Thursday, May 27, 2010

He Will Bring It in His Own Good Time

Emilio Sosa's winning design from the pattern/fabric challenge on "Project Runway." Below, the designer is creating the magic before the show on a state-of-the-art HP computer. Top photo from www.pdxneatsheet.com. Bottom photo from www.mylifetime.com.

“OVER the top,” Emilio Sosa exclaims when Yours Truly asks his opinion of the fashions in “Sex and the City 2” after an advanced screening Tuesday night at the Paris Theater. "Who dresses like that.”

True that. As someone who has spent time in both Egypt and Senegal, I found it strangely curious that the women were turned out the way they were, especially gadabouting in 6- and 7-inch heels in the streets, crowded outdoor markets and desert of Abu Dhabi (actually Morocco) - even with a retinue of fetchers and carriers. “It was clearly aspirational,” ES observes.

ES is better known as a star contestant and runner-up on this year’s season of “Project Runway, which wrapped last month. He also won the first challenge of the season. Indeed, ES won a total of five challenges – the most of the season and likely the most by a single designer in the life of the series. In the pattern/fabric challenge, ES decided on a graffiti dress. Show housefather Tim Gunn didn’t get it and tried to dissuade the pride of the Dominican Republic from presenting it. ES would not be moved. I was both afraid for him and both happy that he stuck to his vision. “I had to remain true to myself,” declares the winner of that challenge.

By the by, BRAVO was representin’ at the Bergdorf Goodman party following the HP screening. (Of course, "PR" aired on BRAVO until this last season, which debuted on the Lifetime network). Fellow “PR” alum and Season 4 winner Christian Siriano was outside the theater after the screening. At the party, “Top Chef Masters hostess Kelly Choi breezed by me wearing an expression that matched the intensity of her fire-engine red dress. And I walked into the Paris behind “The Real Housewives of New York City” member Kelly Bensimon&Co. It was strange seeing her a few days after watching her come undone in last week’s episode. Of course, that happened months ago, giving her plenty of time to pull herself back together for last night’s screening amongst myriad other appearances.

Anywho, where has ES been keeping himself? What has he been doing, my inquiring mind wants to know, alluding to both Malan Breton and CS who are exploiting their “PR” fame to launch petit empires. There was even ES’s “PR” costar/pal, the larger-than-life Anthony Williams, in March commenting on Oscar red-carpet fashions. “Well, that’s Anthony," he says, his amusement apparent.

“I don’t want to be a television personality; that’s not why I did ‘Project Runway’. I am being very cautious,” ES says, explaining that doing the show was solely a strategic move to advance his designer aspirations. “I’m going to be coming out with something in the fall,” he promises.

Stay tuned.

Emilio Sosa’s Web site, www.esosadesign.com should be live on 1 June. Those who can’t wait a few days can send e-mail to info@esosadesign.com.

Who Does Kimberly Taylor Think She Is?
A model (left) from Models International in a Kimberly Taylor tee right outside the shop window. Middle, Rosemary Ponzo drops by the T-shirt launch party to see what all the fuss is about. Models International mannequins, below, dress up their bottoms with Kimberly Taylor tops. Top photo by Amanda Schulze. Middle photo by Fernando Colon. Bottom photo by Anna Kuchma.

CAN Kimberly Taylor do for the T-shirt what Anne Fontaine has done for the white shirt – that is take an unsung wardrobe stable and transform it into a sartorial superstar?

The designer, whose reputation for her “minimal chic” aesthetic has grown beyond her loyal base of friends and family to the ears of tastemakers such as Rosemary Ponzo, launched a line of tees last month with a party at her 9-month-old flagship boutique in the Meatpacking District, right across the street from the Apple store.

What would inspire someone to create a T-shirt line? T-shirts are not like shoes. One can never have too many shoes. But one has far too many T-shirts taking up precious space in already overburdened closets and chests. If anyone's to do it, KT may be the one. Here is a young woman who got a portion of the seed money to launch her growing business from a sample sale where she "invited everybody I knew." She only just introduced the line of contemporary wear that bears her name in Spring 2009. A few months later she opened the Meatpacking District store, followed three months later by the opening of the one in Brooklyn – in a fragile economic environment. According to her own p.r., the KT collection is carried by more than 100 retail shops in the US and the world.

KT's inspiration? A city. “I’m inspired by New York City and the style,” the designer gives me to know. "The line is really simple. It’s easy pieces that you can wear over and over. Pieces that every girl will want to have. It’s really urban inspired.”

Urban, explains the native New Yorker, defines the color palette. “In this collection, the colors are black, white and gray. That’s something that every New Yorker needs to live, so they are the ones who can understand it the best.”

The nine-piece collection of T-shirt dresses, tanks and maxi tees have little extra flourishes such as draping, plunging backs, double-layered chiffon pockets, trims, as well as horizontal and vertical sheer inserts. Pieces have names such as Jenna Dress and Low Back Tee.

These are not the tees of our youth. For one, they are silk/silk chiffon, which is the brand’s preferred root fabric. At $85-$145, they are much pricier than a traditional cotton affair. They are fresh, chic and edgy and six weeks out New York, at least, has a love jones for them. “The T-shirts are selling amazing,” according to Kimberly Taylor spokesperson Marina Khoroch. “We’re almost entirely sold out at the New York store!”

The early favorites are Cape Dress, Kristen Tank and Vanessa Tee, MK says.

Can Kimberly Taylor do for the T-shirt what Anne Fontaine has done for the white shirt?

As she says in her promotional materials, “I wanted to give every girl a t-shirt to wear every day, a t-shirt to live her life in.”

Learn more about the Kimberly Taylor collection at www.kimberlytaylor.com.

Scrumptious Little Treats for the Sweet Tooth
The artisan handbag with fringe from Linea Pelle could be a sweet, little deal. Photo from DailyCandy.com.

YOURS Truly has been doing reconnaissance on DailyCandy.com for the last few months, following up on its leads; verifying their veracity, asking around. After all, when an outfit is new and decides on such a moniker one can’t be too careful. It’s not as if its second name is Apple or Vitamin.

In its own words, “DailyCandy is a lifestyle resource dedicated to helping you live the sweet life.” Geneaologists should note that the former newsletter service Web site was brought into this new world by Comcast Interactive Media.

DC fulfills its mission by sharing with millions of subscribers online and on paper the good things it uncovers about restaurants, designers, gadgets and so forth. To that end, I’m satisfied that DC is good for me – and by extension my audience. Still, we shall take things slowly, limiting our attentions to tidbits for the Fashion Scrapbook.

Let's commence with DC’s sample sale Web site, Swirl.com. On Swirl is product from up-and-coming and established designers/labels such as Linea Pelle. From Wednesday (2 June) until otherwise informed, for instance, Swirl shoppers can reap as much as 60 percent off the Italian company’s world famous belts. Part of the sell-off, too, are the less famous handbags and small goods made from the washed leathers that produce buttery softness and an allegiance from legions as diverse as Robert Downey, Jr., Michael Irvin and Oprah Winfrey.

Learn more about DailyCandy and the Swirl sample sales at www.dailycandy.com; Linea Pelle at lpcollection.com.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Old Friends Return for Fun in City and Desert

Miranda, Carrie, Samantha and Charlotte belt out "I am Woman," Abu Dhabi karaoke-style in a scene from "Sex and the City 2."

A woman at the bar says she prefers the first. A colleague favors the newbie. The new mother and reporter for a Spanish-language magazine says Miranda and Charlotte’s experiences and frustrations with motherhood resonated with her. “It’s real.”

Of course, the conversation is about the long-awaited, much-anticipated “Sex and the City 2,” which opens tomorrow (27 May) in the United States. The film had its world premiere Monday night at Radio City Music Hall. Yours Truly saw it last night at an HP advanced screening at the Paris Theater followed by a smashing party at Carrie Bradshaw’s shrine, Bergdorf Goodman, where I gathered my data. There have been and will be other sponsor advanced screenings around the country, including one tonight in New York by Moët et Chandon, the official Champagne of the film.

Doubtless, a hot topic over Memorial Day weekend will be about the second film based on the wildly popular HBO series. Fans will discuss and debate every nuance of it with the intensity of economists arguing the state of the nation’s recovery from the Great Recession.

By the year 2000, “SATC” had captured the imagination of many women the world over in their 20 and 30s and in so doing morphed Manolos and martinis into household names and household necessities. Women related to the man woes and bad hair days. Many admired and tried to replicate the fealty among the four characters. How refreshing.

And the sex. How frank! Heretofore, we had not witnessed such sexual aggression and expression, unless there were serious punishing repercussions for the whore. The girls, particularly Samantha, went much further than anything Diane Keaton could have imagined in “Looking for Mr. Goodbar.”

The series had its detractors, and rightly so. Own it: it glamorized drinking. And premarital sex. Far too many episodes were sketchy about whether the women were using condoms. Seemingly under pressure from critics – and possibly the suits at HBO – series creators contritely served up the episode in which Samantha decided to take an HIV/AIDS test. Nobody believed Samantha had an STD. Had she, it would have been a buzzkill for the series. In “SATC 2,” Samantha’s condoms!

Very few “SATC” fans will likely share V’s sentiments of the latest installment. I met her after a tête-à-tête with “SATC2” star Mario Cantone. V thought Himself rude when in response to her interruption he fixed upon her an evil-eye stare before he returned his attentions to me. In any case, V asserts that the film is shallow. “It has no substance, and it’s all about Carrie. The other women, they don’t have anything to do.” V discloses that she is not a fan of the series.

Another quibble about the film will no doubt be its length: 2 hours, 27 minutes. Fair. Tsk, tsk: the film has a little too much “brand seepage.” This BS robs it a bit of its innocence and purity. Yes, innocence and purity.

Fans, though, will be looking for the elements that make “SATC” “SATC”: dining, drinking, double-entendres and duds. More important, is the reunion. As a Brit who blew into town from digs in Italy especial for the HP screening points out, “It’s about the relationship between the women.”

Men have had Star Trek and James Bond for years. Then came Batman, The Godfather, Star Wars and others, including Beverly Hills Cop, Conan the Barbarian and lately Iron Man.

For women (and gay men), SATC is their first true film franchise — one with blockbuster potential and pretensions. It’s not just a film; it’s an event. Now, they can look forward to the next installment approximately every two years or, until Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Sarah Jessica Parker call it quits.

“Sex and the City 2” is rated R for some strong sexual content and language.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Crazy Love Set Against Backdrop of NBA

Queen Latifah on the red carpet at the Ziegfeld Theater before the world premiere of "Just Wright." Photo by Elisabeth Trydal Andersen.

WHEN the box office results for the weekend of 14-16 May came out Monday morning they showed that “Just Wright” had grossed only $8.3 million (on about 2,100 screens and about 1,800 theaters). As of Wednesday the film had added only an anemic $1.5 million for a total of $9.9 million.

“Just Wright” is the romantic comedy starring Queen Latifah as a physical therapist to Common’s professional basketball player. The lackluster results sure weren’t for lack of good reviews - they have been more positive than not. Publicity-wise, ads for it were all over the tele, and in New York at least print ads were all over town.

Who's to know why the film didn’t do better on its maiden outing, although it is a romantic comedy, which don’t typically open with the kind of slambangpow of, say, an “Iron Man.” Another romantic comedy that also opened last weekend, “Letters to Juliet,” fared worse, though it made more money. To rake in $13.5 million it required some 3,600 screens and 2,968 theaters. Not surprisingly, doing well were two action flicks, box office leader “Iron Man 2” in its second week and “Robin Hood” at second place in its debut with $52 million (10,000 screens/4,390 theaters and $36.1 million (5,700 screens/3,503 locations), respectively.

Yours Truly saw “Just Wright” at its world premiere nearly two weeks ago at the Ziegfeld Theater. (See: http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/05/first-time-out-burning-up-red-carpet.html and http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/05/clair-huxtable-is-shadow-of-her-former.html). However, I decided to wait a week before making any comments.

QL is the Wright of the film’s title. Leslie is the New Jersey Nets No. 1 fan, possessing encyclopedic knowledge of team history. She is also a huge fan of the franchise’s star player, Scott McKnight (Common). Leslie is a regular at Nets home games. She sits contentedly in the cheap seats tricked out in Nets regalia backseat coaching when necessary, which is often. Her godsister and best friend, Morgan Alexander (Paula Patton) has an interest in basketball, too. Morgan’s professional career goal is to be the wife of an NBA player and she also has an encyclopedic knowledge of her sport.

One night after a game, Morgan ditches Leslie to go off with "colleagues" (other aspiring future basketballer wives) to a party thrown by one of the players. Leslie bids her adieu and heads home in her charming little beat-up Mustang. On the way she stops at a service station for gas. While she’s still there Scott rolls up, chattering so animatedly on his mobile phone that he can’t locate the gas tank in his car – is that a Bentley? Leslie comes to the rescue, a conversation ensues, ending with an invitation to an uncoming party that Morgan would steal, kill and destroy to attend.

At the party Leslie introduces Morgan to Scott, who is instantly smitten. Naturally, he doesn’t realize that he is the prey. In double-quick fashion Morgan and Scott are engaged. Life is Nirvana: Scott has the girl of his dreams and Morgan has the lifestyle of her dreams. Do they live happily ever after? You’ll have to see the film to find out.

“Just Wright” surprised me. I didn’t expect much based on the clips I’d seen. My optimism increased, however, when I discovered a few days before the premiere that Debra Martin Chase (“The Princess Diaries,” The Cheetah Girls, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” franchises) is one of the producers. QL has a producing credit, too. What I found most engaging is screenwriter Michael Elliot’s dialogue. It is obvious that he’s spent a lot of time listening to and observing women. The dialogue, particularly between Leslie and Morgan, is witty and smart, with just the right about of sass. In general here, he doesn't pen clunky, awkward and sometimes downright stupid lines that can produce cringes. And having done screenplays for other films with a basketball theme (“Like Mike” and “Like Mike 2: Streetball”), ME likely felt comfortable with this project.

Of course, no matter how good the writing the actors have to deliver the lines convincingly. They bring it, and director Sanaa Hamri (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,” “Something New”) deserves some credit.

QL shines in one of her few good roles since “Chicago.” Often, I don’t find her believable or she is overacting as she did in the dreadful “Bringing Down the House” opposite Steve Martin. Here, one totally buys her as a physical therapist. And she and PP have great chemistry; they’re opposites but their love for each other is palpable. Fresh off her role in “Precious” as a dedicated, no-nonsense teacher in an alternative school for at-risk girls, PP does a delicious comic turn as a selfish, heartless gold-digger.

Those acting lessons that Common’s assistant gave me to know that he is taking are doing well by him. Yet, I wonder how much natural talent he possesses. His was a standout performance as a bodyguard/homey to Jeremy Pivens’ magician in “Smokin’ Aces.” With JP he was menace incarnate; with Alicia Keys’ hitwoman in distress he was virile tenderness. In “Just Wright,” he wears both nobility and vulnerability well.

James Pickens, Jr. (Grey’s Anatomy) as QL’s DIY-challenged father, Pam Grier as her mother and Phylicia Rashad as Common’s mother don’t have much to do, yet work what they have. On balance, "Just Wright" is a funny and delightful entertainment.

My only real quibble with the film is the degree to which the audience has to suspend credulity to accept Common as a star NBA player. Not because of his age because at 38 he can pass for 10 years younger. He was not exactly towering over me when I introduced myself at the premiere party at the Empire Hotel - and I was wearing flats. I'd give him 5'10" at the outside. The producers probably reasoned that height wouldn't carry much weight, sure that audiences would quickly get over it and just enjoy the film. After all, it is not a film about basketball.

“Just Wright” is a perfect date film. Women can have their promise of love and men can have the rush that competitive sports produces in them. Everybody can leave the theater with a smile.

”Just Wright” is rated PG (from some suggestive material and brief language) and is playing nationally.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dresses, Tunics and Ts for a Common Cause

Jayda A. (right) has immediate plans for the tunic. Below in descending order: H&Mer Steve Lubomski is chill in an African-print T-shirt. The headphones may become a neccesary accessory for someone. Jayda A. ponying up at the register. Sagi Lee is a woman who got a good deal in the white tunic, and she knows it. Photos by Daralyn Jay.

Yes, there she is - over there. Her. Today, stylist Jayda A. is on the set of a photo shoot. She’s wearing a b&w drunken-striped cropped blouse with a white fringe detail on the bodice. With it she’s wearing skinny-jean long shorts and red, strappy stiletto sandals. She looks fabulous.

Last night, JA bought the blouse and an animal-print maxi dress with cinched waist and tulip-shaped sleeves. She and hundreds of others, including demi-stars in the
person of Tristan Wilds (“90210”) and Kelly Bensimon (“The Real Housewives of New York City”) were among the few and the proud selected to shop H&M’s third annual Fashion Against Aids Collection.

Like many others, JA dropped by to show her support for a dear cause, plus she needed to make up for a previous lapse. “I actually was supposed to be involved in the walk,” she explains of last week’s AIDS Walk New York.

And why didn’t she take the walk?

“Honey, I don’t want to talk about –…”

“You sprang your ankle,” Yours Truly offers helpfully.

Her eyes light up because she sees an out. “Yes, yes, I sprang my ankle. Yes. That’s exactly what happened.”

JA has done her penance because she plopped down plastic for “some great, great things.”

Of course the blouse is on the set today. But what will become of the dress? “Me and my girlfriend have to go somewhere fabulous, because this dress brings it,” she declares with extreme conviction.

Today, regular folk in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles get to shop for a dress like JA’s or any piece(s) from the collection of clothes, sleeping bags, headphones, tents, accessories and so forth. One doesn't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but couldn't the promotion be worldwide? After all HIV/AIDS is a global concern. Perhaps, next year.

Anywho, shoppers in those three wondrous cities will be shopping to the tune of piped-in music instead of WHITE LIGHTS. Sad, because last night the lucky L.A.-based band that emerged the winner from among thousands in the Fashion Against AIDS Battle of the Bands competition for up-and-comers rocked the joint with riffs/hooks/bangs, helping to turn browsers into shoppers. That goes for Sagi Lee, too, a pretty, young thing straight out of South Korea where she says H&M put down roots only weeks ago. But she has a special jones for the ones in New York.

“H&M in Korea, it’s more expensive,” she explains in charming English. “H&M here, the price is very reasonable, very thrifty, you know.”

SL formed an immediate bond with a white tunic with lace accents ($34 and
change), totally unawares that 25 percent of proceeds from its sale and that of the whole collection will be donated to a plethora of HIV/AIDS awareness projects.
“Yes, yes, I support it,” she smiles. But not until now. Heretofore, HIV/AIDS was not on her radar. “I never met people – you know – who are sick.”

Thanks goes to the friend who invited SL for winning another one over to the Cause.

Visit www.hm.com to learn more about the Fashion Against AIDS collection.

Designer, Entrepreneur, Innovator and now ... Dr.
TEN o’clock Tuesday morning (25 May) at Radio City Music Hall or on the computer parked at www.fitnyc.edu/commencement. Be there.

At the appointed time and the appointed place is the FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) commencement exercises, an important event in and of itself because of all the potential Donna Karans, Malan Bretons and Norma Kamalis.

Because of the latter bold-faced name, the event takes on heightened importance. Reason is Kamali, the incomparable will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. It would probably fit nicely along the wall with the degree in fashion illustration that she brought home from the esteemed fashion school in the ‘60s.

Before (or is it after?) they get that piece of paper, NK, other honorees and future grads will sit through the keynote address of Nina Garcia, fashion director of Marie Claire. No doubt, NG will be less snippy/prickly/snarkey than she is as a “Project Runway” judge. To her credit, though, NG is always instructive, if not constructive.

Doubtless, NK is to be the recipient of such an honor because of several decades of design in the form of the sleeping-bag coat and her role in convincing America that activewear fabrics can be used to make everyday frocks, which are now omnipresent.

One of the trademarks of NK’s career as a designer and businesswoman has been innovation. There is the flexible all-in-one-dress (shown in the ad campaign image above). Today, she is – among other things – exploiting technology that allows consumers to use their mobile phones to buy product displayed right there in the shop window.

Just what the doctor ordered.

Learn more about Norma Kamali at www.normakamalicollection.com; FIT at www.fitnyc.edu.

Awesome 2some: Isn't She Lovely/Isn't He Talented?
SUPER model Ubah Hassan and designer Malan Breton really must take their show on the road. It’s a simple recipe for success: She reaps; he sews.

Women will go ga-ga because they will believe as do the men who buy cars because they convince themselves that the fire-engine red hot rods comes with the super fine chicks posed suggestively on the hood. Women will imagine themselves as the

Ubah Hassan as an ultrachic, beautiful young woman of the world in ensems from the Malan Breton Collection. Photos by Rick Louis.

aspirationally fabulous UH. The women, of course, can simply have MB’s frocks tailored to fit their shorter, wider proportions, producing the desired fabulositiness.

One can do nothing but cheer for MB, for the star of this Tiawanese import has risen to near the stratosphere since he was snipped from the third season of “Project Runway.” Over a hem no less.

But that was then. Now, MB - like fellow "PR" alum Christian Siriano - is a conglomerate: magazine columnist, Web show host, show costumer, judge, author (of a book of photography.)

Oy! the high cost of early failure.

Learn more about the Malan Breton juggernaut at www.malanbreton.com.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Nation Crumbling Under Its Own Weight

Meg Evans, who lost 55 pounds by taking a weight-loss drug called Qnexa, and CNBC reporter Scott Wapner in "One Nation, Overweight." Photo courtesy of www.msnbc.msn.com.

THERE’S a good reason to stay home tonight to watch something on the tele other than "American Idol”: “One Nation, Overweight.”

The CNBC special report uses the statistic from the Centers for Disease Control that two-thirds of U.S. citizens are either overweight or obese to weigh in with its two cents on the nation's No. 1 health problem. That’s two out of three of us, folks.

As Yours Truly has written in these pages before, I hope to make the world a better place by educating everyone who has ears about making healthy food choices that will prevent them from becoming overweight and putting them at risk for myriad health complaints and, premature – and preventable – death.

One Nation, Overweight, which is also available on DVD, should be required family viewing. No new ground is broken here, but overweight/obesity is such an important issue of the day that it is impossible that too much can be said about it until it is eradicated like polio. Correspondent Scott Wapner addresses a number of issues around obesity, including the staggering costs of treating it and how it will bankrupt us as a nation if not brought under control.

And why are we obese and overweight? The obvious answer is because of the foods we choose to eat either out of ignorance or expediency. We are a nation addicted to processed foods, which are largely fast, sugary and laden with chemicals. This is not good for any of us, particularly children who are still growing and developing. Alas, many are afflicted with adult illnesses such as diabetes. One in three children is either overweight or obese, according to the CDC. Not such a surprising stat when one considers the huge volume of unhealthy snacks and soft drinks on sale in vending machines. Ditto for the high-fat foods being served in the school cafeteria.

No doubt, we should be mindful of what we put in our mouths. But are we alone in this responsibility – surely children shouldn’t be expected to make these choices without parental guidance? If processed food is so toxic and costly in the long run why is it on the market? Why do food manufacturers sell this poison – are they doing anything to make it healthier? What is government doing about it? All of these questions are on the table, as are various initiatives that corporations and individuals are undertaking to combat obesity, including literally getting moving.

Regardless of how healthy we eat, to enjoy good health we must also move (read: exercise) as we were created to do.

”One Nation, Overweight” airs at 10 EDT tonight on CNBC; see a schedule of repeats at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37155126/ns/business-cnbc_tv//; purchase the DVD for $19.99 at http://www.nbcuniversalstore.com/detail.php?p=263063&v=cnbc&ecid=PRF-TV2-100768&pa=PRF-TV2-100768.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fashion Scrapbook: POSHness for Everyone

This Manolo Blahnik gold-sequinned pump and the multicolored handbag (bottom photo) from Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B. line are among thousands of items available at the POSH sale through Sunday. As has become customary, the annual benefit sale was preceded by pump and circumstance in the form of "A POSH Affair," a reception and dinner attended by only the poshest, including Lee Radziwill (middle photo). Photos of shoes and handbag courtesy of Lighthouse International. Photo of Mrs. Radziwill by Yours Truly.

HEAD’S UP: Welcome to the debut of “Fashion Scrapbook.” It is to be a several-times monthly digest of goings-on fashion- and beauty-related. While Yours Truly will usually publish Fashion Scrapbook on Thursday – ditto for standalone fashion/beauty stories in general – it may from time to time appear on another day of the week as breaking news dictates.

FASHIONISTAS on a strict money diet can have their Manolos and wear them, too – perhaps to the “Sex in the City 2” premiere later this month. But first, hustle over to Lighthouse International between today and Sunday for your booty.

How’s that? It’s May and it’s time for the POSH sale. Yes, that very fashionable four-day event/benefit through which thousands of designer knick knacks, including new and gently worn clothing, shoes and accessories for women, girls, boys and men are on sale to the hoi polloi for far less then they would cost on a rack, shelf or case in Bergdorf’s.

At 38, POSH is still absolutely fabulous and has loyal friends, including Samantha Jones aka Kim Cattrall, who is certain to attend the “SC 2" premiere. “I have been involved in Lighthouse International’s POSH sale for years. I absolutely love the idea of fashionable philanthropy, shopping for great bargains and helping a truly wonderful organization at the same time.”

Here’s an equal opportunity for all to wear not only authentic Blahnik, but Christian Lacroix, Oscar de la Renta, Rachel Roy, XOXO et al., including Carolina Herrera who was an honoree Tuesday night at the staid kick-off, “A POSH Affair,” in The Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel. Among those in attendance was Lee Radziwill aka kid sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. By the by, LR is incredibly thin (but not at all frail) and, incredibly well-preserved. Pray that we will all look as good if we are fortunate enough to live into our 70s!

New this year at POSH is an online marketplace run by Lighthouse and 1stdibs.com. Here, shoppers outside of New York can shop, too, knowing that a portion of what they spend will go toward Lighthouse’s commendable work, fighting vision loss through prevention, treatment and empowerment. How democratic!

Phone (212) 821-9445 or visit www.poshsale.org to purchase tickets to the Posh sale; learn more about Lighthouse International at www.lighthouse.org and 1stdibs at www.1stdibs.com.

Zac Posen Hits the Mark and Blows a Horn
It's his party, and Zac Posen (left) can toot his horn if he wants to. The dress, below, was a shopper's favorite at the designer's VIP party to celebrate his Zac Posen for Target collection. Zac Posen photo courtesy of Diane Bondareff for Target. Dress photo from Zac Posen for Target lookbook.

THE Zac Posen for Target collection has been in stores a little more than two weeks, and anecdotal evidence suggests that Himself is playing well in Peoria and the rest of Middle America. It has worked for Isaac Mizrahi and others, so why not?

Before the big debut nationwide and before New Yorkers were specially selected to shop the line for 24 hours more than a week before it would open nationwide, ZP threw a VIP shopping party in New York.

Here’s the scene at the New Yorker Hotel, which incidentally one can see from the sky when flying into LaGuardia from points south: the red carpet is unfurled for Maggie Gyllenhaal, Alek Wek, Claire Danes, Selma Blair and other Friends of Zac. Inside they are greeted by “cigar girls” offering masks and party horns, one of which ZP accepts. Champagne (or is that sparkling wine?) is flowing. In front of a backdrop featuring two supermodel types, anyone camera-ready can pose for a picture and it will be put into their eager hands in mere minutes. The Like is burning up the mic and injuring my eardrums. The music is LOUD. The joint is jumping, and commerce is pumping.

Seemingly, everybody is enthralled by the prices – from around $15 to $150. These frocks will be appearing in Target after all.

“I love them," Mrs. Furstenberg (no relation to Diane Von) says of the pieces in the collection. “They are just like his regular line, only cheaper so that regular people can afford them.”

Mrs. F is making her way to the cash/credit/debit register instead of the dressing room with a floral dress and other garments. “Oh, I don’t need to try them on. If something doesn’t fit me, it will fit my daughter,” she says confidently. Mrs. F., incidentally, has a six-degrees-of-separation-type relationship with ZP: “I am here because he went to the same school as my daughter and my nephew’s cousin is his best friend,” or some such.

The garments – mostly dresses – do bear Zaconian cuts and flourishes: Sexy, edgy, feminine, florals, ruffles and folds that a mother and daughter would/could wear. An early crowd favorite is a navy military-style dress for $69.99 that will flatter every reasonable figure. Even I almost open my wallet to buy one – then I remember my money diet. Mrs. F has one, so does the fashion reporter I encounter while I am leering at it. And the British comic who won entry into the shopping event through a promotion is cuddling one protectively under her right arm. “I just love it,” she fairly gushes. “It won’t show too much and will make me look slimmer.”

And so it will.

The Zac Posen for Target collection is available nationwide.

From Russia, Some Things That Cinch and Sashay

Something long from Lidia Amirova (left) and a little inspiration from the MTA strike from Nina Vishneva (below). Photos courtesy of Manhattan Automobile Company.

LIKE in Paris and London – and perhaps to a lesser extent Hong Kong – the population of New York is a microcosm of the world. Some members of just about every ethnic group from just about every part of the world calls Gotham home. Aware of this distinction, the city conceived New York Immigrant Heritage Week and has been celebrating the city’s rich diversity for seven years.

Last month, the week that “honors the vibrant immigrant cultures, heritages and communities found in every corner of the City” jumped off with the Russians, and they were not serving vodka – at least not during the program. The centerpiece was
another Russian import – fashion. Lidia Amirova, who
semi-famously appeared as a contestant on “The Fashion Show,” Bravo’s “Project Runway” replacement,” was on a roster with several designers who used the backdrop of the Manhattan Automobile Company to showcase their collections.

Word on the avenue is that the Russians have sartorial swagger.

Learn more about Lidia Amirova at http://www.lidiaamirova.com/; other Russian designers who showed their collections at http://www.russianamericanfoundation.org, and New York Immigrant Heritage Week at http://www.nyc.gov/html/imm/html/home/home.shtml.

Underneath It All Is a Story About Shoes
Michael Saab shows off his back after he rises from his bed of nails, which he holds overhead. Eric Ckacoura (below) sits contentedly on his throne. Photos by Yours Truly.

A shirtless young man wearing sunglasses is lying suspended off the floor. A closer inspection reveals that he is resting on a bed of nails. He is deathly still, but alive.

I walk around him, staring at this curiosity. Just as I recover from one strange sight my gaze falls on a head of broccoli-cauliflower or broccoflower on a nearby table. And sitting on an inflated throne-like chair is what appears to be a man dressed in a … what is he wearing? – not quite a drag queen, not quite a circus clown. But there is a clown gadabouting.

This is not a dream. Or nightmare. It is the press preview of Camper’s Fall-Winter 2010 collection of men's, women’s and children’s shoes. To make the point that its shoes are very comfortable. And that its shoes are hybrids and unisex and so on, the brand whose name means peasant in Spain where it is based, doesn’t simply tell us.

It’s much more interesting, for instance to ask singer/dancer/performer Eric Ckacoura to dress in an androgynous colorful get-up to showcase a lace-up unisex boot that is designed - as is the entire collection - using interesting technologies and recycling methods. And which were brought to the world, creating the smallest carbon footprint possible. “I call it my ringmaster outfit,” explains EC, who discloses that he had in mind the circus as he was conceiving his ensemble. Though a strong counterpoint to his outfit, the boot also complements it, so much so that EC would like to walk out with his comfortable booty.

In the Camper high top his feet are comfortable, too, says Michael Saab aka the man lying on the nails. But his back ... When I met him he’d been lying on the nails for about an hour. “I meditate and it doesn’t hurt so much,” explains the performance artist who also eats fire and crawls into large latex balloons. He is using the experiment/experience as an endurance test.

Why not just throw some releases at the press, show us the collection and send us on our way? Why this? “I wanted to do something fun, that would be memorable,” says Kevin Giss, public relations ace and the brains behind the bazaar.

After he rises from his bed of nails nearly two hours later, MS gives me to know that his mind was on things above. “I thought about Jesus and how much worse it must have been nailed to a cross,” says the professed Christian.

Now that it is finished he’s going to have some sushi.

Incidentally, the Camper fall-winter 2010 collection, including the spawn from Camper collaborations with Veronique Branquinho and other artistic types, will begin arriving in stores in August.

Learn more about Camper at www.camper.com; learn more about Michael Saab at www.michaelsaab.com.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Celebrating a Humble Man and a Master Painter

Henry Darger's work: "Untitled (Two Girls and a Dog Sitting in Garden)" from Collection American Folk Art Museum, © Kiyoko Lerner. Photo by Gavin Ashworth. Center photo of "Untitled (Ornate Interior with Multiple Figures of Girls and Blengins)" from Collection American Folk Art Museum, © Kiyoko Lerner. Photo by James Prinz. Patti Smith photo at bottom courtesy of Edward Mapplethorpe.

WONDER what the man himself would make of all the fuss the American Folk Art Museum is making over him?

The institution that bills itself as the “home to the largest repository of artworks by Henry Darger” last month celebrated the anniversary of HD’s 118th birthday with the opening of the exhibition “The Private Collection of Henry Darger,” which includes collages not on public view until now. And in the guise of a fundraiser, the museum continues the celebration Saturday night at Espace with a party that includes a Patti Smith performance and an aerial show by Cirque-tacular Entertainment.

“The American Folk Art Museum board long wanted to present a benefit that would appeal to younger and hipper donors,” museum director Maria Ann Conelli (MAC) explained via e-mail. “They've known for a long while the special place Henry Darger’s art occupies in their collection.”

One suspects that HD might be intensely embarrassed by all of the attention, mortified that his work is even in a museum. After all, this master painter and arguably the biggest name in Outsider Art was a menial laborer who up until his death kept his masterpieces-to-be in the room he rented in a Chicago boarding house.

Yet, a miniscule part of such a humble, unassuming soul might also be just a touch flattered by such grand gestures. The art world in general – and the world at large – is a better place, thanks to the massive discovery by HD’s landlords 37 years ago.

MAC concurs: “When Henry Darger died in 1973 at the age of 81, he left behind an astonishing cache of art all largely unseen. The trove included massive multi-volume illustrated manuscripts, double-sided 9-foot long scroll-like watercolor, photo enlarged tracings and hundreds of sketches. Depicting a turbulent world, the works are the product of the fertile imagination of a reclusive Chicago janitor who has since been recognized as one of the supreme self-taught artists of the 20th century.”

Figuring prominently in HD’s coloring-book style work are children, particularly little girls, having fun or rising above the forces of evil bent on their destruction. This is especially true of his 15,000-plus page magnum opus, "The Story of the Vivian Girls, in what is known as the Realms of the Unreal."

Why this preoccupation? No one knows for certain, though theories abound. Is it so surprising from someone who lost a newborn sister to adoption after their mother died shortly after giving birth? He would also spend time in a boys home when his father fell ill and would be institutionalized after his father’s death.
In “Henry Darger: In the Realms of the Unreal” ( New York: Delano Greenidge Editions), biographer John MacGregor quoted his subject as asserting that children should have an inalienable right "to play, to be happy, and to dream, the right to normal sleep of the night's season, the right to an education, that we may have an equality of opportunity for developing all that are in us of mind and heart."

MAC believes part of HD’s appeal to fans as diverse as David Bowie, Mary-Kate Olsen and Natalie Merchant is that he approached his art with childlike imagination, brio and a hint of mystery. "There’s so much we don't know about Darger," she says. “Henry Darger created a fantasy world through his writings and cinema-like paintings.”

On Saturday night at Espace, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Betsey Johnson, Jeff Koons and other expected guests will no doubt be encouraged to visit the museum by 19 Sept. to view “The Private Collection of Henry Darger.” Pieces in the exhibit that MAC says merit special attention are “Only Trees, Trees not Bees,” “Sister Have You forgotten What We Stand For,” “To Err is Human” and “Let your Beauty be Seen.” She describes them as “four of his enigmatic titles.”

Purchase tickets to the benefit evening for the American Folk Art Museum by contacting Katie Hush at (212)-977-7170, Ext.: 308 or khush@folkartmuseum.org. Tickets can also be purchased at www.folkartmuseum.org. Also visit this Web site to learn more about the work of Henry Darger, including “The Private Collection of Henry Darger.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nature’s Alarm Clock Has Beautiful Melody

Pictured above is the Northern Cardinal, middle photo Tufted Titmouse and bottom photo Carolina Chickadee. Cardinal photo from www.songbirdgarden.com; Titmouse photo from www.animalpicturesarchive.com, and Chickadee photo from www. .org/microsites/education/trek.


HEAD’S UP: Yours Truly returned to Gotham from North Louisiana several weeks ago and am happy to report that my mother, who was very ill when I arrived in early February, is recovering nicely. I’m no longer in my homeland, but there are still plenty of stories to tell from my time there. It is my hope to share them over the next few months, with a dateline of MISSIVE FROM MONROE. And so the missives start with the birds.

MISSIVE FROM MONROE – ONE morning in the opening days of March it was so early that it was still dark. I was awakened by piercing noises of the beeps and chirps variety. Immediately, I checked my mobile phone to make sure my battery hadn’t died. Then checked the landline phone and then the Lifeline box in my late aunt’s sitting room.

I couldn’t find the source of the noise until I quieted down. And then it hit me: It was birds! Not of the Alfred Hitchcock species, but the kind that hang out in heavily treed areas.

Often in New York – as was the case this morning around 6 – I am awakened by garbage trucks. In the few weeks since I returned from Monroe I have also been shaken awake by sirens, blaring horns, the buzz of car engines and ConEd service trucks. This noise pollution is a jarring change from those symphonies that gently nudged me out of my slumber many mornings in March and April.

Lying there listening to the birds one morning I became curious about who exactly they were, so I contacted the Northeast LA Bird Club for some answers.

“Depending on where you are, you could be hearing different birds,” club president Joan Brown gives me to know via e-mail. “When I leave for work, I'm hearing Northern Cardinals, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, House Finches, House Sparrows, Blue Jays, Mockingbirds, and sometimes Martins.”

JB also gives me to know that most are local, except for the Martins. “These birds have been here all along … Some of the migratory birds are beginning to come in now, like the Martins. They usually show up in late January or early February. Some of the other breeding birds begin showing up in mid March and the migration continues until mid to late May,” she says of the visitors that will stay until anywhere from July to October before they set off for southern locales such as Mexico and South America.

“In the spring, some of the birds that pass through this area are on their way farther north. They stop to ‘fuel up’ as they go on their journey,” says JB. "As the leaves come out on the trees, worms and caterpillars come along to eat the leaves and the birds come along to eat the worms and caterpillars. This is a very important food for the birds as they are traveling through the area.”

And one imagines they must also need the fuel to harmonize. The melodies are so beautiful that one can only hope the birds are in a really good mood, but their songs serve a number of purposes. One function is to mark their territory. Humans have e-mail/instant messaging/phone/text and so on to keep in touch. Birds, on the otherhand, use songs to reach out to their “peeps,” especially during the winter. And is it any surprise they use them for courting? “Once the weather warms up, the hormones start flowing and the birds start singing for mates,” JB says. “During the winter, the birds have been slowly getting their new, bright plumage,” and it is the males like the Northern Cardinal that are the brightest and most vivid.

Like humans, birds have different character traits. Chickadees are curious like me and Cardinals are shy like my young cousin who lives across the street. They also have different eating habits. Titmice and Chickadees fetch and eat one seed at a time, then fetch and eat and so on until they get their fill. Blue Jays, however, stuff as many seeds as possible in their beaks, spit them out, then eat them one at a time. Mockingbirds don’t usually eat seeds, “but I have seen them sit at a feeder and swallow as many seeds as they could hold,” JB asserts.

Many mornings I lay awake listening to the birds – and it is morning when they are most full of song. They taper off in late morning toward noon and then often ramp it up in the evening. By night most are done for the day and go to bed in trees – evergreens especially – as they do during their daily siesta. When it’s really hot, JB says, “I have seen birds up in a tree, resting next to the trunk ... Not many birds roost in a box or hole in a tree."

But what are they singing? Is it something along the lines of Barry White’s “Playing Your Game, Baby?” Or something by Seal or Sting? Alas, most birders don’t know exactly what they are saying, concedes JB. “Birds have so many songs that they sing at different times. Every time I think I've heard all of a bird's song, I hear another one that I haven't heard before.”

I don’t know what the birds are singing about, nor does JB. But wildlife biologist Les Beletsky thinks he does. He writes as much in one of his many books on birds, "Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song" (Becker&Mayer). Loons, for instance, do most of their singing at night but do occasionally break out in tremolos during the day, LB contends, if humans or others disturb the peace.

What is more commonly known about birds is that males do most of the singing, “but there are several species of female birds who also sing," JB explains. “Female Cardinals and Tanagers will sing. All birds have what are called 'chip' calls. These can be used to keep in contact with the group, as a warning to other birds that danger is near. Or just for the heck of it!"

Is there any better reason to break out in song?

"Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song" is available (at presstime)in hardcover at amazon.com for as low as $10.22; learn more about the Northeast LA Bird Club at http://www.birdlouisiana.com/index.php?option=com_sobi2&sobi2Task=sobi2Details&catid=2&sobi2Id=16&Itemid=99999999

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

First Time Out, Burning Up Red Carpet Just So

Gina Taylor Pickens and friend; Fabrizio (middle photo), and Debra Martin Chase (bottom) last night at the world premiere of "Just Wright" at the Ziegfeld Theater. Photos by Elisabeth Trydal Andersen.

I see her just as I turn facing the street to see who’s coming up behind the press corps. A handsome, unassuming woman wearing a gold African print maxi dress, a hue darker than her skin. Her hair … her hair is a brilliant silver and styled in twists that extend to near the middle of her back. A few others around me notice her, too, and behold. It’s the hair and how it contrasts with skin and dress. She walks directly behind us over to the front entrance of the Ziegfeld Theater. She is on our left flank, staring straight ahead. I’m looking over at her, discreetly I hope. Yours Truly has to say something, and off I go.

I introduce myself and get right down to business. “I love your hair.”

“Thank you, she says.”

I cannot take my eyes off these beautiful silver locks that are sparkling like diamonds. “You didn’t color your hair, did you?

“No. I turned grey in my 20s.”

Folks, if you want to grey, this is the way to do it.

Her name is Gina Taylor Pickens. She is my first interview in my debut as a red-carpet journalist. She is also the wife of James Pickens, Jr., whom I discover that I do not know by name because I neglect to watch Grey’s Anatomy. But I do know him by face because I do not neglect to watch “Grey’s Anatomy” promos. Anywho, the occasion is the world premiere of the romantic comedy, “Just Wright, starring Queen Latifah, Common et al., including JP,Jr.

GTP is waiting patiently and contentedly for Himself to wrap red-carpet interviews before they vanish inside to see the fruit of his labor. Is “Just Wright” his largest role or one of the largest? She doesn’t have a clue. “You know he’s done a lot of stuff; he’s been in the business a long time,” she explains. "I will say – again I am not sure because he never discusses his business. That’s why we have such a successful marriage ... I get to experience his work as everyone else does.”

In other words, she lets him do his thing and the man she said she wishes she could clone returns the favor. GTP is retired – from what, this Cleveland girl opts not to disclose, but it’s not in the arts. However, she works hard in her church. She also travels and cooks. Cooks? Cooks what? “Everything.”

And when I give her to know in answer to her question that I eat just about everything, as long as it’s good, whole food, she gives me to know that she “sometimes” cooks thusly. “If it’s a holiday I have to go straight soul food.”

I assert that soul food can be good, whole food. She doesn’t argue the point, and our conversation turns to travel. She and JP,Jr. are straight out of Greater L.A. for the next two weeks, including a few more days in Gotham where he will take care of “Just Wright" business. The former New Yorker has her agenda, too. “I’m gonna hook up with some dear friends I haven’t seen,” she said, including, I discover when I return to ask GTP another question, Jennifer X, a woman from my gym and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week with whom I’m friendly. If the world gets any smaller, somebody is gonna have to move.

But I digress, GTP also plans to put on some walking shoes and “experience New York. Go to the museum. I want to see the King Tut exhibit … and just, you know, and just have a thrilling experience here ... I love coming to New York.”

And New York loves having you, GTP as it does Fabrizio who without doubt is rockin’ one of the largest ’fros on the planet. “Nobody likes to sit behind me because of my hair,” says the F-man who does a lot of cameo work in “Just Wright” alone the lines of “ah!”

Meanwhile, when I learned that Debra Martin Chase is a producer of “Just Wright,” I was certain that I would probably like it. I wasn’t wrong, but more on that closer to its national release on 14 May. Along with Phylicia Rashad see (“Clair Huxtable Is a Shadow of Her Former Self” below), DMC is the person I most want to jaw with. I’ve been fascinated by this brilliant sister since I “met” her on TV in the middle of one night in 2008 when I would have rather been sleeping.


There she was on BET, explaining how she went from Harvard to Hollywood. As a producer, she's behind "The Pelican Brief," "The Preacher's Wife," as well as franchises, including "The Princess Diaries," "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," and "The Cheetah Girls," etc.

Fast forward a year and some, and she is imparting to me sound, succinct advice around my own Hollywood aspirations. She also discusses how she became involved in “Just Wright.” “Well, I tell you, this is seven years ago,” she explains, Seven. “Queen Latifah came to me - and ideally the writers - and she wanted to do a romance set against the backdrop of the NBA. So we developed the script and here we are on the red carpet.”

That’s show business, folks!

Clair Huxtable Is a Shadow of Her Former Self

A svelte Phylicia Rashad on the red carpet at the Ziegfeld Theater for the world premiere of her latest film, "Just Wright." Photo by Elisabeth Trydal Andersen.

BACK in the ‘80s just about every female I knew wanted to be a mother like Clair Huxtable, and everybody wanted a mother like CH.

Phylicia Rashad will always be the character that made her a superstar on the uber successful “The Cosby Show.” Regardless of any other TV show. Or Broadway play or Tony or Tony award nomination. Or movie role such as the one she plays in “Just Wright” as baskebetball player Common’s protective mother.

Of course, she’s Phylicia: beautiful, bold, brilliant and a belle who was raised right, which Yours Truly has witnessed. It happened during the after-after party at the gorgeous Gramercy digs of George C. Wolfe. This is the night of the Broadway opening of the all-black version of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in which she starred as “Big Momma” opposite James Earl Jones’ “Big Daddy.” It’s nearing 4 a.m., and the fabulous party is now winding down. There I am chatting to a knot of people when I look up to see Herself cleaning and clearing the table. After a hard night’s work she is not too high in the instep to do some basic chores.

That image is emblazoned in my psyche. PR will always have my great admiration for that lone, telling act. This is who I believe PR is in large part, just as she is a wonderful actress who transforms herself in every role, including as a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig.

In our little tête-à-tête on the red carpet last night before the world premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater (See “The First Time Out, Burning Up the Red Carpet” above) of “Just Wright,” also starring Queen Latifah, Paula Patton (“Precious”) and James Pickens, Jr. (Grey’s Anatomy), we do not talk what she is wearing – “Clothes,” she replies in double-quick fashion to at least two questioners within earshot. No, we discuss how she came to be feeling as good as she is looking - with her skinny self.

Why did you decide to do Jenny Craig?
Oh. I needed to do that. I had gotten overweight and was feeling guilty … I walked up three flights of stairs that I was accustomed to walking up. But when I got to the top of them one day I couldn’t breathe. And I had done enough work with the National Diabetes Association and other health care companies to know that walking up three flights of stairs and not being able to breathe is not a good thing.

How much have you lost?
40 [pounds].
Yea!

How much more do you want to lose?
I think I’m OK.

Tell me what you’re eating now that you weren’t eating before that’s helping?
I don’t know … I’m eating the same foods that I ate; I’m eating them differently.

How so?
I watch the portion size. I count the calories. And I monitor the number of times and instances throughout the day in which I eat and, I get lots of sleep.

What is your exercise regimen right now?
Well, I like the recumbent bike. I’m very fond of the recumbent bike. You can ride that bike and get that good cardio workout without stretching your organs by sitting on top of your legs like that. So I like that. And I like doing a little big of weightlifting. Not a lot, just enough to keep your arms firm ... I love sitting in the sauna.
Thank you.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Winner Cannot Believe His Good Fortune

Jabu Sibisi as the lead in “Father Christmas Doesn't Come Here.” Below, director Bheki Sibiya and co-screenwriter Sibongile Nkosana smile over their lunch at the Tribeca Press Center. Top photo by Jennifer Wheatley courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival; bottom photo by Elisabeth Trydal Andersen.


LIKE Chris Rock's Good Hair, Bheki Sibiya's latest film addresses a black female image issue. However, unlike CR with “Good Hair,” which observes the stresses that some black women – and I cannot express some enough – endure for long, flowing tresses i.e., chemical relaxers and weaves, BS never seems to make fun of his subject in “Father Christmas Doesn’t Come Here.”

The 14-minute film won the Best Narrative Short prize (which includes $5,000 and a ton of Kodak film stock) during the awards ceremony a few days ago at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. The South African director, actor, cinematographer and producer uses a little girl's (Jabu Sibisi) most fervent desire to have long, straight hair as a commentary on the larger issue of how Africans in general struggle with images of beauty and acceptability in a world ruled by Europeans.

The jury said of the film: “The jury was unanimous in its enthusiasm for the winning film. It is an assured, original, and profoundly moving film, which perfectly executes its aims and is buoyed by a remarkable performance by its lead actor. The director of this film consistently foregoes sentimentality in favor of subtle debunking of myths based on culture. His frames are urgently alive with telling details. This film announces a persuasive and deeply human directorial vision, one rich with authenticity and insight. It is a film of resilience and hope.”

Yours truly had the pleasure and sheer good luck to meet and chat with BS the day after his triumph. In the spirit of Vanity Fair’s (one of my favorite mags) Proust Questionnaire, following are some of his (and an assist from one of his screenwriters) musings:

What inspired the film?
It comes from – we were doing a documentary, me and my co-partner. We were doing a documentary about hair. And then, to me as a director, I think it comes from within me because I grew up as a very, very fat guy, so I couldn’t associate or play around because I could not get good friends, you know, because I was big fat guy. I was always fat. So it’s that emotional thing, is that who do I become essentially. Do I accept myself or do I allow them to accept me before I accept myself? The whole theme is about me.

What is the moral of the story?
The lesson of the movie is about more blacks accepting who we are as African people, that this short hair is not bad because someone looks less on us. It’s about who we are in terms of the coloring … What does acceptance mean? What does it say about the Chinese – all these different cultures … What does African really mean.

Why did you submit to Tribeca?
Immediately, when we finished shooting the film, we submitted to the Tri Continental Film Festival that is held in South Africa, and won [Best Short Film] there, so during that time we said, ‘You know what, let’s just throw it to all the festivals that can … able to push it.’ And there was Tribeca …

Where are you showing after Tribeca?
Screenwriter Sibongile Nkosana:It might be the Durban [International] Film Festival in South Africa.

Had you only shown in South Africa before Tribeca?
Yeah, yeah.

Are you based in Jo’burg?
Yes. Jo’burg, yes.

Where are you in the distribution process?
Hmmm …

Do you remember what went through your head at the awards ceremony when they called out your name and the name of your film?
You know coming from South Africa. In South Africa, we are still like … babies when it comes to film. I mean, to be quite honest with you we did not even think that we were gonna win. I mean, because all different countries – in France, from Hungary –there was no way we were gonna win but when they told us that we’d won … Like I would never even believe this today. It's an amazing experience. We are most grateful to do more in terms of different stories that we can give to be shared with the world.

Would you like the film to show around the world?
Definitely, definitely.

“Father Christmas Doesn't Come Here” has a screening on the bill, "Shorts: Between the Lines," at 6 p.m. today at Tribeca Cinemas. Visit www.tribecafilm.com for all Tribeca Film Festival information and venues.
 
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