Thursday, August 13, 2015

Taylor Swift and the idolising of the BFF

I didn't always like Taylor Swift. When she first made it big with Love Story, I thought it was a decent song - memorable, catchy, but over-the-top cheesy. (Disclaimer: In 2008 when Love Story was first released, I was a cynical 17-year-old who thought she knew better than everyone else in music.)

While Taylor and I had a relationship of hits and misses for a while, it wasn't until the release of Red that I solidly decided that I liked her as an artist. She writes good songs - her collaborations with Ed Sheeran (Everything Has Changed) and The Civil Wars (Safe and Sound) in particular were the songs that made me come around. The 1989 album, already so talked-about, and its ongoing world tour firmly put Taylor at the top of the pop music world. I love 1989, I love the music video for Blank Space, I love a lot of things about Taylor Swift.

But there's one thing I don't like, and that's how Taylor has turned the BFF into a status symbol - an idol to be adored, a girl gang to aspire to.

Let me get this out of the way - I think Taylor is a good person. She donated $50,000 to a fan who was struggling with cancer; $15,000 to a family in hospital after a car accident (anyone else think the cost of healthcare in the U.S. is beyond ridiculous?! But that's a topic for another time); she bakes cookies and surprises fans with hand-picked presents at Christmas. Really, there's no reason for anyone to criticise anything about Taylor, right?

Taylor's girl-gang is not new; she's been collecting girlfriends from Karlie Kloss to Lorde and proudly sharing her #squadgoals on Instagram. Who can forget this now-famous photo of Taylor and HAIM on a vacation boat?

A photo posted by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

In theory, it's brilliant. Feminism has been ruling, women are empowered, and we want to show that we are every bit as brilliant as men. We want to show that we are united. Having BFFs surely must be the perfect solution, to show that we are equally friends with each other, and that we've got each other's backs.

Except that having BFFs is just the new, politically-correct way to talk about being popular.

In reality, Taylor's role-modelling is just another picture-perfect image telling women what they should aim to become. The squad is overwhelmingly made up of tall, willowy, white women, and unsurprisingly, girls want to be like her. "If I'm like Taylor, I can have BFFs too!"

There is no doubt that Taylor Swift's immaculately manicured image is a huge contributor to how popular she is - she's the perfect not-a-girl, not-yet-a-woman who takes on large corporations and wins, yet has time to care for her fans. Another caveat: I'm not saying that this is entirely Taylor's fault. Taylor is tall, willowy, and white; people overwhelmingly have friends who are like themselves; therefore Taylor's friends are also tall, willowy and white.

Makes sense.

But the culture that has emerged around Taylor's collection of friends is frightening. Everyone wants to be Taylor's BFF, and if you're not one of her BFFs, well you're not part of the squad. Taylor Swift's brand has taken the image of friendship and turned it into some sort of club, some sort of status symbol: that's the real message that the Taylor Swift brand is sending.

Taylor Swift is not your friend, and unless your name is Karlie Kloss or Lorde, Taylor Swift is most certainly not your BFF. Even if she were, BFFs shouldn't have a leader of the pack, the role that Taylor undoubtedly claims.

There shouldn't be a hierarchy of BFFs, or a war to claim the coolest kids for your squad. BFFs are not a collection of the who's who in feminist pop - they are the people you get along with, who you share secrets with, who come over at 2am in the morning with a tub of Ben & Jerry's because you watched Ross and Rachel break up on Friends again.

A healthy friendship is based on equal standing and respect, not one with a queen idol at the head of the gang. It's just as important to value yourself as it is to value your friends, and one's self-worth shouldn't be determined by the people they choose or don't choose to surround themselves by.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Jökulsárlón, Iceland, July 2015

Recently, Magnús and I took a trip to Skaftafell National Park in south-east Iceland. Skaftafell is a popular tourist destination, right by Europe's largest glacier Vatnajökull, which covers a whopping 8% of Iceland's total land area. (It's huge.)

Vatnajökull is also the glacier responsible for Jökulsárlón (literally: glacier lagoon), which is famous for its massive floating icebergs on a saltwater lake. The saltwater lake flows out into the ocean, while the iceberg chunks are pieces that have fallen off the massive glacier behind it.

While there are several glacier lagoons in Iceland, Jökulsárlón is by far the most picturesque and most photographed of them all; this is my take on the icebergs at Jökulsárlón.

Please click on the photos to view them at better resolution!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Malaga's Top 5

Editor's note: This is a guest contribution from Millie Spencer, a model and blogger currently based in Spain. Images used are by Elliot BrownFran Villena and Mark Koester under the Creative Commons licenses.

Malaga is a city often overlooked by those visiting Spain, mainly because Malaga flights tend to be cheap within Europe and tourists tend to fly here merely as a stop off on their way to the Costa del Sol. Malaga is a beautiful city offering plenty of culture and history, here are five places worth a visit:

Museo Picasso

The people of Malaga are understandably proud that Pablo Picasso was born in their city and the Museo Picasso, opened in 2003, is dedicated to him and situated in the heart of the city. A two minute walk from Malaga Cathedral, the museum is housed in a restored Renaissance building with the dramatic backdrop of Gibralfaro Castle and Alcazaba Castle nearby. Museo Picasso is an unmissable attraction where you get a great insight into how Picasso developed as an artist. There are 12 halls of permanent exhibition gallery, not limited to just his works in the Cubist style, this large collection of his work includes his early academic studies, his re-workings of old masters, sketches and ceramics.


The Alcazaba is the best preserved fortress-palace in Spain. Home to a number of Moorish rulers over the centuries, each left their mark on the Alcazabra’s architecture. Starting your visit at the Puerta de la Bóveda, you follow the walls through a succession of Moorish gates. At the Puerta de la Columnas (Gate of the Columns) you can see where Roman columns were repurposed by the Moors to reinforce it. You can then admire the beautiful patio gardens and fountains en-route to the palaces. Many visitors continue on to walk up the hill to Gibralfaro Castle - remember to bring water as it is a long hot walk in the sunshine!

Gibralfaro Castle

For spectacular views of the city, a visit to this 10thcentury castle is essential. Situated a hillside walk away from the Alcazaba, you can take a scenic stroll along the ramparts which have been well restored and inside the fortress itself you will find some buildings and courtyards. Some visitors like to pause on the ramparts for a free view, albeit from a distance, of bullfights in the La Malagueta bullring.

The Manquita - Malaga’s cathedral

Locals call the cathedral La Manquita, meaning ‘one armed woman’ because the south tower was never completed. Legend has it that lack of funds, due to monies being donated to colonists during the American War of Independence, meant that they couldn’t afford to build the planned second tower. The interior is Renaissance and baroque in style and most notable are the 40 finely carved statues of the saints by Pedro de Mena.

La Concepción Botanic Garden

If you are looking for a calm and relaxing space to take a break from the bustle of the city, La Concepción Botanic Garden is the perfect place to visit. It is rated as one of the best botanic gardens in Europe combining formal gardens with a lush forest. You can wander around at your own pace or take a guided tour to hear the history of the gardens.

Monday, February 23, 2015


I've been away for a while, and to be honest I'm not sure if I'll really ever get back into a regular blogging schedule again for a long while. It pains me to think that I may one day leave this platform, but my life has moved in a lot of different directions. While I haven't stopped travelling (far from it!), I just don't have time to sit down and write for hours on top of editing photos and curating galleries and albums. But here's what I can do: I can give you snapshots of what my life has looked like of late.

In November, I took a month-long trip around Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, where I managed to get some really nice, really pretty shots of people and life there. These are some of my favourites.

Monday, December 22, 2014

I haven't forgotten you guys!...

... I've just been a bit busy doing some other things.

I can't stay long to chat, but I'm just here to update you guys about why I've been so absent lately. First the boyfriend (!) came to Singapore to visit me, and then we were travelling around IndoChina for a month... And then I got a whole bunch of work slammed on my desk, and then I got a cat, so I haven't had too much time to actually do much here. (Don't leave me, I love y'all!)

Here's a picture of said cat, because the internet loves cats right? Also a bonus picture of said boyfriend.

But in the meantime, here's something I wrote for work to tide you through.

I'll be back, I promise. Until then xx

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Monkeys of Ubud

By far, the most famous tourist attraction in Ubud is its Monkey Forest - a temple where monkeys free-roam and are taken care of by their human guardians. It's a place where long-tailed macaques, a species already infamous for their boldness in proximity to humans, get even bolder and surround people at every opportunity, fuelled by people bringing food into the sanctuary.

Monkeys aside, Monkey Forest really is quite a lovely area, with moss-covered stone walkways and massive trees. It's a forest that is really allowed to grow, despite its being a tourist hot-spot, but the forest has certainly thrived because of it.

Along the way, you might see some souvenir shops selling a variety of different things to take home. While I didn't walk away with anything, it's hard not to be drawn into the souvenirs on display - especially the metal elephant wind-chimes painted in bright and beautiful colours!

Here is the temple around which Monkey Forest is built.
These monkeys know no fear. They've associated humans with food, and let me tell you - they will stop at nothing to get it.

Bit of a story here. When I was 9, my family went on holiday to the Batu Caves in Malaysia. My sister, then a mere five years old, had taken out a bottle of water to drink - except that before she could, a monkey snatched the bottle out of her hands and unscrewed the cap and had it all for itself. You read that right - the monkey unscrewed a bottle cap. (Sister was scarred and terrified of monkeys after that incident. Who wouldn't be, at five?)

The monkeys may be sacred here, but they're cheeky devils.
I present Exhibit A: the monkey that climbs humans in hopes of food. Screams were heard every time a monkey climbed onto an unsuspecting person who happened to be carrying anything vaguely resembling a grocery bag.

On the bright side, the bridge carvings are beautiful.

And I suppose sometimes you do get nice moments like when monkey and Homo sapiens hands touch. Even if the only reason for that happening is food. Monkeys will do anything for food.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Portraits of Seminyak

This is the first trip I've used my spanking new (well, really secondhand, but it's all semantics) Nikon D90 DSLR with a 35mm f/1.8 lens on, so can you really blame me for going a little bit crazy with the photographs? You can't, can you? Thought not. Anyone with even the slightest smidgeon of interest in photography can hardly say that they don't absolutely love playing around with new cameras.

Granted the Nikon D90 has been out for a while, but it was a massive upgrade from my previous Canon 550D - two control rings! And the Nikon shutter click sounds prettier too!

This one's just a fun, easy photography post - no big story here. Enjoy!

The best food we've ever had - Sea Circus in Seminyak!

This pumpkin risotto was to die for.

Faith posing, very fashion-photoshoot-like, on a staircase at our hotel in Seminyak.
And some flowers, just because!

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