The Girl in the Mirror

As a new year is born, a familiar shape illuminates my mirror: a girl who is almost a woman. I watch her take shape as she graces the earth around her. Life is an influx of moments, but in the early months of the year we may take a brief pause to start anew. A brand new year. New opportunities, new ideas, and fresh new starts. 2019, the year of me. The photos and ideas present in this collage series are about self-love and empowerment. As Donte Collins once said, “Self-love is self-taught.” The wondrous journey of self-love is what this whole thing is about. That’s what this new beginning has meant for me.

The choice to grow amidst hardships, to walk through life with an air of passion and love, is the closest I’ve come to the notion of empowerment. And that’s what I hope to share—women loving themselves.

There is something beautiful about the notion that we have the choice in every moment to create the life that we want. So here’s to choosing. As the first month of the new year comes to an end, that’s my takeaway: choosing. Choosing the girl in the mirror. Choosing her on the good days, the days when she is magical and powerful. Most of all, choosing her when she makes mistakes. And choosing her when the entire world seems to turn her away.

By Paloma Williams

Girl Power

Girl Power is a mini series on what inspires me: strong, confident women that aren't afraid to empower other women. I’m inspired by the small moments when women have smiled at me and given me their support, or straight up just stood up for me. Thus, my mini series portrays different instances of girl power. In the first illustration, lightning bolts surround the portrait, symbolizing inner confidence. In the second illustration, three women stand united—a girl gang. And in the third, two stand together, depicting that it's not always a whole girl gang but just a one-on-one situation that’s meaningful. 

By Jasmine Flora

Women of My Family

My name is Arwa, and I was raised by a line of strong women starting with my great-great grandmother. These women instilled independence in me at a very young age.

While there are so many elements that make a family happy and joyous, I wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge the women: my aunts and cousins, sisters and mother, and even my little niece. It’s shocking to see just how much power and grace the women of my family exude. These women have had their fair share of a difficult life and yet came out on the other side swinging.

There has not been a moment in my life in which I haven’t been grateful for this family and these women’s presence in my life. Without them here to constantly inspire me and motivate me to try harder, I wouldn’t exactly be me. Plus, I can’t even begin to imagine missing out on all the yummy food and great laughs!Though with time many things have changed, these women will always be the women that inspire me, teach me to be proud of who I am, and encourage me to live the life that I want. We are a family of tough cookies and that’s so not changing!

The drawings shown are my way to say thank you to my family. The activities shown are the moments which are dearest to me, and I feel like they really add to make our bond stronger.

“It is always the little things that we find the most joy in."

There’s a vivid picture in my head of the day when my mother taught me how to hold a crochet hook in one hand and wrap the yarn on the finger of the other. I remember her showing me how to pull the thread into intricate knots and delicate designs, leaving me with my very first crochet flower. It's still a prized possession of mine.

I have countless memories of either my fingers running through my sister’s hair or hers running through mine while we helped each other achieve the perfect knot of the bun and the twist of the braid for that one event we'd planned for two weeks ahead.

I remember my sweet little niece riding on my shoulders, having a hearty laugh, while I hoped she'd grow up to know that there are greater heights than my shoulders that she could and would reach.

I hope to make more drawings as an ode to more memories made with more women, each of whom has inexplicably empowered me.

By Arwa Halai

‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ Is Only Charming If You Let It Be

Velvet Buzzsaw is the latest entry in the ever-growing list of movies that were adored until they were released. Boasting direction and writing from Dan Gilroy, best known for his gritty debut Nightcrawler, and a lead performance by Film Twitter favorite Jake Gyllenhaal, this satirical art-world horror had inevitably been the subject of excited pre-Sundance chatter. Its biggest scare, however, is not its gore or its plot twists, but its almost universal critical denunciation.

While the trailer did hint that this would be a straight-up horror flick that couldn’t be more different from the psychological dread of Gilroy’s first feature, audiences were still disillusioned with the campy and trope-infested final product. The satire leans more on parody than commentary, and Gilroy puts a stellar ensemble at the center of a fascinating premise that he quite literally puts to death. At first glance, Buzzsaw is lost potential, an empty shell of a movie that holds back from hard-hitting critique and resorts to caricature.

But perhaps the fact that this film is wrapped in misconceptions that it ultimately subverts underlines its message even more. Whereas Nightcrawler dissects the insidious underbelly of local news by diving into extremes, Buzzsaw criticizes the hypocritical emptiness of the highbrow by approaching it with apathy. Gilroy built a realistic reiteration of the contemporary art scene, even consulting with various advisers to ensure the accuracy of jargon, only to show he doesn’t care much for it. The “goodness” of art is arbitrary, and the art world has always been driven not by talent, but commerce and elitism—and what better, and frankly unexpected, way to say this than with a campy horror premiering on Netflix? As Gilroy pointed out in an interview with Polygon, “We were fine with being trope-y. He [Vetril Dease, the supernatural antagonist of the film] was in a mental institution. He bathes [in] his own blood. We’re not breaking any new ground here, but we were never trying, because there’s a kitschy element to it.”

Buzzsaw is strongest when viewed without the preconceived notion that it would be a harrowing commentary like the director’s previous efforts. It is not so much a critique of the art world as it is a mirror, echoing its shallowness and indulging in its pretentiousness. And that’s what makes it satisfying—it’s camp, it’s mindless fun. The art scene is inaccessible and yet it’s presented to you here in all its elitist glory, where people are literally dying because of greed, and in the most outrageous ways too. Characters who would kill to get the priciest museum pieces die at the hands of the art they wished to commodify.

The dialogue is sharp and witty, with a sense of self-aware absurdity (Twitter is already having a field day with Billy Magnussen’s Bryson saying, “I’m not just a man of primitive skills” while wearing AirPods). The star-studded ensemble play mostly outrageous archetypes, and they shine despite the shaky character work. Gyllenhaal yet again proves that he is the master of treading the line between sane and insane, and the dynamism of his character’s superficial pseudo-friendships with the rest of the cast propelled the otherwise draggy first act. Rene Russo and Toni Collette, Gyllenhaal’s cohorts, breathe life into underwritten characters. Zawe Ashton, playing the protege to discover the cursed paintings, steals the scene with a nuanced performance that could have easily fallen to snooty and naive.

The idea for the film was formed, according to Gilroy, when he walked through an empty contemporary art museum and thought, “Man, this would be a great place for a horror movie.” He wanted to create a horror movie set in an art museum, and that’s exactly what he did. Is it a fully-realized analysis of art and commercialism? Not really. But did it provide the degree of entertainment I was looking for when I pressed play on a ridiculous art museum satirical horror on a Friday night? Definitely. Most viewers remain adamant on their negative reviews though, and I’m in the minority here, so I guess there’s nothing left to do but watch it for yourself. Critique is so limiting and emotionally draining, after all.

By Andrea Panaligan

Through the Female Lens

These photos are a reflection of a time when women longed for power and a proper place in the social hierarchy. Relegated to kitchen duties and housekeeping, women thirsted for more. One of the photos features the girl behind a fence. Always behind  the fence, women were forced to stand back, to watch but never join. One image shows the girl desperately looking outside a window, wanting to join the men’s world outside. Thankfully, much has changed in the U.S.; now, women are right there doing things they should have been able to do all along. But this issue remains prevalent in many, many other countries. 

By Ines Donfack


For this shoot, I wanted to mix two concepts: the hood and the LGBTQ+ community. I think these two concepts are normally seen as opposites because of what they're associated with, but they truly canand docoexist. This series portrays TENSION, a collective of empowered queer/LGBTQ people.

Photos by Megane Mercury
Assisted by Ale Durán
Modeled by Carmen Andrés, David Garrido, Enrico Díaz, Gonzalo Naranjo, H. R. Román, Lu de la Fuente, Oumou Sow, and Playboy Angel

Bathroom Break

As an adolescent, my experience with power is one that has left much to be desired. By virtue of being young, we find ourselves subject to the ruling of almost every authority: parents, teachers, law officers, religious leaders, and the like. We do not have the opportunity to experience power so much as we do the lack thereof. Therein lies a perpetual tug of war, a desire for control, an inevitable rebellion by which we seek to claim what we feel is ours. 

The following images depict the avalanche of emotions that mark this dynamic. I chose the backdrop of a high school because it’s a common ground for many of us. It is here that we fight peer pressure. It is here that we argue with teachers over grades and skirt lengths and phones. Sometimes we win these fights, sometimes we lose them. Sometimes it’s enough for us to excuse ourselves for two minutes, grab a sip by the water fountain, goof off in the bathroom, and be shackle-free. Even if it’s just for two minutes. That’s what we see in the last picture. As controlled as our lives may be as young people, we still are able to find "bathroom breaks”: slivers in time, pockets of opportunity to be free. And we seize each of those moments. 

By Ines Donfack

Interpretations of a Feminine Agency

In late December, I was in conversation with my friend, Amanda, about body hair and beauty standards. She'd forgotten her razor at home over Thanksgiving break, and hadn't shaved since. One Friday night, she was preparing to go out, which included applying makeup, styling her hair, and selecting an outfit. She picked a sleeveless top and was met with looks of disgust and nasty comments when others noticed the hair underneath her arms. Until this point, she hadn’t thought twice about this body hair. Many women put in so much effortmuch of which goes unnoticed but is nonetheless expectedto conform to gender norms. As evident by the looks and comments she received that night, visible body hair on women is still perceived as lazy, gross, and unkempt. 

In this series, the relationship between feminine beauty standards and body hair is explored. I chose to photograph her as she was on that same night when her underarms received negative attention. For decades, the Western world has told women to remove their body hair. Something that should be a personal choice has been made into an expectation, and those who don’t meet those expectations are meant to feel ashamed about their bodies. All aspects of the female body should be accepted and celebrated. Body hair is natural and beautiful. 

Photographed by Kayla Smith

Modeled by Amanda Weiss