Our Neon Souls project is a space for us, as a brand, to ask questions to the incredible creators that we collaborate with on a range of topics that inspire our readers. We’ve gotten deep into all things beauty, skincare, art and other topics that a beauty brand should presumably get into. When it comes to social, polemical matters, It’s hard for us to figure out where the line should be drawn - we would love to get deep into all the social justice issues that our society is faced with but we also understand that our platform may not be the place for every single one of those conversations.
This month though, with the Pride celebrations coming to an end, we continue to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. We are proud and excited to use our reach to spark the conversation on identity, self-discovery, acceptance and LOVE!
For this, we caught up with two fabulous creators whose artistry, voice and benevolence is incredibly inspiring. Make sure you tune into their pages for drool-worthy looks and good vibes.
AJ (luckily!) found the time to share her art on social media when the US shutdown first started. Welcoming the escape through content creation, she shows us her artistry on a wide range of looks. You can expect to see anything from bronzy, warm-toned hues to an icy, purple vibe that will inspire your next creation. During our interview, she reminded us that while it’s very important to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community we shouldn’t forget its roots and should also uplift the Black and Latinx trans and queer individuals who helped us progress to where we are today.
Mona joined the beauty community on social media mid-pandemic as she was struggling with mental health due to the lockdown. She was inspired by other creators to get started and now delivers us a uniqueness of soft colours (lots of dreamy pastels) in her looks and shares the importance of conscious consumption on her Instagram page. With a philosophy degree, she gave us a page-turning interview that you’re about to devour.
HN: How long have you been a part of the makeup industry and what inspired you to start? A.J: I started my account when the U.S. first shut down, back in April 2020. The beauty space has grown a lot in the wake of the pandemic because many people, myself included, found makeup and the beauty community to be a welcome escape and wonderful creative outlet. I had always wanted the opportunity to share my art, but never found the time - when I found myself stuck at home, doing online school, starting my account was the perfect way to connect with other creators and grow as an artist!
HN: As an influencer, do you feel that you have a responsibility to use your platform to bring recognition to matters such as equality? A.J: I do think that as someone with a platform, I have a responsibility to spread awareness about social justice issues - I just always make sure to do my own individual research first so as to not spread misinformation. I also have a degree in Political Science and Criminology, so I am incredibly passionate about human and civil rights and want to share that with my audience.
HN: What media (movie/tv show) do you recommend others watch that has showcased the LGBTQ+ experience authentically?
A.J: As an asexual person, our community is starved for representation - there is a lot of misinformation surrounding our identity, as well as a general refusal to acknowledge our existence and validity. The Netflix show Sex Education has authentically reflected so many queer experiences, with the inclusion of gay, bisexual, and pansexual characters, but I was particularly moved in season 2 when they introduced an ace character into the series. Seeing her growing acceptance of her identity was so cathartic, and I was so overjoyed that a mainstream show was shining light on such an overlooked community.
HN: What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is struggling with their self-identity?
A.J: My advice is to find people in your community that can help you through this transitional period and journey to self-discovery. For so long, I hesitated with identifying as asexual because I held many misconceptions about asexuality: doing my own research on the ace spectrum and meeting other ace people really opened my eyes and allowed me to embrace who I was. Not only did I find a support system who understood me, educated me, and stood by me, but I was learning more about who I was and accepting every part of my identity. Social media is an incredible tool for meeting people in the LGBTQ+ community: there are so many creators on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok who produce insightful content about their own lived experiences as queer individuals that can help guide and inform you. A lot of campuses and non-profit organizations offer LGBTQ+ youth spaces, which is a great option as well! It’s also completely understandable to not identify with a specific label. A lot of identities are intersectional and it can take a while to determine what works for you. Don’t feel any pressure to label yourself or explain your identity to anyone, especially if you’re not ready or you don’t feel safe. It’s okay to not be completely out: the queer community will welcome and support you regardless, even if your immediate environment won’t. Stay strong and I believe in you!
HN: How long have you been a part of the makeup industry and what inspired you to start?
Mona: I joined the community around October 2020! To be honest, lockdown hit my mental health pretty hard around the summer. To cope, I did some makeup retail therapy and started to lurk on some creators’ pages. There was one creator who kept popping up and made me think “wow, I want to try recreating that”. (Shout out to AJ!) Eventually, my retail therapy called for an intervention so I created a panning account dedicated to conscious consumption! But the longer I’ve been on Instagram, the more I noticed that not many creators look like me. I have hooded eyes, I don’t conform to east asian beauty standards, and I like soft colorful looks.
HN: What have been some of the most exciting changes you have seen with regard to support for LGBTQ+ youth and what do you hope to see in the future? Mona: I'm really glad to see that voter registration has spiked in recent years and young adults my age have been particularly active on all social platforms and in protests. Many queer Youtuber's, Instagrammer's, and Tiktoker's are taking up space and acting as role models for the youths who may not have the support in their immediate communities. Even in the college scene, it always warms my heart a bit when professors have their pronouns up so that my non-binary peers feel safe. I'm also really hoping that the Equality Act gets passed soon! A big opponent to this crucial legislation has been homophobes, transphobes, and trans-exclusionary radical feminists which is ironically rooted in cognitive bias and misogyny. I just want to see legal protection for our citizens but it's sadly been 46 years in the making.
HN: As an influencer, do you feel that you have a responsibility to use your platform to bring recognition to matters such as equality? Mona: To some degree, yes. I may have started this account for fun, but I don't take that as an excuse to stay silent. It's my responsibility as much as anyone's to educate themselves/spread awareness to harmful social issues. I think social media serves as a wonderful tool to increase the efficacy of social movements since it's not hard to reach even an international audience these days. And if I can reach even 1-100 people, then I'll use my platform for that. I also think that if someone claims politics isn't for them, it just means they're in a place of privilege to not have to care. But I say to some degree because it's not my place to take up space for certain voices. I have a philosophy degree so I can say that I genuinely think moral knowledge is situated. That is, oppressed individuals are more likely to have the most accurate picture of the social injustice carried out against them. So while I do speak out for the AAPI/LGBTQIA+ communities as I identify with them, I do choose to listen and uplift the voices of my fellow creators when it's more appropriate.
HN: What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is struggling with their self-identity? Mona: First, it's okay to not put a label on it. Or if you do, you could always take on an umbrella term. I think the process of discovering who you are takes time, especially if you grew up in environments lacking the hermeneutical resources to fully understand what you're feeling. It honestly took a few years for me to process the concept of heteronormativity and allosexuality. You may feel like you're not "normal", but that's a social construct to oppress the queer community. Your self-identity is not delegitimized just because the systems and biases in place frame you as different. And remember that no two experiences will be identical. I've realized that identities are intersectional and often on a spectrum. For example, I might be ace but I'm also grey-romantic and biromantic. It is confusing but you don't need to have everything figured out and there's no pressure to explain yourself if you're not ready to. Lastly, just find a good/safe support system. I think befriending compassionate and understanding individuals created the space for me to truly embrace who I was when it seemed like society rejected me most.
We hope you loved getting to know our two incredible Neon Souls of the month, A.J and Mona and that the conversation sparked you to ask the important questions that we need to ask in order to continue moving forward towards a world where everyone feels safe and uplifted to be themselves.
The Neon Souls project is so important to us because we love exploring the personal side of social media and getting to know the person behind a picture. If you love this project and think that you would be a great creator to be featured in future editions, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to introduce yourself and explain why you'd be an amazing Neon Soul. We can't wait to get to know all of you.
Happy International Women’s Day! Proven time and time again, there is truly no feat that women can’t accomplish, no naysayer that can get in our way, and no boundaries that we can’t cross. Today is all about celebrating the power, strength and success of womankind, and finding empowerment from one another. As Serena Williams put it, “Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another. We’re strongest when we cheer each other on.” In honour of this, we want to showcase some extraordinary and trailblazing women that have inspired us and reminded us just how fierce and resilient we are.
It's a new month and that calls for a new edition of our newest collaborative project, Neon Souls. This month's Neon Souls are two incredible artists that aren't afraid to push the boundaries and get creative with colour, which is what this month is all about.