Thursday, 18 April 2013

Changing The Conversation Pt. 2: The Dove "Real Beauty" Sketches

If you've been anywhere near social media in the last few days then you've probably already seen or heard about Dove's latest campaign effort: The Dove "Real Beauty" Sketches.

The sketches are presented as a "social experiment" to show women that they are "more beautiful than they think." A forensic artist draws two sketches of each woman: one drawn from descriptions she gives of herself, the other from a stranger's description of her features. We then sit back in awe as the woman in question is presented with both sketches; confronted with the fact that she is perceived to be significantly more attractive than she considers herself to be.

Now, I've taken Dove to task for this campaign before (in fact that post remains the most read and visited post on this blog, week after week, more than 6 months later) but I think that it bears repeating why this campaign, while clearly well-intentioned, is horribly misguided.

I'll even admit that I fell for it at first, I really did. When you watch these women's reactions to seeing how much worse they perceive themselves, it's very hard to not get sucked into the emotion of the moment, and to commiserate with your own insecurities about your appearance. It's a burden that women are forced to bear from the moment they are old enough to perceive their femininity. We all know how critical we can be about our appearance; we're desperate to find a way to fit ourselves into the box that is society's definition of "beauty".

So I smiled, and I felt fuzzy inside, and I came away with the message Dove wanted me to come away with: "You are more beautiful than you think." And I even felt good that Dove had "finally gotten it right". But after reading this excellent piece that calls out all the problematic elements of the campaign, I realized that I had let myself be bamboozled by good intentions. The marketing machine had swallowed me. 

Because in actuality, this new iteration of the campaign is just as problematic as the first.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Confession: I Got Fired From My First "Real" Job. Here's How That's Working Out For Me.

I got fired from my job as a copywriter two weeks ago today.

After six months of working my ass off at an advertising agency, I was told that maybe the work just "wasn't for me." I'm not even sure that I disagree.

I'm confident in my writing ability, and I'm great with ideas, but creative writing is not my thing. I write about real issues, in the real world, that I'm passionate about. Pulling headlines from mid-air has never been what I do.

And yet, I'd be lying if I said it didn't sting to be told I wasn't good enough. It hurt to feel like I had failed where I had been so determined to excel.

Because the thing is, I liked my job. A lot. I legitmately loved going there everyday and I loved the work I did, and the people I worked with. I'm genuinely upset to not be working there anymore.

Landing the job in the first place was a coup. I wasn't qualified. Not really. But I was passionate, and eager and willing to learn, so they let me take a shot. But I botched it, apparently.

The metaphorical crash and burn...

If I'm honest? I don't think I got a fair shot at succeeding in the position. I made no illusions about my qualifications when I was hired, and I'm grateful to have been given a chance, but I was never given any kind of useful feedback that could have helped me to improve.

I didn't study advertising. I didn't know the first thing about writing copy. And all of that would have been fine if I'd been given some kind of guidance. I can be a self-starter, but there's no way I could have absorbed 4 years worth of information on my own without at least a cursory push in the right direction.

I was never given any real direction.

But honestly, it doesn't matter. No company owes me a job. No one owes me a continued salary, and from a pragmatic point of view, it didn't make sense to keep me on if they felt that they weren't getting a return on their investment. I'm at peace with that. It'll take some time for the sting to abate, but eventually it will pass. I'll learn from this experience, I'll find another job, and in a year or two I'll laugh about how stressed this entire situation made me.

Thing is, I'm still young and my life is still ahead of me, but in the moment, it's hard not to feel like I've failed at something. The job market is so poor, and jobs are so hard to come by. To get a great job and lose it... it's hard on the ego. I won't even lie to you.

I hadn't planned on writing about this here because I was initially so embarrassed, but reading this Thought Catalog piece early last week made me realize that this was a chance to learn something about myself, and to figure out a way to handle it with grace. I'm not sure I've done very well on the grace front, but I have learned a lot about growing up, being an adult, and the difficult decisions that come along with that.

But it's only been two weeks. Let's see what else the world has got to throw at me.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

CNTM: Overstated, Underwhelmed, Unimpressed

Stephany for CNTM Week 8
via CNTM
Stephany photographed by Pedro Virgil

I'll spoil it for you now. Both Trudy and Susan were eliminated and only Stephany and Treveen remain. There really isn't much more to say about it other than that, so we'll skip straight to the recap.

Stephany continues to surprise me. While I'm not completely convinced that she's ready for the kind of work that CNTM should be preparing her for, she's been creeping up in the ranks. She improves every week, and  has been focusing on improving rather than interpersonal drama. She's slowly convincing me that she's a contender. This shot is one her strongest to date. It's dramatic and eye-catching, but I can't be sure that that is due to her skill as a model. I am confident that she has a future in modelling however. She has an incredible presence and continues to show that she would be pleasant to work with. Going into the finale, I'm cautiously putting my bets on Curacao.

I'm beginning to think that the competition is actually doing a disservice to these girls because it isn't requiring them to really push themselves to their limits. It's so apparent that these girls have talent and potential, but week after week, they fall short of what they're capable of. If it's a problem that affflicts all the models, then I have to think that the issue is in the competition, and not with the models.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

My Secret Celeb Best Friend: Lizzy Caplan Edition

I want Lizzy Caplan to be my best friend. I bet you want her to be your best friend too. Tough shit though, 'cuz I called dibs.

You know that feeling you get when you read about a celebrity enough, or see enough of their work that you think you have them figured out? "JLaw looks like she'd be down to hang!" you say. Or "Rebel Wilson would be awesome to party with." Yeah, that feeling. That, I-have-never-met-you-but-I-bet-you're-awesome-and-we-should-totally-be-besties-right-now feeling. Here are all the reasons I get the warm-snugglies about my girl Lizzy here.

Arguably best known as Janice Ian in Mean Girls, Lizzy Caplan isn't the girl you want to fuck with. If you do, she'll make your face smell like feet, and make you fat with Swedish health bars.

Well maybe this is just me, but I seriously think Lizzy Caplan is stunning. I just like her face. She has these big gorgeous eyes that stare into you, and you think it's romantic, but really she's rooting around inside you to identify all your bullshit. She has the kind of effortless looks that most women simply cannot achieve  Roll out of bed? Still gorgeous.
I lied. I'm very jealous.

Let's look at her role as Kate Hudson's best friend in My Best Friend's Girl, or as Amy in True Blood. You  KNOW Lizzy is gonna try to make you do some dumb shit like take advantage of some poor guy, or get high on vampire blood. Lizzy is all about that. Because Lizzy has no fucks to give. Also, she has a big lesbian  crush on you, because she's too gay to function.

I think this is self-explanatory. You know the one. They slightly messed up, carefree, possibly drug using sidekick who never bothered to get her shit together. And I still love her.

But actually. Just look at this "fashion film". Aren't they all incredibly insufferable? My girl Lizzy knows that. She's in on the joke you guys. My girl Lizzy is with it. I love her.

Look, I understand that I'm conflating Lizzy the person with all the different characters she plays, but I think that the parts an actress accepts say a lot about the actress themselves. Lizzy's roles? All badass, ergo, Lizzy is badass.

But seriously, Lizzy Caplan is all kinds of awesome and I love her. She's just the first in a long line of awesome secret celebrity best friends I haven't told anyone about because I'm contractually obligated not to.

I know, I know... I have problems.

Who is your secret celebrity best friend? Let me know in the comments. I swear I won't judge you!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Photo of the Day: Christina Hendricks for Flare Magazine

Christina Hendricks by Max Abadian

Because you didn't already know, I wanted to demonstrate how impressively flawless Christina Hendrick's face is.
There. Flawless.

Monday, 8 April 2013

CNTM: Disrupting the CHI

via CNTM
A still from Stephany's winning CHI nailpolish commercial

My biddies, I apologize for this very late review. This week has been hectic, and unfortunately it meant that CNTM dropped to the bottom of my list of priorities. I promise, I did not forget you. But since episode seven airs tonight, and as of yet the footage from the models' commercials has not been made available online, this will be a very abbreviated review.

Honestly, the only thing I really want to talk about this week was Athaliah's unceremonious ejection in favour of Susan in the bottom two last week. Now, Athaliah has garnered herself very few fans over the course of this season, and I would hardly count myself among them, but she did not deserve to be eliminated so early. That is simply a fact. And to send her home in favour of keeping a girl who has yet to take a good picture on purpose, well... I'm every bit as pissed as Athaliah must have been.

I think we can all agree that Athaliah is an outspoken and divisive character on the show. That pretty much goes without saying. But attitude aside, Athaliah has consistently been one of the strongest girls in the competition. Whether or  not you like her, you have to admit that. Athaliah's walk is strong, her presence is dramatic, and her look is stellar. (Don't hold that terrible makeover against her. It wasn't her fault.) She is one of the only girls who has a working understanding of her body and her angles, and as much as I'm rooting for my girls Trudy and Treveen, Athaliah is the girl I would pick if I needed a spectacular model on short notice. She is the only one that I think would go into a shoot confident that she could deliver.

I said it last week and I'll say it again: at this point I'm actively campaigning for Susan to go home. It isn't that I dislike her, or that she isn't beautiful, or doesn't deserve a chance to shine. It's that she is all of those things and still hasn't managed to make any major improvements. And with Athaliah gone in order to preserve her place, she is now at the point where her presence is denying more qualified, talented and deserving models from access to the few opportunities available to Caribbean models.

It was a strange week. The acting challenge in preparation for the commercial shoot was cringe-worthy on many levels, and often unintentionally hilarious. (I'm looking at you Trudy). The shoot itself was also less than stellar. Most of the girls were able to cobble together enough takes to create a decent clip, but if we're honest, none of them really produced anything that could air in syndication without embarrassing everyone involved.

The only bright spot was that for ONCE the callout order was as it should have been, which is why Athaliah's dismissal came as such a surprise to everyone who watched with me on twitter. The general consensus seemed to be that though she was not well liked, she was talented, and deserved to stay. But alas, all of this unfolded almost two years ago, so there's little any of us can do about it now but whine and tweet passive aggressive things!

Tonight, the models get a visit from the ANTM hall of fame: Bianace Golden (who has her own reputation for being difficult) drops in to teach them a thing or two about making it in the industry. I have to admit, I'm a little bummed Athaliah won't be here for that. That would have made some spectacular television.

What were your thoughts on Athaliah's exit? Do you think Susan deserved to be saved? As the competition gets tighter, who are your picks for the top three?

Previously on Caribbean's Next TopModel: 
CNTM Cycle 1, Episode 6: I'm In Redface, Hear Me ROAR!
CNTM Cycle 1, Episode 5: Who Been Sipping That Jesus Juice?
CNTM Cycle 1, Episode 4: Carnival is Bacchanal 
CNTM Cycle 1, Episode 3: Flounder or Flourish?
CNTM Cycle 1, Episode 1: Introducing Caribbean's Next Top Model

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Very Best: My Fictional Female SuperHeroes

If I could be my best self, there are a lot of things I'd do differently. There are a ton of bad habits I would break, and some better ones I'd pick up. I have a lot of goals for myself in the long term, but as an early twenty-something, I'd much rather find myself in the fictional television characters I love. I mean, their lives are exciting enough that they're on TV, so why shouldn't I want to be like them? I kid of course! I know that they are all fictional people, but that doesn't change the fact that there have been a lot of brilliantly flawed fictional, female characters over the years. 

If I could be anyone in the world, I'd choose to be equal parts of each of these fantastic fictional ladies:

Ugly Betty: Betty; one of the characters I most identify with; is a sweet, hardworking, ambitious girl, trying hard to make it in an industry that doesn't want her, and doesn't think she's worth their time. But despite their poor treatment, Betty perseveres, understanding that what the position lacks in friendships, it makes up for in access, and that working hard, and going above and beyond is the way to outshine and distinguish herself from her mostly mediocre peers.

Carrie Bradshaw: I think that every 20-something woman has identified with/wanted to be Carrie at some point. The idea of living in the city and finding love is a fantasy that young women still have today. I'm mostly over my New York minute, and re-watching SATC has shown me what a perfectly damaged person Carrie actually is, but that doesn't change the fact that most girls can identify with being single in a big city, with aspirations bigger than her paycheck. Carrie gets her happy ending, so hopefully I will too.

Deborah Morgan: I will likely never ever own a gun, but I completely identify with Deb. Her foul mouth and determination are qualities that I share, and I have to say, I really delight in her ridiculousness. Putting aside the last season of Dexter, Deb is a really strong and self-assured character whose conscience guides her. She's good at what she does, and she's not afraid to piss off a few people to do what she thinks is right. I could do worse than to be like her.

Peggy Olsen: Realistically, I don't have that much in common with Peggy other than a name (Margaret) and employment as a copywriter, but over the past 5 seasons, Peggy has shown a wisdom (and corresponding dim-wittedness)  that I think I share. Peggy is an accidental feminist in a time where such ideas are pretty much professional suicide (especially in advertising) and my feminism has become a big part of who I am. I'd love to think that I can mirror the kind of instinct that Peggy has for her work, and the complete confidence she has in her capabilities.

Bridget Jones: What I love about Bridget is her optimism. Despite bad decisions and disappointments, she remains confident that her career will flourish and she will find true love with Mr. Darcy. I love that she acknowledges her faults without wallowing in them, and is constantly striving to be a better version of herself. Her self-effacement is endearing. Never do you feel that she is pitying herself. She gets kicked down, embarrassed and majorly humiliated, but get back up each time, better than before.

All of these women are close to my heart. I've seen the entirety of each of the television series (and movies!) that they've been featured in, and I've loved learning and growing with them over the years, and being able to take the lessons they learnt and implement them in my own life.

Here's to hoping I can be driven as Betty, as fabulous as Carrie, as badass as Deborah, as talented as Peggy, and as optimistic as terminal singleton Bridget Jones!