Note: My appearance on the Today show has been rescheduled for Monday morning, but since the Today show covers news, that can change at any minute.
What’s going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between.
Instead of plucking collagen from liposucted thighs, let’s take it from the menace of the sea!
Fruits of the sea: Newest skin-care source: jellyfish! (Raise your hand if the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word jellyfish is Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself. Anyone?)
Political pedicure: Okay, I know I swore off “dudes get pedicures too!” for this section, but since the dude in question actually elaborated on his tootsies I think this gets a pass. So: Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, gets pedicures. Ta-da! More important: Cory Booker’s people must be pretty phenomenal. How many other mayors of towns under populations of 300,000 would you recognize? Mayor as brand. Mostly because he’s cute?
…And Everything In Between:
To fight that unbeatable foe!: Breathe deeply! Dr. Bronner’s lawsuit against a number of competing companies, including Hain Celestials and Kiss My Face, has been dismissed. The everevolving Eternal Company of Dr. Bronner’s claimed that the competitors were not living up to the almighty, ever-loving standards of the word organic! But a California district court threw it out, knowing that Absolute teamwork fertilizes God’s Earth! ALL-ONE! ALL-ONE! Great love, song speech & Profitsharing. Health is Wealth!
You wax his back, he’ll scratch yours: Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) met with beauty industry insiders last week to talk the Small Business Tax Equalization and Compliance Act, which is of interest to salons since it would give salon owners dollar-for-dollar tax credit on FICA taxes on employee tips.
Lush politics: Lush does it again, backing a truly controversial cause instead of merely hiding behind pink ribbons: It’s campaigning on behalf of the Free Papua movement, which doesn’t yet have popular support. The movement has been outlawed in Indonesia, which took reign over Papua and West Papua in 1969 after a U.N.-sponsored referendum that was widely suspected of being rigged.
Masstige reigns: L’Oréal brings its hoity-toity brands Vichy and La Roche-Posay to Walgreens, presumably part of the drugstore chain’s mission to become more of a masstige destination, à la its Look boutiques in NYC’s Duane Reades.
Industrial beauty: Interesting read on another way the beauty-business boom in China is influencing Chinese female consumers: the quality (and price) increase of beauty salons. Once upon a time, beauty salons were vaguely unseemly, tucked away on side streets, and workers suffered from the assumption that “beauty salons” and their kin, “massage parlors,” dealt in trades other than beauty and massages. Fast-forward to a surging middle class and suddenly the salon business is not only legitimate, but growing at a rapid-fire pace.
Cross culture: A peek at a growing Japanese subculture: men dressing like women. Hardly news in the States, but interesting to see emerging in Japan.
Clean and white: A new campaign for Clean and Dry, an “intimate wash” with skin lightening properties, is causing an outcry in its target market of India. I’ve argued before about the knee-jerk reaction of associating skin lightening creams with racism in nations where most of the population is dark- or tawny-skinned; that is, while race can never be left entirely out of the equation, it seems those creams are more associated with lifestyle and class connotations than internalized racial oppression. But this is different, methinks: Women worldwide are told their labia might not be quite good enough (vaginoplasty, anyone?), yet I can’t help but think that the specific use of the tactic of “your labia are too brown” taps into a deep shame regarding one’s skin color.
Eating disorders aren’t just a rich white girl thing, you know.
Binge and purrge: The newest population to fall prey to eating disorders, specifically psychogenic abnormal feeding behavior: cats.
Ana mia pia: Interesting study that’s made the rounds about a potential upside to pro-eating-disorder sites: They may actually encourage and enable support of wellness, not only destructive behaviors. I’m actually not too surprised to hear this; plenty of the women I know with eating disorders have a pretty intense love/hate relationship with the very idea of the eating disorder. Nobody’s suggesting we need more of these blogs, but I’m glad to see researchers looking at this with more complexity than just a blanket admonishment of these sites.
Potato chip diet: Kristen Stewart is going to develop an eating disorder! Because she’s suffering from a very public breakup for which she’s being villainized (understandably so, but still) and is subsisting on cigarettes and potato chips! Oh, criminy. Who doesn’t eat weird post-breakup? I recall being unable to stomach anything other than buttered toast after finding a then-boyfriend’s active profile on Match.com (some suspicions, my friends, are founded). So this story is annoying for two reasons: 1) It gives a false impression of what eating disorders actually are (that is, you need to do more than just have a couple of weeks of eating poorly to have one), and 2) it shows that somehow eating disorders are to be expected of young women. Nobody is reporting on Robert Pattinson’s eating habits, are they?
“Looking good is often balanced by feeling bad”: Jane Hu gives the best piece on the complexities of the Cat Marnell thing (which I say, perhaps in vain, to separate it from Cat Marnell, who is, after all, a person) that I’ve read yet: “Marnell’s ‘unthinkable jouissance’ is just that—an explosive pleasure so seemingly destructive that many of us would rather not contemplate it. Her pleasure threatens the logic of reproductive futurism by exposing how meaningless life could get.”
What men REALLY think, no really!: Hilarious commentary on one of those “What Dudes Really Think” pieces that basically serves as mental policing of us lady-types. I’d have liked to see Lindy focus more on the media machine that cranks out crap like this and less on the individual men quoted in the piece (who, I’m guessing, were badgered into it by a friend who happened to be an editor for RealBeauty.com who begged, “Please say something douchey about your girlfriend on the record! Think hard! First name only”). That said, I love the piece, and she also makes a very salient point here, about a man who says that he wishes his girlfriend would actually get a manicure instead of doing her nails herself: “I find it hard to believe that Shaun can even tell the difference between a salon manicure and an at-home manicure, unless his girlfriend has some sort of tremor-inducing palsy, or multitasks by combining nail maintenance with trampoline practice. Which means this whole thing is just about signaling—Shaun wants to be with the kind of woman who gets her nails done at a salon.” Yep, yep, and yep.
On the Eurocentric beauty myth: I do my best to not superimpose my own politics onto other women’s bodies, but I’m pretty sure I fall short sometimes. So this airing of concerns at Gradient Lair about white folks who shake their heads at black people who appear to be throwing around some internalized oppression is worth remembering. It’s all spurred by talk of Gabby Douglas and, yep, her hair: “When Whites shake their fingers at Black people with internalized White supremacy issues, the ones that make them bash Gabby’s hair, yet turn around and deny job applicants with ‘ethnic’ names, ‘ethnic’ zip codes, or braids or locks, hair texture and Black culture most certainly intersects with Whiteness.”
Eau de classics: This soap company sounds exquisite, taking inspiration from their scents from works of classic music and literature. Roses and cedar (both mentioned in the libretto) in The Magic Flute-inspired soap; olive oil and laurel leaf for Hyperion, set in Greece. Of course, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has been doing this for years, but there’s always room for more, right?
Sniff: I don’t care enough about perfumes to follow all these, but this list of the 17 best perfume blogs from Stylelist seems well-curated (and features the one scent blog I do read regularly, Scented Salamander, a blog that manages to be both conversational and erudite). In particular, I’m enchanted by Yesterday’s Perfume, a vintage perfume blog.
The oldest panties in the world: Meet the 600-year-old matching bra-and-underwear set recently discovered in Austria.
“It’s a good thing that beauty is only skin deep, or I’d be rotten to the core.” Phyllis Diller, 1917–2012
Two sides, same coin: It’s not particularly hard to find beauty tutorials in Helen Gurley Brown’s legacy—so I love that style expert Rachel Weingarten writes on not only an unexpected lesson from HGB, but on what she learned about beauty from Phyllis Diller. (It’s been a rough couple of weeks for amazing older women, oui?)
What does a runner look like?: Congrats to Caitlin’s recent 5K victory for her age group (and third woman overall!). As ever, she puts her thoughts on female athleticism adoitly: “I don’t look like a runner. I look like a basketball player, or maybe a swimmer. I look solid and sturdy and thick. I’m tall—taller than most women and even most men. My stomach isn’t flat. It hasn’t been since…actually, I don’t think it ever has been flat. My thighs are muscular but not lean. … And yet there I was, the third woman across the finish line. My body was slick with sweat, my face red with exertion, my feet barely touching the ground because I was running so fucking hard. I may not look like a runner, but I am one—a good one, too. And I’m only going to get better.”
Dangerous curves ahead: Beauty Redefined, in characteristically sharp fashion, identifies exactly why it’s not progress when photo editors airbrush in curves on models instead of taking them out: “Thinness is not the problem here. Hourglass figures or ‘curves in all the right places’ are not the problem here. The problem here is that the grass is always greener on the other side, and so many industries have capitalized on convincing and re-convincing women (and men) of that lie.” Absolutely. The first time I saw an editor mark up a photo with instructions to make the model “less bony,” I felt a small sense of victory—until I put together that not only was that a deception to the reader, but a disservice to the model pictured. You see a lot of this in the industry. And just like thin-bashing, it is not okay.
On “old love”: I’ve often wondered—assuming I am lucky enough to not only grow very old, but to grow very old with someone I love—how I’ll handle knowing without a doubt that any form of conventional beauty I might have has faded. Normally I assuage my worries with thoughts of how if I’m so lucky to grow old with someone, surely he would see beauty beyond its supposed natural life; this essay reveals that might be true, but also that the admission of beauty’s fading needn’t be a bad thing: “A secret I have kept until now, however, is my suspicion that sometimes when I look at her today I substitute the image from a photograph taken almost 40 years ago in the garden of a villa on a Greek island, and that when she sees me she performs a similar operation.”
Flattered yet?: “Flattering” has some mighty mixed messages therein, and Ragen at Dances With Fat stakes her claim against the word. I use the word judiciously—and I really try not to use it as a synonym for “slimming” when applied to clothes—for many of the reasons Ragen lists here, namely that it encourages the idea that there’s one right way to look, and the closer you get to that look, the more “flattering” something is. (What about plain old looking good?) That said, I’m not exactly out to wear clothes that aren’t flattering, you know? I’m not so into fashion that I must have the newest [whatever; I don’t even know what’s trendy right now, polka-dots?] regardless of how it looks on me; I want everything I wear to make me look my best. And yes, that’s usually slimmer yet more hourglassy than I actually am. Ambivalent I remain.
Visibility forecast: I’ve seen the term “Visible Monday” around the style blogosphere, but hadn’t really understood what it meant until I read this post by Patti at Not Dead Yet Style, guest posting for Already Pretty. I’ve heard of the phenomenon of “the invisible woman”—that is, women over a certain age who presumably cease to garner the male gaze, or indeed most gazes—and love Patti’s response to it: Every Monday, she and anyone who wants to post style photos of themselves that make them feel visible.
Curve chart: Loving the Corporate Curves Report at Hourglassy, examining ways for full-busted women to navigate work wardrobe concerns and awkward work situations. (Like, erm, the time a videoconferencing camera wound up zooming in on Tina’s bust.)
Modestly yours: Nahida examines the contradictions in practice surrounding Qur’an 23:31: “to subdue their gaze, and to be mindful / of their chastity, and not to show off? / parts of their adornment [in public] beyond? / what may [decently] be apparent? / or obvious thereof.” Or you could just read it as a post about hair flowers! Your call.
On shopping as war: Christina Kral and Adriana Valdez Young for South/South at The New Inquiry: “Both [war and shopping] can be quite aggressive and at the same time appear to be innocent or absolutely necessary. As we shop or war, we serve a greater other. There are seasons for shopping and seasons for war. Both keep us busy and controlled, it is aBeschäftigung (activity, occupation, service), a Zeitvertreib(pastime, amusement, vocation). What would people do if going to war or to the mall wasn’t an option anymore?”
You really like me!: Is it tooting my own horn if I point readers to someone else tooting my horn? Well, apologies if it is, but the Strong, Sexy & Stylish Short podcast this week made me all glowy, with Sally McGraw and her colleagues giving the public thumbs-up to what I do here. Thank you to the wonderful trio!