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Disney’s Plucky New Heroine and Other Notes from the Week

Catch up on all the news you might have missed with our handy summary of the week’s top stories.

We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week.

A Heroine We Can Root for in The BFG

A Disney adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s novel The BFG comes out today (July 1). The starring heroine is a 12-year-old actress named Ruby Barnhill. It's her first movie, and she’s crushing it; Director Steven Spielberg says she is one of the strongest female characters he’s ever had in one of his films. In the movie, orphan Sophie befriends a Big Friendly Giant, and together they enlist the help of the Queen of England (played by Penelope Wilton of Downton Abbey fame) to fight the evil giants. Watch the trailer here. The novel, written by the Matilda author, is dedicated to his daughter. It’s refreshing to see a female heroine who is the same age as the girls who admire her, which makes her resolve and talent even more inspiring. —Madeline Fry

Bill Cunningham, RIP

The fashion and art world mourns the loss of one of the greats this week. Bill Cunningham, legendary fashion photographer for the New York Times passed away on Saturday at the age of 87. He had been earlier hospitalized for a stroke. Anyone who’s picked a copy of the New York Times in the past forty years has likely seen Cunningham’s work.

In a world where fashion is dictated by brands, celebrities, and money, Cunningham stood true to himself and his vision. His “On the Street” column was a study not just of fashion but of people. Through Cunningham’s eyes, anyone could be fashionable, and everything could be fashion. From school kids hanging out on the front porches of apartment complexes, to bejeweled women attending galas at the Met, there was no discrimination in his lens.

Wearing his blue French workman’s coat and riding his bicycle, Cunningham told the story of New York style in a way that no one else could. Even fashion giant Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue, admitted, “We all dress for Bill.” Beloved by celebrities, well-to-dos and rejects alike, Cunningham’s columns were more than just a collection of images; they were an ongoing love story to those he photographed. May his creative soul rest in peace. —Nadine Ruiz


A suicide bombing at Europe’s third-busiest airport left forty-one dead and almost 240 wounded Tuesday. Three attackers fired upon travelers at the entrance to the Atatürk airport in Istanbul, two of them entering the airport. All three blew themselves up when targeted by the police. The president of Turkey directed a dire warning toward other countries, telling BBC: "The bombs that exploded in Istanbul today could have gone off at any airport in any city around the world.” After the attack, inbound and outbound flights were temporarily suspended. The Islamic State is suspected to be behind the attack, but it has not yet claimed responsibility for it. —MF

Strong > Sexy

The teen beauty pageant may not have have redeemed itself yet (if it's even possible to do so), but at least Miss Teen USA made one step in the right direction. The contest announced it will be swapping swimwear for athletic wear, so its fifty-one teen contestants henceforth will be taking the stage in sports garb rather than bikinis. The Miss World organization banned the bikini two years ago, and now America’s teen pageant is following suit. This is especially good news when you consider that girls are pressured to be sexy at increasingly younger ages, and Miss Teen USA contestants can be as young as 14 years old. While many aspects of the pageant still promote narrow beauty standards, emphasizing an active lifestyle and strong bodies rather than sex appeal is one thing we can get behind. —MF

More Curves, Fewer Designers

Finding the perfect outfit for a big event is no small task, especially if you’re an actress who isn’t a size four. Comedian Leslie Jones, who is starring in the all-female Ghostbusters reboot, took to Twitter to complain that no designers were willing to get her a dress for the movie’s premiere. Jones is a far cry from plus-size, yet she represents the struggle that actresses who aren’t “sample size” face to get designer clothing. Designer Christian Siriano, who has a history of working with women of all shapes and sizes, tweeted Jones back saying he’d love to collaborate with her. The movie premiere is on July 9, and we can’t wait to see her beautiful (and hilarious) self on the red carpet. —MF

Simone Biles Crushes the Competition with a Smile

At 19 years old, Simone Biles just became the first gymnast in forty-two years to win the U.S. National Championships four years in a row. Drawing comparisons to Michael Jordan for her championship streak, she squelched the competition with a 3.9 point lead. In the Rio Olympics this summer, she is expected to dominate again: If she wins three of the six medals, she will become America's most decorated gymnast.

But records aren't the only things Biles has overcome. Because her mother wrestled with drugs and alcohol, Biles was raised by her grandparents, who enrolled her in gymnastics class when she was 6 and have been supportive of her dreams ever since. Known for her bubbly personality even during tough meets, Biles has also won the all-around title at the World Gymnastics Championships three times, the first female gymnast to do so. Simone Biles is one athlete we will definitely be watching this summer. —MF

Love & Friendship—a Different Kind of Austen

Another Jane Austen film adaptation has hit the theatres, and it’s definitely a movie worth seeing. Love & Friendship, based on the Austen novel Lady Susan, is a story about love (though not always innocent) from the perspective of Lady Susan—the self-centered, manipulative Austen anti-hero. Whether or not you’re a die-hard Lizzy Bennett fan, this movie has a lot more to offer than the usual Austen charm. It’s funny and engaging, with a dash of realism in the mix. Kate Beckinsale’s portrayal of the widowed Lady Susan is spot on—she’s just the female lead to keep you captivated without sacrificing her true character to become the typical likable heroine. As Meghan Barylak wrote for Verily this week, “A character doesn't have to be a hero in order to be enjoyable to watch.” And even if you find Lady Susan unworthy of her story, you’re sure to find solace in the quintessential Austen ending. It’s still screening in select cities, but for everyone else, it should be out on DVD and digital venues in the fall. —Grace Cooper

My Eyes Are Up Here

Evidently, a little cleavage could go a long way if you’re looking for a job. A French study found that women who wore a low-cut dress in photos they submitted with job applications were nineteen times more likely to get called in for an interview than similar-looking women with comparable skills who were not wearing revealing tops. It didn’t matter whether the women were applying for jobs where they’d be working with customers or not. There is no general consensus as to when exposed skin damages professionalism. Though people tend to agree covering up is better for professionalism, their unconscious decisions speak otherwise. This news says far more about the ills of our sexualized culture than it ever could about what we should do to get jobs. —MF

Katherine Heigl Is Knocked Up

Getting pregnant in your late thirties can be difficult, and Katherine Heigl says she was both surprised and thrilled to discover she is pregnant with a baby boy. The 37-year-old actress and her husband have two adopted daughters, and she announced her pregnancy on her blog last week, saying she didn’t think having a biological child would be possible at first, but she was wrong. “Seeing as I have never been pregnant and as my OB-GYN reminded me last year, I’m of advanced maternal age; I wasn’t sure pregnancy was even in the cards for us,” she wrote. “Turns out it was very much in the cards!” We appreciate Heigl’s honesty about the uncertainty of natural conception, and it’s a good reminder of the benefits of understanding your fertility. —MF

A Lively Mom Indeed

While on a press tour for her new movie The Shallows, Blake Lively has been filling the media with positive stories about her pregnancy, her daughter, her family, and motherhood—something pretty unique for a celebrity and especially unique for a millennial. From her aspirations to raise a big family to her #parentingfail moments, Lively is quickly becoming a role model for young moms everywhere. And it’s not just her taking on the parenting responsibilities—husband, Ryan Reynolds, is definitely showing the world what a gift his parenthood has been, too. As this dynamic duo takes the spotlight in popular media, it’s great to see a young family take a positive spin on the realistic struggles and joys of parenthood. —GC