During the coronavirus pandemic, the entire concept of entertainment has developed new style and meaning. “Quarantine culture” is taking shape as we write: Some of what used to feel exciting only a few weeks ago now has the potential to feel bizarrely out-of-touch. Now, millions pay attention to something not because of how much money was spent on it or whether it was PR-machined into existence, but because it made us laugh or smile or breathe for a second.
To coincide with the launch of W’s stay-at-home Instagram challenge, we reached out to the people for whom a shelter-in-place order is an opportunity for creativity, a call to action. Some, like Miranda Kerr, Christian Siriano, and Bethenny Frankel, have used their platforms and resources to get much-needed equipment to the essential workers doing lifesaving work on the front lines. The TikTok star Curtis Roach went viral with a brilliantly simple hook and the bump of his fist against a hardwood floor; Anneloes Officier, the Dutch communications specialist behind the Instagram account Tussen Kunst En Quarantaine, did it with a garlic bulb and a bath towel. Tracee Ellis Ross has merged levity with considerate outreach to her fans. Naomi Campbell, in all her theatricality, raised awareness about public sanitation measures, launched an already beloved YouTube series centered on conversations with supermodel friends, and motivated us to get off the couch. Alison Roman, the cookbook author whom New York Magazine dubbed “The Domestic Goddess of the Apocalypse,” has made those of us for whom “home cooking” meant putting cereal in a bowl feel not just capable but excited to roll up our sleeves and start making things. Instead of sticking to traditional album release and tour schedules, musicians like Charli XCX and Riz Ahmed have adapted to the circumstances, inviting fans to be a part of the process.
At a time when so many celebrities and public figures have been getting it wrong, this eclectic crew manages to hit all the right quadrants of empathy, humor, creativity, and realness. They’ve lifted our spirits between all the dark news and the somber moments, reminded us to laugh, provided us with a much-needed distraction from the very real fears and tragedies, and been caring and thoughtful about what they’ve put into the world. While we can’t compare them to the doctors, nurses, and essential workers risking their lives daily, the people who have pivoted to making charitable contributions, stepping up as entertainers, and sharing mental health resources have added something positive to the conversation.
Simply put, their creativity and collaboration have made these days indoors bearable.
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Ciara is one of millions of mothers-to-be navigating the coronavirus pandemic while pregnant. She’s used her platform to bring awareness to the issues those who are expecting face.
It’s a bit of a loaded question these days, but how are you?
You know, despite it all, I’m actually doing okay. I’m making the most of this time. I’ve been calling it the time of the unknown, because we don’t know when all this is going to end, or what it’s going to lead to. There are just so many uncertainties. I try not to use negative language to talk about it, because I really believe that when it’s all said and done, we’re going to come out from this stronger than ever. So it’s the time of the unknown, and we’re making the best of it, trying to find as many positives as we can in the midst of the storm.
West Dakota and Juku
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In lieu of doing live shows, drag queens West Dakota and Juku have pivoted to Instagram, where they share larger-than-life beauty looks, and push for trans rights and visibility amid Covid-19.
Who is inspiring you the most right now?
All of our essential workers who are keeping things running, and the queer artists who are innovating faster than the tech we have at our disposal.
Have you developed a morning ritual in quarantine? What is it?
I’ve managed to stay a night owl through all of this. The one thing I have developed is a sweet tooth—I stir a spoonful of Nutella into my coffee when I wake up and it’s keeping me content.
Any causes or organizations you’d like to shout out?
If you have a favorite bar or restaurant you go to, chances are the people who run those spaces and serve you are suffering right now. Find them on social media, and chances are they have a GoFundMe for their staff. Donate what you would spend in a night on drinks.
What have you been watching or listening to lately?
I listen to a lot of podcasts regarding trans history, so my attention has been focused on learning more about those who paved the way for me. I highly recommend “One From the Vaults,” in which Morgan M. Page spills all the dirt, gossip, and glamour of trans history.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when this is all over?
Perform at my home bar. The first dollar might make me emotional. That first hundred might make me cry.
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One of the world’s most famous supermodels has become a central voice in this pandemic. Using her existing YouTube channel, Campbell has launched “No Filter With Naomi,” an already beloved series centered on conversations with supermodel friends, and is broadcasting her workouts daily on Instagram Live.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when all this is over?
I want to see my family. I would like to go home to London and be with them. I want to go home and see my mum. We’ve spoken by phone—thank god for Facetime—and thank god for the creation of the iPhone. It just makes you realize you’re traveling at such a fast pace all the time. I’m privileged in many ways, to be able to use this as a positive time. It’s a whole new mind-set. It’s going to be a whole new world. We don’t know exactly what it’s going to be like on the other side. There is uncertainty, but it’s okay, we can go into the uncertainty.
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The comedian has been going extra hard with surrealist Instagram posts from her home and backyard.
Which of your recipes have been a big hit with your husband and son?I’ll tell you the opposite, which was the worst. I made a sardine casserole. I don’t know what I was thinking. I mean, listen, I like sardines. They’re fine, they’re good for some protein, they’re canned, they’re great to have. I’m not going to have sardines every night. I went to The New York Times recipe app and I was looking for casseroles, so I saw sardine casserole, and I’m like, Oh that’s high in protein. I forget if it had spinach in it, too. It was just something where I was like, this is healthy, I’m making something I can just throw in the oven. My friend Kate also made it. It was so bad. We both had on quarantine goggles, which is like, you’re making food that you just never would normally eat.
What have you been watching while in quarantine?
I’ve barely watched any TV or movies. I was thinking of watching this reality show, Doomsday Preppers. There’s another one I just saw a post about that’s like, people who think they’re “10”s. [Laughs.] People who think they’re super hot. I’m always fascinated by people whose identity is that they’re hot. I’ve certainly never had that privilege walking through life, but I don’t know what to watch. Nothing hits the spot. I think it’s just that constant anxiety and gloom and dread mixed with exhaustion. What feels right for that mood? Nothing.
Jonathan Van Ness
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The author and Queer Eye star uses his podcast and various social platforms to shine a light on the LGBTQ communities most affected by the pandemic.
How has all of this affected your creative output?
Instagram has always been a place where I wanted to entertain and lift people up. I’m able to keep doing my podcast “Getting Curious” remotely. I want to use that ability to keep making content that will both inform and entertain people. Whether it’s to talk about HIV, or experiences with gender, or their experience with surviving abuse. I’m making sure that I’m promoting charities, and donating the proceeds from my new children’s book [“Peanut Goes for the Gold”] to these charities that are doing such important work on the front lines. Whether that’s the Ali Forney Center in New York City, which is doing such important work for LGBTQ homeless youth in New York, or if it’s No Kid Hungry, which is helping get meals to kids that aren’t in school, who were relying on school for two square meals a day. Or the Terrence Higgins Trust in the United Kingdom, which is an incredible organization that helps STI testing and HIV education testing. I also think we all have more time to respond to more messages, and as a result of that, I got to officiate a wedding on a Zoom call in Indiana last week.
I’m curious about this Zoom wedding.
I checked my DMs, and there was this really sweet woman who told me in her message that she and her fiancée were planning on getting married, but they had to cancel their wedding because of Covid issues in Indiana. But for health insurance, and other reasons, they needed to get on with their life, and get married. They couldn’t do their get-together, and they were devastated about it. They told me their first official date had been at my comedy tour show in Indianapolis last summer, and asked if I could officiate. I was, like, that is so full circle—also given the fact that they live in Indiana, and I’m from rural Illinois, which is right next door. Growing up—from, like, eight years old until marriage equality was legalized—I thought there was a good chance I would never see people of the same sex be able to get married in the United States. So, to be a part of it is so special. I hope it was uplifting for them, but it was certainly healing, and uplifting for me, too.
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Bretman Rock’s outlandish, infectiously funny social media accounts give us levity daily.
How have you expressed yourself during quarantine?
I have this motto that I’ve been going by—this quarantine is the perfect time for everyone to experiment with your look. Try something that you always wanted, maybe you wanted pink hair this whole time. Honestly, do it in a safe matter, don’t call random people to do your hair. Order your bleach online. I did my own nose piercing, it can be dangerous and it did take me two times but I’m so happy with it. And honestly I’ve been learning a lot about myself. I didn’t know I had a green thumb until quarantine happened, I didn’t know I was actually good at taking care of plants and now I can’t stop buying them for the oasis I created on my patio and the pond I created at my house. I showed my followers how to make “Bad Bitch Hand Sanitizer” and I also am growing mushrooms and started a new series on Instagram called “Plant of the Day.”
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When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put out a call for reusable fabric face masks, CFDA designer Christian Siriano was the first to answer, firing off a tweet that got a response from the city government in less than half an hour. So far, the designer and his team of seamstresses have made more than 8,000 masks for New York healthcare workers.
What is one of the most important things people can do to help?
I know people are making masks for themselves at home, and think it is still a great thing. Even if you’re making it for your five friends, or your friends of friends, because everybody should wear something when they’re going to the grocery store or anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re not able to make a medical grade mask—what matters is that you do something.
What is the first thing that you’ll do when this is all over?
Make a dress!
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Before the coronavirus hit, musician and actor Riz Ahmed was set to go on tour for his album “The Long Goodbye.” Instead of canceling the tour altogether, he pivoted, turning it into an Instagram show called “The Long Lockdown.”
How did your idea for The Long Lockdown come about?
We made the decision a couple of weeks before the UK leg that we should reschedule, cancel, refund people’s tickets. It was really coming off the back of that, when we had all this energy, all this momentum, all this creativity, and desire to share with people who didn’t necessarily have an outlet, so we created this Long Lockdown series. To be honest, it was just that desire to connect with audiences. I still wanted to give myself and the fans the opportunity to connect in the place of that tour.
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Roach, a 20-year-old from Detroit, created the defining Tik Tok of quarantine when he lay down on the floor and uttered the words, “I’m bored in the house, and I’m in the house bored.”
How did you feel when you were making the “Bored in the House” video?
It just came naturally to me. It’s very old-school hip-hop. I was just bored in the house for real, banging on the floor. I am a musician, so I have been writing a lot—writing down on paper, specifically. This quarantine has me trying to focus on bettering my craft, so I’m meditating a lot, listening to my favorite songs, and making songs. Out of that, “Bored in the House” became this big cultural moment. People are making their own little remixes of it. It is a beautiful thing—we can all connect through a drum beat on the floor.
Are there any causes or organizations you want to give a shout out to?
I’m collaborating with Fanjoy on Bored in the House merch and a percentage of those proceeds will go to organizations in Detroit, where I’m from, which help people who have been impacted by Covid-19. All I can say is, everyone be safe.
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Charli XCX has given her fans unprecedented access into the music-making process while she has been hard at work creating her next album, which centers around her current experience.
This feels like an incredibly tough, but strangely creative time.
I agree, actually. This is a really creative time, and I think it’s because there’s no pressure, almost. Even though I have set myself this deadline of May 15 to finish my album, there’s no pressure from the outside world. I don’t feel like it’s all about, “Go, go, go, I have to go, otherwise the world will end.” The world’s ending anyway, so I can just take my time. This time has made me learn more about who I am through this process. I’ve learned that before quarantine, I was not a very still person. I was never somebody who took time to be in my house. It was just the place that I slept, I didn’t really live in it.
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The comedian and writer Bowen Yang made history as Saturday Night Live’s first Asian American cast member. Through the coronavirus, Yang and his “Las Culturistas” co-host Matt Rogers have kept their podcast going strong.
Is there any content that’s been particularly inspiring to you while you’ve been in quarantine?
I just finished a book called Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong. It’s really good. It’s an essay collection about what it even means to have a shared language around being an Asian American. I think it came right on time, especially for right now. I’m playing a lot of video games. I’ve done Animal Crossing, and I’m playing a bunch of video games where you try to fight for justice in the world, which is actually very comforting. I watched Grey Gardens, the original documentary, for the first time last night, and I was like, “Oh, yeah, it’s sort of glamorous and chic to stay inside all day and go crazy.”
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Riverdale star Lili Reinhart was in Vancouver filming the show’s new season before stay-at-home guidelines were put in place. She’s currently shacked up in an Airbnb there with her dog Milo, and has made herself more accessible to her fans than ever, reaching out directly to them, giving love to fellow artists, and sharing glimpses into her days spent writing and painting.
How do you foresee the nature of your work changing after coronavirus?
I think I will have more appreciation for it. I was working so intensely, non-stop, leading up to this. We were almost at the end of our season. I was working six days a week. So even though I was praying, “I need days off,” this was really not what I meant. I think the whole industry is obviously impacted by this; it’s weird because half of it is thriving, like Netflix and streaming, and the other half of producing content and filming things are actually completely dead. I am trying to produce a movie right now that I would star in, but there is only so much I can do at home—so lots of phone calls and future Skypes. You do what you can until the world is capable of going back to somewhat normal.
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The artist Ashley Longshore, a muse to Diane von Furstenberg and Christian Siriano, describes herself as an “eternal optimist”—a quality that shines through her Instagram, where she posts funny, wacky, and at times poignant photographs and videos that capture the cuckoo feeling of being indoors constantly.
What is the most memorable Zoom call you’ve been on?
Diane von Furstenberg and I had a long conversation, we talked about quarantine and we talked about those amazing women that I painted for her inspiration room [in her Meatpacking District boutique] and how they dealt with adversity. That’s when you realize someone’s true character—when all hell breaks loose. I also did a Zoom session with 3000 SCAD students. The founder of SCAD asked me to do it for their new lecture series; I was the first speaker for their students in the online series. And then, of course, Miley Cyrus. That didn’t suck either. I love that she’s authentic and wild as the wind.
Are there any organizations, charities or causes you would like to take this opportunity to shout out?
I always donate to Second Harvest Food Bank. They are trying to fill every food request that they’re getting right now, and Second Harvest is all over the country. There’s one here in New Orleans—we’re a hot spot for the coronavirus. Also, Project Lazarus New Orleans. They are housing homeless people in our community with HIV and AIDS. It is predominantly LGBTQ. And this week I’ll be donating $15,000 to the New Orleans Women’s Shelter.
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Lim’s TikTok, where she posts as the character “Rich Mom,” has taken flight during quarantine, becoming a tongue-in-cheek sanctuary for anyone in need of a laugh.
What’s your typical schedule like right now?
I get up and go straight to getting the girls ready for the day, as if we’re going to school. We feed them. Immediately afterward, we give them an activity, a very engaging one that’ll keep them busy for at least 40 minutes. My husband and I switch off; he takes care of them in the morning, so I take my calls and make my content. We have a schedule that’s written out on our refrigerator. We have to have every snack time and meal time written out, because the kids just want to eat all day and it drives us insane. We’re like, “We have no more food! What else do you guys want to eat?”
Is there a particularly inspiring person who’s been helping you get through the day-to-day?
My alter ego Rich Mom has really been inspiring me, because it’s not me. It’s this persona that my TikTok audience has created for me. Rich Mom was born during Paris Fashion Week, and people were labeling me as that. All of a sudden these kids started calling me Rich Mom, and they were finding me on Instagram. It can be a little obnoxious at times, but I think most people know that I’m acting. I was concerned about the imagery that I’m putting out for people during this time—there are so many other things to worry about. But it’s a source of entertainment for people. It’s almost an escape for people to laugh at. I get so many people DMing me and sending me messages being like, ‘Your TikTok is the only reason why I’m laughing right now.’ That brings me a lot of joy and purpose for what I do, because this is a scary time. If I could just add a little bit of a fun escape for people, I feel like I am doing my job.
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Through her BStrong Initiative, Frankel has put together “BStrong coronakits,” with masks, gloves, antibacterial wipes, and hand sanitizer to be distributed to healthcare workers and those at higher risks of contracting Covid-19. Frankel has also collected more than $1 million to distribute to parents who cannot afford to cover the cost of meals that their children would usually get at school.
What are you going to do once this is all over?
I know people are like, “I can’t wait to go out.” I’m not the person who’s running to go to the restaurant, or running to be social. I want to take a walk on the beach with a friend. Buy produce and feel less anxiety, you know—you’re panic-stricken if you’ve forgotten something at the supermarket. I think it’s liberating to not care about your hair, or your nails, or your skin, just to be clean and sleeping well with no beauty routines. People are going to have healthier skin, healthier hair.
Any causes, charities or organizations you want to shout out?
BStrong, because that’s the focus. It’s the only place that I know exactly what we’re doing, because 100% goes to the effort. I think that’s a big part of what’s going on right now, people need to feel they can trust relief orgs. Every single penny and dollar counts.
Tracee Ellis Ross
Ross has merged humor with considerate outreach to her fans.
On social media, you’ve managed to combine comedy with sensitivity in a really nice way. I’m wondering how you’re able to balance the two?
There’s always a place for laughter. There’s always a space for joy. I think that is a revolutionary act, in all honesty. It’s a choice that’s about perspective and how you look at things. I am very aware of all the different responses and experiences people are having. I think social media’s old use does not match where we’re at. The crassness of some of the humor at other people’s expense, the glimpse into extravagance and all that, just doesn’t match where we’re at. We have to be extremely mindful of everybody’s vulnerabilities and sensitivities right now, and know that everybody’s nervous systems are a little bit shot. I don’t know about you, but most everyone I know has gotten a nice big, basket of fear just sitting there waiting and it takes everything in my power to keep turning my attention somewhere else and to a different narrative. Allowing myself to let my heart feel the heartbreak and anguish that so many are feeling and not try and push those feelings away, but give them space—but not let them be the full story. Because that will make anyone go down a rabbit hole.
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The New York Times food columnist, home cooking advocate and author of Dining in and Nothing Fancy gives thoughtful answers to questions on her social platforms and inspiring all of us to get creative with what’s in our pantries.
Have you found any unexpected upsides to this new reality?
I think that people are just being nicer to each other. People are reaching out in a different way and connecting with people in a different way.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when life goes back to normal?
Go to a restaurant. I miss the energy. I miss seeing my friends who work there. There’s nothing better than sitting at a bar at your favorite restaurant and getting a martini and a shrimp cocktail and hanging out.
Anneloes Officier (AKA @tussenkunstenquarantaine)
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The Dutch communications specialist behind the beloved Instagram account Tussen Kunst En Quarantaine (“Between Art and Quarantine,” 193k followers and counting) challenges people all over the world to recreate their favorite works of art at home.
How did you come up with the idea for the account?
When the message from the government came that everybody had to work from their homes, one of my roommates was like, “How can we make this a little more fun?” So I made Girl with a Pearl Earring with a garlic bulb and a towel. First, it was meant as a little quiz: I recreate a painting and you can guess which one it is. I posted the challenge on my Instagram feed, and a few days later I had four or five contributions. Then the Rijksmuseum followed me, and then it got out of hand. I never thought it would cross the border—I thought maybe Belgium, but not really more than that!
Who have you been most inspired by during this time?
My friends who work at hospitals. My roommate works at the hospital, and she comes home and starts baking cakes for us. I’m like, “What are you? Superwoman?!”
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Cameron gives her followers candid insights into her journey and struggles with mental health, while also posting new music in hopes of soothing others.
How have you been expressing yourself during quarantine?
I’ve been writing a lot in my journal, and I’ve got my at-home studio, which Thomas [Doherty] and I just moved into a couple months before quarantine, which I’m slowly setting up. I have been making our space really nice. We came from a house with a bunch of rooms, and moved into a studio, which is so perfect for us. We’re spending a lot of time making it what we want; I’m doing a cleansing of energy more than anything else. To be fair, I wouldn’t call the move a fresh start at the time. It was more of a rushed decision. We were like, “Okay! We’re moving right now.” It’s so nice, though, because we would never have this time to be like, “I’ll unpack my stuff.” We’re getting rid of a lot of stuff because we don’t need it. And we’re going to bring it to as many women’s shelters and homeless shelters, and shelters for families as we can. Something like this has clarified so much what’s important in life. It makes clear your priorities.
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The sweatsuits from Sternberg’s company, Entireworld, have become the de-facto uniform of working from home, and he has donated 10% of online sales to Doctors Without Borders.
What are some charitable organizations you’d like to shout out?
Every day I look for a local food bank to give something to, as I’m eating plentifully. I’ve never thought of food as such a privilege. And there’s the L.A. Mission, which is a homeless shelter. We’ve worked with this company in the past and both donated money and our socks—we make socks in addition to sweatpants. Homeless shelters can’t accept used socks or underwear, so that product is helpful for them. And they do a lot of work with getting the homeless population back into the workplace. But I think their work has definitely pivoted right now because of how the coronavirus.
Leandra Medine Cohen
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The founder of Man Repeller has always championed the value of dressing to please yourself—one of those small sources of joy that feel especially important right now.
How have you been expressing yourself during quarantine?
I am cooking more than I ever imagined myself to be capable and have found that it’s not different from fashion in that there are rules, but you don’t have to follow them, and when you don’t, very weird and bad (peanut butter and eggs) but also great things (preserved lemons and saffron on chicken) can happen.
Any charitable causes or organizations you’d like to shout out?
YES! The Good+Foundation has set up a Covid-19 crisis fund and are helping to get essential materials to tons of families who need them around America, and Win NYC, which is an incredible org that provides shelter for homeless women and their children. They need as much financial support as they can get. Last year they successfully transitioned 700 families from sheltered living to their own homes, and with the outbreak and the staggering unemployment rates in America, sustaining the number of families they help is getting increasingly challenging.
What’s the most memorable Zoom call you’ve been on?
Passover seder with my family.
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Rinna has worked closely alongside Project Angel Food for years—and now, is bringing attention to the L.A.-based organization while also posting unfiltered takes and dance videos on her Instagram.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when this is all over?
One of the first things everyone will do: We are gonna run, not walk, to the hair salon. I don’t even know how we’ll get in. Probably that, and dinner. I want to go out—I want to go to a bar, I want to go to dinner, I want my hair done, and I want a bikini wax. I want a facial, and I’m gonna run to the plastic surgeon. I mean, come on. We all need a little nip and tuck. Everything’s dissolved by this point.
Any causes or organizations you’d like to shout out?
There are just so many at this point. Project Angel Food is something we’ve always supported here. I’d love to shout them out.
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Kerr and her husband Evan Spiegel have donated $10 million to a number of charities and nonprofits in the Los Angeles area.
Have you developed a morning ritual in quarantine?
It’s been all systems go around here with three kids. My husband, regardless of quarantine or not, is up every morning on a weekday at 5:30 AM. He’s in his office downstairs in our house at 6:30 AM, so it’s my routine, too. Then I have an hour to myself when I can do a few stretches, do a little meditation, do my little skin care ritual and make sure that I’m ready for the day before the kids get up. Apart from that hour in the morning and at nighttime, when they go to bed, I don’t really have any kind of free time. I know it sounds cheesy, but I’ve been getting inspiration from my little ritual. That’s my sanctuary for myself.