny, tiny bit)

Well – of course! I was first sucked into the Frank Ocean hype when “Super Rich Kids” was everywhere – but it’s been years, & we’d all been clamoring for the next album. It even became a meme. The wait was worth it, though: all of these songs boast a variety of styles & effects. In “Nikes,” for example, Frank’s voice is sped up. It heavily contrasts with “Futura Free,” in which Frank sings in his natural voice about how lucky he has been – but also about how hard he has worked, & how he & his family deserve what he’s gotten thanks to the talent he possesses. “Be Yourself,” a track simply consisting of a recorded voicemail message from someone’s mother, calling her child at a university. The mother is telling her child not to “do that cocaine” or marijuana, & warns the child about “weedheads” & the danger of alcohol. Of course – substance abuse is always going to be a “thing” for parents talking to their children…& yes, you should be careful with what you put in your body. In this context, however, the 1:29 track is simply a humorous interlude to some more intense tracks.

Overall, Blonde was worth the wait – truly! It combines angst with humor; rapid sequences of lyrics along with one or two words repeated for a single track. There’s something for everyone in this album – & all of it is for me.

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September 2016 – last year, basically. I even played Blonde in my elevator.

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ANTI – Rihanna 

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Oooh. Yes.

I’ll admit – it took me a full year to really get into ANTI. I didn’t understand the flow of the tracks at first…still, I kept coming back to it. In the end, Rih did not disappoint – when does she ever? Famous features like SZA & Drake pique the interest of other fan bases – & yes, the songs with those two are great. In fact, it’s how I found out about SZA. Songs like “Desperado,” “Needed Me,” “Pose,” & “Sex With Me” are some real anthems of empowerment; of the beauty of independence; of the marvel of self love. Meanwhile, tracks like “Love On The Brain” are for the tenderest of moments; it feels much older than it actually is. Then – what better song to listen to than “Kiss It Better” with your crush, just to give you that extra boost of confidence….? Try it.

It’s a good album. I’m very sorry it took me that long to appreciate. But now, I appreciate it with all my heart. That counts, right?

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The real hours of ANTI – adequately expressed in this sign in a restaurant.

Yeezus – Kanye West 

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I only knew about Kanye West from the Katy Perry song more than a few years back: “E.T.” Oh – I knew about & liked “Mercy,” but he only had a few verses in it; it was more of a collaboration type of deal.

I heard about the Yeezus album on – believe it or not – NPR. Yup! Fresh Air (an NPR show) didn’t interview Kanye, but they did play one song: “Bound 2.” That was the first song that I truly ever heard Kanye as a solo artist, not a collaborator. I was intrigued by the mixing of retro tracks with new verses by Kanye himself. I loved the cover art. I was…taken aback by the music video Kanye made with Kim Kardashian (I was still young…okay?). But most of all, I was intrigued. That’s when I really started getting into listening to beats of songs. Yeezus flows exquisitely well, in my opinion. There are some intense – almost horrifically intense – songs like “On Sight,” or “Black Skinhead.” There are others like “Hold My Liquor” – this song combines some of the melancholy heard on 808s with a heavy, sometimes screeching beat, along with aggressive yet emotionally expressive lyrics. I was intrigued at how “Bound 2” seemed to be a goodbye to the world; a hello to his wife (wait, were they married then?) & the children they would soon be having. I like to think of it as a great depiction of how meeting someone you truly end up loving makes you feel – normal things are beautiful. “Red cups on the lawn,” not telling your mom, speaking about infidelity as well as loyalty. It depicts a faulty yet loving relationship, in my opinion – sure, told from the standpoint of a man, but nevertheless, Kanye’s right – sometimes you don’t remember the day you first met; that’s okay. It’s also okay to write a song about it being okay.

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The days of Yeezus – especially “Bound 2” were in the Adirondack mountains, summer of 2015.

Mind of Mine – Zayn Malik 

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Zayn Malik has not been…the most politically correct these past few years, let us say. He was the rogue – left One Direction, broke all our hearts, & went out & got cozy with Gigi Hadid, reinvented the importance of Twitter celebrity feuds – & released an album that knocked me speechless.

No, I’m not a fan of all Zayn has said & done. But his album is objectively good – “Pillowtalk” was a great single – both visually & musically appealing. His track organization was meticulous; each song flows into the next – literally. Each song ends with the beginning of the next song. Like I’ve already said – I have a weakness for that kind of album style. Each & every song from the album is pleasant to listen to, but all together they are a journey.

“Pillowtalk” will always be iconic for me…but “dRuNk” (thank you, quirky type style), “INTERMISSION: fLoWer,” “BLUE,” “BRIGHT,” & “SHE DON’T LOVE ME” all touch me in different ways. It’s a good album to listen to when you’re in your feelings. Zayn’s been flying quite low since he dropped his album & did a promo tour…who knows what he’s up to? I certainly don’t – but I do know that Mind of Mine is an excellent album with a great flow.

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At arcades, blasting Mind of Mine.

Melodrama – Lorde 

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Okayyyyy. Another album I waited for as eagerly as I did Frank Ocean’s. No…that’s a lie. I waited even more eagerly for this one. Like I said – Lorde is someone I really identified with – I still do. I wondered if she would be able to capture the sensation of late teens & early adulthood. That was the night before she released “Green Light” as her first single. The next morning, I woke up feeling like I should go dance on top of a car, or a roof…a strange bathroom. It was different, it was new, but it was undoubtedly Lorde. It speaks volumes when an artist’s sound changes subtly yet powerfully. There was no major “rebranding” here – no new lifestyle, no drastic changes. Lorde – or Ella – grew up. She cut her hair, she didn’t wear purple lipstick as much. She went through a big breakup. She vomited outside house parties. She was living & dying – every night. I could identify with that – big time. Melodrama was this year’s summer album, & it’s an album I’ll associate with this specific time for the rest of my life.

As for favorites? When people ask me, I have no idea what to say. They’re all uniquely appealing, & at the end, it depends on what I feel like that day. Sometimes, “Hard Feelings/Loveless” is all my soul needs. Other days, I need to cry to “Liability.” Some days, I want to dance on a rock in the middle of a creek to “Green Light” – & yes, I did that the other day…all by myself. It’s what she would do, isn’t it?

Lorde gave me some real material here – coming-of-age, romanticizing normalities, being more open & vulnurable with those around you. Making closer friends, not trying to increase the volume of friends. Realizing that loneliness can be beautiful, & sometimes a walk (or dance) down your beach/sidewalk/street/nearby mountains all by yourself is exactly what you need.

Lorde cut her hair – so did I. We both experienced crushing life events over the past few years. So did all of you. Lorde’s writing is now infinitely approachable – who doesn’t feel like a liability at least once in a while? What college student can’t relate to “Perfect Places” even in a small way? Why wouldn’t you want to feel dangerous & beautiful by turning up “Sober?” Don’t forget about Supercut – it’s raw, it’s real, it is infinitely emotional.

I was lucky enough to have the money to buy tickets to see Lorde – or should I say…one ticket? That’s right! I’m going by myself, I’m sitting in the nosebleeds, & I wil dance my heart out. It has long been a dream to attend a Lorde concert; I was sad I didn’t have my shit together to do it last time she came around. This time, however, will be better. More songs…more to talk about. I can’t wait. & I love Melodrama. Did I say I love Melodrama?

That’s it for the diary – for now! Let me know via social – or the comments! – what kinds of personal entries you’d enjoy seeing. I love being inspired by you, & I love feedback! Also: tell me your top 10 “never hit skip” albums – or just one album. I’m always looking for new ones.

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5:30 a.m…..
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…9:30 p.m.
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A “Supercut”

Love,

Sof ❤

Illness Is Not A “Fetish,” My Illness Has A “Fetish” For Me: Looking At the “Fetish” Music Video By Selena Gomez – & How I Think It Relates To Chronic Illness

NOTE: Before I begin, I’d like to say that I am very well aware of the…lack of social awareness Selena Gomez has had (“all lives matter” statement & so on). I still think it’s important to hear this out. Selena Gomez may not be likable to you, to me, or anyone else; she may have offended you many times; she could be the worst friend or just bad at conversation. That does not, however, make her chronic illness go away. It furthers my point that chronically ill people are not your angels – chronically ill people have said & do say offensive things. They are not all “good.” They are all not “correct.” I think it’s important to acknowledge that. I hope that Selena’s illness has given her perspective on marginalized communities – because being chronically ill does make you part of one of those marginalized communities, like it or not. Regardless – I think this music video & her latest announcement carry a lot of weight. I hope it will inspire people to speak up about how they feel. I hope more celebrities will continue to open up about chronic illness. Chronic illness (invisible or not) is present everywhere. Either you are ill, or you know someone who is. This is not “rare.” This is common – yet it’s treated as though it has never been heard of. 

I wish every single day that more people will continue to learn more, & that chronically ill people will feel confident to speak up for themselves, about themselves, & share other things about themselves, too. Remember – we are not only our illnesses. One more side note: although Selena Gomez & I do not have he same illness, we both have “invisible illnesses.” I think that if you believe this music video has metaphorical significance to chronic illness, it’s quite relatable across the board – no matter what illness you have. For context (in case you didn’t already know) mine are Crohn’s Disease & inflammatory arthritis. This past summer, Selena Gomez released a cheeky single: “Fetish,” featuring Gucci Mane. Initially, there was a lyric video. It is focused only on Selena’s lips, in sparkly gloss. She smiles, bites her lips, & plays with her elegant, almond-shaped nails. It’s undeniably sexy.

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Selena’s Instagram, however, hinted that something else was coming – a project with Petra Collins. It was only right to assume that it’d be a full music video. The sneak peeks at the cinematography were…very different, let’s say, than the images provided for the lyric video. Selena looks somber; vague. She doesn’t look as though she’s completely aware of her surroundings. It’s misty. She looks as though she’s trying to find something she’s lost.

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I remember the day the video came out – I talked with a few friends about it. We admired the video as well as the photographs (also taken by Collins). My sick friends & I talked about how eerily relatable a lot of the video was. This was not your run-of-the-mill “sexy music video.” There are no bikinis. The almond-shaped manicure, if it is there, is not emphasized. Neither is lip gloss. There are scenes of Selena in a freezer. She looks robotic; it doesn’t seem as though she knows what is going on. She looks in the mirror; she sticks her tongue into an eyelash curler. She’s sprawled on the floor. Sometimes, her hair is soaking wet. There isn’t much smiling, but when there is, it’s eerie – it doesn’t seem to be from happiness.

Confusing, right? People had speculated that this song was about past relationships. After watching the actual video, I didn’t think so. Neither did my sick friends. We thought it was about the relationship between a sick person’s body & mind – & how it is a continuous push/pull, love/hate relationship. You do odd things & scary things. You don’t always know what is going on. You can come across as being scary, when in reality, you are trying to stay alive. Your normal is someone else’s nightmare.

This is in no way meant to glamorize illness. I don’t believe that was Selena’s intention, either, if my theory is correct…maybe I’m completely off the mark, but I don’t think that I am.

But why do I think that I’m right in assuming that Selena’s “Fetish” video is about her illness? Because of an Instagram post she made very recently:

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Selena’s fans have been speculating about her absence from the pop culture world. She hasn’t been promoting many of her new projects – she’s been recovering. From a kidney transplant.

When I saw this post, I had to sit back for a second. I truly do believe after seeing this that Selena’s song is about dealing with her illness. After sitting back for a while & tying my own experiences into what I took from the music video, I came up with this:

this past year i was VERY sick – whole sophomore year of university. i lost about 20 pounds. i was on chemo pills. at one point, i was having surgical procedures every 4 weeks. i woke up from one feeling like my throat was on fire; i couldn’t breathe. i was confused because the procedure had nothing to do with my throat. i asked the nurse why. she said that i was so thin, my heartrate scared the doctor. they were afraid i’d die on table. so they intubated me; hence the sore throat.

i remember being in my bathroom at school, on the floor at 3 a.m. sobbing, SCREAMING. once, my mama was afraid because i’d texted her that i wanted to die, but i fell asleep before i could tell her i was ok. she thought that i was dead. i woke up to the cops at my door.

i did very weird things with my body. i still do. i move & dance in odd ways. in march, i stared at my naked body in the mirror & i PUNCHED the right lower side of my abdomen. i punched hard. that’s where my disease originates. i secretly hoped something would rupture. i wanted to die.

i have memories of being zoned out on pain meds; listening to the doctor telling me that my disease had given me arthritis. i would no longer be able to be a violinist. it was this weird, hazy, dream-like state. sometimes i feel like i am still in it. my illness is still here, after all.

in this video, selena’s staring at herself in the mirror. she’s on the floor a LOT. she’s almost always inside/near a bathroom. she’s sick; she’s twisted, yes. she bites a lipstick; she puts her tongue in an eyelash curler just because. when your body is going to shit, your tongue doesn’t matter. who cares if you’re in a subzero freezer, eyelashes brittle, smile frozen, when it doesn’t matter in the end?

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you can try to push away illness out but it WILL come back. chronic illness has a fetish for your body. it will always be there, no matter what.

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i don’t know how to close this. i’m trying to say that this is a very raw perspective on chronic illness. it’s an ugly, twisted, experience. on the floor in a beautiful dress – that’s wet from a shower you were too weak to undress for. you can still throw a party, though – & you will be the life of it. 06-fetish

i read selena got a kidney transplant this summer. i cried. then i wrote this.

“Can’t see a point in blaming you/If I were you I’d do me too” is probably one of the most significant lyrics in the song (for me). Why?

First off, the song in no way glamorizes sickness or illness. We see Selena in despair, we see her in distress, we see her in pain. There is no implication – at all – that Selena’s “experience” inside this random house is enjoyable, glamorous, or, God forbid: “cute.”

However, those lyrics are the ultimate sarcastic laugh at one’s own illness – something I can relate to in some capacity. Of course you picked me, I think. Why wouldn’t you? That’s because the way I look today…I’d pick me, too.

I am sending my best wishes to Selena as she recovers. A transplant is a devastating shock to the body, & it is an extremely difficult thing to recover from – both physically & mentally.

However, Selena speaking so frankly about her illness (& transplant) brings me hope – hope that more celebrities will speak up about their illnesses. AS more celebrities speak up, more “ordinary” people will speak up. I have hope that chronic illness – invisible or otherwise – will become more widely discussed in the upcoming years. I want to be part of it. I am trying my very best to do so.

Love,

Sof ❤

Side note:

THIS IS IN NO WAY MEANT TO GLAMORIZE CHRONIC ILLNESS. As someone who has spent many nights on the floor of their bathroom, crying in pain…I promise you that. I don’t think this music video glamorizes it, either.

I am self-injecting the 4th dose of my medication this afternoon. My blood levels were dangerously high or low when I was on other medications. This one is seeming to do the trick. My blood has stabilized. I am working on gaining energy & weight. This will take time, but seeing public figures speak so frankly about their personal experiences with illness – no matter how small or severe! – helps remind me that I am not disgusting, weird, or odd for having what I have. I got a wild card. So did Selena – so did thousands…millions!!! of other people.

-S