Nothing is perfect

One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist…Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist” ― Stephen Hawking

If I asked you to look at this photograph of my friends and I (I’m on the right) and tell me what you thought… what would you say? I look happy, right? Content, confident and carefree?

HM6

What if I told you that the same week that this photo was taken, I lied to my friends, telling them I couldn’t go out because I had family plans. Meanwhile, I lied to my parents, “I have a migraine. I can’t leave the house.” In reality, I just wanted to hide from the world under my duvet and watch yet another episode of How to Get Away with Murder.What if I told you that on the night of my 21st birthday celebrations pictured below I cried hysterically to my mum and dad before any guests arrived. I didn’t want anyone to see me and I certainly didn’t want to go into town for a night out. A tsunami of tears later, I began my usual routine; Slap on as much makeup as possible, take a few (who am I kidding…A LOT of) deep breaths and top it all off with one gigantic fake smile. I’m fine…

HM4

 

Very few people know that for almost six years I have struggled with acne.

“What! YOU? No way! Your skin is fine! It isn’t that bad!”

Maybe I did a great job of covering it up (THANK GOD for Clinique’s Beyond Perfecting Foundation) and maybe my clever charade of confidence fooled a lot of people. Sadly however, I have really really struggled…  A lot.

Like a lot.

For years I was treated with antibiotics, topical creams and the contraceptive pill. They would work initially, metamorphosing my never-ending sense of despair into short-term optimism. Gradually however, the effects of each medication would wear off and I would come crashing back to square one; hating my skin and resenting the way I looked.

In August 2016, mum collected me from placement in Dublin to drive me home for my friend’s 21st birthday party in Belfast. What should have been a pleasant two hour mother-daughter catch up developed into me weeping as I took my makeup off and revealed what was underneath. In the tiny sunshield car mirror, I stared at my angry, red, scarred, sore and UGLY face. I hated it. As always, Mum tried her best to calm me down. “You’re working too hard. You’re tired. You need to get out of the office and into fresh air. You’re not eating enough fruit and veg. Will we take you to get a facial?” She was frustrated. Seeing me so upset but knowing that there was nothing even a mother could do to help. It was out of her control and she despised the fact she couldn’t cure me herself.

HM2

August, 2016 – That car journey.

After years of endless doctors appointments and medication I was left feeling totally helpless. I had exhausted all treatment avenues and there was nothing more my GP could do.

There was only one solution. Roaccutane.

Roaccutane, or Isotretinoin is a last resort skincare medication used to treat moderate to severe acne and its use must be supervised by a dermatologist. The drug has a fairly negative reputation and has been linked to some nasty side effects such as extreme dryness of the skin, depression and severe birth defects in unborn babies. During treatment, regular hospital visits are required for blood tests to monitor liver function, pregnancy tests to fulfil my obligations to the pregnancy prevention program and close monitoring of my mental health. Anyone reading this who knows me understands that my biggest fear in the ENTIRE world is blood. Even typing the word makes me light-headed and a bit uneasy and the thought of regular blood tests almost put me off starting the medication entirely.

I was worried about the treatment but I was also desperate and as they say, “desperate times call for desperate measures.”

In a bid to prepare myself, I started carrying out my own research and came across the beauty vlogger, Katie Snooks. This brave young woman posted her entire ‘Roaccutane Daily Skin Vlog’ on Youtube and I watched every single video.

HM7

Katie Snooks, Roaccutane Month 1.

I found myself relating to the pain in her voice and the tears in her eyes when she explained how she didn’t feel confident or beautiful. As I watched her progress videos I was amazed at the difference the drug was making to her skin. It was visibly improving week by week but something else was becoming apparent. Her self-esteem and confidence were also transforming. It seemed as if she had been injected with a new lust for life… I wanted that feeling too.

HM8

Katie’s first and last days of treatment.

I’m pretty sure my confidence was at rock bottom. I have never felt so low and I was willing to try anything to pick myself back up again. I had to be pinned down by a few nurses and (poorly) distracted by my parents or friends to get through the dreaded ‘B tests’ (I invented this term to avoid uttering the ‘b word’), endured six months of a severe addiction to Carmex and six cringe worthy pregnancy tests in front of my mum.  But I did it.

HM1

Yay! The end of treatment in May, 2017.

In recent weeks, Queen of The Jungle and Made in Chelsea’s Georgia Toffollo has decided to publically document her Roaccutane journey. She bared all on ITV’s This Morning when she exposed her makeup-free and acne prone skin to roughly 600,000 viewers across the UK; a decision that I thought was very, very brave and one that inspired me to write this post.

Explaining why she wanted to speak out about this issue, she said: “I think for so long I’ve hidden. I think actually now I’m in the limelight, I don’t want everyone who follows me to think I’m perfect.”
“I am very jolly by nature, but I get very upset when my skin is bad, I dread leaving the house.”

HM3

Now… I am by no means a beauty blogger, influencer, role model or Queen of the Jungle, but I wanted to share my story. I want people to know that if you are struggling, there is help available and there are always solutions to your problems. Your world may appear to be falling apart at the seams at times but someone will always be there to pick you back up. You can and you will get through it.

During my treatment, I completed a year’s placement in FleishmanHillard, one of Ireland’s leading communication agencies, working on big brands such as Cadbury and Proctor and Gamble. Despite sometimes not feeling like the best version of myself I still managed to get out of bed every morning, travel 1 hour 30 minutes to work and give everything I had to a job that I loved.

I still struggle with my skin. I’m not 100% cured from acne and to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever be. I endured one of the hardest periods of my life, yet I still managed to challenge myself and achieve success.

My mum bought me a plaque that read;

You are braver than you believe,

Stonger than you seem,

And smarter than you think.”

 

She was right.

 

HM5

Me in August 2017 – Happier than ever.

 

Hannah Martin is a final year Bsc student in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @HannahMartin596, and Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-martin-b31334112/

 

Three weeks of social media rehab

HM30

We’ve all been there. That gut wrenching, heart pounding moment you realise you can’t find your phone. You frantically pat your body up and down, hoping, praying that it’s lodged deep within your pocket. Know what I’m talking about? Not nice, is it?

Anyone who knows me knows that I love social media. I struggle to go a day without uploading a Snapchat story and often am guilty of uploading more than one Instagram in a single day. I know; social suicide! My social media addiction often acts as a great source of entertainment for my friends. “Oh, there she is! Social media queen! Make sure to get a Snapchat of that, Hannah!” … the jibes are endless but (as us Northern Irish like to say), completely ‘fair enough’.

So, when the battery in my two-year-old iPhone 6 decided to completely cut out during a celebratory post three assignment deadline trip to Dublin, I was phoneless. You can imagine my despair. I hadn’t lost my phone, but holding it in my hand while it refused to turn on, smugly replaying the apple restart logo with the somewhat aggressive “CHARGE YOUR PHONE” symbol constantly appearing on the screen, almost made me wish I did. I wanted to throw it out of the car onto the M50. A weekend exploring a perfectly decorated Grafton Street at Christmas, walks along Malahide’s beautiful coastal path, copious portions of poached eggs and smoked salmon for brunch, pints of Guinness in Gibneys and all without a single Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook post. In fact, I was so quiet on social media that my friends actually started to express genuine concern for my wellbeing. A digital silence? Nope. Not for me.

Once back in Belfast, I was on a mission. An urgent visit to Three and I had managed to bag myself a new phone. I took my brand-new rose gold iPhone SE home and eagerly awaited my social media fix… Until…

“To verify your iCloud account, a code has been sent to your device ending in *********06.”

Sorry… what? My number ends in 54, not 06! Great.

To save explaining every boring, intrinsic technicality, I’ll just cut to the chase; I was locked out of my iCloud (and subsequently all apps on my new phone) for a grand total of THREE WEEKS as the wrong number had been verified to my account. That’s right. Me; girl who can’t leave her phone alone for three minutes has 0 access to anything other than texts and calls for three weeks.

So, what did I learn?

  1. The gym is a terrible place to be when you’re phoneless.

 I never realised how much I rely on music to keep me motivated during a session in the gym or how loudly I stamp on the treadmill when I run and… let’s not even talk about the heavy breathing. Sorry fellow gym members.

  1. The memories you gain from real life experiences are long-lasting, even when they aren’t documented on social media.

 Don’t get me wrong, I think social media is an excellent way to capture and record memories and I will continue to do so. I now know, however, that I don’t have to photograph or record everything – something I’m sure my friends will be pleased to hear!

  1. I could focus on my work more

Whilst I might enjoy receiving Snapchats of my housemates attempting to sing or of them scaring each other in our flat while I’m in the library (sometimes a little too much when I struggle to hold back uncontrollable laughter in the McClay), I did find it much easier to concentrate on assignments without my phone.

  1. I could focus more in real life

 Without the subconscious distractions generated by nonstop notifications, I was more engaged in day to day life. I wouldn’t zone out of a conversation because a message came through to my phone and I would take in my surroundings when walking from A to B. It sounds silly to say but I started to look up and around me, rather than down at the HD screen in my hands.

  1. I was far more sociable

I managed to have better conversations, with the people that mattered to me. Not over text, not on Facebook, Snapchat or WhatsApp, in person.

  1. I didn’t miss social media as much as I thought I would

If I was told three weeks ago that I wouldn’t be allowed access to my social media accounts for this length of time, I would not have been happy. Social media has become an integral part of our lives and I couldn’t possibly entertain the idea of being off it for so long. But did I really miss it that much? Honestly… no. I enjoyed the  much needed detox!

Recent research published in The Times claims that social media is bad for your mental health. Academic studies continuously suggest that intense use of social media is linked to depression, low self-esteem and feelings of depression.

Maybe a break from it every once in a while would be of benefit to us all?

Now I’m not going to start anti-social media protests outside the City Hall, nor am I going to deactivate my accounts, in fact I’ll probably be back to annoying my friends very shortly, but now, at least I know the positive benefits and the headspace going digitally teetotal can bring about.

 

Hannah Martin is a final year Bsc student in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @HannahMartin596, and Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-martin-b31334112/

 

What do the UK Grime scene and the Labour Party have in common?

“It’s a Corbyn ting” – Stormzy

HM24

Grime; London’s mash up of UK garage and jungle music. Rapid, syncopated breakbeats featuring jagged electronic sounds, with a gritty lyrical depiction of urban life narrating a grungy beat.

But why, in 2017, did Grime have such an impact on politics?

On 18th April 2017, Teresa May called for a snap election, “to make a success of Brexit.” She confidently did so, with the aim (and expectation) of winning a landslide Tory majority. In fact, she wasn’t alone in her thinking. The early polls indicated that the Tories were leading by 25%. The story of how Labour turned the election around is arguably one of the most astonishing political fightbacks in modern campaigning history.

Ever since I can remember, I have always been interested in politics. My parent’s heads would be fried after any long car journey with me in the back seat. I somehow always managed to annoyingly dominate the conversation and turn it into my own, car-sized version of Stephen Nolan. So, naturally, I find myself fixated on every news outlet, political party broadcast and social media channel during election time.

The UK general election in 2015 saw less than half of under 25s casting their vote. In 2017, however, 64% of registered voters aged 18-24 fulfilled their voting duties, with the highest youth share since 67% voted in 1992. And who or what have we got to thank for this? Schools? Colleges? Parents? Westminster? No… Grime.

The relationship between grime and the government has always been a somewhat trepid one. In a 2003 radio interview, former politician, Kim Howells attempted to ‘slew’ (that’s Grime terminology for insult by the way) the grime scene, branding the artists as, “macho boasting idiots.” Grime artists are not known to publicly advocate for political parties or politicians either.  Skepta (one of Grime’s most influential artists) even raps about his mistrust for the Police and politicians alike in his chart-topping hit, “Shutdown”.

“This ain’t a culture, it’s my religion
God knows I don’t wanna go prison
But if a man wanna try me, trust me listen
Me and my G’s ain’t scared of police
We don’t listen to no politician
Everybody on the same mission”
Skepta.

Grime has somewhat originated from the same people and places government legislation has hit the hardest in its austerity measures over the last ten years: dwindling prospects of owning a home, increased job insecurity, zero-hours contracts, bedroom tax and underfunded schools are just some of the many measures that have drastically impacted upon the British working class. When we look at it like that, David Cameron’s “we are all in this together” campaign now seems completely out of touch with Britain’s current reality.

Growing up surrounded by a musical genre so closely aligned with personal struggle, Grime has been dubbed as a soundtrack to many Brit’s lives. The 2017 election allowed (arguably for the first time ever) people to engage with a political figure whose own values directly replicated their lived experience. Jeremy Corbyn’s understanding of working-class issues and racial oppression struck a chord with many. It wasn’t long until the Labour Party’s PR powerhouse capitalised upon this particular appeal and promoted it to the masses.

It began when a number of Grime artists stirred up a conversation about politics. Stormzy was one of the first artists to publically express an interest in Jeremy Corbyn;

“Young Jeremy, my guy. I dig what he says. I saw some sick picture of him from back in the day when he was campaigning about anti-apartheid and I thought: ‘yeah, I like your energy’…That’s why I like Jeremy: I feel like he gets what the ethnic minorities are going through and the homeless and the working class.”

 After that it was rapper AJ Tracy. He liked what Corbyn had to say so much, he made an appearance in a Labour party video. He spoke about rising house prices, how he’s in serious debt because he chose to study criminology at university, how the NHS is “one of the jewels of the UK” and further contributes to 2017’s rise of ‘Corbyn-mania’ by stating, “It’s a Corbyn ting. Not a Tory ting.”

Next up, one of Grime’s originals, JME, met Corbyn for cosy sit down lunch in London.  Snapchat users seeking the latest updates from JC were greeted with something unexpected;

“It’s JME on Jeremy’s Snapchat and I’m here right now to tell you to register to vote!”

A promotional video released just days later, showed the pair discussing council housing, off-putting university debt, poorer communities and why people should vote labour. JME states that he has never voted in any election and Corbyn attempts to explain the difference he could make if he does this time around. The video portrays Corbyn as being someone young people can trust and (as JME puts it) “it feels like (you’re) out for lunch with (your) mum’s friend.’”

HM22

Grime based pro-Corbyn posters were placed around South London, showcasing artists such as Stormzy trying to persuade the ‘mandem’ to vote;

“The Tories hold Croydon by 165 votes (that’s literally it) – even your dad’s got more Facebook friends. Stormzy says vote Labour! ’”

In the final week of campaigning, the Grime4Corbyn movement was born, in which live music events were held in London and Brighton featuring panel discussions about the links between Grime and Corbyn’s politics.  A website was launched and thousands of young people started posting and sharing Grime4Corbyn content across social media.

HM23

As young leaders and self-proclaimed political role models, the Grime4Corbyn movement was far from a gimmick. I highly doubt that in the run up to the election, Labour sat down and came up with the idea to use Grime music as a means of mass communicating to their selected target audience.

HOWEVER

When a number of artists began to tease the idea that they may have an interest in voting ‘Jezza’, Corbyn’s campaign team capitalised upon this to the extreme. A selection of official and unofficial means of political public relations helped to encourage thousands of young people to vote. Corbyn claims that his success came from purely standing up for what he believes in. He didn’t ask for individual popularity and he certainly did not foresee ‘Corbyn-mania’.

Whilst I do believe this to be somewhat true, I think that the content the Grime scene created for Corbyn’s campaign was PR gold dust for the team behind him. Labour used the content that was already being created, targeted the Grime industry and ultimately reached the demographic and culture their manifesto and party policies directly related to.

Whatever you believe, the snap election brought about a real positive change for engaging youth in politics and enforces the power and persuasion of social media in political influence. After all, as Corbyn says, “political change doesn’t always come from a politician, does it?”

HM21

Hannah Martin is a final year Bsc student in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @HannahMartin596, and Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-martin-b31334112/

The Fearless Girl

“Everything we want is on the other side of fear.” – George Addair.

 

HM3

Thanks to Instagram’s savvy (but creepy) technology, posts we genuinely are interested in often appear on our ‘explore’ pages. This is usually pretty useful for me for four reasons;

  1. To look at healthy food I’ll probably never make
  2. To look at unhealthy food I definitely will make
  3. To watch fitness videos whilst lying horizontal on the sofa
  4. To stalk my best-friend’s ex-housemate’s sister’s friend’s brother (see relevant Kardashian meme below)

HM5

Last night however, a picture caught my eye.

The image depicted what looked like a young girl, squaring up to a bull with the caption #TheFearlessGirl.  Pretty random? So I dug a little deeper.

One Google search later and any hope of getting a decent night’s sleep became a distant memory. Instagram had lead me to one of the most inspiring yet controversial campaigns of 2017. (THANKS Kevin Systrom!)

Here’s what I found out…

On 7th March 2017, the day before International Women’s Day, The Fearless Girl was erected on Wall Street. She arrived overnight, seemingly out of thin air and stood roughly 50 inches tall. With her hands triumphantly placed upon her hips and facing Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull statue, she took New York’s heart of finance (and the world) by storm.

But why?

Fearless Girl was created for financial advising company State Street Global Advisors by creative agency McCann New York.

Their research identified one key issue;

“The problem is this – women are not making it to the top of any profession, anywhere in the world.” – Sheryl Sandberg, 2017.

They found that companies with women in leadership perform better than those without  (MSCI, November 2015) and aimed to challenge 3,500 companies (a quarter of which had no female board representatives) to add more women to their boards (NBC News, 2017).

They wanted to create a symbol of leadership for the women of today and tomorrow and brilliantly illustrated this with Fearless Girl. She represents courage, strength and ambition but with child-like innocence. When we look at Fearless Girl we see determination, not yet tainted by corruption. We see bravery, not yet tarnished by the unjust. We see heart, not yet disappointed or betrayed by deceit.  

HM1HM2

When I look at her, I see myself. I see 8 year old me playing games of British bulldogs against the boys, determined to win, never for a second doubting that I could.  I see myself studying hard for GCSE’s and am reminded of  the tears of joy I cried as I opened my results to see that (despite all odds) I had achieved a B in maths. I see myself at University. I see my hockey team victorious at Inter-provincial championships. I see myself working long hours far away from home on placement. Fearless Girl reminds me that there is nothing more rewarding than working hard for something and the feeling you get when you achieve it. America’s king of Monday night television, Stephen Colbert, dubbed Fearless Girl as a symbol, “representing women’s daily experience of having to face a tonne of bull.” She reminds us that as women, we’re inevitably going to face an abundance of daily hardships, but who’s to say we’ll let it stand in our way?

Did the campaign work?

Initially for State Street, yes.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Fearless Girl spawned almost one million tweets and an array of free publicity for State Street, including thousands of mentions on TV programs and hundreds of articles in papers around America. State Street estimates the traditional and social-media exposure generated by Fearless Girl is valued between $27 million and $38 million. Not bad for a rumoured budget of $250,000 (Wall Street Journal 2017). The statue’s resonance in social media highlighted the fact that digital campaign success can often stem from a purely offline idea.

And that’s not all.. Fearless Girl is now one of the most highly honoured campaigns in the history of the Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity and one of two campaigns ever to have won four Grand Prix at Cannes (Adweek 2017).

However

State Street came under fire in March, when documents by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program stated that, “since at least December 1, 2010, and continuing thereafter, State Street discriminated against Females employed in the Senior Vice President (SVP), Managing Director (MD), and Vice President (VP) positions by paying them less, in base salary, bonus pay and total compensation, than similarly situated Males employed in the same position.” (Quartz Media 2017). The company initially rejected the claims but has since agreed to pay nearly $4.5 million in back pay and over $507,000 in interest to settle the dispute.

So my question is this; A cleverly insincere marketing ploy or a heartfelt do-good campaign?

I’ve always tried to see the good in people. A somewhat naive personality trait, but one that allows me to sleep at night with less worries and angst that leave me tossing and turning in the sheets. When I see pictures of the grown women and the little girls standing next to Fearless Girl, I can relate to the emotions the 50 inch statue provokes. She inspires us all to be the best and forces us to believe that we can be, no matter who or what is standing in our way. To create and implement such a heartwarming campaign, I really do believe State Street were trying to promote real positive change. That being said, I can hardly ignore the initial benefits it brought about for their business, and the unfortunate tsunami of negativity that followed.

Ernest Gaines tells us to, “ Question everything. Every stripe, every star, every word spoken. Everything.”

Well… Are campaigns fooling us and merely created for the benefit of organisations?

HM4

 

Hannah Martin is a final year Bsc student in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @HannahMartin596, and Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-martin-b31334112/