Oscar Style

I grew up in L.A. – more precisely in “the Valley.” Although I now live in Seattle and my daily wardrobe consists of jeans, some variation of a black shirt and boots, I am a Valley Girl at heart. I have a great appreciation for bright colors, sequins and sparkle.

Long live the red carpet.

Last night I couldn’t help but look – the hair, the jewelry, the make-up, the dresses. I had a serious article teed up for this morning but instead of editing my essay, I found my attention happily diverted to Oscar style.  Apparently I was in good company. Yes, there is a war erupting in the Ukraine but it is the news of Ellen DeGeneres’ star-studded Oscar selfie that crashed Twitter.

I am going with the flow and shelving my contemplative matter for next time. Instead, here’s a few  links to all things Oscar. Even if you missed the show, you’ll be in the know with your friends:

  1. Ellen’s tweet that crashed Twitter: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/moviesnow/la-et-mn-oscars-ellen-degeneres-jennifer–lawrence-selfie-twitter-20140302,0,3402811.story#axzz2uv4Et6IQellen selfie
  2. Lupita Nyong’o’s acceptance speech: http://entertainment.time.com/2014/03/02/oscars-2014-lupita-nyongo-speech-best-supporting-actress/
  3. Best Oscar dresses: http://www.vogue.com/vogue-daily/article/oscars-2014-best-dressed-celebrities-on-the-red-carpet/#1
  4. After party pictures: http://www.peoplestylewatch.com/people/stylewatch/package/gallery/0,,20768377_20789643,00.html
  5. Video highlights of best Oscar moments including Ellen distributing pizza in the audience: http://www.buzzfeed.com/lyapalater/the-best-moments-from-2014-academy-awards

In a year of unrelenting snow-fall in the northern part of the U.S., drought in California and global unrest, the Oscars provided a light-hearted break with the exception of a few political-statement acceptance speeches. It is a much-needed salve, permission to enjoy fluff. You’re welcome.

Carol Lewis Gullstad March 3, 2014


Don’t Blame Barbie – It’s Disney’s Fault

Like many modern-day moms, I wanted to shield my daughter from Barbie – you know, that lovely teenage-ish doll with Pretty Woman legs, Scarlett O’Hara’s waistline and Dolly Parton’s boobs?

I thought that if I banned that 11.9-inch doll, along with her designer duds, metrosexual boyfriend, convertible car and lavish dream house, I would help my daughter grow up with a more realistic body image and set of expectations for life, wealth and happiness.

What I didn’t realize was that the enemy isn’t Barbie; it’s Disney.

True, researchers have found that Barbie does negatively impact girls’ body image,and a study by the American Psychological Association determined that “early exposure to dolls epitomizing an unrealistically thin body ideal may damage girls’ body image, which would contribute to an increased risk of disordered eating and weight cycling.”

However, Barbie isn’t all bad.

In a 2009 Psychology Today article, psychiatrist Susan Albers noted that “in some ways, [Barbie] may have actually helped women to start practicing other roles, besides being a mother, earlier in their life. Barbie could do anything—travel, work, or play. Girls were not trapped into one role as a mother, as was the case when they played with baby dolls.”

I believe the damage from Disney Princesses runs much deeper.

princess dollsIn a recent study, researcher Lauren Gissell determined that “Disney Princess films are, in fact, harmful to women well after they have experienced a childhood immersed in the movies…Women far beyond childhood still cling to finding a prince, having self-esteem problems, wanting a glamorous life and feeling that they are only worthy when their bodies are given attention.

“It could be a reason why women have identity issues since they have plastic surgery, go to tanning beds, wear an immense amount of makeup, constantly go on diets, date younger men, dress provocatively, date guys only with money and have trouble settling with their idea of a prince,” Gissell continues. “Instead of looking at Disney Princesses as role models, women must learn to become comfortable with who they are without comparing themselves to cartoon characters that do not exist or depict what a real woman should be like.”

In her 2006 article “What’s Wrong With Cinderella,” New York Times columnist Peggy Orenstein noted that Disney films promote a quest for “perfection,” which leads to unrealistic expectations, and therefore feelings of failure.

Women like me, from the pre-VCR, pre-10,000-TV-channels age, didn’t grow up with the ubiquitous images of Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora/Sleeping Beauty. Sure, we had fairy tale books and occasionally saw Disney films in the theaters or on TV.  And although the first Disney “princess” film (Snow White) debuted in 1937, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that Disney officially took over little girls’ psyches.

That’s when Andy Mooney, head of the Walt Disney Company’s Consumer Products division, envisioned the Disney Princess franchise, which is now  (according to Forbes) valued at some $3 billion worldwide.

princess carWalk through any Wal-Mart, Target, Toys ‘R’ Us or Disney Store, and you’ll see the effects of Mooney’s mission. Shelves upon shelves of pink-themed Disney Princess merchandise call out to kids, including dolls, dress-up clothes, books, DVDs, bicycles, roller skates and even helmets.

This mass marketing appeals to my daughter’s generation, and the impact is obvious.

When Pea was three, I attended the Halloween party at her Montessori school, and saw no less than seven princesses in her small classroom. The fact that these young ladies were of African-American, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian and Eastern-European descent was testament to the power of the princess.

So, what’s wrong with wanting to emulate a princess?

The Disney Princess stories seem harmless enough, and many of them are sanitized versions of more gruesome Brothers Grimm tales. However, I think the messaging is detrimenetal to young girls’ self-esteem:

–       If you’re in a jam, wait for a handsome prince to rescue you

–       If you’re a girl, you probably can’t solve problems on your own

–       If you marry a handsome prince, your life will be complete

–       Don’t rely on your family or girlfriends; you need a man in your life

And, the values are off center:

–       If you are beautiful, you need to downplay your looks until it’s time to lure that handsome prince

–       If your parents are strict, it’s okay to sneak out and attend the ball anyway (let me just note, most high-school girls who sneak out at night aren’t hooking up with princes)

But even more disturbing are the messages about family:

–       If your mother dies, be wary of anyone your dad might marry

–       Your stepmother and your step-sisters will most certainly be vengeful and jealous

And what about their girlfiends? Honestly, if I was in a bind, I would call a good friend. Even if they can’t help, they can provide support, encouragement or, when needed, a good shoulder to cry on or a reason to have a few too many cosmos.

So, I would suggest we tell our daughters, or the young women in our lives, to stop waiting for handsome princes to rescue them. Instead, let’s give permission to follow these ideas proposed on WikiHow (and I quote…):

–       Create your own joy and source of fulfillment

–       Quit waiting, start participating

–       Enjoy your friendships

–       Look after your own resources and needs before all else

–       Map out what you really want out of a relationship

–       Remember that Prince Charming comes…after everything else

– Linda Williams Rorem, Permission Slips, 10 Feb. 2014
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The Black Lash Backlash

My boys’ battle to keep their little sister from growing up continues its tireless and frustrating path.

With the two oldest off at college, Bodie now soldiers on alone, at home. However, it turns out his cause may yet take on a national scope.

Consider this recent scenario. During dinner, Bodie glances at Pea and notices her long, full lashes. “Pea, are you wearing MAKEUP?” he asks, not so gingerly.

photoHe reaches over, pinches her lashes between his thumb and forefinger, gives a good yank and examines the residue. “See? My fingers are BLACK! That means you’re wearing mascara,” he shouts.

“I just wear a little bit,” my eighth-grade girls replies.

“You shouldn’t be wearing ANY makeup,” Bodie advises. “You’re too young.”

Pea takes another bite of pasta to avoid a reply. So, I come to her rescue, more or less. “Bodie, what are you going to do next year, when Pea is with you in high school?” I ask. “Do you expect her to go make-up free then?”

Yes,” he says. “And when I drive her to school, I’m going to keep a sponge in the car so I can wipe her makeup off.”

“You know, Bodie, lots of girls who are forbidden to wear makeup just put it on in the school bathroom,” I suggest.

“Okay, so I’ll get Pea’s class schedule and follow her around school with my sponge,” he asserts.

Glad he has that one figured out. And, fortunately, Bodie may find support in his make-up free crusade.

Although check-out line tabloids routinely splash “shocking” “stars without makeup” photos across their pages, in an effort to debase the celebrities’ beauty-queen status, some models have begun championing the natural look.

In fact, last week the New York Times Style Magazine ran an article subtitled, in part, “A face without makeup looks wholesome and shows confidence.”

Rachel R. White’s article mentions that at the recent 2014 collection runway shows, “There was little or no makeup… with models channeling the confident girl who’s too cool to care.”

White quotes Tatcha skin-care founder Victoria Tsai, who notes that models have realized, “When you step out from that veil of makeup, you are inviting people to look at you as a person.”

I think we all should give ourselves permission to do that — at least from time to time.

However, the article cautions, the look only works for those who have taken great care of their skin, with sunscreens and expensive lotions. I guess it’s too late for those of us who slathered on baby oil and sunned ourselves with aluminum-foil-covered record albums.

Tsai points out that in Asia, where the “no-makeup trend” has existed for quite a while, “They spend more money on skin care and less on makeup.”

I definitely fall into that camp (witness my recent Orogold bill), and hopefully my daughter has grown up believing, as I do, that “less is more” when it comes to face paint. Thankfully, my husband agrees.

The general public may have started to climb on board. Last week, my kids’ former nanny Sara Bradley-King Compaglia  posted a Facebook link to Karen Alpert’s Baby Sideburns blog, which advocated attempting makeup-free week. Alpert was inspired by her young daughter, who asked for lip gloss because “I want to be pretty!”

Alpert wrote, “I know that one day she’ll want to wear lipstick and eyeliner and glitter eye shadow and all other s&#@ that’s going to drive me up an F’ing wall, but I don’t want her to think she HAS TO wear it to be beautiful.”

So, Alpert decided to go makeup free for a week, and cover up every single mirror in her home during that period.

Compaglia decided to join in after seeing her own 19-month-old daughter attempt to apply blush. “NOT what I had in mind for her!” she noted.

As for Pea, while she definitely prefers a “natural” look, she won’t forego the foundation that covers the red spots that are the bane of many teenagers’ existence. And, having honed her makeup artistry through dance and choir performances, she loves helping me “doll up” for big nights out.

So, I decided to speak with Bodie privately about his ongoing concerns. “Why are you so worried about Pea wearing a little makeup?” I ask. “She’s a good girl, she’s really balanced and grounded, and she isn’t boy-crazy yet.”

“I just don’t want her to think she’s older than she is,” he replied. “Girls who wear a lot of makeup are trying to look too grown up.”

I can’t argue with his desire to preserve her innocence a little longer. At least, he suggests, until he departs for college.

–  Linda Williams Rorem, 25 November 2013
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