Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Trouble with Taylor...

I'm a terrible person. I knew I hadn't updated this blog for a while, but... sheesh! I didn't realise it had been that long! (I am working on future Princess books, which leaves me less time for blogging...)

But if anything can bring me out of hibernation, it's Taylor Swift. I have been agog since the first snakes began creeping across social media, and since #LWYMMD dropped I have been obsessed. It's just so FUN to see Taylor turn into the ice-cold bitch princess we've always known she could be. (And I mean this in the nicest possible way.)


For someone tall, slim and pretty enough to be a model, Taylor has always been something of an underdog in the public eye. That might sound a strange word to describe someone who has been phenomenally successful since her teens, but her "perfect" life seems to be the very reason people hate her. No matter what Taylor does, she gets criticised for it. Crossing over from country to pop (and mastering both)? Ooh, we weren't sure about that. We like people to stay in their boxes. Dating lots of men? Time to slut-shame! (Never mind that the men in question were also known for their well-publicised love lives.) When people laughed at Taylor's dancing, she good-humouredly made a video showing herself dancing badly in LOTS of different ways, but that got her slammed for racism.

Weird how a million other white singers have made similar videos without 
anybody noticing / caring about the racial politics of dancing or dressing in this tyle...

She got into more trouble a year later with her Wildest Dreams video; shooting in Africa with storyline centred around a retro movie set became "romanticising colonialism".The fact that some of the "actors" milling about in the background WERE black suggests that the videomakers were deliberately trying to avoid excluding people of colour, but it wasn't enough. 

Meanwhile in a One Direction video released around the time of Shake It Off:


Nobody cared about the cultural appropriation of Niall dressing up and joining in with a tribal dance, or the inexplicableness of Zayn chucking yellow paint over sumo wrestlers. So why does Taylor get picked on? Why is she always held to a higher standard than other superstars?

Perhaps it's the idea that people who are pretty and clever and popular shouldn't get to be happy and successful. We're sold the idea that the high school nerd will become the next Bill Gates, that the ugly duckling will become a swan. If someone appears to have been a swan right from the start, it's tempting to pick holes in them. Oh, Taylor has lots of hot boyfriends? Well she can't hold onto them! (Here's a thought – maybe she didn't want to.) Taylor has lots of friends? Well, calling them a "squad" is racist. (Let's ignore all the times other people say "#squadgoals" with literally zero backlash.)

We can't even comfort ourselves with the idea that she's just a manufactured pop puppet, because she writes her own songs and according to LWYMMD video director Joseph Kahn, takes an active role in the planning of her videos too: "These are true collaborations... We talk about every shot, we discuss every set-up as we’re doing it and there’s nothing that happens without literally both of us putting our brains together about it.”

But that's another problem for critics – Taylor unashamedly uses her own life for inspiration, so if you're involved with her, you're likely to find parts of your story written into her lyrics. But isn't this what every great artist does? When BeyoncĂ©'s husband cheated on her, she took the lemons of her own misery and literally made Lemonade from it. Taylor is doing the same thing in turning her feuds with Katy Perry and Kimye into the most deliciously bitchy comeback single EVAH. 

A Regina George in Katy Perry's clothing?

Taylor Swift was "exposed" by Kim Kardashian last year, although looking back it seems it was more a case of her leaving out some details (ie that Kanye had called her to talk about the song) rather than an actual lie, because there is no evidence that she knew about the "bitch" lyric. Kim described how Taylor had been totally on board, gleefully looking forward to telling the media that she had been in on it the whole time (which DOES sound very much like something Taylor would say) but then denied all knowledge when the song actually dropped. Kim waited until "snake day" to post the now-classic snapchat video, Taylor's denials suddenly seemed shady, and with her reputation in tatters, she was declared officially dead.

And this is why her comeback has struck such a chord. She proves that there's no mistake you can't come back from, no insult you can't turn to your advantage. If you call her a snake she'll make them the central theme of her comeback and make herself QUEEN of the snakes. If you call her a mean girl she'll sample music from the movie and make fun of lyrics you wrote about her (karma and receipts, anyone?) Like an expert in Judo, she uses her opponents strength against them and she SLAYS.

Of course, that doesn't stop critics pulling apart her new single(s) – this article sums up some of the harshest barbs. But guys, you know that Taylor isn't taking any of this seriously, right? If LWYMMD has proven anything, it's that this girl has a wicked sense of humour.


I feel sorry for the haters, not just because they are so full of negativity whish spews out at regular intervals, but because they're doomed to listen to music they hate, or avoid radios for at least the next fifty years – Taylor isn't going anywhere.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Filter Fatigue

I used to read a lot of magazines, starting with my mum's Good Housekeeping when I was about eight. (Luckily it was mostly recipes for flapjack, not red-hot sex tips.) I loved the (sadly now defunct) J17 and Sugar, but somewhere along the way I got bored with the same old repetition. (I do feel sorry for the editors, who KNOW that every year they will be obliged to write something about "How to get 'beach-ready' for summer / how to glam up your look from office to party / what age is too old for mini-skirts?" (Answer: never!) 

However, I recently opened a bank account which offered a free magazine subscription, so I picked the classic: Cosmopolitan. (FYI, the bank account was Lloyds. If you haven't already, I highly recommend checking out www.moneysavingexpert.com for info on the best accounts around.)

Somebody needs to work on their contouring...

Getting a free magazine reminded me why I don't buy any; the actual content takes about ten minutes to read, and the rest is adverts and glossy pictures which are fun to look at for two seconds. I have enjoyed Jameela Jamil's wise words, some of the funny dating stories and the occasional interesting article. But it dawned on me that reading Cosmo wasn't actually fun. It made me feel guilty. But not because I haven't exfoliated or shaved my legs or deep-conditioned my hair (I have! Spring is on its way!) but because I am not a billionaire entrepreneur with a million followers on Istagram. (Oops! I don't even have an Instagram. My online presence is soooo not on fleek right now.)

In years gone by, "having it all" used to refer to women who combined a career with having a family. (Plenty of ladies managed this, but we're getting into mythical territory if we suggest there were never any compromises or guilt involved.) In 2016, "having it all" appears to be more about effortlessly combining a high-flying career with a delightfully photogenic family (whether by "family" we mean adorable children, a gorgeous partner or a close-knit group of pals). It means having the time and money "check in" to glamorous restaurants and high-end stores, not to mention getting plenty of likes on your latest selfies. And magazines like Cosmo are actively encouraging this.



Leading with "Want in on the action? Of course you do..." (but what if we don't?) the article goes on to describe the "soul-destroying" desk job that Laura Jenkinson had before she became a make-up artist, wowed the world via Instagram, earned thousands and launched her own book and line of makeup brushes. It's meant to be an inspirational tale – "See? Anything can happen! You too could become a super-success even though right now you work in the post office!" – but it comes across as somewhat accusatory. "Why aren't you using Instagram to your advantage like these other, clever girls?" 

I'm all for reaching for the stars, but we do have to remind ourselves that the number of people in the world who make their fortunes on Instagram is pretty minimal. But more importantly, why is this being pushed as the option we should all be aiming for? What if we like our nine-to-five jobs? Cosmo and other magazines are constantly interviewing women CEOs and "mompreneurs"  who launched amazing businesses while wrangling six-month-old twins. Good for them – we absolutely should celebrate their successes and feel inspired. But equally, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH HAVING A NORMAL JOB!

If you've read The Princess Guide to Life you'll know this is one of my bugbears: every job is a contribution, and one should not be valued more than another just because it seems more glamorous. If you do the photocopying in a solicitor's office, or serve burgers in a fast food restaurant, or muck out ponies, should you be feeling bad about yourself because you don't have a huge online following or get interviewed on a red carpet? HELL NO. It makes me angry that this is even implied by the media. And it is, all the time. How often do contestants on talent shows talk about their current day job as a misery they desperately want to escape via singing for a living? (Even when that job is something like teaching children to read, or working in an old people's home, or any number of incredibly valuable contributions to society.)

Perhaps this gets under my skin because arguably, I am one of the people who "should" be using Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc to "grow my brand", "build my platform" or whatever the other buzzwords are. I've written a book about style (among other things), so why am I not constantly updating you on my latest manicure / outfit / handbag? Well, it's largely because I'm lazy and can't be bothered. (Did I mention, I'm Sagittarian? We're noted for our honesty.) 

Even when I see my friends, we tend to chat over coffee rather than do anything photogenic. (Sometimes we cry "Oh! We should have taken some pictures!" after we've taken our makeup off, so I don't think we've got the hang of social networking, really.) I enjoy seeing other people's pics of all the good stuff in their lives (especially new puppies), and find a makeup tutorial or fashion inspiration blog as exciting as the next gal. But it's an open secret that the flawless selfie which makes it online is the tip of an iceberg of rejected snaps. We're spending all our time perfecting our makeup for that #IWokeUpLikeThis shot and getting the angle right so it shows off our new shoes but not the messy bedroom floor.

Amazing hair colourist Ursula Goff shows the truth behind the image

It takes time to create the image of a perfect life online. Right now I'm working on The Princess Guide to Beauty and have discovered that researching the safety of sunscreen ingredients / parabens / essential oils is intense and time-consuming work. So I have to choose between: a) setting up the perfect shot of my laptop in the sunshine (or preferably overlooking a beach) so I can caption it "My office today" and make everyone jealous of my cool life, or b) spend that same time writing. It's a no-brainer.

By all means, record every detail of your life, from the contents of your shopping basket to the two shades of lipstick you're blending today – but only if you genuinely want to because you find it fun. Thousands of likes might boost your self-esteem, but does it really mean anything? When you're sixty, you may have a portfolio of fantastic self-portraits, but if you remember more about posing for your holiday snaps than the swimming, sunbathing and drinking sangria part, something has gone horribly wrong.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

It's Christmas! (Well, in two and a half weeks it is....)

How we feel about Christmas can vary from year to year. Sometimes we NEED the festive season to force us to stop, relax, and take stock. I confess, this year I'm feeling mildly inconvenienced by it. Everything work-related sort of winds down from November onwards, which is lovely really, but I actually WANT to get on with stuff! However, the social scene hots up as people feel a compulsion to get together BEFORE the big day, as if 25th December is the deadline for all friendship interaction. 

I don't know how you guys below the equator deal with this, but I'm currently enjoying warm sunshine streaming in through my open window, and the mild weather is not making me think of cosy fur-laden sleighs or reindeer stamping through the snow. Maybe when it starts being all frosty outside and cosy inside I'll start feeling more festive!
  
Although I find it annoying when commercials start referring to it actually BEING Christmas when they start playing in October, I do appreciate the reminder to get my present-buying self in gear. So I'm going to be a big old hypocrite now and say.... Happy Christmas! (Yes, it's weeks away.) But I thought you might like a heads upThe Princess Guide to Being a Cat is now available in paperback, and in my humble opinion it would make a great Secret Santa or stocking filler gift! 


I'm also hosting some giveaways so there's always a chance for you to win a free copy.
If that's not exciting enough, The Princess Guide to Life is now being stocked in many libraries in the UK and USA (hopefully Australia will be added to the list in 2016). So even if you're not a member of Kindle Unlimited, you can still read it free.

On that note.... MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Monday, 28 September 2015

BARGAIN!

Just a quick one to let you know that The Princess Guide to Life is ON SALE at Amazon this week! Princesses in the USA can get it for a mere $0.99 from today (September 28th) until 4th October. 



Due to a glitch in the matrix, the dates are slightly different for those in the UK, the deal is £0.99 and runs from Wednesday 30th September until the 4th October. 

That price drop though... from $8.99 / £5.99 to just 99 pennies!

Gratuitous Keanu Reeves picture
So tell your friends, grab a bargain and enjoy land Let me know what you thought of the book when you've finished reading!