Monday, 27 June 2016

Age of No Retirement

Photographer: Wendy Carrig Model: me 

I am absolutely delighted to be announcing a collaboration with the Age of No Retirement a new social innovation enterprise meant to create better perceptions of the over fifties and to act as a catalyst for more economic growth opportunities.
It is very much the case that people nowadays live longer and work for longer. If they retire from a job, they might embark on a new career in their fifties or even later. Fellow model Frances Dunscombe tipped to be the new Daphne Selfe and also represented by Grey Model Agency began her new career as a model as she turned eighty and has not looked back since!
In my work  for The Age of No Retirement I will be addressing the issue of lack of confidence that many women feel once they turn menopausal - that dreaded word. I realise that lack of confidence affects men as well as women but in the patriarchal society in which we live women are most affected by a sense of dismay and a complete lack of belief in themselves once they go through that second major change in their bodies, the first one being of course adolescence, which marks the transition from child to woman. I have already started a short series of podcasts, independently and you can find them all here.
I have personally been very lucky.  After leaving a lecturing job which totally drained me, I began to take modelling a bit more seriously and embraced it. I also created for myself a routine of caring for myself and my body, exercising, making sure I ate the right food and generally changing my attitude to life, getting rid of the sense of anxiety and the push to achieve which had marred my younger years.
I am no supermodel of course and it's not that everything is a bed of roses but I have built up a lot of confidence and definitely have a different perception of what  growing old means and what can be expected.

Photographer: Wendy Carrig
The times in which we are living are indeed quite momentous. Among the many unwelcome consequences of the referendum results that shook Britain last week is an attempt to pitch against each other the younger and the older generation, with young people wistfully declaring  that baby boomers have robbed them of their future, as Giles Coren has done in The Times.
This is an oversimplification of a very complex issue. As Damon Albarn so eloquently put it at Glastonbury  a few days ago "Democracy failed us because it was ill-informed". Among the ill informed there was also a sizeable number of young people, some of whom cast their 'leave' vote almost in jest.
So let's not pitch the generations against each other, that is the last thing we want.
Older people have a lot of experience to draw upon and much they can still contribute to society, projects like The Age of No Retirement are about this.

Photographer: Wendy Carrig
Meanwhile I am very proud of my photos for the forthcoming JD Williams Autumn/Winter 2016 Lookbook, taken by the very talented Wendy Carrig.
That's all for today. More rain is forecast for this week. I really long for the summer...

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Bite-sized podcasts and social media

From Selena Shepherd's Lookbook. Photo: Polina Bakht
I came across quite by accident the app Anchor, only for mobile phones, both Android and iPhone, and loved it. It is a way for people to broadcast short audioclips to a global audience and then get recorded feedback. This way you have a proper conversation about a number of topics.
I had to try it and the idea came  to me I should start a conversation on ageing.  I recently contributed a post to The Age of No Retirement - not yet up - and so I thought that I could also revive my  Soundcloud account and move between  Anchor and Soundcloud seamlessly. 
I should confess that I have a terrible complex about my voice, I hate the very sound of it and find my accent, when I listen to my recordings,  really weird, an in-between thing. Well, I am an in-betweener. I sound foreign in my own country and wherever I am, I am always an outsider, I am always asked where I am from. Time to accept this and take it in my stride! 
I used to hate the way I looked in photographs and now I am so used to being photographed I no longer care. I guess it must be  the same about one's voice, after a while one gets used to it in recordings and then the fun can begin.
I am absolutely fascinated by the amazing things one can do with the help of today's technology and I love social media. I would not have discovered anchor if I had not had this curiosity in me to know more about technological developments that enhance connectivity. Only this morning I happened to read Jo Elvin's piece for Glamour, June issue, which is all about social media. I totally agree with Jo: social media can definitely help us  be connected and yes, there is a lot to be celebrated about it. I loved the story Jo tells about her daughter and her daughter's online friend with whom she shares film viewing on holidays - she has become a member of the family, through her iPad presence.
When I first moved away from my own family and country - oh God, it was so long ago - I kept up with them through  the odd phone call, as one did,  and through letter writing, which I loved. But What's app and Skype have made communication instantaneous and I find that now I talk a lot more to my younger sister than I ever did, because she is just a What's app call away. whreas earlier I'd call if there was something really important to discuss now I might call to find out how to cook artichokes the way you can't learn from Google - my sister is a good cook and my brother -in-law is a chef.

 Going online has often expanded my horizons. It is by viewing it  online that I have discovered the work of very interesting artists, not to mention great blogs. One of my favourites is by the lovely Rosalind Jana, an Oxford English graduate, author, model and only 21 years old! Every time she writes a  new blog post I get an  email alert and I always look forward to reading it. Her new book, an exploration of the state of being a teenager, partly autobiographical,  is very interesting  too,  and wonderfully written, I had a preview of it on Kindle and will definitely buy it. I am no teenager but I just love the style! And this young woman is very, very wise.
Back to the idea of podcasting. I started doing them just to try a new thing but I can see that it will probably grow on me over time. How exciting. I just have to figure out better ways of integrating Anchor with Soundcloud and will explore options. And practise speaking into a mike of course, as practice makes perfect.
I feel tempted to delete the ones I have uploaded but no, they are useful, if only to see, six months down the line, how much progress I have made. For now  the ones recorded on Anchor are in the public domain but I might make them private and use other versions, like the directly recorded Soundcloud podcasts without conversations with others, we shall see.
Feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Here's to new beginnings and new ventures!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Tarot Fashion

Micale's book

I first became interested in the Tarot in my teens. I love the different decks, some of them going back  to the 15th century  and now collector's items. The Tarot is of course much older than the 15th century but cards from these early times have not survived. I find the Tarot cards endlessly fascinating in their rich symbolism, which also intrigued Carl Jung.
I recently felt the urge of updating my Tarot deck and started looking around for a suitable replacement. I have owned a deck for many years, the now classic Rider-Wait Tarot but I feel it's time to get a new one. An artist friend I met in Sicily, back in April, Rocco Micale, is working on a new deck and I had a preview of some of his designs which he published in a small book of poems entitled "SpiRituale/Digitale. Miti, leggende, tarocchi". I will probably invest into one of his decks, when the whole project is completed, his Tarot designs definitely speak to me.
Tarot and fashion...that's an interesting pairing. Christian Dior was enthralled by the Tarot and had a great interest in everything linked with magic and the occult, from clairvoyance to numerology and palm reading. His lucky number was 8 and he always carried a talisman in his pocket. It all fuelled his creativity.

Six of Swords, Rider-Wait deck
 In my research of all things "taroty" I came across some brilliant blogposts about the Tarot/fashion connection.   Jess Carlson for example  discusses embodying the energy of the Arcana in the way we dress, whereas the lovely Vix has a whole blog called the Numinous dedicated to Tarot and style and a post on Tarot on the catwalk that I absolutely loved.
There are also t-shirts  with motifs from the major and minor Arcana. As blogger Elana Pruitt writes "Fashion is meant to make you think and Tarot cards are meant to make you think, and they both carry a similar weight of sensitivity. Not to mention, fashion allows you to show your connection with Tarot card mysticism by incorporating certain pieces into your outfit". It is up to the individual how explicitly make the connection.
Have you ever picked a Tarot card before going clothes shopping? It can be quite amusing. You do not have to follow it literally eg find something that  directly reflects the card design, but you can reflect on the energy symbolised by the card and see how that translates into colour and/or patterns or shapes and then buy your clothes. Et le voila' you're bound to pick up something that in your mind has a link with the card, even though it may not be immediately apparent.

Creative director: Florencia Martinez. Photo by Alexis Negrin. Model: me Montage by SR Models

The Tarot has inspired artists for centuries. Artists have designed exquisite Tarot cards, interpreting anew the ageless symbolism. However, Alejandro Jodorowsky, film maker and artist, connoisseur of Tarot decks and also an adept at the art of interpreting the Tarot as a spiritual source, has it from the master of surrealism André Breton, whom he met in the 1960s  that the only acceptable Tarot for divination is the Marseille deck. Jodorowsky  has helped design one, as he was always frustrated at not being able to find the perfect Tarot of Marseille, as he told the New York Times in 2011.
I am not sure about this. I love the variety of Tarot decks, just as I like the variety of fashion. Out there there must be a Tarot deck that fits me perfectly, in every sense.
(Can you see the Tarot connection in the images above from my shoot for Florencia Martinez?)

Friday, 10 June 2016

Instagrammed narratives

(Images in this post are from my own instagram, unless otherwise stated)

A couple of days ago I went to see the Performing for the Camera exhibition at Tate Modern, which closes on Sunday - I always go to exhibitions at the last minute, it's a kind of reflex for me,  and  I prefer weekdays, it's the best time not to get caught up in the crowds.
 For the first time I saw on display the work of Amalia Ulman, a young Argentinian born artist who has used Instagram to create an imaginary life, with relationships and  events that never occurred, over a course of two years, gathering thousands of followers in the process.
The concept of creating an imaginary identity is not entirely new, after all Cindy Sherman, who is also included in the exhibition, did precisely that, and extremely well, with photography, starting with analogue 'self portraits' and then converting to digital images for her latest projects.  Her self portraits were never  about herself, but about imaginary characters, stereotypical women sometimes caught in their most unguarded moments, yet all very carefully contrived.
With Ulman, however, it is social media that has been  consciously turned into an artistic medium, to create a  performed narrative that explores self, identity and, of course, gender.  It is a first, no one seems to have done it, at least not on that scale and with the same panache.

There are of course many artists on Instagram and following them can give one  a glimpse of what they are working on or even who they are hanging out with. Photographers and urban artists are all there, with multiple accounts. But Amalia Ulman's project is in a different category . Through Excellences & Perfections she was not  documenting (and glorifying in the process) her own life, she actually devised a performance from start to finish, based on the seemingly simple story of an ingenue that goes through major personality changes after moving to the city, splitting up with her boyfriend, becoming a sugar babe - a mildly autobiographical reference here as it seems that Ulman worked briefly as an escort whilst studying in London - doing drugs, having extensive cosmetic surgery, apologising to her followers for her "bad deeds", getting herself a new boyfriend. After carrying on in that vein for a longish period, taken at face value by her thousands of followers, Ulman finally owned up  it was a performance project,  or a 'tremendous hoax' as some people have called it, those who steadfastly hold on to the notion that social media is or should be about 'truth'. Now her project is being exhibited in major galleries such as the Tate Modern, providing food for thought.
I will not comment further on the significance of Ulman's work. There is a lot in there, it is a very carefully thought out piece of work. There have been many analyses written up by expert art commentators, ranging from Cadence Kinsey writing for the BBC culture site to the  blog post by the Courtauld researchers in which it is the issue of appropriate display of the self as present in Ulman's images that is focused upon.

The idea of performing trough social media is most intriguing and I would like to spare a thought or two on it.
There is no doubt an element of performance in everything that people post about themselves on social media. A lot of the stuff is quite commonplace. Facebook for example is full of sanctimonious inspirational quotes, rehashed from specialised 'quotes' sites. Twitter has given people the ability to be succinct, writing up mini texts which can be full of verve and humour. Both Pinterest and  Instagram are essentially visual, with Pinterest being loaded with pictures of food people are about to eat or want to eat, clothes they buy, hairstyles they want to copy. Instagram combines the quick witted hashtag of Twitter with  immediate image sharing and so far it remains my favourite platform. Now and again there are some beautiful images posted, moments in people's lives which powerfully resonate with the viewers. Some people write their inspirational maxims on post-its and then photograph them and upload them on Instagram - I have seen a few instances of it.  Others might make drawings, photograph them and post them. If anything Instagram is the art gallery immediately accessible to anyone, everywhere, through a smartphone. It enhances the idea that art is after all about communication and immediacy.

Self portrait 2014 with Bronica and expired film

I don't know whether other people are doing what Amalia Ulman has done and if so, how many. It certainly is a fascinating, stimulating  way of utilizing Instagram, not confined to selling one's wares, whatever they may be.
That's why Amalia Ulman's work, besides being rich in content and powerfully critical of privilege and prestige is ultimately very, very empowering.

Performing for the Camera is on display at Tate Modern until June 12, 2016

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Elegance and good posture

Photographer: Te-Cheng Lee. Artistic director: Emma Gluziki. Model: me

A few days ago there was a programme on ITV, about growing older, featuring the lovely model Frances Dunscombe, from Grey Model Agency. At 83 Frances is one of the oldest models in the UK, apart from Daphne Selfe, who is now 88.  Frances has a particular softness and grace that really makes her stand out.
I was really intrigued by the whole programme and quite alarmed when I heard that we can expect to lose, on average,  three inches in height by the time we hit the age of eighty. I was not convinced by that at all.
I have some familiarity with Alexander technique and I know that daily practice of the constructive rest helps to stretch the spine, rehydrating the discs, achieving the same effect as when we sleep but doing it in a more controlled way.  We are all a little taller when we get up in the morning, after a good night's sleep, but by evening we are about an inch shorter. However by  practising constructive rest throughout the day (about ten minutes, max twenty) can help regain that inch and in the long run, coupled with very regular exercise which allows you to stretch systematically, it can keep the shrinking at bay.
Most people have a very bad posture from childhood and pay little attention to the way they hold themselves throughout their life. I remember an article for the Daily Mail written by Tanith Carey not too long ago, in which she talks about doing Alexander technique sessions and how this helped her to regain her original height. Obviously you do not grow as such in adulthood, but by learning to control your posture and keeping your spine mobile you can counter the shrinking effect.

Like everything you need to start doing this early on, no point in waiting till you are all curved. Middle age, even earlier, is a good time to start focusing on this.
When I did Rolfing I was told to make sure that my computer was always at eye level so that I would hold up my head straight. I sometimes put a book on my head while sitting at the computer to remind myself of the sensations in my body experienced when being straight.
I have found the advice given by the Elegant Woman, a blogger from Hong Kong, on how to correct bad posture very helpful, it's worth having a look.
There are far too many blogs and websites discussing elegance and style only from the point of view  of what one wears and very seldom do people talk about posture. Yet posture and countenance are what makes one appear elegant and graceful, regardless of what worn.
When I do Sleek sessions with the amazing former ballerina Victoria Marr, she always tells us to hold our neck straight, shoulders down as if we had beautiful diamond earrings we want everyone to notice. You need space between your ears and your shoulders. Vicky's advice works wonders!
So next time you buy an elegant outfit or even a pair of jeans,  pay attention to body alignment. It will change the way you look completely and the clothes will really follow your body and become fully yours.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Working and making a living as a model

Photo: PatrickPhotosUK. Model: me

I recently had an opportunity to chat with Lucy Hooker, from BBC News, whose piece "How easy is it to make a living as a model" has just been published. It is a short but to the point article, very enlightening. I have witnessed quite a few changes in the industry since I became involved with it and it's time to talk about the unpleasant side of modelling, always depicted as glamorous, but in reality a difficult job that is not at all valued.
The piece by Lucy Hooker is focused on younger models, who are often the casualty of the industry. When I spoke with Lucy I made it clear that older models are in a relatively new and special category and they are rarely subjected to the same harassment that for example "Lauren" talks about - that constant pressure to lose weight or change look which many girls have to put up with.
However, come to think of it, way back a booker from an agency I am no longer with, insisted on me cutting my hair in an 'Anna Wintour' style bob or, she maintained, I would never get booked for commercial work. That was in 2008, my hair was to my mid back  and I had very little experience of the industry, being a newbie. I wanted to please and thus I complied.

With long hair in 2008, prior to the haircut. Photo: David Nuttall

That was the last time I cut my hair in any serious way. I realised that I had made a mistake soon after cutting it and  I actually lost, rather than gained, work, because with a bob I looked just like any other mature model, also sporting a bob.
These days I would not  have a haircut because someone is asking me to, though I know that many clients do think my hair is way too long and at some castings I have been asked pointblank 'how much hair can we trim?'
I am saying this because "Lauren" talks about being pressurised to change her looks and yes, even older models can, on occasion, be put under a similar pressure, though they can be more assertive than younger women and thus can refuse.

Soon after my haircut in 2008. Photo by Neil Huxtable

It is a very competitive job and the mature model sector is doubly competitive because there are fewer jobs and too many models, all invested with the task of representing "the glamorous, mature woman" (and what this glamorous, aspirational look should be is subject to interpretation). You may be very lucky to have a supportive agency and  bookers that really understand your potential and your capabilities and put you forward for interesting jobs - as indeed I am fortunate to have now - but at the end of the day agencies are businesses and if you do not make them enough money, bookers will push whoever is likely to bring them a profit.
You go to a casting and you spot someone similar to you in look  - it happens, even though at castings people are given a time slot, precisely to avoid awkward meetings with other models, often from your  same agency - and you know it is an either/or situation, it's either you or the other model. There are not that many jobs really, and yes you do end up being pitched against each other, it's the way it works.  Eighty seven year old model Daphne Selfe  (who started when there were hardly any mature models) says that when this occurs you just feel happy for your friends who get the job rather than you and must never fear, for something else will definitely turn up. It's a very Zen attitude. Not everyone is able to take it in their stride.
The issues concerning money are also applicable to the mature model sector. It is absolutely true that a lot of the work is unpaid and some people are even surprised you should be asking for money, apparently you should count yourself lucky if you have been picked for a prestigious job, you are asking to be what? Paid?
At a recent  shoot  the artistic director told me that they had spent most of the budget on props so the models would have to be working for nothing. And there are people who  ask you to 'test' when in fact they need images for their business!

A recent shoot for Florencia Martinez, photographer: Alexis Negrin
It is also very true that invoices are often settled very late and sometimes you have to keep on asking for your money, emailing account departments and that can feel utterly humiliating.
Not too long ago I had  a problem with a major  brand who for some reason forgot to include me in the batch of payments that went out a few months after the filming. To cut a long story short - and it was a long story, as this matter dragged on for months - I ended up contacting myself the production company,  in a most polite and conciliatory tone, and after several emails that went back and forth, and almost a year later,  they "reissued" the payment (but in fact the payment had not been made at all before then) to the agency who then issued it to me minus the usual commission.
Everyone can set themselves up as a model these days, with Instagram and Facebook pages. The social media thing is changing the industry, brands increasingly want  models with a following.  More followers= more customers. And modelling  agencies often undercut each other.
The news that FM London has been put into receivership is quite worrying as it means that many models will not see their money at all. It has happened before, with another agency that worked in the mature sector but was not as well known as FM. Its models 'migrated'  to other agencies and some of these models will tell you stories of payments that were never made and the sense of sheer frustration it generated, not to mention their considerable financial losses.
However, there is something models of all ages can do. There is Equity. Joining the  union can definitely help. Actors worked this out for themselves a long time ago, models seem to be very reluctant to join a union.
You can get more information here. There is also a Facebook page here.
Models have rights and should be able to discuss their problems freely. The union can help with a great many issues and in confidence if so required. It is not expensive to join and it is definitely money well spent.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Brides over fifty: the wedding gown issue

Photo by David J. Green. Dress by Tammam Model: me

The news that grey haired model Cindy Joseph got married at the age of sixty-two is a reminder not only that people do get married at any age but that a lot people tend to  marry  their long term partner well into their fifties and later -  a (male) friend of mine is just doing so next week and neither he nor his wife-to-be are spring chickens nor are they  new to each other, after twenty years together.
As you get older, marriage is rarely the outcome of a whirlwind romance - even Joseph and her partner waited for a good seven years before tying the knot. Sure, we have had the example of Jerry Hall and Rupert Murdoch, she pushing sixty, he well over eighty. They did not waste time after meeting and immediately decided to wed. It is rumoured that alongside their mutual attraction, financial considerations had come into play. No matter. She looked radiant on her wedding day.
What I am trying to say is that marriage after a certain age is a decision not taken lightly, weighing all the pros and cons. But even though it is a well thought out decision, there is absolutely no reason why the wedding day should be dull and no reason whatsoever not to wear bridal finery, if one is so inclined. It is after all a very special day.
Photo by Alexis Negrin, Styling by Florencia Martinez, model: me (not a bridal outfit)

The problem is that often women, maybe because it may be the second time round, will settle for something very low key, just an elegant dress that could double up as a cocktail dress. If I were to get married tomorrow, I would not want to look like Cinderella at the ball, that would not be to my taste. What is the alternative?Nothing suitable seems to be available and if it is,  the way it is put across is problematic, as I will explain.
I think this should be a wake up call for designers of bridal wear. My message to the designers is this: your best clients are actually going to be older women  and you should have a whole range of beautiful wedding gowns that can be worn by clients of all ages and show them on models of all ages.
Who says that white is inappropriate ? Joseph wore a lovely, simple, white gown and looked fabulous.
I have a modelled a couple of times some bridal wear, most notably for Tamman. But have found that I am more likely to be asked to model 'mother of the bride' ensembles than actual bridal wear. Somehow we still have this fiction of a virginal young bride  perpetuated within the entirety of the 'wedding industry'  - a subset of the fashion industry.

"Sincerity" dress for older brides. Google images
Even when the dress is targeted at older brides, it is actually modelled by a woman who might be in her early thirties at the most, as in the instance of the dress above or in that of another  gorgeous white dress to be found at Debenhams, also targetted at older brides. Why?
We have had older women modelling high fashion, even bikinis and looking very glam.
I would love to see  older models, well over forty, modelling bridal wear, rather than (sometimes) ghastly 'mother of the bride' or 'mother of the groom' dresses.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Women who do not diet?

Daily Mail feature
I was involved in the photoshoot and in the interview for the piece  'Secrets of the skinny women who NEVER diet' which appeared in the Daily Mail on Monday 16th May.  I would like to give an insight into the 'behind the scenes', as I do find the press and its workings most fascinating.
I am very grateful to Grey Model Agency for giving me the opportunity to be involved and of course to the lovely Kerry Potter, a most experienced professional, for the interview, and to Joanna Bridger, the editor,  as well as the whole team of photographer, MUA, stylist etc. I also would like to say I really enjoyed the lunch at the Daily Mail on the day of the shoot, the salad  was absolutely delicious!
To begin with you may have noticed that the Mail said upfront I was a model and mentioned the agency. This is quite unusual, as the Mail always prefers to give readers the impression they are using 'real women' for all such features even though several of them are actually models, often  to be found in the Lifestyle or Real People section of some model agency. Thus, for example Sanna, who appeared in another issue of the Mail also recently, in a piece about the ideal waist size, is a model who happens to have had a career as a professional dancer, so she was described as a dance teacher, leaving out the modelling bit.
The Mail likes lining up the women that appear in such features  though they are always photographed individually, gathering them in the line up in postproduction, which of course means using Photoshop. This is occasionally not very successful.
I was photographed wearing three different outfits, standing and sitting and finally the photo that was chosen was, I guess, the one that allowed the line up to be as realistic as possible. The colouring is also quite strong, but that depends on whether the photo is seen in the print version or the online one (I got the print as well, as a tear sheet).

Photographer: David PD Hyde, 2016
The interview was over the phone. Once the piece is submitted and approved and prior to going to press the Mail always tries to read back the piece to the interviewee to correct some details. There were a couple of things that had been misinterpreted and I asked for them to be altered. In hindsight I should have said more clearly that to be anorexic thin is bad rather than condemning extreme thinness altogether.  Being very thin is very natural for some women and they are not necessarily unhealthy because of their small size.
I would not call myself skinny at all, just slim, but was lumped with 'skinny' women. In fact as one reader rightly comments all the women in the article are normal size, none of the women portrayed in the piece is skinny.  I have a muscular body because I work out regularly and have done so for years. Now this is the thing that was omitted and I wish it had not. You cannot be in good shape without working out and I exercise (not just move, as some people would say).  I do  targeted exercises following a programme and I often put in one and a half hour of exercise everyday. When I have no time,  I only do thirty minutes. I rest on Sundays. Then I begin again. Missing my daily exercise is a big deal for me.
Even though I talked about this with the interviewer and mentioned the wonderful trainers I work with, the ladies at Sleek ,whom the interviewer knew, somehow this was not included. Also the thing about eating cake. I do not have a sweet tooth at all and rarely eat cake, only if I have to, and also only very occasionally I may have an ice cream, in summer for example or when I was in Florence last year, as the ice cream there is really nice.

Photographer: Adam Robertson Lingerie designs by Lux Tenebrae, 2014
It is interesting to think about the overall tone of the article and the video chosen to illustrate it (and once again there was some Gwyneth Paltrow bashing, but not in my interview). The video shows a young girl who indulges in overeating, taking part in one of those horrendous competitions where you have to stuff yourself.  She is naturally skinny and petite.
What's the message underpinning all this? That it would be amazing to be able to stuff oneself and never put on weight.  This is presented as an ideal, an aspiration which unfortunately is not within everyone's reach. Well, no.
That level of eating to me  is just gross, even unethical.
One could argue that actually we all follow a diet in the sense that we eat certain foods that we favour  over others. We do not all restrict our food intake drastically, but some of us do it naturally, just by watching portions, and making sure the quality of food we eat is high. It is no big deal, it is not a secret. If you are given three potatoes, eat only one!
I make my own bread - easy to do, with a bread maker. I sometimes use flour that is not high in its gluten content and I only ever use organic flour. Another thing I do is to leave a good 12 hours interval between my last and first meal, which means my breakfast is always very late, even though I may have tea or coffee in the morning.
Most of all I exercise REGULARLY. To me that is essential, just like showering or brushing one's teeth. It is not enough to walk and maybe dance to music around the house, though they may be very enjoyable activities I sometimes indulge in. You need to work those abs and gluts with targeted exercises. You need to keep the spine really flexible and so on and so forth. Sugar ruins your teeth, there is no need to have it.
It is impossible to keep in good shape, especially as an older , post-menopausal woman, without cutting down on sugar, soda and fast food and alcohol intake and without exercising. I used to be size 6 in my twenties, weighing about 52 kilos. I put on four kilos since then and went up a size but this change is normal and am not trying to be the same size  I was then. But I will not compromise on keeping fit and toned.
I certainly do not want to be skinny and eat all the available big Macs I can find,  I never did.  That video to me defeats the purpose of trying to show that moderation in food intake, something that all the women interviewed practise, is the key to good health and good shape.
I want a toned and healthy body for as long as I can and will invest time and effort to achieve it.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Goop and the Sex Pod

Photographer: Doh Lee. Model : me 

My blog post today is  all about sex!
The other day I read an article in The Guardian in which Gwyneth Paltrow was again given a good bashing. Ok, I have to confess here that I do not care much for Ms Paltrow and yes, I do find Goop products a little too expensive for my purse but come on, to label Goop  as 'joyless', and preaching about 'joyless' sex is a bit much. Goop is not meant to be a substitute for the Kama Sutra!
I don't think it is at all wrong to worry about the toxins that can invade your vagina - wanting a paraben free, water based lube is not an indication of wanting to kill pleasure, on the contrary. I personally do worry about the health of my body, vagina included,  and I do not think I am so unusual in wanting to keep things in check.
I do scrutinise beauty products for my face , so it goes without saying I want to be more in control of  products that target my vagina. Why would there be a hierarchy between face and vagina?
Goop has essays and articles which tell you a bit more about sex health, which otherwise you would not really pay much attention to. Sex is often talked about the wrong way and it's good that Goop can advise on sexual health issues.
Take the pill for example. I took it for a very short time in my twenties and then absolutely refused to go on taking it - I no longer need contraceptives now, but I did when I was younger.  I did not like what it did to my body.  After stopping it I did not end up having ten children, I only had one and he was very much wanted. But to keep myself in a state of continuous early pregnancy , which is what the pill basically does to your body, simply was not on.

Model: me Stylist: Alisa Ernst

So I really do not get all this Goop aka Gwyneth Paltrow bashing. Remember the dictum , if you can't say something  nice "don't say nothing at all".
As for the Sex Pod on 5Star,  I learnt about it from the Daily Mail of which I am not a loyal  reader, presented as a "shocking" programme. I  was intrigued because one of my favourite people, the very elegant and stylish, passion coach  Dr Vena Ramphal was involved.   She is also very, very smart and witty.
So I had a look at episode 1 and was very pleasantly surprised. It's a programme worth watching, funny, down to earth and very informative.
I suggest The Guardian should worry less about Goop and more about the realities of sex, as presented by The Sex Pod.  But wait. Perhaps it is not sufficiently middle class to do so.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Posing the body

Adland I
Photographer: David Stewart. Models: me and others, including Nicola Griffin, also from Grey 

I have been quite busy recently, travelling back and forth to Italy  but the 'Posing the body: Stillness, Movement and Representation' symposium was, for me, the highlight of last week.
I came across the event quite by chance and was immediately intrigued by its rationale,  an exploration of the art of posing, something that no one seems to be paying  much attention to, as the organisers Rebecca Arnold, Katherine Faulkner and Katerina Pantelides, Courtauld Institute, and Eugénie Shinkle, University of Westminster, claim.
Yet, as they also rightly claim, "posing has been central to art, dance and sculpture for thousands of years". The current interest in fashion modelling has also brought posing to the fore, so there is a need to discuss it.
I have been involved with posing not only as a model (or even as a dancer of sort).  The study of posing and movement was an important part of my doctoral work, as I studied the representation of dance poses and dance movements in the iconography of Javanese temples of the classical period, with cross-reference to India. I focused precisely on issues of modes and also technologies of representation and their relationship with bodies and subjects, symbolic meaning and embodied action, as indeed this symposium aimed to discuss through a range of multi-disciplinary papers.
A session I very much looked forward to was the panel discussion with fashion model Jan de Villeneuve, acclaimed photographer Julian Marshall and Caroline Hamilton, dance and costume historian.

From one of the presentations at Posing the Body

The papers were indeed most interesting with sessions on posing, directing and moving; art, fashion and sculpture; movement and dance; bodies, gender and politics.
I learnt a lot, definitely, even though I had to miss a session as I had a previous commitment that I could not postpone, so I left at some point to return for the final session and the panel discussion. I enjoyed tremendously the paper by Felice McDowell, associate lecturer at London College of Fashion, who talked about posing from the point of view of the fashion models of the 1960s, whose autobiographical writings she has been  examining. I also enjoyed the paper presented by Peter K. Andersson from Lund University who discussed posing and  street photography in the 19th century. I loved the examples he showed, I felt a little uncomfortable though at the emphasis on spontaneity for indeed the technology of the time allowed very little spontaneity and the photographer would certainly be staging most shots. But I may be wrong, here, my involvement in photography is amateurial, though I use medium format analogue cameras, heavy to carry and set up. Imagine how cumbersome the old ones were!
That the photographer is still in charge is also a truth today , in fashion and commercial shoots. I know that because I live it. Actually I would say that today, it is increasingly the client that has the final say on what is going to be used, and this does have an impact on  both model and photographer as embodied subjects.  But the inclusion of practitioners such as Jan de Villeneuve and Julian Marshall was important in that it gave an opportunity to marry the critical enquiry to the realities of practice.
Adland II by David Stewart

Also fascinating were Caroline Hamilton's remarks on the fact that dance costumes have to be seen on the bodies of the performers, which may present problems in the context of a curatorial display. I guess this can be counterbalanced by having films and photographs accompanying the display. Indeed I find that all clothes, not just costumes, need to be seen on a body, hence the need for models at a fashion show.
Indonesian models before a show for brand Sejauh Mata Memandang 

I was a little saddened by the fact that the symposium had a strong Eurocentric thrust, in that it omitted other experiences of posing. It came up in one of the questions from the attendees, when someone questioned the photographic representation of  black moving bodies, but it was not elaborated upon. I would have also expected some historical grounding. The understanding and knowledge of poses has been part and parcel of the art historian's toolbox, through a study of iconography - indeed it was my interest in Panofskyan iconography and iconology that led me to further studies in the field. So the study of posing is not so new, perhaps, but what is definitely new is this growing interest in the cultural significance of posing. Indeed the advent of social media has turned everyone into an expert poser, as can be seen from the proliferation of  instagram accounts worldwide - when I was in Indonesia doing my research on fashion and women, last winter, I realised that almost everyone I met had an instagram account!
So I definitely welcome events such as this symposium and hope that these discussions will be taken further and be perhaps more inclusive.