Tonight I watched “September Issue“, the documentary about the creation of Vogue magazine’s legendary annual coffee-table buster of an issue in 2007, usually made up of 500-700 pages of fashion and advertising. Of course, it featured legendary editrix Anna Wintour (and the sublime Grace Coddington, whose vision I’d much rather see on paper). Anna famously served as the inspiration for Meryl Streep’s icy “Miranda Priestly” in “The Devil Wears Prada”, and as the documentary began there was a palpable air of “Ooo, girl, she is the numbah one queen bee diva bitch! Ooo you have to watch how you step when you’re dealing with her! Ooo she is fierce!” etc etc etc.
Considered alongside the rapturous adoration of the behavior of Streep’s “Miranda Priestly” character, this kind of worshipful attitude shown women famous for being dragon-ladies inspired me to share a magic secret with everyone: People like Anna Wintour or “Miranda Priestly” have exactly as much power as you attribute to them, and not an iota more. If you stop caring which pictures of shoes she likes, then she becomes just another old lady with a weirdly perfect hair cut. This goes for almost anyone you’re afraid of in your life, so write it down.
I’m not saying AW isn’t amazing at her job. But I bristle at being told who to fear and respect. In this case, unless you aspire to a career in that most ephemeral and (at best) art-adjacent thing known as the business of fashion, then being afraid of someone like the “Pope” of fashion is ridiculous to me.
I am never going to work at Vogue. I am never going to be a high fashion model. I am never going to spend $20,000 on a purse or a dress. Any art I ever have or wear will probably be something made by myself or my brilliant, underground, artistic friends. Any success I ever have will always come at great personal cost, in spite of the efforts of the majority of society, and it will be the imperfect, quirky, outsider kind of success that people like Anna Wintour will never value. So who cares how AW likes her fucking coffee? Not me.
Now, “Anna Wintour” isn’t a name to which I ever really gave any thought… this little piece of writing really isn’t about her or any name in particular. It’s about rejecting the idea that respect and fear should happen unconsidered. Perhaps that idea goes back to being raised to believe that I should respect and fear a god for whom I had never seen any indication or proof in real life. I suppose I need a little more than someone else’s word before I believe certain things nowadays.
And must one be rude to be successful? It just seems so terribly unnecessary. Ugh.
Aside from rejecting the idea that I need to fear and jump for people who have zero impact on my life, the documentary reminded me how gross conspicuous consumerism can be. Even after having rejected most every other tenet of my difficult religious upbringing, I still feel revulsion at images of people buying or showing off purchases for the sake of the label or price. “September Issue” presented me with an entire tale of grotesque vulgarians clothing the corporeal vessels for their souls (?) in calculated bits of art, taken out of the hands of the artists and sealed into little rectangular photographs to be arranged like refrigerator magnets on a whiteboard and sold to empty climbers. It was so gross… Andre Leon Talley’s horrible diamond watch and the ubiquitously boring Louis Vuitton accessories on the tennis court were the pinnacle of revolting for me. “Look at me! LOOK AT ME!” Honestly, put that crap away and exercise, if that’s what you’re there for.
I grew up relatively poor, and at the same time we were actively taught to reject clothing with conspicuous labeling. Jeans and shoes and shirts emblazoned with the names of designers and brands were seen as “vain”, and although I am a world away from that childhood mindset now I still prefer not to wear someone else’s name as my own personal style. Do they make a Chanel purse that doesn’t say “Chanel” on it? Probably not, alas. Not that I could afford one anyway!
Many people don’t realize that my song, “Stunning“, is making FUN of vanity… something that always cracks me up. I DO want beautiful things, but mostly because they are beautiful and fun. I don’t care who makes them.
As a fringe sub-lebrity, I’ve been attending events in Hollywood that take red carpet photos since 2002, so unfortunately there is a record of the “looks” I’ve worn to them, and especially in the first six years or so you’ll see that I’m either wearing something home-made or something that doesn’t really work. My hair was just awful, and my makeup rarely suited to the specific requirements of the red carpet camera. I could have used a stylist (some budding Grace Coddington II?) and may have benefitted from studying a few issues of Vogue. But I’ll never join anyone in trembling before Anna Wintour or other manufactured gods.
I now know people in real life who have real, living appreciations for fashion, glamour and beauty and though I will never “fear” or “revere” them, I will most certainly try to learn what I can from them. Here are things that I consider worthy goals for me in the realm of the aesthetic: Feeling and looking pretty, and wearing clothes that make me feel glamorous, beautiful and exciting. I think that can be done without ever dealing with Anna Wintour or Andre Leon Talley or anyone who drags a profusion of Louis Vuitton bags and diamond watches to their tennis lesson. Not that they were offering me their time, anyway, ha ha. I guess it all works out perfectly, which life has a way of doing sometimes, if you just let it.