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Men’s Mental Health: It’s Time To Talk

Welcome to the second issue in our two-part men’s mental health special, guest edited by Glenn Lutz. With studies showing 40% of men won’t talk about their mental health, it’s a topic that needs our attention and in this week’s newsletter, I feel very lucky and proud to say that my friend and long-time collaborator Mark Ronson has written beautifully about his panic disorder for Service95. Mark has always been someone that has inspired me deeply, with the music he has produced, the songs he has written and the mark he has left on the music industry. And he continues to inspire me with his candidness about his mental health and how he has dealt with anxiety over the years. I hope anyone that reads this that might be struggling is also inspired to go out there and seek help – and is comforted by the fact that there are people dealing with the same and that it’s OK not to be OK. It’s all part of the journey and there is always someone out there to help you on yours. 

Dua x

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Illustrated portrait of Mark Ronson
Louise Pomeroy, 2023 ©

“It Was This Overwhelming Sense Of Panic, As If I Was Under A Spell And Just Waiting For Something To Break It”: Mark Ronson Reflects On His Anxiety Attacks

“Mark Ronson is one of the greatest producers of this generation and it was an honour getting to connect with him for Service95. As I’ve learned more about his journey, I hear a lot of similarities from my own life story – things I never could have imagined he struggled with. Like Mark, I have also experienced intense periods of disorientation and panic, as if I was lost in a spiritual realm. There’s peace in knowing the people you admire have gone through similar experiences as yourself – especially when you learn how they are fortifying themselves in the midst of those challenges. As an artist, survivor, and fan of his work, it gives me great pleasure to introduce the story he shared with me for this issue.” – Glenn Lutz

“The first attack happened when I was 15. It was 11pm on a school night and it was the most surreal thing because I was lying in bed waiting to fall asleep; I am sure my mother had already stuck her head around the door to make sure the lights were off. I heard this clang of pipes. We lived in an old school building and the heat often made the pipes do this, so it was weird because it was something I had heard so many times before, but this time the pipes sounded… angry. It was an everyday sound that suddenly came across as violent; it was as if an ominous cloud suddenly came over the whole room. It made me sit up and think, What the fuck is going on? There was another clang and, again, it wasn’t that it sounded loud, it sounded angry. 

I got up and turned on the radio because I wanted to disrupt whatever this thing was. As the radio came on, somebody was announcing the weather. I’m sure the guy was just saying, “It’s 20 degrees tomorrow downtown…,” but it sounded as if the announcer was yelling at me; seethingly, venomously angry. It felt like I was under some kind of spell. 

I went out of my room to wake up my mother. At 15 years old, you don’t want to admit you have to get your mum to fix something, but I went in, she woke up and by talking to somebody face to face, it kind of broke the spell.

That happened two or three more times that year and then, mysteriously, never happened again. I wasn’t in therapy at the time, although I had briefly been in therapy prior to that. We moved to America from the UK when I was around eight years old, and therapy was more of a known thing in the US than it was back in England. My parents’ divorce was pretty terrible, so it was not a very peaceful household where we grew up. So my mum thought it was good for me and my sisters to get therapy when we were around 12 or 13. 

I have always been a fairly anxious person, but I didn’t have another of those intense early panic attacks until I was about 27. That was when I started to have them again. It was this overwhelming sense of panic, as if I was under a spell and just waiting for something to break it. One time it happened when I was walking down the street in New York. I was 28, and I think my first album was coming out the next week; maybe it was the pressure of that. It was rush hour and I remember thinking, I just want to lie down on this sidewalk. I couldn’t imagine being able to walk or function or do anything, and I was just thinking about how the only option was to lie down. 

That was a very different part of my life, with two polar things going on. On the one hand, I was partying and doing a lot of drugs, and wasn’t in therapy or emotionally intuitive or curious enough to know what was going on. On the other hand, I was super-functional, very driven and ambitious, with too much pride and ambition that I kept up the illusion of having it all together before ever really becoming a full-on fuck up… maybe addict. I was also very good at hiding it. That was how I dealt with my anxiety. I just pushed it down. Having one or two wild blowout weekend binges was how I coped at that time but somehow managed to keep it together enough. I never really thought of myself as a functioning addict, but I probably was to some degree. I coated my anxiety with drugs and alcohol. 

The panic attacks and anxiety became more infrequent after that time, but it wasn’t until the past four or five years, through fairly intense therapy with an incredibly brilliant and perceptive therapist, that I proactively started to deal with all this stuff. I hate to say that I did a lot of work because it is such a trite soundbite but there isn’t another way to describe it. I started with therapy twice a week, I read every book my therapist told me to, and he sent me to a place called Hoffman. I was ready to do it. I stopped doing drugs, however, I didn’t get sober – I am not sober, I don’t want to mislead anyone about that. And I recognised patterns of how I dealt with my anxiety that I had chosen to ignore at previous points of my life, thinking, Oh that’s just because I like to party. I don’t have a problem, I just like to go out and blow off steam. I DJ and like to go out late – that’s what you do!

Being way more attuned to what was happening and how I was dealing with anxiety helped me address it. This, combined with a good amount of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and meditation, is what keeps me sane. I like CBT because it gives you specific tools when you go into those sorts of death spirals of anxiety that some of us can be prone to. And, obviously, you need to find the right kind of meditation for you, but I like Transcendental Meditation. I notice if I haven’t done it for a while, I feel this backlog of anxiety creeping up in the back walls of my psyche. 

Mental wellness is still sometimes an awkward thing to talk about because you don’t want to come off as if you’re oversharing and using the public forum for your own therapy. But at the same time, it is so helpful that people talk about it. I grew up in a family where you certainly didn’t talk about your feelings, but I think it’s so important because those are the things that break down the stigma. People who need help need to know it’s OK not to be OK and about what channels to go down to find support. 

I always feel conflicted talking about my mental health because I don’t want to sound as if I’m smug, like ‘I’ve figured it out!’ because nobody has figured it out; it is always still a journey. But when I read a book I love that I think might help someone else, without feeling like I am being judgmental, I’ll get them a copy. I think it’s good that there is more of an open discourse about it, especially in the time we live in now. 

I really do feel that the therapy, reading and inner work I have done in the past four to five years have been the thing to help me get my shit together. My anxiety used to drive my work hustle, so it was hard to look at it as a bad thing because I was like, Well, my anxiety is the thing that makes me a workaholic, that’s what’s driving me and that seems to be good for my career. But that is not a balanced life, and I’m much happier this way. I still love creating and the creative process of going into the studio – I love all the things I used to – but it’s not the only thing that drives me any more. I go to the studio because that’s something I like to do, rather than, Fuck, what happens if I don’t go? Will somebody else get that gig? 

I still have bouts of the same anxiety and all the same kinds of thoughts I used to, but now I have a much better tool kit to use when I see them coming. And I do see them coming, head on, and ask myself, Is this real? And most of the time it’s not. There’s a great Fiona Apple lyric when she’s talking about an argument with her boyfriend in the song Paper Bag: “He said ‘It’s all in your head’ and I said ‘so is everything’, but he didn’t get it.” And that is exactly what these thoughts are – anxiety, all these things – they are electromagnetic impulses in the brain and it’s about having the tools to recognise when that isn’t reality and to help correct that. I am not fixed by any means, but I am certainly driven much more by joy than fear these days.”


Painting of two men in suits by artist Sahara Longe
Suits, 2021 © Sahara Longe. Courtesy of Timothy Taylor, London/New York

Sahara Longe: Connection Through Art

The much-lauded up-and-coming British artist talked exclusively to us about how the emotional and sartorial connection between two men – her grandfather and his brother – became the inspiration behind her painting, Suits

“I was looking at photos of my grandfather and his brother in Sierra Leone, and I loved their style, the way they dressed and carried themselves. As a child, I grew up with so many stories about their adolescence together before his brother tragically died in his thirties. They loved each other and were always together, so I wanted to capture that familial closeness.” – Sahara Longe


An illustration of a crumbling masculine statue
Lehel Kovacs ©

Toxic Masculinity And Mental Health

As we reach the halfway mark of our month-long health and wellbeing special – and our 50th issue overall! – I feel very lucky to pass the baton to our guest editor Glenn Lutz, who has curated our two-part men’s mental health issue, which runs this week and next. An incredible artist and author, Glenn is a key instigator of important conversations around mental health, masculinity, and the fine line between the two. As we all know, due to generational expectations of what it means to be a ‘man’, talking about mental health and emotions is still a major stigma in many communities. I hope we can find a way to make the conversation a little easier and that the stories you read, learn from, and interpret help you start these conversations in your own circles. 

Dua x

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Illustrated portrait of artist Glenn Lutz
Sam Kerr, 2023 ©

Changing The Narrative Around Men’s Mental Illness

Growing up in the ’90s and early 2000s, I subscribed to the idea that focusing on my mental wellbeing was a luxury I couldn’t afford. I thought, People are going through way worse, what do I have to complain about? Historically, society hasn’t placed much focus on men’s mental health. Which is exactly why we are talking about it now.

These past years have been tough for so many. As a result, mental illness is on the rise across the world. As a Black man, it hurts to know that the suicide death rate among Black youth is growing more than in any other ethnic group. Focusing on our mental health is imperative for all of us – men, women, queer, non-binary people… As someone with bipolar II disorder, it’s a top priority to work with organisations fighting to destigmatise mental illness (I became a NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness – ambassador last year). This is why I am so honoured to guest-curate the next two issues on men’s mental health for Service95

The purpose of these stories is to help facilitate conversations and, ultimately, bring about change around male mental health. Our contributors include the writer and poet Ocean Vuong, who challenges societal norms through his work with masterful introspection and grace; Salman Toor, whose work as a painter is a spellbinding narrative on the everyday lives of queer, brown men – intimate offerings delivered with a mastery and style that is all his own – and Dr Kathleen St Louis Caliento (my older sister!), who lives a life dedicated to helping others; as the CEO of Cara Collective, she and her team are committed to equipping people with the tools to rise above the effects of poverty – rooted in the reality that unemployment and mental health are intrinsically linked. 

In next week’s issue, Mark Ronson, the prolific producer who has blessed us with some of the most successful songs of the last 20 years, talks exclusively to us about grappling with his panic disorder. We also spotlight Sahara Longe, a young artist with a magician’s touch, garnering great traction with her figurative paintings, who creates male characters that speak to us, exploring moods that connect us and reveal inner truths about ourselves. 

There is, of course, still so much work to be done. We all have unique backgrounds, abilities, and hurdles, but at our core lies an energy connecting us in ways we have yet to fully understand. I believe sharing our stories is an important part of that process. Here are five books that opened my mind to new perspectives… 

Glenn Lutz

  1. Mama by Terry McMillan
  2. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
  3. The Measure Of A Man: A Spiritual Autobiography by Sidney Poitier
  4. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
  5. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Portrait of writer and poet Ocean Vuong standing under the branches of a tree
Celeste Sloman/Trunk Archive

In Conversation With Poet And Writer Ocean Vuong

“I first came across Ocean Vuong’s work shortly after a divorce. I found his book Night Sky With Exit Wounds at a time when I was being taught to let go, among other things. The care with which Vuong writes about loss, grief, and love is both masterful and graceful. I had the privilege of speaking to him about abandoning heteronormativity, and vulnerability as a form of strength and freedom…” – Glenn Lutz

G: Congratulations on Time Is A Mother and thank you for the space you created around loss. In your poem Old Glory, you recontextualise phrases embedded in American culture, as seen in the lines, Knock them dead, big guy. Go in there, guns blazing, buddy. You crushed at the show. No, it was a blowout. No, a massacre. Total overkill. We tore them a new one. What was the intention of that poem? When discussing the work on Louisiana Channel you said, “Heteronormativity could be abandoned if you have the courage to.” I’d love you to delve deeper into this.

O: That poem is perhaps the one I am most proud of. It took me the entirety of my writing life in order to write that piece. I had to gain the confidence to let the language speak on its own terms, even when it displays the violence embedded in masculinist culture. But that was my hope for this poem. To me, a poem can’t always be a ‘beautiful thing’. A poem, like a good song, can also provoke, incite, and interrogate. And using the sonnet form to ‘stack’ these otherwise common phrases into a kind of concentrated and horrifying speech act was something only the poem, as a technology, could do. So I’m proud of that. As for whether heteronormativity could be abandoned, I think it’s hard living in a culture that conditions us toward a narrow definition of ‘success’ or ‘good’ or ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It does take courage to break away from something so powerful. And even more so, to realise, with compassion, that those who are trapped in it, even when appearing powerful, are being hurt by it as well. It is not so much that one system of thinking is worse than the other – that depends on the individual – but it’s about widening what is acceptable so that everyone can find a footing that works for them, that ontological expression can be as varied as people themselves. Imagine if, in order to be a ‘successful’ musician, you had to play only classical music. How boring! In the same way that classical music is not ‘wrong’, I don’t think heteronormativity is wrong, but I need it to make room for other [genres of music], which, historically, it has not. 

G: You have spoken about vulnerability, the personal power you’ve found while channelling vulnerability, how our society often equates being vulnerable with being weak and yet you’ve found that the more vulnerable one is, the stronger a human being they often are…

O: I think when we approach vulnerability as a common and perhaps even natural condition of our species (we are, after all, a relatively soft and physically defenceless species, hardy in groups and wilting when isolated), we’re able to connect with each other in a less superficial way. You realise that, especially in adults, when the masks of strength have been forced on us, or when we’ve calcified them through conditioning, we mostly operate in the community with performances of strength and success – when, in fact, we might very well be full of doubts, anger, fear, and grief. So giving each other permission to put down the shields in order to see each other’s faces more clearly is a gift. Vulnerability is as true and connected to us as our skin. Everything else is fabric. 

G: Lastly, death. You’ve written about it with care in your work, and like so many of us around the world, you have had to navigate the pain and grief that death imparts. I understand that you live across the street from a cemetery and that Maranasati, the Buddhist death mindfulness practice, has helped with your mental health… 

O: I think all cultures have various versions of Maranasati or memento mori as the Europeans called it. We hear death awareness teachings in the Quran, the Torah, and the Bible too – and the effect is one that shatters the illusions of permanence in materials and even social material things (such as status, fame, position, etc). The ultimate death meditation comes when you witness a loved one pass away, as I have a few times now. 

Our culture often encourages us to ‘move on’ from the memory of the deathbed. We cover the body as soon as it becomes a corpse as if the transformation is too complete – too total – to bear. But I think experiencing death in that way can be quite a gift in that we can go back to that moment and have it teach us inexhaustibly about how to live. When we watch a loved one die, we don’t think about our wealth, or goods, or achievements, or our career; we are totally present for them. It is an act of giving, the waiting for death. We give them all of us, at the last of them. That’s an incredibly generous thing and I think if we live our day-to-day lives the way we live at the deathbed, we might actually live more sustained, happy, and conscious lives. 

During their conversation, Glenn asked Ocean Vuong about the music he listens to as a form of self-care. Here is the Spotify playlist Ocean shared with us


Paintings by artist Salman Toor, Night Walkers, 2022; Music Room, 2021; The Dressing Table, 2021; Late Dinner, 2022
Night Walkers, 2022; Music Room, 2021; The Dressing Table, 2021; Late Dinner, 2022 © Salman Toor; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York. Photo: Farzad Owrang

This One Thing... The Works Of Salman Toor

While Salman Toor’s inspirations stem from 17th and 18th-century art, the works of the much-celebrated Pakistani artist are very much about the now. Centring the modern lives of imaginary brown queer men, the tender, intimate paintings celebrate the vulnerability of men and challenge society’s ideas of masculinity. 

Funmi Fetto is the global editorial director of Service95 and a contributing editor at British Vogue


Film poster for The Road Up

“Poverty Is One Of The Most Significant Social Determinants Of Health And Mental Health”: A Social Enterprise Leader On Destigmatising Mental Health For Black Men

In The Road Up, a documentary film by Siskel Jacobs, which follows four individuals navigating their pathway out of poverty, you see Clarence, a Black man in his mid-thirties struggle with opening up, being vulnerable, and asking for help. This struggle culminates in a scene where Clarence breaks down, revealing the weight of what he has been carrying, and what it has ultimately cost him. It’s a powerful moment but, unfortunately, not a rare one. Many men, particularly Black men just like Clarence, wilfully or unknowingly de-prioritise their mental health and leave traumas buried, often due to the stigmas placed on them by society. 

Poverty is one of the most significant social determinants of health and mental health. Individuals who experience poverty, particularly early in life or for an extended period, are at risk of a host of adverse health and developmental outcomes throughout their life. This is magnified by the fact that so many Black people continue to experience systemic inequities that often leave them unemployed or under-employed – with one in five Black people in the US living in poverty as of 2018.

Normalising the conversation around men’s mental health is the first step. This means also taking into consideration the role culture plays. For example, research shows that many Black people believe mild depression or anxiety would be considered ‘crazy’ in their social circles. Yet, Black people are more likely to attempt suicide than their White counterparts. This is a silent cry for help. 

Recognising the societal impact on mental health is also key, as many of the barriers people encounter in society (such as poverty, homelessness, and addiction) have direct connections to mental health. For example, Black men are over-represented in US jails and prisons, making up 13% of the general US population, but Black people make up nearly 40% of the prison population. And this does not take into account the struggles for a person to successfully re-enter society after incarceration or the high rate of recidivism. 

If we can address and prioritise mental health, we can begin tackling the issues tangentially connected to them, so we need to support organisations moving the needle on this issue. Cara Collective, for instance, has licensed clinical social workers on its staff, counsellors who provide support and resources, and socio-emotional training to help people unpack whatever past traumas have brought them to this point. Because it is only when we address our struggles that the real healing can begin.

Kathleen St Louis Caliento, PhD, is the president and CEO of Cara Collective, a Chicago-based leader in workforce development that has placed more than 8,000 people experiencing poverty into quality jobs


Dua Lipa walking on a beach

Making Women’s Voices Heard

Welcome to what is the second of a month-long special dedicated to our health and wellbeing. In this week’s long read, academic writer Jamie Brooks Robertson reports on the myriad ways the Covid-19 pandemic has affected female reproductive health – and how it has largely not been reported by the medical world, which has, sadly, been used as an argument in the anti-vaccine narrative. The point here is that women are still not always considered in medicine and medical research. My hope is that by tackling these issues openly and candidly, we will start to bring about the necessary shift we need to see globally in healthcare for women. 


Dua x

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Collage image of a hand holding a sanitary towel in front of a calendar
Parveen Narowalia

Female Reproductive Health Disruption: Why We Need More Medical Research

In early 2020, as Covid-19 ripped across the planet and humanity braced for the unknown, doctors in Italy began noticing a disturbing phenomenon. A surge of young girls, all under the age of eight, began to grow breasts or menstruate – separate medical conditions known as precocious puberty and precocious menarche. Now, nearly three years into the pandemic, new research is exploring various mysterious impacts on the reproductive cycles of female, trans and non-binary individuals across the globe, from girls experiencing their first menstrual cycles years before they’ve even finished primary school, to missed periods, other menstrual cycle disturbances and menopause. (Unfortunately, an initial delay by the medical community in recognising some of these impacts plays directly into the hand of anti-vaccine groups, keen to push falsehoods, most prominently that Covid-19 vaccines may be dangerous, or cause infertility – claims that are not backed up by credible research. In fact, scientists exploring the impacts of Covid-19 on reproductive health stress that the emerging studies in this area do not question the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, nor discourage their uptake.)

In the early days of the pandemic, the northern city of Bergamo anchored Italy as the second epicentre of Covid-19 outside China. Demoralised and exhausted doctors struggled to keep Covid-19 patients alive as hospital intensive care units were stretched beyond capacity. To cope, Italy was the first country to implement a restrictive, nationwide lockdown. Shortly thereafter, researchers from the Meyer Children’s Hospital in Florence, one of the oldest paediatric hospitals in the country, began tracking young girls being referred for precocious puberty, or early-onset puberty. Prevalence of the condition has risen in recent decades owing to a host of poorly understood and complex factors. Still, the rate of referrals was high enough to draw their attention.

After conducting a retrospective study, comparing rates of diagnosis in the five years preceding the pandemic, they published their scientific research in the Italian Journal Of Pediatrics in November 2020. The study confirmed an increased incidence of precocious puberty in girls during – and after – Italy’s 2020 lockdown. Between March and July 2020, 49 young girls experienced either the onset of precocious puberty or rapid progression of the condition meaning that for those already experiencing the symptoms associated with early onset puberty, those symptoms progressed more quickly than expected compared to a total of 89 such girls combined in the five years prior. The legitimacy of this study was reaffirmed in Italy in February 2022 by additional research published in Endocrine Connections. Further, this trend was marked globally. Similar studies followed in China, Turkey and India, as reported by The Washington Post and The Fuller Project this past spring.

One study flagged the apparent link between the pandemic and quickening rates of early-onset puberty as a ‘potential emergency’. But finding a single, or primary cause for this phenomenon is difficult, given that the onset of puberty is influenced by a combination of genetic, psychological, environmental, and metabolic factors. The pandemic further complicates the picture. Researchers speculate that stress, lack of physical activity, diet, hand sanitiser use, and increased exposure to electronic devices may be potential causes. Ultimately, each study stresses the need for additional research involving bigger populations, according to Dr Katie Larson Ode, a paediatric endocrinologist and clinical associate professor of paediatrics at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, who said the medical community needs to determine “whether these surges are happening and, if so, what the causes may be”.

As the pandemic rolled into 2021 and beyond, it became clear that young girls weren’t alone in experiencing pandemic-related impacts on their reproductive health. On the heels of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, whispers of post-vaccination menstrual cycle disruptions began to emerge. They percolated in tweets and among friends who began gathering more freely after social distancing requirements were relaxed. These early reports drew the interest of Meghna Roy, a medical anthropologist at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. Roy spent time throughout 2022 interviewing a small group of women, mostly between the ages of 20 and 30, who were willing to discuss their experiences of what they suspected was the Covid-19 vaccine’s impact on their menstrual cycles. The women, who received vaccines (including Covaxin, Pfizer, Covishield, and Sputnik) administered across India, Kuwait, Germany and the United Kingdom, have experienced an array of symptoms. “Some subjects report a lengthening of time between the menstrual cycle, others speak of a shorter cycle with little to no bleeding at all, and still others report increased menstrual pain and heavy bleeding,” says Roy. 

Ultimately, Covid-19 vaccine menstrual side effects were self-reported to the medical community and scientific regulators. By 23 October 2022, more than 51,000 people reported suspected Covid-related menstrual disruptions via the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) Coronavirus Yellow Card Reporting Scheme in the UK. The website is dedicated to capturing self-reported side effects from Covid-19 vaccines, which are then reviewed by the MHRA to ensure the vaccines’ safe and effective use. The MHRA website states it is reviewing reports of suspected side effects of menstrual disorders and unexpected vaginal bleeding post-Covid-19 vaccination in the UK. Still, the MHRA response as of November 2022 is: “The rigorous evaluation completed to date does not support a link between Covid-19 vaccines and other changes to menstrual periods.” It did not disclose its method and the position seemingly conflicts with the National Institutes of Health approach in the United States, which announced funding for a year-long study to look at the potential link. In late September 2022, the results of the NIH international study, which includes data from almost 20,000 people in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, confirmed a temporary increase in menstrual cycle length. Further, research out of the Imperial College London’s Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction in November 2022, utilising data from menstrual tracking apps, also confirmed a transient impact on women’s menstrual cycles post-vaccination. Some researchers have described the findings overall as reassuring since the disruptions are generally short and reverse themselves over time and the research definitively shows that those who have had the vaccine are significantly less likely to be hospitalised for serious illness and/or die from Covid-19.

Regardless, these studies by NIH, Imperial College London and the MHRA were retrospective. Rather than reproductive health being monitored and tracked as part of vaccine development, this issue was researched by the medical and scientific community after vaccines were administered. This is baffling to some reproductive health advocates when one considers that over 50% of the global population experiences menstruation, and prospective studies – which would capture more data, and in real-time – could prove more beneficial. Unfortunately, most large-scale Covid-19 vaccine trials have excluded any questions about menstruation, so the opportunity to learn how these vaccines might impact menstruation beforehand was missed. This has created openings for anti-vaccine groups to fill in the blanks and push misleading theories unsupported by science.

The idea to include menstruation in medical research isn’t novel. As far back as 2006, medical professional societies such as the American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology have called for including menstruation as a fifth vital sign, alongside pulse, breathing rate, blood pressure and body temperature, given that periods are increasingly seen as a key indicator of health. If the menstrual cycle were considered a vital sign, then likely impacts on the cycle would be considered during medical research, including vaccine development.

A persistent roadblock to this issue being taken seriously post-vaccination is that reports tend to be based on individual experience, rather than quantitative, biomedical evidence. Scientists and clinicians, particularly in Western medicine and the global North, prefer the latter. The self-reporting aspect represents a dilemma, one that Roy seeks to address in her research in India. “At the moment, when some doctors are not aware of this issue, and there are scientists saying it is just stress impacting the menstrual cycle of these individuals, what does [the] evidence actually mean?” she said. “How is it not evidence when I have been through it myself and reported it?” she asks.

For medical professionals who have gone on the record to address the self-reported links between Covid-19 vaccines and menstrual disruption, the responses have been problematic. Typically, they emphasise the transient nature of the menstrual cycle disruption, noting that it will not affect one’s fertility. Reducing reportees to a monolith solely interested in menstrual cycle disruption out of fertility concerns and anything that may impede the ability to achieve pregnancy obscures the issue that the Covid-19 vaccines can have a hormonal impact, along with the virus itself. There are understandable reasons why medical professionals might want to downplay post-vaccine menstrual disruption to assuage Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy concerns and encourage their uptake. But one result of deemphasising the issue is that, in addition to invalidating the experience of temporary impact on menstrual cycles for individuals, it can add to the perception that the health of certain genders is secondary, or less important than the health of men. 

This doesn’t come as a surprise to Dr Sarah Glynne, a general practitioner and member of the British Menopause Society based in London. Dr Glynne has been working closely with fellow menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson to track and treat a third distinct impact on reproductive health during the pandemic – the link between long Covid and menopause. Dr Glynne reports “a gender bias and ‘willful ignorance’” among medical professionals managing patients with long Covid. “There seems to be a huge blind spot when it comes to considering the impact of the virus on women’s hormones and the role of hormone replacement therapy,” she said. Part of Dr Glynne’s work is alerting people to this fact. 

“Men and women are roughly equally likely to catch Covid-19. But men are more likely to have a severe, acute illness, whereas women are more likely to develop long Covid,” she said. A 2021 study highlights the mean age of those impacted is 46 years of age and more than 80% of those diagnosed with long Covid are female. More than a third of those women, according to the study, experience menstrual cycle disturbance.

The symptoms of long Covid – which include fatigue, brain fog, chest pains, and muscle and joint pain that persist for more than three months after a Covid-19 infection – have many similarities with the symptoms of menopause.

While research clearly shows that Covid-19 vaccines may indeed minimise the likelihood that one develops long Covid, research on how long Covid and menopause interact is nascent. According to Dr Glynne and Dr Newson, Covid-19 is negatively impacting ovarian function, causing hormone deficiency and menopausal symptoms in many women with long Covid. “Research is urgently needed,” says Dr Glynne. “Women presenting with long Covid should be asked about their menstrual cycles and history, but this isn’t always happening.” This, explains Dr Glynne, can lead to prolonged suffering that goes beyond the individual. “By June 2022, 2 million people in the UK had been diagnosed with long Covid. [As] women between the ages of 40 and 60 are the group most likely to get long Covid, this is significantly hampering women’s ability to work and care for their children and families, meaning not just negative consequences for families [but also for] society and the economy,” notes Dr Glynne.

For the first three years of the Covid-19 pandemic, media coverage has been extensive to say the least. Why, then, is the apparently unique impact that Covid-19 has had on females, non-binary and trans individuals across the span of their reproductive health stages at best a footnote, and at worst an afterthought? Perhaps the stigma associated with these naturally occurring health transitions may hinder societal engagement on the topic, but there are likely structural issues at play too. It is clear that additional funding for further research and attention to these areas is necessary. So too is a courageous and introspective reflection from the scientific community on what qualifies as medical evidence so that the concerns of some genders aren’t overlooked. Assessing menstrual cycles and puberty is difficult given the wide variations in the population, but it is possible. Proactive research on the role between sex hormones and Covid-19 and other viruses is not only worthy of our collective attention, it is absolutely necessary. 

Jamie Brooks Robertson is a London-based writer, independent scholar, and emerging essayist focusing on health and culture 

*Please note that the information in this article is no substitute for medical diagnosis, guidance or advice. If you are experiencing any impacts on your reproductive health during the Covid-19 pandemic or otherwise, please seek input from a trusted medical professional. 


Dua Lipa practising yoga

Introducing Service95’s Health & Wellbeing Month

Happy new year and welcome to what is the first of a month-long special dedicated to our health and wellbeing. From debunking the myth of multitasking to exploring the link between food and our mental health crises, we are kicking off 2023 with a fresh perspective on how we think, live and eat.

Exercise is a key part of my wellbeing routine, keeping my body healthy but, more importantly, helping my mind. While on tour, I did yoga every day, but now that I’m not performing every other night, I’m loving a great workout, whether that’s a reformer Pilates session or an online class if I can’t get to a gym (or dance floor). Here are five of my favourite content creators that have free workouts you can do at home, to get your heart and feel-good endorphins pumping.

Dua x

  1. Shona Vertue – the renowned yogi and personal trainer’s sessions help you get stronger, fitter and more flexible without punishing routines.
  2. Popsugar Fitness – founder Amanda LaCount’s amazing workouts are for all different body types and abilities – there’s something for everyone.
  3. Isa Welly – offers a unique blend of cardio, Pilates and strength training that will get you sweating.
  4. Yoga with Adriene – head here for free 30-day yoga journeys that will nourish and revitalise your body and mind.
  5. 305 Fitness – cheeky, fun dance cardio workouts choreographed to all your favourite songs, turning your workout into a party.

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Black and white illustration of person multitasking at work
Lena Yokoyama ©

Why Everything You Know About Multitasking Is A Lie

In a world that’s hustling harder than ever before, mastering the juggle is prime social currency; proud multitaskers boast of their plate-balancing skills in conversation, via social media posts and even on their CVs. But according to leading productivity experts and behavioural scientists, multitasking isn’t a must-do, it’s a con. So, what now?

It seems apt that when you search ‘multitasking’, most Google images show suited people behind desks, doctored to have six arms, a different item in each hand: phone, pen, mug, Rolodex, calculator, wall clock. It shows just how dated the idea of multitasking is, and yet we’re all still doing it, thinking we’ll reach an end goal more quickly and with less effort.

The idea of multitasking came about in the 1960s, in reference to using a single computer to carry out two or more tasks simultaneously. Later came the gendered tropes of women as natural multitaskers, wired to deftly balance the socially constructed juggle of running a household, caring for others, having a paid job, and contributing to the wider community. But from as early as the mid-’90s, scientists have known, and shown, that not only does the practice of multitasking negatively impact efficiency, but the way it erodes your brain’s capacity means it increases the mental overwhelm of everyday life.  

Dr Alan Barnard, a decision scientist and CEO of Goldratt Research Labs, explains how multitasking overloads cognitive capacity. “Our studies have found that when someone multitasks three projects, even if they plan a reasonable buffer when setting a deadline, they don’t deliver any on time because of the time and mental focus lost when switching back and forth between the projects.” Your brain essentially has to recalibrate with every switch. “Additionally, they felt completely overwhelmed and made more mistakes than if they performed the projects one at a time,” he adds.

Generally, this cost is much greater for women. “The more decisions you make, the quicker you become cognitively overloaded earlier in the day; you have limited capacity left, you avoid making decisions, and go for the lowest-risk option if you do happen to make a choice,” explains Dr Barnard. “Women on average make many more decisions every day than men, partly because they feel more responsible for everyone around them, so the cognitive overload is greater.” No wonder, then, that so many of us feel overwhelmed by daily life before we even consider the curveballs that may be thrown our way.

Often, it’s the simple changes that can shift the dial from overwhelm to ease – so how to consciously move towards a life better spent single-tasking? 

Pick your priority Making a to-do list is only half the job – the power is in prioritising those tasks, from most important/urgent downwards. Then focus on each one, in turn. As Dr Barnard says, “If everything is given equal priority, you’re drawn to multitask, and every task suffers.”

Go big in the morning Your cognitive capacity (that is, your brain power) is at its highest in the morning, so work with your brain rather than against it; do your most challenging or creative tasks earlier in the day. 

Curate your environment Is your space set up to support your mission to nix multitasking? Maybe it’s leaving your phone in another room while you tackle specific tasks, closing certain computer tabs while you work, or making sure you’re meeting your basic needs of water, nutritious snacks and loo breaks to help you focus on the matter at hand.  

Listen up It may sound counterintuitive to use your phone (the classic time thief!) to help single-task, but there are apps designed to do just that. Endel plays AI-powered soundtracks engineered to help your brain focus and tune out distracting sounds and interruptions. 

Victoria Joy is a qualified coach who helps people take back control of their everyday life, cutting through the overwhelm to create helpful habits and consistent routines to make life feel easier


Book cover of The Gospel Of Wellness by Rina Raphael

This One Thing... The Gospel Of Wellness

Rina Raphael’s new bookThe Gospel Of Wellness: Gyms, Gurus, Goop And The False Promise Of Self-Care, takes a playful but thought-provoking look at the $4.4trillion wellness industry; a world rooted in perpetuating the belief that our bodies can’t self-regulate and that the answer lies in the latest detox, exercise regime or meditation retreat. She highlights the ways this global phenomenon plays on women’s vulnerabilities because of societal expectations to be slimmer and ‘sexier’ and wraps the solutions up in a fashionable package. As Raphael says, “I’ve seen far too many women – myself included – adopt new rituals and debatable products with nary an ounce of scepticism.” However, Raphael offers a balanced argument, also acknowledging that the industry does have some positives, such as encouraging people to think about their health when they shop. For a light-hearted look at an industry that is dominating a lot of our lives, this one’s a good read.

Samantha de Haas is acting managing editor and chief copy editor at Service95


Black and white image of a fork in shadows
Pari Dukovic/Trunk Archive

Is The Food We Are Consuming Causing A Mental Health Crisis?

More than half the UK diet is now ultra-processed food (UPF), in the US it’s 73% – and the trend is set to continue; a report found that as countries grow richer, they eat more ultra-processed foods (think long ingredients lists of scientific-sounding words, rather than whole, recognisable foods). Meanwhile, according to the World Health Organisation, one in eight people in the world now live with a mental disorder – so is there a link? Kimberley Wilson, UK-based chartered psychologist and author of the upcoming book Unprocessed: How The Food We Eat Is Fuelling Our Mental Health Crisis, believes so. “There isn’t a single study that says the ultra-processed, Western-style diet is good for your mental health. Diets heavy in ultra-processed foods are associated with more depression, worse anxiety and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia,” she says. 

Certain nutrients have been shown to improve sleep and reduce stress, depression and anxiety. It makes sense, then, that eating ultra-processed foods, where intense industrial processes strip food of nutrients, raises mental health risks. “Your brain is made out of nutrients,” explains Wilson. “It functions through sending chemical signals, and those chemicals – serotonin, dopamine, citicoline – are made from nutrients. Eating more UPF, by definition, displaces more nutritious foods in our diet.” Professor Adrienne O’Neil, co-director of the Food & Mood Centre in Australia (a country where UPF consumption accounts for 42% of dietary energy), says the negative impact on mental health is down to the “pro-inflammatory properties” of these foods, and the pro-inflammatory diet is associated with an increased risk of depression. Dr Adam Drewnowski, a world-renowned leader in the study of social disparities in diets and health, says it’s a vicious cycle; “diet quality affects mental health, but dietary choices are also affected by mental wellbeing,” he explains, adding that “stress, in particular, can drive food choices in a bad direction.” In other words, we’re caught in a damaging trap.

Surely what we eat, though, is down to us. Not so, says Wilson, who argues “the vast majority of factors that decide what we eat are socially derived.” Consider this: deprived areas in the UK have five times more fast food outlets than affluent ones, and 1.2 million people in the UK live in ‘food deserts’, where affordable fresh food is inaccessible. Then there’s budget: “A healthy diet is three to six times more expensive than an ultra-processed one,” says Wilson. Therefore, eating well is becoming elitist. “What counts most is purchasing power,” says Drewnowski. “Not everyone has the same degree of choice.”

Food companies also spend billions of dollars on advertising each year. Take Brazil, where 91% of food advertisements are for ultra-processed food. This bombardment, according to Wilson, “capitalises on human inbuilt vulnerabilities. [Advertisements] appeal to our evolutionary programming, which says to make the most of every eating opportunity, choose energy-dense foods and get as much value as you can expending as little energy as possible.” And when we succumb and eat them, a chemical reaction follows; “the brain releases a variety of substances, including opioid peptides,” says Drewnowski. These act on the brain in the same way as drugs – tapping into its reward system. In fact, researchers have argued that ultra-processed foods meet the criteria to be labelled as addictive substances. It’s no wonder we’re hooked.

Megan Riddle, a psychiatrist at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver, says that far from being a simple choice, how we eat is “impacted by deep-seated cultural and racial disparities”. She says, “food is intimately intertwined with culture and ethnicity, power and oppression. Historically marginalised groups have increased rates of food insecurity. There’s also increasing awareness of how food was historically – and now – used as a form of oppression.” She points out that, today, what’s commonly labelled ‘unhealthy’ “stigmatises foods of certain ethnic or cultural backgrounds, perpetuating bias”. For Wilson, it borders on victim blaming. “In the UK, the poorest have to spend up to 74% of their disposable income to have a healthy diet, whereas it’s 11% for the wealthiest households. The idea that it’s about personal choice is insulting.”

Consider this sobering statistic from O’Neil; “those living with serious mental illness die 10 to 25 years sooner than those without,” and what we eat has a major impact. Our food systems are driven by politics, power and profit. “Poorer people in England die up to 10 years younger than rich people [in the US, it’s nearly 15 years] and that’s not about personal choice, it’s about where you live, what you can afford and the influence of the environment on your health,” says Wilson. “The global food system needs to change, but a cultural shift won’t come from individuals. We need a shift in policy – and only governments are in a position to do that.”
Unprocessed: How The Food We Eat Is Fuelling Our Mental Health Crisis by Kimberley Wilson will be published by WH Allen on 23 February 2023

Laura Potter is a freelance editor, writer and interviewer whose work has appeared in The Observer Magazine, The Guardian’s Saturday magazine, The Times Magazine, Women’s Health and Men’s Health


Animated GIF of newsletter article images, podcast artwork and illustrations

2022 In Review

Welcome to what is our last issue of 2022; the founding year of Service95! The team and I are so proud of the community we’ve built, and we’ve loved hearing how much you’re enjoying all the stories we’ve shared with you over the course of the year. Thank you so much – your support means everything. 

Now, I’m at home, ready to take some time out, curl up with some great books and relax. In that vein, we are using today’s issue to spotlight some of our favourite stories and writers from the past six months. It was almost impossible to choose – go to the website to see our archive and read the stories we didn’t have space to re-run here – but these features have opened my eyes and made me see the world in a different light, and I hope they do the same for you. 

We are continuing our break next week, so there won’t be an issue on Thursday 29 December. I hope you can also use the festive season to take some time for yourselves and recoup after what has been a challenging year for many. Thank you again for continuing to read Service95. See you in 2023, when we have many more exciting things to come! 

Dua x

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Illustration of the words 'Good vibes only' surrounded by smiling flowers
EnkaArt/Shutterstock

Why We Need To Address Toxic Positivity

The unrelenting pressure to be positive has become so ingrained in our culture that we believe positivity is the only way to deal with hardship and the only response when someone is struggling. While it’s often well-intentioned, positivity can become toxic when used at the wrong time, with the wrong audience, or while discussing a topic where it doesn’t help. 

Of course, a positive outlook can be beneficial. However, when we take that positivity just a little too far, it becomes dismissive or unhelpful. When a friend is grieving it’s, “just be grateful you had time with them”. Or when someone has just suffered a miscarriage, “at least you know you can get pregnant”. Or when someone deals with any type of prejudice – from racism to homophobia – “thankfully most people don’t think like that”. Toxic positivity is offering someone a simple solution to a complicated problem. Talking about these kinds of topics is not the same as complaining about waiting in a queue or a long day at work. These are issues that profoundly impact us and expose our vulnerability. When we use toxic positivity in these moments, it makes the recipient feel isolated or ignored. Because if I tell you I’m struggling and you respond with, “just be grateful it’s not worse!”, am I going to keep sharing? No, I’m going to shut down.

It’s hard to imagine how something like positivity could harm us, but positive thinking is often a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. Instead of helping us become more positive, it leads to more emotional suppression, which leads to worsened mood, negative feelings about social interactions, more negative emotions, and diminished positive emotions. A culture that is obsessed with happiness also negatively impacts our relationships and society. When we reinforce the idea that some feelings are ‘bad’, we miss out on the opportunity to connect with others. Positivity is also used as a weapon to minimise or deny the experience of certain groups. When we say things like, “can’t we all just love each other?” in response to discrimination, we invalidate the experiences marginalised people regularly endure. Toxic positivity places all the responsibility on the individual instead of on the systems and institutions that make positive thinking an impossible solution.

We’ve been promoting happiness and positivity as the magic cure for centuries – and it doesn’t seem to be working. If we want to have close relationships and experience the full spectrum of what it means to be human, we have to radically accept that life is complicated, and nothing will be all good or all bad. In place of misplaced positivity, we need to listen to the feelings that are being shared and offer an empathic response such as “It sounds really difficult for you” or “I can hear the sadness in your voice.” Learning to meet ourselves and others where we’re at, without forcing positivity, may be the key to more real happiness in the end. 

Whitney Goodman, LMFT, is the author of Toxic Positivity: Keeping It Real In A World Obsessed With Being Happy, the psychotherapist behind the Instagram account @sitwithwhit, and the owner of The Collaborative Counseling Center, a virtual therapy practice in Florida


Images of Agnes Questionmark during Transgenesis and other art performances
José Cuevas; Liquid Ground, 2022, Jo Fetto; Portrait Of The Homo Aquaticus, 2019, Henri Kisielewski; Transgenesis, 2021, Henri Kisielewski; Agnes Tides In The Body Circle, 2020, Henri Kisielewski

Agnes Questionmark: The Art World’s Mesmerising Underwater Performer

The Italian performance artist and former Gucci model Agnes Questionmark describes her work as a trip to a place “where nymphs and mythological creatures exist among humankind”. Many of her performances occur underwater, where Agnes pushes audiences to question the ephemerality of their own bodies. “I have an obsession with becoming inhuman – part of mythology,” she says. 

Her artistry stems from a quest to understand her own identity: “I wasn’t yet Agnes Questionmark; I spent my first year looking for this other character,” she says. Her childhood generated an unbreakable bond with the ocean that now manifests in her art. Her father was a boat architect with a passion for sailing; together, they would spend months offshore. “When I began to transition, I understood the water was a place of such meaning and symbolism,” she says. “The fluidity of the sea matched that of my work.”

Earlier this year, Valentino cast Agnes in a campaign posing in nothing but a pair of the brand’s fuchsia Tan-go platform heels, alongside fellow trans artist Nettuno, model Lina Giselle and DJ Charli, looking as if she’s been pulled from a renaissance painting, perfectly complementing her own artistry.

For Transgenesis, Agnes’s lauded 2021 long-duration performance, viewers were invited into a derelict leisure centre, guided down a dimly lit tunnel resembling a coronary artery, with foetus-like latex sculptures adorning its sides, opening into a mirrored chamber with a white-sand floor and glimmering ceramic sea life sculptures. Agnes stood atop a giant octopus-like installation. Mesmerising the crowd, they watched her take deep inhales-exhales in tune with a whale cry-like song.  

“I felt completely inhuman, especially as I saw peoples’ faces when they watched me,” she says. “They were seeing something they had never seen before. I felt like a goddess. I wanted to make you think: I am somewhere else; I am entering into a womb towards another state and a new dimension.”  

Transgenesis ran for eight hours a day for 23 consecutive days. The first day of the piece also marked the beginning of her hormone therapy. “It was all so overwhelming,” she recalls – but her passion to share her own transformation is what allows audiences to be taken on such a similarly profound existential journey while watching her perform.  

With a scholarship to study integrated practices at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute in New York, Agnes wants to delve deeper into her understanding of marine biology to find new ways to push the boundaries of underwater performance. The eventual goal? To host an exhibition in her home city of Rome, showcasing her blossoming into the visionary self-proclaimed “trans-species artist” she identifies as today. “My ultimate dream is to make giant installations globally. Spread Agnes Questionmark to everyone. Spread fluidity to everyone!” 

Pia Brynteson is editorial assistant at Service95


Images of men and women wearing brightly coloured suits for La Sape
Alamy

La Sape: The Bold Congolese Sartorial Movement Shifting The Socio-Political Narrative

Every year in June in the bustling streets of Brazzaville, Congo, an ostentatious group of men and women dressed in eye-catching suits (never exceeding three colours) exude a certain grandeur through their slow but grand steps, completing their theatrical performance with a dramatic tap of the heel and cane. The locals transform into elegant dandies and spectators become the judges, voting on who will be crowned ‘Sapeur of the Year’. This is La Sape. 

La Sape – an abbreviation of the French translation of Society of Ambience Makers and Elegant People – was born during Congo’s colonial period when the ‘houseboys’ would adopt their master’s clothing as a socio-political statement to show that they too could be just as elegant and smart as them. “La Sape was a way of giving hope to a generation who didn’t have any,” says sapeur Monsieur Robby.

To be deemed a ‘sapeur’ (a person with creative flair reflected both in their style and demeanour) required a trip to Europe, hence this social movement trickled its way down to France and Belgium. 

You were considered to have a certain stature if you returned to Congo with a lavish wardrobe filled with Guy Laroche or Versace suits, always accompanied by a pair of JM Westons. Christine Checinska, the curator of the V&A’s Africa Fashion exhibition, understands why some might deem this style ‘extreme’ but explains, “in Black culture, being well-dressed is bound up with self-respect.”

In response to the social inequality many of the migrants faced in France during the ’70s, underground clubs such as La Main Bleue in Paris (where Karl Lagerfeld hosted his infamous birthday bash in October 1977) were created to cater to minorities, and it eventually became a sapeur’s home away from home. 

The musical influence of the late Papa Wemba placed La Sape on an international scale. Dubbed the King of Rumba Rock, who fused African sounds with Caribbean rhythm, the Congolese music legend and fashion icon was notable for spreading the word of this movement through his tours in the late ’80s and early ’90s around France and Japan.

Solange’s 2012 music video Losing You, spotlighting Cape Town’s sapeurs and, in more recent years, designer Ozwald Boateng’s fashion collections – inspired by his frequent jaunts to Congo – have also become key cultural moments growing this bold sartorial movement beyond the niche. 

La Sape has always been seen as a way of existing beyond the socio-political upheaval and projecting a positive image of hope and of shifting the narrative. But beyond that, in the words of the female sapeur Arly La Liya, “La Sape is love, Sape yourself.”

Yelena Grelet is a London-based multimedia journalist and filmmaker


Artwork featured on the digital platform Mauj, including a diagram of the anatomy of the clitoris, and an image of its intimate product, Deem
Dear Nostalgia, Mauj

Mauj: The Boundary-Breaking Sexual Wellness Platform For Arab Women

“Do you know what an orgasm feels like?” Teta asked, smiling. “Well, your grandfather never gave me one.”

This bold statement is all the more taboo because ‘Teta’ is an Arab woman. It is one of the anonymously submitted true stories featured in Hakawatiyya, a three-season storytelling series run by Mauj, the ground-breaking digital platform for Arab women, like myself, where sexual wellness, desire and pleasure are openly discussed. It is the first of its kind. 

Mauj, the Arabic word for ‘wave’, was started in September 2020 by a group of (anonymous) Arab women from Jeddah, Beirut, Dubai and Cairo who wanted a better experience of sexual and reproductive education for the women in their countries. The platform offers science-backed resources, expert advice, and a safe space in the form of an Instagram page both in English and Arabic, as well as Amwaj, its private Facebook group, which enables women to connect with other Arab women and share concerns with gynaecologists, sex therapists and relationship coaches. In a part of the world where shame, secrecy and chastisement surround matters concerning female desire, Mauj’s virtual offering is seen as both boundary-pushing and controversial. 

So the founders went one step further with another barrier-breaking creation. Deem (meaning ‘constant rain’ and ‘endless pleasure’ in Arabic) is the first intimate product designed to help Arab women discover their sexuality and pleasure on their own terms. Needless to say, they had to be mindful of the environment in which their consumers exist, so it had to be discreet. A pink, droplet-shaped personal product that easily camouflages as any kind of hygiene tool, the name Mauj does not appear on the product, box or even on bank statements, and the box does not contain any instructions that point to what the product is meant for – but those who know, know. 

As an Arab woman myself, I can testify that when there is no one who looks like you discussing subjects such as sex and pleasure, and one is made to feel guilt for experiencing such ‘taboo’ human experiences, this community is a lifeline. The importance of Mauj putting Arab women at the forefront of this discussion cannot be overstated. It is the first time, but it should definitely not be the last. This is just the beginning of a discussion we’ve needed to have for a long time. 

Noran Morsi is a freelance journalist based in New York City, with Cairo roots. She’s an MFA candidate at New York University’s literary reportage programme and a YouTube journalism fellow


Image of graffiti in Melbourne, Australia
Gabriel Tan

My Time Down Under

Recently, on the Australia and New Zealand leg of my Future Nostalgia tour, I was lucky enough to put on my arena show in a theatre in Melbourne – at a one-off gig in St Kilda’s Palais Theatre. It was incredible, to say the least, and reaffirmed my love of Australia’s bohemian city. I always feel at home in Melbourne, which is equal parts free-spirited and stylish – and what I love is that it keeps its best spots hidden. With amazing food, a buzzing art scene and laid-back beach vibe, I invite you to get under its skin by visiting the places I’ve listed below…

Dua x

  1. Hope St Radio – a canteen-cool dining room named after its namesake indie internet radio station; this is not to be missed.
  2. Gimlet – nostalgia and glamour await at this Chicago-style cocktail bar and dining room housed in a landmark 1920s building.
  3. Carlton Wine Room – a neighbourhood bistro and bar, it serves food that just works with wine.
  4. National Gallery of Victoria – I was blown away by Australia’s new home for contemporary art and design.
  5. Nomad – serving Spanish, Moroccan and Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine that is just delicious. 

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Portrait of Yusra Mardini, and film stills from Netflix's The Swimmers
Netflix, © UNHCR/Paul Wu

The Swimmers: Yusra Mardini’s Journey From A Refugee Boat To The Olympics

Most people do not have their lives made into a film. Most people have not made an inconceivable trip from war-torn Syria to Berlin by a tiny dingy on a rough sea. And then had to spend three hours pulling it to safety when the motor gave out halfway through their journey. But then most people are not Yusra Mardini. The day before our interview, the 24-year-old walked the red carpet in London where she unveiled The Swimmers, a moving drama that details Mardini and her sister Sara’s harrowing journey from Damascus to Europe in 2015 and then to the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where Mardini swam for the Refugee Olympic Team. 

As a child, Mardini didn’t take to the water which, considering she came from a family of swimmers, was ironic. Her father (and swimming coach), Ezzat, pushed her to join the sport from a young age. “I complained about the [cold] water or cried because I didn’t want to swim. But slowly,” she recalls with a smile, “I started loving it and getting more competitive.” By age nine, she began taking the sport seriously, studied Michael Phelps’ technique, and soon became an accomplished athlete in her own right, competing across the globe.

Then in 2011, war struck her home of Syria, costing the lives of over 300,000 civilians and forcing over 13.5 million Syrians to leave their homes. The most important thing for her family, Mardini says, was “to try and feel normal again” as they moved from apartment to apartment after their house in Damascus was destroyed. 

The terror of the ongoing war led Mardini at age 17, along with her sister Sara and their two cousins, to make the perilous journey to Germany, leaving their parents behind. Explaining the thinking behind this, Mardini says they would rather “risk everything one more time, than [keep] risking everything every day by not knowing what was going to happen next”.

Her treacherous crossing was made via the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece, with 18 other people in a dinghy made to fit no more than seven (before continuing overland to Germany). It is one of the film’s most horrifying moments. “It was very realistic to me,” Mardini says about the scene. “And it was very emotional.” The motor gave out halfway through, and the Mardini sisters jumped into the sea to pull the boat to safety, fighting against the wind and rough tide for three hours. The film, Mardini notes, takes liberty on just one aspect of the journey: in real life, the sisters didn’t have a rope tied around their waist to prevent them from drifting away.

Miraculously, they made their way to Berlin where they became refugees. There were saving graces. While at the refugee centre, they swam at a pool in the city whenever they could and it was, says Mardini, “the one thing that made me feel like I was home again”. Through a local coach, Sven Spannekrebs, Mardini joined the Olympics’ refugee swimming team for both the Rio and Tokyo games. 

Today, Mardini continues to swim while also using her platform to shed light on the refugee crisis; in 2017, she became the youngest-ever Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR. Her sister’s own journey has been less straightforward. In 2018, Sara and other volunteers were arrested on the Greek island of Lesbos for assisting refugees making the same treacherous journey across the sea. The charges are described by Amnesty International as ‘unfair and baseless’. Nevertheless, at the time of going to press, Sara is still facing trial. “For a refugee that went through that journey, to go back and volunteer is very brave,” Mardini says. She hopes the film will not only raise awareness of her sister’s predicament but, ultimately, will change the world’s perception of those displaced, and encourage people to treat them with greater compassion – because “being a refugee is not something bad [but] it’s not something you choose to become”. 

Iana Murray is a Scottish-Filipina freelance culture journalist based in London whose work has been published in GQ, Vulture, W Magazine and more


Images of Sarah Diouf; Alioune Diouf's De Génération En Génération, 2020; Selebe Yoon; Seku Bi; Copacabana Surf Village; Thieboudienne and Sandaga Market
Sarah Diouf, Bizenga Da Silvo; Alioune Diouf, De Génération En Génération, 2020; Selebe Yoon; Seku Bi; Copacabana Surf Village; Thieboudienne; Sandaga Market, Alamy

My Hometown: Sarah Diouf’s Dakar

“You know that feeling when you know you belong to a certain place?” Sarah Diouf says of her home city of Dakar. The seeds of her love for the place were planted in childhood. She was born in Paris and spent her early years in Ivory Coast; however, both her parents are half-Senegalese. “I used to come here with my parents to visit but I never stayed extensively,” Diouf explains. In 2001, she left Ivory Coast to return to Paris where she studied and later worked as a fashion stylist and editor. “One of my best friends, whom I met in business school in Paris, is fully Senegalese. In 2013, when she went back to live in Dakar, I went to see her, and this was the first time I visited the city in a non-tourist way. This was the most incredible three weeks of my life.” Her own move to Dakar didn’t happen until a year later, but this experience was the catalyst for her brand Tongoro

Tongoro

“The global perception around African goods has been very bad for such a long time. I wanted to help change that. So, while still in Paris, I started playing around with fabrics and got local tailors in Dakar to make my clothes.” During Paris Fashion Week, her outfits were noticed by street style photographers, editors and friends, “as well as friends of friends of friends,” she recalls with a laugh. Many people began asking her to make clothes for them and Tongoro officially launched in 2016. From the sourcing of materials to the actual creation of the pieces, everything takes place in the Senegalese city. (Tongoro has since been discovered and worn by many high-profile names such as Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and Burna Boy.) 

The city itself has also recently had a starry moment. The good and great of fashion and celebrity recently descended on Dakar for a prestigious Chanel show. That said, Diouf’s unfailing love for her city runs much deeper than its current fashionability. “Dakar is such an amazing place. We all get to a stage in our lives where we are mentally, physically [and] spiritually seeking a peaceful kind of experience. Dakar is that place for me. It is so chilled, sunny most of the time and surrounded by the sea. The country is mostly Muslim [but] everyone lives peacefully with one another; when it’s Easter, everyone celebrates Easter, and when it’s Eid, everyone celebrates Eid. That, for me, is such a beautiful thing.” 

This is why, despite growing up in another African country, she is unequivocal about being rooted in Senegal. “I mean, my name is Diouf [a popular Senegalese name] and look at me,” she says with a laugh, “I look like a Senegalese woman. Also, there is no way I could have children and not be in complete possession of my cultural heritage. So,” she adds with finality in her voice, “while Ivory Coast is my home country, Dakar is where I belong.”

Sarah Diouf’s top Dakar recommendations…

  1. I love the work of painter and sculptor Alioune Diouf. You can see his work at the Selebe Yoon gallery. It is one of my favourite places for art. 
  2. Seku Bi is an old building that the owner transformed into a boutique hotel, which has views over the sea – and the food is amazing. 
  3. Copacabana Surf Village is where I go surfing, and you can eat and chill. The beach is great, and it just has a really good vibe. 
  4. Try thieboudienne, a national dish prepared with fish, rice and tomato sauce. The place to go for that is a very low-key restaurant downtown called Chez Loutcha. They make the best one. 
  5. You cannot leave Dakar without visiting the markets. Sandaga is well known. Here you can pick up fabrics that you can take to a tailor who will make you something very traditional, very cheaply. There are also brilliant inexpensive jewellers that can make something specifically for you that you will cherish forever. 

Past Beauty Papers covers featuring Maggi Hambling, Harry Styles, Zanele Muholi, Shirin Neshat and Eva and Adele
Issue 9 Maggi Hambling, Harley Weir; Issue 8 Harry Styles, Caspar Sejersen; Issue 9 Zanele Muholi, Zanele Muholi; Issue 10 Shirin Neshat - Untitled, Shirin Neshat; Issue 4 Eva and Adele, Greta Ilieva, Beauty Papers

This One Thing... Beauty Papers

If, like me, you are bored and frankly exhausted by society’s ever-present messaging – you know, the one that dictates who and what defines ‘beauty’ and why we all need to pursue it – then you will love Beauty Papers. Founded seven years ago by ex-makeup artist Maxine Leonard and creative director Valerie Wickes, this biannual ode to beauty – but not as you know it – was born out of a rejection of the singular ideal. Speaking about the genesis of the brand, Leonard says, “The beauty industry was not inclusive or playful or even inspiring. I was frustrated by the dangerous message that one size fits all.” This is why, if you buy the magazine expecting to read about the joys of contouring, slugging, or glass skin, then look away now. Beauty Papers pulls together leading writers, artists, cultural commentators, and photographers to explore thorny issues – be it female body hair or fatphobia – that flip mainstream beauty on its head. 

Issue 7 Cate Blanchett Performance, Casper Sejersen, Beauty Papers

Their covers have featured the likes of South African artist and queer rights activist Zanele Muholi, 77-year-old British artist Maggi Hambling, hermaphrodite twins Eva and Adele, and Shirin Neshat in a controversial take on Muslim representation (it got the magazine shadow-banned by Instagram and many retailers took it off the shelves). Though few and far between, every so often a celebrity will make an appearance but, in classic Beauty Papers style, it will always be unexpected; think Cate Blanchett reinvented as Andy Warhol, and a bare-chested Harry Styles sitting cross-legged on a chair wearing fishnet tights. Quelle surprise, the Styles issue sold out. But just as well. For every copy sold, a percentage of the sale price went to Haircuts4Homeless, a UK community-based charity where hairstylists give rough sleepers a wash, cut and style to boost their confidence. “Our desire,” explains Leonard, “is to create a different narrative and, ultimately, to create change.” And Beauty Papers is doing exactly that.   

Funmi Fetto is the global editorial director of Service95 and a contributing editor at British Vogue


Illustrated Seafood Jollof Rice dish
Vivian Uwakwe, 2022 ©

Yinka Ogunbiyi’s Warming Winter Recipe

British-Nigerian chef Yinka Ogunbiyi (@foodfireandsoul) splits her time between Boston and London. She invented the Kamado Joe SloRoller (which enhances ceramic grills by surrounding food in smoke and evenly distributing heat), co-designed a line of smart barbecue grills, and now has created an exclusive recipe for Service95.

Seafood Jollof Rice 

Jollof rice is one of the most cherished and (certainly within the West African community) debated comfort foods. Why? Because there are numerous iterations of this dish; some use long-grain rice, others use basmati, some add coconut milk, and others use tomato puree and tinned tomatoes as opposed to fresh tomatoes. Here’s my twist on the classic – loaded with fresh seafood and inspired by Portuguese arroz de marisco. It’s perfect for a dinner party, but I usually find myself spooning it straight from the pot into my mouth.

Ingredients
Serves 4-6

4 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 red bell peppers, stem removed and roughly torn
½ medium onion, roughly chopped
1 scotch bonnet chilli pepper (or habanero), deseeded
150ml (⅔ cup) vegetable or sunflower oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp curry powder
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fish stock bouillon cube
400g (2 cups) long-grain parboiled rice
Parsley (to serve)
Lemon (to serve)
Salt

Seafood
8 large head-on prawns, peeled and deveined (keep the shells)
½kg mussels, rinsed and scrubbed
½kg clams, soaked in salt water for 15 minutes

  1. Blend the tomato, red pepper, onion and scotch bonnet chilli pepper into a smooth puree.
  2. Heat the oil on a medium heat in a large non-reactive pot for three minutes to ‘cook’ the oil.
  3. Add the garlic, spices, herbs and stock to the oil and 2 teaspoons of salt. Add the shells of your deshelled prawns if using them. Fry for a minute or two until sizzling and aromatic. 
  4. Add the tomato blend. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes. Taste and season the sauce. It should be delicious and over-seasoned. Reserve ¼ of the sauce (about 120ml/½ cup) for later.
  5. Wash the rice well until the water runs clear and scoop it into the pot. Cover it, then turn the heat down low and steam the rice for around 30 minutes until soft with a bit of bite. Fluff the rice.
  6. Take the reserved sauce and layer it onto the seafood in a saucepan with a lid. Cover and steam for around 7 minutes until the prawns are bright red and the clams and mussels open. Discard any that don’t open. 
  7. Serve with chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon.

Things to note:

  • Try as far as possible to choose certified sustainable seafood. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is a good resource to find out more about this.
  • Parboiled rice is often labelled ‘easy cook’ or ‘golden sella’. If you can’t find it, jasmine or carolino rice work well.
  • Alternatively, swap the seafood out for a colourful pile of mixed vegetables such as carrots peeled into ribbons, whole green beans, sliced red and green bell peppers and shredded cabbage, and replace the fish stock for vegetable stock. Stir fry the veg on a high heat with a little oil and season with salt.

Yinka Ogunbiyi is a British-Nigerian chef and hosts a pop-up dinner series called Eat Your Mouth


Illustration of Dua Lipa making roast potatoes
© Laura Gulshani, 2022

My ‘Famous’ Festive Potatoes

I love this time of year when I can snuggle up at home in London and catch up with friends and family – which feels even more of a luxury after the whirlwind (yet incredible) year I’ve had. Another thing I like to do when I’m at home is get back in the kitchen and cook for those closest to me. My roast potatoes have become synonymous with the festive season in the Lipa household and I’m so happy to share my recipe with you. In 10 easy steps, you’ll have the most delicious, crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside potatoes. I hope they’re a great addition to your festive feast – they’re delicious plated up next to my roast chicken recipe, which I was filmed making in the summer.

Dua x

Ingredients
Serves 8

2kg Maris Piper potatoes
300g duck fat
1 head of garlic
10g sage
10g thyme
10g rosemary
Salt

Pre-prep: I do the following the night before to save time the next day.
1. Peel your potatoes, cut them in half (or into roughly 5cm pieces) and par-boil them for 15 minutes.
2. Drain the potatoes in a colander and let them dry for a few minutes.
3. Shake the colander so the edges of the potatoes are a bit rough (this helps the fat stick to the potatoes and creates a crispy outer layer and fluffy inside).  
4. Pour the potatoes into a deep tray large enough for the potatoes to sit in a single layer, smother them in the duck fat and season with salt.
5. Cover the tray in aluminium foil, pop it in the fridge and leave overnight.
Next day:  
6. Preheat the oven to 180°C. 
7. While the oven is heating, roughly smash the garlic cloves and pick and chop the herbs. 
8. Once the oven is heated, add half the herbs to the potatoes and put them in the oven for approximately one hour.
9. Take the potatoes out, crush them lightly with a fork and add the garlic and remaining herbs.
10. Pop them back in the oven for another 25 minutes and voilà – my ‘famous’ festive potatoes. Dig in and enjoy!

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Images of nightclubs and parties around the world
Queer House Party; 20ft Radio; Tube VR; Berghain, Simon Tartarotti; Filter; We House Sundays

“Partying Has Evolved In Ways We Never Expected”: How The Pandemic Changed The Way We Rave

It is late 2019, at around 1.30am, and I am in Dalston Superstore, east London’s most beloved queer bar. All around me, people are snogging and, even if they’re not, their sweaty bodies are pressed up against each other in the small heat of the basement, techno pounding through their bones, their collective breath making the mirrors steam up in the darkness. I don’t realise it, but this will be the last time I step foot in a nightclub for at least two years. In a few months, there will be a pandemic and multiple lockdowns. Clubs will shut their doors around the world. Eventually, nightlife will return, tentatively, but not in the same way. 

Lockdown might feel like a distant fever dream, but we’re still dealing with a global fallout when it comes to nightlife. In the UK, it’s predicted that one in three clubs will close by the end of 2022. Over in Berlin, Berghain – the world’s most iconic nightclub – is rumoured to be shutting its doors for good. It’s a trend repeating itself everywhere. Even across the US, many of the country’s most iconic clubs have shut their doors: LA’s gay club Rage, New York’s China Chalet, and drag club The Pyramid Club in East Village, to name a few. The heyday of clubbing as we knew it may indeed be over. 

But partying has also evolved in ways we never expected. Virtual nightlife thrived over multiple lockdowns (think Service95 favourite Queer House Party) and has become much more normalised, which is great for those not always able to physically be in a club. From virtual reality clubs such as Tube VR to online, non-physical alternatives to clubs including Kyiv’s 20ft Radio (which is an online radio station treated like a summertime venue, with line-ups and DJ sets), and global Twitch streams (a live streaming service most often used by gamers) – see Tokyo’s MOGRA – grassroots collectives have flourished in the spaces left by post-pandemic uncertainty. Partying has become sprawling, inventive, and not so rigidly defined by IRL locations. It’s an erratic, exciting time to be a clubber.

Meanwhile, the closure of nightclubs worldwide has made way for club nights with changing venues, such as Melbourne’s secret rave collective, Filter (which you DM to find out the location), Gay Bombay in Mumbai, and electronic music collective We House Sundays in Cape Town. 

Coco Cole, one of the UK’s most prominent voices in dance music and DJing, says that the closure of clubs has forced people to be imaginative and start their own nights. “Big established promoters and venues are still making up costs from the pandemic by booking big, risk-free line-ups certain to fill the venue, leaving little room for emerging artists,” she says. “So I think now is a good opportunity for new club nights, promoters and communities to create their own spaces and culture. As ever, the power is in the people.”

It’s impossible to predict what the future of partying will look like. But, regardless of what may lie ahead, people will always find a way to party, have fun, and dance until the sun rises – even from their bedrooms. 

5 must-visit clubs around the world

  1. Zer021, Cape Town, South Africa – An LGBTQIA+ and drag bar with zero shortage of wild club nights and performances.
  2. Salon Zur Wilden Renate, Berlin, Germany This multi-room renovated apartment in east Berlin is a must for clubbers looking for something unique and eclectic.
  3. 20ft Radio, Kyiv, Ukraine – 20ft Radio broadcasts music from a shipping container in a former ribbon-weaving factory and has a venue open from March to October every year.
  4. Womb, Tokyo, Japan – This 1,000-capacity club opened in 2000 and is spread across four floors with an unparalleled sound system, high-quality lighting, and extreme lasers.
  5. D-Edge, São Paulo, Brazil – A wildly futuristic, Tron-like super club that’s kept dance music alive and kicking in Brazil’s most populous city for the best part of two decades.

Daisy Jones is a culture writer, editor and author of All The Things She Said. Her work has appeared in Vice UK, British Vogue, Dazed, The Guardian and more


Images of Juma Kitchen and head chef Philip Juma

The Chef Set On Putting Iraqi Cuisine On The London Food Map

After spending five or so years post-university unhappily working in finance, Philip Juma – owner and head chef of Juma Kitchen, an Iraqi takeaway restaurant in London’s Borough Market – found himself cooking. “There are no romance stories of me on my nana’s knee or anything like that, cooking was just a nice distraction.”

A self-described “born and bred Londoner” – Juma’s mother is English-Irish – his kitchen journey began by hassling his Iraqi father for knowledge of the dishes they would eat at home. Or, as he puts it, “getting up in his face and pissing him off”. Juma grew up around dishes such as kubba and dolma and these family recipes were his only tangible reference point starting out. (Attempts to gain experience in Iraqi restaurants in London were unsuccessful; “chefs were suspicious and unwilling to share their knowledge,” he says.) This exploration of self and Iraqi identity has been at the heart of his cooking from day one.

Since then, Juma – both the individual and the kitchen – has been smashing it. A finalist in the 2021 BBC Street Food Awards, Juma has found himself on UK TV favourites Masterchef: The Professionals and Saturday Kitchen. Not bad for a distraction that started back in 2012 (one which has never had any PR or marketing representation). But, in Juma’s eyes, bringing Iraqi cuisine into the mainstream is bigger than success, bigger than anything on TV.

He has stories upon stories of Juma Kitchen fans messaging him and thanking him for representing Iraqis in a positive light. Back in January this year he visited Iraq for the first time, documenting the trip on Instagram, walking down Baghdad’s streets and visiting markets and churches – and he was blown away by the response. “The 25 to 35-year-old Iraqi diaspora worldwide were messaging me like, ‘Bro, you’re speaking in my head right now.’” So much so that one, from Australia, even sent Juma a screenshot of his flight confirmation to Iraq, thanking him for encouraging him to explore his family’s roots. As for Iraq’s identity crisis, Juma proudly acknowledges that, through Juma Kitchen, he’s “changing the narrative”. But his story isn’t about an eventual restaurant or cookbook, not just yet. As he says himself, “It’s become way bigger than food.”

Jake Missing is a London-based culture journalist who has written for Vogue, Noble Rot Magazine and Huck. He is a senior writer at The Infatuation


Illustrated portrait of Dean Baquet
Spiros Halaris, 2022 ©

Dean Baquet’s Top News Sources

In the latest episode of Dua Lipa: At Your Service – out tomorrow, Friday 9 December – the American journalist and former executive editor of The New York Times shares the other platforms where he gets his news.

  1. I love The Washington Post; I always have. We have a deeply respectful competition, but I love the paper and I read it every day.
  2. I read a lot of local news. Because of the work that I’m doing now [leading a local investigative New York Times fellowship], I look at the Los Angeles Times.
  3. I look at Mississippi Today, which is a not-for-profit in Jackson, Mississippi.
  4. I read The Texas Tribune as I try to get a little taste of news organisations around the [US]. 
  5. I read a lot of fiction, which has a lot of interesting perspectives. (I tend not to get it from social media, for better or for worse.)

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David Byrne's theatre production Theater Of The Mind
The Denver Center for the Performing Arts

Inside Music Icon David Byrne’s Mesmerising New Production ‘Theater Of The Mind’

Chatting with David Byrne is one of life’s greatest delights. Having initially found success in the 1970s with his band Talking Heads, the 70-year-old polymath has since used his creative capital to explore as many different interests and mediums as possible: albums, books, and even a web magazine called Reasons To Be Cheerful. “If you have these parallel interests, at some point, they’re going to come together,” he says. “You don’t have to plan it too much… you’ll stumble on it.”

This means, today, he’s up for discussing anything, including a playlist of Iranian protest music he’s in the process of curating for one of his monthly playlists on his website. “I listened to it as I was biking somewhere the other day, and [I thought], Oh, this is making me feel pretty good. The music is really innovative… has a great vibe to it. And it’s just incredibly passionate and very meaningful at this moment,” says Byrne.

That drive to explore led Byrne to his most recent project, Theater Of The Mind, a co-creation with writer Mala Gaonkar that runs until January at the York Street Yards in Denver, Colorado. Over the 75-minute production, a guide named ‘David’ – dressed in grey suits similar to the one the musician wore during the Broadway run of his acclaimed show American Utopia – escorts viewers through a series of otherworldly sets, representing the mind of a man revisiting memories, determined to “make things right”. (While Byrne doesn’t appear in person, he does make an unexpected cameo.) It’s an experience meant to destabilise your sense of self, as evident by the first stop – an anonymous office building where visitors are asked to pick up a nametag and adopt a new identity. If being called a name other than your own feels odd, just wait, the experience of ‘seeing’ in the dark, tasting lemons in a whole new way, and the sensation of shrinking thanks to a room’s enormous proportions make the production feel even more surreal. But while the sets are impressive (like a childhood party with aesthetics that feel plucked from the Squid Game universe), they’re backdrops for the real action: a series of experiments designed to make your mind work in very different ways. 

Byrne admits that while he’s always keen to stretch his creativity, the science behind those experiments is what initially caught his eye. “My first thought was to bring the work of one of the neuroscience labs into an art gallery, so someone can come in and have this perceptual experience,” he says. “That never happened, but in the meantime, I kept finding more things we wanted to try.” 

The production’s current form didn’t come together until rehearsals when an actor playing a guide offered to take a group through the experience from start to finish. An eager collaborator, Byrne was immediately certain they’d found the missing puzzle piece. “I thought, OK, there’s the structure of our storyline,” he says. “That was a big revelation.”

While the experience of visiting Theater Of The Mind reveals just how little we can trust our perception of reality, Byrne hopes the experience won’t simply highlight humanity as unreliable narrators. (“We’re probably much less rational than we think we are,” he says with a laugh.) If we can understand how we’ve been affected by our past, that means we can control how we shape our futures. “You realise how unreliable our memories are and our perception is [such] that we only see part of what’s out there,” he says. “All these things that could be taken to be really bad news [but] by the end, it gets turned around. As the character says, ‘unreliability is a kind of possibility’. It means that we have the possibility to change and rewrite our stories.”
Theater Of The Mind runs until 22 January 2023

Laura Studarus is a Los Angeles-based travel journalist who has written for BBC, Thrillist, Shondaland and Marie Claire

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Slides featuring the Service95 website

The Service95 Website Is Here!

I am so excited to announce the launch of our new website. We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to create a home for all our incredible past issues, so you can view our archive and catch up on anything you missed. Featuring our considered curation of recommendations, stories, thoughts and perspectives – including today’s incredibly thought-provoking essay by the Georgian writer Ana Morgoshia on the impact of Russia’s invasion on Ukraine and its neighbouring countries – it’s a must-read. And don’t worry: we’ll be rolling out the website in our other languages soon. 

Dua x

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Image of a man holding a sign in protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Vano Shlamov

“If Ukraine Falls, So Inevitably Does Georgia”: The Magnitude Of Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine

Turquoise waters, palm trees and, of course, the smell of tangerines, Abkhazeti (or Abkhazia as the Russian occupiers call it) has always been a dreamscape for me. A place that I knew a lot about but could never touch. Ever so present in my family’s life, it was always seen as a place of happiness and peace; our little slice of heaven that was forcefully taken from us in the 1990s. It is a place where I imagine my grandmother, with her long jet-black hair, playing volleyball by the beach with her friends. 

To this day, around 300,000 refugees from the occupied territories of Georgia carry the memories and burdens of being displaced – about 6% of Georgia’s total population. Even after 30 years, the shadow of the conflict looms large. It is hard to forget that once you had to walk through the mountains to get to safety in the middle of winter, your children frozen, and your family members were killed or raped. These stories sadly didn’t have international appeal in the ’90s. Frankly, nobody seemed to care about a small country fighting for its independence, for the ability to finally break free of Russian imperialism and choose its own destiny; to live in peace with its neighbours as it had done for centuries.

As clichéd as it may sound, Russia is the villain in the story, as in many other countries’ stories that have the misfortune of having it as a neighbour. On 24 February, when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, unlike people in the West, Georgians, like many others in Eastern Europe, were not surprised. We’ve been through it not once but three times in our 30 years of independence; the sham backstories used to create alternate realities for its citizens and kill thousands of innocent children, women, and elders. In 2014, much like Georgians, Ukrainians ousted their pro-Russian leader (Viktor Yanukovych) and once and for all showed that they were not willing to live under Russian dictate. The conflict started to show its ugly head around this time. Soon after this Ukrainian Revolution, Russia occupied Crimea and started a war in Donbas.

We’ve seen what the world saw in Bucha (the killing of Ukrainian civilians by Russian armed forces during the fight for the occupation of the Ukrainian city) in Gagra, Sokhumi, and all across the occupied territories. It is not something that suddenly erupted in Russia. Cruelty (to put it mildly) has always been its signature. We, sadly, were forced to suffer and survive in silence, and so were Chechens, when the whole world thought of the Chechen wars as Russia’s internal business and stood back as it used chemical weapons against peaceful civilians all around Chechnya. 

I’m always shocked when people say that this is Putin’s war. Many things are wrong with putting the situation in these terms. In Western academia, Russian/Soviet imperialism has been downplayed. The prevalent perception is that people who were forcibly integrated into the Soviet Union did so by their will; we just held hands and decided to live together. Let me clarify that this was not the case. In each instance, there was violence, murder, and ethnic cleansing. Those who fought for independence and their families were either deported or killed. Russians, however, still see themselves as the liberators of these lands. They believe the lie of a beautiful time when ‘all of us used to live peacefully like brothers’. Generations grew up there with Soviet nostalgia. It is one of Putin’s most important ideological lines against Russia’s neighbouring countries. When, in 2005, he said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” nobody blinked an eye. He was still thought of as a rational actor. Three years later, he invaded my country for the third time by setting the plan in motion for reversing this ‘tragedy’.

Then followed Ukraine. Our countries thus become even more intertwined. The future of one determines the future of the other. If Ukraine falls, so inevitably does Georgia. The independence of countries ranging from Central Asia to the Caucasus all the way to the Baltics depends on the outcome of this war. The citizens of these countries, like those in the West, deserve to live in free democracies. The refugees and internally displaced people should finally return to their homes and live in dignity. Freedom cost us our lives and brought endless suffering and pain. This decision, despite everything, will not be reversed. Georgia and Ukraine have firmly decided that their future is with Europe.

We are not and will never be Russian. Some still like to say that Russians are our brothers. To that, I say, better be alone than with such a sibling. A sibling that steals, rapes and kills. A sibling who deliberately wants to vanish you from the face of the earth. A sibling that calls your language ‘dog’s language’, destroys your churches, and pits the communities (such as Russian speakers in Donbas and Abkhazians/Ossetians in Georgia) against those with whom they lived peacefully for centuries.

Some mistakenly think that Russia is responding to a threat emanating from Nato. Here I would like those people to ask us, the citizens of these countries, why we chose this path. When you are constantly harassed by your ‘neighbour’ or an abusive husband (which is how I would characterise Russia’s relationship with the countries it used to rule), you would want to be protected since you can’t do so by yourself. Georgia and Ukraine are stubbornly pursuing Euro-Atlantic integration because of the Russian threat. We finally want security for us and future generations; to choose our destiny and become members of the Euro-Atlantic family. We paid for our choice with blood; now it is time for Europe to take decisive steps towards us.  

Right now, Ukrainians are at the front lines. They are showing the whole world an example of bravery and what love for your homeland truly means. The only thing that will change how Russians see the world is a military defeat. Unfortunately, this is the only way for them to finally understand that Ukraine and other so-called (I’ve grown to hate the term) post-Soviet countries are independent entities rather than their Gubernias (Gubernia is an administrative subdivision used in the Russian Empire).

I am a believer that one day I will be able to taste the tangerines in Sokhumi and swim in the turquoise sea. For that to happen, Ukraine must be victorious and stop Russian aggression once and for all. It is essential for the de-occupation of Ukraine and stability in Europe. (For example, Poland and the Baltics, who are members of Nato, are next in line if Putin is allowed to keep invading sovereign countries.) The threat to the whole continent is palpable. Georgian soldiers are fighting alongside our Ukrainian brothers for our joint freedom, and it is why I will proudly fly the blue and yellow flag with my beloved white and red until victory is finally achieved.

Ana Morgoshia is a writer and art historian based in Tbilisi, Georgia


Illustrated portrait of Pedro Almodóvar
Spiros Halaris, 2022 ©

Pedro Almodóvar’s Directors To Look Out For

In the latest episode of Dua Lipa: At Your Service – out tomorrow, Friday 2 December – the internationally acclaimed Spanish filmmaker shares some of the directors who inspire him today.

  1. Claire Denis – I admire the movies of this French director.
  2. Hirokazu Kore-eda – I especially loved [his 2018 film] Shoplifters, which won the Cannes award.
  3. Bong Joon-ho – I’m [looking forward to] his next movie after Parasite.
  4. Park Chan-wook – he’s South Korean, and [has a] new movie, Decision To Leave.
  5. The Coen Brothers – even though they have separated now. 

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Image of Dua Lipa on Future Nostalgia Tour
Elizabeth Miranda

What I’m Thankful For...

For those that don’t know, it’s Thanksgiving tomorrow in the United States, and although I’m not American, I love a holiday that encourages people to gather around a table with their family, eat delicious food and count the things they’re grateful for. I try to make a little gratitude list in my head before I go to bed most nights and, looking back at this incredible year, I’m so grateful for my health, my family and friends, my touring family, and my incredible fans I’ve had the chance to perform to all around the world! At the time of writing, we’ve done 93 shows, with a few more planned, but the love and support keep me going. At the risk of sounding trite, I’m also thankful for you, our curious, socially and politically engaged Service95 readers, who inform the way we work and tell stories. Without you, this would not be possible.

Dua x

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Film stills from Chinonye Chukwu's Till
Orion Pictures

Till: A Story Of Grief And Resilience In An Unequal World

When Chinonye Chukwu was approached to direct Till, the new film about civil rights activist Mamie Till-Mobley and the lynching of her son Emmett Till in the 1950s, she had just premiered her breakout feature Clemency at the Sundance Film Festival (where she became the first Black woman to win the festival’s esteemed Grand Jury Prize). For Clemency, about a warden played by Alfre Woodard, Chukwu had delved deep into the world of the prison system. After she emerged to widespread acclaim, she wasn’t sure she had the capacity to take on the brutal story of Till’s murder and, in the aftermath, his mother’s grief and activism. “It was navigating that seismic shift in my life, and also my need for emotional recalibration after that deeply immersive journey, that made me think: ‘Am I ready to start making Till?’” she says. 

When she met with producers, she came armed with a series of demands to which she didn’t think they would agree. She needed to write the screenplay, and do so in a way that foregrounded Mamie, played by Danielle Deadwyler. She refused to show “physical violence inflicted upon Black bodies”. And she wanted to “begin and end the story with joy”. Her requests were met, and what she made is a work that is devastating and instructive in the precise way it tackles one of the most horrific events in American history.

The act of witnessing is crucial to the story of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy who was murdered in 1955 in Mississippi after interacting with a white woman in a grocery store. Mamie demanded that her son’s body be shipped back to his hometown of Chicago and that the press and the public see the atrocities inflicted on it. In the sequence where Mamie sees Emmett’s corpse for the first time, Chukwu shields it behind a table in the morgue while Mamie takes it in before the camera pans up, revealing what she is looking at. “It’s honouring that moment that she has,” Chukwu says, adding, “I made sure that scene is humanising Emmett’s body and not objectifying it. We take our time and see Emmett’s body as Mamie sees it.”

Depicting his mother is, after all, the reason Chuwku wanted to tell this powerful story. “What drew me to Till was the real human negotiations Mamie had to make, the intention behind her strategies and decision making, the complexities of being a 33-year-old Black woman and a middle-class Black woman and the layers to her community and layers to her world,” she says. “Who is this person who is so often not centred in this story?” It’s that curiosity that has driven the filmmaker to present the inner workings of death row and introduce a vital activist to a new generation in a way that felt real. 

Visiting the locations where the events took place and speaking with people who knew Mamie only deepened Chukwu’s calling. “It takes these giants off the historical pedestal, reminding me that these are actual human beings,” she says. “It made me that much more intentional about humanising everyone.”
Till is in US theatres now and will be released worldwide from January 2023

Esther Zuckerman is an entertainment journalist whose work has been published by Thrillist, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair and Refinery29


Exterior of Wellspring Manor And Spa
Wellspring Manor And Spa

This One Thing... Wellspring Manor and Spa

As travel lovers, Lisa Brown Alexander and her husband Kevin Alexander traversed the world, and they found that they, as Black people, were not reflected in the experience of luxury travel. The food, the music, and the energy of the locations they went to felt distant at best, and sometimes even culturally cold. “We were kind of invisible,” says Brown Alexander, adding, “We realised there were limited offerings for luxury travel destinations that focused on the experiences of people of colour.” This threw up an opportunity and so, in 2018, they launched Wellspring Manor and Spa. Located just outside the Washington DC area, this over-seven-acre estate provides a full-service overnight spa and bed and breakfast that is the perfect intermingling of luxury, relaxation and culture. It’s a place that centres people of colour but is open to everyone. The suites are uniquely appointed ­– the Angelou, for instance, is named after Maya Angelou and the Chavez is named in honour of Mexican-American Cesar Chavez who fought for the rights of Latino workers in the US. The cuisine offered ranges from Southern comfort food – think shrimp, grits and waffles – to Caribbean-influenced delights. Wellspring is also famed for its art; there is a gallery on-site featuring a rotation of Black artists from around the world. It is there for all to enjoy but also serves as a statement around the issue of underrepresentation. “If we could put up three or four more art galleries, we still [wouldn’t] have the space to [show] the talent that exists in artists of colour who are otherwise unseen,” says Brown Alexander. Hence the couple has made it their mission to ensure that when people of colour enter Wellspring in search of rest, they never feel invisible.

Shayna Conde is a food, wine, travel, and lifestyle writer based in the New York City area. Her work can be found in Departures, Allure, FOOD52, Well+Good, USA Today and more. She also runs a Substack called Heart To Arts that focuses on highlighting Black-owned businesses and decolonising the wellness industry


Illustrated portrait of Greta Gerwig
Spiros Halaris, 2022 ©

Greta Gerwig’s Sacramento Must-Dos

In the latest episode of Dua Lipa: At Your Service – out this Friday, 25 November – the director, screenwriter and actor shares the spots to see, for any new visitor to her hometown of Sacramento. 

  1. Tres Hermanas – my favourite [place to eat] is this Mexican restaurant – it’s just delicious.
  2. Crocker Art Museum – there is a really nice collection of beautiful paintings there, and it’s got a lot of Californian art and artists.
  3. The American River Bike Trail – it’s a bike path that goes all along the American River and the Sacramento River and takes you by Old Sacramento, which looks the way it did in the 1800s.
  4. Tower Bridge – once you’re [on the path] you can hang out at Tower Bridge, which was the Brooklyn Bridge of my youth – it was iconic.
  5. Farmers’ markets – there are farmers’ markets every weekend – it’s part of the agricultural valley. There’s great food – it’s California… everything grows! 
  6. Tower Theatre – see a movie here. There was a record store called Tower Records, which started in Sacramento [and was named] because of the theatre. 

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Images of welsh poet Casi Wyn
Carys Huws; Llenyddiaeth Cymru, Literature Wales

Casi Wyn: The Poet Keeping The Welsh Language Alive

“There’s a tendency, from the English gaze at least, to see Welsh communities as inaccessible or to perceive Welsh-speaking communities as uninviting because language is something so specific,” says Casi Wyn – singer, co-founder of Welsh zine Codi Pais, and the current Children and Youth Poet Laureate for Wales (Bardd Plant Cymru). However, Wyn and her work are proof that Welsh identity – and the language that defines it – is not confined to one nation but that “you can bring the world to Wales, and Wales to the world and they don’t necessarily have to be separate entities”. 

Having been signed to Roc Nation as a songwriter, Wyn came to appreciate the power of lyricism and her own native language from a new perspective. “Communities are complex but more so if those communities intrinsically identify with traumatic events within a nation’s history, and a language that only a minority of the population speaks. I feel poetry and art can [be used to] resolve some of the ancestral pain that Wales carries.”

The ancestral pain dates back to the 13th century when the last Welsh king, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, was conquered by the English king Edward I and the term ‘Prince of Wales’ was created. In the centuries that followed, the Welsh language gradually became less dominant. During the Tudor dynasty, which ruled England and Wales from 1485 to 1603, Wales was absorbed into the English administrative system and lost its own traditions. From that time, there was a slow decline in the publication of Welsh literature (even though, apart from Latin and Greek, the Welsh language has the oldest literature in Europe). By the 19th century, all education in Wales was taught in the English language and, in some schools, children were made to wear a wooden plaque around their necks with the letters WN (Welsh Not) inscribed on it if they spoke Welsh.

Now, Welsh is a language spoken by about 899,500 people, roughly 29.7% of the country’s population. As Bardd Plant Cymru, Wyn’s work consists of travelling around the country introducing children to Welsh-language literature and the expressive power of creative writing, while simultaneously championing the cause of preserving a language that runs the risk of extinction.

This work is a larger lesson about minority languages. Every language is its own philosophy, a set of building blocks its speakers use to construct their understanding of themselves and communicate with the people around them. It is no surprise then that language has always been inextricable from the politics of its place; used in equal measure as a tool of both domination and defiance.

We see this in Wales, where the neighbouring presence of the world’s most linguistically dominant nation has, in Wyn’s words, “given it a fragility that drives Welsh poets and artists to use it as a vehicle of authentic power and defiance”. We see it in Turkey where it was illegal to speak Kurdish until 1991 and where there is still no right to mother-tongue education in schools. We see it in Tibet, where the Chinese government has instituted a number of methods to make Chinese the dominant language in Tibetan schools. The list goes on.

Wyn offers an inspiring example of the work being done within minority communities to ensure native languages not only survive but flourish. “As someone who identifies closely with my Welsh roots, I’ve learned to accept and embrace that I have a different understanding of the world through the lens of Welshness and the vocabulary that I’ve inherited,” says Wyn. “Trying to understand our differences by creating and designing things that are beautiful, that are valuable, that are inclusive, that are celebratory of life in all its complicated strands, is what inspires my work. It’s valuing the smaller things, things that perhaps from an outside perspective seem insignificant – and that at its core, for me at least, is the essence of poetry.”

Mary Cleary, a London-based New Yorker, is the beauty editor at design publication Wallpaper* Magazine


Images of Dua Lipa on the Japanese art island Naoshima

A Creative Paradise: Japan’s Art Islands

Still on my Future Nostalgia tour, 2022 has been full-on, but I feel so lucky to have seen what feels like every corner of the world this year. After my time in Tokyo last month, I got to island-hop Japan’s art islands Naoshima, Inujima and Teshima, and can’t begin to describe the joy I felt, soaking up all the – what some call – ‘arty-pelago’ had to offer. Filled with surreal installations, cutting-edge museums, and architectural excellence, the amount of creativity on display there was immense, and I left feeling so inspired. If you’re ever there, these are the places to hit up.

Dua x

  1. Benesse House Museum – integrating a museum with a hotel, this is an amazing place to stay on Naoshima.
  2. Valley Gallery – designed by Tadao Ando, this Naoshima geometric gem capitalises on its secluded setting and houses Yayoi Kusama’s incredible Narcissus Garden installation.
  3. Chichu Art Museum – literally meaning ‘art museum in the earth’, this Naoshima museum is built underground and is a work of art itself. 
  4. Yayoi Kusama’s Yellow Pumpkin – it is very cool to see the iconic installation in nature on Naoshima’s coast.
  5. Inujima Seirensho Art Museum – incorporating an art gallery into the ruins of a former copper refinery, this museum was built around the idea of ‘using what exists to create what is to be’ – and it’s just epic.
  6. Inujima Art House Project – a collection of galleries that transforms the town into a museum!
  7. Teshima Art Museum – this has the most striking architecture and was designed to be an artwork that interacts with its environment.
  8. Teshima Yokoo House – a collaboration between artist Tadanori Yokoo and architect Yuko Nagayama, they renovated an old private house to create a gallery like no other.

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Images from the queer club night Queer House Party
Queer House Party, Maite De Orbe

Queer House Party: The DJ Collective Centring Politics And Accessibility In Queer Club Nights

“It’s wild how we started in a really rundown, overpriced house-share in New Cross [south London] with a grotty kitchen and then, fast forward just over a year, we’re literally playing Wembley [Arena].” This is how Harry Gay, DJ and co-organiser of the collective Queer House Party (QHP), summarises the group’s journey over the past couple of years.

Harry, along with fellow DJs Nik (DJ passer) and Seren (Wacha), and hosts and dancers Taali Akosoa Kwaten and Liv Wynter, set up QHP during the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. Fast forward two years and they’ve run private gigs for corporate types halfway across the world, raised tens of thousands of pounds for grassroots community groups through live shows, gone on tour with the pop act Years & Years, performed at multiple festivals (including Latitude, Secret Garden Party and Sziget), and brought joy to the lives of queer people all over the globe.

Known for their eclectic playlists as well as their sense of community, radical politics and accessibility, Queer House Party started out as a fun way to financially support themselves and fellow LGBTQIA+ creatives who were excluded from government pandemic funding in the UK. When over a thousand people ‘attended’ their first livestream event, it was clear to the team they’d struck creative gold. “We started getting messages from people about how much it was helping them,” says Gay. “People were in lockdown with family members who didn’t know about their sexuality or gender identity, and it gave them a space where they could go and be themselves.”

Going on tour with Years & Years was one of the collective’s biggest highlights, not only because they got to play arenas, but because of the connections those stages helped forge with younger queer people. With a fanbase typically too young to attend a club night, the Years & Years tour allowed queer teens to experience a QHP performance they wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend. “We got the most special messages from people [saying], ‘I’ve just seen this, and I’m now going to come out to my mum.’ We had a lot of emotional moments,” says Akosoa Kwaten.

In August alone, QHP played at 17 live events – with little sleep in between. This autumn, they are resetting and planning their next move. “There are a lot of queer parties that just grow and they lose their roots,” explains Gay, “so it’s really important to us that we keep our core values, centre things [such as] accessibility, our politics, and remember where the party actually came from.”
Find Queer House Party on Instagram and Twitter

Molly Lipson is a freelance writer and organiser from the UK


Image of Michelle Obama's book The Light We Carry

This One Thing... The Light We Carry By Michelle Obama

The book we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. The Light We Carry, the follow-up to the former US First Lady’s memoir (Becoming), opens a candid and compassionate conversation about life’s challenges, exploring the big questions many of us are grappling with right now: How do we find power and community in the face of our differences? How can we build lasting and fulfilling relationships? And what can we do to cope when it all feels too much? With her unfaltering wit and wisdom, Obama poses strategies we can all adopt to help us navigate change, find new paths to progress, and remain balanced in flux, offering much-needed hope and light in these uncertain times.

Samantha de Haas is acting managing editor and chief copy editor at Service95


Illustrated portrait of Mo Farah
Spiros Halaris, 2022 ©

Mo Farah’s Top Organisations Supporting Survivors Of Human Trafficking

In this week’s episode of Dua Lipa: At Your Service – out tomorrow, Friday 18 November – Dua is joined by British sporting legend Mo Farah. A four-time Olympic gold medallist for the 5,000 metres and the 10,000 metres, Farah is the most successful male track distance runner ever. Earlier this year in the BBC documentary The Real Mo Farah, he revealed he was trafficked to the UK as a child. He shares with Service95 the organisations helping those who have endured the same fate.

  1. Human Trafficking Foundation – makes changes at the government level.
  2. Unseen – provides support and runs a helpline for survivors in the UK.
  3. Barnardo’s – helps trafficked children in the UK.
  4. Hope for Justice – a global charity helping survivors of human trafficking.

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Images of bookstores in Malaysia
Pelita Dhihin Bookstore; Tokosue; Riwayat; Moontree House; Balai Buku Raya

How The Pandemic Made Malaysia A Nation Of Bookstore Lovers

When a 2020 nationwide lockdown forced businesses in Malaysia to close physical storefronts, the fate of independently owned bookstores seemed to hang dangerously in the balance. 

Prior to the pandemic, a 2019 study found that Malaysians typically only read two books a year on average. But something fascinating happened to Malaysians while they were forced into home isolation: they started to read more. According to the National Library of Malaysia, the borrowing of digital reading materials doubled from 2019 to 2020.

Bookstores that were able to move online saw a resurgence in sales. Pelita Dhihin Bookstore, a Petaling Jaya-based bookstore specialising in local and international Islamic literature and philosophy, saw an increase of 30% in sales in 2020 compared to 2019. 

It is amid this promising rise in demand that some bricks-and-mortar bookstores have been able to keep their doors open, while new players have been encouraged to open storefronts. Tokosue started as an online store on Shopee (a leading online shopping platform in Southeast Asia) over the pandemic and did so well that founder Sue Ahmad was encouraged to pursue her dream of starting a physical bookstore. Now located in Wisma Central shopping centre, Tokosue focuses on self-published books and DIY zines, and runs small music gigs, art events and readings. 

Riwayat Bookstore, which also opened over the pandemic, is housed in a pre-war building in Kuala Lumpur’s downtown. Founded by a duo of book collectors, Riwayat primarily highlights rare, used, and vintage books, with a focus on Malaysian and South-East Asian history, culture, and politics.

Bookstores are also surviving because they’re often also community hubs that build a following around particular interests, languages, genres, political leanings, or identities. Moontree House, a small bookshop tucked away on the outskirts of the touristic hub of Central Market, for example, is home to Chinese-language books on feminism, as well as a tiny cafe. A small poster underneath the shop’s sign features an illustration of a woman in a cheongsam (a Chinese dress), and fittingly reads ‘DRINK COFFEE N’ SMASH PATRIARCHY’. 

Balai Buku Raya, located in the Zhongshan Building (a KL-based artist collective), has a loyal following of customers drawn to its collection of rare and out-of-print books and magazines in both Malay and English. Inside the one-room bookstore, antique books spill from the shelves and are stacked on floors and tables. 

To find Kuala Lumpur’s most interesting bookstores, you’ll have to dig underneath the surface. That means turning away from large malls such as KLCC and Pavilion and adventuring to find niche and humble bookstores hidden in off-road shop lots and artist hubs. You might not always find the book you’re looking for, but the books you do find will almost certainly surprise and delight you.

Lily Jamaludin is a Malaysian writer, poet, and NGO worker


Please note, due to Thanksgiving in the US, next week’s issue will be sent a day earlier, on Wednesday 23 November.


Dua Lipa in Tokyo wearing a black leather outfit

My Time In Tokyo

Last month, I had the pleasure of spending some time in Tokyo again, a city where the energy is almost palpable. It’s like nowhere else I’ve been, and I’m fascinated by its merging of old and new, tradition and technology. I was lucky enough to take a deep dive into this mind-blowing city on my latest visit and I’m already trying to find reasons to go back. Below are the places I recommend you seek out.

Dua x

  1. Narukiyo Izakaya – a no-menu dinner place that I am obsessed with; great food, a really fun vibe and the owner seems to have an obsession with having phallic objects all around.
  2. Mori Art Museum – such a cool museum with amazing exhibitions. (When I was there, I went to Listen To The Sound Of The Earth Turning, which made me rethink who we are as people and the state the world is in right now.) 
  3. Sushi Yuu – this is my absolute favourite sushi spot.
  4. Studio Ghibli Museum – if you’re a fan of Ghibli anime then this is a must-see – it’s so fun to dive into this creative world (and the Ghibli theme park opened earlier this month).
  5. Amore Vintage – the best collection of vintage designer bags and accessories, and the occasional apparel. I try not to shop and save up to go here when I’m in Tokyo – it’s worth the wait.

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Portrait of author and activist Soma Sora, and the cover of her book, Everyone's Invited

The Activist Fighting To Eliminate Rape Culture In Schools

“There was a rape culture that existed where sexual violence was normalised and swept under the carpet. I just felt I had to do something about this,” says activist Soma Sara. That something is Everyone’s Invited. The online platform, founded in 2020 by the then 22-year-old, was set up as a safe space where young people, still at school or university, can share their experiences anonymously. “It all started from having conversations with friends during lockdown,” explains Sara, “and just realising how many of us had been victims of harassment, abuse and violence.”

As more accounts of sexual violence within UK-based educational establishments were shared, the platform went viral; well-respected universities such as Warwick and Exeter were among those with testimonies piling up against them, attracting the attention of the UK media. Undoubtedly, her work stirred uncomfortable but important conversations.

Concerns have been raised that the site could unfairly implicate individual boys without the right to reply and that schools can be singled out without the means to investigate anonymous claims. There’s even a suggestion that the site can negatively impact communications between boys and girls, with some boys afraid that their interactions with girls could inadvertently be stigmatised as predatory. However, Sara argues, “We have to have empathy for both sides and understand different people’s experiences.” She believes that for real change to occur, this understanding must include everyone but at times this message has been lost. Everyone’s Invited, she explains, is not about causing a war between genders. “I really wanted to interrogate and grapple with this culture and get to the root causes and, in doing so, hopefully find some solutions.” 

Two years on, Sara “needed to continue the work that needed to be done”. Hence, early this autumn, the recent graduate and activist released her debut book, Everyone’s InvitedTouching on subjects that range from toxic masculinity and female beauty standards to the problems plaguing the porn industry, and naïve parents, Sara’s essays leave no stone unturned when it comes to breaking down the patriarchal structure that, in her eyes, has created a ‘rape culture’ among young people – a phrase that specifically refers to the derogatory ways that boys speak about girls; the objectification, slut-shaming and casual jokes that constitute sexual harassment. 

The topic of rape culture was always going to be controversial and Sara recognises the extreme challenges that come with being one of the de facto faces of the movement. “It is psychologically exhausting to be in this kind of work; it can be incredibly tiring and emotional. Also, when you are being attacked, it comes from an incredibly personal place – most often from mothers of boys. It can be hard as you feel very exposed.” 

Documentaries such as 2015’s The Hunting Ground, an exposé of sexual assault crimes on US college campuses and the cover-ups made by colleges, explicitly show this is not solely a UK-based issue. The availability of pornography, the influence of hyper-misogynistic figures such as Andrew Tate and the laissez-faire attitude taken towards the sex-ed curriculum all, arguably, contribute to a culture that promotes violence within intimacy. This is why, in 2022, Everyone’s Invited launched an educational programme to help schools tackle rape culture. From staff training to workshops on how to be an active upstander, Soma Sara and her team are devoted to creating a world where, ultimately, Everyone’s Invited has a community of zero.

Pia Brynteson is editorial assistant at Service95


Jewellery pieces from Marco Panconesi
Thomas Cristiani, Marco Panconesi

This One Thing... Panconesi

Marco Panconesi planned to be an archaeologist before pivoting to fashion design, and it is the melding of those two disciplines – one dedicated to rediscovering the past, the other focused on pre-empting the future – that shapes his jewellery brand Panconesi’s idiosyncratic aesthetic; creations that look like artefacts that once belonged to an alien queen. 

The brand’s best pieces are the ones that most fully embrace their sci-fi quirkiness, such as the Double Kilter earrings that can be worn as elegant hanging hoops or cuffed to orbit around the ear, or the Vacanza necklace with its misshapen two-toned pearls that look like psychedelic raindrops suspended along the neckline. The brand’s recent launch – in collaboration with south-London fashion label KNWLS – includes the Galax ring, with stones that float off the body like a constellation of gemstones.

The prices, however – at least relative to other jewellery lines – are not stratospheric. A chunky ear cuff can be purchased for €108 and if that’s too steep, the delightful Encyclopaedia Posters depicting rainbow gems start at a more accessible €33 – and are the perfect jewels to adorn your walls. 

Mary Cleary, a London-based New Yorker, is the beauty editor at design publication Wallpaper* Magazine


Illustrated portrait of Dita Von Teese
Spiros Halaris, 2022 ©

Dita Von Teese’s Best Burlesque Dancers Of All Time

The American burlesque dancer, model and businesswoman shares the women that came before and inspired her love of performing on stage. 

  1. Gypsy Rose Lee – for people who have never heard of her, watch the film Gypsy with Natalie Wood. Although I would suggest if you were more interested in knowing the real story, read a book about her. 
  2. Sally Rand – another amazing woman who has toured her whole life; doing her feather fan dance made her famous around the world. 
  3. Lili St Cyr – she was more a ’50s performer on the later end of the supper club scene – you can see lots of great videos of her performing. She was just so elegant and beautiful, although she was a troubled person later in life. 
  4. Catherine D’lish – she’s taught me everything I know and is the person who coaches me. She also creates the most lavish costumes, including the beautiful Swarovski crystal one I wore in Don’t Worry Darling
  5. Dirty Martini – when I go on tour, she is the first person I check to see is available. Dirty Martini brings the house down all over the world. She is an incredible tassel twirler and, for me, the best burlesque performer that you can see today – just incredible!  

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Images of the Indian restaurant Dhamaka in New York
Paul McDonough, Will Ellis

“Unapologetically Authentic Indian”: The Restaurateur Changing The US Food Scene

The hardest table to get in New York City might just be inside a food hall next to a Regal Cinemas. There is no tried or true way to get a table at Dhamaka, the restaurant that serves “provincial Indian cuisine” inside Essex Market. But if you can get in, you will discover combinations of flavour (and levels of heat) that many would never have encountered before; a spicy biryani with a plethora of layers, a cocktail built around betel leaves and, for the brave, goat testicles. Dhamaka, needless to say, is a game-changing addition to New York’s restaurant scene.

Chintan Pandya, the award-winning chef behind Dhamaka, and his co-founder Roni Mazumdar started their restaurant group Unapologetic Foods because they wanted to serve “unapologetically authentic Indian”. The ethos is just as applicable to the unapologetic scale of Pandya’s goals. “My ambition has always been to push the needle forward for Indian food,” he says.

“I want to make Indian food a mainstream cuisine in America,” Pandya continues. He cites Italian and French as so-called “mainstream cuisines,” comparing them to the relatively underdeveloped place of Indian food in the US. There’s also, he notes, enduring racism in the food industry (and the real estate industry that runs beneath it). “Even today, there are landlords that don’t want Indian restaurants in their spot,” Pandya says, revealing how over the course of his career, landlords have upcharged him and revoked leases.

For the past few years, Unapologetic Foods has been transforming the place of Indian food by blowing up the New York dining scene with its blitz of new restaurants. Of course, there are the dine-in spots such as Dhamaka and Semma, the South Indian restaurant run by Pandya’s colleague Vijay Kumar that just landed in The New York Times Best American Restaurants. But Pandya is also breaking into fast casual and delivery with Kebabwala (a top-notch kebab spot in a city where they’re hard to come by) and Rowdy Rooster, a tiny joint in the East Village where you can grab an insanely spicy chicken sandwich with a mango lassi and some eggplant bites on your way home from work. “People laugh at us [and say], ‘You have these successful restaurants, why are you opening up a small fried-chicken kiosk thing?’ And I just say, ‘We love it! We love fried chicken,’” says Pandya. And if running multiple award-winning restaurants (including Masalawala & Sons, a brand-new, already-packed Park Slope smash hit) and launching a fast-casual food empire wasn’t enough, Unapologetic Foods is also working on ‘aerobanquets’ – a dining experience in the metaverse mediated by virtual-reality headsets. (On the day I spoke to him, Pandya squeezed me in between kitchen tests and meetings with Facebook.)

This is all to say that Pandya is doing a lot, and fast. True to the name of his brand, though, he’s not sorry about it. If anyone really can change the face of Indian cuisine in America, it’s him.

Colin Groundwater is a freelance journalist based in London and New York whose work has appeared in GQ and Vanity Fair


Images of book covers featured in Dua Lipa's autumn book recommendations

The Booker Prize And My Lifelong Love Of Reading

I recently had the pleasure of giving the keynote speech at the Booker Prize ceremony in London, which celebrates true loves of mine: reading, writing, and the authors who bring these incredible stories to life. Though you’ve heard from me on our At Your Service podcast, and even in this very letter, about how important books are to me, I can’t emphasise enough the comfort, warmth, and joy that reading brings me. As I write this, I’m about to embark on the final leg of my Future Nostalgia tour in Australia and New Zealand and, as always, I’m bringing along some books to keep me company. Here’s what I’ll be reading…

Dua x

  1. Seven Days In June by Tia Williams
  2. The Beekeeper Of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
  3. Fates And Furies by Lauren Groff
  4. The Road by Cormac McCarthy 
  5. Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

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A self-portrait and image of Joy Labinjo
Courtesy of Joy Labinjo, Tiwani Contemporary; Deniz Guzel; Lucy Jones

The Way I Work... Joy Labinjo

The acclaimed artist speaks to journalist Marie-Claire Chappet about everything in her working life, from her studio soundtrack to her daily inspirations 

London-born, of Nigerian heritage, 28-year-old Joy Labinjo is one of the most celebrated rising stars on the British art scene. Her often-large-scale paintings with abstract influences and use of bold colours overflow with storytelling, frequently using family photographs as source material, foregrounding narratives around Blackness and identity, power, and community. She has exhibited widely, from London to Lagos. Since November 2021, her first ever large-scale public art piece 5 More Minutes – portraying an Afro-Caribbean hair salon – has been on display at Brixton Underground station in London.

She tells Service95 what her working day is made of…

On her routine… I always wake up at 5.45am and go to the gym. That sounds early but I need it to be because I dilly-dally so much! I have a coffee in bed, leave an hour for the workout, have a slow breakfast, and don’t get to my studio in north London until 8am. On a busy day, I tend to leave at 8pm, but I work in ebbs and flows. When I was at university, the artist Dexter Dalwood came to speak to my class and he said, “put the weird hours in”. That’s always stayed with me. The morning and evening are when I am the most productive but if I’m really feeling it, I will stay late for those ‘weird hours’.

Clockwise, from top left: Gilmore Guys podcast artwork; characters from Gilmore Girls; Sudan Archives’ Athena album cover; Sault’s Little Boy album cover; Portico Quartet’s Prickly Pear album cover, Narciso Rodriguez’s For Her

On listening habits… I always have something playing when I’m working. I have Confessions by Sudan Archives, Prickly Pear by Portico Quartet and Wildfires and Little Boy by Sault on repeat, which almost feels like meditation. Those ones have stuck over the past few years. I can’t quite describe why… it’s just a feeling. I also sometimes listen to podcasts. My favourite is Gilmore Guys, a hilarious one about Gilmore Girls, which I love. I don’t get a lot of work done when I put that on!

On finding inspiration everywhere… I think creative people are like sponges who get inspired by so much. I’ve found titles for my paintings in the comments section on Instagram. I resolved an issue with an artwork when I saw a clown in an episode of Gilmore Girls… I find stuff in the weirdest places.

On fashion and beauty… I wear loose T-shirts and men’s cargo trousers every day in the studio. I like them because they’ve got lots of pockets to hold my brushes, and as I like to wipe the paint on my legs, with those trousers it doesn’t go through to my skin. When I’m not painting, I like a tailored silhouette; I love Cos, &Other Stories and Ganni. I like how fashion can help you feel like a different person each time you change your look. What I don’t change is my signature scent: Narciso Rodriguez’s For Her.

From left: Mauritius; Petit Palais, Paris; Centre Pompidou, Paris

On travel… I have made a vow to travel more. In 2020, I was lucky enough to be working in Athens for six weeks. I had friends visit and stay with me and we would hop off to the islands. I would paint all day and have dinner with them late at night. It made me realise I want to live like that more. It was such a magical time. Next up, I am going to Mauritius, which I am so excited about, and Paris, where I haven’t been since I was a teenager. I can’t wait to go to all the galleries. 

A Guilty Conscious Need No Accuser, 2022, Joy Labinjo, Tiwani Contemporary; A Fashionable Marriage, 1986, Lubaina Himid

On fellow creatives… I admire any artist who has had a long career, such as Alice NeelLubaina Himid and Claudette Johnson. To keep working for over 40 years and still have something to say… I wish for a career like that! I have two Claudette Johnson prints that are my prized possessions. I have never put them up, but I just bought a house and am so excited to finally hang them. 

The Modern House

On her fascination with houses… I love @themodernhouse on Instagram and have always been obsessed with houses. If I wasn’t an artist, I would want to be an estate agent. You get to look at people’s houses all day! 

Marie-Claire Chappet is a London-based arts and culture journalist and contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar


Images of locations around the world identified using the locations app What3words
What3Words

This One Thing... What3words

The latest app to revolutionise our lives? What3words. Dividing the world (yes, the whole world) into three-metre squares and giving each square a unique three-word ‘address’, this innovative app is the easiest way to find and share exact locations. No more traipsing around festivals looking for the umpteenth food truck as a meeting spot, just share your three words and your friends can find you. Functional day-to-day for deliveries or if your car breaks down, and potentially lifesaving in an emergency, say, if you have an accident on a country walk, we don’t know how we managed without it.

Samantha de Haas is acting managing editor and chief copy editor at Service95


Illustrated portrait of Dan Levy
Spiros Halaris, 2022 ©

Dan Levy’s Los Angeles Eats

The actor, writer, director, comedian, and producer shares his can’t-miss restaurants in LA in the latest episode of Dua Lipa: At Your Service – out tomorrow, Friday 4 November.

  1. Little Dom’s – this place does the greatest blueberry ricotta pancakes on the planet. 
  2. Bulan – a vegetarian Thai restaurant, they do a vegan buffalo wing that is extraordinary.  
  3. Pizzeria Sei – a new pizzeria I haven’t tried yet, but I really want to. 
  4. Tacos y Birria La Unica – this food truck does mind-blowing tacos. 
  5. Konbi – head here for an egg salad sandwich that is out of this world.  

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Images of the Kosovo Pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale created by artist Jakup Ferri
Jakup Ferri, Leonit Ibrahimi

The Exhibition At Venice Biennale Revelling In The Joy Of The Everyday

Representing the Republic of Kosovo at the 59th Venice Biennale, Jakup Ferri’s The Monumentality Of The Everyday is a cheerful feast for the imagination. It features large-scale paintings, embroideries and hand-woven rugs with geometric designs showcasing a playful, whimsical, and somewhat surrealist take on ‘the everyday’. Punchy coloured canvases teeming with a hodgepodge of characters – acrobats, anthropomorphic animals, children, and musicians – are reminiscent of children’s drawings and the works draw from both urban life and folk tradition, reflecting Ferri’s long-standing affinity for so-called ‘outsider’ (produced by untrained artists) and vernacular art. 

The design of the pavilion, mimicking the rounded interior of a submarine, encourages casual, informal engagement with the works. Viewers are asked to remove their shoes before entering and have taken to lying down on the carpets, hands behind their heads with elbows flared out as if taking in the sights from their own living room. In this celebration of the everyday, the little tasks built into our quotidian routines – trivialities such as brushing your teeth, getting dressed, vacuuming, hanging clothes out to dry, watching television, listening to music, and riding a bike – are magnified and amplified into vivid moments of levity and joy. 

In one of the most memorable paintings of the exhibition, a family stands beneath the sun and clouds, catching streams of raindrops in their pails. A little girl stands off to the side, with a life-size glass that is nearly full, catching drops of sunshine, reminding us not to forget the light peeking through the clouds.
The Monumentality Of The Everyday is at Venice Biennale until 27 November

Suzana Vuljevic is a historian, literary translator, and writer. She holds a PhD in history and comparative literature from Columbia University. Her essays and translations have been published in AGNI, Eurozine, Exchanges and more


Images of memorial service, tributes and Brandon Wolf's speech in honour of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando
Getty Images, Alamy

The Power Of Difficult Conversations

I’m so lucky to have been joined on our At Your Service podcast by such awe-inspiring and gracious guests so far, and tomorrow’s episode – with LGBTQIA+ activist and Orlando, Florida-based gun-safety advocate Brandon Wolf – is no exception. Though you may not know Brandon’s name, some of his story is likely to be familiar: a survivor of the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016 – 49 people were killed, including some of Brandon’s friends – he has spent the years since processing and channelling his grief into affecting change. It was an honour to speak with him about that night, how he is pushing for gun control in America, and how his life has changed in the past six years.

Brandon has given me so much to think about, I hope you take away as much as I did from our conversation ­– and don’t miss the activists he invites you to follow in his list below. 

Dua x

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Promotional image for KPOP the musical featuring the cast and performers
Peter Ash Lee

The New Musical Offering A Piercing Look Into K-Pop

As a genre, K-pop – the South Korean export known for varied musical styles, high-concept performances, and chart-dominating groups – has stormed nearly every corner of the world, but now it’s poised to bow on an entirely new stage.

Earlier this month, the Broadway musical KPOP arrived at New York’s Circle in the Square Theatre, giving attendees a piercing new look inside the musical phenomenon – with an actual K-pop star in the leading role.

When KPOP was last performed in New York in 2017, it took the form of an immersive Off-Broadway experience. It also probed the question: why hadn’t K-pop yet crossed over to the US? At the time, BTS was just beginning its American breakthrough. Now, in 2022, that crossover has happened – and then some – meaning the musical’s focus has not only evolved to fit its new venue (audience members will stay seated this time around) but also the moment it’s arriving in, to say nothing of the fanbase that will greet it.

“Now [it’s] really exploring the specific, emotional journey a K-pop star has to go through,” explains composer Helen Park, who co-wrote the show’s music.

KPOP takes place during a one-night-only concert taping, during which a fictional star – played by Luna, who began her career as part of the pioneering K-pop girl group f(x) – walks off stage. Co-creator Jason Kim says he wanted to create a musical in the style of backstage, behind-the-curtain stories such as Gypsy. That dissection of identity and ambition is at KPOP’s core, but the musical also delivers the joy and energy of its concert framing, with the show’s boy band, girl group and Luna’s character all getting moments to shine.

Park wanted the music for the show to truly honour K-pop, which meant a lot of research into what makes the genre tick, with lyrics in both Korean and English. But while the musical deals with those universal, human emotions, it also contends with the unique rigours of K-pop stardom, such as the intensive training and pressures put on the genre’s performers. “There’s no way that we could represent all of the industry – the best thing we could do was to tell as specific a story as possible,” Kim explains. “Our goal isn’t to really expose the industry, but to track the psychology of a world-class performer going through this giant system.”

As a K-pop star herself, Kim says of Luna, “she almost doesn’t have to embody anything because she is that person. It lends a level of truth to the performance that is astounding to see.”

“At a time when K-pop is beloved around the world, it’s such an honour to be in New York on Broadway as a K-pop artist and musical actor,” adds Luna. “Working on this musical has opened up so many possibilities for me in terms of how I want to develop and grow as a K-pop singer.”

The “exuberant and celebratory show,” as Kim describes it, also marks an important and exciting step towards more representation of Asian stories and storytellers on Broadway. “We’re changing what Broadway looks like,” Park notes, adding, “we’re really trying to build something that hasn’t existed before, and that takes a lot of work and attention to this genre of K-pop, but also how a Broadway story is told.” 

Kim thinks of a young Asian girl he saw watching in awe on the closing night of their Off-Broadway production five years ago: “The show is really for everybody, but especially for somebody like her. She’s who I’m thinking of. She’s my North Star.”

Jessica Derschowitz is an entertainment editor and writer based in New York whose work has appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, Variety, Bustle and more


Images of inspiration boards from Vibo: The Vision Board Book
Vibo

This One Thing... Vibo Vision Boards

Stuck for inspiration? Here’s an alternative to endless Pinterest scrolling: The Vision Board Book. Created by Irish start-up Vibo, it’s a curation of almost 2,000 beautiful pictures and quotes alongside a guide to making your unique vision board. The act of cutting out and collating images that spark joy is a gloriously tactile way to free your imagination, and the ultimate reset for our digitally overloaded brains. As founder Hannah O’Neill says: ‘‘Most of the time our dreams and ambitions are buried in the back of our minds. The Vision Board Book creates space for us to identify those ambitions and guide the actions needed to achieve them.’’ Grab some scissors and start dreaming – it could change your life.

Katie Teehan is managing editor and chief copy editor at Service95


Illustrated portrait of American gun-reform activist Brandon Wolf
Spiros Halaris, 2022 ©

Brandon Wolf’s LGBTQIA+ Activists To Know

The gun-safety and LGBTQIA+ advocate shares the five activists he would like to spotlight in the latest episode of Dua Lipa: At Your Service – out tomorrow, Friday 28 October. 

  1. Hope Giselle – she is a Black, trans woman I have had the honour of doing an incredible amount of work with. I like that she is tough on people, and not afraid to shake the table and ask the hard questions. 
  2. Blair Imani Ali – a bisexual Muslim woman, Blair uses her social media platforms incredibly to educate people – she has a series called ‘Smarter In Seconds’. 
  3. Will Larkins – a student organiser who goes to school in Orlando, they are one of the faces of the movement to fight back against Don’t Say Gay in the last year. A 17-year-old kid who never had grand dreams of being an activist or an advocate, they’ve stepped up and are an inspiration. 
  4. Olivia Julianna – another young activist, she started a fund to help raise money for abortion services and raised over $2million in response to comments from congressman Matt Gaetz. She’s an incredible inspiration to so many and is not afraid to take on the big dogs in Congress. 
  5. Adri Pérez – currently the organising director at the Texas Freedom Network, they are a trans person at the centre of the work to protect transgender children in Texas – as the governor is threatening to put parents in prison for caring for their trans young person. I am inspired every single day by their passion, strength and resolve.

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Portraits of feminist icons from pre-revolutionary Iran by Iranian artist Soheila Sokhanvari

Soheila Sokhanvari: The Iranian Artist Using Her Work As A Political Act

Mahsa Amini was outside a metro station in Tehran one morning in mid-September when she was stopped by Iran’s morality police. She was arrested on charges of improper dress – her hijab was ‘askew’, and she was wearing ‘tight trousers’ – and taken to a nearby police station. Three days later she was dead. Mahsa’s family maintains she was beaten to death in custody. Protests against Mahsa’s demise – and the ongoing treatment of women in the country – have rocked Iran in the aftermath.

“These protests are all about women,” explains Iranian-born artist Soheila Sokhanvari. “Yet, for the first time in the history of Iran, the men have also stood up for the women, shouting ‘we respect our sisters and wives’. The world sees brave young Iranians out in the streets, defying the regime and fighting for freedom hand in hand.”  

It is against this backdrop that Sokhanvari’s new solo exhibition Rebel Rebel opened at the Barbican in London. Sokhanvari’s artwork is known for mourning the passing of life before Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the decimation of women’s rights in the country ever since. Pre-revolutionary Iran was modern. Progressive. Cool, even. The revolution changed everything. Fundamentalism took hold, driven by a patriarchal regime that persists today. Her new work continues this conversation by exploring the contradictions of Iranian women’s lives between 1925 and the 1979 revolution. “Iranian women have historically been the optical symbol for the ruling party,” she explains. “In 1936, Reza Shah unveiled women. The revolution re-veiled them, as well as banning them from singing and dancing in public. So the liberation of women represents a short window of time when Iranian women created a shining platform for their art and, though that opportunity often objectified them it, weirdly, liberated them as well.”

Steeped in a melancholic but magical realism, Sokhanvari’s exhibition includes miniature portraits of Iranian women. “The title, Rebel Rebel, is a tribute to the courage of female icons who pursued their careers in a culture enamoured with Western style but not its freedoms,” says Sokhanvari. “These women include Roohangiz Saminejad, the first unveiled actress to appear in a Persian-language film, the controversial modernist poet Forough Farrokhzad, and the leading intellectual and writer Simin Dāneshvar. I wanted to speak about these icons of a rapidly dying period and to provide an alternative story of modern Iran: the story of women that fought for their platform only to be silenced by the men.”

Does Sokhanvari consider herself a political artist? “While I don’t explicitly use my work to gain political points, I am sharing the stories and celebrating the lives of these radical women – the historical moment in which they lived, and how their lives changed after the revolution in 1979. That is a political act.”
Rebel Rebel is at The Curve gallery in the Barbican, London until 26 Feb 2023

Simon Coates is an artist, writer and founder of arts and activism platform Tse Tse Fly Middle East

The Lor Girl (portrait of Roohangiz Saminejad), 2022; Let Us Believe In The Beginning Of The Cold Season (portrait of Forough Farrokhzad), 2022; Hey, Baby I’m A Star (portrait of Fouzan), 2019; Tobeh (portrait of Zahra Khoshkam), 2020; Rebel (portrait of Zinat Moadab), 2021. All works © Soheila Sokhanvari, and courtesy of the artist and Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery


Illustration of women protesting in Iran
Shutterstock

All Eyes On Iran

Following the death of Mahsa Amini, the protests in Iran have opened the eyes of the world – myself included – to the injustices women in Iran face at the hands of the morality police. In today’s powerful long read, Iranian author and journalist Kamin Mohammadi gives us a deeper insight into the protests – past and present – as the Iranian people fight against a culture that has been imposed on them. As Kamin so brilliantly puts it, “the point is the right to choose... for simple human rights that the rest of us enjoy without thinking twice”. Please take the time to read her words and share Mahsa’s story wherever you can, using the hashtag #MahsaAmini, so that it’s heard around the world. 

Dua x

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Image of protest poster featuring former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani who was in power from 2013 to 2021
Shutterstock

“The Women Of Iran Have Been Demanding Freedom Since 1979”: Iranian Writer Kamin Mohammadi Explains Why The Latest Protests Are Different

The video shows a young man sitting in his room singing poignant words into a mic: ‘For being able to dance in public. For the fear of kissing a lover on the street. For my sister, for your sister, for our sisters…’

This is Shervin Hajipour, an Iranian singer with two million followers on Instagram, and this is the protest song that broke the internet with 40 million views. And the lyrics that have been making people cry the world over are actual Tweets from Iranians stating why they are protesting. That’s why this song landed Hajipour in jail in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The video was deleted from his social media and his phone went silent until he was released on bail a week or so later. However, in spite of being charged with ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ and ‘instigating violence’, having his passport confiscated and being likely forced to put up an Instagram story in which he distanced himself from the song, Hajipour’s song is still being blasted out of every car, every house, every protest, and sung at solidarity protests across the world, from NYC to Milan.

Hajipour joins hundreds of protesters and activists arrested over the past six weeks in Iran. They include at least 35 journalists and many artists, intellectuals and students. Human rights groups estimate those killed at 201 people and those arrested at 15,000 – by the time you read this newsletter, these figures will undoubtedly have grown. 

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, strict Sharia law prohibits women from showing their hair in public, from singing or dancing, and from going out with any man they are not closely related or married to. Since the revolution of 1979, Iranian women have been obliged by law to wear a hejab (head and body covering) when they appear in public. 

Since the election of hardline president Ebrahim Raisi last year, the notorious morality police have been cracking down on women’s ‘bad hejab’, which can mean just a few strands of hair showing. As many now know, in mid-September, a young Kurdish Iranian woman called Mahsa Amini was visiting Tehran when she was stopped by the morality police for bad hejab and taken for ‘re-education’. She was in custody for just two hours before she was so badly beaten that she ended up in hospital in a coma.  

She died from her injuries.

The authorities claimed that she had suffered a heart attack, but her family deny that she had health issues. Protests began in front of Kasra hospital and have spread through the whole country in the weeks since then, despite a brutal crackdown that has the regime’s forces shooting into the crowds. In response to this brutal killing, the enraged women of Iran took to the streets to tear off their headscarves and cut their hair in public. A sign of mourning, it is also a potent protest at the mandatory covering of hair. They danced around fires burning their headscarves and they walked the streets shaking their hair in the wind. These women – and men – who are protesting are not against Islam. As the protests attest, religious Iranians stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are against the hejab. The point is the right to choose. And not just whether to wear the hejab or not, but for simple human rights that the rest of us enjoy without thinking twice. 

These demonstrations have swept across Iran, from the metropolis of Tehran to small provincial towns and everywhere the chants are the same – we stand united for a free Iran, and ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’.

The women of Iran have been demanding freedom ever since Ayatollah Khomeini took power in 1979 – the first demonstration against mandatory hejab was three weeks after Khomeini’s arrival. Before the revolution, Iranian women had some of the most liberal laws in the Middle East; they could wear what they liked, they could rise to be judges, and they had been voting since 1963. Significant uprisings led by women have taken place in 1999, 2005, 2009, 2017 and again in 2019.

In reality, the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom and democracy goes back more than 100 years. The Constitutional Revolution of 1906 was quashed by imperial Russia and Britain. In 1953, democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh, who nationalised Iranian oil, was removed in a coup engineered by the CIA and MI6 – up until that point, Britain had received 87% of the revenue from Iran’s oil and, after the coup, America also got a slice of the lucrative Iranian oil pie.

This round of protests feels different to what has come before. Partly because the casual way violence is meted out to women in the street has become shockingly commonplace, but mostly because women themselves are just not taking any more. The brave women of Iran – overwhelmingly Gen Z – are stepping out into the streets, not just into the demonstrations but increasingly in everyday life, without their heads covered. They are carrying the fury of generations of women who have been repressed and oppressed by this regime. And the most inspiring thing about watching the protests is the unbreakable unity the Iranian population is showing; a grassroots movement with no leaders, which is able to swell and grow even as the internet is shut down in Iran. 

As an Iranian woman who has lived in exile from my country for 43 years, I am sad to report that I have become accustomed to the rollercoaster of hope and disappointment that follows each uprising in Iran – inevitably they end in bloodshed, mass slaughter and the crushing of any organised opposition. However, in these past weeks, in spite of the brutality of the crackdown, I have found myself tucking a tiny bit of hope in my back pocket. The unity and courage shown by the Iranian people has enabled me, for the first time in decades, to imagine a new, free Iran where I could walk the streets of Tehran feeling the wind in my hair and leaning in to kiss my man in public – ordinary things that for us have been unimaginable.

And this touches us all. I sit here in Europe and combat the helplessness I feel by amplifying the voices coming out of Iran – with the internet shut down in many places in Iran, with Western media’s lack of attention – this is a real help we can give the Iranian people; to bring their voices and share their videos with the world. The frontline of feminism right now is in Iran, with women walking into bullets for the simple right to be able to choose what to wear, and how to live. What feminists and minority rights activists everywhere can learn from the current protests in Iran is to stop factionalising, to stop pitting men against women, gendered against non-binary, homo against hetero, but to embrace our commonalities to make communities of hope bonded together in the fight for change. 

To help the Iranian people, please post as much as you can using #MahsaAmini. To support Shervin Hajipour, please visit his Spotify account and download his music to make sure he becomes too famous to be killed.

Kamin Mohammadi is a writer and journalist. Her memoir about Iran, The Cypress Tree: A Love Letter To Iran, is published by Bloomsbury. Her website is kamin.co.uk and you can find her @kaminmohammadi on Instagram and Twitter 


Images of the restaurant Van Gogh Is Bipolar in the Philippines, which focuses on mood-healing nutrition, and its owner Jetro Rafael
Jar Consengco

The Restaurateur With Bipolar Disorder Serving A Mood-Altering Menu

Van Gogh is Bipolar (vGiB) – a restaurant in Quezon City, Philippines that serves mood-altering food – reopened last month to serve only eight guests at a time. Every experience is intentionally made different – interiors change at random, and dishes vary daily depending on the owner’s mood. “It’s like how I know myself – being consistently inconsistent,” explains owner and head chef Jetro Rafael. 

After being clinically diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008 at the age of 28, Rafael was put on heavy medication. “Due to the side effects of my medication, I was numb to most of my emotions and that made me feel like a living zombie,” he says. Living in constant fear of the growing dependence on his medication, Rafael studied food as a natural healing method for his mood disorder. “It’s called mood-healing nutrition,” he explains. The diet is designed to activate specific neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and norepinephrine to boost a sense of calm and happiness. 

When dining, guests are asked to fill out a form about how they are currently feeling. Understanding the guest’s current emotional state allows Rafael to prepare and personalise a menu tailored to each diner. Through his ever-changing menu, he uses ingredients known to aid the regulation of serotonin such as fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) and cashews (magnesium), and on encounters with anxious guests, he recalls creating a concoction featuring freshly extracted fruit juice – mainly citrus fruits (vitamin C) to lower stress levels – mixed with raw honey, which studies show has anxiety-relieving properties.

As he draws connections between food and moods, Rafael maximises every simple or complex ingredient in a way that caters to the individual needs of his guests. Likening the act of cooking for others as a display of unconditional love, he says, “Van Gogh is Bipolar doesn’t just feed the body, it feeds the soul.” 

Juli Suazo is a freelance lifestyle journalist for CNN, Resy and Eater, based in Manila and London


Illustrated portrait of presenter and comedian Trevor Noah
Spiros Halaris, 2022 ©

Trevor Noah’s Favourite Comedians

In the latest episode of Dua Lipa: At Your Service – out tomorrow, Friday 21 October – the comedian, actor and The Daily Show host shares the comedians he thinks you should seek out.

  1. Eddie Izzard ­– one of my all-time favourites; watch any of Eddie Izzard’s work.
  2. Kitty Flanagan – she is an Australian comedian and another of my all-time favourites. I think she is phenomenal.
  3. Ronny Chieng – who I worked with on The Daily Show.
  4. Richard Pryor – his Live On The Sunset Strip is one of the most timeless classics.
  5. Me! ­– I think I have made some pretty good stuff!

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Image of Dua Lipa on stage in Buenos Aries during her Future Nostalgia Tour
Elizabeth Miranda

Buenos Aires, Te Amo

One of my favourite things about getting to tour and visit cities around the world is asking friends for their recommendations. Whether they’re locals or just experts in a place, I find that taking their suggestions makes travel feel so much more intimate and unique, which is how I fell in love all over again with Buenos Aires recently – it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I got to spend an action-packed couple of days there in September. Courtesy of my friend Mica, here are the spots that made my stay all the more special.

Dua x

  1. Naranjo – a cool natural wine bar with delicious small plates that’s open till late.
  2. El Preferido de Palermo – a lunch spot with great food and an even better atmosphere. 
  3. Atte – possibly one of the best pizzas I’ve had (a big claim, I know) and great natural wine.   
  4. El Ateneo Grand Splendid – an old theatre that’s been turned into a bookstore that I just love.
  5. Caminito – a street museum in the La Boca neighbourhood with fun painted houses inspired by a tango song.

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Image of model wearing a swimsuit, showing her abdomen
Trunk Archive

Is Gut Health The New Diet Culture?

Gut health is having a moment online. Struggling with fatigue? It’s your gut! Suffering from bloating? It’s your gut! Skin breaking out? You get the picture. Testament to that fact: the hashtag #GutHealth has 2.4 billion views on TikTok. We are told we need to ‘heal our gut’ so topics such as ‘gut healing’ and ‘gut-health tips’ are flooding the app’s FYP (For You Page). For the uninitiated, many of these videos start by listing off symptoms – hormone imbalance, brain fog, body inflammation… Then there’s a before and after picture; the swell of bloating in a poorly lit bathroom selfie transforming into toned, tanned abs. What then follows is a plethora of lifestyle and diet changes that claim to give you the same results. Many influencers swore by shots of aloe vera juice; “My gut health? Never been better,” one raves in a video liked over one million times. There are also advocates for drinking shots of extra virgin olive oil, downing water with chia seeds and starting your day with soup for breakfast. All in the name of ‘gut health’. But is this really about ‘gut health’? Or is it simply a rebranding of diet culture?

There is no doubt the health of our gut can impact our overall health. Recent studies have uncovered how central our gut is to everything from skin conditions and digestion to immunity, and mental health. The issue, as called out by a recent New York Times article, is that the online obsession with gut health suggests there’s not enough data to prove whether any of these supposed fixes improve digestive function. 

“The knowledge we have around gut health has increased exponentially,” explains nutritional therapist and author Eve Kalinik. “But with that comes a whole darker side to it, which is this promotion of products and programmes… Additionally, it can be another way of feeding into a pattern of disordered eating under the guise of it being healthy.”

Cleansing and detoxing trends reached their peak in the 2010s. While this language has now gone out of fashion, with outspoken dieting somewhat taboo, recent gut-health trends popularised online have simply replaced its predecessors with a new vocabulary such as ‘anti-bloating’ (therefore a flat stomach) or ‘gut-healing’ under the pretence of improving general health. “A healthy gut does not mean you have a flat stomach,” explains Kalinik. “It’s not about the aesthetics but about what is going on inside. I think that’s where it’s been miscommunicated.” The terms being bandied around are also raising eyebrows among professionals. “Gut healing is a fad term. We avoid it as it is often associated with protocols that aren’t always evidence-based,” explains Jo Cunningham, clinical director and registered dietitian at The Gut Health Clinic. Kalinik agrees: “I don’t like to use the term ‘gut healing’ because it’s not that the gut necessarily needs healing. It just might need some additional support and that would be different depending on the individual circumstances.” 

study in 2020 found that 40% of the participants worldwide suffer from gastrointestinal issues that affect their quality of life, so it’s not to say these issues don’t exist. (The key things to look out for, according to Kalinik, are “changes in your bowel movements, blood in the stool, any pain or bloating that is excessive and persistent. All those things should be checked out by a GP.”) While craving carbs, bloating, bad skin, inflammation, and fatigue are all said to be signs of a damaged gut, they’re also often symptoms of day-to-day living. So implications that these are symptoms of a damaged gut are not only unnecessary, explains Dr Lara Zibarras, a psychologist and food freedom coach, but they can also fuel negative relationships with food and body image. Hence she warns against labelling food as either good or bad for the gut. “This promotes disordered eating… Blanket removal of food from a diet, without a medically diagnosed reason to do so, is unnecessary.” 

Identifying the facts around gut health is even more complex online because ‘gut health’ content can hide behind scientifically proven health advice. Creators can describe themselves as a ‘nutritionist’ or ‘holistic doctor’, often covering up a lack of credentials, warns Cunningham. “The term ‘dietitian’ is a protected professional title, so if a dietitian is recommending something, the advice is based on the latest scientific evidence. While some nutritionists are highly qualified and registered, unfortunately, anyone can ultimately claim to be a nutritionist.” 

As with most things online, the expert advice is to take it with a pinch of salt. Cunningham believes our current online obsession with gut health is yet another example of ‘transformation’ content. “While previous fads may have looked at diets, cleanses and detoxes, looking after your gut health differs as it truly is of benefit [to your health]. You just need to get your advice from the right place.” 

Eve Upton-Clark is an Amsterdam-based freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Dazed, i-D, Refinery29 and Cosmopolitan


Illustrated portrait of Bryan Stevenson
Spiros Halaris, 2022 ©

Bryan Stevenson’s Four Ways To Change The World

The American lawyer, social justice activist, and founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative talks Dua Lipa through how we can impact the causes we care about in the latest episode of our podcast, At Your Service – out tomorrow, Friday 14 October.

  1. Commit to proximity – we must find ways to get closer to people who are excluded, marginalised, and disfavoured. When you are proximate, you hear things you wouldn’t otherwise hear, and see things you wouldn’t otherwise see. So many of our elected leaders are failing because they are creating policies and making judgements that are crafted in places distant from the people who are impacted by those policies and judgements. 
  2. Changing the narrative – I don’t think it is enough to debate policies and issues, you must understand the narratives underneath a lot of these policies. There are narratives in the world that are fostering bigotry and violence, and hatred of others. We have to change those narratives and call them out.
  3. Hope – I am persuaded that hopelessness is the enemy of justice. I think injustice prevails where hopelessness persists. I think our hope is our superpower. 
  4. Be willing to do things that are uncomfortable and inconvenient – we like comfort! And there is nothing wrong with comfort, but it does mean we are going to have to make a choice to do the uncomfortable if we are going to advance issues that need to be advanced. 

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Images of artwork featuring in exhibitions across London, including Frieze Art Fair, The World Reimagined and Tyler Mitchell at the Gagosian

This One Thing... London’s Art Scene

There is a lot of art to see in London this month. Glorious, but potentially overwhelming. So, the highlights: Frieze Masters and Frieze London (12-16 Oct) are essential. At Frieze Masters, which focuses on artworks dated pre-2000, Helly Nahmad presents Joan Miró pieces, ACA celebrates African-American artists such as Faith Ringgold, and Galerie Mitterrand exhibits Niki de Saint Phalle’s work. At Frieze London, head to Gagosian’s showing of British-Nigerian Jadé Fadojutimi’s abstract pieces. At Focus – a discovery space for exciting, nascent artists from the world over – check out Selome Muleta (Ethiopia), Agnieszka Polska (Poland) and Kenturah Davis (US and Ghana). Beyond the fair, the Gagosian has a highly anticipated exhibition of Tyler Mitchell’s work in its Davies Street gallery (6 Oct-12 Nov). He rose to fame in 2018, at age 23, as the first Black photographer to shoot the cover of US Vogue (with Beyoncé no less). Hauser And Wirth is also a worthwhile stopover if only for Amy Sherald’s exhibition (12 Oct-23 Dec). While much more established than Mitchell, Sherald’s public profile was also boosted by a ‘celebrity’ subject; her portrait of Michelle Obama hangs in Washington’s National Portrait Gallery. Finally, October is the last chance to catch The World Reimagined. Curated by Ashley Shaw Scott Adjaye, it features 100+ artist-designed globes scattered across public spaces in the UK, inviting us to follow the trails and explore our own relationship with racial justice.

Funmi Fetto is the global editorial director of Service95 and a contributing editor at British Vogue

Joan Miró, Soirée Snob Chez La Princesse, c. 1946, courtesy of Helly Nahmad and Frieze; Nikki de Saint Phalle, Sphinx, 1975, courtesy of Galerie Mitterrand; Agnieszka Polska, Perfect Lives (Mirror), 2020; The World Reimagined, London Globes in Dean’s Yard Westminster Abbey, 2022; Tyler Mitchell, A Glint Of Possibility, 2022, © courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, Gagosian


Images of sex-positive activists Portia Brown, Hannah Witton, Andrew Gurza, Erika Hart and Sonalee Rashatwar
Alice Xue

5 Of The Best Sex-Positivity Activists To Follow On Instagram

When it comes to sex positivity, your social media feed can be a surprising fountain of solace, community and information. Online voices acting in this space offer an open and unfiltered platform to discuss matters many ‘conventional’ media organisations shy away from. This is especially the case for people of colour, or those from the Disabled or LGBTQIA+ community, whose concerns are rarely considered in mainstream conversations. Here are five of our favourites to follow…

  1. Portia Brown @theportiabrown
    US-based sex coach Portia Brown was moved to pursue her profession after what she calls the ‘whitewashing’ of the sexual wellness sphere. In contrast, her work specifically aids women and femmes of colour; and her feed offers regular advice on sexual healing and power.
  2. Hannah Witton @hannahwitton
    A YouTube sensation, Witton has carved out a niche as the approachable face of young, millennial sexual wellness for over a decade, and even has a podcast (@doingitpodcast), which champions a ‘nerdy’ approach to sex. No question is off-limits. Relatable with laughs and sound advice guaranteed.
  3. Erika Hart @iharterika
    Unable to get clear answers to questions about sex as a child inspired Hart’s calling. They became a professor of sexuality and now work as a sex educator, writer and activist. As a queer non-binary femme, their feed answers questions around sex while highlighting the vital intersections between race, gender and sexuality.
  4. Andrew Gurza @aagurza
    Andrew Gurza is a disability awareness consultant who uses his social media platform to elevate the sexuality of people with disabilities. Gurza’s work has even ventured into making his own queer porn, which he has described as “the ultimate sexual empowerment and activism”.
  5. Sonalee Rashatwar @thefatsextherapist
    A clinical social worker, sex therapist and grassroots organiser, Rashatwar’s work foregrounds ‘fat-positive’ sexual healthcare. Bisexual and non-binary, Rashatwar’s USP is non-judgmental and inclusive advice, hence this ethos is peppered throughout their feed.

Marie-Claire Chappet is a London-based arts and culture journalist and contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar


Image of Dua Lipa in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

My Time In Rio

loved the South American leg of my tour, soaking up the incredible sights and performing to some of the best crowds. One of the standout places for me was Rio. Undeniably a party city and firmly on the foodie map, not to mention its golden beaches – and, of course, sundowners by the sea – it did not disappoint. Here are some recommendations my friend Tina, who lives in Rio, gave to me; local haunts, iconic spots and hidden gems that made my time there – and hopefully yours – unforgettable.

Dua x

  1. Satyricon – head here for the best seafood.
  2. Walk around Lapa – Rio’s bohemian neighbourhood is full of surprises.
  3. Oro – fine-dining experimental bites with a Brazilian flair you don’t want to miss.
  4. Território Aprazível – this place is great for lunch, surrounded by a lush tropical garden, and by night it’s such a fun place for drinks.
  5. Walk or drive up to the Christ the Redeemer statue – it’s absolutely worth the trip to see one of the most iconic cultural landmarks.

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Image of Seoul city and photographs from Make Break Remix: The Rise Of K-Style by Fiona Bae
less_TAEKYUN KIM, 2022 ©

How Korean Pop Culture Took The World By Storm

Following the opening of London’s V&A exhibition Hallyu! The Korean Wave, Fiona Bae, the Seoul-raised writer and author pays homage to Korean pop culture

I’m writing this on a plane from Incheon in South Korea to London Heathrow. I’ve just attended the inaugural Frieze Seoul art fair, which elevated the city’s status on a global culture map. Thaddaeus Ropac, an influential European art gallerist, told me how astonishing it was to see the enthusiasm and knowledge young Koreans have about arts – more so than anywhere else. He also cites that RM – rapper, singer-songwriter and member of South Korean boy band BTS – posting about arts has had a positive impact on drawing young fans. (Just last month, it was revealed that RM donated 100 million won to the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation.) People are ever more curious about the unique energy Korean culture exudes; there is an explosive energy and solidarity among young Korean creatives. Musicians, fashion designers and architects are gathering to ride the big wave they have all been waiting for.

The ingredients for Korean culture’s success have long been present: hard-working people with a huge appetite for learning based on Confucianism, an adaptability and practicality that has roots in Shamanism, hyper-competitiveness, and a yearning for international recognition resulting from a rapidly developing society. Combined with the context of technology, sophisticated Koreans’ tastes and imagination, and a corresponding interest in non-Western values – boom! – Korean culture exploded. 

Over the last few decades, the country has gone through a remarkable transformation. South Koreans were not allowed to freely travel overseas until the country hosted its first Olympic Games in 1988 because the government worried that North Koreans would turn them to communist values. But such suppression also brought about the rebellious spirit that suffuses K-style. Be it through fashion, music, art or film, K-style is a bold and brave attitude remixing everything Koreans find to be cool with zero inhibition. Breaking out of traditionally oppressive social constraints, K-style celebrates newfound confidence, pride and independence. It has resonated across continents with those disenchanted by the cultural dominance of the West who want to rebel against the old order and make something of their own. In a world where the boundaries between originality and copying are increasingly blurry, the mix created by K-style can lead to a ‘new authenticity’. 

Just like Seoul itself, what makes K-style fascinating is its complex mix and contrast of old and new, Western and Eastern, high- and low-brow. The film director Park Chan-wook says the Korean audience is so hard to please with a single genre, which is why he infuses thriller, drama, horror and comedy into one film. 

Still, Korea is going through a fragile transition. People have begun to realise that personal assessment of their choices can be more important than external validation and the mould is being broken. However, young Koreans are still in a deep search for their identity. But with passion and sustained meditation on creating something of one’s own, I believe K-style will continue to reveal itself in strong, diverse forms.

Raised in Seoul and now based in London, Fiona Bae is the author of new book Make Break Remix: The Rise Of K-style, published by Thames & Hudson. She handled communications for Frieze Seoul and is creating a Korean gin with her 12th-generation gin-distiller husband in London


Illustrated portrait of Charli XCX
Spiros Halaris, 2022 ©

Charli XCX’s Musicians To Watch

In the latest episode of our podcast, Dua Lipa: At Your Service – out tomorrow, Friday 7 October ­– the English singer-songwriter shares the up-and-coming artists she thinks will be the next big thing.

  1. Alex G
  2. Hudson Mohawke
  3. Elio
  4. Sevdaliza
  5. Daine

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Images of book covers Virgil Abloh: Figures Of Speech; Art And Climate Change; Jimmy DeSana: Submission; 52 Artists: A Feminist Milestone and Salman Toor: No Ordinary Love

Five Art And Fashion Books To Have On Your Radar This Autumn

From a comprehensive volume on a maverick New York-culture figurehead to an essential and timely artistic look at the climate crisis, here is our selection of some of the most exciting new and upcoming releases you should make space for on your bookshelves

  1. Virgil Abloh: Figures Of Speech by Virgil Abloh
    This hefty volume, created by Abloh himself, catalogues the late visionary fashion designer’s genre-bending work across art, fashion and design. Published in conjunction with Abloh’s revered 2019-23 touring exhibition, the 500-page edition examines the designer’s multidisciplinary practice through essays, prototypes, inspirations and archive images, inter-webbed with intimate commentary from Abloh, offering a comprehensive behind-the-curtain glimpse into the world of one of the 21st century’s most impactful cultural figures. 
  2. Art And Climate Change by Maja and Reuben Fowkes
    Across five chapters, this extensively illustrated book gets to grips with the fields of art and ecology, toxic dynamics between racial capitalism and climate change, extractivism, and climate uncertainty while also surveying the hopeful ways to achieve ecological restoration. The volume stresses the magnitude of climate change and the terrifying consequences of the inaction to stop it.
  3. Jimmy DeSana: Submission by Drew Sawyer. Preface by Anne Pasternak. Epilogue by Laurie Simmons
    This is the first-ever comprehensive tome dedicated to the photographic oeuvre of Jimmy DeSana – an instrumental yet under-explored figure of New York’s art, music and film scenes of the ’70s and ’80s. Submission deep-dives into DeSana’s deliciously artificial renderings of the human body, twisted and misshapen in monochromatic or glaring colours while also exploring relationships between gender, sexuality and consumer capitalism in often surreal, diverting ways.
  4. 52 Artists: A Feminist Milestone by Lucy Lippard, Amy Smith-Stewart and Alexandra Schwartz
    Celebrating the 51st anniversary of the seminal exhibition Twenty Six Contemporary Women Artists, curated by Lucy Lippard at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in 1971, this title showcases work by the artists included in the original exhibition alongside a new cohort of 26 female-identifying and non-binary emerging artists. The volume traces the transformation of feminist art practices over the last five decades, celebrating the progress in women’s visibility in the art world while also highlighting an ardent concern for female rights today. 
  5. Salman Toor: No Ordinary Love by Asma Naeem, Evan Moffitt and Hanya Yanagihara. Foreword by Christopher Bedford
    This monograph accompanies Salman Toor’s first retrospective exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art, comprising the artist’s essential works – intimate snapshots of the imagined lives of young, queer Brown men residing between New York City and South Asia. Toor’s work is lionised for the singular depiction of the ephemerality of life tinged with reality, angst, and anxiety that – as curator Asma Naeem describes in the introduction – ‘mine the complexities of being an immigrant, queer and human’. Alongside Toor’s powerful auto-fictional narrative paintings, the volume offers an original new short story by the acclaimed author – and Season 1 At Your Service podcast guest – Hanya Yanagihara. 

Nini Barbakadze is a fashion journalist and editor of Phreak Issue who has written for publications such as the Financial Times, Love Magazine, Metal Magazine, Forbes, Coeval Magazine and Year Zero


Portrait of chef and author Fatima Ali, and a picture of her book, Savor
Phil Provencio

An Excerpt From The Late Fatima Ali’s Book Exploring A Chef’s Hunger For More

After a life cut short by cancer, chef Fatima Ali’s mother and co-writer Tarajia Morrell worked together to finish her memoir, Savor, which will be released on 11 October. Exploring food, family, queerness, illness and mortality, this beautiful, poetic journey moves from Pakistan to New York City. We’re honoured to have this excerpt

I wanted a place where I could open people’s minds about Pakistan through their taste buds – to serve the glorious, generous, hearty food of my youth, of my Nano, and interrupt Western assumptions of Pakistan being a place of bias, of oppression, of terror. I didn’t want people to think about my home like that. When people heard the word Pakistan, it should be associated with how intoxicating those long-stewed goat hooves were that literally melted in their mouth – a dish one cannot eat any way other than loudly sucking, rudely, joyfully – with spices that just barely cut through all that fat around the bone and marrow that’s slipped out. It isn’t marrow that has to be forced out of a canoe-cut bone served with German mustard and a fancy knife in some gastropub! No. This is the same dish – the same marrow – that a shepherd who lives unapologetically with his herd cooks over a wood fire. It’s a stew that you have to eat with fluffy, pillowy, tender, crispy, simple charred naan. I wanted to show people all this flavour and unctuousness that goat hooves can provide – without them even thinking that they are goat hooves – and somehow transport them through their taste buds to a dhaba in Karachi, sitting on a charpai squeezing lemon, with freshly cut green chilis and ginger on their plate. I’d serve the kaleji (chicken livers) that I grew up eating with crunchy-soft toothsome potains (chicken colons), fragrant with clove and cardamom, coriander, chilis, and garlic. I’d marinate meat with raw papaya to break down its toughness, barbecue it, and wrap it around a soft-boiled egg, and instead of barbecuing it to make bihari kebab, I’d coat and then fry it to make a Pakistani Scotch egg.

My guests would feel the sense of gentle care, of easygoing but exciting nourishment, that Mohammad and I felt at Nano’s kitchen table. My food would speak directly to my customers. It would tell them its own story, frankly, and in doing so, they’d stop associating Pakistan with bombings and terrorism and start thinking about hot crispy chips, skewers of spiced liver, and peppers and potato and eggplant charred just right. They’d think about fluffy steaming basmati rice swirled with soft pieces of chicken. Suddenly they’d start thinking about colours and cocktails that are sour and sweet. They’d stop thinking about the bad stuff and start saying, Hey, have you been to this place?

But herein lies the paradox: Even as I longed to ingratiate foreigners to my home country through their palates, for myself, I find the idea of life in Pakistan anything but palatable. In Pakistan, I was perpetually running into acquaintances from my youth – men and women who think they know me because we studied in the same classroom when we were fourteen or because they saw me on TV – in other words, people who don’t know me at all. And when I was accosted on the street in Karachi by these well-meaning people, I felt a shortness, an uncomfortableness, like a dog choking on a taut leash. I felt that I was suffocating there, being asphyxiated by the societal pressure and lacking the anonymity I have everywhere else.

For all these reasons, I wanted my restaurant to be in New York City.
Savor by Fatima is released 11 October

Excerpted from SAVOR copyright © 2022 by Fatima Ali with Tarajia Morrell. Used by permission of Ballantine Books, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


Illustrated portrait of Dua Lipa with a bike in Copenhagen
Damien Cuypers, @damiencuypers, Illustration Division

A Taste Of Copenhagen

There’s something about Copenhagen that just feels so easy. Maybe it’s the fine lines, the minimalism, the neutral palette within its fashion, the simplicity in the shapes and colours, the locals’ love of beer and a good time – and just the kindest people who always meet you with a smile. The last time I was there, in early summer, I was lucky enough to go to one of the named best restaurants in the world, Noma. So alongside the incredible experience I had there, I wanted to share with you a few other foodie places you shouldn’t miss in this epic city. 

  1. Sanchez
  2. Nr.30 Spisested & Vinbar
  3. Gorilla
  4. Barr
  5. Atelier September

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Collage image featuring internet and social media notifications and characters from Mean Girls alongside negative and positive comments
Parveen Narowalia

Is The Biggest Bully On Social Media The Algorithm Itself?

If the online world was the film Mean Girls, my bet is that social media platforms would be Regina George. The bully. It makes sense. Social media thrives on scandal, constantly feeds us gossip, and is well versed in telling people when they can and cannot sit with us. But, of course, this isn’t Mean Girls. Social media is increasingly shaping public opinion, entrenching political polarisation and frequently stoking the flames of misogyny, racism and intolerance. Yet these platforms are fuelled by us, willingly logging on and engaging. An algorithm alone couldn’t possibly bully us. Or could it? 

Though the Meta-owned Instagram declined to comment, a TikTok spokesperson was happy to tell me its algorithm is all about curating content for users based on user preferences. Essentially, it shows you more of what you like and measures that through likes, follows and videos watched. If anything, this just seems helpful, until you consider that – if we are only viewing our own interests, we are slipping further into echo chambers, contributing to an increasingly divided society. 

Sara McCorquodale, founder of social media consultancy studio Corq and author of the book Influence, believes that, while division is not the aim of social media, that is not to say it is not beneficial to these platforms. “Huge online communities have amassed around divisive issues, and I think a substantial number of people are addicted to getting a reaction and having their opinions reinforced,” she says. “The addiction means they are constantly engaging with social content, and this is to the advantage of social platforms where daily usage and minute-to-minute relevancy are everything.”

An algorithm’s aim is to measure and increase engagement because this is how these platforms are monetised – the longer you stay on, the more advertising they can serve you, and if it finds out what performs well it will serve you more of the same. It doesn’t even have to be something you’ve searched for – it can just be a trending topic. This may explain why Amber Heard-bashing content arrived uninvited onto so many of our feeds this summer. 

“Critical posts are more likely to get comments and shares than any other post,” says Camille Carlton, senior policy and communications manager at the Centre for Humane Technology – a non-profit that works to make tech more socially responsible. “Morally emotional words in messages increased their diffusion by a factor of 20% for each additional word. As long as hate performs well it is profitable and as long as outrage is profitable, these platforms have no incentive to stop nudging it your way.”

Outrage is the lifeblood of the internet. Just look at Patient Zero for online bullying: last week’s At Your Service podcast guest Monica Lewinsky. In 1998, her affair with President Bill Clinton was the first political scandal to break online. Gossip sites were born from that moment, with all of us logging on to feed our basest interests for the indignity of famous people. Social media has tapped into this, allowing us to bully alongside it. In this way, it is baiting what I like to call our Car Crash Eyeballs. “The algorithm is often measuring engagement with content that is not necessarily what you’re actually interested in or what is good for you,” agrees Carlton. “It’s the stuff that you can’t look away from.”

However, TikTok’s spokesperson tells me that users can actively say what they would not want to see – filtering out hashtags or certain users. “This requires people to take a proactive approach to social media, rather than simply passively scrolling, which at this point may feel unnatural,” observes McCorquodale. “It’s also the only way to combat echo chambers: forcing yourself to interact with content across the political and topical spectrum to get a more balanced, nuanced feed.” So, if we can stop it, are we otherwise just bullies with no willpower? “No, we’re up against a system that has been designed by some of the most brilliant minds in order to try and keep us engaged,” says Carlton. 

It works like this: if you were allergic to a certain type of food and your fridge behaved like the algorithm, it would stuff that food in your mouth the minute you opened it. If you took a bite, the next time you opened your fridge, it would stuff two in your mouth. The algorithm is not creating hateful content and, technically, it is also not forcing us to watch it, but much like the insidiousness of Regina George, its influence is everything… 

Marie-Claire Chappet is a London-based arts and culture journalist and contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar


Illustrated portrait of Min Jin Lee
Spiros Halaris, 2022 ©

Min Jin Lee’s 5 Places To Visit On A Day Off In Upper Manhattan

The Korean-American journalist and New York Times-bestselling author of Pachinko shares the top places to visit in her New York neighbourhood in the latest episode of our podcast, Dua Lipa: At Your Service – out tomorrow, Friday 30 September. 

  1. Sugar Hill Creamery – if you like ice cream you need to go here – it is delicious! 
  2. The Cloisters – part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it’s a monastery that was brought from Europe to the United States. If you need a quiet moment, it’s a hidden treasure. 
  3. Ginny’s Supper Club – a very fun place to listen to music. 
  4. Community Food & Juice – here they have delicious blueberry pancakes with maple butter that you will want to have by the gallon. 
  5. The Handpulled Noodle – opened by a former Asian-American musician, he took his mother’s recipes and created these incredibly delicious hand-pulled noodles.  

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Portrait of author James Hannaham and the cover of his book Didn’t Nobody Give A Shit What Happened To Carlotta
Isaac Fitzgerald

James Hannaham: The Author Using Literature To Challenge The American Prison System

The press blurb on James Hannaham’s latest book Didn’t Nobody Give A Shit What Happened To Carlotta claims that this is ‘the raucous, irreverent, and heart-wrenching story of a transgender woman’. Hannaham, however, talking from his home in New York, says it’s also about Brooklyn – Fort Greene specifically. 

It is significant, reveals 54-year-old Hannaham, because it is the neighbourhood his paternal grandmother fled to following the murder of a family member many decades ago in South Carolina. “I only learned this a year or two ago. My great uncle was lynched. They had to get out.” The generations that followed made Fort Greene their home and so, explains Hannaham, “I have half a century of watching Fort Greene change from a poor, dangerous, Black neighbourhood to a rather wealthy, mostly white fancy place.” 

In order to tell the story of Fort Greene’s transformation, the writer wondered, “What kind of character could walk through this place and be astonished and moved by everything that’s changed?” While pondering that question, he imagined a transgender woman from a Colombian-American family. She made an appearance in his head, shed light on his concerns and informed him that she would be the star of his book. “I said, ‘OK, Carlotta, show me what you got.’” Carlotta Mercedes, the protagonist who has just been released after spending 20 years incarcerated in a men’s prison, became the perfect narrator to describe a place that is no longer what it once was. 

The book, says Hannaham – akin to his award-winning 2015 novel Delicious Foods, which deals with the topic of human trafficking – was an opportunity to discuss intricate social problems in American society: the excessive incarceration of Black people, the hell LGBTQIA+ members endure behind bars, and how ill-equipped jails are to protect them. As a Black gay man, it is an issue he feels strongly about. Trans people, the writer points out, “have it the worst in these situations. And it seems like whatever happens in prison is fine because it’s more of the punishment. There’s something so insidious and immoral about that.” While the character Carlotta Mercedes – a name inspired by the actress Mercedes Agnes Carlotta McCambridge – and her story are fictional, the book also includes non-fiction readings about “the prison system and America’s obsession with incarcerating people… Things are changing a little bit, but it’s not enough and it’s not fast enough. It’s just horrifying.”

Still, Didn’t Nobody Give A Shit What Happened To Carlotta – a book that took him eight years to complete – is recreated with humour. And slang. Which many may find challenging at first. But the writer reveals this was intentional. He wanted readers to feel, initially at least, like outsiders. “That was a big part of the point for me,” says Hannaham with a smile. “When [you] start reading the book, it’s intriguing, but a little alienating to find that there’s all this slang. But then, gradually, you start to undo it… you start to learn it, you start to understand how it works; you start to know what things mean. And, eventually, you become a part of that world.”

James Hannaham could have written an easy read. He just didn’t feel like it. “I want to overestimate people’s intelligence.” 

Diana Durán is a Colombian journalist reporting on human rights issues, drug trafficking and justice affairs and is a Washington Post reporter for the Andean Region


Image of the exterior of Casa Orgánica in Mexico
Casa Orgánica, Leandro Bulzzano

Dua Lipa: At Your Service – Season 2

I’m so excited to announce the arrival of Dua Lipa: At Your Service Season 2. I’ve been working hard with the team to bring you some incredible and inspiring guests – starting off with Monica Lewinsky, who was catapulted to public scrutiny in 1998 following the media’s exposure of her relationship with then-President Bill Clinton. Trust me, it’s a must-listen. 

I’m still on tour in South and Central America and have been juggling my two jobs with the greatest pleasure, so I had to give you a list of places to visit – this time in Mexico City, where I recently performed, and one of my favourite places in the world.

  1. Casa Luis Barragán – the former residence of architect Luis Barragán, I think this house is one of the most unequalled works of contemporary architecture.
  2. The Frida Kahlo Museum – one of my favourite artists of all time, Frida Kahlo left her house as a museum for everyone to enjoy.
  3. Casa Orgánica – designed to feel like entering some of the most sacred spaces of humankind – a womb, a cloister, a cave – this is not to be missed. (Currently under renovation, it will fully reopen later this year.)
  4. El Nido de Quetzalcóatl – I adore this eco-park, designed by Mexican architect Javier Senosiain to resemble the nest of a mythical dragon. 
  5. Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo – this contemporary art gallery always leaves me feeling inspired. 

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The Way I Work... Luke Edward Hall

In the second part of our series where we look at the things, places and people that inspire a creative’s working life, journalist Marie-Claire Chappet spoke to the beloved British interior designer about everything from his best career advice to the most inspirational accounts to follow on Instagram

In the last seven years, Luke Edward Hall has become a byword for chic interiors. His signature style – caught somewhere between a Wes Anderson movie and a Bloomsbury Group fever dream – can be seen in his artworks (he exhibits paintings and drawings internationally at the Athens gallery The Breeder) and his own fashion and interiors brand, Chateau Orlando, which he launched this year. Since graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2012, Hall has injected a sense of boundless creativity into the worlds of fashion, art and design, working with major brands and institutions, from Burberry and Lanvin to the Royal Academy of Arts and the V&A. 

In 2019, he published his first book – Greco Disco: The Art & Design Of Luke Edward Hall – and, in 2020, he finished his first major project in Paris, Hôtel Les Deux Gares. The result is a bold and colourful 38-bedroom hotel and bistro full of stripes, sketches, quirks and delights. Hall is now also a columnist for The Financial Times and, alongside running Chateau Orlando, is working on his second book.

He sat down with Service95 to let us in on his creative inspirations and the routines of his working day…  

On his working soundtrack… Music can help me enter a kind of trance-like state, which is beneficial when I’m painting and drawing. I’m into experimental, futuristic pop music and am a big fan of producers such as AG Cook. However, sometimes I just want to listen to a six-hour-long mix of ambient Hobbit bops. Or Enya! 

On his process… I begin working from the moment I wake up, but I take breaks throughout the day so I can have a long bath, make lunch and walk my whippet, Merlin. I work in my studio, which is on a farm about 10 minutes up the road from where I live on the Oxfordshire/Gloucestershire border and have no close neighbours apart from cows. I don’t set myself rules as such, but I do try to leave my phone alone after 9pm. I enjoy spending an hour or so reading before bed and filling my head with ideas before I fall asleep.

The Hand Of God, Netflix

On inspiration… The Hand Of God is a film that really left an impression on me. It was so incredibly moving. I scroll online for daily bits of inspiration – I love the accounts @weird_walk@bibleofbritishtaste@a.prin.art
@florence.knight, @larry_stanton_art – and I take huge inspiration from other artists and creatives such as the Bloomsbury Group, Jean Cocteau, Christopher Wood, Picasso, Cecil Beaton, Oliver Messel, Stephen Tennant, Elsa Schiaparelli and Denton Welch. 

Elsa Schiaparelli, Jean Cocteau, Cecil Beaton, Getty Images

On prized possessions… My studio is mostly filled with bits of miscellaneous tat that I love, but I’m probably most attached to my collection of old and rare books and magazines. I particularly love my old copies of L’Uomo Vogue and Casa Vogue. I’m also obsessed with a large drawing I own by Duncan Grant; it’s of Paul Roche, standing in what looks like a clearing in a wood. He appears to be sprouting devil horns. It’s a beautiful, tender piece. 

Château Orlando, Billal Taright

On fashion and beauty… I like workwear from companies such as Old Town or old sweaters and hand-dyed cotton shirts that I buy from a farm shop near Cirencester. I buy a lot of vintage clothes to wear but also for research for my brand, Chateau Orlando: waistcoats, knitwear, suits... Clothing for me is a way of expressing myself, much in the same way as decorating a room is about projecting an idea. I also enjoy changing fragrances. At the moment, I’m wearing Dries Van Noten’s Jardin de L’Orangerie, which comes in a sublime acid-yellow and violet glass bottle.

On travel… I love Italy for its architecture, people, food and history, and Greece for its ancient myths and legends. But I also enjoy taking much inspiration from my own landscape and folklore in the UK, particularly that of the West Country, where my mother’s family is from. 

On his career… The best advice I ever received was: “Keep your blinkers on. Like a horse,” [so you only focus on what you’re doing,] which I just love! I’m so happy to be doing what I do but if I wasn’t doing that, I think I’d work with food somehow. I love the idea of being a food writer.

Marie-Claire Chappet is a London-based arts and culture journalist and contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar


Illustrated portrait of Monica Lewinsky
Spiros Halaris, 2022 ©

Monica Lewinsky’s Best Books On How The Mind Works

Our first guest on Dua Lipa: At Your Service Season 2 is the anti-bullying activist and social psychology major Monica Lewinsky. She shares the books to read to better understand the inner workings of the mind – listen in full by subscribing to our podcast.

  1. Untethered Soul by Michael A Singer 
  2. How To Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan 
  3. This Is Your Mind On Plants by Michael Pollan  
  4. The Feeling Good Handbook by Dr David D Burns  
  5. Emotional Inheritance: A Therapist, Her Patients, And The Legacy Of Trauma by Dr Galit Atlas

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Images of artist Isissa Komada-John, her ceramics and paintings
Heal, 2021 © Isissa Komada-John; For Your Tears, 2022 © Isissa Komada-John; Come. Living Is In The Coconut, 2019 © Isissa Komada-John; Passion Flower, 2019 © Isissa Komada-John

Isissa Komada-John: The Artist Channelling Healing Into Her Art

For North Carolina-based artist Isissa Komada-John, there’s healing power in clay. The artist and designer – who creates ceramic pieces with undulating forms and pops of colour – envisions each work as part of a ritual or a period of heightened emotion. Her creative journey began with the idea of creating tools and practices for healing. “Just as a soup bowl is a tool for eating,” says the artist, she wanted to “create ceramic pieces that helped to hold space for folks going through major changes”.  

Komada-John approaches her ceramics from “a place of stillness and inward-looking”. Though she primarily works in clay, her paper pieces are similarly soul-searching, with the self-portraiture created as “a collaboration with a number of younger versions of [herself]”.  

After a decade of working behind the scenes in museums, curatorial departments, and exhibition design, she started to notice that the inspiration she got from other artists was growing her own need to make art. She received a fellowship from the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (part of the Wingate University Fellowship) and was a 2022 artist-in-residence at the North Carolina-based artist retreat Township10.  

Elements such as “healing, growth, transformation [and] connection” feed Komada-John’s work. Her piece titled For Your Tears – a collaboration with medicine person Ekua Adisa – is a vessel that literally catches tears through its opening while a person processes their grief. For Heal, the artist created five pieces “to help in the process of healing a wound over the course of months or a year”. Explaining her process, Komada-John says, “I love to connect with individuals who are looking for something to help them grow in new and challenging ways, or to process and move grief that they’re experiencing.” She describes ceramics as a “big process in mindfulness” and for both herself and the people who experience her work, her aim is to use her vessels “to hold us in slowness, in self-examination and help us to change and grow”. 

Eva Recinos is an LA-based arts and culture journalist and creative non-fiction writer


Artwork featured on the digital platform Mauj, including a diagram of the anatomy of the clitoris, and an image of its intimate product, Deem
Dear Nostalgia, Mauj

Mauj: The Boundary-Breaking Sexual Wellness Platform For Arab Women

“Do you know what an orgasm feels like?” Teta asked, smiling. “Well, your grandfather never gave me one.”

This bold statement is all the more taboo because ‘Teta’ is an Arab woman. It is one of the anonymously submitted true stories featured in Hakawatiyya, a three-season storytelling series run by Mauj, the ground-breaking digital platform for Arab women, like myself, where sexual wellness, desire and pleasure are openly discussed. It is the first of its kind. 

Mauj, the Arabic word for ‘wave’, was started in September 2020 by a group of (anonymous) Arab women from Jeddah, Beirut, Dubai and Cairo who wanted a better experience of sexual and reproductive education for the women in their countries. The platform offers science-backed resources, expert advice, and a safe space in the form of an Instagram page both in English and Arabic, as well as Amwaj, its private Facebook group, which enables women to connect with other Arab women and share concerns with gynaecologists, sex therapists and relationship coaches. In a part of the world where shame, secrecy and chastisement surround matters concerning female desire, Mauj’s virtual offering is seen as both boundary-pushing and controversial. 

So the founders went one step further with another barrier-breaking creation. Deem (meaning ‘constant rain’ and ‘endless pleasure’ in Arabic) is the first intimate product designed to help Arab women discover their sexuality and pleasure on their own terms. Needless to say, they had to be mindful of the environment in which their consumers exist, so it had to be discreet. A pink, droplet-shaped personal product that easily camouflages as any kind of hygiene tool, the name Mauj does not appear on the product, box or even on bank statements, and the box does not contain any instructions that point to what the product is meant for – but those who know, know. 

As an Arab woman myself, I can testify that when there is no one who looks like you discussing subjects such as sex and pleasure, and one is made to feel guilt for experiencing such ‘taboo’ human experiences, this community is a lifeline. The importance of Mauj putting Arab women at the forefront of this discussion cannot be overstated. It is the first time, but it should definitely not be the last. This is just the beginning of a discussion we’ve needed to have for a long time. 

Noran Morsi is a freelance journalist based in New York City, with Cairo roots. She’s an MFA candidate at New York University’s literary reportage programme and a YouTube journalism fellow


Image of Aids activist group Act Up protest in 1988
Catherine McGann/Getty Images

In The Face Of Another Public Health Emergency

It would be short-sighted of me to say I never expected us to be dealing with two pandemics at once, but monkeypox is here and isn’t going away anytime soon. We asked journalist Alim Kheraj to report on the global health inequalities that monkeypox has revealed and its parallels to the Aids crisis that began in the 1970s. As HIV activist Greg Owen says, “If monkeypox was a health condition that disproportionately affected cis, white middle-class straight men, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” I hope Alim’s piece opens your eyes as it did mine – information is, after all, one of our most powerful tools.

Dua x


Illustration of the words 'Good vibes only' surrounded by smiling flowers
EnkaArt/Shutterstock

Why We Need To Address Toxic Positivity

The unrelenting pressure to be positive has become so ingrained in our culture that we believe positivity is the only way to deal with hardship and the only response when someone is struggling. While it’s often well-intentioned, positivity can become toxic when used at the wrong time, with the wrong audience, or while discussing a topic where it doesn’t help. 

Of course, a positive outlook can be beneficial. However, when we take that positivity just a little too far, it becomes dismissive or unhelpful. When a friend is grieving it’s, “just be grateful you had time with them”. Or when someone has just suffered a miscarriage, “at least you know you can get pregnant”. Or when someone deals with any type of prejudice – from racism to homophobia – “thankfully most people don’t think like that”. Toxic positivity is offering someone a simple solution to a complicated problem. Talking about these kinds of topics is not the same as complaining about waiting in a queue or a long day at work. These are issues that profoundly impact us and expose our vulnerability. When we use toxic positivity in these moments, it makes the recipient feel isolated or ignored. Because if I tell you I’m struggling and you respond with, “just be grateful it’s not worse!”, am I going to keep sharing? No, I’m going to shut down.

It’s hard to imagine how something like positivity could harm us, but positive thinking is often a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. Instead of helping us become more positive, it leads to more emotional suppression, which leads to worsened mood, negative feelings about social interactions, more negative emotions, and diminished positive emotions. A culture that is obsessed with happiness also negatively impacts our relationships and society. When we reinforce the idea that some feelings are ‘bad’, we miss out on the opportunity to connect with others. Positivity is also used as a weapon to minimise or deny the experience of certain groups. When we say things like, “can’t we all just love each other?” in response to discrimination, we invalidate the experiences marginalised people regularly endure. Toxic positivity places all the responsibility on the individual instead of on the systems and institutions that make positive thinking an impossible solution.

We’ve been promoting happiness and positivity as the magic cure for centuries – and it doesn’t seem to be working. If we want to have close relationships and experience the full spectrum of what it means to be human, we have to radically accept that life is complicated, and nothing will be all good or all bad. In place of misplaced positivity, we need to listen to the feelings that are being shared and offer an empathic response such as “It sounds really difficult for you” or “I can hear the sadness in your voice.” Learning to meet ourselves and others where we’re at, without forcing positivity, may be the key to more real happiness in the end. 

Whitney Goodman, LMFT, is the author of Toxic Positivity: Keeping It Real In A World Obsessed With Being Happy, the psychotherapist behind the Instagram account @sitwithwhit, and the owner of The Collaborative Counseling Center, a virtual therapy practice in Florida


Image of a protest held In New York City in July 2022 with a man holding a sign that reads 'Monkeypox: Where is your rage?'
Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

Monkeypox: Is History Repeating Itself?

Anyone can catch monkeypox, but the virus’s current outbreak in the UK and US is mainly affecting gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. “I’ve become really good at compartmentalising – it was part of my survival mechanism,” says Ron Goldberg, whose book Boy With The Bullhorn: A Memoir And History Of Act Up New York details his time in the titular Aids activist group between 1987 and the mid-’90s. “But the fact that monkeypox is affecting the gay community… are gay people going to be vilified again?” 

Given that monkeypox – declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation – arrived during another pandemic, one might have expected a response of preparedness from government and health organisations. But not only was the US government slow to acknowledge the outbreak, vaccine rollouts globally, to this day, have also been disastrous, with thousands of doses lost, stored and shipped improperly, and limited appointments snatched up in seconds. 

“The UK Health Security Agency didn’t communicate well to community leaders,” adds Greg Owen, an activist and the co-founder of I Want PrEP Now, an organisation that advocates for people to have a pill that protects them from HIV. “We’re the first line of defence and contact for the wider community, so when we’re not hearing anything except very sterile messaging, you presume the worst.”

“It seems like there is this deliberate refusal to learn from things that just happened,” says Caleb LoSchiavo, a public health researcher and PhD candidate at Rutgers School of Public Health.

The global response has led to comparisons between the monkeypox outbreak and the HIV/Aids crisis, which was also initially met with silence by medical bodies and governments. The messaging around monkeypox, Owen says, has been similarly muddled: “This isn’t a gay disease, but at the same time, you’ve got to target the people who are being affected.

“You have to ask yourself why the response to Covid was so quick and how we got to mass vaccination within a year,” he adds. “If monkeypox was a health condition that disproportionately affected cis, white middle-class straight men, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Perhaps most galling of all? At the time of press, the WHO reported that no vaccines have been provided to countries in Africa, the only continent in which monkeypox is endemic. “It’s racism,” says LoSchiavo. “The urgency around monkeypox [should] translate to care being made more available in these areas, but I don’t expect that will happen.”

Goldberg sees monkeypox illuminating wider health inequalities in the LGBTQIA+ communities globally. “In New York, they’ve been trying to get vaccines into neighbourhoods populated by people of colour because those communities don’t always have the same access to health care,” he says. “But who’s going to those vaccine appointments? White men who can take time off work to go.”  

Having been through this before, LGBTQIA+ people won’t allow a repeat of the marginalisation the community faced during the height of the Aids crisis. Act Up NY has taken to the streets to demand better health care provisions and emergency safety net funds for those who test positive, while other community members have flooded social media with up-to-date information about vaccine appointments. “It’s amazing,” Goldberg says, “but the fact that we still have to do it? I wish it were otherwise.”

Alim Kheraj is a freelance writer and host of the podcast Queer Spaces. His first book Queer London is a guide to LGBTQIA+ London, past and present


Image of the book cover of All The Women In My Brain by Betty Gilpin

Betty Gilpin Is Finding Herself, One Chapter At A Time

If there’s one thing Betty Gilpin loves, it’s a metaphor. Take, for instance, a moment in her new collection of essays, All The Women In My Brain: And Other Concerns, in which the actress – best known for her work on the gone-too-soon Netflix favourite Glow – describes a sexual partner as a “blind boar on ketamine, who loved cocaine in a room full of it”. 

“I do think and talk in metaphor a lot, much to the chagrin of my husband, therapist, and people I love who wish to understand me,” she says over Zoom. “I know that it can be roundabout and confusing, but it has always helped me make things make more sense in my brain. Thinking about things in a surreal, mystical, allegorical way makes them more understandable to me.”

That thinking is in line with what fans love her for in the first place: over the past decade, Gilpin has become one of the most exciting portrayers of layered women on screens big and small. In Glow, her stressed-out former soap star cakes her face in makeup, teases her hair and transforms into a catchphrase-spouting Southern Miss America facsimile on the wrestling mat. Now, with All The Women In My Brain, Gilpin offers up a glimpse of how she tussles with the various personas that live inside her – the manicured, Instagram-ready Barbie that goes to war against the daughter of Salem who is messy and feral. She announces at the start that this won’t be your typical “actor memoir”, but the book does dive into the philosophical nature of acting and what it means to slip in and out of identities as a profession. Gilpin has carved out a career that is uniquely suited to her – a Shakespeare-loving nerd who can play badass and bombshell – but has along the way suffered the indignities of the casting office that wants women to fit into easy boxes.

Guiding Gilpin through her journey is a group of “brain women”, a collection of selves, among them the colourfully named Joni McLamb (the sensitive one) and Blanche VonFuckery (the poised and glamorous one). These figures are birthed from Gilpin’s assumption that while other people must have strong senses of self, she’s stuck trying on different identities. “When I’m not one of these cycled selves, or a character in someone else’s story, who am I in a vacuum?” she explains. “Is it no one? Am I just a collection of different people? And then I made a career of being a collection of different people.”

Her next onscreen project is an adaptation of another book examining the messiness of women’s inner lives. In the upcoming Showtime series based on Lisa Taddeo’s intimate non-fiction Three Women, Gilpin plays Lina, a woman gang-raped in her teens, who later begins an affair outside her unhappy marriage. It’s a continuation of the self-deconstructing Gilpin does in her own writing. As Lina, she’s unleashing her “character actress monster id authentic person”. It’s what she calls the “Mare Of Easttown-ification of Shirley Temple”, which I interpret as a deliberate rejection of a shiny people-pleasing persona for something rawer. It’s another metaphor she leaves me to untangle before logging off.  

Esther Zuckerman is an entertainment journalist whose work has been published by Thrillist, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair and Refinery29


Self-portrait of Dua Lipa in a bathroom mirror

My Skin Saviours

Life on the road can really take its toll on my skin. And I, like every other person, have researched online to see what products people recommend, what helps them to get their glow back and what to do when you’re looking and feeling like you’re not getting enough sleep. I tried all kinds of products until I landed on the right ones for me. I’ve shared them with my friends, and they’ve loved them too, which is the only reason I feel confident sharing them with you. In addition to the non-negotiable SPF, these are the products that have been non-movers in my skincare bag.

1. Synergie Skin Vitamin B & Ultimate A Serum – these two serums (B for daytime and A before bed) have helped me rebalance my skin tremendously. 
2. ZO Skin Health Complexion Clearing Masque – this works like magic. I’ve used this once a week since the beginning of my tour and will never look back.
3. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Daily Skin Therapy – a classic, this is the most moisturising, soothing lotion and nothing else comes close for me.
4. Mario Badescu Drying Lotion – for those stubborn spots, I pop this on before bed and it really dries them out.
5. Clinisept+ Skin – I use this as an antibacterial for my face and it’s so handy to just keep things clean and clear. I’m obsessed. 

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Images of the space and art installations inside Palazzo Miccichè
Nadia Castronovo, Santo Eduardo Di Miceli

A Cultural Park Healing Neglected Towns

Deep in the heart of the ancient Sicilian town of Favara, not far from Agrigento, sits a derelict 19th-century palace that houses a forest. Ivy climbs crumbling grey walls framing a mural of giant painted leaves in varying shades of green. Shrubs line steps that lead upstairs and down to different floors with mazes of rooms with dramatic vaulted ceilings and sun-drenched balconies. Some rooms play projections of nature and wildlife, while others are filled with zen-like music. Rows of vines act as wallpaper, and the braided stems of Guiana Chestnut plants look like mother nature’s version of lampshades. The final set of stairs rises to an art-covered rooftop terrace that faces the rooftops of Favara, its terracotta-tiled cathedral and the arid hills beyond. Introducing Palazzo Miccichè, the latest project from Farm Cultural Park – an ambitious art organisation that healed a neglected town. 

Back in 2010, a Sicilian couple, notary Andrea Bartoli and his lawyer wife Florinda Saieva, came up with an idea to regenerate Favara – a small, rundown town suffering from unemployment and poverty. Together they bought several empty buildings and seven courtyards in the semi-abandoned centre and turned it into an open-air art complex where walls are used as canvases and outdoor space for installations and sculptures by international and local artists. Inside, rotating exhibitions focus on political and social issues, and a cafe serves drinks and Sicilian snacks. Over the years, the cultural park has attracted not just tourists but also offered locals a place to meet and socialise. 

It has provided much-needed jobs in a town desperate for them, and free workshops for young residents are available, spanning architecture, female leadership skills and politics. 

Bartoli and Saieva next restored the then-abandoned Palazzo Miccichè, creating a permanent exhibition space that explores the relationship between nature and humanity. 

They aim to fill the building with 1,000 trees to create a green enclave for both locals and visitors. The exhibition, named Human Forest, opened in 2020, just as the pandemic was taking hold, meaning that it remains a little-known secret. “Favara lacks in green areas so it was important for us to create a space in which people could interact with plants and create a mutual relationship,” explains Saieva. “It is a forest, a jungle, a secular-sacred space.”

Earlier this year, the couple opened its first project outside Favara – Palazzo Tortorici in the Baroque town of Mazzarino, which, again, is designed to tackle the depopulation of small Sicilian towns. Highlights include a tranquil Riad-inspired interior garden and courtyard, complete with a pool and chevron tiling. 

The building, known as the Embassy, is again filled with contemporary art, design and music but also offers a cinema, creative activities, events and a magazine and newspaper library for young locals. That said, “Farm Cultural Park is more than a cultural centre,” explains Saieva. “It is a community, which is why we often call it The Museum of People.” 

Ella Alexander is digital contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar UK and has written for Glamour UK, Italy Segreta and Mr And Mrs Smith 


Images of Agnes Questionmark during Transgenesis and other art performances
José Cuevas; Liquid Ground, 2022, Jo Fetto; Portrait Of The Homo Aquaticus, 2019, Henri Kisielewski; Transgenesis, 2021, Henri Kisielewski; Agnes Tides In The Body Circle, 2020, Henri Kisielewski

Agnes Questionmark: The Art World’s Mesmerising Underwater Performer

The Italian performance artist and former Gucci model Agnes Questionmark describes her work as a trip to a place “where nymphs and mythological creatures exist among humankind”. Many of her performances occur underwater, where Agnes pushes audiences to question the ephemerality of their own bodies. “I have an obsession with becoming inhuman – part of mythology,” she says. 

Her artistry stems from a quest to understand her own identity: “I wasn’t yet Agnes Questionmark; I spent my first year looking for this other character,” she says. Her childhood generated an unbreakable bond with the ocean that now manifests in her art. Her father was a boat architect with a passion for sailing; together, they would spend months offshore. “When I began to transition, I understood the water was a place of such meaning and symbolism,” she says. “The fluidity of the sea matched that of my work.”

Earlier this year, Valentino cast Agnes in a campaign posing in nothing but a pair of the brand’s fuchsia Tan-go platform heels, alongside fellow trans artist Nettuno, model Lina Giselle and DJ Charli, looking as if she’s been pulled from a renaissance painting, perfectly complementing her own artistry.

For Transgenesis, Agnes’s lauded 2021 long-duration performance, viewers were invited into a derelict leisure centre, guided down a dimly lit tunnel resembling a coronary artery, with foetus-like latex sculptures adorning its sides, opening into a mirrored chamber with a white-sand floor and glimmering ceramic sea life sculptures. Agnes stood atop a giant octopus-like installation. Mesmerising the crowd, they watched her take deep inhales-exhales in tune with a whale cry-like song.  

“I felt completely inhuman, especially as I saw peoples’ faces when they watched me,” she says. “They were seeing something they had never seen before. I felt like a goddess. I wanted to make you think: I am somewhere else; I am entering into a womb towards another state and a new dimension.”  

Transgenesis ran for eight hours a day for 23 consecutive days. The first day of the piece also marked the beginning of her hormone therapy. “It was all so overwhelming,” she recalls – but her passion to share her own transformation is what allows audiences to be taken on such a similarly profound existential journey while watching her perform.  

With a scholarship to study integrated practices at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute in New York, Agnes wants to delve deeper into her understanding of marine biology to find new ways to push the boundaries of underwater performance. The eventual goal? To host an exhibition in her home city of Rome, showcasing her blossoming into the visionary self-proclaimed “trans-species artist” she identifies as today. “My ultimate dream is to make giant installations globally. Spread Agnes Questionmark to everyone. Spread fluidity to everyone!” 

Pia Brynteson is editorial assistant at Service95


Portrait images of Black female British feminists Una Marson, Claudia Jones, Jocelyn Barrow, Olive Morris and Stella Dadzie
Una Marson, Getty Images; Claudia Jones, Getty Images; Jocelyn Barrow, Getty Images; Olive Morris, Neil Kenlock Archive; Stella Dadzie, 2018, Katrina Stevens

Black British Feminism: An Explainer

From the start of the 20th century several people started arriving in Britain from British colonies such as Jamaica, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Trinidad and Tobago. 

At first, these were primarily small groups of students coming to further their education in the mother country but, following World War II, larger groups started coming. After World War II ended in 1945, many British colonies experienced extreme economic and political instability, causing thousands to come to Britain in search of jobs and economic opportunities they could only dream of finding back home. Of those who came to work, perhaps the most well-known are the 492 Jamaicans who arrived at Tilbury Docks, Essex, on the HMT Empire Windrush boat in 1948. 

All these early migrant communities experienced severe racial discrimination in Britain. People would refuse to rent to them, people would refuse to employ them, and people would shout racial abuse at them on the street. Some were even killed in racially motivated attacks. 

This dangerous racial climate caused some to become activists, including some women. These Black women, the originators of Black British feminism, experienced racism because they were Black and sexism because they were women. They fought back, campaigning for civil rights, reproductive rights, and independence for their African and Caribbean homelands. They also prioritised cross-racial solidarity, often fighting alongside South Asian women who had similar experiences with racism and sexism in Britain. 

These brave Black female activists included Una Marson: a Jamaican writer and poet who, soon after arriving in Britain in 1932, became a key member of the League of Coloured Peoples – a British anti-colonial and anti-racist activist group. Claudia Jones: a Trinidadian activist who famously organised a march against racist immigration policy in 1962 and was the instigator of the original Notting Hill Carnival. Fellow Trinidadian Jocelyn Barrow: who, alongside other students and young activists, played a key role in getting the UK’s first anti-discrimination act passed in 1965 – Europe’s first race discrimination law. Olive Morris: a Jamaican activist who died at 27 but achieved a lot in her short life, including defending a Nigerian diplomat against police brutality. She also co-founded the Brixton Black Women’s Group – a 1970s group created to fight against state racism and to protect the reproductive rights of Black women. Stella Dadzie: a woman of Ghanaian and English heritage who, in 1978, co-founded the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent – a cross-racial anti-racist group. In 1985, she co-authored The Heart Of The Race, an award-winning book about the history of Black women’s activism in Britain.

When confronted with racism and sexism, Marson, Jones, Barrow, Morris and Dadzie took charge of their destinies and fought back. Today, against a changing social, economic and digital landscape, a new wave of young Black British feminists continue the mission to end discrimination in Britain. 

  1. Tobi Oredein – the founder of Black Balladan online magazine that uplifts Black British women’s voices.
  2. Tanya Compas  the founder of Exist Loudly, an organisation that works to uplift Black LGBTQIA+ youth through creativity, self-expression and digital storytelling. 
  3. Ebinehita Iyere ­– the founder of Milk Honey Bees, a London-based group that provides young Black girls with skills and opportunities to navigate society.
  4. Mercy Shibemba – born HIV positive, Shibemba is now an HIV/Aids activist who promotes equality for children, women and young people living with HIV.
  5. Temi Mwale – the founder of the 4FrontProject, an organisation that advocates for all Black young people impacted by violence.

Seun Matiluko is a British writer and researcher in law, race and politics. She has written for publications including Gal-dem, The Independent and Glamour, and is the host of the Black British women’s history podcast Hello From Britain!


Image of models carrying school books in the street
Steve Hiett/Trunk Archive

Hit Refresh On The New Season

As we all gear up, post-summer, to head back to work/school, it’s important to start with a fresh mindset and not overwhelm yourself by going 0-100. (Easier said than done when we’ve all already spent the first eight months of the year trying to catch up ‘post’-pandemic!) Still, whether you choose meditation, yoga, cooking a nice dinner with your friends, or picking up a book you love, I urge you to make some time for yourself. It is definitely what I intend to do. Now that I’m preparing for the South America leg of my tour, I need to make sure my immune system stays in fighting shape. So I am taking all my vitamins and omegas. Here are a few of the ones I highly recommend!

Dua x

  1. Zooki Vitamin CHair and Glutathione supplements
  2. Bare Biology Rise & Shine Omega-3 Plus Vitamin D3 Capsules
  3. Immun’Age Osato Papaya Dietary Supplement
  4. Daylesford Organic Daily Essential Vitamins, Minerals and Nutrients
  5. Better You Immune Health Oral Spray

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Images of men and women wearing brightly coloured suits for La Sape
Alamy

La Sape: The Bold Congolese Sartorial Movement Shifting The Socio-Political Narrative

Every year in June in the bustling streets of Brazzaville, Congo, an ostentatious group of men and women dressed in eye-catching suits (never exceeding three colours) exude a certain grandeur through their slow but grand steps, completing their theatrical performance with a dramatic tap of the heel and cane. The locals transform into elegant dandies and spectators become the judges, voting on who will be crowned ‘Sapeur of the Year’. This is La Sape. 

La Sape – an abbreviation of the French translation of Society of Ambience Makers and Elegant People – was born during Congo’s colonial period when the ‘houseboys’ would adopt their master’s clothing as a socio-political statement to show that they too could be just as elegant and smart as them. “La Sape was a way of giving hope to a generation who didn’t have any,” says sapeur Monsieur Robby.

To be deemed a ‘sapeur’ (a person with creative flair reflected both in their style and demeanour) required a trip to Europe, hence this social movement trickled its way down to France and Belgium. 

You were considered to have a certain stature if you returned to Congo with a lavish wardrobe filled with Guy Laroche or Versace suits, always accompanied by a pair of JM Westons. Christine Checinska, the curator of the V&A’s Africa Fashion exhibition, understands why some might deem this style ‘extreme’ but explains, “in Black culture, being well-dressed is bound up with self-respect.”

In response to the social inequality many of the migrants faced in France during the ’70s, underground clubs such as La Main Bleue in Paris (where Karl Lagerfeld hosted his infamous birthday bash in October 1977) were created to cater to minorities, and it eventually became a sapeur’s home away from home. 

The musical influence of the late Papa Wemba placed La Sape on an international scale. Dubbed the King of Rumba Rock, who fused African sounds with Caribbean rhythm, the Congolese music legend and fashion icon was notable for spreading the word of this movement through his tours in the late ’80s and early ’90s around France and Japan.

Solange’s 2012 music video Losing You, spotlighting Cape Town’s sapeurs and, in more recent years, designer Ozwald Boateng’s fashion collections – inspired by his frequent jaunts to Congo – have also become key cultural moments growing this bold sartorial movement beyond the niche. 

La Sape has always been seen as a way of existing beyond the socio-political upheaval and projecting a positive image of hope and of shifting the narrative. But beyond that, in the words of the female sapeur Arly La Liya, “La Sape is love, Sape yourself.”

Yelena Grelet is a London-based multimedia journalist and filmmaker


Photographs and an illustration from the HÄN archive
Bels May And Ellie, Anya Gorkova; Ebun Sodipo, Anya Gorkova; Cruiser, 2021, Romeo Roxman Gatt; Breakfast, 2022, Edith Hammar; Prinx Silver, Anya Gorkova

The Archive Chronicling The Lived Reality Of London’s Queer Community

Dedicated to the dyke, lesbian, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming communities and their creative heritage, HÄN is not an ordinary archive. “Anyone can submit whatever they feel like submitting,” says founder Ella Boucht. “Their work, text, an old message to a lover, an image of their queer elder or a person they look up to, a strap on, their breakfast or first binder.”

Alongside writer Anastasiia Fedorova and photographer Anya Gorkova, Boucht, a Finnish fashion designer and creative director, launched HÄN in July 2022 to illustrate the breadth and depth of queer experience and creativity in London. Encompassing publishing, art, a digital archive, a website, and community projects, HÄN chronicles “the beautiful day-to-day feeling and lived reality of queerness”, simultaneously deconstructing what a contemporary archive is and what it can be. It’s a living, breathing entity, expanding, morphing and shifting like the identities it puts in the limelight. 

Originally conceived by Boucht in 2020, the project has been in the works for two years, during which the trio delved into existing queer archives at the Bishopsgate Institute (“the best spot for dates,” says Gorkova) and Central Saint Martins library, among others. To mark the launch of HÄN at Reference Point in London, the team behind the archive have released a namesake limited-edition publication that serves as a bridge between queer past and queer futures.

Illustrated with Gorkova’s intimate monochromatic portraits, the first edition focuses on gender and its representation today, celebrating “the fluidity of it, and the excitement of it shifting,” says Fedorova. For the publication, Fedorova interviewed members of the LGBTQIA+ community from various walks of life, from drag king and burlesque performer Prinx Silver to mudlark Lydia Birgani-Nia and martial artist Black Venus. The result is a sexy, serious, entertaining, tender, defiantly outspoken and, above all, radically hopeful publication in “a world which is burning – and in a world which is being reborn”.

The ultimate mission is to build an internationally accessible contemporary queer archive, which is as apposite as ever considering the backslide on LGBTQIA+ rights the world over. “It feels like at this stage we are finally reconnecting with ourselves, reflecting on the past, acknowledging the present and creating a new, exciting future for ourselves,” says Gorkova. “And this time, it is happening on our terms.”

Nini Barbakadze is a fashion journalist and editor of Phreak Issue who has written for publications such as the Financial Times, Love Magazine, Metal Magazine, Forbes, Coeval Magazine and Year Zero


Portrait of the US-based Afro-Latinx artist Raelis Vasquez and images of his paintings
La Mesa Nuestra, 2020; Buen Provecho, 2020; Mercado En Dajabon, 2021; Noches En El Pueblo De Dios, 2020; © Raelis Vasquez

Why Raelis Vasquez’s Art Is Centring The Afro-Latinx Community

When you walk into any major museum and you look for a painting or portraiture, chances are you’ll find pieces from a narrow, Western-focused point of view – both in terms of the artists creating the work and the subjects depicted in them. A 2019 study found that approximately 85% of the art in museum collections in the US is by white artists. By focusing on the under-represented, Raelis Vasquez, the Afro-Latino artist whose work has been shown at prestigious art institutions including Sakhile&Me, Jeffrey Deitch and the Kunstraum Potsdam, is part of the new guard overhauling the art world. “I want my work to be able to be consumed by the people that I’m painting,” he says. 

Vasquez’s vivid paintings and detailed compositions – which drop us right into family celebrations and everyday scenes – reflect the Afro-Latinx experience with a distinct tenderness, exploring questions and themes that have been most present throughout his life: immigration and cultural identity. Growing up in the Dominican Republic and immigrating to New Jersey at a young age, he’s experienced what it means to live in two “completely different worlds”. His paintings take inspiration from images he captures during visits to his birth country, where he photographs both his family and strangers. Later, he sifts through the images in his studio, taking different elements from snapshots before approaching the blank canvas. 

While his art pushes against Afro-Latinx communities being overlooked or stereotyped, there are, he says, some key questions that guide his work. “Can I preserve and represent my culture the way that it feels? Can I give the people that I’m representing that certain level of dignity? Can I make them feel as if they’re bigger than they actually are?” he asks. Ultimately, this, along with his commitment to Afro-Latino representation in the art world, is “priority number one”. His hope is that “the work can do something for someone else just like it does for me”. 

Eva Recinos is an LA-based arts and culture journalist and creative non-fiction writer 


Portrait of British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful and his book cover
Mert and Marcus, Rafael Pavarotti

This One Thing... Edward Enninful: A Visible Man

In one of the most highly anticipated memoirs of 2022, Edward Enninful – the high-profile British Vogue editor-in-chief and At Your Service Season 1 podcast guest – charts the remarkable trajectory of how he, a young Ghanaian immigrant who moved to London in the 80s, became the changemaker at the helm of the world’s most influential fashion bible. Going beyond the glamour of his friendships with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna and Meghan Markle, this is an extraordinary tale of perseverance and passion that delves into Enninful’s experience as a Black, African, gay man as well as his ongoing mission to challenge and transform the historically white world of fashion.
Edward Enninful: A Visible Man is out this week

Funmi Fetto is the Global Editorial Director of Service95 and a Contributing Editor at British Vogue


Portrait of women in the kitchen of Italian social initiative Cuoche Combattenti
Cuoche Combattenti

A Revolutionary Kitchen: The Italian Females Cooking Their Way Out Of Domestic Abuse

After suffering nearly two decades of domestic abuse, Nicoletta Cosentino found the strength to walk away. She speaks to Marianna Cerini about her social enterprise Female Cook Fighters, which helps survivors of domestic abuse find financial independence and self-worth

If Nicoletta Cosentino had to describe herself in one word, she’d choose “tenacious”. “I think it’s what summarises me best,” she tells me over the phone from Palermo, Sicily, where she lives. “Although it took me a while to realise that about myself.”

Eighteen years to be exact – the length of the abusive relationship she was in. “It was a psychological kind of abuse, which meant that for the longest time I didn’t understand it wasn’t normal,” she says candidly. “Because of the constant denigration I was put through, what I thought was wrong was me. When someone tells you that you’re not good enough or deserving enough on a daily basis, it gets inside your head. You start believing it.”

Until one day – with the help of local centre Le Onde, which works with female victims of domestic abuse in Palermo – she stopped. “As soon as I became aware of the violence I had suffered, I felt the need to talk about it with other women and to lend a hand to anyone else who might be in a similar situation,” she says. “I wanted them to know they were not alone.” 

Cuoche Combattenti (which translates to Female Cook Fighters), a social enterprise Cosentino launched in 2019, is the result of that desire to help.  

Spanning a workshop and training programme, it brings together survivors of domestic abuse and gives them the means to be financially independent by teaching them to make various jams, preserves and sauces, which are then sold to the public. Besides being handmade, each product carries messages against domestic violence on its packaging: ‘You’re worth it, and you can be free’, ‘Those who love you want you to be happy’ and ‘There is always a way out’.

“We think of them as mantras and reminders of our worth,” Cosentino says. “I came up with the first ones even before founding Cuoche Combattenti. They just poured out of me. I like to say they’re universal truths all women should hear.”

That’s especially the case for Italy, where, according to ISTAT (the Italian National Institute of Statistics), 31.5% of women have experienced some form of sexual or physical violence in their lifetime, and 29.9% have been psychologically abused (that figures rises to 35% for women aged 16 to 24). Since the start of the year, there have been 53 femicides in the country: that’s one every three days. 

For many of the women that train with Cuoche Combattenti, the experience is transformative. “It’s an opportunity to start over, but also to learn a completely new set of skills, and realise they can do it on their own,” Cosentino says. “It gives them a newfound dignity.” 

The project’s logo, a raised fist proudly holding a rolling pin, has that same intent: “it signifies that we’re not victims, but fighters,” she says. And that they’re not afraid to turn the kitchen ­– a place women have been historically relegated to – into an outpost against violence and abuse.

Looking ahead, Cosentino hopes to see more Cuoche Combattenti come together across Italy and make it an instrument of economic independence and self-determination for whoever might need it. 

“The best part of the work I do is the connection I forge with the women I come into contact with,” she says. “Together we can overcome anything – and learn to love ourselves again. That’s the most important thing.” 

Marianna Cerini is a freelance journalist writing about cultural trends, travel, fashion and the arts and has been published in Conde Nast Traveler, BBC Travel, CNN Style and Vogue Italia


Image of pinboard featuring two postcards of Tirana in Albania

Let Me List It Out For You

A key part of the puzzle that’s remained vital to every issue of Service95 and At Your Service episode is the list. We’ve asked our writers and podcast guests for their recommendations, including must-dos in their hometowns, books to read, stand-up comedians to seek out, and organisations and activists to turn our attention to. To celebrate our love of lists, we’ve selected a few of our favourites from this year so far, some of which are appearing in print for the first time, including my own recommendations for Tirana – the second location for our Sunny Hill Festival, which kicks off tomorrow! 

Dua x 

  1. Bunk’Art 1 & 2 – these incredible conversions of bunkers host historical exhibitions about Albania tied in with contemporary art. Not to be missed.
  2. Dajti Cable Car – if you want to see some spectacular views from up above, head here.
  3. House of Leaves – this museum served as the state security’s headquarters during the communist era and is now a place dedicated to the people that were convicted, prosecuted, and spied on during the communist regime.
  4. Ismail Kadare’s House – the house of famous Albanian author Ismail Kadare has been turned into a museum and is now open to the public.
  5. Blloku – Tirana’s trendy neighbourhood, this is where you’ll find the city’s nightlife, with lots of fun bars and restaurants.

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Images featuring activities to do and places to visit in Paris
Geraldine Martens, Getty Images

Olivier Rousteing’s Favourite Things To Do On A Day Off In Paris

The creative director of Balmain talked us through his perfect day in the French capital in our very first podcast episode.

  1. Take an early morning walk by the Seine.
  2. Eat at Anahi Argentinian restaurant.
  3. Visit Musée de la Mode Galliera.
  4. Browse antique furniture in Saint Ouen market.
  5. Go horse riding in Fontainebleau.

LISTEN TO DUA LIPA: AT YOUR SERVICE


Collage featuring female rap artists Roxanne Shanté, Lil' Kim, Lauryn Hill, Nicki Minaj and Rapsody
Parveen Narowalia

The Female Rappers Who Have Held Their Own In A Man’s World

In her article For Women In Hip-Hop, Their Greatest Opponent Is Still Misogyny in Issue 006 of Service95, kathy iandoli spotlighted the female artists making waves in the world of rap.

  1. Roxanne Shanté – who perfected the art of battle rap.
  2. Lil’ Kim – who taught us that sex is power.
  3. Lauryn Hill – who mothered the rap style of most men out today. 
  4. Nicki Minaj – who took hip-hop to new dimensions. 
  5. Rapsody – who didn’t surrender to industry pressure, and remained authentically herself.  


kathy iandoli is a critically acclaimed journalist and author of the books God Save The Queens: The Essential History Of Women In Hip-Hop, Baby Girl: Better Known As Aaliyah, and the Lil’ Kim memoir, The Queen Bee. She is also a professor at New York University


Image of the bar inside Dozen Oyster
Dozen Oyster

CL’s Top Eats In Seoul

The South Korean rapper and singer-songwriter shared the street food and local restaurants you can’t miss in her home city in episode 3 of Dua Lipa: At Your Service.

  1. Born and Bred – it’s in the middle of the meat market and you just buy the meat and they cook it for you. It’s like Japanese Omakase but with Korean barbeque. 
  2. Tteokbokki – in Achasan you can taste the best tteokbokki, which is like a spicy rice cake ­– it’s very local food. And they have dumplings, which are empty apart from a few noodles inside, which you dip in the hot sauce.
  3. Corndogs – we love upgrading them in Korea, whether it’s with sugar on top, so they’re salty and sweet, or with potatoes or cheese.
  4. Dozen Oyster – oysters are big in Korea. You can get them everywhere, but this is my favourite place.
  5. Duomo – this is a really good Italian restaurant. It’s super casual – I love the chef there – and it just feels like home.

LISTEN TO DUA LIPA: AT YOUR SERVICE


Illustration of hands with pink nail varnish using dating app on phone
Dusan Stankovic

Five Progressive Dating Apps

In Issue 020 of Service95, relationships writer Olivia Petter shared the dating apps that are implementing new ways to help keep women safe.

  1. Bumble – the original feminist dating app that allowed women to ‘make the first move’.
  2. Her – one of the industry’s leading apps for queer and trans women.
  3. S’More – where users can only see a blurred version of someone’s profile, which becomes clearer the longer you chat to them.
  4. The Sauce – the app where traditional profiles are replaced with candid videos, so you can get a true sense of the person you’re talking to.
  5. Safer Date – which conducts ID and background checks on all its users.

Olivia Petter is a relationships writer at The Independent and the author of Millennial Love, published by 4th Estate


Photographs of Grace Kuhlenschmidt, Nori Reed, Max Wittert, Sam Taggart and George Civeris

Devin Kasparian, Alexa Viscius, Alex Winfrey @alexmwinfrey, Sandy Honig

Bowen Yang’s Comedians You Should Know About

The Saturday Night Live star shouted out some of his favourite names in comedy in episode 9 of Dua Lipa: At Your Service.

  1. Grace Kuhlenschmidt does a lot of Instagram and TikTok videos – a lot of lesbian content that is really funny.
  2. Nori Reed is a great stand-up and writer.
  3. Max Wittert is an illustrator and comedian – he wrote a piece on Selling Sunset for Gawker that was brilliant.
  4. Sam Taggart is a fantastic writer.
  5. Sam and his friend (and my friend) George Civeris do a podcast called StraightioLab about people breaking down heterosexual culture.

LISTEN TO DUA LIPA: AT YOUR SERVICE


Portrait of Dua Lipa sitting on the deck of a boat, wearing summer dress and sunglasses

A Bird’s Eye View

I’m writing this letter to you from my long-awaited summer break – I hope wherever you are in the world, you’re able to put your feet up and disconnect because we all need to remember to slow down from time to time. In that spirit, the Service95 team and I are using today’s newsletter as an opportunity to look back at our first seven+ months as a publication, and to celebrate and champion some of my favourite stories and writers from our first run. From spotlighting activism and sustainable sex toys to the need for inclusivity, I’m so proud of these features, as well as the ones we didn’t have space to re-run here. And I thank you all for continuing to read Service95 every week. It’s a labour of love. 

Dua x


A portrait of the team, and images of the Prada catwalk and set-design supplies donated to Spazio Meta
© Delfino Sisto Legnani, © Prada

Faux-Fur Carpet, Pink Sand & Distorting Mirrors: Inside Milanese Art Reuse Start-Up Spazio Meta

Tucked away in the once-industrial district of Bovisa, on the northern outskirts of Milan, is a 300-square-metre warehouse neatly filled with discarded materials from fashion shows, art exhibitions, temporary installations and photo shoots. There are carpets in every thickness – including the faux-fur olive one that covered the interiors of the Prada show during Milan Fashion Week in February 2022 – fabric in a plethora of hues, glass in a variety of shapes and everything is on sale at affordable prices. This is Spazio Meta, a start-up launched in spring 2021 by friends-turned-entrepreneurs Martina Bragadin, Margherita Crespi and Benedetta Pomini with the idea to create an alternative – and cost-effective – response to the overproduction and waste of resources stemming from the art, fashion and design sectors.

The three women share similar backgrounds: Bragadin and Crespi studied scenography together in Milan, while Pomini used to work in art galleries and exhibition spaces, overseeing production processes. “We all witnessed first-hand how unsustainable the creative field can be when it comes to temporary events,” Bragadin tells me, “from the huge amount of resources that go into a set design meant to last only a few hours, to the fact that most of the materials used for a fashion show or an art display are usually just thrown away once the event is over – even though they’re still perfectly fine and recyclable.” Founding Spazio Meta was their way to “counteract this culture of waste”, she says.

Their small team does so by assessing and selecting used materials from different clients and suppliers – including fashion brands such as Prada and design fairs including Salone del Mobile.

The offer is wide-ranging: besides conventional materials, there were also, at the time of writing, 600 kilos of pink sand, giant cabbage props and distorting mirrors up for grabs.

Unusually, Spazio Meta’s showroom is not just for industry insiders, it is also open to the public. “We want to serve as a community space for anyone who might have artistic inclinations,” Pomini says. “It’s all about fostering a more responsible, circular approach to making art in all its forms and facilitating the use and sharing of resources.”

Marianna Cerini is a freelance journalist writing about travel, fashion, the arts and cultural trends and has been published in Conde Nast Traveller, The Telegraph, Time Out Beijing, Forbes and Vogue Italia


Two portraits of Mathilde Mackowski, co-founder of erotic brand Sinful, holding Ohhcean sex toys made from ocean-bound plastic
© Tobias Nicolai

Meet Mathilde Mackowski, The Woman Behind The World’s First Sex Toys Made From Ocean-Bound Plastic

“My passion is about playfulness. For me, everyone should have a playful sex life,” says Mathilde Mackowski. This is exactly why she made a move into the sex-toy industry 14 years ago and co-founded the Scandinavian erotic brand Sinful. From the get-go, it garnered a lot of media attention due to its relatability. “We were the first in the Nordic countries trying to make sex toys mainstream,” she recalls. “So many media outlets were contacting us because we were, you know, normal, with the ‘girl next door’ look.”

Now she’s upping the ante by launching Ohhcean, the world’s first sex toys made using ocean-bound plastic. This, in a nutshell, is plastic that’s been caught in the ocean, rainfall or on the beach before it becomes a problem. Working with #Tide, one of the world’s front-runners in upcycling and recycling ocean-bound plastic, Ohhcean has created three products: Magic Wand, G-spot Vibrator and Body Vibrator. Covered in sleek silicone, the range mirrors the hues of oceanic waves.

This approach to sex toys – playfulness while also protecting the planet from further damage – is something Mackowski hopes will inspire other companies in the world to think in the same way. “I want to start a big wave of change.”

Susan Devaney is a freelance journalist and editor, who has worked for titles including British Vogue and Stylist magazine. She’s also written for Refinery29 UK, ELLE, The Guardian and more


A black and white image of a white visibly disabled woman, standing on one of two podiums of various heights wearing a black dress with black shoes
© Yumna Al-Arashi

“Let’s Build A World That Includes Everyone, By Design – And Through Accessibility”

I live in a world that is not designed for me.  

As a physically Disabled person, much of my agency and independence is limited by the design of places, spaces and products. This is most obvious when I approach an automatic door and it doesn’t open because the sensor is set to a specific height. Or, when I try to order a coffee and the counter is so high that the barista can’t see me and continues to shout, ‘Next, please!’ Neither are accessible to me, but maybe one is to ensure the safety of children and the other is to allow baristas to stand to make coffee. Nevertheless, both serve as a reminder that places, spaces and products are often created in the likeness and experience of the designer, meaning they make assumptions over who uses their product, who lives in our world, and who gets to work as a barista.  

The ‘mismatch’ between me and my environment isn’t unique. Think about a pair of scissors that is only usable for those who are right-handed, or that the standard office temperature was developed around an average man’s metabolic resting rate. It was 2019 by the time ballet pointe shoes first colour-matched Black and mixed-race skin tones. In the midst of a pandemic, antigen or lateral flow tests are inaccessible to those who are Blind, and face masks remain a barrier to the Deaf community.  

A way to change all that? Let’s build a world that includes everyone, by design – and through accessibility.  

I define accessibility as a continuous and evolving practice that is achieved through intentional, meaningful and intersectional participation of people with a lived experience of exclusion. I believe that if we design a more accessible world, we build a more equitable one too. Accessible solutions don’t merely give agency to Disabled people, but vastly improve all our lives.  

For example, did you know that text messaging was originally designed for the Deaf community? The first text message was sent in 1992 and created by Matti Makkonen as an accessible method for Deaf people to communicate with each other and the non-Disabled community. Today, text messaging is the world’s most-used data service with 22 billion texts sent per day. (This data doesn’t even include the messaging capabilities of Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp and TikTok.) 

I believe that innovation lives in the bedrock of unreached communities, but where to begin? Here’s my blueprint:

  1. Disability is not a dirty word Say the word Disabled and avoid euphemisms.   
  2. Support Disabled artists and activists, such as: Christine Sun Kim, Rosie Jones, Chella Man, Éabha Wall and Dr Rosaleen McDonagh  
  3. We don’t know what we don’t know At school, at home, in the cinema, on a Zoom call or at work, always ask yourself ‘is this accessible?’  

Sinéad Burke is a writer, academic and disability activist based in Dublin. @tiltingthelens 


Portrait of Ukrainian activist Daria Kaleniuk
Daria Kaleniuk © Anti-Corruption Action Center

Daria Kaleniuk: The Ukrainian Activist Fighting For Her Country’s Sovereignty

In early March, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson went to Poland to meet Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. He was there to offer his support as the country faced increasing humanitarian pressures from the war in Ukraine, but if he had hoped to come across as a statesman in his address, he was disappointed. And that was thanks to Daria Kaleniuk, a Ukrainian activist in the audience. 

“As he was speaking, I was getting text messages from one of my people who was trying to evacuate with her two children from near Kyiv, while bombs were falling,” Kaleniuk says. “And there was Boris Johnson saying how the Ukrainian people were inspiring the world, and how he’s trying his best to help, and I just felt anger and betrayal.” 

So when the time came for questions, she launched into a spontaneous speech that went viral, lighting up social media around the world. It was the kind of tongue-lashing few senior politicians will ever receive. Her voice thick with outrage, she demanded more weapons for the Ukrainian people and more sanctions against Russian oligarchs. “I just felt it was my obligation to tell him the truth about what Ukrainians are feeling,” she says. 

After Kaleniuk’s year of studying law in the US in 2010-11, she could have stayed and built herself a comfortable career. Instead, she came home and, in 2013, she and her friend Vitaliy Shabunin founded the Anti-Corruption Action Center (AntAC) and dedicated themselves to exposing the unscrupulous activities of much of the government in Kyiv at the time. After mass protests forced the president to flee in 2014, many of her team’s ideas became law, gradually forcing Ukraine to become more democratic. 

Still, opposing some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world was a tough road to choose. Shabunin’s house was burned down in 2020 and AntAC has been repeatedly sued. But that was nothing compared to what they’re up against now. Shabunin is fighting in Kyiv’s territorial defence, while Kaleniuk is in Warsaw campaigning for more weapons for Ukraine and a Nato-enforced no-fly zone to help fight off Vladimir Putin’s attack on their country. 

“I am not an anti-corruption activist any more,” Kaleniuk says. “I am where I have to be at the moment, doing what I can.” 

Oliver Bullough is a Welsh journalist who covers financial crime and the former Soviet Union. He is the author of Butler To The World: How Britain Became The Servant Of Tycoons, Tax Dodgers, Kleptocrats And Criminals


Image of Brunette woman, whose face is obscured by ripped paper, the word 'empowered' covers her eyes and crossed out with felt tip pen
© Michelle Thompson, 2022

Why We Need To Lose The Word ‘Empowerment’ – And Focus On Power Instead

Ladies, are you feeling empowered? I certainly hope so, because over the past decade multinational companies have been working night and day to find new ways to empower women. Deodorant brands run campaigns empowering women to feel good in their own skin. Victoria’s Secret pledged to become “the world’s leading advocate for women”. The fancy new Hotel Zena launched in Washington DC, dedicated to female empowerment and featuring art made of tampons and a $16 cocktail called the Empowermint. 

In recent years Corporate Feminism and self-help culture have turned empowerment into a marketing tactic. Buy this shampoo, it’ll empower you! Buy this car, it’ll empower you! Buy this $75 scented candle, it’ll empower you! Empowerment has become an annoying buzzword, but, more importantly, empowerment culture has become an insidious way of reinforcing existing power structures. The modern Empowered Woman™ doesn’t question capitalism; she buys herself expensive things as a form of self-careShe isn’t concerned about structural inequality: as long as she can find a way into the C-Suite, she’s happy with the status quo.  

Empowerment culture seeks to change the individual rather than the system. Think about all the advice women have been given about leadership in recent years. If you want to get ahead, we’ve been told, you need to lean in. You need to speak up. You need to stop saying sorry. If you mould yourself to fit a system created by men, if you act like a man, then you might be given a seat at the table. That’s the thing about the word empowerment, you see, it means someone giving you power or enabling you; it suggests that you are somehow incapable of helping yourself. 

Instead of working to advance feminism, empowerment culture has held it back. It has focused on individual achievements rather than structural equality. It’s time to change that: to stop talking about empowerment and focus on power instead. I recently interviewed Amina Mohammed, the deputy secretary-general of the United Nations. “The condescending nature with which we are welcomed into that arena of leadership is a narrative we have to change,” she told me. “There’s still this sort of idea that [power is] something that is graciously bestowed upon us. But you know what? Power is never given, it’s taken.” 

So what makes me hopeful? Instead of leaning into toxic power structures, a new generation of female leaders are leaning out – they’re determined to lead on their own terms. “We never need to ask for permission or wait for an invitation to lead,” said Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar, when she was asked what she would say to women of colour who are frustrated by comments that seek to minimise their impact. “There’s a constant struggle with people who have power about sharing that power,” she said. “We are not really in the business of asking for the share of that power; we’re in the business of trying to grab that power and return it to the people.” That desire to share power rather than to empower yourself? That’s what real feminism looks like.

Arwa Mahdawi is a New York-based Guardian columnist and the author of Strong Female Lead: Lessons From Women In Power 


Dua Lipa: At Your Service Podcast Summer Series logo
Dua Lipa: At Your Service

At Your Service: Summer (Mini)Series

I’m thrilled to announce that the second season of my podcast Dua Lipa: At Your Service will be with you next month but, in the meantime, allow me to introduce you to At Your Service: Summer Series. A reset of sorts, this three-part series, that starts with tomorrow’s episode – a guided yoga flow that I created with my teacher Annie – with accompanying YouTube shorts, has been designed to help you feel grounded and healthy again if you, like me, have had a frenzied summer filled with exuberance and excess. Recording them helped me find my centre again. I hope the same is true for you. 

Dua x 

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Collage featuring the creatives redefining the beauty industry
Steven Klein, Paul Scala, Sofi Adams

Meet The Creatives Redefining Beauty On Their Own Terms

Thanks to recent cultural shifts, conversations around the concept of beauty have begun to change. Many intersectional factors have brought us to this moment; the birth of third-wave feminism; the rise of social media; the burgeoning body-positivity movement and ideas of self-acceptance that have come with it and, most pressingly, the deafening calls for diversity in front of the camera and beyond. As a result, a new wave of creatives is redefining beauty on their own terms. In the hands of these trailblazing cultural leaders, the future of beauty is inclusive. 

Portrait image of make up artist Isamaya Ffrench
Isamaya Beauty, Steven Klein

Isamaya Ffrench
British makeup maverick Isamaya Ffrench has been reimagining the possibilities of makeup with her avant-garde, left-of-centre approach to beauty since she came on the scene in 2015 and has since worked with the likes of Tom Ford, Byredo and Burberry. Her own newly launched makeup line is inspired by BDSM (for the uninitiated that is Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadochism and Masochism). “We are too comfortable sticking to things we know,” she says. “I want to make something that feels different and ever-evolving.”

Portrait image of make up artist Cyndia Harvey
Paul Scala

Cyndia Harvey
Jamaican-born hairstylist Cyndia Harvey is considered one of the most exciting stylists of her generation. Her 2017 film This Hair Of Mine  – a celebration of Black hair and culture – her braids at the Simone Rocha AW22 catwalk show, the slick-meets-wispy waves at Jacquemus, and the fantastical Afro-meets-punk creation at Schiaparelli, and now her new haircare brand – also called This Hair Of Mine – all challenge the beauty ideal because, she says, “I want to create a future where blackness is nurtured and cared for.”

Portrait of make up artist Marcelo Gutierrez

Marcelo Gutierrez
Colombian makeup artist Marcelo Gutierrez takes his vibrant visual cues from the underground queer club scene. “My work communicates power, mystique, playfulness, and sexual empowerment,” he says. Using makeup as a means of expression, his bold aesthetic has punctuated the pages of countless magazines, including VogueDazed And Confused and i-D.

Portrait image of make up artist Rowi Singh

Rowi Singh
Reinterpreting the rich colours and traditional adornments of Punjabi culture, Australian makeup artist Rowi Singh celebrates the beauty of her South Asian roots, after years of trying to repress them. Her culturally infused aesthetic and commitment to inclusivity have seen brands including Fenty Beauty and Anastasia Beverly Hills clamour to collaborate with her. 

Portrait of model Lauren Wasser
Sofi Adams

Lauren Wasser
After having both legs amputated due to a tampon-related case of toxic shock syndrome, American model Lauren Wasser has made it her mission to redefine what we think of as beauty. She returned to the catwalk with her gold prosthetics, recently closing the show for Louis Vuitton’s 2023 Cruise collection. “Beauty within the modelling world has always been focused on perfection,” she says. “That’s just not realistic.”

Portirat image of skin positivity activist Louise Northcote
Lou Northcote

Lou Northcote
British pimple-positivity activist Lou Northcote is using her platform to destigmatise acne and uproot the idea of flawless skin as the only definition of beauty. “I am trying to bring awareness to real skin,” she says. “To help others with acne not feel alone, and to challenge the people who say acne is dirty and unclean.”

Portrait image of beauty influencer Devin Halbal

Devin Halbal
Devin Halbal AKA hal.baddie rose to TikTok fame thanks to her relatable morning mantras and fresh take on positive affirmations. Never without her selfie stick, she’s one of the industry’s favourite muses. “As a transgender woman who has not yet gotten rid of my facial hair or had any surgeries, I am challenging what it means to be beautiful by simply existing.”

Tish Weinstock is a writer, editor and creative consultant working across beauty, fashion and culture, and is contributing editor at British Vogue


Image of hands pulling out a safe, wearing diamond jewellery and black gloves
Michael Baumgarten/Trunk Archive

Lab-Grown Diamonds: An Explainer

As the diamond industry searches for ways to be more ethical and sustainable, Milena Lazazzera explores the man-made alternatives 

As soon as you start meandering in the shopping avenues of the world wide web in search of a diamond, you stumble on two options: lab-grown or natural diamonds. But what’s the difference?

To the naked eye, only the price tag, as man-made stones are typically 30% less expensive than natural ones. Otherwise, diamonds grown in a laboratory are chemically (made of carbon) and structurally (cubic crystal structure) identical to their mined counterparts. But the most significant distinction is provenance. Natural diamonds were cooked up in Mother Earth’s cauldron billions of years ago, while those that are man-made are churned out within weeks from mighty machines.

So how are they made? Most lab-grown diamonds are produced in two ways: high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) or carbon vapour deposition (CVD) – both not too different from putting a corn kernel in a hot pan, heating it and making it pop. HPHT diamonds are formed from a carbon seed crystal placed in a sort of gigantic oven that mimics the extreme pressure (about 50,000 times that of the atmosphere on the Earth’s surface) and heat (around 1,400ºC) that, after the Big Bang, made carbon atoms crystallise into diamonds. With CVD, tiny seeds of natural diamonds expand through layers of a carbon-hydrogen gas mixture deposited on them within a chamber heated to about 800ºC.

Man-made diamonds have rapidly grown in popularity since Leonardo DiCaprio’s Blood Diamond in 2006 showed how mined diamonds profited warlords in African countries mired in conflicts. Although the Kimberley Process regulates trade to stem 99% of the global production of conflict diamonds, fresh concerns have arisen since Russia, which unearths nearly a third of natural diamonds, launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Yet miners argue that natural diamonds provide the resources to invest in conservation projects and local communities, thus reducing poverty rates – as happened in Botswana.

That said, consumers find lab-grown diamonds more affordable and are appealed by their environmentally friendly and ethical credentials, however, these claims need to be examined with due diligence. 

The environmentally friendly statement is valid only when laboratories use renewable resources to produce the colossal amount of energy needed to bake their gems – otherwise, lab-grown diamonds may end up having a higher carbon footprint than natural diamonds.

When it comes to ethics, you need to inquire about lab-grown diamonds’ entire supply chain as substandard labour practices may occur when diamonds are cut and polished, usually in a country different from where they are made.

If you think lab-grown diamonds are the right choice for you, here are five brands that have done the hard work for you:

1. Vrai: With diamonds made by its parent company Diamond Foundry using hydropower, Vrai guarantees full transparency across its supply chain. 
2. Nomis: This indefatigable Ukrainian brand still operates and offers bold, symbolism-filled designs while delivering full transparency.
3. Kimaï: Based in Antwerp, Europe’s diamond epicentre, Kimaï’s sustainability standards have won the approval of the Duchess of Sussex.
4. Vever: The former art nouveau prodigy brand was relaunched last year and recognised by the French government as a company with a special ethical and environmental mission.
5. Innocent Stone: Founded by a former mined diamond dealer, Innocent Stone offers a wide choice of lab-grown diamonds, either loose or set in jewellery.  

Milena Lazazzera is a fashion and jewellery writer, contributing to Financial Times, The New York Times, The Business Of Fashion, Vogue Business, Tatler and more


Images by photographer Nigel Shafran, taken from his retrospective book The Well
Nigel Shafran, 2022 © Courtesy Loose Joints

This One Thing... The Well by Nigel Shafran

The Well: A term that describes the central pages of a fashion magazine and the title of photographer Nigel Shafran’s recently published book. Yet, inside his tome, you’ll find stark images of the people and shopfronts of the British high street in the early nineties overleaf from the aftermath of bomb damage in Belfast. Starting his career assisting fashion photographers in New York, Shafran considered himself an “outsider”. With the street an unexpected source of creativity, supermarket car parks and shopping centres became unlikely settings and his part-performance, part-documentary photographs were a self-confessed reaction “against the celebrity” and the very industry he started in. Raw, stripped back and uncompromisingly simplistic, Shafran’s work was instrumental in pivoting the world of fashion imagery. This book is a testament to that.

Poppy Roy is Picture Director for Service95, previously at British Vogue, and is a model and writer


Exterior images of five eco stays
Hotel Belmar; Bote Farms; The Pavilions Anana Krabi; Aristi Mountain Resort; Karijini Eco Retreat

5 Budget-Friendly Eco Stays For Your Next Adventure

Sustainable travel is all too often endorsed as a luxury for those that can afford it, but that doesn’t have to be the case. From hilltop cabins to safari-style eco tents, here’s our pick of the best sustainably minded check-ins that don’t cost the earth…

The Pavilions Anana Krabi, Thailand
Tucked in a corner of Krabi’s dramatic landscape on southern Thailand’s west coast – think towering limestone cliffs and tranquil forested valleys – The Pavilions Anana Krabi is an eco-sustainable resort with a wellness offering you don’t want to miss. With farm-to-table food, dips in the natural volcanic water pools and sustainable excursions including a trip to a truly ethical elephant sanctuary, you’ll reconnect with yourself and nature. All for a more than reasonable price. 
From around £43 a night for the Thai Studio room

Aristi Mountain Resort, Aristi, Greece
If you love the road less travelled, Aristi Mountain Resort, which towers above the hilltop village of Aristi in north-western Greece, is surrounded by the magnificent wilderness of the Northern Pindos National Park. A series of lodges connected by cobbled pathways and verdant gardens, the modern design is pared-back enough not to distract from the spectacular mountain views, and with heat pumps, LED lighting, and the use of locally sourced materials, it takes care to tread lightly. 
From around £125 a night for a double room

Karijini Eco Retreat, Karijini National Park, Western Australia, Australia
Fancy something a bit different? More glamping than a traditional hotel, the safari-style eco tents and cabins at Karijini Eco Retreat in Australia’s Western outback have all the mod-cons you need, including showers, cosy beds and solar-powered electricity so you can gaze at the stars in comfort. Set among a utopia of red cliffs, yawning gorges and immense waterfalls, there’s so much to explore. And as it’s run by one of Australia’s largest Aboriginal companies, it also helps increase development among Aboriginal communities.
From around £114 a night for a four-person eco tent

Bote Farms, Finiq, Albania
Set to open this summer, you could be one of the first to stay in any of the six new eco-cabins nestled into the hillside at this boutique agrotourism in southern Albania. A stunning feat of modern design – with no two cabins the same and a glass wall in each facing the epic views of the archaeological park of Finiq – the biological farm is at the heart of this resort and produces nearly all the fruit and vegetables they serve. Not only that, there are rescue animals to spend time with, Albanian cooking classes to indulge in and a natural pool (filtered by photosynthesis of shallow ponds built within the poolscape) to laze by. It’s all about switching off while being kinder to the land.
From around £110 a night for a cabin for four people

Hotel Belmar, Monteverde, Costa Rica
OK, this one is a bit more costly, but Hotel Belmar is another resort that should be on all eco travellers’ radars – and is worth the extra spend. A gateway to the wonder that is Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest, this 37-year-old Swiss-chalet-style family-run hotel has been environmentally and socially conscious from the start. Now with a dedicated sustainability department to implement its programmes, from reforestation to a biodigester that cleans wastewater, you can enjoy its breathtaking views, sun deck by the beautiful spring water pond and gourmet cuisine with an even clearer conscience. 
From around £150 a night for a double room

Samantha de Haas is Acting Managing Editor and Chief Copy Editor at Service95


The word 'sex' spelt out in wooden blocks
Stefania Pelfini

Let’s Talk About The S-Word

Sex! The fun, exciting, mood-enhancing, wild, sensual, playful and – yes – sometimes awkward act we should all be able to enjoy freely. Sex in all its forms should be fun, and I know we’d all love secret codes to help unlock the most pleasurable time doing it. Like, what are the routes to elevating your sex life? And how can we choose the perfect toy for some radical self-love? Our wonderful Service95 team have had a blast preparing this week’s Sex Issue for you, in hopes it may just unlock some of your curiosities, allowing you to dive deeper into the experience of all things sex. For those whose interests are piqued after reading, here are a few books on sex that might just tickle your fancy.

Dua x

  1. Becoming Cliterate – Dr Laurie Mintz 
  2. Queer Sex – Juno Roche 
  3. The Wild Woman’s Way – Michaela Boehm 
  4. The Right To Sex – Amia Srinivasan 
  5. Kink: Stories – RO Kwon and Garth Greenwell

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X-ray image of vanity case containing a sex toy
Science Photo Library/Alamy

How To Find The Right Sex Toy

Clinical sexologist and Sexology Girl herself Avril Louise Clarke reveals the ways to uncover the toy for you

Single, in a relationship or dating? Want to experience an orgasm for the first time, discover new pleasure points on your or your partner’s body or bring a much-needed twist to a sexual relationship? You might just find your answer in a vibrator, anal plug or dildo. Sex toys invite playfulness and pleasure and can revolutionise your sexual wellbeing by helping you to determine what you enjoy (and where), making it easier to communicate to a partner – leading to more pleasurable sex. 

There are so many types of toys to choose from that it can feel overwhelming. So where to begin? Well, it begins with you. You need to explore and discover what makes you feel good. Masturbation is the best – and, most importantly, fun – way to discover your body’s needs and desires. It’s common that your preferences can take a while to figure out (and may change over time), and what is enjoyable during partnered sex may differ when you’re going at it solo. 

The other thing to consider when exploring the plethora of sex toys available is material. Cheaper materials – such as PVC – can mean sacrificing your safety. A body-safe toy is easy to clean and made of non-porous material so bacteria can’t get trapped and grow, so the best materials range from silicone and glass to metal and crystal. Yes, the latter are more expensive, but think of it as investing in your pleasure and sexual health. 

And then you need the best sex toy and (sex) playmate – lubrication. A good lube makes it easier to slide, glide and insert in a way that feels good for you and your partner(s). Water-based lubricants are typically the most toy-safe as silicone-based lubricants can break down the materials of silicone toys (Hanx lubricant is my personal go-to). 

Finally, it’s worth remembering that we all experience pleasure differently, so there is no one-toy-fits-all. That said, if you want mind-blowing orgasms or to add a bit of kink to your sex life, these are some of my top recommendations.

  1. Njoy Pure Wand
    Hello, perfect G-spot and prostate stimulation! This motorless toy is so good for penetration and intense orgasms. The stainless-steel materials can also be used for some fun temperature play; safely making it cooler or warmer depending on your preference can really up the ante.
  2. Fin by Dame
    This small vibrating toy is ideal for stimulation of the vagina and penis. Great for partnered (or group) action, it fits comfortably between your fingers, making it more user-friendly if the mobility of your hands is limited.
  3. Pinwheel Transfix Dual 10 Reel
    If light BDSM piques your interest, this pinwheel can be rolled down sensitive areas to give some sensory play that will leave you with goosebumps – and wanting more.
  4. B-Vibe Snug Plug
    For those who enjoy a little anal stimulation, try this butt plug. It has a flared bottom, so it won’t get lost up there, it’s discrete enough for solo sex, and great during a little partnered action too.
  5. Eva by Dame
    This hands-free toy, with its dual set of wings that fit seamlessly in place by the outer lips of the vulva, stimulates the clitoris all while leaving space for the vaginal opening to enjoy penetrative sex if you’re after some dual stimulation.

Avril Louise Clarke is also an intimacy coordinator at the non-profit project The P*rn Conversation, which focuses on comprehensive sex education and porn literacy


Image of couple, sex and relationship coaches and creators of the Lacey and Flynn Have Sex podcast on pink sofa in underwear
Muir Vidler

This One Thing... Lacey And Flynn Have Sex

Yes, as the title suggests, on this podcast, husband and wife Flynn Talbot and Lacey Haynes record their sexual escapades live in every episode, to show you what real sex is like as a married couple when, in their own words, they’d “rather watch Netflix after putting the kids to bed”. Both sex and relationship coaches, they talk about – and throughout – their sexual interactions with unflinching detail, offering a window into their minds and relationship, covering everything from treating sex as a practice, to teargasms (an emotional release), to the thrills of cunnilingus. With toe-curlingly awkward moments and brutally honest commentary, you will feel uncomfortable. And that’s the point. Their aim is to demystify and de-stigmatise the myths around sex in order to elevate your sex life. Are you ready? Probably not. But it’s definitely worth a listen.

Samantha de Haas is Acting Managing Editor and Chief Copy Editor at Service95


Image of author Lillian Fishman alongside her book cover Acts Of Service
Angalis Field

Author Lillian Fishman Shares An Excerpt From Her Debut Novel Exploring Sexual Desire

A provocative exploration of sex and sexuality, Lillian Fishman’s Acts Of Service has been described as “bold and unflinchingly sexy” (Vogue), “radical, daring and bracing” (Sheila Heti), and a book that “doesn’t kiss you first, but gets right to it” (Raven Leilani). When Service95 caught up with Fishman, while she agreed the novel was largely “about a woman who gets involved in a secret three-way affair”, fundamentally, however, she explained the book is “really about the nature of desire and sexuality now. It’s about trying to understand why we want what we want, reconciling what we want with what we think we should want and how those desires are shaped by our social worlds.” Here is an exclusive extract from the opening chapter... 

I had hundreds of nudes stored in my phone, but I’d never sent them to anyone. The shots themselves were fairly standard: my faceless body floating in bedrooms and bathrooms, in mirrors. Whenever I took one I fell in love with it for a moment. Standing there, naked and hunched over my little screen, I felt overwhelmed with the urge to show someone this new iteration of my body. But each photo seemed more private and impossible than the last.

You could see in them something beyond desire, harder and more humiliating. While I was brushing my teeth or stepping out of the shower I would see my own body and find myself overwhelmed with a sense of urgency and disuse. My body was crying out that I was not fulfilling my purpose. I was meant to have sex – probably with some wild number of people. Maybe it was more savage than that, that I was meant not to fuck but to get fucked. The purpose of my life at large remained mysterious, but I had come around to the idea that my purpose as a body was simple.

I was too fearful of the world to go out and get fucked, too plagued by hang-ups, memories of shitty girlfriends, fears of violence. Instead I took photos. In the photos my body looked stunning, unblemished, often arched as though trying to escape the top of the frame. I was like a spinster full of anxieties and repressions, charged with chaperoning a young girl who could not fathom the injustice of the arrangement. One night when I was feeling exceptionally beautiful and isolated I decided to start sharing the nudes online. I used a website that anonymised usernames and disguised IP addresses, and I put up three photos with no accompanying text.

I was on my girlfriend’s toilet, the next morning, when Olivia messaged me. My post had accumulated more responses than I could possibly read. Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that none of the lewdness, the appreciation, not even the occasional brutality of these comments satisfied me. The anonymity of the photos felt cowardly, the distance of the viewers so great as to make their sentiments meaningless. The only part that thrilled me was repeatedly refreshing the page to see the photos reconstitute themselves again and again, not in a private folder on my phone but in a shared white room accessible from all corners of the world.

I was guilty of some trespass against my girlfriend, Romi – that was clear from the fact that I was refreshing the page while hiding in her bathroom. 

Romi’s drugstore-brand cleanser was perched on the sink. Her clean hospital scrubs hung on the back of the door like a poor drawing of a person. But, I reasoned, looking down at my phone, the photos had nothing to do with her. It was only my body that appeared in them, and my body didn’t belong to her.
Acts Of Service by Lillian Fishman is published by Europa Editions UK

Lillian Fishman received her Master of Fine Arts from New York University, where she was a Jill Davis Fellow. Acts Of Service is her first novel


Abstract illustration of queer couple in loving embrace
© Hayley Wall, 2022

“We Had No Blueprint For Sex Between A Non-Binary And Genderqueer Person”: The Writer And Performer Yas Necati On Love-Making As An Act Of Resistance

As my partner and I lay and cuddle after sex, I wonder how anyone could ever think of the way we touch each other as weird or gross or unnatural. We see and hold each other with such tenderness. Sometimes we are soft together, sometimes we are playful and rough; every time we keep checking in with each other. We are always learning more about how to make each other feel joy and comfort, how to make the other feel spoilt and celebrated. I sometimes can’t believe we live in a world where feeling that euphoria together is an act of resistance. To be queer is to be brave and defiant every time we fuck. Our love for each other is both easy and a protest.

In my partner’s arms, late at night or on a chill Sunday morning, is one of the places I feel most myself, and most powerful. Being non-binary, I’m almost always misgendered on the street no matter how I dress or present myself. But in their arms I can wear nothing, and still be seen as who I am. 

Over the time we’ve been together, I’ve felt more able to try new things, and move away from some of the sexual gendered expectations I had of myself as a masc-of-centre person. When we have sex, I feel comfy asking to experiment with different things about my gender. It feels easy and non-pressured. Being able to experiment and open up in such a safe way has helped me be more comfortable and confident outside of sex too.

We had no blueprint growing up for what sex between a non-binary and genderqueer person might look like, so we make it up as we go along. We ask each other what feels good and we go with it. It makes me excited that each time we are intimate with each other, we are building on years of queer and trans people resisting and fighting in order to rewrite sex. 

In some ways, this makes each time we come together even more powerful. We’ve both fought to love each other – and we’re both committed to keeping on fighting. 

Yas Necati is a journalist and poet, a performer of drag and spoken word, and the gender columnist for Gal-Dem


Images of Dua Lipa performing at Sunny Hill Festival
Sunny Hill Festival

A Love Letter To My Hometown

I’m so excited that Sunny Hill Festival is back for another year in Prishtina, Kosovo. When I lived in Kosovo from the ages of 11 to 15, my dream was to one day see my favourite musicians perform live in my hometown – and our festival was born from my and my father’s desire to achieve exactly that. I’m incredibly proud of the team that helps us put our festival on, especially as the weekend also aids our Sunny Hill Foundation, which supports different Kosovan organisations, especially in arts and culture.

Needless to say, I always look forward to making my way back to Prishtina for the summer, and with this year’s now-four-day festival, there’ll be so many incredible artists to see. If you’re coming to Sunny Hill, here are the can’t-miss places to eat and hang out in the city. See you there! 

Dua x 

  1. Tiffany – this traditional Albanian restaurant tastes like home in every sense.
  2. Dit e Nat – a bookstore cafe where you can enjoy your new read with a coffee in hand.
  3. Soma Slow Food – if you want to eat stellar food in the middle of a park, this is the spot for you.
  4. Renaissance – for a tasting menu without the fuss, Renaissance will blow you away.
  5. Soma Book Station – a gastropub with vinyl records and books… I could spend hours here.

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Product images and portrait of beauty brand Topicals founder Olamide Olowe
Topicals, Alexander Cody Nguyen

The Beauty Brand Transforming The Way You Feel About Skin

From Youthforia’s ‘makeup you can sleep in’ to the new Half Magic by Euphoria’s creative director Donni Davy, the latest crop of niche Gen-Z brands are shaking the foundations of a once-traditional beauty industry. Helming this new movement is Topicals, a skin-positive brand reframing the conversation around ‘perfect skin’.

Founded by Olamide Olowe, an American Nigerian, Topicals had a clear mission to overhaul how the beauty industry treats skin issues such as acne, eczema, and hyperpigmentation. The introduction of products – Faded, a hyperpigmentation gel, and the eczema-salve Like Butter – housed in pastel tubes with bold psychedelic typography helped fans manage their conditions without shame and became a huge hit on TikTok. But it wasn’t simply the products moving the needle. When Topicals launched in 2020, Olowe became the youngest Black woman to secure over $2million in venture capital. But it took two painstaking years to do so. “We had people who truly understood us from the start, but a lot of investors need brands centring Black culture to be ‘digestible’ before they get behind it,” reflects Olowe. “[But] if they don’t spend much time in Black communities, [how] can they spot the next big thing right in front of them – especially if the concepts are very niche or involve new ways of considering what it means to be Black?”

The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement saw consumers and investors scrambling to support Black-owned brands. “People see the success of brands such as Fenty Beauty and value them in capitalist terms. So now they think Black-owned beauty is worthy of investment,” says Olowe. While she sees the silver lining (“When more Black-owned brands get funding and prove successful, it does help others get funding”), she questions its authenticity.

“How long will it be until the ‘movement’ drops again and people have less incentive for change? History has shown a real peak and valley trajectory for Black movements; so much of it captures the mainstream attention and then drops.” Many would argue that ‘drop’ has already begun and much of the representation we currently see is more performative than not. Despite admitting, “If I knew what I’d have to endure while creating this brand, I never would’ve embarked on this journey,” Olowe still maintains hope. “We need to do everything possible to stop that [drop] from happening.”

Hence the inspiration behind many Topicals campaigns is about occupying spaces “[women of colour] have historically been excluded from”. She explains how she and her team looked at early-2000s movies such as She’s The Man and Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen “and asked ourselves what would these characters look like if they were women of colour?”. This fun, unorthodox storytelling across chronic skin conditions – “every new campaign rewrites a narrative centring a community that does not typically get any credit” – is something Olowe plans to continue. “Even if they don’t directly generate sales,” she says cheerfully, “they instil a sense of occupying space.”

Ava Welsing-Kitcher is a freelance beauty editor whose work has appeared in Vogue US, Refinery29, Popsugar and Grazia, and is the former deputy beauty editor of The Sunday Times Style


Image of DJ and queer party promoter Ty Sunderland
Megan Walschlager

Meet Ty Sunderland – The Titan Of New York’s Queer Nightlife

Ty Sunderland has been described by fans as the queer impresario of New York City’s music scene; a sort of pied piper for the gays. Sunderland, a south Florida native, has carved out a niche for himself as one of the most in-demand DJs, producers and party promoters in the Big Apple. Case in point: one of his most recent bashes, Brooklyn’s sold-out Planet Pride, drew 9,000 attendees. So yes, Sunderland is known for bringing the LGBTQIA+ community together – much like the music of the icons whose hits he’s known to spin.

“I never thought I’d be doing this,” Sunderland says of his rise. “I just wanted to create partiesIwanted to go to because I didn’t feel like there was anything for me. For my first event [five years ago], I emptied out my savings account to throw an underground DIY party – but with high-level sound production – celebrating Britney Spears.”

Sunderland’s first major New York City party Heaven on Earth launched in the autumn of 2017; underground (but not in the literal sense), it took place after-hours at a Chinese restaurant-by-day located above a Financial District TGI Fridays. The nights became known as safe havens for queer dance floor euphoria with big pop tracks along with an anything-goes attitude.

In no time at all, Heaven on Earth became one of the hottest tickets in the five boroughs due to its host’s deft combination of hip vibes and total lack of pretension.

And then the pandemic brought nightlife globally to a screeching halt. “I actually started thinking about other jobs because I didn’t know if it was ever going to come back,” he says. But like the chorus of a song that blasts back into your ears after an extended bridge, as the world dances back towards normalcy, New York’s queer nightlife titan has found himself busier than ever.

Following recent high-profile sets at Coachella and Gigi Hadid’s birthday party, he is spearheading one of New York’s most popular music sets, Ty Tea (an all-day and night outdoor bacchanal), along with a boat party brilliantly dubbed Gayflower, and other FOMO-inducing events. And, as if that weren’t enough, he’s just released a remix; an inventive rework of pop singer VINCINT’s 2021 single Higher. It is the debut of a burgeoning production career in which he’s hoping to be a “sort of gay Diplo”.

Sunderland cites nightlife inspirations ranging from Ian Schrager to Susanne Bartsch, as well as the late Studio 54 legend Steve Rubell. “What would he be doing right now if he hadn’t died of Aids?” wonders Sunderland out loud. “I’m just happy to be at the table, paying homage to people who came before me.”

Rob LeDonne is a culture and humour writer whose work has recently appeared in Billboard, Rolling Stone and Esquire


Images of Sunny Hill Festival
Sunny Hill Festival, Meddy Huduti

This One Thing... Sunny Hill Festival

A festival like no other, with one of the most compelling and musically diverse line-ups in Kosovo, Sunny Hill Festival is set to become the largest international festival in the region. Held in the green surrounds of Gërmia Park just outside of Prishtina and at a new site in Tirana, Albania, the long-overdue comeback of Sunny Hill Festival features a range of local and international acts spanning pop, electronic, hip-hop, R&B and dance. This year, J Balvin, Diplo, Skepta and our very own Dua Lipa are headlining Prishtina, while acts are yet to be announced for Tirana. With 25% of all ticket sales going towards the Sunny Hill Foundation to support the youth in Kosovo in creative arts, it’s not to be missed.
Sunny Hill Festival runs 4-7 August in Prishtina and 26-28 August in Tirana

Samantha de Haas is Acting Managing Editor and Chief Copy Editor of Service95


Underwater image of the sun shining through kelp seaweed
Douglas Klug

Is Seaweed The Revolutionary Ingredient The World Has Been Waiting For?

What’s arguably the greatest untapped resource on this planet; one which could help save the climate, restore biodiversity and feed the world without land, fresh water or chemicals? Yes, it’s seaweed – already 10% of the diet in Japan, and an incredible source of scarce nutrients such as vitamin B12, as well as protein and essential fats.

Seaweed is badly named, however, according to Vincent Doumeizel, senior advisor on oceans to the UN Global Compact. “We should call them sea vegetables so people can understand how delicious they are; we should call them sea forests so people can understand we need to protect them,” Doumeizel says with near messianic fervour.

The ocean covers 70% of the world’s surface and yet contributes less than 2% to the calories in the human food system. Land-based agriculture – farming, as we call it – is the biggest driver of biodiversity destruction worldwide due to habitat loss of wildlife and contributes a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. If we produced more of our food in the ocean, the resulting seaweed farms could help to reduce fertiliser pollution washing off the land as well as sequestering carbon and acting as nurseries to fish. 

Seaweed farming is not hypothetical: it is already carried out in 56 countries worldwide, although 99% of farmed seaweed is produced in Asia. Methods can be fairly rudimentary – seaweeds are grown on lines or ropes attached to stakes or platforms anchored to the seabed and hauled up on boats for harvesting. It is environmentally friendly so long as seaweed farmers do not excessively disturb the ocean bed or cut down coastal mangroves. 

And the promise of seaweed doesn’t stop at food. Its fibres could replace cotton, which requires startling volumes of fresh water and chemicals to produce. With seaweed, cellulose is dissolved out of the harvested material and spun to create fibres that are then used to produce cloth. While much conventional clothing releases microplastic fibres that accumulate in rivers, soils and even our own bodies, seaweed fibres are fully biodegradable. It’s an idea that is catching on: the Italian-Japanese fashion designer Leticia Credidio uses seaweed in her new Ocean collection. 

Seaweed is now hitting the big time. Thanks partly to the efforts of Doumeizel, seaweed has come to the attention of the United Nations, which now promotes it as a way to help meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Nine of the 17 SDGs – from the goal of no hunger to gender equality (women tend to especially benefit in coastal communities cultivating seaweed) – are thought to be advanced by seaweed development. 

Managed right, seaweed can be restorative for the oceans, good for our health and help wean us off our addiction to plastics. No wonder they call it a revolution.

Here are five fascinating facts about seaweed you need to have on your radar:

  1. A small amount of red seaweed added to animal feeds can reduce methane emissions from cows by 82%, helping offset global warming.
  2. Seaweeds are the only ‘vegetable’ source of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for good health.
  3. Plastics produced from seaweed can not only be biodegradable but also edible.
  4. Seaweed can have diverse medical benefits, with anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties in both raw and cooked forms.
  5. Seaweed cultivation requires very little high-tech investment: it can easily be carried out in developing countries with accessible materials such as ropes and wooden poles.

Mark Lynas is an author and campaigner based in Wales. He is climate advisor to former president of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed, and his latest book is Our Final Warning: Six Degrees Of Climate Emergency


Image of Dua Lipa in recording studio

Season Two Is Coming...

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me on Dua Lipa: At Your Service, our podcast counterpart to this newsletter but, rest assured, we’ve been working behind the scenes on Season Two and a few special, very personal episodes that’ll be with you imminently. I was so inspired by the conversations I had during our first season that I’ve been listening to more podcasts than ever before, thinking about the ways we can grow our goals and ambitions. Here are some of the brilliant podcasts I’m listening to and learning from now…

Dua x  

  1. Celebrity Memoir Book Club – the show’s hosts unpack memoirs by A-listers and reality stars alike in hilarious fashion. It’s vicious fun.
  2. Harsh Reality: The Story Of Miriam Rivera – a riveting, heartbreaking reported series about a dating show from the 2000s in which the ‘twist’ was that Miriam, whose heart the men were vying for, was a trans woman.
  3. Maintenance Phase – Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbes, the show’s hosts, debunk the ‘junk science’ cluttering the nutrition, wellness, and health worlds. I’ve learned so much from this one!
  4. Normal Gossip – a newer show that introduces listeners to ‘one marvellous gossip yarn each week’. The stories are always anonymous, and each is a delicious mess.
  5. Unlocking Us With Brené Brown – I love the space Brené gives her guests to repeat themselves and elaborate – such a good tip.

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Images of the artwork on display at Queer Britain museum
Andrea With Amber, 2002, Robert Taylor; Gay Pride Protest, London, 1977, Hulton Archive; David Hoyle, Sadie Lee; Raheem ii, Alia Romagnoli; John Sturrock/King’s Cross

Inside Queer Britain – The UK’s First LGBTQIA+ Museum

For years, queer history has been obscured, erased, hidden and hard to find. While the internet has opened up LGBTQIA+ histories, making our past more accessible, cultural institutions, museums and educational establishments have been slow to follow. Queer Britain, the UK’s first LGBTQIA+ museum, hopes to change this.

The museum, which opened in May 2022 in London’s King’s Cross, is the brainchild of Joseph Galliano. While working in the mid-noughties as the editor of queer magazine Gay Times, he realised many young LGBTQIA+ people knew little about queer history. Galliano ruminated on the idea for a decade until he noticed a sea-change in the UK’s cultural sector, such as 2017’s Queer British Art exhibition at the Tate Britain and the rise of the Queering the Museum movement, which saw collections at the V&A and the British Museum reappraised through an LGBTQIA+ lens. 

“I was fearful that if someone didn’t commit to making sure that energy didn’t dissipate it would be another 50 years before anything would happen,” Galliano says. “We also wanted to make something available so that trans people, women, people of colour and people with disabilities – a much broader and diverse set of our communities – could see themselves reflected in ways that they hadn’t before, and have their voices be part of it as well.”

Along with co-founder Ian Mehrtens, a diverse board of trustees, countless volunteers and generous financial donors, Galliano dedicated the past five years to turning Queer Britain from a dream to an actuality. While the space is compact, it packs a punch. The opening temporary exhibition included a photographic timeline of LGBTQIA+ rights in the UK and portraits of queer chosen families.

We Are Queer Britain, the museum’s latest exhibition, which opens this week, will “be a riot of historical objects, artefacts and things that have not been seen before,” says Galliano. “We’ve got a thread back to the Queer British Art exhibition where we’re going to be exhibiting the door of Oscar Wilde’s prison cell from Reading Gaol. There will also be documents from our community covering activism, social history, legal change, and socialising. We’re doing an awful lot in a small space.” 

Lisa Power, one of the museum’s trustees who has spent her life advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights in the UK, says she was insistent the museum incorporates queer stories from all over the country. “I live in Wales, and I was clear that I wanted us to be for Britain, not just London,” she says. “And I want us to celebrate the queer people who have come to the UK from around the globe, often fleeing persecution but finding family here.”

In 2022, the lives of LGBTQIA+ people have never been more visible, and the success of an institution such as Queer Britain only solidifies that. However, as we see a rise in anti-LGBTQIA+ hate crimes and legislation such as Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill, there’s still a need for vigilance. “The way we respond to that is by being here and by insisting on inclusivity within the boundaries of what we’re doing,” says Galliano.

But Galliano didn’t realise what the emotional ramifications would be. “There have been instances of people walking through the door and bursting into tears. It’s that idea of being seen. For some, that has been unbearably moving,” he says.

“I hope it makes people value their history,” adds Power. “I hope it becomes somewhere a teenager coming out can take their parents to show them who we – as well as they – are.”

Alim Kheraj is a freelance writer and host of the podcast Queer Spaces. His first book Queer London is a guide to LGBTQIA+ London, past and present


Images of the pools at Aire Ancient Baths in London
AIRE Ancient Baths

This One Thing... Aire Ancient Baths

Inspired by Greek and Roman bathing rituals, Aire’s temples of peace reimagine the pastime of soaking in thermal waters. Found in New York, Chicago, Copenhagen, Spain (where there are four outposts – in Seville, Almería and two in Barcelona), and more recently London (with Toronto scheduled to open in 2023), each one is a unique, profoundly atmospheric clandestine cavern – lit only by candles. Housed in historical buildings, they draw upon the story of the location, offering a haven of tranquillity from the bustling cities outside. Here you can melt away your worries with warm salt baths and hot steams, re-energise in the ice-cold plunge pools and indulge in a carefully curated menu of sumptuous massages and exclusive rituals. With optional extras of organic juices or champagne and truffles, is there anywhere else you’d want to be?

Samantha de Haas is Acting Managing Editor and Chief Copy Editor of Service95


Image of protesters in Myanmar marching during a demonstration against the military coup
AFP

“The World Has Sent Nothing But Thoughts And Prayers”: How Myanmar Is Being Ignored – And The Female Activists Trying To Effect Change

What would you do if one day the army and police turned against you? 

How would you defend yourself and your loved ones from being shot at, kidnapped, tortured, or murdered?

This is life in Myanmar since February 2021, when the Burmese army staged a coup in an attempt to seize back the control they had conceded in faux democratic reforms. Overturning the most recent election, they arrested most of Myanmar’s civilian government, declared a state of emergency and plunged the country into terror. 

Eighteen months later, 2,000 people have been killed by military forces, including peaceful protestors, general strikers, complete bystanders, and hundreds of children. And 11,000 more are in prison under ludicrous laws that criminalise the slightest form of dissent. Some are celebrities – Myanmar’s equivalents to Leonardo DiCaprio and Billie Eilish thrown in jail because they went on a march or posted a tweet. My family there live in fear every day. But the rest of the world has sent nothing but thoughts and prayers, and the biggest scapegoat is a woman named Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi emerged as a fierce opponent of Myanmar’s long-standing military dictatorship in the late 1980s. Threatened by her popularity as leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the military junta put her under house arrest for 15 years and jailed countless other activists.

During that time, Suu Kyi became a legend. Lauded internationally and loved within Myanmar, she even won the Nobel Peace Prize for her long fight for democracy. In 2015, finally sick of Myanmar being treated as a pariah state, the military junta held what seemed to be its first free election. The NLD won in a landslide and this time was allowed to form an uneasy coalition with the junta. Despite it being written into the constitution that Suu Kyi and her party had no real power, the world declared that Myanmar was finally a democracy and tourists flooded in.

However, shortly after, Suu Kyi suffered a catastrophic fall from grace when the military launched a campaign of genocide against the Rohingya – a stateless people the Burmese army claims are Bengali and so do not belong with the other 130+ officially recognised ethnic groups in Myanmar. Her refusal – or perhaps her inability – to denounce the genocide was interpreted as culpability by many of her international supporters. 

The world enthusiastically championed and fought for democracy in Myanmar when it had a democratic leader to believe in, but now the international community has gone completely silent, turning its back on 55 million people – including the Rohingya.

I’ve tried hard not to compare the reactions to Ukraine and Myanmar, but when U2 performed Walk On in Kyiv – a song they wrote about Suu Kyi when it had been trendy to care about Myanmar – but said nothing about current events, it nearly broke me. Suu Kyi is once more behind bars, on spurious charges, along with other members of Myanmar’s rightful National Unity Government. But despite this, there are still women trying to bring change – here are five in desperate need of your support.

  1. Thinzar Shunlei Yi of Sisters 2 Sisters and People’s Goal
    One of Myanmar’s most prominent activists, Yi works with the democracy groups ACDD and GSC, and co-founded Sisters 2 Sisters, promoting solidarity among women fighting systemic oppression and military violence, and People’s Goal, which supports military defectors. Yi says, “It is human to feel guilty about the oppressed. But that guilt should drive us to defend democracy at home, in the community and in the world.”
  2. Wai Wai Nu of Women’s Peace Network
    Founder and executive director of Women’s Peace Network, Nu is a Rohingya woman, and a former political prisoner dedicated to building peace and understanding between ethnic communities and advocating for marginalised women in Myanmar. 
  3. Nandar of Purple Feminists Group
    An activist from Shan State, Myanmar, Nandar founded the Purple Feminists Group to promote gender equity and hosts the bilingual podcast Feminist Talks. She also co-produced and directed a four-year run of The Vagina Monologues in Myanmar. 
  4. Me Me Khant of Students for Free Burma
    Poet and activist Khant has led global rallies promoting Myanmar’s fight for freedom as executive director and co-founder of Students for Free Burma, which advises US policymakers on key legislation, such as the Burma Act 2021, and produces campaigns to help others understand how they can help.
  5. Jan Jan of Global Movement for Myanmar Democracy
    Hailing from Kachin State, Myanmar, Jan Jan is Burma policy lead for Action Corps and co-founder and executive director of GM4MD. She says, “The world needs to care about Myanmar because it is a global issue encompassing human rights, freedom, democracy, climate justice, corporate accountability and so much more.”

MiMi Aye is the author of the award-winning Mandalay: Recipes And Tales From A Burmese Kitchen, chosen by The Observer, The FT and Nigella Lawson as one of their Best Books of the Year. She also hosts the food and culture podcast The MSG Pod


Images of theatre productions in New York and London, featuring Into The Woods, The Glass Menagerie, Richard III, POTUS and Jerusalem
Into The Woods, Matthew Murphy, Evan Zimmerman for Murphy Made; The Glass Menagerie, Johan Persson; Richard III; POTUS, Paul Kolnik; Jerusalem, Simon Annand

My Return To The Theatre (Audience)

I miss live theatre dearly. Though I’ve not been able to see any proper shows in so long – tour life and the like! – my friends and Service95 writers (such as Justin Kirkland in his Michael R Jackson piece this week) have kept me in the loop, so I’ve been eagerly compiling a list of productions to go to during my ‘off-season’. There’s no thrill nearly as electric as the connection between live performer and audience – which I know well – so I’m beyond excited to be on the other end of the equation in the months ahead. Here’s what I’ll be seeing…

Dua x

  1. Into The Woods – on Broadway for eight weeks only after transferring from New York’s City Center, Sara Bareilles plays the Baker’s Wife in this Sondheim revival.
  2. The Glass Menagerie – Amy Adams making her West End debut? A must for me.
  3. Richard III – NYC’s Shakespeare in the Park is an age-old tradition, but this revival stars Black Panther’s Danai Gurira.
  4. POTUS – this Broadway comedy is subtitled Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive, which I think says it all!
  5. Jerusalem – Jez Butterworth’s iconic show with Mark Rylance is back on the London stage after its 2009 run (and a 2011 stint on Broadway), and I can’t wait to finally see it.

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Images of scenes during the Broadway musical A Strange Loop
Marc J. Franklin Photos

The Award-Winning Musical That’s A Cocktail Of Humour And Discomfort

When Michael R Jackson pops up on Zoom early on a Monday morning, he’s oddly serene considering his debut musical A Strange Loop is up for 11 Tony Awards. By the end of the same week, the production – dubbed a ‘Big, Black, and Queer-Ass’ American musical – will have won two trophies, including the crowning glory, Best Musical. The dream that took 18 years to create will be met by a literal and figurative standing ovation, proving there’s plenty of room for a production that dares to be different. 

The show shakes off the cobwebs of the Great ‘White’ Way, offering a respite from the family-friendly titles that often dominate its theatres. “I think there’s certainly value in, ‘What a great show. Let’s go have a piece of pie,’” Jackson admits. “But I think it’s also great if you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m thinking about that a week later.’” A Strange Loop is much more the latter: it’s a musical written by a queer Black man, writing a musical about a queer Black man, writing a musical about a queer Black man. It’s self-referential, without being autobiographical; distinctly specific yet universal. And it’s not apologising for being as blunt as the backend of a Bible upside your head.  

The show tackles everything from racial prejudice and explicit sex to Tyler Perry and fatness, but when Jackson is asked if he was worried about overwhelming audiences with a buffet of touchy subjects, he flashes a smile and says, “I was never worried about sharing it with anyone because I’m kind of an oversharer by nature.” It mustn’t hurt that people seem to like what he’s sharing, with the show’s long list of producers including A-list talent from RuPaul to Alan Cumming. 

Set in the mind of the main character named Usher, he and his six thoughts explore the ‘strange loop’ of Usher’s consciousness, with the six thoughts becoming machinations that range from ‘daily self-loathing’ to Usher’s perceptions of his hyper-masculine father and Bible-thumping mother. The show mixes comedy with frank social commentary (such as the clap-along the audience is roped into during the number Aids Is God’s Punishment), leaving viewers with a bizarre cocktail of humour and discomfort. “I just really wanted to send that up on fire,” he says, speaking of the show’s tone, particularly when it comes to the subject matter of how religion is used against queer people. “The reality of it is that it’s not just that it’s homophobic. It’s that it all sounds so good.” 

At 41, Jackson’s A Strange Loop would be one hell of a Broadway origin story, if he weren’t so entrenched in the business already. Like Usher, Jackson worked on Broadway as an usher at The Lion King and Mary Poppins for years before his own show made it to the stage. A graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and a lifetime theatre fan, his brilliant work is his opportunity to create something for theatre lovers that, despite being beautifully Big and Black and Queer-Ass, feels oddly familiar. At the core of A Strange Loop, there’s you – like, literally you, the observer. Jackson taps into something unnervingly honest about being in your own head. “I felt unseen, unheard, misunderstood,” he explains. “If other people connect to that… then we get to feel not so alone together.” 

As Jackson notes, he’s had people from all walks of life say that they relate to Usher’s doubt, anxiety, and self-reflection. “Joni Mitchell has this great lyric,” he says, looking up to remember the words of one of his “white girl music” inspirations. “It all comes down to you. No matter what else is happening, it all comes down to you.” 

That’s half the beauty of A Strange Loop because when it’s over, the biggest twist of the show is what it reveals about you.

Justin Kirkland is a Brooklyn-based writer whose work has appeared in Esquire, Vulture and USA Today


Images of artwork from the neurodivergent NFT art collective ARTXV
ARTXVNFT; Sweetest Pie, J Quinn; Watermelon Sugar, J Quinn; No Mans Land, Caleb Lewis; Journey, Ava Halvai

ARTXV: The First-Ever NFT Collective For Neurodivergent Artists

Ava Halvai is one protective sister. During last year’s lockdown, the British-Iranian computer science student decided to help her autistic, non-verbal sister Tara break into the art world. The result inspired something extraordinary: the launch of ARTXV, the first-ever NFT (a completely unique virtual asset) collective for neurodivergent artists where neurodiversity is readily included and championed.

“Tara can’t really advocate for herself,” Halvai explains. “When I tried, the reaction was that people loved the art but stepped back when they found out she was autistic. I wanted to change that.” And so she began ARTXV as a simple Instagram page – and now promotes 16 neurodivergent artists. “They all had the exact same experience as my sister. I think people will be shocked by how conservative and archaic the art world really is.”

The NFT aspect of the collective means it is democratic and inclusive. “It gives you the ability to just go online, form connections… You don’t have to break into the elite circles of the art world in ways that are often impossible for neurodivergent people,” she says. “NFTs are a kind of counterculture, where they’re rejecting these old systems.” The collective’s first ‘drop’ happened last month and Halvai has also secured a partnership with Google Arts and Culture – the first art collective of its kind to do so.

Yet Halvai’s ambitions extend beyond NFTs. Her desire is to create neurodiverse-friendly studio spaces for her artists and open the world of fine art to the possibility and credibility of neurodivergent artists. When she initially established her collective, Halvai was told to make it a charity. She rejected the premise. “Neurodivergence is power, and it is a misunderstood one,” she says. “These aren’t people who need charity. These are artists who need the world to see their art.”

Marie-Claire Chappet is a London-based arts and culture journalist and contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar


Image of person walking, wearing denim jeans and floral heeled boots
Coveteur/Trunk Archive

How We Can Counteract The Social And Environmental Harms Of Denim

Jeans are the ultimate wardrobe staple. At any moment, around half the world’s population is wearing them, and billions more are sold each year. Denim sales slumped during the pandemic but now they’re back and booming, with searches for jeans up 23% in 2021 and denim looks dominating both the AW and SS fashion weeks. The main ingredient of the essential ‘jeans and a nice top ’combo might seem innocent enough, but denim manufacturing is a source of significant environmental and social harm. 

Let’s start with what makes denim, denim: the iconic blue colour. Although originally natural indigo was used to dye denim, cheaper petroleum-based synthetic indigo replaced it in the early 1900s and now the denim industry uses over 40,000 tonnes of it per year. And chemicals such as formaldehyde and cyanide are in the mix too, used during production to make the dye itself and prevent bacteria growth and staining.

If all those chemicals are released into local waterways after manufacturing, they can starve aquatic life of oxygen, killing the natural ecosystem – and the issue with water doesn’t end there. Levi’s found that a single pair of 501 Jeans uses as much as 3,781 litres of water in a lifecycle, and one pair of used jeans can release around 56,000 microfibres per wash. 

If you love the worn look, your jeans may have been sandblasted, which is a process that can cause workers to contract respiratory issues and silicosis – a long-term lung disease caused by inhaling large amounts of abrasive silica dust. We often focus on nature because the climate crisis is, for obvious reasons, at the front of our minds, but workers should always be centred too. Cotton, which denim is made from, has troubling, inescapable links to Uyghur forced labour. It is estimated that more than one million Uyghurs – the largest minority ethnic group in Xinjiang, China – have been detained in ‘re-education camps’ and as many as one in five cotton garments are linked to forced labour in the area.

So do we give up on denim? Not necessarily, but we do need to pay attention and put pressure on brands and retailers who have the power to make things better. And, thankfully, some are already putting in the work, creating a lower-impact denim industry better fit for the future. Here are five brands and innovations to have on your radar:

  1. Waterless jeans: In 2011, Levi’s introduced its ‘Water<Less’ jeans, which can save up to 96% of water compared to conventional production. Since then, the denim giant has made serious strides and, as of 2020, 67% of its products are Water<Less, saving 13 billion litres of water.
  2. Compostable stretch denim: Plastic fibres used to create stretch denim take hundreds of years to break down. Heritage Italian denim manufacturer Candiani tackled this with Coreva – the world’s first compostable stretch denim fabric. At the end of its life, the fabric can be returned to nature, acting as a fertiliser for new cotton. Brands including HiutDenham and Stella McCartney have embraced the fabric.
  3. Nettle denim: Launched by Pangaia and made by Candiani again, PANettle (denim made from nettle fibres and organic cotton) is wild grown, supports farmers in off-seasons, uses less water, and it’s traceable. Pretty impressive.
  4. Repairs for life: To honour the work and resources that go into each pair of jeans, Nudie JeansGanni and Iron Heart offer free repairs for life. And, although they’re not free, you can also get repairs via brands including Levi’s and Uniqlo
  5. Waste not, want not: Denim deserves to be loved for a lifetime, even when it’s beyond repair in its original form. That’s why ELV Denim and Revival London are taking a zero-waste approach; upcycling, patchworking and reworking denim into everything from reimagined jeans to corsets and bags.

Sophie Benson is a freelance journalist covering fashion through the lens of the environment and human rights. She’s the sustainability columnist for Dazed and writes for publications including Vogue, AnOther and i-D


Image of artwork by American conceptual artist and collagist Barbara Kruger
Untitled (Your Body Is A Battleground), Barbara Kruger, 1989, Courtesy the artist, The Broad Art Foundation and Sprüth Magers

On Shame And Speaking Up

Shame is a twisted thing. It’s a societal and patriarchal construct, one built around boxing us in, teaching us to behave according to some sort of moral, political, or cultural code. Unpacking and dismantling shame can be exponentially harder than establishing it in the first place, making the effort feel almost too monumental to tackle. That’s why I feel so strongly about giving space to those ready to talk about issues deemed ‘shameful’ – like abortion.

“When it comes to abortion, the personal is much more dangerous than the political,” writes Mona Eltahawy in this week’s Service95 long read – a story that stems from the perilous state of reproductive rights in the United States right now. For those who feel able to, speaking up helps vanquish the shame; then in our shared stories we can find common ground in “dragging abortion out of the shadows and into the public discourse as the human right that it is”.

Please read every word of Mona’s story. It has struck a chord in me, and I hope it does the same for you.

Dua x

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A close up of a sign at an abortion rights protest in the United States
Getty Images

“For As Long As Patriarchy Can Shroud Abortion With Silence It Will Continue To Stamp It In Shame”: Mona Eltahawy On Sharing Our Stories To Protect Women’s Rights

After last month’s devastating ruling for women in the US – the first time that the Supreme Court has ever removed a constitutional right, which will undoubtedly have repercussions all over the world – pushing back against the deliberately constructed shame around abortion has never been more important, as Mona Eltahawy writes in this profoundly powerful essay

A few weeks before the pandemic began, I was in a crowded art gallery in New York City, where I live, for an exhibition called Abortion Is Normal. Hanging from the walls and ceilings of the gallery space were paintings, photographs, sculptures and installations that depicted abortion, from the abstract to the individual experience.

The gallery was buzzing with an energy that New York City is famous for but there was something else that mesmerised me that night. I felt as if I were eavesdropping on a sharing circle of people who had had abortions and who were secure in the knowledge that their stories would be received with love and support, and no judgement. If the walls in that gallery could talk, they would have been singing in unison: we hear you, we love you, abortion is normal.

Meanwhile, I felt like a coward.

A few months later, I was asked to write an endorsement in support of Dr Meera Shah’s powerful You’re The Only One I’ve Told: The Stories Behind Abortion, in which she shares the personal narratives of people who have had an abortion but who have rarely – if ever – told anyone. Even though the people who spoke to Dr Shah did not know each other, I loved that she imagined them in a similar community to that of the artists at the exhibition I attended.

Image of Book cover, You're The Only One I've Told The Stories Behind Abortion By Meera Shah
You’re The Only One I’ve Told: The Stories Behind Abortion by Dr Meera Shah

“I couldn’t help but think how amazing it would be if these people could all meet each other; if they could share their stories with one another and not just me. I wondered if I could somehow put them all in a room together and show them that they are not alone,” Dr Shah writes in the introduction to her book.

I enthusiastically wrote a blurb for Dr Shah’s book because the narratives are vital and because she is one of the few women of colour doctors I know of who writes openly about providing abortion care.

But still, I felt like a coward.

Why could I enthusiastically share pictures on my social media from the Abortion Is Normal exhibition and encourage people to attend, and yet I still had not publicly shared my own abortion stories? Why could I enthusiastically blurb Dr Shah’s book of abortion narratives, describing it as revolutionary and vital reading, and yet I still had not publicly shared my own abortion stories?

The short answer is that when it comes to abortion, the personal is much more dangerous than the political. The longer answer is, as Carol Sanger writes in About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in Twenty-First-Century America, there is a difference between privacy and secrecy.

About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy In Twenty-First-Century America by Carol Sanger

“What matters is that we recognise and appreciate the important substantive difference between these two modes of concealment when the subject is abortion. Abortion concealment in contemporary society aligns not with privacy but with secrecy. That secrecy is a much darker, more psychologically taxing and socially corrosive phenomenon than privacy,” Sanger says.

Furthermore, “the decision to keep a matter secret in the context of abortion is often a response to the threat or prospect of harm, whether harassment, stigmatisation, or fear of violence.” I had told a handful of friends privately that I had had abortions, but my public silence was a result of the shame that, like a bouncer, stands guard over secrecy and pummels you to succumb to it.

And so it was time to speak.

For as long as patriarchy can shroud abortion with silence it will continue to stamp it in shame. So I finally broke my silence to break free of shame – 25 years after my abortions.

In 1996, I had an ‘illegal’ abortion in Egypt. For breaking the law, I could have been sent to prison for six months to three years. The doctor who performed the procedure could have faced three to 15 years in prison. My then-boyfriend and his cousin could have faced prison time for helping me find a doctor willing to provide abortion care, and for driving me to his clinic to get an abortion.

In 2000, I had a ‘legal’ abortion in Seattle, in the United States. Now that the Supreme Court has overturned the federal protection of abortion by striking down Roe v Wade, pregnant people seeking abortion care in various states across the US could face punishments similar to the ones I did in Egypt.

I use inverted commas around ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ because I reject the State – and the Supreme Court’s – attempt to tell me what I can and can’t do with my uterus. That control belongs to me. But I also use the inverted commas as a reminder: whether abortion is ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’, the same silence surrounds a medical procedure that is safer than pregnancy. Most people don’t know that. Just as most people don’t realise that they most likely know someone who has had an abortion. Or as the phrase goes: someone you love has had an abortion.

Unless we shatter that silence, unless we vanquish secrecy, we will fail in dragging abortion out of the shadows and into the public discourse as the human right that it is. And abortion opponents will succeed in constraining it with the straitjacket of shame and stigma.

One in every four pregnancies ends in abortion. It is not rare.

One of the reasons I finally shared my abortion stories was that women who look like me rarely see themselves in abortion narratives. Three of the people whose abortion stories Dr Shah shares in her book, like her, come from South Asian families, and one of them, like me, is of Muslim descent. Those three women told Dr Shah that not seeing more women from their ethnic background in abortion narratives made their abortions lonelier and harder.

Another reason I shared my abortion stories was to say what I had long yearned to read: I had an abortion because I did not want to be pregnant. That’s it. In so many of the abortion narratives I read, it was as if women were pleading for a forgiveness that belonged to no one to give; it was as if they had to prove they were ‘worthy’ of the abortion – whether by virtue of the pain they had endured in becoming pregnant (through rape or incest) or the pain they would endure by carrying the pregnancy to term; it was as if they had to prove their abortion was a ‘good’ one because they were ‘good’.

I wanted simply to say, I was not raped. I was not sick. The pregnancies did not threaten my life. I did not already have children. I just did not want to be pregnant. I did not want to have a child. My abortions were not traumatic – rather the silence around them was traumatic. I am glad I had my abortions. They gave me the freedom to live the life I have chosen.

For those whose abortions were indeed traumatic, the secrecy around abortion compounds the difficulty and the sense of isolation at exactly the time when the solace of community is most needed.

The personal is much more dangerous than the political because the former is ruled by the day-to-day tyranny of ‘what will people say?’; a collaboration of social silencing so complete it leaves the most effective state security services envious of its ability to control.

Whether an abortion was a relief or a source of trauma, it is important to liberate it from that tyranny by understanding what underpins abortion bans and, by extension, the secrecy around abortion.

Abortion bans are intent on punishing us for daring to take ownership of our bodies and our sexual desire outside of the norm. They aim to police our bodies and punish us for sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman.

Abortion bans are driven by zealots and puritans – the day-to-day dictators who enforce that tyranny of ‘what will people say?’ What if we stopped hiding? What if we met the tyranny of ‘what will people say?’ with the audacity of visibility?

One of the most striking pieces at the Abortion Is Normal exhibition was Jaishri Abichandani’s installation The Diamond At The Meeting Of My Thighs. It stopped me in my tracks and demanded that I circumnavigate it, take it all in, and appreciate its beautiful audacity. Inside a diamond-shaped structure, a goddess-like figure is birthing a child, and when you look closer, you see she has also birthed numerous eggs as well.

Image of artwork titled: Diamond at Meeting Of My Thighs by
The Diamond At The Meeting Of My Thighs, Jaishri Abichandani, 2015, Craft Contemporary Museum

“I made it after my third abortion at the age of 47. Even though I had had two before and committed to one child, it wasn’t an easy decision because in my heart I longed for a girl,” Abichandani told me. “My friend Imani helped me release that desire to another Yoniverse where my daughter could exist without facing any violence. I channelled that into the work. She’s birthing a child but there are so many eggs at her feet that she won’t birth as children but as art.”

As Abichandani shared the inspiration behind her installation with me, I could feel a longing within me stir: stop hiding, it whispered to me. What if I spoke as openly as Abichandani about my abortions? And if I did, could I pass on the inspiration that Abichandani instilled in me like a baton to others stymied by secrecy around their abortions?

I accepted the dare to myself, and I spoke.

**

For Mona Eltahawy’s list of films, books, and artworks that help to dismantle the shame around abortion and provide powerful narratives in support of abortion rights, check out our social media pages. 

Mona Eltahawy is the author of The Seven Necessary Sins For Women And Girls And Headscarves and Hymens: Why The Middle East Needs A Sexual Revolution, and is the founder of the newsletter FEMINIST GIANT


Polaroids of Dua Lipa in her dressing room
Elizabeth Miranda

The Beauty Of Acceptance

Welcome to our beauty issue. I’ve been thinking a lot about beauty standards lately and Jessica DeFino’s quote “beauty standards stem from the oppressive forces of patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and capitalism” in her article below has really hit home. Without realising it, we learn and adopt certain standards that are fed by society and don’t feel good enough if we don’t meet them (and yes, there is a certain expectation of what you should look like as a pop star). DeFino’s piece is a reminder to question our relationship with beauty. Why do we do what we do? Is it being defined by society or driven by our authentic self? I love experimenting with hair and makeup (some of my best hacks are below), but I do this not because the world tells me to. I do it because it allows me to express myself in a way words (or lyrics) can’t. There’s power in this. The power of the individual. The power to authentically celebrate who you are. Ultimately, that’s real beauty.

Dua x

  1. To freshen up your compact powder, cover it in tape and peel it off to remove all the build-up and oil.
  2. For the perfect winged eye, apply face tape diagonally along the outer corners of your eye and use it as a guide.
  3. Pinch your mascara brush with tweezers, then clamp tiny groups of your lower lashes with the tweezers for spidery eyes.
  4. Change the colour of your lipstick by adding a hint of concealer.
  5. To achieve your sleekest hair look, use a toothbrush to tame flyaways.

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Image of Buddhist monk and makeup artist Kodo Nishimura
© Ogata, 2022 @ogata_photo

The Monk Who Wears Makeup

Kodo Nishimura loves makeup, nice clothes, and serving the Buddhist community as a monk at the temple where he grew up. This might seem like a contradiction – while it’s common for monks to take jobs outside the temple, few attend New York’s Parsons School of Design, do makeup for clients including Chloe x Halle, or appear on Queer Eye: We’re In Japan!.

Nishimura’s journey into working as a professional makeup artist began shortly after arriving in the US; as a lonely student, he offered to do the makeup of a friend who was also struggling. What he discovered was the results lasted far longer than a single night of self-care. It’s a lesson he tries to include in his gender-inclusive makeup classes.

“What was so interesting was that even when the makeup was washed away, [my friend’s] confidence was still there,” he recalls. “And that was something hopeful that reflected onto my heart. I felt that I could also be beautiful. I could also feel powerful. And if I were to study makeup and master the techniques of eyeshadow and foundation, I felt that I could not only nourish [those around me] and people who see me without discrimination, but I could also feel beautiful and meaningful too.”

Learning to embrace all elements of his personality – what he calls an embodiment of both traditional and modern cultural values – is what led Nishimura to write This Monk Wears Heels: Be Who You Are; an autobiography that describes going to school in America, embracing his Japanese heritage and his religious training. That decision was made largely because Buddhism had been something he had disregarded for so long.

“My mom is a piano teacher and she said, ‘If you say you hate Mozart’s music, you have to play his music,’” he says. “[Thereafter,] you can make valid analysis.” The same proved true for his training to become a monk, which culminated in his 2015 ordination. “[Before that,] I had only heard bits about Buddhism, [so] I ended up really doubtful and suspicious.” But through the ordination process, Nishimura found unexpected peace, and a community ready to embrace him, rather than shame his sexuality, career, or appearance. And that’s one message of acceptance he’ll always repeat on behalf of the LGBTQIA+ community.

“I’m a religious leader,” he says emphatically. “And I’m telling you, from a Buddhist perspective, that everybody is equally valuable.”

Laura Studarus is a Los Angeles-based travel journalist who has written for BBC, Thrillist, Vice and Marie Claire


Image of children's book I Love My Body Because by Shelly Anand and Nomi Ellenson
Simon And Schuster Publishing

“All Bodies Are Worthy... No Matter Their Size, Colour Or Ability”: The Author Finding Self-Acceptance By Writing Children’s Books

I learned as a child that I shouldn’t be ‘moti’ – the Hindi/Urdu word for ‘fat’. When I graduated from high school, my aunt visited us from India and whispered to my mother “yeh tho moti ho gayi” – “this one has become fat” – because over four years I had put on 15 pounds. For years thereafter, I obsessively asked my parents and relatives “main moti lag rahi hoon?” – “am I looking fat?”

I have tried to stop asking this question since becoming a mother. I don’t want my children to hear me doubt myself and my body – the same body that birthed them. I don’t want them to think ‘fat’ means ‘bad’, ‘unhealthy’, ‘unattractive’, or any of the negative messages imposed by our culture. I started countering that narrative within myself by reading and following body-positive and fat liberation influencers such as Sonya Renee Taylor, Virgie Tovar, Katie Sturino, Meg Boggs, and yoga practitioner Jessamyn Stanley. I have learned so much from studying fat liberation, including the fact that fatphobia is very much rooted in anti-Blackness and white supremacy.

Another way I work on loving and accepting myself is by writing children’s books. My first book, Laxmi’s Mooch, which came out in March 2021, is about a little Indian-American girl embracing her budding young moustache. As a hairy South Asian girl growing up in the US, I was teased for my mooch and felt unattractive because of my hairiness. When I wrote my latest picture book I Love My Body Because, with my long-time friend and boudoir photographer, Nomi Ellenson, it made me consider my own anxieties and the fears I still struggle with about my body. I thought about how I wanted to teach my two children that all bodies are worthy, that all bodies are good bodies. No matter their size, colour or ability. These are messages I wished I had heard growing up, and I hope children (and adults) today can internalise them in their own path of self-love and happiness.

Shelly Anand is a civil and human rights attorney fighting for immigrants and workers from marginalised communities, and a children’s book author


Beauty Brand Guide Beauty Campaign imagery featuring Selma Blair and founder Terri Bryant
Guide Beauty

This One Thing... Guide Beauty

The term ground-breaking is one that is used so often in the beauty world that it’s become meaningless. In the case of Guide Beauty, however, the adjective is more than fitting. Founded by celebrity makeup artist Terri Bryant in 2020, it is that rare thing – an adaptive beauty brand. This means the products and tools are created for those with physical disabilities so they can be held and used with ease. Bryant’s inspiration for the brand was personal; at the height of her career, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and the debilitating condition made it impossible for her to do her job. Not simply because of the ailment but, ultimately, because the tools needed to support her condition were just not available. So she created her own. Last month, Guide Beauty announced the appointment of a chief creative officer – the actor Selma Blair. The complexities of Blair’s own battles with multiple sclerosis can be seen in 2021’s critically acclaimed documentary Introducing, Selma Blair. Clearly, this is one truly authentic beauty collaboration. As I said: ground-breaking.

Funmi Fetto is the Global Editorial Director of Service95 and a Contributing Editor at British Vogue


Collage featuring an image of beauty reporter Jessica DeFino, and graphics of her beauty-critical newsletter The Unpublishable
Jessica DeFino

The Beauty Reporter Dismantling The Industry One Article At A Time

The beauty industry is lying to you. I know because I used to be one of its liars-for-hire. I used to be a beauty editor.

I didn’t know I was lying, of course. I believed in the things I wrote for Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and The Zoe Report with every over-exfoliated fibre of my being. I believed skincare products nourished your skin. (In truth, most of them disrupt the skin microbiome and damage the skin barrier.) I believed signs of ageing were ‘flaws’ to be ‘fixed’. (In truth, ageing is just another word for living.) I believed buying bronzers, serums and spot treatments was ‘self-care’. (In truth, the incredible waste generated by the beauty industry accelerates climate change and all its associated health concerns.) I believed lips should be plump, lashes should be long, and legs should be hairless – and I believed manipulating one’s features to meet this ideal was ‘empowering’. (In truth, these beauty standards stem from the oppressive forces of patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and capitalism.)

After a year of publishing these pretty little lies, I had to wonder whether something about the beauty industry was… off. Brands were releasing new ‘skin-healing’ serums daily, but chronic skin issues were on the rise. Consumers were getting laser treatments and lip fillers in record numbers, but appearance anxiety was at an all-time high. The pressure to adhere to the beauty ideal – an ideal that was supposedly more inclusive and accessible than ever before, with the industry pumping out ‘skin-positive’ spot patches, ‘pro-ageing’ eye creams, and expanded foundation ranges to the tune of $400billion in profits per year – was increasingly associated with depression, facial and body dysmorphia, eating disorders, self-harm, and even suicide.

Products were prospering, I realised. But people? People were not.

Suddenly, it was as clear to me as a coat of glass-look lip gloss: of course, the industry was thriving at the expense of individuals! The beauty media made most of its money from advertisers (beauty brands) and affiliate sales (beauty products) – and the most reliable way to promote those brands and products – ‘try this new resurfacing face mask’ – was to put people down – ‘your skin should be smoother’.

I decided I didn’t want to be a part of that any more. I wanted to report on how beauty standards harm people, and how corporations capitalise on that harm to meet their sales goals.

I started by investigating racism in the nail care space. I pitched the story to a dozen publications but was told it would offend advertisers (the, uh, racist nail care companies). I offered essays on how the male gaze influences makeup, how ‘oil-free’ skincare is a scam, how beauty culture is just dewy diet culture… and the mainstream beauty media told me no, no, no.

So I quit. I created my own newsletter, The Unpublishable: a place for all the beauty-critical content that mainstream beauty publications can’t, won’t or don’t cover (including all the articles I mentioned above) – whether that’s to appease advertisers, preserve brand relationships, or cling to the outdated ideals and marketing myths that keep consumers consuming.

In the two years since, The Unpublishable has grown into a collective of nearly 30,000 readers exploring a pro-people, low-product approach to aesthetics – because the truth is, beauty shouldn’t decimate your skin, your self-esteem, or your savings account.

Jessica DeFino is a freelance beauty reporter whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Vogue, Allure and more. She is the writer of the beauty-critical newsletter The Unpublishable


Image of Dua Lipa and Clovis Ochin with a bottle of natural wine

Keeping It Natural

I got introduced to natural wines in 2017 while on Action Bronson’s Vice show F*ck That’s Delicious, where I met my now-dear friend Clovis Ochin – a natural wine specialist. We all shared our love of food, wine and bringing people together. Natural wines are usually produced without using pesticides or herbicides, and I just love discovering and exploring the variety of different grapes, and the freshness is easily adaptable for any occasion. I’m now five years into exploring these wines and getting to know some of the producers myself, and I wanted to share them with you so you can try for yourself. Keep a look out as on 7 July, Clovis is releasing his own wine. In the meantime, below are a few of my favourites. Enjoy these beautiful natural wines – and, yes, it’s true, there are less sulphites, giving the liver less work to do to flush out the toxins. Win-win.

Dua x

  1. When Life Gives You Lemons Make Carbonic Pinot Noir – Koppitsch
  2. Pink Pong – JM Dreyer
  3. Muscat Sec – Le Petit Gimios
  4. SK Moscatel – Partida Creus
  5. I Vicini – Jean-Yves Peron

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Images of models on the catwalk at London Fashion Week wearing looks by the brand Unhidden
Emily Lavarello, Simran Kaur

“Diversity Has To Include Disability”: Designer Victoria Jenkins On The Fashion Industry’s Need To Create Clothes For Everyone

You would think a global market forecast to be worth $350billion by 2024 would attract major investment from the fashion industry. When that market is adaptive clothing, created to be accessible to people with disabilities, sadly that isn’t the case. “[The fashion industry’s] being unforgivably slow,” says designer Victoria Jenkins, the founder of adaptive clothing brand Unhidden.

A fashion design graduate who worked as a garment technologist with brands such as Victoria Beckham and spent 14 years in the industry, she says, during that time, “I didn’t see or hear anything about disability [and how that pertains to fashion].” After life-saving surgery for a perforated ulcer in her stomach, Jenkins was left with mobility issues and chronic pain. She never, however, felt she could be open about her disability. “I described myself as having ‘chronic health issues’ because if I’d said ‘Disabled’, I wouldn’t have been hired.”

During a hospital visit in 2016, she met a cancer patient who had two stomas, a line in her arm and one in her chest so had to remove all her clothes every time doctors needed to treat her. It was then the idea for Unhidden was born. “The more I looked into it, the more I thought about how I could use everything I’d learned for a better cause. Working for Victoria Beckham was a dream job, but I wanted to be able to help people.”

Unhidden became the first adaptive brand – creating specially designed clothes for people with a disability – to join the British Fashion Council. “It makes me very proud, but it’s also terrible that I was the first – in 2022.” Jenkins firmly believes progress won’t happen unless it’s mandated. “Diversity has to include disability, therefore, one in five models working should be Disabled.” There are other issues, too; “so many brands use a Disabled model for a campaign, but they don’t use those photos on their website, and often they avoid the word ‘Disabled’ because they don’t want to offend. Being Disabled isn’t offensive, it’s a description.”

Jenkins also plans to launch a not-for-profit project training people with disabilities and chronic health conditions to sew adaptive alterations. It means people can set their rates and decide how much work they take on, and it serves the 80% of Disabled people who weren’t born with a disability and now need to alter their clothes to work for them. “There are heaps of people – myself included – who suddenly, overnight, can’t wear their clothes – clothes that we attach memories to. So rather than going through the trauma of throwing out an entire wardrobe, they can have it adapted by someone who understands why.” She will hit the runways of London Fashion Week later this year and is also working on a children’s range.

Like having shelter, being able to dress yourself is a basic human right. “It’s illegal to leave the house naked and go to work,” says Jenkins, “so it’s a crime that there are people who still can’t get dressed.” Fortunately, she is doing everything in her power to ensure that stops being the case.

Laura Potter is a journalist whose work has appeared in The Observer Magazine, The Guardian’s Saturday magazine, Men’s Health, Time Out and more


Portrait of Zara Snapp at a drug-reform conference, images of drug incineration and graffiti in Mexico
Getty Images

Drugs Don’t Work. Or Do They? Zara Snapp’s Unorthodox Answer To Mexico’s Drug Problem

In May 2022, the Mexican government officially recognised over 100,000 desaparecidos – so-called disappeared people most believed to have been victims of drug-related violence. That figure, says Zara Snapp, is, without a doubt, an undercount. “[This statistic] is the official data they are willing to recognise,” says Snapp wryly. As an American-Mexican drug-reform policy leader, her unequivocal conviction that this number is a severe “undercount” is plausible. Which is why this activist and critic of the Mexican government’s approach to the war on drugs (“The war on drugs is a war on people”) offers a bold and somewhat controversial alternative to bringing peace to the region: legalising all drugs.

Snapp, a Mexican-born American, says her interest in drug-reform policy was stoked by her interest in… drugs; as she reminisces on her youth, she admits, “I engaged in typical teenage drug experimentation.” There was, however, a turning point. “As a privileged white 15-year-old growing up in the US and spending my summers in Mexico, I saw my Latino, Asian and Black friends stopped, with some caught up in the criminal justice system – and I wasn’t.”

Snapp’s permanent return to Mexico in 2006 coincided with the launch of the war on drugs. The changes were palpable: “Suddenly the military were on the streets,” she says. A surge in violence, murder, corruption and human rights abuses followed. “Since the 1970s the US has pushed for prohibition and eradication of crops in Mexico, arguing it is the responsibility of producing countries to stamp out drug supply, even while demand continues to rise in the US,” Snapp says. Prohibition wasn’t working and Snapp believes this is because prohibition ignores the enjoyable aspects of substance use. It is, she argues, the same reason why sex education focused on abstinence often fails. “Sex and substances bring us pleasure and wellbeing.” Hence, as the co-founder of Instituto RIA in 2017, a civil society organisation in Mexico City focused on drug legalisation and regulation, Snapp incorporates the pleasure principle into her advocacy. A hallmark of RIA’s work, she explains, “is meeting people where they are and not trying to change them. We focus on how to get services to them and protect them, and we also aim to help them manage pleasure.” Which means decriminalising drugs and legally regulating drugs for adult use. “This is part of a larger generational shift of consciousness,” she says. “People care about the clothes they wear, the food they eat and the drugs they consume.”

There is scientific evidence to suggest that the decriminalisation of drugs reduces societal harms associated with drugs. Think needle exchange programmes, supervised drug consumption facilities and opioid substitution therapy, among others. RIA is now pushing the boundaries and seeking more than decriminalisation. It advocates regulating the entire drug market in Mexico. Snapp says: “It is imperative that indigenous growers and others already involved in cultivating and selling drugs can obtain licenses and attain financial security in the system.” This would ensure a racially equitable and socially just legal drug trade. Recognising the delicate nature and danger of working with drug cartels and indigenous growers, RIA focuses its efforts on an aspect of the system it can change: the Mexican government.

Snapp brings a wealth of expertise to this work. After graduate school at Harvard, where she was a recipient of the prestigious Truman Fellowship, Snapp participated in seminal foundational work. She formed part of the secretariat of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, focusing on the Latin American strategy, working with the likes of former secretary-general of the United Nations Kofi Annan and former presidents of Mexico, Columbia, Chile and Poland, among others, to produce Taking Control: Pathways To Drug Policies That Work. This report called for altering the failed international regime on drug policy. Ultimately, says Snapp, “this was about breaking the taboo around drugs”.

This stigma of advocating for legalised and regulated drug markets impedes efforts by Snapp and her co-founder Jorge Herrera Valderrábano to secure funding. Further, admitting to recreational drug use carries negative stereotypes about their maturity and credibility. Snapp’s approach: getting high on her own supply embraces this stigma as a strategy to bring about change. “I’m coming out of the closet and talking about my own drug use. There is power in authenticity,” she says. Attorney Andrés Aguinaco represented Snapp in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of cannabis prohibition in Mexico. In 2018, Mexico declared the law unconstitutional.

That said, RIA’s work remains daunting. Police still harass and extort cannabis growers and users. Other drugs remain banned, fuelling the underground economy empowering cartels. But Snapp, a mother of two, says she draws on the Mothers of the Disappeared, who march every Mother’s Day. “This inspires me to continue blazing forward.”

Jamie Brooks Robertson is a London-based writer, independent scholar, and emerging essayist focusing on health and culture


The book cover of Surfacing: On Being Black And Feminist In South Africa
Surfacing: On Being Black And Feminist In South Africa

This One Thing... Surfacing: On Being Black And Feminist In South Africa

Given the title, it is easy to assume this collection of essays will have a singular focus on the political. The beauty of Surfacing, however, is its breadth. From paying homage to the 20,000 women who risked their lives to march in 1956 as a way of protesting against apartheid laws to the nuances of feminism in the context of Islamic faith, from the erasure of Black narratives in South Africa’s overwhelming white publishing world to a reflection on a woman’s relationship with her body, from the queer struggle under apartheid rule to exploring photography’s racialised lens… The topics explored are vast but, in the hands of editors Desiree Lewis and Gabeba Baderoon, astutely curated. For anyone interested in how race, sexuality, divinity, South Africa’s complex history and so much more intersect with the lived experiences of radical Black feminists, this stunning collection of writings is an essential read.

Funmi Fetto is the Global Editorial Director of Service95 and a Contributing Editor at British Vogue

Illustration of a woman running in a dream
© María Medem, @mariamedem

Overnight Therapy: Exploring The Illogical Adventure Of Dreams

It’s wild if you think about it. You’re asleep and then, suddenly, you’re in a movie. You are dreaming; somewhere else, maybe even someone else. Same but different. Sceptics may paint such imaginings as pure fiction, juvenile, when – dig a little deeper – it has far more connective tissue to our waking life. A little hidden door, a cocktail of our innermost secret recesses of the psyche. As Gloria Steinem said, dreaming is a form of planning; another way of seeing. Paul McCartney described the composition of Yesterday as being born from his deepest subconscious: “I just fell out of bed, found out what key I had dreamed it in… and I played it.” See, wild.

According to leading neuroscientist and author of Why We Sleep Matthew Walker, dreams can act as a form of “overnight therapy”, processing a back catalogue of autobiographical information stored up in the brain. And so often we are giddy to share and decode these findings with others, desperate to recite every ounce of detail before it slips away; before daytime reality resumes its less absurdist rhythm. This, too, can prove therapeutic, according to a new study that says speaking of our sleep-induced hallucinations, from the banal to the beautiful, increases empathy. “I think it’s helpful for people to share their dreams,” says Deirdre Barrett, a dream researcher at Harvard Medical School and author of Pandemic Dreams. “[Especially as] people’s dreams still seem to be more anxious than before the start of the pandemic.” Recalling one woman who was told in her dream that she had to home school an entire classroom, and another who had been appointed the first one-person Mars colony (while protesting she had not volunteered), Barrett says, “The exaggeration makes it funny. But it gets to something.”

What is that ‘something’? Fuzzier territory. A contributing factor to our increasing thirst to mine our dreams for meaning is facilitated by the emergence of apps to help you try and trace your nightly visions. Though, as dreams rarely make any literal sense, their interpretation should also not be taken quite so literally.

“I don’t believe all dreams have to do with wish-fulfilment,” Barrett explains. “The aspect of each dream is all over the place, as waking thought is, and some of your waking thought is fantasy or strategising. [When dreaming] our brains are in this more visual narrative, the areas [of our brain] associated with linear logic are dampened down.” It’s precisely that illogical adventure – leaping into another realm, which has no real beginning nor end – that is appealing. It makes sense we’d want to recollect and translate that experience. Journeys that can veer from chaotic to the inexplicably tedious. Sometimes they stay with you for a millisecond or a lifetime. Sometimes we are swept up in a land of stories of our very own creation. It’s a kind of magic, really.

From PM to AM, here are five virtual dreamcatchers to try…

  1. Dreambook: A good entry-level app to start journalling and categorising your dreams daily.
  2. Awoken: Master the art of lucid dreaming – being conscious that you’re dreaming, so much so that you can control it as it’s happening.
  3. Oniri: An all-rounder app including 500+ paths of dream interpretation, voice-note tools, lucid dream techniques and soothing sounds to help you fall asleep.
  4. Dreamboard: Pinterest for dreams, where you can create your own dream graph, building a clearer pattern over time.
  5. Mind Awake: A mindfulness app featuring meditations, audio courses and expert guidance to help improve sleep and remember your dreams.

Emma Firth is a London-based writer for British Vogue, W magazine, Elle, ES magazine and Rolling Stone UK, as well as an advice columnist and intimacy expert for Christopher Kane’s More Joy collection and creative platform


Dua Lipa at the Pinakothek Der Moderne Gallery in Munich
Dua at Pinakothek Der Moderne, Munich

My European Art Trail

Though Europe’s been treating me well, I’m looking forward to getting back to London and catching the In The Black Fantastic exhibition (which we’ve written about in this week’s issue, below) at the Southbank Centre. While I’ve been away from home these past couple of months, I’ve tried (and I think succeeded!) to get my requisite dose of culture with a few museums and galleries I would highly recommend if you make your way to any of these incredible European cities. Happy travels!

Dua x
  1. Pinakothek Der Moderne – Munich, Germany
  2. The Rubens House – Antwerp, Belgium
  3. The Uffizi Galleries – Florence, Italy
  4. Fundació Joan Miró – Barcelona, Spain
  5. Haus Der Kunst – Munich, Germany
 

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Illustration of women protesting about the safety of dating apps outside the Tinder offices
Asha Wilson © 2022, @that_there_asha

Are Dating Apps Doing Enough To Protect Women?

In January 2022, a 31-year-old rapist named Tom Rodwell was sentenced to life in prison in the UK. During the trial, the jury heard how he had assaulted five women on multiple occasions between 2017 and 2020. The women had one thing in common: they had all met Rodwell on Tinder.

Today, it’s estimated that more than 323 million people worldwide are using dating apps. This number grew exponentially during the pandemic. Locked-down, lonely and single people were suddenly slaves to their screens – their only portal to intimacy. It was a seismic shift, one that prompted millions more to pursue love at first swipe. This included a new demographic of people who might have previously eschewed online dating in favour of something more ‘authentic’; a fantasy that doesn’t really exist outside of Richard Curtis films but was nonetheless quickly curtailed by Coronavirus. There have been consequences to this. As dating-app activity has surged, so have related instances of abuse, harassment and sexual violence. An investigation by ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations found that in a survey of 1,200 women who had used a dating platform in the past 15 years, more than 30% had experienced some kind of sexual assault; of these women, more than half said they were raped. “Dating apps appear to give straight men the promise of sex, and so when men are not granted it with a woman they meet on one, they are more likely to demand it because they feel sex has been assured by the very act of matching,” explains Nancy Jo Sales, author of Nothing Personal: My Secret Life In The Dating App Inferno. Research indicates that while these issues disproportionately affect women, some are more likely to be impacted than others, with those from marginalised communities statistically proven to be at a greater risk of online gender-based violence. This manifests in a very specific way on dating apps, where the emphasis is on visual cues. “Black women and non-binary people in particular are at a higher risk and are often navigating complex dynamics of fetishisation and misogynoir on dating platforms,” says Gabriela de Oliveira, head of policy, research and campaigns at anti-abuse charity Glitch. One report conducted in California outlined how this leads to a culture whereby racist stereotypes are amplified, creating an environment in which violence is not only rampant but normalised. “It plays out in situations where white app users assume that women of colour should be ‘grateful’ for unwanted fetishisation, or cisgender users assume trans people should be ‘grateful’ for unwanted sexual comments,” says Professor Kath Albury, who has led research into violence on dating apps in Melbourne, Australia. There are key socioeconomic factors to consider, too. “Inequalities often play out in dating,” Albury adds. “People who are younger or poorer may also be assumed to be ‘grateful’ for attention from older, better-off app users.” This increases the risk of exploitation, particularly in countries where sex outside marriage (and therefore the use of dating apps) is considered taboo. Hence, many victims are unlikely to seek support. But even if they do, there’s no guarantee they will be taken seriously. We live in a world where victim-blaming is rife, meaning sexual violence is a difficult crime to report, with low conviction rates around the world putting many survivors off altogether. But it’s arguably harder on a dating app, where moderators are expected to resolve sexual assault claims in minutes – and without specialist training. There are also numerous incidences of survivors reporting their perpetrators to apps, only to see them reappear just days later. Even if the accused are banned from one app, there’s nothing to stop them from downloading another. Hence, the system puts the onus on the victim. This was the case for Natalie Dong, who, after allegedly badgering Tinder for days to remove her rapist from the platform, ended up standing outside the company’s offices holding a giant placard reading ‘MY RAPIST IS STILL ON TINDER’ in order to get their attention. The accused was banned shortly after. Dating apps are slowly beginning to take steps against violence. Photo verification is now commonplace and some companies, including Tinder, have launched background checks on their platforms. Bumble also now offers complimentary therapy sessions to users who report sexual assault. How helpful any of this is remains to be seen. After all, sexual violence is a systemic issue, one that dating apps can only do so much to prevent. What does seem to make a difference though are wider conversations, such as those initiated by popular culture. Take I May Destroy You, Michaela Coel’s groundbreaking BBC One series that featured a scene in which a male character, Kwame (played by Paapa Essiedu), is sexually assaulted by a man he met on Grindr after the pair have had consensual sex. The scene prompted important discussions around consent and the safety of dating apps. It’s moments like this that educate us about the nuances of sexual violence, both on and offline. Perhaps it’s only as this understanding grows that we will start to see tangible, lasting change at a societal and legislative level. Here are five progressive dating apps implementing new ways to help keep women safe:
  1. Bumble – the original feminist dating app that allowed women to ‘make the first move’.
  2. Her – one of the industry’s leading apps for queer and trans women.
  3. S’More – where users can only see a blurred version of someone’s profile, which becomes clearer the longer you chat to them.
  4. The Sauce – the app where traditional profiles are replaced with candid videos, so you can get a true sense of the person you’re talking to.
  5. Safer Date – which conducts ID and background checks on all its users.

Olivia Petter is a relationships writer at The Independent and the author of Millennial Love, published by 4th Estate


Campaign imagery for beauty brand Paperwork by Off-White, featuring models with colourful makeup
© Off-White

This One Thing... Paperwork By Off-White

Known for his polymathic approach to work, one of the many things the late Virgil Abloh was working on before his untimely death last year was Paperwork, the beauty arm of his Off-White label. Inspired by the non-conformist ethos that Abloh embodied, this playful collection of face and body pigments – AKA colourful tools of expression and individuality – are created to be used, well, however you want. Which is exactly as Abloh would have wanted it. off—white.com

Funmi Fetto is the Global Editorial Director of Service95 and a Contributing Editor at British Vogue

Artwork featured in the Hayward Gallery exhibition, In The Black Fantastic
Rashaad Newsome, Stop Playing In My Face!; Tabita Rezaire, Ultra Wet – Recapitulation; Chris Ofili, Annunciation; Nick Cave, Soundsuit; Ellen Gallagher, Ecstatic Draught Of Fishes

In The Black Fantastic: Pushing Past The Constraints Of The Racialised Everyday

Ekow Eshun, curator of In The Black Fantastic – the new summer exhibition at the Hayward Gallery – shares his inspiration behind a show that uses thought-provoking and imaginative works to “grapple with the inequities of racialised society by conjuring bold new visions of Black possibility”

For the past several years I’ve been searching for the Black fantastic. I’ve been tracking its progress, watching it flourish in art and music, film and literature. This summer, I finally fulfilled my quest with a new exhibition I’ve curated at the Hayward Gallery in London. In The Black Fantastic is the first major exhibition to gather artists from the African diaspora who embrace myth and science fiction in their work as a way to address racial injustice and explore alternative realities. The idea of the Black fantastic doesn’t describe a movement or a rigid category so much as a way of seeing, shared by artists who grapple with the inequities of racialised contemporary society by conjuring new narratives of Black possibility. It means, for example, the gorgeous, gilded imagery of artist Lina Iris Viktor, who draws on sources including African textile patterns, spiritual practices and mythologies in her work. Or the art of Ellen Gallagher, who addresses the horror of the Atlantic slave trade through paintings inspired by mythical sub-aquatic realms inhabited by the ancestors of Africans who drowned during the Middle Passage. Beyond visual art, it also includes the spectacular imagery of Beyoncé’s Lemonade or the movie Black Panther, or the mesmerising novels of Toni Morrison and Octavia E Butler. In all these instances, we see Black culture at its most wildly imaginative and artistically ambitious. But why now for the Black fantastic? After all, the long history of racism and bigotry suffered by Black people in the West makes an unlikely context for art that looks to myth and fable. All the more so in the era of George Floyd and the BLM movement. But I’d argue the turn to the fantastical has nothing to do with escapism. On the contrary, it suggests a refusal to live within the constraints of a world that defines Black people as inferior and alien. And it offers instead a thrilling invitation to reach beyond the constraints of the racialised everyday and to embrace fantasy as a zone of creative and cultural liberation. The Black fantastic is what freedom looks like. In The Black Fantastic, 29 June-18 September 2022 Ekow Eshun is a writer, journalist, broadcaster, curator and former director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts. His book, In The Black Fantastic, accompanies the Hayward Gallery exhibition
Rashaad Newsome, Stop Playing In My Face! Courtesy Rashaad Newsome Studio and Jessica Silverman, San Francisco; Tabita Rezaire, Ultra Wet – Recapitulation. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town; Chris Ofili, Annunciation. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner; Nick Cave, Soundsuit © Nick Cave. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; Ellen Gallagher, Ecstatic Draught Of Fishes © Ellen Gallagher. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

An image of a woman's face obscured by yellow squares in a collage illustration
© Anthony Gerace

Learning to Love Being ‘Selfish’

Maybe it’s increasingly restrictive abortion laws, or perhaps it’s just the state of misogyny more generally but, lately, I’ve been thinking about what is expected of us as women in today’s society. It’s why the messaging behind the documentary My So-Called Selfish Life, about women’s choice not to have children and how that can be seen as ‘selfish’, has stuck with me. Not having children somehow remains taboo, but faced with a litany of stark realities – global warming, overpopulation, gun violence and, most plainly, the respectable lack of desire to have a ‘traditional’ family – it is becoming more of an attractive choice for many. I’m proud to surround myself with women comfortable enough to have these sorts of conversations, touching on the choices we make and the reasons we make them. My hope is that more conversations – with women and men – might be started by films such as My So-Called Selfish Life, which is why, for this week’s list, I’ve chosen five pieces of pop culture presenting norm-defying views on womanhood. Let’s keep talking.

Dua x

  1. Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay
  2. Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams
  3. The Vagina Monologues – Eve Ensler
  4. King Kong Theory – Virginie Despentes
  5. The Second Sex – Simone de Beauvoir

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Artwork for the documentary film My So-Called Selfish Life

My So-Called Selfish Life: The New Documentary Celebrating Women Who Choose To Be Child-Free

As the camera pans over a group of mothers parking their prams outside a nursery, we hear the voice of Therese Shechter. “Motherhood is an institution so deeply ingrained in our society that we take it for granted, as part of the natural order of life. It’s our biological destiny. The culmination of our female journey. From the time we’re little, it is expected that we will all have children. And that we’re selfish if we don’t.”

We soon learn that Shechter is from another school of thought. She is the director of My So-Called Selfish Life, a newly released documentary about a woman’s choice to be child-free. At a time when the future of reproductive rights in America is under attack, it feels timelier than ever.

For Shechter, who began working on the project in 2015, the still-taboo subject of women who don’t want children is a personal one. “I have known my whole life that I don’t want children, and it was something I had a lot of trouble talking about because of the stigma around it,” she says when I interview her. At the core of the film is one question: what happens if we say no to the notion that becoming a mother is the only and/or correct way to be a woman? “I wanted to explore that stigma,” explains Shechter, “and challenge the assumption that motherhood is a biological imperative.”

To do so, Shechter takes us from the beginnings of the child-free movement in the 1970s to the concept of pronatalism (the practice of encouraging the bearing of children) and the growing fetishisation of motherhood. Along the way, the film sheds light on the disturbing practices of eugenics that have long affected women of colour in the States and the challenges facing the fight for reproductive justice. There’s also some serious debunking: the idea of the ‘biological clock’ as a baby alarm? It was coined not by a scientist but by a male journalist, Richard Cohen, in a Washington Post article in 1978.

“Women have always tried to control their bodies and fertility, but so have institutions and the media,” Shechter says. “Despite all the progress we’ve made over the past century, we’re still dealing with this idea that we are essentially walking uteruses, not to be trusted with our own feelings on the subject. To me, it was important to examine that, and give people some tools and space to try to look at our culture from the outside and rethink what they have been taught.”

Using a historical lens and first-hand accounts, while deftly weaving in clever animations and pop-culture references, My So-Called Selfish Life paints a loving, joyful message about choice and the power that comes from taking control of your own life – societal expectations be damned.

“Whether you want kids – and can’t have them – or just don’t want kids, moving through the world as a woman without children is difficult,” Shechter says. “The film hopes to change that script.”
My So-Called Selfish Life is available for group and educational screenings via the film’s website

Marianna Cerini is a freelance journalist writing about cultural trends, travel, fashion and the arts and has been published in Conde Nast Traveller, The Telegraph, Time Out Beijing, Forbes and Vogue Italia 


Burmese dishes at Lahpet
© Lahpet

This One Thing... Lahpet

The Burmese restaurant Lahpet has been winning fans in Shoreditch, London for the past few years, and now, its sleek, newly opened West End branch is bringing the flavours of Myanmar to the city’s hungriest diners. Among its most mouth-watering offerings: the pandan sling cocktail (fruity, funky, citrus-forward and dancing in my dreams weeks later); a traditional tea leaf salad (the titular lahpet thohk); the whole fried bream with a garlic soy glaze; a crisped pork belly and sour bamboo curry; and a chewy cassava cake with jackfruit sorbet. It’s a balanced and powerful wonderland of flavour, texture and composition. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu – just make a reservation and thank us later.

Brennan Carley is US Editor and Culture Director of Service95

Images of people participating in the psychedelic art installation Dreamachine
© Urszula Soltys, © David Levene

The Immersive Experience That Takes Your Mind To Another Realm

Are you seeking otherworldly escapism that involves taking part in a psychedelic experiment? Now you can, but there’s just one catch: it’s completely drug-free. Dreamachine, a collaboration between some of the world’s leading neurologists, designers, architects and artists, is a totally immersive audio-visual experience to help you explore the potential world of your inner mind.

Dreamachine invites you to enter a womb-like space to lie back, close your eyes and focus on your breath. After 10 minutes of meditative breathing exercises, your very own spectacle begins; 360-degree surround sound envelops the space, and from the interior landscapes of your eyelids a new realm appears – one that is completely unique to you. Sonic vibrations slip you further into this psychedelic dream but, if you open one eye out of curiosity, all that is revealed is a white fluttering light.

Afterwards, some participants draw their transcendent visions on paper as colourful swirls or geometric patterns. Others recount lucid illusions of memories. For some, animated by the sound imagined by composer Jon Hopkins, a kaleidoscope of mood-altering colours morph into crystalline patterns. The myriad of reflections prove that the unique experiences depend on everyone’s individual neurological perceptions. If you want to go on a trippy, mind-expanding adventure – without the need for substances – then this is the experience for you.

The original Dreamachine was developed by avant-garde artist Brion Gysin, a friend and collaborator of the Beat Generation author William Boroughs. In 1958, he created a kinetic tabletop device constructed of a turntable, lightbulb and cylinder, with repeated shapes cut out to let the light through. A radical piece of artwork that can only be experienced with your eyes wide shut.

Reflecting upon the diversity within our inner worlds, the spectacle unlocks a great chasm of enquiry and begs many questions about the reality of consciousness. Can we really believe everything we see? Go and see for yourself.

Poppy Roy is Picture Director for Service95, previously at British Vogue, and is a model and writer


Protesters hold signs at a rally to demand justice for asylum seekers and refugees
© Hugh Peterswald/Getty Images

“The UK Will Be Enforcing A System Of Torture”: Human Rights Defender Behrouz Boochani Warns Against The Plan To Send Asylum Seekers To Rwanda

After requesting asylum in Australia, author Behrouz Boochani was sent to Manus Island detention centre in Papau New Guinea for six years. Today, he writes exclusively for Service95 from his home in New Zealand about why the torture he endured will be repeated by the UK government’s Rwanda policy

In 2013, my life as a writer and cultural activist in Iran became untenable. My work put me in the crosshairs of the government and when guards arrested some of my colleagues, I knew I had to leave.

My search for a safe place was not straightforward. I went to Indonesia but, once there, I discovered the police could deport me at any moment without explanation. So I travelled to Australia because I thought, once there, I would be safe. Instead, the country I hoped would protect me from harm deported me to a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. Here, under Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy, I became a prisoner who was detained for more than six years and deprived of basic human rights.

Many people don’t know that the UK government’s recent announcement to forcibly transport asylum seekers to Rwanda is explicitly modelled on Australia’s refugee policy. In practice, it means people seeking asylum in the UK could be flown 4,500 miles to Rwanda and housed in camps while their asylum claims are considered. Meanwhile, they will be encouraged to ‘rebuild their lives’ in an authoritarian country with a dismal human rights record.

When the United Nations concluded in 2015 that Australia’s immigration policy was ‘systematically violating the international Convention Against Torture’, then prime minister, Tony Abbott, reacted angrily to the findings. But as someone who has experienced life as a refugee under Australian law, I am well aware of the horrific realities of the policy.

My nightmare began when I arrived at Christmas Island in a boat with other asylum seekers. There we were all arrested and, after a few weeks, banished to offshore prisons on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, and Nauru. We were effectively taken hostage by the Australian government and prevented from applying to another country for asylum or transferring to Australia where we had requested asylum.

We were unable to access our rights under international law and criminalised through Australia’s domestic policy, which extended beyond its borders into Papua New Guinea and Nauru. We were never given a sentence by a court of law, nor any indication as to how long we would be imprisoned. You expect something to happen but after days, months, years – for some, a decade – nothing changes. It is a detention system that is a form of torture.

Family separation is one of the cruellest oppressions of indefinite detention. A male partner or relative might be detained on Manus Island and their partner, relative and/or children detained in Nauru or Australia. Children are often separated from siblings; one family member is removed to another detention prison or hospital for medical treatment and the rest of the family are left behind. Others are effectively separated through the life-long effects on children and the tragedy experienced by a parent witnessing their child grow up in prison.

The tools of torture used to enact this policy are systematic and multi-faceted. Sexual assault in the prison camps, especially for children, single women and young men is rife and enacted with impunity. Many, who fled their countries due to violent extremes of patriarchy, are now caught by a country that is supposed to protect them but instead imprisons them within a system that encourages further violation. Daily humiliations include the removal of all personal power over even the most intimate parts of life, medical neglect and lack of food and hygiene. On Manus Island and Nauru alone, 20 people have been killed through physical assault, lack of medical treatment, state-caused suicide and self-harm, and many more continue to die once they are off the islands.

I was eventually granted a temporary visa to New Zealand where I was able to secure asylum. Who knows what fate awaits those who are sent to Rwanda? Politicians in the UK are trying to manipulate the public by saying that they will ensure human rights are not violated. But that is untrue. They will be forcibly transporting refugees to a place that is very difficult for media and human rights organisations to gain access to. And so, just like Australia, the UK will be enforcing a system of torture on already displaced people.

For years many have warned that if the world remains silent about what Australia is doing, other countries will follow. As someone who experienced that brutal system and has long written about it, I say that the UK government is creating a tragedy. It is a tragedy that will sully its history forever.

Behrouz Boochani is a Kurdish-Iranian journalist, human rights defender, writer and film producer. Janet Galbraith is the founder of Writing Through Fences, an online project that collaborates with artists and writers incarcerated in immigration detention, and edited this article


Illustration of Dua Lipa overlooking a sea view from a balcony
© Cookie Moon, 2022; @thecookiemoon

Back To The Start

Reading over this week’s newsletter fills me with such pride – it’s the sort of considered and curated mix of global stories I’d thought possible when I first dreamed of Service95. From a sharp profile of Nigerian author Akwaeke Emezi to a feature on the eco-conscious fashion resale platform Reluxe, I’m thrilled to continue expanding our worldview with pieces like these. And this week’s This One Thing… pick, the new movie Fire Island – which stars the brilliant Saturday Night Live cast member (and friend of mine) Bowen Yang – inspired me to think about other summer movies that transport you to another place and make you feel, despite the weight of the world, like anything is still possible. Here are some of the films that still tick that box for me – I hope they, and Issue 018, bring you the same joy they brought me.

Dua x
  1. Little Miss Sunshine
  2. The Talented Mr Ripley
  3. True Romance
  4. Moonstruck
  5. How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days
 

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Portrait of Akwaeke Emezi and their book cover
© Omofolarin Omolayole, Anna Morrison, Faber

“My Novels Are Definitely Not Happy. So I Wanted To Write Something Happy For Once”: Akwaeke Emezi Is Deviating Into Romance

“I’m not very good at relaxing,” confesses celebrated author Akwaeke Emezi, talking to me from their home in New Orleans which, once they decided to make home decor a hobby, became a full-on renovation project worthy of Architectural Digest. “The problem is, I don’t know how to do anything on a small scale,” they say with a laugh. It is the full-throated, infectious giggle of a prolific creative at the top of their game, for whom even home DIY becomes an art form.

This year alone, the award-winning Nigerian writer has published three works; a young adult novel, Bitter, a debut poetry collection, Content Warning: Everything, and, most recently, You Made A Fool Of Death With Your Beauty – their first romance novel. It is the latter which may come as the biggest surprise. Emezi has carved out a career as a literary titan, who recently became a TIME magazine Next Generation Leader. Their sparkling prose has thus far been an unflinching investigation of ontology, spirituality and heritage. Their debut novel, Freshwater, a semi-autobiographical novel about a girl embodying multiple ogbanjes (an Igbo term referring to a reincarnating spirit that moves through different worlds) was a sensation, which The New Yorker named its book of the year in 2018. Their follow-ups have received markedly similar praise and have foregrounded trans and queer narratives. Theirs was hardly the career trajectory headed for the mushy love story. “My novels are definitely not happy,” they say. “So I wanted to write something happy for once. I read a lot of romance novels!”

Because, of course, to define Akwaeke Emezi as a certain type of writer would be foolish. They exist, by their own description, in “liminal spaces”. Emezi is non-binary and identifies as ogbanje; proudly never quite one thing or the other. Their writing follows suit – a fluid and ever-evolving, prolific body of work that has already spanned genres, from memoir to verse. “My agent told me all my books sound like me, and none of them sound like each other.”

Emezi has a track record for taking risks, and their latest ‘deviation’ to a genre misogynistically referred to as ‘chick lit’ is further testament to that. “I think that literary hierarchy is nonsense, to be quite honest…” they say with a shrug. “I started out with this weird book that a lot of people weren’t really going to understand, and it gave me the confidence to continue just writing as myself.”

Hence, in Emezi’s career, they never seek external validation – only their own. Yet this was a hard-won lesson, discovered when their debut novel was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. When their non-binary identity was revealed, Emezi says they received a deluge of online abuse. This only increased when they removed themselves from contention for their second novel The Death Of Vivek Oji after the Women’s Prize asked for their “sex as defined by law”. “Because I don’t have a gender because I don’t fit neatly into the boxes, I realised that I was going to be penalised for it by the industry, by the media, by the public,” they say. “I thought, ‘why would I wait for people who don’t even respect who I am to then tell me that I’m good at what I do?’”

Yet it is tempting to see Emezi as a commercial success story. After all, Freshwater is being turned into a limited series, and You Made A Fool Of Death With Your Beauty has already been bought by Michael B Jordan’s film production company in a rumoured seven-figure deal. But it is not that cut and dry, argues Emezi. “You still are not going to see Black non-binary or trans writers winning awards because our work is just not considered on its own merits. People focus on other things about us more than our work. That was a rude awakening for me.” Emezi then segues neatly into a discussion about their now-infamous ‘twitter beef’ with esteemed fellow Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which began in 2021. Emezi accused Adichie of being transphobic and Adichie launched a thinly disguised critique of Emezi via an open letter. This, says Emezi, resulted in an avalanche of abusive messages online.

Today, however, Emezi laughs and swiftly begins to speak of other things; their compulsive writing, their garden. There is that joy again, trying desperately to poke through and remind us never to define anyone by only their worst days. Then, they surprise me again: “You know, I’ve always wanted to write a fantasy novel; I’ve been trying for years but my books keep… becoming something else.” But whatever they become, much like the ever-evolving Akwaeke Emezi, they will, undoubtedly, be unabashedly themselves.

Marie-Claire Chappet is a London-based arts and culture journalist and contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar


Polaroids of characters from the movie Fire Island
Searchlight Pictures

This One Thing... Fire Island

Written by and starring comedian Joel Kim Booster (who will also debut his Netflix stand-up special Joel Kim Booster: Psychosexual later this month), Fire Island chronicles a close-knit group of queer friends – including SNL comedian Bowen Yang (also a guest on Dua Lipa: At Your Service), his Las Culturistas co-host Matt Rogers, and comedy legend Margaret Cho – as they holiday together in New York’s premier gay enclave. Bursting with warmth and queer joy, the film cherishes the little moments, such as inside jokes funny only to the closest of chosen families. Though there’s a core plot, the movie unfolds best in these quieter pockets, returning time and again to the value of finding your tribe.

Brennan Carley is US Editor and Culture Director of Service95

Portraits of resale platform founders Clare Richardson of Reluxe and Noelle Bonner of The Nobo
Clare Richardson, Reluxe © Dan Martensen, Reluxe; Matchesfashion; Noelle Bonner, The Nobo © Hillary Jeanne Photography

Reduce, Reuse, Reluxe: The Fashion Resale Platform Bringing Luxury, Thrill And Ethics Into Bargain Hunting

With the detrimental impact the fashion industry has undeniably had on the environment, consumers have been forced to re-evaluate their buying habits. As a result, the stigma around purchasing vintage and second-hand items has shifted over the last couple of years, and reselling markets are no longer seen as second-best. Sadly, there is a downside. An increasing number of these sites have become overwhelming to the point of distraction, flooded with counterfeit goods and a below-par service to boot. Hence a well-curated, trusted, and ethical source has become the Holy Grail.

Which is where Clare Richardson comes in. The highly sought-after fashion stylist and brand consultant has launched Reluxe, a reselling website and concierge service that is already proving a hit with time-poor and eco-conscious style hunters. “I felt like there was a gap in the market for people like me who wanted to shop resale but didn’t want to look through tons of products,” explains Richardson. Her reputation as an industry tastemaker (she’s recently collaborated with Matchesfashion and is a favourite with some of the world’s most prestigious fashion houses – including Hermès and Balenciaga), her knack for effortless styling and her long-time romance with vintage fashion have seen Richardson garner a vast and loyal clientele. She hand-picks their timeless, statement and everyday pieces to grow her treasure trove. Surprisingly, the price points are (relatively) inclusive. This, says Richardson, was intentional.

Within Reluxe’s carefully curated platform of mid to high-end, second-hand, and vintage, you can expect to find a mixture of little-worn treats – in sublime condition – that are far less than a fraction of the original price. At the time of writing there was a black Isabel Marant tassel skirt for £120, embellished Manolo Blahnik satin pumps for £350, Simone Rocha flats for £250 (the designer’s shoes can retail close to three times that price) and, for those looking for investment pieces that will always hold their value, a range of pristine, classic, candy-coloured Chanel tweed blazers for £1,000 (bought new, expect to pay upwards of an eye-watering £4,000). While, of course, the range by no means reflects mass-produced high-street prices, Richardson’s vision is that Reluxe will inspire people to shop in a way that is ultimately better for the planet; however, she is realistic about this dream. “I hope that in five years’ time, customers will shift more to pre-loved products. But if they’re buying new items, I hope they’re well-made, investment pieces that stand the test of time.”

Here are four other luxury reselling platforms that are bringing the thrill back into pre-loved shopping:

Designer Exchange
With a thriving online and in-store presence, Designer Exchange transports you to a wonderland of bags presented alongside the latest – as well as vintage – clothing and accessories to revamp your wardrobe.

Open For Vintage
The regular deals on Open For Vintage allow you to grow your accessories wardrobe at a steal. With a handbag Repair And Restore portal, customers can breathe new life into their pre-owned bags.

The Hosta
Founded by the luxury bag connoisseur Danni Dance, The Hosta offers a carefully curated website of highly sought-after pre-loved bags – expect to find everything from a classic Chanel to the Louis Vuitton pochette handbag.

The Nobo
Noelle Bonner is the first to put a creative spin on the luxury consignment service – her e-commerce platform The Nobo allows you to swap items with a similar value at a smaller fee.

Yelena Grelet is a London-based multimedia journalist and filmmaker


Image of gun violence protest banner over New York City
CJ Hendry, @cj_hendry

Use Your Power

Just 10 days after a horrific mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, another unfathomable act of mass violence has occurred in Uvalde, Texas, with a gunman taking the lives of 19 children – please read that again: children – and two teachers, as of the time I’m writing this. I join the world in grieving these monumental losses and stand firm that we are long past the time for just thoughts and prayers in response. In America, something must change, and it must change now. If you’re US-based, call your elected officials and tell them to abolish the filibuster and do all they can to stop gun violence; demand that the politicians taking up airtime with their empty condolences cancel their appearances at the National Rifle Association’s conference in Texas tomorrow and boycott the event instead; march with your community, and donate to organisations such as Everytown, which are seeking to prevent gun violence.

Mass shootings are preventable. Join me in using your power to help get us closer to that reality. Dua x 

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Portraits of perfumers Maya Nije, Chris Collins, Neela Vermeire and Pissara Umavijani
Maya Nije © Jacob Lilis, Chris Collins, Neela Vermeire © Neela Vermeire Creations, Pissara Umavijani

The New Scent Vanguard Decolonising The Fragrance Industry

Fragrance dares us to dream in technicolour and travel with our noses, yet the faces behind their creation have been predominantly middle-class white men from France. Now, a new guard of perfumers and brand founders is finally infiltrating the scent space that was once the reserve of the privileged few.

The town of Grasse in France is often referred to as ‘the perfume capital of the world’, yet the perfumers who happen to be born there, or have the funds to travel and study there, have populated the world’s perfume shelves with their creations. There have been attempts to bottle ‘exotic’ locations, sacred traditions and ancient mythologies but, when mainly expressed by white men, it’s the kind of cultural appropriation that’s recently (and rightly) been closely examined in practically any other art form – yet, in the world of perfumery, it has been accepted as the scented status quo.

This isn’t to say many perfumers and brands don’t extensively research their inspirations and the ingredients they use but, until very recently, the ethnicity and heritage of the ‘noses’ asked to compose the fragrances wasn’t even considered. Historic racism aside, the root cause has often been simple: perfumery is the meeting place of art and science, and to train as a chemist – even to know perfumery can be a career – is the domain of the privileged. Add to this the Grasse tradition of handing the perfumer mantle from father to son, along with the usual workplace complications of non-flexible working or childcare facilities, and the unconscious bias of male mentors tending to hire people who look like them, and you have the perfect storm for perfumed prejudice.

Until recently, apart from a few outliers who made a name for themselves in the late ’70s, people of colour and women were not generally encouraged or supported to study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects. At the Institute of Education at University College London, Louise Archer and her team have created ASPIRES – a long-term research project investigating the phenomenon that although girls do well at science in secondary education exams, “they still think they’re not good enough or clever enough to go on to do it at university,” says Archer. “We see this attitude particularly in girls from working-class and non-white backgrounds.” As people of colour are the majority of the world’s population, doesn’t that make it even more bizarre to have excluded these voices (and noses)?

“It felt so far away and removed from my life [growing up],” says perfumer and brand owner Maya Njie, who now celebrates her West African and Swedish heritage through her eponymous brand. Chris Collins, a perfumer who was one of the first African-American models to work with Ralph Lauren and now owns a fragrance house honouring Black culture, agrees that for perfume to truly reflect the people who wear it, we need a diversity of voices. “My stories come from my unique perspective,” he says. “The more diversity we have, the more stories we get to hear.”

Here are five culturally rich fragrance houses to have on your radar.

  1. The first Turkish fragrance house Nishane has a mission to put Istanbul on the scent map.
  2. Self-taught Thai perfumer Prin Lomros expresses his heritage through scent memories.
  3. Catherine Omai is inspired by “the culture, landscape and tradition of the people of Nigeria”.
  4. Neela Vermeire showcases her Indian heritage through exquisite, historically inspired perfumes.
  5. Pissara Umavijani, who grew up in Thailand, celebrates her father’s poetry in fragrant form with her brand Parfums Dusita.

Suzy Nightingale is an award-winning freelance fragrance journalist who has written for The Perfume Society, Grazia Middle East, Rakes Progress, and is the co-host of On The Scent podcast


Portraits of Nigerian-American comedian Ziwe
© Greg Endries/Showtime

“I Love Questioning Everything”: The Unorthodox Talk Show Host Exploring Race Through Comedy

Ziwe, the Nigerian-American comedian, was catapulted to fame by her riotously funny and cringe-inducing YouTube and Instagram Live shows. In both, Ziwe grilled people from Rose McGowan to chef Alison Roman on issues of race. The eponymous comedy series that followed builds on the concept to feature interviews, game show quizzes and music videos where the host once again asks guests and audience members purposely uncomfortable questions: “How many Black friends do you have?” “When you say ‘Black people’, do you capitalise the ‘B’?”, “Did your ancestors own slaves?” It’s a provocative but deliberately “clueless” persona Ziwe calls “a Bratz doll with a diploma”. (The real Ziwe studied radio, television, film and African-American studies at Northwestern University in Illinois.)

As Ziwe enters the second season, its creator says that the intention isn’t to make anyone look dumb; it’s to make us think about why the questions are so hard to answer. “Behind the question is another question,” explains Ziwe. “‘What is the right way to answer that question? Why do I feel stumped?’ I’m just trying to question what we deem as good, what we deem as bad, what we deem as facts, what we deem as fiction.”

Much of the humour lies in the gulf between what game guests may want for the interview and how their time with Ziwe actually turns out. Moments such as Charlamagne Tha God saying, “Black men don’t cheat,” then promptly clarifying that he committed infidelity during the last election cycle create a crackling awkwardness on screen. On set, however, Ziwe says “the interviews are really warm and hospitable and funny, and people are laughing. I don’t have to hog-tie them and throw them in front of cameras. They’re willing adults.”

The 30-year-old Ziwe remembers a childhood idolisation of Britney Spears and talks about how the reversal in public opinion around Spears shaped some of Ziwe’s later views on celebrity culture. “Within the span of two, three years, the girl we loved, America’s sweetheart [became] ‘We hate her. She’s the devil,’” Ziwe says. “As an adult, I look back on that time and think, ‘Wow.’ You just consume it and treat it as truth because it is in print or because it is on TV.” That dissonance created a desire in Ziwe. “I love questioning everything,” she says, noting her love of being surprised by what she doesn’t know or didn’t expect. “How good was it [during] Gloria Steinem[’s interview], when we say, ‘Hey, Gloria, is the song WAP – Wet Ass Pussy – female empowerment?’ [We] watch her in real-time listen to the song and be like, ‘Not really.’”

So is the goal of Ziwe to change people’s minds? She recalls critics who called the show too “performative”, saying it “didn’t go far enough”. “Well, I wasn’t planning on solving racism in six episodes, but maybe I should try harder,” Ziwe says sarcastically. “I have no expectations for what my comedy will do. The only expectation I have is laughter.”
Watch Ziwe on Showtime

Anna Peele is based in New York and writes for publications including New York Magazine, Vanity Fair and The Washington Post Magazine


Archive photographs taken by Terence Donovan at the Que Club in Birmingham
Terence Donovan © Terence Donovan Archive

This One Thing... In The Que

The Museum & Art Gallery in Birmingham, UK is now hosting an exhibition of previously unseen work by renowned British fashion photographer Terence Donovan. This time, however, supermodels aren’t the subject. Instead, the focus is on ravers from the Que Club, a historic nightclub located in Methodist Central Hall, built in 1904, where Donovan spent many hours capturing the hedonism of Birmingham’s ’90s techno scene.
In The Que runs until 30 October 2022

Pia Brynteson is Editorial Assistant at Service95


Interior photographs of The Johri hotel in Jaipur, India, and scenes from the local bazaar
© Bharat Agarwal, Shubhank Vyas, Evgeny Nelmin

The Old-World Charm Of Jaipur’s Hottest New Boutique Hotel

Jaipur: India’s famed Pink City that attracts well-heeled travellers from across the globe seeking a taste of its magnificent palaces, royal heritage and eclectic charm. Now picture this: A bustling by-lane in Jaipur’s pink-walled bazaar (one of the oldest in the city, and a UNESCO World Heritage site), where perched in the centre of the organised chaos is The Johri, a 19th-century merchant’s haveli (mansion)-turned-hotel that is a far cry from the city’s many five-star palace hotels. Instead, the three-storey intimate boutique hotel is a classic-meets-contemporary oasis that serves as a relic of the past while reimagining it for a new generation of urban nomads. Here, Rajasthani heritage – think antique furniture, textiles, murals and art from across the state – mingles with a mood that’s almost Wes Andersonian.

The hotel is serious about borrowing from its surroundings. Its name, for starters, takes after the location Johri Bazaar, which essentially means jeweller’s market. The five elegant suites are also named after five different jewels, which have led the way for their distinct interiors and personalities. Even though it was launched during the pandemic, what gave the hotel an instant leg-up was the dynamic duo behind it – renowned hospitality entrepreneur Abhishek Honawar and seventh-generation jeweller Siddharth Kasliwal of The Gem Palace, who already have another boutique property in the city, 28 Kothi, to their credit. And the two have stayed true to their reputation of preserving local culture with modern spruces with The Johri.

If you’re not checking in, check out its season-focused vegetarian restaurant for a meal of Indian classics. Or make a beeline for the lounge that serves high chai in the afternoons and cocktails post sundown. Either way, The Johri is the perfect vantage point to immerse yourself in the many charms of Jaipur’s old city and all the history it has to offer.
3950, MSB Ka Rasta, Johri Bazaar, Ghat Darwaza, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302003; thejohrijaipur.com

Praachi Raniwala is a lifestyle and fashion journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Vogue India, Condé Nast Traveller India, Washington Post and Financial Times’ How To Spend It


Photograph of buildings lining the canal in Amsterdam

Exploring Amsterdam

Since childhood, I’ve been coming to Amsterdam quite regularly – more times than I can count! – because my mother’s side of the family lives here. The city has left me with some of my best memories. So when I’m not touring or working on Service95 (how cool are the hair extensions from Tomihiro Kono in this issue?), I love exploring what Amsterdam has to offer. Read below for my recommendations.

Dua x

  1. Rent a boat on the canal and stop off at different restaurants along the way. Keep your eye out for traditional Dutch bites such as bitterballen (meatballs) and kroketten (croquettes). The poffertjes (tiny Dutch pancakes) are also not to be missed.
  2. Plantage – a superb, bright and airy restaurant that’s a must for every trip.
  3. Restaurant de Kas – delicious food, which is mostly grown onsite, that’s picked in the morning and served in the afternoon.
  4. Winkel43 – you have to go for the apple pie!
  5. Play Padel NEXT – a sport in the racquetball family, slightly similar to tennis, and great to play if you’re visiting with a group.

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Stills featuring the films Annette, The Souvenir: Part II, and the TV Series Bridgerton
Alamy, Netflix, BBC Films

The Clit Test: A Feminist Measure Of Female Pleasure

It’s been over two years since Frances Rayner founded The Clit Test campaign. Dubbed the Bechdel test for sex scenes, it requires a TV show or film to acknowledge the existence of the clitoris and its importance. “The idea that sex equals a penis going into a vagina feels truly on its way out,” says Rayner.

Hellbent on seeing real sex on screen, Rayner – a charity communicator based in Glasgow, Scotland – has been “blown away” by the response to it. “When I first sent out a press release for The Clit Test, I had no idea how much interest there would be, but it has since been featured in 14 countries, in several major outlets,” she says. “It has had a lot of support from sexologists, directors, creatives, actors and on-set intimacy coordinators.

“My aim was to amplify the good work creators were putting out and hold this up as what good sex looks like – and I think it’s largely achieved that. Whether or not it’s been influenced by the campaign, I’m so happy to say that, over the last six months, I haven’t seen many sex scenes involving people with vulvas that don’t involve some clit action.”

So, what recent films and TV shows take the top spot? Here, Rayner talks us through them:

1. Bridgerton
“I think it was just really normalised,” Rayner says of the sex scenes in the first season of Shonda Rhimes’ Netflix hit Bridgerton. “There were so many scenes with cunnilingus and hands getting involved. And it’s really nice to see it, in that conventionally raunchy way and, of course, it’s not going to be just about penetration.”

However, it wasn’t all perfect. “The only issue I have with the show was the scene where Daphne [played by Phoebe Dynevor] kind of tricked her husband Simon [played by Regé-Jean Page] into conceiving – or trying to,” Rayner explains. “And he asked her to stop and she didn’t. I felt that wasn’t taken seriously enough in the writing. A lot of people called that out.”

2. Annette
“It’s like a real work of art,” Rayner says of 2021’s Annette. “The amazing thing about it – and it was discussed quite a lot at the time – is that there are three sex scenes [in the film]. The leads are Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, and he goes down on her in the first two sex scenes, so you see as much of that as you see of penetrative sex, so it feels like it’s on a par. It doesn’t feel like, ‘Oh, and then we do this extra thing [oral sex]’. It’s as important to the woman as the penetration will be to the man.”

3. The Souvenir: Part II
“The sex in this film made me so happy!” she says of the sequel to The Souvenir, featuring mother-daughter duo Tilda Swinton and Honor Swinton Byrne. “In one scene, there’s a lustful quickie. It’s with someone she [Swinton Byrne’s character] shouldn’t really be having sex with. And she’s on her period. And he goes down on her. For me, that’s a double whammy. And it’s not because he’s like, ‘I love you so much so I’m willing.’ It’s, ‘Yeah, we’re having sex, so if I’m penetrating you, you’re going to want something that’s the equivalent, that is clit based.’”

In 2022, Rayner is letting the campaign take a natural course. “Though I think the clit revolution is well and truly underway, there’s still so much more to be done to improve our norms around sex in other ways,” she explains. “We still rarely see trans characters having enjoyable sex on screen – Sense8 is a great exception to this. And we’re a way off seeing great models of consent.” Hopefully that’s all to come.

Susan Devaney is a freelance journalist and editor, who has worked for titles including British Vogue and Stylist magazine. She’s also written for Refinery29 UK, ELLE, The Guardian and more 


Poster artwork of The TInderbox film

“For me, history and truth matter” – Gillian Mosely’s Film On The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Bafta-winning director Gillian Mosely grew up as a Jew in a strong Zionist home. A friendship with a gay Muslim Palestinian, however, forced her to challenge what she had long been brought up to believe about Palestine. This, she tells Service95, is what inspired her to make The Tinderbox, a film that explores the past and present of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

When I was about 17, I met Tamer at Taboo – Leigh Bowery’s iconic London nightclub. At that point, all we cared about was nightclubs and parties and what we were wearing to them. It was a good five years before we realised that I was Jewish, and he was Palestinian. At his house, I’d hear things over the dinner table that had happened to his family and so much of it just didn’t add up to what I’d been taught by my largely Zionist family.

I started to look into it and the more I discovered, the more I thought, ‘Wait a second, this isn’t right.’ And so, my film – although scathing about Britain’s role in the erosion of Palestinian rights – is also about holding up a mirror to the Jewish community. It’s not a mirror that certain Jews want to look in. As a Jew myself, that has been difficult. My family members and other people I know have avoided watching the film. But I believe that this is something we Jews need to get to grips with – because if we don’t, other people will do it for us.

There have been some interesting moments of change in the last year, much of which I believe is thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement. Young liberal Jews who were supportive of the Black Lives Matter campaign couldn’t understand why their friends were then turning around and supporting the Palestinians. There have been many mini identity crises over that sort of thing, and I have a lot of sympathy for that. But, for me, history and truth matter. I’d rather know the truth and deal with it than keep sticking my head in the sand.

One argument that has been bandied around is that the criticism of Israel in this matter is simply part of anti-Semitic rhetoric, but I think it depends on who it’s coming from and how it’s phrased. I am not at all in agreement with people who say that being anti the Israel government is anti-Semitic. It’s eminently possible to criticise the government without being anti-Semitic.

I had been to the West Bank in the past, but when I went to Hebron, that gave me the most pause for thought. Hebron is a microcosm of the conflict writ large. You have this place where there are literally about a thousand Jewish settlers, and they’re the hard-line settlers, and they torment the Palestinians. My team and I saw a lot of this. They have the Israeli army around them, protecting them, and they harass Palestinians, and the Israeli army doesn’t do anything about it.

There are 200,000 Palestinians in the city, yet the thousand Jews living in the Old City have completely taken over. I was shocked by it. It’s also worth mentioning that we are talking about the world’s longest-existing refugee crisis. Before the Ukraine war, a third of the world’s refugees were Palestinians – and as a people, they’ve been refugees for around 70 years. The average is 20 years.

That said, I don’t think I’m going to change the minds of hard-line Jews. So the film is aimed at people (Jews and non-Jews) sitting on the fence. It’s asking them to engage with the story – a story I felt I had to tell. I come from three long lines of rabbis – we were some of Britain’s earliest chief rabbis – I’m a community leader, and as a history filmmaker with that background I felt, if I can’t say anything about this situation, no one can.

As a family, we had to take the Israel-Palestine conversation off the table early on as it would just turn into a screaming row. But something needed to be said. Often you read things people say and they get labelled a self-hating Jew, which is absurd. In my opinion, Jews who are endangering the rest of Jews because of their hard-line stance are putting us all in jeopardy. That, to me, would seem a more logical way to frame ‘self-hating Jew’.
The Tinderbox is on Curzon Home Cinema – watch it here


Images of hair stylist and wig maker Tomihiro Kono's dyed hair extensions
Tomihiro Kono

This One Thing... Tomihiro Kono Hair Extensions

Is it art? Or is it hair? Actually, it’s both. These avant-garde clip-on hair extensions have been treated and hand-painted in a myriad of prints. Not only are they a fun and versatile way to change your look, but you can do so without the trauma of bleaching your own hair. And if you wear a hat, you’ll fool everyone into believing the hair is yours.
Tomihiro Kono Hair Extensions, from £70, available at apoc-store.com

Funmi Fetto is the Global Editorial Director at Service95 and a Contributing Editor at British Vogue


Hay Literary Festival, Wales
Hay Festival, Adam Tatton-Reid, Billie Charity

An Insider’s Guide To Hay-On-Wye

Straddling the border between England and Wales, the tiny town of Hay-on-Wye in the UK has always had a slight whiff of anti-establishment about it. But its reputation for a mild form of small-town anarchy was sealed on 1 April 1977 when local bookseller Richard Booth rode his horse through the town and proclaimed Hay an independent kingdom. Wearing a tin-foil crown and carrying an orb and sceptre made from a discarded toilet cistern, he declared himself King of Hay.

Booth passed away in 2019 but, 45 years on, his non-conformist legacy still lingers in the town. Defying the Age of Amazon, Hay is home to more than 20 independent bookshops (in a town of 2,000 residents, that’s more bookshops per capita than anywhere else in the world). Next week, 100,000 visitors will travel to the Hay Festival for literary talks, comedy and music. Once called ‘the Woodstock of the mind’, this year’s highlights include Hillary Clinton, Bernardine Evaristo and Elif Shafak, and a fundraising event for Ukraine headlined by Benedict Cumberbatch. (There are also other Hay Festivals around the world, including Mexico, Peru, Colombia, France and Spain.) Beyond the famed festival, however, there are a wealth of things to see and do in the town. Here is the Service95 ultimate guide to Hay-on-Wye.

Bookshops: It’s impossible to go to Hay and not visit a bookshop. Start with Richard Booth’s Bookshop, a local institution and the largest second-hand bookshop in Europe. From here, just follow your nose. If your idea of a good bedtime read is a grizzly true-crime page-turner, head to Murder & Mayhem. If rhyming couplets are more your thing, The Poetry Bookshop is the only second-hand poetry bookshop in the UK.

Shopping: What Hay mercifully lacks in big-brand high-street stores it makes up for in independent shops. The Old Electric Shop is a rambling bohemian joint featuring industrial furniture, artisan clothing and jewellery, and a delicious veggie cafe. The window displays alone at the wonderfully eccentric vintage store Bain & Murrin’s World Famous Emporium are worth a visit. Get your arthouse fix at the Flaming Lady of Hay, a quirky gallery-bookshop championing female artists.

Eating: If it’s seasonal fine food you’re after, Chapters gives any high-end establishment a run for its money. Set in a tiny former chapel, it was recently awarded a Michelin Green Star for “outstanding eco-friendly commitments”. For a more laid-back vibe, head to Tomatitos tapas bar, where owner Thalia will keep you entertained for hours. For something truly unique, risk getting lost outside Hay and find your way to the unmarked field hosting Off Grid Gourmet, where chef Hugh Sawyer serves up a seriously impressive feast using only a wood stove and a smoker. As he says, “It’s Christmas gone mad.”
Hay Festival 2022, 26 May-5 June

Maria Padget is the Consulting Editor at Service95 and lives in Hay-on-Wye


Black and white Photobooth photo strip featuring Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa

The Best Of Berlin

If you were wandering the streets of Berlin this past week, you may well have seen me strolling around and soaking in one of my favourite European cities – a vibrant and eclectic hub for food, art, and some of the best nights out I’ve ever had. I can clearly envision myself living here someday but, for now, holidays and days off from tour will have to do. Here’s my must-do list for Berlin newcomers – as someone who’s fallen in love with this city, I can confidently say we’re only scratching the surface.

Dua x 

  1. Boros Foundation – a contemporary art gallery housed in a former bunker.
  2. Photoautomat – you’ll find these memory-making booths in pretty much every corner of the city.
  3. Mauerpark Flea Market – in the mood for thrift shopping, antique finds, delicious street food, or all the above? Then head to Mauerpark, Berlin’s biggest flea market. I can think of worse ways to spend a Sunday.
  4. Lavanderia Vecchia – an Italian restaurant that is in a remodelled old laundry.
  5. Rent a bike – it’s such a fun way to see Berlin but be sure to wrap up on colder days. 

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Portrait of graphic journalist Takoua Ben Mohamed in her studio
© Mouadh Ben Mohamed

Takoua Ben Mohamed: Breaking Down Stereotypes One Graphic Novel At A Time

“If there’s one thing I dislike, it is being flattened to a one-dimensional figure,” Takoua Ben Mohamed tells me when we ‘meet’ on Zoom. “A Muslim woman. A second-generation immigrant. Or even worse, a sort of extraordinary exception: the girl with the veil who – lo and behold – managed to become a cartoonist. Or the Tunisian outsider who ‘broke the ranks’. It’s just so limiting. I am a Muslim, yes. I am Tunisian. But I am also Italian, a graphic journalist. I contain multitudes. I try to reflect that in anything I do.”

And she is succeeding. Ben Mohamed was born 31 years ago in southern Tunisia, but has lived in Rome since 1999, where she moved with the rest of her family – she’s the sixth of seven siblings – to join her father, a political exile. Today, she’s a cartoonist, illustrator, film producer, graphic journalist and author of four comic books, whose work tackles social issues spanning racism, Islamophobia and sexism.

In Italy, a country that’s still grappling with all the above, she’s one of the boldest, most compelling voices fighting for local social justice.

“Activism has always been part of my life,” she says. “When I was little, my parents used to take me to human rights demonstrations because they saw it as the most normal thing to do. It shaped me. I decided early on that I wanted to try and make a difference.”

Indeed, Ben Mohamed started young – first volunteering with youth and humanitarian organisations when she was 10, just after the 9/11 attacks, which, she says, made life “really quite hard” for Muslims around the world, and then with an online comics project called Intercultural, which she launched, aged 14. Taking the form of a blog, it narrated Ben Mohamed’s everyday life through drawings and vignettes, including the episodes of bullying and discrimination she was subjected to. “Comics turned out to be the perfect channel to share my experience,” she says. “They allowed me to explore themes I care about in a way that was easy to grasp and could even be ‘light’, ironic.”

Soon enough, publishing houses and magazines came calling with book proposals and collaborations. Then came the awards for her graphic journalism, and her testimonial in the EU-backed Look Beyond Prejudice campaign, aimed at combating discrimination and raising awareness among Muslim girls.

Latterly, together with two of her brothers, she founded BM Entertainment, a production company that makes documentaries on youth culture, social change, and integration (Ben Mohamed has a degree in film animation). Their docu-film Hijab Style, on the myriad ways of wearing the veil, aired on Al Jazeera in 2020.

“I want to tell stories about people like me that are different from those you usually read in mainstream media,” she says. “Muslim women are so often portrayed as sad looking, subjugated, voiceless. But the reality I know couldn’t be further from that. For instance, I decided to wear the veil. My family didn’t force me.”

One of her biggest dreams is to bring her comics to the Arab world, reaching a whole new audience. And her ultimate goal? Smiling, she says: “A Nobel Prize for a graphic novel. You’ve got to aim high, right?”

Marianna Cerini is a Milan-based journalist who lived in Asia for over a decade. Her work has appeared in Vogue Italia, Condé Nast Traveler and CNN Style 


Image of vegetables and knife on chopping board
© Gallery Stock

Food For Thought: David Chang Wants Us To Think About How We Eat

Reinventing the wheel wasn’t necessarily on the menu for David Chang when he released his docu-series The Next Thing You Eat last year. Instead, the Momofuku founder and meat evangelist implored us to ‘recalibrate’ our attitude towards the foods we eat. Across all six episodes of his (occasionally harrowing) exploration of the future of food, there’s a sense of change on the horizon – from steakhouses using robots and automation to cook the ‘perfect steak’, to modern consumers that expect less environmentally damaging ways to nourish themselves.

You might not even know it, but the ‘future’ of food is already in the present – born out of innovation and necessity. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that cattle are responsible for 65% of the livestock sector’s emissions. They are also devastating in terms of the amount of land and water they devour. In its place, ‘cultivated meat’ – a more sophisticated way of referring to lab-grown chicken, steak, or salmon – is already being created from animal cells, causing them no harm. Chang even ponders if one can identify as vegan if they eat cultivated chicken, which contains no bones, blood, or skin; it’s framed as an ethical quandary as well as an environmental one.

The documentary is alarming, both because these innovations are necessary, but also successful. There is a sense of urgency, too; as oceans continue to become desolate and toxic, the very notion of ordering and eating sushi seems untenable. So, too, is industrialised animal slaughter – approximately nine billion factory-farmed chickens are slaughtered in the United States every year, even though we all likely know of the issues at play (terrible working conditions in abattoirs, mistreatment of animals, and industrial deforestation, which is responsible for hundreds of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases every year).

Lab-grown meat, however, could be one way to ensure people don’t have to radically alter their lifestyles in order to do good – if it looks like a steak, and tastes like a steak, that might be good enough!

Many might think veganism alone could help but, frustratingly, a steadfast devotion to fruit and vegetables could also prove harmful to the environment. A study by the University of Manchester found air-transported fruit and vegetables have five times the impact on the environment than home-grown ones. The takeaway? Buy locally and eat seasonally.

Here are other small shifts we can make to ensure our relationship with food doesn’t negatively impact the planet. 

  • Share your and other people’s leftovers. My food newsletter, Scraps, is a love letter to the things you can make with yesterday’s leftovers. Olio is a neighbourhood-based resource for picking up food in your community (with five million users across 49 countries), while the Karma app (available in London and Brighton in the UK, as well as across Europe) lets users rescue food from local restaurants, bakeries, cafes and even wholesalers that are otherwise destined for the bin. 
  • Manage your own food waste better. Nosh is an app that uses AI to track the food in your fridge, alerting you when expiry dates are coming up. 
  • Listen and learn. Podcasts such as Big Ideas Into Action and Zero Waste Kode explore food waste and its environmental impact. 


Chris Mandle is a writer and editor based in South London. He currently works as a staff writer at New York Magazine’s The Strategist, and he writes the food newsletter Scraps on Substack
 


Portrait of Sheila Bridges, her plate designs for Wedgwood and a table set with the Sheila Bridges x Wedgwood crockery
© Sheila Bridges, Wedgwood

This One Thing... Sheila Bridges x Wedgwood

While African-American interior designer Sheila Bridges loved traditional French toile – colourful prints featuring pastoral motifs, popularised in the 18th century – she couldn’t find one that spoke to her and her history. So, in 2005, she created her own; the Harlem Toile de Jouy. The reimagined fabric and wallpaper feature Black characters to “address the stereotypes commonly associated with Black people, but in a way that feels celebratory”.

Seventeen years on, Bridges’ love of history, nature and Black culture has led to a collaboration with Wedgwood, the iconic British luxury tableware brand, which sees bone-china pieces adorned in the renowned Harlem Toile. What might seem an unlikely alliance is actually founded on common ground. Josiah Wedgwood, the designer and entrepreneur behind the brand, was active in the British anti-slavery movement in the 18th century. The Wedgwood anti-slavery medallion – originally produced in 1787, which depicted a kneeling and chained slave with the words ‘Am I not a man and a brother’ – was distributed across Britain to spread the anti-slave-trade message.

Speaking of Wedgwood, Bridges says, “I loved that he was willing to use his expertise, position and privilege to create something beautiful and meaningful that also expressed his conscience about something he deeply believed was wrong.’’
Sheila Bridges x Wedgwood is currently exclusive to Bloomingdales and will be available at Wedgwood later in 2022.

Funmi Fetto is the Global Editorial Director of Service95 and a Contributing Editor at British Vogue 


Portrait of shoe designer Daniel Charkow and images of his shoes made using surplus materials
Katelyn Yen Fang Lo, Daniel Charkow, Dan Lowe

The Shoemaker Creating Beauty From Junk

Fascinated by Lady Gaga’s love for beautiful but unwearable shoes, Daniel Charkow, a London-based, Canadian-born shoemaker, created his first pair aged 12. Ten years on, branded as @Shoe_Man_Dan, he is on a mission to bring craftsmanship and sustainability to the forefront of footwear

Daniel Charkow loves rummaging through London’s textile factories for dead-stock leather or any other material he can get his hands on. “One of the factories does the heels and soles for brands such as Church’s and John Lobb, and another supplies the leather for the Royal Air Force, so I just go in and take their scraps. Obviously,” he continues, “if you are cutting from a big sheet there are going to be leftovers, so my job is to utilise them.”

This drive to create beauty from scraps leads Charkow down unusual paths, hence he will take a chair found on the side of a road and turn it into an amazing pair of shoes. “The body is made from the chair cover, the heel is made from the leg and the cushioning is made from the foam found inside the chair,” he explains.

Having collaborated with multiple graduate designers from the likes of Central Saint Martins, Charkow is now launching his own brand this summer. His hope is to breathe his innovative energy into changing how we view our shoes, one step at a time.

Pia Brynteson is Editorial Assistant at Service95


Dua Lipa performing in Dublin, Ireland, during her Future Nostalgia Tour
Elizabeth Miranda

Travelling The World, Close To Home

One of the great joys of touring is exploring places close to home that I’ve never spent proper time in before – such as Dublin, a vibrant city in which I’ve just finished playing two shows. From a daylong detour to Wicklow (when they say the Irish countryside has the most gorgeous views, they’re not lying) to meals and pints all over town, these have been some of the most welcoming, warm and lively days of my time on the road. Below are just a few of the Dublin spots I fell in love with, followed by our incredible Issue 014 – don’t miss our story with Beata Heuman, the first in a new Service95 series – The Way We Work – in which creatives will tell us about what inspires their work life.

Dua x

  1. Grogans – for a pint and a toastie, it cannot be beaten.
  2. Hugo’s – the chicest little food spot right off St Stephen’s Green.
  3. Fish Shop – if you like seafood even a bit, this is your new go-to.
  4. Toners Pub – this has been around since 1734, and it’s exactly what I expected when I thought of a traditional Irish bar.
  5. Peruke & Periwig – a cocktail list broken down by genre of music? I dare you not to be intrigued…

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Portrait of model wearing Limnia jewellery
© Emman Montalvan

The Socially Conscious Jewellery Brand Keeping Filipino Craftsmanship Alive

In the Philippines, jewellery making is a craft passed on from generation to generation. But as costs for gold and diamonds continue to rise, craftsmen struggle to keep up with the pricing competition and the waning demand for locally made goods. Filipino artisans now dissuade their children from jewellery making as a career and turn to other jobs as they grow less confident in the industry as a source of livelihood. With the looming danger of losing Filipino craftsmanship altogether, Limnia brings the work of these goldsmiths into a global light and restores their faith in the future of their craft. “I believe the Philippines has so much talent, and it becomes more apparent when you leave,” says founder Annette Lasala Spillane – born and raised in the Philippines – who is now based in New York. She collaborates with TSKI, a Philippine non-profit focused on eradicating poverty through entrepreneurship, to work with the craftsmen as they cast, set, and polish jewellery. Characterised by modularity and a sense of renewal, Limnia pieces are designed to always feel new. Describing her jewellery as “pliable”, Spillane says, “The idea is that one piece is actually never just one piece.” Each design invites the creativity of its wearer by being able to instantaneously bend into anything you want it to be. Pendants turn into earrings, necklaces turn into anklets and earrings turn into rings. The flexibility of the pieces speaks to the concept of renewability – it allows the wearer to make their jewellery new again. The endless transformability of Limnia not only withstands the wearer’s evolution in style but also reflects the changes weathered by the craftsmen in the Philippines. “It is,” enthuses Spillane, “a piece of wearable art, an extension of yourself, and an expression of the people who made it.”
Juli Suazo is a freelance lifestyle journalist for CNN and Eater, based in Manila and London

Film stills from romantic comedies
Happiest Season, Lacey Terrell/Hulu; Heartstopper, Rob Youngson/Netflix; Marry Me, Alamy; Think Like A Man Too, Alamy; Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Netflix

Why The Romcom Will Never Die

Has any movie genre been treated more unfairly than the romantic comedy? Ignored by awards shows, sneered at by snobbish critics, and described (even by people that like them!) as ‘guilty pleasures’.

But what is there to feel guilty about? In my book From Hollywood With Love: The Rise And Fall (And Rise Again) Of The Romantic Comedy, I unpack the golden era of romantic comedies – from Pretty Woman to Crazy Rich Asians and more. It was thrilling to talk to the people who made them and learn behind-the-scenes stories about how they came together. By the time I completed my interviews with the writers, directors and actors making romcoms today, I was even more convinced that, despite the detractors, romantic comedies will never die. They are, however, evolving. For too many years, Hollywood romcoms tended to centre on the same kind of couples: white, cishet, upper-middle-class, living in New York and working as journalists or architects or architecture journalists. The movies also tended to end when the central couple got together – which is, frankly, just when those stories start to get really interesting.

But all those tropes are changing. No one does romance quite like Bollywood – Jab We Met and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani are just two on the longlist of diehard Bollywood romcom fans. Romantic comedies with Black leads – cult classics include Boomerang with Eddie Murphy and Halle Berry, Love And Basketball with Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps, and Think Like A Man with Kevin Hart and Taraji P Henson – are also hugely successful, increasingly putting paid to the idea that only certain love stories are worthy of depiction. In 2020, Hulu’s Happiest Season, centred on a romance between Kristin Stewart and Mackenzie Davis, scored the biggest debut in the streaming service’s history. In 2021, Netflix’s buzziest holiday romcom was Single All The Way, starring the male-identifying Michael Urie and Philemon Chambers as best friends who realise they might be something more. And that came less than a year after Netflix’s To All the Boys: Always And Forever, which – in addition to centring the perspective of a Korean-American girl – uses its status as the third movie in a franchise to go much deeper on its central relationship than would ever have been possible in the original movie.

And just in case anyone doubted it, 2022 shows promise for the longevity of this genre. Marry Me marked J.Lo’s triumphant return to the romcom (with Shotgun Wedding out this summer); The Lost City sees Sandra Bullock choose between Channing Tatum and Brad Pitt; while Bros, a Billy Eicher passion project, and Heartstopper focus on romances between two men. Romcoms aren’t dead – they’re stronger than ever – and look likely to run and run because, as they say: real love stories never have endings.

Scott Meslow is a senior editor at The Week magazine and a writer and critic for publications including GQ, New York and The Atlantic. From Hollywood With Love is his first book 


Image of a group of photographers gathered in a photographer's pit
© Arthur Elgort/Trunk Archive

This One Thing... Proximities

For the most part, the majority of the news consumed in the West is centred on what is happening in, well, the West. At Service95 however, we are all about global narratives. Which is why we love Proximities. This indie Substack newsletter, run by journalist Barry Malone, highlights three non-Western news stories to read every single day. From Palestine to China to Burkina Faso to Lebanon, Proximities is a simple but brilliant way to help us engage with powerful stories from around the world flying under the radar. It’s a smart read that will hopefully go some way in shifting the dominance of Western-centric news.


Portrait of Beata Heuman, her book and images of some of her design projects
© Chris Gloag, © Simon Brown

The Way I Work... Interior Designer Beata Heuman

In our new series, we look at the things, places and people that inspire a creative’s working life. New York Times bestselling author Fatima Mirza spoke to the interior designer Beata Heuman about everything from childhood inspirations to the best interiors accounts to follow on Instagram. Here are her thoughts…

On letting your inner child create your home: I focus a lot on listening to the voice of your inner child. I want to unlock that in people because we all have it within us. That can be really healthy and make you happier in your home. One way is thinking about the things you grew up with. There’s always something sentimental or that has meaning. Our jumbo gingham fabric is very much part of my childhood and growing up in Sweden, and the colours I chose are connected to memories of our farm and gardens. And don’t worry too much about what the right thing is – just find things that speak to you.

On her sartorial choices: I don’t have a work ‘uniform’, but I do enjoy making an effort with clothes. I tend to sit with my legs pulled up (like a five-year-old!) so I like something with a comfy waistband. I’m a big fan of Bode. It’s a big brand now but when I first came across it, it was hugely inspiring. It’s a unique way of making clothes, and the aesthetic really appeals. In theory, it’s a menswear brand, but that makes me enjoy wearing its clothes even more. Loretta Caponi in Florence is another shop I love. It’s very old fashioned and has lots of comfy smock dresses. To be honest, I’m just drawn to anything that feels ‘olde worlde’.

On music while you work: There’s a great app called Radiooooo. It’s a map of the world, and you can choose any country and decade – whether something from the 1910s or 1970s – and play music that was popular at the time in that country. Recently, I’ve been listening to Can I Get There By Candlelight by David McWilliams, Starálfur by Sigur Rós and Ohne Chanteuse by Yonderboi.

Image of the restaurant at the hotel Le Sirenuse, Positano
Le Sirenuse, Positano

On her fragrance of choice: It took me years to come across a scent I liked, but ever since we stayed at Le Sirenuse in Positano, Italy I wear Eau d’Italie by Le Sirenuse. It isn’t overly feminine and smells fresh. I often have scented candles burning in the office, such as Moro Dabron’s or Ortigia’s Florio. They help me focus but also make me feel cosy.

On spaces to inspire: Growing up, we used to go to the Landskrona Museum in Sweden. You’d go from room to room and be given time-typical outfits and get into character. I loved it. More recently, I went to the beautiful Swedish Grace exhibition, about art and design in the 1920s, at the National Museum in Stockholm. I’m really inspired by that time and designers such as Anna Petrus. I especially love museums with preserved interiors (it’s the closest to time travel you can get), hence I love Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, Charleston in Sussex, England, and Svindersvik in Stockholm. There is an amazing house called Villa Santo Sospir in St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat [in the South of France]. It was designed by Madeleine Castaing, and Jean Cocteau had a hand in it too. Sadly, it’s closed for renovation, but I’m hoping they will open the doors to the public once again.

On learning: I read Get Your House Right by Marianne Cusato and Ben Pentreath. It’s all about traditional detailing in architecture and I learned a lot. It’s made me better at reading the architecture of a house.

On her favourite Instagram accounts: @leahoconnelldesign; @tom__morris; @james_coviello; @tat.london; @the_london_list and @savedny.

On how to decorate your home: Whenever you see images of interiors you like, save them, and build up a little library. Then do a proper furniture plan. If you have a layout of your home, work out how you want to place the furniture. Then you can populate it. If you know what you’re looking for, that’s reassuring, but even if the pieces themselves are still missing, wait for the right thing – you don’t have to get everything at once.

Beata Heuman’s book Every Room Should Sing is out now


Illustrated portrait of Dua Lipa
Anje Jager

On Reflection...

After five months of recording, I’ve just finished taping the finale of the first series of my podcast, Dua Lipa: At Your Service – 12 episodes, done! From chats with loved ones to deep dives with new friends, I’ve had the most incredible time researching, preparing and conducting these interviews and conversations. Not only have I been able to give people I admire the space to tell their stories, but I’ve also realised so much, from the things that make me curious to the incredible, surprising, and universal commonalities so many of us share. Tomorrow, make sure you listen to our finale, and read below to see just a sliver of what I learned in the process. See you for Series Two!

Dua x

  1. Trust my own instincts. I’ve realised that if I ask something I’m curious about, then others are likely curious about it too. I’ve changed my mindset to think about the podcast more like a conversation than an interview, which has led to some incredible moments. 
  2. Let my guests know I’m listening without saying so. Little cues such as nodding or smiling, on video and in person, gives them the space to keep talking without cutting them off. A constant reminder I give myself.
  3. Preparation! Organisation is really important to me. I get the most out of the experience when I prepare in advance. Being on the other end of the microphone can be draining, so being prepared is a way I take care of myself. 
  4. Relax. Sometimes, the best moments come spontaneously. I can (and do!) prepare all I want, but the conversation flows best when it feels natural and organic. 
  5. Enjoy the experience. I love my job! I can’t believe how much fun I’ve had creating our first season, and I’m beyond excited to start planning the next!

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A portrait of the team, and images of the Prada catwalk and set-design supplies donated to Spazio Meta
© Delfino Sisto Legnani, © Prada

Faux-Fur Carpet, Pink Sand & Distorting Mirrors: Inside Milanese Art Reuse Start-Up Spazio Meta

Tucked away in the once-industrial district of Bovisa, on the northern outskirts of Milan, is a 300-square-metre warehouse neatly filled with discarded materials from fashion shows, art exhibitions, temporary installations and photo shoots. There are carpets in every thickness – including the faux-fur olive one that covered the interiors of the Prada show during Milan Fashion Week in February 2022 – fabric in a plethora of hues, glass in a variety of shapes and everything is on sale at affordable prices. This is Spazio Meta, a start-up launched in spring 2021 by friends-turned-entrepreneurs Martina Bragadin, Margherita Crespi and Benedetta Pomini with the idea to create an alternative – and cost-effective – response to the overproduction and waste of resources stemming from the art, fashion and design sectors.

The three women share similar backgrounds: Bragadin and Crespi studied scenography together in Milan, while Pomini used to work in art galleries and exhibition spaces, overseeing production processes. “We all witnessed first-hand how unsustainable the creative field can be when it comes to temporary events,” Bragadin tells me, “from the huge amount of resources that go into a set design meant to last only a few hours, to the fact that most of the materials used for a fashion show or an art display are usually just thrown away once the event is over – even though they’re still perfectly fine and recyclable.” Founding Spazio Meta was their way to “counteract this culture of waste”, she says.

Their small team does so by assessing and selecting used materials from different clients and suppliers – including fashion brands such as Prada and design fairs including Salone del Mobile.

The offer is wide-ranging: besides conventional materials, there were also, at the time of writing, 600 kilos of pink sand, giant cabbage props and distorting mirrors up for grabs.

Unusually, Spazio Meta’s showroom is not just for industry insiders, it is also open to the public. “We want to serve as a community space for anyone who might have artistic inclinations,” Pomini says. “It’s all about fostering a more responsible, circular approach to making art in all its forms and facilitating the use and sharing of resources.”

Marianna Cerini is a freelance journalist writing about travel, fashion, the arts and cultural trends and has been published in Conde Nast Traveller, The Telegraph, Time Out Beijing, Forbes and Vogue Italia


Artwork by artist Rudy Willingham featuring Beyoncé
© Rudy Willingham

This One Thing... Artist Rudy Willingham

One of the greatest de-stressors in our lives lately hasn’t been fitness, a good meal out, or even a hug from a friend. Instead, we’ve found tranquillity in the multidimensional and mesmerising work of artist Rudy Willingham, who uses (seemingly) simple paper cutouts and transforms them into optical illusions and splashy, pop-art tributes to icons such as Betty White and Mariah Carey. Some are stop-motion masterpieces; others are transformative street art that turn everyday objects into something much more fun. All of them will make you smile.


Two portraits of Mathilde Mackowski, co-founder of erotic brand Sinful, holding Ohhcean sex toys made from ocean-bound plastic
© Tobias Nicolai

Meet Mathilde Mackowski, The Woman Behind The World’s First Sex Toys Made From Ocean-Bound Plastic

“My passion is about playfulness. For me, everyone should have a playful sex life,” says Mathilde Mackowski. This is exactly why she made a move into the sex-toy industry 14 years ago and co-founded the Scandinavian erotic brand Sinful. From the get-go, it garnered a lot of media attention due to its relatability. “We were the first in the Nordic countries trying to make sex toys mainstream,” she recalls. “So many media outlets were contacting us because we were, you know, normal, with the ‘girl next door’ look.”

Now she’s upping the ante by launching Ohhcean, the world’s first sex toys made using ocean-bound plastic. This, in a nutshell, is plastic that’s been caught in the ocean, rainfall or on the beach before it becomes a problem. Working with #Tide, one of the world’s front-runners in upcycling and recycling ocean-bound plastic, Ohhcean has created three products: Magic Wand, G-spot Vibrator and Body Vibrator. Covered in sleek silicone, the range mirrors the hues of oceanic waves.

This approach to sex toys – playfulness while also protecting the planet from further damage – is something Mackowski hopes will inspire other companies in the world to think in the same way. “I want to start a big wave of change.”

Susan Devaney is a freelance journalist and editor, who has worked for titles including British Vogue and Stylist magazine. She’s also written for Refinery29 UK, ELLE, The Guardian and more


Illustrated portrait of Dua Lipa in a comic strip
Joel Benjamin