Boston, Culture, Fashion, fashion theory, Feminism, Pop Culture

Boston Bloggers: Boss Ladies

Photos by Elissa Garza of Style-Wire.

I’ve surely mentioned it bitterly a million times before—growing up, I didn’t really have friends who shared my interest in fashion. Between middle school and my three years at college in Florida, I met a lot of people who “loved” fashion as a status symbol, but few who executed personal style as an artistic form of self-expression. Don’t get me wrong. I am lucky to have a circle of loyal, diverse friends, many of whom have been at my side since childhood, and our differences bring invaluable richness to our friendships and group dynamics. With that said, passion is often best enjoyed with company, and my affinity for fashion felt pretty lonely at times. Then, I started Annie’s Fashion Sauce, put together an affiliated Instagram account, and everything changed.

I have encountered so many unexpected perks and exciting experiences since launching Annie’s Fashion Sauce three years ago this month but I never could have anticipated the greatest benefit of all: finding like-minded ladies to inspire and, yes, validate me. As with my fabulous go-to photographer, Miranda Mu, I “met” both Jazzy Roulhac and Nathalia JMag on Instagram, where we quickly became frequent fans of each other’s photos and personal aesthetics. It wasn’t long before we took our cyber-friendships to Facebook, where I discovered that kindred spirits resided behind the photos. Jazzy (the statuesque, retro queen in the red lip), the stylish editor-in-chief of The Beautiful Boston (a.k.a. The Happiness Blog), writer (check out her E-book, HERSTORYhere), and eternal optimist and I are surely the loudest feminists and most annoying social justice warriors on anyone’s Facebook News Feed; and Nathalia, a blogger and up-and-coming fashion designer (and mermaid) soon to appear on Season 15 of Lifetime’s prestigious and infamously grueling competition reality series Project Runway, and I are two Sagittarius ladies who desperately want to know…what is wrong with being confident???

I had only met Jazzy in person once, and neither of us had ever actually crossed paths with Nathalia when we started planning this shoot. While discussing where our three aesthetics overlap and how to style ourselves for the shoot, we decided to pay homage to iconic online shopping websites Nasty Gal and Dolls Kill, both of which have helped create a strong, millennial counter-culture of girls who embrace opportunities to stand out—women who defiantly dress for themselves and have fun doing it. We wanted to capture that spirit, because it’s what brought us together.

Once the photo shoot arrived, we experienced one of life’s most luxurious clichés: making new friends that feel like you’ve known them forever. The three of us instantly clicked, fell into squad formation, and once we wrapped, we took our little party out to dinner, where we toasted to the rare joy of finding people who “get it.” We also gushed about Elissa Garza, one of Boston’s most notable bloggers and side-hustlers, who’s found so much success through her blog Style-Wire, and who graciously volunteered to take these photos in between work and another photo shoot.

I could ramble forever about these boss ladies, but I’d rather you click on the links I’ve included within this post and get to know them and their amazing work, yourself. This surely isn’t the last you’ll see of them on the Sauce, so stay tuned and #StaySaucy. And OBVIOUSLY don’t forget to tune into Project Runway Season 15 on September 15th to watch Nathalia represent Boston’s growing fashion scene.

P.S. Jazzy and I are both wearing customized round, soft-touch sunglasses by REKS Optics. You can get an exclusive offer on your first pair by entering the code TheFashionSauce at checkout. You can find versions of everything else the three of us are wearing in the depths of Nasty Gal and Dolls Kill. Happy shopping!

 

 

 

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Fashion, Feminism, Pop Culture

The Statement Coat

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DSC_1121Maje ‘Ghost’ parka, American Apparel cropped sweater & mom jeans, UNIF ‘Rival’ boots, Nasty Gal beanie & choker, Stella & Dot ‘Rebel Pendant’ necklace in silver, Spitfire ‘Intergalactic’ sunglasses.

First I’d like to make a disclaimer: any and all American Apparel merchandise I wear on this blog (and in life) was purchased before I knew the extent of former CEO’s Dov Charney sexual harassment and exploitation of many of the company’s employees, and before I heard about the new management’s willingness to continue sexualizing American Apparel employees. Though I have made a firm decision not to shop at American Apparel in the future, I’ve also decided not to stop wearing American Apparel merchandise that I already own. I will no longer be including hyperlinks to the American Apparel merchandise that I wear and post on the blog; if you’d like to financially support their business, you will have to browse the site on your own. Another positive alternative to shopping at American Apparel would be to, if you see a product of theirs you like, visit ShopStyle.com and do a search for similar items by brands that set a better example.

Now that that’s out of the way, can we talk about my new Maje coat? Even after last year’s nightmarish winter, the vinyl parka with faux sheepskin lining has me excited about the increasingly cold weather. In addition to being strange and beautiful, the ‘Ghost’ coat is actually extremely warm, which is a good thing, because its ’90s vibes have me inclined to put crop tops underneath on the reg. If I had to describe this outfit, I’d say it’s a 2015-chic take on the wardrobe aesthetic of Kevin Smith classics, like Clerks. It’s the coat that completes the look and brings the outfit to life, and that’s the value of investing in a statement coat. There are times when you simply have to wear a coat, so why not wear one that makes your outfit cooler, as well as more weather-appropriate? Low temperatures and gray skies can make it hard to get out of bed and put genuine effort into crafting a creative look. Enter statement coat, which can magically (and literally) cloak a basic getup with a punch of serious style.

Photos by Miranda Mu

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Fashion

Nike iD


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IMG_1890Shag coat from LF stores, sweater courtesy of Uniqlo, BDG ‘Twig Grazer’ skinny jeans, Sorell Accessories rabbit fur snood, Furla ‘Metropolis’ cross body bag in silver, Nike Air Max Lunar90 sneakers customized with Nike iD.

I think we and our feet can agree that the sneaker’s ongoing presence as a stylish fashion statement is a wonderful thing. But cool sneakers that will provide both comfort and flair are expensive, and personally, I always feel like I’m settling if I choose from an in-store collection. That’s why I think Nike’s customization program, Nike iD, is well worth the few extra bucks and the five-week wait. I customized these Air Max Lunar90 kicks with the ’90s era in mind, drawing inspiration from the colors and patterns of Will Smith’s funky and famous wardrobe as the Fresh Prince. Pairing sneakers like this with bohemian pieces, like this shag “coatigan” and wool hat, along with luxe accessories (real or faux, fur is your friend!) makes for a casual-chic look that oozes style without taking itself too seriously, just like the Prince himself.

Photos by Annie Quinn

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Essays, Feminism, Pop Culture

I Was Not Born a Feminist

I was not born a feminist. I did not even finish high school as a feminist. In my third year of college, I signed up for a women’s studies course. I’m not exactly sure why; I think it was a matter of scheduling, and wanting to take an introductory-level course, as school has always been challenging for me. I mention this because I did not even walk into that course as a feminist. On the first day of class, the professor asked those who did identify as feminists to please raise their hands, and I didn’t raise mine. It’s not that I didn’t understand the question, it was just that…I didn’t understand the question. Three years into my higher education, I still had no idea what feminism really was. That’s why I try not to lose my shit when I run into guys who still make “jokes” about hating feminists because all feminists are angry as a means of making me angry, therefore “proving” that feminists are angry—or when I see that random Facebook users comment that Amy Schumer is only considered a feminist because she is “fat and ugly,” or that racism and feminism have nothing to do with each other. While plenty of assholes and Internet trolls exist on this earth and do make it their bizarre mission to instigate arguments and piss people off, the majority of people who seem ignorant are exactly that. They have no idea what they’re talking about, because no one has educated them on the subject, and while it makes my head spin, I can only get so mad about it, considering that I don’t know whether or not I would be writing this essay if I hadn’t taken that women’s studies course just a few years ago. I can share my opinion that middle school, high school and higher education programs should not only include, but should require gender studies classes. I can try to use this blog as a platform to help contribute to people’s understanding of feminism. I can still picture the smile on my professor’s face when she promised that each and every one of us would consider ourselves feminists before the semester was over. My view of the world, my view of myself—my life—was never the same.

While I can’t blame strangers on Facebook or at school or in the streets for gaps in their education, I can and will call out magazines, social media outlets, and other channels of pop culture, which claim to preach feminism when convenient, for hiring people who clearly don’t have a grasp on the subject, and for letting those people write misguided articles that perpetuate stereotypes, stigmas, ignorance, and general negativity, and for perhaps even capitalizing on the fact that feminism is a popular topic, intentionally confusing the issue to increase engagement on social media. In spite of free speech, I believe that high-profile publications, both in print and online, have an obligation to try to serve as part of the solution, and lately, as many of my readers who follow along with my Facebook page already know, most of the publications I enjoy and follow online—some of the most prominent publications in the world of fashion and that cater to women—have recently and persistently published a slew of antiquated, inflammatory articles and essays that directly contribute to social problems, and swiftly hinder progress.

It’s not as if I grew up without any strong female figures in my life, or that I was taught to avoid feminism. I think growing up, aside from the fact that no one had formally explained feminism to me, I assumed I didn’t have permission to claim the title because of my interest in fashion, which is something people have used to denigrate me for as long as I can remember. When I first started high school, almost ten years ago, I felt that it was largely considered not just uncool, but also apparently indisputably shallow to care about your clothes. I wore what I wanted regardless, and received my fair share of compliments, but someone went out of their way to make me feel stupid, guilty, immoral, and just all-around bad for loving clothes basically every day. Looking back, I realize that what my peers punished me for was not really my interest in fashion, but my desire to be different, and their inability to move past the social stereotypes that no adults were correcting. While the word “superficial” was always closely attached to the conversation, everyone seemed to ultimately take issue with the fact that I didn’t show up to school in the unspoken female uniform of the era: jeans, a Northface fleece jacket, and Ugg boots, all of which typically cost about $200 individually. People liked to use my passions as reason to point a finger at me, call me spoiled, and assert their incredible down-to-earthness, but the only real difference between most of the accusers and myself was that my outfits stood out aesthetically. The irony that I let people use my appearances to call me superficial continues to astound me. I guess if your wardrobe has variety, it’s fair to assume that you spend more money on your clothes, but that’s not the point. If you are reading this and are already aware of intersectional feminism, as well as general common sense and goodness, you know that passing judgment on and shaming people based solely on their socioeconomic background and/or the clothes on their back is inappropriate and unproductive. (I’m aware, by the way, that kids get bullied for much worse in high school. I’m aware that these complaints do come from a place of privilege, but pain is not a contest; no one deserves to be judged on a surface-based level.) What I’ve learned since my teen years, among so many things, is that “feminism” means I get to care about whatever the fuck I want, and express myself however the fuck I want. I didn’t play soccer. I didn’t need cleats. I didn’t play an instrument. I didn’t need lessons. My first love in life was to express myself through personal style, and clothes are my outlet for doing so, and that is valid, and it is no one’s place to tell me otherwise. I have learned that anyone who thinks that this has any effect on my intellect probably isn’t very smart. In college, in the same year that I took women’s studies, I participated in a literary internship that gave me the opportunity to spend some time with author and now-famous feminist, Chimamamanda Ngozie Adichie, who told me that shoes “are her favorite subject” before anything else. She didn’t know it, but in that moment, she freed me from a lifetime of shame. These days, when I encounter people who would like to belittle my passions and what I do, I sometimes get annoyed, but mostly I pity those who live so far in the past and who feel the need to put others down for living lives that don’t exactly mirror their own.

When one of NYLON Magazine’s online writers smugly captioned an article listing facts about Kendall and Kylie Jenner’s high school graduation with “1. They graduated?” on Facebook, it struck a nerve. I had heard that tone before. I had been the target of it too many times, and I couldn’t just sit there and pretend it was ok, especially after NYLON had just shared an excellent essay by a young woman who proudly identifies as fat, and explains that crop tops helped her accept herself. Feminism has no room for favoritism. If you think it’s ironic to defend the Jenner girls in the name of feminism, well we have arrived at my point: don’t bother taking into account that neither Kendall nor Kylie Jenner is even 20 years old and both have full-blown careers and make millions of dollars; the fact that these young women represent what you may consider superficial values does not negate their accomplishment of earning high school diplomas. There is no tasteful reaction to someone’s academic success other than applause, or silence (if you can’t something nice, don’t say anything at all), no matter who that person may be. As someone who always appreciates a good joke, I can confidently say that while it may be a fine line, there is a definite difference between comedy and downright girl-bashing. NYLON’s two words, punctuated by a sarcastic question mark, implied that because the Jenner girls are associated with pop culture, and more specifically, with fashion and beauty, they automatically don’t have what it takes to complete their high school requirements—that pursuing a career in modeling or getting lip injections directly connects to one’s performance in home-schooling. So, I went ahead and took the liberty of tearing NYLON a new, freshly waxed asshole. When my initial comment on the article started to pick up “likes” and replies echoing my frustrations, NYLON wrote back to me with a disappointing excuse, telling me by name that they were being “totally, totally facetious,” and of course not at all condescending or hypocritical, considering almost all of the writers at NYLON presumably earned their professional positions based on both their academic backgrounds, as well as interests that much of society deems low, unimportant, or superficial—interests they share with Kendall and Kylie Jenner. NYLON’s petty reaction reminded me so much of confronting kids for talking behind my back in high school, or for rolling their eyes at the mere sight of me. The magazine’s lame attempt to deny their flagrant insensitivity was absolute bullshit, and it only bothered me and my sudden band supporters even more. Something lit up inside of me when I saw the response I was receiving from strangers, and it’s still growing brighter and stronger every day.

As a feminist and fashion-lover who’s also extremely passionate about writing, and whose life essentially takes place on social media (I’m not embarrassed. You’re reading this.), I can’t stop noticing the troublesome language that myriad publications for women, and which supposedly stand for feminism, use and put out into the world with such ease, as if even they don’t believe that social media matters. What the fuck is a “yummy-mommy?” Well, it’s Vogue’s not-so-adorable term (that doesn’t even rhyme) that perpetuates the notion that pregnancy and motherhood inherently make women unstylish and unappealing. What’s wrong with Rihanna’s latest ad campaign? Absolutely nothing; Rihanna doesn’t have to dress a certain way to prove that she’s black, or that she cares about being black. What is wrong is tossing around a term like “whitewashed” as if it carries no history or weight, and insinuating that anyone who strays from the confines of the stereotypes attached to their race, ethnicity, or culture are automatically abandoning those things and setting a bad example. (For the record, I think Rihanna often does set a bad example for young women in many ways, but I also think she is perhaps one of the most eclectic style icons of our generation, and shows us that having a signature sense of style doesn’t necessarily mean you always adhere to one niche in the world of fashion.) Why is this Harper’s Bazaar list of tips for looking “skinnier” on Instagram problematic? I don’t want to patronize anyone, myself, but I also honestly wish I didn’t have to address such nonsense: body image is a major, and often life-threatening matter to which social media unfortunately sometimes contributes on its own by posing unavoidable comparisons. People need to learn to love themselves, and that’s all the more difficult when they log on to Facebook and see a headline that suggests they should learn to hide instead. Why is this Who What Wear article about which lingerie men prefer also problematic? Well, for starters, because feminism is not just about women. It’s about everyone. It’s for everyone. Gender-equality is an all-inclusive concept, and while we’re making strides here and there, it still seems quite out of reach. (Please watch Emma Watson’s inspiring 2014 United Nations speech about gender equality and her #HeForShe campaign.) As I recently wrote on Facebook (and I’m rewording a little bit here), what so many people fail to understand about the endless stream of articles, books, TV shows, and movies that insist that everything women do and say and wear should be in the interest of pleasing men not only prompts women to remain submissive, but also pressures men into believing they have to act as aggressors, and constantly exert control over women and their bodies in order to be perceived and accepted as “masculine.” Like a lot of people, I used to think women were the only true victims of sexism, but men aren’t as liberated as we typically assume. In that women’s studies course, we watched a documentary (unfortunately, I cannot remember the title) about the vicious cycle of society’s perceived gender roles, and how society continuously imprisons men with its rigid standards of masculinity. I sat there shocked as it showed the evolution of the G.I. Joe action figure. (Why can’t I call it a doll? Why aren’t they all just toys?) Society has spent decades in an ethical debate over Barbie and her unrealistic measurements, which have always been the same, but few people realize that the original G.I. Joe looked like an “average-sized” man with totally attainable muscle mass, and has slowly evolved to resemble someone whose body-type could only be obtained by spending countless hours lifting weights, and/or with the assistance of steroids. Society clings to this “boys will be boys” perspective on male violence, when so much of that violence is the result of social constructs we’ve created ourselves, and to which there are solutions. In some ways, we have achieved equality, in that everyone in this world is at some point asked to step inside an easily identifiable box of social norms, and stay there. Most of the time, it doesn’t fit, but so many people don’t admit to their discomfort, and instead choose to conform for fear of being outcast. Why isn’t it ok to question whether or not Caitlyn Jenner’s docuseries I Am Cait lives up to the “hype”? Well, because she isn’t telling her story for the sake of ratings. (Seriously, stop saying that.) Caitlyn Jenner isn’t just the former-Olympian father figure on Keeping Up With the Kardashians anymore. She’s officially one of the foremost transgender icons and role models in the world, and in human history. To those stubborn Facebook users out there: why can’t you compare transgender teen, Jazz Jennings, of I Am Jazz, to Caitlyn Jenner? Well, for starters, because they’re two different people, but also because the transgender community is in desperate need of role models and social representation, and to limit that group to one spokesperson is to marginalize their existence, and also ignores the many other, diverse transgender individuals who’ve already come out and stood up as activists. (It’s bemusing how, when people take to social media to bash the reality television industry and claim it has no merit at all whatsoever, they often inadvertently reveal that they are not actually capable of seeing of what’s not immediately visible to them on reality TV shows.) The suicide rate within the transgender population is reason enough to avoid pitting transgender celebrities against each other, and not for nothing, but how can anyone’s scope be so narrow that they fail to see how incredibly lucky we are to have a 15-year-old transgender woman and a 65-year-old transgender woman in the spotlight simultaneously? The entire angle of Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer made it clear that most of the world feels unfamiliar with the transgender experience, and we need to educate ourselves. Would you assume you could learn everything about what it’s like to be African-American from one black person alone, or that one Jewish person’s take on Judaism could sum it all up? No, because that would be absurd. (Also, not many people seem to actively wonder why we need to know what “real housewives” are arguing about in multiple cities, but I’ve read literally dozens of comments on Facebook from people who think they have to choose one transgender celebrity to support.) We learn some overlapping, but ultimately completely different and equally valuable things from Jennings and Jenner and their friends and families, all of whom have put themselves out there to promote acceptance and safety, to let people in the LGBTQ community know that they are not alone—to save lives. In addition, if I’ve learned anything from the three installments of I Am Cait that have aired so far, it’s that Jenner’s vantage point of privilege does not even begin to scrape the surface of the struggles so many transgender people face, and society needs to witness a wider spectrum of those experiences in order to increase understanding and improve those precious lives. (Jenny Boylan, Laverne Cox, and many others have been reminding us of this fact for a long time, from platforms less glamorous than the cover of Vanity Fair.) And for those of you who think it’s blasphemous to associate the word “feminism” with anyone who’s been on Kardashians other than Caitlyn, read this Rolling Stone interview with Kim and then get back to me. It definitely got me thinking: no other women talk so unashamedly about their vaginas on television as the Kardashian sisters do. None. Why am I harping on the Kardashian clan so much right now? Because I want you to understand that feminism is broad, forgiving, and can never be gauged on image alone. Because I like to spend my money on clothes, facials, and decorative manicures, and I read the product reviews on Sephora.com more frequently than I read any major newspaper, and I sing to my own reflection for hours on end—and sometimes I hate what I see—and none of that makes me dumb, or a bad feminist, or a bad person. None of that even comes close to defining my whole complex existence.

The difficulty of writing this essay is that I could go on forever. Because feminism is intersectional and so very multi-faceted, it bleeds into every virtually every aspect of human life. I won’t stop here. I’ll definitely write more essays that discuss (or yell about) feminism going forward; but I guess I’d like to close this one by saying that there is hope. Anger isn’t the only emotion I experience as a feminist. Progress has been and continues to be made every day, and I see it every day. (I’m proud to report that NYLON actually revised some of the Facebook headlines about which I complained to have a more positive, politically correct tone, and even published an interesting article admitting to their conflicting and often imprudent messages, stating, “…we don’t always have a united front when we should, but we are always figuring it out. And sometimes, our readers rightfully call us out on this fact.” (However, this article unfortunately attempts to pawn their racism and other offenses off on other companies, such as Instagram, and does not confront some of the mistakes they’ve made that most urgently need to be addressed and redacted.)) The problem with how many mixed messages I see on my Facebook Newsfeed, many of which come from the same sources, is that it makes it so difficult for people to navigate their role in society and know how to conduct themselves in social situations. When I’m confronted by someone who still thinks “I hate feminists” is a legitimate punchline (good one…), or anyone who casually/”jokingly” says anything that I find downright anti-feminist, racist, etc., I have to wonder if it’s because that person has just received too many mixed messages through social media, and simply can’t decipher the positive from the negative. Perhaps that person was essentially told, in a matter of sixty seconds, that Amy Schumer is a comedic hero for all audiences, that it’s ok to physically abuse women if you’re a professional athlete, that there is finally a woman coaching in the NFL, that Rihanna’s latest ad campaign is a disgrace to black women everywhere, that Rihanna should be able to reveal her nipples on absolutely any platform, that women should choose their clothing based on what men like, that women should feel proud of whatever size they wear, and that Caitlyn Jenner’s most recent accomplishment was wearing a formfitting dress. I can’t imagine being inundated with that contradictory, and frequently politically incorrect content without that lone, introductory course under my belt. I’m not an actual expert on feminism, but I am proof that it doesn’t take long to become comfortable with the concept if you have the resources, open your mind, and really listen.

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Essays, Feminism, Humor, Pop Culture

LOL: I Received Death Threats For Saying I Don’t Think Shailene Woodley is a Good Actress

Before I get into the details of the title of this post, I’d like to apologize for my near month-long hiatus from the Sauce. I’ve been getting back into the swing of school, trying to become a legitimate adult who doesn’t smoke weed every day and does laundry on a regular basis, and spending quality time with my boyfriend, friends and family without checking social media every minute. Oh, and I cut off about eight inches of my hair and bleached the ends, and I am LOVING it—but more on that another time. I’ve been meaning to let my readers in on the fact that I consider myself a writer first and a stylist second. I’ve been meaning to write more essays about pop culture and feminism on the blog, and last night presented the perfect opportunity to start.

A while back, some journalist or whatever (it’s a loose term these days) asked 22-year-old actress Shailene Woodley if she identifies as a feminist. It’s something the media wants every woman in the public eye to address right now—not because it’s a crucial topic, but more often because, in a disgrace to the idea of feminism itself, it has, in many ways, become a misguided trend that certain people carry around like a handbag. Don’t get me wrong; society has made some incredible feminist progress lately, but there are also many people who don’t actually know what feminism means (cough, cough, Rhianna) and who seem to say “I’m a feminist!” the same way they might say “I’m wearing Valentino!” Shailene Woodley is not one of those people. Her response to the question was basically that she does not identify as a feminist because she doesn’t believe it’s appropriate to suggest that women are superior to men. Clearly, Woodley was a little confused on the topic, and the media consequently pounced on the opportunity to shame her for this, which bothered me. For one thing, Woodley is quite young—a year younger than myself—and, given that she’s starred in a new movie just about every hour for several years now, I think it’s safe to say she hasn’t had time to take a Women’s Studies course, which is where I came to comprehend the true meaning of feminism, a mere year before the dialogue on feminist issues became the lively, ubiquitous one it is today. Without the luxury of taking that course on gender-related social conflict (a subject that should be required of all liberal arts programs), I’m not so sure my response would have been any better informed than Woodley’s. Secondly, Shailene Woodley is an actress: it isn’t exactly her job to talk about social/political issues or to explain the concept of feminism to the rest of us, and even though her level of celebrity comes with a certain level of responsibility, I still don’t think it was right for her to be cornered or criticized in this way. I also happen to think she’s not a very good actress.

I must admit, I can be a film and television snob. I have my guilty pleasures, but for the most part, I’m picky and critical when it comes to film. Film and television are two of my foremost passions, perhaps in part because dialogue is my favorite component of writing. I literally watch a full movie almost every day, and I’ve gone out of my way to study the subject formally even though I am an English Literature major (Boston University offers some wonderful film/lit combo courses), so I’ve been trained to hold all aspects of film, including actor performances, to a certain standard. I should state that I do understand movies should be judged for what they are: not every movie is made to be an Oscar-worthy, meaningful masterpiece; in fact, most movies simply serve to entertain a specific demographic, but, in my opinion, that shouldn’t affect an actor’s drive to convey their characters authentically. Before I say anything about Woodley’s acting ability, I should also confess that I haven’t seen The Descendants (2011), which was Woodley’s breakout, critically acclaimed movie, nor have I seen this year’s blockbuster Divergent, because, you know, I’m not in high school. (See? I can be a snob.) I did, however, recently watch Woodley’s movies The Spectacular Now (2013), The Fault in Our Stars (2014), and White Bird in a Blizzard (2014), all of which are based on successful young adult novels, and I feel strongly that Woodley’s performances in all three were weak, synthetic, forced, and mechanical. Woodley wasn’t my only problem with these movies. I thought The Spectacular Now was a flat-noted rip-off of an iconic movie called Say Anything (1989). Maybe you’ve heard of it? I also thought Woodley received a little too much applause when she cut her hair for her role as a cancer patient in The Fault in Our Stars, based on the novel by John Greene (which I happened to enjoy). She’s not the first actor to alter her appearance for a role, but she is the only one I can think of whose “team” felt compelled to share a tearful video of the transformation, and, you know, there are actual people with cancer who don’t get paid millions to lose their hair. Anyway, while the book made me cry, the film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars made me cringe. Plenty of filmmakers have managed to gracefully incorporate today’s technology into their movies, while the masterminds behind The Fault in Our Stars decided the best way to depict teen-texting in a tale of complex love and intense loss would be…animation? As for Woodley, she can’t be blamed for that flaw, but I felt she made the character seem a bit too apathetic, although perhaps this was her subconscious reaction to her costar Ansel Elgort’s painfully cheesy performance (—acting is reacting!!!). The trailer for White Bird in a Blizzard promised a suspenseful and unique coming of age story, but it’s actually just another movie that perpetuates the notion that husbands “walk out” on their families, while wives “disappear.” (Let us always keep in mind that both men and women are victims of gender stereotyping.) Not to mention, it’s a total bore. The entire movie seems to avoid its own plot (that Woodley’s character’s mother has mysteriously vanished), and is mostly comprised of Woodley and Gabourey Sidibe taking swigs of vodka and having cliché conversations about loss of virginity, as if it is the single most important goal a girl will encounter. The way Woodley and Sidibe read their lines is reminiscent of a high school play, but not of high school itself. Neither Woodley nor I was 17 years old so long ago, and yet, based on her performances in these movies, you’d think she has no memory of that chapter in her life. Well, maybe she doesn’t; after all, she’s been playing the role of an adolescent girl on-screen since 2008, so it’s possible that she never really got to be one. Either way, if an actress takes on a role, I expect her to fulfill it, and I feel that Woodley repeatedly misses the mark. And I know you might think that I’m pompously over-analyzing movies meant for an age group that hasn’t fully matured, but if you compare these current hyped-up teen flicks to classics like The Breakfast Club (1985) and Mean Girls (2004), you might realize that the quality of these newer movies actually patronizes the teenage demographic.

Let me digress for a moment and explain something about myself. There are few things I value more than humor; I love fashion, but I live for laughs. In spite of my stylish social media presence, I spend most of my time in sweats, trolling Netflix, Amazon, and On Demand for fresh comedy that will make me laugh out loud. I have been watching South Park religiously since it first aired in 1997—when I was seven. I have watched almost every stand-up special (and every documentary about stand-up comedy) available on Netflix more than once. I believe that comedy helps us better understand the world and each other, and that it helps us heal. Comedy colors so much of my identity as a woman, as an American, as a person of Jewish faith, and as a human being trying to get through each day with a smile. Making people laugh makes me feel good, and as sentimental as I can be about humor, I also tend to revel in the “mean” kind of jokes that society so badly wants women to avoid. Needless to say, I adored and admired Joan Rivers, and I was devastated by her passing. Sarah Silverman, another hero of mine, put it perfectly when she wrote of Rivers, “She was 81 and she was taken too soon.”  In many ways, Joan gave me permission to be the dynamic type of woman I am today—a woman who can be fashionable and funny without feeling like a contradiction. Joan knew the importance of laughing a little at everyone, including herself. When she died, there were plenty of “haters,” if you will, who expressed bizarre happiness over the comedienne’s death, probably because Rivers had at one point made scathing, but nonetheless harmless jokes about said haters’ favorite celebrities. Part of me wanted to retaliate against those who celebrated Rivers’ death instead of her life, but if I know one thing, it’s that if there is an afterlife, Joan is somewhere laughing her ass off at those negative remarks, and blowing kisses at the people who cracked jokes about the fact that the Queen of plastic surgery died on the operating table. She would have loved that. Anyway, Joan’s particular sense of humor had a major impact on my own, and my sense of humor is something of which I’ve always been quite proud.

So, last night, after Modern Family and South Park, I decided to give Woodley another chance, and rented White Bird in a Blizzard, mostly because I really liked director Gregg Araki’s classic stoner movie Smiley Face (2007). (See? I’m only a snob to an extent.) Unfortunately, I found myself sitting through another one of Woodley’s dull portrayals of a young woman “discovering herself,” and so I tweeted, without hesitation, and perhaps in the spirit of honoring Joan Rivers, “It’s not Shailene Woodley’s job to accurately define feminism. Her job is acting. She just happens to suck at that too.” I gave myself a laugh, and didn’t give it much thought, because my tweets typically get little to no attention, and because it never occurred to me that my stance on Woodley’s performances would matter to anyone. After all, it wasn’t a comment on her character, just on the way she portrays fictional characters…No one in Twitter Land had anything to say about my two prior tweets that day: “I hate when a piece of food I really want refuses to get aboard my utensil and into my mouth. #GetInMyBelly”, and “GAP’s ‘dress normal’ campaign is giving me rage blackout. #BeAnIndividual.” My Woodley joke, however, did make some waves. Within seconds, Divergent diehards were ripping me apart. I was asked not “h8.” I was called a “wannabe hipster” and told to “go do a photo shoot with a pumpkin spice latte” (I don’t drink coffee). I was repeatedly reminded that Woodley has received close to thirty nominations for various awards, which I will admit is pretty impressive for such a young actress. However, in an era where ten films get nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture just so the Oscars will have higher ratings, and since the majority of Woodley’s nominations have come from less prestigious associations that specifically honor young actors’ performances in projects targeting the teen demographic (a Teen Choice Award isn’t exactly proof of notable talent in my book), I’m just…not convinced that she’s so exceptional. I was told, in myriad ways, to shut the fuck up. These comments made me laugh harder than my own, but then I was told that I am “the reason white people are perceived as retards”, which I found especially troubling, because I don’t think my negative opinion of a young starlet’s career to date warrants using the word retard in that ugly, derogatory manner, and because I’m not sure how or why my opinion on Woodley as a professional actress could trigger such racism. (Plus, I’m 99.9% sure that Woodley is white…so I was pretty confused about that particular person’s point.) And then a shocking number of people said they would kill me.

Everyone knows the expression that no press is bad press, and maybe that’s true. Regardless, I have to admit, receiving death threats freaked me out a little—though perhaps not as much as the incalculable spelling errors in those threats. (If you regularly spell words with numbers instead of letters, you should reevaluate your life.) Mostly, I was left thinking, What’s the big fucking deal? I realize that Shailene Woodley is the star of many popular movies based on beloved young adult novels, and that she sits front row at Miu Miu fashion shows. However, as far as I know, she hasn’t actually won any of the more high-profile awards to discredit my opinion (the operative word being opinion—there are plenty of actors with Golden Globes and Oscars under their belts whose work I also dislike); Woodley certainly isn’t making progressive feminist speeches at the U.N. that bring me to tears (for the record, I don’t think Emma Watson’s acting track record is so hot, either), and, most importantly, who the fuck threatens someone’s life for not loving an actress’s body of work? For years now, I have considered social media to be a venue for jokes, and it makes me sad that there are people out there who feel compelled to take this side of pop culture so seriously. If you consider the history of the entertainment industry, you’ll realize that criticism plays an integral role in the fun of it all—and that’s what I was doing: having fun; so I find it highly disconcerting that Woodley’s Twitter fans took such a violent approach to enjoying her work. If you love an actor/actress, do you need complete strangers to agree? Ultimately, it’s not a big deal. I realize that I have a minuscule following, and that Twitter users will be over me and onto the next apparent travesty before I even finish writing this. What does bother me is that I honestly believe that if I’d previously tweeted something about how Woodley was wrongly criticized for her misguided commentary on feminism, no one would have noticed.

If you read my blog regularly, you might remember my angry rant regarding people’s negative Facebook comments about Lena Dunham’s body, and you might be thinking to yourself that I of all people should understand how it feels to be upset by savage remarks about a celebrity one holds in high esteem. There’s a difference, though, between judging someone for their appearances, and judging someone for the quality of their work. I honestly don’t care about Shailene Woodley’s looks, the same way Dunham’s body doesn’t affect my perspective on the integrity of her career. You might also be thinking to yourself, Didn’t Joan Rivers host a weekly show called Fashion Police, on which she eviscerated various celebrities for their appearances, and aren’t I therefore being extremely hypocritical? That’s a very good question! However, Rivers never, to my knowledge, suggested that a person’s outfit choices had anything to do with talent, and I feel that many people discredit and dismiss Lena Dunham’s work simply because they find her physically unappealing. I discredited Woodley’s work solely based on her work itself. Ultimately, I’m sure Shailene Woodley is the wonderful lady her fans so ferociously insist she is, I just don’t think her talent matches the hype, and I really don’t think that’s a good reason to want me dead. And not for nothing, but you know who definitely doesn’t give a shit about my Woodley joke? The young actress who makes millions of dollars and has millions of fans (who are apparently prepared to kill to defend her honor) and sits in the front row at Miu Miu runway shows. So I don’t think Shailne Woodley is a good actress…Kill me!

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Essays, Feminism, Pop Culture

Lena Dunham: Why Are You Still Talking About Her Body?

Fashion Food for Thought…

Today is Lena Dunham’s 28th birthday. I’d like you to take that in—consider all she has accomplished by this young age, and how much you yourself achieved, or hope to achieve, by 28. In honor of her birthday, one of my favorite fashion magazines posted a picture on Facebook of Lena in a lovely dress, with a link to a compilation of that magazine’s favorite witty and wise quotes from Ms. Dunham. This made me happy…until I saw the first four comments. One man wrote, in all capital letters, “FAT SLOB.” I browsed this guy’s profile pictures. He is well overweight. Another man wrote, “What a mess!” Yes: a young woman with a wildly successful and dynamic career, incalculable accolades for said career, and a positive self-image…such a mess! Another young woman commented, “She is fate.” Since that doesn’t make sense, I presume this person was attempting to write, “She is fat.” Actually, Lena Dunham is a talented writer, and one should probably grasp the spelling of first-grade level, three-letter words before deciding to scathe her. The only remotely positive comment I saw on this post read, “LOVE YOU NO MATTER WHAT!” Assuming the woman who wrote this is not Lena Dunham’s mother and doesn’t know Lena Dunham personally at all, what does that even mean? Dunham has never been accused of any kind of lewd or criminal behavior that we often see and associate with young starlets, and her evidently loving, healthy relationship with her musician boyfriend has never, to my knowledge, been scandalous enough for the tabloids. So—and maybe I’m the one with the problem here—I can’t help but figure that this Facebook user’s “loving” remark was her way of saying, “I enjoy your work even though you are not conventionally attractive.”

Ok, where do I begin? Everyone wants to know why Lena Dunham chooses to expose her body so frequently on GIRLS, but fewer people seem to wonder why Sports Illustrated needs an annual swimsuit edition (although I must send good vibes to those who called out the magazine for that totally bizarre Barbie thing), or why the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is such a hyped-up televised event. Here’s the thing, and I know this may shock some people…but skinny folks aren’t the only ones having sex. In fact, skinny people aren’t the only ones who receive sexual attention and affection. HBO’s GIRLS, whether you like the show or not, attempts to depict the real-life experiences of twenty-somethings (who come in all shapes and sizes), and sex is a big part of that. Sex generally plays a large role in most of stages of life, but as a twenty-something myself, I think I can attest to the fact that sex and dating cause especially extreme confusion during this chapter—and I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m pretty sure most people don’t wear clothes during intercourse. With the freedom HBO gives its shows, why should Dunham have to reduce the verisimilitude of the highly relatable sexual content in GIRLS just because she doesn’t look like those girls in Sports Illustrated? (Isn’t that kind of the point of the show itself?—that is focuses on regular girls?) Something tells me Dunham is more satisfied with titles such as writer, director, actress, and Golden Globe-winner than she would be with Victoria’s Secret Angel, and society needs to allow her to take pride in those roles she does fulfill. After all, it’s not like she sought out to be a style icon. If anything, viewers should feel vexed by how other TV shows that claim to convey the human sexual experience, such as Showtime’s Masters of Sex, seem to exclusively cast actors who do meet society’s unrealistic standards of physical beauty. I also can’t help but speculate that, if Dunham did fit into our culture’s warped conventions, people wouldn’t be so disgusted by her nudity, and the vast majority would harp on how miraculous it was that a “beautiful” woman could also be so intelligent and successful.

Please do not think I am shaming models or any female public figures who do fit the typical description of “beauty”; as a fashion enthusiast and blogger, I am aware of the genuine hard work that goes into modeling careers (plus, for every five remotely attractive pictures you see of me on this blog, there are about a hundred blackmail-worthy shots, too), and as a lover of “high fashion” in particular, I know and appreciate that the models in fashion magazines and on high-profile runways usually have unconventional features, themselves. In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably also admit that I am entirely guilty of worshipping various models, actresses, singers, etc. based on their physical features and outfits alone. Still, it bothers me that someone like supermodel Miranda Kerr receives little to no criticism for building a career based on her body, and is constantly praised for things like birthing a child, practicing yoga, and sleeping with magic “healing” crystals on her nightstand, while Dunham’s accomplishments are so frequently overshadowed by the scrutiny of her physique. However, as I’ve mentioned before, this issue does come full-circle: while society urges Dunham to put more effort into her looks, many of us who do take fashion seriously are automatically stamped as shallow and unintellectual. Although writing a fashion blog may seem to highlight the importance of appearances, my goal as a fashion blogger is actually to highlight the importance of self-expression, and in that regard, Lena Dunham is more of a role model to me than many of the people who are directly connected to the fashion industry. As a devoted fan of GIRLS, I can honestly say that Dunham’s body never phases me, because her body is essentially beside the point. Of course some of those scenes make me uncomfortable at times—ambiguous relationships and sexual encounters in the midst of quarter-life crises are fucking uncomfortable—but I watch each episode feeling relieved and empowered, because Dunham so accurately portrays and represents the excitement and the awkwardness that come with romantic and sexual discovery. Regardless of my dress size, when I watch Lena Dunham on GIRLS—that “fat slob,” as some call her—I see myself. And so, I just have one question: why are you still talking about her body?10312416_10152260589807562_3503956057375354444_n

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Essays, Fashion, Feminism, Humor, Pop Culture

Talking Fashion

During a recent pause my in my anthropology class, a female classmate and I got into an enthusiastic conversation about fashion—about how street style culture in Boston is definitely on the rise, and about some of our favorite designers. One of the boys in class (who, by the way, wears one dangly earring, and in my opinion has a pretty distinct sense of style) interjected to patronize us, saying, “I don’t get why anyone cares about designer labels. I rip the labels off my clothes.” (I guess he’s never considered that some underprivileged children might have worked really hard to sew those labels in. But like, what could be worse than adhering to labels!? Oh, wait—being the person who says, “I don’t adhere to labels” out loud.) I looked at him and asked, “Do you like music?” and because he is a living, breathing human, he said yes. So I explained to him that being a fan of a fashion designer is no different than being a fan of a musician (or a painter, or a writer, etc.). I explained that I wear certain labels because I appreciate their work—because it speaks to me on a personal level. If their work were to become shitty (poor in quality or simply not relevant to my personal style), I wouldn’t keep buying their stuff…the same way people reject musicians or authors or movie directors when their work goes down the toilet. A designer’s body of work is like any other artist’s, and those of us who understand fashion reference it similarly. Specific collections and eras in fashion are just like albums and eras in music, and all other artistic media. (1950s Christian Dior, “Led Zeppelin II,” 1990s Helmut Lang, Picasso’s blue period…You get it.) And I added, “Music, and all art forms, are just as superficial as fashion, and I’m amused by people who think it’s any different.” He shifted his weight awkwardly from one foot to the other and grumbled, “Well, now it’s like that…” as if the music industry was molested by its drunk uncle and then ran away with its already corrupt friend, the fashion industry, to self-destruct and destroy all our souls—as if music hasn’t had a strong superficial side since long before this kid was even born. In my opinion, mainstream music has become more about image and less about artistic integrity while fashion has strived to exponentially push creative boundaries. But because fashion is so directly linked with physical appearances, people constantly assume it’s a shallow and artless industry, and that people who take an interest in fashion are empty, superficial people. This…is bullshit, and an ironically judgmental and superficial point of view.

I was struggling in my sixth grade science class, so the teacher pulled me out of the classroom not to ask how she could help me better grasp the material, but to tell me that I was “just like Cher in Clueless” and that I viewed school as “nothing but a fashion show.” Forget the fact that everyone has a different learning style—I liked clothes, so obviously this was the source of my academic difficulty, right? It’s been ten years, and I have more than a few cute outfits to put on my résumé. And yet, there will always be people who dismiss me for loving fashion—for “caring about designer labels.” Designing clothes, constructing garments, and putting outfits together are extremely artistic, labor-intensive processes. For me, getting dressed is a liberating form of self-expression that’s actually devoid of labels—I can be a different version of myself every day. It helps me get out of bed in the morning, and I’m never going to let anyone put me down for taking joy in that.

Yes, fashion has its superficial qualities: money, intimidation, popularity, sex appeal, harsh criticism, and some other deadly sins play major roles in the whole fashion scene (not to mention the issue of manufacturing), and these aspects of the industry have presented some moral conflicts for me at times. People tend to automatically respect artistic media such as writing or what you might find in art exhibits and galleries because they expect that kind of work to represent larger moral concepts, while fashion is vilified because it presumably only represents “what’s hot right now.” However, the fact that society tells us it’s okay to spend thousands of dollars on a painting and shames those who invest in clothing is problematic—because this has caused me to ask myself, Can I be a good person if I pursue a career in fashion?; If I follow that path, am I automatically anti-feminist? I took a women’s studies course in which we read a book called The Cult of Thinness, which compared America’s obsession with weight and appearances to some of the most dangerous religious cults. The cover of the book was a photo of a fashion show finale (—judging by the nude-colored sheaths, I would venture to guess it was a Calvin Klein ’90s catwalk), and I felt a pang of guilt for knowing more than one of the models by name. I had a momentary identity crisis, and then I realized that feminism means exerting my power to pursue whatever career I want, and that I can have a positive impact on this so-called “cult.” I can remind people that fashion is an art, and encourage everyone to embrace their unique beauty and to wear what makes them happy, not what the media claims is cool. Though fashion may seem like the most exclusive club, it’s actually wildly inclusive: it’s all about celebrating the weird (i.e. that high fashion stuff that is often categorically unwearable), drawing inspiration from different cultures, uniting those cultures, and, of course, unconditional acceptance. What would the fashion industry be without the LGBT community?

There are countless movements within the fashion world to right its wrongs—more and more companies/designers are sweatshop free, make stylish plus-sized collections, and collaborate with stores like Target to offer high-end looks at affordable prices. And everyone who actually understands fashion knows that those who do buy and wear designer labels for the sake of status just don’t get it. Plus, if you’re going to attack the fashion industry for being a “cult” that pressures people into an unhealthy obsession with appearances, you might also want to examine the whole “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” thing…and if you think trends don’t play into music, movies, TV shows, and the whole “real” art scene, well, you’re pretty fucking delusional. Fashion might appear to revolve around trends and putting people down, but I’ve witnessed fashion’s power to raise spirits. I spent the last year working in fashion retail, and helping women piece together ensembles that visibly boosted their confidence was so rewarding, and definitely restored my faith in the positive nature of fashion and personal style. Ultimately, fashion is just like anything else: an exciting and contradictory combination of good and evil. Love it or hate it, fashion brings people together and makes the world a little more colorful. With that said, stay saucy my friends (and watch this quintessential scene from The Devil Wears Prada)…

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