Monday, June 20, 2016

Can We Stop Using "The Almighty" to Justify Total Bullshit Already?

That is a HUGE peeve of mine. It pisses me off on many, many levels. By "The Almighty," I'm referring to God. Maybe people use other religious figures in other faiths & countries (Allah some places, Hindu gods in others, the Flying Spaghetti Monster in other circles) but the general idea is the same. It's claiming a person can or can't do something b/c "God will be upset" based on Scripture written BY MAN in a time period where women, minorities and anyone who wasn't rich didn't have rights to speak of.

I've read about more than one model on my Facebook feed who apparently won't do swimsuit or lingerie shows b/c "GOD will not like it" or "the Bible says it's wrong." That's total bullshit & I'll tell you why. For those who haven't read prior entries or don't know about me, I grew up in an independent Baptist home in the Southern US surrounded by religious types (with a fair amount of fundie nutcases mixed in there). I went to a Baptist Christian school for part of my young years and was an ace at the Bible verse look up competition. I was going up in front of the entire school representing my grade for that and spelling bees; in other words, I know what I'm talking about.

If you don't feel comfortable doing swimwear or nudes or "sexier" fare, just say so. "I don't feel comfortable" is reasonable & fair. I'm not comfortable doing nudity, law licenses, business career and religious mother notwithstanding. I won't do Penthouse style work; I feel inauthentic at that anyway. I can wear a sexy outfit but my own aura is more fun than trashy; trashy is a vibe that I don't really have.

I can sum it up like how Cher was described by Bob Mackie wearing sexy fare on her variety show in the 70's: he said she wore the sexiest outfits like she was wearing a T-shirt & jeans, that she just felt comfortable in whatever she wore and it came out when they were doing that show. I feel if I'm going out in lingerie or swimwear, it's merely part of my space as an artist. It's me playing a role and engaging in art; I never really feel like "this is too trashy for me" in things I pick or wear since that's just not how things look on me. Maybe the best way to describe it is I'm too classy & that classiness rolls off me just like the straight rolls off me. I reek of both & people who know me or can pick up vibes well know this so they know it's not an arena that's authentic to me.

So why do I get offended when people use "God" as a justification? Well, the God I believe in isn't a slut shaming asshole giving babies to deadbeats as Puritanical Christians would have you believe. God GAVE you the figure, did he not? God GAVE you the opportunity to model; know how many girls get to do that on any level at all? A small enough number for people to be impressed when they hear you're a model, especially outside of NYC. Granted you have the fakes and the hobbyists but I know I'm no hobbyist or fake since it's just another piece of my entertainment career that I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to take on. I approach it the same way I approach all the other aspects of my career that I've been at for well over 15 years in some cases.

The patriarchy and mainstream society also love to slut shame women, telling them to cover up all the damn time and asking what they were wearing when some guy raped them. I view my own modeling career as a rebellion against the patriarchy (including my evil ex and his scummy, hating family who wouldn't be picked for modeling no matter how much THEY wanted to do it; if they'd be able to do it, they'd have never harassed me over it). My immediate family supports me in it & friends of mine support me; I'm not about to let the patriarchy or any other hating asshole dare to slut shame me when I present myself in a very particular, precise way. Not my fault you're too much of a moron to get the concept or understand my art.

Using the Almighty to say "I can't model" is just like people using the Almighty as a justification to kill gay people, have slaves, discriminate against minorities and various other shit people have used the Bible as "God's word" to get away with for how many years already. Some people need some far more supportive & less judgy family members (my family is definitely religiously devout). More people need smackdowns for trying to speak for God. Too bad there isn't a gross of anvils somewhere poised to fall from the sky and hit those people in the head; yes, I'm comical and love a good Looney Tunes scenario played out in real life.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Surreal Adventures of The Angry Redheaded Lawyer: Ahmani Croom Productions "Karma" Fashion Show

As it seems my reviewing talents will not be going to waste despite my no longer writing for "Woman Around Town," this shall commence into an official series I've dubbed "The Surreal Adventures of The Angry Redheaded Lawyer." My adventures are surreal b/c they usually lead to contacts and directions I never foresee or expect. I'm also open to new adventures and opportunities as this is how we expand our minds, learn new things, make new friends, all that good stuff which makes us grow as human beings.

Case in point: this fashion show I will be writing on. Bear in mind that I never said I was a fashion blogger, nor do I pretend to be an expert at this. I'm not a fashion expert but I do know what I like & I do know the experience as a model who's worked in various venues + have talked to designers, photographers and others in the fashion game. I also have my own style and since this is my page, I'll write as I choose.

Mix this in with my background as a review/critique writer and humorous rant writer, and we may find some interesting results here. So, here goes:

Ahmani Croom Productions did its first show with the theme "Karma." The theme alone was enough to sell me on going. A woman who's gone through what I have and had an evil ex-husband who tried to sabotage her modeling career before it could really get started is probably your ideal guest for such a show. In sum, you had me at "Hello."

I came in on my press pass and we waited a bit (as you're often prepared to do when you go to a fashion event). Not being a professional photographer but wanting pics of outfits for this write up, I invited a close friend who's been to a lot of fashion shows as a spectator to be my guest along with another friend who's recently moved to NYC and deserved a glimpse of my entertainment scene/world. I also wanted a female perspective from a non-model/designer/fashion person. Unfortunately, my fashion outsider couldn't make it but my fashion insider did show up & took many of the pics you're going to see here.

I find a seat right in the front row & frantically save one for my photo taking friend. Unbeknownst to me, there was a separate section for press in a different room. The setup at The Highline Loft (the venue for this) was unique as you had two separate rooms connected by a hallway where we could see the models come in and out. Now if it were me, I'd have had a curtain up there or tried my best to avoid having you see the models before their official walk in the room where I was and where the entertainment and action was taking place. Or I might have had my models engage in a little showmanship like maybe wave to the crowd as they passed or posed specially or something. As an actress who's done that a LOT longer than modeling, I often incorporate my acting background into my own show performances. I've also seen one male model in particular I've worked with who is a master at this & quite beloved by the women. Had I been a model, I'd have wanted to do that as I feel when the audience can see you then you are "on" and need to own it.

The show started off with the hosts talking to the audience and engaging them. They picked a couple people to walk the runway and talk to the crowd. As is my fate in life, I was one of the people picked. Unfortunately, my zebra print heels (another item of karma) had been killing my feet by this time so I'd switched to my sneakers and was walking in those. However, I did my best to rock it as is. The top you see in my pic was specifically chosen for this theme as well as the necklace I had on; both came from my ex's family and I'd decided to wear them as part of my reclaiming of things with negative associations. My own take on the "karma" theme since isn't it delicious to wear something you got from people who hated you modeling to a fashion event? I'm not sure if our host knew I was a model or the producer pointed her out to me ahead of time but I liked my 5 minutes in the spotlight.

I love that this show incorporated the audience and made everyone feel they had worth in the world for being there. I saw no air of "I'm better than you" at this event, which is most certainly not the prevailing image of the fashion world or modeling.

A couple of professional dancers started off this event. I didn't get pics of them but they were quite good and it appears they were clothed in High Lights brand by Willie Fulmore III. Great stuff, these guys and their attire. You could definitely wear it in your normal, daily life or in a performance atmosphere for points for utility (I'm big on clothing & pieces that work in many different settings).

The first designer was CLEONS Clothing, by designer Chad Leon. He had a lot of male models in his segment, which my temperamental friend claimed he wouldn't photograph. I decided to get those pics myself where I got some decent angles. Check these out:

Now, as a straight woman we appreciate the presence of male models and getting eye candy as the straight men & lesbians always get their eye candy with female models. Bravo to equality!! I found his looks to have a mix of classic and a funky, retro feel in club wear. His website states that if you wear one of his designs, you should "feel like a different an alter ego." I most certainly saw that here.

The second designer was Fabric Twinz. The collection I saw featured formal wear with both long and short dresses. Feast your eyes on these, taken by Craig Herskowitz:

(Craig said he liked this one)

(The black dress you see in the center felt like the model for what I'd wanted in my wedding dress; I still kind of want that great black dress though I won't be wearing it in any wedding of mine in the foreseeable future.)

I would wear these dresses, without question. I'm also a bit of an evening gown junkie & LOVE dressing up; maybe that's why modeling eventually found me.

The third collection was Toriola, Inc. by designer Tory Famuyiwa featuring his Peacock Reincarnate collection. There was some great stuff here but the one dress I really found super interesting was not one my friend got a great shot of. However, there were other fantastic & more practical designs captured by Craig Herskowitz:

(You can't tell me you don't love the eyes)

I loved the color scheme and felt like anyone could wear it, including my pale, naturally redhaired self. This collection had a mix of the modest and the sexy.

The final segment of the show (after a break for the cocktails, which I'm still wondering if it was rose--my friend thought the drinks were yummy but didn't know if it was rose when I asked him) was bird by Leigh Grahill for the clothing and Trash Cookie by Joy Vay for the accessories. This was a marriage made in heaven.

I say this because as I was viewing these designs I saw the aesthetic of Betsey Johnson, one of my favorite designers and likely someone who's clothing I'd own a lot of if I had more money to buy it. Witness these pics Craig Herskowitz took and tell me you don't see it:

(I LOVED this boa & found it inspired)

(I love the model's expression here; this is how you want your models to feel when they're walking)

Yeah, the last collection was definitely something in this "cool" lawyer's wheelhouse & of her aesthetic.

When you're modeling, that time on the runway feels like eternity but it's really short. You get told to stay out there for a while, pose, etc. for 30 seconds to 1 minute. You're thinking "no problem; it'll fly by" but it doesn't when you're out there. As a result, most models forget to do that hesitation. I saw some of that here & finally understood what photographers meant when they'd told me and other models to "slow down." Sometimes you're at a loss for what to do & you have to consciously slow your brain down.

Thank you to the models who posed when they first came into my room so we could get better pics of you!! I'm sure the professional photographer taking pics a few seats to my right also appreciated it. Overall, I'd say no one struck me as terrified or a total amateur at this; I'm not sure I'd call myself an expert model or a "professional" at it but I didn't see amateur hour here.

Other than some venue limitations like the heat, some acoustics being off and that weird room setup (apparently the second room was for press while I imagined a press pit being a literal segment where I'd be dodging elbows to get any simple smartphone pictures for my entry), I'd declare this show a success. Ahmani should be quite proud of her work and based on the track record of her designers, you should keep your eye on her and her team. Everyone struck me as professional, polite and definitely on a level I've not always seen in my own experiences.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Rebuilding & Reclaiming (A Reflection)

Sometimes we find ourselves in a perfect storm of events. We find that those we counted on, who we thought loved us unconditionally (or were SUPPOSED to love us unconditionally & not throw things away over minor disagreements) never actually did. It can make you feel betrayed, angry, distrustful of anyone else (or bolster your preexisting trust issues), sad, but maybe even a little relieved.

Recently, I found myself able to speak more freely since the ordeal that is my divorce is finally complete with my having no further ties whatsoever to my evil ex. The legal system moves far slower than the life cycle of a relationship, both in marriage and in divorce. So many people have said to me "You're very lucky you didn't have kids/money to fight over." Some have told me "A divorce is nothing. I'm divorced as well." Some of those people told me they have even more than one divorce to their name. I heard that and thought "You managed to go through this TWICE?!?!? How in God's name did you ever trust a relationship enough to even contemplate going through marriage and the possibility of divorce again?" That's not something I could ever see myself doing, certainly not without that guy signing a prenuptial agreement. Sorry, babe my trust is gone in that respect. I got zero justice whatsoever in the legal sense. My ex-husband got away with fucking me over & had a judge who condoned his behavior. Bias is not even enough to describe what that mess was.

It feels like if you become an attorney, even if you pursue a calling like I am and you don't make a dime from it no one listens when you speak or bothers to treat you as a human being. Me having emotional strength and not caving to bullshit from the likes of some Long Island bred Mama's Boy who'd have had nothing in NYC if it weren't for me doesn't = me being a robot with no feelings or permission to have any moral failings or not be some fantasy ideal of what we view people as being.

I was telling one friend that I did feel suicidal a few times in my transient life but the ultimate thing that stopped me was refusing to give my ex-husband or his shitty family the satisfaction of my death. I also didn't feel inclined to give my ex-husband or that family the satisfaction of taking NYC & my career away from me, things I worked my entire life to get. I suppose God, my father, my grandmother and any other angels I had agreed since there's no other reason for me to not have taken the path you'd expect me to after what happened. That bastard can believe I left voluntarily all he wants to but we all know the emotional abuse existed and I'm not the type who's going to ask a saboteur for help or show weakness to someone I know doesn't have my back or give a damn about me. He knows exactly what he did and what he pulled; guess how likely I'd ever forgive him for it?

The weird thing is I've not missed my ex. Not sure I even miss my old life itself that much. I'm pissed about the loss of stability but I'm regaining my own now.

I also like to think the court of public opinion and the court of the universe is on my side. I got an agency deal for commercial + print modeling (the very thing those jerks were against me doing) and for voiceover (the thing that jerk would kill to do) at a legitimate, reputable agency. My company has a movie that got mainstream attention in many ways. I got opportunities to do reviews on my own and even get to do a write up on a fashion show that the show producer invited me to and sought feedback from ME on. I've gotten my own entertainment clients and my own opportunities in the industry I have worked in for nearly 9 years. I keep making my own contacts and my old contacts are making their own waves and headway in this business. Tell me it's "just a hobby" or "worthless." I think a lot of these things are proof that the universe just needed me to get rid of my toxic ex; cleanse the things that held me back, dragged me down and caused problems.

The worst things I've had to deal with are the loss of my cats, the loss of my stability, the loss of my private space and the way things ended, knowing that in retrospect my ex was nothing more than a wannabe leech who was trying to use me as a meal ticket. Well, lesson learned. I married for love; my heart was true. I'm slowly rebuilding back to where I was and then some. I'm reliving my pre-marriage single days. At least my look defies my age so my ex didn't get to steal my youth or beauty like many husbands steal from their wives.

Here's an example of the difference b/t my new tribe and the old one: the new tribe is actually happy for me & opportunities I get. Those people congratulated me and didn't make me feel like I'm some terrible person for getting successful or coming into the status I'd been deprived of with my ex weighing me down. I even got to keep my oldest friend in the world who I hope won't engage in a personality 180 like my last one did; there's one thing in particular that if he did, I'd have to end the friendship since not only would he be a liar but he'd be a massive scumbag hurting innocent people I happen to like. Guess my years ago sense that I should keep him around was right. My life would have been a lot easier at home if I had let my ex dictate my friendships but I refused. There was a principle at work.

The goal now is getting me in order, my life, my career and maybe some quality male companionship. I managed this before & now I'm doing this without being emotionally dead inside. My last boyfriend helped me realize I could indeed do far better than my ex in so many ways, I could do exclusivity with someone again from my choice/free will and I could trust someone again. He even went beyond the simple basics like going with me for major surgery when we were merely FWBs.

I also have been spending time reclaiming things like my old karaoke spot and places I'd previously gone to with my ex. I feel it's necessary to create new imprints and memories having zero to do with him in the city I call home. It's also helpful for showing those people I know who haven't lived here nearly as long as me some spots where they can take people & might not have known about if it weren't for me. When I broke up with other guys, I went through this reclaiming process as well. Get rid of a prior association or letting someone else's "thing" stop you from enjoying it like a particular musician's songs or a particular restaurant.

So, what advice could I impart to you if you're a divorced or soon to be divorced woman or even someone who's lost a parent or dealing with a perfect storm of hell? I like to hope I can impart something of wisdom and value a little over 3 years after my father's sudden death & the match that lit the keg of dynamite.

For one thing, you have to never adopt a poverty mentality. You can't think that you don't deserve better or you aren't worthy of things. That's what caused me to marry my ex. You have to know and believe in your heart that today's circumstances are not where you'll be 5 years from now. You may not know exactly where you will be but you can't think you're stuck in today if you hate today. Plus, no one else has to live your life except you & you will be the most unhappy of all if you want to jump out of your own skin or run away or can't take it anymore. I took steps to avoid being another young mother in NC; you have to figure out your own action plan and move from there.

Second, think about your haters. Do you really want to give them the satisfaction of your death? I think most of us wouldn't (certainly not me since I think venom from hatred gives me some energy when that hatred is well deserved). Want to prove your haters right? Suicide is just giving them what they want; granted you could throw in some homicide first but guns and bullets cost money or you're going to have to wait around to effectively poison someone and for the time where you won't be the first suspect. Homicide would require work and money, things you may not have. Instead give them what they don't want, which is your success and your climbing out of the pit of despair. They don't want your smiles or your winks or cheers or anything good happening to you or resulting from you.

Third, embrace your true self. No one is perfect and we all have our moments of weakness, vulnerability, etc. I think it's better to embrace being imperfect than trying to pretend you're perfect. I certainly have my own flaws & limitations. So does everyone else. Expecting me to be perfect is just stupid; that's unrealistic for anyone. Everyone has to be knocked off a pedestal sooner or later.

Fourth, and something I'm still living myself, it's a process not an instant result. It takes time to get the puzzle pieces to fit together properly or collect your puzzle pieces to make the picture in the first place. You can't spend your time listening to haters, even if if feels like the entire world is telling you to give up on your vision and settle for being ordinary. The biggest irony I'm seeing is my personal Facebook page, the venue where I am my true self with no apologies for not being some typical, boring attorney stereotype, becoming an inadvertent marketing tool. I've started to feel validation in my path and my vision for the first time in this career.

I had to fight for validation and people trusting what I said, listening to me and such for a good chunk of my life. I had to prove I belonged in a normal 1st grade class vs. special ed classes. I had to prove I had talent when I was in the Miss Parkland pageant; my own mother said to me after the dress rehearsal that she had doubts about my ability to do that pageant but after she saw my act, felt I could do it. I feel like when people see me in action or they view my reel, hear me sing, see me live in a fashion show, they instantly get why I'm pursuing this career instead of just going to work in some typical law firm as an associate. They 100% understand why it would be patronizing and insulting to tell me to give up. It would be a betrayal of self and any talent I actually have. Perhaps this is what felt like one of the biggest betrayals with my ex; you expect your husband to understand and be on board with you 100% in whatever endeavor you pursue. If you believe it, your time will come sooner or later.

Finally, never, ever be with someone who disrespects your art, devalues you, tries to censor you or dares to diminish you or your light; having support for what I do is one of the most important things to me. Critical, in fact. When someone is not giving you that support, they are killing your soul and spirit. No one deserves that kind of power.

As I have things to look forward to, build on, care about and focus on to take my mind off my shitty ex and what he did, I don't have to worry about getting revenge. Fortunate for him and his awful family b/c if I didn't have that stuff, I'd have no incentives to give a damn about anything and they'd have to be on the radar screen. I think that old adage "the best way to get over a man is to get under another one," is also true. As time has gone on, what my ex did has become less glaring in my mind. Getting better for me makes me feel less motivated to harm my ex or fuck up his life in some way. It also helps when your ex isn't some superstar who has very much b/c what kind of pleasure could you possibly get from knocking down someone who's already knocked himself down?

Some of us aren't phoenixes or nearly as strong as I am. That's one of your flaws/realities. Some of this was almost too much for me at times so don't go patting me on the back or holding me up as a saint. Just know what your flaws/weaknesses are and heed the wisdom of people who know better. I've always done this in my life & made it a point to forge connections with people who know better than me. Do the same.