Whether you’re concerned about fine lines, dullness, redness, or breakouts, trying to find the right treatment can be a frustrating and overwhelming experience. If you’re curious about prescription skincare or are looking for a better way to get the treatment you need, there’s a smart, simple solution to get the skin you feel your best in—all from home.
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Rory is offering new members their first bottle of customized skincare for just $5! No matter what your skincare goals are, Rory is with you every step of the way, so you can put your best face forward.
This content is sponsored by Rory
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In a world of masks and COVID-19, your entire face is hidden from the world.
Which in many ways, is good news for your eyes – they finally get their time in the spotlight to twinkle, stare, or judge with every nuanced glance. But if eyes have become the new main attraction, eyebags have surely become the accessory that just loves to hang around, slung like an overstuffed fanny pack at a music festival that took place eons ago.
With so much stress, overconsumption of salty delights – like Pringles – and nights crying yourself to sleep, it’s only natural that your eye bags are even more empowered, puffy, sallow, and painted a sad purple. But you’re in luck! Just like the Coachella outfit you uploaded, felt cute and deleted later, you can do the same when it comes to your eyebags.
Yep – there’s now a product for that, too. We tested out the new men’s grooming brand, Disco, and had our own solo and socially distanced party in our bathroom. Among the offerings of the brand, from a Face Cleanser Stick for $16, Face Mask for $34, a eucalyptus deodorant for $12, is possibly the most useful SKU – the Eye Stick.
Unlike many eye creams or serums we’ve come across, this comes with a metal roller application. Think of it like a physical CTRL + A then DEL for your eyebags. The brand claims it’s the “secret weapon for looking well-rested and ready to roll and for undoing last night’s damage.” Understanding that last night’s damage really does equate to sleeping next to a cup of instant Kimchi ramen noodles in our age of coronavirus, we took this to task to see what it’s ~really~ about.
This Disco Stick – cue Lady Gaga circa 2009 – includes some impressive ingredients. They include:
– Our favorite and most dynamic ingredient, niacinamide, a potent Vitamin B3, which not only helps with blemishes, but fine lines, dull skin, and more.
– Next is an essential ingredient but the name of pycnogenol, a pine tree of the French variety. It helps neutralize oxidative stress, reducing puffiness and dark circles. Indeed, in this report by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the plant was able to enhance microcirculation.
– Finally, another product we love: caffeine. As much as you drink it for energy, you can also apply it to your skin for a hard reset. Not only does it soothe skin, but also is a powerful ingredient to shrink puffiness and add some jolt into your skin.
A little does go a long way. Not only is this stick the easiest roll-on we’ve come across, but it’s also the most enjoyable, too. The product isn’t sticky, nor is it too water-thin. It’s soft like an emulsion but feels like it stays on like a primer.
Gliding it under the eyes not only gave us instant reprieve, but the product came out with the perfect amount. We’ve tested many others and feel as if roll-on applicators are one of two camps. They either get stuck, with no product coming out, or the opposite: too much spews out, making for a messy experience. Disco’s Eye Stick is straightforward, depuffs on demand, but leaves you with enough product to gently pat under your eyes.
For the best application, we glided this under our eyes from outside to inside and once more. Then, taking our ring finger, gently patted the rest of the product in.
After testing for an entire week we’ve concluded that this is best used after refrigeration. With an icy applicator, your eyebags certainly will scurry away in fear. It will also provide you with a seriously cooling sensation that rivals that of a spa experience.
In a world of Zoom fatigue, I can only imagine having to do back-to-back interviews as an influencer or celebrity. “Hello, good to meet you, I’m –” as the Internet lags and someone drops their phone.
Yadda, yadda, yadda… the seventeenth call goes, where your eyes are strained from staring too hard into a stranger trapped in a small rectangle. And so, I realize it must be even more taxing if English isn’t your first language and you’re trying your best to convey your emotions and show off your vibrant personality.
Such is the case for Kemio Kurosawa, the 24-year old Japanese influencer and personality who calls me on a recent Wednesday. Fresh-faced, enthused, and a bit shy, he calls from New York City – his new home. Sporting a Prince white tee and a silver necklace, he stretches out his long, slender arms, which showcase his multiple tattoos.
For being so fierce in his videos with millions of followers, where he freely pokes fun at himself – one video is of him talking about his “shitty” eyebrow bleach job gone awry – he’s surprisingly soft-spoken and subdued. “Can you understand me, sorry my English,” he apologizes in a very Japanese way. “Your English is really great,” I reassure him.
Kemio may be new to Western audiences, but he’s a wunderkind back in his native Japan. A viral sensation from his Vine videos (when they were a thing), he captured his life as a high school teen. The virality translated to television, where he became a sought-after guest, and from there, a must-watch YouTube channel. So influential, he coins catchphrases on a dime that become part of the Japanese zeitgeist. Take for instance the word, “agemizawa,” slang for “hyped AF,” which is now dropped in conversations on every street corner in Tokyo.
“I guess it’s cool,” he says sheepishly before adding, “I do love being extra.” He proceeds to wear a devious smile. If he sounds humble, he is. Not only is he the epitome of youth culture, but he’s also setting trends throughout Asia. Today, he touts 3.9 million followers across all platforms, voted the number one personality in Japan by WWD. He was named GQ’s Man of the Year in December, and he’s also a model for Dior and Marc Jacobs, among others. Such an uproarious sensation, he made national news when he officially came out as gay in his first memoir, “Uchira Kanoke Made Eien no Runway,” which sold 130,000 copies in two months.
He’s now out, proud, and taking his newfound freedom to live authentically on his YouTube channel. Below, Very Good Light caught up with the star to talk about how he didn’t know he was half-Persian until high school, being shocked by people wearing shoes indoors and coming to terms with his sexuality. Oh, and he drops his skincare routine as well.
You’re a king with social media, but what I’m obsessed with is that you love 2NE1?!
I do love them so much and I saw Blackpink at Coachella. Again, I started getting into K-pop again. I like Twice, they’re so cute. I love all Korean girl groups – Blackpink, Mamamoo – but miss 2NE1.
So many people love you. How did you get popular?
When I was in high school I bought my first cell phone and first Twitter and Vine account. I was posting a lot of funny videos at the time. One of my videos went viral. I was creating a meme high school kind of thing. A lot of people liked it and I started all of this. Right after I finished high school I went on TV as a personality and when I turned 20 I decided to leave Japan and go to LA. I started a YouTube channel there.
When did you realize you were becoming more influential? When did you feel famous?
Yes, first time when I felt that was in the Harajuku District. After my video went viral I went to the Harajuku District every day. I started getting recognized there and was like, oh my God, I’m getting famous! I really liked it and I always wanted to be like a celebrity. I love being extra. Living in other countries, I was able to make content other social media influencers were not.
A lot of Japanese people are curious about the lifestyle in the United States and it helped my audience grow a lot just being myself. Every little thing from going to the grocery store to going to get your haircut.
What was the biggest cultural shock for you?
Wearing shoes at home. You don’t do that?
Of course not, I’m Korean!
I was living with roommates and I didn’t know them until I moved with them. They were naturally wearing their shoes and I was like, that’s kind of dirty. Now I do this too. Tipping was also something that was different – I think it’s really cool and you know, that’s showing your appreciation through money.
Why did you decide to come stateside?
It was something I expected to always do, part of my youthful fantasies. I felt I was living in a fantasy and I wanted to move to the U.S. I grew up watching the Disney Channel like “High School Musical” and “Hannah Montana.” It was a fantasy to live this American lifestyle. When I moved there was only one person that I know from Japan. There was one person and it was hard to meet people and make friends. I was really excited to do things in the United States. I used to go to a bar and talk to strangers. I practiced my English and talked to strangers and since they’re tipsy they don’t care about my grammar. I made friends through Instagram and DM a bunch of people on Instagram if I liked their style or fashion. I’m still friends with them.
Did you feel freer to be in the states, to be yourself?
I grew up and wasn’t comfortable with myself with my sexuality and being gay. But you know, after moving to America I witnessed so many people being comfortable with themselves. Those things inspired me to come out and be accepting of myself.
When was the moment when you knew you were gay?
Maybe I knew I was gay but I didn’t want to accept it. I had a girlfriend in elementary school. I always knew I was more attracted to guys. Japan is a relatively straight culture. I came out to only my close friends before coming to the United States.
After a year I spent in LA I went home and told my grandparents me being gay. I released my first book in Japan, I came out as gay in my book. Some of them were shocked in Japan, others were like, we knew he was gay. It was on the national news which was surprising to me. After I moved to the U.S. I didn’t know being gay was so surprising. But there were so many articles about Kemio coming out as gay. I thought I was the only one thinking gay was normal but in Japan, it wasn’t.
Were your grandparents okay with it?
They were shocked. I don’t think they liked it. My point of telling them was that I wanted them to know that I was gay. I wanted to let them know that I was gay since they raised me.
Speaking of which, I know your grandparents raised you.
They raised me since I was two. My parents passed away. My grandmother didn’t tell me about any details until I was in high school. Being half in Japan is tough in childhood. She didn’t want me to get hurt by that and tell me.
So it’s only then that you realized you were biracial? Was it a shock?
I actually wasn’t shocked, I was like, I knew it. I was like, I don’t look Japanese. My hair was always curly. I was always the tall guy and always taller than anybody. My dad is half-Persian and half-Italian. He was from Iran and that’s all the information I know about my dad. My mother was full Japanese.
What’s some advice for coming out into your own?
There’s no rush to anyone to come out. If you don’t want to come out, you don’t need to come out. I came out because I thought and realized I started thinking maybe being gay is not special that’s why I come out. But here’s the one thing I want to tell them – come out if you want to. Please don’t feel you’re different or doing something wrong. I was also so scared before I came out. But after I came out I felt people were going to be like, “Oh my God, why are you gay?” and change how they see me, but they weren’t like that.
A lot of people were so supportive and sending me lovely messages. Maybe before you come out you see the consequences but it’s going to be happy and get better. I don’t want to put so much pressure on coming out. If people are going to treat you differently for you being gay, cut them out – that’s what I did.
How about having a better relationship with social media?
Being on social media puts some weird pressure on me sometimes. For social media, I always do a detox. Maybe I’ll do it a couple of weeks. People think social media is everything and showing every single side of someone’s lives. Every time I see someone’s story or post I’m like, it’s only one small part of their lives. That makes me feel that I’m at home and seeing my friends and partying, why didn’t I get invited? I feel like such a loser. If I think that way, oh, that’s only one side of this person. Maybe that person feels alone and lonely as I feel right now. Now, I start thinking about the consequences before I post. I don’t know, maybe I’ll quit one day. I don’t know how I’ll settle down in my career, making people laugh.
DROP THE SKINCARE!
I use a Japanese cleanser by Sake by Wafood Made. It has sake so I feel extra clean using it. After, I’ll use SK-II’s Pitera Essence, which is what I always get duty-free at airports. It really is good. I love this Korean brand called Super Moist, a toner that I got in Korea at Oliva Young – I love it there. Using Lancome’s Advanced Genifique has been a gamechanger, and I use after cleansing and toning. Of course, I use so many sunscreens and face masks but what’s been the best help is this beauty device. It’s from Belega, a Japanese brand, and it emits red light. I put it over my face and it helps with lifting. Everyone needs a helping hand, and this one has been great.
It was only a matter of time before Soko Glam launched its own skincare brand.
Following in the well-glistened footsteps of Then I Met You, Charlotte Cho is at it again, this time spearheading another brand for the online K-beauty mecca, Soko Glam. Called Good (Skin) Days, the four SKUs debuted Monday, including a cleanser, moisturizer, toner, and serum.
The site launched almost a decade ago, and has since been renowned for curating the best South Korea has to offer. From Neogen, Klairs, Dr. Oracle, to Hanskin, Soko Glam has been the leader of bringing the best of Korean beauty to an American audience. The brand’s first skincare line is a nod to its slogan, “Only good (skin) days ahead.”
(David Yi/ Very Good Light)
“This launch is important to Soko Glam because it is the culmination of what we have cultivated over the past eight years – it’s a true reflection of our philosophy and our brand story of only good (skin) days ahead,” Charlotte tells Very Good Light.
According to Charlotte, the brand was developed around Soko Glam’s community and their needs. The most important aspects: that the price be accessible without cutting any corners when it came to formulation. This meant one-on-one consultations with her community, focus groups, as well as looking into reviews and testimonials to incorporate into the brand. The result: an affordable line of pH-balanced products that even those with the most sensitive of skins can enjoy. The product prices range from its A New Leaf Cream Cleanser ($16), to its serum, C’s the Day Serum($26).
Soko Glam sent me both their cleanser as well as its moisturizer, On the Bright Side ($24), and I tested them for a month. Here are my thoughts.
(David Yi/ Very Good Light)
On the Bright Side Moisturizer comes in 50 mL (or 1.69 fl oz), and its main ingredients are rice ferment (in the form of sake!), probiotics, ceramides, among others. A New Leaf Cream Cleanser comes in 100 mL (3.38 fl oz) and includes mugwort, celery, green tea, leaf extracts, citrus acid, among others.
(David Yi/ Very Good Light)
The New Leaf Cream Cleanser comes out in a gelatinous formula. No surprise, given that its main ingredient is mugwort, a flowering plant common in East Asia. You may recognize it in Korean rice cakes as the fragrant ingredient that makes the chewy treats extra savory. Though it comes out like dduk before it’s steamed, with water, it instantly lathers into a beautiful formula. Created with oil and water, Charlotte says it’s for those who don’t want a two-step oil and water cleansing process. AKA it’ll take off makeup and SPF and give you a squeaky clean feel as a one-stop shop. The formula also comes with pieces of green herbs – with every squirt you feel as if you’re truly getting an antioxidant wash. The experience is enjoyable and I really liked that the cleanser felt as if it was unique in form – just like Then I Met You’s sticky cleanser.
(David Yi/ Very Good Light)ays
The On the Bright Side Moisturizer is water-based and soaks into your pores with ease. Not only is it like a soothing emulsion, but it’s also perfect for the humid and hot summer months. The ultra-hydrating formula comes with probiotics, aka good bacteria for your skin, leaving you with a happy skin barrier that will thank you later. After a couple of weeks, I felt soothed, soft and I didn’t have a need for extra hydration. At nights though, you won’t want this to replace your sleeping masks or heavier creams. It’s super light and will last you through the day but won’t be thick enough to satiate your hungry nocturnal skin.
-Charlotte Cho launched Soko Glam’s first product, Good (Skin) Days in four SKU’s
-Ranges from $16 for a cleanser to $26 for a serum
-The cleanser is based off of mugwort, celery and green tea and has a very gelatinous physical form. It mixes well with water to create foam.
-The moisturizer is like a nice probiotic emulsion. But you’ll probably need a sleep mask or heavier cream for bed.
BUY or BYE?
Definitely BUY. Knowing Soko Glam is already the leaders of K-beauty, this was a no-brainer. If you want affordable, reliable, tested products definitely try the cleanser and the moisturizer. As for the toner and the serum? I’ll have to nab those before they’re sold out!
One, the rise of COVID-19, which still has no end in sight. The other, senseless murders of black and brown bodies by those in blue uniforms. For actor Kelvin Harrison Jr., one of the stars in The High Note (on demand now), it’s been an awkward time to promote a movie. But the 25-year old, who just relocated from Brooklyn to West Hollywood, is taking it in stride. For one, he’s taking time to heal, meditate, and read.
“This time has formed me to read about Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman,” he tells Very Good Light. “Immersing myself in these books and understanding significance of it and how it affects young black lives today is so important. It makes me question how [in our country] there’s always been different levels of access to privilege and power. I’m discovering more as I get older and it’s helped me with this chapter in my career.”
In his career so far, Kelvin hasn’t shied away from intense roles in storylines that are centered around Black history. His debut was in 12 Years A Slave, the 2013 movie adaptation to the memoir by Solomon Northrup, a man born free but kidnapped and sold into slavery. In 2016, he played Simon, in The Birth of a Nation, about Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion in Virginia. Later this year, he’ll play Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers in The Trial of the Chicago 7, directed by Aaron Sorkin. Kelvin stars alongside veteran actors like Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, among others.
While he has the range to play serious roles, he’s also exploring television, joining HBO’s Euphoria for season 2. And romcoms. “These days, I’ve been interested in love,” he says. “In self-worth, self-work, and just interested in sex. I think I want to explore more rom coms.”
In The High Note, which went straight to video-on-demand due to COVID-19, Kelvin plays David Cliff, an amateur singer who dreams of stardom. He stars alongside Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays the legendary singer, Grace Davis, as she navigates her life with her assistant, Maggie Sherwoode, played by Dakota Johnson. While the film reveals a lighter side to Kelvin’s repertoire, it also showcases his musicality. Throughout the movie, Kelvin sings – with his own voice. Not surprising is that he has a music background, which explains why his voice is so beautiful with an impressive range.
(Photo by Kelvin Harrison Jr. /Very Good Light)
Below, we caught up with Kelvin over Zoom and talked about being one of the token Black kids in high school, wearing Joel Edgerton’s sweaty socks, and the one thing Tracee Ellis Ross taught him.
Is it true that you declined this role?
I said no to this movie, what, one, two, three times maybe? I went in and I auditioned. I did the whole thing. They convinced me to do it. But then when I finally agreed, they didn’t give me the part. They said no. And then I end up like a week later, things changed. The guy that was supposed to do it wasn’t doing it anymore. Suddenly, I was doing it. The next day, I was on a plane to L.A. and I was recording music. That to me felt like destiny. I didn’t choose the path, a bigger power did, you know? I was supposed to do this movie for whatever reason. And that has not been revealed to me yet. But I did it and I’m grateful I did it.
The movie was supposed to premiere at all theaters then COVID-19 canceled everything. Did that bum you out?
I was fine. You know, I think the premiers to me are like an opportunity for me to dress up in nice clothes, go to get nice pictures taken. Because when I was a kid, I thought that was cool. I’ve kind of done that now and like, maybe I haven’t done it in the biggest way possible but premiers don’t live up to their hype. I think they’re cool, but I would much rather be at my home in my sweatpants, barefoot eating my food that I’ve decided to prepare and watch the movie with everyone else. And I get so much more fun.
How are you dealing with COVID-19? All okay?
I was excited to go to work. I’m a workaholic. All I think about is work. I dream about work. It’s a problem. And suddenly you’re not going to work. It’s been good because I’ve been reflecting a lot on my last five years and just the past five months. So much has happened with Waves coming out and Luce the love from those movies and then working with Sorkin. At first, I was kind of pretending to be good for a little bit. And I think now finally I’ve been reading more. I’ve been doing all the things that I want to do. I feel so charged up and ready to go now.
In The High Note you sing. I didn’t even know that you sang. Can you tell me about your musical background and growing up in a musical household?
I didn’t really know that I sang, either! [laughs] Well, my parents and musicians. So my dad’s a classical jazz pianist and my mom’s a jazz vocalist. Growing up at home, there was constant music. I went to jazz camp every summer, three jazz Creative Arts School for just piano after school. And in practice, I was playing the keyboard in the church. So I was nonstop. But my vocal coach was a miracle worker.
(Photo by Kelvin Harrison Jr. / Very Good Light)
Valerie Moorehouse is her name – she’s a funny little thing. She really helped me gain confidence and vocal support, trying to expand my range. I would sing for fun on growing up, but it wouldn’t be like this. And I think. We did forty five minutes every day driving lessons every day, and most of the time it was just about just building confidence. I get strep a lot and my voice is always a mess. My voice is always like ugh. She taught me about healthy ways to live like getting an air purifier.
You star alongside Tracee Ellis Ross. What’s the biggest lesson she taught you?
She’s always happy no matter what’s going on. She is joy. I think what’s beautiful about Tracey is that she can find any moment and can make any person laugh. She can sort of solve the subtle tension in any room. She does it with grace and beauty. And I think that is what I’m taking from her, moving forward. There is a way to be powerful in your work. Stand your ground and say what you need to say but be nice.
Your next film, The Trial of the Chicago 7 seems so epic with such a big cast. Tell me about that.
I play Fred Hampton who just took over the Chicago chapter’s Black Panther Party when he was 17. And he was also murdered by the FBI when he was 21 in his sleep. It’s a really interesting movie. It’s beautifully written. One of the best scripts I’ve ever read if not the best script I’ve ever read. Sorkin was a dream it was so, so striking to me to walk in on the first day. I was doing Waves press and I had to fly back and forth every week and weekend from L.A. to Jersey. I landed at 4:00 a.m. and I went to work at 5:00 a.m. and the first thing I had was me barging into a room. And I’m like going off on Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Sacha Baron Cohen and Jeremy Strong and all these guys. I’m kind of like, what is the scene? What have you done to me, sir? But Aaron is so encouraging. And I learned so much.
Is it intimidating being next to such veteran actors?
My parents were always just like, who cares? And I think that was that mentality of knowing you’re there for a job. Yes, I love your work, but also, we’re on the call sheet together and we still have to show up and do the job. I was like, you’re not going to like me if I don’t do my job well so I’m going to push through. When you get on set, you start seeing them and kind of go, ‘oh, you don’t know your lines today either,’ or ‘you’re kind of nervous, too,’ or ‘you never done this before either.’
Do you ever get close to your co-stars?
I’ve also been really fortunate to have people that have taken care of me. When I did It Comes At Night, Carmen [Ejogo] and Joel [Edgerton] both said to come to their house. “We’ll cook you dinner,” they said. We had long walks, Carmen and I went grocery shopping together to buy stuff for our AirBNBs. You know, Joel and I built a fire while chopping down trees. Wait, I chopped down trees and I made a fire when he watched. [laughs] But it was very, like, very fatherly of him. He gave me his, like, dirty socks and I put them on and I was like, “oh, my God! I’m wearing Joel’s sweat on my feet.” But you know, at the end of the day, you got to come in and do the work. So I’ve always put the work first. Otherwise, I don’t get it. I won’t get to see them at all to continue to meet my idols.
Now that you’ve done everything what do you want to tackle next?
I guess I’ve been interested in love and want to explore that. I’ve been interested in and self-worth and self work and stuff like that, and I’m interested in. And I’m interested in sex. I want to explore sexuality and sensuality and how what that look like in 2020. Wow. So, yeah, that’s where my mind is going.
In multiple cities across the country, images of banks being set on fire, Molotov cocktails thrown at police cars, and buildings ablaze are displayed everywhere from our television screens to social media. Americans are enraged. They’re mourning. They’re tired. Protestors are marching against police brutality – most of them peaceful, others anarchist – with the same message: They demand change and they need it now.
Black Americans are exhausted from waiting for America’s promises for change, what Roxanne Gay writes have been “comfortable lies.” After all, our country has yet to own its oppressive history that’s caused deliberate damage against black and brown bodies. Its nefarious structures have continued to propel disadvantages for black communities that can still be seen today. This, from our school systems, neighborhoods, employment, incarcerations, to hospitals now with disproportionate amounts of COVID-19-related deaths.
One of the most egregious examples of injustices have stemmed from decades of police brutality. What Huey P. Newton once fought against during the Black Panthers era is still what we are facing today. In the past month alone, we’ve witnessed George Floyd murdered by a policeman; Ahmaud Arbery gunned down by white vigilantes; Breonna Taylor killed by cops, mistaking her home for another’s, and many, many others who didn’t make the news. For Black Americans everywhere this painful reality isn’t new.
It’s a cruel reminder that our country has never been great, rather, a capitalistic system made off of the backs of people of color. While white folks have reaped the benefits of America’s promises, they have long neglected how it only benefits people who look a certain way. But the blinders are now being torn off to show how evil and ugly America has always been. The bandages are now unraveling to reveal a country that’s never healed from slavery to Jim Crow. Instead, it’s exposing rotting flesh, infected by a virus called hate, with a president who chooses not to find a cure, hoping that it will finally destroy the people he’s willfully ignored.
But the world is waking up to the madness of the Trump administration. Black Lives Matter is no longer a movement for black Americans only. On the streets from Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Denver, New York City, to Salt Lake City, people from all backgrounds are marching in solidarity, allying with their brothers and sisters. It’s catching on overseas as well. From London to Tokyo, people are demanding change. They’re observing from afar, showing strength and solidarity, validating how America is not the “world’s greatest country” it’s purported to be.
And it’s sparking real change. For the first time in four years, we’re witnessing a boisterous president suddenly shrink away. He’s not only unhinged, he’s alone. Sitting on his throne inside the White House, he has little to no more moves left. His greatest fear is facing millions against him. To destroy Trump and his cronies means erupting with collective anger and disempowering him once and for all.
In order to do so, we must burn America down.
For centuries, native peoples in continents around the world have understood human relationships to fire. Fire could destroy their land if inadvertent, but could allow it to prosper if used deliberately. Since, fire has become an essential tool used to continue the livelihood of any ecosystem. In order for land to prosper, forest fires are necessary to start anew.
From an ecological standpoint, healthy forest fires turn dead, decaying, or damaged plants to ash, returning precious nutrients back into the soil. Another study published in National Geographic found that fire was the only way to clear underbrush so thick it’s prohibited the sun from ever shining onto forest floors. The only way forward is to set it ablaze – the future of the forest’s living, breathing ecosystem depends on it.
The World Wildlife Federation has since called this method “backburning,” a technique that involves a controlled path of fire. The fires are not only well-managed, but controlled, and are effective in stopping out-of-control aspects of land. But backburning isn’t only for destroying unwanted vegetation, it’s also to prevent uncontrolled forest fires. Natural, low-intensity wildfires have occurred in the wild to burn dead, old, discarded trees, plant debris, excess insects, to make way for young, new flora to thrive. “The new growth in turn supports forest wildfire,” the WWF writes on their website. In the long term, forest managers have discovered that controlled, deliberate fires are the only way to make room for the future generations to bloom, grow and flourish.
A few years ago my friend who I’ll call Chris, and I were at a local bodega. It was a sweaty, humid, New York City summer and we were in Chinatown after slurping on soup dumplings. We were buying seltzer and I offered to pay. Chris asked me matter-of-factly if I was getting the receipt. I don’t care, I replied, shrugging it off playfully. Should I use it as a tax return? You don’t always take receipts with you? He asked. No need, I replied.
For Chris, who’s a Black American, getting a receipt had been taught by his mother since he was a child. Growing up in the South, his mother would instruct him to ask for receipts after every purchase. It was one way to prove to anyone that he hadn’t stolen anything. A preventative measure to prove his innocence. That receipt, he was told, could mean life or death.
It was humbling and made me realize how I, as an Asian American, have lived with so much privilege. I would never need a receipt from a local bodega. I would never have to prove my innocence. I would never have to fear being perceived as guilty. That moment, while small, was extremely telling of the disparity between me and him. Until his life was seen as equal to mine, we would never be freed.
It’s why we, as non-black people, must continue to support our Black American brothers and sisters. We must swallow hard pills, have difficult conversations, and center their voices. We must protect, enact, demand change in big ways and small. After all, we’ve been blind to certain privileges our entire lives, reaping the benefits off those who have been oppressed. Until Black people can have all of the same privileges — until Chris can walk into any store without fear of being accused — we must all bear the burden to make change.
Which is why we must burn our system down completely to ashes. We must smash white supremacy and its laws down to mere bits of fleeting dust. We must use our power to vote out policies to unfetter ourselves from the chains of brutality. We must tend to our collective rage and turn it into an inferno so great — so hot — that it decimates America’s outdated, unjust systems forever. Only then can we resurrect our country and move forward.
Like wild forests, we must burn dead debris, singe the decaying trees that do not serve future generations, and char excess underbrush that attempts to suffocate life below. Let’s take our torches and take out the old regime, planning where to burn, where to grow, where to take life from here.
To burn it all down is the only way out.
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May is officially Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, celebrating the journey of Asian Pacific Americans, what they’ve accomplished, and what’s to come. For an entire week, Very Good Light is kicking off a series of Asian American stories, highlighting the future of Asian America. From Generation Z activists, healthcare workers on the front lines, music artists, and more, we’re uplifting Asian stories. We’ve partnered this week with Hate Is A Virus, a grassroots campaign that aims to raise $1 million to businesses affected by COVID-19. Together, we hope to spark conversations, change, and community. After all, the Asian American experience is the American experience. We’re in this together. For more on Hate Is A Virus, go here.
I grew up as one of the only Asian Americans in a mostly white high school in Colorado Springs, CO. My peers wore Abercrombie & Fitch. They listened to Blink 182 and Eminem. They gathered at each others’ houses on a weekly basis to watch the latest episode of The OC. Unlike many other Asian American experiences – kids who would give anything just to fit in, to be accepted for even one semester – I truly didn’t give two f***s.
I’d blast Korean pop music from my MP3 player, scribble on my paper bag-wrapped textbooks “Korean PRIDE,” wear my hair in a floppy, 2000s K-Pop way, all while speaking in Korean to any exchange students I could find in the hallways. Of course, this made me a social pariah. I had zero friends in my class – I was obviously too Asian for my high school and they didn’t know what to do with someone like me. But despite their best attempts, they couldn’t erase me from the halls. I wasn’t like any other Asian American they met…I was loud. If I didn’t agree with you, you’d certainly know it. When my assertion created tensions within my classes, I’d call out teachers who would practice microaggressions, call me “Oriental,” or side with a racist classmate. I took none of it and, consequently, set my high school on fire.
In the midst of all of the chaos, I recall being a lonely child dreaming of a bigger world outside Colorado. I’d eat lunch alone in my Jeep Cherokee, blasting Amerie, imagining a better future where possibly I, too, would be accepted for who I was.
Through my high school rage I practiced becoming unabashedly Asian, almost militant in my identity. To survive, I read history books about Asian immigration, Asian American pioneers, and anti-Asian politics. I channeled my studies, and agenda, into the school’s newspaper, The Lever, finding space to articulate and publish my thoughts for our high school audience. I didn’t care that my reporting never catered to a mostly white readership, much to the chagrin of my editors. Asian American history was American history, after all, and I figured these people needed education.
I wrote an article about Abercrombie & Fitch’s racist depictions of Asians (it was of two Chinese immigrants in coolie hats with the words “Two Wongs Can Make It White”). It caused an uproar. The day after it was published students confronted me, saying I should, “Go back to China” if I didn’t like it. Nevertheless, I remained undeterred. Focused. Even though I was only a baby activist, I was fearless.
(Photo by David Yi/ Very Good Light)
The next few articles featured two Korean immigrants and their experiences; the rise of Asian technology; and a two-part story about how my Korean grandparents escaped the Korean War. Though I felt no one believed in it at the time, the latter eventually won first place for a statewide Colorado High School Press Association award.
My advocacy, played out in the public high school domain, soon ushered in detractors who tried to silence me. The features editor my junior year, met me in the hallways to speak about her issues with my ideas. “They’re too Asian, David,” she said, without skipping a beat. “We don’t want to be labeled an Asian-loving newspaper.” I blinked, hardly shocked. “Even if I wrote about an Asian American story every single day of the year, there still would be a lack of stories about my people.” I stalked off to collect my thoughts in my Jeep.
But the feelings of erasure and gaslighting wasn’t an experience I, as an Asian American, experienced alone. And it wasn’t even their fault. None of my peers cared about Asian Americans because we were no Asian Americans to be found. Not in our history books, not on television (unless the Yellow Power Ranger counts?), not in movies. It was as if we’d never been here — we simply didn’t exist.
And so I continued pouring over textbooks, finding comfort in history. I was both saddened and heartened to know that many ancestors before me also felt pushback. My experiences weren’t unusual. I learned Asians have always been treated with fear and disgust. The largest mass lynching in America was in 1871, when 20 Chinese immigrants were hung by white Americans in Los Angeles. There would be two other massacres subsequently after. Native Americans certainly weren’t safe: when Sikhs immigrated to California in 1907, they were targeted with hate attacks.
A decade later, would-be immigrants from China were completely barred from entering the US with the Chinese Exclusion Act, passed in 1882. Those who were brought over, like a few Filipinos, were treated like animals. In 1905, a white American named Truman Hunt, brought 50 men from the Bontoc Igorrote tribe from the Philippines back to the U.S. He made them a part of his exhibition at Coney Island, where people could come to see “how savage” these Asian men were. In 1930, there’d be anti-Filipino riots in Watsonville, CA, demanding that immigrants be banned from the city. They’d become ineligible for citizenship.
(Photo by David Yi/ Very Good Light)
During 1941, the U.S. would go after Japanese Americans after the Japanese navy attacked Pearl Harbor. In an executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, more than 100,000 Japanese Americans – and Native Americans and a few Latinx as well, who were thought to be Asian – were sent to Internment camps. It’d be the only time the government would force a group of Americans to be imprisoned en masse. The anti-Japanese sentiment carried into 1982 when a group of white American men beat a Chinese American named Vincent Chin to death. Believing he was Japanese, murderers accused him of taking their jobs away from the American automobile industry.
Though we’ve been here for centuries, I was appalled that these important stories weren’t being taught in our curriculum. We’d read about the Civil Wars, European history, but Asians were relegated to a footnote at the bottom of our textbooks. It reinforces why education is so vital.
I graduated high school with a firm understanding of my place in America and how as an Asian American, I’d continue to go unseen. Sadly, not much has changed in my adult years. I wrote about feeling invisible back in 2016 – and it still rings true today.
Though I became accustomed to the idea of remaining a perpetual foreigner – that I didn’t belong and never would – I never expected the pain of encountering anti-Asian history in my lifetime.
In the 2000s, I witnessed South Asian Americans targeted with hate crimes, much like I’d read about throughout the previous century. It would carry on into the 2010s. In 2016, an Indian American man named Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot and killed at a bar. The hate crime was eerily similar to Vincent Chin’s killing – both were perpetrated by white American men consumed with xenophobia.
Fast-forward to 2020 and we’re seeing how Americans haven’t learned from our dark past. Anti-Asian sentiment has run rampant in the midst of Coronavirus, reminding me of what I’d read about Asian Americans facing for decades prior. Since March, there have been thousands of racist reports of beatings, verbal harassments, and assaults – daily. It’s disappointing, and deeply troubling, that nothing’s changed.
I feel enraged. Just like I was in high school, I have remained audaciously Asian American. Throughout my career as a journalist in New York City, I’ve combated against racist editors who attempted to squash my voice. It made me realize we, as a people, have so much more work to do. But, as always, it all only further inspires me to continue to fight not only for the visibility of my own, but for all marginalized people. From the LGBTQ+ communities, Black Lives Matter, indigenous brothers and sisters, the undocumented Latinx, and much more, I’ve realized that every struggle is my struggle. Since, I co-founded Advocates for Inclusion in Media, along with my friend Sarah Springer, a Black American creative. We wanted to send the message that we’re stronger together. We’re in this together.
And so, to counter future erasure, I’ve decided that we need to uplift Asian American stories even more. To celebrate Asian Pacific American History Month (it’s all of May, if you didn’t know) Very Good Light is dedicating an entire week to Asian American stories. We’ve partnered with the grassroots movement, #hateisavirus, a campaign that aims to raise over $1 million towards Asian American businesses affected by anti-Asian sentiment and hate. Collectively, we’re presenting you with an entire series of stories that hope to educate, empower, and eradicate hate.
I think about high school-David today, and wonder what he’d think of his adult self. Would he think I was weak? Would he be disappointed that I didn’t work harder to advance underrepresented voices? Would he think all of his hard work would be in vain? While I don’t know the exact truth, I do hope he’d at least be proud that I’m still loud, still vocal, and still as angry as ever.
I can hear my younger self writing these words on the pages of my high school newspaper. It’s late at night in the English classroom where The Lever would put together the final touches to our monthly ‘zine. The room is quiet, the sun setting in an orange pink melange. There, in large, serif font is this across the front pages. “Silence is erasure and erasure is death. Will you stand with me?”
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On my fourteenth round of trying Doja Cat’s “Say So” dance, I realized it was time to let it go.
Sweat dripping down my blemished skin, making its way down to my bony clavicle, I realized that it just wasn’t working. I had failed. I immediately deleted the video on TikTok and threw my iPhone into the kitchen. It was already 1:13 p.m. and I hadn’t accomplished a single thing except trying to learn a viral dance that wouldn’t even make it into my group chat.
Was I okay? Why was I attempting to launch a TikTok? Was this my version of spiraling at a time of quarantine? I didn’t have an answer.
Like most Americans, ever since COVID-19 upended our lives, my mental health has been iffy at best. I’ve distracted myself by eating bags full of carbs and crunchy fried things, scrolling through Instagram to keep me busy, while writing on the side to get my mind off of things. But every time I read about how our president is handling this with grave incompetence, or nurses dying on the frontlines to save those with coronavirus, or how people are protesting to come out of quarantine, I spiral. My urge to scream is assuaged by my lack of energy. Though I know how grateful I should be – I have a bed to sleep on at night, food to eat, friends to call – it feels me with insurmountable guilt knowing that thousands are dying while I’m complaining about TikTok.
(Photo by David Yi/ Very Good Light)
That same morning, I received a package from the CBD brand called oHHo. I’d opened the package, where I discovered two separate paper cylinders with illustrations of Colorado and New York. How funny, I thought, thinking the universe was pulling a fast one on me. I’m currently in self-isolation in Colorado, my new place of residence, while New York had been my home for the past decade. Was this a sign? If anything, it felt kismet.
Regardless, I expressed much gratitude as I was in need of something to calm my anxiety. Turns out both locations are core to oHHo‘s business as both locations are where they farm their CBD. One strain is from the mountains of Colorado, the other, the valleys of, well, Hudson Valley. The two states are the crux of oHHo and it was ironic that it was the same for me. Similarly, both Colorado, my place of birth, and New York, where my career was nurtured, were essential to the person I became. As I pored over the thought, I realized it triggered me into a state of nostalgia.
(Photo courtesy oHHo)
As it’s described, nostalgia is a “longing for the past,” or remembrance of a period or place that connects with a happy memory. Nostalgia also derives from the two Greek words: Nostos, which means “return home” and “algos,” which means pain. Together, it means homesickness and the pangs you get when you think about your past. Nostalgia then, in its essence, is a mix between pleasure and pain. It both punches you in the gut, but somehow makes your smile.
Recent studies have shown how powerful nostalgia is for your well-being, even going so far to conclude that it’s the antidote to fear. According to one Rutgers University finding, nostalgia is the only tool that can “help restore a sense of meaning in life.” One researcher there concluded that nostalgia allows humans to “think about our most meaningful relationships – the people who love us, make us feel important, and give us confidence.” Ultimately, nostalgia is so potent because it reminds us of who were were and how we still matter.
An article from The Atlanticreiterates this notion and explains how nostalgia’s primary function is to make sense of our ever-changing emotions and allows us to make sense of it all. “You were once the person who visited your grandmother and hosted dinner parties, and you’re still that person, even though you can’t do those things right now,” the article emphasizes.In that moment, I remember having a That’s So Raven type of flashback, and traveled back to my humble one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment. The humble walk-up has three plants in one corner, though two have died. There’s a tiny stove that sits next to my L-shaped IKEA couch. As I open my window, a hum of Caribbean music blasts through, its based booming through my concave chest. A block party is about to begin. I walk down my stairs and outside, take a left towards the Brooklyn Museum. With an iced oat milk latte in hand, I wind my way through the bustling farmer’s market. There, I bump into an editor colleague from my past, we briefly catch up before she gives me a warm hug.
(Photo by David Yi/ Very Good Light)
Back in the present, I tear into both Colorado and New York tinctures and place a few drops under my tongue. I hope it will calm my sporadic mind, one that has difficulty retaining information as of late. oHHo suggests trying .25 ml and then increasing by .25 ml until you reach 1 ml max. In my case, I take .5 ml, wait a few seconds, and swallow the oil. Instantly, my brain feels as if it’s embraced by a supernatural force. I move to lay on my back and gently closed my eyes. It feels warm and I feel secure, as if a heavy blanket sits on my abdomen. The sensation allows me to stop time – no more nostalgia, just the present moment.
When I later ask the brand about this #brainhug sensation, they explain to me that it’s very normal. After all, CBD – aka cannabinoid – brings our bodies back into homeostasis.
CBD – aka Cannabidiol – is one of many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. The primary cannabinoid in oHHo’s oils helps bring bodies back into homeostasis. The reason their products work in the way they do is because they are full spectrum (which, if you need a refresher, go here) – not just including CBD but many other cannabinoids as well, enhancing the overall benefits.
(Photo by David Yi/ Very Good Light)
It works in tandem with our own endocannabinoid system, which regulates and balances the body, including our immune response, communication between cells, metabolism, memory, sleep, among many other functions. A CBD like oHHo, then, allows your body to come back into balance.
“For some this could be sleep, for others, anxiety, and still for others, inflammation,” the brand tells me. “If your brain was feeling particularly overloaded when you tried it then perhaps your system responded to oHHo by calming it down and trying to bring you back into a more restful state.”
For me, the CBD oil stopped my mind in its tracks. After my brief meditation, I opened my eyes back to the world, refreshed and renewed. I conclude that while nostalgia is indeed powerful, it’s best used in small doses for times when you feel as if you’re helpless. For the day-to-day, it’s truly being present, practicing discipline in the moment, and conquering your fears with your own volition.
Nostalgia be damned – if I can make it in New York, I can make it through quarantine.
Growing up, Carly Stein couldn’t take over-the-counter medicines due to an autoimmune condition.
That meant that for every cough, sneeze, or fever, she’d have to figure out other remedies to cure her condition. It was while studying abroad a few years ago that she came down with tonsillitis. Fearing she’d have to go back home, she searched her local pharmacy, hoping she might find anything to help. It’s there she found an ingredient that would change her life. It was bee propolis, what she was told had over 300 beneficial compounds, many supporting immunity. What was most incredible is that it wasn’t only natural, it was super efficacious at curing her tonsillitis.
It’s at that moment she realized others needed to know about this natural alternative as well. Back at home in Canada, she searched far and wide and couldn’t find bee propolis readily available.
“It’s crazy to me that people live clean lives when it comes to their diet, beauty products and homes, yet when it comes to being sick, turn to remedies with harmful toxins and chemicals,” she tells Very Good Light.
She has a point. In an industry obsessed with vegan and clean ingredients, the same energy isn’t put into over-the-counter drugs or synthetics we put into our bodies. As such, she decided to quit her then position at Goldman Sachs and launch her own brand called Beekeeper’s Naturals.
But for those worrying about the health of bees, fear not. Being a sustainable beekeeper is actually helping bees to survive and thrive. It’s no secret that in the past few years, global bee populations have declined due to wide uses of pesticides, climate change, which leads to habitat loss. Because of that, 1 in 4 bees are at risk for extinction. Recently, almond farms have come under the microscope after being accused of overworking bees – to death. Other farmers feed bees with sugar water, which weakens their health. “We make sure we never over harvest, from our hives always ensuring our bees have plenty of their own foods to stay healthy and thrive,” she says.
This means that she partners with “green apiaries,” that is sustainable bee farms, which provide 5 miles for bees to forage with plants that are free from pesticides.
“In the big picture, sustainable beekeeping serves the greater health of all pollinators—it promotes an awareness of dangerous, pollinator-harming pesticides and supports healthy habitat maintenance,” Carly tells us. “By buying sustainably-sourced bee products like honey and propolis, you are speaking volumes with your dollars. The greater the demand for sustainable bee products, the greater the incentive for large-scale beekeepers to adopt more sustainable practices—which would be a win for everyone, especially the bees.”
But do her products actually work?
In short – yes, they really do. So much so that I was compelled to immediately write about the amazing results. Beekeeper’s Naturals couldn’t come at a better time, when people are attempting to boost their immune systems. For an entire month, I tested the brand’s classics: B. Powered Superfood Honey, Propolis Throat Spray, and its newest, which launches today: B. Soothed Cough Syrup.
First of all, can I just say that every single one of these products tastes better than candy?
Let’s start with the B. Soothed Cough Syrup. Obviously, honey is a sweet-flavored product, but the B. Soothed Cough Syrup was sugary but not too saccharine, a little tart from its elderberry, and had an umami flavor profile thanks to its chaga mushrooms. But it doesn’t end there. The syrup – free from drugs, chemicals, refined sugars, dyes, and more – also includes pure buckwheat honey, a super powerful and antioxidant-rich honey. As Carly tells us: “Its antioxidant count rivals honeys that of widely acclaimed therapeutic honeys like manuka—which is why I like to call it ‘North America’s manuka.'”
One morning, I woke up with a sore throat. Like many world citizens, I panicked, thinking that I probably had symptoms of COVID-19. I took this cough syrup and it immediately coated my throat. So much so, that there was instant relief. After two days, my throat was back to normal. How could this be true? What witchcraft was this?
As Carly explains, it works because of its superpower ingredients taken together. Elderberry is an amazing source of Vitamin C, a known ingredient to ward off colds, as well as a powerful antioxidant. Together with Chaga mushrooms, which heal and boost immune systems, they are potent for getting the body back to tip top shape.
How do I 100% know that this product actually isn’t a placebo? I also had my parents, who had the same symptoms, take it and at the end of the third day, we all had no more throat soreness.
While taking spoonfuls of the delicious cough syrup day and night, inbetween, we used the Propolis Throat Spray. It was like a spritz of sugar down your throw – a pleasant if not seemingly sinful experience. Propolis is great for cleaning the system, and has been used for centuries to keep immunity going strong. For bees, propolis is lined on hive walls to keep germs out. Not only did this remedy any pain, it was such a pleasure to use, I found myself spritzing my mouth even when I didn’t need to. Don’t judge.
This is a product my family’s been taking every day for the past month. Not only does it have raw honey, it’s also royal jelly (what the queen bee eats!), pollen, and propolis. It’s now become a part of my family’s daily regimen, with over 300+ beneficial compounds. A small amount every morning goes a long way. For the past month, I’ve been feeling stronger, more energetic, and less sickly – even from allergies. Not only that, I find myself thinking better as well. When I asked Carly about this, she said it only makes sense. Royal jelly contains 10-HDA, an ultra unique fatty acid that is said to nourish the brain, clarifying it in the process. Not only does this help my body, it’s truly been a godsend for working from home and focus.
Beekeeper’s Natural, how obsessed am I?! Honestly, I’ll never go back to synthetic, chemical-filled cold remedies after this. One taste of the B. Soothed Cough Syrup, I was hooked. So much so, Lighters, I had to write a review about this – even if it isn’t traditionally a beauty product. Why? Because it works.
In a new special monthly column with Byrdie Boys, Very Good Light’s own editor, David Yi, writes about beauty from the inside out. This space is all about celebrating inner and outer light, and what that means from a beauty lens.
The day Very Good Light launched was the day I realized I’d become an imposter.
That Tuesday, planted on the front page of the New York Times Stylesection, was none other than me and a photograph of my bad side (like Ariana Grande, it’s our right) gazing at the camera as if I was someone special.
I give a self-assured smirk, learned from watching way too many Kpop videos, and hunch my shoulders with a hint of bother, an attitude perfected through my years of being a fashion editor. My head shorn on the sides with the top mane slicked back, I’m wearing a silk crimson and black Saint Laurent jacket that I’ll later return to Barney’s (sorry, Barney’s! RIP!). I look like some glamorous Brooklyn entrepreneur. A Crazy Rich Asian. A guy who has it all together.
Or complete fake.
Who is he?
Who isn’t he?
In reality, I had no clue who he was. I had yet to find my own light. The guy on those pages was certainly not the man sitting at this Prospect Heights cafe in Brooklyn, frantically looking over his finances, with cold, anxiety-sweat dripping down his round cheeks (or were those tears?).
I had just left my cushy full-time with a big announcement, that I was launching a men’s beauty site all about redefining masculinity. We’d tell stories about the new male experience, diverting from a traditional, suffocating heteronormative lens. It should be about untethering men from toxic masculinity and showcasing what freedom could look like.
This was 2016, years before #metoo, #timesup or any viral Gillette commercial and people were confused. What do you mean, redefine masculinity? What’s wrong with it now? And a beauty site for men? Men need that kind of advice?
“The guy on those pages was certainly not the man sitting at this Prospect Heights cafe in Brooklyn, frantically looking over his finances, with cold, anxiety-sweat dripping down his round cheeks (or were those tears?)”
The greater good, I’d reply, was to create a safe space for all masc-identifying people to be free and channel their authenticity. Whether that’s equipping yourself with lipstick or a brow gel, beauty wasn’t just skin-deep. Beauty, after all, was about self-respect, self-love and self-awareness. More so, beauty was all about coming to terms with who you were, shining your light from the inside out. My hypothesis was if we empowered men to embrace their softness and allow them to be their true selves, the world starts to change.
From that guiding light, the name was born. Very good light wasn’t just about vanity – how to tease those brows or find that perfect foundation. It was about finding and nurturing that inner light, that powerful confidence, with the sole purpose of making this world a less dark place.
“I realize that resilience breeds beauty and true beauty comes from being able to endure your greatest challenges.”
A few years later – with lots of laughs, many tears, nights sleeping on friends’ couches not knowing where I’d be next – the world has vastly changed. It’s become a more inclusive, empathetic and pretty world. Men are starting to embrace their beauty and flaunt it like no other time in recent history. In Seoul, guys refuse to leave their homes without penciling in their brows and applying a B.B. cream. On red carpets, more and more Hollywood heartthrobs like Ansel Elgort are wow-ing audiences by wearing a face full of glitter on red carpets. And on YouTube channels everywhere, the biggest stars – not only in beauty – are men who beat, blend and bake their faces until they shine for the gods. Bretman Rock, a beauty mogul and makeup artist, is one of the biggest influencers, just having launched a collaboration with Wet N’ Wild. But it doesn’t end there.
Thanks to social movements advocating for inclusion, beauty has become big business. Major brands and corporations are all taking notice of men’s beauty. From Cover Girl and its first “Cover Boy,” James Charles, Chanel debuting its first makeup line just for guys, to Milk Makeup’s take on makeup for all, the beauty boy explosion is no longer niche – it’s mass market. It’s this shift that Very Good Light has been documenting since its inception and it’s so exciting to have championed this movement.
“With lots of laughs, many tears, nights sleeping on friends’ couches not knowing where I’d be next.”
Since, millions call Very Good Light their home. In many ways, the site has become a refuge for all masculine-identifying people who seek to explore identity, empowerment – myself included. And after four years, we’re finally finding recognition.
For one, we’re collaborating with brands like Byrdie in a monthly co-published column called “Byrdie Boys.” Every month, Byrdieand Very Good Light will celebrate masculine-identifying people and what sparks their own good light through a beauty lens. We’ll explore what beauty means from products to people.
In 2020, I can’t help but sigh with relief and beam with pride that Very Good Light has survived. We’re still here, pushing culture forward, embracing beauty in all forms. Though the world has changed, I for one, haven’t. Still feeling like an imposter – a fake – I turn to this community of masculine-identifying people to provide me with the empowerment I need to face another day. Along with this community I realize that I no longer am forced to hide in the shadows, rather, can and should be celebrated, just like everyone else. I realize that resilience breeds beauty and true beauty comes from being able to endure your greatest challenges. Everyone deserves to be spotlighted, everyone is entitled to their shine. Everyone has very good light. This column’s for all of that and more. Let’s set the world on fire.