Category: Mind/Matter

Social Media Obsessed: Living for Likes

During my freshman year of college, a male friend asked me via text one evening if I thought I was beautiful. It seemed an unusual question to pose and so it gave me a moment of pause—not because I was unsure, but rather because my answer made me feel guilty and a little vain. “Yes, I’m beautiful,” I answered, and quickly followed it by stating that answering otherwise would imply that I didn’t find my mother beautiful—that I considered her genes to be flawed or lack-luster in some way resulting in my dissatisfaction with my appearance. And, while I do think that I’m beautiful, I found it troublesome that I felt the need to justify my thoughts with a safe “if, then” scenario.

In an interview with TODAY, Northwestern Psychology professor, Renee Engein, addressed the issue of mixed messages, which dictate what is acceptable and desirable for women stating, “We still live in a world that isn’t quite comfortable with women who [do] acknowledge their worth.” In an age of transparency and authenticity, and with the advent of the selfie, social media has proven to be bilateral in its effects— encouraging women to claim and flaunt their beauty, but equally discouraging as the face of beauty has morphed into something that is becoming increasingly more difficult to achieve.

023_Virginia_Solange_Fashion_shootSomewhere during the transition from dark room SLR film to digital cameras, beauty lost its way. And though the concept of beauty has always been framed by men from a point of authority and possession, beauty in its most perfect form has become a paradoxical concept fashioned after that which is created by a filter or cosmetic surgery—photoshopped or otherwise. While society has always used beauty as a tool for critique and treated it as a private gentleman’s club—elite territory reserved for men’s folly where women are sex objects that are bid on for pleasure—some women still accept this as the norm and vie for entry, though everyone is not granted access because not everyone possesses a beauty that is delicate, diaphanous or traditional.

The crux of social media is its ability to deceive. Once upon a time, print and television outlets were reserved for the uncharacteristically beautiful—or those who had access to professional airbrushing and teams of people who made them appear perfect. Today, the tools for beauty are no longer limited to makeup, but technology as well. Filter-filled social media and photo manipulation apps have expanded that once limited pool of perfection to everyday people creating a virtual auction block for Millennials and Gen Z-ers, where double-taps and likes are used in place of currency. This new man-made beauty is impacting the way that women view themselves. In a recent Dove #SpeakBeautiful campaign, a study revealed that “82% of women feel that imposed beauty standards are unrealistic.”

In lieu of Donald Trump’s interview with the New York Times in which he stated that supermodel, Heidi Klum, is “no longer a 10,” I asked a few close male counterparts about their qualifications for a “10.” Of the many answers that I received, one stood out in particular, “The perfect 10 doesn’t wake up as a 10; she wakes up as a solid 7 or 8. Social media has changed the game,” stated 27-year-old music industry professional, Trevor Washington*. While this statement is interesting for a number of reasons—namely the judgment of women based on a point system—it is equally intriguing because social media has played a role in altering beauty standards for some modern men. This should not come as a surprise considering that a recent study revealed that the average millennial spends “18 hours a day consuming media, 5.4 of which are spent on social media.”

In January of last year, The Renfrew Foundation Center conducted an online survey of 1,710 millennial men and women and found that nearly 48% of those who post photos to social media sites enhance their looks. Seventy percent of women admit to photo manipulation— everything from removing blemishes to changing skin color and weight. “All this taking and posting photos has become an obsession of sorts. We feel pressured to edit and alter our images so we look like what we think of as our ‘best selves’ instead of our real selves”, said Adrienne Ressler, Vice President, Professional Development, The Renfrew Center Foundation, and renowned body image expert.

As shallow as Trevor’s* “perfect 10” comment may seem, the thought process behind it is far from unusual. Social media has exacerbated the pressure to fall within this new “traditional” standard of beauty i.e, clear skin, prominent features, slim waist broad hips,  and feminine facial features. We’ve acknowledged that beauty is power and social presence is becoming increasingly more prevalent. Since its genesis, Instagram has become much less of a photo diary and much more of a curated experience. We’ve recognized that people often follow lifestyles that they aspire to, which often require beautiful photos. Personally, I use three different apps before posting any picture on my Instagram account, selfie or otherwise. And, while I do not discredit my worth and I still consider myself to be beautiful, were my college friend to pose that same question to me today, my answer may be a little different. Instead of falling back on an “if, then” statement—if was I being completely honest—my answer today may be something along the lines of “Yes, I’m beautiful; but sometimes I like myself more on Instagram.”

*Names have been changed.

Virginia Lowman originally wrote this article for ESSENCE.com

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I Have Three Years to Make Forbes 30 Under 30 List

I turned 26 this year. Not exactly a milestone, but definitely a reminder that I’m closer to 30 than I am to 20 (a blessing). No biggie, but I’m not exactly a “spring chicken” anymore and if I’m serious about making any 30 Under 30 lists, Forbes or otherwise, I need to crack down on this whole working towards success thing. Starting with this blog/vlog series that I’ve wanted to get off of the ground for some years now.

I’ve never been one of those fervent Beyhive fans, but I have always admired Beyoncé’s discipline and dedication to her craft. It’s evident in every performance, interview and project that she does. And, while as a reporter/editor in media, it is always tough to get a good soundbite from someone so media trained, I appreciate who Beyoncé is as a brand and as a Black woman overall. So, when I double tapped an Instagram post of a cup that read “You have as many hours in the day as Beyoncé” it actually resonated.

Gbeyonce_mug_01.jpgranted, Beyoncé does have an entire team of people that ensure that the “Bey” brand is a well oiled machine—the statement still remains true. You have the same 24 hours that Beyoncé has everyday to make something great or legendary of yourself.

When I first moved to New York to pursue a career in publishing, interning at Marie Claire magazine, I remember listening to the the editor-in-chief, studying her perspective and thinking, I can do that. I distinctly remember having a conversation with my mom and telling her that I too can make $1M a year making a life of bringing women’s issues to the forefront, telling their stories and adding to the female voice as told in the human situation narrative. Somewhere along the line, within the past three years of working in publishing, I lost that fire and that “I can be a millionaire” mentality—work, lack of sleep and seeing the difference in budget (and respect) between working at a Black brand and the more Anglo-Saxon brands tend to put a little bit of a damper on that inner fire.

Alas, turning twenty-six hasn’t re-ignited that “millionaire” fire, but it has definitely helped me to refocus my attention on building my brand, establishing myself as an expert and triggered that desire to make my mark and live a life I’m proud of. I live in New York, so money is always a factor; and, if I become a millionaire in the process I certainly won’t complain., but for now I’m just focusing on branding and building myself up to make that aforementioned 30 Under 30 list and make the most of each set of 24 hours that I’m given. I’ve got three years to go and I fully believe that it’s doable.

I’m curious about you. What do you want you mark to be? Share in the comments below.

 

6 Steps to Landing the Job ‘A Million Girls Would Kill For’

 

It is all too cliché to cite the 2006 film, The Devil Wears Prada in an article about working in the fashion industry, but it is quite fitting.  Of course, interns who double as fashionista’s and aspiring editors-in-the-making all enter the world of fashion anxious and with a sense of doe-eyed wonder, but many are remised to learn upon entry, that they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Success in this business requires tumblr_mp6z0q5Ire1s0scpzo1_500
more than just a love of fashion and an obsession with all things couture; it takes patience, it takes drive, it takes coffee, maybe  a Percocet, and —undoubtedly—a happy hour or two (not to be paired together of course.) So here it is Ladies, a little advice and a quick crash course in the world of fashion publishing.
  1.  Dress for the job that you want.

While being a fashion intern is not regarded in the highest light, interns often make the mistake of thinking this gives them leeway to dress as if they are attending gym class instead of working in a multi-million dollar corporation. Not that you will be doing a great deal of activities that require you to wear heels, in fact, trainers would probably be the wiser choice in footwear, but they are not a representation of the industry that you are in; unless you are working at a fitness magazine, but even there, I’m not so sure that their fashion editors wear Stella McCartney by Adidas to work on a daily basis. I’ll tell you what my mother told me, “If you want to be editor in chief, you dress as if that’s who you are. If she doesn’t wear jeans to work, you don’t wear jeans to work.”  I took my mother’s advice and dressed as the people who held positions I was interested in. As a result, my supervisor recommended me to model in a shoot for an upcoming issue. Thomas Fuller was right, “Good clothes [really do] open all doors.”

2. Heels on carpet, flats on pavement.

When I first moved to New York I started looking into applying for a gym membership. I thought it would be a great way to meet professionals around my age who were interested in health and personal up-keep. “Gyming” also seemed to be a part of the New York culture. In a City so driven by appearance and populated by well-sculpted bodies, getting a gym membership only seemed right, but then I went to work. After my first week, I quickly realized that paying $200 a month for a gym membership would not be necessary. Interning is a work-out all of its own. While editors and assistants are often assigned interns, at some point every intern will be required to go on “runs; a joyous activity in which you brave all elements to pick up garments, props, supplies, and things of various nature that the magazine has requested. Unlike Andrea Sachs, you are not privileged enough to be chauffeured by a company car. You, my dear, will be riding in style….via subway. So always bring two pairs of shoes to work, one for looking the part, the other for running.

3. Volunteer for anything and everything.

Traditionally a magazine will have a team of at least 30 interns most of whom are hoping to turn this into a full-time job. It’s a tight-knit and highly competitive industry, so doing more than asked goes a long way. My first day I had little to no work to do because I was being trained. In my downtime, I would clean up the supply closet and organize magazine archives. People appreciate those who take initiative. So whether it’s going to grab coffee or dropping something off for a shoot in Brooklyn at 8 AM the following morning, the more favors you do, the people you impress—the better.

4. Don’t ask twice.

Fashion, like New York City, is unforgiving and has very little margin for error. It is a fast-paced industry composed of people who barely have time to get themselves lunch, much less repeat something to you. Carry a small notebook, write everything down, and pay close attention to detail. Once, my boss asked me to scan and e-mail a series of layouts for an issue that we were working on. The layouts were either unmarked or marked incorrectly with the wrong month. I literally had seconds to process as she flashed layouts at me and mumbled their designated months. One layout marked “March” was actually for January. I asked her after copying to clarify that I had marked them correctly, and she replied, “this is why I asked you to pay attention.” Organization and attention to detail are key. Asking questions only becomes a problem if it is apparent that you were not paying attention in the first place. In an avant-garde industry such as this, it’s very easy is to fall from grace.

5. Be audacious.

Perhaps you do have the job that “a million girls would kill for,” take pride in that but do not lose yourself on the road to becoming who you are working so hard to be. Fashion is rough, it’s exhausting and incredibly egotistical; having a backbone is essential. I was told numerous times not to speak to editors or share a space with them. If a person of importance comes into the restroom, then interns were expected to leave; and were only expected to speak when spoken to. In my opinion, it is important to be mindful of such things, but you should also be aware of the fact that you’re working in an industry in which talent is constantly overlooked because of a lack of connections, or a lack of audacity. As an intern, you should make yourself available to both. An internship is a perfect opportunity to network, take advantage of it. As for being audacious, I am not recommending that you stroll into the EIC’s  office, sit down and strike up a conversation about Ashish’s new collection of sequined jumpers, but you should smile and—when appropriate—greet those people who fill the positions that you find interesting. Offer to get them water and make yourself known—with tact.

6. Be a team player.

While most interns work for free (or rather for credit,) they often form a hierarchy amongst one another. Older interns often instruct newer interns and as a result, they deem themselves superior. Remember that each intern on your team is a valuable asset, and while it’s important to network with authority figures, it is equally as important to network with your peers. It is not unlikely that one day that girl or guy, you interned with once upon a time and considered to be subordinate to you, will serve a point of contact for you. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a very small, very tightly knit industry. Everyone knows everyone.

Interning in fashion publishing will either make or break your interest in the industry. I think the most important lesson that I have learned since the beginning of my internship is that those who are successful have the audacity to ask for what they want. If you are lucky, your internship will challenge you, you will work for someone who is the epitome of the industry–ego and all, and there will be times that you’ll wonder why you did this to yourself in the first place. If you are lucky enough to have an experience that tests your patience and introduces you to the many facets of the industry, and you still wish to hold a place within it, then my dear, you have found your calling.  So be audacious, be sensible and be fearless—you have a chance to get the job that a million girls would kill for! Bon chic et bonne chanceVL

Notes from the Trenches: Living, Working, and “Making It” in New York City

So many things have transpired since my last post. Shall I begin with events of epic proportion or should I start with the humble nuances in my life? Hmm… let’s just start with the epic! Well, for starters, I left Houston and moved to New York to work for a very prominent magazine corporation. It is a temporary position scheduled to end in December, but I am grateful for the educational experiences that I’ve incurred thus far.

Currently, I live in what real estate agents would advertise as a “cozy” apartment. It is only after countless hours of apartment hunting on Craigslist that I have come to  realize that “cozy” is much less about comfort and much more about size. I can walk the length of my apartment in just over 27 steps. It is incredibly small. I am renting out the bedroom of a one bedroom apartment in the Midtown area. It’s a far cry from the “apartment with a view” that I was expecting to live in. For $1,100 a month, I have the luxury of a 10×8 square foot bedroom with the privacy of a curtain instead of a door and a window that opens to a brick wall of the bathroom in the apartment; a living room that is essentially off-limits as it doubles as my roommate’s bedroom, a kitchen which I do not use because my roommate is so particular about seemingly everything including what I throw away in the trashcan. As a result, I have limited my activity in the kitchen to merely using the sink and the microwave. My roommate is a peculiar middle-aged woman (just shy of 40) who doesn’t work, has a very limited and particular diet, enjoys singing and bobbing about listening to Britney Spears’ classic, “Baby One More Time,” and claims to be “green” and “very holistic” but uses plastic trash bags,  Clorox bleach wipes, Johnson and Johnson body wash, and dyes her hair with things other than henna. Perhaps we define these eco-friendly terms differently. Last time I checked, plastic was non-biodegradable; bleach, etc contains harsh toxins and is considered an unnatural cleaning agent.

Maybe two weeks ago, after showering and leaving for work, I received a text from her claiming that I clogged the shower drain because I use “unnatural” products, and now as a result she’s been forced to buy Drain-O. Of course, we’ll overlook the notion that more that half of the world’s occupants do not use “all natural” products, clear by the number of Duane Reade’s and Walgreens stores with aisles stocked with products such as Pantene Pro-V, Herbal Essences, Suave, and Garnier products. Needless to say,  I’ve since heavily considered buying a gym membership so that I do not have to shower there anymore and have begun making all efforts to avoid her. To speak well of her and frame her in a good light in your eyes, dear reader, I’ll simply state that she is crazy. Seriously. Psychotic.

As for my life in the magazine industry, it must remain somewhat of a secret, but to sum it up in a sentence, it is a frantic and hurried  environment. I have been able to write a bit which has been wonderful, although I am told that the work has been published for a blog instead of the magazine.  It is a lifestyle very similar to The Devil Wears Prada. Poor Andrea Sachs. One does not realize the difficulty of being an assistant until one is tasked with running down to the store for “an assortment of chocolate Truffles. Like good chocolates.” Naturally, because said “store” is not a chocolaterie, they do not sell a wide array of chocolate truffles. They sell one brand in an “assortment” of eight flavors. Who knew chocolate could induce so much stress?!

Living in the City however is a completely different experience. Of course uprooting from a place you know as “home” and moving to a new place is a somewhat ostracizing experience. However, the loneliness one can feel living alone in a place like New York City is overwhelming at times. For a city that is larger than life it’s easy to feel like a speck in the canvas of the grand scheme of things. While I do not regret moving here at all, I do wish that I would have taken more time to consider the act of actually living in the city, and allowed myself time to sit in the melancholy that could ensue from transplanting to such a monstrous, vibrant, engulfing city. I have come to understand, however, that God has deemed this a time of solitude for me to press into Him and not into my own desires, or in consulted pre conceived plans.

My anthem for the summer post graduation, was Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child.” I heard it blaring from a car speeding through union square today and tried to remind myself if the promise that song held just a month ago, and how I’m better off now than I was even just 30 days ago.

The truth is, the fruit of your life will be what you believe you are. It will not come with ease. Greatness does not itself manifest ok those who find comfort in living lackadaisically. Give yourself the opportunity to experience the exhaustion that comes from being extraordinary!

Until next time! À bientôt! VL

Forget Being Realistic—It’s Okay to be Wildly Ambitious

Recently, I went on a job interview and upon looking at my resume the interviewer noted,

“I see you have a Bachelor of Arts degree. Does that mean you studied the arts, like drawing?”

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What do you say to a question like that without seeming pompous or rude? Thankfully, I was able to stifle my laughter and replied,

“Not exactly. I have ‘Bachelor of Arts’ degree because my particular area of study while in college, focused on liberal arts. Had I taken more science classes, I could have obtained a Bachelor of Science. However, given that I am an English major, I think a Bachelor of Science in English seems a bit foolish.”

She just looked at me and said: “Well, congratulations.” I’m not even sure if she knew what she was congratulating me for.

These are the questions that you do not expect to have to answer upon completing your college degree. One does not expect to be interviewed by someone who presumably has no degree. One also so does not expect to work for someone who does not have a degree. Unfortunately, hundreds of educated minds are wasting away in blue collar jobs in work environments where their degrees are not being utilized and their brains are vegetating as their everyday life is free of stimulating conversation.

I keep thinking “I need to figure out what I’m going to do with my life” My lease ends in June. If I don’t find a job by then, I’m going to have to pack up and move back home to the East coast–to be quite frank, I’m not completely opposed to the idea, but I’m not completely for it either. Some part of me feels like I should be panicking, but I’m actually quite calm about the whole ordeal.

I’d like to find a job and make some money,  but I’m not in a rush to lose a portion of my soul to corporate America; the land of suits, and ties, neutral wardrobes, and minimal style. Perhaps I’m naive, but I genuinely believe there is something great in store for me life something beyond corporate America and working for someone else.

I suppose this is where my issue with the education system lies. College is a period of discovery. It’s a time of experimentation, of creativity, and extraordinary conversation. It’s four–sometimes five…okay, sometimes six–years of pushing the norm, trying new things, and learning how you, in particular, are uniquely different from, yet strikingly similar to all of the world’s inhabitants. And then you graduate, and all of a sudden, in many ways, you are expected to bottle up your individuality and sell it to the highest bidder in a spruced up deluxe package on parchment in the form of a cover letter and resumé. Your conversations then turn from those striking Honor’s College conversations you once had about Plato’s Apology and the impact of Billie Holiday, to tired work jokes in the break room about how your boss’ tie is always too short.

My favorite college professor once told me,

“Many people live their lives without expecting great things to be in store for them; not realizing that, that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. There’s no reason that you shouldn’t be wildly ambitious in your life, but to do that you have to take everything that you do seriously. Have a sense of taking some control over your life as opposed to feeling buffeted. To make your fortune, you need to have faith in yourself.”

I’ve thought of those words of wisdom every day since I first heard them. Perhaps that’s why I’m not worried or scared–I’m too busy praying for guidance and being wildly ambitious.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

JEREMIAH 29:11