In Defense of Paulina Gretzky’s Flare Cover

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Sabrina Maddeaux: “I’m interested in the magazine for the first time in years”

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I once tried to hire an editor who was also interested in a position at Flare and I couldn’t understand why.

You’ll never be allowed to write anything real, I protested.

You’ll be so bored, I warned.

Do you really want to write about ‘195 party finds?’ I gawked.

Enter Flare‘s February 2013 cover featuring Paulina Gretzky, and I’m interested in the magazine for the first time in years. Why? Because they’ve taken a small step toward publishing content that actually relates to readers on a deeper level than some sort of reformation guide for “returnaholics.”

But not everyone is so impressed. On Tuesday, the Globe and Mail‘s Steve Ladurantaye delivered a rather scathing condemnation of the cover choice. “It doesn’t matter that the rest of the world has never been all that interested in the antics of the 24-year-old woman whose principal claim to fame is that her father was a really good hockey player. That’s not entirely fair — she’s probably just as well known for her provocative Instagram photos,” he wrote.

So, the Generation X male reporter can’t relate to Gretzky? Shocker. But that’s not the real question here. The question is whether Flare’s 20-something readers, a significant portion of their demographic, can relate to her story.

Some are upset Flare granted Gretzky a coveted cover for what they see as little more than having a famous father– but we fawn over celebs’ kids all the time, so I can’t believe this is the real source of outrage. If we really want to go there., the Canadian fashion and media landscape is so unabashedly incestuous (are there any famous Canadian offspring CTV hasn’t hired?) that it’s laughable to think Gretzky is the straw that broke the inbred camel’s back. Gretzky’s glam chops gracing February is the least of this industry’s problems.

And, please, let’s talk about these ‘trashy’ Instagram photos. There’s this one, captioned by the Toronto Star as her “dancing suggestively at a nightclub.” Excuse me, but SHE LOOKS LIKE EVERY OTHER GIRL WHO HAS EVER DANCED AT A NIGHTCLUB. Not to mention I’d like to see a paper chastise a man for “dancing suggestively at a nightclub.” It would never happen. There’s also this photo, where Gretzky appears to be wearing a Herve Leger bandage dress, which the Star writes is “of her striking a pose with back arched and chest out.”  Um, that’s what a bandage dress does to one’s physique– it’s why they’re so popular. Also, please show me an article where you imply a man’s sluttiness for flexing his chest muscles.

The most risqué photo of the batch, which she has since deleted and says she regrets, is one where Gretzky lies across two companions, legs sprawled wide. Even though she wears a bikini in the photo, we can’t help but shame her for being trashy, presumably promiscuous, and generally undeserving of our respect and — God forbid — a Flare cover. The top-rated comment on Ladurantaye’s column is, “You know that media and Hollywood have sunk to new depths, when skanks who make amateur sex tapes and publish D level photos are ‘celebrity’.”

I feel it’s necessary to point out that Gretzky does not have a sex tape, or even naked photos online– just photos in a bikini. Then we have the gall to turn around and promise the world’s Amanda Todds that things posted in fits of youthful naïveté won’t forever brand them sluts and skanks. In defense of the cover, Flare EIC Miranda Purves writes, “I can’t say for certain that if I were 24 right now, I wouldn’t be posting risqué pictures of myself online.” Purves shows the rare compassion and understanding that young women need from those in positions of power– because what twentysomething hasn’t released potentially regrettable photos into the digital wild? To pretend otherwise, to gloss over and ignore the complexity of the issue, is what the old Flare would’ve done.

In truth, there seems to be a collective sense of disappointment that Gretzky hasn’t lived up to the greatness of her ‘great one’ father. There’s a contemptuous belief that she embarrasses him. But if she were a young, globetrotting playboy, would people be so concerned with her online antics? When Prince Harry gets wild in Vegas, ‘boys will be boys.’ But when Gretzky does it? What trash. How awfully paternalistic it is to insist she plays the classy debutante, seamlessly carrying forward her heralded daddy’s legacy.

Economists predict that this generation will be the first not to surpass the success of their parents, famous hockey players or otherwise. Paulina’s struggle to do so is incredibly relatable.  Rather than explore the confusion, the sense of disenfranchisement, the loss of self-worth that this reality brings, and the resulting surge in self-made social media moguls (which, with 208, 581 Twitter followers and 98,826 Instagram followers, Gretzky tops), Ladurantaye makes fun of the fact that Gretzky hasn’t yet found great success in her career of choice. What 24-year-old has?

Gretzky is “a woman whose only other plans seem to be to focus on her music,” mocks Ladurantaye. “And her music is a ‘huge, huge thing right now,’ so she’s probably totally busy. (After all, she did have a song, the instantly forgettable pop ballad Collecting Dust, featured on the reality-TV series Laguna Beach in 2006, and briefly had a deal with Universal Canada, so it could still totally maybe be a thing.)”

The thing is, that’s actually more success than most young musicians can boast. But because she hasn’t been able to parlay her father’s wealth and success into a quick career of her own, we laugh and discourage without stopping to think that maybe she wants to do this on her own terms. You know, that whole independent woman thing that obviously can’t coexist with a woman who’d post ‘scandalous’ photos of herself online. And so we throw some “totallys” and “maybes” into her sentiments to make Gretzky’s career goals sound more vapid, more like those of a silly girl. Women can only be one thing at a time! Just one!

Sure, as many have pointed out, Gretzky may not be a “role model,” but does this generation of uneasy women really need another too-perfect and too-PR’d celebrity to drive magazines’ stock aspirational (and often unrealistic) messages home? Or do young women need a mirror through which they can reflect and find comfort in their own anxious circumstance?  Covers where Mila Jovovich (Flare, October 2012) boasts, “I always knew when to say no,” and Scarlett Johansson (Flare, May 2012) swears, “I have no career regrets,” seem to foolishly patronize girls who are more uncertain than ever. Paulina Gretzky may not be picture perfect, but neither is this generation.

*This post was originally published in Toronto Standard

Is Marilyn Monroe the New Jesus?

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Sabrina Maddeaux on the big business of dead celebrities

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Marilyn Monroe died for our sins. The sins of a manipulative Hollywood machine, a dehumanizing sex-obsessed culture, and, many would say, the sins of a president who couldn’t keep it in his pants.

But Marilyn Monroe is anything but dead. Her estate, in conjunction with clever brand managers and undying fans, have resurrected the pretty pop-culture princess from her pill-ridden deathbed and immortalized her as something more–an all-American deity who hangs, giggling and dress billowing, over a New York subway grate for all eternity. This may not be the real Marilyn Monroe, but it’s the Marilyn Monroe we believe in.

Our growing culture of celebrity worship is no secret. In a world where ‘traditional’ religions have fallen more and more out of touch, people are looking for something else, someone else to believe in. Celebrities, with their bigger-than-life personas, have stepped in to fill the void. Tabloids as the new Good Books, fan pages the new congregations, carefully crafted quotes the new gospel. Pre-pubescent fangirls wait outside concerts with signs that vow Bieber Forever! and Have my baby! as if praying for an immaculate conception of their very own.

Living, breathing celebrities are one thing. But the real power — and the real money — lies with the dead. A new crop of Hollywood power players is making its fortune buying up, managing, and selling the names and likenesses of deceased celebs. Forbes even publishes an annual “Top-Earning Dead Celebrities” list. Monroe was seventh in 2012, but stands to move up the rankings with a new gig as the face of Chanel No. 5 and, locally, a new chain ofMarilyn Monroeâ„¢ Cafés–the first of which opened in Oakville earlier this month.

A press release describes the new café as “not a shrine,” but “a place Marilyn would be comfortable in.” It seems an experiment in turning blind worship into a more holistic experience, a communion of sorts. Patrons can break the same bread (in the form of a French Flaked Croissant) that might’ve been Monroe’s last breakfast. Instead of a collection basket, there’s the opportunity to purchase “a wide array of merchandise” on the way out.

Toronto native Jamie Salter, CEO and chairman of Authentic Brands Group LLC, owns Marilyn Monroe’s estate and has been dubbed a “dead-celebrity dealmaker” by reporters. But he’s not the only Canadian making dead celebs his niche. Mississauga-based Jesse Decostaspecializes in rebranding, managing, and licensing the likes of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.

Dead celebrities make great clients because they’re frozen in time; they can’t publicly shame themselves, grow older and irrelevant, or quit the biz to start a family. “When we’re dealing with celebrities who aren’t alive anymore, we can take some more risk because they’re not looking to move into a different area of their career, like say, from music to film,” says Decosta. “We’re working with an existing brand and carving our own path.”

He won’t answer when I ask if, from a brand management standpoint, it’s better for his celebrity clients to die young, at the height of their careers. But it must be. Keeping a celebrity in the spotlight, continuing to market a young beautiful face, is easier than turning back the clock on one who has lived to lose their sex appeal and be replaced by a new generation of starlets.

Untimely death is the stuff myths are made of. And in the cult of celebrity, as in religion, myth is the real almighty power. The historical Jesus ain’t got nothing on the mythical Christ– and suicidal, lonely, manipulated Norma Jean can’t lay a finger on glamorous sexpot Marilyn. Possible paranoid schizophrenia and broken hearts be damned when crème brulee lattes and expensive perfume that Monroe famously told a reporter was the only thing she wore to bed (but not dead in bed, that wouldn’t be marketable) are poised to make untold amounts of money.

“We typically test ideas with our audiences. So one of the first things we do is take over audience management through social media… they tell us in real time if they hate something or if they love something,” says Decosta.

A crowd-sourced faith community is a tempting alternative in an evermore democratized world, where religious institutions obsessed with controlling the masses struggle to thrive. Dead celebrities as modern-day messiahs; big business controlling the strings.

Salter told Bloomberg Business Week that to properly market a dead celeb, “Everything we do must have authentic DNA.” The quote eerily reminds me of Brandon Cronenberg’sAntiviral when [SPOILER ALERT] clinics continue to harvest the DNA of superstar Hannah Geist, organs kept alive by a machine, long after her death for biological communion by fans. Except, while Hannah’s fans pay for diseases and imperfections rooted in her humanity, we pay for sweet masking agents that cover up stars’ true identities and turn them into whatever we want them to be. It’s tough to decide which is more disturbing.

In both cases, it’s about devotion, profit, and prolonging the life and influence of celebrity. Fifteen minutes be damned, how does eternity sound?

*This post was originally published in Toronto Standard

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Sext?

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Sabrina Maddeaux: “I don’t know how many people have seen my tits”

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It was my freshman year of college in the U.S., I was 18, and dating a boy who played on one of the school’s more successful athletic teams. In “season” he was more often than not away from campus to compete against other schools. On one of these trips, I sent him an e-mail containing several less-than-clothed photos.

I don’t know how many people have seen my tits. And, chances are, neither do you. Not really, anyway. I think, these days, if you send ‘dirty photos’ to someone, you have to assume someone else is going to see them. Someone shows a friend, someone loses a phone, someone gets hacked, someone decides they’re the interweb’s self-made Hugh Hefner… there are just too many variables for anyone to expect real privacy when it comes to private photos of private parts.

Yet despite so many women — and men — hovering one ill-fated tap of a touch screen away from what we’re religiously (oh yes, pun intended) told will spell Disaster with a capital “D,” we find ourselves fit to scold and slut-shame those unfortunate few whose intimate transactions somehow turn material for public fodder. It will ruin your career! They exclaim. What will your parents say? They gasp. (Funny, though, how no one ever implies that Todd Akin wasn’t raised right, or that his lack of basic scientific knowledge will bring ruin and shame upon his poor family).

It’s a pretty shitty fact, but a fact nonetheless, that this type of shaming is exponentially worse when it’s a female whose sexuality has been ‘outed.’ I say outed, because the female sex drive is meant to stay in the closet where we don’t have come to terms with the fact that a woman can be professional and horny, a loyal patriot and mistress. Men can run companies and countries, and be playboys on the side– but society can only handle women who fit into one category. To accept three-dimensional women more would be too threatening, too much.

Then, when a tragedy like Amanda Todd’s occurs, everyone weeps and wishes that this young girl had known it would get better. This one “mistake” was no need to throw her life away.

Fast forward to stories like Angela Gaines’ in the Examiner that preaches, “This tragic tale unfolds with an error in judgment made by a 12 year old… I’m sure she never fathomed what could happen to her as a result of that unforgettable few seconds of her life, but now we all know.” And then, “In an attempt to feel accepted by someone, she hooked up with a boy who set out to mistreat and use her.” (Because Amanda could not have genuinely liked this boy, could not have wanted to have sex for pleasure’s sake… she’s been categorized as a victim eternal, and that she must remain).

Jezebel’s Hugo Schwyzer gets it so right when he writes that ”Gaines’ piece is itself ‘one sad example’ of the way in which Todd’s suicide has been appropriated in the service of victim-blaming slut-shaming repackaged as concern for vulnerable teens.”

He closes the piece with a plea: “Someday in the not-too-distant future, a powerful woman —- a Jobs-like figure -— will come forward… She’ll share what it was like to send that picture out, and what it was like when it was spread all over school. And she’ll talk about how as painful as it was, it didn’t ruin her life.”

Well, I may not exactly be a “Jobs-like figure,” but I do consider myself a powerful woman– one who was President of my university’s Student Government Association, accepted into law schools the likes of Boston College and Notre Dame, and, now, the Managing Editor of an award-winning publication. And I will share my story.

I’ll pick it up again when, a few weeks later, a friend tipped me off that some guys on the team were passing around the photos amongst themselves. When I confronted my boyfriend, he claimed that one of his teammates had borrowed his laptop, happened to stumble upon the e-mail, and proceeded to forward it to a few friends. My guess as to whether that’s really the true sequence of events is as good as yours.

I was embarrassed, terrified, pissed as hell, and knew that I wasn’t going to roll over and let this get the best of me. It took all the courage I had to march into the Student Life department, tell several male administrators over the age of 50 what had happened, and demand that action be taken. I was lucky — not only did they log into these boys’ school-owned e-mail addresses and wipe them clean, they also encouraged me to bring the matter to the Athletic department and press charges with the police. Not once did they blame me.

But I didn’t want to press charges; I just wanted the photos gone forever and for the guys to admit their wrongdoing and apologize.  I was taken to meet with their coach to figure out a solution. This is where things took a quick nosedive. He told me that he wouldn’t so much as ask his players to apologize and that, should I choose to take matters further with the school or police, he “would be forced to explain to all the media outlets” exactly why his players were in trouble and include my name. He said that he “bet my parents didn’t know about this” and that they would surely find out if it leaked to the press. I basically politely agreed with him and left the office quietly.

I never got my apology. But, you know what? That doesn’t bother me in the slightest anymore. The guys involved weren’t trying to be malicious, they were simply, as college boys do, thinking with their dicks.  That fear, that humiliation, I felt has long since dissipated into nothingness.

But what still literally turns my face red with rage and regret is not telling that coach to go fuck himself for essentially trying to blackmail me with the “make one mistake and it will run your life” and “what will your parents say” strains of slut and victim-shaming. In incidents like these, even when the photos are long gone, the stenches of misogyny and oppression remain.

The problem isn’t the photos. The photos on their own are, well, just photos. The real problem that torments more teen girls and grown women than we could ever know is society’s complete and utter inability to deal with the most natural thing in the world: women’s sexuality.

*This post was originally published in Toronto Standard

Toronto Fashion Week Round-Up: The Good, the Bad, and the Daddy Issues

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Sabrina Maddeaux recounts the week’s most notable moments

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The Good

World MasterCard Fashion Week sure is lucky they got Lucian Matis back under their tented roof. With high-profile names like Joeffer Caoc and David Dixon missing, the number of ‘must-see’ shows on the schedule had otherwise dwindled to a dangerous low. And Matis did not disappoint. He presented a collection of Moroccan-tile print pantsuits, sheer skin-coloured blouses (no nipple pasties this season!), and crocodile-embossed leather. From high-waisted shorts to a theatrical ball gown that one big-name socialite requested to view backstage, Matis had the usually fickle Fashion Week crowd under his spell.

Last Night’s Leftovers on Glameroids

“Adrian Wu up. Squeaky foil numbers. Like last night’s leftovers on glameroids,” tweeted my boyfriend. I couldn’t have said it better myself as beehive-haired models held painted polyurethane (picture Styrofoam on steroids) over their bodies and disharmoniously squeaked and eeked down the runway to the tune of “Moon River.” In the literature, Wu claimed to be inspired by the idea of “dystopia.” In real life, the audience was just confused. Look Fifteen had a listed price of $10,500… and a disclaimer that “dresses may be worn but are meant to be a sculpture for décor or interior design displayed on a mannequin.” Whatever the intent (and with Wu there’s always intent), it didn’t translate well this time around. He’s one of the most gifted young designers in the country, but like any young talent, Wu needs editing.

Hey Fashion Critics, Get Over Your Daddy Issues

In the fight to promote fangirl-free fashion journalism, I’m no stranger to complaints about critical show/product/opening-of-a-scented-envelope reviews. Most of the time, PR reps approach me in professional manner, we talk it out, and everyone goes about their business. We’re all grown ups here, and I understand that publicists have clients they must to answer to.

Then there’s the PR rep that sent me an utterly sexist and classist tirade at the end of last week.

An excerpt: “What we read was completely distasteful and appears to be written by a pre pubescent teenager with parental issues- not unlike say someone with a “blog” titled hipstermusings….oh wait, this is her blog. It seems the musings of a hipster belong on what we came to create as a high fashion runway, because at the end of the day, that is what we are selling. Not chandeliers, or someone else’s collection from 2010 or Halloween Costumes, just simply exquisite fashion.”

And finally: “Its quite sad that when we finally get a label worth praising because it will be the one that can surpass them all, it has to be criticized, stepped on and defamed. The mother of all mother terms comes to mind here; if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all- but you started it first so my suggestion- drop the hipster back off on Queen west.”

Don’t like what I quite frankly consider a moderate, but critical, review? Fine. Want to let me know that? Go ahead. But, as the PR rep of a luxury brand FOR women, it’s downright disgraceful for you to call a 22-year-old female journalist a “pre-pubescent teenager with parental issues” and equally offensive to assert that “hipsters” have no place watching or commenting on high fashion. You might sell luxury dresses, but you can’t buy class.

If you’re sexy and you know it…

At a packed-to-the-walls show on Friday evening, Travis Taddeo proved once again that he’s a name to know in Canadian fashion with sexy draped jersey dresses and cutouts aplenty. Taddeo’s minimalist approach saw him forgo fancy embellishments for elaborate knotting, and sky-high stilettos for high-top sneakers (courtesy of a collaboration with Aldo). Fitted leather jackets and S&M-esque harnesses topped off the edgy collection, proving that ‘urban fashion’ doesn’t have to mean Urban Behaviour.

*This post was originally published in Toronto Standard 

 

Why So Silent? What the Margaret Wente Accusations Say About Canadian Media

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And why we’re all scared shitless.

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If you haven’t been on Twitter lately, you may not have heard. Margaret Wente, Globe and Mail columnist and one of Canada’s most controversial voices, has been accused of plagiarism by the blog Media Culpa. And the evidence is pretty damning.

Most notably, Media Culpa compared Wente’s article “Enviro-romanticism is hurting Africa” with an earlier article by the Ottawa Citizen‘s Dan Gardner and the words of Professor Robert Paarlberg, author of Starved for Science.

Media Culpa writes, “Wente… relies heavily on Paarlberg right from her opening paragraph, doesn’t mention the professor until at least halfway through her article – and then as a kind of afterthought – supporting what she seems to present as her own ideas and research.  When she finally gets around to mentioning him, she reproduces sentences that appeared in Gardner’s article, but without the quotation marks he had placed around Paarlberg’s words – thereby presenting some of that material as her own.”

You can view the comparisons for yourself here.

And the crazy thing is, Media Culpa has been patiently documenting Wente’s alleged plagiarism and other journalistic sins for some time now… like, since May of 2011. It’s just taken this long for one of their posts to go ‘viral.’

Holy f**ck this is going to be big tomorrow, I thought when I saw the outrage slowly start to build on my Twitter feed late Wednesday night.

But a whole news cycle later… not so much. Actually, not at all.

As of right now (4:48 p.m. on Thursday, September 20), a Google News search for “Margaret Wente” produces ZERO results that relate to the plagiarism accusations. Zero. It’s just not the Globe and Mail (who has so far refused to comment on the whole debacle) sticking its head in the sand, it’s everyone.

More or less every media outlet on the planet, including our own trusty national newspapers, picked up their pitchforks and preached morality from the rooftops when Fareed Zakaria faced similar accusations earlier this summer. For God’s sake, even the NPRintern who was caught plagiarizing got more media coverage than this. Meanwhile, Wente is about as close a household name as you can get in Canadian journalism… and nothing.

“I’d like to know why @globeandmail isn’t responding to Wente accusations. But I’d REALLY like to know why no other media are covering it,” tweeted Stuart Henderson.

Well, I’ll tell you why: Everyone is scared shitless.

It’s no big secret that the journalism business isn’t what it once was; ‘business’ has consumed ‘journalism’ whole like it’s another Kardashian sex tape. The typical ‘editorial’ thought process now goes something like this: Survival is based on ad revenue > ad revenue is based on impressions > impressions come from content > MORE CONTENT NOW!

“Content,” mind you. Not compelling features nor credible reporting, but this new and ubiquitous term for what we create: “Content.” You know, the quick stuff that can be consumed, shared, and, more often than not these days, masturbated to before the reader realizes that what they’re looking at is, in fact, complete crap.

Journalism used to be about reactions; if an article made people think, motivated them to take action, started a movement, forced a politician to resign (Imagine!), it was good. Now, it’s just about numbers.

Numbers. Numbers that come from quick, timely content– it’s about being the first to pontificate about an issue, the first to publish those photos, and the hopeless pursuit of beating Twitter to the scoop on just about anything. This has all inevitably led to a lot of embarrassingly bad journalism and, probably, a lot more plagiarism and other ethically-questionable-meets-sloppy conduct than we dare guess.

And the really scary part? I bet most editors responsible for publishing this sort of content don’t even realize it. Hell, I could be one of the editors responsible for publishing this sort of content. (I’d like to think I’m not, that I’m too careful, but would it utterly shock me? Honestly?? No.)

Editors, the so-called ‘watchmen’ of journalism, are being paid less and less to do more and more. Newsroom staffing is at a 34-year low in the U.S., and I’m sure the numbers aren’t much different (or are worse) here. Canadian media are scrambling to fight for an ever-smaller number of jobs from the handful of national media conglomerates we have, and those corporations are fighting for advertising budgets that pale in comparison to their counterparts in the States.

The days of copyeditors and fact checkers at every publication are long gone; an article that could once go through multiple revisions has to be published RIGHTNOW, lest the Internet’s short attention span move onto the next big story. Stories that used to be filed under various sections with separate editors are now often siphoned into one big umbrella category with one editor. In such a system, editing basic grammar becomes priority number one; content comes second; and tossing lines through Google search to make sure work is original? Must be nice to have that sort of time.

I bet many an overworked journalist is panicking right now over the thought that, perhaps, in a rush to meet the deadlines that come sooner and sooner, he or she has forgotten an attribution here or there. For too many people these days, being a journalist means a perpetual Please God, don’t let me get laid off next freefall to the bottom of what was once their journalistic integrity.

So, tell me, who in their right mind is going to publicly question Wente and the Globe and Mail when, for all they know, their publication could be guilty of just the same sort of negligence?

Journalists are losing control of their own medium; losing control to large publishing corporations that care more about increasing profits each quarter than providing a public service. If an extra 100,000 people flock to Wente’s next column just to see if it’s plagiarized, something tells me the Globe won’t view it as a bad thing. Hits are king. It’s why Fareed Zakaria continues to work for major publications, and why Wente will continue to as well.

The time has come for media owners to make some tough calls: Will they be accountable to the public interest and journalistic standards, or cash in with royal boobs? Based on the lack of response to the Wente accusations, I fear that judgment day may have already come and gone, and, ultimately, the public has lost.

UPDATE: The Globe and Mail’s public editor issued a statement early Friday afternoon, which can be read here.

*This post was originally published on Toronto Standard

New School: Of MMVA Snubs and Power Ball Pee Breaks

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A new column about the ups and downs of Toronto’s young and stylish

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Socially, the MMVA weekend can essentially be divided into two parts. The first, Saturday, consists of ‘gifting’ lounges in which media listen to brand reps awkwardly pitch their products in order to score free ‘swag’– things they’ll probably never use, but want in order to feel marginally vindicated about their shitty salaries.

Sometimes celebrities show up, like Cody Simpson who made the rounds to Universal Music Canada’s “Friends with Benefits” and Caesarstone’s “Influencers’ Lounge” with his hunk-of-a-dad in tow.

But it’s not just about the celebrities. Sometimes, innocent media bystanders like Flare‘sRyan Cheung and myself get coerced into endorsing high-end sweatpants in front of the sort of camcorder I imagine they film Girls Gone Wild with. I may have even performed some sort of happy sweatpants jig. Consider this our preemptive ‘we didn’t mean it’ in case the footage makes it out of someone’s uncle’s basement and into the public eye.

Then there are those who just don’t show up. Lest he miss an opportunity for critics to huff and puff about his pretentious persona, eccentric young designer Adrian Wu – who’s been gallivanting around Europe in an effort to get his work seen by the likes of Dior and YSL – sent an assistant to pick up his swag.

The second part of MMVA weekend – the really painful part – is the after parties on Sunday. The ol’ “Drake is coming! Bieber is around the corner!” routine gets tired real quick in what’s essentially a blur of silicone side boob and spandex. I was on the beat at Universal Music’s official after party at Maison Mercer. The big wait was for LMFAO, but the photo pit was treated to glazy-eyed, sparkly-haired Marianas Trench frontman Joshua Ramsay shouting F-bombs from the moment he sauntered out of an unmarked van.

CP24′s Patricia Jaggernauth arrived just as LMFAO pulled up, and as a result, the red carpet was cleared and she was ushered inside far too quickly for her liking. “Ohh I’m not good enough for the red carpet… I’m just a weather girl,” snarled Jaggernauth as she passed the photo pit.

Nature calls at Power Ball:

At the booze-soaked Power Ball: Quarter-Life Crisis, there was one fashion designer who just couldn’t make it to the bathroom. Not far from the gala’s Harbourfront venue, Project Runway Canada winner Evan Biddell was spotted urinating off the dock into Lake Ontario.

Mistaken identity:

Former Toronto Star gossip columnist Rita Zekas knows how to start a rumour. She spent Double Cross Vodka’s launch convincing pretty young things that she was in fact Betsey Johnson. Nixon band manager Brock McLaughlin tweeted I actually hung out with Betsey Johnson all night, having no idea who she was. I thought she was just a cougar,” before later claiming he was in on the joke.

Fashion notes:

The MMVA’s were a great night for Canadian designers; Katy Perry dazzled in Vawk bySunny Fong, Nelly Furtado rocked out in a little lace number from Lucian Matis’ F/W 2012 collection, and Shenae Grimes donned an Angelina-inspired custom Amanda Lew Kee. Even Kardinal Offishall showed up to Universal’s after party in a patched denim jacket from HBC’s Olympic Collection.

 

*This post was originally published in Toronto Standard

Gucci Fall-Winter 2008 . 2009 Womens + Mens Ad Campaign6.preview

Hey, Gucci: Cut the Eco-Crap and Make a Difference

Fashion

I always know Earth Day is around the corner when press releases touting cork clutches land in my inbox, followed by recyclable “chic and colourful” outdoor patio rugs, then something jade, another shade of green, rubber-this, and waterless-that. Every year, without fail, the annual green-thumbed Earth Day circle jerk hits full stride in April and continues through much of spring. Brands pump out ‘eco-friendly’ capsule collections and media push shopping guides like consumerism is going out of style.

Earlier this season, H&M, the world’s fast fashion leader, introduced a new Conscious Collection of ‘eco-glam’ pieces priced just low enough to encourage maximum consumption. The collection pays homage to all the important eco-buzzwords like ‘organic cotton’ and ‘textile waste,’ but despite its name, is anything but conscious of the real problem and thus misses any shot at being part of the solution. One-time-wear red carpet gowns made of recycled polyester are nothing more than an old wasteful mindset wrapped in new politically correct verbiage.

Gucci is the latest to jump on the green bandwagon with a line of shoes that are “environmentally sound from shoe string to sole.” They come in an array of colours for women (collect them all!) and both a high and low-top version for men. Sure they have vegetable-tanned calfskin and bio-this, bullshit-that, but they’re also part of Gucci’s pre-fall line—a season that basically only exists to encourage increased consumption and sales.

Waiting six months for a new collection can be a bore, so ‘resort’ and ‘pre-fall’ collections have entered the mass market to fill the gap between traditonal seasons that just don’t come quick enough for modern-day consumerist sensibilities. “It has become the season you sell the most clothes,” Michael Kors told US Vogue at his pre-fall in December 2010.

Gucci’s latest enviro-products are nothing more than a cleverly disguised ploy to get us to do more of what we’ve always done: consume. They’re not part of the solution; they’re part of the problem.

This April saw David Suzuki step down from his own charitable foundation over fears that his political views could put the organization’s charitable status at risk. He told the Globe and Mail that the environmental movement got it wrong for years: “We didn’t sell the right message…We thought if we stop this dam, if we stop this clear-cutting, that’s a great success. But we didn’t deal with the underlying destructiveness, which was the mindset that attacked the forest or wanted to build the dam.”

And Lord knows the fashion industry has trouble coming to terms with its own destructiveness.

Read the rest of this piece at Toronto Standard…

modelsrights2

Does Toronto Fashion Week Care About Its Models?

Fashion

With all their long-legged wonder and thin-as-pins glory, it’s easy to forget that models are people too. For one thing, when they don’t eat enough, they die. Sometimes they’re teens who make bad choices and girls who deal with sexual harassment. They also like things like water and getting paid for their work. It’s a lack of basic workers’, and sometimes human rights that has spurred fashion councils around the world to act in defense of models.

In 2007, Montreal Fashion Week banned underweight models and those under the age of 16 from walking the runway. That same year, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) released guidelines for models at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) that encouraged age minimums and healthy bodies. Since then, the CFDA has also received pledges from top modeling agencies – including DNA, Elite, Ford IMG, and Next – not to send any models younger than 16 to shows.

In March, Israel passed a law that prohibits fashion designers and media from using models that fall below the World Health Organization’s standard for malnutrition. London Fashion Week (LFW) designers sign a contract with the British Fashion Council (BFC) to use models who are at least 16, and the major fashion organizations in Spain and Italy also ban models who fall below a certain Body Mass Index level.

In Toronto? Crickets.

The FDCC’s website conspicuously lacks any mention of models, let alone guidelines that mention age, weight, or any other initiative to protect models. While media in other countries are quick to raise concerns over models’ rights, our media is remarkably silent. Is it simply because there isn’t a problem here? Or are we overlooking the issue thanks to good ol’ Canadian “that doesn’t happen here” naïveté?

“In the past, change rooms were very exposed. So anybody could walk through and watch 15 or 16-year-old models ripping their shirts off between sets,” says Dan Grant, publisher of ModelResource.ca and an agent for Next Models. “There were people who were contracted to do maintenance stuff, but they were always walking through the change area between shows and often had their cell phones out. I’m positive that they were taking photos.”

Read the rest of my piece at Toronto Standard…

sweetspotimage

A Sour End for Sweetspot.ca

Fashion

This month’s TFI25 Gala wasn’t without a bitter sense of irony as Canadian fashion journalists, working in a media landscape irrevocably altered by the Rogers and Bell Medias of the world, came together to celebrate the philanthropy of the Rogers’ princess, Suzanne Rogers.

Just weeks after Bell’s cancellation of Fashion Television, Rogers Digital Media announced the closure of eight properties, including Sweetspot.ca. This despite the fact that Sweetspot was the #1 site for women aged 25-52, pulling in an estimated 125,000 unique visitors and 1.2. million pageviews per month—significantly more than either Flare.com or Louloumagazine.com.

“We acquired these websites over the past several years, and despite solid user and advertiser engagement, we are making the strategic decision to focus our resources on multiplatform integration and growth opportunities for our premium brands,” said Jason Tafler, chief digital officer for Rogers Media, in an e-mail to Rogers employees.

That sounds a lot like corporate speak for “we bought out our brands’ competitors, let them carry on in futile existence just long enough to indoctrinate their readers into the Rogers family, then shut them down in hopes that their traffic would auto-transfer back to our original brands.” A goodbye note on Sweetspot reads, “If you made SweetLife your home for fashion and beauty, we encourage you to visit flare.com and louloumagazine.com for your style fix.” I guess, technically, Rogers can now call Flare.com #1 for women ages 25-52. Funny how that works.

Never mind the slew of young female journalists who just unceremoniously, and without warning, lost their jobs. I was hired to contribute several articles to SweetLife and SweetHome just three days ago– those are now off. Even worse are the talented (mostly) women who contributed to Sweetspot’s success on a full-time basis. Media jobs are scarce these days, full-time jobs even scarcer, and most rare of all– jobs for women.

Read the rest of my piece at Toronto Standard…

catmarnell

Girl Interrupted: Where are all the Honest Writers?

Fashion

Sabrina Maddeaux’s take on Cat Marnell and truth in fashion

 

When I first caught wind of New York Magazine’s account of pill-popping beauty blogger Cat Marnell’s “last night out before rehab,” I was prepared to write some high-snobiety condemnation of our descent into Lilo culture, bloggers’ bizarre sense of entitlement, and where it all crashed together into some sort of Kardashian-esque embarrassment of what the fashion industry once was. I then spent two-plus hours of what should’ve been a much more productive workday reading everything Marnell has ever published—like seriously, ever. Which speaks volumes when I can count the other fashion writers whose work I enjoy on one hand. The problem is a lot of it is just fucking boring, while, in the words of Jezebel, Marnell is “fucked up and fascinating.”

But not for the reasons most people think. It’s not the salacious, train-wreck details of less-than-lucid orgies, cocaine encounters, and almost-smuggling ecstasy that Marnell always somehow manages to morph into a sensible beauty product recommendation. It’s her honesty not just in an industry of lies, appearances, and appeasements, but also in a society that devalues – even condemns – the ring of truth when it comes from a young, female voice (please go read Alexandra Molotkow’s piece on HBO’s Girls).

One of my greatest struggles as a twenty-something fashion writer, who happens to be a good three years younger than most of the other twenty-something fashion writers, is finding an authentic, honest voice. I’m told time and time again by various sources to avoid criticism—to say my properly-punctuated piece until a larger publication, with larger advertisers picks me up. I obsessively write, re-write, then make my boyfriend, friends, whoever read and approve pieces that I fear might be a critique or f-bomb too many for potential employers. I hear rumours of EIC’s with mental blacklists of young writers they deem ‘too mean’ to fill future job openings. It’s not uncommon for PR reps, who always seem one step ahead of journos, to complain about positive coverage that doesn’t completely and utterly toe the party line. Don’t even ask about the negative. And then there’s designers like Amanada Lew Kee – barely two years out of school – who find it appropriate to blacklist writers for their (potential) honest opinions. Worse yet, most of Toronto’s fashion community let her get away with it because the adage seems to be that soul-crushing BS or, at worst, crickets, is infinitely more civilized than critique.

“A year ago I had a nervous breakdown… It happens all the time in publishing– a plucky young editor can’t decide if she wants to be her boss or be Lindsay Lohan, so she tries squishing two high-intensity personas into one life,” writes Marnell in a post about hair conditioner. God, I feel her.

Except I think it’s less about a choice between two paths and more about having to deep throat both simultaneously in order to stand a chance in this always shrinking, yet ever more competitive industry.

Read the rest of my piece at Toronto Standard…

 

 

GLOCK 17

Guns in the Closet

Culture, Fashion

Rihanna’s got a gun. Rihanna’s got a gun—tote, that is. And the punk rock pop princess isn’t the only one. Vlieger & Vandam’s Guardian Angel Tote, easily recognizable via its embossed gun detail, is, if you believe in such things, the next must-have bag (although MoMA’s had one in their permanent collection since 2006). The Dutch brand also sells handgun-embossed iPad cases, clutches, and wallets— and they aren’t the only members of fashion’s hot new Bang Bang Club. Betsey Johnson’s revolver prints, first introduced in 1985, have made a comeback in recent seasons, while gun-shaped charms and pendants are too numerous to count.

Firearm brands are getting in on the action via their own lifestyle extensions; Smith & Wesson released a line of higher-end fashions earlier this year, and Glock introduced a new apparel line this month. The New York Times just ran a piece on the increasing popularity of “covert fashions,” designed to carry concealed weapons while still looking hot to trot. Even mainstream sportswear brand Under Armour will soon release jackets, pants, and shirts with Velcro pockets for easy weapon access.

But not everyone is a fan of gun culture’s trendy new status, notably the Transit Security Administration (TSA). Last December, TSA officials detained a 17-year-old girl because of a gun design on the outside of her handbag. Back in 2008, a Toronto woman was forced to remove and check a two-inch gun pendant at Kelowna Airport.

Then there are the people who have problems with guns because, oh right, they kill people all the time.

Not that something like dead bodies has ever been a problem for the gun industry; in fact, gun sales tend to surge after gun-related tragedies like Columbine and the Virginia Tech Massacre. Bloomberg reported that one-day handgun sales in the U.S. increased about 5 per cent two days after the Tuscon, Arizona shooting that counted Gabrielle Giffords as a victim. Arizona handgun sales jumped 60 per cent that day.

Read the rest of my piece at Toronto Standard…

 

 

wente

Perky Tits Do Not An Erotic Woman Make

Beauty, Culture, Fashion

Sabrina Maddeaux takes on Margaret Wente’s claim that 20-year-olds reign carnal supreme

 

Margaret Wente, The Globe and Mail’s champion of chimp-level logic, recently penned a personal-essay-cum-misogynist-manifesto to lament the loss of her erotic power at the ripe old age of 40. The crème de la gem of the whole thing was her statement that “No matter how sexist or unfair it seems, no one in the world has more erotic power than a 20-year-old girl.” A sad statement considering even most Victoria’s Secret Angels round out closer to 30.

Wente’s version of erotic power lies in the cellulite-free crevasses of co-ed asses and young tits stuffed into gravity-defying bras they don’t need, yet to know the joy of bare nipples against sheer jersey. Unfortunately, Wente’s not the only middle-aged woman who thinks this way, but most don’t get paid to pseudo-comment about culture on a national platform. Many women mourn, or begin to aggressively fear, a supposed loss of sexual power little more than a decade from the day they become adults— but while Wente curses Mother Nature, the problem may be more man-made than biological.

The fact is many women of a certain age remain beings of immense, if not increased, erotic power.  Halle Berry, Jennifer Aniston, Salma Hayek, Sandra Bullock, Courtney Cox, Julia Roberts, are all over 40. For God’s sake, even Sofia Vergara – the light at the end of every man’s tube sock – will turn the big 4-0 in July. Even Wente acknowledges this isn’t an unusual feat in other countries: “In French culture, even women of a certain age are still considered erotically attractive. Christine Lagarde may run the International Monetary Fund, but she’s a woman who obviously enjoys her femininity. I’m certain men flirt with her. Still.” A 2006 Synovate poll found more than half of senior French men thought that a woman’s beauty peaks in her 40s. Now, no woman looks the same at 40 as she does at 20, but eroticism is about more than wrinkle-free skin and a tight behind. So if all these women can still be objects of sexual desire, why can’t Wente? Or you?

Unfortunately many women in Western culture manage to screw up one of the few constants in life: aging. While logic dictates that the finer sex should become more independent, self-aware, and able to connect with others at the peak of adulthood, we somehow manage to lose ourselves in an almost pubescent-again fit of social expectations and crippling fear. And who wants to fantasize about sex with a half-there version of a full-grown woman?

Read the rest of my piece at Toronto Standard…

vintageeyewear

8 places to find vintage eyewear in Toronto

Fashion

Vintage eyewear in Toronto is a community of enthusiasts, collectors, and connoisseurs. Sure, almost every store in the city sells eyewear in some shape or form, but there’s no need to buy mass-market shades when rare vintage finds are so plentiful. New or used specs that originate from eras past are available in just about every price range, and are one of the best ways to top off a look with some personality. Here are a few places I like to buy frames that don’t make my face look like everyone else’s.

Gafas Optical Shop
Gafas is the only Toronto home to Kings of Past, a purveyor of unused, branded vintage eyewear that’s hard to match. Storeowner Tony will gladly share the history behind each piece (I could listen to him for hours– the man is a true connoisseur). One of my favourite vintage collections here is the Paloma Picasso line, designed by the youngest daughter of that Picasso. They even have vintage motorcycle goggles. I’d look like the Hamburgler in them, but kudos to someone much more badass than I who can pull them off. Glasses here are at least $100, often more.

F As In Frank
No vintage clothing shop would be complete without vintage eyewear. This one boasts a handpicked collection of over fifty frames from Playboy to Cazal, ranging from $250 to $750. Their stock of shades was recently replenished, so now’s the time to visit.

Spectacle
Another destination for unworn, branded vintage frames, Spectacle exclusively carries the Oliver Peoples Vintage Collection that celebrates the twenty-year legacy of one of the most influential eyewear companies in the world. They also regularly showcase rare collector items, like Michael Jackson’s tour glasses of the eighties. You can’t actually buy these sorts of pieces, but they’re still fun to look at. Frames don’t leave this store for anything less than a few hundred bucks.

Ontario Specialty Co.
This store dates back to 1939, practically making it vintage itself. It may look like Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium from the outside, but inside, tucked between the rubber chickens, marbles (so that’s where they went!), and other fantastical novelties, is a collection of vintage sunglasses in just about every shape and colour for under $100 (sometimes as cheap as $10). Rumour has it that Danny Masterson (Hyde from That ’70s show) once bought 48 pairs here.

Read the rest of my post on blogTO…

waronnipples

The War on Nipples: Weapons of Mass Seduction?

Culture, Fashion

I didn’t realize I hated bras until I stopped wearing them. A couple months ago, in a crisis of womanly self-determination I suppose only a millennial or someone politically active in the 60s could properly understand, I decided to ban brassieres from my wardrobe. Formerly a neurotic, even-in-bed bra-wearer, I was bemused to discover during a late night Google binge that they, in fact, have no medical benefits and questionable (at best) aesthetic benefits. Today, my breasts remain steadfastly high above my stomach, I skip mediocre events with promises of free lingerie, and I’m constantly terrified my parents will find out what I’ve done (hi, Dad!).

Why? Because there’s a good chance my parents—who once sent me to a school-sponsored water gun fight armed with a Windex bottle—are more uptight than the audience of Live! With Kelly, and that crowd went batshit last week when they mistook the darts on Kelly’s Stella McCartney “Miracle” dress for nipples. Not giant swastika-shaped PEZ dispensers doling out free ecstasy… just nipples. The show received so many letters, Kelly actually apologized on-air at the start of the second segment. “Everyone knows I had my nipples removed years ago,” quipped Kelly. Maybe she should have.

Socially preferable nipple-less women are never more than a few clicks of the photo editor’s mouse away. Victoria’s Secret models are notoriously nipple-free in their ads, most fashion magazines will nix even the shadow of a nipple beneath a sheer shirt, and the creator of Desperate Housewives claims to spend $100,000/week digitally editing tapes to get rid of nipples that show through clothing. Even Barbie, in all her titanic tits glory, has no nipples. The Super Bowl wouldn’t let anyone under 50 perform for years after the Janet Jackson slip.

Read the rest of my piece in the Toronto Standard…

breeynlookbook

8 places to get a custom cocktail dress in Toronto

Fashion

Every woman should have the luxury of owning a custom cocktail dress; one that makes her feel like the only girl in the world (or at least the hottest in the room). I find the most surefire way to achieve that deep level of sartorial satisfaction is to order a custom dress– one that’s made to measure and one of a kind.

A good custom dress will suit your personal style, be event-appropriate, and fit like a teenage dream. Although custom work can be more expensive than buying off-the-rack, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Select stores and designers around town offer this fantasy-to-frock service. Here are some of my favourites:

Breeyn McCarney
A master of embroidery, knitting, leathercraft, and roasting the Fords on Twitter, Breeyn designs whimsical frocks that dare to flatter the female form– just don’t call them “fairy-style prom dresses.” Seriously. She hates that. With a focus on ethical and eco fashion, her custom dresses (between $150 and $300) are easy on the conscience and wallet. Turnaround time is typically three to four weeks.

Peach Beserk
A little punk rock princess and a little 50’s pinup, Peach Beserk is full of tulle temptations and sassy silkscreen prints with names like “I’m a Natural Woman,” “Ick,” and “What Would Jesus Print.” Colour options include “Commie Red,” “Crusin for a Brusin,” and “Dirty New York Taxi.” Full of funk and flirt, their custom work is the same price as buying off-the-rack (around $500). Up the creative ante by designing your own silkscreen.

Read the rest of my post on blogTO…