bad TV, celebrities, mental health, narcissists, psychology, Reality TV

“If there is a dark side lurking within you, please bring it forth…” and other weird concepts on ANTM…

Yea! It’s Wednesday! Two more days to go before our home “pack” is complete again, and Bill comes home. There was a time in my life when I loved having the house to myself. That was when I was a teenager, which was many years ago. 😉 I didn’t mind living alone when I was a young woman, either, because apparently I’m not the most likable person, or the greatest roommate. Scratch that. I am a pretty good roommate, but only to the right person. I’m such an oddly shaped puzzle piece that there aren’t that many “good fits” for me in the world.

Against all odds, Bill and I happen to get along beautifully. We genuinely dislike being apart when he has to travel. It’s very boring for both of us. He spends all his time working or sleeping, and I spend mine writing, reading, and watching trash TV. Then he wants to have a chat when I’m knee deep in the trash. Actually, this past week, poor Bill has been working nights, which means he gets even less sleep than usual. We haven’t had too much opportunity to chat. Most of our communication has been through very short emails of little substance. So, we’re both really looking forward to Friday, when he comes home from his latest adventure.

I mentioned yesterday, that reading Good Girls by Hadley Freeman had inspired me to watch old episodes of America’s Next Top Model. I was pretty hooked on that show when it was popular, although I didn’t watch it until Cycle 7, when I happened to channel surf past it one night. I don’t like Tyra Banks very much, even if I can easily see why she’s a famous model. Maybe she’s different offscreen, but I find her onscreen persona very off putting and narcissistic. There were times on ANTM when she acted like a complete twat (in the British sense of the word).

However, I did like a couple of other cast members. Miss J and Jay Manuel were favorites of mine. They could be dismissive and disdainful at times, but I got the sense that they were much more genuine and kind than Tyra was. And I also thought they were legitimately funny and entertaining. Tyra was just nuclear level annoying to me– although I suspect, in her case, that behavior stems from the industry she made her name in, as well as– I suspect– perhaps some family trauma. I don’t know, and I’m not saying my suspicions are true. It’s just that in my experience, people who act like that often have an abusive past, delivered by their families. (raising my own hand, here…) The fact that Tyra has spent years as a model and an entertainer means that she’s also been exposed to a lot of the same types of people– many of whom are pretty damaged.

I do think Tyra Banks is legitimately beautiful, bright, and talented, but her personality comes across to me as entitled, fake, and manipulative. Unless she’s been doing some Oscar winning acting, she has a deep and obvious need for admiration and attention. It was especially clear in some of the widely circulated clips on the Internet showing, which some of ANTM’s craziest moments over its many years on the air.

I’ve studied a lot about narcissism, and it’s obvious to me that a lot of the people who made it on Top Model also suffered from abusive, traumatic pasts that turned them a bit Machiavellian. There are only a few cycles in which it seems like fewer people are drama queens. Those cycles, which I mostly found more pleasant to watch, tended to be the ones that weren’t as highly rated. For example, I loved Cycle 13, which was the “petite” cycle– All of the women were short, like me. I got the sense that they weren’t nearly as blackhearted as some of their taller counterparts. Maybe it’s because they have more concentrated oxygen at such low heights. Kidding, of course… 😉 I am myself only about 5’2″.

So… about today’s title. It comes from Cycle 10. I had just finished watching Cycle 9, where I heard all kinds of red flag narcissism phrases like, “You don’t know who you’re messing with,” and watched Tyra be totally horrible to Ebony Morgan, a beautiful contestant who suddenly quit when she’d decided that being on the show wasn’t for her.

Tyra was awful to Ebony.

Ebony Morgan was clearly someone who’d had a very traumatic past, and determined that she didn’t enjoy modeling. She wisely and nobly decided to quit the show, and allow someone else to take her place. And Tyra said, “The most unattractive thing in the world to me is a quitter.” Really, Tyra? There aren’t less attractive people than that? How about child molesters? Would you put Ebony beneath someone like, say, Josh Duggar?

In that same cycle, there was a very smart “nerdy” young woman named Victoria. It was clear that Victoria had never really considered what modeling is all about. She was just very quirky and interesting looking. She came on the show and very quickly got the “bitch” edit. They had all of the contestants dress up like plants and Victoria was a cactus. At judging, she was deemed “prickly”, and when she stood up for herself, she was quickly chastised.

“You need to work on charm.” Can anyone blame Victoria for sticking up for herself? She actually wasn’t that assertive here… I’ve seen a lot worse on this show.

Anyone who ever watched ANTM remembers this gem from Cycle 4. It gets trotted out all the time as an example of how toxic this show could be. It doesn’t matter what Tiffany’s “attitude” was. Screaming at her the way she did is verbal abuse. And no, Tiffany… Tyra doesn’t care about you.

Tyra’s public, extreme, ass chewing was way out of line, even if Tiffany should have been eliminated. And she was basically chewed out because she wasn’t upset enough when she got the ax (at about the 5 minute mark).

And then there was my revelation last night, as I watched Paulina Porizkova talking to the models of Cycle 10 for the very first time. I actually loved Paulina on this show. She seemed very genuine, and didn’t behave like a narcissistic twat. She came up to a beautiful blonde woman named Kimberly and said something along the lines of, “You seem to have this High School Musical thing about you, but I sense you have a dark side. And if there is a darker side of you, bring it forth.” Then, she pantomimed as if the dark spirit would come out of Kimberly, exorcist like.

Kimberly also ended up quitting the show. She claimed it was because she didn’t enjoy modeling and couldn’t see spending $500 on a pair of shorts. Some time later, Kimberly was on Tyra’s talk show, where she explained her real reasons for quitting.

Kim doesn’t like modeling… and yet, her obituary mentions her love for modeling.
Kim explains… It turns out, she was experiencing some pretty serious mental health issues related to suicides by people close to her. In 2016, she took her own life.

Allison Kuehn was also on Cycle 10, and was eliminated early. I found her obnoxious when the show originally aired, but watching her last night was almost unbearable. She reminded me a lot of Donald Trump, especially after she got her makeover. She kept talking about how she was the most experienced and best model in the house, after she made some pretty offensive and racist comments to another contestant. When she got eliminated, she cried. It does look like Allison went back to real modeling, though, which is a credit to her, I guess.

Allison was obnoxious, but she certainly wasn’t the only one…

There are so many other examples… I’ve written posts about Renee Alway, for example. I was a fan of Renee’s, in spite of her manipulative, spiteful, and envious behaviors. I thought Renee was absolutely gorgeous, and I thought she had a lot of potential on many levels. Sadly, Renee has had a lot of very serious interactions with law enforcement. She’s been in an out of prison after committing armed robberies, domestic violence, and drug crimes. There were times when Renee seemed open and vulnerable, and that made me think she wasn’t a completely black hearted person. I still don’t think she is. But she had some very serious problems that I don’t think were helped by being on America’s Next Top Model.

Likewise, Renee’s fellow cohort and sometime friend, Jael Strauss, also had severe difficulties after being on ANTM. I didn’t like Jael that much when I first saw her, but now that I’m watching again, I find her very endearing and entertaining. She seemed like a genuinely kind soul. Unfortunately, she had a terrible problem with drugs, to the point at which she appeared on Dr. Phil. And then, in December 2018, after a two month battle with inflammatory breast cancer, Jael passed away at age 34.

So sad. She deserved better than “help” from Dr. Phil. He’s as bad as Tyra.

Angelea Preston was another contestant who, I think, got exploited on ANTM. I didn’t really care for Angelea’s appearances on three cycles of the show, although I’ve looked her up since her last appearance, and I’m impressed by how she’s recovered. Angelea has proven that she’s a survivor, and is telling her story… having “won” the All-Stars edition of the show, and then been disqualified for briefly working as an escort. After she was disqualified, Lisa D’Mato, who had been on Cycle 5, won. Lisa is also speaking out about ANTM, and Tyra has reportedly blocked her on social media.

One last person I want to mention is Jenah Doucette, who was in Cycle 9. She was a very strong competitor. I ran across a very informative Reddit thread she started, inviting people to ask her anything. It seems like she’s doing pretty well now, but she admits that she had a very hard time after being on ANTM. She says she is a recovering alcoholic, and has been through therapy. She might have been an alcoholic anyway, and she might have needed therapy anyway. However, I doubt that the experience of being on that show was very helpful to her.

I probably shouldn’t watch these old episodes of Top Model, but I’m finding them very engrossing and, I’ll admit, often entertaining. They help pass the hours before Bill gets home on Friday. And, if you’re interested in psychology, it is interesting to pay attention to the interactions among the contestants, especially so many years later.

Thanks to reading Good Girls, falling back down the “fashion rabbit hole”, and watching old episodes of Top Model, I’ve also started reading Jay Manuel’s novel, The Wig, The Bitch, & The Meltdown. I don’t read many novels anymore, but I couldn’t resist this one. I suspect the book is highly influenced by his time with Tyra Banks, who is now a former friend of his. Stay tuned for a fresh review, which I hope will come sooner, rather than later…

For now, I need to walk the dog, play guitar, and go buy some more half and half at the store. Then, I’ll probably dive back into my ANTM reruns, which do a good job of keeping me from binge watching YouTube DWI videos. So, have a happy hump day. Catch you later.

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book reviews, fashion

Reviewing The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir, by Andre Leon Talley…

As I recently mentioned in my review of model Paulina Porizkova’s memoir, I don’t really follow fashion much. I decided to download the late Andre Leon Talley’s book, The Chiffon Trenches, because I like true stories. Talley published his book in May 2020, just a couple of months after the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world. Amazon tells me I downloaded it in February 2021, probably after I read several sad articles about how Andre Leon Talley’s life was in a downward spiral as former friends were trying to evict him from his home in White Plains, New York. He had fallen on hard times after a long and storied career as a flamboyant fashion editor for Vogue, where for decades, he regularly rubbed elbows with famous friends like Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour, Yves St. Laurent, and Oscar de la Renta.

An item about Talley’s book and the legal dispute regarding his eviction from his home.

But, again, I don’t follow fashion much. I only knew about Andre Leon Talley from watching America’s Next Top Model, a reality TV show by supermodel Tyra Banks. I watched ANTM, not because I care about fashion, but because I enjoyed the ridiculous antics of young women stuck in a house together. Andre Leon Talley had temporarily brought some “legitimacy” to ANTM, when he served as a judge in cycles 14 through 17. He charmed me with his warmth and intelligence, although I had no idea that the man was considered a huge fashion icon. Sadly, by the time he died on January 18, 2022, he literally was huge, as he had battled an eating disorder for years. On January 18, 2022, Mr. Talley was a victim of a heart attack and COVID-19, which took his life at age 73.

He was much beloved by his fashion friends, in spite of his comments to the contrary.

Though it took me almost two years to get around to reading The Chiffon Trenches, I’m glad I finally did it. Having read his book, I understand why Talley was such a highly regarded editor for Vogue. I only knew him from television, which was not where he was in his element. As a judge on a show with Tyra Banks, it’s not like he would have had a chance to share much. Tyra Banks is not one for sharing the limelight. I suspect he took the job with ANTM because he badly needed the money. And yet, he still managed to handle the job with grace.

So who was Andre Leon Talley?

Andre Leon Talley was born October 16, 1948 in Washington, DC to his parents, Alma Ruth Davis and William C. Talley. His maternal grandmother, Binnie Francis Davis, raised him in racially segregated Durham, North Carolina. She worked at Duke University as a cleaning lady, and raised Andre with good, southern food and lots of church. Talley rarely saw his parents; they would divorce when he was eleven years old. France and the French language, fascinated Andre Leon Talley. He went to North Carolina Central University and majored in French literature, graduating in 1970. Because he excelled in his undergraduate studies, Talley won a scholarship to Brown University. There he earned a Master of Arts in French literature in 1972. Talley initially had plans to earn a doctoral degree and teach French for a living.

While he was at Brown, Talley befriended some students from nearby Rhode Island School of Design. Eventually, through his friends from that school, Talley met and impressed French-American fashion columnist Diana Vreeland. By 1974, he had abandoned his plans for a doctorate and was apprenticing for her, unpaid, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Eventually, through Vreeland, Talley worked for famed American artist Andy Warhol. Working for Warhol led to stints at Women’s Wear Daily and W magazines, where he met and wrote about fashion designers and models. He further sharpened his skills at Ebony and The New York Times. Finally, he reached the pinnacle of his career when he worked for Vogue. He made history in 1988, when he became the first black male creative director for Vogue.

Andre Leon Talley co-authored the book, MegaStar, with Richard Bernstein in 1984. In 2003, he penned his first autobiography, A.L.T.: A Memoir. In 2005, he published ALT 365+, an artistic photographic look at 365 days of Talley’s life. Out magazine ranked Talley 45th in its 2007 list of the “50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America”. However, in 2018, when asked about his sexual orientation on The Wendy Williams Show, Talley claimed to be “gender fluid”. According to The Chiffon Trenches, Talley was never one for having a lot of sex or using drugs, anyway. Talley was very devoted to his work, which he claimed “saved his life”. He watched many of his more promiscuous friends and former colleagues die of AIDS in the 1980s and 90s.

In later years, he did extensive work with Savannah College of Art and Design. There is even an annual award named after him at the school. My nephew is currently a student there.

My thoughts on The Chiffon Trenches

After reading Jamie Lynn Spears’ book, Things I Should Have Said, Andre Leon Talley’s book is like a cool drink. He really was an excellent writer– witty, engaging, and intelligent, and sometimes very funny. I was fascinated by the foreign world Talley wrote of, involving creative, eccentric, and fabulously wealthy and stylish people. There were people Talley wrote of I didn’t know; his descriptions of them were so interesting that I took the time to research them on Google. He also wrote about people everybody knows, like Elton John, Princess Diana, and Mariah Carey. Talley enjoyed a long friendship with the late Lee Bouvier Radziwell, to whom he dedicated his book.

NBC’s tribute to Talley.

One person I never saw mentioned even once is Tyra Banks, nor does he mention ANTM. However, Talley does write some lovely comments about Naomi Campbell, who is famously regarded as one of Tyra’s nemeses. I noticed that Tyra Banks posted a tribute to Talley after his death last year. I don’t know why he didn’t comment about Banks, but it probably had to do with legal considerations. Paulina Porizkova didn’t mention her in her book, either.

The Chiffon Trenches is an easy and entertaining read. I got the sense that I’d probably enjoy Talley’s company. We could bond over our mutual love of southern food. He genuinely seemed like a kind, warm, decent person, shaped by his formative years in the South. Andre Leon Talley grew up during the Jim Crow era, but he literally towered over his humble beginnings and became “somebody”. Even a non fashion follower, as I am, has heard his name. That’s really something special.

However, although I enjoyed Talley’s book, I noticed that he was pretty bitter about some things. Talley repeatedly writes about his long friendships with Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour, and how they both cruelly “cast him out”. If I were to go only on his stories, I might be left with the idea that everyone in the fashion world is racist, superficial, and unkind. And yet, even as he complains about being ditched by his friends, he writes about how Anna Wintour staged an intervention for him and got Vogue to pay for his weight loss treatment three times!

Talley writes that his problems with binge eating intensified after his beloved grandmother died. He overate to drown the sorrows of bereavement, as well as to dull the pain of abuses he suffered as a child. Talley went from being tall and rail thin to a mountain of a man, forced to wear bespoke caftans. He could no longer dress like a fashion icon. Anna Wintour legitimately tried to help him. That sounds like something a good friend does. But she must have also realized that Talley was an addict, and the best way to help an addict is not to enable the damaging behaviors. I’m sure it was very painful for Wintour to separate herself from Talley’s drama. It would have been one thing if Anna Wintour had dumped him when he first gained weight, but she didn’t do that.

Talley might have more of a case against Karl Lagerfeld, whom he describes as extremely generous, yet very eccentric. When Talley met Lagerfeld in the 70s, the fashion icon gifted him with silk tunics. Talley said that if you were in Lagerfeld’s life, he dressed you. And he writes of how his old friend would routinely fly his friends in private jets to his sumptuous homes. He’d give them rare and expensive antiques, only to ask for them back again. Still, as strange as that behavior sounds to me, I couldn’t help but wonder what Lagerfeld would say about Talley.

I also noticed that Talley complained a lot about racism, but he was in an industry that embraces people who are different. Andre Leon Talley worked in a creative field populated by eccentric people, many of whom are not heterosexual. He worked with women of all shades and orientations. Yes, racism is a huge issue, and of course it needs to be addressed, but Talley worked in a career where being Black was no doubt less of a problem for him. He had an enviable life that most people can only fantasize about, regardless of their race or gender. His complaints about the lack of diversity in the fashion world are probably more on point. He does make some damning comments about Wintour not pushing diversity as much as she could have.

Although I can understand why Talley mentions racism, I wouldn’t say that he was a person who suffered extensively from it in his career. From what I can tell, he was highly revered and respected. In fact, I’ll bet in the fashion world, he was mistreated more for being a very fat man. But even his weight was accommodated by his friends. He writes about his fashion designer friends designing caftans for him. Naomi Campbell even managed to get him to Nigeria, where he helped promote Black fashion designers. Talley hadn’t wanted to go at first, due to his physical condition and enormous size. Naomi made it happen, and he was able to visit Africa, something he claims that even Black person wishes to do. Personally, I wouldn’t assume that every Black person wants to go to Africa, but Talley would certainly know about that more than I would. Below is what he wrote:

It is the wish and desire of every black human being to see Africa at some point before they die. But at seventy, highly overweight, and in poor health, it seemed a tall order for me. If only one person on God’s green earth could pull it off, it would be Naomi Campbell. I said yes and she said she would be in touch soon to sort out the details.

Talley, André Leon. The Chiffon Trenches (p. 239). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It was obvious to me that Talley was not expecting to die so soon after publishing his book. Throughout the manuscript, he writes about the funerals of friends. Sometimes he was surprised to be invited to the more exclusive memorial services. More than once, he writes about how he envisioned his own death. But it’s clear that he thought he would live beyond 73 years of age. Frankly, given how obese he was, I’m surprised he lived that long.

Overall

I heartily recommend The Chiffon Trenches to anyone interested in reading about fashion, or just those who enjoy books about real people. Andre Leon Talley lived through the “golden age” of fashion. He refers to himself and some of his former colleagues as “dinosaurs”. But they worked in fashion in a bygone era. Talley seems sad about how the glory days of fashion are seemingly gone. People no longer have huge expense accounts and stay at The Ritz. The whole medium as changed, as fewer people buy print magazines. It’s all online now, and a famous YouTuber might be doing what skilled writers and editors like Talley used to do.

In spite of his occasional bitterness, Andre Leon Talley was a true giant in the fashion world. He was larger than life on many levels. Writing and editing were truly Talley’s vocations. It’s sad to me that his life ended with so much controversy and rancor among his friends. He deserved better. At least Anna Wintour went to his funeral.

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blog news, musings, nostalgia, YouTube

It’s New Year’s Eve, and I don’t have much to write…

I just wrote a post for the travel blog that I was going to put on this blog… but then I realized that the content fits better with that blog than this one. The travel blog needs a little love, because most weeks I only update it a couple of times, rather than every day, like I do this blog. So I moved the original post that I was working on for this blog to that blog, and now I’m sitting here wondering what interesting things I might write today.

I see this New Year’s Eve writer’s block thing is kind of a chronic problem, as last year I did a “cross post”. That means I put the same content on both blogs, which I do on occasion. Not everyone who reads this blog reads that one, and vice versa. I’m hoping that in 2023, I can get the travel blog up a bit in hits, so I don’t reach cash out status for my ad revenue after I’m dead. As I pointed out in yesterday’s post, I don’t make big bucks writing these things. 😉

I could probably do a cross post this year, too, and this year’s post is more interesting than last year’s was. Or, at least I think it is. But I’ve got nothing better to do than write this stuff today… Otherwise, maybe I’d play Sims 4, which I don’t do very often anymore, even though I keep buying all the content. Or I’d read more of Jamie Lynn Spears’ book and cringe. She’s definitely no Paulina Porizkova, or even Matthew Perry, in the memoir writing department.

I see that last year, like this year, I’ve been doing chores today. I don’t know what it is about New Year’s Eve that makes me want to do household chores. Last year, I finally managed to get rid of the horrible chalky limescale in our bathrooms. Citric acid works wonders, not just for descaling the taps and the backs of the toilets, but it’s also great for cleaning the coffee maker. I notice that last year, I also hauled my ass up on the stepladder and knocked the scales off the shower head. I think I’ll do that today, too, as it needs to be done. Getting rid of the chalky limescale makes for a nicer showering experience, as there’s nothing to block the jets or cause the water to spray awkwardly.

I guess I do this cleaning because it feels like I should do it for a fresh start. Tomorrow is the beginning of a brand new year. It will bring with it the usual challenges, victories, and disappointments. I usually start the new year with some optimism, even though January and February are, weather wise, the most depressing times of the year, in my opinion. Up here in Hessen, it stays pretty wet and cloudy, and sometimes it gets cold. I would mind it less if we got more snow here, although even snow can get tiresome after it hangs around for weeks and gets all saturated with dog pee and frozen poop. I try to keep the poop cleaned up, but it gets buried, and then it gets all mashed up with the soil.

One thing I do look forward to this year is the prospect of more travel. Hopefully, we’ll go to more interesting places. Fingers are crossed, anyway. Maybe I’ll even take a trip “home” to the United States and see my mom, who hasn’t seen me since 2015. There are some places I haven’t yet been to that I would like to visit… and of course, I would love to go back to Armenia, just so I can show Bill where I used to live, half a lifetime ago.

I see from last year’s post that I hoped for a better year in 2022. Personally, I think I got that, but that’s just me. We did find out that our beloved Arran has lymphoma, but this year, for the FIRST time ever, we were able to do something about it. I know we will lose Arran eventually, but man, it’s such a good feeling to be able to do something, for once, when one of our boys gets cancer. It’s been a learning experience for us, and those of my friends who have been following our experiences.

I have no doubt whatsoever that if we hadn’t done chemo, Arran would be long gone by now. But right now, he’s downstairs snuggling with his favorite person, Mr. Bill. I know that some critics would say that chemo only delays the inevitable, and that the cancer will probably come back with a vengeance… but the alternative would have been that we would have lost him weeks ago. What’s the difference between treating cancer and treating a disease like diabetes? If it can be treated, isn’t too expensive, and isn’t too traumatic, why not? But, I also know that in the United States, this would have been a harder decision to make, because healthcare for people and pets is so goddamned expensive! And it really shouldn’t be. Affordable healthcare should be a right, at least for human beings. Living in Germany has taught me that Americans have gotten this policy so wrong. I hope the onerous high cost of healthcare for Americans can be rectified someday before I’m dead.

I also see that last year, I mentioned my guitar skills. Well, this year, they are better than they were a year ago. I still don’t play super well, but I did manage to post a few songs on YouTube with me on guitar. I’m still a much better singer than guitar player, but in 2019, I couldn’t play guitar at all. So that’s a good thing… I try to practice most days every week, although I do usually take off the weekends, unless I get inspired.

This year, I finally got brave and sang on camera on my YouTube videos, which I never did before. I get very camera shy, and I don’t like putting on makeup or getting dressed. I also don’t want to read rude comments from haters. I have to admit, though, people have been very kind. I get more engagement when I sing on camera, even though I’m not as beautiful as some of the places we’ve visited. And I’ve tried some songs I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, too. I’m hoping for more of that in the new year. Even if no one pays attention to my channel, I do enjoy the process of making the videos. Or, at least making the musical part. I often find myself wishing I’d started when I was much younger than I was. Ah well. Maybe someday, I’ll be reincarnated and get the chance for a do over… except maybe the new me won’t have a knack for music. Maybe I’ll be a soccer player, instead. 😉

My latest… it’s a good song for the New Year. Cheers!

I finally got multifocal contact lenses, too… which I had been needing for ages. I still don’t have bifocal glasses, but I think those are coming, if I don’t have surgery. Next year might be the year I’ll finally visit a doctor… German or otherwise. I haven’t seen one for medical reasons since 2010. That could change in 2023. We’ll see. I am getting old, after all. My body doesn’t seem to recover as quickly as it used to. German healthcare isn’t expensive, so I don’t even have that as an excuse. It’s just that– well– thanks to a terrible Air Force doctor from my younger days, I am a bit phobic of doctors. The older I get, the less I think it matters… except I know Bill would miss me if I weren’t around to make him laugh.

Maybe in 2023, I’ll try something else on YouTube. Maybe I’ll v-log. But again, I hate being on camera, and I like to write more than I like to speak. I also like to watch other v-loggers. If I become one myself, I’ll have less time to watch people like Beau of the Fifth Column, Farron Balanced, or even Trevor Coult, with whom I often disagree politically, but I find hilarious, thanks to his thick Northern Irish accent. I also think I’d go a bit nuts trying to make videos where I speak, because I would invariably mess up, which would mean do-overs, which take a lot of time. I’m kind of a perfectionist, too, so that would be a problem. I suspect my channel will mostly stick to music. At least I don’t attract as many rude comments when I make music. 😉 Perhaps this year, I’ll finally write an original song and sing it on YouTube. That would be something different. A year from now, maybe I’ll be writing about that. Who knows?

Well, it’s time to wrap this up… It’s about 1:45 PM and time for lunch… the very last one of 2022. So, I will now close, and wish you all a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year. Let’s cut this cake and take this year home… so I can take down the fucking Christmas decorations. 😉

See you tomorrow!

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book reviews, celebrities

A review of No Filter: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful, by Paulina Porizkova…

Those of you who read this blog regularly, probably know that I grew up in the 1980s. As a child of that era, there are certain cultural phenomenons that are etched in my personal history. Personally, I think the 70s and 80s were great decades for coming of age. Most of us were too young to remember Richard Nixon. We got to be kids at a time before everybody was so plugged in to their electronic devices. We had a lot of freedom to come and go– I can remember running all over my neighborhoods— even when I was very young— and exploring to my heart’s content. And there was some really great– non auto-tuned— music in that era, to include an iconic band called The Cars, fronted by the late Ric Ocasek.

Ric Ocasek was 80s model Paulina Porizkova’s long time husband. When Ocasek died in September 2019, they were in the beginning stages of getting a divorce. Although they were splitting up when he died, Ric and Paulina still shared the house they purchased together when they first got married in August 1989. Paulina had envisioned them staying close and being “best friends”, maybe living in apartments near each other. But it was not to be. As Ric recovered from surgery for “stage 0 cancer”, he suddenly and unexpectedly died in the bedroom he and his third wife used to share. He’d also been suffering from heart disease and emphysema.

It was Paulina who discovered him, as she carried a cup of coffee to his sickbed at about 11:00 AM. It was made just the way he liked it, with three quarters of a teaspoon of sugar and just enough milk in it to turn it a very specific shade of beige. This part of the story resonated with me. My husband, Bill, knows how I like my “beige” coffee, too, although I prefer half and half over milk.

My sisters read fashion magazines regularly, but as an adolescent, I spent most of my time in a barn, tending to my horse. I’ve never had the figure, the bank account, or the desire to wear high fashion. I will admit that I used to like to watch America’s Next Top Model, and I did learn about models and fashion in the process of watching that show. But I really watched ANTM more for the drama, not because I care about haute couture. When Paulina Porizkova became a Top Model judge during Cycle 10, she quickly became one of my favorite people on the show. I liked that she was down-to-earth, intelligent, and basically kind… or as kind as she was allowed to be, anyway. As a music fan, I admired The Cars, and thought it was cool that Paulina was married to one of the co-founders of that band. I was pissed off when Paulina was fired from ANTM after Cycle 12. I thought it was a huge mistake. In my opinion, the show went downhill after she left. Paulina was also very briefly on Dancing With the Stars, but she was voted off very early. I didn’t watch her on that show.

I don’t know why she was voted off… This was a great performance, in my opinion.
Paulina Porizkova talks about being a new judge on ANTM in 2009.

As someone who grew up at a time when a lot of us were terrified of being invaded by the Soviet Union, I also find Paulina Porizkova’s personal history very interesting. Paulina was born on April 9, 1965 in Prostějov, Czechia, which was at that time, Czechoslovakia. In 1968, when she was three years old, the Soviet Union invaded and occupied her country. Her parents, Anna and Jiri, did not like the idea of censorship, being forced to work menial jobs for little pay, or standing in line for hours for a loaf of bread. So they left the country on a motorcycle and settled in Sweden, leaving Paulina behind in Czechoslovakia with her grandmother.

Life was difficult in Paulina’s homeland. The Soviets decided the house her grandfather had inherited was too large for one family. They divided it into three apartments and moved in a single lady and another family. There was one toilet for the whole house, and it was on the veranda. Meanwhile, Paulina’s parents were making a lot of noise about their daughter, who was separated from them. The sympathetic Swedish press wrote a lot of stories about Paulina, causing her to become famous. Still, Paulina didn’t mind, because she didn’t know what she was missing. She loved her grandmother, and wanted to be a good communist, as she was being taught in school. She even had aspirations of visiting Lenin in his tomb, and becoming a “Young Pioneer”, complete with a red kerchief. Below is an anecdote of something she and her cousin did in an attempt to win one of those red kerchiefs…

There are quite a few funny anecdotes like this in Paulina’s book.

When Paulina was seven, her pregnant mother, Anna, came back to Czechoslovakia in disguise. She wore a wig and glasses. The police found out who she was, and she was jailed. But she was seven months pregnant, and the Swedish press continued to put pressure on the Czech government. Anna was then given house arrest with her family. The police moved into an apartment across the street, so they could watch her and make sure no one visited. Anna told everyone in the family about the good life in Sweden, which was diametrically opposed to everything the Soviets reported. Anna spoke of how clean, beautiful, and safe the country was, and how she could eat a banana or an orange anytime she wanted one. Paulina wasn’t sure if she should believe her, but she soon found out firsthand, as the Czech government deported Anna, Paulina, and her baby brother from the country. She was told she could never return to her homeland, and was forced to leave her beloved grandmother behind. Then, when she got to Sweden, her father decided to leave the family and marry his girlfriend.

Life in Sweden was also challenging for Paulina. She was bullied in school because she was different. Unlike the blonde girls whose families had plenty of money, Paulina was tall with dark hair. She wore outdated clothes from thrift stores. Some of her classmates called her a “dirty Communist”. One Swedish girl, in particular, was especially mean to fourteen year old Paulina, who one day dared to wear new clothes she’d bought with her own money after working hard all summer. I wonder how that Swedish girl felt the following year, when fifteen year old Paulina was invited to Paris by model scout, John Casablancas, and launched her career as a bonafide top model. I hope she felt like the dumbass she obviously was.

Modeling was a lucrative career for Paulina, but she didn’t particularly enjoy the job. Sexual harassment toward the models was rampant among the photographers and clients. She had to wear hot clothes when it was hot outside, or strip down to nothing when the weather was freezing. She saw a lot of beautiful young girls wash out of the business before they even got started, many times owing a lot of money to the agencies who had paid for them to get their teeth fixed or skin issues treated by dermatologists. Paulina was fortunate, as she was successful and made a lot of money. And, in 1984, when she was 19 years old, actor Timothy Hutton, who was directing The Cars’ music video for their hit song, “Drive”, cast her as the love interest. That was how she met Ric Ocasek, who was married to his second wife, Suzanne, at the time.

My God, she was gorgeous! No wonder Ric was taken with her.

Paulina was struck by Ric’s turquoise eyes, which she describes in great detail, as he often wore dark shades that hid them from public view. She writes reverently about his naturally slender body and extreme height, and his shocking mop of black dyed hair against his pale skin. She immediately noticed his Czech surname, even translating it for readers. It was more poetic than her own surname, which she also sort of translates, as much as possible, anyway. She agreed to date him, even though he was married and had two young sons at the time… as well as two older sons with his first wife. She was still in her prime when they married in 1989, but she decided to mostly give up her career to be Ric’s wife and the mother of their two sons, Jonathan Raven and Oliver. She would occasionally model and take approved acting gigs, always approved by Ric, and never interfering with his schedule. Even though she made a lot of money when she was a model, she let him be the breadwinner… and they did not sign prenuptial agreements, even though their financial advisors strongly recommended it. That decision came back to bite Paulina firmly in the ass when Ric suddenly died, having disinherited her for “abandoning him”, as well as his two eldest sons. She had to go to court to get what was hers and, for a time, was left quite destitute and dependent on friends as she rebounded, now as a woman of 54.

My thoughts

I found No Filter to be a very quick and engaging read. I managed to finish this book in less than two days, and yet I came away with a lot of fresh thoughts and new perspectives. Paulina’s story has given me a lot to think about for many reasons. I could relate to much of her story, simply because of the time I’ve spent in Europe and the former Soviet Union, and because, like her, I’m now a woman of a certain age. 😉 I realized in reading Paulina’s book that we really aren’t that different, even if no one wants to take pictures of me in the nude. 😀 Also, she displays a fine sense of humor, and provides some comic relief in the form of wry anecdotes that are very disarming and show her humility. I do not get the sense that Paulina is vapid or arrogant, at all. In fact, she seems to be quite the opposite!

Paulina Porizkova has an evocative writing style, and she uses a lot of vivid and vibrant language to bring her story to life. In fact, even though I don’t typically read a lot of novels anymore (with the recent exception of A Stopover in Venice, by James Taylor’s second ex wife, Kathryn Walker), I decided to download Paulina’s novel about modeling, A Model Summer. I actually think she might be even better at writing novels. She uses a lot of colorful imagery and descriptive devices such as similes and metaphors to figuratively “paint” a picture in readers’ minds. I suspect A Model Summer might also be revelatory, because I have a feeling it’s based on her story, just as A Stopover in Venice is obviously based on Kathryn Walker’s marriage to James Taylor.

I remember on Cycle 12 of America’s Next Top Model, a very successful contestant named Marjorie Conrad commiserated with Paulina, as Marjorie is originally from France. Other contestants would rag on Marjorie, and fellow European contestant, Elina (from Ukraine), for being too “negative”. Paulina understood why they were like that, as she’s Czech, with dual U.S. and Swedish citizenship. And, having lived in Europe/the former Soviet Union for about fifteen years of my life, I kind of understand it, too. Europeans have a different mindset than a lot of Americans do. They aren’t as “toxically positive” about everything, and take a more realistic, and often pessimistic, view of most things. I mention this, because I noticed that Paulina is often quite negative in this story about her life, in spite of all of the money, fame, and success she’s had.

Again, life was legitimately hard for Paulina as a poor little girl in Czechoslovakia. It was hard for her as a transplant in Sweden, where she stood out for being too tall, too dark haired, too poor, and coming from a “commie” country. It was hard for her as a model, who was quite successful, but didn’t really enjoy the industry that much for a lot of reasons. It was always “just a job” for her, and not a very interesting one, at that. She caught a lot of shit for frankly stating that, too. I’m sure Americans, in particular, think she should appreciate having been a model, even though she was expected to tolerate egregious and outrageous sexual harassment and very personal and often negative comments about her body. Below is a quote from early in the book:

How sick is this?

Life was also hard for Paulina as Ric’s wife, as it turns out that he had some rather controlling behaviors that young Paulina had misconstrued as love. She was very young and inexperienced with men when they met. She’d had a tumultuous and difficult childhood that was fraught with abandonment, poverty, and abuse. She probably would have been better off going to college and finding work in which she could use her formidable brain. Instead, she fell into work that exploited the genetic jackpot she inherited by sheer chance. At one point in the book, Paulina writes about how people will usually encourage children who are smart and/or talented to develop and use their gifts. A smart child will often be encouraged to study hard and earn higher degrees, for instance. A musical or artistic child will be encouraged to improve their techniques so that their arts can be shared with the world. Beautiful women, though, are often judged harshly for using what they have, especially when they are “older”. Below is a quote Paulina got from a follower on her Instagram:

Easy for you to complain about the system now that you aren’t an “it” girl—but you had no problem making millions of dollars, enjoying your celebrity, and making millions of young girls feel ugly and unworthy for decades. NOW you are aware of how fragile self-image is???? You played a big role in creating the machine that makes people feel worthless if they aren’t “magazine beautiful,” and now you are crying because the system is making you feel like you made everyone else feel. The hypocrisy is incredible.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (p. 97). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In her chapter, “The Responsibility of Beauty”, she writes:

People seem to understand that being beautiful is neither an accomplishment nor a fault. It is a gift. Generally, if you are given a gift or something of great value, your responsibility is to make use of it. When a person is born with an athletic or artistic ability and becomes a celebrated athlete or artist, we don’t shame them for using their gift. If a child is intelligent, we encourage them to get an education, to study hard, to develop their gift of intelligence as much as possible, and then use that gift out in the world. Developing their gift is seen as their responsibility. Wasted talent is a waste of potential. But when your gift is beauty, developing it is considered vain and narcissistic. Trying to maintain it is likewise shameful, whereas in athletics it’s practically heroic. An older athlete who strives to maintain their athleticism and compete with younger athletes is regarded as brave. An older model who strives to maintain their beauty and compete with younger models is often regarded as unnatural, embarrassing.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (pp. 99-100). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I think the above commentary is very astute. It’s true that Paulina Porizkova was part of an industry that causes a lot of girls and young women heartbreak and misery. When she was in that industry, Paulina was, herself, young and arrogant, and unaware of her “responsibility” as a model. She writes about a reporter who asked her what she thought her “responsibility” should be. Would she model fur, for instance? Or “blood diamonds”, just for the money? At the time the question was asked, young Paulina didn’t know how to answer. Over thirty years later, the question still haunts her, but in spite of being a “dumb” model (which she obviously never was), she manages to write some very intelligent commentary about the subject. I found it very intriguing, so I’m including a few samples below:

I had become a model at fifteen and made a great deal of money because people thought I was beautiful. I was also an arrogant asshole. Give a teenager loads of money, no rules, and lavish praise for her ability to look stunning and fit into sample-size clothing, and moral responsibility probably isn’t what she spends most of her days thinking about.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (p. 98). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And…

…somewhere along the way, we pick up the message that we can’t be beautiful and intelligent. That if we want to be taken seriously for our intelligence, we have to downplay our beauty. Right before I moved to Paris, I thought of myself as ugly and smart. Once I started working as a model, I was suddenly beautiful and stupid. When I called my dad to tell him I was staying in Paris to model full-time, he said, “Oh, now you’re going to be a dumbass.” When I arrived in Paris I got a reading list from a university and decided to read all the books listed in the English literature syllabus, not because I necessarily liked them or would choose them on my own, but because I wanted to make sure people knew I was intelligent.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (pp. 99-100). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

She continues…

I struggled with shame across my forty-plus-year career as a model. While a woman seeing a photo of me in an ad might have felt shame for not looking like me, I had been shamed for not having the body of Elle Macpherson. And the boobs of Cindy Crawford. And the teeth of Christie Brinkley. When the standard you are being held to is physical perfection, none of us can compete. I just quietly envied those other models and decided I surely had other, more important attributes. I was smarter, I could play the piano and draw, and I was certain I read way more books. I cut other women down in my mind so I could feel, if not superior, at least equal. I turned around and shamed those women after feeling shamed myself.

In my experience, no one shames a woman as often and as effectively as other women. We are all in the same boat, wanting to go the same way, yet instead of working together to get there, we knock one another off the boat. Do we not understand that the fewer of us there are to paddle, the slower we advance?

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (p. 102). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Yeah… this is not a dumb woman, at all! I can see why Paulina is sometimes negative about her life. She’s being honest, but a lot of Americans can’t respect honesty. They’d prefer bullshit. I also loved what she wrote about fame, and how people want to project themselves onto famous people. She explains that famous people are very well known, and yet very few people actually know them at all. Reading her comments reminded of how, when I was at James Taylor’s concert last month, some guy yelled out that his father “loved” him, and James reminded the guy that his father didn’t even know him. I got the sense that, like Paulina, James might be uncomfortable with people calling him by name and acting as if they’re somehow friends. If you think about it, it really is pretty weird, because we only know about the “famous” parts of these well-known people. We don’t actually have a personal knowledge of them at all, other than how what they do makes us feel. Paulina also reminds us that people in the press often make up or embellish things to sell their wares. I was also reminded of actress Justine Bateman’s book about her experiences with fame and how strange it must actually be for famous people… at least the ones who aren’t complete narcissistic assholes. Below are a few more quotes from the book to highlight what I mean…

On the other hand, Paulina Porizkova is also a believer in palm readings, tarot cards, and psychics, and she writes a bit about her experiences with her beliefs in her book. I don’t judge her negatively for that, especially since, in her experiences, they’ve actually been correct. Or, at least that’s what she claims. I know some people will probably think that’s kind of dumb or sacrilegious, though… or too much “woo”. And I know some will also judge her for being “the other woman”, and for the fact that she dated another man while she was still technically married. But, in fairness, Ric was also seeking the company of other women.

To sum things up…

I’m sure you can tell that I really enjoyed Paulina Porizkova’s book, No Filter. I am probably a bigger Paulina fan now, than I was when she was on ANTM. I hope this book helps her make some money, since she was left in quite a legal pickle when Ric Ocasek suddenly died. I still admire him as a musician and love his music, but now I think he was a bit of a narcissistic jerk. It’s too bad Paulina didn’t use her formidable common sense to protect herself from the situation he left her in when he died in 2019, but she trusted him and, sadly, he got to her when she was very naive and inexperienced.

There’s a lot more to this book that I didn’t cover, in spite of the long length of this article. So, if I have piqued your interest, I would highly recommend reading about Paulina Porizkova’s life. She’s led a very interesting one, so far… And I do hope that she will, one day, find that true love and acceptance she thought she’d had with Ric Ocasek. There are still some very good men out there. I know, because I managed to marry one myself, even though I am definitely no model. Like Paulina knew how Ric loved his coffee, my Bill knows how I love mine. I bet he’s not the only guy out there who’s like that… I think Paulina deserves someone who will fix her some coffee the way she likes it, and appreciate her very fine mind over her still gorgeous body.

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