Inspiration Report

L'Oréal_logo.svgL’Oreal Paris UK has made history by featuring a woman wearing a hijab in a hair care advertisement. The ad promotes L’Oreal’s new Elvive campaign and features the beauty blogger Amena Khan, a British Muslim who wears her hijab in public and in the advertisement. Khan was excited to be a part of the advertisement, and she sees her inclusion as a major step toward correcting a common misconception about Muslim women.

“You have to wonder,” Khan said, “Why is it presumed that women who don’t show their hair don’t look after it? The opposite of that would be that everyone that does show their hair only looks after it for the sake of showing it to others. And that mindset strips us of our autonomy and our sense of independence. Hair is a big part of self-care.”

In an interview with Vogue UK, Khan also pointed out that even though she wears her hijab in public, she leaves her hair uncovered at home and around her loved ones. “For me, my hair is an extension of my femininity. I love styling my hair, I love putting products in it, and I love it to smell nice. It’s an expression of who I am,” Khan said. “Even if that expression is for my home life and my loved ones…it’s who I am. If I know my hair is greasy but I have a scarf on it, I still feel rubbish all day—even if it’s covered.”

L’Oreal’s decision to cast Khan in their advertisement has received mixed responses. Many people are delighted at seeing the diverse group of individuals in the advertisement and have spoken out on social media in favor of the decision. Muslim women in particular have cheered Khan’s inclusion.

Some people, however, felt that including Khan was purely a political statement. More than one person commented on social media stating that it made no sense to use a hijab-wearing woman in a hair-care commercial because viewers cannot see the woman’s hair.  Several people also criticized Khan’s inclusion due to her previous anti-Israel tweets. The tweets have since been deleted, but the tweets have caused some people to question why L’Oreal chose to feature Khan instead of another Muslim woman.

Despite the controversy, Khan believes that her appearance in the ad is a step forward for diversity in advertising. “Even prior to [wearing the hijab in public] I didn’t see anyone I could relate to in the media,” Khan said. “I always wanted to be somehow in television or in media but it felt like a pipe dream…I think seeing a campaign like this would have given me more of a sense of belonging. I trusted L’Oreal that they would communicate the message well. If the message is authentic and the voice behind it is authentic, you can’t deny what’s being said.”

It is unclear how much revenue the advertising campaign will bring to L’Oreal, but it has certainly caught the attention of women all over the world. How the controversy will be resolved is still in question, but the ad is helping break down lingering stereotypes which is never a bad thing.

Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a U.S. federal holiday in honor of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Three years later, the first Martin Luther King Day was celebrated on the third Monday of January.

Today, many people spend Martin Luther King Day performing acts of service in their communities. The day is technically a national day of service according to the 1994 King Holiday and Service Act. This act made the third Monday in January the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service. It is to be a “day on, not a day off.” Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans take those words to heart and make it a point to help others. People tutor or mentor children, paint schools or senior centers, deliver meals, build homes, donate blood or volunteer at homeless shelters in their local communities. Many of these projects continue on past Martin Luther King Day and assist the people of a community all year.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is best known for his role in the Civil Rights Movement and his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. This famous speech was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Monument, but it actually debuted in a North Carolina gymnasium. In 1962, King spoke for nearly an hour to the 1,800 people who crammed inside a gymnasium in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. It was here that King first said the famous words “I have a dream.”

This moment in history was all but forgotten until a North Carolina State English professor discovered that King once spoke in Rocky Mount and that his speech had been recorded. The tape was damaged, but King’s first “I Have a Dream” speech was successfully restored. The restored speech included all three of King’s most iconic endings: “Let freedom ring,” “How long, not long” and “I have a dream.” Hundreds of people have expressed interest in listening to this early speech, and a partial recording is available online.

While many people will undoubtedly listen to Martin Luther King, Jr’s speeches today, thousands more will join in marches in honor of the Civil Rights hero. It is, perhaps, those who spend the day quietly serving others that best honor King today. After all, Martin Luther King, Jr once famously said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” How will you spend America’s 32nd Martin Luther King Day?

5116145499_267de3480d_b“Attractive” has always been a very subjective descriptor. Some women like men with facial hair while others cannot imagine kissing a man with a beard. Some men like women with short hair while others prefer women with long flowing locks. Some people want a partner who is much taller while others want a mate of a similar height. Red hair, black hair, blue eyes, brown eyes, the list of preferred traits are endless. The labels are equally diverse and often just as baffling as they are descriptive. After all “glamorous beauty,” “all-American pretty,” “rock-star handsome” and “clean-cut man” call to mind different images for each person. No label, however, has come under as much fire as “fat.”

Body image has become a surprisingly hot-button issue in recent years. The fashion industry has faced massive backlash over airbrushing models to have impossible proportions, and images of celebrities before-and-after photoshop have gone viral. It is in this culture that pushback against “fat-shaming” has really taken hold. People have begun to push for teens, especially girls, to stop worrying about their weight and accept themselves. Social media is filled with comments telling plus-sized girls to appreciate their curves and stop trying to “conform to society’s impossible standards.”

Given the prevalence of eating disorders among teens, such body positivity proponents are right to push back against dangerous and unhealthy starvation diets. Some, however, have gone too far. Women have begun being “skinny-shamed” as well. Fashion giants LVMH and Kering have banned models smaller than a French size 32, and the comment that “zero is not a size” can be found on everything from Twitter posts to t-shirts.

In such an environment, women like Jaime King and Megyn Kelly risk massive criticism whenever they speak about body image. Model Jaime King faced backlash after she pushed back against LVMH and Kering’s ban on models based on size, and Megyn Kelly recently found herself in hot water following a remark on the “Today” show. Kelly commented that one way she kept off the pounds was by having her stepfather tell her off whenever she went to the kitchen for a snack. In a similar controversy, Maria Kang drew ire when she posted a picture of herself and her kids. Kang, thin and fit in the picture, captioned the image “What’s your excuse?”

Both being overweight and underweight have been linked to health problems. No one is denying that simple truth. The question, however, has become how to handle weight loss and weight gain. Many body positivity proponents argue for all people seeing themselves as beautiful even if they are overweight. Others, however, argue that this idealizes a body that is overweight which causes just as many problems as idealizing a figure that is underweight. So, what is the right way to handle body image? No one should be publically shamed for their weight; most people can agree on that fact. The question that remains then is how to balance the emotional rollercoaster of bodily acceptance with the physical concerns of bodily health. So far, no one has a perfect answer. Given the topic, is it really any surprise that no solution to body image will be one-size fits all?

downloadOn December 23, 2016 David Mosher proposed to his girlfriend, Heather Lindsay, during an evening carriage ride. Just hours previously, Heather, a school psychologist, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. “She didn’t know I was going to propose that night,” David said. “But I said to myself, she needs to know she’s not going to go down this road alone.” When their carriage passed under a street light, David got down on one knee and asked Heather to marry him.

The couple had met roughly a year and a half previously at a swing dance class they were both attending. “We were just kind of inseparable after that.” Unfortunately, the newly engaged couple would not have the long future they both envisioned. Just a few days after David popped the question, Heather’s cancer was identified as triple negative, one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer.

“We would go to Dana Farber weekly, we were going to natural doctors. Our life became consumed with cancer,” David said. The all-encompassing hunt for a cure for Heather was unsuccessful, and in September 2017, Heather and David learned that the cancer had spread to Heather’s brain. She was put on life-support and told that she would be unlikely to live to see October.

Heather, however, had different plans. Her wedding date was set for December 30, 2017, and Heather was determined to live to see it. “She was tough,” David said. “Anyone else would have given up a long time ago. The doctors even said ‘we don’t know how she’s still here.’”

At the doctors’ recommendation, David and Heather moved the ceremony up by two weeks because Heather was unlikely to survive until December 30. On December 22, 2017, the Moshers were married in Saint Francis chapel in front of their family and friends. Heather was weak enough that she struggled to articulate her vows, but she persevered and successfully became David’s wife as she had been dreaming of for nearly a year.

Christina Karas, one of the bridesmaids, captured Heather’s determination and defiant celebration on camera. “We were losing her as we were all standing there, thinking, to hold on to this, because this was the last she had to give,” Christina said, “The last words she spoke were her vows.”

Eighteen short hours later, Heather Mosher passed away on December 23, 2017, one year to the day from when David proposed. “She’s my great love, and I’m going to lose her, but I’m not losing her forever.” David said. “I saw her in a lot of pain and she didn’t give up until she married me. It is so humbling that someone could love me like that.”

Heather’s funeral was held on December 30, her original wedding date, at Plantsville Congregational Church, the same church where she and David were originally supposed to be married. Despite the agony of loss, David refuses to give up and plans to channel his late wife’s defiant spirit. “Heather said, ‘I want to keep fighting’ so that’s the mantra I’m picking up,” David said, “She was able to fight ‘til the end, I’m going to fight until my end.”