Posts tagged with "tiktok"

Losing face: Weight loss drugs may cause facial aging

January 26, 2023

How many injections are you willing to endure to preserve the structural integrity of your face and derrière? For a certain segment of the 1%, there’s no such thing as too many pricks, reports The New York Times.

After giving birth to her first child at 41, Jennifer Berger struggled to lose the last 20 pounds of the 50 she gained during her high-risk pregnancy. “I was doing a mix of cardio and weights three to five times a week—tracking everything I ate—and I still couldn’t lose that last bit of baby weight,” said Berger, a fashion merchandiser in New York City.

At her wits’ end, Berger visited a doctor who suggested she try tirzepatide, marketed under the brand name Mounjaro, a buzzy new diabetes drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration in May 2022. Mounjaro regulates blood sugar, suppresses appetite, and—if one is to believe the hushed accounts recently exchanged at an Upper East Side hair salon—makes excess pounds disappear into thin air.

“Everybody is either on it or asking how to get on it,” said Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York. “We haven’t seen a prescription drug with this much cocktail and dinner chatter since Viagra came to the market.”

The once-a-week injection works in a similar way to semaglutide treatments like Wegovy and Ozempic—the drug rumored, without evidence, to have helped Kim Kardashian fit into the tiny Marilyn Monroe gown she wore to the Met Gala; Kardashian has denied those rumors. In recent months, these drugs have been prescribed so frequently off-label that shortages prevented some diabetics and obese people from getting their medication.

Many doctors worry that the drugs’ current popularity, fueled in part by social media, has resulted in people taking them without sufficient medical supervision — a risky move considering the possibility of rare but serious side effects like thyroid cancer, pancreatitis, and kidney failure. And drugs like Ozempic can also cause less serious but still debilitating symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and racing heartbeat, as many videos on TikTok attest (see: #ozempic).

Some of the side effects are “extremely rare if the medication is being prescribed at the right dose and with careful medical supervision,” said Dr. Rocio Salas-Whalen, an endocrinologist in New York, who said she has prescribed this family of medication and its predecessors to more than 8,000 patients since 2005.

“Mounjaro is like the Apple 14 of these drugs,” Dr. Salas-Whalen, who did not treat Berger, recently told the Times. Dr. Salas-Whalen said it has the same ability to control blood sugar as Wegovy and Ozempic, but that in her practice, she had seen “almost double the weight loss and close to none of the side effects.”

The FDA has reported that in its clinical trials—which were done on diabetics—patients taking Mounjaro lost, on average, 12 pounds more than those taking drugs like Ozempic. Dr. Salas-Whalen, who has done work for Novo Nordisk, the maker of Wegovy and Ozempic, said she has seen similar results in non-diabetic patients.

While Mounjaro may sound like the closest thing to a weight loss magic bullet since gastric bypass surgery was first performed in 1954, it is not without risk. The Mounjaro packaging contains a black box warning about thyroid C-cell tumors. Like the first generation of these drugs, Mounjaro increased the risk of a rare type of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid carcinoma when it was tested on rodents.

None of these drugs come cheap: Unless a patient is obese and has at least one other “weight-related condition” (such as high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes), insurance usually won’t cover the medications, which can cost upward of $1,000 for a month’s supply. (Mounjaro is $975 per month; Ozempic, $892; Wegovy, $1,350.)

The rise of the ‘Ozempic face’

Berger, who had undergone fertility treatments to get pregnant, said she didn’t think twice about sticking a needle in her abdomen once a week—or shelling out nearly $1,000 a month for the drug. And Mounjaro lived up to its expectations. Within three months, she had lost those last stubborn 20 pounds.

“It was like flipping a switch,” she said. “I would look at food and it wasn’t even appealing, and I am someone who loves food! I almost had to remind myself to eat. It just took away all the cravings.”

Berger was thrilled with her new body. There was, however, a major downside to losing the weight so quickly. Her face suddenly looked gaunt.

“I remember looking in the mirror, and it was almost like I didn’t even recognize myself,” she said. “My body looked great, but my face looked exhausted and old.”

Dr. Oren Tepper, a plastic surgeon in New York, said that it’s common for weight loss to deflate key areas of the face, leading to a more aged appearance. “When it comes to facial aging, fat is typically more friend than foe,” he said. “Weight loss may turn back your biological age, but it tends to turn your facial clock forward.”

Indeed, as Catherine Deneuve is purported to have said: “At a certain age, you have to choose between your face and your ass.” But these days, in certain moneyed circles, that adage no longer seems to apply, with the now common combination of weight-loss drugs and volume-restoring filler.

“I see it every day in my office,” said Dr. Frank, who said he coined the term “Ozempic face” to describe the condition. “A 50-year-old patient will come in, and suddenly, she’s super-skinny and needs filler, which she never needed before. I look at of the time. It’s the drug of choice these days for the 1 percent.”

Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, a dermatologist in New York whose famous patients include Martha Stewart, has observed the same trend in his office. “We are seeing more and more patients on the medications coming in,” he said. “Generally, it’s people in their 40s and 50s who are losing significant amounts of weight and are concerned about facial aging and sagging that occurs as a result.”

While noninvasive procedures like Fraxel can improve skin texture and wrinkles, Dr. Frank said that fillers are the only noninvasive way to restore volume (cost: $5,000 to $10,000). To bring back a youthful fullness to Berger’s face, Dr. Frank injected Radiesse and hyaluronic acid-based fillers in strategic places all over her face — around the temples, under the eyes, in the buccal hollows and around the jawline, the mouth and lips.

To restore volume, Dr. Bhanusali uses Radiesse in combination with Sculptra, an injectable that stimulates collagen production and can last for up to 24 months. (Dr. Bhanusali has been a consultant to Galderma, the maker of Sculptra.) “The idea is to balance the face to offset the hollowing and downward projections at the cheeks, jowls and other areas,” he said.

‘A high-end luxury drug’

Some people suffering from facial wasting caused by rapid weight loss—40 to 50 pounds, say—may require a more radical approach. “When there is this much weight loss, plastic surgery is sometimes the only way to restore the volume loss,” Dr. Tepper said, noting that more than half of the patients he sees for weight-loss-related surgery are taking these drugs.

“The success rates are astonishing,” he said of the drug treatments. “For many patients, it’s like suddenly winning a lottery Mega Millions. But then they realize there’s a tax that comes with it—the loss of fat in the face—so it may not be quite the windfall they imagined.”

Dr. Tepper said he can eliminate any vestige of “Ozempic face” with a deep plane face-lift, which costs $75,000. He typically combines this with a procedure in which fat is transferred from other parts of the body to the face (an additional $8,000 to $12,000).

While the jaw-dropping prices of these treatments are clearly beyond the reach of the average person, for patients like Berger, who stopped taking Mounjaro after she returned to her pre-baby weight, feeling healthy and confident again is worth every penny she spent.

“I can’t tell you how good I feel about myself now,” she said. “I used to hide from my husband when I came out of the shower. I would literally walk backward so he wouldn’t see my backside. Now I don’t care. Because I feel good. I feel like myself again.”

Some doctors say that most patients who are taking these drugs need to stay on them indefinitely to keep the weight off, but Berger maintained the same strict portion control after she stopped taking Mounjaro. It also helped her ease off wine, which some other people taking the drug have noticed as well.

“I learned to find other ways to deal with my stress because I just didn’t have the taste for it,” she said.

Perhaps most important, the drug allowed her to stop obsessing about food and exercise. “Sure, it was expensive,” Berger said. “But you know what? I saved a lot of money on trainers and not buying wine! To be honest, the most expensive thing so far has been buying new clothes.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Happy New Year! Eating 12 grapes at midnight for luck is a tradition that TikTok is crushing hard

January 2, 2023

If you’re hoping for a little bit of good luck in the new year, there are plenty of foods that—according to a variety of globe-spanning traditions—will help ensure favorable circumstances, reports The Washington Post.

In Pennsylvania Dutch families, there sauerkraut is often served. Southerners will swear up and down by a dish of Hoppin’ John to bring a year’s worth of good vibes.

But this New Year’s Eve, many people are preparing to consume 12 grapes as the clock chimes 12 times at midnight—an old ritual with roots in Spain that is finding new life on TikTok.

Videos touting the superstition are circulating (the hashtag #12grapes has 11.5 million views), and in the remix-happy spirit of the social media platform, the practice of eating grapes is getting mashed up with a host of other good luck incantations. Some people are planning to eat their grapes while sitting under tables. Others are planning to wear red underwear, which is actually a part of the Spanish lore.

Some people have posted videos of the partners they claim to have snagged after participating in the ritual, as proof that it works. Others are offering tips on how to accomplish the feat of ingesting a dozen grapes in the span that it takes a clock to chime (small, seedless varieties are the best bet, apparently).

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Experts warn of grim consequences of new cosmetic surgery trend

December 20, 2022

After actress Lea Michele dropped a couple photos on Instagram of her face looking suspiciously hollower than what people expected, social media—Twitter especially —became rife with speculation that she’d had the surgery known as “buccal fat removal,” which removes a pad of fat from the lower face, reports Futurism.

“What the fu*k is buccal fat,” quipped Internet funny person Trash Jones, and “how are they still inventing new flaws for us?”

Buccal fat removal isn’t anything new, but it has quietly gained favor among actors and influencers. And now, it’s getting an unexpected spotlight, too.

“The surgery has been around for many years, but with the advent of social media, I think it’s really seen a resurgence and popularity,” plastic surgeon and buccal fat expert Ira Savetsky recently told The Daily Beast. “The reason why buccal fat pad removal is so popular is because the jawline has become really popular. Everyone wants a snatched jawline, that’s what the kids are saying these days.”

Richard Swift, also a plastic surgeon, believes that Michele and fellow actress Zoë Kravitz have both gone through with the procedure.

“I think Lea and Zoë have much more definition than they had before,” Swift told the Beast. “Zoë Kravitz had more of a baby face, and if you look at the submalar area, that’s really well defined now.”

Buccal fat removal is also relatively cheap, quick, and easy—only taking 20 minutes and $5,000 in New York City, according to Savetsky— making it all the more enticing for influencers to give it a try, as well as their susceptibly insecure followers.

While it may give you those Robert Pattinson-worthy sunken cheeks you always desired in the short term, though, there can be some major downsides as time goes by.

For one thing, you’ll probably be happier if you make peace with how you already look. For another, the procedure may well actually backfire. “The drawback is that from an aesthetic standpoint, facial fat is very precious, and we learned from anatomy studies and studying how people age that as we get older we lose fat in the face,” Savetsky explained. If a patient goes through with the procedure even though they don’t have “excess” buccal fat, “you’re going to look overly hollow as you get older, he said, adding, “Out of every five people that walk into my office that want it, probably only one is a good candidate for it,” he added.

Furthermore, reversing the procedure by adding some healthy fat to the face is difficult and costly. “When I’m doing a facelift for an older woman I am putting fat back into her face,” Savetsky told the Beast, “but adding fat back into that space is very, very difficult, because it’s a deeper area. It’s almost irreversible.”

Unfortunately, that kind of forward thinking hasn’t stopped the surgery from latching on, primarily among young women. There’s even a whole corner of TikTok spotted by the Beast that’s dedicated to the practice of traveling to Mexico, where the procedure is even cheaper, to get buccal pads removed.

“I had mine done in Mexico, Mexicali specifically, and for both surgeries it was $1,735,” one 25-year-old woman told the outlet. “It was $1,400 for the neck/chin lipo and the buccal fat removal cost $300 to add on. $35 for a face garment.”

It’s cheap to buy in, but expensive to back out—so maybe buck this latest buccal trend.

Research contact: @futurism

Animal house: When Utah couple bids on new home, the deal includes the seller’s cat

December 13, 2022

A Utah couple and their new cat have gone viral on TikTok after it was revealed the feline was included in their recent purchase of a new home, reports Fox News.

Tori Taillac, an aesthetic physician assistant in Salt Lake City, and her fiancé, Alex Kravets, moved into their new place last month. Eagerly awaiting them was Loki, an adventurous, outdoorsy feline who began courting the soon-to-be married couple when they first toured the home, Tilliac said.

“Most people ask for money or appliances during the seller concessions phase of buying a home—instead we asked for one of their cats,” Taillac posted on TikTok with the song, So This Is Love,  playing over the video.

“We are completely smitten with the grumpiest-looking but sweetest cat I have ever met.”

Loki wasn’t actually part of the contract —but it might be fair to say he helped sweeten the deal. Tilliac, a recent transplant from Washington, D.C., told Fox News Digital that she and Kravets had been searching for a house with a mountain view, but several homes they liked slipped away.

Then, one day, a house popped up via a cell phone alert as the couple was driving back from seeing their upcoming wedding venue, Tilliac said. “We called our realtor and she was able to get us in 30 minutes after it was listed,” she said. “We went straight there and just loved it.”

As they were touring the house—and taking in the view of the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountains—a friendly cat followed them outside through the sliding glass door, Talliac said.

“He rolled onto his back, looking for rubs,” Taillac said. “So, I’m all into petting this cat—and that night we made an offer on the home.”

The seller accepted their offer. About one week later, during the walk-through with the owner, Taillac was hardly able to concentrate on details like the sprinkler system and electrical outlets, she recalled. “I was just playing with the cat,” she said, adding, “I made a joke when he mentioned that he was going to leave us an air purifier. I said, ‘You can leave us a cat, too. I love your cat.’”

The owner’s ears perked up because he said he’d been worried about moving his young cat Loki to a smaller home after the cat was used to having more space, Taillac said.”He said he thought Loki would prefer to stay in this house because he [the owner] was going to be downsizing,” Taillac said. “He [Loki] loves to be outside and he is always chasing lizards.

“After the home’s inspection, the couple asked for some money back for certain repairs, Taillac said. “On [the seller’s] counter offer to ours, he dropped the price down,” Taillac said. “But he said, ‘I’ll include the cat and the air purifiers.’”

Taillac’s realtor, Crystal Richardson of Chapman Richards and Associates of Salt Lake City, said she has never had a cat listed as part of a real estate addendum before. “I’ve been doing this for 34 years,” Richardson told Fox News Digital. “I’ve had people ask for a lot of strange things — but never a cat.”

Loki is already making friends with the couple’s seven-year-old dog, Marcus—an active half Shiba-half mini Australian shepherd. So far, it’s been interesting, Taillac said.

While many viewers fell in love with Loki’s story, Taillac said she has received some negative comments, mostly from TikTok users who did not understand how someone could give up a pet.

“That would be like asking for one of my children,” one commenter said.

“I would never leave one of my kitties or pup as a negotiation chop … They are my babies,” another person said.

Taillac said she feels that the seller did not intend on abandoning his pet. “I think he was doing what he thought was best for the cat,” Taillac said, adding, “We asked [if we could keep Loki] more in a joking manner and in no way was the sale of the house contingent upon our getting the cat.”

Research contact: @FoxNews

Yahoo takes minority stake in digital ad network Taboola

November 29, 2022

Yahoo is deepening its push into digital advertising, even as its competitors warn that the market is faltering, reports The New York Times.

The Internet pioneer, which was taken private in a $5 billion deal last year, is taking a roughly 25% stake in Taboola, the company known for serving up attention-grabbing links on websites, the chief executives of the companies said in an interview.

The deal is part of a 30-year exclusive advertising partnership that allows Yahoo to use Taboola’s technology to manage its sizable business in native advertising—ads that have the characteristics of traditional news and entertainment content.

Shares of Taboola have fallen nearly 80% over the past year, amid broader doldrums in the public and advertising markets—giving it a market capitalization of $455 million. Last January, when Taboola struck a deal to merge with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, it was valued at $2.6 billion.

Executives at companies like Meta and TikTok have warned that advertisers skittish about the economy have pulled back on their spending. But Jim Lanzone, the chief executive of Yahoo, said in an interview that the deal with Taboola puts both companies in a good position for when the ad market revives.

“I’m thinking, you know, five, ten, 30 years,” Lanzone said. “Digital advertising has huge wind at its back over the long term.” He added that while the company will continue to try to bring in money in other ways, such as expanding its subscription business or investing in e-commerce, “we have hundreds of millions of people consuming news and sports and finance on market-leading properties that are heavily monetized through advertising — and will continue to be.”

Yahoo, a giant of the early internet, was eclipsed over the years by tech rivals like Alphabet’s Google and Meta’s Facebook. The company endured a messy power struggle and shaky leadership as it matured, leading to layoffs and shifts in strategy.

The company was taken private by the investment firm Apollo Global Management in the hopes that new leadership and a respite from the public markets would give it a chance to grow. Yahoo says it has about 900 million monthly users of its properties, which include AOL, TechCrunch, and Yahoo Sports, making it one of the largest destinations on the web.

oola, founded in 2007, specializes in native advertising, operating a sprawling advertising network over thousands of well-known websites, including CNBC, NBC News, and Insider.

The deal with Yahoo gives Taboola the exclusive license to sell native ads across Yahoo’s sites, and the companies will share revenue from those ad sales. The companies did not disclose the terms of the revenue split.

Yahoo, which will become Taboola’s largest shareholder, also will get a seat on the company’s board.

Research contact: @nytimes

Facebook parent Meta will notify employees of large-scale layoffs, starting this week

November 9, 2022

Meta Platforms is planning to begin large-scale layoffs this week, according to people familiar with the matter, in what could be the largest round in a recent spate of tech job cuts after the industry’s rapid growth during the pandemic, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The layoffs are expected to affect many thousands of employees and an announcement is planned to come as soon as Wednesday, November 9. Meta reported more than 87,000 employees at the end of September. Company officials already told employees to cancel nonessential travel beginning this week, insiders said.

The planned layoffs would be the first broad head-count reductions to occur in the company’s 18-year history. While smaller on a percentage basis than the cuts at Twitter this past week—which hit about half of that company’s staff—the number of Meta employees expected to lose their jobs could be the largest to date at a major technology corporation in a year that has seen a tech-industry retrenchment.

A spokesman for Meta declined to comment, referring to CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent statement that the company would “focus our investments on a small number of high-priority growth areas.

“So that means some teams will grow meaningfully, but most other teams will stay flat or shrink over the next year,” he said on the company’s third-quarter earnings call on October. 26. “In aggregate, we expect to end 2023 as either roughly the same size, or even a slightly smaller organization than we are today.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in September that Meta was planning to cut expenses by at least 10% in the coming months, in part through staff reductions.

The cuts expected to be announced this week follow several months of more targeted staffing reductions in which employees were managed out or saw their roles eliminated.

“Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here,” Zuckerberg told employees at a companywide meeting at the end of June. 

Meta, like other tech giants, went on a hiring spree during the pandemic as life and business shifted more online. It added more than 27,000 employees in 2020 and 2021 combined; and added a further 15,344 in the first nine months of this year—about one-fourth of that during the most recent quarter.

Meta’s stock has fallen more than 70% this year. The company has highlighted deteriorating macroeconomic trends, but investors also have been spooked by its spending and threats to the company’s core social-media business. Growth for that business in many markets has stalled amid stiff competition from TikTok; and Apple’s requirement that users opt in to the tracking of their devices has curtailed the ability of social-media platforms to target ads.

Last month, investment firm Altimeter Capital said in an open letter to Zuckerberg that Meta should slash staff and pare back its metaverse ambitions, reflecting the rising discontent among shareholders.

Much of Meta’s ballooning costs stem from Zuckerberg’s commitment to Reality Labs; a division of the company responsible for virtual- and augmented-reality headsets, as well as the creation of the metaverse. Zuckerberg has billed the metaverse as a constellation of interlocking virtual worlds in which people will eventually work, play, live, and shop.

The effort has cost the company $15 billion since the beginning of last year. But despite investing heavily in promoting its virtual-reality platform, Horizon Worlds, users have been largely unimpressed. Last month, the Journal reported that visitors to Horizon Worlds had fallen over the course of the year to well under 200,000 users, about the size of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“I get that a lot of people might disagree with this investment,” Zuckerberg told analysts on the company’s earnings call last month before reaffirming his commitment. “I think people are going to look back on decades from now and talk about the importance of the work that was done here.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Why is Pilates so popular?

September 1, 2022

Australian-based Pilates instructor and influencer Bailey Brown summed up the Pilates craze succinctly in a now-famous TikTok: “Gorgeous, gorgeous girls do Pilates. Pilates girls are hot.”

Brown’s post has gained the attention of millions, and the audio has been shared numerous times on TikTok, reports Good Morning America.

The now-trending exercise has also become a favorite among celebrities like Duchess Meghan and Jennifer Aniston. It was name-dropped recently on the Met Gala red carpet by beauty entrepreneur Lori Harvey when she pointed to Pilates when Essence‘s beauty and style editor Blake Newby asked, “What’s the trick to the abs?”

While most market research doesn’t track Pilates separately from yoga, in a report by Research Dive, the global Pilates and yoga studios market was expected to pull in revenue of $269.3 billion by 2028 compared to $127.7 billion in 2021—a compound annual growth rate of 10%.

Fitness influencers Elizabeth Endres and Dale Stabler of Sweats & The City told Good Morning America that they were initially “intimidated” to try Pilates.

“However, when New York Pilates opened in their beautiful space in SoHo, it felt more approachable with class names like ‘ABS ARMS A**’.” We felt like they were trying to get the younger generation onto Pilates and make it fun,” says Stabler.

Enres adds, “Pilates is a challenging, low-impact exercise that really works muscles and parts of your body in ways no other exercise can. It’s about form and alignment and building a really strong foundation. We think a lot of people became tired of breaking their bodies down and wanted to explore all the benefits of Pilates. Not to mention, a lot of amazing studios have popped up in the last year or so.”

But what, exactly, is Pilates? Created by German physical trainer Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, Pilates is a low-impact exercise focused on form and alignment to enhance strength building as well as flexibility. It can be done on a mat or reformer and practiced through other Pilates apparatuses.

Club Pilates master trainer Shepherd Joseph tells GMA that the most popular form of Pilates right now is performed on the reformer apparatus, which has springs that create multiple levels of resistance and straps for your arms and feet to move on a pulley system. “The reformer resembles a bed, as it was originally designed after a hospital bed when Joseph Pilates was rehabbing injured soldiers,” she explains.

Joseph went on to break down different types of Pilates—including everything from “classical” to “apparatus” formats:

  • Classical vs. Contemporary Pilates: Classical Pilates is a style that stays true to the original Pilates method, called Contrology, created by Joseph Pilates. Contemporary Pilates, seen at Club Pilates, is more of a blend of Joseph Pilates’ original method, and new-age research and exercises adapted from physical therapy.
  • Mat Pilates vs. Reformer Apparatus Pilates: Mat Pilates is a series of full-body exercises performed supine on a Pilates mat—prone, kneeling or standing. Reformer Pilates uses the Mat Pilates principles and performs the exercises with resistance and the pulley system—creating more intensity or assistance depending on the exercise.

Pilates has a wide range of important health, fitness and overall wellness benefits.

Cedric X. Bryant, president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, tells GMA that it also can “improve muscular endurance, flexibility and posture, and in combination can lead to a reduced risk of injury as well as a decrease in existing chronic pain. And, because of the focus on mindfulness, Pilates can reduce stress levels, anxiety and depression.”

He also added that Pilates can be an excellent option for people just starting an exercise routine, as well as those recovering from injury.

“It’s great for at-home workouts and can be done in short bouts of around ten minutes, so there is no need to perform a 60-minute workout to reap the benefits,” Bryant explains.

Additionally, several studies show that Pilates can be beneficial in everything from reducing chronic low back pain to reducing stress and anxiety.

Modernized boutiques and offerings have also sprung up along with the growing interest. Andersen credited some of the success of her airy, bright New York Pilates studios to the company’s use of social media and making it appealing to downtown New Yorkers. “Pilates is not a trend, it’s a movement,” says New York Pilates founder Heather Andersen

She adds, “By creating beautiful environments that feel more like homes instead of gyms, NYP has created a space that people want to work out in. You’ll feel like you’re working out in the apartment of your dreams. We hire the absolute best 400-hour certified Pilates instructors and students have started realizing just how effective Pilates can be.”

But that beauty comes with a price: Many people have called out the price, which can vary anywhere from $35 for a single group class to upward of $120 for one-on-one sessions.

Ife Obi, a certified Pilates teacher, personal trainer and founder of Brooklyn-based studio,  The Fit In, tells GMA that much of the pricing is influenced by keeping up with the current market rate; as well as high associated costs for certifications plus purchasing equipment that can total anywhere from $5,500 to $9,000—and doesn’t include any continuing education.

“While the prices are getting pretty ridiculous, there is in-depth anatomy, alignment, equipment and movement knowledge that you have to know in order to be a quality teacher,” said Obi. She also highlights that much of the in-depth knowledge isn’t included in standard personal training certification and can pack on an extra $1,000 in costs.

“And because of this, you generally don’t teach more than six people in a group Pilates equipment class — whereas in other modalities you can pack 30 or 40 people into a room because there’s not as much attention to detail,” Obi added. “But, you still have to cover the costs of the studio.”

Obi also mentioned that most Pilates studios in New York have opted for affluent neighborhoods, which results in higher rents and higher overall costs for sessions.

Another major drawback: Obi, who is a woman of color, says that Pilates has been inaccessible to many people of color for a number of reasons.

“From the beginning, it was seen as a modality for soldiers in Germany; then, eventually, dancers and celebrities in [the United States],” Obi says. “You didn’t really see us in those groups and in turn, you didn’t really see us in Pilates.”

First-generation Pilates teacher Kathy Grant, who was Black, studied directly under Joseph Pilates; but aside from her, master trainer Lolita San Miguel, who is Puerto Rican, said there weren’t many other advocates pushing to extend access of the method to people of color, according to Diversity in Pilates.

Liz Polk, co-founder of Speir Pilates, attributes the lack of representation to an underdeveloped pipeline of Pilates professionals and a gap in financial resources and support for Black-owned fitness businesses.

“There are so many amazing small Black fitness entrepreneurs out there, but their ability to grow and scale in a competitive way is severely limited when the funding is not available to them and they, instead, need to use their personal savings and/or money from friends and family to bootstrap the business,” said Polk.

“At Speir, we are actively addressing this pipeline issue by sponsoring trainees from underrepresented communities and seeing them through certification,” Polk reveals. “We’ve even offered our trainees open positions at Speir during their certification process. To date, we’ve sponsored the certification of several Pilates instructors and we plan to scale our training and certification programs to truly make a positive impact on this pipeline issue.”

Research contact: @GMA

His emotional support animal is an alligator. They sleep in the same bed.

August 30, 2022

Joseph Henney’s emotional support animal WallyGator goes with him almost everywhere—from the grocery store to walks in the park. They hug each other and sleep in the same bed. WallyGator is an alligator, reports The Washington Post.

“When he turns his nose toward you, that means he expects a kiss,” said Henney, 69, who goes by Joie (pronounced “Joe”) and lives in Jonestown, Pennsylvania, about two hours from Philadelphia. “He’s super sweet-natured.”

The two watch television together on the couch, and when Henney takes him to the farmers market, WallyGator gives hugs to shoppers—as long as they are okay with being that close to a 70-pound reptile with a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth.

“Wally is definitely not your average crocodilian,” says Henney, explaining that most people in his community are familiar with his seven-year-old, 5½-foot emotional support alligator.

WallyGator has a following on TikTok and Instagram, and he made headlines on  Friday, August 26, after Henney took him to Love Park in Philadelphia.

“He’s a very special gator, but I wouldn’t recommend that anyone get one,” he said. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, you will get bit.”

Henney’s unusual relationship with WallyGator started in 2015, he said, when a friend called from Florida and asked if he could take in a few gators that had been found in a pond in Orlando. Henney makes a living in woodcrafting, but he has always enjoyed caring for reptiles as a pastime, he said.

Alligators are legal to own in Pennsylvania, and Henney has helped relocate unwanted alligators, snakes, and iguanas to wildlife sanctuaries as a hobby for about 30 years. He keeps his rescue reptiles in his home in separate indoor enclosures that he purchased for this purpose. He then finds sanctuaries or zoos that will take them.

He is usually called to rescue alligators when people take in cute baby gators as pets but they inevitably turn into large animals that can be difficult to handle, he explains. They are, after all, a species that has not changed since the time of the dinosaurs.

Henney told his Florida friend that he could take in three juvenile alligators. After a while, he sent two of the gators to reptile refuges in New York and New Jersey, he said.

But Wally stayed behind: “I bonded with him and was committed to caring for him,” says Henney.

“One of the problems when someone gets an alligator for a pet is they don’t realize they’re in for a long haul,” he said, noting that the reptiles can live 80 years or longer in captivity.

They breathe air and generally live in freshwater, but their skin does not need to stay wet for survival. It isn’t common for people to want alligators as pets, though it does happen more than most people realize, he admits.

“When they get to three feet, nobody wants them,” Henney said. “They can bite and they’re extremely hard to handle.”

Wildlife experts agree: Alligators generally don’t make good pets, and they’re illegal to own in many states. “The jaw pressure from an alligator’s bite force is incredibly strong, and their powerful tails can whip you,” adding, “They are also predators who are hardwired to believe that other creatures want to eat them, so they are defensive early on, he said.

“I definitely assume that [Henney] is an exception when it comes to caring for an alligator—he’s done a good job,” Diaz said. “But most people don’t have that kind of time to devote to a pet alligator’s care.”

The large reptiles require a special diet and enrichment such as logs or live plants to hide under; and running or spraying water to thrive under human care. They should never be handled by people who aren’t trained, said Matt Evans, assistant curator of Herpetology at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C.

“If you are interested in working with alligators, volunteer at your local zoo or nature center or get involved with citizen science,” Evans said.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Dad wows the Internet by modeling his daughter’s crochet crop tops

August 8, 2022

This dad loves to model his daughter’s crochet designs—from cool crop tops to beautiful bucket hats. But he’s not just any dad. He’s Jeff Beaver of Arkansas, reports ABC News.

Across several social media platforms—including  Instagram,  TikTok  and more—the dedicated dad can be seen dancing, twirling, laughing, and posing in looks from the LoveBeav product line.

Emily has been crocheting since 2015, but started noticing her business really take off during the summer of 2021, thanks to social media. When she began scouting her parents to model her designs, the business saw an immediate upswwing.

“My dad has never been afraid to look silly, especially if he’s having fun doing it, so there was never any hesitation on his part,” Emily told ABC’s morning show, Good Morning America. “The most important thing for me and my parents is that we are spending quality time laughing and enjoying what we are doing.”

“We could care less what other people think about how silly it might look,” she added.

After noticing how well a video performed that featured her mother, Amy Beaver, wearing one of her crochet designs, Emily thought, “Why not try including Dad, as well?”

“The Internet totally ate it up and every time I included my parents, I knew that there was something special about the concept of a family wearing crochet tops together,” Emily said.

Since making the decision to include her parents in content creation, Emily’s business has continued to grow at a rapid rate and she has seen a large increase in followers.

The 28-year-old crochet artist and content creator was able to quit her previous day job to solely focus on art and content creation full-time because of the increase in engagement and sales.

“I went from barely any sales at all, to usually selling out my entire restock each month,” Emily said. “The biggest win for me, however, has been the opportunities I’ve had to partner with some of my favorite brands, like Michael’s Craft Store. I’ve been shopping at Michael’s since I started crocheting, so to be able to partner with them and create videos for them has been an absolute dream.”

When it comes to the Beaver family’s newfound Internet fame, Emily said they are all “loving it,” adding, “I’m still not sure we have even processed it completely.”

Emily recalls attending the Electric Forest Festival and finding it absolutely mind-blowing how many fans they met. “We were getting asked for pictures about every five feet. It has been such an awesome experience to do this together, and we are looking forward to seeing where this leads.”

From cool crop tops to beautiful bucket hats, all of Emily’s crochet designs can be found on her company’s website. However, social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and  Facebook are the best way to find her and her family’s latest viral moments.

Research contact: @ABC

Hired help: Professional bridesmaids are a booming growth industry in China—but height rules apply

July 25, 2022

Traditionally, being asked by a friend or a relative to be a bridesmaid has been considered an honor—but, in China, the job of being at a bride’s side is becoming a booming growth industry, reports Fortune.

Indeed, the magazine says, professional bridesmaids are increasingly becoming the norm for Chinese women as they plan their wedding days.

One bridesmaid and groomsman rental company based in the Chinese city of Hangzhou  that its number of registered members has grown to 50,000 since its February launch, and that it has received 10 to 20 orders per day over the past month.

Bridesmaids can be hired through wedding planners or companies that specialize in the niche industry, but services also are advertised on social media platforms like Weibo.

On TikTok—known as Douyin in China—a hashtag that translates to “rent bridesmaids” presents users with multiple videos on the topic, and  a video  from a Guangdong-based bridesmaid rental studio offers professional bridesmaids who can “save worry and effort,” but “will not steal the limelight.”

Brides reportedly are able to make demands about prospective bridesmaids’ looks, weight, and personality, and even their academic accomplishments.

Xie Yuke—a 22-year-old woman who has traveled more than 140,000 kilometers (around 87,000 miles) to earn a living as a professional bridesmaid all over China—told Chinese state-run news outlet Sixth Tone on Monday, July 18, that the pandemic had helped the rent-a-bridesmaid industry.

According to Xie, bridesmaids need to be unmarried and cannot be taller than the bride. She said an ideal height for an aspiring professional bridesmaid was between 5 feet 11 and 5 feet 8.

Generally, pro bridesmaids earn a daily rate between 500 and 2,000 yuan ($74 and $295), Xie told Sixth Tone.

A typical day on the job would see Xie wake up at 4:30 a.m. to get ready for the wedding, and she would be expected to spend the day taking photos, entertaining guests, and making toasts until the wedding banquet ends at around 8 p.m. When she works at a wedding, Xie said, she usually pretends to be a friend or classmate of the bride.

While Xie attributed the boom in demand for professional bridesmaids to the pandemic, there is also a darker side to why some women opt to rent strangers to join their wedding party.

According to Yang Hu, a senior researcher at the University of Essex’s Department of Sociology, some women take the hiring route because of “the dangers of being a bridesmaid in China.”

“[Bridesmaids] are expected to fend off drinking requests and in a lot of cases drink Chinese rice wine on behalf of the bride,” he explained in a 2016 blog post.

“It is a widespread tradition that the newlyweds should toast bottoms up to every wedding guest on an individual basis—meaning that the bridesmaid often ends up drinking on behalf of the bride and overconsuming alcohol. In fulfilling their obligation, some of them suffer from alcohol poisoning or even risk death.”

He added that bridesmaids also act as the final “hurdle” before the groom can enter the bridal suite after the wedding, which often leads to the groom and groomsmen carrying out “stunts laced with sexual innuendo.”

“In many cases, bridesmaids are unwillingly involved in sexual stunts designed for the newlyweds,” Yang said. “In extreme cases, some are stripped of their clothes and molested, or attacked.”

He noted that most reports of alcohol poisoning, sexual harassment, and abuse of bridesmaids are concentrated in China’s rural areas and provinces.

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine