Lip Service: Zelda’s Favorite Sticks, Stains, and Balms

I am not a beauty guru (although I sometimes like to pretend I’m one on this blog). My contouring skills are pretty much nonexistent. I have yet to perfect my cat eye. But the one area where I do claim some smidge of expertise is lips. Berry or burgundy, crimson or magenta, I love a bold lip. It spices up any outfit, adds a bunch of panache to any look, and instantly makes me feel more awake, put-together, and downright sultry no matter what else I have going on. My fellow lipstick-wearing pals often ask me for recommendations in the stick, gloss, and stain department, and so I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you, dear readers.

IMG_5568

From drug store finds to Sephora specials, liquid mattes to sheer balms, these are the staples I consistently find myself going back to when I want to put a little smooch in my step. Whether you’re in search of a new spring look, gearing up for a special occasion (*cough Derby Party cough*), or continuing your quest for the perfect red lip (me, always), here are some Zelda-approved products to get you started. And if many of them happen to be in Run for the Roses shades, perfect for pairing with a certain May Saturday and its atmosphere of Bluegrass glam, even better.

2296157.jpgRevlon Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor (I own this in at least six different shades — I wish I were exaggerating — but my favorites are Passion, Addiction, and Obsession): If you’re looking for bang for your buck, this is your winner. A huge punch of color, creamy texture, and nigh-indestructible coverage, all for under $6. This is also where we first encounter the trend of weirdly oversexualized lipstick color names. Sex sells, I guess?

 

revlon.jpgRevlon Super Lustrous Lipstick (in Cherries in the Snow): I stumbled across this color on some “Best Of” list that I can’t seem to relocate, and it has quickly become one of my new favorites. Teetering between magenta and red, with good lasting power to boot. And only $10!

 

 

Soap-and-Glory-Sexy-Mother-Pucker-Matte-Lip-Review-Swatches-3.jpgSoap and Glory Sexy Mother Pucker Matte-Lip (in Chocoberry): As you’ll notice from this list, I generally stick to the bold berries and reds when it comes to my pucker, but this is one noticeable exception. I bought this on a recommendation from my favorite London-dwelling Canadian beauty blogger Estée Lalonde, and her endorsement rang true. Another drugstore steal, from the cheeky Brits at Soap and Glory, this goes on like a balm, with the color of a lipstick, in an earth rose that hits the millenial pink sweet spot.

800897840310_liquidsuedecreamlipstick_kittenheels_main.jpgNyx Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick (in Kitten Heels): My Girl Scout troupe determined I was a Winter at a formative age, so I have since tended to shy away from orange-y reds in favorite or blue and berry tones (why this was a Girl Scout activity, I do not know, but I hope girls today have done more of the camping and less of the “holding up paint swatches to one’s cheek” of my youth). So I was apprehensive when I received this as a sample in my Birchbox, as it definitely fell more on the Summer side. To my very pleasant surprise, I actually liked it — a bold hit of color with a definite warm-weather vibe — and the incredible staying power tipped me over the edge. It took 26 years, but I had finally found an orange-red I liked.

2306286.jpgSmashbox Always On Matte Liquid Lipstick (in Bawse): When I first heard about this limited edition color, I wrote it off as a gimmick — a collaboration in which Smashbox hoped to capitalize on the brand and audience of YouTube superstar Lilly Singh a.k.a. iiSuperwomanii. But then I started to see the promo photos, featuring members of Lilly’s and the Smashbox teams. Ladies with a whole rainbow of skin tones, eye colors, and hair colors, with lips ranging from razor thin to full-on Jolie, all tried on the lipstick…and they all looked amazing. So I caved, and it did not disappoint. It can be a little bit drying, which keeps it from achieving the status of Perfect Red, but the shade is ultra-flattering (and, I might add, perfect for a Run for the Roses).

Too-Faced-Lady-Balls-Melted-Matte-Liquefied-Matte-Long-Wear-Lipstick-Review.jpgToo Faced Melted Matte Liquified Long Wear Matte Lipstick (in Lady Balls):  I am a huge fan of liquid lipsticks. However, nothing irks me more than a liquid lip that sucks all the moisture out of my kisser, leaving my mouth shriveled and dehydrated. This can be a particular problem with liquid matte colors, and this guy is one of the best I’ve found at avoiding what I call “Sahara mouth.” For my first try, I went with the classic red, but I’ve got my eye on It’s Happening and Bend and Snap as well.

SMASH.jpegSmashbox Be Legendary Lipstick (in Jam On It): I owe this discovery to Z&S favorite Ingrid Nilsen. Watching one of her videos last fall, I found I couldn’t stop staring at her lips. The reason was to be found in the video description — the internet’s version of asking your friend (or, you know, a random stranger on the street): “Oh my god, I love your lipstick! Where did you get it?” A deep berry that layers well, letting you take it from raspberry to plum in a matter of coats.

GS000934.jpgBenefit Full-Finish Lipstick (in Espionage): This is a long-time favorite of mine, the first shade beyond the classic reds that I truly loved. It breaks my heart that Benefit no longer makes it, and makes me incredibly sparing with how I use it and cautious about how it gets tossed in my bag, since one tube is all I’ve got. The color looks intimidatingly dark as a solid but goes on with just the right amount of sheer, while still packing a deep enough punch to make any wearer feel like a goddamn vixen.

TARTE.jpgTarte Tarteist Creamy Matte Lip Paint (in Frenemy): Speaking of dark, this is one of the newest additions to my lip arsenal, purchased for a Halloween trip to Sleepy Hollow with friend-of-the-blog, and my sister witch, Katie. Applying this guy can be a bit tricky, since the color is dark and tends to set very fast, but even so it goes on smooth and doesn’t dry your lips out, plus it has a surprisingly minty scent to give it that extra oomph.

 

Fresh-Sugar-Berry-Lip-Treatment.jpgFresh Sugar Lip Treatment (in Berry): There are lipsticks, and lip stains, and liquid mattes that toe the line. But sometimes, you just want a hint of color, and for those moments, there is Fresh. I have loved these sugar treatments for years, starting with the Original formula. They are incredibly moisturizing, they smell great, and they have just enough color to give your natural lip shade a boost without making you feel overdressed.

 

s683490-main-Lhero.jpgSmith’s Rosebud Salve: Last but not least, if you just want to let your natural lip shine, allow me to suggest this timeless classic. It smells like a Derby winner’s garland and seeps into your lips like rain on a racetrack, leaving them soothed and refreshed. Or, for a twist, you can layer it over a lipstick or lip stain to soften the color and give it a bit of shine.

IMAGES VIA: ULTAWALGREENSYSIS LORENA, NYX, ULTA, MAKEUPANDBEAUTY, GLAMBOT, BLOOM, SEPHORA, MUSINGS OF A MUSE, SEPHORA

 

Late Spring 2017 Playlist: Call to the Post

It’s our favorite time of year y’all. Winter has finally ceded the reins to Spring, flowers are blooming, and it’s time for the most decadent and depraved event in all of the South. Dust off your seersucker and unpack your fancy hat, it’s Derby Time! Now, as we reiterate each year around this time, while many hail Derby as “the fastest two minutes in sports,” we Louisvillians know better. Derby is actually a two-and-a-half-week long festival that contains multitudes of fun, food, fashion…and a healthy amount of depravity.

As we prepare to throw the fourth annual Zelda & Scout Derby Bash, we’re looking to our musical roots to build a playlist that really reflects the feeling of Derby time. We pulled classic country favorites like Patsy Cline, Kentucky favorites like Ben Sollee, the always applicable Dixie Chicks. And this year, we even brought in Zelda’s sister to consult on the current country music landscape to really get us in the mood.

So make a mint julep, place your bets, heed this non-traditional call to the post, and get yourself ready for Derby time. Listen here, on Spotify, or on YouTube.


Making Matzah You Want to Eat

It’s that time of year again! My favorite Jewish holiday is upon us. Yes, Passover is here, and along with all my favorite things — gathering around the table with friends, drinking wine, and opening doors for invisible guests — it also means eight days without the comfort of leavened carbs. If you know me, you knows that this definitely qualifies as a hardship. Instead of the glorious wheat products that normally make up the bulk of my diet, we get eight days of the cardboard-adjacent cracker substance known as “matzah.” But all is not lost! Today, the first full day of Passover 2017, I have scoured the edges of the internet to bring you ten recipes that make matzah actually tasty. The Jews of the internet have taken to Pinterest and Tumblr and what-have-you to take matzah to a palatable, even delicious, level. Enjoy.

Matzah Brittle: This recipe is first on my list just because I firmly believe the best way to make anything taste better is to cover it in chocolate and caramel. There’s really nothing better. If you make this right you’ll want to eat it even when it’s not Passover. In fact it’s so addictive, in Zelda’s house it’s known as matzah crack.

Matzah Brei: Matzah Brei is probably the most traditional way we Ashkenazi Jews have to make the unleavened fare of our ancestors taste better. The concept is simple. Take some matzah, break it into pieces, soften with water or milk, add eggs, and fry. It’s like a Passover frittata, or Pesach french toast. Slather with syrup and you can almost dream it’s a waffle.

Matzah Granola: Snacking is the hardest part of staying #Kosher4Passover, so do yourself a favor and prepare a bunch of this munchy-worthy granola ahead of time. Then you can snack away to your heart’s content!

Matzah S’mores: S’mores are always amazing, and while the loss of the graham cracker shell does hurt the overall s’more taste, the flavor of the matzah is mostly hidden by all the good-good melty chocolate and marshmallow. For a cross-cultural Easter/Passover experience, use marshmallow peeps instead of regular marshmallows.  

Matzah Latkes: Why not combine these two bastions of Jewish food? Latkes aren’t just for Chanukah, people. We can savor the delight of the potato pancake all year round! Even if it’s more potato than pancake during Passover.

Matzah Lasagna: Anything you can do with noodles, you can do with matzah, or so this recipe posits. Having experimented thoroughly in my younger years, I believe it to be true. Your matzah lasagna is going to be slightly more crunchy than the traditional sort, but it will still be good.

Matzah Pizza: Teenage Scout’s favorite way to eat matzah, covered in cheese and marinara sauce. It’s just pizza! Really, really, really thin-crust pizza. There’s room for a lot of variety in toppings here, so you can really hide the taste of cardboard if you try hard enough.

Matzah Puppy Chow: For some Jews (cough-Zelda-cough), kitniyot are not off limits, so there’s really no need for this recipe as rice or corn Chex are #K4P. But alas for us Ashkenazi’s they are not…for some inexplicable reason. So we have resorted to re-creating a beloved recipe with Matzah to…mixed results. We’re sticking with the theme here: If you cover something in enough chocolate, it can never really be bad.

Matzah Cake: This is one for the more ambitious among you. It turns matzah into a dessert that almost looks restaurant-worthy. It does require two whole boxes of of the stuff though, so it’s mostly for the people who stocked up beforehand (not the Scout’s of the world, who will wander into the grocery the day before Passover and be relegated to making the last box of off-brand matzah on the shelf last the entire eight days of the holiday).

Matzoah Kugel: It’s fitting to end with this recipe. My children, what we’ve learned today is that the key to making matzah taste less like cardboard and more like actual food is drown it in as many other ingredients as possible. Hide it under apples and brown sugar and eggs and never look back.

Photos via: The kitchn, Love + Cupcakes, Martha Stewart Living, Ingredients Inc, Martha Stewart, DelishSkinny taste, What Jew Wanna eat, Living sweet moments, Epicurious

On S-Town and Stories and Why They Matter

“John B McLemore lives in Shittown Alabama.” That was the subject line of an email that Brian Reed, a producer for the radio show This American Life, received in 2012. John B introduced himself. He talked about his shit town (known more widely as Woodstock, Alabama). He asked Reed to help him solve a murder.

Like millions of other people, I spent the past few days falling headfirst into S-Town, the podcast that emerged from years of reporting by Reed, all sparked by this missive. I’m going to warn you now, if you have not yet listened to S-Town, this post contains spoilers as to the content of the podcast. So please, do yourself a favor, and go spend a few hours journeying through its seven chapters now. I’ll wait.

s-town

The podcast was produced by This American Life and Serial, Sarah Koenig’s true crime wunderkind. I was a huge fan of Serial, so when this new show was billed as an outgrowth of that one, a murder mystery cut from the same cloth, I was intrigued. The actual show would turn out to be so much more.

S-Town is a murder mystery, it’s true. But not of the one the previews introduce. It is also an investigation, an autopsy, a celebration of a life cut short. John B killed himself, you see, a few years into his correspondence with Brian. And what began with one death — that of a local kid, whose murder John believed to have been committed by the son of a local lumber scion and subsequently covered up, and which turned out not to have happened at all — turns into a deep examination of another. The podcast traces the aftermath of John’s death: the battle over his estate, the feud between his relatives and friends, the aftershocks that ripple through his community and, more slowly, through his spiderweb of friends. More importantly, it grapples with who John was and the life that he lived, restoring clocks and rescuing puppies, caring for his mama and seeking human connection, building mazes and inhaling mercury and loving and losing and worrying and hating Shittown.

BRIAN

The podcast has been described in several reviews as Southern Gothic, and I believe the label is a fitting one. Wikipedia, the internet’s number one source for all cursory knowledge, describes the term: “Common themes in Southern Gothic literature include deeply flawed, disturbing or eccentric characters who may or may not dabble in hoodoo, ambivalent gender roles, decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or stemming from poverty, alienation, crime, or violence.” Its characters, “madness, decay and despair, continuing pressures of the past upon the present.” S-Town unfolds like a novel — even the episodes are called Chapters, numbered I-VII — weaving through time and space, from interviews to digressions into fire-gilding techniques or climate change. It visits characters mysterious and strange (and yes, definitely eccentric), from John’s friends and family to former professors and fellow horologists, his mama and cousin, proteges and friends. While there is very little hoodoo, there is much exploration of gender roles and ambivalent sexuality, especially when it comes to John himself, who describes himself at different times as various percentages of straight vs. gay. The setting is either lush and verdant or horrifyingly decrepit, depending on whose eyes you see it through. There is poverty and crime, violence in the form of murders that weren’t and suicide and self-mutilation that, heart-breakingly, were. And there is madness here, although whether it arises from the environmental decline of the world or the poverty of rural Alabama or too much mercury or simply bad genes, or all of the above, is anybody’s guess.

PODCAST

But what I think makes S-Town such a vitally Southern story — setting the, well, setting aside — is that its roots are so clearly grounded in the region’s storytelling tradition. The South is rich in lore, a region that can’t shake the shadow of its history and digs deep into its roots, pride mixing with surrender. This tale is one of a town grappling with a complicated history and an ugly present. It’s also the story of a community that comes together, cobbled together from parcels of land and sheer resolve. It’s a saga of families both biological and chosen, of the scars our parents leave on us, of the legacy we leave behind. It’s complicated and messy, and the gears don’t always seem like they’re going to fit. It is exquisitely real.

To be a human being is a lonely thing. We are all, each of us, trapped inside our own minds, starring in a movie of our own making without a ticket to anybody else’s cinema. And we tell ourselves stories, as one of my favorite writers says, in order to live — to feel less alone. The last chapter of S-Town in particular asks a question: “What gives a life meaning?” The question is specific — what did John B think defined a life as worthwhile, and did his own, when he ended it with a swig of cyanide, fit the bill? But it also endlessly broad. What makes a life worth living? What can each of us hope to accomplish with our few precious days on this earth?

maze

I believe we can listen. I believe we can tell our story. And I believe, if we’re lucky, we can help to tell the stories of others, especially those whose voices are often muffled. That’s why I’m a writer. I write because I do not understand, as a way through the darkness. I write to puzzle the knot of my life into something slightly less kinked, and to tell the stories of the folks I meet along my way. We all live in bubbles — whether in hipster corners of Brooklyn or small towns in Alabama — but stories, both journalistic and fictional, help us to see beyond our sphere. And what Brian Reed does so brilliantly here is to follow the witness marks of John B’s life, to reconstruct as best he can what all the gears and pulleys of his mind looked like, and to invite us inside for a spell. In another’s hands, this would have been the story of a crazy dude in a shitty redneck town, who subscribed to conspiracy theories and wasted his resources on obscure projects and died writhing on his front porch. But Reed tells his story with curiosity and respect. He always questions, never assumes. He listens. He looks at every angle. He tries to find the whole, messy truth.

John B McLemore is dead. He died in the same Shittown where he was born and raised, never straying too far beyond its borders. But his life, which at first glance seem small, left a mark on this great wild world that continues to ripple out. And a storyteller named Brian Reed helped, is continuing to help, him do that. To borrow from another of my and Scout’s heritages, it is one of the greatest mitzvahs a person can do. To really listen to someone. To see them. To celebrate them. To tell their story, without reducing any of its complexities or quirks to stereotype or a cheap joke. To make them remembered.

IMAGES VIA: FORBES, SHEKNOWS, PASTE MAGAZINE, PEDESTRIAN

All the Fixin’s: Brown Sugar Cornmeal Pie

Welcome back to All the Fixin’s! We are still waiting for spring to arrive here in New York: There was a brief respite from cold…followed quickly by a nor’easter. Suffice it to say, it’s still quite brisk. No matter! We are of the firm belief that every season is pie season! And there were many pies to choose from in Ronni Lundy’s Appalachian cookbook, Victuals, but eventually we settled on a savory pie with sausage and root vegetables, perfect for the unseasonable chill. Alas, the grocers of New York City had other plans. Zelda went on a three-store search for turnips and parsnips and other ingredients, but came up short (the hold-outs were those damn parsnips — apparently there’s some unspoken law banning their sale within the five boroughs outside of October and November, or at least that’s the way it seemed).

We complained. We strategized. We made plans to open an Appalachian/Cajun grocery and lunch counter somewhere in Brooklyn, where folks like us could buy game, root veggies, and tasso ham to their hearts’ content. And then we shifted our cooking plans to a more traditional pie format. Lundy’s Buttermilk Brown Sugar Pie is a twist on Z&S favorite chess pie (we’re all about the chocolate version from Louisville’s Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen), but this recipe uses brown sugar instead of regular old white granulated. Brown sugar is, as we’re sure you know, superior in all ways to white sugar, so we were sure this would improve immensely on the classic. Bellies full of tacos and glasses full of beer, we dove in.

Ingredients

1 unbaked pie crust (making your own is actually pretty easy, but if you, like us, are pressed for time, you can always go the Pillsbury route)

1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar

¼ cup very finely ground cornmeal (We had already purchased stone ground cornmeal, in hopes of making a different recipe, so we just sieved out the bigger pieces. You can also throw your cornmeal in the blender or food processor for a minute if it’s on the coarser side, and blend until it’s a little denser than flour.)

½ teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, room temperature

4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature (It is here that we must remind you of rule number one of baking: Read the entire recipe before you start! Otherwise you may be forced to sit on your hands while your just-melted butter chills in the freezer. Manageable, but less than ideal.)

¾ cup whole buttermilk, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350.

Line a 9-inch pie pan with your crust and put in the fridge to chill while you make the filling.

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, cornmeal, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Beat in the melted butter.

Add the dry ingredients and stir vigorously until the brown sugar has fully dissolved.

Add the buttermilk and vanilla. Stir to combine.

Pour the mixture into your chilled pie crust. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the center is set. It should be liquid but may still be tender to the touch.

Allow the pie to cool until just barely warm before slicing (otherwise, you may end up with unset pie soup). Enjoy!

Y’all. This pie is damn good: just the right level of sweetness, grounded by the earthiness of the cornmeal, with a nutty complexity from the brown sugar and a delicious caramelized finish on top. We inhaled our initial pieces in seconds and spent the weekend snacking on the rest. It may not have been the pie we planned, but it is definitely one we’ll be making again.

Things We Have in Common, Like Hating Duke

It’s that time of year again, when the entirety of my attention turns to college basketball and the never-actually-dormant UK fan in me comes bursting forth to the front and center of my life: March Madness. I love March Madness: it’s one of my absolute favorite times of the year. I love the ups and downs, the last second buzzer beaters, the Cinderella stories. I love watching my team defy or live up to the expectations (depending on where the expectations lie). I love brackets that get busted.  I love an underdog story. And I love it when Duke loses.

The second round of the NCAA Tournament wrapped up on Sunday night, and in the final game, Duke lost. This might not seem important to some of you, but if that’s the case, it’s likely you didn’t grow up in Kentucky or North Carolina (…or perhaps a select few other states, but those two are the big ones). Nothing brings people together like a common enemy.

Friend-of-the-blog Sarah is a UNC fan. She comes by it honestly, as she actually went to UNC Chapel Hill, whereas I was just born into my love of the UK Wildcats. Initially, I thought this might be a hindrance to our friendship but was willing to try to make it work. When you’re friends with a whole lotta nerds, you take sports fans where you can get ’em (though I maintain that being a sports fan is just being a nerd about sports). Then, when I was helping move her and also-friend-of-the-blog Jason into their last apartment, I stumbled upon this book:

With that, I knew our friendship was cemented. Now objectively, I know that hate on a real visceral level really isn’t okay. But I hate — like, really hate — Duke. Now I don’t know anyone who loves college basketball who feels ambivalent about the Blue Devils (and let’s be honest: very few of those feelings are of a positive nature). Maybe there are people out there who would disagree on that, but I don’t know them. And then there’s probably a portion of people reading this who have no idea what I’m talking about. Feel free to stop reading now, or continue in a sports-talk-induced haze, if you dare.

As a Kentucky fan, I can trace my hatred for Duke back to 1992 (okay, so, technically I don’t actually remember the East Regional Final of 1992, but I know that’s where my hatred of Duke started). It’s mostly Christian Laettner’s fault. He’s the one who scored a lucky, overtime, buzzer beater shot that dashed Kentucky’s chances at glory, in a year that was supposed to be our year. The UK team  that season was called the Unforgettables, known for the four Kentucky-native seniors who had been with the team through a two-year probation from the tournament, punishment for an old teammate’s mistakes. Those guys stuck it out, waited to get their shot at the title. And then at the last second, Laettner took it all away with a shot he shouldn’t even have been able to take (having committed a foul that should have had him ejected from the game earlier in the second half). That stupid last-ditch effort gets played over and over again every March, in every montage, on every channel. It even has its own Wikipedia page.

Now I’m not alone in my antipathy toward Laettner. He’s one of the most reviled players in college basketball history; ESPN even made a documentary about it. And he’s got company.  Duke’s an easy team to hate, the spoiled rich kids of college basketball, and every season there’s one who seems more annoying and entitled than the rest. When I was in high school it was JJ Redick. This year, it’s Grayson Allen.  Notice how Duke has its own category in this info-bracket from the now-defunct Grantland :

So this year, as I readied myself for another month of March Madness, I was sad to see that Duke was a likely favorite to win the whole tournament. They were ranked #2, and the East Region, historically the toughest quadrant of the bracket, was the weakest it had been in years. By all appearances, they had a pretty straight shot to the Final Four if they just kept being f***ing Duke. They wouldn’t even need to try that hard. I organized a bracket pool this year, so I took mine very seriously — weighing records and stats instead of just which teams I like, watching as many games as possible. I’m in it to win it. And so I reluctantly placed Duke in the Final Four, hoping I could get at least some money out of it in the end.

So imagine my (pleasant) surprise when the SEC’s own South Carolina, to whom I hadn’t given much credit, held on to oust the Blue Devils from the tournament this past Sunday night.  And my favorite part of Duke losing? The camaraderie between all the basketball fans on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, regardless of affiliation. I saw UNC and South Carolina fans celebrating side by side. I was reminded that this website exists. It was beautiful to see that no matter how much Louisville and UK fans fight about their respective teams, we can all agree that “Duke is unequivocally the worst” (direct quote from noted University of Louisville fan, Zelda). A Duke loss is a powerful thing. It can turn enemies into friends. It can unite the Carolinas.

 

So if by some act of the March Madness gods UNC and UK  play each other in the South Regional Final, no matter how uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing watching that game will be for Sarah and me, I love that we can at least find solace in the fact that Duke can’t win the 2017 NCAA Tournament. I guess what I’m saying is that in these trying times, when nothing else makes sense, we should focus on the things we have common, the things that bring us together — like hating Duke.

Six Badass Southern Women You Should Know About

March is Women’s History month here in the United States (and also the UK and Australia), and while we believe that any day is a good day to celebrate women and their accomplishments, we will happily take this opportunity to turn the well-deserved spotlight on some badass, brilliant ladies. These six were trailblazers in their fields, which range from athletics to advocacy, TV to torah. They are brave, they are fierce, and they all hail from below the Mason-Dixon line.

wilma

Wilma Rudolph (Saint Bethlehem, Tennessee): Rudolph was a premie, entering the world as the 20th of 22 siblings and weighing a mere 4.2 pounds. At 4, she suffered a bout of infantile paralysis, which left her with a twisted leg and foot, forced to wear a brace. By the age of 12, she had also contracted polio and scarlet fever, battling back every time. The odds were undeniably stacked against her. But in 1953, while playing on her high school’s basketball team, she was spotted by Tennessee State track and field coach Ed Temple, and everything changed. Temple coached Rudolph, who joined TSU’s summer program and ran with the Tigerbelles for two years. At 16, she went to the Olympics for the first time, bringing home a bronze medal for the 4×100 relay. And four years later, at the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics, she took gold in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, and the 4×100 relay, making her the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field at a single Olympics. She was hailed as “the fastest woman in history,” and her homecoming parade and banquet were the first fully integrated municipal events in her hometown of Clarksville’s history.

mae

Mae Jemison (Decatur, Alabama): Jemison may have grown up in Chicago, but her first three years were spent in the Deep South. The daughter of a maintenance supervisor and an elementary school teacher, Jemison loved science from an early age. She loved nature and dinosaurs and stars and space, watching the shuttle launches on TV with her classmates. But something bothered her: “At the time of the Apollo airing, everybody was thrilled about space, but I remember being irritated that there were no women astronauts. People tried to explain that to me, and I did not buy it.” Jemison fell in love with dance, went to Stanford, served in Peace Corps, watched Sally Ride shatter that annoying glass ceiling. And in 1987, she was accepted into NASA’s Space Program, one of 15 applicants chosen from a pool of over 2,000. She served as Mission Specialist on STS-47, from September 12 to 20, 1992, making her the first African-American woman in space. With her, she took a poster from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; a photo of Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to fly an airplane; and a few small pieces of West African art, to symbolize that space belongs to all nations. Now retired, she’s a professor-at-large at Cornell and a tireless advocate for science education, especially for young girls and minority students.

penny

Penny Ann Early (Kentucky): Early earns her place on this list for two famous firsts. Number one: In 1968, she became the first licensed female jockey in the United States. She entered three races at Scout’s and my hometown race track, Churchill Downs, but her male peers were so incensed that they boycotted, refusing to ride with a girl. But Early wasn’t done. Hearing about the controversy, the now defunct Kentucky Colonels basketball team decided to sign Early — all 5’3” of her. Coach Gene Rhodes was less than amused by the stunt and protested to management, claiming he would not let her play (to be fair, Early hadn’t so much as picked up a basketball in her life). But on November 27, 1968, in a game against the Los Angeles Stars, Early got her moment. Clad in a mini skirt and a turtleneck with the number 3 on it (representing the three races she’d been prevented from riding), Early subbed in and inbounded the ball to Bobby Rascoe, who immediately called a timeout. Early was subbed right back out, her basketball career amounting to mere seconds, but it still made her the first — and, so far, only — woman to play on a professional men’s basketball team.

Mia_Hamm

Mia Hamm (Selma, Alabama): Hamm moved around as a kid, bouncing base to base as an Air Force brat. At one such base, in Florence, Italy, she was first introduced to soccer. Hamm had been born with a club foot and wore corrective shoes as a toddler, but she immediately took to the sport and quickly excelled. As a student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, she led the women’s soccer team to four NCAA championships; of the 95 games she played on the team, they lost only one. But the truth is by the time she got to UNC, Hamm had already made a name for herself as a soccer star. She joined the U.S. women’s national team at just 15, the youngest player ever to do so. In 1991, she played in the first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup — at 19, again, the youngest member of the squad. She scored the game-winning goal in their first match. She scored again in their second. And in front of 63,000 spectators, she and her teammates beat Norway 2-1 to become the first ever women’s world champions. Hamm would go on to lead the U.S. to another World Cup victory in 1999, as well as two Olympic gold medals. She was twice named the women’s FIFA World Player of the Year, was one of two women on FIFA’s list of the 125 best living players, and until 2013 she held the record for the most career goals ever scored by a soccer player, of any gender.

paula

Paula Ackerman (Pensacola, Florida): Born and raised in Pensacola, Ackerman moved to Meridian, Mississippi, in 1922 with her 15 month-old son and her husband, a rabbi. The family was active in the Reform Judaism movement, and Ackerman taught confirmation classes at their congregation, Temple Beth Israel, and would fill in for her husband when he was sick or out of town. Then in 1951, when he died, the congregation asked her to take his place. She accepted, making her the first acting female rabbi in the United States. Although she was never officially ordained (that wouldn’t happen for a woman until 1972), she led the synagogue until 1953; even when the president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations rescinded his permission for a woman to assume such a role, the congregation insisted on keeping he. At the time, when asked about her appointment, Ackerman wrote to a friend, “I also know how revolutionary the idea is—therefore it seems to be a challenge that I pray I can meet. If I can just plant a seed for the Jewish woman’s larger participation—if perhaps it will open a way for women students to train for congregational leadership—then my life would have some meaning.”

laverne

Laverne Cox (Mobile, Alabama): You may know her from “Orange is the New Black,” from “The Mindy Project” or “Doubt.” You may know her from the wisdom she drops on Twitter or the love she spreads on Instagram with the hashtag #TransIsBeautiful. Cox grew up in Alabama, bullied and harassed throughout her youth because she did not fit in. At 11, she even attempted suicide. But, luckily, things got better. After graduating from Marymount Manhattan College with a degree in acting and working as a drag queen at a Lower East Side restaurant, Cox entered the public scene when she was cast in Jenji Kohan’s Netflix blockbuster as Sophia Burset — a hairdresser serving time for credit card fraud. Both Cox and her character are transgender women; in 2014, she was nominated for an Emmy for her performance, a first for an openly trans actor. But it’s her advocacy off screen that truly earns her a spot on this list. Her role on OITNB gave her a platform, and boy has she used it: to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, for trans awareness, for women’s rights, for intersectionality, for suicide prevention — just to name a few. She takes her position as a role model, especially for trans youth, very seriously, telling them that things get better and that self-love can be a radical act.

IMAGES VIA: KNOW SOUTHERN HISTORY, WIKIPEDIA, TRIVIAHAPPY, MIA HAMM FOUNDATION, JEWISH CURRENTS, WFMT