TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 21, 2021

Period Drama Inspired Fashion

Let us introduce: 'Regencycore'. Similarly to Cottagecore in its TikTok and Instagram origins, the phrase was coined following the influence of Netflix's latest hit Bridgerton, which has seen the appetite for period drama inspired fashion skyrocket.

Between Bridgerton, The Crown and The Queen’s Gambit, it’s clear that the escapism we seek from an evening of Netflix has transcended beyond simply a different reality, but to a different time period altogether. Let us introduce: ‘Regencycore’. Similarly to Cottagecore in its TikTok and Instagram origins, the phrase was coined following the influence of Netflix’s latest hit Bridgerton, which has seen the appetite for period drama inspired fashion skyrocket. 

From empire waistlines to pastel hues, pearl headbands, lace detailing and corseted silhouettes, it’s the ultimate throwback in romantic, whimsical dressing.

From empire waistlines to pastel hues, pearl headbands, lace detailing and corseted silhouettes, it’s the ultimate throwback in romantic, whimsical dressing. Decadence is the key here- minimalist, scandi dressers look away because this trend is rooted in more being more. And whilst it might seem that there are limited occasions with which you can get away with a pearl detailed blouse or renaissance inspired corset, the magic of regal dressing can be found in the small details synonymous with the trend that can be subtle but instantly recognisable. 

According to fashion intelligence outlet Lyst, searches for Regencycore fashion have gone wild following the Internet’s Jane Austen worthy love affair with Bridgerton, as searches for corsets were up 123%, pearl and feather headbands up 49%, long gloves up 23% and empire line dresses up a whole 93%. It’s clear that it’s not just the Duke and his spoon that have made a lasting impression on viewers.

Regencycore is reigning over the fashion world in 2021, and if it means an excuse to rewatch Bridgerton for the second (read: fifth) time running then so be it…

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TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 20, 2021

Snog, Marry, Avoid! The Zoella Team’s Best & Worst Beauty Buys

When it comes to beauty products, we want the kind of results that show up on Zoom and nothing less. Give us the bewitching head of hair that leaves our work pals in a trance and the kind of cult fragrance that permeates the screen and interferes with your wifi. Alas, the quest to find […]

When it comes to beauty products, we want the kind of results that show up on Zoom and nothing less. Give us the bewitching head of hair that leaves our work pals in a trance and the kind of cult fragrance that permeates the screen and interferes with your wifi.

Alas, the quest to find such products isn’t always easy. Show of hands for those who’ve been personally victimised by a pink shelfie aesthetic. Pretty packaging is our Achilles heel.

In the event that you might be dabbling with new make-up or skincare this January or hitting pan on your desert island must-haves and wondering what beauty detour to take next, these are the products to snap up in a heartbeat and swerve like an ex you’ve clocked down the confectionery aisle in Sainsbury’s.

From high street heroes that overpromised and underdelivered to the cult formulas worth the splurge, here’s a rundown of the team’s best & worst beauty buys.

Maddie Says…

Snog – I felt compelled to choose my favourite lip products for obvious reasons here! I have many but if I had to choose a product I would always repurchase and feel is genuinely worth the money it’s the Charlotte Tilbury lip cheat pencils. I’m a big fan of the lipsticks too but the lip cheat pencils, in particular, come in the most gorgeous shades and have incredible staying power. When I can’t really be bothered with my face I’ll often just whack a lip on and it looks like you’ve made loads of effort when really it took 60 seconds max. My favourite colours are Supersize me, Pillow Talk and love trap.

Marry – This is such a tough one as I have so many products I absolutely love and would say are holy grail worthy products. If I had to choose ONE thing I can’t be without it’s the By Terry CC serum illuminating primer in the shade sunny flash. If you want one product that’s going to bring your skin back to life with minimal effort this is it. Especially in current times where a whole face of makeup has felt a bit unnecessary, this has been my lifesaver to making me look refreshed and glowy (even when I’ve felt anything but!)

AvoidYves Saint Laurent  – Touche Eclat. I just don’t get this product, yet somehow because it was seen to be the latest innovation with the click to release function, a lot of my early 20s I used to think of it as THE product you had to have. Is it an under-eye concealer? A highlighter? a brightener? Who knows but it didn’t really hit the mark on any of those things in my opinion. Granted it’s been a fair few years since I’ve given up on it so formulas and colours have no doubt changed but it just didn’t live up to the hype and at nearly £30 a pop, pass me the glossier stretch concealer any day.

Lareese Says…

Snog – Pucker up, Glossier Cloud Paint, I’m coming in for a peck. I’m definitely late to the party when it comes to Glossier goods but now I’m here, I’m never going home. I LOVE this cream-gel formula, it’s natural, buildable and gives that beautiful flushed-from-within rouge, like you’ve just got in from a good countryside promenade. Even if I’ve got nothing else on my face, I pat this onto my cheeks and my pale skin immediately looks healthier, brighter and more alive. I use the colour Dusk but obviously, the love story doesn’t end there (adds Puff & Beam to the list of beauty products I’d like to take home to meet the parents)

Marry – I’d marry Le Labo Santal 33 in a heartbeat. It’s a fragrance I come back to time and time again and even though it is on the spenny side, wearing it is such an experience, I think it just about justifies the price tag. It’s a woody, smoky, addictive unisex scent that lingers on the skin all day. Wearing a fragrance is as much part of my routine as getting dressed or brushing my teeth, so a unique scent like this one is worth the splurge IMHO. I’d go as far to say I feel the most ME when I’ve got it on. It’s also really rare to find a scent that’s both fresh and woody – it’s a beautiful anomaly and I’d let it have my hand in marriage quicker than you can say, give us a squirt.

AvoidMaybelline Instant Anti-Age Concealer. Urgh, I got sucked into the Instagram hype on this one. Granted, it’s under a tenner so it’s not the end of the world but still, I had high hopes for this product after all the rave reviews but I found it to be really chalky and drying, not ideal for someone desperately clutching onto her youth. Maybe I just have under eyes drier than Gandhi’s flip flop, who knows. In a game of Naked Attraction, it would be lights up, I’ve seen enough, put it that way.

Darcey Says…

Snog – It is only right to choose my love affair with Glossier Boy Brow here, absolutely they best brow mascara on the market. It has a perfect finish, not to gel-like or waxy like some brow mascaras. It’s super pigmented too but not so pigmented that it leaves streaks of product on your skin and not your eyebrow hairs! The wand size is perfecto too, so you can grab all the little hairs. The only reason I haven’t married this product is that it needs to come in a bigger size asap!

Marry – Choosing one product is quite tricky as I have so many beauty products that I adore and have used for years. But, I do think the product I have been using the longest and no sign of wanting to swap him out yet is the Clinique City Block in SPF 40. I use acids on my face and so using an SPF every day is even more important, but I didn’t want one which was sticky or left my pores feeling blocked. This is the best facial sunscreen I’ve ever used, it is also great as a primer as it leaves your skin feeling super soft. It gives your skin a really nice glow and doesn’t create any kind of cast or sheen like some SPF’s do.

Avoid – Kylie Jenner Lip Kits, I honestly have never understood the hype. I mean I did at first, you know everyone wanted plump lips like Kylie Jenner, who remembers the Kylie lip challenge when people literally swelled their lips using like bottle caps? Ouch. Of course, buying into the hype I ordered a lip kit, paid about $1,000,000 in custom tax, to have a lipstick that quite literally crumbled off my lips after 10 minutes. I can’t vouch for the formula now, but it certainly did not impress me when they were released like 5 years ago.

Charlotte Says…

Snog – One that I can go without but that is always nice to have is the Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray. It’s v pricey for what is is- hence why it’s only been picked for the occasional snog- but I do feel like it makes a difference to my base and is a lifesaver in the summer months. I do enjoy a full coverage base and I find this spray helps blend foundation, concealer, blush, bronzer and highlighter together and gives a really effortless finish.

MarryNars Sheer Glow Foundation always and forever! I used to rotate and try a new high-end foundation when my current one ran out on the quest to find the creme de la creme of bases, but I always ended up coming back to this. The shade Mont Blanc is the perfect colour match for me, it’s full coverage which is a must in my eyes and gives the loveliest glow to the skin without looking shiny. I have oily skin but if I powder my face in the morning this foundation stays put all day whilst maintaining a healthy glow and foolproof finish that never separates, creases or budges. I don’t think I’ll ever try another foundation!

Avoid – I haven’t tried much make-up from Glossier but I picked up the lilac shade of Lidstar in their London pop-up last year and honestly, it was not a vibe. It’s so drying and almost instantly creases, doesn’t last well and it’s almost impossible to get an even colour payoff across the lid. The wand is too absorbent so every time you use it to try and blend or apply more product it just ends up back on the wand. I’ve tried to give it a fair chance but I do NOT think it’s worth £15 and I wouldn’t repurchase.

Danielle Says…

Snog – So for my snog, it’s something that I’m currently loving or ‘lusting’ over. It’s new to my life and we’re just having a great time together, who knows how long it will last? It’s the Farmacy – Honey Grail Ultra-Hydrating Face Oil and it’s the perfect thing for combating dry winter skin. It has a gorgeous honey vibe and scent (obviously) and is a joy to put on. I’ve started using it as a bit of a primer for foundation so I can achieve a summer dewy look on my porous crocodile face. Highly rec!

Marry – I guess the thing I love most about makeup is my base, if I’ve got that down and my skin looks great then everything else is kind of secondary. So for that reason, my marriage has to go to my numero uno Nars Radiant Long-wear Foundation. It has never let me down and is always a joy to put on. Mascaras come and go but I’ve been using this for years which is a testament to our relationship.

Avoid – Unfortunately being the ‘grass is greener’ girl that I am, I gave the latest Nars Soft Matte Complete Foundation a go. I know, I know, I’m a cheater and I deserve what I got. I’m sure it’s a great foundation if you have perfectly young plump skin or you lean slightly more oily. For me, it was just too dry and I also think I didn’t purchase the right shade which never helps. I’ve still got it and I’m going to give it another go in the summer when I’m more tanned and sweating my life away but for now, it’s gathering dust on my vanity.

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TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 18, 2021

We Spoke to 5 People About Adoption

Here, we speak to five people about their stories and what adopting has meant for them, as well as some of the invaluable advice they’ve picked up along the way.

Biology has very little to do with a parent’s capacity to love and care for a child and there are more ways to mother a child beyond carrying one in your own body.

It can also be the most incredibly enriching life experience.

Adoption can quite literally change the course of a child’s life and whilst the process can be an emotional rollercoaster of a journey, it can also be the most incredibly enriching life experience.

Here, we speak to five people about their stories and what adopting has meant for them, as well as some of the invaluable advice they’ve picked up along the way.

Marri

Marri adopted her daughter Ellie when she was 18 months old, she’s now 5.

Where did you start with the research process and deciding which adoption agency / local authority to go with?

I have a close family friend who is a retired social worker. She talked me through the process and gave me the contact details for my own local authority and the two neighbouring authorities. There will be support services local to you depending on where you live, so I contacted Scottish Adoption and read over all the information available. I ended up going with a local authority near me, and they were excellent.

What was your biggest motivation for adopting a child?

I’ve wanted to be a mum all my adult life. I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet someone who also wanted to have kids, so adoption felt like an empowering way for me to take control of that. As soon as I made the decision to embark on the adoption process, my determination to be a mum went to a new level. This was no longer about my need to be a mum. This was about a child who needed a mum.

Can you talk us through what to expect from the adoption process? (Timescales, interview questions, training, first introductions, the matching panel)

  • My telephone enquiry led to a visit from a social worker for an initial assessment and to complete paperwork. As a single adopter, I asked if my mum could be present during the visit. I still smile when I think back to that night. My mum showed the social worker my spare room and even told her I was a good baker! She basically gave me a glowing reference. I felt so emotional seeing how badly my mum wanted this for me too, and proud to have her unwavering support. I really liked the social worker who did that initial visit and hoped I’d get her allocated to me. As luck would have it, I did, and she was amazing.
  • The next step was to attend preparation groups. These classes took place over a number of weekends. They covered a lot of detail about what to expect from the process – it was a ‘warts all’ approach, covering the importance of acceptance, risks of known and unknown health conditions, connection, heritage, discrimination, preconceptions, prejudice. I was the only single person in our group. I remember sitting in my car on the morning of our first class watching all the couples walking in, taking hands, arms round each other. I buckled and called my best friend. She told me to walk in there with my head up and keep my eyes on the prize. I met some good people in that group, including a couple from the same town I live in. We made friends instantly, we’ve been close pals ever since and now our daughters are best friends.
  • After the preparation groups, I was allocated my social worker, Joanne. She had my back from day one and I had complete faith in her, which is crucial when you are bearing your soul to someone, as happens when you enter the next stage of the process – the paper work. As an adopter, single or a couple, you need to complete a form which speaks to who you are, what your motivations are, your family, your upbringing, your views, your ability to cope with life’s transitions, your resilience, your support networks. No drawer is left unturned, no skeleton is left hiding in the cupboard behind far too many pairs of shoes. When you tell people about this part of the process, they seem quite appalled; ‘it’s terrible you have to do all that when most people can have a baby without batting an eye’. I never viewed this part of the process as anything but necessary, essential. I also made a decision to see it as cathartic; a healthy reflection on who I am, and what I have to offer. The completion of the paperwork took place over the course of a year, in my case. Some of the form was written by my social worker following in depth conversations, some of it I wrote myself and submitted. My parents and some very close friends also submitted personal references. I had to attach a photo of myself to the form. Scrolling through my phone, I realised I didn’t have many which didn’t have me holding a cocktail. A work friend took a picture of me sitting at my desk, smiling, scared, determined. My daughter will read this form one day and I hope it makes her feel proud.
  • The next stage is the panel for approval, and then it’s a waiting game. For many adopters, they view that panel approval as being the positive pregnancy test. You know you will be a parent, but in this way, there is no gestation period. It’s all in the hands of your social worker, and the social worker of a child in ‘permanency’, to make that match. Six weeks after I was formally approved, my social worker rang me to say she had a file for me to read. It was a baby girl who had just turned one year old. I will never forget that phone call as long as I live.
  • My social worker sent me the file to read and followed this up by texting me a photo of the baby girl. It had been taken on her first birthday, only two months prior. Her big blue eyes, her wee face, I knew the second I saw that photo she was mine.
  • My social worker visited me with my daughter’s social worker, and from there we were formally matched. I set to work. A buggy, a cot, toys, clothes – many, many clothes, books, more clothes, adoption leave from work, savings cashed in for adoption leave, nights out with my friends before it was ‘all over’, more clothes but this time for me – what look would I go for now I was going to be a mum? Goodbye, high heels – hello, high tops. I was ready.
  • I was able to connect to my daughter’s foster carer, Elizabeth, via my social worker, so in the 3-4 months between the match and our introduction, Elizabeth and I met for a coffee and swapped numbers. She sent me photos and videos every week, and it really helped me to connect to my daughter before I’d even met her.
  • It was so important to me that the transition period was as smooth as possible for my daughter, who had already been through a lot in her 18 short months on the planet. I slept with a teddy bear every night for two weeks before we met to get my scent onto something comforting for her which her foster family gave to her before our introduction week. I also found out what type of washing powder her foster carers were using so I could buy the same and try and maintain some familiarity for her.
  • The night before our introduction day was surreal. Three years after I picked up the phone to the local authority and asked that question – ‘can single people adopt’ – here I was, preparing to meet my daughter in the morning.
  • I knocked the door, and in I went. There she was, sitting on the floor, playing with her toys. There she was, my girl.

What criteria must you meet before you can adopt?

In Scotland you have to be over 21, but other factors are taken into consideration, such as having a spare room, healthy and fit enough to care for a child, and not banned from working with/being around children.

Meeting a panel of independent experts to discuss whether the applicant/s should be formally approved must be a pretty daunting experience, how did you prepare for that?

Your social worker won’t take you to the panel unless you’re all set for approval. It’s daunting, yes, but all the hard work is done by this point. Everything you do from that first ever enquiry has prepared you for this part of the process. In some ways, it’s the easy bit.

What support did you receive throughout the adoption process and afterwards?

My social worker was very supportive, and I had good peer support from the people I met in the preparation groups, but the support from my friends and family during – and since – has been phenomenal.

What’s your best advice for anyone considering adoption or just beginning their journey?

Somewhere out there is a child, or children, waiting for a forever family. Keep on going. For as long as I can remember, I knew I would be a mum to a little girl.

I planned for it and constantly envisioned what it would be like, what I’d be like as a mum, and eventually my wildest dreams came true. Marri

I planned for it and constantly envisioned what it would be like, what I’d be like as a mum, and eventually my wildest dreams came true. Never lose sight of the end goal, it’s not an easy path to follow however the feeling you get when you get to take your little one home for the first time is unrivalled. It makes every single part of the process worth it.

Do you have any particularly special milestone moments, trials and triumphs that you feel you could share for prospective adopters?

So, so many. The first night she slept in our house; the first time my dad picked her up and said ‘I’m your grampa’; the first time I pushed her in a swing; the first time she called me ‘mama’. I doubt there is much I’ll ever forget. No parenting trajectory is easy, I know that, and adoption is is no mean feat. My daughter is almost 5 now, and her mood can swing from Disney Princess to Disney Villain with terrifying ease – but the triumphs far outweigh the trials.

What was the most valuable piece of advice you received along the way?

My best friend telling me to keep my eyes on the prize at that first preparation group, which kept me going all the way through the process.  

How do you prepare for when your child starts asking important and inevitable questions about their birth family and how do you ensure that your child is always aware of their history growing up?

I tell my daughter her story as part of her bedtime routine; how mummy wanted a baby but not just any baby – the best baby, the bravest baby, the smartest baby, the kindest baby. And that out of all the babies in all the world, I picked you.

The more honest I am with her from this young age, the more blasé I hope she will be about being adopted.Marri

The more honest I am with her from this young age, the more blasé I hope she will be about being adopted. I will answer her questions. I will take her worries, her fears, her hurt and I will comfort her, soothe her, reassure her. If and when she wants to find any birth connections, I will help her, I will drive her there myself. I won’t shy away from hard questions and I won’t make it about me.

What does life look like for you as a family today?

Being Ellie’s mum is like having front row tickets to the best show in town. She’s funny, curious, kind and whip smart. She is a force of nature and my biggest inspiration. Everything I do is for her and for our little family unit. We have so much love and support in our lives, but when all is said and done it’s us against the world, and I could not be happier.

Luke

Luke and his husband Sam are currently in the process of adopting.

Where did you start with the research process and deciding which adoption agency / local authority to go with?

We started our research by looking online for adoption agencies near us. We used the website first4adoption.org.uk which has lots of really useful information regarding the adoption process and it has a ‘find an agency’ function that will provide you with a list of nearby agencies. We then went along to an adoption information event held by our local authority and decided that was the way we wanted to proceed. 

What was your biggest motivation for adopting a child?

My husband Sam and I have always wanted to be parents, and with being a gay couple we always knew that either adoption, fostering or surrogacy would be the way for us to have a family. After a lot of thought, we felt that because there are so many children out there that need a loving home, adoption would be the right path for us. We really feel that we have the skills, love and patience it takes to raise an adopted child. 

Can you talk us through what to expect from the adoption process?

When you register your interest to adopt, you have a ‘home visit’ with your appointed social worker. This is a 3-hour informal meeting where you will discuss a whole host of topics such as, why you want to adopt, your financial situation, what you are like as a couple/family, medical history and what your own upbringing/family life like was like. We were then booked onto a two-day training course which was really informative and a great opportunity to meet other people going through the process as well. 

It can feel a little invasive at first, but it’s just so that your social worker can get you to know you as much as possible. Luke

Then when you start Stage One, you can expect a lot of paperwork! We were asked to produce financial reports, family trees, support network maps, health & safety reports on our home and a questionnaire that asks more detailed questions about our upbringing, our relationship with our own families and what kind of parents we think we would be. It can feel a little invasive at first, but it’s just so that your social worker can get you to know you as much as possible.

I personally found it quite therapeutic to reflect on my own upbringing and to think about what I would take or not take from my childhood experiences into my own prenatal journey.  In regards to timescales, I was surprised at how quick the process can take! We are just coming to the end of Stage One, which has taken us just over 3 months (with a slight delay thanks to Covid!) We then hope to complete Stage Two within 4 months! 

What criteria must you meet before you can adopt?

The criteria for us to be able to adopt through our local authority was that we had to be over 21, have lived in the UK for longer than a year and be clear of any criminal convictions or cautions. Other than that, you can be single, married, unmarried, be from any ethnic or religious background, be heterosexual, bisexual, gay or transgender, be a homeowner or living in rented accommodation, be employed or receiving benefits.

What support did you receive throughout the adoption process and afterwards?

We have received so much support from our social worker throughout the process so far. They are always at the end of the phone or an email if we have any questions or worries. We will have the same social worker for the whole process and they continue to support us even after we (hopefully!) adopt a child. Our local authority also organises two events a year for adopters and their families and there are several support groups for adoptive families.

What’s your best advice for anyone considering adoption or just beginning their journey?

Attend an information event, they are really informative and you will know if adoption is the right path for you after going to one of these. Also, a big thing that will help for being considered for adoption will be how much childcare experience you have. So, start clocking up with hours and spend as much time with any children you have in our life! If that’s not an option then I would suggest volunteering at your local nursery or school, this would look great on your file when going to the adoption panel! 

Emma

Where did you start with the research process and deciding which adoption agency / local authority to go with?

After we had decided that we wanted to adopt we attended an open evening with our local authority. We didn’t really look into adoption agencies since we would only be able to take on a newborn. While we were waiting to attend the open evening we did a lot of reading around the area of adoption. The best place to look is Adoption UK. Home for Good is also a Christian charity promoting fostering and adoption that is an excellent source of information.

What was your biggest motivation for adopting a child?

We always knew that we wanted a big family. Before we had our eldest child who is now 10 we looked into fostering with our local agency but at the time we were in our early 20’s and felt that it wasn’t the right time to foster. We then went on to have our second child who is now 4 but that thought of fostering was still in the back of our minds. When our second son was nearly 2, my husband were discussing about having another child. Out on a summer walk one day I brought up the subject of adoption and it turns out he had also been thinking about it – the rest is history! 

Our biggest motivation is to give a child in need the chance to grow up in a loving and caring home.

Can you talk us through what to expect from the adoption process?

The adoption process is intense! It normally takes 6-9 months. It is split into two stages. Stage 1 is mainly paperwork that needs to be completed. You will answer questions about every aspect of your life from your childhood right through to your current relationships. During this stage, the social workers will also gather references from your employer and friends and family.

If you have any past significant relationships they will also contact them for a reference but don’t let that put you off adopting. They also ask you to make a map of your support network, these are the people that you can lean on throughout this process and once you have been matched with a child. You will also do a chronology which is a timeline of important and significant times in your life. A family tree is also requested. You will also have a DBS check and a medical check with your GP. 

Stage 2 is where you will have regular visits, normally weekly with your allocated social worker who will meet you to discuss further everything that you have written in the paperwork that you completed in stage 1. In doing this they will then write it all up into one big report which is called the Parental Assessment Report (PAR) this document is presented to the panel before you go.

During this stage, you will also attend training courses on a variety of subjects to equip you further in your adoption journey. Your social worker will also have a call or visit with your references to discuss things further. You will also give your social worker a rough idea of children you have in mind eg siblings, age, gender, whether you would consider a child with a disability etc

Once you have attended approval panel at the end of stage 1 you wait for that to be signed off by the agency decision maker you are then ready to start family finding! There is no specified length of time on this stage unfortunately. You could be waiting for days or months. We waited 10 weeks before the call about our daughter but friends of ours were linked within 2 weeks. Once you have been formally matched with your child then you go back to panel but this time for them to agree that the match is good and that the adoption can go ahead. That decision also has to be signed off by the agency decision-maker. 

In traditional adoption, a plan would then be made for introductions to start. The time scales on these would depend on the child and their age and how long they have been with the foster carer. They will start off really short and gradually get longer. They take place at the foster carers house but towards the end you would take them back to your house. During the introductions, you will have a days break where you will have a meeting with your social worker to reflect on how everything is going. On the day you collect your child and take them home it will be emotional for everyone. Once your child has been home for 10 weeks you can then apply to the courts to legally adopt your child.

We took an alternative route called Foster to Adopt where the child is placed with potential adopters who are also approved as foster carers while the decision is made about their future.Emma

You then get a court hearing which the birth parents can attend. They may contest to the adoption and the hearing be delayed while this is assessed. Once the order has been granted your child is legally yours. You are normally invited to the court to have a celebration hearing with the judge who granted the order and have a photo with them. At this point, your child will receive a new birth certificate with their new name and you listed as their parents.  

We took an alternative route called Foster to Adopt where the child is placed with potential adopters who are also approved as foster carers while the decision is made about their future. Children that are normally placed for foster to adopt have a high chance that they will be adopted although there is an inbuilt risk to the adopters as there is a chance the child will return to the birth family. With this route into adoption, you don’t tend to get much notice, we had under 24 hours notice! 

What criteria must you meet before you can adopt?

The only main criteria that you must have a spare bedroom, be over the age of 21 and legally a resident of the UK, Isle of Man or Channel Isles for at least 12 months. 

Meeting a panel of independent experts to discuss whether the applicant/s should be formally approved must be a pretty daunting experience, how did you prepare for that?

Panel is one of the most nerve-wracking things I have ever done! The best advice, given to me by my social worker, was to just remember that they are not there to catch you out and to just look at it as a one big conversation. You are the topic of conversation and no one knows you better than yourself. Rescue remedy also helps!

What support did you receive throughout the adoption process and afterwards?

We have had such amazing support from our family and friends. They have been with us every step of the way from reassuring messages while we were waiting to be matched to babysitting the boys while we attended our training courses.

What’s your best advice for anyone considering adoption or just beginning their journey?

There is no right time. The path may be long and you may feel like you will never get there but it is so worth it in the end. 

Do you have any particularly special milestone moments, trials and triumphs that you feel you could share for prospective adopters?

Watching our boys meet our daughter for the first time was so special. She was 3 days old and we hadn’t told them about her before they left that morning just in case something happened and she didn’t come home to us. The look on both their faces will stay with us forever. Even now 16 months on they are completed besotted with her and adore her. The day she was finally matched with us and we knew that she wasn’t going anywhere was a really special day. 

Our journey from placement at 3 days to adoption order at 16 months had a few ups and downs along the way. Good news was often followed quickly by bad news and we needed a lot of patience while the process ground on. There were two particular occasions where we genuinely feared she might be returning to her birth family and those were tough moments and we were preparing ourselves mentally for it. But this has formed such a strong bond with our daughter for all of us because we went through it all together and the elation now at the end is just beautiful!

How do you prepare for when your child starts asking important and inevitable questions about their birth family and how do you ensure that your child is always aware of their history growing up?

When your adoption goes through you are given a life story book which has photos of birth parents and any siblings and also explains the child’s story before they were adopted. You prepare by ensuring that you are open and honest with them from the start. Ensure that you know all the information and what you would say to them in a child-friendly way. You are also encouraged to tell them from an early age so that although they may not understand it fully they are aware of it. 

We want our daughter to understand her story from an early age. She has a different heritage to us as well so we want to try and keep that connection for her as well by incorporating traditions from that country into our lives. 

What does life look like for you as a family today?

Family life today is hectic!! We have 3 children aged 10, 4 and 16 months. We wouldn’t have it any other way. The love and bond that they have for each other is amazing and I can’t wait for them to grow up together. We also haven’t ruled out the idea of adopting again! Just not yet!

Natasha

Natasha is currently in the adoption process.

Where did you start with the research process and deciding which adoption agency / local authority to go with?

I think the first start was looking for an adoption agency/Local authority. We also went onto to the adoption UK website which is an amazing resource. We read through all the steps in the process to get familiar with them. Once we were fully decided we contacted our local authority. We had a conversation with them and we went from there. We had to wait for a while due to Covid as they couldn’t do the usual information meetings they do. They were just trying to get things set up for virtual training and meetings. There is also an amazing podcast on the BBC sounds called the adoption. 

What was your biggest motivation for adopting a child?

I have a condition called Turners syndrome. This means I cannot have children naturally.  I have known this since I was in school. It was a condition I was diagnosed at birth. I have always wanted to be a mom and I feel it would be a great gift to give a little one a loving and stable home.

Can you talk us through what to expect from the adoption process?

I would say in general without any breaks or anything it could be a years process all in all. Sometimes it may be quicker for other potential adopters. It will pretty much be a year for us by the time we go to the panel. So through the local authority, the time scale is as follows: You have to attend an information event. Then you fill out an expression of interest form. After that, you attend what’s called foundation day training. After this, you can then say you want to proceed onto stage 1.

Stage 1 in general can take 2 months sometimes slightly longer. Stage 1 includes doing 2 workbooks where you answer a lot of questions on your motivation for adoption, life timeline and family background. Then once stage 1 is complete you have the stage 1 review which then you decide on whether you want a little breather or you proceed onto stage 2. The stage 1 social worker will recommend you for stage 2 if they are happy with everything. You then wait to be allocated a stage 2 social worker.

Once stage 2 is officially started it is around 4 months to panel. The social worker has a few sessions with you to get to know you well and to go through the matching criteria at length. They also need to do a check of your house etc for safety etc. Once all that is done they get you ready for panel. Sometimes you may be matched with a child before panel and then you could have matching panel the same day as approval panel. That isn’t always the case though.

Once you have gone through approval panel and you are hopefully approved you can then start fully family finding. Once you have a match then you would go to matching panel. If that is all agreed then you would start introductions a week to two weeks after. Depending on how much transition time the child needs, will determine how long the intros are and that. Once that’s done then its time for them to come and live with you in their forever home.  I would say if all goes smoothly and you find a match quite quickly it would be a 9-month process all in all to being approved. I think in general though it will be just over a year. Depending on your matching criteria, a match could happen quickly or it might be a few months wait for the right child. It also depends on which children have come through into the system as well.

What criteria must you meet before you can adopt? 

You have to have a home either owned or rented with a room to accommodate a child. You have to be able to support them financially. You don’t have to be a couple. You can be a single parent. I would say having child care experience would be extremely helpful.

Meeting a panel of independent experts to discuss whether the applicant/s should be formally approved must be a pretty daunting experience, how did you prepare for that? 

Yes very daunting but your social worker works with you and prepares you as much as possible for the panel. We haven’t been to panel yet but will be soon #fingerscrossed


What support did you receive throughout the adoption process?

There are a few training days which prepare you and you have your assigned to you who is there to help as much as possible and provide support. They also will still be there for support after the child is placed with you.

What’s your best advice for anyone considering adoption or just beginning their journey? 

I would say have patience and be open-minded. It might feel long but the end result will be so worth it.  I  think just do your research and embrace the training. Also, I would recommend speaking to other adopters about their experiences.

Do you have any particularly special milestone moments, trials and triumphs that you feel you could share for prospective adopters? 

So far the triumph has been getting to stage 2 and now full on to Panel. We have everything crossed for the day of panel and hopefully matching panel soon as well. I think the hardest part is waiting. Waiting to move on from stage 1 to stage 2. Waiting to be allocated your stage 2 social worker. Waiting for your adopters report to be ready for panel and to go to panel. Waiting to be matched and introduced to your child. So if you can stick through it, in the end, everything will be even more special.

What was the most valuable piece of advice you received along the way? 

Manage your expectations and ideas you had about what adoption will be like and going through the process.


How do you prepare for when your child starts asking important and inevitable questions about their birth family and how do you ensure that your child is always aware of their history growing up? 

This is discussed in the training you receive and there is also further training on life story work. Where you put their life story in a book and the social workers help with this as well. You get to find out their background so you can explain it to them at age-appropriate times. I think it’s about keeping that discussion open with them throughout.

At the moment it is just my husband and myself with our lovely cockapoo Luna. We are ready to welcome a little one hopefully this year. Natasha

You also in a lot of cases get to meet the birth parents/parent at least once, so you can tell your child how they look and what they are like. This will help them with their identity. Our child will know from the start that they are adopted so it isn’t a shock when they are older. At the moment it is just my husband and myself with our lovely cockapoo Luna. We are ready to welcome a little one hopefully this year. 

Helena

Helena has two adopted sons – aged 17 and 19.  Her youngest is also her oldest as she adopted him first when he was 9 months. His older half brother joined them a year and a half later when he was 4.   

What support did you receive throughout the adoption process and afterwards?

Support has been essential to me – my Local Authority (whom I adopted through) have a support service which has been available to me throughout and I still use them – this week even. Psychologists and social workers have attended meetings at school with me when issues arose and give me continued guidance and support.  Family and friends have also been amazing – my parents and sister have been my strength when times have been hard.  

There are support groups, online communities, web sites, books, some great Instagram accounts of other adopters who give perspective and advice – anywhere I can get it I do! 

What’s your best advice for anyone considering adoption or just beginning their journey?

My advice to anyone thinking of adopting is to go into it with an open mind, try to gain as much training/advice before and ongoing, be willing to adapt and change, be strong and resilient,  and to make sure you have a good support network. 

What was the most valuable piece of advice you received along the way?

The most valuable piece of advice I have received is to live in the moment – enjoy the good times, and know that if it’s a challenging time it won’t last forever – things change and move on. 

How do you prepare for when your child starts asking important and inevitable questions about their birth family and how do you ensure that your child is always aware of their history growing up? 

Every adopted has a birth family – and these families are part of our children forever.  It is important to be respectful of their birth family whatever the circumstances as it is part of them. Talk about birth family from the start and give age-appropriate information, answer questions as honestly as you can – again age-appropriate.  Like all children, questions can come at the most random times so be ready!

I am so proud of the young men they are becoming and how they have managed to navigate their way through the challenges they have had to face which come from being adopted.Helena

I am so proud of the young men they are becoming and how they have managed to navigate their way through the challenges they have had to face which come from being adopted. Yes, it has been hard – sometimes extremely- for them and for me parenting them through this – and it still is at times.   But it is worth it all for me as, quite simply, they are my children and I love them unconditionally.

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 17, 2021

Weekly Wants: Products To Help You Relax

We’ve no doubt that your priorities changed along with your plans in the past 365 days, forcing you to find new and innovative ways to achieve relaxation normally only found with a spa day or week in the sun- ahh holidays!

Can we get a hell yeah for self-care?! 2020 felt like the year of surviving without the thriving, making the importance of finding true moments of relaxation and self-soothing in 2021 a new year’s resolution worth keeping. We’ve no doubt that your priorities changed along with your plans in the past 365 days, forcing you to find new and innovative ways to achieve relaxation normally only found with a spa day or week in the sun- ahh holidays!

But in truth, though those things give us a big hit of relaxation that’s often well overdue, it’s actually the smaller but more conscious habits in our day to day that can make the biggest of differences. We’re talking fresh bedding, lavender sleep spray, a good book (check out our book club if you’re in need of inspo), 10 minutes of yoga in the morning or even something as simple as lighting a candle whilst you WFH. Savouring those sweet but simple moments in life not only calms down the brain and nervous system but helps place emphasis on the gratitude for all that you do have within your means. So take a deep breath, pause, and let the zen begin.

Shop the post

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TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 16, 2021

Between You And Me Answering Your Problems Part 12

In this month’s BYAM, we’re talking overprotective parents, coping with the prospect of another Hokey Cokey year in and out of lockdowns, flaky dads cancelling plans on the regs, letting go of a relationship for travel plans and reservations about going on the pill.

Welcome back to our monthly check-in otherwise known as Between You And Me – chatty confidential advice from your friendly neighbourhood twenty/thirty-somethings on this cosy corner of the internet.

In this month’s BYAM, we’re talking overprotective parents, coping with the prospect of another Hokey Cokey year in and out of lockdowns, flaky dads cancelling plans on the regs, letting go of a relationship for travel plans and reservations about going on the pill.

If you’re in a bit of a tizzy about something and you’d like to ask WWYD, email in to [email protected] and we’ll do our best to come back with some solid life advice.

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 15, 2021

10 Escapist Books to Take Your Mind Off the Madness

In these tumultuous times, books are a great source of comfort and escapism, so here’s a few literary gems whose pages will help to peel your shoulders away from your ears and quash those January scaries.

We’re just 15 days into the calendar year but we’ve seen quite enough, thanks. At this point, we’re ready to unmask the pranksters behind 2021, sing Auld Lang Syne, raise a glass of Berocca and call it a night because our chakras are all gamed out. If ever we needed to bury our heads in the sand – even if it’s just the half-eaten kind, dumped in our cereal bowl by a fly-tipping toddler – it’s now.

In these tumultuous times, books are a great source of comfort and escapism, so here’s a few literary gems whose pages will help to peel your shoulders away from your ears and quash those January scaries.

Airdrop us into a world that looks nothing like our own…

Thank fudge for fiction is all we’re saying. Airdrop us into a world that looks nothing like our own, swaddle us with pure, wholesome clothbound tales of warmth, wonder and wide-eyed innocence immediately.

In our ongoing effort to distract you from the wild happenings here on Planet Earth, here are some of the best books to bury your nose in while you’re holed up at home. Again.

1 City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert

From the bestselling author of Eat Pray Love, comes another unputdownable read. This light, bright, booze-filled romp through the 1940s will go down splendidly with a cocktail or two. It’s happy hour somewhere. Buy a copy here!

2 Beach Read – Emily Henry

Two writers, one holiday. A Rom Com waiting to happen…

Beach Read is exactly the sizzling page-turner the title suggests. Fill the Love Island void and live vicariously through the two protagonists, January and Gus, as they both scramble to push through writer’s block and publish the next bestseller before the summer’s out. Buy a copy here!

3 The Flatshare – Beth O’Leary

Oh Beth O’Leary, mistress of toasty, feel-good fiction, what did we do to deserve you? The Flatshare is about two roommates who fall hard for one another. They share a flat and a bed but there’s one elephant in the boudoir… Tiffy & Leon have never met. Buy a copy here!

4 The Henna Artist – Alka Joshi

With its colourful descriptions and sumptuous storytelling, The Henna Artist will transport you back to 1950s India, where seventeen-year-old Lakshmi escapes from an arranged and abusive marriage to the vibrant city of Jaipur. Buy a copy here!

5 The Sun & Her Flowers – Rupi Kaur

Whenever your feel the brain fog creeping, check-in with Rupi. Her collection of poetry, aptly named The Sun & Her Flowers, will soothe your soul and help you find the magic in the world again. Nourish to flourish, pals! Buy a copy here!

6 The Guest List – Lucy Foley

A modern Agatha Christie page-turner for the Instagram age with more twists and turns than the cheap garden hose. Buy a copy here!

7 Ghosts – Dolly Alderton

No one writes with such whip-smart observation as Dolly Alderton and her debut novel proves it. Ghosts will resonate with every woman who’s ever had to wade through the BS of modern dating. Buy a copy here!

8 Everything Is Under Control – Phyllis Grant

Part foodie memoir, part recipe book, Grant’s light-hearted slice of reverie is just what everyone needs at a time when we’re done with banana bread and many, many things are in fact completely out of control. Buy a copy here!

9 Outlawed – Anna North

Giddy up, dear reader, Outlawed is an alternative wild yee-haw Western about a group of loveable female and non-binary outlaws looking for the freedom to exist in a world that largely doesn’t want them. North completely flips the script with this one and we stan. Buy a copy here!

10 His Only Wife – Peace Adzo Medie

Bursting with warmth, humour and humanity, his Only Wife is a much-needed modern Ghanaian love story about marriage ideals, family obligation and a plucky heroine determined to live life on her own terms. Buy a copy here!

What books are taking your mind off lockdown 3.0 right now?

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 14, 2021

Everything We’re Lusting Over From & Other Stories Right Now

Designed alternately in the fashion capitals of Stockholm, Los Angeles and Paris, it doesn't get better than this when nailing wearable but on-trend items whatever the season.

When it comes to the creme de la creme of the high street, & Other Stories is high on our list of trend-driven, cool-girl chic that never fails to disappoint. Forging a balance between classic but current, the eclectic mix of designs offer something for everyone looking to create their own unique fashion story. The current onsite selection is quite simply chefs kiss, and this week we’re sharing the must-have items that were immediately added to basket, with the hopes of some sweet, sweet occasions we can rock them in during 2021- it’s good to have dreams!

Cosy quilted coats, drawstring joggers, figure-skimming dresses and cotton wool soft cardigans

Making it out of the house doesn’t mean compromising on comfort though, with everything from cosy quilted coats, drawstring joggers, figure-skimming dresses and cotton wool soft cardigans to deliver deliciously chic style that feels put together as soon as you slip it on. Designed alternately in the fashion capitals of Stockholm, Los Angeles and Paris, it doesn’t get better than this when nailing wearable but on-trend items whatever the season.

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TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 13, 2021

The Best Sex Toys to Spice Up Your Life in 2021

Whether you’re all about vibrating ears, budget-friendly bullets or pulsating tongue-mimicking machines, enjoy next level masturbation and peak partnered sex with our round-up of sex toys.

Hello lockdown 3.0. It’s set to be a rampant one.

Since we’ve recently renewed our membership to the stay at home club, albeit for a rolling, cancel at any time contract (we hope), we’re going to do a few things differently this time round, starting with self-care. And by self-care, we mean drastically increasing our chances of having an orgasm by touching ourselves regularly or having a beloved partner do it for us.

Whether you’re all about vibrating ears, budget-friendly bullets or pulsating tongue-mimicking machines, enjoy next level masturbation and peak partnered sex with our round-up of sex toys from entry point vibrators (oh look honey, she made a joke) to top tier playthings for loved-up couples looking to switch things up.

And look, if all else fails, we will always have Bridgerton and THAT is one failsafe journey to finding your pinnacle.

3 Speed Bullet Vibrator

Ann Summers | £5 | Shop it here

If this is your first foray into self-pleasure, then first of all welcome, congratulations and happy girthday. You’re about to reach a whole new level of introspection. The thumb-sized bullet is great for gentle and discreet solo play. Complete with three speed settings, a tapered tip for targeted clitoral stimulation and a beautiful, if a little cunning, exterior that could easily pass for a lipstick, it’s one smooth operator.

Rampant Rabbit G Spot Stroking Vibrator

Ann Summers | £42 | Shop it here

Whilst the Rampant Rabbit can look a bit like an angry hare poised for confrontation and ready to box your best bits, it’s a gentle giant really. The RR boasts an impressive 4.5″ stature, 7 vibration settings, a ribbed shaft and clitorally stimulating ears to make all your pleasure-seeking pursuits a solid 20/10 experience. Don’t know about you but we’re listening.

Dame Fin

*Free People | £78 | Shop it here

Not all sex toys are created equal and this is one woman of rank. The mistress of masturbation is like a majestic finger puppet, seamless for your pleasure. Whether you’re in it for a solo run through or up for bit of audience interaction (oh yes she is), it’s sure to give you the standing O-vation you so deserve.

Dream Wand Rechargeable Mini

*Love Honey | £29.99 | Shop it here

They say magic isn’t real, but we wager £5 it is and it exists and resides in this wish-granting baton. This wand is a small and mighty bedside companion with 4 levels of intensity – hooray for a tier system we are only too happy to climb. With 7 settings and a battery life that’ll have no problem working away at your congested backlog of uncatchable orgasms, it’s a great all-rounder.

Womanizer Duo Rabbit Vibrator

*Love Honey | £179.99 | Shop it here

Anything with sex toy of the year accolades has our full attention. This superior sex toy only activates once in contact with the skin meaning you’ll get all of the pleasure with none of the noise. We wouldn’t dare splash out on that ergonomic computer chair because Dear Spine that wants for nothing, we’re not made of money but an ergonomic vibrator? Sign us up and keep the change, ya filthy animal.

The Fireman

*Feel Unique Smile Makers | £39.95 | Shop it here

Cliteracy lesson number one: 4 in 5 clitoris-owners reach orgasm via clitoral stimulation, not penetrative sex, so let that be all the reassurance you need (and all the sex ed they need) that your clitoris should not in fact be treated like a Sleeping Beauty spindle or the perilous lips of a Venus fly trap but rather like a precious cashmere purse, born to be cupped perfectly in the hand and stroked. A lot. The Fireman, named after its flame-like form and ability to fire up your burning loins (probably), is one such sex toy that will make sure your clitoris gets its due attention. Featuring a rounded protruding nub of a nose for optimal clitoral stimulation, discreet shape, 4 speeds and 2 pulsation modes, your wild furnace is in good hands here.

F1s Developers Kit

Lelo | £135 | Shop it here

If stats and apps get them going, then consider this high-performance sex-tech a gift any penis-having partner will love. Combining powerfully intense dual motors, the patented Cruise Control setting and Lelo’s revolutionary SenSonic technology, it massages their member with deeply satisfying sonic waves. Oh, and it comes with a little window, so they can watch all the action as it happens. It’s basically this season’s incomparable diamond. And that’s not all. Using the free SDK, they can personalise their pleasure through the bougie customisable internal sensors. What could be a better present than pleasure at their fingertips and a little peephole to boot?

The Frenchman

*Smile Makers Collection | 39.95 | Shop it now

Powerful, quiet and remarkably good at oral, that’s The Frenchman in a nutshell. Perfect for solo sessions or couple fun, its ice cream scoop shape is designed to mimic the touch of a tongue, so add a few squirts of lube and indulge in the best French kiss of your life. Sacrebleu!

Eva II

*Cult Beauty – Dame Products | £135 | Shop it now

Best for: a hands-free wank. The revolutionary design of Eva II gets you there without the bastardly hand cramp. The wings tuck under the labia while the rest of the toy tends to your clitoris. We stan lazy orgasms.

Sona 2 Cruise

Lelo | £119 | Shop it now

Aka the clit sucker. It delivers full body shivers thanks to its toe-curling sonic wave technology, designed to mimic the feeling of oral sex. It’s a small but perfectly formed gem.

TENGA Egg Penis Masturbator

*Love Honey | £9.99 | Shop it now

Cheap and cheerful does the job. This textured masturbating egg designed with penis-owners in mind will ensure your sexual experience is always sunny side up. Pour in some lube and crack on.

Desire Knicker Vibrator

*Love Honey | £69.99 | Shop it now

Slip into the ribbon-tie briefs provided and hand over all control to your partner. The whisper-quiet machine is wirelessly controlled from up to 8 metres away. Zoom 3.0 just got interesting.

Womanizer Premium Smart Silence Clitoral Stimulator

*Love Honey | £169.99 | Shop it now

With its mind-blowing Pleasure Air Technology (aka unreal sucking action) and 12 intensity settings ranging from soft gentle purr to butt-clenching roar, the Premium Womanizer will make any notable orgasm you’ve ever experienced look like a pathetic outbreath in comparison, like the short-lived puff of air in an eye test. Tonight, we vibe like queens.

Classic Metallic Magic Wand

*Love Honey | £49.99 | Shop it now

You know it’s a serious piece of kit when it’s mains powered. Operated using a handy little scroll wheel of fortune, you can dial up your pleasure as much or as little as you want, from soft relaxing rumbles to intense all-encompassing vibrations. Orgasm roulette… what a time to be alive.

Obii

Biird | £82 | Shop it now

Meet Obii – clit-lead, aesthetically-pleasing pleasure at your service. Combining suction sensations with whisper-quiet powerful vibrations, Obii is ready to deliver your best-blended orgasm yet. Other honourable mentions include: could easily pass as a reading light, a stress ball or an essential oil diffuser when sat proudly on your bedside table. Let’s hear it for sex toys that blend in AND stand out.

*This post contains ad-affiliate links

DANIELLE JANUARY 12, 2021

13 Questions With Andrew Wheatcroft

According to his Instagram bio, Andrew is unapologetically unfiltered and we couldn't agree more. Whether it's hard talking home truths about skincare, advocating for mental health or opening up about his own journey with HIV, we are hanging by his every word.

First of all, Happy New Year! What are you looking to get out of 2021?

Happy New Year…I think! It sounds very cliché but honestly, I just want complete contentment. After 2020, I think the only thing we can wish for is complete happiness. If you have a roof over your head and food on your table you are very lucky indeed. Happiness shouldn’t be for the fortunate it should be free for everyone.

Talk us through your career online and how it’s evolved? 

Oh my! I started my Instagram account in February 2019 as a bit of a hobby. I was bored to completely honest and I knew I couldn’t do a normal 9-5 job. I wasn’t built for it babes. The hobby turned into an online diary where I now share my love of skincare, my mental health struggles but also aim to educate people on what it like living with HIV in 2021.

One of your biggest focuses online is skincare, why do you think it’s become more and more popular in recent years? 

It’s the ultimate escape from reality for a moment in time. There is nothing better (for me anyway) than lighting a candle, running a bath, applying a face mask and forgetting about the world for a short while. A skincare routine is much more than a skincare routine it’s my daily ritual and the 10 minutes of self-care morning and evening that I look forward to.

What are some of your top skincare brands to check out for people looking to start a routine? 

There is so much choice out there at the moment and it’s so confusing for everyone but the foundations of a good skincare routine need to be: cleanse, moisturise, SPF in the AM and double cleanse (cleansing twice) retinol product and moisturiser in the PM. You don’t need a serum laced with gold, just pile on the hydration. A brand I love are Medik8, Skinceuticals, Deviant, Sunday Riley – these are not the most affordable brands but for me, if you buy cheap you buy twice. Thank you maam. You should also check out Skin&me who are an online dermatologist subscription service who will tailor-make a formula based on your skin’s needs.

We love how honest and open you are with your journey with HIV, why is breaking the stigma and education so important to you? 

HIV is no longer a death sentence. We are not in the 80’s babes. Change that mindset now. There was so much media coverage back then about how contagious and deadly the virus was and in 2021 that is no longer the case. A person with HIV can live a normal life when on effective medication. It’s so important to break the stigma and spread the correct information to ensure no one suffers in silence but also to protect the mental health of anyone living with HIV. Your words and 

misinformation could be the reason someone doesn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What are some common misconceptions you wish more people knew about? 

You cannot pass HIV on when on effective medication. If you take effective medication daily (one tablet for me) then your viral load will be classed as undetectable which means you are untransmittable. U = U. its impossible to pass on HIV when a person with HIV is on effective medication. You cannot catch HIV through hugging, kissing, sharing cutlery and saliva!

What would you say is your biggest achievement to date? 

Being alive in 2021! Haha. Seriously. I have suffered with my mental health for nearly 15 years and to be able to feel like I’m over the worst of it is the best feeling ever. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, always. Pain is only temporary. You will get through this like you always have. I also feel super proud of raising over £4k for the National AIDS Trust in December 2020

What are you currently working on? 

I am working on projects that are due to go live at the end of this week and through 2021 at the moment but the most exciting thing I’m working on is my book! I know who knew! I’m working on a book that’s all about going through tough times and how you can survive it. It also talks about getting drunk with Bradley from S Club 7 when I worked at Butlins and so much more!

Who are some of your favourite follows online? 

I adore @lisapotterdixon – Lisa is a ray of sunshine, she is the most gorgeous, friendly and uplifting human. 

@skin_t__ is a beautiful Scottish human being who delves deeper into ingredients of skincare – if you need skincare advice he’s your go-to.

@carolinehirons is the queen of the beauty industry. She speaks her mind and knows her shit. 

@glow_with_ola is a mood. He serves looks and home truth’s that make me gag for days. 

There are so many more but I regularly share my favourites on my stories!

What do you always carry with you? 

Lip balm! I never used a lip balm regularly until I got Invisalign this year and they have saved my lips over and over again! No one warned me that Invisalign would make my mouth like a desert. Chanel & La Roche Posay are my faves.

What does your perfect weekend look like? 

At the moment…nothing! Saturday my fiancée @nickkimberleystyle and I cuddle the dogs and watch Netflix with the filthiest takeaway! What else is there to do?!

If you could only eat one meal again what would it be? 

I’m a chocaholic. Addicted like you wouldn’t believe. Chocolate over anything. Men, sex the lot. Give me chocolate. I don’t even have a favourite either, ill eat it all.

If you could give one positive message to our followers what would it be? 

Pain is only temporary. Honestly, this is what gets me through on those tough days. Sometimes it seems dark but the darkness will separate and you will see the light at the end I promise you. Keep going, sometimes it’s tough but just before you are about to give up you could’ve just been playing the biggest role of your life. Love ya bye xx

Follow Andrew on Instagram here!

TEAM ZOELLA JANUARY 11, 2021

All the Thoughts and Feelings We Had Whilst Watching Bridgerton

Dearest reader, here are all the thoughts, feelings and anonymous musings we had whilst watching the brilliant Bridgerton.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (wouldn’t blame you), you’re probably hyper aware of a certain chiselled Duke’s arrival on Netflix – aka Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page), the Byronic Bridgerton royal you didn’t know your life was missing.

Based on Julia Quinn’s eponymous book series, the first season of the binge-worthy Bridgerton has ruffled more than a few feathers, or should we say Featheringtons, with its sex, scandal and high society papers. The plot follows the powerful Bridgerton family, as they ballroom dance and bonk their way through Regency London seeking various hedonistic highs and marriage-minded pursuits.

It could be likened to Downton Abbey with hints of Gossip Girl, only with unabashed sass & spunk by the horse-drawn carriage load, so probs avoid watching it with the parents unless you want to make 110 cups of tea to avoid sitting through eight episodes of ribald Regency romps, pretending to look at anything but the Duke’s incomparable arse cheeks. We’ve never investigated the ageing patina of our ceiling so much.

Dearest reader, here are all the thoughts, feelings and anonymous musings we had whilst watching the brilliant Bridgerton.

Disclaimer: contains spoilers, so look away if you haven’t made it to the grand crescendo yet.

Straight in with a tree shag, foreplay wasn’t invented yet then

I must follow all the actors and actresses on Instagram immediately

No way, Daphne is Sally from Coronation Street’s daughter?!

Reckon Queen Charlotte’s orgy of pearls is a sign of things to come? Ahem.

Sounds like classical music but it’s not, what IS that pop bop?

Screams ‘Thank You Next!’ in the middle of the night, startling all the dogs and neighbours within a 5-mile radius

Lots of longing looks, stolen glances, dancing and breathy sighs so far. It’s like TOWIE circa 1813

The Duke of Hastings hath arrived and I too am positively parched, Daphne

His smile, the symmetry, the way he holds himself in a riding boot and crushed velvet suit jacket… (Fans self with a leftover fajita wrap)

Didn’t have him down as a gooseberry pie kinda man, mind you

Isn’t that Christopher Robin? And Tracy Beaker’s mum!

Can’t wait for the next time I get to call a f*ckboy an uncatchable rake

Nah, not Nigel Berbrooke. Anyone but Nig.

Pretend to form an attachment? Already done that Si, don’t you worry about that. We’re 10 steps ahead

Lady Danbury is a MOOD

Lady Bridgerton’s always right, ‘there is only the Duke’

Can’t. Handle. His. Tragic. Backstory. Though.

This slow-mo dance scene is everything, look at them. It’s like watching a perfectly choreographed mating ritual

I wonder how many local men I’d have to promenade with from a respectable 2m distance to inherit a large ancestral home

Not all spoons are created equal…

I didn’t know I could be aroused by a spoon but here we are. They’re posh and I’m poor but we’re ALL desperately horny and trapped in this twisted cutlery threesome together

Daphne snort laughing in front of the Prince of Prussia – it me

He’s mansplaining masturbation but whatever, we can move past that

“and that should help you…come” huwe#afhoaiwm!? The sound we believe our burning loins would make if they could speak

The scriptwriting is chef’s kiss

Yep, this scene is going to need all eyes on a swift exit if watching with ya dad

I’d love a night out with this iconic duo tbh

Lord Rutledge asking to see Miss Thompson’s teeth will haunt us forevermore

There’s something very Rose Dawson about Daphne in the panting garden scene, namely because it feels like it’s been 84 years since we last saw the Duke naked

Wait, a duel? NO. I will not hear of it.

Cannot or will not have children? Lady Whistledown will surely spilleth the TEA

Benedict is having all kinds of second son fun. Good for him.

“To meet a beautiful woman is one thing but to meet your best friend and the most beautiful of women is something entirely apart” BAWLING

If she’s getting cold feet, stand ASIDE

First a spoon, now a glove, show me an inanimate object he can’t arouse us with

In a twist of 2021 fate, my perineum – it appears to be… pulsating

I haven’t been this invested in silverware since Connell’s chain

Every time he raises his brow, a little part of my virtue opens its legs

Even the wisteria is well hung in Regency London

This is it. The big flooding the fields in Autumn moment.

He burns for her but in doing so, he burns me

Yes, that’s more like it Simon, sack off the pig’s head and asparagus platter, have carnal pleasure for dinner instead

That achingly beautiful string quartet is serenading my clitoris right about now

Ngl, it feels a lot like it’s dancing

How does one apply to be an intimacy coordinator, exactly? Asking for a friend

All that rain and the writhing bodies on a stone folly. It’s like The Notebook on viagra

What an ingenious use for a ladder…

Safe to say, your Grace is not tongue-tied any more

Mentally, I am one half of the most talked about couples in the Ton at this point

My Instagram will be a Duke of Hastings stan account hereafter

Oh Daph, a wretched means to an end indeed

Observation: when the Duke does his angry whispering thing to Anthony, he sounds a bit like Mufasa

Death bed, marriage bed – where does my bed come into all of this? Answer me that

Filing the passive aggressive note I’ve just received from the neighbour under sh*t I won’t stand for in 2021. I’m not the one having all the sex – raise it with THE DUKE!

The portrait is not the only thing that’s drenched

“Just because something is not perfect, does not make it any less worthy of love” SAY IT LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE AT THE BACK

Ok Netflix, I am one sex scene away from being served my eviction notice

Meanwhile the spoon scene lives on in my mind rent free

I KNEW it was Pen, short for Penelope but also ya know, a WRITING utensil. Pen Name. The Easter eggs were there all along.

The Duke holding the baby that could have been ours… be still my beating heart

What has that meddling bee got to do with it all?

May as well watch it again. Treat myself to a subtitled version.

Look at this ‘what’s your Bridgerton name’ doing the rounds, this could be fun. First letter of first name… D: Duchess, first letter of last name: H: Hastings. That’s it. I’m the Duchess of Hastings

MAKE HASTE SEASON 2!

Have you completed Bridgerton, yet? Let us know if you were as hooked as us!

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