As I'd hoped, the gorgeous Mia Freedman took home the blogger's Fun, Fearless Female gong, but there was still much excitement for this girl with a satchel (or, rather, Mimco purse) – least not the opportunity to frock up and take Husband out for a night on the pink carpet. Here's a wee glimpse into the before, durings and after...
9am: Update blog and hit the shops. Husband needs a new shirt and his suit needs to be emergency dry-cleaned. I am running on zero sleep after doing most of the driving down from the Gold Coast. Cranky pants. Assistant in David Jones fits Husband's shirt. Husband decides the occasion also necessitates new underwear (what a girl!). Buy him Bonds, then entertain him by introducing him to the concept of control underwear in the women's lingerie department. Oh, the hilarity!
11am: Drop husband back at Northern Beaches HQs (i.e. my dad's place) and head into Kirribilli for coffee and chats with Julie Parker from The Butterfly Foundation. She is just lovely. We talk about body image, eating disorders and our shared passion to help girls avoid going down the beaten track of self destruction. Me = cautionary tale. Julie = guardian angel.
1.30pm: Back to shops to secure self new underwear and shoes without Husband restricting activities. Spot a gorgeous pair of Guess? heels in David Jones but God tells me to go to Witchery where I find the snakeskin stilettos I've been eyeing off for ages are on SALE! Thank you, God. Buy a belt to go with the shoes (which I don't end up wearing). Feel like I need a purse to go with shoes. Spot Mimco purse in DJs, also on SALE! It's my lucky shopper day.
3pm: Go to pick up Husband's suit from drycleaner. It's not ready. Frig! Have a hair appointment in 15 minutes and will not make it. Phone hairdresser.
3.05pm: Suit still not ready.
3.10pm: Still not ready.
3.20pm: Pick up suit, trying to be gracious in face of time constraints. Head to hairdresser.
3.40pm: Have the BEST head massage EVER at Tranquility Hair, Narrabeen (I paid my own way!). Hair is blow-dried and put in rollers. I look very GOLD COAST. How did my hair get so blonde and BIG? Get home and pat it down. Dolly Parton is not the look I envisaged.
5pm: Get home. Require food and sleep. Have little time for either. Stuff face with cheese, olives and crackers. Lie on pillow for 5 minutes. If you could buy a pill to make you feel like you'd slept 8 hours, I'd pop it. Madly iron clothes, dress, apply not enough make-up, fash parade for dad and sister, hit the road.
6.30pm: Mia sends mad text message: "Check your emails". Has someone died? Today Tonight are looking for someone to talk about mags. I know mags! Whee!
6.50pm: Arrive at the Art Gallery of NSW, 10 minutes early! Nasty parking inspector says our metre has expired. Durr, we just got here! Feed metre, send a couple of texts.
7pm: Husband and I stroll down pink carpet. Itty-bitty Pippa Black (Neighbours) in black and her beau are in front of us. MTV host Ruby Rose is up ahead with MC Brian McFadden, and Kerrie-Anne is having her piccie taken (I LOVE Kerrie-Anne!). Husband and I feel like gumbies waiting for our turn to step out in front of the photographers... and have our picture taken by one sympathetic paparazzo!
7.30pm: Canapes! Yum! Gimme, gimme. Run into a few familiar faces – Julie Parker is here with Danni Watts, also of The Butterfly Foundation. Helen Lee of SassyBella is also here and holding up well considering she just got back from a fashion junket in New Zealand. Nice to see bloggers finally going places... did I tell you I'm off to Singapore soon?
8pm: Seated at a table along with Biore PR manager (they are the major sponsor), Becky Cooper and Bridget Yorston of Bec & Bridge and their beaus, and Leigh Mathews of Future Cambodia Fund and her partner. Talking to Leigh, I feel inferior. I blog, she helps kids in Cambodia. Resolve to start committing more time to community activities/giving back.
8.15pm: Brian McFadden is funny by virtue of his Irish heritage. Very naughty MC who is not shy about using expletives. At the head table are Kerrie-Anne, Charlotte Dawson, Sarah Murdoch and other VIPs. Table behind them seats Cosmo editor Bronwyn McCahon (amazing black cut-out frock), Mia Freedman, Kate Richie and Zoe Foster. Next to our table are Jessica Mauboy and Home and Away's Esther Anderson (who is so stunning I can't stop staring).
First categories are announced in quick succession so we can all eat dinner (I had the barramundi, Husband had the lamb). Exact order of awards eludes me but winner's lineup includes: Kathryn Eisman for the author award (she's not here to accept); Sass and Bide win the designer category (is that Heidi or Sarah?); Lauren Jackson is the sportswoman; Mia Freedman is best blogger (hilariously, she thanks herself, as bloggers don't really have a 'team' behind them); scientist Dr Tu’uhevaha Kaitu’u-Lino is the inspirational role model; volunteer female fire fighters get the 'outstanding contribution' nod; Talita Schramm wins the entrepreneur category (her proud best friend accepts for her); Kate Ritchie wins 'radio personality'; Esther Anderson wins the actress category; Sarah Murdoch takes out 'TV personality' (Ruby Rose is happy to lose to her idol); and Jessica Mauboy is the FFF singer of the year (she sang two tracks off her album, and, boy, can that girl shake her booty!).
I loved Kate Ritchie's speech, in which she said that being fun and fearless is only possible if you're in the right environment to do so, therefore, we chicks should be more supportive of each other and less critical. Touche! And also props to Cosmo for awarding the overall Fun, Fearless Female Woman of the Year award to Dr Tu’uhevaha Kaitu’u-Lino, who, at just 27, is a mum (with another on the way), and has dedicated her career to researching debilitating vaginal bleeding with Monash Institute of Medical Research. She's the first non-celebrity to win the award and was beside herself to be recognised in a public forum for her work, as she hopes to inspire other young women to consider careers in science.
11pm: After having our goodie bag stuffed with Biore product, chatting blogging, books and marriage with Mia and Zoe (Foster), and making a tool of myself speaking to Hamish Blake (Me: "Say something funny!"; Him: "No."), Husband and I made tracks. Returned to car to find lovely fine care of parking inspector. Too tired to take photographic evidence supporting our innocence. Driving away, we're told by a taxi driver we have a flat tire. Thankful to have husband who can actually change a flat in five minutes.
The verdict: The awards left me feeling the warm and fuzzies for Cosmo. As we're quick to celebrate 'celebrities' in our culture, it was refreshing to hear the female fire fighters, Dr Tu’uhevaha Kaitu’u-Lino and other female non-celebs talk about their passion for what they do – helping people. Alas, all the pretty frocks, Mimco purses and lipstick isn't going to help a girl feel good about herself if she's not able to give of herself to others – whether she's inspiring people by pursuing her dream like Jessica Mauboy or creating better lives for children in Cambodia. I think fearlessness comes with knowing you're on the right path in life.
Pics: Kerrie-Anne; new shoes!; Yours Truly, Zoe Foster and Mia Freedman; Mia Freedman, Bronwyn McCahon and Yours Truly; Ed and Bridget Yorston with Husband and moi; Jessica Mauboy shaking her booty.
Girl With a Satchel
Is the term 'glossy role model' an oxymoron? Or, like naughty-but-nice covergirl Hayden Panettiere, has Girlfriend found the perfect balance between the superficial and meaningful? To coincide with the magazine's 21st birthday celebrations, guest reviewer Carla Efstratiou weighs in with her two cents on this girl-next-door teen brand.
Turning 21 is a huge milestone in the life of any girl (or guy), so, like any respectable celebrity entering a new phase of life, Girlfriend's had a makeover. But underneath all the superficial improvements is the same magazine which inspired a whole generation of teens to grow into confident young women over two decades.
Editors of teen mags are in a compromising position: attracting the attention of herds of teenage girls while not ticking off parents and interest groups more concerned with the mental health of our youngsters than what Lily Allen's wearing/Twittering/singing.
It comes down to the familiar ‘money versus morality’ debate, of which Girlfriend has found itself a happy, comfortable medium: the hot celebs, fashion and gorgeous models attract a readership tuned into MTV, celebrity blogs and Australia's Next Top Model, while the positive thinking and confidence building campaigns encourage a positive counterculture telling girls to love themselves for who they are. However, because of this juxtaposition, Girlfriend is still open to criticism about its apparent contradictions.
This month, the Girlfriend Rimmel Model Search finalists are featured, with each entrant given one page to strike a pose and tell the world why she should be Girlfriend’s next top model. These girls are all typical model material: tall, slim, bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked. It’s a sad reality, but in order for Girlfriend’s Model Search to be taken seriously by readers and the fashion/modelling industries, they do need to feature girls who could actually compete in the professional modelling market. And, while there are signs that change is afoot, that market is mostly populated by tall, slim girls with beautiful faces.
Allowing a ‘regular’ sized girl to win this Model Search would compromise the credibility of the competition in the eyes of the readers, because the chances of them capitalising on their win by representing Girlfriend on the catwalk or in international fashion shoots are very slim; that’s just the nature of the industry.
These girls are not, in my opinion, projecting an unhealthy image of beauty. They are not withering away, nor have bones sticking out of their clothing. Their clothes are typical of any teenagers and they are wearing natural looking makeup. The questions asked to them are all very innocent, such as ‘How would you celebrate if you won?’ and ‘What do you think of GF’s Think. Do. Be. Positive campaign?’, with answers just as encouraging and wholesome.
These girls were fortunate to receive ‘pretty’ genes. There have been models before, and there will continue to be models after them. We shouldn't berate magazines like Girlfriend for featuring models in their pages, but congratulate them for presenting them in a manner which retains their innocence, unlike many other mediums which line the newsstands and internet.
Girlfriend also continues its ‘Think. Be. Do. Positive.’ campaign this month. I was surprised when I caught myself intently reading and smiling – definitely a positive sign that the campaign is working! Superficially, the bright colours and happy faces plastered all over the pages immediately transports the reader to a happy place, and the “All the small things” and “Get exercise-excited” articles encourage a healthy lifestyle; not so girls can look like their favourite celebrity, but so they can actually feel more energised and be happy!
The role model of the month, sixteen year old Marissa Gibson of the film Samson and Delilah, also inspires, as she is testament to the ‘You can achieve your dreams despite adversity’ sentiment which the Self Respect campaign is spearheading.
The ‘Girlfriend of the Year’ competition, which is open to enter from this issue, is like the Model Search, but focuses on achievements and aspirations more so than looks. I think this inclusion is great because it balances out the focus on the Model Search, and also shows achievements of an academic, creative, sports and altruistic nature are valued in this seemingly superficial world.
As far as other role models go, covergirl Hayden Panettiere, 20, with her sweet smile, sneaky tattoo and wholesome family values, makes the perfect all-round Girlfriend candidate, as she tells the magazine this month: "I'm kind of a walking contradiction. I have the ability to be wild and calm, loud and quiet, silly and serious... I could easily go and lend my face or celebrity to a million different charities, but it wouldn't mean as much or have as much of an impact. To I've worked closely with The Whaleman Foundation to save the whales and dolphins...".
Some may have a problem with flipping the page from all this very positive ‘be yourself’ stuff, which weighs down the front of the magazine, to the Model Search at the centre of the mag, but I really see no problem with it. Would it not be even more contradictory of the Girlfriend team to deny these models of their chance at achieving their dream, just in case some think the wrong message is being projected? I think that would be wrong.
The good bits:
- Fashion! You wouldn’t think a teen magazine like Girlfriend could get the creative juices flowing to inspire crazy fashion decisions, but after salivating over the ‘Wild Thing’ spread I was ready to go out and buy every animal printed piece of clothing I could find! Special guest fashion editor Jessica Mauboy makes the pages pop with bright colours and patterns perfect for summer and perfect for the tween target market. Is there anything Jess can’t do?!
- Now I REALLY wouldn’t expect Girlfriend to stimulate me intellectually, but this issue has proven me wrong once again. Claire Hooper’s feature, ‘What you can learn from the news’, is a realistic attempt at encouraging an apathetic generation to take an active interest in their world. It’s a great beginner's guide to the news which doesn’t overcomplicate or patronise. Similarly, the ‘Your say; shock radio’ feature on Kyle and Jackie O’s controversial antics exposed some really pertinent issues and indicated that teenage girls do have opinions on these issues, and very mature opinions at that!
- New look: I've always had a problem with the amount of content and decoration they tried to fit on every page, but this month I’m not so bothered by it. I think they have made the colour scheme more consistent and have given the entire magazine a neater feel, with the addition of some sophisticated fonts and more white space, which also makes it seem more mature.
- Damn, Girlfriend, you’ve got me again with the freebies! Who can resist a multi-coloured Rip Curl tote and ‘Think.Do.Be.Positive’ Post-it notes? Both useful and great looking!
The not-so-good bits:
- If I have to hear the term “recessionista” one more time I will implode.
- Celebrity overload! I know it’s the ‘100% celebrity made’ issue, but let’s all just remember we’re not reading Famous or NW. You would be hard pressed to find a page which doesn’t have a picture or words about Hollywood A-listers. If Girlfriend is so intent on giving celebrities so much room in the magazine, why not mix it up and try some lesser known models and It girls – sometimes these girls have the most inspiring and creative styles?
- The 80s fashion revival hasn’t spared one victim in its ruthless pursuit to dress us in crop tops and fluoro make-up once again.
- Pretty in pink: Girlfriend has embraced its girlie roots with open arms and given us fairy floss in magazine form. The contrast of pink and metallic silver works well for the cover, with the result being a cute package of girlhood, not unlike cover girl Hayden Panettiere herself.
- Zooey Deschanel looks as cute as a cupcake in the ‘Vintage Beauty’ story. Her vintage-inspired outfits are a nice change from the boring summer shorts and t-shirt combos which are rearing their ugly heads in the summer teen glossies.
- ‘Totally rad makeup’ pages featuring Fuzzy sporting multicoloured feathered eyelashes has the WOW effect.
- Pinky swear: pink feathers and pink beauty products? How could I not include this in ‘pretty pages'? This beauty spread jumps out of the magazine. Plus, the encouragement to support breast cancer awareness by buying ‘pink’ products is always a positive thing to be instilling in young minds.
- So You Think You Can Dance judge Matt Lee answers reader’s woes about cyber bullying.
- Erin McNaught gives us a rundown of her favourite sites on the net (she reveals that she is a ‘tweetheart’ like the rest of the celebrity population.)
- Gracie Otto uses her acting prowess to review some recent flicks.
- The City heart-throb Jay Lyon makes all girls hearts’ melt with his behind the scenes look into his reality TV life (which includes some gorgeous pictures, sigh.)
- Cassie Davis provides some great tips on how to write a #1 hit song.
If I went on, I would have to cover every page of the magazine... but you get the idea. Basically, November Girlfriend = celebrity jam-packed.
Glossy ads: Valleygirl, Jonas Brothers DVD, Proactiv, Hannah Montana Movie, Maybelline, Rimmel, Heaven swimwear, Roxy, Baby G, Silkymit.
Glossy stats: November 2009; 173 pages; $6.95
Glossy rating: 4.5. Still the best girl's glossy around; definitely a must for those teen angels.
Blosses: Sarah Cornish; Pacific Magazines
Carla @ Girl With a Satchel
I am not a mother, so far be it from me to judge the appropriateness of outfits mothers choose for their children, but having just read Melinda Tankard Reist's Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls, in addition to Germaine Greer's piece on heel fetishism in The Australian Women's Weekly and M G Durham's piece, Lost youth: turning young girls into sex symbols, c/o The Guardian this week, this image of Suri Cruise in Who magazine, as well as the glossy celebratory omnipresence of 13-year-old blogger Tavi (as seen in Grazia this week), has given me pause for thought.
"Suri Cruise wasn't about to allow a little thing like her age – 3 – stop her from cutting a perfectly accessorised figure in a ra-ra skirt and peep-toes (teamed with shell-shaped bag) for a stroll with mother Katie Holmes in Boston on Sept. 21," reports Who. "The city clearly appeals to Suri's inner fashionista. A day earlier, she wore pink lipgloss (applied toddler-style) to match her shoes and top. Suri's eye for colour has been on display before. On July 2, soon after the family descended on Melbourne, Suri and her dad picked up for lipglosss ay Myer's Becca and Bloom counters."
When did wearing heels (and sheer stockings, in the case of Tavi) become less of a symbolic teenage right of passage into full-blown womanhood and more of a birth right? When did playing dress-ups in mum's clompy shoes turn into having a wardrobe of Carrie Bradshaw heels to call your own?
"You can shop online for high-heeled shoes for baby girls aged naught to six months, which seems rather early to be introducing someone to a fetish, unless it's meant to work as aversion therapy," writes Greer in The Weekly.
According to Emma Rush, who writes 'What are the risks of premature sexualisation for children' in Reist's Getting Real, "sexualisation of children occurs when 'the slowly developing sexuality of children' is 'moulded into stereotypical forms of adult sexuality' (Rush and La Nauze, 2006, p.1.)."
"This results from two quite different cultural processes, both driven by commercial interests," continues Rush. "As advertising and popular culture have become more heavily sexualised (to the point where some scholars speak of the 'pornification' of culture more generally), the impact upon children has increased. The other cultural process that sexualises children is relatively new. It involves sexualising products being sold specifically for children, and children themselves being presented in images or directed to act in advertisements in ways modelled on adult sexual behaviour... Sexualising products are products linked to cultural norms of sexual attractiveness. Such products were previously reserved for teenagers and adults but are now sold directly to girls of primary school age, for example, bras, platform shoes, lip gloss, fake nails, and so on."
As the writers in Getting Real suggest (it's a confronting read, by the way, but I think a necessary one to counter-balance the prevalent powers of commercialism), the premature sexualisation of girls can lead to all sorts of trouble, including retarded cognitive and emotional development, mental health problems and damaged sexual development.
"With girls spending more and more time in their bedrooms worrying about how they look and what to wear, they are missing out on the invaluable life experiences needed to develop, and to draw on in difficult situations," writes Maggie Hamilton in Getting Real. "Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield is now seeing 11-year-olds two to three years behind in cognitive development than 11-year-olds were fifteen years ago. Girls need human interaction, nourishing food and play, and to be directly engaged in life, for their brains to develop. Without these factors, Susan Greenfield believes, their ability to make sense of the world and express themselves creatively will continue to decline."
Does this put precocious fashionistas Suri and Tavi at risk? And what does the fawning media attention that they garner tell other young women? Are we creating too narrow a view of what it means to be a girl in 2009? And of what it means to be a popular girl, celebrated for her ensembles rather than her kindness or academic achievements?
"Girls should be rewarded for thinking for themselves, exploring meaning and values and making a mark in the world that goes beyond the airhead cult of celebrity and fashion," writes Tankard Reist. "Girls need to be able to discern what is good and valuable and dismiss the rubbish... The world needs girls who desire to be whole, well rounded citizens of the world."
Girl With a Satchel
One of my favourite episodes of the UK TV series Black Books is the one where Manny swallows The Little Book of Calm and starts to espouse words of peaceful wisdom to all and sundry while walking around in hospital robes looking like Jesus. To a woman giving birth, he suggests, "When you're feeling under pressure, do something different: roll up your sleeves or eat an orange."
I was reminded of the episode after reading Sarah Wilson’s column in Sunday Life over the weekend. Wilson, a Gen-X former magazine editor and host of MasterChef, is on an earnest quest “to make life more meaningful, happier, sweeter”.
Her latest revelation comes care of “a bunch of nice 22-year-old blokes in Ramones T-shirts” who tell her “these days it’s cool to be calm”. “Back in my day,” she writes, “it was cool to be stressed…the difference is that these kids choose calm. In saying they’re calm, they become calm… Calm is a state of mind that’s cultivatable.”
If you’re a highly-strung, neurotic type, you probably find this sort of talk infuriating. Like being calm is just SO easy. Who has the freakin’ time to be calm when there are deadlines and budgets to meet, status updates to upload, meetings to attend and reports to be filed? If you are calm, then you are probably not very important. Ignorance IS bliss. Oftentimes, a gentle demeanour is also mistaken for passivity or being a push-over, which no post-feminist in her right mind would have herself accused of.
But in all my encounters – inside the workplace and out – I’ve found it’s the calm people who clearly have it sussed. They’re emotionally mature enough to realize that being in a constant state of panic sucks for your health and for everyone around you. It’s selfish to pollute the world – online and offline – with negativity, vitriol and bad energy simply because you’re unhappy with your lot or wired that way. There are better ways to assert yourself in the public domain than coming across all Gordon Ramsay.
Inner peace is something I have to strive for everyday. I was practically born anxious. I put it down to being a chronic asthmatic since the age of 2 – near-death experiences and all that – and my parents’ hyper-anxiety (strangely, they’re both totally chilled now, but this has served to make me aware of how important it is to retain peace in the home for the sake of the kids’ mental health).
Obviously, my anxiety has manifested itself in a number of highly destructive ways. Like an eating disorder! I have also attempted to shop bad feelings away. But as I become less of an insane person, I’ve begun to lust after that peaceful feeling like a Paddlepop on a hot day. I desire it more than new shoes.
Retaining a rational, positive outlook isn’t easy – the world practically conspires against us to steal our peace – but peaceful people are much more pleasant to be around. And I’m more likely to follow their Tweets. Dinner with Perez Hilton, Rachel Zoe or Kevin Rudd (when he's on an expletive-charged bender) would leave me feeling nervous and tense; dinner with the Dalai Lama, Audrey Hepburn or Barack Obama would presumably have the opposite effect.
Similarly, some magazines, blogs and other media stifle my thoughts (mostly of the glossip genre), while others inspire, encourage and enable. We become what we consume, so I'm now more aware of how exposure to certain media affects my soul. Junk food in; junk food out. "For the mouth speaks of that which fills the heart." (Matthew 12: 34)
So, I guess we have a choice to make, between being a soothing presence and a stressful one. I’m easily overwhelmed by anxiety if I’m sleep-deprived, calorie deprived, spiritually deprived and emotionally deprived, so keeping these areas in balance is a priority if I’m to keep my peace. I also feel guilty about a lot of things, so learning to just do my best and let go of the rest has been a vital lesson. Trying to control everything is a fruitless pursuit (on that note, there's a card stuck to my MacBook which reads: "Don't worry! Just take on step at a time... The Lord will guide you always. Isaiah 58:11"). Procrastination is also a calm-killer, so the Nike "just do it" mantra is helpful, particularly when it comes to paying bills and replying to emails.
Last week I felt pangs of guilt and anxiety for not updating the blog because my MacBook went flat (up the creek without a power cable). And, you know what? The world didn't end! Amazing. Last night I read the story of Jesus rebuking the storm in the boat with his disciples (Mark 4: 35-41). He slept through most of it while his disciples flailed about fearing for their lives. When they woke him, he got up and said, “Peace, be still!” and calm came across the ocean. “Why are you so fearful?” he asked his disciples. “How is it that you have no faith?”
From that I deduce that a) Jesus was one cool customer in the face of a crisis; and that b) Fear will destroy us if we let it get a grip in our lives, so taking comfort in faith, rather than the whimsical suggestions in books such as The Little Book of Calm (i.e. "Caress the back of your hand"; "Pretend it's Saturday") or even the wisdom of peacekeepers in Ramones t-shirts, is more solid ground to stand on.
Girl With a Satchel
I woke up this morning feeling like my head was filled with helium. It's the kind of ominous flu-fog that makes you want to curl up in a little ball and tell the world to bugger off for the day. But, because you work for yourself and have blog content to upload and a list of 254 things to get done and 3547 emails to check and a flight to book and errands to run, you dutifully report to your MacBook rather than treating yourself to a sick day. Call me Martha Martyr.
Thankfully, I've been somewhat awoken from my stupor, so I can pen this here post... apologies if I'm lacking in coherency! I showered (very important), put on some mascara, took myself outside to get a little Vitamin D care of the sun and patted my dog, and then my bestie dropped by to have a quick chat and deposit a cute card and gift in my hands (you can buy the necklace at GWAS sponsor site FrockYou!).
But some days nothing will get you out of the dumps – particularly if your body, mind and spirit are all singing the same dreary Coldplay tune, which Lyndsey Rodrigues, 28, who bravely talked about her depression in The Sunday Telegraph this past weekend, would know only too well.
Not feeling yourself is something I've become accustomed to in my recovery from eating disorder. Like a woman who dyes her hair so often she forgets what her natural colour is, you forget what it's like to be fit and healthy and energetic and exuberant. Functioning at 100% is impossible. Your mind is so frazzled that it's impossible to give your creative/cerebral/verbal/physical/spiritual all. I'm surprised Rachel Zoe gets anything done in a day; clearly her body has gotten used to the deprivation.
Anyway, imagine being a public face and battling a debilitating mental disorder like depression. Having to front up to work with a smile on your dial to have your makeup applied when all you want to do is make like a Hobbit and hole up in your bedroom. I applaud Rodrigues for being so open about her mental health issues: particularly as her health would seem so at odds with her role as the host of Channel 9's What's Good For You (she's also on the cover of Men's Style this month). I've no doubt a lot of women felt relieved to know that someone so seemingly PERFECT could experience something so debilitating.
Talking to the Tele, Rodrigues says she's experienced depression since her teens, but her symptoms worsened when she returned from the U.S.(where her show, MTV's TRL was replaced by It's On With Alexa Chung) and after breaking up with her fiance. Like my eating disorder symptoms, it seems Lyndsey's depression was laying dormant (she's had it since her teens) until the right environmental trigger factors came along.
"At my worst moments, it was almost like a fog I just thought I was never going to come out of," she says. "It would sometimes last for days. I would cry for no reason, felt depressed and I didn't want to leave my house... I found coming home really hard to adjust to. If it weren't for work, I just didn't leave the house and made excuses not to see friends and all that stuff."
Rodrigues manages her illness with anti-depressants and sessions with a psychologist, and is working with beyondblue to reduce stigmas associated with mental illness. With such a bright future ahead, I hope she finds her way out of the fog permanently.
Girl With a Satchel
As the dust on Fashion's Night Out settles and the Big Apple's fashion elite sit front-row at the spring/summer 2010 shows, prolific writer, flagrant foodie and avid consumer of culture Lee Tran Lam reflects on The New Yorker's annual style issue...
Everyone has a magazine they love so much that there’s a fire-hazard pile of back issues blocking some sizeable part of their house. For me, it’s The New Yorker. The publication is famous for taking the most unexpected subjects – from toupees to origami artists – and spinning page after lengthy page of fascinating copy. Readers first thumbed through embryonic forms of The Catcher In The Rye, In Cold Blood and Silent Spring when they were printed in the magazine. And The New Yorker’s journalistic bragging rights are monumentally well-earnt, having broken major stories such as the Abu Ghraib prison abuses in 2004.
It’s brainy and not afraid to devote inches of print to a topic. That said, I get all fluttery when the annual Style issue of the magazine comes out. For someone whose yearly clothing budget is only $12.50, I actually love it when a mag goes beyond the fashion racks and boutique windows to expose the ritzy and inaccessible world of high-end living. I can still recount parts of the excellent Valentino story that ran in 2005 (one memorable snippet: the perma-tanned designer throws a dinner at his French chateau – a home where 1 million roses, no exaggeration, bloom in the garden – and gets ticked off when his regular airdrop of mozzarella fresh from Naples is held up by the terrorist attacks in London).
The good bits
-‘Step Into Style’, the cover by Bruce McCall (some pun-freaks may call it ‘bootylicious’, but I think it’s just clever and stylish).
-Patricia Marx goes shopping in “greigey-beigey” Chicago, aka “the city that gets some sleep” or “the miniature golf version of New York, with Oprah standing in for the Statue of Liberty”. While not usually a fan of the stories Marx is assigned (which feel sometimes like ultra-lengthy shopping lists) this piece is actually an intriguing long exposure of a town that modestly describes its style as only “wearable”, despite having a mayor-appointed fashion tzar. “If Chicago had to fill out a questionnaire about itself, would it check male or female? It’s a guy’s town. But not a slobby guy,” says Marx.
In Chicago, you can track down Maria Pinto, one of Michelle Obama’s favourite designers, and the department store that gave Isaac Mizahri an important break – but there’s also a shop where you can buy Oprah hand-me-downs, a museum with soft toys in the shape of Athlete’s Foot fungal infections, and an emporium specialising in Swarovski crystal bags shaped like Jimi Hendrix’s head!
-I remember interviewing LA designer Kelly Wearstler for Australian Style (RIP) in 2002, so I was extra-curious about Dana Goodyear’s profile on the visually ostentatious decorator. Known for her “muchness”, her hyper-bright, pattern-crazed, full-volumed rooms are compared to an overstimulated child. “You just want to say ‘quiet, quiet. Settle down,’” says Wearstler. Simon Donovan, the creative director of Barneys, claims her decor for Maison 140 blends the style of a retired stripper with that of a Chinese opium den owner (which he’s a fan of). Insightful anecdotes are rife: The former waitress (who once modelled for Playboy) definitely is an original – “she once wore a vintage dress with sea-green polka dots, backward” to a party.
With bestselling books, TV fame to her name, and high-profile design clients (eg Gavin Rossdale and Gwen Stefani), Wearstler is an obvious success and her graphic overkill is a drawcard for many. My favourite part of the story sees her trying to sway some clients into “sassifying” their home. Wearstler suggests pairing 24k gold-leaf panelling with a metallic-splattered cowhide. The family are a little wary, however, of placing gold walls in their house. When she suggests an exquisite silk patterned carpet, the father asks if it’s hard to clean. “Well … you don’t want it in your mudroom,” she says with a winning smile. Eventually, the clients come around but even they have to turn down the green cheetah-print chintz she proposes for the guest room.
-Alexandra Jacobs’ profile on Zappos, the online shoe store being courted by Amazon, comes across like a high heel version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (with dashes of Oprah-esque optimism and managerial-speak). For instance, CEO Tony Hsieh takes part in an impromptu office hula-hoop competition with an employee and also stages work parties with water guns. At company headquarters, there are rooms named after Elvis Presley; free hugs, popcorn and trail mix; Christmas light decorations during summer; greetings of “Hi pumpkin!” and a capella singers to congratulate trainees; and “the feeling that amphetamimes might be pumped through the central air conditioning”. But as anyone who has worked at an office that tries to be fun and kooky would know, reality delivers a mighty shin-kick at some point, and so it happens, as economic reality and the Amazon offer play out.
-While past fashion designer profiles in the New Yorker Style issue have been a giddy trip into unfathomable opulence (Lagerfield and his house crammed with countless iPods springs into mind), Lauren Collins’ ‘Check Mate’ on Burberry creative director Christopher Bailey is refreshing. The 38-year-old “anti-designer” has a working class background and is surprisingly human: “Do you want me to hold something?” he will inquire. “Are you cold? Would you like a biscuit?” The nastiest words he’s heard to use? “Not nice”, when talking of counterfeiters who rip off the famous Burberry trademark.
The $3 billion company, with a fascinating history dating back to 1856, has been tainted by associated negative publicity of late (like a tabloid scandal involving a Brit soapie star who, after having surgery for septum repair caused by cocaine intake, was snapped wearing Burberry everything, as was her daughter, pushed in a Burberry checked pram) resulting in the “checks for chavs” putdown. But despite this, Bailey comes across as anti-elitist as you can get: “I love the whole creative process, but not in a wanky way,” he says, and, at the end of the article, voluntarily and unprompted, mops up a beverage spill with paper towels. Incredible.
-Also, TV writer Nancy Franklin covers the shiny reincarnation of Melrose Place.
The not-so-good bits
-’Shouts and Murmurs’, usually the weakest link in the magazine, the humour column that often isn’t that hilarious.
-A surprisingly unfunny comic by the usually amazing Roz Chast; her take on Sex And The City, the batty pensioner years, just doesn’t have her typical punch
-The New Yorker prides text (and lots of it!) over pictures, but there is a colourful flamenco-inspired spread by Colombian photographer Ruven Afanador.
-There are also some great classic pics from Robert Frank’s famous photo series The Americans.
Glossy stats: September 14 2009; around $14 at newstand (I subscribe and it works out to be about $4 an issue, postage paid – total bargain); 116 pages.
Blosses: David Remnick, Conde Nast; published weekly
Glossy ads: Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Banana Republic, Prada, Rolex
Glossy rating: 4 1/2. The major profiles are excellent, never tediously overstaying their generous word counts and, in fact, justifying the long, unputdownable lengths. There are a few misfires (an okay piece by the otherwise incredible music critic Sasha Frere Jones), but, overall, a pretty fine Style issue. The only truly bad thing – having to wait another year until the next fix.
Lee Tran @ Girl With a Satchel
As a tween, I would have eaten up SHOP Girl like Coco Pops. With a penchant for pop culture and pretty things, I was a marketer’s dream, trading Sweet Secrets on the school stock exchange, dressing up paper dolls, playing ‘shops’ in my spare time and begging mum for something new to wear on “mufty days”.
But times, they are a changin’, and I have a (Converse) sneaking suspicion that today’s parents, knowing what they know, are all too sensitive about how their progeny are marketed to. So, is SHOP Girl harmless sugar and spice, or a sinister attempt to turn tween girls into hyper-materialistic consumers devoid of culture, creativity, intelligence and imagination; the mag equivalent of Coco Pops, luring girls in with the artificial sweetness only to rot their brains?
To presume the latter would suggest that parents, schools and other role models aren't as powerful a presence in tween lives as the media, while the former would negate the fact that the age at which girls start to feel pressure about their appearance is getting younger. Sometimes good intentions get misconstrued, so, as I'm firmly on the fence, I put this one to guest reviewer and mum Alison Kennedy. Here's what she came up with...
SHOP Girl isn't merely a magazine: it's a "freaking community service". It wants to save the time of busy parents by giving us "827 ideas, updates and pieces she'll want to live in", encourage age-appropriate dressing ("eight-year-old Lucia Scott has a wardrobe most grown-ups would envy") and help inter-generational communication ("try saying... you're so channeling Sharpay right now"). With these altruistic aims in mind, and mindful that, as mum to an eight-year-old girl I'm the magazine's target reader, I give the mag a look.
In summary, SHOP Girl apes the formula of big sister SHOP Til You Drop, except that the merchandise is tween-specific and there's a dedicated section just for tweens, too. Take a sneak peek inside 'J4U' and you'll find Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Kaia Gerber and Lourdes Leon – apparently all aspirational fashionistas for Gen-Z. It also educates the girls in the language of SHOP senior, enlisting concepts such as 'Steal Her Style', 'retail therapy', 'obsessions', 'must-haves' and 'Splurge v Steal'.
It's undeniably cute, colourful, girlie and fun. There's a mother/daughter fashion spread; lots of bright accessories; book, video and MP3 reviews; bedroom styling ideas; a DIY tee shirt story; and a feature which asks if your tween is too young to enlist a skin-care regime. It's upbeat and cheerful and the layouts are inspired.
But will mums buy into the concept? To put it into context, I've compiled a convenient comparative table for you to consider, pitting Barack Obama's advice to school children with the advice of SHOP Girl, so you can decide...
Glossy posse: Malia Obama, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift...
Glossy stats: Issue #1; spring/summer 2009; 172 pages; $7.95; lots of advertorial and a Just Jeans catalogue insert
Blosses: Justine Cullen, ACP Magazines
Glossy ads: Just Jeans, David JOnes, Peace Street, Popits, Mooo
Glossy rating: 2 - Perhaps not. Preserve her childhood, free-thinking and self-esteem and buy her a sweet treat instead.
Alison @ Girl With a Satchel
It was sort of a tame, Catholic version of an Oprah show, orchestrated by an hilarious, excitable septuagenarian priest named Father Peter, who had us all drinking wine and whisky afterward in the manner of the Mad Hatter, and three glamorous mums from the St Ignatius Parish in Brisbane.
My fellow speakers were Julie Kelly, founder of Project Rachel, whose personal story of abortion in the 1950s was responsible for more than a few runny mascara marks, and Trish Wilson, a midwife and coordinator of the Mater Mother's Bereavement Support Program, whose metaphorical description of a crowning baby captivated everyone.
As I sat clenching my 15-minute speech, black-stockinged legs dutifully crossed (like a good Catholic girl) and heart thumping beneath a cream frock, a few things struck me, and the stars started to align... God has a funny way of communicating with you when you're quiet enough to listen.
Just before we'd entered the chapel, I was told by one of the organisers that each of the little chocolate cupcakes to be served for supper had come carefully wrapped in a piece of tissue paper. Then, in his introduction, Father Peter said that there was a cupcake with each of our names on it waiting at the end.
So that got me thinking about how God sees each of us as delicate, individual morsels to be treated with care. And then I thought of the 'EAT ME' cupcake Alice was tempted with in Wonderland. Which led me to think about how Eve stuffed things up in Eden.
Then Geraldine started on her introduction; the theme being community. She talked about how important it was for us – as women, and Christians, and Catholics – to get together to share stories. Because they're what binds us together. Our frailties, hopes, worries, triumphs... they're the stuff of human connection. They're also the stuff of good journalism.
I felt my life flash before my eyes (cue montage scene). The essence of my speech was clarified ("ah-ha!" Oprah would say): the two hardest times in my life had been characterised by a distinct lack of community. And the two best (okay, least troubled) periods in my life were defined by community: my girls' school experience and working on Girlfriend magazine. And, now that I'd found myself a new community to belong to, things were starting to look up again. Ping! The epiphany almost exploded out of my brain.
Giddy with this newfound wisdom, I took to the pulpit and segued into my speech, which was loosely themed around the ideas of 'Can you, like, be a Christian and read Cosmo?' and 'Why anorexia sucks arse (literally/metaphorically)'. I told the congregation that loneliness is the fast track to a miserable life and that community – more, pointedly, relationship – is what God created us for.
To be bereft of community in its many forms – friends, family, colleagues, neighbours – is to rob your soul. Twice in my life I've felt terribly isolated and alone and tried to fill the hole with ill-fitting blocks (y'know, shopping, exercising, food, boys, blogging...), but nothing stands up to the feeling of inclusion, validation and purpose you get when you feel like you belong. Even better when someone just "gets" you. Better still when you can give something back to them.
I talked a little about how pop culture, blogs, books and magazines can make us feel like part of a community. A Kate Miller Heidke song, Melina Marchetta's Looking For Alibrandi, The Babysitter's Club, Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love, Mia Freedman's memoir, Oprah, Frankie magazine, MasterChef, The Sartorialist, Sex and the City – they can all give us the feeling of connecting with fellow humans, while also giving us a reason to bring us together (I delighted in seeing The September Issue with a former mag colleague). But, as one wise older woman (a Golden Girl!) in my church recently mused, "sometimes you need people with skin on".
When the presentations finished, I was delighted to see my best friend, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, aunties-in-law and other friends (and Husband) waiting to say hello. We'd shared an intimate but public night together, and we all left on a high. Because we'd connected: as people with skin on (and nice frocks). Some other women also approached me, to say that they'd connected with what I'd said. And I was invited to an afternoon tea... possibly with cupcakes.
Then, sitting with Father Peter, the other speakers and organisers sipping wine and eating cheese and crackers, I felt another connection: we'd achieved something together and it was deeply satisfying. And then I was reminded of Eve.
Jesus died to atone for Eve's sins – for all our sins – so we could all go about living life as fabulous, individual little cupcakes untainted by guilt and anxiety and loneliness, wrapped up in the tissue paper of God's love (aw - vomit, you say). Yet we often deny ourselves the very things that God intended to give us peace (y'know, people with skin on) because we are too preoccupied with other things or have forgotten how to connect... falling down the rabbit hole of work and routine. It's only after we have an amazing chat with a friend, or go to an event where talk ourselves silly with people that we remember how soul-nourishing relationships are: then we get busy and promptly forget!
One of my aunties-in-law visited me this morning to follow up on last night and we had a D&M about the complicated, deeply political yet personal issue of abortion. The previous night's event had opened up the issue for us, and I found we shared some common ground (so not going into it). I was relieved to have found a comrade. Added to this, a friend from my primary school, who I've not talked to for 18 years, Facebooked me today to arrange a coffee catch up. We have a history – a connection – that can't be filled by anyone else. And over the weekend I felt like I'd found a little slice of my former Sydney life at The Village Markets (Burleigh is the new Bondi for me!). Again, community. Whee!
The moral to this little self-indulgent God ditty? One is the loneliest number. If there's no one in your life you feel you can relate to or have a heart-to-heart with or who inspires you to be a better person or who's working alongside you for some purpose or who "gets you", I totally recommend praying for one... preferably with skin on.
Girl With a Satchel
Given that the reception I got last time I did so, I was a little gun-shy but I had something to say and nothing to lose but my already diminished ego (blogging has an oddly humbling effect). Also, it's good to leave the blog confines of GWAS every now and then and stretch the legs.
While you can read the story and the comments that follow at The Punch, if you're so inclined, I've since been chewing over its motivation and structure, after reading media maestro Tim Burrowes' post on "lazy journalism" yesterday.
Burrowes, who blogs several times daily on his site and composes three comprehensive industry newsletters each week, suggests that "undercooked" stories lacking in traditional journalistic structure, original leads and sources aren't necessarily lazy; they're a product of circumstance. The circumstances being journalists are required to produce a lot of "content" (many news agencies now call them "content producers") on a shoestring budget and super-tight, often hourly, deadlines.
Burrowes writes: "On Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, I’m frantic. I aim to send out our newsletter email by lunchtime... at other times of the week I can afford to be more leisurely in building stuff up, but in those last couple of hours, I may need to write another four or five pieces... If your press release drops in my inbox and everything I need isn’t right there, I’m putting it to one side."
It's a similar story here at GWAS. As regular visitors would know, I try to keep the dynamic varied by mixing longer and shorter, visual and text-heavy, personal and industry-related posts – in that way, a blog is similar to a magazine. Posts like 'Short & Sweet', 'Glossy Report Cards', 'Cute & Chic' and 'Girl on the Street' are fun, visual and require minimal text, while the long-format glossy reviews, 'Girl Talk' rants and personalised Op-Ed-style posts require more writing time. I also often spend a deal of time editing guest glossy reviews while staying true to the voice of the author.
'Girl In Media' interviews usually transpire over a few back-and-forth emails, and 'Media Musings' is a matter of sifting, digesting and editing aggregated content from the internet and/or leads from PRs (some publishers have cottoned onto GWAS as a means for getting word about their magazines out into the marketplace). I hope to include more video content soon, just to spice things up a little (for me and for you).
In terms of practicing "real journalism", it depends on your definition. My newsagent is one of my key "sources", as are glossy editors and their ilk – in addition to magazine readers – while the glossies themselves serve as primary sources, industry sites like Mediaweek, mUmbrella , WWD and The Australian's media section are reliable secondary sources, and the likes of The Cut, Fashion Week Daily and Fashionista flesh out my daily GWAS-related media consumption. The weekend papers, and all the sites listed in my sidebar, fill the gaps.
Every newsagent and Borders store I enter has the potential to generate a lead: just today, two young girls debating which magazine to buy to take to the beach got my attention (you'll find out what they bought in an upcoming post). And every now and then I'm also tipped off about industry news which hasn't emerged elsewhere, which I then weigh up before deciding to publish it or not (to "glossip" or not to glossip?).
But back to The Punch. That story is what I'd call "join-the-dot" journalism. As a heavy media consumer, often I'll find trends emerging across several media platforms which point to a wider socio-cultural movement. Essentially, that's what 'Boomers are back in fashion...' is about: not Zac Efron's ability to sell fashion. The story piggy-backs on the work of other journalists (Catherine Caines gave me her personal nod of approval), while also referencing other observations, all of which is tied together to reflect the dichotomy that exists in media right now: between the young and the perpetually restless. I didn't phone anyone to gather quotes: paraphrasing the other journos fed that need. In fact, it took me all of an hour, some Googling and a few tweaks to get it up. Some stories write themselves.
Join-the-dot journalism is the mainstay of blogs (who like to piggy-back on each other), Op Eds and many magazines which report on social trends, though the monthlies have the advantage of longer lead times in which to flesh out their pieces with the appropriate "expert" quotes, enlightening/enlivening anecdotes and any necessary data (surveys and the like). For journalists on the fashion glossies, Fashion Week, showroom visits, designer look books and Style.com form the basis of their "beat", while their LBB (Little Black Books) are flush with PR contacts who do a lot of the ground work. As a beauty editor, I received approximately 346,589 press releases each week, making a major part of that job just sifting through the clutter (God bless the interns!) to find the diamonds in the rough.
I was amused last week to get a comment from a reader blasting me for posting only once throughout the day. I felt guilty for five minutes, but then shrugged it off. I'm not AAP, and I assume that while heavy GWAS readers visit a couple of times a day, most of the readership drops by once or twice a week: Mia Freedman reasons that this has the effect of flushing lots of hard work down the toilet, as there are only eight stories active on my homepage at any one time and most blog readers are reluctant to filter through the archives (apparently readers are pressed for time, too – how 'bout that!). Also, I do strive to give you more quality than quantity, filtering out the PR drivel and internet litter and self-editing where possible (blog pollution stinks!).
So, there you have it: Anatomy and Functionality of GWAS 101. Ah, how's that for a Punch line?
Girl With a Satchel
In a world where thin is always in, this is the one area where fat acceptance reigns supreme. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the book size, the more profitable the issue, though often special efforts are made to keep up appearances (the fattest isn't always best and fairest). So who fared best for the month of September amongst the Aussie glossies?
Looking at hard-cash advertising pages alone, Vogue Australia's anniversary issue is the queen of the castle with 150, followed by Harper's BAZAAR (133) and Marie Claire (109). When you add sponsored or advertorial pages to the mix, Marie Claire can be credited with upping its book size to accommodate advertiser real estate while reserving 57% of its pages for editorial, while Harper's BAZAAR offloaded 60 pages to the marketing team and Vogue 32*.
Year-on-year, Marie Claire and Vogue both increased their book sizes (308 to 324 pages; and 266 to 364 pages respectively), while Harper's produced the same volume as last year (388 pages). However, Harper's experienced a 9.5% decline in ad pages (it booked 147 ad pages in September 2008.) Vogue booked 108 ad pages in 2008, making this year's 150 pages a 28% gain. All round, an ostensibly good money-making month for the publishers of these prestige fashion titles.
Promotions for ACP's '30 Days of Fashion & Beauty' fattened up Cosmopolitan, Harper's BAZAAR, madison, SHOP Til You Drop and The Australian Women's Weekly, though skinny stablemate Cleo appears to have missed out on the standard 16-page promotional insert (it probably could have done with the support).
Indie titles Frankie and RUSSH are yet to add advertorial to the mix (perhaps decidedly so), while The Weekly is plush with promotional pages. Dad also gets a special look-in this month, with marketers signing up for Father's Day promotions.
FYI, your typical glossy book features:
- Editorial pages
- Advertising pages
- Sponsored advertorial/marketing pages
- In-house ads (websites, subscription offers, affiliated magazines)
- Inserts and gatefold ads
- Competitions and reader discount offers
- Terms and Conditions
- Stockist lists
*Please take all figures as a guide, as I can't promise their absolute accuracy. Publishers vary in how they allocate and define ad/marketing/editorial pages.
Girl With a Satchel