Goodbye Undergrad.

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Three years ago today, I officially made the decision that I would be transferring colleges halfway through my freshman year in order to attend Emerson College. It was a scary, hectic, last-minute decision, but it was the best choice I ever made for myself.

Today, exactly three years later, I walked out of my last ever Emerson class and finished my undergraduate career.

Looking back on it, I could never have imagined the things I would accomplish in my few short years of college. I have switched schools, then switched majors. I have worked in radio, been on the radio, and worked backstage at concerts. I have moved to LA and worked in fashion. I have constantly surprised myself in what I was able to do.

I have laughed, and laughed, and laughed. I have been to (and thrown) more cheesy themed parties than I can count, and I have danced around apartments at 2am to 80s music after everyone left the party. I have had weekly “family dinners” and really felt like I had a family away from home.

I have learned and grown because of my professors and my peers, who I still feel that I  have so much to learn from, and I believe I am a better person for all of it. I’m still the same person as the 18 year old who first moved into Little Building in January 2014, except I am now more confident, more informed and  ready to take on the world (I think).

To my friends: I love you, and thank you. It is a safe feeling knowing I will have you in my life, always. To my family: I love you and thank you for helping me navigate life when I have to make big decisions, and always supporting me as I do.

I’m not exactly sure what’s next, but I know I’m so grateful for these past few years. Tomorrow, I leave the Emerson Los Angeles campus and fly back home, and while I’m a little sad and slightly nostalgic for these years that seem to have passed in the blink of an eye, I am so, so ready for whatever it is that comes next.

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No, I’m not going to smile.

Today, I was harassed and catcalled twice by men on the street while on my college campus. While this isn’t the first time this has happened to me (unfortunately), today was different in a few ways. First, both occurrences happened before 1pm in broad daylight. Second, it happened two separate times in a relatively short time span. Third, these incidents were much more severe and frightening than previous experiences I’ve had.

Going to school on an urban campus, it’s almost to be expected that things like this would happen. But just because it’s a normal occurrence, doesn’t mean it’s ok. All of my female friends here can tell at least one story about being made uncomfortable while walking up the street due to catcalling or harassment. I’ve had my fair share of “Hello Beautiful” and “Where are you going in such a hurry” over my years here, and I usually just stare straight ahead and keep walking. It unsettles me, but I power through and try to look ahead. But today I got angry.

Today I was working move-out on campus, and I was harassed twice, once specifically while I was working.

This morning, after finishing a shift and starting a 30 minute break, I was walking to Dunkin Donuts when two men passed me and said “Oh hey beautiful… damn look at you! Smile for us. C’mon, smile for us!!” While I usually look away, today I glared back at them as I continued to walk past. The men stopped and turned around shouting after me, “That’s not a smile, where’s the smile! C’mon just smile for us. Where’s that beautiful smile.” They didn’t stop yelling until I rounded the corner and was out of sight. I was practically running. 

While catcalling usually makes me feel pretty gross, this specific instance completely unnerved me. While men who catcall in the first place tend to be pretty aggressive, these guys literally stopped walking to yell at me as I walked away just because I didn’t do what they wanted. It seemed like a scene out of a movie, but in the worst possible way. I’m not a confrontational person, so I’d never yell back at them or say any of the things in my head out loud. I wish I was that type of person. Instead, I just stormed away feeling angry, upset and a little anxious.

When I started working again at around noon, I was still thinking about what had happened earlier, because I was genuinely still upset.

About 45 minutes into my next shift, a guy approached me and the two other girls I was working with. He very clearly seemed “off,” and I’m almost certain he was drunk at 1pm on a Thursday.

We were assigned as “Street Monitors,” so we helped direct parents who were picking up their kids into street parking and made sure the traffic kept moving. This meant we were posted on the sidewalk outside of one of the residence halls for the entirety of our shift.

This man approached us and started asking us if it was move-out. He asked it over and over again because none of us wanted to answer him. If he looked around, it was very clearly move-out. We all just silently nodded and tried to look away to get him to leave, because it was obvious he wasn’t a student or a parent. We were hoping he’d pick up on the body language and lack of communication, but he didn’t leave.

Instead, he moved closer, leaving very little space between us and him, and talked to us inches from our faces, trying to get us to engage. One of the girls had a Bernie Sanders button on her jacket and he started to go on a rant about politics, trying to get us involved in the conversation even though all of us were clearly uncomfortable.

Then he noticed our nametag stickers that we had on and he started addressing us by name, making it very difficult to ignore him. I’d never been in a situation where the person harassing me knew any more information than what I looked like, but it made the experience much more unsettling when he knew such personal details. Because we were posted outside and wearing a nametag for our job, the girls and I were stuck in an uncomfortable situation, left to find a way out.

He tried to ask about our relationship situations, whether or not we had boyfriends; he commented our eyes and our general appearance. At one point  one of the girls tried to tell him we were working, in an attempt to get him to leave, but all he said was “You are? I don’t see you doing anything.” 

At one point, I remember grimacing, and the guy pointed it out. He mimicked the face I had made and laughed. “What are you making that face for,” he asked.

Eventually one of us was able to slip away and contact someone in our building, who came out and was able to make him leave, even though he went slowly. He hit on her as he slowly retreated because the person who came out of our building to help was also a woman. Before she came to the rescue he was lingering around us for about 15 minutes. The Campus Police were notified and an officer got him off of campus, but he said he couldn’t really do much besides intimidate him away because the guy technically hadn’t broken any laws. He hadn’t made any verbal threats, as if his lingering presence wasn’t threatening enough. I was glad that he was gone, but that really didn’t make me feel any better about what happened.

Honestly, in almost all situations, I’m happy to be a girl. I think women are amazing and powerful and inspirational, and I am motivated by the amazing ladies in my life every day. But this is a situation where I often wish I wasn’t a girl, because this is almost exclusively a female problem. Of course there are always exceptions, and I don’t mean to ostracize anyone who doesn’t fit this description, but as I’ve said before, all of my female friends have experienced something like this. I don’t know of any of my guy friends who have.

I’ve never understood catcalling because I don’t understand what the expected outcome is supposed to be. All it does is make women angry, upset, uncomfortable and afraid. No good can come of it. When I started going to school in the city, my parents gave me a little pepper spray to use for emergencies. Most of the time I think I’ll never have to use it, but days like today make me glad I have it, just in case.

It’s not fair that this is something we have to deal with when we’re just trying to live our lives and exist. This morning, I was on my way to get a coffee for myself and my friends. This afternoon, I was literally working. I was dressed way down because I was working all day, and both instances happened in broad daylight. I’m not saying that this kind of behavior is okay ever, under any circumstances, but I was shocked that it happened twice in one day and in these specific situations.

I feel like I was punished today just for existing as a woman in the city. I should be able to go about my day in peace without having to constantly survey my surroundings and look over my shoulder, but that’s just not the case and I think that’s sad.

Today, I’m angry. And I’m sure I’ll be angry again.

Boy Bands & Fandom: Let The Girls Love Things In Peace

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It’s just me, you’re boy band loving blogger.

In the social media/One Direction era, conversations about fan mania have shifted. While there remains the unwelcoming ideology that boy band fandom is uncool, unhealthy, excessive, and something for only young women to enjoy (and if you are not a young women and enjoying it, something must be diagnosably wrong with you), the people within it are dedicated to writing their own stories.” 

After having it bookmarked on my laptop for two days, I finally got around to reading an article called  Truly, Madly Deeply: The Relationship Between Fandom & Mental Health, written by Fuse TV’s Maria Sherman. The article was something that immediately caught my interest, due to my own history of boy band love and the discovery of communities that form around it. The quote I pulled from the article above largely sums up my experience.

The article discusses hysteria, lisztomania, and Beatlemania as a historical framework to move the conversation toward where we’re at with today’s teens and the bands they love. The one thing that these instances have in common throughout the years is the devaluation of the music, the bands, and the fandom that these girls are excited over. As it says above, there is an “unwelcoming ideology that boy band fandom is uncool, unhealthy, excessive, and something for only young women to enjoy.” From the way I see it, there has always been a patronizing, condescending tone taken toward young women who find themselves a part of one of these fandoms. And I don’t think that’s fair.

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We forced a Nick Jonas photo bomb. I may look calm but I was freaking out inside.

 

As a former Jonas Brothers fan, a One Direction fan, and a 5 Seconds of Summer fan, I’ve seen a lot of online communities form around bands, and I’ve seen what the fans can do. Anyone who thinks these fandoms are silly, unintelligent or uncool are so completely off-base it’s laughable.

When One Direction fans were irritated that fan-favorite song, “No Control,” was never made a single for radio-play, they took matters into their own hands and made it one. They called into radio stations, created social media campaigns, and gained so much traction that top radio stations all around the world actually started playing it. They created the No Control Project and organized themselves across the globe to ensure that it didn’t fail. How many groups of people can you think of that could actually pull that off? I honestly can’t think of any other situation.

Locally, fans collaborate on projects too. Last summer on 5SOS’s tour date in Massachusetts, multiple fans made and distributed orange hearts to the majority of the arena to hold up during a particular song at the concert. The same thing happened at the One Direction show in September, except with “Happy Birthday Niall” signs, and they were distributed to most of Gillette Stadium. Being present at both of those shows and seeing these girls’ work come to life is absolutely incredible.

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When I first discovered the Jonas Brothers, I was 12. When I first discovered One Direction, I was 16. In both cases, I was dealing with all of that fun adolescent stuff that everyone unfortunately has to go through. For me, and for a lot of other girls out there, these bands and these fandoms were an escape. The bands were easy to love, and they arrived at a time I needed them.

My sophomore year of college, I wrote a research paper about boy bands for my gender studies class. One thing I really remember from my writing was the fact that part of the reason boy bands are so successful is because they give the girls an outlet to express desire at an awkward age. They’re ideal because they’re distant from you. You can love them boundlessly, but the chances of you ever meeting your favorite boy band are slim, so it’s “safe.” They’re also ideal because they’re saying what you want to hear, and are most likely better groomed and better mannered than the boys in your real life. I’m going to just keep it simple and say that I think this was definitely true for me.

And more importantly than the band itself, especially in the One Direction era, the thing I found so compelling about being a fan was the online community. For many years, Tumblr became a go-to place for me, because it made you feel like you were a part of something. These girls support each other, compliment each other and become friends online through this common bond of loving the same band. I’ll be honest and say I had a pretty intense One Direction Tumblr at one point, and I had more followers on that blog than any other social platform I’ve ever used. I don’t really see how this is any different than dudes loving their favorite football team or online communities based around video games, but for some reason it’s the teenage girls who are portrayed in the “hysterical,” irrational light.

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Sometimes you see 1D’s drummer at Panera and would hate yourself if you didn’t ask for a pic.

 

It’s something that has always made me feel uncomfortable, and a little embarrassed, as I went through high school years loving boy bands. I felt like I couldn’t share too much with my peers because I was afraid of judgement, which looking back on just makes me sad. The music you like and the communities you choose to participate in do not dictate your maturity level or your intelligence. I’ve consistently been at the top of my class, in high school and college, and I’ve been in the boy band world for 7 or 8 years now. If anything, I’d argue that participating in these fandoms can make you a better person. And if someone wants to make fun of you for something as trivial as your music taste, is that someone you want to hang out with anyways?

I’m 20 years old now, and I don’t think I love boy bands for the same reasons I used to. I don’t feel that same need to belong to the community as I did when I was a teenager. I feel like I have a better understanding of myself, and participate in different communities in different ways now. Don’t get me wrong here, I still look at the Tumblr blogs to read up on what the fans are saying- I just don’t actively participate anymore, and I think that just comes along with getting older.

But, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop loving boy bands, because I know what they can give people during some of the strangest transitional times of their lives. Plus, boy band music is some of the best pop music out there, and I will fight anyone on this point if you try to disagree. I’ll never stop having full-blown dance parties to “No Control,” and I’ll probably never stop finding Harry Styles to be one of the most beautiful men on this planet (Harry, if you stumble across this I am available). And if One Direction goes on a reunion tour 20 years from now, you know I’ll be there (hopefully) in the front row. Because, once you’re part of the fandom, you never really leave.

So, let’s all stop shaming girls for liking things, and stop pretending that you don’t like those things too. It’s ok to like a boy band. It’s 2016, people.

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Please read the rest of Maria Sherman’s article, because it was a great read! I only expanded on one tiny bit of info presented in her writing and there’s so many other interesting things she discusses. You can read the full piece here.

 

On the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, Body Positivity and Chicken Quesadillas

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If you pay attention to the fashion industry, or the entertainment industry, or just social media in general, there’s a good chance you’ve seen that the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is tonight. Although guys pretend to “love” the Victoria’s Secret Show because of all the half-dressed models, we all know it’s really us ladies who are going to be the majority of people tuning in. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I wear bras, and I want to look at all the beautiful bras on that runway. Nothing wrong with that at all.

But with that comes a lot of potential negative thinking. I always see so many posts on social media from girls saying they wish they looked like one of the VS Angels, or that they wish they could be one. It’s totally fine to want to wear expensive underwear. Who doesn’t, really? But putting expectations like that on your body can be really harmful to your self image. I’ve heard the term “winning the genetic lottery” used to describe models before. And when it comes to body type, they really did just win the genetic lottery.

These people were born naturally thin and then take that natural thinness and work their asses off through exercise and diet to tone their bodies further. The truth of the matter is that even if I adopted the same diet and exercise routine as Kendall Jenner, I would never end up with the same body type as her, we were just born with different genes. She won the genetic lottery.

And just because she won doesn’t mean that I lost. That’s something everyone needs to keep in mind. I’m not going to start preaching the “all body types are beautiful” speech, because I know everyone has heard it before and I could literally go on forever. However, I truly believe beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and I think it applies here, I’m just not going to go on a rant about something people have heard a million times.

My point I’m trying to get at, and the reason I started to write this post in the first place is that everyone has moments of doubt about themselves. I was on Snapchat tonight, watching the VS Fashion Show Snapchat Story on my phone while I ate my dinner. I was watching all the models rush around backstage in their robes with hair and makeup all done and I was literally in my sweatpants eating a chicken quesadilla. And for a brief second, I felt bad about myself for eating a chicken quesadilla, because these models probably weren’t eating quesadillas.

Now, I consider myself to be relatively confident person, and I pretty quickly snapped out of my funk, but it wasn’t a great feeling. And it makes me sad to think about other people feeling this way, but not being able to snap out of it. Something to keep in mind is that there is no one to blame here. I can’t stress this enough: Don’t be harsh on the models. I have seen so many people insinuate that they think certain models are anorexic, etc, and that is so harmful to the models themselves, as well as to anyone who actually does suffer from anorexia, a serious disease. I think those comments likely come from a place of feeling inferior due to physical appearance, but people don’t realize the huge negative impact they could be having on the models and society. You are a person, and the models are people. Everyone has feelings and everyone’s feelings matter.

And while I’m preaching about being fair to the models, everyone needs to be fair to themselves too. Everyone has their own talents, and I’m sure you can all do something better than a supermodel. (You might even have a better runway walk, who knows? Give it a try sometime (it’s fun)). We all have good things going for us. That’s how I got out of my quesadilla-funk. I’m typically pretty confident and I know that I have a lot of great qualities as a person: I’m smart, driven, and loyal. I’m also going to a great college, doing well in my classes, have a supportive network of family and friends, and most days I feel pretty good about myself. And do you know what I did when I thought about all this? I finished that quesadilla.

Because honestly, I know it is probably really fun to be an Angel. But I know I’m never going to be one, and that’s ok. That’s not my dream, never has been. It’s just a thought that comes into my head only around this time of year. There’s always that sliver of self doubt brought on by this fashion show, and it’s something I’ve never articulated.

So to anyone who may read this, just remember that you are beautiful, you are smart, you are so talented and you are doing just fine. Behind all the makeup and hair and expensive bras, all of these models are just regular people.

Although the VS Fashion Show doesn’t air on TV until December 8th, from now until that point there will be pictures and videos all over the internet. And then after the show airs? More picture and videos in HD from different angles. That’s a lot of weeks of supermodels dominating your feed. It’s fine to look and it’s fine to admire, but just keep in mind that the models are them and you are you, and you’re both just living your lives doing the best you can.

And always finish the quesadilla.

Here’s to a new year.

Moving to Boston is one of the best decisions I have made in my life so far to date.

Since transferring to Emerson in January, I’ve been able to get hands-on journalism experience by covering events around the city, I’ve been able to see the Boston Marathon from the finish line, and most importantly (to me, at least) I’ve gotten to see a lot of incredible live music.

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Just in the past week alone I’ve gone to Boston Calling Music Festival, I got to see Ed Sheeran, my all time favorite musician, and I just got back from a free concert at Copley Square, a ten minute walk from where I live, for a musician called Vance Joy (this is the second time an artist I like has done a free show at Copley).

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Throughout the year, I’m going to try to make it one of my goals to post on this blog as often as I have time for. Things can get really crazy here at Emerson between classes and all of the extracurriculars, so I don’t know how easy this will be to maintain… but I would really like to try. I get to do so many fun, amazing things while I’m living in this city, and I would really like to try to document them more, for those who are interested in reading, but also for myself. I genuinely enjoy writing, and if people want to read it, it’s just a bonus.

So, here’s to a new school year, and hopefully to some interesting blog posts to come.

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