How Beautiful Beauty Can Be

Tomorrow, our lives are going to change. Tomorrow brings new Oscar winners, immortalized in the annals of history. It also brings my annual fancy-dress Oscar party, which is always a monumental event. It brings more much-needed rain to the New Mexico earth.

But TODAY brings with it the launch of one of your new favorite websites, Afrobeatnik.

Here are some words we will use when discussing Afrobeatnik: fashion, filmmaking, sustainability, vintage, modern, diverse, inclusive, fabulous. And it is all very, very real.

Snuggle in for this special Saturday edition of Beauty Coup: an interview with site founder Angela Moorer – a wondrous, inspiring woman – and prepare to fall in love with Afrobeatnik. #beautyrevolution

BC: How did Afrobeatnik come about?
AM: Pretty much by me just, combining everything I cared about… I’ve been working for the past year with a non-profit with a great mission that I really support, but I’ve been doing more administrative work, and in the past there have always been more creative things that I’ve been tied to, I’ve put more creative things into what I’m doing… so I think I’ve felt a little restricted. And one thing I’ve learned, when you restrict someone enough, pretty soon they’re just gonna burst… Afrobeatnik was this bursting of me kind of being ready to do something creative, something that I care about, and to collaborate with others as well.

BC: That “combining everything you cared about” aspect, I noticed that right away. It isn’t just about representations of beauty in fashion… or on-screen, it combines both of those things and approaches fashion in an ethical manner…
AM: I mean, I’ve been interested in sustainable fashion for a couple of years now. I always wanted to work in fashion, but I never thought it was going to happen because when I got to know the industry itself I wasn’t inspired (by the fashion industry). I find myself more drawn to non-profit work, so if I was going to work in fashion it would be in some independent capacity.

We’re just kind of doing our own thing. We’re not really a part of any industry quite yet. I’m working with four different artisans …to upcycle vintage and to upcycle used materials and to share fashions that we think are beautiful. We’re not confined by anything, we’re not defined by anything, and it’s a really fun place to be. I’m excited to launch to see what the response is to it.

BC: I’m excited, too! S and I want to buy a lot of your clothes.
AM: Haha, awesome!

Like this:
And this:

BC: In your own words, tell me about the mission and goals of Afrobeatnik.
We’ve got a pretty varied mission, but it’s all positive, and it’s all related in some way. The mission really started with the idea of Diversity. When I moved to Seattle from the tri-cities (Eastern Washington) there were a lot more different people. Growing up, Black History Month was an extremely scary time for me, because of the feeling of isolation – being the only black kid in your class, pretty much feeling alone in every aspect according to the way that you look. When you’re growing up, trying to figure out identity and who you are, your outside appearance impacts that… When I moved to Seattle and I found a community… I really thrived as a human being. I found that working in more diverse places, with people from different backgrounds, different countries, even… the more people I interacted with who were different from me, the more of a whole person I felt like I became. I understood the world a little better.

Another part of our goals in the Individuality aspect, which is tied to identity. Who you are within a community, while still remaining connected to that community. We tend to feel isolated by our differences, and what I would like to do is find ways to feel united by our differences – to love and appreciate all aspects of ourselves as individuals, and to love all aspects of others as well. I think they’re closely related – Diversity and Individuality – which is why I tied them both in. I wanted to make them both prominent values, but also separate.

Lastly we have (the value of) Sustainability, which is kind of just built into the way the company works. My personal preference is always thrift shopping. I barely buy anything new. For money’s sake, for uniqueness, I feel a lot of pleasure buying used. With vintage clothing especially, there’s this charm about it, this distinguished factor. You know it’s got some interesting history. So that’s why we decided to go vintage. As for the artisans – the handmade, upcycling work that we do – sometimes vintage clothing has gone through a lot, and it needs some work, you know it needs a little facelift; to be modernized in some way. Originally I brought on one person for basic repairs, but found all these items that could be turned into something really cool… So from there I brought on more artisans who were interested in upcycling things and wanting to make something new out of something old. And I think that’s what sustainability is about. It’s about reusing things …getting full use out of something, reinventing, giving new life. It’s crazy to me that some of this stuff might’ve ended up in a trash can somewhere. Our handmade collection launch is tied to earth day in April, but we’ll have a few things on March 1st as a preview.

BC: We’ve talked a lot about the fashion aspect of Afrobeatnik. One of the things that struck me the most was your ambition to use portions of your profits to make short films and documentaries that feature underrepresented cultures, women and minorities. What inspired you to tackle films as well as fashion?
I got into film a couple years ago… I did a certificate program at UW, and I learned a lot, it was fun… But, unfortunately, film communities are very tight-knit, and I’m not the kind of person who can’t wait around for someone to give me an opportunity. So I decided to try and raise the money to make the films I want to make. We’re at the basic stages of it. Once we start making some profits to get equipment we need and hire a mentor to help guide us, once we get those things in place we’ll begin the final idea. We’ve been throwing ideas around of what we want to do, and we’ve settled on a narrative web series featuring traditionally underrepresented women We’d like it to be funny, diverse, and full of culture, but also relatable. We talk a lot about the TV show Girls, we have discussions about all the things we think they’re doing wrong, and all the things we think they’re doing right, and I think one of the things that’s great about it is that it’s relevant, it’s current. A lot of people relate to that show. But the show obviously lacks diversity, it lacks culture. We wanted to tackle… something like that, in a narrative fashion, but we wanted to… bring in something a little bit deeper.

BC: I think that’s a really cool ambition. What are your thoughts on the importance of representative images across multiple mediums (print and screen)?
That has a lot to do with why I actually started this (Afrobeatnik), kind of my whole journey of self-acceptance and coming to terms with my own beauty and individuality. Growing up, I didn’t see people on TV that looked like me, and when I did it was always with straight hair, or really really light skin. I didn’t see myself represented in media, and I think that sends a message to young girls that they’re not important or they’re not beautiful. The message is that you need to assimilate to a certain culture or a certain ideal of beauty… when that’s the only ideal of beauty that you ever know. That’s why it’s important to get these images out there. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about Lupita (Nyong’o), she’s all over the place , and she’d not someone you’d traditionally see in Hollywood. It’s inspirational, not only for me or for an adult who’s more sure of herself, but especially for young teenagers and little girls growing up. By sending these messages through these images, we’re confirming that beauty exists in places beyond the norm, and I think that’s incredibly important.

(Insert some serious Lupita fangirling for the next several minutes)

BC: I love your (Afrobeatnik’s) tagline, “We want to show the world how beautiful beauty can be.”
AM: Yeah, exactly.

BC: Let’s go back to the fashion. Where do you find/curate the clothes for Afrobeatnik?
There are a lot of different processes going on since we’re so new… We’re attending estate sales, those are awesome resources where you can find the best vintage. And also working with consigners in the area, which is a whole other part of outreach. We do have consigners who seem pretty interested in providing consistent inventory. Besides that, we also – mainly for our upcycling projects – what we’ll do is order wholesale vintage… We get a shipment and sometimes a piece looks great and we can sell it as is …sometimes the clothes need some upcycling done – repairs, like a hem, hole or buttons – other times the print/fabric is good but the design is not modern enough for everyday wear, so we turn it over to the upcyclers. We’ve only really started the upcycling program as of February, so… there’s a lot that needs to be tackled, so we’re trying to grow the artisan team.

BC: Who are your models?
Honestly, we’re not picky at all about our models. The whole purpose was to show real women in the clothing and to make sure the representations of women that we’re throwing out there are unique people, people who are often not seen. Most of the models are either friends of ours or people we’ve found through Craigslist. It’s interesting because people seem to be ready to hop on to a project …when they find out what we’re about. It’s great. Our models are very diverse. We’ve got all kinds of races and sizes, they’re inexperienced, and they’re real.

BC: I love it. I can’t speak for others who are ready to hop on this kind of project, but seeing that kind of wide representation (in fashion images) makes you want to get involved. I want to continue this effort to show a multitude of different types of women. I think that it speaks to people. It’s something we’re all experiencing on some level right now, as a movement.
AM: Totally.

BC: Do you have a Photoshop policy?
There’s no specific policy… but we don’t do retouching as far as body shape… skin… the other day I was retouching a photo where the model was sweating a bit, so I retouched that. But like, pimples, you can see on our launch flyer on our website (and below), the model had a little bit of a breakout, and that’s real and that’s natural and that’s the way our photos are gonna remain.

See?? Didn’t I tell you that you’d fall in love? If you’re in Seattle, you lucky duck, you should totally go to the Afrobeatnik launch party tonight. I would if I were you. And all of us should definitely support the Afrobeatnik website and shop their fabulous frocks and keep our eyes peeled for their savvy, spectacular web series! Cheers to these lovely ladies and their amazing work.


Real Is as Real Does

Happy Monday, RLB readers!

I hope you’ve had you’re caffeine, because it isn’t even 9:00 am, and my double shot of espresso has me all ready to rouse some rabble.

At this point, it might seem like I’m harping on the subject. It’s possible that some of you are wondering if we’re going to change the name of our blog to Feminist Ads Are A-Okay! or Brought to You by Dove Real Beauty

I promise, as the Oscars draw nearer there will plenty to say about women in Hollywood, and when the school year calms down S will have more time to dig up kick-ass lesser-known lady artists to introduce you to.

For now, we’re going to talk about the Aerie Real campaign. I can already hear some of your feathers ruffling, and that’s perfectly okay. We are all entitled to our opinions, and here is mine:

First, the skinny (was that pun in bad taste?): The lingerie line from American Eagle has started a new campaign called Aerie Real, wherein their models are not photoshopped or retouched. Their tagline is “the real you is sexy”.

I wasn’t even sure I was going to write about this, since it’s a subject we here at RLB have covered somewhat extensively. Then I read this post, from an irate writer over at PolicyMic. Let me start by saying she has some valid points. Let me also say that it was harder to connect to them because of the glaringly egregious claim in her headline: “This Isn’t ‘What Girls Really Look Like.'”

Excuse the shouting, but YES IT IS.

This is exactly what these girls really look like. Counting them out because they’re thin or fit is akin to the erroneous phrase (yet charming film) “real women have curves.” Real women come in all shapes and sizes, which is, I understand, the fundamental point of the PolicyMic article. Aerie could and should do more to represent more types of girls and young women. I agree! But I do not think it’s helpful to snark away the steps that are being taken toward that kind of representation. My point of view is more aligned with this writer over at a site I’d never heard of called Neon Tommy.

Here’s where I disagree with Neon Tommy: Yes, these models are still made up and styled by professionals. Because they’re models. Styling ones subjects is the standard for anyone being photographed for any ad/article/feature anywhere ever – even for feminist tomes such as BUST and Curve magazine.

Here’s the whole truth: I believe these are the seeds of a revolution. Seriously. When have we ever, as a collective culture, talked this much about how women are represented in the media, how unrealistic beauty standards are, and how women need to be valued for more than how they look? As far as I can recall, these questions have gone unasked because their answers were taken for granted as part of the status quo. Challenging the status quo, even in small ways, is how we provoke change. Have you ever, really, seen a girl like this in a lingerie ad? A lingerie ad that isn’t for “plus size” women?

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 8.42.18 AM

If you think it’s egregious for me to claim that this girl could be considered plus size, it isn’t me. It’s the industry that we’re fighting against. There are many companies that will use models who are size 10-12 as “plus size,” and casting directors who even claim that “plus size” equals a size 8.

Every revolution starts with a spark. The 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, and many agree that the suffragist movement leading to that moment began with an 1848 conversation in Seneca Falls. People point to Stonewall and Brown vs. The Board of Education as pivotal moments in history, but anyone who has ever been part of a movement knows – there were countless conversations that built up to and fueled those confrontations. There were small steps and quiet steps and virtually unnoticed steps. And they all led to major shifts in our culture.

Do you think it’s pretentious hyperbole for me to equate body positivity with women’s suffrage, the fight for queer equality, or the civil rights movement? Then let me leave you with some not so fun facts (all emphasis is mine):

  • Girls between ages 11-14 see, on average, 500 ads a day.
  • 53% of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies.  That number increases to 78% by age 17.
  • The number of cosmetic surgical procedures performed on youth under age 19 more than tripled from 1997 to 2007.
  • 42% percent of first to third-grade girls want to be thinner, while 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of getting fat.
  • 80% of 10-year-old American girls say they have been on a diet. The number one magic wish for young girls age 11-17 is to be thinner.
  • It is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men.
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
  • Adolescents with negative body image concerns are more likely to be depressed, anxious, and suicidal than those without intense dissatisfaction over their appearance, even when compared to adolescents with other psychiatric illnesses.

When I had the honor of meeting Bella Abzug back in 1996, I asked her if she had any advice for a young upstart like myself. “Choose your battles,” she said. “Women want to fix everything, but you’ll spread yourself too thin that way. Choose your battles, and fight for what matters most to you.”

So I choose body positivity as one of my battles. I choose to celebrate all victories, small and large, as necessary steps to winning the revolution of cultural change.

There is still a lot of work to do, in order to create a world for our daughters and nieces and granddaughters where they will be valued for who they are and what they have to contribute. These feminist ads aren’t a magical solution, and they aren’t the only answer; and right now most of them could push even harder and further toward change.

It doesn’t feel like enough because it isn’t enough, but it is a beginning.

Statistics gathered from:

Friday Feminist Funtimes Explosion

One of the best things about this blog is that now, more than ever, when confronted with feministy phenomenon, gender benders, beauty challengers, and reasons to rouse the rabble, my friends and acquaintances think of me. It feels really good to be associated with those things.

It also means that I am sometimes Inundated with uppity goings on from around the interweb world. To round out your week, dear reader, here is a sampling:

Rabble Rousing
My thoughts on photoshop have been expressed time and again on this blog. There are countless people shaking their fists at the idiotic yet still pervasive practice of skewing women’s bodies in the name of fashion/advertising/capitalism/whoeffingknows. For example:

tumblr_mgy8i33akg1s405ijo1_250   tumblr_mgy8i33akg1s405ijo2_250

I mean. WHY.

Really all I have to say about this (that I haven’t said before), is that you only get to have that baby-faced-but-grown-up-full-of-collagen-smooth-perfect-skin for a tiny window in your early/mid twenties. She doesn’t look Better! She just looks Older! Which isn’t a bad thing, but christ, let the girl be 22! Let her be as beautiful as she Actually IS.

Also. They *lowered her collarbone* ………….



You know what else? This happened.

It’s bad enough that she felt compelled to do that to herself, but can we take a moment for the headline? It says “Anna Gunn Shows Off New Look!” when it ought to say “Anna Gunn Panicked Now That Breaking Bad Is Over And She’s Considered An ‘Aging Woman’ In Hollywood So Now We Can See All Of Her Bones!”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need studies or researchers or psychologists to tell me that the photoshop job on JLaw and Anna Gunn’s “new look” are not mutually exclusive.

There is cause. And there is effect.

Ps. This is also dumb. No wonder this is happening.

The Good News
So these pictures were printed with permission on Upworthy, so I shall link you to them. It’s a magazine that doesn’t use photoshop! Here’s their policy:

Verily-Magazine-Policy-1386201629What?? Women’s unique features are beautiful?? It’s like the whole world has gone all topsy-turvy!

In addition to that radtastic policy, Verily looks like one of the coolest magazines ever, and once I’m done Christmas shopping for others, I plan to immediately gift myself a subscription. You should, too!

Side bar: I was extra tickled to see that this magazine is called Verily, as I had just watched this video, which will give you a good laugh if you’re a Shakespeare fan.

More Good News
This Man In a Tutu Helps Women With Breast Cancer

Sometimes, shamelessness is a really great quality. That is all.

A Post for Next Time
The last thing I received was a commercial made by Pantene that is extremely feministy. When I first saw it, I thought, “Get ready for the backlash!” because there are plenty of people who take issue with Feminism as Advertising Tool. But it turns out the naysayers might not be as loud as they were about the Dove campaign, because this commercial won’t air in the US. We’ll stick to the ads featuring bikini bottoms pinched by crabs, thank you very much.

S and I have exchanged some thoughts on this subject before, but in my ever so humble opinion, Pantene has taken things to a new level. So I’ve decided that I shall save my views on this commercial (and feminist advertisements in general) for my next post. It is Friday, after all. I’m sure you have a happy hour to get to.

The Gist
While we are still clearly climbing uphill, it’s important to remember that There Is A Lot To Celebrate.

Final Friday Note: Taylor Swift is My Spirit Animal
Or maybe Feminist Taylor Swift is my spirit animal? Either way, I sure do dress like her a lot.


The Myriad Meanings of Mask

Happy All Hallows Eve, RLB readers!

Halloween is a logical time to be thinking about masks, but coincidentally there are two videos that have been floating around the interwebs for the last week or so that also bring the subject to mind. First, the 37-second photoshop video, and second, the baby weeping at the sound of her mother’s singing voice.

It wasn’t immediately apparent to me why these two things were dancing around together in my mind, but then I was struck by the notion of masks.

In the video where a model is photoshopped into an unrecognizable, inhuman barbie creature, the correlation to masks is painfully obvious. So many of the images that we see every day are masked representations of the people they depict. Think about the last 10 pictures you posted on Facebook or Instagram. How many of them had a filter? 10? Me, too. Nowadays we live in a world where we can so easily manipulate images into the best versions of ourselves, our understanding of what’s “real” has morphed into more of an idea than a solid definition.

There are two things that disturb me the most about the photoshop video. 1. When I first watched it, I looked at the still of the woman pre-alteration and wondered what they were going to do to her. To me, she looked like a perfectly lovely, fit woman.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 2.36.26 PMThen I watched her metamorphosis. After seeing her Barbie-fied image, the video popped back to the still of her as she truly is. Suddenly, I had the thought that the real her now looked thick to me. Not fat, per say, but certainly not as fit and pretty as she had been when I first saw her picture. It was such an immediate and visceral example of how easily manipulated we are by the masked images that we are constantly exposed to.

Side Bar: Looking at a mid-point shot, where she’s wearing tons of makeup and hair extensions, but isn’t retouched at all, I can’t help but think, “WHY is this picture not “good enough”?? What about this image isn’t absolutely gorgeous??? Grr. Mad face.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 2.37.15 PM

2. The next thing that hit me happened when I more closely examined the still of the distorted model. I use the word distorted very intentionally, because the longer I looked at her, the more I saw someone who didn’t even look human:

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 3.18.48 PM

The curve of her spine and the angle of her torso as it lifts off the ground – it looks like she’s missing several vertebrae. With her head turned, her neck unnaturally lengthened and any ‘unsightly’ skin folds smoothed over, she looks like she’s part ostrich. By shrinking her shoulder and then trimming and lengthening her arm, it looks like she’s using zero effort to prop herself up and may in fact be entirely devoid of any muscles at all. Then there’s the skin glow. What is she, a frakking fairy??

The problem isn’t so much that we manipulate images to enhance certain aspects of ourselves, it’s that the images of people we see in ads and magazines might not even look like people anymore, and because we have been conditioned to do so, those images are now what we think of as real.


Next we have the emotional response of little Mary Leroux as her mother sings to her. If you look at the comments being made around the interwebs, there are quite a few people who are upset, disturbed, and even outraged by this video. ‘How dare this mother do this to her child!’ they say, ‘What a torturous thing to do to an innocent baby!’ they rail, shaking their fists at what they perceive to be cruelty.

MASK. n.3 – 2c. a facial expression assumed deliberately to conceal an emotion or give a false impression; an outward appearance which belies a person’s true nature.
(oxford english dictionary)

When I mentioned this wee lass earlier, I used the word weeping, because that’s what I see her doing. She isn’t crying, at least not in the sense that a baby normally cries. She is weeping, because she is moved to tears by her mother’s singing. She smiles a few times, and her face wrenches up with the intensity of what she is feeling. What I see is pure, unadulterated emotion. Sure, maybe there are moments where this kid is sad. Sometimes a thing is so beautiful that it makes us ache with its beauty. Sometimes a thing is so moving, we have no outlet but to weep.

Growing up, most actors are told that we need to contain ourselves. That there is a time and a place for emotion, and that time and place is not polite society. We become actors because on stage and on film it is always the time and place for emotion. The vast, awesome, glorious range of human emotion is something that many people spend their lives trying to discreetly control, or ignore, or run away from. As artists, we run towards it, we dive in. Baby Mary might grow up to be an accountant, but she has the soul of an artist.

DISCLAIMER: This is not to say that people who feel things more quietly or privately are in any way less valid in their emotional experiences. My point is not that there’s a Right Way to feel things, it’s that too often humans are taught to Not Let Themselves feel things. We are encouraged to wear masks to hide who we are, what we truly think and feel. I think so many people had adverse reactions to this weeping child because we are not equipped to recognize even our own truest emotions. 

Before I get off my soap box, the last thing I want to say about masks is that masks can be Fun! It isn’t all ‘hiding who we truly are sadtimes.’ Masks can also be ‘pretending to be someone else funtimes!’ The OED has several additional definitions for mask:

1a. a covering worn on or held in front of the face for disguise, made of velvet, silk, etc., and concealing the whole face or the upper part of it (except the eyes), worn at balls and masques

1b. theatre. an image of a face worn by an actor

2b. a covering of something (material or immaterial), hiding something else from view.

Por ejemplo:

Makeup and Filter Masks
makeup maskCostume Mask (steampunk!)
costume maskDrag Mask (me) & Burlesque Mask (Amelia)
ps look how smokin’ hot Amelia is! helloooooo, eyebrow arch!
drag maskAnd finally, Mask Mask
Frank: You are in half of my mask photos. It appears you and I are both fans of wearing masks for funsies.
mask maskTo wit: Let’s save the masks for fun and the photoshop for flyaways*. Let’s do all that we can to let ourselves feel all the feelings, and to be everything we truly are.

*and filters, because we can’t resist. we are a culture of filter addicts!

age ain’t nothing but a number

Who remembers this song? I love this song. I loved in 1994 when I was 16, and I love it now in 2013 at the shiny new age of 35. Mostly it’s because I have a never-ending love for Aaliyah, but it’s also because age has never really mattered to me. I’ve had romances and friendships with older people, younger people, and people my age. While our age can influence who we are, in my opinion it doesn’t define who we are.

Apparently it does define some things, like pregnancy. Do you know what pregnancy is called in a woman 35 or older? A geriatric pregnancy. Seriously. Geriatric. Because that’s your first connotation when you hear “geriatric” right? 35. Certainly not, oh, I don’t know, 80. This site claims the term has been “changed to ‘advanced maternal age'” but my doctor and everyone at her practice did not get the memo.

So here I am, a 35-year-old actress, singer, and writer preparing for an eventual old lady pregnancy. But what did the internet want me to know? Not anything about enhancing my artistic career, or health tips, or new fun adventures to consider. Instead, I was inundated with methods for Preserving My Youth. The most important thing for anyone ever in the history of humankind. Looking young.

As my birthday drew near, the creepy search engines of google and facebook started posting ads for magic lady face creams promising to take decades off my skin. You know what else takes decades off my skin? Photoshop. I tried to do my own photo to see if I look as alabaster smooth as Cate Blanchett, but Photoshop is complicated, so all I managed to do was remove some fly-aways.

By now we should all know that there is no point in judging ourselves by beauty ads or celebrities on the red carpet. I just read in this month’s Glamour that Jennifer Garner has a standing facial appointment TWICE A WEEK. Guess what else will take decades off your skin? Two facials every single week.

The internets like to tell us what 35 looks like, how old we’ll be when we start turning into uggos, and what age is So Perfect that even younger ladies are aspiring to it via their helpful plastic surgeons. It even provides a forum for random douchebags to create graphs based on their asinine perceptions of when and why a woman is attractive.

Of course the internets also provide the rare glimpse at us real folks, like in this impressive slide show from Esquire that features all kinds of different women (no really!) from ages 18-53. While it’s annoying that the URL refers to women “aging gracefully” – because, truly, what does that mean? why can’t we just call it aging? – it’s an honest portrayal of what the headline claims: “What the Real American Woman Looks at in the Mirror Every Day.” Those look like women I know. Women I would have brunch with.

Also can’t help but love the woman who says “The best thing about being 35 is, you don’t have to pretend to give a f-ck anymore.” Heh. Damn right.

So because I’m Hollywood obsessed, let’s take a look at 35 according to Tinseltown… Do you know how hard it is to find ages of female tv/movie characters?? Very hard. So, here are two I was able to dig up sort of: Joan and C.J.

joan-holloway-650-430In Mad Men Season 5, Episode 4, “Mystery Date,” Joan is probably 35. Her fictional birthday is in February 1931, and this episode is circa 1966.

cj_cregg_the_west_wing_season_2_nbc_18h18i0-18h18kkThis photo is supposedly from Season 2 of The West Wing, and C.J. was supposedly about 34 when she joined the Bartlett campaign, so after two years at the White House she’s possibly maybe supposedly about 36 years old.

That’s all I’ve got. The only movies I could think of where women talk about their age were romantic comedies, in moments which frequently involve lamentations about turning 30. Because when you turn 30 YOUR LIFE IS OVER.


It amuses the hell out of me when people ask for your birthdate to fill out some random form, and they tiptoe around it for fear of offending you. “….we don’t need the year, but could we get your birthdate?” I always give the year. Why not give the year? What is there to be ashamed of? I don’t feel any different then I did five years ago. I didn’t have a meltdown over turning 30, and I’m not having one now. Better than the alternative, I always say!

Here’s me last week as I careened toward the geriatric baby making, maybe hottest but maybe ugliest, Game Over or is it Game On next year of my life:

Photo on 8-12-13 at 8.00 AM                                                 No makeup, with bangs

Photo on 8-15-13 at 8.08 AM

Makeup, with bangs

Photo on 8-14-13 at 8.03 AM

No makeup, no bangs!

Photo on 8-20-13 at 8.32 AM

Makeup… oops, cut my bangs so now they’re hard to pull back

So I can’t tell you What 35 Looks Like, or How to Stay Young Forever, and I don’t want to. What I can tell you is that this is what My 35 looks like, and that youth may have its perks, but so do growing and changing and learning and evolving and living.
581798_10151519966016933_151280541_nBirthday! Celebrating with friends. One is 32 and one is 27, and I’m not telling you which is which because it doesn’t matter. Cheers!

Airbrush Schmairbrush

Happy Friday, RLBers!

Today we will examine everyone’s favorite contentious modern beauty issue: Photoshop. Since the practice has become ubiquitous in the last decade or so, Photoshop has its proponents, its critics, and those of us who fall somewhere in the realm of ambivalence.

Yes, I am ambivalent about Photoshop. The visceral, Real Beauty Champion part of me dismisses it out of hand, as a tool that compromises and distorts our perception of reality. The part of me that appreciates Photoshop is best summarized by your best friend, Tina Fey:

“Feminists do the best Photoshop, because they leave the meat on your bones. They don’t change your size or your skin color. They leave your disgusting knuckles, but they take out some armpit stubble. Not because they’re denying its existence, but because they understand that it’s okay to make a photo look as if you were caught on your best day in the best light.”

It’s why we all Instagram and Infinicam and Photo Splash flattering, flaw-hiding filters to every picture we tweet or post on Facebook. We want to be seen at our very best, and the modern era allows us to do that at every digital turn.

It’s when photo editing goes to extremes that it becomes a fundamental problem in how beauty is presented. Every woman featured in that slideshow looks amazing in her Before picture, but we have been conditioned to think that they don’t look Amazing Enough. God forbid we acknowledge that Jessica Alba has loose flesh on her kneecaps, or that Eva Longoria is Hispanic but she doesn’t have bangin’ hips, or that Kanye West’s girlfriend isn’t actually Jessica Rabbit brought to fleshy life in an impossible combination of buxom/compact, or that – come on now, she’s 54 and has spent half her life on tour – Madonna is aging. (Who else thinks Megan Fox the “actress” actually looks far prettier with her freckles sprinkled across her nose? Why are we so afraid of letting women look human?)

With all of the attention around image retouching, it still makes headlines when models or celebrities ‘allow’ themselves to be photographed without it, or without the benefit of professional hair/makeup stylists. Imagine a world in which women without makeup and  photos of women that haven’t been (or have minimally been) manipulated are unremarkable. Commonplace. The images we see all day every day. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Let’s contribute to making this hypothetical future a reality! Here are some 100% real pictures of me, as I am right now, sitting here writing this post. I have shadows under my eyes and crooked teeth and crows feet when I smile. I also have killer cheekbones and charming freckles and my eyes are a cool shade of gray today.

Photo on 3-15-13 at 11.19 AM #3 Photo on 3-15-13 at 11.20 AM

Share your real pictures with us! Post on our Facebook page, tweet them to us, or share a link here in the comments. Shower the interwebs with real pictures of real ladies looking really lovely. 

xo, E

Real vs. Unreal

The Internet is a strange place. It invites broad speculation, overly candid opinions, and untold subterfuge. One such possible subterfuge has left me more than a bit perplexed.

Much like Paris Hilton, I am not entirely sure what this woman does, other than “work on her face” and “spend time in her astral body.”


Unsurprisingly, she evades the direct question about plastic surgery and photoshop with the ease of a seasoned politician, playing the question to what she hopes is her advantage. In one breath she claims that “it has nothing to do with looks,” and in the next she states “I’m happy I seem unreal to them (internet speculators), it means I’m doing a good job.”

Needless to say, she doesn’t bother to clarify… doing a good job at what, exactly?


And must I mention that it’s rather hypocritical to claim a dismissive attitude toward physical appearance while simultaneously putting that much Effort into how you look every day?

Whether she is “real” or “unreal,” Russian Barbie has wrapped herself in a warm, fuzzy blanket of positivity and new age opera, and could probably tell you the color of your aura and maybe writes music like the song that blue lady sings in The Fifth Element. I’m hard pressed to hate on someone who projects such a well-meaning attitude, even if odds are really good that she comes with a small bowl of crazy on the side.

What I will say is that I hope she is as healthy as she is presumably happy, and that she didn’t have too many ribs removed in order to look like that.

Overall, Britta pretty much sums up how I feel about this woman:
She’s also really making me want french fries.