Oct 28, 2014

Let's get real: we're all pretty basic

Some listicle I read last month had me ask aloud to my roommate: "Was I basic in college?!"

The list goes through things basic white girls do during the Fall, and subsequently post on Instagram. You know the drill: pick up Pumpkin Spice Lattes (I guess I am non-basic in that regard, because it tastes like dirt to me), wear flannels, take a photo of leaves, and wear Uggs. (I love my Uggs. +2 points for being extra basic.)

Anyway, this got me thinking about the basic movement... and how many debates have ensued because of it. Women are terrified of being labeled basic, much like men are horrified when they're labeled "bros." Here's the thing though: OWN YOUR BASICNESS. I did a long time ago and I'm pretty fulfilled with that life decision.

How I know I'm basic:

I'm about three steps away from posting Taylor Swift lyrics as a caption to an upcoming Instagram post. I got a blank space baby, and I'll write your name. 

I love all things luxurious when it comes to beauty, and I adore perfumes like Dolce & Gabbana's Velvet Desire, but my signature scent is, to this day, still Victoria's Secret Love Spell. Yes. The body spray I've worn since 7th grade. (Men love it, just trust me on this one.) And while another big scent splurge is Tom Ford's Neroli Portfofino (I'm obsessed with Neroli), Rodin's Parfum makes me feel like the ultimate woman, and Falling in Love by Philosophy is delightful, most times a little Peach & Cherry Blossom action from VS does the trick. Although, I am also convinced that a man doesn't want you to smell like a peach, or any fruit that matter — they just want you to smell good. Which is why I do invest in the good stuff.

As previously mentioned, I love UGGs. I really don't care that everyone hates shearling and hopes it dies a slow, painful death. I have four pairs: tall, short, regular and a cool leather bootie with shearling inside of it. I wore them in college, I will wear them to Starbucks, and occasionally I'll sport them at work when I know I have a long shoot day ahead of me. SUE ME. You'll get a lifetime supply of UGGs. 

So let's be real here: I AM BASIC. While I might be the girl who goes in scary face paint to a Halloween party or dresses up as Twitter, or colors her hair every color of the rainbow, my efforts to be me and not conform end up making me basic by default. Because we're all just trying to stand out, am I right? 

Here's how to know you're basic: a definitive guide, if you will. And it's super simple. (Just three steps!) 

1. You don't think you're basic.
This is a tell-tale sign that you are the most elementary of them all. Girl, you're the queen of basic. QUEEN B, if you will? Sure, you hate the Kardashians, you only drink artisanal coffee, and your spirit animal is Tavi Gevinson, but your efforts to avoid all basicness makes you one of the most basic of all. You probably have a fashion blog and aspire to get as many Instagram followers as possible. It's fine, but you aren't fooling anyone. 

2. You love Beyoncé.
Beyoncé is talented, she has a cute child; her music is danceable. Do I like Beyoncé? Of course I do — Houston, Texas REPRESENT. While literally breaking the internet serves as her reason to be non-basic, all of us ladies who run around blasting ***Flawless while getting ready, or get dressed in our best red flannel and cutoff shorts look in an effort to gain at ounce of her Yoncéness are, in fact, bae-sick. But keep on keepin' on... basics loving Beyoncé bring people together.

3. You hashtag the hell out of your Instagram photos.
I applaud the people who hashtag in order to get followers. I get it. If you're hashtagging #overalls on a photo of you wearing overalls, congrats! You are hashtagging correctly. I even love a good sarcastic hashtag, a la #wtf #help #scarytimes #donttouchme. But hashtagging your nickname or your child... Basic with a capital B. Hashtagging #cinnamon #pumpkin #spice #pumpkinspice #starbs #starbucks #thebucks #coffee #espresso #soy for that 800th Pumpkin Spice Latte you've purchased this season? Just stop. (Also, we only need one photo of that PSL. Nothing more.)

Should you not want to be basic, let me give you some pointers:

Don't give any craps about this post.
This isn't a PSA to become unbasic. This isn't to ridicule those of us who fall into this category. Who cares, anyway? Do you. At the end of the day, even the girls who try their hardest to step outside the box, be different and not conform to society end up being basic because it's all been done before. So see? Nobody can win. Even Beyoncé has a team that curates ideas, writes her songs and she's even been accused of taking inspiration from indie artists in her music videos. If Queenyoncé can fall, we all can.

Oct 21, 2014

What's the deal with outing people's plastic surgery?

A few things happened this week that made me want to write this post.

1.) Blake Lively appeared on a red carpet, glowing and pregnant. 
2.) Renée Zellweger appeared on a red carpet, glowing and noticably different.

I posted about Blake Lively because WOW. She has always been a beautiful woman: enviable hair, enviable wardrobe, enviable husband; now an enviable family and baby body. But ignore the fact that the actress looked absolutely stunning on the red carpet at The Angel Ball, because girlfriend has (allegedly) had plastic surgery! So don't be too envious. It's not natural!

What is our obsession with natural? Actually, why are we constantly trying to tear others down? Why is this our culture? 

I guess I shouldn't say it like that. I love the natural look. Sometimes, I wish I was more natural, but the fact is that I love makeup, and you're only going to catch me without it at the gym or in bed. Contrary to what many people may think or believe about me, I have never had Botox. (I understand that's not plastic surgery, but you do need to see a medical professional, as it is a cosmetic procedure.) My lashes are naturally long — so long that I have been told I needed to "stop wearing lash strips" for a job before. I also have never had any cosmetic procedures willingly. When I was three, I had surgery on my eyes to remedy ptosis. It impaired my vision, so my mother moved forward with the eyelid surgery. Doctors removed six tendons from my right leg (a scar rests quite nicely on my upper thigh) and placed them along my brow bone to help lift my lids. That's why I blink differently than most of you; it's also why I have tiny scars hidden behind my brows — they're almost unnoticable. That is all thanks to an amazing plastic surgeon. (PS: thanks, Mom.)

Our obsession with outing plastic surgery patients probably stems from the fact that so many men and women make a hefty living after having received surgical enhancements. While plastic surgery is still considered taboo, 15.1 million procedures occured in 2013. Getting a breast augmentation or an eye lift is as normal as purchasing a new car.

Cosmetic surgery once was used primarily to help aid war victims and fix cleft palates; issues that would be hazardous to ones health. Now it's a way to simply make one feel better about themselves.

Sure, there are plenty of men and women who take it too far. A good surgeon will know when, and who, to say no to. But what's the harm of enhancing something permanately that actually improves your self-worth and happiness? 

We can't confirm, but many would validiate that Blake Lively did a few things to make herself happier. And she looks great! What's the harm in that? Does it make her any less beautiful? 

Why are we, as women, so quick to point out that another woman has been under the knife?

"She looks great! I aspire to look like her!" 
"Yeah, well just know she's had a boob job, rhinoplasty and that hair? It's a weave." 

I agree that it's important to know that certain Hollywood standards are unattainable. That women's cellulite is airbrushed right off the legs; that long, flowing hair is filled with extensions and wrinkles are removed from their eyes with the help of the stamp tool. Their waistlines and thighs trimmed to perfection. These are the unattainable standards we have, and we are for sure influenced by them. And I think a lot of people who comment on these threads, specifically mine, come from a place where they don't want other women feeling poorly about themselves for not achieving these standards we've socialized over the past few decades. But even more people comment because they're part of the "take down culture." They're the people who troll, criticize and aren't offering anything more than a personal attack.

So, I have to speak up for the women who have had surgerically enhanced faces and bodies, willingly.  I know these women. They are beautiful. In fact, the look natural. Blake Lively is probably thrilled to be on a red carpet with her husband (I'm sure it's a bit vain as well), but how horrifying is it that people feel the need to comment, "She is killing it! But it's not au natural." 

Newsflash: I don't know one person who has hit a red carpet au natural. Nobody appears without hair and makeup —and guess what? Those things are cosmetic enhancements, albeit they aren't permanent. I doubt a lot of you ladies go to work without curling your hair or applying mascara. Guess what? You're enhancing yourself with these things. Do you paint your nails? Same thing. They might not be permanent, but they have the same effect. And they probably make you feel better about yourself.

Mascara makes me feel pretty. So does clear skin. That is why I cover up blemishes when I break out, and why my lashes will always be coated with mascara. (Unless I'm in bed.) It's transformative.

So are we all justified to take away someone's personal satisfaction, and even her beauty, because she felt the need to make it permanent? Or if she felt the need to completely transform herself? Even if we think it's not for the better. Who are we to comment on someone who wants to change their looks?

I went to school with a girl who got into an awful accident. She had several skin grafts and multiple facial reconstruction surgeries, and let me tell you that hands-down she was the most beautiful person I ever saw. I actually had no idea about any of this. How did I find out? One day after class, I'm discussing with a partner how smart, sweet and gorgeous she was. "Yeah, she is. It's crazy though, she had so much plastic surgery." I Google her and find out it's because of the accident. She does look like a better version of herself, but I couldn't help but think what a struggle that must be for her: how she handles her new look, something she had no say so in, but it ended up making her look better. There's a lot of psychological issues that must come from that.

So I get it — the psychology of it all can go to the extreme. But if one is of sound mind and they want to change their looks, why is everyone so quick to tear them down?

Renée Zellweger made comments regarding the speculation about her appearance, and I applaud her. We didn't get a definitive answer; she didn't owe us one. I can't say that I believe everything she says, but the fact that people are openly tearing apart her looks, when she feels the happiest and healthiest she's ever felt? Shame on us. We have no right.

Oct 20, 2014

The Best Haunted Houses in Los Angeles

Halloween is in full swing! Here are some of the best haunts in Los Angeles:

House from PSYCHO - Halloween Horror Nights

1. Halloween Horror Nights - Universal Studios
One of the first things I did upon moving to LA? Hit up Halloween Horror Nights. For starters, having it take place at Universal Studios means they're going to get access to some of the best sets in the business. It's huge — depending on what type of pass you get, you may not be able to get through all of the houses. If you can, buy a VIP pass so you can hop the lines. (They get looooooong.)

The entire park is open, so if haunted houses aren't your thing, rides like The Simpsons, Transformers 3D, Jurassic Park and more are available. (Transformers is a ton of fun!) Beware, though. You don't need to hit up one of the mazes to experience some scares. Themed "Scare Zones" take over the streets of Universal, so you might might end up getting chased by clowns, a werewolf, or Jason. 

Must see: The Terror Tram is, hands down, always my favorite. You board the trams to the backlot of Universal, where some of your favorite movies and shows have been filmed: Desperate Housewives, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, War of the Worlds; PSYCHO. On the way there, a short film plays that prepares you for what's to come — one year the attraction was Chucky themed, so they created a "Chucky: True Hollywood Story" to watch. Once you get to the sets, you're forced off the tram and better start running — because people are coming after you. The past few years, the theme has been The Walking Dead, as Universal teamed up with AMC. This year, it sounds like they're adding actual scenes from the show. 

TIP: If you hit the Terror Tram, try to go right when the park opens or right before the ride closes. (It usually closes earlier than the other attractions.) The lines won't be as long and it's better to experience this without hoards of people around you. 

Blumhouse Productions

2. Blumhouse House of Horrors
I won passes to this two years ago and I'm bummed that I never made it. Producer Jason Blum created this haunted house — he is responsible for "I couldn't sleep for days afterwards" films like Paranormal Activity, Insidious and Sinister.

Most reviews of this house are solid. There were slated "arrival times" for patrons who bought tickets, which helped limitate long wait times and lines. It's 40 minutes long, rather theatrical and offers an interactive element. However, some reviews state that it's more of a "watch and go" experience and that you're not actively involved in the experience.

Last year's house was themed after The Purge. (No, Jason didn't produce that one.) And apparently this Summer they opened Blumhouse again to promote The Purge: The Awakening.  Right now, they don't have anything slated for Halloween. Let's hope they have something in store!

TIPS/CONS: We have no ideas if Blumhouse will resurrect for 2014!

Yelp user Paolo H. 

3. PanIQ Room - UPDATE
I ventured to PanIQ Room on September 18th and the reviews are right — it's a completely unique experience.

I had initially booked at 7:00 slot for The Insane Asylum. I felt that The Bunker, which storyline includes your group being terrorists on the the search for their terrorist friend, was inappropriate and poorly timed, given current events. Never having received our room confirmation, I contacted them on Facebook. They let me know they doublebooked and that they only had a 7:30 Bunker slot available. The group was pretty set on going, so we took it.

The house is generally intimidating. You have no idea what you're going to be in for once you walk inside. Parking is in the horseshoe area next to the building (it looks like a vacant lot), or you can park in front of the house. I was slightly terrified to open up the door, having no idea what to expect, but it's just a lobby where you sign in.

Once everyone arrived and we got settled, we were told the rules. Don't destroy the room — nothing will need to be pulled off the floor or ripped apart. If we aren't as far as we should be, the attendant will walkie the team leader and help guide them. (They want you to have the full experience.)

I had heard The Bunker wasn't as exciting as The Asylum, or as detailed, but I have to say that our experience was exhilarating — if that wasn't detailed, then I can't wait to try The Insane Asylum.

We got out with about nine minutes to spare. We thought we would have finished earlier! But you get absolutely no instructions. You simply enter the room, the attendant gives you safety info, and that's it. The door locks and you're on your own.

I am not going to divulge any details, but I will say that because of recent events and the intensity of this particular experience, I did feel a little uneasy about 3/4 of the way through the process. Hopefully they'll get rid of certain things in The Bunker and edit this room so it's more PC.

PanIQ Room started over in Hungary and is considered a "live-action escape experience." Reading the site, this isn't meant to be a scare-filled attraction — great news for those of you with friends who won't step foot in a haunted house! It's an adrenaline-pumping event where you have to escape your assigned room within 60 minutes.

Yelp user Paolo H.
There are appointments everyday from 10AM to 12:00 midnight, for groups of six or smaller. You choose between two scenarios: The Bunker, where you are a part of terrorist group (I don't think this was the best decision on their part) or The Insane Asylum, where you're on a medical team trying to figure out the story of a past patient.

According to the site: "At this brand-new attraction, your party will be locked in a themed room where you'll rely solely on your wits and teammates to escape. You and your friends must solve a series of logic and skill puzzles using objects found throughout the room. After completing the final puzzle, you'll be free to go -- well, at least until next time."

I have a feeling I'm going to feel real dumb after this one. Ha. Sessions aren't longer than 60 minutes, but they finish as fast as you can solve the puzzle.

I don't know much about this. Questions I have: how do we get the information? Is it through actors or through letters left in the room? What's the live-action component?

Going to Yelp for answers: many have described the production value as "top notch" and said the atmosphere is "creepy." One Yelper concludes, "it's not so much about solving puzzles — it's about finding the right clues." Okay, good to know!

Right now there are only two experiences, but a few reviews mentioned they would be back to try the Mad Scientist room. Hmm...

TICKETS: Get a deal on Living Social! $79 for six people (regularly $159)
SHOWINGS: Daily from 10:00AM - 12:00 midnight

4. Los Angeles Haunted Hayride
I haven't been to the Haunted Hayride in years, and for a few reasons: I like to be scared, and I didn't find this scary at all. Back in 2009, there was a portion where you're dragged under a big top, and a bunch of psychotic heavy metal clowns come at you. Nothing to write home about.

However, this year there are a few new attractions: Purgatory (Haunted Village), The House of the Horsemen and Seven Sins Sideshow.

Purgatory: I don't believe Purgatory is new, but Theater Macabre (within Purgatory) is. This is where re-enactments of iconic horror movies take place. Additionally, there's the Scary Go-Round, Death Row Photo Room, Jack's Carving Shack and more.

The House of the Horsemen: the description of the site was pretty much nonsensical, so I believe this is an on-site haunted house.

Seven Sins Sideshow: Again, the description might as well not be there... but I'm guessing this is a live-action circus act!

If you have a group of teens or children, this might be your best bet.

I'm going at the beginning of October, so I will update accordingly.

TICKETS: $30 general admission; $42 all access (includes every attraction on site)
SHOWINGS: Starts October 3rd. 7:00 PM-12:00 midnight select dates; 7PM-10:30PM select dates.

5. Disneyland Halloween
A family-friendly event! If you haven't been to Disneyland during Halloween, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? It's magical.

If you do anything, check out the Haunted Mansion for sure. They transform the mansion with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme. And Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy a blast, too. Make sure you go see the goats who dress up for the occasion at Big Thunder Ranch as well.

TICKETS: $96 for Disneyland Park, $150 for Park Hopper ticket (Disneyland + California Adventure)
SHOWINGS: September 12th - October 31st

I have a complex about being alone. I think it has to do with the fact that Alice in Wonderland really freaked me out as a child — I hated that she was roaming around by herself with creepy characters harassing her! Leading her astray... and being a major pain in the ass. Nobody wants to help her and FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, SHE'S A CHILD! Guide her! Damn. (The Cheshire Cat appears in my worst nightmares.) 

That being said, these next two houses are solo adventures, meaning you can go with a group, but you will go through the experience alone. I heard about both of these last year and considered going, but immediately put the kibosh on that idea after reading reviews. I do well in groups — I'll even lead the pack — but do not make me go alone! 

Blackout started in NYC and came to LA. Now it's available in Chicago. I became infatuated with this haunt and read probably every review possible... I had to know more if I were to entertain the idea of pissing myself in public. (Clearly the A+ reviews weren't enough to sway me.) 

SPOILERS: Don't read if you don't want to know some happenings that could occur during your time at Blackout.

More than being alone, I've heard revolting, crude things about this particular haunted house. In addition to waterboarding and picking a key out of vomit, I've heard people witnessing simulated rape, having to suck on bloody tampons and various other gag-worthy simulations.

Cracked.com gave a full, detailed account of the haunt in 2012, so you can learn more about what happens at Blackout and whether or not it's worth subjecting yourself to demoralization and trauma.

... Yeah, after re-reading that, my "never going to Blackout" stance has been solidified. I like scaring myself, and part of me wants to prove I'm braver than all this hubbaloo, but I'm having anxiety just reading a few paragraphs on the internet with all the lights on. Also, I'm not going to support rape in any form.

TICKETS: Details coming soon. Probably around $50 if based on previous years.
SHOWINGS: Nothing on the site as of 9/4, except for an announcement that they're working with Queens of the Stone Age on a version of Blackout on Halloween night at The Forum. It's sold out, though.

Instagram user @aloneexperience

Hopefully the link works for you. As I type, it won't load, which is freaking me out. (Scaring myself.) I hopped on over to their Facebook page and 25 seconds before they pasted this weird photo of a bunch of numbers (a code?). Which is unsettling to say the least.

Update: Link is working now. Here's what Alone is, in their own words:
Alone is an immersive and artistic exploration of fear, loneliness and self preservation.
Considering I am most terrified to be alone (not by choice), I'm not going to fair well at this house. Reviews say it's about 30 minutes long and you'll be given a safe word and a flashlight. Oh yeah, and if you haven't figured it out by now, you're alone. Nobody to cling to. Many compare this to Blackout. Some say it's more horrifying; others claim it's not as intense.

They call you by your name, sometimes your photo is involved... patrons have claimed they were "traumatized," "baffled," and even "turned on." Hmm...

Last year's event was Downtown and one patron said they were told that one of the SAW movies was filmed at the location. So everything I'm sure was just peachy

As with any thrilling haunt, the actors are allowed to touch you, thus a release form is required. You will not find out the address of the experience until the day of your show.

TICKETS: Price for 2014 unannounced, but last year they were $
SHOWINGS: Only available information at this time is that general sale will be available on October 5th.

I had heard a lot about this play, but didn't have the balls to go. Actually, I take that back. I would have gone, but I can hardly find anyone that has the balls to go with me! 

This immediately attracted me because they weren't positioning it as a house. In fact, when asked if it's a haunted house? "Hell no!" was the response. They consider it an "interactive horror theater."

You are a part of the play, making it more interactive. (You're not just passing by and watching.) Neil Patrick Harris tweeted about how great it was, so that's how I found out about it. (I think he might produce it, or has once in the past.) I took to Yelp to read some of the patron's reviews, and knew I needed to go ASAP! (It didn't happen, though.)

The man who created it, Jon Braver, is a Hollywood stunt coordinator, so thrills are a package deal with this haunted drama. You're in a group, and many Yelpers who have reviewed say you will be 1) running, 2) crawling, 3) you'll be in the dark for some situations and 4) stairs may be involved. Additionally, the actors will be able to touch you. The part that freaked me out the most is that some people will be pulled away from the group to finish certain "tasks." Who knows what those are, but being alone is enough to give me the chills. I have read various times that you have to volunteer to be separated, but I can't confirm that. There's a psychological element to this play, as puzzles are involved. 

Mostly, people brag about the actors, how long it was (about an hour) and the set design. They say the environment and atmosphere is what sets this attraction apart from the rest — I'm all about high production quality, which makes me even more eager to go this year.

Apparently there were some permit issues last year, so they were unable to serve alcohol. I'm always 50/50 on booze... I feel like I need to be 100% sober so I can navigate these houses at my best, but then again, maybe the booze will help take the edge off. 

This year, the theme is Delusion: Lies Within. The story follows the disappearance of an acclaimed author and takes place in a 108-year-old mansion.

TICKETS: $60 with fees. If buying six or more, enter "sixcount" and checkout and get 10% off your purchase.
SHOWINGS: Every half hour from 7:00PM-12:30 AM

TIP: Yelpers consensus - wear running shoes and avoid bringing a purse, if possible. If you're clausterphobic, you might want to sit this one out. Groups can be 10-12 people, so if yours is smaller, you might be paired with strangers. 

CONS: You may not enjoy other Halloween attractions after partaking in this adventure — so acknowledge it or save this as one of your last Halloween experiences! 

Oct 18, 2014

Halloween Inspiration 2014

Halloween is such a special time for me. Most of you know that I grew up having an annual Halloween party, from kindergarten to senior year of high school. My house was always festively decorated, thanks to my precious mother. I loved the thrill of this scary, mysterious and enchanting season. I also loved being able to express myself through makeup.

At work, I'm able to create looks for our viewers to replicate at home. From the novice to the expert beauty guru, we've created a great selection of costumes, whether you're ready to get decked out or just want to add a little Halloween flair.

1. Five Halloween nail art designs « 2. Bohemian fairy makeup « 3. Lady Gaga 'Applause' makeup « 4. How to create your own claw manicure at home « 5. iKat Halloween manicure « 6 & 7. Skull makeup « 8. Webby Woman « 9. Veronica Lake pinup tutorial (hair and makeup) « 10. Taylor Swift zombie makeup. Turn any of your favorite celebrities into a zombie! « 11. My favorite of the 2014 season: Fang Fatale. (Coming soon.) « 12. Leopard lady « 13. A Purr-fect black cat manicure. (Coming soon.)

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