Exploring LA’s astrology obsession, including a dating app and nail salon dictated by zodiac signs
I’ll admit that a fun perk of living in Los Angeles is that once you’ve paid for your coffee, there’s a good chance you’ll find Jon Hamm or Scott Speedman standing in line behind you. Or at least that’s true on the east side. There are countless stars to spot, but lately, the female gaze is focused on those in the sky. Astrology dates back to Babylonian times when humans studied planets to predict weather patterns and politics. These days, a trend is emerging in Southern California, where women are applying their knowledge of the zodiac to matters of dating, wellness, and yes, even nail art. We’ve come a long way from those early star maps we etched on cave walls.
I’d recently shot a sitcom pilot and heard that didn’t get picked up to series. The project I worked hardest on, the thing that seemed fated and so ‘meant to be’ mere months ago, would not see the light of day. Both unemployed and single for the umpteenth time, I needed direction. It’s no wonder I wanted to meet with practitioners who advise their clients to look up.
There’s a reason why ‘What’s your sign?’ is a timeless—albeit often laughable—pick-up line: it’s an icebreaker and an easy way to relate to people. At HUB LA, a shared office space in downtown’s Arts District, I meet Helen and Aliza, founders of the new dating app, Align. Their platform, which matches users by zodiac sign, was inspired by the girls’ own digital frustrations. Outwardly focused user experiences on Tinder and Hinge were “alienating” and swiping past guys based on looks felt shallow. “At the same time, we had conversations with our peers about astrology and always came back to ‘Oh, you’re dating this guy; what’s his sign? What’s your compatibility?’” Helen explains. “We off-handedly said, ‘We wish could know a guy’s sign before we go on a date with him.’”
A year later, Align launched with a bit of starry substance. Pulling info from Facebook—your birthday and favourite photo— the app creates a profile that’s colour-coded for your sign. Six emojis of your choice from a curated, astro-themed collection form your bio— a tree, for instance, can stand for either a love of nature or a grounded nature. And because your profile has no written component, these selected emojis speak volumes, according to Align’s founders. “That’s how you’re self-identifying,” Aliza says, “and how you’re taking the greater idea of your [astrological] sign, and carving your own identity within it.”
At midnight, Align reveals five profiles (from any zodiac) in the shape of a constellation. Predictive blurbs about each cosmic coupling are also displayed, written by Annabelle Gat, the ex-MTV astrologer who now works at Vice. The founders hope Align will educate users, teaching them on a basic level, how planetary movements influence their love lives. But above all, they’d like the app to serve as a tool for self-awareness. “Astrology aside, everyone advises that in order to be in a healthy and strong relationship, you need to be a whole person,” Aliza says. “I think using astrology as a lens for understanding yourself better puts you in the right direction to meet people who are meaningful to you.” With that, I scroll past a sad umbrella emoji to claim the burning fire.
In Los Feliz, I meet LouLou Androlia, a British expat working as a life coach and tarot reader. A self-described “energy expert,” her spiritual journey began when she was a kid, casting spells in the backseat of her parents’ car. She now pairs tarot with astrology to write her popular tarotscopes on thenuminous.net, a site “for material girls in a spiritual world”.
LouLou shuffles her deck monthly to pull one card for each of the zodiac’s twelve sun signs. As she turns a card over, she “channels” the cosmos then free-writes a divine message for forty minutes. On her process, she says, “When I’m tuning in, I’m working with the energy of the astrological kingdom and the energy of the tarot card itself. I allow the card to speak to me in the moment.”
It may sound flaky, but Tarot has provided “intuitive guidance” for centuries. The deck’s seventy-eight cards tell a story of the human experience. Any twist or turn that can happen on a journey is pictured, but the cards are open to interpretation. While some are internal, hinting at what’s going on in your subconscious, others touch on external events, like how to cope with heartbreak or loss. The ominous Death Card, for example, represents change. “If I bring up the death card, I think my client might be wanting to make change in their life or else might be dealing with a move or a breakup” she says.
LouLou unveils my card for the month: Page of Wands. It indicates a recent loss (my cancelled TV show?) and a readiness to recover my creative strength. Tarot, in her practice, is not predictive; it’s more of a self-care method, promoting wellness. “When I use tarot and read, I do it as an empowering, non-fortune thing. Any form of self-help is best used to guide us back to ourselves,” she says. “I use tarot as a tool to reconnect you to yourself—to recognize your own mind and how it’s speaking to you, and learn how to talk back. How to not be afraid to feel anything.” When I ask how I should handle my anxiety about unemployment, she smiles. “Know that everything is going to move. Energy shifts. And most things are helped by being compassionate—to someone else and to ourselves.” That idea of self-compassion, of treating myself kindly and with mercy, seems far-fetched at the moment, but I know if I were ever to master it, it’d better my days like magic.
To end my adventure boldly, I hit the modishly pared-down Enamel Diction nail salon for an aura-changing ‘Colour Analysis’. Resident astrologer Rose Theodora studied Neuroscience and Art History at UCLA. With an astrophysicist great-grandfather and a granddad that was a NASA inventor, it’s clear her family business is otherworldly. She looks at my birth chart (the “cosmic map of [my] personality”) then prescribes nail art to match my horoscope. “Colour Astrology,” she tells me, “is about personalizing colour based on a your individual make-up and making practical suggestions to support you, colours you may not have considered otherwise.” When I question the link between polish and the zodiac, she says it’s all about alchemy. “Colours are determined by the amount of light that’s either absorbed or reflected— they literally have auras and personalities, too.” As if warning me, she adds, “People tend to choose colours they’re comfortable with or because they’re trending, not realizing their potency and power.”
Rose notes my rising sign, Scorpio, weighing it more than my traditional sun or moon signs. This rising ‘ascendant’ sign, in relation to the position of the planets at my time of birth, indicates how I present myself to the world. Seeing I’m drawn to practical, neutral shades (and that my nails are totally bare at the moment), Rose encourages me to push my limits with neon pink. She also suggests I try silver foil arrows on my second and fourth fingers. “Your index finger represents Jupiter or luck, and your ring finger is Venus, which is love.” She insists this combo will uplift my energy while attracting both a new gig and a new man to my life. Sold! The technician paints, and I marvel at my hands. Even if this fluorescent mani can’t stop Saturn’s return, the smile I get from the shock of it is stellar.