Wednesday, September 10, 2014
I was managing editor of People Magazine’s website in 1999, and I’ve subscribed to the magazine ever since I left that job. Today, I was flipping through the Sept. 15, 2014, issue and came across an item about the recent celebrity nude-photo hacking. Because it slut-shamed and blamed actress Jennifer Lawrence and model Kate Upton for their own violation, I initially thought it was a story about comedian Ricky Gervais, who was criticized for “joking” on Twitter (in a totally matter-of-fact and humorless tone) that celebrities who don’t want their nude photos exposed shouldn’t take nude photos. But no! It was an editorial comment from People itself — interestingly, the only item in the magazine’s Scoop section that was minus a byline — declaring that celebs should “Just Say No to Naked Selfies.”
This piece reminds me of the time on Family Guy when Peter Griffin says, “Yeah Brian, you’re doing the same thing that Mia Farrow did to that Chinaman that Woody Allen brought home from the circus!” and Lois responds, “Peter, hold on to that thought, because I’m gonna explain to you when we get home all the things that are wrong with that statement.” There are THAT many things wrong with People’s short item.
For a start, despite trying to protect itself with a “rightly so” aside that feigns a modicum of sympathy for the victims, the magazine says the celebrity women claimed a violation and blamed a hacker, as if those things were in doubt. Then there’s People’s uneasy relationship with technology. People Magazine couldn’t deal with the Internet when I was there in 1999 — four years after a top executive called the corporate parent’s Internet operations a “black hole” — and it still can’t. The Scoop item puts the word “cloud” in quotations, like it’s not a real thing that its own employees use all the time. Then it compares the cloud’s security to the rhythm method for birth control and, in case you missed the point, quotes the definition of as atmospheric, weather cloud from the Oxford Dictionaries. OMG! All our Internet security depends upon water vapor!
The capper is the last line about Upton:
“…and Upton will go back to doing whatever it is that Upton does, which — as far as we can tell — involves taking almost-naked pictures for magazine covers.”
I. Am. Astonished. First, Upton is a professional model and if she chooses to disrobe partially or completely in order to make a living in front of the lens that does not mean her body is up for grabs at all times. I mean, I sell jewelry, but if I say a particular piece is not for sale, that doesn’t make it legal for you to take it from me by force.
Additionally, those “magazine covers” People refers to so derisively include Sports Illustrated.
Sports Illustrated is a Time Inc. publication, as is People. People’s staffers are throwing shade at Kate for doing business with their own corporate colleagues! (Earlier this year, People celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue by calling it a “landmark development for … the magazine industry” and selecting the 17 most memorable covers. Not a word about the long-running criticism of the swimsuit issue, which has been called sexist by numerous critics over the decades.)
Making its anti-woman attitude crystal clear, People included a shirtless photo of actor John Stamos — one that the actor willingly shared with the public — with the caption, “The exception to this public service announcement is John Stamos … who should continue to post shirtless pictures on Instagram anytime he wants.” No slut-shaming for John; apparently, men’s bodies just aren’t inherently bad like women’s. There’s some kind of Adam and Eve original sin stuff going down here.
The ultimate absurdity is that People thrives on getting private information about celebrities. If celebrities don’t cooperate, the magazine does “write-arounds,” interviewing other sources and running the story anyway, “writing around” the lack of a real interview. (Write-arounds can be great investigative reporting at certain publications, but I don’t recall seeing many of those in People. A People write-around signals a lack of access, not an important expose.) Basically, People WANTS to get its hands on celebrities’ private stuff but then mocks celebrities for having anything private.
This is big bucks for Time Inc. People was the biggest part of the company when I was there and in the ensuing 15 years, despite all the new competition online, the magazine is still the most important Time Inc. property. Last month, in a story on new People editor Jess Cagle, the New York Times reported:
“People generates more revenue than any of the company’s more than 90 magazines and 45 websites, bringing in $1.49 billion in 2013, according to estimates from the magazine industry consultant John Harrington.”
That’s a lot of money dependent on celebrities’ private business. If I were a famous female, I wouldn’t cooperate with People in any way until Jess Cagle publishes an apology and promises to review the coverage of women by both People and Entertainment Weekly, where he is editorial director. Until then, let his reporters reduce themselves to calling your local Starbucks and interviewing your barista for a write-around. Watch them wind up writing about what size chai tea latte you order while you publish your wedding photos elsewhere!
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Last night, I went to my designing friend Zang Toi’s Spring 2015 runway show at Lincoln Center. The show was also a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Zang’s line. That’s a long run in fashion! You have to multiply fashion years the way you would dog years. Like, 25 years in fashion is at least 100 years in another industry.
As the show started, someone in the audience yelled out, “Happy anniversary!” and the whole crowd applauded. (Some fashion shows end with applause, but I haven’t been to too many of them that started with applause.) Zang, who grew up in Malaysia, called his new collection “The American Dream,” as a tribute to his adopted country.
I liked the sporty pieces that started the show, including the way they were styled with socks and heels. That’s a sex-ay combo. In fact, I’ve had a socks-and-sandals photo from Beyonce’s Tumblr sitting on my desktop since April.
If you’re not bold enough to do knee socks with your sandals, Zang’s ankle-sock style with booties is a little less intimidating.
A coat with a hand-painted “25th anniversary” lining was a hit.
But Zang’s gorgeous gowns are always the highlights for me. The “Palm Couture” shirt-waisted gown with silver accents is something I could easily see myself wearing.
This flowing orchid-printed halter gown moved beautifully.
The black-and-ivory, hand-beaded “All American Stripe” strapless gown really brought the drama. Hmmm … I think this is my favorite. I think I want this!
Jacqueline Zenn, who saw the photo above on Instagram, fell in love too.
I like your style, Jacqueline!
I always wear a Zang Toi design to Zang’s show. This time, I wore a green dress from his Spring 2010 collection.
You can see my hair better in this post-show photo with gorgeous model Deborah Fenker.
It was nice of Deborah to crouch down for that photo in order to make me look less midget-like. But, because I’ve previously posted a photo of us with the height difference on display, I think I should make that kind of picture a tradition.
Imagine how short I would look if I didn’t have two hairpieces piled on top of my head!
You can see a number of the looks from the show in my video of the finale. Watch till the end to see photographer Richard “Totally Cool” Renda chase Zang up and down the runway to present a cake and lead the other photographers in the singing of “Happy Anniversary.” Zang has an exuberant personality, yet he also can be very shy. Normally, at the end of shows, he’ll go to the end of the runway to take his bow — seeming totally comfortable in front of the big crowd — but he’s really anxious to get backstage. I thought Richard was going to have to pick Zang up and physically carry him back to the photographers! It was a great moment.
Congratulations to Zang Toi on 25 successful years and best wishes for at least 25 more!
UPDATED TO ADD: The combination of my reading glasses and strapless dress entertained several people, including my dear friend Debra.
I really have to become more adept with my new-ish contact lenses!
Sunday, September 7, 2014
In case you missed it, here’s what was on the blog this week.
- Wednesday: Thoughts about privacy and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
- Thursday: I think I need red overalls and a pink elephant at New York Fashion Week inspired me to share a sneak peak of a new design.
- Friday: New emoji jewelry designs, including “smiling poo” necklaces and lips earrings, are available at Story.
- Saturday: A Kardashian is wearing one of my favorite Moschino dresses and RIP, Simone Battle.
Saturday, September 6, 2014
I’m shocked and saddened to read that Simone Battle, an X Factor finalist who went on to become part of the group G.R.L., has died aged only 25. The cause of death hasn’t been officially confirmed but TMZ is claiming it was a suicide by hanging — the same as Alexander McQueen, L’Wren Scott and Robin Williams, all of whom I’ve also regretfully memorialized on this blog.
When I wrote about Williams, I said I disliked it when people totally unrelated to the sufferer called suicide — the worst outcome of the disease of depression — a selfish act. I’ll just repeat what I said then:
“…it seemed the general public had an idea that repeating the “selfish” accusation at every opportunity would somehow make all depressed people ashamed to act on their urges. However, you can’t shame folks out of depression or bipolar disorder any more than you can shame them out of diabetes or cancer.”
If Simone did indeed kill herself not even a month after Robin Williams’s death, I’d say that’s a pretty good indication that the many people who flung around the word “selfish” about him didn’t do anything to deter Simone. So, again, I’ll say:
“Because “selfish” doesn’t help anyone who is suffering but does make the speaker/writer feel superior, using that word about the suicide of a total stranger is literally the definition of selfish. Just don’t do it.”
The five-member group G.R.L. was started as a reboot of the Pussycat Dolls before it evolved into its own identity. I was aware of G.R.L. but took a more personal interest in it after a stylist for Cosmopolitan used my G, R and L letter rings for a shoot with the group that ran in this March’s issue. Member Emmalyn was the one who wore my rings, but the thing that I liked the most on that page was a quote from Simone on her “best love lesson.” She said:
“Don’t look for the perfect man. Just eat the chicken, and spit out the bones.”
So hilarious and true! I still want to embroider that on pillows to give to all my female friends.
Simone Battle — funny, talented and gorgeous, and gone much too soon.
Saturday, September 6, 2014
On second thought, don’t answer that “Who wore it best?” question in the title of this post! I can’t compete with a girl who is young enough to be my daughter. But here is 17-year-old Kylie Jenner — part of the Kardashian family — wearing a vintage Moschino dress in a shoot for Miss Vogue.
That photo gave me a “Samantha Jones and Hannah Montana wearing the same dress in Sex and the City 2” moment because this Moschino happens to be one of my favorite dresses. Here is a photo of it in 2010 …
… and here is one from last year.
I feel like I look extra-happy in pictures when I’m wearing this dress. I have so much fun seeing people react to it. Just don’t call me “the original cougar,” as Glamour described Kim Cattrall’s Samantha character in a story on her SATC2 scene with Miley Cyrus!
Friday, September 5, 2014
If you lived in New York City in the 1980s, you might be familiar with a nightclub called Area. From 1983 to 1987, Area transformed itself every six weeks or so to express different themes, which included Night, Gnarly, Surrealism and Suburbia. (I went there just once while I was in college and I felt so cool when I was offered heroin in the bathroom. I did decline though.)
The Area experience has now been turned into a shopping experience by Story, which is described on its website as “a retail space that has the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery and sells things like a store.” I found out about Story when I sat at founder Rachel Shechtman’s table at this year’s Fashion Group International Rising Star Awards. (Rachel won the 2014 award for retail; I won for fine jewelry in 2012). Because my jewelry designs are all about story-telling, I made it a point to stay in touch with Story. It worked out! On Wednesday, Story unveiled its latest theme, called “STYLE.TECH,” and you can find many of my pop-culture- and social-media-inspired WENDYB by Wendy Brandes designs at the store.
The STYLE.TECH concept, which runs through October 12 and was done in partnership with Intel, offers what the store calls “interesting new integrations where technology, fashion and product design come together.” Wearables are the hot story these days, especially ahead of Apple’s launch of its iWatch next week, and Story is on the cutting edge with Ringly, a collection of good-looking wireless cocktail rings (honestly, you’d never guess that they’d vibrate when an important email comes in). There’s also a baby monitor-meets-onesie from Mimo Baby for your little one and an automatic tennis ball launcher from iFetch for your pooch. I can’t wait to try out the free-standing S.E.L.F.I.E. station, a webcam-enabled mirror. And I think my caffeine-addicted, right-hand woman Eryn is going to be verrrrry interested in the TopBrewer by Scanomat, a wireless, app-enabled coffee faucet that serves up custom drinks — anything from lattes to sparkling water – on-demand.
Story is carrying a selection of my emoji designs, so if you’ve ever wanted to try them on before buying, this is your chance. And I did two new designs exclusively for Story. The emoji lips …
… are available as silver and gold-plated single stud earrings.
And for the people who have been asking me for “smiling poo” emoji jewelry …
… your dreams have come true in both earring and necklace form.
Here’s a look at both the sterling-silver lips and poo studs.
Story is at 144 10th Ave. at 19th St. If you’re not in New York but need smiling poo jewelry (and I know so many of you need that!), you can get in touch with Story by phone at 212-242-4853 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy shopping!
UPDATED TO ADD: Out-of-towners who are unable to place an order at Story should contact me directly at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
I am pleased to see that pink elephants are in style, or, more specifically, in the Thursday Styles section of the New York Times. As the Times reported, attendees of runway shows being held at Milk Studios during New York Fashion Week will be greeted by a 10-foot-tall inflatable pink elephant, designed by artist Tristin Lowe. The elephant is part of a collaboration between Made Fashion Week and the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, designed to raise awareness about ivory trafficking and the killing of African elephants. (Made Fashion Week is producing more than 30 runway shows, including 15 at Milk Studios.)
I’m definitely in favor of helping African elephants, which I had the great pleasure of seeing up close and personal during my trip to South Africa last year.
I’m also in favor of pink elephants. As I told JCK Magazine earlier this year, one of my new Maneater rings will feature a pink elephant. I wasn’t planning to share any photos before the official debut of the ring, but now I can’t resist giving you a peek of the design as a work-in-progress.
You’ll see photos of the finished ring later this year!
Thursday, September 4, 2014
When my parents moved out of my childhood home last year, they gave me lots of old photos. I was rummaging through those yesterday when I came across a photo of me with my first-ever friend.
I was 10 weeks old when that photo was taken. (Teddy was wearing diapers because my father wanted me to have some company in that department.) I look a lot different now, but Teddy has “bearly” changed at all. Here he is today.
Looks pretty good for a middle-aged bear, doesn’t he? However, he’s very dusty and has a few small holes. I might take him to the Doll Hospital for a little work. Hey, bears of a certain age sometimes need some help to look their best. There’s no shame in that.
Another photo that jumped out at me was one taken about nine months after the picture of Ted and me.
I literally laughed out loud at the sight of my infant-sized red overalls and white top because I wore a larger version of that outfit 15 years later.
I must confess that I’ve started browsing online for red overalls because I’m amused by the thought of taking a third photo of this look. My 1980s nostalgia makes these Guess shortalls appealing. I was allll about Guess in the ’80s.
This one by Dondup looks very sex-ay over bare skin.
Check out the back.
A cocktail-dress version would be fabulous. It would also be less likely to look like a Santa costume.
Let me know if you see any other interesting options!
UPDATED TO ADD: My father, GeorgeB, commented on this post, and I don’t want you to miss it, so here it is:
“Teddy looks just about the same as when I bought him Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia. I don’t remember why I went to Philly but do remember walking into Wanamaker’s and seeing that bear and thinking this is something that [Wendy] will keep.”
He was right!
And here’s an interesting bit of trivia courtesy of Wikipedia: Wanamaker’s was the first department store in Philadelphia and one of the first ones in the U.S. I feel strangely pleased to know that.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
As I’ve mentioned before, I like to read the obituaries in the print edition of the New York Times — the physical act of turning the pages draws my attention to stories that I wouldn’t necessarily click online. Monday, I read an obituary for cryptographer Hal Finney, who died last week at age 58 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS and Lou Gehrig’s Disease). The combination of Finney’s job and his cause of death caught my eye because both privacy issues and ALS have been headline news lately.
Finney’s interest in encrypting online content dated back to 1991, when he became a key developer on a volunteer software project called Pretty Good Privacy. Times obituary writer Nathaniel Popper explained:
“P.G.P. aimed to make it possible for people everywhere to encrypt electronic communication in a way that could not be read by anyone other than the intended recipient.”
Finney and his colleagues were prescient to raise concerns about online privacy 23 years ago, though Finney’s big worry was that corporations and governments would spy on people. We now know that it’s not only the likes of Facebook and the National Security Agency that we need to fear, as evidenced by this weekend’s leak of nude photos stolen from famous women, including actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Kirsten Dunst. Regarding the legal issues raised by the leak, the FBI has said:
“The FBI is aware of the allegations concerning computer intrusions and the unlawful release of material involving high profile individuals, and is addressing the matter.”
On the technical side, there was initial concern that the photo thefts occurred due to a hack of Apple’s iCloud storage system. However, Apple said its investigation revealed no systemic problem but rather a targeted attack on specific “user names, passwords and security questions.” Ah, passwords! Who can deal with them? Too-easily-broken, they offer only the illusion of security. (In 2011, Lifehacker published a piece called, “The Only Secure Password Is the One You Can’t Remember.”) Experts have been calling for alternatives to passwords for years, but, last month, Slate argued that the other options, including biometrics, could be equally problematic or even worse. In Finney’s obituary, the Times noted that P.G.P. “used relatively new innovations in encryption that are still thought to be invulnerable to code breakers.” To me, personalized encryption sounds more and more appealing. That way a gal could give in to her significant other’s importuning for nudes and know that if her photo was seen by anyone else, there could be only one person responsible.
By the way, I think its absurd to blame the victims of the photo leaks by saying that the targeted women were “asking for it” by taking photos for their own personal use. People get so worked up about naked bodies that they lose sight of the fact that what happened to the celebrities with their photos can happen to anyone with any kind of information that is not meant for wide distribution. In fact, yesterday afternoon, Home Depot announced it was investigating after cybersecurity blogger Brian Krebs reported signs that the company may have experienced a huge security breach potentially resulting in tens of millions of credit card and debit card numbers being stolen. Were people who shopped at Home Depot asking for it by using plastic to pay for things? Dang! Maybe we should be walking around with stacks of cash from now on. But wait! Carrying all that cash could make us tempting to muggers. Seriously, if we make the victims more responsible for criminals’ actions than the criminals are, we won’t be able to leave our houses, either virtually or physically.
Speaking of money issues, Hal Finney was also an early user of and developer of virtual currency Bitcoin, which, the Times said, used some of the same encryption tools as P.G.P. and could potentially allow users to spend and earn money online anonymously. The leaker of the celebrity photos tried to benefit from that work by soliciting payment for the stolen photos via Bitcoin … only to come to the realization that it’s hard to get people to pay for something you’ve already given them for free. As the leaker should have known from his own behavior, technology is often no match for human nature.
In the end, a different kind of technology kept Hal Finney alive. He died when he was taken off life support, his wife told the Times. He had been paralyzed by ALS, a disease of which there has been heightened awareness due to this summer’s Ice Bucket Challenge. According to the often-ignored/forgotten rules of the challenge, you had to donate to the ALS Association within 24 hours of being challenged or be doused with ice water … and then hopefully donate anyway. (I chose to donate only.)
Whenever a bit of pop culture goes viral, whether it is Miley Cyrus twerking or scores of celebrities being doused in cold water, there are people who will wring their hands and predict the worst possible outcome. I think something about the sight of folks having fun sets them off. In the case of the Ice Bucket Challenge, complaints have ranged from “We’re wasting too much water!” (Really? Take it out of my untouched pool-filling/lawn-watering quota!) to “I personally am already aware of ALS, so raising awareness must be a waste of time” to “Some people aren’t becoming any more aware of ALS so it’s all useless.” Actually, the figures make it very clear that as a fundraising effort, the challenge was far from useless. The ALS Association raised over $100 million in a month, compared to $2.8 million raised in the same period the previous year.
The good news about the money brought out another kind of worrier — the type that doesn’t really understand how charities are run and is all too ready to believe in conspiracies. Here’s something that I saw on my Twitter timeline.
I wondered whether the tweeter was thinking that if only 7% was spent on research, 93% was spent on salaries and the like. Well! This kind of stuff is easily checked. Before I donated to ALSA, I looked it up on Charity Navigator, which is the largest evaluator of nonprofits. The Better Business Bureau and CharityWatch also rate charities. All three agencies look at how charities spend their money, among other issues. Of course, if you have a question about a charity’s financial priorities, you can go directly to the organization’s website. Before you start reviewing the financial reports, I recommend reading the mission statement so that you know what the funds are being raised for in the first place. The ALSA mission statement makes it clear that the organization doesn’t limit itself to funding research. Public awareness and support for current ALS patients are also key goals.
It took me mere seconds to find the ALSA annual report (for the year ended Jan. 31, 2012) that contained the 7% figure or, to be more precise, 7.71%. The same report showed that nearly 64% of funds went to other program activities.
“Other program activities” included 34 centers that provide medical care to ALS patients. I’d call that a worthy expenditure. It should be noted that spending priorities can change from year to year. More recent financial information — for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2014 — is here, showing 28% of ALSA’s funds were spent on research. I expect the next several years will show wildly different results as the organization figures how to best allocate its unexpected windfall. I wouldn’t expect or want the organization to spend all the Ice Bucket money at once.
So, in honor of Hal Finney, a smart guy who understood the Internet, I ask you to do check out original sources before panicking. You don’t have to go to the library. Just your search bar. It’s easy, I promise.
Finally, I want to mention a few other complaints generated by the Ice Bucket Challenge, like the claims that ALSA’s success is taking money from other charities; Matthew Herper of Forbes argues against that here. And I see that the founder of another worthy ALS charity feels left out, even though, without the interest generated by the Ice Bucket Challenge, he wouldn’t have gotten the op-ed space to write about feeling left out (plus his group did its own challenge). This makes me think of one time I was worrying aloud about some nonsense to MrB and MrB gently pointed out that I seemed determined to find a cloud when all I had was silver linings. This situation with ASLA feels similar, and I’m betting that Hal Finney would be on MrB’s side. First of all, Finney’s Times obituary included the information that “his body was immediately prepared for cryonic preservation by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., according to his wishes.” (This was something he decided to do in 1992, long before his ALS diagnosis, and he stuck with it.) That’s a sign of an optimistic personality!
Also, the obit said that in recent years, Finney could move only the muscles in his face. He used a computer that tracked eye movements to communicate and write Bitcoin-related software and, last year, he wrote on a Bitcoin website:
“I’m pretty lucky over all … Even with the A.L.S., my life is very satisfying.”
I don’t know if it was intentional, but his words echo the sentiments of baseball player Lou Gehrig’s retirement speech, in which Gehrig called himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth” despite his diagnosis of ALS, the disease that would kill him and become forever associated with his name.
If Finney and Gehrig could call themselves lucky in the face of this devastating disease, doesn’t it seem a little silly for the rest of us be unhappy that $100 million was raised to help people like them? Right now, I see nothing but silver linings.
Sunday, August 31, 2014
In case you missed anything on the blog this week, here’s what happened:
- Sunday: MTV VMAs flashback to the 1995 Madonna and Courtney Love encounter.
- Monday: My best dressed at the Emmys were Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.
- Tuesday: My sister took a greeting-card-worthy photo of two pugs.
- Thursday: My Lego-print Castelbajac dress seen over the years.
- Friday: Wearing the Prada dress I got in 2011.
And don’t miss this lively post that jewelry maven Robyn Hawk of The Daily Jewel wrote about my emoji jewelry. Thanks, Robyn!