Plastic Surgery

Pulling up my social media feed, I’m constantly bombarded with beauty videos claiming to help me ‘fit into society’ with the newest wave of trends. But according to social media’s perspective, no one fits society’s standards; everyone is simply expected to follow the same trends and promote the same body-negative propaganda in a merry-go-round of expectations. 

We are so strongly impacted by the media telling us we aren’t pretty enough, not trendy enoughit’s hard not to lose track of ourselves and just hide behind the plastic reality we created for ourselves. By challenging media’s perspective, we are able to push past the false narratives, subsequently creating an organic perspective for society as a whole.

By Deema Alawa

Ethereal Black

This year my friend Stacey Niragira and I saw it as our goal to mobilize our school’s Black Student Union, and really make a difference for students of color in our senior year. We made one of many steps towards this by putting together both a Martin Luther King Jr. Assembly and our school’s first ever Black History Month celebration. While this may not seem like much, putting these events together was extremely time-consuming and exhausting (on both physical and emotional levels). 

People don’t know how much time it takes to plan and coordinate events or to even get one into action while working with an unsupportive school administration. After our assembly, our school had decided to prevent us from planning any future MLK assemblies because of a poem one of the speakers had read with the n-word in it. 

It took us months before we could come up with a real solution and retrieve our ability to continue organizing the MLK assembly. Following this, we received more and more pushback from our school regarding club meetings, whether it be talking about gun violence in black communities or with watching movies like Moonlight. With the help of my fellow BSU presidents Stacey Niragira and Kennedy Amucha (and many other very wonderful volunteers), we worked hard to support our peers and organize meetings and events to benefit our community as a whole, and persevere through these obstacles.

I am extremely thankful to have these two beautiful, passionate, determined, strong women by my side. I wanted to take their pictures to make them feel just as how I see them: angelic, strong, and inspiring. Although this year has been a struggle, as I can imagine it has been for high school students across the globe, I’m glad that we were able to overcome our obstacles together, and become closer friends as a result of it.

By Kaya Nieves

On Lessons and Living

My therapist likes to find lessons in pretty much every problem I have. She always says, “And what did you learn from this?” and I’m supposed to say something about evidence and supporting facts and the resilience of the human spirit. In reality, I shrug with one shoulder, and, if I’m feeling especially lighthearted, I give her a snarky comment. This always makes her smile and shake her head, and then she asks me what I really learned.

The first time she did this, it was right after a breakup. My now-ex-boyfriend had been lying to me, and, by the end of it all, I felt broken down and deeply confused. “And what did you learn from this?”

It was too soon, and I was too hurt, so I smiled smugly and said, “I can’t trust anyone, ever again, ever.”

She actually laughed out loud, then corrected me, giving me the answer she was looking for.  

I don’t remember what she said though. 

I started therapy almost three years ago. I was nineteen, and, at the time, in deep denial about an eating disorder that was slowly taking my freedom with the pounds it took from my body. Eventually, I owned up to it. I needed help. I had lost a lot of weight, my hair was falling out, and, quite frankly, I was sick of counting calories.

I’m not sure what I expected, but I know I didn’t expect to sit down and promptly burst into tears at the first mention of my eating disorder. For the first four months, I didn’t get through a single session without tearsand lots of them.

Recovery sucked. I was constantly bloated, sometimes constipated, and often nauseous. I had to take probiotics. I cut my hair up to my shoulders because it was so thin and dull that I couldn’t stand looking at it.  Going out to dinner was a painstakingly stressful experience. If I’m being honest, it still is. (I turned 22 last week. You do the math.)

What seemed to be the worst part about the whole ordeal was that I never looked like I had an eating disorder. I wasn’t scrawny or emaciated. I was thin, yes, but I wasn’t the kind of thin that lands you in a hospital with a feeding tube.  Even my parents were surprised to learn about my eating disorder, despite all of the abnormal behaviours and weird food rituals. And how could I recover from something I didn’t even feel sick enough from in the first place?

The answer was slowly, and honestly, not that differently from other eating disorder sufferers. The truth of the matter is everyone recovers differently, and everyone’s eating disorder looks different. On me, it was muscles and bones and a lot more damage on the inside than the out. Freshman year, I lost fifteen pounds; I was the thinnest I had ever been. After my 8 AM gym session and three hours of classes, I was drained.  I didn’t have energy to leave my bed. Even standing up to go to the bathroom left me lightheaded, dizzy, and on the verge of blacking out. Hanging out with friends was nearly impossible. I hated the dining halls because I couldn’t count calories or measure my food, and restaurants were even worse. I planned my life around when I could go to the gym. First semester, there were only two days when I skipped the gym, and one of them was the day I flew home at noon.

Fast-forward four years. I just graduated college. I don’t stress about going to to eat, and if I do, I find other ways to calm down, not just refusing to go. I go to the gym twice a week, schedule permitting. I have enough energy to go to class and work. Weekends are spent backpacking, skiing, or beaching, depending on the season. One of my favourite ways to unwind is sitting on the couch, eating too much Nutella and too many pretzels with my boyfriend while we watch Netflix. These are all things I never would have imagined I had the ability to do three years ago.

I often think of what my therapist would say about my eating disorder. And what did you learn from this?

I would probably shrug with one shoulder, but I don’t think I’d laugh it off. Not this time. Counting calories does not make me calmer, even though I think it does. I really like having a routine. Going to the gym is more fun when you don’t have to burn 500 calories. Cereal tastes better when you don’t measure it. Yoga isn’t useless. Some days are way harder than others. I’m strong as hell.

And: eating disorders have no place in a full, happy life.

By Rachel Pfeffer
Photos by Jamie Goldberg

Developing Your Career and Making It Last

Not to sound cliche or anything, but what you're doing now probably signifies how successful you are going to be ten years from now. Having a great mindset will allow you to be as productive and free-spirited as possible. No laziness is allowed! I’m going to be sharing some tips from different creatives on how you can start your career out strong and maintain a great, ambitious mindset throughout your career.

  1. Work with what you got. Some creators who are just getting started feel like they need all these other props and people to be successful, which is not the case. Being an artist is much more than what paintbrush, microphone, or camera you're using. Don’t stress about not having the proper connections either, because you don't need handoutsyou've got this! Start with what you have, build a foundation for yourself, and take it slow! It's not about how fast you blow up, it's about how long your career lasts. - Somiah Nettles (Photographer)
  2. Get comfortable and confident. A good way to start off is get comfortable with yourself and learn to be confident. Once you’re happy with you are, you will conquer whatever your art is. I recommend getting involved in social networking and connecting with people. Don’t be afraid to try new things and be open-minded. Build a portfolio with all different kinds of looks, so people know you can do any and everything. - Rhandi Purnell (Model)
  3. Get started! The longer you wait, the more room is made for procrastination. Doubt will try and dissuade youdon't let it’.’ - Ajeé (Model). 
  4. Never let anyone define you as an artist. Make your own rules, alter perspectives, be rebellious, take risks, and don’t worry what others think. Fitting in is overrated’’ - Nia White (Photographer)

Photos by Somiah Nettles
Modeled by Khadijat Dania and Rhandi Purnell

On College: The Years That Make and Break You

“You go to college because you want to do somethingin your case, you have something very specific that you want to do. Do whatever you can to respect and honor that desire. Trust yourself, trust your gut. Know when things are just embarrassing and when they’re truly uncomfortable. Do what you want to do, and never be afraid to not do what other people want from you. College is what you make of it. Be safe, be smart, and have fun.” 

This is the handwritten advice my brother left on my desk when I went away to college almost four years ago. It didn’t mean much to me then, but as I stand (almost) at the end of this journey, I now understand how spot-on this advice was. These words revolutionized my idea of college and shape my life today. I love to tell people that I dropped out of my first college. It was the biggest decision I ever made. Not only to change schools, but to do something else. I would love to help normalize challenging the institutionalized idea of education. I believe that your educational journey should be customized to better fit what you need. My brother’s advice to know the difference between embarrassing and uncomfortable helped me realize that something wasn’t working in my initial situation, and I had the power to change it. I had to respect and honor my initial desire to learn. 

My college journey has been nothing I ever expected, but everything I needed (whether I liked it or not). There were three major lessons I learned that no one had ever forewarned be about. Everyone’s journey is different, but I think it might be worth it to share these lessons with all of you. Whether you are going to college, are in college, are finished with college, or reject the idea of college all together, I believe these lessons can ring true in all circumstances. 

The infamous “four years of your life” are going to happen no matter what. No matter what school you choose, or if you choose to go at all. Though they may not be the “best," they will absolutely change your life. I wouldn’t necessarily chalk up my college experience to be the “best four years of my life” the way they are so infamously referred to. But they have been revolutionary. Sometimes, it felt like it was moving so fast that I was being dragged through hell just to keep up. I go to a commuter school in a big city, so there's no real student life. I thought that there was no way I would have this wonderful, TV-college experience if I didn’t live on a campus. I spent most of my time working, studying, and trying to stay sane, leaving little room to hang out or indulge in a good party atmosphere (which albeit, is rare in college.) But when I stopped whining about what I didn’t have and things I thought I would have, I saw that my commuter school, my job, and my very small group of friends were exactly the college experience I wanted. It just looked a little different. I just had to be open to seeing it. 

Despite what everyone else will tell you, the most “adult” decisions you are going to make are going to be the decisions that force you to live life on your own terms. This includes ending a relationship, starting a relationship, dropping classes, changing your major, changing your school, and dropping out of your school (that’s me!). You know what’s right for you, and you should never let people make you feel like they know better. That will never be the case. I’ve dropped out once and changed my major three times, on top of working a part-time job; you bet your butt my parents and I have fought about it! I know it comes from a place of concern for me, but I assured them that everything I was doing was to benefit me. They may not have believed me then, but I needed to stand up for myself. The most mature thing you can do is follow your own path, no matter what. 

Whatever happens now will not define the rest of your life. This is my favorite piece of advice. How comforting is it to know that even if the decisions you make now end up not working out, you’ll have more than enough chances to get them right later? It’s important to remember that these next however many years are for finding out what you want from this life—what you want to take out and what you want to put in. Making mistakes is, unfortunately, a hazard of the job. I used to be terrified of making mistakes. All the mistakes I made would play in a horrendous slideshow in my head that kept me awake at night, and part of the reason was because I made so few of them. I wanted so badly to be perfect that I spent the first 18 years of my life avoiding any risk (and fun) to make sure that I did everything right. You’ll find that sometimes these initially good decisions that turned into bad decisions will teach you some very valuable lessons about life and about yourself. Maybe they were good decisions disguised as bad decisions after all? Whatever the case, if they were with good intention, you’ll be okay. These lessons will only bring you one step closer to living a life of which you’re proud. 

By Elysa Rivera


Understanding is an understatement; a weakness.

You’re never what you appear to be. You’re not 5’8, you’re taller. And growing. 

Look beyond what you know. Pick forbidden fruit. Move grey clouds and find light.

By Preston Brock

The 'Take Your Time' Rules

In this series, I explore some of the “take your time” rules that I’ve learned throughout the years. Not everyone has the same ones, and not everyone learns them at the same time; everyone has their own rhythm. I hope you can “take your time” to enjoy this series.

By Alba Pérez

The Butterfly Effect

My mind explores the past, present, and future, hoping to control some parts of my life's events and change what has already occurred. I tend to overwhelm myself with overthinking, always contemplating things that others likely don't believe need to be changed. 

In the film The Butterfly Effect, the protagonist has a brain condition that allows him to go back in time and change situations which control his future. This movie is quite important to me; suffering from anxiety impacts the way I think and the way I react to certain life events. In this series, I wanted to demonstrate the idea that the past is something you should never truly want to change.

A lot of you reading this may suffer with anxiety or may feel pressure to control your future. This series reflects on the parts of our body that are believed to reflect our future, with red reflecting the pattern of firm choices and gold showing change. I believe that everything happens for a reason and for the right reason.

By Sophie Allsop

A Guide to My City: Los Angeles

Looking in from the outside, we see Los Angeles as a city of unending red carpets and parties that began in the 20th century and have yet to cease. In part, this version of the city does exist. You can catch a glimpse of it when you drive past the mansions of Hollywood or sit down for brunch at the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel, but there’s more to the city than just the glitz and glamour one might expect. 

During my time exploring the greater area of Los Angeles in the last year, I have grown acquainted with a side of the city not always seen in the movie theaters. The heart of Los Angeles is not fame or celebrity—it is creativity. The sounds, sights, and flavors of the city converge into an artistic haven filled with people who want to create something new. 

Although they can be fun, it is okay to skip over crowded bus tours of the Walk of Fame or Universal Studios in favor of some places that will offer you a deeper understanding of the melting pot that specifically makes up Los Angeles culture. Here is my list of the top ten places to visit in Los Angeles for a (literal) taste of the best it has to offer: 

10. The Grove & the Original Farmers Market 

If you have ever visited Los Angeles, before you might have already visited The Grove. Lights and water dance to the sound of Frank Sinatra while a two-story old-fashioned bus guides tourists from Dylan’s Candy Bar on one end to Nordstrom on the other. This can be fun, and there are some particularly good eateries such as the Dominique Ansel Bakery and Blue Ribbon Sushi, but my personal favorite half of the Grove is the Farmers Market. Here you can find vendors selling crepes, handmade toffee, and more. It is fun to simply walk around and get a glimpse and a whiff of all of the unique foods being served. Take note of the stands with lines—those people most likely have the right idea. 

9. Abbot Kinney Blvd. 

You may have heard of this quintessential Venice street before, but there is an endless wealth of places to explore here, from art murals to inventive restaurants. It is an ideal place for doing photoshoots with friends, getting a taste of LA cuisine, shopping for your next look, or people-watching. My favorite coffee shops on this street are Zinqué and Intelligentsia which both have free Wifi for homework, my favorite places to eat are The Butcher’s Daughter (known for their plant-based menu) and the French Market Cafe a bit farther down the road, and my favorite shop on the street is Burro where a variety of stationery and knick knacks is sold. 

8. Grand Central Market

In the heart of Downtown LA, Grand Central Market is a perfect location to experience the wide array of culture Los Angeles represents. If you want to eat ridiculously good food in a ridiculously short period of time for a reasonable amount of money, this is the place to come. Due to the number of tourists and crowds Grand Central Market attracts each day, you should try going at an off time. The lunch rush means wall to wall people, and is not conducive to an “I want my tacos and I want them now” attitude. My favorite stands include G&M Coffee (for coffee and waffles), Sarita’s Pupuseria (for pupusas), Madcapra (for falafel), and Tacos Tumbras a Tomas (for street-style tacos). I really want to try Ramen Hood, which serves vegan ramen, and Sari Sari Store, which serves Filipino rice bowls, the next time I visit. 

7. Manhattan Beach 

There are so many wonderful beaches in Los Angeles and, in all honesty, I can’t claim to be an authority on the subject because I’m not a surfer or regular beach-goer. However, I can say with confidence that Manhattan Beach has an incredible bike path, rarely feels overcrowded, and has great restaurants. This is my favorite spot to stop by early in the morning to grab an açai bowl at Paradise Bowls and sit by the ocean to prepare for the day ahead, or to de-stress and catch up on my reading later in the afternoon.

6. Griffith Observatory 
This is one of the “as seen in La La Land” spots that I just can’t get out of my head. It’s a must-see for anyone visiting or living in Los Angeles. Bring your camera, and get ready to be inspired by a truly dazzling view during the day or at night. 

5. LA Times Festival of Books

The LA Times Festival of Books only happens once a year but, as a book lover and English major, I had to include it in my list. In recent years it has been hosted by the campus of USC, a place stunning in and of itself. Authors, publishers, and bibliophiles from across the country rush to LA to set up shop for one spring weekend. Bring your reading list to remind you of all the books you have at home that you still haven’t read, and your wallet because we all know that’s not going to stop you from buying more. 

4. Melrose District

For anyone who loves coffee, fashion, art, or photography, Melrose has endless places to explore. For sustainable fashion check out Reformation, for seriously Instagrammable content check out Alfred Tea Room or Mansur Gavriel, and for a taste of LA tourism check out Pink’s, the famous hot dog stand. Melrose is filled with cool murals, interesting shops, and amazing cafes. You can easily spend an entire day wandering around with your camera and still not have your fill of latte art or pink walls. 


The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is by no means “under the radar.” There is a good chance you have seen many a picture of your friends or celebrities posing with the iconic Urban Light exhibition. I have to say, this museum is worth all the hype. The LACMA has a huge selection of both contemporary and classical art. Whether you are searching for a readymade by Marcel Duchamp, a masterpiece by Monet, or a photograph by Robert Mapplethorpe, it can be found here. You do have to pay for tickets, which is a downside, but students get a discount and the collection is so extensive that you will most definitely get your money’s worth. 

2. Getty Villa 

As an art lover, it is no surprise that museums are at the top of my list, but the Getty Villa is truly a gem. Unlike the LACMA and despite the incredible views of Malibu, admission is free. When you climb the stairs up to the main galleries and gardens, it is hard to believe you are not in Italy. Grab an iced vanilla latte and a pastry from the coffee cart and spend some time wandering past the statues and through the gardens. I dare you not to feel like you have fallen straight into a scene from Call Me by Your Name

1. Sawtelle Boulevard

Sushi? Check. Boba? Check. Ramen? Check. Udon? Check. Korean BBQ? Check. Bread pudding? Check. Cream puffs? Check. Crepes? Check. Need I say more? Sawtelle is a haven of food. Though parking is scarce, every eatery on the block is delicious. If there’s a wait time at Kura Revolving Sushi Bar (there will be, so go early), just check out Daiso for cute stationery and Japanese candy. After you eat, stroll along the street and take a look inside the shops selling items from Japan or the art gallery promoting local artists. This street is by far my favorite street in Los Angeles, and my favorite place to take my friends out to eat. Everything is affordable, and the street breathes with life. 

This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but if I were showing my friend from out of town my favorite places to go, these are the places I would take them. They are beautiful, authentic, and complex. They are representative of a variety of people who live a variety of lives. LA is not only about Hollywood and stardom, it is about culture and art. 

Summer Lookbook

By Allison Barr and Carson Scott