"I'm not depending on fashion because what I do is very individual. This is mine, and I enjoy it, that is all. Nobody else has to like it. As long as when I look in the mirror--ah!--this is me."
I can't get enough of the wonderful Advanced Style blog. Not only does it illustrate how individual style can be inspiring later in life, it's full of wisdom from all kinds of golden girls. I particularly liked The New 90 Year Old post featuring this video with the sprightly Ilona Royce Smithkin.
When it comes to writing about Grace Jones, I just need to quote Andy Warhol: "I never read, I just look at the pictures." I could write too many words about this amazing woman and her indomitable style, but I'd rather let the pictures do the talking. Let me say this first, though: a certain modern pop-star's "original" style comes to mind when I look at vintage photos of Grace Jones, who was a TRUE style originator. I just want it to be in your mind the next time you check out this other, much ballyhooed reigning pop queen or hear people freaking out about her latest funny hat, bondage, and crazy makeup choices--I want you to remember that she copped it (which is cool and all). But the inspiration is clearly all Grace.
Those are tears in the above photos. TEARS, people! Who does that for real anymore?
I'm not alone when I say that octogenarian style-icon Iris Apfel is one of my heroes. A longtime New Yorker and polymathic aesthete, she lives her life in BOLD. From a legendary wardrobe bursting with eclectic accessories and whimsical ensembles that has been celebrated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute to her maximalist taste in interior design, the world Ms. Apfel has created for herself is utterly unique and entirely her own. She seems to relish living life by her own rules.
I've always wanted to know what Ms. Apfel's Manhattan apartment looks like, and this month's issue of Architectural Digest gives us a rare peek into her home life. It's just as I imagined and more. I especially loved learning more about her history, specifically that she used to be a copy girl:
"But after landing her first job as a $15-a-week copy girl at Women's Wear Daily, she figured out that advancement there was blocked because the editors she hoped to someday replace were, as she puts it, 'either too old to get pregnant or too young to die.'"
True words, even to this day. Perhaps inspiration for those of us who want to live by our own rules or break out and do something by ourselves in a different way. I don't know about you, but I think our world needs more color, whimsy, and individual exuberance. Also, gigantic glasses and multiple brooches on one lapel. I love you, Iris!
It's ridiculous how much I want this belt. Isn't it amazing?! It's the cast bronze wonder-work of Brooklyn-based Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels, an artist, traveler, designer, jeweler, metalsmith, teacher, writer, illustrator, and rusty object collector. That's just a preliminary list of Serra's polymath-like descriptions, FYI. She currently makes awkwardly shaped house installations in places like a former convent and will be showcasing new work at the Gowanus Ballroom's Art + Architecture show opening this Friday. Go check it out!
Feisty, ferocious, feral. Gravel-voiced and wink-eyed cantankerous. Today marks the triumphant return of Wanda Jackson, Queen of Rockabilly and First Lady of Rock and Roll. If you've never heard the early raucous ramblings of this septuagenarian sweetheart, you'll no doubt be hearing them now thanks to Mr. Jack White who is resurrecting her career with their new collaboration, The Party Ain't Over. Produced and arranged at his Nashville studio, it's a brash n' ballsy album of good ol' R&R, and I can't stop listening to it.
As an Oklahoma teenager, Wanda Jackson became the first female to write and perform straight-up rock. She influenced one-time boyfriend Elvis Presley and went on to carve her own DIY path complete with her trademark vocal grit and handmade, fringed costumes that she vowed would bring "glamour to country music." In addition to several top 40 hits and a plethora of albums, Jackson has also toured tirelessly (and been married to her manager) for 50 years.
I've been listening to Jackson's new album for weeks now; it has changed my life. Imbued with a whisky tinged spirit--and Jack White on lead guitar--the second her raspy voice rips through the first track, "Shakin' All Over," you're taken on a retro roller coaster ride which promises to, literally, do what it says it will do: "send shivers through your knee bone." Influenced by big band, blues, and country, featuring covers of Amy Winehouse's "You Know That I'm No Good" and Dylan's "Thunder On the Mountain," it's an AMAZING album, and easily my favorite of the new year. Officially out on iTunes today, I implore you to gift it to yourself then go and check out all that came before it.
Dear Intergalactic Space Diva from the Planet Disco 2000,
Please emerge from your techno cocoon and bestow us with your dancing pigtail madness! Bring back your platform sneakers, your late-night Tootsie Pop orange. Relive the days of raves and poses, make them brighter than neon junebugs and lady bunny heat. (We need your flippy banter, your cat-eyed giggle beat.) My supperdish, my succotash wish, now is the time to dance and have some fun.
What I have to say is this: Melissa Auf der Maur--or MAdM as she is also known--is awesome. Passionately curious and seriously talented, she's an indie rock legend and a creative whirlwind who conjures up her own brand of magic to independently write, produce, record, and film her musical masterpieces. She's not afraid to bring the fantasy world of her mind's eye to life. She's not afraid to ask for help from her friends (in fact, she can expound upon the creativity of someone else just as fervently as her own). She doesn't make excuses and lets the past enlighten the present. She's honest, talkative, and incredibly cool. She's the kind of role model I'd want my nonexistent daughter to have.
Aside from Melissa Auf der Maur being my latest FANTASTIC WOMAN pick, I had the opportunity to interview her recently for NYmag.com. You can read all about it here and check out her new multimedia extravaganza, OOOM, here.
I have decreed SXSW 2009 as the Year of the Woman after seeing some truly amazing performances by a handful of mighty talented women (and you're welcome to read all about it over at VanityFair.com). The one performer I can't stop talking about, though, is Janelle Monae. She's my current obsession and a most FANTASTIC WOMAN!™
I first heard about her last Thursday when I arrived at the Levi's/FADER Fort to see what was cookin'. It felt like a Brooklyn village up in there complete with a blogging tent, multiple Ray Ban outlets, and long-limbed ladies lazily fingering their neon headbands as they waited in line for the Port-a-Potty. Artist Shepard Fairey was spinning some tunes on an Obama adorned laptop, displaced Williamsburg-ers were crowding the free beer bar, and there was a distinct buzz in the air that something big had just happened.
It was then that I ran into fellow New York compatriot, Andrew, who immediately insisted that I check out "this AMAZING girl" by the name of Janelle Monae. It wasn't a suggestion, it was a demand. Everyone it seemed--from the lackadaisical hipsters on the bleachers to the security guards manning the exits--was talking about this pompadoured girl and her tuxedo clad backing band who had apparently "killed it" at 1:00 that afternoon. She was described as new and original, stylish, explosive, energetic, theatrical, and insane (in a good way) with a killer set of pipes and dance moves unseen since the heyday of Michael Jackson. Apparently, she was also a self-proclaimed "alien from outer space, a cyber girl without a face."
The next evening, I ran into my Austin-based chum, Marc, a music writer covering a large number of shows at the fest. Now, let me just say that Marc is a calm guy. I've rarely seen him raise his voice or go ballistic about anything. When he speaks passionately about something, it comes through in the words he chooses. When the words "Janelle Monae" popped out of my mouth, Marc's eyes exploded, his head flew back, and a sound from deep within exploded with this proclamation: "Janelle Monae is the SHHHH-EEEEE-IIIII-TTTT!!!!" The very thought of her kept a smile on his face for the next half hour.
I then did some research and discovered that Janelle Monae is from Kansas City, Kansas, but is now based in Atlanta. She moved to New York to conquer the world of Broadway musical theatre only to find (like the rest of us) that typecasting can often kill originality. Later, during a layover in Atlanta, she felt an intuition that she was supposed to stay and "start a movement." So, she did, and ended up creating her own musical universe and record label called The Wondaland Arts Society. The collective is heavily influenced by Fritz Lang's 1929 cinematic masterpiece Metropolis, and soon, through her own marketing and chutzpah, people like Big Boi from Outkast and Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs started taking notice. Combs contacted her through MySpace where he listened to her single--which was heating up by word-of-mouth--and offered her a contract with Bad Boy Records where she would have creative control. He proclaimed her "a visionary."
So, on Saturday evening at approximately 6:30 p.m., in a tented parking lot in downtown Austin located directly in front of the Hilton hotel, I finally took in a performance by Janelle Monae at the Atlantic Records showcase. There was a joyous feeling within the assembled crowd. Industry people who had already seen her twice were there for a third time. Solange Knowles (Beyonce's sister and an amazing performer in her own right) and a group of friends excitedly wedged themselves up against the small stage. Then, a dapper gentleman in black and white announced Janelle's arrival as two other musicians in tuxedos emerged. Smoke filled the air, bombastic beats pummeled our hearts, and Janelle Monae's otherworldly tornado of fantasticness commenced onstage.
Folks, it's one of the best concerts I've seen. Ever. And it was only three songs.
She surpassed the hype and left me speechless, hands clapped over my cheeks. Bouncing from hyperactive dancing and perfectly belted cyber-punk show tunes to a classic rendition of Nat King Cole's song "Smile", Janelle Monae single handedly resurrected my love of music performance. There's no one like her, and I predict that she's going to be HUGE, so start checking your local listings to catch one of her upcoming shows opening for No Doubt this spring. That's a demand, not a suggestion.
In the meantime, check out her EP Metropolis: the Chase Suite on iTunes. Also, here's a little taste of the world of Janelle Monae, a most FANTASTIC WOMAN!™
I am a longtime fan of Leslie Hall and her brand of bedazzled "Jellybean Jet Style". I came across Leslie's Gem Sweater website a few years ago and was transfixed by her dead gaze, oversize glasses, and billowy beauty filling out several 80's style bedazzled sweaters. I didn't know who she was or what she was selling, but I spontaneously shouted, "I LOVE THIS WOMAN!"
I'm proud to showcase the creative genius that is Leslie Hall as the first choice in my new category here on Verbose Coma entitled FANTASTIC WOMAN! Just to clarify, a FANTASTIC WOMAN! must have some or all of the following attributes:
1. SMARTS! Be they book, street, or spirit.
2. HEARTS! Simply, passion.
3. ART! She has to create and communicate using the following formula: Smarts + Hearts = Art.
4. NO DARTS! That means she doesn't throw them. Literally or figuratively.
Leslie Hall is the epitome of a FANTASTIC WOMAN! because she continues to attract legions of adoring fans by marching to her own beat-box beat while shimmying comfortably in gold spandex pants. She reminds you to wear what you like and be true to who you are even if people don't get it. And she wants you to laugh both at and with her (which you will). Relying solely on the power of the internet to spread her brand of brilliantly bizarre music and art, Leslie is making a name for herself the nontraditional way. And that, my friends, MUST be saluted.
I urge you to check out Leslie's style of hip-hop electronic music with her band Leslie and the Lys. Don't forget to watch some of the videos shot spontaneously on suburban streets where passersby clearly have no idea how to digest this pink spandex clad confection. Hilarious! Oh, and um, who doesn't love a song about Willow?