Nicole Kristal, Writer and Bisexual Advocate, Los Angeles

"If you want to get pussy, cut your hair off."
Picking a title to introduce Nicole Kristal was probably the most challenging part of this interview. Screenwriter, sure—her short film, Do You Have a Cat?, has been screened at LGBT festivals internationally. (You can rent it for $2 at BuskFilms.com, and I suggest you do exactly that.) Author, yes—her (hilarious) book, The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe, cowritten with Mike Szymanski, won a Lambda Literary Award. Songstress, check—her rock-folk CD manages to be warm yet biting, melancholy yet upbeat. Blogger, mais oui—you may have come across her piece "Watching a Friend Die on Facebook," which went viral last year, from her grief blog. And as it happens, her skills extend to my arena too: She edited the first piece I ever wrote about beauty, published in our college magazine. But it’s her expertise in one of her work’s recurring themes—bisexuality—that made me want to interview her here. We… Read More...

Fairest of Them All

What if we saw how a sympathetic woman renowned for her beauty became obsessed with her stepdaughter's looks? That is: What if Rapunzel were Snow White's wicked stepmother?
Some might say that novelist Carolyn Turgeon's books tell the hidden side of fairy tales. That's true enough, but I'd put it differently: Her books tell of the ways women relate to one another through beauty. The idea behind Carolyn's latest, The Fairest of Them All, is deceptively simple: What if Rapunzel were Snow White's "evil stepmother"? That is, what if we saw the evolution of how a sympathetic woman renowned for her beauty became so obsessed with another person's loveliness that she'd order her death? It's a variation on a theme Carolyn explored in Mermaid, which spotlights the relationship between the mermaid and the princess of the classic fairy tale: "They're both beautiful, but they are literally different species, and I wanted to explore that complicated relationship." I asked her about the ways the heroines of The Fairest of Them All relate to beauty: "In fairy… Read More...

Beauty Blogosphere Break

Regular readers may have noticed that I haven’t done my links roundup for a couple of weeks. I’d intended to just take a brief break,…
Regular readers may have noticed that I haven't done my links roundup for a couple of weeks. I'd intended to just take a brief break, but when I started putting together this week's collection, I realized exactly why I wanted a break: Reading all that can be exhausting! And right now I'm trying to focus my reading energies on larger pieces, i.e. books, to give myself a solid background to draw from in writing my own book. (Plus, I'm still figuring out how to write a book and blog at the same time without growing roots at my computer.)   So the Beauty Blogosphere is on hiatus for a bit longer. It will return—I love finding and curating these links, and it's a fun departure from the other kind of posts I have on here—but not for a couple of… Read More...

“She Has Glasses”

"If I didn't have glasses, I would be in the competition with everyone else to be pretty." (Guest post.)
Longtime readers may remember an invited post by Alexa, aka Blossoming Badass, that I ran some time ago as a teen perspective on the beauty mores of her generation. Alexa's writing first spoke to me because—at the risk of sounding like one of the adults in her poem "Lines Converging"—it reminded me of my own at her age. But in watching this particular badass blossom, I see that I was mistaken: Her voice has grown into one that mixes careful observance of self and others with searing moments of intensity—a mix that's quite a feat to pull off (and one I certainly couldn't as a college freshman, which she'll be this fall). I'm so glad to have Alexa back on The Beheld with this piece on navigating comfort, prettiness, and glasses...another feat I haven't yet been able to pull off! You can read… Read More...

Coming to My Senses

Memoir excerpt and giveaway.
A memoir about perfume from anyone other than a perfumer seems unlikely—unlikelier still that such a book would raise questions about gender, community, family history, class, and expectation. So it’s fitting that unlikely is one of the keywords here to Alyssa Harad’s memoir, Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride. There’s much to love about this book—the lyrical words, the sensual descriptions of various perfumes, the ongoing navigation of bridedom—but what I appreciated about it above all was the way it reconciled feminism with what one might label “the feminine arts.” (Though as Alyssa’s story of having a sniff-fest with a transgendered friend of hers shows, fragrance is hardly limited to the feminine.) I felt a pulse of recognition throughout: The tale of learning to ease the imagined divide between the pleasures of perfume (or makeup, or a… Read More...

Beauty Blogosphere 7.12.13

Feminine protest icons, camel beauty, the pregnant body and random yahoos, and more.
What's going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between.   From Head... Crop top: Cristen and Caroline nail it again with their podcast on what short hair symbolizes on women. (Bonus: You'll learn the real story behind Mia Farrow's pixie cut.)     ...To Toe... Toeing the line: Note to those hoping to deploy fraud to avoid paying full price for a pedicure, as was the case with a Connecticut woman this week who stopped the pedicure midway through and insisted on paying only $10: Dash out on the early side. "Police observed the final coat of polish on Parker’s nails and asked her to pay the full $22, which she refused, according to police." She was charged with sixth-degree larceny for theft of services.     ...And Everything In Between: Lady in red: Protests in Turkey and an icon… Read More...

Go, Tootsie, Go

Why has the video of Dustin Hoffman talking about "Tootsie" gone viral?
  I've been half-in and half-out of the blogosphere for a couple of weeks, so when my blogger buddy Tatiana tweeted this video of Dustin Hoffman talking about Tootsie to me, I didn't realize exactly how viral it had gone. It was only today when I looked at Facebook for the first time in days that I realized it had been shared at least a dozen times by my friends—and not just my usual circle of feministy-bloggy suspects but by high school friends, coworkers from random jobs years ago, etc.   On the off-chance that you've missed the video, here's the gist: Hoffman talks about the impetus for creating Tootsie, and how when he first saw himself on test footage made over like a woman, he was pleased, but then asked his makeup artists to make him not just a woman, but a beautiful woman:   I thought,… Read More...

Beauty Blogosphere 6.28.13

Tom Ford's dudely new cosmetics line, hijab fashionistas, and fashion tips from Mr. T.
What's going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between. From Head... "Why go gray in my mid-50s? Because I can": There may be a "cure" for gray hair on the way, but Leah Rozen serves a reminder that there are plenty of reasons to let nature take its course. None of you work for the TSA, right? ...To Toe... Pedi danger: The bad news is that not only do pedicure chairs start fires, but pedicure razors can be used as weapons too. The good news is that if a pedicurist gone wild attacks you with one, you won't even realize you've been stabbed, because the wounds are as tiny as your delicate little toenails, you gorgeous thing you. ...And Everything In Between: Beauty labor: Beauty workers are more in demand than ever: 90% of beauty industry freelancers expect to increase or maintain their rates… Read More...

Miyoko Hikiji, Soldier, Author, and Model, Iowa

"I think that’s a real issue in the military—and in our society—about beauty and gender stereotypes, that pretty can’t be tough. We don't think about soldiers as being women."
“I feel obligated to educate anyone that doesn’t wear a uniform about what military service is like,” says Miyoko Hikiji, a nine-year veteran of the U.S. Army whose career began when she joined the Iowa Army National Guard in college, eventually leading her to serve with the 2133rd Transportation Company during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Her recently published book, All I Could Be: My Story as a Woman Warrior in Iraq (History Publishing Company, 2013), goes a good ways toward that obligation. And when I found out that the soldier-turned-author also began modeling upon retiring from the military, well, how could I not want to interview her? Beauty is hardly the most crucial aspect of a soldier’s life, but it’s an area unique to female soldiers, who make up 15.7% of active Army members—and who, in January, had all military occupational specialties opened to… Read More...

Beauty Blogosphere Summer Solstice

All the made-up young men, Ed Snowden's pretty lady, American Indian fashion, and how to whiten your teeth with banana peels.
What's going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between.   Swedish-American artist Annika Connor, looking all midsummer maiden. From Head... Midsummer night's dream: It's midsummer! Don't you want to make a wreath of fresh flowers and dance like a wood nymph? Yes, you do. Here's how.   ...To Toe... Bodily harm: [Unexpectedly heavy content ahead] I'm not sure what to think of this report of a domestic violence attack: After waking up to find that his girlfriend had painted his toenails in his sleep, 25-year-old Dominic Hodson proceeded to beat her for two hours. It's horrifying, and it goes without saying that nothing can "make" an abuser launch into an attack; abusers will find whatever reason they need. Her actions were not a provocation. That said: Isn't it a form of abuse to invade someone's sense of bodily ownership? To assert… Read More...

I’ll Be Watching You: NSA Surveillance and the Male Gaze

If you spend a lifetime housing your internal surveillance system, you might not be terribly surprised when you find that there are external surveyors you hadn't considered.
    I would give readers a quick 101 on the NSA surveillance scandal before I go on to make my point, but the fact is, I’ve got no facts. I saw the headlines, heard the occasional bits of cocktail party buzz, and saw a flurry of blog posts—which I skimmed at best, or skipped altogether—crop up in my RSS feed. And then, I shrugged.   Apathy doesn’t seem like the greatest reason to tune out of something that, intellectually and politically speaking, enrages me—or at least should enrage me, if rage were a rational response that arose upon provocation of our most deeply held beliefs. But there it is: In a country whose founding principles include freedom of expression, learning that the government is—what, reading our e-mails? listening to our phone conversations?—this citizen’s response is meh.   The longer… Read More...

Beauty Blogosphere 6.14.13

The plague of Bitchy Resting Face, labor laws for models, vanity sizing, and Swedish men in skirts.
What's going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between.   Together, we can find a cure for Bitchy Resting Face. From Head... It's an epidemic: Do you suffer from Bitchy Resting Face? (Actually, I suffer from Friendly Resting Face. Anyone else?)   ...To Toe... Foot fetish: Shoes made out of romance novels.   ...And Everything In Between: Model citizens: This is enormous news in the fashion world: New York state passed a bill that extends child labor protection to models under 18. Hard to believe they didn't enjoy the protections offered to other underage performers—thus, among other things, forcing girls to choose between their careers and finishing high school—but they didn't, until now. Congrats to the dedicated team at Model Alliance, the organization behind the bill.   Ladies first: The wardrobe of China's first lady is scrutinized just as carefully as we do for our own FLOTUS—but for… Read More...

Beauty Blogosphere 6.7.13

Military dress, MAC handing out herpes, the BS of bra-fitting, and more.
What's going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between. From Head... Photo op: "Requests for [cosmetic] surgery as a result of social media photo sharing rose 31% in 2012, reports the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery."   ...To Toe...   Jeepers creepers: The word of the week is creepers, or shoes with thick, soft soles (which unfortunately turns out to be etymologically unrelated to the Teddy Boy subculture of the 1950s).     ...And Everything In Between: Please hold: Apparently UK beauty salons have a ways to go with their telephone protocol, leaving callers on hold for (gasp!) 33 seconds.   Eye spy: Procter & Gamble is hiring eye-tracking firm blah blah blah [at this point the actual story here—about P&G trying to figure out which of its ads are actually seen—becomes of secondary importance, so we can focus on the… Read More...

We Can Do It!: Rosie the Swiffer

Rosie the Riveter was propaganda created to refashion the idea of conventional femininity. Which is exactly how the Swiffer folks were using it.
Is it just me, or could this B-17 bomber use a good Swiffing?   This isn't beauty-related exactly (and I'm still figuring out how to balance blogging with book-writing, and am not doing a fantastic job of it thus far!), but I couldn't resist giving my quick two cents about the Swiffer/Rosie the Riveter thing. For those who haven't followed the story: Swiffer, a Procter & Gamble-produced line of disposable mopping and sweeping products, recently used a Rosie the Riveter-style image in one of their ads. People got riled up—using a feminist icon to promote traditional "women's work"? no, thanks—and P&G has apologized and is attempting to remove the ad from all placements.   But here's the thing: Rosie the Riveter...isn't feminist. The image has been appropriated by feminists, sure, myself included. (One of my prized possessions is my Rosie the Riveter dish towel. Irony much?… Read More...

Beauty Blogosphere 5.31.13

Hair dryer history, pubic hair removal injuries, shaving in space, and more.
What's going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between. From Head... Dry heat: Among the many delightful morsels in Meli's history of the hair dryer: "That annoying cut-off switch on your modern blow dryer? It keeps electrocutions from hair dryers to about four a year, down from the hundreds before safety switches were invented and required." Still annoyed by it. But thankful! ...To Toe... Happy June!: In honor of the inaugural blisters ushered in by flip-flop weather, some tips on avoiding blisters, including the one time socks with sandals is a good idea. ...And Everything In Between: Rinse and repeat: Meet the new Procter & Gamble CEO, A.G. Lafley! His résumé includes a nine-year stint as...Procter & Gamble CEO.  Holy waters: Using religion as a cosmetics selling point: kosher or not-kosher? Urban style: There's plenty to be said about the state mandating that women cover… Read More...