Why I Went for the “G.I. Jane” in 2017

I’m a 90s kid, but I don’t remember 90s culture – I’m only 20, so I was born in ’97 – by the time the 90s had closed, all I remembered was that I wore a lot of cute rompers.

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I’m on the cusp of the turn of the century, so while I’m categorized as a “90s kid” I wasn’t aware of the culture, fashion, & political issues going on at that time. That’s because I was under 4 years old.

The 90s were groundbreaking in many ways – & I won’t turn this into a history class, but hear me out: the first supermodels were born, universal healthcare became a widely discussed topic…& Natalie Portman shaved her head for the role she played in “V for Vendetta.”

Natalie Portman was not the first woman to get her locks chopped; she most certainly wasn’t the last, either, but she was one of the first people that popped up on my Google image search when I looked for buzzcut inspiration back in 2016. Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman – two powerful actresses that shaved their heads in the 90s for film roles.

But…how about we skip back a few years, to a name I never heard (I know…shame on me) until I started really looking into buzzcuts: Sinéad O’Connor.

Sinéad’s buzzcut was done a few years before Portman or Theron made the call to go bald – & she didn’t do it for a film role, either. O’Connor’s look was admittedly “edgy” – the singer/songwriter burst in on the scene, looking like someone no one had ever seen before…& love it or hate it, O’Connor was different. She garnered attention for her buzzcut. She was “more interesting” because of it.

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After I buzzed my head, I got a lot of “you look like Sinéad!” comments. I don’t really see that close of a resemblance; Sinéad & I don’t have the same face shape or eye color, & while we’re both fair-skinned with brunette buzz cuts, I wouldn’t call us twins. Still – the continued comparison to O’Connor picqued my interest, & I looked a little further into what Sinéad was all about. I wasn’t around in the 80s, & I never listened to O’Connor. I came in pretty unbiased; all I knew was that she was bald, & that she liked being bald.

I saw that O’Connor was extremely open about her mental illnesses & her past with sexual harrassment & assault. It seemed evident to me that her shaving her head (& continuing to do so) was one of many ways to cope with her traumatic past – but it was also a way for her to break barriers; a way for her to assert herself in Hollywood, an industry that we all know by now is rife with misogyny.

I came across an interview O’Connor did for “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” One of the questions addressed her being a young woman in the Hollywood/music industry, & how her buzzcut helped her “keep safe”:

“They wanted me to grow my hair really long and wear miniskirts and all that kind of stuff because they reckoned I’d look much prettier,” she told Oprah – “so I went straight around to the barber and shaved the rest of my hair off.” O’Connor went on to say that she felt as though her buzzcut protected her in many ways. “I always had that sense that it was quite important to protect myself — make myself as unattractive as I possibly could,” she finished.

A couple things here: I don’t think Sinéad for one moment felt “ugly” when buzzing her head – at least, that’s not what it seems like to me, particularly because she’s been very vocal about continuing to shave her head…perhaps until the very day she dies. In a 2010 interview with Patrick Barkham for The Guardian, she said: “I don’t feel like me unless I have my hair shaved. So even when I’m an old lady, I’m going to have it.”

Clearly, O’Connor enjoys the way she looks with no hair…& I do as well. In researching O’Connor’s past, how/when/why she shaved her head, I found a lot of parallels between the two of us.

I initially shaved my head in the summer of 2016, when I really wanted a tattoo. At the time, I couldn’t get one – my blood counts (thanks, chronic illness!) were too low to ensure that I wouldn’t get an infection. I was frustrated by this; it felt like just one more affirmation that I was not in control of my body, & it made me feel incredibly angry & sad at times.

I came across a few models on my Instagram explore page with freshly shaved heads around that time. I looked, & I flipped away. I went back to look again. & again. By the end of June 2016, I was heading to Supercuts.

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The initial buzz – June 2016

The initial reception I got from my very short hair wasn’t all positive. Many were confused; a few were angry. That made me confused – all of a sudden, I was wondering: is my beauty/value placed solely on how much hair I have or don’t have? After all, my face looked the same. I had no permanent ink on my body. I just had (very) short hair.

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Because of the somewhat mixed reception, I shaved my head two more times that summer (just to touch up) & let it be by the time I went to school in September of that year. By the end of the year, my hair was curly/wavy, & I looked a bit like Finn Wolfhard (yes, from Stranger Things).

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September 2016
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November 2016
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December 2016
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January 2017 (starting to feel like Finn Wolfhard)
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March 2017
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April 2017…
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April 2017…
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…& April 2017

I didn’t consciously make the decision to grow out my hair; I think that I subconsciously told myself: people don’t think this is attractive. You’re probably going to get weird looks. Just grow it out – it’s hair, it’s not a big deal. So – I grew it out.

Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t feel as though any stage of my “growing-out process” was awkward or ugly. I enjoyed seeing my hair change – & it changed quite quickly. First it was a fluffy pixie, then it was a flat pixie, & by the time February 2017 hit, I could pretend as though I was just slicking back very long hair (thanks to lots of bobby pins) I could make a quiff, or I could leave it be & look like Harry Styles, 2013 era. I didn’t ever hate my hair – let me make that perfectly clear.

But – but! June came around. It was summer 2017, & I’d just had a very scary doctor’s appointment on my birthday (fun, I know). The information I was given was incorrect, & I was in a full-fledged panic attack. I was told that if I didn’t have X surgery or Y procedure, I would surely die. This was incorrect, but a doctor was telling me that. It wasn’t something I could just brush off – lots of research & careful decisions needed to be made before I “broke up” with that doctor.

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Early June 2017

In the meantime, my mind was in shambles. I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself in the days between that initial appointment – & the decision I finally made (which ended in me departing from the practice). Not everything is 100% clear in my mind around those 10 days or so, but I remember sitting in the car on the way back home (my mama driving) both of us crying, & me thinking over & over again: I need to shave my head. I need to shave my head.

That evening, my mama went out with a friend (it’s what she deserved) & I went to supercuts. I took a before photo – my eyes look sleepy & dull, & I look very sad. Then there’s an after photo, taken the moment I walked out of Supercuts (I was sitting on the curb when I took it). The outfit is the same, the photos were taken 30 minutes apart – but I truly believe my eyes look happier & brighter once my hair was off. You can see:

At that moment, getting rid of my hair was one of the most empowering decisions I could have made. It was me telling my mind that no matter what happened to me, I still had some control over my body. My body is my body, no matter what – & I am in control & ownership of it.

I’m not sure if people knew I intended on keeping it around this time, but it was my full intention to do so. In fact, about a month later, I bought my own clippers & started shaving my head myself. Initially, it took about three hours – the end result was uneven (& that’s me being kind) & my parents were mad, because I left a big mess in the bathroom. I don’t blame them.

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I’m better at shaving my head now. I’m also better at cleaning up the mess.

I kept redoing my head, & as with most things, it got easier. I kept getting asked why I wanted to keep doing it. I was often asked if I shaved my head because of my illness, or whether the medications I was on caused hair loss.

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The answer to that is no! I do not shave my head because of my medication side effects. I do shave my head because of my illness (at least, it’s one of the reasons why) but it’s not because I would have a patchy head of hair if I didn’t shave it.

Another question I get: Did you “pull a Britney? Is this a mental breakdown?”

First of all – no, I didn’t “pull a Britney.” Even if I did, it’s insulting to use an actual mental breakdown as an expression/jokey slang. Spears clearly was going through a lot when she shaved her own head, & perhaps it helped her cope – perhaps it didn’t. That’s not the point, though. Although I shaved my head to cope, it wasn’t because I was in imminent danger. It was simply a way for me to replace past negative coping mechanisms with a positive one.

I had a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms for the past two years when trying to wrestle with my illness. Some of them fall under the category of self-harm. Others just made me feel badly about myself. I tend to fiddle with/twist my hands or fingers when anxious. That only made my arthritic symptoms worse. I would have panic attacks, & would not know what to do with myself – so I would run around, I’d hit the floor, I’d punch my stomach, hoping that something bad would happen.

Thankfully, nothing did. I’m lucky nothing did – but that’s just a small peek at some of the very unhealthy ways in which I “tried” (& failed) to cope with my illness. Self-harm only brings greater mental anguish; sometimes, it can be life-threatening. I’m lucky I’m alive today, & I am grateful that I’ve moved past that toxic mindset & replaced those toxic behaviors with healthier ones.

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Now, when I’m anxious, I rub my head. It feels velvety & soft; it’s like having a stress ball – except the stress ball is my head. I’ve found that I do this more now. I don’t twist my hands. I don’t hit my stomach. I just “fuzz my head,” as I call it.

So – one of the biggest reasons I shaved my head in the first place (& continue to do so) is because it helped me find a healthy coping mechanism; one that would soothe me rather than harm me. I find now that shaving my head is very ritualistic. Since I do it myself, I have a whole routine. It used to take three hours; now, it can take 30-45 minutes if I do it right. I like to shave my head the evening before some serious testing or a big medical procedure. It’s a reminder to myself: this is my body, & no one can take that away from me.

Let’s move back to Sinéad for a second.

When I read that O’Connor shaved her head to protect herself; to make herself look as “ugly” as possible – I started seeing a lot of parallels between my behavior & hers.

As someone who now ID’s as lesbian, maintaining my buzzcut makes me feel “gayer.” Does one need to have a shaved head to “feel gay?” No – absolutely not. Personally, however, I feel more confident, more assertive, & more myself. I feel comfortable with my identity, & my very short hair helped me come to terms with my sexual identity. Sinéad’s explanation pretty much nailed it: I wanted to avoid the male gaze. Cishet men do not typically find women (or non-binary folks) with buzzcuts sexually appealing. Never say never, of course – & I’m not trying to imply that it solves the problem of being approached in a sexual way by men, because when a man wants to catcall, he will – but it helps. It’s an outward way for me to say: Hey – this is who I am. I feel very comfortable like this. 

Would I be any less gay if I didn’t have my head shaved? Of course not! If I grow out my hair in the future, will I be less gay? Of course not! Right now, though, it’s what I need. With the help of my $50 WAHL clippers purchased at Walgreens, I’m maintaining my own G.I. Jane, reaffirming my identity to myself every time I look in the mirror – & I think I look pretty great, too.

When asked: Are you keeping your hair this way forever? I don’t have an answer, because I don’t know. I do know that every single time I shave my head, I feel comfortable, calm, & at peace with myself. It’s an incredible coping mechanism for me – it’s a healthy one. It’s not putting me in danger. It makes me feel freer, more assertive, & more willing to put myself out there. It’s been integral in helping me feel more comfortable with my identity as a chronically ill lesbian.

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Post-shave (just a few days ago)

Buzzcuts have been breaking gender norms on & off the runway in the past few years. Although many of the models sporting a buzzcut identify as cisgender heterosexual women, just as many do not. LGBT model Ruth Bell got her career kickstarted when she shaved her long blonde hair. Adwoa Aboah (model of 2017) has had a buzz for quite a while, & Sudanese models (& runway icons) Ajak Deng & Grace Bol have had them for even longer. Off the runway, Rihanna & N.E.R.D. “broke the internet” with the music video Lemon. The song Lemon (by Pharrell) features Rihanna rapping (the first time we’ve ever heard Rihanna rap) & the music video (watch it here) features Mette Towley, a dancer who got her head shaved on camera by Rihanna (!!!) who proceeds to dance for the remainder of the video. That sparked even more interest around the buzzcut. When Rihanna’s involved in a project, the people pay attention. I have no doubt we’ll continue to see even more buzzes pop up after this.

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The acclaimed hair stylist Guido Palau had this to say on the return of the buzzcut (as told to Allure): 

“[A buzzed head] makes you feel that a woman is strong, she has her own mind, and wants to let people see her the way she wants to be seen.” says Palau. “I often find that when I do buzz cuts, girls would change the way they dress, the way they stand, their whole attitude.”

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A sentiment I’m on board with – followed by a video of Mette dancing for a Beats x Nerd advertisement 

I couldn’t have said it better myself. My fashion, my stance, & my attitude have made leaps & bounds ever since I consciously made the decision to maintain my buzzcut. As someone who struggles with body image, thanks to chronic illness, that’s incredible to experience. It’s an incredible existence to live. & it makes me feel more comfortable with my sexuality.

So – sorry, everyone! If you don’t like my buzz, it’ll be staying around for at least a little while. I don’t have any plans to grow it out at the moment. Who knows what the future will hold, right? In the moment, I’m grateful to my clippers, my own personal growth, & my Instagram explore page for initially introducing me to the style.

Have any of you thought of buzzing your hair? Let me know if you have already done it, if you’re planning on doing it – or if you’re just not sure! I do get this question a lot: “Will a buzzcut look bad on my face shape?” To that, I say:

Do men wonder the same thing before getting a buzzcut? Do little boys? There are always a few exceptions, but the overwhelming majority would probably not worry about it. Remind yourself of that – & if you still want the buzz after that, go for it. Be free.

Check out my YouTube video on shaving my head here – & check out my other video on why I did it here!

Stay bald.

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Love,

Sofia ❤

#TopTenSeries: Top Ten Most-Played Songs of 2017

Welcome to part three of my #TopTenSeries! I’ll be honest: I’m not sure how many top tens I’ll be posting, but this is definitely one you’re getting. As you might’ve guessed from the title, these are songs of 2017. 

For my #TopTenSeries, I tried to pick things that had actually been released in 2017. There are two exceptions on here, but other than that, all this music is new to 2017.

These are picked right from the “Your Top Songs 2017” playlist Spotify generates for you. I’m listing the top ten in order from most listened to least listened. Let’s do it! 

1. “Green Light” – Lorde

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I remember the exact date this song was released: March 2, 2017. I was in Chicago at a different hospital to get an opinion from a different specialist. It was a stressful week – I was there for two days & had anxiety leading up to it – but Lorde teasing her single’s release kept my excitement up while reducing my anxiety. I’m a huge fan of Lorde’s music & got on the bandwagon as soon as I heard “Royals” for the first time, downloading the complete album, memorizing all the lyrics in a heartbeat – then, first patiently, then impatiently waiting for another album. We were all ready, but Lorde had to take her time.

I’m glad she did. “Green Light” was the first single dropped from her album, Melodrama. It grabbed me by the shoulders from the very first line: “I do my makeup in somebody else’s car.” It’s intense yet quiet at the beginning; we hear a steady, fast buildup to the chorus (“I’M WAITING FOR IT, THAT GREEN LIGHT, I WANT IT!”) that is impossible not to get up & start dancing to. It’s a breakup song – that’s made clear when she says “be seeing you down every road” & then mentions waiting for a green light; her signal that she’ll feel when she’s finally let go of the sadness/anger of losing what she previously had.

It’s a breakup song, but it’s not a sad song. There’s something beautifully joyous about “Green Light.” Ella has started to let go; she’s happy that she’s moving on – but there’s a tiny bit of resentment in her heart still. She needs to let it go. Something beautifully vengeful yet pure about this song. There aren’t many breakup songs you can bop to – but this is one of them. Count on the Lorde to make it possible.

Oh – & when asked by Rolling Stone about “Green Light,” she said it was all about her “shouting at the universe, wanting to let go, wanting to go forward, to get the green light from life.” Asked a follow-up: did she think she got it? “‘Oh, my God,’ she says. Yes.'” There’s something delightfully encouraging in reading that – at least that’s how I felt. If Lorde can find her green light, so can the rest of us. Until we have, we shout at the universe.

2. “Fetish” – Selena Gomez (feat. Gucci Mane)

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Let me be honest: I’m really not a fan of Selena’s. I never listened to her old music unless it was on the radio; I’ve never had a desire to attend a concert. “Fetish,” however, caught my eye. First, it was the lyric video: everyone wanted the shiny lip gloss on Selena’s mouth as a camera filmed her mouthing the lyrics on close-up – that, & the neutral shade of nail polish she was wearing. The Internet was abuzz for a few weeks about it. Then, the official music video dropped, directed by Petra Collins – I’m a huge fan of her visuals.

It played out beautifully, but to me, “Fetish” wasn’t about an ex-lover. The way the video was shot; the way the video looked – Selena wasn’t speaking about a person, in my opinion. She was speaking about her illness.

I wrote an article on why I think “Fetish” is about chronic illness, & you can read that here so I don’t clutter this space – but to me, it’s almost unthinkable that the song is about an ex. It’s about an abusive relationship for sure – but I think it’s between her & her illness. The way the visuals are presented, the dark undertone to the video…& no implication of any kind of lover, past or present.

Then, of course, we got the news late this year that Selena had had a kidney transplant. When I read that, my jaw dropped. Though she’s never said what “Fetish” is about (to my knowledge, at least) it is too coincidental for the video to have dropped right around the time Selena was either preparing for or just beginning to recover from her kidney transplant. The expressions in her face are almost painful in the way that I can read/relate to them. Maybe I’m way off the mark here, but that’s just my opinion.

If we’re talking song: visuals are beautiful, as you’d expect in a video directed by Petra Collins. Soft, sparkly lighting; delicate dresses – combined with biting of soap & sitting on top of a table covered in candles; wandering around aimlessly in a giant, seemingly endless freezer, with frozen eyelashes & a vague expression. It’s incredibly striking, & for me, I’ll always feel as though the song is about chronic illness.

I listened to Selena’s other single & wasn’t a big fan. Again – I’m not usually one for her music. “Fetish” struck a chord with me, though, & I can’t ignore it. A soft yet powerful beat with a drop that’s impossible to ignore, combined with whispered lyrics, & then the contrast of Gucci Mane’s verse that somehow fits just perfectly with the track. I think it’s very well done; certainly the best track Selena has put out – in my opinion, at least.

3. “Watch Me” – Jaden Smith 

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This was named the second single off Jaden’s record SYRE (which dropped in November). I considered it the first; I had not been paying any attention to Jaden’s music – I’ll be completely honest – but the song “Batman” was officially the first single from SYRE.

A friend sent me this song in late August. I was completely floored by it; I immediately thought the beat was reminiscent of Kanye West’s song “Black Skinhead” off his album Yeezus – something that all of the YouTube comments definitely made note of, & something Jaden himself alluded to, saying that the making of SYRE was inspired by Kanye, among others.

The electric guitar grabbed me by my face from the minute that it started; I really like the steady “monotone” that Jaden maintains in the opening verse. This “monotone” is used quite consistently throughout the song, but depending on what point we’re at in the song, Jaden raises or lowers this “monotone” by a few notes. It’s a great way for the song to build suspense.

I’m not quite sure what about this song really grabbed my attention, but I’ve been enjoying the intersection of different musical genres. I found that Jaden’s album SYRE accomplished this as a whole; this song was a great introduction to it. Drastically different from “Batman,” this song was impossible for me to ignore.

As someone whose confidence was at a bit of a low in August & September of 2017, this was a great song for me to listen to; it boosted my own self-esteem, it was impossible to be sad when listening to it, & “WATCH ME….DO THIS!” are four words that are a great way to grab someone’s attention. It’s a good way for me to move into 2018 – more confidence than before.

The music video was really enjoyable for me as well. The color scheme is reflective of the single’s artwork; if you want to see Jaden moonwalking in the desert, dressed to the nines in black leather, surrounded by a fancy car – this is for you. There’s a bit of an otherworldly touch, too – sometimes, the trees seem to wave & flicker, turning different neon colors. It’s impossible for me to tear my eyes away from, & it caught my attention. By the end of September, I was drooling excitedly for the complete release of SYRE. I’m not sure what Jaden has in store for us next, but it definitely includes another album, as well as a book of poetry (if his tweets are speaking the truth). “See me dancing like I’m Elvis/just tell your man that it’s all in the pelvis” was another line that was slightly tongue-in-cheek…or was it? It’s impossible to tell if Jaden’s hyping himself up, dissing an old flame…or doing both at once. That’s the beauty of the Smith kids: we’ll probably never know exactly what they mean. Therefore, we can project our own experiences onto the beautiful music/visuals they’ve created for us. Thanks for “Watch Me,” Jaden – it was a big upper for my own confidence.

4. Love On The Brain – Rihanna 

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This is an old song – I’m fully aware. ANTI, Rihanna’s eighth studio album, was released in late January of 2016. I didn’t really fall in love with the album until late 2016. By September of that year, though, I was naming songs like “Desperado,” “Higher,” & finally “Love On The Brain” as my album favorites. “Desperado” has made a few comebacks for me, but “Love On The Brain” has made top ten appearances last year – as well as this year.

There’s something about “Love On The Brain” that really distances itself from the rest of ANTI‘s tracks. As a whole, ANTI is predominantly pop & R&B, with some elements of dancehall music (ex. “Work”) & soul – incorporated into “Love On The Brain.” As a whole, ANTI is about Rihanna’s power as a woman; some of the tracks are a little dark. Most of them are pretty “sexy” – & so are the music videos that accompany these songs. No complaints there; like I said, I really enjoyed the whole album, though it took me a little while to get used to Rihanna’s “new sound” – but “Love On The Brain” is my favorite track of ANTI at this point, simply because it’s Rihanna stripped down to her most emotional. According to Billboard, “Love On The Brain” “is a doowop, R&B and soul ballad inspired by 1950s and 1960s music” something quite different from the more electronic song “Sex With Me” or “Kiss It Better.” It was written by Norwegian producer Fred Ball, who said that they wanted it to have a juxtaposition of “old school soul feel with modern lyrics.” I think they accomplished it perfectly. The warm beat contrasts with lyrics like “throw me against a wall” & Rihanna gives up her femme fatale demeanor when she sings “must be love on the brain…that’s got me feeling this way…it beats me black & blue but it fucks me so good & I can’t get enough…” definitely one of the most vulnerable tracks on the album.

Rihanna focused on the vocals here, did a few riffs here & there…& kept it gender-neutral. I’ve been able to apply this song to my own life on multiple occasions, & something about it keeps me feeling warm & sentimental, just like the retro background track. It’s probably going to be on my top ten in 2018, too. We’ll see.

This track is definitely something “different” – I love it, as does my mother (not a Rihanna fan or a fan of pop/R&B/Top 40 in general) & even my father (even less of a Top 40 fan). It’s a testament to how music can cross genres & get incredible amounts of love. At its highest point, “Love On The Brain” reached #5 on Billboard‘s Hot 100, breaking Rihanna’s tie with Elvis Presley as artist with the 5th most top-five singles…& it’s still getting radio play in late 2017 (as I type this).

Rihanna’s here to stay – her fashion line, makeup line, & album ANTI made that more than clear to the public. There isn’t much chatter about another album, but I’m more than happy listening to “Love On The Brain” for the next 40 years, if need be.

5. “Don’t Take The Money” – Bleachers 

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Bleachers – a name you might not have heard over the past few years; a name you might have heard more than once in 2017. Bleachers is the official stage name for Jack Antonoff; it’s his band/side act/”American indie pop act” – Antonoff is also part of the band fun. (famously behind the album Some Nights), & Bleachers has been most active during periods of time where other acts he was part of (like fun. & the band Steel Train) were on hiatus/working on their own side projects.

I’d vaguely heard of Bleachers; I knew quite a bit about Antonoff, first thanks to fun. – then thanks to Lorde. Antonoff worked closely with Lorde on her second album, Melodrama, helping with both lyrics & production.

Interesting that Antonoff worked so closely with Lorde; “Don’t Take The Money” is a song off Bleachers’ album Gone Now – the second album by the band/act – & “Don’t Take The Money” was the lead single. Who co-wrote the song/was featured in background vocals? Lorde/Ella herself. Near the end of the song, Lorde’s unmistakeable voice is heard in the background, crooning the main chorus…but softer, as though she’s whispering it to herself.

The song is about difficulties of navigating a relationship; Antonoff has said that the phrase “don’t take the money” is something he says all the time, & “has nothing to do with actual money. It means to follow the light. Don’t ignore a gut feeling. Not following a deep gut feeling destroys your art and the people around you. so I say it in my head constantly; sometimes about something very specific relating to music, sometimes about a bigger question about marriage or depression. Point is, it’s become my phrase to stay on track” (x).

The phrase clearly has several meanings; when repeated in the chorus, there’s a pleading quality to it that gets quite emotional. The quieter verses, followed by the little burst of energy in the chorus – “Somebody told me once/Love is a currency” is the opening lyric, as opposed to the chorus “You steal the air out of my lungs/You make me feel it” – gives the song its addictive up-&-down quality. It’s a song that’s made me cry, though I’m not sure why; it’s a song that’s defined several important moments in my summer, though I’m not currently navigating a relationship. I suppose that, like all the artists I enjoy, Bleachers was able to make an emotional melody, an addicting beat, & add lyrics that can apply to a lot of different things. Like Antonoff said, “don’t take the money” isn’t referring to a robbery. It’s a plea; a reminder to stay on track. Yet – the addictive, dance-like chorus makes it impossible for us to not throw our heads back & immerse ourselves in the joyous sound of the music. It incorporates a lot of different emotions – & I love that about it.

6. “Hard Feelings / Loveless” – Lorde

melodrama-lorde-album-new-artwork-cover.pngAhh…another favorite from Melodrama. This two-part song was impossible for me to ignore. The lyric I can’t go without mentioning is “I’m at jungle city, it’s late & this song is for you.” We don’t exactly know who Ella is singing for or to, but we do know that there’s a lot of emotion behind this quiet song “Hard Feelings,” which starts with a simple finger snap & a quiet beat.

“Hard Feelings” is Lorde’s last breath of air for a relationship that’s been over & done with: “Now we sit in your car & our love is a ghost” – but though the love itself is gone, the feelings that the singer has are not. She works her way through this: “I light all the candles/Cut flowers for all my rooms/I care for myself the way I used to care about you.” “When you’ve outgrown a lover/The whole world knows but you,” & these little pieces of Lorde learning to be with & by herself turn into a scratchy, screaming dance beat; a wordless chorus that has an overwhelming amount of overlapping harmonies, resulting in a beautiful discord of emotion & musical notes.

We segue into “Loveless” which reveals another side of the singer – it’s short, but definitely not sweet. A man’s voice saying “What is this tape??? This is my favorite tape!!!” builts up to a beat, which builds up to a shake-up of the beat; within a minute, we’re into the actual song “Bet you’re gonna rip my heart out/Bet you’re gonna skip my calls now – well guess what, I like that” “We’re L.O.V.E.L.E.S.S. Generation/all fuckin’ with our lovers’ heads,” shows us Lorde’s colder side; perhaps the side that she briefly acknowleged in “Hard Feelings” but didn’t want to completely reveal quite yet.

Together, these two songs make way for a beautiful transition into the second half of Melodrama. It’s hard to pick “one” of the two “songs” in this compilation, but “Hard Feelings” stole my heart with its succinct yet incredibly emotional lyrics. That, & the whispered “go back & tell it” by Ella at the very beginning gives an intimate introduction to the track even before we’re more than eight beats into the song.

7. “Liability” – Lorde 

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Last song from Melodrama – I promise! You probably have a pretty good idea at what my favorite album of the year was by now, though. You’ll see soon – for now, let me talk a little bit about “Liability,” which was the second single released from the Melodrama album. This was released only one week after the initial single, “Green Light” – & it was a sharp contrast to the anthem-y, dance-y vibes of “Green Light.” It’s the most stripped-down Lorde has ever gotten on a song, in my opinion – “Gone are the booming drums, crackling bass and waves of glistening synths that colored her early work,” says Billboard. Yes, it’s a complete 180 from “Green Light” – but that’s what made it so popular, in my opinion.

Lorde’s always been one to build herself up in her music (which I’m all for) – Pure Heroine was about the little goth girl who distanced herself from popular surroundings/culture with pride. “Liability” is a whole new story. On it, Lorde talks about the pain that might come with “being different”…or, perhaps, the pain that might accompany her fame – we get the lines “Says he made the big mistake of dancing in my storm/Says it was poison” followed by the now unmistakable chorus:

They say, “You’re a little much for me
You’re a liability
You’re a little much for me”
So they pull back, make other plans
I understand, I’m a liability
Get you wild, make you leave
I’m a little much for
E-a-na-na-na, everyone

Of course, the song is deeply personal – by the end, Lorde says that we’re gonna watch her disappear into the sun – but a song about liability will inevitably capture the attention (& hearts) of listeners everywhere. No matter what your social status/career/love life…everyone’s found themselves feeling a liability at some point – perhaps at many points. I think this is why the song was such a winner, & I think it was a great call to make it the second single. It showed the range of Melodrama – the sheer contrast to “Green Light” made me wonder how the album would play out.

On a personal level, I was able to make this about being sick/chronically ill. I constantly worry about having to pull away from something because I don’t feel well enough to go – I worry that other people will “pull back, make other plans/I understand…I’m a liability/Get you wild make you leave” & so on. This is applicable in my situation; it’s applicable in thousands of others’, too. Which is why it’s such a beautiful song; a great song. Lorde’s stripped-down SNL performance – with its touch of White Witch-y magic – only made the song more beautiful, in my opinion.

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Lorde performing “Liability” on SNL – back facing her pianist, which is a metaphor for her lonelinss (probably, anyway. I just came up with that myself).

The piano ballad was meant to be sung live. Ella did a beautiful job with it, hands-down. A great song – a song that’ll make you stop, sit back, & take a few moments to listen. You might even cry in public when it comes on shuffle (if you’re me). You’ll have to test your character. No matter what, though, “Liability” is a 2017 song to remember.

8. “White Iverson” – Post Malone

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I wouldn’t consider myself a Post Malone fan, judging from all the enjoyment I get from some of the more snide memes about him. I really know little to nothing about the man; I enjoy “Rockstar” when it’s on the radio (who doesn’t) & yes, I like “White Iverson.”

I first was introduced to it by a friend in early 2017. I listened to it a little bit in the early winter; I gave it a break once Melodrama & a few other albums began being teased. I revisited it in the summer, when I was trying to find some things to do to “replace” performance. It doesn’t come close, but dancing to some songs with a steady beat – & I say dancing with a big eyeroll – is a calming thing for me to do late at night, in the middle of a panic attack…or in the middle of the day, when I’m getting ready to go out…or when I’m feeling extra happy or sad. Whenever I need to “bop,” I need to blow off some steam; sometimes it’s happy steam, other times it’s sad. “White Iverson” has a great beat. I don’t listen much to the lyrics, I just listen to Post Malone’s voice carry the faster-paced verses down to the slower chorus…then speed it up again. I enjoy the way the beat completely stops in the middle of the song, “rewinds,” then starts up again. In case you can’t tell: I like the beat of this song a lot. I’ll always think of it fondly; not because of my admiration for Post Malone, the song’s music vidoe (wasn’t a huge fan), or the lyrics – just because of the way it planted myself in my life, & was in the back of my head during some of the most important moments of 2017. There’s no explaining why…it was just there sometimes. I chart that up, once again, to the catchiness of the beat. I’ve jammed to it in my bedroom at 4 a.m., I’ve sat outside during the midsummer heat & watched the sun go down to it…& many things in between. It’s been a constant for me in 2017, & it’ll be a marker of 2017. I guess that’s what makes a hit a hit, right?

9. “Lemon” – N.E.R.D. & Rihanna 

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“HAVE YOU SEEN THE MUSIC VIDEO?” I got via text in early November. “Of what?” I asked. It could be anything; I constantly follow music videos, & I’ve been doing it especially closely since midsummer. “RIHANNA,” I got back…but Rihanna had been busy with Fenty Beauty, & I told my friend so. “JUST GO TYPE IN LEMON,” was the response…so I did. & I haven’t shut up about it since.

The thumbnail of the music video caught my attention right away: “TUTORIAL No. 1. LEMON” featuring a woman with a shaved head, staring straight at the camera.

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I clicked on the video, & first a voice told me (on a black screen) “The truth will set you free. But first, it’ll piss you off.” Before I could reflect on the truthfulness of the phrase, BAM – there was Rihanna under some neon lights, staring right at the camera (panning out slowly). First it was just her face. Then we saw what she was doing: shaving a woman’s head. I started screaming internally, & texted a few people, getting a “I KNEW YOU’D LIKE IT” type response from everyone.

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We get a full 40 seconds or so of Rihanna shaving this woman’s head. There’s not much context behind it, & I wondered what kind of feature Rihanna would be getting. This was a N.E.R.D. project (a band formed by Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo, & Shay Hayley – N.E.R.D. is an acronym for “NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES,”) & all I could hear was Pharrell rapping. That’s when I got hit with the realization: Rihanna was rapping on the track. nerd.jpg

We get a quick visual of the woman whose head Rihanna had been shaving – dancer Mette Towley, who has been working with Pharrell for a few years now – & then it’s time for Rihanna’s lyrics…& some serious dancing on Mette’s part.

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The music video got so much attention, between the on-camera head shave, the addicting verses done by Rihanna, & the incredible dancing by Mette – that the song shot to the top of my most-played on Spotify…a song released in November is on my top ten most-played of 2017 (let that sink in for a minute).

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Mette along with N.E.R.D. (in background) for a Beats by Dr. Dre “Beyond The Noise” ad video, which featured Mette “doing the Lemon” while wearing her music video outfit & a pair of Beats headphones.

I’ve been “bopping” to “Lemon” almost non-stop. It’s as though the song was tailored for my interests: beautiful women, Rihanna, heads being shaved, & some great dancing…& an incredibly hard to forget beat. I’ve been following Mette (Mette Towley is her full name) pretty closely as well, & I have to hand it over to N.E.R.D. for including a bunch of big names on their self-titled album: No One Ever Really Dies. Lemon was the album’s first single, which featured Rihanna; we got Future on “1000” – we even got Kendrick Lamar on “Don’t Don’t Do It!”

I really enjoyed the album as a whole…but Rihanna’s feature on Lemon, along with the now-iconic visuals is what made the album so attractive to me. I have no shame in saying it’s been on almost constant repeat; how else do you think it got to my top ten most-played so quickly?

10. “Neon Lights” Kraftwerk 

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I am perfectly aware that this song was released in 1978. Let’s put it in the “Love On The Brain” category – this is not a new song (by any means) but it was just something I played a lot this year, particularly during the months of March, April, & May.

Kraftwerk is another band that has particularly strong beats; in March, I started decreasing the amount of violin I was playing, due to the arthritis diagnosis I had gotten. I prepared to play a final concert in late April, but most of the time couldn’t attend orchestra rehearsals, lessons, etc. I had to sit out my final orchestra concert…so, in general, there wasn’t much playing, practicing, or performing going on during my final months of sophomore year of music school – something that was incredibly sad & frustrating for me.

I took a few courses to examine some scores (mainly Beethoven’s violin sonatas), but also took a lot of time to go through soundtracks, playlists, & books of music that I really hadn’t looked at much previously. For my whole life, I was hyperfocused on classical music, what went into performing it, what went into writing it, & the lives of those who had written the music that I played. Pop music was not the focus – &, when I started making my own little “videos” for fun, I wanted to look into new music…except it wasn’t necessarily “new” for me. I started with some good old British favorites, like Pink Floyd & Queen. I listened to the Stranger Things soundtrack – that introduced me to a lot of 80s rock, & heightened my enthusiasm for bands like The Smiths & Joy Division. I started getting into music my father had listened to; Kraftwerk was one of these bands, & “Neon Lights” was one of their most popular songs.

The beat is hyper-electronic; it’s very warm, though. The lyrics are ultra-simple: “Neon lights…shimmering neon lights…” sings the lead singer, until it’s time to sing the German translation. I’ve fallen asleep to this song; it’s a great song to write to, to think to…or just stare at the ceiling at 3:41 a.m. to. I have a few notes written out around that time somewhere in the middle of March, & the song is always mentioned.

That’s not to say the song is boring; it’s merely comforting & nostalgic to me, now. I’ll still tear up sometimes when I hear it.

Can you tell that that’s what makes a good song a good song to me? Tear up when you hear it. Okay…”Lemon” is an exception. It’s a lose if you’re crying to that one.

That’s it, folks! Those are my top ten most-played songs of 2017. If you want to hear them from 1-10, here’s a playlist featuring these 10 songs. How great, right?

What were your top ten favorite songs of 2017? I’d love to hear about them; let me know in the comments if you like.

Love,

Sofia ❤

September Favorites: A Lot of Favorite Oldies – & Some Incredible Newbies

I truly cannot believe that it’s October. I’ve been busy! It’s not “going to class” busy, but I have been writing, taking one online class that is about writing creative non-fiction (aka: the way I write on this site!), & just…Realizing Things…

I feel like I Realize Things every month (I mean, thank god I do) but this month was huge for me. I’m slowly starting  to slip into the shell that fits me most. It’s a long scary road ahead, but I think I’ll handle it fine. I have been more at peace with my mind lately; I laugh more easily & things are’t engulfed in dark thoughts. I’m becoming more myself, & for that alone – I will always remember this September in my mind.

This post isn’t really about “me” at all, as you can tell by my title – but I wanted to type it out that I am feeling more comfortable with myself every single day & it’s something I’m proud of & want to share. I never thought I’d be this busy & at peace with myself after having to give up violin in April (read why here). I have been more cheerful, more focused on my own thoughts & trying to trust my intuition; I dance alone in my room; I write, write, & write; I keep my family & dear friends close to my heart & try to love them as best as I can. Needless to say, feeling this way is amazing for me & it’s not something that came to me easily – so, I’m proud of the progress I have made & wanted to share it with all of you!

Now that I have that out of the way, let me promise that I have some amazing things coming up on here, including a few “interviews” with some friends of mine! I also have some upcoming things that are even more amazing with some other orgnizations 🙂 stay tuned is all I will say (for now).

My monthly playlist for September is already up! You can check it out here. For the first time, it includes a poem – by me! It’s the first time I have put my poetry on this blog, so I hope you like it. I have good things planned for the month of October, & I CANNOT contain my excitement for Stranger Things Season 2. AAA! Okay! Let’s talk products (& other little things)

I’ve written about simplifying my skin care routines – both morning & night. I really tried to stick to that this month, & I do think that the difference is noticable! My skin looks glowier & isn’t as congested. I think my face was being overwhelmed with products & was telling me to slow down…I’m glad I listened.

Don’t worry, I won’t be cutting off new products; you’ll still get reviews from me! I’m just using a different (slower, but worth it) method to see how I like a product: that is, make sure the rest of my skin care is consistent while I’m trying out the new product. That way, I can tell if there’s a noticeable difference – good or bad!

So, this September, I cut back my routine to fewer steps; fewer serums. I had to make one big purchase; other than that, however, I stuck to what I knew & loved. My cutting back on buying skin care has been good for my wallet AS WELL AS good for my skin. It’s a win-win.

In my September favorites, I’m returning to some old, much-loved products, as well as a few new ones that are helping me keep my skin calm, hydrated, glowy, & clear. You’ll see a lipstick I just remembered I owned; you’ll see a cream that triples as a moisturizer, leave-on mask, & makeup primer. I’ve categorized them loosely: Of course, we’ll have skin care; I’ll split up makeup favorites into another category; I also have some art pieces, photos, & jewelry i’ve been liking as well (side note: I may do a lookbook in the future; it might be fun! Tell me what you think about that).

You’ll see them all; you’ll see everything! Even better, you’ll be able to read all my thoughts on them starting…now! ENJOY!

Skincare 

My routine is pretty much the same as the simplified ones I’ve built (read my “back to basics” morning routine here; I’ve allowed myself free range on masks, which is fun! Most of my skincare favorites for this month are old & much-loved (though I haven’t talked in detail about all of them on this blog). Only one out of the three masks I loved the most this month is an old favorite. I figured we may as well start with the new stuff, then move from there!

 

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The tremendous trio of my September

Let’s start with the one I was most surprised by: the Boscia Luminizing Black Mask. I have an upcoming post that’s a review of some of Boscia’s other products – they were kind enough to send me some things, including this mask! I have some good opinions on the other products, & I won’t say too much about this one – just that I’m shocked at how effective yet gentle it was. Yes – it’s an intense peel-off mask, & you may have to tug a tiny bit, but it really, really works. I use it in the evening; I wake up with glowier, clearer, less congested skin every time I’ve used this mask. I will definitely be repurchasing this with my own money; I’m also recommending it to everyone I see!

Okay – on to our next mask. This is an old favorite; something my own mama put me onto, actually! You all know my love for Origins products – the Drink Up™️ Intensive Overnight Mask is now one of my cult favorite products from the brand. Here, I have a small travel size that came from a bigger kit with two minis (one of this mask; the other the Origins charcoal mask), but I will most definitely be getting full-size (or sneaking dollops of my mama’s) once I’m done with my little tube.

What made me start using this again? Well, I always have redness/sensitivity/dryness under my nose, but it got quite bad this past month for some reason (nothing changed; no colds; nothing!) & I was trying to find overnight masks that would give that are an extra boost of hydration. BAM! This one did the trick in about two days. Sensitivity & dryness are, for the most part, gone. It definitely is intended for dry skin types; even Origins mentions that in the product description. It contains a variety of hydrating oils: avocado & apricot kernel oil do most of the work here. Together, these oils build a moisture reservoir for your skin overnight. You’ll wake up with softer, calmer skin for sure – but it works even in a few minutes. The oils don’t just build a moisture reservoir; they instantly flood your compromised moisture reserves – aka: it’s great for using on super dry spots. It also contains Japanese seaweed as a main ingredient, which repairs the skin’s barrier, preventing future dehydration. The smell is soft but present; I’d describe it as slightly citrusy; tangy fruit for sure. It also is very cooling when first applied – another relief to tired, dehydrated skin cells. Best of all – this mask does not clog my pores, even though it contains oils, & even though it’s meant to be worn overnight! I can only thank Origins (of course) & my mama – for buying the mask before I even knew it existed.

Last mask? Mario Badescu Whitening Mask. I’ve been hearing things about this product for ages; I was a bit scared because it seemed quite intense. The mask itself looks a bit like liquid concrete (see above photo) & has a very thick texture. It also has an odd smell – that’s because of the liquorice as an ingredient.

Will this bleach my skin/lighten my freckles? No! It simply evens out your skin tone, soothing irritation & reparing discolored areas, like scars. To my surprise, it’s actually meant for dry skin.  Kojic acid, liquorice root extract, mulberry extract, & grapeseed extract  and  minimize the look of age spots and even out skin in general, while olive oil & Vitamin E lock in moisture, making your complexion bright & glowy – but still soft. I know a lot of dry-skinned people who struggle to find a brightening mask that isn’t drying. I’d hesitate to call this a “whitening” mask, as I don’t think that it lightens the skin. I think “brightening” is a better way to describe it, but that’s just me. Best of all? You only leave it on for ten minutes maximum – perfect if you’re up in the morning, want to treat your face right, but don’t have much time. Try using it as a spot treatment on uneven areas from time to time; your skin will thank you. I’m happy I finally gave this a go; it’s a great mask that’s quick, not too expensive, & lasts a long time (thanks to the consistency).

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The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 / Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos™ Glycolic Night Serum

You’ve seen these before in my posts; the fact that I love the Drunk Elephant Framboos Glycolic Night Serum is no secret. I love The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid as well – it’s dirt-cheap (unlike the Drunk Elephant) & works very well overnight to lock in moisture & keep my complexion plump & glowy. The one problem I have with all of The Ordinary’s serums is that they’re a bit tacky; I don’t mind this, however, if I’m using one as a night serum. I find the Drunk Elephant one to be a bit tacky, too – together, they work like a dream.

The Drunk Elephant serum works to gently exfoliate, thanks to the AHA/BHA blend & the glycolic acid. I do try to avoid the area under my nose when applying this serum – I am always dry & sensitive around there, & I don’t want to take too many chances. On my cheeks, forehead, chin, though – that’s a different story. This serum took my skin to the next level; think of it as a very gentle Babyfacial – except you use it every single night.

The Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 is another treasure. It’s more lightweight than some of the other serums by The Ordinary; because of this, it’s less tacky than the others – big plus! As most of you may know by this point: hyaluronic acid can attract up to 1,000 times its weight in water. This makes it an amazing hydrating serum for any skin type – it contains no oil – & the added Vitamin B5 in The Ordinary’s formula enhances surface hydration. Basically: this is an amazing, hydrating serum for any & all skin types. It’s dirt-cheap, & it works beautifully.

Why do these two work so well together? Well, I like to think of the Framboos serum as a lighter version of the Sukari Babyfacial (also by Drunk Elephant). It gently exfoliates (chemically, thanks to the glycolic acid & the AHA/BHA blend) & gets rid of texture, keeps skin clear & bright, & just gives me a great glow. The Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 locks in moisture; it gives me an extra layer of hydration without feeling too weighed down, & it ensures that no matter what, I will not have dry skin after applying the DE Framboos – no matter what. A dynamic duo, indeed.

Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre 

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Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre – Jane Birkin’s go-to

Okay. I love Glossier with all my heart – & I loved their Priming Moisturizer for daily wear, until very recently. I noticed a few other people (including YouTubers like Ingrid Nilsen) complaining about the formula. I was confused. I noticed no difference – then I started using my brand-new tube. Suddenly, I got it. Keep in mind: this was Ingrid’s first impression of Priming Moisturizer; she hadn’t bought it previously so hadn’t tried the previous formulation. Here’s what she had to say about the PM in her video “GLOSSIER REVIEW! What’s Worth It + What’s Not”:

“I wanted something that would be a really good daily moisturizer; one that would provide a little bit more hydration. When I started using this, I really loved the consistency of it…but then after a few days of using this regularly, I started to notice that my skin felt kind of and irritated…kind of like how it feels when I use a retinol treatment. I was really confused about how my skin was feeling at first…because when I put the moisturizer on, it felt really hydrating, but not greasy…I looked at the ingredients in this, and sure enough, there is retinol in this.”

Long quote, but it’s still a shortened version of what Ingrid had to say. I love her videos – you should check them out! This was a great review of the brand (in my opinion).

Okay – so I’d been getting questions for a while about Glossier switching their ingredients. I was confused, because mine felt the same – then I got my new tube, felt a bit irritated & red for a few days, watched Ingrid’s video…&…you get it! 2 + 2 = 4.

I didn’t have the same reaction Ingrid did; she mentioned feeling tight & dry. I felt hydrated still, but I felt as though my skin was tingling; it felt a little warmer than usual, too. I didn’t ever get a rash, but I had increased irritation/redness under my nose.

If you’ve been using Glossier’s Priming Moisturizer lately & haven’t had a problem, you’re fine – you probably just aren’t sensitive to retinol; some are more sensitive than others. The ingredient won’t hurt you – just make sure you wear sunscreen (otherwise, it will hurt you). But remember: you should be wearing sunscreen anyway!

I saw that Ingrid mentioned the Embryolisse cream. I asked a few others about it, & after seeing only positive reviews – & hearing that it was Jane Birkin’s go-to moisturizer – I ordered it from the online shop DermStore – you can get many French pharmacy products & other cult favorites on there. It’s quite inexpensive; you get a bit more product than the Glossier Priming Moisturizer, & you pay a little more for this tube than for the Glossier one. It evens out when considering product amount.

This moisturizer is quickly described as “A vitamin and antioxidant-rich moisturizer ideal for dry skin. Well – dry skin, that’s me! On the back of the tube, Embryolisse claims that this cream is a 3-in-1: a moisturizer (of course) a leave-on mask, & a makeup primer. Say no more. I’ve been eyeing leave-on masks since I saw Delilah Parillo use the ridiculously expensive (& luxurious) Sisley Paris Black Rose Cream Mask in her GRWM video with Glossier.

The Sisley one is $162; the Embryolisse is $28 (& that’s the bigger size). I’m not saying they’re similar – I have no idea what the Sisley one feels like on the face – but if you’ve been looking for “leave-on masks,” this is a good inexpensive one to give a go.

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“Moisturizer. Make-up primer. Moisturizing mask.”

It’s very similar in consistency to Glossier’s Priming Moisturizer. Yet – it sinks in quicker, easier, & – best of all – doesn’t tingle or burn after application. It’s slightly less…oily…I suppose is the best word…than the Glossier Priming Moisturizer. I feel as though the finishes are slightly different. Somehow, the texture ends up feeling similar yet very different. It sinks in faster than the Glossier one; if you work too slow, the cream will actually sink into the back of your hand, leaving less than you put on the back of your hand (if that’s how you apply your moisturizer). Embryolisse boasts that the cream is quickly absorbed by the skin; I’d agree with that – in the best way possible, it is very absorbant. Hence, the hydrated yet not sticky or greasy finish. It works very nicely as a primer; if I need five minutes to get ready, this is the moisturizer/primer I would slap on before patting a little concealer on & running.

I will definitely be refilling my tube when this one runs out. It’s been the main player for the past month or so for a daytime moisturizer. Plus – Jane Birkin used it. It has to be good, right?

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This is a LOT of product – I won’t run out any time soon

Sunday Riley U.F.O / Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich

This is a “hack” that is most certainly not a hack – thousands of people have done this before I have. In fact, I got that tip from many posts on various skin care websites. Oils can be patted into the skin before or after moisturizing, but they can also be mixed into the moisturizer of your choice (just as long as it’s not a water gel cream; I can’t see an oil reacting well to that type of moisturizer).

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My newest night moisturizing routine – scoop, cream, & oil are used together every single evening

Sunday Riley U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil 

I love a good facial oil! This one was the first that I ever bought – & it is something that I have continued to return to, time after time.

First off – let’s start with some context. I was having some bad skin weeks in January; I asked a friend for help, & she recommended I try the Sunday Riley. When I looked it up on Sephora, I noticed that it contained some salicylic acid – something found very often in acne treatments (like Proactiv). I was nervous after seeing that – I was convinced I’d end up dry & greasy – but the oil itself was so beautiful, I had never tried a face oil, I had Christmas money, & my skin did need a litle extra help at that time. I figured that all of these were good reasons to justify my purchase, so I clenched my teeth, typed in my Sephora gift card number, & waited for the product to arrive.

I was not disappointed. Turns out: this oil is marketed for all skin types. Why? Well, because while the salicylic acid does its clarifying work, milk thistle and cucumber seed oil ensure that you’ll feel soothed & hydrated all day. Chamomile and neroli soothe stressed, blemish-prone skin, but they can also sooth dry/sensitive, too.

This oil has a very pungent smell to it. It’s very herbal, green, & very dark. I like it quite a lot, but I know some people absolutely hate it. If you’re unsure about scented products/are sensitive to heavy scents, I’d definitely recommend going to a Sephora to see what it smells like. Personally – I don’t really care what a product smells like, as long as it works. This one works – I also like the smell, which is a big plus.

Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich 

(Not to be confused with the original Priming Moisturizer I mentioned above with the Embryolisse cream)

Sigh. Will I ever shut up about how much I love this moisturizer? Well, even if I could, I wouldn’t. It’s that good to my skin. Seriously. When Glossier launched this product in January, I jumped on it as fast as possible. I was not surprised. Even on the coldest days, PMR would keep my face feeling plump & hydrated. I can wear it in the day without getting clogged pores, or I can slather on a thick layer all over my face after a rigorous tingling mask. I can use it for any occasion, really.

First off the bat – this stuff is butter-soft, so luxurious in texture, & smells heavenly. It isn’t too floral; it isn’t musky or fruity. A key ingredient in PMR is lavender; one of my favorite scents is lavender. It would make sense I gravitate towards that scent! Anyways: it smells luxurious, feels luxurious, & gives your skin a from-within glow. It’s one of the Glossier products I recommend to anyone – like Super Pure Serum (read my mini review on it here!). In fact, PMR was the first thing to pop into my mind when I was asked as a rep to name my favorite Glossier products. I said it “makes me feel like a queen.” I wasn’t wrong.

The only cream I can compare PMR to is Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Bio-Repair Cream. They’re not exact by any means; the rose cream is a pale pink, while the Priming Moisturizer Rich is an ivory-shell kind of shade. The end results, however, are very similar – there’s just one downside: the Rose Stem Cell Bio-Repair Mask is $75.

That’s a lot of money for a cream, & I do spend money on some expensive skin care (like Drunk Elephant or Sunday Riley), but I don’t look at creams much anymore (for nightt-ime, that is). Why?

Priming Moisturizer Rich. That’s all.

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A close-up of the products, with a bit of the spoon’s scoop showing itself. I love the color of the oil

So…what’s the deal with these products? What’s that stick in the jar of cream?

First of all – the stick is actually called the Stainless Steel Spoon, sold by NIOD, which is one of the few “brands” DECIEM owns (including The Ordinary).

I’ve spoken about how hygienic spatulas are – they keep bacteria away, & only scoop up enough amount that you need; cream you’ll have to touch regardless. Keeping the fingers away from your jar of moisturizer, however, will benefit me, you…the whole universe.

I used some plastic spatulas to apply my moisturizer initially; this past summer, I saw the Stainless Steel Spoon pop up when I was browsing DECIEM’s site for The Ordinary prroducts. I saw it pop up, I saw it was $2.50, & then I bought it.

Thoughts? Not much to say, except that it’s very pretty & shiny, it does exactly what it’s supposed to do – & it’s environment-friendly! No more throwing out plastic spatulas after they get old. I clean this one with rubbing alcohol, just as I did with plastic – but this one will last.

I use the Stainless Steel Spoon to scoop up the right amount of Priming Moisturizer Rich for my face (about one average-size scoop of the spoon), then I grab my vial of Sunday Riley’s U.F.O. & drop three drops right down into the cream on the back of my hand. I then mix them together; the dark green of the oil makes the cream turn a nice minty-green apple color. The scents of the two products combined is absolutely heavenly, especially at night. I like to think of it as aromatherapy. I apply the green mix to my face, close my jars & screw shut my vials – & there! I am good to go. The oil helps keep my skin balanced & clear, while the moisturizer keeps my skin get softer, dewier, & free of redness (YAY!)  & I think they work perfectly together. It’s a dreamy combination.

Glossier Body Hero Duo 

You know – the huge body-positive ad campaign that’s going around these days. The one that hasn’t been photoshopped or retouched. The one starring (let’s be real here) Paloma Elsesser, one of my favorite faces out in the beauty/fashion world right now. You can read my full review here if you’d like; you can also just keep reading to see why the duo is in my favorites.

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Another duo; this time: Body Hero Duo. (SIDE NOTE: special Body Hero sticker only comes with an order of the duo; same goes for the larger pink pouch that comes with it (which I’ve been loving as a quick makeup bag. The more you can fit, the better

In my first impressions review, I mentioned being worried about the Daily Oil Wash running out on me quickly. I was worried because the consistency is extremely thin, which often means you need more amount of product, which means you run out quickly…you get it. I’ve also been using it on my “hair.” The oils are gentle enough but foam up very nicely; I come out of the shower with soft skin, a nose full of orange blossom neroli (the Body Hero scent) & soft peach fuzz on my head, too! I’ve found it to be particularly useful after shaving my head. I get covered in particles of hair; the oil swipes the little ones stuck to my shoulders with no issue, & I can dry off without seeing more of my tiny hair spikes that I didn’t catch the first time around. Daily Oil Wash? So far, you’re doing well. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review of my impressions of Daily Oil Wash – coming soon!

I will say with no hesitation that the Daily Perfecting Cream is my favorite out of the two. It truly does work like a liquid highlight; I’ve applied it while shining a flashlight on my hand or arm, & you can see a subtle glow (not even a shimmer!) that reflects slightly pink. It’s as though Becca’s liquid highlights now have a sister – just for the rest of our bodies.

I’ve been using the Daily Perfecting Cream as a body & a hand cream. It’s really hard to explain how nice the cream feels when it’s sunk into your skin…just know that you won’t feel sticky or greasy; you’ll just walk around feeling as though you just moisturized, but not in a bad way. It also smells like orange blossom neroli, & the scent lingers longer than the scent of the Daily Oil Wash – I’m not complaining. I absolutely adore the scent of this duo; it’s very neutral, yet somehow appealing to everyone that I know has tried it. I truly don’t have anything bad to say about it – & if you don’t want to buy the duo & don’t know which to pick…get the cream. You won’t regret it – I promise!

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Makeup

Yay! Time for some fun. Let’s get right to it. Here’s what I’ve been loving – get ready for some face photos, too!

Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb / Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Weirdo 

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Two lip products that work amazingly together – & just as well as standalone products, too

I’ll get to the lipstick in a moment – let’s just take a moment to acknowlege that Rihanna came out with one single lip product for the initial launch – a lip product that looks incredible on literally every skin tone. I mean, it’s Fenty Beauty – inclusivity is a must, & I’m here for it.

Gloss Bomb is described as a “universal lip luminizer,” which, judging from the pictures I’ve seen, is completely accurate. The shade is in “Fenty Glow” which is described as “a shimmering rose nude.” Somehow, the gloss is sheer enough to be flattering on everyone; no one looks as though they’re wearing a heavy lip (or one that is waaaayyy too light). Even on my pale skin, my lips look plumper & shinier – enhanced, not modified. It truly does look incredible on everyone I’ve seen wear it.

The Gloss Bomb is also one of the cheaper products on Fenty Beauty’s display. It’s a gloss that wouldn’t take too many hours of work to buy. The shape & design of the gloss makes it a beautiful thing to carry around; plus, the octagonal shape of the chunky little tube makes it easy to find if/when digging around in a bag. The wand is chunky & thick, just like the tube. Don’t worry – it won’t be messy. One swipe with this big wand, a few smaller strokes to ensure full coverage, & you’re good to go. It’s something you can apply without a mirror; it’s something that smells good; it’s something that’s incredibly hydrating; it’s something that looks good on every. Single. Person.

If you’re overwhelmed by the Fenty Beauty launch (that was a lot of product dumped on us!) I recommend you start with this if you don’t know where to begin. I guarantee that you’ll look amazing in it. Trust me!

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Fenty Gloss Bomb on the lips!

Now – the lipstick. I’ve liked the Urban Decay Vice lipstick line for quite a while now. I have three shades: two are pinky-nudes, the other is a sheer red (which I adore). In my opinion, the quality of UD lipsticks have surpassed MAC’s – plus, I always try to go with the cruelty-free option…& if on top of that, it feels better than MAC lipsticks anyway – what reason do you have to not pick the Vice lipstick?

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This is just about the same price as a MAC lipstick & I think the packaging is prettier! (but that’s just me)

I wear the shade Weirdo all the time. It’s a cream finish; that means it’s hydrating but doesn’t fade too quickly. It also has a bit of sheen to it – it’s not a glossy lipstick by any means, but I enjoy the slight sheen. It’s described as a “pale baby pink” – & I know I’m pale, but looking at that lipstick, it just doesn’t seem quite a baby pink to me. When swatched or worn on the lips, it comes off more of a rosy coral for me – it’s not over the top, though. Definitely it’s something I pull out when I’m stumped on what to do with my lips when I have a dramatic eye look going on; it’s also good to smudge some of this on in a hurry & look hecticly polished because of it.

The lipstick formula contains a lot of hydrating ingredients, like aloe vera, jojoba, avocado, and babassu oils, as well as Vitamin E. Vitamin C is there, too; UD says it “delivers a hint of antioxidants.” Not sure what that means, but I am sure that the three Vice lipsticks I’ve tried have all been incredibly hydrating. No chapped lips, no need to prep before application – it’s all good to go, right there in the tube. Don’t worry about it being patchy during the day, either; the lipsticks fade out with elegance & grace. No ugly spots at the end of the day! Best of all, the shape of the lipstick bullet makes it extremely easy to apply in public without a mirror.

As you can see, both of my lip choices for this month were things that don’t need a mirror. I love that effortless look, & both of these products (one quite old, the other brand new) help me achieve that.

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This is a look I get asked how to do quite often. I have the product breakdown here – but to stay on topic, Urban Decay Weirdo is on my lips!

 

Fenty Beauty Portable Highlighter Brush 140 / Fenty Beauty Match Stix Shimmer Skinstick in Blonde

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A side view: the brush is white (with a reflective purple glimmer); the Shimmer Skinstick is the matte beige color 
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Glimmer in effect!

Of course I had to put these together as some of my favorites. The little brush was made for the highlight stick – no, seriously: they were made to go together. That’s why they’re magnetic (I can’t stop sticking & unsticking them together). The brush is small, & I was scared it’d be flimsy. Not so! Both of these products are very solidly made; they fit comfortably in your hand without feeling too heavy; at the same time, they’re able to have some weight to them. They don’t feel cheap.

I’ve been using the highlight brush with the highlight skin stick, of course – I’ve also been using it with other highlights, cream or powder; I will say that the brush works best with cream stick products. That makes sense, since it was built to work for the Shimmer Skinsticks.

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Even at an angle, these buddies like to stick together

Blonde is described as “a glimmering gold.” I like to call it the cream sister of the Fenty Beauty Trophy Wife Killawatt highlight. It’s less glittery & more dewy; it does shine a “pure” gold, though. I was scared that this wouldn’t work on me, but it’s beautiful. They’re very buildable; Fenty Beauty describes the formula as a cream-to-powder that’s “weightless, blendable, & LIVES to be layered.”

I was a bit nervous that “cream to powder” would be too dry on my skin, therefore causing patchiness if I tried to apply it in layers – not to worry! It goes on smooth the first layer; it goes on even smoother a second time around. It’s not drying; in fact, I’d say the main effect of this product (though the shade Blonde does contain some little sparkles & a bit of shimer/glitter) is dewiness. It gives my cheekbone a golden glow that (for once) doesn’t make my cool-toned skin look muddy. I’ve been smudging it all over my eyelids, too – & since Rihanna made it clear that the Match Stix are safe for eyes, lips, or anywhere else on the face, I’ll be experimenting with Blonde. Maybe it’ll be an inner corner highlight one day; maybe it’ll be on top of my lipstick the following day. We’ll see. With these (very versatile) highlighting sticks, the world is my oyster.

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A pretty side view. These are just very pretty to photograph…okay?

CLĒ Cosmetics Melting Lip Powder(s)

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Two out of the three newest additions to CLĒ Cosmetics’ collection of lip colors: these come from the Fall 2017 Collection (Desert Rose on the left, Plum Medium on the right)

I’ve talked a good amount on here about my love for CLĒ Cosmetics’ products. Whether it’s a skin care product or a makeup product, all of CLĒ’s collection is gentle on the skin & suitable for all skin types. All their face makeup (Essence Air Cushion & CCC Cream) contains high levels of SPF, which is great. Best of all: the people behind the brand are infinitely sweet.

I was extremely excited for their Fall Collection to launch – mainly because of the Essence Moonlighter Cushion highlights (we’ll get to that in a minute) – but also because of the three new shades of their lip powders.

I know – lip powder. You’d think it’d be drying – but I swear it’s not. “Melting” is a great word to put in there. The lip products arrive in litle lipstick-like tubes; inside the tubes is a wand (like a lip gloss one) & the powder itself. It looks like a matte powder pigment, but the moment you swipe a little bit across your lips with the wand, it melts (thanks body heat!) & creates a buildable stain that looks almost like a liquid lip – just without the dryness & without the stress of reapplying every 3 hours.

The two new shades I have are Plum Medium, a gorgeous, muted, eggplant color; I also have Desert Rose, which I love for daytime. It’s a dusty deep brick/rust that doesn’t show up super red or super brown; I love how muted both of the shades are – yet the color scheme is perfect for fall. CLĒ won me over yet again! CLĒ has a third shade of lip powder for their fall collection, too. It’s called Blushing Peach, a beautiful cool-toned peach shade that works so beautifully on the eyes – just check out this photo on CLĒ’s Instagram, featuring Blushing Peach as an “eyeshadow” – how cool is that!

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clecosmetics🍑 @katybaileyx wears Melting Lip Powder ‘Blushing Peach’ on eyes, lips and cheeks + Essence Moon Lighter ‘Apricot Tinge’ 💫 #clecosmetics

These powders are multipurpose & are safe for the lips, eyes, or face! They’re also waterproof, smudge-proof, & long-lasting. Those are some big claims – but they’re true. Once the powder sets down into the skin (of the lips, cheeks, eyes, etc.) it stays put.If I want to use one as a blush, I like to put a bit of lip balm on the back of my hand, then blend in a tiny amount of lip powder. That creates a paste that’s easier to blend into my skin than the powder alone. The balm gradually fades (just put a tiny amount on your hand – otherwise, it’ll slip & slide around your face), leaving a barely-there cheek tint. If you like versatile & interesting products, these powders are definitely for you. There’s lots of things I love about the CLĒ Melting Lip Powders; probably the biggest one is that it provided me with a hydrating lip product that looked just the right amount of matte. That’s all thanks to the Vitamin E (known for its hydrating effect on the lips) – & CLĒ’s genius, too. I’ve been starting to do bold fall lips & these have both been put to use. Stay tuned for more looks – they’ll come, don’t worry! I’ll probably challenge myself & do a full face of CLĒ products soon; they have enough to build a full face around just their products! Congratulations on the beautiful colors, CLĒ babies!  I can’t wait until it’s time to wear very thick sweaters. These fall shades will be perfect for every gloomy (or sunny) autumn day.

Eye makeup

I haven’t been reaching for many multi-dimensional eye looks lately. I’ve been preferring one shade blended all over the lid, crease, & lower lash line – maybe with a bit of highlight dabbed on the center of the lid. Mascara (sometimes) & then run! Here are the three eye products I’ve been using the most this month. One’s an oldie – the other two were purchased (or recieved) this month.

 

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Two eyeshadows, one mascara – all three incredibly affordable.

Let’s be clear – I’m always reaching for my Tarte Tartelette In Bloom Clay Eyeshadow Palette. All the shades are matte except for two. It contains the perfect balance of warm mattes & cool mattes, as well as a few neutrals. Usually, I’ll end up “embelleshing” an eye look with one or two shadows from that palette. It’s just one I use consistently, since I like every single one of the shadows. Still – I’ve talked about that palette more than once (probably 5 or 6 times, actually), so I’ll focus on the three products I haven’t talked about.

Vendome Paris Beaute Pearl Eye Shade in Espresso

I received this product in the September box that Glossybox sent to me (a box of a variety of full size & travel-size beauty/skin care products, similar to companies like Ipsy). The eyeshadow is from the company Vendome Paris – a brand I’d never heard of. From what I can tell from Vendome’s website, the company is mainly focused on making eyeshadow singles as well as blushes – all with magnetic bottoms that can fit into an artist’s palette – or in the customizable palettes Vendome also sells on their site. The eyeshadow I got retailed for $26. It’s a very big eyeshadow; I’d say it’s just about the size of a dollar coin, maybe a bit bigger.

Not much is said about the color itself (which I would call a warm brown, shimmery; the color of iced coffee with some milk in it) on the site. The Pearle Eyeshadow, however, is described as “a wonderfully fine textured shadow with a lightly pearled brilliance,” with technology that “allows for a soft luminosity that is both modern and polished.” I’d agree with this. I get an incredible three-dimensional look from using one single eyeshadow. The many times I’ve worn this shadow (& this shadow alone) thi past month, I’ve been asked almost every time I’m out with it on about what is on my eyes.

I can’t predict if I’ll repurchase, simply because it’ll take me so long to get through this big one. All I know is that I’ve been loving it – & so has everyone & their mother who’s seen me in it.

L’Oréal Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara 

I started hearing about this product at the end of July. Some swore that it was a dupe for the Diorshow Mascara (my favorite mascara); others said it was more like Too Faced’s Better Than Sex Mascara. Either way, everyone seemed to love it – strange, because I think the Better Than Sex Mascara & Diorshow Mascara are incredibly different (I don’t like the Better Than Sex). Still, I got curious by the time September hit, & when I had a spare $10, I picked it up at my local grocery. Convienient.

Conclusion? Smells nice, feels good on the lashes – but definitely not a dupe for Dior’s. I could see it being a dupe for Lancôme’s Monsieur Big Mascara – maybe if Monsieur Big & Better Than Sex had a baby, this is what that mascara would be. It’s not bad by any means; I’d even go so far as to say that it is good. It’s just not as good as the Diorshow – which made me sad, because I was excited by the concept of paying less for the same product. It’s okay, though – this is a good mascara, I haven’t stopped using it, I don’t plan on stopping using it, & when I run out, I may very well buy a new tube. At my local grocery store.

Colourpop Super Shock Eyeshadow in Arrow 

Ah, Colourpop. I remember late 2015, when it suddenly became possible to buy $5 eyeshadows…online! That were good!!! I had a Colourpop craze in summer 2016, & I still have & love a lot of their products – mostly their eyeshadows (my favorites are the super glittery or pigmented ones, like Bubbly or Coconut). This shade, Arrow, was released in the Valentine’s Day 2017 collection, & I thought it was limited edition. I thought wrong! When I checked today, Arrow was still up on the site.

It’s a great eyeshadow – sheer, but buildable. It has a lot of different color shifts. In some lights (like in the photo above), it looks like a copper penny. In other lights, it looks red. In others, pink. Colourpop descibes it as “a vibrant red topped with pink & copper glitter” – hence the red shift.

I love this color for fall. It looks beautiful tapped all over the lid; it looks beautiful as an inner corner highlight or cupid’s bow highlight; it also looks good used as an eyelid topper. It’s very versatile, it contains all the right “fall colors” & it’s only $5. 10/10.

Fenty Beauty Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Trophy Wife / CLĒ Cosmetics Essence Moonlighter Cushion in Apricot Tinge 

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Fenty Beauty Trophy Wife on the left; CLĒ Cosmetics Apricot Tinge on the right. Don’t worry – Trophy Wife is about 100X more glittery than it looks here (as it should be). The CLĒ highlight does not look this dark on your cheeks. It is sheer & very, very shiny (as it should be)

Trophy Wife is probably going to be ending up The Beauty Product of 2017. It was one of the first things we were given a sneak peek at on Fenty Beauty’s Instagram page; Rihanna wore it to the official Fenty Beauty Launch party; every YouTuber I can think of has reviewed (& screamed over) this highlight; there are looks upon looks on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube…

As of right now, Trophy Wife is sold out on Sephora’s site, but is still available (as I write this) on the Fenty Beauty site. Trophy Wife was available in my Sephora store when I went a few days ago, & I have no doubt that other stores have them, too. Sephora has a huge sign next to the Fenty display: “AVAILABLE ONLINE & IN ALL SEPHORA STORES.” Of course, you can’t always keep up with the demand – & Trophy Wife was definitely the most talked about, both online & in-store (from what I could hear). Still, the big sign next to the Fenty display has me believing that Sephora is committed to keeping the product in stock both in all stores & online.

So – that being said, yes, you can still buy Trophy Wife right now – & restocks will be coming soon, too. You can check out my full thoughts on Trophy Wife in my Fenty Beauty review, but just know this: Yes, it is that glittery. Yes, it looks that beautiful. Yes, it’s over the top, but I’ll still wear it in the daytime when I want to – because I can. Yes, somehow Rihanna created a solid gold highlight that looks good on my pale skin (like the Shimmer Skinstick in Blonde) & I do not know how she did it, but I’m in love with it. 

Check out these few photos here – I’ll have full look details on this one out very soon! In all of the photos, I’m wearing Trophy Wife on my cheekbones, high points of my forehead, cupid’s bow, chin, lower lash line, inner corners, & tip of the nose. So basically: everywhere.

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Earrings are Maria Black Jewelry; necklaces are Ventrone Chronicles

As for Apricot Tinge by CLĒ Cosmetics? Well, if you’ve read my review on it (it’s here if you’re interested) you’d already know: it’s the perfect pinky-white reflective highlight that I need to look incredibly glowy in all the right places. It’s super hydrating; although it sinks into the sink very fast, leaving a smooth – not sticky – finish, I’ve also used it as a “cream” highlight, then layered a powder over it. The results? Blinding – blindingly beautiful.

Like I predicted, Apricot Tinge is the perfect shade for my skin tone. However, it contains enough undertones & is sheer enough that someone with a very different skin tone could love it just as much as I. However CLĒ put this one together, I thank them with both hands – everyone knows how much I love highlights!

For a more in-depth look at the Essence Moonlighter Cushions, the way they apply & feel, the way they wear, & some more detailed ingredients information, click here for my review!

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Apricot Tinge (CLĒ Cosmetics Essence Moonlighter Cushion) layered with the Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit shades Starburst/Pearl (sadly this particular kit is no longer available)

Well – that’s all I have, if we’re talking about skin care & makeup! I think that this month I was a bit more “makeup-focused” – that’s because I spent a lot of time (maybe more than I should have) thinking about Fenty Beauty…because it really is…so…good….anyways, I thought I’d share what jewelry I’ve been loving lately, too, because I’ve been wearing these quite often.

I love gold jewelry; I have an olive leaf necklace & earrings made of white gold, but that is the only “silver” jewelry I currently own (& love – let me be clear…I LOVE that necklace & those earrings!).

I think gold is very fun to play with in terms of jewelry; it can compliment a cool or warm-toned look, gold earrings can look either very delicate or extremely chunky. They can be embellished; they can stay simple. Crystal studs with gold backs, or golden hoops. Both can complete a simple look while making everything fall into place; that’s how I’ve been feeling about the photos of the earrings below. They’re the ones I’ve been wearing most over the past month. The pearl hoops are by Ventrone Chronicles; the other two pairs of hoops are by Maria Black Jewelry (thank you for sending me such lovely ones!!). I love the Ventrone Chronicles Grand Perla Ring Hoops, because they look almost exactly like something my mother has that is jewelry made in Croatia – a lot of jewelry there is made with “sea gems.” I like to pair these earrings with my coral bracelet from Croatia (!!!) & think back to the several (extraordinarily) happy summers I’ve spent there. I’m a big fan of Ventrone Chronicles’ jewelry anyways – this was just another big love for me.

Tthese pairs of earrings for making my shaved head look even cooler – because now hat my hair is gone, you can see my ears. Turns out: my ears are a little pointy, like an elf’s! (I never knew that until I got my hair so short) & my ears look a little odd but very cool with circular (preferably small & light – my ears can’t take a lot of weight) hoops on. I like the look. It’s cool but it’s relaxed; it’s classic but hip. Basically – how I’m trying to be this fall. How I’m always trying to be.

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Tell me about your September favorites in the comments here (or don’t, & risk hurting my feelings). I’d love to hear your thoughts on my monthly playlist, too.

Love (& happy autumn!),

Sof ❤

Want some Drunk Elephant but don’t have quite enough $$$? Here’s 20% off!

I’d love if you’d help support me & buy Glossier products (if you want them!) with my link. Again – much, much appreciation.

Fenty Beauty Review: What I Bought & What I Thought!

It’s Fenty Beauty Season, everyone! All other brands step aside!

(But seriously: all other brands step aside. We all see the five new darker shades you coincidentally released this week)

Anyway, like I said, happy Fenty Beauty season! Rihanna officially launched her line on September 8th midnight PST on her own site, FentyBeauty.com. Sephora got in on it too, of course.

We got some little hints at what the brand would be all about, thanks to @fentybeauty on Instgram. First we got a release date. Then we got a video.

So – let’s be honest here – Rihanna put more diversity in a 60-second intro video to her brand than the rest of the makeup brands put together did since 2017 started. Right off the bat, it’s obvious: this brand is for everyone. That, to me, is clear. We start off by seeing Duckie Thot, who’s known for her smooth complexion & very deep skin tone. We see Halima Aden in hijab – okay!!! We see Paloma Elsesser, one of the Pat McGrath muses (& also part of Glossier’s Body Hero campaign – & an advocate for plus-size beauty), we see Slick Woods, whose “don’t give a fuck” attitude has made her one of the most present models on the runway at the moment (she also walks for Fenty X Puma). We spot the redheaded girl from Rihanna’s Paper Magazine photoshoot! There’s fair skin, monolids, super dark skin, larger body types, medium skin, bald heads (!), deep skin.This campaign is definitely about diversity, that’s for sure. It’s also quite clear within the 60-second time frame that these products are multi-purpose, easy to use – even when on the go – & many of them can be worn on many different skin tones. Amazing. Amazing!!!

This video was followed up with a few sneak peeks – some some photographs, some videos. If the photo/video featured a product, it would be was captioned with the shade/product name, & the date it would drop (September 8). Some of the other videos featured the Fenty Girls (Slick Woods & Camila Costa for these particular ones) saying the product names, which I thought was really cute. We also got a release time!

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Okay, okay, enough – I am sure you watched the products slowly reveal themselves just as closely as I did. But…in case you didn’t, we got the actual details the night of the launch, when Fenty Beauty officially announced the launch with a photoset titled “FAMILY.” That was followed by a little Instagram-style slideshow, featuring each product.

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What were the products? What were the prices?

I was a bit surprised, to be honest. All the face stuff was great – & I love a highlight, so you know I was excited – but I had expected a bold lipstick or two, maybe a strong liner, a highlight, & most definitely a mascara…right?

Wrong! No lipstick, mascara, or liner to be seen – yet. I am sure Fenty Beauty has lots coming in the near future. For now, though, there’s no “actual” eye products – & there’s only one lip gloss.

That’s okay, though – in terms of reviews (on YouTube, on Instagram, & on bigger beauty sites like Temptalia), Fenty Beauty was five-star from the beginning.

Why? It’s because someone finally seemed to realize what a “universal” shade was – & that yes, we really do need 40 foundation shades to cover the broad range of what we call “beauty.”

This brand definitely had a lot more product options for darker-skinned women, which is great – we all know that the beauty industry is whitewashed. It is almost impossible for very dark-skinned women to find foundations that suit their skin type & skin tone! At this point, it’s become obvious: it’s not that difficult to create a few more shades to appeal to a larger demographic. Even more obvious? You make more money when you have a better shade range.

Fenty Beauty’s 40 shades have set a new standard, in my opinion. Now that one brand has shown that it is possible to create shades for deep-dark skin, others have one less excuse to make. I hope more brands start expanding their shade range. Oh – & Fenty Beauty isn’t done yet. They said they have even more foundation shades coming.

Looking at pricing – it’s surprisingly reasonble, for a brand with a celebrity’s name behind it. Kylie’s whole lip thing & Kim’s Contour Kits cost way more – no ifs or buts about it. Sure, a $34 foundation isn’t cheap – but let’s be honest, there are about a million foundations that are well into the $50 range. Again, coming from a celebrity, I was pleasantly surprised by the price tags.

Okay, so: what did I buy? Why did I choose it? & what made me choose not to buy some of the things?

First off, I wouldn’t be able to afford the full line – & I likely wouldn’t use all of it. I started taking notes as soon as the product names/descriptions went up. I knew I wouldn’t get foundation – I am not a foundation lover & do not wear enough of it to justify buying it – even if it was my perfect shade (& I am pretty sure Rih has my back with one of the three lightest shades). Same goes for contour. It’s just not my style. I’m more about lips, eyes (soft eyes) & definitely highlight. Definitely.

I decided I’d go for a Killawatt highlight, a Match Stix Shimmer Skinstick, the brush that went with the stick, & the gloss. & no, I didn’t get it all at once – it took me a few days to collect the funds to buy the product, so it all rolled in gradually.

Before I start reviewing what I got & why, let me say one last thing: the brand has been incredible (so far) in terms of keeping things in stock. The brand launched with HUGE success – but shades are still in stock, whether it’s on the Fenty site or on (or in!) Sephora. I read that Fenty Beauty worked hard to have a good stockpile before launch, & I don’t know if they particularly planned that – but it’s definitely been working. Like I said, it’s not like people aren’t buying it – people are flocking to buy it.

Like I said – “face stuff” aka: powder, foundation, or contour – isn’t part of my daily routine. I have dry skin, so powder is almost always a no for me (with the exception of Glossier’s Wowder). I never have & probably never will need blotting papers. Foundation is something I can’t justify buying, & I laugh even when I even imagine myself contouring. It looks beautiful on other people, but it has never been my personal thing. Again, like I said – I decided to stick to highlights, a brush, & a lip gloss. Those are all things I wear consistently, & I know I will get use out of the things I bought.

Okay, enough talk. Time for photos, & actual thoughts on the products I purchased! Let’s go!

I mentioned that the products rolled onto my door step gradually; the first two things that arrived were the Shimmer Skinstick & the Gloss Bomb.

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Babies in the sun
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Quick, easy product descriptions on the back outside packaging

Match Stix Shimmer Skinstick in “Blonde”

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The Shimmer Skinstick is described as a “magnetized makeup stick in a long-wear, light-as-air shimmer formula to highlight, blush, enhance, and bronze in 10 colorful shades that let you play.” Although it’s primarily marketed as a highlight, they’re friendly on any area of your face – definitely can be used as eyeshadows; today, I saw a video of someone using one as a lip topper. There’s a clear emphasis on Fenty Beauty products being multi-purpose, which I like!

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It was super, super hard for me to pick just one. They were all unique & beautiful. I knew I wanted to play some risks so I tried to steer clear of the cooler, whiter shades. There’s some crazier ones: Ridiic (“golden papaya) & Unicorn (“platinum lilac”) are both good examples. I haven’t seen many looks or swatches of either of these products; I assume it’s because they’re such a bold color. I ended up with Blonde, “a glimmering gold.” I’d call it the cream sister of Trophy Wife – just less actual glitter. The actual stick of product is very thick; you can hold it in your hand, but the thickness of the stick means you’re still getting a lot of product. Not only that, but they’re very pigmented. I get a solid pigment with one swipe; that blends out to a natural highlight. They’re buildable, so more swipes means more glow.

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This is just one swipe of Blonde – super pigmented, but it blends out like a dream. You don’t have to tell me – I already know my arm is hairy. Trust me 

I was pleasantly surprised how good this looked on my fair skin, even in a casual way. I hadn’t really expected it to look good for everyday use, but I wore it during the daytime & it looked absolutely appropriate! I even got some compliments. I layered a small dab of Becca’s Liquid Shimmering Skin Perfector in Moonstone; then applied Blonde to my cheekbones, chin, cupid’s bow, bridge of the nose, & inner corners. I used my usual setting spray – NYX Dewy Setting Spray – & it lasted all day, & wore very well – I couldn’t spot any patchiness when it was time to take off my makeup.

This is easy to hold, easy to apply, & even easier to travel with – thanks to the magnets. A big yes on the magnet idea! All of the sticks/portable brushes are magnatized, so they all magnetically snap together.Great for travel, great for putting in your bag for touch-ups. Although I didn’t originally plan on getting the Portable Highlight Brush, I saw the sturdy, small, portable Skinstick & knew that the brush would be the perfect duo. I was right!

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The lettering has a holographic shift in the light!

Overall, I like how practical & easy it is to hold the stick; I like how the product blends out (works well with fingers; works even better with the little brush); I like how long they last & how well they wear. I will definitely be collecting a few more of these. Confetti – I have my eye on you!

Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer

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There’s not much to say about this except that it’s a great gloss! It’s a universal shade; called Fenty Glow, described as a “shimmering rose nude.” All of the models (as well as Rihanna, of course) were wearing this in the advertisements & at the launch. They all look beautiful in it, in different ways. Universal is a good word to describe this shade!

It’s not clear; there’s definitely pigment in the tube, as you can see. The wand dispenses a generous amount; if you’re cautious with the amount of gloss you put on your lips, I’d warn you to apply it with a light hand. You can always add more!

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Gloss Bomb shares the beehive-shaped packaging with the portable brushes & skin sticks

The scent is really nice; the site calls it “vanilla peach” but I can’t detect any vanilla. It just smells like a very pleasant fruity gloss to me! It (the scent, not the gloss) doesn’t last too long, & the scent isn’t annoyingly fake, like a lot of scented lip products are. I’d say the gloss looks about the same for around two hours; maybe a little less. You’ll have to reapply more often than you would a lipstick – but again, this is a gloss, & it’s not marketed as long-wearing.

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If you want something from the Fenty collection but aren’t really into contouring or highlighing, I’d tell you to go for this. You won’t not like it – there isn’t anything to “not like.” It’s just a nice gloss! I do find it extra hydrating. I like it! I also think that it’ll go well with any eye makeup look I might do, so it’s probably a good thing to take on a vacation or a short trip. No matter what the rest of your face is doing, this is a nice, neutral shade that will ground your look.

In the little “What Else You Need To Know” box on Sephora’s site, it reads:

“Rihanna was obsessed with creating the perfect gloss that makes you want to put it on over and over again. ‘I made it because I wanted the girls to get kissed more.’—Rihanna, Brand Founder.”

I’m here for it!

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Blonde on the cheekbones, nose, chin, inner corners, & browbone – Fenty Gloss Bomb on the lips

My other two items arrived a few days later: the portable highlight brush & the Killawatt Highlight – Trophy Wife, the highlight of my dreams.

Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Trophy Wife

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Trophy Wife – you know, the one that everyone & their mother has been talking about. I remember seeing this shade in the launch video – on eyelids, cheekbones, cupid’s bows…even on the shoulders, it seemed. I also remember feeling sad, because: every single gold highlight I have ever tried (ex: Becca Champagne Pop) looks muddy/too dark on my fair skin. It was one of the first products I saw & one of the first products I associated with Fenty Beauty – so, I sighed & lamented over it as I waited for the products to launch.

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Then, photos started coming in from the launch event. I saw a LOT of different women wearing Trophy Wife in MANY ways – all different skin tones, all different clothing & makeup styles, all hair colors/styles/textures. They all truly looked beautiful in it – I was shocked, because even girls with fairer skin looked amazing. Trophy Wife looked different on everyone, but it looked good on everyone – that’s what we call universal! I decided to take a risk & go for it.

Top two are @soniachew & @alissa.ashley; bottom is Fenty Girl Camila Costa. All are wearing Trophy Wife!

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The queen herself, at the Fenty Beauty launch – also wearing Trophy Wife

When I opened it, Trophy Wife was everything (& more) than I’d expected. It was definitely bold & glittery enough to be an eyeshadow; I could tell that straight off. I wasn’t sure how it’d look on me as a highlight, but I already had it in my hands – it was worth a try.

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Trophy Wife – in the flesh

I didn’t have the larger highlighting brush, & the portable one was more for cream products, so I used a fluffy highlighting brush – I don’t know which, but I’m 99% sure it’s from BH Cosmetics (the label wore off). The photo above is me with no other makeup on – no eyes, face, or lips…just Trophy Wife! This was after one swirl with my brush. I tapped off a little excess, but there wasn’t much fallout.

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Success

This blends very smoothly. I was expecting it to look rougher, since I didn’t even have a primer on – nope! It was glittery; there are actual particles of very visible glitter in the highlight, so if you’re not there for that, Trophy Wife definitely isn’t for you (at least, not for the cheeks). I only tried it out at home so far, but I kept it on for the whole day, & it faded pretty well, considering that I’d been wearing nothing else. I had some scattered glitter on my face by the end of the day, but it wasn’t excessive, & it washed away easily. I don’t think it’d be an issue if I were actually wearing other things on my face.

Let’s talk packaging for a minute – I love it! It’s an octagon, which mimics the design of the sticks – it’s like a one-dimensional version of the stick’s design. It looks like an eggshell white at first glance; it has this incredible holographic shift when it catches the light. Necessary? No. Welcome? Absolutely. It has an amazing mirror in the compact, too. Once again, easy to travel with, if necessary. Forgot to do your highlight? Forgot your mirror? No problem; now, you only need one compact.

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You thought…
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…& you thought wrong! A close-up at the holographic shimmer the packaging has when it catches some light
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Headshot of Trophy Wife 

I see great things coming for me & Trophy Wife! It’s bold enough that you notice I’m wearing gold on my cheekbones; it’s subtle enough that it doesn’t look dirty or clownish. Overall, I’m super happy with how it turned out for me – this is a very fun highlight that I’ll be able to wear when I’m feeling like I should amp it up a little. I could amp it up a lot, & I’d look like a disco ball! I think there’s a time & place for that, too. Again – shocked that a gold highlight looks good on me (did I mention…that gold…doesn’t…look…good..on me?) but this one does. I’d best describe it as a deeper version of NARS Albatross; a little more glitter, definitely more gold, but infinitely wearable. I’m in love.

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Quick candid: love in my eyes; I already adore it

(This is enhanced & just for fun – refer to above photos for actual color & finish! I just like to make everything sparkly)

Portable Highlighter Brush 140

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Is this an absolutely necessary thing to get? No, I don’t think so – but I really like it. A large highlighting brush by Morphe is around $15 – but its worse quality. Same goes for BH Cosmetics. This brush is smaller, yes…but it’s also sturdier, easier to carry around (thank you, retractable brush & brush cap!) & perfect for using with a Shimmer Skinstick.

Fenty Beauty says that the “slanted, soft synthetic brush hairs trace the angles of your face, expertly made to diffuse Match Stix Shimmer Skinsticks with speed and precision.” That’s a little dramatic, but essentially, it’s true. It’s a really nice brush, & since it was designed for using with the Shimmer Skinsticks, my Blonde Skinstick & the brush click together perfectly. They don’t separate unless you pull them apart – just like…you guess it….a magnet!

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I tried using it with a powder highlight – & it worked beautifully with the powder, too.

The bristles are a pale pink & are very soft. This isn’t exactly a “fluffy brush” but it’s not a stippling brush, either. It’s very much its own thing, & it does a good job at doing what it’s supposed to do: it highlights, & it travels easily. The packaging is the same as the Killawatt packaging: eggshell on first glance, holographic shift when you turn it towards the light.

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Gently push down on the silver part, & the brush retracts – just like that!
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“Angled precision” & all that good stuff!

Next project: applying first Blonde, then Trophy Wife, both with the Portable Highlighter Brush.

Thoughts after having these products for a few days?

I like them a lot. I even would say I love them. The highlight shades I chose were extremely fun to play with; I can’t wait to keep figuring out new things to do with them! I think the sky’s the limit.

Do I want anything else from Fenty Beauty?

Honestly, I’d probably buy all the Shimmer Skinsticks if I could – same goes for the Killawatt Highlighters. I especially have my eye on Confetti for the Skinstick – it’s a beautiful, holographic, opalescent lavender color that has a lot of duochrome to it. It’s something that you might think of when looking at the Anastasia Beverly Hills Moonchild Glow Kit – that alien-ish, outerspace-ish (neither of those are words) kind of highlight. As for the Killawatt, the Lightning Dust/Fire Crystal Duo look great for fair skin & I think they’d be beautiful as natural highlights for my fair skin, judging from the swatches. I also love Metal Moon – it’s the other single (along with Trophy Wife) in the Killawatt collection – the rest are duos. I also love Ginger Binge/Moscow Mule; I think they’d be a nice glowy blush on me – or a great eyeshadow. Usually, if it’s a highlighting product, I’ll buy it. Say “highlight” & I’m sold. True (& sad) story.

Okay, but seriously: Will I buy any of the other Fenty Beauty products? If so, why?

Well, I’m not going to go for the blotting papers, the mattifying powder, or the contouring sticks. I definitely wouldn’t buy the beauty sponge – but that’s because I just hate using beauty sponges. I already have a loyal foundation brush that works perfectly well for blending out whatever face makeup I choose to have, so I don’t think I’d buy that, either.

I could see myself buying the Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Primer – in her review of the line, Jackie Aina called it a “smoothing, blurring” primer, & said that if the Too Faced Hangover Primer & Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer(yes, the crazy-expensive one) had a baby, the Fenty primer would be the result. I got a sample of the Hourglass primer when it was a Sephora points reward & did not like it at all  I don’t consider it “dry skin-friendly,” but if it were to be combined with a hydrating primer like the Too Faced one, I could see it being an appealing primer. I tend to go for hydrating, illuminating primers, but I’m not adverse to a little blur. For myself – I’d try some of the Fenty primer out in store before I’d purchase it, simply because I already have a lot of primers that I’m already happy with. However, if it works like I hope it would, it would be like a real-life Snapchat face filter – a little blurring, but friendly for dry skin. That’s something I would buy into – so we’ll see! As for the Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation, I may get it at some point – just because I am curious to see how the lightest shade wears on me. One of the reasons I don’t wear a full face of foundation (ever) is because it doesn’t look that great on my skin. No matter what foundation I use, & what brush I use to blend, it’ll always end up looking a little off. I hate that, & I searched high & low for good foundations. I couldn’t ever find one; I ended up switching to CC Creams (& I’m not complaining). I’ve heard from some people that the foundation does cling to dry spots, & as someone with dry skin, that’s a flag right there.

Rihanna’s skin products make sense, though – Fenty Beauty said that the face products help one achieve “the perfect #FentyFace” which is 1) Mattify 2) Highlight 3) Blot. Now, since I have dry skin, mattifying & blotting just aren’t part of my makeup routine – ever. I’m always worried about going too matte – it ruins the way my face feels for the rest of the day.

Since the #FentyFace involves blotting & mattifying, I’m going to stay away from the foundation until I make a friend with dry skin buy it first (watch me, I’ll do it). Seriously, though – I just want a little more time to look over different skin types & reviews according to each skin type. The way my complexion looks is super important to me – both Rihanna & I seem to be in that club. It also seems that Rihanna’s skin type is very different from mine; her way to a perfect complexion isn’t necessarily mine.

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What #FentyFace looks like (on Rihanna, not the rest of the plebeins)

I’m curious about the Portable Touchup Brush 130 & the Match Stix Matte Skinstick in the shade Linen; I feel like it would be a nice way to touch up or spot conceal on the go. Linen is the lightest shade, but it doesn’t look as light as the lightest foundation shade – again, I would go to the store to swatch the product before buying it. The concept is nice; I like using Glossier’s Perfecting Skin Tint in Light on a daily basis. Then, I’ll put some kind of heavier coverage product in the center of my face – could be a concealer, a CC Cream, or a foundation (“essence”) cushion – & blend outwards to prevent a line on my jawbone. I could see the Skinstick being useful for that kind of thing, but it would have to be creamy to work – so, yet again, let me say that I’d have to go to the store to see it before deciding whether or not it’s worth it.

I have other highlighting brushes, but the Cheek-Hugging Highlight Brush 120 looks very cool & very effective. I like the chiseled shape & the long handle; it seems perfect for when you’re trying to achieve a truly blinding highlight – I love doing that in the fall & winter, especially around the holidays. I’m not going to hop out & buy it immediately, but I do have an eye on it.

What would I buy next? Honestly, probably another Shimmer Skinstick or a Killawatt Highlighter. I love my highlights – & Rihanna really delivered on both of the highlight-type products. Plus, like I mentioned – they’re all versatile. If one ends up looking odd on my cheekbones, it’ll still look amazing on the eyes.

Overall, I think this was the launch of the year, mainly because of the huge shade range that released right away – many brands wait a while before releasing darker shades (which is stupid & unfair) – & also the incredible amount of diversity in the campaign. Oh! Let’s not forget about how all the highlights work in one way or another on all skin tones! & how they can be used on the face, lips, or eyelids! Or all three at once. You decide.

I think that’s a great way to sum up what I’ve seen of Fenty Beauty so far: you decide. There are enough shade options, there are different styles of products (ex. sponge vs. brush) there are mini tips & tutorials, but at the end of the day, it’s freehand – go crazy! Makeup should be fun, & Fenty Beauty just made it a lot more fun, for a lot more people – because they’re very appealing to a very wide demographic. Brands like Fenty Beauty are, in my opinion, the brands of the future. Other companies need to step it up, because this is only the first launch, & we all know Rihanna likes to come back better than ever.

Let’s start placing bets on how long it’ll take me to place another order for another highlight I don’t really need – except that I do, because it’s Rihanna, & I have to.

Love,

Sof ❤

Have you tried any Fenty Beauty? If so, what have you got! What are your thoughts? Is there anything you’ve tried that you think I’d like? Let me know! & don’t forget – you can only play the ANTI album while applying Rihanna’s products.