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Undercover-chella: A Brutally Honest Look Behind Coachella's Velvet Rope

Culture

I've lived in Los Angeles for 5 years, and have gone to Coachella - both weekends - for 4 of those. Am I crazy? Yes, obviously.

I've experienced every type of 'Chella possible: GA, VIP, with Artist bands, as Staff, No-Chella (AKA just attending the parties), paid full admission, got in free, camped-glamped-crashed-and-mansioned, planned it, and gone on a whim the day-of.


So what is it that brings me back each year? Ironically, the music festival takes a backseat to what in my opinion is the crown jewel of the desert: the parties.

Weekend One of the festival is the IT weekend: celebrities, YouTubers, Instagram models, influencers, socialites, fashion bloggers, professional partiers and the press go Coachella-adjacent: descending on the desert and turning it into a multi-page fashion spread. It's the weekend where pasties are acceptable outfits, Drake is most likely within 100 feet of you at all times, and you discover what the term “gifting suite" means.

Let's stop and talk about gifting suites for a hot second. At a party that shall-not-be-named, I was mistaken for an influencer (does it count if my mom tells me I'm special?) and invited into a mysterious room.

Let's call this room “Christmas Morning" because it was a pop-up store with gorgeous designer clothing, where I was given a shopping bag and instructed to grab whatever I wanted. I'm sorry, what?

"At a party that shall-not-be-named, I was mistaken for an influencer (does it count if my mom tells me I'm special?) and invited into a mysterious room."

Do you remember watching the Toys R' Us “Super Toy Run" on Nickelodeon as a kid? It's like that, but better. As an adult, you're able to appreciate how much these items cost as you dunk them into your hemp tote, shielding tears of joy behind those dope new sunglasses they gave you. I tried to cover it up like, “Don't worry, it's just sweat… dripping from my eyes." From swanky shades, to haute accessories, to perfumes, apparel, souvenirs, and flower-power-anything, it's 50 Shades of Swag. All day, erreday. Well, Friday through Sunday.

But why? Well, brand sponsors are willing to bet that if the right people are seen using or wearing their product, it'll be making a cultural splash big enough to trickle down in sales for the rest of the year. So do complimentary henna tattoos and mani/pedis at the Rachel Zoe party, or Quay sunglasses at Revolve and Forest Grant's at Poppy, or Batiste Dry Shampoo at Neon, or free rides from Fiat and Body Glove, and luxury cannabis giveaways at The Chroncierge mansion powered by Greenrush really do the trick??

Besides all the PR they get from people like me mentioning them, it actually does! Much of what influencers touch turns to gold. Even the CEO of Revolve said that, "This was our best week ever: Monday [before Coachella] beat our Cyber Monday," and that's because Revolve has Coachella down to a science. This year, they rented out an entire hotel just for influencers, flying them out from around the world and dressing them up in #instagrammable outfits that have the rest of us like, “Damn, where can I buy that?"

"The thing is, there's so much to see and do at Coachella W1 that it's impossible to do it all."

But ugh, even as am I'm writing this -- and having attended some of the most exclusive parties myself -- I still have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). The thing is, there's so much to see and do at Coachella W1 that it's impossible to do it all. I take that back. It's impossible... unless you have a helicopter like Lil Wayne who literally flew from party to party to perform this year, skipping the godforsaken road closures and miserable traffic.

Like any music festival, the traffic at Coachella is the worst. If I could go back in time, I'd ask Steven Hawking to lend his genius to figure it all out.

We live in a world with self-driving cars and seedless watermelons, but it seems that nobody can figure out how to stop carmageddon every weekend. This year, it took me 2 hours to get to the Poppy party, which was about “15 minutes away" from our Airbnb in Bermuda Dunes. Luckily, the good parties don't stop until 4 am, but there's nothing worse than being stuck in the back of an Uber while receiving texts about how much fun the fiesta is. Thus confirming my “fear" that I was indeed, missing out.

"Besides the mandatory photo ops (duh) it gets wild."

OK so besides the free gifts and food and drinks and music, what's it like inside the parties?

Besides the mandatory photo ops (duh) it gets wild. At the Revolve Festival, they had an actual carnival ride from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch, but I've seen cool activations like: nursing stations where they administer IV's and vitamin B shots in the booty, massage stations, choose-your-own-flower-crowns, braid and glitter bars, makeup touch-ups, a crane-game machine where you can win a BMW at Poppy, dirtbikes and a bouncy house slide at FentyxPuma, and so much more. Dammit, I'm getting FOMO again just thinking about it.

But while I'd love to keep gushing about how wonderful of an experience it all was, I can't skip the arduous process of figuring out how to gain access to these coveted events. All the “free" comes at the price of working hard to hustle your way onto the list.

Even with Coachella being about 150 miles away from Los Angeles, you'll find that #HollywoodRules still apply: you gotta know someone to get in. Whether it's a gatekeeper (the PR person), the talent (bonus points if it's a musician), someone who has a plus one (start sucking up months in advance), an influencer or the goddamn line cook for all I care, you gotta know someone! If you're feeling lucky, you can also send a blind RSVP to the email address on the event invite and pray you get in. It does work… sometimes.

But one party that it definitely will not work at -- the event that deserves a paragraph all on its own -- is Neon Carnival. Known as the star-studded extravaganza of the weekend (maybe even the year) Neon attracts celebs like: Leonardo DiCaprio, Chance the Rapper, Diddy, Amber Rose, Paris Hilton, Logan Paul, Lele Pons and so much more. I'm pretty sure whoever coined the term “Disneyland for Adults" was referring to this event. With bumper cars, carnival games, a ferris wheel, an epic stage and dance floor, and beautiful people to enjoy it all with, it's is surreal AF. If you're ever in a situation to trade your left kidney for a party, do it for Neon Carnival.

All in all, I hope reading this has ignited enough curiosity (and FOMO) to convince you to make the pilgrimage to Coachella Weekend One next year. It sometimes feels like more of a glitter safari than a music festival, but it's well worth it!

Our newsletter that womansplains the week
4min read
Lifestyle

Going Makeupless To The Office May Be Costing You More Than Just Money

Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.


Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.

Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.

As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.

Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.

So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.

Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.

For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."