Review / Manic Panic High Voltage in Violet Night

Sunday, 28 February 2016

I’ve always adored the look of unnaturally coloured hair, but I’ve never really ventured into anything too exciting beyond having black hair for a year or so and my attempted bleaching ‘incident’ a couple of years ago. The goal had been to go light enough to go pastel, but I have a lot of hair and zero patience for dealing with styling or dying it, so I ended up giving up and dying it brown again. Since then, I’d been toying with the idea of just going purple over my natural colour for a more muted version of what I’d hoped to achieve before, so when Manic Panic UK contacted me asking if I wanted to try out one of their dyes I jumped at the chance.

Manic Panic are a brand I’ve heard of time and time again because they have a wide range of vibrant, bright hair colours that’s hugely popular in both the rock, punk and alternative crowd and just folks that like colourful hair in general. All of their products are vegan, and don’t test on animals – they’ve even won PETA awards for best cruelty free hair product. Like many colourful dyes, theirs are much gentler on the hair than the usual chemical dyes you can pick up on the high street.

I was asked what sort of colours I wanted and they kindly offered to supply a lightening kit too but I politely declined as my hair is still chemically damaged and would probably start falling out if I tried that again… I did name a few of the purple shades I was interested in though, and received the High Voltage® Classic Cream Formula in Violet Night* in the post not too long after! I actually received these literally like three months ago, but in my quest to get a new job, I’d been putting off dying my hair until after any interviews.  Still haven’t got a new job yet, so figured now was the time to just go for it!  I requested two or more jars of dye as my hair is incredibly thick and is getting longer again; one jar or box or tube of dye has never been enough to cover my hair. I was a little worried when my two tubs arrived because I wasn’t certain that they’d be enough to do the whole lot, so as well as these I thought I’d use the opportunity to get rid of some leftover Directions dyes I had lying around too, just in case. Better to have some to spare than not enough to actually dye my whole head of hair.

The instructions recommend applying it to clean, dry hair but not being in the mood to wash my unwashed hair only to wash it again later in the day, so I just made do with what I had. The dye is a sort of creamy, gel-like consistency and is very easy to apply – just use a tint brush to coat your hair piece by piece. It’s easily worked into the hair using a comb or by gently rubbing it in, and once it’s all on you then just comb it through until it starts to foam up. For my very bottom layer, I used a mixture of Directions Rubine and Violet, and then covered the rest with Manic Panic’s Violet Night and worked in the odd extra patch of the Rubine mixture near the ends to hopefully give the colour a better flow. Although the Manic Panic dye covered way more of my hair than I was expecting it too – I had about a quarter of a jar leftover – I’m still glad I used my old dyes too, as I think I would’ve been left just a tiny bit short had I only used Violet Night and wouldn’t have had enough to properly coat my whole head.

Because these dyes are so gentle on the hair, you can keep them on for anywhere from thirty minutes to overnight for a more intense colour, so I left mine on for close to two hours before washing it off because I’m impatient and tend to end up staining things even with a shower cap on. As per usual with my hair, it took absolutely ages to wash everything out and I still didn’t get the water to run clear as you’re apparently supposed to, but I could be dunked under the sea for a week and still not get all the damn dye out so that’s nothing new for me. I let it dry naturally, and I was very pleased with the result!

Violet Night is a very bright, sort of cool-toned purple that would be extremely bold on someone with a whole head of white blonde or light blonde hair. Because my hair is about two thirds bleached (under faded brown dye) and one third virgin medium brown, the colour pay-off varied between the top and bottom of my hair, although it's difficult to see in the above photos. Virgin, dark hair takes in much less colour than lighter or bleached hair, so the result was a much more vibrant colour towards the ends of my hair and a more muted, subtler purple closer to the roots. This was something I was well aware would happen and that Manic Panic did remind me of when they contacted me, but it’s actually exactly the kind of look I wanted given that I had been thinking about just going for a purple tint over my natural brown anyway. The brighter ends just give it a nice ombre effect, and the bits of Directions dye throughout the under layers add an extra bit of interest and kept it from being too same-y. Although there’s the odd patch of hair where the colour didn’t seem to take as well, this is more than likely just because I didn’t manage to apply it properly just because of the sheer volume of hair I have rather than any fault of the dye, as I have this problem with any and all dyes I use.

The colour is lovely, and so far I have absolutely nothing negative to say about it! It’s cruelty free and vegan, it was easy enough to apply, (reasonably) easy to wash out and the end result is a great colour that hasn’t damaged my hair. The photos might suggest otherwise, but as I said, my hair was chemically damaged long before I used this and I also hate styling my hair, so any dryness you might notice is bleached hair from ages ago and frizz I can’t be arsed to style out. At £11.99 per 118ml pot, it’s a little bit more expensive than the Directions dyes I’ve used in the past, but on my hair it also seems to be way more pigmented.  I also noticed that it seemed to take much better to my virgin hair than the Directions dye I used did, and I'd bet that someone with thinner hair than me could also get away with using just the one jar of dye instead of two or more, so it’s likely better value for money.

Would I use it again? It’s a yes from me. I may never have pretty pastel hair like I’d dreamed of a couple of years ago (unless I win the lottery and can afford to have it done professionally every few weeks to save myself the hassle...), but I’m thrilled to know that Manic Panic dyes can still give me a beautiful, unique colour even over my natural hair colour. As well as the High Voltage dye that I tried, they also do Amplified formulas and temporary dyes on top of some other ranges, so if you’re looking for a great cruelty free and vegan hair dye that comes in every colour of the rainbow (and more!) then definitely check them out.

What are your favourite colourful hair dyes?

* This review is not sponsored and has not been paid for, however the products were sent to me free of charge.  All views and opinions expressed are my own.

Things You Don't Realise About Growing Up Until You Do

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

When I was a lot younger, I used to think I was already super mature and informed and that I was already the person I was going to be later in life. This is probably going to sound incredibly patronising to younger readers, but you don’t really realise until you hit your twenties just how wrong that is; it’s honestly kind of scary how much I’ve changed in the space of even as little as four or five years and how very little I actually understood about growing up and adulthood in general. I thought I’d just share some of the things I’ve realised as an adult that I could’ve done with knowing as a teenager (for better or for worse).
This is a pretty obvious one when you’re under ten and still think that £5 is a lot of money, but even when you’re a teenager, if you’re living at home then it’s kind of difficult to fully grasp the value of money and the cost of simply living. I was well aware that my mum had a mortgage, that she paid the bills and taxes, that groceries and our food all cost money, but it wasn’t until moving out and having to budget myself and deal with my own bills that I finally understood the real scale of it all.

Having to pay for all of your own food, clothes, utility bills, rent, internet etc. and still hoping for enough left over to buy something nice for yourself gives you a whole new perspective on money and everything your parents did for you that you didn’t quite get before. Suddenly, you’re watching your hard earned money go towards everything but the things and experiences you really want, and realising that you don’t actually earn enough money to afford to live alone and have enough to put into savings at the end of every month. The environment that a lot of people grow up in and the media we consume paints a very different picture of what the value of money is and where our money goes, and the reality is decidedly less appealing than the childhood fictions.

I think this is especially true of today’s adults in their twenties, because we were the last people to grow up before the recession and our parents actually were spending less money on the same things compared to us. They were able to rent flats or buy homes for a fraction of the price that we’re now struggling to afford, and we’re sitting here thinking ‘damn, money was so much easier when I got a fiver a week for doing chores’.
Obviously you think you know everything and you’re already very mature as a teenager, but even at 18 or 19 you feel like you’re already as changed a person as you’re going to get and it’s just not true at all. I am a completely different person now to who I was at that age in so many different ways; even some of my core beliefs have drastically evolved as I’ve matured and experienced things and learned to see the world through different eyes and listen to others’ voices.

If I met my teenage self, she’d probably be filled with a mixture of awe and disgust for the person I’ve become. Awe because I’m confident, have improved exponentially in the looks department, am well-travelled and am almost completely above what other people think of me now. Disgust because I don’t dress to ‘flatter’ my figure, I adore makeup, I refuse to be ‘un-politically correct’ or laugh at others’ expense and I’m not ashamed to call myself a feminist. The old me was a tomboy who hated anything girly, thought that not being able to say racial slurs when you’re white was unfair, used to whine about bigger girls who ‘couldn’t dress themselves’ and thought she was the only girl in the world who was genuinely a fan of geeky things and not just doing it for attention. The new me would call that girl out, give her a firm slap and tell her to pull her head out of her own arse.

Don’t get too comfortable with who you are at 19 or younger. University and the immediate years that follow are your formative years, and when you look back on yourself you’ll be surprised by the fact that you don’t really see that person when you look at in the mirror anymore, and that’s okay! Changing doesn’t make you fake or a bad person – evolving is all part of maturing, growing up and responding to everything you’ve experienced so far. Chances are you’ll be far more comfortable in your own skin and with who you are as a person in your twenties than you ever were as a teenager, despite what you might’ve thought in your youth.
Sounds kind of contradictory to say that you will probably change but your friends are 50/50, but I think we can be kind of hyper-aware of our friends’ states of changing or unchanging, especially in our late teens and early twenties when everyone starts branching off into different life paths. By the time you hit your early to mid-twenties, you’ll notice that you have some friends from school who you probably don’t talk to anymore because either they changed into someone you didn’t get along with as well anymore, or they stayed the same person they were in school and your own changed self can’t really deal with them any more.

Neither of these situations is a bad thing or says anything ill of you or your friends, it’s just a fact of life that there are people who change and others who are essentially the same person you first met years ago. For some, this isn’t a problem, but for others it is. I’ve lost touch with basically all of my friends from years and years ago because who I am now just doesn’t compute with who they are, either because the ‘new me’ loses her patience with them rather often now, or because they didn’t feel like we had anything in common any more, or they couldn’t relate to where I am in life now.

There’s nothing wrong with not being compatible with someone any more – like I said, changing is a natural part of life, and that goes for changing who you spend all of your time with too. And when it comes to old or childhood friends, it’s also important to remember that you were exposed to such a small group of people in your little bubble of high school life. When it comes to school friends, you basically get what you’re given and you either cope with that and befriend who you can and forge relationships in spite of differences, or you lump it and don’t really have many friends. Once you leave school, that invisible boundary of who you are and aren’t exposed to disappears, opening up a whole new world in which you can openly seek out like-minded people (without the same risk of social suicide as in your school days). After that, you often realise that you were only really friends with certain people because of circumstance, and not because of genuine platonic love or shared interests.
For me, one of the hardest parts of growing up was living with the guilt of letting relationships fizzle out and die. Those relationships might’ve ended amicably through a simple falling out of touch or moving away, or they might’ve ended on a more bitter note. Either way, dropping friends and cutting ties with certain people is never a good feeling and it leaves you wondering whether or not you’re a horrible person or should’ve tried harder with them or should try to give the friendship or relationship another try.

What you also come to realise though, is that sometimes it’s okay to let go. In the past few years I’ve made peace with the ghosts of friendships past, and come to know that, actually, I am better off without many of these people. At a certain age, you find a new kind of clarity in that you can see toxic relationships for what they were, and look back on your younger self and wonder why you put up with it in the first place. Or you can see where old friends are in life now, and simply be happy for them and quietly wish them well on their adventures instead of pining after them or beating yourself up over not staying in touch.

Ultimately, if a childhood friendship was meant to be, it would’ve lasted into your twenties on its own. If not, then that’s okay. You’re not a bad friend for moving on, and you’re certainly not a bad person for letting go of people who – whether they realise it themselves or not – were dragging you down in one way or another. Sometimes that drag can be a friend who puts you in a bad mental and emotional state (purposefully or not), sometimes it can be someone with whom friendship feels like a one way street, and sometimes it can be much worse, or anything in between. If you feel like you might be better off without someone, gently cut your ties with them. I can almost guarantee that a weight will lift from your shoulders and you’ll thank yourself for it one day. We all develop enough baggage with age without carrying around our old friends’ suitcases too.
Coping with being different can be difficult when you’re younger, particularly if you feel trapped in the same social circles or the same small town. You end up censoring yourself a little, holding back pieces of who you are because you’re worried about what others might think or say or what the consequences of being your real self might be. That might mean anything from not being honest about being a giant nerd, to not wearing clothes you really like just in case your friends think you look dumb, to anything and everything else.

It takes time and growing comfortable with yourself to realise that, actually, it doesn’t matter at all what other people think of you. Whether their words or thoughts about you are downright cruel and ignorant, or just misguided ‘advice’, it’s all white noise and you don’t have to take it to heart. It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter. If what you wear makes you smile or your hobbies get you excited or who you are makes you happy, then who cares what the haters say? When you’re younger and under more pressure to fit in or simply try and coast through your social life with as little trouble as possible, it’s easy to take what others think to heart and to worry about what they might be saying behind your back. But, after enough years of it, you just get tired of it and see it for what it really is: bullshit.

You learn to just do you and everything that would’ve hurt you before just slides right off you because you’re done trying to be someone you’re not, and at the end of the day these peoples’ little niggles about how you’re living your life are all just bitter words that won’t really have an effect on you anyway. Chances are, you’ll start making much better new friends, forging better relationships and fostering a better relationship with yourself once you do you and start projecting your genuine self out into the world instead of the mask you wore to keep others happy before.
There’s this idea that one day, as you age, everything just falls into place. You get a good job, you can drive, you feel mature, maybe rent or buy a house, you’re in a relationship or working the dating scene and the train to being a responsible adult is just chugging along right on track. If you asked me when I was a teenager what my life would be like at twenty-four, nearly twenty-five, I’d probably say that I’ll have my shit together by then and be doing something cool and grown up and just really have everything all figured out. It’s true that some days I do feel pretty grown up, but for the most part I have literally no idea what I’m doing and most other adults are the same, even well into middle age and beyond.

I don’t have my shit together; I work in a boring office that’s nothing to do with my degree, I still have too many clothes, I still sleep with and buy cuddly toys, I like spending entire days in bed and eating junk food for dinner and I frankly still don’t understand why I’m allowed to drive because I don’t feel grown up enough for that kind of responsibility. As we get older, we start to see friends getting married and having kids, and we’re wondering what’s going on and why we still feel like children while other people are having children, and meanwhile those people are wondering how and why on earth they’re now allowed to be responsible for raising another human being. Suddenly you’re thirty and you still feel exactly as ‘together’ as you did when you were twenty, only now you drink too much red wine on a Friday night instead of too many Jagerbombs on a Thursday, and you’re sharing your house with a child or two cats instead of five housemates.

There’s no magic spell for adulthood and being a real life grown up; we’re all just fumbling around taking each day at a time, trying to understand taxes and the housing market and do our best to not completely fuck up our lives.

What kinds of things do you start to realise as you grew up?

Why Go Cruelty Free?

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Why go Cruelty Free?

Many of my readers will already know that I’m a user and an advocate of cruelty free beauty; for those who aren’t familiar with the term, all it means is that I only use cosmetics and beauty products that I’m confident haven’t been tested on animals.

I first decided to go cruelty free probably about three years ago now, following discussions with my best friend, Kate, and some of my own research. I’d never really thought about the idea that my cosmetics might have been tested on animals before, and even when I did, the European Union ban on animal testing on cosmetics lulled me into a false sense of security that, living in the UK, anything I purchased must be cruelty free by default just because of where I purchased it. The reality, of course, isn’t quite so clear cut, and in spite of this ban many high street brands still test their products on animals… just not in the EU.

It was a daunting prospect at first, and it seemed as though I’d suddenly become very limited. I was only just starting to get really into makeup, and suddenly I felt as though this whole new world of products and brands to try and experiment with got really, really small really, really quickly. Those were only my first impressions though, and after a time, I learned to realise that cruelty free cosmetics aren’t rarer, (generally) aren’t more expensive and are just as high quality (sometimes more) than their animal tested counterparts.

So, in the spirit of my blog being a largely cruelty free beauty and lifestyle one, I thought I’d share some of the most compelling reasons to try going cruelty free.
Although it’s true that there are lots of great cruelty free small businesses and indie brands that are available online only, there are also great cruelty free options to be found in places like Boots and Superdrug. Barry M, GOSH, Sleek MakeUp, B. Beauty and Makeup Revolution are a few of the worthy mentions, along with theBalm which is now available in many Superdrug stores. You don’t need to go trawling through page after page of cruelty free brand lists to find something you can actually buy in your area – they’re already there, and have been there for a while!

LUSH is another hugely popular and well known cruelty free brand that is loud and proud about its stance against animal testing, and most large towns and cities boast one of their stores. Depending on your view on parent companies (that is, whether you choose to keep buying from a certified cruelty free brand when they’re bought out or otherwise owned by a ‘parent’ company that is known to test on animals) The Body Shop, owned by L’Oreal, is also an affordable, widely available and really popular option.

Marks & Spencer’s own cosmetics brand, Autograph, is also within an affordable price range and can be found in any local M&S store, and all of Superdrug’s own brand products are cruelty free too!
Notice that I mentioned ‘affordable’ quite a few times in my last point? Well, cruelty free beauty isn’t as expensive as people can make it out to be. Although there are certain brands that are more expensive than average, and it can sometimes cost more if you choose to only shop brands that are exclusively available online, there are plenty of cheap options available to you, too. Superdrug’s own brand cosmetics and skincare are incredibly cheap, and brands like Makeup Revolution, and SleekMakeup and GOSH are no differently priced to high street animal tested favourites like Rimmel, Revlon or Bourjois.
There are a number of different testing procedures used to test cosmetics on animals, and almost all of them are awful, painful and ultimately result in either the death or euthanisation of the animal. L’Oreal, Maybelline, MAC, Rimmel, Revlon and all the other beauty blogger favourites all put animals through what is essentially torture for the sake of cosmetics; skin irritation tests are carried out by rubbing a product or ingredient onto shaved skin with no pain relief, eye irritation tests carried out by dropping chemicals into eyes only to be washed out to test again later, lethal doses are force-fed or injected into animals to confirm whether or not that particular amount of chemical is toxic and/or results in death. Depending on the country in which the testing is carried out and what the type of test is, those animals that don’t die during these experiments will either continue to have tests carried out on them until they do, or will be simply be killed when they’re shown to be in pain. Other than death, the experiments can result in rashes, burns, seizures, haemorrhages, any number of other side effects and all of this is administered without anaesthetic or pain relief, all so MAC can continue to produce the lipsticks you love or Revlon can release a new long-wear foundation.

It’s also important to note that these tests are not just carried out on lab bred mice or rats (which are largely sadly still considered insignificant and expendable), but on rabbits and even sometimes dogs, and all of these are animals that are widely considered lovely, family pets. If this knowledge and what the animals have to go through hurts to know, it might be time to consider re-evaluating your buying habits.
You may think that companies choose to do these types of tests for the sake of humans – why test chemicals or ingredients on a human being, when you could safely test them on a rabbit before risking a person’s health in human trials? Well, animal testing actually has a whole lot of scientific limitations, because at the end of the day, we’re not lab animals. Just because a product reacts a certain way on a rabbit or a rat, doesn’t mean that it will be the same for us, because different species and different physiologies can react just as differently to the same chemicals.

There are many much more cost effective and more humane ways to test products that don’t involve animals and can provide safer, more human-relevant results in much less time than it takes to test and observe animals’ reactions.
Most of the popular brands that people know and love are considered great quality and are staples in so many peoples’ makeup bags, so surely giving those up would mean having to settle of stuff that’s not as good? Wrong! Since going cruelty free, I’ve discovered so many brands and products that I may never have thought to use before but absolutely swear by now, but on top of that, there are many already loved brands who are cruelty free too. Everyone raves about theBalm’s Marylou Manizer, and as I mentioned earlier, theBalm are cruelty free! Sleek MakeUp’s eyeshadow palettes and blushes are some of the best quality and most highly pigmented on the high street market for the price, and they’re cruelty free! Barry M’s nail polishes are used by anyone and everyone and offer some of the best colours and formulas around, and they’re cruelty free!

As well as high street products, there are a wealth of high end brands that are cruelty free, too. Too Faced, BECCA, Anastasia Beverley Hills and Hourglass are just a handful of those that are cruelty free, and that list gets even bigger if you’re someone who chooses to purchase from brands owned by parent companies that test. You can have one hell of a face of gorgeous, high end makeup without buying a single product tested on animals!
Going cruelty free is as much of a lifestyle change as altering your diet or trying to form new, more positive habits – it doesn’t need to happen in the blink of an eye. You don’t need to flick a switch and just bin all of your all products; you can go at your own pace, replace products as you discover new cruelty free alternatives, and learn at whatever speed is most comfortable for you. It can seem a bit intimidating deciding to go cruelty free when there are already so many ethical buffs and gurus out there spouting off tested and non-tested brands as though they know them like the back of their hands, but we all started somewhere.

You aren’t obligated to give everything up at once or to wake up one day and to magically know everything about being cruelty free and never make a mistake. You also aren’t expected to know all of the ins and outs of animal testing laws, procedures and complications like parent companies or China sales as soon as you get started. It takes time not just to build up a new collection of products, but to wrap your head around all of the complexities of animal testing and to learn your own boundaries and comfort zones on the topics, too.

Choosing to give up cosmetics tested on animals was one of the best lifestyle decisions I ever made; I’ve found so many new brands and favourite items, my interest in makeup has flourished and I’ve met so many welcoming and insightful people in the cruelty free community.

I know people don’t like it when folks who’re into ethical living get up on a soap box about what they believe in, but one of the few goals I actually have with my blog is to gently encourage people to think about the realities of the products they buy and the affordable, worthwhile cruelty free options that are available to them instead. Ultimately, I don’t believe that animals need to suffer or die just so I can wear makeup or use a nice lotion, and I’d like to think that most other people would feel the same way. I urge you to educate yourself about animal testing procedures and cruelty free alternatives and, if it’s within your means to do so (because it may not be within everyone’s), to think a little bit more critically about what you choose to purchase, but do also remember that just doing your best to lead a more ethical life is great too and you don’t always have to meet the exact same, high standards set by others.

If you ever have any questions or want any advice or recommendations on cruelty free products and how to go cruelty free, I’m always happy to help! I learned mostly independently and through my own research, but in the past few years so many more people have gone cruelty free and non-animal tested products are becoming much more mainstream and widely available, so there’s no need to go it alone. Hit me up on Twitter or send me an email, I’d love to help you out!

Stay beautiful,

Colourful NYE Makeup (REPOST)

Saturday, 20 February 2016

NOTE: Forgive me for reposting this again!  Due to technical hitches sorting out my signatures, I somehow managed to get Blogger to republish this post... but it was originally posted around New Year's!  As you can expect, for a New Year's Eve look...)

This is a bit of a non-traditional look compared to what most other bloggers and makeup artists do for New Year’s Eve parties!  Every holiday season, my other half’s family host a Christmas party with a fun fancy dress theme – this year it’s been moved to NYE, and the theme is bright, colourful and fluorescent.  I always incorporate the theme to these parties into my makeup when I can since I much prefer playing around with interesting makeup looks than spending money on fancy dress, and this is what I plan on wearing this year.

I used NikkiTutorials’ Hunger Games makeup look for inspiration but went for only matte bright colours and just added a bit of sparkle to the black lid.  The bulk of the eyeshadow look was done using one palette, and the other bits and pieces could easily be done using staples and other bits and pieces in your makeup collection.  I also added a pink tint to my eyebrow using my lipstick and the same pink I used on my eyes.

I started by applying my base, a good quality eyeshadow primer (you definitely need this to get the best colour payoff for this kind of look) and doing my brows almost as normal.  I used a white foundation to lift my brow bone and applied my usual brow pomade to shape and fill them in, but I stopped here and didn’t apply any brow gel as this will come after I’ve done the rest of the eye.

Using my Sleek MakeUp Ultra Mattes Bright Palette and a tapered blending brush, I started by applying one of the bright pink shades, Pucker, in my crease and dragging it a little bit towards my nose.  At this point I kept the entire mobile lid completely empty of shadow, as I’d be filling this in with black later.  I also applied this to the outer third underneath my eye and blended it out.  Then, I took a bit of the yellow shade, Bamm!, mixed with a tiny bit of the orange, Strike, and blended this into the pink I took close to the inner corner.  I then went back over this with Bamm! in the entire inner corner in the same way that you’d use a highlighter, to get a bright golden yellow that fades into orange and into the pink.  I then took the orange shade and blended it into the outer part of my crease, into the centre of my lower lash line and blended it into the yellow towards the inner corner.

I took my time going back into each colour to keep it bright and bold, and then once I was happy I blended out all of the outer edges with a fluffy blending brush.  Then, the lid!  I first filled it in with a black gel liner, then went over it again to set it with Blackout from the Naked 3 palette and gently blended it out into the colourful bits, being careful to just soften the edges and not muddy the colours with it.  Blackout is a dark grey/black shade with little bits of pink and red glitter, so it’s a dark colour with a little bit of dimension to it - if you don’t have the Naked 3 or don’t buy from Urban Decay, you can just use a charcoal or black eyeshadow because the next step is patting a tiny amount of true gold eyeshadow over the top of it anyway.  The one I used was one of Phee’s Makeup Shop limited edition holiday shadows, Moreish, and this is what gives the lid the beautiful little gold sparkles in the photos.  Just use a dab of colour and your finger tip to press it on, especially if you're using the same eyeshadow I did because this one is super pigmented and beautiful!

After doing the lid, I went back over the bright colours again to intensify them again, the tightlined my upper lash line, used a white pencil on my lower lash line, and added mascara and false eyelashes.  Eyes, done!

To achieve the tinted eyebrows, I took a little bit of bright coral pink lipstick and gently rubbed my eyebrow spoolie in it, then ran this through my eyebrows until I achieved my desired intensity.  I then did the same again, but dipped the spoolie into the pink eyeshadow and went over my brows again to set the lipstick.  I also used my angled brow brush with the lipstick and shadow to make sure that the tail of my eyebrows was still as sharp and defined as I wanted.  Then, I added brow gel to set them in place.  You can do this without filling your brows in with your natural colour beforehand and just use a brow brush, colourful lipstick and eyeshadow to shape/fill them in if you want a more colourful look, but I just wanted the hint of pink running through them for this.

I then just went straight in with a translucent powder to set everything and used only a dash of blush and no highlighter to keep the focus on the eyes and lips.  If you're using a liquid foundation, your skin will probably be dewy enough to fit with this look without a highlight.  Finally, I topped everything off with the pink lipstick I used on the brows.  It looks a bit more muted in some of the photos than in real life, but it’s actually quite a neon coral pink that compliments the pink, orange and yellow in the eyes really well.  To go with my makeup, I’m going to also be wearing some glow-in-the-dark yellow body paint and lots and lots of matching glowsticks!

All products used:
The Body Shop Moisturise It Primer*
Urban Decay Priming Potion in Original*
The Body Shop Fresh Nude Foundation in Chelsea Porcelain*
The Body Shop Shade Adjusting Drops in Lightening*
Barry M Flawless Light Reflecting Concealer in Ivory
Kryolan Dermacolor Camouflage Crème in D070
Anastasia Beverley Hills Brow Pomade in Medium Brown
GOSH Defining Brow Gel in Clear
Sleek MakeUp Ultra Matte Brights Palette
NYX Gel Liner & Smudger in Black*
Urban Decay Naked 3 Palette*
Phee’s Makeup Tips Mineral Shadow in Moreish
Inika Organic Eyeliner in Black Caviar
Barry M Kohl Pencil in White
PHB Ethical Beauty All-in-One Natural Mascara in Black
Ardell Demi Wispies in Black
theBalm blush in Down Boy
Lily Lolo Finishing Powder in Translucent Silk
Sleek MakeUp True Colour Lipstick in Coral Reef
* Parent company is not cruelty free

I hope you enjoyed seeing another makeup look from me, I’m actually really pleasantly surprised by how this turned out because usually I’m awful at doing bright, colourful makeup.  The first eyeshadow look I tried the other day turned out horrible so I went back to the drawing board and came up with this instead and I’m super excited to wear it on New Year’s Eve now!

What kind of makeup are you planning for your holiday parties?

5 Underappreciated Sci-fi Movies

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

If I could only watch one genre for the rest of my life, I'd definitely pick science fiction.  Not only is it broad, but it's way more fun, rich and complex than a lot of people give it credit for.  Honestly, it's one of my major bugbears that film critics and awards, particularly the Oscars, never seem to take science fiction seriously unless it's in terms of sound or special effects but, well, apparently they don't take ethnic minority actors seriously either (shots fired) so sci-fi is at least in good company.

Since I haven't been talking quite so much about the geek side of my life since starting this blog back up again, I thought I'd share some of the sci-fi movies that I thought were pretty great and didn't get quite as much praise and attention as I (personally) think they deserved.

I wouldn't have even heard of Europa Report had it not been for the Other Half pottering around on IMDb looking for other sci-fi movies we could watch.  It's definitely not one of the best sci-fi movies around, nor is it going to ever be a classic, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless.  It's shot in found-footage style, and shows the story of the first crewed mission to visit Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, and learn about the environment and search for signs of possible life.  Without giving anything away, let's just say the shit hits the fan as it is prone to doing in movies.  I think what I love most about this is just that it appeals to the part of me that really hopes that there's something else out there and gets really excited by the thought of there even being living microbes on other planetary bodies in our solar system.  But, I mean, if you want wonderment then watch Cosmos, this is more if you want to be nervous for a couple of hours and think but what if?
DISTRICT 9 (2009)
I hadn't really heard anything about District 9 until one day my mum and I saw something about it being an unexpected hit on the news shortly after it was released, so we went to go and see it.  When we came out of the cinema, even my mum - who isn't really much of a sci-fi fan - was floored.  It's set in an alternate version of our world, in which aliens became stranded in South Africa and explores how they are treated and humans' attempts to exploit them and their technology while making obvious parallels with apartheid.  Their technology is gritty and worn and feels real, and the aliens themselves aren't as humanoid in appearance as we've come to expect from sci-fi, rather they're very believable, well-designed and bug-like.  Everything about it feels real, especially the segregation and reactions of humans towards their visitors, who ended up being more prisoners than guests.  This is still one of my all time favourite movies, and has a brilliant plot, visuals and soundtrack.  I'm still genuinely angered by the fact that this didn't win any of the Oscars it was nominated for, because it brought back depth and originality to the genre at a time it was rather starting to lack those things and showed the world what sci-fi was capable of again.
Pacific Rim is one of those movies that was heavily praised in certain circles online, but the majority of critics, randomers and people I know just immediately discounted it as another dumb action movie with nothing to offer.  I could literally write an entire dissertation on the nuances of Pacific Rim that evidently whooshed over the heads of everybody else, but I'll summarise it by saying that it's a film that features multiple people of colour in lead roles, has an actual strong female character (not a Strong Female Character (TM)), and is about a bunch of Millennials uniting in an international alliance to defeat a common enemy with technology.  Guillermo Del Toro deliberately made a film that was fun and just cool to transport you back to your childhood; gave children varied, compassionate and kind characters who don't 'get the girl' to look up to as role models; placed romantic, platonic and familial love and relationships all on the same level instead of prioritising romance and created an amazing alternate world that actually shows our much maligned, tech-obsessed generation as forward-thinking heroes all while subverting tons of rubbish clichés and tropes that are tired and old and boring as hell.
CONTACT (1997)
To be perfectly honest, I'm not even really sure that I enjoyed Contact that much when I first watched it, but I loved it the second time around!  Rather than set in space or documenting alien invasion, it's about a scientist who works for SETI when, finally, communication from extraterrestrials is discovered.  I had no idea when I first saw it that it was based off of Carl Sagan's novel of the same name, but in retrospect and on second viewing it makes perfect sense!  There's a lot of awe-inspiring discussion of spirituality and our relationship with and place within the universe, as well as social, religious and political commentary that would no doubt be issues if contact was ever made in reality. It's really one of the best 'realistic' Earth-based science fiction movies of my time and it really captures Carl Sagan's love and appreciation of the cosmos and how ground-breaking it would be to make contact.
CARGO (2009)
Another unexpected gem found from trawling long lists of movies, Cargo is a Swiss film set a couple of hundred years into the future after Earth has become uninhabitable due to ecological collapse.  It follows a young doctor who hopes to relocate to live with her sister on a distant, paradise-like planet, so takes a eight year job on an old cargo ship to earn the cash to get her there.  While on her shift and with the rest of the crew in cryogenic sleeps, weird things start to happen and she's convinced that something is in the cargo hold and wakes the others, and, you know, things happen.  It's one part atmospheric thriller and one part dystopian future, so I was pleasantly surprised by it because I love me some dystopian future.  Bits of it are pretty clichéd, but on the whole it's a great movie with a great aesthetic and I'm surprised it isn't mentioned more often.

If you're looking for some new sci-fi movies to watch, I hope this gave you a couple to try!  Got any recommendations for me?

What are some movies you think are underappreciated, sci-fi or otherwise?

5 Tips for Wearing Makeup with Glasses

Sunday, 14 February 2016

I’ve been wanting to write a little bit about makeup and glasses for a while now, especially since as I’ve aged and started working full time sat in front of a computer screen, my eyes have basically shrivelled up into dry little raisins and now I have to wear glasses most days and can only handle contact lenses very infrequently and for short spaces of time.

I’ve been a glasses wearer since I was in my early teens, although I went through several years where I almost exclusively wore contact lenses all day every day, and I’ve always had to consider glasses when thinking about my makeup.  Mostly my eye makeup, since on top of having to cover them with a big pair of spectacles, I also have hooded eyes which are already small and annoying to work with anyway.  With quite a lot of practice under my belt and a bit of wisdom to share, I thought I’d be a pretty decent source of advice for anyone looking for tips when wearing makeup and glasses!

Let me start by saying that no matter what I say about what you should/shouldn’t do when wearing makeup and glasses, no matter what anyone else says, you do you.  The below will mostly be tips in terms of what I do, such as how to enhance certain features and compete with your frames, I will never tell you to straight up not do a thing and I urge you to never let anyone else to do that, either.  There are countless videos on YouTube and blog posts about what ‘not’ to do when wearing makeup with glasses and, honestly, half of them contradict each other anyway.  Wear bold colours, don’t wear bold colours, wear shimmer, don’t wear shimmer, wear a powder base, don’t wear a powder base, wear bold lips, don’t wear bold lips – at the end of the day, if you like to do it or if it works for you, then do it.  Ignore the haters and the people who think they can tell you what to do with your own face!

Now, with that out of the way, on to five tips for wearing makeup with glasses!

Not exactly a makeup technique, right?  Still, I’ve found it to be very important when coming up with makeup looks that I can wear with my glasses!  Different styles of eye makeup work with different frames, and different sizes and types of frames might mean you need to use different products for your base.  The frames you choose can not only completely change the shape of your eye and face, but they can and will touch your face in different ways and with different degrees of pressure.

I find that smoky, grungier eye looks work well for my eye shape in all of my frames because they draw attention to the eye beneath the frame and with some highlight in my inner corner and my waterline, make my hooded eyes appear bigger and more noticeable.  This is a particularly flattering look with my squarer frames and with shadow dragged pretty low below my lower lashline.  I also have two different pairs of cat eye frames – one bigger and chunkier in a tortoiseshell pattern, one more narrow and black.  Given that they’re retro-styled frames, a retro winged liner look compliments them well and particularly with the black frames, a red lip looks glam as fuck.

Obviously not everyone can afford to have several different frames to swap between, but it helps to know your specific frames and how they reshape the eyes and come into contact with your face, so you can apply more/less product in places that need it and so you can use your makeup to highlight or reshape your eyes in the way that best works for you.
Glasses can be both a curse and a blessing in terms of bold, colourful makeup.  Often, I find that I’ll do a killer, vibrant or edgy makeup look that I’m really proud of, and then I’ll just put on my glasses and watch it disappear and become invisible.  I'm wearing the same eye look in all of the photos in this post, but it looks way more colourful in the photo above without the glasses!  Frustrating as this can be, at the same time, this means that you can experiment with much bolder or more colourful eye looks without worrying about it being too much of a ‘night time’ look (although frankly, glasses or no glasses, I’ll wear whatever boldness of eye makeup I want no matter what the hour of the day).

Colourful or darker, more sultry eye looks help to pull attention away from the frames and back to your eyes, but the frames work with them to create balance and make sure that it’s not ‘too much’ (as if you can have too much…).  Something that might be so bright and bold that it makes you question whether or not you should leave the house with it suddenly gets toned down but still looks jazzy and eye-catching once you put your glasses on!  You might never wear colourful eyeliner, but if you have neutral frames, putting a bit of bright, colourful liner on your lower lashline can be the difference between a normal, basic look and one that really makes your eyes pop, but without the commitment of trying it without the glasses to calm it down.

This applies to things like blush and lip colour too – you can afford to go a little nuts with the rouge or bright lips if you’re going to put some glasses on because they’ll all be competing with each other and basically cancel each other out.  I’ve had moments where I put on way more blush than I usually would and was a bit concerned I looked ridiculous, but once I whacked on my specs, you couldn’t even notice.

One of the main keys to bigger and more defined eyes are your lashes, and these can really help to bring out your eyes from behind your glasses.  I have sad short, sparse lashes that are probably my biggest disappointment in life, but hey ho, we can make it work.  One thing you do always want to remember when working with your lashes for a look for glasses is to not go overboard on the length – to create that definition, you want volume and blackness, not length, otherwise your beautiful fluttery lashes will just end up pressed against your lenses.

If you’re a fan of false lashes, that doesn’t mean you can’t wear them!  Sure, you won’t be wearing any giant butterfly lashes or anything like that, but natural looking accent lashes go a long way when wearing glasses.  I regularly use Ardell 301 Accent Lashes which don’t look like much compared to other lashes in the box, but when they’re on they look completely seamless and make your lashes just look naturally fuller in the outer corner (which will make your eye look bigger) without adding too much length.

If you’re not a falsie person, you can achieve the same effects by curling your lashes and using some careful tight-lining and some volumising mascara.  For a lot of different looks, I also often apply some brown or black eyeliner to my top lid, close to my lashline, and smudge it out a little bit which, again, creates the illusion of thicker lashes.

Glasses can not only just make your eyes stand out less, but it can create shadows on and around the eye area, so using techniques to brighten that area can help a lot in pulling a look together and putting your eyes back in the spotlight.  Try to cover your dark circles as best you can for this reason, because the frames will be casting another dark shadow over the darkness that’s already there.  Brightening concealers are also a great staple here.

I also recommend finding a great brightening eyeliner for your waterline and opting for this instead of filling in your waterline with a dark kohl to complete your eye look.  A bright colour will open the eye rather than close it, and good waterline eyeliners can also make your eye look brighter, whiter and healthier by cancelling out some of the redness around your eye.  I recently bought the Pixi Extra Eye Bright Liner, which was designed specifically for your waterline and is a pale nude white shade with lavender tones that neutralise redness – it works wonders!  Popping this in my waterline and into my inner corner instantly brightens and widens my eyes.  You can also use a light eyeshadow or highlighter to add some extra lightness to the inner third of your eye and your inner corner.  I personally like my highlight to be visible from space these days, so I usually have a hell of a lot of shimmer going on in my inner corner over my Pixi liner.

For more natural looks, using some eye contouring techniques such as focusing darker, neutral colours on the outer corner of your lid and your crease and using very light shades (matte, satin and shimmer all work) towards the inner corner also help to achieve similar effects that make your eye look bigger and bolder behind your glasses without having to use lots of grungey smudging or bright colours.

Everyone and their mum preaches good brows and how brows frame the face and even your glasses, so this shouldn’t really be news to anyone but look at the above photo!  See what a huge difference just filling in your brows can make to your face when you’re wearing glasses?  Particularly with thicker, bolder frames, adding some depth to your brows helps to create a much more balanced look, and keeping your brows groomed in general is a good idea too.

Although you might think your frames just cover up your eyebrows, they can sometimes draw attention to them so keeping them plucked and shaped is great for keeping your look polished and more effortlessly put together.  I find that keeping the top portions of your brow tidy makes the biggest difference when wearing glasses as this is the area most visible, so I always make sure I keep any strays or faint baby hairs plucked away there.  Depending on the type of frames you have, you may also want to experiment with different brow looks – you’ll find that full, bushy eyebrows might look much better with one set of glasses while more arched or thinner brows will suit another.  I keep my eyebrows pretty generic no matter what glasses I wear, but I’ve found that with all of my frames a straighter, medium thickness brow tends to be a universal, complimentary look.

Ultimately, your face is your canvas and experimentation is key!  Whatever kinds of glasses you wear and whatever styles of makeup you enjoy, play with your makeup and your frames and find what works for you, your face shape, skin type and so on.  Practice, try new things and use any less-than-ideal looks as learning experiences; makeup is supposed to be fun whether you’re a glasses-wearer or not, so don’t let your specs hold you back and make you feel like you can’t utilise makeup in the same way as everyone else!  

Mooncup Experience & First Impressions

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Flashback to a few years ago, and I would’ve cringed at the thought of a menstrual cup. The very thought of having to empty it and having to, you know, actually deal with your bodily fluids was repulsive to me and I didn’t understand why anyone would choose to do it. More recently though, as I’ve grown more mature and better acquainted with my body and as I’ve started to think more about the environment and the impact my diet and spending habits and so on might be having on it, menstrual cups began to sound much more appealing.

If you don’t already know, a menstrual cup is a small (usually silicone) cup that’s inserted into the vagina and sits inside you, collecting the blood inside it rather than absorbing it like a tampon. Unlike your standard tampons and sanitary pads, they’re reusable and just need to be emptied, regularly rinsed, and popped back in or put away until your next cycle. What appealed to me wasn’t just the money saved by reusing it (you only need to replace them after 10 years!), but the fact that they’re way more environmentally friendly and way safer to use than their more widely used counterparts. Just think about the amount of pads and tampons produced and thrown away each year – that’s an obscene amount of rubbish – and the safety side? Tampons put you at a higher risk of toxic shock syndrome, but although brands will still warn users just in case, the risk is far lower with menstrual cups and they can be worn overnight and for up to 8 hours with no need to worry.

The cup I chose to buy was the Mooncup. I’d seen it reviewed a few times and seen some Youtubers swearing by it and, to be perfectly honest, I am a loser and thought the name and packaging was better than some of the others on the market (priorities, Steph). I bought mine for about £16 off Amazon, but you can also find them in Boots stores.

It comes with the menstrual cup, instructions and what looks to be a little recycled bag for storing it in. When you receive the cup, the stem is pretty long, but you need to test it out and trim it down so that no part of the cup is sticking out of your body. I don’t know why I thought it would be smaller, but I must admit the size and thickness of it was a bit intimidating at first compared to a tampon (not that I haven’t used anything with a wider girth down there, ohoho). There are two different ways to fold the cup to insert it, and I personally prefer the second folding technique now that I’ve got the hang of it. The first one involves simply folding it in half so that the thickest point is the rim, but with the second one you push part of the rim down inside it and fold the sides in slightly which (the way I do it now, at least) means that it starts thinner and tapers outwards.
My preferred method of folding; image from
It took time to figure this out though – inserting it was a bit tricky and a tiny bit uncomfortable at first, and I did debate whether or not to use some lubricant with it just in case.  It gets easier with practice though, and by the end of my period I was much more confident with it.  Once it was in and I trimmed it down to my preferred size, it didn’t feel too bad - in fact, I could barely feel it! From my research into it though, it sounds as though my cervix might sit a bit low, as I wasn’t quite able to get the Mooncup high up enough that I couldn’t feel it at all, and after a bit of time it did move down a little bit and I did become more aware of it (but without any leakage).

Removing it for the first time was also a bit tricky, but you just need to stay calm, take it slow and not panic and feel like you’re never going to get it out again. Once inserted, the Mooncup unfolds (sometimes ‘popping’ open which is a super weird sensation) and creates a vacuum that holds it in place, and when removing it you just have to push or squeeze the base to release the seal and then gently pull it out, being careful not to spill it. You do need to be very comfortable with your own body to use one of these and it’s good for getting better acquainted with yourself; you can’t just pull a string and yank it out, you have to actually use your fingers inside your vagina to coax it out. That might sound like a gruesome thing to do when you’re on your period, but as long as your cup is properly inserted, it won’t leak and you won’t end up with any blood on your hands at all (except for the blood of all of your past mistakes).

When it was in, it was about 90% a great period experience. What really surprised me was that my period seemed to be lighter, shorter and I had basically no pain – as it turns out, this seems to happen for a lot of women, but I haven’t really found a proper explanation for it! I suppose the chemicals that they must put in tampons and the fact that it’s designed to absorb probably doesn’t help ease your bleeding, but what about pads? In any case, I’m pretty pleased with that and it’s by far one of the easiest periods I’ve had in a while. I tested it at the gym too, and it was perfectly comfortable and I didn’t feel a thing.

One issue I have experienced though, even after getting used to inserting it and making sure it’s in properly, is that I really struggle to pee while I have it in. If I try to force it out, well, the pushing action inadvertently moves the already low-resting cup and then I might as well just take it out anyway. This is apparently not uncommon, but honestly I had similar issues with tampons and often always ended up having to re-arrange or remove them when I went to the loo anyway (but without the bonus of being able to just clean them and reuse them). I’m going to see how it is next time, but it’s something that I’ll need to consider for certain scenarios and it does sadly mean I probably won’t wear it much while I sleep since I almost always need to get up and pee in the night and don’t want to be faffing about with it then. Luckily, the Mooncup seemed to make my period so light I don’t actually need to wear it while I’m asleep!

So, here are some of the pros and cons of my first experience with the Mooncup…
♥ Takes practice to learn to insert and remove
♥ Makes it difficult (for me) to pee
♥ May not be the best option (for me) for long days out with no access to a clean loo
♥ Can sometimes feel it
♥ Lighter, shorter periods
♥ Comfortable during exercise
♥ Environmentally friendly
♥ Safer to use than tampons
♥ No gross, dirty feeling like using pads
♥ No need to always have pads/tampons in
♥ Cheaper in the long term than other products
♥ Easy to use once you get the hang of it

Will I be using it again? Yes!

Perhaps the biggest downside to menstrual cups is that your own anatomy will likely decide how comfortable and easy to use these are for you.  Some women have had more issues with placement than I had just because of how they’re built, and others who experience the problems peeing that I did may find it’s not the option for them.  Still, if you’re not sure you want to commit, there are single-use or less reusable menstrual cups you could consider looking into if you wanted to try one out.  If you’re a tampon user and looking to save a bit of money and help the planet and your body, I definitely recommend giving one of these a go, whether it's the Mooncup or another brand. If you struggle with tampons it may not be the best choice for you, but I know that there are also reusable pad and panty options out there for you too that are still a way better option than what we’ve all been trained to wear since we first start bleeding. All in all, I’m very happy with it and I’m annoyed with myself for not trying it out sooner. I could’ve been saving myself so much money, discomfort and hassle!

I’ll be writing again in a few months to touch base on how I’m getting on with it after a bit of practice and some more experience, but if you have any questions about menstrual cups or Mooncups in particular that you’d like me to answer or cover in my next post on the topic, go for it! In the mean time, Tara of Cattitude & Co is a period positive, menstrual cup queen with much more experience than me so you should totally check her out or hit her up on Twitter if you want to be converted too.

Talking about periods and how we all deal with them is still considered taboo by so many people, but it’s just another natural part of life and we all have a right to share our experiences and tips and learn from each other.  So, got menstrual cup or period experiences of your own to share?  Let me know in the comments!

Intersectionality & Ethical Living

Monday, 8 February 2016

Once you’re used to being cruelty free, vegetarian or vegan, it’s easy to feel like it’s the simplest and most accessible lifestyle choice in the world.  Shopping for cruelty free beauty products and preparing delicious vegan meals comes as naturally to me now as brushing my teeth or putting in my contact lenses.  I think we can get a bit ahead of ourselves sometimes though when we apply our own ethical choices to others, and it’s important to remember that what may be easy and possible for ourselves, may not be for everyone else in the world.

For those who don't know, I am an intersectional feminist.  Intersectionality within feminism and social justice is often used to describe the ways in which different types of oppression (ableism, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia etc.) ‘intersect’, and how members of minority groups all face oppression at varying intensities and in different ways.  For example, as a white, straight-passing woman, I will experience some situations and be afforded certain opportunities that a black, lesbian woman may not.  Both myself and a man of colour will experience oppression, but for different reasons and in different ways – I will have privilege in many situations due to the colour of my skin, but be disadvantaged in others due to my gender, while he will face advantages due to his gender and disadvantages due to his skin colour, and even disadvantages and stereotyping due to the combination of the two.  There are a myriad of ways that these different things can converge, and you can’t look at one intersecting road without examining the others.

Why am I talking about that when I just opened with being cruelty free or not eating meat or animal products?  Well, because I think we often need to consider intersectionality as a concept when judging others for their ethical choices, too.  When something comes so naturally to us, it’s easy to get carried away and say that anyone can do it, or feel frustrated when others seem to deliberately choose not to.  We did it, we found it simple enough, so everyone else who knows of the plight of animals in the livestock industry or the horrors faced by animals in cosmetics testing laboratories must be continuing to eat meat and dairy and buy animal tested cosmetics because they’re lazy and unsympathetic to our furry friends, right?

Maybe, maybe not.  The fact is, we’re all very different people and we’re all from very different backgrounds.  When I think about my personal situation more critically in comparison to others’, it’s easy to see that despite what many think, it’s actually a privilege for me to be able to choose to be cruelty free and meat free.  I live in an area where vegetarian options are plentiful and vegetables, beans and pulses are relatively cheap.  I live with a partner who is supportive of my dietary choices.  I have enough cruelty free brands available to me and knowledge of where to find small brands to stop buying tested products.  I have the money to spend on better cruelty free options instead of settling for lower quality products, and I don’t have problem skin that requires specific care or specific brands.  I have no medical conditions that prevent me from being healthy while eating a vegan diet (if anything, my existing medical conditions are improved by this).

For me, being cruelty free and vegan isn’t the most difficult thing in the world but for others, that may not be the case.  There are those who for one reason or another genuinely cannot be cruelty free, vegetarian or vegan.  It isn’t a matter of opinion either, it’s an actual fact.  I’ve seen posts and articles floating around written by recovering survivors of eating disorders who, for example, had to give up being vegan because constantly having to check ingredients lists and think so carefully about what they were eating was causing them to revert back to self-destructive, disordered ways of thinking about food.  My best friend’s mother has a medical condition that – after many trips to the doctor and a lot of weight loss figuring out the problems and how to solve them – can only easily digest animal products as a source of protein without getting sick, so would either become ill or malnourished if she was a vegetarian.  I’ve read about the odd people who went cruelty free, but due to financial difficulties, issues with their skin or for one reason or another have had to give up purchasing only 100% cruelty free products.

Being able to make compassionate, ethical choices shouldn’t have to be a privilege, but unfortunately for many of us, that seems to be the case.  That isn’t to say that there are people who do continue to buy animal tested products etc. or decide to keep eating meat who do so because they don’t care, don’t see what the big deal is or think that their favourite MAC lipstick and the taste of bacon are more important than the animals sacrificed to product them, because I’m sure that there are.  I’ve seen some very callous and upsetting responses from people who buy animal tested make up when cruelty free alternatives are so much as politely brought up, for example.  But not caring is by no means the only reason why others might not be making the same choices that we are, and rather than jumping to conclusions, harshly judging and making others feel guilty and defensive, we should be considering that they might live in circumstances different to our own and remember that they may not always be afforded them same opportunities to make the same choices that we have.  Not everyone chooses not to be cruelty free, veggie or vegan out of selfishness or heartlessness, and it’s an insult to those people to lump them together with those that actually do.  We should instead be trying to show compassion and understanding, and supporting them in the ethical choices that they are making. 

If someone can’t buy exclusively cruelty free cosmetics but donates to animal rescue charities, or someone can’t be vegetarian but still campaigns for animal welfare, if they aren’t vegan but still spread the word about cruelty to animals, then we can see that they’re still trying to do what they can to make a difference in their own way.  To some, living like that will sound hypocritical, and I understand that to a certain extent, especially when you’ve been cruelty free or veggie/vegan for a long time.  But, while someone may not be taking the same steps that we are, we still need to promote positivity and encourage what they are doing, because at the end of the day we’re all fighting the same fight and we all want to see change, and together all of these small acts and the support and encouragement we give them can still make huge difference in the long run.

Women in Star Wars & The Force Awakens

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Let me start by saying now that this post will contain spoilers.  If you haven’t seen The Force Awakens yet and you don’t want anything to be ruined for you, then stop reading and come back when you’ve seen it!  You’ve been warned…

The Force Awakens has been a long time coming – it’s been around a decade since the last Star Wars movie came out, but it’s been way longer than that since there was a movie that fans were, by and large, fully satisfied with.  I’ve seen other people and even critics describe Episode VII as the movie fans have been waiting for since Return of the Jedi, and I agree.  It’s the movie I dreamt of as a child, and not just because everyone else likes to say that the prequels were pants.

In a single movie, The Force Awakens has included more strong, female leads and more ethnic minorities than all of the previous films combined.  Leia was an iconic and progressive female role model for her time – she was the first self-rescuing princess who even saves her friends too, and she was savvy with a blaster as well as an intelligent and kind leader – but even with all of these positive points, it’s impossible to deny that she was used as fan service and as a love interest and that she didn’t drive the plot in the same way as the other characters.  After her came Padmé, who started out as an admirable and strong child queen and later politician who was driven by her compassion for her people, but who ultimately fell flat on her face as a decent female character when she died of a broken heart after her hubz turned evil and she popped out her two babies.  In the space of one movie, she essentially becomes nothing more than a plot tool for Anakin’s angst and a womb to produce the next generation.  All other female characters, although compelling and powerful in the Expanded Universe (may it rest in peace), are just background noise in the films and are still lacking even in the prequels by comparison to the newest instalment.

The Force Awakens has the female characters that I needed as a child – characters that could prove that actually, girls could be Stormtroopers and Jedi and villains.  In addition to the multitude of women and people of colour featured in the background of all of the scenes (female and POC Resistance officers and pilots, as well as First Order staff and soldiers for example), the new movie presents a grand total of four relatively major characters in Rey, Leia, Maz Kanata and Captain Phasma.  That alone has already doubled the ladies that actually got decent screen time in the first six movies.

Phasma, although I found her role to be a little bit disappointing having expected a bit more from her (here’s hoping she made it out alive and into the next episode for revenge), is the first villain so far that is extremely intimidating, a woman, and doesn’t suffer from cleavage windows or other female armour wardrobe malfunctions.  She’s a lady who commands an army and is scary enough to make Finn quake in his boots and later relish the situation when he’s the one with the power for a change.

Maz Kanata appears to be our new alternative to Yoda – a Force sensitive, but not Jedi, oracle of wisdom that has lived for what’s suggested to be hundreds to thousands of years.  Although she runs a space pirate outpost and clearly deals in things that aren’t exactly by the books, she’s good natured, humorous and guides the other characters to help them achieve their new potential.  And apparently she has a thing for Chewie; who wouldn’t?  I look forward to learning more about her and hopefully more appearances from her in the other movies.  The only thing that I found disappointing about her was that they chose to cast Lupita Nyong’o, one of the most beautiful and notable black actresses in the world, as someone who was entirely CGI.  Smells a lot like they thought Finn was enough colour for the main cast and like they didn’t need a visible woman of colour, too, but I have at least read that Lupita was actually quite excited to play a less body-focused role after her part in 12 Years a Slave.

Leia returns to the new movie not as a princess in need of rescuing, but as a military general who does the rescuing.  While Han goes back to smuggling after the disappearance of Luke and the fall to the Dark Side of their son, Leia goes back to her old role as a leader of the Rebellion, now Resistance.  Although obviously highly ranked and highly respected, she’s as warm and approachable as ever, a stark contrast to First Order commanders like Kylo Ren and General Hux.  In a way, Leia almost makes up for the disappointing demise of Padmé – unlike her mother, when Leia lost a loved one to the Dark Side and her relationship with her lover ended in sadness, she moved on, went back to her roots and kept doing what had been driving her all that time in the first place.  Despite the love that she and Han shared, her new role in The Force Awakens makes it clear that her love for Han didn’t define, limit or pigeon hole her.

And finally, we have Rey, who we now know to be the heroine and the Luke Skywalker of this new generation’s story.  She’s the ‘strong female character’ in a major movie that everyone had been hoping for but that until now was just a long forgotten dream; the woman who is kind and compassionate, who has faced struggles but hasn’t hardened or grown icy, who confidently asserts her own ideas but accepts help and advice from friends and elders, who is intelligent and capable and physically strong but still has much to learn that the audience will no doubt learn with her.  I’ve heard whining that she’s a Mary Sue – that she’s too good at everything and learns too quickly – but for a start, compared to the other characters, she’s had nearly her entire life of living alone to pick up skills (spurred on by her own hunger and survival, which are powerful motivators for learning), and beyond that, Force sensitive characters usually have it ‘easy’ enough to seem ‘too good’ at things.  If we’re going to dismiss Rey as a decent character for daring to be a woman who seems to be good at a lot of things, then we need to dismiss Luke and Anakin and Obi-Wan and nearly all the other Jedi in the universe because they’re basically all Mary Sues by definition.  But that’s a rant for another post!

Rey is the heroine that I’ve been waiting for but had long since given up hope of seeing.  She’s a heroine who is spurred on not by trauma or sadness, but by adventure and her own courage.  She’s suffered, sure – she was abandoned by her family and left to fend for herself, counting the days she’s been alone – but she’s not been broken by emotional pain or by abuse like so many other powerful women in the media.  She wasn’t forced into anything, she’s instead a heroine who steps up and after some encouragement from others and finding strength and love in new friendships, begins to forge her own destiny.  The Force awakens in Rey not because she suddenly became damaged goods and earned her strength through hurt and loss like so many other female characters, but because it was always there; she simply made the decision to answer it.

There are people who staunchly deny that the saga isn’t inclusive of female characters because of the Expanded Universe and they’re right, to an extent.  The books and extra media do all contain powerful women and I grew up reading the Young Jedi Knights series and looked up to Jaina Solo, the now non-canon daughter of Han and Leia who, with her twin brother Jacen, was trained to be a Jedi by Luke.  But not only were the books never truly canon, but they aren’t mainstream media.  Jaina and Tenel Ka and other women I grew to love in the Expanded Universe were never on television, never in the movies.  Besides myself and one of my best friends growing up, no one else knew about them.  To everyone else, when we played games I couldn’t be Jaina the Jedi Knight or Jan Ors the intelligence agent, I couldn’t be a Stormtrooper or a bounty hunter, a rebel pilot or a smuggler, I could only be Leia or – when the prequels came out – maybe Padmé.  Now, girls can be all of those things and more.

It excites me to know that there are little girls who are experiencing Star Wars for the first time through Rey and the women in The Force Awakens, who were staring up at the big screen in front of them and seeing exactly what women can be in all of their different forms.  When Rey used the Force to call Luke’s lightsaber to her, I found myself choking back tears; bathed in the blue glow of the weapon she defiantly holds in the face of Kylo Ren, coming to the defence of her fallen friend, she represents everything I wanted but never had as a girl who loved Star Wars. 

The Force Awakens has given us a whole new world in which women actually play an equal part, and I for one can’t wait to see not only where Rey’s journey takes her, but where her impact on movies and science fiction takes us all.

Month in Review / January 2016

Monday, 1 February 2016

January is basically the Monday of the year to everyone - most folks just aren't a fan and it leaves everyone feeling a bit down after the holiday festivities of December.  I've never really been that bothered by it, although the going back to work after time off part is always awful.

My month and my 2016 started off on a pretty high note; I passed my driving test!  I've been driving to work for a couple of weeks now and although I have the same old problems being unhappy at work, I feel so much more energetic and cheerful in the evenings because I'm not wasting so much of my time commuting any more.  The Other Half and I also celebrated our 6 year anniversary, oh how time flies!

I was (and still am) a little bit off my game with posts this month just due to being busy and distracted and having run out of scheduled ones.  The driving was a bit mentally exhausting to start with since my first experiences of driving alone were in rush hour in the dark with ice, and on top of that I've also been firing up a lot of job applications which hasn't left me super enthusiastic about writing after spending ages doing it every weekend anyway.  The job hunt hasn't been the best, but I just have to keep reminding myself that although I hate my current job, I'm otherwise under no major pressure to find a new one since I'm lucky enough to have a income coming in already.

Other than that, there's not really a whole lot to report, although we do have a few fun plans coming up in the next month or so and I have plenty of blog posts planned too.

Post of the month: .You don't have to make weight loss a New Year's Resolution.

Films & TV...
  • We started watching the Amazon original series Hand of God; we're enjoying it but the episodes are quite long and it's a pretty intense show!
  • The OH is obsessed with Doc Martin so we've watched the couple of most recent seasons of that this month too and now we've gone back to watch the first ones.  Talk about old school ITV programme.
  • We went to see The Revenant, which although I thought it was a great movie and really enjoyed it, like many films that get nominated for lots of Oscars it's probably not one I can see myself dying to watch again any time soon.
  •  I saw Bladerunner years ago at school for what I think was a media class, and we watched it again the other day.  I love the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? but the movie equivalent just isn't the same.  I know it's pretty popular and highly regarded but I honestly had no idea what was even going on through half of it.
Edible things...
  •  I ate way too much vegan Christmas chocolate.  Enough said.
  • I haven't been cooking many super interesting things this month, but I did eat out twice - once enjoying some of the great vegan options at Yo Sushi!, and again at Jamie's Italian for our anniversary.  
  • I finally got some nutritional yeast so tried my hand at my first tofu scramble and making a 'cheesy' sauce for a leek and potato pie.  Both pretty darn good!
Worth a read or watch...
So far, so good for 2016.  I haven't experienced the January Blues so to speak, so let's hope February continues to be pretty great.

How was your January?

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