With so many different beliefs about beauty, so many people freak out and get self-conscious about aging, especially women, because they’re subjugated to pressures and expectations. In the end, it’s really all about finding what works for you and feels best for you and letting go of the desire to follow the rules and fit in. On today’s show, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen talk to Sunny Subramanian about conscious beauty, ageism, and alternative lifestyles. Sunny has lived a vegan and cruelty-free lifestyle since the year 2000. She was the first vegan beauty blogger to hit the internet in 2007 and have gained a strong social media following. Don’t miss this episode and be inspired to start your journey to self-awareness and living a life of your own choosing.
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Cruelty-Free Lifestyle, Conscious Beauty And Ageism With Sunny Subramanian
There was a lot of nervousness here on this show. It’s like, “How do we start the episode?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” I’m starting the episode because here we are, out of the gates with our old friend, Sunny. Sunny, in you being such an incredible person who is spreading the word about veganism, conscious living, beauty and all those things, are you in your sweats? That’s what I want to know.
Who is not in their sweats? That or pantless, one or the other. I’ve been letting my hygiene go. I haven’t been washing my hair, I’m washing my face. It’s a mess.
That’s interesting to me. You have this wonderful brand that you’ve created around the natural beauty and eco-conscious living, cruelty-free living. What’s that been like in terms of this public-facing brand and persona that you have and then being like, “I didn’t take a shower, I don’t plan on it.” Have you been talking about that publicly or is that something that you’re revealing for the first time here with us?
It isn’t even a reveal. This isn’t even quarantine-related. This is how I am. Mostly because my hair is pink. I only wash my hair a couple of times a month. People think that’s nasty but that’s how I do and I only paint my face and get pretty when I have to post something and there’s pressure to do it. People assume I wear makeup every day unless I’m purposefully doing something or going somewhere like, “Not now.”
That’s relatable and I’m glad that it started off talking about that because there is so much pressure to position ourselves in a certain way online. I’m curious to hear you talk about this because we’ve all been in this vegan content creator, influencer space for so long, watching it evolve and how sometimes everybody needs to look perfect all the time. We go through waves where it’s like, “You need to share how authentic you are and talk more about how you are off-camera and not everything is this highlight reel.” I love it when women share the reality of their lives outside of the few moments we see of them on social media. I’m reading a great book called Beauty Sick. It is a dense book about beauty culture and it’s fascinating.
All the research has been done about how seeing images of women in particular in the media shapes our own perceptions of ourselves. I’m fascinated by things like shame and how a lot of us make assumptions about how others live based on what we see of them in certain circumstances. Being online is a great example and I’ll come out and say I’m similar to you, Sunny, where I dread going on camera a lot of times because it feels like so much effort to try to be “presentable” because I love not taking showers.
I’m somebody that was taught by a hairdresser that it’s better not to wash your hair very much. I was like, “I’m glad I got permission not to shower every day.” I think there are benefits to showering daily to wash off anything that your skin gets. In terms of your hair, I don’t think you have to wash it that frequently, but yet there’s this misconception or belief system out there that if you don’t wash your hair, it’s dirty and it’s going to be greasy. Thank goodness we have things like dry shampoo where we can hide the grease or hats and hairstyles that we can wear and all of that. It’s neat that you’re talking about that. It’s a great place to start.
On my social, the most common question I get asked more than ever is, “How do you keep your pink vibrant?” I tell them, “I don’t wash my hair.” Especially with the pink every time because it’s semi-permanent. There’s no such thing as those colors and permanent color. Every time you wash, you see all this pink going down the drain. It’s like, “I need to fix this.” Dry shampoo is life. I know some people are totally grossed out by it and I also don’t have the hair type. People with fine hair, it gets oily faster so they need to wash it more frequently. I luckily don’t have that hair issue.
I’m curious about something in terms of beauty culture since you both brought it up and I’m speaking from complete ignorance, which is why I’m asking a lot of questions. From an external perspective, it seems like there are complexity and wastefulness that plagues a lot of the beauty culture I see. When I do come across a beauty video and watch, which is not often, I’m not the target market but there are many products, so much money being spent, so much complexity, and many steps. What you’re talking about, Sunny and Whitney, that’s almost like a myth. It doesn’t have to be this complicated wasteful thing where you’re getting 50 different products and taking all this time and not even using all of them and throwing some of them away. I’m curious how you two have addressed or faced that in terms of the beauty culture as women of this pressure to have a bunch of stuff, expensive stuff, fancy skin creams, and doing twenty steps to take care of your skin. How do you simplify and demystify the wasteful aspects of that culture?
I dread filming things or doing a photoshoot because it’s labor-intensive and time-consuming, but you do need a lot of products even for an everyday no makeup, makeup look. It’s insane. If you go a day without makeup and someone is used to seeing you online with makeup or a friend of someone you see, sometimes they’ll ask if you’re feeling okay or if you’re sick. I’ve had close male friends of mine do that when I’m wearing makeup like I look healthier and this and that. When I go to the grocery store or running errands, I don’t care who sees me at all, but every once in a while I’ll get recognized as Vegan Beauty Review Style and I die inside like part of me is dead. I always apologize like, “I look homeless. I’m sorry.” They don’t care and I shouldn’t care. When it’s time to play dress up and look a certain way, I’m committed and I’m down to do it. It’s not something I look forward to. It’s like work, it’s not necessarily fun.
That’s relatable. Women struggle with that in general even if they don’t have an online brand, they have this fear that they’re going to run into somebody when they don’t feel they look their best. I find it incredibly refreshing and there’s a lot of shame put out by the media. We’ve grown up with seeing magazines where they catch people, they’re like, “These people are like you. They’re not wearing any makeup. Look how bad they look.” We start to associate that no makeup or when you don’t brush your hair, wear certain clothes that people are going to judge us which is sad and we have to hide it away. It’s also been something that’s come up a lot during quarantine or people are working from home and on Zoom, and you have to feel like you have to wear something on Zoom to present yourself a certain way.
They caught a news broadcaster because he didn’t realize the camera was showing his full-body, he was sitting in a chair and he was wearing a nice shirt on the top but in a pair of underwear or something on the bottom and he didn’t think anybody could see it. That’s relatable though. That leads me to ask, Sunny, what is it about beauty that got you into it? Why were you inspired to start a career around that? Did you even mean to start your career? Are you like me where when I started Eco-Vegan Gal, I was doing it mostly as a hobby and then it became a career over time as my passions grew and as it became something more legitimate? First of all, what year did you start Vegan Beauty Review?
I started my blog in 2007 and I didn’t make any money because there were no social media back then and we were just all bloggers. That’s why the word influencer is especially cringy. I’m a blogger that happened to have a social that matched my blog name or whatever. Honestly, I was searching the interwebs for beauty products, suggestions, or reviews. I was looking for the content that I wound up creating and there was nothing out there. It was bare and it was crazy. I was filling a void even though I couldn’t monetize at that stage but getting free products was a big deal back then. I was stoked, I didn’t need money, that’s all I needed. I was more of a skincare junkie and have been since I was little, I would go through my mom’s stash of her Oil of Olay or her nice things and when she wasn’t looking, I’d smear fancy oils on my face to feel fancy. Makeups are nice too but I’m more of a skincare gal. Even though I don’t always wash my face in the morning but at night, I do a strict nighttime regimen that’s involved. In fact, my boyfriend makes fun of me where I’m like, “I’m going to get ready for bed,” and then I come back 30 minutes later, all oily like my face looks like a glazed donut.
I want to preface this. I was thinking about how I feel a little bit conflicted especially as I’ve been reading this Beauty Sick book. There’s part of me that wants to share information because people are looking for it and they’re genuinely curious but there’s another part of me that doesn’t want to be perceived as somebody that’s like, “I’m a woman, so I’m going to share my beauty routine because that’s my value in the world is how beautiful I am.” I want people to see other women and me as more than our appearances but it’s also helpful to talk about our skincare routines because taking good care of your skin has a long-term effect on you and even men.
Jason has done a lot of experimenting with his own skincare. You could chime in on this too, Jason. You’re in this world and I like learning from people like you that try out a lot of different things, especially cruelty-free products and natural products, which I’m passionate about too. I often admittedly end up using products that I’m given to try out. I’m into Derma E’s product line, but they sent it to me for free. It’s what I happen to have and I do like it but it’s not something I went and bought because somebody recommended it to me. A lot of the times I’m trying things out that I’ve been given out of convenience but when I run out of things, I start to feel like, “What do I buy?” That’s where people like you are helpful because it’s helping determine what you find is working with after years and years of research.
I’m like you in a way too where I haven’t purchased the skincare since I started my blog. I’m blessed in that way. I definitely do gravitate to certain favorites. Even though I talk about being a potato at home and not dressing up, I’m still hell of a vain and I know that age shows first on the face. I’m 40. A lot of times people say like, “You don’t look 40.” Honestly, my number one tip is to stay out of the sun. My name is Sunny and I hate the sun. I’m all about huge sun hats and the biggest chunkiest sunglasses I can find. That’s me. Anyways, did you want me to go over my musk and keratin?There are different ways to make a relationship work. It's nice to have a forever person. Click To Tweet
I want to know what products you use, why you use them and then how did you learn about these things? I get confused with serums, for example. Thanks to TikTok because there are a lot of people talking about skincare routine on there. I started learning about applying things in a certain order. First of all, I barely ever put on serums. I don’t even know what the point of this is. I’ve been a big moisturizer person. I try to avoid washing my face which is silly but it always seems annoying. Unless I’m wearing makeup, I’m like, “To the bare minimum,” because you can’t see anything on your face even though it’s on there. Anyways, it’s always felt confusing to me because I’m not that into beauty or skincare products. I only do what I need to do but to your point, Sunny, as you get older, as a woman, there feels this pressure or increasing desire to take better care of yourself because unfortunately with age, a lot of things start to change in our bodies and we can start to feel self-conscious about it. If we can use products that empower us and help us feel more confident, they can have a ripple effect in our lives. Anyways, I would love to know if you want to shout out any brands that you like and why you like them and types of products. What makes you feel that they’re important? How did you even figure that out for yourself?
Jason, I hope you don’t get bored.
I’m ready to learn.
Doesn’t this imply to men as well? It’s not just ladies. Men are taking good care of their faces.
Let me say this shit before you dive deep, Sunny. I’ve got some expensive ass moisturizes up in this bathroom.
Like what? Jason maybe should start.
There’s an oil facial cleanser thing with kakadu plum, sea buckthorn and Vitamin C type of stuff. I’m a two-step dude. I exfoliate a couple of times a week. I wash my face with a gentle cleanser that I mentioned with sea buckthorn and all that stuff. I use a company called Living Libations. It’s one of my favorite companies, Sunny. I’ve been using them for many years. They have a men’s line called Maverick. Their skin cleanser and their moisturizer smell good. It’s got blue tansy in it, all of these herbs, it’s luscious, and beautiful. I am also in my 40s, I’m also in the club. I’m trying to stay as plump, lifted and glowy as possible because I want to look good too, spoiler alert. I care about how I look. There’s a thing with dudes. I ride motorcycles. I like sports, I like shooting guns. I’m a dude too, whatever that means but I like to be plump, moist, and look damn good too. Those things can be compatible. Sunny, I’m passing the baton to you.
That was inspiring. More guys need to hear that. I’m glad you exfoliate. A lot of people skip on that and it’s harder for dudes especially if you’re rocking some scruff. That can be messy. Before we even talk about products, I am a gadget gal. I’ve been using this fractal laser thing that heats up. It’s some kind of laser that you go over your wrinkly lines in 30 to 60 days.
Is it the kind that has the two little balls that you put on your skin?
I know which one you’re talking about. That might be a microcurrent one. I love that. Have you tried micro-needling, Whitney or Jason?
To be honest, I haven’t used it on my face yet. I have the hand roller one, but I have a machine that I bought. This is how crazy we ladies are. I went on eBay and I bought a whole system. It’s the same ones they use when you go to get the procedure done and it’s $100 a pop. I was like, “For $150, I could buy this machine and do it all the time.” It came with all these needle cartridges and I used them on my stretchmarks every month for years. They made such a huge difference that I swear by them and I’ve always wanted to make a YouTube video to show the process, but it gets bloody and gnarly looking. That would be amazing on the face to do it with the machine. First, you want to take your makeup off and I use straight up argan oil for that. You can use jojoba oil or any oil and certain oils that don’t affect or sting the eyes at all.
After you take the makeup off, exfoliation is great to start out with. If you have sensitive skin, even if you don’t have sensitive skin, only a couple of times a week is perfect. You want to slough off that, all the dead skin gunky stuff and then use a cleanser that is best suited for your skin type. Jason, I love that you use an oil-based cleanser. There are some nice ones that don’t leave an oily feeling on the skin. As soon as they touch water it becomes bubbly and rinses away. Those are my favorite types. After that, you want to use a toner. I like using a rose toner because that’s good for sensitive skin and aging skin and high in antioxidants.
I’m checking off the things that I do. I use a rose toner. I started using that and I love the smell of rose water. I’m surprised. Jason, it sounds like something you would use too because you love rose water on your face.
I love rose water and I love flower essences and things like that. The one thing that I don’t use in my regimen is toner. I don’t know why. If I may, out of ignorance again, what is the point of a toner? Is it to shrink the pores, open the pores?
I know the sensation when I feel it. My pores will feel tight and then a spritzy sprit sprints and my face feels normal again.
I would agree, I feel that too. The one that I’m using is a common company. Jason, you’ve either used this exact one when it comes in a see-through pinkish bottle and you see that most of the natural stores. It comes out of the spray bottle intensely that every time I use it, I have to try to get it the perfect distance because it shocks my face a little bit but then right afterward, I feel that feeling like you’re describing too. Part of it is the rose water is pleasant. What comes after that toner?
After that, that’s when you go for your serum. You always want to find one that’s best suited for your skin type. I am currently obsessed with this brand called Botanical Rush. It’s created by the same lady who created MyChelle Dermaceuticals, which is another favorite brand of mine. Super cure clean ingredients, all effective, vegan cruelty-free. They’re not all vegan but 90% of them are. The Botanical Rush line that uses CBD is anti-inflammatory and anti-aging. I love her line so much. She has products for every skin type. After the serum, then we do the moisturizer and because I’m an old lady, I like my moisturizers incredibly thick. Sometimes for serum, I’ll use a Retin-A or something like that because I have hyperpigmentation and blotchy like an uneven skin tone. Retin-A is good for that and anything with Vitamin C and then a thick ass moisturizer all over the face.
We’re coming out of winter, I’ve been shellacking my eyebrows with so much oil because they’ve been getting dry, flaky and weird, nowhere else on my body, just my brows. I’ll do an eyelash serum. I swear my regimen is complex. It’ll be castor oil, which is supposed to promote eyelash growth. It’s a natural way to do that. I’ll do an eye cream. I like those nice and thick and Derma E has some lovely ones. Osea has some lovely ones and Botanical Rush too. That’s my only requirement for most of the creams. I like it thick because they seem to be the most moisturizing and hydrating. After that, I will put oil all over my face. I’ve been using carrot seed oil because it has the highest number of antioxidants and it’s the number one anti-aging oil. It’s expensive though but a little goes a long way. That’s that. I go to sleep and get my pillow all greasy.
Can I ask a quick pragmatic question? Being that this is a 30-minute process, we’re going to get uncomfortable. I assume you do this. If you are having sex with your boyfriend after you finish because to do it before and then have sex, then you’d have to reapply everything. I’m going to assume, Sunny, you have to budget a little. We’re going to get some good loving tonight you’re like, “I’m going to need to plan this so that I have that extra 30 minutes before bed.” Is this a thing? I’m asking seriously. How do you budget this routine while having an intimate romantic relationship?
Not to mention children around. When the kids are around, are there some nights where you don’t have time? Is every night non-negotiable, you have to do this routine?
I’m astringent unless by some rare occasion I’m drunk or I need to go to sleep now, but even then I’ll get a makeup remover wipe over my face. I don’t know if you know this, but I am divorced. I have my kids every other week, so every other week, I don’t have to worry about that. I’m on a long-distance relationship and I always see my guy once a month. It’s complicated. I don’t even think about honestly, it’s never come up and it’s always been like I get ready for bed, we cuddle and then it happens.
In a way, it also sounds meditative and a nice self-care ritual. It’s not something that sounds like you’re forcing yourself. It’s not unpleasant. Sometimes I’ll listen to music, meditative audio or something that when I’m going through it and it feels like I’m taking good care of myself versus doing something out of obligation.
This is definitely self-care and it’s something that I look forward to. Another addition that isn’t totally beauty but Osea has this vagus nerve oil that’s an essential oil blend that you put some in your palm and you rub your hands and then you run up and down your neck which is where your vagus nerve is and you put some behind your ear and then you inhale and it smells good. It’s become part of my nightly regimen as well.
That reminds me too. Do you do a Gua Sha facial routine?
Have you tried that?
I have a rose quartz. I have to give a shout-out because I know you love them too. I get many great tools for my self-care from Goddess Provisions, a subscription box and I got one from them. It’s this beautiful rose quartz tool that you can use it in your face. I have a moisturizer that I’m using from them. I didn’t get the rose toner from them but I got another rose spray and they always send great products. I love things like that because it makes it easier for me to try things when it’s curated and sent to me.
Does Vegancuts still have the beauty box?
They do have the beauty box but their stuff isn’t exclusively clean ingredients. They hook me on their samples but they’re all clean ingredients, vegan and cruelty-free. Goddess Provisions is my favorite box. You have those washouts. I’m not quite sure how to present it, but that is my favorite one, the pink one. It puts the contours of my face better. It feels good. Every night, you get this little face massage.
The more I learn about it, it’s good for moving things in your face. The inflammation can be stagnant. Your muscles need to be touched and this is part of the power of massage for the rest of your body. Often, we don’t think about our face. You know what else I use? I didn’t get it from Goddess Provisions box. It was from Organic Spa Event I went to once and they gave us one of those vibrating facial scrub tools by FOREO. The Luna is a little silicone device. They’re not exfoliating but you can use them to massage your face. They were saying it was good for using with your cleanser because they’re waterproof. I’ll put on a cleanser on my face and then use that to massage it in. Not only is it helping with circulation, but it opens up your pores or makes it easier and it’s considered a light exfoliation.
I’m surprised you don’t have that. I don’t know what I’m doing. These are things I was gifted and I’m playing around with, but it seems like helping with the circulation in your lymph nodes and all of these things and how it can help with the tightening of your skin. It’s fascinating. A lot of this is based on supposedly ancient practices and different cultures. That’s always fascinating to me as well. Thank goodness for Goddess Provisions because I ended up trying many amazing things and it’s not all beauty products. It’s home goods and sometimes foods or drinks, whatever. I’m glad that you love them too, Sunny. That box brings me joy every single month, so I had to plug them.
Out of everything I’ve ever gotten sent, that’s what I get most excited about when it comes to my doorstep.So many couples bicker over stupid things. Click To Tweet
It’s this tiny little box but there’s so much in there. I’ve been receiving it a number of years. It never ceases to amaze me. I hope I’m not making you jealous, Jason. Honestly, Jason would love Goddess Provisions. It’s not just for women. It’s feminine but that doesn’t mean that men can’t enjoy it. In fact, twice they sent this incredible incense that Jason was jealous of. Remember that incense, Jason?
I get jealous of a lot of the stuff in that box. It’s the same feeling I get when I go to a clothing boutique. I know this is like, “Guy’s talking about his fashion problems.” For real, I’ll go into a boutique and I’ve said to many boutique owners like, “Could you expand your men’s section, please?” They’re like, “Really?” I’m like, “You have so much awesome stuff for women.” By the way, I have purchased many articles of women’s clothing because not only does it fit great, but the fashion options are so much more diverse and interesting for women. Dudes are a black T-shirt, jean jacket, wranglers and boots. It’s boring most of the time. To my point, my interest in “feminine things” extends to clothing too. You all have some dope fashion. Why can’t dude’s fashion be this innovative for real? I think of that all the time.
That starts as little kids too. When I go shopping for my two boys, they have some cute stuff but it’s the little girl’s clothes with all the glitter and the frilly foofees and they’ve got the cute stuff. It’s always the girl stuff.
This is interesting, Sunny. There was a video years ago from an acquaintance of ours named Mikki Willis. He was posting these videos about his young sons gravitating toward playing with dolls. In his parenting style, talking about him giving the freedom to his young boys to choose to play with whatever they wanted to play with. He received some support but a ton of criticism from a lot of other parents being like, “You shouldn’t let your boys play with Barbies and dolls. That’s emasculating them at a young age.” All this stuff about gender roles and masculinity. I’m curious about your boys. If anything like that has come up in terms of them one to play with “feminine” things like toys or clothes. How have you navigated anything like that if it has come up?
My littlest guy, Dev, he’s into babies and I gravitate too, you could say “girlier” colors or this or that. I’m open to it. I know there’s a history of how that even began but it’s a freaking color or it’s a toy. People get worked up over stupid shit. Like what you like. It’s great to have opportunities to see how that plays out. They’re different like that, everybody likes what they like.
It’s great that you’re honoring that because there are many people especially in terms of parenting. In social media, in general, in the culture that the three of us are in. I’m not a parent which is why we’ve got you here to get your perspective on parenting, but so much people weigh in on what you ought to do or how you ought to parent. In terms of co-parenting with your ex-husband, are there ever situations where like, “Dad tells the kids to do one thing but then when they come to hang out with mom, mom’s telling them something different.” Co-parenting in the way that you do, do those kinds of things come up in terms of like, “We got the okay from dad to do this, but mom doesn’t want you to do this.” What’s that negotiation? Does that ever come up too?
We’re on the same page for most things. I bought a Groupon once upon a time, here’s my story, for a pole dancing class. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to buy a pole and practice at home. Avi was like, “I don’t want that around the kids.” We got divorced not because of that but then I live on my own now and I was like, “Momma’s getting a pole.” I don’t use it at all. My kids, especially my little guy, the guy who likes the dolls and stuff, he is a fancy man on that pole. If you guys ever look at my personal Instagram where it’s blasted with kids, I recorded many videos of him doing these amazing tricks and spins and I’m like, “Teach me your ways.” I don’t even use the pole. That is his pole. That’s one example of where we didn’t necessarily agree, but he came around. We put a stigma on things unnecessarily like, “It’s a fitness pole. It’s a fireman pole.” He’s spinning on it. He’s having fun. Who cares? I don’t know if that answered the question but for the most part when it comes to everything, we’re on the same page. I’m fortunate about that. That’s why we have a tight relationship. We just didn’t get each other.
Were your boys of an age when you guys separated and got divorced were there was, “We need to sit down and explain this to you?” In terms of their reactions or their emotional processing around it at their age, what was that like for them? What were the conversations like around that? I’m curious how you guys handled that as parents.
We got lucky because they were ages 3 and 5. We turned it into like, “You have two houses now, two rooms. Mommy and daddy still care for each other.” We’re cordial and friendly that I don’t think they knew. There was no crying. Even transitions when we drop the kids off, pick them up, there’s never any resistance or they get excited to swap houses. I was prepared for the worst. I don’t know if it’s attributed to the ages they were at or the way we speak kindly about each other or I’m not sure but I feel lucky.
It’s wonderful to hear that. The cultural stereotype of divorce or marriages transitioning at least with movies and cultural imprinting, it’s most of the time done in such a negative, violent, combative way, emotionally violent. I remember growing up and seeing these movies of divorce, parents going through it. It’s cool that you guys, from what you’re telling me, have had this pattern of appears great communication, compassion and working through it where it almost flies in the face of the cultural narrative we’re taught like, “It’s got to be messy and it’s got to be painful. It’s got to be crushing.” It sounds like you guys are doing a wonderful job. You’re both in the Portland area. Is that correct? Does everyone live in the same city?
That makes it a lot easier.
Speaking of which, what inspired you or motivated you to move to Portland? When I first met you long ago, it was in Los Angeles. I spent some time with you when you lived in the San Francisco area, Oakland and then you moved to Portland after that. What inspired the move? This is something that Jason thinks about moving all the time.
Sunny knows best. I DM’ed Sunny because I was in Portland for a vegan conference and I was like, “Sunny, I think I’m falling in love with Portland. Please tell me about it.” Sunny is my secret Portland consultant on the side.
I’m curious what not only motivated you, what’s kept you there? Have you ever thought about moving back to California? Why or why not?
We were together for fourteen years, but in the early days when we took one of our earliest trips to Portland because of the Vegan Mecca, we had to check that out. We felt instantly in love and if we ever get married and have kids one day like, “This is going to be the place.” He and I lived in LA for ten years and then we moved up to the Bay Area because he got a job up there. That’s where I had both my babies. My eldest was getting to kinder age and we were like, “We could get out of here,” even though we lived in a nice neighborhood.
It was rough. Cars were getting broken into, a little bit of gang culture, etc. We’re like, “Let’s do it.” We packed up and we moved to Portland and we keep going north. We keep joking especially if Trump gets reelected. Portland is amazing. It’s dreamy in every way. It fits our values, it’s community-based, there are all the vegan food, the natural parenting styles, all the greenery and the trees. It’s crazy. The air is fresh and you don’t even realize it until you visit another city and then you come back and you’re like, “Fresh air.” You take it for granted. Many beautiful woods and we’re not that far from water, snowy mountains, and we have it all. People are under the impression that it rains, but from July to October, it’s dry as fuck and you miss the rain so much. When the rainy season starts, it’s a light romantic drizzle. It’s never a downpour. By the time the rainy season is over, you’re ready for summer. By the time you’re sick of all that fucking heat, the rain comes, it’s perfect.
I imagine Jason is Googling places for rent in Portland after hearing that.
I’m already on it.
For me, I’m like, “Does that sound nice?” Even though I enjoy Los Angeles in a lot of ways but that does sound appealing.
LA isn’t that far. You hop on a plane and it’s less than two hours away. It’s still on the coast.
There are many factors to this because, for me, there’s the conversation of moving out of a far less dense urban area because I’ve lived in big cities my entire life. I grew up in the City of Detroit, Chicago, New York, Bay Area, LA, it’s city life. Portland is a city but there’s a vibe that I get when I’m there and I’ve been there for 4 or 5 times. Every single time I’m there, I know I’m in the city but there are the hikes, the mountains, rose garden and as you said, the air. It’s a city but it doesn’t feel like there’s an amount of crushing dense urbanity that I feel in LA or other cities.
It doesn’t feel like the city is out to crush the life out of me. That’s one of the things I like about the time I’ve been in Portland. You have access to music, culture, food scene, progressiveness, and different ways of looking at life. It doesn’t have that feel like a New Yorker, SF or LA does where you’re like after a while especially as quarantine is being lifted, my nervous system has gotten to the point where there’s a part of me that dreads going back to “normal” in LA. I know there’s no returning to the way things were for a litany of reasons but the traffic, aggression, and the density that LA is known for, I don’t want it anymore. I’ve had enough of it. When you talk about Portland that way, part of me as Whitney is joking, but I’ve already looked at houses. I’m like, “You can get that in Portland for that price?” I’ve seen stuff there as you live there. I can’t touch anything in la for the prices that you can get in Portland. It doesn’t even exist here.
The market is high. There’s no sales tax on anything, so you automatically save 10% for everything.
This is turning into a pitch now. Bring Jason to Portland. J. Wro to Portland 2020.
You don’t have to pump your gas, which at first it felt awkward and weird. I’m in North Portland, so I’m close to Vancouver, Washington. If I’m ever up there doing chores, I will wait until I get to Oregon to get my gas. I don’t have to pump it.
What have you found though in terms of living in LA, living in Oakland? Two of not only the densest but expensive cities in the US to live as an artist, content creator and businesswoman, someone who’s been a blogger for many years. We talk a lot about artists and entrepreneurs running small businesses. Whitney and I talk about this all the time of having a lower cost of living and less outlay. How has that affected your level of creativity or freedom in terms of the art and the content you create not living in a city that’s expensive anymore?
In general, the pressure is not as intense to be working all the time and pouring my heart and soul. I’ve stepped back a little bit. I try only to put out content now when I moved to do so or there’s whatever monetary situation going down. Before, I felt like, “I have to be crazy about it.” I can take it a little slower and enjoy more free time and whatnot. The cost of living is great. One of the things I forgot to mention is, not community, but people will look you in the eye, ask you questions, and they have your back. When it comes to traffic, people in Portland have a reputation for driving too slow and also letting cars in when you are letting your car into traffic. Many people will do it in a row that people behind them will get pissed off. People here are too nice which is a nice change of pace to be forced to slow down which changes your everything. You go for a beautiful hike with the fresh air, the trees and this and that. It’s great even if you get away to visit. I highly recommend the Pacific Northwest.
It sounds so nice. I’m going to use this as a little bit of a segue because you’re describing a lot of different states of being and living. One thing Sunny and I discussed that Jason didn’t know we were going to get into is your experience with having open relationships.
It is a Portland thing. That’s a big part of the culture here for sure.
Correct me if I’m wrong, I assume based on the timing, did that come up for you after you moved there? Did the culture inspire some of those decisions in your relationships? Is this something that you’d been thinking about for a while? I’ll let you lead the conversation because I don’t know what you want to share versus what you don’t want to share but I’m super curious about whatever you want to talk about.Aging is a blessing because you’re getting to know yourself better. Click To Tweet
I had seen specials in 2020 or whatever sensationalized on TV like raising kids when people are in open relationships. I was like, “Who are these whackadoos? What are they doing to their kids?” It seemed like craziness. I had never knowing the word polyamory or any of that stuff. Avi and I, after having kids and living in Portland for a couple or a few years, things started to get rocky. We’re taking each other for granted like falling out of love. It wasn’t feeling great.
I remember I was doing a photoshoot for my friend’s jewelry line and the lady who was doing my hair. I don’t know how it came up but she was talking about how she was in an open relationship. She has so much love to give, how it enhanced her primary relationship, and going on and on about it. It put some thoughts in my head. It made me open to it. She’s on this. She seems happy and she’s been doing it for years since we were working out. I brought it up to Avi one day shortly after that. He got offended and was turned off to the idea like, “I don’t want to do that.”
A week or two passed and he was like, “Let’s give it a try or whatever.” We went on the dating apps and so-and-so. I fell in love with my first Tinder date ever. It was a Canadian guy who lives in Nova Scotia on the other coast so far away from me. He was in town for work for a few months. I didn’t know I was going to fall for this fool. Anyways, I realized that because I fell hard for him fast and he fell in love with me too. Even after he went back to Canada, we thought we’ll maintain an open relationship or we got insanely jealous and possessive that after a few months, we closed the relationship.
I realized at the core I can’t be that and I can’t do that. I admire people who can and have all that love to give, share, be authentic and feel good but I can’t. The only reason I was able to do that with Avi is that we had been together for so long and there was already a strain. It was a last-ditch effort. When we first started out, our relationship did get stronger and we were more loving to each other. There was this new level of sweetness. There’s this term in the poly world called compersion, which is when you feel genuine happiness for your partner when they’re happy with someone else. We both felt that when we were happy and it was genuine. It was nice. The more and more I was falling in love with this guy, I became a little bit more distant and it fizzled from there.
Thank you for sharing that. I’m fascinated by most relationship dynamics and similar to as we were talking earlier about beauty. It’s important to share these things when you’re comfortable with it. A lot of people are curious but it’s a forbidden topic in certain parts of the world. Not so in Portland but in Los Angeles, I hear people talk about this. Jason, I’m not sure if you want to share but I know that you’ve considered polyamory yourself. I’m curious about what you’re feeling is as Sunny shares this and if you want to share any of your experiences.
I suppose I’ve dabbled in the sense of years ago. I had no idea what I was doing in my twenties. It was incredibly ignorant and messy but I had a primary person, this was when I was 26 or 27, and then I started dating someone else and was doing my best to maintain the primary and the secondary relationship. It all imploded because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to communicate my emotions, my needs, and my feelings. It is what it is and I’m glad I had that experience. If I reflect from the mid-2000s, in my twenties, that I was not in an emotional space of maturity to navigate being in an intimate relationship with two women at the same time.
Both of those relationships ended up imploding. I have two friends that are in alternative relationships. One of which has a daughter, a heterosexual couple. The woman in the relationship has a female partner who lives in a different city. They all have an alternative family unit and they’d been doing it for years. The communication and respect and everything are amazing. It’s a wonderful archetype to look at how they’re doing it. I’ve known a couple of other people doing it where they will physically cohabitate with their primary partner, their child, the secondary partner, and they’ll habitate in the same building. I have not ever gone that far with it. There was a discussion with someone I dated several years back, a mutual friend of Whitney and mine who when we met before her and I dated, she was in a polyamorous relationship.
She had three men that she was romantically involved with at the same time. One of them was primary and she had two secondary partners. I suppose I’ve been researching it and having my own tertiary attempts at it. I’ve read a lot of the work of Esther Perel. I was turned onto her through Tim Ferriss and read several of her books. In summary, I feel like this. In my experience, there is a depth of intimacy that is created in a monogamous container. When I’ve gone deep with someone, I go deep and I enjoy that in a romantic context of I’m going to focus on you, we’re going to focus on each other, go into the layers of who we are, create that deep bond and that deep intimacy.
There’s also a part of me that knows that we are sexual creatures, we have desires, we have curiosities, and I don’t know necessarily if being with someone and having sex with the exact same person for 60 years is a necessary or healthy thing. I haven’t been with someone that long. I’m curious about alternative polyamorous relationships and all the different versions that are out there. I observe how my friends do it. I’m still curious about it but haven’t jumped full onboard into doing it other than that one attempt in my twenties.
The world of poly can get structured. You mentioned different types where you’re living with a partner or seeing them once in a while and they live out of town or whatever. There’s this thing called polycule with a primary and everyone gets tested for STDs and it’s done with such intent. It’s an admirable structure. I have those thoughts too. I never thought I would get divorced. I thought I was in it to win it and I knew that we were going to be one of those couples that died together and we were going to last until the end but you’ll never know. Whitney, would you be open to that? Have you considered it?
I’m not opposed to it especially not for other people and I’m in the same boat of not knowing. At this point, I have never felt drawn to trying it, but I’ve certainly considered the benefits. When you were sharing, what was that word that you use when you’re happy for the other person?
That to me sounds beautiful and how wonderful if we can be at a place where jealousy is not prevalent. It’s a lot related to culture. We have a religious culture for the most part. A lot of traditions, a lot of what you should or shouldn’t do. Marriage is often defined by benefits outside of love. It’s not always a decision that you’re making because you’re madly in love with someone.
Sometimes there are other motivations behind marriage and it can be confusing. This is why it’s important to talk about it openly because when we don’t share our experiences, especially if they’re unique, then a lot of us feel inclined to hide what we want. These specific moments reminding me of this YouTube semi controversy. I won’t name too many details because I’m not fully sure how about it, but I’ve been observing other people react to it and there’s this couple on YouTube. It’s a religious couple but the male in the relationship went through some therapy because he thought he was gay. He was being pressured by his friends, family, loved ones or whatever. This is from my ignorance.
From what I perceive that they were trying to do the conversion so that he would no longer be gay and that he could be in a heterosexual relationship. There’s this controversy online and people being like, “Let him love whoever he wants to love. Why is he being forced into this?” I also don’t know, is he forcing that he’d not want to be gay? Was he gay? There are many gray areas in this. I also wonder where the pressure is. Are people making decisions because they feel obligated, they’re embarrassed or they’re ashamed to love who they want to love and when they want to love? Do people stay in marriages that are lacking love simply because they’re too ashamed to go through a divorce or they’re doing it for their kids?
That’s a big thing. I certainly have had this mindset my whole life like, “If I get married, I never want to get divorced.” I’ve had a lot of fears around that. The older I get, the more I realized I don’t even know if I want to get married. I don’t know if I want to have kids. There are pros and cons to all of it. I also realized I don’t have to get married, but I could choose to stay with somebody because you want to be with someone the rest of your life doesn’t mean that you have to put a label on it. We also never know. We don’t know how long we have with anybody. We don’t know how we’re going to evolve as human beings. I like the idea of some openness, whatever that means.
There’s also so much stigma around when people cheat on one another, it’s this horrible thing. The older I get, I’ve also started to feel like, “What if instead of shaming somebody for cheating, what if we examined why that happened?” A lot of the motivation behind cheating on somebody is simply that we don’t have the openness or the communication skills to talk to our partners and say, “Something’s tough with us and so I’m driven into the arms of somebody else. I want to have a romantic relationship with this other person. I don’t know how to tell you that or how to ask you permission, so I’m going to do it behind your back.” That’s something I reflect on a lot is why are we put in these positions where we have to either live a life that doesn’t feel truly authentic but do things that brand us as being this bad person? If most of us examine ourselves, those are relatable desires. Unless you’re doing it for a religious reason, I’m not sure that it’s that necessary to live that life if it’s a lie, if it’s not truly making you happy. Why would you make yourself miserable your whole life what it comes down to because of all of these structures that we have in place when it comes to relationships?
It would be simple if we could be in the flow, be in the moment and every day that’s how it is. There’s some comfort in having that person or being married or having your long=term partner. That’s something I yearn for. I have a long-distance relationship. He doesn’t want to move. I can’t move because I have kids. It’s nice to have a forever person. There are different ways to make it work. I’m still navigating what a normal relationship for me is going to be like. It would be nice if everybody would be open to it looking differently and what you expect.
Jason, this reminds me a bit of something that you’ve been facing a lot with women that you’ve been in relationships with. For a lot of women, there’s a pressure to have children. As we get older, we start to fear like, “I’m running out of time.” It seems like in a number of your dynamics, Jason, that sometimes it’s women think they want to have children or think they want to be married, but they haven’t necessarily stepped back to observe like, “Is that a cultural pressure? Is that some conditioning? Is that what you want?”
I’ve come up against this a lot in my life, to be honest. I’ve been invited in my romantic partnerships to look at this and in the sense of examining with my partners of why do you want this? It’s a curiosity that I always want to know because the overarching thing that I’m taking away from this part of the conversation with you two ladies is for all of us, there’s a thick set of layers of cultural and societal conditioning that if we are open-minded, freethinking people were coming up against, “If you want to be happy, this is how you’re going to set up your marriage. If you’ve got to get married, have these many kids, move to this neighborhood, buy this house and have this car.” Not in the materialistic sense but our culture, our society, the marketing, the commercials, this set of cultural values in America is a very set expectation. It’s been that way for decades. In our generation and younger generations now, if you take something like divorce rates, the number of people staying single, or the number of people that identify as queer, transgender, bisexual, alternative contexts of how they’re relating sexually to the world. In the past couple of generations, we see conversations in the mainstream because it’s not like in our parents’ generation or our grandparents, people didn’t have open relationships.
I’ve heard some fascinating stories about people’s grandparents. It’s not like people weren’t homosexual or bisexual. You go back into ancient cultures in some of the mythologies and the stories of civilizations and paths. None of these are new concepts. What is new though is the public discussion in our culture about these things of people saying, “I am bisexual, I identify as queer or transgender,” or using different pronouns, “I don’t want to get married and that’s okay. I do want to have kids and that’s okay.” If we can do the courageous work to constantly ask what’s real to me on an individual level, what are my deepest values? How can I connect with the core of who I am and honor that changing and evolving? That’s our real work because how many times do we sit in meditation or contemplation being where does that desire come from?
Is that my genuine desire or is that something my parents, my religion, my culture, society or marketing, did they implant that in me? I’ve had a lot of those conversations with my female partners of like, “Is this what you want or is this because your parents want you to get married? Is it because they want to be grandparents? Is it because this is what you think you ought to be doing to fulfill your femininity like you’ll feel incomplete unless you fulfill this feminine role?” It’s a deep conversation about getting to the core of who we are as people, each one of us.
The other thing, Jason, I find interesting, if you’re open to sharing it and it’s okay if you don’t want to, but in your relationship dynamic, you’re dating a bisexual woman. I’m curious if you feel like sharing any of that experience. I remember with her sharing how her friends reacted to her dating a man because previous to you, she was dating women. She was even facing judgment from her close friends about the gender of the person that she was dating.
That’s all true. I’ve been holding a sense of support and curiosity because watching certain people in her circle like, “I thought you were into women now. I thought that was the thing. What do you mean you’re dating a dude? Are you with a guy now?” Subjugation is a heavy word but putting the screws to her a little bit and she’s like, “If I fall in love with someone, I fall in love with someone.” Her whole thing was like, “I’m allowed to feel how I want to feel and I don’t need to be tied to your expectations of who I ought to love. I don’t need to be tied to the expectations of a title if I proclaim that I’m gay or bisexual or trans.” Whatever the thing is that someone declares, we continue to have a lot of conversations around how people see you put a title on yourself and then expect you to follow a set of rules and behaviors based on how they perceive that title. It’s a deep thing. It’s like you said you were this. You said you were Christian. You said you were gay. You said you were a democrat, you said you were vegan, you said you were whatever. If you do anything outside of those preconceived notions of that label, certain people will come out with the pitchforks. It’s fascinating to see people react in that way.
Sunny, how has this experience for you shifted your views on relationships given that you were in a marriage that you’re going to be in it for the long haul? Now you’re in love with somebody else, do you see yourself wanting to get into marriage again or not wanting to put labels? What has shifted for you?
That whole experiment of opening up the relationship to prove to myself that I can’t hang. I don’t have it in me although not knocking anybody who can. I want my forever person, I’m in a strange predicament. Neither of us know how we’re going to make that work. As far as getting married, I always tell I want to be fake married like the ring, ceremony, and big party, that’s it. No paper, no legal stuff. We have a party because we love each other. Where are people, you said there are people I like that idea. I know this is not feminist but being somebody’s not property but I belong to you even though I don’t mean that in a property way, just in a romantic your heart is mine.
I like that idea and I crave it. One thing I’ve noticed is since moving out post-divorce and having my own place, I also realize that I like my space. I don’t want to live with a man ever again. Having a long-distance relationship is quite nice because I get my space and then we come together. We’ve been together for three years and it’s always fresh. Every time we see each other, it’s like a honeymoon phase that’s going to last a lifetime. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing, but it is what it is. I will say the way our situation’s set up because he works at sea six months out of the year, two months on, two months off. When he is off, he lives in Nova Scotia. We don’t get a whole bunch of hang time but I do my space. I want a fake marriage but I don’t want to live with my person. That’s how I want it to go down.
I love that. That’s cool to know that. It’s a beautiful thing when we come to know ourselves more and more on what we want versus trying to shape our lives around what we think we want to Jason’s point. I’m very grateful that I haven’t been married yet. You never know what your life would be like if you made different decisions. If I had been married a lot younger, so much has changed in my life. Who is to say I would have wanted to be in that relationship because I chose that person almost as if I was a different person back then? When I look back over men that I’ve dated and how those could have turned into relationships, I don’t know if I’d still want to be with them at this point in my life.
That’s true in all different phases of life and sometimes I’m almost turning into more of a commitment-phobe as I continue to evolve. I feel those similar things, Sunny. I almost want the choice to have an out and I can’t even believe that I think that sometimes because in the past, I felt so strong about marriage. I’m going to get married and I’m going to have kids. Why would anybody not want to be married or why would they want a divorce? It didn’t make sense to me. What you’re describing reminds me of myself in a way where it’s nice to know that you can be your own person in a lot of ways. In some relationships, we make many choices based on what the other person wants. There’s a beauty to your point, Sunny, feeling like you belong to someone, you’re in it together and that partnership is so wonderful but so is being independent. Having that freedom and flexibility can take place in a lot of dynamics. I’m also imagining, Jason, thinking how cool that sounds because he always talks about how much he enjoys his space.
When you were saying it, Sunny, I’m relatable. You talk about alternative structures and how much we impose. We, as a society, collectively impose our structures or how things ought to be on other people. I remember years and years ago when I randomly heard about how Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter live and raise their child or children but they bought houses in LA next door to one another. They’re married and they have kids and they were together for years. I was like, “How interesting.” I remember that was the first time I was ever exposed to this idea of two people being in a marriage with children but willfully and consciously choosing to live in different home spaces.
I remember reading that and going like, “That sounds cool as hell.” I love togetherness. I’m romantic, I’m physical and I love all that stuff. I’m also though very much when it is time to create and it’s time to write, make music, sit down and do my work, I want to be isolated and I want to be left alone. It bounced to me of togetherness and separateness. It reminds me of the quote from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. It’s one of my favorite books and he talks about, “How the pillars of the temple stand apart and by there being spaced in the togetherness of the pillars of a temple, that’s what makes it strong. That’s what keeps the temple up.” If the pillars were too close together, the shit would collapse. He doesn’t say that, that’s me. Much more eloquent than Kahlil Gibran but to me, that metaphor stands of I can be with you and we can be committed to one another in whatever context that is. If we want to do this differently, let’s do it differently and fuck what everyone else thinks.Find what works for you and feels best for you. Let go of the desire to follow the rules and fit in. Click To Tweet
I love that so much. Many couples bicker over stupid shit like, “You dropped this on the floor, you don’t do the dishes right or this or that.” Imagine everything you do in your house, it’s how you do your things and then your partner does their things the way you do it. You respect each other’s space when you’re in it and have as many sleepovers as you want. When you need to retreat, you have your own space. That sounds ideal to me. I remember when I was a little kid through college, I don’t know where that came from but I had some relationship awokeness I was like, “I want to have a person, but I don’t want to live for that person. I also didn’t want kids that came together. I don’t want to live with my partner. I don’t want kids,” which changed obviously. That’s crucial. That’s at the crux of many problems is too much time and space. It can wear on a relationship for sure. That’s ideal. I had no idea that they structured their relationship like that. Their housing as such, that’s so cool.
If I look back on Esther Perel, who I mentioned her amazing books and she’s got some incredible TED Talks. She talks a lot about how the part of the human brain like the erotic romantic part is always looking forward to diversity and novelty. She talks about why kink, role-playing, playing dress-up, and all the things that we do in terms of our erotic spectrum as humans. How that activates certain parts of our brains that are receptive to that, that are looking for variety, novelty, and different things. Whether that is our sexual kinks or the things that we explore in our relationship or it’s like, “I get to come over to your house and have sex in your bed. That’s cool.”
To me, there’s a part of my brain that gets activated by that novelty, specialness and differentness. That not sexually romantically, I thrive and I crave diversity in my life. I want to be exposed to different things and new things. That spills over into my erotic life too. I want to try new things, experiment, and be different. There’s no formula. There can be boundaries and structure but there’s a part of, as Esther Perel talks about in her work that a new form of thriving sexually with a partner is willfully exploring the idea of diversity, variety, novelty and making sure that stays alive in your relationship.
Through this conversation, Sunny, Jason is going to move to Portland and he’s going to end up living on his own but having a partner who lives somewhere else. Jason, I feel like your whole life is coming together in a new way through this.
There’s got to be a ton of room for more animals so land and then on that land are a few tiny houses. The one tiny house can be our sex den and then we live in the other two. Farmhouse for the animals. You don’t want to get them confused, so which one is the animal barn and which one is the sex den? You’ll not get them confused. It’s very bad.
I’m going to make another segue as enjoyable as this is, but something that we want to touch upon is ageism and the ideas around getting older. This relates in a lot of ways because we are talking about beauty, beauty culture, shame, and relationships. A lot of these topics do bring up fear and shame within people and there’s so much when it comes to getting older. I find myself feeling almost defensive because not towards myself necessarily but I get triggered. That’s the better word to describe this. When people seem to feel self-conscious about their age and I see people in their 30s talking about how they’re old and I’m like, “What are you talking about?”
On average, we live in our late 80s and there are many ways that we can promote longevity in our lives and thus may live into our 90s and past 100. That’s a common thing. Why do we think that being over 20 years old is old? Why is there so much ageism? I find it very disturbing especially I see this with women but I see this with men too. Jason, you felt vulnerable when you turned 40 and it was big deal. I know people in their 50s and they feel uncomfortable. I’m sitting here thinking, “Who planted this idea in our heads that once you’re over 20-something, once you pass into your 30s, somehow you’re already an old person and everything’s downhill from there?”
There are so much insecurity and fear around it and people lying about their ages or not telling people how old they are. I felt this way. I never talk about my exact age because there’s part of me that doesn’t want anybody to judge me for my age. There’s another part of me that’s like, “Why do you even care how old I am? Why should who I am be shaped by my age unless it’s a positive thing?” On that note, there are many positive elements to age as I mentioned, noticing how my views on relationships have changed. Jason talked about maturity and how that shaped him so much and how when he was in his twenties, he didn’t know what he was doing. There are many benefits to becoming older. It’s a blessing and it’s also something we don’t have control over. We’re either no longer living or we’re getting older. That happens to everybody and yet age is such a concern for a lot of us especially when it comes to our appearance. I’m curious about each of your perspectives on that and what you’re feeling, what you’re observing, whatever you want to talk about that.
Aging is a blessing especially when you hear if people are getting heart attacks and strokes in their 40s and 50s and you’re like, “I want to live a long life. Every day is great.” All the wisdom sinking more into yourself, getting to know yourself better, your world views and all that stuff. I will say as a female and 40 or when I was in my late 30s, all of a sudden jumping back into the dating scene, it is different for women because women like the older men and men like the younger women. Your dating pool is teeny tiny and then you swipe through. I have a guy. My guy is a little bit younger than me but if I didn’t have someone, I like the idea that I’m an older person.
I get it but the pressure is on to look extra delicious. First of all, these people are filtering out the age range like cap it up at 35. They’re discounted by many people right off the bat. With the swipe, you’ve got to look yummy over the top. There’s already constant pressure as a woman to look a certain way even if you’ve been raised by loving, awesome forward-thinking parents, we’re bombarded with it, media, everywhere, and we’re never enough. We never look cute enough and there’s so much competition and we look at other ladies like, “Why can’t I look like her?” That’s when things changed for me. When I all of a sudden was like, “I’m dating people.” I needed to crank stuff up again. That’s when I lost a bunch of weight. I was shutting my baby weight fast and doing unhealthy things to get there. Caring so much about getting the glued-on fake eyelashes. It’s insane like the crazy stuff we do to look good. It’s expensive and it’s time-consuming. Dudes maybe don’t even care or nobody cares. It’s this pressure we put on ourselves and it sucks.
How about when it comes to your career too? I noticed this even though I try not to let it impact me, but being a content creator, blogger, influencer, whatever you want to call it, there’s a lot of young women and young men on these platforms that seem to be dominating. I wonder sometimes, it seemed like when I was younger on YouTube, more people are watching me. Are my views less on YouTube because I’ve gotten older and YouTube is a lot younger and so they’re not interested in me? That sad. I don’t know if that’s the case at all, who knows what it is? The fact that I have to wonder these things and wonder is my value decreasing and then I start to feel rebellious and I’m like, “I’m not going to let that stop me.”
I also look to people that I admire and a lot of them are older than me. I tend to find older women and men that seem so wise. That keeps me going because I don’t want to feel that my value with the work that I’m doing has anything to do with my age. If it does, I hope that it impacts me positively. However, to your point, Sunny and especially I’m curious about your experiences because you’re in this beauty world. A lot of beauty seems to be attached to age. Have you felt pressure? Do you talk about your age publicly? Do you tie that into your work like here’s how to look younger or here’s how to keep your skin looking good in different ages? Do you feel as you’ve gotten older, things have shifted and positively or negatively for you with your online work?
I’m open about my age. I’ve said that in many posts. I’ve thrown it in there. When I turned 40, I was like, “I’m 40.” I was excited about turning 40. Honestly, that’s because I do get a lot of like, “You look good for your age.” I like being that. I’m using it as a jump-off point. I am healthier and more fit than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I am the best version of me. Forty doesn’t mean anything because I feel better than I did when I was 30 or 35 or whatever. I’m losing track.
That’s amazing because there are all these misconceptions about when you get older, life gets worse or something like that. It’s silly because people don’t feel as good as they did when they were younger because our metabolism changes, our hormones are changing, if you don’t know how to take good care of your body, you could feel you’re suffering especially if your whole life you’ve been taking poor care of yourself, it’s going to catch up with you over time. Part of what you’re experiencing is you have awareness about products that keep your skin looking good. You know how to eat so your body feels good and some exercises that make you feel good and those all contribute to you thriving no matter what your age. That’s an important message too. The other part of my question was about how that’s impacted you and if it’s impacted you with your career as an influencer, even though blogger, content creator, whatever words you want to use. The influencer world to me there feels a lot of pressure to either be a young woman or look like you’re a young woman.
I’ve come to terms with it. I’m chill about everything VBR. I’m like, “Whatever. I’m at peace with it now.” People who have followed me from the get-go are still with me. They age as you’re aging and your audience shifts as you get older as older people start watching you. It’s a fair and equal shift for the most part. It’s also such a saturated even the vegan beauty circle, but social media and influencers, it’s saturated and everybody’s young like, “Why stress out about that? What are you going to do? What’s the point?” The best thing to do is to look at them and admire them. If they’re offering awesome content, who cares how old they are?
That’s how I feel and I find myself cringing when people bring too much attention to their age in a negative way. You see this a lot on TikTok. People will be like, “I’m too old for this app but I’m on here anyways.” I’m thinking, “I’m not judging your age. I wish that you would express yourself without drawing attention to your age.” As we know, if you don’t tell somebody how old you are, it’s hard to know because people might assume that you’re a lot younger than you are anyways. I’m not looking at somebody trying to guess exactly how old they are because I don’t care that much.
Anytime I find myself focused on age, I find it’s about comparison and it will be more like, “Am I doing better or worse than this person at their age?” If they’re younger than me, “Are they more successful? Why aren’t I that successful? I’m older than them,” or they’re at my age and I’m thinking, “Look at us. I look so much younger than they do.” A lot of the times its ego-related comparison. I found myself trying to step away from that because it doesn’t serve me to try to compare myself to somebody. It is such an ego-driven thing and a fear-based thing. Age ultimately doesn’t matter that much. If we strip it away, when does age matter? There are a few things in terms of how our system is set up in the government legally. There are certain things you cannot do if you’re a certain age and there are rules in place.
There are certain things that change a lot. Our bodies change as women. We may not be as fertile or as able to have children, but you also see a lot of people having children past certain ages so there’s even misconceptions around those things too. The more that I’ve started reflecting on my own relationship with age and noticing how other people react to it, I’ve learned a lot about it and try not to give it too much focus. How about you, Jason? It’s interesting for men. It seems like there’s not as much stigma around age when it comes to men, but I’m curious about your experiences with it.
There are two sides to look at this and one side is the physical part we’re talking about the appearance or the signs of aging. It’s interesting because in terms of the dating pool, I have noticed that for a few reasons, women have started responding to me differently now that I’m in my early 40s, I’m turning 43 this 2020. I’ve had women comment like, “I love your smile lines and I love the gray and all this stuff.” The smile lines and the signs of aging, that’s a development for me, so I’m still getting used to like, “I’ve got a lot of gray in my beard and my head.” Interesting things are happening to my body.
Not anything crazy. I feel like I’m still in good shape. Things change and certain things start being different. I’ve noticed that women are like, “The gray looks amazing and all this.” That’s all well and good. The struggle that I have is very much as you said, Whitney, a comparison and an ego one in the sense that I’m 43, by this age I thought I would have, be, and do all of these things in my mind’s eye. You thought you would be in this economic bracket, this level of success, or these career things that you had intended didn’t come to fruition. The struggle that I have is not so much running out of time or the idea like a clock is ticking for me to be successful per se, but it’s almost the flip it not give a fuck energy of my twenties of like, “I don’t need to think about the impact of my decisions at all. I’ll try this and this.”
Now it’s like, “I have all these financial responsibilities I didn’t use to have, I have this house and I have animals to take care of.” There’s a different set of responsibilities and things I’ve taken on in life that I didn’t have in my twenties when I was making a lot of different career experiments and singing in bands and doing all this stuff. I wasn’t thinking about my retirement, I wasn’t thinking about money, I don’t give a fuck about those things. It’s almost like, “You’re in your 40s, you think about house and investments and all these things you didn’t use to be concerned about.” It’s my roundabout way of saying I get freaked out and self-conscious about aging because I’ve wasted time or I’ve not done as much as I could to put myself in a position of success or abundance or those things. It’s ego and comparison or looking at people my age who have done more or had more. It’s all an opportunity for me to not be so hard on myself and not beat myself up so much about what I haven’t done or haven’t accomplished by 43. That’s what the core of the challenge is for me.
That’s interesting. It’s similar but in a different kind of way. Those pressures that we have as we get older, male versus female.
It is that. It goes back to this idea that through our families, culture, religion, media, whatever it is that you’re in this age bracket and therefore you ought to have this. You ought to look a certain way. As a woman or as a man, you ought to have achieved a certain financial abundance or success. I think that in different ways we’re subjugated to pressures and expectations but they’re different for men and women. The pressure is still there and part of my work and my healing is not allowing those pressures or expectations to make me feel bad about myself, make me feel like I failed and I’m not doing good enough. A lot of my work with my mental health is around those things of like, “Whose voice is this?” Is this your voice or is this society, media or some subconscious belief system that you’re still holding onto that? Your life ought to have turned out differently. That’s something I still battle with all the time.
It’s all interesting food for thought. The thread through here and a lot of these topics that we’ve explored is finding what works for you, feels best for you, and letting go of a desire to follow the rules and fit in. It’s freedom of expression too and tuning into what you want.
That’s the journey though. It goes back to one of my favorite authors that I referenced a lot on the show, Joseph Campbell, that if you’re walking someone else’s path and there’s a path laid before you, you’re not on your own path and journey. For all of us, there is a courage and there’s the independence that comes with like, “I’m going to figure this out for myself. I’m going to live my life my way. I’m not going to allow myself to be subjugated to other people’s expectations or predications of how I ought to be living.” It takes a lot of energy to do that and to be a rebel. I’m already an incredibly rebellious person. The journey to self-awareness, the journey to living a life of autonomy of your own choosing, it takes time to figure out what that means to each one of us. It’s been an amazing, deep, wonderful conversation with you, Sunny, and have gone way deeper than we’ve ever gone with you before, which has been exciting.
This is the fun and we covered a bunch of all over the place.
If you, dear readers, want to jump into finding more about Sunny’s amazing work in the world, her videos, her tutorials, her amazing tips on conscious living and cruelty free-living, and eco-friendly beauty, you can stalk Sunny and find out more about her amazing work. To dive deeper into your healing journey around mental health and emotional wellness and self-discovery, we’ve got some great free eBooks on our website and a couple of guided courses that you can take if you want to take your work even deeper. If you ever want to connect with us on social media, we are @Wellevatr on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. You can always shoot us an email directly. Whitney and I always love hearing from you with your ideas for future episodes and your comments and feelings on episodes we’ve done in the past. That email is [email protected]. As we go on, Sunny, I hope to see you in Portland soon. I’m raring to go.
Jason will feel like, “Sunny, I’m your neighbor.”
If you ever need the animal barn or the sex dungeon, we can, anyway, just don’t confuse them please.
With that, dear readers, thanks for being with us as we got uncomfortable in this episode. Sunny, we adore you and appreciate you so much. Thank you.
Thank you, guys, for having me. I love you guys!
We love you too.
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- Sunny Subramanian
- The Compassionate Chick’s Guide to DIY Beauty
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- MyChelle Dermaceuticals
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About Sunny Subramanian
Sunny Subramanian is editor-in-chief of the award-winning blog, Vegan Beauty Review, where she covers cruelty-free and vegan beauty products, fashion, food, and all things lifestyle. She also co-authored the book ‘The Compassionate Chick’s Guide to DIY Beauty’ (Robert Rose Publishing).
Having a strong presence in the vegan niche for over 13 years, VBR has become a trusted and valuable resource for all things cruelty-free and fabulous.
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