I read the complete collection of Emily Dickinson’s poems as well as her letters to her sister-in-law, Sue – all while re-watching the AppleTV show, “Dickinson”. I was able to finish in line with the end of the third and final season, meaning that it takes about 15 hours to read through all of Emily’s letters and poems. I absolutely loved the show, specifically its wittiness and the juxtaposition of modern music with the vintage visuals. Reading her work of course gave me new insight, which made the show even more enjoyable.
The poems were edited by Cristianne Miller to be as Emily preserved them, which included 40 bounded collections that were called fascicles, as well as hundreds of loose and unbound poems. Emily was often known for her odd use of punctuation, indentation, and capitalizations, as well as her vivid imagery and philosophical themes. Her poetry is of course beautiful, but you need to know more about Emily to really understand the meaning behind her words.
Emily was a misunderstood lesbian, or more accurately was likely bisexual, and was in love with her best friend, Susan. Both Emily and her brother, Austin, were interested in Sue, and of course this was the 1870’s so Sue and Austin got married. Despite their marriage, Emily and Sue remained close and their relationship had a timeline completely separate from their relationships with men.
In addition to her preserved poetry, Emily’s letters written to Sue were also saved. Many of Sue’s responses were not kept, however, due to a tradition from that time period to burn or get rid of certain items upon one’s death. The letters saved were very intimate and loving and proved that the women were romantically involved all throughout their lives.
What’s unfortunate is that their relationship was not properly portrayed after Emily’s death due to several reasons. Austin went on to have a very public affair after Emily’s death with a women named Mabel Loomis Todd, which deeply upset Sue. Sue busied herself with editing Emily’s poems, but was taking a long time and Emily’s sister Lavinia asked for the collection back. Sue handed them over, and Lavinia turned the collection over to Mabel Loomis Todd to edit. Mabel erased much of the connection to Sue in Emily’s writing, including ripping off pieces of letters to Sue to have Emily’s words appear as standalone poems rather than love letters.
For this reason, I enjoyed reading the book Open Me Carefully, which is the intimate collection of letters that Emily sent Sue (edited by Ellen Louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith). This included information about which poems had signatures and pieces torn off as well as background information on their relationship during different periods of their lives.
Their relationship did have rocky points, but remained a prominent part of both of their lives until their deaths. The most distance between them came after Sue and Austin’s marriage, when Sue became quite the socialite. She was hosting lavish parties with famous and up and coming literary icons, which would be the equivalent of Sue throwing celebrity parties. Basically, Sue became an 1800’s social influencer. Emily did attend some parties, but their correspondence decreased in frequency during this time period.
They never stayed apart for long though and Susan was with Emily upon her death. Sue even dressed her for burial, made the funeral arrangements, and wrote her a loving obituary that was published in the Springfield Republican. The rest of Sue’s life was left keeping a memory of Emily, which is a painfully beautiful end to a tragically poetic love story.
So here is to the immense love of Emily Dickinson and Sue Huntington Gilbert Dickinson. ♥
As a result of my obsession with Marilyn Monroe, I found my way into learning about Andy Warhol because of his iconic pop print. However, I also found myself drawn to him more and more because of his queerness. So to dig more into his brilliant mind, I read Warhol by Blake Gopnik while watching “The Andy Warhol Diaries” on Netflix.
The Warhol biography was interesting to read, but was insanely lengthy. While I appreciated learning about intimate details of his life and influences, I did find myself often skimming through some fluff for sure. I definitely have some critiques about the way the author wrote, specifically in the way he acted as if he was the sole holder of all the correct information. He often phased things like, ‘Andy was described as X, Y, and Z by his closest friends, but it was actually quite the opposite!’ – which was really annoying. Andy was a complex human who can exist in spaces of contradiction and hypocrisy, and I would be reluctant to make such solid statements about him, ever.
The book also projects Andy as more gay than Netflix series indicates, even though the diaries come directly from Andy’s words. Andy was thought to have left a lot of mystery surrounding his personal life, and was clearly in the gay scene but often identified as asexual. The author definitely pushes Andy’s sexuality to a more promiscuous side and invalidates his use of the term asexual to describe himself. I disagree with this, as sexuality is full of many spectrums that I do not believe the cis/straight author understood. Just because Andy had sexual experiences and even partners does not mean he was not on the spectrum of asexuality – especially considering the lack of knowledge at the time around demisexuality.
The approach to Andy’s sexuality was one reason that I now firmly believe that gay stories should be written by gay people, but the author confirmed this more with his incorrect use of terminology. While there may have been outdated terms that Andy used freely in the 60’s and 70’s, this book was published in 2020, and a queer person would have known that we don’t use certain terms to describe members of the trans community in this day and age.
*Trigger warning*: I’m also concerned with the author’s casual approach to subjects like rape and child pornography as potential subjects in the Warhol art world. Andy often dipped into the adult film industry with his movies, and the subject matter was often problematic. There were films made where sexual assaults were acted out, which was said to have made a political statement, but I don’t agree with this type of artistic expression. He also unfortunately featured teenagers in a few of his adult films, which the author not only did not deem clearly problematic but also cannot fully understand the reason behind these actors even being in Andy’s orbit.
Young kids often found their way to New York City after being kicked out of their homes by their own parents just for being gay or trans, and these kids could be as young as 12 or 13. They found each other in underground spaces, and in their teenage years, they end up with crowds that frequent places like Andy Warhol’s Factory or Studio 54. Because they’re now with the “in” crowd, they get into clubs despite how young they are, and age goes out the window. Mature individuals were often seen scanning through the younger selections of actors and models, who go with them in hopes of making it big. This situation is of course layered and complicated, because queer spaces are so important, and kids don’t need to be on the street. But this also led to predatory behavior as well as acceptance in areas that were not actually appropriate for people of this age – like adult videos.
My last critique is that the book hardly really mentions Andy’s iconic documentary “The Queen”, where he follows a drag queen pageant that ends in dramatics when a contestant is extremely unhappy with the results of the competition. Because of how much I loved this documentary, I was disappointed to not even have it mentioned in the book by name, but rather just referenced in one quick paragraph. As lengthy as the book was, maybe this film got bumped to the side because it was released the same year that he was shot by Valarie Solanas.
The Valarie Solanas story is so wild and random that it almost seems made up, and was even created as a plot point for “American Horror Story: Cult”. While Ryan Murphy depicted Valarie Solanas as a mentally disturbed feminist extremist, he may not have been that far off. She was an obvious eccentric, obsessed with her SCUM Manifesto (Society for Cutting Up Men), and determined to get famous. She figured the best way to do this would be to shoot Andy Warhol, though he didn’t really do anything to earn her violence in his direction. Valarie was a part of The Factory scene, Andy was relatively inclusive to women, and they could have been allies to each other as members of the queer community. Instead though, Valarie changed the course of Andy’s life, as many note that he was very different after his recovery from her bullet.
The thing that I admire most about Andy Warhol was his ability to adapt to whatever way the world is changing without fear of failure. He wasn’t afraid to change his tune or image, he was unapologetic, and he was always reinventing himself in a way that still stayed within his character. His work across a dynamic range of mediums lives on as legendary, and I celebrate the influence he has had on the world.
But again, my biggest conclusion is this: gay stories should be written by gay people.
1. Hour Book by Stefania Heim The poems in this collection were cleverly all related to time in some way or another. It may be a poem describing a time of day, thoughts at a particular time, periods of time, and so on. The formats of the book were varying, which kept things fresh with each page turn. It was a beautiful string of ideas related to the passing of our existence. A quick read, but I found this lyrically calming and pleasant.
2. The Black Unicorn by Audre Lorde It didn’t take much for me to fall in love with Audre Lorde, and I absolutely cannot wait to read more. Maybe it’s because she’s a lesbian poet, or maybe it’s the power and emotion she evokes as a feminist. Either way, she’s rightfully known as one of the most influential and powerful contributors to black queer feminism. This collection of poems was brilliant beautiful and I’m excited for more of Audre Lorde.
3. Flawers by Billy Chapata Being a big fan of Billy Chapata, this book did not disappoint. Written in prose, Chapata’s words make you think introspectively and validate individualism. This collection focuses on seeing flaws as flowers that can be nurtured and grown into something beautiful and unique. I appreciate his gentle and compassionate view of the world and promotion of self-love as a fundamental foundation. This is my fourth book by Billy Chapata, so soon I hope to read them all.
I’ve had a longstanding fascination with Playboy and the incredible women who seemed to thrive within the Empire, but my views have recently been rocked. After watching the A&E docuseries “The Secrets of Playboy”, I feel physically ill thinking about how much I idolized a franchise that existed to actively hurt women so badly and brutally.
The events outlined in the docuseries were so horrific that I don’t even know where to start. Actually, let’s start with a massive trigger warning for what comes ahead. There was grooming and manipulation of young women, undelivered promises and outcomes for their work, poor working conditions, unfair pay, contracts signed under duress, images promoted on unapproved platforms such as porn sites, and so much more. And those were the women who got off easy. For others they were drugged, raped, sodomized, humiliated, and all of it was often photographed or filmed. Hef was able to make generations and generations of women do exactly what he wanted because of the fear of leaked footage and images he held in his possession of unspeakable things happening to these women while under various stages of influence. Women who suffered his abuse often turned to drugs or even suicide – making the average rate of suicide among Playmates 40% higher than the national average for American women overall at the time.
This is still unfortunately just scratching the surface of things. The abuse went from the Playmates (and potentials) all the way to the executives – because even the female executives were fair game for Hef’s circle. Miki Garcia speaks out most notably in the docuseries and speaks of her mistreatment, multiple assaults (one from a fellow executive), and the abuse she tried to get the other women out of. Speaking of, the “shadow mansions” were specifically designed as pimp circles belonging to Hef’s friends, essentially to exploit the women who did not make the magazine. There’s so much more darkness that is so deep and so layered that I could never successfully recount all the awful details and stories. All of these women suffered so many levels of physical and emotional abuse.
And let’s not forget the girlfriends. They were not only also sexually assaulted – often forcibly, but also manipulated into agreeing to sexual situations that made them uncomfortable. Sondra Theodore is my new hero and is the focal point of the new series. She speaks openly, with sadness and regret, and in hope that she can finally speak her truth. She wants to encourage others to do the same, and be a “voice for the women who suffered the most at this hands.” The things Hef did to her was awful – using her body, coercing her into orgies, making her a drug mule, and even forcing her to watch him rape other women. She also outlines things that Hef disclosed to her that were truly shocking – such as the time she walked in on Hef having sex with their dog, or when he and his friends drugged a famous pornstar named Linda Lovelace and forced her to give oral sex to a German Shephard while they all watched and filmed. What Hef put Sondra through was barbaric and a level of psychological manipulation that no 19 year-old could have known she was getting herself into.
Hef did not see these women as people, but as a tool, a bargaining chip, a reward… property. He mistreated them, allowed and encouraged his friends to mistreat them, and created an environment where he could hide it all and silence anyone who dares to speak of it. He did not value or appreciate women, but rather thought he deserved whatever he wanted from them. The abuse these women ensured was boundless.
The craziest thing is that even though there are countless victims and witnesses coming forward on screen – there are still plenty of people who still defend Playboy. I recently was listening to a podcast that I will absolutely not give mention to, where two washed-up former Playmates called the victims “liars”, simply because it had not happened to them. The way that they discredited these very real stories was so disgusting, and they are not the only ones. It’s honestly really disappointing to see a lack of women supporting each other, but a lot of them are of the catty-women generation that I’m glad is no longer the norm. (I did listen to one podcast prior to watching the docuseries that started to highlight the darkness behind Playboy – even some of the same victims spoke on both mediums. The podcast was called “Power: Hugh Hefner”, and covers other problematic influential men, and I actually would recommend the listen to the Hef episodes.)
I’ve even recently read The Bunny Years by Kathryn Leigh Scott, which was a collection of the stories of the women who worked in the infamous Playboy clubs in the 60’s. However, it is hard to read anything Playboy related after knowing all of the darkness that existed behind the scenes. It’s awkward and eerie to see Bunny after Bunny make the same excuses.. “there are other clubs that have skimpy uniforms, too” .. “I was making more money than other women those days” .. “Hef was always so nice to me!’ .. etc. etc. etc. But knowing the unsafe environment that was provided to the women working in the clubs (not to mention the pressure from all sides to act and present themselves a certain way and the actual assaults that were hidden) it makes this book feel more like a way to try and save face.
A major focus of the book was Gloria Steinem and her stint as a Playboy Bunny for journalistic purposes. She wrote a tell-all article for Show Magazine titled “A Bunny’s Tale”, outlining her short experience as a Playboy Bunny working on the club floor, where she posed under a fake name to expose the Bunny conditions. Her article outlined her experience being objectified during the interview process as well as tough working conditions for little pay. This was even turned into a movie with the same name starring Kirstie Alley, and Steinem has republished the article with the title, “I Was A Playboy Bunny”. The movie is actually decent if you like super cheesy 80’s movies! Despite making the experience seem demeaning and career damaging, the movie does show her actually sympathizing and sticking up for the women. There’s even a really fun scene of the bunnies doing a burlesque number for each other and joking around in a very sisterhood/sorority kind of way. Regardless of the whimsy in the film, the article still outlined a job full of misery and unfairness. The women working in the clubs clearly felt some type of way about the way they were portrayed, and I believe used their voices in Kathryn Lee Scott’s book to mention the slight they felt from Gloria. I can’t help but wonder if things like this book and other PR stunts were used to rehab Playboy’s image when conveniently needed.
I believe that everything Hef did was for perception purposes. He cared about his image above all things. I think that the humiliation he felt as a result of infidelity in his formative relationships made him react with overcompensation. He created not just the Playboy image and lifestyle, but committed himself to living it. He wanted to be the walking emblem, the permanent mascot, the guy that everyone wanted to be. He lived in this excess and grandiosity as a defense mechanism for how small he felt inside.
While he may have been fond of the women in his life, I don’t believe he actually cared about them overall. His girlfriends were his business, and his business was his lifestyle, and none of it can be separated. He chose women who looked or acted the part and he made them feel wildly special. He would love-bomb them, which is actually common in early stages of abusive relationships. He made these women feel unique to him, even though they weren’t. In the 50’s and 60’s he was cheating on his girlfriends unapologetically, but by the 70’s and 80’s had made this practice more open and known, even if not accepted by all his partners. By the end of his marriage in the 90’s, he created the idea of a “party posse” – meaning a group of girlfriends that would all intertwine, mingle, and of course, turn heads in a crowd. I call this his “gimmick dating”, as he always wanted to have an edge. Like when he dated twins Mandy and Sandy Bentley alongside Brande Roderick – having a double gimmick of both twins and girlfriends with rhyming names. In the phase of Tina Jordan as the main girlfriend, there was a rotating group of 7 or more girlfriends who all looked relatively the same. These women would date Hef, appear in the magazine, and then move on – leaving room for new flavors of the month. While everything appeared to be fun and games, there was a huge amount of manipulation going on, including often pinning the women against each other to start drama and fights. The environment was often toxic and controlling, and of course came with lots of rules. There certainly was a lot of fun to be had in the mansion, but the girls were not made aware of the true costs.
What’s also interesting is that Hef did not end his relationships, but rather made life miserable enough for each woman until they saw no choice but to leave and move on. (This excludes the women in his “Party Posse”s who were kicked out for breaking the rules, of course.) And somehow, he managed to get each ‘former girlfriend’ (he never called them ex’s) back for holidays and reunions, because everything is so incredibly layered that on some level he convinces them that in the end, they are family. He wanted to stay in their good graces, probably as some form of damage control or an insurance policy. If these women were still on his side, they couldn’t go against him.
It’s never been a secret that the women are what made Playboy what it is. Time after time, the women of Playboy have kept Hef relevant and trendy and out of hot water. We saw this when Christie Hefner was made the CEO of Playboy Enterprises during the height of their feminist pressure. We saw this when he made virgins and Baptists and girls from the bible belt Playmates when Meese Commission put their spotlight on him. We saw this when he used Rebecca Armstrong for his political image and stance on AIDS, which was wonderful for Rebecca, but life and safety at the mansion did not change. It’s all for public show. Again, we saw this when his girlfriends kept him in the headlines and on the VIP list to LA’s hottest clubs, contrasted with when he married Kimberly Conrad just as the mansion parties were starting to get out of control. Every woman provided Hef with an angle he could use for his own image and personal gain. And in the early 2000’s, Hef’s trio of girlfriends brought him to relevancy again with the hit E! TV show, ‘The Girls Next Door’.
The show ran for six seasons, and I own every single one of them on DVD. The first five seasons highlight girlfriends Holly, Bridget and Kendra – a trio, which was smaller than Hef had been known for at the time. But the three blondes by Hef’s side was more digestible for the audience, especially since the show was created with a relatively family-friendly vibe. Aside from the occasional boob, the calmness of everyday life at the mansion seemed to be in contrast to stories heard about the crazy atmosphere from the 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s proceeding the current trio. This made the Playboy lifestyle once again marketable, this time for primetime TV.
The show itself was enjoyable because of the personalities that Holly, Bridget and Kendra brought to the screen. My favorite episodes always included their photoshoots or other behind-the-scenes insight, like when the girls had a cameo in the movie ‘The House Bunny’. The dynamics of the girls changed over the years, but their roles on the show for the most part stayed the same:
Holly Madison was shown as the one who was obsessed with Hef. While they showed her actual personality from time to time, her main role was to love and tend to and care for Hef. They didn’t emphasize too much tension between her and the other girlfriends, but as a viewer, we are supposed to root for Holly and Hef to make it in the end. In reality, Holly is a very sweet and unique girl who longed for a sense of belonging and thought she found it in Playboy.
Bridget Marquardt has always confused me; while she was in her 30’s during the filming of the show, she sometimes acted the most like a little girl. She often wore her hair in pigtails coupled with frilly costumes and was always shown crying when she didn’t get what she wanted. This wasn’t done in a tantrum kind of way, but almost to make Bridget look like this sad girl whose dreams haven’t come true yet. Hef, of course, was withholding these dreams from her of becoming a playmate, and wants to look like the hero on camera when she finally gets the spot. Bridget’s gentle demeanor seems genuine, while overall naïve. I can’t lie though – I live for her level of campiness.
Kendra Wilkinson was everyone’s favorite – the sporty, party girl who was hot, young, and just wanted to have a good laugh. She was often shown as non-conforming, wanting to be seen as different and not so girly like the rest of her co-stars. Watching the show, she seems the least interested in Hef, but brings most of the entertainment. She had continued success in reality TV post-Playboy, but has also been quiet after the recent docuseries, which raises questions for me.
When the show was in its popularity, the girls put a book together; I would classify it as a coffee table book. The success of their show was evident, and it was portrayed as a project they all felt very passionate about. Who knows the truth now, but it’s stocked with photos, behind the scenes info, favorite recipes, and more.
I have to admit that I did not go in with the right mindset the first time that I read Holly Madison’s book. I still had on my rose-colored glasses about Playboy, and I was a big fan of Kendra’s – like many people. Holly doesn’t speak highly of Kendra in her book, nor Hef, nor her experience in the mansion overall. She wrote the book to come clean about her feelings so that she could stop putting on a fake face when asked questions post-mansion life, and a lot of people saw her words as hypocrisy at the time – myself included. After all, we had watched hours and hours of television where Holly is seemingly in love with Hef and having a great life. After having my eyes opened to the dark side of Playboy, I decided to read her book again with a fresh mind.
I was obviously more inclined to believe her in the second read, but Holly also took a lot more accountability than I remembered, and I found that she was actually super transparent. Don’t get me wrong, she does throw a lot of shade, including to co-star Kendra, but most notably to the “Mean Girl” girlfriends who of course included Tiffany Holiday (known in the book as antagonist “Vicky”) and Izabella St. James. Izabella’s book actually included a lot of overlap in the mansions cast of characters, although Izabella did mostly speak pretty decently of her experience in the mansion. They both mention how petty Hef could be and how he loved to pin the girls against each other or find other ways to manipulate them. For example, Izabella St. James mentions how the girls would have to ask Hef individually for their contracted weekly allowance, during which he took that time to air out any current grievances he had with the girls and start up new drama. Both Holly and Izabella also give a peak behind Hef’s “bedroom routine”, which of course was mostly for show by this point. Obviously Hef was known for his sexual adventures, but being well into his seventies and eighties now, I imagine that his stamina was a little off – even with Viagra. While his bedroom did not seem as glamorous as it had once been made out to be, women still made their way up there – in fact were even expected to do so if they were testing for the magazine. However, it’s noted that while girls did have technical intercourse with Hef, it was mostly for show and girls were mainly faking their way through sexual interactions with both Hef and each other. The bedroom routine slowed when the seven-girlfriend party posse became the GND trio, and Holly even said she didn’t push girls into Hef’s room to spare them what she went through. Many through this was jealously, and Holly didn’t mind what people thought as long as it scared the girls off.
Holly has been quoted saying that Hef was incorrectly portrayed on the show as a warm grandfatherly figure, coming in to catch up on the antics of his girls. In previous years, Hef had used his Playboy fame and the magazine as a way to control the women, who of course all wanted to be a Centerfold. For Holly, Bridget and Kendra, they knew by not not to expect the promises when it came to pictorials, and so Hef was able to use the show as his new ammo. It was clear that the show as never about Hef but rather about the women that surrounded him. Even the special and guest characters on the show were women, such as the trash that is Mary O’Connor. Mary was portrayed as a nice and innocent grandmotherly house guardian figure, which degusts me to know now how involved she was with keeping Hef’s status quo of manipulation. Mary is thankfully dead now, but was known for responding to girls who confided in her or came to her for help with a simple, “if you don’t want to be here, some other girl will.” Somehow, Holly actually spoke very highly of Mary in her book, which truly shocked me. Holly must have been spared of Mary’s manipulation or perhaps somehow still oblivious to it, which I find strange. Another reoccurring face on the series was the eccentric and former girlfriend, Barbi Benton, who I am surprised has not come forward to speak out against Hef. However, she was always clearly obsessed and overly involve with Hef, having even lost her virginity to him, so I can’t be too surprised that she would still have his back even after everything that has surfaced.
Hef has a pattern of finding young girls who come from a not-great home life and grooming them into participating in the lifestyle he has created for himself and his friends. However, something that I found interesting is that the girls’ families were regularly featured in the first five seasons of ‘the Girl’s Next Door’. Kendra’s mom was a fan favorite, Bridget’s parents were frequent visitors and her brother’s deployment was even a plot point for an episode, and who could forget the shade of red that Holly’s dad turned at the luncheon where Barbi Benton sat on his lap! While the success of the show was due to the women, Hef was continuously using the women for the narration of his own image – it was all to make him look good.
Season six of ‘The Girls Next Door’ was a shift that viewers were not expecting. In fact, when the show was renewed for the sixth season, it was planned to focus on a quieter mansion life between just Holly and Hef. I think most of the audience expected Holly and Hef to eventually get married, but instead they had a rather awkward fallout. The transition itself happened off screen, where Kendra first decides to leave the mansion. I’ve learned now that she was already pregnant during this time with Hank Baskett’s baby, who Holly has claimed in her book was the “only ‘side boyfriend’ to ever stick around”. Honestly, what Hef knew of this at the time is still super unclear to me. On screen, they play this transition off like Kendra leaves because she just met someone new, not that she had been cheating on Hef for a while. Bridget’s exit is also a little unclear – she says she’ll be gone for a while for a project, but never returns as a girlfriend, which leads to a lack of closure, honestly. The reality is that after Kendra and Bridget left, Holly found Hef to be too unmanageable and abusive on her own, leading to her departure soon after. The process of her leaving the mansion took months, during which Hef repeatedly begged her to stay, even using season six of the show as a bargaining tool for staying, thinking that if she doesn’t stay for him maybe she would stay for the show. He even went as far as to leave out a copy of his will for her to find, which stated that if she still lived at the mansion at the time of his dead, she would receive $3 million. Regardless of the offers, Holly moved out and made her way to Vegas. Much of this is kept off screen in case Holly had accepted offers to come back to the show, which left the timeline murky but made room for the new girlfriends and their stories on screen.
Kristina and Karissa Shannon, the twins who move in next and are featured in season six, have recently also spoke out on the A&E series. Holly actually doesn’t speak wonderfully about them in her book, though I wonder if she has changed her tune post-docuseries. The twins were just 18 when they met Hef, who saw them purely as his next schtick. I’ve mentioned that Hef loved a gimmick, and had previously dated the Bentley twins in the “Sandy-Mandy-Brande” girlfriend phase. The Shannon twins were exactly what Hef thought he needed: blonde, naïve, fun-loving, a bad family history, AND there was two of them! Likely convenient, as he saw them all the same anyways. Hef was in his late 80’s when he asked the twins to move in, and when they wouldn’t sleep in bed with him, he told them they needed another girl. The twins then found Crystal Harris, who immediately took the role as number one girlfriend in Holly’s shadow. While the twins only stayed at the mansion for a year and a half, and their ‘Girls Next Door’ season with Crystal only lasted ten episodes, Crystal stayed long enough to marry Hef and become Crystal Hefner. They did have an awkward road to their wedding, including her skipping out on Hef publicly a few days prior to the wedding for one of her side boyfriends, resulting in thousands of dollars down the drain for their disastrous E! special. However, she came crawling back not long after running off, taking the vows and ending up as his third wife after all. Upon Hef’s death in 2017, due to an iron-clad pre-nup, the only thing that Crystal Hefner got to have was his last name. She did, however, receive monetary gifts from Hef prior to his passing, as well as a multi-million dollar mansion. There are current rumors of her writing a tell-all book, and she has reached out after the series to confirm that she had destroyed the tapes and film that decades of women were worried about.
As I’ve said before, my fascination with the women of this empire was ever-present, which led to an interest in Mr. Hugh M. Hefner himself. I’ve studied his history, learned his routines, and can even recognize most of his girlfriends by name and face. He had many strange rituals, including the extreme documentation of his life. There are pictures of everyone who has ever came to the mansion, scrapbooks and video tapes of every party, and so much more – all organized neatly into binders and books. At least, there was – I’m not sure where these things are shelved and stored today, outside of the “revenge porn” tapes allegedly destroyed by Crystal.
I recently read Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream by Steven Watts, and was pleasantly surprised that it was not just filled with admiration for Hef and his empire. This was actually a somewhat unbiased look into Hef’s life, including mentioning a bit of the darkness. The Dorothy Strattan scandal was mentioned – even including the allegations made that Hef had raped her in the grotto. Dorothy even outlined this in an autobiography, and her boyfriend, Peter Bogdanovich, also wrote a book on the abuse Dorothy suffered titled The Killing of the Unicorn, which led to years of sleepless nights from Hef. While I want to reach this book, it’s mysteriously unavailable anywhere I have looked for it… which is particularly interesting considering the public feud that went down the Peter and Hef at the time.
From this book, I learned some new insight into Hef’s troubled mind, including the fact that his “revenge porn” idea was not an original one. During Hef’s first marriage and the beginnings of the magazine, he first started experimenting with orgies and homosexuality, and had group sex with two of his friends and five females. His friends took a few pictures of him with two of the women, and later played a prank on him using the pictures. They made it seem as though they were being sent to him with a blackmail amount of $500, and the friends said that Hef turned so white that they immediately stopped the joke. He must have remembered this feeling and used this idea to ensure he had all the power over others in the future.
It was no secret that Hef had an affinity for women of a certain age, and his may have been hereditary. When Hef was young, his grandfather was charged with statutory sexual assault on four accounts of three girls aged ten and eleven. Hef apparently had a confusing reaction to his grandfather’s legal troubles, excusing this behavior as a result of sexual repression. He did not demonize his grandfather for his actions, but rather sympathized with him and attempted to understand. While Hef may not have been going for women quite this young, he still blurred lots of lines. He allowed women to pose naked for the magazine at the age of seventeen, but just did not release the pictures until after they turned eighteen. He often dated women who were freshly eighteen, even when he was well into his eighties. While many people saw him with groups of beautiful woman and saw him as an idol or “the man”, Hef was actually a pedofile.
What Hef really was, was an absolutely disgusting and pathetic monster. His story revolves entirely around the women in his life, and it has become wildly apparent to me that he would be nothing without them. Hef can hide behind this idea of sexual revolution and freedom, but it all stems from the hurt he felt when women in his youth were not faithful to him. He took this out on young women for the rest of his life as a result, which begs the question on how he even feels about women. Does he even enjoy the company he keeps? Is it all for show? If so, who is he trying to impress?
The answer is of course, other men. If you study men who treat women so poorly, they often show signs of not giving a shit about women as a whole at all, alluding to possible repressed feelings of homosexuality. They care about the status and respect they get from other men – especially as a result of their sexual conquests with women more so than women or the act itself. This obsession with status gained rather than genuine enjoyment of experiences is even more clear when you hear of the mansion bedroom routines, during which Hef was often known to be more of a voyeur than an actual participant. During his old age, this may not have been surprising, but it was a pattern that started in decades prior. Hef certainly went through exploratory phases, to the point of crossing boundaries into beastiality. He often excuses this exploration as a part of the sexual liberation of the 70s, including using this to explain the copious amount of massive orgies.
Throughout the years, you can find Mark Saginor by Hef’s side. (In the 90’s documentary made, titled “Inside the Playboy Mansion”, you can see Mark in the interviews speaking about Hef just as many of the girlfriends mentioned in both Izabella’s and Holly’s books are as well.) Once known as Dr. Saginor, nicknamed “Dr. Feel-Good”, Mark is the father of Jennifer Saginor, whose book I mentioned and who is a main speaker on the A&E docuseries. Mark Saginor was just as disgusting as Hef, with the added benefit of unlimited pharmaceuticals at his disposal. Mark was largely responsible for the drug accessibility in the mansion, often housed Hef’s ‘rejects’ in the abusive “shadow mansions”, and was deeply involved in the abuse distributed over the years. Jennifer does not paint her father in a good light in her book, Playground, and exposes some of the abuse and paranoia he inflicted on her growing up, but she saved one big detail for the A&E series. Jennifer believes that her father was the love of Hef’s life – and I believe her.
Hef and Mark Saginor were inseparable for decades, working together to emulate the Playboy lifestyle. While the women around Hef were always replaceable, Mark stayed consistent. Mark Saginor actually broke up his own family and left his own practice just to be closer to Hef, and even had a room inside the mansion where he resided for a long time – just down the hall from Hef and the girlfriends. Some might have seen him as a brother to Hef, but many knew it was more. It’s been noted that both men participated together in orgies at the mansion, and its speculated that these were formed for an opportunity for the men to be closer. Lines were certainly blurry, but when a drug issue left Playboy exposed, Hef let Mark take the fall. At the time, Jennifer couldn’t understand the level of emotion Mark was experiencing as a result of this fight, because she wasn’t understanding this fall-out as the break up that it was. Mark was notably depressed during the separation from Hef, but their friendship was actually rekindled for the remainder of Hef’s life. In fact, Mark Saginor was the one holding Hef when he died. Sounds fucking romantic to me.
Hef was not a good person. He was not a role model, nor an icon, nor a legend. He was a rapist, a pedofile, an abuser, and a manipulator. He was weak inside, but he had power that he used to inflict decades upon decades of pain. A power, by the way, that he only achieved through women. Hef built his entire empire off of Marilyn Monroe’s pictures, and yet never paid her directly or even met her to my knowledge. And yet, he insisted on being buried beside her for all of eternity, and we have no idea whatsoever if that’s something that Marilyn would have wanted or not.
My fascination with Playboy has obviously shifted. What used to be a feeling of awe and amazement that you get when entering an amusement park has changed to the uncomfortable curiosity of not being able to look away from a train wreck. My love for Playboy has been put to rest, as I can now see it for the damaging cult that it was. However, I will redirect the love to all the amazing women who carried Playboy throughout the years.
Overall, my heart goes out to the many women who suffered the abuse of Hugh Hefner and Playboy Enterprises. These women are beautifully complex and brave survivors. I admire them, respect them, and I hope for some justice. While there may be beauty hidden in their stories, I can only wish that they find some sort of peace in their recovery from all the darkness.
I think we’ve all been captivated by the Hulu show, “Pam & Tommy” that aired this year – myself included. Having been a fan of Playboy as well as Pamela herself, I got sucked into the details of her story.
Something that bothers me is that a huge part of her story is the fact that her photos, her body, and essentially her privacy were declared public property by a judge. She did not have any control into extremely intimate aspects of her life, essentially because she had chosen to model naked at one point in time. They used her image of sexuality against her in an absolutely disgusting and unfair way. But what bothers me is – how is what Hulu did any different?
Pamela Anderson was not involved in the “Pam & Tommy” series, though she was asked to comment prior and during the filming – as was Tommy. While Tommy was ready to be involved and still continues to see any press as good press, sources close to Pamela said she would not be involved at all, and would not even be watching.
This might be because of how Hulu obtained the rights to produce this series. From my understanding, they bought the rights to a Rolling Stone article that detailed how the tape was stolen. By claiming the series was created based on this article, they could bypass Pamela completely. Sounds very similar to how Penthouse was able to publish her pictures without any consent from her whatsoever.
The saving grace, I’m hoping, is that Pam is currently rumored to be in production with Netflix on a documentary. Assuming this is true, this will hopefully provide the platform that Pamela needs to speak her story in her own words, on her own terms. Pamela is undoubtably fascinating and beautiful, which is why I ended up with a copy of Raw – created by Pamela herself along with friend and confidant Emma Dunlavey.
This coffee table book is a collection of unsaturated photographs of Pamela shown along side her thoughts and poetry. While a lot of the book shows some genuine and insightful sides of Pamela, I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is her completely “raw”. A lot of her words, I believe, are still tailored to the image in which she wants to portray – specifically around sexual roles and ideologies. While I do think Pamela is a very sexually free and liberated individual, I also think she knows her audience and is an intelligent businesswoman. I admire her, I respect her, and I appreciated this unique insight into her during this time of her life.
I look forward to more from Pamela Anderson, as she will never cease to captivate us.
Three books written by some of the best of all time:
1. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou While I know many people had to read this growing up in school, this was my first time reading the famous Maya Angelou memoir. If I had to describe this book simply, I would say that it’s beautifully horrifying. Maya is an amazing writer, obviously, but the story is much darker than I think people realize. While it’s an incredibly fascinating look into her journey discovering the power of words and communication, her life was not easy. She writes about racism, sexual assault, and life struggles, but her language is chosen so carefully that the darkness is hidden behind the layers of beauty in her words. This books was a wonderful exploration of the power of language, and also important experiences that Maya was very brave to share.
2. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin This was a short read, but a very impactful one. The book is broken up into two letters written by Baldwin, which I believe makes this a work of non-fiction. The first is to his nephew who shares his name, and the letter reads as a warning for life as a black man in America. This theme continues in his second and much longer letter, which is not addressed to anyone in particular, but rather is from a “region in [his] mind”. His thoughts ebb and flow into different ideas and experiences, which also focus largely on religion. He talks about his internal battles, what led him in and out of the church, and attempts to understand his experiences. I love the way he writes, which makes me excited to read his fictional work.
3. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison If I’m completely transparent about this book, it was one of the most disturbing things I’ve actually ever read. While I appreciate the style in which Toni writes, the subject matter and plot were certainly hard to stomach. She starts with the idea of wanting to have all the features that make up the ‘standard beauty model’, but takes it beyond, to the point where the girl believes her misfortune is a result of her lack of blue eyes. The story is wildly sad and dark, and it did not feel good to read. I have to say that I am very reluctant to try more of Toni Morrison after reading this one.
1. How Y’All Doing? by Leslie Jordan Whether you are a fan from American Horror Story, The Help, or even just Instagram – Leslie Jordan does not disappoint. He is so charming and adorable, even through print, and his book was a really nice and refreshing read. You can definitely hear his tone through his writing and his life did not always take the obvious route. His stories and memories are adorably shared and I enjoyed getting to know him a little more – his life was not what I would have expected. I’d definitely recommend this if you’re looking for something light and happy.
2. Please Don’t Sit On My Bed In Your Outside Clothes by Phoebe Robinson Don’t sleep on Phoebe Robinson! You might know her from her podcast turned HBO series, Two Dope Queens, for her other book, You Can’t Touch My Hair, or from touring with Michelle Obama on her Becoming book tour. Weirdly, I was introduced to her on Rupaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race. No matter where you find her, you’ll love her. She’s super fun, relatable, and charismatic. Her book has a lot of great content in it, but I will admit that some of it is a little lengthy. That being said, I still got a lot out of reading her thoughts. Her words are important, and I look forward to more of her in the future. This is a great read for anyone who doesn’t mind a casual book that’s a little on the long side.
3. My Name’s Yours, What’s Alaska? by Alaska Thunderfuck I’m a big big fan of Alaska’s – obviously from RuPaul’s Drag Race and her recap podcast Race Chaser with Willam, but also just as a human. I feel like I could relate to her so much, as a Pennsylvania girl myself, and because she super-fans over things the way that I do. I loved getting to know her better, especially seeing more insight into her relationship with Sharon needles. The behind-the-scenes info on Drag Race and fame was also really interesting, and the pictures were definitely my favorite part. If you’re a fan of Alaska’s, don’t hesitate to grab her book.
In the beginning of each year, I typically make a list of goals and have some thoughts going into the new year for what I’m expecting and hoping to get out of a new 12 months. However, I’m gonna be completely honest and say that life can be fucking hard. My goals are often unmet, expectations not upheld, and I end up disappointed. I can’t really help a lot of these things – especially with the pandemic putting a hold on much of what life had in store.
My goals involved traveling, money, getting healthier, and more creative. And again, the pandemic often makes that pretty fucking difficult. While I am lucky enough to have traveled a good amount this year, my financial goals were definitely not met and neither were my weight goals or my writing goals. (Thankfully, my book reading goals are almost always met!) Overall, I need to give myself a break – which might include less expectation setting for this upcoming year. Instead, I’m going to focus on being kind to myself and making sure that I’m feeling good.
2021 was a good year overall. I am lucky to have amazing company in my life, lots of adventure, tons of fun and so much love. Going into 2022, I just want to appreciate more of what I have right now and let life take its course. Maybe things won’t always look exactly like what I had originally pictured, but I’m also happier than I ever could have imagined. So all in all, I’m excited for this yearly reset and hopeful for more joy.
I cannot believe that this is real life!! A few months back, I entered a podcast contest with iHeart Radio and Tongal, where I submitted a one-minute trailer for a podcast idea. I became a semi-finalist and was chosen to make a full pilot episode, and now I am one of 10 finalists whose pilots are live! Everyone is able to vote on their favorite, and the winner will be greenlit to create a full series on their idea!
My podcast focuses on the epic love stories that don’t have a happily ever after – the romantic encounters that seem promising, only to end with a serious crash and burn. It’s called, “Yeah, That Didn’t Work Out”, and it would feature a new guest each episode with an epic love connection… that didn’t work out. These fascinating stories will be completely authentic, will come from real, diverse people, but will draw you in as if someone has written the script. This show will give you the same feeling as when you’re listening to all the disastrous details of your best friend’s last horrible Tinder date. Listeners will feel like they are part of the gang and in on the gossip, and this will build a sense of community.
So! There’s been quite a lot of updates since I first posted about Head2Toe Soaps almost two years ago!
First update, my business partner and I are now platonic but still very close friends, and our business is still doing very well. It’s something that we still do just for fun, but we have definitely put a small amount of profit aside, although it all ends up going back into the business. We’re enjoying ourselves and having fun along this ride!
Second, we’ve moved from Etsy to our own website: head2toesoaps.com. This allows us to have more creative control over our products, including discounts and special promotions. It also allows more money to stay with us rather than a third party, and our site is also super cute! We keep our inventory up to date on the site at all times, so it’s also a great way to see what we currently have available.
Third, we have done more to reduce our carbon footprint. We changed our packaging from fully wrapped soaps in brown paper with twine to just a small brown strip with a label. This allows not only for less material when packaging, but also allows for our customers who are shopping in person to actually see and be able to smell the soap rather than it being covered by the wrapping.
And last, we are making soap from scratch rather than the melt-and-pour kits that we originally started with. Our ingredients are listed on the label of every single soap, and all of our soap bases are completely and 100% vegan.
We have some staples that you can usually find on our site, including a lush succulent scent with aloe, Himalayan salt bars, lavender and oatmeal, and more. However, we also welcome custom orders which can be placed by sending us a message through our website or contacting us through DM on our Instagram: @head2toesoaps. (Tiktok coming soon!)
Hey everybody, my friend Eugene lives in Ghana and he is one of the nicest, sweetest, cutest people I’ve ever met. Unfortunately, Ghana has introduced one of the harshest anti-LGBTQ+ laws to date, and Eugene’s safety is in danger.
“In regards to the LGBTQIA+ situation in Ghana, Eugene has said -“There’s a lot of ignorance and the discussions around queer people are very very toxic… It’s very hard. You lose your family, you lose everything. Almost no one is out… Constantly in danger… [Danger of] violence, not being hired for jobs… People are wrong. They [LGBTQIA+ Community] just want to be respected in a humane way…” The situation has gotten worse. Ghana’s parliament is set to debate a draft bill which seeks to introduce some of the harshest anti-LGBT laws on the continent. These include prison sentences and so-called “conversion therapy”. Eugene’s recently updated us and said, “There is a terrible anti-gay bill being passed in Ghana which will send anyone who is gay or even suspected to be gay to years in prison. Obviously, this has panicked me for close to three months now and I have been looking to relocate. I’m so tired of this fight to just live a life without fear.” Eugene is planning on relocating to any country where it is legally safe to be LGBTQIA+. “
If you can donate anything to help Eugene reach safety, please click the link below:
After a successful bachelorette trip, it was time for the big day itself! As Maid of Honor, most of the heavy lifting gets done through the bridal shower and bachelorette parties – I was lucky enough to have the bride assign co-maids of honor titles: one to me (high school bestie) and one to her bestie from college. So we each took an event, and we absolutely crushed it. However, there’s still tons to do as Maid of Honor the day of the wedding – and even more you can do to help make the day extra special.
For anyone who may need some advice on how to be the best, most amazing, sickest, dopest maid of honor possible, here are 5 tips from my experience that I can pass on:
1. Work on your speech WELL in advance. Don’t leave this for last minute. The speech can be something you can easily knock out of the park with a little time and effort put in. My biggest advice for writing a great speech is to make sure it’s personal to the bride and groom but also something the whole room can enjoy. Keep it light and happy, don’t mention anything that might cause uncomfortability, and don’t make it too much about yourself. Here’s a quick outline that I would recommend following:
Introduce yourself and how you know the bride/groom Mention how thankful you are to be there Tell a cute story/make a lighthearted joke Talk about what you love about the bride Talk about them as a couple Wish them well for the future. Toast & Cheers!
If you use that basic format, add in all the personal details and flare, you’ll knock it out of the park.
2. Make sure bride gets to eat. That includes dessert! This isn’t just to have food in her stomach with all the champagne flowing, but also because she put a lot of time and effort into putting this menu together. Make sure she gets to enjoy it! Keep an eye out during dinner that she has a full plate and ensure she has time to clear as much as possible before the staff comes to take the plates away. Of course the newly married couple is going to cut the cake, but make sure she gets to enjoy a piece. In my case, there was an ice cream bar, but I made sure to ask the bride if she got some ice cream, which led to me blocking the way for her to get some. A simple, “the bride is taking a quick break to get dessert!” is something that most guests eager to talk to the bride can understand, so make sure you speak up for the bride who may be too nice to cut a conversation short!
3. If you can, make some curated playlists. I had a “getting ready” playlist with all the classic wedding-themed songs, mixed in with some of the bride’s favorites. Take requests from other bridesmaids and relatives, and be ready to change the vibe if people need to relax or be more hyped up. If possible, have a playlist ready for the car ride to the venue if it’s separate from where you are getting ready. Make sure it’s something that will get everyone in the mood and keep a big smile on the bride’s face. In my case, the music made me totally lose it and start crying on the way to the venue – which the bride found hilarious.
4. Get the flower girl included. She may not be able to cheers with champagne or reminisce about the bachelorette party, but she’s still a part of the bridal party and is likely very important to the bride. If she is getting ready or rehearsing with you all, try to get to know her. Try not to talk to her like she is a kid, but rather one of the girls. Take pictures and selfies and include her in the “getting ready talk”. And at the reception, pull her onto the dance floor. It’ll make for some really memorable moments to have her more involved.
5. Add some finishing-touches with signs and photobooth things. Let me be clear – this does not mean you should take on huge decorations and spend loads of money and impose on what the bride has put together at her venue. BUT I would recommending grabbing 3 small things if you are able that should cost you less than $5 each. The first is a backdrop or balloons for you and the other bridesmaids to take pictures in front of wherever you are getting ready. The one I got had some streamers hanging with heart shaped balloons and one that said “love”, and it cost about $4.99. The second is a “just married” sign for your after-party. Even if you end up in someone’s hotel suite, this is a cute little thing you can hang in the corner to make the room a little more special. We were at a bar, so I hung it near the entrace with no one’s permission asked. The sign was small and white and only cost $2.50. And the last – if you can – is a “just married” sign that you can sneak somewhere for the bride and groom to find after the reception. I was lucky enough to have access to their hotel suite, but even in their exit limo/car or lobby of where they are staying would still be a cute thing for them to find after the fun is done. I used balloons that spelled out “just married”, and I also included a little card with a note for them. The balloons were $3.00 and the card was probably $7 because it was Papyrus. This isn’t something you have to do, but can help to make the couple feel extra special.
BONUS Tip: Have a creative reception entrance. Talk to your walking partner ahead of time, try to come up with something unique, but plan something that fits you both. Funny props, a super short dance routine, or some sort of drinking stunt can make for a fun arrival to the reception. And don’t forget to have a great time, and break it down on the dance floor!
The pictures from this wedding were so wonderful, so I have to take a moment to splash a few more of them here:
To my beautiful friend who made the most lovely bride, thank you for including me in your special day, as well as so many other important moments of your life. I am so grateful to have been your Maid of Honor, so lucky to be your friend, and I love you oh so very much, forever.
I’ve been making my way through reading material that furthers my personal education about racial issues – especially since I didn’t get this education in school. There’s a lot of action that can be taken to help further the black lives matter movement, and that starts with educating yourself on how to act and what you can do. I’ll be sharing all the books I read here and being honest with my recommendations; and to start us off, I’m going to go through the first set of books in the order in which I recommend them, which is actually the opposite order in which I read them.
1. So You Wanna Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo If you only read one book this year, MAKE IT THIS ONE. Everything I wanted to read, learn, and explore was in this book. I appreciate so many things about this book – specifically how much intersectionality is highlighted. Ijeoma Oluo is an amazing writer, includes her own experiences, and speaks in a way that is truly eye opening. She gets into the good stuff right away, balances topics beautifully from chapter to chapter, and writes for all readers to walk away with insight. She covers areas such as affirmative action, cultural appropriation, the school-to-prison pipeline, the Martin/Malcom dichotomy, microaggressions, hair, the model-minority myth, anger, accountability, and so much more. I will be spending a lot of time suggesting this book on my social media and to people in my life, and I recommend it to anyone who is ready to have productive conversations about race in this world.
Privilege Check from So You Wanna Talk About Race: Are you white? Are you male? Are you non-disabled? Are you neuro-typical? Are you a documented citizen of the country you live in? Are you cisgender? Are you straight? Did you grow up middle class? Did you grow up in a stable home environment? Are you tall / thin / conventionally attractive?
2. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About RacismbyRobin DiAngelo This book took a deep dive into how white people (even those who don’t consider themselves racist) are hurting and helping, for which I am grateful. I feel like this book held a mirror up to my white experience, down to even analyzing my experience as a white-presenting Hispanic individual. White people can benefit from reading this book because it points out how we fit into the mix, and then acknowledges how we should and should not react to conversations about race. She asks questions and explores ideas that opened my eyes to things I had not thought of before – to the point where I found some areas in which I needed to hold myself accountable. I’d recommend this read for white people, so we can make sure that we are better allies to people of color – there’s a lot to learn here.
3. Uncomfortable Conversations With A Black Man by Emmanuel Acho While I very much appreciate all the dialogue that Emmanuel put into this book, I would categorize this as more of a “starter” book. The book does a great job of unpacking the basics and explaining things in a way that non-people of color can start to look at the world through a new lens, and there’s a huge reference section of additional reads and resources. However, for myself, a lot of the book was things I very much already knew, although I do appreciate learning some new ways to explain ideas I’ve already digested. I would also give just a small critique that the book was very much written from a straight male perspective; I would have loved more information about what black women specifically deal with, as well as trans and LGBTQ perspectives too. Again, this is packed full of great information and would be an easy read to recommend to your co-worker or relative that is just starting to understand the importance of these topics.
I will be reading so so so many more books, as this is just the beginning. Check back to keep up with all my reads, or reach out on social media for more recommendations.
Enough of the standard, predictable, rom-com, overplayed, typical love story. I want queer couples, diverse couples, and stories that break the mold. So, here are 3 books I read that do just that:
1. Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson This has quickly become one of my all time favorite books ever ever ever ever ever. It’s written so beautifully, so poetically and lyrically, which was a lovely after I had just finished some poetry books and was coming back to novels. As a reader, you really get a unique perspective into the characters’ thought paths and experiences. The rhythm of these words was so incredibly special and unusual in the best way. The ups and downs of this story, however big or small, tugged at my heart strings in a way I was not expecting. It also gave me a unique perspective on the anxieties that black people face in this America. The heartbreak that the main character feels after an unjust tragedy strikes yet again is prominent and impactful, and the story is important, significant, and realistic. I’m seriously still obsessed with the way this was written – I’ve never read anything like it and I already can’t wait to read it again. Update: I read it again, and it was still just as wonderful as the first time.
2. Written In The Stars by Alexandra Bellefleur I will say this – this story is very much a typical romantic comedy. It was predictable, cheesy, and hardly really broke the mold at all. The only way that this differs from every other rom-com ever created – the story is about a lesbian couple. Within 10 pages into the book, I correctly predicted the entire plotlines and ending of the book. However, I still couldn’t stop reading and I had to see for myself. Yes, it all played out the way I was expecting it to – but hey, it was lesbians, so I had to finish the story. I will say that the characters are interesting, and even us queer women deserve to read cheesy romantic comedies that we can relate to and dream about. I would recommend this book to young adults who are looking for that typical silly love story, but queer.
3. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston When I first heard that this was a lesbian subway time-travel love story, I have to admit that I was weary. However, this ended up being super enjoyable and not as predictable as I had imagined. It was written very well, there were connections I was not expecting, and it was queer queer queer queer QUEER. It felt super relatable and familiar… besides the sci-fi aspects of course. It’s all done in a way that I really loved reading, and I appreciated how much diversity and representation that was included. I’d honestly recommend this to anybody who is open to a love story with a small sci-fi twist – and even if you aren’t at first, still consider giving this a try!
If I choose to continue my endeavors with reading love stories, I’d definitely like to keep it diverse.
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I am an outspoken pansexual personality who is a regular on the Ross Mathews’ podcast, known as “Bisexual Gina”, delivering LGBTQ+ content via social media and the Straight Talk with Ross podcast.
I am an authentic, upbeat, realist who is not afraid to speak my mind and overshare details of my life. I’m currently living in Tucson, Arizona but I grew up in the Philadelphia area. I’m friendly and approachable but also intelligent and strategic, and I’ve done the work on myself to be self-aware, confident, and charismatic. I’m magnetic, energetic, personable, and unforgettable.
My experience includes 5+ years in the corporate and human resource world, and various experience in areas such as TV, podcast and video production, event planning and management, social media creation, and more. My professional experience in business, my passion and dedication, and my fresh and unique personality and point of view will ensure my success wherever I am able to get involved.
Instagram: @ginafinio (1.5K followers) • TikTok: @bisexualgina (23.7K followers) Videos featured on popular Instagram meme accounts, such as: @best_of_grindr (2.5M followers), @hotmessbian (181K), @lesbianmemearchive (110K), @i.m.a.pan.duh (40K), @alusofficial (150K), and more
Areas of interest include but are not limited to: TV/movie production, podcast production, social media content creation, collaboration, or management, personal assistant opportunities, reality TV, social event (or drag event) project planning, writing (blog content or otherwise), adult entertainment, LBGTQ+, self-improvement, or relationship focused apps or organizations, human rights work, and other opportunities in the entertainment industry.
I recently got to plan a bachelorette party in Miami for one of my closest friends, and even though I had never been to Miami before, I actually feel super proud of the events that I put together! We stayed in Wynwood, spent a ton of time on Miami Beach, and got lots of sun. Despite getting stuck in an awful situation while trying to fly back, I truly had an awesome time.
Itinerary: THURSDAY: Arrivals, Dinner @ Casa Tua, Karaoke @ 9Beach FRIDAY: Boat Day! @ Sea Isle Marina, Bars/Club: The Sylvester SATURDAY: Pool Party Day! @ Strawberry Moon @ The Good Time Hotel & AirBnb Pool SUNDAY: Checkouts
“Party in the city where the heat is on / All night, on the beach till the break of dawn / “Welcome to Miami” / “Bienvenidos a Miami”” – Will Smith
I’ve mentioned before that for my job, I tasked myself with reading professional development books. Last time I reached out to a friend, but my next professional read was actually recommended by my girlfriend: The Power of Positive Energy by Tanaaz Chubb. Just like last time, I took over 10 pages of notes in a notebook, and turned that into a presentation for my co-workers.
Here’s all the information that was included in my Powerpoint presentation to my teammates on how to harvest your power of positive energy:
Energy: Everything in the universe vibrates at a particular frequency; Thoughts and actions both beam energy into the universe
Energetic Vibration: Low vibration = negative energy; High = positive energy
High vibrations attract positive experiences; You attract the energy you frequent
What energy are you putting out into the universe?: YOUR THOUGHTS INFLUENCE REALITY.
LOW VIBRATIONS •Fear •Anger •Guilt •Self-loathing •Lack of self-worth
HIGH VIBRATIONS •Love •Joy •Abundance •Healing •Purpose
The Energy of Self-Love:
•Focus on YOU – do not compare your journey to others •Balance caregiving and self-love •Choose to love yourself NOW, not “when…” •Reflect on the thoughts of who is around you •Pay attention to how you speak to yourself
“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” – RuPaul
Discover Your Purpose: It’s NOT a career! Your purpose is to be *you* and influence the world •Be the best YOU for yourself, your job, family, friends, etc. •Find your joy and believe in yourself
Exercise: List 100 things that you love doing
Manifesting a Positive Life: •Let go of things that no longer serve you •Accept the things that are outside of your control •Release yourself from the past •Be present and accept what life brings you •Accept yourself and practice self-love •Maintain a positive perspective and mindset If you feel stuck: stop, slow down, and reflect
Law of Attraction and Intention: •Your thoughts are energy signals that attract things into your life •Don’t limit your ability to receive energy •Remain open to the universe to fully access your intuition
Ways to Release Negative Energy and Raise Your Vibration: •Deep Breathing •Exercise •Meditate •Laughing/Smiling •Get In Nature •Being grateful/thankful •Self-Reflection •Shifting Mindset
Positive Energy = Positive Life
Positive Thoughts -> Positive Words -> Positive Actions
Tips: •Remember that you are deserving of a positive life •Set realistic expectations •Don’t try too hard – just be *you* •Own your happiness •Shifting your life takes time
The Power of Your Energy: •You are the observer of your thoughts •You have the power to choose which thoughts to believe •You have the power to choose which thoughts to ignore •You have the power to change the flow of your thoughts •The thoughts you give power to shape how you view your world
“Life is not as serious as many of us make it out to be – it is a temporary journey of discovery, learning, growing, and enjoying. If you can step of the seriousness and the confusion and the pain for just a moment, you will see that there is a whole world of opportunities waiting before you.”
I was recommended a poetry book by a close friend, and I quickly fell in love with both the poet as well as poetry books overall. As much as I typically love novels, this was a perfect time for me to slow down and digest some thoughts and wisdom into my soul. I usually read poems individually through different online sites and social media, but there’s something I really like about going through an entire book’s full. I was able to put on some instrumental music and really get into the words written out on all the pages. In the past few months alone, I’ve actually made my way through five different books of poetry (with a few more on my list as well). I truly got so much out of reading these, so I wanted to share my recommendations:
1. Flowers On The Moon by Billy Chapata This book has lowkey changed my life. The wisdom in this book written in small, digestible formats is one of my favorite things I’ve ever read. It’s relatable on so many levels, and there’s something in it for everyone. I actually bought over 10 copies of this book after finishing it, and have given it as gifts to my sister and my closest friends. I’ll likely buy more again at Christmas time for everyone I’ve missed. I couldn’t recommend this book more, and I actually suggest reading just one or two pages a day rather than the entirety at once.
2. She Must Be Mad by Charly Cox The author broke this up into four parts: “she must be… in love”, “mad”, “fat” and “an adult”. I enjoyed each section for different reasons, and although all of them were relatable, I found myself going back to “she must be fat”. The content was eerily relatable and bought me through several points of the ongoing journey we have with our bodies. Her writing made me laugh, roll my eyes, and feel sorry for our younger selves. But somehow, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
3. Healing Her by Sez Kristiansen While this was a quick read, I found this to be very satisfying. The themes of this book focus on women and our experiences with self-healing, awakening, emotional darkness, and self-love. The writing and the imagery felt full of compassion in a very gentle way that quieted my mind. I very much found a sense of peace while reading through this.
4. Sour Honey And Soul Food by Billy Chapata I was already a fan of his going into this book, and he did not disappoint. One of the reasons I like this particular book of Billy Chapata’s, is that this very much is focused on the beauty and complexities of loving a woman. He writes with such respect, admiration, and gentleness in regards to women and relationships overall. The words are dynamic and beautiful and promote self-love above anything else.
5. Chameleon Aura by Billy Chapata Again, being a big fan of Billy’s poetry, this book was very on brand with his normal themes of self-love. There was also a big focus on energy and growth. A lot of Billy’s poetry focuses on relationships and his perspectives often reassure me of the healthy relationship that I’m currently in. The way that he writes about women is lyrically beautiful, and I always feel very refreshed after reading through pages of his words.
As we hit June, I’m focusing on being thankful for how great this year has been so far. One source of my happiness is my girlfriend, so here’s a photo dump of only a small portion of amazing memories that she has given me in 2021:
I was lucky enough to go to the grand post-shutdown re-opening of Ross’ Bubbly Brunch in Palm Springs over Memorial Day Weekend! Hosted at the Wine Lounge, the cast was packed with some incredible performers that did not disappoint. Ross was there himself to host, and I also got to meet Carson Kressley and Fortune Feimster, who both came to support, as well as tons of the “Straight Talk” family. It was truly one of the best days ever, and I hope I can go again – either in Palm Springs, or another city!
Performers included host Morgan McMichaels from Rupaul’s Drag Race, Ongina, Delta Work, Jasmine Masters, and Joey Jay also from Rupaul’s Drag Race, and Palm Springs’ legend Savannah Westbrooke.
Go Ask Alice has always been one of my all time favorite books to read, and recently I discovered Jay’s Journal as well. After doing a couple quick google searches, I found that there is a whole series of novels published in the same style.
My best friend and I decided to read the rest of this “Anonymous” series by this publisher, which was five more books in addition to the two above. Each story was super unique from the next, but all were wildly intriguing. We planned to read one per month but ended up finishing all five in just over two months:
1. Lucky In The Sky While this diary heavily focuses on her drug use, it feels very different from Go Ask Alice. It takes place sometime in the early 2010’s ish, somewhere near Los Angeles – so though this is not very hippy dippy, maybe this would be the more current version of the Go Ask Alice story? The main character is a party girl that gets wrapped up in the lifestyle – which is easy to do when you’re getting paraded around Malibu beach houses. While it ends somewhat abruptly, I very much enjoyed following her journey.
2. Calling Maggie May This story is full of sadness and loneliness, and is based on that fact that everybody just wants to feel like they fit in somewhere. The lead in this book was very sheltered as a result of her family’s culture, and jumped at the first sign of a life that was not her own. Unfortunately for her, the first chance she has was a life of prostitution, and she gets thrown in almost immediately. I felt bad for her throughout most of the book, because she just wanted to belong to something to badly. She was looking for sisterhood and put her trust in the hands of people she barely knew. It gets more and more bleak, and honestly, ends pretty horribly. That being said, I enjoyed the way she wrote and would still recommend this.
3. Breaking Bailey The way that this girl wrote, I forgot multiple times that I was reading a diary and not an actual fiction novel. Her story is honestly crazy – she gets shipped off to boarding school, does well in her chemistry classes, and ends up in a group of honor students who make meth on the side. The story takes off right away, and is coupled with a love story as well with one of the other members of the club. At first she is living a dream, until the pressure of keeping up their supply on top of the intense course load (and more) comes crashing down on her. This one is easily one of my favorites and I will definitely be re-reading this again soon.
4. Letting Ana Go As someone who has struggled with eating disorders, this book was definitely hard to read. Her struggle is so intense and while I thought I’d be able to relate to some of what she was feeling, that was not necessarily the case. My personal experience was clearly different, and I found her struggle to be much more extreme. What was frustrating about this story was that a lot of her negative habits were forced on her by her friend and her friend’s mom, rather than her own decisions. It’s hard to see this story play out, and I found the ending to be somewhat unrealistic (even though this is based on true events).
5. The Book of David I didn’t think I would like this one, but it turned out to be one of my favorites! The story is based on a “big secret”, which turns out to be that the football team quarterback is gay and in love with the new kid. Because this took place around 2010, I was confused on why this was such a big secret. However, he grew up in Arkansas in a very conservative and religious town, so I have to remember that my high school experience is not always the norm. This became an adorable love story that honestly sounded super similar to the movie Love, Simon. I don’t know if this was the inspiration, but I loved reading this. It’s also noteworthy that this is the only novel that has a somewhat happy ending where the main character does not die and leave the diary behind.
There were more books available by another publisher, so maybe we will eventually make our way through those. Even though these books can get rather dark, they are also easy and quick reads that are often relatable at the core. Honestly these are some of my favorite books and now I can’t stop thinking about all the journals that I have or haven’t kept over the years..
One of the trips that was canceled as a result of the pandemic was my ex’s lifelong dream of camping her way up to the Redwood Forrest. After reading The Legacy of Luna as a kid, Vanessa has wanted to see the Redwood trees for herself ever since. She had tried to plan the trip in 2019, we tried twice to make this happen in 2020, but it wasn’t until this April of 2021 that we were able to make her dream a reality. People probably don’t understand how ex’s can go on a trip together – especially since I’m in a relationship with someone else – but this felt absolutely normal to us and I didn’t want to miss out.
The trip was AMAZING! California is such a beautiful state, and I loved (almost) all of the campgrounds we stayed in. Vanessa actually cried when she saw the huge Redwood trees – multiple times, actually! We’ve got camping down to a routine, and it was great to have so much time off to just explore and enjoy. My favorite part of the entire trip was the 45 minutes we spent on this random beach we found on our drive – about 30 minutes south of where we stayed in the Redwood National Forrest. We got to run around with the dogs, had a ton of laughs, and it was completely serendipitous.
I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m thankful that we were able to safely travel all over the state of California after a year of this pandemic. I’m thankful that I harvest healthy relationships in my life that lead to genuine long-term friendships. I’m thankful that the dogs are great travelers who make the trip extra fun. I’m thankful for the amazing and understanding girlfriend that I got to come home to. And I’m thankful that Vanessa still wanted to include me on this incredible adventure.
Here’s the rough breakdown of our trip followed by my video and some awesome pictures:
Day One: 6.5 hour drive from Tucson to Barton Flats Campground in San Bernardino National Forrest Day Two: 9 hour drive to Kelsey Creek Campground in Clear Lake State Park Day Three: 4.5 hour drive to Elk Prairie Campground in Redwood State and National Forrest Day Four: 4.5 hour drive to Wildcat Campground in Hendy Woods State Park Day Five: No driving! Another day in Hendy Woods Day Six: 2 hour drive to Bodega Dunes Campground in Sonoma Coast State Park Day Seven: 8.5 hour drive to Black Rock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park Day Eight: 6.5 hour drive home to Tucson
This was honestly a once in a lifetime kind of trip, and I am so lucky to have gotten to experience this adventure this year.
The more shopping that I do online, the more success I have with getting everything that I ordered to fit me properly. I have a couple of tips and tricks of the trade, and since shopping online has basically become the norm, I thought I would share. (Just as a disclaimer – I’m not a fashion blogger, I’m not someone who gets paid or promoted to use or wear brands, I’m not an influencer, etc. I’m just a body positive girl who has some super simple tricks to share on how to wear the most of your orders.)
There’s three main tips that I have:
1. When possible, try to shop somewhere consistently. If you already know the brand, you’ll have a better understanding of the materials you’re about to purchase and their durability and wear. There are several shopping apps that even have many brands included in their list of products, so you can still have versatility in your wardrobe. Shopping on the same app/website also allows for you to gain points and get coupons for return business. (Pro Tip: Take pics of yourself in each garment when your clothing arrives for potential extra review/rewards points.)
2. DO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO THE SIZE. I cannot stress this enough so I am going to say it again. Do not pay attention to the size. Sizing is not universal, even within a brand’s collection. INSTEAD: Pay attention to the measurements. By looking at measurements over sizing, I have a wardrobe that fits me accurately but ranges from size Small to XXXXL. That is not an exaggeration. Also, by paying attention to measurements, you can ensure the item will have the fit that you are looking for. To know your measurements initially, you can either manually measure yourself or look up the measurements of something that you already own and like that you bought online (or can look up). I usually compare items I’m shopping to things I already have ordered – which helps even more if it is from the same site. I know that anything that’s 19 to 28 inches in the shoulder will fit more on the looser side, where as anything smaller is going to be a bit more fitted. Something 23 inches in length is usually longer with my high-waisted pants, where as 19 inches or less is more crop-top length. (And so on…) By knowing my range, I can better ensure I’ll be able to wear everything I order comfortably.
3. Place your order with enough time to ensure you can find a backup if things do not fit. There’s always a chance that you don’t bat 100 with your order, and if you are planning for something specific, you don’t want to put yourself in a bind. If your order is for an event, make sure you plan ahead. (Side note: When things don’t fit, don’t procrastinate on your return process. If you end up with items that can’t be returned, you can always try to resell through apps or second-hand stores, re-gift the items, or donate to charity.)
I recently went to the mall to do some shopping in-person since I have some upcoming trips planned, but the dressing rooms are still not open due to the pandemic. As a result, this makes in-person shopping just as much of a gamble as online shopping. Yes, you can see the garments in your hands. This does help to ensure the material is what you are looking for. But not being able to try things on does not allow you to know how it would truly fit. Personally, since I was not able to compare the items with the measurements, I only had a 50%ish success rate in things that fit perfectly. The other 50% fit *~okay~* and might fit better when I lose a little weight or style it differently. Even still, without the benefit of trying things on, shopping in person or shopping online are close to the same.
I’ve been going through my drafts, and this one has been sitting here for over a year. I have links for a list of movies from “last fall” and “this summer“, and I don’t even know what year this is referring to anymore (2019, maybe?). So in an effort to do some (almost) spring cleaning – here’s the reviews that have been sitting in draft mode for too long:
Random, hilarious, brilliant. Undermarketed, underappreciated, underrated. Fantastic to see an LGBTQ plot line that wasn’t just a coming out story, and awesome to see a women dominated cast. I laughed a lot and was reminded of many Judd Apatow nuances that I enjoyed. It’s currently on Hulu so will be watching over and over.
Murder Mystery: A
Cheesy, corny, and hilariously funny if you like that type of humor. The goofiness and campiness of the film kept me laughing the whole time. And who doesn’t love a good murder mystery? Especially if the beautiful Jennifer Aniston is involved. Since it’s on Netflix, I’ll definitely be watching again.
I love the Beatles, so I was watching this movie for the soundtrack. And yeah, it was there, and the movie was decent, but I was definitely expecting more “wow”. It was a pretty mellow movie overall, but was still a cute film. I enjoyed the Beatles references and covers the most, which kinda took a bit to get to. But it was still a good movie, and I would watch it again.
If you’ve watched the trailer, then you’ve basically seen the movie. The entire first hour is just setting up the fact that the kids are going to the house to party, and hardly anything scary happens til the second half of the movie. While there was a few good scary parts, it didn’t have a great ending and was overall pretty underwhelming.
There’s five movies left on the list that I didn’t get to watch and review just yet: Rocketman, Men In Black: International, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Good Boys, and Where’d You Go Bernadette. Maybe I’ll get to them eventually, maybe not, who knows.
This book has been sitting on my shelf for a loooong time. I’m not even sure how it ended up in my possession, but it’s been on my “to read” list for quite a while. I was finally able to dive in this month, thinking that a book of essays would be perfect for my schedule right now. I made my way through the book quicker than I expected.
Honestly, I only loved one of the essays in the book, and it was the first one. So it was kind of as if it set the book up to be super charismatic and funny, and then I was a little disappointed by what followed. The other essays that I started to like a little bit didn’t really have a concrete ending, so I’m not even sure if I liked them or if I just wasn’t as bored reading them as I was some of the others. There were several essays that I truly felt were just about nothing.
I can tell that the author is a great writer, and had I only read the first essay, I’d be obsessed with her. I’m hoping and assuming that others enjoyed making their way through this book a little bit more than I did. (Regardless, you can find this wherever fine books are sold.)
After re-readingGo Ask Alice, I got the suggestion to read Jay’s Journal as well. This was published by the same company, and was also a diary turned novel. Just like in Go Ask Alice, the main character indulges in things that ultimately lead to them losing their life. This journal was also found by the parents of a boy named Jay after his unfortunate suicide.
While Go Ask Alice is mainly focused around drugs, Jay’s Journal focuses more on Jay’s obsession with supernatural forces, devil worship, and voodoo. He calls this practice “O”, and it ranges from Ouija boards and tarot cards to the sacrifice of animals and consumptions of their raw organs and blood. While there is sometimes drug use, the cult mindset is apparent, and Jay is largely sucked in through his relationship and friends. A lot of the book is very dark, touches on depression, and ends kind of wildly.
I can’t help but wonder how much of this was fabricated and how much was truly authentic, especially in his mother’s notes in the end. I also wonder how much of the events recapped were figments of Jay’s imagination versus true memories. Either way, the story was intriguing and a good follow-up if Go Ask Alice leaves you wanting more. I’m sure you can find this wherever fine books are sold.
Well. Here’s the thing. Did I meet all of my goals for 2020? Honestly? No. Not all of them. However, I’m not going to be hard on myself about that. 2020 was a fuck of a year. I did what I could, and it wasn’t a total loss, but I’m not quite where I expected to be when I set these goals in the beginning of last year. I’m still unsure what to expect for 2021, but I’m hoping a vaccine starts to show us a world returning to normal. I’m proud of the work I’ve done to adjust during this pandemic, so I have high hopes for this new year. Here are my goals for 2021:
1. I’m happy to report that in both 2019 and 2020, I set and achieved – actually surpassed – my goal of reading at least one book per month. I have no problem believing that this will be a goal that I can reach again this year, and I already have a long list of what I’d like to read.
2. My writing goal from last year went so/so, but I’d like to keep this as a priority for going into the next year. My big goal for 2020 was to finish the rough draft of a book.. and I got 1/4 of the way done. I fell off heavily from my blog, but I was ably to rally at the end of the year and back date a bunch of posts. (I’m still working on a few!) I don’t think it’s realistic for me to write one post a week without drawing my attention away from other projects, so I’m making the goal of one blog post per month for 2021. I’m hoping I also spend time writing the book I was working on, a new one, maybe a collection of essays or even poems, etc. I’m going to open my mind up to whatever creative process fuels my motivation.
3. My finances were actually doing better as a result of the pandemic – a combination of canceled trips and stimulus checks resulted in this. However, I did just move into a new house and spent a ton on Christmas presents, so I wouldn’t say it’s in a fantastic spot at this point. I’d definitely like this to be a focus for myself for 2021, although I already know I have many expenses coming up. Budging and not overspending will be key, and hopefully I’m able to at least cut my debt in half.
4. I’m not thrilled about it, but I gained a ton of weight in quarantine. I’m serious when I say a lot – I gained over 30 pounds in two months when I started working from home. I tried to lose some prior to my cousin’s wedding last August, and I got maybe 10 of those 30 pounds off .. but roughly 5 have been gained back. So.. I’m 25 pounds heavier than I want to be, and I would like that to change. I still have tons of clothes in my closet that I haven’t been able to wear since gaining this pandemic weight, and I want feel as good as I did about my body pre-COVID. So.. 25 pounds need to come off.
5. I want to get vaccinated, and I want to be able to travel again! Assuming everything will be safe, I want to go to new places, plan spontaneous trips, explore new cities, and have some genuine adventure.
One of my other goals from last year was to get move involved with activism or human rights, and 2020 didn’t give me much of a choice. I feel very fortunate to have attended BLM protests and vigils, and I’m still doing a lot of education for myself on this area. I’d still like to keep this a main focus in my life. I also wanted to maintain a life where I only allow good energy into my life, and I feel as though I’ve successfully adapted this as a regular practice into my life.
I’m overall very happy with where I am and looking forward to what is in store for me this upcoming 12 months. Cheers to leaving the past where it belongs and keeping a positive and healthy mindset for 2021.
I set a list of goals in the beginning of 2020, and not quite all of them were met due to the unknown circumstances that 2020 brought on. However, I was able to complete my goal regarding reading. I wanted to read at least one book per month, just as I did in 2019, and I again was able to surpass that goal. Here is a list of all the books I made my way through in 2020:
Well, 2020 has really been a fuck of a year.. so here’s some thoughts on that.
What’s crazy is that the year actually started out really well. I got to do several fun things in the first couple of months, I was making progress on all of my goals, and I had tons of vacations planned. So when COVID hit, a lot of things changed. I had to cancel trip upon trip – pretty much all of plans that I had for the spring. I started working from home, and what we thought would be two weeks to two months is now going on month number nine.
At first, the trips being canceled was the biggest downside for me. I was actually enjoying working from home and spending time with my girlfriend, and I was thankful for everything I had amidst a really tough time in the world. I was doing different projects and writing and overall had a decent experience the first several months.
After the days started to all blend together, my mental health started to take a toll. Work was slow, and I was home alone for most of the day with just myself and the dogs. My socialization had decreased in this crazy way, and the most interactions I was having regularly was literally on Animal Crossings. I often felt the weight of the walls closing in on me, and I did my best to find distractions and breaks in the day, but it was hard. I then went through a break-up, which was difficult because I thought I was going to lose the person that I was closest to on top of everything else I was battling in my head. I was mostly afraid of being more alone than I already felt. Although there was a lot to work through as we transitioned from relationship to friendship, I’m so thankful that I didn’t lose her during that time.
There was a three or four month period after that where I was on and off active with my depression. It came in waves, and sometimes I let it consume me. It didn’t take long for me to get so sick of being sad all the time, especially in contrast to how happy I was after first moving to Arizona. So basically, I decided to put in the work.
It wasn’t easy at all. There was a lot of work to do. A lot of reflection, internal dialogue, perspective shifting, and inner-demon battling. But I opened up in therapy and was honest about where I was at. I opened up to my best friend and my girlfriend-turned-roommate as best as I could. I focused on things that made me feel like myself. I set goals, and did everything I could to stick to them. I worked on setting up healthy habits in this “new normal” and getting back into a daily routine. I found ways to bring myself joy, and was able to better focus my mindset in a way that serviced me rather than hindered me.
After working on myself and feeling like I was just about back to a good and healthy mental state, I met someone new. I honestly wasn’t sure at that moment if I was ready to jump into something romantic again, feeling like the weight of my break-up and mental health struggle were not that far in my past. However, I remembered something that one of my best friend’s had told me, “Why wait to feel happiness?” This new person made me insanely happy. She’s absolutely amazing, and she is not worth missing out on. We’ve been letting things progress naturally, but I’m so thankful that I was able to put the work in on myself and keep myself open to new love. The way that she makes me feel could not have been more worth it, and I’m so happy to be the best version of myself for her (and me!).
As I go into this new year, I’m actually insanely happy and grateful. I feel so lucky and fortunate for all the friendships and love that I have harvested in my life. I feel surrounded by people who are genuine and authentic and care about me genuinely. I’m proud of myself for having the emotional intelligence to understand how to best care for myself. I’m thankful I was able to put in the work to get to where I am today. And I’m cautiously hopeful for what 2021 could bring me.
As one of my personal goals for my job, I tasked myself with reading a book for my own professional growth. I reached out to my friend who has often given me good professional advice, and she recommended a few different books to me. The one that stuck out to me the most was called When by Daniel H. Pink, and explored the use of our personality types to use timing to our advantage. Since I was often struggling to get lesser-priority projects done, this concept appealed to me. How can I utilize the ebbs and flows of my day to get the most done? I was pleasantly surprised by how useful and informative I found the book’s information. I took over 10 pages of notes in a notebook, and turned this into a presentation for my co-workers.
Here’s all the information that was included in my Powerpoint presentation to my teammates on how to get the most productivity out of your day:
There are 3 typical parts to your day: Peak (highest level of productivity), Trough (break or lull in the day), Rebound (small boost of productivity).
CHRONOTYPE: a personal pattern of circadian rhythms that influences our physiology and psychology
How to figure out your type: Advanced: track your day for 2 weeks to see peak/trough/rebound patterns; Simple: Ask yourself, What time do you go to sleep? What time do you wake up? And what is the mid-point? 12AM – 3 AM: Lark 4AM – 5 AM: Third Birds 6AM – 12PM: Owl
Larks, Owls, and Third Birds: Larks (most active in the morning: PEAK, TROUGH, REBOUND), Owls (most active at night: REBOUND, TROUGH, PEAK), Third Birds (somewhere in the middle).
Finding where you lean can help to make the rebound productivity easier. Essentially, you should figure out your type, understand your tasks, and select the appropriate time to get things done. Do your most important work during your peak and less priority items during your rebound.
Fun Fact: Thomas Edison spent more time in the lab at night rather than during the day.
Inspiration Paradox: when innovation and creativity are greatest when we are not at our best
Coffee Tips: Don’t drink coffee or other forms of caffeine until at least an hour after you’ve been awake, so as to activate natural chemicals in your brain that make you feel awake. Also, for a proper boost, you should drink some coffee right before taking a 10-20 minute nap, and you will wake up feeling rested just as the caffeine kicks in.
Tips for a better morning: 1. Drink a glass of water when you wake up 2. Don’t drink coffee immediately 3. Soak up the morning sun 4. Schedule talk therapy appointments for the morning
RESTORATIVE BREAKS: Breaks help to maintain focus and reactivate our commitment.
Breaks can help to mitigate your trough of the day, can reduce errors, reduce turnover, reduce stress, and improve overall mood. This can often make lunch the most important meal of the day, not breakfast.
Tip: DO NOT EAT LUNCH AT YOUR WORKSPACE: lunchtime is an important recovery setting.
Tips for Breaks: Something is better than nothing (even a quick breaks is good); Moving beats stationary (walk around); Social beats solo (socializing helps to replenish); Outside beats inside (get into nature!); Fully detached beats semi-detached (unplug! stop talking about work!
Best recommendation for a restorative break: consider a short walk outside with a friend during which you discuss non-work related things.
What to do if you don’t have control over your daily schedule: 1. Be aware: take precautions, like prepping the night before an early meeting 2. Work the margins: use downtime to your advantage
I hope this is able to help inspire some productivity! For more information on timing, processes, and more, you can find this book wherever fine books are sold.
My new obsession and current favorite show is Schitt’s Creek, and I’m honestly mad at myself for waiting so long to indulge. My whole family is obsessed with this show – from my parents, to my sister, and even my grams. It’s truly a cultural phenomenon, and I couldn’t recommend more. Here’s a list of my top 5 moments from the entire series (warning: may contain spoilers):
The Wine Scene: After Stevie and David hook up, Stevie has some questions regarding David’s sexuality. This is where the wonderful wine analogy was born! Stevie tells David that she only drinks red wine, and she thought that David also only drank red wine. David then responds, “I do drink red wine, but I also drink white wine. And I’ve been known to sample the occasional rose. And a couple summers back, I tried a merlot that used to be a chardonnay .. I like the wine and not the label, does that make sense?” This is truly a beautiful expression of how open and fluid sexuality can be, and I am incredibly here for it.
A Little Bit Alexis: During her audition for Cabaret, Alexis blesses us with a dance to the theme song from her reality series, A Little Bit Alexis. This is pure genius and absolute hilarity. “I’m a Lamborghini; I’m a Hollywood star; I’m a little bit tipsy when I drive my car. I’m expensive sushi; I’m a huge huge yacht; I’m a little bit single even when I’m not.” It’s brilliant.
Life Is A Cabaret: The entire Cabaret production is just total fun, and this is my favorite episode of the entire series. A lot of good things happen in this episode, but Stevie’s performance of “Maybe This Time” makes me emotional every single time. There’s so much emotion at a time when you have so much love for these characters, and you can’t help but feel what they are feeling along with them. “Maybe this time, it’s gonna happen, maybe this time, maybe this time I’ll win!”
Simply The Best: I don’t think it’s possible to watch this show and not be obsessed with David and Patrick’s relationship. They are absolutely adorable, and their love story was a big win for LGBTQ television. The two scenes that really get to me most revolve around the song “Simply The Best”. Patrick first sings this song to David during the open mic night at Rose Apothecary, and David then does his own performance to the song in order to make things up to Patrick after a fight. Both are completely heartfelt moments where you fall in love as they do.
Precious Love: I believe this is the season 2 finale, and this scene does a great job of bringing the family together in a way that really warms your heart. The entire Rose family congregates at a local barn party, where the kids were not expecting to see their parents. They all smile and dance together as a family to the song “Precious Love”, and it’s an adorable way to end the season.
Honorable mention: There’s a super quick moment in one episode where the Roses attend Roland and Joslyn’s party, where they are offered some weed. Johnny takes a big hit of the joint, and promptly shot guns the smoke to Moira without missing a beat. Moira already knew to lean in for the shot gun, as if this was routine for them, and she calmly and cooly holds the hit in her lungs while they watch Roland struggle with his turn. It’s couple goals, it’s boss bitch energy, and it’s a true moment of pure gold.
You can of course binge this incredible series entirely on Netflix, and I suggest you get started immediately.
Writing this post is kind of crazy. I’ve been a listener of the Straight Talk with Ross podcast for years now, and I’ve tried to get as involved as I possibly can. Being a huge Ross Mathews fan, the show was always such a fun community for me. Well, now I get to join it officially.
Ross reached out to me asking about my interest in this new idea he has. I don’t listen to Howard Stern, but I guess he has a group of regular call-in characters that he calls “The Wack Pack”, and Ross wants to do something similar. He asked me and four other “super-listeners” if we would like to be a part of what Ross is going to call, “The Loony Bin.”
As a Loony Bin member, I will get to be on the show every week. I’m gonna say that again. I AM GOING TO BE ON THE PODCAST EVERY SINGLE WEEK!!!!!
Since the podcast has been recorded via Zoom due to the pandemic, the five of us “Loons” will be given the link every week and we will dial in with the rest of the hosts. We will have our video/audio on and off throughout the podcast recording, so as to give the effect that we are “in the bin” (aka in or out of certain segments). We’ll be a part of different games and discussions and will also get to ask questions to our guests that come on the program. I am stoked!
This is honestly crazy. It’s one thing to have Ross answer my phone calls or play my voicemails on the podcast, but I never in a million years expected to be invited to be a regular part of the program. I’m so excited to get involved in something that I have loved so much for so long. The Straight Talk community has been an amazing experience to be a part of so far, and I couldn’t be more hype.
So! I’m definitely not going to write a post every single week being on the show, but maybe I’ll do an update after a year or something. I can’t even believe where things are, especially thinking back to how things started. Regardless, I could be more thankful and excited.
As I continue my Playboy deep dive, and I found myself rereading all my Playboy favorites. This was my second time reading Bunny Tales by Izabella St. James, which is basically a manual for all things Playboy circa 90’s and 2000’s. If you want some serious inside info, this is where you should go.
The book starts off with Izabella’s back story, which includes her family escaping communism in Poland. The story is interesting but gets a little long, but it’s somewhat important if you want to get to know and understand Izabella. However, if you’re only interested in Hef and the mansion, then skip the first 2-3 chapters and get straight to the good stuff. (Fun Fact: She actually meets Hef somewhat through “Dr. Feelgood,” the dad from Playground!)
The book spends an entire chapter on all the subjects and their details that you’re dying to know:
The mansion layout and details, including the famous grotto
Previous girlfriends and the drama behind the rotation of blondes
The daily routines of Hef
The weekly routines of the girlfriends
The girlfriend rules and how they were broken
The financials spent on the parade of girlfriends and their luxuries
How things went down in the bedroom
Events and mansion parties (and the club scene)
All the ins and outs of Mr Playboy himself, and more!
She gets real, breaks things down, gives you the details of the drama, and probably covers her ass here and there as well, in all honestly. She definitely makes a point to paint herself in a good light in all situations, though she was not separated whatsoever from the scene and the drama.
As someone who wants to know all the behind-the-scenes of the elaborate world that Mr. Hefner created around himself, this book gave me everything I was looking for. The unique insight is captivating and fascinating, and only just scratches the surface of a multi-decade story. With that being said, I definitely intend to read more.
I’ve already done some traveling during covid, but I had to go back east again for my cousin’s wedding. If I’m gonna fly all the way home, I usually make a whole trip out of it, since I don’t go home super often. After the wedding (which was SO fun), I spent some time with friends down the shore and in Philly, and also spent plenty of time with my family.
Here’s some pics from the trips:
I mentioned before that I’ve flown both American Airlines and Delta, and that Delta was far superior during times of covid. That statement still stands, as they are still doing their best to social distance the plane and boarding procedures. American Airlines is still operating as normal, which is why I feel much safer flying Delta these days. Not sure that I’ll be flying again until the holidays, but happy to answer any questions on this that anyone might have in order to stay safe.
An amazing human who I know and love named Nikki Boyer sadly lost her nearly lifelong friend Molly to cancer last year. Before she passed, Nikki was able to document her unique and intriguing stories through a podcast called Dying For Sex. The podcast is a 10 episode series that journeys Molly’s sexual escapades as she simultaneously entered a terminal cancer diagnosis. It’s a story that’s nothing like I’ve ever heard, offering an uncharted perspective. In addition to the podcast, Molly also did some writing as her health declined, which Nikki was able to turn into a book about a year after her passing.
Unfortunately, Molly’s story is somewhat dark, and involves a broken family and experiences of sexual abuse. This affected many many aspects of Molly’s life, which she is able to reflect on in a cathartic yet completely truthful way. Once getting her second cancer diagnosis, it’s like she dove headfirst into the insight of her life and decided actively on how she wanted to spend the rest of it. Her strength is admirable – both in her reflections and in her struggles through cancer.
The way that Molly writes is real, raw, and contains incredible clarity. You can see her thought processes laid out on the pages, and her authenticity shines through. It’s a true gift that she was able to find and share her voice, even if in the last chapter of her life.
To read Molly’s story, you can order the book on Amazon or other various vendors. I also highly recommend listening to the podcast as well, Dying For Sex, to hear Molly’s voice.
This is one of my absolute all-time favorite books of my entire life! I’ve read this book multiple times, and probably find my way back to it every several years (just like Go Ask Alice). I’m a HUGE fan of Playboy, and this book was what opened the doors into all of my Hugh Hefner knowledge. Honestly, no one can convince me that this isn’t one of the greatest books that exists – it’s freaking amazing.
This is the very real story of Jennifer Saginor, whose dad was a very well-known doctor in LA. He also happened to be best friends with Hugh Hefner, and was known as “Dr. Feel Good”. He spent ample time at the Playboy mansion, and brought his daughters along with him. Jennifer’s life is never the same after her first trip to the mansion, where she sees a playmate screwing John Belushi at just six years old. The infamous playground and the lifestyle that comes with it becomes intoxicating to Jennifer and starts to swallow her whole. From wild parties with A list celebrities, to a secret affair with one of Hef’s girlfriends, to all the drugs anyone could ever want – the journey is quite a crazy ride.
In a weird way, this book has wildly impacted my life. The book made me fascinated by all the mansion adventures, intrigued by the LA lifestyle, and absolutely obsessed over the true identity of Kendall (My best guess is Carrie Leigh, but even after hours of research, I’m still not 100% sure!) It’s helped me to escape from reality, understand my sexuality, and gave me unique and amazing insight into a legendary empire. I respect and admire Jennifer so much for everything she’s been through, and for being willing to be vulnerable and share her story. I actually recently reached out to her on Instagram as a fan, and got a really nice response!
This a fascinating, interesting, heartbreaking and infatuating story, and I HIGHLY suggest getting your copy wherever fine books are sold. I’m currently going into a full Playboy deep dive, so stay tuned as I make my way through more books as well as the full series of The Girls Next Door!
The election this year is HEAVY – for many reasons. 2020 has been a shit-show of a year, and we have not had the proper administration to handle the state of the world. As a result, voting is more important than ever. The pandemic obviously makes this election problematic, so please make sure you utilize your resources to vote safely.
Today is voting day for Arizona, but I’ve already sent my ballot in by mail. You can visit the @votesaveamerica Instagram for all kinds of voting resources, including information and deadlines for voting by mail.
My virtual love affair with Ross Mathews continues, as one of my videos has been posted onto the Kish Kish Club on Patreon! I got the notification and saw my name, and I almost couldn’t believe it! Ross is shimply the best, and the fact that I get to be so involved with the podcast is truly unbelievable to me.
On recent episodes, Ross had encouraged the ordering of the “Double Del Cheeseburger” from Del Taco. This has led to quite a saga, as Fagsy did not order the right item the first time and had to go back for a second try. Since then, lots of Straight Talk fans have been giving the burger a try, including myself! I filmed my adventures in ordering via the drive-thru and my thoughts while eating the burger, and edited it into a 2 minute video. I pulled up an email to Ross Mathews, attached the video, and hit send!
The burger was actually really good, by the way. I had only had Del Taco once in my life – and that was after hearing about it on Grace And Frankie. We don’t have Del Taco back east, so I was eager to try it when I moved out west. The only Del Taco in Tucson is a little far from where I live, so I only had it one time before this excursion. I ordered a taco and fries, which really blew my mind – since you can’t do that at Taco Bell! Fries and tacos… what a dream.
The video is really only available to watch if you are a part of the Kish Kish Club, which costs less that $7 on Patreon. Sorry that I can’t post it here, but I’m just happy that Ross posted it at all! You can hear Ross mention that he posted the video on episode 331 (released on July 31st, titled “Feminine Crunch”) in the last three minutes of the show.
Okay, I know I’ve really been going HARD for RuPauland Drag Race lately. But guess what? I’m not the only one giving this show some major buzz. Especially considering the show has just been nominated for 13 Emmys!! Last year, they had 14 nominations as well, and in both 2018 and 2019, the show first won big for “Outstanding Competition Program”, and RuPaul won for “Outstanding Host for a Reality Program”. Again, this year had a list of 13 nominations:
RuPaul’s Drag Race:
Outstanding Competition Program
Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Competition Program
Outstanding Directing For A Reality Program
Outstanding Casting For A Reality Program
Outstanding Cinematography For A Reality Program
Outstanding Costumes For Variety, Non Fiction, Or Reality Program
Outstanding Picture Editing For Structured Or Competition Reality Program
Outstanding Contemporary Makeup For A Variety, Non Fiction, Or Reality Program (Non-Prosthetic)
Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Non Fiction Or Reality Program
Outstanding Contemporary Hair Styling For A Variety, Non Fiction, Or Reality Program
RuPaul’s Drag Race: UnTucked: Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program
Outstanding Picture Editing For An Unstructured Reality Program
Out Of The Clost: Outstanding Short Form Non Fiction Or Reality Series
Other notable queer nominations include Billy Porter for Outstanding Lead Actor in Pose, Laverne Cox for Outstanding Guest Actress in Orange Is The New Black, and 6 total nominations for Queer Eye!
The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel; Tune into ABC on Sunday, September 20th, 2020 to watch.
I was fascinated by Brittany Renner since the first second I ever laid eyes on her, via Instagram of course. I pressed that follow button instantly and let @bundleofbrittany level up my Instagram feed. She has this incredible bad bitch confidence – someone you want to both be and be with at the time time. She published a “tell-all” book in 2018, where she told the stories of seven high-profile men she’s had experiences with. After seeing her constant reposts on her Insta stories of everyone reading her book, I finally caved and decided I needed to see what all the drama was about.
Judge This Cover is a compilation of seven stories with seven different men – all whose names have been changed. Now with a bit of digging on the internet, someone on Twitter was able to find the clues that led to who is who. I read the article that listed the real men behind the stories in this book, and HOLY FUCK. Like, we are talking HIGH high profile. She definitely did what she could to hide things – she flipped Tyga to an athlete, and talked about attending a game rather than a performance. And with Drake, she referred to his “team”, which also could have him mistaken for an athlete. But ya know, leave it to Twitter to uncover all the breadcrumbs.
Her early life and what she’s been through was really interesting; I could have read an entire book on the stories that were quickly covered during the intro section. I think this project was cathartic for her, but she chose to only focus on the men in her life that hurt her. I’ll admit that it would certainly be harder to be this vulnerable with family, but it definitely would have been an interesting read.
The seven chapters with the seven men are really not split up evenly whatsoever. The first man actually takes up the entire first half of the fucking book, so he’s clearly made a big impact on her life. I mean, she did leave school and sports for him, and the whole situation was really wild. (It should really be made into a movie or TV series someday.) The rest of the men were quick stories to flip through, but each one made an impact in its own way. I appreciate her honesty in recounting the events, as she was not afraid to tell things like it is. The way she wrote this overall was really interesting, as it was written to the men. She recounted events and feelings as if she was writing them each their own love letter. She’s speaking directly to them, while the whole world reads. This kind of vulnerability is really powerful and makes such a statement. I was truly intrigued.
I enjoyed reading this book much more than I was expecting to. I found that I can relate to her in the fact that her story seems tied up in other people, yet she’s fiercely independent and can completely stand on her own. She is such a captivating human, and the way she loves is unique and passionate. All these stories have clearly affected her life quite a bit, and love makes you do crazy things.
She’s recently gotten into a new relationship, which looks sweet and promising. However, it’s definitely changed her Instagram just a smidge, and I noticed that she’s archived a lot of her old posts. I still recommend following her anyway, watching her YouTube videos, and definitely grabbing a copy wherever books are sold. After reading the book, I actually posted a pic to my Instagram story, and she reposted me! I’m still really hype about it.
I feel like as time goes on, my interactions with Ross Mathews become more and more normal.. but they aren’t at all! It’s still truly crazy and awesome that Ross reads my emails, listens to my voicemails, and now has even had me on the show via zoom! There’s three episodes that I’ve been featured on that I haven’t documented just yet, so here they are:
Episode 322 – Red Underpants, May 16
Apparently, Ross had sent out a tweet that he was asking for questions from listeners, but I had no idea and just sent in a normal lengthy voicemail like I normally do. Ross teased how I didn’t ask a question in the whole voicemail, and asked for random times to play and see whatever I was saying at that moment. This new game starts at one hour, 3 minutes, and 10 seconds (1:03:10).
Episode 323 – I Don’t Wanna, May 22
Okay, so maybe I was a little bummed after hearing the previous episode. You see, I was really hoping to be a guest on the podcast someday! And the new game that Ross played with my voicemail led to jokes of how I couldn’t be a guest because I’d never stop talking. Feeling discouraged, I sent a short voicemail to