Blackbear: an interview

Ahead of his latest album release, I talk to hit-making sensation Blackbear on his first Father’s Day, a future collaboration with Elton John and his feelings behind making “everything means nothing”.

As we’re all aware of now, 2020 has been a year of many grievances, brutal truths and realisations. Amidst this, people are looking everywhere for positivity and light, whether through memes about our current climate, seeing how our favourite celebrities are coping despite living in mansions the size of an island, and so much more. For Matthew Tyler Musto, otherwise known as ‘blackbear’, it’s been about satirising the seemingly shallow aspects of our concerns and educating ourselves on the significant ones, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. As well as this, blackbear has spent 2020 navigating newfound fatherhood and creating new music for his upcoming album “everything means nothing”—all lowercase, exactly like his name.

His summer defining bop ‘hot girl bummer’ has over a billion streams on Spotify alone, and he’s collaborated with Justin Bieber, Machine Gun Kelly, Linkin Park, G-Easy and Ellie Goulding. Yet, blackbear is an individual who still, as the kids say, “slept on”. The self-made music prodigy has a loyal fanbase and is making waves nonetheless, with Elton John even giving him a call as of recent. So with this in mind, I gave Matthew a ring, and we chatted about all things quarantine, changes and our favourite quotes.

How do you like to be referred to as in your day to day name wise?
People call me Matt or Matthew. Sometimes my therapist calls me ‘Bear’, I do not know why. Think he is trying to be all supportive like, “Come on Bear, you got this!” as if he’s cheering me on [laughs]. You can call me Matt, that is totally fine!

So, the story behind the name Blackbear, I heard multiple stories. From gangs being in relation to an addiction to Haribo gummy bears, but I need full confirmation.
Yeah, I had to go to rehab and the whole thing because I could not stop. Now we cannot have them in the house, every time I think about gummy bears or even see a gummy WORM, it is a gateway drug for me. No, I’m just being cheeky [laughs]. I like to see how far I can fucking take things to the point where it’s not even funny anymore [laughs]. When I was a child, I thought that God was this black teddy bear in the sky that you could just cuddle with. I came to find out slowly and later in life that this could both be true and not be true. You cannot tell me whether that is real or not, but it was one of my first true beliefs. So, I just named myself Blackbear because it was one of first creative thoughts.

Father’s Day has just passed, how did you celebrate?
Father’s Day was surreal for me. It was just one of the most beautiful, normal days for a normal guy that anyone can experience. I don’t want to take away the experience from anybody, but you just have to experience it, it’s just unexplainable. Just so amazing. It’s like…I’m someone’s DAD. That is the coolest part, this weird guy that you’re talking to right now is a parent of someone. It’s so strange, like we’ve gotten in the car before and my song was playing on the radio. That’s definitely a lifelong achievement for me, I just think that it’s just such a big flex, like, “Look how hard daddy worked!”, you know? I don’t know whether he’ll remember it, but maybe I’ll have songs in the future that will play on the radio.

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Photo by Sam Dameshek

What was the meaning behind the name Midnight for your son?
It just means new day, 12 o’clock. Fresh start, it’s a new chapter. So that’s what Midnight is for me in my life. He’s already smart in some way, he already has such a personality and is already his own person at 5 months old, it’s just so strange because he’s this little person that we made together.

How has becoming a father affected your creative process?
Oh! Good question. If it’s done anything relatively massive in my life…it’s made me more keen to the idea that I have to provide for someone. I need to make music that people are going to resonate with and really relate to, and really love, and keep me touring. I need to keep working so that I can support my family and I think that overarching idea has set in. I made Hot Girl Bummer as soon as I found out Michele (girlfriend) was pregnant. So, I thought, I need to step this up into high gear. No more fun and games.

How has quarantine changed the way you have seen life given recent events?
That was well put. Amazing. That was amazing. Is this my interview or yours? [laughs]. As soon as the death of George Floyd hit the news and started becoming such a massive thing, I will admit that THAT was the moment for me and a lot of other White people, like, that was our changing moment where we were like, you know what? I am going to post about Black Lives Matter, I’m going to make a pledge, I’m going to bring my child up the correct way, buy the books on Amazon and I’m going to teach him about racism, about these things. All I can say is that we are the teachers of the next generation. When I look at Midnight I see opportunity and I see change.

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Photo by Sam Dameshek

Have you been getting creative this time? Hot Girl Bummer part 2, 2020 edition? Or another summer-defining anthem?
So…you’re asking whether I’d make another satire record that pokes fun at our times? I just see it as this, I have a platform to say what maybe everyone is thinking but nobody is saying, thinking or even feeling. I know that the reason Hot Girl Bummer took off was because people really related to it. I stood in the club before and wandered why I was spending so much on a drink, on a table and why is it so important that I wear my fake diamond necklace when I’m going to be in the dark? It’s just all of these ridiculous little things that we do that I’m guilty of as well and so, the title was definitely more of a satirical take on our culture. We are generally getting into a time where it’s harder to not fuck up and not say something wrong and whatever it is as long as your intentions are right. I’m not worried about making someone angry because yes, I am sensitive to the way people feel today but at the same time it’s kind of my own therapy.

You’ve worked with a lot of accomplished artists- do you prefer the song writing process and working behind the scenes or releasing your own?
I enjoy making music for other people, especially when Justin Bieber or Linkin Park or somebody who is totally different from Blackbear. Like, Blackbear would never come out with a Linkin Park song! Mainly that is what I get out of writing for other people, I like to read the vibe of a room and get something out of them.

Speaking of which, you said in another interview that when you’re not creating Blackbear songs you’re writing songs of your own- is there a particular artist who you really want to write songs for? Dead or alive.
I actually recently spoke to Elton John, I know- it’s so insane. He called me on the phone and said that in the future that we have to work on something. That’s definitely something that we’ve been talking about.

A lot of your fans were heavily anticipating your new Queen of Broken Hearts EP which is now going to be a full-blown album! How come you are splitting the release dates?
So that it will be more digestible. I just want people to spend time with the songs. It’s kind of like eating a sandwich!

Having looked at the track list I noticed your album features LAUV and Trevor Daniel who I actually interviewed this past month. What made you decide that those were the artists to best collaborate with?
It was not the matter of these being the artists that I wanted to collaborate with, as much as it was the case of working on a song and just HEARING Trevor Daniel on this song. With if I were you, I thought that this sounded like the perfect LAUV song. I just had to ask Ari (LAUV) if he will do this. They are also just my good mates, they’re just great friends. It’s just really cool to take the opportunity for my friends to be on. We all sing about the same topics.

Your social media is typically littered in quotes, what would you say is your one mantra in life? A quote you like the most?
The last quote I posted was in my own words, it said “If you don’t learn from the past you will live there”. I love quotes, and in this album, I want people to feel…I think, I want people to feel validated in their individuality. I want people to feel empowered, I really want them to feel like they can be who they really are. Sorry, that is so deep.

Last question. What quote do you swear that you live by?
Live. Laugh. Love. [Laughs]. Okay, I love you.

album cover

STREAM ‘EVERYTHING MEANS NOTHING’ ON ALL PLATFORMS.

Unity Over Comfort: Thoughts on the Black Lives Matter Movement

“Things are not getting worse. They are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight as we continue to pull back the veil”. – Adrienne Maree Brown

One of the 35th President’s of the United States, John F. Kennedy, main sayings was based upon an interpretation of Dante Alighieri’s poem titled Inferno. As his brother Robert F. Kennedy explained in 1964, “President Kennedy’s favourite quote was really from Dante, “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality”.

Within the last couple of weeks, we have seen a drastic spike in the global conscious awareness of police brutality, systemic and institutional oppression, White privilege and most importantly, racism. The mobilisation of the Black Lives Matter movement has never spread so effectively, nor has the conversation been so widely discussed amongst the general public. For the first time in centuries, the dialogue surrounding these topics are being highly mobilised to the point where Juneteenth is being considered to be a national holiday, new laws have been created and named after police brutality victims, countless artists have released songs to raise awareness and so, now what?

We’ve done our stories, posted the black squares and Martin Luther King quotes, but this movement isn’t just some trend. Black lives exist and matter outside of hashtags. We are here now, but who will stay till the end? When the hashtags no longer trend and the hype subsides, will you still be as outraged and demonstrate a willingness to learn? Will we continue to be anti-racist in a society that has spent centuries becoming accustomed to being so?

As someone who has more or less always been aware of police brutality in America (I even wrote a blog post about it in 2016) alongside the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement following the senseless killing of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, I was outraged as well as felt an extreme sense of hopelessness. I had seen Floyd’s death without watching it, I watched it countless times before, with the deaths of others, too many to name. I was struck by the similarity of Floyd’s death and Eric Garner’s before him, both uttering the same breathless last words, “I can’t breathe”.

I have a Black younger brother, and my fear for him grows with each birthday. I have been reporting on the link between structural racism and toxic stress and the high rates of death for Black mothers and children for three years. I’ve been truly devastated by the reports about how many Black people are dying from COVID-19 as well as police brutality.

With this sudden awareness of continuous injustice towards BIPOC within ALL areas of life, from medical racism, whitewashed history, down to the wedding industry, it’s almost frightening to see how complacent and blissfully unaware (predominately) White people have been towards these problems. This is far more than just “Some guy getting shot” and other racist arguments that tend to get put forward, this is about unveiling many underlining issues within society. But in order to be a real ally that advocates for change, there are a few things that need to be understood.

First of all, as mentioned, this is merely the surface. Be prepared to feel the tiredness, dread, and a lack of hope at a system that takes one step forward and five steps back. There will be more names and it will shock you how quickly more bodies are added to the pile and how corrupt officials will behave. You will grow weary and your souls will tire from what seems like never-ending travesties and exploitation. I want to ask if you are ready. Ready to have continuous uncomfortable conversations with co-workers, with family members, and with friends.Irish-Nigerian writer and PhD researcher Emma Dabiri made a very informative thread on her Instagram titled “Notes on Allyship and Coalition“, specifically catered to those with White and White-passing privilege in order to help ensure that the anti-racist momentum continues beyond quarantine. I’m going to take sections of that thread, re-write some of it and post them below. But please do continue to do your own research as there are plenty of resources out there for you to educate yourself on the issue

STOP DENYING THE EXISTENCE OF RACISM.

A lot of people do this. Not only do they deny racism in modern day society altogether, but they also deny that any form of racism exists within them by vehemently refusing to accept that the world has forced us to see race through a certain lens of supremacy for centuries that no one is immune to. White supremacy isn’t an abstract concept coined by the Left in an ever-evolving society, nor is it a political issue that we must ‘sympathise’ with. It is a very much real yet damaging humanitarian issue that we must interrogate and dismantle immediately. It’s a privilege in itself to learn about these experiences rather than having to go through them yourself. 

SPEAK OUT WHEN YOU HEAR RACISM. CHALLENGE IT.

This might be difficult because a lot of these racist “jokes” are used an excuse to project offensive and outdated stereotypes that most people feel like they have outgrown. Unless you’re a Ben Shapiro listener or you still watch Filthy Frank. Either way, it’s 2020 and even KSI doesn’t let his fans use racial slurs anymore. I’m just referencing controversial YouTubers now. Bottom line, don’t place the burden on Black and ethnic minorities alike to call out racism. It’s selfish and extremely draining, this is just as much YOUR responsibility as it is theirs. 

ABANDON WHITE GUILT.

YOU ARE NOT PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT YOUR ANCESTORS DID. WE KNOW THAT, OBVIOUSLY. Okay, glad we got that out of the way. However, you are responsible for what YOU and your White counterparts do from this point onward. You are responsible for uncritically accepting all of the advantages accrued to you by virtue of their wealth acquisition, land ownership etc. Oh yeah, and the entire creation story that justifies it. In conclusion, KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT! Keep signing petitions, spreading awareness, contacting local MP’s, staying informed, listening to Black academics/authors/people and understand their experiences, watch documentaries, utilise resources and remain educated. We’ve got this.

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

The Game: a conversation in lockdown

My 4/20 took a turn for the better when I received a DM from Jayceon Terrell Taylor aka, The Game. With this in mind, I decided to turn it into an interview. He was cool about it.

This feels quite surreal to write out, these words may not properly reflect the reality of how I’m feeling about this particular interview, so apologies in advance if this reads awfully (it will). When I first begun to fully pursue journalism as a career around two years ago, I never thought that I’d come across the people that I have, or been in the rooms that I’ve been in; not a flex, just a real and honest reflection of how far I’ve come throughout the years. So, no matter the popularity of the individual, I’ve always been immensely proud of the work that I have produced despite the amount of times that I’ve been rejected, dismissed or undermined.

Journalism has allowed me to explore all territories of music and speak to artists of any genre, from mainstream American acts like Sabrina Carpenter (pending), Madison Beer; Blackbear; Chantel Jeffries; Charlotte Lawrence to the more urban UK scene with Hardy Caprio, Bru-C and Kojo Funds. I have even spoken to Disney actors that I grew up watching, such as Bailee Madison (Wizards of Waverley Place, Bridge to Terabithia) and Alyson Stoner (Camp Rock, Phineas and Ferb, Suite Life of Zack and Cody) as well as an array of Indie artists too, like Mac Demarco; Girl In Red; Two Door Cinema Club and Charli XCX…you get the gist. What I’m mostly trying to say, is that journalism has taken me far and wide and so for that, I couldn’t be more thankful.

However, for a lack of better words; The Game is different gravy. He’s the Compton-raised, Dr Dre and Jay-Z mentored, raucous voiced, mesomorphic rap icon of the 00’s who embodies NW mother-effing A. Along with a golden discography featuring a long list of legendary collaborations of artists under his belt that are both old school and current; the entire ordeal is beyond comprehension.

Even the approach to this encounter differed from the usual, there were no managers, PR’s, no editors or any publicists- it was just The Game and myself on a sunny 4/20 with nothing but a screen between us. So for that reason, this interview will be as informal as the circumstances in which it stationed. I simply asked whether I could question him on anything that came to my head, to which he responded “Shoot 🙏🏾”. So without further ado, because honestly he needs no formal introduction- here is a painfully simple Q&A with the man himself, by me.

In the entertainment industry or life in general, do you feel it is more important to be liked or respected?

It’s far more important to be respected.

In your honest opinion, what is the meaning of a “good life”?

A life that is lived without fear.

Speaking of fear, we’re living amongst some pretty scary times right now. Has this time of social distancing taught you anything? How have you found it?

This has always been my normal life. I’m usually keeping me to myself and out of the way.

Always?

Ever since I was a child.

Who do you think is changing the landscape of rap music at the moment?

I think Future is responsible for what music has become in current day hip- hop.

What do you think of the way that rap is redefining its genre and shifting sonically?

I appreciate hip-hop in all facets. Whatever it recreates itself as every 5-10 years is appreciated. What I love the most about it, is that it keeps young African-American men with a source of income.

Which feature of yours are you most proud of?

Mary J. Blige on the Love It or Hate It remix! Goes hard.

Which song of yours means the most to you and why?

Like Father Like Son, I wrote it while my son was being born.

If you could only give one piece of crucial advice to your children, what would you tell them?

Don’t trust a soul.

That pretty brutal advice. Not even immediate family?

A soul. Family is sometimes your worst enemy.

Damn. You were famously in a coma for around three days, most people claim that once they got close to death’s doors they saw a bright light. Did you have the same experience?

Naw… it was just like an extended dream and I don’t quite remember what the dream entailed. Random, I guess!

What have you found to be the most fulfilling part of your career as a rapper?

That I’ve gotten to work with everyone that I have ever wanted to, I think.

Just because the people are asking…how’d you get them eyes?

Girl…[laughs]. From my grandmother. All love.

 

STREAM ‘BORN 2 RAP’ ON ALL PLATFORMS.

How a global pandemic affected my mental health

Calm in Chaos: a general rambling post from me amongst the uncertain times which are COVID-19 and how I generally stay sane when it feels like the world is ending.

As I’m writing this, I can hear at least three different species of birds chirping, couples laughing and friends gathered together basking the glory of the sudden sunshine. Despite this, the context shows an entirely different tone. It’s March of 2020 and the world is in an incredibly strange state right now, just two nights ago Boris Johnson had announced that the United Kingdom was officially going into lockdown for the next couple of months, which basically means that everyone needs to self-isolate and remain in quarantine apart from “essential” workers. Understandably, everyone is freaking the fuck out. With thousands of events getting cancelled like weddings, holidays, festivals and even educational institutions having to shut which means exams have been cancelled for the time being and teaching has been transferred online. Right now, we really are living in the midst of a historic moment which will affect millions of people across the world. A real dystopian Black Mirror episode, if you will.

Despite this, this is the happiest I have felt in months. I know, I’m not making the best impression so far. I’m sat in a large nature park right now where other people are when I’m meant to be isolating (Sorry, dad) and I just said that a massive pandemic is making me happy. Well, allow me to justify. I use the term “happy” very loosely here. I know 2020 has been shit show from the get go; from shock deaths (RIP Kobe and Brianna Bryant), floods, wildfires, potential world wars, nation-wide drought, Brexit (which commenced on my birthday for fuck sake), climate change acceleration and now an international pandemic. And it’s ONLY March. I can understand why you’d read my naïve indifference as arrogant.

It feels like everywhere you turn, there’s bad news after bad news. Like, not to be dramatic, but life is feeling a lot like that time Edward broke up with Bella in Twilight and Stephenie Meyer made all the chapters during the break up empty pages with just “September.” “October.” “November.” written at the top. All of the days are blurring into one and are filled with uncertainty. Every social media platform that you log into, including Instagram which is usually a form of escapism, are only constant reminders of the virus as well as productive things we’re meant to be doing throughout this period of isolation, even though I’m fully aware that I’m meant to be chasing a degree (I know, what the fuck) while constant stats remind us about how deadly and scary this virus is. It truly is overwhelming and I do not blame anybody for feeling especially scared and anxious in this time.

I rarely get personal on this blog, despite the fact that it IS my personal blog. I’m usually quite general, but I’m going to share how I’ve personally felt the calm in all of this. I mean, I speak from a place of general privilege. I’m not exactly calm about the death, collective grief, global poverty, deadly exploitation of working-class people of colour, financial ruin and ever-callous leadership that sets the scene for this time. Furthermore, circumstances for a lot of people are desperate and financially there’s bound to be some kind of crash, I understand that this is a scary time for us all. Yet, for some reason, I find the collective feeling of worry, the resentment of this current year, holding billionaires and the 1% to account for their greedy money hoarding as well as everybody’s combined efforts in improving our circumstances to be extremely reassuring of humanity. Even the NHS has had over 400,000 people offer to volunteer to help those directly infected by the virus when the government were merely expecting half of that. That’s something to celebrate within itself.

Overall, my person issues pale in comparison to refugees and more vulnerable groups who are far a lot affected by this this virus than me personally. This isn’t ideal for anybody. However, if I’m too think in a way that makes the glass appear half full- I’d talk about the environmental impacts, for example; did you know that air quality has improved significantly in major cities since tourists have stopped occupying them? And think of all the free concerts all of your favourite artists have intimately live-streaming!! From Chris Martin of Coldplay, John Legend, James Blake. Miley Cyrus has started a cute livestream platform where she interviews celebrities and medical professionals on remaining positive while being aware of your surroundings. The sheer quality of MEMES that have come out of this are…incredible. And lastly, the newfound respect the general public now have for service workers and our community.

Apologies if this blog post seems lazy compared to my usual work, I’m still adjusting. I know this is hard, I’m scared too. I’ll probably add more positive outcomes and more informed updates of this in due time. But for now, I know it’s easier said than done- but do try to make the most of this time of peace and quiet. Get creative, contact people you’ve grown distant from due to busy schedules. Whatever you want. There’s bound to be some form of humanity to come out of this and it’ll be beautiful. We can’t see it now but we will. There’s no telling what’s ahead but I do truly believe that in spite of everything, we’ve got this. Look after yourself reader.

Hardy Caprio: an interview

I spoke to grime sensation Hardy Caprio ahead of his album release where we discuss exceeding expectations, giving back and taking over the world.

A few years ago, a video was released of a fresh-faced, admittedly “broke” and “dead trim” Hardy Caprio in a car park with friends rapping his first Hollywood H freestyle. A young Hardy spits, “I do grime, do rap, do ends, do uni and when I’m back in Croydon I’m making a movie”. Little did he know that this eventually would lead on to become the catalyst into revealing his full potential. Between studying full-time and grinding towards his dreams, Hardy knew that his route was unconventional compared to his contemporaries, yet the South London didn’t let the naysayers define his future and is continuously looking to push that for himself.

Now, ready more than ever to drop his debut mixtape in the new year, Hardy is coming in with teeth. Having already dropped infectious summer Afrobeat swing of tracks like “Something New” and “Drop Top” with T Mulla, these pre-release collaborations show Hardy as one of the breakout stars of a hyper-fertile period for homegrown, authentic UK grime. Proclaiming the close of 2019 and 2020, as “The years of Hardy”- his vision as to what he wants is as clear as ever. To show our excitement, we spoke to the grime star ahead of his album release about taking over the world, being straightforward, giving back and exceeding expectations.

If there’s one thing you would like people to understand about you, what would that be?
That I’m always going to be myself, unapologetically.

Songs that best describe your life and journey.
Kelis and Andre 300 ‘Millionaire’ and my song ‘Wifey Riddum’.

Most significant lesson you have learnt since entering the music industry?
It’s best to make your own mistakes because no one is going to earn the ramifications for you.

Unsigned was basically your breakthrough record- did you know that as you were creating it?
Yeah! It was either going to be my breakthrough or not, we thought that if this one wouldn’t work then we have no idea what will. We tried our best to make it the perfect three-minute song; from the beat to the lyrics and how they’re being said. We put all our bets on it.

hardy

What’s your usual thought process when creating new music?
It depends what we’re trying to get out of it. For now, it’s more about how it feels, but in general moments where there are moments as an artist where you have to prove yourself and take it further. I’ve consciously said to myself, “Yeah, you need to take it to the brim with this song”.

You recently stated that there is no such thing as the perfect rapper. Do you set the same standard for yourself or are you your own worst critic?
I am my own worst critic but at the same time I am also my own biggest fan. I say stuff that I want to hear from rappers. As a rap fan, I’ve heard a lot of things being said and overtime it all sounds the same. So when it was time for me to rap, I wanted to say and hear something different. I want new stuff, new imagery, new slang, everything! I mean, I like my stuff [laughs] you just need to be the best version of yourself, I know it sounds cliché but that’s all it is.

Have you ever had a moment of major doubt within yourself? You’ve spoken a lot about people not believing in you- how do you usually work to get over it?
It’s more THEM, it’s a ‘them’ problem and not a ‘me’ problem. If I had a problem, then I would crumble much earlier, I believe in myself. I believe I can do it, so there’s nothing that anyone can tell me, to be honest. If I can’t do something, I’m going to learn how to do it, and do you know what? I’ve done that time and time again, so I feel like I just need to make music for me at this point. Every criticism I’ve heard is so silent right now, but I just want to say to them, “Thank you very much”.

Going to university and graduating with a degree in accountancy is quite contrasting to being a rapper, and having such an unconventional route to success compared to other rappers must be quite isolating. Do you ever find it to be a challenge?
Within myself, I know that it is not a hindrance. The people that see it as a problem don’t even matter, I don’t care about them. If you have an issue with it, then you’re not even in the real world. I think people attribute rap music to struggle, violence and other negative stuff, and so to think that I haven’t seen any of that because I’ve been to university then you’re one of the dumbest people in the world. It can be seen as a challenge but I don’t see it as that- it’s just my story. If you want to hear the same story over and over, then I’m probably not the guy for you.

What was it like generally balancing both university and your side rap hustle?
When I look back on it, I didn’t think it was the hardest thing in the world. I’m a workaholic though, so now I look at it and I realise that it wasn’t very healthy. I would be staying up in the studio then I would go to uni without any sleep at all. At that moment, I knew that it was all what I wanted so I didn’t actively see it as an obstacle, at that time I didn’t see it as challenging.

You’re only in your early 20’s- what do you hope to achieve by the time you hit your 30’s? Is there any defining moment that will have you think, “Yeah, I’ve made it”?
I just want to take over the world [laughs]. There is not a lot to ask for, I’ve done a lot of things that I didn’t ever expect to do like doing things for my family. And now, I want to change the lives of those around me and help other people, too. Not even when I “get there”, but now I just want to be helping people because the more of us there are too lift up, the better. I want everybody to feel like they can chase what they want because some people might think that because they don’t come from a certain background that they can’t take part and it alienates them. If you know your characteristics, you can find your way.

 

 

Best Movies of the Decade (personal faves)

Considering I study film and everything surrounding it, you would think that I would have more blog posts dedicated to the topic; though there are a handful on the site already. Up until I decided to start pursuing the subject as a degree full time, I always saw films as time-fillers. I know, I can sense film fans and students alike cringing at that statement. But it’s true, I’m afraid!

When I think back on my experience with films, I remember those awkward pre-adolescent sleepovers where we’d stock up on all kinds of junk food, wearing the craziest clothes just to sit in your best friends bedroom or lounge, where everyone would gather round the television to watch Mean girls, Wild Child, Bridesmaids, Juno…or something of the sort. As I write this, I suddenly realised that a lot of these “girly” films that we’d watch have very similar themes. ANYWAY, besides the point.

What I’m saying about this list is that it has not come from a critical point of view, by all means necessary you don’t HAVE to agree with whatever I put on this list. Most of my considerations are personal, for example, I could have grown up watching it, or it could have been the first film to really make me feel something, or it could have even been the first film to make me really appreciate the art of cinematography aesthetics. Etc.

Most of these reviews initially appeared on my contribution to Outtake Magazine’s 100 Top Films pf the 10’s, but I thought I’d condense them down to just a few of my decade-defining films that I consider to be significant. So without further ado, (within no particular order) here they are!

Coco (2017)
As far as 3D-animated Spanish fantasy films go, there aren’t many of them. However, if this was a common genre, Coco would still make it to the top three. In more areas than one, Pixar seriously stepped up their game with this one; this is more than a story of a boy chasing his dreams. There’s something more refreshing about this film besides the typical Disney tropes used within Coco with it’s engaging, vibrant and neon-lit boroughs that creates an overall spectacular motion picture. I’m not usually an animation fan, but this film certainly made me more open to them.

Inception (2010)
Christopher Nolan is consistently known for his thrilling and complex concepts that can just about send anyone into a state of mental vertigo. Inception in particular, is the pinnacle of all of this- this fantasy thriller shares a mixture of his iconic action scenes of Batman- The Dark Knight and the layered examination of The Prestige. Christopher Nolan actively weaves a mysterious dreamworld with a dream cast, with a plot so complex that it leaves the spectators contemplating the films reality as well as their own for weeks. Just watch it. Lord knows I have, too many times. Shoutout to my big brother.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Liberated filmmaker, artistic visionaire, colour-coding genius, symmetrical mastermind…you get the gist. These are just some of the many descriptions that come to mind when you think of Wes Anderson and are very much justified. Amongst this, you’ll find that his filmography follows suit- if you don’t know where to start in the catalogue, watch The Grand Budapest Hotel. From Bill Murray to Tilda Swinton, cast members are near unrecognisable once they’re stepped into Anderson’s vision. It’s not just all aesthetic, though part of its appeal, there’s an exciting cat-and-mouse chase, a deadpan but humorous script and an engaging story line. Check-in to The Grand Budapest Hotel!

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) dir. Wes Anderson
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) dir. Wes Anderson

Get Out (2017)
2017 detected a real shift in the horror landscape, Jordan Peele being the instigator to this. Earlier this year, Jordan Peele said that he’s seen enough White-led horror movies. This was met with plenty of criticism (as expected) but he had a point and he made it masterfully. As a comedy king, he was one of the least likely to come out with such a multi-layered and clever horror masterpiece. Yet, he did. As well as being a horror, Get Out exposes a far more stealthy motive behind the eerie characters and the United States as a whole; hyperbolic or not, Get Out does a wonderful job at exposing the racist underbelly within the third world and every ethnic minority’s unspoken worst nightmare.

Shoplifters (2018)
Shoplifters is a devastatingly beautiful film, a cinematic embodiment of the phrase “The Rose That Grew from Concrete”. Living in the poverty invested fringes of a Japanese city, Shoplifters is a fine blend of a family comedy and a crime thriller, exposing a harsh reality that isn’t always tragic despite it’s circumstances, exhibiting intimacy and tenderness in a dog-eat-dog world. Writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda exposes subtle compassion in each line and frame,yet never creates one dim moment as it rightfully earn it’s 99% approval rating.

Moonlight (2016)
As soon as A24 (every film they do is a masterpiece to be frank) dropped its intense yet beautiful trailer for Moonlight four years ago, viewers and spectators alike were instantly engulfed in all things Black and Chiron. Winning best kiss at the MTV Movie Awards, it becomes evident as to why. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, this stunning picture is an emotionally devastating quagmire as it intersects the unlikely subjects of black masculinity, homosexual relationships and vulnerability. Barry Jenkins’s direction allows room for the entire cast to embody their roles and interact in a way that is brutally real. Illuminating, heartbreaking and everything in between- a must see.

Moonight (2016) dir. Barry Jenkins
Moonight (2016) dir. Barry Jenkins

An album guide for when you’re going through it

This is more of a laid back July post. So right now we’re sitting in my least favourite season, summer. Yes, you read me correctly- summer is my least favourite season as I’ve mentioned previously in other blogposts. Anyway, the last couple of months have been rather tumultuous for me to say the least. There have been significant changes going on in my life and everything is spread messily like when you’re rearranging clothes in your closet resulting in a huge mess across your bedroom but then you know it will be tidy again, eventually? You understand what I mean?

Even as we speak, I’m writing this at a hostel in central New York after a totally bizarre yet fun night with a few strangers that I met along the way, but whatever it is that’s going on in your life that is making you feel anxious or stressed, one of the best methods for recovery (at least I have found) has always been through music. Corny and unoriginal? Sure, but it’s totally true. Whether it’s a tough break up or rejection from an opportunity that you really wanted, music is a brilliant way of helping you go through the motions of false confidence, happiness, sadness and everything more.

That being said, I have curated a playlist of just some of my favourite albums that I play for when I’m “going through it”. In other words, the phrase is a vague yet also a very specific way of referring to the aftermath of a temporary yet crappy event that’s taken place. As a mUsiC jOuRnALiSt, I decided to include various album genres from different eras that are important to me and my overall personal healing. Listen away folks and I hope this helps you too in some shape or form !!

 

Tyler, the Creator- IGOR

In his review, famous music YouTuber The Needle Drop described Tyler, the Creator as polarising and uncompromising. However, within this latest album IGOR– Tyler single-handedly debunked all of that. With heart wrenching lyrics and nostalgic riffs, Tyler not only compromised, but unashamedly gave himself way entirely. Facing the aftermath of an emotionally tumultuous relationship, he’s exhausted- which is a universal feeling. I get that this album is recent. Like really, really recent. So it’s a little soon to place it in such high esteem as one that makes you feel better above others, but it really does. This album got me through my personal troubles in more ways than I can describe as well as being one of the only albums I can listen to in full- front to back. And trust me, that’s a big deal for someone with ADD.

Tyler, the Creator- IGOR

 

Best Coast- Crazy for You

This is an album that instantly takes me back to my over-journaling-teen-angst “no one understands me” filled days. That was a lot of words in one sentence, but you get the drift (I’m functioning on little to no hours sleep here so please bare with me lol). What I would like to say about this album is that despite some of its themes, the instrumentals are playful and overall rather euphoric. I know the title says that the albums listed are for when you’re going through a tough time, but in my eyes it’s important to not entirely indulge or fetishise negative emotional anguish and rather just revel in the more positive ones. Crazy For You absorbs all the simple pleasures that Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino’s fills her life- from her cat, to snacks and the overall feeling of being in love, but through a dreamy 60’s lens. I think we should all take note and do the same.

Best Coast- Crazy For You

 

Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago

As well as the being the debut album of the indie-folk band Bon Iver; this was the first Justin Vernon record that I listened to in full. The project in it’s entirety oozes with feelings of isolation, loneliness and longing through acoustic strums and nature, while mirroring these are common emotions that are- especially throughout the summer. Especially during a break up. For context, taken from Pitchfork, which is what mostly inspired it. In 2005, Vernon’s former band DeYarmond Edison moved from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to North Carolina. As the band developed and matured in its new home, the members’ artistic interests diverged and eventually the group disbanded. While his band mates formed Megafaun, Vernon– who had worked with the Rosebuds and Ticonderoga– returned to Wisconsin, where he sequestered himself in a remote cabin for four snowy months. During that time, he wrote and recorded most of the songs that would eventually become For Emma, Forever Ago. Anyway, in summary, the album relishes in feelings of melancholy that replicates hope and joy, and feels just as vivid.

Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago

 

Lorde– Melodrama

From the moment I came across Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine, I listened to it in it’s entirety throughout the challenging years which were my adolescence. After that, I spent the next four years thinking “When is Lorde gonna drop another album and save me from this hell…..its been 84 years……don’t get me wrong i would listen to 400 Lux till the end of my days but damn gurl where u been”. Then finally, something amazing happened- around this time two years ago, Melodrama dropped and so I haven’t been the same since. At least, emotionally. There is a consistent tenderness in Lorde’s vocals that transcends you into a calmer place of healing that you never want to return from, a state that is between tender daydreams and brutal awakenings. It’s an album that sends me to and from therapy, it’s night and day, an album that hits you then hugs really hard. I know I’m being dramatic but it is so, so true.

Lorde- Melodrama

 

Fleetwood Mac- Rumours

Last but certainly not least, I’m going to add the ‘going thru it’ super group themselves… Fleetwood Mac. Prior to the albums release, there was a shed ton of drama from cocaine, to heartbreak and totally lunacy. The context to this body of work is as tumultuous as it’s content, but a beautiful one at that. The musicians’ personal lives permanently fused within the grooves, and all who listened to Rumours become a voyeur to the painful, glamorous mess. Drama aside, Rumours is among the finest work the band ever produced. “We refused to let our feelings derail our commitment to the music, no matter how complicated or intertwined they became,” Fleetwood later wrote in his 2014 memoir, according to Rolling Stone Magazine, quote- “It was hard to do, but no matter what, we played through the hurt”. I’d conclude with a positive quote about learning to dance in the rain or something but we’ve gotten the general consensus now of this post. You’ll be fine.

Fleetwood Mac- Rumours

Andrew Thomas Huang: nature, aliens and the resurrection of FKA Twigs

An interview with American-Chinese director Andrew Thomas Huang on collaborating with artists such as Björk and FKA Twigs, connecting to his heritage and finding inspiration within nature.

Andrew Thomas Huang is someone that has never been just regular, proving himself time and time again that he is a creative force within the art world and beyond. Expressing his passion and interests through a deep immersion of digitally-rendered figures, puppetry, fine prints and surreal live action performance; Andrew has cemented his mark as a truly unique and pioneering individual who is definitely worth keeping on your radar. Just ask J.J. Abrams. Seriously.

I actually reached out to Andrew a few days after a very recent and special project of his became popular, in which to my surprise he responded almost instantly with great enthusiasm!! But due to exams, planning my 3-month trip to America and other errands, I’ve had to unfortunately delay the publishing of this interview. However, we are finally here and this feature is something that I have been looking forward to getting out for such long time as I couldn’t get enough of his saturated and phantasmagoric visions; and so with that in mind, I spoke with the artist about the creative process behind Cellophane, reconnecting to his roots and finding inspiration within nature.

Image courtesy of Andrew Thomas Huang

Since graduating from the University of Southern California in Fine Art and Animation, he has become a master at intertwining futuristic elements of future folklore, ultramodern queer cyborg and mystical surrealism; ultimately creating a universe of his own. Andrew’s imagination began to run wild through elementary and middle school when he was first introduced to puppeteer Jim Henson and his iconic 80’s films such as The Muppets (duh!), The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth; which originally inspired him to begin playing with his video camcorder where he would start creating stop motion. As he got older he got more into the fantasy adventure franchise of Star Wars which then further inspired his work “I would watch the behind-the-scenes making of those movies and try and replicate the process on my own. I started learning Maya and After Effects in high school and got hooked on building my own worlds!” Being such a diverse creative who works across an array of mediums, his catalogue of pieces and instalments stretches far and wide, however, when it comes to his favourite type to work with, he tells me “I think puppetry is the best combination of everything – performance, dance, bringing inanimate things to life, while also being sculptural and craft-driven”.

After his successful debut Doll Face in 2007, he has brought forth many other moving pieces; from his nine-part video series titled Flesh Nest, which explores and constructs a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by digital immortals “It is essentially my sci-fi Fraggle-Rock inspired trash opera, and so I built this project around the concept of afterlife. I wanted instead to construct imagery that had the same efficiency, weirdness and mythic vastness as a Hieronymus Bosch painting in which a multiplicity of characters and edifices are building up and crumbling down in the same hellish scrolling tapestry-like space. It was important for me that there is an honesty about the artifice of this universe”. To his newly short feature Kiss of the Rabbit God which premiered just a few weeks ago at the Tribeca Film Festival, where Huang explores his own personal identity, cultural heritage and queerness to which he proclaims to be a form of personal revelation.

The film follows a young Chinese restaurant worker’s journey of self-discovery through a sexual awakening, after falling in love with an 18th century Qing dynasty God named the Tu’er Shen (兔兒神) “This is my first narrative short in 10 years and also my most personal film to date! I started out directing narrative films, but left to pursue more art and experimental video-making. Rabbit God is my attempt now to return to narrative but more on my terms. The film is really a love story and I’ve never been brave enough until now to create a romantic film between two queer Asian men. So, this film in a way is a confession as much as it is a love letter to my LGBTQ+ Asian community”.

Everything about Andrew’s work opens up a portal to illustration of a digital multiverse- which hasn’t gone by unnoticed. He has championed a collection of awards and honours for his creative work, becoming more popular through music videos that he’s directed for the likes of Björk, Thom Yorke’s supergroup Atoms For PeaceKelela, Perfume GeniusSigur Ròs and many more; emerging through the mist. He tells me, Music videos are a wonderful medium to experiment and build worlds and draw people into the emotional message of a piece of music. I’ve learned nearly everything I know about directing from creating music videos: how to collaborate, delegate, communicate with a team of people. But, I would also say it’s my own personal work that has informed my videos. Doing the work on music videos has helped build my vocabulary of techniques to bring to my own work as well as my own practice that has fed the ideas that I bring to the music videos. It’s a two-way conversation! I need to know what each artist is trying to say and where they’re coming from in order for me to formulate a clear concept. I prefer to have personal conversations with each artist and really get to know them as people. I don’t like to go into a collaboration guessing what they’re going to like or what they’re going to respond to. Making videos with artists, in the best scenario, is building a relationship with them and dreaming the same dream together.”

Image courtesy of Andrew Thomas Huang

Back to the recent and special project that I mentioned earlier, just last month he collaborated with FKA Twigs on her emotionally charged single; Cellophane. A video that is filled with vivid mechanical creatures and bionic figures, accompanied by a blend of renaissance imagery and dystopian scenes, showcasing a contrast of life and death, birth and destruction. An idea that embodies a new chapter, to start anew and welcome a path-breaking world that hums with possibility; Andrew also added that it is an “miraculous Icarus tale: a dance-of-death striving towards unattainable perfection, the fall from grace and the fragility of putting yourself back together”. Alongside him and Twigs graced production designer Fiona Crombie, who was nominated for an Oscar last year for her work on The Favourite. “We really did have the perfect team come together on this. Cinematographer Dani Abello came on board who shot beautiful videos for Rosalía, and pole choreographer Kelly Yvonne, too! I actually started to develop the story with Twigs in June 2018, and then Twigs, Kelly and I would rehearse together in a dance studio in Los Angeles where we brainstormed to create some of the emotional and physical beats of the performance”

Since it’s release, Andrew has been extremely candid about the inspiration behind Cellophane, admitting to outlets that the concepts of the video stemmed from Twigs’ own personal struggles; from laparoscopic surgery that she underwent to have six fibroid tumours removed from her uterus, to public scrutiny and blatant attacks regarding her ex-fiancé Robert Pattinson. Yet, the formation of the video did not arise as naturally as the ideas behind it seemed to, the process to creating such a visually compelling film was complex as it was enjoyable. “I drafted my own visualisation and storyboard for a couple months before we shot the film in Kiev, Ukraine for two days. Fiona also worked with the Ukrainian team to build some beautiful sets, namely the 360° curtain world and the large clay pit. I edited the video myself and then worked closely for four months afterwards along with Analog Studio in London to create the visual effects”.

Taken from ‘Cellophane’.

FKA Twigs in ‘Cellophane’.

Despite the constant use of extraterrestrial figures in his art, it isn’t always deliberate, confessing “I actually always thought that Martians were kind of boring! (with the exception of the Martians from Mars Attacks). Extraterrestrials aren’t though, alien life is always fascinating…like the aliens in The Abyss or The X-files”.  yet, with everything that’s been going on in Andrew’s life, I concluded the interview by asking him what he does to unwind and how he finds new creative energy “Hmm. Detaching from society, for sure! And going into nature are the most nourishing things for me. My most vivid and connected moments in life have occurred when I’m hiking or by the ocean, or just spending time with my grandmother! I’m eternally working on the challenge of being present in the moment”.

Keep up with Andrew and his work;

Website- http://www.andrewthomashuang.com/Art.htm

Facebook Page- www.facebook.com/AndrewThomasHuangAndrewThomasHuang

Instagram: www.instagram.com/andrewthomashuang/

Twitter: @Andrew_T_Huang

Youtube Channel- http://www.youtube.com/andrewhu

Vimeo Channel- https://vimeo.com/user1293099

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Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, climate change and virtual reality

How Daniel Steegmann Mangrané effectively expressed the damages of climate change and colonialism through a virtual utopia.

From the 16th February 2019, Nottingham Contemporary has been exhibiting the work of Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, showcasing his debut major show. A Catalan-born artist whose primary focus is the effect of post-colonialism in the rainforests through radical anthropology, aiming to investigate the prospects and abilities of technologies and diverse mediums. Curated by Abi Spinks, the show features new and existing works of hypnotic installations, a 16mm film, architectural sets and virtual reality goggles where spectators can explore the essences of nature from the gallery.

The Rio de Janeiro-based artist portrays bearings of the Mata Atlântica, Brazil’s Atlantic tropical rainforest, one which has suffered more within its ecosystem than any other large forest in the world. The Atlantic Rainforest is one of the most important biodiverse areas in the world, yet preserving only 7% of its original surface left. Originally stretching across Brazil’s coastline, it once covered parts of Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay but today only survives in small, degraded patches and protected areas. Since as early as the 16th Century, Mata Atlântica has been through many conflicts; ranging from territorial, human, geographic and historical factors to scientific, ecological and economic components.

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These pressures have subjected the rainforest to a significant shift in its environment, with an array of competing demands of the territory creating a stimulation of relationships and a complex and impervious network. “The rainforest is a metaphor and model of thinking” Steegmann personifies. Influenced by the work of fundamental Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, who coined the term ‘Perspectivism’ in the 90s, a movement that supports the view that perception, experience, and reason all change according to the viewer’s relative perspective and interpretation.

Perspectivism is based on the Amerindian belief that everything has a form of spirit that is alive and well. This mirrors with Steegmann’s installations and the way he conveys his work, blurring the lines between material and immaterial. By applying differing patterns, configurations and technologies he uses different mediums to show how the environment can be represented. This approach highlights the limits of representation, also actively going against the opposite to Western thought since the onset of modernity making spectators rethink nature as we know it.

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April has seen over 130 galleries, museums, and creative institutions across the UK declare a ‘climate and ecological emergency’, calling for immediate action to combat the climate change crisis; an exhibition such as this one would deem fitting. Upon entry, we are immediately engulfed by Steegmann’s vision of a disintegrating ecosystem. The brand new 2019 installation of _C_A_N_O_P_Y_ demonstrates geometric forms in an organic fashion, by cutting certain shapes into the ceiling and letting the light seep through in a dark room in order to mirror sunlight penetrating the forest canopy.

The same room, contains a surreal virtual reality environment which is accessed through a HTC Vive Pro headset experienced with a Oculus Rift headset titled Phantom (Kingdom of all the animals and all the beasts is my name) (2015). A piece designed to engulf it’s users into a 3D scan of the deteriorating Mata Atlântica, the interactive yet devastating reality informs through a full headset that covers all your main senses while the VR-user describes their environment to onlookers through their movements, almost feeling the anxiety of the disappearing nature as it’s happening.

Just before entering the next gallery, within a small hidden room, is 16mm (2009-11) a 16mm film with synchronised 4-channel digital sound as part of this piece is a film that draws into the depths of the rainforest at the same pace as the footage roll, linking the film and the rainforest mechanically and abstractly and through a Structuralist approach, we are immersed into a montage of this verdant verdure.

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The final room exhibits the brand new 2019 artwork, Living Thoughts (2019). At first glance, the glass and epiphytic plants look as though they’re floating in thin air. Working alongside London-based glass-maker Jochen Holz, the two created hand-blown branches that are attached to orchids; mosses; cacti and bromeliads alike to mirror the multiple lives and layers that exist within the rainforest that coexist yet fight to survive.

Incorporating his interest of biology since early childhood, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané expresses his feelings of admiration yet reasonable concern over the earth’s current environmental state. While highlighting themes of climate change we are also made more aware through an interaction that is given beyond a way that we’re used to, but are able to consume-through technology. The Word For World is Forest gives an escapist feel of fantasy yet once you delve in deeper to its context, a brutal realisation surfaces that not everything is as it is perceived.

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What I learnt from celebrating ‘Galentine’s Day’

The closing of a year is often lead with great anticipation. Halloween, bonfire night, Thanksgiving (for my American readers), Hanukkah, Christmas celebrations and then finally…the New Years build up. Then creeps in January, dragging its oversized shoes on the floor. January is like the Maroon 5 performing at the Super Bowl of months, despite my own birthday being during this month, I too, have to admit that it overstays it’s welcome. A guest that you were once looking forward to seeing, but is now refusing to leave.

Then, after this excruciatingly dull month of broken resolutions and “I’ll start tomorrow”-s, comes an infamously suffocating day for singles and even couples alike. Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of the day because it allows you to show appreciation to your significant other, plus the aesthetic of pink and red hearts everywhere may appear as obnoxious to some but I personally think they’re beautiful and uplifting. In a world that seems to forever filled with fake news and depressing headlines, then to suddenly be hit with flowers of all colours and love hearts is pretty encouraging to me. Lord knows we all need it.

But there is also a capitalist, ‘do it for the gram’ element involved which takes the real fun out of it. An haughty, pompous aspect that places couples to compare themselves to other couples. As though your relationships’ depth and meaning is measured based off of your financial income. A factor that is unfair and shallow to say the least. Personally, I’m a working-class student with low earning parents. Therefore, I don’t get any help from them. I simply rely on myself and how often I work, when I can. But with juggling a degree, a long distance relationship and other prospects; it can all get a little (VERY) strenuous. So with this continuous obligation to flex our lives on social media adds even more pressure on this particular occasion, minus the others- birthdays, Christmas etc.

In fact, just yesterday I was speaking to a work colleague who did not hesitate to tell me all about the expensive trips and gifts that her much older boyfriend so lovingly gives. Of course then, this was met with my own romance interrogation; “Where did you go?” “How much did they spend on you?” and “How much did YOU spend on THEM?” So whether you’re in a relationship or not, Valentine’s Day can be a bit of a pain. Don’t worry single people, least you can treat yourself to a cheap bottle of wine and a Netflix marathon then call it a night, it’s not as pathetic as everyone makes it out to be. I promise.

Anyhow, so due to my long-distance relationship circumstances, this year I decided to celebrate my first ever Galentine’s Day with my single friends. Because being single doesn’t mean that you’re alone, at all. This is a holiday that, among other things, highlights the political power of female friendship: Galentine’s Day. To quote main character Leslie Knope, “What’s Galentine’s Day? “Oh, it’s only the best day of the year!” So for context, back in February 2010, NBC inaugurated the holiday on its sitcom Parks and Recreation, starring Amy Poehler’s iconic character Leslie Knope, a described ‘civic crusader’ and ‘friend extraordinaire’. As Knope explains it, each year on February 13th, she gathers together all her best female friends, including her mother, to celebrate what she loves about her female companions over waffles.

However, the biggest lesson that I learnt from Galentine’s Day isn’t to only challenge hetero-normative romantic relationships and gross gender roles and forever pining over ‘the right one’ but of also finally normalising the idea that being single IS NOT something to be distracted from. As someone that is currently in a relationship, I can understand why you’re reading this whilst rolling your eyes. Or how this advice would fall on death ears. Take this with a pinch of salt if you must, but the most significant rule to remember is that you’re able to be by yourself and not hate it. I know right, wild(!) I apologise if this sounds patronising, but you’re allowed to be single on purpose and enjoy it.

Galentine’s day doesn’t have to be surrounded by the concept of filling some sort of ‘romantic void’ otherwise you’re not full. That’s a complete lie. People speak to me nowadays as if by having a boyfriend, I have been “blessed” and that I have been changed for the better. As much as I love being in a relationship, I can be strong and empowered whether I’m in one or not. Galentine’s Day is for all female-identifying folks celebrating themselves, no man-dominated underbelly included, please.

As well as this, Galentines Day should be as inclusive as we can possibly make it. Not everybody has this Sex and the City and Pretty Little Liars-esque girl group. Sometimes our closest friends live in different parts of the country and so seeing all these cliquey squads can emphasise on the loneliness. I often feel it. So another lesson I have learnt is to keep open-minded and productive when it comes to this kind of thing. Galentine’s can be a beautiful day, but always remember to show love and support for women throughout all the other days to.

💚