Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder

Marisa Crous says that’s because the beholder is an idiot.

We have always been plagued by the tired phrase “bikini body”. Moving into winter, shall this henceforth be known as a kaftan beach body? Who knows?

By definition a bikini body should (in an ideal world) be a body clad in a bikini. Unfortunately we are far from living in an ideal world. Sports Illustrated, Baywatch, Malibu Barbie and the archaic swimsuit category at beauty pageants like Miss SA and Miss Universe are just some of the culprits perpetuating this ridiculous idea of what a woman’s body should look like in a bikini.

The notion of a perfect bikini body of course extends to a perfect lingerie body, a perfect gym body, a perfect red carpet body, etc. What’s next: a perfect lying-on-the-couch-watching-Netflix body?

And despite many efforts of media publications, retailers and social awareness campaigns to change this destructive discourse, we are still left with the ever defeating voice that says we shouldn’t be satisfied until we are flawless.

Shoulders too wide, frown too deep set, stomach too wobbly (give up cheese! What? Are you insane?). Honestly, our list of flaws goes on and on. Not that most of us actively intend to “fix” our flaws, like, ever. I mean if it required very little work, sure. Yet the nagging angst that comes with this societal expectation is the ultimate in mental trickery.

So, is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder? And do you have the power to decide whether or not you feel beautiful?

After watching an episode of America’s Next Top Model that featured a shoot highlighting the “flaws” of the model contestants (which, in true Tyra Banks-style she dubbed flaw-some. Sigh.), I realised that despite her good intentions, the shoot fell flat. It was trying too hard.

The “beholder” has over the years been tainted, trained like Pavlov’s dog to react and think in certain ways. The beholder is basically an idiot. Devoid of much free will. Teaching the beholder to love imperfections (initiating a kind of reboot manoeuvre in terms of social thinking) has been said to be the answer to all our problems. But will more ads promoting women with fuller figures, bad skin and small boobs do the trick? I am, sadly, dubious.

Dubious because I think this will just lead us down a yellow brick road filled with disappointment. For most, the idea of being perfect ticks all the boxes. I am perfect therefore I am desirable, wanted, good enough and so forth. The ego is an incredibly idiotic thing. And as long as our ego is fed and recognised for its seeming ideal behaviour, it will remain an idiot. To destroy the idiot that has grown inside all of us for so very long, we need to find happiness in something other than the superficial.

In the end, we all just want to find a self-actualisation that makes us feel like we are skipping in ruby slippers. And I am more than 100% sure, beauty or looking sexy in a bikini will not do the trick.

How do you try to enhance your happiness every day? Let us know and you could win a fragrance.

How “faking it” can change your life

When I was in grade 8 I found myself in a situation where I had to read out loud in class. I turned beet red and struggled the entire way through. My nerves were shot. Bad memories of grade 1 came flooding back. I was a very bad reader who took audible breaths every time I spotted even a hint of a comma.

From that embarrassing day in grade 8, I dreaded the teacher calling out my name to read. So, I went to a speech therapist for help who said something very profound to me: “Just pretend you are Oprah”. Basically, act confident and cool, even though it might feel like your stomach is filled with butterflies. Puking butterflies.

I am a firm believer in the fake. Not fake goods, but fake confidence. And lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about faking it. Particularly, faking it ‘till you make it. (Note to my boss: this, of course, only applies to my personal life.)

When we think about faking we automatically think about being two-faced and lying to others, right? But this is not necessarily true.

In a previous article, I explored the joys of being someone else (if only for a day). According to my god of fashion wisdom, Leandra Medine of ManRepeller, style and confidence intersect. Being someone else (an heiress to a Swiss chocolate fortune, the hostess who gets to tell Naomi Campbell the restaurant is fully booked, a Tuscan-village fruit seller or a badass Wall Street banker), can be incredibly therapeutic. The way you dress can greatly determine your level of confidence on any given day.

“Confidence is still difficult to reconcile — some of us have it, some of us don’t — but in my experience, if you fake it for long enough, it tends to come true. That’s kind of the thing, right? No external variable, not a marriage, not a new handbag, not even really a job promotion, will meaningfully affect whether or not you experience confidence because that shit comes from a lot of tender, internal monologuing. But clothing does have a cool transformative quality and it can serve as an open window that initiates the flood gates,” says Leandra Medine.

Use your armour and fake it until sooner or later you trick yourself into believing you are confident. Fashion is kind of the fast food version of confidence.

Of course, your internal monologue is the one you ultimately want to be targeting. And I have actually found that being able to be at ease when you are alone is crucial. This has been my biggest confidence builder – especially in the last few years of my life.  When you feel content being alone, be it strutting down the road in Swiss chocolate fortune heiress mode, or walking into a room where you know no one with the confidence of a ruthless Wall Street banker (god help them all), fashion elevates.

Sooner or later you become so convinced that even your internal monologue is saying: “bitch, please” to any and everyone who dares to mess with you.

 

Are we finally seeing refugees as…people?

The current refugee crisis, more so than any other case documenting the mass influx of migrants, has drawn the world’s attention – unmasking the refugee, revealing them as human.

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Image featured on The Huffington Post.

This picture says it all. The sheer joy of this child made me cry.

After days of camping out in Budapest’s central train station, about 8000 refugees pulled into the Munich train station, welcomed by Germans in the early hours of Sunday morning, according to The Huffington Post.

German chancellor, Angela Merkel has welcomed over 750 000 refugees into Germany. Dope Pope aka Pope Francis has also urged EU Catholic congregations to provide shelter to refugees.

But are refugees ever really welcome?

Upon a recent visit to Berlin, I stayed in the neighbourhood of Neukolln – boasting the largest immigrant population in the city. Headed for a day of sightseeing, I spotted this graffitied wall:

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“Refugees Welcome”. It caught my attention. Why?

The word “refugee” in line with the word “welcome” is an odd combination. We have been taught refugees aren’t welcome. They are merely tolerated. A problematic bunch of misfits who will only disrupt the status quo. Thus, refugees are victim-blamed.

Stefano Hatfield recently wrote an article for The Independent on the crisis, asking: why aren’t we angrier? We have scrolled past graphic images of the Syrian civil war on Facebook, have mourned the death a drowned 3-year-old Syrian boy online; and have seen countless photos of desperate faces illegally crossing borders. Still, it remains a foreign concept, these Syrians…

What is a refugee?

The biggest problem lies with defining what a refugee actually is. Both in our minds and in law.

On the most basic of levels, a refugee is a human who has been forced to leave their country of origin. Someone who has lost everything. They fear for their lives, desperately trying – with limited power – to stay alive. They have the same needs as Westerners do (can you believe?), that of shelter, security, food, water, love, comfort, a toilet, respect, a job, a community, etc.

Due to the incredibly publicised nature of this crisis, the world’s eyes have been opened to an extent to the human behind the refugee mask. Seeing refugees as more than brown-skinned, third-world tyrants bound to reek havoc on the wealthy’s way of life.

Thing is, refugees have always been hidden: not seen or heard from. Now you simply cannot avoid them anymore. They are staring the world in the face, saying: “Listen”.

Still, most of the EU continues to fear the refugee soon to be their neighbour, colleague or perhaps even friend. Because they see them as different and because of a fear to change. Selfishly reserving spaces just for themselves.

Much like the “Luister” documentary revealed about Stellenbosch.

Exclusion is the ultimate form of disrespect.

Be proud of your culture, nationality, religion and language, but not at the expense of others. Maximize utility.

There comes a point when you have to look at yourself and say: “stop being such a selfish pig”. Sure it keeps you happy. But good people are out there suffering, and dying because of our lack of respect.

“Older women inspire my fashion sense more than twenty-somethings do”

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As someone who spends her days writing about fashion trends and style news, Marisa Crous considers how her family influenced her past and current wardrobe choices.

Let’s face it, on the runway, in fashion ads, everywhere we look, we only see fashion for the young, slim and trendy. What about 50+ aged women who have some seriously dope style? Why have we shunned them and their incredible fashion choice from mainstream fashion stages?

No more, I say.

I’ve always loved the festive ad campaigns by Italian fashion house, Dolce & Gabbana. Not only do they show beautiful, unique ensembles in a new and interesting way, they show families – both young and older members. From kids to flawless-complexioned 20-something women (resembling the beauties you might see walking D&G’s Paris Fashion Week runway) to grandmothers feasting on tomato spaghetti – whilst dressed in their Sunday best.

Older women inspire my sense of fashion way more than twenty-somethings do. I always find myself in awe of mature women’s wardrobes and sense of effortless style – be it vintage, classic with a modern twist or quirky and eccentric.

A few years ago I became a massive fan of Advanced Style, a blog which celebrates older women who live in New York. Ari Seth Cohen, this blog’s creator and photographer, provides a point of view so often lacking in today’s mainstream media. He shows that women of all ages are able to care, love and adore fashion. They are able to make it their own and interpret trends in their own unique way. They are glamorous, fun and use fashion as a tool to show their true selves to the world – or sometimes merely to make themselves feel better on an off day. Their sense of style has been so beautiful crafted, perfected over the years, and yes, it has become effortless.

Again, my adoration for this group of women was confirmed when I attended former Elle-editor, Jackie Burger’s Salon58 Bare soiree. I paid almost no attention to the younger crowd’s outfits as the older women inspired me way more. Dressed in all-black textured ensembles, capes, red lips and chandelier earrings – I found myself staring at them. Burger, the salonniere herself (pictured below) has a timeless sense of style that can only be obtained over the years. This kind of style cannot simply be bought, it evolves over time (often with many mistakes along the way) and it is something I wish to emulate one day.

 salon58, jackie burger

This made me think about my grandmother and mother, and how their style choices have influenced me throughout my life.

When my grandmother passed away during my 2nd year at university, I inherited her clip-on earrings collection. Most find these specific types of earrings to be retro torture devices for the ear – and yes, they can hurt like crazy. But I truly loved the history behind every pair. Some where from the ’60s, the ’80s and some, well, who knows? This is when my love affair with fashion truly began. In a way, my gran unknowingly started my love for fashion.

But perhaps the greatest style influence in my life has been my mother.

My mother is one of those classic dressers. She loves sleek lines and adds a pop of colour or modern twist to every outfit she has. The word “sweatpants” is nowhere to be found in her vocabulary or in her closet. No matter the occasion, jy kan haar altyd deur ‘n ring trek (she always looks her absolute best). Even when my mom was going through chemo, she found ways to brighten her days with fashionable ensembles, be it a beanie or a scarf.

That is the thing. Whenever I am having a bad day, fashion lightens my load. It’s almost become a subconscious act, but I dress only to impress myself.

My advice is to always try and draw inspiration from those women near and dear to you. Make sure your wardrobe makes you feel better about who you are, never worse. We must look to our past and our future for style inspiration, take modern trends and make them your own. No one likes a copy of a copy.

Who influences your sense of style? Tell us and you could win 5 beautiful lipsticks!

– Women24

High-fashion models weigh less than you think

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Another fashion ad has just been banned for glamorising a super-skinny body. We are sick and tired of all the excuses.

The average high-fashion model weighs less than F1 legend, Michael Schumacher, did after being in a coma, following a skiing accident, for 83 days. That is plus minus 50 kg. That is what teens weigh – skinny teens at that! And we must consider that fashion models are hellatall. Like 1,9m and taller.

In the most recent fashion ad scandal, iconic fashion and beauty brand, Yves Saint Laurent is under fire for using an unhealthily skinny model in one of their latest ads, placed in Elle UK. Media watchdog, The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) promptly banned the ad and provided the following reason, according to Jezebel, for doing so:

The ASA considered that the model’s pose and the particular lighting effect in the ad drew particular focus to the model’s chest, where her rib cage was visible and appeared prominent, and to her legs, where her thighs and knees appeared a similar width, and which looked very thin, particularly in light of her positioning and the contrast between the narrowness of her legs and her platform shoes. We therefore considered that the model appeared unhealthily underweight in the image and concluded that the ad was irresponsible.

I find it rather strange that YSL, a French company, would be the culprit here, especially as France recently made headlines for amendments to their health bill, which basically argues that accepting homogenised fashion bodies as an aesthetic ideal should become something of the past. French parliament proposed a ban on the employment of super-skinny models and so-called “pro-ana” websites and forums that glamorise eating disorders and the super-skinny form.

The BBC focused on ads like this, calling it a dangerous catalyst which can trigger disordered behaviour and thinking. Now, we’ve had this discussion before. Of course, this creates an unhealthy ideal of beauty, one which leads a lot of impressionable women and young girls down a very dangerous path.

And it’s undeniable that this model’s rib cage was visible as fuck. So, what are the excuses? Are protruding rib cages now ‘on trend’, like we were recently told freckles were? A V-neck jersey will really show off your rib cage this winter…

The BBC reports that YSL did not respond with any comments once the ASA banned their ad. What could they say? Um…

#1: ‘We tried to get away with it but blast, they got us!’

#2: ‘Thin women are also “real women”. The model just has a fast metabolism – we’ve seen her eating whole pizzas as snacks.’

#3: ‘High-end fashion items are only designed in size zero. Fashion models need to be this skinny for the clothes to hang better.’

Firstly, no you are not getting away with it. Luckily, there are too many people who now know better.

Secondly, yes women of all shapes and sizes are women, but glamourising anything that is unhealthy – be it a bag of bones, a gluttonous, obese whale or a smoking monkey, it is just not right!

And lastly, I am so sick of the fashion world using this as an excuse. Why only make it in a size zero? If the size thing or the way in which it hangs is the issue then we need to start making clothes differently. Because there are women with curves, bums and no, not everyone can achieve a ‘perfect bikini body’ (as the idiots say). Do only young women with protruding “on trend” rib cages shop at YSL or Dior? I hope to god not.

Let us know what you think!

– Women24

I’m so sick of wanting all the things!

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Most of us compare our own happiness to that of others. And Facebook and Instagram are seriously not helping this ever-nagging FOMO/ guilt feeling I get (especially on Saturdays when I’m vegging on the couch).

It is a tumultuous relationship, the one we have with stuff. I constantly find myself wanting and feeling like I need certain things in order to be happy. If it’s not an item of on-trend fashion, it’s a new TV or fancy dinners at the hottest new eateries in Cape Town.

Which has me thinking, what’s next: a boat?!

Most of us compare our own happiness to that of others. And Facebook and Instagram are seriously not helping this ever-nagging FOMO/ guilt feeling I get (especially on Saturdays when I’m vegging on the couch).

FOMO: because I want what they have. The Instagram people who are enjoying those Instagrammable Cape Town lunches or pastries in their oh-so-normcore-outfits. I want that jean pant!

Guilt: because I should be doing more, making more of an effort to get out and be like all the other people. Yet, if I were living in die Karoo with a husband and my petskapies, ploughing the fields, I’m sure I would not have this issue. Sure, if I lived there I might not have reception or Wi-Fi (a blessing in disguise if you tell me), but because I live in CT with all the fabulous people and places; I feel the FOMO and desire to have, have, have more every day.

Oh, and I’m also in the fashion biz, which means you are constantly reminded of what you don’t have and what you should have in order to be rendered a complete human.

But being completed, filled up with stuff is a total lost cause if you ask me. It doesn’t make you better or smarter or more interesting. Just look at how unhappy Anna Wintour looks half the time…

I remember reading about famous philosopher, Hegel’s unhappy hero whilst studying. Hegel speaks about a ‘Geist’, loosely translated as a spirit of some kind. This spirit is a very unhappy puppy, always striving for absolute knowledge.  It is much like a protagonist from your favourite novel or film. The hero. The star if you will.

This hero starts off by seeking something, some form of enlightenment. You track this subject’s journey as they finally reach a certain level of fulfilment. But, Hegel makes the point that one’s voyage towards absolute knowledge is, in fact, a metaphysical one.

Our perception of what absolute knowledge is or how we reach a state of enlightenment lives only in our minds. So, the ultimate reality is that we can only find happiness, fulfilment and peace in ourselves. Yes, look within and that bollocks.

We set the parameters of our own happiness. Yet, of course, the discourse in which we reside determines how we perceive the meaning of absolute knowledge.  Mainstream consumerism and mass media culture have tainted our ability to be satisfied with what we have. We are constantly faced with celeb culture that values stuff above all else. It’s a very bourgeoisie type deal, which is so superficial and pretentious it almost makes me cry of embarrassment. But I still can’t help but want what the Instagram people have! Help!

Sarah Salih writes in Judith Butler: “Absolute knowledge is only reached when the mind grasps the fact that reality is not independent of it, and what it is striving to know is really itself.”

So, first and foremost I plan to get to know myself better first, before obsessing more about the Instagram-worthy life I should be leading. It’s all in the mind people.