Don’t Be Too Much Of A Fangirl, They Said

 

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I watched A Fault In Our Stars on the plane. Probably not the most intelligent choice of film when you’re feeling mega sleep-deprived, pensive, confused about life and acutely hungover – but often watching a sad film helps with a much needed cathartic release. A friend of mine openly admits to have nights in just to listen to sad music in a dark room because “better out than in”. Anyway, your allowed to sob on a plane because no one will see you and the flight attendant can give you a glass of water and nod sympathetically and leave you to it. It’s the film, I say, just the film.

Of course we all know the book is really sad, and therefore the film is sad. I knew what I was in for. Just like the hangover these tears were self-inflicted. Not having read the book the whole way through I enjoyed the sad suspense of not knowing how it would end. All I knew what that it is a tragedy. A modern day Romeo and Juliet horribly riddled with the C word. Every mention of the word cancer blows away all of the happiness away like a wind machine that gives the characters absolutely no respite. There is a haunting amount of realism too, with depressing lying-in-bed scenes, laptop scenes, Gmail chat, iPhones, normal open parks – it’s a Hollywood film sure, but there is a surprising lack of sugar-coating. And how can it be, with such a harrowing subject? Nothing is particularly glamourised except for their good looks. It makes the film all the more grim to watch, and the many morals of the story hit you over the head with a large frying pan.

Thinking about the author, John Green for a moment, the technique I found the most impressive was the way he wrote a book within a book. A book so seemingly real that I wanted to see if it existed, or perhaps even available on Amazon to read in its own right. I googled An Imperial Infliction by Peter Van Houton, whom the main character Hazel is obsessed with and quotes daily. But it’s not a real book in the real world, unfortunately, it’s planted there by the author as a meta seed. Peter Van Houten isn’t a real author either. And it’s a good job too, because he turned out to be a complete arsehole. A true example of the phrase “never meet your heroes”.

This made me think a little about a recent night out I had when someone said to me that I should stop reading the work of people I admire so much. That I should concentrate more on my own. Because to focus too much on other peoples you are not giving your new ideas the attention they need to blossom. It’s true that there about five writers who I read obsessively. The advice was coming from a good place. But it also jarred with me for some reason.

It was an interesting point to make; because I would never see being a huge fan of someone’s work or to obsessively read books in the hope for inspiration to ever be a bad thing. But I saw the point that was being made. There have been times when I’ve spent hours trawling through a backlog of archives of someone’s work who I admire. Re-reading their pieces again and again. Reading stuff that I cannot necessarily learn anything new from. The other day I went back to 2007 on an archive of articles by a certain writer. I was doing it in order to try and trigger a new idea or be inspired but after a while that doesn’t work. Really, you can only inspire yourself.

The reason why it’s important that Hazel had to let An Imperial Infliction go, is because she was holding on too tightly to it. She was enslaved to the book, to the ending, to the quotable paragraphs. She was so obsessed with the book that she wasn’t writing her own story. None of it was real and she’d become to hooked on it. I have certain books that I cling onto as well, but it’s not always the answer. It could be guiding you in the wrong direction.

I understand why it’s important to step back a little from being a fan of someone and their work. You can be a fan of what someone does but you have to also make sure you aren’t just hanging on to their every word. You need to keep your own thoughts and decisions in check and to avoid being guided too strongly. At some point you will have to create your own words, your own chapters and your own narrative. Something happened recently when I stopped following said writer so closely. I still read it. But I focused more on my own work. And since then, I’ve unleashed more ideas and better work because of it – because you can’t imitate, you can’t compare and you can’t do the same as what someone else is doing.

Go forth and enjoy the work of your idols, but don’t let it get you stuck.

Your (Extremely) UnOfficial Guide To Surviving Fashion Week

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Oh, London Fashion Week. You all encompassing, FOMO-inducing bastard. Every September (and February) London has a personality transplant and suddenly everyone dresses up to the nines in clothing they would NEVER normally throw on. People go into hibernation for a few days and suddenly emerge wearing “interesting” ensembles with the hope to attract a needy photographer, who has probably been briefed by someone higher up to get capture some “weird shit”. Bling, bold colours, strange-shapes, big hats, strange heels, bizarre sunglasses. Basically anything that screams “Lady Gaga circa 2010″. Any whiff of #normcore and/or facial expression and you will be cropped out of the frame, instantly.

Admitting that you are participating in these five crazy days (Friday to Tuesday) normally receives a pat on the back and a “good luck” to anyone trying to dodge it online or IRL. It goes all over everyone like a big trendy rash.

This year I went to a few shows and don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the experience. Because that’s what it is: an experience. I hadn’t been to a fashion week for a couple of years, and this time was fun in its own way. In 2012 I got to go backstage at Claire Barrow, Ashley Williams and Ryan Lo with TONI&GUY and it’s epic seeing how far they’ve come in such a short amount of time. Fashion East is the springboard for incredible talent.

But anyway, I wanted to do a blog post that sums up my observations. Not in a catty way (I hope) but definitely tongue in cheek….So here it goes.

1. You must take a photo of your thighs in the taxi: This is something that everybody does. It’s the “hotdog or legs” of #LFW. It’s a subtle hint to say: A) I’m on my way to a show B) Look at what I’m wearing and c) Look at my legs. Tip: Pinch the under bits of your thighs to make them look thinner before you take the snap. And then pump up the “saturation tool” on Instagram to turn those pasty jambons into a tangerine delight. (Tip: see Instagram feed of anyone from MIC for reference).

2. If you see a Mercedes VIP taxi, POSE BY IT AND UPLOAD IMMEDIATELY: Who cares if it’s not yours? Last time i checked, that’s not the point. I bet your instagram was full of these annoying taxis was it not? The point is to make it look like it dropped you off (even if it was for a z-list celeb and not you, just slip the driver a £10) and post in on Instagram to give the illusion that you’re a big f*cking deal.. Tip: bonus points for taking two or three photos of the said taxi – makes it look legit.

3. Hang your coat on your shoulders at all times. Yes I mean at all times. Even if it’s pissing down with rain and you have wet arms. You must hang it off your shoulders and refuse to wear it like a proper coat: FYI the posh name for it is to “shoulder-robe.” It says you mean business. You are Alexa Chung. You mean fash. You are not just part of the fash pack, you OWN the fash pack. *little mouth vom*

4. Steal people’s seats. On the 3rd row? Not for long sucker, just move forward and no-one will notice. Plonk yourself in the mid-front row if you can, people will be shocked and if they try and move you, just pretend you can’t speak English. Someone stole my seat at Felder & Felder, and good on them. Go forth, be ruthless you crazy fashion warriors.

5. Be as rude as fuck. Being polite won’t get you on the 8.30am Central Line tube and it certainly won’t get you anywhere in the fashion world. Look as miserable as possible. Look like you will bite someone if they come near you. They’ll take one look at your bitchy resting face and think you’re hot fashion shit and probably take your picture. Remain grumpy. Tip: If you do a big lion yawn whilst watching the catwalk, people will massively respect you for eternity.

6. Go to Somerset House with a bullet proof armour of self-esteem: People will be out to get you at Somerset House. It is where you go to be reunited with your Ghost of Childhood Past. Apparitions of the mean girls at school will be there, tutting, eye-rolling and gossiping into each other’s ears. Just ignore, march on and wear a pair of sunglasses that literally take over your entire face (and hide the tears you will no doubt cry).

7. If people pap you, try not to think that it might be for a “what not to wear” list. It could be for the best-wearing list. It so could! Be positive. It probably isn’t because your outfit sucks and might end up on “what’s hot.. and what’s NOT” list with a big hearty X factor NO emblazoned across your outfit of choice. Don’t paranoid. Don’t be. Omg, what’s that behind you?

8. Photographers turn evil. Have you noticed that during fashion week photographers haven’t a red glint in their eye? They don’t mean to, but they turn scary. They will literally push you out of the way in order to get their shot. There is only one thing to do: Photobomb the shit out of them.

9. Ignore the peacocks. You know that saying “don’t feed the troll”? There’s another one (which I definitely didn’t just make up) which is “don’t look at the peacock”. You will come across the peacocks ruffling their feathers and posing next to a brick wall, posing as still as a statue. They will remain in “photo position” for hours on end, hoping someone will take a photo at some point during the 24 hour day. It’s rude to stare. Don’t give them what they want.

10. Remember at all times: that at the end of the day, you are just watching people walk up and down a long piece of flooring in large room. See all those people sitting watching the show with their notepads looking highly important? They were probably in their pyjamas the night before. And probably gagging to get home to their pyjamas again. We’re all just people, sucked into a bit of superficiality for five days, knowing FULL WELL that it’s all rather silly and a bit lols.

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What happens when you can’t tick a box?

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A favourite quote of mine is about handbags. Before you roll your eyes and think I’m about to go all pink-and-fluffy on you, the sentiment is actually rather anti-handbag. I will paraphrase the quote; it was something I heard Caitlin Moran say at one of her secret gigs in Crouch End. Essentially, she is against the idea of an “investment handbag” – it’s something you drop fag ash on, vom in to, leave shitty receipts in and always find a pack of chewing gum from five years ago. This “investment” will not be there to save you when your 85 years old. That handbag will not be sold for millions in exchange for a pension. This handbag will be wrinkled and sad-looking in 50 years time, glaring at you from the corner of the room, and you will frown at it bitterly, asking yourself why you parted with £800 on a shitty piece of pleather.

Screw handbags. Get a fabric tote. (See above in my strategically placed picture).

But, seriously now, let’s for a second talk about a real “investment”. That investment is you. This isn’t me about to launch into thousands of words about “personal branding” (although you know I’d love nothing more than to do that) but it’s more about the basics of investing you. You, you, you. The one thing in this life that actually IS an investment.

Number 1) Look after yourself. Seriously. Go the doctor every now and again. Tell your boss you’re going to get yourself looked at, and look him/her square in the eye. Even if you both know that your getting *down there* looked at. Do it.

Number 2) Don’t be a dick, offline or online. No really. Don’t be one. Being a dick will come back to haunt you and no matter how much you think “being a bitchy twat in the office” will get you “further up the career ladder” that is bullshit. Be a kind human being. People remember how you make them feel. If you make people feel shitty, they will get you.

Number 3) Don’t post blurry photos. Ever. Especially not of yourself. And learn to CROP. Don’t ever upload a profile picture that’s badly cropped. Or one that is the tiniest thumbnail that doesn’t even expand. It’s rude. And you’ll look like a criminal. Only criminals are lazy with their cropping. I’m joking, but seriously.

So now we’ve cleared that up – I want to talk “box ticking” with you. Building any sort of presence or brand requires box-ticking right? WRONG.

I want to put an end to this hideous myth. Hardly anyone fits perfectly into a nice neat little box.

For so long I have been a fun-loving, grateful part of the “blogging community”. I really have. I’ve been to amazing events, met incredible people, build relationships I am proud of. But, there’s a catch, I’ve always felt a little bit on the outside, or should I say an “outsider”. This is because I don’t tick a box. Are you a fashion blogger, they ask? (I can’t afford it). Are you a beauty blogger, they suggest? (I own three pieces of make-up). Are you a restaurant reviewer, they enquire? (Sometimes, to be fair, but who doesn’t love food?). But I am none of these things. But at the same time I am also a small fraction of each of these things. I am all things, whenever, wherever the wind may take me. The main thing, I write on this blog, because I LOVE this blog, and I love the people I meet through this blog. My passion is to write – anywhere, everywhere.

I remember my first ever “campaign” I did with Diesel in 2011 where they put mine and four other bloggers faces on the clothing tags as our selected pieces in the new Covent Garden store. My blog was quite new and there I was in a massive shop in London with my FACE on a tag. I love Diesel, I loved the initiative, and I was so happy to be involved. I am still good pals with one the girls there. But I literally stuck out like a sore thumb. Most of the other bloggers there were proper fashion bloggers – they had a photographer, the most amazing statement shoes, the latest clothes, the crazy expensive camera, the poses, the lightening, the personality, the everything.

I literally had my iPhone and I hadn’t washed my hair in three days. I stood in the corner and drank three cups of tea rather awkwardly as I watched the other amazing bloggers try on new outfits, they loved the clothes, the clothes loved them. I stroked a few pairs of jeans and trying to join in. I felt like a phony. What did I know about clothes? Why was I even here? (Two of those bloggers have now gone on to have proper partnerships with huge retailers. This was their thing).

But then I realised: I was there for a different reason. They had selected different bloggers, in order to have different points of view, and different opinions on the new collection. I had never branded myself a fashion blogger, and never would, and they knew that. They were looking for a lifestyle writer in their 20s to review the clothes, as someone who wasn’t actually that clued up on every move of the fashion industry. And it’s OK. It’s OK to realise when something isn’t your thing.

Experiences like this one have cropped up a fair bit, being often surrounded by beauty bloggers, fashion bloggers, vintage bloggers, craft bloggers. Huge blogging ‘categories’ have formed. Businesses will want to work with you if you fall into a category. Blog Awards fall into categories. There are some seriously amazing blogs out there that are incredibly niche and cater for a brilliant audience. But I will never tick one of those categorical boxes. Not entirely. And not everyone has to. You can’t be something you’re not. You just need to work out what it is you want it to say on your business card. The rest is up to you.

If you want to start a blog but don’t have a “thing”, who cares. Just do it anyway. Do it for you. And naturally you will navigate towards more focused interests, as I have with this blog – books, travel, lady news, careers etc. But as I said in this old blog post, I guess I’m just trying to write, and not necessarily blog.

And the next time somebody asks you “what do you do” at a dinner party, your response should be “how long have you got?”

#noboxtickinghereplease

The Weird And Wonderful GQ Awards

This piece was first published on the Independent

Knock knock. Who’s there? The GQ Awards.

Let me explain: the GQ Awards this year seemed like a bit of a joke. Tony Blair winning Philanthropist of the Year? I don’t have a problem with ol’ Tone. Just that ‘philanthropist’ might not be the first word that would spring to mind to describe him.

If the awards ceremony seemed like a joke, it’s because awards ceremonies are a joke. Because, let’s be honest, they are big fat publicity exercises, where a bunch of celebs are bribed with freebies to be photographed awkwardly together in order to promote the magazine hosting that particular canapé-fuelled bash. The cynic in me believes that this Tony Blair “controversy” had been pre-planned by GQ, as Twitter exploded in to one-liners, gags, rants, raves over this very strange, headline-worthy news.

There are more award events during the year than you can possibly comprehend, in which various magazines or companies get people together, celebrate them, and then drunkly sidle up to them attempting to make ‘connections’. Some are better than others. The Glamour Awards actually are as glamourous as they sound, with Victoria Beckham usually gliding down a red carpet in the middle of a posh hotel, and the Red Woman of the Year awards actually give awards to established authors, directors and mothers who have actually – shock horror – done something worthwhile.

But a lot of these parties have become so far-fetched and self-promoting that the awards themselves really don’t matter a whole lot. Just take a look at some of the gongs handed out last night for a prime example. In descending order of ridiculousness: first Benedict Cumberbatch received an award for being an “actor”, I’m sure he’ll be more chuffed with that than an Oscar. Then Peter Calpaldi was named “TV personality” after being Dr Who for approximately twenty minutes and two very odd episodes. Then Kim Kardashian-West won an award for being “a woman”. In answer to “How do we get KK to attend our party?” It seems the answer is very simple: “Give her an award. Any award”. So here it is Kim. Just take it. Congratulations.

The thing is, it’s totally fine for GQ to have an awards event that is a bit of a laughing stock, rubbish awards and all. In fact, that’s kind of the point. It’s entertainment. We enjoy it. You aren’t meant to take them seriously. You thought last year’s royal GQ mess-up of Russell Brand mentioning that the Hugo Boss sponsor made Nazi uniforms couldn’t bettered? Well, last night we had Jools Holland falling over, Cara Delevigne falling over, Pharrell in that-bloody-hat, Kanye West wearing a deep V tee worthy of JLS and Kim Kardashian wearing bubble wrap, receiving the wrong award and someone saying her name incorrectly. It’s Kardashian-WEST, thank you very much.

And that goodness for that. The hilarity of last night’s awards was actually rather relieving for us mere mortals viewing from the sofa – we were allowed to just laugh at the silliness of it all, thankful we don’t have to be part of the madness.

Emma Gannon is social media editor at The Debrief

F*ck Yeah: An Open Mic Night For Storytellers

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Have you heard of The Moth before? Probably not, as it’s a big New York thing, for New York kids. Well, UNTIL NOW THAT IS!

When I first heard about this event-slash-podcast I was torn between mixed emotions of being really happy that on one hand it existed but then on other I also felt bitter and twisted that it only existed in NYC. I already have daily #FOMO about not living in the Big Apple since the explosion of Girls and subsequent digital love affair with Lena Dunham.

The premise of The Moth nights conjured up a few memories of these poetry night events I used to go to at uni with some uber-intelligent fellow classmates who would wear berets and striped jumpers from my English literature degree. Poetry nights are also a bit blah because you cannot breathe the air without smelling a whiff of pretentiousness, even if you genuinely love the poemz. Back then everyone was trying to get into the whole literature scene – but this event was the adult version of those poetry nights except this time it was with a bunch of people who weren’t trying too hard. Everyone was up for being themselves and talking and celebrating true stories. In a basement in East London.

So, until a few weeks ago I hadn’t heard of it. This incredible creation was not yet in my life. I’m not entirely sure where I read about it, but I just remember The Moth described itself as “True Stories Told Live” – this is totally up my alley. What’s not to love about that? I knew that I needed to go. This was a combination of my favourite things: stories, storytellers and meeting new people. And to my utter delight after some Googling I realised that the first EVER Moth event was coming to the UK, to London. The first ever UK #StorySLAM and I knew I had to go, and be a part of it. Some things you know you just can’t miss.

Since I went along to my first Cringe night in which I read from my teenage diary in a pub in London, in front of 35 strangers, I longed for that same sense of excitement again. Not knowing what anyone would read, how you would respond to it, and what you might be inspired by on the night. It’s that feeling of people just coming together and connecting through real life experiences without any egos or judgment or airs or graces. Basically something I like to get away from occasionally, especially working in an industry with a lot of pretence attached to it. Sometimes you just want to say “we’re all the same, so quit the ego and just have fun”. Hashtag no filter.

So, there are a few rules that you have to abide by at The Moth. First of all: all stories have to be true. You can’t nab someone else’s story; it’s just not cool. Don’t bring any notes, you must finesse the story to your hearts content and remember it, so that it is all natural. Stick to the theme. This week’s was “a first time that was also your last time, something you had to try once”. So in short each story has to be: on time, on topic, a story (not stand-up comedy, an essay, or a rant) and true.

There was a mixture of stories – all were brilliant. I actually couldn’t believe the high standard of the stories. These were people with brilliant speaking voices, public speaking techniques, well-rehearsed stories with a beginning, middle and an end. It wasn’t just grabbing a microphone and talking about yourself for five minutes. It was artistic. It was a mixture between entertainment and raw emotion. As The Moth founder said in the event introduction was “we are all part of the human race, and therefore, we are all clowns. We are all fools”. This was an important thing to note from the start. In that room (and hopefully in life) no one thought they were better than anyone else. It was a place to judge. It was a place to listen and respect other people’s stories; after all they are brave to be sharing it in front of strangers in the first place.

The stories were way more emotionally raw and honest than I thought they’d be. I don’t what I expected but I thought it would be a bit.. shallower, lighter maybe? Is that mean? I guess I thought it would be a funny tale of falling in love at first sight in the “grocery store” that feature heavily in nearly all American rom-coms. It wasn’t that, though. But the point is: it doesn’t matter what the story is. In actual fact, I noticed people responded most to those who were a little bit nervous.

One guy delivered a brilliant story about coming out, about his first time in a gay bar. He was nervous. His boyfriend was listening to him as he spoke to a new crowd of strangers. He told us all about he went in a heterosexual relationship with a girl, and when he came out he realized he was definitely gay – and that never looked back since that night. Another girl gave a very funny comical sketch about her first period. How the family were slightly overbearing with their excitement, telling all the names and shouting around the house screaming that she GOT HER FIRST PERIOD! How she thought that by having a period she would have a BABY! We’ve all been there with that embarrassing stuff. I remember being locked in a bathroom in Cornwall with my aunty telling me “not to come out until I’d tried a tampon” because they were “much better and I had to try one”. AHH! Another girl gave a heart-felt account of buying and losing their first ever pet – a family dog. A woman spoke about her first time being diagnosed with breast cancer. Another man recalled a memory of driving around after work and accidently getting involved with a crime scene.

It was a truly amazing night and I’m so glad to have discovered The Moth in all its glory on a random Monday night. You can download the podcast here, and I really urge you to check out the work of Lynn Ferguson who hosted the night – she was hilarious, funny, friendly, and an example of someone who doesn’t take no for an answer and had the brilliant confidence I can only try and embody myself.