Farrah Moan of RuPaul’s Drag Race is a fish in water ?

You know her as Farrah Moan, one of the fourteen queens who competed for the crown in season nine of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Best known for stealing the hearts of America with her sickening looks and endearing whines and moans, the 24-year old ended up placing eighth. However, out of drag, Cameron Clayton is much more than just a queen. He’s a full-blown superstar who’s unabashed about both his masculinity and femininity as well as gender identity.

SEE ALSO: You’ll never guess Soju the Drag Queen’s day job

“I’m a firm believer that your gender isn’t defined by your genitalia,” Farrah tells Very Good Light. The Las Vegas showgirl now resides in Los Angeles a place now called home when she isn’t busy touring the world. “It’s all about energy. I think for everyone, no matter how you define yourself, as long as you’re true to who you are, you’ll be able to find people who love and support you,” he says. “My femininity has always been a huge part of who I am. In high school, I was constantly bullied for being a feminine boy, and I think my world finally started opening up when I stopped trying to project this certain idea of masculinity to fit into society and started to embrace the feminine side of who I really am.”

“When I’m presenting male, I feel like I’m now able to know who I am as a person. But when I’m Farrah, it’s still authentically who I am at the core.”

Being known as a persona can be disjointing. Not many can relate to it (except maybe Hannah Montana).

In the drag world, as a queen who blurs the lines adeptly between male and female, Farrah is known for “serving fish.” That is, a drag queen who can pass for a cisgender female.

But what about Clayton? What is he like?

“When I’m presenting as my masculine self, as a boy, I’m way different than Farrah,” he says. “I’m able to separate the hyper-feminine side of me. The more ‘girly qualities’ of what I like have become the epitome of what that Farrah is. She’s pink, she’s glittery, She loves pop music, crystal, feathers, all of it. My boy self is very much rock, metal music, and I wear mostly black. It can be polarizing. However, it’s been able to help me express the duality of me in a really harmonious way. It’s definitely helped me with my confidence. When I’m presenting male, I feel like I’m now able to know who I am as a person. But when I’m Farrah, it’s still authentically who I am at the core.”

Farrah Moan

(Photo by Bukunmi Grace/Very Good Light)

While Farrah’s rise to drag stardom wasn’t overnight, the mass popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race instantly put her in the spotlight. Deadline reported the Season 9 finale was up 218% over last season’s ender in adults 18-49 since moving to VH1. Now open to the public eye (and opinion) Farrah and the rest of the cast were part of the conversation in living rooms and on timelines across the country.

My boy self is very much rock, metal music, and I wear mostly black. It can be polarizing.

“I think how popularized drag has become is a good thing,” he says. “I remember the shame I felt as a little kid with wanting to wear women’s clothing, and how much it weighed on me psychologically. That wasn’t healthy for my development. With drag becoming so mainstream, it’s showing kids that it’s normal. You’re not wrong. There is no right! You’re not going to hell. There are people who want to support them in whatever they want to become.”

While the show has brought Clayton success, it has brought it’s set of challenges as well. Fans of the show are known for being some of the most… passionate out there (to put it nicely). They pick favorites, villains, and being labeled by the public can put you in a box that may be hard to get out of. “When I was on the show, I was a young, scared, vulnerable 22-year-old,” Clayton tells us. “I tried my best and tried to make the most out of a situation that was difficult at times. During my season, fans saw me struggle a lot. I hope people can realize I’ve grown since then. I really just want people to know that I’m so dedicated to my craft. Every day I’m trying to better myself entertainment wise. I’m investing in my drag all the time. I’m ready to slay from here on out.”

Drag Race is culture. There’s no question about it. Whether it was your first introduction to the art of drag, or you’re someone who knows the ins-and-outs of “herstory,” RuPaul has created something that resonates with viewers. Earlier this year, the host received major backlash after speaking out about “probably not” allowing trans queens on the show.

“I think that trans drag entertainers are the most valid of any of them,” Clayton says. “They were the forerunners for our fight to equality and pride, and have always been mentors in our community. Trans drag has played a huge part in our history as drag people, and it’s extremely important to recognize. Since Drag Race is so big, I think people put too much importance into the idea that if your drag isn’t showcased on drag race, then it isn’t good  People take it too seriously. At the end of the day, it’s just a TV show. It’s Ru’s show, and I think it’s unfortunate he doesn’t want to showcase that type of drag, but it’s his show. It’s not my show.”

“The counselors told me that I needed to conform if I wanted to stop the bullying.”

Farrah Moan

(Photo by Bukunmi Grace/Very Good Light)

Being so vocal and opinionated hasn’t always been a part of his DNA. In reality, it’s been a journey to get there. The Houston native struggled to find his community while navigating adolescence.

“Maybe I don’t talk about this enough, but I had it really rough when I was younger,” he says. “I had to drop out of high school because I was bullied so much. It got bad. The counselors told me that I needed to conform if I wanted to stop the bullying. My mom took me out and was like ‘you’re not going to define my kid.’ I had to do homeschooling from there on out.”

Just like Farrah’s dress reminds us, there’s always a rainbow in sight. “There’s a huge world out there,” he says. “Sometimes it can feel like the people in your area are the whole thing, it’s totally not. You just have to make it through the annoyance of being a kid. One thing I would want people to learn from my story is there is always a way out.”

Farrah’s words of wisdom? “The advice I would give is don’t let yourself get in your head, and don’t give up,” he tells us. “Always know what your goal is. One of the things that really got me through some of my hard times was to always have my dream at the forefront of my mind.

Sit down and make a chart, and figure out what steps you can take overtime to get there. Be the own force in your life to make changes, no one is going to do it for you. You have to do it for you. There are ways to make it happen. The best advice I was ever given was being told ‘you’re the only person that’s responsible for yourself.’ You have to get through the self-doubt, you have to get through the hardships, and you have to get through the people who don’t want to see you succeed. You have to cut them out and just make it fucking happen.”

And if Farrah and Clayton and Hannah and Miley can do it, so can you.

The beauty in blemishes

acne blemishes beauty

(What if we could redefine acne and see it as beautiful? Photo by Charlie Cerrone/Very Good Light)

Beauty isn’t just skin deep.

It comes in all shapes, colors, gender identities and more. In the past few years, we’ve seen examples of this message embraced by the beauty industry. Examples include: Glossier’s body positivity Body Hero Campaign, Fenty Beauty’s inclusive staple shade range, and our own collaboration with Milk Makeup celebrating gender identity for Blur The Lines. It’s important, as we know beauty isn’t one note.

But why is it that in 2018 we’re still iffy when it comes to acne? Why is it that “imperfect” skin is seen as less than? Why do we obsess over banishing these spots, blemishes, and pimples when they’re a natural part of us?

SEE ALSO: Why is everyone suddenly talking about gender?

These are questions we need to answer, especially as we talk about mental health awareness. There’s a major correlation between acne shame and self-harm. Studies found that young people with acne had a higher rate of developing depression, and teens cited weakened self esteem as the biggest impact acne had on them. A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology looked at the records of over 2 million men and women — 134,427 with acne; 1,731,608 without — over 15 years. The study concluded that the chance of developing major depression was 18.5% higher from patients with acne. The risk for depression was strongest in the first five years after an acne diagnosis. A study by the British Skin Foundation found that three out of five teenagers surveyed said that the biggest impact acne has on their lives is a fall in self-confidence.

“I realized that acne for me wasn’t something I needed to worry about.”

For most people, acne is completely normal. According to statistics by AcnEase, 60 million people in the U.S. have acne or have experienced it at one point. This number includes all grades of acne, from mild to cystic, and of those 60 million, 20% have some form of acne bad enough that it results in scarring. The same research noted how 85% of people surveyed say they have experienced acne in some form at some point in their lives, which makes for a whopping majority.

For an original editorial for Very Good Light, we wanted to redefine these standards and find the beauty in blemishes. We spoke to five guys who experience acne in some form to talk about their blemishes, their beauty marks and how they’ve come to terms with embracing themselves inside and out.

Peter Coronato, 19

(Peter Coronato by Charlie Cerrone / Very Good Light)

(Peter Coronato by Charlie Cerrone / Very Good Light)

“I almost want to call it a rejuvenation,” says Peter Coronato, a 19-year old from Burlington, VT. “Before starting college I learned to accept the person I was before and wanted to continue to accept the person I was becoming. I realized that acne for me wasn’t something I needed to worry about.”

Learning to embrace what has been taught to be our “imperfections” as something beautiful is difficult, Peter says. But he’s come to terms with his own natural skin – his back full of acne, his face that isn’t blemish-free.

“If someone was going to judge me on my skin, it was petty. I don’t think people should judge anymore, because everyone has gone through it. There’s no room to judge.”

Anthony Mahon, 21

(Anthony Mahon by Charlie Cerrone / Very Good Light)

“I got discouraged. I tried everything, but I still was left wondering why these remedies that work for other people weren’t working for me.”

“I was my own worst enemy,” says Anthony Mahon. “It was a personal thing where one day I just looked in the mirror and realized I shouldn’t be putting myself down anymore.”

Clay masks, tea tree oil, exfoliating, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, Anthony says he tried it all. Nothing seemed to work. “I got discouraged. I tried everything, but I still was left wondering why these remedies that work for other people weren’t working for me,” says Anthony. “As much as I’ve wanted to change my appearance or change the way my face looked, I had to learn that it’s all about being comfortable in our own skin… as corny as that sounds.”

(Anthony Mahon by Charlie Cerrone / Very Good Light)

“I think in media we’ve been breaking boundaries and seeing way more general acceptance than what we were seeing 10 or 20 years ago in regards to racial stereotypes and gender norms,” Anthony tells Very Good Light.  “People are learning to accept those for who they are. There’s more of a need to have a sense of representation for people so we’re all able to feel liberated and accepted in our communities, whether that’s local, national, or global.

“Acceptance and tolerance isn’t a one-person movement, it takes a movement of many to spark a change. There should be more representation for people with acne,” he says. “You know, you watch any T.V. show or movie, it doesn’t matter when it came out,  and it shows people so powdered with makeup that their real self isn’t even showing through. That’s not to knock people who wear makeup on a daily basis, but as someone with acne, it was discouraging to see celebrities with perfect skin. Perception is everything, especially to young people.”

Caleb Weathers, 21

(Caleb Weathers by Charlie Cerrone / Very Good Light)

“I never really had acne growing up or as a teenager,” says Caleb Weathers. “But being transgender, as soon as  I started taking hormones I noticed my acne really starting to flare up.”

Caleb is a 21-year-old junior at the University of Vermont. Over the last two years, Caleb has begun his transition in the pursuit to feel more comfortable in his skin. However, it came with a list of challenges.  “You know, I’m in my 20’s now and my acne is full-on all over my face. I knew the territory going into transitioning, but I wasn’t really prepared for how it would affect my life,” Caleb tells us. “This decision started with me accepting that I love myself, I’m going to continue loving myself no matter what and become even more comfortable with who I am through this choice. But with going through this journey I became less comfortable. I wanted to hide, I hated it so much. I wanted to ignore it, but it was hurting my face, it was hurting my life, it was hurting everything. I decided I needed to do something about it.”

“It was a hard thing to accept. I started to second guess things. This skin wasn’t mine anymore, but in some ways, it was more than ever.” 

(Caleb Weathers by Charlie Cerrone / Very Good Light)

After meeting with a doctor and coming up with a solid skincare routine, Caleb started seeing changes on the surface, but the feelings were still there.

“It was a hard thing to accept,” he says. “I started to second guess things. This skin wasn’t mine anymore, but in some ways, it was more than ever,” he says. “It’s one bump in the road to a greater sense of self. I’d take that if it means being the real me. I’d be crazy not to.”

The emotional effects of acne are those that shouldn’t be ignored. Your feelings are valid, and you are not alone. If you need help, reach out. “I’m inspired by the transition from winter to spring,” Caleb tells us. “Spring will always come. The sun will always come. No matter how cold and gray and long your winter has been, better days are always ahead. Seeing all the new sprouts and flowers grow up is beautiful. That can be you, you can always start again.”

Jackson Glover, 19

(Jackson Glover by Charlie Cerrone / Very Good Light)

“I didn’t like it, but I didn’t let it define me.”

(Jackson Glover by Charlie Cerrone / Very Good Light)

For Jackson, his skin just makes him, well, him. “I mean, it’s a bummer when you start to get it [acne],” he tells us. “I didn’t like it, but I didn’t let it define me.”

“When I got to high school I started looking up to people that weren’t necessarily apart of the mainstream culture. Representation is really important. I’m inspired by people that don’t mind being a little greasier. They don’t worry about things too much. That’s how I’ve always looked at acne, it shouldn’t matter.”

Self-care isn’t always facemasks and bubble baths. It looks different for us all. Taking even a moment out of your day to focus on something that makes you feel good can make a world of difference. “Most of the things that make me feel good aren’t tied up with my body,” Jackson tells us. “I like to play music and hang out with friends and go skating. That’s when I feel my best and most comfortable.”

“There’s no point in hiding it. Someone is going to see it eventually,” he says. “Growing up with bacne (back acne) I mean sure, I was insecure, but what was I supposed to do? Keep my shirt on forever? There’s no point in prolonging the illusion. We are who we are.”

Julen De Zubiaurre, 19

(Julen De Zubiaurre by Charlie Cerrone / Very Good Light)

“I had an outlet to put positive energy into. Slowly, the negatives just stopped mattering as much to me.”

“You have to accept the negatives. Once you do everything becomes easier,” Julen, a 19-year old says. “Growing up in middle school I noticed everyone had a bunch of acne. I thought it was gross, but when I started to get it I realized how frustrating it was. I felt bad. It’s natural and not defining of a person at all.

“I was down on myself, but I had positive things in my life going on as well. I kickbox and when you’re competing you have to wear a helmet that covers your face. I didn’t worry about what I looked like, I just performed. It was something for me to focus on and succeed in. I had an outlet to put positive energy into. Slowly, the negatives just stopped mattering as much to me.”

When it comes to living in the digital world, there is plenty to be wary of. “I’m not really involved with social media, In my opinion focusing on that doesn’t help with self-image.” Advice for those learning to gain self-confidence and acceptance? “Learn the distinction of what’s being sold to you and being what’s given to you.” It can make a huge difference to how you look at yourself and the world around you.

Julian Walker is making space for queer black men in America

Growing up in Mississippi, Julian rarely saw anyone on screen that looked like him. That’s because he happens to be both black and gay.

(Photo by @joshnachoz)

The actor, who plays Ty on BET’s Being Mary Jane, and is also a celebrity ambassador of MOBI (Mobilizing Our Brothers Initiative) an organization that promotes wellness within the black gay and queer communities. Through it, he hopes to be an inspiration to other men of color who feel a need to belong.

“I never want people to feel like I did at times, which is alone.”

Growing up and self-discovery is never easy to navigate. For many, it comes with trial and error and loads of reflection. “I always feel like I’ve been blessed to have grown up with a very supportive group around me,” Julian says to Very Good Light. “I do feel like I faced the challenges of growing up and feeling different or ashamed like something was wrong with me for not looking how certain classmates looked, or talking to girls like my other classmate would. I always felt ashamed.”

But through his confusion and journey, he was lucky to have had a supportive family – a mother, father and brother – who accepted him and supported him through his adversity. “I was able to educate them on what a gay man is.”

Not everyone has had the privilege of having a supportive family like Julian. Many in the black community continue to face hardships and disadvantages. Reported by the Human Rights Campaign, LGBTQ African Americans continue to be challenged by discrimination, lack of proper housing, affordable healthcare, and fewer educational opportunities.

A 2012 report by HRC found that “32-percent of children being raised by black same-sex couples live in poverty, compared to 13-percent of children being raised by heterosexual black parents and just 7 percent being raised by married heterosexual white parents.” Additionally, Black transgender people see an even higher rate of poverty with 34 percent living in extreme conditions compared to the 9 percent of non-transgender black people. There are also health-related obstacles. In 2016, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that African Americans accounted for 44% of HIV diagnoses, while they only comprise 12% of the U.S. population. Of this, 58% of those infected were gay or bisexual men. In communities across the country, lack of awareness of HIV status contributes to its risk of spreading further.

It’s a sobering reality, but one that is all too real. Which is why Julian, through MOBI, aims to support this demographic however they can, mainly through opening up spaces for queer black men to exist. That’s through a series of curated social connectivity events like MOBIfest, an interactive arts experience that celebrates black queer voices in fashion, music, visual arts and media.

But more than gathering together, Julian says to make change, one needs to engage with others who aren’t like themselves. “It isn’t until you come in contact with someone and actually are willing to understand them, that’s when you’re able to educate people, and they’re able to educate you in return,” he tells us. “Growing up had its challenges but my heart really goes out to those who don’t have that support system I did.”

“I want people to understand they can be free. You can feel free to express yourself any way you want.”

(Photo courtesy @joshnachoz)

Because of these statistics, MOBI is more important than ever.

“I want people to understand they can be free,” says Julian. “You can feel free to express yourself any way you want.”

Which means, ultimately, defining your identity, masculinity and all.

“I definitely am a complete advocate of redefining what masculinity looks like,” says Julian. “It doesn’t look like me, it doesn’t look like you, it doesn’t look like the next person. Everyone should have the right to express what they think masculinity looks like to them.”

Ultimately, no matter if you’re black, queer, or not, Julian wants us to know we’re in this together. “Everyone has their low moments, I want to help the next person so they don’t have to feel alone or not safe. That’s my biggest goal.”

Here’s to positive change.

The free ticketed festival is asking it’s participants to take ownership their health and wellness by visiting one of their community partners to receive a free service and an advanced ticket into MOBIfest. MOBIfest takes place Thursday, May 17 to Saturday, May 19th.
Learn more about the event and register for tickets here.

If you haven’t tried marijuana, you will soon.

(Illustration by Hannah Morrison/Very Good Light)

For those of you who haven’t tried marijuana, the beauty industry thinks you will, soon.

But it’s not a puff puff pass situation. Rather, cold pressed marijuana leaves that produce something called CBD oil.  Seen in everything from candy gummies to lotions, bar soaps, and now even a mascara from Milk Makeup, there seems to be a marijuana-related product on the market for just about anything nowadays. With nine states, including Washington D.C., now legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, the access to cannabis has rapidly become more accessible in the past few years.

But what exactly goes into these products? How are companies allowed to sell them in states that don’t have recreational marijuana laws? And why is everyone suddenly talking about it?

SEE ALSO: Millennial Pink is dead. You’ll be surprised to know what’s next.

That’s because CBD oil works, and does so really, really well. Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is a chemical found in marijuana. Because the compound is non-psychoactive, it will not get you high. Instead, its list of benefits include relief of physical pain, anxiety, and depression, while also providing anti-inflammatory and anti-acne properties. Not to be confused with THC, the compound that would give you the same effects as smoking marijuana, CBD is meant to be used to aid a consumer’s specific medical need. And because it doesn’t “impair” you in any way, it is completely legal across the country. Used for everything from epilepsy to clinical depression, the grounds for application are wide and powerful.

(Illustration by Hannah Morrison/Very Good Light)

“Although there is still little research on CBD in beauty and cosmetic products, studies show that it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer and antimicrobial properties,” says Dr. Bonni Goldstein, founder of Canna-Centers and medical advisor to Weedmaps. “It is quite possible that topical CBD for facial products, bath salts, lip balms and other items could be very beneficial. Many of my patients are getting excellent results using CBD topical balms and salves for treatment of pain, such as chronic back pain or injured joints, and also for skin rashes such as eczema or psoriasis, so it seems quite reasonable to assume that other topical applications would be beneficial as well.”

“It’s sexy and fun to talk about weed beauty products.”

Marijuana is a hot topic. Still on the brink of being taboo among some communities, the use of it, for any which reason, causes conversation – and controversy.

“People talk about it mostly because it’s sexy and fun to talk about weed beauty products,” says Brennan Kilbane, senior writer at Allure. “The important thing to note is that CBD accompanies a lot of marketing bravado. I think the rise of CBD as a personal care ingredient is, of course, a byproduct of the increasing legality of weed, but CBD as an ingredient is very sophisticated—it’s a powerful anti-inflammatory, which is why it can do everything from treat facial redness to assuage sore joints,” he says.

For Brennan, using CBD is great for baths, natural anxiety help, and de-stressing. The editor admits taking CBD every morning. He’s like more and more young people who are adopting CBD into their daily regimen.

After all, we are considered “the anxious generation,” millennials who are painted as “fragile” and “delicate” in media. As reported in the New York Post, in 2015, the American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” survey found that those who have close family or friends to turn to in times of stress experience less stress regularly. In today’s society, we are often taught the importance of independence and are encouraged to do things on our own. It’s not uncommon to feel alone, or like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.

I felt lighter, less cloudy, and overall less anxious.

When I learned that CBD could help aid this feeling and help me go about my day-to-day easier, I had to give it a go.

For about a month, I started using CBD on a daily basis. A few drops under the tongue has powerful and potent abilities. I started using The Daily Hit from the natural beauty retailer, Cap Beauty. The oil is said to “boost your body’s ability to handle the stressors of daily life, sharpen your focus and energize your mind.”

With CBD I felt lighter, less cloudy, and overall less anxious.

(Photo by Will Lanthier/Very Good Light)

The taste? It might take some getting used to. A mix of mint chocolate, coconut oil, and earthy undertones, definitely not a flavor I normally would start my day with. However, what makes this CBD oil so special among others on the market, is it meant to be mixed with foods and drinks. After a few days of adding the elixir to my morning tea or coffee, I couldn’t help but notice the effects.

I felt lighter, less cloudy, and overall less anxious. Sure, the first few days I couldn’t help but wonder if the placebo effect was in motion. However, after noticing how I felt before and after using CBD over the course of a month’s time, I realized there was definitely some truth to the product’s claims.

Like any anti-anxiety medicine or product, it is important to remember this doesn’t “cure your problems.” Instead, it helps aid the stress you may feel going about your routine. Like any self-care advocate, taking extra time to provide your body with the things it needs to succeed is something of the utmost importance to us here at Very Good Light. There should be no shame in seeking help if you need it.

So, what does the future hold for CBD?

“I see it growing much larger than it already is,” says Jenna Igneri, associate fashion and beauty editor at NYLON. “The wellness market is booming, and as cannabis continues to get legalized and grow in popularity, consumers are going to be curious to try beauty products containing CBD, THC, and other cannabis-derived ingredients. Not just for ‘hippies’ or those who are into ‘crunchie’ living.”

Frankly, there is still much to be learned.

“If the cannabis plant can be completely legalized federally, researchers and physicians would be able to study these compounds to determine who [more specificially] might benefit and at what doses or concentrations,” says Dr. Bonni Goldstein. “THC and CBD have the potential to positively impact human health in a tremendous way by reducing inflammation, fighting cancer, decreasing the effects of aging and fighting infection. As more and more people use these compounds and find benefits, I believe our laws will change to allow freedom to do the much-needed research.”

AKA a trend not just for stoners, but those looking to handle the stressors of today’s digital world. Which is why CBD is here and it’s here to stay. Now puff, puff, pass me that CBD oil, will you?

Tan France is the gay Muslim we need

tan france

(Photo by Maxwell Poth)

“They’ve never had representation like this before, and it feels beautiful,” says Tan France, fashion expert on Netflix’s reboot, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

We’re at the Selected Homme party in New York City where Tan’s hosting alongside designer Timo Weiland, who’s DJing the night away. It’s almost a who’s who of fashion influencers here sprinkled among the packed crowd. Tan’s telling us about his experience being part of the Fab Five and why it’s bigger than just him.

SEE ALSO: The irresistible charm of ‘Queer Eye’s’ resident sassy queen Jonathan Van Ness

“The best thing to happen from all of this is – and this is where I get emotional – is the DMs I get from people all over the world saying ‘I’ve never seen anybody that looks like you, is like you, and represents me like you,'” he tells us. “And I’m talking about people in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. They’ve never had representation like this before.”

Born and raised in South Yorkshire, England, Tan moved to London after studying fashion at Doncaster College where he was a style guru well before the show’s recent success. He worked for Zara and was also the company director at Shade Clothing before starting his own women’s clothing line, Kingdom & State in 2011.

“I’ve only been in this fame thing for a few months now, so it’s weird to have super famous people want to take selfies with me,” he tells Very Good Light.

“The best thing to happen from all of this is people all over the world saying ‘I’ve never seen anybody that looks like you, is like you, and represents me like you.'”

It was also hard being so vocal about who he was as a British person who happened to also be Muslim. “Going into the show … my biggest insecurity was being so vocal and speaking openly about who I am and what I represent,” he says. “I’m now able to talk about my upbringing, and about how I’m gay so openly.”

He admits being himself wasn’t always so easy. That confidence was hidden away when he was growing up in the U.K. In high school he was a jock, playing soccer, rugby and basketball. He’d dress like everyone else so that no one would think he was different. “I hid from who I was,” he says, a survival mechanism most of us can empathize with. “It was something I felt like I had to keep up. I’m getting to the point now where I can be whoever the fuck I want.”

Which is where he is in 2018 – finding himself and being unabashed about who he is. But it took some time to get there. “If I got an opinion, I say it,” he says of his ever-evolving self. “If I want to be flamboyant, I am. If I want to wear something that’s womenswear, I do.”

Which is why representation in 2018 is still so important. For some, Tan may be just another handsome reality television personality. But to others who look like him, he’s a symbol of hope. He’s an example of how diverse, pretty, charming, smart a person of color – who happens to be Muslim – can be. When you’re hardly represented in the media and finally find someone who looks like you, talks like you, may have the same parents as you, well, that’s validating. That’s transformative. It’s absolutely powerful.

Here’s to more diversity in 2018 and beyond.

 Reporting by Ian Michael Crumm

I was glued to a treadmill for a week to test this beauty brand

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I should know because that’s my name. I digress … this is also true I discovered when it comes to your perfect organic skincare regimen.

It was only a few years ago when mindful meditation, essential oils, and aromatherapy were thought to only be for the true hippies and yogis of the world. Most who prescribed to natural beauty would have to search through their local co-ops to create their own desired mix of ingredients like lavender and lemongrass by hand. While this is still an option, there are now many beauty brands on the market that are making it a lot easier. One such brand is Way of Will, created for someone with a life that is a bit more fast-paced.

SEE MORE: WTF is the difference between perfumes, colognes, body sprays and Eau de toilettes?

By 2018, I have learned to stay away from products with a long list of fragrances. I have sensitive skin and noticed the wrong blend of scents can leave my skin badly inflamed. And so, I was excited to try a few items from Way of Will, a Toronto based company founded by Willie Tsang, that’s 100% organic. The brand promises products that are made with only the “bare essentials,” meaning they only use ingredients that serve a practical purpose.

So, what exactly is the benefit of essential oils?

According to Way of Will’s site, essential oils are “a combination of organic compounds derived from a single botanical source.” Essentially, this means they can be distilled or extracted from the leaves, stems, flowers, bark, roots or other elements of a plant. An essential oil may consist of hundreds of chemical compounds that all contribute to its scent and therapeutic abilities. Not only can essential oils help on a holistic level both physically and mentally, but when inhaled, the oil can benefit the user on an emotional level as well. Everyone likes to smell nice and feel good, right?

“Based on my experience, I discovered a lot of behaviors and needs from people who go to the gym. I thought, ‘how great would it be to have natural products that could enhance the experience of working out?'”

Willie says that the entire brand came together after being at the gym. “While I’m not a bodybuilder by any means, I am very passionate and consider myself very knowledgeable in this area,” he says. “Based on my experience, I discovered a lot of behaviors and needs from people who go to the gym. I thought, ‘how great would it be to have natural products that could enhance the experience of working out?”

Ok, so an all-natural line that promises to not irritate my skin and make the treadmill less miserable? I had to give it a go.

In the pursuit of true journalism, I brought these right into the locker room. From foot and sneaker spray to body oil and natural deodorant, I had lots to try.

(Photo by Will LanthierVery Good Light)

My post-workout routine started off with jumping in the shower and using the 45 Refresh | Mandarin + Mint Body Wash. Initially, I was a little worried about my first try with the product. My skin does not play well with others, so I was ready to see if I would be facing the consequences of switching things up. I was happy to discover the mix of oils was actually quite nice. Crisp yet gentle, the minty smell woke me up before my morning coffee could and left me feeling clean like I would hope any body wash would.

Moving on, deodorant is something I’m picky about. #TBT to going to the ER while traveling Europe after having an allergic reaction to a drugstore brand deodorant that shall remain nameless.

emotional real housewives of new york GIF
I’m happy to say the 01 Natural Deodorant Spray |Bergamot + Elemi is my new friend. The bergamot kept odor away, while the elemi had me feeling FRESH. Seriously… you feel this one. I’d bring this to the Sahara with me, no joke.
For hydration the Invigorating Body Lotion| Orange + Elemi was able to hydrate the skin after cleansing and the Moisturizing Body Oil | Nutmeg + Galbanum was able to lock in moisture. This combo packs a big punch as the elemi in the lotion has antiseptic properties that stimulate circulation, while the nutmeg and galbanum in the oil are super calming and therapeutic. Of course, I was a little red from the moving blood flow, but post-workout my body was feeling as good as I thought it could.
Whether you’re a regular gym-goer, organic skincare enthusiast, or maybe someone who needs a few quick and gentle products to pack in an overnight bag for your sleepover necessities, the Way of Will has your on the go needs covered. Either way, essential oils proved they can be a piece of the puzzle.
While the treadmill was still as expected, taking a few moments to gather yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally is always recommended and doesn’t require cardio.

Millennial Pink is dead. You’ll be surprised to know what’s next.

Whether you like it, love it, or want to leave it completely in the past, millennial pink has proved its staying power.

Whether it’s filling up our #shelfie or taking over our Instagram feed, we can’t seem to get away from the massively popular pastel, powder pink, a phenomenon that’s proven its staying power. So big, some brands have capitalized on the color to sell. Some like Glossier, the social first brand that’s made an entire business around the color. Others, like Saturday Skin, Herbivore, and Glow Recipe have followed suit. It’s obvious millennial pink has reached fever pitch, but is it here to stay?

SEE ALSO: Do men’s grooming products have a masculinity problem?

To get to the bottom of this, one must first go back to millennial pink’s origins. Of course, the pastel hue is nothing new. The color obviously has been around from the beginning of time. Dubbed “Tumblr Pink” or “Barbie Pink,” the shade is one that, as NY Mag once noted, is  “a range of shades from beige with just a touch of blush to a peach-salmon hybrid.” The color really got its momentum around 2013 thanks to Wes Anderson and his films which had a beautiful, alluring blush filter. It also got a boost thanks to cultural icons like Drake and Kanye West, who started allowing men to also be okay with the traditional “girl’s color.”

The color became “okay” for men with the introduction of Apple’s rose gold aka “bros gold” iPhone. Unintentionally, Apple’s new product color allowed its customers to explore “uncharted territory. It was an opportunity for men to go outside their safe boxes – that is, sport smartphones that weren’t your typical black or white.

When it comes to translating into the beautysphere, Stephan Alain Ko, a cosmetic chemist and blogger, says it’s due to the surge of social media promoting the shade. “It’s possible that filters applied to mood boards on Tumblr and by VSCO had an influence [to the popularity of the color], he says to Very Good Light. “I first noticed it and associate it with singer Troye Sivan, so for me, it’s always represented a new generation of men who are very confident in their sexuality and who they are.”

A year after iPhone’s rose gold, Pantone named it “Color of the Year” in 2016. Two years later, there are no signs that it’s slowing down soon. That, of course, doesn’t mean that it’s not dying out.

“Millennial pink is a toned down version of the traditional Barbie pink we’re used to seeing. With a touch of beige, it becomes less girly, more mature, more sophisticated, and more gender neutral. With the evolvment of gender fluidity over the last few years, millennial pink has become a non-offensive and safe color for everyone.”

Why is it so appealing? Color psychologist, Judy Scott-Kemmis explains how colors like millennial pink have a subconscious effect on consumers. “Millennial pink is a toned down version of the traditional Barbie pink we’re used to seeing,” she says. “With a touch of beige, it becomes less girly, more mature, more sophisticated, and more gender neutral. With the evolvement of gender fluidity over the last few years, millennial pink has become a non-offensive and safe color for everyone.”

Judy points out that our current political and societal climate may have something to do with the trend as well. “With so much anxiety and stress in the world today, people are subconsciously drawn to this color because it feels calming, soft, nurturing and safe,” she says. “Until this stressful energy changes or shifts, people will be drawn to the shade for the comfort it provides on a subliminal level.”

(Illustration by Hannah Morrison/Very Good Light)

“I embrace the post-gender idea of the whole thing and am happy that pink is being used in a lot of different ways that aren’t exactly feminine,” says GQ Senior Fashion Editor and Grooming Director, Garrett Munce. “I think people latched on to it because it signifies an embrace of modernity. The color has become synonymous with an idea of gender fluidity, a kind of post-gender color that is feminine and masculine at the same time – or sometimes neither. It’s become a sort of updated neutral,” he says.

“I do think it’s a little overdone in the sense that if someone is trying to target millennials or younger consumers, it’s their go-to color,” finishes Garrett.

I mean, we get it. The public adores it, and we do too. We even wrote about our favorite pink products here. However, we can’t help but wonder what’s next, and frankly if we’ll ever even get around to finding out.

“I can’t predict what the next trend will be or when,” says Judy. “Although, I believe a move towards a greater use of green would be healing for everyone, helping to restore positive energy in the world.”

While that may be her one desire, is the beauty industry actually shifting out of millennial pink into new waters?Theresa Yee, WGSN’s senior beauty editor, thinks so. “We’re starting to see lilacs replacing pinks as a key color – one of the shades we highlighted in our Youth Tonic S/S18 trend forecast,” she says. Named 2018 Pantone color of the year, Ultra Violet may be here to save the day.

We’ve sure seen the color green be embraced by brands like Tata Harper and Origins, aligning with their mission of providing clean, all-natural, organic products. When it comes to purple, the first thing that comes to mind is Tarte. All things ultra violet, Tarte has the bases covered. Brands like Drunk Elephant with its Lala Retro Whipped Creme and MAC with it own in-house packaging are staying on track with the year’s new “it” color.

In the end, the use of millennial pink has become overused and consumers are now feeling a bit overexposed to the color. This is one of the main reasons Judy believes the color is meeting its slow demise. “I do believe millennial pink has been overdone, as have other trendy colors over the past few years,” she tells us. “I believe many in the advertising and marketing field take the easy way out and use millennial pink because it has been such a successful color, instead of being more creative in their choice of colors. We all need balance in the use of color in our lives and the predominant use of one color can throw this balance out.”

While we love millennial pink and are a sucker for anything from that shade, it’s easy to see how and why the color is coming to an end. With marketers, advertisers and brands all using the color, consumer fatigue is high. When even Starbucks gets onto the trend, you know it’s nearing its end. As with all things, we’ve had fun with you, millennial pink, but we’re not sad to really let you go.

Whatever’s next, we just hope it’s Insta friendly.

This guy’s one beauty tip has us shook.

What’s your own Very Good Light?

Whether it’s an eyeliner, a skincare product, or something that exudes from within, we want to celebrate you and your most authentic self. Which is why we launched our Instagram series #YourVGL. It’s one where we get to meet the most empowering and inspiring ~real~ guys around and ask them how they came to terms with their own identities and how they glow up.

This week, we talk to Michael Brown (@boyinquestion), a Brooklyn-based creative whose entire morning regimen puts any beauty vlogger to shame. The New Yorker and former Refinery29 staffer says he feels “most confident when my skin not only looks good but feels good.”

Michael Brown, Brooklyn, creative

(Photo courtesy of Michael Brown)

SEE ALSO: The irresistible charm of ‘Queer Eye’s’ resident sassy queen Jonathan Van Ness

Which makes sense after you hear him talk about his own skin. “I can beat my face on the worst skin days and make it look halfway decent, but the journey to the perfect looking skin is pointless if my skin feels like shit under my products,” he tells us.

Below, we talk his secret moisturizing go-to (um, hello Trader Joe’s!), how he gets those fleeky brows, and what masculinity is all about.

How I started wearing makeup… “I started wearing makeup when I was 15. I had very problematic skin and mixed with a healthy dose of anxiety; it made it difficult to even go to school. One day my mother — being the most supportive person in my life — took me into her bathroom, sat me down, and showed me how to cover my blemishes with her foundation and powder. I feel like every kid who had problem skin has become a sort of self-proclaimed skincare expert, myself included. I took taking care of my skin super seriously, with the goal in mind not to need makeup one day.

What I’ve found out from the last 12 years is that I love makeup. I love everything about it: From reading up on new products to testing them, to the daily ritual of putting it on. It’s incredibly cathartic. I have to thank beauty team at Refinery29, where I worked for 3 years, for inspiring me to try new things with skincare and makeup. Before I worked alongside them I was terrified someone might notice I was wearing makeup, but the first day I filled in my already thick Armenian brows, and someone noticed, my life truly changed and so did the number of products I used. I was added bronzer and highlight to the mix and started to have fun with it. I worked hard for this face, so I want people to notice! I’ve reached the point in my skincare journey (so far) where I feel comfortable leaving the house with just moisturizer on, but at the end of the day, I really do feel most like myself when I’ve got a full beat on.

When it comes to confidence…I’m trying really hard not to give a basic (a term I think is becoming outdated, tbh!!!) answer here, but honestly, I feel my most confident when I’m able to make my eyebrows look like more like sisters rather than distant cousins like they usually end up looking. That and when my skin not only looks good but FEELS good. I can beat my face on the worst skin days and make it look halfway decent, but the journey to the perfect looking skin is pointless if my skin feels like shit under my products.

I recently picked up Trader Joe’s Hyaluronic Moisture Boost Serum, and it honestly changed the game for me. I apply it after washing my face in the morning and before bed and have noticed my skin looking more alive (definitely needed for these dry, wintry days + stressful political climate), my moisturizer sinking in better, my pores smaller, and my products applying more easily.I also haven’t gone a day in a long time without my Glossier Haloscope. Can’t go wrong with a highlighter that makes you feel like an 8 when you feel like a 6 and doesn’t add too much texture to the skin.

When it comes to masculinity… in the the traditional sense, it’s nearing total cancelation. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with presenting a very conventional masculine way, as long as you’re not infringing or judging to the other end of the spectrum (and are actively helping towards eradicating these learned behaviors. I do feel it’s hard not to be concerned when so often this masculine ideology can transform into toxic masculinity, which is the source of oppression for so many. I mean come on, put some on some fucking moisturizer and wipe your goddamn ass, you’ll feel so much better! Trust me.

(Photo courtesy of Michael Brown)

I think life is a little bit more beautiful and fun when it’s a mixed bag. In my opinion, we should tear everything down and leave these definitions for the birds (sorry, avian enthusiasts!).

My mantra in life…The mission to do what you love and be who you are is inspiring. I follow a lot of people who have succeeded in those things, but the people who are still on their journey to making their dreams and passions a reality and even a career while still staying true to themselves are my biggest inspiration.

Sheet masking is ~so~ 2017. This is what’s next.

Sheet masking is so 2017.

Okay, maybe a bit of an overstatement, but is rubber masking your soon to be new BFF? Of course, rubber masking isn’t anything new, per se. It’s been huge in South Korea for years. But it’s really been the go-to wonder mask thanks to its non-messy formulation. This means you won’t have to worry about essence dripping ~everywhere~ like creature in The Shape of Water.

We’re really into Dr. Jart’s Shake & Shot rubber masks, which have given us the hydration we desperately need. It has the wonder ingredient, niacinamide, fruit oil, and calcium sulfate among others that penetrate deep into your skin more than a sheet mask is able to. The packaging alone is a piece of art. It resembles a Slurpee cup with a Maybe Baby face as its lid. Weird, yes. Really effing cool? Totally.

SEE ALSO: Everything you need to know about Seoul’s most famous skin clinic

The mask comes in four different concoctions for four different needs: hydrating, soothing, brightening, and firming, the product is a fun, DIY way to try out masking’s latest trend. So, how do you use it?

How to use:

  • Cleanse as you would normally to start with a clean canvas.
  • Open and remove the spatula from the scary baby looking figure’s mouth. (Is it a baby? We’re not sure, but we’re into it.)
  • Combine both the STEP 01 Super Booster Gel and STEP 02 Liquid Ampoule in your mixing cup.

  • Close the lid, cover the hole with your finger, and get to mixing. We prefer our’s shaken, not stirred of course.
  • Once your mask is all one creamy consistency, get your spatula and get to spreading. (Tip: apply an even layer over your face within two to three minutes of mixing, as the properties will begin to firm.)
  • Leave on for 15-20 minutes.
  • Watch a show, read a book, call your local legislator, etc.
  • Starting from the edges, gently peel off the mask and remove any excess with a damp cotton pad.

TLDR;

Each sold individually for $12 (Sephora), the price allows for this to maybe only be a once in awhile, self-care Sunday treat. However, whichever mix you choose the glow shines through.

If you’re wondering what exactly goes into those chemist looking packets, it’s a whole bunch of goodness. The “super booster gel” differs from mask to mask to ensure you’re getting exactly what you signed up for. This includes violet extract to moisturize, aloe vera to soothe, grapefruit to brighten, or retinol to tighten and fight signs of aging. With ingredients your skin loves, and a process that is different than your regular mask, the rubber route is definitely worth a try.

Always on the hunt for all things dewy, this was a hit for us. Our favorite in the bunch? You can’t go wrong with a soothing mask in my opinion. Main ingredients include vitamin K3 (menadione) which helps restore sensitive skin, and guava and aloe leaf extract for a cooling, regenerating effect.

Seriously, my face was as soft as the Maybe Baby on the packaging.

The world’s fiercest drag queen is 10-years old

“Be yourself, always.”

Meet Desmond, the 10-year old drag kid superstar who’s got the Internet singing its praises. Desmond recently slayed some of New York Fashion Week’s biggest shows including Gypsy Sport. Declared “the future of America” by RuPaul at DragCon 2017, Desmond is proving he is here to stick around past this season’s trends. The energetic elementary school student was born during New York City’s Pride Week, and says he “came out of the closet at birth.” 

SEE ALSO: This 16 year old is already the CEO of his own beauty brand

We interviewed the burgeoning star over the phone where the androgynous drag prodigy talked to us about his identity, craft and his own favorite drag queen. 

(Photo courtesy desmondisamazing.com)

Very Good Light: Hi Desmond! You’re the coolest 10 year old we’ve ever met I think, how does it feel to have walked your first New York Fashion Week? We’re sure it won’t be your last.

DESMOND: It was amazing! The press and garments were all so beautiful – especially the shoes.

VGL: Did you receive any good advice or tips from anyone special before your runway debut? Who were you channeling?

DESMOND: I was channeling my mom! She taught me how to walk down the runway. I just remembered “you better work, COVERGIRL! Work it girl.”

VGL: Where do you get your confidence from? I can feel the energy just pouring off of you.

DESMOND: I think I have so much confidence because I always remind myself about my amaziness. Whenever I get nervous I just remember who I am and what I do.

VGL: What do you hope people can learn from you and your drag?

DESMOND: That you can be whoever you want to be! Being a drag kid is all about having fun. As long as you think you look cool it doesn’t matter who you are, or what you look like. It doesn’t matter if your makeup is a mess, as long as you know you look fabulous!  

VGL: When you’re not tearing up the catwalk, what is a normal day for you like?

DESMOND: I go to school and I like to play with my trains and eat candy. I also like to draw, and hang out with my mommy. My favorite show is RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m watching All Stars 3 and my favorite queen is BenDeLaCreme.

VGL: You say you came out at birth, was the discovery of your own LGBTQ+ identity easy for you and those around you to understand?

DESMOND: This is a serious question, hold on I have take my coat off. [pauses] It was very easy for me I think because of the support I had support from my family. I’ve always been able to myself!

VGL: What’s next for you? You’re the busiest 10 year old we know!

DESMOND: I’ll be walking for the Rebirth Garment’s show. a gender-neutral brand that features models of every age, identity, gender, and racial identity. They are a LGBTQ+ based company, so I’m super-duper excited. Other than that I’ll be doing more school and have DragCon coming up in May. I hope I get to meet more amazing, awesome people like I did at the one in New York City last year., 

VGL: We can’t wait to see the places you’ll go, Desmond! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today, do you have any final messages?

DESMOND: Yes, my advice for my fans is to be yourself always no matter what anyone says, and to not let the haters faze you because they’ll never be as fierce as you. Promise. 

VGL: Words to live by, for sure.