Japanese Breakfast, the Queen of Bisexual Lighting

The woman that changes every mindset you once had about queer music.

Photo courtesy of Out.com

Happy Pride month! This June, I've decided to only write on queer topics to both celebrate my own lesbian identity and to add to the (small) pool of existing queer content. First on the list: an ode to one of my favorite musicians, Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast, and how she breaks all the boundaries set up for her as a queer female musician.

When listening to what we would today call "queer music," there lies an abundance of expected requirements that should be checked off before ever deeming it to belong in that category. First, at least 85% of the music has to be about sex, and this sex (obviously) has to be with the same gender. And of course, if we're on the topic of gender, the sexual and/or romantic interest's gender has to be explicitly stated. Names, pronouns, the whole shebang. Apart from the music, the presentation of the said musician must fit into queer standards. If she's not butch in the slightest, can she really create queer music? If she's not currently in a relationship with a woman or gender non-conforming person, or at least not trying to be in this sort of relationship, how can she both be queer and fit under the category of "queer musician"?

Well, if you were unaware, the entire idea of queerness is to break boundaries, diminish set categories, and, most importantly, muddle all ideas that we once assumed were true. Sure, some of my fav queer musicians are what I described above, like Syd from The Internet who solely sings about her explicit desires and relationships with women. But it's inaccurate—and 100% not necessary—to explicitly bring your queerness to everything you do, especially if it has to fall under these rigid expectations that the general public wishes to see. 

Upon seeing Japanese Breakfast, the solo project of Michelle Zauner, last week, I realized that she not only is an excellent musician and performer who breaks boundaries for women in indie rock, she also extends past everything we ever thought could compose the typical prototype of a queer musician. She doesn't outwardly say she loves women in all of her music—what's the fun in that? Of course, we always love an artist who does just that (talking about Syd again, and maybe also Hayley Kiyoko), but the beauty of music, and especially queer music, is that not every single part of a musician's life has to be put on display through their art. We don't expect straight musicians to be transparent on all their personal tea, so why should we expect queer ones to? And yes, while I do love a queer girl anthem that I can play on repeat while going through the motions of crushes and relationships with women, something about those songs that are implicitly queer are even more fascinating, more mysterious. Maybe Zauner doesn't do the same work as my other favorite gay ladies, maybe she is married to a man, making some question her authenticity as a queer woman. But her blurring between private and public spheres is an inherently queer act in itself. Let me explain.

Photo courtesy of Under the Radar
  • She's a Korean-American woman living in a culture that doesn't seem to understand her identity... so she named her project Japanese Breakfast instead. She says that American culture fetishizes Japanese culture, making it a more interesting name, and that, more interestingly, Korea and Japan have a painful history, and that, finally, people constantly assume her to be Japanese because of both their own ignorance and of the deceitful name. And it shows in her music: 

  • Speaking of the above music video, it can be implied that she's singing about loving a woman based on the few scenes of her riding on the back of a motorcycle with another woman. BUT... the beauty in the song is that gender is not a significant part of the song itself; it's actually never mentioned. Zauner could be singing about anyone, which is all the more suitable, as it's clear that she might be bisexual (or at least queer, which she's been public about in the past).
  • She might not publicly use the term bisexual to identify herself, but it's obvious that she's a big fan of bisexual lighting. Janelle Monáe showed us the beauty of that aesthetic in her "Make Me Feel" video, a song that makes it quite obvious that Monáe is into all genders, and Japanese Breakfast uses it on more than one occasion: in many of her photoshoots, like the one above, in much of the lighting she uses while she performs, displayed below,

          and also in my favorite music video (and song) for the artist:

  • The above song and visual are a mixture of both musical and artistic genius and pure evidence of the queering of love music today. How, you might ask? Well first off, that blue, purple, and pink lighting combo displayed over an overly heteronormative school dance has to mean something. And the three girls, walking into the gym wearing full makeup and men's suits, automatically disrupt everything we once assumed about school dances and gender roles. Are they sad that they're coming in alone? Are they longing for a certain boy, or for a certain girl? We don't know. What we do know is that the lead falls in love with herself at the end, which is something you really don't see with representations of women in music, or even more prominently, representations of women of color.
  • Finally, Zauner's style of music carries a duality that, once again, makes us question everything we once imagined about queer music. She knows how to shred it on the guitar, she knows how to hype a crowd with her intense vocals and on-stage dancing, yet she also is really good at making her audience feel "tender", as she described two of her songs ("This House" and "Triple 7") which she performed near the end of her set. However, this isn't a set binary—she likes to sing about marriage in a way that is only depressing, and one of her songs is solely about falling in love with a robot (robots are genderless, correct?). Pretty queer indeed.

Photo courtesy of Teen Vogue.

Existing as a queer, Korean-American woman in the rigid world of indie rock is already difficult enough, but creating music that doesn't fit the mold that was already set up for her is near impossible. And that, my friends, is how you flip the scene.


Love Summer, Hate Everything Else

The hashtag that swept the nation.

As I lay by a pool, preferably a rooftop one in NYC but realistically my campus one in DC, feeling the sweat drip down my back and the humidity cling to my skin, sipping on preferably a cold glass of Provencal rosé but realistically some good ol' H2O to stay hyrdrated, wearing nothing but a bikini and cat-eye sunglasses that keep falling down due to the constant stream of sweat on my nose, I have realized that it is summer.


I dreamt of it for eighteen months, I looked to cinema to calm my winter blues, I endlessly scrolled through Instagram just to catch some inspiration and to keep my hopes up while I dreadfully waited for the season to come. 

Now that it's here, I'm surprisingly not sure how to feel. The East coast skipped straight past spring and right into the heat of summer, going from 40 degrees to 85 in the span of one day. The lack of a transition period completely threw me off, and my summer dreams 180ed into an entirely different plan. My NYC rooftop instead became the same DC campus that made me hate winter, and the dream of summer became its sticky, sticky reality. DC humidity is real. But! I knew I had to continue dreaming the summer dream. I waited what felt like years for the three months of sweat and sun, so I was going to make it count.

Then I stumbled upon the hashtag #lovesummerhateeverythingelse, thanks to my fashion role model Leandra Medine Cohen who coined the term and started a revolution. I immediately started noticing all of the wonderful, wonderful perks of summer: 
  • My birthday practically kicks off summer (May 31st, if you were curious). Also, Gemini season is arguably the best, right next to Cancer.
  • It being 100% acceptable to eat ice cream every day, even when you're trying to be dairy free.

  • It also being 100% acceptable to not wear pants or an actual top, especially when drinking rosé.

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  • Or just ditching the top altogether.

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  • The ability (and freedom) to spend days reading. And not for school, but just for the sake of reading.
  • Way too much color, both because why not, and because Pride month is here!
  • Those barely-there dresses that require nothing but a body but really only work between the months of May and August.

  • Those tiny sunglasses that seem to hardly protect our eyes from the sun but look really cool.

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  • Drinking approximately five La Croixs every day, and always having a backup in your bag. 
  • The ability to finally play those songs that make you dream of summer without being sad, because, my friends, the wait is over.

If you've enjoyed my other playlist posts in the past, get excited, because they are officially becoming a regular thing! Once a month, that is.


What to Wear When: Color Isn't Your Thing

Here's a solution: ...make it your thing.

Only about two years ago, color freaked me out, even so much to the point that I didn't want to be near it. Why invest in a piece of clothing that's far too flashy if it won't match with the rest of my wardrobe? When I bought a pair of shoes, I'd immediately go for black, and when looking at the general palette of my closet, it would be a mix of neutrals, muted blues, and maybe some pastel pinks and rusty oranges. Primary colors were practically nonexistent. But, as all styles change, especially through our coming-of-age stories, bright hues soon became a staple of my sartorial life.

Was it because I was simply exhausted from making up for the lack of color in my wardrobe with bright lipstick (and frankly, pieces that just did not fit my style whatsoever)?

Or was it this new surge in obsessing over Instagram influencers who were themselves obsessing over summer and the colors that followed the trend of #lovesummerhateeverythingelse?

The second sounds convincing, as there lies a whole bunch of photographic evidence:

A post shared by Leandra (Medine) Cohen (@leandramcohen) on
You could choose to wear one color in the form of lavender pants paired with some neutrals (if you count a white button-up embellished with fruits and veggies as a neutral),

you could try TWO bright colors on top of the other, because two is better than one,

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or you could go with one color scheme (red in this case), but splay it across your entire 'fit.

No matter how I got here, I got here. The girl terrified of color has transformed into one who embraces it through and through. While I've resolved my fear, I know many haven't. Instead of introducing color into your wardrobe like a tsunami, it's best to do it in waves. One piece at a time! It's just like getting a haircut—if you have long locks and want to go full-on pixie, it feels a hell of a lot less scary to do it in phases (take me, for example). The same goes with color—if you slowly introduce the trend into your everyday wear, soon, you'll become the human version of a rainbow. Just in time for Pride month!

So! To show you all how to do this, I decided to revert back to my 18-year-old self and start from the beginning. I did exactly what I am telling you all to do now—start slowly.

More photographic evidence below:

Jacket and jeans are vintage (jeans from The Break). Bodysuit by American Apparel (rip). Mules by & Other Stories.

To put it simply, all you have to do to dive into the world of color is to wear color. Who knew!

In all seriousness, it only requires taking one piece that's bold (bright red, cobalt blue, gen Z yellow) and pairing it with neutrals. In a way, this makes the 'fit more interesting, as everyone's eyes go directly to that one piece. The rest hardly even matters, since people will be too busy staring at the singular piece of color. It's easier than you think!

In my case, I made sure to focus on the statement piece, which was this one bright red brocade jacket I discovered at my local thrift store (also handmade and stitched in Hong Kong in the 1950s, if you were curious). I crafted my outfit around this item, which is the trick to working with color—my favorite pair of vintage jeans, a simple black bodysuit, and my go-to summer shoes quickly fell into place. If the jacket were black, I'd be extremely bored and on my way to a business casual meeting. But instead, the red makes me look ready for anything. Isn't red the color of power? No wonder a red lip is the fastest way to immediately boost one's confidence. And the same goes for adding a touch of color to your look—I have a strong feeling it's scientifically linked to increasing your mood. 

Is it just me? 

Maybe it is. But what I do know is that you'll look a hell of a lot more exciting. That's all that really matters, no?

All photos shot by Tori.


Your Favorite Haim Sister is More Accurate than Your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Their styles say a lot about you, too.

The Myers-Briggs test led most of my high school decisions, and it still continues to do so today. I fondly remember taking the quiz multiple times a year and still being satisfied with my results. INFP, if you were curious. The dreamer! Every single characteristic of my test results seemed to speak for me, and I felt a spiritual connection with other INFPs and soon began guessing my friends' MBTIs.

Then came astrology, a more recent obsession that I used to hold a huge suspicion for but now fully believe in. Gemini, a once hated sign, soon began to dictate my life. Leo moon and Aquarius rising soon followed, then I began to self-identify as a Cancer, as I was technically supposed to be born in July. I, once again, started guessing people's signs and shaping my relationships based on what month they were born in. Maybe not a healthy decision, but nonetheless, a decision that was made.

Then another pseudo-science emerged, one that only I believe in (or as far as I know) but feel is even more defining than the psychological science behind MBTI and the astrological science that is your natal chart. Ever since fandoms became a thing, it has been commonplace to relate to a character or band member after becoming part of the fandom of said show or said band. If you've watched all of Buffy and haven't labelled yourself as a Buffy, a Willow, or a Xander, are you actually a true fan? We become part of fandoms for two reasons: to relate to characters, stars, and musicians or to be attracted to them. It's human nature to want to see your own personality be represented in the media or to see your dream girl or guy existing as an actual human being, even if it's in the form of a character. There's a reason why "Which [insert TV show] Character Are You" Buzzfeed quizzes are so damn satisfying.

This feels too relevant when thinking of the band HAIM, a musical group of three sisters I've loved since my high school days and saw a few nights ago and had the best concert experience, well, ever. Was it because their music is that good, and I've been waiting for this day for five years? Or was it because the Haim sisters are people I equally want to be best friends with, want to date, and, finally, aspire to be? I know I'm not the only one who thinks this—their one million+ followers on social media not only love their sound and ability to rock harder than any man can, but they also are most likely obsessed with the sisters themselves. All from LA, all carrying an LA look with effortless styles and 70s-esque middle parts, and all being far cooler (and funnier, and livelier, the list goes on) than any set of sisters or music group I know. Enter the pseudo-science I mentioned earlier: relating to a specific Haim sister on a spiritual level does more than just inform people of which member you like the most. Maybe you're truly only one of them, maybe you're a combo of two, or maybe you see yourself in all three. The possibilities are endless, so let me break it down. Starting from the youngest.

If you identify with Alana Haim, there's a lot to say about you. You're such a complex being! You're most likely the youngest sibling, which means many things: you love attention, using all of your energy to talk, and, most of all, selfies.

We're talking mirror selfies,

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hotel bed photoshoots showing off your custom-made Dior pieces,

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and being this extra. But looking amazing while doing it!

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But being the youngest also means being the runt of the family, aka having to talk a lot just so your family will listen to you and being made fun of quite a lot. But all in good spirit! Because you are the fun of the family, even if you don't try to be at all. Your style is a whole other field: being the youngest means you have to put more effort into everything you do, including style, but it doesn't show one bit.

A post shared by babyhaim (@babyhaim) on

Vintage Levi's are your best friend, you're a sucker for a simple tee, but you also know how to pull off patent leather pants like no one's business. You either stay classic or go all the way. No in between. Which makes her the favorite of so many—she carries so many different styles and sartorial identities that practically anyone can relate to. At the end of the day, you're the most loveable. Sometimes tough love is the best kind of love out there.

Then we have Danielle Haim, the middle sister who has a lot of hidden power, even though middle siblings usually lack this. You are soft-spoken but have the most to say, which is probably released through some type of art form, like being the lead singer of your band. You are most likely the coolest of all three sisters, and you don't even have to try—existing as your truest self is all you have to do. Many people are intimidated by you because you exude this ethereal quality that is impossible to fully understand. As for dating? You probably think you're too good for anyone out there, or you're just too good to spill all the tea on your love life. You also would be one to do something like below:

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And your style! Your! Style! It is the vessel that carries 90% of that inexplicable coolness, whether you're wearing Chloé trousers and practically nothing else,

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a gingham blazer with earrings that make an entire outfit,

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or a baby-blue suit with Adidas Gazelle sneakers. What a power move.

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Basically, you're silent but deadly. Everyone wants to be you, but you pretend like you have no idea.

Finally, we have Este Haim, the oldest of the three, and also the weirdest of the three. If Este is your fav, then you probably are an independent soul who does whatever the fuck she wants, even if that means posting this picture on all social media for your birthday

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or being way too hype at all of your shows and making aggressive faces like the one below while playing the bass.

Even though all of you and your sisters are extremely real, you're real in the sense that you also show your not-so-glamorous features and aren't afraid to hide it. Being candid is so much more exciting! Posting pics like this one and this one prove to the world that maybe social media isn't a place for your most perfect self, but instead for your most authentic self. And you're so sure of yourself, maybe because you had the most amount of time to grow up. This especially shows in your fashion choices; its continuity throws the idea that style is always changing in the trash. And when I say continuity, I mean you literally do not own a single pair of pants.

Exhibit A:

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Exhibit B:

and Exhibit C, where you are always the only one of the three who has to don an item that shows off those wonderfully long legs of yours:

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You also love doing a bold lip or a statement eye, because even those investment dresses don't speak for all the personality that's inside you.

And to sum all three up in one photo:

If you were curious as to what my HAIM chart is, here it is: I'm truly an Este (although I am the youngest of my two sisters), I aspire to be a Danielle, and I desperately want to date an Alana. What about you? Let me know in the comments below, and maybe I'll know more about you than I ever once imagined. 

All photos, except for the feature photo that is already credited, from the Instagram accounts of @haimtheband, @babyhaim, @daniellehaim, and @estehaim.