"My vagina is a shell, a round pink tender shell, opening and closing, closing and opening. My vagina is a flower, an eccentric tulip, the center acute and deep, the scent delicate, the petals gentle but sturdy.
I did not always know this. I learned this in the vagina workshop.”
These words were first written by Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues playwright, performer, feminist, and activist, in 1998. Yet, these words are still drenched in feminism and radicalism, and the people who receive these words are still stunned and uncomfortable.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the controversial play, a production that is just as shocking, alarming and thought-provoking as it was in 1998. It’s a piece of work that discusses the wonders and hardships of women across the world, from achieving an orgasm to surviving rape and sexual assault, the production unpacks all of the feels. The play makes you wonder, “How far have we really come since 1998?”
The Vagina Monologues ends with the play’s newest monologue titled, “Over It Redux*” in which Ensler, lists shocking statistics and calls out the “passivity of good men.” The piece includes a long list of facts that will make your heart cry, including, “I am over 33 million U.S. women being sexually harassed, and 14 million sexually abused, in work-related incidents… over the hundreds of thousands of women in Congo still waiting for the rapes to end and the rapists to be held accountable… over college campuses being places young women survive rather than places they thrive because of rape culture.”
These statistics shock me, knowing that the woman next to me is suffering and my sister a plane ride away is facing obstacles that I can’t even fathom in my warm, safe Brooklyn apartment, it’s beyond heartbreaking and frustrating. Where are we? Why aren’t we rising up? Why aren’t we screaming with anger and fear? How are we allowing this? How are we not fighting this in our everyday life?
A few weeks ago, I was at a lovely brunch with my boyfriend. A table over was filled with middle-aged women discussing the #MeToo movement. I overheard comments such as, “Why didn’t she just walk away?”, “Why didn’t she say no?”, “Well he (Louis C.K.) admitted it, he didn’t deny it.” and “If everyone knew he was trouble, why was she alone with him?” I couldn’t believe that these older women were defending the perpetrators and even applauding Louis C.K.’s honesty, but how they were straight-up shaming, questioning and degrading these brave women – and all during my otherwise delicious brunch. This is not an unusual occurrence, it happens all the time.
That’s why I decided to participate in The Vagina Monologues this year. Because of that bullshit and all of the real terrors and horrors that consume women every damn day. Our New York University show was able to reach a small community of 200+ attendees, a group of people who may have otherwise spent the night watching Netflix and eating Valentine’s Day candies, a group of people who will tell their friends about the play and create conversation. A group of people more likely to Rise Up.
Moving forward, my goal is to create a safe space within me, where those who are suffering, living in fear or just want to chat about orgasms, can come to. My safe space will exist in my heart, eyes, soul and spirit. Come on over, unpack your baggage and welcome home.
If your vagina could talk, what would it say?
The Vagina Monologues is a play written by Eve Ensler that discusses consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, direct and indirect encounters with reproduction, sex work, and several other topics through the eyes of women with various ages, races, sexualities, and other differences. In 1998, Ensler launched V-Day, a global non-profit movement that has raised over 100 million for groups working to end violence against women and girls anti-violence through benefits of The Vagina Monologues.
Although the play has been accused of being anti-transgender and not including enough racial diversity, I think the messages still create discussion about tough topics that women are experiencing on a daily basis.
The first time I saw The Vagina Monologues, I was in middle school and went with my parents to see my sister perform. Sitting next to my Dad as young women discussed rape, sexuality, orgasms and of course, vaginas, was incredibly awkward and startling. I couldn't believe the horrific, hilarious, beautiful, shocking and bittersweet tales these women were sharing with me.
My experience as a surprised audience member pushed me to be an active part of the play in college. I have acted in the production four times and directed the play in Belgium. My belief that these stories need to be brought to life and heard by both women and men has never wavered. The play represents everything I aim to be as a young woman: brave, unexpected, aware, compassionate and unapologetic.
I am thrilled to share that I will be a part of NYU's Vagina Monologues production this Valentine's Day. My wish is to create conversation with friends and family about these sensitive topics and to open some minds. The question remains, if your vagina could talk, what would it say?
Who doesn’t love a fresh start? Whether it’s a new relationship, job, apartment or pair of jeans, fresh always feels… fresh. I have finally taken some time to visualize what I hope 2018 will look like, a year that should be as wonderful as Cardi B’s 2017.
Each birthday, I always channel my inner spirit animal that I want to embody for that year. I am currently in my Gloria Steinem year because I am trying to be more active in my feminism beliefs. The year prior was my RiRi year because I wanted to own my sexuality and feel flirty 24/7. My 23rd year was my MJ year and what a MJ year it was. When it comes to new calendar years, I try to create a mantra that I can turn to when I feel tired, frustrated or unmotivated about the year that lies ahead of me. This year, I am working towards Taking Up More Space.
Taking Up More Space means putting myself out there, raising my voice, turning some heads and making myself known. Growing up, girls are told to not take up space, to be small and quiet. Although I am neither small or quiet, I have noticed how adulthood can diminish your passion, energy and space. I have caught myself not taking risks or sharing my opinion because I am scared of being judged. Well, this year I am going to need a Manhattan penthouse for all the space I am planning on taking up.
Here are my goals for 2018. Let’s go get ‘em.
Listen and Listen More
I am pretty sure Vincent van Gogh was a better listener than me, and he only had one ear. My boyfriend calls me out on my poor skills at least once a week. Why am I such a terrible listener? I am so easily distracted by my surroundings and my phone that I struggle concentrating most of the time. Then, if the speaker is discussing a topic I have little interest in (i.e. sports, cats or Whole30) I totally zone out and daydream about Spain. This year, I am going to practice being present and see how listening can develop stronger relationships and create better work.
Social media is so much fun, and I live for the mysteries of Kylie Jenner, but man do I need a break. After a while, it becomes boring and such a time suck. Like, instead of scrolling and looking at photos of strangers, I could be working on my podcast or reading War and Peace.
On The Radio
In college, I loved exploring my passion of radio and television. Since then, I am a busy bee in the PR world, but miss speaking and interacting with people via radio and video. This year, I am determined to go back to that happy place and create a fun podcast where I can discuss topics that real young women are talking about. I want my voice and stories to be heard. Please stay tuned to turn me on and up y’all.
Clean Eating + Sweating
Luckily, I love veggies and breaking a sweat, but I also adore chocolate and carbs. So, so many carbs. This year, I want to stay true to my body and what it needs – fresh air, movement, broccoli, yoga, kale, boxing, peace, sleep – and what it doesn’t need – shame, drugs, diets, comparison, expectations, pressure. Right now, I am all about dance classes and veggie tacos. By the end of the year, I might be about sleeping and milkshakes. As long as I feel energized, powerful and confident, I really don’t mind.
Attitude Is Everything
Why be a Rob Kardashian when you can be a Khloe Kardashian? I pride myself on being bright like a daisy, but it’s not easy. Some people are truly weeds in your garden, and it’s difficult to not let those weeds take over your beautiful garden. This year, I am learning to control my emotions and continuing to let my daisies grow.
Here’s to Taking Up More Space, making shit happen and smiling more. A lot more.
I vividly remember watching a random Oprah interview where she discussed the importance of our past. In flawless Oprah fashion, she shared her own famous quote, “You don’t know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’ve been.” I still think about that moment, nodding my head in agreement with Oprah when I was just a kid. I had no idea what she meant, but nonetheless, her wisdom resonated with me.
By now some New Year’s resolutions are already forgotten or unsuccessful. And it’s only January 5th. I believe that setting goals to better ourselves is important at every time of the year, especially when you’re ready to go get those goals. In college, I would declare my goals at the start of each semester and loved that feeling of a fresh start. Most of my goals were to “stop dating losers”, “be a badass chick” or “get that internship in NYC”. I felt that each semester was a different theme with a different tone, vibe and mission to help me reach new opportunities.
Now that I am a “kinda adult”, I wish my career had semesters where you could really start fresh. But like Britney and Justin, those days are over. The start of each year is no longer a crisp September morning at the bus stop or a steamy August night at a “syllabus week” house party, it is now a cold January morning with a hangover.
My last year was fantastic #humblebrag. It took me to places and people, that I am now taking with me in the New Year. Before I can even really think about where I want to be in 2018, I still need to digest 2017 with a big ol’ cup of tea and some tissues, because this year was real.
I was so scared when I walked out of the teeny Bermuda airport all by myself. “What was I thinking?!” I frantically thought to myself. But I trusted my gut, head and heart. I explored the island on my own and took time to get back to the little island of ME. I woke up each morning excited about where I was going and returned to my bed each night dreaming about the next day. Although I never mastered the island’s bus schedule, I made friends, ate fruit off a tree, went to a mediation class and drank a beer by myself in a posh bar. I left feeling stronger than when I arrived, and happy that I made the rash decision to visit Bermuda solo.
My Dad ran the Boston Marathon this past year and it was such a moment for my family. It’s rare that your tribe gathers together for a joyous occasion that isn’t a wedding, birth or graduation. My whole family and a few dear friends came together to support my Dad and the thousands of superheroes as they prepared to dominate the epic race. I witnessed pure power, endurance, spirit, faith and yes, love unlike any other time in my life. My Dad showed me, yet again, that you can do anything you want. Even run the Boston Marathon at 66 years young.
I ended this year with stronger relationships all around me. The bond that grew the most was my relationship with my exclusive boyfriend. Last January, we took our first photo together. Last July, we went on our first trip together. Last September, we went to our first wedding together. A few months ago, we celebrated our one-year anniversary. I feel our foundation is more solid with less cracks (i.e. “Where is this going?”, “Are we boyfriend and girlfriend?”, “Is this exclusive?”) than it was just a year ago. My friendships with others have also deepened and I can’t wait to experience the laughter and fun 2018 will bring to my inner circle.
Yaaaaasssss, I finally earned (emphasis on earned) my promotion and it was an empowering, bad-ass feeling. It’s always fabulous to be recognized and to get that money, especially when you’ve been slaying daily.
I was a part of this past year’s herstoric Women’s March. I have been an active feminist since my freshman year at college, but this was unlike any other event or rally I have attended. Women – and men – joined together to stand against the bullshit that has been going on for way too long in this country. The moment reminded me to stand up for what I believe is right, no matter what.
My 2017 ended with a Guy. I am officially an auntie to the cutest and sweetest nephew, Guy Arthur Andres. I am so, so proud of my sister for bringing life into this world! I am most looking forward to every year I get to be Guy’s auntie.
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all of a sudden, the water broke.
My family always hosts Christmas Eve at my childhood home, where guests enjoy flowing champagne, decadent holiday treats and twinkling lights. There’s always a feeling of pure magic that fills the air, you feel full of hope, excitement, happiness and love.
Just like every year, family and friends were laughing and conversing before our special feast of roasted pork, baked salmon, creamy mashed potatoes and fresh veggies. Right before dinner, I noticed my sister, Kelly, and her husband, Kevin, had disappeared. I went looking for my favorite couple and found them in my parents bedroom, looking concerned. That’s when I discovered the water had broke and all of our lives were about to change with the biggest Christmas gift of all.
On Christmas morning at 10:30 AM and 6 pounds, Guy Arthur Andres was born in Rochester, NY to the most loving parents and Auntie. I am already impressed with his taste for the dramatics, by unexpectedly arriving a month early on Christmas morning. He is a healthy, happy baby with more hair than Prince William.
I am grateful and ecstatic to have been a part of Kelly and Kevin’s moment. It’s wild to see your big sister transition into a mother, and I am still processing it! It’s even more incredible to see the wonders the female body can create, my sister brought life into this crazy, unpredictable, wonderful world. She pushed a little breathing human out of her body. Go call your Mom and say “thank you” for bringing you to life and fight like hell for women’s bodies to be respected, admired and protected.
We love you Guy, our little Christmas baby.
The holiday season is magical, with special bashes, velvet dresses, endless bubbly, endearing embraces and love that you can feel all around and within you. Although it may be stressful when trying to figure out what to get your Dad or which party to skip, it really is *the* precious season.
Here are my favorite things that always make the season shine bright, even after Mariah Carey has finished belting out "All I Want For Christmas Is You", the Facebook engagement photos have been deleted and you're halfway through forgetting those dumb New Year Resolutions.
A Little Party Never Killed Nobody
At the time, holiday bashes can be annoying with thoughts like "What am I going to wear?", "Do I have to go?" and "What should I bring?" but they make the season so fun. I went to a few gatherings where I only knew the hostess, and it was a ball. Get out there, spread some cheer and deck the damn halls.
Online Shopping Is Your Friend
Walking the Christmas Market with your honey and a hot apple cider are what holiday dreams are made of. But when it comes to bringing Christmas gifts home, it is what holiday nightmares are made of. I do not have room in my luggage for gifts, so this year I bought everything online and shipped it to my parents.
You do not need a family to build your own traditions. That's a pretty empowering thought as a young woman without children. I have learned that I love baking bread pudding and it has become a Christmas tradition that I have now shared with my Mom.
This is the only time of year you can wear a pair of reindeer antlers with glitter and a bold red lip. Do it and emancipate Mimi.
This is an obvious given, but each year I enjoy finding the perfect gift for the perfect people in my life. We work all year long, and for a few days a year, we get to receive and celebrate. That's really the best gift under the tree.
Portland is a damp evergreen paradise. The spot is some kind of urban forest wonderful, where the air is fresh like the rain that constantly kisses the ground and the streets are filled with bikers on their way to a farmer’s market. Yes, I loved Portland almost immediately.
The best trips are not about visiting places, they are about visiting people. I didn’t take a red-eye flight to explore Portland, I took an exhausting red-eye flight to visit one of my dearest friends, Autumn. Autumn is more than a dear friend, she’s truly my soulmate. We met five years ago while studying abroad in Brussels, Belgium and become inseparable after a trip to Cologne, Germany where we placed a lock on the magical Hohenzollern Bridge. Since then, we have laughed and danced our way through six countries and five U.S. cities, with each journey better than the last. This Portland exploration was no different.
We kicked off our reunion with a trip to a local karaoke bar, where the scene was loud, wild and fun. My performance included a Prince “Raspberry Beret” tribute and a fierce rendition of Cher’s “Believe.” The celebration started the Portland experience on the right note!
The most important thing to know about visiting Oregon is there’s no sales tax. Let me repeat that. There is no sales tax. Grab those running shoes and forget about your savings account, because it’s literally time to shop till we drop! Portland has awesome thrift stores where items are actually fantastic and cheap. In New York, a shirt at a thrift store costs $125 and I am like, “Um, why are you called a thrift store?” My favorite spot was Artifact where I purchased the cutest fall jacket and dress. I also really loved Crafty Wonderland for unique souvenirs and pug earrings (yes, you read that right). If you’re a bookworm, head to Powell’s Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore.
If you have access to a car, I highly recommend checking out the Oregon coast. The road trip there from Portland is about an hour and a half, with each mile filled with evergreen trees, mystical fog and soulful skies. On the coast, it is a requirement to see Haystack Rock, you know, where The Goonies ending was filmed. The rocks in the water? There ya go. After you snap some pics with a Goonies quote, head to the cutest beach town ever, Cannon Beach. The stores, restaurants and beach houses are adorable, all along a beautiful backdrop. Be sure to drop by the irresistible Sleepy Monk for a tea and sweet treat.
Speaking of treats, I always enjoy eating my way through every place I visit, and Portland did not disappoint. My soulmate, Autumn, is vegan so I enjoyed the local vegan fare with my local vegan gal. Virtuous Pie, a plant-based pizza and ice cream spot, is great for a Portland pie. I liked the Superfunghi pizza, with lots of mushrooms, herbed potatoes and ricotta cheese. For an amazing salad, head to Harlow, a gluten-free, organic vegetarian restaurant with homey décor. I had the Adobe Salad, with kale, black beans, red cabbage and tempeh, mhm still dreaming about it. For non-vegans, enjoy a unique variety of ice cream at Salt & Straw. The ice cream offerings are super fun and inventive, I indulged with scoops of cinnamon snickerdoodle and sweet potato casserole.
Portland is a gem of the Pacific Northwest, a little oasis where you can always find stunning scenery, a crisp breeze and special soulmates.
Dating and relationships are fricken' hard and extra fricken' hard in New York City. There are countless shows and movies about the exciting, yet challenging dating scene in the Big Apple because the unexpected is expected and just when you think it can't get any worse it does.
My dating life is New York has been magical and terrible at the same time. Within the same week, I went out with a guy who said straight-up racist comments throughout dinner and another man who took me on a boat cruise around the city at sunset. The possibilities, for better or for worse, are endless.
About a year ago, I went out with my lady friend on Halloween as her Wing Woman. It was a night that was solely about finding her a hunky guy in a hunky costume to make-out with. We decided to go to a rooftop bar that neither one of us had been to and that's when I met the man of my life that I recently celebrated one fricken' year with - Dave.
Since that fateful meeting, my life has transitioned to a better, healthier, happier and more balanced place. I am so, so very excited and grateful that I found a person who is kind, sweet, funny, smart and understanding to be in my life. I feel even more excited that we have committed to our relationship for over a year! Before Dave, my intimate, exclusive relationship experience was limited and most of it negative. I had extremely low expectations of men and had never found someone who was worth keeping in my life for more than 3 months. Here's what I have learned about being in a relationship, dating and love from our first year as a total power couple.
Expect the Unexpected
That great date you went on last Friday, don't be surprised if he never calls. BUT, do be pleasantly surprised when you fall for someone you may have overlooked or hit it off with someone at the bar that you showed up to in sweats. When I met Dave, I wasn't looking for anything and I ended up finding something wonderful.
Say What You Want
Ladies and gents, if you can't be brutally honest and real about what you want with who you're with, it's not going to work. When Dave and I first started dating, I told him exactly what I wanted and that was an exclusive relationship. There were no blurred lines and that made our relationship clear from the get-go. Do not wait around for the guy to lock it down or plan a romantic date at your favorite restaurant. If you don't say what you want, you're not going to get what you want.
Whatever you do, do not become obsessed with your partner. It's so important to have your own friends, interests and space outside of the relationship. Dave lives about an hour and half from me (NYC subway lifeeee) and although it can be v annoying, it also grants us our own distinct lives and space. I have always cherished my independence and still strongly identify as an independent woman even though I have a boyfriend. This is because I still feel like me while in this relationship and my partner fully supports my need to do my own thing.
Live It Up
If a relationship isn't worth the work, then why you in it boo? I love going on adventures with Dave and it brings magic to our relationship. Please do not become that couple that stays in the apartment all day watching Netflix... or only do that like once a week.
A sister getting married is a piece of you growing up.
My sister, Kelly, is six years older than me and I lived a lot through her when I was younger. She was always the essence of cool with her studded belts, dyed blonde hair and platform sandals. Kelly was the wild child of my family, the one who threw parties, listened to the coolest bands and always had weekend plans with her army of similarly cool friends.
Since my childhood days, my sister and I have grown closer and are now, inconceivable to my family, friends. We’re very different people, yet have bonded over our similar desires to lead successful, adventurous and healthy lives as grown-ass women.
On the way to her wedding, I kept asking my sister, “Aren’t you nervous?” and each time she replied, “Not at all.” That’s when it’s right. When everything – the planning, decorating, dress shopping and above all, the relationship come together like Beyonce and Jay Z. There I was, so nervous and excited for her, and she was as ready as ever.
Today, Kelly is more than just my older sister. She’s a wifey and soon to be first-time mommy in a few months. This piece within my soul that is made up of her, is all grown up. I am blessed to be her sister, but even more grateful to have earned her friendship. I am eagerly waiting to become Auntie B and welcome a nephew into our special circle of love.
I love to travel because it always brings me back to me. When I travel, it takes me back to my roots. The happiest moments of my life were when I was travelling through Europe while studying abroad. I loved exploring new cities, meeting new faces and enjoying new cultures. Everyday was an adventure and each adventure was better than I thought it would be. My heart will never forget climbing up the Eiffel Tower, lounging in a thermal bath in Budapest, or sipping red wine on rainy night in a Roman hostel. Travelling gives you the best, most unforgettable experiences of your life. Hold and cherish these memories. Return to these memories and places when you need to feel instantly content and inspired by the world's beauty.
This past week, I visited Savannah for the first time with my boyfriend, Dave. This trip was extra special, because this was the first time I have ever traveled with a romantic partner, and it was our first holiday together as couple. I am pleased to report our trip was absolutely perfect... and I'm not just saying that. #nofilter.
Savannah is a beautiful setting for any couple trip. The magical live Oaks combined with the fascinating history, flavorful food and exciting nightlife, make for an ideal getaway from everyday life. We stayed at an adorable Airbnb which alone was a flawless vacation from city life! It was such a treat to not be surrounded by roomies while squeezed into a closet together. We had a full kitchen! A porch! A family room! Two closets! It was incredible.
Our days were filled with exploring the city's historic neighborhoods and squares, while also multitasking with eating. Lots and lots of eating. When in the South, do as the Southerners do. Here were our favorite Savannah experiences.
Parks and Squares
Park Forsyth and all of Savannah's 24 squares (and counting) are gorgeous! The Park was right near our Airbnb which made for the perfect spot for relaxing walks, including a trek to the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. You can't miss the beautiful fountain on the North side of the Park, the one that you see when you Google "Savannah" LOL. It's absolutely stunning and even more so in the heat of the night. Savannah's squares show off the city's magical live Oaks and serve as ideal resting spots and Instagram photo opps. You're welcome.
We went on an awesome ghost tour from Blue Orb, which was a fun way to learn about "America's Most Haunted City" and get a little scared! We toured around the city by foot for two hours and were shivering while listening to the spooky tales that make the city so fascinating.
For a fun, wild night head to Club One for their famous drag show. These ladies are doing the damn thing! We had a blast singing and dancing to the fun hits these ladies performed. Slay, slay, slllaaayyyy!
Savannah Bee Company
I never liked honey until I tried Savannah Bee Company's honey. It's the BEST. The store is located in downtown Savannah and is a MUST visit. While at the store, you can sample all of the honey, honey beauty products (lotions, shampoos, face masks!) and mead. I had never even heard of mead before until I sampled it on this trip. Mead is a super old alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water. It's pretty good and totally worth trying!
The Olde Pink House
This restaurant is Savannah. It represents Southern charm and class with it's fine setting, superb service and menu filled with the region's finest cuisine. The food had me asking "Paula who?" because it's that bomb. Still thinking about it.
As a New Yorker always looking to escape New York, the pace of Savannah was refreshing and appreciated. People are super nice and welcoming, even friendly! We rode our bikes everywhere and it was shocking to not be scared for my life. I can keep up with the pace here.
Savannah is a charming getaway that allows you to relax and enjoy the Southern life. Nothing fancy, just real good times, squares, fried chicken and drag queens.