Christina Aguilera took off her makeup, and the transformation was powerful.

Most everybody knows what Christina Aguilera looks like.

The singer has never shied away from big looks. (Did you see her on the season 10 premiere of "RuPaul's Drag Race"?)

But there's a side you probably haven't seen of Aguilera no matter how long you've been a fan (and her career has spanned over two decades).

In the March issue of Paper magazine — with the theme of transformations — Aguilera went "Back to Basics" and "Stripped" off her makeup for the cover. No heavy lipstick or eyeliner here. Instead, the singer, who's known for her constant reinvention, opted for a dewy, natural look that's gorgeous but almost unrecognizable.

Who knew that Christina Aguilera had freckles? Certainly not the internet, which quickly exploded with support for Aguilera's cover.

But don't let the awe Aguilera's photo inspired get in the way of her message.

While the singer doesn't want us to "get it twisted" about her loving a "beat face" — she appears in avant-garde makeup throughout the rest of her Paper photoshoot and makes it clear that makeup/no makeup isn't a debate but a valid, personal choice. She told reporter Marie Lodi that appearing sans her signature dramatic look is liberating for her. Especially at a time in her career where she's poised to reinvent herself once more.

"I've always been someone that obviously loves to experiment, loves theatrics, loves to create a storyline and play a character in a video or through stage," Aguilera told Paper. "I'm a performer, that's who I am by nature. But I'm at the place, even musically, where it's a liberating feeling to be able to strip it all back and appreciate who you are and your raw beauty."

Raw beauty, of course, can be a loaded term.

Makeup is a form of artistic expression and everyone should feel confident doing what feels best for their style and body. But Aguilera's use of the word "liberation" is an allusion to the pressure that's placed on women to look "picture perfect" all the time.

It's a message that's been echoed by many other pop stars. Demi Lovato, for example, first bared herself in 2015, when she posed nude and un-retouched for Vanity Fair to promote body positivity and loving the skin we're in. More recently, in March 2018, Lovato shot a video for Vogue where she removed everything, from her makeup to her extensions, to show exactly what it takes to get her "performance ready."

"I think society tells us we need makeovers, but why can't we embrace the beauty that we naturally have?" Lovato said of her make-under. "I love makeup. I love doing my hair; I have extensions, but there's a time and a place for everything, and natural beauty needs to be celebrated."

Aguilera has no illusions about the entertainment industry and its double standards. "Either women are not sexual enough or we're not fulfilling enough of a fantasy," she told Paper, "but then if we're overtly sexual or feeling empowered in a certain kind of way, then we're shamed for it."

She's optimistic, however, about the future, saying that the criticism she's received for taking risks has allowed others to push the envelope further. "Madonna had to go through it in her day, and she paved the way for my generation to come up," Aguilera said. "And paying it forward, now a younger generation is coming up and I'm loving what I'm seeing. It's so incredible."

Empowering words. And an important reminder that we should always be ourselves. Let Aguilera inspire you to show off your "raw beauty" — whatever its form may be — every day.

We know that mammals feed their young with milk from their own bodies, and we know that whales are mammals. But the logistics of how some whales make breastfeeding happen has been a bit of a mystery for scientists. Such has been the case with sperm whales.

Sperm whales are uniquely shaped, with humongous, block-shaped heads that house the largest brains in the animal world. Like other cetaceans, sperm whale babies rely on their mother's milk for sustenance in their first year or two. And also like other cetaceans, a sperm whale mama's nipple is inverted—it doesn't stick out from her body like many mammals, but rather is hidden inside a mammary slit.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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