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Lauren Jauregui Speaks Out On The Women’s March: “This Is Democracy”

Music
Photo via Lauren Jauregui

“We’re all here, and our voices matter, and we outnumber you”

Fifth Harmony's Lauren Jauregui sums up her decision to take part in D.C.'s historic Women's March on Washington neatly: "I need to walk what I talk, you know?"

Talk, she does. At 20 years old, Jauregui is quickly becoming one of the most politically outspoken stars on the map, and can speak to everything from the crusade against Planned Parenthood to music industry sexism. In October, the Cuban-American came out as bisexual via an open letter to Trump voters that was scathing, to say the least. And on Saturday, she joined an impressive list of celebrities who took part in protest marches across the country and the world.

Though Jauregui admits the Women's March marks her first trip to the nation's capital for a protest, she says her interest in women's rights issues sparked while attending an all-girls high school in Miami, Florida.

There, "it was instilled in me to be a confident and courageous woman," the singer explains. "Every single girl that I went to school with is so inspirational and so powerful and so driven and so unafraid. I think that’s something we all need to instill in each other." 

To Jauregui, this also means ensuring that women of all backgrounds and experiences are included in an intersectional feminist movement. As a young woman who is a member of the LGBT community and belongs to an immigrant family, she jokes that she falls into "three categories" of minority.

It's a diversity of life experience that extends to the rest of Fifth Harmony's girl-power group as well. "We’re four women who are completely different ethnicities, completely different body types, completely different walks of life and opinions," Jauregui says.

We caught up with Jauregui just after her arrival in D.C. to talk about her "overwhelming" experience at the march, the feminism stigma, and the power of millenials to make the next generation count. Watch Fifth Harmony's performance at the People's Choice Awards last week below, and scroll through for our Q&A with Jauregui.

Who and what are you marching for?
I’m marching for human rights in general, because the upcoming administration has clearly made a statement about who they support and what kind of regime they intend to instill. I’m marching for women, I’m marching for the LGBT community, I’m marching for immigrants. I happen to fall into all three categories [laughs], so I’m marching for myself at the end of the day and for my family and my friends. And for whoever else deserves it.

What were you feeling during the march?
Over-fucking-whelmed. Present, aware, peaceful, and ready to go. The most amazing thing I've ever experienced in my entire life. I can’t believe that I witnessed the history that I did.

I feel like a lot of people felt so alone with this new administration coming in, and they felt so betrayed. This whole entire experience is a clear indication of the fact that... we are the popular vote. This is us, out here marching. All around the world, women united, and men united, and humans alike united, and we’re not going to tolerate this. We’re not going to tolerate a fascist regime, and we’re not going to tolerate you telling us that we’re not important. Because we’re all here, and our voices matter, and we outnumber you.

How did the march alter your perspective?
I've spent so much time in my head and in my notes and in my journals about how much pain this world is in and how upset I am that nobody cares. Going out there today and seeing how many people really care, how many people are so down to use their voices, how many people are willing to fight tooth and nail... it was just beautiful. I was so emotional at so many points. I cried so many times. This is democracy. We are democracy.

What was the crowd like?
It was the most incredible, humbling experience to be in the presence of so many humans who were so willing to come together. When I was there, we were trying to get to the bathroom and then trying to get back into the crowd, and it was absolutely impossible because it was so packed, and there was this woman who was in a wheelchair. We were trying to get up onto the ledge, and she was like, “use my wheelchair! Come on!” She literally let us use her as a stepping stool. It was crazy. Everyone was so helpful, helping each other out.

Do you think public figures like yourself have an added responsibility to be politically outspoken?
I think that in the entertainment industry particularly, people usually get into this business because they’re trying to just be the distraction for people. But for me, I don’t see the power in having a voice, and a voice that so many more people listen to than an average... I don’t feel right having that and not using it for the sake of educating. That’s why I think I was born and given this platform to begin with. I hate attention, I hate all of that kind of shit. But I think God gave me this voice for this purpose—to use it for the sake of uniting people and making sure that everyone knows that it’s okay to use your voice. You can be a young woman, and it’s okay to use your voice. You can be as strong as you want.

Growing up in Miami, you went to an all-girls school. How did that influence the woman you are today?
Honestly, I’ve been very blessed that I was able to go through Carrollton [School of the Sacred Heart]. I attribute everything that I feel and all of the passion that I have to that school. It’s an all-girls school, and it was instilled in me to be a confident and courageous woman. "Women of courage and confidence” was the slogan, essentially, of our school. I’m just so grateful because every single teacher I encountered, all of the administration, everyone involved, men and women alike, were there for the purpose of growth of each individual girl. And each individual girl was told how special she was and how much she could influence the world. I’m literally crying thinking about it [laughs]. Every single girl that I went to school with is so inspirational and so powerful and so driven and so unafraid. I think that’s something we all need to instill in each other.

The rise of Fifth Harmony is often framed as the return of the girl group. Why do you think your music resonates with so many young girls?
Some of our songs are empowering, but I feel like more so than our music, it’s who we are. We’re four women who are completely different ethnicities, completely different body types, completely different walks of life and opinions, and you can see that when you watch an interview, when you meet us. We have an energy about us that’s so unique and so intense, and it’s because of how much power we have in us as individuals, being confident, harnessing that power, and wanting to share that with other women. I feel like a lot of women hang on to our message, and it empowers them.

Have you always been so confident in your womanhood?
I’m really lucky, because I have a mother and a grandmother who always instilled my power in me, always, from the day I was born. And my father, too. My parents never made me feel like I couldn’t do something because I was a girl, ever. It didn’t matter what I wanted to do. My father supported me 1,000 percent, all the way, and never told me, “you can’t do that because you’re a girl.” And on top of that, the school that I went to, and the power I was given with my education. I’m really lucky, I got only power handed to me, and I made use of it, and I only want to share that.

What place do you think young people have in politics?
I think the youth is the movement. I think we are the ones who are starting this revolution, and we’re the ones who are going to see it carry through and be the ones to implement it. I think we’re in a really amazing time right now of consciousness awakening, the internet and all the connections we have to each other. All the young people involved right now, on the internet, seeing the injustice and having it there in front of their faces, it’s making them passionate and it’s making them aware. All the little kids I’ve ever talked to—little, little kids, like eight years old—they know what’s up. They’re like, "What’s going on? How is Trump president?" The fact that kids can differentiate that... I think the power’s in the youth.

You wrote in your open letter for Billboard that feminism needs "a lot of work." How can we fix that?
I think the whole stigma of the word feminism is such a problem. The only reason that anyone has an aversion to it is because it includes the word “fem," even though it’s an all-inclusive term. I think that aversion in general is the reason why we need [feminism]. If the word "feminism" bothers you, there’s a reason why it bothers you, and only because it involves women. The issue at the end of the day that feminism fights for is equality, men and women alike. Because men also have their own stigmas that they have to follow, and stereotypes they have to follow that are detrimental to their mental health. That’s something that happens to all of us, something we’re all experiencing. By harnessing that freedom, we're saying, “no, I want to embrace this term because it means that I get to be free.”

Are you surprised by Donald Trump’s success?
I would say I’m surprised, but I also know there is a lot of hatred in the heart of the country. It’s kind of the basis on which [the U.S.] was built, essentially, because it was built on slavery—slaves were the ones who built it. I feel like people are really empowered by money, and that’s all that [Trump] offered, essentially, besides all of the other detrimental things he said. The only people who are able to look past that are people who value the economy over human rights. That exists because money is all-powerful in this society, it’s a capitalist society, so a lot of people feel like they have no option but to progress only economically.

Do you have any thoughts on the effort to defund Planned Parenthood?
Just how important it is to recognize how they are responsible for so much more than abortion. That actually, abortion only takes up three percent of what they do, and everything else is just about female health and reproductive health, and making sure that women have a safe place that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to get the medical attention that they need. People are dismissing a foundation that genuinely helps millions and millions of women across the nation for the sake of, just, myth.

Would you ever consider going into politics as a profession?
I think if I do anything political, it would be activism. I don’t believe in our government, currently. I don’t believe in the way that things are going. I wouldn’t want to be involved bureaucratically, I’d want to be more activism.

Is there anything you want to say to fellow marchers?
I love you, and we’re together. Let’s make some changes.

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Credits:
Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds

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Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.