20 Things I learned in 2020

A year of vision and experience, there is no other year like 2020. Albeit it was shitty for most of us, it was a year of upheaval whether it was personal, mental, spiritual, etc. Not only did we physically have to contain ourselves inside four walls, we also felt the pandemic blues. Traveling, haircuts, trips to the cinema and concerts suddenly became luxuries at home to entertain ourselves when we got nothing to do besides work. Making questionable purchases on quarantine were things that could only give us relief whenever we needed a dose of laughter. Long walks to the park or around your neighbourhood were one of the only forms of relief when we’re bored of busting our butts off on YouTube workouts in our living rooms. Being unable to take a dip in the pool almost made me stir crazy. Maskne was hell for our skin. Our hair also suffered horrible grow outs as we couldn’t have access to a hairstylist for months. Some of you had no choice but to grab a buzzer, scissors or get a mullet out of boredom. Box dye was also optional, too.

While most of us have been leading busy lives, we also kept hanging on for every kind of connection on our phones whether it’s connecting with long distance old friends, cousins whom you haven’t spoken to in a year or swiping right on dating apps. Zoom’s the new hangout spot whether it’s platonically or romantically. Most of us had to sacrifice going out for our birthdays, which absolutely stank. We either had to do a birthday Zoom call or invite one or two friends over to our houses. But also, people from your past who suddenly popped out of thin air appeared on our WhatsApps, DMs or Facebooks. We were all trying our best to stay connected even though working from home zapped our energy.

Strangely, this year also brought us to start a business or do something creative that you’ve never done before. Taking risks were things we never considered in the past, yet it shaped our minds for the better. You also took a big leap for your mental health by deciding to do what you didn’t wanna do previously: get help. Sure, it was intimidating because some of you find it embarrassing to admit your struggles to your closest friends because you want them to think that you’re OK when your world fell apart. What you also learned was that it was OK to not be OK.

Although most of us spent our time at home, some of you went out to the streets to protest against racism at BLM protests from Los Angeles, Sydney and the UK. Being an advocate is sexy and I love that. While social justice is a cause I support, I also feel that some of you (myself included) have also decided to dedicate our time with helping out those who don’t have access to resources within our own back yard. Apart from protests and volunteering for charity, some of you have prayed for your loved ones and strangers who’ve suffered from COVID.

No matter how much you wanted to hate 2020, it was THE year that told us to level up inside out. We were not prepared to be stuck inside our homes or deal with a pandemic, but the one thing that we were being called to do was to look IN and see what WE could change about ourselves. (Myself included.)

Here are the top 20 things I learned in 2020:

Continue reading “20 Things I learned in 2020”

Cute Sustainable Gifts For Xmas

Staying in is the new going out and all the small things are suddenly becoming the new essentials. From toilet paper to face masks, it seems that big bags aren’t entirely necessary unless it’s for the most important grocery runs.

Thankfully, some of us are living in countries where we are lucky to go out. But for the rest of us, it’s unfortunate how y’all have to go through another series of lockdowns. Not letting Miss Rona steal our shine this December, there’s always a way how we can treat ourselves and our loved ones for the holidays. With practicality and sustainability being the new chic, I found some cute gifts that your friends or family will appreciate!

Continue reading “Cute Sustainable Gifts For Xmas”

Sustainability For Beginners: A Tried and True Guide To Shopping Smart

Stacks of shoes greeted me from floor to ceiling as I sauntered past the hallway in my apartment. Though I’ve had great city views of Marina del Rey, I was accustomed to the familiar sight, an array of funky footwear that I bought from Dolls Kill and Nasty Gal, coupled with a few from Miista, Doc Martens and secondhand vintage footwear from Depop. While my early 20s identity crisis was at its peak, I was constantly shopping to help myself fight against teenage body shaming.

My closet was filled with racks of Reformation dresses, Nasty Gal crop tops and leggings, a handful of cute trendy pleather overalls by LF, Rag & Bone skinny jeans and at least 50 percent of dope vintage purchases from Etsy. A few stacks of Uniqlo sweaters sat inside my closet, too. Ditto with a few cool unique vintage purchases from Tunnel Vision, a cult vintage boutique that also stores under-the-radar LA-based designers. At 22 on the brink of 23, how was it possible that a soon-to-be college graduate could accumulate *this* many things?

Now with the apparel business at a 50 percent slump since Miss Rona took over the world, it’s made me wonder if any of my past shopping habits truly changed. While it’s great that I am taking accountability for my own habits, I am beginning to realize that when it comes to sustainability, I haven’t shopped smarter. Although I still want to have fun with fashion, it doesn’t mean that I have to give it up altogether. Given that we still need to shop for essential apparel, we can do our part to still be supportive of the business, but be more responsible on where are contributions are going.

Here are the top 10 lessons I’ve learned about shopping sustainably:

Continue reading “Sustainability For Beginners: A Tried and True Guide To Shopping Smart”

Real Girls Talk: Keeping Up With Faith In Chaos

At the beginning of the year, I had high hopes that 2020 would be my year of more optimism and adventures. I also had hopes that I’d be able to get more dough, land a stable job (in the office) and get a boyfriend. But, the radical shifts that were suddenly introduced shook up my life.

Thanks to Miss Rona, I had to work from home, abandon grand travel plans and celebrate a quarantine birthday. Though the effects sounded negative, the most surprising things always came out to be more positive than I expected. I became more active in doing household chores, got creative, sewn face masks out of fabric scraps for charity, set deadlines, continuously kept in touch with the friends I truly connected with, spent more time with my parents and reached out to cousins I haven’t talked to in AGES. While I appreciate the special moments from creating magical memories whenever I was outside, I realized that when I went out on a near daily basis, it has made me become selfish, irresponsible and lazy. By being plugged into my phone, I also realized that the majority of the time I spent was mainly for the ‘gram, getting money on Vestiaire Collective, WhatsApps, e-mails and/or dating apps. I wasn’t aware that I sought SO much validation by burning my energy on it until I saw my screen time. But if there was one thing that continuously lifted me up on the bad days and taught me gratitude for the good days, it was my faith.

Raised as a Baptist at 8-years-old, my relationship with God wasn’t always the strongest. Getting to know my spirituality felt so foreign to me as I was told to go to Sunday school and youth classes, which I heavily disliked because of being around other kids (except for my best friend). I only read Bible stories for the sake of pleasure during my childhood. Instead of meditating on the Bible, I used free time to read Perez Hilton as the way, the truth and the life to escape the reality of being a socially awkward misfit in high school. Though I did attend church throughout my teens, I really didn’t feel *that* connected to The Word as I saw church as a weekend ritual with my family.

One day, I met a really cool gal in church when I was in LA. She asked me to hang out with her. Little did I know that God sent in an angel into my life to walk me though faith and humble myself. We’d read the Scriptures at each other’s apartments, have deep conversations about Jesus and hang out for HOURS over coffee, did our homework together, etc. From there, she introduced me to Jessica Tanoesoebibjo, a mutual friend/fellow Biola babe who has a Master’s degree in theology.

Fervently passionate about her faith on her blog, Jess inspired me to be open about keeping in touch with our spirituality since the day we met four to five years ago. Now that we are coping with the world’s weariness over social injustice, a global pandemic, crippled economy and lack of job security, I feel that nothing is more important than wanting to build your faith. Whether you’re a believer or non-believer, you have the freedom to choose what you wish to believe.

Here, we catch up about how faith has uplifted her, what it means to have faith, the struggle to balance faith vs. life, why we shall fear God and how you can encourage your friends to build up on their spirituality.

Continue reading “Real Girls Talk: Keeping Up With Faith In Chaos”

5 Non-Basic Ways To Wear Black

Striking, iconoclastic and sophisticated, no other color can make me smile more than black. Like second skin, it’s naturally part of my DNA as I cannot live without wearing it. It’s also my default color when I run out of ideas on what to wear.

Please watch this video on how to I wear black:

Follow me on TikTok @michyvari!

Rooki’s Hayley teo is the next big mvp shaking up singapore’s beauty game

Lean, clean, green and litter-free, Singapore’s notoriously stringent approach to its urban layout applies to its inhabitants as well (myself included). With the clean beauty movement conquering the lovely little red dot, business is booming among beauty entrepreneurs. Looking no further than our kitchen cabinets, a handful of green beauty brands have tried to capture our attention with its all-natural ingredients and Glossier-esque packaging to build a steady market. Though I have previously featured Rooki, it was time to get to know its founder Hayley Teo, an ex-digital content creator turned skincare queen (who is still making killer content on Rooki’s Instagram!).

While we have yet to meet in person, we go deeper than our love for good skincare to talk about how she build her brand, why we need to listen to our skin, men’s vs. women’s approach to skincare, what to do you when you procrastinate on your skincare routine and her three upcoming superhero serums.

Continue reading “Rooki’s Hayley teo is the next big mvp shaking up singapore’s beauty game”

Man Crush Monday: Cameron Hawthorn

Any man can upload a one minute clip, strum a guitar in his bedroom and belt out tunes for the Internet, but Cameron Hawthorn is not just another up-and-coming musician. Blessed with flawless skin, great hair that can make Aaron Samuels jealous, a sharp Cupid’s bow and a body that can fit into a tight tee, the Nashville based singer/songwriter has something that other upcoming singers don’t have: a vintage-inspired vision that feels freshly authentic.

Peppering his feed with photos of Judy Garland, Norman Rockwell-esque drawings, Huji’d out selfies and old family photos, Hawthorn is an old soul thrown into a modern world. Raised in Kansas and formerly based in Los Angeles, the 31-year-old graduated as a double major in communication and theater at USC.

While we have yet to meet in person, I felt inspired to reach out to him when I heard “Oh Hot Damn” through my friend’s Instagram, where they teased a snippet of the song. This lovely Leo and I chat about what inspired him to write his red hot single, LGBTQ positivity in the music industry, why he loves throwbacks and the biggest mistake that guys make when they want to find a partner.

Continue reading “Man Crush Monday: Cameron Hawthorn”

Larissa Schot Gets Candid About Life After America’s Next Top Model

Long and lean with shoulder-length blonde hair, Larissa Schot is a rising force in the making. Accessorized with a wide and cheerful smile, Schot is the model whose carefree aura graces your phone screen. While many of you are familiar with her from America’s Next Top Model (ANTM), I’ve known her as the volleyball player who used to sit tables away from me in zoology class during high school.

Years after we graduated high school, we reconnected via Facebook. In place of a uniform and a volleyball, she’s swapped them for skinny jeans and crop tops. Packed with determination and laser-sharp ambition, Schot still has the same precision of a volleyball player by aiming her ball towards the bigger goals in life. While it’s every girl’s dream to work with the biggest and boldest names, she also uses Instagram as a platform to promote body positivity with #ThickandThin, which focuses on raising awareness of the plus size community inside the fashion industry.

We chat about what really happens behind the cameras at ANTM, why she started #ThickandThin and the top body confidence boosting tip she swears by.

Continue reading “Larissa Schot Gets Candid About Life After America’s Next Top Model”

Where to Shop Secondhand: A Curated Go-To Guide For Beginners

Not in the mood to pay full price on something that’s already in store? Bummed that you FOMO’d on a cute pair of jeans from Cotton Citizen because they sold out? This weekend, use this opportunity to treat yourself to some secondhand treasures.

If you think that shopping for secondhand items feels gross, don’t let that turn you away from adding your soon-to-be newly favored fashion statement. No stranger to being a seasoned shopper for all things secondhand, I actually buy a lot of pre-owned things because it’s generally cheaper than the items that are new in store.  Also, shopping secondhand items can save up more land from being used as a dumping ground. From the 10+ years of experience that I’ve gained from shopping secondhand, the greatest thing about it is that you are giving the financial support to an individual seller/store.

Whether it’s an app or an online marketplace, here are my favorite places to go secondhand shopping:

Continue reading “Where to Shop Secondhand: A Curated Go-To Guide For Beginners”

@velvetcoke Is The Pop Culture Archivist Giving Us Life On Instagram

For the past ten years, pop culture changed thanks to the arrival of reality stars (i.e. The Kardashians and Jenners) and self-made aspiring Internet-savvy musicians (i.e. Justin Bieber) whose careers started rather unconventionally at that time. Then, minor reality stars (e.g. Gigi and Bella Hadid) and celebrity kids (e.g. Paris Jackson) suddenly blew up with lucrative modeling careers thanks to their status. Now that we can’t escape headlines featuring Kardashian, Jenner, Hadid or Bieber, is it hard to believe that pop culture really died in 2009?

Not so fast, though. As a fresh alternative to today’s celebrities, Instagram has blessed us with @velvetcoke, who reminds us of the good old days of pop culture when no one used a reality show or social media to build their career. Deep inside her treasure trove of pop culture archives, each post comes with a little mini history lesson. It’s won the hearts of celebrity fans such as David Spade alongside publishing bigwigs such as Paper and Interview, who featured a collaborative column with journalist Trey Taylor.

As a fan of pop culture and history, we had a long chat about how she started @velvetcoke, why loves pop culture from the 20th century, our mutual love for Guns ‘N Roses and an iconic ’90s trend she’d love to bring back.

Continue reading “@velvetcoke Is The Pop Culture Archivist Giving Us Life On Instagram”