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This 'Parks and Rec' star came out in a powerfully candid must-read essay.

'You're not bad. You're not unholy. You're exactly what God intended you to be.'

This 'Parks and Rec' star came out in a powerfully candid must-read essay.
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.

On "Parks and Recreation," Natalie Morales' character, Lucy, was the confident, funny girlfriend every fan was rooting for. Behind closed doors, however, Morales wasn't always the self-assured star she became on screen.

The 32-year-old came out as queer in a new essay for Amy Poehler's Smart Girls. In the powerfully personal piece, Morales discussed the confusion and pain she had to overcome as a teen who found herself attracted to both girls and boys, and why — as an actor who values her privacy — she chose to come out in such a public way.


"I thought I was sick," Morales wrote. "I know I thought something was really wrong with me. I was ashamed and I thought I was dirty."

Falling for another girl in high school was a beautiful thing, Morales recalled, but it also came with an onslaught of shameful feelings.

She continued:

"I knew that the church said it was wrong and that God said it was wrong (even though I couldn’t exactly figure out why, if it wasn’t hurting anyone). I was told bisexuals were degenerates who are selfish and just want the best of both worlds. I was told gay men are fine because they’re funny and have good taste, but lesbian women are wastes of space. I was told the idea of two women kissing was disgusting.”

Now an adult who's more comfortable in her own skin, Morales hopes her own story inspires all of us to act and think differently — whether we're LGBTQ or not.

Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images.

"The reason I decided to share this ... is because even though me telling you I’m queer might not be a big deal these days, things are still pretty bad out there for people like me," she wrote.

"There are gay concentration camps in Chechnya where people are being tortured right this second," Morales noted of the human rights abuses quietly taking place halfway around the world.

You don't have to cross an ocean to see how bigotry causes real harm, though, she noted:

"In our very country, 49 people were killed and 58 people were wounded just last year because they were dancing in a gay club. Our safe spaces are not safe. I think it’s important that I tell you that this familiar face you see on your TV is the Q part of LGBTQ, so that if you didn’t know someone who was queer before, you do now."

Morales' point touches on an important finding: Research shows that when you personally know someone who is LGBTQ, you're far more likely to support their rights. When we see queer people as fully human and deserving of respect, that means fewer stories like the atrocities developing in Chechnya or the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting. Coming out still makes a difference.

"You're not bad," Morales concluded in her essay. "You're not unholy. You're exactly what God intended you to be."

It's a message she wishes she understood a long time ago, Morales said after her essay spread far and wide.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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Of the millions of Americans breathing a sigh of relief with the ushering in of a new president, one man has a particularly personal and professional reason to exhale.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has spent a good portion of his long, respected career preparing for a pandemic, and unfortunately, the worst one in 100 years hit under the worst possible administration. As part of Trump's Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Fauci did what he could to advise the president and share information with the public, but it's been clear for months that the job was made infinitely more difficult than it should have been by anti-science forces within the administration.

To his credit, Dr. Fauci remained politically neutral through it all this past year, totally in keeping with his consistently non-partisan, apolitical approach to his job. Even when the president badmouthed him, blocked him from testifying before the House, and kept him away from press briefings, Fauci took the high road, always keeping his commentary focused on the virus and refusing to step into the political fray.

But that doesn't mean working under those conditions wasn't occasionally insulting, frequently embarrassing, and endlessly frustrating.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.