What you need to know about Harry and Meghan’s next big move

What you need to know about Harry and Meghan’s next big move


Meghan’s beloved haunts, celebrity neighbours and an Eton-style school for Archie are on their dream house checklist. Michelle Davies reports

Harry and Meghan new home
Getty Images

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are facing a new dilemma this week. It’s not quite as monumental as them deciding to quit the Royal family but it certainly could be as life transforming. Weeks into their official new life, the couple must decide exactly where they intend to live as they carve out their alternative existence in Canada. The matter has become pressing because permanent security arrangements need to be put into place – including deciding who will fund it.

Presently the couple are holed up in a borrowed mansion on Vancouver Island, off Canada’s east coast. It was where they spent their six-week sabbatical over Christmas and New Year and where they decided to drop the bombshell that they were stepping away from senior royal duties. Surrounded by acres of parkland, it has afforded them a certain level of privacy – if you ignore the legal warning issued to photographers snapping Meghan in Horth Hill with eight-month-old Archie. But is Vancouver ideal for a long-term residency? We suspect not.

In fact, the smart money’s on them settling in Toronto, where the blueprint for their new life together already exists thanks to Meghan’s previous experience of living there while she filming Suits. She already has a list of favourite hangouts, including Terroni, an Italian deli and restaurant where –according to Vanity Fair’s September 2017 cover story – she stocked up on jars of hot peperocini piccanti chillies to toss through pasta, organic greens and lashings of olive oil.

Harry and Meghan new home

The Toronto skyline (Getty Images)

She was also a regular at Harbord Room, where her former boyfriend Cory Vitiello was previously a chef. Canada’s answer to Jamie Oliver, he’s since set up his own rotisserie shop, Flock, so that will negate the chance of any awkward encounters (Vitiello and Meghan were said to be on the path to marriage before their sudden split weeks before she was first linked to Harry). Then there’s Soho House, run by her good friend Markus Anderson (who incidentally she met through Vitiello), and where Harry famously accompanied her to a Halloween party concealed inside a frog costume (frog + kiss = prince, geddit?).

Meghan’s other favourite go-to places include 4Life Natural Foods, Scandi-themed Fika Café, Bar Isabel and Shangri-La Toronto for a spot of premium pampering.

Another tick in Toronto’s box is that it’s home to Studio Lagree. Meghan studied Pilates Platinum there while living in the city and it appears she has yet to find a viable alternative in Vancouver: she recently flew her LA-based instructor and friend Heather Dorak into town. Talking of close pals, Toronto is also where Meghan’s best friend Jessica Mulroney is based. The self-proclaimed brand consultant is a key member of Meghan’s inner circle and is said to have actively encouraged her to walk away from the ‘stifling’ environment of palace life. It was also Mulroney who babysat Archie when Meghan and Harry returned to the UK at the beginning of January, so living close to her would bring both work and play rewards.

Meghan and Jessica at the Equinox Yorkville Dinner in Toronto, 2015 (Getty Images)

Of course, it’s not all about Meghan and Harry finding their happy place: it’s about Archie too. According to reports, the couple are keen to enrol their son at nursery, so he can interact with other children and broaden his social skills. A seemingly perfect choice is the all-male Upper Canada College, which is apparently modelled on Eton – the Windsor-based school where Harry and his brother William were educated – and takes boys from senior kindergarten (aged five). Prince Philip was even on the board of governors at the school until he retired from public office in 2017. However, given how they want to break free from royal traditions, they may choose a school with less obvious connections.

As for where they’ll actually live, the city’s most exclusive neighbourhood, the Bridle Path estate, is tailor made for them. Dubbed ‘millionaires’ row’, palatial houses there sell upwards of £5 million and in 2018, Drake had a 35,000 square feet mansion built there complete with a full-sized basketball court. Other famous residents over the years have included Celine Dion and Prince, so Harry and Meghan should fit in quite nicely.

Indeed, Meghan herself said in 2015 that it’s easy for someone famous to live in Toronto under the radar. ‘It’s really funny, because I think as [big as] Toronto is, it’s so different from LA or New York. There [are] no paparazzi so it’s really easy to just have a normal life,’ she said. Only time will tell if it stays like that for them.

The post What you need to know about Harry and Meghan’s next big move appeared first on Marie Claire.

'I’m super tough, I’m really blunt!' What happened when Neelam Gill's psychic life coach met writer Daisy Buchanan

'I’m super tough, I’m really blunt!' What happened when Neelam Gill's psychic life coach met writer Daisy Buchanan


Many celebs are including a ‘spiritual’ life coach in their self-care entourage and the psychic services industry is booming. Daisy Buchanan, author and podcast host of You’re Booked talks to Psychic Kesa, Neelam’s go-to life coach to find out how she helps her tackle depression and anxiety

life coach
Unsplash

‘I’m not super into spirituality,’ explains the mysterious Psychic Kesa, immediately after she has given me a reading using her special, customised tarot style cards, and a crystal ball. ‘It’s just what helps me connect with people. I believe in creating futures by making events happen.’ Strangely, it makes sense. Kesa, whose glittering client roster includes Marie Claire’s first-ever digital cover star supermodel Neelam Gill, bills herself as a ‘Celebrity Life Coach & Mind Reader’, and at first, there seems to be a contradiction between her work and her words.

She has a (super secret) high profile client list, but she maintains an air of mystery. Other than her Instagram account, @km_kesa, she has no digital footprint. I work with a therapist and a career coach, and their websites are filled with highly detailed information about their credentials and experience. Kesa doesn’t even have a set of headshots. Perhaps because her work has a spiritual dimension, she does not provide information about any formal training. Yet, she’s quick to stress that she’s determined to provide people with practical help.  ‘Being a reader is half of my skillset,’ she explains. ‘You can get lost in spirituality. People look for imaginary answers in the sky instead of shaping their own world.’

View this post on Instagram

🖤

A post shared by Psychic Kesa (@km_kesa) on Feb 9, 2018 at 4:54pm PST

It’s becoming clear that many of Kesa’s potential clients are ‘super into spirituality’, or at the very least, more curious about it than ever before. In fact, over the past five years the ‘psychic services’ industry has grown steadily according to The New York Times. And in New York Magazine’s style site The Cut revealed that their horoscope section was getting 150 per cent more traffic in 2018 than it did in 2016. We’re filling our phones with sleek, slick new apps that claim to use technology to tell us our future, including The Pattern, Sanctuary and Co-Star, which claims to use data from NASA in order to find out exactly where the planets are positioned. In our approach to wellness, the line between the rational and the spiritual is becoming increasingly blurred. Is tarot just another tool that could help us strengthen our mental health and make sense of a strange and confusing world? Or could this be doing more harm than good?

Kesa herself says ‘I’m actually a very logical and practical person. [Mind reading] is generational in my family. I learned a lot about science and psychology to figure out if I was insane, or if I could really do this. It turned out I could really do it.’ She doesn’t advertise, explaining that all of her work comes from recommendations by existing clients. She speaks to up to ten people a day, and while she can’t name anyone she works with, she does say that she has worked with musicians, politicians and princesses – she has been flown out to the Middle East to spend a couple of days with a particular client when we have our conversation. She charges the same rate for all clients – £30 for a 30 minute phone call, or £50 for an hour. ‘I want to make it affordable for everyone,’ she says.

As someone who has experience of more conventional coaching, I’m curious about how a reading with Kesa might differ. She starts by asking me about the area I’d like to talk to her about (I say ‘career’), explaining that she is going to start by looking at where I am, and then exploring where I might want to go. Her initial assessment is jarring. ‘At the moment, thinking that your life could be a number 10, you’re probably a number six, you still have a way to go.’ She checks my destiny line and suggests it’s an image problem. ‘There are so many things that have to change before you can get the recognition that you’re looking for. It might sound a bit superficial, but it could be to do with how you look, how you present yourself. It’s about finding a niche. That’s going to be a journey for you.’ She adds that my best work is coming in my late forties.

Writer Daisy Buchanan (Grace Plant)

Recently, I’ve been working hard on some big projects, and felt proud of my work – I’ve just recorded a series of my podcast, You’re Booked, in America, and sold my first novel to a publisher. I thought things were going pretty well, so Kesa’s words make me feel slightly defensive! However, as I started to unpick them, I realise that while I believe I’m quite good at motivating myself, it’s been a while since anyone has pushed me, or given me an external prompt to look at what I could do better. I’ve been self-employed for many years but speaking to Kesa reminds me of going through a painful work appraisal. We talk a bit about my reluctant Instagram use, and how I could boost my profile by posting more confidently and consistently, instead of using the app to compare myself to everyone I follow and feeling negative about it.  ‘The number one thing people need to do is be honest with themselves,’ Kesa says. ‘If you can’t be brutally honest with yourself and face some hard facts about life, you’re not going to get anywhere.’ She reveals that I’m not the only person who finds her approach a little hard to take. ‘Neelam would say I’m super tough, I’m really blunt. I am going to call you out on the real things our egos will always stop us from wanting to hear.’

It sounds like Neelam’s fine with Kesa’s tough love. In her Marie Claire interview she says Kesa is now one of her best friends after seeking help from her last year, and credits her with helping her through a very dark time. ‘I felt like I couldn’t work, I was so depressed and had an insane amount of anxiety,’ Gill said. ‘I had a few sessions with a therapist but it wasn’t productive or beneficial. We were bringing things up from my childhood that I hadn’t thought about since I was a kid. When you’re already in such a negative mindset, I felt we were just unpicking even more issues. I needed something proactive and solution-based.’

Even though many of her clients have very public profiles, Kesa prefers to stay out of the limelight – and she thinks that paying too much attention to social media can distract us from our true goals and purpose. ‘Right now everything is about [becoming] an influencer, model, blogger. People want to do what other people are doing, and that can lead to floating around, not getting anywhere. It’s not just about finding out what you want, but why you want it.’ Using a crystal ball and looking into the future is not a traditional therapeutic approach, but Kesa believes it is more empowering than looking back. ‘We want to shape our lives, not dwell on the past. My clients come back to me because I help them to see results in my life.’

Life coaching is a largely unregulated area. We need to be very careful about the conversations we have around the subject, and make sure that vulnerable people get the right help. I’m not sure that working with a psychic is the correct course of action for anyone who is really struggling. When it comes to managing my mental health, I’ll probably stick to traditional therapy, but my session with Kesa has certainly been challenging and thought provoking. Her most important message is that although she is looking ahead, nothing is fixed. ‘It’s about moving forward and finding hope,’ she says. Planning the future is definitely more empowering than getting stuck in the past.

Kesa’s ‘taking control of your destiny’ tips 

Be brutally honest with yourself. You can only grow by knowing who you are and working on the areas that aren’t there yet.

Use social media carefully. Watching other people might distract you from who you want to be.

Think about what you want and why you want it. Don’t pick goals because they sound good, it’s better to be honest about what’s really motivating you.

Focus on the future. Remember your past doesn’t need to define you. If you work hard, you can change your life.

* If you’d like a reading with Kesa, you can contact her through her Instagram account @km_kesa

The post 'I’m super tough, I’m really blunt!' What happened when Neelam Gill's psychic life coach met writer Daisy Buchanan appeared first on Marie Claire.



#useyourvoice Laxmi Agarwal: ‘He destroyed my face with acid so nobody would love me… but now I'm making my country a safer place ’

#useyourvoice Laxmi Agarwal: ‘He destroyed my face with acid so nobody would love me… but now I'm making my country a safer place ’


Laxmi was 15 when she was brutally attacked by a man furious she had rejected his advances. Her subsequent fight to change the law on acid violence in India made her a global women’s rights advocate and now a new film, Chhapaak, charts her astonishing life story

Chhapaak acid attack
Photo Credit: Fox Star Studios

Words by Alia Waheed

‘I thought when I lost my looks, I was nothing. But I have spent half my life looking like this and realise beauty means nothing. What’s important is what you do and who you are. Now when people see me, they don’t see my scars, they see my bravery and determination.’

As Laxmi utters these words she reaches up and tentatively strokes the map of scars on her cheek. It’s a face ravaged by acid but you get a glimpse of the beauty Laxmi, now 29, possessed before a brutal attack in 2005. However, this fleeting moment is soon eclipsed by a flash of determination in her eyes; eyes that hint at her journey from schoolgirl to global women’s rights campaigner.

This is the woman who battled for laws against acid violence in India. But, as the blockbuster Bollywood film based on Laxmi’s case was released in January 2020, new statistics on acid-based violence in India reveal her fight for justice is far from over. The film, Chhapaak (translates as splash in English), stars former Miss World and xXx: Return of Xander Cage actress Deepika Padukone – and it makes for harrowing viewing.

With its Strictly style dance routines and OTT storylines, perhaps Bollywood may not seem like the obvious genre for a film about acid attacks. Yet, in a country where Bollywood is akin to religion, it was perhaps the best way for Laxmi to get her message across. The release is particularly timely as new figures from the National Crime Records Bureau revealed there were nearly 1,500 acid attacks in India between 2014 and 2018 – the highest number of cases in the world.

Understandably, Laxmi views her life in two halves: before and after the attack. With ebony hair down to her waist and striking dark-brown eyes, 15-year-old Laxmi looked like one of the Bollywood actresses whose faces still grace billboards lining the busy roads of her hometown, New Delhi.

‘When I look at old photos of myself, it feels like I am looking at a different person. I was beautiful,’ she tells Marie Claire.

Chhapaak acid attack

Laxmi pictured before the tragic acid attack

In fact, it was her striking looks that caught the attention of 32-year-old Naeem Khan, the older brother of a friend of Laxmi’s. He soon began bombarding her with calls and texts and turning up outside her school gates, flitting from OTT declarations of love to vicious anger at the slightest sign of rejection.

‘Wherever I went, he would turn up. And he slapped my face when I refused him. I wasn’t flattered, I was scared because he was much older than me. I wasn’t interested marriage. I had my own dreams and wanted to finish school and be a singer. I was scared that if my parents found out, I would be in trouble and they would make me leave school and get married. I couldn’t call the police because it would cause an uproar,’ she says.

‘You hear of parents saying to their daughters, “Why would a guy chase after you? You are not some Miss World”, or, “What did you do to encourage him?” The responsibility is always on the girl instead of the man. What I didn’t realise is that by staying quiet, I became his enabler and gave him the power to abuse me.’

Like most teenagers, Laxmi loved Bollywood films and dreamed of becoming a singer like the contestants on her favourite TV show, Indian Idol. She even got a part-time job in a book store to save money for singing lessons after promising her parents she would keep up with her school work. It was while waiting at a bus stop one morning on her way to the store, that she was confronted by Khan, his older brother and his brother’s girlfriend.

They pushed me to the ground and poured bottles of liquid over me. I thought it was water, but when the molten burning began, I realised it was acid. I started screaming and rolling around in the street, trying to make the pain stop. People just hurried past me. Then a taxi driver poured water over me and drove me to the hospital.

‘The nurses poured 20 buckets of cold water over me. I screamed in fear and pain because my mind was so messed up that I thought they were pouring more acid on me. Even after all that water, it was so strong that when my dad hugged me in the hospital, the liquid burned through his shirt,’ she says.

Laxmi was hospitalised for three months and underwent two major skin-graft operations to rebuild her face, nose, ears, neck and hands. She has since had a further five operations on her face. ‘The nurses made sure there was no mirrors in the room so I couldn’t see my face. When they brought me water, I tried to see my reflection, but I could only see the bandages.’

‘Eventually, after I begged them, the nurses gave me a mirror and when I saw my face, I screamed and fainted. It felt like a horrible dream that I couldn’t wake from. I wanted to kill myself. The physical pain was so immense from the attack and operations that I just wanted to die so the pain would stop. While [I was] processing that, [I]also had the emotional and psychological trauma to deal with, too.’

Yet Laxmi’s ordeal was far from over. Although Khan, along with his brother and his girlfriend, were arrested immediately after the attack, the police were unable to convict them because no law in the Indian judicial system existed againstacid-based violence.

It was then – along with the support of her family and a lawyer, who took on her case for free – that Laxmi began her campaign to ban the sale of acid in India and establish laws against acid-based violence. A year after the attack, she took a petition to the Supreme Court calling for restrictions on the sale of acid.

‘I realised that if I killed myself, he had won and he still had power over me; every guy who throws acid at a girl because she rejected him would win. My family said,“Your face may have changed but your heart is still the same.” That was the one thing that kept me going – I didn’t want any other young girl to go through what I had.

While fighting the courts and cultural prejudice within her own community, Laxmi also faced a daily battle with herself: coming to terms with her injuries.

‘After the first attack, you face attacks every day from society. People look at you like you’re a monster and judge you or ask what you did to make a guy attack you. I didn’t just lose my face that day, I lost who I was and my self-confidence. I was scared to go out in public for a long time afterwards,’ she says.

‘One of the hardest things is the sheer loneliness and isolation. Kids would literally scream in terror when they saw me, and people would cross the street to avoid me. I thought nobody would fall in love with me and that I wouldn’t have the life other girls my age take for granted.’

In 2010, Khan was convicted and jailed for ten years and as a result of Laxmi’s high-profile campaigning, in 2013 the Supreme Court accepted her petition for regulations on the sale of acid. Stricter sentences on perpetrators were finally in place, with a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.

A year later, Michelle Obama presented Laxmi with the International Women of Courage Award.

However, despite changes to the law, the number of acid attacks remain worryingly high in India, and the substance is still relatively easy to get hold of. Unsurprisingly, many women’s rights groups believe reported numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. Conviction rates are also woefully low and, for the women scarred for a lifetime, they offer little in the way of justice.

Jaf Shah from Acid Survivors Trust International explains, ‘Acid attacks were recognised as a crime in 2013 thanks to Laxmi’s case. This led to increased numbers of survivors coming forward to report their attack in order to gain justice. So the increase [in cases] can partly be explained by more survivors reporting to the police.

Chhapaak acid attack

Laxmi (L) poses with her daughter Pihu (centre) and actress Deepika Padukone who portrays Laxmi in the film

‘However, the social environment that enables violence against women – whether that be rape or acid attacks – continues unabated,’ Shah adds. ‘It is a patriarchal culture and issues such as dowry, concepts of family honour and inequality permeates society.

In this context, it is not shocking that violent acts such as acid attacks continue. There is also the failure to uphold laws when it comes to sales of acid. Acids remains too easily accessible by would be perpetrators.’

Laxmi has dedicated herself to running the Chhanv Foundation – a non-governmental organisation based in New Delhi dedicated to helping survivors of acid attacks. She has become one of the most recognisable faces in India; has graced the pages of Vogue India; and counts fellow acid attack-survivor Katie Piper as a friend and fan. 

I’m so thrilled Laxmi’s story has been given this platform,’ Piper says. ‘You will see from the film that, in these territories, [women] are often shunned and given no support, making recovery impossible. We have a duty to stand by women like this and give them a voice and an international platform to remove the stigma of these injuries and give them the best second chance at life.’

Laxmi now has a six-year-old daughter called Pihu. And as has been the pattern throughout her life, Laxmi defied social convention by choosing not to marry the man she eventually fell in love with – Alok Dixit, the founder of Stop Acid Attacks organisation. They met when he offered her a job as a junior coordinator, but after living together they eventually split up in 2015.

‘I never believed I would find love or have a family after the attack,’ says Laxmi. ‘I thought those doors were closed for me, but it happened and I have my daughter who is the love of my life. At first I was scared of having a child – whether she would love me or be repulsed by my face. But when I held Pihu in my arms and looked into her eyes. I couldn’t believe something so beautiful could be a part of me. She has inspired me to work harder to make the world a safer place for the girls of her generation.’

Chhapaak is in cinemas now

The post #useyourvoice Laxmi Agarwal: ‘He destroyed my face with acid so nobody would love me… but now I'm making my country a safer place ’ appeared first on Marie Claire.

'I am gay' – Phillip Schofield thanks his wife for support in emotional statement

'I am gay' – Phillip Schofield thanks his wife for support in emotional statement


The This Morning presenter told his millions of fans the news on Friday

Phillip Schofield

This Morning host Phillip Schofield has told fans he is gay in an emotional statement posted to his Instagram account.

The TV star, 57 – who has been married to Stephanie Lowe for 27 years – said: ‘You never know what’s going on in someone’s seemingly perfect life, what issues they are struggling with, or the state of their wellbeing – and so you won’t know what has been consuming me for the last few years. With the strength and support of my wife and my daughters, I have been coming to terms with the fact that I am gay.’

He went on to say: ‘This is something that has caused many heart-breaking conversations at home. I have been married to Steph for nearly 27 years, and we have two beautiful grown-up daughters, Molly and Ruby. My family have held me so close: they have tried to cheer me up, to smother me with kindness and love, despite their own confusion. Yet still I can’t sleep and there have been some very dark moments.’

‘My inner conflict contrasts with an outside world that has changed so very much for the better. Today, quite rightly, being gay is a reason to celebrate and be proud. Yes, I am feeling pain and confusion, but that comes only from the hurt that I am causing my family.’

Phillip met Stephanie while she was working as a BBC production assistant and he was working for BBC children’s television. They have two daughters together, Ruby, 24, and Molly, 27, and the shock announcement comes a few weeks before the couple’s 27th wedding anniversary on March 30.

Phillip pictured with his wife and daughters in 2018 (Getty Images)

‘Steph has been incredible – I love her so very much. She is the kindest soul I have ever met. My girls have been astonishing in their love, hugs and encouraging words of comfort. Both mine and Steph’s entire families have stunned me with their love, instant acceptance and support. Of course they are worried about Steph, but I know they will scoop us both up. My friends are the best, especially Holly, who has been so kind and wise – and who has hugged me as I sobbed on her shoulder. At ITV, I couldn’t hope to work with more wonderful, supportive teams,’ Phillip continued in the statement.
Fans praised the host for his honesty, and ‘Phillip Schofield’ quickly started trending on Twitter. ‘ His This Morning co-host Holly Willoughby uploaded a sweet photo of the pair to Instagram on Friday morning, and captioned it: ‘Never been more proud of my friend than I am today.’
Also in the statement, the star said: ‘Every day on This Morning, I sit in awe of those we meet who have been brave and open in confronting their truth – so now it’s my turn to share mine. This will probably all come as something of a surprise and I understand, but only by facing this, by being honest, can I hope to find peace in my mind and a way forward.’
He added: ‘Please be kind, especially to my family.’

View this post on Instagram

#NTA 2020 with my girl

A post shared by Phillip Schofield (@schofe) on Jan 28, 2020 at 3:23pm PST

The post 'I am gay' – Phillip Schofield thanks his wife for support in emotional statement appeared first on Marie Claire.



Halima explains the importance of hope for young girls as she become's a #TOGETHERBAND ambassador

Halima explains the importance of hope for young girls as she become's a #TOGETHERBAND ambassador


Halima is an ambassador for #TOGETHERBAND Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, using her platform to raise awareness and to eradicate modern slavery, trafficking and child labour.

TOGETHERBAND

Sustainable luxury brand, Bottletop, has been a huge talking point this year, with their #TOGETHERBAND campaign making the most noise.

The movement is aiming to raise public awareness around the 17 Global Goals and inspire action to achieve them.

The Global Goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030, devised by the United Nations in 2015. But to achieve these 17 global goals, we need awareness around them, something that has proven difficult.

Bottletop’s answer? The #TOGETHERBAND campaign, launching 17 friendship bracelets representative of each goal.

View this post on Instagram

'I believe in the resilience of the human spirit. I was born and raised in Kakuma refugee camp and there were many days we didn't know where our next meal would come from. Solutions are more important than pity.' In the past week we have been lucky enough to spend time with @halima in London and in Davos at the World Economic Forum. Watching her share her story has been supremely moving. Her humility, warmth and candour is evident to every single person she meets. As an @unicef ambassador she has already made a huge impact and we are thrilled that she's joined the #TOGETHERBANDFAM as ambassador for Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. Join Halima in supporting equal pay, labour rights and an end to modern slavery – get your Goal 8 band now! #ShareYourGoal @bottletoppers @ubs @unfoundation @theglobalgoals film by @harvey.marcus

A post shared by #TOGETHERBAND (@togetherbandofficial) on Jan 24, 2020 at 7:03am PST

Setting out to humanise the Goals, the brand, with founding partner UBS, is inviting everyone around the world to choose the Goal that matters most to them and share it with someone important to them.

With every purchase, 1 kilo of ocean plastic will be removed from the ocean and 100% of profits from each #TOGETHERBAND sold will be used to fund life-changing projects working to advance the Goals.

From David Beckham to Michelle Yeoh, the #TOGETHERBAND has boasted some impressive ambassadors, with the latest high profile name to join the Bottletop fold being Halima Aden.

BOTTLETOP

You would have to be living under a rock not to have heard of Halima. The model, activist and UN ambassador was born a refugee, raised in an UNHCR camp in Kakuma, Kenya, after her family fled Somali during the civil war. She has gone on to become the first hijab-wearing runway star.

The 22-year-old is the definition of a future shaper and she’s using her power and platform for good.

‘I’m so excited to announce that I will be an ambassador,’ Halima told Marie Claire’s Digital Features Editor Jenny Proudfoot. ‘It’s for decent work and economic growth and the goal is to achieve the big zeroes of the world by 2030 – zero poverty, zero hunger, zero HIV, zero discrimination against girls and women. I mean, these are ambitious goals but I am confident that we will get there.’

Jenny sat down with Halima to find out more about the collaboration…

What drew you to the #TOGETHERBAND project?

Since the very beginning of my career, I have been focused on combining fashion with activism. I have always been thinking of collaborations with brands and organisations that have the same values and that are in line with my messaging. I mean, me and TOGETHERBAND – boom, it’s the perfect marriage, especially given my background.

I am a child refugee, and I spent the first seven years of my life in Kakuma. I am someone who has seen it, lived it, experienced it, so I know how important it is to have the 17 sustainable goals and what it can mean for the communities that need it the most.

You’ve broken so many boundaries. How does it feel knowing lots of little girls will grow up with you as a role model?

It’s incredible. But even if I had taken more of a traditional route, I would still want to be a good role model, for the little girls in my family alone. That’s how I look at it, but now I have a lot of little girls to guide – I have to think globally now as my girls have extended all over the world. It’s so exciting. I’m always thinking of what I can do to inspire them and how I can instil confidence in them.

BOTTLETOP

What message do you want to send to young girls everywhere?

‘Don’t change yourself, change the game’ – that’s something I’ve always said. The right people are going to accept you, support you and love you for who you are – your values. You don’t have to fit the mould. I think that when you’re young, there’s a real pressure to fit in, especially when you’re growing up with a lack of representation. So I want to challenge everyone to be who they are and wear their identity proudly.

Why should we all be unafraid to be the first at something?

I always tell people not to be afraid to shake things up and be groundbreakers – change-seekers. In order to change something you have to go out and do something that has never been done before. I was the first to wear a Hijab and Burkini for Miss Minnesota USA, but then I came back one year later and there were seven girls wearing a Hijab. It wasn’t uncommon anymore. When I was growing up, my brain couldn’t have wrapped itself around modelling in a Hijab like I am today. I couldn’t have dreamt it, because it didn’t exist. And when you can’t see something, sometimes it’s hard for you to visualise it – and it’s even harder to visualise you doing it. Try something. Go with your heart.

I am so happy for the girls coming up after me. Hopefully they’re going to dream even bigger, even crazier, even more exciting than I ever could have. I want them to go to places that I couldn’t have even dreamt about and reach heights that we haven’t even thought of yet. I’m excited.

View this post on Instagram

I’m thinking back on all the work I’ve been blessed to do with @unicefusa , I feel an overwhelming amount of happiness and pride. UNICEF is an organization whose tireless work has touched and uplifted countless children and families. As we all begin preparing for the holidays and quality time with our families, I’d like to ask that you consider supporting families like yours in various communities by donating anything you can using the link in my bio. Your gift helps UNICEF continue their work and support families. I want to give a big THANK YOU to those of you who have supported UNICEF so far because your donations help to change lives. Stay warm, everyone, and Happy Holidays!! ❤ #unicefwontstop #foreverychild

A post shared by Halima (@halima) on Dec 13, 2019 at 2:59pm PST

You are a beacon of hope for young girls. How important is hope for the women of the future?

I think hope is something we should all have. My mum used to always say that hope is like your heartbeat. The day you stop living is the day you lose hope. So it’s something that I wish for everybody, not just for women. My family were refugees but we had hope – something that nobody could take from us. It was the one thing that we held onto. Hope is almost like vitamin C on a day that you’re fighting a cold, it’s that extra boost that everybody needs.

What is one thing you would like to change for women?

Just one thing? Wow. More economic opportunities and entrepreneurship. Take my local community in Minnesota for example – in the last five years, I’ve seen so much growth in what women are doing and achieving. And I’m not just talking about the women in my neighbourhood – take women from Somali for instance who are maybe first generation refugees and have gone on to open businesses, transportation companies, etc. and reach incredible heights.

There was this one woman from my hometown. For seven years she would stand outside grocery stores and give out samples of a sauce she made. One day someone came and tested her samples, realised it was incredible, hooked her up and now this woman has sold her company and become a success story herself. There are super women all around me!

BOTTLETOP

How important is it for us to use our voices to support other people?

It’s the right thing to do and it takes nothing from you. It costs absolutely zero to give shine to other people, especially people who need it. So I think more of us should be doing it. I need to do a lot more with my platform in order to showcase others. We should all be striving to do more and we should all highlight when people and brands are doing the right thing. That’s why everyone should support TOGETHERBAND. Give it to your loved one, share it, wear it, spread the word.

I always think my career isn’t really mine to keep, it’s mine to pass on, to inspire other girls to become even stronger leaders, stronger advocates, stronger women in general – so they can then too spread it on.

What can we achieve if we raise each other up?

What’s possible? It’s endless. The sky. I’m personally so blessed to have strong women around me. I’ve always had strong girlfriends, my mum is the epitome of strength – the women in my life just uplift me, boosting me up on my worst day when I’m feeling the least confident. I always want to do that. I want my Instagram to be a safe place where girls and women can come and like feel good.

What the UN sustainable goals represent isn’t far from the childhood that I had in a UNHCR camp. So hopefully it can be a good representation and reflection of Halima as a persona and not just a fashion model.

BOTTLETOP recognises Halima’s work as a UNICEF Ambassador for children’s rights and
like Halima hope to challenge attitudes and encourage change whilst supporting people
living in difficult circumstances. As well as empowering artisans through the creation of its
collection, BOTTLETOP continues to support health education projects empowering young
people in Kenya, Brazil and Nepal through the BOTTLETOP Foundation.

The post Halima explains the importance of hope for young girls as she become's a #TOGETHERBAND ambassador appeared first on Marie Claire.



Inside Princess Beatrice’s nightmare wedding dramas

Inside Princess Beatrice’s nightmare wedding dramas


With a dad embroiled in the Epstein scandal and the fallout from Megxit, Beatrice’s dream plans have been thrown into disarray many times. Michelle Davies reveals what’s going on behind palace walls

Getty Images

There may well be a moment on Princess Beatrice’s wedding day later this year when she releases a huge sigh of relief that she’s made it down the aisle at all. For since the 31-year-old announced her engagement to multi-million pound property developer Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi last year, planning for her nuptials have been beset by the kind of setbacks and scandal that would have other brides-to-be wondering if it was worth the effort.

Beatrice and ‘Edo’, 37, announced their engagement in September with the happy statement that ‘we are both so excited to be embarking on this life adventure together and can’t wait to be married’. But four months on and they still haven’t confirmed neither the date nor venue, let alone revealed any finer details, which is unusual for a royal wedding at this stage. Although Friday May 29 is now being tentatively touted as a possible date and the Queen has offered Beatrice the use of Buckingham Palace for her reception, according to breaking reports the princess is furious her father’s continued involvement in the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking scandal and the fallout from Megxit means her plans have been shoved to one side as the Royals navigate those two cataclysmic events.

princess beatrice

Beatrice and Edo together (Getty Images)

Prince Andrew and the FBI

Initially it was reported the Queen had asked the couple to hold off confirming any details until the royals had concluded their engagements for 2019 – including her speech to Parliament laying out the Government’s agenda, which was delayed by the December General Election. However, it’s now clear that progress since then has been largely stymied by the continued involvement of Beatrice’s dad, Prince Andrew, in the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking scandal and the fallout from his disastrous Newsnight interview in November 2019.

He was forced to step down from royal duties in the wake and such was the level of public disgust he skipped Beatrice and Edo’s engagement party at Chiltern Firehouse before Christmas because he didn’t want to deflect from the occasion. He’s also cancelled his own 60thbirthday party, due to be held at Buckingham Palace this month. It has since been reported a favoured wedding venue has also fallen through as a result of the scandal: The Guards Chapel in London’s St James’s Park. It was considered an ideal choice given Prince Andrew is Colonel of the Grenadier Guards but after he announced he was suspending military associations as he stepped back from public life the venue was apparently vetoed.

princess Beatrice wedding

Getty Images

The scandal shows no signs of abating either. Last week the FBI gave a press conference to reveal Andrew has so far declined all requests to cooperate with their investigation, despite promising in his Newsnight interview that he would – again raising questions about how this will impact Beatrice’s wedding. It would be unthinkable for him not to walk her down the aisle, but as the FBI’s grip tightens, what would that say about the Royals if he did? Already the Queen has been criticised for standing by him in the light of Epstein victim Virginia Robert’s testimony that she was procured by Epstein to have sex with the prince, something he denies doing. Royal expert Angela Mollard told the Mirror she wouldn’t be surprised if Prince Andrew was absent from the official wedding photographs. ‘I think it will be a very quick scamper down the aisle and that’s about it, to be honest,’ she said.

No cameras allowed

Also overshadowing Beatrice’s plans is the fallout from Megxit. She’s reportedly rejected the idea of marrying at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, where Harry and Meghan married in May 2018, because she no longer feels able to have a wedding on a similar scale given the backlash in some quarters about their quitting as senior royals. It’s going to be bad enough if the couple and Archie are guests: instead of the focus being on the bride, all eyes will be on them.

A second reason to reject St George’s Chapel is that neither the BBC nor ITV plans to cover the wedding. Even her little sister Eugenie’s wedding at the chapel in October 2018 was broadcast by ITV during a three-hour special edition of This Morning.

Princess Beatrice wedding

Jack Brooksbank and Princess Eugenie leave St George’s Chapel after their wedding ceremony in October, 2018 (Getty Images)

With no cameras present a more private venue seems likely now, but at least that will make it easier for Beatrice to manage her stepson-to-be’s presence on the day. Edo has a three-year-old boy, Wolfie, with former partner Dara Huang and both parents are scrupulous about protecting his privacy and keeping him off their social media feeds. A live broadcast would’ve made it hard for them to manage the toddler’s first appearance on the world stage as a new member of the Royal family, especially as Wolfie is expected to play a key part in the ceremony, as either ring bearer or even best man.

It will be interesting to see if Dara herself is invited, though. According to recent reports, she and Edo, who split only a few months before he began dating Beatrice, remain close and she even cuts his hair and takes him shopping for new clothes. This has apparently caused tensions between him and his fiancée. ‘Having initially been very cool about their friendship, Bea would rather there was a little more distance between [them],’ a source told one newspaper.

It is said the Queen in particular is ‘desperately sorry’ her granddaughter’s wedding plans are in such array and offered her the use of Buckingham Palace as a reception venue by way of apology, but that will be of little comfort to Beatrice as she’s forced to play the waiting game. As Angela Mollard said, ‘It’s very hard to be planning a wedding at the same time as your family is doing a major damage limitation exercise.’

The post Inside Princess Beatrice’s nightmare wedding dramas appeared first on Marie Claire.

For Sama: why Waad al-Kateab’s powerful female perspective on war is storming awards season

For Sama: why Waad al-Kateab’s powerful female perspective on war is storming awards season


She’s the Syrian journalist hotly tipped to win big this year with her globally-acclaimed documentary. Here, Waad al-Kateab talks to Andrew Threlfall about family life in Aleppo, filming on the frontline, and why winning a Bafta or Oscar would help to reshape the conversation for women still living under siege

for sama
Getty Images

With the international spotlight fixed firmly on For Sama this awards season (the film has already been garlanded with a plethora of accolades at major festivals, including best documentary at Cannes and SXSW) it’s hard to believe this hard-hitting, deeply personal account of the Syrian uprising is 28-year-old al-Kateab’s first feature film.

Shot over five years by the Channel 4 correspondent chronicling life in Aleppo, For Sama documents the horror and hope experienced by al-Kateab and her toddler Sama as their beloved Syria is ravaged by bomb raids. It’s a story that begins with the peaceful protests against President Bashar Al-Assad in 2011, before bearing witness to the grief and the terror of conflict, and lifts the lid on what raising a family on the frontline truly means. For al-Kateab, each still is a snapshot of Sama’s childhood and she describes For Sama as a ‘love letter to daughter and my city’.

Perhaps more powerfully though, it’s a film that no longer accepts society’s desensitised collective shrug towards the women destroyed by war. And, at a time when the industry seems shockingly lacking in female directors and diversity, it seems now really is al-Kateab’s moment to shine…

For Sama’s nominations are bringing much-needed awareness to victims of the Syrian uprising. Has global acclaim come as a surprise to you?

‘To be honest it has come as a complete shock, but the prospect of winning an Oscar provides an incredible platform for people to engage with the film and campaign, ActionForSama.com, which has been created to support the people of Syria. This is the most important legacy of all. I want to spread the word to policy makers so that they can change their perspective about what is still happening in Syria and be more responsible. I want this opportunity to bring about real change.’

Making the film must have been incredibly challenging, both emotionally and logistically…

‘As you can see from the very first minutes of the film, I never thought that I would make it out of Aleppo alive. Filming was the thing that kept me going – I knew the footage would be the only record left of me if I was killed.’

for sama

Waad Al-Kateab and co-director Edward Watts attend a special screening for ‘For Sama’ in California, January 2020 (Getty Images)

It sounds terrifying. What promoted you to pick up a camera amid the chaos?

‘I had no real idea what I was going to do with what I was filming, but when the Syrian revolution started in 2011, I already had more than 500 hours of footage, so I just carried on. Some of it was just about me being a mother and commenting on what was around me in a normal way. But, at the same time, I realised that I had to be citizen journalist so I tried to film the air attacks too. It was only when I finally looked through all the hard drives that I realised what I’d captured. It was five years and thousands of small stories. That’s how it felt.’

Was becoming a journalist always the goal?

‘Yes, but filming under these kind of circumstances was more about [capturing] how you would live the last minute of your life; [everyone] was living minute by minute, day by day. You learn to feel every moment incredibly deeply – even the sad ones.’

Your daughter Sama is now four years old and you’ve since given birth to your second child, Taima. How do and your husband feel Sama has changed since making the documentary and escaping Syria to live in London?

‘Sama does a lot of things by herself. She is very capable and doesn’t often want help, so she acts much older than she should. I think she is aware of the film. When I was pregnant with her, I felt that I had life inside me and that I was bringing new life to a place where there was so much death. It gave me strength to know that even though Aleppo was being destroyed, we were still trying to live a normal life. Sama gave me hope.’

for sama

Al-Kateab joins in on a protest against hospital bombings outside the United Nations in January 2020 (Getty Images)

Did you know at the time of filming that you were doing something important for your country?

I never knew how it would turn out but I hoped, and still hope, that one day Syria will be free and Assad will be gone. The situation is still bad back home. After I had Sama I felt the extremes of feeling happy while still fearing for the people of Syria. We had a screening at the United Nations in New York, but we [still await] a formal investigation [about the] bombing of hospitals…’

It’s been nine years since you first started recording life in Aleppo and you now live and work in London. How do you feel about the situation in Syria today?

‘We have lost faith in the [Syrian] government, but we still have faith in the people. Documentaries and films alone can not change the world, but the people who watch them can. Together, we can make people accountable for conflict, and viewers of this film can help by changing the narrative of how Syria is perceived. For Sama shows the humanity of the Syrian people. The focus [in the West] was always on ISIS and Assad, but this film hopefully redresses that and I am passionate about returning to Syria to make a second documentary one day. We claimed asylum here in the UK in 2016 and I now work as a journalist for Channel 4 – I love London and there is a wonderful Syrian community here, too. But I am Syrian and I want to make a difference for the children like Sama back home. I hope I can also forge a career here in the UK [that will help me to achieve that], I hope it’s the first step.’

 * For Sama is available on All 4 On Demand  – Channel 4

The post For Sama: why Waad al-Kateab’s powerful female perspective on war is storming awards season appeared first on Marie Claire.

What it’s really like to work for Gwyneth Paltrow? The Goop Lab co-host Elise Loehnen knows the answer to that

What it’s really like to work for Gwyneth Paltrow? The Goop Lab co-host Elise Loehnen knows the answer to that


As Netflix brings The Goop Lab into our lives co-host Elise Loehnen tells us Goop’s secret for success and reveals what’s coming next after that vagina candle…

The Goop Lab

It’s been 11 years since Gwyneth Paltrow launched Goop, her wellness and lifestyle company, starting out as a weekly e-mail newsletter providing new age advice, such as ‘police your thoughts’ and ‘eliminate white foods’. The A-lister turned CEO was mocked for her alternative views, but has since proved critics wrong. Today, the brand has a cult following and covers everything from books, beauty, candles (‘This Smells Like My Vagina‘ candle launched in early January 2020, immediately sold out and will be restocked on January 25), fashion, food and annual wellness summits (think panel talks, yoga classes and sound baths). Now with Paltrow’s six-episode Netflix series, The Goop Lab hitting Netflix from Friday, 24 January, Elise Loehnen, Goop‘s Chief Content Officer and co-host of the show talks to Olivia Adams about psychedelic drugs, self-care and Goopy misconceptions.

How did you get the job at Goop? 

I was a magazine editor in New York for a long period of time. It was clear the industry was heading to a digital era, so I moved to Los Angeles to create editorial for an Internet shopping comparison search engine. I wanted to learn about the Internet, as I didn’t feel at all equipped to meet the future. I learnt so much – like what people using the Internet respond to – but after a while I missed working on a brand. And it was there that I realised how hard it is to build a brand – it’s much simpler to create a business on the back of one.

Throughout my career I have co-written books, and I began working on one for Tracy Anderson. Gwyneth owned part of her studio business, and I had also agreed to write copy for the fitness class descriptions. I had a phone call with Gwyneth to discuss the content and I thought it was crazy that she was on the phone with me! I was taken with her level of dedication and interest to the studio. When she moved back to Los Angeles from London, I met her in person to talk about scaling Goop‘s content.

Were you already a fan of the brand?

I thought it was bold and interesting and I found it incredible what she had built off a not very technologically advanced site. Goop was only a couple of years old, but it had captured peoples’ attention and I saw potential.

When I went to her home for the chat, we sat on this incredible rug on the floor. I’m not sure why we did this, but I was relieved because I’d had a baby a few months ago and didn’t fit into any of my clothes, so I decided to focus on my shoes. I had an idea of what she was going to be like and thought she would judge me – of course that was not my experience at all. But it was a shoes-off house, so I had to abandon the main point of my outfit, but I hadn’t had a pedicure so I was relieved to sit on the floor and hide my feet. A couple of months later, when it became clear that we were aligned in how we thought, I joined the brand.

Courtesy of Goop

What is the secret to Goop’s success? 

It’s easy for people to say a celebrity brand’s success is because they are famous, but the reality is tonnes of celebrity brands have failed. Yes, it’s easier to get attention, but getting people to commit to you and take action on your suggestions is another level of engagement. Goop‘s unique perspective on the world is the secret. It has become quite iconic.

Critics have said the show is ‘designed to shock’ – is that a fair observation?

[Laughs] Yes. There is content in the show that will be very surprising to people who have never really encountered Goop. Equally I think people will wonder why Goop is sometimes labelled controversial, because there are respected experts and doctors and scientists on the show. We explore things we don’t yet know about or understand, but we make clear that we don’t know.

Are there potentially harmful therapies being performed?

No, not harmful, just experiences – like energy healing – that we don’t necessarily understand why they work yet. Before Reiki became more mainstream it was scrutinised, but now it used as a therapy to heal in some hospitals in Los Angeles.

 You play a large role in the show. Is there a particularly memorable activity or moment that has stayed with you?

Doing psychedelic drugs on camera was definitely a first for me. I did mushrooms in Jamaica with some other members of the Goop team. That episode is the closest to my heart, not just because of the vulnerability we express, but because psychedelics show a tremendous amount of promise in the treatment of PTSD, and there is so much mental illness around the world. The idea that something could be available to dramatically positively impact people is poignant.

What is Gwyneth like as a boss? 

I’ve learned so much from her. She didn’t grow up in a corporate culture, so never inherited bad habits – for example ‘I never had this growing up, so you can’t have this’. We have a ‘straight speaking’ culture. Instead of talking behind each other’s backs and venting, we have to go to the person directly, regardless of where they are – above or below – in the company, and express yourself to them. By listening generously it means you have the intent of having your mind changed. It’s our method for dealing with conflict and that’s how we grow, get better and stay healthy as an organisation.

Courtesy of Goop

Do you always agree with Gwyneth – or has there been a clash over thoughts on anything from a therapy to a product?
[Laughs] There are times when we say, ‘I don’t know if the world is ready for that’, but her curiosity is one of her defining qualities. I have never known her to reject something outright, but she pushes to make it more distinctly Goop. She’s an incredible role model for women. She’s resilient to people who want her to stop talking. She’s so brave and continues to stand up for what she believes in. She has a fearlessness we all really need in these times.

Goop first started as an insight into Gwyneth’s routine, what is a typical day-in-the-life like now?

She’s really good at taking care of herself. She doesn’t say, ‘I can eat whatever I want’. She puts in the work at the gym. And she’s maintained this attitude, despite the growing needs of the brand. I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum – I have two young kids, so I am not a paragon of self-care as much as I would like to be. But we both do our best. It’s not about perfection; no one can do everything perfectly.

What is your can’t-live-without Goop product?

That’s easy. The GoopGlow glycolic overnight glow peel [£112.00]. I use them once a week and my skin adores them. They’ve replaced facials for me – which I don’t really have time to get anyway!

Courtesy of Goop

The majority of Goop’s products are expensive – would you consider making them more affordable? 

The hope is that as the business grows, our prices can meet that, as ingredients become more widely available. But we use really expensive, clean and high quality products. Gwyneth loves beautiful things, and we don’t want to sacrifice the quality of the product and include any ingredients that could become harmful to health.

What is the biggest misconception about Goop?

Being defined by the media as ‘funny’ or ‘crazy’ works to our benefit, as people then come to the site to check it out. Then they learn Goop‘s content isn’t outlandish, it’s actually reasonable and makes a tonne of sense. I hope this is the same with people tuning in to the show and it resonates with them.

The Netflix series is the focus for now, but what’s next on Goop’s radar?

We’re interested in strengthening our role in the category of TV. Hopefully it’s the first of many TV shows.

All episodes of The Goop Lab will be available to watch on Netflix from Friday January 24 

 

The post What it’s really like to work for Gwyneth Paltrow? The Goop Lab co-host Elise Loehnen knows the answer to that appeared first on Marie Claire.



Meghan has shared behind-the-scenes photos of her charity work

Meghan has shared behind-the-scenes photos of her charity work


meghan markle 1192406342
Credit: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / Contributor / Getty

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s unprecedented decision to step back from their roles as senior royals has caused shockwaves across the globe. There were reports that the Queen was unaware of the move as a result of courtiers blocking her grandson from seeing her beforehand, ‘crisis’ talks between the monarch, Prince Philip, Prince William and Harry, and finally statements from Buckingham Palace and Harry himself revealing how they all intend to move forward.

While they have lost their HRH titles, in January 2019 it was announced that Meghan was appointed patron of the National Theatre, the Association of Commonwealth Universities and Smart Works.

She also represents The Mayhew, an animal re-homing charity. It is a cause close to Meghan’s heart, and she has two rescue dogs – Guy, and a black Labrador believed to be the dog that Harry and Meghan adopted together.

This week, Meghan decided to share behind-the-scenes photos of her recent trip to The Mayhew, and the visit wasn’t previously reported on.

Alongside photos of the Duchess at the centre, the caption reads: ‘Earlier this month, The Duchess of Sussex popped in to see the amazing people at Mayhew to hear about the incredible progress made throughout the festive period.

‘The Duchess of Sussex, having been proud patron of Mayhew since January 2019 and long understanding the connection between animal and community welfare, applauds the people at Mayhew for the vital work that they do every day.

‘From cats and dogs who have found new homes to animal welfare cases handled in the community – @TheMayhew believes in the power of togetherness and the special bond between humans and animals.’

Meghan was also spotted at a women’s shelter in Canada recently. According to reports, she made a surprise visit to the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in Vancouver to ‘offer support’ and to ‘boost the staff’s spirits’.

The post Meghan has shared behind-the-scenes photos of her charity work appeared first on Marie Claire.



Mika Simmons on getting Sex Education’s Aimee Lou Wood and Tanya Reynolds talking on her new podcast The Happy Vagina

Mika Simmons on getting Sex Education’s Aimee Lou Wood and Tanya Reynolds talking on her new podcast The Happy Vagina


Get ready to talk vaginas, bodies, periods, sex and getting tested

The Happy Vagina

Mika Simmons is one busy lady. The film maker, actress and founder of women’s health charity The Lady Garden Foundation has turned podcast host, with her first offering affectionately named The Happy Vagina. In a world where the word ‘vagina’ can feel taboo or make some feel uncomfortable, The Happy Vagina Podcast opens up a dialogue about fundamental issues around women’s experiences and gynaecological health – and we’re totally here for it.

What is your intention for the podcast?

To be fun and entertaining for listeners, but also educational, and not just a chat. Don’t get me wrong, I love a chat podcast, but I wanted this one to have a focus around women’s health – and a point to being recorded.

When did the idea come to you?

For International Women’s Day last year I hosted a panel event called, ‘how to make your vagina happy’. The event completely sold out, showing to me a desire for the conversation. And so, following founding The Lady Garden Foundation in 2013, the podcast felt like a natural progression to do.

Tell us about the guests we can expect…

I’ve gone for a variety of women across all generations and who have something to say. From Loose Women’s Andrea McLean, who is post-menopausal, to the young cast of Netflix’s Sex Education. 

The Happy Vagina

Sex Education stars Aimee Lou Wood and Tanya Reynolds are your first guests on episode one. How did it go?! 

I’ll admit, I felt a minor degree of nervousness ahead of interviewing them, because they had an intimacy therapist on set – and I thought they might think my questions were stupid! But they were amazing; I loved hearing their ideas on what sex education in schools should be, and what it was like filming sex scenes on set.

Are you a fan of the show?
I love it. Setting the show in a school was really clever, because it reminds you of your school time. My school years were equally as difficult, in terms of finding out who you are and what you like, when it comes to friendships and sex.

Why do you think the word vagina is still taboo, and can make people feel uncomfortable?

The vagina is connected to sex, and for some reason it’s difficult for us to separate the anatomy and what we can do with it, in terms in pleasure. They’ve become entwined and we forget that we have to look after our health above the shame around sex.

Why do you think there is shame around sex?

I think it comes from religion. Sex has been seen as a sin as far back as the days of Adam and Eve.

How would you summarise your relationship with your body?

It’s changed dramatically over time. It’s been a life’s work to be completely at peace with it, and I am now. As an actress, the pressure I got put under to be thin didn’t have the best effect on my health, or my mental health. I think Instagram is one of the most amazing creations, purely because it’s been a game changer in allowing different shapes and sizes of men and women’s bodies to be shown. The media had control and Instagram changed that. Now, we control our own images. We no longer compare and despair.

Have you ever felt pressure to conform to society, when it comes to marriage?

No. When I was growing up, my mother was part of a feminist movement. Getting married just wasn’t a conversation in our family house. It wasn’t a route or a focus. It was a huge gift to have a mother who was so liberal and open minded. That said, I haven’t been married and I would quite like to.

Is having children on your radar?

I’m almost definitely not going to have children, and I can’t stand the pressure that we all get put under by society. I’m in my forties now and there’s this belief that there is something wrong with you if you haven’t had children. Change needs to happen – it doesn’t mean women are not whole if they haven’t had children.

You founded the Lady Garden Foundation in honour of your mum, who died from ovarian cancer aged 54, and to raise awareness about gynaecological cancers. Did you ever expect the charity to become so successful?

It’s always scary starting a project, but I believed in it, I wanted to save lives, and the timing was right. That, and my friend and co-founder Chloe Delevingne getting Cara to post on social media helped [laughs]!

 Any final words of wisdom for us?

Ladies, you can go for a smear test even if you haven’t had a Brazilian, and you’ve got hairy legs [laughs]. But seriously, there is a bit of an epidemic with women not going for smear tests, and people genuinely cancel because they haven’t shaved. This is about your future health. And it’s not just cervical cancer; a smear test is not a check for all gynae cancers. Get to know your body and your cycle. There are amazing apps that monitor it, and then you’ll really to recognise if something is wrong.

Did you know?

Mika reveals three things she’s learned about the vagina that she didn’t know before recording the podcast… 
  • Our clitoris and G spot are actually the same thing – the nerves at the back of the Clitoris are the G Spot! I hope this fact will make it easier for listeners to find…
  • Sleeping with a nightlight on can help regulate our menstrual cycles. Light exposure affects the secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin, which helps control the release of the female reproductive hormones that determine when your menstrual cycle begins and ends.
  • In medieval times, it was thought that female orgasm was necessary for reproduction. It came from the mistaken belief that female genitals are the same as male and, therefore, women have to orgasm to produce a baby. Actually – the truth is, its not a prerequisite – but it can help!

The Happy Vagina episodes can be found at thehappyvagina.co

The post Mika Simmons on getting Sex Education’s Aimee Lou Wood and Tanya Reynolds talking on her new podcast The Happy Vagina appeared first on Marie Claire.