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These high school students threw an LGBTQ prom that few will forget.

Prom night for Blair Smith didn’t begin in a stretch limo. It started with a broken down car in a high school parking lot and a ticking clock.

Smith had spent the last four weeks pulling together the dance amid a punishing schedule that included fundraising, advertising, and studying for AP exams. Now he had chaperones to organize, food to distribute, and a quickly dwindling supply of minutes.

Frantic, he hitched a ride home, borrowed his mom's car and sped toward the event hall, where he and his fellow student organizers helped put the finishing touches on their hard work.


By 7 p.m., the room was ready.

Photo by Brian Reach.

This was no ordinary prom.

There was no king, no queen, and few tuxedos. Instead, there was a space for over 300 LGBTQ youth to dress and dance how they wanted and, more importantly, a space to be completely themselves without fear of judgment.

The students at NOVA Pride Prom gather for a group shot. Photo via NOVA Pride.

The May 12 event, dubbed "NOVA Pride Prom," began two years ago at Loudon Valley High School. Smith, who took charge of planning this year's event as his senior project, partnered with local LGBTQ advocacy organizations to expand the celebration to include all of northern Virginia.

The goal was to create a prom less beholden to tradition and more open to free expression.

The theme was "Celebrate Our Past," and the venue was decorated with artwork paying tribute to LGBTQ heroes and history.

"There wasn’t the typical prom drama that happens where, 'Oh my god, she’s wearing the same dress as me,' or 'Oh, is he dancing with her?'" Smith explains of NOVA Pride Prom. "It was really just a place where people could come together and meet for the first time."

Smith (center) with advisor Amy Cannava at Pride Prom. Photo via NOVA Pride.

In addition to the dance floor, Smith and his co-planners set up a lounge with board games and couches for students to socialize and tables where local advocacy organizations — NOVA Pride, GLSEN NOVA, and the Trevor Project — could distribute resources.

Creating spaces like NOVA Pride Prom where young LGBTQ people can feel at home is crucial to their development.

"'Comfortable' may sound like a simple term to a lot of people, but it is not something that some people are experiencing in their day to day life. Just being comfortable is a huge deal," explains Brian Reach, who runs NOVA Pride, one of the organizations that partnered with Smith to run the event.

"Celebrate our Past" #novaprideprom #lgbtqyouth #novapride #loveislove #loveislocal

A post shared by NOVA Pride (@northernvapride) on

Growing up in northern Virginia, Reach recalled being the frequent target of verbal abuse. One incident, in which he was called "the other f-word" over the school loudspeaker injured him so deeply he wound up faking sickness so that his mom would take him home.

"I had a lot of sick days," he says.

For Reach, NOVA Pride Prom was a chance to give LGBTQ young people from his home region a celebration a chance to celebrate their lives and achievements in a way he barely could have imagined as a student.

"This is by far probably the event I’m the most proud of," he says.

While Reach says conditions for LGBTQ people have improved dramatically in the politically divided area since he was growing up, tensions still occasionally threaten to spill over and sometimes do.

Earlier in the school year, the LGBTQ rights group Smith founded in his high school was asked to remove promotional posters at the urging of a local parent.

In January, a motion to add LGBTQ protections to Loudon County school system's employment discrimination policy was defeated in a hotly contested school board vote.

Still, Smith says teachers and administrators at his school have largely applauded his efforts to organize and support his LGBTQ classmates.

Photo via NOVA Pride.

Both Smith and Reach say they received almost no pushback from the community about the dance.

The venue, the Bellevue Conference and Events Center, provided the space at a large discount.

Fundraising efforts were met with messages of support and donations from a wide cross-section of parents, students, teachers, and local residents. (Despite the community support, NOVA Pride is still raising money to cover the costs of the dance and supports continuing outreach efforts to LGBTQ youth in the area.)

In many ways, NOVA Pride Prom was a typical school dance — which was exactly the point.

As the night wore on, chaperones and students dropped their guard, made new friends, and danced the Macarena.

The success of the event, Smith thinks, shouldn't surprise anyone. He credits to his fellow student organizers for helping realize the best version of what a prom can be. "It’s amazing … to see how hardworking students can be when they’re passionate about something," he says.

For other students, the night was anything but typical.

"I'm trans and bi. I’ve grown up in a family that would rather have a dead daughter than a son like me," one student wrote  in an anonymous e-mail to Reach. The dance, the student explained, was the first time they'd felt not only accepted, but happy and among friends — something they never knew was possible.

The message was aglow with joy, gratitude, and perhaps most importantly, comfort.

"I can’t believe it was real," they effused. "I got to be myself and live the way I wanted."

via Pixabay

A sad-looking Labrador Retriever

The sweet-faced, loveable Labrador Retriever is no longer America’s favorite dog breed. The breed best known for having a heart of gold has been replaced by the smaller, more urban-friendly French Bulldog.

According to the American Kennel Club, for the past 31 years, the Labrador Retriever was America’s favorite dog, but it was eclipsed in 2022 by the Frenchie. The rankings are based on nearly 716,500 dogs newly registered in 2022, of which about 1 in 7 were Frenchies. Around 108,000 French Bulldogs were recorded in the U.S. in 2022, surpassing Labrador Retrievers by over 21,000.


The French Bulldog’s popularity has grown exponentially over the past decade. They were the #14 most popular breed in 2012, and since then, registrations have gone up 1,000%, bringing them to the top of the breed popularity rankings.

The AKC says that the American Hairless Terrier, Gordon Setter, Italian Greyhound and Anatolian Shepherd Dog also grew in popularity between 2021 and 2022.

The French Bulldog was famous among America’s upper class around the turn of the 20th century but then fell out of favor. Their resurgence is partly based on several celebrities who have gone public with their Frenchie love. Leonardo DiCaprio, Megan Thee Stallion, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Reese Witherspoon and Lady Gaga all own French Bulldogs.

The breed earned a lot of attention as show dogs last year when a Frenchie named Winston took second place at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and first in the National Dog Show.

The breed made national news in early 2021 when Gaga’s dog walker was shot in the chest while walking two of her Frenchies in a dog heist. He recovered from his injuries, and the dogs were later returned.

They’ve also become popular because of their unique look and personalities.

“They’re comical, friendly, loving little dogs,” French Bull Dog Club of America spokesperson Patty Sosa told the AP. She said they are city-friendly with modest grooming needs and “they offer a lot in a small package.”

They are also popular with people who live in apartments. According to the AKC, Frenchies don’t bark much and do not require a lot of outdoor exercise.

The French Bulldog stands out among other breeds because it looks like a miniature bulldog but has large, expressive bat-like ears that are its trademark feature. However, their popularity isn’t without controversy. “French bulldogs can be a polarizing topic,” veterinarian Dr. Carrie Stefaniak told the AP.

american kennel club, french bulldog, most popular dog

An adorable French Bulldog

via Pixabay

French Bulldogs have been bred to have abnormally large heads, which means that large litters usually need to be delivered by C-section, an expensive procedure that can be dangerous for the mother. They are also prone to multiple health problems, including skin, ear, and eye infections. Their flat face means they often suffer from respiratory problems and heat intolerance.

Frenchies are also more prone to spine deformations and nerve pain as they age.

Here are the AKC’s top ten most popular dog breeds for 2022.

1 French Bulldogs

2 Labrador Retrievers

3 Golden Retrievers

4 German Shepherd Dogs

5 Poodles

6 Bulldogs

7 Rottweilers

8 Beagles

9 Dachshunds

10 German Shorthaired Pointers


This article originally appeared on 03.17.23

Pop Culture

Woman who moved to Italy lists the most basic human needs Americans now have to pay for

Remember when these things used to be free? They still are in some places.

Representative image from Canva

If you're feeling like everything is just out of reach, you're not alone.

How many times have you, or someone in your circle, made this joke:

“I can’t seem to go outside without spending money!

But, as with many jokes, there’s some dark truth layered in. Life just feels a little hard right now for many of us when it comes to finances. And one person has hit the nail on the head as to why. Spoiler alert: it probably has nothing to do with anyone being lazy.

Amber Cimiotti, a mom of two and expat living in Italy, begins her video by noting how America has removed naturally occurring activities like “exercise, talking to friends, connecting with people, spending time with our kids,” from everyday life. And so now, Americans only have access to these very necessary things if they are able to pay for them.


For example—let’s talk about exercise. Cimiotti notes how "there's not many places, neighborhoods, and cities where it's super easy to walk everywhere, where you can get a lot of natural exercise, whether it's walking to and from your house or to the grocery stores. This just doesn't exist for most people now, so you have to wake up earlier on your lunch break or after work; you have to go to the gym so you can get in your exercise." Which means someone has to have anywhere between $40 to upwards of $300+ a month to invest in their physical health in this way.

Next up—mental health resources, primarily in the form of real conversations in a supportive community. Cimiotti says “people are meant to share their struggles, their stories, everyday, constantly. And we’re not doing that. And what do you see happening? Nowadays, everybody needs a therapist. Yes, therapy is needed for some things but most people just need to be talking to people way more. And I don’t mean like trolling on the internet.”

Also—child care. "There used to be kids running around neighborhoods all the time. Parents didn't have to pay all this extra money to do activities so their kids can be involved in things; parents didn't have to drive all over the place... But now that doesn't exist. So we do need to pay for activities,” Cimiotti says.

Lastly—food. “Eating healthy food in America is a part-time job, if not a full-time job…it would all be so much easier if we just had healthy food in general.” I don’t think Cimiotti needs to convince anyone here that quality food (food in general, really) is definitely not accessible for many folks, and high prices are at least partially to blame.

“The point is when things don’t happen naturally in your day and you need to take extra energy to achieve basic things like healthy food, exercise, talking to friends, which helps regulate emotions and things like that…when you have to build those into therapy sessions, exercise sessions, hobbies, reading 17 books…of course you’ll be tired,” Cimiotti concludes with a big sigh.

@ciaoamberc #america #culture #family #friends #parenting #society ♬ original sound - Ciao AmberC

Down in the comments, people seemed to really resonate with what Cimiotti had to say.

One reader commented, “I’m totally convinced that a lot of therapy effects could be achieved by processing time with an array of friends in different stages of life. Which isn’t possible to mutually schedule like therapy.”


And while Cimiotti’s video might be sobering, she tells Buzzfeed that her hope is it can lead to more conversations that “help lead to a change.”

Judging by some of the viewer reactions, it seems she’s succeeded, at least in helping people not blame themselves for their challenges. One person shared, “It’s so validating to hear cause I feel like I never have enough time to just live well and not be completely exhausted and have space left to do fun stuff!”

Family

Heartwarming comics break down complex parenting issues with ease

Lunarbaboon comics tackle huge, important subjects with an effective, lighthearted touch that you can't help but smile at.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

Writing comics helped a father struggling with anxiety and depression.

Christopher Grady, a father and teacher from Toronto, was struggling with anxiety and depression. That's when he started drawing.

He describes his early cartoons and illustrations as a journal where he'd chronicle everyday moments from his life as a husband, elementary school teacher, and father to two kids.

"I needed a positive place to focus all my thoughts and found that when I was making comics I felt a little bit better," he says.

He began putting a few of his comics online, not expecting much of a response. But he quickly learned that people were connecting with his work in a deep way.


The comics series called Lunarbaboon was born, and the response to the first few was so powerful that Grady was inspired do more with his comics than just document his own experience.

"I began getting messages from many people about how they connected to the comics and it gave them hope and strength as they went through their own dark times," he says.

"When they look back…they probably won't remember what was said…or where you were when you said it. They may not remember any details of your time together. But they will remember that you were there…and that's what matters most."

"Usually the circle of people we can support, help, influence is limited to our families, friends, coworkers, random stranger at the bus stop, but with my comic I suddenly found my circle of power was much much larger," Grady explains. "I guess I decided to use this power for good."

Grady continued to draw, making a point to infuse the panels with his own special brand of positivity.

"Kids are always watching adults and they look to the adults as role models," he says. "I try to show (my kids and students) that even with all my flaws and weaknesses I am still a good person and I can still make a positive change in the world."

Lunarbaboon comics tackle huge, important subjects with an effective, lighthearted touch that you can't help but smile at.

Check out Grady's take on teaching his son about consent. (All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission.)

consent, relationship advice, father son advice, family

A comic about listening and respecting your partner.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

Here's one about parents being supportive of a gay son or daughter.

sexual orientation, parenting gay children, positive messages, gender orientation

Parents being supportive of their gay son.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

On raising girls in a patriarchal world.

adulting, education, medical field, dreams

Comic encourages girls to chase all their dreams.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

And here's a sweet one about appreciating the heck out of his wife.

motherhood, moms, childbirth, family

Mom one ups dad easily.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

Big topics. Important issues. Grady tackles them with humility and ease.

As Lunarbaboon has continued to grow, Grady says the messages of support he gets have become increasingly powerful.

He certainly doesn't claim to have all the answers to all the complexities of parenting, but he does say that "people like knowing they aren't alone in life's daily struggles. Most people who contact me just want to say thank you for putting something positive into the world."

Grady doesn't expect his Lunarbaboon comics to fix rape culture or end bigotry. He just hopes his message of love, inclusion, and positivity continues to spread.

inclusion, gender roles, social anxiety, happy

Teaching children to accept what might be different.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

"My hope is that for the short time people read it they smile and feel good," he says. "Then I hope they take that good feeling and smile into the world and make it slightly brighter."

You can check out even more of Grady's awesome work over on his website or in his newly published book.


This article was originally published on 11.30.17

Tennessee state senator gives fiery speech on arming teachers

Every once in a while a state's bill will make a blip on national media that causes people to dig a little deeper into what's happening. One such bill made headlines last year for a brief time before a new bill from another state took it's place.

After a tragic school shooting in the state of Tennessee where six people were killed, including three young students, state politicians began talking about arming the teachers. The idea was if teachers were armed then they would be able to stop school shooters, but the bill was widely unpopular among teachers and many parents. That didn't stop the state legislature from drawing up the bill and putting it up for a vote April 2024.

Many parents showed up to Tennessee State Senate to protest the bill, but it was the fiery speech of State Senator London Lamar that has people talking.


The new mom held her infant son in her arms while she addressed her colleagues who saw fit to laugh after moms protesting the bill were asked to leave. Lamar did not hold back in not only expressing her disappointment in her colleagues behavior but their disregard for very real concerns that she also shares with the people asked to leave.

"We are literally talking about arming educators who took an oath to teach our kids writing and arithmetic and how they can one day contribute to Tennessee's great economy, and we're now turning them into law enforcement agents by arming them with guns. We think this piece of legislation is going to keep kids safe which is probably going to enable the next school shooter, and it's not going to be someone coming in from the outside. It's unfortunately going to be a teacher with this piece of legislation," Lamar declares.

You can watch her passionate speech below:

@iamcalledlucas/Instagram, used with permission

We need every Lucas version of Taylor's songs.

Sure, Taylor Swift did a great job at writing, performing in and directing her “Fortnitemusic video (which has only dropped a couple days ago and already at over 30 million views)…but you know what could make it even better? Having a dog perform all the parts, that’s what!

And that’s exactly the treat we received, thanks to an adorable dachshund named Lucas.

The clip (aptly titled “Fortnight (Lucas’ version)”) recreates the music video’s black-and-white typewriter scene, where the camera alternates between a moody Swift and Post Malone clacking as they lament about how much love is “ruining” their lives. you know, basic tortured poets stuff.


Only this time, Lucas plays both the roles—costumes as all! Major kudos to Lucas’ parent, who clearly has an eye for detail and camera angles. Both the original video and Lucas’ video play simultaneously so you can really see how similar they are.

“I look like @taylorswift in this light, i’m lovin’ it 🤭🤍,” the clip caption says.

Watch below. Spoiler alert: get ready to see little doggy paws in lace gloves.

Down in the comments, people were enthralled.

One person wrote, "THIS NEEDS MORE ATTENTION”

"Magical!!!!!!!" another added.

Though clearly Lucas’s is a whole ‘nother level of Swiftie, is he not the only dog to be a fan. In an experiment produced by WoofWoof, dogs were “visibly more relaxed” by her music than other artists in the study. Her songs got more tail wagging and even more “howls of approval.” That’s right, her music transcends species.

Just like Taylor Swift, Lucas has many, many more music videos where they came from, including “The Archer,” “Hoax” and “You Belong with Me.” And just like Swift, he outdoes himself with every new project.

Check out even more of his content on Instagram and TikTok.