Media Prep

Every Friday we will feature the inspiring books, movies, TV shows, and other works of art you have to check out. Please share your suggestions below!

We’ve been granted another weekend to celebrate, so let’s do it! This week we’ve rounded up some of the best pieces of music, literature, and commentary for you to explore, as well as the movies hitting the scene. From Scarlett Johansson to mermaids, this list is a doozy. Enjoy!

Movies

Sorry to Bother You premiers this week and we can’t wait to see it. The film debut of musician Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You has been highly anticipated since it was first screened at Sundance in January. Lakeith Stanfield leads a cast of Danny Glover, Tessa Thompson, Terry Crews and Armie Hammer in a look at race, wealth, identity and perception through the lens of a young black man. If nothing else this film is definitely timely.

Ant Man and the Wasp

This is the 8 millionth Marvel movie to hit the cinemas in their 10 year dominiation streak, but we can’t stop running to the theaters to check out the films. Ant Man and the Wasp is the sequel to Ant Man (2015), which followed thief Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd) as he teamed with Hank Pym and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly) to save the day by shrinking to the size of an insect. Sounds crazy, but was so good! The sequel promises just as much of a fun ride, so you should check it out with the rest of us nerds.

Music

High as Hope by Florence + The Machine

This is the band’s fourth album and it arguably goes deeper than ever before. Florence Welch has opened up about her struggles with alcoholism, disordered eating, family relationships, and aging. Her voice soars and swells, stripped down to the essentials to deliver something beautiful. You can catch videos of the band’s recent performance here .

Books

The Seas by Samantha Hunt

Samantha Hunt’s novel is being reissued , and we highly recommend giving it a look if you’re interested in thinking about the nature of reality and identity through the eyes of a young girl. Narrated by a young girl who doesn’t reveal her name, the story explores her isolation with her mother in a small town and her belief she is a mermaid. We suspect the novel will stick with you long after you’ve put it down.

Articles

It was recently announced that Scarlett Johansson would be playing a trans man in her upcoming flick “Rub and Tug”. Writing for Slate, Evan Urquhart explains why it’s not only inappropriate, but downright offensive.  If you’re struggling to understand what all the commotion is about, Evan makes it quite clear. At a time when there is push back from marginalized groups about who gets to tell their stories, this misstep is particularly frustrating. Read Evan’s article here.

(If you already knew about Scarlett’s nonsense and just want to laugh at the burns she received, go here.)

In not so great news, the Trump administration is working to undo an Obama-era protection for diversity on college campuses, essentially creating a timeline for the revocation of Affirmative Action. You can read more about the process here.

Finally, in news that gives us hope for the future: on the 4th of July activist Therese Patricia Okoumou climbed the Statue of Liberty to protest the separation of children from their parents by I.C.E and the administration’s treatment of immigrants in general. Upon her release she had this to say,

“Michelle Obama, our beloved First Lady that I care about so much, said when they go low, we go high. And I went as high as I could.”

Please have that printed on a shirt for me IMMEDIATELY.

You can read more about Therese and view her press conference here.

That’s all for this week, folks! Take care of yourself out there!

 

 

 

 

A Word With Karen Castleman

Each week we will feature the kind of everyday heroes you can look up to. They come from all walks of life, age groups and beliefs. We hope you’ll learn as much from them as we have!

Karen Castleman is the kind of personality you won’t soon get out of your head. We first met ten years ago when I was a struggling 21-year-old, dealing terribly with depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. My grades were in a bigger mess than my body and mind, and I was looking for a little escape from the terror. I signed up for her Ballet I course hoping to land an easy A, but discovered something unexpected : peace.

Mrs. Castleman was immediately endearing; with her athletic frame, Southern accent, and easy-going sense of humor, she was not at all what I believed dancers could be. In every session she chipped away at our physical rigidity, pushed our minds to release it’s fearful hold over our perceived limitations, and – honestly – she got us to chill out.  Karen never yelled, or embarrassed us, nor did she let us off the hook if we were afraid to try, which broke down walls and led to friendships.

I began the semester hoping I wouldn’t have to think at all. So, it came as quite a surprise that I looked forward to practicing positions and stretches at the end of each day, simply because it felt right. When she offered us the choice of participating in an end of the semester performance for extra credit, I jumped at the opportunity without a thought to the points. That’s how good she was, and, I’m sure, how good she still is.

As I stated earlier, Karen Castleman isn’t someone you’re going to easily forget, which is why I reached out to her 10 years from our first meeting to ask for a bit of her time and words. Ever the wonderful teacher, she obliged. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.

What is your profession?

I am a full time dance teacher at Arkansas Arts Academy, a public, charter high school with an arts focus. I am also a freelance choreographer and performer.

How did you break into your position?

I wouldn’t say there was any breaking into it. I have been a student of dance as long as I can remember, and then some. After college I began what would be a 15 year career in professional dance. Through many different dance jobs, the one constant was teaching. I’ve always been teaching. The more I learn and grow as a dancer, the more I can offer my students. And, fortunately, I never want to stop learning!

If you could change your life, what would you do instead? Why?

My life has made me who I am right now. And I’m ok with that. If I changed things, I’d surely be changed in the process. That would be ok too, but it isn’t reality. I’m ok with my reality and changing things about it everyday. Next, I think I’ll make changes to take better care of myself.

Karen and her children

What are some ways you take care of yourself?

I can honestly say this is not one of my strengths. I have had little kids in my life for 13 years now, and I tend to take care of others first. Sometimes staying up late is taking care of myself. Just to have a little time to myself, for my brain to process. Sometimes just going to bed is taking care of myself. I love a good nap. I drink a glass of hot water with lemon and ACV every morning. I shower everyday. EVERY DAY. Even with little kids. I love my morning routine, even though it is short. I like to start the day feeling clean, fresh and ready to tackle whatever comes. I eat green things, and colorful things, and whole things. Maybe I’m better at this than I thought… I do look forward to when taking care of myself looks like actually going to yoga on a regular basis, dancing around just for fun, and having space in my life to make things again. I’m a closet crafter.

Can you share a time or event you didn’t think you could survive?

In the middle of my dance career, during the economic crisis of 2008/9, I lost my dream job dancing with my all time favorite company. I couldn’t understand why this could happen when I had worked so hard to achieve this dream and it was the perfect fit. It had been my dream since childhood and I just didn’t know what else to do.

What/Who pulled you through it?

My husband (of 9 years at the time, and 18 years now) was an incredible listener as I ranted and raved. He suggested that I could now dream a new dream. I thought he was crazy. I didn’t have another dream. So I let a little anger and a little disappointment blow the roof off of what I decided to expect of myself. I danced with a company where I had to breakdance and they taught this old dog some new tricks. I performed classical pas de deux, en pointe, some of the most challenging roles I had done up to that point. I danced in operas, once while pregnant. I had two more kids and kept right on dancing. I choreographed and earned commissions and am still just going, going, going.

Image courtesy of Karen Castleman

How did the event/time shape the way you live now?

I will never give in to the idea that there is anything I can’t do. There are things that I won’t do. And things that will just never pan out given the choices I’ve made and priorities I’ve set. But I believe that whatever I throw my heart, energy, discipline, intellect and talent towards, I can achieve. I am constantly redefining for myself what and who I am and can be. I strive to raise the bar wherever I am by expecting excellence from myself and those around me. (And I understand that sometimes, you just have to crash for a bit.)

What was the best/ funniest/ most memorable piece of advice you’ve received?

As a younger dancer I asked a role model of mine how she kept going, kept dancing and taking class and teaching (in my mind she was an “older” dancer although in reality she was probably then very near my current age). She said, “Just never stop.” I see that now as an “older” dancer. As we age, the bodies that “just never stop” seem to age more healthily. That doesn’t mean I’ll take ballet forever (a good ballet class is hard to find, and find time for, where I live) but I do hope to be a body that keeps moving. I have lots of beautiful role models to follow in the path of always moving.

When do you feel the most free?

When I recall that my true identity is that of a child of God, absolutely loved, and nothing can ever change that. And also when dancing some cheezy lyrical jazz choreography. Cheezy lyrical is my jam.

The Castlemans

What do you want to be remembered for?

For giving everything I have. And for kindness.

Shea Butter For The (Skincare) Win

I had chronically, tragically dry skin as a kid. It never mattered how much lotion I would slather on, by the time mid-day rolled around I looked like a chimney sweep. And, oh did the kids in school let me know it! I’m still on my way to healing from the trauma of looking like no one loved me enough to grease up my elbows, but today my woes when it comes to dry skin have been remedied thanks to shea butter!

Chances are you’ve heard of this stuff whether it be in connection to hair routines or moisture, as everyone seems to be enamored with the butter – and for good reason. Shea butter can be whipped and mixed with other oils to produce delectable concoctions which lock in moisture and rejuvenate the skin. I personally love to mix shea butter with warm coconut oil, and a few drops of one of my favorite essential oils and apply it all over before bed. In the morning, it’s like I have a new layer of ash-free skin. It seems like this miracle cream is too good to be true, but with a little investigation I’ve discovered it’s the real deal. Let’s dive in!

History

Shea butter hails from across the West African coast, along the Saraha and into Eastern Africa. The shea tree that the compound is derived from thrives within the dry climate. According to the Journal of Ethnobiologyshea butter has been created from the harvested nuts of the shea tree starting as far back as 100 B.C.E. During the excavation of a site in Burkina Faso in West Africa, a team of archaeologists discovered shells from the shea nut, and realized the practice of making the butter predates the previous belief that it began in 1100 C.E. That’s a long time to perfect the art of shea butter! The process is still carried out quite similarly to the past, and includes the aid of the entire household.

How is it made?

The process is very time-intensive and requires the involvement of the entire household, or a team. In this lovely video from Hamamat, you can watch the different stages of extracting, cooking, and forming shea butter from the nuts of the shea tree by the people who know it best. It’s quite interesting!

 

What does it do?

If you’re struggling with dry skin like I do, shea butter is a great alternative to traditional lotions or oils. It locks in moisture, softens rough patches, and I have experienced it clear up irritated spots. She butter can be applied to the skin of the body, your hair and face to fight dryness as well as the weakening of hair shafts. I do warn that it does not easily wash out of hair, so if you have dreadlocks like me it’s not a good option for the hair. In loose hair it works wonders. What’s great about the product is how long it can last. A little goes a long way, so you could potentially keep a jar of it for months to years without it spoiling.

 

There you have it! Have you tried shea butter? What oils or butters do you use to take care of your skin? Let me know in the comments!

Your July 2018 Mood Board

These days it’s hard to stay afloat. We’re a few steps closer to the end of the summer months, bad news keeps rolling in, and now “Lit” is officially dead.

Yet, there is still hope just on the other side of the pain. If you’re struggling with the heartache of living in a world that doesn’t always make sense or seem fair, today’s post is here as a reminder of our resilience, our inherent right to joy, and the power you hold to make a difference. These images might inspire you to stand up to sexual assault and toxic masculinity like Terry Crews, take to the streets on behalf of missing children , or strive in your daily life to broaden your horizon. Above all things, I hope you’re inspired to live the life you want.

What is inspiring you today?

All images via Adobe Spark

 

MIzani, NAHA 2017

 

Billy & Hells for TIME

 

Mama Tammye Hicks is Personal Growth Goals

Each week we will feature the kind of everyday heroes you can look up to. They come from all walks of life, age groups and beliefs. We hope you’ll learn as much from them as we have!

** Spoilers for Queer Eye Season 2 Episode 1

Do you want to feel encouraged to go out and live your life as you see fit, but also kind of need to cry your eyes out? Good! The brand new iteration of Queer Eye just launched season two on Netflix, and so far they guys are delivering on inspiration and emotion. They kicked the new season off with their first woman client, Tammy Hicks, an individual guaranteed to warm your heart.

On the surface this episode should have been a disaster: Tammye is a Christian, Southern, traditional woman who struggled with her own son coming out as gay. The town she lives in might be named Gay, Georgia (for real!), but that didn’t mean the gang would be welcomed with open arms. Yet, they’re greeted by the kind of person we should all strive to be. Tammye encourages them all to call her “Mama”, to treat her home like a safe place, and shares her world with the group in a loving and surprising way. She was still in the process of reconciling with her son Myles, and spoke openly with the Fab Five about how to build him up and support him as a gay man.

Watching Tammye – a loving mother and active member of the community – welcome the Fab 5 into her life without the ugly judgement they described encountering in their private lives was a revelation, but what truly shakes the episode is her willingness to admit that she was wrong to judge her son for who he is. She details the moment she came to her son and asked for his forgiveness for not loving him unconditionally, which very few people would have the courage to do. In the end, Tammye speaks to each member of the Fab Five and thanks them for being who they are and doing what they do in a moment of pure earnestness that nearly put me in the grave.

It is so easy to get caught up in what we’ve been taught, who we surround ourselves with, and antiquated ways of thinking, because those familiar methods afford comfort in a scary world. Yet, the bravest of us can truly begin to grow when we step outside the echo chamber. Tammye is a great reminder that love, honesty, and courage can change the world, no matter how small the shift appears.

Below you can watch an extra episode of the series released to YouTube that features the crew traveling to Australia to help a rancher at the behest of his (kinda fine) son. If you’ve got Netflix we highly recommend you check out Tammye and the rest of the series! Don’t forget to invest in an economy pack of tissues.