Spring Awakening: What Women’s Obsession With Ruby Rose Says About Sexuality + Society in 2015

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Ruby Rose is breaking the internet. But unlike Kim Kardashian, she’s making a cultural impact.

The smoldering 29-year-old Australian actress/model/DJ is the latest addition to the cast of Netflix’s wildly successful series, “Orange is the New Black.” On the show, Ruby plays the role of Stella Carlin. But, according to social media, Ruby is now playing an even more interesting [and unlikely] role — lesbian heartthrob for straight women.

Combining a soft, made-up face with a hard sense of style — complete with tattoos and a slicked-back crop cut — Ruby masterfully straddles the gender-bending line between masculine and feminine sex appeal. She’s the poster child for androgyny.

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It’s trendy for straight women to have a “girl crush” — that is, admiring a woman who is so beautiful, so fabulous, and so successful that they, in essence, want to be her. But the magnetic obsession with Ruby is different. Straight women don’t want to be her — they, apparently, want to be with her. And that’s a first.

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But this actually makes sense, because “OITNB” has already produced a very strange and intriguing cultural phenomenon. It’s gotten hetero gals en masse to watch — lesbihonest — a predominantly sapphic show. For the first time (ever?), mainstream media is navigating the “alternative lifestyle” frontier through main characters, and it seems to be sticking with audiences.

Regarding “OITNB,” one of two things has happened. Either the writers intentionally and slyly duped millions of straight chicks into watching the prison version of “The L Word” (in which case Stella is giving Shane a run for her money), or hetero women are knowingly watching and enjoying a — gasp! — non-hetero show. And they don’t GAF.

The latter would say a shit-ton about where we are as a society; as a nation.

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Aside from the astronomical sociopolitical advances the LGBT community has enjoyed over the past few years, an increasing number of some of Hollywood’s most relevant female figures have come out as spectrum sliders, including: Miley Cyrus, Cate Blanchett, Cara Delevingne, Evan Rachel Wood, Ke$ha, Shailene Woodley, Fergie, Michelle Rodriguez, Anna Paquin, Megan Fox, Amber Heard, and Tinashe.

As a result, it seems straight-identifying women are becoming more comfortable with having more options to, well, identify with. Many are also acknowledging, through cultural incidents like the Ruby Rose craze, that sexuality is not black and white.

There are undoubtedly countless women who, having binge watched season three of “OITNB,” are laying awake at night trying to untangle and interpret their mystical attraction to Ruby. What does it mean? Am I a lesbian now? 

NEWSFLASH — you can incidentally be attracted to a woman, and it doesn’t nullify your attraction to men. It simply adds to the beautiful complexity of your sexuality. And that’s not a bad thing!

Through “OITNB” and Ruby Rose, we are witnessing a rigid, close-minded society make a metaphorical U-turn, and redirect in a very ambiguous, openminded, label-less direction regarding, not only sexual orientation, but gender as well. And Ruby’s viral fandom may be a sign that we’ll soon reach our destination.

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“There’s a line in OITNB, where Piper says, ‘What? You don’t consider yourself to be a woman?’ Ruby’s character, Stella, replies, “I do, but that’s only because my options are limited.” I think part of the newfound obsession with Ruby Rose comes from a growing intolerance for gender norms. Ruby represents — in an exceedingly beautiful package — what it means to reject society’s definitions and rely solely on your own. And what is more attractive than that — especially to women who are born into life as the disenfranchised gender — is to be strengthened by the undefined rather than pigeonholed in fear. It’s sexy and subversive, provoking and powerful. People are attracted to Ruby Rose because she seems to remind us of what we can be. Free.”

Ah, yes. Freedom. Freedom from labels, judgment, intolerance. Freedom from the shackles of the irrelevant and archaic. Freedom to feel without questioning, translating, or dreading the meaning of those feelings. Freedom to be unapologetically as we are.

It’s not a girl crush. It’s an awakening.

The Edge of Glory: Six Underrated Songs By Superstars

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You know the artists, and you know their hits, but you might not know the songs on this list. And trust us, they’re worth knowing. 

6. “Lolly” by Maejor Ali feat. Justin Bieber & Juicy J

It was one of the many songs released during Justin Bieber’s “troubled” phase, and thus “Lolly” didn’t exactly pop on the charts. But the music video, which boasts a shirtless, drool-worthy J.B., performed exceptionally well on YouTube with nearly 130 million views at press time. If Bieber hadn’t been so ferociously off-turning at the time of its debut, the song could have landed more radio airplay and consequent fame for its relatively unknown headliner, Maejor Ali (who has since dropped “Ali”). In an effort to reduce some of his bubblegum appeal, and add a more grown-up edge, it was Bieber’s first notable rap verse on a track — despite a few prior freestyle sessions. Even to a non-Belieber, the verse is surprisingly decent — albeit PG-13 — as the then-underage star delivers visions of baller lifestyle #goals, like poppin’ Pellegrino, drivin’ an El Camino, and the luxuries of always being on the guest list, among other things. If you like this side of Bieber, allow us to also suggest “Twerk,” his little-known collaboration with Miley Cyrus. And that brings us to our next song…

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5. “Do My Thang” by Miley Cyrus 

It’s hard to believe it’s been less than two years since Miley Cyrus released her last album, “Bangerz,” given how much has happened, and changed, during that short timespan. Though the 22-year-old’s previous album, “Can’t Be Tamed,” warned us about Miley’s natural inclinations and secret desires, nothing could have foreshadowed the utter upside-down-turning of Miley’s image, sound, and attitude that evolved with the former Disney star’s third studio album. The psychoactive drug-inspired party jam, “We Can’t Stop,” and conversely sincere break-up ballad, “Wrecking Ball,” skyrocketed on the charts as Miley’s first and second single, respectively. There was also the underwhelming “Adore You” that barely demands remark. But no song on the album captures Miley’s #IDGAF chutzpah quite like the contagiously self-confident “Do My Thang.” Our favorite part is:

Don’t worry about me
I got it all arranged
Mind your business
Stay in your lane, bitchhhh. 

Damn, that feels good. It’s also the perfect anthem for a liberally progressive generation full of twenty-somethings who refuse to do anything, or be anyone, that doesn’t fit into the strict confines of their self-image and aspirations. It’s a darn shame this song didn’t receive more acclaim than the occasional instagram video [usually] of a gay dude fiercely lip-syncing the lyrics.

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4. “Speechless” by Lady Gaga

On an album chock-full of Euro-inspired dance tracks, “Speechless” hardly fits in. Especially after rising to stardom from an uber poppy, I-drank-too-much-tequila anthem like “Just Dance,” listeners are understandably thrown off by the Broadway-esque power ballad. But the seemingly misplaced track on “The Fame Monster” is a glimpse at a truer, less commercialized artist, tapping into Gaga’s theater-heavy roots and tortured soul. It’s also a likely preview of who the once-upon-a-time NYU Tisch School of the Arts student would like to be, were it not for album sales, oppressive record label demands, and mainstream pop music protocol. Regardless — we see you, Gaga.

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3. “Dark Fantasy” by Kanye West

Some Kanye West fans would call “Dark Fantasy” one of the hip-hop prodigy’s greatest works to date. The sophisitcated production, which includes an utterly dope piano accompaniment and a brief British interlude by Nicki Minaj, serves up some of Yeezy’s keenest commentary yet on the mixed curse of fame and fortune. There are stylistic choices and moments that forecast “Bound 2,” theatrical elements reminiscent of “Jesus Walks,” and philosophical echoes of “Welcome to Heartbreak.” It’s an unbeatable first impression, previewing what’s to come on Yeezy’s critically-acclaimed album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” which produced hit singles like “Runaway,” “Monster,” and “All of the Lights.” The aforementioned tracks performed exceptionally well on the charts, but for whatever reason, “Dark Fantasy” peaked at No. 60 on the Billboard Hot 100. For that reason, it’s something of a hidden gem.

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2. “All Things Go” by Nicki Minaj

She’s six singles deep into The Pinkprint, but “All Things Go” remains veiled in the un-promoted shadows — probably because the track lacks Nicki’s usual upbeat, Barbie/Roman-infused bravado. And it’s a shame that this low-key, rawly emotional peek behind the curtain — and lamenting recount of the loss of her cousin (“to a senseless act of violence”) — reveal a rarely seen, unstripped Onika. It’s a bit tragic that we don’t see more of this, and less of the “Truffle Butter” garbage. Because, in fact, Nicki Minaj is a tremendously talented and deeply expressive artist. And while no one can deny the contagious nature of her bubbly pop hits, I hope we begin to see tracks like this secure as much promotion as their inferior counterparts (I’m talking to you, “Anaconda”).

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1. “I Know Places” by Taylor Swift

I suppose it’s too early to throw in the towel with any of the songs on Taylor Swift’s “1989.” The formidable superstar has already had three No. 1 hits, and “Bad Blood” is just getting started. But “I Know Places” takes on a different sound from what T-Swift has showcased thus far on her fifth studio album. The mystical intro is certainly T.S. post-pop crossover, with its layered auto tune and electronic flare. But then, something unexpected happens. The chorus smoothly reverts back to a Taylor from another time — not so much 1989 as 2009. There are distinct sonic and thematic similarities between “Love Story,” one of Country Taylor’s first hits, and “I Know Places” — both conveying visions of a romantic great escape. We’re comparing: “Baby, I know places we won’t be found and they’ll be chasing their tails trying to track us down” to “Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone. I love you and that’s all I really know.”

The difference, however, is that “Love Story” details a young girl’s cinematic delusions of a fairytale escape from overbearing parents who ~just don’t understand~, while the latter serves as a darker, jaded, all-grown-up sequel from a woman who’s experienced true heartbreak. In “Love Story,” Taylor is a helpless victim. In “I Know Places,” she has taken control, unwilling to be a victim any longer. The “1989” track is no doubt a reference to being burned by all the hot, flashing lights and prying journalists of T’s industry — the irony, of course, being that the very entity burning the starlet is the same source extinguishing her flames.

Billboard Burglary: 10 Pop Hits That Were Robbed Of The #1 Spot

From Justin Bieber to Michael Jackson, Britney Spears to Lady Gaga, you won’t believe which pop mega hits never conquered the coveted No. 1 slot on the Billboard Hot 100.

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“Payphone” by Maroon 5
Peaked at:
No. 2 | July 7, 2012
No. 1: “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen

It was the soundtrack of the summer of 2012, and one of seemingly innumerable chart-topping, record-breaking hits for the pop-rock band. The jam boasted an unusual collaboration (for Maroon 5) with a rap verse by Wiz Khalifa. It was infectious, nostalgic (because pay phones are so retro), and a welcome change for a veteran band whose sound was struggling not to go stale. But Adam Levine and the gang were up against one of the most viral songs of the decade–newcomer Carly Rae Jepsen’s impossibly catchy “Call Me Maybe”–and the latter wasn’t going anywhere. (What’s up with the phone-themed songs?)

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“Boyfriend” by Justin Bieber
Peaked at:
No. 2 | Apr. 14, 2012
No. 1: “We Are Young” by Fun.

Despite a record-breaking first week in digital sales—and sugary promises of “chillin’ by the fire while eatin’ fondue” with Justin Bieber—the 21-year-old’s “swaggy” pop beat failed to dethrone Fun.’s six-week run at No. 1, peaking at its debut spot of No. 2. What is, perhaps, even more shocking is that “Boyfriend” soared higher on the charts than any other single to date by the Biebs, including “Baby,” “As Long As You Love Me,” and “Beauty And A Beat.”

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“Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” by Backstreet Boys
Peaked at:
No. 2 | Sept. 6, 1997
No. 1: “Mo Money Mo Problems” by The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Puff Daddy & Mase

The name is one of the most recognizable in boy band history–setting an example for subsequent tween obsession phenomena like One Direction, 5 Seconds of Summer, and the Jonas Brothers–and “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” was undeniably the group’s break-out hit. Unfortunately for BSB, Biggie Smalls was at the height of his career, and snagged the top spot that week. This was the closest the Backstreet Boys ever got to No. 1–even “I Want It That Way” only reached No 6. Ugh—quit playing games with my heart, Billboard Chart!

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“Turn Down For What” by DJ Snake & Lil Jon
Peaked at:
No. 4 | June 14, 2014
No. 1: “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX

It was one of the most contagious party jams of 2014, and still manages to get crowds going like no other. Much more than a song, “Turn Down For What” became a catch phrase; a go-to hash tag across social media; a lifestyle statement for vivacious millennials whose collective motto is work hard, play harder. But the Billboard Hot 100 did turn down that week—for Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.”

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“Heartless” by Kanye West
Peaked at:
No. 2 | Feb. 21, 2009
No. 1: “Crack A Bottle” by Eminem, Dr. Dre & 50 Cent

If nothing else, Kanye West is brilliantly unconventional, forever lingering just far enough outside the box to remain completely unpredictable. Simplistically composed, yet ingeniously avant-garde, “Heartless” was no exception—slaying Top 40 standards, going 5x Platinum, and inspiring countless notable celebrity covers. And yet, even Yeezy couldn’t knock the unshakeable trio behind “Crack A Bottle”—Eminem, Dr. Dre, and 50 Cent—out of the No. 1 slot, stalling at No. 2.

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“Drunk In Love” by Beyonce
Peaked at:
No. 2 | Feb. 15, 2014
No. 1: “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry feat. Juicy J 

It was the surprise album drop heard ‘round the world when Beyonce released her eponymously titled fifth studio album in late 2013. Though “Drunk in Love” received cult-like reception–becoming the go-to anthem for alcohol-induced love affairs everywhere—the “Crazy in Love” sequel shockingly never hit No. 1 on the #Billbort Hot 100. Instead, it peaked at No. 2–’cause Katy Perry came at Beyonce like a dark horse.

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“I Knew You Were Trouble.” by Taylor Swift
Peaked at:
No. 2 | Jan. 12, 2013
No. 1: “Locked Out Of Heaven” by Bruno Mars

No one has straddled the pop/country line as successfully–and gracefully–as the enviable force that is Taylor Swift. “I Knew You Were Trouble.” was the 25-year-old’s first bold step away from her country-leaning roots, as well as the first glimpse of Taylor Swift 2.0. The universal vulnerability of the lyrics–coupled with an uber catchy dub step vibe–tugged at the heartstrings of bad boy-scorned girls everywhere, forcing them to dance, cry, and shout the chorus bitterly to their own personal heartbreaker. Yet somehow, the break-up ballad never reached the summit, effectively leaving T-Swift “locked out of Heaven.”

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“Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga
Peaked at:
No. 2 | Dec. 5, 2009
No. 1: “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys

If she hadn’t already done so with “Just Dance” and “Poker Face,” Lady Gaga certainly secured her spot in the metaphorical pop star hall of fame with the Europop-inspired, French-infused “Bad Romance.” Unfortunately for Mother Monster, the timing was off, as one of the greatest New York City pride ballads to ever grace our ears had already skyrocketed to No. 1, and would remain there for five weeks, leaving Gaga in second place. But the pop diva wasn’t too heartbroken, as the single later garnered two Grammy Awards.

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“Thriller” by Michael Jackson
Peaked at:
No. 4 | March 3, 1984
No. 1: “Jump” by Van Halen

Though Michael Jackson is no longer with us, his mighty reign endures through the generations, and “Thriller” (with its legendary accompanying music video) could be Michael’s most generationally-transcendental hit. For a ‘90s kid like myself, who missed out on the King of Pop’s most iconic years, “Thriller” is one of a handful of songs I recognize and know the lyrics (and dance!) to. But it was an extraordinary week for music back in March of 1984, and Mr. Jackson was trumped by Van Halen’s “Jump” (No. 1) and Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” (No. 2).

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“Oops!…I Did It Again” by Britney Spears
Peaked at:
No. 9 | June 10, 2000
No. 1: “Maria Maria” by Santana feat. The Product G

It’s almost impossible to believe that one of the most deliciously classic pop hits of the millennium never so much as reached the Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 9 the week of June 10, 2000. This is especially mind boggling when you consider Britney’s lesser-known hits like “Hold It Against Me,” “3,” and “Womanizer” all made it to No. 1. “Oops” may not have won the heart of the Billboard, but at least Brit has the Heart of the Ocean.

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Which of these hits is most surprising to you? Let us know in the comments below! 

#ImAGirlBoss: DJ Coco Robert

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Name: DJ Coco Robert
City:
 New York
Industry: Music
Twitter: @cocothedj
Instagram: @cocothedj
Website: cocorobert.com

Tell us what you do!

As much as possible. I DJ for companies and brands like the NYC Ballet, SCOOP and Equinox. I collaborate on projects involving clothing lines, products, and more recently, apps. I’m curating a series of summer events for Rise City Swimwear. I produce online content for VH1/MTV and write on their music blog… though I’m feeling a little disloyal right now, considering I also have a Lifetime television series being shot in my apartment.

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Did you go to college? If so, where?

I first thought I should have a true “college experience.” Luckily, my mother reminded me how easily I could get bored in New York, and how much that would be magnified in a college town, so NYU ended up being my one and only application. I actually transferred into University of Southern California after freshman year, but never booked my flight once I figured out that, at NYU, I could pull off graduating in three years.

How did you get to where you are now? Tell us your story!

I’ve always wanted to work, even growing up — before I had any reason to. If my sister and I didn’t have lemonade to sell, I’d pop popcorn. In high school, I would offer to intern for anyone in a cool industry who said I was too young to work for them. Often I just made up things I could do for people. I met a partner in a well known denim company, and hosted a casting call for their campaign. A string of supermodels came out of the dressing room in the label’s jeans, and it was just 16-year-old me behind the desk, asking them to turn for polaroids.

Three personal traits/qualities that helped you get to where you are:

Independent, driven, passionate.

Define “girlboss” in your own words.

A woman who continuously sets and exceeds daring goals, utilizes doubt as motivation, remains unconcerned about stereotypes, norms, or expectations, and capitalizes on the knowledge that success is dependent on herself.

Describe your style/fashion sense:

My closet has lots of leather and lots of black t-shirts. I like to stick to basics and then add one or two striking pieces. I’ll wear high-waisted printed pants with a plain tank, or all black with a stand out blazer.

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Favorite brand right now?

The Row

Go-to clothing item/accessory right now?

My slouchy black Alexander Wang bag. It’s simple enough to bring to the gym in the morning and classic enough to transition into the night.

What’s your can’t-live-without beauty product?

A good lip balm.

Go-to nail color?

Black or nude.

What makes you feel badass?

The look on tourists’ faces when I jaywalk on my way to MTV Networks in Times Square.

No girlboss is perfect. What’s your vice?

Chocolate chip cookies, joy rides, online shopping, and a good bubble bath.

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What song makes you feel like a girlboss?

“Diva” by Beyonce

What’s a quote that inspires/motivates you?

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

Best advice you’ve ever received? And who gave it to you?

“You can do that.” – My mom, on everything.

Advice to future girl bosses:

The only difference between impossible and possible is that the former is even more rewarding to accomplish.

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MUSIC: Remixing + Recycling

Hey guys, there’s a killer new song out!!!

Except it’s not that new. At all.

AlunaGeorge‘s “You Know You Like It” — the song everyone and their brother has been banging their heads to for exactly a week — has been around for YEARS (it was first released in August 2011!!!). Like many other underground-turned-Billboard hits, it didn’t receive any real attention until 2014 when a DJ remixed the track. Talk about recycled novelty. That DJ is, of course, DJ Snake — the same dude behind 2014’s mega-hit, “Turn Down For What.”

I had never heard of the song — or the artist behind it — until Tuesday. Now it’s the only thing I hear every time I turn on the radio and/or queue up my Spotify playlist. I’m obsessed.

Another track that achieved delayed acclaim was Krewella’s summer smash hit, “Alive,” back in 2013. It was first released in June 2012, but it wasn’t until April 2013 (after being re-released) that the deliciously 90s-esque, EDM-infused pop track started causing buzz. The first time I heard the song, I felt déjà-vu; like I had heard it in my dreams in 1997.

Now, that’s a damn good jam.

Sadly, Krewella hasn’t done much since. And there was some controversy in 2014 between sisters, Jahan and Yasmine, and their producer, Kristopher “Rain Man” Trindl, after which the latter resigned.

Similar to “You Know You Like It” — but on a smaller scale — Ron Pope released “A Drop in the Ocean” in 2008, and heard radio silence until 2011 when the quaint love ballad was featured in a momentous scene of a Vampire Diaries episode. Eminem even remixed the track with Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa.

I recorded a track back in 2012 with rapper Mike Philson. It didn’t explode on social media the way we hoped it would, but in 2015, I still firmly believe it could be radio material with the right DJ remix.

And I love it when this happens to a track, because it reinforces all sorts of “don’t give up” rhetoric. If you’ve created something good, and something you believe in, keep molding, building, and sharing it. No song is ever truly complete. At any time, it can be remixed, covered, sampled…

Music is forever a work in progress.

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