Friday, May 13, 2011

And speaking of hair.....

And speaking of hair (see post below), I'd like to see a mano-a-mano between billionaire zealot douchebag Donald Trump's hairstylist and the aesthetic god/goddess who styles Cameroon's First Lady Chantal Biya. That would be EPIC.

I was once snuck into the Costume Institute "Goddess" themed dinner party for the dessert/entertainment course. This was easier to do since people were standing, mingling, and walking around by this point. As I sashayed in rocking a black cashmere tank top and floor-length satin skirt, hair in a bun making me look like Imelda rather than my aspiration - Audrey Hepburn - with a silk Manton de Manila purchased in Seville, trying to "blend in," I practically bumped into Donald Trump. Just then a hush fell in the room - and Diana Ross came on stage in a massive Afro wig. At that point, I almost fainted and began to cry softly, I love her so much. Once I came to, I began to notice my surroundings (Iman, Diane von Fursternberg, various heroin-chic models that I should recognize, but didn't) and was face-to-face with a 3/4 view of Trump's head -inches from me. Now, as a sufferer of academentia, who focuses on visual culture, I am trained to conduct detailed analysis of what I see. Yet even I was left with insufficient tools to understand what I was seeing. After a life-time spent obsessing on my bad hair and others' I cannot explain the alchemy/chemistry/engineering/mala leche behind his coiffure.

For more insight into the Bermuda Triangle of the male hairstyle that is Trump's coif, check out this BRILLIANT analysis from Vanity Fair where they use terms like "double comb-over" and "demi-mullet."

RIP Mirta de Perales

Source: (link below)

I was saddened a few days ago to learn about the passing of beauty icon, Mirta de Perales. The Cuban cosmetics guru was admired by all of us when I was a child. Everyone aspired to be a "Chica Mirta' which required straight, bouncy, manageable, shiny hair. Unlike the lucky girl above, being groomed by the Capillary Maestra herself at the Miss Piel Canela Pageant (what could be better than a Miss Nutmeg Colored Skin Pageant?), my hair was not manageable, stick straight or bouncy. It is heavy, coarse, inconsistently wavy, static-y, and prone to expansion like a loofah sponge under water.

Intimidating to dozens of hair stylists, my hair elicited gasps and cries of "What will I do with this?" Or, as one woman in Spain told me "tu tienes pelo de negra," which my current styling goddess, who finally "gets" my texture and style goals (basically, to look like a woman in a Christian Schad painting or better yet, Isabella Blow), calls it "a cross between black hair and Asian hair." Yeeessss.

Pathologized as a beauty defect by my severe grandmother, who was obsessed with looking European, and as light as possible, my hair and I were subjected to strict discipline. Not requiring the dreaded lye, my hair could be "tamed" at home. Which in a way made it even more "shameful" - they couldn't even take me to "el biuti" (beauty parlor) to handle the situation. They had to take care of it at home, on the DL. The hair required hot coconut oil mixed with eggs massaged into my scalp, followed by vigorous pulling at the hair from various sides at once by a couple of aunts, who twirling the clumps into a big round brush applied 20000-degree heat temperature blow driers to it. Ouch.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

RIP Isabella Blow 19.11.58 - 07.05.07

Isabella Blow died four years ago today, of complications following a suicide attempt. It's weird because I was raving about her and how important she was for fashion and art in England and world-wide, telling a friend excitedly about how amazing she was, what a genius. I was wondering if her pivotal role in McQueen's career had been noted in the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty show that opened at the Met a few days ago. My friend had not heard of her, which is what worries me. Of course, the fashion people and I think people interested in contemporary art in England know who she was. Also, McQueen's own suicide brought renewed attention to their personal and creative relationship and the tragic parallels found in their deaths. Thankfully there are 3 recent books about her life and work (see link below for more info).

I remember reading her widow Detmar Blow's moving and riveting biography and wincing at passages describing Isabella Blow's insecurities about her appearance, how she created an elaborate persona through fashion, and how she described her use of it and lipstick - her signature cosmetic - to disguise what she viewed as her flaws. I identified with this theatrical strategy but I can never aspire to her aesthetic originality!!!!
Worn Through blog features reviews of a series of books about her life and work, as well as other helpful information, here:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Isabel Preysler sin Photoshop

I may need to start wearing turbans......

I am obsessed with Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missne's look. And I am clearly not the only one, as even a cursory Google search will prove. Of course, I first came to know her fashion diva style via my Bible, HOLA magazine which has now added her to their roster of international royalty. With her signature turbans topping off a Nefertiti-like visage of indeterminate age, her severe haute couture gowns altered to modestly disguise arms and legs while brazenly highlighting her 1940s-50s movie star hourglass figure, she has captivated many. I believe it was the silver siren gown ensemble that first introduced her to me, and that Cartier snake choker literally made me swoon. Here, in a sly riposte to Orientalism and misogyny, she appropriates Cleopatra's asp and Eve's snake, transforming it into an emblem of her sartorial charisma.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how one exits a car.

This look absolutely mesmerized me. Although dangerously close to resembling a hard-boiled egg/Conehead/mummy, somehow she works it.

Her 1940s/50s suit jacket long skirt combos are to-die-for, in her typical monochrome. So severe and so hot hot hot!

Even international fashion icons are human, and in Spain she tripped and momentarily lost her stiletto. We still worship you, Sheikha!

For more on the Sheikha, see this article:

Royal Wedding Fashion: I need a Fascinator

I am in love with Miriam Gonzalez and her Fascinator

Although I had planned to boycott the Royal Wedding, since technically I am a Republican (NOT in the United States meaning of the term), I could not resist the fashion spectacle. I found much of the clothing DULL. The hats are always fun but after a while all of those cocked feather/flower combos perilously perched on high white foreheads or miraculously affixed to thin flaxen locks began to blend together. (Speaking of the incessant "monotone outfit with severe Treacy topper look" as my catty friend observed, Posh looked like a Qatar Airlines flight attendant).

Because of this overwhelming monotony, one guest stood out as exquisite, daring, elegant, sexy and super DIVA divine: Miriam Gonzalez, the glamorous exotic Spanish wife of Nick Clegg. My Spanish friend who is a fashion stylist told me that the dress, hat and shoes were all by Spanish designers, which filled me with pride, particularly when apparently the only milliner in the UK is Philip Treacy to judge by the credits. I also learned a new term for the turban/flower combo: FASCINATOR. Could there be a better term for this accessory? I think not! Coming on the heels of my new infatuation with the fabulously severe turban-wearing Sheikha of Qatar, this could not have come at a better time.

As I struggled to gracefully get out of a taxi schlepping a huge tote bag (Michael Kors snakeskin) and distinctly unglamorous backpack (the price I pay for ACADEMENTIA) in a tube skirt and heels, I tried my best to emulate this goddess' motion to exit her chauffeured limo. I cannot for the life of me imagine how she did this, but thank god I do Pilates so someday I will surely acquire the dexterity to rotate my hip and legs in this manner.

For more on Miriam Gonzalez's look, see
The Queen. I know that she is eight thousand years old and I should be merciful. But she looks like fucking PEEP!

This is an atrocity. I really cannot articulate the words because every time I look at the photo my gag reflex takes over. The beige ensemble that heightens the pallor topped with that Osiris headed to the Valley of the Dead fascinator is particularly unfortunate.

Salvame Deluxe (for JZ)

Here in the US I pay an ungodly amount of money to get a few Spanish TV channels but Telecinco is not one of them. Which may be a good thing, since if I had access to it, I might get sucked into the sick pleasure of watching their Salvame franchise, which takes up a seeming majority of their weekly programming. Run by sinister Italians of the Berlusconi school of "entertainment," the network focuses most of their time on lurid reality TV shows and gossip chat fests that last for hours on end. The latter resemble and compete with Donde estas, corazon? a show that I have written about before here. (see #Spain is different) However, they take this genre to dramatic extremes. If DEC attempts to keep the veneer of objective journalism up, underscoring the journalistic credentials of the interviewers and their fact-checking of sources, Salvame makes no pretense of either accuracy or decorum. It runs every afternoon from about 2-5 or 6. Then on Fridays it becomes Salvame Delux. On other nights they have La Noria which is similar, and a new show called Enemigos Intimos (Intimate Enemies) in which people betray ex-friends/lovers/employers or family members often backed up by a lie-detector test. When this is not on, they play all kinds of reality TV shows. The latter provide much fodder for the tertulias (a perverse appropriation of the term for a literary gathering to discuss ideas) since they can replay the most prurient or violent moments, invite participants once they leave or ask past contestants to comment on current ones.

But the main source of their tertulianos are family members/ex lovers/alleged ex lovers/neighbors of anyone remotely famous. Many of these people make it into this roster by making unfounded allegations regarding sex with a famous person's husband, or accusing a stepfather of incest, or anything inflammatory that allows them to appear on several of these shows. The idea is to provoke the party accused to respond, thus perpetuating the cycle for a while, and then transforming the accuser into a known entity. If this individual is related to a big celebrity, for example, niece/ex-husband, this is the best case scenario because they can be kept on retainer to comment on the famous person's activities for as long as that person lives, and when they die! If you have never seen this show, you will be lost. The stories go back for weeks or maybe decades.

Like your own dysfunctional family, it takes an intimacy developed over a life-time to understand why people are reacting the way they are. Since many people DO watch their shows every day for hours, buy their magazine Salvame or the many others in the kiosks from the classy HOLA -the Photoshopped Pravda for the Royal family and other elites - to the trashy Cuore or Pronto, and then discuss the polemics with their friends (see the #salvame hashtag on twitter), this becomes the unifying story for many Spaniards. In a fit of despair while watching the show in Barcelona last month, I decided that if Benedict Anderson's theory in Imagined Communities was that newspapers and primary schools created the modern sense of nationhood, in contemporary Spain, it was Salvame.

The paradigmatic tertuliana is superstar Belen Esteban, or La Esteban. Known as La Princesa del Pueblo, or the Spanish translation of Lady Diana's honorific Princess of the People, this crass, volatile and inarticulate ex-girlfriend of even crasser bullfighter Jesulin de Ubrique made a career out of being his ex girlfriend and mother of his -according to her- neglected child. Over the span of almost a decade, she has literally made millions as a hired participant in these hours-long screaming matches punctuated by obscenities and sometimes physical violence. Nothing - not children, not ghoulish descriptions of death and dying, not accusations of domestic violence, incest, robbery, prostitution not graphic descriptions of sexual encounters -is off-limits here.

Through her pregnancy, to her several plastic surgeries, illnesses, wedding and many break ups with current husband Fran, all conducted literally on air, Belen's life is a 24-7 Big Brother / telenovela in which Telecinco has made her a star of their franchise.

The latest narrative element in the Salvame Delux arsenal is La Caja. I should say that their aesthetics are very Pop, Baroque, camp and quasi Almodovar-esque. But this box which I liken to a Panopticon is the absolute limit. It consists of a massive box in which videos and photographs are projected during interviews of some of the tertulianos. Many of the shots are split screen, in which you see for example retrospective footage with the tertuliano being interviewed and sometimes also the tertuliano sitting in the box reacting to either or both of those. So it becomes very meta and self-reflexive visually and in terms of narrative. This self-referentiality echoes the structure of the narrative and the role of the tertulianos, since they are there because of their relation to an earlier story or famous person. But you have to be in on the reference to know this, and La Caja is presented as a kind of collective baring of the soul, to show you the audience what you have never seen (which seems unlikely given the lack of limits on this show, where these people have no sense of Too Much Information, privacy or decorum - for example, taking photographs of corpses would not be surprising on this show). My favorite moment is when they frame La Caja from above, a sharp bird's eye view of the tertuliano, exposed like a prisoner in the Panopticon or a military target just prior to a drone attack.

For more on La Caja, see this video