World AIDS Day Giveaway: "I’m Covered"

December 1, 2011  |  Announcements, Giveaway, Special Features
When I first started this website I made a conscious decision not to discuss political or social issues on my blog. I have a hugely diverse reader base and didn’t want to risk alienating anyone – especially since I do have strong views on a number of different issues. However, when Lifestyles Condoms contacted me a couple weeks back about Maggie Kervick’s work I took a strong second look at my own “abstinence-only” policy, and decided that occasional, sensible discussions of social issues important to me are OK. Especially on World AIDS Day.
You’re probably wondering why promoting safe sex and sex-positive education is such a personal cause. If you’ve taken a look at my “About” page you’ll see that I grew up in Arkansas, which is a very conservative state. I attended Fayetteville Public Schools (FPS), which is nationally known for its rigorous high school curriculum and talented graduates (maybe you’ve heard of my classmate, the Chicago Bulls shooting guard Ronnie Brewer?) So naturally, it seems backwards that they preached abstinence-only sexual education when I was a student. To my knowledge the district still does. When I dug I little deeper as I wrote this post, I saw that FPS recently received a grant for $447,099 to teach community-based abstinence education (CBAE) to its students. This is a policy that simply doesn’t make sense, because it doesn’t work. Abstinence only education actually results in higher rates of teen pregnancy and STDS according to clinical research for a very obvious reason. Because they’re not. wearing. condoms! (source).
Let me spell this out for you: my classmates and I weren’t taught that latex condoms are proven to dramatically reduce the risk of acquiring HIV and other STDs through intercourse 99% of the time with perfect use (90% with actual use). I was wrongly taught in a public school that abstinence until marriage is the only way to protect against STDs. What the instructor failed to mention is that abstinence-only training DOESN’T WORK, and is in fact opposed by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Abstinence itself works when practiced by individuals, but abstinence-only education doesn’t because teens aren’t given the knowledge to protect themselves from HIV using condoms, should they end up choosing not to be abstinent. FYI: I do support teaching abstinence as one option within a comprehensive sexual education course.

 Me at an HIV/AIDS non-profit organization inside the Kibera area of Nairobi

In 2009, exactly ten years after my “abstinence-only” sex ed class, I took a trip to Kenya with my mom at the age of 23 to go on a safari. In between flights we spent the night in Nairobi, where I would see up close the effect that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has on people when I visited the Kibera neighborhood in Kenya’s capitol city.

Mary, Lucy and Alice managed the Kugulu HIV/AIDS orphanage

As part of the Explore Kibera program, we met with community leaders and social activists including a group of of HIV+ women who formed an informal trade network to sell handmade jewelry to pay for their treatment. Two of the women I met told me how they contracted HIV from their husbands who had been having unprotected sex behind their backs. Another told me about how she had contracted the virus during a rape.

 HIV+ children who are orphans in class with their teacher Mary

Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of the tour was when we brought food and school supplies to a church-run HIV/AIDS orphanage. All of the kids there were HIV+ orphans who had contracted it from their parents. After that experience I pretty much just wanted to sit down and cry for the rest of my life. I felt hopeless in the face of so much suffering. But there are things we can do to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, like promoting the use of condoms.

The fact is that condoms, when used properly, dramatically reduce the risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS during sex. People who live in progressive Northern cities like Chicago are often unaware that there are still places in the United States – like Fayetteville, Arkansas – where teenagers are taught that the only way to protect oneself from contracting HIV is not to have sex at all. While it’s true that abstinence is the only way to 100% protect against HIV, condoms are extremely effective (99% with perfect use) because the fact is that the vast majority of human beings are having sex, married or not.  And as I learned in Kibera even married monogamous women can contract HIV if their unfaithful partners don’t use condoms as protection.

Which brings me to Maggie Kervick’s work in raising awareness around the slut-shaming of women who carry condoms. She decided to combat the secrecy and awkwardness that often surrounds discussions about safe-sex by bringing it right out into the open. You guessed it – she designed handbags made out of condom packets. Definitely a conversation starter, these bags are meant to get people talking about these issues making them both a fashion statement and tool for social awareness.

Listen up sex-positive readers, to enter to win Maggie Kervick’s wristlet above all you have to do is:

1. Like LifeStyles Condoms on Facebook

2. Like Maggie’s Facebook Page, BagsByMags

3. And leave a comment on this post with your first name and last initial telling me one thing you love about yourself. That might sound strange, but practicing safe sex (whether with a condom, by being monogamous, or practicing abstinence) is all about self-love.

I’ll announce the winner in a separate post next Friday, December 9th. Then I’ll arrange via email to have the bag mailed to you. GOOD LUCK!

To learn more about how to safely use condoms, click here to visit the LifeStyles website.

L’Oreal x Marc by Marc Jacobs Giveaway!

October 7, 2011  |  Corporate Collaborations, Giveaway
Loreal Prize

L’Oreal, the Parisian beauty products company, contacted me a few weeks ago and asked me to help them promote their new Your Style Your Studio website. It’s a super cool concept and is basically a street-style website for hair. It’s similar to Chictopia in the sense that users are able to upload photos of themselves and their friends. Visitors to the site can search through the photos by specifying colors, lengths, and cuts to see the wide variety of looks hosted on the site.

I am asked to promote a lot of different brands, but I only choose to partner with brands that align with my values as a blogger and as a person. My whole mission with Chicago Street Style is to promote individuality, so it’s quite inspiring to me to see a giant corporation like L’Oreal create a website that is designed to encourage expressions of individual beauty, entirely based on user-generated content.

To win this giant prize package of SIX L’Oreal products and a super chic Marc by Marc Jacobs purse (with detachable strap to convert into a clutch) all you have to do is:

  1.  “Like” us on Facebook by visiting our Facebook Page
  2.  Write on our wall and tell us what your favorite hairstyle is! It can be your own hairstyle, a celebrity’s or a friend’s. Two to three sentences will suffice.

That’s it! The competition will run until Friday, October 14th. Best of luck! And in the meantime, make sure to upload some cool photos of your hairstyle to L’Oreal’s Your Style Your Studio website!

Winner of the AllSaints $100 Gift Card

September 2, 2011  |  Announcements, Giveaway
I am happy to announce that Kelly of Path to Positive is the winner of our AllSaints $100 gift card giveaway! I took a screenshot of my computer just to show that she won fair and square. Maybe we’ll be seeing an update on her fashion blog featuring her purchase?
Congrats Kelly!
Check out the AllSaints Spitalfields Facebook page here.