Meet The Women Getting Radically Real On Social Media

Illustrated by Rachal Duggan

Say hello to the Anti-Instagirls

The following feature appears in the March 2017 issue of NYLON.

A tight shot of bikini-zone razor burn racked up over a thousand Instagram likes for Sasha Frolova. A toilet bowl brimming with blue antiseptic water serves as the backdrop of a recent selfie. A pale, grainy pic of what apparently is dry Kix cereal (or garbanzo beans?) constitutes an #eeeeeats photo of sorts. People seem to seek out Frolova’s account (@sashafro) for her occasional extreme close-up of a faint lady ’stache, or image of a front tooth cracked clean in half, or collage of plucked raw chicken. But anyone familiar with traditionally popular Instagram fare might wonder why she would post such content—and how it could attract over 12,000 followers to her feed.

Instagram has, of course, shaped our society’s collective sense of reality and make-believe. Most people use social media to present hyper-curated, carefully constructed projections of themselves, in a way that romanticizes their own self-perceptions and the world around them. Never before in our culture have meals, vacations, makeup, and everyday street scenes been made to look so aspirational. But in a climate where people are increasingly wary of the images and ideas “sold” to them online, Frolova joins a new class of women who flout the tropes that Instagram conventionally rewards—from effortlessly flawless selfies to picture-perfect meals to envy-inspiring travel photos—and instead make the very intentional demonstration of the weirdest, grossest, least-glamorous elements of life a defining part of their popular “personal brands.”

In this landscape where “reputation management” is key and “reality” can be controlled, polished, and defied, these women who don’t adhere to the common displays of privilege or excess are making some of the most provocative and important content out there. Because these days, what ends up in the feed matters—especially when the images go against the grain.

Illustrated by Rachal Duggan

~ Selfies R Cute ~
Like Facebook and Myspace before it, Instagram was founded by men—even though most of the people posting pictures of themselves on these platforms are women. According to the Pew Research Center, there are notably more female Instagram users than male ones.

But perhaps unsurprisingly, many women who have built a strong following have done so in the mold of (or at least in compliance with) the male gaze, which has ingrained into our society—women included—a gendered perspective on what a “good” or even “acceptable” photo of a woman should look like.

Young artists like Molly Soda (who goes by @bloatedandalone4evr1993 online) and Mary Rosenberger (@maryrosenberger), however, like to use Instagram as a vehicle to explicitly challenge this norm.

“I personally love putting up bad pictures of myself,” says 23-year-old Rosenberger, whose feed offers images of acne on prominent display and swollen teary eyes to an audience of 126,000 followers. Rosenberger’s paintings—portraits with distorted facial proportions—are a celebration of the body and its many imperfections, an aesthetic that complements her online ethos. “I feel like social media lacks depth, so that’s what I want to bring,” she continues.

“Selfies have also been around for a long time,” adds Soda, reflecting on the historical role of portraiture in art. She, like Rosenberger, has tens of thousands of Instagram followers and is not shy about sharing “unflattering” pictures of herself with them. The average “#nomakeup selfies” these are not: The headshots that populate Soda’s Instagram page are unconcerned with angle or lighting or visible facial hair and instead favor raw humanity. Her body shots also push the boundaries of convention. A recent post, for instance, features a close-up of her own crotch, clad in pad-lined underwear that thinly veils a mass of pubic hair; it is captioned “Pads r cute.” “I think we only talk about [selfies] in the way that we do because it’s more mainstream now—it’s considered a tool,” Soda explains. “When I was a teen, everyone had a Myspace, and it was almost like a second life that we were living online. Now, we don’t really have room for those second lives online anymore, because everyone is online, so it’s more about crafting your persona.” If Instagram is a space where every photo tells a story, even subversive images become part of the narrative.

In the case of models like Ali Michael (@ali_michael), unsexy photos casually commingle with beautiful editorial shots, displayed as part of the same continuum. “Models used to only be seen through another person’s creative vision—[the photographer, the creative director, the brand]—but Instagram has given us the opportunity to have our own voice and identity,” says Michael, reflecting on how the phenomenon of “being looked at” is magnified on the platform. “I like Instagram because it’s a way to curate my own representation of myself without the interference of anyone else’s opinion.” And to Michael, this is crucial in visually rejecting a one-dimensional model label: “I love the access it gives to seeing things that would otherwise go unseen, because I don’t solely identify myself as a model—I’m just a person who happens to model—so I share that whole experience,” she says.

Still, for people whose work exists in the public eye, you have to be aware of being viewed, as Michael explains. In April of last year, the Telegraph interviewed a model whose agency said she needed to “stop sharing these ugly images,” because she “might find it hard to get work” if she continued to post pictures of her acne and eczema. Michael, who is signed to Mega and says she enjoys a certain degree of freedom from this kind of critique, is still conscious of these limitations and tries to strike a balance between curation and impulsiveness, acknowledging that models occupy a unique niche on the platform. “I have to be aware that clients are looking, but I also feel it’s important to be authentic and personal,” she says.

Frolova, who also does some modeling in addition to acting and photography, has a similar relationship with the images she chooses to share on the platform. “[Instagram] gives me a reason to share my work, and I try not to take it too seriously,” she says of her feed. “I’m obviously not doing it instantly, but I try to be true to the original intention of the medium: a sharing space, where I don’t feel the need to have a second account for my ‘personal’ life.” This blend of constructed and offhand images—and the fact that thousands of people find the latter appealing—may be the result of growing public awareness of just how calculated Instagram has become, and reflect people’s yearning to relate honestly with what they see. Engaging with content like this makes followers feel like they are participating in the “joke”—even if their icons are projecting an equally manicured vision of themselves. In this way, it’s possible for both sides to exist in Instagram’s creative space, with users still being able to define that space on their own terms.

Illustrated by Rachal Duggan

\ FOMO /
But Frolova and her ilk will still be the first to tell you that even their social media posts can never be totally “real.” “[Instagram] allows you to post a falsified version of yourself, but what is true?” she muses. “What is an ‘accurate’ or ‘honest’ archive of yourself? I don’t know that that really exists.”

“[My Instagram] is definitely curated,” says Soda. “I think that’s what people forget. We live online and we take everything we see at face value, but I’m still choosing what to share.” As users have come to associate “having a following on Instagram” with brand collaborations and a romanticized idea of “lifestyle,” the epically mundane takes on a more consequential role. “Even if people choose to perceive that as more authentic than what other people are sharing, me posting a selfie crying with no makeup is just as curated as someone posting a selfie with tons of makeup,” Soda adds. “I think that a lot of people employ similar modes of acting. Even if we’re posting different types of content, we’re all subconsciously following the same weird, unspoken rules.”

Convention has always been a relative term, including for those who choose to defy it. Even among non-conformist Instagrammers, photo sharing can be just as premeditated, but intended for a different audience. Case in point: accounts like Arvida Byström’s (@arvidabystrom), where more jarring pics still feel aesthetically consistent with Byström’s “prettier” work, like her signature studio photos of cherries wearing underwear. Instagram is, after all, about performance. “My bumpy butt got this huge bruise the other day when I fell into a newsstand!!!” she writes in a caption to a graphic image of her deeply bruised butt cheek in blue panties. “PS I’m okay, just thought it was funny!”

“It’s a timeless voyeurism,” concludes Frolova on why she believes Instagram users are drawn to this kind of image sharing that breaks the fourth wall and adopts an “outsider” demeanor. “I think we’ve always had a curiosity about what was happening behind what we could see directly, and I think that we’ve gotten into both of those things in a way that is both exciting and terrifying,” she says. “It’s funny, because we’ve gotten closer and closer to feeling like we’re understanding lives around the world, but it’s through these constructed lenses—so are we actually getting any closer?”

Illustrated by Rachal Duggan

Hi Hater
If sharing “gross” or “unattractive” photos is a way to subvert expectations—of men, culture writ large, or internet trolls—it’s also an opportunity for endearment. “Happy 2017,” writes Soda on a pic of herself in the bathtub, smiling with her eyes closed, “remember that hot ppl are also ugly.” “Shout out to my bacne,” she comments on another photo of a shoulder full of blemishes. “Sometimes people get weirdly specific about stuff [I post], but it’s always critical of what it is, not how it’s done,” she says. “In a way, a lot of my art has to do with the way we interact with each other on social media. The work can’t exist without the internet—or at least, it’s not as successful without the internet. It’s usually not a complete piece unless I have the reactions of people witnessing it.”

Illustrated by Rachal Duggan

Keepin' It 100
So what does it mean to be “radically real” on Instagram? “I think you can do what you want,” says Soda, “but it’s just about what you can handle emotionally. I think a lot of people feel that way—I’m constantly trying to push how much I post and how I post, because I never want to not post something just because I’m self-conscious.”

Frolova concurs: “You see the number of people following you and it often doesn’t register that people are actually paying attention,” she says. “Within that, I just never want to feel like I need to be someone just because I think it’s going to be something that people want to see or identify with.” Pushing boundaries (or creating new ones) is ultimately about understanding the confines of the platform. “I’m limiting the type of things that I choose to put on here, which automatically is saying I’m not totally reflecting in honesty, otherwise I would put everything there,” she says. “But I think that people should be allowed to [experiment]—it doesn’t matter what other people say or think of me, because I think of myself in this way, and I want to explore it. It’s like playing house in kindergarten, only virtually and through pictures.”

When asked about her tendency toward radical vulnerability on Instagram, Rosenberger is direct: “So many people use Instagram to flex on each other, like it’s all a huge competition—but a lot of people have told me I’ve helped them become more comfortable with themselves. It’s wonderful, but it can also be very toxic—you make yourself vulnerable to other people and then people dehumanize you and you become nothing more than the number of your followers,” she says with a sigh. “People will find anything to shit on if they have some predisposed idea about who you are because you post so much about your life on [Instagram], but you can’t let yourself get caught up in it. I am not you, you are not me. We spend all this time sharing beautiful emotions, so why not the bad? I’m trying to normalize that on social media.” Rosenberger does, however, feel the need to share the good, the bad, and the ugly on her own terms. “If you talk about loving yourself, people are irritated with you; if you talk about hating yourself, people are irritated with you,” she says. “You’re not going to win everyone, so the best you can do is be yourself.”

Dragonfire can't melt steel memes

I'm not quite ready to talk about the amount of time I wasted hoping Game of Thrones would live up to its drawn out hype with the series finale, but I am ready to dive into all the memery that came out of the disappointment. And I'm not alone: Maisie Williams—aka Arya Stark—summed up what we were all thinking in one single tweet: "just here for the memes."

After Daenerys had almost as lackluster a death as Cersei, dying with a quick stab wound, it was pretty clear that it would all be downhill. But hey, at least she's reunited with her BFFs Missandei and Jorah in the afterlife.

That opened up the question of who exactly would be king or queen of the seven kingdoms. Poor precious Samwell thinks we should try democracy, but it's not Game of Popular Vote, it's Game of Thrones.

Apparently, everyone at this point had totally forgotten about the fact that Jon Snow actually was a Targaryen, and the rightful heir to the throne. All the characters who, up until this point in the season, had been obsessed with this fact totally pretended it never happened, and never considered him for the new ruler because he... killed the mad queen.

So what do they do? Choose the one person who always said they never wanted throne and that he never even wanted anything: Bran Stark. Arya didn't save everyone's ass from the Night King to be disrespected like this!

And, with all his pre-existing knowledge and newfound power, Bran still just chilled in his chair. Arya is going into uncharted waters, no idea what danger lies ahead? Nah, don't share the information you have on it. Jon is sent off to the Watchers on the Wall just as his younger brother gains absolute power? Forget about pardoning him, Bran doesn't care.

And who would've guessed that Ser Brienne of Tarth would just go and become a blogger, writing anonymous glowing messages about the dude that screwed her over. I'm not a huge fan of the editorial decisions she made while finishing Jaime's story, but I am a fan of the memes made out of the scene.

And back to Jon Snow: All this potential, all this hype on his real name, and once he kills Dany he's shipped off to the Night's Watch like a sad, discarded puppy. There's not even a real reason for the Night's Watch anymore, so he's basically just being sent off to be out of sight, out of mind, for the rest of time.

But hey, at least they finally made right with Ghost. The goodest boy in all of the Seven... or, rather, Six Kingdoms deserved all the pats, and he finally got them when he was reunited with Jon in the North. It almost made me forget all the nonsense that happened throughout the rest of the episode... almost.

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Our favorite collections from 2019's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia

It's hard not to love Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, an annual exhibition of some of the best in resort dressing, that has Sydney's various cityscapes and beaches serving as its backdrop. For five days, we hopped all over the Australian city to check out the Resort 2020 collections from some of Australia's most established designers and emerging newcomers through an assortment of runway shows, presentations, and parties. The result? An extravagant display of beach-ready fashion, elevated streetwear, and signature Australian style.

For those of you not familiar with the resort season—sometimes referred to as cruise or holiday—it's the in-between seasonal offerings of summer garb that typically hits stores in time for the winter months (you know, right about when we're ready to take those vacations we've been dreaming about). And while we're gearing up to head into summer over in America, these collections also serve as the perfect inspiration for warm-weather dressing—even if we won't be seeing them hit stores until much later this year.

From Aussie staples like Double Rainbouu and Alice McCall to emerging brands like P.E Nation, we rounded up the best Aussie collections we saw this week. Take a closer look at each of them, below.


Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia kicked off with a bang, the bang being Aje and its glorious Bloomscape collection. Whimsical pieces inspired by the native flora and natural landscape of Australia made their way down the runway, from billowing, sculptural dresses with hand-painted floral prints to rugged, masculine tailoring inspired by the soil, the trees, and the nation's rocky wonders.

Alice McCall

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Alice McCall has been a longtime favorite in the U.S., known for its whimsical and quirky pieces that never skimp on sequins, feathers, and tulle. For Resort 2020, McCall was inspired by the treasures once found in her mother's "dress-up box" of the late '70s, creating her own take on vintage silhouettes but modernizing them and making them new. The result? Romantic, feminine, and glitzy pieces that are sure to turn heads.

Hansen and Gretel

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Good news for anyone who's into the whole sea nymph thing: This trend is not going anywhere, anytime soon, according to label Hansen and Gretel. The Aussie brand's Resort 2020 collection, Venus, celebrated femininity and womanhood while nodding to this very trend with seashell knit crop tops, slinky slips, pastel summer knits, and plenty of shimmery pearlescent fabrics.

Lee Mathew

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Lee Mathews Resort 2020 runway show was a special one: a celebration of the brand's 20th year. And, with that came a retrospective collection taking inspiration from the brand's archives over the past two decades. The collection presented the perfect mix of feminine and tomboyish pieces, mixed and matched and layered with extravagance. Ruffled, tulle skirts were paired with tailored shirting, while in-your-face prints such as polka dots, brush strokes, and bold stripes were used throughout, showing up on flowing silk dresses and structured, oversized shirting and separates.

Bondi Born

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Resort 2020 saw Bondi Born, the ever-chic sustainable swimwear line based in Sydney, debut its first full resort capsule collection. The brand saw its sustainably produced fabrics take the form of knotted and bow-adorned swimwear, breezy seaside dresses and separates, and clean, simple eveningwear—all stunningly timeless, surpassing fashion trends and to be worn for seasons to come.

Double Rainbouu

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

In just a few short years, everybody's favorite Hawaiian shirt brand Double Rainbouu has grown beyond its playful shirting assortment with apparel, accessories, and more. For Resort 2020, design duo Mike Nolan and Toby Jones were inspired by the hippie travelers of the '60s and '70s, and a utopia where all creatures live together harmoniously. Set in Sydney's gorgeous Chinese Garden of Friendship, the brand's show featured model "tourists" who wore worldly prints, hippie tie-dyes, and plenty of linen alongside colorful zebra prints, sporty polos, chambray jumpsuits, and classic hoodies, making for a playfully diverse, yet wearable, collection.

P.E Nation

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

This season saw emerging Aussie label P.E. Nation present its first solo runway show, Physical Education, for Resort 2020. The brand took its signature spin on sporty '90s activewear and elevated it, incorporating bold, oversized silhouettes, denim, and all of the bold neons we covet. Bonus? The brand announced a killer new collab with Speedo, presenting its vintage-inspired swimwear at the very end of the show. Even bigger bonus? The brand's been upping its sustainability efforts, debuting its first-ever recycled active set, using recycled yarns and organic cotton. It will also be moving to biodegradable packaging by July.

Leo & Lin

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

One of our favorite collection this season came courtesy of Leo & Lin. Celebrating the designer's love of history, the romantic "Imperial" collection was a nod at both ancient Rome and the Victorian era, which saw sweeping, bulb-sleeved and high-necked floral dresses and suiting walking alongside flowing, draped Roman-inspired frocks. A modern flair was also sprinkled in, seen in the form of vinyl trench coats and fishnet fabrics.

Ten Pieces

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

One of the most buzzed about shows this season was Ten Pieces, the contemporary sportswear collection born from the collaboration between founders Maurice Terzini and Lucy Hinckfuss and designer Allan Marshall. For Resort 2020, Terzini was inspired by his time as a teen in Italy in the late '70s and the disco freak era. A bit punky, a bit hippie, and set in the drained pool of Sydney's iconic Icebergs Club with Bondi Beach as its backdrop, the collection's sporty streetwear pieces—unisex, and meant to be mixed, matched, and layered to its wearer's delight—felt more apt for the beach than a bustling city.

Photo by Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for ASCAP

"It makes my ears fucking steam out of my head"

Billie Eilish isn't taking Alabama's abortion ban lightly. Speaking to Variety, the singer said that she has "no words for the bitches in the fucking White House." She continued: "Honestly, I can't even look at my phone," because the news is always so distressing.

Eilish doesn't call out any legislators specifically, but she doesn't have to in order to get her point across, namely, that it's outrageous that people don't get to have control over their own bodies. "It's so unbelievable," Eilish said. "It makes me, like, red. It makes my ears fucking steam out of my head. Women should say, should do, and feel, and be exactly what they want."

"There should be nobody else telling them how to live their life, how to do shit…" she continued. "It just makes me so mad that if I start talking about it, I won't stop." Eilish did conclude though with this simple, powerful statement: "Men should not make women's choices—that's all I have to say."

If you want to help the people who will be affected by the restrictive abortion bans that the "bitches in the fucking White House" are doing nothing about, these organizations could use your help.

Asset 7

We talk to the pop star about her past, present, and future—and why she spoke out against R. Kelly

JoJo has been through it. Any casual music listener who lived through the 2000s knows what I'm talking about. The singer shot to instant stardom in 2004 with iconic hit "Leave (Get Out)" and released two albums, a self-titled debut and The High Road, which ended up being a fitting description of the journey she was forced to take.

Soon after, Blackground Records refrained from releasing JoJo's third album, resulting in a near decade-long period when she could only put out infrequent singles and mixtapes. She filed a lawsuit against the label in 2013, claiming that her contract was no longer valid under New York law, and when she was freed, her albums were taken off iTunes and streaming services, denying JoJo and her collaborators future earnings and disabling fans from accessing their beloved music. She was finally able to release her third album, Mad Love, in 2016, but there was still a huge part of her career that virtually disappeared—until she took matters into her own hands.

Late last year—on her 28th birthday, no less—JoJo surprised us by revealing that she re-recorded her first two albums and released them online for fans to enjoy once again. It was both the end of a chapter that needed to be closed long ago, and one of the most powerful moves by an artist in the music industry, especially a woman like JoJo who has dealt with a level of power struggles and politics we could only imagine. Below, she opens up about the process of this remarkable venture, her newfound freedom, and her next step.

How did you decide that re-recording these two albums was the right move?
My options were pretty limited. Since I had gotten out of that contract with Blackground, I just realized that I didn't want to reopen anything by trying to have any interaction with them. So I saw what my legal options were and that was to completely recreate these albums and basically cover myself.

How long did that process take? Take me through the process of basically putting everything back together.
My managers and I had been talking about it because we saw it in my comments on Twitter and Instagram a lot, and I just hate feeling helpless. When I saw that there was this demand from my fans of wanting to listen to the first two albums, we called my lawyer and saw what could be done legally from that perspective, and then we just started to brainstorm as to how we could recreate the tracks. I came to the conclusion that what my fans wanted was the nostalgia of the first two albums, of how they found it in 2004 and 2006, so we tried to keep it pretty true to that. The process took, I would say, nine months, from the first phone call to calling my musical directors and have them start the recreation of the tracks, sending them the YouTube link so they could refer back to the original songs, because that's what we had. I didn't have a physical copy of the first two albums.

Were there any songs that you were especially emotional about or ones you connected with when you revisited them?
I definitely got emotional re-cutting a lot of them, particularly "Keep On Keeping On," which I wrote when I was 12. That was one of the first songs that I ever recorded that I had written completely by myself. Just to go back and take in the lyrics that I had written then, it's just still a message that I need to hear. It was just emotional being like, Damn, my little 12-year-old self was an old soul. It was emotional redoing all of them for different reasons because I remembered those sessions so vividly. Especially with remaking "Leave (Get Out)," "Too Little, Too Late," and "Baby It's You," I was definitely freaking myself out with trying to stay true to them but also realizing that I'm a grown person now. I was intimidated by having to hit some of the notes that I hit when I was 12 and 14, like on "Too Little, Too Late," because I'm a different singer, your voice changes as you grow. That made me a little bit anxious [but] I just did it.

You recently spoke out about R. Kelly on Twitter and said you heard stories when you were younger and that people you worked with were also working with him. How did hearing this affect you at such a young age?
To be honest, the way that it was being spoken about in the studio normalized it. I'm looking back on it and realizing how perverse the stories that I was hearing were, about how he'd always have young girls around, how he'd be waiting outside of high schools or he'd be hanging out at the McDonald's. I didn't realize since I was so, so young how very much fucked up that is. He really was just in plain sight being a predator. I was such a huge fan of his. I mean his music is incredible, but at this point, there's just no fucking way to separate him from his crime, and it's just wild. It's just wild that he got away with it for so long, but I think we're in a new era of accountability and transparency and I just think it's definitely about time. But in my comment section, it was like, "Okay, so if you've heard these stories, then why didn't you come forward or say something?" I was a kid when I heard these stories, and I certainly didn't know what to do. I didn't even know how to follow that thought all the way through.

I wanted to talk about the new album you're currently working on. Is there a the direction you're going for?
I want to go back to what comes naturally to me which is R&B, but I think I could care less about genres. I just want to make dope music and release it, whether it's all in one album, one song at a time, however that may be. I'm being super choosy and making a bunch of songs and then narrowing it down from there. I've never been more excited about the music that I'm making. It feels really great, and I think a part of that has to do with closing that chapter of the first two albums, with anything that I did from that time of my career. Now I can move forward and just really be challenged and keep growing and breaking myself down and putting myself back together with the help of my collaborators. It's interesting.

Is your attitude about freedom influenced by the music climate and streaming today? The music world has changed so much since when you debuted.
I guess, but I think, for me, freedom is more of the mental and emotional state. I do think that artists have so many more choices now, whether to be independent, or to do a joint venture like I've done with Warner Bros, or sign to a major but on their terms. I think that there is a lot more flexibility and freedom for us, much of which we've demanded and some that the industry has just had to adapt to. But even when I got off of my former label and knew that I was able to move forward and release music, for many different reasons, I still didn't feel that freedom. I think I was in such a fighter mode that I still felt like I needed to fight things, whether it was myself or... mostly myself.

It's being really hateful toward myself and dealing with a lot of that. For me, this freedom that I'm feeling is just stepping into a new perspective of not recognizing things as obstacles but knocking on them as opportunities, and I think for those who are fortunate enough to be able to get some type of control over their mind, I'm trying to try to do that and to feel as free as possible. I'm excited.

Photo courtesy of HBO.

We made it

It's finally over. We had a great run—even if the eighth season felt more like a PowerPoint presentation of the show than an actual narrative. But perhaps the most frustrating thing about the show was that it left plenty of plot threads dangling. Still, some of the conclusions that the show left us with were shocking in their own right. Let's revisit.

Spoilers ahead...

Cersei actually being dead

I didn't want to believe it, but it's true. Cersei Lannister, the ruthless Queen that everyone sought to overthrow, is dead. Last week, she and her brother-lover Jaime held each other tight in the bowels of the Red Keep as rocks and bricks fell on top of them. I thought that Jaime would die, once again protecting Cersei, and that she would survive the collapse. This would have provided an opportunity for her to be personally killed by list-obsessed Arya Stark or a power hungry Daenerys Targaryen. But no, Cersei did not survive and I was shocked to see her dead face when it was uncovered by Tyrion.

Jon killing Daenerys

Cersei wasn't the only person whose death came under unexpected circumstances. Daenerys' long, epic journey came to an end at the hands of Jon (also known as Aegon Targaryen, and her nephew-lover). Despite following Daenerys all season, Jon was convinced that she had to go after a little pep talk from Tyrion. And so, what else would a Stark do, other than carrying out a death sentence himself? Jon did it with a blade through Dany's heart. At least it wasn't in her back.

Drogon killing the Iron Throne

If there is one character my heart absolutely breaks for, it's Drogon. Daenerys' death left the dragon motherless and brotherless. He took his grief out on the thing that drove her to the very end, the Iron Throne itself. Drogon melted it into boiling liquid metal before flying away with his mother's body.

Bran becoming King

Since the beginning of the show, viewers have made wagers on who would eventually take the Iron Throne for themselves. Through most of the series, Bran, who hasn't been able to walk since the first episode, was an extremely unlikely candidate. But alas, he was the King when the show ended, and he made a comment that seemed to suggest that he'd known this was his destiny. In other words, he let everyone battle it out while he sat and minded his business, knowing it was all for him to come out on top. A shady queen feels like a more fitting title.

Arya heading "West"

I get it, Arya has already been a free spirit and non-conformist. I also understand that she sent most of Game of Thrones motivated by revenge and with no more to be served, there was little left for her in Westeros. But to send her off exploring the world also felt... odd. Arya said goodbye to her siblings, setting her intentions on sailing to see what's "west of Westeros," so that she can find out what's there. It felt way too soon to assume that she wouldn't still be needed in her homeland, but Arya never was one to stick close to home.

Jon and Ghost reuniting

At the end of the fourth episode fans were furious when Jon Snow prepared to head South with Daenerys, bidding fond farewells to friends and fellow soldiers, but not bothering to pet his direwolf. The show runners said the reason for the impersonal sendoff was that interactions with the direwolves cost too much money to pull off and there wasn't enough budget. So we were all surprised to see Jon and Ghost reunite in the final episode when Jon was once against sent to Castle Black. It was a silver lining in an otherwise dreary episode.