Valerie June


So yesterday was one of the best days of my life: I randomly saw an ad for Valerie June one of my favorite singers of all time, while taking the tram to my university. There she was, performing that evening in Lyon, at L’epicerie moderne ! As soon as I had a glimpse of that ad, I bought a ticket to see her concert.

Usually, people go to concerts with friends, with family, with a date. I went alone and it was pretty awesome.

Listen you guys, I have never loved a singer as much as the Beatles before. And here it goes… Valerie June has become, second to the Beatles, my favorite singer ever. Her voice is so unique: she has this cute scratchy bluegrass voice with a mix of country, soul and even gospel. Plus, she plays the ukelele, which she calls her ‘baby’.

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Yesterday, right before the concert started, I was having a drink before getting in line. And I saw Valerie June, wearing sunglasses right in front of me. She was probably looking to see how many people turned up, and she probably didn’t want to be recognizable. But Valerie June is recognized anywhere with her glorious curly dreadlocks. I was so shocked, I froze. I should have just gone up to her, but I was too shy for that.

She sang my favorite songs throughout her concert: “Workin’ Woman“, “Somebody to Love” and “The Hour“. Her lyrics are so honest, and I feel like they’re speaking right to me, as if she’s telling me she understands me perfectly. In complete awe, I stood there, watching Valerie June in the spotlight sing to me. She was actually singing to me. She was talking to the audience as if each one of us was the only person in the room.

I had to leave early, because I had an exam in the morning, but I cannot stop thinking about her music. Her voice, her smile, her ukelele, her guitar strumming, her laugh, is stuck in my head.

So, as a gift from Valerie June to me, to you, here’s her recent album that you must listen to, Pushin’ Against a Stone (2013). I challenge you to play every single song and not be mesmerized.

The Truth about Being an Adult


Part 2 of Being 21

Since March 23rd,  I seriously have been experiencing adult-like symptoms. Here’s a list of things that I’ve been up to since I turned 21.

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- I drink tea with only one sugar cube.

- I go to bed before 11pm… And I wake up at 7am everyday.

- I shake my colleagues’ hands with confidence instead of shyly waving from a distance.

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- I got used to being called Miss Louise-Julie. I was even called Mrs. the other day.

- Cereal doesn’t give me energy, it just makes me hungrier.

- My brother Paul’s getting married, and he’s only four years older than me.

- I look at highschoolers and think, “When was I that immature?” Three years ago, Zahra.

- I haven’t had a birthday cake in two years.

- I know how to make Woo Woo, Sangria, Tequila sunrise and Mojito cocktails. Sometimes, I even add a little lemon wedge on the side.

- I own six little black dresses. In fact most of my wardrobe is black,white or grey.

- I clean my appartment every Saturday. And when I say clean, I mean dishes, laundry, bathroom scrubbing, window cleaning, kitchen cleaning, dusting furniture and vacuuming.

- I don’t have any games on my phone or tablet.

- I change my Facebook profile picture once every five months. And when I do, it’s an old one.

- I tweet more than I Facebook. So follow me @zahraljmusic.

- I’ve made peace with the fact that I will only get bills, letters from my bank or pizza ads in my mailbox.

- I read the news, watch the weather channel and watch World War II movies. For fun.

- I paint my nails. Seriously,  I only did this once a YEAR back when I was a teenager two years ago.

- I listen to Beyonce’s 2006 Bday album while doing the dishes.

- The last time I was interested in shows like “Awkward.”, “The Vampire Diaries” and yes, even “Gossip Girl”,  I was 17 and a half years old.

- My brother Roshan introduced me to Crazy Frog, eleven years ago. He even played it for me on the electric piano once.

- I buy gifts with my own money,  not my parents’.

- I can cook over 40 meals. Like actual dinners my mother makes, not pasta with ketchup.

- I’ve made peace with the fact that no matter what, I will always be late for everything.

- I don’t read books for pleasure anymore. Teenage romances like Sarah Dessen or Stephenie Meyer have been replaced with encyclopedias, textbooks, digital versions of “The Great Gatsby” or “The Dead” by James Joyce.

- I can add, subtract, multiply and divide. Sometimes. With my calculator.

- Speaking of siblings, why is baby Safiya already 18 years old, in college and everything ? Last time I checked we were pretending to be Rina and Amy, the imaginary French and Spanish orphan teenage spies that kidnapped other teenagers for a living.

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Being 21


The first thing people asked me yesterday was “So how does it feel to be 21?” I questioned myself  and tried to figure out how I feel, but… I feel the same I felt two days ago. I didn’t suddenly get an amazing career, fancy house and a pearl necklace.

I did get a professional cocktail mixer and bunch of cocktail recipes to go with it. I did have a glass of sangria or five. I even went to the coolest restaurant with Michael: Sushi Masa. I take back what I ever said about sushi in my life. I love sushi as long as it’s unlimited and served right in front of you, constantly spinning in front of you for your pleasure.

I felt 21 years old until I accidentally ate ginger with a spoon that everyone in the restaurant was using, thinking it was salmon. And when I picked at a grilled shrimp with my fingers, called it “Louis” and absent-mindedly put it back on the conveyer belt. We later found Louis half-eaten on another customer’s table.

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Every time I think about my age now, I scream excitedly and start dancing to “Birthday” by the Beatles. Then I realize that I’m 21.

So finally today I decided to look up a bunch of things that I can do now that I’m legally an adult. Here is what I found:

-Adopt a child

-Get a licence to fly a plane or helicopter, or drive a heavy truck

-Buy alcohol everywhere

-Rent a car

-Buy a car or a house

-Play at a Casino

-Be elected Member of Parliament

-Become mayor

-Go clubbing everywhere

-Become a flight attendant

-Open a retirement account

-Coach a soccer team

These extremely diverse privileges have got me thinking: I’m never going to do most of these things in my life. (Can you imagine me as a Member of Parliament ? LOL.)

As my mother said to me yesterday, “I’m not going to feel 21 until I look in the mirror and see wrinkles.” So far, so good !

Image found on Weheartit.com

Quick and Easy Steps to Getting a Clear Face


Ever since 10th grade when my friend Leila introduced me to the world of face masks and organic scrubs, I try to take great care of my face. I’ve been blessed with naturally clear skin but from time to time I do get blemishes, circles under my eyes and the occasional red bump on my nose (ugh!). Fortunately, over the years I’ve tried a variety of products (from my mother, Dubai, America, Niger, Burkina Faso and France) that helped me keep a clear, refreshed face most of the time. So today I’m going to share my “face routine” with you as well as the products that I use, in case you need inspiration :)

Every morning (3 minutes):
I wet a cotton pad and wipe the nonsense out of my eyes. Keeping my face wet, I wash my face with regular Dove soap and rinse it with cold water (to wake me up).
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Still keeping my face wet, I wash my face with Yves Rocher’s Hydra vegetal face wash. This is my favorite face wash of all time because it refreshes my face immediately and makes it glow.
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I then rinse it off with cold water and pat-dry my face with a soft, clean towel. Finally, I moisturize my face with Nivea’s Soft Face cream.
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Every night (4 minutes):
I take off my make up with make up remover cream (I find that lotion is better than clear liquid remover because it keeps my face moisturized). I wash off my face with Lush’s Let the Good Times Roll popcorn-cinnamon organic soap. I absolutely LOVE anything made by Lush, because their products are 100% organic and hand-made. On top of that, you can find loads of other delicious flavors in their stores.
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After rinsing off the soap with luke-warm water (not too cold unless I need to be awake, not too hot for obvious reasons), I pat-dry my face with a soft, clean towel. I then apply Nivea’s Refreshing Toner with a cotton pad to remove remaining make up.
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Finally, I moisturize my face with Nivea’s nightcare natural fairness cream. Some of you may misunderstand the word “fairness” just like I used to. However, it doesn’t whiten your face, it removes blemishes and keeps your skin moisturized at night.
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Once a week (5 minutes):
After washing my face in the morning (see above), I pat-dry my face with a soft, clean towel and then I exfoliate my face with Neutrogena’s Grapefruit Face wash.  It says to use the wash daily, but I’ve been told by experts that you should never exfoliate your skin more than three times a week or it will be irritated. Neutrogena’s Grapefruit is soft and it makes your skin all glowy. Plus, it smells like happiness and rainbows.
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After exfoliating my skin, I like to remove blackheads by rinsing my face with cold water and then applying Clean & Clear’s Blackhead Eraser Scrub. I make sure to rub the cream on my nose (especially on the sides), my forehead, my chin and the skin around my lips because that’s where they usually appear.
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Finally,  I pat-dry my face with a soft, clean towel (I insist!) and moisturize my face with Nivea’s Soft Face cream.

Once every two weeks (9 minutes):
After washing my face (see above), whether it’s morning or night time, every other weekend I cleanse my pores with Clean & Clear’s Deep Action Cleanser cream. I wait for it to dry for about 5 minutes and then rinse it off with luke warm water.
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Finally, (say it with me) I pat-dry my face with a soft, clean towel and moisturize with Nivea’s Soft Face cream (or Nightcare fairness cream if you’re going to bed).
 I insist on using a clean towel because most people dry their face with the same towels they use for showers. That’s definitely not a good idea because your face is a sensitive area. Though you’re supposedly clean after a shower, I doubt you’d want feet on your face.

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This may sound like a long and complicated process but this routine is very easy, affordable and quick to do. You can find all of these products online and/or in a supermarket. I hope you found my tips useful and let me know what your favorite face washes are in the comments section below !

Images from Google Images and Weheartit.com. 

Q&A: Nirvana, dragons and glass walls


Hello hello and welcome to another episode of Q & A with Zahra L-J. I haven’t been on Ask.fm for a long time because:

1) Who uses Ask.fm anymore except for middle schoolers ?
2) The “random” questions aren’t so random if they’re so repetitive.
3) Too many haters, too many bullies a.k.a. too many bored little girls.

BUT as I was recently browsing old social network accounts, I came across a few questions that I found quite interesting.

So here ya go. Feel free to ask me anything at ask.fm/zahralj or post a comment below !

If you could be another person for a day, who would you be?
Paul McCartney’s wife or Blue Ivy Carter

Where were you born?
Bridgeport, Connecticut

What could you do as a child that you can’t do now?
I could do the split

Which famous person from the past would you most like to meet?
John Lennon, George Harrison, Bob Marley and Marilyn Monroe

What are your favorite junk foods?
KFC :)

Punk Rock is musical freedom.
And Music = Freedom

Do you like Nirvana?
I love Nirvana !!!

What will you never do?
Tango with dragon

Ca fait quoi d’etre noire ? (Translation: “What’s it like to be black ?”)
Ca fait partie de mon identité, donc j’en suis fière :) (Translation: “It’s a part of my identity, so I’m proud :)”

Do you think that you’re a good person?
Too good of a person to the people who don’t matter, not enough to those who do.

Paul McCartney said: “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” What do you think about it?
I think I’m in love with Paul.

What is the least stressful job you can think of?
Vacation tester, it actually exists !

What are the first things you notice when you meet someone?
Hygiene, hair, clothes and if they start talking about themselves.

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Freedom of Life


It’s a beautiful day outside and it reminds me of what summer’s going to be like. Or rather how it was last year and the year before. However with each new year, I’ve begun to realize that I love summer but not only for its clear blue sunny skies, or beach wear in the malls. I love summer because people are nicer and people judge you less.

During the summer, you can pretend to be a tourist and get away with anything. You can get away with wearing a bright pink shirt with yellow shorts and green flip flops because everyone is dressed the same way. You can get out of the shower, go outside and not have everyone look at you with widened eyes. They’ll assume you were at the pool, beach or shower and it’ll be normal. Drinking a fruity cocktail outside with music playing loudly won’t make you look like a drunk annoying teenager. People will assume you’re enjoying your vacation. Holding hands and kissing your boyfriend or girlfriend in the subway won’t look so sloppy. People will think of you as a summer fling.

People, people, people, though. Who are they to judge us ? Why are people judging me ?

“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the same advantages that you’ve had.” – The Great Gatsby.

But have you thought about those you judge constantly, just because they’re living life to the fullest ? They’ve probably had a happy life and a beautiful day and maybe that’s why they’re wearing those clothes. They’re probably celebrating themselves as Walt Whitman intended us to do by cranking up the music and dancing alone.

I celebrate myself by being who I want to be. I take pride in the fact that I have dreams, goals, inspiration, experience, intelligence, passion, imagination, determination and the ability to live my life to the fullest.

So go and live your life. You don’t need to be understood by anybody. You were created to be unique, to be happy, to live life. Not to conform to society’s idea of “normal” – and certainly not to judge others.

You’re the one who’s going to suffer if you don’t do what you want to do. You’re the one who has to live with yourself for the rest of your life.

Be free, live your life and you’ll be extraordinarily happy.

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Happy Valentine’s Day !


Good morning boys and girls ! Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day, but before you say “Eww, Ohmigosh, Eww”, let me just tell you:

YOU SUCK. You know why ? Because I’m pretty sure you’re thinking that Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday, made for rich Italian lovers or children with cupcake issues.
NO ! Valentine’s Day hasn’t always been commercial, it started off as a Holiday of Love created by a Mexican guy called Valentino

(Yes I made that up.)

But honestly, instead of crying over your single life, giving happy couples the evil look and attending anti-Valentine parties, just SHARE THE LOVE.

Really, think of all the people you love in this world: your best friend, your family, your puppy. And spend the whole day with them. This is not a joke, seriously, be someone’s valentine today!

Legend has it that when my oldest brother Paul was in Kindergarten, my mother had to miss out on his class’ Valentine’s Day party – because she had just given birth. Even though everyone else’s mother was there, I’m pretty sure Paul understood that his valentine was the most special of them all – my little sister Safiya.

So the moral of the story is, you can find your valentine anywhere and in anyone.

Valentine’s Day isn’t a commercial holiday if you don’t buy anything. Call your mom, walk your dog, skype your best friend, bake cookies with your Grandma, just stop pretending that you have nothing to celebrate.

On that note, have an extravagantly sociable V-Day and maybe next year you won’t spend it alone!

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