Evan Rachel Wood and Gina Rodriguez To Star In New Heist Movie From Miranda July

Evan Rachel Wood and Gina Rodriguez are coming to the big screen once again, this time in a new heist movie written by queer filmmaker/artist/author Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know, The Future).

The project is untitled so far, but will be produced by Annapurna (helmed by out lesbian Megan Ellison) and Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B Entertainment. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film is about “a woman named Old Dolio, whose life is turned upside down when her parents, amateur con artists, invite an outsider to join their biggest heist yet.” Evan Rachel Wood is set to play Old Dolio and Rodriguez will play the woman who discovers her family’s secrets. Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger will co-star as the parents.

Wood and Rodriguez both currently star in hit TV shows, Westworld and Jane The Virgin, respectively, so we look forward to seeing both bi+ women on the big screen once again.

Wood recently starred in Allure, a feature film following two women in an abusive relationship.

Rodriguez is eyeing some queer roles herself. Hot off her performance in Annihilation as the pugnacious soft butch Anya, the actress recently shot a guest star spot on Brooklyn Nine-Nine where she’s playing Stephanie Beatriz’s love interest. She also recently signed on to star in and produce a live-action Carmen Sandiego movie for Netflix.

Wood tweeted that she’s “beyond excited” for her new project with Rodriguez. I’d watch anything with either woman in itlet alone together.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC Launches LGBTQ Youth Initiative

Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City currently serves more than 5,500 youths in the city through various mentoring programs. It provides academic resources to help “littles” reach graduation and get into college, and has been helping kids reach their goals since 1904.

Their latest program comes in a much-needed form. The BBBS of NYC Big Pride program provides LGBTQ youth with positive adult mentors during their most impressionable years. Recently launched, they’re implementing a recruitment campaign through partnerships with leading LGBTQ organizations. Through one-to-one and group mentoring, they’ll help littles by supporting identity, communication, and self-confidence in safe spaces.

“Since our founding, Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC has consistently served the diverse needs of young people across the city, empowering them with the tools to succeed in life,” said Hector Batista, chief executive officer of BBBS of NYC. “Now, through our Big Pride initiative, we will provide more youth from the LGBTQ community with mentors and support their needs through focused programming that will allow for safe space discussions, as well as promote diversity and inclusion.”

The Big Pride program launched this week with a celebration at Buzzfeed. It included special introductions from Jeff Elgart, chief corporate mentoring and partnerships officer at BBBS of NYC, as well as speeches from BBBS social worker, Emily Bader and Big Pride member, Christopher Porras. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and MSNBC correspondent, Jonathan Capehart gave a keynote address, and the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus gave a special performance.

Find more info on Big Pride atBig Brothers Big Sisters of New York City.

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 10 Episode 2 Power Ranking: Where Do the Queens Stand After the PharmaRusical?

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It’s the second week of Drag Race and, as expected, there are some changes on INTO’s weekly ranking of where the queens stand! After Eureka’s trip to the bottom two and Vixen’s rise to the top, this episode shook both the audience and the list! Without further ado:

1. The Vixen (Last week: 8)

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The Vixen dominatedDrag Race’s second outing.Not only did she win both the mini and maxi challenges, her screen presence was electric. She gave us a new catchphrase “No, too vague!” and an iconic handwritten message, “The Vixen will fight you!”

2. Mayhem Miller (Last week: 1)

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Other than The Vixen, Mayhem is the only other queen to win a maxi challenge. That, and her place in the winning group, means she’s still aDrag Race force.

3. Monet X Change (Last week: 2)

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Monet has one mini challenge win to her credit and also placed in the top group this week. Last week’s soap suds look is in the rearview mirror and her runway look this week, in a ruby red dress and short hair, snatched every last wig inAmerica.

4. Miz Cracker (Last week: 3)

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Though it’s only been two episodes, it’s safe to say that MizCracker may be the queen who best understands her brand. And, in a show that’s all about branding, that will take her far. She’s yet to triumph in a challenge, but expect that to change soon.

5. Blair St. Clair (Last week: 5)

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Though she won’t win a dance competition any time soon, Blair’s Very Best Drag look was a stunner. And during the mini challenge, she was the only contestant who took a Southern debutante look that contrasted to everyone else’s boots and checker patterns.

6. Asia O’Hara (Last week: 9)

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Asia simply stunned all around this episode, and the judges were correct to praise her for it. While she may have landed in the bottom group, her performance,runway look and mini challenge win are enough to see her go up 3 spots this week to the top half of the remaining competitors.

7. Dusty Ray Bottoms (Last week: 11)

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As predicted, Dusty Ray bounced back after a bad first week in which Michelle Visage read her for her dot-centric makeup style. The judges were living for her musical performance and her Beetlejuice couture.

8. Yuhua Hamasaki (Last week: 4)

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Somewhat bafflingly, Yuhua received praise last week for her caution tape flowy number. This week, however, she gave good energy in the challenge but the judges reserved some of their harshest critiques for her basic blue bodysuit.

9. Aquaria (Last week: 7)

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Aquaria was safe last week and in the bottom this week. She may have gotten some good critiques this week for her runway look, but the judges knocked her challenge performance. We’re still early in the competition, but we’re getting antsy to see her talent level meet the level of conversation she engenders in the fandom.

10. Kameron Michaels (Last week: 12)

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Kameron may have been in the winning group, but we’ve yet to hear her get a positive word from the judges. Yes, that’s partly due to the fact that the winning group leaves the stage before critiques begin, but until we hear some praise for this queen, her lackluster looks land this season’s muscle queen toward the bottom.

11. Monique Heart (Last week: 6)

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Monique’s trip to the bottom 3 this week puts her on some unsure footing. Last week, she seemed so upset that she did not make the top 3, many expected her to come back and slay the game, but instead she faltered.

12. Eureka (Last week: 10)

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Last week, I stressed that Eureka would have to work twice as hard to stand out because of her status as a returning queen. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen this week and Eureka’s confidence took a major hit as her injury caught up with her. Hopefully, her time in the bottom two is the push she needs to give us more.

The Author Behind ‘Love, Simon’ Book Is Writing Another Queer Love Story

Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda, the source material behind the movie Love, Simon, is collaborating with another queer author on an upcoming project.

Adam Silvera (They Both Die At The End) and Albertalli have been writing queer stories for years, and their upcoming project is set to be just as gay. The new novel, called What If It’s Us, will be written by the duo from a dual perspective, each penned by one of the authors. According to EW, the story follows “two very different boys who find fate is either drawing them together or pulling them apart.” Albertalli takes on Arthur, the Broadway-obsessed kid summering in New York, and Silvera will writes for Ben, raw from a recent breakup. The two characters cross paths when Arthur bumps into Ben while he’s carrying his ex’s things to the post office.

Albertalli and Silvera agree that the book is a solid fusion of their two writing styles. “We had to let our guard down because we had to give very rough draftswe couldn’t keep polishing it for each other,” Silvera explains. “So I would get Becky’s roughest draft, which I would still think was brilliant, and I would give Becky my rough drafts, which I thought were like the worst words ever written.”

But as fans of both authors know, Albertalli loves a saccharine rom-com ending, while Silvera’s characters are prone to heartbreak, so it’ll be interesting to see which way the scales tip.

The writing pair told EW that the collaboration came about after their debut books went on sale the same week, and their agents connected them, but they quickly found a mutual adoration for each other.

“Our obsession with each other grew so deeply because we loved each other’s books so much,” Silvera gushes. “We were just learning about each other. It felt very pen-pal-yshe was in Georgia, I was in New Yorkand we were probably emailing for months Ultimately, it was just Becky telling me about this, and I’m like, ‘How cool would it be to do something with missed connections in the YA space?’”

Silvera also spoke about his experience being gay in high school, and how that’s inspired his writing, as well as the cover art for What If It’s Us?

“When I was a queer teenager, I didn’t have the confidence or bravery to read about other queer people. I was deeply closeted,” he said. “I would have never walked into a bookstore and grabbed a book that’s so instantly recognizable as being a queer book. I think we have to move with the times here. And that’s one of the beautiful things about the cover, which was illustrated by the artist Jeff Östberg: that we have two boys on this cover. It’s been done before, but I was kind of nervous about doing this. All my novels are about queer boys, and this is the first time that I have a cover that has two instantly recognizably gay boys on it.”

Albertalli agreed that the two boys are “blatantly checking each other out” on the cover, adding, “No question.” Silveri even said that writing this book felt like coming out all over again. “It’s clearly a rom-com, and for me it feels like another coming-out. It feels like I’m no longer hiding the kind of stories that I’m writing. I get to proudly say, ‘Yeah, I’m a queer author writing about queer boys, and I’m hoping that other queer boys will see this and that they will be able to take this home and get themselves recognized.’ I’m really proud of the love story that Becky and I have created.”

For both authors, What If It’s Us is their fourth book, and both are busy working on their fifth. Albertalli said, “I think when people read it, this is very much an ‘Adam and Becky’ book. It’s one thing, and I wouldn’t say it skews one way or the other.

What If It’s Us will be released on October 9th, but you can preorder it here.

The Action Figures That Made Me Gay

As a kid I desperately wanted a Barbie doll.

The want became obsession when I was denied one. Every girl I knew had a floor covered in them. They always looked like a brothel had exploded across their floor. I never understood why they couldn’t keep the poor things in their clothes. My older sisters had so many Barbie dolls they’d cut their hair and chuck them out. Yet I wasn’t allowed even one.

All I wanted to do was run my fingers through their hair and change them into sparkly dresses. Instead I was given hard, hulking action figures; small muscular superheroes and military men.

I’ve often discussed with friends when the first time we felt same-sex sexual feelings. Some didn’t feel them until high school, or repressed them until even later. Some can recall the attractions popping up when we were very small and first felt a stir seeing a Disney prince on screen.

My earliest feelings came from action figures.

The massive pecs on G.I. Joe, the rippling biceps of Captain America and Goku from Dragon Ball Z. I didn’t understand why, but I always wanted to take their clothes off and ogle the shirtless torsos of WWE action figures, The Rock, Hercules, and swimsuit Ken.

I asked for a Max Steel action figure when I was 10. I couldn’t care less about his weapons or Kung fu grip, but I’d never seen such a toned body on an action figure before. I was infatuated with it.

As opposed to the Barbies I longed to clothe, I wanted my action figures shirtless. I’d rub my fingers all over their muscular plastic bodies. They became my first fixation on men and masculinity. I’d paint aftershave on them with my Crayola markers and meticulously Sharpie chest hair. Like most young gay boys, I was denied a Barbie doll because my family thought it would make me “funny.” Instead, it was the tiny buff men they forced on me that truly got my gay going.

My brother played with them differently. He threw them around, made them fight, and launched them up onto the rooftop. I dressed and undressed them, and sometimes made them kiss each other. I always kept my strange feelings for them secret, though those feelings expanded beyond my toy box soon enough.

Men with their shirts off made me uneasy by the time I was in first grade. I’d avoid going to the pool or beach, and I’d get a strange feeling inside looking at the models on men’s underwear packages. I quickly became fixated on characters like Tarzan and Li Shang in Mulan, but would have to quickly look away before I started feeling things.

I often wonder if the designers of these characters and toys realized how sexy they were making them. It’s hard to believe they weren’t aware, though many of them were straight men who thought they were only sexualizing the female characters they designed.

There was always such detail put into the muscular male form. The unrealistically large biceps, massive pecs, and tight waists. Almost as unrealistic as the female characters with enormous coconut breasts and a middle the size of your pinkie finger.

In the 1970s Mattel, the company behind Barbie, had a line of action figures to compete with G.I. Joe called Big Jim. It featured a group of muscular shirtless men in similar fashion to The Village People or a gay porno. Mattel was also responsible for the incredibly homoerotic He-Man that most gay boys from the ‘80s are probably very familiar with.

This fixation I developed with the male physique never went away. In fact, these toys not only framed my sexuality, but my body dysmorphia later on in life. In high school, I got the idea that if I just stopped eating I would be more attractive. I didn’t realize men were supposed to work out until passing out from exhaustion; that you get muscular, not skinny. But no matter how many push-ups I did, my pecs would never stick out like G.I. Joe or Hercules.

As an adult I try and tell myself it’s because they’re just plastic or animated characters, and that there are plenty of men out there that don’t look like the dolls, just like Barbies barely resemble real women. Though scrolling through the gay side of Instagram and seeing there are guys who do look exactly like those chiseled figures doesn’t help very much.

My sexual attractions grew and developed over time and I can be attracted to men of all looks and body types, but the hatred of my own body never quite went away. I don’t think it ever will.

Boys are meant to idolize muscular men, but six-year-old me look can objectify them at the same time. Being gay is a double-edged sword, because you’re often attracted to what you want to be. “Why can’t I have that?” and “Why can’t I be that?” work hand-in-hand.

It’s strange looking back and thinking about how I was guided away from a big-breasted luscious blonde in favor of action figures that looked straight out of a porno. I sometimes wonder if I’d been given a Barbie doll if I might not hate my body as much as I do. Still funny, though. Still gay.

Hayley Kiyoko Is Unapologetically Queering Pop Music In ’20GAYTEEN’

On the cover of Hayley Kiyoko’s debut album, the singer sits perched on a leopard print stool, her head cocked to the left, as she takes in and lusts over the site of a naked woman. It’s an arresting and tongue-in-cheek picture, sure, but it also feels subversive.

It’s something that at just 26 years old, Kiyoko has become synonymous with. For years her music videos have explored the lesbian experience, and they’ve done so unapologetically. The video for her song “Girls Like Girls” went viral, notching up over 71 million views. Not bad for a girl who, at the time, didn’t have a record deal. Since then, each video has explored queerness in some respect, Kiyoko often casting herself in the role of the seductor. It’s a thrilling and welcome unashamed celebration of same-sex female desire that, in the mainstream at least, has been long overdue.

It’s probably this reputation, then, that within the last year landed Hayley Kiyoko with a new nickname: the Lesbian Jesus. “I don’t really know what it truly means,” she says to INTO before laughing. “But I am very appreciative. It’s an insanely incredible title and it means a lot.”

This ascension to god-like-gay-status, however, has been a lengthy one. Over the years her music career has had a few missed starts, most notably her tenure in the short-lived girl band The Stunners. Instead, acting was a focus, and from the age of five she’s appeared in numerous commercials before upgrading to Disney Channel and Nickelodeon TV shows and original movies.

Thankfully, Kiyoko continued to peruse music, and released her debut solo EP in 2013. Yet something wasn’t quite connecting. Writing an essay for Paper magazine in 2016, she explained how, two years prior, she realized something had to change. So she wrote a song about being attracted to girls and from then, her music began to exude a new kind of authenticity, devoid of ambiguous pronouns and explicitly candid.

This is something that has only been amplified with her debut album Expectations. Sitting succinctly at 13 tracks, the record unfolds to tell a highly relatable story of sexual conquests, relationships, heartache, and the bruises of mental health. The songwriting is accomplished, filled with radio-ready hooks that worm around in your head, while the lyrics veer from confessional to downright cocky. Songs like “What I Need” featuring Kehlani and “He’ll Never Love You” are begging for the single treatment, while softer songs like “Mercy/Gatekeeper,” “Let It Be,” and “Molecules” simmer with emotion so that you’re left with pangs in your chest.

Ahead of the album’s release, INTO gave Hayley a call to talk about the record, first crushes, and learning to be open with your life.

I read that your first crush was on a teacher. Can you tell me about that?

Did I talk about that at some point? Ha! She was my first crush on a girl and she was my first grade teacher. I remember her being really pretty and feminine and girly, and I can remember being really drawn to that. I definitely was into girls. [laughs]

Mine was Leonardo DiCaprio. I can remember being seven and thinking how pretty he was.

Yeah, all the thoughts were very innocent, but it was like, “Wow, your hair is so shiny!” I really liked all of her attributes.

What was it like questioning and discovering your sexuality while also being in the public eye?

I wasn’t really ever questioning my sexuality, it’s just that I’m a very private person. Then there’s also fitting in with society and the pressures of what their preconceived notions of what they already think about you even though they don’t know who you really are. So there was the the stereotypes and the weight of the category that you’ve been placed in, even though you may be completely different from who are you. It’s that pressure that really affects you, or at least it affected me, to be who I was sooner.

You’ve been making music for a while now. Was there a moment where you realized that you were making an album?

To be honest, it’s been baby steps of getting to the opportunity of being able to work on an album. There’s also the process of building up the foundation of a fanbase so that there are people who will want to listen to an album. You don’t wanna write an album if there’s no foundation and if you don’t know what your sound is. So for 26 years I’ve been working on my sound and finding what it is I want to sing about and who I was. So there wasn’t a conscious decision that I’d just make an album, you know? It was like, no, I’m finally at the place where I’ve found my sound and I know my voice and what I want to say.

When I first heard “Feelings” I felt like I had been slapped around the face because I related to it so much.

[Laughs] I’m sorry I slapped you!

Can you tell me where that song came from?

It stemmed from someone making me feel ashamed for my feelings. I just didn’t understand why we live in a society where, in the dating world, you can’t feel things. And as soon as you start feeling it’s considered a bad thing. We’re humans. If you hurt me, I am going to feel; it’s not something that you can just stop. I was frustrated by that. Those lyrics are, like, verbatim: I do over communicate, I feel too much. This is who I am, so don’t make me feel ashamed of that.

I really connected to the lyrics “I’m sorry that I care.”

It’s kind of sarcastic when I say it. It’s like, why should I feel sorry for caring? The end.

The album is confident and playfully cocky, but it also explores moments of anxiety, insecurity, and doubt. Why was it important to show that side, too?

I wanted to show all faucets of who I am. Also, internally, we all have that cocky and confident feeling once in a while. That feeling fades, though, and all your insecurities start seeping in and all those issues rise. I wanted to cover those highs and lows. It’s what makes me human. For me as an artist, I’m really just here to validate those feelings. I’m not here to be like, “Everything is great!” Life, sometimes, is imperfect. I have songs about loss because sometimes we lose people and it’s awful. It’s about ruminating on those feelings.

How do you think you’ve managed to get to that point to put yourself out there like that?

It’s been a very interesting road for me. I’ve matured a lot and the one thing I’ve learned is to not waste time with your feelings and thoughts. I wasted a lot of time growing up and not acting upon what I wanted because I was afraid. I don’t want to do that. I’m a very direct personmy personality is very directso it’s important for me to relay that with my music. If I wasn’t being direct with my music then I wouldn’t be being true to myself as a person and as an artist. It would be duplicitous. I am very intense and black and white. If my music wasn’t like that, if it was in the grey, then it wouldn’t be me.

Can you tell me about the song “Mercy” because it’s quite dark?

[Laughs manically] That’s so funny. [Does impression] “That song is…err quite dark.” [laughs] What do you want to know about it?

Well, lyrically that song feels like a real moment of pure emotion.

Normally when I write music the lyrics always come after. That’s the only song in my life and on the album that, lyrically, is verbatim from this poem that I wrote in New York in my journal. I was up until 4am and I was very depressed. Two years ago I suffered a really bad concussion. So I’ve been dealing with post-concussion syndrome ever since, and in the aftermath there was a lot of anxiety and depression. I was also dealing with a lot of chronic pain. Basically, I was in the moment of all of that.

I knew I didn’t want to write a depressing album. So with “Mercy” I was like, “Let’s just dedicate five minutes to that entire journey and try to capture depression in five minutes.” It’s about that journey of being blurry and feeling hopeless but trying to find the light and still moving forward, even though you don’t know where the heck you are. I wanted to capture that because I had been feeling like that for a very long time. And I’m still going through different parts of the aftermath of it. I was in a very dark place at the time.

It’s quite a profound message and actually very universal.

I feel like mental health is huge! And most of the time you can’t control. From my situation, I couldn’t control it because I was dealing with an injury. I felt helpless. It’s something that a lot of people deal with every day. It’s awful and I wanted to have a song that created comfort out of that darkness but also had a sense of hopefulness.

How do you think 2018 will be 20GAYTEEN?

I just think it’s a time, selfishly, for the LGBTQ community to be in the mainstream, and for us to be in the focus. I’ve been working on my music for a really long time and I’ve been like, “This is my year,” and “This is my year with my fans.” And when the 20GAYTEEN concept came up I was like, “Let’s go!”

Photo by Josh Brasted/WireImage

Our Travel Writers Discovered the Fourth Dimension at a Wellness Resort In Mexico

There we were, lying on our backs on jubilant serapes that blanketed the floor of a brightly lit pavilion as our sound healing journey commenced. Beside us were twenty or so other resonance enthusiasts on a warm winter afternoon at the world famous wellness resort, Rancho La Puerta.

But there we all were, hovering in the ethers of an incomprehensible dimension listening to the sound healing treatment of our spiritual musicians Mark and Denise of Paradise of The Resonance Code, traversing the wormholes of yesteryear to a soundtrack of Koshi chimes and quartz bowls, lulled by the dust from the rings of Saturn.

You see, during our week-long stay at the ranch, this midday sound healing session became one of our favorite activities from the impressive list of workout and wellness classes that included everything from glute-blasting barre workouts to morning meditations.

The eighty-year-old wellness resort has long championed itself as a place of peace and respite by instilling tranquil surroundings, encouraging technology cleanses, and reinstating a healthy, plant-based diet, all alongside one of its main draws: an award-winning spa. And beyond the gorgeously landscaped property are an extensive network of trails throughout the sage scrub and chaparral of the San Ysidro Mountains that act as their very own pathways for a kind of moving meditation.

The goal of the resort seems to be the indulgence of mindful moments. Of getting truly lost in one’s present. It can happen anywhere on the ranch. You can be taken to a new realm in the middle of a splendid deep tissue massage, on the courts rallying with the tennis pro, in the pool in the arms of the Watsu guide, or like us, on the floor surrounded by 300-year-old Tibetan singing bowls, Nepalese and Paiste gongs.

The History of The Ranch

Originating in 1940 by Edmond and Deborah Szekely as a fitness resort and spa, Rancho La Puerta has always been at its same location and has always been family owned. In fact, Deborah, now in her nineties, still comes to the ranch each week to meet with guests and recall stories of the ranch throughout the decades of its existence. Her love for her husband, affectionately known as “the professor,” is evident each time she mentions him in her tales. Together, they started what was once considered to be a cult, but what now is one of the leading health and wellness resorts in the world, and they have the frequently returning guests to prove it. Located just across the Tecate border, an hour from San Diego, Rancho La Puerta was designed as a one-week experience, the ranch becomes a place where digital devices are frowned upon and comradery with fellow guests is encouraged, with the latter being one of the main goals of the ranch since day 1 when the wellness resort was often considered to be “cult-like.”

Accommodations

When the ranch first began, guests stayed in shared quarters that consisted of very basic accommodations, which included a cot and a blanket. Fast forward to today, and guests now have various options of housing. There are 86 garden casitas in seven different sizes/rate categories, each beautifully decorated with the majority of them fitted with wood-burning fireplaces, yet they do not come with televisions or internet (although there is wifi available in limited locations throughout the resort for those who need a lifeline to the real world).

Fitness Classes

The ranch has everything you’ve heard of in modern fitness culture, as well as things you could only imagine in your wildest dreams. Among the standard classes are mini-trampoline workouts, cardio boxing, circuits, Zumba, rope and kettlebell training, TRX, cycling, and many more. Among the wild are Feldenkrais, Gyrokinesis, high aerial skills, a striptease dance class, cardio drumming, water jogging, and yoga classes for all levels, but honestly, the 75-minute Level 2 class almost took us as casualties as we slipped in our pools of sweat in chaturanga. The ranch’s neatly organized schedule allows you to pick and choose your daily fitness activities like you’re a kid at summer camp and the world-class instructors help push you as far as you want to go.

Wellness Classes

It’s not all about working out your body, as the ranch has an abundance of ways to exercise your mind as well. From a beautiful labyrinth to classes in chanting, tai chi, sound healing, meditation, and even art classes including sculpting and watercolor, there’s no shortage of ways to fill your day. We made sure that each of our days was a healthy mixture of both active classes as well as more restful classes, a balance that proved to be successful not only for our motivation but also for our aching muscles. One of my favorite afternoons was spent watercoloring, something I had never done as an adult, and something I never knew I needed to do as an adult, especially with a clear mind. My creations weren’t anything I would hang on my wall, but releasing the creativity I had buried away inside of me with each stroke of the brush was liberating.

Hiking and Obstacle Course

Our favorite hike ended up being “Raven” a 4.5-mile hike that ascended high up into the chaparral and circled the lower flanks of Mt. Kuchumaa, a 3,883-foot peak of the San Ysidro Mountains. On the hike, we could see the far mountains of the Otay Wilderness area looking up at Kuchumaa, the cleft of the ugly border wall on the mountain of great cultural significance to the Kumeyaay people. As we hiked back to the ranch we became mesmerized by the swoop and glide of the vultures and red tail hawks.

On one of our first mornings, we were lucky to experience the new obstacle course the ranch has assembled. We jogged the course, monkeying across bars and rings, crawling under nets in sand, lifting hundred pound logs, spider-manning our way over walls, and climbed two-story tall towers. The course is an adventurous addition to the ranch and arms guests with their own personal Tough Mudder.

The Meals

The first couple of days at the ranch are tough on your stomach, because the truth is, you might find yourself hungry. That being said, for those who don’t want to stick to portion controlled meals that are expertly crafted to fit within a regimen centered on wellness and fitness, you can always ask for larger portions or second helpings. Pro-tip: Bread is not placed on the table, but you can always ask for some. The meals are vegetarian-centric although some options include seafood, and by day three, you will come to love the anticipation of sitting down and looking at what’s on the menu. The kitchen team is definitely creative when it comes to coming up with healthy dishes that don’t taste like your typical healthy dishes…These are good.

Final Takeaway

Although at times they feel never-ending, our days go by quickly when we work and zip about in cars and stare at our own little personal screens. What I loved most about the ranch was the agreed upon culture that shamed you for looking at technology. And so the days stretched on and time was lead-footed. It was a handsome reminder to seize days and slay and enjoy mindfulness in the precious respite we are sometimes given. I’m not sure what to call my extraterrestrial state of deep relaxation during sound healing, but for now I will go with the fourth dimension and I will always remember being called back to our mundane third at the end of the session by the calming, guiding voice of Mark of Paradise, who metaphorically pat our backs and reminded us that reality is rad, too. – Miles

I’ve done my best to take a piece of the happiness that I felt at the ranch home with me and find ways to incorporate more “me time” into my daily life that seems to always be filled with constant movement. During one of my meditations at the ranch, I left my eyes open and just gazed at a tree, letting my focus glaze over as I stared at this ordinary tree that at that moment wasn’t so ordinary, but instead, magnificent. I was able to enjoy that fifteen minutes of aloneness with my tree, just outside the window, and I’m looking forward to more moments like that in my daily life – taking the time to appreciate what’s around me. Additionally, my stomach and appetite shrunk considerably, and I’m aiming to keep it that way! – David

Exposed: Public Displays Of Affection Or Anger

Even in an age when sharing mundane details online is standard, it’s easier than ever to control the way others see usuntil, as people often say on social media, someone’s been “exposed.” Welcome to Exposed, a monthly column where author and activist Chris Stedman invites you to get a little more vulnerable.

Sylvia sat on a friend’s couch and refreshed her Instagram profile, watching her follower count drop in real time. Confused, she went to her ex Micky’s profile, and right at the top she found the most likely source of this purge: A recently uploaded selfie in the apartment they used to share, accompanied by a sad caption.

Two years earlier the two had quickly fallen in love, and for a short time things were good. Sylvia felt like she’d found someone who understood her art, her sense of humor, and her fears. And building a chosen family felt important to her, so even when the relationship started becoming tumultuous, Sylvia decided to keep working on it.

Which is why, from the very beginning, she tried to set aside her discomfort with how public their relationship felt. Mickywho uses they/them pronounsconstantly posted pictures of them together, painting a picture of a loving couple that cooked, posed with their pets, and snuggled in pajamas. At first Sylvia was OK with it, even flattered, but it began to gnaw at her.

I’ve struggled with online PDA, too, especially when first dating someone. One time, when a guy I was seeing posted a picture of the two of us and tagged me, I had to force myself not to ask him to take it down. It’s not that I was ashamed of dating him. But after coming out of a nearly five-year relationship where we didn’t post many photos together online, I felt uncomfortable with strangers formulating opinions about who I was dating.

Sylvia felt a similar discomfort, and eventually it became impossible to shakeespecially because the image Micky was crafting of their relationship online seemed more and more at odds with reality. While their online story was one of domestic bliss, Micky was increasingly controlling.

If Sylvia posted a selfie, Micky was the first to comment. If someone else posted a comment, Micky would reply possessively: “Isn’t my girl beautiful?” Eventually Micky began to ask Sylvia to take down her selfies if they thought a picture might invite too much attention, even though their own profile was littered with pictures of her.

This kind of behavior spilled out into other areas of their lives, too. Micky became similarly hostile, aggressive, and jealous, which would often lead to a fight. After one of these arguments, Micky would criticize her online by posting vaguely worded updates only she would know were about her: like a line from a song (e.g., “you ain’t shit”) or a comment about how “difficult” women can be. Though most of their mutual followers didn’t know the subtweets were about her, whenever Sylvia’s friends liked one of these posts, it felt like they were being unknowingly turned against her.

During this time, she also grew increasingly uncomfortable with the way Micky’s (seemingly positive) posts about their relationship often cast Sylviawho is bisexual and identifies as femmein the role of a princess. They would caption their photos with statements like “she’s spoiled but I love her” or “when she needs you to hold her.” To Sylvia, the princess role morphed into that of a pampered brat, someone needy and helpless, even though she was actually often in a caretaking role in the relationship.

But she loved Micky, and found ways to rationalize it or brush it off.

Near the end of their relationshipas things began to fall apartMicky continued to post as if all was well. One night, when Micky was in the middle of a difficult week, Sylvia took them to one of their favorite restaurants and told them to order whatever they wanted. Micky posted pictures all throughout dinnerone of Sylvia holding a drink, another of the meal she’d bought thembut otherwise ignored Sylvia the entire time.

To the rest of the world, it looked like yet another romantic evening between a widely adored couple. But watching Micky sit on their phone while her food grew cold, Sylvia felt more alone than she had in years.

Soon after, things finally hit a breaking point.

When Micky was out of town on a trip, a number of Sylvia’s closest friends reached out to her and said they were worried. They hadn’t seen Sylvia in months because Micky didn’t want her hanging out with other people, and they were concerned about the way Micky talked to her when they did see her. Seeing her relationship through friends’ eyes, Sylvia knew things had to change. When Micky returned, Sylvia said she wasn’t happy and went to stay with a friend.

For weeks Micky begged Sylvia to come back. She would consider it, only to change her mind when they replied to her Instagram stories asking how she could possibly hang out with friends while they were breaking up. For Sylvia, the final straw came when Micky responded to an Instagram story of Sylvia hanging out with a friend by accusing her of sleeping with that person. She denied it, but Micky’s response sent a shiver down her spine: “You can do whatever you want, but know that I’m watching you.”

Sylvia blocked them after that, but Micky texted her begging her to unblock them, saying the two of them owed each other more than that. Sylvia, deeply unsure but still in love, unblocked Micky. Fifteen minutes later, they blocked her.

Yet even as Micky drove the break-up narrative online by posting selfies that seemed designed to garner sympathy, Sylvia didn’t want to retaliate. So she kept her more vulnerable postsvideos where she talked about how devastated she was or pictures of the friends’ places she had to crash at while looking for a new homeoff her main feeds, relegating them to private messages for her closest friends. Devastated by losing the family she’d built, Sylvia posted celebratory pictures taken at parties to try to show herself that she could still have a good time.

Sure, like her ex, she wasn’t telling the full story online eitherbut it felt different from the seemingly intentionally dishonest way Micky had posted about the relationship and breakup. Sylvia was self-protectively keeping her pain close and highlighting her happiness, but she wasn’t lying.

Yet that seemed to make things worse. Their mutual followers contrasted the pain her ex was sharing online with the fact that Sylvia was mostly posting about hanging out with friends.

It became clear that the way Sylvia had been portrayed by Micky in their relationship was informing how people saw the breakup. Sylvia had worked hard to hide the less flattering things about Micky and their relationship for Micky’s sake, even while her former partner had misrepresented her identity to discredit her. And given Sylvia’s relative social media silence about the break up, people who followed the relationship for years began to fill in the gaps. Just as Sylvia the princess had become Sylvia the brat, Sylvia the brat became Sylvia the bitch.

That people could just unfollow Sylvia after it was done, after being so seemingly invested in the relationship, showed her that these people didn’t care that much about the individuals in the relationship; they cared about what the relationship represented to them. Though she had felt connected to her followers, realizing this helped her see that the people who removed her from their feeds didn’t really know her anyway.

Navigating major breakups on social media can feel impossible. While my ex posted a dimly-lit photo of the windows in our bedroom with a caption about endings as our relationship came undone, I tried to focus on the positives, much like Sylvia. I posted pictures of delicious food, my cute dog, or fun moments with friends to prove to myself that I could still be OK even as my life fell apart. It’s only now, years later, that I wonder what story our mutual acquaintances formulated about us at the time, seeing my ex post painful personal reflections while I didn’t.

Though it was profoundly difficult at first, Sylvia eventually realized that a lot of how other people responded to the breakup was out of her hands. She could control what she shared online, but she couldn’t control how others interpreted it. Micky had brought their relationship and breakup to social media, but Sylvia didn’t have to navigate it on those terms. And so she started asking herself: Why do I feel like I need to fight for my image? How does that serve me? Who is it for?

This is ultimately what brought Sylvia to a place of healing: By choosing not to engage on Micky’s terms, she was able to honor and reclaim her vulnerability.

During her relationship, her vulnerability had felt like a weakness; she felt like an accessory to someone else’s image, like a beautiful doll that only came alive in another person’s hands. But eventually Sylvia realized that this softness was, in fact, a strengthbeing soft made her generous, kind, and a caretaker. While it may have given Micky the upper hand during their breakup, deciding she didn’t need to prove anything to others helped Sylvia move on from the ordeal.

Today Sylvia is more private than ever online. While she loves social media, she doesn’t want observers to be rooting for a relationship she’s inor to have any opinions on it at all, really. If everyone is a nosy neighbor, Sylvia now knows that it’s not her job to mediate their feelings about her.

Sitting on her friend’s couch and watching her Instagram followers flee, Sylvia decided she was going to embrace her own kind of vulnerability. My softness isn’t weakness, she thought, and my exploitable parts are actually my favorite parts. Though Sylvia’s breakup was intensely painful, it brought her back to herself after years of someone else trying to dictate her narrativeand no unfollow could take that from her.

Want to get exposed? Email Chris at [email protected] with a short description of a time when you felt truly vulnerablein either a positive or a painful way (or both).

Want more? Check out the previous installment of Exposed.

Sam Smith Teams Up with Logic for Single ‘Pray’

Sam Smith is just a couple of months away from kicking off the North American leg of his The Thrill of It All tour. The album was worth the wait, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 and topping the charts in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway Sweden, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Tracks like “Too Good at Goodbyes” and “Him” have earned much acclaim from critics and fans alike.

Another notable track from the album is “Pray” which Smith he performed on Saturday Night Live in 2017 and at the Grammies earlier this year. He wrote the song after spending a week in Mosul with War Child, a charity that provides assistance to children in areas experiencing conflict.

“We are all looking around at what’s happening in the world and it is just messed up,” Smith explains. “You’ve got no choice but to look up to the sky and put your hands together and pray for something to happen.”

Smith’s soulful song has recently been updated with vocals from Grammy-nominated artist, Logic. The rapper adds his own heartfelt lyrics to Smith’s deep-cutting anthem of solace, rounding out the original track’s smooth rhythm with a passionate edge. It’s a musical expression of how it feels to face the constant heartbreaking news of the world.

The North American leg of The Thrill of It All tour kicks off June 18 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Listen to Sam Smith’s “Pray feat. Logic” below and download the track here.