God Blessed My Persian Face

When I was in elementary school I was made fun of for a number of reasons. Being a visible minority in the 9/11 era and living in a waspy neighbourhood sucked on a few different levels. One of my most vivid memories of these events was being told I was ugly because my eyebrows were thick and bushy and full of Persian life. The whole “sand n*****”,  “terrorist”, “get out of our country” thing was pretty bad too, but a lot of my childhood was filled with hating the way I looked because I wasn’t a white girl.

I remember going home and looking at myself in the mirror and resenting my heritage for causing me the struggle of not being totally hairless and blonde. One day after a notably bad recess break, I went home after school and took my sister’s razor. With the fierce determination to lessen “the damage” of my thick eyebrows, I went to town. I looked ridiculous, of course, because I was 11 and I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing.

Today, thick eyebrows are everything. Terms like “on fleek”, “on point”, “proper” have been used to describe a girl with eyebrows like the ones I once tried to eliminate from my existence. There are multiple memes floating everywhere praising the holy thick eyebrow. I’m not gonna lie, my eyebrow game is proper. Why? Because my eyebrows are thick as fuck because I’m Persian, and we are born into the world covered in hair. Which is still not okay, by the way. Just the eyebrows are okay.

I hated them until about 4 years ago. I would pluck them into tiny lines like the magazines just to avoid looking the way I was born to look. Now? Now it’s cool. Now I get compliments. Now there are white girls asking me “how I got them so thick” so they can snag some tips. The same type of girls who once called me ugly. Nope. Now I refuse to ever let Western media determine how I feel about myself, and this happened after I was finally validated by it. Funny, that something as minor as eyebrows could have caused my life so much grief. So sad and alarming at the same time.

The cultural appropriation conversation is typically pretty cringeworthy. It’s a lot of political correctness vs. ignorance vs. oversensitivity vs. a lack of empathy. It goes in all different directions. I’ve thought a lot about what it means to me. Am I guilty of it? What is it even really? Why can’t we all just get along and appreciate whatever we want? Because it’s not that easy.

I’m not even on the bad end of it. Eyebrows are universal, I know that. I’m not saying anyone is appropriating Middle Eastern eyebrows. I’m saying how come it’s only okay when a specific group says it is? What about headscarves? What about bindis? And crownrows? Headpieces? Where’s the line? What’s okay and what’s not?

Girls like me, who were shamed for looking a certain way and then later praised for it, often feel resentment towards the people who are now embracing what they once rejected. It’s not fair that it’s only “cool” to look a type of way after white girls do it. Plain and simple. It’s not fair that my friend was thrown rocks at for wearing a culturally traditional bindi and now some 18 year old chick from LA is wearing one to Coachella and being photographed for Nylon. It’s not cool that girls with afros were bullied into relaxing their hair, then told weaves were “ratchet” and now you can clock a weave on any given white girl. It’s not fair because it was never okay until someone else said it was, we were never given the choice and never given the chance to actually enjoy the way we looked or the things we did until someone else said we could. Yes, it’s important to empower yourself via yourself, but it’s hard to do so when you’re young and being bullied by both your peers and society.

There’s a big difference between appreciating and embracing other cultures and exploiting them. My experience has been that my “exoticness” was never really appreciated until certain aspects of my image were sought after. I’m a curvy girl. I feel good about that, but I grew up hating it. I wanted to be a size zero, something my body physically will never be. Now it’s okay for me to have thick eyebrows. Now it’s okay for me to be “thick”. Now it’s okay for me to be “exotic”. And that’s cool, thanks for seeing it, but it wasn’t until it became “okay” that I realized how fickle the media and society’s view on me are. Fuck that. Fuck that forever.

That’s why when someone gets offended by you possibly cultural appropriating them it’s best for you to take a minute to think about the journey they’ve gone through. The whole process of learning to accept themselves that they might have faced before you assume they should take it as a compliment. How sacred what you’re utilizing for fashion is to them. It’s never as simple as you think it is.

I’m flattered by every compliment I get about my skin tone, my eyebrows, my hair, my anything that was given to me thanks to my heritage, but I will never forget how this very society looked at me before. I’m not saying walk on eggshells, I’m not even saying stop doing certain things, I’m just saying that it’s important to recognize where the resentment comes from. Empathy goes a long way. Evidently, so do good eyebrows.

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The Arrangement

This is a short film I wrote last year. I produced it with some amazing VFS people and it was directed by Kenrick Block. It‘s about love and money. And cake.

The Simplified Meaning of Life

All humans do is love each other and fuck each other up.

It’s just in our nature, and we’re all guilty of both. Loving someone is good until it’s bad. When it gets to that point, whether you want it to or not, you go on the second route. We go through relationships, we meet people who make it all better and then make it all worse. Sometimes it feels like a repetitive cycle, but it’s growth. And when you really sit down and think about it, it’s all we’re here for.

Love is beautiful. It’s meant to be shared and used in all it’s glory. Sometimes we think we know what it is, and then it changes. Sometimes we try to fake it. Sometimes it’s so real there’s nothing out there that could make you feel otherwise.

The point is that it’s necessary. If you want to understand the truth about any of this, you need to embrace it. It doesn’t always need to end on a bad note,  it can just be a progression of life. And yet, we’d all be liars if we said we haven’t been hurt before. As you go on, you learn to hurt others less and stop letting yourself be hurt in return.

I love love. I love being in love. But in the past few years I’ve found a love that trumps most of my other experiences. It’s a love that is genuine beyond all of my other ideas of it.

I found the realest love within my friends. I’ve always felt unconditional love with my family, but it’s different when you choose your tribe.

I stay surrounded by people, because people give me all the life I need. I have made connections that have taught me more about myself than anything else ever has. I’ve felt a rare vulnerability that has shown me how to be real. And even though most of those connections are across the nation from me right now, it doesn’t change anything.

I’m not showing off. I mean, maybe I am. But it’s for no reason other than being full of gratitude. Friendship is the most indispensable gift we have to give each other, even when it involves romance. Knowing you have people looking out for you who have seen you at your worst, your best, your medium, and every moment in between is almost serene.

I may be speaking a little too soon, but the meaning of life to me is all in the bonds we make. The things we share, the moments we have. I’ve always been lucky to find good people, but I never fully understood how blessed we are until recently.

Why do people still have drama? Love each other more. I don’t mean to sound preachy, but goddamn it just do it. Stop fighting. Stop tearing each other down. Stop being petty. Stop holding grudges. Stop being mad. It’s not worth it. It never has been.

Yeah, sometimes people come and go, but you know when it’s meant to be for life. Make those connections. Make them last and keep them real. Don’t put on a face for each other. Don’t let bullshit get in the way. You can overcome anything with the right people on your team.

Express gratitude. Be genuine. Look out for each other and embrace how lucky you are. Life is as fantastic as you let it be.

I’m just thankful for how beautiful it’s been so far. In fact, I’m so thankful I’m cheesy as fuck lately. I can’t really help it, it’s overcome me.

I’ll be snarky some other day.

How to Human

Something hit me 5 minutes ago. You know when you’re just going about your day and then, suddenly, in an instant you’re completely aware of your breathing, and who you are and all the particles you’re made up of and how fickle life is? It’s kind of an amazing feeling.

I honestly kind of just ended up here on a whim and somehow managed to pull off some kind of existence that I never fully planned out or expected. I decided that if I was going to live, I was going to follow my dreams. What my dreams were exactly I had no clue of originally, I just knew I’d get there if I kept following my instinct. This didn’t happen because I read The Secret or listened to Oprah when she told me to discover my truth, this happened when I realized everything I had learned about life up until that point was mostly bullshit.

Saying the words “I’m following my dreams” kind of makes me want to puke, but it’s true. I use the word dream to define the entire process of my life, not just the end point. Because at the moment I’m setting myself up for a path of external and internal struggle that I will never fully grasp until I’m right in the thick of it. But for now it’s chill, the calm before the storm. Which will, hopefully, be followed by a rainbow. So I’ve decided to give some life advice. Not because I’m even mildly successful or wise, but because I’ve learned a few things over the past 5 years that I’ve found beneficial to myself. I’m a really hard person to please, so I figure learning how to be satisfied in my struggle is something I can share with others.

It took me a long time to figure out how to be happy. I’ve always been generally content with life, but I’ve also experienced depression. Being completely and utterly lost was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was in my third year of university studying a bunch of shit I didn’t care about, knowing I never wanted to use any of it, paying tuition out of my own pocket, well, a pocket that was lent to me by the government. I hated prerequisites. I hated writing papers on things that are completely irrelevant to today’s world. I hated taking exams that tested my knowledge without actually testing my knowledge. I hated walking down the hallways and seeing everyone ready to jump at any moment, sleeping under chairs and drinking gallons of coffee just to keep their eyes open. I hated everything about it.

Why the fuck am I here? Every single day that’s all I asked myself. I had answers, it’s not as if my question went ignored, but I wasn’t satisfied with the reasoning behind my suffering. Family, society, necessity, degrees, success. None of that pertained to me because I knew I was setting myself up for a lifetime of disappointment.

And then it happened. Out of nowhere. It was like any other given school night, I sat there staring at meaningless numbers that apparently had some kind of meaning. It was the eve of my statistics exam, after studying for 3 hours and realizing I did not give a single flying fuck about any of it, I decided to do something else. I decided to quit university and follow some kind of dream that I had vaguely envisioned in my head. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a clue. I just decided to trust my instinct and go with it.

Within two weeks I got a job as a copywriter. A couple months later someone, who I’ve now accepted as my fairy godmother, suggested I start a blog, I did. Someone else suggested I submit my rambling words into a magazine, I did. A month later I was published. Two months later I was invited to be interviewed by Bill Good. I got a scholarship to film school, I enrolled, I started and now I’m looking at the horizon knowing I could potentially fail but determined not to. I am currently residing in my dream. I’m creating things that matter to me. I’m excited to wake up everyday. No. That’s a fucking lie. I’m excited to wake up a lot, not everyday. The actual process of waking up is generally a pretty dreadful activity. I like being awake. That’s what I’m trying to say.

My point is that I may be a fucking nobody, but my dream is only as valid as I let it be. I was never sure of where I was going, I just knew I wanted to want wherever I ended up with all my heart. Nothing felt right until I started over. It was terrifying. Do you know how it feels to tell your Persian parents that you’re dropping out of university to become a writer? I’m still slightly terrified, but like, in a good way. I could have ended up finishing my degree and getting a government job or something. Or more likely, being the manager of a Starbucks. Still possible, but at least I’ll know I tried. Because nothing is worth it if you don’t try. They say being afraid is a good thing, and it is, but there’s a difference between being afraid with excitement and being afraid with misery. The latter can slowly destroy your soul. Misery is only useful up until a point. It can turn you cold if you never learn to utilize it properly.

You don’t have to know what you want right away. Hell, you will probably never fully know what you want, but the trick is challenging yourself and keeping yourself motivated and passionate. Being happy isn’t sunshine and lollipops, it’s often a lot of stress and pain, and a ton of bullshit along the way, but you’ll know when you are. You’ll know because that feeling of misery will fade out and even the shitty things that come with life will be kind of pretty okay. When you figure it out, happiness will linger even when you’re dirt poor, taking a bus, and eating ramen for dinner 5 nights a week. You realize the rest of it is bullshit.

No one knows you like you know you, no book, or sequal to that book, or talk show mogul can ever give you the actual advice you need. University works for a lot of people, but not for everyone. Living as a starving artist is satisfying to some, and completely unimaginable to others. Farming is one person’s dream and another person’s nightmare. The only trick in life is being honest with yourself and how you feel. If you’re content and passionate about the path you’re on, stick to it. But if you wake up in the morning and you dread the day that follows it, you can either stay fucked forever or make it better. Embrace the fear and mystery that come with not knowing what the fuck is going to happen next. If you get too comfortable, life will never teach you all the things that it has to offer. And it has a hell of a lot to offer.

Good Isn’t Always Nice

A “good person” is a pretty vague and open-ended term. It may even be subjective.

It hasn’t been a perfect journey, but I’ve always tried to be one. I’m still figuring out what is definitive when it comes to being good or bad. I mean, there’s obviously a general sense of not being shitty and awful, being caring to the people around you, not taking advantage of the self check out if you can afford it, and so on. But what has always confused me is that many people who I consider “good” are often silent when it comes down to a situation where they can vanquish their “bad” people counterparts.

The reason this confuses me is because I’ve always lived with the belief that it’s necessary to teach others about subjects they may be ignorant about. This is simply because we live in the future and not in a time where it’s acceptable for ignorance to just be a shoulder shrug and a skip forward onto your day. No one can be faulted for being naive, but I think we can all be faulted for not stepping in and spreading knowledge.

Today, I was in a long ass line at your typical yuppie grocery store. The suit in front was being horrendous to the cashier. She was an older lady, clearly struggling with her English, and likely had just started her job. As he went on to treat her like human garbage for being unable to ring through his organic produce, everyone else looked away and waited silently for his wrath to end. Including me. I thought about it. I thought about walking right up to him and kicking him in the leg, giving an inspirational speech, everyone else clapping and saving the cashier lady’s day all while giving her hope for humanity. I didn’t do it. I just thought about it.

I waited my turn, and when it was finally time for me to go up I apologized for his behaviour. She gave me a small smile, but my words clearly did not make her feel any better, and they shouldn’t have. She’s been through it, she knows people are shitty and she probably has to deal with pretentious douchebags all the time. Welcome to the big city, immigrant lady.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been reprimanded for calling people out on their shit, but now I know that I shouldn’t stop. I regret it every time I do. People, both in real life and on the internet, have called me various names for speaking my mind on why assholes should stop being assholes.

While, yes, my words do sometimes come from a place of anger, they also come from a good place. A place where I just expect more from humanity, and just sitting there and being disappointed isn’t fulfilling to me. I think doing so would make me a bad person.

In high school, I was about the same amount of opinionated as I am now, except no one wanted to hear anything I had to say, so I just had to think it. I graduated in 2009, so not exceptionally long ago. One Halloween, a few guys in my class came to school decked out in black face make up. I mentioned something to one of my friends who just told me I was being a buzzkill. I shrugged it off and skipped along with my day. I regret that.

After growing up a bit and realizing that you know what, fuck all those people, I started to stop censoring myself for the comfort of assholes and instead started speaking my mind.

I wish that I had gone up to that dude in the grocery store and told him to leave the cashier alone and stop taking his various issues out on her. I wish I had told him that listen, my mom came here with little to no English vocabulary and had to support my family by doing the same job. Dicks like him were the reason she would come home upset after working a 12 hour shift. It wasn’t the job, it wasn’t the hours, it was the way she was often treated. I regret not doing so.

But what I’m taking away from it is this: people come in all different mindsets. Some will agree with yours, some will even elevate you and help you grow. However, some need you to be the person that teaches them a thing or two. Sometimes you can do it kindly, and sometimes you have to throw it back in their faces. Being a good person isn’t always about how much money you donate to your charity of choice, or how open-minded you are about human rights, sometimes it’s as simple as helping the asshole in front of you become less of an asshole.

I’m often wrong, and I’m always learning. And for that, I am thankful. There’s nothing I love more than when someone calls me out on my bullshit, because I need it. In order for me to develop as a person and become the good person I one day hope to fully see in myself, I need to be told when I’m wrong. Do it for me. I will do it for you too. We should do it for everyone. You become a part of the problem as soon as you start walking away from a situation that you could have bettered.

We, as a world, have come a long way. Yes, there are still terrible things happening everywhere and it’s not hard to sit down and think about it and become severely depressed. But holy shit, the world is still magnificent. We’ve just entered this awkward place of being politically correct to the point of being passive, and that is harmful.

The reason we’ve come this far in the first place is because of people who refused to stay silent. They changed the world. We may not all capable of single-handedly starting a revolution, but in your everyday life you have an enormous power. That power is to just being vocally honest and teaching one another. That, to me, is the biggest part of being a good person.

Meet: Dehara

Dehara has a soul you can feel from a mile away. She has an energy that both demands your attention and keeps you seeking more. Born in Winnipeg and raised in Vancouver, she’s never been one to shy away from her goals- if she wants something she’s going to get it done. She’s also a new mother, and an amazing one at that. Her daughter has the same captivating energy that she does, which doesn’t surprise me at all.

Upon meeting Xenaiya, Dehara’s adorable baby, we’ve already hugged, laughed and become best friends. She’s a baby full of love and intelligence, something her mother has clearly bred into her. Dehara’s bond with her daughter is beautiful, to say the least. She’s real with her and talks to her like a person, which Xenaiya responds to. I can tell she’s going to be a firecracker, because her attitude is already shining through at just 1 and a half years old.

I’ve always been fascinated with the thought of motherhood, but I had never fully considered it. It’s a subject that can go both ways depending on what you want out of life. Being a woman is a phenomenal gift, and the definitions of womanhood are not what they once were. It’s up to us. While there’s still the assumption that all females want to become mothers, we’ve also have reached a point where it’s okay to freely admit you don’t want to have children. I’ve always wondered if it’s even possible to juggle everything at once. Is that a selfish thought? I never had complete assurance when it came to having kids, which led me to assume I didn’t want any. But after my conversation with Dehara, I know it’s an idea that I can keep open ended.

Dehara has everything going on and then some- she’s an entrepreneur, a fiercely independent woman, a mother, a  devoted sister and a partner to someone equally as devoted to life as she is. Her journey hasn’t been an easy one, but it’s clear to me she sees every single part of her existence as a miracle. She’s been through heartbreak and loss a number of times her life, but throughout it all she has always stayed devoted to rising up.

Upon finishing high school, Dehara played professional soccer for schools and countries around the world, including South Africa, the US, Norway and England. Feeling fulfilled in her athletic career at 25, Dehara moved back home to Vancouver.  She was hit with the news that her mother was sick. Within a short time she lost her boyfriend to suicide and her mother to cancer.

After taking her time to recover from events that would break the average person down forever, Dehara knew that she had to morph back into her true self to stay strong for her family, to make her mother proud. She began her career in real  estate, working side by side with her father at September Real Estate. Before long, she met her partner Xavier. By that time she knew she wanted a relationship, to start a family, and to continue spreading love into her world. He was the one.

During her pregnancy with Xenaiya she was told by her doctor that she was at risk for diabetes. Knowing she had to take action but not completely trusting Western medication, she researched different natural supplements she could take instead. She was approached to use Moringa– a superfood thats benefits include muscle recovery and help with arthritis. It also feeds the fetus all the nutrients it needs for proper development while keeping the mother healthy. Interested, but knowing it was overpriced, Dehara saw the opportunity to spread the word. At 30$ per bag that lasts up to 3 months, she has sourced the product directly to the Philippines, where her mother is from. She saw the opportunity to build a business on a product that promotes both ethical manufacturing and health and benefits her motherland.

Oh. She sings too. A songwriter that speaks freely from the heart, she sings from her soul. Her music is about finding your way, moving on, growing up, but also about love and relationships. She lists Sade, Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill as some of her biggest inspirations. She plans on putting out an EP within the next year.

The fire in Dehara’s belly never went out- and it was never meant to. She’s a light for everyone around her, and she made me realize that life doesn’t have to be in a set path. Things change, sometimes they break down, and they should. That is what teaches us to grow and makes us evaluate what we’re all really doing here. She wants the best out of life, and she’s getting it. The devotion she has to being a loving mother and a woman of power assures me that it’s possible to do both.

After our conversation is over I feel uplifted. Despite everything she went through in her life, Dehara is concrete proof that nothing should ever hold you back from living a happy existence. She’s shown me that it actually is possible to have it all- as long as you’re willing to keep your perspective in check.

Photography: Marissa Morelos of MJ Photography

Make Up: Auzsha Potozny

Dehara’s Instagram: @deharaseptember

I ♥ Toronto

Maybe it’s just me.

But there’s magic in this city. I’ve been here for just over a week and I already know it’s home. Walking down the street is inspiring. Everywhere you look there’s something to see. People are rushed, yea, but they’re all going somewhere. There’s a general energy that says ‘let’s get shit done and do it well’.

Maybe it’s just me, but everyone I talk to seems to agree. It’s funny how cities have such different personalities. Vancouver is beautiful. Gorgeous. Stunning. But I’m not superficial. I came here for a reason, and that reason finally feels validated.

My roommates agree. Old friends, new friends, family. Yeah, there’s definitely something magic in the air.

There are a countless number of villages scattered throughout downtown Toronto, and that’s what makes it continuously exciting. Vancouver is multicultural, but it never felt diverse. You can feel other people, no matter what background they come from, embrace other cultures and actually enjoy them too. It doesn’t feel segregated.

I currently live in The Village, off Church Street. It’s Thee Village, Toronto’s equivalent to Davie. Where else would I want to be? Despite being straight, I’ve always found comfort within the LGBT community. The isolation I felt growing up has lead me to always feel the most connected with others who had experienced something similar or the same. It’s the kind of adversity that makes you step away from bullshit and decide to love instead. That understanding lives here.

Dating in Toronto also feels completely different. Dates aren’t strictly about the endgame (sorry mom) but about meeting people, vibing, connecting. I’ve always been someone to strike up a conversation worth having with anyone, but I’ve never felt so understood by strangers before. No one really has the time to beat around the bush and fill up space with small talk, because they’ve got their eye on the bigger picture.

Again, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I just move fast. Maybe it’s just the luck I have that allows me to connect with great people. Maybe my bright eyes are making me delusional. Maybe I just needed a new place to explore. Either way, it feels good to be here. It feels right. It feels like home.

It’s official, I ♥ Toronto.