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Meet The Generation Changed By Lockdown


First it was an election year. Then came a global pandemic. Then the nation exploded into mass protests against racism and police brutality. We’re only halfway through 2020, and yet it has already been a year of reckoning in the United States. A confluence of activism, despair, panic, transition and righteous rage is touching everybody. But for teenagers, this global pandemic and the more recent surge of Black Lives Matter activism have very specific implications as they transition from childhood to adulthood.

COVID-19 has affected their access to education, their extracurricular passions, their college admissions, their access to life-affirming summer programs and overnight camps, their ability to socialize with friends and to make new connections, and their future plans.

Droves of young people lost out on the latter parts of their school years, seeing their final rituals of childhood — proms, award ceremonies, performances, graduations — canceled. Instead of summers free of the confines of formal schooling and a chance to travel and volunteer and work outside their homes and breathe unmasked air with their friends, the teens of 2020 have found themselves largely stuck at home with lots of time to reflect.

“We should not trivialize [teenagers’] stressors or grief in the context of the larger issues playing out during this pandemic,” Beth Marshall, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health, said during a Johns Hopkins faculty roundtable in May. “Their grief over what they are experiencing — or not getting to experience — is real.”

But out of stagnation often comes transformation.

To be a teenager is to be in a state of constant growth and transition; to form values, priorities and plans that will affect your life for years to come. And for a generation of young adults who have seen their lives upended by a global pandemic and then witnessed their communities lit up by grassroots activism, this year might prove crucial in determining how they see the world and their home country as they grow up and gain power.

HuffPost spoke with 10 teenagers across the country, all ages 13 to 18. They have very different identities and passions. But from Phoenix to Toledo, Ohio, to Leonardtown, Maryland, one thing they all have in common is a baseline of hope in the budding power of their generation to effect change. They aren’t blind to the problems that their communities face. If anything, it’s their awareness and constant access to information that grounds their hopefulness and their desire to play an active role in creating a better world for all of us.

Here are their stories, as told to HuffPost.

I think there’s a big misconception of the social media generation not really caring about stuff, just being stuck in that digital world.

Abhi Desai, 17

Abhi Desai is a rising high school senior. He was in quarantine for a little over two months, causing him to miss the end of his junior year of high school. As a result of the pandemic, Desai is moving his civic-education-focused nonprofit,
LexGen, online and applying for grants to support teenagers who want to set up summer programs in their own communities.

For me, summer has always been the time to do stuff that I’ve enjoyed or do things that you might not normally have the time for during the school year. The real thing that I’m sad about is that I have a lot of friends who were seniors. My best friend is going to the University of Texas at Austin, and so who knows when I’m going to be able to see him and hang out with him next?

But beyond just hanging out, maybe picking up a new skill, I’ve always felt it was a time where you can just do your own thing. I had applied to a good amount of summer programs. One is the United States Senate Page Program, where you work with a senator. I wanted to do it because I’ve always had an interest in politics. I thought it’d be a really interesting way to learn more and get involved. I was in the running for that, but it got canceled. And then pretty much everything got canceled.

LexGen is a nonprofit organization I’ve been working on since last year. I saw that students, especially in middle school, didn’t really necessarily get civic education that was applicable. They just were told to memorize a bunch of facts. And so, I thought we could take a student perspective to civics and make it better, so that students actually start caring a little bit about this subject, which is very important, in order to create productive members of society. And we’ve been able to set up branches doing similar things in other states.

What we do is we make civic education materials for teachers on things like how to see the bias in pieces of media. But this summer, instead of doing that, we started applying to a few different grants so we can start a virtual summer program. And so, hopefully, if that works out, that’s what I plan on doing this summer. The grants that we’ve been applying to are to create a program where we can distribute micro-grants to other teenagers where they can run their own community engagement projects over this summer. Just trying to make this summer a little better for people and engaging more people and having them try to help their community.

I definitely think this moment is going to have a big impact on my generation. I think there’s a big misconception of the social media generation not really caring about stuff, just being stuck in that digital world. Social media, even though we are hooked into it, definitely has more power in terms of its impact. I think knowing the tools we have at our disposal, we try for the most part to use them for the better.

It’s sort of surreal, because you know that you’re living through something that’s going to be in history textbooks. And there’s a sense of, “What’s going to happen?” But I’m learning how to contribute more to my family, to my neighborhood and community. Just trying to give back a little.

If every kid in America knew they had the power to do more, we could be making a change.

Tiana Day, 17

Tiana Day is a 17-year-old recent high school graduate in the Bay Area. After spending months in quarantine, she spoke at a local Black Lives Matter protest. Shortly after, Tiana and a 19-year-old white teenager quickly organized a march across the Golden Gate Bridge. She is thinking about taking a gap year to do more grassroots activism.

When the Black Lives Matter protests started, I was like, “I have to go.” And then the people who were coordinating the San Ramon protest asked me to speak at it. I thought it was going to be a few hundred people, but there were 4,000 people. We walked two miles from the Safeway to City Hall. It was 102 degrees, and everyone was walking together, and it was just so beautiful. It was the best feeling ever.

The day after the San Ramon protest, I was at a protest in Pleasanton with my friends, and I was scrolling through Instagram, and I saw an ad for the Golden Gate Bridge protest. This girl had commented saying, “I obtained the permit, but I don’t have a leader, so I think we’re going to cancel.” And I was like, “If you need a leader, I just spoke at the San Ramon protest, and I want to get more involved. I’ll help you.” I DMed her on Instagram, we exchanged numbers and our personalities clicked immediately. And she was only 19, so the fact that we were two teenagers, I was like, “This is going to be awesome.”

Eighteen hours later, we met at the Golden Gate Bridge and marched together. I was in the very front. I didn’t realize it was as big as it was until we went under the underpass so we could walk back. And I just remember going up the stairs and peeking my head out and seeing the entire bridge was filled with people. Everyone was cheering and waving at us. And I was like, “Mimi, look what we did. We did this.”

Over the week, I actually started calling out kids from my school for using racial slurs. We are a predominantly white, Indian and Asian community ― there’s probably as many Black kids as I can count on two hands. Now that I’ve graduated, I can call out people from my high school. But while I was in high school, I didn’t feel comfortable. And that’s the problem. We don’t feel comfortable calling out our classmates. Once I did, I started to realize they just weren’t educated. Call them out, educate them and then hopefully they change.

I’m supposed to leave in August to go to Cal Baptist. But my heart right now is in this movement. I want to do so much in the community, and I feel like I lost out on so many years that I could have been making a difference. Me and my dad just started a nonprofit called Youth Advocates for Change ― it’s all about having the youth advocate for the things that they feel are not right in their lives. So, honestly, everything’s up in the air. I don’t know if I’m going to go right to school or take a year off.

It’s really important that we recognize youth and their voices. The last few months have been eye-opening. I’ve always been the kid that goes with the flow. I am guilty of thinking that I couldn’t have any type of impact on the world. But I’ve always had this stirring in me. I just felt like no one would listen. You’re making the choice every single day to make a difference or not make a difference. If every kid in America knew they had the power to do more, we could be making a change.

I realized that the need for activism is so much greater than one high school prom.

Matthew Yekell, 18


Matthew Yekell is an 18-year-old recent high school graduate. His prom was canceled and he graduated with a drive-through “ceremony” in May. He had plans to go to Stanford University next year but now is contemplating taking a gap year to focus on mutual aid in his home community.

Summertime has always represented freedom — a time where I’m left to my own devices and can actually have fun and relax and feel like a kid again. But with COVID-19, that’s not really possible. I wish adults understood that our feelings of hurt are valid. We’re mourning the loss of something that we’ve envisioned for a very long time.

Now I’m looking toward mutual aid and community needs over my personal satisfaction. That’s why I created Impulse Learning. We offer classes to middle schoolers, from Model United Nations to Intro to Python Coding to Creative Writing. We want to offer academic enhancement opportunities that people wouldn’t normally get, especially at a time when schools hastily tried to adapt to online learning and often failed.

The other project Impulse Learning is working on is a college admissions workshop. COVID-19 is changing college admissions for this year: A lot of schools are going test optional, a lot of extracurricular opportunities are diminished and there’s an increased strain on existing infrastructure because school guidance counselors are overwhelmed. Plus, a lot of schools never offered those resources to begin with. So we have decided to run an admissions workshop as well as free webinars for people to be able to learn how to apply for financial aid, navigate the college process as a person of color, a queer person, as well as how to apply for merit scholarships. We’ve decided to donate at least half of our proceeds to nonprofits that are supporting, amplifying and protecting Black voices.

Something that I’ve done since middle school is debate, and it’s really important to me. However, a lot of people are deterred by the cost. That’s something that I wanted to change. So my friend and I created a middle school debate camp, Maverick Debate. Unfortunately, now we can’t offer an in-person camp. So now I’m figuring out how we are going to adapt the curriculum to Zoom.

I also was planning to continue working this summer with Tony’s Place, an organization in Houston that serves LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness. When I came out, I was terrified because I didn’t know how my parents would react. After they greeted me with love and acceptance, I realized that that was a very big privilege. So my mom and I would cook home-cooked meals to bring to Tony’s Place each week, so everyone at Tony’s Place knew that somebody was willing to spend hours in the kitchen cooking for them. I also worked with a clothing designer to revamp and upcycle existing clothing donations so the kids at Tony’s Place knew that they were getting more than everyone else’s scraps. Unfortunately, a lot of people who work at Tony’s Place have actually gotten the virus. A couple months back, we decided to suspend the meal program because of safety concerns. I’m still waiting for the notification that I can go back.

I think what’s most important is trying to maintain perspective. When my graduation and prom were canceled, I was really sad because there was so much I looked forward to for my senior year, so much that I worked hard for. But I realized that the need for activism is so much greater than one high school prom. It’s more important that I devote my time and energy to making a difference and providing services that people desperately need right now, rather than moping about losing my senior year and the second semester activities.

This time has made me much more aware of social issues, and has informed my activism. Now young people like me are the ones looking for solutions to these problems, and it’s incredibly empowering to know that I am able to create the change that I want to see in the world.

I’m grateful that it happened at this time in my life, because being a teenager is still a time where you’re learning how to be who you want to be.

Saige Chaseley, 13


Saige Chaseley is a 13-year-old homeschooler who is in the process of finishing seventh grade. Before coronavirus, she was training three to four hours a day for her senior gold medal tests in figure skating. After contracting COVID-19 from her mother, she recovered but still has lingering issues with her esophagus.

Before quarantine, I was figure skating every day. I started skating when I was 4, and I’ve been doing it competitively since I was 6. The figure skating season was supposed to start in March. I was going to take all my tests so that I could feel finished with it, but the day before my test, the stay-at-home order was issued. I haven’t been able to practice since. So I don’t know if I’ll be able to get back to where I was.

Since I haven’t been skating, I started taking acting lessons and piano lessons. I love singing. I was in “Matilda” at a professional theater in Chicago last year, and it was so much fun. A few years ago, I started doing commercials and having a lot of auditions, and then I got an agent. There’s a lot of opportunities for kids my age because this is “Disney age.”

My mom had COVID-19 first, and then my babysitter got it right when my mom was getting better. Then when she was getting better, me and my younger sister both got it. I pretty much did nothing for two weeks. I just felt really, really sick and really tired. I was nauseous, too, and I was throwing up a lot.

I was really hopeful in the beginning of the summer. I didn’t think that quarantine would last so long. I’ve still been FaceTiming my friends a lot and using Houseparty. I’ve gotten to spend more time with my family and learn new ways of staying in touch with my grandparents. I’ve also been going to social distancing picnics. And we got a trampoline, so me and my siblings have been using that a ton.

I am trying to follow the news enough to understand but not follow it too much that I feel overwhelmed. Instagram can really be a rabbit hole. For teenagers especially, who are on social media a lot, I think that it can be scary because there’s so many things that you can see at one time and then you can just scroll for hours and learn things, and you don’t even know if they’re true. I’ve been trying not to get too deep in that I feel overwhelmed, but at the same time, I need to know what’s going on because I think it’s really important. I’m just hoping that I remember everything when I’m an adult, because I feel like by the time I get old enough, it’s going to be important history. I got a journal, so I’m trying to write everything down so that I can remember.

I definitely think that I’ve learned a lot from living at home for this long. I think I definitely know what’s the most important and what’s the most valuable now. I’ve learned a bunch about what I can do to help fight racism and how I can be a better person when I’m an adult. I’m grateful that it happened at this time in my life, because being a teenager is still a time where you’re learning how to be who you want to be.

Yes, there is a lot of division in America. But when it comes to morality, I’ve seen that the world comes together.

Aylin Dominguez, 18


Aylin Dominguez is an 18-year-old college student studying social work. She was very active in her community before coronavirus, both with the Boys and Girls Club of Toledo and with Cherry Street Missions, and she hopes to continue that work.

My high school experience was very high pressure. So summer was always a chance for me to breathe. This summer, I was supposed to go to a religious camp convention in the Smoky Mountains, but the entire convention was canceled due to COVID. I was also planning to go into a discipleship training in South Carolina for three months. Now everything is online.

Also, this past year I was very active in Cherry Street Missions, a place that houses homeless people, and provides meals and resources. I wanted to volunteer more in the summer, but I’m kind of scared of going there right now because of the pandemic and exposing my family.

We went into quarantine in April. Now social distancing is still advised, but everything’s opening up. They’re trying to start the economy, but it’s scary because people are just like, “OK, we’re open.” No masks, no hand sanitizer.

This moment is scary. But I am proud to be part of it. I am absolutely for the modern civil rights movement. Not only has it empowered me to be more of a voice in my community, but it’s making me stronger. I was always taught to be quiet. The fact that people nationwide are speaking up, even if they’re not part of the Black community, that’s motivated me.

Recently, I went out protesting. It was very moving. I never thought a community could come so close together. People were offering protesters Capri Suns, pizza. But at the same time, it was like I forgot that there was a pandemic going on. It’s a completely different world when you go into that protest. The sign I carried said, “Black lives matter.”

I’ve been using this time to grow and to examine myself. What do I need to work on? What goals and dreams and passions do I need to start once this is over?

Yes, there is a lot of division in America. But when it comes to morality, I’ve seen that the world comes together. When the pandemic started, it was so heartwarming to see that there were people trying to provide for the homeless, because it’s really difficult for people to get the resources they need when everybody’s scared of touching you or being around you.

My friend and I handed out supplies to the homeless at the beginning of the pandemic. We were giving out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a garden salad and a little juice box. And then we had a separate bag that was all hygiene stuff, like toothpaste and mouthwash. It wasn’t something big, but I knew that it was going to be helpful. This moment is making me realize how much I can actually make a difference.

My generation has grown up with this idea that they’re going to make a difference in the world. And now we’re upholding those claims.

Temma Schlesinger, 17


Temma Schlesinger is a 17-year-old recent high school graduate. She was one of just a few Jewish kids at her school. Camp Galil in Pennsylvania, where she was supposed to be a counselor for the first time this summer, represented a place for building a meaningful community and talking to other kids about social justice.

This summer I was supposed to work at Habonim Dror Camp Galil teaching kids about social justice. As counselors, we get the kids energized about making social change and teaching them the values of the youth movement that the camp is a part of: socialism, progressive labor Zionism, actualization, social justice and Judaism. Since camp was canceled, they’re still going to try and do online discussions and activities. But it’s not nearly the same.

I’ve been going to camp since I was 7. When I was younger, it was just a place to be comfortable with myself, because it’s a very loving, encouraging environment. Then I started to get really intrigued with the social justice aspects of it. Living in Silver Spring, Maryland, which is a super-liberal area, these were ideas that were around me all the time. And then when I moved to southern Maryland, to a very conservative area, I was suddenly one of few Jewish kids in my neighborhood. So camp became more of a place for me to express myself and be with people who had those common morals. Now I’m going to school for communications, and I really want to go into nonprofit global development, and I genuinely do not think that I would have considered that at all if I had never gone to camp.

I’ve never had a summer where I wasn’t at camp before. This summer, I got a normal job; I’ll be working at a boat rental place. I’m going to have so much more free time. And that’s such a strange concept to me.

When coronavirus hit, all of a sudden I was like, “Whoa, my kids are going to ask me, ‘What was it like to live during corona?’” Being a teenager right now is a little bit scary but also exciting. Corona is just scary, but growing up at camp with all of this focus on youth empowerment and youth social justice, I think it’s super-awesome to watch the anti-racism protests and be part of a youth community that really is standing up and making a difference. My generation has grown up with this idea that they’re going to make a difference in the world. And now we’re upholding those claims. And I think that that’s really empowering. I’m honored to be a part of that in a small way.

There was recently a protest in my community, and I wanted to go so bad, but I’m at my grandma’s right now so I couldn’t go. I’ve been signing a lot of petitions; I’ve been posting a lot on social media, giving support to all my friends. I already voted in my primaries, which was really exciting for me. I’m excited to vote in the general election in November. I just got my college laptop, and it’s all ready for my “I voted” sticker.

Watching the protests as a young Black man, I find it very sad and really unfortunate, because this stuff today shouldn’t be happening.

D’Loveantae Allen, 14


D’Loveantae Allen is a 14-year-old rising high school sophomore from the Heritage Park neighborhood. He has been involved with the teen-run community-focused bakery Green Garden for three years and is on its executive team. Green Garden sells vegetable-based desserts made from veggies grown in a community garden. It donates profits back to the local community.

Summertime just represents being free, no worries or cares for three months, aside from COVID. My family usually goes to Virginia to visit our grandmother, but that won’t be happening this summer.

I’ve been involved with Green Garden Bakery for almost three years, since I was 11 or 12. One of our friends in the neighborhood got into a car accident, and she was paralyzed from the neck down. There was a cooking class for young kids in the neighborhood, and one of the recipes was a green tomato cake. So in order to raise money for her medical bills, we took that cake and went to the Midtown Farmers Market, sold it there, and we wanted to raise $500, but we ended up raising $1,500. If you triple what you think you’re going to get, you don’t just stop doing it, and that’s how Green Garden Bakery got its start.

We work out of a community room in our neighborhood, and we also recently got a carriage house, where we host our meetings and we do a little bit of cooking. We have weekly meetings.

There’s over 100 kids involved, but responsibilities are split up into divisions. There are five teens, including me, on our executive team.

I love what we do at Green Garden Bakery and the people that I work with. I’m very passionate about it. I love going to sales, talking to people, doing interviews. That’s the main thing that’s kept me around is what we do for the community and how we help each other. Before coronavirus, Green Garden Bakery had two weekly markets planned, but that got postponed due to COVID. We will be doing that soon hopefully. During the pandemic, we want to keep helping our community and spreading awareness.

A little over a week ago, some of the Green Garden Bakery team made a community safety video. Another executive member and I went to the park and we made a rap about the George Floyd situation, along with sharing ways to make things better. With the video, we’re hoping to raise $10,000 to start this mini-business for African American men to come train people in our neighborhood, Heritage Park, on safety so when something bad happens, instead of calling the police, we would call a community member. So the only time we would get the police involved is if something really serious happened. So far, we’ve raised about $6,000.

My mom wants me to be safe, so she doesn’t allow me to go to any of the protests, so I’m kind of watching from the background, watching the news and stuff, and seeing what’s going on. My mom tells me about the protests, and I look at my friends’ stories on Snapchat. They’ll post if something recently happened, or an upcoming protest. Watching the protests as a young Black man, I find it very sad and really unfortunate, because this stuff today shouldn’t be happening.

I think that some adults are not considering the emotional toll that quarantine will have on young people.

Luke Chinman, 17


Luke Chinman is a 17-year-old rising high school senior. After years of being involved in the international youth program CISV, Luke has developed a keen interest in international affairs and global peace education. Because his camp in Denmark was canceled due to COVID-19, Luke will be staying in Pittsburgh for the summer doing an internship.

For the first six weeks after our school shut down, we had no instruction. Next year, if we are back at school at all, they’re going to be doing some sort of staggered school day.

Normally, I would have cross country practices in the summer. And the other thing I’ve been doing the last few summers is a program with CISV, which I was planning to do this summer as well.

CISV is an international youth program. It was founded by a woman named Doris Allen right after World War II as a way to prevent any future world wars from happening by educating youth about peace education and global understanding. There are chapters all over the U.S. and the world. I’ve done a few programs with them. Most of the ones I’ve done have been a summer camp, but with international kids.

This summer I was planning to travel to Denmark. That program is unique from the rest of them because you run the entire camp yourself. There are a few staff from the local chapter that are hosting you, but you do all the planning, all the cooking, all the cleaning, all of the stuff that adults would have done for you previously — all with people you’ve never met before. But in March, they announced that summer programs would be shut down.

Because of CISV, I’ve gotten more interested in international affairs, and diversity and inclusion. That led me to the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, where I ended up getting a virtual internship, and a club at our school called Global Minds.

Coronavirus seems like something like the Black Plague that will be referred to in history books. It’s pretty crazy because I feel this is one of the most major historical events that has happened in my lifetime. It’s definitely hard: My senior year is getting disrupted by coronavirus, and it’s challenging to navigate that. And then with the anti-racism protests and the election, all of that just kind of amplifies everything that’s going on.

I’ve been thinking a lot about police brutality. I’ve definitely been considering what it means to be an ally. That’s something we’re talking about a lot in my internship. I’ve also discussed allyship and police brutality with my friends and my parents.

I get a sense that some adults think that the youth are fine right now because we’re engrossed in technology and social media. I think that some adults are not considering the emotional toll that quarantine will have on young people. All social connection right now is very planned. You have to go out of your way to talk to someone. Whereas in the regular world, when everything isn’t shut down, you can just be in a situation and talk to people that you know tangentially.

This time period has made me realize how much I took for granted. I will definitely appreciate just being in the same room with someone. I’ll appreciate things that felt so mundane.

After the pandemic, I won’t take spending time with my friends or being able to go outside for granted.

Malini Lodhavia, 16


Malini Lodhavia is a rising high school junior. Her family moved to Delaware from New York when she was a baby. She has been in quarantine since March 14 and is going “very stir crazy.”

Summer is a break from everything. It feels like you don’t have to worry about too much and you just spend time with your friends. My family loves traveling, so that’s a big part of my summer usually. Last summer, we went to Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. If quarantine continues, my summer will probably be more deck visits with my friends and just hanging out with my family. We’ve been playing a lot of pingpong.

Usually, we move down to Rehoboth Beach and hang with a group of friends there. We walk around the boardwalk, have dinner on the beach sometimes, just kind of relax. But the pandemic is worse down there, so we don’t go as often. And when we do, we stay in the house.

I’ve been able to see some of my friends in Dover, the ones who have been extra quarantined like us. My mom will let them come over and sit on the deck 6 feet apart for an hour or two, but that’s about it. I miss going into restaurants, shopping and just being able to be in the same car as my friends and going places together.

I want adults to understand that it’s really hard for us not to be able to see our friends. It can be draining because you feel isolated from everybody. You only have the same people to hang out with, and things are different when you’re with your friends. I feel like I can be more of myself in a certain way around them. And with my family, it’s just different. My friends will understand certain things about me better than my family will. And vice versa.

It’s kind of hard to take everything in, but once you think about it and it sets in, it’s just like, “Wow.” There’s not much I can do about the pandemic, but for the anti-racism protests going on, I can help spread awareness about where to donate and sign petitions and stuff. But besides that, I feel like I don’t have control over it. I was thinking about how this will be in textbooks later, and that was kind of crazy. I think that after the pandemic, I won’t take spending time with my friends or being able to go out and spend time outside of my house for granted. I think it will help me stay off my phone more and just live in the world around me.

I also keep thinking about the uncertainty of it all. Will I be in college in two years and have to deal with this?

Tamar Guggenheim, 16


Tamar Guggenheim is a rising high school junior. Before COVID-19, she was supposed to attend a New York Times Summer Academy in Washington, D.C., and go to sleepaway camp. But now camp has been canceled and the New York Times program has moved online.

During the summer, my family usually travels for a week or two, and then I do some summer working out with friends and get ready for camp. But this year, camp is canceled. In some ways, it’s much slower, but in others I feel like I’m trying to compensate a little bit. I’m taking online physics instead of doing it next year during the school year.

I’ll be attending the New York Times Summer Academy, which was going to be in D.C. for two weeks, and now it’s online. Most people in Atlanta that I know go to Jewish sleepaway summer camp. So the academy is a new experience. The class that I was supposed to be taking was on the election, which, especially in D.C., would have been really cool. I’m still doing it, but it’s obviously going to be different not being able to go places and see everything.

Now that I can drive, I have a lot more freedom. Atlanta has started opening back up, but I personally have not gone out too much. It is nice that more restaurants are open to get takeout, but I’m not running to eat out or do anything like that.

My school is one-third white, Black and Latino, and so a big part of our school culture is being around different races and cultures. It’s definitely different to be staying at home and seeing the Black Lives Matter protests through the TV or my phone. I think this is the first mass movement on social media that I can remember and take part of in a way that I’ll be able to recount in the future.

Once it’s safe to return, I’ll just appreciate being at school with my friends and teachers in more of a community setting. Now when I see a picture of too many people, my mindset is like, “Oh, my gosh, that’s too many people so close together!” I think it’ll take some time to get over that. I also keep thinking about the uncertainty of it all. Will I be in college in two years and have to deal with this?

The photos in this piece were directed by the subjects themselves, taken on their own or by friends and family members, unless credited otherwise.

Additional photos by Damon Dahlen/HuffPost and Cameron White.
Credits :
Senior Enterprise Editor: Erin E. Evans; Senior Reporter: Emma Gray; Creative Director: Ivylise Simones; Photo Director: Christy Havranek; Senior Photo Editor: Chris McGonigal

Quarantine Diaries: Maintaining Relationships


Quarantine Diaries is a communal project of stories from our readers about how they are managing their lives during the coronavirus crisis. In this piece, readers share how they’re keeping their relationships strong.
You can read the five-part project here.

My fiancé and I have been playing what we like to call “flip cup toe.” Pro tip: Don’t play with White Claws. You will burp up a storm. ⛈ I have retired the game for a bit, because the morning after this time brought my first quarantine hangover — not pleasant. But it was definitely fun, and I shared it with my friends and neighbors. They’re now playing, too!

Justine Rellosa, 30, from Los Angeles, California

My husband and I have been working from home for the last couple of years, now with two daughters. COVID-19 didn’t technically change a lot about our daily routine, but the things it did change were apparently all that was keeping us sane: hiring babysitters for date nights, working at coffee shops, getting out of the house as a family. We make the most of it by taking lots of walks, decorating the neighborhood with sidewalk chalk and letting the kids watch nursery rhymes on YouTube ad nauseam. We are thankful for our health and for our jobs, but some days we feel like we just might go insane.

Jenny Williams, 33, from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

My husband is getting creative with date nights! We are 49 years old and high school sweethearts. We will have been married for 24 years this August, and started dating when we were 16 years old.

We returned home on Feb. 16 from a trip to New York and were required to self-quarantine for 14 days because of the virus. I had been very stressed out because the trip was so strange due to the pandemic. My husband knew this and wanted to do something to delight me for date night away from our three teenagers. He made Bellinis and creme fraiche in his home office on a day full of Zoom meetings (somehow he managed this without my suspecting anything), ordered caviar online, and packed a feast into the trunk of our Tesla. He then took me for a “drive” and set up the car with LED candles, placed a cutting board over the console for a table, poured champagne and served me dinner with the Fireplace app on for ambience. It made me feel special and took the world away, right when I needed it most!

Christian and Marnie Cotichini, 49, from Vancouver, British Columbia

We had our small dream wedding planned for April 4 and a 50-person party on April 5. We decided once this started that we would obviously have to postpone the party. But we wanted to be married through these times, so we decided to have the ceremony on March 22 with just our parents, my 9-year-old son and our old dog Blue. However, the day before the wedding, my husband’s father fainted and was taken to the hospital. He had emergency colon surgery and found out he has stage 2 cancer. My husband’s parents did not make it to the ceremony. My father also could not come to the ceremony because he’s in a nursing home and they wouldn’t let him leave due to the virus. We had a friend film the whole ceremony so our parents that could not be there could see it. We married each other, and it was full of love. We were so happy.

But after the wedding, we had to put our dog down. We buried her in the backyard and planted a tree. Shortly after, my father was in the hospital due to an extended abdomen and he had to have surgery. He never woke up from surgery and died on April 17. My family has had so many unfortunate things happen. And still. Somehow. We wake up every day and are thankful for what we have. Somehow, every day, we manage to laugh. And we are kind to each other. We keep each other company — and try to fill each day with love. We play a lot of board games and go for walks. We talk to each other. And we reach out to our friends and talk. There is nothing constant in our lives but each other. And at the end of the day, I think we have it pretty great to have each other. My marriage started off with a ton of sadness. But we will get through this. And if we can make it through this, we can make it through anything. Love conquers all.

Tasha Copley, 40, with her husband Luke Roggenbeck, 37, her son Anderson and her mom, from Melbourne, Florida

Isolating from a one-bed apartment with boyfriend and two cats, so life is quiet right now. Boyfriend and I have become closer. We are both fortunate to be able to work from home. We are cooking, reading, walking, watching movies and communicating more while isolating. Having the time to really look at each other has been lovely. We are most anxious for our families and the incompetent leadership at the federal level.

Rachael L., 28, from Boston

I never expected a global pandemic to completely redefine my dating experience and, in doing so, enable me to fall in love with someone really special. At 60+ years old and divorced for over 20 years, I’ve met my share of scammers, players, egotists, liars and ghosters. It always seemed to me that men weren’t interested in putting in the time to get to know the real me.

After meeting “M” at a casual potluck and comedy night at the end of February, I joined him at a popular indoor market the following Saturday. He checked a lot of the boxes and it seemed he liked me, too. But we never got the chance for a third date, as the following week we were forced into social isolation.We started chatting on the phone, texting, and on Saturday nights, sharing FaceTime dates.

It’s been two months strong now, and we’ve learned such a lot about each other during our nightly conversations. We talk about everything and anything. We each long for the day we will be able to connect in person. … It’s a fantasy now, but it’s going to happen. In the meantime, this experience has helped me believe that positive things can come out of a bad situation. I’m 65 and retired (from the health care industry; I actually worked through SARS at Mount Sinai Hospital). M is younger and not retired, and, in fact, working harder and longer than ever through these difficult times.

Debbie Hogarth McDermott, 65, from Milton, Ontario

I have been in a relationship for nearly five months with that perfect guy. I am in love with him and this time apart has actually enhanced our bond. However, I miss him so damn much! We are both enrolled first year in college, and so we still live with our parents. My parents are somewhat strict and paranoid regarding this whole COVID situation, so they do not want me to go out or receive any external visits. I understand this and I am trying not to give them a hard time, but my heart aches from missing him. I just wish we were quarantined together. I would not care for how long it goes on then!

Angie Hayek, 18, from Lebanon

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Who’s To Blame For The Failure Of The Girlboss Dream?


There’s something rotten at The Wing, a once-vaunted feminist company that sought to offer women and non-binary people a safe alternative to bro-y coworking spaces. Founder Audrey Gelman stepped down as CEO recently after Black and brown employees went public with claims that the company was riddled with racism and mistreated employees of color.

And it’s not just bad there; it’s all the gleaming corporate feminist utopias we’ve imagined, each hiding an ugly, festering thing behind millennial-pink walls and marble accent tables. The promise of safety has been betrayed, a crime committed, a creeping bloodstain left to darken the bamboo floorboards. Someone must pay.

Just as a slew of supposedly feminist companies, from The Wing to Refinery29, have faced reckonings over abusive and racist office cultures, the girlbosses are toppling in fiction as well. Two scathing and propulsive 2020 novels — “Self Care,” out June 30, and “The Herd,” published in March — specifically take on those who founded companies meant to create space for women, only to somehow end up creating spaces no safer than the male-dominated ones they replaced. 

Leigh Stein’s darkly witty romp through corporate feminism, “Self Care,” is set in the office of a by-and-for-women social media startup called Richual. Andrea Bartz’s murder mystery, “The Herd,” plays out against the backdrop of a private women’s coworking space much like The Wing: glossy, exclusive, idealistic. Though Bartz’s is more explicitly a crime thriller, the two books are fueled by the same mystery: The fantasy feminist workplace, and product, is a lie. So who is to blame?

From my desk, I could see the entire floor of my small but dedicated kingdom, a dozen ladies wearing noise-canceling headphones, sitting at long marbled pink tables, or ruining their thoracic spines on jewel-toned velvet couches.Devin in “Self Care”

“Self Care” opens on Maren, the stressed-out co-founder of Richual, drinking her way through a dogpile. She’d tweeted something one night, a grim joke and possible death threat about Ivanka Trump, that had caught a wave of right-wing outrage and wound up on cable news shows. Her co-founder and best friend, Devin, finds her still at the office the next morning, lying on a lavender velvet chaise, wearing a BreastNest (“a spongy beige sack you can wear for support if even the idea of clasping a bra is too much”) and drowning in warm chardonnay. 

She’s hurting, but she’s also thrilled. “The worse it gets ― I mean the more women who are outraged and terrified and suffering ― the more our user base grows,” she tells Devin. At the minor cost of her own mental health, she’s rallying women to sign up for their wellness-focused app. 

This is Maren: a high-achieving ball of stress fueled by booze, carbs and her deep sense of martyrdom, throwing her body and brain into the meatgrinder of capitalism to ensure that Richual succeeds. Devin, the face of the company, exemplifies its wellness values: Her taut body is maintained with boutique fitness classes and green juices, calmed with hours of meditation at her desk, and clothed in Alice + Olivia shift dresses. 

In their different styles, Maren and Devin both epitomize the millennial corporate feminist: a performative workaholic and a wellness influencer, a mouthy barb-thrower and an affirmation-forward appeaser. Devin fervently believes in the power of self-care ― “Using a Groupon to get my pubes laser-removed back when it was still socially acceptable to use Groupon was an act of self-love,” she thinks as she dons a “porcelain Heart Opener Bodysuit from Lululemon” ― but her obsessive mindfulness, exercise, accessorizing, dieting and skin care read more as an unholy marriage of oppression and privilege. 

Maren and Devin created Richual as a “world without men — where women could actually take care of themselves,” a “digital sanctuary where you went to unload your pain.” Influencers in thong bodysuits post alongside political activists; they’re all hurting in some way. 

Men aren’t entirely absent. Their primary financial backer, Evan, is the consummate male ally: Independently wealthy, he rose to fame by eliminating himself from “The Bachelorette” while denouncing the show’s toxic masculinity, and then invested his money in this by-and-for-women startup. (He’s also, of course, hooking up with Devin.) 

The office is the very picture of a girlboss enterprise, Instagram-perfect and populated by women. Devin, who won Maren’s trust by advising her to redesign her nonprofit’s website (“so that it was more pink overall and the Donate Now button stood out in mint green, the color of money, not in an aggressive way but in a way that made you feel generous, like you were building Barbie’s Dreamhouse for women who were less fortunate than you”), believes in a feminism that is about making women feel beautiful and surrounded by beauty. The Richual office, seen through her eyes, is heaven: “From my desk, I could see the entire floor of my small but dedicated kingdom, a dozen ladies wearing noise-canceling headphones, sitting at long marbled pink tables, or ruining their thoracic spines on jewel-toned velvet couches. Emerald and sapphire, garnet and citrine.” The app and the office are both as soothing and easy on the eyes as a high-end spa.

Bartz’s thriller is also set in a feminist sanctuary, the Herd, a SoHo coworking space and social club clearly modeled on The Wing. The Herd has “the girly chicness of a magazine office, but without the clutter or bustle ― here everything is calm.” It’s tastefully decorated with blue velvet workstations and sassy wallpaper. When Katie Bradley, a freelance tech reporter, steps inside, the sheer preciousness of the interiors and the clusters of accomplished women in impossibly stylish outfits mingling inside instantly overwhelm her hardened journalistic skepticism. 

Katie has an in: Her older sister, Hana, does PR for the Herd. The founder, Eleanor, is one of Hana’s Harvard besties, and along with graphic designer Mikki, the college pals have remained close since graduation. Katie has recently spent a year home in Michigan and is back with a shiny book deal about a fake-news factory she reported on in the Midwest. She’s eager to be enfolded into the friend group, and into the Herd.

Like many such businesses, the Herd is framed as more than that by its creators. It’s “a community,” Eleanor says. “It’s a sacred space designed to make our members’ lives more balanced, beautiful, and connected.” She delivers the line semi-ironically to Katie, playing up the polish of her elevator pitch. “Hell of a line,” Katie replies. The message to possible members: paying hundreds of dollars a month to join is self-care, not to mention feminism (“Wonderful things happen when passionate women and marginalized genders come together,” Eleanor adds). The women who do join become fanatics, tweeting in its defense (“If you think it’s not for you bc it’s too bougie/white/annoying/whatever, please come be my plus-one and see for yourself how inclusive and supportive and wonderful it really is”). 

But even as Katie is swept off her feet, there are hints of something awry. The Herd’s makeup room is closed the day she arrives, thanks to an unknown vandal who spray-painted “UGLY CUNTS” on the wall; the Herd location in San Francisco and an under-construction one in Fort Greene have been tagged as well. Then Eleanor herself goes missing on the eve of the announcement of a major deal.

The concept of the feminist startup as primarily a luxury experience marketed to women of a certain class is, as both novels unpack, signaled by the branding of these businesses with a fairly uniform aesthetic somewhere between cute and elegant — succulents, marble and gold accents, pastel websites and jewel-toned upholstery. Eleanor keeps a jar of La Mer and a book by bell hooks by her bed. Richual has 10 commandments stenciled on its office wall in “fuchsia and sherbet,” a slew of clichéd and appropriated girl-power affirmations, somehow both contradictory and redundant: “Women are people. All people are human beings. Believe women. Do better. Self-care is not selfish. Don’t read the comments. You are more than a digital footprint. The political is personal. Stay woke. Calm the fuck down.” 

The Herd initially beckons as a cozy respite from male aggression and tasteless decor, but as the ominous events pile up, the velvet couches no longer seem quite so inviting. Like a baby doll with a demonic glare, the Herd is almost more unsettling for the cuteness it has spackled over the glimpses of cruelty. When Katie stays after closing time one day, she suddenly realizes “how expansive and eerie the Herd was at night.” A pothos plant sways disconcertingly in its stylish holder. The next time she stays after hours, this time with her buddies, they find a dead body.

What initially seems to be a relatively functional workplace quickly proves to ooze with repressed toxicity.

Like “The Herd,” which is narrated alternately by Katie and Hana, “Self Care” relies on multiple narrators to reframe each other’s perspectives ― to show how what one views as empowering, another views as selfish or even exploitative. No one woman can be in control of the narrative. 

“Self Care” is narrated in turn by Maren, Devin and Khadijah, their harassed senior vice president of editorial strategy. Where Maren is a brash, messy feminist and Devin a Gwyneth Paltrow-style self-care icon, Khadijah, who is Black, has room to be neither. Hired away from her BuzzFeed job in part because Maren didn’t want all the founding employees to be white, Khadijah is too busy creating and editing every scrap of editorial content on the site, handling scut work and being a visible emblem of Richual’s diversity to indulge in either sloppiness or hyper-grooming. She photoshops Devin’s jawline before posting pictures of her, does data analytics on headline options and checks email in the middle of the night. “I woke up like this, by the light of my screen, vibrating with adrenaline,” she puts it, as she lies in bed scrolling through Twitter and a jammed inbox. She hasn’t even had an opening to tell Maren that she’s pregnant. What initially seems to be a relatively functional workplace quickly proves to ooze with repressed toxicity. 

So does Richual the app, which despite being man-free and wellness-minded, only manages to target the weak points of its user base with more laser-like precision. “We earned revenue from the brands who offered solutions” to the pain their users share, Maren explains: “serums and creams, juices and dusts, clays and scrubs, drugs and masks, oils and enemas, scraping and purging, vaping and waxing, lifting and lengthening, straightening and defining, detox and retox, the cycle of life.” The platform partners with influencers to bring in revenue, sending them a gruesomely invasive survey Maren created about which traumatizing things they’ve experienced (Sexual abuse? Check here!) so that they can most effectively monetize their trauma in Richual posts. “Dead grandparents were boring, but I allowed one post a year,” Maren notes. “It was awesome if one of your parents died after you became a Richual member, because the first post announcing the death always got the most hearts.” 

Everyone’s selling something, and often it turns out to be their fellow women.

In 2017, I wrote about four novels that took aim at tech startup culture, including Doree Shafrir’s “Startup” and Alissa Nutting’s “Made for Love,” and noted that more than one of them concluded on a note of girl-power triumphalism, with a new female CEO humanizing an evil corporation or a crew of women working together to take down a bad startup bro. “The problem is, putting a woman in charge doesn’t fix anything. We know that because we’ve seen it,” I wrote, citing the already checkered track record of girlboss-led companies (Thinx, Nasty Gal). Bartz and Stein speak to a culture that has lost every shred of its naive faith in female founders as healing forces.

Bartz transposes the rise and fall of the girlboss onto the whodunit narrative, establishing and then chipping away at the idea of the man-free sanctuary. The women at the heart of the Herd see the space as under siege by jealous, violent men. When Eleanor goes missing, the suspect list is tried and true: members of the Antiherd, an online forum full of misogynistic haters; Eleanor’s wholesome, forgettable husband; her high school sweetheart, whose life went off track after their breakup; and his brother, Eleanor’s classmate and close friend. 

But eventually, they must recognize that a cis-male-free zone can harbor violence within it, as well as threats from intruders. Bartz sprinkles in little betrayals and exploitations, clues that the sisterhood is not entirely safe. Katie wants to reconnect with the women she considered something between mentors and best friends, but also hopes to spin her access into a tell-all book about Eleanor to sell in place of the fake-news book she no longer feels she can write. Hana and Mikki freelance for the Herd, and both glamorous women act as brand-enhancing sidekicks for elegant Eleanor. Hana, Katie’s adoptive sister, can’t ignore that she’s the only brown person in their clique. She sometimes uneasily wonders “how convenient it was for Eleanor to have a non-white face in her inner circle,” like a human version of the bell hooks volume that takes the spoiled-rich-girl edge off her decadent jar of La Mer. Everyone’s selling something, and often it turns out to be their fellow women. 

The details of “The Herd” don’t always seem quite rightly observed. Eleanor’s bland corporatism strikes more of a Sheryl Sandberg note than an Audrey Gelman one, and the novel can at times read like a standard-issue thriller slotted into a Wing setting. But the mystery genre seems perfectly suited for The Wing and its ilk, and on a narrative level, Bartz makes able use of it to explore the sinister chasm between the promise of feminist companies and the actuality, the violence where only sweetness and light were supposed to be.

By the end of “The Herd,” with the mystery resolved and a chilling window opened into the villainous hearts of white lady entrepreneurs, the appeal of the Herd has evaporated. The women have to step away from it. After all, “there were other coworking spaces, other networking opportunities, other places where passionate women and marginalized genders could come together, and if there weren’t, maybe someday we’d make one.”

Or maybe not. If there’s a way to get to a utopia, “The Herd” dramatically suggests, it’s not by locking the men outside.

Of course, the women who are cared for, with table service and torrents of herb-infused water, are the same women who have always been cared for: the ones who can afford to pay for it.

“Self Care,” in true satirical form, is an inverted sort of a mystery: The villains are in plain sight to the reader, but their own culpability is invisible to them. Halfway through, Stein throws in a twist, a disturbing revelation about Evan that seems to set up him, the male funder, as the snake in the garden. But the abusive male ally is something of a red herring in “Self Care,” and sisterhood is not the answer. Stein’s interest and her most cunning scalpel cuts are applied to her well-meaning, long-suffering lady bosses, who go down searching for someone else to blame.

For Maren, self-destruction and performative sadness are her praxis, rather than lavender couches and Lululemon. “I’m depressed,” she moans to Devin at one point. “It doesn’t even seem to bother you… Every day another racist cop shoots an unarmed Black man or refugees drown in the ocean or a mother of four is murdered by her husband because she wants to leave―” 

“Babe,” Devin responds. “I know. Believe me. I get the Times alerts on my phone, too.” Devin’s glibness is infuriating, but the real target of the scene is Maren, who doesn’t realize that her vicarious suffering is just another way of making every form of oppression in the world all about her. She weeps for abused women and refugees and the victims of police brutality, then gives herself carpal tunnel syndrome logging long office hours in a mission to exploit people’s pain for ad dollars. Her wrist braces are evidence that she’s worthy: How could someone working so hard and inflicting so much harm on herself be a bad guy? 

Devin and, especially, Maren are convinced of their own suffering — in many ways, at each other’s hands.Neither of them can see how much shit they’re kicking downhill, particularly at Khadijah. On the contrary, Maren imagines herself quite the benefactor, providing a Black woman with such a sweet gig. “I envied Khadijah, for whom Richual was just a job, separate from her personal life,” Maren thinks. “How did she spend her evenings and weekends, all those hours of freedom from labor?”

Maren may not grasp her own monstrousness — the worse things get, the less capable she is of seeing herself as anything but the beleaguered protagonist of the Richual story — but she does know that being a victim can be a powerful shield against critique. When an influencer on Richual is subjected to a bout of shaming, Maren tells her she could either apologize and commit to change, or “she and I could go back to her questionnaire, find something from her past that showed she, too, had suffered, and with a single post we could turn the tides of sympathy in her direction.” Despite her ideals, Maren knows on which side her bread is buttered; her job is to protect the influencers, to placate but dismiss the social justice agitators, to extract as much trauma-related content from all of them as possible and to sell it. 

The sudden ascent of the girlboss, followed almost immediately by her downfall, has been capitalism’s own version of this ploy, a profusion of glass cliffs. Putting someone who can be framed as a victim in charge of corporations allows capital to deflect a little while, to stave off revolution by pretending to have suffered too. But it’s far too little and a bit too late. Richual and the Herd, like their nonfictional ilk, sell an idea of luxury as feminism, a space where women can finally be cared for as they deserve, to make their lives “balanced, beautiful, and connected.” But, of course, the women who are cared for, with table service and torrents of herb-infused water, are the same women who have always been cared for: the ones who can afford to pay for it. 

Who’s to blame for the cruelty inside these feminist capitalist utopias? It only makes sense, as “The Herd” and “Self Care” depict, that it would be the women who imagined utopia and came up with a space that looked like an Anthropologie home decor section and sustained itself on the labor of Black and brown women. 

What’s Really Behind All That Quarantine Tie-Dye And Sourdough


About a month into quarantine, I purchased my first tie-dye kit. After weeks of being stuck in my tiny apartment in one of the first coronavirus hotspots in the United States, I decided to give in to the cool teen Instagram propaganda and start crafting. 

There was something comforting about waiting for the dyes to arrive, a thrill knowing a delivery was en route and that it might bring a little bit of unqualified joy. That first week I went on a tie-dyeing frenzy. I remade T-shirts and baby onesies and sundresses and biker shorts and crewneck sweatshirts. Each garment felt like a task to accomplish and check off my list: Soak the tee. Scrunch the tee. Dye the tee. Let the tee sit. Wring the tee out. Admire your handiwork and move on to the next. 

It didn’t stop at tie-dye. Over the more than three months that New York City was under some form of lockdown, I leaned in to a variety of projects: I painted my bedroom door. I put up stick-and-peel wallpaper in my bathroom and behind my tiny home bar. I purchased and put together a tiny shelving unit for my bedroom desk. I braised meat and made challah. I arranged farmers market flowers into distinct tiny bouquets and placed them in every room of my home.

Apparently I wasn’t alone. 

“Pre-pandemic, the last time I wore tie-dye, it was on a T-shirt from a souvenir shop in Kennebunkport, Maine, the summer before fifth grade,” Michelle Ruiz wrote in Vogue. “But it doesn’t take much self-psychoanalysis to realize I’m dressing the way I want to feel — happy and colorful — in throwback pieces that remind me of simpler, more innocent times.”

There is certainly something to the idea that we seek out some sort of childlike nostalgia during a period of intense change and uncertainty. After all, we’re in the midst of a global pandemic coupled with a (hopefully!) seismic cultural shift — a Me Too-style reckoning with structural racism and white supremacy. But I think that my draw toward DIY creative projects that are traditionally associated with the domestic activities of a tween or an old lady is rooted in something else.

In quarantine, many women who are used to working outside the home in white-collar jobs found themselves, for the first time, spending nearly all of their time at home and, of course, taking on the lion’s share of the near-constant domestic labor required. We are finding that labor to be exhausting, relentless and largely unfulfilling. (For essential workers, the pandemic-related tension has been even greater, though without the privilege of leaning in to crafts and baking for creative fulfillment.)

A simple scan of Twitter surfaces dozens of women who explicitly noted the uptick in domestic labor they were doing in quarantine, and how tiring and monotonous that labor could be:

This is not a new revelation. Some of the most famous thinkers of the women’s movement, from Betty Friedan to Angela Davis, have written extensively about the oppression and gendered nature of full-time cooking, cleaning and child-rearing. This type of labor that expands to fill the time you have is, as Davis wrote, “virtually invisible” and is noticed only inasmuch as some of it remains undone. The burden of this labor also tends to fall disproportionately on women, which is why back in March, The Atlantic’s Helen Lewis predicted that “across the world, women’s independence will be a silent victim of the pandemic.” It would be women’s jobs that would take a backseat to women’s second shifts of domestic labor and women’s so-often-viewed-as-innate caretaking skills.

The “problem that has no name,” as Friedan described it, hinged on the identification of “housework” as something fundamentally feminine yet fundamentally dissatisfying. Friedan and Davis recognized housework — defined by Davis as “the countless chores,” including but not limited to “cooking, washing dishes, doing laundry, making beds, sweeping, shopping” — as universally necessary but still universally draining. 

“Invisible, repetitive, exhausting, unproductive, uncreative — these are the adjectives which most perfectly capture the nature of housework,” Davis wrote in her 1981 book “Women, Race, Class.” It is those adjectives that American women who have previously experienced a distinct separation of home and work are now experiencing after days and weeks and months of staying home and cooking every meal and washing every dish and wiping down every surface and vacuuming again and again and again only to have the dust build right back up. 

To distract ourselves from the neverending, soul-sucking nature of housework, we instead find ways to work creatively, both on our actual homes and within them.

When I was going to the office and the gym every day, and eating at least one of my meals outside my apartment, domestic labor required less of me and I noticed my own domestic inadequacies with less frequency. But over the last few months, I found myself lamenting to friends that it felt like all I did was cook and clean, even though the only other person regularly in my space is my boyfriend and I have no children to care for. Clean. Cook. Clean. Work. Clean. Exercise. Clean. Cook. Clean. Sleep. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 

Which brings us back to the tie-dye. 

When trapped in the singular hellscape of a list of chores that are, as Davis put it, “unending and undefined,” without the option of focusing outside the home, small creative projects are almost a comically simple outlet for the satisfaction we find ourselves missing. To distract ourselves from the neverending, soul-sucking nature of housework, we instead find ways to work creatively, both on our actual homes and within them. 

The sourdough bread gets taken out of your oven and you get to enjoy the spoils of your labor without that labor becoming cyclical. The shelves you build will continue to hold new books each day without needing to be put up again. The door you painted will be paying visual dividends for years without demanding to be touched up. The tie-dyed T-shirt and shorts can be put away in your drawers, just waiting to be taken out and worn into the world, sharing your creative joy with all the others who have finally emerged from the confines of their homes and the labor of that extended stay. 

What’s The Deal With All The Underboob On ‘Too Hot To Handle’?


If being nearly seven weeks into quarantine has taught us anything, it’s that certain fashion-based discomforts are, if not oppressive, at least wholly unnecessary. Jeans? Goodbye. Restrictive waistbands? Farewell. High Heels? Sayonara. Bras? Never heard of ’em. 

But while white-collar workers around the world settle into their “soft pants,” the women of Netflix’s new “Love Island”-esque reality show “Too Hot To Handle” are showing us the summer styles of the conventionally uber-attractive and under-30 set. One major theme? Underboob. 

For the uninitiated, underboob describes the curved underbelly of the breast, usually shown off via inexplicable-tan-line-causing swimsuit tops or extra, extra cropped T-shirts. Sometimes, the underboob is paired with some traditional cleavage. Sometimes, it stands on its own.

All I know is that it’s present in nearly every scene of “Too Hot To Handle,” a show in which swipe-addicted, sex-crazy single people have to avoid physical touch and make “deeper connections.” 

These singles hail from across the English-speaking globe — Ireland, England, the United States, Canada, Australia — but underboob apparently knows no borders. If “Too Hot To Handle” is to be believed, the one thing that unites Very Conventionally Hot Women is the desire to display just a tad of the under-areola portion of the breast. See below for a sampling: 

There’s this underboob:

Oh, and this slightly more subtle underboob:

After binge-watching all of “Too Hot To Handle” in one weekend, I noticed the underboob but didn’t think much of it. A few days later, a friend who had also just watched the show came to me with questions. Namely: What was the deal with all of the underboob?  

Our discussion brought up more questions than answers: Was this a new trend, or did we all just have too much time on our hands during quarantine? Where did this start? How did it work with that whole gravity thing? Was it even hot?  

I remained confused, so I decided to conduct a (very light) investigation. First, I tried to turn to the experts, but for some reason, the fashion historians at the Museum of FIT decided to “pass on this topic.” Perhaps they, too, find areola-strip T-shirts to be confounding. Despite the minor setback, I pressed on: to Google. 

Turns out that people have been talking about the curious case of underboob for at least 15 years. 

The Guardian bemoaned the ever-multiplying breast-centric categorizations (and their commercial censorship) all the way back in 2006. “Underboobs are an invention of the glamour industry,” wrote Tim Lott, “desperate for new patches of flesh for women to reveal and excite gullible men.”

The underboob-focused subreddit (r/underboob, naturally), a space “devoted to the best part of the boob: the underboob!” was created in January 2009. And Jezebel declared it to be the ”golden age of innerboob, sideboob and underboob in 2013, the year that Beyoncé rocked some tasteful underboob on the cover of GQ Magazine. 

This current wave of underboob mania seems to be spurred on, like so many aesthetic trends, by Instagram. Models, celebrities and influencers like Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Olivia Culpo regularly show off their perfectly rounded underboobs in magazine spreads, on beaches, under cropped tees worn while dog-walking. More than 400,000 posts are hashtagged #underboob, though many of them will not show up in a search because of Instagram’s community guidelines. Fast fashion followed suit, and a simple Google search now turns up underboob-baring bikinis from brands like SheIn, ASOS, Nasty Gal and Fashion Nova. 

It seems that the “glamour industry” has succeeded in making underboob mainstream. And so it ended up all over a Netflix reality show binged by thousands of people stuck in their homes who are switching back and forth between day and night leggings. 

For posterity and journalism and science, I decided that I needed to experiment with some underboob in the safety and privacy of my own, solitary home. I put on a form-fitting cami and tucked it under halfway, just to the areola. 

The aesthetic worked — sort of. By “worked” I mean that my breast stayed generally in place, didn’t completely flatten like a pancake, and there were no nip slips. But was it flattering? Not really. (I remain convinced that to recreate this style without a tight top requires the wearer’s hands to stay constantly raised and/or a breast augmentation.)

Guess I’ll be leaving the Underboob Adventures to the sexy influencer reality television set. Godspeed.

How Indie Theaters Are Reimagining The Moviegoing Experience


Above: Tori Baker, President & CEO of the Salt Lake Film Society, in independent movie theater Tower Theater on May 29, 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: Kim Raff for HuffPost

The seats may be empty, but there’s optimism behind the scenes at small, independent movie theaters across the United States. A business built around humans gathering in close proximity is a risky gamble moving into our post-coronavirus future. But as several owners of indie theaters told HuffPost, the challenges presented by COVID-19 offer a chance to reimagine the moviegoing experience and offer audiences new options.

“We will always have storytellers that want to tell stories and cinema has become an essential part of the way modern society does that,” said Tori Baker, the president and CEO of the nonprofit Salt Lake Film Society, which operates two art house theaters in Salt Lake City. “Sustainability — such as how many people at once, concession costs, what those concessions are — might shift. But what art houses have that the big chains don’t is the ability to innovate that experience.” 

Whereas larger theatrical exhibitors like the AMC theater chain “have substantial doubt they can remain in business” due to their dependence on one avenue of revenue — the wide release of studio tentpole films — indie theaters across the country have teamed up with distributors to create virtual cinemas. First-run indie films — such as “Spaceship Earth,” a 2020 documentary about Biosphere 2 and distributed by NEON — can be rented through local theaters’ websites for an even split between the theater and distributor.

“The bottom line is that we look at independent art house cinemas as community cultural institutions,” said Richard Lorber, the president and founder of Kino Lorber, which was the first distributor to begin offering virtual screenings of its titles like the acclaimed Brazilian thriller “Bacarau.”  

Unlike larger indie distributors NEON and Bleecker Street, whose offerings to theaters are also available on standard VOD platforms such as Hulu, Amazon and iTunes, Kino Lorber’s new releases are only available through theaters’ websites. The distributor has also begun working with individual theaters to curate virtual film festivals tailored to a specific theater’s audience.

“Indie theaters are able to cultivate, if they work at it, deep and meaningful relationships with their audiences that generate loyalty extending beyond simply showing the latest blockbusters,” said Jeff Yanc, the program director of The Loft Theater in Tucson, Arizona.

For Katherine Tallman, executive director and CEO of the Coolidge Corner Theater Foundation in Boston, the goal is to keep the community engaged. The Coolidge and many other theaters across the country have continued to serve their audiences through virtual screening rooms and film seminars. 

The Belcourt Theatre in Nashville is offering a midnight movie watch-along where the staff members provide commentary via Twitch.  

“We also have personal curation where, for 10 bucks, they send us the genres and films they like and we’ll have a staff member write back and say, ‘Here are three films that we think you would like,’” Tallman said. “And it’s different that it’s a person that is part of their community rather than an algorithm.” 

Connie White, president and film buyer at Balcony Booking, which serves as an intermediary between the distributors and theaters and is based in Amherst, Massachusetts, said she hopes these innovations become complementary to the business rather than competitive once theaters reopen. 

As much as community engagement fosters hope for the future and activities for the present, it does not yield as much revenue as IRL box office and concessions. With an initial donation of $50,000 from the Criterion Collection and Janus Films, Michigan-based association Art House Convergence started a GoFundMe for independent movie theaters across the country. The campaign has received high-dollar donations from filmmakers Steven Soderbergh, Atom Egoyan, Barry Jenkins and Christopher Nolan as well as smaller contributions, currently pushing the fundraising total over $840,000. 

However, many theaters are depending on what they’ve received from Congress’ Paycheck Protection Act as well as other state and federal loans. Theaters, like so many other businesses across America, are navigating the complex and long, winding road of grants and loans.

“These grants are meant as a bridge to assist in the theater’s funding as they navigate other long term financial opportunities,” said Alison Kozberg, the managing director of Art House Convergence. Between these donations and the decision to rent movies through their local theater’s website rather than ITunes or Amazon, audiences are participating in what Lorber refers to as “filmanthropy.”

“If they know buying that ticket online through Kino Marquee is going to put half that price back into the theater’s pocket, they can feel good about preserving their local institution as opposed to what the studios are doing, which is charging $20 themselves and bypassing the exhibitors,” Lorber said. 

For those independent theaters not exhibiting primarily art house fare, the path forward has felt slightly less rosy. In November 2019, Isaac Mass and his wife purchased the Greenfield Garden in Greenfield, Massachusetts, a theater that has been in existence since the 1920s. Massachusetts and Greenfield in particular have been hit hard by the virus and though the theater occasionally shows what would be considered independent art films, its audience is primarily families and retirees looking for a night out. 

“Theaters like ours make their money in the summer and the winter and as owners, we’re missing our first summer,” Mass said. “We’re working with the art house distributors to connect with our community but that specialty programming, while wonderful to be bringing to our audience, isn’t exactly what keeps us afloat. That said, we have a T-shirt campaign and many people who purchase a virtual screening also buy that as a donation to the theater. So, the community is showing their love.”

This is a trend many of those running theaters with virtual screenings have also noticed.

“Fifty percent of the people who purchase virtual screenings through us also donate to the theater,” Baker said. “And that has to do with the mission. If the mission stays the same, which is to provide for your community, no matter the shifting elements, your community will also provide for you.”

Kozberg of Art House Convergence echoed that sentiment.

“It is a time for all of us to take stock in what we most care about and invest in and care for it to the extent that we are able to,” she said. “Theaters invest in their audience and audiences reinvest in their theaters and other local businesses. It is a time to care for each other.” 

With Hollywood On Hold, Celebrity Stylists Navigate Life Without The Red Carpet


Designer garments were prepped and packed. Shoes and accessories were organized in suitcases. Jessica Paster had everything ready to go for her longtime client Emily Blunt’s jam-packed “A Quiet Place II” press tour when the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a national emergency on March 13. Instead of jetting off to London for the U.K. premiere, she stayed back in Los Angeles to quarantine as all her future engagements and bookings were called off. 

Soon enough, Paster ― who has been a fashion stylist for 24 years and works with high-profile actresses such as Blunt, Dakota Fanning, Felicity Jones, Freida Pinto and Olivia Munn ― had to figure out a way to make ends meet amid Hollywood’s production closures and red carpet cancellations. That task seemed a bit daunting. Would she be dressing clients for virtual press appearances? Should she still move forward with plans for big events like the Met Ball? And what about her employees? How would she keep her team going without their usual crammed schedule? 

She met with her assistants and let them know that they’d have to shut down for six weeks, but would be on to organize two days a week at a lower day rate. By the second week of April, Paster realized the lockdown would last much longer than originally predicted. Practicing social distancing rules and wearing a mask and gloves, she began personal shopping and parsing through the closets of paying celebrities and non-celebrities to keep herself and her employees afloat.

“I needed to figure out a way to support myself and pay my bills because I’m still waiting for my unemployment,” she said. “I still haven’t gotten a phone call or letter and I’m not holding my breath. I feel like both the state of California and the United States of America have failed me.”

Those anxiety-ridden circumstances are in play for a lot of stylists. When the film and TV industry halted production, there was a ripple effect throughout the entire ecosystem. It’s obvious that the lives and careers of movie stars, producers, directors and studio heads are impacted, but what about crew members? Boom operators, film editors, hair and makeup artists, gaffers and production assistants are out of steady jobs for the foreseeable future. Marketing teams have little, if anything, to promote. Ushers at cinemas are deemed useless. 

And there’s really no need for someone to hire a personal stylist to put together a cozy tie-dyed quarantine look.

“With no movies, you have no clients promoting movies and no press tours happening. There truly is no business for us and it has essentially dried up as of March. That is a scary thing,” Micaela Erlanger, who dresses Lupita Nyong’o, Michelle Dockery, Meryl Streep, Jared Leto and Common, told HuffPost.And in terms of shoots and other types of projects that we work on, in light of all the social distancing rules, those bookings aren’t happening, so those opportunities are impossible.” 

The life of a celebrity stylist seems luxurious when compared to what others are facing in our country right now. But like many working professionals, they’re freelancers who are trying to find gigs, secure some sort of salary and fight for their own worth as the pandemic looms large. And their work, in part, makes the fashion industry go ’round. 

For actors and musicians, the ability to influence trends is almost as important as the reception of their creative projects, and they aren’t the only ones to benefit,” Vogue’s Janelle Okwodu writes. “In addition to the A-listers, brands count on a cabal of so-called ambassadors to take a designer’s work into the real world and make it palatable to a broader audience. A network of behind-the-scenes players — stylists, makeup artists, nail techs, and more — relies on the income and attention generated by a year’s worth of highly publicized events and the folks at home watching with interest, dissecting every gown and heel.”

Those players are the ones who represent celebrity clients and negotiate million-dollar deals with top-level designers. They get you to ogle over stars on the Oscars red carpet. They’re the masterminds behind those magazine covers or advertising campaigns that catch your eye on the grocery store line. 

Without opportunities, they are vulnerable. Finances are currently a concern for many stylists who admit they’ve adjusted to a nice way of living over the years. According to Vanity Fair, in 2014, celebrity dressers were making anywhere between $1,000 to $1,500 to wrangle and plead with design houses to spare gowns or clutches for their elite clients. And for men’s styling, studios — who pay for the promotion of projects and talent’s press obligations — cap at $500 to $750 per look. But advertising is where the “big money” comes from, according to Erlanger.

“I had a number of clients with press and beauty campaigns for summer, which are really important for stylists because they tend to subsidize a lot of our costs,” she said.

Ilaria Urbinati, who’s turned famous men like Bradley Cooper, Chris Evans, Ryan Reynolds, Donald Glover, Rami Malek, Dwayne Johnson and others into style stars, told HuffPost that the lack of usual earnings is no doubt “panic-inducing.” 

“I have a high overhead and am used to a certain level of income,” she said. “That has fully stopped since March. But there are definitely people in much tougher positions, so I won’t whine.”

On top of the lack of stable income and unemployment filing issues, a stylist, who preferred to remain anonymous due to concerns over professional repercussions, told HuffPost that studios are offering a smaller stipend to dress talent for Zoom press appearances. Netflix reportedly tried to lower the stylist’s fee recently, despite creating and touting a $150 million COVID-19 relief fund to help laid-off members of the entertainment community. 

When reached for a comment, a spokesman for the streamer told HuffPost that they haven’t reduced rates for stylists. In terms of the fund, Netflix has been providing financial aid to the hardest hit workers on its productions until government safety nets kick in. The company has also donated $30 million to third parties and national and international non-profits, including the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, the British Film Institute, the Italian Film Commission and the Brazilian Institute of Audiovisual Content, among others.  

Although one would assume the workload would be a bit lighter for a virtual look, stylists said that’s not necessarily the case. It’s hard to get a true sense for what’s working or the overall vibe of a look when there are no in-person fittings. And Paster said all the clothes need to be dry-cleaned, sprayed and handled in a sanitary fashion before being sent to a client. 

Still, there’s work to be had. Urbinati styled Charlie Puth for album artwork and videos ahead of his summer single release, “Girlfriend.” Lady Gaga’s stylist duo Sandra Amador and Tom Eerebout worked on a music video with Sylvie Kreusch, who is quarantining in Belgium with Eerebout and his husband, director Joost Vandebrug. They also worked with photographer and director Rowan Papier and model Madison Headrick to shoot a remote video using a drone. 

Earlier this month, the BET Awards broadcast a virtual ceremony consisting of livestreams and videos from Megan Thee Stallion, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Usher, Chloe x Halle and Beyoncé, all of whom looked very put together for their performances and acceptance speeches.

Bryon Javar, whose client roster includes Saweetie and City Girls, styled host Amanda Seales in 13 looks from local and international Black designers, including Pyer Moss and Sergio Hudson. He told HuffPost he completed all of his selects through email and consulted over a few weeks for Seales’ custom looks, all of which were worn during her 12-hour BET Awards Zoom taping.

“We all had to be tested for COVID for the job, so during fittings we had to wear our mask ― of course [with] limited interaction and people around,” Javar said. “The day of taping, in between her 13 looks, myself, her makeup artist Renee and hairstylist Nicki B. would be on FaceTime telling her what looks were next, how to do her hair and makeup, etc. It was definitely different, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.”

Although Javar admitted he missed the stress of prepping for an award show red carpet, the socially distanced experience with Seales and her team prepped him for “the new normal.” 

“We’ve had to be resourceful and get creative,” Erlanger said of her community. “Now is the time to tap into that resilience, and we will come out of this stronger.” 

Fans who follow celebrity fashion on and off the red carpet are surely missing that form of escapism in the time of coronavirus. A slideshow of looks from the Met Gala would’ve been a brief distraction from a tense election year and some of the painful realities popping up around the country. But as hard as it’s been to adjust to unfamiliar terrain, stylists told HuffPost they know their industry will pick up once again — it’ll just take some extra safety measures (and a vaccine) to get there. In the meantime, they’re using this atypical downtime to their advantage.

Urbinati welcomed twins in the fall before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Instead of having to completely dive back into work, she was able to spend more time at home with her babies and 4-year-old daughter, as well as sit with some ideas she’s never had the chance to explore.

“This quarantine really did wonders for my entrepreneurial spirit,” she told HuffPost. “In the beginning it was really about that time with the babies. Around month three, I realized styling might not come back full blown for a while, so I got busy busting my ass on a bunch of other dream projects I had been wanting to do a long time, but never had time to. My dream side hustles became my full-time job.”

Although she didn’t disclose details about those projects, Urbinati said the fruits of her labor will come out by the end of the summer and admits this time in lockdown has been “the best thing that ever happened to me from a creative and career standpoint.” 

Amador and Eerebout have also been thinking outside the box and exploring the parameters of the industry from their respective quarantine spaces in New York and Belgium. 

“We’ve been brainstorming and experimenting with new ways of working as well as reading and researching for new inspiration,” Amador said, noting that she’s been meditating to remain centered. “It really has given us a moment to realign with ourselves creatively and gain clarity on our intentions and values as artists.”

Paster thinks it’s an added bonus that she and her peers have had the ability to focus on other passions and be fully present with their families, considering most of them work around the clock all year long. 

“The only time I’ve ever had off is around Christmas. I take 10 days off. I’ve never taken a vacation,” she said. “So in this downtime I’ve been really taking care of myself. I lost an extra 10 pounds. I’ve been working out; I’ve always wanted to start my wedding website so I’m doing that, and I’ve been looking into other things to do. I mean, I love dressing celebrities and I will continue dressing celebrities, but I found other interests, as well.”

Erlanger is harnessing her social media community while also focusing on her luxury bridal styling service, which has of course taken a slight hit due to restrictions on larger events. In light of that, she’s offering complimentary virtual consultations to couples whose nuptials have been impacted by the pandemic in return for donations made to Direct Relief and A Common Thread, as well as racial justice organizations EmbraceRace and Pretty Brown Girl. She’s also navigating her own shifting wedding plans. 

“Even though all my brides have postponed, at least there’s work to be had in the future. I’m very grateful in that sense. But, yeah, it’s a really tough time,” Erlanger said. “My heart goes out to hair and makeup, too. We’re all gig workers, right? We get booked per job and we’re not getting booked per job right now.” 

If there’s one thing they all miss, it’s planning ahead for big events like the Cannes Film Festival or the Emmy Awards. 

“Venice, as well, is one of my favorite events to style for,” Urbinati said of the “Big Five” film festival in Italy.  

Venice is moving ahead with its scheduled September dates and will adhere to social distancing rules as it debuts a reduced slate of movies in outdoor screening locations. But it’s unclear if the red carpet will still even happen or if the festival will eventually be canceled or postponed like other major events. 

“I was dressing the host of the Met [Gala]. I was dressing Meryl Streep!” Erlanger said of fashion’s biggest night on the first Monday in May. “Dresses were in production, fittings were scheduled, all of that was underway. And for other client-related activations too beyond Met, we tend to book out our time at least a month or two in advance and slowly everything started to get canceled.” 

The thought is that upcoming award shows, like the Emmys, will function in a similar fashion to the BET Awards, with celebrities appearing virtually rather than at a venue. Paster assumes celebrities will be styled and photographed for the event, but admits all her peers are “in limbo” when it comes to predicting the future of, say, the Golden Globes or the Oscars, which have both been moved by nearly two months to February and April 2021, respectively.

“This is a scenario that none of us have been in before, but I think it’s important everyone stays safe and follows the precautions to minimize the spread of the virus. Everyone’s health should come first and foremost,” Eerebout said, with Urbinati adding, “There have been pandemics before. They don’t last forever. It just might not [be over] quite as soon as we would all like it to.”

All of the stylists agreed that the normal happenings surrounding Hollywood events, magazine shoots and press tours will most likely be on hold until a vaccine becomes widely accessible. Until then, it’s a guessing game on how the entire industry will resume. Not only are production timelines affected, but fashion brands are unable to produce collections in certain timeframes, making it hard to imagine if samples or eveningwear will even be available for future award shows. Erlanger hopes this predicament will lead to more re-wears and sustainability on the red carpet.

“I know that when things do resume, the focus and emphasis on choosing to wear things that have a message or a reason behind them and are more thoughtfully curated will really come into play,” she said. “Whether that is a sustainable message or a political message, that will be something that we see more of as talent has a platform and a voice to be heard.” 

Javar said that for the time being, things will function similarly to his recent experience of dressing Seales: experimentation, virtual consults and fittings, no red carpet in sight. 

“I hope we are able to look back very soon like, ‘Whew, we made it through something we didn’t see coming,’” he said. “I’m praying for a red carpet in early 2021. I’m begging and pleading.” 

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