My Brilliant Friend Recap: Growing Pains

My Brilliant Friend

Le Metamorfosi (The Metamorphoses)

Season 1

Episode 5

Editor’s Rating


Photo: HBO

For girls—and perhaps for boys, too, I don’t really know—teenage life is a marathon full of unexpected surges that send you darting ahead and devastating stumbles that leave you trailing behind the pack. There’s an unspoken competition in adolescence; it’s dangerous to be the first or the last girl to grow breasts or get your period or go on a date. Every girl fights her own internal struggle over where she fits in to the crowd.

Lila is a working woman, and she’s grown closer to Carmela, a teenage girl with all the physical bearing, and knowledge, of a much older woman. Lila is also still pre-pubescent, despite her striking looks, while Elena discovers that she’s not, in fact, dying when she discovers blood on a piece of the rough paper she uses to wipe herself. She’s gotten her period—though the girls don’t use that term—and as Carmela explains, now she can have a baby. Elena may still attend school and remains naive about all matters sexual (like the Solara boys’ “spin” around the block with Ada Capuccio), but her body has developmentally leapt ahead of Lila’s. And for Lila that fact is maddening—her dearest friend not only attends the middle school she so desperately wanted to, she’s also jumping ahead in the journey toward womanhood. It’s no wonder that Lila reacts a bit childishly, announcing, “I haven’t got it because I don’t want it” with a jealous fury in her eyes.

Years have passed since episode two, and as the camera pans around the neighborhood the young children magically transform into teens in front of our eyes. Director Saverio Costanza told Vulture that he considered over 9,000 girls for the roles of Elena and Lila and that he chose the younger actresses first, then their older versions, “because we wanted the search for the young girls to be as unrestricted as possible.” However he managed it, he did a remarkable job—and not just for the two leads, but for every child in the dusty neighborhood. No pointed dialogue is necessary to know precisely who is who. And Margherita Mazzucco, who plays Elena, along with Gaia Girace, the elder Lila, are astonishing doppelgangers of their younger counterparts, in looks, sensibility, and even spirit on screen. It feels more like Costanza mimicked Richard Linklater’s years-long filming process for Boyhood than cast separate actresses.

In the intervening years, Lila and Elena have drifted apart. As the more forceful of the pair, Lila sets the tone for the relationship and Elena dutifully—lifelessly—follows. So when Elena approaches Lila, bleeding and anxious, and asks to speak to her alone, it’s a telling slight that Lila says Carmela must stay. The closed-off intimacy of their relationship is now stretched loose. “None of what I did by myself,” Elena offers, “was thrilling enough.” Lila’s absence sucks the light out of her small, often cheerless world.

In every way, Elena is falling apart. Her mother practically scolds her about using pads, insisting that she must pin them very securely and be careful to wedge them firmly between her legs lest they fall out: the accompanying embarrassment, she seems to say, would be deserved. The middle school teacher rebukes her too, telling Elena that she risks failing the entire year if her poor Latin grades continue, and humiliating her at the blackboard when Elena can’t conjugate. (Though at least she isn’t a “lost cause,’ the depressing label the maestra sticks on a fellow student.) Her skin is speckled with constellations of acne, an affliction she can’t stop herself from constantly touching, which most likely only makes it worse.

In her beloved bildungsroman A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (another novel in which a teenage girl gets her period but believes the blood to be a sign of impending death), Betty Smith’s protagonist Francie Nolan crosses off a diary entry: “Am I curious about sex?” becomes “I am curious about sex.” While “criminal sex” is “an open book” in Francie’s impoverished Brooklyn neighborhood, there’s “great hush-hush” about consensual sex. The same is true in Elena and Lila’s neighborhood, where the Solaras can threateningly lure a girl into their car in broad daylight in the town square, and citizens will either smile at the spectacle or avert their eyes.

The entire scene, even at its tame beginning, bubbles over with discomfort. Ada Capuccio (Melina’s daughter) isn’t a catch for one of the rich (and supposedly handsome, although they aren’t my cup of tea) Solara boys, Marcello and Michele. She’s poor, as we know, and isn’t a great town beauty. Yet the boys coax her over to their shiny new car, asking her to spin around and questioning if she put her lipstick on just for them. The car’s novelty—and their parents’ stature—lends them power. (It was just last episode we saw Signor Solara call his then-much-younger boys over to kick in one of Don Achille’s associate’s faces.) For Elena, the sight is terrifying—she can sense from Ada’s body language just how little she wants to get into the car. For Lila it’s an outright attack—her claim that “they’ve got purple snakes that squirt poison in your belly” is certainly silly in its wording, but metaphorically rings true. And she’s right that they both harass Ada because “she’s poor and doesn’t count.” They’re even able to pull off yet another uninterrupted public beating, this time knocking Ada’s brother Pasquale to the ground after he defends her honor.

But the most telling scene in the whole episode takes place in the school bathroom, when Elena—very surprisingly—lifts her shirt for 10 lira (lest you be fooled into thinking that’s about $10, 10 lira were worth about 52 cents… in 2001) and lets two of her classmates check out whether or not her breasts are real or “cotton stuffing,” i.e. padding. We realize later in the episode that Elena still doesn’t wear a bra; when the boys come in, practically licking their lips with delirium over the potential of seeing a girl without her top, it’s her bare breasts she flashes at them. But why does she do it? Elena is a “good girl”—never in trouble with boys and seemingly horrified by the Solaras treatment of Ada. She says she does it because a part of Lila “is inside her,” but that doesn’t quite ring true.

Things begin to improve for Lenù as the episode goes on. Maestra Olivieri, for all her meddling, convinces the Grecos to send Elena on to high school. Her mother finally offers some words of encouragement in her studies, telling Elena “No one’s saying you can’t do it. You can do it.” And her discovery of the library—a new and revelatory institution in their small, out-of-the-way quartiere—spurs on both her and Lila in their studies.

Her moments with Lila are some of the most tender imaginable between two young girls. Lila too has been studying Latin, but in secret, and of course she’s mastered it with an ease that eludes Elena. The former studies because it’s her passion, and the latter because it’s her duty. But in perhaps the most insightful conversation about grammar in recorded history, Lila sets aside her jealousy and gives Elena the advice she’s needed all along; Elena has been searching for the subject in every Latin sentence, but Lila, ever the doer, the mover, urges her to find the verb and go on from there.

The two have created a dually parasitic sustaining relationship, a description I mean in the best way possible. Discovering that Elena is the best in her class spurs Lila to take out so many books from the library that she needs to use her father and mother and brother’s names to select even more. (In perhaps a bit of foresight, Lila’s prize is Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, in which Raskolnikov plots to kill another man for his money, believing that wealth will free him from all his problems.) When the maestra prompts Elena to tell Lila that she’s received a perfect score on her middle school test and that she’ll be studying Greek in high school, her encouragement is weighted with the knowledge that Lila—though she has other dreams, like the shoes she’s designing with Rino—will diligently keep up.

But when Michele and Marcello Solara pull up beside the girls, leering through the open window and snapping Elena’s bracelet off her wrist, Lila’s bright future takes on a bit of shadow. Her threat, that she’ll slit Marcello’s throat if she touches them again, won’t be taken lightly.

8 going on 18: Is makeup for little girls ever okay?

kids and makeup
Tweens often get acne, dermatitis or some allergic reaction due to heavy makeup. (Source: Dreamstime)

By Ritika Jain

It’s alright to dress up your little princess for her birthday party at five years of age, it’s fun to let her apply nail colour at six just because it’s mother-daughter time, it’s amusing to have her friends over and use pretend makeup at seven, it’s also cool to let her dress up for comic con at eight years. But to let a girl of nine or 10 use makeup for real is taking it a bit far, I think. Some nonchalant parents might disagree and view it as a personal expression, but hear me out. There’s a lot of growing up to do in later years, so why rush it?

Don’t conform to sexist standards of beauty

The cosmetic industry has got everyone obsessed with youthful looks and physical attraction. Ironically, K-beauty products have been seen to promote ‘no makeup’ looks. But the truth is, no matter how cherubic, makeup only manages to make a kid look older and it may draw unwanted attention instead of plain attention that is being sought. Sometimes I see parents submitting portfolios of their kids’ photographs to modelling agencies with garish makeup on. Let me tell you that a charming smile is all a kid needs to be featured anywhere. Good manners help too!

Boost self-esteem over self-image

What’s more appealing, confidence or appearance? Jaya C Mehta, a professional dancer who teaches Odissi to adults as well as kids, lays emphasis on a good diet and skincare routine instead of loading up on makeup. She says she’d rather encourage talent and the creativity of a child’s inner self than let them create a self image through applying makeup. Strong role models like her make children see femininity in a different light than what’s portrayed on TV. Ishita Banerjee, an English teacher and mom to an eight-year-old, couldn’t agree more. “Children have pristine looks. Makeup takes away that simplicity and adds artificiality. Parents should divert the child’s attention from looking good to feeling good.”

Yes, it is important to communicate that inner beauty, virtues like empathy and compassion, are more important than good looks. Dr Shilpa Gupta, parenting and emotional well-being coach at CCAW, New Delhi, adds “Facebook and filters in phone are also causing problems like self-image. When kids have parental approval to use something, that’s how their brain processes it. If parents say it’s safe, they’ll use makeup. It’s one thing to put up nice pictures, but it becomes a problem when a kid can’t face the real world and needs to put on a face (hide pimples, etc) to meet her friends. So, parents also have to consider their inputs.”

Use your time for better pursuits

Children are impressionable. If it’s peer pressure that is making your tween turn towards makeup, maybe you should encourage her to make another set of friends who are focussed more on playing and learning than spending hours on discussing looks. Have your daughter do something that truly interests her rather than doing what’s considered “cool”. Deeksha Verma, scriptwriter, says “I made an exception with my daughter because she uses makeup as an art form. She was in class 5 when she was making realistic scars on her hands to fool her friends. She’s in class 11 now and only uses kohl or lip gloss, that too for a party, not in school. She is someone her peers look up to because of her talent.”

Don’t expose delicate skin to harsh chemicals

The words ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are thrown around without any substantial checks or standardisation. Plus everything contains preservatives for a reason. It is imperative to throw away expired makeup. Dr Tanvi Pal, practicing paediatric dermatologist at BLK Hospital, says “Tweens often get acne, dermatitis or some allergic reaction due to heavy makeup. It’s best to wait till you’re 16 or even 18 years. If you absolutely must use it for a stage performance or something, cleanse immediately afterwards and don’t forget to use moisturiser.”

The 4 Sleeping Masks I Use to Maximize My Beauty Sleep

The Sulwhasoo I recently discovered.
Photo: Rio Viera-Newton

It wasn’t long into my first brush with Korean beauty that I became infatuated with sleeping packs (also known as sleeping masks). They have a funny name, but they’re basically overnight masks that you apply as the final step in your evening skincare routine (after moisturizer), which give you an extra boost of moisture and treatment. They’re a bit heavy for nightly use, but they’re great to use about once a week (much like a regular face mask), before a special occasion, or when your skin is going through a rough patch and could use some extra care.

I know what you’re thinking: “Really? Another step to my skincare routine?” But it’s quick to throw on, and I’m always thrilled with how plump and bright my skin looks after I’ve used one. Here’s a secret: sometimes when I come home super late and can’t be bothered to do my whole routine, I’ll wash my face and slap on a sleeping pack and call it a night — and to be honest, I’m usually really happy with how my skin looks when I wake up. Below, a few of my all-time favorite sleeping masks for all different kinds of skin issues, so you can wake up looking well-rested and hydrated this winter.

Cosrx Ultimate Moisturizing Honey Overnight Mask


at Jet

This mask actually doesn’t contain any honey, but it does include propolis, a residue that honeybees use to fill and seal the crevices of their honeycombs. That might sound odd, but there’s tons of K-beauty brands that claim propolis as a holy grail ingredient in their products. And here’s why: research suggests that propolis is antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, which means it’s the perfect ingredient for regenerating skin, softening, and smoothing. That’s the case with this wonder of a sleeping pack from Cosrx — when I use it, I wake up with skin that’s noticeably more glowing, brighter, and softer. When I’m trying to bring my skin back from the brink after a series of gnarly breakouts, this mask, which I put on after I throw on my moisturizer, is a true lifesaver at combatting the damage I’ve done, while also hydrating and plumping my skin. It’s the boost I need, especially during my time of the month.

Huxley Good Night Sleep Mask


at Revolve

In my opinion, Huxley’s Sahara Sleeping Mask is a fall essential. When it comes to shifting seasons, soothing and hydrating your skin is a must. This sleep mask does exactly that, because it includes prickly pear cactus extract, an ingredient full of antioxidants that are beneficial to your skin, as well as hyaluronic acid for hydrating, and centella asiatica for soothing. This isn’t the mask I reach for when I’m combatting active breakouts (see above) but this has never, ever made me break out, and its soothing benefits have helped me get rid of some gross scabby situations before. While the results are deeply moisturizing, the texture actually feels quite gel-like, so if a thick, creamy sleeping mask sounds like a nightmare to you, this one is your match. This will sink into your skin quite quickly.

Grown Alchemist Hydra-Repair Sleep Masque


at Net-a-Porter

Who doesn’t want to get a little boost of hydration that also happens to have some anti-aging benefits? This vegan, organic, lightweight mask is formulated with oligopeptides to re-texturize and buff out any fine lines and wrinkles, leaving your skin looking super plump and radiant. It also uses hyaluronic acid for moisturizing and snail extract for skin renewal. This is perfect for those who are less concerned with acne, and more concerned with rewinding the clock.

Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask


at Nordstrom

When I had the pleasure of interviewing Jude Chao, she told me that it was criminal I hadn’t tried this mask. It’s certainly not cheap, but after one use I understood the hype. It totally wakes your skin up — not only does it appear softer and nourished, it just makes your skin look super bright and alive. I love a lot of the Sulwhasoo products, but this one was a real game changer for me. With an ingredient list that features scutellaria root, walnut extract, and angelica acutiloba, it gives your skin extra nourishment, and nurtures it while you sleep.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.

What Nobody Tells You About Using Acne Products on Black Skin

As a beauty editor, and a woman of color, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is how to get clearer skin. Because despite being in our late 20s and early 30s, most of my friends’ concerns center around adult acne and its annoying side effects, like dark spots, scarring, and hyperpigmentation—all of which happen to be especially prevalent in melanin-rich skin. And, not-so-fun fact, that also makes them harder to treat.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

Because although acne affects all ethnicities, not all ethnicities can necessarily use the same acne-treatment plan. So rather than have you wade through some really risky games of trial and error, I went ahead and spoke to four dermatologists of color to find out, once and for all, exactly how to zap breakouts and dark marks the right way.



First: Acne Affects Dark Skin a Little Differently

Here’s what happens when you get a zit: Your skin gets inflamed, your body works to heal the “trauma,” and, as it heals, it sends a bunch of melanin to the area. But in deeper skin types, your body often sends too much melanin, resulting in hyperpigmentation.

“Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, PIH, is an overproduction of melanin that causes dark discolorations on the skin,” says Carlos A. Charles, M.D., dermatologist and founder of Derma di Colore Dermatology in NYC. “In darker skin tones, the cells that produce pigment—known as the melanocytes—are more robust and active compared to those found in less pigmented skin.”

In fact, a 2018 study published the SCMS Journal found that patients with skin of color were more likely develop PIH than their white counterparts. And it’s not just the result of acne—you can get PIH from rashes, excessive sun exposure, or even intense irritation. Fun!

BUT, Your Acne Products Can Make Things Worse



Logically, the best way to prevent PIH is to kill your zits as soon as (or, ideally, before) they crop up, right? Welp, attacking your breakouts too aggressively with, say, a bunch of spot treatments, masks, washes, and creams, can actually just cause more skin irritation, resulting in new or worsened PIH.

“Since darker skin can respond to any wound with PIH, we often can’t use the same aggressive treatments we would use on lighter skin types,” says Michelle Henry, M.D., clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College. “You often hear that ‘black doesn’t crack,’ since darker skin tends to have have more robust fibroblast—AKA the cells that create collagen,” she adds, “and though that’s great for aging, the overabundance of collagen is thought to be the reason why darker skin types are more prone to thick, keloid scarring.”

According to Dr. Charles, most topical acne treatments, like retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid, have the most potential to cause irritation when used incorrectly on deeper skin tones. “Overall, I find that benzoyl peroxide and retinoids often lead to irritation when being used for acne, which can then result in PIH,” he says.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

So Here’s What You Need to Do…

…If You Currently Have Acne

Listen, one pimple on your face won’t automatically result in a thick patch of PIH and keloids (as you’ve probably already witnessed by, uh, being alive), so don’t let all of this freak you out. But knowing that your skin has a tendency to scar is the first step toward prevention. The second step? Getting yourself to a dermatologist.



Seriously—the best way to keep your skin clear and PIH-free is to have a board-certified dermatologist walk you through your acne treatment options, rather than trying to wing it at home. “Oftentimes, people wait for their acne to progress over a long period of time before seeking professional help, which can result in extensive discoloration that could have been avoided,” says Dr. Charles.

And if you have cystic zits (the “under-the-ground” zits that never come to a head and just feel painful and swollen), the only effective way to treat them is to see a doctor, since they’re largely caused by hormones. Your derm may start you on a low-dose topical retinoid to chemically exfoliate pores and keep them from clogging, or an oral medication to minimize excessive oil production, like Accutane or Spironolactone.

…If Your Acne Is Mostly Gone, But Your PIH Isn’t

If you’ve just got a few random whiteheads, or, if your acne is gone, and you’re now just stuck with the PIH, you can try some over-the-counter treatments to fade it, as long as you promise to be gentle. Because in reality, most skin types can tolerate retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid, as long as you ease into them and don’t go overboard.

For retinoids (which speed up your cell turnover to exfoliate skin, treat acne, fade PIH, and even shrink keloids), you need to start slow until your skin acclimates. “I tell my patients to apply their retinoids on top of their normal moisturizer to dilute it, and then apply it one night a week for one week, two nights a week for two weeks, three nights a week for three weeks, and then every other night indefinitely,” says dermatologist Mona Gohara, M.D. associate clinical professor at Yale University.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

If retinol seems too intimidating, you can try a product with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, but make sure to use just one at a time (no doubling up!), and apply a thin dab over well-moisturized skin every other night to avoid any irritation. You’ll get some slight exfoliating effects from either one, which will help a tiny bit with PIH, though it will still take a good six months to really see major results.

…If You Just Want Your PIH Gone ASAP

At-home treatments are fine and dandy, but if your acne isn’t going anywhere soon, and you need your PIH gone by, like, yesterday, it’s time to head to the derm for some in-office treatments.

Lasers, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion can all be effective in fading PIH, but dermatologist Fran Cook-Bolden, M.D., founder of Skin Specialty Dermatology in NYC, says her “all-time favorite treatment for acne, especially for skin of color, is the NeoClear Acne Laser treatment, which gently attacks the inflammation and pigment, while also stimulating collagen for scar prevention, treatment and correction.” It’ll take a few sessions (and they can be pricey) before your PIH is fully gone, but it’s as close to a quick fix as you can get in modern medicine.

The Bottom Line

In the end, acne and PIH affect all ethnicities—so you’re obviously not alone. But if you’re not feelin’ your dark spots or scars, and you do want to add some treatments to your routine, you’ve got your handy guide (ahem, this one) with product recommendations and tips, all in one place.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

Just pinky-promise me you won’t go overboard with the products, okay? Good.

Olive leaf extract is an anti-inflammatory wonder you’re probably overlooking

It’s no secret that the oil from olives is full of health benefits. The stuff is a staple of the Mediterranean diet—those who follow the eating plan have been shown to live longer. But there’s a lesser-known byproduct of the plant that could bring a major boost to your life: olive leaf extract (OLE).

Olive oil and olive leaf extract “are both products of the olive plant, but the leaves contain much higher concentrations of the therapeutic substance oleuropein than is found in the fruit where the oil is derived,” says Charles Passler, DC, a nutritionist and life coach. Oleuropein, for those of you wondering, “is an immune booster with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capacities,” he says.

There are three ways of getting your fix of OLE according to Dr. Passler: in supplement form, in a tea, or topically in a cream. A pill, capsule, or tincture offers the highest dosages of oleuropein. Teas, on the other hand, “are mostly for disease prevention because their content of oleuropein is usually much lower than is found in supplements” Dr. Passler says; however, he says that replacing your green tea with olive leaf extract tea is still beneficial since it has twice the amount of antioxidants. And if you’re dealing with a wound, acne, or irritated skin, Dr. Passler says a topical OLE cream can be helpful.

But before you start any new treatments or supplement routines, first consult your doctor.

Below are 8 olive leaf extract benefits to know about.

Olive leaf extract benefits
Photo: Photo: Stocksy/Giada Canu

1. Olive leaf extract battles inflammation

A number of studies first conducted on mice, then humans, have found that oleuropein has major anti-inflammatory properties. And since inflammation is responsible for no shortage of physical and mental health issues, this is a major health benefit.

2. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it can help treat arthritis

Studies have shown that oleuropein may help prevent rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and may also be helpful in treating the pain and discomfort of both osteoarthritis and RA” Dr. Passler says. This is because OLE is anti-inflammatory and arthritis is essentially inflammation of the joints.

3. OLE could play a role in cancer prevention 

“Olive Leaf Extract’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory seem to play a role in the findings of several animal studies showing its ability to prevent a wide variety of cancers (breast, prostate, bladder, and skin)” Dr. Passler says. More research must be done to determine how and to what extent OLE plays a role in cancer prevention.

4. It could also help prevent cognitive decline

Animal research has indicated that oleuropein may help reduce the brain inflammation related to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” Dr. Passler says. Oleuropein helps promote a process responsible for fighting against indicators and potential causes of cognitive decline.

5. Taken regularly, OLE can help lower your blood pressure

Another way in which olive leaf extract boosts your overall health is by lowering your blood pressure, a 2017 study found. A lower blood pressure lessens your risk of a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke. It was a small study performed on men only, but its results were enough to make more research worthwhile.

6. It’s good for heart health 

The same study found that OLE could be beneficial when it comes to combatting cardiovascular diseases. “Compounds in Olive Leaves have been shown to help prevent the formation of arterial plaques related to heart attacks and strokes,” Dr. Passler says.

7. It’s helpful in preventing diabetes

Studies have shown significant reductions in elevated LDL cholesterol blood sugar and Hemoglobin A1C in diabetic subjects taking olive leaf extract,” says Dr. Passler Advanced glycation end products are a compound that leads to diabetes. The study found that olive leaf extract was able to prevent the formation of this harmful compound.

The extract also impacts the way your body interacts with sugar—it controls glucose levels in the body and has hyperglycemic effects meaning it will keep your blood sugar from spiking.

8. It can increase your energy

Another beneficial compound found in olive leaf extract is oleanolic acid. This acid interacts with bile acids in a way that increases the metabolism, boosts the thyroid, and ultimately leads to increased energy, a 2006 study found.

You can also use olive plant products in your beauty routine or as a celeb-approved face wash.