Maggie West's New Exhibition Is A Love Letter To Planned Parenthood

Photos courtesy of Maggie West

"Planned Parenthood is a constant source of support for so many women"

In 2016, photographer Maggie West created a photo series titled STAND 2016, which consisted of vibrant, colorful portraits of dozens of L.A.-based Planned Parenthood supporters. The exhibition was set to run on November 9, the day after the presidential election—which, obviously, went in the complete opposite direction than most people thought it would. What she thought would be a celebration of the first female president and step forward for women's rights turned into an urgent fundraiser in the face of an administration who would try (and has tried) its best to limit women's rights.

Now, two years on, the sense of uncertainty hasn't dissipated, and so West has brought the series back for a second iteration—STAND 2018—which debuts next week and features dozens more L.A.-based creatives who advocate for and have been impacted by Planned Parenthood. "We've been sitting with this [administration] for two years, and there is still a very immediate sense of urgency," West said of her reason to bring back the series. And indeed there is: Just in the past two months, Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed to the Supreme Court even after multiple women accused him of sexual assault, Alabama passed a law establishing "fetal personhood," and we still have a president with over a dozen allegations of sexual assault to his name who mocks assault survivors.

West has herself been personally impacted by Planned Parenthood, and has benefitted time and again from its resources, which is why she has chosen to partner with this cause again. "This organization has provided me with birth control since I was 15," she said. "I use a different provider now but for many, many, many years of my life, every time I needed birth control, or a pap smear, or something like that, I went to Planned Parenthood." She notes that she is not the only one to have such a personal relationship with the organization—so many people in the U.S. rely on the services it provides. "Planned Parenthood is a constant source of support for so many women, especially low-income women," she points out. "I think that they are an amazing organization and I just wanted to do something to help support them in any way that I could."

This need to give back to an organization that has helped her and so many others led her to create an exhibition that was not just a showcase of the art, but a fundraiser. "Rather than just do an art piece that is symbolic of supporting the cause, I wanted to throw an event in conjunction with the art, so that I can actually turn that into income to generate to give back to the cause." A donation will get you in the door, 100 percent of proceeds made will go directly to Planned Parenthood. "And on top of that," she added, "if you want to directly donate or volunteer or get more directly involved with the cause, there will be reps from the organization on site."

The art itself is incredible and features quite a few recognizable faces. The creatives involved in the series, West noted, are of every gender. "There are cis men and trans women and genderqueer people in this series," West noted, "because while Planned Parenthood is primarily associated with giving health care services to women, they actually do provide quite a few services to men and trans women as well." Particularly regarding the choice to include men, she told me that there are "so many men that feel just as strongly about Planned Parenthood as [she does], and even if they haven't gone there for a service themselves, their friends have or their girlfriends have."

Each model was able to pick the photo they liked best, to "bring in the element of choice into the project," because, as West said, "I felt like that is so central to women's issues." And without Planned Parenthood, many wouldn't have the choice to access safe birth control options. "There is an increasing amount of people in power that are dedicated to overturning Roe vs. Wade and defunding Planned Parenthood," West notes. Which is why, two years after the fateful election and her first STAND exhibition, it's still vital to show fierce protection of the cause. "This organization means a lot to us, and we need to show up and support them."

Below, view some of the photos from the exhibition, which will be held on Tuesday, November 20, in Los Angeles. Get more details and RSVP here.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Musician Madame Gandhi by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Actress Stephanie Beatriz by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Model Ari Fitz by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Robot Model Lil Miquela by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Actress Alexis G Zall by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Writer Gaby Dunn by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

DJ Lulo by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Actress and Musician Hayley Law by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Model Tzef Montana by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Model Tanya Negin by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Artist and Filmmaker Luka Fisher by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Rapper Ka5sh by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Makeup Artist Amanda Steele by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Writer Allison Raskin by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Singer Luna Lovebad by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Model Jazzmyne Jay by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Writer Melissa Broder by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

DJ Gaby G by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Author Chris Zeischegg by Maggie West.

Photo courtesy of Maggie West

Model Kellee Moran by Maggie West.

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.

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



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.