In Death, Karl Lagerfeld Will Be Remembered For His Shortcomings As Well As His Ground-Breaking Successes

Black blazers, black gloves, a silver ponytail and dark glasses are all things that many will think of when they hear the name Karl Lagerfeld. The German designer who during his career was the Creative Director of Chanel, as well as Fendi and his own eponymous label has sadly died at the age of 85.

His career spanned decades, with him being arguably, more iconic than Coco Chanel herself. Lagerfeld’s status over the years has been made clear through the respect he has received from the fashion community. During fashion week, a picture with Karl Lagerfeld is worth a thousand ‘double taps’ and the sheer number of models, actresses and muses who share a picture of themselves and the designer speaks volumes for the admiration many have for him. The career of Lagerfeld is one that will be difficult to outdo, his personal style as iconic as the designs he has overseen for Chanel.

However, as with anyone who has been in the public eye, Lagerfeld has not gone through his career without a few scandals. To name but a few, he claimed that Kim Kardashian’s Paris robbery was her own fault, and publicly called Meryl Streep cheap. But there have also been more serious reports of Karl Lagerfeld’s intolerance; for example, intolerance for women with fuller figures and intolerance of Islam. In 2017, the French equivalent of Ofcom received complaints after Lagerfeld appeared on French television saying ‘Muslim migrants are an affront to holocaust victims.’ His claims came after he explained he doesn’t think Muslims should be welcomed in Germany, a country which treated Jewish people so badly, despite the fact that decades have passed since the events of the second World War. His comments, rightly, sparked outrage amongst viewers of the French show and within the wider global community once the news got out.

Similarly, his comments on curvier women were unwanted and criticised. It’s an issue which has plagued the fashion industry since what feels like the beginning of time but in this era of inclusivity, Lagerfeld’s comments have no place. In 2008 he was quoted as saying: “No one wants to see curvy women. You’ve got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly.” Later, in 2012, while acting as a guest editor for the Paris edition of Metro, Lagerfeld served an almighty backhand at Adele saying: “She is a little too fat, but she has a beautiful face and a divine voice.” Lagerfeld’s intolerance for women of a certain size was not of this time, with inclusivity now being a hot topic in the fashion world.

Of course, Karl Lagerfeld’s shortcomings do not lessen the extreme sadness of his death, both to those who knew him and to the fashion community. However, it certainly highlights the things he got wrong in his life alongside his amazing successes. If anything, it makes the fashion icon seem a little more human and a little less ethereal.

Dozens of celebrities have posted tributes to the designer, who has had many famous muses over the years. English singer Lily Allen said: “You made me feel like a princess” whilst editor-in-chief of Elle magazine Nina Garcia tweeted: “He lived one hundred lives and his creative brain was always looking at the future instead of looking at the past.” While this is true in terms of his designs, Lagerfeld’s opinion on some topics were clearly rooted in the past. Nevertheless, a great man was lost. If the tributes for him flooding in, are anything to go on, the lives Lagerfeld touched and kindness he exhibited to many throughout his career cannot be downplayed and he will be sorely, sorely, missed.

[Originally published on The Huffington Post 20/02/19]

Why the rise of the 'YouTube Boyfriend' is changing stereotypical gender roles

A few years ago, the world was made privy to the rise of the ‘Instagram Husband’, a viral video poking fun at the husbands and boyfriends who will go to extremes to get that perfect shot for their Instagram famous partners. Instagram famous enough, that they can make a living out of documenting their lifestyle on social media. Recently though, a slightly different trend has come to fruition and that is the rise of the ‘YouTube Boyfriend’.

At a time when the entertainment industry is pushing for female empowerment the ‘YouTube Boyfriend’ is the guy behind the scenes, editing the videos, making cameos here and there and helping to bring the brand to life. A few notable examples include Scottish makeup vlogger Jamie Genevieve and her fiancée Jack, as well as ‘In the Frow’ Victoria Magrath and her fiancée Alex. These couples are running empires together, getting work done, travelling the world and creating engaging content as they go. Similarly, there’s Busy Bee Carys, a UK fitness and lifestyle vlogger and Laura Lee, a makeup vlogger from across the pond who amongst others, rely heavily on their content creator boyfriends to help them with filming and editing their pictures and videos.

Obviously, the women are the main attraction, they are the entrepreneurs and the face of their own brand. But credit where it’s due, the men like Jack and Alex supporting these women are the unsung heroes of the YouTube generation, literally putting their girlfriends on a pedestal, taking Instagram worthy photos, flying drones to get the best shot for the vlog and accepting the fact that despite it not being their own YouTube channel, the most prominent and important moments of their life will be documented all in the name of content.

Have these couples got it all? Jamie Genevieve’s latest vlog has been filmed in Sri Lanka with ‘In the Frow’ traveling recently to Dubai and the Alps. They work together as partners, but can we really call it work? Their sponsorship deals mean they have to travel together to film abroad, staying in hotels and being sent freebies from makeup and clothing brands alike. In fact, the men behind the cameras Alex and Jack have 52.6 and 64.5 thousand Instagram followers respectively, certainly enough of a platform to branch out and create their own personal brand. So, why don’t they?

It’s simple. They’re putting their partners first. They recognise that these female social media influencers are driving their own brand, and they don’t mind working both with and for them.

Let it be clear that this is not a patronising attempt at highlighting the progressiveness of the social media generation. In fact, it’s a celebration of the fact that there seems to be an often-unnoticed equality in the partnerships between these influencer couples. However, if we look a little closer there is a modern feminism behind it all which is refreshing, and I’ll say it, still unusual in the industry they’re in, which let’s face it, is entertainment. This level of equality is inspiring and pretty rare in its innocence. The couples aren’t making a statement about what it is to be equal, they just are.

If the rise of YouTube boyfriend doesn’t say a lot about how concepts of gender roles are changing, then I don’t know what does. Here are men willing to not only work alongside and sometimes under their women, not least because it means they get to work together, using each other’s talents and creating a partnership where they both come out on top.  

[Originally published on the Huffington Post UK 30/1/19]


Clickbait Stalemate: Has technology ruined what it means to be a celebrity?

We’re all guilty of lusting over designer gowns, saving up for to-die-for shoes and obsessing over gorgeous bags worn by our favourite stars. Good looks, great wardrobes and fantastic lives all just seem to be wrapped up in one neat package that is: celebrity. The selfies, the red carpet photographs and the candid paparazzi shots show our favourite stars in every way possible. But as I pour over the style sections and scroll through Instagram, I can’t help but notice something missing from these pictures and I find myself asking; have we lost the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood?

Marilyn Monroe, a style icon to women and girls the world over was an enigma to many save from the seldom printed news stories about her private life. The Beatles, at one time, the most famous men on the planet, didn’t have their daily routines and family lives splashed across the internet for the world to gawp over. In fact, there was no internet, there were no digital cameras or smartphones and there was certainly no snapchat.

The mystery and magic surrounding movie stars of days gone by is to some extent without comparison in today’s Hollywood and the red carpets are somewhat less renowned than they were previously. There is less magic in the air at the MET Gala because there is less mystery behind how the sirens of film and television are so darn beautiful. Snapchatting the ‘glam’ experience has thrown any possibility of that in the recycle bin.

In today’s world, technology is everything. It’s everywhere and it’s all seeing. Celebrities really are just like us which we know from the constant coverage of their public and more disturbingly, their private lives, in tabloids and online. The most recent and transparent coverage of celebrities has come in the form of social media. The Kardashian’s attempts to document their every experience on their Snapchat stories has opened up a whole new connection between celebrity and fans and it seems the only way to stay relevant is by mass amounts of oversharing.

We’ve come to expect this from reality television personalities and the like, but now even our most celebrated Hollywood A-Listers are having their painful private lives laid bare in the name of knowledge and entertainment, albeit, not through choice. Brangelina’s divorce has led to mass speculation over whether Brad Pitt is a fit father, as well as their court proceedings being dissected by the tabloids. But weren’t they untouchable? Hollywood royalty? The way their relationship came to be would suggest that they are more suited to public news coverage than many of their Hollywood counterparts. However, their revere in their field led us to believe that they were above the scrutiny of the common press.

The way that many celebrities are constantly updating their fans on what they’re doing and who they’re with has fooled us into thinking that we are entitled to know everything and anything – no matter how painful, about our favourite stars. Technology has ruined celebrity in the way that we now know they are just like us, they are not sent from the stars or exempt from their own problems. Us mere mortals have been raised on too much knowledge, not enough privacy and a false sense of entitlement as to what we have the right to know.

We know what celebrities want us to know, their diets, their workouts, their ‘glam’ routine before an event and sometimes even their favourite family moments. But in giving us this access to their lives we can’t help but want more. We feel as if we know them, and friends share everything with each other, right?

The problem is a scary one, with Kim Kardashian West’s oversharing on Instagram leading to her being robbed at gunpoint in 2016. We have such a huge insight into the lives of reality TV personalities, musicians, models and even Hollywood movie stars that nothing is seen as crossing that boundary between public and private. The allure of old Hollywood where things were enigmatic and awe inspiring, is gone and in its place, is a Hollywood without the same mystery that previously surrounded the stars, can you imagine Gene Kelly taking a dog-filter selfie? Neither can we, but it’s the same premise as the celebrities of today doing the same thing.

In order to save the mystery of Hollywood, a little bit of privacy needs to be injected back into the lives of celebrities the world over. Right now, we have a sense of entitlement as to what we think we have the right to know. In future, we need to re-establish that aspirational sense of longing that comes only when celebrities keep the majority of their lives in the private sphere, and not at our fingertips.

[Written for application purposes in 2017]

If we learn anything from the death of Martin McGuinness let it be this...

After Bloody Sunday Martin McGuinness was quoted as having said: “I used to worry about being killed before that day, now I don’t think about death at all.”

The man who started out his political career in the throes of the Provisional IRA, going on to become deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, has been remembered this week after dying at the age of 66.

Now, in death, McGuinness has nothing to think about save from, perplexingly, his legacy of peace.

Not something frequently associated with McGuinness during his time in IRA power, peace has become something of a defining concept for the former IRA chief of staff. Who would  have thought that in the event of his death McGuinness would have tributes paid to him by the likes of Tony Blair? And even more surprising, who would have thought in the late 70s that McGuinness would ever live through the violence long enough to die of natural causes?

Among the tributes to him are accolades of his commitment to peace, but there is also the occasional reminder of the violence he caused during the height of the Northern Irish troubles.

However, the most prominent and moving aspect of the tributes are that the majority of them are positive. For a man that committed so much of his life to violence and terror, the leaders of the world united in honouring him for what he spent the latter part of his life preserving – peace.

Now, the question on the minds of many is this: Can we forget his violent and murderous actions just because of a last minute commitment to peace?

McGuinness’ friendship with Iain Paisley serves as a symbolic reminder of the progress he made in his time in politics and provides an answer to this question. Becoming Deputy First Minister alongside the Democratic Unionist Party’s leader, the long-term Sinn Fein member found an unlikely friend in a man whose values stood for everything McGuinness stood against. But the two were soon penned as the ‘chuckle brothers’ and an unexpected alliance was found in the halls of Stormont.

Rather than asking if we can forgive his crimes, in the event of his death, the world unites behind the question: can we move on from them? And the answer seems to be yes, the work and strife which went into creating the St Andrews Agreement of 2006 proved that McGuinness was as committed to peace as he had been in the past to a United Ireland.

In truth, the actions taken by Martin McGuinness and the IRA are not forgotten, but in today’s world where our enemies are much further afield it is a relief to be at peace with those allies we hold dearest. The United Kingdom is, for now, united, and in the latter part of his life McGuinness, without having been able to see into a crystal ball, realised that to be at peace with the rest of the Kingdom was more important than fighting it.

[Written for application purposes in 2017]