Embrace, Express and Own: Empowering us to be Feminine, Sexy & Powerful

Golden Globes 2018 fashion

Lots of buzz this week regarding the Golden Globes, especially all the references to women’s empowerment in the industry.  As you all know, many of the female attendees banded together to wear black to protest the industry’s prevalent sexual harassment.  I’m happy to notice that, while the community of show biz women expressed their outrage via the color of their attire, they were still eager to show their femininity and style.  From deep cleavages to hourglass shapes to enhancing sparkle and shine, these impressive women looked sexy and feminine. 

I’m not writing as a fashionista or style commentator here.  I’m writing as an empowered woman who is eager to help empower others.   

I’ve been struggling a bit with my feelings about the #metoo movement.  Undoubtedly I support a woman’s ability to live and work free of sexual harassment.  After all, I, like so many of my friends, have faced harassment in some shape or form from my school days to today.  In fact, I was encouraged by my followers to write my version of #metoo stories.  And I did.  But I never published them.  It wasn’t that I was ashamed.  Partly I didn’t want to incense my readers and then leave them with no inspiration.  But, really, I think I was concerned that all of our anger would lead us to want to disallow our femininity and sexuality.

We are starting to see the backlash from the movement: from women showing their support for men in social media to French celebrities, led by Catherine Deneuve, criticizing American women for “confusing” violence with seduction.  They argue that the movement reduces our sexual freedom, that “instead of empowering women, the #MeToo and #BalanceTonPorc movements serve the interests of the enemies of sexual freedom, of religious extremists, of the worst reactionaries,”and of those who believe that women are separate”.

I certainly DON’T want people — women or men — to misjudge me because of my gender or how I appear.  I’ve been burned by it.  BUT, what I also don’t want is to feel I have to hide myself either.  I want to own my beauty, sexuality, sensuality, femininity — whatever you want to call it.  Could the #metoo movement lead some of us to inhibit our sexuality out of fear that we are advertising for sex or “asking” for it?  Could our efforts to encourage men to judge us for our creativity, intellect and point of view, also push us to dampen or quell our femininity?

I’m not saying we should all be wearing lingerie to the office.  But, from what I’ve experienced, even while wearing a suit and high-necked blouse, people have still judged me as being too provocative.  In the end, it’s not just what we wear, it’s our whole aura: our style, how extroverted we are, how confident we seem.

What I’ve learned is that the biases we face or the harassment we may encounter is not about US, it’s about them — the harasser.  Any anger or mistreatment of us is a reflection of others’ own issues, particularly issues with sexuality.  Thanks to our Puritanical underpinnings, U.S. culture is conflicted about sexuality and beauty.  We either deify or demonize it.  To make matters worse, we have a hard time believing women can be both smart, and beautiful. To this day, we’ve failed to successfully debunk the negative “dumb blonde” stereotype still floating around our culture.  The BBC created an ironic skit, showcasing the amazing Tracey Ullman, aptly demonstrates the biases we face towards women and their expression of their femininity.  But she turns the tables.  In it, the almost all female police team, make a men dressed in a suit feel like he deserved getting robbed at knifepoint since he look so “provocatively wealthy.”  Have a look yourselves: 

 

In all seriousness, we should be able to express ourselves, including our femininity or masculinity, without the fear of harassment.  We can change this.  We HAVE to #TimesUp.

We need to appreciate beauty and sexuality — our own and that of others.  If we embrace it, we won’t feel so conflicted by it — and treat it with the respect it deserves.   Once we embrace it, we won’t feel so conflicted by it.  And I believe our affirmation will mitigate others’ power to use it against us.  Think about it, we apply the same logic to religious or ethnic expression, right? Do we feel we should shut down people’s ability to physically embrace their specialness?  No way!  I’ve given up trying to appease people who feel uncomfortable with beauty and femininity.  If they want to deem me somehow inferior, that’s their problem.  They will lose what I have to offer.

To all of you — men, women, and or however you define your selves — don’t lose that unique and wonderful part of you that is beautiful, sensual and magnetic.   And if that means wearing a powerful pair of pants, a body conscious dress, or short sleeve shirt that shows off your sculpted muscles, go for it!

Finally Going East: Creating Ties Through Beauty and Culture

As I hinted in my last post, there were some changes going on with my website which was why I’ve been a bit delinquent about my posts.

Well, I’m happy to announce that I’m officially a member X UNIPX INFLUENCE Program!  In other words, I’m now acting as an influencer in the Chinese market leveraging UNIPX media platforms which focus on pop culture, lifestyle, media and entertainment.  Here is a recent article my friends at UNIPX published that effectively introduces me to the market as a strategist and lover of all things beauty (It’s super easy to translate into English :)).

While I’m going to represent one of many different points of view from the U.S. market, I realize I need to wrap my head around views of beauty in Chinese culture too.  As you can imagine this can be a life long pursuit, but even just peering in to this new world could be give some insight.

So the first thing I did was look into my past research.  To explain to my colleagues and clients how views of beauty differ across cultures, I compared how Americans vs French, Russian and Chinese natives interpret beauty.   Initially I jumped into social media and published research.  While it’s a few years old (I’m looking forward in my new role to motivate me to do update this), and I’ve had to generalize a bit, I believe some of these themes stand the test of time.   What intrigued me the most, and it surfaces in the article written about me linked above, is the true duality of inner and outer beauty in China.  While concepts of inner beauty are in “vogue” in Western culture, when we talk about beauty, let’s face it, we are really referring to our outer appearances.  From an outer beauty perspective, the Chinese tend to view a healthy body and skin, as well as white skin, and an sense of approachability as attractive.

As a woman wrote in social media (translated into English): “Actually health is beauty.  It’s better to get up early, do some exercise everyday and focus on the balance of whole body.”

At the same time, Chinese culture deems traits like confidence, intelligence and honorability as beautiful.  As another stated:

“Out long tradition emphasizes more the inner beauty of a woman.  Beauty is not only your appearance but also your charm, characteristics and nobility…..”

Of course this is only scratching the surface. But imagine if we started thinking about or appreciating beauty this way. I’m not saying that all the Chinese notions of beauty will be right for us here. In fact, maybe by sharing some of our more enlightened notions of beauty with them we can all grow. I’m looking forward to learning more about these differences, experiencing and adopting some of them myself.

Speaking of experiencing them, I tried to do just that.  While I couldn’t take the next flight to Beijing, I did the best I could and headed down to NYC’s famous Chinatown to explore the beauty world.  I went shopping with my friend, Kristi, at the neighborhood beauty shops, and indulged in some beauty treatments a few weeks later.  Not surprisingly, the shops offered way more beauty products from Korea and Japan than from China.   But that didn’t stop us from partaking. 🙂

In terms of beauty treatments, I went on a lark to a place that had a website offering manicure and blow outs on Canal St.  The manicure didn’t seem any different than one I would get at a typical salon uptown.  But the hair experience certainly was.   (Let me caveat by saying this is certainly not a comparison of all Chinatown salons since I only went to one. )  The first thing that happened was I was asked to sit on one the of the blow out chairs while a woman covered my collar in plastic.  She then gave me a 5 minute shoulder massage — which was awesome.  Here is where it gets really interesting: while I’m sitting there, she takes the shampoo, pours it on my head while another woman squeezes water out from a plastic bottle to be mixed with the shampoo.  The first woman washes and massages my scalp for another 5 minutes as I’m sitting right next to a gentleman getting his hair cut.  So I’m thinking, do they not have sinks?  What’s the deal?  They do! I know because after the 5 minute wet hair massage I’m led to the sinks where my hair is rinsed and rewashed and then conditioned.  Clearly a healthy, clean scalp and head of hair is a MUST!

Another interesting difference between “western” blowouts and and the ones I experienced myself or saw on others in the salon, is emphasis on smooth and straight (vs full volume).  I was not surprised at this look given the high preponderance of Japanese straightening products that have made their way around the globe, and especially in Asia.  Given the humidity and my general lifestyle the look lasted a day or so but experience was a blast.

No doubt beauty is more than skin deep.  But I’m not referring just to inner beauty.  Rather I speaking about how much beauty is a product and reflection of culture.  While there may universal truths about physical symmetry and health as markers of beauty, it’s so evident how our rituals around, beliefs of and issues with beauty tells us a world of information regarding our values, social politics, environment and the list goes.  This is one of the key goals of Beautyskew: to shed light on culture through the lens of beauty. More than that, as evidence of my new relationship with UNIPX media, beauty can be a vehicle to connect with and learn from others, even those from a totally different world.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to this great new relationship, sharing what I know and learning from others too, maybe just maybe, helping to build some amazing bridges.

To get a taste of some of the Chinese-American beauty influencers on U.S. soil, check out Soothingsista and Francis Lola.

What’s more Beautiful than the South of France? I Figured it Out

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I just came back from my annual trip to Cannes, France for the Cannes Lion Advertising Festival.  As you can imagine it was a week FULL of beauty.  From the beautiful scenery, to the beautiful food, to the beautiful people, Cannes offers me a plethora of fodder.

But I’m not going report on all of that.  And I don’t have any pictures to share.

Why?

Was it that after 3 years of attending, I was just jaded?  No.  I was actually quite taken by all of the beauty.   I had wonderful, beautiful meals with friends, stayed in a gorgeous hotel and not one day was grey or rainy.  Plus, I felt as beautiful as ever thanks to some great outfits I purchased on my trips to Brazil and free make-up and hair styles courtesy of the Ipsos Girls’ Lounge.

So why my lack of gushing over the beauty of the event?

I figured it out only after digesting the full week back in NYC.  The purpose of attending the conference is to connect deeply with clients; enhance our individual reputations with clients and colleagues thanks to great presentations and fruitful meetings; and come away with some great next steps, e.g., project to work on.

Every year I feel like I’ve accomplished all of these.  But this year was different.  This year I put myself out there, I mean REALLY out there. And the results were amazing.  I presented on topics I wouldn’t have normally — and often without much prep; I hosted events that I would have been too intimidated to do in the past, and I hobnobbed with super senior clients and colleagues that I would have shied away from in earlier years.

So you can imagine how little time I had to soak it all in and snap pics of it all.  But that’s not the full reason.

There is no question feeling beautiful and being in a beautiful environment helped with this.  And it matters a ton to me how I present myself.  But what remains in my mind is the beautiful feeling I have by knowing that I took some risks with clients and colleagues, had enough confidence in myself to present “on the fly,” and took the craziness of travel, like taxi strikes, in stride (see helicopter ride to the airport picture above :)).

So was Cannes a beautiful experience?  Absolutely.  But the reasons go beyond the physical to emotional. And that’s what we should all strive for.

Weekend Observations: It’s Finally Impacted Me, And It Can Do the Same For You

Marguerite Duras

This past Friday was my birthday.  I usually keep this news quiet.  I don’t like to tell people because I’m not one for people making a fuss over me.  But, thanks to Facebook, everyone knows our milestones.

As soon I arose, I was lovingly bombarded by birthday messages.  It was great.  But it almost meant I couldn’t hide the fact from myself or others that I was getting older.

I broke down and admitted to my colleague my insecurity about my birthday.  I explained my slight fear of not being as successful as I thought I should be at this point in my life (I know, I know, crazy first world problems 🙂 and, my fear of, well, losing my femininity.  She stopped me right then and there and said, “Hold on there sister, do you know any French women?”  “Well, of course, they are gorgeous.”  She went on to say: “They don’t think of getting older as losing their beauty at all.  My mother-in-law is 68 and believes she is totally sexy!”

Hmmmm.  I always knew this about French women.  But it only started sink in when my friend told me her story.  They don’t fight the aging process.  Of course they try to stay as beautiful as possible but they don’t try to stay young-looking.  In fact, aging is sexy!

To buttress this argument I did a quick search of other experts on the subject.  Most of what I came across were the typical tips on how to age gracefully like French women, or French women’s general opinion on beauty and aging.  But the best bit I found was from fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra who is half French, half American.  He doesn’t talk about what they eat or wax & wane poetic about French women thinking of themselves as flowers that keep blooming…blah blah blah.  Instead, he shares how American women obsess with their flaws and how French women celebrate their assets.  It’s about loving their bodies, not hating and hiding them. His words from a recent Vogue interview:

I think the relationship French women have with their bodies and, I think, the way they think about themselves and their sexuality as they age. I think it’s very wise and very specific to French culture. French women tend to be much less focused on their flaws. They’re much better at enhancing what they see as their assets. There’s much less emphasis on correcting everything, which I think is a big part of American culture. It’s a culture of correction, whether by exercise or diet or plastic surgery. I think French women are accepting of their bodies, and they’re more comfortable with their sexuality as they age. They don’t see themselves as having to stop being seductive or sexy because they suddenly turn 55 or 60. They don’t stop feeling like women, and I think that’s really important.

Pretty cool.  It’s not necessarily revolutionary but sometimes we have to remember this.  I’m certainly going to try.

And since it’s also Mother’s Day, let’s all feel doubly proud of ourselves as beautiful women and amazing mothers!

 

Weekend Observations: Hair, the French, & the Ever-Covetable Beauty


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Yikes!
That was my reaction when I saw how much my stylist cut off of my hair last week.  Of course I didn’t say it out loud, but, man, did I say it my head. VERY LOUDLY!
Mind you, I had ridiculously long hair which I put off cutting given how expensive and time-consuming a hair cut is.  But the biggest reason I avoided it for so long was that I wanted a freshly cut ‘do in time for my son’s bar mitzvah.
Of course I expected a few inches off especially since I showed a few pics of Gwen Stefani’s look — a nice, bit-longer-than-shoulder-length mane.
What I got? A barely-touching- my-collar-bone style!  I panicked.  Isn’t long hair key to feminine beauty?
But as it always happens,  I started liking the new look.  I mean really liking it!
See the pics above? That’s me right after my hair cut and me just now in my pjs 🙂
My new hair style has brought out my inner Frenchness.  (Too bad I didn’t have it for my meeting with a particular high-end French fashion company the week before.) You rarely see a French woman with a long mane.  Instead you’d see her with shoulder-length mussed up hair — never too perfect, of course.
And maybe its a coincidence or its serendipity but I started noticing all the recent references to french beauty, including a celebration of Bridget Bardot’s 80th birthday with her top 8 looks of all time and A French-Girl Beauty Rules, both found in Vogue’s most recent online edition.
Nothing new in the stories, but a good reminder of what signal’s french beauty, e.g., never being too polished, eating well, no blow outs, smoky eyes etc.
But what always strikes me is how we, American gals, never tire of french beauty.  No matter what, we see french women as the most glamorous, sophisticated, and attractive.  We may point to many other types of women for raw beauty.  But the French still win as having the most covetable look.
Why?  We have written about french beauty before in Beautyskew.  I think it all goes back to this: there’s just something enduring about looking free-spirited and not-so-perfect.  We don’t necessarily want to look unkempt.  We just want to be mysterious.  When someone looks perfect, you can probably detect the fashionable hair style, the fashion designer and the make-up look of the week.  But when we’re a bit messy and “just-put-together,” it means we’ve added our own, inexplicable touch.  We add some je ne sais quoi that NO ONE ELSE has.
Isn’t mystery what it’s all about anyway?  I’d much rather be alluring than an open book.
So, thank you Thomas, my stylist for 14 years, for giving me what I didn’t even realize I needed.  Thank you for reminding me what being beautiful is all about — allure, mystery, our own sense of style, and yes, even shorter hair! 🙂
 

Weekend Observations: Hair, the French, & the Ever-Covetable Beauty


IMG_20140928_185352IMG_20140928_185458

Yikes!

That was my reaction when I saw how much my stylist cut off of my hair last week.  Of course I didn’t say it out loud, but, man, did I say it my head. VERY LOUDLY!

Mind you, I had ridiculously long hair which I put off cutting given how expensive and time-consuming a hair cut is.  But the biggest reason I avoided it for so long was that I wanted a freshly cut ‘do in time for my son’s bar mitzvah.

Of course I expected a few inches off especially since I showed a few pics of Gwen Stefani’s look — a nice, bit-longer-than-shoulder-length mane.

What I got? A barely-touching- my-collar-bone style!  I panicked.  Isn’t long hair key to feminine beauty?

But as it always happens,  I started liking the new look.  I mean really liking it!

See the pics above? That’s me right after my hair cut and me just now in my pjs 🙂

My new hair style has brought out my inner Frenchness.  (Too bad I didn’t have it for my meeting with a particular high-end French fashion company the week before.) You rarely see a French woman with a long mane.  Instead you’d see her with shoulder-length mussed up hair — never too perfect, of course.

And maybe its a coincidence or its serendipity but I started noticing all the recent references to french beauty, including a celebration of Bridget Bardot’s 80th birthday with her top 8 looks of all time and A French-Girl Beauty Rules, both found in Vogue’s most recent online edition.

Nothing new in the stories, but a good reminder of what signal’s french beauty, e.g., never being too polished, eating well, no blow outs, smoky eyes etc.

But what always strikes me is how we, American gals, never tire of french beauty.  No matter what, we see french women as the most glamorous, sophisticated, and attractive.  We may point to many other types of women for raw beauty.  But the French still win as having the most covetable look.

Why?  We have written about french beauty before in Beautyskew.  I think it all goes back to this: there’s just something enduring about looking free-spirited and not-so-perfect.  We don’t necessarily want to look unkempt.  We just want to be mysterious.  When someone looks perfect, you can probably detect the fashionable hair style, the fashion designer and the make-up look of the week.  But when we’re a bit messy and “just-put-together,” it means we’ve added our own, inexplicable touch.  We add some je ne sais quoi that NO ONE ELSE has.

Isn’t mystery what it’s all about anyway?  I’d much rather be alluring than an open book.

So, thank you Thomas, my stylist for 14 years, for giving me what I didn’t even realize I needed.  Thank you for reminding me what being beautiful is all about — allure, mystery, our own sense of style, and yes, even shorter hair! 🙂

 

Weekend Observations: Highlights from Istanbul and Cannes

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Last week I described my short but adventurous trip to Istanbul.  I recently reviewed some gorgeous pics from the event and it hit me how amazing the trip truly was.  I think I was so caught up in the partying, political drama and concern around getting to Cannes that I didn’t fully appreciate how spectacular it was.  In my next installment, I’ll share with you some more of these pics as a way to share the story.
But now on to Cannes.  Every year Cannes hosts the Cannes Lions, the biggest and longest advertising award show.  It’s a key event for agency folks, their clients, and other related companies (like Google) to gather, entertain and conduct important business.
I went to hob nob with my clients as well as give a talk along with TED’s Ads Worth Spreading Team.  While it’s a “late-night,” constantly-drinking and socializing time, I took it a bit easier this year.  For one thing, I had boozed and partied it up BIG time in Istanbul.  Plus I hadn’t slept for days especially after flying the red-eye.  For another, I had a talk to prepare for.  And while I had one last year as well, this was a bigger audience and I needed to impress.  Finally, I had learned at the end of my last stay that there are many more sides to Cannes that are gorgeous, serene and exotic.  So this time around, I spent more time exploring those.
Some examples of my other explorations: dinner and lunches in the old town, dining an hour out of Cannes where the delicious wine comes from the winery across the way, and strolling the beautiful shops (especially the chocolatiers) on Cannes’s swanky Rue D’Antibes.
I had my share of Croisette partying of course.  And I capped off my last evening at a P Diddy party until my flight the next morning. But I still feel like my Cannes experience this time was more nuanced, relaxing and eye-opening.
Can’t wait to go again next year!

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Pic of the Week: Grand Finale in Cannes

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I’m not going in order of my travel experiences and, instead, starting from the end of my trip to Cannes.  As you can see, we partied hard, first at the Google party on the beach (which is the best party of the week!), and then at P Diddy’s at the end of the Croissette.
The Google party offered — among cocktails, hor d’oeuvres, celebrity DJs and rappers — face painting!  While I think I received a work of art on my face, I have to admit, it was a bit much.  Debora, my ex-client and friend, looked amazing though!

More to Love: Additions to the Reading List


Some fascinating reading this week.  Take a look!

  • If you believe in the myth that all French women are skinny minis, then check out this blog: A fashion site for larger French women

http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/04/large-format-stephanie-zwickys-blog-de-big-beauty/

  • Luxury brands are poised for a turn around and they are getting that much more comfortable with the digital space

http://mashable.com/2012/08/30/luxury-brands-online/

  • Beauty secrets from a 2,500 year-old Siberian mummy

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2198222/Fashion-beauty-secrets-Siberian-princess-died-2-500-years-ago-revealed.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

  • Are you neglecting your beauty because you’re so focused on your flaws?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olivia-rosewood/why-meditation_b_1852222.html

Anything more to add? Comment or tweet us @Beautyskew

More to Love: Additions ot the Reading List

Check out some more beauty news that struck our fancy, tickled our funny bones and raised some eyebrows!

  • What happens when guys get over the age of 45?  They think it’s ok to wear tinsy bathing suits!  What’s with that?!

http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/news-features/TMG8720107/Tiny-trunks-the-new-mid-life-crisis.html

  • Not only are their backhands beautiful, but their outfits on court are too

http://www.wellandgoodnyc.com/2011/08/31/fitness-fashion-on-the-court-at-the-us-open/

  • A bizarre tale of beauty and mental illness

http://www.good.is/post/young-beautiful-mentally-ill/

  • Another explanation as to why Parisian women stay thin without seemingly trying and New York women suffer or get fat

http://www.garancedore.fr/en/2011/08/16/changing-lifestyle-new-york-skinny-vs-paris-skinny/

  • The wild and weird beauty treatments (bird poop anyone?) celebrities endure to look fabulous

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2028695/Snake-venom-facials-bird-droppings-The-bizarre-rituals-stars-wholl-ANYTHING-stay-young.html