#SWAAYthenarrative
BETA

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!

5 Min Read
Politics

Politicians Are Manipulating A Public Health Crisis To Ban Abortion

Every time I think I'm out of outrage — emotionally exhausted from how the COVID-19 crisis has exposed the fragility of all our society's systems and unable to think about it for another second — something forces me to dig deeper and find another well of it stored within me.

It's hard enough to watch people sick and suffering, families being split apart, healthcare workers risking their lives and well-being to provide care, and people losing their jobs left and right. It's even harder knowing that so much of this could have been prevented or lessened but for the poor decision-making and horrifying gaslighting that came from the White House in the weeks and months leading up to COVID-19's appearance in the U.S.

But to see some politicians use this pandemic as an excuse to ban abortion has been a low I wasn't prepared for while I shopped for extra canned goods and toilet paper.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a governing crisis for legislators at all levels. There is a role for everyone to play, from your city council members all the way up to your U.S. Senators. There are real needs these legislators should be focusing on to protect us all. But, instead, scores of politicians are using this moment to declare abortion care as "nonessential" and are forcing clinics to close.

Amid the necessary stay-at-home orders and guidelines for what kinds of services or procedures are considered essential and which ones must be delayed, Governors in Texas, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Ohio, and Oklahoma have acted to declare that abortion care is considered "nonessential."

They claim that these procedures must be stopped so medical personnel can preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for fighting COVID-19. But abortion isn't a procedure that can be easily delayed.

The longer you wait, the more expensive it is and, eventually, you run out of time altogether — sometimes because of existing restrictions on abortion later in pregnancy. Restrictions that these very same politicians support or maybe even put into place.

Abortion is connected to innumerable other issues that our society grapples with: employment, paid family leave, gender-based violence, generational poverty, adequate and quality childcare, job security, immigration, transportation, health insurance... HEALTH INSURANCE.

Every structure and component of our daily lives can and does impact a person's decisions around family-building and their ability to access healthcare when they need it. This doesn't just stop because of a pandemic.

Every single one of these issues is at risk right now, and leaving women with nowhere to go if they're facing an unintended pregnancy that they wish to end, is a new low.

To anyone who has been paying attention, how quickly our systems have buckled or how fragile our economic and health security actually is (and always has been) should come as no great surprise.

People with incredible privilege have been able to look the other way for years. But as their stocks tumble and they are forced to consider their health and that of their family members, perhaps they, too, will see that significant structural changes must be enacted to respond to the world we are living in.

The completely arbitrary nature of so many of our laws is being laid bare. The soul-crushing burdens of trying to manage everything — child care, working full time, and running a home and a family during a once-in-a-generation crisis — without a broad, systematic set of structures to support that process is being shown to be utterly impossible. It's simple logic.

Though opponents of reproductive rights have never been much for science, it's appalling how even now that is so blatantly true. Their argument for cutting off abortion access to preserve PPE for other health care services is easily countered when you note that continuing a pregnancy requires multiple prenatal visits and ultimately a hospital stay for actual delivery. All of which require a much higher amount of PPE being utilized over a significant period of time.

Meanwhile, we could transform the landscape of abortion access overnight if we simply expanded the availability of medication abortion, allowing women to get the safe and effective abortion pill without even having to go to a clinic. The U.K just took action to make this a reality. There's no reason, beyond petty politics, that the U.S. couldn't do the same. But, so far, the FDA isn't budging.

Of course, if we attempt to counter these increased abortion restrictions with facts, we'd be presuming that these opponents of abortion are arguing in good faith when they are absolutely not.

This isn't about health and safety during a global pandemic, and it's not about looking out for peoples' best interests. There's no reasonable argument to be made for forcing someone to continue a pregnancy against their will, especially while our entire world is in an upheaval.

The fact that these proponents of abortion restrictions are willing to twist a global pandemic to suit their own needs, and in antithesis to the simple facts of health and safety, is appalling. It is only adding more stress and heartache to already-challenging circumstances. Women in Texas and Oklahoma don't deserve that; no one does.

Pushing for abortion restrictions at a time like this isn't about healthcare, PPE, or even safety. It is a purposeful and manipulative political agenda that will make things even harder at a time when we can all agree things are hard enough.