Share of the Week: Serious (Fashion) Talk with Chimamanda Adichie

To this day, I feel uncomfortable doing any makeup in the ladies bathroom at work. The president of our small firm, a woman, once walked in while I was applying a Milani lipstick that I had searched several different drugstores to find. It was early in the morning, when people are still checking emails and debriefing each other on their exploits from the weekend or the night before. Surely, a little sprucing up before diving into a day’s work would be OK, right? But as she swept into that lounge, the space seemed to get smaller, probably as my paranoia inflated.

She thinks I’m a shallow dimwit! Especially because it was only a few days ago when she walked in while I was brushing up my edges – because you know we sisters have to have laid edges – and now here I am putting on lipstick. Terrific. 

I snapped the lipstick shut and tried to talk myself out of being ridiculous. The date book and task list have another day full of work waiting. It’s OK to just add a pop of color before starting your day, if that’s what you feel like doing.

I wasn’t raised this way at all, to feel so awkwardly self-conscious about putting even a modest amount of effort into my appearance. My mother, as I’ve described her before, is a beautiful woman. She also knows how to dress elegantly, which only magnifies it. While She didn’t influence my style heavily, and I figured out a lot of it on my own after moving out, my mother did encourage me to make myself presentable and appropriate for every occasion. I remember one specific tip she passed on when I was teenager: When you feel down a little makeup can help brighten your mood. Not one of these dramatic, glittered, smoky-eye makeovers. Just something to enhance your skin and face so you don’t look haggard.

The thing is, after I graduated college and started working I ran into very few women like my mother — or the ones in my social circles at church or the neighborhood — who were smart, hard working, and stylish. Seems like smart women judged each other as harshly for dressing up as vain women did for slacking off on even the smallest detail in their appearance.

That’s why Chimamanda Adichie’s lovely essay in April’s Elle, caught my attention. It’s written perfectly, of course, and perfectly reflects what I think about this quirk smart women have. We love the words on the page and the clothes we wear, because there is enough room in our very open minds to love fashion as much as we like discussing the human condition. Ignore whatever the surly, dressed-down versions of the mean girls will tell you: It’s OK to look your best, or close to it.

At a newspaper where I once worked the editor in chief sniped at my hair style du jour, another one of the other writers popped off about how my mother probably did my laundry for me. Dressing neatly incurred scorn as well. After I started dating Hubby, we often ran into women who were happy to be shabby. One woman at a party watched me negotiate a steep, narrow set of stairs in heels and suggested I ditch them altogether. Clearly nobody took me seriously, because although I could explain to you what a waterfall in the repayment structure of a mortgage-backed security was and how it worked, these surly people took such issue with my generally secure attitude as to comment about it.

Listen, at a certain point I just had to forget about all the sharp-toothed, downer remarks from the Fashion Resistance. I knew the subject matter of the field in which I worked, and the people around me who mattered recognized that. Worrying about making a serious enough impression on the surly crowd who considered brown a ‘splash of color’ really didn’t help me solve any of my problems. But a little nude lipstick in the mornings did help brighten my mood for the day.

 

Blood, Sweat and Heels: Bring Back the Louds, Skip the Prouds

The other day I was stepping off the train in Manhattan, and caught a glimpse of a recognizable figure out of the corner of my eye. She was Melyssa Ford, the former hip hop music video regular, who gave that genre some of the most overtly sexualized  representations of women in that cultural genre. Well, Melyssa’s all grown up now as a residential real estate broker, and she’s also featured in “Blood, Sweat and Heels,” a reality show that follows the lives of six ambitious career women moving through elite professional and social circles in New York City.

Like most women on reality TV they had their disagreements, but the group fractured into two cliques rather early on in the 8-episode run. The Louds have Ford, Micah Hughes and Daisy Llewellyn.

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The other women, Geneva Thomas, Brie, and Demerita, came to be known as the Prouds. Strange, how such a small group could manage to split even further, but we all know that New Yorkers are known for their intense personalities, so I guess some splintering was bound to happen.

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In a certain way Season 1 was a bit too much for me. The louds could have toned down the drinking and cavorting — I could have done without the sight of Micah Hughes flashing her panties at a professional cocktail event — and they need to learn to admit when certain behaviors are over the top, embarrassing or frightening for others, or possibly dangerous.

The louds were a handful at times, but the prouds had far worse traits in my view judgemental, condescending and sniping. Demetria is about as warm and approachable as a serrated knife. Brie said in one confessional that Micah losing her father wouldn’t be the same as her losing her own dad, since Micah didn’t have her father in her life a lot anyway. She also laid into Micah a couple of times, calling her a sloppy drunk and — “the other woman.” She really sucker punched Micah on the latter, because she knows Micah was deceived in that situation. I thought Elsa was the ice queen of our times! Brie didn’t want to be friends with the woman, fine. But do she have to gratuitously disembowel her, too? And Geneva Thomas always seemed to go after Daisy Llewelyn with a vaguely familiar simmering resentment. Every so often during gatherings, like at the failed yacht summit and the reunion special, Geneva lashed out at Daisy with the flick of the hand and rudely telling her to “shut up.” During the reunion special Geneva talked about how she and Daisy were friendly colleagues, as fashion writers, but that dynamic changed, or rather Daisy changed, after taping started for the show. Maybe Daisy did cut that friendship loose, but these things happen among adults who are on the move. I don’t know if that was Geneva’s issue, but if it is, she should get some perspective and move on. Otherwise, cut it out, because it makes her look like a shrew, and no one likes those. It was also on the catty side for the prouds to trivialize the budding friendship between Melyssa, Daisy and Micah as nothing more than an enabling relationship. Write haughty and self-important indeed.

So yeah, I hope they get a new batch of “prouds” eventually. When I get home from work, write out bills, get Baby to bed, and fire up my computer to unwind, I need to see something relaxing. More creativity at work, more of the what’s involved in putting together a fashion feature, rather than people viciously laying waste to each other. Take me around to New York’s best bars, clubs, associations and whatnot, as much as possible. There was even some peace making, to the credit of Daisy, Melyssa and Demetria.

But if I’m going to come back for a Season 2, I’ll need Bravo TV to stop serving up more of the same bad behavior, and I’ll need the women to stop giving it to them.

There Goes the Neighborhood — Again

You fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me, the saying goes. What are we to make of our gatekeepers in mass media who keep handing victories to a woman with no discernible talent — except making a public spectacle of her sex life, heading up a cottage industry based on a vulgar life, and cashing on an extremely short-lived marriage?

You’ve all probably seen that the April issue of Vogue features a portrait of Kanye West and his fiancee Kim Kardashian. People everywhere are in an uproar that their beloved standard bearer of fashion, style and class would stoop to such depths add to let Miss Kardashian occupy the same space as pop culture royalty — Audrey Hepburn, Beyonce, Naomi Campbell, Cher, Michelle Obama, and Rihanna.

You can read all about the scorn being heaped on this couple, from fiery indignation to flip indifference, all over the Web. I see a couple of things going on here. The first is that Kim could not carry the cover alone, now that she is just past the prime of her career as a sex worker and fame monger. She had to share it with her repellant, self-anointed pseudo-messiah of a fiance. (Even tough I’ll admit that he is legitimately super talented.) Even Miley Cyrus was going to have her own Vogue shoot, until she incurred public contempt with her frenzied masturbating at some award show. If Vogue could defend its integrity from the likes of her, then how could it drop the ball when it came to the brunette?

Which brings me to my second point. The mighty Vogue has fallen far indeed if its resorting to two of the trashiest public figures to compete in the lineup at the newsstands. Neither woman is so striking or iconic that they really define the best sensibilities of their times, generally the reason people are chosen for the cover of Vogue. And their infamy supersedes any legitimate talent. Yes, Kim has her millions of minions of twits following her micro blog. She has the show, the fashion business and all the other trappings of a career born from a sex tape. And Miley is a singer. But neither one, as far as I can see, is an undisputed icon of fashion, or heading in that direction. Yet the most revered publication of fashion, style and beauty was actually going to reward both women with a cover. And wasn’t it a couple of months ago that Kanye was throwing a hissy fit over Michele Obama getting her second cover before his fiance got hers?

It really says a lot about how mystified the decision makers are in mass media about their audiences to keep foisting this woman on people. She got a TV show, treating us to her entire gold-digging family. Then Tyler Perry cast her in his movie last year, “Temptation,” but that didn’t help it at the box office, and now Ms. Wintour has put Kim Kardashian on the cover of her magazine. Will it work, though?

Let’s all take this lesson: As important as Vogue is in its own world, it upholds shallow and meaningless values in the bigger picture. We shouldn’t be overly concerned that the publication decided to feature Kim ahead of say, Lupita Nyong’o. (Had to work her in somehow!) It’s a sign of the times, and my sense is that it won’t pay off for the publication in the long run.

Aside from the YouTubers who post tutorials of Kim’s hair and makeup looks, or devotees of her reality show, who is going to treasure that issue of the magazine? The general public is reacting to Kimye like — symbolically enough, given her history — a rash that flares up every now and then but is never really cured.

Maybe I’m wrong and Kanye ended up giving an insightful interview. Maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised, but I think we’ll just see more of the same antics from these two. Until someone else inexplicably decides to reward their off putting behavior.

Looking Forward to Zoe’s Story

It’s been a year since actress Zoe Saldana married Italian artist Marco Perego, and did so in such privacy that my nosy (and overworked, tired, blog-neglecting) self missed it. Well, she wants to talk about it now, and I’m interested in hearing what she has to say.

The Huffington Post has a preview and excerpt from Edit magazine.

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“I’m not a private person, but I am discreet, so [getting married in secret] felt right,” the 35-year-old actress tells the new issue of Net-A-Porter’s The Edit, which she covers. … As for why she decided to finally tie the knot with Italian artist Perego, whom she quietly married in England last June, Saldana says he brings out the best in her.

Zoe is a favorite beautiful woman at Black Like Mom, so let’s wish her all the best as God enlarges her territory.

Lupita’s Taking Meetings!

Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o made a big splashdown into Hollywood with her appearance in “12 Years A Slave,” and it looks like her career will stay afloat. The Hollywood Reporter is saying that Nyong’o has been taking meetings for potential film roles. Among the prospects:

  • a meeting with J.J. Abrams, for the female lead role in “Star Wars: Episode VII”
  • a courtroom drama, “The Whole Truth,” co-starring Daniel Craig

Between these career-driving lunches and her photo shoots, Lupita is on the run!

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Off to another script reading?

This is great news, because Lupita is yet another accomplished, impressive Black woman, with her eloquence, global perspective on life (she also has Mexican citizenship) gracious way of carrying herself and her talent. She deserves to work as much as she likes. (Have you seen the movie yet?  Do try!) She is fast becoming one of my favorite actresses, thinkers and high-profile personalities in general. Along with Kerry Washington, whose brains and beauty made her the toast of Hollywood last year, I feel like Lupita also represents the cream of the crop of young Hollywood. Period. Across the board, regardless of race. For Black girls in particular, however, I think she is an important source of artistic and intellectual inspiration, as well as pride. They can’t have too many heroes, in my opinion!

As Lupita’s awards poured in (she’s also just been nominated for an MTV movie award, BTW), I secretly hoped that her confirmed movie roles would too. Her iMDB profile was oddly quiet, though. Where were the titles of projects noted as in pre-production? Was Hollywood simply indulging a passing fascination with her rare beauty, or were they merely preparing for how to put her gifts to their best use? I’m rooting for the latter, and if I means that I have to haul @ss, take a screenwriting course, win millions in the lottery and write and executive produce a project for her myself — well, then so be it! She has a lot more to offer, and I’m here for just about all of it by any means within my grasp. LOL!

Well Are They Or Aren’t They?

I don’t usually root for celebrity couples, but these two have reeled me in lately. Lupita Nyong’o, the Kenyan Oscar-winning actress, is said to be involved in a budding relationship — or at the very least some heavy flirting — with Oscar-winning actor and musician Jared Leto. How did this rumor start? Probably after the press noticed that these two always seemed to find themselves next to each other at events during the red carpet & award show season. To be honest, Jared has helped keep the rumors afloat by throwing out references to marriage between him and Lupita, and repeatedly complementing her as classy. And Lupita certainly didn’t quell any tittle tattle after posting the now-viral selfies from Paris.

Lupita Nyong'o, Jared Leto

Always the warm, tactile greeting.

Jared Lupita Paris 2014

Let’s just keep things quiet for now …

At the very least, they make a strikingly attractive pair, and the energy and chemistry between them is undeniable. Maybe that’s because each was having an incredible run this season, racking up trophy after trophy for their respective acting roles (“12 Years A Slave” for Lupita, and “Dallas Buyers Club” for Jared). Each is a fascinating person in his/her own right, socially aware, well-traveled, sophisticated world views and Lupita is even more fascinating. She has lived around the world, speaks several languages and has directed a documentary film. I think most people can agree that the attraction is a little heavier on his part. I mean Lupita is the toast of Hollywood as the perfect combination of grace, beauty, intellect and dignity. She is, as Jared put it, “a classy chick,” who just made a virtual clean sweep of her debutante award season, culminating in her Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress! Who could blame him if he was falling for her?

Yes, yes, we’ve all seen the counter rumors of a supposed romance between Lupita and K’Naan, a Somali-Canadian rapper. Apparently, they were photographed outside a television studio all hugged up against the chilly weather, and he was carrying her Oscar trophy in a very boyfriend-ish way. Boyfriends carry their girlfriends heavy trophies, apparently. I’m not falling for that one, though. Would a classy girl like Lupita allow herself to be caught in such a public flirtation if she were already in a committed relationship for months? I guess anything is possible, but it’s unlikely.

Smiles, as usual

Smiles, as usual

We’ll just have to wait and see, but around these parts it’s team Jared & Lupita, not even going to lie. It’s worth it for the Lupita tea alone, but together they would be very exciting. They’re so interesting and worldly. A pair like that could accomplish a lot. A lot more than merely owning the red carpets or sitting down for an intimate exclusive with Oprah at their oasis of a home while their kids are tucked away somewhere with the nanny. I see ambassadorships, advocacy and philanthropy. Brains and beauty and charisma like that in one person is breathtaking, but in a couple? Well that’s too good to pass up.

Nope, I’m not gonna miss this ship. All hands on deck to get these two together. LOL!

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