It's a big day for those of us with a youthful essence.
Bartenders and bouncers often take their sweet, sweet time when looking at my ID.
I can't blame them. I no longer live in the state where my ID was issued, so the discrepancy automatically raises some eyebrows. I've drastically changed my hairstyle since my photo was taken, I now wear glasses, and I look a little more like I've been through some stuff, to put it lightly. But the overarching reason my ID causes concern is probably that, for nearly all of my post-pubescent life, I've been mistaken for at least a couple of years younger than I actually am.
Besides the fact that only one of us is an EGOT winner, John Legend and I have a lot in common. His internet humor-fluent wife, Chrissy Teigen, often points out the physical similarities between Legend and their kids; of course, it's natural to bear a resemblance to your dad, but the thing is John Legend still looks like a baby. Which is why I, forever a child in the eyes of strangers, breathed a sigh of relief when I found out John Legend was named People's Sexiest Man Alive 2019.
There are definitely more important reasons to be glad Legend received this very silly and arbitrary honor, like the fact that he's only the fourth person of color to ever receive the title. But this is a moment for Legend's fellow babyface bearers to celebrate. We, too, could be so lucky as to have definitive evidence of our perceived sexiness. Legend has also fallen victim to a running joke comparing his looks to Arthur. How beautiful is it that we live in a world that tells someone they look like a cartoon aardvark but also splays magazine covers with photos of them smizing in a half-unbuttoned shirt?
However, I guess it's worth noting that Legend isn't just a pretty (baby) face. He has a very toned body and godly singing pipes; he did once portray Jesus Christ, after all. Still, I would assume the general population finds him much more "cute" than "sexy," and it seems Legend himself might feel the same: "Everyone's going to be picking me apart to see if I'm sexy enough to hold this title," he told People. You bet we are! But I'm not one to objectively say whether or not John Legend is sexy. I'm just saying I'm happy that being "cute" is enough to get by these days.
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Black people can't feel safe in America just by playing Pokemon or building LEGOs.
During times of hardship, we tend to gravitate towards nostalgia as a form of comfort and escapism.
Playing Pokemon games or building LEGO sets can transport us back to a time when life felt less complicated, but the sad truth is that those simpler times were always an illusion, and not every child had the privilege of living in that sort of bubble.
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The R&B-soul diva has been a contender in the past, but her latest video reveals she has political edge.
In the political climate we find ourselves in at the end of 2019, it feels like we spend every day being asked the same question: What do you stand for?
With various media reporting every day about all the new excruciating facets of the various humanitarian crises both at our doorsteps and further afield, we either other ourselves from atrocity or retreat into a virtual world where we can ignore it. Olivia Castriota brings this to light in her latest music video, taking her usual output of pop music almost to a place of performance art, directly and loudly asking us: "What Do You Stand For"?
The song, an anthemic piece that at first appears to be about self-empowerment, takes on a satirical bite when contrasted with the visuals of the video. Collaborating with AZURxVIBES Productions, Castriota and her team headed south and shot some remarkable footage along the US-Mexico border in Arizona. The music video shows guerilla-documentary style visuals of illegal circle-fights, the border wall, and actual undocumented immigrants crossing into the US spliced with more commercial angles of Castriota performing and appearing in glamorous locales, producing a distressing juxtaposition. Recontextualized, her lyrics now alternate between self-reflective criticism and downright self-parody; the chorus' call-and-response becomes a conflict rather than an affirmation. The joyously anarchic result: "What do you stand for? / I stand up for me":
"Our goal as directors was to bring out an emotion of uncomfortable self-reflection from the viewer. We wanted the viewer to feel the dry parched desert from the comfort of their sofa, while watching children in cages on their smartphone. Not guilt... but a slap" - AZURxVIBES
An unconventional video project needs an unconventional debut. To that end, Castriota premiered the video by projecting it onto a giant empty wall on New York's Houston street, adding to the video's punk-rock street cred. Passers-by were charged with the task of looking up and taking notice of what was going on around them. Both literally and figuratively.
Olivia Castriota has already shown herself to be a talented singer and songwriter, producing pieces like " Weekend Lover" and "Kills Me," but "What Do You Stand For" takes things to another level. Her willingness to position herself in the video as a fatuous figure, taking selfies whilst surrounded by humanitarian neglect shows an uncommon degree of self-awareness. In the face of the sheer human agony of the border crisis, answering "What do you stand for?" with "I stand up for me" is blatant satire on the petty, selfish short-sightedness of Instagram-based empowerment. Castriota once again stands out from her contemporaries by challenging the status quo, telling us loud and proud what she stands for.
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